Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Today is the Day

Today was the day. It is a gray, misty and foggy morning. I needed the headlamp when I walked Dog this morning. The only sounds were crickets and a few frogs. Dog and I walked down the lane surrounded by darkness. Even when the trees ended, in a small open area, it was still too dark to do without the light. We walked back into the cover of the woods again. A slight breeze tickled the leaves and the sound of rain dripping to the ground was added to the few sounds around me.

We continued our walk, emerged again from the forest, and this time I did turn off my light. No bird sounds accompanied us. For the first time since spring, our walk was devoid of singing, calling birds. It made the pre-dawn darkness seem eerie, even a little dangerous.

We reached the far limit of our morning walk, turned and headed back to the cabin. And then, a killdeer called. Apparently, we startled it as we walked on the gravel road, and it sounded the alarm call. We walked further, and now I heard a blue jay scold. We were almost back to the cabin when the first pewee announced the day. In the distance, a crow called, too. Morning arrived.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Dark Morning

Each morning, as the year’s dark side encroaches on the start of the day, I see and hear fewer birds as I take my 6:00 a.m. walk. This morning I was down to three species: crows, a cardinal and the eastern pewee. I notice the change most on Monday mornings, as on the weekend I usually sleep half an hour later than on work days. Soon, the only bird I hear will be the hoot of an owl, as the pewees will head south and even the crows and the cardinals won’t be awake.

This Monday, when I first left the cabin, I nearly turned around to retrieve a headlamp, but after I stood with Dog for a moment or two, my eyes adjusted enough that I thought I could do without it for another day, at least. But I know the headlamp is only a day or two away from necessity. At first, I will only need it until I emerge from the canopy of the forest. Once I have open sky above me, even nearly black open sky, I will be able to see my way for the walk. But that is only a temporary respite. When we return to standard time, I might be able to forego it again, briefly. When the leaves fall and open the forest to the sky’s light, I might have another respite. But respite is all these temporary adjustments will bring. The night is closing in.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Fallen Leaves

These leaves probably look like the first leaves of autumn but they're not. It hasn't been cool enough to start that process yet. Until this weekend, it has been very dry here, and many leaves, especially ones in the understory and on smaller trees, have turned yellow. The much-needed rain showers over the weekend caused many of those already-dying leaves to drop, where they now litter the driveway and the lane in a kind preview of fall.

It has really just been in the past week where I've noticed how severe the withering has become. Saplings and vines are the most affected. About half of everything that is 5 feet or under has yellowing leaves. And even on larger trees, it isn't unusual to see a branch with yellowing leaves, though that might be caused by insect damage.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Foggy Morning

I feel as though I have been living under a gray blanket this weekend. At 7:30 this morning it was almost as dark as dawn. Fog blanketed the mountain, and it has been overcast all weekend.

Overnight, finally, a little rain, less than half an inch, though at this point even a little will help. The forest isn't turning color with autumn's colors, but many leaves, especially in the smaller plants of the understory, are turning brown, falling off, and littering the driveway just as if they were fall's discards.

The woods are heavy with moisure and quiet. No wind rustles the leaves. It is as though the woods are still with anticipation. Of what? I don't know, but I whisper, as though my voice needs to be nearly as silent as the trees. I don't want to disturb the silence.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Memory of Unnamed Things

An evening walk in late summer is a lovely thing. The heat of mid-summer is past, though still strong enough a memory to make me appreciate an evening cool enough for comfort.
More changes, another shift in what I see around me and in the woods is underway, though the move towards fall is still a slow one. Nonetheless, the transition is inexorable, and each new day brings new changes.

Last night I saw common nighthawks, an early migrant. I was walking around the new pond, the light already dull with the gray of a cloudy evening, when I saw a shape I haven’t seen for a year. Several birds flew low and close past the pond, somewhat falcon-ish with their pointy wings, but far slimmer.

Nighthawks! The shape of them triggered the word in my thoughts, an automatic response without my conscious search or even a known desire to put a name to the shape. And with the word came pictures of other nighthawks, other sightings, better sightings where the light was bright and every detail could be seen. It was a joy to see them again, and I felt surprise at how effortlessly the word came to me, seemingly without my volition. It’s been nearly a year since I’ve seen nighthawks, or even thought of them, and still the word was right there, ready to be placed with the shape.

And yet, this morning, I can still picture the birds as they flew past me, unnamed, in that moment before the name burst inside me. Something magical is lost with the naming of things. Beauty lives in an unnamed moment, as surely as memory creates its own. But memory’s beauty is different than the beauty of unnamed things that sweep by like nighthawks in an evening sky.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Late Summer

Last evening on my walk I found a cardinal flower, a sure sign of late summer if ever there is one (and of course there are many). This sign is only the latest.

These spectacular wildflowers are growing happily in a marshy area that drains into one of the snowmaking ponds. The flowers don't bloom until late August, so when it blooms, summer is truly on the wane. The cardinal flower grows 2-4 feet tall; this one is on the short side of that. They are related to bluebells and fall into the category of beautiful but deadly. Well, who would want to eat one anyway?

This flower and its not-yet-blooming neighbor are surrounded by green grass, right along the road and couldn't be missed by anyone who has his or her eyes open. Which, of course, makes me worry about its safety. Still, I've seen people drive right by 40 wild turkeys sitting in my parent's open yard and within a few feet of the road and never see a thing. So I hope two little wildflowers, even two as spectacular as these manage to pass unnoticed by those who would pluck it or dig it up.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Peace and Quiet

Ah, peace and quiet! It’s good to have the mountain return to normal after the noise and excitement of this past weekend. Last evening I took a long and peaceful walk, including a streatch around the new pond. It was a sunny day, and the evening was calm and warm, though not hot.

I was hoping to find a few shorebirds at the upper and shallower end of the pond, though the water level turned out to be too high for that. I startled a single mallard; that was all.

And then the first frog squeaked and leaped into the pond just a few feet in front of my steps. It was followed a second later by another squeak and a second frog, then a third, and fourth. It was like watching that human “wave” thing at sporting events. One frog after another squeaking and leaping into the pond just ahead of my steps.

I started to count the frogs--15, 16, 17. There went a very large frog, no doubt a bullfrog, followed by 3 more, smaller frogs. Another step and this time 5 or 6 frogs hit the water, the next only a moment behind the one in front of it--32, 33, 34.

I am surprised at the number of frogs. For one thing, this is a new pond. It was only filled for the first time last summer. So these frogs are either all transplants from other ponds or this year’s production.

I keep walking and frogs keep leaping ahead of me—46,47,48. The new pond is about half a mile around. My plan for the evening is to walk the full length of the pond but then to cut into the woods and eventually head back to the cabin. My walk by the pond will only last for perhaps a quarter of a mile.

More plops. That time the frogs all jumped at once, and I’m not sure I’ve counted all of them. I’m glad to see so many. Acid rain has changed the ph of the streams and ponds in this state and has resulted in low or no reproduction for many amphibians. I’ve read several articles and heard stories from biologists about how the numbers of amphibians are cut in half or worse as a result of the lower water ph.
I kept walking. Frogs kept plopping. In the short stretch of my walk along the pond’s shoreline, I counted 73 frogs. And I know I missed some. I think I have never seen so many frogs at once in my life. It’s a good day.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Baby Dog is One Year Old

This weekend Baby Dog celebrated her first birthday. I can't believe she's a year old already, but she is. The First picture was taken the day I brought her home.

She was rescued from somewhere down in the Hurricane Katrina area. From the pictures I have and what I've been told, I think she was in already in a shelter (and just 10 days old) when the hurricane hit. I have a picture of her being bottle fed at at 14 days old, and she was already out of the worst of the hurricane's path then. So she was either moved out of that area before the hurricane hit or she was moved out very quickly afterwards. I don't know exactly where she was then, only that she was in that region.

I got her a wiggley-giggly toy for her birthday. These are the toys that make odd noises when a dog rolls them around. She has completely ignored it. So much for that idea. Another $10 down the drain.

When the Purple Door festival started, she barked everytime someone hit a drum extra hard or if the vacals were unusually loud. Then Dog would join in, and I had two dogs barking every few minutes. Dog didn't really care about the noise from the festival. He was only paying attention to Baby Dog's barking. The festival was half over before she stopped barking at every sound.

The second picture is the way the little goofball looks today.

The festival is fun, but I'm glad it's over, and peace has returned to the mountain. I'm looking forward to a nice long walk with the dogs this evening, without encountering traffic, hordes of people or hearing the bands all day long.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Something Completely Different

Once a year Roundtop plays host to the Purple Door Festival, and about 10,000 people show up to listen to a weekend of hard rock music, played by more than 20 bands. The festival is supposed to be a Christian rock festival, but to my ears the music doesn't sound any different than any other hard rock music. Perhaps the lyrics have a religious content but since I can't understand most of the words, I have no idea.

Anyway, since I live so close, and entry/exit from the cabin is difficult during the weekend, the organizers always send me a free pass to the festival. The festival boasts four stages, food stands, a literary journal, art gallery, bookstore, lots of band vending stands and probably other stuff too.

The concert stages start showing up in pieces on trucks on Wednesday. By Thursday evening the roadies have pretty much set up all the stages. The bands show up from all across the country early on Friday to get settled and start their sound checks. The second photo is from a sound check. I don't know the name of the band for this one.

By mid-afternoon on Friday, the kids, most of whom seem to have license plates from Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, start lining up at the gates, which open at 6 p.m. The music starts shortly after the gates open.

I can hear the bass line of the music from the smaller stages at my cabin. When the festival moves to the biggest stages, I can hear all the music. It's kind of like having the stereo on low all weekend. When I'm outside, the music is louder, but since it's good music I don't mind. It's a fun weekend and only happens once a year. I might not enjoy it as much if it happened every weekend.

Baby Dog can't figure the entire thing out and she barks periodically to warn me of impending danger. Dog is oblvious unless Baby Dog's barking takes a more persistent tone. Then he barks too, though he's barking in sympathy with Baby Dog. He's been through this before, and to him the music no big deal, but when one dog barks, another simply has to join in. That's a rule.

The third picture was taken at the smallest stage. I don't know the name of this band either. It is one of the winners of the new band contest.
The action moved to the main stage after dark. The last photo I'm goig to post today is from the group Copeland. They have a modern hard rock sound and put on a good show. Their sound, and especially the lead singer's voice, reminds me of Huffamoose and one of their sons, James. Most of the bands only play for 20-30 minutes, so more bands can fit on the schedule. The headliners play for an hour or so, but none of the bands play for a really long time. So if there's something you don't like, go get something to eat and when you come back, it will be a different band.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Last evening when I got home from work, I went out to greet the dogs as usual. They were enthusistic about my return as usual. Then I clipped Dog to the flexi-lead to take him for his walk, again as usual. While Dog gets his walk and his one-on-one time with me, Baby Dog remains on the deck. Then after Dog's walk is over, I come back and take Baby Dog for her walk. Except this day.

Dog and I were no further than the front deck, when suddenly Baby Dog comes crashing around the front of the cabin, joyfully joining Dog and me. She has escaped from the deck.

Since Baby Dog is now loose and thoroughly pleased with herself, I don't want to make a big deal about her being loose, which might entice her to run from me. I'm hoping that since Dog is with me she will stay with the both of us.

I keep a dog tie around one of the beech trees out front, so I calmly walk towards there, while Baby Dog is rushing around, ricocheting from from side to the next. Once there, I call the wild little puppy over, she comes, so I grab here and attach her collar to the lead. Drama ends.

Baby Dog has been an escape artist since the day I brought her home. As a tiny puppy, I kept her in the bathroom behind a kid gate. The bathroom faces the entry and living areas of the cabin so the puppy can see what's going on while I can do other things. Dog was content to stay behind the kid gate long after he'd grown large enough to jump out over it because he knew he was supposed to stay in there. Baby Dog climbed over it before she was 9 weeks old.

When I walk out back again I see that Baby Dog has actually broken through the kid gate to join Dog and I on our walk. Now I'm not about to buy a new kid gate this week, so I repaired it with a stick for a splint and that miracle of miracles--duct tape. But then I wasn't convinced this would hold my little escape artist, so I pushed the plastic Dogloo in front of it. Since neither dog will go into the Dogloo, this was a wasted expense but today it will finally be good for something.

Some how, in this last picture, Dog looks guiltier than Baby Dog.


I have eastern goldfinches everywhere right now. I hear them first thing in the morning. I hear them just before dark. August is the time when goldfinch families take the kids on vacation. The kids complain they never go anyplace and the nest is boring, migration hasn't started, mom and dad goldfinch look at each other and say "road trip!" Just like every other goldfinch family in the world. So off they go, undulating and singing into the wide world around them. To a goldfinch, that's August.

I also saw chimney swifts this morning for the first time in a while. They may well be early migrants. Lots of Pa. birders have complained this year that chimney swifts are suddenly and unexpectedly uncommon. I never have many, though I usually have some, and I haven't seen them most of the summer either. Until this morning.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Walk in the Woods with Baby Dog, Part 2

After Baby Dog played along the edge of the pond and she wouldn't get her toes wet, we continued our walk along the old road. The mountain has plenty of deer trails and other paths, but it had been a while since I walked the road, so that was my planned route for this walk.

I am always surprised how quiet it is down here. I'm surprised because it's already much quieter at the cabin than it is almost everyplace else I go. And yet, I still hear noises there--planes overhead, distant road noises, the occasional barking dog or some far away lawn mower. And when I say far away, I'm talking about a mile distant, at least, for most of them and usually further. The sounds of modern life really carry, though the ones that reach my cabin are muffled by the forest and the distance.

Down here in the forest valley, which in some ways is even closer to civilization than is my cabin, those sounds are much further muffled. The mountains on either side of the valley really block the sounds of modern life. Any noise that I or Baby Dog makes sounds very loud, and the forest animals are aware, I'm sure, that we are coming long before we arrive.

The forest is thick and lush with the fullness of summer. I waited until nearly noon to start our walk, as I know it takes a while for even summer's sunlight to penetrate into the valley. Even so, for most of our walk it is dark enough down here to limit my photography. Where the sun does cut through, the brightness makes me squint.

My original reason for taking this route is that the old road follows the edge of a shallow stream that feeds into the pond. I was hoping that the stream and its shallower water might entice Baby Dog to enter it or at least cross it. The stream was still running strongly for August, but my plan was flawed. To Baby Dog, water is still water, and she was having none of it. Her toes are too precious to get wet.

So my plan didn't work, but that was the only low note of the walk.

The valley is just a few steps dry of a swamp. Even though it is dry everywhere else, so dry that I even slipped on the dust walking down the mountain, in here it is still quite damp. Springs pour out of the side of the mountain, cross the old road and then continue downhill to feed the stream. We had to detour our walk a time or two to avoid the mud caused by them.

It was a beautiful, cool day. Baby Dog enjoyed herself immensely, sniffing her way along the forest floor. We didn't scare up anything exotic enough to tempt her or scare her. I suppose that's a good thing and means that she has now seen enough in her short life to have grown blase about the typical encounters of the forest.

I suspect she is now as ready for the next step, which will be camping, as she will ever be. I'm thinking September. I'm not sure she will ever be able to go backpacking with Dog and me. She's pretty small, smaller than I expected she would be when I picked her out. And first, she has to learn how to camp. I need to buy her a dogpack, as Dog's is too big for her. After we got back from our walk, she pooped out and slept the rest of the afternoon. I think I've finally tuckered her out!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Walk in the Woods with Baby Dog Part 1

Friday night I went out onto the slopes at Roundtop to look for meteors from the Perseid meteor shower. The weather was beautiful and clear. I watched the sky as the stars came out. Just before the moon rose, I saw a few meteors, nothing spectacular, but the night was so pretty that I really didn't mind.

Saturday morning the day dawned perfectly clear, with low humidity. I quickly did some housecleaning and then decided it was far too beautiful a day to spend it inside. So I grabbed the camera and Baby Dog. My plan was to go down to the bottom of the mountain and walk through the valley between Roundtop and the next mountain over, which is called Neff's Hill. The photo shows Neff's Hill in the background. To save some time, I headed down the mountain along an abandoned ski slope, instead of trailing through the woods.

Down at the bottom is an old snow-making pond, shown here in the next picture. I don't know that they use this pond much anymore now that Roundtop has made the new pond. At any rate, the road that leads to it is in pretty bad shape for a vehicle, but it's still good as a path. I often seen a lot of waterfowl here later in the year. Wood ducks often nest in the dead trees at the far end, though I didn't see any on this hike. I did startle an immature red-tailed hawk that flew across the pond and through the valley.

Baby Dog was having a wonderful time, running all over the place. I was hoping she might get into the pond since it's shallow at the edges and not instantly deep the way the pond is that's nearest our cabin. But true to form, she wouldn't get into the water. I saw lots of deer tracks in the dried mud and raccoon tracks, though nothing more exotic than that.

In the third picture you can see, a little, how low the pond is, which surprised me. It's been so wet here most of the summer that I expected it would be bank full. Instead, the pond is about 3 feet lower than after average. Usually, I can't walk along the right edge at all the way I could on Saturday.

I took Baby Dog with me on the walk as she hasn't had much opportunity to go for a long hike down here in her short life. In the winter she was still too small. The spring was pretty wet, and much of the summer has been too hot for me, so she hasn't been on many full-fledged hikes. Dog is a veteran hiker and backpacker, so I left him at home on this walk, so I could bring the camera. If I take both dogs with me, I really can't operate the camera and deal with two very enthusiastic dogs who are typically enthusiastic about different things in two separate directions at the same time. So, I usually walk them separately. That way I also get to give them some individual attention. Dog got a nice ride in the car this weekend, which seems to be his favorite thing in the world, as best I can tell. Plus, he got to see some cows, which is his second most favorite thing. The photo is of Baby Dog not going into the water by the edge of the pond.

Tomorrow: More photos from our walk

Friday, August 11, 2006

Skywatch! Perseid Meteor Shower Alert!

The good news is the Perseid meteror shower is tonight and tomorrow night. The Perseid show is one of the best of the year and has the advantage over the winter shows of occurring when you don't have to freeze your butt off to watch them.

The bad news is that the moon is nearly full. So, plan to look for the meteors before the moon rises around 10:30 p.m. I'd suggest watching from around 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on both nights if it's clear and dark where you live.

A good Perseid meteor shower is an amazing thing. Years ago, I used to hold an annual all-night Perseid meteor shower party. My friends would come over, and we would eat and drink, lay out in lawn chairs and truck beds and ooh and aah and just watch the show. Then I hit a couple of years when the sky was cloudy, or it rained or the shower was on Wednesday and we all had to work the next day, etc. So I stopped holding the parties, but I still love watching a good meteor shower.

Because we'll have to watch early in the evening, instead of after midnight, the show probably won't be a great one. But, here in Pa. the morning is clear, visibility is excellent, and the weekend is here. So I'll be out tonight looking at one of nature's best free shows.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Shorter Days, Longer Nights

The shortening of the day’s light is really becoming noticeable here at Roundtop. When I walk Dog in the morning, it is almost dark. Last night it was dead dark by 8:45 p.m. I think I’m noticing it so much because in Ann Arbor this past weekend the sky still held some light until almost 10 p.m. It was very nice to have that extra time in the evenings, and I’m missing the idea of that, a bit.

Here at the cabin, the result of the shortened daylight is that my morning birding with Dog and/or Baby Dog is a lot less productive than it was just a week or so ago. I still see and hear morning’s earliest birds, like crows and eastern pewees, but the birds that don’t become active until the sun breaks the horizon are now missing.

Still, I have some compensations. I’ve started hearing the great horned owl again. This morning Dog and I saw a red fox that bolted in the direction of where the three kits hung out earlier this spring. Perhaps it was one of them, now on his or her own. We also saw three deer, a doe and two growing fawns, cropping grass in the near gloom.

The natural world always brings change of one kind or another—changes in weather, changes in seasons, changes in the patterns of life. What surprises me, in a way, is that the changes, the shifts from one season to the next are so visible on a daily basis. Summer isn’t just an unbroken spate of hot weather and greenery. The seasons are a continuum, an inexorable march of one tiny change to the next. Yesterday the change was a noticeably duller green to the vegetation, a yellowing of the grass on the slopes. Today the change is a darker morning walk, a fox and three deer. Tomorrow will be another change.

Today's picture is the setting full moon that I took this morning shortly after 6 a.m. when Baby Dog and I were on our morning walk.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Matthaei Botanical Gardens

Before the HMANA board meeting began, three of us had a little time to visit the Matthaei Botanical Gardens on the eastern side of Ann Arbor. We walked on the trails there, listening and watching the birds and enjoying a beautiful early morning in the outdoors. This shot is taken looking towards the headquarters for the gardens. The swimmers in the middle of the picture are just mallards.

I kept a list of the birds I saw in Michigan. I didn't have anything too exotic, but I ended up with 37 species for the morning walk, which was pretty good. Unfortunately, our little morning walk was the only time any of us had for birding on the trip itself. Most of the time we were "locked" in a room. My seat did face the Huron River, so at least I had something pretty to look at through the window.

The photo on the right is thistle in bloom. It's blooming here in Pennsylvania as well as in Michigan. The plant is a common one, but it's still pretty. Most people just think of it as a weed, but anything with purple flowers this showy should at least have a single moment of fame during their bloom.

Matthaei Botanical Gardens has both wetland and upland trails around it. We walked mostly along the wetland habitat. We saw common yellowthroat, black-capped chickadees, lots and lots of American goldfinch, eastern pewees, rough-winged swallows and other common bird species.

The trails I enjoyed the most were the ones that traveled through areas that looked the most different from Pennsylvania and the forest around Roundtop. This open field, with both conifers and deciduous trees along the edge is a lot different from the type of thing I find in southern Pennsylvania. It's probably not a lot different from areas of nothern Pennsylvania, though I suspect the soil here is sandier. It also looks more lush to me than the more hardscrabble forest edges I'm most familiar with in northern Pa. The puddle in the middle was filled with robins getting their morning baths.

Much of our walk followed along the bank of a little creek. We were hoping to see a missasaugua rattlesnake, as we were told they are common here. Later, at the visitor's center, we were told they'd had five sightings so far this year, which doesn't seem all that common to me. At least that's not common the way, say, robins, are common. We didn't find sighting #6. The missasaugua is a darker rattler, the better to blend in with the dark woods and dark, still streams of the region. The snakes are present but rare in Pennsylvania. I've never seen one here, either.

Along the stream, the habitat was moist. We found large snails that settled on the undersides of leaves or pieces of bark. Loosestrife was blooming. One section of the gardens had a woodland garden of native wildflowers that must have been spectacular in the spring when it was blooming.

Our little mini-expedition was a fun interlude before the work begain. I wish we'd had more time to spend exploring the gardens and the region as a whole. But at least we had this time.

Summer Days

I was on a short road trip this weekend. I went to Ann Arbor MI for a strategy planning session with the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA). It was mostly work, but I had time for a little play.

Ann Arbor is a town with a lot of parks and green spaces, so birding was good almost everywhere, even downtown. The Huron River is higher than it usually is in August, so shorebirding wasn't as good as it normally is, or so I was told.

One of the places I stopped was Barton Pond along the Huron River, where I snapped this great blue heron. We heard a warbling vireo right near this spot, but never got a close or clear view of it.

Both dogs and cats were glad to see me when I got home, none the worse for the wear, though Sunday was a long day for me. The HMANA group met until noon, and the drive home was lengthened by a 1.5 hour wait on the Pa. Turnpike until an accident could be cleared.

Back at home I'm already noticing that the woods have that August look. The trees are no longer the bright green of spring or even the rich green of July's mid-summer. They are beginning to take on the dull green of late summer.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

On the Road

This beautiful farm is near my cabin. It's one of those places that always invokes an imagination riff whenever I pass it, which is at least once a week.

To me it looks like a picture perfect, almost idealized kind of farm. What would it be like to live here? What does the view look like from farm and looking out? What's in the forest behind the farm? Anyway, to me the farm seems to have everything--a beautiful setting well back from a public road, the forest starting at the edge of the back field. What more could you ask?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Summer woods

Dog and I headed into the woods last evening, down this old two-track road that winds through the forest. The air was thick with humidity, hazy even up close.

We didn't go far--it was too hot and Dog wanted his swim. Sun was long set as we headed back, and now light was fading too.

We saw a coyote run in front of us, perhaps 50 feet ahead. Dog stood up on his hind legs, using the leash for balance to see better. The coyote ran for the first few steps, sort of skulking as it did, then settled into the ground-eating trot of theirs to put more distance between us and it. Dog put his nose to the ground and sniffed excitedly, trying to trail the coyote into the woods, but I wasn't about to let him do that.

We retired to the old pond, where he swam and chased bluegills, until the stars came out.

Swimming in the pond

Blogger hasn't let me upload pictures for 2 days now, so this is a picture-less post. The heat and humidity are mind-numbing. It's too hot to do anything, and this most profoundly includes house cleaning. If the heat last much longer I'll have a fur carpet in the cabin, but I'm learning to ignore it.

Last evening I took Dog and Baby Dog down to the old pond for a swim. As usual, Dog plunged in, grateful for the respite after the heat of the day. Baby Dog has not yet swum a single stroke in her entire life, though last night she took a step closer towards that. While Dog happily swims in the pond, Baby Dog runs along its bank. When she is feeling very adventurous, she deigns to wet her toes and take 2 wet steps to a rock that juts out into the pond. From the rock she can bark at Dog who swims by right beside the rock. At this point, you've correctly guessed that the water is deep right next to the rock.

So Baby Dog is barking at Dog, who happily ignores her while he's chasing fish--bluegills and a few bass that populate the pond. And then she she gets brave and decides to join Dog. However, she is unsure how to enter the water. She decides that entering the water must be like going down stairs so she starts to go into the water head down, head first, until her entire head is underwater and her two back feet are still firmly attached to the rock. At this point, she understands that this is not the way to approach the situation, but she has no futher ideas about how best to accomplish the task so she backs up and retreats onto her rock with all four feet.

She is thrilled with herself and shakes her entire body as though she has been swimming for an hour. I swear that she even struts around afterwards. I tell her how wonderful she is, in between rounds of laughter. Another failed swimming attempt, but I have hope....