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Archive for the ‘Country Thoughts’ Category

Elsa-the-Dog and I have started taking early morning strolls. Because we tend to overfeed her she is slightly round and I think she needs to run. So, every morning Elsa eagerly looks for a stray squirrel or a deer to chase and I let her go! She doesn’t run into the woods to follow the wild critters out of my sight, but she runs like a wild thing down the road and to the edge of our Forest Primeval. Great exercise!

And it should be noted that I always let her out quietly so the critters will be in sight and not scared off first thing in the morning. Elsa gives chase, gets her morning run, and the wild critters seem to enjoy the whole thing too.

But yesterday morning there was an unexpected visitor.

Elsa came face to face with a great big SKUNK!

There was no barking but there was a confrontation. The skunk turned its back and raised its tail and Elsa backed away. Then the skunk tried to waddle off and Elsa followed. It was like she wanted to keep Mr. Skunk for a friend! Maybe the critter thought Elsa was another (albino?) skunk. They were about the same size but Elsa is a mix of browns, blacks, whites and golds.

No amount of screaming, “Elsa – COME!” from my long distance away had any effect on either of them. Elsa moved in, the skunk tried to run, Elsa moved in again, etc.

Crestfallen about what I was facing to remove the skunk scent, I gave up calling and turned back. But here came Elsa. She finally bade farewell to Mr. Skunk and returned to my side – no doubt expecting compliments, cookies and adulation for coming when she was called.

I was terrified of her approach, expecting the onslaught of painful smells. Having dealt with that scent in the past with other dogs, I knew what to expect.

In fact I once did a blog post about clearing the aisles in a Dollar Store when I carried the skunk scent and didn’t realize it.

But there was Elsa at my feet looking guilty – – – WITH NO SCENT!

I knelt down to give her a sniff but smelled nothing but the great outdoors.

A fleeting thought…was this a symptom of Covid? Losing the sense of smell?

Who ever heard of anyone coming face-to-butt with a skunk and not getting sprayed?

Was Mr. Skunk handicapped (missing his scent glands)?

Did Mr. Skunk use up his spray on something else?

You know what I think?

I think Elsa was non-threatening and communicated a message that she only wanted a friend. Or maybe they were both falling in love. After all, we are just coming to Valentine’s Day. She never even barked one bark or growled one growl. And I think Mr. Skunk recognized and honored her overwhelming wish for love. So much for logical explanations and good country stories.

Nevertheless, in future I do plan to send out morning warnings like rattling doorknobs, banging on things and uttering loud cries as we emerge from the house for morning strolls.

Meanwhile I have learned that Skunk mating season does peak around Valentine’s Day.

Male skunks begin stirring and wooing female skunks around the second week of February. Females refusing this courtship will spray in defense. Thankfully, skunk mating season only lasts from mid-February through mid-April!”

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY and A MESSAGE OF LOVE FROM ELSA AND MR. SKUNK!

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I live in rural Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and on the other side too, in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains. In other words: Where exactly do I live?

To make matters even more confusing, I live just off a State Road on a private road, but my mail box is located on the State Road about a mile down the private road. The residents of my community pay yearly fees to take care of the private road. But I am told the State Road is maintained by the County, especially when it snows.


Are you confused yet?

We had a fairly big seven inch snow a few weeks ago. The private road was plowed by my community and the State road portion was plowed by the County.

We were all hugely grateful for the combined effort to allow us all to get out in an emergency.

However……….

The County managed to leave huge mounds of compacted snow in front of our mailboxes which are on the State Road – not the private road. At any rate, a bank of four mailboxes was plowed in.

I was with Bill when he tried to pick up our mail by balancing atop the mound, holding onto the car with one arm and the mailbox with the other in a shaky attempt to retrieve the mail. Not good for us over-the-hillers for sure. How the mail lady managed to deliver was a mystery too.

As we were rejoicing about how well things were managed here in times of crisis there appeared a notice in our mailbox entitled United States Postal Service – Approaches to Curbside Mailboxes. And it read:

“Dear Customer, The Postal Service depends on you to meet postal requirements regarding delivery and collection of mail to curbside boxes. Please keep the full approach and exits to your mailbox clear as illustrated in the examples below. Removing trashcans, snow, vehicles, and any other objects from the area allows the carrier to deliver your mail safely and efficiently without exiting the vehicle.”

  • The State owns the road connecting to our private road.
  • There is a bank of mailboxes on the State Road.
  • The County plowed the State Road after a snowstorm.
  • The County blocked access to the mailboxes for Postal Service personnel and its customers.

And the USPS says,

“Dear Customer,

You are responsible.

Clean up this mess.”

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Being Florida born and bred I have never quite adjusted to snow events. A world transformed by white was out of the realm of my imagination and the first snow I ever saw I was 21 years old in Big Bear City, California. That snow was called Tapioca for its tapioca-like pellets, and I have never seen the likes of it since.

And then we had a whopper of an event a day or so ago here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. That storm named Izzy dumped seven inches that froze in place and dredged up lots of memories of other winters right here in rural Virginia.

In the early days years ago such a snow created magnificent excitement for those of us young enough to enjoy prepping and shoveling or just going outside to experience raw nature.

That was when my mother was living with us and I would call the power company and whine about having an elderly woman here who could not take the cold. Mom has been gone a long time and guess who is elderly here now!

In the old days we had to keep stocked up on wood for the woodstove, and I saved water in bathtubs, washing machines, and in any containers I could find, candles too, and lots and lots of comforters and blankets to cozy up in. I made stew that could be reheated on the wood stove. Never mind that it might take six hours to be heated to a palatable stage. And we got out the shovels too.

This latest storm has been a vastly different story.

The power stayed on but even if it went out the difference is we installed a whole house generator!

And because we have this remarkable new technology I should be happy to exclaim, “Let it snow.”

Because now:

There will be running water no matter what.

The microwave will work.

The toaster too.

The heat never goes off.

The freezer keeps on running.

Lights only go out for 10 seconds before the generator kicks in.

No candles necessary.

Progress! A better life. A safer future.

Then why do I feel sad? Maybe it is like people felt when the automobile replaced the horse and carriage. This first real winter storm since we got the generator has left me with a sort of wrung out memory. It was a ghost snowstorm that brought up all my old memories of bustling around preparing for a worst scenario.

I still keep a few jarred candles in a secret cupboard just in case. They are lonely reminders of more eventful days when I placed candles in every room and flashlights too.

I still filled two pitchers with water just in case. They are reminders that the need for water was paramount. Filling tanks and tubs and containers was a busy job indeed.

The wood stove has not been lit with a real fire in a long time. It once kept us so warm at times I had to open windows. There is still plenty in the woodpile but waiting for a forgotten necessity.

Yes, I did go through the motions of all the preparations I used to do, but eventually realized I could just sit back and watch the snow. There was that little glimmer of excitement as I watched the first flakes come floating down, but I actually longed to be in survival mode with all the old frantic preparations. I missed working to make my home ready to combat nature and then to bundle up in Aunt Millie’s crocheted afghan, enjoying reheated stew warmed for six hours on the woodstove.

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Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Happy Holidays!

The festive greetings seem louder this year and maybe they even mean more.

Bill and I once again managed to put the tree up and got it covered with memories. I am always so proud that each ornament carries its own story going back so many years.

There are the Hungarian hearts sold to me by a woman on a street in Budapest. It was my first trip to Hungary to see where my father was born.

And look at the smallest decorated glass globes! They are what are left of the very first ornaments we purchased 62 years ago when newly wed. We were so young and just starting our lives as adults.

I love the doggy memories too. One real ostrich egg has our pair of Golden Retrievers painted on, and another is of my brother’s Dalmation. The horses are there too – Martini and Lucy.

The list goes on and the finally the fully dressed tree each year is actually a biography of a family.

That is what Christmas is all about – Past, Present, and Future. So, I am wishing you, my family and friends, good health and happiness and more of the same and lots of great memories in days to come.

MERRY CHRISTMAS! HAPPY NEW YEAR! HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

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Wonder how I can find a place in bed?

Elsa has found ways to worm herself into our little family. And she is winning.

We chose a smaller dog when we were looking to fill the hole left in our lives when we lost Rozie. And that’s what Elsa was – a smaller dog. We figured as we age, we will need a light-weight for us to be able to lift and carry. Ha!

Elsa is verging now on being a heavy-weight who has used her sweetness and big dark eyes for treats and more treats and delicious people food handouts. Yes, I know this is the fault of us humans who fall for canine pleading.

But what about sleeping? What would make a little (fat) dog work on getting into bed between two humans?

Fear.

And witnessing the abject fear demonstrated by Elsa (at any unusual sound emanating from the terrifying forest primeval) prompted us to allow her to join us abed “just this once.”

And now tis a nightly event.

She waits until 3 or 4AM to make sure we are too groggy to say, “NO” and shivers and shakes a bit to convince us she is frightened about something (a bear outside our window or an intruder or thunder or gunshots)? After all, it is hunting season in our neck of the woods in southwestern Virginia.

Alas! We have fallen once again for Elsa’s charms and her well thought out tactics.

The battle is on for bed space.

And there you have it – the ultimate bedtime story.

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I never tire of the sweeping view, especially whilst cooking and standing at the kitchen window.

How blessed we are to have found this place and recognized it as home.

Thirty-two years ago I would hum happily en route to this 20 acre plot where there was no home yet . It was a place in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia where we could imagine a future.

The land stayed unspoiled. The house Bill designed sustained us.

And “the future is now.”

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Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

My mind is wandering. The chaos of the holidays is especially confusing this year and of course I can blame it all on the pandemic.

Is the Covid-19 pandemic evolving or devolving? Is it now called endemic because the cases are going down? Or is it because the numbers of hospital stays are decreasing? Or is it the number of deaths? Or maybe things are not improving at all.

They say there is a new “variant” emerging that could be faster at spreading than ever and maybe more lethal. Or is it? Boosters might help or might not. Hunkering down again might help or might not. Should I wear a mask all the time or just in public or just among the unvaccinated? Should it be made of cloth or what?

Really I have more important things to think about. Almost my whole family are coming for Thanksgiving. Who will bring what or cook what and how will we all be seated? My mind is wandering.

It is not even Halloween yet but I already have plans for Thanksgiving. Planning is the secret.

  • I will make a big beautiful chocolate bundt cake the day before. That is in case there is a pumpkin shortage. They are predicting shortages you know and pumpkin is one (due to some sort of fungus on the crops… or is it a dearth of trucks for transport?). I do love pumpkin pie but chocolate will take the yearning away if need be. I have all the cake ingredients now so Ready-Get Set-Go!
  • I will also make my own favorite cranberry salad two days ahead to give it time to set and merge. There is a joke in the family about the grand who added 3 cups of sugar to the salad making it inedible. Not this time although she has graciously offered to make it again!
  • But just in case there is a problem or a shortage of cranberries we have two cans of the jellied version – the old fashioned kind we used to get when I was a child.
  • I will also make my own favorite veggies with carrots and turnips the day before.
  • We are stocked up with Stovetop Stuffing.
  • There is nothing like instant mashed potatoes nowadays but I will have a bag of real potatoes on hand just in case.
  • My friend reminded me of the merits in making a marinated salad so forget the green bean casserole.
  • That only leaves the turkey and gravy!

And there you have it. This is what happens when my mind wanders.

Now onto Christmas!

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Photo by Lisa on Pexels.com

I believe in writer’s block because I have had it for about two years now. It began just before the pandemic. Oh wouldn’t it be lovely to blame it on that?

How confined one becomes when hunkering down.

Or maybe I could blame it on Big Foot and then the Creaky Hip.

Perhaps it is a matter of concentration.

Or maybe I need to take a different eye view of the world,

a walk on the wild side

or just time for contemplation.

Can you tell I have reflected on this?

And have come to a conclusion

that in the end, there is really no writer’s block.

You simply have to sit down and start writing.

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Photo by Daniel Reche on Pexels.com

Yesterday I actually drove to downtown Lexington, Virginia all by myself. I parked in a nicely arranged parking lot with stairs at the end, and went for a walk. And then I climbed up one stair and back down and then two stairs and down and then THREE steps up and down.

Talk about self congratulatory pride! I felt like Rocky!

And then I walked on level ground for about 20 more minutes.

HURRAH!

Big Foot complained a bit but we managed to ignore all that. “I am woman. I am strong. I am invincible!”

Of course walking in a parking lot is not too exciting. There are certainly not many photo ops, but the sun was shining yesterday with a cool little nip in the air, and the traffic was nil, and I took my trusty cane for balance. That little parking lot is now my personal training track!

In the good old days around 1998 the goal was to walk 10,000 steps. But my pedometers don’t work anymore. I suspect it is because the goal is now low low low! What pedometer would be caught displaying 150 steps anyway?

So out with the pedometers.

Now the goal is just some time moving….. any time moving….. just moving.

Today I feel pressure to enter a blog post.

What about all that beneficial walking?

To do or not to do? That is the question.

Walking is more important really.

But blogging is a good excuse not to do what I set out to do yesterday.

I promise I will start walking again tomorrow.

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Photo by Jahoo Clouseau on Pexels.com

I was standing at the kitchen window on a quiet afternoon in Camelot (rural Virginia) when my daily impulse was to do a deliberate scan of the mountain view. Fading light enhanced the Blue Ridge Mountains and then my eyes automatically came around to a serene sight down by the old horse shed in our “back yard”.

I noticed some grazing deer and just beyond them loomed a strange black imposing image.

The image was also grazing but looked out of place since it was a HUGE MONSTROUS BLACK THING! And it was slowly moving in my direction.

I quickly determined it was a big black bull!

Now, if you were to ask me how I knew this was a bull there would be no answer since I have never come face to face with such a creature. It was certainly not your run-o-the-mill cow. And Bill also agreed it had to be a bull.

But what to do about a bull in your back yard!? Fortunately, we know the name of the owner of the pastoral scene across from our hill to her hill. Usually the view is of her smaller sized non-threatening cows. The owner is a very nice young LADY and she answered my call right away. She said she would send out “the boys” to determine how her bull might have escaped.

And sure enough, as the sun began to set and darkness arrived, there came two ATVs carrying the boys. I hollered “Hi!” and they hollered back and I told them where I had last seen the monster. Such excitement for one evening huh?

The next day there was a text from a neighbor who said she had learned there were TWO escaped bulls. One had been found and the other still missing.

Thankfully I have Elsa-the-dog for protection.

Such is the excitement of country life in rural Virginia, especially gazing out your kitchen window.

Well, nothing else really happened after the ATV’s hummed around and all we could see were their headlights. And now we are assuming both bulls are back on their own turf and perhaps dozing from their night out.

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