Sunday, October 31, 2010

Repelling vampires on Halloween....

On a blustry, 39 degree Halloween day I planted garlic. It seemed fitting.

I have wanted to do this for several years, but never quite around to it. Here in Maine, garlic must be planted in late October. The weather at this time of year is not really all that condusive to digging in the dirt. This year I planned ahead. I bought the bulbs from a lovely woman at the Common Ground Fair. 3 different varieties, German White, Russian Red and another, the name of which escapes me. She included specific planting instructions with each purchase.

I bundled up and hoed a long row in my garden. My hands were frozen. Off to the hardware store where I picked up thermal garden gloves and a bale of straw. Once home I dug my row a little deeper. Next I delved into the bottom of the composter for dark, rich, fragrant compost to feed and nurture my precious garlic bulbs.
All year the kitchen waste, some garden clippings, some fall leaves and the occasional bucket of manure from my horse go into the compost bin. I water it from time to time, and give it a weekly stir. When I need it I have beautiful dirt full of happy worms. It never ceases to amaze me that potato peels, coffee grounds and egg shells can make such lovely soil!

Here is one of the garlic bulbs nestled into compost. I then topped the row with soil, followed by a layer of partially decomposed wood shavings from the hen house. I then blanketed the row with deep straw to keep it cozy in the icy winter. It is my hope that today's efforts will be rewarded with pungent, flavorful bulbs of garlic next summer. That would be sweet!

Friday, October 29, 2010

When Pug's relax....

I mean REALLY relax...
After a busy day napping, with the occassional snack to keep her strength up, Blossum rests. Hard!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Gifts from the sky...

Today was a shroud of mist sliced by heavy rain. After work I did some yard chores, enjoying the lowering light and the antics of poultry and other pets. And then it happened. A decaying branch from the towering fir tree at the edge of the yard rocketed through the air with an audible whistle and landed at my feet.
Two feet long, the branch was covered with an intricate patchwork of lichens, in hazy shades of gray and blue-green. Mimicking delicate ferns and flowers, they clung tightly to the aged bark.
Standing in the damp autumn evening I examined my gift from the sky... and found it lovely.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hard frost...

The thermometer outside the front door read 27 F. this morning. There was frost spangling the grass and coating the handles of the garden tools. It decorated the milk weed nicely.
It was cozy in the chicken coop, though... 40 F!

Both the domestic and wild animals were happy when I dished out breakfast of sunflower seeds, grain, cracked corn and some nuts. I love to watch them enjoy a good meal, especially on a cold and frosty morning.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My dog is a "bat a**...."

The local veterinary hospital is having a contest... make a pumpkin look like your dog and bring them in for a photo. I took a bit of a creative spin and here is what I came up with. My dog? She's a "bat a**!"

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Raising lambs...

The lambs were curious about the dogs. Pushing them about with their heads... fearless.

The lambs came to live here in early spring. I brought them from a dark, crowded barn. All summer they munched on grass and branches and lamb chow. There was running and leaping and frolicking. They napped in the sun and napped in the shade and climbed on the deck, (which we didn't love. There was a lot of pooping involved! ) They broke into the hen house and stole food. They got in the rabbit pen and stole food. They ate bird seed and bird bread. They tried to get in the human house via the pet door, but luckily they never succeeded. They got in the garage every chance they got, and were nosier than any living creatures needed to be. They ate and rested and ate and grew and grew and today I took them to go to "freezer camp."

My friend Marion came over with her stock trailer, and we got the lambs put in with very little difficulty. I was worried that they would be scared. They didn't look scared, though. They looked nosy as they investigated the new digs.

Marion and I drove them to Jason's butcher shop in Albion, Maine. I was worried that the ride and the smell of the place would make them scared. They didn't look scared though. They nosily hopped off the trailer and went into the building there, with stalls and shavings. I was afraid they would be afraid, but they weren't.

I am left with a nicely groomed lawn, the memory of happy lambs growing, and the knowledge that these animals lived a good life and didn't die afraid. I have friends who are horrified that I raised sheep for food. In the past I never could have done it... but as a human I have the opportunity to change. As I have learned (see the movie Food, Inc. and/or read the book THE OMNIVORES DILEMMA) that the life animals raised commercially for human consumption in this country is not a happy one. I know the animals I raised were happy and safe and unafraid. Just curious till the end...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hurry, hurry!

Fall is hard upon New England, and time is a'wasting! I had much to do indoors today, but the weather was fine and the yard needed work. So I mowed the front, put 3 flower gardens to bed for the winter, as well as the vegetable and herb gardens. I put a new (used, gift from my friend Cheryl) bird feeder up outside the kitchen window. I started a new compost pile, filled the wood crib up with fire wood, hauled mulch until my wheelbarrow tire sprung a leak. I picked up yard clutter and fed the sheep lots of plants pulled from the garden. I harvested all the sunflowers and fed them to the chickens, (they had a party!) and ran a few errands, too. It was a long and busy day but I feel good about my accomplishments. There is so much more to do, but tomorrow is another day....

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Getting along...

Our "household" consists of me, my husband of 26 years, our 21 year old daughter and the following animals:
6 dogs
13 chickens
2 lambs
1 rabbit
(we have a horse but she does not live here.)
I often joke that we have a rule here, and the rule is this: "Everyone gets along."
Amazingly the dogs do not bother the chickens or sheep and they all get along with each other. My husband and I have never had an argument, and we get along with our daughter unusually well. I like this photo because it illustrates the "rule." Here the rabbit munches on some breakfast, side by side with a couple of the chickens. Getting along. That is how I like it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Before the frost...

I had several big pots full of plants and flowers this summer. I enjoyed them and was sad to think that the frost would blacken and shrivel them. So I decided to give them a different send off... I would put them in the yard with the lambs.

My plan was met with approval, and each day they decimate yet another pot... munching through coleus and lantana, geranium and marigold. They leave a few stems and some dirt, and wander away looking awfully satisfied. I like to think of my plants feeding the lambs and not just withering some soon autumn night.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Horse Camping...

Along with 4 other women and their horses, my sweet Halflinger mare Chanel and I went camping at the beautiful Wildwood stables located at Acadia National Park. There were all the good things about camping... including food cooked outside in the crisp air. Something about camping food tastes better than any other sort of food there is.

We slept in friend Liz' fabulous horse trailer. With a feather bed mattress and sleeping bags and a thick down comforter we were more snug and comfortable than we could have imagined. The campground was endlessly silent at night, and so dark that when I opened my eyes I could not see any more than I could when they were shut. It was peaceful and warm offered delicious rest.

Each day we rode the carriage trails for miles. Chanel was wonderful, totally unfazed by people whizzing by on bicycles, pedestrians, barking dogs and horse drawn carriages. She had to trot much of the time to keep up with the longer legged horses we were with, (a Tennessee Walking horse, an Arabian/Saddlebred, a Dutch Warmblood and a sweet, green Quarterhorse.) When the other horses were a bit cautious about proceeding over or under a bridge, or past some "scary" thing, Chanel continued on calmly, leading the herd. She even cantered a bit, something she rarely wants to do. I shrieked with glee, unabashed!
In the barn she seemed to relish time together, searching my pockets for peppermints, apples or carrot chunks and standing quietly while I brushed her and petted her and drank in the sweet smells of hay, pine shavings and HORSE. (I wish I could bottle the smell of horse!)

My favorite ride was up Day Mountain. We were treated to the sight of New England fall foliage at its peak, and the endless blue sea and sky spread below us.

The entire weekend I had the thought, "I am SO lucky" echoing over and over in my mind. Surrounded by epic beauty, the companionship of good humans and wonderful equines, I was exquisitely aware of my blessings.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Asters alight and double...

The fabulous local farmstand has piles of gourds and pumpkins. I love how they put little signs up with the names of the produce, and sometimes interesting information like how to best cook an unusual squash. I am not sure who named this funky thing, but they "done good."

The world is suddenly filled with blooming chrysanthemums and asters, brightly colored corn and brilliant leaves in everyones yard and a low slanting light in the afternoon that sets it all ablaze. It is the exact opposite of the sign above... it's double pretty.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Chicks and leaf peeping and a supper suprise...

Today I brought home four new Partridge Rock pullets. They have the most beautiful feathers. I am going to slowly introduce them to the flock. They were raised in a cage, and when I let them out in the coop they were quite fascinated. Note the two gaping out the window. I can hardly wait until they see the big world outside, filled with bugs and grass and dirt and dust baths. They will lose thier little chicken minds!
When I woke up this morning I thought: we should mow the yard and clean the garage and scrub the toilets and do some laundry and wash the windows and scrub the floors and NOT go look at leaves, we can do that another time. Then I remembered that the foliage does not wait like chores do. So we went leaf peeping up north. Up close the leaves glow as if lit from within, yellow and orange and flaming red. From a distance the hills look like some retro '60's shag carpet in shades of russett.

We didn't see any moose this time, but there were SIGNS of their presence. >grin<
Scenic vistas appeared around every corner. The sun was bright the air was crisp and the music on the iPod was excellent. The company was pretty nice too.

When we got home our friend Meg was visiting daughter Rachel. And the house smelled of an exotic blend of spices. The girls were cooking Indian food! Chicken curry, samosas and chapati. Here is Rachel, flipping a chapati (flat bread) with great skill.

The table was set, the candles lit, the food cooked. It was beyond delicious... not just the food but the fact that the dinner was prepared and I didn't do it. The fact that when I came home my house was full of life and laughter and flavor. Just as the day was filled with color and wonder, (and new chickens!)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Date night...

My husband and I have been married for 26 years. This week I told him I was in need of a "date night." Time with him, alone and special. Per his usual pattern he jumped right on the suggestion with enthusiasm, and checked out dining establishments for a romantic place we have not yet discovered. We set the "date" for tonight.
I worked today. I ended up working late. Then I had to take our daughter somewhere... and I didn't end up getting home until after 7 pm. As I drove through the dark to our home I was thinking that it was late, and I was tired, and that I really, really wished I had never suggested a date. What I wanted most of all was to be home in our cozy house for the evening. But I made up my mind that I would settle the pets and put on my best new outfit and out we'd go, and we'd have a wonderful time.
When I turned the corner and saw the lights of home lit up I felt a pang of longing. Longing to put on my comfy clothes and be there. There... in that little warm house full of comfort and love.
When I opened the door of my truck and began lifting dogs (some go to work with me) out, I smelled three things: cool, crisp autumn air, woodsmoke and DINNER COOKING. I was elated. When I entered the house I saw flames dancing in the wood stove, and my husband cooking. THAT is the sort of sight that is priceless. And JOYFUL.
Moments later I was in my most comfy clothes and had a glass of red wine in my hand. Shortly after that our "date" began. We dined on garlic stuffed steak and stir fried pea pods, in the comfort of our cozy home.
I asked my husband, "How did you know what I really wanted?" He answered simply and with a wry grin, "How many years have we been married?" 26 years. He knows me well.