Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Bit Of Kentucky Folk Music

A group of four of us is rehearsing an a cappella Kentucky folk song which we plan to audition for possible inclusion in the next Gay Men's Chorus concert. We rehearsed this past Saturday, only our third time together. I took this video and thought I'd like to share it.

We are still learning the piece and trying to find ways to make it better and better. Yet it's a beautiful and haunting song. I hope you enjoy it, remembering that this is merely an early rehearsal, not a polished performance:

Monday, March 29, 2010

Well Done, Thou Good And Faithful Friend

On Thanksgiving morning, 1995, I had to rush my old hiking buddy and beloved dog, Pepper, to the vet's office to be put to sleep. That left me with only Poppy, a tiny little Maltese who had hiked with Pepper and me to the top of scores of high peaks. I began to dream of finding her a small canine friend. So in December of that same year I took a trip to the Animal Shelter. They had no dogs as small as Poppy and I'd decided that's what I wanted. So I was on my way out the door when I saw a medium sized black dog trying to get my attention from a top tier cage. It looked like a friendly dog so I decided I'd open the cage door (rules were less restrictive back in those days) and pet her. But when I did, she crawled into my arms and laid her head on my shoulder. Well, as you can imagine, I fell in love at that moment. I carried her in to the front desk and said I'd like to adopt this dog.

Her name was Casey and she was 5 months old. She'd been surrendered only minutes before I arrived and had not yet had her health exam and shots. So I filled out the paperwork and was told to come back in 2 days.

Casey became a most beloved dog who lived with me for 15 years, dying only this past Saturday evening. So I thought this might be a good time to remember her life. The picture below is Casey and Poppy (also now gone) while hiking in Vermont:

I frequently laughed about my first meeting with Casey because I'd been so taken with her instant love for me. She had, after all, quickly identified me as a fine and generous man. But as the years went by, I learned that she loved almost everybody like that. Here she is just a few years ago with little Winky, who still lives with me:

Casey was gentle, kind and loving with people, but also with other animals of all sorts. She was quite an agile and tireless hiker and delighted in the sunshine:

Casey always had a place on my bed, even when I was partnered, and most often she'd position herself with her head resting on my arm. Here she is in the Adirondacks:

For a while we all lived on a farm in Hoosick Falls, New York. I raised Scottish Highland cattle and Americana laying hens. Casey helped tend the baby chicks, becoming their friend. And later, when the hens were all grown and living in the chicken house, both Casey and Poppy would come with me twice a day to feed the hens and collect the eggs. The hens, of course, knew them both so no panic ensued as we entered. The dogs would line up at the feeder shoulder to shoulder with the hens and snack on chicken feed while I collected the eggs. Yes, they also liked chicken poop. Dogs will be dogs, after all:

This photo was taken just a few years ago on a warm, happy summer day. Left to right are 1.Jed, the first dog I walked on the first day I volunteered at the Shelter and took home with me. 2.Gerry, an ancient Chihuahua mix whose full name was "Geriatrics." He was so special that I didn't trust anyone else to care for him. 3.Poppy, my beloved Maltese who, like Casey, lived and hiked with me for 15 years. 4.Casey:

Out hiking one summer day with 3 smiling dogs: Casey, Poppy and Jed:

Casey mugging for the camera:

And smiling alongside the flower garden:

Two nights before she died, I took a photograph of her snoozing on the carpet. I was by then quite sure that it wouldn't be long before I'd want a recent picture with which to remember her:

And that same evening, 4 of my 6 pooches keeping Casey company. In her later years, she had a very large wart on her face which the other dogs licked and fussed with. I suppose they were only liking the taste, but it was interpreted by Casey (and I agreed with her) as gestures of doggy friendship:

So good bye, old Casey, and thank you for 15 years of love and companionship:

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A New Plant, A Blue Rose?

I was walking through the house plant/flower department of a large grocery store recently when I noticed a potted plant covered with tiny blue rose blossoms. I was amazed that such a thing existed and checked for more information. There was none, but the sign called them Campanula. I purchased one immediately:

I brought the plant home and began searching the internet. I discovered that it is called Blue Rose Campanula, a variety of the Blue Bellflower plants, of which there are many cultivated varieties and at least one wild variety growing locally:

Information is very difficult to come by, but it appears that these little rose-like plants are hardy in zone four (down to -34) and are propagated by dividing the roots and replanting. I bought a second plant and may get brave and plant them outdoors soon:

Many years ago I purchased the tiny teacup roses often sold in stores for Valentine's Day but they always died. A greenhouse man later told me that they are super hardy outdoors and commonly grown in Canada but "nobody can get them to live indoors." I tried them outdoors and they did well except that their tiny size meant they were soon overrun by weeds. Perhaps these little guys are similar. Does anybody reading this know more about these little plants?:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What's This? Another Fergus Post So Soon?!?

Yes, it's another Fergus post. One could say that he is indeed a dyed-in-the-wool, authentic character, a one of a kind.

I'd taught Fergus to sit, lie down and shake by using treats. It was all too easy for him and I couldn't think of anything else to teach him, at least while simultaneously working with five other dogs, so I began putting them in series. For instance, I'd say "Sit, lie down, sit, shake, lie down, sit" and then I'd give him a treat. Being a really smart dog, Fergus put it all together and surprised me one morning by doing the "sit, lie down, sit, lie down" when all I said was "Sit." I grabbed the camera to record my bouncing dog. Like I said - he's a real character.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Living Extremely Difficult Lives With Great Stress

Yes, I've posted sleeping dog photos before. But one recent morning I looked around my house and saw reclining canines everywhere. So once again I grabbed the camera and snapped a few shots.

Right next to me as I sit at my computer were the two youngsters, Seamus and Fergus. They're buddies, of course, and generally always together. They're also under foot more than any other dogs I've ever known. Is that perhaps a Poodle characteristic?

Wally also has several best buddies, one of which is Bramble the cat. On that morning they were sharing a rocking chair:

Old Casey sleeps most of the time now and probably wasn't even aware that Winky had joined her. This is supposed to be Seamus' bed, but he doesn't mind sharing. He's so gentle, in fact, that he'll let Fergus take a rawhide chewie right out of his mouth. That's Draco, the deaf cat, lounging in the background:

Wally tired himself out by rocking, so he jumped down and rested his weary bones on a dog bed:

And lastly, here's a shot of Wren, Fergus and Seamus next to my computer chair. That's the bathroom door there next to Wren, so you can imagine how difficult it can sometimes be just to walk from one room into another:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Friend Departs To Sing A New Song

Some of you may remember my post of October 5th 2009, in which I introduced my collection of birds. I emphasized a yellow canary who had a tumor and yet sang beautifully, especially when I entered the room. If you'd like to read the original post, it's at

His tumor continued to grow since that time and at some point he gave up his singing, though he still ate well and seemed happy and friendly:

I watched closely, lest his tumor grow so large that it prevented him from eating and drinking. Thankfully, that never happened:

There came a morning a few weeks ago when I uncovered his cage and somehow knew that he would be dying soon. So I took a few photos so that I could make this post when the time came. Yet back then he was still happy, lively and eating heartily:

But the other morning I uncovered the bird cages and found him dead. The death of a pet is always a mystery and always sad. We have less ritual and support for such an event than we do for our human family. But some pets are special, and this little yellow singer was one of them. Good bye, my little friend. You enriched my life and blessed me with both joy and song:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

AAACK!! and YECH!!

"Hi everybody. My name is Fergus and I have a blog post all of my own. This is about me and my great hunting skills. I'm so proud":

Just a couple of nights ago, as I was preparing for bed, I let the dogs out into the back yard (it's fenced) for their final bathroom break of the evening. When I called them back in, I noticed that a very happy Fergus had a squeaky toy in his mouth. It only took a second, however, for me to realize that it was not a squeaky toy but rather a very large rat, not quite dead.

Fergus was exceedingly proud of himself but dropped it on the kitchen floor when I yelled, "Oh my God!" I guess he wanted to let me play with it for a while. The rat was still twitching and I realized that I'd have to do something with it. Of course I feared that if I picked it up, it might revive, become feisty and bite me or run away into the living room. Now that would have been a problem. But I had to do it so I took it by the tail and carried it out into the back yard.

I wish I'd taken a photo of Fergus with his prize but there wasn't time and I just wanted it OUT of the house lest it revive and cause more problems. I went out into the back yard the next morning and found that the rat was dead. Well, the problem was solved and all was well again. I just had to dispose of the dead rat. Oh, the joys of living with dogs!

"What? I didn't do nothin' bad.":

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Quick Tour Of Tyrhingham, Massachusetts

Our hike up Tyringham Cobble was over and it had been nice mini-adventure for a wintry Monday afternoon. I loaded Fergus and Seamus back into the car and we drove back down to the town of Tyringham, Massachusetts to begin our drive home. But the homes in Tyringham were very "old New England" as well as large and expensive. So I decided that I couldn't drive away without snapping a few photos of town's buildings. This first house is at the foot of the hill which leads up to Tyringham Cobble:

Even the Post Office was distinctive, a natural stone building with red tile roof:

Three houses near the Post Office:

A very well cared for home with a carriage house and privacy fence, with Tyringham Cobble in the background:

Only a short distance from the "town" (if a collection of 5 or 6 homes could be called such), the houses became more countrified:

And many, perhaps most, had barns. This home's barn was attached in the old New England manner which took the rugged winters into consideration:

Large sugar maples alongside the road, with a spacious country home and barn:

This house struck me as very much like the Shaker buildings in nearby Lebanon, New York and Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Perhaps there is a connection by way of the architects:

The lawns were huge and no doubt were cow pastures and hay fields not too long ago:

This home was so huge that it could have been an institution of some sort. It also had a look reminiscent of Shaker architecture:

Quintessential old rural New England:

A beautiful home, but I was even more impressed by its huge and ancient sugar maples:

And finally, a barn which was still used to house horses. This was the last photo I took. Our hike was over and it was time to get back to Albany and finish my day. I still had several hours of chorus practice that evening:

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hiking Tyringham Cobble - Part 7

The dogs and I had enjoyed our hike on Tyringham Cobble but were now almost to the end. I knew from my internet search previews that there was a unique rock formation called "Bunny Rock" which people often photographed, but we'd somehow missed it. I felt as if I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere. But then, rounding a bend, the famous Bunny Rock loomed up ahead of us:

When we'd reached it, I climbed up onto its lower portion and snapped a photo of the town and valley below us. I confess that I never did see any bunny in it:

Leaving Bunny Rock, we continued through the wintry woodland and passed another downed tree which the loggers had converted to firewood ready for splitting:

"This was fun, Dad. Can we go all the way around the cobble one more time?":

We continued angling downhill towards the trail head. In order to avoid a steep, snowy and much used section of trail, I opted to stay in the deeper snow and make my own trail. You can tell by my slide mark how well that worked for me. The only thing hurt was my dignity:

We're approaching civilization now. The cow pasture lies just below the barbed wire:

I could see the red barn near the trail head in the field below:

We stepped over (or, in Fergus' case, under) a sagging spot in the fence and struck off in the direction of the trail head:

Fergus is such a well behaved dog when he's tired!:"

The dogs trotted over to the barn and became so enchanted by the bovine smells that they refused to come when called, at least for a minute or two. But when I began walking toward them, they realized I was in a mood to put a decisive end to disobedience and quickly came running to me as if to say, "Oh, was that you who was calling us? We thought it was someone else, but now that we know it's you we're happy to obey."

This is the end of the hike, but of course I couldn't resist taking photos of some of the grand homes in Tyringham as we began our journey back to Albany. I'll make one more post showing the houses of the village before moving on to a different subject: