Monday, July 15, 2019

Donkeys and happiness...

Jingle has settled in wonderfully. In fact, I think it is safe to say that she the leader of the herd. In this picture Abraham in on the left, Jingle on the right, and Sarah in the rear. Jingle does not answer to her name, or even flick an ear when I call it, so we have taken to calling her Jezebel. She ignores that, too, but we rather like it. She is wildly excited when every other day each donkey gets a bowl with 1/2 cup of vitamin and mineral supplement pellets.  These are designed to promote good health and sturdy hooves.  Her hooves are fine at the moment. The farrier was out last week and pronounced her sound. Meanwhile, Sarah and Abraham's feet were not as wonderful as they were on his last visit. He wants me to start rubbing Vick's Vaporub on them once a week. I need to buy a tub of the stuff. Sarah is supposed to be getting medication every day, but hates it, and we have to chase her. And chase her. And chase her some more. It takes more than one person. Sometimes I have to call in a dog. Many times I fail altogether. She is smarter, faster and stronger than I am. It's maddening. I have starting making her wear a halter all the time, to help me catch her. It does not help much as she can easily wrench her head away from my grasp and take off, bucking. 

I found a man that would deliver hay and on Saturday we put 100 bales up in the garage. This makes me wildly happy, because it means the goats and donkeys have a winters worth of hay stored.The spring and early summer have been so wet, I suspect hay will be expensive and hard to find this winter. I have 40 more bales at a friends farm, and we will start getting it soon and adding it to the stash.

Sister Deb came to visit for the weekend. Saturday we went to Arts in the Park in Camden, where booths of amazing crafts were displayed before incredible views of the picturesque harbor. I put a few Christmas gifts up, and we bought lobster to bring home for supper from a local fish market.  Deb made these delicious appetizers, with fresh Maine crab, sushi rice, mango, diced cucumber, a spicy saucy topping and toasted sesame seeds.

I made garlic studded focaccia bread. Rachel and Evans joined us for the feast.

Chris cooked the lobsters to perfection, but I failed to take a picture.  There is something so nice about eating a messy meal like that at our rustic picnic table. We had a fire dancing in the fire ring, and there was a lovely breeze. The goats and donkeys cavorted in the pasture. We had music and conversation. These are the summer moments I treasure.

When Deb left this morning she gave me a long hug. "I'm glad you are happy," she said. And what more can be spoken? Isn't that the wish we have for everyone we love?

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Wonderful weekend...

We took a long weekend off to revamp the grooming studio. It was a good bit of work, but the end results are lovely.

It just so happened that the hottest days of the summer so far coincided with our efforts. After we put things back together on Saturday we were sweltering and a little cranky.  The decision was unanimous. We needed to go for a swim.  Rachel and I peeled off our sticky clothes and changed into bathing suits. We put Bravo and Opal into the car and drove to the Sennebec Pond boat ramp. To our delight, the place was pretty much deserted.

 Bravo was delighted. He knew what was in store, and splashed in for a cooling paddle. Pugs are not known for being swimmers, and Opal has had limited experience with water.  With their deep chests and squished faces, Pugs are far from aqua-dynamic.  But with a new bright orange life jacket on, and watching her buddy Bravo paddle around with ease, Opal was soon swimming with aplomb.

The water was just cool enough to feel fabulous on a hot day. And though the day got hotter, the refreshment lingered.  I went home and did some cooking. We had company coming for supper. I made up a big batch of pasta salad, and baked a lemon cake. I set the table and arranged flowers. The sky grew dark and thunder rumbled in the distance.  I hustled out to do chores before the rain came, and just barely made it. The rain came down fast and furious, thunder boomed, Bravo quaked, and cooler air blew in the open windows. When the storm passed, the heat was broken, a sweet relief.

Today dawned cool and crisp, the word "perfect" seemed the best way to describe it. We went out for breakfast, then headed to Belfast for Arts in the Park.

We enjoy this annual festival.  Clusters of tents, each filled with lovely things, perch along the harbor. There are food trucks, and wonderful music.

On a warm summer day the smell of fresh mown grass, salt water, and the wild Rugosa roses that bloom in profusion near the shore is indescribably delicious.

I bought myself a treat. A wind chime made from reclaimed silver plate. I saw them last year and regretted I didn't buy one. It makes a tinkling sound and I love the look of it.

Rachel and Evans joined us, and after we explored the festival we walked down town and had lunch sitting on a patio overlooking the harbor. The word idyllic comes to mind. Next we went home and had a peaceful nap, I am reading an interesting book, and snuggling up with the afternoon sun streaming in and a fan whirring in the window was so peaceful.

When we woke up we loaded the truck with our kayaks for the first time this year. We put in at 7 Tree Pond, paddled up the river to Round Pond, then back again. For a long while it was just us... no roads, no phone poles, no people. Our paddles dipping in the water, birds calling, frogs croaking, and minnows splashing silver in the shallows, the only sounds.To me this is as good as it gets, and to have Chris join me was icing on the cake.

Home again we sat at our picnic table and feasted on leftover barbecued chicken, jalapeno cheddar cornbread and pasta salad. We watched the animals graze in the sinking sun and felt glad. It was a wonderful weekend.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Independence day...

Rachel and I really know how to celebrate a holiday. We decided to change our schedule up a bit so we would have an extra long weekend, courtesy of the 4th of July. There was a reason for this, beyond having a little respite during our busiest time of year.  Wednesday evening, after a full day of grooming, we took every single thing out of the grooming studio.  We cleaned each item as we moved it, wiping down the furniture and tools, one by one. It took us a couple of hours to do this. We had the good sense to plan ahead and put batch of Hungarian Goulash big enough to feed 4 in the crock pot.  She headed home with a hot supper, and we settled in here with ours.
Bravo loves the grooming studio, and was clearly unhappy with our activities. Chris was surprised to come home from work and see the dining room packed full of... well, everything.

I was up early on Independence Day. I hung our beautiful flag, took care of the animals, and then Chris and I headed out to buy the floor cleaner I had forgotten to purchase before the holiday. While it was mighty convenient to be able to go to a big box store for what I needed, I couldn't help but be sad that it was open at all. I remember when I was growing up every store was closed up tight on major holidays, and that seems more fitting.

Once home, Rachel joined me and we washed the walls in the studio, then she got down on her hands and knees and scrubbed the floor with a stout brush. I mopped. Then mopped again. And one more time for good measure.  It was a hot, sunny, day, and the windows were open. The floor dried pretty fast, so soon we got in there with trim brushes and painted the floor from the walls out. Next we used a roller on a nifty handle and painted the rest.  We last painted the floor a year and a half ago. We took some time off in January, when business is a little slower anyway, and moved everything out for the project. Though the studio is heated, the floor was cold, and the paint never cured properly. Even when freshly washed, it showed the dirt, and chipped, looking disreputable. We were happy to cover that up and try again. It's warm and lovely now, so hopefully it will cure hard and perfectly, and last longer for us. We are plotting ways to reorganize as we move items back in, to optimize our work space while keeping things looking serene and comfortable.

Hot and tired, we headed into the celebration phase of the holiday.  Evans joined us, and the four of us used excellent family teamwork to prepare a feast. The lawn was mowed, a fire laid in the sturdy new fire ring, the table set, the outdoor cooker fired up.  Rachel and I made a batch of focaccia bread, and cooked some local asparagus. Chris steamed up a mess of lobster, Evans tended the fire, hauled fire wood, helped carry things to and fro.

Rachel and I, looking a mess from our labors, did not pose for a photo, but these two handsome guys did!

There were hardly any bugs, and we enjoyed a perfect meal at the old picnic table. The donkeys and goats lazed around in the warm evening air, and the chickens were happy to clean up any meat we left clinging to the lobster shells.  They stayed up later than usual, enjoying the treats.

Later Rachel and I sat by the fire ring, watching the sun go down, and a lovely deer graze in the pasture near the domestic critters.We were full of excellent food, and it was quiet and peaceful all around us.

Evans and Chris broke out some special cigars they'd been saving for just such an occasion. And one of them practiced blowing smoke rings.

Before the fireworks from neighbors and the camp across the lake went off, we got the dogs settled inside. Poor Bravo is afraid of loud sounds, so he got a little something to take the edge off. It didn't help much, and I was glad when things quieted down. Flirt didn't care. She likes holidays. I do, too.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Little mysteries...

We spent much of the weekend cleaning the garage. This may not sound like a great time, but it was actually quite enjoyable.There is satisfaction in creating order, and we always like working together, too.

 Our garage is big, wide enough to hold two cars, and extra deep. This is both a blessing and a curse, because as Aristotle once postulated, "horror vacui," or "nature abhors a vacuum." The garage collects stuff it is lovely, open, space.

To be fair, we use it for very good reasons. There is a big freezer there full of chicken and lamb raised here. The snow blower and lawn mower take up lots of space. There are ladders and tools, garden implements, flower pots, seasonal decorations in bins.  And then all the animal care stuff. Pallets are stacked with hay and straw. A tower of neatly bagged shavings stands ready for animal house cleaning day. There are barrels filled with food for chickens, goats and wild birds.  Trash goes there until we haul it to the transfer station, and bins of recycling get messy.  Its a lot of stuff. 

The weekend was not too hot and the sky was overcast .It was good weather for hauling and moving, discarding and organizing.There was sweeping up endless barrows of wasted hay and hauling it off. I swept cobwebs and polished windows. When we had a pretty good sized dent made, and lots of floor showing, it gave me delight to put my sweet gate leg table under the sign from my fathers business. Below it we hung a lovely little row of hooks I was recently gifted. This perfectly holds a variety of scoops I use for feed and seed and such. To the right of that Chris fastened another vintage board with metal hooks to the wall for me..  I carefully hung each donkeys halter and lead rope there. The tidiness of it all brought me joy.

At one point on Sunday, when I was alone in the garage, a distinct whiff of Half and Half pipe tobacco wafted around me. This was my dads tobacco, and part of his warm, familiar, scent. After he died, I would often feel I could smell it. The first time was when I was watching my grade school daughter raise the American flag at her school with some other pint sized kids. Other times I'd be zipping down the highway, and the car would fill with the familiar aroma. It was comforting, yet odd.  It's been years since it's happened, but puttering happily in our good garage, there was that dad reminder, tantalizing.

Last week my chum since third grade posted an image on Facebook that captured my interest in a big way. She had been searching for memorabilia from Topsfield, Massachusetts, on Ebay. And came up with this:

It doesn't show well in the picture, but the ink is a deep green. My father used to type all his business letters in green ink. He used all capital letters, and invented abbreviations that could be real head scratchers. That green was his signature color.  I was delighted when Melanie shared this little treasure, and fired it off to Chris, who quickly bought it for me. I'm not sure what I will do with it, but I'm delighted to have it. It does make me wonder, though, who would have saved this old book of matches, and why?

Another little life mystery, I suppose. Like why empty space is quickly filled, how certain emotion evoking scents appear from nowhere, and how little reminders of the past suddenly pop up to offer delight.

Monday, June 24, 2019


Experts will tell you that donkeys are extremely intelligent and that they bond deeply with their human.
Jingles previous owner told me that one day her ram knocked her down, injuring her. She was on the ground, and saw the ram "bunching up," ready to butt her again.  If you never been butted by a sheep or goat, please know, it is serious stuff. Some of these animals weigh close to 200 pounds, and they are muscular and fast. Getting butted hurts, and can cause serious injury. Jingles intervened, blocking her human from the ram until she could get up and out of the area.

This donkey has not been here for even 24 hours yet, but she is beginning to bond to me already.When I go out in the pasture she comes right up for attention. This morning I spent a long time brushing her. Donkeys shed their heavy winter coat around this time of year, and they enjoy it when I brush, curry and comb them to help the process along. After our beauty session I invited Bravo into the pasture. I don't know if Jingles has had previous dog experience, but she has been watching Bravo closely and with interest through the fence. 
Donkeys do not like dogs. Sarah and Abraham know my dogs, and mostly co-exist in peace, but I don't really trust them. I watched Jingles carefully when Bravo loped through the gate. She moved away from him, watchful, towards the donkey dorm. I threw his tennis ball, and he tore across the lush grass, then raced back to me. Jingles backed away even more. I threw the ball again, and took my eyes off the donkey as I admired my handsome dog, racing in the early light. He headed back towards me, full tilt, ball in mouth. And from no where, Jingles raced in, placing herself very close to me, blocking me from this obviously scary, threatening, dog. When I got over my surprise, I was quite touched. Clearly she has already decided that I am a human she needs to watch over. I think a lovely friendship is beginning.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Jingles all the way...

A few months ago a favorite customer/friend said, "I know someone who is placing all of her livestock, and she has a really nice donkey. You should get her."  For several long moments I thought this sounded like a great idea. I even called the lady and talked to her about the donkey. A female, (jenny) named Jingles, the same age as Sarah and Abraham. She had been a companion/guardian to the ladies goats for all of her life. But really, I didn't need another donkey, so I talked myself right out of bringing her home. However, my neighbor/friend was looking to add one to her farm, so I gave her the information.  She went and met Jingles, and liked her a lot. An arrangement was made for her to bring Jingles to her farm after kidding season was over and Jingles was done doing her job. I have to admit, I had a pang or two, wishing I had agreed to bring Jingles to our place. A few months went by, and the owner of the donkey called me, "I am ready for Jingles to go to her new home but I lost your friends phone number."  I assured her that I would tell my neighbor to call her, and I did. But meanwhile, my neighbor had taken in two intact Jack (uncastrated male) donkeys, so bringing a female home would be difficult.  She suggested that maybe Jingles would be happy at my place. I was curious about her, so I invited Marion to go with me to meet her. She quipped, "That's a horrible idea. What time?" Two weeks ago we drove about an hour from home and found the farm where Jingles lived, and we all met. 

She was cute as could be, but I have to admit, it was not love at first sight. I liked her, but didn't feel like I just had to bring her home. I told her owner I'd sleep on it and let her know the next morning. And I did. I couldn't help but think that Jingles would be awfully happy here, playing with other donkeys. And I really liked the look in her eye, she appeared to be very wise.  So I called her owner and said I'd like to have her live here. Two nice friends with trucks and horse trailers offered to help me get her here, and today was the day. Patient Marion was the "winner" of the offers to transport. Today was a beautiful day, we set off around 2:00 this afternoon, and enjoyed a lovely drive. We arrived on schedule.  Jingles owner was concerned that we would have difficulty getting her on the trailer, but in fact, she got on with little effort. And off we went, bringing Jingles home.

She rode nicely, and I was so excited to get her out and introduce her to everyone.

Marion led her off the trailer, and up the driveway. Then  she  took her into the back yard. The goats, and both donkeys ran to the gate with great excitement when they saw her.

Jingles brayed a long, loud, bray. Abraham answered. Marion laughed.

We let everyone say hello through the fence for a few minutes. I locked the goats up in their cozy, so the donkeys could have a little privacy to meet.

And to my delight, things went very smoothly. No kicking, no bucking. A little trotting and sniffing, but it was all quite peaceful. 

After a while I let the goats out, and Jingles perked up considerably. These were animals she was  used to being with.

The goats took an instant shine to her, and they all hung out for a while. 

Jingles checked out the toys. Explored the water tub, the grass, tried to see the donkey dorm but was driven out by Sarah. Hopefully they will soon let her share its shelter. As dusk settled, I kept peeking outside. All three donkeys are grazing in a loose bunch. Jingles explored the dorm when the other two were not looking. There has been no kicking, no biting. A little animated trotting, but mostly a very peaceful meeting of the three little mini donks. Chris, Marion and I sat outside and shared a glass of wine, watching the animals. Then the neighbor that originally planned to take Jingles popped in to see her. We all admired her pretty face and intelligent eyes. We watched the three equines interact, and smiled.  This first afternoon looks very promising. It is a happiness to see three chubby donkeys interact.

I went out a while ago, and Jingles came right up to me to get a pat. She accepted a treat,  then went off to examine her new digs in more detail. Now it is dark, but peaceful in the pasture; I am hoping that the donkeys will bond over the next few days, and will all be fast friends. I know I certainly like seeing three long-eared equines poking around the pasture.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Duck drama...

Blanche, Bianca and Bill have settled in nicely since their arrival this spring. At night they go into their coop so I can keep them safe from all the animals that would relish a hefty duck for dinner. Each morning I hear them quacking, "LET US OUT!" and I do. The lady ducks leave lovely eggs that feel like porcelain in one corner, ready for me to collect each day.

 Once released, they eat vast quantities of poultry food, then waddle to their pool where they plunge their heads up and down in the water, blowing bubbles out their nostrils, and perhaps hopping in for a little splash. Then the girls go to the small hole in the fence that we cut so the birds can have access to the pasture. They lower their heads and step through, then go exploring, side by side, across the wide expanse of grass and puddles, nibbling on green shoots and eating bugs.  Poor Bill is beside himself. His wee duck brain cannot grasp how to get through that gap. Every day he stands right there, and watches the chickens and his lady ducks exit and reenter through the wire, but he is stuck in the hen yard, pacing and calling frantically.  I have placed a mound of grain on the other side to tempt him to poke his head though and discover "freedom."  No dice. I have moved his beloved pool to the pasture side of the hole, it goes unused. I fear Bill is a little dim.

In case you are wondering why their pool water is so dark, it is because they "drill" their bills into the dirt, then sift the dirt into the water. Ducks are messy. I fill their pool with clean water every day, and within moments it looks like this. But I digress. 

This morning while I was doing chores, Bravo let me know there was something in the pasture that didn't belong.  He barked his special bark, the one that tells me there is a Raven in the grass, or a seagull, or a FOX. I froze and looked to where he was staring. At first I didn't see anything, except that Bill was desperately trying to wedge through the fence, in a place he simply would not fit.

Then I saw the grass move, and a small dark form, and realized why Bill was so excited.

A little Mallard duck had flown if for a visit! 
Blanche and Bianca bobbed their heads and quacked in pleasant tones. The Mallard quacked back, her voice a higher pitch than the Pekin's.
Poor Bill wanted to meet her up close and in person. But alas, even a lovely guest duck was not enough motivation for him to figure out the elusive poultry pathway.

After a few moments, the Mallard flapped her wings and was gone, whistling over the grass, lifting above the fence and heading towards the mill pond.  The flightless Pekin's craned their necks to watch her go. And Bill remained, prisoner of his own limited thinking, stuck in the hen yard, while inches away the other birds are able to wander to and fro at will. Poor Bill.