Dad’s Home!

I am so happy….my brother Randy called this afternoon while he and my parents were on their way home from the hospital. My father was talking happily in the background and it just seems like all is right in the world once again!

Today was a research day online where I was reading and rereading information about digital SLR cameras. I was learning (or trying to!) about lenses and depth of field and focal length and f-stops and so on and so forth. Since I am not prone to being detail oriented, my poor head was beginning to feel like it was going to BURST!

So…I took a little jaunt into the woods with my little Olympus camera just to snap a few pictures. This morning, the little Scottie boys were so drawn to the tree in the center of this picture.

So, while they were safely inside the house, I squatted down and took a looksee…..

Well, no WONDER! Squirrely Nutkin has been hiding all kinds of goodies in there! Since I did this little “sneaky maneuver” while the Scotties were inside, I felt terrible and decided I had better head right back to the house.

On my way back to the house, I looked at my little garden in the front.What a pleasant surprise to see that my pretty hydrangea bush is waking up after its winter rest. I love this bush. My mom bought it for me and I think she must have picked the blue because it is my favorite color of all!

As I said, all is feeling so right in the Bristolwood…..

Waiting, Prayers, and Optimism

On Tuesday, my father had to travel to the doctor (about 60 miles) to be wired with a heart monitor. He wore it for 24 hours, then returned it to the office. As soon as he and my mother returned home, there was a message from the doctor’s office on their answering machine. The message said that the doctor wanted my dad to drive right back so he could be admitted to the hospital for testing!

I just happened to call while my dad was waiting for the doctor’s office to return his call. It was funny, but I just had that feeling that made me call right then, in the middle of the day. I hurried my call, not wanting him to miss the callback from the doctor’s office after he explained all this to me.

The office did get hold of Dad, and they told him he could return the next day, which was yesterday. He was to go to the hospital for testing and to be examined by a cardiologist, and he was also told to plan to stay at the hospital for testing.

My mom called last night and said that the cardiologist decided not to do a heart catherization, as the other doctor had planned, but that today, he would implant a pacemaker to regulate his heart. He was told that his heart was only operating at about 35%! This is a bit of a hard pill to swallow, as my father has always been the epitome of good health. He takes good care of himself and is always busy. Even the doctor said that he looked younger than his 76 years!

So, going to bed with this on my mind last night, I was a bit disturbed. During the night, Murphy kept waking me up, moving all around. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him until this morning….I picked him up and flopped him belly-up to give him a belly rub, and there, in his “skirts” was a round hairbrush! Silly pup!! I had brushed my hair before going to bed last night, and when I went to set the brush on the bedside table, I heard it fall to the floor. Apparently, Mr Murphy thought he would have a looksee at the brush. Good thing he didn’t get it tangled in his beard! It took some time to gently loosen all of his skirt from the brush. I think the more he moved about, the more it tangled….and it was tricky loosening the sensitive hair under his legs (armpits?).

When awoke this morning, a robin was chirping so loudly in the woods, I could hear it in the house! I grabbed my camera as the boys and I headed out the door, but try as I might, that robin was no where to be found, although the chirping continued on and on. When I looked up in the tree I *thought* it was in, only these two were there…and they AIN’T songbirds!!! (look in the center of the picture!)

After the boys finished up outside, I went out to the garage to examine Mark’s project from yesterday. He worked out there in the afternoon, along with Michelle. When Michelle found out Dad was going to be painting on the poly, she was SO there!

Yes, Mark’s workbench is all completed! He even has a really nice woodworking vise built into the surfaces of his bench!

Mark faced the workbench with beautiful red oak, and made a big drawer the width of the bench with oak. Before he had the spinal cord injury, Mark used to always take the first 10 feet of any live tree he had to cut down. He and the neighbor built a porable sawmill that used Mark’s chainsaw to cut the tree into boards. We had oodles of boards drying outside for a few years, before the kids and I carried them upstairs in the garage. Now that Mark’s woodshop is getting all put together, many of those boards will be used for pieces for the house and such!

As I looked around the shop, I had to smile….there, atop the little refrigerator sat and old pair of speakers. Michelle must have brought them out to connect her MP3 player, so she and her dad could listen to some music!

I had written this entry this morning, but never got the time to upload it, as this was just a very busy day!

Update on my father….I called him this evening and he sounds great. He has a “frog” in his throat, but other than that, he is doing well and if all goes as planned, he will be set free tomorrow! I am so happy!
It is amazing just how miserable I was all day today. I just didn’t feel good, wondering about how my father was doing! But, now that I have spoken to him, I feel so relieved. It is hard thinking about him in the hospital as he has spent little time in the hospital over his lifetime!
I just thank God once again for His grace and mercy. And, as I said before, that we are fearfully and wonderfully made!

A Chilly But Beautiful Day!

Even though the temperature never reached beyond the 40 degree mark here today, it was a day full of bright sunshine…the kind of day that just causes your heart to sing with the anticipation of warmer days ahead!

As beautiful as it was outside, I had to stay inside most of the day, doing chores and all the stuff that needs to be done! However, later in the day, as the sun was beginning to set, I did get a chance to go outside for a little bit.

Ben and Murphy had a fun time playing tug of war with a stick on the lawn. I am not sure who won, but little Murphy looked so humorous carrying the big stick all around!

It is funny, but Ben has suddenly (or so it seems) grown taller than I am! It seems so weird when kids grow like that, but it would be a shame if they stopped growing! I think Ben is going to be pretty tall. If he is anything like a puppy, he has some growing to do to fit into his paws!

As the sun was setting in the west, the moon was so pretty in the eastern sky.

The sun was shining so brightly…it was hard to imagine that it would ever stop!

I like this picture of the moon. The tree on the right is a really cool shagbark hickory near the garage.

If you look closely at this picture, in the center top, you can see a bird sitting in the tree. I think it was a robin…it just sat up there and chirped and chirped. I think perhaps it was saying its evening prayers!

Ben’s maple tree he tapped must have yielded close to a gallon of sap today. I was in awe as Ben told me twice today that he needed to empty the little bucket. There was so much sap, and in watching it run, it almost looked like a spigot that wasn’t fully turned off!

Ditches and Flowers

Ditches…the reality is that when one lives on a steep grade, one must spend some time cleaning and unplugging ditches! Every time it rains heavily, Mark asks Ben to check the ditches. I never realized the power of water running over the earth, even though I have learned about erosion since I was a little girl!

The night before last, we had some pretty hefty downpours. I had no idea of their severity until we went out yesterday. I wanted to stop by the neighbors’, and on our way, the local road crew was working uphill from our house. YIKES! A big “bite” was taken out of the side of the road! There was a huge area where the rain undercut the road and part of it tumbled away.

We were gone the better part of the day yesterday, so Mark and Ben thought they had better take a look at the gutters and ditches around the house this afternoon. One of the ditches that carries a good deal of water down from the hill behind the house was partially plugged with broken branches, leaves, eroded soil, and rocks, so Ben went to work cleaning the area so water would run through the culvert instead of over it!
I watched Ben working and then decided to take a picture or two of him.

This is a section where Ben had not yet worked….so, *where* is the ditch?

And this is where Ben cleaned the ditch out. You can’t see the water in the ditch, but it is there. Ben enjoyed standing in the ditch and just letting the water run over his feet! Of course, he was totally muddy, but he had fun! AND, he *is* a boy!

I was rewarded for taking the stroll out behind the house, too! When we first moved here, nearly fifteen years ago, one of the first things I did was plant some crocus bulbs. I just love the colors of crocuses, and I think I planted a lot of them.

Well, there are now NO crocuses growing in the side garden. They strangely disappeared shortly after planting. But, as I walked up to see Ben, wonder of wonders! On the crest of the little hill, I encountered……

One little white crocus……

A very pretty dark purple crocus…….AND…………….

One itty-bitty purple and white striped crocus! Now, this is the actual variety of crocus that I originally planted. I remember having them come up one year, but after that, they diappeared. I do have a theory of what happened, though. I have come to the conclusion that I have a strange little squirrel on the premises that is studying botany and he figured those flowers would look much more stunning planted rather haphazardly up on the hill instead of neatly planted next to the house….. Do you suppose?

Can This Truly Be March?

As I was loading pictures to share, I came across one I forgot to mention yesterday! (in my lengthy entry!) When we were at Sprague’s yesterday, my mom decided to spoil me by buying a bottle of liquid gold! (AKA, maple syrup!)

I also noticed that Carly made a comment on my entry yesterday regarding my wild youthful days of cooking syrup on the woodstove! I cannot believe that she would actually choose high fructose corn syrup over the genuine article!!! I love maple syrup and always have! Ah well, just means there is more for *me*!
I think I really need to take a look at pictures I took this time last year. I can hardly believe that my daffodils and tulips are up as far as they are….I thought they usually bloomed late in April or even May. Perhaps I am wrong, though…..
I think I planted these tulips well over ten years ago. They always were real “scraggly” and I was lucky to get one bloom per plant. There used to be an elderly German woman who lived down the hill and she told me you need to dig your tulips up every couple of years to break them up and also to replant them, as she was convinced they “migrate” deeper into the soil. I never did check to see if there was any information about that online, but these tulips couldn’t look any healthier! You can also see the columbines beginning to come alive in front of the tulips.

As I photographed these daffodils, I could see the swollen heads with a yellow tinge where flowers are developing. They are standing about 5 or 6 inches tall.

I shouldn’t even show pictures of this garden as I was supposed to dig it up and replant it last year, but it never happened. We have such a dilemma between the house and the garage. What do we put there? It is an area of about 14 feet by about 30 feet. I would love to put up a fence and a wooden walkway with plantings and some grass so the Scotties could play there, but I guess we are at an impass on how to accomplish everything we want to do!

As I was just soaking and enjoying the hot tub this afternoon, I noticed the lilacs are swelling up, getting ready to burst out their green leaves of spring!

I spoke to Carly early in the afternoon, and she said they had storms complete with heavy downpours pass through earlier in the day. It kept looking threatening here, but the rain never came.
I decided that if we were going to perhaps get rain today, I had better drain some of the water off the pool. While I was at it, the hot tub also needed to be filled a little. After filling it, I couldn’t help but climb in! It was a gorgeous day. The temperature climbed and climbed….all the way up to 70!
While sitting in the hot tub, I saw the moon!
As you can see. the sky was vibrant with color!

As I got out of the tub, these clouds began to roll in. They looked pretty harmless!

At about 8:30 this evening, the lightening began flashing and the thunderstorms began. I got myself all set up with a candle burning on the bedside table and my laptop all charged up! The rain is *pounding* on the roof of the house! But we are safe and cozy and dry!

Oh, and as a sidenote, Ben’s maple sap yield was about 3/4 of a gallon since last night.

Sunday Fun!

Yesterday, my mom called and asked if we wanted to meet at our “regular meeting place”. That has become Sprague’s, a terrific restaurant I have mentioned on my blog before. I was especially excited, as they are actively “sugaring” during the month of March. Yesterday didn’t work out, so Mark suggested today. Although disappointed at first, it worked out great, as today the temperatures soared close to 60! A beautiful day for a ride!

We decided to meet early today… 11 am, as opposed to later in the afternoon. This restaurant is a very popular spot, and people travel for miles to eat there, no matter what the season is! So, to avoid the long lines, my mom thought if we met early, perhaps we could get seated quickly.

When we arrived at the restaurant, my parents and brother, Randy, had already been seated. So, we were able to get right in and sit down. Randy, Mark, Michelle, and Ben all opted to go for a breakfast while my parents and I had salads. Ever since I was sick, I have been craving salad.

We ate, and as always, the food was so delicious! This restaurant is huge, and the fact that they can consistently serve top notch food all the time is mind-boggling!

After finishing our meal, we went outside where we began a fun adventure!

Behind the restaurant, there just happens to be a sugarbush where some of the delicious maple syrup they use in the restaurant and also sell begins the process of transforming from sap to syrup! (inside the restaurant there is a huge area where syrup is made, but is inactive on Sundays) In the picture above is a big open tank where sap is fed through plastic lines from the trees. The little blue tank at the top, is actuated by pressure, releasing the sap into the tank. In this shot, I happened to catch the sap being released. There was a man at the tank to answer questions….he told us that the sap is always clear, but because the temperature was warm today, the sap was a yellowish color. When this tank fills up, a truck will come and pump the sap into a tank on its back take it to be processed.

On the right of this picture are two hoses leading into the pvc elbow below. You can watch the sap splash into the clear tube, then go into the pvc….it then drops into the blue tank. Once that is filled, a float opens a valve, causing some of the sap to fall below into the large tank.

On this table, there was a display of tools used in tapping trees as well as some taps that can be used. There was also a display of the various types of buckets and tap mounts used for sugaring.
Ben, my parents and I hopped aboard this really comfortable wagon, drawn by a tractor, to take a ride through the sugarbush to a sugarshack at the top of the hill.

As we ascended up the hill, I snapped a shot of the back of the restaurant where much of the sugaring paraphernalia is stored. When I asked, I was told that the outdoor furance on the left side of the picture heats hot water for the restaurant, as well as supplying heat to part of the (huge) building!

On the grounds, there are numerous wood carvings of bears….this one was so cute!

Upon entering the sugarshack, we were greeted quite warmly….literally! Ben said he kept feeling something dripping on his head! I explained to him that when the sap is boiled in the evaporator, the water contained in the sap escapes in the form of steam. The steam had gathered on the beams of the building and was falling like rain!

This is a head-on look at the evaporator…it is two levels. The upper level in the back is where sap is fed directly into the tank. As it boils, it is then released into the lower tank. The sap enters the left side. As it thickens, it moves along the four sections of the lower tank where it is finally dispensed as syrup. From there, it is moved on to another machine where it is filtered.

I happened to be fortunate enough to be able to back into the woodshed as the attendant loaded the firebox of the evaporator. As you can see, it takes a really hot fire to keep the sap boiling. This is an operation that doesn’t begin at 9 am and end at 5 pm. The man here told us that his boss worked until 3 am this morning. The processing requires eight men to tend to the lines, taps and operation. And, as soon as the door was closed on the firebox……….

The sap really began to roll into a turbulent boil! Notice the center! Also, the steam increased to a thick fog! The attendant told us this can be dangerous, as the boiling sap can crawl up and over the sides. The solution? He picked up a plastic condiment bottle filled with vegetable oil. He added one drop and the boiling mass settled down!

Here is the backside of the sugarshack.

And the front with so much steam escaping through the top vent.

It was hard to leave the warm and cozy atmosphere of the sugarshack. The dog in the picture is one of the owners’ two golden retrievers. They make themselves quite comfortable in their familiar surroundings. Before leaving the premises, we had a sample of syrup. They had dark, medium, and light so everyone could try the different grades. They also had delicious freshly made maple doughnuts! YUM!

Although this sugarshack is so romantic and beautiful, we were told only a small portion of syrup is made here. The majority is made at the processing center located in the same building as the restaurant, using oil as its source of heat, rather than wood. We learned that Sprague’s produced 1700 gallons of syrup last year, and 2400 the year before. The goal, which has yet to be attained, is 3000 gallons. We also learned that because of the roller coaster weather this year, the production will probably be rather meager.

My parents took the wagon back down the hill and Ben and I walked along one of the wood chip lined walkways to check out a large teepee we saw in the sugarbush.

It was here that we learned that the wife of an indian chief near Lake Champlain noticed sap running down a maple tree. She gathered some of the sap and rubbed it on some meat, making a very tasty treat. The rest is history!

This exhibit shows how the indians used hollowed out logs to gather sap from the trees to make syrup. There is also a tap made from wood, but it is merely for exhibit purposes. The owner, not wishing to gouge a huge hole in the tree used a small tap inside the wooden one!

The sap was then placed into another log that had been hollowed out. And, hot stones were removed from a fire and placed into the sap to make syrup.

After adding the heated stones, the attendant encouraged us to “sniff” the steam. It smelled just like cotton candy! What a tedious and time-consuming way to make syrup!!!

Yet another wooden woodland critter!

Along the paths through the sugarbush were signs with maple syrup trivia and stats!

At the bottom of the hill, there is a large display with several bobwhite quails.

On the grounds of the restaurant, there is a very large pond with a pair of swans that reside there. Randy, Ben, and I hiked down to the pond to see the swans. Although much of the pond was ice covered, there was a section of water and the swans were so beautiful to see, as always!

Now, as I was looking at Ben, I could just see the wheels turning in his head. He disappeared for a bit….he had gone inside to the gift shop to inquire about buying a tap for gathering sap. The man who is normally in another area of the building where taps are sold was not there, so the girl gave Ben a tap!

As soon as we got home, Mark and Ben looked online for a few instructions and……..

It appears part of this year’s homeschooling experience will involve the science and economics of producing maple syrup!

Homecooking and Whatnot

Today was a busy day. Michelle had made plans to see a movie with her friend, Katie, and we had to drive them up to the theatre. We did some things around the house this morning, then had to get ready to go.

Michelle had risen early today, as she had some laundry to do…..She called me over to look at this particular load…does it go in the whites and lights, or darks?

After dropping the girls off, we went over to WalMart, as I needed to pick up a few things. As I was looking at meat, I noticed they had several packages that were marked down about 30%. I picked up some packages of chicken breast for only $2.36 a pound, a boneless leg of lamb, and some chuck roast. These aren’t things I normally buy, but as I mentioned in my last post, I am going to begin cooking for the Scotties once again. I have decided it really wouldn’t be that hard to make them fresh food. I also grabbed some sweet potatoes.

Upon returning home later in the day, I immediately put on a large sweet potato to cook. Then, I heated a skillet and added some olive oil and sauteed a clove of garlic in it. I added two chicken breasts and cooked them just until they were white all the way through. I mashed the sweet potatoes and shredded the chicken. I then mixed them together, adding a few blueberries and cranberries and ultra-finely shredded raw carrot. After everything was well-blended, I added a fish oil capsule.

As soon as I set this bowl on a carpet to take a picture, Murphy went bonkers, trying to get at it. While Angus has eaten homecooked before, Murphy has never had food like this before. I had to let it cool before serving, but Murphy was totally psyched. He followed me all around like a starving hound!

As I tried to get Murphy’s opinion on homecookin’, he just ignored me…..entirely! Perhaps Angus would have a few words to say regarding this meal?

Hmmm…..both boys were eating with gusto! And, after finishing their own food, they traded places just to make sure their “udderbrudder” had cleaned his bowl clean! Angus was kind of disappointed to see that Murphy’s bowl looked cleaner than usual after eating.

I am so glad the boys are both illiterate….I would hate for them to read the bottom of this bowl. They have never been called “d*gs” before…..they think they are “little boys”!

And, for the photo du jour, I had to giggle and laugh over this. When I was in my knitting mode a few years ago after we first got Angus, I decided to use my skill to make Angus a nice little Aran sweater. I had no pattern and not much of an idea how to fashion a sweater for a Scottie. So, I made it up as I went. Well, the little Aran sweater never really looked that great on Angus. It just looked “wrong”.

This morning, Michelle brought the little Aran sweater down and put it on Murphy……

What a Pretty Crescent Moon

When I took the boys out for their final evening “constitution” tonight, I was in awe of the wonderful celestial display. How beautiful all the stars…shining in all their glory. And the crescent moon is so pretty! So, I did something I could not do with my Olympus camera!

Yes, there is the moon shining through tree branches!

It was a relatively quiet day here in the Bristolwood. I did what seemed like tons of laundry today and cooked and cleaned. It was nice to not feel totally wiped out early in the day. And, I even cooked steaks out on the grill tonight!

This afternoon, I got a piece of very good news….Carly’s husband, Jeff got the job in Buffalo! I am so happy for them, as he will be doing much better at this job than he did in his previous job! The only “downside” to the good news is that I suppose Carly and Jeff and the kids will be moving in the not-too-distant future. It isn’t that far away, but I will miss doing things together. I am just so pleased that Jeff was able to find himself a good job!

I have been following the stories about the “tainted” pet foods. It was announced today that the cause was rat poison in the components the company bought from China. This is so awful, and in reading an article that was sent to one of my Scottie lists, the damage to pets might be long term for some of those not yet showing symptoms. It would have been so much more “palatable” to learn that the food was ruined because of bacteria. This new information just makes me question the wisdom of importing food stuff from abroad…..

Satisfied Complacency

Well, it’s fact, we are all fallen, imperfect and sinful. In our hearts we have all had a record smeared with murder, lust, treason, hatred, vanity and even worse. If there is anything good in the heart, it wasn’t by our own doing. So in the church I think we’ve developed this mentality that we will always be forgiven because Christ is in our heart, so we can go and party from Monday till Saturday night, and then go to church Sunday morning and ask for forgiveness and it will all go away. Truth is, God WILL forgive you every time you ask Him, and there is no end to His forgiveness. But what have we become in this habit? We’ve grown to become complacent and hypocritical.

“No one’s pefect!” Sound familiar? You are right, no one is perfect, perfection is not achievable, but we cannot let that be our excuse to become dead to our relationship with Christ. Sure, I have screwed up in the past, but I can’t let that be my excuse to give up on trying to live for Christ. We can’t become so discouraged that we’ve already made mistakes that it retards us from pressing into God. No, perfection is not achievable, but we need to strive for it. We need to continually walk down this old and beaten path we call life, and even as the soft meadows call to us, we must keep our eyes on our destination, even with the chains of our past trying to keep us down. Jesus Christ is always there, and when it all seems hopeless, we can give up our own strength and rely on His. Don’t let imperfection be your excuse for complacency.