Sunday, January 31, 2010

Guide to excellent gift giving...

For Christmas my friend Liz gave me tickets to hear The Band of the Irish Guards and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders 5th Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland perform in Portland Maine. That's right, bagpipe music. Two glorious hours of it. Normally I get the rare taste of bagpipes at parades and funerals, but never, EVER enough.

This was a most excellent gift. Liz paid attention when I mentioned I love the sound of bagpipes. And then she tracked down bag pipe music... in MAINE. Which, in case you didn't know, isn't exactly a hotbed of Highland music. Not only did I love hearing the music and seeing the performance, but I very much enjoyed a day that was different from my normal routine. I mean, there were things to DO at home. Things to clean, articles to write, laundry to do, wood to haul, web sites to recreate. Instead we played hookie from reality and broke from routine. And it felt good.

After the show we met my niece Emily and her husband for a very fun dinner in a excellent restaurant, The Pepper Club, in old town Portland. I adore Emily and never get to spend as much time with her as I'd like to. The fact that the meal ended with a truely excellent mousse was frosting on the cake.

The drive time was good, too. We played our favorite music, chatted and hashed out plans for our next joint venture. On the way home the enourmous wolf moon rose slow as justice over the inky tree line. The echoes of bagpipe music are thrumming through my veins, and I have the warm glow of someone who had a little vacation. Now THAT is an excellent gift.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Take it with you...

One of my goals for this new year is to take my camera with me everywhere I go.
Since I am one of those odd women who do not even carry a purse, it has been difficult for me to cultivate this habit. Yet today, when I was just zooming to the post office, I slung the camera bag into the front seat of my truck, right next to my dog. I was richly rewarded for remembering...

Monday, January 25, 2010


Yesterday I took my camera out when I filled the bird feeders. I leaned against the rough bark of a pine tree and just listened for a while. When the ground is covered with snow the world seems hushed; sounds are muffled. But there, under the pines, the air was rife with the sweet calls of chickadees. And more than that, the nearly buzzing sound of the chill air on their feathers as they flew.
There were 10 or more zooming from the hedge to the trees to the feeder and back. I caught a few good photos. I particularly like the gleam in the eye of this tiny bird. They seemed unworried by my presence there. I am adding the following goal to my list for 2010... I want to have a Chickadee land on my hand. I would love to feel that vibrant energy against my skin, even if only for one swift second.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The dogs had a party in the snow while I was filling bird feeders.

Kindness and Tiger Maple...

Almost 7 years ago when I first moved to Maine, the very first thing I did was go to work at my new job at Yankee Clipper Pet Grooming. And one of the very first customers that I met there was a man named Jim Brown. Jim owns a round mocha colored Cocker spaniel called Rudder. It was pretty much love at first sight for me when I met Rudder, and Jim took note of my adoration of his dog and gave me his seal of approval. I think he was the first customer that requested that I groom his dog. I was honored.

Over the years I got to know Jim and his totally wonderful wife, Nance a little better. And the more I knew them, the more I liked them. They added a new Cocker to the family, Tilly. And I got to help out with finding her and bringing her to them from Georgia on an airplane. (Truth be told, I kind of wished they would change their minds, because I'd become smitten with the little 4 lb. puppy during our travels together.)

There came an opportunity where I was able to do something nice for Jim and Nance and take care of the dogs for a while when they had to be away. I think it is good karma to do nice things, and I was happy to have chance to make these good peoples life just a wee bit easier during a difficult time. But they one-upped me. In a big way.

You see, Jim and Nance own a place that makes incredible handmade furniture. I had toured their place years ago, and had been dreaming of a time when maybe I could own a dining room table made there. During the time that I was taking care of the dogs, Jim told Nance, "We ought to make that woman a table or something." So they are. They even came to my house and measured my dining room, checked out the "lay of land" and made suggestions on the size and shape of the wonderful piece of furniture they are making me. (You can find out more about their creations at

In this picture I am with Jim (on the right) in the workshop, standing in front of my table, in progress! The craftsman who is cutting and gluing my tabletop is on the left. If you look down to the lower right you will see Rudder's posterior portion. He was checking out my table, too.

So, someday in the near future my humble little dining room will boast an amazing table, hand made of beautiful Tiger Maple (grown right here in Maine!) and carefully finished to a mellow glow. And our friends and family will gather there for food and laughter and memory making. And the table will be part of a circle of kindness, and will be something to treasure.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


The crows are seeking food. The scavenge under the wild bird feeders for spilt seed, and pace the road looking for acorns or anything edible that is not covered by feet of snow. I took some bread and scraps out for them, and called "Here crows," into the icy air. They answered from the east, calling from far off in the woods. By the time I was inside they were here. They land in the snow and sink to mid-wing. They hop, sink, hop, leaving crow prints in the snow. I normally have a flock of seven, but there are visitors today, I counted 9 and there must have been one up acting as look out somewhere. I will find more goodies for them when I go out next. I can't bear the thought of them being hungry!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

On Monday it snowed, all day. 10 or 11 inches of fresh snow decorated my world. Cozy inside watching the show, I enjoyed every flake. And then, on Tuesday, it snowed, all day. From work I watched as the snow came down, steadily building. Customers who had been out driving warned of dangerous road conditions. I drove home gingerly, admiring the scenery and fretting over the "greasiness" of the pavement under my tires. It was such a good feeling when we were all home safely, with dinner cooking and the wood stove radiating out comforting heat.

This morning, another 11 or 12 inches of snow graced the scene outside my windows. Snow over my boots, snow mounding up on the bird feeders. I fed the chickens, the crows the small wild birds, the stray cat that hangs out in the garage. I took a few photos of a world in shades of pewter and white. Today's forecast? Snow!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cardinal feather on snow...

Cardinals glow like rubies against snow. But fallen feathers have only a hint of pink. It is one of the miracles of nature that those feathers, layered on a living creature, create the visual punch of red that stands out with such ember-like clarity on a New England winter day.

Wicked impulsiveness...

I do NOT need another dog. Truely, 4 is more than enough. But this tiny toy poodle puppy is probably coming to live with us. I think her name will be Bliss.

She is currently 4 weeks old, and as you can see, not very big. Full grown she still won't be very big, 6 lbs. or so. As my husband would say, "I've eaten sandwiches bigger than that dog!" I keep thinking how cute a little fuzzy white puppy will be curled up with the sleek black pugs. Cute overload. And I can dye her different colors to amuse myself in my "spare time."

Perhaps my saner mind will take over and stop this madness. If not, there is puppy breath in my near future.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Laughing at myself...

The chickens have refused to leave the coop for weeks, ever since there was snow on the ground. This morning when I went to the coop with food, water and treats the thermometer read 30 F. A veritable heat wave! I opened the chicken door and the big door to let fresh air in. I planned to shut the big door before I left for work.

When I was ready to leave for the day I headed back out to the coop. I was wearing my work shoes instead of my good ice gripping boots. The path from house to hens place is one long, icy chute. Picture an ice rink with a very uneven surface. I stared at the ground, choosing my footing carefully as I crept along.

When I got to the edge of the hen yard, I suddenly saw something in my peripheral vision. Dark animals, moving in the yard! I was startled. I gasped, in loud surprise. Something out of the ordinary, maybe there to harm my hens! My heart rate elevated, adrenaline rushed through my body. I jerked my head up, eyes off the ice, and on to the threat.

And then I laughed at myself. My hens had left the coop, and were out skittering around on the crust of snow. They were startled by my reaction to them, and by my belly laughs.

Unexpected hens on snow. The laugh was on me.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Waterfalls rarely freeze. Even with the negative numbers registering on the thermometer. It is all because of movement. Today's movement plans:
haul firewood
make a huge pot of soup, (involving cabbage, sausage, potatoes, and I don't know what else!)
finish a nagging project
make my house shine
visit and kiss my horse
take a walk
spend 30 minutes doing some long range planning

It is going to be a very good day.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Embraced by ice...

Tonight... -12 degrees farenheit. Ice? We got it!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Slivers of beauty...

Each day has slivers of beauty. This afternoon was cold- when I was filling the bird feeders my fingers ached. I happened to glance towards the top of the meadow, and saw a large bird perched on the wire. I grabbed my camera and headed up the road.

There I found a barred owl, puffed up on a wire, looking for a warm meal on frigid day. It posed, magnificently still, while I took several photos. And then it lifted its broad wings and in one silent motion dissapeared into the woods. Just one slice of beauty in a magical day.


The word "contentment" keeps rattling around in my brain. I find that these winter New England days lend themselves to feeling contented. There are the winter foods; soups and stews and hearty casseroles. There is the comfort of the heat that radiates from the wood stove, and the beauty of the flames of candles that I light everywhere to illuminate the long, dark evenings. And then there is the comfort of snuggling up under a warm blanket to read a good book or watch a movie. It all adds up to a deep, delicious kind of contentment.

So, while the thermometer hangs in the single digits and the places I walk are slick with ice, I sometimes think with longing of walking on a warm beach and watching the pelicans splash. But mostly I am content to be right here, right now. And that is such a gift.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Shoemakers children...

The old story goes that shoemakers children never have new shoes.
In my line of work, I find that this dog groomers poodle does not get groomed often enough! Dazzle is 9 years old. I bought her so that I would have a poodle of my own to work on to improve my grooming skills. And it worked. Dazzle has been a patient "guinea pig," standing rock still for endless hours while I practiced and learned. I have won awards grooming her in contests... but too often I let her run wild and free with the wind and knots in her hair! Yesterday I took her to work. She was bathed, whitened, brushed and fluffed. I then spent a happy hour clipping and scissoring to my hearts content, cutting in angles to accentuate her better points, leaving hair here and there to hide flaws. Her coat is lovely, and when she is freshly styled I find that looking at her makes my heart sing. She seems to appreciate the difference, too. There is an extra bounce to her step when she sports a "new do." Here she is, after a long day at the spa, curled up by the wood stove. Perhaps she is dreaming of cobblers kids, all wearing new shoes.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

All my eggs in one basket...

This morning I pulled on sturdy boots, walked gingerly across the slippery deck, and down to snow over my knees. I carried a bucket of warm water, scraps from last nights supper, and an antique egg basket.

The dogs went with me, taking care of business, checking out the scents in the yard, and playing a quick game of leap and chase.

I went right to the coop. The heat lamp was on, shining a ruddy glow out the glass windows and across the yard. I could hear the chickens, crooning, clucking, rustling about inside. I opened the primitive latch on the door, and the chickens hustled over to see what I had brought for a treat. All except Roberta, who decided a few months ago that she cannot get down off the roost unaided. I steped up into the coop. The air was warmer here, and smelled of clean pine shavings. I lifted Roberta down. She protested half heartedly, then headed straight for the feeder.

Old water was dumped out, and the pan refreshed from the blue bucket I brought. I doled out the treats- left over veggies and pasta. No matter what I bring, it disappears rapidly.

I felt like a treasure hunter as I investigated each straw lined nest box. Five brown speckled eggs, still warm,are slipped into the old basket before I head back through the snow, dogs on my heels.

A wire basket full of eggs on the counter- it somehow sets the tone for day that is certain to be rich in blessings.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Hats off...!

I've never been much of one to wear hats. (That being said, I do fondly remember when I was in Mrs. Carvers second grade classroom, with the bilious green walls,at the Harry Lee Cole school, that I received, for Christmas, a red and white candy cane striped stocking cap with a grapefruit sized white pom pom. That hat was a good 3 feet from tip to brim, and reached to my knees. I adored it with an unwavering passion.) In general, however, I find hats make my head feel funny, and they are often itchy. The nice wool ones have a pungent smell, that while pleasant, becomes tiresome after a while. All hats tend to slip and slide on my fuzzy head, and then there is the issue of hat hair when the thing is removed. For those of us, like me, blessed with big, curly hair, hats reduce us to having flat, smashed hair that cannot be repaired without dunking our head in a bucket of water. And who has time for that?

So, even though I live in New England and spend more than most of my life wrapped in winter weather, I cannot warm up to hats. I did buy a new coat this year that came with a hood, and I have put that hood to good use a few times so far this season. Worn briefly it does not seem to smoosh my hair like a hat would. Then again, the sub zero winds can still dart about inside a hood, and cause my ears to thrum and tingle with cold. It's a conundrum. The above pictured duck is all set for winter in Maine... it's hat permanently attached. It does, however, look like it could use a good set of Bean boots.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Big snow...

Big, deep, it snowed for three days snow. High as my knees snow. Deeper than a pug snow! Blowing, windy, wild snow.

Friday, January 1, 2010

In and out...


Hard to say which is more inviting.