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Recipe for Summer Fun

July 6th, 2009

1 medium sized Boy;
1 large Yellow Lab;
1 squirty hose;
Add water;
Stand back!

labrador-fun

Imagine the playfulness of that dog in the picture… and then imagine he’s that way no matter where  he is, and that the boy loves  to play with him.  They both have a smile on their faces.  I think watering flowers was the mission, as you can see by the watering can.  But it didn’t work out that way.  It’s like having a 90 pound three year old racing around with an 8-year old boy.  Neither of them listen very well, and both of them are intent on doing something.   Since I’m never quite sure what that is, I usually just direct traffic or try to stay out of the way…  


Ganders, Tanagers and Swimming with the Dog

May 9th, 2009

It rained so much yesterday that I saw a creek running through the garden.  Thank goodness I made the rows perpendicular to the slope below… the water just ran out the ends and under a fence.  We previously had a nice dry couple of days, but now I think it has rained non-stop since yesterday. Finally the sun broke free of cloud this afternoon and it was a beautiful evening, transitioning to a full moon… I love bright, full moon nights in the country. It’s almost like stepping back in time, or looking into some strange other world.

It’s not a strange world here for the geese- they seem to have made themselves right at home, and the little goslings are growing bigger everyday.  They had the nerve to be up near the top of the hill yesterday, a stone’s throw to the barn, ripping out grass by the rootfuls!  With visions of eroding hillsides in mind, I called our little hunter, the foxy looking japanese Shiba, and ran around toward the barn hoping he could chase the geese into the water.  The geese knew something was afoot and half waddled and bumbled their way down the hill to the pond at high-goose-speed.  They would never have let him get very close- a big 30 pound goose will beat a dog up pretty good with it’s wings and beak!  I knew they’d make it to the pond as the shiba took his time, trotting toward the water with a gleam in his eye. 

Canada Geese with Goslings

After the geese plopped into the water, the Big Daddy Gander puffed up and stretched his neck, honking loudly in protest at this intrusion by such a fox-like creature, with Mother Goose and the goslings following a few yards behind.  The shiba wandered along the shoreline, looking wistfully at these floating bundles of feathers, and the big goose followed him step-for-step just out of reach off shore badgering the little dog.  Eventually the shiba tired of the noisy scolding and went on his way.  The geese seemed “proudly placated” and swam away.   They seem to know we’re only temporary guests in their native aquatic home. 

Birds are making quite a showing this spring, and yesterday was no exception as I saw a flash of red behind the house.  After a quick double-take, I realized it was brighter than the red of our resident cardinals.  And there he was- the Summer Tanager was back, calling and watching me.  I was admiring his color and sound when I remembered I had a camera in my hand!  Such a beautiful bird, they really only pass through for a couple weeks, and eat many bugs- especially wasps and bees!  “Look out girls, the tanagers are here!!!”

summer-tanager

Almost exactly two years ago, I wrote about Summer Tanagers on a Warm Day, and was lucky to have captured some of the most beautiful bird pictures that I’ve taken- those of the male and female Summer Tanager sitting in an oak tree near the house.   I had never seen the female’s yellow green coloration before, and those pictures are two of my favorites.

Not to be outdone by the geese swiming in the water, the young boy seemed to think summer was already here.  School’s out in a couple weeks, so that’s understandable.  But he wandered down near the pond a couple days ago while I was planting tree seedlings…  all he had on were his swim shorts and he carried a floatie.  There I was- shovel in hand, covered in dirt, sweat and untold chiggers and ticks, and all I could think of was that I’d really like to be swimming too (the pond wasn’t my first choice).  

Actually, I chuckled when he said “I’m going swimming!”  And I said, “In the pond? Now? It’s kinda cold in there…”  He didn’t seem to care and I didn’t want to discourage him.  The geese have really only been here a few times, and the area was clean enough.  Otherwise I wouldn’t let him swim.  “Well, what did Mom say?” I asked.  He said, “Well, she was in the asparagus patch and I just kinda walked by her and waved.”   She later thought he was very cute in his swim shorts, not thinking he was serious about swimming in the pond just before dinner.  We went back and got his life jacket since he’s not really at deep-water swimming strength yet.  We let her know, and then back to the pond where he got a good 5-10 minutes of paddling fun in the water.  

Boy and Yellow Lab in pond

He didn’t say, but it sure looked colder than he thought it would be…  Of course the yellow lab wasn’t just going to watch,  he dove right in too!  I had to give the boy credit- it’s a little early in the season for pond swimming in my book, but he sure had a quick bit of fun.   And me?  I’ll get there this summer, but for now I wasn’t quite ready to make the Leap of Faith into that cold water!

Yellow Labs and Brown-Headed Cowbirds

March 18th, 2009

The young pup is almost two and half years old now- a big, strong yellow labrador with a heart of gold.  I know everyone thinks their dogs and pets are pretty special, but I swear this furry guy is unlike any animal I’ve ever known.  I’m thinking about having a round of tests performed on him to consider breeding.  He’s not a show dog or champion field trialer, but he has good lineage and beautiful form.  His personality is amazing in so many ways, and if he could contribute to the breed I think that would be a good thing.   Have you hugged your dog today?  More importantly, how about your kids?!  For some folks they’re the same…

Yellow Labrador Retriever in a field of Bluestem

Interesting that you can actually clone your dog these days for the princely sum of $150,000 dollars.  Can you imagine?   Perhaps if money was no object someone could consider that, but it seems, well… ethically selfish to me I guess, among other things.  It’s a free country, but you can help an awful lot of people with that kind of money.  I do understand loving an animal that much, but it’s hard to rationalize spending so much money for that purpose.  Of course I  say that, but based on how I feel about my own lab-  if it didn’t cost very much I might consider getting another pup just like him too.  Heck, twenty or thirty years from now who knows what we’ll be able to do.   For now I just appreciate that he gets to be part of our family. 

Don’t you just want to give him a big hug?!

yellow-labrador-retriever

 

Maybe I should’ve titled this ‘The Dogs We Love and the Birds We Don’t” or “Cute Dogs and Ugly Birds.”  On a different note it’s about time to take the bird feeders down, and as if on cue the Brown-headed Cowbirds showed up for a party to pick through what was left.  Okay, maybe they’re not ugly, but they sure act that way.  Research has shown that they can impact songbird populations negatively through brood parasitism.  They’re the only species in our region that sneaks into other birds’ nests and lays their own eggs.  So a hapless goldfinch or flycatcher ends up feeding and raising a cowbird usually instead of their own young since the cowbird is bigger and has a voracious appetite.  

Well over a hundred species of birds end up raising cowbirds in this manner and there’s quite a debate regarding how destructive or natural this is.    We typically see them grouped up in spring while they migrate through in flocks.  Soon they disperse to look for a host nest, and we only see or hear them as solitary birds.  What a strange critter and survival mechanism- kind of looks like an unruly mob!

cowbird-party

What’s My Line?

February 13th, 2009

 

Yellow Lab and Cat

“Um…you know I’m a dog, right?  No, really… I am!”

 

Running Through Bluestem

January 17th, 2009

Well the blast of colder weather is giving way to normal winter temps.  I love being outside and training with a little snowfall on the ground.  There was a couple hours of flurries, just enough to brighten the landscape.  It looked like a big snowstorm was coming, but after a while the snow dwindled to tiny flakes again.  The Little Bluestem around the field really brightens the view. 

Falling snow across field of Little Bluestem

The Bluestem also makes for great hiding places.  Yesterday I went out for some training with the yellow lab- it was a cold, breezy 11 degrees F, but he had a grand time, and I did too. He’s been cooped up inside (with the rest of us!) for too long,  and was getting antsy.   They’re such strong, muscular animals that they really need exercise, and he loves running in the field. 

Yellow Labrador Retriever training in winter field

 The orange colored “dummies” I throw for him are difficult to find sometimes, but he has an amazing ability to figure out where they are even if I don’t help direct him.  Sometimes I’ll have him sit at the edge of the field while I meander through it, dropping training dummies in various places so that he doesn’t see.  Then I’ll come back and send him off in one direction to look for them- he’ll start a search pattern like he’s running in the above picture, and use his nose to find them.  We are not at the point where he will follow my hand signals, but he will come back towards me with a certain whistle, and then head out again on command. Eventually he finds them all.  The big pup runs back with such enthusiasm! 

 2-year old Yellow Lab retrieving

Today is bright and sunny, and my younger brother is in town.  He came back from the middle east last month, and has taken time to see the family members- he looks really good! 

Sunday Friends

January 11th, 2009

After many clouds and colder weather we are enjoying a beautiful sunny day.  It’s hard not to think of spring on days like this, and I’m already feeling behind with garden planning and a host of outdoor projects.   I think some people just feel that way all the time, and like it or not I’m one of them.   Time to gather some more firewood too since we’re already working down the last two piles really fast.  This week promises to be very cold again. 

Yesterday I replenished our bird feeders and put up one more.  So that makes four feeders near the house and the birds seem to appreciate the free buffet.   I’m sure they would be fine by themselves, but I just like to have feed available especially on those bitterly cold days and nights.  And it’s fun to watch the lively activity around the house, especially during the gray days of winter.  We get at least a dozen species, but the finches and juncos seem to be the most common.

Finches and Juncos below the bird feeder

And the yellow lab really enjoys being outside in winter, and always finds something fun to do.  Would that my spirit soared as constantly as his… he’s always ready to go with such unbridled enthusiasm.   The young boy took this picture of him while we were looking for the right Christmas tree to cut down for his grandmother last month.  That was a fun afternoon.  We’re still looking for the snow, and a chance to really play!

Yellow Labrador Retriever

October Rain

October 23rd, 2008

Awoke to a cloudy darkness that gave way to heavy rain this morning.  It will be with us most of the day so the outside projects will wait.  I know it looks so dismal, but for some reason I enjoy rainy days… mostly.  Of course one time we lived near Seattle and had 96 days straight of rain! That’s a bit much.  Missouri rain is often intermittent, heavier and then gone almost as quickly as it comes. But today the storm system will pass slowly.

I think rainy days help provide a reason to relax inside or catch up on things we’ve put off for a while.  Of course it makes travel a mess, and next week we’re due for our first real frost and freeze.  Glad it’s not Halloween today.  I think three out of the last four Halloweens were cold and rainy here.  Hopefully it will be a decent night for the kids next week, and thank goodness it’s on a Friday this year. 

Rainy October day in Missouri

Oh, another bug question to figure out. Beetle Doc are you still around?!  I found this “nest” of some type when cutting up that oak tree the other day.  It’s very fibrous, with a small, dime-sized opening at the top and what appears to be some type of eggs or balls inside.  Is it an insect gall? A spider nest?!  I’m not sure what else it could be, but I laid it aside in the bushes.

Insect nest or gall

We still have a few things to finish up outside on the pre-winter checklist, so this weekend will be a good time for that.  Up until today I’ve been working on so many different projects, but sometimes I don’t pay enough attention to what the Yellow Lab is up to!  I caught him about to go for a swim in the pond a couple days ago.  I forget how much he loves water, and when I’m not looking he goes right in.   That must be his way of telling me we don’t train enough.  He’s two years old now by the way.  I swear he looks right through me…

Yellow Lab in October ready for a swim

Doggy Treats in the Garden

September 9th, 2008

The past couple of years I have worked hard to train my young Labrador Retriever.  He’s a smart and gentle dog, and will do just about anything  you ask.  If he’s not good at something, it’s because his trainer (me!) doesn’t know how to teach him.  This will hopefully be his first real season with ducks, and he turns two years old in a few weeks. 

But he’s also full of surprises.  Last year I threw him a tomato hornworm from the garden, which he happily munched up… yuck! 

Tomato Hornworm, a Labrador treat! 

The other day as I was picking some beans, I looked over to see him sniffing the tomato plants, and then looked again to see him playing with, and then eating something on the ground.  He had found, and picked off his own tomato hornworm!  

Labrador Retriever in the garden

My first thought for how to explain this: “Uh, well, I don’t know how he is on ducks, but man you should see him retrieve tomato hornworms!”   He wanted to sniff out a few more himself, but he has a knack for pulling off entire branches of the tomato plant too.  So I found a few myself and threw them to him.  He seems to have a taste for those little suckers.   Maybe when we go duck hunting, I’ll take a few hornworms with me and rub them on the birds?!

Playing Tag in the Woods

August 6th, 2008

We’re still on the road and seeing the marvels of this great nation first hand.  I don’t have time to write much, but will leave you with this picture of the yellow lab and a curious friend one evening.   See you soon!

Yellow Lab and the Deer

The Garden, the Lab and the Honey Bees

June 22nd, 2008

My goodness the weeds and grass can really grow while one is gone, and to see how fast it all grows in the space of a couple weeks is amazing. We’re catching up at home this week after a trip with the family, and have returned to see many parts of the central U.S. inundated with flooding from the Mississippi and other rivers. The rivers are cresting now, and several towns are waiting to see how much more flooding there will be. Many of the levees have failed, but others are still holding with water right to the top. Our hearts just go out to those who will begin working to recover from all the flooding this week. There are also a few thunderstorms about, but strangely in much of our area the topsoil is becoming quite dry.

We are thankful to live a little higher and have started watering the plants around the house and garden now. And it’s time for vegetables as we’re picking the peas, beans and lettuce that is doing so well. I’m surprised the peas and beans have not grown higher up the supports, and I wonder how long they will produce this year. But it has been a cool week in terms of temperature, so that helps keep them flowering and producing.

Fox Haven garden in late June

I think the corn looks great in the garden and I thought of a dumb question today since we have not planted hybrid corn before… How many ears of corn can we get from one stalk with our garden variety hybrid? I’ve seen some of the field corn growing in our area with 2-3 ears per stalk. But a little web research indicates we’ll probably get 1-2 ears from most smaller hybrid plants. We’ll see how it turns out in a month or so as the tassels are just forming at the top of the stalk now. But the tomatoes are also coming along- small and green, and soon we’ll have more than we know what to do with.

An early morning yesterday as we went across the pond dam to check the property. The yellow lab was like a kid in a candy store after coming home from the kennel. He did very well while we were gone, and didn’t miss a beat when returning home. Maybe a little too much energy saved up for romping around the property. Come to think of it I could use a little of that extra energy… the grass on the pond dam needs cut for the year again!

Yellow Labrador Retriever on pond dam

By the way, the bees are doing pretty well so far. I’ve put on a second super (hive body) for both hives and the bees are working like crazy each day. One of the hives appears much stronger in terms of numbers of bees, so it will be interesting to see how they do this year. Today I removed the entrance reducers I had placed last month while the new hives built up their strength in numbers of bees and stores of food. They didn’t fuss too much and (all anthropomorphism aside) actually seemed to enjoy the opening being wider. I probably left the reducers on a little too long while we were away, and today it was like seeing a little traffic jam of bees getting in and out of that smaller 3 inch entrance slot.

Working with honey bees at Fox Haven

So to remove the wooden stick that blocks the entrance, I took my hive tool and pried up the corners and under the reducer to loosen all the joints. Then as I wedged and held up the hive slightly, I slid a stiff hooked wire through the hole and gently pulled out the wooden reducer. The bees didn’t seem to mind a bit. So now both hives have a full entrance on top of the bottom board (actually a screen) to come and go. And it was fun watching the returning bees covered in pollen… a welcome sight. It’s also great to see them covering so many flowers around the property. Keep working little bees!

 

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