Monday, December 29, 2014

Maine Frost; the most amazing gift...

My husband often tells me, "you could have done worse in the in-law department." He is SO right. I have been blessed to marry into a family of lovely, kind, generous people.

Sister-in-law Brenda recently confided in me that she had made a small quilt as a surprise for my daughter for Christmas. She is an artist with fabric. I dutifully kept the gift quilt a secret.

When the box arrived it was HUGE and rather heavy. I thought that perhaps I had misunderstood, this quilt must not be so small. When my daughter arrived home from work I excitedly showed her the package. "Open it, it's a present for YOU!" She happily noted the return address and sliced the box open. When she pulled out an enormous quilt in all of my favorite shades of white, and cream and soft, batik blue, I was jealous. It was the most beautiful quilt I had ever seen in my life. The stitching was in lovely swirls, enhancing the incredible combined effect of the fabrics. And then my daughter read the enclosed note, and that quilt? That incredible, amazing, stunning quilt? It was for me! (It was for my husband, too, but really? It obviously was made with my tastes in mind.) Brenda and her awesome daughter Lisa had worked on the quilt together. (The promised quilt for my daughter was there, too, bright and owl themed and adorable.)

The way the colors are arranged, they reminded me of the magic of a winter New England landscape.I love this place, in every season, but I have to say, the winter landscape transfixes me. And then I noticed the perfect name they had given this wonder...

As usual, my husband is right. I could have done worse in the in-law department.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sad goodbye...

When we lived in Memphis, many years ago, I volunteered with local animal rescue groups to raise orphaned kittens. I would bottle feed them, and raise them until they were reliably eating solid food, then they would go to a new foster home until they were old enough to be adopted.

The people at the rescue groups knew that I would not foster dogs. This is because though I love both dogs and cats, I was more apt to fall head over heels in love with a dog. I knew myself well enough to understand that unless I wanted to be a dog hoarder, I couldn't bring them into my home.

One day a friend involved in rescue called me. "I KNOW you don't foster dogs, but I have a Pug puppy I need immediate placement for. If you could just keep her for a couple of days, I promise I'll find another person to take her." I thought about it, and realized something else about myself. I am a dog snob. I am very much attracted to beautiful dogs. And Pugs? Let's face it, they are kind of funny looking. "Sure," I said. "I can help you out for a few days."

The story was that a family had tried to relinquish a 5 week old Pug puppy at the big city shelter. My friend was there at the time, and knew that a pup that young stood little chance of surviving there. Surely she would contract some sort of disease and perish. I agreed to take the dog,just for a short time, while she found a more permanent solution.

The puppy arrived 4th of July weekend in 2000. She was tiny,a mere handful of a dog, and honestly? The ugliest puppy I have ever seen. Fleas ran rampant on her little black body, her abdomen was swollen with worms, and the signature curly tail that Pugs wear with pride hung like a limp noodle.

My friend was unable to find another home to take her in, and she wasn't much trouble, so I agreed to keep her a while and screen potential adopters. A few days into her stay I found myself looking down at her little, wizened face and soulful eyes and saying, "Oh! You are SO beautiful." I realized I was in trouble.

I shelled out the $50 adoption fee and Poppy became ours. For 14 1/2 years she has been a sweet, solid companion. She taught me a lot about enjoying comfort, because seeking and savoring all things cozy and squishy and warm was her passion. Every sunshine puddle that slanted in through a window was cherished by her, every soft pillow claimed and treasured. She never met a dog she didn't like,or a human, either. She had a long and healthy life, and seemed to be the happiest of spirits.

As a young dog she was an equal opportunity snuggler. She'd be happy to cuddle anyone. When she was a pup Rachel would sometimes sneak into our room at night and steal her. I would wake and find her missing and call to Rachel, "Are you a Pug napper?" She would reply, "I'm a PUG smuggler!" But as Poppy got older she became more and more attached to me. In the past few months I couldn't leave her sight. She followed me from room to room and could not settle unless I was near.

And that was fine with me. I treasured time with her.

Yesterday she died peacefully in my arms. For a small dog, she has left a large whole in life. But I am so grateful to have had her. The best $50 I ever spent? It was buying her companionship and unfaltering love.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas at FairWinds...

This year, more than before, I noticed people around me having problems with the holiday. There was frantic shopping and cooking and preparation. One friend wrote, "I wish the world would slow down a bit. Get gentle. It feels jagged out there with all the hurrying." Those words resonated strongly with me. I have done the hurried holiday, and didn't enjoy it. And I have realized more and more that we can make choices.

For our family, we kept the decorations simple. We cooked meals that we liked but that were not horribly involved.

We chose gifts for each other with great thought and care.

And today, when people I know were rushing from one place to another to "celebrate," we stayed home.

We had waffles with mimosa's for breakfast, opened our gifts at a leisurely pace, watched Christmas movies together. I stayed in my pajamas all day! For supper we had stuffed shells that daughter Rachel and I cooked up earlier in the week. We made them with creamy goat cheese I created myself, and the sauce was homemade, too, and safely tucked in the freezer, tasting like late summer. All I had to do today was pop them in the oven.

We end the day happy, relaxed and rested. It was time filled with the people we love the best, quiet contemplation,
and gratitude. Because we chose it to be that way. And we'll make the same choice next year.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


I have been happily grooming dogs and cats for 30 years now. It is a vocation I cherish, but I have to admit, sometimes I wonder. I wonder why it is this job I was clearly put on earth to do. I look around me, at people I admire. My sister the librarian who has fired a love of reading in the minds of thousands of children. My other sister, a teacher, who gives the gift of loving to learn to small children. I think of doctors who cure the sick and scientists who discover things to improve the lives of humans everywhere. Lawyers who find justice. Farmers who feed the world. I admire veterinarians more than words can say. So why, why, was I given the drive and desire to groom dogs? In the greater scheme of things, my work does not seem very important. I joke that God gives everyone certain gifts. Some are brilliant at business, some are skilled artists... but me, he gave me the ability to scrub dog and cat butts.

I will probably never know just why I am programmed to do the work I do, but I know two things. I know I am glad of it. And I know that I have been blessed more than I can ever say by the relationships I have developed with the owners of the pets I groom. This was brought home to me today with great clarity when I received a phone call from a dear lady I met around 11 years ago when I first moved to Maine. I liked her instantly and as I got to know her over the years I liked her more and more. I pet sat her sweet little dog many times while she traveled. A friendship that I treasure developed. Her dog recently went to the rainbow bridge, and I miss her. I also miss my friend. It was a joy to me that she called today, and we had a happy chat.

And this got me to remembering all the wonderful souls I have met because I groomed their dog or cat. People who still send me cards and emails and gifts 12 or more years since I have seen them last. People who populate my memories with colorful, joyous thoughts. All because I was given the gift of loving to groom pets.

Sometimes I remember just how blessed I really am.

Sunday, December 14, 2014


Poppy the Pug has been a completely wonderful little friend for 14 long, happy years. I never meant to have a Pug. I agreed to foster her when her owners took her to a shelter at 5 or 6 weeks of age. They wanted a Boxer, instead. My plan was to find her a wonderful home.

To be honest, she was the homeliest little puppy I had ever seen. But after about 3 days I found myself telling her, "Oh, you are SO beautiful!" Despite her wrinkled face and non-regulation un-curled tail, a sweet spirit emanated forth from her 2 pound body. In no time she had us all under her spell. And the home she found was in my heart.

She has been loved by all the other dogs we shared our hearts and home with over the years. Except Ziva, who has little use for her. Poppy and Flirt are special friends. They snuggle together, and when Flirt had her pups Poppy laid close against her, spine to spine, while Flirt labored.

She's been a sturdy, healthy little dog all this time. Other than surgery to enlarge her nostrils when she was a pup, an infected salivary gland and spay surgery, she's only ever seen the vet for routine shots. Even now she is sleek and shiny and has a sparkle to her eyes.

But Poppy is what Chris likes to call "Wore out!" She has not been able to manage stairs for years, and now is having trouble walking on flat surfaces much of the time. Although she is on heavy duty pain medication for arthritis, she is beginning to have more bad days than good.

I wish with all my might that she might go to sleep and not wake up snuggled in front of the wood stove or even sleeping next to me as she has most every night for all these years. But I will most likely have to choose to have our veterinarian come here and ease her to that final rest. And that is a decision I dread.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Life's a kick..!

We have not had a new baby in our family since I gave birth to Rachel, 25 years ago! That is a long, long baby-less time.

Sunday we gathered for a big, happy, family baby shower. My beautiful, smart, talented niece Emily and her kind and gentle husband Jeff are expecting a daughter in January. And to say we are excited is a gross understatement.

After the food and the cake and the wine, after the chatting and catching up and laughing, after opening the presents and oohing and ahhing at tiny socks and hand knit blankets and booties and lovingly sewn baby quilts, after the guests had left, Emily gathered some of us together to feel the baby kick.

The baby performed on cue. And we women, gathered around the magic of new life, celebrated with joyful laughing as we felt her swim and dance beneath our loving hands.

There is magic all around us, but nothing more magical than the promise of a wee new babe to love.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Help or hindrance..?

Today I schlepped a bag of shavings out to the pony shed after I had cleaned it out. Normally I carry a knife in my pocket or start a hole in the bag before I leave the garage where it is stored. The shavings are compressed into a rather thick plastic bag and it is tricky to open without a sharp tool. Today I had no knife and forgot to start a hole before I got out to the shed.

Just as I was pondering how best to get a hole started one of the young bucklings that are visiting to breed with the does took the project on. He butted the bag with his sharp little horns and gave his head a shake. Back up, repeat, over and over, until the bag was in tatters. I stood back and admired his work.

Then I used all those holes to my advantage, opened the bag, deposited the shavings on the floor and went about my business.

Little boy goats with horns present a myriad of challenges to live with, but they do come in handy from time to time!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014...

There were regular old decorations...

And the kind that happen when a feather mixes it up with a spider web and then gets kissed by a Nor'easter.

We got a lot of wet, heavy snow. BUT, the power stayed on and the food was cooked, and everyone made it here, despite the road conditions.

It was a laughter-filled holiday. This old house echoed with the joyous sound of everything from giggles to guffaws.

You could feel the love!

The food was plentiful and tasted good, and niece Elyse did not disappoint,curling up on the couch for her traditional post turkey siesta...

People came back today for leftovers and more visiting. The tradition of decorating gingerbread houses was modified but continued...

The refrigerator is full of leftovers and my heart is full of happiness. It was a lovely Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving eve...

The day started out rather warm(mid 30's) and the animals were happy to be out in the meadow. Early afternoon the predicted snow began and they tucked themselves into shelter. We were as ready as we could be. All the animal houses were freshly cleaned and filled with sweet smelling bedding, food supplies for them plentiful, gallons of water put up in case we lose power.

The sky became dark and the snow came down fast and heavy. Power outages are predicted, which is troublesome because I am in the midst of preparing the Thanksgiving feast. I am hoping for the best. Meanwhile the storm is lovely!

Inside the fire crackled in the wood stove and the house was filled with the once-a-year scents of Thanksgiving. I baked three loaves of wheat bread, a cast iron pan full of corn bread for dressing, a heaping pan of fragrant sweet potatoes for a huge, sweet casserole.

This year, beautiful Rachel was all-in helping me. We baked moist rum cake and succulent chocolate nemesis cake. We made my beloved brother-in-law Nevada's incredible corn bread dressing, and a new recipe for bread stuffing. We made goat cheese which we will turn into garlic dip, and a bowl of spinach dip.

Rachel is peeling a mountain of potatoes so we can mash them, and tomorrow I will prepare a new squash recipe, with balsamic vinegar, roasted pumpkin seeds and fresh mint.

Family will begin to arrive mid morning. The turkeys will be cooking, (one in the outdoor smoker and one tucked into the oven under a buttered blanket of cheesecloth.) Everyone will bring an addition to the feast... cranberry sauce, squash and pumpkin and German chocolate pie, cranberry bread and pumpkin nut bread and spicy fresh salsa. If the weather cooperates the house will be full. And I will be thankful.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

With friends...

Last night we attended...

Thanksgiving with Friends was put on by customers-turned-friends. It has been a tradition for them for many years, and there were attendees from all over the country and Canada. We were honored to be included.

The house was beautifully decorated.

And the food was incredible!

It was a lovely time with nice people... and a terrific appetizer for the upcoming holiday we will host here.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Full, happy, days...

I am taking care of my neighbors farm for them while they are out of town. This means that I get up a little after 5:00 AM, toss in a load of laundry, take a shower, get dressed, fix my hair and make up and am out the door before 6:00 to throw a flake of hay to my horse and goats, let my dogs out, and drive to my friends house. Once there, I let their dogs out, feed their cats, clean the litter box, then head out to take care of their livestock. The sheep begin to call in very bossy,demanding voices the moment they know I am on the property. They are not to be silenced until they have had their small portion of grain and their hay rack is stuffed to capacity.

Meanwhile, the pony and three horses are far more patient. The pony calls to me in a soft, sweet little voice, and nuzzles me gently when I enter to give her a bit of grain. That keeps her happy while I give the big horses their grain. They are so much taller than my horse that they were a bit intimidating at first,but they are all very well behaved and now I am comfortable working around them. Each one goes to its respective stall to wait for me, then they take their time munching down their portions of breakfast. Meanwhile, I fill the water tanks and buckets, and deliver hay to each paddock... enough to last a long time. The dogs race and play and romp, vanishing into the woods, then reappearing to check in with me before cavorting off again. I pick up manure from each paddock, and then come home to take care of all of my own animals. There are goats to milk and mouths to feed and water to haul. All this before 7:30 AM.

Today we woke to 2 inches of fresh snow.

Chores are pretty when everything is frosted in white.

Once indoors I mixed up a batch of wheat bread. I tucked it into a bowl and covered it with this fabulous dish cloth my precious niece gave me. I love those crows.

Next I went to work. That commute? I love it. The studio welcomes me, it is tidy and clean and bright and smells nice.

I like the view... inside and out.

This afternoon the sun came out and the snow melted, dripping off the eves and expanding the puddle in the pasture. The ducks spent happy hours there, splashing and chatting amongst themselves.

In the midst of all the sunshine and dripping, one big, dark cloud rolled in, right over our house. The sun shone brightly around it. And then the cloud emptied its contents on us. Hail came pattering down, glistening in the sun. It was a surreal sight.

When the grooming day was done I went back to my friends farm to take care of their animals again. Then home to care for mine. Cooked up a pan of stir fry beef and vegetables and called it a day. A full day, with snow and sun and hail. A day with bread baking and dogs getting pretty and hay in my hair. And happiness.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Preparing for graditude...

Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and we are in "getting ready," mode.
Curtains will be laundered, windows polished,and the floors are in the process of being waxed. The china has all been washed, the silver has been shined. The brass candle sticks have a mellow glow in the light after some vigorous buffing from my patient husband.

I tend to save a lot of big projects all year, planning to do them right before Thanksgiving. This is our biggest entertaining event of the year, and I want things to look nice. The list of things to accomplish is still long, but this year I have wonderful help from my daughter. She has embraced the holiday and single-handedly crossed many, many things off of the master list. She is making the work even more fun than usual, with her bubbly enthusiasm and capable can-do attitude.

I am excitedly counting down until the happy day before Thanksgiving, when I get the spend the entire day in my clean, cozy house,beginning to cook a feast to share with those I love the best.

Much to be grateful for, indeed.

Monday, November 3, 2014

After the storm...

The early snow storm caused a lot of damage. The snow was wet and heavy, and many trees lost branches or toppled completely. There are wide-spread power outages. I feel sad for friends and neighbors who are in the cold and dark. One of the local Central Maine Power guys stopped by today to see if we had electricity. "We do!" I said, "In fact, I just baked cookies, want one?" He cracked me up by replying, "Does a bear poop in the woods?!" as he headed my way to take the offered goodie.

For all the wreckage, it was a lovely snow....

The wild birds hung close to the feeders.

It is warm now, and the snow is melting at an astonishing rate. It's going to be muddy out there!

Sunday, November 2, 2014


This has been quite a storm. The snow is heavy and wet, and the wind is high. Outside branches are snapping and trees are crashing down.

The goats are not fans of wet weather. Luna, especially, stays close to the cozy shed when the skies are leaking. Inside there is no wind, and deep shavings and a whole lot of hay that smells like summer.

Daughter Rachel got stuck on the road on her way home from work. Multiple times. Her Dad went to "rescue" her. They both got stuck on the way home.
Multiple times, again. Chris finally got home under his own power. Rachel parked her car at the fire station one town over and a kind fire fighter brought her home. I spent a few hours sitting by the window, staring at the road, willing the headlights of their cars to come into view. I felt a kinship to the wives of sea captains... staring out to sea waiting for their loved ones.

We lost power for a while this afternoon. The moment it came back on I quickly made up a huge batch of Taco soup and a pan of corn bread. I figured if the lights went out again we could heat soup up on the wood stove. It has flickered some, but stayed on for the most part. Outside, in the dark, the wind is screaming.

The forecast for the week is 40+ degree temperatures and sun. New England weather. If you don't like it, just wait a bit and it will change.