Saturday, July 22, 2017

Tess Update

Tess is now 7 months, 1 1/2 weeks old.  Ish.  Her birthdate of December 28 is a guess on the rescue's part.  She was pulled out from under the abandoned building at around 4 weeks old so I have a reasonably good guess at her age.  She hasn't had any accidents in the house since she was 4 1/2 months old so I'm declaring her housebroken.  Actually I declared her housebroken many months ago.  Can't remember what age Lola was housebroken at.  I'm guessing this is fairly typical though it seemed kinda early.  Not complaining.  It helps if you're home a lot.

Photo from today.

And when we first brought her home.

She's looking more and more like a real dog these days.  Still all ears and legs.

She's doing well with walking through the neighborhood and nearby trails, mostly excited and curious rather than fearful and learning not to pull when she does get overexcited.  I do believe there's a fear aspect mixed in with the excitement so it's encouraging that she can often focus on us in the face of that.  There are still times when she can't though.  She was unexpectedly unhinged by a walk on a bike path that went under a loud highway.  It was early Sunday morning so not too busy but I realized that we seldom walk near busy highways.  We also took her on a trail that goes through a prairie dog town and their high pitched 'eeps' made her a little crazy.  She seemed a bit interested in the critters themselves (not nearly as crazy about them as Ruby is) but was unhinged by their cheeping.  She's scared of woodpeckers pecking as well.  I finally worked out that that's why she didn't want to go in the yard in the early mornings.  Oddly enough she's not scared of thunder or fireworks though she will  bark a little if either get really really loud.  Weird to have dogs that are o.k. with thunder and fireworks, Ruby's not bothered either.  Poor Strummer was a wreck with both of them and got worse as he got older.  Both the other dogs were bad with them too but poor Strum, he suffered the worst.

More photos from today.

She's been to two agility classes, the first was a private lesson so the instructor could see where she was at and we could see what she'd be willing to do at the facility.  Apparently I'd painted a picture of doom and gloom because the instructor was expecting something way worst than what I'd described.  Tess was nervous and excited but she did o.k. and was willing to work with me and mostly focus on the tasks at hand.  We did started with some simple little games (throw the treat on the ground and tell her to 'Find It', shape her to put front feet into a dog bed) then progressed onto 2o/2o on a small, slightly elevated plank as well as the Offering a Jump exercise.  There were probably some other things that I don't remember.  The instructor felt she was fine to come to class so she went to her first group class last Wednesday.  Again she did fine.  Her biggest challenge was waiting in the car when I took Ruby out for her turn.  Oh the barking.  Next week I'll bring more Kongs and hopefully she'll get used to the routine.  It's important for her to learn to be calm in the car without Ruby.  Ruby is her rock.

In class Tess worked on a nose target, more 2o/2o on the plank, sending through a straight tunnel to a food bowl and introduction to the low dog walk (Just walking up and down the plank and along the top plank.  She bailed a few times and then got more comfortable.  She seemed funny about her back feet being on the planks, maybe something about the feeling of the granulated rubber since she seems fine on my wood planks at home).  She seemed fine working in the facility, took her a little bit to go through the tunnel which was longer than my little 10' practice tunnel (maybe was 15').  I think this will be good for her, pushing her limits but not pushing too far.  The instructor Nicole has been awesome with her.  I hate that 35-40 minute drive to and from Arvada but this has turned out to be a really good fit for both dogs and I'm learning a ton and enjoying the One Mind methodology. 

Interesting to see how much she grew in 11 days.

July 11

Today (July 22)

Hmmm, hard to notice much in those photos without something for scale but in real life she seems way bigger and more mature somehow. 

More from July 11.

Coming up next, some hiking adventures.  And of course more puppy.

Thursday, July 20, 2017


I've had a fascinating week down the deep dark rabbit hole of Homesteading.  Still no houses/land that we're interested in but when we do move I'd like to be a bit more self-sustainable.  I'll start with a vegetable garden, which I've done before, and then add some chickens and eventually goats or maybe even a cow for dairy.  Because thanks to the magic of YouTube I've discovered mini Jersey Cows.

Their big brown eyes and sweet faces melt my heart.  Plus they are supposedly a reasonable size to handle, have nice gentle temperaments and their milk has lots of fat.  I'd be foolish not to get one.

There is a lot to learn about raising your own food, animal or vegetable.  The good news is that it appears to be a rule that once you start homesteading you must also start a YouTube channel.  There is a LOT of info. out there.  SO much info.  My personal favorite is Joel Salatin and his Polyface Farm.  Joel is a great public speaker, YouTube is chock full of his lectures, just go over and search his name, so many I wouldn't even know which one to post here.  Joel fascinates me.  He's a genius systems engineer, passionate public speaker, savvy businessman, generally full of creative and innovative ideas.  Has zillions of books out.  A true visionary when it comes to how we can feed the world in a healthy, humane and sustainable way that makes money for farmers.  He makes me optimistic for the future.  But he does larger scale, commercial type farming and while the general concepts scale down to what I'm hoping to do, there aren't a lot of details.  But there are many many folks out there with YouTube channels and little farms for just their family and maybe they sell some eggs or whatnot on the side.  My favorite so far is Guildbrook Farm.

Here's a good example of the volume and level of detail of the information they provide on a given topic plus the good sound and video quality.

I like that they're beginners because they understand what a beginner needs and wants to know.  And they link to many other experienced homesteaders for more information.  They provide really good, well researched and detailed information in an organized way that's easy to understand.  Their farm looks well organized and the animals look happy and healthy.  There are also videos that are more personal, showing aspects of their daily lives on the farm which are great for beginners like me who wonder what it's like.  Some of the other folks putting out videos are not so well organized and don't have such great audio/video quality to put it politely.

Another good channel is Justin Rhodes.  He's doing a Great American Farm Tour and putting out little mini movies about farms he visits.  He even has a visit to Joel Salatin's place.

I'm sure there are many many others, these are the start of what I've stumbled on and enjoyed so far.

I've learned that raising chicks is a lot more complicated than I thought.  I'm also learning about permaculture and how to can and how to make Pemmican.  Because there is a YouTube channel out there that shows you how to cook food from the 18th Century.

It's funny, or maybe not so funny, how in a couple few generations we've lost all this knowledge and are currently suffering a huge, perhaps insurmountable health care crisis brought on largely by our consumption of processed food.  I remember watching my grandmother can and thinking it was crazy.  She was always scalding herself and it looked time consuming and exhausting.  And why?  The grocery stores are full of food year round.  But of course the food isn't seasonal and it was pretty fabulous to pull out a can of her tomatoes and enjoy their awesome deliciousness in February.  Plus how cool to be able to cut down trips to the grocery store?  And if you have a garden and a bunch of your stuff is ready for harvest in the fall, what do you do with it all?  And the convenience of it if you do want to pull something off a shelf and have quick ready made food without eating the processed crap from the grocery store. 

So much cool stuff to learn.  I never realized how much science and math and systems engineering is involved.   I think I have a lot of basic skills that could be helpful, especially the structural engineering and engineering mechanics background.  Was watching a video of a guy building shelves and cringing at the poor design.  Lots of stuff to build on a homestead.  Much different scale than what I'm used to so there will still be lots to learn but again I think I have some good knowledge that will be useful - math, science, chemistry, engineering.  Lots to learn though.  LOTS.

Now if only that perfect place would come up for sale.

Tess has been to two agility classes, more on that later.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Rockin' the Gnar

I've barely been riding my bike this summer, mostly because of the heat and crowded trails and Tess.  I have to go during the week to avoid the crowds and biking takes a lot of time.  I've not had the motivation to schedule a big block of time to go riding by myself during the week plus the distraction from work and Other Things I should be doing.  And I've enjoyed spending the time with Tess.  They're puppies for such a short period of time, I want to soak up every moment.  She's fine being left in her crate, it's not that I can't leave her, but I'm enjoying watching her grow up and spending time with her.  Except this morning.  She's discovered her lungs and she barks at everything.  Couldn't even play with her in the yard because she dropped the toy right away and started barking at my neighbor next door going about her business in her driveway.  A lot of the time I can't even figure out what she's barking at.  This morning was wearing on my very last nerve so I broke down and decided to start teaching a 'Quiet' cue.  In general I think it's a bad idea because they quickly learn to bark to get your attention to play the 'Quiet' game.  At least Cody did.  But the barking is incessant so what do I have to lose?  First session went well and now she's settled a bit.

Anyway, back to the bike.  Ann Trombley, a local mountain bike coach and former Olympic Mountain Biker and sometimes riding buddy for Jonny (no way I can keep up with those guys) was offering a free mountain bike skills clinic at the Valmont Bike Park and it sounded too good to pass up.  I've had a couple private lessons with Ann and she's a great teacher, very patient, explains everything clearly, big on breaking things down just like in dog training.  So even though I haven't been riding, I greased up the chain and decided to suck it up and go.  Thanks to Facebook I knew there was a good chance Melissa would be there and Melissa is kind of crazy.  Maybe not 'kind of'.  She's a former pro mountain biker and raced Xterra as a pro coming in 4th at Worlds one year.  Plus Fearless.  She's super nice but I was intimidated by this prospect so I told Jonny that if Melissa was there and wanted to do Scary Things that I would slink off and come home.  I wasn't sure of the skill level of the other folks who would show up but I figured I'd work my way in somewhere.  As it turned out only Ann and I showed up.  So we rode for a bit on some stuff at the park and then there was Melissa and I was already out there so no way to slink off.  But as it turned out Melissa was super helpful as was Ann and they taught me how to catch some air on a drop-off rather than just rolling down the drop-off.  The advantage of this is that it's smoother because you're landing with both wheels on the ground at once rather than thumping down with one wheel and then the other.  Plus FUN.  Way more FUN.  Something I've never done before.  I kept to some small drop-offs that you can roll down, no need to jump, but a good place to start.  Very fun and so much smoother and faster because you can keep your speed up.  In fact you have to keep your speed up.

We worked this a bit on the flat, ie a flat grassy area with a short gentle slope next to it.  We practiced lifting the wheel and it turns out this requires a lot of strength in your lats/shoulder muscles.  Ann also showed me how to get up a ledge which requires lifting the bike up from a sitting position, even harder for me, I could barely do it.  Plus you have to pedal down hard while the bike is in the air so the pedaling force opposes the uplift force.  I struggled with this though I think it would be easier on a steeper hill.  Pushing down on the suspension fork then lifting up from a standing position for the drop was way easier, especially when going down the little slope.  We did lots and lots of reps.  A guy watched on the sidelines for a bit then joined us.  Melissa and Ann know their stuff and the guy knew it.

Next we moved over to the Slopestyle downhill track, something I've never been on nor would ever consider going on.  Ann was trying to get up the nerve to jump off of a particular ramp so we watched Melissa do it a few times and Ann did a few reps on a ramp with a smaller drop.  They were both encouraging me to try the smaller ramp but I thought, 'Oh no WAY!'  Crazy talk.  So I took the cheater line down that avoided all the ramps and jumps but was curvy and hilly and fun anyway.  Melissa went on the advanced stuff, crazy crazy stuff, big gap jumps, it was amazing.  She was flying through the air and landing so smoothly, made it look so easy.  Then I saw a 10 year old kid go down the little ramp they were trying to get me to jump off.  The kid didn't even have to jump it, you could roll right down if you wanted.  So I decided to try it.  And it was fun!  No problem at all, not even scary.

Photo from Valmont  Bike Park's Facebook page, don't know how else to credit it.  It's hard to see the drop but I didn't take any photos myself.  Here's another one from their website.  Also kinda hard to see the drop.

This is the one Ann was wanting to do.

In the end she didn't despite Melissa's persistent encouragement that she could do it, that it looked scarier than it was, etc.  In the end she didn't try it and I don't blame her.  I didn't even try to help talk her into it.

When we got back to the parking lot, there was a guy there with an off-road TAB trailer and Ann went to check it out so I tagged along.  Turns out the guy had sold his house and been living in the TAB and touring the country for the past year or so with his 13 year old son.  While we chatted with him, a cop pulled into the parking lot, lights flashing, and parked so that he was blocking me in.  Next to my car was a super scary looking guy in a car with the windshield and whole driver's side of the car smashed in.  I wanted to leave but didn't want to go over there.  Another cop showed up and the first cop got back in his car for a very long time.  Finally I decided I'd risk getting in my car and I heard the cop saying, 'Your car is unsafe and you were driving crazy like you stole it, tail gating dangerously, swerving, etc.  But I know your girlfriend here and she's a nice lady so I'll let you off with a warning'.  My tax dollars at work.  What's the point of having cops if they're going to let the dangerous people go just because they don't want to deal with them?  And the scary guy was getting belligerent with the cop even though he was getting off with a warning.  I was pretty mad but unwilling to get involved with that scary guy around.  And I was trapped by the cop, the lot was huge, plenty of places he could have parked and not blocked me in.  He could have even parking where he was but just a few feet back and not blocked me in.

Anyway, a fun time at the bike park and I'll have to go back and play on the jumps and rock drops some more.  But wow my lats are sore.  Went swimming yesterday and today which didn't help.  Can barely lift my arms, time for some upper body rest.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Fireflies and Smoked Fish

I took a little trip back into my Midwest roots last week.  Met up with some family in Ann Arbor, Michigan and while I grew up in the Chicago area, Ann Arbor has many nostalgia invoking things.  Like fireflies.  I don't miss much about Chicago but I do miss fireflies.  And smoked fish.  There are no authentic Jewish delis in Boulder.  Maybe there's one down in Denver but I don't care enough about smoked fish to drive that far.  But my aunt lives just under a mile from a real Jewish deli with the real smoked fish of my youth.  It's been 35 years or so since I've had smoked fish and the fish from this deli was pure heaven.  Plus I was hungry after a day of travel and not much food and about 2 miles of walking to get to/from the deli so that made it all the tastier.  Funny how things like that bring you right back to your childhood.

My aunt also lives in a historic district complete with the old timey framed houses and big trees, sort of from my childhood.  I grew up in a relatively 'modern' subdivision with 1950's tract housing that was kind of ugly if I have to be honest.  But I would often ride my bike to the snooty, historic part of town and I loved the old houses.  And I lived in such a neighborhood in Urbana, IL when I was at university.  So every night after dark I took a 'Firefly Walk' through the old Ann Arbor neighborhood and soaked it all in.

One thing I was not sorry to leave behind was the humidity which greeted me with a vengeance on my first two days there.  Wow, horrible.  I don't miss that at all.  Thankfully it cooled off and dried up for the last 2 days.
But the point of the visit was to visit my 2 aunts, one who lives there and another who came in from Chicago for a little reunion of sorts.  Great to see them both, it's been a few years.  My family is small and difficult and scattered far and wide so it was good to get together even though it was only 3 of us.

We walked around downtown Ann Arbor which didn't hold all that much interest for me since I'm not a recreational shopper though there was a cool old theater.

And a cool mural with some Chiwowows.

Boulder and Ann Arbor have roughly the same population but Ann Arbor seemed busier and more like a real city.  Big tall buildings downtown, highways and busy roads, LOTS of traffic downtown on Friday and Saturday nights.  The university dominates the town a lot more than the university here in Boulder.  Even with school out of regular session there seemed to be a lot of students around, way more than in Boulder.

My aunt also lives near some small forest-ey areas and some trails along the Huron River so I took a walk on a nice loop through the woods and along the river with her dog.

Only about 3-4 miles or so I'd guess but nice.  LOTS of runners, not many dogs.  There were other trails and nature areas but I wanted to get back and it was getting hot for the dog.

Had a nice time, was great to see my family and visit a new place.

But I missed the mountains.  Took another hike up Niwot Ridge yesterday, mostly because it's not very busy yet has great views, a rarity these days on the Front Range.  Ironically even though we hardly saw anybody, we ran into a guy Jonny knows right at the start. His wife and I have a mutual ultra runner friend as well.  She was running separately from her husband, probably training for some crazy thing, and her husband told us to say 'hi' and call out her name to freak her out.  She wasn't freaked out, just confused because she didn't recognize us so the prank was a fail.

The trail was melted out so we were able to get a bit higher this time.  There were a few snow fields but nothing too crazy.

Gorgeous up there at 11,460' but after 9 miles, 2000' of climbing and almost 4 hours of hiking I was toast.  Been ages since I've gone out for so long, last year I was focusing on shorter, higher intensity stuff, intervals, etc. and very little hiking.  From a health perspective the shorter, more intense stuff is way better but I loves me some high country/alpine hiking and it was so wonderful up there, wildflowers and snow, gotta love it.  I was struggling with the altitude more than usual, not sure why.  Sometimes it happens, I have a hard day.  It was a bit on the hot side but not terrible, maybe 60's-70's and sunny.  Who knows, hopefully not age related.  I'm tired today but not as sore as I thought I'd be so that's encouraging.  Been slacking lately, I need to get back on the bike.  I've been re-introducing running, the sore tendon is still a bit bothersome here and there so I'm taking it slowly, walk/run sessions with gradually increasing periods of running.  I've been keeping up with the swimming, love summer swimming at the Rez and outdoor pools.  Weight lifting, ugh, haven't been doing it at all, have to bring that back.  So important.

Tess has grown a bunch.  I love my new camera, a big improvement over my last point and shoot and a different world altogether from the cell phone.

On the one hand she seems to have made a lot of progress with being afraid.  She seems a lot less scared of her environment in general on walks, especially dogs barking off in the distance or even dogs behind fences barking and lunging at her (hard to avoid these sometimes).  But the neighbor girl came over today for the first time in a month or two and Tess acted as if she'd never seen her.  Previously she'd gotten to the point where she'd fetch a ball thrown by her.  So we went back to the girl feeding treats to Tess and after a LOT of treats and me eventually letting Ruby outside, Tess finally pulled her tail out from between her legs and started wagging it a bit and relaxing  Ruby made all the difference.  Sheesh.  She was good at my training partner's house, going up to her and meeting her more energetic, younger dog.  I was hoping they'd at least play chase but they ignored each other, which is o.k. too.  Hopefully one day she'll warm up enough to play.

Went to the dog park super early so we'd have it to ourselves for some recall practice.  Both dogs doing great with that, will have to figure out a more challenging place that's still safe.  Hmmm.  It's great to see Tess stretch out and run.  She's feeling her legs these days, can't wait to move to someplace with acreage.

Still no suitable houses/locations.  Considering some vacant land, not my first choice, but it might be kind of fun to rent in a different town like Pagosa Springs or Montrose or somewhere for a year or so while we build the right sized house.  But ugh, what a pain.  I know enough about construction to know I don't want to go there if I can help it.  Must be patient.