Monthly Archives: March 2010

Taking a shot

WV has a program called Archery in the Schools, sponsored by the Department of Natural Resources.  Just over 50 schools from across the state field teams where students stay after school and learn about archery, practice technique, and try not to completely destroy the nerves of their instructor.  Their best archers go to the state tournament held in Charleston.  Last weekend Isaac shot for his school.

Isaac attends a pretty small school.  Their team sets up their shooting range  in the cafeteria, which, of course, is pretty small.  Apparently they can only shoot at a distance of 10 meters.  Isaac practices a lot and has become a really great shot at that distance.  He just seems to have an eye for it.

As a little side-step, it sort of cracks me up that there is a school sponsored “weapons in the classroom” program state-wide.  Anyhow, Archery in the Schools is a fantastic program and lets a lot of kids participate in a sport who otherwise may not be able.  The Civic Center in Charleston was packed this weekend with kids from all over the state.  These kids were a great bunch but most were not your typical jock.  Many came in camo and boots and looked like they were ready to go out in the field immediately after the competition.

Isaac’s school shot in the first group.  Each archer got a practice round of 5 arrows at 10 meters followed by 3 volleys of 5 arrows each which were scored.  After the 10 meter shoot, the students shot the same way from 15 meters.  Click this link to see a video of Isaac shooting.  He is target #2.  I love the sound of all the arrows hitting the targets!

Isaac shot his 10 meter round and did absolutely fantastic.  Remember I mentioned that they could only shoot from 10 meters at his school?  Well it showed in the 15 meter competition.  At the 15 meter range, I suppose Isaac got only half what he got at 10 meters.  He was pretty disappointed.  His grandparents just bought him one of the competition bows so I suspect we have a good bit of shooting ahead of us this summer…at 15 meters.

And who says they don’t teach the metric system in schools…

The “Deuce” is not on the menu

I mentioned last week that we got a new dog from the shelter.  She is a super sweet dog now that we got her all fixed up.  You see, she came to us from the shelter with parvovirus, fleas, ear mites, and maybe kennel cough (she has that now but it may have come from the vet).  So, first thing, I am pretty disgusted that the Kanawha/Charleston shelter doesn’t deal with it’s ickiness better.  A few months ago, they had to put down masses of animals because of disease. I have talked to several people who got dogs from there that had parvo and died.  Apparently it is a common problem for that shelter, but I think it is unacceptable.  I get that it’s a big and busy shelter, but gee whiz, it is what they are all about.  Parvo kills a lot of dogs, especially puppies, so not treating/testing/quarantining animals effectively makes them a high-rate kill-shelter depending on how you look at it.

Ok, sorry, I have strayed a bit.  So, Ginny came to us and within 2 days she was obviously very sick.  Many hundred dollars later and we are fortunate to have a mostly healthy dog.  But I wonder…you see, she has taken to eating poop from the yard.  We have some less-than-prize neighbors who let their dogs run and poop all over the neighborhood, but that only provides Ginny access, not inclination.  We walk Ginny on a leash every day and she has started searching out and eating other dogs’ poop!  Did something happen to her brain when she was sick?  I am not positive about this, but I suspect that poop doesn’t taste all that good (especially compared to the food she seems to like) so I cannot come up with an explanation why my sweet Ginny would eat every pile of deuce she comes upon.  “It’s number 2 Ginny…run away!”  Nope, not my dog.

She's sitting on Emily's back as she tries to sleep

It’s been a long time since I had a dog so maybe this is the new trendy thing that all of the young and hip dogs are doing nowadays…surely not.  No, I can definitely say that eating poop is a bad thing.  Come to think of it, I may have a new alternative saying for my kids.  No longer will I have to say, “Would you jump off a bridge if all of your friends were doing it?”  I can now say, “Would you eat poop just because all of your friends are doing it?”

Maybe I am being over-reactive.  She’s a puppy and I know puppies are crazy.  I hate to say it, but I would prefer she would chew on my shoes rather than the biohazards in the yard.  I guess we will have to work on her manners some.  The first trick I am going to teach her is “shake”.  You see, I can shake her paw without hesitation, but she is definitely not getting kisses from me!

Thank you Mr Carnegie

I grew up in NW PA.  We lived about 2 hours north of Pittsburgh, somewhat near the NY and OH borders in a little town called Tionesta.  It was pretty much a sleepy town…except during hunting and fishing seasons.  You see, Tionesta is an outdoor destination among sportsmen.  The number of hunting camps out number the permanent residences 10-to-1.  A large portion of the folks who descended upon the town were from Pittsburgh and many were not respectful of our peace and quiet.  They didn’t really ever understand that we could not have cared less how things were done in Pittsburgh.  I always sort of laughed that Pittsburgh was down hill and down stream from Tionesta so we always sent them “our best”.  Needless to say, I always considered Pittsburgh a smoldering pile as a kid.

My wife is a school counselor, but also licensed as a community counselor.  Being licensed and official and all that, she is required to get a certain number of continuing education units to maintain her certification.  The National Counseling Association held its annual meeting in Pittsburgh this year so we had an opportunity to travel uphill and upstream from Charleston to Pittsburgh so she could participate.  Emily was in meetings all day last weekend, but she brought me to be her arm candy in the evenings.  During the days, the kids and I had to find things to do in Pittsburgh.

One of the icons in Pittsburgh is Point State Park.  PSP is located at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers where they join to form the Ohio River.  Basically, it is a scenic overlook between the rivers and it has a really cool fountain.  So, our hotel was in the down-town area (or, as they say in Pittsburgh-pronounced Picksburgh – we stayed in the dahn tahn area).  It seemed like a short walk from our hotel to PSP when I looked at the map.  The kids and I grabbed some donuts from the convenience store and started our trek.

Isaac wanted to launch Abigail out of the torpedo tube...

It turned out that our walk was a good bit farther than I expected.  The kids were troopers though and we started toward PSP only to find it closed and nasty from the recent high water.  Just across the river though, we spied the new baseball and football venues so we decided to walk over and see what we could see.  On the way, the kids encountered their first homeless person and had all sorts of questions.  We talked as we walked and, before we knew it, we arrived at the Carnegie Science Museum.  We have a membership at the Clay Center in Charleston, WV which gives us access to many museums through out the country, including the Carnegie Science Museum.  It seemed like an offer I couldn’t refuse!

We crawled all over exhibits and saw a robot shooting hoops (with a pretty good average).  We explored the USS Requin, a WWII-era submarine (can you believe it, Pittsburgh has a submarine in one of the rivers?!), and learned about cells oceans and volcanoes and flight.  In one afternoon, the Carnegie Science Museum showed me a different Pittsburgh than I had known.  The kids and I had a delightful time and can’t wait to go back to Pittsburgh to see what else the city has for us to explore!

At the Islamic Center

A friend of mine invited me to the Islamic Center in Charleston, WV last weekend.  I had never been to a mosque or been involved with Islamic practices so I was happy to share the time with my friend.  When we arrived, we had a few moments to participate in the evening prayer.  Of course, I did not participate, but I was invited to remove my shoes and sit on the side as the men prayed.  It could have been an uncomfortable thing for a stranger to be in their midst during worship, but the men, once finished praying, almost universally greeted me and shook my hand.  And why not?  In a way, I was surprised at first.  My Muslim friend and I are good pals, but I still had this odd thought in my head that these men would be somehow different than other “regular” men.  I suppose most of that feeling is related to the ongoing battle between our country and extremist terrorists.  These folks at the Islamic Center couldn’t be any more different than the terrorists who claim to be fighting in the name of Islam.  That is an important distinction that I strengthened quite a bit as the evening progressed.

The Imam, Ehteshamul Haque, invited two Muslim speakers, Dr. Jerald Dirks and his wife Debra,  to open a dialog between Christians, Jews and Muslims regarding their shared history.  Dr. Dirks’ talk was entitled “Common Ground Among the Abrahamic Faiths:  The Judeo-Christian and Islamic Traditions”.  There were people of all sorts of religious backgrounds at the meeting including Muslims, Christians, Jews and Ba’hais.

Dr. Dirks described the shared Old Testament history that is common to Jews, Christians and Muslims including Isaac and Ishmael, Abraham and Sarah and many others.  His goal was not to equate the religions or to say they were really all the same, but to educate folks that all three religions, in their true forms, have many similar teachings, morals and goals (such things as do not commit adultery, do not murder, worship one God, build strong families, etc).  Dr Dirks suggested that there are many areas where the three religions agree and, if people chose to, could work together to make better communities.  All three religions, in their pure forms, can agree that strong families and communities are good.  All three can agree that people should treat one another with respect.  All three can agree that extremist violence has no place in the world.

Dr. Dirks suggested that where the three religions see eye to eye, they should work together to reach common goals.  Of course, the three religions do not see eye to eye on many things, and in those areas, adherents of the three religions should agree to respectfully “do their own thing”.  He never suggested that anyone in any religion should be lukewarm or wishy-washy in regard to their beliefs, but just respectful of other folks.

I still do not know a lot about Islam, but I think I learned that there are plenty of good Muslims out there and many of them want to understand other people and live peacefully, just as I do.   It was inspiring and wonderful to sit in one room with my friend, among Christians, Jews and Muslims and to listen to each other.  I think the world could use a lot more of that…

West Vir-Ginny!

We have always been cat people. I think it’s because cats are low maintenance and don’t smell bad. We like critters around the house, but it’s gotta be easy…or so we thought.

We were watching the evening news (mistake 1) the other night and they did a bit on the Kanawha/Charleston Humane Association animal shelter.  Since it is Spring, they have apparently had a huge influx of animals.  I may be making this number up, but I think the news said they had over 200 dogs when it aired.  Anyhow, I am a softie (and not just in the head) so I thought it might be interesting to go see what the shelter was all about (mistake 2).  I had no intention of getting any pets…I am a cat person after all and we already have 2 inside cats (and 4 outside strays have us).

Two weekends ago, Emily had an all-day meeting at her school so I was solo with the kids.  For some unknown reason, I decided that not only did I need to see what the shelter was all about, but also that the kids might enjoy seeing some dogs…sort of like a trip to the zoo (mistake 3)!

Being a softie and also having Abigail with me, we “oohhhh-ed” and “awwwww-ed” and it was then that it struck me…”hey, we need a dog!” (mistake 4)  The only trick was, I had to convince Isaac and Emily, neither of whom like dogs…or so they thought.  After much debate and searching, we happened upon “Lucy”.  Lucy is a mixed puppy around 5-6 months old.  I finally broke through Emily’s cold hard heart and convinced her we needed to rescue poor Lucy from her certain fate.

Again, after more debate and many “deals”, I was given clearance to adopt the dog…but we had to change her name.  Emily didn’t like that someone else had named her new baby (ahhh…see, she’s caving in) so we pondered and consulted the seers and came up with the name “Ginny” as in “West Virginny”.

Ginny came home after being fixed and otherwise poked and prodded on Monday.  She promptly christened my car and has apparently claimed us.  I think all of those “mistakes” have turned out pretty well.  Ginny is so sweet and will eventually be house trained…

Anyone else have “pound dogs”?

Hydroponic Gardening

I have been itching to get dirty again working in the garden.  Spring is nearly here and the snow has melted at the house.  Daffodils are starting to poke through and I saw my first forsythia blooming today!  Spring has to be my favorite time of year as life starts popping again.  The bees fly and the birds do what birds do in the Spring.  It’s just inspiring to me…I figure I have survived another Winter.

How the garden area normally looks

We’ve had a bunch of snow this year in WV and it is melting.  Showshoe Mountain in WV actually had more snow this year than they had at Vail, CO.  Snowshoe had 227 inches while Vail had 223.  So, couple the melt with a good bit of rain and we’ve got flooding around Charleston and elsewhere in WV.

Note the fence and white birdhouse posts
The same can barely see the white posts
There's the fence

We live on top of a hill in Charleston so we don’t really have any any danger from flooding at our house.  Our garden, the one I have been itching to get into, is at Emily’s grandparents’ house which is near the river and a creek that drains one of the big nearby hollers.  It is currently under about 5 feet of water.  Nearby houses have significant amounts of water in them and many folks have been forced to leave their homes.  Even with the flooding, the Corps of Engineers report that flood control dams prevented the water from coming even higher (check out the pictures.  We were planning to have Abigail’s birthday party at the South Charleston Rec Center pool…which is now under water).

It’s hard to complain when I consider that our family is safe and our house is intact.  Nonetheless, I am still bummed that the garden is under water and my garlic that was planted last fall is undoubtedly ruined.  I suppose I will have a chance to work in he garden soon enough.  First order of business will be hauling off the trash that washed in.  We’ll have to find a compromise with the ducks and fish we have seen in our garden and consider a new place to plant our garlic this coming Fall.

Closet light…a dream come true

Our house is pretty typical of old houses.  Ours was built in 1939 and has tons of character.  We have three full baths which I suppose is strange for a house of that era.  We a small kitchen which also seems odd.  Anyhow, what seems right in line with my impression of older houses is the fact that the master bedroom closet is small.  I suppose that folks in 1939 had a few outfits, suits, etc and that was pretty much it.  A small closet would have suited them fine.

The most pitiful closet of all...lightless

We do not have excessive closet needs but we do have some closet needs.  Emily uses the closet in the master bedroom (which is smaller than the closet I had as a kid) and I use the one (of the same size as Emily’s) in the spare bedroom next door.  I guess to differentiate the master closet as special, the original builders included a pull-chain light in her closet.  My closet, however, being only a guest closet, was not likewise equipped.

Emily's closet...once a showcase for closet lighting

We’ve been doing all sorts of projects on the house and this weekend, as part of another bigger project, I decided it was time to remedy my pitiful light-less closet.  You see, a happy closet is one that has a light and a switch…not just a pull chain.  I am proud to say that I have the happiest closet in the house.  Emily’s closet, though once a happy closet, is now feeling switch envy.  I suppose it won’t be far behind mine as its owner won’t tolerate the closet’s whining for long.

What I used to see in my closet
My closet now...can you feel the joy?

Anyhow, for a short time at least, I have the happiest closet in our old house and another of my dreams is fulfilled!

A new belt

Isaac has been taking taekwondo for several months now and the other night, after class, he took his yellow belt test.  He has been studying Korean terms and practicing his forms (the pattern of moves he needs to know for each belt).  He had it all under his “belt” as test night came.  I took him to the dojang and he was cool as can be for his normal training session.  After class, most people headed out until only black belts and the 5 people being tested remained.

Each student had to do two of their forms and answer Grand Master Kang as he asked them questions about Korean terminology.  Isaac did great on the items as he had studied so much.  I knew that he would also have to break a board with a kick but I figured there was no way to safely practice that at home.  So, the moment of truth came and it was Isaac’s turn.  He lined up and positioned the poor guys who had to hold the board and took a practice kick to make sure his aim was right.  And then, my poor helpless son kicked the board so hard that it cracked perfectly.  In fact, I heard the board, long since dead, come back to life, just so it could scream in pain.  His eyes lit up and I have never seen him more proud.  I think I was also as proud as I have ever been.  He didn’t know what exactly to expect so he just jumped in with both feet…well, really with one foot..but he went for it!

Each student got to keep their board pieces but had to line back up for another round of questions…this time the hard ones about family life and respect and helping one’s parents by doing chores and obeying, etc.  This was probably the toughest part of the whole test, especially for the kids.  Kids had to think on their feet and speak extemporaneously.  He answered every question (though, now I have some leverage!) and was passed with no hesitation.  Grand Master Kang awarded him a yellow belt with a green tip.

The last few evenings since that night, Isaac has done almost nothing but practice his forms and think “taekwondo”.  His pride is warranted and I am delighted that he has found something he enjoys so much.  I think I may have to toughen up some for his teenage years though…

Sleeping is weird

Sleeping is biological and necessary and all that but it sort of cracks me up how weird we are when we sleep…by “we” I really mean my family.  I sleep entirely normally.  Anyhow, last night I went up to check on the kids and noticed Abigail in one of her crazy sleep poses.  She was a terrible sleeper as a kid but she seems to have turned a corner…most nights she sleeps all night.  Now she just seems to go into “bunker” mode at night.  She still talks in her sleep but it’s usually pretty interesting so I see nothing weird there.  Anyhow, in bunker mode, I think she surely must be protecting herself from Madeline.

Madeline, you see, is a needy cat.  She also sleeps weirdly.  When we first got her, she was very young and sucked her tail every night.   We took her to numerous cat psychics and analysts and, after spending our kids’ college funds on it, they concluded that she was taken from her momma at too young an age so was consoling herself with her tail…sort of like a kitty pacifier.  So, imagine your restless cat who sucks her tail at night waking up in a fit and smacking you in your sleeping  face with a tail full of cat slobber…it’s not pleasant.

Now Isaac is consistent in his sleep weirdness…he sleeps on his stomach under double the blankets that the rest of us use.  I am certain that I would suffocate under the enormous weight of the blankets but he seems to thrive.  It must be 110 degrees under there but he sleeps like that year round.  Actually , I figure that the heat from the blankets works like a kid-greenhouse.  The kid grows like mad and I am convinced that it’s blanket related.  He already wears the same size shoes I wear and he hasn’t even hit puberty yet!

I won’t give details on Emily but let me assure you friends, she is a weird sleeper too.  Now, I can almost guarantee that she is going to get on here and leave a comment saying some untruths about me.  Something like that I snore at night.  It’s simply not true .  That’s Mo (the cat) who snores.  I am a perfect sleeper!


We’ve had a fairly cold winter so, unlike most years, I have not been able to simply look outside and see if the bees are flying to know they are ok.  I prepared the bees this fall by treating them with various things to make sure they were healthy, I made sure they had plenty of honey and pollen to eat through the winter and then I crossed my fingers.

Still clustered, but dead

A few weeks ago, we had a warm day and I was able to check the 4 hives at my house.  To my dismay, 2 were dead-outs.  All of my hives at other locations are fine so I was surprised to find some at my house that were gone.  We live atop a hill in Charleston, WV and we get serious wind.  I have a windbreak around them but I suppose that the extreme drafts might have gotten to them.  That is the one characteristic that separates the hives at my house from the ones I have elsewhere.  It has been said that one cannot freeze bees…if they stay dry and not too windy.  If either problem exists, all bets are off so I figured I fell prey to the wind.

Heads down in the cells...telltale sign of starvation

I opened the hives and immediately knew that the wind was not to blame, but rather the cold…sort of.  You see, my bees didn’t freeze, but rather starved to death.  The cold makes bees cluster together.  As it gets especially cold with no warm days interspersed, the bees cannot break their cluster.  Without breaking cluster, they cannot move through the hive either.  Since their honey stores are spread throughout the hive, they need to be able to move around periodically to eat.

Some honey nearby where they were clustered
Plenty of honey one more frame over...

So, I opened 2 hives and saw the tell-tale signs…bees still clustered together,  many bees with their heads deep in honeycomb cells, and honey nearby, but not right where they died.

I hate for a colony to die, and when it is related to something I might have done wrong, it irritates me even more (fortunately, that doesn’t happen often anymore).  But when it’s due to nature, I guess I feel a little bit of relief.  It’s never fun, but it is a reality of beekeeping.  So, I just hope for warmer days here and there so the bees can move to food and also for a quick Spring!  Come on Spring!