Goodbye Max

Sierra, left, greets Max on the day we brought him home from the animal shelter in January 2006.
Sierra, left, greets Max on the day we brought him home from the animal shelter in January 2006.
Max and I hike near Utah’s Butler Wash in October 2006.

Maximum Speed Boulevard, our male Chihuahua since January 2006, has died. He was about 15 years old.

We originally adopted Max from the Pontotoc Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) on January 7, 2006, one day before he was slated to be euthanized (which PAWS no longer does). One of Abby’s coworkers told us about him, and Abby took her nephew to the shelter and got Max.

Max was a great pet. He was a trash dog and a burglar alarm, and when he was younger, dug out of the front yard several times every spring.

Max travelled with us to numerous locations from the glittering Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, the deserts of the Four Corners region, Christmas in New Orleans, the Great American Eclipse in Park Hills, Missouri, and even to the east coast of Florida.

At one point on one of the Florida trips, we thought we’d lost him, but someone opened the pantry door, and there he stood.

Max’s long-time sister Sierra died fourteen months ago.

As you can see in this recent image, Max is tired, old, and blind.
As you can see in this recent image, Max is tired, old, and blind.

His health was failing in the last couple of years. He couldn’t hear or see, was reliant on two drugs for his heart and his joints, and was no longer able to leap onto couches or laps, which he did like a spider when he was young. His teeth were mostly going or gone. He was prone to yelping at the door when I was outside mowing, and in recent weeks got lost trying to find his food bowl.

After putting it off repeatedly, we decided to put him down. He was a great dog.

Max and Sierra sit on one of our couches last year. Both these great dogs have passed away.
Max and Sierra sit on one of our couches last year. Both these great dogs have passed away.

What to Do, What to Do…

In the middle of Lethal Weapon, which my wife never turns down when I offer to watch it, I photographed this amazing sky from the back deck.
In the middle of Lethal Weapon, which my wife never turns down when I offer to watch it, I photographed this amazing sky from the back deck.

Sometimes it feels like I want to do too many things. I want to write, I want to load the dishwasher, I want to mow, I want to play with lights in my studio, I want to take an extra walk with Hawken, I want to clean in the garage, I want to experiment with lenses, I want to shoot my guns, I want to tend my garden, I want, I want, I want…

Summer the Chihuahua lays on Abby's lap this morning. We adopted her last year, and she has become a great member of our family.
Summer the Chihuahua lays on Abby’s lap this morning. We adopted her last year, and she has become a great member of our family.

We all get like this, and sometimes the tendency is to not do anything at all.

I, on the other hand, make myself stop for a second, and remember than I can’t do all these things at once, and I should do just one thing. That’s me today, and my first activity is writing what you are reading.

On another front, two good friends who are my age are having health problems. One of them might be having a heart attack (or may have had one), and is being stubborn about seeking medical care, and the other has a nerve issue combined with hypertension, which you can read about in his blog here (link.)

Yes, it’s disconcerting when my young friends are now old friends with old people problems, but the up side is that Abby and I are both fine at the moment, as are Summer the Chihuahua and Hawken the Irish Wolfhound. To complicate the roller coaster ride is the fact that Max the Chihuahua, who is 15, is still sliding toward the inevitable: he can’t see or hear, and he is unable to move like he once could. He remains a loyal and wonderful dog, even though these are probably his last days or weeks.

Max the Chihuahua is about 15 years old. We adopted him in January 2006 one day before he was slated to be euthanized. He is a terrific dog.
Max the Chihuahua is about 15 years old. We adopted him in January 2006 one day before he was slated to be euthanized. He is a terrific dog.

O Wolfhound, Where Art Thou?

A cruel turn of nature is that my peach trees try to get an early start, only to be smited by a few nights well below freezing, which is the next few nights.
A cruel turn of nature is that my peach trees try to get an early start, only to be smited by a few nights well below freezing, which is the next few nights.

Let you had forgotten, Hawken the Irish Wolfhound remains the talk of the town. I still walk him every day, usually on our “winter route,” which includes an extra mile way back in the woods.

A friend of mine called February a “hard month,” and I can’t dispute it. Many around me have struggled with one thing and another, and there is a climate of discouragement about.

Eisenhower High School cheerleaders yell for their Eagles at the game last night. I haven't been and Eagle in 38 years, and feel far more a part of the local schools we cover here in the Ada Area.
Eisenhower High School cheerleaders yell for their Eagles at the game last night. I haven’t been and Eagle in 38 years, and feel far more a part of the local schools we cover here in the Ada Area.
I lit Hawken's propane heater tonight. It's bone cold out, but he'll be warm in his space under the back deck.
I lit Hawken’s propane heater tonight. It’s bone cold out, but he’ll be warm in his space under the back deck.

I’m shooting well, both for news and sports. Last night I covered the Class 5A area consolation basketball game between the Ada Cougars and my alma mater, the Eisenhower Eagles. It was oddly comforting to see the Ike cheerleaders dressed almost exactly the same as they did in 1981. Aside from that, read Lines on a Map to divine my feelings about loyalty to schools and their teams.

The forecast low tonight is 12ºF, so I bought a tank of propane for the heater I place in Hawken’s area under the back deck to keep him warm. I got under there with him, and it is actually decently comfortable. Sleep well, my giant companion.

Hawken the Irish Wolfhound braces against the cold. Despite the arrival of very cold temperatures, he seems more comfortable in the cold than in the heat of summer.
Hawken the Irish Wolfhound braces against the cold. Despite the arrival of very cold temperatures, he seems more comfortable in the cold than in the heat of summer.

Ghostly in the Smoke

The largest of my four peach trees produced blossoms this week, but we expect a hard freeze tomorrow night, so it won't be making peaches.
The largest of my four peach trees produced blossoms this week, but we expect a hard freeze tomorrow night, so it won’t be making peaches.

One of my peach trees has responded to a recent warm-up, producing blossoms. Blooming this early means I won’t get any peaches from this tree, since a hard freeze is forecast for tomorrow night. But the blossoms are beautiful, and are my favorite thing about having these trees.

Walking Hawken yesterday afternoon was a different experience. The second I opened the back door, I smelled the strong odor of grass fire smoke. The wind had shifted and was coming from the north, and someone, or probably many people, were burning the pastures in preparation for the spring growing season.

Hawken, our Irish Wolfhound, got to visit his girlfriend Elly on yesterday's walk.
Hawken, our Irish Wolfhound, got to visit his girlfriend Elly on yesterday’s walk.

After Christmas

We started this tradition when our grandson, Paul, was just five months old; posing on Chele's back with a boost from Tom. We expect this will get funnier as Paul grows.
We started this tradition when our grandson, Paul, was just five months old; posing on Chele’s back with a boost from Tom. We expect this will get funnier as Paul grows.
Chele and Abby look over Christmas gifts.
Chele and Abby look over Christmas gifts.

I have been off of social media radar for a few days to entertain the family visiting from Baltimore, Abby’s daughter, Chele, her husband Tom, and their son, our grandson, Paul.

I also did my usual work at the annual Bertha Frank Teague Mid-America Classic basketball tournament, for which, for the first time ever, we hosted their web site. One night the crowd was so large we ran out of tickets.

Christmas is always stressful, but by the time it rolled around, I was very glad we were able to have it with the family. This year they arrived on December 26 and departed on New Year’s Day.

Paul and Tom follow me as I walk Hawken through to woods north of our house.
Paul and Tom follow me as I walk Hawken through to woods north of our house.
Paul shares a moment with our older Chihuahua, Max.
Paul shares a moment with our older Chihuahua, Max.
Paul drives his tractor on New Year's Eve.
Paul drives his tractor on New Year’s Eve.

We had a gift exchange as soon as they arrived. We watched movies and played outside. We walked Hawken the Irish Wolfhound, which Paul, who is seven, regarded as an accomplishment, trekking deep into the woods. Paul rode his tractor, which he is likely to have outgrown by the next time they visit.

Chele, Paul, Tom and I built a fire in the orchard. The only casualty was one of Tom's pants legs.
Chele, Paul, Tom and I built a fire in the orchard. The only casualty was one of Tom’s pants legs.
Chele smiles for my camera in beautiful evening sun on New Year's Eve.
Chele smiles for my camera in beautiful evening sun on New Year’s Eve.

We toasted in the new year with the cheapest possible sparkling wine (technically not champagne,) hours before it actually turned midnight, and we all got a good night’s sleep before the kids flew back to Baltimore.

I thought a county new year deserved a country toast, so we had cheap sparkling wine (not technically champagne) and miniature red plastic cups.
I thought a county new year deserved a country toast, so we had cheap sparkling wine (not technically champagne) and miniature red plastic cups.

Finally, mindful of the weather forecast for snow and ice, and that my days off are limited, I de-decorated the entire house yesterday. Tonight I’ll let the wolfhound in the garage and the two of us will put all that stuff in the rafters. Another year ends, and begins.

Christmas lights cling to the fence in our front yard at sunset a few days before Christmas. The lights are now packed away in their plastic bins.
Christmas lights cling to the fence in our front yard at sunset a few days before Christmas. The lights are now packed away in their plastic bins.

This Is Christmas Eve

The fat Santa ornament hangs on our Christmas tree this week. The star effect is from a filter I've owned since about 1977, a cross-screen.
The fat Santa ornament hangs on our Christmas tree this week. The star effect is from a filter I’ve owned since about 1977, a cross-screen.
Christmas lights shine in a box as I test them before I decorated with them.
Christmas lights shine in a box as I test them before I decorated with them.

Abby and I are preparing to host Christmas this week. The kids (Abby’s daughter Chele, husband Tom, and our grandson Paul) are coming on the 26th and staying through New Year’s Day.

I have decorated and shopped and cleaned and prepped. Now, more. No, really. This kind of thing seems perpetual, and is never finished. And you can’t do it a month before: the dogs will chew up a poo where you shampooed the carpet. The bathroom mirrors get splashed. The sink gets full of dishes. You know what it’s like.

Readers familiar with my cadre of work will recall that I don’t love Christmas. Not only is it a bone of religious contention (the pretend “War on Christmas”), it’s also a bitter reminder of how much we trivialize ourselves with commercialism. I talked about this in my column this week.

Summer Time Lane chews her tiny rawhide candy cane.
Summer Time Lane chews her tiny rawhide candy cane.
Hawken Rifle Trail eyes his giant rawhide candy stick.
Hawken Rifle Trail eyes his giant rawhide candy stick.

What do I like about Christmas? I love the photography most of all. I love that my wife loves it so tenderly. I love that we usually get to see the kids.

I will let you know how this Christmas stacks up. In the mean time, have a peaceful one.

My Amazon.com lensball knockoff was a huge hit in class last week, so I photographed our tree with it.
My Amazon.com lensball knockoff was a huge hit in class last week, so I photographed our tree with it.

Sierra Has Died

Sierra looks pretty pitiful this morning before we took her to the vet.
Sierra looks pretty pitiful this morning before we took her to the vet.
Abby holds Sierra the Chihuahua in her arms on the way to Arlington Animal Clinic.
Abby holds Sierra the Chihuahua in her arms on the way to Arlington Animal Clinic.

Sierra the Chihuahua passed away today. She was 13.

A radiograph at the vet showed Sierra had the usual older Chihuahua heart murmur, and the physical indicated she had an infection.

She grew sicker as the day went by, with defined swelling in her neck.

I buried her by the Walnut tree.

In many ways, Sierra was Abby’s best friend, and Abby forms attachments to animals more that anyone I know. It’s difficult when we lose them (I have buried two goats and Abby’s previous Chihuahua, Gabby), but I have to say that it’s as worthwhile an endeavor as any. They give us so much love and genuine affection and ask only that we praise them, keep them warm, and feed them.

Sierra was feeling pretty sick yesterday, and today she died.
Sierra was feeling pretty sick yesterday, and today she died.

July Rain

The moon slides over the top of a small, brief thunderstorm in Byng two nights ago.
The moon slides over the top of a small, brief thunderstorm in Byng two nights ago.
Hawken and I play together in the back yard a couple of weeks ago.
Hawken and I play together in the back yard a couple of weeks ago.

As usual, I had a super-fun time covering Independence Day celebrations in Ada’s Wintersmith Park Tuesday. The weather was nice and everyone had a great time.

It rained 3.1 inches Monday, then 1.5 inches early Wednesday morning, then another half inch right on top of us and nowhere else in there state, just as I was about to walk Hawken the Irish Wolfhound two nights ago.

A raindrop clings to barbed wire on the chicken coop, which we have despite not owning chickens.
A raindrop clings to barbed wire on the chicken coop, which we have despite not owning chickens.
The runt crepe myrtle in the front yard, which we once presumed dead, has huge, healthy blossoms on it this year.
The runt crepe myrtle in the front yard, which we once presumed dead, has huge, healthy blossoms on it this year.

Everything was browning just a bit, but is now turning green again, and growing fast, so I am experiencing a burst of outdoor work.

My wife Abby and I gave Hawken a bath in the front yard yesterday, then took him to the vet,  where he weighed 108 pounds, which is typical for his breed at his age, six months. He is a mess, but he loves us both.

Raindrops cling to a Rose-of-Sharon bush in our back yard. It is our only remaining healthy Rose-of-Sharon, though it was eaten to near-death by our goats years ago.
Raindrops cling to a Rose-of-Sharon bush in our back yard. It is our only remaining healthy Rose-of-Sharon, though it was eaten to near-death by our goats years ago.

The Rantmeister Himself

Before I rant, something lighthearted.

As the owners/operators of Chihuahuas, Abby and I are amused by references to these animals in popular culture. Thus, this far side cartoon is particularly poignant…

I have no doubt our dogs do this, because...
I have no doubt our dogs do this, because…

After shampooing the carpet in the living room, I stepped into the back of the house to see this…

Apparently Max needed a pick-me-up.
Apparently Max needed a pick-me-up.

Abby and I are certainly no strangers to this, since both dogs like to chew up stuff. One or the other of us will find a chewed up paper towel or Kleenex and announce, “Snow in the hallway!”

Who, me?
Who, me?

So anyway, on with my rantology…

Part of what aggravates me so much about Facebook is that it almost always takes over for a blog or other social site that was inherently better – more content, better presentation, more writing, more individual expression, more creativity – and stuffs it into Facebook’s mold. When that happens, it results in something else I despise, these blogs being abandoned like the Pripyat amusement park. Seriously. I had friends who were writing great stuff – engaging, thoughtful, insightful, intimate stuff – only to stop the very day they joined Facebook. Think I’m kidding? Look at the last post of a blog you once read and liked, then find the date they joined Facebook. The same day?

Despite having some disdain for people who behave like zombies staring at their phones, I did find this method of storing/charging a phone in an outdoor plug at a softball game to be a fairly creative deployment.
Despite having some disdain for people who behave like zombies staring at their phones, I did find this method of storing/charging a phone in an outdoor plug at a softball game to be a fairly creative deployment.

While I’m ranting, I want to tell liberals and conspiracy nuts that there was nothing wrong with George W. Bush’s reaction to the first news of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center on 9/11/01. The left side of the internet seems to think that listening to a few more minutes of grade school kids reading a story either proved he was an idiot or proves some kind of conspiracy, and it does neither. I don’t like it when the right says untrue or misleading things about Barack Obama (citizenship, birthplace, removing the flag from his campaign plane, not saluting the flag, etc.), so it’s not fair – never fair – to use something like the goat story against W.

I've been waiting a couple of years at least to post this. No better time than the present.
I’ve been waiting a couple of years at least to post this. No better time than the present.

2013: The Year in Review for the Giant Muh

… a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing…

Canyonlands National Park, April 2013
Canyonlands National Park, April 2013
  • January: Our remaining goat, Buxton, passed away. (As of this writing, Abby and I are talking about getting baby goats in the spring.)
  • February: I added six fruit trees to the orchard.

    Buxton the Goat
    Buxton the Goat
  • March: The pilot beside whom I learned to fly, Dub Tolliver, died after a battle with cancer.
  • April: Jim Beckel and I took a Utah hiking trip called Terra Sanctus.
  • May: Two major tornado events struck Oklahoma in nearby counties, but we were spared.
  • June: Abby and received our handgun licenses from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI).
  • July: My wife and I travelled to Maryland to visit her daughter Chele, her husband Tom, and our grandson Paul. The trip is called The Metro.
  • July: Tenth anniversary of the first vacation Abby and I took together, The High Road.
  • July: We took delivery of a new Nissan Juke.
  • December: Three major ice storms struck before the solstice (meaning that although they were called winter storms, it was still autumn.)
  • December: Chele, Tom and the grandson visited just before Christmas, and thanks to a happy coincidence, we were able to take Paul to his first parade.
The Metro subway system in Washington, DC.
The Metro subway system in Washington, DC.

Other working titles:

2013 Nissan Juke
2013 Nissan Juke
  • The Year of Living Giant Muhly
  • Taking the Browns to the Super Bowl
  • Smear the Queer
  • Self-Actualizing My Butt Off
  • O Garden My Garden
  • The Most Dangerous Game
  • It’s Gotta Be the Shoes
  • Too Much Pee and Politics
  • A New Regime with a New Web Site
The third ice storm of the season struck just hours before the official start of winter.
The third ice storm of the season struck just hours before the official start of winter.

Out to Pasture

Two years ago our black goat, Coal, died suddenly. Last night his brother Buxton joined him. Buxton was only off his feed for a day or two, so he didn’t suffer at all.

The two were great pets, and Abby and I are already talking about getting a couple more, maybe in a year or two when our grandson is old enough to enjoy baby goats.

Just as an aside, if anyone is interested in disposing of a body, I have found that digging large holes and dragging mammals into them in the south pasture behind the garden at our home doesn’t seem to attract anyone’s attention. I’m just saying.

Buxton the Goat and his brother Coal were great pets. Abby and I highly recommend them if you live in the country.
Buxton the Goat and his brother Coal were great pets. Abby and I highly recommend them if you live in the country.

“Abby, We’ve Got Cows!”

My wife came into the living room to tell me that Buxton the Goat was hollerin’. I put my headlamp flashlight on and grabbed a pistol to go see what might be upsetting him. In the back yard, the headlamp wasn’t quite enough, so I shined my Streamlight TLR-3 (which is on the rail of the 9mm pistol I was holding) into the pasture, where I discovered about five longhorn steers. I’d never seen cows in our pasture before. It’s not a cow pasture.

“Abby, come quick! We’ve got cows!” I called, and she obliged. The steers seemed happy to graze as we watched, but I was sure someone was missing them. I don’t know the price of a commercial steer, but it’s a lot, and these animal were definitely not where they belonged. I stepped outside the fence and shouted at them, and they moved in the direction of the road, where after a few minutes I noticed someone arrive in a four-wheeler and start rounding them up.

It was an odd way to end the day.

Sawdust in My Hair

Abby was exhausted when she got home, and fell asleep in her recliner right away, with her bear shoes propped high up on the “green thing,” which my friends in Norman always called an LBUA, or Leaner Backer Upper Againster.

Abby naps in her recliner tonight, with the dogs in her lap.
Abby naps in her recliner tonight, with the dogs in her lap.

So I went to mow, but first I wanted to cut at least some of the dead branches off of the old apple tree in Dorothy’s yard, since I saw her today (to get her column, which she has decided to start writing again – yay!), and she gave me her blessing. We think last summer’s heat and drought are the cause of so many trees being dead now.

While I was cutting off these huge branches, I noticed Buxton the Goat had joined me. Odd, I thought. He doesn’t have opposable thumbs, so he couldn’t have opened the gate. I must have left it open, but that had to have been yesterday, so he only came out of the back yard when he saw me. I walked over to him as he ate leaves off of one of Abby’s Rose-of-Sharon and said, “Come on.” He followed completely, and surprisingly, obediently, through the gate into the back yard. What a good boy.

The whole time I was chain sawing and mowing and dragging branches, I had the Third Eye Blind song Non-Dairy Creamer playing in my head. In particular, I kept hearing, “They call it KFC ’cause it’s not really chicken.” I get it, Stephan, but hey, both of those statements are wrong. They call it “KFC” because Americans are lazy and don’t like to say whole words. KFC was just easier. And while it’s not a paradigm of well-prepared chicken, it is actually chicken.

I finished my night by showering to get the sawdust out of my hair.

Buxton eats Rose-of-Sharon in the yard. After his obedient walk back home tonight, I rewarded him by brushing him and feeding him a big sprig of mimosa.
Buxton eats Rose-of-Sharon in the yard. After his obedient walk back home tonight, I rewarded him by brushing him and feeding him a big sprig of mimosa.

Another Plum Bites the Dust

This crane fly was alight on my shower curtain, but they are everywhere right now, much to our annoyance.
This crane fly was alight on my shower curtain, but they are everywhere right now, much to our annoyance.

I didn’t have any late afternoon or evening assignments at work so I was home by about three. It is cloudy and warm out, so by five I decided to get some yard work done. I pondered digging the garden. When I told Abby that I was planning a garden this year, her face lit up, so I know she is looking forward to having it. (Last year I just seemed to know not to plant, and the summer was one of the worst drought seasons we have ever experienced.) As I started to work, I discovered I had other priorities, like removing the elm saplings from the Rose-of-Sharon bushes, and pruning some of Dorothy’s peach trees. I took most of the branches

The usual suspect: Buxton the Goat checks out some peach branches I threw over the fence for him.
The usual suspect: Buxton the Goat checks out some peach branches I threw over the fence for him.

and gave them to Buxton the Goat, who seemed so excited by my presence that he couldn’t quite make himself eat them, and instead ran around and chattered at me.

I discovered that my suspicions that one of my plum trees had died were true, so I dug it up and threw it on the burn pile. I grabbed a camera to illustrate it, but found better things to photograph, like some of the flowers down at Dorothy’s. If I get the chance in the next day or two, I should cut some and take them to her.

I noted that all the trees and pastures and flowers and clover patches and everything else doesn’t grow larger in any predictable fashion. This late winter season has been much wetter than the last few years, and there is a thick, straight grass that I’ve never seen before growing thickly in all the pastures and our back yard . We are also seeing an amazing number of crane flies everywhere, like we have never seen before.

Like life itself, the only consistent thing I have observed about the life on our little patch of green is change.

Dorothy's Daffodils caught my eye from 100 yards away. I didn't know until I looked it up today that they are the same flower as the Narcissus.
Dorothy’s Daffodils caught my eye from 100 yards away. I didn’t know until I looked it up today that they are the same flower as the Narcissus.

Sunday Best

I let Buxton the Goat into the front yard to eat on it for a while.
I let Buxton the Goat into the front yard to eat on it for a while.

Michael called me the other day to complain that I sort of left everyone hanging about Abby’s condition in my last entry. So let me say that Abby is much better, and may be returning to work tomorrow.

Sierra and Max the Chihuahuas bask in the morning sunshine in the living room today.
Sierra and Max the Chihuahuas bask in the morning sunshine in the living room today.

Over the past year or two our marriage has gotten even stronger than before, and one thing I am enjoying very much is the intimacy of Sundays. We piddle, we get little chores done, I sometimes work outside, we sometimes shoot our guns down at the pond. If we can’t avoid it, we make a Wal Mart run, which is always easier together.

Today Abby is printing out dozens of recipe cards for a big book of recipes she is assembling, many of them dating back to her grandmother’s era. “You can see our German lineage,” she told me, “since nearly half of the recipes are desserts.”

Another Sunday is here.

“…a tenth of the city fell…”

Last night and this morning, rain. For the first time since June, there is water in the pond. It’s too late to green up the pasture much, but it will help everything overwinter better.

Buxton called us to the back yard and asked, "What the heck was that?"
Buxton called us to the back yard and asked, “What the heck was that?”

The big news in Oklahoma over the last few days has been a spate of earthquakes. Abby and I slept through the first, but we both definitely felt the second, a magnitude 5.6 quake centered near Prague, Oklahoma, about 70 miles north of here, Saturday night. Abby was more alarmed about it than I was, but we both thought it was kind of neat. It seemed to shake the house for about 15 seconds, but it felt like longer to Abby. It has since been verified as the largest earthquake in the state’s history.

Last night as we watched a movie in the living room, we felt another. I paused the movie and said, “Can you feel that?” It was roughly like a big truck passing close to the house (which doesn’t actually happen since we live 100 yards off the road.) We assume it was an aftershock from Saturday’s event.

We experienced no damage.

A red traffic light shines on water as it runs off a downtown Ada street this morning. According to Mesonet.org, we received 3.38 inches of rain in the past three days.
A red traffic light shines on water as it runs off a downtown Ada street this morning. According to Mesonet.org, we received 3.38 inches of rain in the past three days.

Spring into Summer

Buxton the Goat stands on his hind legs to reach leaves at the top of the fence at the back of the yard.
Buxton the Goat stands on his hind legs to reach leaves at the top of the fence at the back of the yard.

My lower back is still acting up a bit, although it is better than just two weeks ago, thanks in part to changing chiropractors. One thing that gives me relief is walking, so most evenings when the mowing is done and the light starts to mature, I walk in big circles around our patch of bucolia with a camera on my shoulder.

Elms, rain trees and lilacs filter the sun in a spot between our house and Dorothy's.
Elms, rain trees and lilacs filter the sun in a spot between our house and Dorothy’s.

Sometimes I throw weeds to Buxton the goat, other times I see how close I can get to the rabbits that prowl the pastures. I calculated tonight that it takes about eight laps around the house or about four laps around the entire mowed portion of the property to make a mile.

The flora of springtime is giving way to the flora of summer. Gone are the peach blossoms and iris and henbit, replaced by the wildflowers of Oklahoma like Indian Paintbrush and Black Eyed Susan and, just tonight, the first of Abby’s Rose of Sharon. Soon the driveway will be lined with the huge fuchsia blooms, teeming with bumble bees. Summer is almost here.

The first of Abby's magnificent Rose of Sharon glows in the setting sun tonight. Soon there will be hundreds lining our 100-yard-long driveway.
The first of Abby’s magnificent Rose of Sharon glows in the setting sun tonight. Soon there will be hundreds lining our 100-yard-long driveway.

Let’s Talk About the Weather

Buxton the Goat, hiding from the weather in his dog house with his heat lamp, drinks warm water from a bucket I brought him.
Buxton the Goat, hiding from the weather in his dog house with his heat lamp, drinks warm water from a bucket I brought him.

Despite a nation-crippling winter storm roaring through overnight, Abby and I both went to work this morning. I shot some images for the daily, plus a bit of video for the paper’s web site. I spent the rest of the morning helping put out the paper on a skeleton crew, and shot a few more images, then came home at midday.

Abby called the toll-free number at her work at five this morning to see if they were closed down for the day, and the message said it was business as usual. However, by 8:15 this morning almost no one could even make it into her office, so they sent everyone home, much to Abby’s annoyance.

Very fortunately for us Abby has her four-wheel-drive pickup and I have my all-wheel-drive SUV, so neither of us had much trouble getting around.

It appears that we in southern Oklahoma are on the less severe end of this enormous winter storm. While it is crazy cold and windy, we didn’t get much ice, and the snow is ending here. We have power, as well as cable TV for Abby and internet for me. I’m considering a nap.

Sierra the Chihuahua plays in the snow in the front yard. At first she couldn't get through the dog door because of a snow drift.
Sierra the Chihuahua plays in the snow in the front yard. At first she couldn’t get through the dog door because of a snow drift.

Earth to Earth

Coal the pygmy wether, a great pet; he will be missed.
Coal the pygmy wether, a great pet; he will be missed.

I am saddened to report tonight that Coal, the black goat who lived in our back yard with his half-brother Buxton, died today. He’d been off his feed for a few days, but I had no idea he was that sick. Our goat-owning friend Melissa Rollins says that her large animal doctor told her that six or seven years is about how long one might expect a goat to live, and Coal was about to turn seven, so maybe he was just old. Regardless, he was well-cared-for and enjoyed what a goat might consider a luxurious life. He was a great pet, and we will miss him very much.

Frog and Spiders and Goats, Oh My!

Matthew photographs Coal and Buxton the goats last night.
Matthew photographs Coal and Buxton the goats last night.

Anyone who has ever lived in the country knows that it can be a little wild at times, and by wild I mean that the wildness of nature is always close.

When Matthew and Michelle were on their way to visit this weekend, I warned them that a handsome green frog had appeared in my toilet, and while I was photographing him, he hopped out of site, and that they shouldn’t be too startled by the appearance of said reptile. They did not happen to see the frog, but this morning they urgently summoned me into the guest room to deal with, “Something. It’s really big.” It was an impressively large wolf spider, which I captured using a mixing bowl.

Matthew, as I mentioned in my last entry, took a liking to our goats, who are, by any measure, very likable. This morning he asked me to take a picture of him with them, and while he didn’t say exactly why, I imagine it’s the same way my sister wanted a picture of herself in the pasture down by the pear tree because her friends in New Orleans just “didn’t get” what the country life was like.

I thought of all this tonight after seeing our little green frog in the bathtub. He hadn’t gone anywhere; he had just hidden while the house was abuzz with visitors, and came out tonight to keep us company and eat a few bugs. I’m thinking we should name him.

Our frog on my shower hose tonight; I'm thinking if he sticks around much longer, I'll need to name him.
Our frog on my shower hose tonight; I’m thinking if he sticks around much longer, I’ll need to name him.

Anti-Arbor Day

A beautiful example of an argiope spider makes its web in our walnut tree tonight.
A beautiful example of an argiope spider makes its web in our walnut tree tonight.

Tonight I worked at a chore that I routinely put off because it is so unpleasant, and unpleasant on several levels. The chore was the removal of about 20 volunteer trees that had grown up in the middle of Abby’s Rose-of-Sharon bushes that line our driveway. I find this unpleasant because I have to kill perfectly healthy trees, mostly elms, and because the foliage of the Rose-of-Sharon puts up quite a fight while I try to do this.

There are a couple of positive notes. The goats love elm, so I throw it over the back yard fence to them. Also, it’s a damn challenging workout, and it really gets my heart pumping.

After I was done, I walked around the patch with a camera, seeing what I could see. I ran into a huge, perfect argiope spider in its web on the walnut tree, but I had the wrong lens with me, so I scampered into the house and grabbed my 100mm, then scampered outside in time to catch the very last light on it.

Coal the goat stands on his hind legs to reach branches of trees I brought him and his brother Buxton from my tree-trimming adventure tonight.
Coal the goat stands on his hind legs to reach branches of trees I brought him and his brother Buxton from my tree-trimming adventure tonight.