Thursday, June 24, 2010

"Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated." - Confucius

Like a newborn, this place has stripped me of all that is unnecessary. Even my words feel sparse.

A mother whitetail deer and her fawn leap through the nearby fields at the state park

Bright colored billboards flashing orders and creating need for things have been replaced by simple, unadorned, almost indifferent messages. "If you want it, it is here," say these simple messages. "If not, then move along."

A farmer's advertisement

And yet, life is more colorful out here on the Ranch.

Sunsets linger. Stars are brighter, burning in great white swirling clusters in the sky.

Out here, there's no need to be anything but yourself. No frills.

My hair is naturally curly - something I've fought most of my life with steaming hot flat irons, hundreds of dollars in hair products and lots of time wasted in front of mirrors. For what?

My face bears a constellation of freckles almost as complex and vast as the stars out here - something else I've tried in vain to hide with make-up.

But now, I've abandoned make-up, and most days, my hair dryer. I've embraced the curls.

In doing so, I embrace myself.

Out here, conversations are straight-forward discussions about the simple complexities of fence posts, cattle herds, tractors and the upcoming county fair.

Life seems to move in a natural rhythm with nature. We sleep when it's night, we wake when it's light.

Could it be any other way?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bounty of books and other things

I am a bookworm. Big surprise.

I moved to Wyoming in 1997 for a "summer job." When I decided spontaneously to stay, I asked my mother to ship some necessary items to me. I met her in Omaha, Nebraska with a Uhaul full of boxes full of, not clothes, gifts, trinkets or other items, but mostly books.

"Books?" she asked me over a telephone wire that stretched 2,000 miles. "Don't you want other things, like your bed sheets, sofa or something?"

Nope. I wanted my books.

All my life, I've had a love affair with books. The feel of them, the smell of them, the excitement of opening one for the first time and anticipating what's to come. I have the same thrill when I get a new notebook and open it to a clean, blue-lined page for the first time: anticipation of what I will write, what the pages will reveal. I guess I am a natural writer.

The best thing is combining my two obsessions: books on writing.

Everything's an Argument by Andrea A. Lunsford and John J. Ruszkiewicz

Two of the best books on writing ever written, in my opinion: Writing Down the Bones and An Old Friend From Far Away by Natalie Goldberg

On Writing by Stephen King

Favorite author, Milan Kundera's, The Art of the Novel

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron

William Zinsser, Anne Lamott...countless books on the craft of writing. Countless books, period.

In fact, many of the boxes finding their way over to the new ranch are full of books. People have asked me why I need so many books, suggested I "pare down" my personal library,

Sadly, though, despite all the books and eight years of school to hone my craft, this is the most consistent place I write. I wonder who, if anyone, reads.

I am honored, also, to have accepted two job offers to teach writing again at the University of Akron and Brown Mackie College.

Preparing for reentering the world of academia has me giddy with excitement. I had a meeting yesterday which lasted several hours, and chatting with other like-minded people about authors, writing process, etc left me salivating for more.

It also enabled me to meet a very beautiful person.

Say hello to Auburn and her amazing husband, Chuck by visiting her page, Chuck's Circle of Love.

Auburn had my attention during introductions when she said she finished a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from the University of Michigan. Writing? Michigan? Two of my favorite things!

I believe this is the beginning of a great year.

I hope it is for you too. Namaste.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Seemingly effortless beauty or charm of movement, form, or proportion.

A characteristic or quality pleasing for its charm or refinement.

A disposition to be generous or helpful; goodwill.

Mercy; clemency.

A favor rendered by one who need not do so; indulgence.

A temporary immunity or exemption; a reprieve.

Divine love and protection bestowed freely on people.

The state of being protected or sanctified by the favor of God.

An excellence or power granted by God.

A short prayer of blessing or thanksgiving said before or after a meal.

Life has seemed so hectic lately. Cleaning out the clutter of the last six years in my old house, preparing to move, then getting stalled on the move.

In the attic, pieces of former lives were unearthed:

An old sweater that belonged to my first dog.

The baby monitor used for my first child.

A newspaper from Montana - The Missoulian - from October 11, 1998.

A card written to my grandmother in the hospital before she died.

Photographs, copies of manuscripts, letters and cards from people I no longer hear from, receipts, pay stubs, signs of life.

It all became overwhelming and, surprisingly, emotional. I decided to take a reprieve from all of this for a couple days. One evening last week, I took my camera out to our new place, slowed down and looked around. What I saw was definitely inspired by grace. These are some photos from our soon-to-be new home.

A little nest partially made from husky hair at our new place

Amazing beauty and amazing grace were everywhere, in every blade of grass and every bit of light.

The setting sun behind a field of thistle

I feel, in so many ways, like the luckiest girl alive. Dreams are coming true right before my eyes.

Sometimes I almost shake my head in disbelief that this long awaited dream is actually happening. There is so much space here.

Lillies light up the hillside in front of the house like fire, leaning toward the sunset

Flowers cover the fields around the house. Everything seems so open and smells so good.

It makes us all happy.

Especially the dogs, who love to free run all over.

The garden is completely planted this weekend. Two kinds of squash, two kinds of tomatoes, corn, eggplant, five variety of peppers in my salsa garden, cantelope, carrots and lettuce, to name a few. I can't wait to savor the bounty from the soil that produces such beautiful flowers.


Thursday, June 17, 2010


Blue faded from water and weather at the marina at West Branch State Park

We planned it for mid-week, when things would be less crowded. The weather was supposed to be good. My best friend from high school was up visiting from Kentucky. This camping trip was long overdue.

It would be awesome to have an actual paddlin' buddy! I usually paddle in complete solitude. So we planned a kayak trip too.

Kim and Sophie kayaking with me on the lake - what a treat!

We packed up the hammock and prepared for some girl time, just Kim, the kidlets Sophie and Elise, and me.

Hammock hog

I was happy to see my friend, Mr. Blue Heron, was back fishing along side the lake.

The kids played on the beach while Kim and I watched the sun go down and talked and talked. We had a lot to catch up on. Then we made a fire and roasted dinner over it - and had a feast! Melon, strawberries, pasta salad, bread, cheese, fresh salsa and cilantro and turkey dogs over an open fire.

Elise was a happy camper

That evening, Kim pulled out her guitar and we made up silly songs about fireflies.

Embrace all seasons. Enjoy the company of good people. Enjoy the simple joys in life. Namaste.

Monday, June 14, 2010


momentum, like a chugging train. I was doing real well. Planning, packing, designing, building, moving and then...


best laid plans of mice and men eh?

The current occupant of our new place ran into some "personal problems" and won't be able to move until closer to the end of the month now. So, neither can we.

I have half my world in boxes at our new place (boxes of cutlery, nick knacks, trinkets and half my kennel!) and half still at the old place. I make a nightly trek to the new place for free running and feeding, and it is my favorite time of day, when the sun dips down in a ruddy haze and we run in the long grasses, whish, whish, whish...

Soon. Soon my world will merge and I won't feel so disjointed. We hope to be completely at the new place by month's end.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Foxy, our matriarch

Foxy has been a couch potato for about a year and a half.

Until last week.

On a very cold night in January, 2009, she decided on an extremely rare fluke to break the fence and run away with her kennel mates, Mandy and Yeti. In a tragic accident that will haunt me forever, she was hit by a car that frigid night and found by a police officer who took her to the local Humane Society where I recovered her two days later. Mandy was never found. I was devastated by the loss of Mandy. I still think about her almost daily, holding onto a ridiculous hope that someday she will possibly reappear.

It was after this horrible accident that I started chaining all of the dogs up in the kennel. At 13 years of age, Foxy had a broken pelvis from being hit by the car. Our vet told us the prognosis was grim, at her age, and surgery, if we chose that route, would be outrageously expensive starting at $3,000...and risky, because of her age.

But, our vet said it would be possible for her to heal, with lots of rehabilitation, patience and TLC.

Maybe it was because I lost Mandy that I was so determined to do all I could to help Foxy. I started a fund to help raise the necessary funds needed for her surgery. And, in the meantime, she rested on our sofa. I carried her 62 pound body outside every few hours to go to the bathroom, and I brought food and water to her so she never had to leave the sofa.

So Foxy took up residence on our sofa. I massaged her hip, carried her, fed her, and with patience and time, she healed. But she still wanted to remain on the sofa!

So I wasn't sure how she would react when I moved her to the new kennels at our new place last week.

What a beautiful, beautiful girl Foxy is prancing like a puppy in the wildflowers that grow at our new place! She is like a puppy again, and seems so genuinely happy to be back with her pack in the kennels.

I free run my dogs daily. It's my favorite part of the day.

Here is a video of a free run I did with some of the dogs on Sunday afternoon. Watch Foxy prancing. At 14 1/2, she still has the heart of a puppy.

Namaste, goodnight.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Elise's world full of wonder

Elise's world is new. And funny. And whimsical.

Elise's world is spontaneous. And everything is beautiful here.

Come, take a look:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Kennel Building Part 2

We certainly welcomed cooler temps and less rain as we commenced finishing the kennels. Anyone who has never built something to house sleddogs or wolves before cannot possibly conceive the amount of work that goes into building something that adequately contains these animals!

We started the next phase by lining the back side of the kennel with heavy gage 5 foot field fencing. I used the longest staples I could find and stapled the crap out of that fence to every available wood surface!

Back of the kennel

Back of the kennel from the front

Next, wood planks like what are used on six foot privacy fence were screwed into the 2x4 frame on the outside of the back of the kennel.

The next step is tedious. The dig guard (on the bottom of each kennel) was secured with over 100 "hog rings." These used to be inserted into a hog's nose to prevent it from rooting and digging. They are extremely handy for attaching fence to fence, which is what we had to do. Like I said, tedious. It was then I called to my trusty helper, Miss Sophie :)

Sophie shows our hog ring, inserted in the special hog ringer tool. Using hog rings requires this little tool to get the rings properly closed.

Meanwhile, Elise played with my camera.

Elise, self portrait

We also added another 150 landscape staples (see previous post). And God knows how many more staples. We doubly secured the dig guard by going back and stapling it to the 2x4 floor liners.

Sophie staples some of the dig guard to 2x4s that line the floor.

And finally, we transported the huskies! This is the end result! So far, so good.

Ruffian relaxes in her new home

They seem to really enjoy the freedom of being loose inside the kennels, and I am happy to not have to tether them anymore. It might be easier, quicker and cheaper to just tie them out to a wood stake, and if I had a bigger kennel, I'm not sure I would have the money or the patience for a huge kennel construction project. But I am enjoying watching them lounge in their new home, untethered and comfortable.

Chris is beginning to adjust to the idea of life on a farm.

Elise shows Chris the loft, her favorite place

And, when I've not been busy with construction on the kennels, I've been burning name plates for the dogs to go onto their kennels:

Gwennie's name plate

Of course, there's one special little husky who required more than her name burned into wood. She needed diamonds.

The people move this coming weekend. Stay tuned, and Namaste!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

New name for big changes

Several years ago, I started grooming dogs on the side. The name of my business was Diamond Dogs Grooming. It was named after the 1974 classic David Bowie song, Diamond Dogs. If you don't know this song, you should. Here are some of the lyrics:

Young girl, they call them the diamond dogs
Young girl, they call them the diamond dogs

Oo-oo-ooh, call them the diamond dogs
Oo-oo-ooh, call them the diamond dogs
Bow-wow, woof woof, bow-wow, wow
Call them the diamond dogs
Call them the diamond dogs, call them, call them
Call them the diamond dogs, call them, call them, ooo

Keep cool
Diamond dogs rule,
Beware of the diamond dogs

Now, as we set up the kennel in our new home in Diamond, Ohio, it kinda makes sense to change the name. I'm stepping up the regimen this next season and hopefully becoming more competitive, and the Lazy Husky Ranch, while fitting for our kennel namesake, Foxy, just didn't sound too competitive.

So, welcome to the new electronic home of Diamond Dogs Racing Kennel - formerly known as the Lazy Husky Ranch!

Lots of work happening on the new kennels as we prepare to move the dogs into their new "apartment complex."

The dogs have been tethered to long chains with swivels for the last two years. I feel like they deserve a more friendly atmosphere than running in a circle around their houses. So, I opted to build an 8 dog kennel to house them in, so they can free run inside the kennels.

Building such a structure and making it escape-proof is quite an endeavor. Huskies are notorious escape artists, breaking out of fencing and containment that would keep a lab or beagle contained without any problem.

Here is a step-by-step instruction of what I've done so far. Most of these supplies can be purchased from TSC, Lowe's, or Home Depot. I personally have found Lowe's has a much better selection of field fencing, brackets and other supplies.

1. First we set ten 4x4 treated posts five foot wide by ten foot long.

We dug post holes two feet deep, and set them in one foot of concrete on the bottom to secure them well.

2. Next I lined the bottom outside of each post with 2x4 treated boards.

3. Then I used heavy-grade field fencing (thanks Amanda!) to make a dig guard skirted along the edges.

4. Next I purchased garden staples to secure the dig guard into the ground.

5. Then I stapled the field fence to the 2x4s.

Now, the huskies won't be able to dig under and out of the kennels.

6. Next, we hung cattle panel to each frame of posts (in the pouring rain!) to create individual kennels.

These were secured using female brackets used in connecting chain link fence. They wrap around the poles on the ends of the cattle panel and are screwed into the 4x4s with heavy duty 2 inch long wood screws and washers.

And that's where it stands so far. Tomorrow we'll be stapling heavy gage field fencing along the back wall, and then attaching wood planks (like used in privacy fencing) all along the back wall. Then we'll build doors, and insert the beasts!

Stay tuned! Namaste!