Monday, May 21, 2007

Sheep Herding and Foxtails

Sunday morning, as Daisy and I made the 50-minute drive up to Valley Center for our sheep herding lesson, I meditated a bit on why we do this. Neither of us is greatly talented at this quite specialized activity. Truth be told, I am the less talented. The sheep usually get the better of me at least once, usually a walking-backward, stepping-in-a-hole fall or a good bump from the horned head of Smiley, the most experienced of the school sheep. While it's clear Daisy and I will never win a ribbon at a sheepdog trial, we don't need that kind of success to find a lot of pleasure in getting out into the country and spending a few hours with animals and each other.
This picture was taken in the small ring, where we worked the first few times. We've since moved up to the big arena -- woo hoo! I seem to have lots of pictures, but few of me, unsurprisingly since I'm the photographer. A video of us working in the small ring induces vertigo! The challenge this week was dealing with foxtails, those awful little cheatgrass seedpods that stick to fur and work their way unidirectionally into the skin, nose, ears or eyes of a dog.
Tikkle, the young dog of our teacher Anna, survived a horrible experience that began with foxtails up her nose. These little bits of vegetation look like poison darts to us. I brushed Daisy off before heading home, but when we sat on the kitchen floor and I combed her thoroughly, another fifty came out! And I can hardly wait to get back next week.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mother's Day

Mother's Day in San Diego is almost always a glorious day, and this year did not disappoint. Temperature about 70, full sunshine, nice off-shore breeze. Carry-out Chinese food by Verda's pool was much more appealing than a restaurant, especially since Daisy could join the party! First swim since last summer, but it didn't take her long to remember how much fun it was to retrieve tennis balls in the pool.Verda, Duncan, Barb and I watched the young-'uns swimming, acting all too much our age. Erin was happy to share the pool, and we all rationalized that Daisy is so sweet, so clean, so not-shedding, and hence so unlikely to leave sand or doghair in the pool. Ha. We hope!
Verda's lawn got a good watering after every fetch of the ball.
Every year I seem to take a picture of Erin near the rim of the pool. She and I have officially decided that it is our tradition. Here is the 2007 version of our little mermaid.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


Thank goodness it stays light late into the evening in this wonderful old Great Lakes city! After three days of Scrabbling, Judy, Tom and I did some walking around the neighborhoods near Tom's old Victorian home in Buffalo. Our first stop was the Darwin Martin house, which is a Frank Lloyd Wright gem currently undergoing a $5M renovation.
The complex of two houses is beautiful in every detail, even the chimneys!

It's Wright's most extensive Prairie complex, comprising two houses on a large lot, connected by a long breezeway. It's going to be fantastic when the renovation is completed.
Through Buffalo sweep two parkway systems designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. The streetscapes are lovely, and it even looks like you could live there with a dog.

The tulips were in bloom. It's nice to see what they look like when they're not immediately eaten by deer and rabbits! Walking is quite the civilized pastime here.

It would be quite easy to forget how difficult the winters can be here, if it were not for the fact that most of the trees had lost many limbs during the severe October 13, 2006 snowstorm that hit Buffalo last fall, while the trees still had their leaves. That freak lake effect snowstorm brough 2 feet of snow, and consequently the weight of snow damaged most of the trees. Many have been drastically cut back by arborists, and it will be years before they look quite the same.

The city has a great feel. Next plan is to convince Barb and Erin that a vacation here and to Niagara Falls should happen!

Scrabbling in Buffalo

Last weekend I set out on a new adventure -- tournament Scrabble! And, like my trips to the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournaments, it was Judy who was the instigator. Who'd ever think she'd be such a rabble-rouser! I flew out to Buffalo on Thursday and met up with Judy and Tom, in whose lovely old Victorian house we stayed. The weather couldn't have been more marvelous, that sunny spring coolness that is so refreshing. It was fun looking for Tom's house -- "It's the one with the turret." Who hasn't fantasized about having a house with a turret!

The Buffalo Hardscrabble Tournament was held in the aptly named Fountain Room of the Adam's Mark Hotel in downtown Buffalo near the waterfront. The heavy offshore breeze carried lots of mist which barely succeeded in dispersing the smoke clouds emitted by the many obsessive smoking Scrabble players. Meanwhile, inside the Fountain Room, the Scrabble games ran from Friday morning until Sunday afternoon. The games are timed: each player has 25 minutes in which to complete all of her moves. One's concentration is so focused during a game that unless something exploded nearby, it would hardly matter if you were in the Fountain Room or the basement! After a warm-up tournament on Friday, we commenced the main tournament on Saturday. There were three divisions in the main tournament, and of course as a newbie I started out at the bottom of the 30 entrants in Division 3. When all 86 Scrabblers were engaged at 43 Scrabble Boards, the room hummed and hissed. The hissing noise, which sounded like air escaping a leaking tire, was the shushing noise of the Scrabblers trying to quiet the chatters. Personally, I preferred the chatting sounds!

Scrabble tournaments and rankings are very computerized. Everyone has a ranking that is computed based on how highly ranked their victims and conquerors are. These are maintained in a very current state on the Crosstables site. The tournament nerve center was run by Tournament Director Ember and her Canadian computer guru.

Meeting people is a fun part. I played four games with Maggie, on the right in this picture. I'd met my best match, as Maggie won 2 games, I won 2 games. The most games I played with anyone else was 2. Second from the right is Olivia, another newbie who acquitted herself well, and next to her is Dianne, who cleaned my clock and won the Division. In my defense, I do have to say I beat Susan, who finished in second place.

In the end, I won 8 games and lost 6, to finish 13th of 30, which felt pretty respectable. Judy came in 5th, winning some cash. Sounds even better when you realize she barely nosed out the youngest contestant, 8-year-old Matthew! He was quite a little corker, shown here as he and Judy receive their awards.

Well, would I do it again? Should I launch yet another obsession, to join my dog, my crosswords, my Italian? Maybe... I'm planning to start out by playing some gamesat the local Scrabble Club here in La Jolla.

Friday, May 11, 2007


Welcome to my blog! I'll be posting stories and pictures of my adventures with family and friends, both human and animal. I'll post lots of pictures of our activities. I'll try not to let the animals take over, but you know how it is. They're the ones who don't complain about constantly having their pictures taken! Daisy and Carlos, my matching border collie and cat, will appear often, as will their friends. Good girl, Daisy, don't jump up and try to lick that cat!