Thursday, March 29, 2012

Speaking of lambs...

In my last post I mentioned that March is supposed to "come in like a lion and go out like a lamb." Well... today we popped in on our neighbors and they had... LAMBS! Five of them, and more on the way. I almost died of an overdose of cuteness watching them bound and leap and listening to them call out "Maaaa!" in their tiny, high pitched voices. I got to HOLD them. They are impossibly soft and sweet smelling. We also saw the neighbors beautiful horses and totally adorable American Alpine goat, "Peaches." Peaches is smart as a whip and has the run of the place. She took a shine to us, apparently, because when the truck door swung open she hopped in!
I was sorely tempted to bring her home with me... maybe I need to add a goat to the place?

Out like a lamb?

They say March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. As I turn the last few calendar pages of the month I'd say the old adage has things wrong! In the last 24 hours we've had cold rain, freezing rain, sleet, hail and snow. Today is gray and wet. At first glance there was no reason to take my camera outside, but I tasked myself to find something pretty. And of course, I did. So I kept looking...
I bought this little wren house a few years ago, in hopes some sweet feathered thing would raise babies there. To date no one has. I've changed it's location, so maybe this will be the year?
This shot looks more like a Christmas card than a spring photo... but I can't begrudge how pretty the frosting is, despite my ardent wish for spring.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Fried chicken and changes...

When my husband, Chris, and I married he was 25 and I was 24. Neither of us could cook, but we both liked to eat! We had a budget that was tighter than tight, in fact, going to the grocery store used to plunge me into a several-day-long depression, so to this day he does all the shopping. For a long while we dined on delicacies such as boxed macaroni and cheese, spam and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And during that time we experimented with cooking. We ate a lot of pasta, ground beef and beans. I was the type to go for a recipe book, while practical Chris would dig around to see what we had in the kitchen and combine those ingredients to make... something. The rule was,(and is!) whoever got home first starts supper. I well remember coming home in the early days to find my smiling man in the kitchen. "What's for supper?" I'd ask suspiciously. He'd give me a sound kiss and a conspiratorial grin and say, "Chrissy surprise." This meant that he had scoured the 'fridge for left overs, and tossed what he'd found in a pot with some cooked rice and, perhaps, a can of cream-of-something soup. His most memorable, (and oddly, LAST) "Chrissy surprise" bubbled up at me in a spicy green gelatinous mass when I peeked in the pot. It looked terrifying, but oddly, tasted pretty good. We've come a long way since then. Tonight Chris cooked up a big old batch of southern fried chicken. This is the recipe he used: "You gotta love a recipe that has three eggs and an entire cup of hot sauce in it," he told me. And yes. Yes, I DID love it. This chicken has a fabulous crust that is spicy without being obnoxious. Chris has a gift for being able to look at the menu in a restaurant and choose the best item there. I know this because I always taste his meal and spend the rest of the evening wishing I'd ordered what he did. He can also look at a recipe and tell in a flash if it is going to be merely good or just freaking wonderful. I am a good cook. I bake fragrant, tender bread, make quiche that people talk about, and my Thanksgiving feast is memorable. I can make a gravy that will knock your socks off. But my kitchen skills pale in comparison to those my husband brings to our table. Our daughter recently asked me, "Mom, do you think people can change?" I told her no, I didn't think that people changed much... they are who they are. But really, that is wrong. We can change and learn and grow. Deliciously.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Gentle nag...

Due to the quirks of marriage I have a niece who is two months younger than me. She reads my blog and sent me a note today saying she wishes I would post more. Her sweet and gentle nagging spurred this post and I am grateful for it! In turn I shall take this opportunity to nag her. A talented writer, she needs to start a blog of her own! We have had insanely warm weather for Maine. Temperatures in the 80's in March are just unheard of. Many plants that normally do not bloom until later here in the frozen north are popping up. When I came dragging in from a hard day at work yesterday my spirits were lifted by the sight of these precious crocus' just by the entrance to my home.
The spot where my herb garden grows is a barren looking wasteland of old leaves and dead sage plants. But Adventure Chicken hopped the fence today and was scratching about... and she uncovered CHIVES! They don't look like much now, but they will be lovely soon, and flavor our meals zestfully.
The bunny seems totally delighted with the weather. She hangs out with the chickens, mostly, and naps in the sun, all stretched out looking as happy as a bunny can look. In the past 4 days the lawn area has gone from dead brown to a blush of green. New growth and warm weather makes this bunny happy. She managed well all winter, hiding under the brush pile or snuggled in the coop with her "peeps," but surely spring, summer and fall are more to her liking.
Chickens clean their plumage by taking dust baths. They find a likely spot of dirt and wallow around in it, kicking their big comical feet and rolling about. They fluff their feathers up and toss dirt on their backs, working it down to the skin. This absorbs oils and also helps rid the birds of any parasites. (I add sulfur powder to the spot from time to time as an added way to kill any mites or bird lice.) During the winter the ground is frozen and the birds can't get a proper dust bath. Spring finds them in delirious digging and rolling and lolling as they make up for lost time. When they are satisfied they stand up and shake off, creating clouds of dust and soil that float through the air.
Last weekend we took advantage of the lovely temperatures and did some yard work. One chore I was anxious to accomplish was the annual burning of the brush pile. This pile accumulates with... well, brush! Also old broken wooden furniture, pieces of scrap lumber from projects, the annual Christmas tree. Wild things like little birds and mice like to hide there from the winter storms, and the pet bunny does, too. But is an eyesore and I am grateful to get a permit then toss a match to it. We make it a bit of an event... dragging out chairs and chatting around the heat of the flames.
We also cleaned and hung 5 Blue Bird boxes. Most years we have a pair or two of Blue Birds classing up the place by raising a family in one of the houses. Usually at least one house is occupied by Tree Swallows, wonderful happy little birds that eat lots of bugs and bring smiles with their aerial acrobatics. The day after the boxes were readied a handsome male Blue Bird stopped by and investigated each one. He's out there now, calling for a lady to join him and set up house keeping. So there are some promised signs of spring. There are more to come, please stay tuned!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Seeking spring...

I made an effort this week to LOOK for signs of spring. Here is one, swelling buds on a vine I passed. I notice the Rhododendron bushes at work have large buds on them, too. And the tips of my tulips are poking out of the cold soil in my front garden. These are subtle signs, but there for my enjoyment if I take time to find them.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Maine March...

For the past 5 days it has felt decidedly spring-like. The yard has been awash in mud, the air filled with the voices of birds we have not heard from since the leaves fell; red wing black birds gobble down food between blasting out their "Cheerie!" song at my feeders and though unseen, an Eastern Bluebird has been singing for a mate all week long. I've been reading gardening books and plotting this years crop. Then last night it snowed and the world was sugar frosted this morning. But still... it is more than the page on the calendar that promises spring. A tree full of robins eating dried fruit is another sign that a new season is coming, bright with promise. In the next few posts I'll show some other omens of spring.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Missed shot...

"Honey!" my husband called from upstairs. I was snuggled on the sofa, checking my email and wishing I could think of something to blog about. "Look out the front window." I turned my head. From my vantage point I could see through the window, out the porch and to the front yard beyond. I gasped. 20 feet from where I was sitting is a crab apple tree. This tree is a popular spot for birds and I have taken many nice pictures of chickadees, robins, waxwings and even a bluebird in its branches. Well today... today the tree was filled with wild turkeys! The thin branches bowed under their weight, and they plucked dried fruit and swallowed it deftly down. Sadly, by the time I got up an grabbed my camera they had left the little tree and were meandering around in the field across the street. I did manage to get a few shots of them there... and this white turkey stood out rather gloriously. I don't know that it is a true albino, but it certainly is not colored like the rest of the flock. I never know from one moment to the next what wonder will appear. I almost missed this one, good thing my husband was more observant than I!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Coming home...

I went away for a long weekend to Atlanta Pet Fair. The drive to the airport was wild and wooly, in the midst of a fairly significant snow storm. My sweet husband drove me, and as we slid down the highway I was most grateful for that gift. In Atlanta there are fruit trees blooming and flowers planted. The air was soft and sweet, except when there were torrential storms and tornadoes all around us. The Pet Fair was filled with smiling, familiar faces. There were glad reunions with friends and talking till my voice was tired. I gave three seminars, all of which were well received. And I worked at the German Red Clipper booth with wonderful Erich and Tony, a grand succession of dogs and endless groomers stopping by to take the clipper for a test drive. Between working, there was catching up with folks I only see once or twice a year; and that is always fine. Flying back I could look down through the night sky at deep violet clouds and puddles of twinkling lights below them. As we got closer and closer to home the lights became fewer and the snowy ground reflected opalescent moonlight up to the wings of the plane and beyond. It was aching lovely. Lovelier still was the sight of my good man waiting for me at the bottom of the steps at the airport. Flirt the toy poodle was tucked inside his leather jacket, searching each face for the one she loves the best. When she finally found me she gave one enormous squirm and flew into my arms. She doled out a few delighted kisses and then gave a deep sigh and relaxed against me, happy. It snowed all the way home and when we saw the lights of our house in the wee hours of the morning there was that familiar sense of relief to have arrived safely at the place we love the best. After too short a time in my own bed I woke to take care of the animals. A thin winter sun shone down on the fresh snow.
Outside my window Morning Doves huddled in the pine near the feeder, hopeful.
In contrast, Adventure Chicken had let herself into the garage and hopped into the metal trash can where we keep sunflower seed. I found her when I went to scoop food for those doves... and got my first laugh of the day.
In the coop was another surprise... duck eggs! They have not laid eggs since last summer, so this egg-citing!
Inside the air is wood stove warm and welcoming, with sleek, happy dogs soaking up the heat. I noticed a stack of boxes by the door. Big boxes. This is what they contained:
That was my second laugh of the day! You see, last week we had a delightful visit from my childhood friend, Melanie. Along with her was her kind husband, Barry and wonderful twin sons. We had a bit of time to catch up and it was a real treat. At some point Melanie was helping me in the kitchen and said, "Oh, you just ran out of paper towels." I said, "I may have more, but maybe not, too. Chris buys less than I use, which is probably a good thing." Melanie laughed and told me that her husband tended to keep very well stocked on paper goods of all kinds. I joked and said, "If you ever want to give me a good gift, send me a whole bunch of paper products. I'd feel RICH to have extras." And that is just what she did. Three huge boxes; paper towels, toilet paper, boxes of tissues and more. All of this is now neatly stocked in my handy new pantry and I do. I do feel RICH. So there were storms and travel and laughter and successful times and more travel and more snow and too little sleep and then coming home and more laughter. It's a gift, all of it!