Sunday, December 30, 2012

In The Puppy Way

There's no doubt about it now: Leah is "in the puppy way!" Her tummy is swelling, she's eating a lot, and she sighs often. I think those are all signs of pregnancy, based on observations of some of my girlfriends who became mothers. Leah is a bit confused by the whole process, I think. Sometimes she turns quickly and looks at her tummy with great interest. If she had one of those cartoon bubbles over her head, it would say something like, "Just what is going on in there??"

Poor Leah. She's not only dealing with being pregnant for the first time, but also with that bad cut on her leg. After a week of being a very good girl and not bothering the staples, we got a little too lax about making her wear the Elizabethan collar. It is quite aggravating  for her and for us. Wouldn't you know it, she very neatly removed all twelve staples by herself and spit them out on the floor. I discovered this fact just as she pulled out the last one. I was quite distraught, as it was 10:30 p. m. on Saturday, three days before Christmas. The wound opened right back up; it hadn't healed at all. Luckily, a veterinarian who used to have a practice here still maintains a home just a few miles up the road, where he and his family spend most weekends. Robin had him take a look at Leah's leg on Sunday afternoon, December 23. His prognosis was that the wound was not at all infected (thank goodness!) and would eventually heal on its own. He recommended applying Neosporin twice daily and keeping that awful collar on her until the healing was complete. We've followed his orders all week, and I'm glad to report that the cut is healing nicely...slowly, but nicely. Leah will have a nasty scar, but that is small potatoes as long as there are no more complications.

The puppies are due around January 10th. That's less than two weeks away! We're both excited and a little apprehensive. Hopefully Mother Nature will make sure everything goes smoothly, with mama and puppies healthy and strong when all is said and done. Robin and I have been looking forward to this for a long time. We wanted to have some puppies from Red because he is such a good, good dog. It took us close to two years to find a Leah, as Kelpies are scarce, especially black and tan females. And, as we move through the elder care season of midlife, we decided we were due for a little joy. What better for that than a litter of sweet little puppies!!

After wearing her collar all day, Leah gets a break. She's sleeping a lot more
now, resting up I guess, for taking care of  her babies.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Keeping Christmas

I don't know where the phrase "keeping Christmas" originated. It sounds old to me, or at least old-fashioned.  I suppose "keeping Christmas" is what we would call "celebrating Christmas" these days. We all know what that involves: shopping, wrapping, baking, decorating, practicing, singing, worshiping, cooking, cleaning, traveling, visiting, eating. Gee, just typing all that out makes me tired! But hidden inside all those things is the reason for celebrating Christmas and it's oh, so important!

At our house, we're keeping Christmas this year

with decorations from childhood

and decorations we've chosen.

We're keeping Christmas with cherished recipes made once a year to keep them special,

and served on special dishes.

We're keeping Christmas with music: old familiar carols for playing,

and singing,

and listening to.

We're keeping Christmas with lights

 and candles.

We're keeping Christmas with gifts wrapped up for surprises.

But most of all, we're keeping Christmas with Jesus. It's His birthday, after all.

We're part of the faithful who come to adore Him.

Adoring this Gift from God, who saved us from our sins.

Adoring Him with music, food, family, gifts, and decor, all meant to "keep Christmas" in our hearts.

Yes, we're "keeping Christmas" at our house this year. It can be a lot of bother, but all the effort adds up to a heart full of everlasting joy, way down deep, where it matters most.

Whatever your traditions, I hope you're keeping Christmas at your house in some form or fashion.
It's a sweet season to behold!

Merry CHRISTmas!!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

In A Bad Way

When Leah, our Australian Kelpie was in heat for the first time, friends from out of town were visiting. Robin explained that we had to keep a close eye on she and Red (our male Kelpie), saying that Leah was "in a bad way." That phrase stuck, and as of yesterday, has come to mean more than being in heat.

Leah and Red are beloved pets, but they are also working farm dogs. They go to work every day with Robin, where they help immensely with herding and sorting cows, not to mention gathering up the chickens every evening. Although we love them and do our best to take good care of them, sometimes accidents happen. Yesterday was one of those times: Leah fell off the back of Robin's Nissan pickup just before dark. She seemed unhurt, except for a nasty cut on her hind leg. It looked like the impact burst open the skin. When I saw it, I immediately said it needed stitches. Robin wasn't so know how men are. Nevertheless, Leah and I headed to the animal hospital first thing this morning.

Saturdays are pretty zooy at the vet office, but Leah was good and waited very patiently. The vet tried to numb the area with a local anesthetic  but she wouldn't have it, so they had to put her under long enough to close the wound with twelve shiny staples. I thought we were home free until the assistant brought in an "Eliz Collar," so the bill says. I guess that is short for Elizabethan collar, because that's what it reminds you of after you get over thinking the poor dog has a giant funnel on her head! Now that took some getting used to.

Leah had no sense of her head being twice as big as usual and kept bumping into things. It didn't help that she couldn't see to either side, nor could she touch her nose to the ground. She was a mighty confused little girl for a while. Her balance was off too, and I had to lift her into the back of our SUV, a jump she easily makes when things are normal. She settled down on the long ride home, but every once in a while I'd hear the collar bump as she tried to get comfortable.

When we got home, I kept Leah on the leash, as instructed to do, and she didn't understand that either. She is used to being free and was puzzled by having to be led around. In the house, Cheyenne, our Sheltie, was also puzzled by this thing that smelled like Leah, but sure didn't look like her. Leah ignored her and did a lot of bumping until she finally got comfortable enough to take a long nap.

Our instructions are to administer pain medication and an antibiotic twice daily, and to limit Leah's activity for two weeks, keeping the Eliz collar on her at all times unless we are able watch her constantly. I took it off for a long walk late this afternoon, and was able to leave it off while she ate her supper. The collar went back on while we got our supper ready, ate, and did the dishes. Leah is a talker, and while I was busy in the kitchen she began a conversation of rowls and arghhs elsewhere in the house. At first I didn't pay attention, but as the intensity of her language grew I went to investigate. I found her standing piteously in front of the water bowl in the bathroom, thirsty but unable to get her mouth to the water. When I got the collar off, she wasted no time in getting a big drink. It's going to be a long two weeks until the staples are removed!

So now, little Leah is in a bad way again. Not in heat this time, as she was a few weeks ago, but rather stuck with her head in a funnel and nothing to do but wait for a wound to heal. I don't think she knows it yet, but we're pretty sure she's also waiting for something else...puppies! Won't that be a sweet adventure!!

Puppies? You're kidding. Aren't you ??

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Super Fine Streak-Free Shine

Once in a while you learn something that you wonder how you got along all those years without knowing, and you wonder why you didn't think of it yourself. Now that you do know it, one of life's bothersome jobs is a lot easier, less time-consuming, and completed with much, much better results. What, you are wondering, is IT??

IT is super fine steel wool! When Devonne rescued me from my paint-removing stalemate, she shared with me the wonderful way super fine steel wool and paste wax clean and polish wood surfaces. She also casually mentioned that "you can clean your windows with it, too, and no streaks!" I put her suggestion to the test on a farmhouse window that had been splattered with paint. A razor blade removed the big drops of dried paint, but did not get all the residue, so I got a new pad of super fine steel wool and went to work. And IT worked like a charm, removing not only the paint but also all the dirt and grime. And just like Devonne said, there were no streaks. Anyone who's ever labored over cleaning windows with sprays and paper towels can certainly appreciate that. Many a time I have cleaned and wiped and rubbed and wiped, even using new coffee filters or tissue paper, only to find that when the morning sun shone through them, my "clean" windows were still covered with ugly streaks.

The windows in the farmhouse are really dirty. They are covered with sawdust, dry wall dust, and bug dirt, not to mention the glue from all those labels new windows come with. While the weather was unseasonably warm the past couple of days, I tackled cleaning the ones in the rooms we've been renovating. Cold temperatures will be back any day, and although the windows tilt in for cleaning from the inside, they are open during the process, which means freezing fingers and escaping heat this time of year.

In case you've never done it, cleaning windows involves more than just cleaning the glass. The frames, tracks, and sills all need to be relieved of dirt, dead bugs, and various bits and pieces of nearby trees. At the farmhouse, the new windows have been installed for two years now, and have never been cleaned. As you can imagine, just cleaning all the non-glass parts took a good bit of time and elbow grease. Although the steel wool works great on glass, it doesn't work on the vinyl frames and tracks. It doesn't scratch, but it leaves a grey smudge, so I  cleaned all the non-glass parts with soap, water, a rag, and a small brush. And because the glass was so very dirty, I did wipe it off with the soapy water and rag first, which only got the "top dirt" off, as my mother-in-law used to say. Once it was dry, I used the super fine steel wool, and wa-lah! Clean windows, with no streaks!

First, the bathroom window,

then the dining room window, which looks out onto the back porch.

Next came the kitchen windows. I love lots of light in the kitchen, but while I was wrestling with these big monsters, I was thinking that I could have done with a little less light!

Finally, the pantry window. Thankfully, it's a small one!

If you would like to try cleaning your windows with steel wool, here are some tips to follow:

1. You must use super fine steel wool, grade 0000!! Any coarser and you risk scratching.

2. Make sure the glass is completely dry and start with a new pad of steel wool. Then, just start rubbing! Vary your strokes, using a circular motion most of the time. Some spots need more scrubbing and pressure than others, but keep at it and it will all come off.

3. When you're finished, use the vacuum to clean up the steel wool fibers (I call them "woollies"), using the dusting attachment on the glass. Make sure you vacuum up the outside; I'm thinking wet woollies will rust and perhaps leave ugly stains on the paint/vinyl.

That's all there is to it! You end up with beautifully clean windows without any streaks. And all without the mess of sprays and the frustration of streaky windows despite all your hard work. Thank you, Devonne!

I like clean windows, but they are something I seldom have. Besides all the usual things that get them dirty, like weather, we have the house sprayed every fall in an attempt to ward off the lady beetles, cluster flies, and now, stink bugs. Consequently, most of the time my windows are dirty. Cleaning them was a big job that I was lucky to get around to once a year. Now, with the steel wool solution, I have no more excuses! I recently cleaned my kitchen windows so I can watch the birds at my feeders through clean glass and it didn't take long at all. What a simple solution to a chore most of us dread and put off as long as possible! The next time your windows need cleaning, give them a "super fine streak-free shine" with steel wool. This nugget of housecleaning know-how will sweeten the task immensely. It's a good thing to know, since the farmhouse has 12 more big windows to clean...

Friday, November 2, 2012

An Ounce of Prevention

You wouldn't think we would need to be overly concerned about a hurricane. We live in the mountains, after all, hundreds of miles from the coast. Maybe some wind and rain would make it to our neck of the woods, but nothing to worry about, right? My first inkling of Sandy's dire forecast came from my sister. We were both planning to visit my dad and his two sisters (all past 90!) from Sunday to Tuesday, but she chickened out when her local newspaper headline screamed that a "MEGA-STORM" was headed for Virginia. After her phone call to inform me she was staying put at home, I turned on the TV to see what all the fuss was about. The forecast was sober indeed, calling for not only a hurricane but a blizzard as well. Good grief! I decided to shorten my visit to a day trip, making sure I was back home before all that weather made it inland.

Drastic weather is becoming more and more common these days. Reminders of last summer's derecho storm are still around. Some folks say we're in for a rough winter since the Good Lord downed so much firewood!

Although we were without electricity for seven long, hot days after that storm, we didn't have any damage to houses, vehicles, or farm buildings. We were luckier than thousands. However, trying to charge neighborhood refrigerators and freezers and well pumps with portable but heavy and temperamental generators in 100-degree heat turned out to be a daunting task.

 We didn't want to go through that again, so we bought a new generator...a big one!

Our friend, Phil, who came to our rescue after the derecho, continued to help us out long after he went home. He found a good, used whole-house generator on EBay, negotiated with the seller, had it shipped to his house in South Carolina, and then personally delivered it to us here in Virginia! 

It took a tractor to move our purchase into place (it weighed around 600 pounds!). Robin had already prepared a "pad" of cinder blocks and gravel and dug the ditch for the gas and electric lines. A week after Phil delivered the generator, the gas company sent a crew to install a big propane tank and hook it up. That took two or three men and several hours.

Then, a few days later, the electrician spent a very long ten-hour day getting it all wired up to the panel box in the house.

It turned out to be quite a project, but it put our minds at ease to have it all done before winter weather arrived.

This new addition is a propane-fired generator that comes on automatically whenever the power fails. We heard it start up around 11 p.m. Monday amid the some of the worst wind we've experienced here. Besides the strong steady wind, there were gusts that slammed into our tin roof, making it sound like a very loud bowling alley up there. Needless to say, it was not a good night for sleeping! One blessing we always count when the wind blows is that we cut the big maple tree before it fell on the house. I doubt it would have survived either the derecho or Hurricane Sandy.

Our power was out this time, not due to downed or damaged lines near our house, but because of problems with a transmission line miles away. Just a couple of mountains to the west, almost three feet of snow fell when rain from Sandy collided with cold north air. We had no snow here, but it wasn't far away. Thankfully, we were without power only two days this time. However, we hardly missed it! The generator worked like a charm, humming along and supplying our whole house with plenty of juice. There were a few lights and outlets that didn't work, and I'm not sure I could have done laundry, but everything else was business as usual. The well pump and hot water heater, refrigerators and freezers, stove and microwave, and furnace never missed a beat. We were warm, clean, and well-fed through it all. What a blessing that was! So different from the stress, worry, and hard work that followed the derecho. Another reason we made this investment was to "love our neighbors as ourselves": Carter came for a hot supper and Robin's boss's wife and son came for hot showers. I even got used to the motor running constantly outside our back door, so much so that when power was restored in the wee hours of the morning and the generator turned itself off,  the silence woke me from a sound sleep.

Although the generator put a dent in our savings account, it was well worth it, and we're thankful we could afford it.  We didn't think we would need it quite so soon, but you know what they say: "One sweet ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!"

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Beartown Adventure

Today was a rare day. Robin and I went on a trip!  It was only a day trip (well, actually a six-hour trip, start to finish), but a trip nonetheless. And we went together, just the two of us...for fun! No visiting involved, or shopping, or appointments, just an outing together. We haven't done that in a very long time.

We left around 8:00 this morning (to say Robin is a morning person is an understatement!) to make the 70-mile drive to our destination.

 We traveled west to Monterey, then on to Frost and Marlinton, both in Pocahontas County, West Virginia. From Marlinton we headed south, past Pearl Buck's birthplace

and past Droop Mountain Battlefield,

both places we'd like to visit. But today's agenda held room for only one stop: Beartown!

Back in the fall of 2006, I accompanied the fifth grade from our elementary school on a field trip to Beartown. I was captivated by the wonder of it and have been trying to get Robin to go with me ever since. We finally  made it today, and I think he was duly impressed!

If you're not careful, you'll miss the turn-off. It's right in front of this little log church.

The one-lane road winds around for a mile and a half through privately-owned land, past houses and fields, and in and out of the woods.

At the end of the road is Beartown. You won't see much, just a very small parking area, a couple of picnic tables, and some rustic restrooms nestled among the trees. The sign says it's a "natural area." They're not kidding!!

There is a very cool water fountain, though. It's obviously connected to a well. It has a hand pump with some kind of nifty mechanism that keeps the water flowing through the drinking spout for a minute or two.

If it weren't for a sign or two, you would never know Beartown is there, and you would miss one of the wonders of God's creation. It's tucked away in a secluded spot, where most of the world will leave it alone. The folks who make their way here are always glad they did.

So, just what is Beartown, you might ask? It's a place where the earth has opened up it's soul, so we can see the struggles that went on there and how they've healed with the passage of time. In fact, the struggles are still going on, but so slowly we wouldn't notice much in our short lifetimes. Beartown is colossal rocks, trees both ancient and young, moss and ferns and silence, deep crevasses and hidey-holes of all sizes. It's primeval and serene and, well, almost holy.

To make this amazing place accessible for the average human, a sturdy and remarkable boardwalk has been constructed. Visitors simply follow the walk to take in all that Beartown has to offer. My photos don't do it justice, and I can't put all of them here, but maybe these will show you some of the wonders of this special place.

These are just a few of the couple hundred photos I took. I'd like to show you more, but there are just too many for this space.'ll have to go and see Beartown for yourself. It's a sweet natural wonder you don't want to miss!

After our adventure, we stopped for lunch on the way home. We tried to eat here...

but they were closed on Sundays. A nice lady walking down the street told us about a place called Dorrie's in Marlinton, so we headed there.

It turned out to be a nice, clean hometown restaurant, filled with diners on a lovely Sunday. The food and service were good, but the best part, for me at least, was this photo of Dorrie's mother on the wall.

Isn't she lovely? After finishing our lunch, we headed "back east" to Highland County, where the dogs were happy to see us. We hate to go off and leave them penned up, but we needed today, and it was very good indeed.