Posted by: morrowsl | October 15, 2018

That Little Heartbeat At Your Feet

Even when you live a life that seems to sit somewhere between fast and faster, there are moments that freeze in time. Or, maybe because you live at breakneck speed, time tends to stop so you’ll at least remember something later on.

I remember our son brought his girlfriend’s mom’s new puppy to my workplace. He was literally giddy. From a small boy, he’d wanted a Husky. And this little girl fit every tick mark on his checklist. Heterochromia Iridis, or better said as one crystal blue eye and one dark brown eye. A white face set in dark grey and black with the outline of a Fleur-de-lis on her forehead. A cheerful disposition. A playful streak. And a fat puppy belly.

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She was a rescue dog in that they had recently lost a beloved Aussie and this little Husky was meant to be what rescued them from the heartbreak. They weren’t prepared for her high octane personality, however, and she shortly became a sibling to our future daughter-in-law’s Boxer Mix, Ladybug.

The new puppy was named Holly. She learned to jump on the bed and ride in the car. She tormented Ladybug. And cuddled up under her to sleep. And she figured out pretty fast that she was loved.

I remember the first time I walked her. Or rather, the first time she ran me. Our son’s townhouse had a short, but very steep driveway. She literally pulled me down it. How I kept my feet is a mystery to me, given my tendency to trip and stumble even on flat surfaces. I remember thinking at the time that sixteen of her would not only pull a sled from Anchorage to Nome without trouble, but might just refuse to stop till they’d reached the Chukchi Peninsula!


Eventually, the kids rented out the townhouse and moved in with us while they shopped for a house. Holly and Ladybug joined Dillon and Sally. Everywhere you stepped there was a dog. The foursome got along, for the most part. Although poor Dillon was well outnumbered by the three domineering females.

Time froze again when the kids married, bought a house, and started their family. Holly became a permanent member of our tribe. Sally passed away and Ladybug found a new home with an older couple. We lost two dogs and gained some floorspace.

Dillon and Holly got along very well and became lifelong buddies. He loved to lay under the glass table in the front room where he could watch the street. She loved to sit on the top of the car parked in the back driveway where she could see even more than he could. She oftentimes attempted to steal his spot under the table, but he never let her stay there long. They shared the ottoman and kept the backyard pockmarked with holes. They loved to go for grooming days and a shared kennel at our veterinarian’s hospital.

They both secretly hated Wilson, the cat.

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Eventually, Dillon left us as well and suddenly Holly was the only family dog. Not that she minded that one bit! She was a diva to her very soul and relished having all the attention and getting all the treats.
She and Mike became best friends. She disapproved of his travel and would lay at the front window, under Dillon’s glass table, watching for him on Friday evenings. When he was home they were almost inseparable. She would still acknowledge the kids when they came to visit and she tolerated our grandkids and other family. Never one to shy away from attention, she gave kisses for pets and treats.
But Mike was her favorite. She loved to lay on the ottoman and watch tv with her “boy”.

Age brought its limitations as well. She developed incontinence, like so many old ladies do, and with that a year-long urinary tract infection. Beating the infection meant taking medication for the rest of her life to keep the incontinence in check. We changed her diet and added supplements. She shed a few pounds but, all in all, she was healthy.

Retirement brought another series of frozen moments. We bought a house with some acreage and worried how to contain a city dog with a nose to sprint and just enough sass to ignore commands. We muddled over fencing and kennel space. In the end, we opted to harness her and use the leash when she was outside.

It worked so much better than we’d ever anticipated.

Holly’s days in our new home centered around eating, sleeping, and going out to fetch the mail. Since we couldn’t trust her, or the predatory animals that hunt in our woods, she wasn’t allowed outside alone. She spent time in the shop with her boy, but most days found her stretched out on the big rug, snoring. At noon, the two of them would make the walk down to the road to check the mailbox and allow her some toilet time. Then back to the house to eat and grab a nap. She had a dog’s life.

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We just passed the two-year anniversary of our move. In that short space of time, Holly’s health had declined rapidly. She developed arthritis and began to slow down considerably. We sought the same treatment for this newest malady as we had for her incontinence. We added two new meds and a new supplement to her daily round as well as drops to ease the stress of her arthritis pain. She tolerated being loaded in the van for the 90-minute ride to see her acupuncturist, then another 90-minute ride home. That worked for a couple of months, but it was easy to see that the ride was oftentimes countering the benefit of the treatments.

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Eventually, we knew we were coming to the end of the journey and that she would tell us when she was done.

She let us know early last week. On Friday, we gave her sedatives to eliminate the stress and pain of being loaded into the van. And the three of us took one last ride to town.

She was closing in on her thirteenth birthday. That’s quite an accomplishment for a big dog. She kept her willful spirit to the very end, refusing to be budged to go outside if she was comfy. She spent her last two years parked as close as she could get to her boy and still be comfortable. She set the schedule. And the pace. She owned us. As it should be.

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Godspeed, beautiful girl. Good dog!

 

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Posted by: morrowsl | October 11, 2018

On Finding Peace Amid Turmoil

This year has been one of great losses.  And they are not over, at least not for the residents of Remote.  In the coming days, we will be saying goodbye to Holly, our beautiful Siberian Husky.  I will eventually get around to writing about her but, just now, I can’t go there.

We lost my mother in early summer.  All of those things you tell yourself about a life well lived and living long after your mind and body are too tired to keep trying are mostly true.  But words don’t bring back the sound of a voice or the touch of a hand.

We lost better than half our flock of chickens.  Less than a week after our youngest daughter’s chickens came to live with us, we lost one of them as well.  Regardless of how those birds died, the loss is still a loss.  It is the feeling that you’ve failed to do right by a creature dependent on you for health and welfare.

The current political climate suggests our country has lost its mind.  Or, at the very least, its ability to do what is right for all.

Most of my year has been spent driving to and from my home, down one of two interstates that are often a cross between the autobahn and a crash simulator.  I find myself uttering “I hate people” a lot more often than I like.

The combination of these events makes this a hard year to find anything worth being happy or excited about.  And for someone like me, who tends to dwell on the negative far too long, it has been a very long summer.

So, I have to force myself outside, away from the tv and computer and constant hammering.

And it is there that I have found peace amid the chaos.

I say it a lot since we moved.  I’ll never stop saying it.  I love this place.

Posted by: morrowsl | September 4, 2018

No, buy maybe if you hum a bit…

One of the great delights of moving away from the hustle and bustle of the city is being able to come into contact with nature on nature’s own turf. Granted, there’s been quite a lot done to alter the turf at Remote. Still the wildlife seem to have figured out new paths and methods of getting where and what is needed to go on living as if no humans interfere. We try to be good stewards. Poison is used only as a last resort and then as mindfully and safely as possible. Grass is left tall to harbor small creatures. Brush piles get added to as often as material comes available. We still feed the deer, though we’ve learned they will forage the fields as much as possible if the feeders are empty. Feeder plots are still on the plan. We’ll get them in at some point when we are in a better place for maintaining them.

Harmonious observation of nature was seldom the story when we lived in the city. We had visitors, yes. Raccoons and possums shared bowls with our outdoor cats, leaving me to wonder what diseases they’d also share. Squirrels constantly raided the bird feeders, much to my dismay. Coyotes made rare appearances, crossing the streets and galloping off into the vacant fields, before townhouses took those spots away. Hawks nested in the woods at the college, but stopped hunting behind our house once the expansion of the interstate began.
Most were uninvited guests. With the exception of woodpeckers. And hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds were constant visitors at my mother’s little apartment in the city. I was always amazed by this since her closest neighbors were two hospitals, one full of people on the verge of mental instability and the other boasting a Care Flight helipad with Mom’s bedrooms directly under its landing path. One was noisy in a frantic, helpless sort of way. The other the steady thrum of help rendered and life saved.

But the hummers never seemed to notice all the noise and activity. They would fly up to check first that the feeder was hanging and filled. Then, every morning and evening, and occasionally during the day, three or four birds would stop for a drink and a sit still at the window where Mom waited patiently to watch them. Her delight never waned. And, try as I might, I was never successful in fooling them into stopping long enough to be caught by my lens. I would no sooner set the camera than they would take off, little Jetson engines buzzing, to mock me from the safety of the trees across the road.

So, the discovery of a nectar feeder when we emptied the pool supply cabinet on the porch gave me hope that, just maybe, I’d found a spot where hummers summered. I cleaned the feeder that first spring and hung it out, sometime in March.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Then, one day in mid-April, when I’d just about given up hope (and had stopped filling the feeder), I saw something pass a window so fast it could only be one of two things. Since it was way too close to the house, and much to quiet, to be a jet, I knew the first Remote hummingbird was on a scouting mission to see if the feeder was out and filled!

I think we had a total of three permanent residents for the summer. Then, as fall approached, the number swelled. At one point I counted a dozen birds fighting to be “owner” of the feeder. I added feeders and was having trouble keeping nectar made. Finally, the day came when the full feeders weren’t being emptied and I knew the birds had left for warmer breezes. I cleaned the three feeders that worked best, including the one the previous homeowners had left, and set them on the top pantry shelf.

When spring came this year, I added a feeder to replace the one that failed last season, and started making nectar in double batches to store in the fridge for quick-fill replacement. We probably had the same three permanent residents this season, but there seem to be more now and then, so maybe the total is greater than three. I keep feeders on all corners of the house and the birds spend the days flitting around and around, stopping in the lilac tree or out in the big evergreen to rest.
Since summer has started packing her kit and plotting her departure, there seem to be greater numbers of birds. I watched this weekend as several battled over the perch on the hook holding one feeder. It seems they like to proclaim ownership from that spot, but nobody keeps it for long.

I’ve learned that they are wary of the sound of a shutter.  And that, given enough time, they will eventually locate the source of the sound and realize that the big thing holding it moves. As long as I stay a healthy distance away and don’t make any sudden moves, they ignore me after that and I can take all the images I want. The only drawback is the sun beating down on my back and the lack of quality lighting. I try not to hang the feeders in direct sunlight so I can avoid growing fungus in them.

Last Saturday morning presented a prime opportunity for hummingbird watching. The air was cooler than it’s been. The birds were energetic and chatty. I took my coffee and camera out to the pool deck and pulled up a chair.
There are a lot of things about living away from the city that I appreciate. Spending time outside with hummingbirds is at the top of the list. Mom wasn’t able to spend a lot of time here after we moved. If she had, there would have been several spots for her to sit and delight at the birds. I think of her every time I get buzzed closely. She would have loved having them at eye level with no windows between her and them.

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Posted by: morrowsl | July 9, 2018

The Final Purge

If I am very diplomatic, I say that my relationship with my mother was complicated. I have learned to be exceptionally diplomatic when it comes to my mother. And our relationship.

Especially our relationship.

I grew up being told, repeatedly, that I was a mistake. I understood from a very young age that I was not only not planned, I was very much not wanted. Hearing that you were a mistake will do a number of things to a young mind. Some kids might do everything in their power to make it up to a mother.

For being a mistake.

Others might try to be invisible. So as to be much less of a mistake as time passes.

Not me.

I decided early on that if I was a mistake, it certainly wasn’t my fault. And since it wasn’t my fault and I was still getting blamed for it, I’d make damn sure to be the biggest mistake she ever made!

I may have been sweet up to about age six or seven, but it didn’t last much longer. Along with the frequent reminder that I wasn’t supposed to be born, I was chastised for talking too much, for being too tall and gawky, for getting my period too young, for being near-sighted and needing glasses.
There was pretty much nothing I could do to elicit a positive reaction from her. Eventually, I stopped trying.

It is possible that I was a difficult baby. I don’t recall and there was never much talk of it.  I know I took a bottle until age four and I even remember crying out in the night and the taste of cold milk in my mouth. I remember hearing that I once went into convulsions. I know I had endless bouts of strep throat and tonsillitis. I once came very close to blinding myself in one eye. And I had at least one concussion. At those times, I can remember my mother being pleasant, almost tender. I grew to mistrust her most when she was trying to be motherly. She seemed able to turn it off and on. I never felt she was sincere. Eventually I avoided any circumstances that might cause her to need, or want, to nurture me.
Not all of our days together were horrid. But most of the time I could count on doing something to disappoint or anger her.

And so, I grew up far too fast, made colossal mistakes, caused so much heartache, took the hard road. It was the only road I knew. Along the way, I paid dearly for my mistakes and accepted they were mine alone.  I didn’t blame my mother for not wanting a fourth child.

I hated her for it.

It took most of my life for me to realize that my mother wasn’t unfit to be a mother. She had no frame of reference for what a good mother might be. Her own childhood had been hell. Alcoholic father, enabler mother, alcoholic younger brother. Constant bickering and fighting. No anger management. They lived like gypsies, following my grandfather’s work across the state. She married young. Her husband came from a huge family. He was happiest surrounded by kids and noise and chaos. She was out of her league. Swallowed up.

As time passed, we settled into the best relationship we could muster. It worked well enough as long as we didn’t spend too much time together. We never had a truly loving mother-daughter relationship. We weren’t friends. We simply learned to tolerate and, when that failed, we got really good at biting our tongues.

My mother died nine days ago. Since then, I have had no reason to grieve beyond that which I might do for anyone I have known all my life. There is no great gaping hole of sorrow. No unexpected tears. I grew up mourning the loss of my mother. Her passing only ended my need to continue.

I know it sounds cold and unfeeling. I have swallowed whole gallons of guilt, mostly on the nights when I was taking care of her and she wanted to be sweet and childish. She wanted to express her bountiful love, as if we’d always had a relationship that made room for it. I think sometimes she knew I struggled to stay in the room and be kind. A time or two she would start to chastise me for not wanting to linger and give repeated kisses goodnight. I would end up angry for being manipulated. I hated thinking I hurt her feelings even while I hated myself for having them.

Now, the time to make it all right is gone and will never come again. And I am relieved. She had children she loved as a mother should love her children. I just wasn’t one of them. She was a wonderful grandmother. She was a wonderful aunt. She was a wonderful friend. I am happy there are others who will miss her and grieve for her. She deserved to be loved so. And I’m glad I was able to help keep her out of hospitals and off life support.

I will never water a Christmas Cactus without thinking of her. Or play Chickenfoot. Or eat a burger with sweet pickles and mayo. We had some good laughs along the way and those will be the memories I hold on to. I chose to forgive her long ago. I do not revisit such a touchy topic now out of need for sympathy or support. I just don’t want to be caught not being acceptably sad and have to explain. It makes others uncomfortable. And there’s been far too much of that already.

Posted by: morrowsl | June 7, 2018

From My Porch

The arrival of summer has never been the highlight of my year. I don’t like to be cold and wet. But I like to be hot and sweaty even less.
In winter, you can always put on more clothes or bundle up. In summer, you’re stuck with wearing clothes.

Period.

In winter, most things needing done outside get done no matter the time of day. I avoid going out if it’s raining or worse. And I layer in the effort to stay warm, but not overly so.
In summer, I try to get outside to do my chores really early, before the heat comes up. Or I wait until evening to work as the heat goes back down. I save the inside chores for midday, regardless of the time of year.

Since moving out to Remote though, I find I spend a lot more time outside regardless of the weather. There is such joy in seeing what Mother Nature has waiting for me to discover. Lately, it’s been my flowerbeds.

 

I have tried to mimic my sister’s flowerbeds, but we have different skills and different soil. So my results are never quite the same. Which only means I get to enjoy two totally different gardens.
But Sister alway has a good bed of Purple Coneflowers for the butterflies and bees. It seems I will have those in abundance as well. And the visitors are already signing in.

 

I have more spaces here for wildflowers and natives. The hill covering the storm shelter seems to be a very good spot for a wildflower area. I seeded it in early spring, from a big bag of seeds claiming to be “meadow flowers”, but much of the seed migrated with the rain. So I will seed again, this time from heirloom seeds packages, once I determine which flowers have self-seeded. There’s a huge stand of Mexican Hats just down the road from me that I plan to harvest seed from. And there’s Bee Balm all over the highways as well.

 

Another huge surprise has been a Mammoth Sunflower. I did not plant it. I have no idea how it managed to get where is it, aside from some winged gardener’s assistance. I know only that it is stunning and seems happy at the edge of the bed and I’m leaving it as long as possible.

 

No matter where I look these days, there are flowers. So much nicer than concrete!

Posted by: morrowsl | May 25, 2018

One For The Mouse, One For The Crow…

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The bluebonnets are protected.

We sighted our garden quite awhile ago. But first one thing and then another kept us from doing much else. In fact, we’re much too late to plant at all for spring/summer this year and could be too late for a fall garden as well the way things are going right now.

But that’s ok. We have a good start on the hard stuff and anything we do to amend the soil just makes it better for when we finally do get to start planting.

The first order of business was to figure out how big the space should be. So, Mike tilled it up and we gave it a hard look. We’ll have three sections of planting area divided by walkways to make for easy access. I may yet put the worm bed in here as well. We’ll see

Once we knew where and how big, we needed to set the posts. Four wood 4x4s for the corner posts, set in concrete. That turned out to be the easy part. Getting the post hole digger on the tractor wasn’t. Turns out not all implements are created equally in size! Who knew? Eventually, we did get the auger installed and it made very quick work of the holes.
Then eleven t-posts, set by hand. Even as soft as the sand is here, those were NOT fun to get in the ground. Once the posts were all in place, we needed to make sure the 100 foot roll of welded wire was really 100 feet of welded wire. It turns out that shorting the bundle a foot or two is a widely acceptable practice.

Uh…

So, we rolled it out and did our best to stand it up. Once we realized there would be enough, we left it to relax a bit. The first order of business was to get the end of the roll securely affixed to the first corner post. We both hammered away and went through half a box of “steeples” (fence post staples) before we finally found a sure-fire technique. Once we had a way to hold the staple to the post without it bending or popping back out, this part was fairly easy.
Mike had discovered a little tool that looked like a badly sprung meat fork but was meant to twist the fence connectors onto the t-posts. While it wasn’t nearly as simple as the YouTube video showed, it was a lot easier than using pliers.

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The first of many “steeples” hammered in.

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Can’t wait till there’s green in that space!

It took us a couple of weeks, once we got all the components and actually started the build. Neither of us is willing to work in the heat of the day, so we took it easy and worked the cool mornings. Except the last day. We sweated through all our clothes and came into the house so exhausted, we both fell asleep in our chairs and woke up stinky and freezing!

But, it’s done!

Now to design and build the gates. Then we’ll haul in some well-composted soil we discovered by talking gardening with a local grower. I’ll spend most of the summer building beds and getting the soil in good shape. And hopefully, by late summer, I’ll have fall veggies started.

One for the mouse,
One for the crow.
One to rot,
And one to grow.

Posted by: morrowsl | May 25, 2018

Getting My Grow Groove Going

When we moved out here to Remote, I had so many plans for the things I would do!  I wanted a garden, of course, for vegetables and flowers.  I wanted the existing flowerbeds to overflow with colors and shapes and fragrances.  I wanted an herb bed.  A worm bed.  And possibly a berry patch.

A year here has taught me that something will always want exactly what I want.  And will get it no matter how hard I try to keep things protected.

The first menace, of course, was the transitory herd of wild hogs.  They blow through a couple of times a year, usually in spring and fall, tearing up the lawn and gardens at will.  Then they move on with the promise to return as soon as we’ve got things replanted and pretty again.

Then there are the ants.  EVERYWHERE.  Big ones.  Little ones.  Red.  Black.  Brown.  They bite and sting and get into the sugar bowl.  They march across the floor to the dog’s food bowl with little dinner napkins tied around their necks.  They have a six-lane interstate built across our driveway.  In TWO PLACES.  They are immune to poison.  And my tricks.

We also have an occasional armadillo.  A bunch of bunnies.  Captain and Mrs. Neighbor Boy’s Marauder Chicken Flock, plus a now solo guinea hen.  Pansy-eating deer.  Those pesky squirrels who can’t find anything on 21 acres except what I’ve planted.

Nothing much surprises me when I open my doors to go out to tend the green stuff.

In spite of it all, I am going forward with most of my plans.  I’ve made adjustments.  I’m staying flexible.

The existing flowerbeds are already filled with what appears to be the former homeowner’s version of pest-proofing.  She anchored the beds with Rose of Sharon and quince, dwarf crape myrtles, rosebushes, garden amaryllis, Texas sage, and a glorious Desert Willow.  For filler she used marigolds, purple jew, several kinds of garden lilies, and gladiolas.  I’ve added iris and rosemary, flame acanthus, coneflowers, day lilies, milkweed, coreopsis, thyme, and hands full of larkspur and zinnias.  Turk’s Cap in red and pink.  And sunflowers.
This mix will evolve as things either take or die.  I planted bluebonnets and none came back the second year.  I dug up glads and they just came back up a foot away from where they’d been.  I have cannas and yarrow and Gregg’s Mistflower.  And three lemons on the bush this year.  The blackfoot daisy didn’t make it.  But the Widow’s Tears I transplanted from the yard did.
All in all, the beds still look bare in places.  And like a jungle in others.  It needs balance.


Where last year I had zinnias almost four feet tall, this year there’s a huge sunflower.

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Mammoth sunflower getting ready to open.

There are multiple flowers on this one stalk.  The stalk is almost as tall as I am!

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Existing lilac tree

Half the fun of having so much bed space is figuring out how to fill it.  I’m not anywhere near finished.  And, since most of it is likely to get eaten anyway, I’ll just start over again next season!

Posted by: morrowsl | May 9, 2018

We Know Some Things, Because We’ve Seen Some Things

Three years ago, my niece convinced me to take a volunteer gig with a group supporting the MS150 ride.  For the uneducated, MS150 is a bicycle “ride”, not race, that covers 150 miles, takes two days to complete, and raises money and awareness for multiple sclerosis.  We were going to be working a rest stop at the end of the route on the second day.  I wrote about that experience here, You Wanna Fight?, so I’ll just add that, in the years since that first rest stop, much has changed.  With the group, the ride, and me.

Perhaps the biggest change from that first day is the addition of my daughter, Sheli, as a rider.  Thankfully, she doesn’t have MS.  Her interest comes in part from her need to find a fun and efficient way to exercise.  Cycling is one of, if not the, most efficient exercises there is.  However, all things being equal, I convinced her to volunteer after I got into it and the hook set deep.  As much as she enjoys being on the tent side of the event, she wanted to be out on the road with the biggest bike gang in the neighborhood.
Who could blame her?  Meat Fight has grown from a small group of cyclists, captained by a freshly diagnosed young man at the prime of his life, to a tsunami of cyclists, stretching across the nation, populated by folks with MS or riding for people with MS.  The current team numbers over two hundred strong.  Roughly half of them were at the start last Saturday.  It was my first time to be present for the beginning.  I’m usually at the end.

Another big change was the addition of my grandson, sign in hand, cheering his mom.

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Sheli’s cheering section

Their incredible fund-raising skills earned the Meat Fight team the spot at the front of the pack.  The size of the team earned them the opportunity to leave the start as one group, ahead of the rest of the riders.  Watching them riding by was a huge rush.  Unfortunately, at the same moment my daughter passed in front of my camera, a woman stepped in front of me and my lens autofocused on her!  Sheli was moving too fast for me to correct in time to get a shot of her face.

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Sheli Wright, rider #1304

I needed to get across town to the first day finish line.  And I would need to drop my grandson off with my husband before that.  I had about two hours.  And I wanted another chance to catch Sheli early in the ride.  Nothing to do but jump in the car and chase the pack!

In the years to come, I will be a lot smarter about getting out of the start area and beyond the pack.  As we were flying down the tollway, high above, the riders were flying down the service road, down below.  Each time we’d spy a large group, we’d both scan the crowd for a bright yellow bike.  It’s a lot harder than it sounds.  But we did manage a gazillion WOWs.

The first rest stop comes up some ten or so miles from the start.  I knew the intersection just south of it well, it being just north of where I exit often on my way to events including my granddaughters.  Being a ride start-day novice, I simply assumed I would be well ahead of the pack and have no problem getting where I needed to be.

WRONG!!

Each tollway exit as we moved north was closed by a police roadblock.  In the time it had taken us to get into the car and out of the start area, the pack had managed to move a lot farther over the route than I’d ever anticipated.  But surely they wouldn’t be close enough for the exit I needed to be blocked already.

Would they?

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Two Meat Fight riders coming up fast in my side mirror.

They would!

We sat in traffic for a what seemed like forever before the police took pity and stopped the cyclists to let the bottleneck clear.  I debated just going on and meeting Mike.  But I really wanted to try to catch Sheli again.  I crossed over 380 instead of turning right and drove on toward Rest Stop #1.
Then second-guessed myself and took a hard left at the cut-off.  Luckily, the road allows a wide spot for emergency stopping.  I parked, grabbed my camera, told my grandson to sit tight, and hoofed it to the intersection.

We’ve had a tremendous amount of rain lately which gave us a wonderfully cool morning with blankets of fog lying over the fields surrounding the rest stop.  My location put me shooting into the rising sun, which is never my strong suit.
The riders were moving up the little two-lane blacktop road to the sounds of birds calling and volunteers hollering, “Rest stop to the right!”  Try as I might, I wasn’t able to see jerseys well enough to know which were the ones I wanted.  And there are many yellow bikes!

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Lone cyclist leaving Rest Stop 1 in the morning fog

I returned to the van a bit disappointed.  Then I checked my phone.  There was a message from Sheli that she’d made the rest stop.  She was there!  I called, hoping she wasn’t already moving and the ringing phone would cause her to wreck.  Luckily, they were just getting ready to pull out again.  I told her we were across the intersection and would be watching for her.  We jumped out and took off for the safety of the parked squad car to wait.
Lots of riders passed.  Many not turning in.  I worried she’d be in a group that would meld into the oncoming riders and be lost to our eyes.  When I did see her, I knew there was no way to get a face shot, with the distance and the sun, so I took a series of the group and hoped I’d get at least a couple.  In the end, only my cell phone image caught her.  Even then, she was just behind the trees.

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Meat Fight group leaving Rest Stop 1

And then, they were gone.

We returned to the car and made our way toward town and breakfast for the boy and his Papa.  I grabbed a breakfast sandwich and a large coffee and headed to the lake.

Once at the team tent, things moved along at a clip.  We set up the remaining tables and set out food to be iced down and/or cooked.  This year we’d thrown in with another team from Richardson Bike Mart so our “village” was sizable.  Unlike years past, there would be tons of shade and chairs for the riders to relax and recover.  There was brisket and brats and burgers.  There were margaritas.  And plain water.  And ice cream sandwiches and popsicles.  And a vibe that permeates the entire village that just makes you happy to be there.

Throughout the day, the team members found their way to the tent.  Some with bandages.  Most with smiles.  All with stories from the road.  We welcomed them and fed them and listened to them telling tales.  It was like a family reunion, but you got to choose who was in the family!
At the end of the day, the National MS Society recognized and rewarded the team’s fund raising efforts.  We are a million dollar team!  Much like the ring of honor at Jerry World, only so much better, a framed Meat Fight jersey now hangs in the MS offices.

And next year, we’ll add another one!

Posted by: morrowsl | April 25, 2018

All Work and No Play

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Rescued from one of the barns on the farm.

Since moving to Remote, we’ve spent most of our time working.  We’re supposed to be retired.  But I’ve determined that to be a huge misnomer.  The idea of retirement when my parents were doing it meant moving to a small house on the lake, working for fun in the local café, gardening and feeding the birds and squirrels, and going fishing anytime they pleased.

The idea of retirement when Coop Daddy and I did it is a whole nuther beast.

Of course, part of that is due to the manner in which we moved.  We sold a farm and relocated much of it to our new property.  We didn’t sell a house, but moved much of it out here as well.  Prior to that, we spent an insane amount of time shedding both locations of all the excess that just wasn’t going to work, or fit, here.  We took so much stuff to one collection site they finally turned us away.  Not to worry, there were others more than happy to see us pull up.
It seems we made a gazillion trips out here with the truck and van packed to the doors.  We took a short break for our first Christmas, then hit it hard in hopes of being done by spring.

We’re still opening boxes now and then and exclaiming, “Oh, so THAT’S where that went!”

When we closed on the purchase of this place, we had a rough idea of what we wanted to do and needed to do.  Once we sold the farm, we had a better idea of what we were going to be able to afford to do and what would prove too expensive or wasteful.  We knew we wanted a storm shelter.  We knew we wanted a second barn.  We, or at least I, knew we wanted chickens and donkeys and bees.
We determined replacing the pool and its surrounding deck wasn’t cost effective, but did it anyway because neither of us wanted a three-foot wading pool with deck stairs that had been installed upside down and were too steep to be useful.  That pool has more than paid for itself already in relief from the heat of many summer afternoons.
The chickens have been a great addition.  They provide eggs for us, our family, and several friends.  The bees are still something I’d love to have and may yet consider in the years ahead.  The donkeys require a fence.  The fence was on the plan for Year One but got moved to Year Two and probably won’t see light of day until Year Four at the rate things change around here.
We’ve added the deck that negates mowing in the backyard.  We’ll have a garden that wants tilling instead.
My Year Two dishwasher will slip into Year Three, which doesn’t bother me a bit.  It can go into Year Twenty-three and I’ll be okay without it.
Along the way, we’ve had to deal with busted plumbing and old appliances, delays due to weather, and a good number of setbacks thanks to being exhausted.

Retirement, right?

What I’ve learned along the way is that time is going to keep moving, no matter how hard you work to stop it.  The choice to put my head down and plow forward has helped get me through most of the challenges my life has presented.  I often tell people I’m an ant.  I pick up my kernel of corn, hoist it over my head, and press on.  When that one is safely deposited, I go back for another.

Head down, body moving, time marching on.

This is not to say we never stop.  We do.  We spend almost as many days away from home as we get at home.  And much of that is time spent in the company of family and friends.

Still, it seems a shame to have such an amazing place to live and not spend a lot of time enjoying it.  To that end, I made a point to grab my camera a few times this week and step outside for a bit.  The rewards for hard work at many here at Remote.

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There’s plenty of prickly pear around here. Still, I like the idea of having it growing where I want, instead of just where it wants.

The previous owners did much to get the flowerbeds in.  We changed the irrigation and I’ve added a lot of perennials.  Those appeal to my lazy gardener side.

Along with the flowers, I wanted edibles.  Until the garden is up and running, I’m making do with fruit.  Last year the berries were a handful and only one lemon survived.  It’s a new year and there are blossoms on everything!

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It’s raining again, here at Remote.  The list of chores hasn’t gotten shorter as I’ve typed.  Time is marching, yet again.  I have things to do and the day’s half gone.  Retirement, right?

Posted by: morrowsl | February 24, 2018

Mother Nature Seems a Bit Pissed Off

Our local weather dude, Pete Delkus, knows his stuff.  He is right more often than he’s wrong.  Unlike the cable weathercasterwannabes, he only mentions “severe” when he sees there will be severe weather.  I have never heard weathergeddon come out of his mouth.  He is not into forecasting fear and doom.
Going into this week, the Delkus was talking “weather event”, which covers a lot of ground, as Pete was quick to point out.  He warned about freezing rain.  He cautioned about sleet.  He was very firm on rain.  He was not ruling out snow.  The only thing he didn’t say was we’d get it all in about a four hour period.
I’ve met Pete Delkus.  He’s a nice guy.  Approachable.  Friendly.  Funny.  Intelligent.  So, if he nailed every weather possibility in the coming weather event except duration, I am willing to forgive him.

Sunday, just ahead of the incoming weather, I raked a big pile of leaves into the chicken run.  This serves multiple purposes.  The leaves act as an insulator, helping the ground stay warm.  They also provide slip-free footing.  And they give the girls something to do.  I wanted all of that, since it looked like I was gonna need it.  In spite of having the windows open all day, I still tried to think ahead to extreme cold.  I washed all our heavy clothes, jackets, and gloves.

The rain started Monday evening, but our overnight total was a scant quarter inch.  By Tuesday morning it had started coming down in buckets.  I went down to deal with the chickens, opting to hang both feeders inside the coop where it would stay dry.  The girls were standing in the deep puddles left by their energetic digging underneath all those leaves.  Thankfully, there was a leaf pathway from the door of the run to the door of the coop.  I tucked them in for the night and promised oatmeal for breakfast.

Wednesday was insanity.  The cold front moved in and sat right down over Remote and the surrounding countryside.  As promised, I took oatmeal down to the chickens for breakfast, but had a moment of panic when I realized the entrance was completely under water!
We’d had a hard rain shortly after moving the chickens into the coop and so much sand washed down the hill into the run that I had to dig it up and haul it out.  The area in front of the door was especially susceptible, so I dug it lower than the footer, lined it with four-by-fours, and filled it with gravel.  What I never saw coming was how much water would wash over the four-by-fours and fill the cavity.  I managed to get the door unlatched and watched in amazement as the water made waves over the threshold as the door closed.  Nothing to do about it but hope it would recede.  I gathered eggs, and trudged back to the house to fill the seed feeders and suet holders.

Sometime after lunch, the event portion of the weather event hit.  Rain turned to freezing rain.  Everything was soaked first then frozen.  Freezing rain turned to sleet.  There is a difference.  If you don’t know what that is, look it up.  Sleet turned back to rain, which came down so hard at times it felt like we’d just lose our mooring and start to float.  By nightfall, the damage was done.  If there wasn’t ice on every surface already, the lowering temps would take care of that.
I opted to leave the coop door open so the girls could get out if I couldn’t make it across the ice.

Thursday morning was, thankfully, dry.  The temps came up sometime in the wee hours making crossing the rock and gravel to the coop a lot easier than I’d expected.  Things were beginning to drip.  The run door was iced over, but the huge pool of water was gone and I had a stick to whack the ice with.  All of the chickens were huddled into one area of the run, soaked to the skin and highly irritated.  I couldn’t figure out why they weren’t coming to the door to greet me like they normally do.  They seemed almost afraid to move.
Then the run door slammed shut and a sheet of ice from the hardware cloth roof fell down onto my head and back, spitting little ice cubes down the neck of my hoodie.

Oooohhhhh!  Now I get it!

There was very little high ground for walking, but enough to allow me to circle ’round inside the run, whacking the ceiling with a hoe and knocking down sheet after freezing sheet of ice.  The chickens wanted no part of this and scattered anytime I got near enough to be seen.  By the time I’d finished, they were ready to be inside the coop, parked at a full feeder.  I guiltily trudged down to the barn and filled both feeders to the top, then hung them both inside and bid my girls good night.

They made no reply.

Today I walked around taking pictures of the damage.  Sister tells me ice is Mother Nature’s landscaper.  From the looks of our trees, Mother Nature isn’t very good at choosing her employees, or she is REALLY pissed off.  Given the state of weather worldwide these days, I’m going with the latter.

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This privet was bent completely to the ground by ice. I’m hoping some sunshine will help it stand back up again.

 

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One of the Altheas took a hit.

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We’ll cut it back.

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It should be fine.

 

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The huge evergreen behind the pool also took a hit. So far, I can’t find the end of the limb.

 

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This one as well, out by the back deck. I love it’s unusual shape. We’ll see what it looks like after the limb is gone.

 

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Most heartbreaking, for me, is the Desert Willow.

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This is one of two main branches that gave it its open cup shape.

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Losing the limb will completely alter the appearance of the tree.

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And the top broke off of the other main branch.

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It ended up in the flower bed.

 

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But, hidden under the leaves in the yard, flowers are waiting to bloom.

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Not the quince.

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The quince said to hell with ice.

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