Four Lessons from My Canine Pals

???????????????????????????????Our Old English sheepdog came to us nine years ago at age nine weeks. Our bond was instant.

He’s been my best friend and trusty companion ever since. He’s constantly by my side. Sleeping in the keyhole of my desk does get a bit crowded sometimes. He didn’t stay eleven pounds for very long.toby under desk

When Toby was five, Buster joined our family. (He’s stayed at eleven pounds.)buster arrives

We inherited the little Maltese from my daughter and, since the dogs had spent time together at family gatherings, we didn’t have issues when Buster came to live with us permanently.

Well, not major issues. There is the problem of rawhide bones.

Toby will NOT share and Buster constantly steals the well-chewed and moist pieces. If Toby catches him, there’s gnarling and snapping, but never ever any contact. It’s as though Toby knows he could hurt the littler dog.

When Toby realizes a bone has being stolen, he asks me to return his property. (Yep, Toby and I talk to one another.)

Then Buster, with his Napoleonic complex, goes after his much bigger brother as though to eat him alive…again Toby ignores him and settles with his repossessed bone.

Buster and Toby have bonded and rely on one another after four years. toby and busterWatching the two dogs together has taught me some important lessons.

Be Loyal (but not to a fault)

Dogs are loyal. That’s what they do, who they are. We’ve all seen the pictures and read stories like the heartwarming story of the Labrador Retriever who famously laid down next to the coffin of his US soldier human.

Loyalty can be a huge asset, but my canine boys have taught me blind loyalty is foolish.

Walking is our ritual. Three times a day we hike around the area. I always do the early morning sunrise walk, but if I’m on deadline or absorbed in writing, those noontime and evening walks aren’t going to happen. They might prefer my company, but necessity dictates they have to go with whoever is available.

That can happen in our human lives too. Loyalty is definitely an asset, but often we have to do what it takes to get the job done.

Trust your instincts.

I see this principle often when I walk the dogs. Both will react if they deem someone or some animal we meet along our way as threatening.

Toby is allowed to determine our routes. Sometimes we go the short way, sometimes we walk for five miles, and sometimes we don’t leave the porch.

I trust him. There might be a bear or coyote lurking that I can’t see.

In life, we have to trust instincts too. Sure, it’s important to take time to listen to others’ input. But in the end, we should heed our gut instincts.

Know what you want and be super persistent about securing it.

Dogs know persistence pays.

Consider the last time your dog sat beside you through an entire meal, gazing up with Bambi eyes? Did you cave and toss a bite, impressed by his determination and patience?

Buster and Toby recline by my chair at mealtime like bookends. One on my left, one on my right. They don’t beg unless ice cream or pizza is involved. Then Toby sits in that perfect sit he never seemed to manage in dog obedience class and Buster, not to be ignored, jumps up on the edge of my chair.

I cave.

The scenario reminds me how very, very important dogged persistence can be. We should not give up on our goals.

There might be setbacks or defeats. Poor Toby and Buster don’t always get to lick the ice cream bowl especially if company’s here. Seeing a dog lick a bowl humans use tends to freak some people out. But hey, that’s what the sani-wash option on the dishwasher is for.

Even if we fail, persistence helps us learn what to do better next time or what techniques or approaches work, and what don’t.

Last, and probably the most significant, thing…

Go outside and play.

Writing is a solitary occupation. I tend to spend hour upon hour at my laptop. For Toby and Buster, it’s boring.

With technology penetrating every portion of our lives and jobs, it’s easy to be online and working 24-7. We forget the importance of refreshing our mind and body.

After a while, Toby will nudge my elbow and Buster will whine – not a pretty sound or sight, but effective – until I give up and push away from the computer, iPad, or iPhone.

I never regret spending the time with them. I return renewed and I’m not imagining the effect research suggests exercise can actually improve productivity.

What about you do you have a trusted canine companion? What lessons have you learned from your dog?

Frizz, the Second – Miller Farm Friday

A guest blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

One of our most famous chickens is Frizz – a Cochin bantam who looks like she stuck her beak in a light socket.dry frizz

She is a small bird who makes up for her size with attitude.

She and Samson, a bantam rooster who has feathered feet, have lived with the big birds for quite some time.

This spring, we moved them into the bantam side.  We then incubated Frizz’s eggs in hopes of duplicating her unique look.

We had success:frizz 2-ed

Frizz the Second is a bit more timid than her mother, but then she is still young.

We have several friends who are now keeping chickens. One has asked about purchasing bantams from us.

Rachel was willing to let Frizz the Second go. I am not.

So we are hatching more eggs. We’ll see what comes out.

Déjà vu Wildfires and Round Rabbits

This time last year, we were settling back in to our home after a mandatory evacuation for The West Fork Complex fire. If you missed those blogs, you can find the full story here, here, and here

On July 19, 2013  the last incident update reported a total area of 109,615 acres lost and 66% containment with 43 personnel engaged in combating the blazes.

300px-WestForkComplexMapFinalNot a fun time and very scary. My heart goes out to those in the Pacific NW and particularly Washington State who are fighting so many wildfires right now, and I pray that all will be safe.

Things can be replaced people can’t.

That truth that was brought home last week as I participated in a public tour of the Papoose Fire burn site, smallest of three fires of the West Fork Complex. The Papoose Fire destroyed more than 49,000 acres. It’s the  area on the bottom right in the picture above.

Even though a total of over one hundred thousand acres burned, there was no loss of human life or homes. That is an amazing accomplishment and the West Fork Fire Complex has become a study model for methods of fighting future wildfires.

??????????????????????Before we left the Creede Forest Service office, I picked up a tour partner. I named him Round Rabbit after Flat Stanley, who traveled with me on many other adventures.

Mike Blakeman, with the Rio Grande National Forest Service, and Emma, a natural resource coordinator with the Rio Grande Watershed Emergency Action Coordination Team (RWEACT), conducted the tour.

A lump formed in my throat seeing all the charred and blackened pillars that used to be trees on the drive up to Fern 1Yet as we traveled up the mountain to the burn site, spectacular groups of purple and yellow wildflowers that Ranger Mike called fire flowers flourished in the ash. The high intensity fire had burned or seared the surface, but underground seeds of the perennial plants 3

Clusters of Aspens, which also spread via a root system, were everywhere along our route. Soon the former green mountain views will be dusted gold and yellow every fall. Aspens can grow to heights of ten to fifteen feet in ten years.

So while the old views of the Rio Grande Forest have been permanently changed and the vision of so many burned trees is devastating, the new growth testifies to how things can be replaced.

The pine and spruce trees will take hundreds of years to repopulate making the look of the forest very different from the past, but nature has a way of balancing itself.

fire 2We went to a RWEACT site where Emma and Ranger Mike explained how RWEACT is conducting controlled studies of methods to reclaim and prevent runoff damage. The group is also working with the Forest Service to explore how to use the acres and acres of burned wood for the development of biomass as an alternative energy source.

Learn more about the recovery work of RWEACT here.

Some of the burn areas remain unstable as the dead and burned trees can easily topple to the ground. But, the good news is Forest Service has stabilized and opened most of the trails and fishing sites…and the fish are biting.

You’ll enjoy the scenery in the Rio Grande National Forest campsites even though it’s not exactly beautiful (except for the lovely purple and yellow fire flowers). You can see how things are okay after a fire’s devastation and maybe you’ll catch some fish.

In August, Round Rabbit and I will join a similar tour of the West Fork Fire burn area.

Count on another blog with pictures of the recover in that area of the West Fork Fire Complex.











Chicken Circles, Crop Circles and Cowardly Dogs – Miller Farm Friday

A guest blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

Our chickens are really entertaining to watch.  During the dry season they regularly “splash” around in the dirt.  I suppose it is like taking a dirt bath.  Anyway they leave little hollows in the ground where they bathe.

This one made me think of crop circles.chicken circle

You know – those mysterious circles that appear in crops all over the world.

crop circles

No one is really sure how they got there and many websites are devoted to speculations.  The most prevailing thought is that aliens land in the crops and leave an imprint of their ship.

So this begs the question – are my chickens from outer space?

In researching this possibility I discovered a cartoon:

cowardly dog

So now I have another question – if the chickens really are from outer space, which of our dogs is Courage the Cowardly Dog?

Anyone have a suggestion?

One Word Wednesday – Super Moon and Dog Walking

Last Thursday night (July 12) at 12:25 p.m. MT one of the five super moons due this year shone from the sky.

Super moon is the name coined by Astrologer Richard Nolle over 30 years ago for the times when the moon is closest to Earth in its orbit. Technically, the definition is a new or full moon which occurs with the moon at or near (within 90% of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit.

Folklore calls this moon Buck Moon, Thunder Moon, or Hay Moon. Why?

Because at this time of year deer bucks start growing their antlers, thunder storms rage, and farmers struggle to pile up hay in their barns for the coming winter. All of which are evident here in the San Luis Valley.

Unfortunately, last Thursday night clouds hid the super moon from view  so I missed it.

Four days later, on my daily daybreak walk with the dogs the Super Moon remained huge.

As we walked, I was admiring the gorgeous sunrise as I do every morning


when I rounded the curve to see this:

supermoon 07-14

The picture is a bit fuzzy, but there’s a good reason…

I gasped when I spotted the gigantic orb in the sky. That, in turn, made the dogs think I’d seen a bear or something.

Toby and Buster, ever watchful on our walks, squiggled around checking the roadside and mountains for wildlife. Thus shaking the hand that held my phone camera.

Sad to say, I also missed the full super moons on January 1 and 30. Those were new-moon super moons according to

I’m ready for the August super moon, which will be the closest super moon of the year at 221,765 miles from earth. It should be a spectacular sight.

I’m also marking my calendar for September 9, the last of 2014 super moons.

Why don’t you do the same? We’ll compare pictures.

Wasting time or recharging?

I like this place

Edie Melson posted this image from her recent trip to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. The scene and the quote made me think about how much time I sit on my porch enjoying the quiet and nature all around.

It’s so peaceful listening to the hummingbirds dive-bombing the feeders and the birds chirping at the birdfeeder filled with birdseed.

I love waving to the neighbors and summer folk walking on the street and meeting them at the fence to chat.

It’s like the Shakespeare quote says, “I like this place and willingly waste my time in it.”

I don’t like to consider that I’m wasting time and I feel guilty when I willingly do nothing.

I find myself thinking of so much I should be doing instead of idling way time (…like writing) and usually get up and go to work.

What about you? Do you enjoy willingly wasting time in a favorite space or place?

Besides my front porch, there are other places where I love to kick back and relax. My favorite would be wandering around in Ireland.

I don’t even feel guilty when I do. It’s as quaint and quiet in the Irish countryside as it is on my front porch nestled in the Rio Grande forest.

After years and years of the hustle and bustle of a major urban area, I love the slower paced lifestyle offered  in our little part of Colorado and Ireland. It’s what keeps us here and draws us repeatedly to Ireland.

I’m working to retrain my Type A self to bury the guilt and use the down time to recharge my creative juices.

Not an easy task, but I am improving.

What places do you love that make you want to waste time? Do you feel guilty or do you relish the time and draw rest and strength from the quiet places?

Poor Frizz – Miller Farm Friday

A Guest Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

We have had an unusual, but much appreciated, amount of rain this summer on Miller Farm. It comes in spurts – rain for 5 minutes and then sunshine for an hour. I think they call them “scattered showers.”

water puddlesAnyway, this makes the chicken yard a bit of a mess. The chicken circles fill with water creating ponds.

When I went out to check on the chickens I saw an unfamiliar chicken in the bantam yard:wet frizz

At first glance, it looked like the black bantam, but I had already spotted her in the yard.
Upon closer inspection, I realized it was Frizz. She had gotten caught in one of the “scattered showers” and all her feathers were plastered to her body. It was a very sad sight. Poor Frizz!

Fortunately, she dried off and her feathers stuck back out.

dry frizz

Hopefully, she’s learned to come in out of the rain.