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Little Susie Homesteader

My friends know me well.

I’m chatting with a buddy who is a commercial distance transportation specialist (that’s “trucker” to most folks) because when you’re stuck in traffic with a few tons of marketable goods or hazardous materials, you can’t read a book.  Sometimes you call up a friend and chat them up to keep your sanity as the jerk who can’t read the LANE ENDS MERGE RIGHT signage topples a cone to dash into the inches worth of space between your rig’s nose the tail of the one in front of you.

He asks how the family is doing and bring him up to speed; the teenager is sulking today for some reason or other, as teens will often do. The husband is fine, prepping for another road trip in search of a podium finish. I mention his eye is doing better; he recently had to have a small piece of metal removed and has been on prescription drops since.  The perils of working in a race shop.

He suggests to me I visit my local Tractor Supply and pick up welder’s caps. The brim he says helps keep bits of ground metal from getting into his eyes, and the cover prevents pieces from embedding in the scalp or becoming caught in the hair and falling into the face and eyes later.  Hmm, not a bad idea. Then he suggests I could just whip out the trusty old Singer and make a few myself.

I scoff at this suggestion.   “Honey, what do I look like to  you, Little Susie Homemaker?”

“Nope”, he laughs, “you’re Little Susie Freaking Homesteader!”

I realize he has a point.

It wouldn’t take much for us to be completely self sufficient here.  Though my summer garden is much smaller than prior years (still recovering from that broken ankle) it will be more than enough to keep our family of three in fresh produce for months.  The surplus will be dried, frozen or canned and put up into the pantry for cooking during the winter.  Nothing like breaking open a few quart jars of my chili base in mid January, the tomatoes, peppers, onions and garlic smelling like I picked them yesterday.  Richard can eat an entire pint of pickles in a single siting, he adores them. The fruit trees are bearing well too. The pie cherries are coming along. The apples are already weighing down every branch and I’ve been getting my supplies together to make batches of apple butter and packages of dried apple slices.   My peaches need another year to produce enough to put up a few quarts of preserves but we can wait.

Our small flock of egg layers  and our rabbitry residents love the garden surplus too.   The back meadow gives us cuttings of orchard grass hay for the bunnies to snack on in colder months and during the warmer ones, our pasture boxes allow the rabbits to graze on a natural diet and exhibit natural behaviors.  Every other day, we just move the habitat to keep them in fresh clover.  What we do not eat is traded with friends; our rabbits are large and tender and in demand.  The flock free ranges around the property during the day, eating their fill and basking in the sun. The ducks lounge around their pool quite a bit. Rough gig, right?   The extra drakes, when we have them, go to freezer camp.

The back 40 provides a few other wonderful things for us. Wild mushrooms. Beneficial herbs and plants. If you know where to  look and what you’re looking at.

The freezer is often supplemented with wild game, too. Whatever is in season at the time. The dogs enjoy the bones and organ meats, and we have a great variety of excellent nutrition for the whole year.  You should try my venison stroganoff!

We’ve brought in lambs to ‘finish’ before processing before. We have enough space to add a steer for beef, a hog or two for pork and even a couple of goats for milk , weed control and meat.  Our long terms plans involve getting the right knowledge base for care of these animals and structures and shelters to support and contain them first.  No cart before the horse here. These are not decisions we enter into lightly.

drizzle
“drizzle”, a temporary resident at the homestead.

We’ve established barters between some like minded folks; trading one another what we have for what we don’t.  Sharing tips and tricks along the way.  I love where I live!

We already have rain barrels and gravity fed systems for some of the animals so they always have a steady supply of drinking water. Add a few solar panels across the roof and my stock tank fish ponds and we’re good to go.

So I guess my friend is right.  And I admit it- I do own and know how to use that sewing machine. Being able care for yourself and your family with hands on skills for planting, harvesting, hunting, processing, and what used to be called the “housewifely arts” before the advent of political correctness, is fast becoming extinct.  If this entire system of instant gratification fell apart tomorrow, if the stores were all closed or empty, would you be able to feed your family?  Mend clothes? Care for an illness or injury?   We can.

Want to learn? Start small. Try a garden with your kids to show them where food comes from and maybe even try eating things they may ordinarily turn down.  Its different when they can say “I did this!”.Turn the computers off and go outside. play a game with your children of naming the tree and plant species you see. Extra points if the know a fun fact about them.  Get back in touch with life- open a window, a real window, not an electronic one!  Take your shoes off.  Dig your hands in a rich pile of garden soil.  Slow down and get back in touch with the world.   You’ll be glad you did 🙂

 

whoopsadaisy

My husband, a car chief for a race team, has been known to utter an oft used expression from his industry when he sees something bad about to happen: “This is all gonna end in a lot of fiberglass and tears“. The resulting damage is usually explained by another phrase: “He ran out of track and talent at the same time“.

I never thought those words would apply to me and certainly not in such a mundane happenstance.

It was a gorgeous spring day on our acreage. For weeks my daughter and I had been taking advantage of the mild late winter weather to cut back overgrowth that was weighing down fences, raking out dead branches and clearing larger areas for actual leisure use.  The pile in the center of the far back yard near the edge of the back 40 was getting rather big.   We finally had a day with little to no wind perfect for burning.  The ashes were going to be spread into our garden area to help nurture the soil.  That was the plan. And for a while, it was a good one.

Cue Murphy. You know, Murphy, the guy who says anything that can go wrong, will.  He made a spectacular appearance.

Here I am on this lovely warm Saturday, half a dozen projects around the house and yard in motion and chatting on the phone with my Bestie on the Westie (Constance lives in California).  I’m raking burning bits of branches, leaves and other debris back towards the central burn area which has become considerably smaller since it started. Fire works like that, who knew?  That’s when I feel a sharp, burning pain in my left foot. Yep, the left.  Damn that hurts! I jerk my foot up, mutter an expletive or two and and desperately trying to figure out what in the world just went through my shoe into my foot (a nail was my first guess)  when I roll the right foot under me in what must have looked to any observer- thankfully there were none- like some warped version of Swan Lake. I heard the SNAP before I felt myself collapse. Right into the smoldering edges of the burn pile.  I’d screamed when it happened, and dropped my phone. I pulled myself, and luckily the phone, backwards out of the ashes into the grass, tears streaming down my face. This really, REALLY hurt.  And I have a high threshold.

Connie was alarmed asking what happened.  Between gasps of breath through the pain I told her I thought I’d just broken my ankle.  I called out to the house for help but they couldn’t hear me. Thank goodness I had pulled out the phone.  Connie made the calls and texts to my husband to locate me out back. By the time he made it out to me I’d discovered it was a piece of locust tree branch, with two inch thorns, that had pierced my left foot. I removed it and attempted to put my right ankle into a position it could tolerate.

Not. A. Good. Idea.  But still it had to be done. As did the removal of the shoe. From the rate of the swelling it was either that or have it cut off later.

Richard, bless this man, quickly realized I couldn’t bear any weight in any way and that it was too far to carry me home. He retrieved the smaller yard tractor and an attached cart, lined carefully with a moving blanket to try to give me some comfort.  After several  agonizing tries he was able to get me seated in the cart, and as he drove to the house I took a good critical look at the sum of all circumstances involved and gave him new directions. Emergency room. Now.

I hate seeing a doctor for anything. The fact I was willing to go without any argument or coercion of any kind on his part elicited an immediate response. Once there, and whisked back quickly to a large exam room, he came to the realization it was bad with a capital B when I didn’t refuse painkillers. That high tolerance I have for pain is mirrored by a low tolerance for drugs, especially anything narcotic. I get very….interesting…on even low doses.  I may be conscious but I have no recollection of events.  I avoid it whenever possible and have a great relationship with things like Tylenol and Aleve.  They work and there’s no pesky what day is it? after-effects.

Unfortunately for me while the pharmacy was debating what I could tolerate without going for a three day trip to La La Land,  Dr. Brisk Bedsidemanner, MD, was confirming his initial diagnosis (and the immediate affirmation of every nurse I’d seen so far) of a broken ankle. It needed splinting, he said, and he got right down to business with the help of a nearby nurse who he instructed to cup my heel and pull my toes to straighten the break while he applied an OrthoGlass splint and wrappings.  The problem? This was BEFORE the nice young lady with the syringes came back.   “Oh you started without me!” she exclaimed watching me grip the sheets with clenched fists while buckets of tears poured down my face.  To her credit, Nurse Lenda Hand got about as pale as me just assisting and kept muttering soft placating tones in my ear meant to get me through it.  I’ll take that drink now please, and make it a double.

Yet here still, never once taking a hand away from a comforting touch, was my Marine.  Richard stayed for the entire process.  He didn’t leave my side at all except for being shoo’ed away for the mobile xray. Then BOOM,  the moment they finished, rear end planted firmly in the seat alongside me, making sure I didn’t go through any of it alone.  This man is my rock in more ways than I can enumerate.

Most of the rest of the er visit is kind of fuzzy around the edges. The small dose of dilaudid and phenergan I’d received had me feeling pretty pleasant by then.  What wasn’t ok was when it wore off, and being a weekend evening by the time I was discharged, no pharmacies were open. Amazingly, Walmart’s was the next day, which just happened to be on Easter Sunday. Say what you will about the big box megastore evil corporation, I would have gladly kissed their entire board of directors for that precious half pill I took as soon as my husband returned.

It takes a really special kind of graceful to trip over your own two feet in your own backyard and wind up in this hot mess.  I ended up with a slightly different diagnosis on the specifics of the break during my follow up appointment with an orthopedic surgeon, who seemed almost disappointed he couldn’t slice ‘n’ dice with his expensive tinkertoys and put things back together again.  He advised about 8 weeks in cast, with a check up in two to be sure it was healing properly and didn’t need “intervention” (that’s a fancy specialist’s word for “break it all over again and start fresh”), and if all went to plan, a ‘boot’ after that for a few weeks.  Seems his take on it was that it was worse than originally thought, but not bad enough for surgery.  So the good news was, no new scars, the bad news was a longer healing time than I had originally been counseled.  Sheesh for all this I could have at least had a good backstory!  Nope, just pathetic, clutzy me.

Ever broken an ankle? No? DON’T. I can’t begin to tell you just how much it tops my list of Things That Suck.  I can’t do much of anything.  And I’m always doing something. My friends tell me just reading about my day to day life wears them out. Now scooting up my stairs for bed every night on my buttski is enough to tire me.    My daughter has been a huge help and of course, my husband has taken on a lot more.  I foresee a few weeks of laundry constantly being a load or two behind, tons of spaghetti dinners made by my teenager and my woodwork not having that warm gleam that only weekly lemon oil and elbow grease can bring out.  I’ll get over it. If I keep telling myself that, sooner or later I’ll believe it.

It did end up in tears and fiberglass, just like Richard says.  And an important lesson from the universe to SLOW DOWN and stop trying to do everything. I’m not superwoman and I got a very painful reminder of that fact.   Still, I have to do something so I’ve begun a genealogy project.  It’s going well and I’m learning a great deal about where I really come from (hint, its not Krypton).   But me being, well, ME, I’m also plotting ways to get my garden planted without tasking it out to the rest of the family or friends.  I’ll think of a way. Hopefully the universe doesn’t break the other one on me for trying!

 

 

 

 

When I Am Old And Gray

In the animal world, responsible breeding and hands-on rescue activities are not mutually exclusive.  I, like many other purebred enthusiasts, dedicate time, effort, energy and money to helping dogs in need that I didn’t produce. Blood, sweat and tears go into it all with almost equal seriousness.

Almost.

The exception to the rule is senior dogs. I have a special, soft place in my heart for them. I’ve taken in pregnant females, newborn litters, dogs with physical and mental impairments, and given my heart to all of them. Nursed them back to health, worked them through behavioral problems, made the hardest call of all for those beyond assistance and made sure that they didn’t pass alone. There were times when that was the only thing I could do for some.   But nothing strikes me so deeply as the abandonment of a dog who has done nothing worse than become old.

When we bring a dog into our lives, we have voluntarily entered into a social contract with this animal. We provide daily care necessary to a comfortable life, and they provide companionship, guard hearth and home, and a variety of other tasks.  They serve a need for us; we are thereby are obligated to furnish food, shelter, veterinary care when they become ill.

When a person breaks that contract, it is the most vile betrayal possible.  A dog who has devoted a lifetime to sleeping near doorways to protect the dreaming occupants, who has played endless games of fetch with the family children, who has tirelessly herded livestock and defended flocks against predators, is suddenly, inexplicably, deserted.  There can be no higher act of unfaithfulness.

These dogs have earned a warm, cozy place to enjoy their retirement. They have performed their obligations- how can any owner refuse to perform their end of the deal? Sadly, this does occur. And when it does, in my own breed and many others, dedicated volunteers network together to bring these dogs to a place of peace and rest, a small repayment for all that they have done for the people in their lives who could not keep their promises.

My family has taken in these sweet seniors through the Akita SOS program.  Some have been with us just a few short weeks. We are happy that we could make their last days as pleasant as possible. Others have stayed months, and our current “permanent foster”, dear Betsy, will be with us two years this March. My current senior is going through harder days now.  She hasn’t given me the “thousand yard stare” yet, hasn’t let me know that she needs help to pass peacefully with the assistance of our trusted veterinary partner.  I can see that day looming on the horizon, however for now, she is content to curl on a wide pillow in a warm place, and let me come to her to stroke her face. When she decides to travel to the Bridge, it will be in comfort, and in loving arms.  She’ll share a place of honor with the other dogs I have loved, laid to rest with them as a cherished member of our clan, and not  a useless cast off.  Never a cast off. I can’t control what others shamelessly do, but I can take an active part in making it right.  And once our hearts have a chance to heal a while, my husband and daughter and I will welcome another into our home for as long as they choose to be with us.betsy 2

Please- look at the dog beside you.  Understand that there will come a day when the ears cannot hear you call, when the eyes cannot see your face so clearly, when age related conditions cause them to rise more slowly when they come to greet you.  Though every step may cause them hardship, they still only want to be by your side. Do not deny them their due. They have done their part. Don’t let them down. I will always have place in my heart and home for an old gray muzzle, but I shouldn’t have to. That’s your job. You signed the contract. Honor it.  One day you too will be old; who will care for you then?

 

Confessions of a Crazy Cat Lady

If you ask me how it happened, I’d tell you I didn’t know.  If you asked Richard, he’d say in a lightly mocking tone “It’s just a piece of turkey and she looks so huuuunnnggggrrrrryyyyyy”. If you asked Bri she’d chime in with “you’re a sucker for animals!”.

I’ve always been a dog person. People say I speak dog.  Fluent in canis familiaris. Dogs are drawn to me, me to them and I’m able to work with some no one else can.  Its just been that way forever, And while I didn’t dislike cats, I didn’t go out of my way to seek them out either.

Until Pandora. So named because I just had to open that box, didn’t I?

It was our first year in Virginia and we lived in a rural area near Richmond.  Richard’s parents live out on the eastern shore and we’d gone to visit for Thanksgiving. In typical mom fashion, we were sent home with ziplock containers full of roasted yams and mashed potatoes and green bean casserole. And turkey. You can’t forget the turkey.  It began snowing in Virginia Beach, and by the time we passed Norfolk it was looking like a real storm.  And hour later into the drive back there was already two inches on the ground and more coming down hard.

When we finally got home, at least 8 inches blanketed the ground.  Our home, set back into the tree line, often saw woodland visitors make up close and personal appearances.   Raccoons who always seemed to know when I was frying chicken were frequent fliers on our long wide porch. Deer grazed in the yard. And feral cats stopped by to see what was for lunch.  Two in particular were around most- a glossy black tom we referred to as “Leroy” (Bri was big into Disney’s “Leroy & Stitch” at the time)   and a stunning tortoise shell calico.  Trudging through the snow to our door we could tell they’d all been around that evening. The calico still was.

Curled on our porch out of the worst of the weather she seemed like she was waiting.   We made multiple trips to get everything into the house and she was  there, watching, blinking, in what my buddy Max would call “standard meatloaf position” for warmth.  We kept looking out and she was still there.  We determined she looked hungry but since we didn’t own a cat, we had no cat food.

We had turkey though.    And so I ventured out to the porch, moist meaty offering in hand, and made a new friend.   The walked to the door after being fed and gently pawed it. We allowed her inside. She walked calmly around, settled in for a nap for a bit on the couch, walked about some more meeting the dogs then quietly padded back to the door, giving a soft “mew”, until we let her out again.

This became routine and she was christened Pandora. It would have stayed this way too until we realized she was getting rather round about the middle.  We had assumed the notched ear was a sign she’d been through the local TNR program- a program we participated in, too.  We were wrong. When it become apparent that this friendly feral was going to soon be an unwed mother, we gave her a space in the kitchen to stay warm and safe from predators.  She delivered five adorable balls of cuteness in late February, though she chose a dim corner or Bri’s room under her desk to do it.   We kept cat and kits indoors for a while for their protection, then Richard built a kitty enclosure outdoors where nothing could get to them.  Our sweet Brooklyn loved them and never missed an opportunity to swipe a baby or two to snuggle and love on until momma cat threw a real live hissy fit demanding their return. Eventually, the kits- all girls- were spayed and mom too, with all ears properly clipped under sedation to mark them as altered.  Much friendlier now, and used to daily human interaction, we found homes for momma (happily enjoying the good life with my mother and father in law on the shore!) and three of the kits.   Penny and Whiskers (aka Whiskey) stayed on.  We tried without success to ever trap Leroy for a snip, but we kept another generation of girls from producing more cats than the local colony could handle.  On the day we relocated to the New River Valley, Leroy glared at us from the driveway, long thick tail sweeping from side to side, eyes narrowing in his scarred face. He never liked us much but enjoyed the food.  This reinforced my belief that cats were not the greatest. But Richard and Bri were in love with the two kittens in their laps. What could I do?whiskey romeo

Skipping ahead a bit, Bri comes homes in tears one afternoon from school. Seems her teacher had found a stray cat, quite friendly, declawed, and couldn’t keep her. She’d taken her to the vet for a check up and shots but since her apartment didn’t permit pets, the cat couldn’t stay and had to be gone by the end of the week. She ever so thoughtfully turned to her impressionable group of middle schoolers and asked them to ask their parents if they could have a cat.   Miss Manipulative, the teacher, had spoken of a sad, tragic place called The Pound, where animals go in and never come out.   This instigated a long, serious talk with my daughter about the responsibilities of pet ownership, and in the end, my little girl’s sense of compassion won the day and Katniss came to stay with us too.   Penny and Whiskey were unimpressed.  I had the first twinges of concern that I was leaning towards becoming a CCL.

A visit to the vet with a sick puppy brought Salem into our lives. As I sat there and listened to this idiotic wretch go on and on about all the reasons she just couldn’t keep her cat after ten years- TEN YEARS- of ownership and he had to go RIGHT NOW and she couldn’t even wait another day for a shelter to open…and being a volunteer with my Akita breed’s Save Our Seniors and knowing first hand the dismal rates of adoption for old pets- I stepped up and said four words in a chilling tone meant to brook no disobedience. Give. Me. The. Cat.   Long story short (I’ll share his tale on another blog), Salem become cat #4.  I said we were done. I lied.

A kennel club meeting one evening in the park and…yeah you know where this is going. Soft ,warm,  no  more than 6 weeks old kitten tucked into my jacket and headed home. The others left with her found homes with my fellow club members. We must all suffer from the same form of Suckeritis.  Echo joined our crew and with a grand total of five, I resigned myself to the title. I’d become a cat lady.  Adding crazy to the front is an honorific earned once you get past four; and just kind of comes with the territory.

As I type, Salem  has crawled across the furniture and deposited himself on the narrow space between my waist and thighs not already occupied by my HP laptop.   He’s purring like mad- he’s a real talker- and either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that I’m trying to accomplish something here. I suspect the latter.

Life had become a series of picking things up that the cats toss off shelves and dressers, crockpots full of fish or rabbit to cook down into easy to digest meals for the senior, morning removal of a living hat on my pillow and playing guessing games as to which is responsible when I hear a crash in the other room. It’s also full of the contented sounds of a happy feline who knows he is safe and sound in my arms, laughing along to the mid evening marathon, loads of “awwwww” moments when the dogs and cats join in social grooming sessions, and realizing the thing that used to be up a tree or down a hole in my yard now lying motionless on my porch was a treasured gift from an independent creature who wanted me to know they like having me in their life, too.

 

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, RANGE DAY!

I love range days!  What’s that you ask? You must be new here….
Range day is when we pack up the guns and let freedom ring in a safe and sane environment. It’s where we get to try out something new, something cool, something unusual, or just hone our skills in marksmanship for personal defense and sustenance hunting.

Did I mention I LOVE RANGE DAYS????

I’m lucky to have enough property with a more than sufficient backstop to shoot anything from a bb gun to a cannon (and yes- I have friends with a cannon!).  There isn’t much that a little pew-pew therapy can’t fix and sometimes getting out and plinking with just a little .22LR is incredibly therapeutic.

Group days are best. It’s like an FFL dealer sprinkled fairy dust all over the benches, magically conjuring every item capable of hurling a brass encased projectile downrange at upwards of 3500 fps.  You collect an assortment of your best 2A supporting friends and they all bring a few guns and a couple boxes of ammunition.  This gives you an opportunity to try-before-you-buy, and to gain proficiency with weapons you don’t already own. In a defensive situation, its possible you may not have the gun of your choice at hand; its helpful to have a basic working knowledge and level of comfort with as many as you can.

I grew up in a hunting household, populated primarily by shotguns and rifles.  That’s my comfort zone, and there isn’t much more that I enjoy than picking up the biggest baddest long tall Sally in my ownership and turning skeet clays (which make a highly visible target at several hundred yards placed on the backstop) into a fine orange mist.  Dad always stressed perfection; there was no purpose in shooting poorly and wounding an animal. If you were going to hunt and put food on the table, do it as expertly as possible.

Having the chance to learn the individual characteristics of a slew of new pistols and revolvers in a single afternoon is a delight.  But when someone breaks out an item that immediately causes a syndrome I call Range Whiplash, everything changes.

Public outdoor ranges are a series of small tables, often with a fixed or swivel seat built in called “benches”.   They are each several feet apart to give shooters space to comfortably move and eject spent cartridges without hitting the guy next to you (usually).  Even at public ranges, most shooters are quite friendly and open with one another, forging new networks of People With Guns to maintain contact with. You get popular fast when you bring something unusual.  When you haul out the larger calibers that make a very satisfying BOOM or flip the happy switch and light up a Little Betty Bad@$$ on full automatic fire, every head on the line immediately turns in your direction.

Such was the case one fine afternoon shooting with a known group of friends. I was told one of the crew had, after a nearly year long process, finally obtained his HK51, a weapon in a restricted class of firearms that- contrary to anti gun ownership spokefolks’ claims- is not something you can jog down to the Quickie Mart to purchase with a large slurpee. There’s a fairly long and expensive process to go through to get one.  He was like a kid on Christmas.

It’s chambered in .308. , for those of you unfamiliar with ammunition, that’s each round about the size of the average index finger.  It’s also belt fed, meaning the ammo is connected like paperdolls, one to another, and routed through a ‘bullet box’ attached to the gun.

He takes it out, sets it up, opens with a test shot. Boom!   Repeats a few times. Boom! Boom! Boom!  He flips the selector to three round burst.  BoomBoomBoom!  Repeats a few times. He has now acquired the interest of the closest shooters to us. He smiles, dials it to full auto and pulls the trigger.

BoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoom!

And just like a herd of prairie dogs, SWOOSH went the line of heads in our general direction, and seconds later we’d amassed a crowd that simply wanted to be in the presence of the awesome sound of Freedom.

He handed it off to a few of our group.  Then, with a grin, asked if I’d like to try it out.   I swear I heard the angels singing.

Despite watching him first run through the actions of this weapon himself and observing two other shooters having their turn, I still asked for, and received, a walk through on the specifics of firing and tips on how to hold it correctly; you need to lean into the butt stock (these are typically fired from stationary stands) to keep the force of the fire from pushing the barrel up.  It takes some effort.

………..did I mention I FREAKING LOVE RANGE DAYS????……………..

It was amazing.

 

I’ve had some pretty fun days on my own acreage too. Friends who have never fired a gun before often come here for a little first timer assistance in a non judgmental place. They can get the basics down and get to first base with someone they trust.  The Romeo range has some very simple rules same as all ranges; ear and eye protection will be used, guns will be pointed down range at all times, no one past the firing line when the range is ‘hot’, and enjoy your time here. I laughed for an hour after one guest carefully set up some items his ex wife had forgotten to take when she decided she could do better (she was wrong, he’s a peach!). She’d been packing and hiding things away, shipping them off on a piece by piece basis to deceive him, and these two boxes were overlooked. He got to try an AR style rifle that day, and proudly proclaimed after clearing his targets, “Dishes are DONE man!”  Much less expensive than months of counseling.  Once in a while we are even joined by the local LEOs.  There isn’t a lot that beats seeing a smile spread on the face of a friend who’s never done this before finding their way past the mystery of Big Scary Guns and learning the ropes.


What does? Watching my daughter listen with rapt attention as Richard explains how to shoulder a rifle, how to line up her sights, and talking her through pulling the trigger to take the shot.  She beat him that day, too. Kid is a natural.

Looking for someone to shoot with? Let me know…always nice to make new range friends.  Just show me yours and I’ll show you mine! 😉

 

 

 

 

The Right Man For The Job

My husband, Spousal Unit 2.0, is one hell of an upgrade.  Richard is a quietly driven person with some strong values and an outstanding work ethic.  He is also very nearly painfully modest and is going to blush seven shades of magenta knowing he’s my writing subject today.

richard at wedding
the guy worth waiting for

Get over it babe.

I was a few years out of The Great and Terrible Marriage.  Every couple has their problems.   You iron them out when you can.  But when the wrinkle in question is discovering your spouse has very successfully hidden a serious mental illness from the public for a very long time- and when you make this discovery in the middle of a psychotic break where YOU are the Enemy and must be destroyed by any means possible, there isn’t  much you can do. I tried.  I grew up Catholic and the guilt instilled from a very young age is a powerful force; you made a vow, you keep it, no matter what. Even when your partner doesn’t want help. Even when he stops taking his medications. Even when he has repetitive crises and does some extremely frightening things.  And so many people tell you, “Leave. Just go” but how can they possibly understand? You have a child together. You made a commitment for better or worse. You should make this better.

You can’t. And when The Big Snap comes and you almost lose your life during it, as scary as striking out on your own and accepting the stigma from friends and family who tell you its your duty to stay can be, it has to be done.

I spent a considerable amount of time moving frequently to avoid him.  Jumping at bumps in the night.  It took me a lot of effort to realize I deserved to be safe. And happy.  Don’t ask me to explain why that’s a difficult concept to understand.   I’m still not sure I get the hows and whys myself.

Fast forward to making myself available again.   One of the hardest things about getting “back out there” was allowing anyone to get close, emotionally or physically.  I would get scared. I’d bolt.  I fell back on that lame excuse “it’s not you it’s me….” It was easier than saying I couldn’t handle someone leaning in to kiss me without being scared to death of suffocating.

Richard was different right from the start.  I felt a level of comfort around him I hadn’t in more years than I wanted to count.   First dates were public events. Out in the open, where I felt safer.  And though most guys are pushing for intimacy sooner than I knew I’d be ready, he took 45 minutes to even kiss me goodnight.  For once, it wasn’t scary.

When I finally let him come to my home for dinner (we had plans to go out but decided to stay in) he fell asleep against me watching a movie. I didn’t have the heart to wake him. I laid there all night, just watching him breathe with an arm wrapped around me. I had to eventually get him up so he could travel the hour plus home and get ready for work.  He was a little embarrassed and texted me later in the day to apologize. Like I said- different from minute one.

We continued seeing one another, and the relationship blossomed at a rate that sometimes I wasn’t sure I could handle.  It was time to introduce him to my daughter. When you’re a parent, the dating issue is much larger than just you.   Richard took everything in stride.    As he said once in a discussion on the dating scene, “I only date single moms- the married ones are too complicated”.  Yeah, ten thousand comedians outta work and I get this one 🙂 …..

Bri wasn’t sure what to think at first.  An expected reaction. Richard brought Keisha, his senior mixed breed dog (we called her a Sibaskan Huskamute if anyone asked).  That helped break the ice between them; Bri loves all animals. He talked to her like a real person. He was patient with some of the challenges a child like her presented.  Eventually it was clear to us both that this was going to be permanent and Bri accepted this- but until the day we married, she wouldn’t call him Dad.  Since then, she’s never called him anything else.

He didn’t have to take on the title. And yet he did, with all the accompanying duties and responsibilities that followed.  He put her up in front of him on the bike to show her what it was like. He carefully chose which magnets to use on the fridge to display her art. He held a funeral- complete with grave digging services and a eulogy – for a stuffed animal. You read that right. Bri is very rule bound and set in schedules, order and routines.  Every stuffed animal she had not only had a name, but a backstory. And one day, shortly after the not unexpected but still heavily mourned loss of Keisha, she walked into the room, quietly crying, and announced a terrible thing had happened- Gloria was dead. Gloria, a stuffed hippopotamus, apparently contracted a fast acting and fatal disease and was lost before Mom could perform any stuffie saving first aid.

Richard didn’t crack a smile. He didn’t wave her off. He didn’t say this was stupid.  He hugged her and when she expressed a desire to bury her friend, he retrieved a shovel and got to work.  Complete with a solemn prayer for her journey to wherever she was going.

After that he continued to do the day to day things that the job required. He helped with homework. He kissed skinned knees.  He taught her to ride a bike and took her for trips around the neighborhood. They carved pumpkins at Halloween and made salt dough ornaments at Christmas and conspired together on my birthday to get me a gift in secret.  They sneak out for fast food when I’m not around and make sure to get rid of the cardboard ice cream containers before I get home to hide the evidence. Now that she is a teenager and she and I have our inevitable head butting sessions with one another, he’s the referee and translates mom-speak to teen brain.    I’m fairly certain it requires the use of a Rosetta Stone.


Any guy can be a friend. A lover. Even a husband. But it takes an incredible man to pick up the mantle of “Daddy” and all it entails.  This is not a position for the weak of spirit or faint of heart, and woe betide the first youngster to show up on our doorstep to ask her out. That’s HIS little girl.   Their bond wasn’t forged in blood but in something deeper.  They chose one another.

He didn’t need to take the job but I am thankful and blessed, every day, that he did and that his qualifications were beyond compare.

The Most Fun You Can Have With Your Clothes On

So here I was-  single mom, self employed, with more weeks on the road than home, a load of four footed beasties about that acted like cranky toddlers in fur coats more often than not, and after spending a couple of years post divorce learning how to allow myself to be happy, I began dating again. And looking to broaden my horizons on life in general.

Getting back into the crazy, upside down world of The Dating Scene (bahm duhm dahhhhh!) is a story bigger than these pages.  The condensed version reads that I had a lot of first and even second or third dates stretching out my wings a little, remembering what it was like to be free.  I was looking for new experiences as much as new faces and gave more attention to those who were offering exciting new things to try.  Film noir.  Vintage cars. Wine collecting and rare Scotch tastings.  Skiing.  Art exhibitions. This was a fine opportunity to meet interesting new people and try things I didn’t know much about before.

Like motorcycles.

my scuffed leather  knight
I’ll take scuffed leathers over    shining armor any day

I briefly dated  someone really into them. Riding, racing, and track days.  While that association didn’t last very long, my enthusiasm for the sport did. I began making new relationships in the sport bike community, joining forums, going to meets, reading everything I could get my hands on so that once I was ready to throw a leg over, I would truly be prepared.  It also eventually led me to the Guy Worth Waiting For.   You’ll read about him in another post (lots of them).

Buying my first bike was one part elation, one part trepidation, and a whole lot of OHMYGAWDWHATAMIDOING?  Most “newbs” start on the training wheels of all sport bikes, the Ninja “two fiddy”.   The problem I had with this was my height; these aren’t ideal bikes for a six foot tall beginner.  I don’t dance for a reason- I’m not the most graceful creature out there. The extreme forward position of most modern sport bikes wasn’t something I was ready for right off the bat. I eventually settled on a solid, mechanically sound if a little rough around the fairings Suzuki Katana 600. The more upright position helped me transition from 4 to 2 wheels much faster.

A few parking lot practice sessions and increasingly longer short rides about town later, I found myself answering posts for “anyone up for a Berryessa run?”  and “group ride to Preston Castle, who’s in?”.   Invariably these rides included stops to see scenic vistas, historic places, and more coffee shops than you can imagine.  They also included laughter, hugs, tips and tricks and incredible bonds forged over miles of pavement.

preston castle ride
Preston Castle ride with SCR- yes we saw ghosts!

I finally took the plunge and signed up for my first track day.  Track days are events where the host company rents an entire race track for the day or weekend. breaks riders into groups based on their proficiency, and provides classroom and on track instruction on how to be a better rider. “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast” is a phrase often heard at track days. It isn’t about opening the throttle as wide as you for as long as you can, its about perfecting your techniques and having a blast doing it.

That short lived dating scenario mentioned before? Something he said stuck with me; he was speaking of track days and called it “the most fun you can have with your clothes on”.  He never spoke truer words to me.

From my first session, I couldn’t wait for more.  Everyone is their own worst critic and I was no exception, constantly worried that I wasn’t doing enough right out there. My instructors were there for me every step of the way, assuring me that everyone starts somewhere, swooping in and tapping their tail to tell me to follow them to find the right line, giving me encouragement to go ahead and move a little faster,  to get my ass off the seat more and let physics work for me not against me.  One of the best compliments I received was when one instructor was riding on her own at a much faster pace and made a very close pass in a very tight turn.  After the session, she came to our set up in the paddock, gave me a hug and apologized for “stuffing” me into a corner.  “I came up on you realized what I was doing and said OH S&%$, and then I realized, oh, its Danni, it’s ok!”.    She went to explain that by her observations of my riding that I didn’t choke under pressure or seize up in a situation, I just stuck to my line and stayed focused. I was thrilled at this praise! A month later at another day on a different track, my instructor worked with me on several laps and as the session was nearing a close, pulled into the pits, jumped off her bike and gave me a huge hug telling me “That was AWESOME! You’ve come so far!”


I couldn’t have been happier if I’d won the lottery.

You not only wear all your clothes to have this incredible of a time, you wear extra. Specific safety gear is required- one piece leathers or two piece that zip together, a full helmet with a set safety rating, gloves, proper boots, spine protector….  Of course, you end up getting more and better gear the more you ride; my street boots and my track boots were two completely different things!

You get some odd looks when people say “What do you do for fun?” and you answer “Well first, I put on a full leather suit….” But it’s worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can we talk?

You’re the guy or girl who says there’s no reason for anyone but a cop to have a gun.  You want to ban firearms, or at least make them so difficult for anyone to lawfully obtain as to be impossible, because you say “something has to be done”. You’re upset because certain establishments allow firearms to be carried on the premises in accordance with existing laws. You claim this is somehow inherently unsafe, even though the persons doing so are acting in a law abiding manner and have harmed no one. The mere presence of a weapon somehow makes the situation “dangerous”.  You can’t stand me, and you don’t even know me.

I’m the shopper with the full cart of groceries who smiled and offered to let you jump the line with three items so you could get home to your family faster. I’m the PTA member you called to pick your kids up at school when you got stuck in traffic. I’m the neighbor who brought a couple extra dozen cupcakes to the bake sale at your church. I’m the spectator you high-fived at the soccer game when your youngest scored his first goal.  I’m the lady who held a door open for you when your hands were full of packages. I’m the fellow mother who complimented your infant’s beautiful eyes. I sat down next to you on the bus. I shared an elevator with you this morning. I shopped at your yard sale. I wave when I see you on the same jogging path.  I bought candy bars from your kids when they went door to door for a school fund raiser even though my hips sure didn’t need the calories.

I’m not alone. Across America, every day, there are hundreds of thousands of people just like me. Your neighbors. You see us every day and never blinked an eye.  And every single time you saw me- saw us- I was carrying a firearm.  You walk right past us every day and don’t even know it.

I don’t carry a firearm to feel tough or be mean. I’m not “compensating for something” and find the suggestion distasteful.  I personally hope that I never, ever have to use it on another human being. But the truth is that I value my life and the life of my family, and the lives of my friends (people like YOU) more than the life of the person who seeks to take mine away from me. Please don’t try to tell me that the chances of being in a dangerous situation are so slim as to be nonexistent; I have been in a life-or-death situation and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I personally know that when the police leave you with nothing more than a piece of paper it isn’t going to stop the guy determined to kill you from coming back.   I personally know that when he is in the house, breaking in the door you are hiding behind while the dispatcher assures you that help is coming that the Good Guys With A Gun are too far away. In my own case, if it hadn’t been for the heroic actions of a very brave dog, they would have been there just in time to string up crime tape and write me up as another domestic violence homicide. I was lucky.  Sadly, so many others are not. I am a survivor, and they are statistics.

mom and bri beach
a mother’s first duty is to love and protect her child

I practice for accuracy and comfort of movement. I researched models of weapons and spent time with several to learn what I would feel best having by my side every day. I don’t leave home without it. I got educated and informed and responsible for my own safety, because I know from experience that I cannot rely on someone else to save me.

You have the right to disarm yourself if it makes you feel better but I cannot and will not allow you to do the same to me. Knee jerk reactions to senseless tragedies executed by people with no regard for the value of human life, whether by their mental status or other factors, do nothing to protect me. Or you. There is no background check for evil, and you can’t save your flock from hungry wolves by firing the sheepdogs and posting “no biting!” signs.

Celebrities and politicians vehemently calling for ever more restrictive regulations have the resources to hire professional bodyguards,-often armed- for their personal safety.  They haven’t dismissed them before making their tear filled pleas. They didn’t swap their guns for slingshots and whistles.  Why should I or my family or others in my station in life be considered expendable for their cause? Why should we not have the same protection available, especially when we are wiling to learn and provide it for ourselves?

Individuals need to remain in charge of their own safety, to receive appropriate training in the use and handling of firearms and to confidently assert their birthright to self defense in the best means possible. We need to teach our children that these rights are ours, and that they comes with responsibilities. We need to instill in them empathy, compassion, and courtesy to others so that we can confront and defeat the underlying causes of the wrongs that plague our society.

range targets
If you’d like some range time, let me know, I’ll be happy to help you, or to put you in touch with a qualified instructor who can.

Look before you leap into dog breeding

Note out there to the “I’m gonna do it and you can’t stop me” inexperienced puppy producers:  Just getting a couple of dogs and making puppies is not where good breeders “start out”- having a good mentor is the most important thing when getting a start as an exhibitor/breeder.

How we start out is with a love of the breed and ownership of our first dogs. We learn, educate ourselves and put ourselves out to the knowledgeable breed community and say-” I want to do this for life. Will you help me?”   We study genetics and pedigrees and choose potential breeding dogs based on sound lines and sound temperaments, not on what just happens to be available. We work to become lifetime students of the breed, always learning, and applying what we know in the most responsible manner possible, such as conducting health certifications, seeking titles in conformation, agility, obedience or other working events, screening applicants for future litters and being willing to take back a dog for life.

When we do plan a breeding for ourselves, we know the sad truth out there about all your “friends and family” who say they want a puppy so you need to breed. Experience has taught us that not only do a lot of these folks who encourage you to put puppies on the ground fall through when it’s time to place them, but that if you are being honest with yourself, many of those people aren’t fully prepared to own your specific breed.

If you don’t know, intimately, the ins and outs of breeding, you shouldn’t BE breeding. If you’re dead set on it, GET A MENTOR and do it right, otherwise, expect those of us out here who end up cleaning up the problems irresponsible people cause to speak up and try to talk you out of it- at least until you know what the heck you’re doing.

Ask yourself- are you only planning this breeding because that’s what’s convenient? What traits do the dogs have that need improvement? What traits do they have that you would like to keep or enhance? How do you think these two dogs will compliment each other and what are the potential liabilities in structure from the breeding? Can you afford a possible c-section if there’s complications? Can you afford the time off work to bottle raise a litter if your bitch won’t lactate? Do you know the warning signs for eclampsia, dystocia or other problems during whelp? How do you intend to place the puppies? Do you have a contract? Will you require spaying and neutering of pet quality puppies? Do you know how to evaluate pups for deformities, conditions or issues which should not be passed onto future generations? Do you have an application process that helps you determine whether or not the potential owners are ready, willing and able to care for a puppy, or is it pay me and be on your way? Do you care about the pups for their entire life, and if so, what’s your plan to follow through with contractual obligations?

It takes more than an intact bitch and an intact dog to be a Breeder. You can get all huffy and yell and scream and say no one can stop you and you’re right. But I want you to think about WHY some of us are telling you to rethink your choices. If you knew nothing about auto repair would you attempt a complete engine rebuild, without even consulting a manual? If you knew nothing about medicine would you attempt surgery at home? If you knew nothing about engineering would you construct your own home without help or the right tools? Of course not- it’s ridiculous to think you could do so without causing more problems than you already have. So TRY to listen to the voices of experience. Get a mechanic, get a doctor, get a contractor- GET A MENTOR because winging it is a plan destined for failure, and the dogs deserve better than that.

Need help finding a mentor? Try your breed’s national parent club. A full directory can be found at this link  

blush puppy

Womb to Tomb- responsible placements

Ways to check potential  homes out and how to identify- and prevent- problem placements. Getting your puppy the best start in life is an excellent way to avoid having to bail them out of a bad situation later.

Require personal references and veterinary reference on applications- check with references to see if info given on application matches what potential family stated ie: ever owned a dog before? example answer- “yes, we had a GSD but she died last year”.   A personal reference who they have known for at least two years would have known about the dog, whether they had one, how it died.  So will their vet.

Vet references- ask how long they have been treating the person’s animals, how many they have on file there, up to date on shots and recommended services, in good health, etc. don’t be afraid to ask, “Would YOU sell this person a dog?”

Run all phone numbers- potentials and their references, through a source like www.whitepages.com.  Use the reverse directory to confirm who you are speaking with. Make no placements without a land line, whether it be home or a verifiable business/employer.   Anyone on a cell only will be in the wind if you need to take action at a later date to recover your dog.

Use reverse directories to check out addresses listed on application- use Zillow or similar sites to determine home status  (ie: one well known problem buyer I’m aware of sent photos of a home he used to live in to show what a lovely house and yard he had for dogs- it had been sold and he’d moved to a very inappropriate environment). if it’s listed for sale, it may be a fake address.  Last sale date will also tell you how long they have lived there and help confirm rent vs. own.  This goes to the honesty of application.  County tax assessors offices will often list their records online;  search for the county + tax assessor + property records.  You want to know exactly where your dog is.

Google is your friend. search name and city of potential buyers, then their email address.  This will often return online groups they belong to, civic organizations,  interests that can help you make a stronger placement.

Spokeo the name. Facebook it. You may be surprised what kind of chat groups, message boards and other locations your potential home shows up on.

Use the city and state to determine county, then google county name + state +clerk of court.  Many cities and counties have online searchable databases of criminal and civil cases, searchable by name. Use them. Confirm with local animal control officers that any pets currently owned are licensed and that there is no record of citations at the address. This may also turn up criminal records for abuse, neglect, sex offender registries and more that would influence your decision.

Ask on your application if they are speaking with any other kennels. If you turn up questionable info SHARE IT with the other kennels, call and give a heads up that something isn’t checking out, and to be cautious, to look further and determine whether or not the placement should be made.  If you come across something serious, post it publicly with a heads up notice.  Stick to facts you can prove from personal experience or publicly available records- it’s perfectly legal to do and serves a lawful purpose (preventing potential harm to the animals).  Buyers frequently talk to the closest kennels to them geographically.  Makes some calls, see if your buyer has talked to anyone in their area first and compare notes.  There’s no logical reason for them not to tell you about making other kennel contacts.  And it may turn out that the best match for this particular person or family is going to be from someone else.

Refusal of a home check or balking at conditions set forth in the contract for care standards. and spay and neuter if a pet home, are a big red flag.   Opposing these terms is a warning that they are looking for ways out of those requirements at a later date.  be fair though- read your contracts from a buyer’s point of view and be sure that they are not shouldering every responsibility on their own.  A one sided agreement isn’t going to benefit you, either.

Always independently verify information. Never give anyone your home address without confirming their identity for your safety and the safety of your dogs. These methods take a bit of time and some leg work but the payoff is knowing your dogs are in capable hands.