Friday, November 30, 2012

My Progress in Photography

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Big Daddy.....The Academic

Like my grandfather before me, my education has continued throughout my lifetime. Not by entering the hallowed halls of the institutions of higher learning, but by entering the massive shelves of books offered by the public library.

I called him Big Daddy and he was my grandfather. He grew up a farmer and had only an eighth grade education according to his academic records. When speaking with him a person could determine that he had carried himself far past that recorded level of education. He knew what was important about true learning. He knew that the person who hungers for learning finds the answers for himself.

He loved to read books. Zane Grey westerns were a favorite. He devoured issues of Readers Digest often delighting in quizzing me on the meaning of words. He showed his pleasure when I knew the definitions of words he had only recently learned himself. It meant I was getting an education. He wanted an excellent education for his children and grandchildren. He asked questions. He had a critical mind. He was not arrogant about knowledge that he gained. He just continued to seek to learn more.

My wall is painfully short on the diploma's that I set out to obtain. I earned a high school diploma. I finished a paralegal course. I attended college. I completed a variety of programs during my employment in corporate America.

What has served me best were the lessons I learned about learning. Whether it was learning the principles being discussed in the meetings I attended or how to bake artisan bread or milk a goat, I would find a book. I have so often heard, "You can't learn that from a book.", only to smile and know that I can learn a whole lot from a book.

I want a good college education for my children but more than anything I hope that I can instill in them the lifelong love of learning and how to teach themselves the things they need to learn.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


This is one of our hutches that houses our bunnies. The bunnies provide the droppings that help fertilize our garden. They are also pets of my children. Right now we have only three. One Californian, one mixed breed, and one Mini Rex. They are all tame and handled.

We feed fresh hay, pellets, and they get fresh food daily. In the winter extra hay is provided for nesting and to keep warm. In the summer, we keep the cages shaded but as open as possible to give a cool breeze. We also provide any additional heat or cooling that is needed in extreme conditions.

In the past we have bred and raised rabbits. At one time we had as many as thirty rabbits at one time. All were healthy and fit. We have found that it is important to provide good food and and good ventilation for them as well as lots of clean water. The girls love caring for them and they are a good project for children with adult supervision.

Preparing the Garden...yes now.

Since the end of the summer I have been working on a new plan for the garden for next year. We began with the defunct cover for the trampoline. The frame of the trampoline was recycled. The cover was used to make the base of our new bed for the garden bed. It has grown considerably deeper now with the additions from our bunnies. My husband has been adding grass clippings as well as the spoiled hay from the bunny cages. All of this will be composed by spring and make a lovely planting bed.

The Value of Coconut Oils for dogs and you!

One of my dogs has had skin problems for quite some time. I have taken her to the vet and done rounds of antibiotics and other remedies to no avail. The tentative diagnosis was allergies. I was disappointed. That just couldn't be the case. The other dogs in the household were picking up a scaly, itchy, scabby looking skin junk that appeared just above their tails first. That was not allergies.

Long story short I ended up being told about using Organic Coconut Oil in the food of my dogs. I already gave them fish oil as food does not contain enough of the vitamins and oil that they need. I wormed them. I stopped all baths unless absolutely necessary and then used only high quality shampoo with all natural ingredients. One brand in particular. I gave them the coconut oil. Lo and behold, I have dogs with clear skin!

A little more research and I found that it is wonderful for human skin as well and can be used in cooking and baking. It is touted as a super food, of sorts. Thought you might like to know.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

How exactly do you mess up......

spinach. This week I heard another recall on bagged spinach. With things like spinach, peanut butter, and pet treats topping the lists of dangerous products I am always on the lookout for ways to bypass using products that require processing. I no longer buy the nicely washed bags of any greens. I watch the brands of peanut butter and other products. I make my own products when I can. Here is a way to make tasty treats for your dog without additives or danger.

For training treats you will want very small treats. Liver works well for that. You may use beef or pork. Pork, of course, is cheaper. With the cost of everything rising at an alarming rate, I have found I can make them cheaper. Also, I do not have to worry about the ingredients because I control them.

Cover cookie sheet with foil for easy cleaning
Lay slices of meat (liver, pork, chicken, beef....) on cookie sheet
Bake in 350 degree oven for 1.5 hours or until dry and done.

You can experiment with the time. For larger treats you may want them to be a bit more dry so you would increase the baking time. For training treats you will want them to remain fairly moist so I keep it at the time listed. Slice to desired size and place in zip lock bag in refrigerator. Will keep for week or freeze and defrost a bag at a time. 

Suggested meats
Beef heart
Beef kidney
Beef  liver
Pork liver
Hint: You do not have to buy large quantities of any one thing if you have only one dog. Often there will be small packages of meats after weekends or holidays on markdowns. 

P.S. This is not vet advice. I am simply sharing my experience with you as I try to reduce the need to use processed treats and other products. As always, use your discretion.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

She is five

In my journey into digital photography.....

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Grasshopper Incident

Last evening Catie and were I were enjoying a foray into the garden just before dark. We were delighted to see a rather large grasshopper and stopped to look at him for a moment. Catie assured me he was not there to eat my garden. With amusement I admonished him to find greener grazing grounds and encouraged him to simply fill himself with one meal before moving along. No greediness allowed. We chuckled and continued our discussion. I bent over to inspect couple of plants and before I knew it our resident, and rather large, grasshopper had decided to hitch a ride in my tank top. (GULP) It took a few and Catie still could not believe he was in my shirt but I did manage to send him on his way. That incident convinced me that I have had so much excitement from my family that I tend to under react. There was a time that such an event would have caused me to put a break dancer to shame.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Perfect Eggplant

I planted ONE eggplant. I like eggplant parmesan. I like the color of the plant. We thought it looked cool. Turns out that this has been one prolific plant. I have gotten a number of the little purple egg shaped things and have not made one eggplant parmesan! I did discover a recipe that is easy and delish!

Simply take the eggplant and slice thinly. Spread on a cookie sheet. Preheat over 350 degrees
Sprinkle with olive oil and sea salt and cracked black pepper and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. I also added some peppers and tomotoes.

This is yummy! My kids loved it too.


Fresh Veggies!

Here is a picture of my favorite veggie farmer and some of the goodies we picked last evening.
We have picked some of it while it is still in it's smaller stage because the bunnies and squirrels have become more and more resourceful in finding a way into our ever growing wire enclosure. That is at the top of the list for improvements for next year.

The garden is just two 4x4 squares plus 4 odd plants and a few bean plants haphazardly next to one of the bunny pens. We placed barriers down and piled on our heap of compost and soil. We have not weeded all summer. We have had gardens of various sizes but this one has been the most productive.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Joy of the Domestic Duchess

Lest my royal title fool you I feel it only fair to tell you that the Duchess is Domestic because she does not have a staff. I do work hard at training my two ladies in waiting. Also, the castle is a fifty year old brick rancher with a myriad of projects calling my name. My best advice to unmarried women everywhere is to see the love of your life wield a hammer and a paintbrush before saying "I do" because love is surely not going to paint the kitchen!

I am not complaining, mind you. It is a crappy economy and we have a roof over our heads at a decent price. It is not falling down by any means. It does need work. I have tiled the kitchen and painted. I have more to do. There are the questions of money and ability. There that thing about a willing and able partner rears it's ugly head again. Mark my words! Counsel your daughters.

Friday, August 10, 2012


My original photography.


The wild rabbits in the neighborhood have been behaving in a most unneighborly manner. They have taken to visiting my garden patch and taking one bite from a tomato and leaving the remainder. Now, I do not mind sharing even the ripest of my veggies but I do take exception to such wasteful behavior. I left several on the edge of the garden in the event that some mommy rabbit would come along and encourage those young'uns to clean their plates. For the first time in my life I find myself identifying more with Mr. McGregor than with poor Peter and his brothers and sisters. Wasteful bunnies!

Speaking of bunnies, we do have some new additions to the household. Earlier in the summer we had a tragedy when our heavy bunny hutch was knocked over during a storm. Sadly, one of our bunnies died. This week we decided to replace him and to be honest we went a little nuts!

This is Marshmallow. She is a Lop mix. We have had her for awhile.

A new baby! This is a little mixed breed bunny. He is named Dash in honor of the Olympics.

Here is Dash again with our new Californian baby. She is named Cali. Dash and Cali are about eight weeks old. Cali will get up to 9-10 lbs.

The rabbits are an excellent way to provide fertilizer for the garden. My girls enjoy keeping them and taking care of them. After we got the two babies, we ended up bringing home another Mini Rex male. his name is Peter. I will post pictures of him later. He is a very tame fella who was slated to be a pet in a daycare center. They said he was stressed and I am sure that is true. Call me crazy but I am guessing an animal that is prey for nearly every meat eating animal everywhere is not going to be comfortable around a lot of noise and activity. That is one of the reasons our rabbits are housed outside and in secure cages away from the dogs. We don't want them stressed and unhappy. So here is to beautiful plants and flowers next year!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Recent pictures


This one is located at the home of my aunt, Nancy. 
I believe that it is actually two bushes but still
 find it interesting that the colors are so varied.

Japanese Maples from the garden of Aunt Nancy.

A fading rose from my garden.

Catie--Age 9 and Gus--Age 15 months.

Drenagh--Age 16 months


Gus practicing being our guardian angel. :)

"Dogs are not our whole lives but they make our lives whole"

Dream Big!

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagine."--
Henry David Thoreau

I started typing tonight with a completely different spin on this topic until I realized I have been a lifelong come from the back of the pack under dog! Yep, I am that girl. I've never had a thing from an A at the top of my paper to my name turning up on the cheerleading roster come easy to me. Most people will tsk tsk and say that they worked hard for everything they have ever gotten too. I know that is true! I believe we all work hard. 

Between varsity and junior varsity cheerleading I think I tried out six times before I finally made majorettes. Granted, we really didn't have majorettes but I was finally something! The following year I was a cheerleader. Grades were hard and I was suddenly in a very academic atmosphere coming from  barely making the grade. Summer school! That was just the beginning.

I'm still at it. Training and titling working dogs without close resources. Another time of learning from the ground up, making mistakes, and being the underdog. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A kind of hush....

It is the time of night when a hush begin to fall over the house and things become quiet. The time of the night when I might sigh and take a deep breath. When I smile over my sleeping household and think about our blessings.

My children finished the school year today. My fifth grader had her graduation ceremony. Father's Day is fast approaching. The outings and events that go along with the end of school are complete. We have begun working on our "bucket list" for the summer. For now, I can just enjoy a few minutes of the hush that falls over my sleeping family. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Eeek! Mouse in the House!

Tia and her sense of humor
 Each time they cut the grass in the field behind my house field mice move their residences over into my yard. It is part of the price we pay for having a nice large open field behind our house. Tia, pictured above, has tasked herself with hunting and monitoring this mouse population to the point of obsession. Out in the yard she is constantly showing me where they are and flushing them out from their hiding spots. Often she is hampered by the fact that she is fenced inside our dog yard and they are right outside her reach. She signals me by wagging her tail furiously while she keeps nose pointed at the exact spot. From experience I know that walking in that area or moving anything lying there will produce a number of mice running in all directions. She will be delighted and I will be shivering and stepping away quite quickly. Yes, I can not stand the little buggers.

Mouse hunt in the yard

Ready for a track
 On rare occasions they get into the house. The other day was one such time. Tia indicated that a mouse had somehow gotten into the heater in the living room. That happens to be about five feet or less from where I am sitting right now. She was determined and focused and so was I. She has tracked and hunted for a day and a half. This morning I observed her hunting success! Out ran the mouse from another heater across the room. Tia dispatched him quickly. That quick it was over. No muss and no fuss. I rather like her method. Much as I already love her I do believe she has endeared herself to me even more. Thank you, Tia.
Doing tricks with the kids

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


I feel it only fair to warn you that I have developed a phobia over the past several months. I have not only developed the phobia but am embracing it and even encouraging it in myself and my family. I have developed a fear of meat. I would not go so far as to say that I have gone vegetarian. Let us not get crazy!

Even though I stumbled upon the information concerning factory farming and the health implications some fifteen years ago, I consider that I lived in denial over all those years. It has only been in facing the consequences of my own health decisions and in teaching my children about health that I have begun to realize that we do not have the luxury of sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that all will be well. I do not need hundreds of pages of scientific study laid out before me to be able to determine that injecting animals intended for food full of antibiotics, hormones, and vaccines is not good for the product that ends up on our tables. Nor do I need someone to tell me that animals kept in confinement areas so small that they begin to kill and eat one another cannot possibly be at optimum health. Frankly, I do not care what acceptable agriculture practice is in place. If that practice does not meet the sniff test when it comes to good animal husbandry then it is, in my humble opinion, not a sound agricultural practice. For the record, in addition to not having become a vegetarian I have also not become a member of PETA or any crazy animal rights activist group.

I digress. Lost weight. That is what we have gained from the phobia. My husband has lost twenty five pounds. I have lost twelve.......without trying. At forty-seven any weight I can lose without trying is sheer perfection!

Appomattox Manor

This is Appomattox Manor located at City Point in Hopewell. The history is quite interesting to me but more than the official story on any of the locations we visit is an interest in the people. Perhaps I have seen too many Hollywood movies but each time I walk on the grounds of such a place I step back in time as if I had entered a time machine.

I can imagine approaching the house at night. Of course, back then, the trees would not have been so big so that you could have seen the gleaming lights from the house. Lantern beaming bright and welcoming and gate open wide. Somehow that seems like home to me.

On the right side of the house is a wide porch. Perhaps this is the entrance family used. From this porch there is a beautiful view of the river.

The front of the house is beautiful with an air of dignity and welcome.

Lately I've added digital photography to my ever growing list of hobbies. It keeps me off the streets and, at my age, that is a very good thing. Seriously, it all began because I absolutely detested the awful pictures I took of my kids and dogs. Social media has made it necessary to take at least a decent picture every now and again without causing oneself undue embarrassment.

I've set out to various locations around the area that I live in to take pictures but this is one that is particularly special to me. The homes are the High Street row houses set in the historic district of Petersburg. Although it has been many years ago, four generations of my family lived in number 217.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I am consistently inconsistent. As Julia Roberts said in Pretty Woman: "I am a fly by the seat of my pants kinda gal." Sorta.

Gardening has been on the brain. I obsess until I get the plants and seeds into the ground and then cannot wait until I began to see the fruits (or veggies in this case) of my efforts. I have been taking pictures on piling on the straw mulch. The pictures remind me of how far we have already come and the straw mulch makes sure that I don't kill myself weeding this year. I like to garden. I do not like to weed. There is no rule that says you have to like every part about any hobby that you have so don't judge me.

Friday, March 16, 2012

My neglected self expression

Well, I have certainly neglected my blog. My self expression. My one place to have the last word. My place to get up on my soap box and just let her rip! Sheesh!

Update from October: Winning is not all that it is cracked up to be. The girls did get their bikes but have not succeeded in learning how to ride them. To be perfectly fair, I will have to say that it was winter time and that we have not actually tried for part of that time. It is a challenge we will be addressing again in the near future and hope to conquer quickly.

I, however, have succeeded in making it to training with my German Shepherd, Drenagh. Last weekend we had a full weekend of training.  I have wanted to train in this sport for about fifteen years so this is a dream that is a long time in the making. Somehow there is something to be said for the forty something woman just reaching and grabbing something she has wanted to do and doing it!