Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A bit of snow

We've had a great snow season so far. Unfortunately it's starting to melt off with the strange weather fluctuations that we're having. So here are some pictures of what we encounter on our morning walks.

This is why hunters wear orange

They don't wear hats with ears though
Snow on the bird feeder

Great snowshoe trail
The trails are all but gone now. There is a lot of winter left though so I'm sure we'll get a chance to develop them all over again.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Our stream

We've got a seasonal stream that runs through the property. Actually, we have several streams, some large, some small. Most end up feeding one main creek that flows pretty much right up to August. Then it slows to a trickle and surges again during the winter. 

I didn't realize that steams flowed more heavily in the winter. Spring melt off I understand - all that snowmelt has to go somewhere. But our streams start to flow in late fall and really get going around mid-November. No snow necessary. With absolutely no scientific fact to back it up, my theory is that ground water that is normally spread throughout the forest is forced into the stream beds as the ground freezes. 

That's the story I'm sticking with anyway. Anyone else?

Miscellany - cats and dogs

T'BD loved the Christmas tree as it afforded good escape routes from Cooper. Fortunately she never climbed it (hopefully I haven't just jinxed myself for next year). She's very sad now that the house has been put back to normal.

Chris and Cooper finished the beginner level of agility. Here's a shot from their final exam. 

And here they are taking a much deserved break. She really has settled into the household well, hasn't she?
Turn off that flash!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Cooper's Christmas Toy

My sister included Cooper in the family gift exchange. She made her this totally awesome teddy bear. Lets see how Cooper liked it.

Hmmm, what's this? Maybe if I taste it.

Oooh! Yummy!

Must hug!

(Oh, that's not a hug, is it?)

We had to take it away from her at this point as she tore off the arm. Teddy is in the animal toy hospital with elephant and turkey leg. All need repairs to replace critical stuffing levels. Cooper is a bit hard on her toys. But she sure does love them!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

2013 Christmas Tree

Last year's Christmas tree was a true thing of beauty. 

Someone call Charlie Brown
Okay, so it was actually what my Dad described as a "dead cat tree" - you could swing a cat and not hit a branch. I very carefully didn't ask my Dad how he knew this…

This year we've done more decorating. We got the sled decorated during the Wreath Party.

My Christmas Sled
And for the first time in 20+ years, we purchased a tree. Last year's tree was cut from the property (no, we didn't shell out any cash for the poor thing) but this year we went all out and spent a bit of the ready for a nice tree.
About 7 feet tall. Smelling of all that a Christmas tree should (and not anything it shouldn't. Remind me to tell the cat pee tree story sometime. Ugh.). 

Tote that tree!
 And a magical evening was spent decorating.

Artistic, what?
All-in-all, a great tree.

Chris and I have a tradition. We've done this for all 23 years of our marriage. We buy (or make) a special ornament with the year on it. Many people do this. But we go one step further - we write a year in review on Christmas day and store it in the ornament's box. Nothing major - just a record of significant things that happened that year: a promotion, a move, a new pet or the loss of one, maybe a few notes on what we hope to do some day. And each year we get out all the ornaments and randomly read from the archives. It's fun to see what happened over the years. To see how we've changed and stayed the same. And it's a reminder of all that's come before and how much we've accomplished during our time together. It's my favorite part of Christmas.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Of cats and dogs

Okay, so this isn't exactly going to be novel quality material, but it's still pretty exciting for us.

The dog and cat are starting to actually get along. They are not cuddling together yet (oh! for that to actually happen!), but they are occupying the same general areas now.

Apparently it just takes 4 degree weather to make it happen.

Enjoying the wood stove
 It helps if the dog is exhausted from running the trails and is so deeply asleep that T'BD can sneak up and lie down.
Cooper realizes the cat is nearby
But even once she woke up, she left the cat alone and they stayed that way all evening. Next step is everyone sleeping in the same bed. Do we dare to dream?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Chris has always wanted to do agility with one of our dogs. Unfortunately we've never had dogs that were suited to it - too timid, too this, too that.

But Cooper seems taylor made for it. They've been taking classes for several weeks and both are having a blast. But there is always one obstacle that she struggles with and that's the weave poles.

So Chris decided to set up a set at home. PVC pipe and fittings are assembled to create the dreaded obstacle.

Creating the weave

Nervously watching the weave be created
I volunteered to photograph the inaugural run.

And begin!
She's going through. But she's not exactly sure about the whole thing.
Weave! Weave! Weave!
 The return trip was a bit better, but still not thrilled.

Treats and verbal encouragement get her through but there is still work to be done. 

Really? Again?!?

Fortunately she loves all the other obstacles. Tunnel? Bring it on. Jumps and hoops? No problem. Table and teeter totter? Who says small dogs are chicken? Not us!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Skidder Hiking trails

We've been working on turning the logging skidder trails into hiking paths. For those not familiar with logging lingo, a skidder is a honking-big machine that drags entire trees from deep in the woods out to the area where they are limbed and sawn into transportable logs. They leave large swaths of destruction in their wake - or as I like to think of it, they leave wide corridors to be turned into hiking trails. 

Skidder remains
The trails that were cut are wide, covered in branches, and generally messy. Our logger was a good one though; his trails weren't rutted like many I've seen.

Corridor with debris
Cooper thinks the whole process is pretty cool. And she loves going on morning walks as we clean up the trails.
Cooper the wonder dog
 Okay, just because I think she's adorable, here's another totally unnecessary picture of her.
We've been carrying loppers with us and trimming small saplings, stray branches, and various tripping hazards for the last several weeks. The trails are starting to look more settled and we'll be able to traverse them pretty easily with snowshoes.
Nice wide trail
The whole family is looking forward to more hikes!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

First major snowfall

We got our first major snowfall over the weekend and it gave us the opportunity to try out the trails. 

I am wearing snowshoes. Honest.
Cooper wasn't sure of this whole snow thing at first.

Cold. Wet. Cold.
 But she soon got into the spirit of it.

She even decided to get out in front for a while.

Breaking trail. Look at her ears! Mid-leap!
Eventually she decided it was easier to let us go first though.

The trail is still under construction but we have a few good routes started. One is around to the bat house. We installed this bat house when we first bought the property 5 years ago.

The bat house trail
No bat has ever lived here. But it's a handy landmark and the trail loops around it.

It's easy to forget each year just how hard it is to break trail. By the end of the hike we were stripping off layers.

The return loop
The dog pooped out about half way around and poor Chris added 20 pounds to his hike when he had to carry her. Fortunately by the time we looped back around to the original trail she was ready to walk again.
Heading home
Much easier to finish on the broken part. Now we just have to keep walking it to keep it (and us) in shape.

Gloomy out (admittedly, this was written several days ago)

It's overcast and gloomy outside. The solar hot water system hasn't run in about a week, but the Christmas lights are bright spots of happiness.

The dog is discovering snow for the first time. We've got about an inch of thick, wet snow and she thinks it's awesome. The cold though? Not so much. We've had some long discussions about having to go outside in the morning to do her business. So far she'd rather just hold it, and hold it, and hold it. Since I know she'll eventually not be able to hold it, this has necessitated me donning coat, hat, gloves, and boots over my flannel PJs and taking her out to walk around. She's willing to go out as long as we both have to suffer.

We're making progress on turning the skidder trails into hiking trails. We've been identifying landmarks and mapping trails (Bean's Corner, The Bat House, Weird Seat Tree). I'm going to start making signs and painting can lids for trail markers. We also need to start bringing the loppers with us when we walk. The logger created some big trails but we need to do cleanup on saplings and branches that infringe on the trail.

I'm finishing up the drywall mud around the bathroom and pantry door frames while Chris works on building the cupboard that will fill the space between them. It was originally going to be a 4-foot wide closet but we decided to make it more furniture-like. I'll post pictures as the building process unfolds - we're still in the final planning stages right now.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Cat, 3AM, I'm sensing a theme...

The cat hasn't exactly embraced the new dog. However, she is starting to spend time in the same room with her (although usually from a high perch). This morning TB'D decided that I'd slept long enough and we went downstairs to tend the fire. Cooper came along, as she usually does, but this time the cat tolerated it. Not only tolerated it, but came to sit on my lap for a good petting session. This is a Thanksgiving miracle!

Since I was up anyway, I got a jump start on my Thanksgiving prep work. I like to dismember the turkey before roasting and it's always a treat to see me wrestle a 15 pound bird around. Fortunately Chris was still asleep so there aren't any pictures. But the bird has been parted out, seasoned, and the leftovers thrown in a pot for the gravy. I've just finished drying the bread for Mom's stuffing and I've got the breast in the oven to get a jump start on the roasting process. Sautéed green beans with garlic and lemon as our main veggie. I save the mashed taters and sweet potato casserole for day two rather than overfilling the plates on the Big Day.

Looks like we'll be eating around 2 today. Will finish just in time to watch some football!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours - I hope you have much to be thankful for.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Making Wreaths

It was time to make the holiday wreaths and I spent a week gathering materials on my walks around the woods. Birch bark, hemlock branches, pine branches, moss, tree fungus, pine cones and whatever this stuff is.

They look like little woo-ville trees
This is my snazzy walking attire - we're very stylish in the woods.
You can't see my bear face hat. Awww.
The family arrived and we all started pulling materials together outside. Much hilarity ensued as there were very few people who actually knew what they heck they were doing (I was not one of them).
Deciding on critical supplies
It's amazing how quickly the bucket of boughs was picked over.
Cooper liked my nephew. Maybe because he was her height.

My brother's first attempt. They got better.

My SIL tries to stay warm with down vest and lots of coffee

Cooper helps carry a branch
The day was sunny and in the high 30s but once the wind picked up we decided to move assembly inside. Besides, this way we were closer to the food.

Lots of materials
The house performed like a dream - lots of room to move around, work on stuff, visit, get food, and just enjoy the space and company.

Next time I'll clear off the FP and mixer. Live and learn.
The wood stove was cranking out the heat -  most of us ended up in shirtsleeves.

Some us were even in short sleeves. 

My dumpster dive - an old sled brought back to life
In the end we all ended up with at least one porch decoration and had a great time doing it. I'm thinking this should become an annual event!