Thursday, April 28, 2011


Where I work, Yankee Clipper Pet Grooming, customers can look in from different vantage points and see us grooming pets. Most folks are suprised when they see me working on cats. They ask, "Is that a CAT?" They ask, "Is it DRUGGED?" Most of the cats I groom are very still and cooperative while I comb, clip and primp them.

I answer them this way; "You know how everyone is born with certain gifts? Some people are amazing teachers. Some are gifted artists. Some have a flair for making money. Well, God has a sense of humor and he gave me the gift of being good at grooming cats!" And it seems to be true. Most cats lie fairly still while I work on them; giving them a hair cut and a bath. I fluff them dry and trim and primp. It's an odd gift, to be sure, but I am grateful for it- and the accompanying sense of humor.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Weekend activities...

My sweet husband would be perfectly happy living in a condominium with few maintenance issues. But he knows that I love living right here in this old farmhouse surrounded by meadow, and he humors me. This past weekend I had a long list of springtime chores and he gamely joined in. He wasn't overly enthusiastic at first.

Hauled branches from the recently pruned fruit trees
Dismantled a tumble down firewood pile, re-stacked the good wood and hauled the bad
Put the screen door up
Cleaned the chicken coop
Gave an out-of-control flower bed a major overhaul
Ran a few errands (including buying seed potatoes for the vegetable garden)
Raked some of the yard
And... (drum roll, please)
burned an enormous brush pile!

In our area burn permits are not issued until dusk, so we dined outside while we watched a years worth of branches, scrap wood, our Christmas tree and other miscellaneous junk go up in smoke. Where a messy pile once stood there is now a flat, charred area that will soon be covered in new, green growth. And this was a chore that a guy could warm up to, (pun intended.) It involved tools, cold beer and leaping flames. He was a happy guy!

I can hardly wait to see what fun chores I dream up for the coming weekend...stay tuned!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bad boxer...

Tiger Lilly joined our family about this time 13 years ago. When we brought her home her muzzle was the softest black velvet and the daffodils towered over her 4 pound self. Little did we know how bad she would grow to be.

We joke that if Lilly had opposeable thumbs that she would very probably rule the world... or at the very least we would all starve to death, because she would be able to open the 'fridge and cabinets and eat us out of house and home. Lilly is a trash stealer and a counter surfer. In her youth she thought nothing of leaping onto the kitchen table, and her episodes of badness are family legend.

Now that she is old and plagued by spinal arthritis, her naughty antics have lessened in frequency, but she still manages to pull off some escapades that leave me shaking my head and the other dogs wondering how she manages. Here are two examples:
Thursday was a rather busy, frantic, exhausting day at work and I had to rush home and get ready to go to an event with my husband. I opened the door to the house when I got home and was greeted, as usual, by happy dogs. I took a double take when I saw Lilly. Her grey muzzle was grayer... in fact, her whole HEAD was white. How had she aged so much in 8 hours? Then my gaze took in the room... a mysterious white powder covered the dog bed, the floor, and the guilty dogs face. I quickly put the events of the day together. A gust of wind had blown the porch door open.
In the summer the porch is a room we use in which to dine, read, relax, but in the winter it becomes a handy catch-all of things-I-don't-quite-know-what-to-do-with. After Christmas someone gave me a ginger bread house kit, and it was stashed on the porch, most likely destined for the trash when I got around to it.

Lilly had other plans. When that happy wind opened an opportunity for her, she took it! She brought the box with its fragrant contents in by the wood stove, where she tore it apart. Then she went right for the shrink wrapped house... a giant cookie! But since she does have the previously mentioned thumbs, she had to attempt to open it with her nimble mouth, and in the process the whole package slid just out of reach under the antique hutch. Foiled yet undeterred, she opened up the package of frosting mix, powdered sugar and who knows what else. And she shook it, licked it, gnawed it, turning the powder to a gluey substance that she she happily smeared all over the wooden floor, dog bed, hutch and her brindle self. This was the scene I came home to, and after my first gasp of horror I had to laugh. She was so pleased with herself!

Then this morning I walked out with all the dogs, pulling the house door shut behind me. When Lilly was done with her important doggy business she headed back up the deck and pawed the door open while I was feeding birds and the other dogs were still doing their thing. As I headed back up the deck I heard a crash and looked in the kitchen window to see that Lilly had just nimbly flipped the cookie sheet left on the stove with last nights biscuits (see previous post) off and was scarfing left overs as fast as she could. The other dogs came in just in time for crumb clean-up... Lilly had trumped them yet again.

Since boxer dogs are known for their rather short life spans, I feel lucky to have had Lilly for so many years... and oddly I treasure these episodes of evil that she trots out. They are evidence of intelligence, cunning and wit and I have to admit I'll miss her antics when she is gone. Life will be tider, but somehow more dull.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Comfort food for a rainy spring night...

It is late April, ostensibly spring, but it is cold enough that we have a fire in the wood stove and the dogs and I are happy to be snuggled under a warm blanket on the sofa. We baked a ham and it filled the air in the house with its rich aroma.

I decided that ham needed me to bake biscuits. I have recently discovered a new biscuit recipe that we are very fond of. When I made them tonight I was swept back in time 30 years. I was in the dark paneled kitchen of my college friends grandmother in North Carolina. Having been raised in the north by a mother who whole heartedly embraced convenience foods and thought Pillsbury pop 'n fresh biscuits were gifts from heaven, I had never seen biscuits made "from scratch."

I watched that gentle woman make biscuits with the fascination one might engage when watching their child's first steps. She had a wooden bowl that looked to be as old as time, and she deftly scooped flour from a battered tin bin with her bare hands, added a pinch of this and another of that, poured in some milk. In mere moments she had a soft dough and patted it out on a board. Small puffs of flour blew out under the dough. Next she twisted a metal cutter into the dough and flipped the discs onto a baking sheet. 9 minutes later I tasted my first home-made, southern style biscuit. It was love at first bite. And there was so much to love; the tender crust which gave way to a pillowed warm center redolent with melting butter. There was a bit of saltiness, a hint of sweetness and an odd sense of history and love all in that one simply baked morsel. When I asked for her recipe her face folded into a mass of smile lines. She had made so many biscuits over so many years that her recipe was a part of her, probably just as it had been a part of her mother and her grandmother before her.

I've been working to perfect my recipe ever since... handicapped by my northern heritage and blighted early kitchen experience. But each effort is delicious in its own way, and my patient family happily polishes off each biscuit.

Here is the latest family favorite recipe, feel free to try it yourself. I'd love to hear what you think.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 scant Tbs. sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 beaten egg
Not quite 2/3's of a cup of milk

Mix dry ingredients. Cut in shortening. Stir in milk and egg just until mixed. Turn onto floured board and knead until no longer sticky (just a few minutes.) Pat out to 3/4 of an inch or so. Cut with biscuit cutter or drinking glass. Bake on ungreased sheet at 400 for 9-11 minutes.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Things happen for a reason...

Egg production from "the ladies" has slacked off a bit of late. I didn't think too much about it, but on Sunday I found a hidden nest with THIRTY(!) eggs in it. I was appalled. I have been feeding those eggs to the dogs, and a couple of them a day to my beloved crows. I put them in the driveway and yell, (feeling foolish all the while) "HERE CROWS!"

Within moments they arrive, glinting like onyx. First a fly-by. Next they land in the maple, surveying the situation.

If I am still and quiet by the window, they swoop in, and dine. The younger ones pierce the egg shell and daintilly pull out the contents of the eggs. The big ones like this clean up after the "kids," then grab a whole egg in their huge bills and swoop off.

Those wasted eggs?? Totally worth it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Freedom of the season...

I brought the bunny in last December. She has been living in the kitchen, dining well and being quite obviousoly bored. I was trying to wait until the weather was really fine before letting her go again, but yesterday was so stunning I couldn't wait another moment.

She surveyed the yard for about 5 miniutes before dashing out.
She spent the day checking out all of her favorite haunts. In the afternoon when I planted early peas, spinach and lettuce she joined me in the garden.
This morning when I went out to feed the hens the rabbit ran to meet me. And later when I was washing dishes I looked out the rain spattered window to see her leaping with what appeared to be pure, unadulterated bunny joy in the brown meadow grass.

I hope she has a wonderful spring and summer. I know I am richer for watching her obvious enjoyment of her small bunny life.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Everyday celebration...

In the spirit of spring, we had an impromptu after work cook out with friends tonight. The original plan was to burn our brush pile and cook out and visit while the flames did their thing. But it was too windy to get a burn permit, so we put the fire pit to work for ambiance and went on with plans.

Scott OH so kindly showed up with his tractor and tilled my little vegetable patch for me. AND then he went and tilled up a HUGE new vegetable plot for us over in the sunny meadow. It is going to be a project but wow! It was exciting to see him turn turf into potential. He was done in no time. He is one can-do guy and I am so grateful to him so often.

Next we retired to the picnic table where it was really a bit too cool to dine, but what the heck! The cooking was not exactly gourmet, hot dogs, spinach salad... and s'mores! But this was a meal and a setting ripe with promise of warm days to come. An everyday celebration because there is so much to be glad about.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Rainbows and reality...

Today I had to ask a friend if she was safe at home with her partner. I've never asked anyone that question before, and the answer is haunting me. "I think so," she said. "But no one ever really knows."

This makes me realize that I am blinded here, in my little rainbow-tinted world. I forget that some women go home to a place where they don't feel entirely safe with the person they are supposed to be closest to.

So tonight I am feeling rather even more grateful than usual. Because really? I do know.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I took this photo hanging out of a bus window in the Dominican Republic. The man acknowledged this by nodding slightly and giving me the merest suggestion of a thumbs up. He is, obviously, a character!

I treasure the many characters in my life... they add such vibrancy to the warp and woof of my days.