Thursday 23 September 2021

Rusty is too smart

 I've been really out of sync with dog school. When covid restrictions came in again, school stopped. Since restrictions reduced and school re-opened, our participation has been sketchy. It seem to have been one thing after another on Thursdays that has impeded our attendance.

Rosy had her first class this evening for many weeks and she totally clicked with some activities that we worked on some time ago. I'm super proud.

Looks like we're dancing. Doing over, over and around the cone. Rusts gets super excited like a puppy and she bounces everywhere.

Rusty had class last week and this week. Today I noticed something interesting.

Rusts loves jumping over. Out on the trails when there is a log across the trail I call, "Over!" and she will speed up and jump over. We use the lowest jump height for her as she has spondylosis in her lower spine so we go for keeping the activity with minimal impact on her back.

When you do a stay, the dog should not anticipate being released from the stay by breaking before a command is given. Rusty is actually pretty good at her stays - for duration, distance and distraction. She broke her stay a few times this evening and, after two consecutive breaks, I realised the reason.

Waiting to be recalled. This is where we figured out that she has worked out Nics' command to me.

I instruct her to stay and then I walk away, turn around and face her. After a period, our teacher Nicola gives me an instruction to recall Rusty - to tell her to come. Rusty has joined the dots and was using Nics' instruction to me, regardless of the words used, to recall. She figured out that I tell her to stay, I walk, I turn, I wait, Nics issues an instruction and then I call her. She reasoned that she may as well run to me when Nics speaks.

For the third one, to test my theory, Nics was standing behind Rusty and gave me a nod. Rusty only came when I told her to. This dog is too smart for her own good! ❤

Thank you to teacher Nics for these photos of my girl at school.

Stay. Waiting for me to return to her.

Wednesday 22 September 2021

Comparing is not good self-care

 A friend forwards me these monthly calendars from Each month has a different theme.

The calendar for September 2021 is 'Self-Care September'. This one resonated, for me and others. I printed a copy and stuck it up at our office so that I would at least get to see it and think about it and so would others.

The item for 21 September, yesterday, is a good one. 

On social media, it looks like I spend my time out with the dogs on beautiful trails looking for fungi. The reality, of course, is considerably different. 

Being out on the trails is what I love. Being with the dogs keeps me sane. These are the things that make the long hours of work, as well as business and financial stresses tolerable. These get me through frustrations, lows, disappointments. So often, there doesn't seem to be light at the end of the tunnel. And then I head out on the trails with the dogs and my perspective is improved.

It is so easy to assume that everyone's life is going better than yours because our friends and family are sunny, shiny, happy, content, fulfilled, successful and doing such cool stuff on social media.

What does trouble me is that those of us who grew up before social media have a better frame of reference of real life than those in their 20s and younger. 

We just need to remember, and remind others, that there is real life reality and there is social media reality (the good stuff) and not to compare how we feel on the inside - and how we see our lives - to how others appear on the outside and our impression of their lives. Apples and oranges.

Sunday 19 September 2021

There comes the time

 I was recently up in Jo'burg for my dear friend's marriage celebration. I spent a lovely day and two nights in Parys and then two nights either side of the wedding before returning home.

While upcountry, I visited a bunch of friends who are of a similar age to me. We're in - or approaching - the 'time to deal with parents' age group. 

My dad hasn't been well for the past few years. Physically he is in really decent shape but mentally not so. He isn't in a good space at the moment and I'd really prefer him to be closer to me. He needs company and he needs stuff to do and things to keep him busy.

We drove down together from JHB on Monday and Tuesday. I am really glad that we did this together.

Gariep Dam - my dad's first time stopping here.

Gariep Dam wall

Pretty flowers along the road in the Karoo.

We stayed over in Colesberg and drove through the Meiringspoort Pass - another first for my dad.

Meiringspoort Pass

The weather was great here in George on Wednesday. In the afternoon we drove the Outeniqua Pass and then took the dogs for a walk.

Looking out from the Outeniqua Pass to the old Montagu Pass

He's not so good at this selfie thing.

Thursday was a cold and raining day. My mom kept my dad busy with some stuff at home, between his numerous and lengthy rests / naps, which has been his habit for much of the year. 

Friday afternoon cleared up a bit and so we took the dogs to the beach at Kaaimans River.

Dogs enjoyed playing at the beach.

Dad enjoyed the outing but was really feeling the cold - and it isn't even as cold here as it is on the highveld!

The problems my friends are experiencing have a common theme:

1. A parent who is ill or somehow compromised.

2. A parent who has passed on and the other is still around and at a loose end.

3. A parent who is vegetating with little to do and no company while my friend/s have to be at work, run their homes, raise their children and just cannot spend enough time with said parent.

4. A parent who refuses to consider moving closer or moving into a more suitable environment.

5. An elderly parent who should not be driving but refuses to give up the keys.

6. A very grumpy, pain-in-the ass parent who is difficult to be around, and is nasty to their spouse / children / other family.

What my friends see is that their parents have:

1. Too little company and interactions from other people, especially now in the-time-of-covid.

2. Too little to do in the way of activities and hobbies.

3. Trapped where they live because moving and dealing with their accumulated stuff is overwhelming - easier to just stay put.

4. Ongoing and worsening medical issues - whether physical or mental - as one ages.

I brought up two words to my dad that some maturing parents seem to fight against - retirement village (RV). This is like living in a complex but, unlike a complex with a more youthful demographic, the other residents are there in the day and they have time. They're not shooting off to the office nor raising a young family. This means that there is company and interaction.

RVs also may offer a bunch of facilities for medical and specialised care, physical activities, scheduled excursions, entertainment, bus services, cleaning services, a library and an on-site kitchen/dining room where meals can be ordered/booked on request. And all of this on your doorstep. You have independence but you can also choose what you need / want from the offering and you don't have to attend sing-along groups or aqua-aerobics if you don't want to.

My friend's parents made the decision when they retired to move into an RV that offered what they needed. This works really well for them. They're looking at an RV down here.

The thing is, one has to make a good decision early on for when you're not going to be so good at making good decisions.

My dad doesn't want to be a burden on me and is very tied to his house in JHB where he had decided years ago he would live until he dies (he saw one retirement village in Benoni many years ago and thinks that all are the same). The problem is that things change. I've moved, my mom has moved, his sister is about to move, his brother plans to immigrate to SA to retire. We're all going to be down this way - within a few hours of each other. My dad will be even more alone in JHB - far from all of us - and thus he is a bigger worry and stress on me being far away because there is little I can do for him.

The problem really is when a parent doesn't make good decisions for themselves and the repercussion of this on their children. 

I saw my dad care for his mother after she moved here from Paris. She made the decision to move while she was still able to. She was fine for a while and then she began a steady decline. He knows the drill. 

The difficulty is probably knowing yourself when the time is right. For me, the time is right when your children say, "The time has come". It is then for the parent to say ok.
(Yes, there are situations with children that make bad decisions for their parents, even moving them away - but I like to think that more have the right intention and decision.)

From my side, I know that I can't make my dad to anything he doesn't want to do. I don't even know how to and I'm unlikely to have much success either. The alternative for me and my friends is to keep tabs from afar and leave our parents be until the situation is such that we have to step in. This is not very nice either for the children. No-one wants to have to 'step in'. 

From my side, I'm going to investigate retirement options down here - and there are many in and very close to George. Always good to know what the options are and to work on the enticement angle. Not much else I can do right now.

Finding fungi again

 The realm of fungi is looking more interesting again after a bit of a lull with no significant finds for me for a while. We've had rain, so things are damp, and temperatures are climbing. This seems to be a good formula for fungi to fruit.

A few weeks ago I did the Kingfisher Trail in Wilderness and I scored in jelly fungus finds. Until then I'd only every found the bright yellow fan-shaped jelly fungus. On this one outing I saw the bright yellow Witch's Butter, White Jelly Fungus, possibly Snow Fungus and two separate gatherings of Jelly Ear fungus.

Tremella mesenterica  - Witch's Butter

About a week after these finds, I was out on my usual trails when I found a collection of litter next to a log. I've picked up stuff here often, probably because people sit on the log, eat junk foods, drink energy drinks in cans and leave their rubbish behind. It makes me see red. I picked up the trash. And moved the log to prevent other litter bugs from sitting here. My efforts were rewarded with finding a jelly fungus (maybe two different ones!) on the log and a coal fungus (Daldinia concentrica probably) on the stump behind me, which I wouldn't have seen if I hadn't been hefting the heavy log.

I have a thing for the coal fungus because of the first one I found, which I kept an eye on over a period of 2-3 weeks. I really wasn't sure what it was until it matured, burst and lay on the ground looking like a piece of coal with concentric rings that I was able to identify it. When I was putting out the checkpoint flags two weeks ago for the Find It Checkpoint Challenge, I saw a bunch along the one trail. I was chasing sunset and too much in a hurry to stop and photograph. I went out this past week to find them. I found those and more in about a 15km stretch. My eyes seem to quite tuned to spotting this un-eye-catching fungus that looks like a brown lump on logs.

Daldinia concentrica - aka King Alfred's cake* or coal fungus. Matured and finished ones look like lumps of coal.  *According to legend, King Alfred once hid out in a countryside homestead during war, and was put in charge of removing baking from the oven when it was done. He fell asleep and the cakes burned. (from Wiki)

I tend to bring bits home with me, leave them on a shelf for a few days, see what they do and then toss them into my YOLO Compost Tumbler. The one coal fungus that I brought home on Wednesday began shedding spores and made two awesome spore prints.

On Wednesday, I also found another Jelly Ear Fungus. I do like them because they're quirky and some look quite like an ear! 

Auricularia auricula-judae. Also known as jelly ear or wood ear. Gotta love fungi names.

This jelly fungus has a great texture - soft, pliable and jelly-like. When it comes to fungi, it is hard not to have favourites. Jelly ears are right up there for me together with the stinkhorns. These are edible (they taste like nothing) and are used in Chinese dishes, like soups, for their jelly texture.

What I love about fungi is that they are always around, even if it is some 'boring' varieties. Finding any fungi is a bit hit-and-miss because you can walk a route today and there is nothing there but tomorrow they may be in abundance and then gone the next day as many fruiting bodies are short lived. There are also so many different types. For me, there is always something new because I'm a beginner at finding and identifying fungi. 

I'm quite sure that I miss a lot because 1) I move quickly and 2) I'm on trails. If I spent time scratching around and under logs, I'd probably find a lot more - especially tiny fungi, of which there are thousands. The vegetation here is such that you can't go offtrail so pretty much everything that I find is to the sides of trails. I'm sure that there are some gems lying just out of sight and deep in parts of the forests here.

Finding fungi doesn't get boring. I'm looking forward to see what this summer brings.

Sunday 12 September 2021

Something special about the highveld

I grew up on the highveld - went to school, studied, worked and lived for the majority of my life. In winter it is dry (cue lipbalm and skin lotions) with icy mornings and nights, and warm days (usually) with a cloudless, blue sky. Spring transitions quickly and is marked by sprouting of leaves and two weeks of after-winter warmth before the furnace doors are opened to usher in summer. Autumn is short lived and is marked by the rapid turning and dropping of leaves. Summer is the main feature where thunderstorms bring welcome rain and the heat can be something else.

I've been in George for almost a year and I am very settled in this Garden Route town. It is big enough and also small enough (not a city by any means) and it has a lot to offer. Being near the sea is neither here nor there for me. The waterways are scenic, the mountains are magnificent and the trails, forests, flora and fungi feed my soul. 

George has a mild climate with little in the way of extremes. In winter, it is not as cold nor as warm in the day as the highveld and in summer it is not as hot as the highveld.

I love heat.

I've had a few days upcountry and I have loved feeling warm to my core - all day. Granted, in George my office is freezing and it will take depth-of-summer heat for me to lose my fleece and scarf when indoors. Outside, if you're moving around it is warm and pleasant.

My travel north was motivated by attending the marriage celebration of a dear friend. I did come up a few days early to visit my old home town of Parys. Here I saw friends and spent a lovely day with Karen. We enjoyed three of our favourite activities that we used to share - swimming in the quarry, a nice long walk and hanging out. 
My brief time in Joburg included some visits with family. The time was too short to do other visits that I'd wanted to but nonetheless I was glad to get in some. 

The small marriage celebration was primarily a family affair and was held at a beautiful venue in the Cradle of Humankind. It was really special to me to be there and to see my friend, her siblings, their children (of whom I have heard lots) and her parents, who I haven't seen for maybe 16 or 17 years (they are about 15 years older than my parents). 

A bunch of years ago I spent a lot of time in the Cradle area on a nearby property. I organised a few corporate team build activities (did a bunch of scouting sessions on my own in the hills), I've participated in many orienteering events there over a period of 15-ish years, and I may have been involved in some event planning (I can't really remember but I do remember being out there a lot).

I love the Cradle of Mankind for its rolling hills and subtle valleys, outcrops, interesting features, reentrants, and antelope. I was reminded too that what I really love about the highveld is the traversable terrain. You can take a compass bearing and, for the most part, head in that direction. 

In the Garden Route, the vegetation is such that going off trail won't get you anywhere. The vegetation is generally pretty dense and unconducive to beeline off-trail travel, which is quite limiting for someone like me, where I've had the freedom of the highveld.

From the hotel, I noticed a tree that just needed visiting. It took a few minutes to walk there.

 Gazing at the hills and rocky outcrops I though of the hominid fossils that have been found - and continue to be found - throughout this area. In the hundreds of thousands of years before me, Australopithicines, Homo variants and other hominids roamed this same area. That is pretty cool to imagine. 
The evening and night out there was a lovely reminder of my activities in years past and my love for the highveld that will always be there, even though I now have a new home. 

Rusty - photoshoot model

A few weeks ago, Rusty took part in a photo shoot for the annual Border Collie Rescue calendar. A local photographer, Melissa Pohl, volunteered her skills and time to photograph a bunch of border collie rescues for photo submissions for the calendar.

When I take selfies with Rusts, or just general photos, she will often turn her face to the side the moment I point the camera in her direction.

At this shoot... Well, this doggy acted like a seasoned model - all poses and smiles.

Melissa gave us one of the photos - her favourite - and we could choose from a selection of others to buy. I loved all the ones of Rusty for her different expressions but settled on these two.

Peeka-boo! We learned this during lockdown last year and this move has been reinforced at dog school this year. There is nothing more sweet than seeing this beautiful face looking up at me.

I put Rusty into this hammock - her first time in a hammock. And she loved it! Couldn't stop smiling. 

Melissa specialises in people + pet photography and I think I'm going to spoil myself in the next few weeks by booking a session with her to get some good photos with my special girl.

Rusty and I have been together for 4.5 years now and I love her more and more every day. She can be really silly and funny but also very smart and independent. She isn't a very cuddly dog but she is sweet and loving. She is quick to learn and is evidence that you can teach and old dog new tricks.

She has spondylosis in her lower spine and at around 10 years of age we are at the point where I can't take her on long (distance or time) outings because she does get stiff (and probably sore) in the evening. I've got anti-inflammatories for her but the stiffness really is a sign that her activities have to be limited to those that are kindest to her mature body.

Rusty rescued me and is the shining-east light in my life and heart. I am so thankful that this dog came into my life and I treasure every day. The best thing about waking up each morning is opening my eyes and she is the first thing that I see, cuddled up in her bed near me. Blessed. I am. 

Tuesday 7 September 2021

Almost time for Find It Checkpoint Challenge

Four weeks ago, my cousin visited the area and asked whether I was organising any events yet. This kickstarted a bunch of ideas that I'd been sitting on for months and has evolved into the Find It Checkpoint Challenge, which I have planned in celebration of World Orienteering Day (8-14 September 2021). 

My first course planning outing.

I've had a blast creating the map, planning checkpoints and learning new things. One of the new things is the MapRun app, which is incredible. I did a lot of ground work initially, learning how to create KMZ maps, the codes used to define type of event, scoring and duration, geo-positioning of the map, uploading to the app system, the app settings, GPS variation and checking control sites. I now have an admin login to post public events and I am proud to be the first event-creator user in South Africa.

Rusty and Rosy have been super scouting companions. The distances putting out checkpoints and testingthe app have been a bit long for Rusts, so I've just had Rosy with me this past week.

I have also learned new way to capture aerial imagery, and I've discovered a means (QGIS) to get contour lines, although I didn't grab them this time - thank you Mark for educating me and doing this for me.

Another aspect of my learning curve included the creation of two videos! The first explains how the event works and the second how the app works.

My video editing skills are capable - I don't get enough practice. I do have many videos that I want to do for YOLO and Vagabond, but I just don't get around to it and I am definitely held up in making these because of confidence, 'getting it right' and putting-yourself-out-there issues. Making these videos for this event has really been good for me because I feel comfortable in this event and navigation space.

 The boost that making these has given me spurred me to finally create a video for Vagabond using my kayak and why I chose this model as the base to educate the viewer about things to consider when choosing a kayak.

With the MapRun app, having physical flags at the checkpoint sites is really not necessary. I have put markers out for those using the paper map but I also find that there is a real kick, especially for beginners, in actually finding something at the location. So, for this specific event, I have put out flags.

I chose this checkpoint position for the stand-alone tree at this location. Well, it was a tree until at least two weeks ago.

I put out almost half of the flags on Sunday afternoon and the rest this evening. This evening I was under pressure to get the flags out before dark. I ran the hardest since July/Aug last year - and I felt great too. 

I'm really curious as to what strong runners will be able to do on the course. It is definitely possible for reasonable runners to get about 23 of the 28 checkpoints in two hours. To get the others... that will take a bit more effort and a tidy route choice.

What was also fun this evening was meeting a chap early on who saw me with a map in my hand and asked, "Is this orienteering?". Oh my heart - someone who actually knows what orienteering is! I extended an invitation to him to give this a whirl. 

And then I saw two running women. I told them that they may see some flags on the route ahead.

 "We've seen two of them already" they declared with big smiles.

They're going to give this a try and will tell their friends. 

Tonight I uploaded the maps and courses to the MapRun server and I've scheduled posts for Facebook for Tuesday evening giving links to download the maps.

I do hope that people will give this a go.

As luck would have it, I'm not going to be here. I head up to Jo'burg and Parys for a few days for some visiting around a feature event, my dear friend Allison's wedding. 

I'll let you know how it all turns out. Cross everything.