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Saturday, October 31, 2015

October 2015

So we did go to the Mutt Strut in Quincy, taking all of our dogs.  I ran the 5K with the Sisters of Chaos.  I was under the impression that the point of it was to run with your dogs, but it turned out that I was the only one running with dogs.  Of course, there were only about 8 people in the 5K.  I didn't feel that great, and I didn't run the whole time.  Indigo kept stopping to greet every person and dog along the way, which provided me with numerous opportunities to rest.  At least we weren't last. We got some freebies from the vendors and had a nice talk with our groomer Tammy at the Dipity Dog table.  It was great socialization for the sisters, as there were dozens of dogs and people to meet.  The sisters caught the attention of the reporter for KHQA, who shot some footage of them.  It showed up in their coverage of the event on the news.

Stacey did the 5K walk with Miss Kitty and Gretchen ("the old bitches.")  Gretchen pooped 4 times. She didn't want to walk the whole way.  Kitty had some trouble with all the people.  We were tired and went home.  All the dogs were crashed most of the day.  Even ten days later my knees still hurt.  My training runs were neither numerous nor long enough.  I think I'll stick to cycling for a long time.

We went camping in Battle of Athens State Historic Site over the midterm break.  It's a small park with a surprisingly large campground.  Their claim to fame is that it is the site of the northernmost battle of the Civil War west of the Mississippi River.  There is still a hole remaining from a cannonball that went through one of the houses.  At one time a thriving community of 500 when river traffic ruled (on the Des Moines), it is now a ghost town with only a few buildings remaining.

We arrived on a Thursday afternoon and had the whole place to ourselves.  It was eerily quiet and empty, but that was nice.  I took a little bike ride just to explore the place.  There isn't really much to see or do there.  We kept wondering who would come there to camp, other than deer hunters and re-enacters.  A few other campers trickled in on Friday.  It was a nice place to walk the dogs.  The gentle slopes of the asphalt roadways were perfect for skateboarding, and I had all the dogs pulling me (no more than two at a time) during various outings.  It was the first time Miss Kitty did any significant pulling, and even broke into a gallop on a downhill.  The sisters seemed to have it figured out on our last ride.  There was a nice picnic area with a playground.  We took the dogs down there and I put Isabel through her paces on the playground.  First, up on a platform, and she got a treat, across a walkway and through a tube for another treat, and down a slide and a final treat.  I was impressed with her performance.  Then we turned loose Gretchen and she ran through all the obstacles at a blazing speed, without stopping, all for just one treat at the end.  We were a bit stunned. I guess she showed us what she can do!

I fished the small lake one afternoon, but I didn't put much effort into it.  I went up and down one side, just on foot, and only used two lures. I got one bite from a small bass, and that was all.  I had some good photo opportunities in the morning when a low-level fog lay over the fields.  There's a 2 mile hiking trail that I intended to walk with the dogs, but never got around to it.  I neglected to mention that we had some electrical problems when we first arrived, and we almost left after the first 5 minutes, but I managed to get things figured out.  We left Sunday morning and over the next week I got the RV winterized.  Sadly, that was our last planned trip of the year.

Stacey went to a conference in Springfield, MO.  I happened to be making my sandwich for lunch when she was headed out.  She asked me to get the door for her, and when I returned my two slices of bread were missing from the counter.  One half of one was remaining as Isabel chewed on it.  Clever beast.  I had to run some errands one day while she was gone.  I put Isabel in the car for company and went back in the house to get something.  When I came back out I saw a pale, furry blur whiz past the front door.  Wondering how she'd gotten out, I ran, screaming, "Isabel, Isabel!"  I rounded the corner of my neighbor's house to see a light brown pit bull looking back at me.  Not Isabel.  It continued on its way.  When I got back to the car, Isabel was still in it.

The camera club photographed our local footrace, the Canton Carnivore.  It was an exceptionally cold day.  I was fairly bundled up, and had remembered to bring a chair so I could sit at the start/finish line to shoot the runners.  The winner finished in a crazy short time, and a little boy finished third.  Perhaps the most interesting point was a young lady crossed the finish line, walked over to the ditch and puked up some gatorade.  I didn't photograph that.  During the kids dash a little girl fell flat on her face.  She got back up and kept going, but I saw on her return that she was crying.  A friend was there to comfort her, but she kept saying, "It wasn't fair!"  I felt pretty badly for her. A couple of my shots ended up in the newspaper.

My class did Stream Team, even though I thought I was going to have to delay it.  High winds were predicted.  They made such a big deal out of it on the TV news that I didn't even take my boots to work.  It never got that bad, so we went.  The weather was pretty nice, except for the swarming ladybugs, which are bad this year.  There were even some live frogs, crayfish, muscles and darters in a nearby backwater.  We saw a lot of hellgrammites in our samples, which is uncommon.  The next day I took the Environmental Science class out to Lowell's.  We buried some artificial bumble nests, then hiked around the place.  We had a little cookout afterward, and even had some time to fish.

I should have known it would be a hard day when I stepped in a little dog poo with my left foot, walked out into the yard to wipe it on the grass then stepped in an enormous one with my right foot. I had 4 different vehicles due for an oil change at about the same time, and NAPA was having a sale, so I went down to Elder's to get my oil and filters.  I took Isabel with me and learned that she is scared of children.  A little girl, maybe 2 years old, frightened the poop out of her, literally.  Ironically, the girl's name was Isabella.  I started with the C-max, which I had never done before.  Right away, I found that Ford clearly does not want the owner to change the oil.  There is no indication in the manual of the location of the filter or drain plug. The underside of the engine compartment is covered in a fibrous shroud, so you can't just look.  I had to jack up the front end, put it on stands, and remove the shroud -- 8 screws with a star drive.  The car has probably only had two or three previous oil changes, but someone had managed to round off the head of the drain bolt already.  Probably the same person who tightened so much that I had to use a hammer on my wrench to break it loose.  And Ford designed it so that you can't put a ratchet wrench on it--there's a nearby frame member that impinges.  The oil came out so fast that it overshot the catch pan I had put under it.  A similar mess was made by the filter.  Finally done, I reassembled it all.  Fortunately, I had some leftover kitty litter to absorb the oil.

Oh, did I mention we rehomed our cat?  One of my friends in the Garden club wanted him, so we gave him up.  Our house is a lot more peaceful without the dogs constantly hunting him.

I walked Indigo down to pick up the truck.  We stopped at Orscheln's for supplies.  She was good with all the customers and staff.  I don't drive the truck very often, so it's been a long time since I changed the oil.  While I was sliding around on the creeper underneath it, some grit fell in my eye (even though I wear glasses). I rinsed my eye out in the kitchen sink, but I think I still got a minor corneal abrasion.  I finished the truck and really didn't want to work any more, but I still had the Li'l Egg to do.  I took Miss Kitty with me down to pick up the car and bring it back to the house.  I wore goggles over my glasses to avoid further injury.  It was still hard to get through that oil change.  Gretchen got to with me to return the Egg.  So all the dogs got to go on an adventure.  Gretchen got the bonus, as I went to Blue Heron Orchard to get some apple cider to make wine.

After a two-week break, Isabel is back at agility class and doing extremely well.  She can do all the obstacles now, and is less distracted by the other people and dogs.  I'm working on an A-frame for her, which I made from an old pair of interior doors and some hinges.  I made the traction cleats from pallet wood.  At some point I will probably spend money on agility equipment, but I haven't yet.  Stacey will be taking Indigo to therapy dog class soon, so stay tuned.

I have been making wine for over 20 years.  According to my log book, my first fermentation began on 9/19/1995, and it turned out OK.  I have made several undrinkable wines (pumpkin, crabapple, persimmon) over the years, but most vintages have been quite palatable, and some even qualified as "very tasty."  Going over my records, I see that I've made about 22 fermentations.  Many were from actual grapes, including reds, whites and even sparkling wine (champagne) once. We used to have a large grape arbor that produced a good crop about every other year.  A lot of fruits have worked well for me, including peach, pear, apricot, and now apple.  The blackberry/raspberry wines have all turned out well.  I even completed one "kit" wine, a Shiraz, that I picked up cheap at a garage sale.  Normally, I go for real fruits, partly because kits are expensive. I have parts of two or three people's wine-making kits that I ended up with over the years, and last spring I obtained a huge collection of wine- and beer-making gear for a song.  You could say I'm equipped.  The irony is that I hardly drink any of it.  I usually give bottles of wine as gifts.

I also make beer.  That I drink myself.  I started a homebrew of Alaskan Pale Ale last week, but I must have had the wine-making bug in me.  I bought 5 gallons of organic apple cider from Blue Heron Orchard on Friday night.  For the first time ever, I made a starter yeast from a quart of cider: added sugar and yeast nutrient, boiled, let cool to 80 F, and pitched the yeast.  In the morning it was a great foaming solution.  This gives the yeast a head start.  Meanwhile, all the cider had warmed up to room temperature (from refrigerator cold).  Mixed them all together and my 22nd fermentation has begun.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

September 2015

I went to a Scientific Illustration Workshop for Stream Team in Jefferson City.  Half of it was a review of invertebrate identification.  I didn't think I needed that part, but I apparently did.  We learned some good basics of scientific illustration, at least for creatures in a certain size range. I think I can adapt it for use in my classes, which was my goal from the beginning.

Stacey and I decided to do the Mutt Strut in Quincy, which is coming up shortly.  I've been running to train for it.  I still don't like running.  It still hurts and is generally unpleasant.  At least the dogs like it.  I have benefited from the overall good feeling of being in a little better shape.  It's been a while.

I've been taking Isabel to agility classes at the Quincy Kennel Club.  It has been enlightening.  She is physically capable of doing all the obstacles, as she is fast and agile.  We have been practicing many skills, such as basic obedience and jumping since she took up residence in our house last winter.  She's also one of the smartest  dogs I've ever seen, capable of learning in one or two trials.  Her problem is her great shyness.  At the first class, before the first obstacle, she pooped on the floor.  At the second class, she was doing great until I hooked her lead on one of the poles, which made a big noise and cause the apparatus to move.  Then she refused to go over the jumps.  We must attribute that one to operator error.  I was extremely careful in the third class not to make any mistakes.  She did great on almost everything except the A frame, which was new.  At the fifth class she had mastered enough obstacles and overcome shyness enough to complete several obstacles, and in the end we ran a short course: weave poles, A frame, tire, wait table, dog walk, and tunnel.  I think it was the first time she revealed her potential.  I was very happy with her performance.  She has also become less shy around people, often greeting them upon first meeting.

We have practiced in part by stopping at various playgrounds and running her through the tunnels and up and down steps, swinging bridges, and whatever they had.  I think that was good preparation.  We have been jumping through a hula hoop for a long time.  That's our substitute for a tire. I have cobbled together a poor man's agility course in my yard.  I use my loading ramps and archery block target for a dog walk.  I have various poles that I run from the trees to the fence in the back yard for bar jumps.  I had some fiberglass electric fence posts that I placed in an array for weave poles.  I was using my step ladder for hind foot awareness, but I don't think it's necessary any more.  I found a 2x10 that was an old bed rail and made it into a teeter totter.  I made the base by carving a log with my chainsaw.  We haven't tried using it yet. We'll wait until it is introduced in class, as I know it's a difficult one and I don't want to screw up her introduction to it.

I spent an afternoon with my friends the Gonnerman's while they launched a series of model rockets.  This has been one of Chris's hobbies for a long time.  He leads a 4H group, and they do launches a couple of times a year.  I was invited to be a photographer.  I got a few good shots and enjoyed the launch.  I haven't seen it done since I was a kid.  There was quite the diverse array of rockets.  One was almost lost, but later recovered.  One was damaged on impact, but overall there were few malfunctions or problems.  The monarchs were migrating like crazy and there was a bald eagle soaring high above our field for part of the time.

I gave a talk at the local Catholic High School (QND) on Costa Rica, and the next day gave one for POLIS, which is mostly retired folks.  There is a dramatic difference between the audiences.  When you crack a joke for high schoolers, they all go nuts and never want to quiet down.  Seniors will laugh, but recover quickly so that the speaker can continue.

In other dog news, we got Indigo over her illness.   We were relieved when she was diagnosed with a bad case of intestinal worms (hookworms and nematodes). This was welcome news because it's an easy cure. We had fought her affliction for three weeks, with misdiagnoses of garbage gut, pancreatitis, and others. She had been hospitalized once, and we were considering exploratory surgery. Finally, a fecal smear turned up large numbers of worm eggs (a previous one was negative). She also had a bump below her ear that we thought could be cancer, but turned out to be an abscess. Let us be thankful!  The abscess has since drained and been treated with antibiotics.  It is now hard to find any remnant of it.  Indigo is just as spunky as ever she was.  Stacey is considering training her to be a therapy dog.  She is great with people, she just needs to learn some special obedience behaviors.