Since my last post (yes, I’ve been tardy again!) I have had my first trip on the Seven Rio then a  leave in Michigan. – I shall post more about the Seven Rio later, but for now I’m going to talk about this last leave.

A leave in Autumn – I still can’t bring myself to say ‘Fall’, even though I have been in the US for so long, it’s one of those quirks that I like to maintain while projecting myself as ‘an eccentric Brit’  – is usually one of my favourites. (continuing to use ‘u’ in words like favourite, colour and harbour is another of the aforementioned quirks that I will be maintaining for the time being!)

I do like the Autumn colours, though clearing up the fallen leaves is a bit of a pain, and the weather is usually the most agreeable, but most of all I like it because it tends to be one of the few times when I’m neither getting eaten alive by the mosquitoes nor having to shovel snow! It is usually a good time to slow down a bit, take stock of what we have achieved over the Summer and make any final preparations for winter.

We didn’t manage to do that this leave, or more accurately, we did it all other than the ‘slow down’ bit. Every leave this year seems to have been phenomenally busy, and this last one was no exception.

We did have a hugely sad event at the beginning of the leave when we had to say goodbye to two of our dogs, Tessa and Domino. Apart from the two most recent arrivals, Willow and Ceiba, all of our dogs are in the ‘senior’ stages of their lives and we know that their days with us are getting fewer, but that doesn’t make it any easier to take.

Tessa

Tessa in Colorado
Tessa in Colorado

Tessa was our first dog and has been with us for almost as long as we have been married (Melisa got her while I was on my first trip offshore after our wedding) so she was almost 16 years old. Though she was a border collie, she was a ‘smooth blue’, meaning that she had a shorter coat than most collies and was predominantly blue-grey in colour. When we first got her, my father dotted on her, and as we added more dogs to the pack I think he thought we were slightly mad. He gradually came to accept the others, but Tessa remained his favourite. And Tessa, in particular, loved it when we headed to the car saying that we were ‘going to go see Grand dad’! Like our other Scottish Border Collies, Tessa came with us from Scotland, first to Colorado, and then on to Michigan.

Domino

Domino on the mountain
Domino on the mountain

I think that Domino may have been the first of the dog to join us in America. We knew about him while we were still in the UK and Melisa had made contact with his foster family before we moved. Domino was an Aussie who was deaf and mostly blind. He had been turned in to a kill shelter in California were he was rescued by a lady who tries to rehome Aussies. Once we moved over to Colorado, Domino’s foster family took him to us via what must have been a 2000 mile round road trip. We were told that he was very friendly, but preferred women to men. Obviously no one told Domino that as he seemed to favour me over Melisa! Domino was a very ‘rough and tumble’ dog, something that seems to be an Aussie trait – while the Collies were Soccer players, Domino was definitely more a Rugby player, bowling over any dog that got in his way. We have no idea of how old Domino was, we were told originally that he was seven when he was turned into the shelter, then he was with us for over nine years, either way he was no spring chicken. In the last few months he was experiencing increasing pain in his hind quarters and some mornings, he could barely stand.

We took Tessa and Domino together to say our goodbyes, and after the vet, we took them home to bury them in our pet cemetery where Prue and Todd are. We didn’t realise that, while we were losing two, we were gaining one.

A New Cria

New Cria
New Cria

After the sad events of the morning we went to check on the other animals and found that in the course of the morning Glenda, one of our llamas had presented us was a new male Cria. We knew that at least some of the four llamas could be pregnant (and two definitely LOOKED pregnant) but we had no idea of when they were bred, or when they would be due. The new boy had literally arrived while the two dogs were leaving us. When we found him he was ‘all legs’ trying to stand up but hindered by the after -birth that had dried round his hind legs. After helping clean him up a bit, we watched him take his first tentative steps. He seemed to be a little small but, so far, he is surviving. His arrival, and the facts that if the others are pregnant they can’t be far behind, and that winter is coming, put pressure on the timetable of getting some shelter built in the llama pen. The adult llamas, being used to winter in the Andes mountains, tend not to mind the cold and show too much, but we didn’t want any young ones to do with out at least some form of shelter.

loafing shed
loafing shed

It had been on the job list for this leave anyway, but the unexpected arrival of the Cria pushed up the urgency, so we built a ‘loafing shed’ for the llamas in their back pen. Having ‘put a wiggle on’ to get it built, I’d yet to see the llamas use it up to the time I left! As we wanted it to at least look the part, we build the loafing shed in our, now signature, white metal siding with copper coloured roof. I hope the llamas appreciate how stylish it looks!

The other outstanding things that we got done this leave was repairing the paths around the pond, then moving on to starting to clear our planned ‘park’ area between the house and the pond. The felling of trees for the clearance also doubled up with us continuing to set up wood for the wood stove over the winter. It is one of these things, the more we clear, the more we realise how much more we have to clear!

Pond
Pond

In between clearing the park and building the llama shed, I did, finally, get around to wiring the inside of the garage and my woodworking shop, getting lights up, and insulating and skinning most of the inside walls. This is a job that I had been wanting to get done for a long time and it is a huge relief to me that it is, if not completely done, at least in a usable condition.

All the big dogs have been taken to the vet for a check up and, because of their size and age, we got the VW Bus out of storage just for this purpose. The side door and low height of the floor makes it so much easier to get them into it than either the Suburban or Land Rover. (In fact, this was my very argument for investing in the bus in the first place!) I will admit that I have missed having the bus on hand and, as we had it on the Ranch, every time I needed to go somewhere that didn’t require one of the other vehicles specifically, I found myself using the bus. Alas, with winter on its way, the bus now must return to it’s storage bay.

Scorpion Super Stinger
Scorpion Stinger

As well as all the other things mentioned, Melisa had a trip to Bellefonte, PA for a few days to attend the opening of a museum exhibit that features one of her fiber creations.

 

Arctic Cat Lynx
Arctic Cat Lynx

Just before my leave ended, we did make a couple of purchases. Melisa had expressed a desire to get a couple of snowmobiles. Not just for fun (although I think that may have been a big part of it) but also for the practical purpose of mobility around the ranch, and even the surrounding areas, given how much snow we can get in this area over the winter. New snowmobiles are rather expensive (and big, and complicated) so Melisa thought that we should stick with vintage (after all, didn’t the 1970 Bus just prove it’s worth!)
After researching and searching online for a while, we ended up getting a red 1973 Scorpion “Super Stinger” for Melisa and a black 1992 Arctic Cat “Lynx” for me. So now, I’m almost looking forward to the winter snow!

 

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