Monday, July 31, 2017

Bunny Games

We have 3 bunny rabbits that make our yard and the neighbor to the south their home. (the neighbor to the north has a fence that doesn't allow bunny entry).  The one neighbor has some tasty wildflowers but we have a fence with slats that allow them entry but not larger critters which they seem to know keeps them safe from dogs and cats. and the occasional predator that comes over from the park along the river.  Our back yard also has a thick evergreen bush against the back of the house which is good cover in bad weather.  We also keep a dog bowl full of fresh water out among the plants, which both critters and the birds love.
Abby goes out about the same time each day, a walk with Dad in the morning and evening and a walk at lunch with her dog walker, and once out to potty at 5 pm before she is feed.  When Abby is on the leash, the rabbits just lie low and don't run off. Being the trained huntress (snort) that she is Abby doesn't even see them.
When it's just me leaving our house to run an errand or take the recycling out, they don't even bat an eye.But when Abby is let out late day, she's off leash, so I give them a heads up that she is coming out before I let her out.
While she waits on the sun porch I'll go down and gently shoo them out of the yard before I let her out the door.

They know the game, and just hop to just the edge of the fence and wait for Abby, and as Abby runs towards them, make one hop through the fence and then just sit there and laugh at Abby who runs at about the speed of molasses (and if she gets close she just "points" so the bunnies are in no danger). It's even funnier when she tries to "sneak up on them" and they hop through the fence at the last minute.

"Hasta La Vista Baby!"

It's a game for all involved I think.  It's gotten to the point that when I'm letting Abby out into the sunporch to start the rabbit hunt I'm humming the Mission Impossible Song but it's-


Bun, bun, bun bun, BUN BUN bun bun.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Abby Lab Says - My Pawrents are WEIRD!

If I lay here, Dad will get home sooner.

Abby T. Lab here.  My paw-rents may seem all normal to all you but I have to tell you, they are actually rather STIR-RANGE.  Case in point, a conversation Friday night when Dad got home.

Mom:  Hon - could you please pick up that small pile of clothes on the bathroom floor and take to the laundry room? (in the basement)

Dad:  Your knee bothering you?

Mom:  No, a giant spider just ran under them and although I stomped on the pile for a while, it might still be lying in wait.
Seriously Dad? Mom's afraid of a pile of underwear?

Dad:  (sigh)  You have rappelled into a canyon in the dark, you have landed an airplane as a typhoon approached and I've seen you up to your elbows in enough gore to make a maggot gag. . . .and you're afraid of spiders.

Mom:  It was HUGE!!!

Dad:  How big?

Mom:  The size of a QUARTER!

Dad (chuckling):  That's not huge!

Mom:  Spiders the size of a quarter can skeletonize a cow in under two minutes.  

Dad (laughing and pointing outside):  Look! a centipede is stealing your hubcaps!

See what I mean folks - non-stop weirdness in this house.

But they feed me treats!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

GoughNuts - And a "Tail" of the Search for an Indestructible Dog Toy

Barkley was the killer of toys supreme, and finding a durable dog toy for him was always a challenge. His Mr. Squeeky, a big rubber ball with feet was the only toy that survived and now sits on the box that holds his ashes, but I still searched for a dog boy that couldn't be "deaded" in about 15 minutes after we got Abby the Rescue Lab. She's a Lab "Mix" and given how well she did with her first chew toys I'm thinking "Part Black Lab - Part Wolverine".  She's great with stuffed animals and carries them around like puppies but any ball, bone or such is usally split in half within the day.

So I was very happy to hear about the 


 in todays post from my friends


and went out and ordered one!  Awesome! (our wonderful friends at Chewy.com also carries them but if you order from GoughNuts directly there is a larger selection and they have a store locator on their site as well).

Amy Rockwood and her team of polymer and mechanical engineers at GoughNuts know that in the design of a great chew toy fun and safety go hand in hand.  Each toy has within it a red center so that if there is ever even a small compromise of the toy, you get a patent pending visual indicator "red means stop!".  If that happens they will replace the toy, but they hold up amazingly well, even ones used daily by active K9 Officers like Officer Glenn Graves and his K9 partner Kai from the Modesto Police Department.

With that, while I take a quick lunch break, for my newer readers, a chapter from my first book - The Book of Barkley - about the quest for the unstoppable dog toy.  

CHAPTER 11 – Soldiers In Your Cup

Ow!  Ow!  Ow!

It was six o'clock in the morning and I had just gotten up to brew a pot of coffee when I stubbed my toe on yet another hard rubber dog toy.

Where did that come from?

When I went to bed, Barkley was lying on the middle landing on the stairs, where the sun warms the carpet up before dark and from which he can survey the front door. His toys were all down the hall in my office where he hangs out with me in the evening when I’m on the computer.

But apparently during the night, he brought his toys into my bedroom, additional reinforcements perhaps for the protection of “Mom.”

His toys had evolved since he was a puppy.  When he was little he had a big goofy looking squeaky spider and a plush elephant that he carried around in his mouth constantly, never chewing on them, just toting them around and even sleeping with them. Somewhere in the growing process, however, he decided toys were better chewed on than used as play toys.

Soft or thin rubber toys were de-squeaked within minutes of presentation, the happiest minutes of his life by his own accord.  I would hear “squeak squeak squeak” to the point I was contemplating grabbing hearing protection from my range bag, then suddenly, silence.  I’d look over at him sitting there with the squeaky device lying on the carpet surrounded by tufts of stuffing and shredded fabric. Given what some of the fancier toys cost and how quickly he destroyed them, I figured even Congress could not spend money like that, in such a time frame.

I could occasionally find a super cheap stuffed animal on sale for a buck that I would give him, knowing it would be destroyed.  I even found on sale a high quality stuffed duck that also squeaked (likely due to the duck having a pneumothorax). I thought with the sturdier materials it might at least last a few days. But it also only lasted a few minutes, and I was growing concerned that he might accidentally swallow parts of the toys, even if he never tried to.  Future toys were going to be tooth proof.

It's tough for me to remember he's a dog, not able to understand "that would not be smart to eat.”  For I grew up in a generation that still had toys that heated up, could blow up, or leave scars.

Think about it, why can’t you get the kids a good old Sonic Blaster anymore? Nothing like a toy that perforates the eardrums the old fashioned way, they used to say. Blame it on the Cold War or the TV show The Man from UNCLE, but in the last part of the sixties, when I was small, we had some of the best toys. They would be considered by some to be dangerous, life threatening toys but they put the BOOM in baby boomer. The sonic blaster was one of the best, a pump-action gun that fired a big column of air toward distant enemies of the state. Sit in a room full of middle aged men and say "Sonic Blaster" and I guarantee at least three guys will smile and go "FOOOOMMM! We took out spies, treacherous piles of leaves and that stack of trash that was hiding a spy or a rabid squirrel.

And people now worry about burning their hands on the EZ Bake Oven.


Most of our favorite toys were not unlike Barkley’s here. They were inexpensive, simple and fueled by imagination, not batteries or computer components.

As children, we’d wait patiently with the dog for that first break in the weather, that first slice of spring sun bursting from the sky, opening cold fissures in the landscape. Snow had been fun, but we were tired of the very bitter cold in the last days of winter; stampeding flurries that swirled around the family home with all of the order and elegance of a hockey game, keeping even the hardiest kid indoors.

Summers were anticipated glory. We'd be out after breakfast and play all day, with kids gathered up from around the area, a posse of potential. We'd drink from the hose if we got thirsty and ripped more than one pair of knees out of a pair of jeans, which our mothers would patch, not replace. We offered up skinned knees as homage to the ancient gods of play, exposed our faces to the sun, gaining confidence in our movements, in ourselves, breathing deeply, nourishing ourselves on the scent of grass and the occasional peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Our play burst out of something within our own minds, shouting forth as we charged the next hill with a bag of plastic soldiers in tow, darting past "throwing grenade guy" with "bazooka guy" to take a spot of land.  To us, with the agile minds of children, it was all real. We scurried between small valleys and miniature cliffs. An empty Styrofoam cup with the end cut out with our pocket knife became a tunnel; a scoop of dirt became a foxhole. Overhead was a peaceful bowl of a summer sky, below, the happy shouts of children calling forth from smoky battlefield fires that only we could see. The sound of the barrage was both remote and near, our childlike voices providing the sound effects, a vibration in the earth sensed with our minds, rather than felt, as our battalions moved onward, taking more ground.

We advanced until we reached the neighbor's yard, a pristine landscape where the war had not reached, where there would be no quarter given, where soldiers were not to pass and disobedience would be death. Mess with the neighbor’s flowerbed, and the troops would be put to rest, the commanding forces grounded. No cookies either, the ultimate punishment.

Such were the days of my childhood. We were immortal; the clouds rushing by faster than our troops could advance. Glorious days. Only darkness or the sound of the dinner bell would bring us in, dirty and hungry and aching to be outside again, and then curled up in sleep with our dog there beside us.

So I understood Barkley and his quest for the perfect toy.  But I will have to make sure he gets one that will not harm him.

The “Kong” type toys were a good find, indestructible hard rubber in which you could hide a treat. But though Dad’s dog loved hers, Barkley wasn’t all that interested in his, unless you inserted an entire steak in the middle.  His favorite toys were the yellow tennis ball and material covered bones and balls, especially the one with a cord on it that you could wind up and throw. 

Still, I missed the look of pure excitement on his face when he heard the first “SQUEEEEK!" of a toy.

A friend of mine had just opened a store that had both a bakery of pet treats and pet gifts and one of the product lines were these “indestructible” dog toys.  They were a thick material, heavily corded with thick stitching, allegedly resistant to even the toughest of teeth, guaranteed.  Made with bright colors and shaped like an assortment of small animals, they were tempting.  They were also pretty expensive. But I got him the biggest and toughest one, Larry the Lobster and presented it to him, thinking that I had purses that cost less than that.

Larry lasted much longer than other toys.  Approximately fifteen minutes longer.  I removed the remains in the bucket and took it back to the store, as it did say “guaranteed.”

The girl working that day was not my friend, but a new employee.  She looked at my receipt and the remains and said, “you don’t get a refund if you put it through a wood chipper.”

“I didn’t,” I said. “My black lab did this” and showed her a picture of the carnage.  She looked doubtful, so I waited to show it to my friend later, who got a good laugh out of it.

I got my refund, and the quest for the indestructible squeaky toy would resume.

(c) The Book of Barkley - Love and Life Through the Eyes of a Labrador Retriever Outskirts Press 2014

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

From Russia with Love - A Little Travelog Post

Little Prince lived alone on a tiny planet no larger than a house. . 

The suitcase is empty, but it is not. There in the bottom, a small piece of paper with some writing on it.  I read it and I smile.

The bag's opened up, some toiletries spread around the hotel bathroom.  Another day on the road.  I guess the wandering spirit runs in my blood, passed on my from Air Force father to me. Seems like ever since I got a control yoke in my hand I've been wandering across miles of land, across rivers and towns in whatever way I can, be it dromedary-like transport plane, raggedly land rover or sway back mule.

I have an anchor, over time it's been a large house, a small house, it's been simply a suitcase and someone I love.  But when I'm there, I am thoroughly happy, for that anchor, instead of being a confinement, is simply the base from which I move, a fulcrum that amplifies the effects of my motion, the beat of my heart.

St. Expurey said, "He who would travel happily must travel light". And so I did, the earliest memories little more than the remembered feel of the starched uniform shirt I wore, the dense oily smell of jet fuel lingering on the tongue like smoke. It seems as if all my early years were reflected in the window of those moving airplanes. I see my reflection, my past, through bug splayed glass that tinted the world bright.
The airplane, the destination and the years changed, as did the landscape of my career, but some thing things never changed. Days in an airplane traveling far. Miles and hours spent watching the landscape, silver grain elevators, red winged birds, mountains formed of ice and fluid need, and rivers without borders, all blending into a bright diorama of life racing past. The world looks different from above, clouds massive and dark, looming up like a target in a gun sight, looking twice the size of an ordinary man.

I have spent a half of my life it seems, on the way to somewhere. I have watched a hundred cumulus clouds erupt, the mass assassination of mayflies and the disappearance of a slice of cherry pie at a tiny airport diner and the journey was only beginning.
In each day comes another opportunity for adventure. The ride to the hotel was something to remember, in and of itself. A shuttle service, stopping at several hotels on the way. The driver, sullen and demonstrating why driving was his second language. You know how when most people drive, certainly professional drivers, they brake using an increase in pressure on the brake pedal so as to come to a smooth stop. Not Mr. Shuttle. The only brake technique he used was to stomp on the brake, let up, let the car roll, stomp again. It would take four or five of these stomps to equal one normal braking action. No traffic, heavy traffic, it made no difference.

I started to feel like a bobble head doll and the 25 dollars I saved over a taxi was starting to look like one of those small decisions that had great, oversized repercussions. But perhaps I should have been more patient. I guess it was hard to concentrate on braking when one is texting while driving in heavy traffic.

I simply made sure my seatbelt was fastened and then bent down as if into a stiff wind, horns of the impatient exploding into the rain-split asphalt that opened and closed with opportunity. Like all traffic in big cities, we carried on, sharp with speed, and then trickling to a standstill, the road dipping into the fog, like a hand cleaving water, the headlights showing the gray bulk of streams of cars coming down the hill like rain.
When the last guest got off and it was just me, he quit texting and had a series of increasingly heated exchanges in his mother tongue with his dispatcher about how he only got  the equivalent of 47 US dollars in fares for this trip and he wanted to get a number one spot when he got back to the airport. (Actually, sir, you got 68 dollars in fares, one that you did not log and pocketed. I notice things like that.)

The arguing got more heated. I am not fluent in languages. I can simply listen and relate small things in a number of languages that come in handy, Russian, Chinese, Farsi, just enough to know when it's a good time to get out of Dodge or when happy hour is almost over. It comes in handy, the knowing, the looking, I think, as I catch quick glimpses of other drivers in the failing sunlight, faces fixed and grim as they fought to get upstream.
The van driver, still yelling into the phone while almost whacking several people on bicycles,  finally stopped in front of my hotel. I paid him the fare plus a 15 percent tip. He did NOT look happy, expecting much more from the American Redhead in nice clothes.

He muttered something under his breath about what he had to do to get a big tip, and I replied -

"Вам надо научиться использовать торможения." (you need to learn how to use braking)

He was still standing there, mouth agape when I went up to my suite.

But I had arrived. The hotel bulked long and dark against the city sky, but inside was golden warmth, a bite of a fresh apple, a much-needed bottle of water. Sitting still for a minute taking care of the aching neck and soon it was time to meet my partner for this assignment while we went over notes for tomorrow's business over a light meal.

After a short walk back to the hotel, my partner making sure I got to my room safely, I made a couple phone calls to loved ones, wanting to let them know I was in and safe. My Dad always worries when I travel, even when I can't tell him where I'm going.  So do friends, and I try and keep in touch. Then I took a long bath in a tub so deep you could hide a Mastodon in it and slept until it was 6:30 in the morning. Unfortunately, it was 6:30 in the morning where I wanted to be, not where I was at.

So I got up and made coffee and watched a stain of light snare itself between steel and rain, spreading until the stain grew light and the light became morning.
By choice or not, travel is part of my life.  But travel brings something to you that people who live in the insular world of their home town their whole lives may miss. It pushes your boundaries. When you travel, you can become invisible, if that is what you choose. I like that. I like to be the quiet observer. Walking alone along the edge of another ocean, as it stretches away into space with its illusion of freedom. Strolling through the celestial hush of a square that has seen generation after generation, the sun glinting off marble where the monotonous rain has washed it bright. What stories would that old building tell, what makes these people who they are?

You don't have to understand the language that is spoken, only the language of the streets, the scents, the stone. Without understanding a word around you the language becomes simply a musical background for watching the water flow onto the shore or a leaf blowing in the wind, calling nothing from you.

You may have work that takes much of your time, yet still, in this strange place, there are hours open to you.  You don't have a lawn to mow or bills to pay.  There is only life ,simple and inescapable as an empty hallway, where you can leave behind for a moment, the burdens that you freely asume and carry as bright and ambitiously as brass. For this moment you are simply a creature of choice, free to visit stately buildings, savor a cup or coffee or simply go watch the trains.  You're open, if only for this moment, as a child to receive all of the world, not just your own.

It is all there for the taking, multicolored flowers in bright density, the smell of fresh bread baking, laid out like fabric on the ground which you pick up and wrap around you, drawing in a breath through the scented cloth. This fabric, this essence of a place, that contains both the dead and the living, the blooms of lush flower, the decay of a building, the smells that are both the death and the birth of a city. You are a historian, you are a hunter free to explore and seek and find and then return home bringing memories to lay on your doorstep.
From the memories come words.  They may be only in your head, they may be on paper.  But they tell a story, one composed of past journeys on ancient rails washed clean by wind and rain and tempered by time, written to the mournful sound of a train whistle echoing through ancient memories and newfound dreams.  The words strung out like cars, beyond which wait the world and life, hope unrestrained and incontrovertible.  They recall the memory of it all, moving fast now, wind rushing past like flood, leaving you breathless.

The suitcase is open on a simple wooden stand. It is empty, but in it there is so much, the smell of crushed sage as I bounced across the desert in a jeep, the wood smoked burnt woods of autumn, the smell that is untouched ground after a rain, the rich earthy scent of something being lit that had for so long been cold.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Sometimes we just need a little support.

Hey Mom's what's that?
Is it a bird?  A plane?  A giant bone shaped stuffie?
Mom said it's a pillow. She is writing a Novella that's going into a published anthology with some action and sci fi authors she knows so she's been on the computer both all day for work and late into the evenings the last few days. So Dad (a mechanical engineer) made this pillow by cutting pieces of bone shaped fabric and sewing them together and stuffing it so it cradles and supports the neck for some couch napping or bedtime.

Dad will demonstrate before he takes me for my walk.
ZZZZZZZZ

Come on Dad. . Walkies. . Walkies!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday Black and White

A dog is a soul who is just as happy with one toy as a dozen. Humans could learn something from that.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Not just for Flower Fridays - The Purple Coneflower as a Natural Healer

Abby's snoozing so no dog antics this afternoon but I wanted to pass on some information for those of you who commented on the purple coneflowers in yesterday's post.  We live in a big city, but growing up in a more rural part of the world, I learned a thing or two about self-sufficiency, especially with parents who grew up in the Depression.  I try and keep all the basics on hand - Food for all of us for several months, plenty of water, and a way to treat more, medical supplies (both human and pet), etc. in case of a major natural disaster. and a way to prepare food and stay warm if there's no power.
But there's one thing around the place that many of you may have in your gardens and not know what it is. The purple cone flower. Echinacea purpurea (Asteraceae). Echinacea comes from the Greek word echinos meaning hedgehog in reference to the spiny center cone. It's a simple, but beautiful bloomer from as early as June to fall, with a bloom that attracts bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects (always welcome). The dead flower stems will remain erect well into the winter and, if the flower heads are not removed, they will attract goldfinches who perch on or just below the blackened cones to feed on the seeds. This unique plant grows fairly high, up to 3 feet to get some height above nearby grasses. Common in prairie beds, it can be found throughout much of the Midwest. It does well in the cold but doesn't like overly wet soils.

Luckily, they are easy to grow from the seeds. Plant the seeds in early spring, as soon as the soil can be worked, and when you still expect another frost or two. Sow the seeds 1/4" deep and 2" apart. When you've got a bunch of seedlings at least an inch tall, thing them to 18" apart. Rabbits and hedgehogs think new echinacea shoots are the perfect breakfast treat, so you will need to protect the seedlings if your beds are frequented by the little critters.  Since Spring is long past, you could still pick some up in most commercial garden centers.
Echinacea has been widely used by Native Americans, particularly the Plains Indians, for hundreds of years as an antiseptic, an analgesic (pain killer) and for the treatment of snakebites. Echinacea is also used extensively by herbalists to boost the immune system, help speed wound healing, reduce inflammations, treat colds and flu (though once you get the flu a tincture of thyme works better as it's a natural expectorant)  and fight infection. It is NOT recommended for those with autoimmune disease (only a doctor should recommend any herbs for such issues), pregnant women or children, as there just isn't enough studies on those groups taking it.  But I have found that using a tincture at first sign of a cold, usually reduced my sick time by half, without having to make a trip to the immediate care.

 A growing collection of scientific evidence now supports Echinacea's contribution to stimulating the immune system due to a rich host of polysaccharides and phytosterols, unique to this plant. While there are studies indicating that the whole plant has medicinal virtues, (which is why I'm including harvesting information for the whole plant) it is traditionally the root that is used. Herbal remedies are not intended to replace trained medical care, especially if you have children.  But they can provide a host of health benefits and in the absence of medical care, due to a disaster of some sort, may prove to be a blessing.

For medicinal purposes, you'll want to harvest some roots and some flower tops. For best quality, experts say to wait until the plants are about 3 years old and harvest in the fall when the tops have gone to seed and the plants have seen a hard frost or two during their lifetime. The tops should be harvested just as the flowers start to open. Whether harvesting the tops or roots, the dried herb is good for a year and should be marked and discarded if not used by then.
To Harvest the roots:
Cut off a portion of the root, leaving plenty for the plant to grow on. (aren't you happy you keep those sharp knifes handy? Cut into pieces small than one inch. (large ones may have mold growth during the drying process).

Wash thoroughly and gently pat dry with clean towels.

Lay them out on screens in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight. The larger pieces may take several weeks to dry depending on humidity levels. Don't overcrowd them.

When completely dry, store in tightly covered glass jar in a cool place away from sunlight.
To Harvest the Flower Top
Cut the plant at the point where the first healthy leaves are growing.

Lay the tops on a screen or bundle and hang upside down out of direct sunlight. Don't overcrowd them as air circulation will help the process.

When completely dry, the leaves will crumble to the touch.

 Store in a tightly sealed glass jar in a cool place away from sunlight.

To find out more about making tinctures, salves, syrups, antiseptics, sprays, and many other simple remedies with this handy plant, see Growing and Using Echinacea by Kathleen Brown.  It's a great little book for less than $4 and has a lot of good information. We made a tincture with half a cup of  dried herbs and vodka in a pint jar and it lasted through multiple cold/flu seasons).

Friday, July 21, 2017

Flower Friday

Today's we're joining:
For Flower Friday which was established by Angel Dory and continues with the loving memory of Dory and her angel brother Bilboe.

Look closer at the Purple coneflowers.  They have visitors today!



What's buzzin' over at YOUR house?