Monday, October 16, 2017

Welcome to the Family, Petal!

We got a new dog on Thursday!

Her name is Petal ... really, it is.

Petal is four.  In her former career, she ran 27 races in Florida as 'Kelsos Petal'(link takes you to her pedigree page)

Petal is here on a foster-with-intent-to-adopt basis ... a trial arrangement to make sure that she will be a good fit in our family and get along with Ruby and the cats.  It's all going very, very well so far. 

Blurry photo, taken when we met her at her foster home, of Petal sniffing a cat that walked by.

Also in her foster home, we met Vinnie the resident pot-bellied pig ... OMG, he was so cute!!

It was a two-hour drive to bring Petal home.  She and Ruby rode very nicely together, spending most of the ride looking around or sleeping.

When Petal got here, she went right to work getting comfortable in her new surroundings.

Emptying the toy basket ...

Testing the dog beds

She even investigated the inside of Ruby's crate, which was way too small for her.

Soon, she was sound asleep.

She has an old injury to her right front toes, from an accident while lure coursing after she retired from racing.  Once I get her medical records from the adoption organization, we will see exactly what the injury was.

Petal's nails are WAY too long, especially on her bad foot, so I will work on them over the next couple of weeks to get them down to a comfortable length.

We have been looking to adopt another dog for a while.  Ruby has been by herself since Winnie died in February.  She's okay as an only dog, but she is happier when she has company.

Our first evening went pretty much as I expected it would. The cats took one horrified look at Petal and ran for cover.  Before long, as we settled in, they ventured out to evaluate the newcomer.


As of now, bright and early on the morning of Day Five with Petal, Alice is going about her normal routine.  I expected this from her.  She likes dogs.  On Day Two, Petal walked over to Alice and poked her with her needle-nose ... Alice hissed and smacked Petal upside the head ... Petal realized that this was a lesson on boundaries, and we have been good ever since.  Dorothy, after her initial exploration on Day One, has spent most of her time under our bed.  Yesterday evening, she ventured out and spent time in my lap while I watched football and the dogs slept.  It was significant progress.

Petal is sniffing Alice, while Alice sits in my lap.

Petal is learning about the ways of our household.  Ruby is helping her.  

When I make dog stew, Ruby rinses the dishes.

Petal can help now, too.

It hasn't been all rosy and perfect, but that's to be expected with any new dog.  Petal is unsure of stairs, but she is learning.  It took a whole day of multiple attempts with yummy treats, using Ruby as an example, and a lot of praise, and now Petal is using our front stairs like a champ.  Soon, I hope to help her master the back stairs ... so she can go directly to the backyard instead of having to walk there on leash.

She loves toys! 

Right now, on this cool, rainy Monday morning, both dogs are sleeping.  Ruby is sacked out on the sofa, and Petal isn't interested in furniture and is on a dog bed.  My heart is full.

Thank you, Sighthound Underground, for matching us up with this wonderful dog.  She is everything that we hoped for ... and so much more!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Making Pear Butter in the Crockpot

Yesterday afternoon, I got a text message from my next door neighbor at Hartwood Winery.  It said, "Do you want these?" 


Let's get out the crockpot and make some pear butter.  It's really easy.

1.  Wash, peel, core, and chop the pears.  Fill the crockpot heaping full of the chopped pears.

2.  Cook the pears on High till they settle a little bit and can be stirred.  Add 3 cups of sugar, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon each of nutmeg, allspice, and cloves, and a 1/2 cup of lemon juice.

3.  Cook pears, covered, on high till they are juicy and bubbling ... stirring occasionally.

4.  Reduce heat to Low and simmer overnight.  I used chopsticks to vent the lid, to allow for evaporation so the mixture will reduce.

5.  In the morning, the pears were soft, and the liquid was thick and caramelized.

6.  Puree till smooth.  I used my immersion blender.  Since I planned to can my pear butter, I put the lid on the crockpot and turned the heat up to High to bring the mixture back to a boil while I prepared my jars and lids.

This recipe made five pints of pear butter ... seven half-pints went into the canner and three half-pints for the fridge to use and give away right now.

This was my first attempt at any type of fruit butter, and it's really delicious.  I hope you can use my recipe and directions and try it for yourself.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Groundhogs Need Not Apply

I had no idea, when we bought this place in 2002, about the destructive potential of groundhogs.  One determined groundhog can tunnel and undermine just about anything.  The damage can be catastrophic.  The old well in our backyard is a good example.

The stone part of the well is from the 1960s renovation of our house.  The brick-lined hand-dug well underneath this is original.

The upper stone part of the well is at this cock-eyed angle because former owners of our property allowed a groundhog to burrow and live underneath it.  Over time, the ground shifted because of the voids of the tunnels and den spaces, and this was the result.  We filled the burrow to the best of our ability, and the well is mostly stable now, but it will never be right again.

Because of the potential for destruction of structures, I do not allow groundhogs to set up housekeeping on our property.  When I see one, I catch it with my trusty live-capture trap (baited with apple), then I give the trap to my neighbor and I don't ask questions.

Representative groundhog photo.

Every year, an enterprising groundhog tries to live under our pavilion.  I trap the groundhogs when I see them, and do what I can to refill in the hole.  Because of its awkward location, complete abatement has been difficult.  (The pavilion is only about one to two feet off the ground, on its sloping site.  Not enough space to get underneath to work, and can't completely reach the groundhog hole to fill it.)  It's not long before another groundhog comes along, does the necessary renovations, and moves on in.

Ruby keeps watch.  See the groundhog?

Last week, my husband and I began a project to (hopefully) get rid the pavilion of the groundhog excavations forever.  It's a multi-stage plan, all of which was difficult and dirty work.

Step One:  Trap current groundhog.  Done.

Step Two:  Fill in the groundhog crater.  This particular spot under the pavilion is where there was once a brick-lined septic tank.  It was filled by prior owners, and topped by this handy make-shift cover.  We filled again when we built the pavilion, and put the cover back into place.

Photo of the septic tank from 2008, during pavilion construction.

This was covering the septic tank hole when we moved here.   

See how the groundhogs dug underneath the sign and into the septic tank space?

Here is a 'before' photo from my files, showing what the pavilion looks like with its steps.  The groundhog hole is to the left of the steps, about three feet in.


I had hoped that we could remove some of the pavilion floor to access this spot.  This proved to be pretty impossible because the deck boards are screwed down, and at least half of the screws are rounded out and won't budge.  Next idea was to remove part of the steps.  Not great access, but it's more than we had before.

We shoveled wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow load of fill dirt, by hand, into the hole.

Progress photo.

When the hole was filled, we scattered broken concrete chunks over the area, pushing them into place with a rake.  Keep in mind, all of this is being done while we are laying on our bellies in the dirt.  Definitely not glamorous work.

Step Three:  Keep the groundhogs out of this space forever!  

The part of the plan was to lay welded wire fencing over the entire 12 x 24-foot area underneath the pavilion.  A quick trip to a local fencing company yielded a big roll of used 4-foot fence that was perfect for the job.  We cut three 24-foot lengths and attached them together to make one piece that was the right size.

It took forever to pull the fencing under the pavilion.  We used rope attached to the corners of the fencing, and a lot of fiddling and cursing, to tug and fiddle to and get it laid into place.  Then, we did our best to weight the wire down with larger chunks of broken concrete.

The edges of the wire are held down with concrete blocks.

Step Four:  (Day Two)  More wire and a new lattice skirt.

Since groundhogs tend to start their excavations beside structures, then tunnel underneath, we added some extra protection by covering the ground around the pavilion with more wire. 

The lattice we chose to cover all of this is pressure-treated "Severe Weather Privacy Lattice" with 3/4" openings.  I am very thankful for my pneumatic stapler, which made short work of securing the lattice to the pavilion. 

South side, finished!

Here is the Before and After of the right half of the west side.  

Here is the entire west side, all finished:

The east side was difficult, because it's really low and I had to carefully maneuver around the plantings there.  Hostas, Hydrangeas, Hellebores, etc., are thickly planted on that side.  It was like working in a jungle.

Only about 18" of clear space to work in between the Hydrangeas and the pavilion.

Day Two ended with three of the four sides of the pavilion all buttoned up with wire and lattice.  The north side, the most difficult one because it's (a) incredibly low to the ground and (b) more heavily planted than the east side, is all that we still have  left to do.  I plan to do this early next week. (Too much to do till then to even think of it now.)

View of the pavilion from the deck, as I grilled salmon for supper at the end of Day Two.  Look carefully and you can see the shiny new lattice skirt on the east side.

I liked the original lattice with larger openings, installed behind the posts, a lot more than the new lattice.  Perhaps it's bothering me because the new lattice is so new and sparkly.  Once it weathers a bit, I know I'll like it better.  I have to keep remembering that this new lattice is a contributing feature to the groundhog deterrent system ... that's the most important thing.

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