Sunday, August 03, 2008

a quiet sunday afternoon - then not so quiet

Dad called this afternoon. He said he and Mom nearly had heart attacks when they were returning home after grocery shopping at the Wally-mart in East Tawas. He said when they got to the part of Cedar Lake Road (in Oscoda, Michigan, where they live) where they could see their house over the golf course (Lakewood Shores), they spotted a huge pillar of smoke rising into the sky. And it looked like it was just where their house was—but there was too much smoke to get a good view.

It’s in our family’s genetic code to expect the worst. So they fully expected to see their house engulfed in flames when they approached their driveway. But they were lucky—it was the house across the street from theirs. They had to go around the back way to get to their driveway because there were so many emergency vehicles blocking the road and, when they finally made it to their driveway, they had to wait for an EMS vehicle to get out of it so they could pull their van into the garage and get it out of the way.

The house that was burning is not directly across the street—the development is not set up like that—but at more of an angle. So they watched the sad spectacle from their back porch. The house that was burning belongs to a large family with a lot of kids—a wild bunch, but not mean or threatening in any way to the neighborhood (which is mostly older couples, retirees mainly, such as my parents). The only real complaints the neighbors had about the family is that the yard was unkempt and they left the bright lights on too late at night and the kids could be better supervised.

According to a neighbor who pays attention and asks questions, the fire was started when one of the kids was playing with a lighter in the garage. The garage is, or was, stuffed with stuff, Dad said, so he’s not surprised it got out of control so quickly. Here is a photo he took (click to enlarge):

burning neighbor house by James Fleming, Oscoda, Michigan August 3, 2008

Dad said the house is uninhabitable—the photo shows the roof just gone. He said the kitchen is gone (besides the garage). He said everyone got out okay and no one was hurt, which is good. It’s a rough thing to have happen. And I wonder how long the house will sit there burned out or if they’ll tear it down or rebuild it right away—I hope so.

posted by lee on 08/03/08 at 08:15 PM
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Saturday, August 09, 2008

photos i’ve been meaning to post

There are some photos that Stanley and I have taken that I’ve been meaning to post. Mainly because I just like them.

I think one of my top 10 favorite annuals is the cleome. I didn’t get many planted this summer (and the ones in the so-called cutting garden were eaten by bunnies this summer), so when a couple of opportunistic cleomes first appeared where the porch met the house, I asked Stanley just to leave them alone and see what happened (we need to replace the porch boards, anyway).

cleomes by stanley h thompson
opportunistic cleomes by Stanley H. Thompson (click to enlarge)

In summer 2006, I planted about 25 hardy gladiola bulbs amongst the peonies and crocosmia. The crocosmia came up this summer, but so far, only one glad this year:

hardy glad by stanley h thomson
hardy gladiola, with baptista in the background, by Stanley H. Thompson

Twitch is fond of boxes:

Twitch in the box by Stanley H Thompson
Twitch in the Box, © 2008 by Stanley H. Thompson (click to enlarge)

And so is Slink:

Slink in the box by stanley h thompson
Slink in the Big Box, © 2008 by Stanley H. Thompson (click to enlarge)

Ginger at the oncologist vet’s office—this was a few days after she got out of the animal hospital. She was in for her last stab at chemotherapy—which didn’t work. So now we’re just keeping her as happy as we can and maintaining her on prednisone. We don’t know how long she has left. We hope long enough for another trip to the beach in Oscoda the last week in August, but we just don’t know.

Ginger waiting for chemo, July 30, 2008
Ginger waiting for her appointment with her oncologist vet, July 30, 2008 (click to enlarge)

Of course, part of keeping her happy is MARSHMALLOWS!

Ginger just loves, loves, loves marshmallows! August 9, 2008 (click to enlarge)

And, finally, the kitties found a spot to watch the world from. Both of them have fallen off the cupboard, but they still like to hang out there.

kitchen kitties by lee fleming thompson
Kitchen Kitties - hanging out on top of the Hoosier cupboard (click to enlarge)

Meant to take a photo or two of ripe tomatoes from our garden—but we ate them. We’ve got bell peppers too, though we’re waiting for them to get red before we pick them (I don’t care for peppers, but Stanley loves them and they plants are so pretty!) Next summer, I hope, we can make the garden a bit larger and get more herbs in besides basil—that was all I had time to plant in the garden this summer, though I do have pots of rosemary and sage. Ah summer ...

posted by lee on 08/09/08 at 10:50 PM
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black cat hiding in the dead of night

On Friday nights, we usually just unwind, watch Countdown, Monk, Psych whatever. Just let work slip away. Last night was no different than most—Stanley was getting ready to grill a couple of buffalo burgers, our favorite player won on Jeopardy’s champ tournament, pleasant mood. Until.

Our very naughty black cat, Slink, slipped out the door when Stanley went to turn on the grill. Now, we’re always vigilant about making sure Twitch doesn’t get out—he’s quite good at it and tries nearly every time. But Slink! Slink had never, ever tried to get outside, not since his great escape with Twitch and Einstein in Oscoda last summer when the Great Outdoors so terrified him he found a hole next to the house and cowered until Stanley dragged him back into my parents’ house. Slink is terrified when we just carry him from the house to the car. The world outside the house just overwhelms him—he hates being outside. So it was quite a shock to us that he even tried to get out of the house.

Stanley tried to catch him as soon as he spotted Slink headed across the porch. But Slink, who is very fast, shot past him toward the front corner of the yard, next to the street. All Stanley saw was a black blur rushing past. It was, of course, full dark as it was after 9 p.m. Slink is pure black, except for his yellow eyes.

So Stanley comes in cursing, looking for a flashlight (of which we have several, but can never seem to find them when we need one), telling me what happened. We figured we’d spot him cowering next to the house, visible only because he’s a devil cat and his yellow eyes look like the fires of Lucifer in the dark.

No such luck. We searched for hours, the whole neighborhood, into back yards, across the street, up trees, everywhere. Searched for a black cat in the dark. Stanley was in despair, concluding Slink was gone for good. I wasn’t too happy, either, but had a little more hope since all of the cats I’ve ever owned until Twitch and Slink were outdoor cats and cats are pretty decent at surviving a night outside.

We left the porch door open, and Stanley opened the hatch to the cellar, and we left food and water out for him, and decided that if we couldn’t find him in the morning, we’d do the flyers and door-to-door search and call animal control, the works. Stanley slept some, but not very well. I ended up reading all night, finishing a book I’d wanted to read for quite some time (A Thousand Splendid Suns, an extraordinary novel). When it started to get light out, I wanted to go look again, but I didn’t want Ginger to follow me downstairs because she is having trouble with the stairs because she’s having some trouble with her hind leg, so I waited.

Stanley got up at around 6:30 a.m., checked the cat food and came back up to get dressed and look outside since, he said, the cat food was gone. He walked around the house and when he got to the cellar door, the stupid cat poked his head out the hatch—he’d made it inside! So Stanley closed the hatch and went inside to make sure the stupid cat was okay (we have skunks and raccoons here). He was. He even brought a dead mole in with him. At least it was dead by the time we saw it. We thought the cat was a bit traumatized since he kept yowling, but looking back, he was just bragging about his kill, I think.

Slink, the prodigal cat, is safe
Slink wonders why Stanley is fussing so much ...

posted by lee on 08/09/08 at 10:58 PM
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Sunday, August 10, 2008

fodor farm farmers market

A while ago, Stanley and I were driving back home from the oncology vet’s office and went via Flax Hill Road in Norwalk, passing Fodor Farm. We noticed that there were community gardens set up there and were delighted to see that. (We don’t subscribe to any local papers so aren’t up on Norwalk news much, except for what we see on News 12. We spent more time recycling The Horror than reading it, and the other one is mostly Stamford news, so why bother?)

Anyway, Fodor Farm is about nine acres and three houses that the city acquired back in 1997 or so after some long dispute that’s too complicated to go in to (because I don’t know the whole back story). Of the three houses, the main one was originally built in 1802 and modified with dormers and a cupola in 1860. They’ve been rotting for years. Here are two photos of the back of the main house that Stanley took today (click the image to enlarge it):

Fodor Farm main house, rear, August 10, 2008, by Stanley H. Thompson

Fodor Farm main house, rear,view two, August 10, 2008, by Stanley H. Thompson

We’ve been thinking for years that it was a crime to let these properties rot. But, apparently, enough preservation momentum got going, and the city council got off their asses long enough, to vote a plan into action, so that these houses are going to be saved. The idea is to sell two of the houses, subject to historic preservation restrictions in the deeds and easements and other stuff designed to keep the houses intact (and avoid a teardown/condo-build disaster) and use the proceeds from the sales to restore the main house and the lands. We’re just thrilled with the prospect—Fodor Farm is in a gorgeous old section of Norwalk and it will be wonderful to see it restored.

As part of the project, Norwalk decided to open up 1.8 acres of the Farm as community gardens, and lease the plots to Norwalkers at $5 per plot (4’ x 12’ plots), provide water and gardening equipment, fencing, and compost and see what happens (it helped to get a $98,000 grant to help fight obesity). All 200 plots were leased within a couple of hours of opening them up and there is a waiting list, so the city plans on opening up more space next year for a total of three acres. All has been going well except for a couple of assholes who broke in and stole tomatoes (capital punishment wouldn’t be too harsh for people like this). The cops are keeping an eye on it now. (Fat lot of good that will do.)

Here are two photos of the community gardens, which were featured in the New York Times not too long ago. Stanley took them today (click to enlarge):

fodor farm community gardens back side norwalk ct

fodor farm community gardens street side norwalk ct

The photos don’t really do the gardens justice—they are beautiful and lush and the gardeners should be proud of them.

Also as part of the initiative to encourage people to eat locally grown food, there is a farmers market every Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. into November. This was our destination today—we picked up our friend Helene and went to the market before heading to the Driftwood Diner in Darien for brunch. We got there before it officially opened, but it was fine as people were selling stuff already, and bought some leeks, corn, peaches, plums, cucumber, and pumpkin bread (with butter listed as the main ingredient!) along with Valencia orange-flavored grapeseed oil and some white balsamic vinegar (these last two from The Olive Oil Factory in Watertown, CT. A salad with cold sock-eye salmon is on our dinner menu tonight.)

There weren’t very many booths as far as farmers markets go, but this in just the first year so I’m assuming it will pick up as it becomes more known. I love the hours—afternoon hours—as I sleep in on most Sundays and am just starting to function by the time the Westport Farmers Market is closing down. Stanley took this picture of the market today:

fodor farm farmers market august 10, 2008

It would be wonderful if the plans for Fodor Farm are implemented. I really like Norwalk and it would be great to see it come out of its stupor. It would be even better if the city decided to go green (and a miracle, as we’re home to one of Connecticut’s Sooty Seven power plants) and be a leader in the region. It could happen ... ?

posted by lee on 08/10/08 at 07:23 PM
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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

canadians experiment on spiders

posted by lee on 08/13/08 at 06:15 PM
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Friday, August 15, 2008

what was i thinking ... ?

Last Friday, when Slink had his Great Escape, I fretted and worried until he yowled at me from the cellar. I was so happy to have him back in the house.

What was I thinking!? He is a devil cat.

About once a week, Stanley grills turkey cutlets. We have half of them one night, then on another night we use the other half to make a good salad with cold turkey. Tonight, the half we were saving was sitting on the stove cooling so it could be stashed in the fridge.

I walked into the bathroom and heard this growly sound, turned on the light, and saw the devil cat crouched over one of the leftover turkey cutlets. About four ounces. He’d gotten on top of the stove, snagged an entire cutlet, and carried it into the bathroom (on top of the rug, of course) and was devouring it. I couldn’t believe my eyes, but then, I could. He is a very bad cat.

By the time I came back with my camera, Slink had finished what he wanted, and Twitch was investigating this tasty treat:

Twitch finds a treat

Here, I think he’s trying to tell me he didn’t do it, and hell, he wasn’t even hungry, honest ... :

not me, no sirree ...

The two of them had a pow wow. I’d like to think Twitch was scolding Slink, but I think they were really cackling together in that laugh only cats can hear:

cat discussion

Well Ginger got an extra treat. She didn’t question it—just gobbled up what was left. Here she is using the leg of a chair for a pillow (she has a perfectly good nest in the office—I guess she prefers the cool floor). Click to enlarge.

Ginger resting

But wrecking a planned dinner menu wasn’t enough for one night. Oh, no.

Earlier, I’d brought in a couple of zinnias from the garden—I love zinnias and not enough of them grew this summer to make me happy because the location turned out to be shadier than expected (things are awfully lush this year), so the ones I do get are precious. Put them in a little vase and put them on the shelf in the office. Slink loves to chew leaves and flower petals, you see, so I figured I’d put them on the cupboard shelf, visible but in a place he never goes to.

Hah. I heard a noise and turned around and found him munching away at the zinnias. Damn cat. So I hissed at him and moved them up to the top shelf.

Then, this is what I saw when I turned around to investigate another strange noise (click to enlarge):

zinnia-eating bastard cat

He pulled the vase and flowers down to another shelf and fled as soon as I stood up.

All of my cut flowers end up looking bedraggled—I haven’t figured out where to put them to keep them safe other than out on the porch. He’s also chewed on every single plant I have and managed to kill a couple of them by using the pots as a cat box—even one that was way up on top of a bookcase (that would’ve been interesting to see—he’s on the clumsy side so I wonder how he managed to keep his balance). I had to repot all my plants and make sure to put big pieces of gravel over the dirt—that’s the only thing that works.

Now he’s trying to get all affectionate with me. Stupid devil cat. I’m just crazy about him though!

posted by lee on 08/15/08 at 06:23 AM
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Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Ginger at Sherwood Island

Our beautiful, sweet Ginger died today around 6:30 p.m. A few days ago we had some hope, but she took a turn for the worse and the last couple of nights she had trouble breathing and couldn’t sleep and we realized it just wasn’t fair to her to make her suffer any longer. The lymph nodes in her neck were choking her and she could barely walk and was just so unhappy.

It was so hard to say goodbye. Stanley and I stayed with her until she died. Her vet, Meredith Re, was as she always has been, kind and supportive.

It hurts. I miss her.

This is our last photo of her, Stanley took it today after she’d finished eating her Greenie, her favorite food:


We were hoping to take her to Three Mile Beach in Oscoda for one last swim—we were hoping she’d be okay for just another month, but the lymphoma and the torn ligament were just too much. She was such a good dog.

posted by lee on 08/19/08 at 11:27 PM
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Saturday, August 23, 2008

heading to michigan

Grief ambushes. I’m starting to do okay, just going about my day-to-day business, and something triggers thinking about Ginger and I start bawling like a baby. Stanley too. I keep thinking I hear her huffing to go out, or feel her standing next to me as I wash dishes or make a sandwich. The “Jeopardy” theme song is painful to listen to as this was Ginger’s cue to demand her nightly Greenie.

We know we have to find another dog or two to love—we want to. We thought about getting another goldie, especially a red one, but realized that this would be trying to replace Ginger. And would involve getting a goldie from a breeder when what we really want to do is adopt a pound puppy or two—there are so many dogs that need homes and we were really lucky to find Ginger at the Westport branch of the Connecticut Humane Society. We’d thought about getting another dog while we had Ginger, but she was so attached to me she got very upset if I paid attention to any other dog, so we didn’t. We would like to adopt a dog or two younger than eight months if possible, the younger the better (up to a point), so the cats aren’t threatened.

We are going to go to the humane society in Tawas, Michigan next week, to see if they have any puppies that grab our hearts. I know they all will, but I mean a puppy that chooses us.

It’s going to be very hard to go to Michigan without Ginger. I don’t yet know if I can handle Three Mile Beach without her—but maybe that will be the best place to really say goodbye. God how she loved to run on that beach and swim in Lake Huron.

I am so looking forward to getting to Oscoda, seeing my parents, slowing down, and just breathing. I have work to do, websites and stores to finish up, but I’m not going to push it. I’m looking forward to seeing the Milky Way and maybe even an aurora, wading in Lake Huron, going to bingo, and just listening to the quiet.

We’re going to try to get out of here by 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. Saturday morning so we get to the hotel in Boston Heights, Ohio by 6 p.m or 7 p.m. But if we don’t, oh well. Mostly I’m looking forward to spending the time with Stanley during the drive.

posted by lee on 08/23/08 at 03:59 AM
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Thursday, August 28, 2008

slink & einstein having hissy fits (literally)

Well, we adopted two puppies. Twitch is his usual mellow self about them: “Well, whatever.” More curious about them than anything. Einstein’s tail puffed out and he growls and hisses at them. And Slink—well Slink turned into one of those Halloween cats, jaggedy fur along his spine sticking straight up, arched back, tail about three times its normal size, mouth open, fire eyes, hissing. The pair are starting to calm down a little.

The pups? Well, they just want to play with them. Einstein growls at Ruby, and Ruby barks at her.

We went out to Turner, Michigan to see the puppies a dog rescue woman had available. The ASPCA in Lincoln didn’t have any young pups, and I kept going back to the pictures of the puppies (on from Shirl. So we decided to try there and if there were no pups there, we’d stop at the ASPCA in Tawas. It took a while to connect, but we finally made it. Mom and Dad went with us.

We got to Shirl’s and indeed there were dogs. All kinds, all sizes, all ages. There are three “sets” of puppies: one a litter of lab mixes, one a litter of German shepherd and Australian shepherd mixes, and one a bunch of puppies: beagles, total mutts, more. And there were some older dogs. But we wanted puppies.

There were so many great puppies to choose from—it was really difficult to narrow our choices down to five, let alone one. Shirl had placed one of the shepherd/Aussie pups in my arms and she, of course, came home with us. Then Stanley took a shine to one of the chocolate labs, so she came home with us too. This makes it sound like an easy decision—but it wasn’t. We were planning on getting just one and then getting another pup when we returned to Connecticut, but there were so many choices how could we not take advantage of the opportunity?

Stanley wanted the spunky little female lab mix, the one with the eyebrows and socks: (click to enlarge)

Ruby, Lab mix, August 27, 2008

He named her Ruby because it’s his favorite gem and she’s a gem of a dog. I swear, that’s what he said. It suits her quite well and she loves listening to Dad singing “Ruby” to her. She is about three months old—Shirl doesn’t know the exact birth date of this litter but said they were 9.5 weeks when she got them on July 17, so we settled on May 13 as her birthday (it’s Ben’s birthday). She’s liver colored, and looks like the mix in the lab mix might be weimaraner. She’s lighter that a true chocolate lab, and appears be a Dudley, though she’s too young to be sure about this. She is sweet and already affectionate and like most labs, she does love her food. This photo shows her coloration better: (click to enlarge)

Ruby, mixture of light and medium browns, august 27, 2008

Before we even found the pups, Dad said we should name it Bingo, that way it would have a song. I had a dog named Bingo once in the early 80s, but he was stolen quite young so I didn’t have him for very long. I think Dad’s idea is excellent, so that what I named my new baby girl puppy. Here she is, sound asleep: (click to enlarge)

Bingo, German Shepherd, Australian Shepherd mix

Bingo is six weeks old—she was born on July 14th. She and the rest of the litter were really too young to leave their mother, but the mother’s owners told Shirl if she didn’t take them, they were going to “throw them away.” Shirl could not convince them to keep them just another week or two, so she ended up rescuing them from the idiots who don’t know enough to get their dog spayed. She is tiny, and so young. I am really nervous about her being so young and am trying really hard not to get too attached to her yet, but it’s not working. She eats well, and drinks well, so she’s fully weaned, but she’s still nuzzling my neck looking for a teat so she was definitely weaned too early.

Tomorrow I will try to get a photo of her face—she looks like one of the band members from Kiss, with big black stars over her eyes. I suspect she has some lab in her too because of her tail, which is neither an Aussie tail nor a shepherd tail, and her ears are more like a lab’s ears. But she is so young it’s too early to tell if the tail and ears will have feathers. Here’s a closer look at my sleeping baby: (click to enlarge)

Bingo 8/27/08

Already we’ve had to wage a huge battle with fleas. Rescue pups will have fleas, and they are too young for flea treatments or it’s too close to when they were vaccinated to have a flea treatment. So we looked up what to do about the fleas and discovered that the best thing to do is saturate the pup with water, use lots of baby shampoo and work up a good foam over every square inch of their little bodies, let the shampoo sit for 10-15 minutes, rinse the pooch and then use a flea comb while the coat is still damp to get rid of the now-dead fleas and eggs. We were just appalled at how many fleas they each had. We’re also supposed to rub our hands with Skin So Soft and then rub our hands on our pups and that will help keep the fleas away—we had to order some SSS online because we couldn’t find it here in Oscoda. We also ordered some Frontline Plus to put on the cats just as a precaution—I know dog fleas and cat fleas are different but I don’t want to take any chances.

The potty training is also painful. I’d forgotten how patient you have to be with that, particularly with the baby pup. So tomorrow we’re off to Wal-Mart for some piddle pads, which I’d also forgotten about. The one thing about potty training the puppies is that Mom laughs and laughs when we have to clean up dog poop—and when Dad stepped in it, I thought she would go into an asthma attack she was laughing so hard. Mom loves the puppies and they like to cuddle with her.

Today I made some tuna macaroni salad for Mom and started crying because Ginger wasn’t there waiting for me to give her the water from the canned tuna. Damn I miss her so much. I know that’s why I’m resisting getting attached to the pups—I’m so nervous that something will go wrong and we’ll lose them. I know that resistance will crumble pretty soon.

I’ve been so preoccupied with Ginger’s cancer and her death, then getting ready for the trip and finishing up a store, then traveling, then looking for a puppy and then taking caring of them that I haven’t paid much attention at all to the news—very little has sunk in. Not the convention, not Tropical Storm Gustav (Stanley mentioned it to me today and I, weather junkie that I am, didn’t even know it had formed), almost nothing has penetrated. It’s probably a good thing for now. I’m also a politics junkie but don’t need the added stress right now—I’ve plenty to last for a couple more weeks.

Here is one more photo of our new pups: (click to enlarge)

Bingo and Ruby, 8/27/08

posted by lee on 08/28/08 at 03:59 AM
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