Sunday, September 29, 2013

Rewards of a Dog Rescue

This is Rusty.  The story of his early life is a sad one. He was horribly abused by his previous owner and we bought him from the guy for the price of a case of beer. When we took him to be vet checked we prepared ourselves for the possibility that he was too injured to save and would have to be put down. But that was better than the life he'd had. At least he would be petted and loved on the way to the clinic.

The vet looked him over, told us he'd lost hearing in one ear and one of his legs had been broken when he was a puppy but he seemed to have no permanent internal injuries and saw no reason why we couldn't take him home. It was the week before Christmas when we got him. He wouldn't go through the doorway into the house until we were well inside as he'd been kicked every time he came in. We stood back from the door and coaxed him inside. He immediately rushed past us and went to hide under the Christmas tree. But he was too big and clumsy and he pulled it over on himself and lay trembling beneath it, anticipating a beating. We carefully lifted off the tree, assured him he was not in any kind of trouble and so the healing began with this emotionally traumatized dog.

Dogs always choose their favorite person and our son, Ryan, became Rusty's favorite. He went everywhere with him. He'd hop in the truck when Ryan went out to feed his horse, accompany him on hikes in the bush and became an enormous lap dog when Ryan lounged on the couch. It wasn't unusual to find Ryan stretched out full length with Rusty lying on top of him upside down enjoying a good scratch.

He was one of the friendliest dogs you could ever hope to know and a bit sly but oh, poor guy, he was dumber than a bag of hammers. We'd fenced off the area that housed our two small greenhouses and vegetable garden so the dogs couldn't get inside. We decided to sell one of the greenhouses and in order to get it out needed to remove the fence first. While we worked on the fence our dogs played happily in the forbidden garden. Once we got the fence down and the page wire rolled up we took a break for lunch and went back into the house. Our smaller dog came inside with us and after a few minutes we heard Rusty barking outside. We went to the window to find out what was wrong and there he was sitting in front of the closed gate, the only thing left standing, waiting for us to open it for him. He didn't seem to realize the fence was gone and he could get out any time he pleased.

And then there were the porcupines. Out for a hike with Ryan, he found a dead porcupine and rolled in it. A sorrier sight you never saw. He was full of quills. It took an hour to get them pulled out of his muzzle and belly. While one person held him still and stroked his fur to distract him, the other used a pair of tweezers to remove the quills. He was a good patient and barely whimpered. But the next time he was out in the bush he did it again and once again it was up on the table and out with the tweezers. 

In his sixteenth year he began to go downhill. We could tell his arthritis was giving him pain and he couldn't use the dog door any longer. We'd talked about not letting him suffer to the end and so located a vet who did in-home euthanizing as he always grew terribly upset when we took him to the vet clinic. That's where he lost his manhood so who can blame him. The date was set, the vet came to the house and the family assembled to say their goodbyes. The last thing he remembered was being petted and fawned over as he lay on the living room carpet. He barely noticed the vet slipping in the needle - and then he was gone.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Do Bears Go Potty in the Woods?

Not all the time.

(photo by SeattleDee at OnTheMove-Cruise News)

Like this bear up a plum tree, we've had bears completely destroy our fruit trees and leave a parting shot below - a pile of bear poop filled with seeds and pits.

I was thinking about bears as I went to sleep the other night. We live in bear country and I'd left a bag of garbage on the deck. Before drifting off to sleep I obsessed a bit about bears coming up onto our deck. So I dreamed about a bear. In my dream I was asleep and woke up to a bear stalking the length of the deck, pressing his face against the windows. My husband thought it was fun to tease the bear by pressing his own face against the bear's from the inside of the window. Believe me, he's like that in real life too so no surprise there. I got bit paranoid. No. Really. I slammed shut the window before the bear could rip through the bug screen and closed the drapes. We went back to bed. In my dream I figured the bear couldn't get into the house, would probably just eat the garbage and leave and I could clean up the mess in the morning. At daybreak I opened the curtains and there was the bear. Face down on the patio table, back paws dangling over the edge, snoring away. What the heck was I going to do now? Didn't know so I woke up.

The dream reminded me of some real bear encounters. There have been many but a few stand out.

A young bear used to come ambling into our back yard out of the forest. One time I was doing dishes and saw him coming so poked my head out of the kitchen window and waved and yelled at him to get back where he belonged. He stopped midstride and looked at me then turned in that ponderous way they have and lumbered into the forest. Just to tick me off and remind me that I couldn't tell him what to do and get away with it he came back in the night and destroyed my crab apple tree. He didn't leave one crab apple and every branch on the tree was broken.

(photo by

These are Highland Shorthorn cattle. We had five of the furry guys and they don't care for bears and aren't the least bit afraid of them. One sunny afternoon a bear casually walked across our upper field. When the head honcho, mama cow, saw him she barely paused long enough to snort before charging straight at him. He wasn't moving fast enough so she lowered her head and gave him some encouragement. She didn't stop chasing and he didn't stop running until he was out of the field and into the bush.

Wild bears are not pets and very dangerous. Most of the time. The elderly lady who owned our house before us had developed a lovely perennial garden. One day after working in the garden and in need of a rest, she sat down on the porch beside what she thought was a big dog. She patted it and prodded it a bit because it was blocking her front door and she wanted to go inside. Quite unperturbed it just sat there and wouldn't move.  Still sitting beside the 'dog' she pulled out her cell phone and called her son to come over and move it. The son arrived to find her next to a black bear still scolding it for preventing her from getting into her house. He bought her a bear whistle.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

MIRANDA'S FOLLY - Steampunk Short Story

Miranda was on the verge of losing her very short temper. Madam Hamilton's horse-drawn bathing machine was a windowless, airless little hut and Miranda had waited inside over an hour for madam to return from her swim. She gave the wall an exasperated thump and glared at the closed seaside door of the wretched cabin while sweat tricked beneath her starched collar. Her discomfort was all madam's fault.

Madam Hamilton had expressed her desire to swim at a distance from shore, "unhampered", she'd said, "by silly women screeching and floundering about next to me." Ever indulgent, the master asked his great friend, the inventor Antonio Pastorini, to install the contraption encasing the doorframe.

A black, many-jointed pipe arched up and over the doorway. Brass tubes wound around the pipe like the coils of a snake. Every so often tiny holes in the tubes puffed out steam with a slight hiss. Mr. Pastorini called it a 'spatial dilation portal' and said it could transport madam as far out into the water as she cared to go. But the door must remain closed while the transportation device was in operation. Hence Miranda's miserable condition.

While Miranda continued to fume and sweat, the hissing sound increased and hot steam belched from the brass coils. Abruptly Madam Hamilton appeared just inside the door, tottering slightly, her pink and white bathing dress dripping.

"Exhilarating, Miranda," she gasped. "Simply exhilarating."

Miranda muttered something unintelligible and began peeling off her mistress's wet clothes to redress her in her street attire.

Madam Hamilton slipped off a brass wrist circlet and placed it next to the portal.
"Remember", she cautioned Miranda, "This must remain our secret. Mr. Pastorini is not ready to share it with anyone else just yet."

Miranda nodded. "I remember." How could she forget. Madam said it every time she used the portal. It was becoming tiresome.

"I will visit with my friends for a few minutes before we leave for home, Miranda. Remain here and do leave open the door to let in a little ventilation." She wrinkled her nose. "The air is quite offensive."

After Madam Hamilton left, Miranda stared glumly through the open door and listened to the waves lap up against the sides. Madam would be gone at least an hour. How could she bear another minute inside this dreary little hut?

Miranda picked up the wrist circlet and turned it over in her hand. A small dial on the side allowed madam to control the device. She'd heard Mr. Pastorini say the portal acted like a snapped elastic band. The farther away from the portal one was transported, the greater the return force. Madam had mastered the wrist circlet quite quickly. How difficult could it be.

Miranda leaned out of the little hut. She could barely discern madam lounging on a blanket far up the beach with a clutch of women. Slowly she closed the hut door and stepped back inside. Dare she? If she thought about it too much she'd lose her nerve.

Miranda stripped off her clothes and tugged on madam's wet bathing dress. She picked up the wrist circlet and slipped it over her hand. Now, how had madam operated it? The little dial must be moved only slightly. But Miranda couldn't risk being seen by the women on the beach. Madam's bathing dress was unfortunately distinctive and she'd be found out at once.

Taking a deep breath Miranda turned the dial and closed her eyes. She barely heard the hiss of the machine before suddenly being engulfed in waves that slopped up over her face and nose. She coughed and spit then spread out her arms to stay afloat. Treading water, she took her bearings. Sand. People. She was too close to the bleeding beach after all.

Frantically she scoured the shore. It looked different somehow. Wait a minute. There were no women on this beach. She relaxed slightly, seeing bathing machines and horses and umbrellas and heads bobbing in the water. Focusing in on one bather she followed them as they waded for shore. Naked buttocks jounced up and down. The swimmer turned and her mouth dropped open in instant horror. A man. Starkers! Not just any man either, it was the master. And he'd seen her.

In lucky possession of an agile mind, Miranda ducked beneath the waves and jabbed the circlet dial. The next thing she knew she was rocketing across the bathing hut. She hit the far wall with force and slid down to land in a dazed heap. Befuddled, head aching, she put on her own clothes, removed the wrist circlet and sat down to wait, promising herself that if she escaped detection she would never do anything like this again.

That evening Miranda paused beside the dining room on her way to the kitchen and observed the master wink across the table at madam, wag his finger at her and say, "You cheeky thing."

The above was the result of Absolute Write's September Blog Chain prompt - Steampunk/Retro-Future.
I know little about this genre but had fun giving it a go.

My fellow participants are:

Ralph Pines

Monday, September 9, 2013

Orchids and Smoke Don't Mix

I love orchids. This poor darling has been through the ringer. During the smoke bomb incident I posted about awhile ago, some of the smoke got upstairs. This orchid was in full bloom and the smoke killed the flowers within hours. It was in such a state of shock that it didn't bloom again for several years. I didn't have the heart to throw it out. If a plant is showing any signs of life at all I'll keep nursing it along until it's past all hope. Besides, my son gave this one to me and it was a beauty.

This summer it bloomed for the first time in a long time. I knew it was still active because it continued producing leaves and roots. Every year I'd keep my eyes peeled for any signs of a flower stem but each year I was disappointed - until this year. I'd put it in a west-facing window all last winter then transferred it to an east-facing window this past spring. It has produced blooms all summer, the last bud opening just days ago. I was thrilled so had to post a picture of it. Success at last. My long wait paid off.

Not nearly so much success in my outside garden. We moved to a new property in April of 2012 and at first I was too busy to even think of gardening. Neither had anyone who'd lived here before. No signs of any cultivated plant life whatsoever. It soon became apparent why not. The soil, if you can call it that, was either rocks or clay and it barely grew any grass. Ugh.

I did a bit of reading up on composting ramial wood chips to use as a soil substitute as I have access to a constant supply of chipped deciduous and evergreen branches. Although I didn't have everything I needed to get started I did it anyway but they hadn't rotted enough before I began using them and everything I planted was terribly stunted. The rotting wood chips were using up all the available nitrogen and it wasn't until about three weeks ago that any of the remaining tiny tiny plants began to green up. Before that they were an anemic pale color and so small they couldn't really store enough energy to produce anything. Except for the bush beans. Surprisingly each plant actually grew a few edible beans. A few weeks ago the sole surviving cucumber plant produced four teensy cucumbers. I didn't think much would come of them but when I checked on the plant last Saturday one of the cucumbers had grown to an edible size and was very tasty.

So, I'm encouraged to try again next year. I now have three piles of chips rotting happily away and will leave them to carry on all winter. They've been sitting there since the beginning of spring and should be in good shape to use next planting season. I know there are gardeners who have tremendous success using composted wood chips so I'll keep at it until I get it right. I'm nothing if not tenacious. Dog-with-a-bone my husband calls me.

Note: Useless but interesting bit of information. Once all the blooms were finished on one of my orchid stems I cut it back. The cut end oozed a bit and guess what? It smells like watermelon. Huh!