Saturday, November 30, 2013

Meet 'Miss Mel' Malone

 I've been looking for a schnauzer since we lost Ginger in 1987. That's a long time to wait. At first I don't think we could have handled it ... the loss was too painful. But as the years have passed, I've again been searching.

 A couple of months ago I sent an application for a rescue dog that met all of our needs: middle-age, a true schnauzer (rather than a mix) and female. But I waited a little too long and the dog was adopted before we had a chance.

 I kept scanning Petfinder regularly. Nothing. Then, finally "Melodie" came along, housed at a schnauzer rescue organization in Cincinnati. Here's the pictures they posted:

 "Melodie was a stray found by a Good Samaritan", the ad said. She was "about five years old", house-trained, spayed and was current with all of her shots. Perfect, we said. And so we applied.
 Yesterday Bob offered to drive down to Cincinnati (actually Hamilton) to meet her (1:30 pm) and then bring her home. Poor Mel was shaking like a leaf. Soon she calmed. We completed the necessary paperwork and had her home by 3 pm.
 Here's the first picture taken of her at Pinehaven:

 Last evening she seemed to be adjusting nicely. When I took her out at bedtime, though, she did not make use of the time to potty. We got into bed by 9 pm and Mel settled in easily, finding the bottom of the bed to her liking. She preferred sleeping on my feet but I managed to free them a couple of times. Even though my bedroom is chilly (65°) she did not like having a blanket pulled atop her.
 A few times during the night I heard her softly snoring. Every now and then she'd wake, lift her head and look at me and then lie back down when she was satisfied that I was still there.

 Yesterday Bob's wife, Nancy, stopped by to see Mel. That's her hand holding the dog still while I took this picture.

 She looks like a little gray ghost, doesn't she? Though considered "salt and pepper", Mel is much more salt. She's almost white-gray, a perfect color. She has a small apricot-colored patch on her left haunch. Beneath her nose and on her chin the hairs are dark.

 Here she is sitting on my bed.
 Are there any problems? Indeed there are: she doesn't appear to be completely house-trained. Twice today we have been surprised by bowel movements. One was at the room at the top of the stairs and again in the kitchen (both on carpet). I cleaned the first; Mom handled the second because I was outside. I have given Mel ample time outside, walked her considerably around the yard today. She urinated twice. We can't keep an eye on her every minute we're in the house or we'd get nothing else done. In neither case did she ask to go out.
 So, we'll have to see how the week ahead goes. She's a lovely little creature but with this one very bad habit. Is it simply the move to a new home? The anxiety of being in strange surroundings?

Follow-up: Unfortunately we returned Mel on December 2. She seemed not to be housebroken at all and the training we were facing was more than we wanted to tackle. I know, it would have taken time. On the plus side, she was very happy to see her foster father and wiggled all over when she spotted him. Mel, at least returned to a loving foster home. It is a sad loss for us ... but our carpets rejoice. [12/15/13]

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Pies

 I'm a lover of baking as this blog attests. But pies? Could I make pies, homemade crust and all?
 I recently finished reading Making Piece: A Memoir of love, loss and pie by Beth Howard and I found it truly inspirational. You can read my review here.
 I found that I could make pie, indeed. I highly recommend the basic pie dough recipe in this book (page 301). We don't generally have butter on hand so I substituted Blue Bonnet margarine. I didn't use even a quarter of the one cup of ice water. And I certainly agree that the dough must be worked by hand ... no knives or forks allowed. Get your finger in there, feel it!, and don't be long. You don't want to warm up the cold butter nor do you want to work pie dough for long.

 Here's what my two pie crusts looked like. I made two pies (rather than have a top and bottom crust for one) and then I made a crumb topping for each. The dough was perfect - softly pliable, workable and delicate. It couldn't have turned out better. And if you're baking pies, I think dough is the key. Who can't make (or buy) filling? We bagged and froze the pie shells.

 I ended up with a little extra dough after I trimmed the pie crust and I made these little cinnamon roll-up's called pinwheels. I just rolled the remaining dough out, spread a layer of softened margarine on it and sprinkled the top with cinnamon and sugar (the more the better, I think). I rolled it up, cut off the tiny pinwheels and baked them and had them right away. It's a good way to test how well the dough worked out, too.

 Then, a few days later, I thawed out one of the pie shells and added commercial cherry pie filling. Had we had access to something in season, I may have tired something different perhaps.

 I added a crumb topping, baked the cherry pie and pulled this out of the oven. Beautiful!

 I love it when the filling begins to ooze out a bit. The dough was flaky and fairly light. Mom would have preferred that I roll it thinner - and I will next time - but it was easily cut with a fork and had a wonderful flavor.

 Mom scooped out half a slice for testing while the pie was still warm. Delicious!

 But now, with Thanksgiving arrived, I took the second shell out of the freezer yesterday and made a fresh apple pie out of it. We used Granny Smith apples and I followed a recipe in Howard's book (page 302, "Mary Spellman's Apple Pie"). Again, I used a crumb topping instead of dough.

 And here's the end result. I'll have this slice for my Thanksgiving lunch. Mom is making green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and biscuits. We're both vegetarian so there'll be no turkey in this house.
 Could we have a better meal? I think not. The house is warm, Mom's company is precious to me and the sun is shining in the windows. A perfect Thanksgiving, I'd say, pie and all.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Tall Fall

 We were worried about the wind - gusting to over 30 mph yesterday and perhaps 20 mph earlier today - but we decided the sunny day (49°) was too good to pass up. Bob has many trees that need taken down in his woods, especially a handful nearest his house. It was just a week ago that we repaired his roof where limbs fell during a storm and pierced clear through to the attic. Click here to see that event.

 Now, faced with weather about to turn wintry, we felt as though we ought to improve on the long holiday weekend, and get the worst of the dangerous trees down. Bob even bought a new chain saw last weekend in preparation.


 Below is the first tree we tackled. It's one that has been worrying Bob for years. It's thoroughly dead with many high branches just ready to break off and fall. Luckily for us, it had a very slight lean towards his woods, away from the house. We capitalized on that and notched the tree accordingly.

 My first job was to climb the ladder as high as possible and tie a rope to the tree. We used one hundred feet of heavy nylon rope, drug it back into the woods and then, while Bob cut, I pulled as hard as I could. What's my advice for how to get out of the way when you're pulling such a large tree toward you? Run like hell when you see it beginning to topple!

 And topple it did. I hit the ground with a loud thud, sending ponderous vibrations up my legs. How many tons did this tree weigh? Before it fell, Bob told me to scope out where I wanted to run when it began falling. "Know ahead of time where you're going," he said. But when I heard the crack and heard the tree began to topple, I ran directly into the side of a small tree and scraped the side of my face till it bled. Nevertheless, I managed to give the falling behemouth a wide berth.

 This was my view as I yanked on the tree. This is a good way to visualize the height of the tree. When it was lying on the ground, it extended well back into the woods. I can say this: it fell exactly where we planned for it to fall.

 All the trees we dropped were dead - both leafless for some time and partially bark-less. I
am not sure what species of tree it was. But looking at the trunk afterwards, I would guess that it was an ancient walnut. The dark, rich wood speaks of expensive lumber should Bob choose to sell it.

 Fast forward to our fifth tree of the day ... here's Bob celebrating completion of the work. This tree stood in their front yard and had also been dead for many years. The very top looked like pieces have been falling for a long time. It was probably the tallest tree we worked on. By doing it last, we had enough experience to do the job fairly quickly.

 As the tree fell, I ran for cover while Nancy watched from their front porch. The tree nearly covers half the width of their front yard. I think this was yet another nut tree, owing to the dark, fine wood.

 Though we joked about starting business as the Laurel and Hardy Tree Service, we actually take this sort of work very seriously. Large trees produce a great risk to anyone working or living near them. Their weight is incredible and they're often precariously balanced, even crooked, and one has to plan the fall carefully. Bob has plenty of experience with a chain saw while my best qualification is a willingness to try anything.
 We cleaned up the debris from this final tree before I left. Bob's step-son, Michael, joined us for the last hour. The other trees can be worked on as Bob has time.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sunset - November 2, 2013

 I try to keep and eye on the weather at all times. And incidentally, I stay aware of any particularly pretty sunsets. On Saturday (11/02) I noticed an orange glow on the walls of the kitchen and I ran up to my bedroom, grabbed my camera and hustled out into the yard.

Sunset, November 2, 2013, Farmersville, Ohio

 Around 6:30 pm I found the sun just setting and the colors vivid. There was a slight breeze but the temperature still hovered around 50° so it was a pleasant evening for so late in the year.

 The sun inched a bit lower and the oranges intensified. The contrast of the dark, gray clouds made the scene that much more interesting.

 Turning away from the sunset and looking east, over the top of Pinehaven, the lower portion of the clouds were tinged a pretty shade of apricot.

 Looking west again, the sun was dropping behind the distant trees. We are just seven weeks from winter so the sun has made its way quite far south compared to its summer-setting. It is well into the southwest now.

 I punched some telephoto into this shot and grabbed a final view of the sun as it disappeared for the night. This last burst of orange gave the edge of clouds a fiery tint. Within minutes the beauty faded and the gray clouds enveloped us. An early November night was suddenly underway.

Damaging Storm

 October ended with a blast: of high winds, tornadoes, power outages and heavy rain.

 Thursday night after Mom and I had gone to bed, I listened to the winds buffet the house. Even though they were gusty, I never thought they were of damaging strength here. That wasn't the case nearby.

 The National Weather Service confirmed an EF1 tornado in Vandalia (11:30 pm) and an EF0 in northwest Miami County. Up till then there had only been three tornadoes confirmed in the Miami Valley in the past twenty years. The first was estimated to have 100-110 mph winds and the 50-yard wide twister traveled 0.6 miles; the second was estimated to have 75 mph winds and a width of 30 yards, traveling 0.3 miles.

 Nearby areas of Ohio weren't spared. Southern Columbus had an EF0 tornado; Hebron had an EF1; and straight line winds did damage in Hardin County. So four confirmed tornadoes in the state of Ohio on the last day of October.

 For us, about 10:30 pm after a less-than-spectacular gust, the power went out. It wasn't repaired for 12 hours or so (I understand lines were down on Diamond Mill Road). I got up, called DP&L and went downstairs to tell Mom all was dark. We got flashlights, candles and kerosene lamps at the ready. Thankfully it wasn't a cold night; the low dipped to 47°.

 It wasn't until Friday evening that Bob and Nancy took a walk back to their pond and found heavy tree limbs down about the southwest corner of their house. Bob was dumbfounded to look up and see other limbs piercing their house roof.

Close-up of limbs piercing roof.

 Bob and I took my fiberglass ladder to his house, set it up on the south side of the two-story part and I climbed up and examined the damage. Two limbs were driven through the shingles and particle-board beneath. Other limbs had damaged the soffit to the left of this picture.
 Bob bought roofing felt earlier in the day and I cut a six foot section Then Bob tucked it under shingles higher on the roof than the damaged area (to stop rain) and nailed it in place. While Bob worked on the roof (carefully!), I stood atop the ladder and worked from below him (Nancy and Michael both held the ladder in place). It was a precarious, dangerous repair job and one we are both already too old to be doing.

Soffit damage - facing southeast

 Other limbs tore the soffit from the southwest corner of the house, ripping the shingles away and tearing through the particle-board like soft butter. We did not cover this area with tar paper, thinking rain would not get into the house at this point.

Soffit damage - facing northeast

 Even a large section of vinyl siding on the house was torn loose. We removed the sections of loose soffit and replaced the siding as best we could. Bob will call his insurance agent today (11/04) and get professional repairs underway.
 No one heard the actual damage occur. Nancy said she heard the winds increase to a "freight train roar" but did not actually hear the limbs hit the house. The damage occurred behind their bedroom in a closet area. They would not have been twenty feet away had they been in their second floor bedroom.
 Probably these were just straight line winds associated with a cold front but they certainly did their share of damage.