Wednesday, December 28, 2016

That Year End Wrap Up Post

2016 started out hopeful... kind of went straight to hell from there but ended on a decent note.  I gained many experiences.  I'm going to trust that the ones I didn't enjoy and don't see the reason for are truly needful in some plan bigger than me.

So just what did I do?

I started saying "YES" to the adventures that presented themselves.  I went out and explored myself instead of waiting for a human companion.  I took more pictures because this world is an icredibly beautiful place.  I talked to strangers and listened to their stories of how life led them from where they were to where they are now.  I healed my soul a bit more and got a little closer to actually being me again.

I experienced some firsts. Even at my age there are lots of first times left!

  • visited 13 states - AL, SC, VA, MD, WV, and PA for the first time
  • tasted hominy, sauerkraut, bok choy, fish sauce and persimmon
  • tried some new combinations of food - kidney beans and potatoes fried together, turnips cooked with beef, potatoes, onion, celery and carrots in a pressure cooker (I'd always eaten them raw from my Dad's garden before), a Pennsylvania Dutch dish called Slippery Pot Pie, and Vinegar Cake
  • lived without running water or electricity for 3 months in a semi-remote mountain setting
  • showered at a truck stop (I didn't even know you could before this experience!)
  • drove a box (moving) truck
  • had to ask for a jump when I ran my car battery out
  • gave a jump to a stranger who was stranded alongside the road having done the same
  • made blueberry jam (never lived where a bush grew in the yard before and I'm too cheap to buy them!)
  • got the car stuck, and luckily unstuck, in the mud a few times
  • learned to clip the dog's nails by myself

I also did some things again that I hadn't for a long long time...

  • bathed in a creek
  • pooped in an outhouse
  • shot a pistol
  • observed wildlife up close - mostly deer, wild turkey and a variety of other birds
  • blogged a bit more regularly (at least toward the end of the year)
  • picked enough wild blackberries and black raspberries to make jam
  • experienced a Ward/Stake split/reorganization at Church
  • took a course where I struggled hard to learn the material (thinking I will go out of  my way to avoid using it forever more - it was that hateful!)
  • read the Book of Mormon
  • forgave someone who was very hard to forgive

And I even did one thing that I'd sworn never again... moved to a place where winters are cold and snowy.

I've marveled repeatedly at just how adaptable, accepting, and forgiving my dogs are... troopers through thick and thin. They amaze and inspire me daily to try harder and do better and grow up to have their attitude about just taking life as it comes.

I failed friends.  Circumstances changed suddenly and I didn't/couldn't do what I promised and I'm still scrambling to get that set right. And friends failed me. Different ones in different ways. It hurts but I still love them and want them in my life so I'll get over it.

I've been scared. And sad, And lonely at times. I've had people worry about me. And I've wondered myself if I'm ever going to get me put back together and rebuild an entire life and future.

I've also felt peace and love and hope and connection.

And, again, declared the coming year to be THE YEAR OF ME!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Random Stuff

Here's some stuff I've decided to share but none of it is really enough for a full on blog post by itself... so today, you get this week's odd random collection.


I saw something sort of like this on Pinterest a couple of months ago and when it led to a pattern for purchase, I decided I could probably knock it off.  I did. It's not an exact replica but it's close.  I'm happy with it and so I present you my version of a Napping Kitty Christmas Ornament!

To make your own, ch 4 and sl st in first st to form a circle.  Round 1: Ch 1 and make 11 sc in circle, join with sl st. Round 2: Ch 1 and make 2 sc in each st except the last one that would complete the round.  In this st, ch 2, hdc, dc, *ch 2 and join in first ch (this makes an ear)*, 3 dc repeat *  *, dc, hdc, ch 2 and join with sl st. Round 3: Pull loop from sl st through to front  of kitty at appx 3 o'clock position and ch 2, sc in first sc of Round 2 and in each st until you come to the kitty's head, sl st to join.  Form a loop to hang ornament and tuck tails (no pun intended) neatly.  I used a G hook and the Sugar & Spice cotton yarn to make this cute calico.


Kitchen Dog was showing his skills off today.  He went to the kitchen with Jason's Mom while she was putting some icing on a Vinegar Cake and bumped her elbow when she was adding powdered sugar to the bowl.  He proudly sported this look for a couple of hours before the sugar worked it's way off his face...

But back to the Vinegar Cake.  She told me it was a recipe from the WWII-era when things like flour, sugar, eggs and butter were rationed.  This is a way to have a cake without butter or eggs.  I was a little skeptical that the vinegar taste would come through and be a little weird, but the cake is really very good.

And it's been discovered.  A simple search on Pinterest found the recipe posted on sorts of websites and blogs under names like Crazy Cake, Wacky Cake and Depression Cake.  Rather than retype it yet again here, I'll just provide you with a link to someone else's recipe.

But seriously... look it up and give this cake a try!


Jason had some time today to run around and show me Mount Savage, Frostburg, Cumberland and some other adjacent towns in Maryland.  We took the boys to the dog park in Frostburg.  It's not anything spectacular, just a big fenced in open area where they could run off some excess energy.  Kind of plain but it does the job. And oh boy!  Did they take advantage of a chance to run freely!!

Lightning made an escape.  And Jason took off in a hot pursuit that would make ol' Rosco P. Coltrane proud and got a successful capture.  Coming back to where I was waiting by the gate he took a shortcut on a dirt access road that looked rather like an old rail line had been pulled up, someplace it was probably never intended he should be, and got stuck when the front driver's side tire broke through the ice on a massive pothole and dropped about 15 inches.  Sigh.

When it proved to be somewhat rather less than easy to get unstuck, he walked Lightning down to me and I put him inside the park where Jack was waiting on him with great anxiety. Then I walked across the grass to see if I could help, even if it was just to add some weight (don't think it let alone say anything!) to the back of the vehicle to help it gain traction.  That plan didn't work.  Bigger sigh.

Before long a nice man came along and offered to pull us out.  Not before someone else passing the dog park saw my 'unattended dogs,' decided they'd been abandoned and called the police though...  The officer was nice and found our explanation of what happened satisfactory and left with a hearty chuckle and wishes for a Merry Christmas.  Whew!

Yes, folks, this is how my life goes.  You seriously cannot make this stuff up!!

Friday, December 9, 2016

This Place is Trying to Kill Me!

I swear it is!

Let me tell you about the string of mishaps this past week.  First off, we've had about 10 days of mostly wet weather so the ground is quite soft and mushy. Again.  Mud is my constant companion.  And enemy.  I've decided I dislike mud almost as much as snow... slimy, slippery, oozing over the top of my shoes mud everywhere.  I don't have a single kind word to say about it and after it introduced itself to my bottom (clad in clean pants no less!) a couple of times I refuse to even try to find kind words about it!

It's made the main drive into what I now refer to as Deathtrap #1.  There's a part of it where one side is a steep 4 or 5-foot embankment, the other drops off 10-12 feet to a tributary creek, and the part where your car needs to be is... mud.  It's only that way for a few yards but a few yards is plenty!  My back wheels find absolutely nothing to grip through here so I fishtail wildly.  Usually falling short of making the top, I slide backwards down the hill until  my tires can grab on some stray bits of grass convinced that if that drop off doesn't kill me I will be injured badly enough to wish it had.  By the time I make several tries and fling enough mud to crest that little rise and roll on up to the cabin, my hands are shaking and I've screamed a rather creative string of profanities.

As an alternative, Jason showed me where to turn off by one of the natural gas wells and come up the back way through a pasture.  A couple of days ago, that presented itself as Deathtrap #2.  There's a specific spot where the car is tipped so far to the side that I'm scared I will roll so I've been going around it, just a few feet lower around some young trees. I spun out there and slid backward down the hill.  By the time I got the slide under control, my back wheels were about 6 inches from the edge of the high creek bank.  It took 45 minutes of inching forward and back and desperately trying to convince God this was not a good day for me to die to get the car turned sideways so I could back up enough to find a different angle to get up and around that corner of the fence. I did it!  Mud put up a heck of a battle that day, but I won!!  And when I got to my parking spot next to the cabin, I sat there for a few minutes shaking and saying a prayer of thanksgiving.

I also have to tell you about Gizmo's new habit.  He has taken to grunting when he wants something.  It's a deep, gravely, irritating sort of grunt and then he raises his little eyebrows and stares off into space with a coyly innocent expression while I try to devine what it is he wants.  Outside, food, water, a treat, a R-I-D-E to the P-A-R-K... it all gets the exact same grunt.  He woke me up with the grunt a few nights ago.  I figured out that he was going to barf pretty quickly and struggled to get Jack and Lightning off me so I could jump up and open the door.  The doorknob fell off in my hand.  And Gizmo did not get out in time...  Is there anything more disgusting than cleaning up a giant dog barf in the middle of the night?  Unfortunately, yes.  There's the part about fighting him back from eating it, as if round 2 is going to sit any better in his tummy, while you clean it up.

After a half hour of fidgeting around I did get the knob to slide into place but it's still coming off about every third time I need to open the door.  Mostly that's just a nuisance but it has potential to make a real problem into something even worse.

Like last night.

I was feeling rather pleased with myself for beating mud at its own game 2 days in a row and wanted to sit down and peacefully sip a cup of cocoa before bed... I put a pan with some water on the Coleman burner and proceeded to put the hot chocolate mix in my cup.  I've said before that thing ain't right... but Jason can't find a problem and dismisses my discomfort with using that flaming little burner.  So I grit my teeth and so far have managed to cook a few meals on it. I still say that thing ain't right!  I think it might be possessed and whatever is in there sure as heck doesn't answer to "Genie!"  It flamed out. Again.  This time worse than ever before... It spit up fuel like a fussy baby which caught fire all over the top of the dry sink and nearly lit up my sleeve while I tried to shut it off and smother the flames with a damp towel. The flames jumped to the floor this time so I did a little dance stomping them out. And I managed to burn a dishcloth, too.  Not just a little singe on the edge either... half the dishcloth is a gaping black hole.  And the cabin is filled with the acrid and ever attractive scent of Eau de Ashes.  Or is it Charcoal #5?

I think it's time for a new adventure.  And this next one really must include a hot shower, a real indoor toilet, and a fully functioning kitchen!  I've proved I can survive an off-grid prepper sort of existence.  Maybe not thrive in it, but I can survive.  And that's good enough for  me.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

5 Minutes You'll Never Get Back

Last night as we were getting settled in bed Gizmo decided he needed to snuggle. He may be all sorts of wonderful but a snuggle dog Gizmo is not... He just doesn't have that soft, squishy, comfortable-to-cuddle-on-your-lap kind of body and he doesn't usually even try but every now and then he decides you are in desperate need of a dose of his kind of lovin' and heaven help you, there's not a darn thing you can do about it. You will be Gizzered!

Gizmo, November 11, 2016
Last night was my lucky night...

He took a mighty leap at my side and ended up clinging for dear life with his front legs wrapped over the top of my head and the rest of his body hanging down past my shoulder. His embrace felt more like being trapped in the clenches of a love sick baboon than something pleasant, but I love my little dude so I endured it. Jack was sound asleep and snoring by my other knee already folded into as neat a little ball as a 100-lb Doberman can get which is, actually, surprisingly compact. And in that moment, for no apparent reason whatsoever, I got the giggles. Like out of control, could not stop, shrieking-at-the-top-of-my-lungs kind of giggles proving once again that I am awfully easy to keep entertained. Anyway, I laughed so hard there were tears running down my face. I was gasping for breath and probably turning blue from lack of oxygen. I laughed so hard I almost threw up. Lightning was so worried! He kept stomping round and round and over the top of me, crushing a lung in the process, and sniffing at my face. His expression was utter confusion about what was wrong with me. I guess I don't indulge in a good hard laugh often enough... I guess that needs to change!

Jack, November 11, 2016
After I finally got myself under control, and Gizmo off of me, I decided I was hungry and deserved a snack for surviving such a most excellent workout. I've been very good and didn't even buy any easy-grab-and-snack-junky stuff on the last grocery run so I had to resort to one of my Mom's standby munchies: buttered saltines. Yeah, I know. Ew! Could there be a food that tastes more like cardboard? And butter "just greases it up so it slides better," as she used to say. My Mom buttered everything. Everything. Even pepperoni pizza. But I digress... We were snacking on crackers (which I don't even like except with chili and then it's more like I have a little chili with my bowl of crushed up crackers) and Lightning burps like a third grader in a school yard contest. I swear if he knew how, that was a burp where he could have got the whole alphabet out. He looked as surprised by it as I was!

Lightning, November 11, 2016
To celebrate his utter lack of good manners and top the evening off, I took on the challenge of getting all 3 boys to howl at the moon with me. Not an easy fete! It's like they know howling is a talent that they missed the heavenly line up to get for this lifetime so it takes some serious effort to get an "owoooooo" going. And they still sound more like strangling goats than anything... Is it sad that I have a better howl than my dog? True story!

If you're still reading you've either laughed with me at least once or I just succeeded in wasting 5 minutes of your life that you've got no chance of ever getting back.  Either way...

Thanks for sharing in my bit of ridiculousness!!

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Several nights ago I was having a hard time going to sleep, and then staying asleep once I found my dreamland, so I spent some of the dark hours looking at the stars.  They are so bright and clear here in Ellenboro!  Even brighter and bigger than I remember from childhood when my Dad would try, with unending patience... even as I'm sure I unendingly tried his patience with just not getting it, to show me how to find the constellations of Idaho's night sky.  During my gazings, and trying to equate what I saw in the sky to what the Sky Map app on my phone told me I was looking at, I started to wonder at the imagination of whoever anciently decided which stars go together in that cosmic scale dot-to-dot we call constellations.  These are the stars of Capricornus.  You don't see that astrological goat the zodiac uses to symbolically describe the attributes of people like me who are born between mid-December and mid-January either?

Now?  Having the lines drawn in sure makes it easier to see...  My mind is still in awe at the idea that another human brain came up with this.  How did they pick one star over another, that our finite earthly sight, looks close enough to keep the same shape? And what inspired them to look for patterns among the stars?  What keeps us looking today?

I fully admit that any time I go outside at night, I look up.  And I can usually spot the Big Dipper, a part of the Ursa Major constellation, and sometimes even its smaller counterpart that features the North Star, Polaris, as the bright jewel of its handle.

That, sadly, is about the extent of my ability without the help of some sort of chart or map or more experienced star gazer.  I fear wouldn't get far if I had to navigate a trip using the stars... Thank goodness today our cells phone offer an app for that!

I was still star gazing at 1:00 am when the dogs decided they just had to go out.  With the door open to slip the lead onto Lightning's collar, I noticed one really bright star just over the top of the hill this little cabin faces.  I took a guess that it might be Sirius.  I was right!!  How appropriate to be greeted by the "dog star" on that particular errand!
When we were all settled under the blankets again, I noticed on my app how many planets were lined up on or next to the line identified as the ecliptic.  I don't know that this kind of planetary alignment has any special meaning or not, or that the planets were even all lined up anywhere but on my phone app, but it reminded me how big and very ordered this universe we call home really is.  And what a small bit of dust I am in it.  And yet my Bible and my experience tells me that I am important enough that the very God who created all this takes thought of me.  Even when I'm questioning and don't really feel like I've got much of His attention lately... Maybe that's the best reminder of all that I could draw from a night spent looking at the stars and wondering about what's really out there.

See how the Moon, Neptune, Mars, and Pluto are lined up?  Uranus was on the
same line beyond this screen capture beyond the Moon on the one side and
both Venus and Mercury were beyond Pluto on the other.  That faint line is noted
as the Ecliptic and points to the Sun.

And how amazing is it that we can see (maybe with the help of a telescope) so many strange and different worlds?  Wouldn't visiting them be an adventure to blog about?

(All photos in this post are screen captures from the Sky Map app for Androids.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Sheepherder Potoatoes

Finished dish... see how the water has thickened into a sauce?
Both of my Grandmas were young wives with young families to keep fed during The Depression. They had to get really good at making something out of nothing... My Grandma Clarke made a dish she called Sheepherder Potatoes that fits that description.

By the time I came along, she had a few more luxuries and made them in an electric skillet. That's what I remember and am trying to describe here. Once she had her skillet nicely warmed, she'd thinly slice potatoes and add them to the skillet with enough water to cover about 2/3 of the way and add a pat or two of butter and salt and pepper.  Be generous with the pepper!  Then she'd put the cover on and step away to do whatever else needed doing in her day while the potatoes simmered on low for a couple of hours.  They only need a gentle stir once in awhile when you check to make sure there's still water on them. When the potatoes are soft enough to start breaking apart, the dish is done.  Spoon out a taste and adjust the salt and pepper to taste.  The water will have thickened from the starch cooking out of the potatoes to make a peppery sauce, or gravy.

Everything is in the pan and ready to start simmering away.
Sounds simple?  It is.  And I think that's part of why it tastes so surprisingly good!  It's totally uncomplicated... just honest, simple, down-home comfort food.

I attempted to make some on top of the little Coleman Camp Stove that serves as my indoor cooking appliance on this mostly off-grid adventure.  I didn't achieve perfection with a dull knife, no cutting surface, imprecise heat, and a foil "lid" but I improvised with what I had and got close to what she made.  And they tasted pretty darned good!!

I can't remember now if there was a meat she served these potatoes alongside or not but while I was eating them I had visions of a green vegetable, maybe like sauteed spinach or chard, and a nice pan roasted trout.

Yup.  I'm STILL jonesing to go fishing...

Warning: Political Post

Today is election day 2016... Can't wait until it's over and we can figure out which half of the country is most angry.  It's almost like waiting to see if we are entering a civil war or ushering in the apocalypse if you read much political commentary.  I think both major party candidates are very sad choices... and I just can't make myself choose which is the lesser of two evils because that's still evil.  Meh!

Here in Ritchie County, West Virginia the battle to be settled is whether or not one may hunt on Sunday.  That a personal lifestyle choice like that is even an issue in the 21st century simply stuns me, but it is a very heated ballot issue here.  Hunting is probably not how I would choose to spend my Sunday but I don't feel like I have the right to make that choice for you.  And if you can gauge the feeling in the religious community from the radio ads, that seems to be a common feeling.  I've listened to more than one pastor come out in support of allowing Sunday hunting because "time spent in nature is a wonderful way to commune with God."

And then these signs started appearing alongside the ones urging approval.  The choices are outright approval, approving Sunday hunting on private land only, and continuing the ban on it.

If you had this choice on your ballot today, how would you vote?  Why?

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Periods Will Still Happen

This video came up in my Facebook feed awhile back and I just haven't been able to get it off my mind. I'm not thinking about the information in quite the spirit it was presented, though.  This got me thinking in a whole different direction.

The producers, a group called Bustle, make an excellent point about how hard it is to be a woman when you are living on the streets.  I don't want to detract from their message in any way because it's good and valid and something so very overlooked.  I know when I've been part of a humanitarian project supplying sanitary supplies to homeless people, or to refugee families being re-settled in my town or that were being sent to an area with a recent natural disaster, we all thought about things like soap and toothpaste and even toilet paper and disposable razors.  But no one thought to add tampons or pads to the personal care packages. Not even once. As a woman it blows my mind that it didn't come to mind as a need for other women.

If that aspect of the film touches your heart and you feel inspired to do something about it... please, do!

While you are watching, the Mormon girl in me who's heard the lifelong drill to be prepared and have an emergency supply of food and other needs set aside in storage is asking you to think about the setting you see yourself living in after a disaster.  Doesn't it look a lot like today's homelessness?

I think we can take a very good lesson from these ladies who were brave enough to share their very personal stories for our own preparations.  Add feminine hygiene products to your emergency preparedness supplies/food storage.  Maybe you've already thought about it and have some, even enough to take care of your anticipated needs quite well, so think about adding more for these two reasons:
  • You'll have some to share with women who have the need but no supplies.  That will do your heart and spirit good.
  • You'll also have a valuable commodity for trading in an emergency situation.  You can use them to get things you need, or want, but don't have. That will do your survival and comfort good.

If you think trading them sounds cold and heartless...  I'd also ask you to consider other products that will be valuable for trading in that situation.  Even if they don't have a place in your personal lifestyle choices there will be people desperately trying to get their hands on these items so they will quickly become very valuable commodities. For example:

Hard liquor
Coffee (both for brewing and instant)
Coffee Creamer

Thursday, November 3, 2016


If I told you I visited a place that looked like the set of a Hallmark Hall of Fame Movie would you think I was drunk, dreaming or telling you a tall tale?

Well... that's exactly what I'm telling you about Marietta Ohio!  

Middle Island is one of several islands in the Ohio River that
are in some state of being returned to nature as wildlife preserves.
This guide provides more information about the plans, activities
that are available and a map of the islands:
I wasn't sure what to expect when, during Jason's last visit, he suggested we keep exploring after a look around St. Mary's and checking out the 235-acre former farm turning back to nature for a wildlife preserve on Middle Island and headed over their lovely old metal bridge.  

But I surely was in for a good surprise!!  It was getting late enough in the afternoon that we were losing light for photographs, and a good look around, so we made plans to go back the next day.

Bridge between St. Mary's, WV and Ohio
We made that exploration a continuation of a trip to the dog park so the boys got an extra treat of taking a little walk around Muskingum Park right on the bank of the Ohio River in downtown Marietta.  They loved it!  And, even with one or the other them pulling me in 20 different directions all at the same time, I managed to get some pictures...

Muskingum Park
Dedication Marker
The park commemorates the westward expansion of our country beyond the original 13 colonies and is now home to a beautiful walking trail and a thriving arts and music community. The section we explored is situated between the downtown business district and a residential area with a number of historical marker-ed houses and churches.

One of the current arts programs is turning several dead trees into art installations by carving historical figures from the stumps like this one.  I didn't find a marker telling me who it is in place yet but I think it's a pretty neat idea to give these old trees a living voice to the history they witnessed.

Memorial to the Start Westward

Memorial to the Start Westward
Looks like it's time for a little more
restoration work...

We eventually headed back toward the cabin over the "Green Bridge," another of these really cool old ironworks bridges that have me so completely fascinated and charmed.

The Green Bridge between Marietta OH and Williamstown WV

And since I was driving, we took a couple more little side-trips to see stuff that interests me.  One of them was to the old Fenton Art Glass Factory in Williamstown.

Fenton Art Glass factory in Williamstown, WV

Sadly, the company ceased making art glass pieces in 2011 and there's just a gift shop that wasn't open the day we were there.  Seeing the glass production is something I would have loved...  Their wikipedia page gives some interesting facts about its founding and pictures the kind of glass pieces they produced at different times during the company's lifetime.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Clipping of the Toe Nails

Should I suddenly and mysteriously die, the coroner tasked with figuring out why would wonder about all the scratches and gashes and bruises and punctures on my body and probably formulate a theory about ritualistic torture.  S/he’d be wrong… but circumstantial evidence would certainly point toward that being a viable theory.  The dog’s nails are even longer now than when I last asked the vet to clip them during a visit and he declined saying they’d wear down naturally as the boys were outside running around more over the summer.  That may be a perfectly true statement if they went out on a paved surface.  I can see how concrete would act as a kind of rasp and keep their nails down to a reasonable length.  But they are on grass.  And grass doesn’t make much of a file.  And their nails are now very long and very sharp!  They’ve pretty much become deadly weapons… And I am getting badly abused as we play and snuggle and jostle for sleeping position.

“Ouch!!” and “Owe baby… your wicked talons are ripping my flesh open so my guts will spill out and I will die and THEN who will feed you and drive you places?” have become way too frequent and dramatic exclamations around here.  Reaching for something to wipe up a trickle of blood as it runs down my leg has also become way too frequent of an occurrence.  And the amount of peroxide I buy to get blood stains out of my clothes is starting to garner me suspicious glances! I have the scars to back up one whale of a tall tale should I ever want to tell one!

It was time for me to get over this little fear and clip their nails myself.

I found this picture on Pinterest but the link leads to a dead blog...
leaving me with a really good illustration but no one to credit for its
creation.  Anonymous Wise Person, thank you!
So I went through all the preparations.  I studied up on clippers and techniques and safety precautions.  I gathered my tools.  I steeled my resolve.  And I wrangled Jack into position.

And clip.  Clip, clip, clip. One paw done.  He didn't pull away at all.  He just sat there, leaned down to sniff the clipper once, and watched me clip away.  The other 3 feet were done the same way.  His ONLY reaction was the expression on his face that said "Jack don't give a [insert your your favorite inflammatory exclamation here]!"  Lightning was curious about the sound and thought the little clipped ends that went flying would make a good snack.  He was probably also jealous that Jack was the center of my attention for those few minutes... the jealousy is strong between those two!  He tried to push his way in a couple of times.  My only struggle with clipping Jack's nails was making Lightning wait for his turn.  And then he sat there for me just as patiently.  Gizmo was the only objector... but he's afraid of pretty much everything so that shouldn't be a huge surprise, I guess.  It took a couple of treats, some soothing words, and a little longer but his nails are done, too, without a lot of undue fuss.

Honestly, clipping their toe nails is easier than clipping my own!

All that build up.  All the people telling me it was such a big deal - a difficult and dangerous and odious task better left to veterinarians and groomers who are trained to do it. All that time I spent worried about hurting them, or me!  Why?  I was thinking I would get to impress you mastering a new skill and it just ended up being no big deal.  I feel robbed.  Totally let down and deflated.  (Yes, I'm exaggerating!)  Either I have the most stupendously wonderful dogs in the whole world or this whole nail clipping thing is scam to steal your money!  It's probably that I've got really great dogs!!

There are a couple of things I learned worth passing along, though:
  • Take some time to touch your dogs feet and get them comfortable with their paws being handled.  Don't stick your fingers in between their toes, though.  That's one of those ticklish in an uncomfortable way, and it might get you bit, kind of places for many dogs.
  • Figure out how to identify the "quick."  It's the fleshy bit on the inside where the blood vessel is.  If you cut it, there will be blood.  And pain.  And you'll probably feel even worse about doing it than the dog does!! But it's not the end of the world if you do nick it.
  • Learn the very simple first aid steps to deal with a cut to the quick.  You can get styptic powder from a pet supply (or maybe even a barber? I remember my Dad had a "styptic stic" in his shaving stuff.) or even use baking soda, cornstarch or a quick rub with a clean bar of soap to stop the bleeding.
  • Handle the clippers a bit before you touch the dog with them.  Get used to how they feel in your hands and how the handles and blade move. You'll jump if you get pinched using them and when you jump your dog will jump, too.
  • Be calm.  Talk to your dog is confident soothing tones so they have the cues to relax and be confident you aren't hurting them.  Use treats to reward good behavior.

Monday, October 24, 2016

My Prepper Potty

My tolerance point with the outhouse was met during the rainstorm last week. I don't really like it at its very best and I especially dislike the nighttime mad runs to go pee. And I outright hate it when rain has turned the trail into slippery, slimy, sink-to-your-ankles, slurping, sucking mud where you get "stuck" and dirty yourself in the attempt to avoid dirtying yourself all while trying to keep your cell phone dry and clean because it also functions as your only flashlight.  Yeah... the experience was all that, with a cherry on top!

For years I've seen various prepper potties on Facebook, Pinterest, Blogs and other places and I've intended to add one to my own camping/emergency provisions but, honestly, it took this wilderness adventure to motivate me into action.  I was planning on spending around $10 on it.  I spent more. If you take the time to shop around you can probably find the pieces well inside that budget but, as noted, I had met my utmost point of tolerance with the available bathroom facilities so price wasn't my #1 concern.

$12.97 at Walmart.
To make your own prepper potty you need just 2 things: a 5-gallon bucket and a special lid. I'm using it only for nighttime needs and will be dumping it in the outhouse and rinsing it out the next morning.  And I'll rinse it with bleach water periodically, too.
$3 at Home Depot.

If you're going to use it in the traditional camping, or apocalypse, setting there are additional sanitation issues you'll need to consider. Since other bloggers have covered that in varying degrees of graphic detail, I'm just going to give you a few links to check out and not include that part here.

So... you went shopping and you've got your bucket and lid.  What to do with them?

Start by taking your lid out of its cardboard packaging.  Then snap it on the bucket pretty much the same way you'd snap the seal on your favorite Tupperware bowl.  That's about it... Congrats!  You are now the proud owner of your very own prepper potty!!

Lid up.                            Lid down.                           Lid up.

I think Home Depot's tag line is really appropriate for this project!

Using your prepper potty is interesting the first time or two.  It's not exactly ideal height... so getting yourself positioned can be a bit of a challenge.  (If you can find it, opt for a 6-gallon bucket and it's a little better!  Those extra two inches make a lot of difference!!)  Put an old towel under it if you're using it indoors just in case, you know, you don't "do this" in a straight stream.  Hey, sometimes it happens. TMI?  I sort of thought so, too, but decided since we are all friends I'd be safe sharing that sort of weird intimate personal detail.  This prepper potty is not a perfect substitute for indoor plumbing but it sure beats the outhouse! I highly suggest one for your tent camping/emergency equipment.

If you subscribe to any apocalyptic theories - End of the World, disaster bug outs, civil unrest pending the outcome of next month's Presidential election (all well within the realm of possibility) - I have an additional bit of advice.  Make your prepper potty NOW!!  And practice using it a few times so that it's familiar, especially if you have kids.  When the world around you is in a state of utter chaos is not the time to be perfecting your technique to squat!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Did you say that in your head like the city in Egypt?  If you did, you just set yourself apart as not a local.  Natives say it KARE-OH.

Where Highway 31 crosses the river leading you toward
Highway 50.  I find these old ironwork bridges so charming
and appealing...
Stained glass window in the
Apostolic Church of Cairo.
I LOVE stained glass!
With homes and businesses stretching along the North Fork of the Hughes River, Cairo is another charming small town just up the road a bit from Ellenboro along the formerly lucrative North Bend Rail Line that’s now been transformed into 72 miles of hiking, biking, and horse riding trail. And like most small towns, the parts that are really interesting and beautiful aren’t apparent unless you slow down and look for them.

Since I’m trying to do just that, I pulled into a parking space on one of the business streets and waved back to the man sitting on the front porch of his bicycle shop fixing tires.  We talked for a few minutes and I learned the shop is there to rent bicycles for day trips on the trail or to repair those that have had an unfortunate mishap along the way and had to be pushed in.

The old Bank of Cairo building, situated
beautifully on the river bank, is now home
to the North Bend Rail Trail Foundation.
He told me both diners, The Trailside and Shemp’s, were decent places to get dinner.  And he pointed out a decrepit old Victorian house that’s for sale... cheap.  At least it seems cheap from what I'm accustomed to seeing real estate list for.  Like him, I hope someone who loves those “painted lady” houses comes along and makes it a showpiece of this quaint little town!  He also alerted me to the Veteran’s Monument I’d parked by and still managed to miss seeing…

There's a bell I'm guessing gets rung ceremoniously during holiday commemorations and a pair of iron benches for those who want to pause, read, and reflect. These 5 plaques are aligned on a long and simple granite marker:

It was known as the Great War... the war to end all wars.

We went "over there" to the songs and cheers of our countrymen, and marched
right into the grim reality of twentieth-century warfare.  Poison gas, machine
guns, tanks, aircraft, and submarines were devastating innovations.  We fought
in trenches, on the sea, and in the air.

We helped make the world safe for democracy... but it was only the beginning.
This memorial is in honor of all of the World War II veterans who were involved
in the fight for the freedom of America and the free world.

Whether they fought in the Pacific or European theater, they faced a resolute and
often brutal enemy; yet they possessed the inner strength and courage that kept
them going on the beaches of Normandy, in the deserts of North Africa, and on
the islands of the South Pacific.

The actions of those who were called to duty were probably best described by the
words of Admiral Nimitz: "Uncommon valor was a common virtue."
They told us, "We are going to have peace even if we have to fight for it." So we
fought in the mountains at Heartbreak Ridge and waded ashore at Inchon.

We froze in the winter and baked in the summer sun.

At times, we were greatly outnumbered, but we still fought on and many of us gave
our lives for Freedom... for Justice... and for Peace

This memorial was erected in memory of the young individuals who went to war
as kids and lost their youthful dreams, and some their lives, for a cause - freedom
and honor - and came back as men with the horrors of war instilled in every fiber
of their being and were never given the respect and honor they so dearly deserved
from the public or United States government.

God will one day judge our actions.  Until then, He will shine on the lives of each
veteran now and forever more because He was with each of them in Vietnam. He is
the only One that truly knows what they went through and are living with every day.
"I have seen in your eyes a fire of determination to get this job done quickly so that
we may all return to the shores of our great nation.  My confidence in you is total.
Our cause is just.  Now you must be the thunder and lightning of Desert Storm."
- General Norman Schwarzkopf

I have connections to all these conflicts - relatives and friends who've served in the Army, Navy, Airforce and Marine Corp...  And the monuments celebrating the achievements of our veterans have sure found a place in my heart, especially the ones you find in obscure places where you don't expect them. I welcome these opportunities to stop and think about the courage it takes to offer yourself up for the good of your country knowing you might be called on to make that ultimate sacrifice.  There’s something sacred about that kind of bravery that deserves to be honored.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Leaf Peeping & Stuff

Jason came to check on us and make sure we were surviving our wilderness adventure.  While he was here we took little trips to explore some nearby cities.  And since he keeps telling my phone pictures are pretty bad, I've been trying to use my camera more. Not sure it helps a lot... the problem may be just as much my photography skills as the device I'm using.  One day we drove up to Parkersburg and he took me to Rural King, where we bought dog food, and then we drove over the 50 cent toll bridge into Belpre, OH where we stopped in at the world's tiniest Goodwill.  (Seriously!  I would question if it was even 500 square feet but he looked annoyed when I referred to it as an adorable miniature...)  I had to laugh thinking 'Do we know how to romance or what?'  Another day we took off in the opposite direction and took a look around Clarksburg.  That day highlighted how opposite from most people we are - he pointed the car straight to the mall while I wanted to take pictures of cool buildings, historic sites and nature.  Here's a few pictures of stuff I wanted to see that I managed to snap along the way:

Leaves are just starting to change colors for fall.

Sometimes when you look out at the horizon it's like you can see trees forever.

You can see that it's giving way, but green is still putting up a good fight
to stick around awhile longer.

One more shot of the first blush of fall color from along Highway 50.
The dogs got to show him their new favorite dog park.  They had a great romp and then crashed in the back of the Explorer while we played a game of heads = turn right, tails = turn left going on up Volcano Road.  We ended up on a road I don't quite have an adequate vocabulary to describe (let alone get pictures of!) where the car was bouncing and lurching over the ruts and boulders... Amazingly, it finally connected to another beautifully blacktopped road a few miles later.

Shortly before the end of the Civil War, Volcano emerged as a major oil producing
boomtown in the White Oak region of Wood and Ritchie Counties...

We both thought this little cave in the rocks and tree roots was pretty neat.

We turned a corner and he hit the brakes! There was
Ginger and Cindy, horses he owned before the family
farm burned 8 years ago and he sold them. He called
to them and they perked right up and then he hopped
the fence went to pet them.  They are following him
back toward the car for more...

I hear this construction site is a new nuclear plant.  Looks like a possibility to me.  And the guard frowning at me for taking pictures kind of reinforced the idea...  We were on a public road and not trespassing on a private build site. The signs didn't give many clues, they just said Entero Energy Clearwater Project (which didn't come up in Google when I searched).

From another day... in St. Mary's:
I walked in some famous footsteps!!  And I stomped all
around the bank here just to make sure my foot fell somewhere
that his did so I could honestly say that...

The Ohio River directly behind the monument for George Washington's landing.

And just when you think the adventure is over and you've FOUND him... find out you're wrong and the adventure continues!  We pulled in at the cabin well after sundown and I saw some bright lights up on the dark hillside.  I pointed them out to Jason.  He said a couple of words I won't repeat here and took off up the hill through the tall grass and brush and whatever else is growing there to investigate.  Before long he pulls up and tells me he's got to go meet the DNR officer and then they'll both come back.  An hour later... I learned the lights were some guys using spotlights on their pickups to hunt deer up there, which is illegal, on private property where they had no permission to be, which is even more illegal, and then evading arrest, which is even still more illegal.  What an exciting way to end our visit... And test if my phone, which has only super sketchy service up here, could even make a 911 call!