Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Phone Call, Great Grey Dogs, and Rescues

So my sister calls me today, rather sheepishly.

Seems she's rescued a dog; problem is - we took in Quinn the puppy because she (Sis) was going to adopt her. Oh well... she was really afraid I was going to be upset, and kept emphasizing, "but it's a rescue and if I hadn't taken her in, she'd have been killed!"

Which is, unfortunately, true. I told her that I'd come see the dog in a few weeks (give the dog time to adjust, give her other dog enough time to settle in, etc.) and I'd take a look at her (the new one) to see what I thought. Of course, I did tell her that I was glad she took in a rescue rather than purchasing from a pet store or back yard breeder.

Not to give ALL backyard breeders a bad name, but they've got more "bad apples" than good, and some folks who selectively breed are tarred with that brush, which is unfortunate.

So it looks like we're a household of "Great Grey Dogs" - Norwegian Elkhounds. Or, if you prefer, "elghund" - which is Norwegian for "moose dog." Elkhounds are a compact dog with a talent for flushing moose, occasionally bear and sometimes elk. They go out in packs of two or 3 dogs - sometimes one dog will go by itself. The dogs track and corner the moose and bark like crazy, alerting the hunter(s) to come get it. They're fast, agile dogs who can think for themselves.

Thus, they are not a dog for everyone! In Norway, they're considered a "farm dog" but here in the US, they're most often seen in dog shows or specialty breed shows. They're excellent therapy dogs, good at obedience trials (they love to solve puzzles) and great at agility and rally, because of their energy and eagerness to complete a task. They're happiest when they're kept busy, and are not good for people who don't want to spend time around their dog.

Who in the world would get a dog and then not want to spend time with it? What a silly person!

Quinn actually went to my sister's house to play with her one mixed breed (I'm thinking greyhound mix). That dog was fast, but Quinn was quicker. She took corners at lightning-fast speeds, and confounded the bigger dog, who stood there a couple of times, whipping her head around looking for her. And then Quinn wanted water. So she jumped onto my sister's deck. A deck that's about 4 1/2 feet off the ground. And she cleared it, without touching a step. Good thing she never figured out she could leap over my sister's 4' fence surrounding her yard!  Here's a quick picture of the two of them playing: (hint: Quinn is the furry one)...

There are very few Elkhound people in our area, and in a way that's good for the breed. Those who know the dog, love the dog. And while we'd love our Great Grey Dogs to be in the spotlight, we also have seen the downside of that. Think 101 Dalmations... Overbreeding and puppymill people coming out of the woodwork have tanked the Dalmation breed for the casual owner. The folks who know what they're doing will continue to breed great Dalmations.

Idiots will breed without regard to pedigree - unknowingly, or uncaringly breeding dogs with bad temperaments, congenital defects (like the deafness that's common in Dalmations) and other issues - and then sell them to unsuspecting and ill-educated owners who "want the cuted spotted puppies" and don't realize what they're getting into. The idiots will breed "to make lots of money."

Those dogs are the ones we see in rescue transports every week. And they're not only one breed. I can rattle off about a dozen breeds we've seen, both large and small, where the dogs were kept in crates their entire lives, and females were literally worn to a nub from breeding, breeding, breeding.

Talk to a responsible breeder. See how much "money" there is, and be prepared for the responsible breeder to laugh his or her head off. Talk to my one friend who had stayed up literally 3 or 4 nights in a row because her mommy-dog had mastitis and had brand-new puppies who couldn't nurse. Talk to her about how, when one little boy was born, she had to do doggy-CPR on him to get him breathing. Talk to her about the vet bills. And what happens when she doesn't sell her dogs - or if someone buys one and finds out that it's not a good fit for any reason. Responsible breeders make a contract with you - if for any reason, the dog doesn't fit anymore, they take it back.

I could go on. And I frequently do, particularly when people find out that we foster and are involved in rescue. And then they mention getting a dog from "Furry Friends" or a "guy in the neighborhood who breeds dogs as a hobby" or any of the chain stores that sell them.

The point is, my sister did put a kink in our plans, but it was a good kink. I'm glad - and proud of her for taking on the responsibility. She's in for a challenge, but she's also in for the good stuff: the dog who realizes that he or she is "home forever" and turns into the most loyal companion you will know. No matter the breed or the heritage - that look in their eyes (see my profile picture) says it all.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Garden Bounty, Frogging and Re-doing

Seems like an abrupt change of subject from the Godawful pictures I posted last time. But it does have a certain rhythm to it, if you think about it.

So recently, we were able to get our first harvest from the backyard garden. In my hand is a bowl of lettuce: 4 varieties, with more sprouting during this very wet spring. And in my hand is a bunch of radishes. These juicy red globes of goodness have a very mild flavor until after you swallow. Then, there's this slow-starting afterburn. Yum!!

The lettuce includes butter, red oak, red sail and romaine. We try to mix it with iceberg and spinach. It's spicy, sweet and tender. We think we'll get a second (and maybe a third) planting if the season holds out on us.

We have carrots coming up. Our beans are about 1-2" long. The peas are flowering. And the tomatoes are coming along nicely.

All of this life in our yard makes us sad when we see the news. We feel impotent and unable to do anything regarding the Gulf. Our oldest kid, unemployed for the moment in this absolutely stinky environment, has applied for clean-up jobs. He'd like to volunteer, but he'd rather get paid at this point. I worry about the things a mom worries about: the lack of oversight (in my opinion) of the clean-up people; the lack of HazMat equipment; the long-term health effects he may encounter; the fact that people seem to ignore the toxicologists who say that this stuff brings with it a host of health issues that are both short- and long-term. But as he says, "I feel like a schmuck just sitting here, since I'm not working anyway." He's one of those "I want to fix this" kind of people; whether it's people, a sick animal or a dying Gulf. He has a more-than-healthy dose of scorn and disdain for Corporate America, since he's in the generation of those young folks who are "Boomerang Babies" - out on their own and then suddenly caught in the worst recession in modern history, living in Mom's basement with no foreseeable move-out date.

I don't know what the future holds for him or the Gulf. But he seems to think that their futures are entwined somehow.

"Frogging" has a long history as a knitting term. What sound does a frog make? "Ribbit, ribbit," right? Well, what does a knitter do when he or she screws up big-time on a project? "Rip-it, rip-it." Thus, frogging. And I just did that.

Remember the burgundy prayer shawl? My first lace project? Well, there were some mistakes in the first part. Apparently, Sl1 kw (slip 1 stitch, knit-wise) was something my head understood, but my hands didn't. And then there was a nice long stretch of pattern on the knit side where I just wasn't paying attention.

I looked at it. It was not good. So... rip-it, rip-it, rip-it. I'm re-doing it and in the process I changed the foundation rows, too. It's a better project. And I'm a better knitter because of the fearless (well, ok, not fearless but necessary) ripping of a good 6+ inches of work!

Re-doing is sometimes necessary in knitting and in life. In knitting as well as in life, a re-do gives you the opportunity to rectify mistakes, fix a concept that "sounded good" but wasn't practical in execution, and generally make yourself a more skilled technician. You get to learn to read your knitting. You can literally 'feel' where you went wrong. And there's no penalty from the knitting scorekeepers for re-doing something. Knitting mulligans go on and on, till you are satisified with your project.

As should be the case with the oil industry and the fiasco in the Gulf. Re-do the standards that allowed the Oil Barons to get away with not only screwing up our environment but screwing up our own heads and our own government. Our heads got screwed with because we began to believe that oil was the be-all and end-all for our energy needs.

It's not. And you know what? It's a very finite resource, considering the world's population, its needs, and the actual amount of oil available.

Our government got screwed with because they were seduced by the money that Oil Barons had to spread around. Look at MMS and what happened when the foxes were in charge of the henhouse. Oil people would "pencil in" the inspection reports for MMS personnel to re-do in ink. This is a case of a re-do that should have been a re-don't.

Our environment is screwed with because oil and water truly do not mix. The dispersant that BP has used has a MSD sheet (Material Safety Data sheet) that's as long as your arm. The MSDS as it's known is a sheet (or several) of information on a product that tells you what's in it, how it will react in certain situation (environmental, etc.) and what happens when the particular product encounters a living organism. And what to do about that when the thing that happens is really, really bad.

I used to work with a product that, in its parts, was fairly innocent. But together, they were exothermic. They cast off heat. Enough to give you second-degree burns. And then, if you mixed one part with water, it exploded. Those are not nice things to have happen when you're near the product.

The dispersant causes health problems to the people using it. It's allowing BP to "fudge the numbers" because it's causing the oil to change character - be less easily accounted for, basically. And it's causing the oil to sink down to the lower depths where the "dark creatures" do the work of creating life.

Think about it. There are bottom-dwelling creatures that eat the detritus of life: the carcasses of dead animals and plant castoffs. They eat these, essentially recycle them, and recreate that life in fertilizer, allowing others to benefit from their work.

They don't eat oil. They'll die. And when the bottom-feeders die, the Gulf will die. It may well never recover. All of the Earth's water will be affected.

And as the water goes, humanity goes. This is one re-do that should have been re-done 5 or 6 Administrations ago. We all know that politicians often don't see past the next election. And their acceptance of this money from BP and other Oil Barons is a measure of their own greed.

Our acceptance of the "fact" that Oil is the one resource is a measure of our own reluctance to be the brave Americans we once were. We need to step outside of our petroleum-based lifestyle and look at solar, wind and water power. Each has its own drawbacks, true.

But we've already seen the drawback of Big Oil. And our childrens' children will continue to see what we let happen on our watch.

Friday, June 04, 2010

How''s that "drill-y-spill-y" thing workin' for ya?

Drill, baby, drill? Look.

And remember.

This is what our Gulf, our gift from our Creator, our treasure, our priceless wildlife refuge, and our unspoiled bit of nature has become.

Remember this and think of your kids, your grandkids, and your family to come. They're going to miss what you knew.

And we have ourselves to blame. We have had a Cosmic Thump On The Head. We'd better heed the message and start getting serious about alternative energy. We are hogs. And we're paying the price.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Apparently On a Roll...

I must be on a roll, in a good way. I've finished a second baby project. And both were done before shower or due dates! Wow. I may faint.

This is the crocheted afghan for a friend's grandbaby-to-be. She's been madly knitting and crocheting her own heart out, and I thought that she'd like to have this for the little one.

This also has a story... My niece wanted to learn to crochet. My grandma taught me when I was in the single-digit ages and nobody else in the family was eager to learn. They all thought I was a suck-up, apparently. But I enjoyed knitting and crocheting, even though I never got very far with crochet - only doing afghans, wash cloths, scarves.

So when my niece said she wanted to learn, I was more than happy to teach her. I went out to buy this yarn, figuring that I'd start her with something out of my stash; start her on simple squares before she got to the point of having to change colors, etc.

She is struggling, needless to say. Her busy schedule prevented further lessons, though I expect she'll get back to it soon. I told her she could have THIS yarn when she learned the 12 squares I gave her.

This is a Caron yarn, in "brights" - 100% acrylic and done in 10 strips, all sewn together with a mattress stitch, and then a half-double crochet around the edge. I think the lucky baby will enjoy it and the lucky mommy will find it really easy to care for.

And I can always get my niece more yarn. When she does her squares.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

One Down, One to Go...

OK, so my oldest friend's daughter is having a baby. The shower is in June. I figured, since there are no grandmas to knit or crochet, and my friend can't sew worth a lick, I'd do a quilt and afghan for the baby. Here's the quilt. I appealed to a friend of mine, a Quilt Queen, for "the most idiot-proof" quilt pattern she knew. This is as simple as it gets, and STILL - it took me all day.

It's basically a rectangle with 4 patterns of fabric. We know she's having a boy (and if the ultrasound is wrong, I hope she likes blue!), so I chose a pattern in the center that's comprised of red and blue bandanas scattered across it. The middle shade of blue is covered in small white dots - kind of like the sky with stars in it. And the end piece is a pale blue, cloud-themed fabric with actual white stars on it. The back piece is a dark blue paisley that folds up around the top. We mitered the corners and those were hand-sewn. There are two rows of straight stitching around the binding, and a fancy zig-zag on the straight parts of each of the stripes.

Well, part of the trouble is this reason: I wasn't using my own sewing machine. The last project I did on the sewing machine was a dozen "chapbooks" for Son #2 for his Creative Writing class. Chapbooks are collections of writings in a hand-made book format. Son #2 decided on the layout and all that, and I offered to sew up the binding. The sewing machine is an ancient Brother heavy-duty that has been my "old reliable" for over 30 years. I've had it repaired exactly 2 times, and each time the guy tries to talk me into some fancy-schmancy machine that I'll never use - much less learn to operate! I need forward, backward, zig-zag and zippers. That's it. Nothing more.

Anyway, I messed up the tension. As I was trying to get the bobbin to behave, the thread kept winding AROUND the bobbin compartment, instead of picking up and coming through. I have to work on that. And I was determined to get this quilt done this weekend.

So I used Hubby's machine. He has a Singer portable that he uses to sew leashes for our canine rescue stuff. It was fine for the top assembly. We were on the floor of my office pinning it together - which was another issue: no room (at least no dog-free room) to lay the thing out to put it together. As it was, our foster puppy kept coming by wondering what Mom and Dad were doing in there!

I used a natural cotton batting, so it'll be nice now as a floor quilt and then in the fall and winter in the crib. It's basically crib-sized, though we had to trim off quite a bit to get it to fit. I couldn't find 60" fabric, so it's about 48 x 36.

I go to assemble. While watching a marathon of "Deadliest Catch" - a show that's strangely addicting... And sewing on the dining room table, which was a good place, since I had room enough to turn the quilt without dragging it on the floor or over dogs. And the fold-over binding goes well. Then I try to do a fancy zig-zag down the strips. Well, all heck breaks loose. The tension gets all balled up and I have to rip. And rip. And rip.  I was not happy. Finally, Hubby figured it out and we got the tension fixed.

I'm finishing up the crocheted afghan this week. Picture will follow.

Not to sound mean, but I hope my friend and her daughter appreciate this!

I want to thank my friend Mary Lynn for her advice. I also want to tell her that I truly admire her quilts; I don't know that I'll ever really be a quilter. This one about kicked my butt. I can't imagine a Log Cabin or a Wedding Ring! I think I'll stick to knitting and leave the quilting to the experts.