Monday, October 31, 2011


This year I grew a single pumpkin plant.  Here is my harvest, ready to turn into jack o' lanterns.  My daughter and I cut and scooped and scraped and carved.  One pumpkin had a huge eyeball on it, one a ghost and the third a crescent moon. They greeted a little witch and a handful of other goblins.  My "after" photos were not so good, you'll have to your imagination run wild! 

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

October snow...

 The lambs look befuddled by the weather.  Last night all five of them bedded down in the calf hutch, which has a thick cushion of mulch hay inside.  They were wedged in tight as puzzle pieces and contentedly chewing their cuds when I went out this morning.  They have no problem digging through the wet snow to find food, (and they ignore the nice hay we bought them!)  I doubt they feel the chill though those thick fleeces.

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. 
It is odd to see snow on trees still laden with leaves; on pumpkins and scarecrows and autumn wreaths.
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

Missed the shot but savored the story...

Layah, one of my original four chickens, has been failing. She was old and has had a rich chicken life filled with good food, sunshine, room to roam and a safe, cozy coop to roost in at night.  During the last week she faded a bit more each day.  She did not appear to be suffering, but was, clearly, dying.  This morning when I went out to let the chickens out of the coop she was still alive, but her time was obviously borrowed. 

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

Shopping in the country...

When we first moved to this rather rural spot from the city of Memphis we found ourselves often stopping in at at the Union True Value Hardware.  It was the closest thing to a store around and had many things we needed as we settled into our new home. 

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

Ducks and mischief...

Sometimes reading gets me into mischief. Last year I read about how wonderful Muscovy ducks are. Quiet, friendly, easy to raise and delicious to eat.  So I rushed right out and got three of them.  One boy, two girls.
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

Sweet farewell...

The puppy our good dog Flirt had went to her new home today.  My niece, Aimee (left, with her sister Elyse) took the 1.8 lb. ball of fluff off to her new life. I have enjoyed this experience so much I cannot quite find the words to describe it.  Watching Flirt give birth and skillfully care for a new baby was a treat.  Watching that baby grow from a blind, deaf newborn to a round ball of animated fluff has been a joy.  The past weeks have been rich in wonder, amazement, dawning love and laughter.  And now I get to hand all that off to someone I adore.  There are so many gifts here, so much to be grateful for. When I try to count my blessings I can't... they are overwhelming.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Sometimes I think we underestimate the importance of a good greeting.
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.


Sometimes my daughter borrows my camera.  I don't know a thing about it until I download my photo card onto my computer.  And then I am happy to find images from around our home that come from an entirely different viewpoint and perspective than my own.  I am delighted to think of her, lying belly down in autumn leaves to catch this mushroom sprouting by the mailbox.  I had noticed the mushroom... (it was enormous!) but I didn't stop to catch its fleeting form on film.  How wonderful that she did.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Decorating with food...

This fall a magazine showed photos of white pumpkins encircled with bittersweet berries. Since I love to decorate with things that are white, and since bittersweet brings back joyous childhood memories, I was all over this idea.  My favorite local farm market has white pumpkins every year so I went there and... no white pumpkins.  I am not sure if they didn't grow any this year or if everyone in my area bought them up after seeing the magazine.

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

Frost on the...?

We had a hard frost this past week... and I couldn't help but think of the old phrase, "frost on the pumpkin" when I saw Bat Boy the black lamb all coated in ice crystals.  I plunged my fingers deep into his wool and he was toasty warm beneath that layer of chill. 

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

Impossibly small puppy...

My sister gifted us with a very tiny, soft dog bed when Flirt had her puppy.  The entire bed spans a mere 12 inches... but baby "Tease" could romp in it with friends and still have room to roll;  looking adorable all the while! 

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


My sweet daughter and I have a long tradition of making scare crow's this time of year.  We used to make them when she was a kid, her friends would often join us for a happy time of stuffing old clothes with straw. The last few years we let the season slip by without decorating our yard with a fun personality, but we are back in the groove this year!    We like making girl scare crows best, and this year we came up with "Ramona."  She is a sassy wench, waving jauntily at those that pass by.  She makes me smile... I hope she has a similar affect on others. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

End of season...

I put the gardens to bed today.  The last harvest-able vegetables were picked, then I flung the gate open for the sheep, chickens and ducks to have a PARTY there.  They made short work of weed seeds, insects and the wilting leaves of pepper and squash plants.  
 The chickens searched for bugs...

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....