Sunday, January 26, 2014

Community Soup Supper...

Every year our small town library has a fund raising soup supper at the grade school. We attended last night, for the second time, (the last time we went we met neighbors that have since turned into sweet friends.) The weather was less than optimal; snow, freezing rain, dicey roads. Attendance was not huge, but those there were obviously enjoying the diversion of a long winter night.

We paid at the door, $6. Plastic school trays and bowls were stacked at the end of a series of long tables. There was an impressive array of crock pots lined up, each brimming with some lovingly cooked soup or stew. Haddock chowder, white bean and ham, sausage and kale, squash soup...and so much more. The line of us ladled our choices out carefully. The next table had slices of sour dough bread, sticks of butter on paper plates, and an array of brownies and cookies for dessert. It was a simple meal, perfect for the season.

Small children ran about the open space, tumbling in packs like puppies. The adults, all sensibly dressed in sturdy boots, polar fleece, and heavy jackets, chatted with neighbors. I overheard discussions about growing squash, raising geese, cooking barbeque. Laughter peppered the air.

After the meal there would be a cake auction. The best bakers in town bring their offerings, which are then lined up on the stage. "I'm going to bid on ___'s cake," my friend said, smiling wistfully. "Hers are the best!"

One of the local characters volunteers his time each year to act as auctioneer. He does a great job, and people end up happily paying $100 or more for a cake. Lots of cheering ensues as the library budget gets plumped by plates of confections. Every day that I wake up in this wee town in Maine I send up silent thanks that I am here in this place. The soup supper is one more thing to be grateful for.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Goose chase...

Marion (she who instigates new animal acquisitions) called me. "What are you doing? Want to go get a goose?" Luckily the goose in question was not for me, but for her. She saw an advertisement for the bird in the local swap paper. It had lost its mate and was forlorn. And free.

The goose was only two towns away. We took a left down a side street. Lots of snow and ice. A four wheel drive special, with ruts that would swallow a Smart Car. In no time we were there.

Loud, loud honking was echoing out of that cute coop.

Marion peeked in. Yup. There was a goose all right.

A HUGE one. Marion popped her into a crate and off we went. Our "wild" goose chase a success. It was doubly successful because I returned home with NO new livestock. Bonus!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Snow is falling in a slow, lazy manner. There is an inch or two of accumulation so far, just enough to add a clean frosting to the world around me.

Soft gray is the color of the day.

I hauled 10 gallons of warm water out for the goats and pony, the pony thanked me by immediately drinking about half of it.

No problem! I can carry more.

We picked the doelings up last night from my friends farm. They have been there almost a month, visiting with her buck. We know that Novella has been bred, not so sure about Celeste. They snuggled up in the back "seat" of the truck, lying down so cutely, and rode like seasoned travelers as we maneuvered over the snowy roads to home. Once here there was a lot of nose sniffing through the fence as Luna and Chanel greeted the little wanderers. Once I opened the gate there were a few moments of head butting, then everyone went off to eat hay together. It is so nice to see the girls out there... I missed their little faces and whimsical ways.

I hope they are glad to be home. On this snowy Sunday morning, when the house and the rest of its inhabitants are asleep, I am happy to be right here, watching the lazy flakes fall and sipping a cup of tea. To me, home is the very best place to be.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

January thaw...

When there is snow on the ground the chickens and ducks stay "cooped up." I open the pop door so they can have a choice, but really, they want nothing to do with that white nonsense. I try to change things up for them, tossing scratch grains in the shavings for them to find, hanging a cabbage on a string for them to peck at,giving them a bowl of warm goat milk to sip, putting hay in for them to poke through, but I know they are bored to tears.

We've had several days in the 30's, and the snow is gone, leaving only icy patches behind. The birds have been in their glory, out scratching around in the dirt and mud. As the snow has receded they have ranged further out. Today some made it all the way across the meadow to the goat and pony shed.

This pretty hen is a Partridge Rock. The pattern and deep mahogany color of her feathers is lovely to look at.

This is one of my older birds, a Silver Laced Wyandotte. I think they are stunning, but can't find any local breeders here to replace my stock as the others age.

None of the hens are laying eggs now, due to the shortness of the days. I will be so happy to find the first egg in a nest box when they begin to respond to the longer hours of light. Store bought eggs cannot compare to those fresh from my own pretty birds.

Eggs or not, I love to see the poultry out and about. It makes me happy to know they have a few days of freedom before the inevitable snow returns.

As I was taking pictures for this blog I heard a heavy whirring sound, and my camera caught this...

My Muscovy duck hen has taken "flown the coop" to a whole new level!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Hyacinths and memories...

24 years ago, when I was in the hospital having just hatched my daughter, my older sister Dicy arrived to meet the newest family member. She brought an entourage of friends, they filled my little room with chatter and love, and she brought me a hyacinth plant, which filled the air with its indescribably sweet scent. To this day the look and scent of that particular plant takes me swooping right back to the joy of that birthing day. Dicy went on to more celestial adventures 12 years ago, and I always think of her when hyacinths are around, too.

Today I met two new friends, and they came with a hyacinth plant. Swoop! Happy feeling. The new folks, Allison and Steve, are friends with one of my favorite Memphis neighbors, and they are thinking of relocating to Maine. We have been chatting a bit on Facebook and arranged to meet today. I asked if they'd like to have breakfast here at Fairwind's today, and they agreed. I made them waffles with fresh eggs and goat milk, and bacon from a home raised pig. Lots of pleasant chatter ensued, and we parted with hugs. I hope they move nearby!

Fast forward a few hours, and the mail lady delivered a box to my door.
Inside? Pictures and memorabilia from my sister Dicy's partner. She had been sorting through things and had packed me up a box of items she thought would be meaningful.

I opened the box on the table where I had set the fragrant hyacinth, and the lovely connection of it all was not lost on me. So much sweetness in one space.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A stitch in time...

And now for something completely different.
It all began when my daughter visited my sister Donna. There she saw a photo taken of me in my early 20's, at my cousin's wedding. She brought the picture to me so I could scan it and have a copy. When I saw the thing, I instantly recalled the moment it was taken. And then I noticed the dress I was wearing. It was pretty, a midnight blue cotton with a tiny floral print. I had made that dress!

I used to sew quite a lot. I learned how to in Home Economics class. My then boyfriend's mom was an accomplished seamstress, and she encouraged my hobby. I made several quilts, some clothing, many crafty items. Then I went off to college and married and moved a lot of times. I took my trusty sewing machine with me but it sat, unused for many years. Eventually I gave it to a young girl that wanted to learn to sew.

Seeing that photo my daughter brought home, that dress with the funky sleeves, it made me long for the days in which I created with a needle and thread. II mentioned this to my husband, and he gifted me with a beautiful new sewing machine for Christmas.

I read the instruction book. Twice. This machine is far more sophisticated than the one I had back then. I was a little concerned that I would be unable to figure out how to work the thing. But I got brave, set it up, and found that I remembered how to thread a sewing machine. I remembered how to wind a bobbin. I remembered how to begin and end and the rhythm of the work was familiar, even after all these years.

I made a simple little project... stitched a hand towel into a little caddy to hold things in my bathroom.

It is not perfect, but is practical, and I had such fun making it, and finding that my brain and body had not forgotten an old joy. I can hardly wait to see what new joy awaits!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Wild turkeys...

Something outside caught my eye. I turned to see...

Three beautiful, wild turkeys snacking on the crab apple tree in the front yard. They are so large, and the branches are so thin, there was a lot of action there.

I stood on the porch and shot through the window to get these photos. The turkeys are very shy and skittish. As soon as they realized I was there, they were gone...

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Cold confessions...

I have to share a little something. I find it annoying when people complain about the weather. Because, really, there is not one single thing anyone can do to change things, so why whine and kvetch? That being said my friend and I often put on thick, fake Maine accents and say things like, "Geeze 'em, missy, ain't it some wicked cold out?"

So, I am not complaining when I tell you that taking care of my beloved animals in this weather is not for the faint of heart. I have all the good gear now; lined overalls, a thick weather proof jacket, ear protection, neck warmer, sturdy boots and gloves, but still, it is a challenge.

I got home from work early today, there was still a chunk of daylight left, and that was a good thing because I had a few obstacles to overcome. The first was that there was a thin layer of snow and ice on the threshold of the garage door. I am in and out that door many times during the day, because that is where I milk the goat and store the livestock feed. The door was unable to latch because of the ice, and I had to carefully (so as to not damage the weather stripping,) chip it off. I was most pleased when I was finally able to shut the thing with a solid thud and have it remain latched.

The next challenge was that the vent on the chicken coop, (a wired affair to let air move but keep predators out) was wide open and stuck that way due to previous ice freezing it in position. Snow had fallen off the coop roof, too, and further mucked things up. This vent faces north, and a nasty north wind was blowing in, right at roost level. I took a garden hoe out and chopped and whacked and cussed a bit, finally managing to get the covering door freed up and mostly closed. Closed enough to keep the wind out, at least. I did a slippery little victory dance in the snow.

Then I took a bucket of hot water laced with molasses out to the goat and horse. It is so cold I was pretty sure the sensible goat had not set a hoof out of her shed all day, and the heated water bucket is a pretty good distance from there. She greedily sucked down about a gallon of water, and the horse enjoyed the rest. While I was out I grabbed a pitchfork and cleaned all the shavings and manure out of the pony shed. These went into a muck bucket, which I then had to carry over a treacherous path to the manure pile. It took three trips. Then I hiked back to the garage and grabbed a bale of shavings. It is no easy task to wrestle one of these with thick gloves on (and I had gloves and mittens, doubled up!) but I prevailed. I bedded the horse down with clean shavings, then decided the goat needed more on her side, too, so hauled out another bag and made her bedding deeper and hopefully warmer. The animals are clearly bored and lonely; both the horse and the goat were very affectionate, nuzzling me and begging for pats.

The wonderful new Nibble Net (see previous blog post) was securely fastened to the gate, but we are expecting lots of snow and very cold weather with dangerous wind chills tonight and tomorrow, and I wanted to move it inside the shed so the pony could eat without being in a blizzard. It was so cold that the snap hooks that fasten the straps which hold the net up were frozen solid. Back to the house for a jar of hot water. I poured that on the snaps, and once I had the net freed I took it inside the house for a while until all the snaps were well thawed. Then I carried it back out, stuffed it full of fresh hay and trudged back out to the shed. I had to get creative to find a place to hang it safely. Once I did, I realized that the snaps were frozen once again. I had to cup them against my mouth and breath on them until they were freed up, then quickly manipulate them to where I wanted them to be before they seized up again. Meanwhile the bored pony was nibbling my hat and coat sleeves, and investigating every pocket in case there was a hidden pony treat. Sadly for her, there was not.

I decided that both horse and goat could use a little high energy snack to help them stay warm, so back to the garage for a small scoop of grain mix and a little alfalfa. The goodies and scratches were appreciated by both.

On my way past the bird feeder I noticed a little chickadee, missing some feathers and clearly struggling. The feeder was nearly empty, so I scooped up more sunflower seeds while the wee thing clung to the feeder in the cold wind. It never moved when I heaped a pile of food in front of it, and I had a fleeting desire to lift it up and bring it in by the wood stove for a while, but decided the better of it and headed in to make supper.

After more than an hour outside in negative temperatures there was just one thing to cook, hot soup! I made a cream of broccoli and spinach concoction that was just the soul warming thing we needed on a frigid winter night.

Not that I am complaining.