Saturday, March 27, 2010

More Spring

Spring has sprung
the grass has riz
I wonder where the flowers is?

I told my mother that spring had sprung and she told me this poem. I told Doris at work and she said, "She's from around here, ain't she?" I guess Ashland, KY is close enough to being around here! You can't tell she went to college ,can you?

Anyway, spring is springing up all over. The horses got frisky and broke the electric fence and took off. It's all my fault. I forgot to turn on the power to it. It was dark and cold and I hadn't had them in that pasture for quite a few weeks...months maybe. With daylight savings time, I am now going to the barn in the full dark. Lee just put a switch by the doors for the big outside lights. Before you had to open the electric panel with gloves on. Not an easy task. They help a lot when walking to the pasture in the dark.

The electric fence has an easy switch over by where I keep all the tools, including the Super Fork that I use daily for scooping the stalls. So there really is no excuse. It also clicks every second, along with the pulses that go through the electrc tape and rope we have around the pasture. Another obvious reminder. I don't always have the electricity on when the horses are there. I guess I thought if they were zapped a few times, they would stay away forever, but they must have touched it and decided to make a break for freedom!

Fortunately we have been letting the horses out of their stalls when we are around and also letting them out of the pasture while we prepare their food, so they didn't go far. I was at work and Lee was on a bus run, so it could have been bad. Lee very kindly fixed the fence while I was at work.

In all honesty, it isn't the first time they have made a short break for freedom. About a year ago I must not have shut the gate all the way and they escaped then also. They didn't go far, but they did go up by the house. We know this not by our amazing tracking skills, but by the large piles of horse poop in various spots around the house. We are not completely fenced, so they could go far. On the other hand, there is a lot of fresh green grass right by the barn, and they feel safe there, so they stuck around.

Today when we let them out to run around a bit while we put fresh hay and water and all the feed we pile into their stalls, they took off running for quite some time. They get quite excited. Then one will stop and eat for a bit and the other will start to run and buck and fart and off they both go. It is a good thing. It builds muscle and getting a bit sweaty helps to loosen their winter coat. I plan on doing a little currying tomorrow before we let them out. A little work with a shedding blade will give us a few piles of hair for some birds nests.

On the way back up to the house we saw a squirrel in one of the walnut trees. So THAT's where all the nuts went! Then we saw a groundhog out and about. That's one sign of spring we can do without. I worry about holes that the horses will step in...but I can't make myself shoot them. I should do something, just not sure what.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Buchanan Grill

When we first came through Buchanan with our realtor, he took us to the Buchanan Family Restaurant. It was a fun restaurant that was in an old car dealership. I imagine all of the shops in Buchanan were something else once upon a time. For instance there is a B&B and restaurant that used to be a funeral home. It even comes with a resident ghost.

There was a pharmacy that used to house a soda shop and grill(check out Murphy's Romance and you'll know what I am talking about )and in the basement there was a duck pin bowling alley. I wish THAT was still here. After awhile the soda shop and grill opened up, and we went there from time to time, but obviously not enough for it closed this winter. Times have been hard around here and once more the cool little soda shop closed.

I am not sure of the sequence of events, but the Buchanan Family Restuarant has moved across the street and into the pharmacy and is now the Buchanan Grill. It looks like the menu is mostly the same, but they are adding the ice cream treats you would expect of a soda shop.

We have to go there a lot so that they are still there when visitors come. My Aunt Suzy has always loved the Buchanan Family Restaurant AND the Grill, so now she can have both in one. She has a visit planned for the Civil War Re-enactment week, so I can imagine we will be spending quite a bit of time there. Come over and say hello if you see us.

Spring Has Sprung

It seems that we have only had a few short days when there is no snow to be seen. It lingered longer than most of the long time residents had seen. "This is the worst winter since 1985!" is a quote I heard often in the library. It seems that most people in town get there at some point or another and they all have a comment to make. Especially about this winter.

And, yet, with only a few short days of weather over 60 degress everything is starting to change. The grass is starting to green up. This is particularly important to me. I only have 4 more round bales of hay. I am still feeding in the morning, but hope to stop as soon as there is enough grass to support the horses. I want the hay to last until the first cutting. Last year, that was in May.

We still have a lot of hay from our second cutting last year, but the horses don't like it. They nibble at it and dig through it for the good stuff, but waste a lot of it. I think it is because it was soooo wet last year. The guy that cuts our hay for shares kept putting off cutting. He could cut at any time for himself. He is feeding cows and they are not fussy. But he knew he was cutting for our horses, so he had to make sure the dry weather window was long enough. If the hay got wet in the field it might mildew and this can kill a horse. It has something to do with cows having mulitiple stomach and horses being big fat babies, but nonetheless, he waited too long and the hay isn't as good and so they won't eat it.

The fun harbinger of spring is that the stark, bare trees are starting to bud. And even more important, my daffodils are coming up. Only one is in bloom and I tried to get a good picture on an overcast (but warm!) day. Aren't they cheery? I wanted to plant more this fall, but the snow came so fast and so deep and for so loooong, I didn't even have time to trim all the plants back for winter. So my few sad little bulbs are fighting back all by their lonesomes. And here are the first ones!

Upper James River Water Trail

So last fall Lee and I decided on a career change. We became models!

Well, actually, it's not as interesting as that. The county tourism office sent out an email letting me know that all Botetourt County employees willing to be photographed while rafting, canoeing or kayaking on the James River could get a day trip on the river for free. Free?? Tooling on the water in beautiful weather? I'm in! Lee was willing, also.

The weather chose not to cooperate for weekend after weekend. We had more than 50 inches of rain last year. More than the usual 36 inches. And most of it on the weekends, or so it seemed to me when I had plans!

Rather than a summer day on the James River, it turned out to be a fall day on the James. The water was lower and colder, so the rafting was cancelled, but about 15 people showed up on the appointed day.

We all met at Twin Rivers Outfitters in Buchanan. After a short movie on safety, everyone followed the buses to Springwood to drop off our cars and then the bus took us up to the drop off point. And thus the picture taking began.

Anyone who knows me knows I hate having my picture taken. This has its' roots in childhood trauma from a photo happy father with dreams of a spread in National Geographic. Some day I'll write about our sojourn to the South Pacific and being photographed incessantly, but that's for another time. Nonetheless, I was glad the pictures were about the beauty and fun of the Upper James River water trail and I was to be seen as background only!

We regrouped, grabbed life vests and a canoe and hit the water. I took the "steering position" at the back of the canoe. I had spent many hours in our 2 person Fol-Boat (Fol-Bot, maybe, I don't remember) kayak in my youth and had more experience than Lee. He took the front seat or the "power position" as he is way stronger than I.

The experience didn't help me much. I still got us hung up in a shallow area. The current pulled us into it before I could steer us away from it. In my defence, I was trying to avoid getting in the shot of the photographer who was shooting other boaters. Still, I should have back paddled, but at the last minute, I thought I could get through. We were stuck for about 5 minutes, while Lee had to power us off the boulder we were flush against. We managed to scrape ourselves down to deeper water. Now I know why the Outfitters get new boats each season!

There was one drop at the very beginning of the trip that was a bit dicey. One of the canoes tipped over and the occupants got soaked. But that was at the beginning before we had gotten any sort of rapport or comfort level with each other, so it was understandable. Fortunately they had spare clothes in dry bags supplied by the Outfitters, something I won't neglect next time. It could very well have been us! I think I would portage beyond it as it was a tricky drop and immediate right turn that we only were able to navigate because we were almost the last ones through and watched all the others very closely.

The rest of the ride was gorgeous. The sky was blue and the leaves were turning golds and reds and yellows. It took a lot longer than if we had gone by ourselves as the photographer would hold groups in one position or beach certain groups to get lots of shots. It was the only day to get the shots for the brochure and the web sites so he took a LOT of pictures.

If you want to see the web sites, you can see a lot of beautiful scenery and perhaps you, too, might like to plan a trip on the Upper James River water trail. The water was clean and clear and the scenery was unsurpassed. I have been on lakes and rivers and oceans throughout California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. All are different and wonderful. But the James can hold its' own with any of them. I also like the fact that I am on a river that goes all the way to Jamestown and is full of history around every bend. If I was younger, I would plan a trip all the way to the Atlantic. On the other hand, I am afraid of rapids and I don't want to go on the more difficult sections. Quiet, peaceful beauty is just fine for me.

Here are the links. I will make an effort to link them to my site, but my computer skills are close to my water craft skills in scope, so we'll see. Let me know if you can see me and Lee. Maybe I can add model to my resume!

Sunday, March 7, 2010


I spent the last part of February flying to California to be with my sister, Roz who is dying from breast cancer. It has metastasized to her lungs and bones. I can't imagine a trip more scary, yet I looked forward to seeing her and being with her again.

We were close as children. We shared a bedroom and played together and fought each other. We tattled on each other and spent long hours giggling in bed.

I would draw pictures or words on her back with my fingers and then she would try to figure out what I drew or spelled. She was a pretty good guesser. When it was her turn to draw on me, I was usually wrong. She's a way better artist, but I usually didn't pay attention. It was the closeness I wanted I guess.

You couldn't find two kids more different. I was a tomboy. I played football, baseball and basketball. She played violin and didn't like to get dirty. She had stomach problems and stayed inside and I always had skinned knees and dirty elbows.

We BOTH had hideous hair. Mom was too cheap to take us to get our hair cut, so she always did it herself. In pictures our bangs are always too short. Pinky ( a childhood nickname ) had curly hair and mine was straight. But it was terrible for both of us, so I blame Mom!

Yet, we were always close. I got married and moved to Hawaii and Roz came for several months after college to visit. She and her husband Arnold are good with my kids and they love them right back.

After Roz got cancer the first time, she came to stay with me to recover from the surgery. After chemo and radiation Roz decided to get scuba certified. She came to stay in Orange County with us and we did it together. We had snorkeled all over the Pacific, mostly Tonga, Hawaii and Samoa. But diving off Laguna Beach and Catalina Island in cold water with wet suits is not anything like the warm clear waters of the South Pacific. It was fun, though and we loved it. We made plans then to dive in the Caribbean and go wreck diving. But now we never will.

Roz and our other sister Robin went for a month-long freighter cruise to the islands surrounding Tahiti. Dad had given all the kids some money and that is how they spent it. I had children in school and I spent it on carpet and tile and remodeling bathrooms. They spent it on a lifetime of memories. I wish now that I had gone with them. Well, except for the part where Robin broke her arm and had no drugs or doctors and had to wait overnight for a helicopter ride to an island where they spoke no English. She had to have surgery to be put back together and once again was sent by helicopter to the boat where she STILL had no pain meds. I'm glad to have missed that nightmare!

Rosalind later told me that these things were part of her "Bucket List". Like in the movie where Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman are both diagnosed with cancer and so they made a list of all the things they wanted to do before they kicked the bucket. I'm glad she was able to do her bucket list.

After Lee and I moved to Virginia, Roz and Arnold came for a visit. They helped us build a corral for horses. Arnold had to go back to work, but Roz stayed with us for a whole month. I wasn't working then and I treasure the memories of that visit.

Roz can't just sit and read a book, something that I can do every day for hours. She has to be up and doing. I'd notice her out working on my landscaping and feel compelled to join her. She called it earning her keep!

Roz had just gotten LEAD certified. I only know that is something to do with environmentally sound building practices. So she knew all the proper terms and could draw up building plans and read them, but she had no practical experience. So Roz helped us build a hay loft in our barn. You really know what a 12 foot joist is after you help nail up 15 or 20 of them. You understand why it is critical to get the measurements right when you nail the plywood on top and hope the joints line up on a joist! And Pinky helped us and I am glad for those memories, too.

Now my memories will be of her sick and in pain. I wish I had not listened to her all those times she said she was fine and spent more time with her. She knew the breast cancer would come back and her time was limited, but I couldn't accept that. I kept thinking we would have more time. They said 10 years and that is not up yet. And now this is all the time there is and I am so sad.

So now I spent this time with her. I helped her put things away in cupboards in the guest house where she and Arnold are now living while they tear down the main house and build a new one. A house Roz has designed but may never see. I helped her put away things she may never again use. I put things where she wanted when all I wanted to do was throw everything away and spend the rest of the time drawing pictures on her back....and try not to cry so she won't feel the need to comfort me.