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Monday, September 23, 2013

How much is that doggy in the window?

It seems a little callous to be writing about new baby puppies when I've never written about Jack, who left us on August 27 but the pain is still a little too sharp to write for public consumption and yet time continues to flow out towards TheNow and in the now there is room for joy and something good to share: A New Baby Puppy. 
We are Dog People and within kingdom we fall under the Phylum Lab People. Mind now - first I love dogs so I'd have been perfectly happy with a pound puppy. My only requirement was that it be a girl and it be under 6 months. I wanted something that could keep Callie busy and take her mind off of being an Only Dog. 
BD, though, was really feeling the Labrador Lust and had been talking to breeders all over the state. Some had pups, some were going to have pups, some had names of people who might have pups. But it was the Times Dispatch on-line Classifieds that hooked us up with a kennel in Goochland who had one girl left. On a lark we decided to go have a look on my birthday and you can see what we found. 
It was a gorgeous day and the drive is very rural, very pretty, over rolling Piedmont Va, with a stop for Cheetos (it was my birthday after all) and Diet Pepsi in Sparta. When we pulled up to the kennel, though we had a moment's gulping pause. There, pulled up in the drive, was a van and beside it stood a mama and a daddy, holding a yellow wiggly puppy, and 4 assorted children reaching out to stroke soft downy fur. Both BD and I held our breath and schooled our expressions into generosity and charity, knowing that if it came to a choice between a family with 4 cute kids who needed a puppy - and a couple of geezerettes who already had a dog ... well ... we were prepared to be nice about it.

Only it wasn't the case. That one was the Next-to-Last puppy. We came to look at the Last Puppy.

 It took almost no time for this little ball of fluff to pass every test. In fact, this was the easiest puppy picking expedition I've ever experienced. And as you can see - she's a perfect fit.  It took Callie no time at all to get friendly.

Even generous

 Because even though this ball is hers - she can share
So here are lots more pictures of our newest addition to the family.

 Lots of outdoor play in this yard

But how much is that doggy in the doorway?

 First real bone

A walk out the pier to the marsh

And a splash into the muddy water

When will you take me for a boat ride, Daddy?

 Ooops. Slipped off the pier

Daddy to the rescue

 My first dip in the dog swimming pool.

 Brrrr this water is cold
Life is good, down on the farm.

So once again, there are enough dogs at TheCastle for TheQueen and BD.  What a Happy Birthday.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Gold, Gardens and Gamboling

After a quick lunch back at LD's house we headed north (sort of) to Kershaw to find the Haile Gold Mine. I'm not up on the genealogy but I do know that after the Revolutionary War some Hailes went to South Carolina and we always like to claim that they're kinfolk. Hey - it's the south. Who cares if it's true.

LD had been to the mine sometime last winter and brought us a souvenir as well as the sad news that the mine has not been in the family for a looong time.  So much for long lost inheritances.

Still - the name stuck and left quite a legacy from a road

to a Church 

After poking about the mine and chatting with the guard on duty we headed back into Hartsville to explore the Kalmia Gardens . Built on the site of the Thomas Hart (Hartsville) house - where he raised 8 kids on this spacious porch - and environs.

It's a beautiful garden, initiated by the daughter (-in-law) of another Hartsville family -  "Miss May" Coker. In Hartsville, everything is Coker. Coker real estate, Coker College - Lots of civic minded Cokers who left a real legacy for local citizens and tourists alike.

This is one of my favorite types of outdoor garden-isn landscapes - the boardwalk through wetlands. I could spend a life time traipsing around these shady reflecting swamps and streams. It's all about, green and black and freshly moist smelling.

The gardens are now maintained by Coker College.

 Here is TheQueen with LD peering at our reflection in the black swampy water.

These boardwalk paths went on forever.

                                              There was even an

Complete with students!

 Even though the gardens are not particularly large - 35 acres is big enough to get lost in - especially if they're threaded with waterways and shaded by tunnels of greenery.

We couldn't see it all though we traipsed about a good while - and took it easy too on smooth wooden benches and mossy stone seats. It was just all lovely and peaceful and meditative.

Back home there were hungry dogs who wanted to bark and dance and play some more. Dinner was Mexican and More Cake. Bedtime came early for TheQueen who had walked 10 miles by the end of the day. Just enough to make sleep delicious but not too much that she wasn't ready for more on Sunday.

We went next to see some of the countryside closer to Hartsville. It's very different from home - even the parts that aren't exactly the Sand Hills are very sandy. The narrow strip of farming land that runs down the middle of SC butts up to the Sand Hills just a few miles outside of town. Autumn flowers were rank with morning glory blossoms and 5 kinds of legumes!

There was also beautyberry blooming everywhere.... well. I guess they weren't blooming but they were beautifying anyway. Beautyberry is native from Virginia south to Florida and in parts of the country that have a similar climate. I love it and always intended to plant it in my (now defunct) garden. Maybe it's time to act on that intention, though. Maybe.

We discovered a Ghost House too - can you find it in this photo?

This was a walk that included dogs - Happy leaping field dolphins sniffing the air as they explored each new tempting scent. We knew there was a long drive ahead for this little white pup and we wanted to wear her out if we could.

All too soon it was time to wave goodbye - weep weep - but this is just our FIRST visit to the little white house in Carolina. We'll be back. Till we are, we'll have these photos to remember. Bye bye William. See you in October!

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Birthday Visit to South Carolina - Pt. 1

Without a doubt - nothing really could be finer than a birthday visit to Carolina - if LD is down there waiting with a pan of smoked pork shoulder and a fine crumb birthday cake for TheQueen. Even the day we left was the first cool blue sky day after weeks of hot hot hot surprise September weather. In fact, the only reason to leave such a day as this would be to go see PABDOS.
We took Callie with us. I'm not a fan of taking pets along on trips. The changes in environments, the territoriality of dogs, the danger of them being spooked by sudden noises or worse - not a good idea. But Callie has been pretty clingy since Jack died and LD's dog Buster is an old friend. There was lots of nuzzling - like this
Or great outdoor companionsip - like this

But most of the time they played like this!

Hartsville is a pretty little southern city - a small city - full of lovely architecture in just about every price range. The city isn't very old - built in the 1890's - it hasn't any antebellum charm but it has plenty of good quality old and even some rather nice new.

The home team is the Red Foxes and you'll see lots of red fox signage dotting green front lawns.

Saturday morning dawned fairly cool with a mackerel sky and low humidity. We headed off to run the dogs in the sand hills - the Carolina Sand Hills National Wildlife Refuge.  Which is mostly long leaf yellow pine - planted in straight rows, with very little undergrowth - designed to promote the Red Cockaded Woodpecker - which we never saw. But if this is what they like - there are acres and acres and ACRES of it.

Here are two seedlings ... planted at the grass stage. Cute, aren't they? I think they look like elf hats or maybe fairy tutus.

We hiked through this sandy forest for about 6 miles  or so.

It was a glorious day in SC too - and I couldn't resist snapping shots of LD - silhouetted against the sky

Or this one of Buster, in the tannen dark water of a stream. Both dogs got lots of good dunking wet time on this walk.

Unlike our loblolly pines, the long needle version is prone to some pretty weird twisty shapes. I loved this one - imagining it as Apollo's unstrung lyre. 
After a great hike we moved from the national refuge to Sugar loaf Mt. State Park - just across the road and past this lake. We saw half a dozen camping groups scattered around this park. 
We also laughed till we cried at the idea of being told to climb the stairs when traversing the mountain. 

 We didn't keep laughing, though, when we started climbing. Instead, we were grateful for the steps. Made it a lot easier to go up and come back down.

Close to the summit was a wonderful rock, perched in an odd and perhaps precarious angle. Both LD and I could crawl underneath and once there we realized there was a hole in the rock ... with daylight coming through!

At the top was a rocky spot and a square viewing stand with benches.

And What a view it was! Enough to tempt one to perch - and to gaze at something bigger than the usual - vast, blue, glorious. We really savored this breezy mountain top.

There was another smaller mountain right next door - Horseshoe Mt. It had caved on one side, leaving only U shaped rim. We climbed it too and explored the shapes, paths, and steps. 

Especially the shapes of the gnarly long leaf pine trees. They'd make perfect Ents, wouldn't they?

Then it was back down to the lake and back to LD's house where we had lunch before heading out in search of HAILE'S GOLD MINE! Which will be tomorrow's post.