Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial day...

I spent quiet time in gratitude for the veterans here and gone who gave so much for our freedom.
Adventure Chicken knows nothing of what it takes to have freedom. She just enjoys the freedom she has.
I planted one little Bachelors Button plant a few years ago, and now they are taking over my garden. They are happy little flowers, (and the bees find them very attractive, too!)
A good bit of the day was spent doing yard chores; yard mowing, planting, working on animal fencing. I also started a project in the hen yard. The dirt there is hard packed and there is very little vegetation. I spread out the contents of last years compost pile, and hauled several loads of horse manure in. I raked all of that out and added an old bale of hay. The chickens were overjoyed, scratching, eating bugs, digging about happily for the rest of the day. If all goes as planned I expect to see a lot of new vegetation come up very soon. I took Chanel out for a ride today. I have not ridden her in over a year, and have never had a chance to ride her here. She seemed excited to be out and about, eager to trot and explore. She even cantered a little, and threw in a few bucks to make life interesting. I stayed on board! It was a wonderful weekend, with a good mix of productivity and rest. An excellent unofficial beginning to summer. And now we are in the process of making our very first ever batch of home made ice cream. Hopefully there will be more about that in the next post!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Day two...

The second day of my three day weekend was pretty terrific. I slept until 6:30, which, oddly enough, is LATE for me. I let Chanel into the back yard so she could "mow" for me. After I took care of all the animals I went inside for a bit. At one point I glanced out the window and saw this... the pony lying down next to the picnic table. How magical is that?
My sweet friend Carol offered to give me a special gift to celebrate moving my pony home. She came over and cleaned my saddle and bridle for me. They had been sitting, unused, for too long and were moldy and horrid. Carol has extensive tack cleaning experience and she whipped that leather into shape in no time. While she did it we sat at the picnic table in the sun and chatted. It was such fun! While she was working her magic I cleaned all my horse brushes and the little caddy they stay in.
I spent a lot of time "puttering" today. I dearly love to putter... dallying about cleaning a bit here, messing in the yard a bit there, sitting and watching the animals in between times. Days in which there is no set agenda are so sweet.
It was a bad day for little Flirt the toy poodle. Weighing in at a mere 7 lbs, she is small enough to slide through the little squares on the wire fence. This is dangerous for her... she can get out to the street in the blink of an eye. Last week we put electric fence up to keep the livestock in. There is a very powerful charger and any animal (or human) that touches that fence gets a heck of a jolt. Today Flirt met the fence when she tried to sneak out. Much yelping ensued. Poor little thing. Hopefully she will learn from her experience and avoid it from this day forth, and stay safe and out of the road. Tomorrow is another "blank slate" day and I am looking forward to seeing what treasures it will hold. Hopefully it won't be SHOCKING!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Long weekend...

Today was the beginning of a rare three day weekend. I woke up feeling joyful, the day unfolded before me just ripe with possibilities. I was not disappointed. My wonderful neighbor Travis arrived with his tractor and deftly moved piles of gravel so the new run in shed would have a nice sloped entrance. He left the gravel in piles around the shed, and I planned to spend my day shoveling and raking the stuff to the shape I desired. I took a break after he left, drank water and had a light lunch, preparing to spend the rest of my day working on gravel. Then the dogs began to bark and at my door were my neighbor kids and their older cousin,a professional landscaper. Sam, the landscaper, works like a crazy person. Equipped with a shovel and rake, he deftly and expertly moved that gravel around so quickly I just stood slack jawed in amazement. I swear it took him 20 minutes to do what would have taken me all afternoon.
My neighbors son took a break with Flirt. I can't quite tell who is smiling bigger!
Later in the day I got out my lovely garden basket and planted lettuce, celery, summer squash, zucchini, butternut squash, delicata squash, basil and some flowers. Last fall I attempted something called "Lasagne gardening," or "sheet mulching." In my existing garden I layered: seasoned manure, sheets of corrugated cardboard, fall leaves, grass clippings, shavings from the hen house and straw. The dirt in that garden is the stuff a gardener dreams of. Dark, moist, crumbly and full of happy looking worms. I popped the seedlings in, gave them a drink and now I will stand back and watch them grow. No tilling, no weeding, just planting and admiring what nature has done with the additions I made to the garden last fall. I worked in the herb garden, too. I weeded it, planted 4 Basil plants, and admired the honey bees plundering the chive blossoms.
When Chris got home from work I wanted to show him the work that had been done. Chanel wanted to give him a nibble. This made me laugh. While Chris grilled steaks I sat at the picnic table and happily watched the chickens scratching, the horse grazing... and the mama goat? She was all over me... leaning in for "scritches," nibbling on my shirt, pressing her face into my neck and breathing happily. I never knew I could love a goat, but I do. This goat is so sweet, so sensual... she lives to be brushed and rubbed and touched. She radiates happiness when we are interacting. I am so glad to have her here. Today was day "1". Tomorrow more wonderful things will happen. I am so excited to wonder what they will be.

Friday, May 25, 2012


We have quite a lot of lawn and it takes a good bit of time each week for us to mow and weed whack. The back yard seems to take the most time to mow, and we are guilty of letting it go a bit too long sometimes. This makes the job harder, as the mower struggles through the tall grass. We've had a good bit of rain, which means the grass is growing but the weather is not conducive to lawn mowing. But it is OK. Chanel is helping! I've been letting her hang out in the back yard some, and she has been methodically shortening the lawn. She looks good doing it, too. When I glance out the window and see a pony, I break out in spontaneous giggles. When I was a little girl, growing up in Boxford, Massachusetts, I was a serious dreamer. (I still am--- but I digress!) One of my favorite dreams was that I had a horse. A palomino colored horse with a long mane and tail. It would come when I called, (or whistled, maybe) and would stick its pretty head through my bedroom window. When I wanted to, I'd climb out that window and take a ride. I realized today, looking out my window, that this old, almost forgotten dream has come true. Isn't life grand?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The view from my window...

Yesterday my sweet friend loaded my horse up on her trailer and brought her to my house. I had that kid-at-Christmas kind of excitement all day, anticipating the moment. And then, there she was, walking up the driveway, ears pricked forward, curious and lovely. She spent the night alternately grazing and snoozing under the pine trees. I can glance out the window and see her, go in the yard to pet her, and inhale that horse perfume that I love. She seems perfectly content, and I am, too!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Humming along...

This evening while I was feeding the dogs on the deck, two hummingbirds vied for rights of the feeder. They were inches from my head, wings buzzing, tiny bodies zooming right around me.
When the dogs were fed I grabbed my camera. I didn't have to wait long. I heard the hum before I saw the bird, it hovered near my ear then landed in the lilac bush a moment. He looked at me with a keen eye, then braved my presence and landed inches from my camera on the feeder. Brazen, he turned his back to me and enjoyed his supper. Every few seconds he would turn his head and watch me for a heartbeat. Then, unafraid, he turned to the food source.
I saved a hummingbird two years ago. I almost wonder if this is the same one... it showed no fear of me and made a lot of eye contact. I do not take the miracle of these tiny, trusting birds for granted... they are minute miracles and a constant source of amazement. Speaking of amazement... I am amazed at what I accomplished today.
A HUGE dump truck dropped a load of gravel next to our new run in shed on Saturday. The plan was to create a nice, level floor of gravel inside the shed. We will then top this with rubber stall mats. This will give the horse and goats a nice place to lay, be easy to clean, and offer good drainage with that base of gravel. The problem was, how to get the gravel from the enormous pile into the shed. There was only one obvious answer... for me to move it, one shovelful at a time. So I did. It was a challenge. I have a sprained ankle and a cranky right shoulder, and am in general out of shape, but I took the project on, one scoop at a time. I made mini goals. I would scoop, carry, walk then toss 25 or 30 scoops into the shed, then rake it smooth, stamp it down tight, and take a tiny break. I brought a chair out and set it in the shade. The day was hot and sunny, and from my vantage point in my comfy chair I looked up to see pine boughs and cloudless blue skies. The goats "helped." Luna the mama goat would come stand by me each time I sat down, and I would reward her by scratching her neck and sides. This makes her look blissful. Taco the buckling would leap up on the top of the high gravel pile, then jump and twist through the air, land neatly and bound into the shed in time to intercept my shovel load. The comic entertainment made up for the inconvenience.
It took me most of the day, but I managed to get a nice gravel floor laid into the shed. I used up about half of the gravel pile. Tomorrow I will shovel the rest around the base of the shed, making a "ramp" up into it, and creating a gravel border around the entire building. While I worked on this project Chris rigged up the charger to our new electric fence and ran a hot wire around most of the fenced area. He has a bit more to do tomorrow to finish up, and then we will be ready to more my horse home! I feel a lot like a kid at Christmas. Stay tuned for photos of Chanel in her new home.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Joy and sorrow...

Last November I brought home a cat that had been a grooming client. His owners had a lifestyle change and cat ownership no longer fit for them. His name was Archie, but I changed it to Catfish Hunter. He was a 13 year old Maine Coon cat. Huge, regal, dignified. He fit right in here, and it made me happy to have him. Then he developed Lymphoma. We treated him with steroids for 6 weeks or so to keep the symptoms at bay. He enjoyed his meals, lying in the sun, napping. He did lots of napping. Today my good veterinarian slipped a needle in his vein and sent him off to where good cats go when their bodies betray them. I hear people say things like, "I'll never have another dog (or cat, or horse or...) because it hurts when they die, and they die too soon." It does hurt. The house feels oddly empty without the big cat lying on the table by the door, or demanding supper. But the days I had him were rich with the specialness that was him. He was here too short a time, but I was glad to have him for the days I did. I think he was glad, too.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

In the garden...

We moved the duck house. Underneath it there were all sorts of insects, worms and this lovely creature. Turns out it is a Blue Spotted Salamander. From what I read they are rarely found above ground except in the spring during mating season. I hope he or she finds a love! I scooped it up so the chickens wouldn't turn it into a snack, and moved it to a safe spot in the herb garden.
Above ground the apple blossoms are near the end of their too-short lives. The air has been heavy with their incredible scent, the bees humming in each tree. As they fade the lilacs are beginning to bloom. When I was a kid we had a whole lilac hedge, and we were allowed to pick armfuls of the blossoms. It was a fragrant richness that I treasured.We would carry bouquets of them to the house, and take more to the local cemetery where we'd decorate the graves that were very, very old. We figured those old stones had few if any visitors and we should grace them with flowers. When we bought this house there were two well established lilac bushes; one traditional purple and one white. I adore them. One is right by the main entrance,and it is such a treat to breath the perfumed air as I come and go about my work here. Spring is unfolding, one tree or salamander or duckling or flower at a time.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Look what sprouted..!

Where there was once field a building sprouted!
Steve from Roots, Coops and More, the people that built my wonderful chicken coop a few years ago, came out and created ...
a wonderful, sturdy, adorable "run in shed." This will be a sweet shelter for my horse and goat. There is more to do... a load of gravel is being delivered as soon as it stops raining. We'll shovel that inside the shed, and smooth it out, then top it with heavy rubber matting to make a smooth, easy to clean, comfortable-on-the-hooves floor. Then I want to stain the wood of the shed white to match the coop. They have the same pretty green metal roofing material so they will coordinate sweetly. I also think I'd like to have the name of my little farm painted on that top board. I wish I was better at things like that, I need to find a friendly artist! Meanwhile, the goats have had great fun exploring the new space, and every time I look out my window I find a happy grin splashes on my face!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's day...

My sweet niece Aimee came to visit us. It is always a treat to spend time with her... and this time it was fun to teach her how to milk a goat, and let her hold the wonderful Adventure Chicken!
Of course I kept my mother, Dorothy C. Waters, in my thoughts throughout the day. She was a beautiful, kind, funny, creative woman. I miss her, but carry her with me in so much that I do. And I see a glimpse of her in the curve of my daughters cheek, and know that she lives on in the lives she helped to create.
And today would have been my sister Diane's birthday. She died 10 years ago, and I still struggle sometimes to wrap my brain around the fact that she is no longer here. I have a garden in the front yard that is in riotous bloom this time year. A bit of "Dicy's" ashes are buried there, and her vibrant personality is reflected in the colors of the fruit tree, daffodil's and tulips. It is a bitter-sweet garden, and today was a bitter-sweet day. I basked in the love and kindness of my little family, and dearly missed the ones who have gone before.

Friday, May 11, 2012

After the rain...

After days of heavy rain I woke this morning to sun shine slanting through wet branches. It lit up a delicate spider web framed by the heavy wire of our new fence. Nice juxtoposition! The Crab Apple tree is beginning to bloom, and in the warm light I could smell a hint of its wonderful perfume. I left my "muck bucket" in the goats pasture while doing chores. It took the buckling about 20 seconds to discover this new addition to his world and less time than that to get himself inside it. Buckling in a bucket... perhaps the latest craze? Every kid should have one!

Monday, May 7, 2012


My friend came over today and opened up my bee hive. I was on pins and needles, hoping upon hope that all was well within its walls. Tra la, tra la! I spotted the queen, (the longer bee in the top photo, center-ish) and there was lots and LOTS of capped brood. This means the queen is successfully laying eggs and those eggs are developing and hatching into wonderful new bees. My hive is growing! It is tucked up under some apple and pear trees, and because today is warm and sunny the bees have been very active. They zip from one dandelion blossom to the next, and the fruit trees are fairly humming with bee activity. It gives me great pleasure to know the animals in my care are thriving... from the worms in the dark soil of the vermicomposter bin to the bees in the air and all the birds and mammals in between.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Little faces...

A few days ago my sister called. My husband was chatting with her before handing the phone to me. He told her about the bees, the chickens, the goats and the soon-to-be-hatching ducklings. Then he said, "We have a LOT of little faces at our place." Yes. Yes we do. And what a great way to describe the menagerie we call our own!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

And we have...

DUCKLINGS! The mama duck has had eggs audibly "pipping" since last night. That means the ducklings inside their eggs are making sounds; communicating with their mama before they even hatch. The mother duck becomes very intense when this happens, cocking her head to listen to the tiny sounds and being extra protective of her nest. The wee ducklings begin to peck out of their shells. This is a long, long process. It takes every bit of my restraint to not "help!" Belle the Muscovy duck, laid 20+ eggs and has been dutifully setting on them for 34 LONG days. She only leaves the nest once a day to eat, drink and eliminate. The chicken in the nest box next to her was also broody, (sitting on eggs.) None of the chicken eggs hatched. Somehow the resourceful chicken managed to hijack 4 duck eggs. I have NO idea how she did that... the duck is a fierce guardian of her nest, and besides, hens lack hands, how did she get eggs from one nest box to another without breaking one? The mysteries of the animal kingdom never cease to amaze me. At any rate, the chicken has duck eggs that are hatching too. She'll have a fit the first time "her" chicks insist on going for a swim!
Meanwhile the goats have learned to get out of the large, roomy pasture and into the back yard. They found a spot where the fence is a little saggy and leap right into the hen yard. There they ate the chicken food, and moved on to eat the blossoms off of all the pansies I planted over the weekend. When Chris got home we shored up the fence. I can see this might be an ongoing effort! On a brighter note I had a much more successful milking session this evening. Luna goat is very patient with my ham-fisted efforts and I came away with about 1/2 of a quart jar full of fresh milk. I can see that when I become more comfortable with the process that the time I spend milking will be very pleasant and relaxing. After I milked I gave Luna a good brushing. She loves this... and stands statue still, with her eyes squinched shut in pleasure. Pleasure is all around me. In hatching ducklings and fresh milk and naughty, happy goats.