Sometimes it seems that winter is a time of waiting.
The birds wait to find food.
The garden waits for warmth and light.
The stock wait for hay delivery, (and hope it's the good stuff!)
Please note the ice on Abraham's lashes. I tried to get it off, but he shied away. Maybe it makes his view shimmery?
Bravo waits for me to take him for a walk or throw his toy.
It is snowing today. All but one of my customers called to cancel. The one that didn't cancel was 10 minutes late. "I'm sorry to be late, " he said. "We went off the road and had to wait for someone to come along and pull us out of the ditch." Mainers are intrepid that way. He had a cup of coffee and a brownie while I groomed his dog, then slid out of my driveway and headed home.
I am biding my time for the storm to pass so I can shovel the walk ways and stairs. The day unexpectedly empty before me, I should tackle my endless to do list, but instead I tarry with my camera in hand, or try to capture the mood with words. It's quiet and cozy indoors, the light low and soft behind the lace curtains.
I wait for inspiration to tackle jobs to strike. I fear I may be waiting a long time.
The ground has been snow covered for several weeks. This means the chickens stay in their coops, the ducks stay very close to theirs, and the hoof stock make paths from the cozy to the water bucket. and then to the feeder, and pretty much stick to those routes. It's boring for all of us. Heavy rain last week washed away an astonishing amount of snow and ice, and left great swaths of bare ground. (It also uncovered a lot of manure!)
Today was sunny. The light was lovely in the studio.
And to my great delight the chickens ventured from their coop to explore their good weather haunts in the pasture. It is such fun to see them peck and hunt and scratch. I miss their antics when they are cooped up.
When the sun was high, the goats piled up on the little hill outside the studio to bask and chew their cuds.
Little Abraham joined in. Although the temperature was still chilly as it hovered around 31, it seemed warm compared to recent days.
I have a story to share. Last fall we bought 100 or so bales of hay and piled them high in the garage. It was first cut hay, which is not as high quality as second cut. We got a good price on it, but knew it would not be enough to last the winter. So, every week or so we go to the local feed store and buy 10 more bales, packing them tightly in the truck bed. Our goal was to keep the stuff we bought in reserve for bad weather or if the local supply ran low. During the very cold weather of the last few weeks, we splurged and bought some expensive second cut hay. These bales are the most beautiful hay I have ever seen. Green and leafy, silky to the touch, they emit a fragrance so delicious I have nearly been tempted to toss some in a pan with some oil and diced garlic and saute it up for supper. The animals went nuts for it. When I would put it out they would stuff their nostrils deep in the pile, inhaling joyously, then they would eat, and Eat and EAT.
We fed a lot, making sure they had more than enough food to tide them over during the bitter cold days and nights. Once the weather moderated a bit, I began giving them the first cut hay again, and they collectively turned their noses up at it, leaving it in the big feeder in the pasture to molder. They were on strike. I jokingly complained about this to my wise friend Marion. She scolded me, and told me it was silly to feed such high quality fodder to animals who were not working, nor expending much energy. In fact, she alluded that I might be doing them harm by feeding them high test when they really would be fine on lower octane varieties of hay. I pouted a little. I enjoy seeing my animals love their food. But I realized that as (almost) always, she was right.
All day yesterday the feeder was filled with the luscious second cut hay, and they dined happily. At bed time, when I went out to give them a few flakes to tide them over till dawn, I carried the first cut hay instead. Chanel saw me coming and left the shed to come snack. She walked gingerly over the iron hard, uneven ground, like an old woman wearing high heels. I stood and watched her, illuminated by the bright yard lights. She thrust her pretty head deep into the feeder, and breathed gustily. Then she froze.
Slowly, deliberately, she turned her elegant head in my direction. She gave me a look that withered me. Then, she turned her back to me and exhaled with pathetic force. She hung her head in despair. This morning the hay I had put out was untouched. She refused to eat a single blade, and instead was rummaging around the frozen pasture, looking for any unnoticed weed left from summer to sustain her. It was a pathetic.
I caved a little, and fed out a small amount of the coveted hay, mixed in with some of the hay they all disdain. When they realized no more was coming, they managed to choke down the inferior offering.
Sunshine and "starvation" ruled the day. My animals never cease to amuse me.
Several years ago I was in an antique store and saw a wonderful cabinet. It was old, and had layers of paint, much of it chipped. The overall color was a soft green, but under that a nice cream color, and under that, the brown of the wood. The price tag was $175, and I vacillated, but really didn't have a place for it. A year later I decided to open a grooming studio on my porch, and the very first purchase I made was that cabinet. I was delighted that it was still at the store where I found it, and brought it right home. It has fun "make do" patches on it where holes had once been, made from the lids of old, rusted, tin cans. Inside is roomy, with tons of storage. I just love the old thing.
A few weeks ago I was looking on Pinterest and saw an old painted door, almost exactly like the one on my cabinet. Someone had painted fat cabbage roses on it. I loved the look. Here it is:
One of my customers is a gifted artist. I called and she was happy to give it a try. So, today, this happened.
It was scary giving her free reign to embellish my beloved cabinet, but I am delighted with the end results.
Meanwhile, with typical New England quirkiness, the weather has changed from bitter, painful, cold, to downright balmy. The eves drip, the snow recedes, and the animals look happier and more relaxed. Here is Spirit, smiling.
I find I stay home a lot these days. That is fine by me, as there are not many places I'd rather be. But it is good to get out sometimes, and fun training activities with my Bravo dog make sure I leave the property. This past weekend we rode with my friend Carol, and her cute spaniel, Kellie, to Fryeburg, Maine. This is about 2 1/2 hours from my place, a pretty drive through some very rural countryside. We met another friend with her dog in Fryeburg, and let the dogs romp and play a while. Then we went to an adorable little cabin we had rented for the night. Painted barn red with white trim, it was nestled into some impressive snow banks. Inside was clean and neat, with a gas fired stove cheerily heating the two small bedrooms, living area and wee bathroom. We hung out and chatted a while, then met another friend for a wonderful supper.
The next morning, after a lovely breakfast prepared for us by the innkeeper, we went to Telling Tails training center for a Wag It Games trail. The facility was spacious, comfortable and filled with nice people and dogs. Bravo and I had signed up for a number of trial runs in several different classes. Some were things I felt confident he would do well at, and some I figured we'd be a flop. The flop classes were first thing in the morning. "Shadow Skills" consists of a course that is laid out with 8"x10" printed signs. Owner and dog go along from sign to sign, and perform the task as labeled. The dog is to walk along nicely at the handlers side, paying attention to where the handler goes and heeling happily with them. One sign might say, "270 degree turn to the left." Another might say, "Sit, down, sit," a third might say, "Spin," which means the dog is heeling along next to its handler, then spins in a circle away from them and immediately resumes heeling. Dogs love this one! We were in the novice class. A judge watched us move around the course, navigating the 15 or so signs. I thought we did fairly well, but wasn't sure. To my surprise and delight we got qualifying scores in both sessions, and won a second and third placement. Here is Bravo in his cozy new "pup tent," where he hangs out between competitions, with two of his early in the day ribbons.
Chris gave us the tent for Christmas. It is very light, and opens and closes like an umbrella. SO much easier than lugging a heavy metal crate around.
Bravo's breeder, and a woman who has one of his litter mates both live nearby. They delighted me by coming to spend much of the day, watching the competitions and cheering us on when it was our turn.
Here is Bravo greeting his breeder. I am not sure if he remembered her, but he certainly LIKED her. And she seemed to like him, too.
It was fun to hang out with these interesting women for a few hours, and I was so pleased that they gave up time from their busy lives to come be with us.
At the end of the day we had done some impressive winning. Bravo gave me some kisses as we surveyed his haul.
And then it was home in the dark, on snowy roads. Carol drove competently, and Chris greeted me with a glass of wine and a bowl of delicious chili. Home welcomed me in, with its warmth and routines and comfort. But it was so good to go away for a bit, and dabble in the different. Games with Bravo are always a lot of fun.
The weather phenomenon known as "bombogenisis," is hitting our area with one heck of a Nor'easter. It started out this morning with tiny snow flakes, and the snow picked up as the day went on. Soon when I looked out the windows all I could see was white. Now, as the light begins to fade, the wind is picking up. The old windows rattle and shake, and the trees outside are dancing. Inside the wood stove burns brightly, and we are cozy and warm.
Yesterday we cleaned out the duck house, chicken coop, rabbit hutches and pony shed. The animals can snuggle down in clean bedding as the storm rages. All their feeders are stuffed with food, and I've been out twice today to make sure they have fresh, thawed, water. Spirit goat has her own apartment. She came to live here last spring, and is ranked low in the goat hierarchy. The other goats push her around, try to hog the food, and apparently don't let her snuggle in with them, which is one way goats stay warm. She began hanging out by herself in an empty calf hutch next to the goat and pony cozy. I took a bale of straw out there for her and she seemed pleased, and stayed there even more. Then, during the horrid cold snap last week we put a heat lamp in there for her. I don't like using heat lamps, because they are a fire hazard, but I also don't like having a cold animal. Spirit immediately saw the benefit of the lamp. The other goats like it, too, and go in there with her sometimes. However, they are creatures of habit and mostly sleep in their regular cozy. I put our Christmas tree at the doorway of the hutch to serve as a wind block, (and easy to reach snack!) and I see Spirit in there basking in the glow of her lamp. She almost looks like she is smiling.
The wild birds have been very active at the feeder. I have woodpeckers, doves, juncos, cardinals, jays, chickadees and more. I have to refill their favorite feeder several times a day.
I like knowing they have an easy source of food when the weather is this way.
Chris worked from home today, setting up his computer in the front room near the wood stove. All day I have heard him talking to people, solving their problems. It's quite interesting. Sometimes it is like he is speaking a foreign language, because he talks in computer terms that I have never heard.
He took his "lunch" break a little before dusk and went out to snow blow the driveway. The snow blower throws the snow in a high arc in the air and with today's wind, the poor guy was soon frosted.
When he came in I had hot coffee and warm,dry clothes ready for him. And now he is back to work.
There is something rather lovely about being home, safe and warm, while the snow falls and the wind howls. We do worry that the power will go out, never a good thing in cold weather, as pipes can freeze and wreak havoc. We hope for the best and settle in, grateful to have these walls to shelter us from the storm.
The weeks after Christmas are traditionally quiet for groomers. Many people have their pets primped just before the holiday, and for some people money is tight right after Christmas, plus the weather is often crummy so people think their pets need to keep their fur. With this in mind I have been planning for months to do a little sprucing up of our work space during the lull.
Rachel and I took Every. Single. Thing. out of the studio. Only the bathtub and a cabinet that is bolted to the wall remained. We vacuumed the ceiling and walls, washed the walls, baseboards, windows, vent fan filter... everything. The floor got four scrubbings, plus a good rinse.
I managed to get my 57 year old, overweight, out of shape, self, prone and under the bath tub so I could clean the neglected area under there. Bravo was amazed to see me there, and literally dove under to join me. He is an opportunistic face kisser, and had a party there where I could barely fend off his affections.
Next, we touched up the wall and trim paint where it had suffered from every day wear and tear. Finally, we painted the floor. The floor paint I put down 4 years ago was lovely. Sort of a sage green, in the afternoon light it looked like beach glass. It wore well and we all liked it a lot. The problem with that particular paint was that it took 4-5 days to cure and dry. I didn't have that much time, so went with a new brand. While we were changing things up, I chose a new color, as well. I based the color choice on a shade of blue in some lovely floral pillows that I had for the rocking chairs. The color is called something like, "Favorite Jeans," and it does have a soft, faded, denim feel.
Meanwhile, every item from the studio was crammed into my dining room, living room, pantry and front room. And I was expecting a visit from my niece, her husband and much adored toddler daughter. So things had to change, fast. The moment the second coat of paint was dry, we started hauling stuff back in and reclaiming the house. Thank heavens for Chris and Rachel, right there to lift and carry and sort and help.
I found this fabulous vintage ironing board at an antique store in Rockland. It has a broad surface to hold the coffee maker, cookie plate, and more, yet offers a narrow foot print. This is a bonus in a room that is a mere 8 feet wide. It is terrifically sturdy, and I simply had to have it. A dressing of lace and it was ready to play hostess to guests.
I found these wonderful coffee cups at another place. Not only are they pretty, they feel good in hand. Going with the floral theme, I dug out this old gravy boat to hold coffee stirrers.
I edited out many of little, decorative knick knacks that have accumulated over the past few years, and love how pared down everything looks now. The antique teachers desk and pine storage chest got a nice rub down with lemon oil.
Orchids love the studio. The angle of the light, combined with the humidity, make them bloom over and over.
I shopped the after Christmas sales and bought a pile of new towels, too. They match the blue floor almost exactly.
We re-arranged the working end of the studio some, too. This is a work in progress, but a definite improvement.
Chris gifted me some whimsical crow hooks to hang various tools from. They are a delight.
We sorted through all our work tools and organized everything nicely while we were giving things a face lift. It feels good to start the year with the work space in good order.
The little dogs hovered by the wood stove. The weather? Very cold, windy and snow. Lots and LOTS of snow. All told, a foot of fresh fluff fell on top of the 5 or so inches that were already on the ground. I don't remember many Christmases that had a big storm, and this one was a really something.
When we looked out the window, the air was white. Luckily we spent much of yesterday cleaning out all the animal houses and filling them with fresh bedding. It was nice to know that with the coming storm, all the critters had a warm, safe place to settle in for the blow. This morning we filled all the water containers and topped up their food, handed out Christmas treats, then came inside to watch the storm from where it was cozy and warm.
Breakfast was waffles, sausage and mimosas. The dogs were impatient, wanting us to hurry up so they could open their stockings.
The little fluffy dog next to Bravo is Millie. She is a grooming customer that needed a place to stay over the holiday and thought this would be more fun than a kennel. She was right. She and Bravo race and romp and play tug o' war and zoom circles through the house. She loved the toys Santa brought.
Bravo and I got a new "pup" tent! I can take this with me to competitions for him to hang out in, instead of a heavy metal crate. It opens and closes as easily as an umbrella, and is light to carry.
We also got a hand made, needle felted replica of Bravo...
It was made by a groomer friend of mine, and I love it!
On Christmas Eve we had Rachel and Evans, along with Evans dad, brother and his girlfriend, and our friends Scott and Marion, here for supper. Chris cooked a prime rib, perfectly. I made twice stuffed potatoes, squash, and delicious gingerbread with Haagen das vanilla ice cream and home made caramel sauce. Evans dad brought Ukrainian poppy seed cake and Toll House Pie. There was peach tart, too. I goofed and didn't get the planned appetizer prepared when I should have, and our pop overs were an epic failure. But no one seemed to care, and we had plenty of food to go around. It was a pleasant gathering.
Then today, delicious breakfast and thoughtful, caring, generous, gifts and a peaceful day as the storm raged. The dogs were delighted with all the toys and treats. Rachel and Evans headed home around lunch time, and Chris and I were here alone. There was a nap, animal care, snow removal, delicious left overs for supper, and all of it was simply lovely.
I've been lucky... I've had a lifetime of happy Christmases. I know many people who have not, and that makes me sad. But I am grateful to have been blessed with the people in my life who have made the holiday so special. I don't know what the future holds, but I will always have warm memories of of Christmas. And this one was especially sweet.