The Adventures of Cullen Underfoot

This past week the whole family (K, J, & Eric) were all at home.  It was VERY windy, with strong wind gusts, but no precipitation and the temperatures were moderate.  Eric and I took advantage of the reasonable weather to bring a couple loads of wood up into the garage.  Since we were out and about it was a good opportunity for Cullen Underfoot to be out in the yard and poking around.  What could go wrong? Later in the evening of that day Cullen started whining constantly and it went on continuously through the night.  We took him outside to go to the bathroom, offered him water and finally gave up and put him outside in the dog yard so that we could get some sleep. The next morning Cullen was no longer whining, but was drinking copious amounts of water. As Kathryn was filling her bird feeders, she noticed that her re-purposed orange mesh bag that had been holding large chunks of suet was missing. We think the strong winds had dislodged it. A detailed inspection of the dog yard revealed a large pile of regurgitated suet – but no mesh bag.  We put Cullen on a restricted white rice diet and kept him constantly supervised to determine if he would pass a plastic mesh bag.  By Thursday he was eating, sleeping and acting normal.  Kathryn decided he no longer had to be supervised on every outing. As she was sitting at the kitchen table, she saw Cullen race by with a recently dug up plastic mesh bag.  Since we had been watching him for the past three days he hadn’t an opportunity to recover his treasure.  As a free dog, he dug it up and was headed to exploit it.

Eric got to play basketball a little bit last night.  He took 5 shots and missed them all, but didn’t make any mistakes and recovered 5 rebounds.

Kathryn, Dakota and Billie Jo all left this Friday morning for a week in Seattle and the Pacific coast.

Letter to Barbara

Kathryn took Dakota and Izzabella to an overnight in Rochester.  They joined other Skelly’s to watch Pat’s daughter, Nicole, perform her Renaissance Faire routine, The Gwendolyn Show, as part of a benefit.  They stayed in a hotel and did some shopping on Saturday before returning home.

Image may contain: 5 people, including Kathryn Skelly Muller, people smiling, people sitting and indoor

For Christmas Eric got me a card game called “Exploding Kittens” and we have really been enjoying it. Well, the exploding kitten part isn’t great, but we still like the game. It’s a little like “Old Maid” where you don’t’ want to receive an Exploding Kitten card.

You may remember long-term St. John resident and sailor Peter Muilenburg.  He had the sailboat, The Breeze, that we used on our St John’s vacation.  I think we went to his house after our sailboat ride.  I remember dropping one of his hand-carved chess pieces onto the stone floor.  He passed away recently.

Eric is off school until 6 January.  He played in a Christmas basketball tournament. His team lost one game and won one game. Thankfully, practice gets him out of the house. 

Eric and I have been battling being congested and coughing.  I had a dentist app’t and was medicated enough that I didn’t cough on the hygienist.

We have lost all our snow.  We have had warm days / nights and it rained starting yesterday through the night. Kathryn, Billie Jo and Dakota leave at the end of this week to go to Seattle for several days.

When Is It Winter Camping?

High Peaks in Winter (DEC Photo)

Winter is associated with migration, hibernation, changes in animal behavior, plants becoming dormant, and humans experiencing special health concerns ranging from hypothermia to seasonal depression. Winter even invokes its own special vocabularies to describe the conditions (e.g. black ice, whiteouts, and corn snow).

Descriptions of winter camping depend on geographic location, opportunities to go camping and desire to impress your friends and relatives. There are groups from northern Canada to the Ozarks that claim winter camping experience; although I am sure their conditions and experiences are greatly different.

How you define winter camping might depend on your definition of ‘winter’.

Meteorological or thermological winter is defined as the three month period associated with the coldest average temperatures so the start of meteorological winter can change depending on how far north one lives. This corresponds to the months of December, January and February in the Northern Hemisphere and June, July and August in the Southern Hemisphere.

Astronomically, winter can be defined as beginning on the winter solstice, the day of the year which has fewest hours of daylight, and ending on the following equinox. In the United States this defines winter as roughly beginning December 21 or 22 and ending about March 20 or 21.

Practically, winter may be defined by the organization with perhaps the most winter camping experience, or at least the most participants, the Boys Scouts of America. The Boy Scouts define cold weather camping as taking place when the temperature is below 50F and involves cold, wet and/or windy conditions.

Many adventurers view permanent snow cover and/or ice as a critical aspect of winter camping, requiring cross-country skis or snowshoes to traverse the winter landscape.

One might decide that winter camping is camping which requires specialized cold weather gear such as snow shovels, white gas stoves, crampons, insulated clothing and four season tents and/or require specialized skills such as building snow shelters.

Regardless of your location, most agree that nighttime dominates the winter season and lower temperatures are part of the equation. Dealing with the weather, cold temperatures and inclement conditions challenge a winter camper’s physical comfort.

Winter camping has been described to me as a time when one switched from “camping to enable hiking to hiking to enable camping.”

Regardless of the definition you chose, winter camping provides an opportunity to be out of doors 24 hours a day. Winter camping is not an end in itself; it is merely the vehicle that allows us to enjoy being outside.

Photo: High Peaks in Winter courtesy DEC.

Early December Status

We have had good snowfalls enabling us to snowshoe and XC Ski only to have our trails washed out due to rain.

The HP Varsity Basketball team has a 1-3 record losing to undefeated, hot shooting Cazanovia, Utica Academy of Science and Oneida and winning over Chittenango. Coach was clear he was playing an 8-9 man roster leaving Eric, Sawyer (Burt), Ryan and Jack at the end of the bench.

We have all been adjusting to the loss of Scout. Cullen has been much more of a house dog and accompanies us around the house. Whether it is the deep snow or Cullen’s desire to hang with his pack, he has stayed with us during our hikes across the road.

After 16 years Jim left Northrop Grumman and started a new position at CACI.

Thanksgiving 2019

We had 17participants for Thanksgiving: Billie Jo and her family of Joel, Stone and Dakota: Dave, Liz and Jack; Rob and Linda; Kelly, Mike, Izzabella, Phoenix and Jesse; Eric, Kathryn and Jim. As usual set and clean up were a major undertaking and Kathryn cooked a perfect meal. We tried something new this year – spatchcocking. Spatchcocking a turkey is the process of removing the backbone and flattening it onto a baking tray. It seems a bit intimidating but it’s not difficult to do, saves a lot of cook time and helps everything cook evenly. With this method, you can cook a 10-12 lb turkey in about 70-90 minutes

RIP Scout

Our beautiful Scout died. There was never a more devoted companion, gentle, affectionate disposition and sweetheart of a dog. Such a big empty space in our lives right now.

The first week we had her we couldn’t come up with an appropriate name. But then we saw the little girl play the role of “Scout” in To Kill A Mocking Bird. That’s how she got her name.

Turns out she had a tumor on her spleen which caused her body not to produce hemoglobin which meant her body was not being oxygenated which meant her breathing got labored.  Even though she was eating and drinking, still was affectionate and sweet, the vet said she probably was feeling a bit like she was suffocating.  We couldn’t let it go on so had to make “the decision.” 

We expected to miss the companionship, affection and enthusiasm. We are surprised to miss: clambering over a big lump of sleeping dog every time Kathryn got in and out of bed or off the couch; having shoes strewn throughout the house and not being able to find a matching pair; having the bathroom door flung open to join the occupant; feeling urgency to get home because she’s been left in the mud room for hours.

HP Varsity Basketball

13 players participated in basketball tryouts and Coach Smith decided to keep all thirteen rather than cut one player for a 12 man squad. Eric is working to increase his endurance. Prior to tryouts we encouraged him to drop some weight and get a regular workout schedule, but he was sporadic about workouts. He has been plagued by shin splints several days.

Lancaster Volleyball Tournament

Kathryn organized a volleyball team to compete in a seniors tournament in Lancaster PA. They had 5 65+ players and one 60 player which meant they had to play down an age group; competing vs 2 other 60s teams. They ended up in 2nd place for the tournament.

Fall Decorations and our First Snow

Kathryn put up my Christmas lights but then put Thanksgiving stuff over them so the decorations are currently more seasonally appropriate but on the day after Thanksgiving, we can easily take down some stuff to turn it into Christmas decorations. Two birds with one stone!

Scout Update

After a period of time in which we thought she was a goner, Scout rallied, regaining mental alertness and personality, eating/drinking well. We eventually saw the vet, who diagnosed myotosis and prescribed prednisone, antibiotics and iron supplement. Scout is doing pretty well, seems almost her old self, but somewhat weaker. And, of course, she is still 12 years old.