Sunday, May 29, 2011

Saying Goodbye

It has been almost a month that I had to say goodbye to my baby dog. Seamus had been with me for fifteen years but he lived to be almost seventeen and a half years old. He was a great border collie that was just a part of the family. He began his life with us as my mother's dog.

I remember the day she called me to say that she thought she had found a dog. She wanted me to check him out so we went to the Atlanta Humane Society the next day. Seamus sat at the back of the kennel when we approached but he immediately began waging his tail and walking towards the front when he saw my mother. You could tell that he had remembered her from the day before. Needless to say, she adopted him and we took him home. She had about two years with him before we had to say goodbye to her and he began his life with me.

In his earlier years, his job was to wake me up every morning. He was faithful with that chore and insured that I did not go back to sleep. He would just sit at the side of the bed and just stare until I began to get up. If I didn't get up, he would then begin to nose me until I was up and out of the bed. Seamus also loved to play hide and seek. He would stay put and then I would go and hide. I would call his name and then the game would begin. He would seek me and eventually find me. What amazed me about him, was he would always check the previous place you would have hidden. He would play that game for hours.

As he matured and slowed down, he would still sit with me and watch the world go by. The cats that we had, slowly began to watch over him and keep him company. Toward the end Boodle, one of our newer cats, would be constantly at his side when he was out. Boodle would make sure that Seamus was safe and sound.

Now that he is gone. I still go around the house from time to time expecting to see him. Leon our current oldest cat also is missing him. Leon will walk the house crying looking for company. He always had his friend around to sleep with if we were not there. Leon on occasion has taken it upon himself to sleep in Seamus's bed. I will miss you old friend and even though I will eventually get another border collie to fill up the empty place in my heart. There will always be a place in my heart for you.

Several years ago, I wrote a song for Seamus when I thought we were going to have to put him down. Luckily for me, Seamus lived five years longer. Below is the video that I created using the song that I wrote.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Syrup Experiment: the conclusion

My husband ended his experiment about two weeks ago. It has gotten to0 warm to tap the maple trees. They have begun to start to bud. I understand that once the budding begins the sap's taste is not good for syrup. So what have we learned from this experiment?

It can be done in the South when the temperatures are just right. This means lows below freezing and the highs in the forties or fifties. It is a very time consuming process. For the ten gallon of syrup we would collect at a time, it took over ten hours to boil it down. You just can't put the syrup on a heat source and leave it. You have to continue adding more sap and making sure that it doesn't boil down too far where it will burn.

While it is a lot of work, is it worth it? My husband says yes! He was able to get out in the woods during the cold winter. It gave us both exercise by walking up and down the hills collecting the sap. The maple trees we found and tapped were not just off the road. Many of the trees were over a half a mile in to the woods. The buckets, filled with the sap, were very heavy adding more benefit. We were able to produce something from scratch and take pride in this.

Having said all of that, it is not any cheaper making your own syrup? I now have an appreciation on why maple syrup is so expensive in the stores. We used propane as a heat source this year which proved to be very expensive. When you put the dollars that we spent along with the time needed to produce the syrup it was probably more expensive than buying it from the store.

What if anything will we do differently next year? We are looking at having someone locally make us an evaporator pan. (This is the pan that you put on a heat source to boil down the syrup. It is usually not deep and has more surface space directly in contact with the heat source.) This year we used a turkey roasting pan, and a variety of pans to boil the syrup. We are also looking at making a fire pit where we can use fire wood as a heat source. We live in the woods and have access to over 200 acres of woods on top of that. The availability of free fire wood is much cheaper than propane.

We have a year to make these improvements. We will have something to look forward to after the deer season next year. Until then, we will be able to enjoy and share the syrup we made this year.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Role Reversal

When my dog, Seamus, was young he would gently guide the various cats we had around. He would let the first cat he ever knew, Mistletoe even sleep with him. He has always been surrounded by cats but in the last few months he has had three cats in his life.

As he has gotten rather old and senile, the cats have taken to herding him and watching over him. He can’t tell when he goes out (in a fenced in yard) that it is time to come in. Often, he will stand at the back door wanting in but even when you open the door he doesn’t have a sense that it is open. Only his cat friends are there to let him know that it is time to come in. They will cut in front of him, nuzzle there face into his face and at times walk under him to get his attention.

This role reversal reminds me of people and especially leaders. At times, we need to know when to follow and when to lead. Just because you are a leader either by position or by your talent there are times that you don’t know where to go or have the skills or knowledge to lead the way. You must be humble enough to know when to lead and when to follow and not let your ego get in the way. It’s amazing to me that by watching animals interact we can learn a little on how we should act. The next time I am leading, I hope I take the time and self reflection to look around and realize that I might not be the person at the time to lead. I also hope, that in reverse that if I’m following and I do have the belief that I can better lead than the person that is that I have the strength to step out in lead.