Sunday, November 5, 2017

November and gratitude ...

I love the month of November.  Even in New England the weather is often mild, with lots of gray, crisp, days that make cozy clothing and a fire in the wood stove seem just right. It's a month to make hearty casseroles and fragrant soups, home made bread, or pans of corn bread steaming in a cast iron skillet.  With the busy days of summer behind us, the firewood stacked and the gardens put to bed, it seems a time to take a deep breath and rest a bit.

And there is Thanksgiving, like a bright promise on the calendar.  Usually this holiday marks our biggest party of the year here at FairWinds.  This year, however, the wedding overshadowed it, and the thought of feeding a mere 15-20 people instead of 80 seems like a walk in the park. Besides which, much of the normal preparation of the house and yard has been done in advance for the wedding festivities.  And, because we have hosted Thanksgiving for so many years, and because we quite like the same old menu we have been been preparing for all this time (with a few slight variations along the way) cooking the meal is a familiar and comfortable exercise.

Today I unpacked some favorite Thanksgiving decorations.  A cornucopia basket to hold some squash and such...
the handsome, colorful turkey and a copper bowl full of dried flowers join with hand knit pumpkins from my niece to cozy up the top of the 'fridge.

I gathered up some of the remains from the wedding flowers and made a happy decoration for the dining room table.  I like how Bravo is photo bombing the first shot.

As I puttered about and placed holiday items here and there I was warmed to think about how soon the house will be filled with family and friends and the savory scents of the traditional feast.

And the clocks changed to standard time. Most people I know complain bitterly about this, but to me it feels like I've been given a whole extra  hour to do with what I will.  I like how evening gathers early and the warm light from the house spills out the windows, welcoming.  It feels so cozy. It makes for long nights cuddled up with a good book (or my laptop!) and early bedtimes.

The leaves are mostly gone from the trees, the ones that are left are coppery and rich.  Now I can see the pond from my windows, glinting beyond the barren branches.  The horse, goats and donkey grow thick, luxurious coats. I push my fingers in deep and feel the warmth held close to their skins. They lean in for more attention, enjoying the sensation. The garage walls are lined with bale after bale of hay, perfuming the air in the sweetest possible way. I carry it by the armload out to the animals, and lean on the fence, watching them greedily pull mouthfuls of summer-scented food into their ever-hungry mouths.  Flocks of Canada geese V overhead, transporting me back to my childhood home when I hear their lonesome calls. In an instant I am raking leaves with my father, and smelling the scent of them burning from their fragrant piles, as tendrils of smoke climb up into the pewter sky to meet the migrating geese.

Yes, I love November.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The kind of man I married...

This morning I had things planned rather tightly.  I had two dogs that belong to friends here for a sleepover, so I was up early to take them for a nice walk.  Then I did animal chores, prepared my weekly deposit from work, and then bathed, dried and brushed one of the dogs that had stayed here.  I had to leave the house by 9:30 to get Bravo to a training class at 10:00.  Chris got up early so he could take my truck, which was filled with bags of trash and bins of recycling, to the transfer station.  He didn't want me to have to drive all the way to class with a truck bed full of things that might fly out.  He timed things carefully, and filled my truck with gas while he was at it.  He takes great pride in filling my gas tank each week so that I never have to do it.  He pulled into the driveway at 9:29, truck pre-heated, tank full, bed empty, and a bonus.  A fresh donut, which he had carefully wrapped and stashed over the defroster vent so it was toasty warm when he handed it to me.  Ahhhh.
He had spent the time while I was gone running errands and catching up on laundry. We had more than usual due to being without electricity for a couple of days, and because, to be honest, I stink at doing laundry.  When I got back I finished grooming the visiting dog, and then Chris suggested that it would be nice to go for a little drive and grab a bite of lunch out.  I mentioned that a favorite store was having a big sale, and I happened to have a generous gift card to that store from my nice sisters-in-law.  "Saddle up!" he said, and we were off.  We had some excellent seafood and I couldn't help but notice that several other couples in the place sitting, eating, and not talking.  Chris kept the conversation humming along, and I laughed so loudly a few times that heads turned.  This guy is never boring.

Next he took me to the store with the big sale, and waited very, very patiently while I tried on a lot of things. He weighed in on color choices when I found a very cozy jacket to buy. Back in the car he took an unexpected detour and explained, "You'll want ice cream." Well, of course I would. I always do.  He treated me to a cone and we headed home.

Chris works hard at a job that marries complicated technology and users of that technology.  He has this amazing gift of being able to explain the perplexing working of computers, cell phones, tablets and the like, to people, without ever seeming condescending.  4 days a week he has a one hour commute each way, and one (or sometimes more) days he also has to drive an additional hour or so to different offices.  Many a day he leaves the house by 6:00 AM and does not get home till after 7:00 PM.  He never complains. But on the weekends he really, really, likes to indulge in a nap. And he likes it even better if I join him.  By and large I am not big on sleeping in the middle of the day. Napping can make me oddly grumpy. So most times I'll go snuggle up with him and read a good book. This time of year, when the temperature is a bit crisp, my hands, arms and shoulders get cold because they are not under the covers, but rather, are out in the air.  And sometimes after I've clutched the book for a long time I get to feeling really chilly, and I'll set the book down and draw the covers up over my icy skin.  And then I feel drawn to my husbands warmth. "The furnace of my being glows brightly," he often quips, and when one is feeling chilled to the bone, snuggling a very warm husband seems like a good idea.  So I snake my frozen arms around him, feeling a pang of guilt because I know how perfectly horrible it feels to be all warm and somnolent and have someone who is the opposite of warm touch you.  He never flinches.  Instead he wraps his big arms around me, pulling me tight, and sharing his toastyness. That's the kind of man I married.  Warm donuts, warm conversation, and endless patience, even when confronted with frosty skin. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Bravo wins big, (and other deep thoughts...)

Friday I skipped out of work early and hit the road.  Bravo was riding shotgun.  We headed north, on some scenic back roads, until we hit 95, then we drove, and drove, and drove some more. Soon there were no towns, just numbers. We were deep in what Mainers call, "the county." I listened to a book on Audible, and it was terrific, making the miles fly by.

 Finally we arrived in Presque Isle, a sweet little college town. We'd been there before, last spring, for a similar event. Dog training in a discipline called "Wag It Games."  Bravo and I have been training in Games since he was a young pup,we both think it's a lot of fun. This time he was 6 months older, and it really showed.  He was calm, confident, and paid good attention to me as we trained, and later as we trialed.  The proof, as they say, was in the pudding.

It went like this, both Saturday and Sunday mornings we had fun lessons and trained.After a friendly lunch, there were trials to see how much the dogs knew about the things we had worked on.  The top picture is from Saturday, when Bravo won some very nice ribbons.  The second picture was on Sunday, when he got a whole new slew of ribbons and his first "title" ribbon, which he found to be quite tasty. He was such a good boy, all weekend long, and we both had a really good time.

The weather took a nasty turn Monday morning, with hurricane force winds. I drove home white knuckled all the way.  Bravo, however, felt fully confident in my abilities, and snoozed happily the entire trip. There were many trees down along the roadsides,and huge gusts of wind buffeted and bluffeted my little truck.  Over 500,000 homes in Maine were without power. Including ours.

The weather was unseasonably warm, which was good. Except for the fact that I have several big freezers filled with locally raised pork, beef, and home raised chickens.  I went to bed last night fretting and worrying about things thawing. All day today there was no power. I could not work.  I cleaned the kitchen, and the bathroom, and the the front and living rooms. I cleaned the wood stove, swept the floors.

Rachel had brought me a special book to read.  When I was a child I adored the Little House series of books, written by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I still have the collection, and re-read them from time to time.  Rachel had found a book called Caroline, Little House, Revisited. Based in the 1870's, it takes the story of the famous family into account from the mothers point of view. She
was a very young  woman, pregnant, with two little girls. She and her husband packed everything they could fit into a wagon and headed west, pioneers, in search of a dream.  I paused between cleaning chores, (with no running water and no electricity) and snuggled on the sofa, reading Caroline's story.  My brief period of not having electricity paled in comparison to her life, and put the little pause in my regular routine nicely into perspective.

The house feels different when there is no electricity. Even during the day, with the light steaming in, things are oddly quiet. There is no hum from the refrigerator and freezers. No sound of water rushing through the pipes as the washing machine or dishwasher spin and churn.  No music from the stereo, no whir of the fan of the computer.If I wake in the night, there is no glowing face of the electric clock, no familiar swish of  the window fan. And since we have well water, there is no flushing the commode. I missed that most of all.
The dogs notice the quiet, too. They seem a little subdued.

I grilled bratwurst outside at dusk, and kept it warm on the wood stove. And then, in a whoosh, the lights were on.  Magic, really.  What would Caroline Ingalls have thought of all the conveniences I enjoy?  I try hard not to take them for granted, always, but especially so after doing without for 30 hours or more.

So tonight, I am grateful for a lovely weekend away with my smart puppy, (such NICE people there!)
 safe travels, great books, electricity, the people that keep electricity coming to my home and running water.  That's a lot to be grateful for.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Taste of fall...

It was another beautiful, warm day, but I know cooler fall weather is around the corner.  I left the house early this morning for some errands and appointments, and when I got home decided I should take advantage of the lovely temperatures and put my front flower gardens to bed for the winter.  They have been so riotously flower-filled all summer, I was sad to see them go, but had to admit they were looking bedraggled.

I pulled the dying plants up by big armfuls, filling my enormous wheel barrow to overflowing, twice.

I know most people must struggle with what to do with all those plants.  I have no problem, however.

The goats, styling in their blaze orange, hunting season finery,  mobbed me at the gate, tearing huge mouthfuls of plants off the wheel barrow as I tried to move it out to the manure pile. I gave up and dumped it about 15 feet from the gate, and they descended upon the mess as if it were a fabulous smorgasbord.

Our visiting buck found the rose bush clippings to be particularly delectable.

Halfway through the project I popped back in the house to get supper started. I tucked a roaster chicken, raised right here, some local squash and sweet potatoes, into my trusty cast iron skillet.  Then I poured a mix of melted butter, honey, lemon juice, garlic and rosemary over everything and slid it all into the oven.  A harvest season meal, for certain.  As I dug and hauled I could catch the occasional tantalizing whiff of it cooking as a breeze wafted the scent out of the open kitchen window.

The next time I have a little free time I will rake the beds to rid them of the last stems and leaves and smooth the dirt. I should also cut back the foliage from the lilies, I realize now as I look at these pictures.  But the bulk of this job is done.

I fed the animals, threw Bravo a ball one hundred times and locked up the chickens, while a blood-orange sun sank behind the ridge. The lights from indoors were warm and welcoming as I kicked my dirty boots off on the deck. I came inside to find supper perfectly done and the house perfumed with savory smells.

It was a good day.

Sunday, October 22, 2017


Sometimes the planets align and things fall magically into place.  That happened today.
It only took a few polite emails and some brief phone calls, and then Charles from Tramps Rest Farm put a smelly billy goat in the back of his car and brought him to visit. Because it is the time of year when my lady goats are in the mood for LOVE!  I know this because they wag their funny little tails at a furious speed, bleat and baaa and talk more than usual, plus they seem very annoyed with each other, head butting and carrying on like a bunch of kids on the school playground. Most breeds of goats only come into estrus in the fall. They cycle through around every 21 days from around September till January or so.  Unless, that is, they get a visit with someone like Yazgur.

He is a Saanen buck, the same breed as my beloved Spirit goat. And not only THAT, but he has waddles, the little dangley things that hang off some goats necks. They are known as "goat jewelry" and I adore them. AND he is polled, which means he carries the genetic trait of being born with no horns. If his kids inherit this trait they won't have to undergo the horrid process of "disbudding," where the tiny horns are burnt off when the kids are very young. 

Yazgur made a bee line for Spirit the moment he entered the pasture.  He's a young guy, just born this spring, and these are the first ladies he has had an opportunity to, ah, entertain. That dirty face?  Bucks have a strange idea about how to be appealing to the girls.  They like to pee on their legs and faces, spreading the strong, hormone-laden smell of their urine all around.  Icky to humans, irresistible to lady goats.

Chanel came right up to check out the new comer.  When I first brought a buck here 6 years or so ago, Chanel had a huge temper tantrum. She ran and raced and bucked and snorted, furious by the sight and smell of the guy.  Wiser now, the two touched noses and all was well.

Abraham ignored him.

He zipped from goat to goat, inhaling deeply, and finally decided that Ella smelled just delicious.

I'll spare you more graphic pictures, but there was a whole lot of action going on in the pasture at FairWinds today.  And in 5 months there will hopefully be a flock of darling goatlings frolicking about.  And some of them will be pure bred Saanens. That will delight me. 

Sometimes the stars align and things fall into place.  This was one of those times. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

New project...

For months my energy has been directed towards THE. WEDDING. And now the wedding is over and I had a couple days of "down time."  Today I was back to work, with a very busy schedule.  And then my neighbor stopped by, asking if I could give up some goat milk to help a littler of new piglets.  Their mama is not doing well and has stopped producing milk. Of course I could!

Thirty minutes later the neighbor was back.  "Would you consider taking a few piglets?"  Of course I would!

In a blink these three babies were tucked into a crate in the grooming room.

Their farmer told me that even though they are only 3 days old, they could probably learn to drink out of a pan.  I warmed up some goat milk and quickly found that she is right. They are hardly neat, but they sucked down milk and then piled up for a cozy nap under the heat lamp.

Bravo thinks they are fascinating, and spent much of the day watching them, and licking their little faces if they pressed them to the bars of the cage.

Funny how the universe delivered a new project just when my old project was completed.