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 WELCOME TO MY BLOG! REFLECTIONS OF A SINGLE WOMAN'S LIFE ON AN OLD FARM.
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Friday, August 31, 2012

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME...

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Yes, I do believe in astrology.  Here is a profile of people born on August 31.  I'd say this is pretty accurate and my daughter and friends agree. 

At 5:00 am tomorrow morning I will be en route to beautiful Kentucky, so there will be no posts until Monday.

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Virgos born on August 31 have a showy yet tasteful personality and bask in the loving approval of others. Original and intelligent, they are often impractical. August 31 people often find themselves in unusual circumstances. This suits their love of adventure and also gives them the opportunity to try out some of their latent talents.

Friends and Lovers

August 31 natives show their unique nature through the friends they make. Even in choosing lovers, they are likely to select someone unusual. They are more liberal than most Virgos and are romantically attracted to individuals who share this characteristic.

Children and Family

August 31 men and women have a mildly rebellious attitude toward family life, though they generally end up much like their parents. Once they become parents they remember these attitudes and accept the rebellion of their children. As parents, they combine compassion and love with common sense.

Health

People born today revel in unusual health practices, which may include anything from chakra adjustments and aura cleansing to colonic washes and hands-on healing. It's rare for someone born on this day to take a conventional approach to anything.

Career and Finances

The individuals born on this day are bright iconoclasts who make marvelous public speakers. They can also use their facility with words to become writers, teachers, lawyers, and ministers. Many want to hit it rich and do so by risky planning. Sometimes this pays off -- sometimes it fails. Undeterred, they try again.

Dreams and Goals

August 31 men and women may not think of themselves as goal-oriented. They go after things in a big way, but often without making plans or considering details. They can make great personal and professional strides, due mainly to their ability to see things from a wide perspective.

9:16 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, August 30, 2012

SHHHH....

 

Tomorrow is my birthday.  Kenny does not know this and I think this is a good thing, for who knows what might appear.  In the past week I have been the recipient of the following items:  Two hammered aluminum trays with handles (one extremely pitted and dirty and destined for the recycle bin), a small tin box with kitten decoration and a lovely book (the second in as many weeks...) called The Life of a Hummingbird.  Today  there was more.

The big brown bag had originated in Germany and had contained spelt flour (what else!), but now contained egg cartons and spelt bread, unwrapped and rather stale and hard.  Fortunately the chickens aren't fussy about freshness.  A newspaper from Amish country bore ads for the Dent & Bent Grocery Store (one of Kenny's favorite places), a full page of classified ads for Amish puppy mill dogs, want ads for specific breeds (usually misspelled) of "breeding age" dogs and another page of obituaries. 

One notice in particular caught my eye.  It was a photo of a baby dressed in a two piece suit clutching a stuffed toy.  The obit said the baby (Kalan) had been stillborn.  Am I the only one stunned by the macabre nature of such a death notice; to dress up a baby that was born dead and then photograph it for the newspaper! 

One teacup of no particular note, minus its saucer accompanied several containers in which I had given Kenny food items.  They were also returned unwashed and quite aromatic. 

So, mums the word. Please, don't tell Kenny that tomorrow is a special day!  Remember, I'm trying to get RID of 'stuff.'

6:54 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

REMEMBERING...

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Mowing the pasture today I could not help but recall the many four-legged friends buried there. With the exception of Buddy the dog, there are no gravestones, but there are deep depressions both figurative and literal that mark their passing.

My old ponies, Joe Pye and Wildfire forever lie side by side not far from the barn. Their graves are the most obvious reminders of friends departed. Pony-sized indentions bring back memories of those dear old boys who unlike the bad asses that succeeded them never caused any trouble.

I hadn't been living here very long when I happened to mention to the farrier who was shoeing a horse at my friend's barn, "I'd sort of like to have a pony...." The farrier just happened to know of a little Shetland whose owner no longer wanted him. When I hesitated he said, "One look at his big brown eyes and you'll want to bring him home." He was right. Joe Pye was already twenty-something when he arrived.

Only a few weeks later while I was at the vet I happened to mention my latest acquisition and said it would be nice to find him a friend. "The woman you need to see just left," he said scribbling down a name and number. I called Linda that afternoon.

She was delighted to introduce me to Wildfire, a Cob that she'd had in hiding at a boarding stable ever since she'd been laid off from her job six months earlier. She had told her husband that she'd sold the pony, but that was a lie. The white beauty won my heart the minute I stepped into his stall and he reached down and untied my shoe. She delivered him the following day and the two ponies were friends for more than a decade.  Remembering their final days still grieves me.

When Andy came here to keep Corky company he came with Pain, the goat. Pain was appropriately-named, but I loved him anyway and so did both donkeys. He was (like all goats) a super Houdini, but since it wasn't much fun to escape without his bad ass buddies his ability to slip between the high tensile wires rarely caused any trouble-until the day the peach tree beckoned him. I was away when he liberated himself and gorged on the tempting over-ripe fruit.

As I pulled into the drive I heard his cries of distress coming from the barn. That launched the first hour of what would be a week of daily vet visits, injections, pills, potions, x-rays, ultrasounds and everything else the good doctor tried to save poor Pain's life. Each day was worse than the day before and by the following weekend the vet had run out of ideas. He mercifully put him out of his misery.

We put his corpse into the wheel barrow and cut him open. The necropsy revealed he had succumbed from over-eaters disease, a malady that could have/should have been prevented if the former farm vet who had been there only two weeks earlier had known that goats require that vaccination.

A neighbor came with a backhoe and dug a grave in the corner of the barnyard and an entourage of caring neighbors shared memories of the departed as we wheeled the remains to the big hole for burial. To anyone who doubts that animals grieve I can assure them that they most certainly do. For many days following Pain's demise the bad asses stood vigil over the grave from morning until dark. It was heartbreaking.

Katie was the perfect dog if ever there was one. When she left this world her passing marked not only the loss of a wonderful dog, but also the end of a personal relationship.

During a happy period of my life, one icy November day C and I found the bundle of shivering bones and fur dumped in a ditch in the remote countryside. The parasite-ridden pup couldn't have lasted the night, but she lasted fifteen years and was the most-loved dog ever. C had recently departed from my own life, but returned to accompany me on that horrible trip to the vet to have Katie "put to sleep" (a ridiculous term intended to make it easier on the humans). We brought her warm soft body home and buried her between the ponies and cried tears for all that no longer existed.

Buddy was an emaciated Shepherd/Doberman sort of mix; a rescue who in spite of special foods, powders and elixirs that promised to make him gain weight remained thin and homely, but very happy. Maybe in his former life he had to kill to survive, but even when that was no longer necessary Buddy killed for sport. Groundhogs were his favorite prey, but rabbits, coons, opossum and even an occasional chicken met their maker between skinny Buddy's jaws. We loved him and forgave his errant ways.

In spite of the pampered life that had replaced his hobo days, his big brown eyes sometimes flashed wildness and he would take off like a rocket, uncatchable and happy knowing that he was free. After an hour or so he'd return, panting and ready to plop down on his deluxe dog bed much to our relief. One such evening he hadn't been gone long when a neighbor who was never especially sensitive to the connection some humans have with dogs, stopped by and coldly announced, "Someone ran over your dog. He's dead over on Preston."

Buddy looked pristine lying in the center of the gravel road, as if he were asleep, but when we lifted him into the truck it felt as if every bone in his body was broken. We wrapped him in a purple blanket and tearfully dug a grave by the light of the moon and bade Buddy a final farewell. The next day C. carved his name and date of death into a field stone to mark the grave. I've accidentally hit that marker with the tractor many times.

Animals that have departed since then have been laid to rest in a pet graveyard beyond the barnyard. Flowers and bushes mark their graves so I don't have to mow over them, but I still remember.

4:18 pm edt          Comments

Monday, August 27, 2012

NOT QUITE MIDNIGHT ON THE WATER...

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Lots of rain today.  No kayaking nor picnicking on the lake tonight, but last night was perfect!

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Canada geese admiring their reflection in the glassy water.

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3:00 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, August 26, 2012

...AND IN THE MAIL.

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How often does the mailman deliver something that makes you stand in the road and laugh out loud?  Not very often!  The return address on the yellow envelope demanded that it be opened immediately and when I did I laughed until tears ran down my face.  The real sender is a mystery.  I haven't the foggiest idea who took the time to find this funny card, but to that person I send a great big thank you! 

Considering the many letters of ‘advice' that Uncle Bill has penned over the years since his death it seems especially fitting that this card from the grave is untraceable.  The past week has been difficult for a variety of reasons, so ‘Uncle Bill's' greeting was timely indeed.  I laugh every time I look at it.   

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10:35 am edt          Comments

Saturday, August 25, 2012

THE KILLER AMONG US.

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Sissy's cruelty astounds me.  It shouldn't I suppose since serial killers are by nature cruel types.  Nevertheless, I'm shocked and disgusted all over again when she races onto the porch, issuing her unmistakable announcement that she's got another victim.  I look up from the New Yorker and see the tortured twisting body of a chipmunk clenched between her razor-sharp teeth.

I scream at her and futilely heave the New Yorker in her direction.  She drops the injured creature on the terrace, but only for a second. Then, before I'm even off the porch she again has him in her vice-like grip and runs toward the woods.  There's nothing I can do but curse her under my breath.  It looks very bad for the chipmunk.

I return to my reading  just as the sleek silver killer scales a tree faster than any squirrel. The chipmunk imprisoned in her mouth when she reaches the top is still alive when she drops it.  It falls at least twenty feet to the ground and it takes off running like Forrest Gump,  just as I do still clad in my slippers and robe.  Sissy descends as quickly as she had made her way to the top, but I'm ready for her.

I can't see the chipmunk that's somewhere in the tangle of tall ragweed, volunteer cleome (it's everywhere), raspberry and blackberry brambles and dreaded nettle weed.  I lob at hefty stick toward the cat who is frantically seeking her intended post-breakfast snack, but  amazingly the chipmunk skitters up another tree. 

Grabbing an even heftier stick I fling it through the forked tree trunk that's covered in poison ivy.  Sissy is on the other side, intending to try again, but prudently decides to abandon her pursuit. Defeated, she heads toward the house leaving me standing in a yellow shower of ragweed pollen. My red robe is covered with spent pink cleome petals and my hand is unwittingly touching the shiny poison ivy leaves.  The cleome stinks.

I can't see the chipmunk that may or may not have been mortally injured, but as I leave the tangle of vegetation I see Sissy luxuriously stretched out on the lawn--waiting.

 

10:30 am edt          Comments

Friday, August 24, 2012

WHAT SENIOR CITIZEN?

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It was with ambivalence that I decided to drop by to see Ginny today.  She hadn't been at all well  following a tumble when her knee "gave out." She'd seemed resigned to the toll 101 years of living and working on her farm had finally taken.  Installed uncharacteristically in a LazyBoy chair she was depressed and looked so fragile I was sure the end was near. 

As my truck slowly climbed the long gravel lane toward the tidy cottage on the hill I was greeted by Mitzi, Ginny's 14 year old dog who romped across the lawn with the energy of a pup.  Like her owner, Mitzi has refused to succumb  to old age.  After giving the kitty a good-natured chase she led me around the house to where Ginny and her niece Janice were busy clearing a flower bed and trimming low-hanging branches from a white pine.  On the ground Ginny's new electric chain saw laid next to a pile of just-cut limbs and just climbing from her red Honda ATV was my remarkable happy friend. 

"Oh Karen, I'm slowin' down, so Janice has been helping me," she explained almost apologetically.  "I just can't get down on my knees anymore since I had that fall," she said bending to collect the spent peony stems Janice was cutting.  Clad in her little dungarees and loafers Ginny hauled armload after armload to the trailer hitched to the ATV. 

What can I say?  A picture is worth a thousand words. Old age be damned!

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2:24 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, August 23, 2012

PAYING ATTENTION.

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I believe it's important to pay attention to the little things that make life interesting.  Sometimes it's nothing more than a spray of the latest wildflowers or a bird on the wire, but today the things I noticed would be hard for even the mindless drivers engrossed in cell phone conversations to miss. 

The first thing I noticed was the dead doe just where I turn at the end of the road.  Poor thing.  She had apparently just been hit (probably by one of the aforementioned mindless drivers...).  No one will take the carcass away, so the coyotes and opossums will eat well tonight. 

A bit further in the center of the road, in fact right on the yellow line was a strapless padded bra.  Was it happenstance or had it been deliberately placed with one lacey padded globe on either side of the line?  Did someone lose it?  When I see a shoe laying on the side of a highway I always wonder about its owner.  Don't they miss it?  About the bra I wonder the same thing.  I know I'd certainly miss it!

As I drove into town I was struck by a spectacular vision; a fellow so brilliantly done up he would have made a marvelous photo, not just for this blog, but for a fashion magazine!  The very rotund black man who walked with such a happy snappy step was meticulously groomed and quite handsome.  His ivory-colored trousers had a crease so sharp he could have sliced cheese with them.  Topping the smart  trousers was a vibrantly-red shirt accented with a black necktie, but the crowning touch was his hat; an over-sized Stetson that exactly matched the red shirt.  As I said, he was spectacular and I wondered where he was headed as he strode with such purpose through a ratty section of town.

Home at last I couldn't help but notice an addition to the fencepost north of the gate.  Kenny had been here and left me a loaf of bread and another book. He must have noticed when he and Wilson attended the garden party that I love books.

A friend plans to bring his metal detector over for a scan of the farm.  While it's fun to pay attention to all the little things that meet the eye, it will be even more fun to uncover those things hidden from view.  I can't wait! 

 

8:22 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

DEATH FROM THE SKY.

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He swooped down like a fighter jet inciting the cackling screaming crowd to race for the low hanging limbs of the blue spruce.  It was just about dinner time and the red tail hawk apparently had a taste for KFC (Karen's Fresh Chickens), but the ever-vigilant Lothario issued his unmistakable "RUN FOR YOUR LIVES" call and his harem dove for cover. 

I ran outside just in time to see the hawk retreat and naively thought the danger had passed.  I really should have known he wouldn't be deterred by a lot of hysterical clucking and cackling. Later, when I went outside in obedient response to the bad asses' call for dinner NOW I saw the small black blot and the tell-tale pile of feathers.  It was one of the spring chickens.

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The poor pullet hadn't even reached puberty.  Her head was grotesquely twisted into a position that would have been quite impossible in life.  Since she was already dead I decided to leave the corpse for whatever nocturnal critter needed a meal, but when I came out of the barn the hawk swooped past a second time letting me know that he had not killed that chicken for someone else to eat.  It was his.

With the dogs confined to the house I grabbed the big camera and took up what I hoped was an inconspicuous position by the truck.  It takes a lot of patience to photograph wildlife, mainly because they are more patient than I am.  At last he swooped low, but flew into the oak tree where he sat preening and pooping and watching as his meal cooled in the evening air, then he made his move. 

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The shutter clicked, but he seemed unperturbed.  Hunched over his prey, his magnificent tail spread like a striped fan, he went about ripping feathers from the dead bird as I clicked and clicked and clicked (wishing I had grabbed the other camera with a good zoom).  Slowly I crept around the truck for a better shot, kneeling in the gravel hoping for a shot that would propel me to nature photography fame.  No such luck!

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Suddenly, a noisy trio of people I have never seen before came jogging down the road, pushing a stroller with a chattering toddler.  It sounded as if the woman were wearing tap shoes. My subject took to the air and flew into the distance.  Darkness was fast descending and I was forced to abandon my quest for any prize-winning picture.

With the exception of a rare renegade, wildlife doesn't kill just for ‘sport' (unlike humans). Wildlife kills to survive.  By dawn the entire chicken was gone. Waste not, want not. 

Opening the door to the coop early this morning I was met with an eerie silence as if I'd interrupted a memorial service . I suspect we have not seen the last of Sky King.

 

11:09 am edt          Comments

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

IT'S NOT EASY BEING GREEN.

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I pull the sheets from the line and bury my face in the fresh smell.  Later, while chatting with a friend I say, "Don't you just love the smell of sun-dried linens?"  She replies, "Oh, we're not allowed to have clotheslines in...," and names her snooty snotty town.  This restriction shocks and appalls me!  How is it possible that any municipality can dictate against a ‘green' alternative to energy-wasting gas or electric clothes driers? 

Another friend in the arid Southwest told me that cisterns are illegal in the fancy development where he lives.  It is unlawful to have an underground receptacle to capture rainwater.  Absurd!  Confronted with such laws or restrictions I know that I would make a big public stink about it, but apparently there is silent compliance at status addresses.

People who are inherently conscientious consumers of the earth's resources now find themselves penalized for not being complicit in waste which leads me to think that it's not easy being green, at least not in some places.

 

4:24 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, August 19, 2012

GOT MILK?

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I was still in my pj's when the dogs set up a ruckus telling me that someone was here.  "Oh no," I silently moaned. Peeking out the window I saw my not so secret admirer's red truck with Kenny just slipping back into the driver's seat, so I was mercifully spared a face-to-face encounter.  Propped against the gate was another jug of milk and a book.

This was the third milk delivery this week. Thankfully they are now reasonable amounts rather than the five gallon buckets he used to drop off.  I was relieved to see that today's ration arrived in one of the glass jugs that I had cleaned. 

The cute little glass bottles have all previously contained cider as indicated by the labels.  He rinses them out, but Kenny's approach to hygiene is shall I say ‘casual.'  An earlier delivery had to dumped down the drain because cider-flavored milk  just isn't good for anything.  Even the cats refused it, but today's delivery was fresh from Cow and in a clean bottle.

It pains me to know that another calf is tethered in Kenny's barn as he believes that if the calf is not tethered Cow won't come in from the field to be milked.  Under Kenny's plan Cow is allowed access to her pathetic baby until it has drunk its fill.  Then she obligingly steps into the stanchion and Kenny pulls up his little stool and empties her bulging udder into a stainless steel bucket.  No one but me, Kenny and the calf will drink this raw milk. My cats prefer Horizon Organic, but they occasionally humor me by lapping up a bowlful.  

I have found that drinking the milk ‘as is' is asking for trouble.  This lesson was learned the hard way when I thought putting the rich cream in my morning coffee was a good idea.  Not!  By noon I had excruciating stomach cramps and it didn't take too long to figure out the cause, but used in pudding requiring lengthy boiling or custards that bake for an hour there are no such issues as the milk is essentially (if indirectly) pasteurized.

And so, I take Kenny puddings, muffins and eggs and he brings me milk, spelt bread, books, empty Jim Beam bottles, curious planters, wagon wheels and old newspapers.  What a trade-off!  The barter system is alive and well on Byers road.

Regarding the mystery object pictured in yesterdays post, I received an email from Super Sue showing a photograph of a 1930's circus tent being erected.  The heavy peg I dug up looks just like one of the tent stakes in the photo.  Mystery solved-sort of....  How did it get here?

 

2:28 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, August 18, 2012

UNEARTHING SECRETS.

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Under the best of circumstances I hate mowing, so I try very hard to avoid hitting rocks, large stumps or other obstacles that could pose problems.  It's a miserable and too familiar sound; that clash of steel mower blades colliding with something that's too big or too hard to cut and so it was yesterday.  The tractor was rambling along spewing grass clippings from the side chute when suddenly sparks flew from under the mowing deck signaling that yes, I had indeed hit something--but what?  Looking over my shoulder I saw nothing, but I knew from the sound that the saboteur had taken some chunks out of the blades.  Rats!

I might not have found the latest ‘artifact' had the sun not been glinting off what looked like two very small silver knuckles that were clearly not rocks protruding not more than an inch above the surface.  Lest I repeat the encounter it seemed wise to dig out the blade wrecker.  I went for the shovel.

Imagine my surprise when I unearthed this mystery item.  I have no idea what it could be.  It was buried horizontally like a corpse and it weighs just about as much as I do.  It's about thirty inches long and the end ‘cap' appears to have taken a lot of blows from something like a sledge hammer. 

Stranger still was the location.  It was between the pear tree and the flower garden.  Why did it take so long to work its way to the surface?  What other treasures might be lurking in that area?  Oh, to have a metal detector!

If anyone has a clue about this curiosity, please share your knowledge!  Meanwhile I'll add it to the other "might need this someday" items in the garden shed.

 

3:09 pm edt          Comments

Friday, August 17, 2012

THINGS THAT GO ... IN THE NIGHT.

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These would be things that go ‘heh,heh,heh...,' as in a panting dog, 'ahrooom, ahroom, ahroom,' as in power surges on the outside electric line, and talking computers to name just a few of last night's interruptions. 

Ted panted frantically all night long; not a good sign for a dog with a heart condition, so we were at the vet first thing this morning.  As suspected he is retaining a lot of fluid, an indication of the progression of his malady.  His medications have been doubled.  He received an injection of a powerful fast-acting diuretic and yet another drug has been added to his daily regimen.  As Dr. Costsalot said, "There's nothing good about getting old."  True, especially when it's a favorite dog.

I was awakened from fitful bouts of sleep by Dell, that strange little man who lives somewhere inside the PC tower announcing in a loud voice that my "Partner has loaded."  Very strange since I hadn't turned the computer off.

Outside, competing with the lovely locust songs was a pulsating hum that seemed to originate in the power lines leading to the house.  'Ahroom, ahroom, ahroom...' The heavy pulsing was accompanied by an even deeper drone.  This  disturbing unexplained humming was silent by morning.

Since sleep was so interrupted the day began earlier than usual.  After feeding the four-legged crew, I headed for the porch with a mug of coffee planning to watch the rest of the world awaken.  When the door opened it sounded like the string section of the Cleveland Orchestra was tuning up.  Literally hundreds of bees/wasps/yellow jackets covered the cleome in the terrace garden between the porches.  Were I not allergic to stings it might not have been so worrisome, but....  We quickly headed back into the house to research just what kind of stingers comprised that army. 

I opened the laptop which displayed a warning that something was amiss, followed by complicated instructions on how to ‘fix' the problem.  Of course this required finding some code on the bottom of the router located in the upstairs office.  When I hit the top step the ceiling fan turned itself on.  And so this day began.

When I was married we lived in a house with a poltergeist named Virginia, but there has never been the slightest hint that a spirit of unrest dwells in this old farmhouse.  I suspect Ohio Edison is the most likely culprit in some of these incidents, but nevertheless it all made for a very restless night.

 

12:27 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

IT SHOULDN'T HAPPEN TO A DOG.

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The population on this road has undergone some dramatic changes in the past five years and sadly these changes have not been for the better.  As old timers have died they have been replaced by a younger generation whose ‘values' certainly differ from their predecessors.  This generational difference is especially obvious in the way animals are regarded.

The south end of my property is bordered by people for whom I have neither love nor respect.  Since I've lived here a series of hapless dogs have been chained to boxes where the poor creatures languish for about a decade, finally dying only to be replaced by another condemned prisoner of their indifference.  Hence, the dear little beagle who after three years at the end of a chain strong enough to tow a car has about another seven years remaining.  It breaks my heart.

At the other end of the road is the cretin I witnessed torturing and ultimately killing a raccoon.  Of course a dog is tethered to a box there as well.  Closer to home is the infamous ET (Environmental Terrorist) who upon purchasing neighbor Sandy's parents home following their deaths, cut down all the trees, including the one he dropped on the power line thus severing service to more than a thousand households one zero-degree evening. 

ET's biggest concern in life is the lawn which he regularly douses with herbicides, pesticides, rolls and mows to golf course perfection.  Two dogs sentenced to life behind his barn bark piteously, but at least they have one another for company.  Recently a third dog was added to ET's prison population, this one being little more than a pup, isolated and tethered with about 8' of chain to the side of the barn with an overturned plastic barrel for shelter.

My position on responsible pet ownership is no secret, so to witness the deliberate neglect of any dog and to be helpless to improve its lot in life is frustrating to say the least.  There was a time in my life when I wouldn't have thought twice about stealing these animals, but now I hesitate to spirit them away from their indifferent wardens.

Aside from the problem of finding a new home for the liberated animal, all three of the aforementioned irresponsible dog owners are armed and in my opinion dangerous.  When not spreading chemicals on his grass Mr. & Mrs. ET entertain themselves by shooting wildlife from their back yard, so I've little doubt that I too could be a target.  The cretin at the end of the road whom I witnessed with the raccoon struck me as especially threatening and the boneheads on the corner would immediately suspect me should their beagle mysteriously vanish.  So, what to do?

My dear departed uncle Bill was a man whose mantra in life was, "don't make waves,"  so it's somewhat ironic that in his afterlife he has made a lot of waves.  His unusual name had an air of sophistication and authority, so in several instances where I have seen dogs whose care was less than stellar the owner received a polite, but pointed letter from my uncle, signed in full. I refrain from revealing this name as it's likely to be used in the future.

I picture the recipient ripping open the advisory letter signed by someone he'd never met, racing red-faced and angry to the phone book to see just who the hell this meddling fellow was, but of course no listing would be found.  In a few cases it was extremely gratifying to find that the dog owner took my uncle's recommendations to heart and made improvements to the animal's quality of life.  One situation was especially memorable.

A motley mutt chained to a crumbling wooden box near the road experienced an extreme house make-over comparable to those on reality television.  Ty Pettington couldn't have done much better!  I could hardly believe my eyes the day I nonchalantly drove past to check up on the post-letter situation.  

The dog was tied to a tree some distance from the demolition/reconstruction zone.  The deteriorated dog box had been reduced to a pile of rotted lumber and a refridgerator laid on its side was being retrofitted as a new insulated lodge for the dog who sat watching with obvious amusement.  A new lengthy cable replaced the former short chain and an un-tippable water bucket completed the renovation.  For many more years this dog lived a much-improved life thanks to my dear departed uncle Bill's ghost.

Somehow I doubt that any of the aforementioned boneheads would respond so obligingly.

 

8:56 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A VOICE OF HOPE.

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Rain!  Glorious rain-at last.  It's too late for much of the garden, but welcome nevertheless.  Fall is definitely in the air.  The black walnuts in their bright green sweaters litter my nature trail.  In Ranger Rick's woods hickory nuts thunk down from the tree tops.  I bring a few home from my walks to plant here.  After all, even the squirrels tire of walnuts.  One hickory tree planted from those migrant nuts grew to about twelve feet tall and then it died.  'Too bad for the squirrels who are  now feasting on apples in the old orchard.

The apple crop here, just like the peach and pear crop is paltry.  Even the old orchard that's usually flush with fruit--gnarly, but abundant has little to offer, but a couple of hungry squirrels are taking advantage of what's there.  They seem to be in the tree nearest the house any time I go out to the porch.  I talk to them and they chatter back.

A lot of people scratch their heads and wonder why the fruit trees are doing so poorly, but it's no mystery.  The untimely warm weather prompted trees to blossom far ahead of schedule, but there were few insects yet to pollinate the blossoms.  No pollination = no fruit.  Get used to it.  This is the global warming some people still deny.

Admittedly I am disturbed by such realities; not just the blatant scientific ignorance that some cling to, but especially by the rampant environmental assaults that go unabated thanks to such ignorance and denial.  But, there is hope, even for cynics like me!

Priscilla Stuckey's blog, This Lively Earth and her just-released book, Kissed by a Fox are indomitably optimistic.  She presents ways that each of us can (and certainly should) counter the reckless and greedy atrocities thrown at Mother Nature.  Her inspiring writing is poetic and articulate and her ideas and solutions are achievable.   See for yourself.  http://thislivelyearth.com/

 

6:57 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, August 12, 2012

ROAD CLOSED!

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I and most of the neighborhood rejoiced when the county posted notice that the road would be closed for 12 glorious days so a new culvert could be installed.  Granted, the respite from  obnoxious speeders has been great, but tranquility has not come without inconvenience if a trip to the south is necessary.  The short jaunt to the main road now requires a circuitous detour, but it's a small price to pay for serenity.  Wildlife is taking advantage of the traffic-free byway.  Last night I saw a coyote trotting along the center line.

Having no traffic and no nearby neighbors is a blessing in many ways, but today I was especially happy that no one was around to see me. Done up in a construction-size garbage bag (cut with head and arm holes, of course and belted with orange baling twine), a man's hat (origin long forgotten) and a patterned yellow bandana ala bandit mask intended to protect my delicate lungs from what I knew was going to be an ugly job, even the dogs and donkeys were afraid of me.

This makeshift attire was to shield me from the literal crap that rained down from the rafters in the feed room when I pulled off the final section of ceiling.  It was the most wretched project since the first part fell down on its own.   Now that I'm finally recovered from the infection that ruined my Oba trip I will probably come down with Hanta Virus from all of the rodent poop.  It was a miserable job, but one I'm relieved to check off the ‘to do' list.

 

8:29 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, August 11, 2012

GETTING READY FOR WINTER.

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I'm not a summer person, so the drastic overnight drop in temperature was most welcome. It was heavenly to pull the down coverlet up to my chin while the crisp night air from the open windows nipped at my nose.  I love ‘autumn' days even when they occur in mid-August, so in my book today was perfect for getting in the winter supply of straw.  Loading and unloading it was enjoyable work, but as I stacked the bales in the barn the bad asses did their best to un-stack them, pulling out mouthfuls and gobbling them down as if they hadn't eaten for days, all the while bumping around and knocking things over.  I allowed it to happen because (perhaps foolishly) I enjoyed being with them. 

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Before I owned donkeys I saw burros in Mexico eating dry leaves, chewing with such looks of concentration that I thought they were eating them out of desperation.  I was wrong.  Donkeys (AKA burros) actually seem to prefer things like leaves, straw and sticks, not to mention the barn siding over sweet hay or lush pasture.  They can't wait for me to throw fresh straw in their stall and while they obligingly eat their hay they also eat their bedding.

Two more hens are feeling maternal urges, but they are not being permitted to set any eggs and I'm reasonably certain the golf balls are not going to hatch.  The two teenagers from the early spring clutch are now mature enough to confirm that the pretty black and red one is a cockerel and the white one is a pullet.  This brings the rooster census up to three (two too many...).  The young one will have to go, so I plan to bribe Kenny with carrot muffins to take both birds.  After all, they've been inseparable since their first day of life.  If he agrees to do so I will be rid of the young rooster and the hen will provide Kenny with a nice egg each day.  How can he say no to such a deal?

This tantalizing offer will be presented to him tomorrow along with the muffins.  Keep fingers crossed.

 

5:28 pm edt          Comments

Friday, August 10, 2012

PROFITS PLUMMET.

 

I thought it was too good to be true.  Following the instructions which promised to end cannibalism in poultry I fluffed up the laying box bedding and placed a decoy ‘egg' (AKA golf ball) in each cubicle.  The next day there was not one broken or displaced chicken egg.  I was ecstatic!  Problem solved, and who would have guessed the solution could be so simple.  I was wrong.

Apparently Gladys had secretly enrolled in a correspondence English as a Second Language course (chicken-speak being her native tongue).  Having mastered confusing and inconsistent English words she read the writing on the golf balls and informed her gal pals (including the egg eaters) not to waste their time trying to consume the small round ‘eggs' that had mysteriously appeared in the laying boxes.

Consequently, egg pillaging has resumed. 

 

6:48 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, August 9, 2012

CLEANING HOUSE.

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I've been trying to eliminate unnecessary stuff from my life.  If it isn't useful and used on a regular basis (clothing, kitchen or garden tools, etc.), lovely to behold (as in artwork) or absolutely crucial for whatever reason it goes into ‘give away' or ‘throw away' piles, but contributions from my elderly admirer are complicating the effort.  My "out with the old" mantra is competing with "in with more old." Maybe (but not likely...) Kenny is cleaning house too.

It was after 1:00 pm when I returned home loaded down with groceries.  The thermometer on the garden shed read 82 degrees and the air was heavy. That's when I saw that Kenny had stopped by while I was away.  God only knows how long the jug of Cow's milk had been sitting on the bench in the hot sun along with a few other carefully-chosen ‘gifts.' 

Kenny knows I collect art.  We've talked about it in the past, so I guess that's why he thought I'd like four empty Old Masters Series Jim Beam bottles.  A pity none of them contained anything but a lovely, lingering scent of the original contents.  Kenny doesn't drink, so where these un-collectibles came from is anyone's guess. They're covered with dirt, so I'll wash them and send them to the thrift store.  I imagine there's someone out there who collects empty liquor bottles.  The plastic flower pot can go into the recycle bin, the faux wood hanging pot and the tiny ceramic pot are up for grabs, just like the amber jar with the permanently stuck-on top.

Lest I sound like an ingrate, it should be said that I do appreciate Kenny's thoughtfulness; the thrice-weekly spelt bread deliveries (the chickens and donkeys devour it), the tainted milk from poor old Cow who is now about 15 years old (maybe the kitties will drink it), The Budget newspapers (entertaining news from Amish communities here and abroad (always several weeks old) and assorted books on Reversing The Aging Process (is he trying to tell me something?), Becoming a Vegetarian (‘been one for 30 years...) and even the moldy magazines.  It's just that I know that hidden under the mountains of similar treasures in Kenny's barn and house there are some real treasures that he probably regards as ‘junk.' 

And so I'll continue to drop off eggs, cookies, soups and muffins for Kenny while graciously accepting his proffered donations.  It's a harmless game, but it's also    odd little relationships like this that are a treasured part of my small country life.

 

3:10 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

FORE!

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Will this put an end to this? 

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I hope so.  Upon the advice found on a poultry site the laying boxes are now outfitted with golf balls which are intended to squelch egg-eating appetites.  According to the poultry expert, the hens will ignore the manufacturer's name on the balls (since they can't read anyway...) and will try in vain to break one of the imposter ‘eggs.'  Having no luck they will abandon the unacceptable behavior in a few days. 

Frankly, I have my doubts whether this trickery is going to work, but considering the cost of chicken chow, the lost egg sales and the mess on the barn and coop floors I am willing to give it a try.  Watch this site for progress reports.

Lothario does not have a self-esteem problem.  When company comes he makes his presence known by strutting past, then pausing just long enough to let out a hearty "cock-a-doodle-doooooooooo" to impress anyone who might be watching, but today he outdid himself. 

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"Just look at that rooster!  Isn't he beautiful," gushed my guest.  "Too bad you don't have your camera...," she said.  Of course I raced to retrieve it and as if Lothario knew he would be posing for global exposure he dutifully held his post. He really is the cock of the walk.

2:01 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

GOODNESS SANKES ALIVE!

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I can't recall a year when I've had so many resident serpents and all are welcome.  There have been some really big snakes, some not so big and some relatively-small ones.  None have been poisonous and all have been uniquely beautiful.  It's a pity snakes are so often  the victims of ignorance. 

From Aesop's Fables:  The Farmer and the Snake

One winter a farmer found a snake stiff and frozen with cold. He had compassion on it, and taking it up, placed it in his bosom. The warmth quickly revived the Snake, and resuming its natural instincts, bit its benefactor, inflicting on him a mortal wound. "Oh," cried the farmer with his last breath, "I am rightly served for pitying a scoundrel." 

The lesson: The greatest kindness will not bind the ungrateful.

 

7:13 pm edt          Comments

Monday, August 6, 2012

EGGS? WHAT EGGS?

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Years ago the New Yorker ran a cartoon showing two hens in a kitchen, one seated at the table and the other apron-clad hostess about to serve fried eggs to her astonished guest.  The caption read, "Well, you don't have to pay to send them to college and they taste good."

I thought it was hilarious, but now that I know there's an egg-eating hen here it isn't funny at all. (Roosters don't resort to such errant behavior.)

I used to enjoy gathering eggs from the laying boxes as part of evening chores and although the girls would occasionally hide their deposits outside of the coop (like on top of hay bales or behind piles of stacked lumber) I could always count on a respectable collection.  No more.

When I found empty egg shells in the loft I blamed a pillaging raccoon or opossum and started checking the loft mid-day.  If I were lucky there would be a nice big egg waiting  inside an empty storage box in the corner.  Up-ending the box did nothing to encourage the mystery hen to make her deposit in the coop, so I continue trudging up the steep stairs early in the day with the hope of recovering an intact egg.  I don't always get up there in time.

A few days ago I began finding egg fragments on the cement in the big part of the barn.  They had been deliberately broken and the contents completely consumed as well as part of the shell.  It's apparent that I have an elusive cannibalistic hen and I'm not happy about it. 

It should be noted that these girls lack nothing in their diet.  In addition to their free-range foraging they have generous access to scratch grains and crushed oyster shells, not to mention all the spelt bread they can eat.

Until  tell-tale yellow yolk smudges show up on someone's face I won't be able to address the plundering issue. Gladys isn't talking.

 

6:24 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, August 4, 2012

AND SO, UNTIL NEXT TIME...

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It was with great ambivalence that I left Oba.  I hated to leave my favorite place, but I was desperate to get to medical help, and so I bade my private farewell to the lake, to the chipmunks that shared my meals, to the bat boy roomies and to the bears seen and not seen.  Then I joined the others crammed into the people boat that was waiting to take us back to the tired little Woods Cabins train station.

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Although the train knows that it will be picking up passengers at Mile 212, the drama of waving the green flag to stop the train is never ignored.  It's always assigned to the youngest person in the group and I imagine there are a lot of kids who will fondly recall when they halted the train.

After hugs and "see you next year" goodbyes we all boarded and the Algoma Central rumbled away from my home away from home. 

 

4:08 pm edt          Comments

Friday, August 3, 2012

THIS PLACE.

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I can't begin to list the reasons I keep returning to this lake.  It wouldn't be the destination of choice for everyone, but that's precisely why I go.  I prefer the uninhabited bush to the ‘civilized' world (although that adjective as it relates to modern society is up for debate...).  Sharing a cabin with bats might not be acceptable to many, but other than their noisy evening departures and noisier morning returns they were perfect roommates.

Darkness fell late, so about the time I was dropping off to sleep the squeaking and fluttering party boys were heading out for a mosquito fiesta (‘not a skeeter to be found in the cabin).   Like a bunch of drunks they returned just before dawn and after taking up their position where the chimney met the roofline they slept like babies all day long. 

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The kayak which I had at my disposal was greatly appreciated, especially early in the morning.  To be the only human on a 14 mile stretch of water is indescribable.  Even when the camp operates at full capacity there are never more than a handful of boats on the water, but to be the only one is simply awesome.  I always felt safe and filled with a sense of wonder and peace.

One afternoon big excitement dropped from the sky.  Hawk Air arrived to deliver propane tanks and 55 gallon drums of gas for the boat motors.  As the vintage 1963 plane landed I half expected to see Amelia Earhart crawl out of the cockpit. 

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Supplies used to come on the train, but escalating costs and the ever-diminishing days of rail service now make Hawk Air a better alternative.  The life of a bush pilot seems very exciting and dreamy to me, but just like running a wilderness fish camp, the reality is probably a whole lot less romantic.

 

3:17 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, August 2, 2012

THE WILDLIFE.

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I wasn't really surprised to learn that the wolf is no longer at the lake.  The fact that it ever was there was the real surprise. For a few years it was a bittersweet thrill to watch a lame timber wolf on the point across the lake.  No one knew whether it was male or female, but when I think of this majestic creature I always think of it as female.  Each day she came to eat the fish guts that were dumped on the rocky point.  A healthy wolf would not have resorted to such a diet, but this wolf was badly crippled.   What she ate when the camp closed for the short season is a mystery.  The winters are very hard that far north and the fact that she survived as long as she did was a miracle.  I hope that her spirit rests in peace.

Over the years I've been coming to Oba I've seen dramatic changes in the wildlife species.  Until fairly recently camp has had an assortment of wild residents;  super-sized skunks, several groundhogs, fox that went from cabin to cabin begging for treats and very athletic, jay-type birds called whiskey jacks that were so tame they also took food from my hands.  It wasn't uncommon to see Arctic terns sailing by on their migratory route, but this year none of the above wildlife was there; not a single specimen.

Driving through the Upper Peninsula and lower Canada I saw many sandhill cranes, big cinnamon-colored birds I've never seen before.  Of course moose are about as plentiful as white tail deer in these parts.  I almost became jaded about seeing bald eagles and osprey every time I went outside, but never tired of the loons whose eerie calls lulled me to sleep each night.  Mike noted a population of turkey vultures that had never been there before now hang out with the gulls and ravens at the fish gut diner. 

A couple of Jack rabbits and a resident mink were always on hand and a big snake too, but Hana insisted that the snake be relocated to the opposite shore, and so it took it's first boat ride.  A few people saw otters when they were out in the boats, but no one but me saw the magnificent boar bear swimming across the lake at 5:30 am.

By nature I'm an early riser.  It's my favorite part of the day and so it was at camp.  Not a soul was stirring at that hour.  Cabin doors were closed and it was so quiet the others might have been dead when I took my coffee out on the deck to watch the day awaken.  I expected to see the mergansers and the loons on the water, but the big black head with the fawn-colored snout that entered the lake just about where the sauna is located was a wonderful surprise! 

I grabbed the field glasses and watched this handsome swimmer leisurely make his way through the choppy waves.  He could have taken the shortest route across, but he swam diagonally and exited the water directly across from me, scaling the steep granite rock as easily as a spider.  At the top he hesitated, shook himself like my big dog Ted, glanced across the water as if to say, "Looks like it's going to be another lovely day," and then ambled into the trees.  It was thrilling.

To the little beggar that cleaned up my bowl of yogurt it was just another day at Oba.

 

6:28 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS.

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Those who have been unfortunate enough to experience a bladder infection know the pain and other debilitating symptoms.  Those who have not should thank their lucky stars.  Because of this untimely malady my adventures and outings from camp were very limited.  Much of the time was spent lying on my back staring at the wooden ceiling in the cabin or sitting on the deck reading, writing or drawing.  Who knew such simple gestures would lead others to imagine that I, Karen Kirsch was actually Danielle Steele!!!

The small deck is neatly tucked between clusters of poplar and some berry-bearing mystery shrubs.  Its only about ten feet from the water's edge, so the last thing I expected to see was a slightly-embarrassed man immerging from the greenery at the side of my porch.

"Hi, I don't mean to intrude, but my wife thinks you are Danielle Steele," he said.  "She's says this is just the sort of place she might come...". 

Needless to say this mistaken identity was more than amusing.  I've never read Ms. Steele's books and I have no idea what she looks like, but I'm pretty sure that with all her money and success Oba lake would not be high on her list of "resorts."   After my disappointing introduction "Well, yes I am a writer, but...," I explained and we both had a good laugh. 

And so, this is how I happened to meet the extended family that was occupying two of the other cabins and to whom I'll be forever grateful for their kindness and concern.  They invited me to join them for dinner, they brought me pancakes and some fish fillets to cook for myself. One of their party even gave me some over the counter medication that provided a wee bit of relief. 

A dozen or so people confined to a tiny remote camp set in the Canadian wilderness draws out the kindness of strangers.  Very often a sense of ‘community' develops, sometimes by necessity and this proved to be so.  Not everyone in camp was friendly.  Some preferred not to be social, but the nice ones more than compensated for the others.

Occasionally I thought/hoped I was feeling well enough to do some of the things I always look forward to, like a jaunt with Hana to Mosquito Lake where the minnow traps are set.  The camp sells minnows to fishermen who prefer live bait to lures and so with Hana at the helm we shot across Oba, pulled the boat into the deep gouge between huge granite boulders and then set off on foot across the railroad tracks and through the woods that earned the lake its ominous name.  Mosquito Lake isn't big, but it's lovely, nestled amidst deep forest with muskeg at the south end.  At the termination of a barely-there trail the most unstable boat ever conceived lays tethered to a tree and this is the craft used to row out to several make-shift buoys that mark trap locations.

I love to row so positioning myself in the center seat I propelled us toward the traps, only to find all were nearly empty.  Hana suggested that I row her across the lake to see if she could find an obscure trail that leads up the steep, densely-wooded hillside, then down to yet another lake where she hoped to find more minnows willing to sacrifice themselves in traps baited with bread and potatoes. Who knew fish had such tastes?

Here I should note that even on the meandering, but discernible trail that leads from the railroad tracks to Mosquito Lake, carrying five gallon buckets of sloshing water is not easy!  I could certainly be of no help and Hana already had a sore shoulder from a winter skiing accident, but unlike wimpy Americans, my European pal was not going to let such minor (???) issues keep her from the task at hand if she could just find the trail head on the opposite shore. 

"Maybe it's there," she pondered aloud.  "I know there's a big tree down in the water..," she said with furrowed brow.  Here I should point out that there are "big trees down in the water" all over Mosquito Lake!  Back and forth I rowed.  "No, let's try over there," she said more than a few times and I would turn the craft around and again we'd get tangled in overhanging branches and scrape against submerged logs while searching in vain for the elusive trail.

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Not only is the boat very unstable, but the oars are ancient, mismatched and one has only half of the paddle section (rather important to move water...).  This in itself would make navigation challenging, but the oar locks on this craft have also seen better days.  Try to imagine rowing a boat with one stabilized half oar and one that is hardly secured at all.  You get the picture....

"Oh dear, Michael will be so disappointed if we don't get any minnows," she lamented.  "Let's try one more time-over there," she said pointing to what I thought to be a very unlikely spot for a trail head.  It's good that I am not anyone's wife for I would have abandoned the mission much sooner, but obediently I rowed us toward the designated spot. 

My agile and very-determined friend disembarked and in a matter of seconds vanished into the bush while I attempted to tighten the dodgy oar in the even-dodgier oar lock by jamming bits of cedar into the ragged metal.  I was actually quite happy to languish alone in that beautiful spot. The sun was warm and the water as smooth as a mirror. The solace of this remote lake is alluring and I gladly would have spent a few hours there, but a rustling in the brush signaled Hana's defeated return. She had not found the trail head and had literally been brought to her knees.

"Take my picture to prove to Michael that I really did try to find the trail," she ordered and so I did.  I must admit, in my opinion there is no minnow (or man!) worth such an effort as this. 

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PS:  We all got a good laugh out of the picture of Mike's dedicated minnow-seeking wife.

 

6:15 pm edt          Comments


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