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Fields of Color and Retriever Work

September 28th, 2007

    What a beautiful morning!  It’s cool and crisp, the moon was shining brightly before the sun rose, and a glowing mist rose gently from the pond and fields.   I can’t help but become invigorated by this kind of weather.  I wonder if there are places to live where the temperatures are cool all year long?!  Soon the leaves will be covering the grass with a carpet of color, and we’ll be raking and mowing.  And we’re already thinking about pumpkins and decorating for the season.  

I love how the ground fog rises in the grassy fields… almost glowing with the first rays of the sun.

 Mist glows with the rising sun on a country morning.

The young pup has been working to earn his keep this month.  He’s doing really well on multiple retrieves, and loves to be in the water.  Now we are working on hand signals in the fields.  He follows my signals when he sees me, but I have a hard time getting him to look or turn around when he’s making a retrieve.  We’re also using a whistle, but he is so intent on his retrieve that nothing seems to intrude to his focus.  In the fields, if he runs past or away from a mark/bumper, he will turn and begin a search pattern with his nose.  He hears me yell or signal usually and changes direction.  It’s amazing to watch!  In the water he has even started swimming in circles or from side-to-side if he doesn’t see the bumper.   I’ve been working on trust in our relationship… meaning for blind retrieves, or the ones he doesn’t know that marks/bumpers are out there, he needs to run in the direction I tell him.  Then as he gets out, he is supposed to turn to look at me on my signal, essentially asking, “Okay Boss… where to now?”  He has finally learned trust in that he will take off in the direction I give him… but he doesn’t really look back.  He starts searching about 50-100 yards out, and listens for my signal or yell.  He always finds the mark/bumper, but I’ve still got a lot of work to do.  Not bad for 11 months old however!  He has a lot of heart.

The Yellow Lab makes a water retrieve

Days of Light and Play

September 26th, 2007

What is it about light and the colors of the sky, the sun, the trees…  maybe I’ve written too many times on this subject, but I find myself drawn to the interplay of light and color in nature.  So if you’ll forgive me for indulging… actually, I need to just make that a recurring theme because I suspect I’ll be writing and posting similar pictures again! ;)    But Autumn is here, and it’s time to begin preparations for winter.  The garden is on its last legs, with the vines and plants looking very sad.  But we enjoyed the vegetables this summer.  And I need to go into business selling Jalapeno’s or something… they keep producing and producing.  From about 10 plants we’ve taken hundreds of little peppers this summer!  Over the next week I’ll try to cut back the garden and begin laying newspaper and compost on top. 

We were at the bus stop a little early this week and enjoyed the awakening light of dawn in the sky.

 The early light of dawn across the sky

The young one turned 7 years old this week.  Where does the time go?   He’s growing up so fast, and seems to enjoy just about everything.  Remember rolling down hills?  He loves to do that with the Yellow Lab chasing him. Soon they’ll have piles of leaves to roll in too.  They’re both kids… oh, and the Lab puppy is growing up too… he’ll be 1 year old next week.  I guess that makes both of them seven years old!

 The young boy rolls down the hill with the Yellow Labrador

Another picture of light through the trees.  This was a late afternoon picture the other day, as the sun began setting to the west.  I think one could mark the seasons by the position of the sun and the light as it changed through the trees.  I’m not that analytical perhaps, I just enjoy the subtle changes over time.

Light through the trees from the setting sun

Yellow Labrador at 11 Months

September 12th, 2007

    The young pup is a rambunctious fool!  Well, sometimes so am I… but we won’t go there right now :)   The Yellow Labrador Retriever is growing up so fast, and he’s just bursting with unbridled energy and enthusiasm.  Admittedly, he’s getting a little harder to control, but we work on obedience training regularly.  He listens very well, but tests the limits at every turn… I hold him accountable every time and he seems to respond very well.  We are still struggling with “heel” however.  He does heel, but gets ahead and becomes distracted at times.  I probably don’t work on that skill enough, so we’ll have to fix that, and any tips or insight would be appreciated.  He seems to like pictures though!

Picture 1 - Yellow Labrador at 11 Months

   His retrieving work is coming along very well.  He’s a total nut some times… The other day I had him sit/stay while I walked closer to the pond, then called “come” and he came running like a bulldozer, leaped off a small stump and went sailing about ten feet through the air like SuperDog!  “Whump!” as he landed and crumpled to the ground… I was concerned that he would hurt himself, but he jumped up ready for more as I shook my head.  And this dog loves water like there’s no tomorrow. Here he shows off his style running up the hill from the pond.

 The unstoppable Labrador Retriever!

    We have also been working on hand signals for marked and unmarked retrieves.  Put him sitting half way between a pile of bumpers, and give the “back” or “over” signal to the pile.  Off he runs and brings it back… not too bad, but he doesn’t like giving up the bumper.  We’re working on that aspect too…  But I placed one about 75-100 yards out, then gave him the “back” to retrieve… he started searching, nose-to-the-ground, about half way there, and ran the wrong direction left.  I whistled and gave him an “over” and he took off the other way… as he got close to the line of the mark/bumper, I gave him a “back” and he turned and went out like a pro!  He found it and brought it back, and I was amazed… sheer luck at this point, but he is a really smart dog.  As usual, he simply lacks a good trainer!  But we’re both learning as that goes, and it’s pretty neat.   

Picture 2-Yellow Labrador Retriever at 11 months

 

    The other morning we were surprised by a large flock of Canada Geese passing through.  They honked and honked while landing, and as I walked towards them to get a picture they flew off, scolding me for interrupting their choice parking spot!  They’ll be moving around a lot more in the months ahead.

Canada Gees flock after landing on the pond one morning.

Dragonflies and a Little Mimosa

August 26th, 2007

     I took the Yellow Lab out for retrieving work in the pond yesterday, and had to gather up all the duck decoys I had set out… of course they drifted around the pond since I threw them in the deep end, so I had a “decoy roundup” for about an hour.  But I enjoyed walking about and found some more interesting critters along the pond’s edge… the dragonflies were cruising about very quickly!  Most of them wouldn’t sit still long enough to get decent pictures, but I did get a few.  I actually got a picture of a Widow Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula luctuosa) in flight… pretty neat. 

 Widow Skimmer Dragonfly

   And what I think is a Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella) was kind enough to sit still on a small twig while I took its picture.  I’m amazed at the diversity of species that are always around, although it changes throughout the year and season.

Twelve-Spotted Skimmer Dragonfly

   There were dozens of little red dragonflies zipping about everywhere… Are they Eastern Amberwings? (Perithemis tenara).  Maybe, but they were fast… I took a picture of one almost perched on a blade of grass with its reflection in the water, and another cruising by quickly with its reflection too.  Not the best pictures, but they’re pretty neat anyway.

Amberwing DragonflyAnother Amberwing Dragonfly

     Near the barn we have a row of day lily plants, and last year I dug up a Mimosa “volunteer” that I found growing in the row.  I tried to move it somewhere else to grow, but it didn’t take.  Lo and behold, a couple of weeks ago I found a new Mimosa volunteer growing further down the row!  I don’t know if the seeds were in the day lily plants that were transplanted years ago, or if it sprung up from the old rootstock from the Mimosa I dug up last year.  I don’t know what variety it is, and although I like them- they are on the Plant Conservation Alliance’s “Least Wanted” list of invasive plant species.  I also don’t really want this one to grow here because our septic drain line is about 10 feet below it, and I’m concerned the roots might invade the drain field and mess up the septic system.  I’ll probably try to move it again, but last year’s Mimosa “shrub” had enormous roots, and it was only 5 feet tall.  Does anyone think it would not be a problem to move, or even to leave here?  In our area they are not typically invasive, and require moist soil throughout the year for the seeds to become a problem.  Does anyone have experience with Mimosa trees?

A Mimosa tree sprouted this year

Summer Canoeing in the Ozarks

August 7th, 2007

     We spent a few days last week in southern Missouri, canoeing and camping on one of the many beautiful rivers in the Ozarks.   We made the same trip when the young one was four years old… that was quite the adventure.  This time he was six, and probably had a lot more fun.  We were joined by the young pup this time however, and it too was quite the adventure!  A grand time however, with a canoe filled with camping gear, an excited boy and a water-loving Labrador.  My goal was to have fun… and not tip over!  The water is calm and peaceful in many places, and low enough that even the faster narrows were shallow and easy to navigate.  We took our time, fishing at most of the likely “holes” or pools.   We also swam and played in the fast water, and camped on a gravel bar one night. Canoeing is perhaps the quintessential Missouri experience in summer, with an abundance of rivers and choices for where to go. 

Young Boy, Yellow Labrador in Canoe on a Missouri River © Fox Haven Media 2007

The young boy and the Yellow Labrador enjoy paddling in the canoe.  Both have life jackets on, which many people thought funny for a Labrador Retriever.  But several stretches of the river had high bluffs on both sides… if you tip over you’re going to be swimming for a while.  Not having to worry about the dog allows you to focus on keeping people safe.  Besides… the pup really enjoyed having it on and swimming more easily! He did pretty well in the canoe, although 75 pounds of Lab walking from side to side can make the canoe a little tippy!

 

 

 

Boy, Girl and Yellow Labrador enjoying the river™s current

 For a little fun on a hot day, swimming in a cold river is a wonderful experience.  These rivers are spring fed and very refreshing, especially when it’s almost 100 degrees F outdoors… We found a nice fast water area where the kids could float down the river.  Life jackets are a must, and the adults waited to catch the kids as they came floating by.  The young boy met a young girl his age… they held hands with each other a dozen times or so.  The Lab was not to be outdone, he went down each time with them!

 

 

Dad and Yellow Lab going down the river

 ‘Ole Dad joined in the fun and went swimming with the boy, and the dog!  The Lab pup kept trying to swim upstream, which doesn’t work very well in fast water.  I finally managed to turn his head around and he enjoyed it much more.  It was funny… just like on the leash, he likes to “walk himself” by grabbing it in his mouth… so he found a strap on the life jacket to “swim himself” down the river.  What a funny dog… he was ready for more each time.

 

 

 

 

Young boy™s collection of neat stuff in the canoe

Naturally the young boy loves to collect things… here is his “river collection” gathered during one day.  He was cute… I didn’t really notice he was collecting things, but saw him sneak back to the canoe several times and found his treasure. The little stick bundle is a “boat” and of course he loves rocks and leaves.  We put them back in the river at the end of the trip, but he kept a few mussel shells, leaves and sticks to take home!

 

 

 

 

Dad and Son with Rainbow Trout

One of the pleasures of a canoe trip is fishing… and Rainbow Trout can be found in several areas.  It took some effort, but after waking up early on the river one morning I was fortunate to catch a few nice trout for lunch.  This one was almost 18 inches… a real beauty!  The young one helped me net the fish.  I’m not a purist by any means, and enjoy trying various methods with lures and “dough bait” on little hooks. On another trip I’ll try the fly rod… but this time we enjoyed trout for lunch and supper! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He caught his own fish too!

The young one caught his own fish too!  We were talking and he said, “Do you think I’ll catch a fish?  I think I will!”… and the very next cast, he did!

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a long day on the river, the Yellow Lab was content to relax at the campsite… a gravel bar along the water.  He swam so much that he was really tired at the end of the day!  He was happy at that point to watch us playing and fishing in the river, but awoke the next morning ready for more. 

A very tired Yellow Labrador Retriever after a day on the river

It was a great experience… a few days of fun in the sun, and a trip to remember!

Dawn’s Early Light

July 30th, 2007

The other morning I was up very early and the light was amazing as it filtered through the trees above the pond.  The shadows and reflection of light coupled with the high humidity almost seemed ethereal. Sometimes I wish the day would remain like that, but alas the sun rises higher and the heat settles over everything like a heavy blanket.  But those moments are special, and cannot be seen unless we take the time to look for them. 

 Columns of shadow from the trees filter out the light reflecting from the moisture in the air. I was amazed at the shadows that appeared in the air- not on the ground, and even more amazed that the picture showed it as it really appeared.

 Trees cast shadows through the light of early morning

The young Labrador Retriever played in the grass and fields while I took my early walk.  The sunlight painted the landscape, and the dog’s white fur with an orange tint.

Yellow Labrador Retriever in the light of an early summer morning

Yellow Labrador Retriever at 10 Months

July 28th, 2007

The “pup” is a now a 75 pound package of unbridled energy.  His personality is really coming through, and I’m very pleased that he’s such a good companion.  He has a mischievious streak… he loves to “retrieve” almost anything, whether inside the house or out!  He loves nothing better than finding a stuffed toy or shoe, or even a dish towel.  He walks up with his prize in his mouth, beaming with pride at what he’s found.  I tell him “Oh, thank you!” and he turns his head, not wanting to relinquish his new toy.  So I try to channel his energy outdoors… he loves chasing a tennis ball, and bringing it back to be thrown again and again.  This morning we walked around the fields and he put his nose to work.  He loves to swim as well, and will retrieve almost anything across the pond.  He actually tried “leaping” through the water towards a training duck… and finally settled down to swim steadily when he found it didn’t make him go any faster.  He also has the most intense stare… he doesn’t bark or whine, unless he really needs something like water, or to go outside.  Then it’s just a slight whimper.  Sometimes he awakes earlier than I do and is really hungry… I’ll hear a little high pitched “Aarrf!” and know he’s ready for breakfast.  Perhaps all Labradors are like this one… I don’t really know.  But I do know he’s one of the most gentle and good-hearted dogs I’ve ever been around. 

Yellow Labrador Retriever at 10 months

The Garden Gives Back

July 13th, 2007

The garden is really coming along. It sure takes a lot of water! Yesterday we picked some tomatoes and our first cucumber. Oh, and some jalapeno peppers :) The little ones are nice, but some of them are really hot! I’ll have to find some recipes for them, maybe pickled jalapenos. Aside from keeping the weeds and bugs out of the garden, we’re just trying to help it along. We put some fertilizer down, and may try a few different products. But we’re trying to keep it organic and not use any chemicals for the bugs or weeds. It’s nice not to have to worry about what might be on the food we eat, and sometimes we can simply pick something and eat it right away. Soon it will be time for pickles also! I love pickles of all kinds and made eight jars last year. We have more cucumbers planted, so hopefully we’ll have a lot more pickles as well.

These are Sweet 100’s tomatoes. They did so well last year that we brought some starts home again. They produce dozens of little tomatoes per plant, well into the Fall season. And they’re delicious!

Sweet 1000™s tomatoes

I planted several zucchini plants also- they don’t look too well, but have started producing. Last year we only had a couple of zucchinis all summer… between the “squash bugs” and the hot weather, they just didn’t do very well. Here’s hoping for a few more this year…

The zucchini is growing!

The jalapeno peppers are really doing well though! One small plant produced these four peppers… while other plants don’t have any yet. They are tasty little things, but a little on the hot side! Anyone want a few? :)

Yummy little jalapeno peppers but hot!

And the Yellow Labrador is no dummy! He’s seeks a nice shady spot under the bench during the heat of the day.

Yellow lab seeks shade

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Yellow Labrador at 9 Months

July 3rd, 2007

Well the “pup” is growing bigger everyday… where’s the little puppy I brought home?!  He’s about 71 pounds now… amazing.  Last time I weighed him he was only 57 pounds- I think at 7 months.  He’s not going to get a lot bigger- his sire was about 85 pounds.  The “English” style Labrador Retrievers tend to be smaller than the “American” type of labs, but also a little more blocky and full-bodied.  He’s a charmer… and so full of energy now it’s incredible.  I took a week off from training retrieves in the pond.  Yesterday we started again when I launched a decoy across the pond. I didn’t intend for it to go that far- probably close to 100 yards.  He charged right in and swam almost to the other side, picked it up, and swam all the way back.  First time to swim that far!  I wondered if he would see the shoreline a few yards away on the other side, and get out of the water- maybe even run back on land. But he didn’t even think about it… at least not yet!   It’s not all cake and roses however… he’s getting more rambunctious, and testing me at every step.  He listens and does pretty well overall, but I need to be more consistent with his obedience training.  We have two other dogs, and when I let him run around he just goes nuts playing with them.  It’s important for him to run and get the exercise though.  My goals for the rest of the summer include dedicated training sessions with introducing decoys and multiple retrieves.  If all goes well, I should be able to take him on his first duck hunt in late fall.  He’s such a loving dog though, and very smart.  He’s got me pretty well figured out!

Yellow Labrador Retriever at 9 months

Pond Swimming, Swallows and Turtles

May 16th, 2007

A day spent cutting grass… after yesterday’s rain a cool front came through so the opportunity was perfect to get more things done outdoors.  But there was time to see the sights and take the dog swimming for a few retrieves.  He loves the water now and dives in with abandon.  I threw the orange bumper way out in the pond today and he swam for it… but missed it and swam in circles several times!  He almost swam across the pond, but came back at my call and finally saw the bumper floating in the distance.  He was ready for more when he finished.  

 Yellow Labrador Retriever swims for the training bumper.

We have a pair of Barn Swallows that migrate to South America and back and return each year in mid-April.  In May they begin to nest… using the same nest each year above the garage on top of some outdoor lights.  I don’t know how many years they’ve been coming, but it’s at least 5 or 6 years now.  Once they begin nesting they become a little pesky and swoop at you when you stand too near the nest. But their flight is beautiful to watch and they eat many insects each day.  Last week there were five barn swallows all flying around the garage area… I’d like to think they were last year’s young birds returning to say hello.  In some places they can become a problem, with many birds building nests.  But we’ve only had one pair and that’s just fine with me!

 Barn Swallow perched on roof while watching the nest.

The Barn Swallow nest above the garage.

We have several turtles in the pond, but I’m not really sure of the species.  Missouri has quite a few different turtle species if you want to see them here.  We did see a Snapping Turtle last year, walking through the grass to look for a place to lay eggs.  The turtle in this picture is about 10-12 inches long, and probably a Slider or Missouri Slider, especially with the small indentation in the side of the shell at the rear.  I took the photo from a distance with the telephoto lens… when you walk anywhere near them, they slide quickly back into the water.

A pond turtle basking in the sun on a stump.

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