Travels with MaryE

Most things I love best are about good light and good timing. That's where the adventures start. Don't be in no hurry here. Here you'll find a little bit about bluegrass music, fox hunting, life on the road, time on the mountain, and a whole lot about other things, too.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Heart-Healthy Hounds

Since I'm thinking a great deal today about the subject of physical fitness and since I consider hounds to be the fittest creatures I know in a personal way, I shall share a few more photos I've captured this week of hounds in the wild...on their way to the pub, it would seem.

First I'll start with my own beloved Gizmo, the very first hound I walked, who I spied bounding through a field of roots just yesterday. Now Gizmo loves his food bowl all too well and he knows that to stay beautiful he must pay his dues by exercising all his muscles to the point of exhaustion....and then tucking in to a nice joint of beef.

Then there are the hounds who are really lushes; you know the type. Go out and run around all day just so they can claim they're thirsty and head down to the local (pub) for a bit of liquid refreshment.

Not to be outdone, there's this one - he's got a plan. "If I run real fast I'll get there before the others and be on my second pint by the time they arrive."

I don't know about bitter, but they say red wine is good for your heart. I like port myself.

The Truth About Hound Exercise

The truth about hound exercise is that in general hounds are much more favorably disposed to exercise - and to great extremes - than are most humans. Now I'm no statistician, but the proof lies in my photographs, taken in the past few days while turning left or right or driving down some local lane. See for yourself.

Now I know good and well that it would benefit me to get out and run up and down the roads just like this pack of hounds every now and then but I always seem to find some sorry excuse - it's too rainy or too muddy or too cold or something. These guys surprised me as I came around a bend in the road. Out for a lovely romp it would seem.

While hounds are known to be fleet of foot I've had a few confide that they vastly prefer to stay fit by performing multiple sets of pullups. Here in the countryside the metal farm gates provide the perfect fitness tool for your average hound. This one was even painted an appealing shade of green. While it may appear that some of this merry crew are struggling a bit, in fact they're just mugging for the camera (hounds are the biggest hams!) As you may note, some are known for their exhibitionistic tendencies as well. The bitches are particularly immodest.

Sadly the above hounds are not as fond of bathing as they might be given that they like to appear in public on a regular basis.

Since I've had so many opportunities to catch hounds out staying heart-healthy and physically fit I'll be sure to share a few more photos with you in another blog. Stay tuned!

Paxo and Pastime

These critters are wild and crazy - unruly - so I opted for keeping my camera safe and staying outside the pen for now.

I present Paxo: (left); he's the dog hound pup; he has the most adorable little brown eyebrows like little exclamation marks. They're both out of Passion and Borman - they're mottled (look like blue ticks!) and rarin' to go.

When I tried to take him for a walk in the garden this morning using a lead he fought against it as if his life were at stake. I suppose he was never put on a lead at the kennels, but that's how life has to be here on this farm. I was afraid he'd choke himself to death before 10 minutes passed, so I eventually put him back in the pen. He's a sweet little hound - as long as I don't put him on a lead!

and Pastime:
Pastime is the bitch pup and she's a bit smaller than Paxo. Because I'm on a working farm and am away from the house quite a lot I can't just let these run loose as some of the hound pups get to do. That's why they have on collars (easier to catch!) and generally when I take them walking they'll be on leads (at least until I learn to trust that they'll come to me when I call them. Obedience is a bit easier to teach to younger puppies, so these two will likely challenge me! So far Pastime is responding quite well to the lead. Any advice will be gladly accepted!

Within 30 seconds of entering their pen this morning I was absolutely covered in mud --- and worse! I think they were glad to see me. They haven't figured out that they can take their time to eat their food - they don't have to fight off dozens of other hounds! They should be fat and content before long.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Way Beyond Heaven!

So just when you think life is pretty durned good it gets even better. Yep. This morning I got up and around early, drove over to the kennels and picked up my new pair of foxhound pups, Paxo (dog) and Pastime (bitch) out of Passion! There's nothing funnier than listening to a late-middle-aged huntsman with a hand-rolled fag sticking out of one side of his mouth and a hunting horn out of the other (or perhaps under his armpit) shouting across the hillside, "Passion! Passion" Maybe it's just me, but knowing the fate of middle-aged men it seems more than a bit amusing and I always have a good laugh about it.

But back to those pups...I picked up Paxo and Pastime this morning and put them in the back of the truck and it wasn't 30 seconds before they'd weaseled their way into the back seat and since it's a pretty wet and muddy kind of day got their doggie mud all over everything. The huntsman helps me get them back out and we put a coupler on them - now not so easy to slide through the gap into the back seat. They stayed put the 8 miles back to the farm where I stay.

Got them in their stable and dog run and headed out for a day's hound exercise with a local hunt here in the valley. As exercise goes, it was probably a bit of a dull day and a hound surely wouldn't get fit off what exercise they had today, but the thing that had me smiling all day was the fact that it was my first day out with Gideon and Gizmo, the first pair of hounds I walked two years ago - and more! I kept them for a year, so they feel like my children. True to form, they ran right up to me and jumped all over me (second set of clothing I had completely mudsoaked in about one hours' time this morning). But never mind. It was worth it for that loving embrace by Gid and Giz! Throughout the course of the day's exercise I got to see (and hug) those old hounds of mine a couple more times. And I'm still smiling. Maybe because they were my first I confess: I love them best. I even got some photos of them this afternoon, though it was very wet and grey so I can remember the day in detail from now on. Now this huntsman hasn't been keen on exercising his dog hounds in the past but apparently he's mended his ways so most Wednesdays will find me grinning ear-to-ear as I strain to catch a glimpse of Gid and Giz ambling down some road in the company of 15 couple hounds or running along some tidy hedge or careening across some quarry ledge.

Unless you've walked some hounds for a local hunt you may not understand how I feel about Gideon and Gizmo. I love them, plain and simple. I'll bite anyone who tries to hurt them.

After I've recovered from being waterlogged for the third out of the last five days I'll see if I can put up a photo or two on this blog. But don't hold your breath.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, Paxo and Pastime are eating to their heart's content, howling at being away from the kennels I suppose (though soon they'll be glad to get ALL the treats) and getting used to their new digs. Oh, when I arranged to get these "pups" I forgot to ask how many weeks old they are....heh-heh, try MONTHS! They were born in June or July and appear to be not far off full-grown. May take some hard work to tame them!

Anyway between Pastime and Paxo, Gideon and Gizmo today has been an A number 1 super duper way beyond heaven hound kind of day.

Whenever you go for a day's exercise you're bound to meet some new folks, see some new sights and maybe look at something familiar from a very different angle. Today was no exception as I explored fields and roads I'd never taken notice of before in my travels about the valley. Of course as a photographer I see the light constantly changing, though today was a bit exceptional: pretty well 100% dull grey light with more than enough drizzle and downright rain toward the end of the day. Never mind. I'm just so proud to be here!

A nice cup of coffee and a chat over at Donna's after the hounds had been put in the lorry and the horses were boxed up...the huntsman, amateur whip (she keeps up with the hounds during these exercise excursions), two joint masters and a couple of the mounted field came in for a cuppa and some chat. It's times like this when I marvel at what a lucky American I am!

Oh, and while I was stood there by a hedge in the valley watching the horses and hounds about their exercise the man next to me starts talking and says he heard I was from we get talking about country music...and bluegrass...turns out his favorites are George Jones and Ralph Stanley, among others....that led to more conversation! Pretty cool, another "small world" kind of experience. Of course all that music stuff ties in with the "other" side of my life - America. Music is only slightly less heavenly than my dear hounds!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Hound Heaven!

You guessed it; the news is good. I will again have the privilege of "walking" two fox hounds for a local hunt. Stay tuned for photos (I haven't gotten them yet). And today my truck passed the MOT (vehicle inspection for you Americans) so I now have transport. So in the coming weeks I'll be out watching hound exercise just as much as I possibly can.

Apologies for the absence of photos in my recent ramblings; I am once again at a place where I'll soon be able to download pics to spice up my dull entries. So stay tuned for horses and hounds and places of interest.

It is just so good to be back here. I find myself grinning like an idiot as I walk down the lane or pull nettles in the dog run or clean out the woodshed. It doesn't matter. I'm just blissed out to be back once again.

Have you been to Wales? If not, you owe yourself a visit. Hey, I put it off for 45 years; it's never too late. Get yourself over here and check out Radnorshire, Pembrokeshire, Breconshire...heck, check it all out. Leave yourself plenty of time, though - even though Wales is probably smaller than some of the smallest American states (I ain't too good at statistics) and certainly has a small population, it takes you some significant time to travel these one lane roads and anyway....why be in a hurry? Don't you get enough of that in America? I sure did!

Slowly I'm falling back into a Welsh routine - buying some groceries, doing some cooking, organizing my various projects around the hound exercising activities (and soon I'll have some hound puppies of my own to exercise)'s a good, hard-working, steady kind of life here and I am loving every moment of it.

Check back soon for some photos...maybe even tomorrow.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Ah, Wales!

I haven't been to many other countries but I'm sure that there's no better place than Wales, at least not for me. After a grueling 2 days and nights without any sleep (can you spell last minute planner?) I finally touched down at Heathrow (and I must say that American Airlines pilot performed absolutely the best landing I've ever experienced - it was like a teeny tap and smooth sailing; sheesh, sometimes it seems like you'll bounce to the moon when you hit the tarmac). It was 4 am before I reached the farm where I stay and that bed looked most inviting! It looked like some tornado had hit my room during the six months I was away, but I'll soon put it right. The next couple of days I was pretty well in la-la land and avoided too much real conversation since I was talkin' out my head, you know? But finally by last night up at the pub things started to come together for me, especially after I had 4 or 5 servings of port (I'll admit they're kind of small but they seem to get you high nevertheless) in one of those teeny little dainty kind of glasses (I'm such a lady) where you feel obliged to stick your pinky way out even if you're not normally the pinky-sticking sort. was fine. And the pub was just as I'd last seen it (isn't that refreshing!) with Marion behind the bar with her wide, welcoming smile and Richard back there flying around the kitchen making our steaks SOOOO good and a big table of my hunting pals with their usual unrelenting was like I'd never left and I like that.

Earlier in the day I followed a local hunt as they exercised their hounds and let me say those hounds and horses and the people clinging to them for dear life had some exercise and fresh air to boot. We were up and down and all around and even the folks like me that follow the hunt in Land Rovers and cars out in this wild, open land as they exercise hounds - well we just enjoy seeing horses and hounds run across a moor or up a forbidding hillside, down some bottomless dingle and up sheer cliffsides, "followers" as we're called...well, we just like to get out there and witness these awesome sights, take along a ploughman's sandwich or a sausage roll, a thermos of tea, and thrill with the sight of streamlined horses and hounds with the incomparable Welsh landscape as a beautiful canvas on which their movements are fluidly painted.

I could go on and on and I may but for now let me just say that I am SO glad to be back and yes, it does feel so good to be back here in the land of my ancestors. In the coming months I may include a few photos from time to time but for now you'll just have to imagine the things I share. It's good exercise.

Oh, and the good news is that I'm going to get another pair of hound puppies to walk. Now if you don't know what that means, stay tuned (or you can go way back to my May postings and see my last pair - Hobbit and Helix as they survey the Welsh landscape). One of the great joys in my life is raising these wonderful hounds. Folks who don't know about hounds sometimes believe them to be cruel but that couldn't be further from the truth (unless you happen to look like a tasty morsel to a hound...) - they are about the sweetest creatures you could ever leave to play with your five-year-old (they do tend to lick toddlers to death in their young enthusiasm). Some of my best memories over here in Wales involve two hounds, two young Welsh girls and some beautifully-hedged fields, a stream, and two small coverts. We go walking and exploring and the hounds always guide our tours and provide us with plenty of mischief.

So stay tuned to Tales of the Hounds from over here in the place back in time that I always dreamed's here (and I've been told more than once that I should work for the Welsh Tourist Board...)