Saturday, September 6, 2008

Blogging Solo

Today at 12PM, I am going to leave for a week to attend a training session in Blacksburg. There are many things wrong with the last sentence and these include: “leave for a week” and “training” and “Blacksburg”. While I am gone, Tom will have to manage the household animals, the milking, the overall running of the farm, and provide care for all of our horses- on his own. We recently made the mistake of counting up every animal on the farm and discovered that we have over fifty. This is a sobering workload, and I will worry while I am gone. We have another potential storm brewing, possibly of hurricane proportions, that is likely to hit the eastern US this week (Ike). But in addition to all of this, for the first time, Tom will be left to blog solo.

I feel like a nervous mom watching her child get on the school bus for the first time without her. Will the commenters be nice to him? Will he be faithful to this blog? If not, will he practice “safe blogging?” Will readers understand him? I sure wouldn’t want anyone to think he came from the wrong part of the blogosphere, or worse, had a bad blogging partner. Many of the women out there will understand that last part. It’s what we secretly think when talking to a man who is obviously married, but still has on a badly wrinkled shirt, clothes that don’t match or a really bad haircut. Or who hangs out on questionable blogs. Or writes them. Whatever. Regardless of age or cultural background, there is a question mark in your mind about his wife. Of course, in this case, you may have formed that question mark months ago.

But, be that as it may, I worry that people won’t understand Tom’s use of words like “whilst” or “fortnight.” Yes, you UK people can smile, but this is Southside. Will they understand the subtle differences in language that exist between the two countries? For example, will they know that a Brit using “I don’t care” for “I don’t mind,” in a conversation really doesn’t mean to snap your head off? If he is looking for a “jumper,” rather than driving out to some bridge looking for a suicidal individual, he will most likely be digging through his closet for a “sweater.” I am concerned about coming home to a crowd of depressed-looking individuals holding their heads in their hands, though it is also possible that a few of them might help Tom clean stalls or rinse out water buckets. Okay, the jumpers are welcome to come over. Tom will make tea.

But blogging solo is a big step in achieving Internet independence. I’m not sure how I feel about that. After all, it was just a few short years ago that Tom learned BASIC and FORTRAN, learning to stumble around DOS like a toddler in a binary corn maze. I guess I’ll just need to buck up, comb his hair, and put on a brave face. I'll dust off the keyboard and clean the monitor with Windex. But you all, be nice to him. I'd hate to have to turn that car around.

Be thou the rainbow...(Byron)

As everyone knows by now, we have a tropical storm traveling up the east coast. Tropical Storm Hanna is the first of several major storms that may reach Virginia this season. The first graphic, kindly provided by the NOAA, shows the track of the storm. The second, is a map of Virginia counties. We are in Nottoway County. If you count over from the orange section across the southern border, we are 4 counties due west (Mecklenburg), then the second county north from there. The eye of the storm is presently near the NC border, but we expect a fair amount of rain from this storm, and possibly high wind. Shandy has been nauseous since last night. She is an expert at detecting potentially scary low-pressure systems. I personally suspect that many of the NOAA and NWS staff secretly rely on their dogs when they go home.

For the last week, we've been preparing for the possibility of flooding, power outage, wind and everything else we could think of that might result from the storm. We've been through this scenario before. The worst event for us was Isabelle, which caused substantial damage in Virginia. We were among the storm's more fortunate victims, as we were without power for only three days. For others here, it took weeks to get the power back on.

We've been taking the normal precautions that everyone else has- stocking up on canned food, water and basic necessities. But as we also run a rescue, we've stocked up on feed, topped up water tanks, and last night, made sure that everyone was under roof, warm and dry, to ride out the storm. I found myself being immensely grateful for all the barns and stalls on this farm. We don't need them all the time, but when we do, it's important.

With Isabelle, we learned a few things about preparing for hurricanes, aside from the obvious stuff that everyone already knows. We are providing these suggestions for our northern neighbors, who may find themselves in the storm track. They are:

1. If your dogs live in your house, vacuum before the storm. It is a physical law that dog hair sticks to everything worse when the air conditioning is off. I don't know why. This single item drove me nuts during Isabelle. It's right up there on the list with:

2. Do your laundry before the storm. On a farm, you are out there tending to animals in the rain and mud whether you like it or not. If you live in the city, you may have what is called a "social life" (we run across occasional references to this). Picture either without an operable washing machine.

3. When we were stocking up on food prior to Isabelle, I bought lots of canned goods, bottled juice and dry food that would keep without refrigeration. I planned well and was darned proud of myself. The night the storm hit, I did a last-minute stop at the store, to pick up any forgotten items. When I got home, I proudly displayed these to Tom. I hadn't forgotten a thing. Tom, of course, had been to the store, too. After I unloaded my collection of survival food, Tom showed me his, of which he was equally proud. He had found a very nice French wine and a good cheese. I howled at the difference in our mindsets. But that night, when the lights went out, we lit a candle and had a very nice wine and a good cheese to go with it. So for those in the storm track, take a moment to think about how you will fill those long hours without television, your computer or the other diversions in your life. This is an excellent time to take a good look at your loved ones and make the best of this rare quality time.

For the folks in the Valley: Be safe. We know you're going to get a lot of rain.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Bridget: 1996 - 2008

The toll on our senior animals continues, even before winter arrives. Our French Bulldog, Bridget, was rushed to the Vet's yesterday afternoon as her breathing had become increasingly difficult. This was a week after we had treated her with cortisone and antibiotics, as the vet thought she was suffering from allergies (with which she had a long history). Never an easy breather (stupid breeding to perfect that retrousee nose and face!) her penchant for binge eating had already meant that we had to surgically tie back one of her laryngeal (windpipe) flaps after she nearly died from brachiocephalic breathing syndrome. As a result we have had to be careful about the aspiration of food or vomit, and she has been on Theophylline ever since.

Bridget was a Katrina dog. Her mistress lost her home and had to give up two of her three dogs. Whilst never surprised that Bridget was one of the dogs let go, she endeared herself to us in lots of ways. Slow to bond, she ultimately became very affectionate, and within the constraints of her terrible conformation and breathing difficulties, loved the attention we gave her. From the moment she came to us, her main objective in life was to get Jack (our brindle, possibly Aussie/Staff mix) to let her cuddle up and sleep with her at bedtime. Rarely would he stay put for longer than a few minutes, but he always paid close attention to her ears, giving them a good washing most days. He was very fond of her. At 12 years old she was well into the maximum for her breed and with poor (although occasionally selective) hearing on top of her other problems, she was generally to be found sleeping in the most comfortable spot she could find, never far from whatever person was around in the house. She was retired in every sense of the word.

Yesterday, after seeming to be breathing a little easier but still very constrained, she suddenly had great difficulty and showed signs of weakness. We got her to the Vet's, where she was x-rayed and put on oxygen. Bridget was diagnosed with pneumonia and was suffering from congestive heart failure. This was an extremely rapid development and we had no forewarning that she was experiencing any kind of heart difficulty. It appeared, virtually, overnight. But at her age and with her medical history there was little we could do but to make her as comfortable as possible. She was barely conscious of what was happening and died in the oxygen tent a few short hours later.

Not the easiest keeper by any stretch of the imagination, she nevertheless had a warm place in our hearts for the stoic way she put up with the trials and tribulations of her life, which was made more difficult through the anatomical problems of her breed. Shandy is worried because Bridget is missing, and even Jack tries console us with licks and affectionate hugs. Bridget is free from pain, and in a place where she can breathe freely and once again run free. We will miss her and always remember our "Katrina dog".

Monday, September 1, 2008

Another Bug Quiz

The photo above shows the following (pick one):

1. After having vanquished and devoured a smaller grasshopper, this rare albino grasshopper is leaving with a full belly.

2. The grasshopper on the left is made of latex.

3. Neither of these are grasshoppers, they are dangerous space aliens.

4. The grasshopper on the right is the rare "Oppossum grasshopper" and is playing dead.

5. The grasshopper on the right is basking in the afterglow.

6. The figure on the right is a grasshopper leisure suit that didn't flatter the guy on the left, who has just tried it on. So, he left it lying on the floor of the grasshopper dressing room, rather than placing it back on the hanger. After all, someone else gets paid to do that.

You never know what you will run across while you are aimlessly wandering around the pasture. One time, I saw a leaf in the exact shape of George Washington. The creature on the left is a Carolina Locust. As insects grow, their armor coverings do not. So, they need to shed them periodically, usually just splitting them and crawling out. The new exoskeleton is soft and needs a little time to harden. During this time, insects are without much protection. Answer #6 is the most correct, so if you answered that one, give yourself a pat on the back. This locust has just emerged from it's exoskeleton, which it has thoughtfully left for the ants (nature's little clean up crew) to enjoy.

While locusts in general are pretty destructive to crops, the Caroline Locust is considered to be among the most harmless, preferring dry grass meadows. For the taxonomy nerds, this guy's classification is:

Common Name: Carolina Locust
Scientific Name: (Dissosteira carolina)
Other Name(s):

Order: Orthoptera
Family: Acrididae
Genus: Dissosteira
Species: carolina