Monday, December 26, 2011
Friday, December 23, 2011
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Thursday, December 15, 2011
And you? What do YOU believe in?
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
The ancient hutch in the front room is laden with little lights and Christmas decorations. My two favorites are here. My daughter made figures of Mary, baby Jesus and two lovely angels when she was in high school. I treasure them. In the next photo is another prize... a nativity scene made by my friend Kathy; one of the first people I met when I moved to Memphis with our tiny infant. Kathy was a lifeline for me during a lonely time, and I think of her often, especially when I carefully unpack these sweet ceramic figures every December.
The tree this year is decorated rather simply... white lights, little icicle ornaments, crocheted snowflakes and antique crystals (which I gleefully purchased at a variety of antique/junk stores.) It reminds us of starry night and snow and smells like heaven.
The bottom photo shows some knitting projects my daughter and I have been working on. The purple and blue items are shawls we knit as gifts for some very special people, and the top, frothy looking item is a wonderful scarf which is still "in progress."
We had a visitor once who made my heart sing when she said, "Everywhere I look in your house there is something beautiful to admire." I try to remember this when I am focusing on the dust bunnies and clutter and doggy nose prints on the windows. There is so much pretty here to focus on instead.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
This time of year our home is bursting with plenty. The harvest of chickens, ducks, lamb, pork and (soon!) beef is tucked into the huge chest freezer. A smaller freezer is full of squash, carrots, beans, blueberries and quart bags stuffed full of tomato sauce made on a steaming day in August.
Now in December we've been scurrying around for weeks squirreling away gifts for each other for Christmas. Thoughtful things that we hope will delight are wrapped with love and tucked under the boughs of a fresh evergreen tree.
Best of all there is the coming together each evening after a long day at work. The ease and comfort of good companionship, pleasant conversation and companionable silences. That is the grace.
How I love to be in this place.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
We also finished decorating the tree... going with a very simplistic theme this year. Normally we haul out every single ornament collected over our entire marriage, all the little hand made things from our daughters childhood, a mish mash collection of colors and shapes and sizes. This year we decided to go for a rather simplistic approach; white lights, white crocheted snow flakes, little sparkly icicle ornaments and a bunch of antique crystals from an old chandelier that I found at a junk shop. It is very pretty!
There was much hauling of fire wood today. I don't mind the job, but my knees do. They ache after I have pushed a loaded wheelbarrow over the uneven ground from one side of the yard to the other over and over. A basement stacked full of good hard wood, though? That is decorating I can really warm up to!
Friday, December 2, 2011
This morning when the dogs and I streamed outside the world was coated in frost. We skidded over the deck and down the slick steps.
Then we went for a stroll around the meadow. The dogs were feeling feisty; leaping and dancing on the cold ground. Even Lilly, the ancient, arthritic Boxer, bounced and spun in the crisp air with her friend Dazzle poodle. Canine ballet.
The chickens and ducks were less than amused about the cold ground and frozen water bowls. I reminded them that this time of year is rarely as warm as it has been . They flipped me off. A few fistful's of sunflower seeds and some buckets of warm water, steaming in the morning air, placated them.
The bunny wisely hung out in the coop... on top of the deep bed of clean shavings. Her bowl of rabbit pellets was nearby... along with a carrot and some celery. And a nibble of bread. She LOVES bread.
Some of us love frosty mornings.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Thanksgiving day dawned clear and the temperature soared. My sweet brother in law, John, helped out by clearing up the drive and walk ways. He soon got so warm he peeled his shirt off. I had to laugh when I saw him, surrounded by snow yet shirtless!
We fed 20 people and the house was filled with laughter and chatter. There was no angst. Just pleasantness and helpfulness and good conversation.
And then... everyone goes home and this old house is quiet again. All of the build up and planning and preparation is over. The cold porch is laden with leftovers, and we find ourselves ducking out there to snitch a bit of turkey, a taste of cake, a glass of wine, a slice of good pie. As for me, I usually take a nap or two in the days following. I bask in the memory of the joy of being together, remember the echoing sounds of good conversation and savor the flavor of the left over goodies. The thankfulness? It lingers.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Recently one of my grooming customers told me that they wanted to find a home for their Maine Coon cat- a huge guy with a sweet disposition. I thought of the mice and looked at the massive cat. I think the mice have met their match.
We dubbed the new guy "Catfish Hunter." He is settling in, getting to know the lay of the place and meeting his new staff. He has the dogs trembling in fear as he stalks about. One impressive feline; I have a feeling he is going to earn his keep.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
There are all these intricate connections in our lives. Some we take for granted until the link breaks. And then because life is the way it is, we move on, stronger for the experience, saddened by the loss. It's a lot to think about.
Monday, November 7, 2011
We stayed in the home of our friends. They offered us the warmest, most gracious hospitality. The first night we dined on Couscous made by their friend (and our new friend!) from Algeria. Another amazing woman from Germany joined us for the feast. So it was 3 Americans, 2 Canadians, a German and an Algerian all at the table. As we ate and talked and laughed I couldn't help but look at this bunch of us; a blend of languages and cultures and experiences, all joined together because of... pet grooming. I could never have imagined that my passion for grooming dogs and cats would take me to the places it has. On Sunday my friend and I gave a seminar on cat grooming to 16 women from all over the province. Our work was well received and I think all of us had a good time.
If I could have looked through the key hole to my life and seen the bright kaleidoscope of colors that would ebb and flow to create the wonders I experience, I never would have believed my eyes. I can hardly wait to see what happens next!
Monday, October 31, 2011
I had a memory while I was carving of a story I heard when I was a small kid. It was supposed to be a scary story My friend told me that one time when they carved a pumpkin they removed the lid and found a live mouse inside. I realized tonight that every time I cut a pumpkin I am subconsciously looking for a cute little mouse. To me that would be a happy surprise... the story backfired and didn't scare me a bit.
I also fondly remembered holding tightly to my mothers hand while going trick or treating. We'd scuff our feet through the frosty leaves and she'd say, "Crunch, crunch, crunch, Billy Goat's out to lunch!" One neighbor lived in a beautiful old colonial house with a fireplace so large I could stand in it. They would have a kettle full of hot apple cider suspended over a fire, and the warmth of their home and that aromatic drink would be so welcoming after a cold walk in the dark.
Tonight we put heaping handfuls of candy into children's bags. I hope someday when those kids are big they'll ride by our place and say, "That is the house that always had a bunch of jack o' lanterns and gave a silly amount of candy!" It would be fun to be part of a happy memory.
Sunday, October 30, 2011
The ducks are not as happy. One of them had the good sense to bunk in with the chickens in the snug, insulated coop yesterday evening.. The other two were out in the middle of the lawn looking fairly miserable when I went out with the dogs for the final walk last night. Frosted in an inch of so of wet snow, they followed expectantly along with me and the beam of my good flash light. They could choose shelter in the duck house, the chicken coop or the calf hutch. Instead they huddled forlornly under the coop. At least it is dry there. This morning as the winds gust they are still on strike, refusing to seek better shelter. I assume when they get hungry enough they'll waddle out and become better situated.
But inside the wood stove crackles and a kettle filled with water, cinnamon, orange peels and cloves perfumes the air. I am snuggled up under a thick fleece blanket and sipping a cup of spicy tea. This storm will pass and the regularly scheduled season will return.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Before I went to work I checked on the critters one last time. The hen was comfortably cradled on shavings, and the bunny was snuggled up to her. They were cheek to cheek, sitting very close and still beside each other. I hustled to get my camera, but when I came back the bunny had moved.
The rabbit, living without any of her own kind, has bonded with the chickens and ducks. I think she knew her friend was moving on and spent a few moments saying goodbye. The animals I share my life with constantly amuse and amaze me. I missed the photo opportunity but the memory is mine to keep.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
On my second visit there the owner, Vic, called out, "Hi Daryl!" I was both surprised and impressed, such a thing would never happen in the city.
Eight years later I have bought many things there... nuts and bolts, a bright yellow wheel barrow, lip balm, penny candy, cleaning supplies, shower curtain liners and gallons of paint. I've bought gifts and decorating items, garden tools and plants and shavings for my critters. And I have grown to care for and appreciate the owners of the place.
Last weekend my husband and my sister went there to pick something up. They came home with a moose steak and some ground moose, too, tucked neatly into the TruValue bag. Vic had generously shared some of the bounty of this years hunt. That would never happen in the city, either.
I cooked up the ground moose tonight with some of my special tomato sauce. Moose spaghetti! Made all the more delicious because the meat was a gift slipped into the bag from the hardware store. Shopping in the country has been a surprise from the start.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
A very short time later I had 24 ducks. They grazed my lawn, decimated the spider population, and added much color and fascination to my life. And they pooped... a LOT.
I am now back down to the original 3. The rest went to "freezer camp." I roasted my first duck last night.
I read a lot about how to do this before I proceeded, and finally followed a recipe I found in the New York Times. Salt and pepper the duck, drizzle it with olive oil and bake at 475 for 30. min. Next, add vegetables to the duck fat (potatoes, celery, onions, garlic and carrots) and roast another 30 min. It was delicious... and those pan browned potatoes? The best we ever had.
I have shrink-wrapped the rest of the flock and nestled them into the freezer. Now I need to read up on more recipes for duck. Sometimes reading and mischief are good things!
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Monday, October 17, 2011
When my husband and I were newlyweds living in a tiny, dark apartment in Lynchburg, VA I learned a lesson on this topic. He worked for a short time for Stanley Steamer Carpet cleaners, an odious job. His boss lived near us and often gave him a ride home, because we only had one car. When I would hear them pull up I would race out the door to greet him with great glee. And a kiss. Mike, his boss, would roll his eyes. He told Chris, "Enjoy it while it lasts. It won't last." He looked sad when he said it. I made a mental note, and now, 27+ years later I still try to greet my love when he comes home. I taught our daughter, when she was small, to run and hug him when he came in, "Daddy is home!" I'd call, and we'd rush to the door for hugs and kisses. We made homecoming a small event. Sometimes when my man comes home, (tonight for example) I am doing something time-sensitive. Like stirring gravy. I will at least call out, "HI HONEY!" in a happy voice and pucker up when he comes around the corner. The gravy more than makes up for my lack of greeting him at the door. My guy? He has a thing for gravy.
I have a friend who has been married the same amount of years that we have. Her husband told her how much a warm greeting when he comes home from work would mean to him. He works long hours at a job he hates. My friend refuses to accommodate his request. "I'm tired, too. Why should I act like it's a big deal that he comes home?" Because it is.
My animals know how to greet. When I come back to the house... no matter if I have just walked to the mailbox or been gone for days, my dogs greet me with hysterical glee. They make me feel like a celebrity. My ducks greet one another with an elaborate ritual of head bobbing with accompanying vocalizations. My lambs call for each other if one is out of sight behind a log pile. Even my chickens croon to each other as they arrive in the coop at night after a day of ranging the yard. There are occasional inter-species greetings as well. Pleasant nose touches and acknowledgements, "I see you here. You matter. Hello!"
I am so happy when people come to visit me. I greet them with genuine joy. How wonderful that they care enough to come here to spend time with us. And I am daily grateful that my loved ones choose to come back to this meadow hugged home each day. They have gone to the world and had experiences I cannot share, and then they come back. Safely. And we are together. If that is not something to celebrate, I don't know what is.
Monday, October 10, 2011
Meanwhile, Chris and I went on a wonderful drive yesterday and found bittersweet vines growing wild along the way. I felt a bit like a thief when I sliced some down from the wooded roadside with my trusty pocket knife, (it is one Chris gave me. It has my name on one side and "worlds best wife" on the other.)
Today we drove to the Belgrade Lakes region and Farmington, admiring the colors God splashes so lavishly on the landscape before the cold comes. The trees were mirrored in the lakes, doubling the beauty we saw. There were many farm stands along the way, but all the pumpkins were traditional orange. Until we took a detour along the plotted route and I spied pumpkins glowing like moons tucked into a mass of of the more traditional ones. Chris kindly stopped the car and we picked the best of them.
When we got home I got right to work... wiping off the pumpkins and arranging them. Yes, yes I did. I played with my food. And I liked it.
Sunday, October 9, 2011
Today was 80 and summery. The weather changes in a blink, and this blast of warm was a welcome gift. All around me the leaves are changing from green to gold, and the Sumac is a riot of red and orange at the edge of the meadow. The cold days will soon out-number the warm and we'll turn to inside chores and stay close to the fire... snug as a lamb under thick fleece.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
She is almost 5 weeks old now. Her puppy teeth are poking through her gums, she is experimenting with eating solid food, and she is learning to play. She is not terribly coordinated at this point. She'll try a tentative bounce, fall over, roll a few times like a plushy ball, then pop up and try again. She adds extra smiles and laughter to our home.
Monday, October 3, 2011
Sunday, October 2, 2011
The ducks rejoiced in the fine dining offered up by slugs and half rotted tomatoes.
I stood outside in a cold drizzle for a LONG time watching the livestock. It seems magical that the ruined garden will feed the animals. The garden continues to feed us....