Flowers, Veggies and Doggy Noses

September 24th, 2009

A steady, gentle rain today, and gives one time to catch up on a few things.  I want to take a minute to thank everyone for visiting (and commenting) here at Fox Haven.  Writing, blogging, whatever you call this form of expression…. it gives us a chance to “think out loud” perhaps, and reach out to folks in a different way.  That’s not my intent per se, but I’ve really come to enjoy this little part of our world.  I know there are always a lot more people browsing or lurking a bit, and I understand that very well. I tend to lurk on other blogs and sites far more than commenting too it seems.

In some ways,  reading and commenting on a blog on a regular basis is like investing some part of yourself, or sharing who you are a bit as well.  Is it a risk for some people?  Maybe too personal?  I don’t know, but I know it’s hard at times when a blog disappears for unknown reasons and we wonder where those good folks have gone.  Change and a shift of focus is understandable in anyone’s life though.   Sometimes we face challenges that are difficult to write about, or not shared with our readers, or we simply need a break.  I wonder who could qualify as the longest writing blogger?!

Maybe we feel that we’re only showing half the picture of our real lives, or we wonder what’s the point?  Honestly I don’t know that there is any point, at least for me, beyond keeping a journal of our lives and examining aspects of ourselves that perhaps could be shared later on.  It doesn’t really matter- I enjoy writing and sharing pictures, and hope that others enjoy it too.   When it comes right down to it, I would like to think that what most people write and share about their lives is a lot closer to who they really are.   So with that, I just want you to know that you are welcome here any time, and I appreciate how many of you do take the time to come by… :) 

Meanwhile, back on our weedy acreage (the weeds are stiffly standing their ground against my efforts!) I’m still mucking about pruning, cutting, planting, ripping things out and generally trying to keep ahead of nature’s efforts.  If I strike a balance, then I’ll call it a victory… but there’s always something else to do.  Just as with rainbows there are moments of beauty all around us though.  These perennial asters get my vote for flowers of the month- they seem to get bigger every year, and the honeybees enjoy them too.


Near the house I planted a couple of Burkwood Viburnum shrubs a few years ago. They’ve finally settled in and are covered with nice red berries this year.  In the spring they have the most fragrant white flower clusters- it’s really amazing, but such a sweet fragrance only blooms for a few days it seems.  The birds will certainly enjoy the little fruit this winter.


Yesterday was a misty morning with dew hanging everywhere, including this spider’s web. There are so many spiders about now, their webs even gather in your hair when you least expect it!


Contrasts are always interesting, and a few days ago I stared at the walnut tree standing tall against the stormy sky.  What a stark picture it made with leaves mostly gone yet the nuts still hanging on.  As I looked I felt a small chill… so gray and dark!  It almost seemed a portent of the coming winter. Brrr…



But then I smiled and thought, “No you don’t!  Winter is months away!” remembering we have many warm days yet to come.   And the garden is still growing too.  We’ve got all kinds of veggies on hand, and too many cucumbers to keep up with. 

Yesterday I set a bowl of mixed vegetables on the ground and the dogs ran up… Kuma, our little Shiba Inu to the right, and the namesake icon for Fox Haven (little does he know!).  To his left is the protruding nose of Justin, our elderly Basset Hound. The yellow lab was standing off to the side looking like, “Me to! I want some!” but he must wait his turn. Actually I didn’t give the vegetables to the dogs, but do you see the one thing that doesn’t belong in the bowl?  There were two of them… and that’s what the dogs were really after!


I love the fall season so much, even if I’m still playing catch-up around the house.  I’ve let some of the hedgerows and borders grow more this year, and these deep yellow blooms of goldenrod were the result. This honeybee worked the flowers vigorously, with a red Knockout rose in the background.


The leaves on the trees have even begun turning now… with the first yellows and browns at the tops.  Those of you further north must be ahead of us by now.  In a few weeks we’ll see the blazing variety of colors and watch leaves sailing through the air.  Almost as if to join the change of the seasons, our young one has a birthday this weekend.  He’s growing up so fast.  That will be an interesting conjunction as he grows older, to feel the change of the seasons of his own life, as part of the world around him too.   Soon we’ll be out catching the falling leaves, and jumping in leaf piles.   It’s time… Autumn is here.

Snowy Landscapes

January 29th, 2009

What a snowfall we got the other day.  Our thoughts are with all those folks struggling to get their lives back together after the ice storms this week.  Thankfully we only received the white stuff- about 6-8 inches worth.    The kids were out of school for a couple of days, and we enjoyed a chance to spend some time together.     

The Shiba Inu loves to run around in the snow, and has a coat so thick he would be just fine outside all the time.    He’s running through the garden here and likes to look for rabbits and moles. 

Shiba Inu in winter

Speaking of the garden, it’s pretty sad looking.  I’m embarrassed to show how we’ve barely cleaned up last year’s growth.  The next warm spell we get I’m going to head out and clean it up, and topdress the rows with leaves.  It’s time… I’m already imagining tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, beans, peas…

Garden bare in winter

I keep telling myself spring isn’t far off, especially while plowing the gravel drive.  I took half the snow off, but it’s still a few inches deep.  I don’t want to plow too closely or I would scrape away the packed gravel base.  We park one of the cars near the road during snowstorms because it doesn’t drive very well down and up the snow-covered slope.  Hopefully some of this will melt off today.

Plowing snow on gravel drive

But I just love how the landscape looks when covered in snow.  Maybe it even keeps the bees a little warmer?  Who knows, but in about a month it will be time for the queen bee to start producing a lot more baby bees.  Oh, if you’re wondering- the beehives are black looking because I wrapped them with black-painted insulation for warmth. 

Some people debate whether you should wrap hives in winter in the midwest.  Some believe it makes them too warm and hence they could be more active and eat more their winter stores of honey.  I like to think it helps them stay warmer, using less of their own metabolic energy to stay warm comparatively, and hence eating less of their stored honey over time.  I’m sure there are a lot more opinions and research out there… I’m a new beekeeper and still learning.  But this winter has been colder than normal for us, and I’m glad I wrapped them up. Hopefully they make it to late winter when I’ll start feeding and the cycle will begin again.

Winter landscape and bee hives

Kuma the Shiba Inu

March 10th, 2008

Kuma the Shiba Inu is our mascot here at the Fox Haven Journal. He kind of looks like a fox, so he get’s to be the face of the blog. Of course he loves sleeping in the warm sun, even in the below picture that shows him in a less-than-dignified position! He’s had a very thick coat of fur this winter and is thinner than he looks. The large black “thing” on his collar is part of the “pet fence” to keep him from roaming too far. But he has the run of about 3 acres around the outside of the house, so he’s a happy little guy. If he gets too close to the boundary, it beeps at him. If he tries to go across (which he doesn’t anymore), it gives him a little “zap!” like static electricity. It works very well once it’s put in. We spent a week with a shovel, digging a 3 inch slot, and then a paint stick, burying about 300+ feet of pet fence wire inch-by-inch.

He tried to run across a few times though when we first put it up. And he succeeded… proudly wandering the fields and forests in the area until I caught up with him. But one time he got out, and then wanted to come back towards the house, but it wouldn’t let him because it kept beeping- so I found him sitting down by the pond. He wouldn’t come back even with a leash and his collar off!  I had to pick him up, and carry him all the way to the house up the hill. He seemed to like that very much…

If you want to read more about our little Shiba, last year I shared the story of how we found Kuma in Japan.

Shiba Inu sleeping in the sun

Early March Snow is Fun for Everybody

March 5th, 2008

After an amazingly warm weekend, we were hit by 5+ inches of snow. Made for an interesting day, especially watching the animals.

Many birds hung around the feeders through the storm, especially the litttle Juncos.

Juncos at the feeder during snowfall

The snowfall covered the barn quickly.

Country barn after snowfall

A flock of Robins perched around the trees, looking out of place with the ground covered in snow.

Robin perched in tree during snowstorm

And I learned something new about Robins. Several of them flew in and out of this Juniper tree eating the juniper berries. Who knew?

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The Shiba’s Leaf Pile

March 3rd, 2008

Yesterday was amazing!  It was so warm I think we got more accomplished in one day than the whole month before.  And it was windy too, but just perfect for opening the windows and getting some fresh air.  One of the chores was sweeping/blowing the leaves out of the garage and driveway area. The way the house faces makes a perfect “wind eddy” for leaves to accumulate.  But trying to clean them up was more like other things you should not do in the wind (!) and they kept blowing back to where I started.  I finally satisfied myself with a measure of cleanliness.  For about 10 minutes.  After working on something else I came back to find that Kuma appreciates the leaves just fine, thank you very much.   He snuggled down to relax for a while.  It was funny- a great whirlwind began blowing leaves in circles all around his head.  He just stoically squinted his eyes and enjoyed the breeze.

Shiba Inu in a pile of leaves

Another notable event yesterday- the Spring Peepers emerged from hibernation and began calling.  I’ve been listening for them the past few weeks, but with the warmth of the weekend after rain, they came out early for spring.  It was nice listening to their calls- I may try to record them and put that here.  The critters are going to have to hunker down for another week or two because it turns cold again tomorrow with a snowstorm in the forecast!

Rain in June

June 2nd, 2007

A good few rainy days this week, with a little sun as well.  How do you feel about the rain?  Do you get more done, or less?  Does it matter?  For me I shift “inside” both physically and mentally I think.  With a host of things that always need accomplished, when it rains I simply turn to those things on the inside of the house.  But I can’t say the rain doesn’t affect me, because I know I become more introspective.  In many ways I love it when it rains, and it helps me relax.  But I appreciate the rain we’ve had for the garden and landscape… everything is soaking it up!

These flowers look so nice… like a cottage garden.  We can’t take credit for them however, they came with the house!  We’ve pulled a few weeds and trimmed all around, but I love the contrasts in color.

 Cottage garden flowers in Spring

The pond is a tranquil place when gentle rain falls.  It fills up slowly, and goes down slowly… last year it dropped by almost five feet by late summer.  With all the spring rain, it may keep a higher level this year.

Rain falls gently on the pond


The Shiba Inu loves to prowl around the house… and garden!  I try to keep him out of the garden, but he thinks it’s his place to explore.  He is ready to lose his winter coat… a little shedding the past few weeks, but we expect it to all come out soon.  When it does, it comes in clumps!  He’s a happy fellow, and loves attention.

The Shiba loves to explore outdoors

The Shiba Inu

February 23rd, 2007

A little more than four years ago we brought our Shiba Inu home.  I stopped by a little Japanese pet shop in Zushi, Japan one afternoon.  I say little… the shop was no bigger than a small kitchen.  The sales person didn’t speak English, and I didn’t speak Japanese, but as I walked a short circle around the displays I saw a few small cages along the window.  I think there were three dogs available… and one, a little fuzzy teddy bear, kept staring at me.

I looked away and walked around again (it didn’t take very long)… and then I peeked around the corner and that pup was still sitting quietly and staring at me!   And I mean really staring… wherever I walked he followed me with an imperturbable gaze that was somewhat disquieting.

 “Hmmm…” I chuckled, “Maybe he’s never seen an American before…” So I left the store then, realizing if I didn’t I would be tempted to get a closer look at this furry creature.

(This is one of my favorite pictures… taken in 2007.  It shows his poise and enthusiasm for life… he is 4 years old in the picture.)

The Shiba Inu

Later I mentioned my visit to the pet store at home, and that Christmas was coming up… maybe we could get a puppy and the two-year old would enjoy him?  This was met with ambivalence, but we decided we would go look at him the next chance we had.

I thought I would try never to buy a dog from a pet store, but after some research I found that in Japan they consider it an honorable and proper way to find a family pet. When you consider and personally see the population density in Japan, it makes much more sense as well.

The Shiba Inu is in fact a royal dog in Japan, and a popular choice for a pet… with ancestry going back centuries. The Shiba is related to the Akita, but much smaller.

I digress… once in the store again, (yes, the dog stared intently at me again!)  we asked to take a closer look at the little guy and, like many pet shop stories, it was hard to resist the little ball of fur in your arms and we decided to bring him home.   The salesperson smiled and was very helpful, even if we didn’t understand each other.   She pointed to the right food and gave us some toys to take home for him. 

Alas, that little pup’s gaze won me over.   He was adorable, fuzzy, full of energy and… oh my goodness a little tasmanian devil!   We later realized a Shiba is not quite the “puppy” a little boy should have for a first dog.   He was a great little dog, don’t get me wrong.  But he has a single-mindedness about him that doesn’t care what anyone thinks about his interests.

Our little shiba doesn’t realize he’s barely 30 pounds… he will stare down and wrestle with the biggest dog in the pack.   He considers himself the “alpha” of the family… it’s just his nature.   He is fastidious and clean, chooses carefully “where” to do his business, and doesn’t grab treats or eat food with any measure of enthusiasm.

In that regard he is like a cat.  You can danglethe meatiest, juciest bone or morsel, and he will slowly smell it… take it (if he wants it) in his mouth and walk slowly away… dropping it to the ground as if deciding whether the time is right.   Yet he does have a fondness for seafood… perhaps his early Japanese upbringing?  He’ll eat shrimp more quickly than any other food.

Does that fuzzy little dog shed? Well, it’s more like he “explodes” once or twice a year… lately he’s had a very thick coat of fur and will keep that until late spring. Then his fur will come out in huge clumps until he looks more like a skinny fox.

Is he trainable? Perhaps with a better trainer! He can sit and come… when he wants to. He loves to run, and for that reason we have a buried groundwire “pet fence” that gives him the freedom to run on almost three acres around the house. At our previous home he would get out at times and run, run, run… I would spend an hour sometimes trying to catch him!

For that reason, the Shiba needs to be inside a home, or in a fenced yard. When he first wore the electric collar on our property he tried repeatedly to push the boundaries of the fence and got a little harmless “zap” as he did so (with a vocal “yip!” as he turned quickly around). He even ran straight through a few times at first, with a little yelp, and kept running… but now he is settled here.

That pet fence isn’t working anymore.  The wires are brokern, and the little shiba has settled down.   Often we didn’t even put the collar on him and he would  stay around the house… walking up within 10 feet of the boundary as he has learned the “invisible” limits of his domain. He has a regular collar, tag and microchip in case he gets lost. I would be more worried that someone might think he’s a fox or coyote and try to shoot him. He loves to “hunt” and chase after rabbits, moles and whatever else he finds.

Our Shiba mostly ignores the cats, and plays mercilessly with the Basset Hound, niping his tail and trying to get him to play. He doesn’t bite normally, but if scared, hurt or threatened, he will react first with his teeth and ask questions later. I think they are defensive in that regard, so I probably wouldn’t recommend the Shiba in a house with small children unless kept separately and/or watched carefully. A good Labrador Retriever as a family pet can be pulled, pushed, wrestled and hugged repeatedly, even enjoying the attention… but I think the Shiba needs more “personal space”. That’s just the way they are. But with older kids and adults they are terrific.

He does love attention and enjoys climbing in my lap and being petted, and he loves to play… the new Labrador pup would run and wrestles with him for hours if I let him. But the Shiba lets the puppy know exactly who is the boss! One of the really strange traits they have is they are sensitive about their feet. If you step on their foot, or when clipping nails get too close to the “quick” or even squeeze their foot too hard, they will let out a crying wail like you’ve never heard. Inside a house your neighbors would think a child is screaming! That’s the only time we’ve heard him make that sound… so we try to be nice to his feet!

I took this picture yesterday as the Shiba was rolling in the grass and “yowling” in a playful manner.

Playful Shiba Inu

That’s all I know about the breed, but from personal experience they are amazing and unique animals. I would describe them as having boundless energy, rampant independence and a carefree enjoyment of the outdoors. That’s our Shiba, Kuma… and he shows all of those traits and more.   If you ever get one, be ready for a dog who thinks the world revolves around him… yet who is also very lovable and wants to be part of the family!