Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Very Hungry Bunny

I tried - I really tried - to get the front deck looking good this past summer. I spent hours scrubbing the deck and the patio furniture to get all the algae and moss off (in the cool, wet climate of the Pacific northwest it is practically a miracle if a deck doesn't completely biodegrade during the course of the rainy season.) I sadly took apart the extra rabbit cage that was out on the deck - I didn't have any use for it after TJ died. I even planted some herbs in pots (tall ones) on the deck and arranged all the furniture to take advantage of the view. It looked great...for two days. And then Clover discovered it. Clover apparently decided to follow in the grand tradition of all rabbits that have come before him and create mischief wherever he finds himself.

On Monday, Clover chewed off the leaves that he could reach while sitting on the deck. That evening I put up a gate around the plants. On Tuesday, Clover figured out how to move the gate and continued to graze on the herbs. That evening I zip tied the gate to the deck railing to keep it from moving. On Wednesday, Clover discovered that he could squeeze underneath the railing and bypass the gate. He continued to munch on the herbs. On Thursday, Clover bypassed the gate, hopped up into the planters and ate the plants down to the ground. On Friday, with no plants left, Clover dug himself a trench in the largest pot and happily settled down to survey his handiwork.

I think what we had was a basic communication problem. No matter how many different ways I tried to tell Clover that the plants were decoration and not, in fact, food, all he heard was something along the lines of, "I spent an hour planting this salad bar for you Clover, bon appetit." I would have moved him into the backyard run under the grape arbor but he has, unfortunately, also demonstrated a propensity for easily clearing the waist high walls of the run and spending the day hopping merrily about the backyard until we discover him and have to spend the next hour chasing him down. Fortunately I no longer have to worry about him running amok on the deck as it is mid October now and well into the rainy season. I figure I've got at least 8 more months to ponder the problem and come up with a solution for next year.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


I am uneasy. Scratch that - I am completely paranoid. I am jumping at every shadow and flinching at every real or imagined movement seen at the edge of my vision. And what was it that caused this paranoia? A moth.

I'm sure I've mentioned, once or twice, my hatred of moths but in all fairness, this was a big moth. Huge, actually. And before you say I'm exaggerating, I should tell you that this was a one-eyed sphinx. (This thing has a five inch wingspan.) I had never even heard of this moth before and I hope to never have the misfortune of coming across one again. Ever. It was a huge, fat, ugly moth hanging onto the screen door in the kitchen. The outside of the screen door in the kitchen - this key fact was the only thing keeping me from going into a complete screaming panic. Not that I didn't do at least a little screaming - believe me, I did - but I didn't abandon the house and file a change of address form with the post office listing a local hotel as my new residence.

So there we were, with a moth perched precariously on the only door that allows the dogs access to the outdoors at night to go to the bathroom. It would take only a second or two for the moth to disengage from the screen and fly through the doorway into the kitchen as one of the dogs came or went. So we did the only thing we could to ensure that the moth would stay out of the house. We trapped it in a peanut butter jar. I should say that I am a proud supporter of PETA, but in this case, I could care less about the rights of moths, so long as I was guaranteed a house free of roaming one-eyed sphinxes. Should the moth have gotten in and then disappeared somewhere in the house we probably would have had to move. No amount of money could induce me to live in a house with that moth hiding in it.

To maintain my peace of mind, the next morning I took the jar - still tightly lidded - and hid it somewhere in the neighborhood. I really can't be any more specific as to the location of the moth as there is considerable risk my brother would decide to go and liberate it should he ascertain its location. And I really cannot give the moth the chance to either a) return to our house and/or b) mate and reproduce, creating a multitude of huge, ugly, fat moths to torment me. But if it makes you feel any better, I did make sure to put it somewhere very shady so that it at least would not bake to death.

Unfortunately, a little research turned up the fact that this part of the country is part of the native territory of the one-eyed sphinx. Which means, of course, that there could be more out there, just waiting for me to drop my guard before popping out when I least expect it. So for now, I'm jumping at every shadow and flinching at every movement seen at the edge of my vision - real or imagined.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fourth of July Cupcakes

I am not, by nature, an overly patriotic person. (So sue me - it's just not my thing.) I don't decorate for the 4th of July, I don't cry listening to the Star Spangled Banner, and neither do I dress in red, white and/or blue. Scratch that last one - I am wearing blue shorts right now, but it was not done with the intent to display patriotism, they were simply the first relatively clean shorts I came across this morning. So the reasoning for the following recipe is not patriotism - it is a thinly veiled excuse to make cupcakes. Although, if you want to make these to display your patriotism and love of all things Fourth of July, by all means, enjoy.

White cake cupcake batter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter and sugar and then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the vanilla extract. Mix the baking powder and flour in a separate bowl and then add to the butter mixture, mixing well. Add the milk and stir until the batter is smooth. Divide the batter into three different bowls. Leave one batch plain, then add blue food coloring to one bowl and red to the third. Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners and spoon the batter into the tins, filling to between 2/3 and 3/4 full. Put the red batter in first, then the plain/white batter, and top it off with the blue. Try to spoon the batters in even layers so that the finished cupcake will have good color separation. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. The cupcakes are done when the batter is set and the cake springs back to the touch.

Let the cupcakes cool and then frost. I was too lazy to make frosting today (and my mom insisted I use the can of store bought stuff we had in the pantry so that there wouldn't be any extra frosting around to tempt us) so I just used the white store bought stuff and topped it with sprinkles. If you wanted to be fancier, you could color your frosting blue or red and if you wanted to get really crazy, you could take blue, red and white frosting, spoon them into a piping bag, and pipe on a swirl of the three colors. I tried piping but my piping skills are not as good as I would like so they didn't turn out quite as pretty as I would have liked. Fortunately their looks have nothing to do with their taste and they were pretty good.

NOTES: If you want, experiment with adding flavor of some kind to the base batter to give the cupcakes whatever flavor you like. Also, to make adding the batter to the muffin tins easier, I put the batters into three different sandwich bags and then snipped the corner off the bag to give more control when adding the batter to the tins. To make getting the batter into the sandwich bags easier, I folded the edges of the bag down over a wide mouth canning jar so that I could keep the bag open while I poured the batter into the bag. Both bag tricks worked out really well and made the job much simpler. I am either very creative, or very lazy. I'm still not sure which.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A loss on the Unfarm

If you are expecting a lighthearted, somewhat humorous report of life on the Unfarm, I am sorry to disappoint - the news today is neither of those things. We have suffered a loss here on the Unfarm yesterday. My little, tiny, baby bunny boy, TJ, went into shock yesterday morning due to a gut upset. (I am quickly coming to face gut problems in rabbits with a knotted stomach and a cold sweat, after having previously lost both Tajha - TJ's mate - and Peter - the Netherland dwarf who lived with us before Jojo and Suki arrived, to gut upsets.) I rushed TJ to the vet where he managed to hang on for most of the day but lost the battle in the early evening and slipped away. All losses of my little ones (we have lost somewhere around twenty pets in my lifetime) are painful but losing TJ was particularly tough because we had become so close in the last few months as I nursed him through a stubborn injury he sustained after a run in with Jojo during an attempt at bonding. TJ and I have been together for at least four years now and he was so tame that I could walk right up to him and pick him up wherever he was - whether inside or out running around the garden. We often cuddled up for naps and he is the only rabbit who I could trust to run free throughout the house as he stayed out of trouble and the dogs seemed to accept him as a sort of honorary dog, knowing somehow that he was not to be chased or otherwise bothered.

The evenings now are the hardest. That is when I miss him the most, during that time when the distractions of the day have begun to melt away and all that is left is an ache and the desire to hold him again, cradling him against my right side with my arm, his feet resting against my hip and his head at shoulder height so that all I needed to do was turn my head to be able to kiss the soft, white fur on his forehead. His departure has left a hole in my life and the rest of the animals on the Unfarm have noticed his vacancy as well.

In a somewhat cruel coincidence, Dora, my sister's hamster, also died yesterday and while Dora was not technically a member of the Unfarm, it is a loss all the same, and deserves to be mentioned to honor her memory.

And now that this loss has been reported, I am signing off. I will try to resume reporting the news from the Unfarm again shortly but I have to be in the right mood and it is not the one I am currently in. Goodnight, all. Love you forever, TJ.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

All's chaotic on the western front

Question: What is worst than finding a sugar ant* crawling on your kitchen counter? Answer: Finding two hundred and seventy six ants crawling all over your kitchen. Aside from running the Unfarm on my own for the last four days while my parents are staying in an amazing vacation home on lake Coeur D'Alene in Idaho, I have had the added complication of sugar ants. On Thursday they were in the kitchen, coming in through the sliding door on the back deck, as near as I can tell, so on Friday I bought the most eco and animal friendly ant spray I could find and sprayed around the door and along the trail of ants marching along the length of the deck. Ant problem solved.

Saturday morning I woke up to discover ants swarming my desk (and water bottle - gross) in the bunny room. I sprayed them all with an eco cleaner (not wanting to use ant spray in the carpeted bunny room), followed by an orange oil wood polish which seems, for some reason, to keep the ants at bay. I also took a closer look at the suspected entry point - the deck - and discovered that the ants had also found the hummingbird feeder so I made the decision to take it down for the time being - a decision the hummingbird did not appreciate when he came looking for a meal a few minutes later. Penny happened to be on the deck when I was taking the feeder down and she took the opportunity, while I had my back turned, to attack me. She puffs up her neck feathers and somehow manages to jump in the air while simultaneously scratching and pecking me. I don't know what has gotten into her lately, but she would not leave me alone and I finally had to chase her off with a broom in order to get into the house again. Once free of the attack chicken I sprayed every new ant trail I could find and around the kitchen and bunny room window. I went to bed reveling in the knowledge that I was finally free from the ants.

Sunday morning, after doing all of the various morning pet chores - feed the dogs, let the chickens and ducks out and feed them breakfast, give the Kita his medicine - I discovered... wait for it... ants. This time they were all over the cupboard under the sink which necessitated the removal and cleaning of everything the ants touched or might have touched. I am about ready to throw in the towel and just move. I gave serious thought to the option of going to a hotel for the next couple of days but decided to stay put when I realized there probably isn't a hotel in existence that would let me move in with three dogs, two cats, two diaper-wearing ducks and four rabbits. So much for that idea.

Monday was pretty much the same: find ants, scream and yell and swear at ants, kill ants and then clean ants. I have everything cleared off of the kitchen counters and put away in drawers or cupboards, partly to keep them safe and partly to make spraying and cleaning the counters easier, but having everything put away is bound to set Mom off when she gets home as she tends to rule the kitchen with an iron fist and is extremely particular about how things are done in there. But honestly, at this point, I couldn't care less. They've been enjoying lakefront views while the only thing I've seen has been ants. If the ants are still here by the end of this week I may very well pack up and live out of my tent until I get the all clear. Let Mom and Dad deal with them for a change.

*Author's note: They may not actually be sugar ants. All I know is that they are small, black, attracted to the hummingbird syrup, and - judging from the amount I've discovered and killed - they must have an incredible reproduction rate to be able to continue to invade in such vast numbers.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The worst part of spring

Well, it's here. The worst part of spring has arrived. No, not the rain - that never left. And not the allergies - there are pills for that. The worst part of spring is the reemergence of bugs.

First, at dinnertime, I discovered a spider hanging from the ceiling in the living room. Fortunately it was small and easily dispatched with a tissue. Next, as I was supervising the bunnies during their time out this evening, I noticed a moth outside on my window. This was particularly disheartening as I hate moths perhaps more than any other bug both for their ability to fly and their propensity for disappearing, putting you on edge for hours or days and then reappearing the minute you finally drop your guard. But the last straw, the one that prompted this post, was the discovery five minutes ago - most unpleasant - of a huge, ugly (is there any other kind) beetle creeping it's way up the door frame at the entrance to the kitchen. Indoors, I should clarify.

As much as I did not want to have to deal with it, I could hardly leave it until morning when someone else might be able to get rid of it - it has been my experience that bugs almost never stay put for long and even the slowest moving insects can cover considerable ground if left unguarded for long. Then you have to search the entire house until you find it or risk the chance that it could crawl into your room at night and creep with it's gross little legs all over you. (Or, at least, that is what I always fear will happen.) But back to the task at hand. As soon as I cleared Kita and Maggie out of the immediate area (lest the bug should decide to jump from the door frame - an inanimate object able to withstand disinfecting agents - to one of the animals, which are considerably harder to disinfect) I armed myself with paper towels and set about dispatching the beetle. I used two paper towels, folded into fourths, so that I would have a thick enough wad of material between my hand and the bug that I would not be able to feel (that was the hope, anyway) the crunch that beetles tend to make when they are squashed. I always find that particularly nauseating.

So as much as I dislike the months of cold, wet weather that comes with living in this part of the country, I will admit that it seems a more than fair trade if it means that I don't have to see hide nor hair (well, you know what I mean) of bugs during the winter. And here's something I've always wondered: why couldn't bugs look like little bunnies, say, with wings or antennae rather than the way they do? I'm convinced that, were they to look more like bunnies, a vastly smaller number of them would find themselves on the wrong side of flyswatters, tissues, and shoes. Don't you think?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Veggie Pot Pie, Take 2

Here we go, attempt number two. This is the new recipe:

Veggie Pot Pie

4 large potatoes
6 large carrots
1 cup of peas
2 recipes of white gravy (recipe in previous post)
olive oil
Italian seasoning
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

Cut the potatoes into small chunks, and the carrots into slices. Pour some olive oil onto a baking sheet with raised sides. Add the potatoes and carrots, sprinkle with salt, pepper and Italian seasonings and toss to coat. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees until fork tender (20-30 minutes). In the meantime, make the gravy. When the potatoes and carrots are done, toss them with the peas and gravy and pour into a deep dish casserole style dish. Cover with the puff pastry, poke some fork holes in the pastry to let steam vent, and fold the edges of the pastry over on itself if it overlaps the edge of the dish. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown. Serve warm.

Alright, now for the notes. About the gravy: be warned - it takes a LONG time to cook. Once you add the milk, it takes forever to heat up to boiling over low heat. And a few things I didn't bother to do when making the gravy: I didn't wait for the flour and butter mixture to get bubbly before adding the milk. I also didn't take the pan off the heat before adding the milk - I just poured the milk in while it was still on the stove. And I definitely didn't bother to stir it constantly - I just stirred it occasionally as I was moving around the kitchen getting other stuff ready, and it didn't seem to have any ill effects from my lack of constant attention.

And as for the pot pie: this version turned out considerably better than the last one did. It was actually pretty good. It could still use some tweaking, though. Roasting the potatoes and carrots before hand added flavor/seasoning to the final dish and softened the veggies up before cooking. The carrots were still a bit on the hard side but definitely not crunchy this time. I think I also could have increased the amount of all the veggies to add even more bulk to the pot pie. Another potato or two, 3-4 more carrots and increase the peas to 1 1/2 cups to 2 cups (depending, I suppose, on how much you like peas.) The gravy amount was pretty perfect this time, but it could still use more seasoning. And a note on seasoning: I tend to be something of a wimp when it comes to lots of spice, hence my lack of large amounts of herbs/spices. I do like the combination of herbs in the Italian seasoning mix so next time I make this recipe I'll up the amount of herbs (I didn't measure anything, just threw on what seemed to look good) and also the salt and pepper. I like to use sea salt because I think you get more flavor for less salt, plus it's tastier (to me, at least.) And lastly, the puff pastry. I didn't roll it out any thinner, just put it on top and folded over the edges (I wanted to keep it think and puffy.) I think that covers it... so, enjoy.

Veggie Pot Pie, Take 1

A week or two ago I had a craving for a veggie pot pie but was unable to find the right recipe so I figured I'd try to make my own. Here's what I came up with:

Veggie Pot Pie

4 large potatoes
3 large carrots
1 cup of peas
1 recipe of white gravy (follows)
1 teaspoon of Italian seasonings
1 sheet of puff pastry

Cut the potatoes into small chunks and boil in water until fork tender. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the carrots into slices. Make up a batch of white gravy and add the potatoes, carrots, peas and Italian seasonings. Mix well so that the gravy coats everything evenly. Pour into a lasagna style dish and cover with puff pastry. Bake for about 30 minutes until puff pastry looks cooked. Serve warm.

White Gravy Recipe

2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 cup milk

Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Blend in the flour, salt and pepper with a whisk. Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat. Stir in the milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for one minute.

Okay, so there were several problems with this recipe. First, do NOT use a lasagna dish - it's much too large and shallow, and the puff pastry has too much trouble covering it all. Second, the carrots really need to be cooked or softened before baking, they don't get soft enough in the oven. Third, there wasn't really enough gravy. Fourth, the puff pastry didn't get as golden as I had hoped it would. Fifth, it definitely needs more seasoning and finally sixth, it perhaps wasn't enough food for four people, two of which are guys with large appetites. So tonight, I made a second attempt at this recipe and the revisions and notes can be found under Veggie Pot Pie, Take 2. See you there!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Snow much for that

It's March, which means spring is just around the corner and we can finally look forward to some sun. And hopefully, soon, all this snow will melt and we will be able to see the ground again. I'm not even sure if I remember what the ground actually looks like any more. This was, after all, a particularly snowy winter. There were several "Winter Storm 2010!" and "Arctic Blast 2011!" storms, according to the weather forecasters. What actually happened was (at least here on the Unfarm) a total accumulation of about 1/4 of an inch of snow. On many occasions there were days and days of wet, with no freezing temperatures, and then freezing temperatures but not a cloud in the sky. The two key elements to snow just couldn't seem to get together at the same time, hence: no snow. This is disappointing for several reasons: 1) I love snow and my snowshoes aren't much good in the rain 2) Kita loves snow, and I love to see him happy and comfortable (he is fairly hot with his thick winter coat) and finally, 3) if I am going to have to deal with the inconvenience of freezing temperatures - which tend to make all the animal chores twice as difficult - I should at least get the snow.

When it gets to freezing or below all the hoses freeze and are - as such - unavailable for doing animal chores like washing the duck tarp and diapers every day. And even if I could manage to get the hose thawed out, I wouldn't be able to use it at the risk of making an ice slick all down the driveway. (Which, I am embarrassed to admit, happened twice this winter, although the second time was not my fault.) In order to keep the driveway clear and still get the duck stuff clean I had to haul buckets of water over to the side yard every morning to wash off the tarp and diapers.

The rabbit litter boxes couldn't be cleaned while the temperature remained below freezing, but fortunately I have a large enough stockpile of litter boxes that I could allow the dirty ones to stack up until the temperature rose high enough to clean them all. The chickens sat around, rather dejectedly, in part because they were cold and in part because the ground was too frozen for them to dig for bugs in. And as for the ducks, there were several occasions when their ponds froze over completely and often on those days, after eating breakfast on the back deck, Minna would turn around and come back in - giving up on going outside entirely. And as Maggie generally goes wherever Minna does, I would suit them both up with fresh diapers and herd them back into the bunny room where they spend their indoor time.

So, after a depressingly gray winter, with almost none of the snow that was predicted, I hope that next winter the forecast is for 60 degrees and sunny the whole time. Then, with the accuracy of the weather forecasts so far, I think we will finally see some snow.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Willpower: 1, chocolate: 0 ... for now

I made the mistake of buying a box of chocolate creams (my weakness... although if I'm going to be totally honest, almost anything with chocolate or sugar is a weakness of mine - I have a serious sweet tooth) a couple of weeks ago and I finally opened them on Monday. (No relation to Valentine's Day - it just happened to be the day that I finally gave in and opened the box.) This is probably extremely counter-productive to my goal of losing weight, but so far I have managed to limit my sweet tooth to one cream a day. I even managed to talk myself out of a second chocolate this evening after dinner when a serious craving hit. This craving was made worse by the sad realization that the dogs actually had a better dessert than I did today - they were scarfing down brownies while I was looking at a fine selection of ripe, over-ripe, and one-day-away-from-totally-rotten bananas. How depressing.

But, in case there are any canines following this blog (or people who enjoy spoiling their dogs) I'll include the recipe, and my notes, here:

Bow Wow Brownies

1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup whole wheat flour
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup carob chips
1/4 cup carob powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium-sized bowl, blend the oil and honey thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour onto a greased 15x10 inch baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool, then cut into bite-sized squares and store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

Notes: I pretty much followed this recipe exactly, except that I put the batter into a greased 6x9 pan instead of onto a sheet. It baked perfectly and I sliced it once it cooled and they turned out great - just like regular brownies. The dogs absolutely love them. (They appear to have inherited my sweet tooth...)

The recipe, by the way, is from Real Food for Dogs by Arden Moore

Friday, January 28, 2011

Recipe for disaster

This post is long overdue. I really should have written it a few weeks ago but school has kept me too busy to write anything until now. Okay, okay - it wasn't really school, it was a combination of procrastination, napping, and writer's block - but saying it was school sounds so much better than admitting the truth. At any rate, back on New Years I promised a post about yet another mishap involving Buddy, and it is time to deliver. Here goes.

For Christmas, I decided that instead of buying yet another treat dispensing ball for the dogs, I would simply skip the middle man and give them treats as their gift. But this was Christmas - I couldn't just give them the same treats I make all year, it had to be special. The solution I came up with was to make them little peanut butter, dog-bone-shaped cookies and drizzle them with carob. (This, by the way, did not turn out so great - the drizzle didn't hold to the cookies strongly enough and it tended to chip off when the treats rubbed against other treats and/or the bag I had them in.) After making several bags of treats, I still had a considerable amount of carob chips left over and had decided to use the rest of them (as they were human-grade) in chocolate chip cookies. At the time, however, the pantry was already full with all the other ingredients for the Christmas baking season so I left them on the kitchen table, along with whatever else couldn't be crammed into the cupboards. I did, however, take care to keep all edibles (as we always do) in the center of the table and thus out of reach of any dogs (read: Buddy).

Alas, it was a recipe for disaster. Buddy, having sniffed the carob out, I'm sure, managed to somehow get to the chips in the center of the table (I'm still not entirely sure how he reached them... we really should put cameras in the kitchen to monitor this kind of thing) and take his prize into the living room to enjoy it at his leisure. And enjoy it he did, eating almost all of it. Unfortunately for him, his enjoyment would turn out to be short lived as it seems that eating approximately three cups of carob chips is a bit much, even for Buddy. I came home later and noticed Kita licking something off the living room carpet. Upon closer inspection it turned out that it was the remains a pile of carob and dog food pieces that Buddy had vomited all over the floor (there is, apparently, no accounting for taste in dogs - they eat the grossest things sometimes.) Further investigation revealed that Buddy had also vomited another huge pile of the disgusting concoction all over my bed. Needless to say, Buddy went to bed without dinner that night. (Honestly, the last thing I wanted to do was add fuel to the fire - giving his stomach a break from food seemed the wisest course of action at that point.)

(As for the carob chips: I have yet to make any more attempts to experiment with carob, and don't foresee any in the near future.)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Snowshoeing, Mt. Hood

On December 28, we (my brother, sister and I) took all three dogs up to the mountain to go snowshoeing. This trip up to the mountains necessitated the use of our 1980's Subaru which, while it is our best car in it's ability to handle in the snow and ice, is also a relatively small car, especially when it is crammed with three people, three dogs, and snow gear for everyone. We parked in a lot located above the lake we were planning to snowshoe around and let the dogs out. Kita and Maia - who have been to this lake with us before - recognized the area as soon as we opened the car doors and were immediately ready to head out on the trail. Buddy was another matter. The first thing he realized when he jumped out of the car was that he was standing in snow. This is NOT what he had in mind when he realized we were going for a road trip. He probably figured we were going to the beach - or, at the worst, going camping. Snow, in Buddy's mind, is simply rain, but colder. He is not a fan. Why Kita seems to love it so much is a complete mystery to Buddy. I'm sure Buddy would have been more than happy had we gotten back into the car and gone home right then and there. No such luck.

We got everyone suited up - winter gear and snowshoes for us, coats for Kita and Maia, and a coat on top of a sweater for Buddy - and headed out. (I should perhaps mention that I did make an effort to keep Maia and Buddy's feet warm with little boots, but they managed to get them off in a matter of minutes so we had to leave them in the car or risk losing them in acres of snow.) We let Kita off leash within minutes of heading out on the trail and he had a blast. He loves the snow and was off and running as soon as his leash was off. You would never know from looking at him then, that he is suffering from arthritis. The only sign that he wasn't feeling as good as he once did was that he stuck to the trail instead of going off into the woods like he had the last time we were up at the mountains, several years ago. He made an attempt early on in our walk to go into the deeper snow but soon abandoned that and stayed where the snow was already packed down.

Maia is a bit less dependable when it comes to behaving while off leash so we waited until we were down near the lake before we let her off leash. Once off, she behaved relatively well although her hearing tended to be a bit selective when we asked her not to wander so far ahead. Maia also seems to think that everyone wants to pet her. Whenever we let her off leash (say at the dog park or on the beach) she spends all her time running up to all the people to see if they want to pet her. This presented something of a problem while we were snowshoeing in that as soon as she saw a cross country skier coming, she would run over and sit down in the ski tracks, right in front of the skiers. Fortunately, she is cute enough that no one seemed to get too annoyed at her, and we were usually able to get her out of the way quickly enough.

Buddy was the last to be let off leash. To be honest, I wasn't even sure we were going to let him off at all, given his track record. He comes when called well enough but becomes overexcited around other dogs and has a tendency to bite whoever is within reach: unknown dogs, Kita, Maia... me. Being well aware of this fact, we kept his muzzle on him for the first half of the hike in case we ran into any other dogs on the trail. (Note: we do not like to muzzle Buddy, but it is sometimes the best option for his safety and everyone else's, and we use a soft muzzle and always take it off if he seems hot or if there are no dogs around to rile him.) At any rate, halfway through the hike we found a quiet area where we could take off his muzzle and let him off leash. As Buddy loves to chase balls, we scooped up handfuls of snow and took turns throwing snowballs for him. He loved being able to really run for the first time in a long time (being confined to running up and down our hallway as he cannot yet be trusted at the dog park) and he chased snowball after snowball, but was always somewhat confused when he couldn't seem to distinguish the snowballs from the snow it landed in. He had fun, at any rate, and might not be too terribly disappointed the next time we decide to go snowshoeing, although he was quite happy to snuggle under a blanket in the car on the way home - he is, after all, still Buddy and, as such, is a creature of comfort.

Above are some of the pictures we took during our trip - see how happy the dogs are? I love it when they're happy.