Friday, April 25, 2008

Grommit's Getting Old

We are packing up the car to head to Dog Days for a short visit, and the Dogs are starting to guess what I am doing! They seem positively excited; that makes me think that they are enjoying their new playground. I wonder when they will start picking up on Oscar and I talking about Dog Days and get nuts!

Grommit has been slowing down a lot recently due to his age, weight, and general poor fitness level. We have been working to help him lose weight with some success, which will help him feel better and age more slowly. I have started giving him some arthritis medicine to help him keep moving so that he can keep losing weight and enjoy the outdoors, and it seems to be having a good effect. I wanted to hold out as long as possible, as most arthritis medicines seem to have more negative side effects on the Labrador breed, and they can have some long-term effects on kidneys and livers that worry me. BUT, I think I have timed it correctly and now is the best time to give him the meds to keep up his quality of life. It has been a few days and he seems to be going outside more and has been having less trouble getting up on the bed; all good signs!

Maybe the next visit Grommit will not be so far behind his sister!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Before and After

I was looking back into the older pictures of Dog Days from when Oscar first won it at the Auction, and I was amazed at the difference:

I think you can tell which is the before and which is the after without me labeling them...

Aerial Photography

A couple of weeks ago a woman came by the Goochland house to sell us an aerial photo of the property. Under normal circumstances I would never buy something out of the back of a car (lest I repeat a story from one of the "Urban Legend" emails that have crossed through my inbox), but the woman was awfully nice, and I REALLY wanted the photo she showed me. I passed on ordering the giant print on canvas with an ornate "girly-frame" for $600 and went for the simple 11" x 17" framed one that came with the digital photo on CD. It was only $100, which I thought was a pretty good price for someone to fly their plane over my house and snap pictures. I am surprised they did not catch one of the dogs sleeping in the driveway, as that is their usual perch on a sunny afternoon. I only wish that I could get an updated photo each year to see the changes in the trees we have planted!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Half-Way Point

We are now pretty much half-way done the work on the house at Dog Days. Last weekend we came in to see all the work Mike was able to accomplish, and enjoy the first signs of spring on the mountain.

We had lots of cleanup to do. Mike must have carried out tons of trash from the property both from all the construction and from years of human habitation, but there is still lots left for us to haul out too. The area around the house looks much better (the removal of the dilapidated dog run and nasty home-made dog hovel has made a huge impact just by itself), and once I get the leaves and branches raked up, I am sure it will be gorgeous. I have already seen all sorts of ferns, hostas, roses, bulbs, herbs, ivy and many other beautiful plants and ground cover sprouting up all around the house. I cannot wait to see what pops up next! The front planter is already looking green and beautiful!
Well, it is still needs work, but the vinca and ivy are bouncing back nicely from being buried in leaves and branches.

The deer paid us a visit Sunday morning and we enjoyed watching them eat their breakfast while
we ate ours.

It was rainy for a good part of the weekend, but the sun broke through so that I could venture out for a little while. I traipsed down the hill to check out the Shop, the pastures and the wetlands. I think I may have seen two young trout in the stream and a pair of wood ducks hiding in the brush. The stream was full of life, and I am looking forward to spending time down there with the dogs. I even found a few places where it would be very easy to make a small pond...

The walk to the shop is down the dirt road; it is a pleasant downhill walk from the house. Going back up to the house will get your heart pumping...

The shop will have to wait for its renovations. We are boarding up the top windows to keep out the elements, and its new roof will protect it until such time as I can get to working on improving its state. So for now it will look a bit rough, but it has good bones underneath all of the dirt and splinters. The view from the shop to the pastures is very peaceful, and I know I will enjoy sitting on the porch and painting the trees.

I even found another building on the property. Well, it is completely flat now, but at one point is was a building. There is some good lumber buried underneath the rubble that I can use to replace some of the more rotten ones at the shop. I am trying to reuse as much as possible and not buy new materials if I do not have to. The best way any of us can be responsible
stewards of the land is to take only what we have to, and that is what we have been trying to do as much as possible! I wonder what else I will find? Next visit I will hike up the mountain to the laurel and pines and see what may be hiding there!

Oscar picked up many cans of paint and all the supplies I need to get started on the inside. I have not decided where I should begin my assault, though. I was thinking about doing the smaller areas first, as that will go quickly and give me a sense of accomplishment. But I am drawn to working on the living room, as that will have the biggest impact. I have been dying to get the drab dark green paint covered with something brighter and bolder... it will make the room feel even bigger!

There is also the screened porch; we have had a few meals at the outdoor table already. The view is great, without the worries of bug invasions or rain!

The weather is so perfect for this porch, and it is located in the best place to enjoy the summer breezes through the trees. I am thinking it might be a good place for a nap, too! The grill on the porch is gas, with a stone base, one tiled counter on the right side and a wooden one on the right. Once we replace the burner and grate, I will be making kabobs...

I am already packing for the next trip.

Until then...

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Fire Good!

It has been nice enough to enjoy the patio, and we have been making little fires in our fire bowl to keep the chill at bay...

It is a nice use for all of the twigs and branches that have blown of the trees in this very blustery spring. The wind has been more powerful and more frequent than I remember it ever being, so I have a lot of yard cleanup to do, and this is the reward... a nice relaxing evening.

Claris likes to be involved in anything having to do with sticks, twigs, dirt, bugs... as you can see! I think she thinks she is helping.

The birds no longer appear to be afraid of me...

I am now thinking I need to be worried about the new attitude the birds have taken in response to me stalking them photographically...

I have company when running...

The weather has induced me to try and pick up running again. I do it in the middle of the day for my lunch hour when there is not so much human traffic in the area. I have been going slowly, and fear that I look like some of those decrepit folks you see hobbling down the road with a really pained look upon their faces. I have solid evidence now that I do in fact look like the slowest animal in the herd:
These two have been watching me for the last few runs. I expect they will be calling in their friends soon to enjoy the pitiful spectacle that I provide... it is as if they are expecting something!
If you cannot see the undertakers clearly, you can click on the photo and it will expand to full screen. When you are done looking at the picture, click the back arrow button and you will come back here.


For a little while I thought maybe I had sleep apnea. I would wake up unable to breathe. Oscar took a picture that has solved that medical mystery...
No wonder: 124 pounds of furry critter pressing on your chest and face can really make it difficult to inhale! Oh well, sleep is over-rated, but love isn't!

The Cat is up to something...

...I am sure of it! He has been very active since the weather has turned warmer, and has being patrolling the yard. He is also sneaking around the house. Cat motivation is very tough for me to figure out, but for some reason I really think he is planning something moderately sinister.

He fails to understand that of all the denizens of this household, he is the smallest and therefore should take a lower rung on our internal pecking-order. He sees himself at the top of our little food chain, even well above the humans. He has tried to consume the alpha-human on more than one occasion, and he follows me around the house and yard like a secret service detail.

He has to go to the doctor tomorrow, and I am already hunting down the elbow-length heavy duty welding gloves. I no longer try to get him into the cat carrier as that causes both of us too much stress and pain, but even getting him into a carrier I rigged up with two laundry baskets is asking a bit too much of us. He is a good mouser, but that feral part of his nature shows its fur and fangs when cornered; He may look cute in the pictures but do NOT let that fool you!

Spring has sprung...

FINALLY, it is looking like spring around here. I swear it keeps coming sooner every year, but it is rarely soon enough for me. Since my allergies no longer keep to the usual seasons and have moved in permanently, I no longer fear the coming of the spring...

The flowers are popping, new birds are arriving and the critters are starting to roam about, including myself. I have been trying to roam the roads and get some sun and exercise. There is so much to see coming in at this time of year, and if you blink, you might just miss something special!

Spring also seems to motivate me to eat better, and I have been prowling around the produce section and farmers markets waiting for the spring greens and other seasonal delicacies... I am hoping to find some Swiss Chard to use this new recipe I love. You must have fresh chard, or else it is not worth cooking, so if you find good chard, expect to have to cook it that day.

Sauteed Garlic Chard
1 large bunch of fresh Swiss chard
1 small clove garlic, sliced
2 Tbsp EV olive oil
2 Tbsp water
Pinch of dried crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (if desired, not required)
salt to taste

Rinse out the Swiss chard leaves thoroughly. Remove the toughest part of the stalk & chop the leaves into strips (1-2 inches wide).

Heat a saucepan on a medium heat setting, add EV olive oil, the chopped garlic and the crushed red pepper. Sauté for about a minute. Add the chopped Swiss chard leaves. Cover. Check after about 5 minutes. If it looks dry, add a little more water. Give the leaves a toss to make sure every leaf gets a chance to cook at the bottom of the pile. Cover again. Check again after another 5 minutes (remove a piece and taste it). Toss with salt & butter "to taste". I like a little vinegar on mine, but many people do not like the extra "zing", so I serve it on the side for people to use as they wish. MMMMMmmmm! There are a few things that are very good for you AND that taste good, and this is one of them.