Yesterday’s maple. Tomorrow, much more red.

Old maple tree (almost an oil painting) – Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

Turns out that big piece of water near the farm is the Ironstone Reservoir. Thank you, Bob, for discovering what’s in my back yard by looking at Google maps … in Australia. What a small world we are living in these days.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

If I were to own a farm, this is the perfect place to own it. Gently rolling land along a stream and a reservoir. Long, green lawns where the cows can graze and a little stream, so when it gets too warm, they can wade in the river. There’s something terribly funny about watching a small herd of dairy cows all up to their hocks in a stream, chewing contentedly on the wildflowers along the banks.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Yellow vines – Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

The trees are beginning to really change now. The past 24 hours has seen a big change. Our one (and only) maple tree is more than half red and I bet by tomorrow night, it will be entirely scarlet. Our woods is golden from  the deck as far back as I can see, except for the pines. Nice contrast.

Marilyn and cow Number 28 – Photo: Garry Armstrong

We still have roses blooming in the garden. Spider-wort too. But fall is finally here.


The river down the road – Photo: Garry Armstrong

Photo: Garry Armstrong

We’ve finally got some color in the trees, but … well … so far, no great shakes. Maybe this weekend? That’s what the weather people are saying. But really, we are guessing. The problem is that it is hot again and this very warm weather does not encourage the trees to fire up.

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

Instead of going where we usually go — one of the dams or parks nearby — we drove around the block. I sometimes forget there’s a river a few acres behind our house. It’s a tributary, but I don’t know its name.

Maple tree by the picture window – Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

The river runs along the road — whatever its name is — which you could get to faster (in theory) by walking from our house straight through the woods. The odds favor anyone trying to walk through the woods breaking an ankle in the process, so we take the longer route. We drive.

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

Cornfield – Photo: Garry Armstrong

I am not also not sure we would find our way through the woods. It is surprisingly easy to get lost there. I used to walk there in the early spring, before the leaves came out because I could see the pointy white peak of my tepee from pretty far away. It was up on the ridge above the woods, so it was easy to see.

Marilyn and friendly cow – Photo: Garry Armstrong

Shooting the river – Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

Garry took my camera instead of his. Which isn’t a problem since they are essentially the same, but mine has a fixed focal length lens on it most of the time. He couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t “telephoto.” Until he realized it wasn’t his camera.

I should put labels on things.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

We took a lot of pictures and I haven’t even half processed them. I’m hoping we get better foliage shots in the weeks to come, but these are pretty if unspectacular.

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong



The big picture window in our living room is the central focus of the house. Not only does it give all of us a lovely panoramic view of the road and the woods, but it is a matter a pure fascination for all three dogs. They spend hours watching the world through that window.

Muzzles propped on the back of the sofa, they watch for all the important stuff — other dogs invading their territory. Trucks delivering stuff. UPS guys or anyone walking  plus any number of wild creatures passing by from bunnies and squirrels, to coyotes. The canines are ready to race down the stairs, out their door, and tell the world of their latest discovery.

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2017


Once upon a time, there was romance to the Gypsy life. Your wagon, your people, on the road forever. A culture shared. A world with music, dancing, and the horizon as your world. These days, when people talk about “hitting the open road,” they are discussing a truck. A big truck, from approximately 20 feet (a very small one) to maybe 40 (more?) feet … which is about the size of big trucks you see hastening from city to city on the roads.

gypsy wagon with hohrse


I might have gotten my head wrapped around the horse and wagon, but I’m sure the truck wouldn’t do it for me. I know it has become quite trendy to sell everything and pack it all in a recreational vehicle, otherwise known as an “RV.” I’ve also noticed that the romance with the road tends to last a few months at most and the rest of the time is spent looking for somewhere to settle down.

America’s roads are, for the most part, not romantic and you can’t just park your RV anywhere you like. It isn’t self-sufficient. It needs pumping. Gasoline. Electricity. Water. There are places you can stay. They aren’t beautiful and they aren’t free.

When I think about giving up my roots and hitting the open road … selling it all and taking that big old gypsy wagon, er, RV … down the endless highway, my whole life stuffed in it … rolling place to place, sleeping wherever we find ourselves and waking to watch the sun rise somewhere, I start making charts, budgets, schedules. I calculate the price of gasoline. Do you know how much it costs to run an RV? It’s not how many miles to the gallon. More like how many gallons to the mile. Seriously — that’s a lot of money.

Much as I love them, I don’t see us hitching up the horses, either. As a start, I would have no idea how to hitch up the horses. I have a feeling it isn’t as easy as it looks in the movies. Actually, come to think about it, how often have you seen the star or starlet of a movie actually hitching the horses to a wagon?

Driving them? Maybe, but getting those big, heavy harnesses on? That’s what the crew does, I’m sure. Giddyup!

We have dogs. There we are, rolling down the long road, singing while watching the gas gauge drop, We realize one of more of the dogs is restless. Is he or she serious? Or just messing with our heads? Do we want to take a chance on guessing wrong? Our dogs are smart enough to think it’s a hoot to get us to stop the wagons so they can get outside and run around, day or night. Their cheerful barks will surely be the hit of the RV park.


With no doggy door, no fenced yard, it’s us, the dogs, the leashes, and the weather.

“Please, go, it’s late, I’m tired, I want to go to bed,” while Bonnie snickers at me as only a Scottie can. And then there is the matter of bathrooms. My husband has a thing about the bathroom. He loves them. Big, comfortable ones with a spacious shower and unlimited hot water. Room to spread out. That leaves me searching for a private spot in the bushes.

One more minor issue: someone — I’m guessing me — has got to pump out the head, fill the water tanks. Hook up to the electricity. Buy groceries. Dog food. Cook meals in a tiny kitchen galley. I don’t much want to cook even with in a fully equipped kitchen. Will I rediscover the joy of cooking in the galley of an RV? I doubt it. I don’t think Garry would last a week. I might wear out even sooner.

So let’s say we bought a small truck, in this case, a 26-footer. This is what our new home would look like — or at least, sort of.

The gypsy life is a great idea. You should definitely try it.

Please send me postcards!


My first dog was a magnificent collie who looked just like Lassie. Her name was Bitsy and I was four when we got her as a puppy. Everyone thinks their dog is extraordinary, but this dog did some amazing things.

Bitsy as a puppy and me at four

She understood language commands. For example, she was a herding dog so she would chase me around and nip at my heels. All my socks had holes in the back. I think this foot nipping is part of how dogs herd sheep.

Anyway, if I was outside playing, my mother would tell Bitsy to “Go get Ellin” and “Bring her home”. Bitsy would then find me and herd me home, right to my mother. Sometimes I protested and begged Mom to “Tell Bitsy I can stay out a little longer!” Mom would tell Bitsy it was okay and she’d run off or start to play with me.

We also had a cat, named Beauty. Bitsy and Beauty were good buddies, but my mom was terrified of cats. When Mom went outside to visit her mother’s cottage on the property, she was afraid she’d run into the cat. She’d tell Bitsy to “Go find Beauty”. Bitsy would herd the cat to where Mom was standing and ‘hold’ her in place with her long snout. That way Mom knew it was safe to walk across the grounds.

Me at around 5 with Beauty as a kitten

One night, Bitsy performed a very Lassie like rescue. A small fire broke out in the cottage where the caretakers and Bitsy lived. Bitsy kept barking and scratching on the door until someone came and found the growing fire. Bitsy saved two humans, two dogs and a cat.

Bitsy and me when I was 7 or 8

Once in all the years we had her, my father yelled at Bitsy. Dad was her favorite human and she took it badly. She slunk off and lay down on her bed. She went into a deep depression and wouldn’t move or eat for two days. My Dad was getting frantic. Finally he lay down on the floor with her and kept telling her he loved her. Only then did Bitsy get up. She got so excited, she jumped around Dad and did their characteristic ‘dance’ together – she put her paws up on Dad’s shoulders and he danced her around. Dad never forgot that incredible bonding experience. He also never stopped feeling guilty about yelling at her and he never stopped missing her when she was gone.

Bitsy with Dad and me

But we did not do right by Bitsy. My parents didn’t know much about dogs. So they had Bitsy live at our summer-house in Connecticut with the property’s year round caretakers. She was not allowed in our house. On top of that, we were only there for three months in the summer. So Bitsy had my parents, me and my grandparents in her life for one-quarter of the year. The rest of the year she stayed with the caretakers who were paid to take care of her when we weren’t there. They didn’t mistreat her, but they weren’t real pet parents taking care of a beloved pet. She missed us terribly.

Bitsy was justifiably very neurotic. She was a chronic car chaser. Despite two minor accidents with cars, we could not get her to stop. She was eventually killed by a school bus when she was only five years old.

As a dog savvy dog lover now, I’m horrified that my parents would treat an animal that way, especially one who they supposedly loved. But to them, it was ‘inconvenient’ to have a dog in a New York City apartment. Mom didn’t want a dog shedding all over the house. So why didn’t she get a low shedding dog? So this was how we did things.

Bitsy with me, my parents and my grandparents, her whole family

I’ve never stopped feeling guilty about Bitsy, even though I was just a kid at the time. I was nine when she died. To add to the trauma of Bitsy’s death, my parents were afraid to tell me she was dead, so they waited eight months and only told me when we were due to go back to Connecticut for the summer. They lied to me for eight months when I asked about Bitsy throughout the year — which made me feel even worse!

I have to give Bitsy major credit for making me into the good, conscientious, sensitive and knowledgeable pet parent I am today. So all the dogs I’ve had since Bitsy owe her a debt of gratitude. I never want to feel guilty about how I treated a pet ever again!


City is a 1952 science fiction novel by Clifford D. Simak. The book is episodic with eight or nine (depending on which version you read) short stories that have “bridges” between episodes. Version of the book after 1980 includes the ninth tale, “Epilogue.”

The novel contains eight stories which are the mythology of the Dogs. Each tale is preceded by doggish notes and learned discussion. An editor’s “preface” notes after each telling of these legends, suggest that puppies will ask many questions, for example:

1st-edition by source fair-use en wikipedia.org

“What is Man?” they’ll ask.

Or perhaps: “What is a city?”

Or maybe:”What is a war?

There is no positive answer to any of these questions.”

In the world where these stories are legends, there are no humans, no cities, and no war.

Generally, I find old science fiction awkward and occasionally dull. In City, the technology and science is dated, but the concepts are as innovative and unique as they were when I first read the book in the 1960s.

This “remembered human world” questions whether or not humankind will continue as a species, but not for the usual reason. Quite the opposite.

In these stories, earth was repaired in every way you can imagine. There is enough of everything — food, money, housing. Roads are useless because everyone flies. Cities are empty. Everyone lives in the country. Crime disappears and mutants have strange powers, especially telepathy.

The stories focus around one wealthy family named Webster and their robot Jenkins, . Over time, the name Webster becomes the noun “webster,” meaning “human.” Each story builds on a previous one. All discuss the breakdown of the urban world. The breakdown isn’t a bad thing because human life is enormously better.

And then, there’s Jupiter.

Doug Webster hates the new world. He’s an agoraphobic. Although the word “agoraphobic” is never used, Webster (all his family members share the same issue) becomes ill if he is has to go out into the bigger world. At some point, Webster provides dogs with speech and improved vision. Meanwhile, the breakdown of civilization allows roaming mutant geniuses to make their own odd changes to earth. Joe, a wandering mutant, decides to see what would happen to ants if they remained active and free of hunger year round.

The ants form an industrial society and eventually take over “our” earth while humans go somewhere else — as do the dogs. A lot of stuff happens and there isn’t a lot of specific information provided. You will need your imagination.

Dogs see other worlds. They always have. Their worlds are “cobbly worlds.” In case you were wondering, cobbly worlds are why your dog barks at seemingly nothing. Dogs bark to warn the cobblies to stay away. Other worlds familiar to us, are invisible to Dogs.

Ultimately, humans abandon earth and dogs have nothing but mythical memories of humans. They are not even sure we ever existed. The stories in this book are their myths and legends. A few dogs believe humans existed, but most do not. I really enjoyed the book. I also enjoyed the audiobook. If science fiction is your thing, this book is worth your time.

And don’t forget about those cobbly worlds.


I know he’s a dog and he isn’t a purebred anything. Nonetheless, he screams “crossbreed” to me. Finally, after I don’t know how many questions about “what is he,” I went hunting for information. Remarkably, I think I’ve got it … or at least I’m close.

He’s got an Asian dog-face. Big round eyes, smiley mouth, and a curled-over-the-back tail. All of these point to one of the Tibetan, Chinese, or other Asian breeds. He’s got the energy of a Border Collie, but he doesn’t have the size, face, coat, or shape … which doesn’t mean he might not be gangbusters with his own sheep.

Nonetheless, we are not getting our own flock. I suggested we might have a whole new reason for living, but Garry has put his foot down:. “NO SHEEP!” he said. Very sternly, I might add. I suggested at least a few miniature goats, but he glared at me. So, Duke will not have a job anytime soon though I’m pretty sure he is a dog who needs a job.

After considerable research, I think he is a BoShih, which would be a cross between a Boston Terrier and a Shih Tzu. Not only is he exactly the right size, coloring, and body type, but a lot of them even have his odd “one ear up, one ear down” face. Since I have no way of actually finding out, I’m going to go with “Duke is a BoShih.” He’s too big to be a Papillion or Cavalier cross. Too small (and the wrong everything else) to be a Border Collie mix.

He’s no less a wild and crazy dog than he was before, however. I think I detect a slight slowing down  today. He’s not bouncing off the walls as much as he was a few days ago. He hasn’t done any more Superdog leaps across the room. I bought a bunch of Nylabones for him. I gave one to each dog, but Gibbs and Bonnie are not big chewers, so he has all three for himself and while he is still determinedly chewing up the toy basket, he is giving at least part of his gnawing time to one or another of the bones.

Garry said he didn’t think Duke is a straight out-and-out mutt because he looks too much like dogs you don’t meet on the street. The pushed in face and big round eyes are not western-style dogs. I wonder if he was intentionally crossed or was the accidental meeting of two enthusiastic dogs, producing the classic “Oops! Anyone need an interesting puppy?”

I will remind you all I have no way of getting a final answer to this question. I will never have “papers” to show where or who he came from, but I think this is a good guess. If you’ve got a better guess, bring it on. Speculation is fun.