Friday, January 30, 2009

Fridays are Golden

Instruments of torture? Nope. Just the brushes and combs we use for grooming.

People often ask us how we keep our two dogs looking so silky all the time. There are couple of answers to that question. First of all, they get a balanced and nutritious diet of a high quality dog food. The dog food is supplemented with olive oil to make certain they have sufficient fatty acids. (We give them one teaspoonful three times a week over their dry food.) Secondly, they get plenty of exercise with free running almost every day. Finally, we groom them regularly. They are brushed at least every other day (preferably daily), teeth are brushed several times a week, ears cleansed twice a week, pawpad hair and nails clipped monthly.

We are fortunate to have a special room in which to groom them.

We always groom Ellie first. Her hair is thicker and longer and she takes more time. But that doesn't stop Lucy from hopping up on the grooming table.

Grooming begins with a wonderful de-shedding tool called the Furminator. It removes the dead hair, especially from the undercoat.

We use the Furminator on the top and sides of the dog. A different undercoat comb is used for her underside and the feathering on her hips.

The Furminator is really good for getting that hair under the ears and the chest hair.

Ellie hates to have her tail combed. It is so feathery that it takes a while.

Ellie is very patient, but looks around to see if my husband is almost finished with her tail.

We cleanse her ears with an astringent. Floppy-eared dogs are prone to yeast or bacterial infections, so a good cleansing is a necessary preventative.

When she hears the click of Ellie's collar, Lucy knows Ellie is done and it is her turn. She hops up on the table.

Gee, Mom. Don't I already look glamorous? So we don't need to groom me today, do we?
Yes, Lucy. Look at your ears and the feathering on your legs. You don't want to get any matting, do you?

It is indeed a golden Friday here in western NC. The sun is shining brightly through the branches. January is practically over and it's only four weeks until March. Wherever you are, I hope you are doing well. Our thoughts are with our northern and mid-western friends who have suffered yet another ice storm and power loss. Be careful on those roads.
Have a wonderful weekend, full of love and happiness.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow Birds

Juncos are fairly common birds in our area. We rarely see them, however, because our feeders are mounted overhanging a second-level deck. When I was a child, we called them "snow birds" because we often seemed to see them during snow storms.

We have no snow, but I did spot a Junco in the trees the other day.

He flew down to the deck, but failing to find anything interesting, he quickly flew away.
The visit may have been short, but I enjoyed it immensely.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Rabbit is at Rest

One of my favorite authors died today. John Updike introduced me to Harry (Rabbit) Angstrom when I was a college student. I loved the book and the dysfunctional Rabbit and his family. Rabbit Run was followed every decade by a new Rabbit book, until the final book Rabbit Remembered in 2001. Some of them were better than others, but I enjoyed them all. Many women criticized Updike for his stereotypical portrayal of women, especially in the Rabbit books, but I simply overlooked that and enjoyed the wonderful writing. Updike could capture an idea and write about it in wonderful ways.

He authored many books, the most recent of which (The Widows of Eastwick) was published last October. He was a prolific writer and winner of most of the literary awards available, except for the Nobel. (He wrote a story in which the character did win the Nobel.)

I never had the pleasure of meeting John Updike, but I felt as if I knew him and I shall miss him just the same. I always had a dream that in 2011 he would surprise me with another Rabbit book. Sadly, that dream is not to be.

(Photo from the Associated Press)

John Updike left us with many thought-provoking quotes:

"Dreams come true. Without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them."

"Born laughing, I’ve believed in the absurd,
Which brought me this far; henceforth, if I can,

I must impersonate a serious man."

"The artist brings something into the world that didn't exist before and he does it without destroying something else.”

And my favorite quote:
"Life is like an overlong drama through which we sit being nagged by the vague memories of having read the reviews.”

Godspeed, John Updike. We will miss you.

Monday, January 26, 2009

At the Feeder

One of my favorite birds is the nuthatch. We have Red-breasted Nuthatches only occasionally. The White-breasted Nuthatches spend the winter with us, and we see them often.

They are very skittish and grab seeds and run. But we love seeing them for whatever time they stay.

This nuthatch waits in the trees for the feeder to clear.

He stops for a drink of water first.

Then he has a little snack and then takes off again.
While they don't remain at the feeders for very long, we do enjoy watching their antics in the trees. What a fun bird.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

37 Things

I have enjoyed following the fellow bloggers who responded to the "37 things" meme. So I decided to do it myself.

With the clear understanding that you might not be all that interested, just skip this blog and look for some birds tomorrow.

1. Do you like blue cheese? Yes, I love it.
2. Have you ever smoked? Yes. If you graduated from high school and started college in the ‘60s it was pretty much a given.
3. Do you own a gun? Not now. We used to have a 22 pistol. We kept the pistol in one locked box and the ammo in another. One day my husband and I wondered where the ammo was. After spending half an hour trying to find the ammo, we decided perhaps we didn’t need the gun after all. Gave it to the police.
4. What flavor Kool Aid is your favorite? I HATE Kool Aid! I didn’t even like it as a child. Way too sweet.
5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments? I used to get nervous if I had gained a few pounds. Amazing, isn’t it, that we become little children again when the doctor says, “I see you have gained a few pounds since your last visit.” Now, I look him in the eye and say, “Yes, I suppose I have. Now can we talk about my medical condition?”
6. What do you think of hot dogs? I LOVE them so much I dare not keep them around. I could eat hot dogs every single day. I especially love “Dixie Dawgs” with cole slaw.
7. Favorite Christmas movie? “A Christmas Carol” with George C. Scott as Scrooge
8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? Coffee, immediately
9. Can you do push-ups? Not anymore
10. What's your favorite piece of jewelry? A diamond and sapphire ring which was my husband’s grandmother’s engagement ring. It was commissioned by Tiffany’s many, many years ago and is unique and lovely.
11. Favorite hobby? Reading, or maybe knitting, or maybe hiking. Depends on the mood and the weather.
12. Do you have A.D.D? No, but I’ve been known to have flight of ideas
13. Do you wear glasses/contacts? Drugstore readers
14. Middle name? Carolyn was my given middle name. My first name was Nancy until I had it legally changed. Now Carolyn is my first name and my maiden name is legally my middle name. Took quite a while, $850 in attorney fees, notarized statements from three people who know I’m not a crook, and an appearance before the Clerk of Court. I should have done it before 9/11/01.
15. Name thoughts at this moment? My feet are cold, I’d better put on some socks
16. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink? Coffee, wine, water
17. Current worry? The economy and the environment are my constant worries.
18. Current hate right now? People who are not sincere, i.e. two-faced
19. Favorite place to be? Driving through the mountains or standing at a waterfall
20. How did you bring in the New Year? Quietly, and with relief and anticipation
21. Where would you like to go? Yosemite, but I don’t want all those other people around. Perhaps they would close it for one day just for me?
22. Name three people who will complete this? Three fellow grasshopper bloggers
23. Do you own slippers? Yes, but I rarely wear them. I go barefoot or wear slipper socks.
24 What color shirt are you wearing? Green. It’s a Green Bay Packers sweatshirt.
25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets? No, and I don't like flannel either.
26. Can you whistle? Yes, and I walk around whistling all the time. It’s so absent minded that my husband will often ask me what tune I was whistling and I hardly ever remember.
27. Favorite Color? Green
28. What songs do you sing in the shower? I take showers only when we are traveling. At home I soak in the tub, turn on the jets, and while songs my run though my mind, I don’t actually sing.
29. Would you be a pirate? No desire whatsoever. How did this question get in here?
30. Favorite Girl's Name? Emily
31. Favorite boy's name? Nicholas
32. What's in your pocket right now? Kleenex and a throat lozenge. I’ve had a cold.
33. Last thing that made you laugh? I laugh a lot, but one of our dogs really cracked me up. We were watching “Best in Show” and they squeaked a doggie toy. Lucy went crazy trying to find it, moving to both sides of the television and looking under the cabinet.
34. What vehicle do you drive? Volvo with all-wheel drive and Turbo
35. Worst injury you've ever had? Broken ankle
36. Do you love where you live? Yes. I can’t imagine a more perfect place for our lifestyle.
37. How many TVs do you have in your house? Three; a flat screen in the great room, a little one on my desk in my study, and a big honking football-watching macho one in the den.

So that's probably more than you wanted to know about me. If you haven't done this one, give it a try. I'd love to read about you.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Fridays are Golden

Our dogs are allowed free rein throughout most of the house. However, some areas are restricted as "no dog zones."

There are several reasons for the restriction. First of all, I don't think I should have to vacuum dog hairs from every room in the house. Most importantly, we have guests with allergies and we want a dander-free area for them.

My study, the main floor guest bedroom and bath, and the library all open from a common hallway. The dogs are not allowed to be in this hallway, much less one of the rooms. When we moved into this house, we used baby gates to train the girls. The gates are no longer needed.

Here is Ellie, peeking around the corner of the hallway into my study.
Mom, are you coming out soon?
Yes, Ellie. I'm almost done.
Lucy comes to the doorway as well, and gives me her pleading look.

The other area of the house off-limits to dogs is the master suite. The hallway there is fair game, but they cannot enter the rooms.
Lucy takes the lead in checking out who is in the bedroom.

Both dogs wait patiently until we join them.
Some people think we must spoil our dogs. Heaven knows I post about them often enough. But we do not spoil them at all. They are our wonderful pets and we love them dearly, but they are dogs. They eat only dog food (and the occasional carrot or two). They do not climb or sit on the furniture. I could leave a steak on the cocktail table and they wouldn't touch it. They know that humans are the pack leaders. Yet, they are very happy girls. They know the rules and the rules are consistent. That makes for a good dog life.
----------What a great week this has been! I've been recovering from a cold, so I had no guilt in vegging out and watching the birds at the feeders, television and old movies. It does a body good every now and then.
Whatever your plans for this weekend, I hope it is a golden one. Pamper yourself and do some of the things that bring you joy. This weekend won't come again. The mess in the house will wait for you.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I love poetry. I can recite hundreds of poems, many learned in early childhood. When I was a child, I especially loved the sing-songy verse of James Whitcomb Riley. As I matured, my tastes matured as well (but I still love Riley). I still sit and read poetry like others read an exciting novel.

I was absolutely delighted to find that President Obama selected a poet to write and read a poem for his inauguration. I listened intently to Elizabeth Alexander, and while the poem is lovely, I found it somewhat lacking in substance and inspiration. Perhaps this is because my mind kept wandering to the Clinton inaugural poem, written and read so movingly by Maya Angelou.

Her words ring even more true today, so I would like to share my favorite section of the poem:

Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain,

Cannot be unlived, and if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.

Lift up your eyes

Upon the day breaking for you.
Give birth again

To the dream.

Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most

Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For a new beginning.
Do not be wedded forever

To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.

The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space
To place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out upon me,
The Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.

Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes,
And into your brother's face,
Your country,
And say simply
Very simply
With hope---
Good morning.

Photograph from Wikipedia

I hope you do not consider this a criticism of Alexander's poem. I am delighted that poetry once again has a place in the inauguration. And I did love her poem. It simply did not tug at my heart strings like "On the Pulse of Morning" has done since I first heard it. And it moves me so much that I wanted to share it with you. Look up the poem and read it in full. It is indeed a wonderful work.

Monday, January 19, 2009


We had a little bit of snow Sunday morning. Not much...just enough to lightly cover the ground and trees. It was gone by 9:00.

Here is the female Pileated grabbing some suet. You can see bits of snow on the suet feeder.

Notice the thin coating of snow on the branches of the nearby trees. That was all the snow we got.

She really digs in, making a hole in the suet.

The little Pine Siskins appeared to be very cold. They really ruffled their feathers in order to keep warm.

The big question is this: why in the world do they sit on the high deck railing totally exposed to the cold wind? There are plenty of pine trees that would offer some shelter. Why not choose them? Aren't they called PINE Siskins?

If you are having a holiday from work today, I so hope you enjoy it. If not, I hope you have a good day at work. And if you are retired, I already know it will be a good day.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Photo Tag

I was "tagged" by Cedar ( to look into my fifth photo folder and pull out the fifth picture for this post. The fifth folder turned out to be "Hummingfight," containing lots of photographs of a couple of dueling hummingbirds I witnessed last fall. The fifth photo in the folder is "fghthum 005." In this photograph, the birds are not engaged, but you can almost see from the expression of the bird on the left that things are not going to go well. This picture was not used in the post, but you can see the ones that were used by going to the September post about the fight. (

It seems a long time since we have seen hummingbirds, doesn't it? This morning we have a little bit of snow and our colder-than-normal weather continues.

Thank goodness we have our photographs to remind us of lovely fall days and migrating birds.

I never tag others, so if you have a yen, pull up your folders and look at the fifth one. At the very least, it might bring up some good memories. At best, you might post it for us.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Fridays are Golden

Western North Carolina, like much of rest of the country is having much colder than normal temperatures. While everyone here is calling our weather "bitter cold," it is mild compared to many parts of the nation. Ask my daughter in Milwaukee what she would give to have highs in the 30s again.

I must say our dogs just love the cold weather. They are much more active and run until they are exhausted. Between the rushes of energy, they (like all dogs) just lie around the house. Regular readers know that we have two large dog beds upstairs in the great room and two large dog beds downstairs in the den. No matter which bed Ellie decides to use, Lucy will come and make a room for herself as well. Her pattern of behavior is predictable. First she walks over to the bed to evaluate the best place. Then she will find a corner and sit. She wiggles her little butt until she has room and then lies down. It doesn't matter to her at all if most of her is actually lying on Ellie or if she displaces Ellie. After all, she is the little princess.

Almost settled in, Lucy looks out the window to see if there is an interesting action going on.

What do you mean I shouldn't crowd Ellie? I think she likes for me to be there. Why should I find my own bed? Ellie is so much softer.
Look at Ellie's face, Lucy. Do you really think she likes for you to be there?
Well, she kind of hides her real feelings.

Sometimes Lucy does use a bed to herself. She stretches out and contorts her body in ways that don't seem at all comfortable.
All right. I'm in my own bed. Are you satisfied?
January is half over. Next week will bring Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as well as Inauguration Day for our new President. The week will be especially blessed for those airline passengers and crew who landed in the Hudson River yesterday. Let's give thanks that they were all rescued safely. And let's treat all our family and friends as if we almost lost them.
Have a safe and joyous weekend. Stay warm and happy wherever you are.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Fish Story

Trout fishing is very popular in Western North Carolina and the sport brings many anglers to our area. Last week, a local resident caught a 14-pound Brown Trout in Davidson River. While not a record, this is one nice catch. (NOTE: I originally listed the weight in error, stating the fish was 19 pounds. Guess even I wanted to exaggerate the catch.)

(Photograph from The Transylvania Times)

It is quite possible that this trout started life here:
The Bobby N. Setzer Fish Hatchery is located in Pisgah National Forest and raises three types of trout to stock the rivers in Western North Carolina.

I was surprised to learn that only the Brook Trout is a true North Carolina native.

It takes a long time to raise a trout from egg to release. The fish eggs begin to hatch 30-50 days after fertilization. The young fish are maintained in indoor tanks for 4-5 months, until they are about 3 inches long. The small trout (called fingerlings) are moved to outside tanks where they are kept for another 18 months. When they are large enough, they are released into the rivers.

On a given day, one will find many fishermen and women along the Davidson River. Don't be fooled by the fact that these trout began life in a hatchery. They still are a challenge and not an easy catch by any means.

While we have suitable rivers and streams in Western North Carolina, many of them cannot support a sizable wild trout population. Stocking the streams provides more fishing opportunities than we would have without them.
The Setzer Hatchery has a large green space and gives fly fishing lessons to the public. What a treat to see so many people bring their children to learn about the fish and learn to cast.

Monday, January 12, 2009

It's Ugly, but It Works

Several weeks ago I mentioned that my husband was on a mission to create something to keep the squirrels from getting to the suet.

Give a man the proper tools (PVC pipe, duct tape, saw, and WD40) and enough time and he will come up with something. Our birdfeeders on the deck hang over the deck on slanted poles. The squirrels learned how to climb the poles and get at the suet feeder. One squirrel was actually chewing off pieces of the feeder. My husband split a PCV pipe lengthwise (no easy feat) and pried it open enough to snap it over the pole. He used duct tape (do they ever use anything else?) to secure the pipe, then sprayed WD40 over it all.

When the squirrels try to climb the pipe, it swivels and the squirrels scurry back, or fall off. It has worked for a month now, so we keep hoping.

The baffle is quite unattractive. But the deck is not visible to anyone except us, and we don't mind the unsightly baffle. The birds don't mind too much, now that they have learned not to sit on it. I took a few photographs so you could see the result of my husband's labor.

I'm so sorry that darned woodpecker got in all the pictures! She might have distracted you from looking at the baffle. But I didn't have the heart to shoo her away.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Triple Falls

A week or so ago, we went to Hooker Falls and Triple Falls. Unfortunately, Triple Falls was engulfed in heavy fog.

We had more rain last week (five inches in three days). The first clear day, my husband and I looked at each other with the same thought: Let's hike up to Triple Falls and High Falls! [Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, and High Falls are along the same trail and within three miles of one another.]

We could hear the roaring of the river when we got out of the car. So much more water than we had seen before. It whetted our appetite to get to the falls.

Another good sign: this section of the river has not had sufficient flow for kayaks in a long time and today they were back.

Our first glimpse of Triple Falls gave us an uplift. It really was flowing more than we had seen.

We were more and more excited as we came closer to the falls.

All the people we had met on the trail were talking about the falls. Almost all of us were people who live in the area since it was a week day. And some shared stories of how the falls looked during the floods of several years ago.

The lower falls roared and bashed against the rocks below. We had never seen the flow so wide nor full. The sound alone was worth the trip.

We spent several minutes admiring the falls and talking with fellow hikers. Then we started up the trail to High Falls. Our luck did not hold and it started raining again. So we turned back. High Falls will be another day.

I cannot tell you how marvelous it is to be able to visit these waterfalls so often. When we need an extra serving of wonder, we hop in the car and are standing at the falls in half an hour or less. No matter how often we visit our waterfalls, they fill us with joy. It is indeed a good life.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Fridays Are Golden

We have a wooded back yard with a little babbling creek. Our Golden Girls love playing back there. They can sprint on the two trails, play hide and seek among the laurel thickets, or simply wander around smelling the wonderful smells. Our little creek attracts all sorts of wildlife, each leaving a wonderful scent behind for the girls to sniff.

These photographs were taken by my husband. The girls respond much less to the camera when he is taking the pictures.

Ellie waits to see if we are coming down to play and to find out if it's all right for her to run. Lucy stands eagerly in the background as if to say, "Hurry Up!!!"

Our little coquette!

Ellie is certain something has been here. Who knows? It might still be hiding here?

The purpose of this photograph is not so much to show Ellie sniffing on the trail. It is to give some perspective on the size of this tree, the largest one on our property.

Of course there is only ONE stick in the entire woods! Both of them must have it.

Ellie is the victor and lies down to chew on her treasure.

Lucy finds another stick and joins in the chewing.

Sometimes the dogs will just stop to catch scents on the breeze. I often wonder what they are thinking.

"Oh my gosh! I just love being out here!!!"

My husband has spent quite a few hours clearing the brush from our creek to make it more attractive and accessible.
We have had an unbelievable week. From highs in the 60s to highs in the 30s. From calm skies to high gusting winds. From heavy rains to sunshine to a bit of snow. The old saying must be true. "If you don't like the weather in the mountains, stay around a few hours. It will change."

And so friends, the weekend is again upon us. Please take some quality time for yourself to do the things you enjoy. And have a safe and happy weekend.