Hollywood Beach Manitoba

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Hollywood doesn’t just exist in California. There is also a Hollywood Beach in Manitoba. A historical marker on the beach says the beach was created as a public space in order to celebrate the Canadian Centennial in 1967. No one seems to know how it got its name although “there was a movie made there once” and “when they named the beach it had a downed holly tree on it” are the two most popular explanations I have heard.

Hollywood Beach

Hollywood Beach is near Langruth Manitoba and has something to do with the now ghost town of Lakeview. It is about three kilometres long and one of the nicest of the Lake Manitoba beaches as far as quality of sand goes. We have been here many times. There used to be a long narrow sand bar that trapped the water on the beach so it would get smelly and greenish and the beach would be very unpleasant in hot weather. That’s why we haven’t been there in several years. We were delighted to arrive and find the past floods and very high water seems to have cleaned the beach out and restored it. The choking sandbar is gone and the beach is clean and lovely.

 

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Technically the beach is a campground. There are no services, no gate, no fees, and no amenities of any kind except for fire pits, ‘recycle everywhere’ bins and someone regularly mows the grass. It would be a really lovely spot to boondock for free if one had a self-contained trailer that could manage without hookups. We have never camped here ourselves. That may change now that we have seen how nature restored the beach. There are also no “No Dogs Allowed” signs. Misty loved the beach. She will be five months old tomorrow and she has grown so much.

 

Manitoba is in full fall gold and yellow display and the lovely colours included the beach. We enjoyed the 53 kilometre drive to the beach due to the fine fall colours. The beach was littered with gold leaves.

 

The beach is on a narrow spit of land with a marsh on other side of the road into the beach area. We have canoed in the huge marsh behind Hollywood beach. During our visit today we saw innumerable arctic terns, curlews, gulls, ravens and even a small flock of tundra swans on their migration south. There was one large blue heron, a straggler, as most have long since migrated. In the past, during summer, we have seen huge flocks of red wing black birds and yellow headed blackbirds among many other marsh birds, as well as white pelicans. Those have apparently already headed south. Beyond the marsh is a lot of pastureland and this makes a trip to Hollywood Beach a bird watcher’s delight.

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The beach is on a thin strip of land with deep wide marshes on the other side.

We enjoyed the fine details of the beach as well, including a spot absolutely full of tiny snail shells, both rams horn and pond snails. I don’t know why so many empty shells covered the area at the end of the beach. We also found evidence of the flood’s work on tree roots still in the sand. This demonstrated again that the terrible floods of the last decade have ended up doing some good. These floods, difficult as they are for humans, seem to be part of the cycle of the lake itself.

 

There was a family having a picnic when we arrived. They had made a fire and the little ones were having fun. Otherwise we had the beach to ourselves. It had been warm and sunny when we left Alonsa and we had planned on trying to get one more canoe trip in. The wind had picked up and it got cloudy and cool as we arrived. The water was bitterly cold. We decided to skip a freezing cold canoe ride and just enjoy a long walk on the beach instead.

I think it would be especially lovey to do an overnight trip in summer with our trailer. With absolutely no amenities or nearby towns, the night sky over the lake would be perfect for stargazing or watching the aurora. The start of the roadway into the beach and the campground spots are big enough for even a big rig. The further on ones goes, the more the road deteriorates and the smaller the “campsites” which are really just big mowed areas with a fire pit.

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After a nice walk down the length of beach we had our own nature call in this lovely but no facilities place and headed home. We really enjoyed the visit and we will be back. Hollywood Beach in Manitoba is a very special place.

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Renovations Continue

When we got our little house on the prairie we knew there would be a lot of work to make this house our home. The work is ongoing. I have discovered I have some unrealistic expectations about how much effort goes into interior painting. In addition to the paint job, I had a bunch of other work planned. Specifically each room in our house had only one plug and the kitchen was missing some essentials. One plug per room may have been enough back in 1960 when this house was built but it is totally inadequate today. Also every light fixture in our house was simply a plain white wall mount with a bare naked bulb. I’m not big on spending money on home decor but that bare bulb is not acceptable. I needed to put in a new double sink and a stove hood to make life better. Fumes from cooking were bothering my asthmatic lungs. I wanted some new handles on the cupboards. This was a want not a need. Call me OCD if you like but I want all the handles on my kitchen cupboards to match.

The stove hood is in and functional, complete with exterior exit for smoke. It is really nice to have. Yesterday I was making apple pie and juice spilled and started burning and the fan sucked it all outside instead of making me wheeze.

And then there was our new puppy and her need for a front fenced area. This took quite a bit of energy and money. She has also eaten up a lot of potential work hours with her need for attention. Who can do fix-it stuff when a darling puppy wants to play?

Another major cuss addition was this new double sink with a faucet with sprayer. We also installed a separate tap with drinking water that does not go through the water softener. This ate up a good two weeks of fix-it time. I also put in some water proof backsplash where there had been peeling paint I had temporarily covered with white shelf liner. Life is so much nicer with a proper kitchen sink you can get wet.

Another lifestyle irritant is there was no plug in the bathroom and I had to use an extension cord to blow my hair dry. That is problem fixed. The one light was the bare bulb look was too far from the bathroom mirror to be of any use. I now have a nice new fixture above the mirror with its own light switch and a proper GFC plug. The old bare bulb light has a new fixture. It still needs paint but we now have light.

When you start painting you also start noticing stuff that needs upgrading. I painted around every doorknob and I was face to face with old ugly. After considered options we upgraded to new doorknobs with the neat new push/push open and close. This was between want and need. We could have made do, but the doorknobs were not fully functional. Plus push pull doorknobs will be nice as we age. They are already really nice! And, of course the old curtains did not match the new paint and so new curtains and rods were in order. I would have classified that as want not need except that the new curtains are all themoregulating material to cut down on drafts, and heat moving in during summer or out during winter. Because it is my own place and I don’t care what anyone thinks of my taste I also got lace and bows and cute little white birds on the curtain rods.

In the midst of my repainting the interior, the last of the two new windows arrived. That actually worked out well because the men installed the windows and I finished and painted around them and saved some labor. Replacing those 1960 era single pane farm windows with properly sealed double pane windows has made a dramatic difference in drafts already. We can now open the windows and have drafts when we want them and close windows and get rid of drafts when we don’t want them. The cost of the windows will eventually be recouped in heating costs, if we live that long.

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I have concluded that interior painting takes about ten times longer than exterior painting and it generates many more jobs and a lot of extra expense. We are determined to not go into debt fixing up this old house. This summer we kind of blew our budget and so we were frugal through September and we need to live frugally through October to help balance our budget again. The other thing about painting the interior is that you can’t just walk away and leave it until tomorrow. Everything in your living space is in an uproar. When you pause to cook dinner you have to go find where you stowed every single item while the cupboards were drying. I spent more time doing that than actually painting. As my husband says, quoting his old mentor the meteorite scientist Ed Anders, about “when you are estimating how long it will take to do something, multiple by ten and then change units.” That goes for the money end too.

Credit where credit is due. I am the main fixer upper in our family but hubby dearest cheerfully took on any chore I asked him to. That included anything that required being taller, or stronger or jobs that need three or four hands. I also assigned him the traditional male stuff still required by our sexist society, like dealing with tradesmen and sales people in hardware stores. He was very handy for keeping clerks out of my way while I quickly filled my basket with what I needed. (hardware store clerks always go for the men first.) He was also the master of finding help if they happened to not be around when I did need them. Best of all, since he’s partially colour blind, he has been delighted with all my colour choices.

I can’t say I was raised to be a fixit type. I am self taught. When I take on a project I first decide what I want. Then I research all kinds of ways to do it. I use youtube a lot. I just love it when people put up a how-to video. There are some really great videos out there that explain all kinds of stuff like how to add a plug or change a light fixture. Pin interest, Google, blogs and social media are also a great resource. I have also had my work checked by an electrician in the family and plumber who is a friend. The last thing I want to do is cause a fire or a flood. Occasionally, there are a few clerks in the hardware stores who actually know what they are doing and they have been a huge help to me. I have gotten to know some of the good ones at my favourite stores and I always ask them how they would do it first. The good ones have introduced me to better products like shark bite plumbing parts. These work fabulously well and mean excellent seals without soldering. I would not have known about them if the clerk at Ace Hardware hadn’t told me. I often start thinking about what I want to do and spend much more time researching it than the time I actually spent doing it, once I have decided how. I have tried to leave grateful comments and add explanations on blogs whenever I find I have learned something useful the next person doing the job might need.

Once I know how and what I want, I start looking for the stuff I need to do it. I use Amazon a lot but not exclusively. Living in rural area, Amazon saves me trips into the city and have mostly things at comparable or lower prices. Home Hardware has a great website and I can order anything and have it delivered locally to the nearby store. They have beaten Amazon on price and quality many times and get a lot of my business. Ace hardware nearby with the really knowledgable people gets a lot of my business too. I have also used second hand stuff where I could. Second hand stores and garage sales are especially good for picking up tools. Certain things simply can’t be done by us and those are best left to a professional. Installing windows is one of those things. Finally I have been blessed by wonderfully skilled neighbours who are willing to share their knowledge and tools, like the tractor with auger we needed for the puppy’s new fence.

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One final note. I am a procrastinator by nature. I also have this constant voice in my head from my childhood when I got called lazy and useless a lot. The result is I can usually think of something better to do than fixing things. To keep myself motivated and organized, I spent a couple of hours making lists of the many jobs that need to be done. Each one is one simple thing that would take 1-2 hours to do. I also include maintenance stuff because even though you are busy with painting or plumbing jobs, you still need to keep up on those occasional jobs like vacuuming the truck, cleaning the travel trailer fridge, or washing its exterior.  I cut up the list into individuals papers to go into a job jar. Every morning I take one slip out of the job jar to do that day. If I don’t feel like doing what I picked, I put it back and pick another one. If I am feeling ambitious, I will do more than one. The process has been a way to organize myself, and it is very satisfying to take a slip and crumple it up and throw it out when the job is done.

My original plan was to paint the interior of the house this summer and put in new flooring. I was overly ambitious. We got one half of the interior painted and we have done many small things to make our house into our home. The other half of the house’s interior will have to wait until next year. The new flooring will go in after that, hopefully that will be next year as well. Finishing should be much cheaper because I already have most of the materials. I get discouraged when I think about how much we have left to do. I feel better when I think about all we have done. It really helps to looks at a “before” and after pictures.

 

Life with Misty and Fred

If you thought babies grow fast, you have never watched a puppy. When we got Misty she was 13 pounds (5.8 kilos). By her second vet check she was 23 pounds (10.4 kilos) and on her latest vet check she hit 33 pounds. (15 kilos). She has had all three rounds of puppy shots and her rabies vaccine. She has her own tag and last visit she got a microchip. She turned 4 months old on September 2. Fred by contrast is 88 pounds (40 kilos) he turns 12 on September 20. Almost every day Misty has grown bigger. She eats about four cups of puppy food each day but she has hungry days where she will pack in as much as seven or eight cups. We are feeding her the highest quality puppy food and I must admit I will be glad, for the sake of our budget, when we can switch her to adult dog food. Hubby Dearest makes many jokes about Clifford. She has begun losing those needle sharp puppy teeth (thank goodness!) and clean large new white adult teeth are coming in fast and furious.

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Our vet surprised me by recommending we do not spay Misty at six months. Given her parental breed types and their bigger but slower growth, he recommended we wait until she is at least a year old. This will give her bones time to fully develop and growth plates to close before cutting off her estrogen supply. Given her breed and size she probably will not have a heat in that first year. We had a discussion about handling an early heat if she does, and preventing pups, as well as the pros and cons of letting her have one heat cycle before spaying her. Apparently you trade one set of risks for another but overall it is better to wait because her breed types (given both her parental breeds) are prone to hip issues and tears in ligaments in the knees and early spaying and neutering seems to increase those events. There are cancer risks decreased by early spaying but there are also different cancer risks increased by early spaying. There isn’t really a right or wrong answer. As always, it is about weighing risk versus benefit so we will revisit the issue at her next check up at one year. I always thought spaying at six months was the absolute normal standard but times are a changing and apparently the thinking on this is changing as well.

Misty is a delightful dog and we feel very blessed to have her. She is still a puppy and as such is subject to those bursts of bad puppy behaviour that result from overwhelming exuberance with life and the itch of new teeth. Even so she had learned several commands including “off”, “off cat” (for small animals including our cat), “come”, “sit”, “lie down”, “shake paw”, “quiet”, “out”, “truck” (go to the truck so we can drive somewhere) and of course her favourite “walk”. She will fetch if prodded but it is not her favourite game. Balls, however, well balls are joy. She has also acquired a lot of the manners essential for successful living with humans. She has a pretty solid grasp of the idea that most things in the house are not hers to chew and some things are. We have had very little trouble of late with her chewing things she is not supposed to have. Constantly rescuing objects from her and substituting toys and an abundance of bones and chew things has helped a lot. The puppy mouthiness improves daily.

Walks are the highlight of Misty’s day, no surprise there. She minds very well on the leash and can now heel on command. She is also pretty trustworthy off leash. We leave her off leash for part of almost every walk now and she stays close by but also thoroughly enjoys the opportunity to run flat out. We take her into our back unfenced yard when we work and she stays in the yard and runs herself to exhaustion in great fast circles.

Misty also loves swimming. We were going to the beach on a regular basis while the weather was warm and it took little urging for her to start swimming eagerly and freely. She has big webbed feet, a legacy of her Golden Retriever mother and those make for great paddles.

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One of the pleasant surprise bonus of her temperament is she is what my husband calls “a contemplative dog”. She likes to spend a lot of quiet time just watching the world go by outside, taking it all, watching everything with great interest but quietly. Fred suffers from such severe separation anxiety that he simply will not sit quietly outside. If we are not with him, he wants in right away. A dog who seems to enjoy sitting outside is a real pleasure. I have known a few German Shepherds who like contemplating the great outdoors so I will give her father credit for that. She daily develops more bridling the most recent being new shoulder brindle marks. Genetically she is a “trindle” i.e. a tricolour dog with brindle as her second colour. That is obviously from her father as well. Her ears are still going between up and down. In these picture they are down but when she is alert and attentive outdoors they stand up like a German Shepherd’s. I think Golden Retriever will win on that account long term though. The older she gets, the more the ears spend time down.

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Misty will sleep anywhere but given a choice she takes the big comfy dog bed or she sleeps at our feet. At night she will sneak into our room so she can sleep at the foot of our bed or on my side on the floor near me.

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Today a proper new big steel kennel arrived for our girl. It is currently large enough for both dogs in a pinch. Fred already has his own big kennel. We learned early how important it is for each dog to have a sturdy steel kennel. Many hotels, shelters and home owners who otherwise will not tolerate dogs, are happy to accommodate them if they have a proper steel kennel. After Irma and Harvey the necessity for each animal to have a proper kennel is even more obvious.

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Another thing that is different about Misty is she is clearly my dog. All the other dogs in our life regard me as a useful pack member but Hubby Dearest is clearly the Lord and Master of the Universe. For some unknown reason of dog brain functioning, Misty seems to have concluded Fred may be the big guy’s dog but she is MY dog. This is not to say she doesn’t like my husband, especially at mealtime because he is in charge of food, but if he gives her a command, she will look to me to reinforce him before obeying. If I get up in the night to use the washroom, Misty always gets up and follows me. She doesn’t follow him. Where I go, she always tries to follow. I must admit after 25+ years of playing second fiddle master, it is very nice to have my own dog at long last.

Misty is an easy going puppy. You expect all kind of trouble with puppies. She still forgets her manners and jumps all over me on occasion. She still will give a puppy nip and then be all contrite when scolded for it. But I see improvement every day. She is also endlessly and totally loving. When she runs on our walks she careens off exploring the world and then runs back for a reassuring pat and some praise. Then she is off again. It has been fun seeing the world through puppy eyes again. It is a marvellous wonderful place. Still, I am looking forward to the day we get past puppy antics and I have a quiet well behaved adult companion. Each day I see that adult dog a little more and the EF5/Category 5 puppy little less.

 

Winter is Coming.

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Last night we were under a frost advisory, meaning frost was unlikely but possible. Tonight the advisory continues. The trees have begun to turn. In Manitoba, the lower ground cover herbs and bushes turn first into gorgeous flaming reds, deep purples and brilliant orange and yellows. They are then followed by the trees which turn yellow and then brown with the exception of a few transplanted nonlocal varieties that give a brief dash of colour other than yellow. The lake where we went swimming this summer has already gotten unbearably cold and the swimming season is definitely over.

The four types of swallows we have had around all summer have vanished. yesterday I saw them flocking tightly and sitting on the power lines. Today they are gone. Their nests are empty with their babies all fledged and gone with them. The hummingbirds and the orioles will vanish soon too. I think they take their signal from the frost. One frost and they are gone. In the place of the swallows we have innumerable big heavy northern Canada geese who are pausing in our area to feast on our wheat before they go further south. The farmers are racing the geese to get the harvest in. I expect to shortly see the numbers of sand hills cranes go from a dozen or so that next nearby to over a hundred as they gather to get ready for their migration. By the time they get to the US border they will be numbering in flocks in the tens of thousands.

There is a feeling of fatigue in the plants. They struggled and fought to grow as fast as they could during our long long summer days and now they face frost and with the equinox in only a few weeks, more dark than sun. They have dropped their seeds and the edges of the plants look battered and worn out. It’s time to get ready to sleep through the cold. Time to pull down whatever parts can be saved into the roots and hope for the best when temperatures hit -40C.

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It has been a mixed summer for my garden. On the success list I can put a few items. My decision to move the tomatoes to their own bed against the garage is a huge success. We have an abundance of luscious red yellow and orange tomatoes. (The white is egg shells which add calcium to the oil as they decompose which prevents blossom rot.)

My notes for next year include reducing the number of small tomato and increasing the number of larger varieties. I planted three each of small yellow, red, and orange and three Tiny Tim. I also planted three beefsteak, three medium red and three medium yellow varieties. I have too many small ones and not enough large ones. Next year I will do 2 each of smaller strains and four of medium yellow and red and at least 6 beefsteak. And some better sturdier tomato cages are also on the “to buy” list.

The corn did much better this year and we have been enjoying a corn on the cob for dinner every night for a week now and I think we will have another week yet. I attribute this to being more careful about watering during the early stages and so that will my note for next year. Again, water your garden if the rains don’t fall. I had one giant Russian sunflower plant. I do love those. They dwarf the corn which this year was taller than I am. I leave the seeds for birds.

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My zucchini have done stunningly well this year. We have had home grown zucchini in a steady supply even for a couple that likes to eat one small one each day for breakfast. I have already collected and dried and prepared seeds for next year. Note to self: repeat procedure for next summer precisely as you did this summer.

The perennial herbs I started last year, oregano and sage, did very well. This year I started a perennial (for our area) rosemary, parsley and cilantro. They are doing well for the first year. Perennials I started last year (or the year before as in the case of the asparagus and horse radish) have done very well. My herb garden had three herbs survive the winter and flourish. Hopefully next year that will six.

This has been a year for beets. I have so many beets I am not sure what to do with them all and that includes after giving them away to anyone who wants them. I have made six jars of pickled beets. I won’t make more until I am sure we actually eat them. I froze a bunch of beet greens as one prepares spinach. We haven’t tried eating any yet because we can have fresh beet greens anytime we want from the garden. I am considering digging up some horse radish and making beet horse radish preserve. Yesterday we used or new juicer to make lovely juice from the fresh apples on our trees.

Garlic, onions and leeks which I started from seeds which I collected last year have been very successful. Garlic and onions grow to set size in one season and then you can dry them and replant them the following year for eating and harvesting more seeds. I have a year’s supply of both plus enough for planting as sets from this year’s crop. Furthermore, I have enough seed put away for next year. I planted leeks and while our season is too short for full sized leeks they did grow large enough to be used in place of green onions for variety in salads. I will plant leeks again.

I also had greater success with carrots and radishes this year. I actually got radishes to eat and the carrots have been great. I planted a mixture of coloured carrots and we have erects in purple, white and yellow in addition to traditional orange, all of them delicious. I attribute this to two innovations. I used that seed tape so they were spaced properly and I thinned whenever they got too thick. Note to self, thinning is good for carrots and radishes.

It has also been a good year for lettuce. I still have garden lettuce that has not gone to seed. I planted the lettuce in a shady part of the garden and it has thrived instead of going bitter and seeding. The only downer is that we didn’t get lettuce until much later in the year than is normal. What we got was good but I think two plantings next year, one much earlier, will mean better results.

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I will give only half marks for my cucumbers. They have not produced as much as last year but I have put aside enough pickles for the year given last year was so prodigious and we still have a few jars left. The main reason they did so poorly is because I mixed up my planting rows and put the cucumber plants in the carrot row and too close to the corn. The cucumber plants have been crowded and shaded. Note to self, better signage and don’t trust your memory.

Eggplants….well I got one small one. I put the eggplants in the corners of the herb gardens. I also didn’t start them soon enough indoors. Eggplants are slow growers. They need to be started indoors at least three weeks before tomatoes and zucchini. If I fail again I will give up on eggplants for northern gardening.

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My fruit efforts paid off rather well. My raspberries have gown and spread from the one plant to many in two summers and we had three weeks of a few raspberries a day and a week where we had a handful a day. Plus we have had even more new growth. Next year I might even be able to make my favorite jam. My little Saskatoon bushes have more than doubled their size. It will be a few more years before we get berries but I can dream.

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My strawberries also did much better than last year. I had a battle with slugs and the birds got most of them so I need to consider some way to manage that. Suggestions? I am looking at nets and traps I guess.  Even so we had a few strawberries almost every day. The two cycle ones did very well in the late August bearing round but unfortunately our new puppy loves strawberries so she got most of those. Her nose is far better than my eyes and she finds every last one.

My peppers? Better than last year but not by much. I got two green peppers and some hot peppers, enough to two jars of pickles and two of salsa. They need to be started earlier indoors as well. Earlier for peppers and eggplant, mid spring for tomatoes and only six weeks before potting in the final big pots for zucchini.

This year we planted three times the amount of potatoes and they did very well. We have been really enjoying the potatoes but we only planted one variety, Yukon Gold. Next year I want to expand the potato and corn in the back garden area and plant more varieties of potatoes. I really missed having fresh from the ground red potatoes I love so much. We could triple our crop and still eat them all.

We started three more plants in our yard. We planted many more small evergreens. We got free plants to celebrate Canada Day. (Well not really free since our taxes paid for them.) At the end of the festivities leftover baby trees destined for the garbage were rescued by Hubby Dearest and we found homes for all of them. Some went around our yard to fill in gaps in our windbreak. Some we gave to local folks who were happy to get them. The remaining 120, we planted at our bog/farmland. The trees are a native white spruce that used to be abundant around here but were largely harvested by settlers. Even if a few take on our land then generations of neglect and local species extirpation will be undone. We also added a hardy small apricot tree. We started with four babies but only one made it. (We got a credit for next year with the nursery.) We also started some shade loving perennial ground cover our neighbour kindly gave us and it has settled in nicely and should cover the ugly spaces under the deck very well as it spreads.

I found the planting boxes I made last year are really nice to work with. It is far easier to decide to weed a box than to look at the garden and see masses of weeds and not know where to begin. I have enough material to make four more boxes. I want one for my peppers so they can get more TLC. I want to get the eggplants into their own box and have one box for my leeks, onions and garlic. That will free up my herb garden for the parsley and cilantro and rosemary. I want one box for my “special projects”. I ordered and got a package of seeds for four colour varieties of raspberry. Those need to go over winter into a safe spot where I can find any seeds that successfully grow in the spring. I want to always have one box for fun stuff like that.

Last note to self: I need to be certain to space the row in my garden much wider than I did this summer. I had planned to be able to go up and down the rows with my little electric rototiller but I didn’t space the rows enough. The result was if I tried to use the rototiller, I buried the rows of little plants and so I really neglected the weeding. I also lost the dill, spinach, kale, turnip and peas I planted by rototilling them. That was my big disappointment this year. Live and learn.

And that is how it goes if you are a gardener. Some successes, some losses, and you learn more each season. I am sad the season is coming to an end. I wish I could be thinking about a fall garden like my friends in the south. Up here at the 51st parallel we are lucky to have a summer long enough to get much of anything. It is time to think about stews and soups and electric blankets on the bed, and frost. The snow doesn’t usually stay on the ground until November but we should see the odd bit of flakey white stuff that melts away fast by the time this month ends. Winter is coming. It is not just a theme for a TV series. At the 51st parallel, winter is an ever present reality.

 

All The Windows Are Done!

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Yesterday was a banner day at our little house on the prairie. We got the last of the old windows ripped out and we now have all new ones. When we moved into the house it had all the old original windows from when the house was built circa 1960. We had to change one window right away.

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There was only one spot in the house where we could get a halfway decent cellphone signal. That was near the west window.  You can see why my daughter soon felt her allergies kick into overdrive. This old window on the west side was rotting and full of black mould. We hired a local fellow to come in, rip the old window out and tear out all the crud and rot and install a nice new window.

We wanted to do all the old windows but there was no way we could afford to do it all at once unless we were willing to go into debt. One issue was that the windows could not be replaced by any standard window because the house’s window space was 5 3/4″ not 6″ wide and of nonstandard lengths and widths. So each replacement window had to be custom made.Our provincial power utility has a mechanism whereby you can borrow from them and pay back on your power bill. The problem is they only allow triple pane super high efficency windows and they charge 8% interest which at today’s rates seemed very high. We debated the double pane versus triple pane question. We have lived with both types in our house in our past. Triple pane is the most energy efficient but it comes at a much higher cost than double pane with only a small gain in efficiency. To recover that extra gain in energy savings going from double to triple pane, we would have to live to be about 200 in this small house. Double pane is just as draft free and comfortable feeling when the north wind blows, which is what is really important. Plus there are inspections required before and after with the utility plan and it all just seemed like too much hassle. When we bought the house we promised ourselves we would not create debt fixing it. And so each month I put aside a bit of money into a “window fund” instead and that fund slowly grew.

That first summer we bought some old fashioned screen things that would expand to fit the space and we forced the windows in the bedrooms open and closed with a rubber hammer and many cuss words. The front was just beyond movement even with all of hubby dearest’s strength so we gave up. When I repainted the exterior, I simply sealed in the old window’s storm fronts with calking and painted over everything. We added that thin shrinkable film stuff on the inside to improve the very marginal protection those old sash style single pane windows offered. Since we were away in winter we didn’t have to suffer but we did have to pay the cost of heating the a house with leaky old windows.

By the following spring our window fund had grown enough money to purchase three more windows and have them installed. Fortunately none of these had any rot so we could wait without endangering our health. Three new windows went in and life was instantly much easier in our old house.

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We still had the two biggest windows left. One was in the front room and one was over the kitchen sink. Both windows were impossibly dirty and scratched up and just plain awful. And so we continued our window fund and I increased the monthly deposits after getting an estimate on what two double windows would cost. After much debate we decided to simply get a nice solid picture style window in the front living room space. It had to have a centre post though because of the structural needs of the house so it would be two larger windows in one frame with a post. With the door on one side and another window on the west wall, this north facing window was not required for circulation. Hubby dearest likes to have an open window with lots of natural light where he works. He already had air circulating past him from door to small window and installing a window that could open and close would reduce the light because the window would have to be smaller. The light aspect was more important to him. By going with the double windows that don’t open we saved almost 1/3 on the cost. I did insist on having a window that could opened in the kitchen and who cares about the cost of that!

Today, the last two windows went in! Oh joy, I have a nice kitchen window that opens over the sink. We have a big beautiful picture window in our living area behind Hubby Dearest’s desk.

We have two steps left. When we first moved into this old house I knew we would changing all our windows and repainting eventually but we needed window covering now. I went into the Sear’s clearance catalogue and mail ordered clearance mini blinds and pretty but light very cheap clearance valances for all the windows. After the new window went into our bedroom last year I replaced that mini blind and valance with a proper thermal, light darkening curtain set. This means in June when the sun rises at 4:00am, the room stays dark until I actually get up. I now had to choose proper new curtains for our new windows in the front room. I wanted them to be thermal room darkening as well. This should help compensate for the fact that our new windows are double pane not triple over night and during winter when we are not here. They are on order.

My last step is to convert the window fund to new doors fund. Our screen doors are hanging on by lots of calking and bolts and fussing, along with a few prayers. The old wood doors are almost as bad as those old fashioned windows for energy loss. In the meantime, they have been sanded and repainted while I sanded and painted the interior doors and they look quite good now.

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I can’t begin to say how pleased I am to have all the old single pane sash windows almost out of my life. I did keep the old glass frames to use in my garden as spring cold frames so they will still be around but I won’t have to swing a rubber hammer to get some fresh air. I couldn’t help but do a little happy dance while admiring the new look in front. Our puppy Misty was happy to join me and turn it into a cuddle/wrestle session. Life is good!

My kitchen cupboard renovation.

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Sometimes I need to go back to old pictures to see how much progress I’ve made because it gets depressing to think about how much work this little house has needed. When we first bought it I could see immediately it was all cosmetic stuff. Everything about the house was solid. What it needed was all “easy” stuff. Paint, new windows, a better kitchen sink. Working our way to getting all the easy stuff for the third summer is getting exasperating.

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So I stand back and look at the house today and think, well we have come a long way! The exterior is all repainted. The wooden decks were all given a coating of waterproofing stuff. The vegetable garden was rescued. This summer we built a nice little fence outside to create a doggy space. The garden is coming along so nicely. Tending the flower beds is cheap and gives such immediate rewards. If I only look at the outside, the house feels entirely and comfortably mine.

This summer we began tackling the inside. The kitchen is in so many ways the heart of the home. I really wanted my own kitchen space made over the way I like and want it. And so that is where I began the inside.

I went through a whole lot of internal debate about whether or not to raise the counter and whether or not it might just be better to tear out these old cabinets and buy new ones. It certainly would have been easier! (I think.) In the end we simply upgraded the old ones. We did this for three reasons. One, it is much cheaper to repair and repaint old cupboards than to buy all new ones. Two, these old plywood cupboards are far sturdier than anything you buy on the market today short of custom designed solid oak cabinets made the old fashioned way. That would likely cost more than the whole house even if you could find a real old fashioned craftsman to drive to Alonsa to do it. My drawers even have dove tails on the ends! How often do you see those these days? If you have ever lived with pressboard cupboards that start falling apart by the time they are five years old, you know exactly how nice solid plywood can be. These cupboards are as old as I am and they are still working perfectly. Third, call me old fashioned but I really felt the handmade plywood cabinets were integral to the character of this little farmhouse. That went for the lovely old fashioned counter top. I simply don’t like the granite that is so popular these days. Ripping the old cupboards and countertop out and putting in new modern cupboards and counters just would not feel “right”. I was going to raise the countertop but then one of the older residents pointed out that lower cupboards are easier as you age and need a walker or to sit while doing dishes. Since we are hoping this home will be our last until we go into the ground, we need to think of things like that.

Sink

The single most irritating thing about the kitchen was one medium size sink. I like having two sinks. Call me crazy, but a kitchen isn’t right to me without two sinks. Since it is a small kitchen, it took some time to find the right double sink that fit but Home Hardware had it. Now I have a medium sink that is the same size as the one I had before and smaller sink on the side to dump things in when I do dishes and all those other times it is great to have two sinks instead of one.

We added a spray tap that pulls out (what a great new fangled gadget that is!) and a second small faucet for drinking water. We have the most delicious well water you can imagine but it is as hard as anything and so we have a water softener in our basement. But who wants to drink that stuff? For a while we were going outside and getting drinking water from the outside tap which does not go through the water softener. This was fine in summer although I did get some weird looks going out in the morning in my nightgown to get water for my morning coffee. Last fall I then installed a basement tap that allowed us to get drinking water without going outside. It also allows us to drain the system of water before we left for the winter. That was a huge improvement for morning water runs, especially for November when we had snow on the ground. Now we have the deluxe model with a separate tap right in the kitchen.

The other addition was a much needed stove hood. Our house is small and so if you burn something or fry something the fumes fill the entire house really quickly. We also have humidity issues so a way to quickly clear the air is very handy. The new hood (again compliments of Home Hardware) turned out to be a really big job because I had to wire it in. We soon found the charcoal filter was inadequate and we needed a vent to the outside. The precise vent was hard to fine but Amazon provided what I needed to install an exterior vent. Both jobs were successful but many cuss efforts. I also discovered that not everything in my lovely handmade plywoods cupboards was perfectly square so we added “trim” to the “must have” list.

Kitchen Prep

The kitchen in our small house also has few cupboard spaces and unfortunately two perfect good cupboards were inaccessible because one of the previous three owners painted those old fashioned sliders shut. Fortunately, the application of a little superior male intellect from hubby dearest and some more plywood and a trip to RONA for just the right hinges meant the old impossible doors could be replaced with new ones that actually open and close with a touch. We made new doors for that inaccessible set of cupboards over the stove and now I have two new lovely additional cupboards on top.

 

We decided to keep all the original hinges. They are sturdy and working just fine. Plus at an average cost of $5/hinge that was $180 we could use elsewhere. We did opt for all new matching handles. If you look at the picture where I am installing the sink, you can see how we had three different kinds of handles. I found these lovelies on sale very cheaply ($1.50 each) from Amazon. The ones I really wanted with lovely twinned ivy leaves and acorns were $70 each and they were just not lovely enough for that much money. What a difference a coat of paint and all new handles makes! (Thank you hubby dearest for cheerfully joining me in the effort of repainting and being ready to jump in anytime I needed another pair of hands or some brute strength.)

The four drawers turned out to be the biggest nuisance. Drawers have multiple surfaces which means many more sessions of doing a coat, then waiting then applying a coat, over and over again. The different handles meant that I also had to fill the original holes with wood putty and make new holes and then sand. That resulted in almost as many cusses as stove hood installation required.

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I have ordered new curtains in a pretty green and blue plaid to unify the teals and greens. We have a couple of men coming in maybe some time this week (depending on how much time ranching takes up first) to install the last two new windows we need, including the one in the kitchen. (I am hoping for more rain!) And I have to replace the yucky old yellowing electric outlets and face plates with fresh new white ones and then repaint the walls. The walls I am doing in “Alpine Air” the fanciful name for a near to white lightest possible teal.

Our original plan for this summer was repaint the entire interior of the house and install new flooring. I know kitchens are the biggest fussiest job there is but I am beginning to think just getting the kitchen done might be enough for this year. I don’t have an after picture yet because we aren’t at “after” yet. I still have lots of touch ups and clean ups. I can say, the cupboards are done!

“Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season.”

 

 

 

One Week With Misty.

IMG_0490Death is terrible but life goes on anyway. When it comes to dogs there are at least two ways dog people cope with grief. Some need to spend time quietly mourning and eventually they heal enough to be able to open their hearts again. Others are like us. We enjoy not just the individual dogs but the things that go with having a dog around like going for walks and getting greeted with a happy wagging tail. So for us being without a companion dog is a double loss, the dog itself and the companionship of the dog. For us, moving quickly on to the next companion eases the profound sense of loss and grief after the passing of the last one.

Enter Misty. We were very aware how both our Fred and Trusty were aging and that was a source of stress and pain to us. In many ways it was wonderful to have two dogs the same age because they were companions to each other in addition to being companions to us. However this meant facing the loss of both dogs at the same time. We decided before we lost one of this pair would get a new puppy so that the new puppy would already be well integrated into our life. Also, we have noted in the past that the arrival of a new young dog tends to rejuvenate the older dog while the younger dog is learning. There is a few happy months and then a realization for the old dog that this youngster is ready to take over the duties that have become a burden due to aging. The old dog can let go and sleep longer, leave barking at passing dogs and strangers to the young one, and not push so hard. It seems to me it eases their passing. They leave knowing we are not left alone.

 

Our home (purchased two and a half years ago) was not suitable for a new puppy. We have a front area where the dogs went out  to do their business or sun, but that was a pair of much older dogs who were accustomed to being on leads, leashes and tethers when not in the house with us. That is too hard for a young puppy. Puppies don’t understand being tied and it makes them miserable. They need a safe place to just be puppies and run and jump and roll unless the owner is ready to spend a lot of time going to safe dog parks. We knew we needed a fence. Our wonderful neighbours came through for us, a big sale was going on for lumber at the local co-op, and we soon had everything we needed to fence the front dog area. Puppies are also clumsy and silly so Dick added lots of extra boards to the front deck so the puppy couldn’t fall off and break something.

The choice of dog was tough. Fred was our first big dog. We didn’t plan on having a big dog. Fred came to us because Trusty brought him home one day and introduced him. Fred taught us there are some real advantages to a big dog. Primary among them is that being big, just their presence can act as a deterrent to those up to no good. During our many travels we have had humans try to attack us four times and each time Fred transformed from the sweetest gentlest doggy you could ever find to a snarling killer dog whose bad attitude drove off the attacker. A well socialized, properly trained dog who knows people also knows when they up to no good. I have to wonder how many other times having a big dog made some predatory human decide to go hunt elsewhere before we ever knew we were being assessed for vulnerability as prey. Also many years ago while we were at a riverside campground, a boy of four got in over his head. Fred noticed the child in distress well before any of us humans. He leaped into the water, wrenching the leash right out of my hand and swam straight to the little guy. Dad was just entering the water when Fred got there. The child (who had been floating just at the surface) pulled himself up onto Fred to lift his head up with a huge gasping sound. Fred swam back with the little guy clinging to him meeting the father halfway. A small dog would never have been able to do such a miraculous thing. So we knew this time we wanted another big dog.

We also knew we didn’t want an older rescue. All of our dogs but Trusty were older rescues. All of them had been mistreated and came with baggage from something awful in their past. Even our current dog Fred came with separation anxiety, roaming behaviour, some minor aggression issues and intense food anxiety that made him a real handful for the first three years we had him. It took him a long time to finally bond to us. All of these dogs adjusted to us and bonded but the process of untraining bad habits and establishing trust and making the bond with the older dog took a lot of time and, for some things, it was never fully accomplished. An older dog often comes already housebroken and spayed or neutered but, frankly, we were tired of dealing with all the other issues. Having already adopted so many older rescues over the years, we just didn’t want to do it again. We wanted a new puppy like Trusty had been, who would be ours from the beginning. Trusty was the most cheerful, happy, trusting little girl and I think that was in large part because she went from an experienced show dog breeder to an experienced dog home as a young pup. (I know some people think all breeders are evil. I personally do not accept the position that a responsible show dog kennel owner who is raising grand champion dogs, does not allow litter to happen unless she has a waiting list of adopters, and even then only has puppies about once in five years a part of carefully planned breeding program, is in the same class or deserving of the same scorn as a back yard breeder or a puppy mill.)

You would think finding a young rescue puppy would be easy. It was not. We came head long into the phenomena know as “retail rescue“. Naturally we wanted to avoid this. One rescue near us boasted of over 80 puppies needing rescue, puppies of all kinds of breeds and types, but they wanted an astonishing $850 for these pups. How does one have a constant stream of rescuable puppies if one is not in retail rescue? The other rescues acted in ways we found repugnant. One rescue took three weeks to answer us about a puppy they had available for adoption on their website only to say that puppy was gone. Even though their website showed nearly a dozen new babies desperately needing homes and they were pleading for donations of money and supplies, they would only offer us a totally different and entirely unsuitable older dog instead. And then there was the other dog they had who was in a doggy wheelchair because his back legs didn’t work but it wasn’t much extra trouble to care for him. He just had to have a wheel chair accessible ramp at the door or to be carried up and down the stairs each time. They gave us a “well if you just want a healthy puppy you don’t deserve a dog” attitude.

Other rescues were what seemed to be outright neurotic, far more interested in passing judgement on us evil humans than actually rehoming puppies. One rescue wanted us to agree to take a dog that might have aggression issues and a biting history and promise we would not ever put the dog down for aggression. That is simply not happening because my sense of responsibility to my community is far more important than to my dog, so sorry. In my book the only good aggressive dog with bite/attack history is a dead one.

One rescue appeared to be run so the owner could have a constant supply of young puppies. No puppy could leave them until after the age of six months, fully housebroken and trained, and at substantially higher costs. When I said we wanted to train our puppy ourselves, I was told very firmly that should always be left to professionals and rehoming a puppy before such professional training was dog abuse. (Utter nonsense!)

Another one said they would not let us adopt because we were too old and the dog was likely to outlive us! (My husband is 73 and I am 57.) Another wanted to see five years worth of our income tax assessments to be sure we could really afford a dog. (Uh no. We’re not doing that.) Several demanded we agree to home assessments before and after placement and one wanted us to give them the legal right to swoop in and seize the dog back with no refund of the adoption fee for any reason they decided on, plus the right to bill us to recoup any and all costs associated with taking the dog back. In the event of any dispute we had to agree to pay all legal fees. That was not acceptable to us either. A pre-adoption home assessment was fine but not the other stuff. Speaking of home assessments, two rescues refused us because we lived too far from the city for them to send someone out to do a home assessment.

I was once accused of abusing Trusty Dog by a vet technician I met at a dog party. She thought Trusty Dog was too thin compared to her dog. In fact, Trusty was a perfect weight by our vet’s estimate at her regular check up a month before. Trusty Dog had also been assessed by an expert team raising awareness of dog obesity at the dog party we were attending. Yet this fruitcake asked me all kinds of questions in order to determine who to complain to and she called the owner of the kennel we got Trusty Dog from. She created such a fuss that the kennel owner reluctantly and apologetically contacted me to make sure Trusty Dog was not being starved. Trusty Dog simply had a more “rangy” terrier build. This was why she was sold to us as a pet quality animal in the first place! I also learned that the people running the obesity clinic was apparently fools because they had told the crazy person that her dog was overweight. (Surprise, surprise.) The kennel owner reported to me how this nut had already had her in small claims court over false dog abuse charges once and she warned me to be careful of her. After that experience, I was certainly not about to give up my legal rights to the dog, in advance, in a contract. I know for certain this woman would have seized Trusty Dog from us for our perceived abuse if she could have. I just knew from that experience that I would spend the rest of that dog’s life waiting for a neurotic nut to swoop in, accuse me of dog abuse, and seize the dog and break my heart. It would make bonding with the dog extremely difficult.

My story is not unique. Unresponsive, difficult, neurotic individuals in rescue organizations are common place. I felt all the rescues I contacted were either unethical “retail rescues” or they were making it so difficult to get a puppy that we despaired of ever finding one. Even the shelters that we knew were good ones reported that rescues swooped in and immediately adopted any puppies that they did get so that regular folks like us would never have a chance. We kept looking. Meanwhile, we kept working on the fence.

And then a small miracle happened as such things tend to. There was a small ad in a local paper. Golden Retriever mother and German Shepherd father (probably). I talked to the woman selling the puppies and it soon became obvious this was no puppy mill. Her 12 year old Golden Retriever (who had never had puppies before and was assumed to be incapable) had unexpectedly produced a later of eight puppies after an unauthorized visit from two full brothers who lived two farms over. The young woman was embarrassed, even apologetic, about the unplanned litter. Mom was an older but still fit and lovely girl who had spent many years as a farm dog/family pet and she had been used for hunting. She was a real working dog.

 

The young lady who owned the pups said they had to stay with their mother for a full 8 weeks and she would not release them until after they had their first puppy shot and vet check. Mom was fully vaccinated and healthy in spite of being skinny from nursing pups. She asked me a few appropriate questions that indicated she was making sure the puppy was going to a good home but she was not a neurotic fruitcake. She was asking far less than any formal rescue, basically enough to cover the vet costs and a bit extra for her trouble. She was also local to us and her family’s reputation was excellent. We decided to go see these puppies.

I read up on Golden Retrievers as a breed and on German Shepherds first. I also read about Golden Shepherds, a so called designer hybrid. All of this looked very promising except that we wanted a dog who would be reserved and protective and if the puppy took after the golden side too much, we would get a big happy goofball who would likely wag her tail and lick a stranger out to rob or injure us. Goldens are not exactly noted for their protectiveness. Both breeds are highly intelligent, attach firmly to their people, need lots of activity and long walks and a lot of time just being with their owners. These are all pluses for us as an older retired couple. It seemed a good match of breed to owner.

On our way to see these puppies we stopped and saw the pair of big males of which one was the presumed father. They were also assumed to be purebred German Shepherd. These were working farm dogs, in glowing good health. Being from a  working dog line I was pleased to note they did not have the long sloping back so prized among German Shepherd show types but associated with hip dysplasia. I watched the owner of these two boys interacting with them. He was using hand signals and the dogs were immediately and correctly responding. We met the mother and she was a delightful and typical Golden Retriever. So both parents of these puppies were real working farm dogs, intelligent, healthy and of excellent temperament. We decided to take one puppy. We wanted a female since we felt that a female puppy would be more likely to integrate into our existing family. We also had a family wedding to attend and we wanted her to stay one extra week with her Mom after her shots. I also wanted the shot to have some time to work before taking her home. I am crazy afraid of parvo. The nice woman immediately agreed to the extra week.

All this settled, we finally went to see the puppies. They were happily running about in a box stall, healthy, fat and sweet tempered.  Young children were present so the pups were already well accustomed to children which was a plus. There were also horses, cats and goats nearby and the pups were therefore likely to be tolerant of all kinds of animals. This was no puppy mill litter. If anything it was an accidental litter from responsible pet owners (aside from the lack of spaying and neutering something very common in farm dogs) who were now trying to do the right thing by these puppies. The next task was simply picking the right puppy for us out of the five females in the litter.

When the woman opened the door to the stall the puppies came tumbling out, joyous happy tail wagging bundles. One puppy started with the crowd and then spotted us and immediately paused. She held back. Her little sweet puppy face was hesitant. I read “Wait a minute, do I know you? Are you safe?” After a proper introduction she immediately became a happy friendly pup but that moment of hesitation was critical in my assessment. She was a reserved dog, not fearful, just reserved. And when I picked her up and gently flipped her over to check she submitted gracefully and, yes she was a female. The pause she exhibited was more German Shepherd than Golden. She was our pup.

We had left Trusty at home because traveling upset her too much but Fred was with us. We took her over to introduce her to Fred. He immediately did a full body joyous melt as if she was the cutest thing in the entire universe. She did her reserved hesitation thing again. After assessing Fred and deciding he was okay, she wagged her tail and gave him a puppy kiss and I thought Fred would pass out from his joy. Fred approved of her. Now we had nearly four long weeks to wait until she could come home.

 

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We have had her for a week now. It has been almost pure pleasure. She is intelligent and adaptable. In one week she has already learned her call name and the commands “off” (as in put it down and/or don’t touch it), “come”, “out” (as in we are going out to the yard now), and “down”. The crate was a strain at first but she went in at bed time and slept in it all night last night without a whimper. Being a puppy, she hasn’t much attention span but she’s listening and responding to the commands for at least a few minutes. She is testing us to see what we are consistent about. She is walking well on the leash although we aren’t yet doing more than pleasure walking. Heel, sit, and stay, lie down and the formal stuff will all come later when she is a bit bigger. She has enough to learn right now. A friend of ours came to see her and she reacted by barking at him and backing off until she had a chance to look him over. Now that she knows him, he gets a joyous greeting. I like a dog that is a bit suspicious and reserved but soon learns who she can trust. We took her to the beach and she is a natural water dog. She followed Fred right in and swam eagerly with him. And she chases and fetches a ball already.

Fred adores her though she gets disciplined by him. She worships Fred and happily does anything she sees him doing which is making housebreaking really easy. As long as we get her out of the house we have no accidents. She hasn’t figured out how to let us know she needs to go out yet, so we still have a puddle or two each day, which is to be expected. I no longer get to sleep in because she has these spells of being frenetically active and the only cure is a walk around town until she is tired out and that begins when she gets up at about 7:00am. This is actually good for me. (I keep telling myself this.)

We named her Misty for two reasons. We wanted to memorialize Trusty Dog and another dog from my husband’s past named Rusty. She is mostly black but she has a few hairs that just make a mist patch of white on her chest. Plus she has gold brindling highlights. Trusty Dog was a brindle and I love that on Misty. People who see her assume she is a lab because she has the golden/lab shaped face. For campgrounds that don’t allow German Shepherds she will be a lab cross.

Best of all she has firmly and absolutely bonded to us. We are her people. She is our dog. And we have a joyous house full of puppy kisses and happy exploration and just plain fun. Right now as I write she is lying at my feet sleeping. She is happiest beside one of us and she often sleeps in a place halfway between us both. Trusty Dog, I miss you still and thinking of you still makes me eyes tear up but don’t worry about me. Fred, we know your time is coming sooner rather than later. Your hips hurt so long walks are no longer possible and your lumps and bumps keep getting lumpier and bumpier. You’ll be able to go in peace when it is time, knowing we are well taken care of. With Misty, we are fine.

At this point there is only one family member who isn’t happy. The cat is not a big fan of puppy kisses and being bowled over with exuberant puppy greetings. Klinger has had to be very stern and unforgiving in teaching her that cats are not fellow puppies and must not be treated as such. Klinger was horrified when she arrived and he is still not a bit happy with us for bringing this canine nuisance into his otherwise well ordered life. As of yesterday, he has stopped growling, hissing, spitting and threatening to take her eyes out, mostly because she has learned about his sharp claws on her tender nose and she has begun keeping a properly respectful distance. Life goes on. Praise G-d.

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