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!!!”


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?!



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!


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

Trees, Leaves and a Sunny Breeze

October 24th, 2007

    Certain days in October feel so energizing to me.  The cool mornings and warm afternoons seem to provide an incentive to get a lot done outdoors.  Plus it just feels good, and looks nice with the colors and changes after a long, hot summer.  In some ways, I wish the fall season would last longer… maybe six months of fall and six months of spring!  Hmmm… doubt there’s anywhere quite like that is there?  Yesterday started out so cool, about 45 degrees F, but  then warmed up into the high 60’s.  The leaves are falling more and more each day, especially if it’s windy.  But in late afternoon the wind was just a gentle breeze with the sunlight filtering through the trees and around the pond… one of my favorite views.

 October afternoon with the sun on trees and pond

The Yellow Lab enjoys wandering around while I do chores and take pictures.  I finally completed burning a large pile of brush.  It rained quite a while the day before, so the forest and grassy areas were wet, and the air was calm.  But the dog just played nearby the whole time.  He found a green walnut and threw it into the air, amusing himself for a good half hour.  He wanted to swim in this picture, but we just stopped by to check out the leaves in the water.  There will be a lot more soon!

The leaves are falling into the pond 

I dumped some of our grass and leaf mulch pile over the garden fence.  This fall we will put a lot more leaves into the mulch pile for next year.  Hopefully the garden will really be enriched over time.

Mulch from leaves and grass piled for the garden

Roses, Peppers and a Wet Labrador

October 22nd, 2007

     Okay, somebody bring back the sun!  The day started out balmy, but the temperatures have been dropping steadily as the clouds and rain rolled in.  We can’t complain though, it was such a beautiful weekend.   This morning I saw several flocks of White-fronted Geese flying far overhead, tootling as they went by, heading south of course.  In March a small flock landed on the pond on their northward journey and I wrote about them here.  They are so different from the Canada Geese.

The roses are still blooming!  Here’s a pink beauty looking toward the sky.

Beautiful pink rose in the morning

I can hardly believe how the pepper plants have grown this year.  I took another 25 peppers off them this morning, and there’s at least that many still growing. 

Jalapeno pepper growing in October

We also did a little retriever training today, and the Yellow Lab swam his heart out bringing the fake duck back.  He loves retrieving, and as the duck landed in the water he was straining to leap towards the pond.  I finally gave him the “back!” command, and off he went, going “Woof! woof!” and grunting with delight.  We’re going to do this 2-3 times a week as the weather gets cooler.  I’m curious to see if the he shows any hesitation with the cold… I know I would!

 The Yellow Labrador completing a water retrieve

Training the Lab

October 13th, 2007

Few thoughts for today as we all catch up with things put off until the weekend.  But who am I kidding… among all the things to do we still must find time to relax and enjoy each day.  :) 

The Yellow Lab is eager to make a retrieve.   In the field I put a couple of pheasant wings in different places.  I’m marking the path for a blind retrieve…. which doesn’t mean a whole lot to him at this point.  He races towards the mark I give him, but then tails off in one direction or another before he quite gets there.  Instead of being as “direct” as he was last month, I think he’s feeling his oats lately… he loves to choose his own path.   I’ve got to work on that- although he does make the retrieve, it takes him longer now, he runs from one side the other, sometimes back, and wastes energy.  Sometimes I struggle to understand “how” to get him to do things… it’s part of his education, and most certainly it’s part of mine!

Marking the direction of the blind retrieve

He has grown to muscled youth with a vigor I can only look back upon.  The pheasant wing is in his mouth on the way back from finding its hiding place.

Yellow Labrador Retriever returning from retrieve


The pond was foggy on several days this week- I love the mist on the waters, and it makes me wonder what lurks in the deep?

Morning fog at the corner of the pond

Happy Birthday Pup! Yellow Lab is 12 Months

October 1st, 2007

     A big Happy Birthday to the Yellow Labrador today!  He was born on this day last year, and is leaving his puppy days behind.  He doesn’t mind however and is getting to be a big dog- I don’t even know his weight.  I took him to the field yesterday with some other Labs for dove hunting.  He has never met another Lab until yesterday… or a female dog.  Suffice it to say he was very excited!   He did okay though,  he found the birds before I did, but wasn’t really sure what to do with it the first time.  After that he made a decent retrieve, but is still a little mystified about the whole process.  I didn’t have a chance to work with him with real birds yet this year, but hopefully he’ll pick it up quickly as the season goes on.  But he’s just a great friend and fun to be around.

The Yellow Labrador Retriever at 12 months. Happy Birthday!


  It was time to turn the garden under, clean it up, and prepare it for next year.  We cut down all the stringy vines, and pulled up the old vegetation.  After trimming everything back (except for one lonely tomato plant), I carted all of it off to a pile that I can burn in the months ahead.  So then it was time to lay compost on top of the garden.  The tractor was really helpful, especially since the fence encloses the entire garden.  We could lower the bucket over the fence for filling it up, and dumping in the compost!  Newspapers do the trick over top of weeds and such.  We put them down and I used the tractor to scoop our compost and dump right on top.  The compost is really just leaf litter and grass clippings that have been in a pile for the last 3-6 months.  Hopefully it will help keep the weeds down, and we’ll add more leaf litter as top dressing over the fall and winter months.

The tractor helps with dumping, hauling and just about everything else!

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.

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!

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