Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Eyes on the Skies

Mr. Elf and Tom Turkey are ready to travel "over the river mountain, and through the woods, to grandmother's sister's house we go!" But the weather is making this one a nail-biter. You just never know around here...one or two degrees up or down the temperature gauge can mean the difference between a soaking rain or a blizzard. We were under an ice storm warning last night, and completely dodged that bullet. Hopefully the same will hold true tonight. Currently, the forecast for tomorrow morning looks like this:

Tom Turkey makes an appearance every year on the Thanksgiving table, so he's used to traveling. This trip will be an adventure for Mr. Elf, however. He has spent the last 20 or so years living behind the olive oil and protein powder up in the cupboard. My mom made the Mr. Elf cookie jar when I was a child. It's one of those things I don't actually use anymore, but can't bring myself to throw away.

My Book Club friends are of the opinion that he's a creepy looking elf. In his defense, he looks quite jolly and benign sitting out on the counter filled with chocolate chip cookies. But lurking behind the olive oil, in the shadows... hmmm...maybe. And as my niece pointed out, he does look a bit creepy hiding behind the scarf. We may have ourselves a character from a future Stephen King novel here.

Either way, he's not living up to his full potential here, so he's headed to Georgia to live at my sister's house for awhile. If the weather holds out and we can get there. Fingers crossed!

Check out the great dinner I made tonight, inspired by Sam at My Carolina Kitchen. The Spicy Roasted Butternut Squash salad was every bit as good as I imagined it would be when I read her post last week. I added a Maryland Crab Cake and mmm, mmm good - thanks for sharing the recipe, Sam!

The rain on the skylight sounds like sleet. Perhaps I should get up off the sofa and check it out. Lucy is not worried. Lucy is hardly ever worried. She has been laying next to me as I type, snoring little kitty snores. Very cute. Stay warm everyone, and if you're traveling for the holiday - be safe!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Summer, Fall, It's a Blur!

Has it really been more than four months since my last post? My goodness, how is that possible? The months have gone by in a blur! Lots of work, lots of play, but nothing particularly dramatic to report. As summer's heat and humidity gave way to the beautiful crisp days of fall, we got out on the trails as often as possible.

One of my favorite destinations of the past few months was beautiful Crabtree Falls. It was a glorious sight to behold surrounded by the glowing yellow and orange forest. 

Katie has gotten a little too advanced in years to enjoy these hikes, she prefers to stay home now. Her favorite place is in the kitchen waiting for food to appear.

But Lady is still going strong at maybe 8 years, maybe 10 1/2 years of age. She's supposed to be 10 1/2, but I find that hard to believe - she can still jump into the back of the truck with ease.

Back in 2007, the shelter staff told the German Shepherd Rescue that Lady was 4, and her sibling Dixie who had been turned in with her (and was adopted straight from the shelter) was supposedly 1 1/2.

But Lady acted like a 1 1/2 year old then, and she acts more like an 8 year old now, so my theory is some mixed up paperwork! Regardless of her true age, Lady loves hiking and exploring.

Lady's favorite boy came for a visit in September and hit the trails with us, which was great fun. We had a picture perfect day - the only problem was that it wasn't long enough!

Lucy holds down the fort while we're out on these adventures, working with Katie to make sure the house is safe and secure.

We spent a lot of time in Montreat, which is right down the road. I must have a hundred photos of these canoes on Lake Susan in October, but every fall the scene calls out to me and I must attempt to capture it with my lens yet again. After all, the scene is a little different every time I pass by; it's like two snowflakes - no two moments every quite the same!

Will close this brief update post with a photo of Lady, conked out on the living room floor. When Lady is sleeping deeply, after a long day of hiking - and not being her usual vigilant, watchful self - her tongue sticks out a little bit. It always makes me smile. :)

Hope all our blogger friends have had fun this fall, the kind of fun that makes you so "good tired" that your tongue kind of sticks out when you sleep.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th of July!

Some fascinating Independence Day trivia from my friend Trip, who posted this on Facebook today. Check this out...
Heres something interesting for you to share about this date in history: In a remarkable coincidence, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only signers of the Declaration of Independence later to serve as Presidents of the United States, died on the same day: July 4, 1826, which was the 50th anniversary of the Declaration. 
Did you know this? I did not!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Ergonomically Speaking

Working from a home office has many benefits. My commute is approximately 45 seconds, the time it takes me to walk from the upstairs to the downstairs. I only need "work clothes" for the days when I'm actually going to see coworkers. The lack of coworkers, however, tends to be one of the disadvantages. You can't walk down the hall and vent to a coworker when you're having a bad day. Somehow it's just not the same via email or telephone.

My coworkers most days are 4 footed furry ones. Lady and Katie never let me go to work alone. Every morning, we have the same routine. I brew my coffee, whip up a protein smoothie in the Ninja, and then announce "Okay girls, time to go to work!" Then we all head to the office downstairs. They stay with me all day, leaving only when I need to go upstairs for a coffee refill or a bite of lunch. It's so cute how they follow me.

Lucky never wanted anything to do with the whole "going to work" business. In fact, during the entire past year, I think he only went downstairs one time. It may have been the stairs. His entire life, he never was crazy about stairs. But I never knew for sure. Since he couldn't talk, he never was able to explain his reluctance to join us for the work day. But that was fine, I always had my girls to keep me company.

However, by the end of the day, sometimes I have strange aches and pains. I wonder what OSHA would think of the computer desk ergonomics that require my remaining perfectly still for long periods of time so as not to roll over a dog ear or paw?

And let's not even talk about the potential for carpal tunnel. 

Yes, Lucy joins me at work too. She doesn't stay all day like Lady and Katie, rather, she comes sauntering down on her own schedule. I hear her before I see her, as she begin meowing her arrival about halfway down the hall. We have a routine here too. As soon she appears in the doorway, I say "Luc!" (pronounced "Loose!")  And she says "Meow!" Then she comes over and asks to get on my lap. How do you say no to a face like this?

You don't. You just welcome her on up, and make do the best you can. Not moving the chair too much (she doesn't like that when she's napping).

And typing carefully, so as not to jostle her little head. 

Ergonomically speaking, it's not the best way to work. 
But I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Safe Haven

I love weekends. One of the best things about weekends is not having a schedule! Or at least less of a schedule. There's time and space to fritter, and explore. Yesterday I was enjoying just such a day, when I decided to look for a place I've long wanted to visit, a sanctuary called Animal Haven.

A little background about my interest in Animal Haven... Several years ago, I rescued a duck from an icy lake. The staff from the veterinary clinic fell in love with her, naming her "Mildred," and one of the staff tried to adopt her. But the woman's chickens took exception to the newcomer, so Mildred had to be relocated to an animal sanctuary called Animal Haven. I was told she would be safe for life there, that she seemed to like it - and that she'd met a boyfriend! I always thought it would be fun to go find this place and see Mildred happy and healthy, considering how pitiful and near death she was when I'd last seen her. However, life being busy as it is, weeks and months passed, and I never made it out there.

On Saturday I was out running errands when I approached the road that I'd been told led to Animal Haven. I was sure Mildred was gone by now, considering that was years ago. But I was still curious about the place, having never seen it. On impulse, I turned. I wandered down the road for awhile, and then spotted the sign as I approached a curve: "Animal Haven of Asheville."

I did not find Mildred, although the volunteer who showed me around encouraged me to call back when the owner was on property. All of the animals were not in sight, and she did not know them all by name. She knew many of them though, like Bonnie and Clyde, who honked loud greetings.

This place is amazing...such a beautiful, peaceful setting, and spotlessly clean! The animals have sheltered areas as well as open pastures, and they seem so happy. I met giant pot bellied pigs, including one who wagged her tail every time you said her name. So cute! I had no idea pigs wagged their tails.

The cats have a beautiful house, filled with all sorts of things a cat would love. Places to climb and hide, two lofts, and a completely enclosed outdoor area. It's cooled in the summer by a fan, and heated in winter. The volunteer explained that the cats are generally able to leave this area as they wish, but a new cat was not yet allowed outside, so we were careful to shut the gate behind us when we left.

I met a rabbit, and chickens, and ducks. But the cutest of all were the goats! Look at this little face...

How cute is he?? His mother was rescued recently from a circumstance of abuse and neglect, and baby goat here surprised everyone by making an appearance shortly thereafter. The volunteer who was showing me around said that the mother goat had made great strides in learning to trust her new environment and people. I saw her some distance away on a hillside and she looked pretty happy, pulling leaves off a tree. And lucky little baby goat, to have the opportunity to be born into such a safe, nurturing, beautiful place.

Few of the animals at this sanctuary are up for adoption. Most are old, or sick, and they will be lovingly cared for at Animal Haven for the rest of their lives. The more I learned about this place during my tour, the more impressed I was. Animal Haven is a 501c3 nonprofit organization, and everyone who works here is a volunteer. Everyone! This is remarkable. It must take an army of volunteers to care for all the animals, do the rehabilitation, keep the pens and houses clean, keep the grounds looking so beautiful, run the thrift store. The place radiated love.

I went on the website today to learn a little more about the background and operation of Animal Haven. I am ready to clean out my house and donate all my unneeded items to their thrift store! They also have an interesting sponsorship program. For $20 a month (or whatever you can afford), you can sponsor an animal that has been rescued from abuse or neglect. You can do this for yourself, or as a gift for someone else. They'll send its photo and information, and arrange a tour to meet the sponsored animal. You can also visit with it as often as you want, if you're local. I want to sponsor Baby Goat! If anyone would like more information about the sponsorship program, check out http://www.animalhaven.org/sponsor.html

I am also going to call back and ask about Mildred. Regardless of whether she is still around or not, I am so thankful she got to live in this place. I could not have asked for anything better.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Life Well Lived

Our friends and former next-door neighbors are saying goodbye today to their beloved Arlo. As hard as this day is - and heaven knows all of us who have loved and lost a cherished furry family member know how hard it is - it's also a day for celebrating love. How fortunate are we who have been loved by a dog! Dogs bring the very best kind of love into our lives. Selfless, freely given, no strings attached.

I had not planned to do a post about Arlo. However, this morning I got a text from my sister encouraging me to check Facebook for an update on a pitiful emaciated dog that they rescued 4 days ago (that's another story, will have to share that one next time). When I went to Facebook, instead of seeing Stray Dog's update, I saw the photo of Arlo above, accompanied by a poem written by the family's daughter Emily. It was beautiful and moving, and reading it felt like watching a slideshow of Arlo's life. I asked them if I could share it, and they said that both Arlo and Emily would like that. So here it is. Enjoy, and celebrate the unconditional love in your own life this day.

Bye Bye Bean

Of all the names that we ever made up,
Like Farlo and Bubner, The Bean always stuck.
From the days when you stuffed all our socks in your mouth,
You were even too little to climb onto the couch!

You grew mighty quick, your belly the quickest
That buttery middle was by far the thickest.
Every now and then dad bought you ice cream in town,
Mom gave you cookies when you jumped up and down.
In some of your snackage you were a bit naughty,
Like when you ate all that fudge from Lake Winnipesaukee.

That tummy of yours, always hungry for somethin'
Snarfed brownies and at least one blueberry muffin.
Although you seemed to prefer baby carrots or steak,
There was even that time you gave my finger a taste!

That tum tum, round and warm, loved a good rubbin'
You'd flop on your back, always ready for lovin'!
The butterybeaniest best morning snuggler,
You'd snort and wiggle your way under the covers.
You'd only surrender while actively petted.
Otherwise you'd say, tail thumping, "time for breakfast."

Into late years you'd play like a pup,
Squeaking toys, on your back, legs sticking up.
Remember "Go find Charlie...", "Who's out there...GO GET 'EM!"
You'd chase those deer good...in the opposite direction!

Bean, you were indeed a hairy fellow,
So mom redecorated the whole house in yellow.
A toy carrot, a dishtowel, your Binky you'd find
To welcome each one of us home, each time.

You made great friends wherever you went,
Lives shaped by you are lives better spent.
Lessons you shared without any talking
Like patience, compassion; no judgment or mocking.
Thank you, my friend, for being around
Whether under the desk, or on the old brown couch.

Little Brother, Black Bead, Arlo Von Benard
Arlo Farlo Big Fat Yarlo, BFD, and Schmarl
The time has come, my sweet Bean, the time has come to rest
Come here, boy, come. Lay your head down on my chest.
Our hearts beat for you while you let out your last breath,
May so much love lift you to wherever you go next.

Thanks to Emily for this beautiful tribute, and for allowing me to share it.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Springtime Adventures

Heading up Lookout Trail in Montreat!
It's been a delightful spring here in the mountains, despite the fact that of course, the Luckster Boy is deeply missed. I've been so busy with springtime activities, I've not spent any time blogging. When I turned on my home computer this morning, it opened to a page I was looking at two weeks ago! I had to stop and think - "Had it really been two whole weeks since I last sat down at this computer??"

It's time for an update! My last blog post was about Lucky's passing, so I don't want any of his friends thinking that we've gone into a cave to mourn. No, he would not want that, he would want us to enjoy every minute of spring, and that is exactly what we have been doing.

Springtime means spring cleaning = doggie bath time! Lady and Katie were good sports and tolerated their spring baths well. Of course, Katie adopted a posture of utter martyrdom throughout the process, but otherwise she managed just fine.

After the dogs were squeaky clean, it was time to wash the bed covers. The beds were piled and propped along one side of the living room as the covers dried and were put back on in stages. I got such a chuckle out of the scene below when I passed through at one point. Looks like the baths wore everyone out! 

In the mountains, springtime also means visits from the local wildlife. The bird feeding oasis I got for my birthday lasted about one day before the bears discovered  it. :-(         I was saying very unkind things about the bear population that day. Fortunately (miraculously) it was not destroyed, and everything has now been put away until the winter. Sometimes you can wait a few weeks until they move on, so I may try again toward the end of June. But they'll probably find it again. More likely than not, I'm going to have to be patient and wait until winter.

I need one of these signs that are on the dumpsters in the neighborhood. 

Mama Fox has had another litter of kits this spring, and they have been a joy and delight to watch. This year there were five! They play like puppies, chasing and jumping on one another. Mama's lame back leg makes her easy to identify as the same fox who was seen with kits in this area last spring. It doesn't seem to slow her down at all; she hops along on three legs as easily as if she had four. Almost all the photos I've taken are very grainy, because the family tends to show up at dusk, and I seem always to have only my iPhone with me. I got these pics one night about a month ago when I was driving up the hill back to the house, and oh how I longed to have my Canon Rebel! The kits were fearless and practically posed for me.

Several times during the last week, the kits have passed by my home office window, one or two at a time. I was on a phone conference on Tuesday when one ran into view and pounced onto the dirt near the Mexican sunflowers I've planted. Then it jumped into the air again, spun around, pounced again, and ran off. Maybe it was after something I couldn't see, or maybe it was playing. They're usually moving through so quickly that by the time I get out of my chair and over to the window, they're gone. But a few days ago I got lucky and captured the photo below. I was so excited to finally get a decent shot of one of them! As you can see from the photo, the youngsters are getting bigger.

So that's the update from here. We hope all our Blogger friends are having a great spring too. I'll set aside some time this evening to come visiting, get caught up on what's been going on!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Goodbye Sweet Lucky

April 12, 2013

I am sorry to share with all of Lucky's friends the sad and shocking news that he passed away this evening. He has been the picture of health and wellbeing - we walked 3 miles last night! - and then without warning, this afternoon at around 5:15 pm he suddenly became ill. He wasn't acting like himself - oddly lethargic and he couldn't get up from the place where he'd been napping peacefully all afternoon. We took him to the vet, and by 8 pm he was gone. 

It's so sad, so unexpected. Lucky for him - he got to live a happy, active life until almost the moment he left. But hard for us. I just never expected it like this. Just a few days ago, I was watching him and marveling how at his age, he was still so healthy and active. Wow. I guess we just never know. A reminder to us all not to take anything for granted. 

Roam free, Lucky. I do believe you were probably the best dog that ever lived, trying so hard to always be a good boy. You will be missed. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Eye of the Beholder

My sister loves vultures. Until learning this curious fact, I'd never encountered anyone with a fondness for vultures, but apparently these big ugly birds have their fans. My sister tells me there are websites and a Facebook page devoted to vultures and their fans. Since learning of her interest, I've found myself noticing them more frequently. This probably helps explain why I was stalking them with my camera on the recent visit to Myakka River State Park. The park has both Black Vultures and Turkey Vultures, and the hike to Deep Hole was a vulture bonanza.

I had never seen so many in one place, and kept thinking "I wish my sister were here to see this!" A perfect storm of environmental factors the day of our hike resulted in remarkable wildlife viewing. The warm sunshine brought the alligators out to sun themselves, but an uncharacteristic cold snap just a few days earlier had killed large numbers of catfish, creating an "all-you-can-eat" seafood buffet for the vultures.

The alligators and vultures seemed to have an understanding, as neither bothered the other. Black Vultures are large birds, and with their 5 foot wingspan they have few predators. However I assume that a hungry or angry alligator could make short work of a vulture if so inclined. Thankfully, these alligators were not so inclined. I don't watch those animals-eating-other-animals shows on TV, and definitely did not want to see it in person! 

The other bird we encountered on our hike is more universally admired - the pelican. On the day of our hike, we hit the bird watching jackpot. There were literally thousands of white pelicans congregating around Deep Hole. One of the rangers we encountered on the way out had also seen them and was as thrilled as we were. He told us he'd never before seen that many pelicans at Deep Hole at one time, estimating their numbers at around 2000. Lucky us!

White pelicans are even larger than vultures, with a wingspan of 8-9 feet. 
Watching them take flight was quite a sight. 

It was thrilling to be at this mysterious and wild place, just the four of us with dozens of black vultures, hundreds of alligators, and thousands of white pelicans. But all good things must come to an end, and eventually it was time to leave. The sun sank lower in the afternoon sky as we started the hike back, and I found myself wondering about Deep Hole at night. In such a remote area, miles from streetlights and the electric glow of civilization, the darkness must be complete and impenetrable. I thought about this as my feet, unaccustomed to hiking in sand, left clumsy tracks along the trail. Where do alligators sleep? In the water? On the shore? Well, one thing I did know for certain...
I would not be there after dark to find out.