Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Day

My adult children will be here about 10 am, so I have a few things to get accomplished this morning - light housework, put the ham in the oven, feed the critters, and give Wally a pear for his Christmas treat. He gets pears on other days, and sometimes apples, but I think pears are his heart's desire. Of course nothing can be given to Wally unless Ginger is served first. If she catches me sneaking something to Wally, poor Wally pays the price. There is nothing I can do about Ginger's horrible behavior toward Wally in these matters, though I certainly wish I could. It is horse etiquette and the equine social order. I must respect it.

Wally is not a white horse, but he glows in the twilight sometimes, like a ghost or maybe a unicorn, if unicorns were real. Whenever he sees or hears me heading toward the barn, he comes thundering across the pasture. He always gets there before I do, and he always arrives long before Ginger. Hoof beats against the ground tell me he is on the way long before I see him. He is fleet of foot, carrying his head and tail high, as all Arabians do. He is a beautiful sight galloping effortlessly through the tall grass, his mane and tail flying. He loves running right to the fence, slamming to a sudden halt, tossing his head, snorting, side stepping and dancing a bit. He is such a beautiful horse when he is in motion! Sometimes I wish with all of my heart I could ride him but most of the time I am utterly content to just tend to him and love him.

Ginger has none of the flair and heat of Wally's Arabian genes, but she is beautiful in motion, as well. I have an indelible memory of her fat, sleek copper body galloping from the far corner of her lonely pasture the day Wally was brought in. She could hardly believe another horse was in her pasture. Linda, Wally's former owner, was stunned at the first sight of Ginger running across the pasture. "Oh, she is beautiful!" That was truly a compliment, coming from a horsewoman such as Linda, who owns many beautiful horses. "She's so fat - but beautiful! If you ever want to sell her, I would buy her!"

I have no intention of ever selling my horses. Among serious horse people, there is the opinion that my horses' lives are being wasted. Some consider horses not worked or ridden as a waste of money. There may be a tiny sliver of truth in both opinions, but the only regret I have is that my horses are confined to only twenty acres. Sometimes I daydream that I lease a huge pasture from a cattle-raising neighbor for a month in the summer. Wally and Ginger could have a new experience, more room to run, new places to explore and see. What a treat that would be for them. It is only an assumption that it would be a treat because horses seem to be happiest when they have a routine schedule.

My horses do not have a bad life. They are well taken care of in a minimal sort of way. Their hooves are trimmed but never painted or polished. Their manes may be combed out, but never braided or tied with ribbons. Their tails do not grow long and luxurious because they are in the pasture year round. Their hides are often brushed and curry combed until they shine. My coworkers save peppermints from Sonic lunches to routinely send home with me for those two horses. Wally and Ginger appear to love each other. Over time, Ginger has come to the point of allowing Wally to drink with her, and once in a great while, he is allowed to eat from the same scattering of hay. One of the most endearing things I have seen is both of them on the ground, sunning themselves, resting on the southern slope before the barn, two long time companions taking a break. I ran for my camera but it was too late.

Of course, my dream was to always have a horse to ride. It did not work out that way. Instead of one to ride, I have two horses to love. What could be better?

As always:

Peace on earth and good will toward (some) men!
from the critters and crazy woman of Spiritcreek

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Few Holiday Notes

I have been intending to write since Thanksgiving, when I made a logistics error that required going to the grocery the night before Thanksgiving. It was as chaotic and crazy there as I expected.

The adventure of shopping always starts with a good effort to get a parking space as close as possible to the front door. Walking is always painful these days so it is worth the investment in gasoline and time to circle the lot a few times. It was a frenzy of people and cars, and the only available spaces were at the extreme edges. I eventually found a space fairly close, but in making a couple of laps I noticed that someone far more desperate than I, driving a full sized white SUV, had parked in a shopping cart return stall. It meant no one could return baskets to that corral. It also meant that the huge 4WD vehicle was sticking out in the traffic lane by almost a half-car length. Wow. That took more chutzpah than I would have ever dared in such a stressed out crowd! I did not take it personally, thinking that person may have bad knees like me, or was in far more of a hurry than the rest of us. I also considered that the driver was simply the biggest asshole in the parking lot that night.

Later, as I was exiting the parking lot, I had to drive past the white SUV. In desperation or retaliation, people had parked their empty carts all around the back of the vehicle. I could only hope that the store employees did not get to those carts before the driver returned.

Now it is almost Christmas. I completed all of my shopping yesterday, December 23. It was as crazy in Topeka as you would guess. However, I discovered one wonderful perk of shopping so closely to Christmas: men. Yes. Young and old men Christmas shopping in their natural gender-based timing, as God intended! I daresay there were a considerable number of attractive men everywhere I looked.

(I wish to make something perfectly clear: I am NOT a lecherous old woman lurking around public places with impure thoughts toward any unsuspecting member of the masculine persuasion! It is simply pleasant to see handsome men.)

Speaking of handsome men... It snowed quite a bit last week, close to five or six inches in my area of Wabaunsee County. I had to drive the old truck in order to get to work. Amazingly, the old girl still fires right up, and the four wheel drive works - in both speeds. The heater, cruise control, and electric locks and windows continue to function. The truck is almost 14 years old. It is why I am a loyal Ford fan. I do complain where Ford engineers take short cuts, like using plastic that degrades on all outside handles, and the deterioration of the covering of the steering wheel and cruise control buttons. (Good thing I have those buttons memorized from the 250,000 miles I spent driving that vehicle.) But back to men...

I stopped at an auto parts store after work to buy Stabil. I intended to fill up with gas and it would be a perfect time to add that miracle concoction into the gas tank. Stabil keeps gas fresh in vehicles that sit for long periods of time. I also needed windshield fluid. I thought I should get at least a gallon of antifreeze, too. I had the idea I could add antifreeze into the overflow reservoir and not have to worry about opening the radiator itself. I was quizzing the 13 year old kid behind the counter, but it stumped him. He ventured a tentative guess that I could, but neither he nor I knew if that would actually mix the antifreeze into the coolant system.

Luckily, men were in that store behind me in line - manly men who knew about such matters. A masculine voice spoke, declaring that I could add the antifreeze into the reservoir, depending on the year of the vehicle. I turned to face a man about my age. He had an attractive trimmed silver beard, white hair and very cheerful blue eyes. (Santa?) He gestured to the tall young man behind him, "He works with cars." That was an acceptable credential for me. I said it was a '01 Ford Ranger, and in their opinion, antifreeze could be added into the reservoir.

I thanked them for their help and left the store. I immediately put the Stabil into the gas tank and opened the hood to add the wiper fluid because it was entirely dark and I had to drive home on a slushy I-70 where the passing big trucks cover the windshield with blinding ice and salt and dirt. Once again the two men came to my aid, and in a very gallant way. "Santa Claus" came over and asked if I would like some help.

Okay, I admit, back in the day, I would have politely told him I did not need help. I was never going to be a stupid damsel in distress! In these present days, I welcome a little help. I lied and said "I never turn down a helping hand!"

So, for the next five minutes the two gentlemen filled the wiper fluid reservoir, and removed the rodent nest (and the store of food) discovered beneath the hood. The young man also took the radiator cap off! I pleaded with him to not take that chance because I was afraid he would be sprayed with boiling water. He solemnly assured me he knew what he was doing. In his opinion, no antifreeze was needed. I was sincerely thankful to the men who volunteered their knowledge and their assistance. It was very kind of them, especially considering how I looked. My winter coat is perpetually covered in mud and horse slobber. I had changed into insulated, steel toed, Pro Series lace-up work boots in case I had trouble on the way home. I was wearing those boots with a work skirt and black stockings. I looked like an overweight Granny Clampett. Damn.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Canine Cuisine, the Fine Art Thereof

The Good Dog Duke, almost 16 years old, is on the downhill slope of his years. The protector and guardian of Spiritcreek is in his dotage. He can see but not very well. He does not have cataracts but there is a strange blue cast in his eyes. He is effectively deaf. He has lost a significant amount of weight. Afraid to hear what Dr. J might tell me, I waited too long to take Duke in for a check up. Finally, I gathered the courage I needed on behalf of the good old dog, and we went to see Dr. J this week.

The good news is that, based on a routine check up, there is nothing sinister - at least nothing obvious. I have to give Duke a Prilosec for stomach acid 15 minutes before his first meal, and then I serve the good old dog home-cooked human food: hamburger and rice mixed with eggs and cottage cheese, with yogurt and pumpkin thrown in, too. It smells delicious! So far, Duke has been able to keep all of his food down and seems to have already picked up a couple of pounds on this diet.

I keep Duke and Jake separated for most of the day. Jake is a bad, bad dog. He is absolutely willing to fight poor old Duke away from his own bowl! He really whipped old Duke's butt the other day before I could get to them to put a stop to it. Jake has no idea how close he is to being shipped out for good. He is worthless! He hides under the porch whenever anyone comes on the property. The old braveheart still puts himself between the "threat" and me. Duke cannot even flop over in the tallgrass for a delicious, if far less vigorous than former days, backscratching session without Jake bullying him and bulldozing him.

I do not know how much longer the old Duke has. I can hardly bear to think how it will be here without Duke. I will not be nearly as brave going out at night without his constant companionship and his keen senses that have always kept me from being surprised by anything unpleasant (except snakes and spiders). I have already learned to keep a better look out for myself because Duke no longer hears the crunch of gravel at the top of the driveway. Jake hears but he has no interest in barking to let me know we are being invaded.

Dr. J spent a long time discussing the foreseeable future regarding the inevitable. Bottom line, I see that Duke is still enjoying life even though he is losing strength in his hind quarters and he cannot see or hear. He still goes to the barn with me and enjoys running downhill when we come back. He still enjoys a backscratch in the tall grass. He can still get up and down the steps. He does not appear to be in acute pain. Now that he can eat and hold down his food, maybe there are several more years left, even if I have to cook a big pot of food for him every week.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Winter Across the Counties

Bulletproof by necessity, though no guns allowed.
A sycamore, the tallest tree species in Kansas.
The old bridge preserved beside the new bridge.
Back toward the bluff.
It rattled as I walked - scary!
Good for another 100 hundred years!
A tiny bit of color caught my eye in the winter landscape.
The most color I found all day.
I thought they were turkeys, but they were buzzards recycling some unfortunate creature. 

I spent the afternoon driving through Wabaunsee, Lyon and Morris counties. I took my camera in case I happened upon something amazing. I started at Echo Cliff. It is a small park beside the Mission Creek, where a sizable bluff makes a picturesque and unusual setting. Unfortunately, all facilities placed in the park are routinely destroyed by teenagers. The current park installments are made of incredibly heavy welded metal. It will surely slow the vandals down, but it will not stop them.

Follow this link for more information about Echo Park - and better photos!

I found an intriguing road somewhere south of Echo Cliff and thought I would explore it for new landscapes. A small hand-lettered sign warned there were surveillance cameras in the area. I prefer to not get shot by a militant landowner, though as far as I could tell it was a public road. I backed all the way out to the township road, where I noticed old clothing lying along both sides of the road - no visible blood stains. I came across the vultures soon after. I tried to prevent my imagination from jumping to conclusions...

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Beautiful Moonrise

I did not see that fence in the lens!  Far too Dark!

At least the light is correct, but there is that rail again! 

Okay.  Forget it!

This one is nice - if the earth had three moons.

Well, who the hell knows.

Just put the camera away and go home...

Saturday, October 25, 2014

You Ain't From Around These Parts

This morning the visibility to the barn was quite poor.  An autumn fog had settled over everything.

Perhaps you can appreciate the size of this horse from this photo.  He makes Wally look like a pony!

I may have to move away if the population explosion in Jaketown continues unabated!

Rush hour on Jaketown Road.

The view from Jaketown toward my house.  (I live east of the end of the road.)

Nothing is as beautiful as the yellow cottonwoods against the autumn sky.

Crimson Maple leaves are another seasonal delight.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A Mighty Kansas Man... Dedicated to CyberKit

Johnny Kaw - Stalwart and Kansas Proud in the Manhattan City Park

He is a manly man  - with his mighty... ummmmm... scythe?

And why we always call him Johnny Kawk

My daughter, Masters Degree and all, on the pole....
Oh, Kit, I miss you mightily!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Why I Do Not Visit the Barn After Dark in the Summer

Why, Jackie?  Why not visit the barn at night in warm weather?

I might cross paths with one of these fellows...

Good thing Kit is already gone, because this photo would kill him!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

I Grudgingly Admit a City Can Be Beautiful

Tulsa Skyline

Just After Sunset

If I were a better photographer, you would be admiring the beautiful super moon rising amid the buildings of downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma right now. The placement of the moon was unfortunate because no matter what I did, I also photographed the flash - or my own reflection - in the hotel window. At the time the review of the photographs could only be done from the 2" screen on the back of the camera, I did not realize that the television behind me was also reflecting in the photos. I have 24 photographs of a beautifully lit downtown cityscape with a glowing television screen strategically placed in the intersection of streets. It looks like a hologram magically hanging in midair for the good citizens and visitors of Tulsa. (Good thing my paycheck isn't dependent on my photography skills.)

Downtown Tulsa sits next to the Arkansas River, and the view from the downtown buildings toward the river is beautiful. The only trouble is the enormous refinery that sits on the opposite bank. In its own way, that is beautiful, too, with it's strange industrial geometries.

The mystery of our human evolution amazes me. A mere 200,000 years ago, the blink of an eye in the 4.5 billion years of the earth's existence, we were huddled by the fire, hoping to avoid being eaten by a cave bear. We were wearing skins and stone tools were our highest technology. Now we build big clean cities, awash in light and noise and energy 24 hours a day. Anyone can fly through the air if they have the price of the ticket. There are so many of us that few humans have to worry they will be eaten by a bear. In fact, there is a higher probability of being eaten by a psycho human cannibal than by a bear. Our human consciousness expresses itself so differently than the nature consciousness that ruled the planet for all those long epochs of time before the noise of man was ever heard.

Maybe there are too many of us on the planet now. Or, maybe this is our destiny - to reach a point of saturation so our collective consciousness will ignite. Perhaps together we will make the jump to light, becoming wise in the flash of blinding moment. And maybe we will then be at least smart enough not to destroy the Monarch butterfly, or poison the oceans, or slaughter the great sentient beings living there. If we are not smart enough, perhaps the bears will win the long evolutionary battle after all.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Are You Dreaming Or Are You Driving to Work?

But, soft!  What light through yonder window breaks?

Oh, it is East, and ... it's a giant cow?!


Laughing now - look at the size of that udder!

I am taking bad photos at 65 mph - like everyone else!

I passed, but a mile later, the cow blew past me in a big hurry, only to hit the brakes.

Travel safely, ol' Bossy (name of countless family milk cows).

My exit.  I had to turn off and go to work.  I could not follow the giant cow to her destination, darn it.
Notice in photos 2 and 3, the red and black cars are too far left because they are taking photos with their phones. I happened to have my digital camera with me. I pointed and clicked, hoping for the best. I knew I would tell people about this, but truly, 8 photos are worth eight thousand words.

I miss my good friend Cyberkit. He would have been delighted with this minor absurdity. He would have posted several puns. Try as I might, I can think of none...

I found the Turkey Hill Giant Cow web site: Giant Cows.  She is 13 feet and weighs two tons. She has three sisters, and you can win a visit from one for your birthday! They apparently hail from the Pennsylvania area. I read on their web page that whenever the giant cow travels past a pasture containing cows, they invariably follow along. They must think it is the Supreme Cow arrived at last to lead them to the Promised Pasture.

Post script:  I woke up this morning with a message from Cyberkit:  "She's on the moooooove!"
And from my nephew:  "That's a mooving violation!"

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Turtle Presents Conundrum

Little Turtle eating in the center of the road, facing south!
Making a mad "dash" toward cover!
Leaving in a slow motion huff after being accosted by a human.  
I do not often see turtles in the road this time of year, but the other day I came upon an ornate turtle stopped in the tire tracks of a county road. She was likely safe from any traffic from the south because she could be seen in time to avoid crushing her. If she had been in the west tire track, she might have been in danger of getting hit by someone coming from the north.

Of course I had to stop to get a photo, and to move her safely out of the road. She was not technically crossing the road like 99% of the turtles I have ever seen. She was facing due south, preoccupied with eating a bug or something. It meant I did not know which side of the road to move her to! It was a conundrum. When I stepped out of the car to take pictures, she began "running" toward the west. Conditions on that side of the road were not good turtle terrain, in my decidedly uneducated assessment of what constitutes good turtle terrain. There was a very narrow and steep (for a 4" tall turtle) ditch. If she could even climb out of it in that vicinity, she would then encounter the face of an almost vertical hillside. I moved her to the other side of the road. If she walked at a steady pace, she could reach the pond on that side of the road by the next morning. I do not know enough about turtles to know if they need to live by a body of water to survive.

I am sorry to terrify these quiet, gentle creatures, but I simply cannot leave them to be crushed by a tire, or worse yet, cracked by a glancing blow and left to die a slow death, or even worse than that: kidnapped by an unscrupulous pet trader. In the wild, these creatures can live about one hundred years. In captivity they die easily. Even with the best of care, they will only live a few decades.

I have lived in Kansas my entire life but have only seen a baby ornate box turtle once. My mother was a Girl Scout leader when I was a Brownie (the neophyte stage of a Girl Scout). We were at day camp when one of the girls found a baby turtle in the grass. Everyone was delighted to see such a tiny turtle! We kept him for a few hours and then he was placed back in the place he was found. I have always hoped to see a baby turtle again. So far, no luck.

Addendum:  September 2, 2014 - Another turtle terrorized crossing country road!  
Minding his own business, heading south.

Heading into Ginger's pasture after having the pee scared out of him!  (But he was safe!)
Post Script:  A few days after the last photo was taken, I found another turtle not far from where this guy was found.  That turtle had a seriously cracked shell.  He could still close into his shell - still walk perfectly.  The crack appeared to not be immediately recent.  I debated a long time whether I should take that turtle into a wild life rehabilitation center, or leave it alone.  I opted to leave it alone.  At one time in Kansas, the public was invited into all wild life rehabilitation centers, but no longer.  No one knows what happens to the animals, how they are treated, handled or confined.  I am not even sure if they are regulated by any form of government.  So, I no longer trust that a wildlife rehabilitation is a good thing.  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Relatively Speaking...

You get a little better idea of this guy's size...

This big white horse recently moved into the neighborhood. I first noticed him when he was in a pasture next to the road. I so much wanted to stop and pet him but I did not. He is enormous! He is spending the summer in a very large pasture, and I only got these pictures because I have a telephoto lens. The photos do not convey the true size of this guy. I wish I knew more about him. He is beautiful!

Going from a local giant down to one of the tiny frogs that live in my front yard:  I had to stalk this little dude with my camera for a long time before I got a good photo. He is about the size of a fingernail. He and his kin spring about a foot into the air - an enormous jump, considering how small they are! I make the effort to avoid stepping on them.

I do not know what species of frog he is - if he is full grown - why he lives around the house rather than at the edge of the creek - why I never saw anything like this around the other house? I wonder if he is one of the peepers I hear all night long. So many questions, and no where to find the answers!

The toads that live in the dirt under the porch and hang out at the dog water tub are quickly growing large. The dogs completely ignore the toads, and the toads do not seem to care that they have to share a significant portion of real estate and resources the with canines. At some point, I am sure Duke sampled a toad and knows to leave them all alone. Jake surely discovered the same bitter truth. Otherwise, there would not be a single toad living around the front steps.

Yesterday I witnessed a horrific accident when Duke mindlessly stepped on a toad right in front of me. The poor toad was laying belly up in the grass and I thought he was either dead or mortally wounded. After I got both dogs occupied elsewhere, I came back to check on the unfortunate toad. He was still belly up and motionless. Using the machete, I gently and carefully prodded the poor guy, and he came to life enough to at least right himself. His color had gone from the usual black, brown and tan to a greenish yellow. Either he was dying or toads have certain chameleon-like abilities. As I watched, he hopped to safety under the steps. I hope he was unhurt, but getting stepped on by an 80 pound dog cannot be too healthy.

It is amazing the useless things I learn simply by walking to the car every morning. A small toad produces an enormous amount of fecal matter. I see scat on the sidewalk almost every morning, and the toads are the most likely donors! I cannot imagine how many insects they have to eat in order to leave that much manure behind. The foremost question in my mind is why do they have to poop on the sidewalk? You can bet I avoid stepping on that, too.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

I Photograph the Supermoon - Poorly

Amateur Photographer's Lack of Skill Ruins Another Opportunity.  (Yes, it is an over-exposed super moon.) 

The Sacred Pond Restored

The Super Moon 30 Minutes After Moonrise  - my telescopic lens is so awesome!