Friday, November 23, 2012

And then we gave thanks...

Chris loves to have what he calls "a gracious plenty" for our guests. Every year he sets up a bar that makes people say, "WOW."
I took a break from preparing a "gracious plenty" of food to enjoy a mimosa. Flirt joined me for a snuggle. And then company began to arrive...
Including these two characters, whom I refer to as "my hideously unattractive nieces."
And we dined. The food was great, if I do say so myself. My sister Deb and I do most of the prep work and we are a good team in the kitchen. We say to each other, "We have this down to a fine science!" And we do. Of course, lots of people contribute to the meal, and as the "kids" get older they help more and more. Who knew they'd grow to be such good cooks?
There was a highlight to the evening, too. Daughter Rachel proposed that we go around the table and everyone state what they were thankful for. When we got to the last two people, niece Aimee and her beloved Tim stood up and came to the end of the table where I was sitting. They said what they were thankful for and then...
The both dropped to one knee and in unison said, "Aunt Daryl, will you marry us?" I didn't quite know what they meant... until they explained that they, literally, wanted me to MARRY them. As in, perform the wedding ceremony. Well, how delighted could one aunt be? (The answer to this question is "pretty darn delighted!")
After supper there was more laughter and conversation. And pie. So much to give thanks for.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Peaceful kingdom...

I glanced out my window this afternoon and what I saw made me smile. In the foreground; Clara bunny and one of the Silver Laced Wyandotte hens were sunning companionably. In the shed, Chanel the pony, Nova and Luna goat all were enjoying the warmth of the day. I've never seen them all lay down together like that. I was working hard and wished I could go out and hang with them, it looked quite relaxing!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving beginnings...

Traditionally I take the day off on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I spend the day in my cozy house cooking, listening to pretty music, and getting ready for the feast. When I got home from work tonight (Tuesday) I decided there were a few things I could get started on early. So, I baked a rum cake (they are actually better if they have a couple of days to sit and mellow before they are eaten)and a pan of corn bread (for the dressing... not too fresh is best.)
I snuggled three loaves of whole wheat bread up near the wood stove to rise. I make this bread often so it is not particularly "special" to us, but guests seem to really like it.
And while I was doing all that I made a huge vat of stock with turkey, onions, celery, carrots, garlic, pepper and a couple of cloves. It smells amazing and will made our dressing and gravy extra delicious. You might note something not very Thankgiving-y there by the stove. Lobsters! A co-worker of my husbands brought him 4 lobsters today. So in the midst of preparing for this most fallish of feasts, I also boiled up some summery lobsters. Now I am enjoying mine with a glass of wine while I settle in and gear up for lots more cooking tomorrow.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Milking goats...

My daughter came to visit last weekend. She has been working on cleaning/organizing her old room. Most traces of her are gone... (unless you open the closet, where the things she wants to keep are neatly stored and stacked in plastic bins.) It is odd to look in there... but I digress. That is a topic for another post entirely. While she was home she and I prepared supper (home made taco soup) then it was time for me to milk the goats. She came out with me, so we could chat while I milked. I got the milk station set up, then was planning on showing off. I thought I would call the goats, and my daughter could see how they obediently run to me when I call them. I was prepared to holler out the names of the goats. "Luna! Nova!" I filled my lungs with air, opened the door... and there they were, inches away from me. Two little white faces, 4 intelligent eyes. "It is time. We KNOW already! Let's get to it." I admit to feeling a bit deflated. The goats are milked at 6 AM and 6 PM. They know the time, though they don't wear watches. And they know the order of things. Luna first. Nova does not push or shove, she stands respectfully as Luna and I enter the garage. Luna leaps nimbly up on the milk stand, and puts her head through the stanchion. She dines on alfalfa pellets (high in protein and calcium) and dairy pellets.Sometimes I add slivered carrots or raisins or other treats. Luna stands very still while I wash her udder, and milk a quart of rich milk from her teats. When her udder is empty I release her, give her a lot of pats, then watch as she nimbly turns and exits the building. Next, Nova shoulders in, hops up on the stand and the procedure is repeated. I thank them for the milk, fill their hay feeder, and go about my day. But this interlude with the goats? It is a bit of magic. My sister recently reminded me that I loved the movie Heidi when I was a child. She told me that I was particularly fond of the parts of the movie that involved goats. This fascinates me. Please Note: This photo shows me milking into a not-so-clean rubber bucket. This milk is destined to be be fed to the pigs. When I milk for humans I use an immaculate seamless stainless steel bucket and a cleaner technique. The pigs just don't care.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Peace and contentment...

One of the joys in my life is that I write articles for magazines. I love the process of writing and the opportunity to (hopefully) teach and entertain others. The actual process of writing is both exhilarating and exhausting, and every article takes much longer for me to wrestle out of my brain and turn into an actual, readable piece than I expect it will. Today I had a deadline for a new editor, and there was a lack of communication that made getting the article done rather frustrating. When I was finally finished and the thing was sent, I felt out of sorts. I have a long list of things I need to do before the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, and had planned to work on that list this afternoon, but I couldn't manage to get myself motivated and moving. It was a beautiful day, unseasonably warm and sunny. I took myself outside to do some little projects there, and before I knew it I had a brush in my hand and was brushing the goats.
The goats enjoy this, and within moments I was feeling calmer. Next I eyeballed my awfully muddy horse and I began to brush her as she moseyed around the pasture. The goats followed along and I took turns brushing each animal. After a while I plunked myself down at our picnic table. Chanel (the horse) came over and stood in front of me. I ran the brush down the underside of her neck and over her chest. Her lower lip quivered, a sure sign she was enjoying the attention. She inched her way closer and closer to me, until her front legs were touching my knees. She alternately rested her chin on top of my head, or moved her velvety lips down the side of my face to my neck, where she would inhale deeply, then blow warm, moist air against me. The goats both nosed in, leaning on me, leaning on the horse. I petted them, ran the brush over their bodies, scratched their favorite places. The chickens were scritching around and making contented sounds, the dogs were soaking up the sun on the deck. It was peaceful. I was content.
And times like these are what makes leaping out of bed in the dark to milk the goats, haul water in the cold,and pull hay out of my hair from time to time worthwhile. These animals give me so much joy.

Obama the unwanted rooster...

If you are a regular reader of this blog you might have noted that my friend Marion is often involved in escapades involving animals. Especially livestock. One might call her an instigator, or an enabler. Well, she's done it again. She had a very pretty little rooster that she didn't need, and she talked me into adding him to my flock, even though I had previously sworn off roosters altogether. You see, one does not need a rooster to have chickens that lay eggs, and in the past my roosters have all decided that I am something that needs killing. No matter that I keep their coop clean and warm, their food pan filled to the brim with the best chicken feed money can buy, and several pans of cool, clean water out so that they are never thirsty, one by one each rooster I've had has developed a keen hatred of me. They fly at me with their sharp spurs. If you think being attacked by a bird is no big deal, I challenge you to give it a try sometime. A rooster can hurt. So I am skeptical about this guy, but he is good looking and the ladies find him charming. Since he was delivered on election week I dubbed him Obama. I can only hope he'll serve his term well.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I should have...

Thanksgiving is mere days away. I should have spent today tidying up the yard, fixing up the guest room, organizing the pantry.
But instead we left the house just after chores were done and drove down scenic roads, past waterfalls and rivers and lovely places to New Hampshire where niece Emily and her good husband, Jeff, have purchased a wonderful new home. They were having a party to celebrate. The house is terrific, there is lots to be happy about.
They are still unpacking and settling in, but it is clear that their new place is going to be a blessing to them.
I got to be with all my siblings... all but sister Dicy. Oh how we miss her! It is kind of funny to look at this picture and see all the gray hair. This aging thing is something I constantly have to try to wrap my brain around.
I should have been washing china and ironing tablecloths and more. But instead I captured a day full of family. Nothing could be more beautiful.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

First snow...

My corner of the world was blanketed in about 4 inches of heavy, wet snow this morning.
Although the native birds and animals are beautifully adapted to winter weather, I find my livestock to be unamused by the change.
Luna goat was SHIVERING yesterday morning when I went out to feed and milk. I came home with a coat for her. I have no idea if it is advisable or appropriate to put a coat on a goat, but she seemed to rather like the idea. This morning she seemed toasty warm and quite content with her stylish new outfit. I know the neighbors are going to talk.
The pigs nearly refused to come out of their little hut this morning. I put their food bowls, full of good things and warm goat milk, right outside the door... they grunted and grunted and peered at the white world and ignored the food for a very long time. (NOTE: this is highly unusual for them!) I finally put it right under their noses, and after they'd had a bite or 6 pulled the bowls out far enough so they had to enter the world to eat. This was a slow breakfast... they kept looking around in wonder. Finally they finished their food and drank greedily of the warm water I poured for them. They wandered about a bit, took care of bathroom needs and then gathered their curly tails and cloven hooves and went right back to the hut. I worry about them being warm enough, they have such sparse coats. I don't plan to buy them store-bought coats any time soon, however. Winter chores are a good bit different than those I do in warm weather. There are jugs of water to haul (the hoses are frozen solid,) and extra food to supply. It is dark when I get home and I wear a very fashionable blaze orange ball cap with little LED lights in the brim to guide my way. There is little temptation to linger and watch the critters. It is all business and warm boots and hurry up. I am adapting to the new rhythm, and find great pleasure in knowing the animals have all they need, snow or no.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Slivers of November...

The goats spent this chilly morning lazing in the shed, chewing their cuds. The chickens spend a lot of time there, too. The bunny was nearby, but I didn't capture her in the photo. I've had to send my horse off to stay with my epically patient friend Marion for a bit until the buck goat goes to live at my neighbors house. I miss her and can't wait for her to be home again.
I hung some bird feeders near the deck railing, where I can see the wild birds dining from my kitchen window. I may need to rethink the placement, as the not-so-wild chickens discovered the feast this morning and had a little hen party.
Outside the world is fading to shades of gray and pewter. I take my color where I can find it.
Indoors it is beginning to look like Thanksgiving. I have my lists of things to do before the holiday made and am tackling projects one at a time. The cornucopia needs more dried flowers and/or gourds or something added to it. Much like me, it is a work in progress.


My sister sent me this poem to celebrate November. I enjoyed it so much I thought I'd share it here with you. My November Guest- My Sorrow, when she's here with me, Thinks these dark days of autumn rain Are beautiful as days can be; She loves the bare, the withered tree; She walked the sodden pasture lane. Her pleasure will not let me stay. She talks and I am fain to list: She's glad the birds are gone away, She's glad her simple worsted gray Is silver now with clinging mist. The desolate, deserted trees, The faded earth, the heavy sky, The beauties she so truly sees, She thinks I have no eye for these, And vexes me for reason why. Not yesterday I learned to know The love of bare November days Before the coming of the snow, But it were vain to tell her so, And they are better for her praise. Robert Frost