Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Trouble in Tiny Packages

I have blogged before about how we regularly foster kittens for animal rescues in our area.  This summer, we've had a few come through our home for foster.  Usually they need meds for an upper respiratory infection and socialization for a few weeks, and then they are on their way.

Our current foster kitten, Dune Bug, came to us because she was very feral and had a terrible lung infection.  In addition to antibiotics, she was also on breathing treatments each day (which we were able to give using Cort's nebulizer).  When we first got her, her whole body shuddered when she tried to breathe.  I wasn't sure she'd make it.  She would only eat when I fed her by putting canned cat food (so gross) on my finger and letting her lick it off. 

She turned around quickly.  But then two weeks later, I noticed a black rough patch on her ear.  There had been a ringworm outbreak at the shelter when we picked her up, and I was pretty sure this was ringworm.  I took her in for a check and she tested positive.  So then she started on more meds, plus daily cage disinfections with bleach, plus baths with a special shampoo (she had to actually sit and let the shampoo soak in for 10 minutes at a time) followed by a spray down with a dip that reeks of rotten egg smell.  And weekly rechecks at the vet.  Poor kitty!

Lo and behold, two weeks after Dune Bug got ringworm, Pierce got ringworm, even though I had cut off all kitty handling by the boys.  So I took Pierce to the pediatrician and he started meds.  While the kitten continued improving, Pierce did not.  Two weeks later, he had to go back.  The doctor felt like his ringworm had turned into a staph infection.  So he started on antibiotics and a new antifungal med. 

Well, then Dune Bug's lungs started sounding all rattled again.  I mentioned it to the vet at one of her ringworm rechecks, but they couldn't hear it.  A week later, though, they could.  She had bronchitis.  So she had to continue the ringworm treatment, but also start a new antibiotic. 

The good news?  Well, Dune Bug has grown a lot!  She is no longer feral and seeks out human interaction.  And hopefully, one day soon, she will be completely well and be able to be adopted by a loving family. 

I know there are foster families that take in even more needy animals then Dune Bug.  As many times as we've adopted animals from shelters, we've never really considered all the effort that might have gone into getting the pet to a healthy place where he/she was ready to be adopted.  Sometimes, there is a lot of time and love that goes into it!  But when the pet finds a new, loving home, it makes it all worthwhile. 

Readers, did any of your pets come from shelters?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

In Search of the Geocache

When we find ourselves with a free day, we enjoying hunting for geocaches.  You use a GPS to find hidden containers which house trinkets the boys like to trade.  You can find them in the woods and in the city - they are all over! We prefer hunting down the ones in the woods.




Somehow, when you're out in the woods looking for treasure, time just flies by.  We've easily lost track of several hours at a time.  But we end up finding hidden pieces of the forest we would never see otherwise.


Below?  This is actually a geocache.  It quite alarmed Paul when he found this rat hidden amongst the rocks.  The belly of him was hollowed out, and inside was a teeny tiny geocache.  Just big enough to sign your name on a slip of paper to mark that you'd found him.  Of course the rat is now a favorite of ours.

A long lost ruin, deep in the woods in the mountains.  This used to be part of a radio tower I think.

The mysterious car that is on the side of a mountain just off the hiking trail.  No road nearby.  Who knows how it wound up there.

Painted rocks seem to be all the rage right now, and we found our first on top of a trail sign.  It's a little Yoshi.  We rehid it. 

An interesting caterpillar.  Look at those colors!  I was fearful to touch him with all those spikes. 

Sorting through the trinkets, looking for things to trade.  This cache was under the faux rock formation to the left. 
What a fun time we had!  And there are many more geocaches out there to find.  Readers, have you ever looked for a geocache?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Sometimes I Can't Believe It - Francie Update

I've been riding Francie a lot this summer, and asked Paul to take some pictures of me.  I don't have a trainer so I like to self-criticize my position and such, always trying to make little improvements (my hand positioning needs some work, for example). 

After looking through the pictures, I kept thinking about how much Francie has changed since I rescued her around November 30, 2013.  So I dug up some of her first pictures.  When she was infested with the worst case of parasites my vet had ever seen.  When her growth was so stunted she looked like a miniature pony.  When her legs were so covered in foul, smelly muck from standing in a foot of manure that I couldn't brush it out, no matter how hard I tried, and ended up having to do multiple scrubbings in winter to get her clean. 

Francie couldn't be caught.  She had never had her feet trimmed.  She didn't know how to lead with a halter.  No one had ever messed with her.  She was in a mud/manure lot with no grass and no food, and a black brackish pond for water.  In fact, she didn't even have a name.


If I hadn't been there for every step of her transformation, I wouldn't believe these pictures.  She doesn't even look like the same horse!  I had to teach her everything, from the ground up.  There is still much work to be done under saddle.  She can be high strung most days, and something as small as a horse fly can cause extreme drama (I have never ridden a horse that despised horse flies as much as this mare).  Especially at the canter, Francie needs to work on balance, but we are also working on transitions and suppleness in other gaits.  As you can see, though, Francie is completely healthy and thriving.  I'm so thankful to have her.  She has been a huge comfort to me now that I can no longer ride Phoenix due to his debilitating arthritis.  On most days after we finish a ride, I feel like Francie is giving me more than I have ever given her.  I never would've guessed on the day I couldn't watch her suffer any more, and I stepped in to negotiate her rescue, that I was creating a bond with this little mare that would bring me so much happiness on down the road.  Sometimes, those impulse decisions really can be the best decisions.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Canning Wrap Up 2017

My garden did not do well this year, but I still managed to get some canning done.  Mostly because our apple tree was loaded this year, but also because neighbors shared green beans and blueberries, and my mom gave me a bunch of fresh corn. So the year was not a loss by any means.  Here is a picture of my canned goods in the basement (I have a few things in my upstairs pantry as well). 

 
 
While a few things are left from last year (not listed in my inventory below - 2016 had its own inventory list), much of the jars in my picture are current.  Here are the things I canned in 2017:
16 pints Boston baked beans
14 pints butternut squash
10 quarts, 1 pint chili
18 pints green beans
8 1/2 half pints blueberry jam
8 pints corn
38 1/2 pints apple butter
14 quarts apple pie filling
52 pints applesauce
6 quarts black bean soup
6 pints crushed tomatoes
8 quarts chicken and veggie soup
30 half pints of autumn olive jelly
 
I'd love to can more black bean soup at some point.  We will miss not having home canned salsa or pickles this winter, but hopefully next year will be a better one for gardening.
 
Readers, what's your favorite home canned food?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Twins are 8

Last month, the Cort and Reid turned 8.  Some of you have been reading about them on this blog since they were four months old!  Most of the time, they get along well (like in this picture, they were listening to some music together).  It's Cort and Pierce that do all the arguing in our house.

Cort and Reid are often up to some sort of antics.  Here, they were banished outside because of the brass instruments that they truly cannot play.  This is my uncle's old trumpet and Paul's old saxophone.  Instruments of torture for this mom's ears!

The week after they turned 8, it was back to school.  The only thing Cort requested for his birthday was blue hair.  So we made that happen.  He loved it, and couple of weeks later he was back to normal. 

Cort and Reid are in 3rd grade this year.  Pierce is in 5th.  I can't believe we'll have a middle schooler next year!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Camping at Holliday Lake State Park

Before the boys returned to school, we took a four day camping trip at Holliday Lake State Park.  I ran an ultramarathon there years ago, and always thought it would be a nice place to camp.  The day we arrived, the entire place was empty except for one RV (by the weekend it was almost completely full).  So we got the pick of the tent spots - #14 (which was good because some of them are right on top of each other). 

The boys rode bikes around the camping loop while Paul and I got things set up.  We successfully figured out how to hook up the tent garage with the rainfly, so we were pleased that we weren't total idiots this time (unlike our garage setting up FAIL at Fairystone). 

The lake was exceptionally clean, and no one woke up during the night sick with stomach pain and vomiting this time around.  More success!

The boys can't get enough swimming during the summer months.  It's one of their favorite activities. I enjoyed running the trails in my spare time (and Paul biked them).

On Friday we took a side trip to get in some history at Appomattox Courthouse.  It's only fifteen minutes away.  Here are the boys in the jail.  They were suitably impressed by the big chain bolt in the floor and walls.

The little village was simple and quaint.  There were people in period dress telling stories throughout.

The picture below is the backside of the McLean house (brick).  The parlor inside is where Lee and Grant met to end the Civil War.  The guides were excellent and I think the boys were able to realize what a monumental moment this was in history.

We walked all over Appomattox Courthouse.  So many interesting things to see!  But eventually, we headed back to our camp.

At Holliday Lake, we attended five ranger programs.  The rangers were so knowledgeable and the boys adored their programs.  Below, the boys are learning how to build fire by a number of different methods.

Another day, we attended a critters of the lake class, and the boys caught water scorpions and minnows and other tiny lake life critters by net.
We had such a great time!  Now, we can't wait to go again.  Hopefully we can try a camping trip sometime this fall. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Kayaking Down the James River

This summer when the boys were at camp for a week, Paul and I did a kayaking trip down the James River one day.  Paul dropped me and the kayak off around Horseshoe Bend in Buchanan, then drove to Twin River Outfitters, where they gave him a ride back.

The trip covered what you see on the map, plus some, for about nine total miles of paddling.  Most of the rapids were class 1, but there were some class 2 rapids about 15 minutes in.  Luckily, the guy at Twin River told us to take the rapids all the way to the left.  We did so and were fine (the people just after us ended up capsizing when they didn't move far enough to the left to go over the ledge). 

 
 
It was a beautiful day for kayaking.  We saw lots of fish in the river and birds.  Often, the railroad tracks ran right by the river.
 
Paul and I would much rather go do some outdoor adventure than go out to eat or to the movies.  We've always loved to be out in nature.

I had strained a shoulder the day before the trip doing some major garden weeding, and I was worried about how it would hold up.  But it performed fine.  I did lots of stretching throughout to keep it loose. 

At our final destination, you could see a swinging bridge.  This bridge has been there for many years.  Paul and I decided to walk over to check it out once we got the gear loaded up.

 It's a little creepy.  I cannot imagine people riding horses over this thing.  It really did swing when we were crossing it.  But I guess back in the day people did ride horses and mules across, and paid a 5 cent toll to do so.  The original was built pre-Civil War, and burned by the Confederates in an attempt to prevent the Federal troops from crossing.  So it's been rebuilt a couple of times (there was also a flood that washed it out at one point).
 
It was interesting to cross.  I can't imagine I would ever convince my horse Francie to do so though! 
 
It was nice to get a day to get out without the boys.  We missed them tons, but we sure had fun without them for a few days.   



Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Saguaro National Park

This is my last post to share from our trip to Tucson.  On July 4, after a visit to the Arizona-Sonora desert museum, we decided to drive through Saguaro National Park.  I'm a huge fan of the national parks, and wish I could visit all of them.  There are so many I haven't seen!  Because Pierce was a 4th grader this past year, he had a pass to get himself and his family into any national park for free.


The saguaro cacti were everywhere!  Little birds often live inside the cacti, and I enjoyed watching them flit about.  We had fun visiting the gift shop, and Pierce got his National Parks Junior
Passport stamped.  Then we went driving through some scenic loops.


It was stunningly beautiful, and remote.  We did see a couple of other cars out, but it didn't seem like a good place to break down!  Hiking trails were everywhere, and I hope we can go back one day when it isn't quite so hot to check out some of them. 
This dirt road came to a sign that said high clearance vehicles only, and we ended up turning around because we were in Paul's parents' Honda Fit.  Definitely not high clearance! 


The rest of our scenic drive was on pavement, but certainly no less impressive in beauty.  After all this fun, it was lunchtime.  It was certainly a grand way to celebrate July 4th. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

When we were in Tucson, we left early one morning to visit the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.  The drive there was one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. Happily, the museum opened at 7:30 am, and we were right there at 7:32, ready to go.  It gets hot quickly! 
I've been to a lot of zoos and museums in my life.  But this was by far one of the best.  Stunning beauty, natural scenery, and lots of hands on experiences for the boys.  They started with a cave exploration, and the boys had so much fun I thought we'd never get them to move on to the next exhibit.


All of the animals in the museum can be found naturally in the Sonora desert.  The boys were very interested to see the wide variety of rattlesnakes.  Luckily, this mountain lion was behind glass.


We did the half mile desert loop hike next.  You will notice that the boys are geared up with their own water sources, hats, and sunglasses.  Even though it was already extremely hot, we were able to manage the heat just fine thanks to these preparations.  They had free refillable water sites in the zoo and they even had sunscreen in the restrooms! 


The desert hike was so beautiful.  We saw numerous birds, little lizards doing push ups, and javalina.
The terrain is so different from what we are used to in Virginia.  We never got tired of checking out the plants.

Later, we found a cactus garden, and we hiked through that, too.


Paul took a fun picture of different cacti in the cactus garden.  I especially liked the little stumpy hedgehog cacti (not pictured here).


Pierce looked out at the views through an owl's perspective.


And Cort navigated a tunnel designed just for kids - no adults could fit through those narrow crevices:

The boys had the most fun at the stingray exhibit.  It was cool with hands in the water, in the shade, and the stingrays had such personalities!

One stingray, dubbed Slappy, would flap water in your face as it passed.  They did not seem to mind the gentle touch of human hands.

We wrapped up our visit with a hummingbird garden.  It was an amazing morning, and if you happen to find yourself in Tucson, I'd say it is a must-see! 

Readers, what is your favorite museum or zoo?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Oracle, Arizona and Biosphere 2

While we were in Arizona, we took a trip to Oracle.  There, we toured an historic ranch house at the Oracle state park.
The boys enjoyed seeing the big ice box used by the original family.  I liked some of the paintings and decorative details. 
Here, the boys are attempting to match the skull to the animal track.  They did a fairly good job.

Branding irons, hanging on a wall.  I knew what they were immediately, due to all the time I spent in Texas riding horses on a ranch. 
 
After our tour, we headed to Biosphere 2.  This facility was a closed experiment where a group of eight scientists attempted to live self-sufficiently for 2 years.  They did make it 2 years, but air quality was compromised, and they lost significant weight because the food they grew had to be rationed so much. 
 Impressive, isn't it?  Perhaps you remember the mid 90s movie Bio-Dome, with Pauly Shore?  I watched it in college.  It was one of those intentionally stupid movies that were a hit with college kids.  It was certainly based on this experiment (sadly, they were not playing Safety Dance on repeat inside).

During our tour, we learned that their coffee bean plant only grew enough beans to brew each of them one cup of coffee once every two weeks.  Rough, huh?  It does make you think about the limited resources on earth and how the future might have to adapt.

They tried to create different ecosystems inside.  This is a picture of the ocean, which has waves, but they sound kind of mechanical. 

Today, since this is open to the public, it is no longer a closed system.  However, they still do much scientific research here.  The picture above is from the rainforest section.  When the scientists were locked in, it had animals like monkeys and lizards.

Going down through the basement was eye opening.  The pictures I took didn't come out that well, but one of the strangest parts to the structure is a huge lung to expel air, should pressure build up too much. 

 
Finally, you can see a rain barrel system they have set up.  This was in the desert section of the structure.
 
The tour was lengthy (90 minutes - long especially for little boys) but I did find it informative and thought-provoking.
 
Me, personally?  I felt a little stir crazy in there.  I like having access to the outdoors!  But I'm glad I got to see it.