Friday, June 28, 2013

Perfect Match

A dog named Pax came into our home and our lives a couple of weeks ago and we already love her dearly.

Pax is probably about six-years-old (that’s the best guess from our vet) and is a mixed breed with the beautiful markings of a husky but the size of a large beagle.  She has lived in several other homes that didn’t work out for various reasons, but here the dog/human match was perfect from the first time we met her and petted her soft ears and looked into her gentle brown eyes.

Pax follows us everywhere.  When I go out to the barn in the morning to feed the chickens and gather eggs, Pax waits patiently outside the barn doors while I do my chores.  Even as I type these words, she is close by, contentedly napping on the floor in my office.

There is no doubt in my mind that the humans in the homes where Pax lived previously loved her too.  As a matter of fact, Pax most recently was our son's dog but he found that he had to leave her home too much of the day, alone in an apartment while he was at work. He felt she'd be better off living with Leah and me, out in the country. It was a selfless and generous act for our son to pass Pax along to Leah and me.

We'll give Pax a good home.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Maps are for Babies

We hiked and we hiked,  and then we hiked some more.  UPHILL we hiked,  hour after hour,  mid-morning becoming late afternoon, on a trail so steep that the numbers on my hiking companion’s altimeter flashed by as if we strapped the thing to a supercharged Fourth of July bottle rocket and launched it into outer space.

My friend and I were in Central Washington last Saturday,  climbing a mountain that neither of us had done before, a route not technically difficult,  just long.  I mean l-o-n-g. And though both of us are in pretty good shape because we’ve done mountain hikes or climbs nearly every week for the past several months,  by the time we made our summit Saturday, we were pretty well spent.

We dropped our packs and gazed triumphantly off toward all the peaks that were below us...except for one summit, maybe a mile away,  that looked higher than the point where my friend and I stood.

“Neil,” I said, “That peak over there looks higher than where we are.  There shouldn’t be anything nearby that’s higher, should there?”

“No,” Neil said. “There shouldn’t be anything higher.”  We pulled out the map (which we hadn’t bothered to consult till that point,) and realized, to our chagrin, that we had climbed The Wrong Damn Mountain.

It was late in the day.  Storm clouds looked to be heading our way. We were tired. We really needed to start heading down.

“Let’s give ourselves an hour,” I suggested. “We’ll head over there and see how high up we can get in an hour.”

Fifty-nine minutes later we were on the summit.  The Real Summit. Nothing higher for miles around. And this time we certainly didn’t need to check no stinkin' map to know we’d climbed The Right Peak.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Empty Pasture

Many times this week Leah and I caught ourselves looking out toward our pasture to check on Smokey and Pumpkin, a habit we developed in the 16 years there were animals grazing there.  It’s strange how empty the pasture feels to us with the recent passing of those creatures. The pasture grass is already beginning to grow high and it won’t be long before that part of our place goes wild.

There are many animals in our world, of course, and with Smokey and Pumpkin on my mind the past several days, I suppose it is not surprising that I photographed other four-leggeds.

Friends invited me to go on a mushroom foraging trip in the mountains near Chinook Pass, and, though I did not find many mushrooms,  I did happen upon a fawn, nesting alone in some tall grass.  Its mother must have been out foraging for food too, and I was careful not to get too close to the baby (I used a long telephoto lens to make the image you see here.)

Another day I walked down the lane that passes our neighbor’s place and saw their horse out grazing near a huge patch of buttercups, the horse’s mane blowing in the breeze. 

When Smokey and Pumpkin were with us, I never went outside without a camera because those two critters were kind of like our kids and it was my role to take pictures of their lives.  I suspect there are other creatures who live in our pasture I’ll now get to know -- frogs? butterflies? birds? -- but,  for the time being, I look out there and really miss seeing that old sheep and goat.

Friday, June 7, 2013


Even as we ate a fine meal and celebrated the New Year January 1st in our warm, comfortable home, I remember looking out the window toward our pasture and having the feeling that 2013 might be a year that could bring changes to our little farm.  After all, three of our animal friends were old, and,  though our vet, Leah, and I were doing the best we could to keep the critters mobile and comfortable with various medications and lots of TLC, there comes a time when living things die. 

I had a feeling.

A week ago I wrote about the death of our goat Pumpkin.  I wrote about burying her here on our place, and told how a kindly neighbor had brought over a loaner sheep to be a buddy for our one remaining sheep, Smokey. Happily, the two sheep seemed to bond almost instantly.  They grazed together,  and, at night,  slept close to one-another under the same tree.  We called the loaner sheep “Dolly”  and I shot a number of pictures this past week of Smokey and Dolly.

Yesterday morning I awoke and could hear Dolly’s baahs coming from the barn, but she sounded agitated.  I went to the barn and found Smokey, dead.  He had passed away sometime during the night.  I buried Smokey yesterday afternoon, and Dolly’s owner came over with her truck and and took Dolly back home.

Our pasture is empty today.  The only animals remaining in our barn are three old chickens who rarely lay eggs, and a big, oaf of a rooster who we named Randy Quaid Rooster.

We have three gardens near our barn and soon those gardens will begin producing.  We’ll have strawberries in a week or two, and salad greens soon after that.  The cycle of life continues here.

Someday we might invite neighbors to graze their critters in our now-empty pasture.  For now we can’t get over how quiet things are without our sweet friends, Pumpkin and Smokey.