Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Poodle drama...

Little Flirt was spayed today.
She is seven years old, and my constant companion.  I guess I was worried about the surgery because I had dreams about uterine related things for several nights.  In last nights dream I was having a hysterectomy, and my vet was performing the surgery.  There were two other women having the same surgery, and we all thought it was just great to be having it done by a veterinarian and not in a more traditional way.

Our normal morning routine is that I let the dogs out, and when they come in they get a cookie or two.  Flirt was displeased when there was no cookie forthcoming.  (She wasn't allowed food or water after midnight.)  When we got to the vet's office she was fine and happy, until she realized I was leaving her there.

I was one of those pet owners.  I brought her own little bed so she would have something familiar to snuggle.  And I asked to go back and put her in the cage.  The staff were understanding and kind, ribbing me just a little.  I sweetened the deal with two fragrant loaves of home made bread, fresh from the oven.

When she was tucked into her cage she began to tremble.  Luckily for me there is a young woman who volunteers there who knows Flirt, and I suspected she might comfort her.

I went home and fretted.  It took some serious will power to prevent myself from calling to check in on her, but I prevailed.  I did, however, keep the phone where I could both see and hear it and snatched it up when I saw the doctor was calling.  I heaved an enormous sigh of relief when his soothing voice assured me that all was well.

Then I counted the hours until I was able to pick her up.  My vet told me that her blood work was "perfect."  Then he raved a little about how nice and clean her teeth are. For those readers who might be less intimately involved with dogs than I am, toy poodles are famous for having horrible teeth. Because their mouths are so small, they tend to build up a lot of tartar and are prone to gum infections. I have known toy poodles as young as 3 years old which had advanced dental disease already.  I take a bit of pride in the fact that Flirt's teeth are sparkling white and her gums healthy.

I asked if I could go get her out of her cage, the vet laughed.  "She's been held most of the day."  It turns out my hunch was right. The volunteer had held her most of the morning until she had her operation, and when I went back a lovely technician had her cuddled up in her arms.  I was unreasonably glad to have her warm little body back in my arms.

Once home she peed, refused supper, threw up on my bed, and finally settled in next to me, under a quilt, and after a long time, stopped trembling.  Every now and then she moans piteously.  She looks drunk and pathetic.

She has pain medication and I am sure she will feel much better tomorrow.  I think the two of us will have a good nights sleep. I'm glad the ordeal is over.  Glad she is fine and home, where she should be, snuggled close to me.

I love this little dog, and the place felt empty without her today. I hope I have many more years to enjoy her blithe, happy spirit in my life.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

And then..

Today one of my regular customers settled in for a chat while I groomed her Chinese Crested dog.
She was clearly enjoying the birds at the feeder, and kept up a running commentary as different varieties appeared.  "Oh, look at that chickadee.  So many doves!  Here's a nuthatch."  I enjoyed seeing her enthusiasm.  "What is that bird?" Busy with my work, I didn't look up.  "It's an eagle," she said in the same breath.

That got my attention.  Sure enough, a mature bald eagle flew from over our house, angling sharply downwards. We had an excellent image of it's broad, white tail feathers and wide, wide wings.  Down it came. I'd never seen one quite so close, and held my breath as it swooped towards the ground, just across the road from our house.  It extended it's legs and in a heartbeat snatched up a dove from the ground.  Then up, and up and off to the edge of the field where it perched in a pine tree.  Instantly, 3 crows appeared and landed on a branch below the eagle. I assume they were hoping to catch any dove crumbs that might be dropped.
I went outside, transfixed.  The eagle called, it's voice clear and high in the still winter air.
And then...

In flew an immature eagle, and landed in a tree nearby.

The adult called again. The wild sound sent tingles down my spine.

And then...
A second immature eagle swooped in.
I was one dove poorer, but three majestic bald eagles richer. Just outside my window.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Some days...

Every once in a while I have a day where I feel like I've been shot out of a cannon, and that I am going at high speed for hours on end, running on sheer adrenaline. I don't like those days, but today was one of them.

It started out with some strange weather.  Yesterday morning it was -2 F., but a warm front came in, bringing wild winds and rain. The temperature climbed into the 30's.  I slept fitfully all night, listening to the wind howl around the house, and fretting a bit about my animals.  As soon as the sun was up I saw that I had a reason to have worried, two of the rabbit hutches, (which house 4 rabbits,) were flooded.  I hustled outside with the dogs, and realized problem #2.  The yard was so icy that even the dogs, with claws and "4 paw drive," could barely navigate to do important morning dog business.  They skidded, slipped and slid across the glaring expanse of lawn.  If they were having problems walking, it did not bode well for me.

I crept ever so gingerly to the pasture, and peered into the rabbit hutches, hoping against hope that they were somehow dry, despite the fact that I was standing in water just outside their doors. They were not.  Luckily both hutches had a small area where the bedding was deeper then the rest, so the rabbits had a tiny space to get up out of the frigid water, but most of their enclosure was standing in an inch of wet.  The bunnies looked pretty miserable.  I picked my way carefully back to the garage and set up two large dog crates. This was no easy task, because the garage is a hot mess, and finding a spot to set up crates took some wizardry and muscle.  I put dry shavings in them, and then found a plastic tote and gingerly minced back out to the poor, sodden bunnies.  I climbed into the girl rabbits hutch and caught them, one at a time, and tucked their wet little bodies into the tote. I grabbed their food and water bowls and risked life and limb once again to slide across the yard and get them to safety.  They looked surprised but not unhappy with their new venue, and soon were tucking into a breakfast of broccoli, apples, carrots and fresh hay.  One more trip back outside to gather up the boy bunnies.  All told I made a dozen or more harrowing treks back and forth getting everyone fed, watered and settled.  I almost fell on two occasions, but managed to stay upright thanks to the grips on my boots, extreme caution and sheer determination.
Once all the animals were fed, watered and safe, I went inside to start my work day.  My first dog was scheduled to arrive at 10:00.  I was just ready to hop in the shower at 9:00, when my dogs began to bark. To my dismay, there was a customer coming up the path. One I had neglected to write down in my appointment book.  Covered in hay and shavings and smelling like wet rabbit, I flew down the stairs and let her in. She left her dog, I ran back upstairs and got clean and dressed, and then groomed that dog at warp speed.  My next customer came right on time, but the one after that was 15 minutes early, and the one after that 30 minutes early! I managed to get all these dogs done, but it was not a peaceful pace I worked at.  

The next  grooms went a bit more smoothly, but I was still trying to beat the clock, because I had my farrier coming to take care of the horse and donkey's hooves around 3:00.  There was no time to answer the phone let alone grab breakfast or lunch.  It was rush in top gear all day.  Rushing and working with animals does not go well, because when one rushes accidents can happen.  I concentrated very hard on my work and all the dogs left looking and feeling fine. I'm pretty sure they felt better than I did. 

The farrier arrived, and I had the horse and donkey ready with their halters on.  Normally I lead them out to the driveway so he does not have to go far, or be interfered with by my nosy goats, but I didn't dare walk either animal over the back yard for fear they would slip and fall.  (I spent a good bit of the day wondering how one gets a horse up if she slips on ice. Luckily she is old and wise and kept herself safely in the shed most of the day.)  The farrier strapped grips on his boots and fearlessly braved the yard and pasture.  The horse and donkey stood on the one small patch of bare land they could reach, and were both very well behaved while their hooves got trimmed.  

The icy lawn had not improved during the day, but I had to traverse it several more times while I got all the animals fed and tucked in for the night.  Again, I managed to stay vertical, which seemed like a major victory considering the conditions.  

It was a relief to come into the warm house once all the critters were cared for. I put on cozy, comfy clothes and snuggled up on the couch. I plan to stay right here until bed time. Or until my pulse slows down. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Random thoughts...

The Christmas decorations are being wrapped up and stowed.  It's always a little sad to tuck them into their dark boxes and banish them to the garage.  Chris brought me roses and it cheered me up considerably to have them to fill up the spaces where the cheery holiday decorations were.

The wild birds are eating epic amounts of seed.  The thermometer is hovering in the low single digits and it must take a lot of fuel to keep them going.  This wee red breasted nuthatch didn't mind a bit that I was there, inches away, filling the feeders.  He was just waiting for more grub to appear.  Oddly, I have a bluebird here. In January.  In the bitter cold.  He comes to the feeder and looks dissapointed.  I have put out fruit and meal worms for him, and hope he finds enough to keep his inner furnace stoked.  

I spent a few happy minutes trying to capture water dripping off the ice-cycles that decorate our eves.  Out of 70 pictures, I got two. It was a fun challenge. 

Of the many thoughtful gifts we received this Christmas, this one is especially terrific.  Friends Megan and Scott used an old barn board and stenciled it with this nautical blessing that we love.  I am trying it out in a variety of places to find where it belongs.  I'll know it when I find it.  It looks pretty good here.
Despite the brutal temperatures the animals seem to be doing well.  The horse, donkey and goats eat and Eat and EAT some more, At night the goats sleep in a pile, sharing body heat.  The ducks wisely keep to their house, instead of patrolling the pasture like they do in better weather. They come out only to drink and splash in the water pan when I fill it three times a day. A few brave chickens come out of the coop to potter about in the snow, but they don't stay out long, They are all on the roost early, ready for a long winters nap.  I've been going to bed early, too. I agree with the chickens, long, cold winter nights are best spent sleeping under layers of feathers.  

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Aerial drama...

There has been a fascinating drama playing out in the clear, domed sky above my farmlette this week.I first noticed it on Monday.  While hauling a load of hay out to the stock, Bravo pup caught my eye. He was sitting stock still and alert, staring at the roof of the house.  A quick glance there showed me a gull perched on the shingles.  The ocean is less than 20 miles from here,  and seeing gulls around the place is unusual, but not rare.  Apparently Bravo was unfamiliar with them, and found it troublesome that one was on our roof.  He woofed and it departed.

Later that morning my peripheral vision caught movement of a large bird outside the window.  An adult bald eagle, flying low, swooped majestically past. Hot on its heels, and screaming boldly, the gull.  They pair made three passes around the house, but vanished before I got my camera to capture the scene.  

This morning dawned cold, with whirling frost so thick on the windows the early light struggled to seep in.  On the deck the thermometer hovered at 5 degrees. I gathered up sliced apples and carrots for the animals, donned lined overalls, an insulated jacket, warm knit cap and heavy boots.  Hand warmers tucked into my gloves were a treat, and Bravo and I braved the cold.  I hauled warm water to the ducks and chickens, scattered corn for them to hunt for and filled their food bowls to the brim.  A bale of hay for the goats, horse and donkey was dragged across the icy lawn and greeted happily. The animals pushed their faces into it, inhaling deeply through the ice left on their whiskers where warm breath met winter chill to inhale the sweet scent of summer. 

It was then I heard it, coming from the direction of the pond.  The gull's screaming call, echoing in the empty morning air.  Bravo heard it, too, and craned his neck upwards. The sound reached us before we ever saw the bird, louder and more piercing as it approached. The sun illuminated its white underbelly as it circled overhead, calling.  Then I heard another familiar cry. That of an eagle.  I searched skyward, then let my eyes scan the tree line near the pond.  I saw it there, dark body, white head, motionless at the top of an ancient pine.  It called again and again, sounding like a challenge.  The gull responded, and wheeled around, headed for the pine.  The eagle chortled and lifted off, heading north.  The gull dove in to chase, and they were away.  

Curiosity led me to my keyboard.  A quick search informed me that gulls, crows, and other bold birds will often "mob" eagles.  In many cases several of the smaller birds will gang up on the eagle to attempt to drive it out of their territory. In this case it seems to be one angry gull with a harsh vendetta. I can't help but wonder why, or how the story will end. 


Wednesday, January 4, 2017


Shortly after 6:00 AM our daughter sent a text message to her dad saying that it was very icy outside and that he should be sure I had creepers on my boots.  For those of you who do not live where ice and snow cover the earth, let me tell you that creepers are marvelous things that fit over the sole of your boot on rubbery webbing.  The bottom part of the creepers has strong metal teeth that make walking feel very funny, but give one an amazing amount of traction when walking on ice.  Chris had made a special trip to buy me some exceptionally good quality, expensive, sturdy creepers because we learned this spring that none of us likes it when I fall and hurt myself.  The problem was that my creepers kept popping off my boots.  I'd go a few steps then see Bravo fly by shaking one gleefully in his teeth after he had found it laying in the snow.  It was maddening.  And dangerous, because I didn't always notice that one or both had come off, and was acting as if I did have creepers even though sometimes I didn't.

Above you will see a photo of my oh-so-fashionable muck boot, a shot of the boot with the creepers installed, and a close up of the metal grips.  I hope whoever invented them made a lot of money, because they are nifty as heck.

Shortly after the text warning about the ice arrived I was down stairs rustling up breakfast.  I heard the pitter patter of my husbands feet coming down, too.  This was a clear break in routine. Normally I get up, let the dogs out, and cook.  He showers, listens to NPR at top volume, and dresses for work.  I peered around the corner to see what was up.  He stood before me, in au naturel glory, holding this:

A very serious staple gun.  He had a mischievous grin on his face.  He grabbed my boots and the creepers and stapled those suckers firmly on.  I stood with my mouth agape. Staples. In my good boots.  But the beauty of the plan was not lost on me. I realized that the creepers were going no where.  With the satisfied look of a man who has done a job well, he marched back upstairs to complete his morning rituals.  I fried two eggs and cooked some sausage, smiling all the time.  What a guy.

The second laugh-worthy item I wanted to share with you happened a while back, and I keep forgetting to mention it.  But I smile every time I think about it, and hope someday to solve the mystery of who it is behind all these smiles.  We have a funny little room in our house that we turned into a very useful pantry.  There is an extra refrigerator in there to store drinks and overflow food when we entertain, a huge chest freezer and several lovely shelving units.  I keep things like big roasters and my Crock Pot, ice cream maker and other bulky kitchen items that take up prime cabinet real estate.  Extra glass and dishware are stashed here, too, and some bulk food items.  We store many things in large, 2 quart Mason jars. Sugar, confectionery sugar, rice, pasta, salt, all tucked into the jars and stored neatly. Interestingly, many of the things stored in these jars is white.  We have most of them neatly labeled with canning labels, but a few have sticky notes slapped on to them instead.

Shortly after Thanksgiving I was looking for something in the pantry and noticed this:
Some very clever (and tall) soul had taken the sticky note off of a big old jar of baking soda and turned it around.  In red ink they wrote, "Cocaine."  I am wryly delighted with this whimsical, comical, mystery. So, if whoever did it will please fess up, that would be great.

I cherish moments that make the corners of my mouth turn up.  Luckily they happen often.

(Note: to those, such as my sisters, who will be appalled to think that we have so much baking soda, please know it is fed to goats to prevent upset tummies.)

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Last day of the year...

I woke well before dawn and toyed with the idea of getting up, but it is very cold outside, (11 F) and the bed was awfully warm and comfortable.  So I stayed where I was, and thought about the closing year.

Many people are wishing 2016 away, saying what a horrid year it has been.  Like every year, bad things happened... storms, sickness, fires. People died, there is war and terror and sadness. The presidential election was ugly and fraught with hard feelings. But there were good things, too, and I focused on those as the emerging sun changed the sky from black to grey.

My sweet daughter changed our lives for the better this spring after I fell and dislocated my shoulder. I was unable to work for many months, and she cheerfully put her own goals aside and took the burden onto her own strong shoulders while I healed.  We had a good time working side by side... three arms are better than two, and she accomplished the goal she stated early on, "I want us to look back at this time and think, 'We got through that nicely.'"

That injury also made me re-assess my physical health in general and set some goals to hopefully help me stay strong and fit as I barrel along towards my sixth decade on this lovely, spinning, planet.

Of course, Chris was a rock during the trying months of healing, too.
He picked up much of my work load around the house and farmlette.  He even got up with Bravo, our new puppy, every night from when he arrived in May until his bladder became mature enough to allow him to sleep until morning.  "You rest and heal," he said. "I've got this." And he did.

Bravo has been one of the best things that happened this year.  He is a joy to be around, and I am grateful every day for his sweet presence in our lives.

After a health scare with Chanel, the 30 year old horse, I was gifted with some epic kindness and skill in the form of team work from our large animal veterinarian and farrier.  Knowing I was unable to work they came to our aide at drastically reduced prices on behalf of the horse, and soon set her right.  She is well and happy, and cheerfully goes through my pockets every time I enter the pasture, looking for treats.

Abraham came to live at FairWinds this year.  His braying song makes me smile every time he sings it, and his funny personality adds a whole new dimension of happy to the barnyard.

Luna, my first and favorite goat, is still with us despite her puzzling and precarious health.  That is something to be gleeful about.

A book I co-authored was published and I was accepted as a blogger for Thrive Global, a new publication by Arianna Huffington.

I was the glad recipient of many kind wishes, thoughts, prayers, home cooked meals, special salves meant to ease my shoulder pain, cards and more after my injury.  And I got to meet my wonderful physical therapist, Marsha.  She made a profound impact on my life as she helped my body heal.

As I close the gate on '16, I will focus on the kindness, caring, and sweet moments of the past year. Sitting here, in my cozy house, I lift a mug of hot chocolate and drink with gratitude.  Thankful for lessons learned, smiles shared, generosity given, and love.  It is time to feed and water the livestock, breath deeply of the cold winter air and turn my face to the brightening sky, looking forward to the gifts to come in the New Year.