Sunday, September 27, 2009

Things are not always what they seem......

I just got in from the airport, pulled into the carport, and as I got out of the car, I looked down and wondered who left a bungee cord wrapped around the rails. However, upon closer inspection.............

Friday, September 25, 2009

It's Always Something Around Here....

Our dogs are excellent at doing their job.......which is to patrol our remote section of the mountain and keep us safe from predators.........the two or four-legged kind. Over the past six-plus years, they have run off numerous suspicious people in suspicious vehicles, and chased countless bear, bob cats, wild boar, deer, lamas, snakes, and others back into the woods where they belong and away from our (their) home. This also allows me to walk around on the mountainside accompanied by my large guardians and feel very safe.

But sometimes, as was the case early this morning, they don't discriminate between actual predators and the more innocent creatures that should be allowed to cohabitate peacefully within their boundaries. They see movement, especially in the dark, and go to work.

About 3:00AM this morning, they decided this enormous raccoon shouldn't be trespassing and chased him about 50 feet up a tree. To make certain he didn't come down, they sat vigil ALL NIGHT, barking. I can only imagine how terrified this little guy must have been.

At daylight, I was able to go into the woods to see what all the noise was about. This guy was curled into a ball so all I could see was fur and because he is so big, initially, I thought it might be a baby bear cub. Of course, my next thought was "Where's the mom???". But after I secured the dogs and he felt a little safer to uncurl from his defensive position, I could see through the lense of my camera that he was the beautiful, very large raccoon pictured below.

Once the barking stopped, with the dogs secured elsewhere, he was able to escape the treetops and relocate to a safer part of the mountain. I wish him a safe journey.

So......this is how my day began.

From a distance, he looks like a little bear cub in this photo above because I couldn't see the rings on his tail or the "bandit" eyes as I could inn the photo below.

Monday, September 21, 2009

"...and miles to go before I sleep..."

This wall is being built, literally and figuratively, one stone at a time.

Our paths are never straight....

We chose to outline our rows of vines with thousands of rocks we have picked up, one bucket at a time, from the mountain.

One of my jobs is to stack the rocks in a little wall to form a barrier for water runoff on the hillside. These tiny little levees help to prevent the young vines from washing away until their roots can take a firm hold. I sit in the dirt, facing forward, stacking the little stones, then inch forward and stack more.

Until I stop, stand and look behind me do know if I have laid a straight or crooked path.

I think I have found a metaphor for my life.........

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Working in the Vineyard....

We worked in the vineyard this afternoon until it got too dark to see. Dennis strung wire on the metal cross arms and removed some of the grow tubes while I pulled weeds and worked on the little rock walls that surround each row.

We don't talk much while working in the vineyard. Dennis, caught up in his vision and dreams for this vineyard that have been six years in the making. Six years of studying soil, sun and drainage patterns, and researching types of grapes. But me, my mind tends to wander. Usually I find myself thinking about the vineyards in the Tuscan region of Italy; hundred of years, handed down generation to generation, each family member doing exactly what we are doing today, back-break, painstaking labor, hoping for a crop of unique one-of-a-kind grapes, the likes of which have never been tasted before. It would have been easier had we not chosen to grow organically. But we wanted to insure the soil was pure and the grapes untainted by chemicals or pollutants.

Even our large, clumsy, usually rowdy dogs seem to sense this is a reverent place. They are calm, respectful, almost reflective here, and often caught up in peaceful thoughts of their own.

The edge of the woods is near, and sometimes, while working in the vineyard, I get the distinct feeling I am being watched. I scan the wood line, and never see anything. But I know somewhere in those woods, the native inhabitants are watching, camouflaged by their habitat, wondering what these strange two-legged creatures are doing.

My dad had a stroke before the first vines began to bud. But he knew everything about the plan. He saw the drawings, he walked the land as it was plotted out for planting and he was excited at the prospect of his wild overgrown hillside producing something of value.

I can only hope (dream) that 50, 100 years from now, someone who I have not met yet will be picking grapes from this vineyard and wondering about the people who planted them.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My Memories of Dogs

A walk down memory lane with some of my oldest and best friends.............

This is my grandfather's hunting dog. He worried I spoiled the dog and would take the "hunt" out of him by sneaking table scraps, petting him too much and telling him stories. An interesting thing about this picture it that it was taken sometime around 1955....and by happenstance, I have the EXACT same dog today (2009) that I rescued three years ago after I found him starving and abused by some hunters. The two dogs have the same markings , they are the same size (but I have grown a bit!) , a sweet shy temperment, and sometimes I can't help but wonder how we came to find one another........perhaps again?

If you ever thought it strange that I have such affection for dogs, these pictures might answer a few questions. My earliest memories are of dogs....the way they smell, the way they feel, but most of all, they way they loved me. I can remember countless times, sitting in the corner of my yard, feeling sad or lonely and telling my various dogs all of my troubles. They always listened politely and made me feel so much better.
As I grew up, I never forgot those feelings of comfort and love. These days, I try to return the favor to dogs who need me, just as I needed them so many years ago. And even though our roles seem to be reversed now, the love we share is just as strong.

These were my friends that I played with at my grandmother's house. I wanted them to feel equal so I insisted on carrying them around together, often with a disasterous outcome for the three of us because I wasn't a very graceful child.....something that followed me into adulthood. We had tea parties, and one day when my grandmother was busy in the house, I put makeup on them. Instead of getting into trouble, my grandmother laughed and told me how beautiful they looked, then we put them in her bathtub and gave them a bath.

I was two years old when this photo was taken in my great-grandmother's yard in Centerville. I don't remember this guy's name but I do remember how he would get low to the ground so I could pet his nose. And his hair was very soft. He followed me everywhere, even though I didn't walk very well. He would stop and wait when I fell, and then off we would go again. I think this was my first love.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Patrick Swayze and My Mother

Today, when I learned of the death of Patrick Swayze, I was overcome with sadness.

I was sitting in a hospital room with my mother at the beginning of March, 2008, as we watched the news that Patrick Swayze had been diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer. On that night, we knew that my mother had been diagnosed the previous August with the same disease. What we didn't know that night was that my mother had less than a month to live.

On that evening, my mother talked about how handsome he was, what a good dancer he was, and how she enjoyed his movies. She speculated that he would probably have the surgery she was unable to have due to her age and the risk. Because my mother never accepted that she would die from this horrible disease until two weeks before her death, she didn't accept it would take someone as young and healthy as Patrick Swayze either.

The day Luciano Pavaretti died of Pancreatic Cancer in September, 2007, my husband called me in my mother's hospital room with a rather frantic "Do NOT turn the news on today". She had only known for a month this was her diagnosis too, and we were all trying to wrap our minds around what this meant. So, I kept the television in her room off that day and tried to engage her in other activities. I left that evening as she went to sleep, only to return the next morning with her first question being, "Did you know Pavaretti died yesterday from the same thing I have?".

From August to the following March, my sister and I were glued to our computers, researching anything and everything we could find about the disease. Nothing we read was encouraging. In fact, the more educated we became, the more discouraged we grew. But it was weeks before we could speak aloud the inevitable truth to one another. We knew our mother's fate, just as we knew what the outcome would be for the young and vibrant Patrick Swayze.

And while this living hell kept my mother captive for eight months, two months longer than the average lifespan after diagnosis, Mr. Swayze had youth on his side and was able to battle for 20 months after his initial diagnosis.

So, even though we knew how our mother's story would end, her death at 1:04 pm on March 31, 2008 came as a heartbreaking jolt.

I am sure that the family of Patrick Swayze felt the same way today.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Has Technology Passed me By????

The washer and dryer in my house in Arkansas look pretty much like the washer and dryer everyone had....20 years ago! Very simple, very basic features that anyone with a 4th grade education can operate. Even though they are about 10-12 years old, they work perfectly well and I see no need to replace them until they die a natural death.

However, as the result of a series of unfortunate events involving two very close friends in Kansas City, I recently obtained possession of the very exotic piece of machinery, pictured above, for our condo. Apparently, there is a whole new world of electronic appliances that are so technologically advanced, the owners manual should be offered as a college course.

This one-piece ventless washer/dryer combination is very common in Europe, often found installed in the kitchen due to lack of space elsewhere. However, I doubt most of the European-style units are as technologically advanced as this computer controlled, LED lighted, state-of-the-art unit my much younger friends bought and could operate blindfolded.

The concept is simple: place the clothes in the drum, go through a series of computer prompts that will determine multiple settings for everything from water temperature, spin cycle speed, rinse specifics, and all sorts of drying options. This miracle of modern technology even steam cleans! It has a timer that tells you (to the second) how much longer the entire process will take. It has beautiful soft blue lighting and soothing little chirps and soft bell sounds as it goes through the process of washing and drying your clothes. It is so beautiful it looks like a piece of jewelry, a rather large piece of jewelry, but jewelry none-the-less.

Just put the clothes in, walk away, and come back FOUR HOURS LATER!

Do the math my friends. If you get up really early and go to bed late at night, you MIGHT do three loads of laundry in one day. That is, if you are more computer literate than I am and can program the thing, understand the owners manual, and don't spend the first 30 minutes looking for the lint filter (there isn't one!).

I love this beautiful new machine. It makes laundry feel like a work of art and it makes me feel so modern, so European......but oh so stupid!

Labor Day at the Bella

Adam, Geoff, Chelsea, Chad, Dennis, Junior, Candi, Wendy, Jenny, Greg

In order to welcome my very favorite time of year, autumn, we have to bid farewell to summer. This parting of the seasons ritual is more commonly known as Labor Day.
Thanks to our Kansas City friends who joined Dennis and I at our condo to usher in the new season.