Two to Tango

Got that nice motion blur as I walk briskly along behind and snap the shutter on the iPhone.

They have their moments, even though mostly on our round-abouts we’re either keeping Dingo at some distance from Gandy or, when they are at a distance, watching Gandy dominate the confrontations by soundly boxing his ears or sending him tumbling. He finally gets the message.

And when they have come to terms, it’s gratifying to see them walking happily side by side–a token of what might lie ahead for these two dogs. Gandy turns 7 in mid-October, so can still keep up and hopefully, will be able to teach some good manners and household etiquette.

Back at the house, Dingo is feeling the urge again, but in the end, can only bark in frustration. If he could write a love song with more words than what he’s come up with so far.

Tutoring is scheduled for next Wednesday morning, after which maybe he’ll sing an octave higher?


We don’t know what we want. We don’t know what’s best. We don’t know what’s possible. Other than that, our future of dog ownership is perfectly clear.

We have been fated to cross paths with a fully worthy young stray (dropoff?) dog who has entered our lives unbidden, perhaps at random, perhaps ordained by the powers that both torment and reward. The rain—and feral dogs—fall on the godly and the ungodly alike.

And so we face another full week until we can take Dingo to Christiansburg to be tutored. (Remember the Gary Larsen cartoon?) And yes, I know the perils of giving up a dog you’ve named or eating a chicken named Rosy. But there you have it.

If you do Facebook and find me there, you know the story, but for both blog readers, a bit of background (and foreground, unseen and unseeable this morning.)

This dog first showed up in a burst of chicken terror, though the racket was not so much that he was after them as that they wanted no part of him. And Ann, mistaking him at first glance for a small bear, panicked; and I reflexively burst out the door in my underwear waving my arms and hollering, as Gandy chased the not-a-bear down the road at high speed.

Said gray-black but otherwise vaguely-observed dog reappeared a few days later on the edge of the pasture, and then a few days after that. Each time I protected the free-range hens by firing the .22 into the ground. And yet the dog persisted, returning a day or two later.

And cutting out all the in-between, last Thursday, when we concluded that we could get him to the animal shelter if we could pen him. We used Gandy as bait inside the chain-link enclosure under the shed roof. Within a few hours, the year-old blue heeler was himself inside the pen. So we called Animal Control to come fetch him to town, problem solved. What a relief!

But no. We learned, to our dismay, that the facility is closed for repairs until at least Sept 11. No, there are no other places that will take him. And we do not need another dog. We can barely tolerate this temporary dog whose Little Brain so dominates his behavior any time our six year old (spayed) female is outdoors or visible inside the house. She keeps telling him in no uncertain terms that she is NOT that kind of girl!

So we will try to endure this dysfunctional sorting of dog, chicken and people needs until Sept 4 when Dingo can get a shuttle from Floyd to Christiansburg to the Spay-Neuter clinic for de-balling. That SHOULD do wonders for his ability to concentrate on people and their instructions. He, however, will still be a puppy. This morning he carried both my Timberland boots out into the rain.

He is a bright dog and wants to please, though he probably has had no training and little human affection, if any. He will “sit” for a puppy treat. He is faithful, staying very close in our walks around the pasture and sleeping on the back porch for five nights now. He has shown no aggression towards us or Gandy, though he was not sold on the large FedEx van yesterday, but gave the driver a pass when he tossed out a dog biscuit.

But what are we going to do here? What is the best way forward for all?

The cost (of shots, boarding, health issues); the hassle (of going through maybe another year of puppy-hood and training from scratch a year old dog; the inconvenience (of two dogs inside all winter long, wet feet and dog aroma for six months)—taking on any of this makes no sense.

But then, dog ownership is not necessarily a rational choice. And we have not made a final choice yet, mind you. But I can read the writing on the wall. And I would be very surprised if Gandy doesn’t have a new best friend—if he can just keep his paws to himself.

When the Rains Come

Slimy Salamander, so-called for the copious sticky mucus secreted by its skin–an adaptation to retain moisture, but also to make it less tasty to a would-be predator. I’m certainly not tempted!

I suppose technically we are not in a drought. Parts of the county have gotten more from recent storms than we have gotten on Goose Creek.

So I’m glad the creek still flows, even if just barely enough to keep the “minnows” alive. There frantic rushing from ripples to calm waters and back again has more to do, I think, with mating hormones than fear of drying up.

And the woods are so dry that even the usually-terrestrial salamanders, like this “slimey” variety, are taking to the beaches.

It’s rare to spot a salamander fully exposed in full daylight. This one was cooperative enough I could get pretty close with the iPhone.

But I’m hoping that one of these days soon–now that the garden has taken it on the chin and only the greens can be saved–that the creeks will rise again and the amphibians can stay wet without venturing out into the dangerous open spaces.

Fragments Future

Fragments “came together”, so to speak, in the spring of 2002—for a variety of reasons, a history of belonging and writing and journey of self-knowledge and sharing that I have embellished with photographs over the course of the past 15 years and literally millions of words.

And that journey has morphed through several molts over those years, not always for the better, and especially since social media eclipsed the “blog with comments” format and the shrill pundits have proven the squeaky wheel theory true.

And so, as you few remaining blog time-to-time visitors will attest, Fragments care and feeding have bordered on cruel neglect, increasingly over the past two years. During that time, the morning spaces I once filled with blog topics I excitedly and expectantly shared with “my blog friends” as wife called them has been filled instead with ambulance-chasing the bad news du jour, writing about same for Facebook, or some other mostly invisible place, or doing the work of civic duty I have willingly shouldered.

But now…

My server host is building down. Since 2005 I have had local tech support over lunch at the Floyd Country Store and reliable housing for Fragments, and been spoiled by such conscientious care, even in spite of more than my share of fubared archives, hacked code and other oddities of dysfunction under the hood, promptly repaired, and life goes on. But not any more.

And so I have to decide if 15 years is the good fight, tie the blog up in a bow, and send it to the attic for permanent disregard OTOH, I might keep it on life support with the thought that, if I did ever complete “the book” I intermittently work on, that I would have the blog as a platform for sharing and for getting the third book up into the radar.

That promise is much less likely to be realized than it was for Slow Road Home published in April of 2006 when blogs were vital and populated with special-interest readership and felt like community. That books was literally group-edited by more than 40 readers I’d never met but felt I knew.

I don’t know how I found so much time for the work that went into Fragments, only that it was my purpose and mission there for many years, because I could sense that the work matured me as a writer, photographer, researcher and citizen, so it was not a waste of time, regardless of what I have heard from some very local authorities.

Now, maybe Fragments is coming apart. I have a few weeks to decide. And then, if life goes on, I’ll need to do the work to make the paid blog hosting earn its keep in some way—even if only in renewing the self-satisfaction I once felt just knowing I had done the best job I could to be authentic, vulnerable, personal, honest, entertaining and at times, a bit provocative and obnoxious.

Thanks for traveling with the Strange Farmer all these years. However it turns out, I have few regrets and lots and lots of future nostalgic reading to recall this one place, understood.

Pattern and Purpose

Click to Enlarge

Somehow, the silent working of this spider, relentlessly, tirelessly doing the next thing, spinning the threads of another day of waiting, not knowing…

Somehow, the regular, expert lines of concentric effort with a plan, not so much in mind as in the whole of its body…

Somehow the simple black and white of this vision this morning on an ordinary walk in an ordinary place, of an ordinary and simple creature going about its day…

Was a comfort to me. Perhaps it can be to you.


Population Limits: Galloping Male Infertility

Bing images free to use

Surely, amidst all the rumors of war and profane word-garbage from once-high places of power, you’ve seen the recent evidence that should scream an urgent message to those who control the future of science research, chemical misuse and pollution, and environmental monitoring especially of our drinking water.

One pertinent quote from the link at the end of this post (and one link of MANY if you just poke around the least bit under “male fertility”):

“Poor sperm count is associated with overall morbidity and mortality,” the authors wrote. “A decline in sperm count might be considered as a ‘canary in the coal mine’ for male health across the lifespan. Our report of a continuing and robust decline should, therefore, trigger research into its causes, aiming for prevention.”

It is possible that within our grandchildren’s lifetime that retirees will vastly outnumber the working middle-aged who feed the “system” we call the economy. We don’t know how to live in a no-growth world.

It is possible that a new baby in the community of the near future will be front page news.

It is possible that the “population bomb” that threatens to overwhelm us, even if we solve a dozen other thorny sub-problems like climate chaos, will be defused by another two generations of sperm count “death spiral” falling so low that Malthus will remembered and his dismal vision vindicated.

This is most definitely NOT the time to eviscerate science and public health. Surely those who promote the current anti-environmental anti-science agenda are aware of the risks to their own families. How to explain this self-inflicted death wish is beyond me.

These people are, for the most part, are not evil. And they are not stupid. So what what adjectives might best describe this pernicious mindset? How will future generations, in their smaller numbers, explain the disastrous choices being made in OUR times that despoil their own?

Annotated link —  so you can at least skim my highlights of significant elements of this summary article at Environmental Health News: Are we in a male fertility death spiral?