Sunday, June 26, 2011

No Thanks on Your Help With the Title Selection

Both Noni and my mom had helpful little suggestions for this post's title. Noni suggested the alliterative title, " the Bathroom". My mom's was even cheerier. She wanted "Rest in Pieces", because by the time they do the rabies testing on the dog, it won't necessarily be quite as intact as it started out. Thanks for the offers of help. I'll have my people get back to you if I decide to use your ideas. Don't call me, I'll call you.

It all happened this way....

Laura decided to start a dog walking business. She lined up a job, picked up her first client, a fat little Westie, and stopped off at my parents' house to let me know she was headed out. Very responsible. Only problem was my parents' very aggressive-with-other-dogs 130 pound German Shepherd was right by the door. Terribly excited by a close-up look at that enticing little bit of white fluff, she lunged at the latched storm door, burst it open, and hurtled down the driveway at the Westie.

I was right behind, but she'd already latched on by the time I got there. Immediately calculating the risks, I thrust my two hands into the Shepherd's mouth and tried to pry her jaws open. Her grip was too strong, and it took several tries before I caught her right at a moment when she shifted slightly to get a better grip. Meanwhile, Laura was screaming, and the menfolk were rapidly approaching.

Only seconds had gone by, though it seemed an eternity at the time. The Shepherd was taken and chained in the back yard. I took a moment to run in and rinse my hands and clamp on some toilet paper, then dashed back out to take care of poor little Muffins. She had 3 puncture wounds readily apparent, though the vet found 5 total, and was bloody.

I took her in my parents' house to try to clean her up before presenting her to the owners that had sent her trustingly off about 8 minutes before, but have you ever tried to clean bright red blood off of a Westie? Didn't go so well, let me tell you. I finally gave up and took her over. She was rushed down to Williston to the vet, but she'll be fine, which I'm VERY thankful for.

Hannah, the German Shepherd was not so lucky, since it was immediately decided to have her put down. My mom and I took her in, and I stayed with her while the sedatives took effect. I didn't feel bad because she had to be put down, because she truly wasn't a safe dog to keep, but anytime you have to face death in an up-close-and-personal way, you can't help but feel how unnatural it really is. It was never God's plan that we should have to experience the separation of death, and I look forward to the time when that ugly intruder will no longer be a part of our lives.

Laura had a very hard time with the intense tragedy that so quickly overwhelmed her pastoral attempts at entrepreneurship. One minute she's walking a cute little dog, the next it's on the way to the ER, and another dog is on its way to the electric chair. Hard for anyone, but she is now doing better at accepting that it really wasn't her fault.

Oh, and as to what happened to me, I go into the clinic tomorrow to get a tetanus shot, then I wait the almost certain clear result of the rabies test to determine whether I need those shots as well. I have 2 punctures on my fingers and some slicing cuts on some of the others. It could have been a lot worse, and Hannah never intended to bite me; what else can happen when you shove your hands down the throat of an attacking behemoth? My hands are a tad sore however, and I am realizing how much they are actually good for. Quite a lot, really!

(If you felt like it, you could take a moment and note the different sizes of my two middle fingers.)

Driveway Ducklings

One of the first duck families I saw this year.

Last summer I saw one set of ducklings. The rest stayed safely hidden away in the towering grasses and reeds of the prairie sloughs. This year everything is different. As has been mentioned a time or two, this has been a somewhat dampish spring and the water is high. One additional result of all this water is the grass has never been able to keep pace with the rise of the water. Sloughs that were mere puddles choked with reeds before are large, glassy pools.

The ducks nest anyway, and their babies are finally hatching in the last couple of weeks. I suppose it is bad news for the ducklings, because they're much more exposed to predators this year, but it's been such fun for me to watch all of them. The first family I saw was right at dusk and all I could make out was the silhouette of the world's first dachshund duck. It had a normal size duck head, but its body stretched out behind is a good extra foot. Since then, I have seen baby water fowl of every variety. Except maybe coots. They've had a hard time of it.

Coots nest by raking together pond flotsam, and while there was LOTS of that this year, there were no reeds to shelter their fragile structures from the wild winds. I know of one determined coot that's rebuilt her nest about 10 times now. I hope she succeeds in the end, because she's certainly put in the effort!

My most favority part of all this is a cluster of baby ducks that hatched in the swamp alongside my own driveway. They are so cute, but I do have to keep Ferocious Finley, the Duck Destroyer inside most of the time now. I don't need him proudly retrieving a bunch of little dead ducklings and expecting me to be happy! I would be very cranky.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Flooding Continues

I wanted to title this blog, "The Most Sensational Pictures From the Minot 2011 Floods", but I questioned whether that would meet my standards of strict journalistic integrity. You see, I can see certain information about who is looking at my blog and why. Nothing very creepy and detailed, just countries and sometimes the Google searches that led them to me.

Searches like, "dangerous wildlife of North Dakota", "cookies blech" (google it sometimes---quite fascinating), and my personal favorite, "for the last time we are not ninjas". But in the last day, I have had over 90 hits looking for pictures of the floods in Minot.

I feel a little guilty, sure they are going away disappointed, but while our flood is not as dramatic as one involving a city of over 40,000, it is no less important to our daily lives. Wonder of wonders, we've gone 2 whole days without significant rain, and have 2 more days in the forecast, but the water is still piling up from Sunday.

Monday morning, I braved the water across the road to Westby, but once I got to the other side, I knew I wouldn't be back that way in the afternoon. All the way up the shallow slope I could see water pooling up in any low spot, only to spill over and head downhill to the next low spot.

By the time I came back, the water was over all 4 roads leading up to the four-way intersection, with a tiny dry spot in the very middle. The girls had to stop and wade of course, and I took a couple more pictures. This next photo shows the road that I drove in on that evening, though I've taken the shallower road since then.

The ducks love it, and have accepted with careless nonchalance the roadway as a delightful addition to their habitat. Ducks sit on the dry road a good share of the time anyway. Apparently, they like it just as well wet, though it is a tad disconcerting to have to wait for the ducks to swim out of the way before you can drive through!

Today I drove to Crosby along the Highline, the highway that goes across the top of the western states. It is a main thoroughfare, but a large inland sea that has slowly been encroaching on it for the last couple months has breached the roadway. As you can see from the pictures, there is a LOT of water involved, and if it gets deeper, there really won't be much more to do but wait for it to go away.

On my way home, coming from the east side this time, I found my way blocked yet again by more flooding, so there was another detour there. At least I am getting to know all the country back roads! I was interested to see that there is water already backing up in two places on the only other access I have to my road. Not over the road yet, but it won't take much to tip it over the edge. I can't wait until I have to boat out of here...

The sunset reflecting in the "road".

Monday, June 20, 2011

I'm Too Young for a Fortieth!

June 6th was my parents 40th wedding anniversary. I still remember my grandparents 50th anniversary and how old, how very old they both were. It seemed fitting, somehow, that they should be the parents of my mother, who was also very old at the time. Now I am only 10 years away from that myself. And I will be even older than my mom was at her parents' 50th anniversary. It is incredible to me that someone so young, so very young can have such old parents. How did this happen?

Lost in a existential daze for a week or two, it took me a while to get my present to them finished. I decided to make them a cake, because what else do you get the couple that has everything, especially since one member of that couple starts making threats of bodily harm when you bring another thing into her tiny cottage. Something consumable would be just the thing!

I haven't made a nice cake in many years, so it was fun to do, but also frustrating to realize how rusty I have become. And of course, having gotten rid of my decorating supplies before the big move (I'll never use THESE again), I had to buy new stuff and was without many of the tools I would like to have used.

The cake was a dark chocolate layer cake with raspberry and cheesecake custard filling.

I covered it with rolled fondant, since I'd always wanted to try that type of frosting. I liked it about as much as I expected. Blech. It's like covering your caked with delicate white leather.

Then I quickly did a few roses and piped some leaves and other decorations. It turned out OK, but wasn't epic. I'm really going to have to practice again. And I need to get some frosting besides the Walmart decorating frosting. It was difficult to work with, and the consistency of shortening. But other than that, the cake was a delicious triumph!


They should have named Westby "Atlantis", because if we get much more rain, we are going under. This spring has been an almost unending stretch of very heavily-dumping storm systems. It is warm enough that we are in thunderstorm season. Now, instead of a large system that blankets the whole region, weather has become a game of Russian roulette. Maybe the thunderstorm will hit you, and maybe it won't.

So far, I'm glad I'm not playing with bullets, because we've gotten pounded. Last Saturday we had a storm system come through that produced a lot of lightening. On my way home from church I could see a fire in the distance, and of course, being the paparazzi that I am, drove down to take a picture of it.

The fire department was already there, and it turned out to be a tractor that had gotten struck out in a field. I came back later to take a picture of the aftermath, glad that I wasn't a tractor!

Sunday was a beautiful day, but by Monday we were back on the storm track again, and stayed there all week. Systems would roll in and roll out, with brief respites in between to stick our heads above water and gasp for air. On Friday, one of the systems brought a ferocious windstorm with it. I had to drive into Plentywood, and it felt like I would be blown off the road. The pond I went past had waves over a foot high. I would have taken a picture then, but didn't want to let go of the steering wheel, so I had to snap one on the way home when the wind had subsided to only a small hurricane. It blew down numerous trees, including one the next street over from my parents.

Then, we had another break. Sabbath was a gorgeous day, sunny and warm with just a hint of a breeze. Puffy clouds floating across a bright blue sky. Perfect. Each time, we're tempted to hope, "Surely, this is the harbinger of better things to come. If it only stays like this a few days, the ground can dry out a little." And every time, should we be so foolish as to give into those silly notions, our hopes are dashed.

Yesterday a series thunderstorms rolled in like no other we've had so far this year. It rained and rained, and then rained some more. Can't we share a little with some region that actually needs it? But no, it must all be dumped here, and evidently in a rather large hurry. I decided to drive to town right in the middle of it, and that was a very interesting trip.

A few hours later, on the way home, I got to experience the results of some of that rain. The roads were flooding over as the rain water flowed across the prairie and quickly filled up any available low spot. My road comes in between two ponds that last year were low puddles filled with cattails. Now they are becoming one big lake, and if we get too much more rain before it has a chance to drain away, I am going to find myself cut off from both directions. The other end of the road is flooded, too, but that's not standing water, it's run-off, so it would only cover the road for a short time.

And you thought you had to be rich to own your own island! Actually, it wouldn't be completely exclusive because I do have one neighbor on the stretch of road affected by this, but that's OK. My driveway is flooding, too, and if it gets much worse, I will be on a private island of my own.

Today is fairly nice again, as shown in the picture at the top of the page (my little homestead from a distance (looks better that way!)), but I'm not falling for the weather's coy little games anymore. I know that any moment we'll have another deluge. I think I need to get some snorkeling gear! Or grow gills. Or something.

The weather yesterday:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I'm a Grandmother!

We live in a flyway. I guess somewhat of a well-known one, as flyways go. Dedicated birders visit the little town of Westby every year to catch glimpses of....what, I don't know. I'm still trying to learn a whole new set of bird identities. The key point is that we have a lot of birds. A LOT.

Last Tuesday we had a thunderstorm roll through the area, and after it passed Laura went out and found a baby bird fallen out of the nest. I fully expected it to quickly pass this mortal coil as all baby birds have done in the past (all but Hoover, the one sparrow my sister managed not to kill), but rather than die, she has thrived.

Laura assumed the burden of care since she was the one who discovered it, and suddenly I found myself a Grandmother at 22 (plus 10). At first, young Rain wasn't a very prepossessing sight; she resembled nothing so much as a very ugly bonsai vulture. But her feathers have quickly fluffed in, and now only 6 days after Laura found her, she is almost ready to fledge.

After reading some of the articles on line, all of which begin with extensive notices of the illegality of keeping wild birds (Fine! YOU keep it.), we settled on a mixed diet of flies (tragically easy to catch around here), egg yolk, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, canned cat food, and cut up berries. I got the feeling that she would have eaten tin cans if we'd fed them to her.

In the last few days we've begun to take her outside sometimes to get used to the big, wide world. She sits there like a lump unless one of us is near, then she begins her raucous peeping, demanding food, and right now if you please! She also seems to find some security in our presence. I hope this doesn't turn out like having my kids move back in with me in their forties. I'm ready for the empty nest and all!

Laura has been doing a great job with her new mothering duties, but she has added an additional challenge this week. Sabbath afternoon we picked up the baby kitty she's been eagerly awaiting for the last several weeks. Not only is she tackling two children at once, but one of her children would like very much to eat the other. Talk about sibling rivalry!

We've spent the last couple days taming Snickers and getting him settled in. He was still very frightened and wild when we brought him home, but there wasn't a mean bone in his body. Finley thought the newcomer was entrancing right up until he hissed and scratched at him. Now he gives Snickers a wide, offended berth. Poppy took one look and expressed herself in an indignant spat and has since ignored the upstart as unworthy of her attention. Anika hasn't been allowed in and contents herself with lingering snuffles at the bedroom door. She is the only one of the dogs that likes to chase cats. We are still awaiting what will happen when Princess Jackie the Obsessed sees her new squeaky toy. I don't think it will be very pretty.

Meanwhile, we have had a couple other transient visitors to our family. It is that difficult and vulnerable time of year when the young birds leave their nests, but still aren't able to fly well enough to escape various predators such as cats, hawks, and worst of all, well-meaning children. First Devon caught a sparrow that wasn't quite fast enough, then Laura and Tiggy brought home a mourning dove. Yesterday, it was another sparrow, this time one that Laura brought in. Enough already! Let the young birds alone! They are rather cute, though....

Monday, June 13, 2011

My House in the Spring

Lest some of you furreigners from California think that there is nothing but blizzards and tornadoes in North Dakota and Eastern Montana, I have photographic evidence that from the 30th of May until the 15th of June, spring is scheduled in. At least on some years.

Just to remind you of what the landscape looked like not-so-very-long ago....

Now I have traded snow for grass, icicles for flowers, and cold for mosquitoes. OK, that last part isn't much of an improvement, but I still think it's worth it.

My driveway then....and now.

My shelterbelt of trees. Gotta get some evergreens in there!

Boy, I'm glad it's spring! And that it will be several whole months before that all starts back up again. Now that I've been here a year, and through some of the tornadoiest, snowiest, rainiest, iciest, and floodiest weather they've had in many years I feel a little more confident that this wimpy Californian can handle the tough mid-west. A little.

Scratch and Sniff

It's hard to believe that such angelic cuteness could ever turn into the thing of horror that you will see later in this post, but it is true. Ever so sadly true...

Wednesday night I had both Tiggy and Cousin Clancy out for a sleepover. Tiggy was here because she is a very effective whiner, and Clancy was staying for a few days of dog sitting while his parents took off on a short trip.

Poor Clancy. He is a town dog. He has to stay inside the house except for quick trips out to do his business. In the winter, this isn't much of a problem, but in the summer, there is nothing he loves as much as a visit to his Auntie's house in the country. There he gets to run to his fat little heart's content.

This visit was no exception. All three dogs were having a great time charging around the grassy fields. Finley enjoyed having company that wasn't his Aunt Jackie, a border collie who finds nothing as irresistible as Finley's wildly bobbing ears, and in typical border collie fashion, will hurl herself at them at a dead run. Finley finds a dangling dog to be a serious impediment to loping freely. So it was nice to have stolid old Clancy visit for once.

Clancy had come back to the house a short time before, a little worn out from so much freedom. As I was painting and the girls were, I don't know, being girls, I suddenly smelled a whiff of skunk.

"Uh oh! Smells like someone got into the skunks."

The divas replied airily, "Oh, that's just Clancy. He was a bit skunky and it smells stronger because he got wet in the ditch."

That sounded reasonable for about a 1/2 second, but the whiff of skunk grew so rapidly strong that I knew it was not due to an old, stale spraying. We looked out the window in our door to see this horrifying sight waiting confidently for entrance.

I opened the door a crack and shoved two wildly protesting divas out armed only with a bottle of shampoo and a stack of towels. They washed the muck off him, but there wasn't much that could be done about the smell. After he was bathed, I tried to have him in, I really did, shutting him in the living room and propping a closet door in the opening. But it was no use. The smell was so fresh and sharp it didn't even smell like skunk. It burned our eyes and smelled vaguely of onions.

I finally made him a bed out in the pump house and shut the door. The next morning wasn't as bad. Finley now smelled only of skunk, and I've found I can tolerate that. My old dog spent her youth in chasing skunks time and time again, so I guess I grew up used to it. Thankfully, Anika didn't get sprayed, and of course, noble, upstanding Clancy was in the house at the time.

A few days later, Laura and I went for a walk---it's nice to get some fresh air once in a while!---and we saw a sad answer to the puzzle of why Finley was both soaked AND sprayed. Evidently, he decided that skunks were a worthy enough prey for his exalted hunter's bloodlines. Translation: It's the only thing slow enough for him to catch so far.

On the bright side, my other hunter has been active too, to much more socially acceptable results. Poppy is a ferocious mouser, but doesn't catch for hunger. Oh, no! She catches for PRIDE. And it's somewhat of a contest between Laura and myself to see which one of us Poppy loves best. With the loser being the best loved one, of course. The other morning, it was Laura that was loved best. Right on her pillow. I can't gloat too much, because Mr. Skunky loves ME best all the time, follows me everywhere, and has to sleep snuggled up next to my face at night. But for a moment, things were sweet, very sweet.