Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Master Gardener

     This is my park bench.  It is purposely positioned under two large maple trees and surrounded by an assortment of hedges and bushes.  It is a place of reflection, contentment, peace and my prayer bench.
     I love spending time here with my Father.  It is shady on a hot day, peaceful when the world is a mess and has a spectacular view of the splendor created by my Father.
     I thrill in reading scripture aloud and listening to it come back to me off the canyon wall.
     I am fascinated by the canopy of leaves overhead that were spoken into existence, the number of shades of green and the variety of shapes.
      The view of my yard includes all the flowers, bushes, trees and hedges that we have planted since moving here.  All of it is beautiful.  Caring for it is rewarding.
     But none of it compares to the work of the Master Gardener Who laid all things before the beginning of time.  The Master Gardener Who put the mountains in place and ordered the creek to flow between.  The Master Gardener Who imagined the trees and said, "Let them be," and planned to bring us here at this point in time and gifted us with such beauty just because He wanted.
     The Master Gardener Who shed His blood so we wouldn't have to.  I want no other garden except what is planted by Him.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Cow with the Big Horns

     Part of my morning ritual, and has been for twenty years, is to walk with my dog for one hour.  We both look forward to it.  In the summer months, I stay on our road due to the infestation of thistles that require hours of combing to free from my dog's coat.
    Today we ran into a small herd of assorted cattle in the middle of the road.  Most were gentle, and even posed in a docile fashion as I snapped their photographs.  They let us pass unmolested.  All except one.  The cow with the extremely long horns.
     My little dog, Gypsy, who can interpret cow language to some degree, grew weary.  She made a wide berth away from the ill-tempered cow.  (I later noticed that the cow had a calf close to her side.)  At this point the cow came after us.  Since my dog is on a leash and the leash is gripped firmly in my hand, I was forced to sprint the length of a football field until my little dog was comfortable with the distance that we'd put between us and the herd of cows.
     The day was beautiful, Gypsy recovered from her fright and we enjoyed the rest of our walk.  But we had one problem.  We had to return the same way we came which was now blocked by a herd of cows.
      I don't carry a cell phone because we don't get coverage in the little canyon where we live.  2nd Corinthians 12:9 "My God is sufficient for all my needs..."
      We marched back home enjoying the morning but kept an eye out for the menopausal cow.  And there they were, now in a stretch of the road with a high rock wall on one side and a steep drop off to the creek on the other side.  There was no room to slip around the herd undetected.
     "I can do all things through Jesus Christ Who gives me strength."  Philippians 4:13.
     I said it out loud to my dog to bolster her courage, (and my own).
     She looked back at me.  "It wouldn't hurt to have a plan."
     "OK," I told her.  "Here's our plan:  We'll find some place to crawl down the bank to the river, wade the creek for a ways, and then crawl back up the bank after we are past the cows."
     Gypsy glanced at me with doubt, but didn't offer anything better.  As we started approaching the herd of cows, one brought up it's head in alarm.  I couldn't find any place to crawl safely down the bank.  My dog was growing anxious.
     The the entire herd threw up their heads and gawked at us in sheer terror.  In a split second a chaotic stampede of cattle raced AWAY from us down the road in the opposite direction.
     The herd kept this pace until they found an open gate and charged into a field and off the road without disturbing a hair on my dog or me.  I was both relived and perplexed.  How could the cows be so docile one minute and terrified of us the next?
     Psalm 18:29 - "By my God I can leap over a wall!"  My little dog and I had a need and He heard my call for help!  My God is great and my God is faithful!  When I have Him, I have need of nothing else, not even a cell phone.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Granny B's Cattle Ranch

      Granny B. turns 80-years-old this month.  She has been ranching for decades, squeezing dimes and nickels to buy cattle supplement, a new bull here and there and all the many, many other costs that accompany the culture of ranching.  She loves her animals.  She has bottle-fed many orphan calves, and many of those orphans grew up to be very large, loyal cows.
      She battles cold weather during calving, stray dogs that chase and kill new calves, high feed costs and low prices at market time in the fall.  She falls in love with each and every one of her cows, has names for all of them, and grieves when she has to sell them.
     Her corrals are falling down, the fences all need work, and she can't quite keep up the way things need to be kept up.  Her cows have been good to her, keeping her in a livlihood that is disappearing slowly.  She still loves to walk through her hay fields and gather the sticks that might cause the swather problems when my brother starts haying.
     Granny B., my mom, has decided that it is time to call an end to this era.  Winter was unusually rough, spring flood waters severe, and her arthritis increasingly more restricting. She has sorted her cattle from my brother's, loaded them onto his truck and taken them to auction.
     It was a difficult decision.  She stews over the kind of treatment and the homes that her cows will go to. But no one ever said that cattle ranching was easy.  It's never been a profession for the mild or the tenderhearted.
     And so, Granny B. enters true retirement.  Well, sort of.  She has kept twenty-five head of her very favorite cows as companions and pets.  After all, it is in her blood.  She will always be a cattle rancher.

Saturday, April 30, 2011


     This is a tribute to our dog, Dusty, now deceased.  She started life out as Kip's companion until he left for college and then she became mine.
     Anyone who labels an animal as 'dumb' obviously doesn't spend much time around animals.  This is illustrated regularly in the news.  Today's feature was a little dog who opened four doors to get into a bathtub filled with water to save herself from a house fire while her people were out.  She survived with just a little soot on her fur.
     Then there is the little gray parrot who alerted her person to the toddler that the girl was babysitting.  The baby was choking on a tidbit and the girl was in another room.  The parrot called to her with the words, "Mama, baby, help!"  The baby was rescued. The parrot had never uttered this before ever.
     Our Katie Bug dog, also now deceased, used to play hide-and-seek with our son Kip many years ago.  They played the game over and over and over.  About ten years later, another pet owner filmed his dog doing the very same thing and won $10,000 on Funniest Home Videos.
     But this story is about Dusty, a.k.a. Pooh Bear.  She was a Border Collie/German Shepherd mix and a very smart, loving little friend.  One hot, still August night at about 2 a.m., Dusty began barking relentlessly at our back door.  
     I woke up and got out of bed to check on her.  The first thing that I noticed was a heavy wood smoke smell in the air.  Our power was out, but  I became aware of an unearthly orange glow surrounding everything. I ran to the front of the house and was greeted with a sight that I hope we never witness again:  a roaring, plunging wall of flames quickly spreading across the ridge top, completely engulfing the tall Ponderosa pine trees.
     After waking my husband and my brother who was visiting, we began gathering our animals with plans to evacuate.  Hooking a horse trailer up in total darkness, as well as loading our cats in carriers when we couldn't even see the cage door, was more than just a challenge, it was a nightmare.  Not only could we hear the roaring, we could feel the heat of the fire replacing the early morning cool.  Ashes and dead spiders rained down over everything.
     In all the chaos, one of us had the mind to pray.  We got together and asked God for help.  Shortly afterward, a light wind arose and began blowing up the ridge.  It sent the fire in the opposite direction, creating a 'safety zone' between us and the raging flames.  God is good and we are grateful for His ever-present care.
     From that point, we placed lawn chairs in the front yard and watched the show, and it was a good one.  It required five different departments, fire fighters and a helicopter with a bucket to extinguish. (The helicopter scooped water from the pond in front of our house, so we had quite a few guest spectators, too.)
    Next time a little dog won't stop barking, it's very possible that she has something very important to tell someone.  Maybe even, "Forest Fire...FOREST FIRE...ForEST fire....forest FIRE....FOREST FIRE!!"
    Thank you, Dusty.  We love you.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Kitty Chronicles Volume One

     Science assures us that no two snowflakes are alike.  Owning cats has taught us that no two cats are alike.  Cats are as different as people.  One wakes up cranky, mettlesome and combative and the other joyful, enthusiastic and ready to eat.  I will let you guess who rolls who as we fill the cat food dish first thing in the morning.
     A trip to the vet also embraces three different approaches for three different personalities.  Our little Princess, "Miss Prefect", steps willingly into her kitty carrier without a fuss.  Bootsie cat, our outdoor kitty, doesn't fight, but makes his opinion obvious as soon as the cage door clicks shut.  However, caging Spiffy, the fat boy, requires stealth and cunning.  I hide the cat carrier in the laundry room, door open and carry him walking backwards into the room so he can't see it.  I turn and quickly shove him through the carrier door.  He is clever enough to hook his hind feet over the edge of the door, dragging the entire cage across the top of the washing machine as I attempt to shove him inside.  Only when the cage hits the far wall of the laundry room and cannot slide any further can I get the leverage to plunge his entire mass into the carrier.  Then it is a race to extract my arm before he can thrust a body part back through the crack.
      Once at the vet, the process unfolds in reverse order.  Princess steps willingly from the carrier and purrs through her exam.  She accepts her vaccinations sweetly and sits quietly on the scale when weighed.  She is the prefect weight for her size and age.  Our vet always comments on what a sweet little cat she is.  She seems to delight in hearing the compliment.  She goes back into the carrier as kindly as she came out.
      Bootsie is a little reluctant.  In fact, he poops in the carrier as soon as he hears the vet.  He allows the vet to exam him, vaccinate him and weigh him with some hesitance, but still cooperates.  Our vet always finds organic matter on Bootsie's backside (he's a highly motivated mouser), and always yells to his assistant:  "Medicine for tapeworms, please."  Then he cleans Bootsie's carrier so it won't stink up the veterinary office.  And Bootsie is done.
      Spiffy always goes last.  I have to drag him from the carrier with as much struggle as I shove him in.  Again, he hooks his hind feet on the cage door and scoots the carrier along until the vet grabs it with a free hand.  I pin him to the exam table with both hands while the vet also pins his other end down and administers a flurry of shots,  exam, and finally weighing.  Spiffy clocked in at 17 pounds this visit.  And again, my vet encourages me to put him on a diet.  As we make preparations to leave, Spiffy is quite willing to scramble back into the carrier.
      We travel back home in a cacophony of purring, muttering and complaining.  And, yes, one last "contribution" to the vet in Bootsie's cage.  We are done for one more year.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Our Angel in Blue Berry Stains

     The blessings of living in paradise exclude having our grandkids close.  So it is a very special occasion when they come to visit, and even more so when they stay for awhile.
      Our eldest granddaughter, Mattie Kate, at the age of four established a summer ritual of one week with Grandma and Grandpa.  Normal life halts for seven days, and our schedule is dictated by our tiny, creative but slightly demanding recreation coordinator.
      From breakfast to bedtime, she has it all planned.  Well, almost.  The blueberry pancakes were the only exception.  My job was to make the pancakes.  Mattie's job was to pick the blueberries.
      She marched outdoors with a bucket and great enthusiasm.  She returned a short while later, blueberry stains everywhere on her hands and clothing.
      "I'm done, Gwan'ma."
      "OK, put your bucket up here."
      The bucket is empty.
      "Where are the berries for our pancakes?"
      "They're all gone."  Burp.
       "All of them?"
       "Yup."   Burp.
       "But there aren't any in your bucket."
        "Nope."   Burp.
         "You ate ALL the blueberries?"
        She nods her head 'yes', grins big and burps one last time.
        Good thing that our little recreation coordinator likes raspberries on her pancakes, too.
        At Grandma and Grandpa's house, our Mattie learned to call in the deer.  She makes a baby deer type noise that truly brings the does running.  I worry just what else is coming.
        At Grandma and Grandpa's house, Mattie learned to drive a fork lift.  We haven't shared that with mom and dad, yet.
        At Grandma and Grandpa's house, little Mattie has ice cream every night with her dinner.  Another secret that mom and dad don't really need to know.
        During a thunderstorm one evening, all three of us sat out on the porch swing on our front deck and watched the thunder and lightning.  We explained to her that thunder is just God talking to us out loud, and some days He has a lot to tell us.
        Mattie sat sandwiched between us and thought about it.  After awhile, she turned her head and buried her face in my shoulder.  She yawned and then said, "OK, God.  I'm tired now."
        We love our visits with our little granddaughter.  And we planted two more blueberry bushes so Miss Mattie Kate does not run out of berries this time.  We have just enough time to set up the trampoline, inflate the swimming pool and wipe down the patio table and chairs.  We want everything to her liking.  After all, it's tough business coordinating the family activities for an entire week.
       And, we've have a full year to recover. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Fine Art of Foraging

       Foraging has been an honorable activity for centuries.  Many species, including man, have existed on foraging alone; a contract with independence, a rite of passage, a culture in itself. 
      My little dog, Gypsy, has put a black eye on the good name of scavenging.  You could call her a herbivore/carnivore/junkavore, or possibly even a thief.
      Our walks together are peppered with the sounds of 'yum, yum, yum' and 'smack, smack, smack' as she picks tidbits of dubious origin from every unlikely source possible.  All are consumed with great relish.
      I feed her.  I really do.  But her dog food is never as tasty as what she forages in the woods and on the roadside.  And she is euphoric if we happen upon a deer carcass of any size or condition.  If it is really smelly, all the better.  She rolls in it first.  Such a happy day!
      If we are on our way home, she will haul her treasure with us.  Her tail held high, nose in the air, the 'dead thing' firmly gripped in her mouth, she prances down the trail behind me.  Occasionally, she will trip over it and roll down the hill and the 'dead thing' will become caught up in the underbrush.  I try to look sad for her sake, but I am really pleased.  I won't have to clean another pile of yuk-yuk off our lawn.
      One morning we found a freshly killed deer beside the pond, only a short distance from the house.  It's throat had been ripped out and it was disemboweled, but otherwise showed no sign of having been fed upon.  The killer must have struck in the morning and was frightened off as Rudy left for work.  I didn't want a predator returning later so close to home.
      Gypsy was delighted with the prospect of fresh venison so close, and so much of it.  We returned home and grabbed the wheelbarrow with the intention of disposing of the carcass.  She was ecstatic.  Her eyes were alight with expectation.  She bounced beside me with each step.  When I loaded the deer into the wheelbarrow and turned back toward home, she began doing cartwheels.
       "Oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy!  Mom, this is so kind of you, and it is all mine. MINE, MINE, MINE!"  She was now bouncing three feet in the air with each step and stealing excited peaks into the wheelbarrow.
       "This is a wonderful day and that deer is ALL MINE!"  Bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce : a very happy little dog.
       "Be careful over that bump, Mom.  We don't want to spill my deer in the mud!"  Bounce, skip, hop, cartwheel, bounce, bounce, bounce.
       As we wheeled into the driveway and headed toward the house, she darted ahead of me to guide us through the gate into the yard,  and her face was radiant.
      I neared the garage, but instead of turning toward the gate into the yard, I turned to the garbage cans.  My animated little dog deflated slowly.  She stood by the gate, shock and horror in her eyes, and then followed by incredulous despair.  With her tail now drooping and her enthusiasm crushed, she was a picture of despondancy.
      I stuffed the deer in a garbage can, secured the lid down tight and put the wheelbarrow back.  My Gypsy dog continued to stand by the gate.  Her shock had been replaced by gloom.
     "I will NEVER understand people."