Monday, November 23, 2015

Readying for the feast...

The days before Thanksgiving are always busy. It is a hectic time work-wise, as people want their pets freshly groomed before company arrives. I spend long days in my wonderful studio.

And then there is getting the house ready for company. I'd like to say that I am the sort of house keeper that maintains an immaculate house at all times, but, sadly, I'm not. And for some reason I tend to take on some major project just before the holiday. This year it was doing an overhaul on the pantry. It actually made sense, because we use the pantry to stage all the food we prepare for the feast, but in reality, no guest would be checking that room out with white gloves. However, the pantry had become awfully messy in the past months. Sweet husband Chris spent a couple of hours last weekend removing things that did not belong, and organizing things that did. Then I spent time moving every stored dish, plate, cup, platter and pan to the kitchen, washing them and then replacing them after I had wiped down the shelves. I waxed the floor, put down a pretty new rug, packed up a large box of items that I rarely/never use or do not need, to give away. The freshly cleaned room breathed a sigh of relief. I did, too.

My goal every year is to have the house company ready BEFORE Wednesday of Thanksgiving week. Then I can spend the entire day Wednesday cooking. And that is a delight. This year I may actually achieve my goal.

The cooking has already begun. Today I roasted a small pumpkin that I grew and scooped its flesh into a container and tucked it into the refrigerator. It will become pumpkin cream pie. I also fed the starter that I will use to make my home made bread, and took a chicken raised right here out of the freezer. I will stew it tomorrow and use the meat in my dressing and the broth for both the dressing and gravy.

I try to make most everything for the Thanksgiving meal from scratch, and as much of it as possible is grown here, or locally. Our friends raised this years turkey... a whopping 28 pounder. We had to buy a huge new roaster pan just to fit it! The breads, pies, vegetables and all will be cooked fresh and delicious. It is my favorite meal of the year to prepare. And I love the part where some of the people I love the best are all gathered around the table, and the house is filled with the sound of happy chatter, laughter, and music. The air is scented with the delicious aromas of all the good food we have cooked. My heart will be full, and thankful.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

A little distraction...

Chris and I went to the feed store to stock up on vittles for the chickens, ducks and wild birds. On the way we passed a very large field, and we both noticed there was a dark object about the size of a small football in the grass. We took note and kept going.

On the way back we looked for the object, and when we spotted it, pulled off to the side of the road. It was very cold and windy, so, hands thrust deep in pockets and heads down, we crossed the road and walked into the field. The little dark thing didn't seem to be moving. But when we got right up to it, it spun, turning its it tail toward me and backed up as fast as it could.

Which wasn't very fast.

It kept peeking around at me.

A wee little porcupine, trying to eat as much as it can before the really cold weather sets in. Though porcupines do not hibernate, they do stay in their dens during cold or stormy weather. This one was tiny, probably under 5 pounds. Porcupines are vegetarians. They spend a lot of time up in the boughs of trees, and they eat bark. Some people think they are pests because they can damage crops and kill trees.

Me? I think they are just incredibly cute.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Happy birthday...

Happy birthday to Smooch.

Smooch is a Pug. According the veterinarians records he is 10 today. We think he is 8, and that his birthday is February 14th. Somewhere I have his records from the woman who foisted him off on me. I need to find them to figure out who is correct. At any rate, we celebrated today a little. He got an extra big breakfast, with goat milk, which he adores. Pugs pretty much live to eat, and he is no exception. I gave him extra cookies all day long, and hardly yelled at him at all when he barked incessantly, as he is apt to do.

Let me tell you the story of Smooch. Many years ago I had a Doberman Pinscher named Loki. He was a wonderful, beautiful dog, with a gentle spirit lurking inside his fierce looking visage. He loved babies and kittens and if someone were to try to break in he would have happily showed them where we kept the things we loved the best.

Loki was around 3 years old when I took in a tiny, sickly Pug puppy to care for until I could find her a forever home. Loki was jealous that the wee thing was always in my lap and he pouted for several days. Finally, one night, he got up on the couch with me and the pitiful little Pug. He held the puppy down with one big paw while he polished her with his tongue for a solid 45 minutes. I timed him. Then he tucked her against his broad chest, laid his chin over her, sighed deeply and claimed her as his own. That Pug ended up living with us, and outliving Loki. She was our beloved Poppy. They were great friends. When Loki was around 11 years old he woke up one morning completely paralyzed. Our veterinarian explained that there was little we could do and recommended we euthanize him. All of this was very sudden, and it was hard for me to say goodbye. I got a little crazy, and when I kissed his lovely face for the last time and told him what a very good dog he was and how much I loved him, I whispered, "Come back to me as a small, black Pug, and you can sit in my lap all the time." He had always wanted to be a lap dog. A few days later, coming out of my fog of grief, I thought to myself, "I'm an idiot. I don't even know if I believe in re-incarnation, and if Loki COULD come back, how will I ever know it's him?"

Several months went by and one day a customer at the grooming shop I used to work at came in and asked for me. She was an older lady with a cute little Shih Tzu. She took me aside and said, "Daryl, honey, I made a mistake. I got a puppy and I shouldn't have done it. Ever since my husband had a stroke he has no patience, and I'm afraid he's going to hurt this puppy. I want you to have him." I told her I didn't want a puppy, but that I would happily take it and find it a wonderful home. She went out to her car and came back with a small, black Pug. She thrust him into my arms and he began to gnaw gently on my chin. "I really feel like you should have him," she said. I was sunk.

I named the puppy Smooch, because he was an excellent kisser, and he fit right in with the family. He adored me, I was clearly his person, and I took him most everywhere I went. Then our college aged daughter moved home. She was not enjoying her college experience and wanted to regroup and figure out what to do next. She wasn't in the greatest frame of mind. Smooch somehow knew that she was feeling lost and... well, let me just tell you that he dropped me like a hot potato and became 100% HER dog. I was still useful at feeding time, because, after all, I do have opposable thumbs, but I was firmly demoted to a second class citizen and he only had eyes (and kisses) for my daughter. The two became inseparable. They still are.

Tonight she brought home a bottle of "Bowser Beer." The label says, "Porky Pug Porter." It's not really beer at all, but some sort of pork product, bottled in a humorous way. Smooch and his canine pals all shared the bottle.

Happy Birthday, Smooch. You are a funny little dog. You bark too much, you shed too much, and you are prone to lifting your leg at inopportune moments, but you bring my daughter great joy. For that I thank you, and lift my glass in celebration of your life!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Gearing up for the feast...

We host the Thanksgiving feast at our house each year. It is something we all look forward to, and begin to prepare for some time in advance of the actual holiday. Today, in between putting flower gardens to bed, marking the driveway for snow removal purposes, cleaning the goat and pony sheds, taking the weeks trash to the transfer station, and festooning my lovely arbor with little white lights to twinkle through the long winter nights, I did a little decorating.

Some pumpkins left over from Halloween joined my mothers funky electrified brass candlesticks with the little flickering bulbs, a wonderful antique basket and some vines I found in the woods to create a pleasing tableau on top of a cabinet.

And this little gem? We went to our favorite local farm stand, and dropped $17. on gourds, edible squash and corn. I dug out the cornucopia basket I've had for years, and in less than 10 minutes had created what I think is a very pleasing centerpiece. Bonus points, most of the items in the basket can be cooked for supper once the holiday is passed.

There is much to do before we fling the doors open and welcome our loved ones to share this annual repast, but the tone has been set. Let the festivities begin!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The case of the vanishing peanuts...

We recently bought a bag of peanuts to add a little treat to the bird feeder. I had heard that Blue Jay's really like them. The first day I put a handful out in the tray feeder, and when I glanced next there wasn't a single one left.

The next day I paid more attention. At 8:00 AM the bird feeder was freshly filled.

Then a Jay showed up.

A peanut vanished down his throat. Then another, and another, until he looked like he had a bad case of mumps. Blue Jays are members of the Corvid family. They are able to carry food in their throat and upper esophagus, a space known as a "gular pouch." Crows are another common member of the Corvid family.
I was fascinated to watch the process...

In one hour, that bird had cleared the feeder of every last peanut.

Case closed.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Dreams do come true...(almost!)

I've always had an imagination prone to rambling. Mostly it rambles off on tangents that involve animals, and has since I was a tyke.

One long running favorite story involved me having a Palomino horse that was so tame it lived free in our yard and hung out just because it loved me. I would open my bedroom window and the horse would put it's head right into my room. I spent many a happy pre-adolescent hour dreaming about my fabulous horse.

Fast forward 47 years. My husband called me this weekend and here is the scene I came upon in the dining room.

I giggled like a kid.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Time change...

I saw something on social media this week that said, "Changing the clocks in the fall is great, said no one ever." Well, I must come clean. I like it!

Here in the north part of the country, our winter days are very short. Having livestock, I tend to them very early in the morning, as well as in the evening. Much of the time I do my heaviest chores in the dark, and that is kind of a drag. Having the clocks change means I can do my early chores, at least, in the light. And those dark evenings? I rather like them, too. It is time for warm light spilling out the house windows, candles flickering warmly around the house, and fire dancing in the wood stove. I like the scent of wood smoke on the chilly air, and hearty fall meals like soups and stews. I like it all. Frosty dogs and grass...

The art of ice on autumn leaves...

The copper hues of the foliage that remains...

The happy sight of animals dining on the food I bring them...

The harvest has been gathered, the land is turning to a time of rest. Long cozy nights cuddled up to stay warm. Yes, I like it all.