Tuesday, February 25, 2014


In November my friend Marion (those of you who are regular readers of this blog might remember that she is often at the root of new animal acquisitions here at Fair Winds,) called me. She explained that one of her customers had lost all but one Silky chicken to predators over a span of time. That one chicken had befriended a couple of goats, so she was not without companionship, but then the goats fell prey to some horrible fate and the chicken was alone in the world. My friend had offered to try to integrate the bird into her flock, but then remembered that her birds are not one bit welcoming to strangers. So you know who ended up with the chicken, right? Me.

Silky chickens are adorable,but basically useless. They are not known to be good egg layers, and though their black-skinned flesh is a delicacy in Asia, they are so small it hardly seems worthwhile to put one in a pot.

The one I took in is a lovely gray-blue color. Her feet are covered in feathers, and she is fluffy where other chickens are sleek. She is also tiny, less than half the size of my hens. I introduced her slowly, letting her live in a dog crate inside the coop, where everyone could see each other but no bullying could take place. After few days I let her out. She quickly scuttled out the door and under the coop. That was her routine for months. I'd open the coop in the morning, she'd run out like the place was on fire, and hang out alone in the cold dark space till dusk, when she'd go back in with the other birds. Of course I put food and water out for her, but it made me sad that she was such a loner.

Then, over the last few weeks I've noticed her staying with the flock more often. She was not in such a rush to get outside in the morning, and if I went out to check on the birds during the day, she was often in the coop. It made me happy to see her finally acclimating with the group. But she still kept to herself more than the other birds.

At night chickens like to roost, and my birds have two nice big log perches to settle in on. They tend to roost wing by wing with their favorite friends from the flock. Don't laugh...they do have friends that they prefer to be with! Unlike the big birds,the Silky, who I call "Feather," has tucked herself into a nest box on the floor to sleep every night. I'd look in to count beaks before I locked things up and there she'd be, a fluffy dark smudge in the nest box.

Until tonight! During beak check and feeding I gasped to see the little midge up on a high roost, snuggled next to one of the Partridge Rock hens. She looked quite smug up there, and it made me happy to see her. A real part of the flock at last.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Things that scream in the night...

After many nights of temperatures hovering at or below 0, the last few nights have been in the high 20's. To celebrate, I have left one of the bedroom windows open a bit, and have been enjoying the fresh air.

Last night, about 20 minutes after I fell asleep I was awakened by an animal sound not far from the house. A loud, screaming sound. My two small dogs were in bed me, and neither of them responded at all to the scream, but Ziva, in her crate beside me, let out a low, rumbling growl. I decided to investigate, to make sure the livestock were all safe.Ziva rumbled down the stairs, game to find out what was up outside. I flung the door open for her while I grabbed my spot light and pulled on boots. She hit the deck all hackles up and bellowing into the starry night. She headed towards the pasture first, and stopped at the gate to look towards the livestock. They had heard the sound, too, all four faces were staring out, on alert, towards the direction the scream had come from. Their eyes reflected in my flash light. Then Ziva headed for the hen yard. The birds are locked up quite securely at night, but she checked in. All the while her loud voice was echoing off the snow and barren trees.

I shined my light all around, but was not met by the glitter of any wild eyes in return. Ziva became still and we stood there in the silence a while. I admired the moon and the arcing dome of stars as far as I could see. Then back into the warm haven of the house, where we both settled into our respective beds. It took a while for sleep to return for both of us. Ziva was restless, stirring up her blankets and acting unsettled.

Nights like that I am glad to have a big, loud dog to go outside with. Somehow a Toy Poodle does not make me feel quite as safe as 55 pounds of brazen cur when something screams in the dark. (Note: the sound was probably that of a Red Fox.)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Guardian of hearts and home...

It is unusually quiet at home tonight. My sweet husband is working late. When he is home, the house is filled with sound. The sound of his voice, and the sound of music or television. When I am home alone I often have no music playing, and I rarely turn on the TV. So, while I was snuggled on the sofa working on a computer project in the still evening, the dogs were cuddled up around me. And then there was a NOISE from the kitchen. A fairly loud noise. A slide-y, thumpy noise. The dogs went on full alert mode.

Ziva the Black Mouth Cur, who is one year old now, came off the sofa like a tiger, and raced to the door, bellowing loudly. We bought her to help guard home and livestock, and now that she is one year old she is really growing into her role as guardian. Flirt, the Toy Poodle, barked her shrill, horrid little bark, egging the Cur on. Poppy the antique pug, deaf and tired, snuggled in closer, oblivious.

The sound we had heard did not alarm me. I suspected the broom that hangs precariously from a too-small nail had fallen. I didn't get up to investigate. But Ziva was on it! She checked the door, then came back to me, then checked the dining room. From there she peered suspiciously into the dim kitchen. I watched her as she leaned in, looking hard. Her hackles rose and then she jumped back, alarmed. Something was amiss. She looked at me, hard, seeming to try to convey some urgency. I sighed, and got up.

There, on the floor next the hutch, was the big ivy plant. Apparently the soil had become dry, making the foliage heavier than the plant, and it had tumbled to the floor. It lay there, in the shadows, looking quite menacing to the guard dog. I approached the plant. Ziva hung close to my legs, ready to defend me if necessary. I picked the plant up. Ziva watched. I think she was impressed by my bravery. I put the plant into the sink. Ziva looked satisfied as I hosed it down, no doubt drowning the evil thing!

My young dog is growing into an excellent companion. Someday she may even cease to be afraid of upended ivy plants!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Chaos and mayhem...

This is Flirt. She is a Toy Poodle and weighs 7 pounds.

She is currently "in season." That means her body is ready for breeding.
This causes her to become very affectionate with humans, and down right pushy with other dogs. She behaves as if she wants something, but doesn't know what that something is.

This is Ziva. She is a Black Mouth Cur and weighs 55 pounds. Flirt does not really like Ziva, normally. But now that she is in season, she thinks Ziva is the most wonderful thing in the world. She taunts her and teases her and begs her to play. Ziva responds, trying politely to play with her. But she is BIG and Flirt is small, and when Ziva paws at her or mouths on her Flirt lets out a high pitched squeak, similar to that of a smoke detector.

So, for hours on end here, there is racing and romping and squeaking and squealing. It is enough to wear on the nerves of a patient person, and that patient person is (was!) me.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


The forecasters said we could have as much as 20 inches of snow last night. I like winter, but I have to admit I was not excited by the prospect. After work yesterday I came home and cleaned the chicken coop and the pony shed, filling them both with clean, sweet pine shavings to help the animals stay warm. I filled their feeders and topped up the electric water bowls and buckets. With all the animals cared for I retreated to the house and the wood stove for a cozy supper while the wind blew and the snow flew. The before bed time check found the animals safe, the goats nested into deep bedding and chewing their cuds, the horse nibbling hay and ignoring the wind, the chickens fluffed up and asleep on their roosts.

Morning dawned bright, with blue skies- snow and ice cycles sparkling.
The thermometer boasted 23 degrees, a veritable heat wave after so many nights of sub zero temperatures. It is hard to tell because of the wind drifts, but I think we only got 6-8 inches of snow. Far easier to deal with than the predicted 20 inches.

Inside we are enjoying windows full of sun reflecting off new snow. There may be more storms to come before winter succumbs to spring, but it is nice to know that each day the light stays longer and warm days come closer.
I'll be glad to welcome spring this year.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

And then a party happened...

For Valentine's Day my husband and I planned that he would bring home some meal from the city where he works for us to splurge on. Our daughter was expected to come home for the weekend later in the evening. Then she called and said that she was going to be earlier than expected, and would be home in time to eat with us. I decided I'd cook rather than have Chris bring take out. I was sitting in my truck plotting what I would like to cook when I got a message from a friend. She was lonely and bored, so I invited her to join us for supper. Since I was feeding those two, I called a co-worker whose date had cancelled at the last minute and invited her, too.

My two friends where here and we were cooking, music playing, chatting happily when Scott called. He was on his way to plow the heavy, icy, wet snow from our driveway. He came in to visit a bit after he was done, and saw us cooking tortillas. I gave him a sample of the tasty chicken and bean filling I had made. Moments after he left he called me, "So, do you have extra tortillas? Because, I don't want to be rude, but I could go get my wife and we could come back!" This was a great idea, and he did as promised. Meanwhile, our daughter arrived home.

When my husband drove in from work he found a driveway full of cars. When he opened the door he found a party in progress. Candles lit, music playing, the air perfumed with spicy Mexican style food and the sound of happy voices bouncing off the walls.

Soon we were at our polished table, plates laden with home cooked flavor. We stayed there for hours, passing the wine bottle, telling stories, laughing. It was good.

This morning my first thought was about how much fun the evening hours had been. My husband rolled over and said,"Last night? That is how I always hoped our home would be. Good friends, good food, great conversation and laughs." My thoughts exactly.

It wasn't planned, but our impromptu party was a gift.

Valentines Day...

On Valentines Day one of my best friends husband called me on the phone. I thrilled to hear his voice. He spoke words to me that were beyond exciting.
Yet, I felt no guilt, even on this day of love...

"Daryl. I'm on my way over to your house." He said. I rushed to change my clothes in anticipation of his arrival.

"I'm coming to plow your driveway," he said as I pulled on my heavy coat and winter boots.

No sweeter words were ever spoken.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Pineapples and packages...

I have mentioned before that my wonderful husband does all our grocery shopping, because I hate it and he is really good at it. However, we recently were in a grocery store together and I picked out a lovely looking pineapple. I planned to cut it up today, and have been happily anticipating sampling it.

It is snowing today. A major storm that has schools and businesses shut down, and me happily home bound. I heard a car in the drive and went out to save my postal delivery lady a walk up my snowy steps. She handed me an unexpected package, and I began to open it with glee.

I stopped when I noticed this:

Although the return address information from my gift sending friend was clear, it was nearly impossible to read my address! I have no idea how the postal workers deducted this was meant for me, but I am so glad they did!

Inside was some lovely lotion, some sweet candy, smile-worthy cupcake wrappers, and an amazing tool, the likes of which I have never seen before!

The instructions said to cut the top and bottom off the pineapple. Then place the tool on top and press down while turning.

That was easy.

In seconds, with very little mess, I had a perfectly cored, sliced pineapple, dripping in sweetness. I am a huge fan of my friend who sent it, the clairvoyant postal people, and this awesome gadget!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Food and flowers...

I tend to get into a bit of a lazy rut with cooking. After a day of work I come home and do something easy. Toss some marinated meat on the grill, steam a vegetable...toss together one of my favorite casseroles; supper is often a not-well-thought out affair. But other times I am on task. Recently I cooked up a batch of spicy Mexican yummyness called Beef Barbacoa. We found the recipe on a web site called The Skinny Cook. It wasn't difficult to make, but it was something different, out of the ordinary for me. I was using ingredients and techniques I was unfamiliar with, like canned Chipolte chilies in Adobo sauce and tossing broth and veggies in a blender and whirring them into oblivion.

About an hour after I got the meal going in my wonderful new crock pot, I noticed my eyes were watering and my sinuses were giving me fits. Yup, this was a spicy batch of stuff I had going.

Then I decided this meal would be awfully tasty in a nice tortilla. We didn't happen to have any tortillas here, and I didn't want to go out to the store to get any. I looked up a recipe for home made, and it looked simple enough to whip up a batch, so I did. The recipe I found was on a site called What's Cooking America, and had nice pictorial instructions. Friend Megan came over for supper, and she handily cooked the tortillas on our cast iron skillet after I rolled each one out.

The three of us sat down to a plate stacked high with soft, warm, tender tortillas and a bowl filled with meltingly tender meat. We laid that spicy meat in the middle, added a bit of sour cream and some grated cheddar, and oh! it was delicious. Sinus clearing, but delicious! We decided that store bought tortillas, while convenient, are merely vessels to hold food, while homemade ones are an amazingly tasty treat. And here is a good thing; a batch of dough makes a lot. I cooked up enough for one meal, and stored the rest for the next night, so our leftover meat had fresh, warm wrappers. The recipe says you can freeze the dough, as well, which would be very convenient. It was fun to expand my cooking skills a bit, I plan to try similar creations in the near future.

This time of year, when winter seems never ending, I find that a quick side trip to a local nursery buoys my spirits. Yesterday after work I popped into the Green Thumb. The air inside is rich with the aroma of growing plants, moist dirt, and a hint of wood smoke. It is feast for the nose! My eyes didn't suffer, either, as I gazed upon row after row after blooming plants and lush foliage.

I came away with a bright pot of Cyclamen, and a brown paper bag of Narcissus bulbs. I will tuck them into a pretty bowl full of pebbles and they will lift my spirits as I watch them grown and blossom, perfuming the air with the scent of life and promising that spring will come again.