Henry & The Chicken’s New Year’s Romp

Henry & The Chicken’s New Year’s Romp

My mom and dad sent home some of the left over New Year’s ham for the chickens to enjoy. Henry got to tromp along out to the coop with me to give it to the chickens. All of the chickens enjoyed their treat!!!!

Huckleberry Hound

We have a new hound.  His name is Huckleberry; Huck, for short.  Huck is a Redtick Coonhound crossed with a Bloodhound. Like many of our recent endeavors (mostly my recent endeavors), it involved travel. Specifically, it involved driving 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers).

But, let me back up a bit because this hound acquisition was not exactly on a whim.

At the beginning of January, I was sitting in a hotel in a city in the Mekong delta of Vietnam.  Melissa sent me a message, “What do you think of these hounds?”  It included the photos of a few different coonhounds and a bloodhound.

Aside from previously owning three coonhound mixes over the last decade, I likely contributed to the idea of getting one by taking a liking to bloodhounds while we were at dog shows over the last year.

After getting back to the United States from Vietnam and Japan, I started to get peppered with hound-related questions from Melissa – here and there – at breakfast, in the car on the way to the office, driving down to Racine to check the beehives.  “Of the hounds I showed you, which do you like the most?  I think I like this redtick – he goes by the name, Slim Jim;” He was a nice looking hound, but the name would have to go.  Slim Jim, that is either a stick of compressed, salted and spiced meat or something you use to open a car when you have locked your keys in it; not a coonhound name.

Melissa arrived upon wanting to get Slim Jim.  She talked more with the woman who was fostering the hound – temperament, how he was with other dogs, and other questions.  We worked the logistics of taking off a couple days from the office; the kennel the bassets are from was happy to hang on to them for a long weekend, though, hound-Henry was going to make the journey with us.

We rolled out of St. Paul on a Wednesday night, heading south to the kennel.  For the night, we stayed at the farmhouse at the kennel.  It turned out that leaving Wednesday night and not Thursday morning – St. Paul and the metropolitan area received roughly eight inches of snow.  South of Rochester, MN, where the kennel is located, only received rain.

Thursday morning, we trucked on, heading south into Iowa and eventually headed east across Illinois.  We hit terrible weather on the Illinois/Indiana border but by the time we had crawled our way to Indianapolis, the weather had cleared up.  We stopped for the night – to the southeast of Indianapolis.  Friday morning, after a quick breakfast, we rolled out.  Louisville, and Lexington in the rear view…

I like Kentucky.  It gets a bad rap for being considered backwater and backwards.  Maybe it is because I grew in a region of Minnesota that sometimes gets tagged with those same attributes; or maybe I just like the rolling mountains and horse pastures.

We kept driving – to Knoxville, and Asheville, and, around the time the sun was dropping behind the Appalachians, we pulled into the Hickory area of North Carolina.

On the way to Hickory, Melissa had been working through more logistics for the return trip to Minnesota.  As we had been traveling east, a winter storm had come out of Colorado and was heading east.  The storm would be going through central Illinois, northern Kentucky, and southern Indiana – the same area that we had just driven through.  We designed to head south a bit, after picking up the coonhound.

With the coonhound securely onboard, we headed to Lancaster, South Carolina.  Friends of my family from Hibbing live there now; we would be staying with them.  Lancaster was a farther south than we actually needed to go, but it would be nice to see the Baldwins.

Saturday morning, after the hounds and the Baldwin’s golden retrieves had played for a nice amount of time, Melissa and I packed up the hounds and headed out.

We cut west and drove the length of Tennessee.  Going the Cumberlands, I kept humming Wagon Wheel (Darius Rucker’s cover of the song did come up on the radio on several occasions).

Paducah, Kentucky was the final destination for Saturday.  Sunday, we pushed on through Missouri where the roads were covered with rutted ice (being politically incorrect, I referred to the road as “abortion road”).  Iowa was smooth sailing; we picked up the hounds at the kennel, and eventually, before 11:00 pm, we made it back to St. Paul.

 

Walnut Wood

Iowa TopographyI found myself in southcentral Iowa several weekends ago.  It was not by accident or happenstance; it was deliberate.  My wife Melissa, and her friend Nancy had entered several hounds into a dog show in Iowa; as Melissa is not apt to drive much, I tend to drive to these shows, watch Melissa and Nancy in the show ring, and usually duck out at some point and find something not-dog-show-related.

I mostly think of Iowa as a place of bucolic farms – rolling hills of corn & soybeans, pig farms (and their associated smell, which, I have heard described as the smell of money), the 1989 movie Field of Dreams, and the Video Game Capital of the World.

The dog show was not on a pastoral setting, nor was it in Dubuque or Ottumwa.  We were in Des Moine.  We stayed in a suburb of Des Moine – Urbandale – which happens to be down the road from the Iowa Pork Producers Association in Clive, IA.

Pork and pigs seem to be an integral part of life in Iowa.  Restaurants, in particular, and aptly so, usually have an ample amount of menu-real-estate devoted to things-pork.  One of the restaurants we ate at, had a sort of gift shop entry way that was nearly all pig and pork themed chotchkies.
The first day of the dog show, Saturday, Melissa and Nancy showed straight away in the morning.  It was an early start to the day, but it meant that I could probably check out something in the region.

Des Moine is in Polk county, and as it turns out, there are a couple state parks in Polk county; Walnut Wood State Park and Big Creek State Park.

Melissa opted to stay back at the hotel with Nancy; Melissa’s sister, Sarah, and her oldest daughter were also along for the dog show, as well.  With Melissa staying at the hotel, Sarah, her daughter and the three dogs (and myself) headed out to Walnut Wood.

The park is located on the outer edge of metro Des Moine.  At 260 acres, it is a pleasantly sized piece of land to remain undeveloped in a metro area.  As its name suggestions, there are walnut trees; hundreds of them, actually.  The park, aside from providing a very close escape for residents of the greater Des Moine area, preserves North America’s largest stand of natural walnut trees.

All around, it was a great park.  I imagine it would be quite busy in the spring, summer and into the fall, but at the start of February, we had the entire park almost all to ourselves.

We walked around with the dogs, took photos (I have been having a blast, once again, using my Pentax ME 35mm), and eventually headed back to the hotel with three dirt covered, tired hounds.

Walnut Wood State Park, West Des Moine, Iowa

Amused & Bemused

Hounds on the BeachI have been tossing ideas around for the new property in St. Paul; gardens – where?, honeybees – yes or no?, fencing off part of the yard? – we cleared a line of buckthorn along the south side for a fence and we await our permit to begin construction, but at the moment, we are on the east coast of the US.  Mansfield, Massachusetts, to be more specific, we are staying at a Holiday Inn that is playing host to the Basset Hound Club of America’s annual National Show.

I have not been participating in the showings – that is Melissa’s arena.  But, my tacit involvement with the dogs and their associated people has striking similarities to other communities that I have participated in at one time or another.  Participation, collaboration or simply being interested in an aspect of a niche community – beekeeping, operating systems & software, non-agri-business farming, or, this latest foray into the world of show dogs – there are always the individuals that champion the cause.  There is also tends to be drama.  In the realm of the programming language ruby, there is an entire website devoted to the internal dramas of this subculture.

Perhaps it is simply my style or modus operandi, but I have a very hard time getting worked up, as it were, or even “hot under the collar”.  Maybe it is my general lack of empathy for my fellow humans.  Maybe it is my dislike for conflict.  I just cannot get into the drama.  There are also those individuals who are unable to get out of the drama.

I digress.  This trip to New England was not all drama.  We were able to check off the last state in New England that we had not visited: Rhode island.  Checking off the states one has visited seems like a petty child’s activity, but I still do it.

Beekeeping update, before closing out this post: we have yet to harvest honey this season.  Between no longer living into Duluth, to having to travel to the east coast, the harvest has just not materialized.  We are hoping to get back to Duluth this following weekend of Oct 13, 2012.

 

When life gives you lemons…

Well, the last month hasn’t been the best month of my life as far as my health is concerned.  After multiple doctor visits, an ER visit and numerous tests I still don’t have any real answers.  I’m hoping that with the next two tests I will finally have some answers and will be able to focus on getting well.

One thing I’ve realized during this past month is that even though it is easy to say “why me” it is best to say “that’s ok, I’ll be fine”…or as Alex likes to say “meh”.  I say “meh” to illness and I’m not going to let it win or get me down!  I think that Henry is a perfect example of not giving up.  I am truly amazed as I watch him as he goes about normal doggie things on a daily basis.  With his peg like leg he can’t always do everything he would like (sometimes this is a good thing) but he always tries and never gives up.  He has more heart than any other dog I’ve known and I think us humans could learn from him.  So from now on I’m going to live like Henry…I just hope I don’t get as many wrinkles and have much saggy skin as him!!!!

Henry and Eve

On a positive note, Eve is finally eating!  Who would have thought that you would have a problem getting a basset to eat?! I guess she has now gained an appetite and was even caught trying to steal some food the other morning.  Hopefully this will help her grow and fill out a little more before our next show!!!

Henry and I are currently in obedience classes and it is going well so far.  With his leg it is a little bit harder for us to do all the commands as they should be done but he at least does them.  I’m just glad that he seems to be liking it and is following commands pretty well.

Alex is currently working on planning out our gardens for the spring.  We have big plans to turn a lot of our front yard into veggie gardens so he has been busy drawing up plans and ordering some seeds.  As soon as the frost leaves the ground we will put in fencing to enclose the front yard.

Balm labels

Another thing that we have been working on is adding to the list of things we make with beeswax.  Last year we started by making soap, which ended up turning out very nicely.  This year Alex decided we should try some balms and salves.  Once again, I think that they have turned out well.  So far my favorites are the Lavender and the Tea Tree balms.

Until next time…

Goodbye 2011 and Hello 2012

Well, another year has come and gone.  I wouldn’t say 2011 was a bad year and I wouldn’t say it was a spectacular year either.  It was one of those years that was just ok.

Christmas day in Grand Marais 2011
Christmas day in Grand Marais 2011

The good…

– We figured out a few health issues and are coping with them.

– Got two new hounds, Henry and Eve.

– Got chickens.

– Helped raise pigs.

– Harvested 5 gallons of honey from our hives.

– Put in more gardens.

– Started to repaint the house…again!

– Bought a BUV, our new to us minivan

– Started my new adventure of showing basset hounds.

The bad…

– Lost both Gerdie and Madelyn

– Lost Beyonce

– Had some health issues

So all in all, I can’t complain.  I have a wonderful family, a house full of hounds, a good job and my health is improving some.  So I welcome 2012 with open arms and I hope it is a great one!

Hounds, Passing Through

Madelyn and an Earthworm
Madelyn and an Earthworm

I have been mulling this over for the last couple of weeks. Trying to figure out heads and tails of concept, feeling or just inkling of how dogs (hounds, in my case) enter your life and then exit.

If you have a dog live to be twelve, and you end up living to be eighty, that dog will have been in your presence about 16% of your time on this earth. That leaves 84% of the time that the canine was not part of your life. Yet, if you are a dog lover, and those who know me know that am I, you will have multiple hounds pass through your life. They all have personalities, some were hot headed and some were gentle souls who had gotten the short end of the stick for part of the life before wandering into mine.

Hounds have phantasmal qualities, as well. They can communicate with you, but at the same time, the communication is not straight-forward and simple, it is often as cryptic as a ghost’s writing on a fogged up bathroom mirror. We often mentally claw at and grapple with what is going on in their heads. Are they in pain? Do they need something?

Often, as soon as we think we understand them, just that little bit, they pass through our lives. We are forced to grapple with the void they leave and the questions that may remain unanswered about them. But, we move on, and soon, another hound has begun their own passing through.