Saturday, January 12, 2019


The thermometer read 3 degrees this morning when I went out to take care of the animals. The cats were making use of their new heated hut. They ate a good breakfast then went out to explore. Clack snuck into the house at one point, and nabbed the bed in front of the wood stove. He looked quite content there.
Soon he asked to be let out again, and happily spent the day dashing around with his brother.

Rachel and I went to the local volunteer fire department for the morning. They were holding their annual rabies vaccination clinic. This is a fund raiser for the department, and a wonderful service where people can get a low cost vaccine for their pet. We have gone the last two years and trimmed nails for a $10 donation to the department, as well. Today we happily raised $210 in just two hours. We met some nice people and saw a lot of interesting dogs. 

After the clinic I put on warm clothes, braced myself, and headed outside with Bravo. We checked on all the animals, filling up water containers and topping off food bowls. The donkey dorm was not as springtime fresh as I like, so I shoveled and swept. Soon I didn't notice how cold it was.  The goats "helped," poking their naughty noses into my pockets looking for treats. A thick layer of clean shavings was spread around. Next I took Sarah's boot and bandage off her hoof, and spread the special medication on. A new bandage was applied, and her little boot put back on. She seemed quite happy, and soon she and Abraham were running back and forth through the snow, playing. I was warm from my exertions, so Bravo and I began walking around the pasture. 

Bravo danced and played. I admired the unblemished sheet of white on the meadow. In a moment I heard a thundering sound. I turned around and saw donkeys and goats barreling in my direction. They have not set foot on the fresh snow of the pasture in days. But since I was out there, they came gamboling along for a stroll.  Soon I had a donkey on either side of me, nodding their heads companionably, walking where I walked. The goats reared and twisted and butted heads, staying close. I tried to get a picture or video, but it was so cold my phone camera just shut down. 

I handed out snacks for all, and after our companionable romp, they all tucked into the clean shed. 
Bravo and I settled down in the warm house, checking another cold winter day off the calendar. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Winter woes...

A few inches of snow fell yesterday, then in the evening temperatures rose and it rained. When I went out to do chores, the back yard and entire pasture were glare ice.  I have aggressive ice grips on my boots, but still walked very carefully. Spirit goat was very unsure about walking to the milk stand, but with some encouragement, and slow going, she got there and back. The poor donkeys didn't want to set foot out of their shed, and I couldn't blame them.  Hard, slick soled feet on top of wet ice would be a dangerous combination. They couldn't reach their hay rack or their water tub. I didn't have a lot of time, but I quickly scooped all the bedding out of their room, and put it into my trusty two wheeled cart.  Then I walked towards the hay rack, tossing a fork full of shavings every few feet, to create a little bit of grippy surface on top of the ice. They figured out what I as doing in a twinkling.

Sarah, above, would walk only as far as I had spread the shavings, then wait for me to come and toss another fork full on the ice.  I made a trail to the hay rack and the donkeys tried it out. Then I turned and walked to the water bucket, and the little guys followed along, checking out my activity every step of the way.  They took a big drink, then ambled back to the shed.

If you look at he picture above, you can see that Sarah has a little boot on her left rear foot.
Several of you have asked how she is doing. The farrier was here three days ago, and cut a good deal more of the front of her infected hoof off. The White Line disease had reached almost to where her hoof joined her leg. I wasn't really sure what I was looking at that was under where the hoof had been removed, and to be honest, it made me feel a little squeamish. Our veterinarian came the next day, and said it all looked pretty good. I got brave and asked, "What am I looking at under where her hoof was?"  She gave me a sideways glance and replied, "Actually, that is bone." I was right to feel squeamy! Poor little girl. The vet said, "It's going to be a long haul. It will take 6 months or so for that hoof to regrow, but she's going to be ok, and she's not in pain. She's a happy donkey."

The doctor brought a boot for Sarah to wear to protect her foot as it heals. Actually, she brought two. One more expensive, soft and squishy. The other hard and not as nicely made. Of course I wanted the squishy one, but sadly it was too big.  The other one fits perfectly. I cut some padding to slip inside and make the bottom more comfortable. We will try to get the better one in her size. A girl's gotta have nice boots! In case you are wondering, they look something like this, below. Stout Velcro holds it snugly to her foot. After the first moment or two, she has paid no attention at all to it, but I suspect she wishes it came in designer colors!

The donkeys seem to be bored, there is not much to do with all the snow and ice on the ground, and they are not getting as many visitors as they normally do.  Chris nicely bought a special treat to distract them. It's a hard ball, about the size of a softball. It is made of seeds and grains, and compressed with something sweet. It's as hard as a block of wood.  The instructions are to hang it, about eye level, where the donkeys cannot press it against a wall. I slung a rope up over the rafter, and they watched with great interest. As soon as I was done, they tested it out, pronto.  They nibble and lick, and the ball swings and sways.  Soon both of their heads were covered with the sticky sweetener, but they didn't care.  They have spent hours playing with it, but have barely made a dent in it. It's a nice distraction these long, dull days.

It was dusk when I hung it, so the picture isn't very good, but you can see that the donkeys are quite entertained. And that is only fair...

because they certainly entertain ME!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Years end...

Christmas eve found us with 9 around our festive table. There were appetizers,  and a rather magnificent rib roast, cooked with an obscene amount of garlic, a dozen bay leaves, and a couple cups of good red wine. We also made some creamy mashed potatoes, and Rachel and Evans brought a lovely salad and warm gingerbread with whipped cream for dessert. I think it is safe to say no one went home hungry.
Christmas morning, there were goodie-filled stockings for "the kids," and a squishy new bed, piles of squeaky toys and some special treats for the dogs.

After an exceptional breakfast, we opened gifts. Each carefully and thoughtfully chosen to delight its recipient.  Love in bright ribbons and bows. Chris got a long-wished for Panama hat.

I was given some amazing vintage items.

And Evans was a good sport about his funny shirt.

The livestock had sliced apples and carrots, along with other delicacies 

After the holidays Chris and I made a trip south to my sister and brother-in-law's house. The same house my dad built before I was born, and where I had the good fortune to grow up. It was beautifully decorated and bunches of loved ones came to share supper with us. I got to hold my sleeping 3 year old great niece in my arms for a precious time, and couldn't help but think how pleased my parents would be to know that we were still gathering and celebrating special occasions inside those dear walls.

 I went to visit them, too. 

My sister, niece and I had a sweet trip to a place I used to love as a child, Putnam Pantry. It features a make your own sundae bar, with the most delicious toppings.  One room still has the original pink tiled tables, and soda fountain chairs. The wall paper is even the same. Entering the door my senses were immersed in the things that memories are made of. The sight, the sound and especially the smell. I remembered sticky birthday parties, trips with my siblings, or just with my mom, a few dates with my first love. It was all delicious.

Farewell 2018. Despite some bumps along the way, you were delectable. 

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Donkeys and such...

Sarah donkey has a sore hoof. Her doctor has instructed that I soak it for 40 minutes, 3 times a week. Rachel has mastered the art of putting the soaking boot on so it stays. When I put it on, Sarah is able to shake it off in about 30 seconds.  Last week we had a fine, warm, morning and I tried my best to put that boot on snugly. I could tell it wasn't going to stay though, so adjusted it and resigned myself to sitting outside and keeping her still while she soaked. I upended a muck bucket, and grabbed a brush, then sat there, holding on to Sarah's lead rope while she soaked. She was happy for the company and stood very still. I brushed her dear face, her funny little mane, and down her broad back. I brushed her tail and her curvy hips and down her legs. I cleaned her hooves and then brushed her round belly and sturdy chest. She liked all of it, and before I knew it, had rested her head in my lap! Her eyes were shut and there she stayed, for long, lovely, minutes. Meanwhile, Abraham stood nearby, and I brushed him, too.  When I took a break, he moved behind me, and rested his chin on my shoulder.

And there I was. Being actively snuggled by donkeys. It was a very special time.

In the mail yesterday I received a little envelope from the woman who gave Sarah to me. I was delighted when I opened it up.

A little, red, needle-felted donkey. She is now hanging on our Christmas tree. I love the little smile on her face, and the sparkle in her eye. 

My customers enjoy the donkeys, too. Some even bring them gifts. 

We had a pretty little snow storm last week. My neighbor snapped this picture of the back of our house on her way to work. 

And I captured this shot of our arbor while I was shoveling. 

I have had a lovely Christmas season. I've been enjoying listening to my favorite music, baking cookies, and grooming many, many dogs and cats during these busy weeks. I'll be sad when it's over, but am excited to see what joys the New Year has in store. 

Friday, December 14, 2018

Flirt and festoons...

Nine years ago a random messaging conversation with a friend suddenly had me agreeing to buy a puppy.  A toy poodle puppy, to be exact.  I have a list of breeds of dogs I'd love to live with before I die, and toy poodle was never on that list. Yet, I had an overwhelming feeling that this little girl was meant to be mine.

 I picked her up in Georgia at a grooming trade show. To be brutally honest, it wasn't love at first sight. She was kind of homely as a baby. Her coat was wispy, her body long and legs short. Her ears were set rather high on her head. She weighed 2.5 pounds and soon let me know that though her body was wee, her spirit was huge. We named her Flirt, and it was a name well chosen. This girl never meets a human that she does not love.  And she pretty much demands that they love her in return. From infants to elders, she simply adores people. Happiest when she is with me, if I am not available, other folks will do. She has certain special humans that she adores beyond measure, (JCA!) but in general, she is just a people "person." She is a happy, sweet girl, and a most excellent snuggle buddy.

This week we celebrated her ninth birthday. Other than the fact that she is not shy about leaving the occasional "poodle bomb" on the floor of the laundry room, and that her voice is akin to the tone of a smoke detector, she is a grand companion. I love her beyond reason, and am so glad she is mine.

On a different note...

I would like to be the sort of person who is crafty, but really, I'm not.  Still, every once in a while I pull off a little project I am pleased with.  As I was taking down the last of the autumn decorations and beginning to replace them with Christmas things, I decided it would be a shame to throw away all the pretty dried hydrangea blossoms I had gathered.  A wee spark of "crafty" glimmered. I fanned it into a flame and off I went.

I carried them out to the garage, and a few at a time, I put them in a big, cardboard box. I had picked up a can of copper spray paint, and away I went, gilding each cluster with coppery highlights.

I let them dry overnight, and the next day went for a walk with my hedge clippers, and pruned a few trees. Then I got out my very fun vintage looking lights. They are shaped like pinecones, and have a warm glow.

With a little time I festooned three horizontal surfaces in the front room and living room.
On top of the tall television cabinet I changed things up a little. I have a short strand of little electric candles that flicker sweetly. I clipped each candle on to a sturdy branch and stood back, well pleased. 
Meanwhile, the Christmas tree was bought and decorated.

There are certain ornaments that I am delighted to greet every year, like old, special, friends. 
 The fabric heart I made in high school.

 The "first married Christmas" ornament,(interestingly enough, given to my by the grandmother of my first boyfriend.)

And of course, "baby's first Christmas," (a special gift from my thoughtful sister Deb.)  Each helps me to remember special times in years past.

As I was decorating, James Taylor sang to me. There was one song that I have heard a thousand times or more, but on that day I really listened. The song was "Secret o' Life." The lyric that resonated was, "The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time." And that is just it. From 3,285 days with a small dog by my side, to cutting greens and repurposing flowers I filched from a huge bush at the local cemetery, to loving every moment of decorating for Christmas, it's all about enjoying the passage of time. There are plenty of things I'm not good at, but I think I have enjoyment part down pat.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

What if..?

This morning I was awake before dawn. I snuggled in for a while, as the windows, then the curtains, then the roses on the dresser became visible in the chill, gray, light.  It was bitterly cold outside. I could tell because when it is in the single digits the boards of the deck outside my window pop and snap in the still air. I was in no hurry to leave the warmth of bed and go out to tend the animals.  But eventually I did. Bravo hops up to encourage me to start the day.

Once up and out, I am always glad. I greet the barn cats with a plate of food and they rub against me, purring loudly. The rituals of my morning chores are filled with small delights. The dogs frisk around as I carry hay, fill water bowls, let the chickens out from their coops. I am only milking one goat now, but the quiet moments when all I hear are the sounds of her enjoying breakfast, and the hiss of warm milk filling the pail are pleasantly meditative.

Chris likes to sleep in on Sunday, so when chores are done I have the house to myself. I cleaned the wood stove and got a good fire going. The house looks festive, decorated for Christmas. It smells of evergreen with a hint of wood smoke. It's quiet as I strain the milk, heat it to make chevre, (simple cheese,) and feed my bread starter. I empty the dishwasher, looking out to see the donkeys, sheep and goats pulling great mouthfuls of hay from the rack. A few bold hens have left the coop, and are scratching around in the pasture. I begin to cook breakfast, deeply content.

Chris and I often wonder what heaven would be like. I take a look around me and suddenly wonder, "What if this is it? What if this is my heaven?" I pause and smile. That would be sweet.

Simple things...

Sometimes it is the most simple things that bring me the most pleasure. Here is an example. Our large animal housing consists of a shed with two rooms. The first, original, room was for the horse. When I added more goats than I had intended, we built a small addition off the back for them. It has a doorway, which we screwed a bar across to keep the horse out. The room is fairly narrow, and I was afraid she'd lie down in there and get stuck. The goats, (and I) could duck under the bar and all was well. Abraham donkey could also go under the bar, but mostly hung out with the horse in the larger area. When the horse died and we added another donkey, we lowered the bar by a significant amount, and made it so I could slide it in and out of metal brackets. It didn't slide easily, and we soon learned it didn't keep the donkeys out, either. I had trouble getting the bar out the brackets, but they did not.  I really wanted a space just for the goats, so I could give them their special minerals and such, and not worry about the donkeys eating all their food. Another problem I was having was that the wooden floor of the chicken coop was getting mushy. The coop is elevated, and I was afraid that one day I'd put my foot through the floor and cause myself serious harm.

My neighbor/friend mentioned that her carpenter husband was between regular jobs. I asked if he'd be interested in helping us create a donkey deterrent gate, and replacing my coop floor. These are really handy man jobs, and he is an artist with wood, but he kindly agreed help me out.  A few days later he appeared, and disappeared into the donkey dorm/goat cozy. I was working, but was dying of curiosity to see what he'd come up with.  Next I saw him cutting and carrying sheets of plywood from the driveway to the coop.  In a few hours he was done and gone, and I was working as fast as I could so I could go check out his handiwork. To my delight, the coop floor was solidly replaced with nice, sturdy plywood. Safe for the birds and me. I don't know about them, but I was relieved. And then, I toddled out to the shed. What to my wondering eyes should appear?
The most elegant little gate. Big, sturdy hinges make it swing easily. On the right is a metal bracket he made by cutting up one of the ones we were using. He mounted it in such a way that I can easily swing it up, even if I am wearing bulky gloves. I can then go in to feed or clean up. But the donkeys are evicted, permanently. The goats scoot right through, and come and go as they wish. I am delighted by this gate, it has made my life so much easier.

Meanwhile, Sarah donkey is still lame. The farrier was out and he thinks that instead of an abscess, she is experiencing pain from something called "white line disease." It is a fungal and/or bacterial infection of part of the hoof, and quite common in donkeys.  She had it when she came to live here, and despite regular trimming it has gotten worse. We ordered some special medication to soak her hoof in. We are supposed to soak it for 40 minutes 3 times a week.  This seemed daunting, but my hero husband, problem solver par excellence, bought me something marvelous.

It's a heavy rubber tube, with an absorbent pad that can be inserted in the bottom. Invented for just this reason, but I had no idea they even existed. I simply mix up the soak, place Sarah's little hoof in, and cinch the boot up snugly. She was less than amused by our first efforts, but I think things will go more smoothly in the future. I let her stomp around for the allotted time, then take the boot off and clean it up.  SO much easier than other methods I was using.

Meanwhile, I am giving her pain medication, and she seems to be more comfortable.
Chris caught this sweet shot of the two friends dozing in the sun on a bed of cast off hay.

Sturdy gates, soaking boots, happy animals enjoying rest. It's the simple things that bring me joy.