Every Dog Has His Day

October 3rd, 2008

The other day my dog had his day, his birthday in fact.  And I’ll remember it for a long, long time.  It’s hard to believe the big ‘ole yellow lab puppy is 2 years old.  Okay, he’s not a puppy anymore, but he sure acts like one.  Of course he’s my first Labrador, so maybe they act this way all the time.  We pal around everywhere together, especially while I do chores, or while waiting to pick up the boy at the bus stop.   His energy and good nature are unstoppable.  Nearly.  So guess what I did for his birthday?  I ran him over with a golf cart.  “What?!” I hear you thinking.  But it’s true.    

So there I go racing down the gravel drive at full golf cart speed, with the 90 pound labrador running along side as usual.  We’re going to do some retrieving in the field. Except this time he’s out slightly ahead of me, and cuts right in front and stops!  I yell at him and instead of jumping out of the way, he crouches down!  I was going downhill too fast to turn or do anything, and if you’ve driven on gravel you know that stopping quickly just doesn’t work.  So I cringe as the front tire goes “Whump! Bump!’ right over my lovable dog, and he squirts out the side.  I’m on the brakes sliding to a rocky stop in a cloud of dust, horror stricken that I’ve killed my dog.

I jump out and he’s sitting over on the grass looking at me like “What’d I do?!”   I’m more stunned than he is, and I check him over carefully and pet him and… he looks okay.  He really does.  He has a little cut on top of his head, but nothing more.  He starts nosing around and waiting for us to do something.   I’m not sure, so I slowly walk back to the house observing him, deciding whether to call the vet. The lab is sniffing and running around, and wants to play.  Heck, he just escaped death right?  Who wouldn’t be happy?  It’s time for his supper and he runs to the garage waiting.  If you have dogs, you also know they have this amazing, innate sense of time.  But I fix a smaller than usual bowl of food with extra vitamins and all kinds of other healthy stuff thrown in to help in case he’s bruised.  After he finishes I let him rest in the kennel for a few hours. 

 Yellow Labrador Retriever - 2 years old

Later we go out for a walk and he takes off running down the hill to find his usual smelly spots.  The boy and I hike over to the pond with the lab out in front as usual.  I’m thinking about the day’s events. Thankfully the tires on the golf cart are big and soft, relatively speaking.  And they’ve been low on air and I just haven’t got around to filling them up.  And then I wonder, “Maybe I didn’t really run him over… maybe he just got nudged by the side or something?”  He’s no worse for wear and I’m thankful.  

But my thoughts are quickly answered as I catch up to him, and for the first time I see this faint image of a wide, black tire tread going right across his middle.  Damn. I did run over my dog.  On his birthday.

If that’s not enough to make you feel bad I don’t know what is.  But he’s okay, no bruising or any sign of stiffness.  And of course the Lab doesn’t hold it against me.  Which doesn’t make me feel any better. But that’s the thing about dogs, and Labs especially-they always want to please.  Now I have to add another goal to my list:  Don’t run over the dog.

In thinking about the last two years, I couldn’t ask for anything more in a family dog or a friend that what he has become.   And to see the smile on the boy’s face as he plays and wrestles with the dog is another joy I didn’t expect.  If I’ve had any misgivings about him, they revolve more around my knowledge and ability as his owner, much like reflecting on one’s ability as a parent.  At many levels perhaps that’s the greatest testament to the dog he is, and the human I’m still trying to become. 

I was looking for a better way to describe how I feel about this dog, but noted Field & Stream columnist and author Gene Hill describes it perfectly:

“He is my other eyes that can see above the clouds; my other ears that hear above the winds. He is the part of me that can reach out into the sea. He has told me a thousand times over that I am his reason for being; by the way he rests against my leg; by the way he thumps his tail at my smallest smile; by the way he shows his hurt when I leave without taking him. (I think it makes him sick with worry when he is not along to care for me.)”

“When I am wrong, he is delighted to forgive. When I am angry, he clowns to make me smile. When I am happy, he is joy unbounded. When I am a fool, he ignores it. When I succeed, he brags. Without him, I am only another man.  With him, I am all-powerful.  He is loyalty itself.  He has taught me the meaning of devotion. With him, I know a secret comfort and a private peace. He has brought me understanding where before I was ignorant. His head on my knee can heal my human hurts. His presence by my side is protection against my fears of dark and unknown things. He has promised to wait for me… whenever… wherever – in case I need him. And I expect I will – as I always have. He is just my dog.”

Early Autumn Oddities

September 25th, 2008

Is it really Autumn already?  I’m not sure where the time went, but there are many changes now with the days growing shorter.  The weather this year has been so strange, but the bees really appreciate all the moisture.  They’re all over the goldenrod and small wild asters now, hopefully building up their stores of honey and pollen for winter.

But look at this blooming crabapple tree!  It flowered in the Spring and has many little crabapples now, but then began blooming again this week.   I think the leaves were defoliated from insect damage and that prompted it to flower once more.

Crabapple tree flowering in September

Other strange sights include this gigantic mushroom.  I saw a white patch behind the barn and thought I lost a plastic grocery bag.  As I got closer I couldn’t believe how big it was!  So that’s a regular white straw cowboy hat near the monster fungus.  Anybody know what it is?  I’ve noted many other smaller mushrooms around now too.

Giant mushroom next to cowboy hat

And if you’re an arachnophobe, then you might want to skip to the next picture!  I think this is a Missouri Wolf Spider (Geolycosa missouriensis), but I’m not really sure.  Any spider experts out there?  All I know is it was almost two inches long and was strolling along the gravel driveway when I walked up to it.  Those rocks are chunks of one inch clean gravel recently spread on top of the driveway.  I let the spider continue its journey toward some bushes and I think it growled at me as it wandered off!

Missouri Wolf Spider


And here’s a colorized picture of a beautiful rose taken at dawn yesterday.  The sun had just risen in the background, and the rose was in the shade.  A little creative license helped to brighten the picture.  Have a great day!

Colorized rose in morning sunlight

Cool Mornings and Warm Afternoons

September 17th, 2008

A busy, beautiful day with the mornings crisp and cool in the low 50’s.  You can tell Autumn is on the way, but the day still warms up nicely and the insects are all about.   But the days are marching on so fast now, where does the time go?!  In our area it’s time to plant (or decorate with) mums, and the kids are already thinking of that special day of sweets at the end of October.  Here’s a Great Fritillary to start your day!

Great Fritillary on Sedum flower

Flutterby in July

July 27th, 2008

We’re on the way to mid-summer and after all the rain it’s so nice and green!  And hot! And humid!  Ah, but with all the growing things we have lots of butterflies around.  Sometimes I don’t see them and wonder where they are, and then I’ll start noticing them everywhere.   That intentional thought thing perhaps. 

Have you ever been interested in a particular kind of car, and then for the next 3-4 days you see them everywhere?! 

And I saw a fox yesterday for the first time this year.  They’re always around, but we don’t see them often.  I didn’t have the camera, but the fox was running along the dam toward the woods.  I thought, “What’s Kuma doing down at the dam?  Wait… that’s not Kuma, that’s a fox!”  It quickly disappeared into the woods.   If you like dogs, you can read about our indefatigable Kuma here.  He really does look like a fox!

Speaking of foxes, our cat Princess has always been wary, but even more so it seems since Sparky left us last month.   We’re not sure, but he may have encountered a fox or coyote one night.  He still made it home amazingly enough, but something bit into his hind quarters.  He spent almost a week with a veterinarian, but in the end he couldn’t be helped.   There are lots of predators about, which indicates a healthy biodiversity in the area.  But sometimes it’s a little too close to home.  And yes, we let cats run around outside most of the time.  It’s a rural lifestyle, and the cats love to be outside. They also help keep mice and moles away. 

Of course the only predators I see chasing butteflies is the yellow lab.  Sometimes he’ll see one on the ground, stalk it slowly and then lunge at it.  He doesn’t catch them, but has a goofy look on his face that seems to imply it’s just for fun. 

One of our more common butterflies is the Giant Swallowtail.  These guys are fast but don’t seem to mind letting you get a good look at them.  

Giant Swallowtail butterfly

Now I’m not trying to make this “the insect blog” or anything, it’s just that there are so many around right now!  It’s not too difficult to get a picture of a butterfly on the ground, but to catch one in flight was another story. 

This guy was more like a “flutterby” as he danced around quickly in circles.  I probably took 30 pictures to get this one in focus.  I wonder if there are any aerodynamic lessons to learn from butterflies? 

Giant Swallowtail butterfly in July

I know that throughout the world butterfly “souvenirs” can be found in many cities.  Which is not necessarily a good thing, especially if some of the species are threatened due to habitat loss or overcollection.  But some of the collections for sale are amazing in the diversity of species and colors.  Collecting insects is generally a fine hobby and quite educational.  I remember taking an entomology class years ago and amassed quite the collection of creepy crawlies.  Not sure what happened to it, but that’s probably a good thing!

And if you’ve read this far, it’s well past time to say thank you for visiting.  I appreciate if you have time for a comment, but if you’re just passing by, that’s okay too.   Sometimes blogging can be discouraging when it seems like one is “writing into the wind” so to speak.  But as Ron has found, there are many wonderful “lurkers” out there… good people that stop by for reasons we may never know or understand.  I’m glad Ron’s back at it…   I don’t know how long I’ll continue to write or share pictures, but hopefully we’ll continue the journey for a good while.

We’re off on a traveling adventure this week and I may or may not get a chance to post.  There are so many other wonderful blogs out there and I’m really amazed and humbled with the stories and relationships that blogging fosters.   And yes!  Next week we’ll be posting the Festival of the Trees.  See you soon.

Caterpillars Too

July 18th, 2008

This must really be “bug week” because I find myself taking pictures of all sorts of insect critters.  Maybe they’re too easy and I’m not being creative enough. But the Japanese beetles are still filling up plastic bags and we’re trying to keep the pests out of the garden.  And the moles!  I haven’t found a good deterent for them, although the cat sometimes ends up with one.  

I actually watched some lettuce plants wobbling back and forth as a mole tunneled underneath the other day.  They love to eat worms and grubs, but maybe tender roots as well?  All I know is their tunnels leave the roots without soil and water, and the plant will die if you don’t reseat them in the soil.  Some wiser folks have said that castor bean oil is a good deterrent so we may try that.  The metal mole traps are simply too cumbersome and unreliable for me to work very well.

I haven’t seen any Monarch caterpillars on our milkweed plants, but maybe that’s because these Tussock Moth Caterpillars keep devouring the milkweed.  I saw one of the plants chewed to the ground and then found these guys working on the next one.  Looks like a hungry football team lined up at the buffet!

Tussock Moth Caterpillars eating milkweed leaf

And the little guy below was too cute to pass up.  My unscientific name is “Brown Fuzzy Caterpillar.”  What it really is I have  no idea, but isn’t it funny how the “cute” ones seem acceptable, but the “ugly” ones we get rid of?  I’ve pulled some big green hornworms off the tomato plants and the yellow lab likes to play with them.  I think he actually eats them… uh, yuck?! (there’s a close up of the Tussock Moth Caterpillar from last year at that link too).

But this “BFC” wasn’t eating leaves or doing anything it seemed.  Maybe he was looking for a place to make a chrysalis?

Brown fuzzy caterpillar

After today I’ve got to find some new material that doesn’t involve bugs.  Unless they’re really neat looking or something.  Or involve bees.  Or, well… let’s just see what happens. 

Monday Bugday

July 14th, 2008

Beautiful weather this week with cool mornings and warm days.  So different from previous year’s drought that many plants and flowers are still blooming.  Hard to believe we’re in the middle of July already.  But I’ve heard the first cicadas for the year already.  It surprised me yesterday while was walking the property.

Lots of other insects out now too.  Here’s a neat looking Katydid of some type on the young boy’s hands.  Doesn’t its wings look just like a leaf?  He found it and wanted to pick it up.  First he asked, “Does it bite?”  “Ah, no it’s like a grasshopper,” I reply.  “Does it sting?” he wants to know next.  “No, it can’t sting,” I say.   “Okay then,”  he says, and picks it up for a picture. 

Katydid species

Of course other bugs are not so pretty.  Here’s a Great Black Wasp I think, sitting on a milkweed leaf.  This one was about an inch and a half long! According to Ted of Beetles in the Bush, this is actually called a mydas fly, probably Mydas clavatus. He posts a little more about it below.  Isn’t it great that other bloggers will stop by and help clarify confusion!  Nature’s rhythm is in full swing with many insect species out now.

Great Black Wasp on milkweed leaf

And our honey bees are still at work on a host of different flowers.  I found another reason to let the grass grow a little longer. Seems that the clover blooms a lot more if I let it, and the bees go right for it.   Maybe we’ll have a little honey this year after all.

Honey bee on white clover

Double Cukes and Corn Dogs

July 12th, 2008

Busy doings outside these days, with so much just growing and growing.  We’ve been lucky to have rain almost every week, especially for the garden and the bees.  I’ve heard this is one of the best years many beekeepers can remember in our area and that the “honeyflow” is nice and long from the rain and cooler weather. 
Double cucumberWe found a funny “double cucumber” in the garden the other day. Now how do you suppose it grew like this? It’s still in the fridge while I wonder what I can do with it. Maybe I could put it on ebay :)

And the blackberries have really started ripening, so we picked a couple quarts already.  I’m just amazed- we haven’t had any berries the past couple of years, but with the bees this year there’s a bunch of wild berries in places I’d never seen before.  Maybe it’s also the rain this year.  But we need to pick some more soon! And anybody have a good blackberry pie recipe?

Wild blackberries in July


The green beans have done so well this year we’ve been putting up a bunch in the freezer. Time to pick more cucumbers now too, and maybe pickles soon? The garden is great but next year it needs to be bigger!  I say that now, and we hardly keep up with it.  I’m always amazed at how much room the plants can use though. 

 We dug up some potatoes for the first time and they were delicious.  Never grew potatoes before, but it was pretty easy, and they didn’t take up too much room.  I was surprised how fast the little guys grew. 

Corn growing Basset Hound

Also had our first ear of home-grown corn yesterday. It wasn’t too big, but some critters had started munching the top so it was time to pick. It sure was tasty though!

Here’s our corn-growing Basset Hound. Oh wait! I’m told this is our CORN DOG! He’s really our garden dog, and likes to follow us around and hang out wherever we are. He’s the good ‘ole man of the place, going on 11 years now.
Of course it’s kind of hard to grow corn on top of the dog. But he likes the attention, especially getting watered on hot days.

We may have to find somewhere else to grow it next year though. There’s just not enough space!

Beetle Mania

July 2nd, 2008

I’ve got beetle mania this week.  After seeing hundreds and hundreds of japanese beetles decimating our grapes and other plants, we decided it was time to get a trap.  They’re simple, not too expensive, and work like a charm.  Within minutes of hanging up the trap yesterday, beetles were flying toward it and dropping into the bag.

This thing works very well. There’s at least four flying beetles and a dozen more over the yellow vanes above the bag, and more on the way!

Japanese Beetle trap in action

After a few hours the bag was full of hundreds of beetles. Yuck!   We put up another trap and left them up all day.  This morning I threw out what seemed like two pounds of bugs, and hung up a couple of more bags. 

I considered cutting open the bag and throwing the beetles in the pond after reading about someone who fed them to his catfish, but I didn’t want to chance releasing a ton of beetles that we already caught.  This morning the grapes already look better, and there are many fewer japanese beetles on the other plants.

I’m under no illusion that this will solve our nuisance problem with the beetles.  But it may just help the grapes continue to mature, and lessen the number of beetles we have next year.  Chalk one up to technology, but I hope some enterprising bird can figure out how to eat these little suckers!

On the subject of yucky bugs, does anyone know what this big brown catepillar is?   It’s sitting upside down next to a 4×4 post!  I’ll try to find out… maybe we’ll call it a “Big Brown Four Inch Catepillar” for now.  Not very creative, I know.  Any better ideas?

Big four inch catepillar

Sour Grapes

June 29th, 2008

The change of seasons is welcome, and with the beginning of summer we find ourselves looking at the garden and landscape a little differently.  The plants are maturing and bring new flowers while the weeds try to march through everything.  The grapes are growing nicely on the arbor, and I think of using them for jellies or even wine someday. 


But the insects are also now out in full force.  We’ve been chasing fireflies and avoiding mosquitoes, and we just deal with bugs as a matter of course. But some of them are strange and pesky critters such as the Japanese Beetle.  I’m told these little beetles were not around this area until just a few years ago.  They apparently were introduced to the U.S. around 1916 on the east coast, and have spread a few miles every year.  Last year was the first we had seen of so many around our area, and they decimated the grape leaves.  The fruit just shriveled up as they sucked the juice from the leaves (see the little brown spots?) and the whole plant just withered.

Japanese Beetles

I’ve noticed them over many different plants this week, but they don’t have any natural predators apparently.  Does anybody know any good control techniques?  I’ve heard you can get a trap, but some people think that just attracts more of them.  I’ve also heard someone’s rooster liked to eat them, and someone else collects them by hand.  Ours are in so many places, and high and low, that I couldn’t begin to collect them all.  I did try spraying some tea tree oil soap on them… didn’t seem to bother them in the least.   I’m not inclined to use harsh insecticides around the house, so I’ll keep trying different things.

I suppose like many things we’re just going to have to get used to them.  Or maybe we’ll get those chickens next year after all!

Ode to a Cat

June 26th, 2008

We found you in a pile of unwanted kittens,
And brought two of you to our home.

 Sparky the cat when young

You brought us love and joy,
And a bundle of cat energy that
Wanted as much to explore as
To be cuddled in a lap.

Sparky exploring

You were spirited and fun,
With a personality so full of life.
Sometimes you seemed more like a dog.

Basset Hound and Cat walking together

And you didn’t hunt very well,
But you jumped at birds in a half-hearted manner,
Flicking your tail,
As if to show that, Indeed! You were a Cat.

Sparky the cat

Yet to a boy you brought so much more;
A big fuzzy kitty that he could
Drape over his shoulders,
To carry and hug and play with.

Child and Sparky the cat

And you didn’t mind.
He loved you most of all. 

Farewell Sparky

Farewell Sparky.

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