Friday, March 28, 2014

A quarter century of love...

My "baby" turned 25 this week.

She came home to celebrate, and that was sweet. We had some special meals... waffles with fresh strawberries and whipped cream for breakfast and macaroni and cheese with lobster in it for supper. Her favorite turtle cheesecake for dessert. There were presents and giggles and balloons. I thought back to all the birthdays... the famous purple party when she was 4, the "red cowgirl party," the "baby doll ball," the Hawaiian party with the great treasure hunt. I loved those parties, all the preparation and planning, all the happy, laughing children. One year we even got a roll of bubble wrap the size of a Volks Wagon and spread it on our carport. We played dance music and let the kids jump on the wrap. It was wildly popular, and so loud that it sounded like war broke out in our little neighborhood.

That is not what I had planned on writing in this post, but those are the memories that just came popping into my head.

Mostly I was going to write about gifts. Because I thought about how as a mother I give my child gifts to celebrate her birth each year, and it never feels like I give her enough.
And it just occurred to me why that is. It is because nothing can equal the gift of her in my life.

Happy Birthday sweet daughter. I'm so glad you're mine.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Welcoming Spring...

The calender boasts that today is the first day of spring.
I woke to hear what sounded like rain pattering against the widows. Stepping out into the murky dawn light I discovered that what was falling from the sky was a mix of rain and snow, icily dripping down my collar.

The way to the pasture and coop is treacherously icy. Old, dirty snow clings tight to the earth. I walk in tiny, careful, measured steps,head down, choosing my footing with care. I make multiple trips, carrying piles of hay, 5 gallon jugs of warm water, scoops of grain and seed. The animals are glad to see me. The horse nickers her greeting and paws the ground, encouraging me to hurry. The goats call, "Maaa!" before cramming their heads into the feed bucket to taste breakfast.

The dogs take care of outdoor business quickly and head back in to the pad by the fire. I'm settled by the wood stove, myself, having a glass of fresh milk and a slice of toast, planning my day. Spring will come, I'm sure of it, winter still has me in his grip.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Little brown critter...

My daughter was here for the weekend. We spent a few hours today doing something we dearly love, "junkin'." We like to go to antique stores and look for small treasures. Mixing bowls, kitchen gadgets, little what-nots that we just can't live without.

When we got home, and pulled into the driveway, my daughter asked, "What is that? I looked, and there was a little brown critter on the lawn under the apple trees. At first we thought it was a woodchuck, but then it came closer and it had a long, naked tail. To our surprise it ran right up to the house, towards the barking dogs, and then scooted under the deck.

A little while later we noticed it sitting right next to the deck. Ziva was very excited, quivering and pressing her nose as close to the wire that keeps the dogs in as possible. I got a very good look and decided it was a muskrat. I have no idea what it was doing here, they normally live near water,not under porch decks. I was fascinated, and kept peeking out at it.

This went on for several hours. Ziva watching the muskrat, me watching the muskrat, and it ignoring us completely. And then I saw it grab a piece of the lattice work that is under the front of the house, and rip it right off. I flung the gate open, intending to scare the thing away. Ziva saw her chance, and was out the gate and down the stairs before I could take my first step. With one swift move she grabbed the muskrat by the neck, and gave it a ferocious shake. And it was all over.

I felt a little sad for the muskrat, but glad it would not be chewing up my house. Ziva was pleased as punch with herself... strutting around proudly. It may be quiet here, but it is never dull.

Crows and ravens...

I have been fascinated by crows for as long as I can remember. My mother used to tell of a local small town character who had a pet crow, he had raised it from a chick. According to legend, he had split the crows tongue, and the bird could talk. As a child I couldn't wrap my head around what would possess a person to split a birds tongue, how cruel! And why would doing that enable the bird to speak?

My mom said the crow would fly all over town, stealing shiny objects. I liked shiny things, too, and thought this was an endearing trick. She also said the crow would come to her house and remove the clothes pins from her line, dropping damp, freshly laundered clothes and diapers on the ground. Such naughtiness fascinated me. The crow was reported to ride on his owners shoulder all around town, talking a blue streak.

When we moved to Maine I noted crows flying over our property often, but they never landed here. That changed when I got chickens. The crows would swoop in to eat grain I tossed out for the hens, and I was delighted to have them here. I began to toss food out just for them... crusts of bread or left overs from supper. My friend Liz loves crows, too, and she told me she called to hers. "What do you say?" I asked, curious. She looked at me quizzically and replied, "Here, crows!" The next day as I threw out some left over pasta and sauce I tried it. "HERE CROWS!" I yelled into the empty morning. I felt a little silly. The crows were used to my routine and saw me putting the food out for them. As soon as I was safely back inside the house they swooped in. I repeated this the next day, "HERE CROWS" I self consciously cried. A crow called in response, and two swooped in close to the top of the old Maple tree.

Ravens come less frequently, bigger than the crows, and more elusive.

It's been years now. This morning crow breakfast consisted of a left over sandwich my daughter brought from a restaurant. I'm not so self conscious when I holler to invisible birds now. I counted this morning. After my voice rang out it was one second before a crow called to the north, and 5 seconds before the first one was on the food I offered. They don't speak as humans, of course, but they communicate with me freely. I still find them fascinating. They find me handy to have around.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


I love the month of March. My birthday is in March. I married my love in March. Our daughter was born in March. And, in my mind, even though I was born and bred in New England, March is the beginning of spring. This March has been cold. No sign of spring to be seen. And last night and today we have had snow.

It began as rain yesterday afternoon. I hurried home from work to clean out the chicken coop before the storm hit. I knew the birds would stay in the coop all day today if the weather was bad, and the coop was pretty messy. I wanted them to have clean digs to scratch around in if they had to be "cooped up." It rained so hard as I shoveled out the old, soiled shavings that Ziva ran back to the house and hid under the overhang by the door. Pathetic! I got the birds all settled with a surplus of food and a scrubbed water pan and then it began to snow. Ziva found this more appropriate, and joined me for the rest of my chores. The flakes were supernaturally huge, some as big as quarters, falling lazily from the heavens.

The rain that had fallen earlier froze. The flakes got smaller, and then became like wee, icy bullets. They sang a dismal song as they hit the windows. The wind picked up and the stuff falling from the sky began to blow in sideways sheets. I made a pot of taco soup. It seemed like the right thing to do. I was glad when Chris arrived home safely.

By bedtime the wind was howling around the house like a wild thing. I took the dogs out for a potty stop and let the little ones right back inside. Then Ziva and I hauled hay out to the horse and goats. The three goats were snuggled in a cozy pile, chewing their cuds and looking quite content. Their little shed blocks the wind and the deep bedding keeps them warm. I paused a while, listening to the horse tear hay from the rack, smelling the singular perfume made of clean shavings, sweet hay and healthy stock. It is a peaceful place, and they animals don't mind if I linger, giving them scratches and sometimes a ginger snap or two.

As I left the peace of the shed, the cold wind tugged at my coat and hat. I heard an eerie cry from the edge of the meadow. At first I thought it was a coyote calling, and I looked to see if Ziva would react. If she hears coyotes in the night on on a recording, her hackles go up and her voice lifts to the sky. I heard the sound again, warped by the wind. Ziva acted as if she heard nothing. I was puzzled. Then I heard it a third time. A barred owl... nothing to alarm my good dog, but small rodents should beware!

This morning I had to hip check both the garage door and the pasture gate, breaking the solid seal of ice. The animals walked gingerly across the glaze to get food and water, then tucked themselves right back up in the shed. It seems as if this long winter will not end. But I did find some hope... a few bent blades of greening grass are struggling under the heated water tub for the livestock. Surely spring will arrive eventually!

Monday, March 10, 2014


Last Thursday, after chores, Chris kindly drove me to the airport so I could fly to Georgia for the Atlanta Pet Fair. I've been attending the fair as a speaker for something like 12 years, and as a vendor for 8. It is fun to fly south this time of year. Even if the weather is not stunning, I am sure to see a few flowering trees, and pansies are planted in vast beds everywhere, their bright faces promising that warm weather will be coming soon.

I always see lots of people I know, many who have become friends over the years. The energy and excitement is contagious, and many groomers refer to this show as "spring break."

This year I agreed to give three brand new lectures. I spend hours preparing new classes, and this year was no different. They all went well, especially the one I was most worried about, "Stupid Daryl Stories." I told tales of goof ups, mistakes and general hilarity of the sort that comes from a lifetime of working with unpredictable animals and the humans on the other end of the leash. I was worried that maybe, perhaps, no one would laugh. My worries were unfounded. The audience roared a few times. It was all very gratifying.

I worked each day at the German Red Clipper booth with Erich, my friend from Germany. He is such pleasant company. Sam and Cynthia Kohl (grooming industry icons) were at the next booth, so we had some pleasant time to visit and chat. Here is a picture of Sam, me and Erich, with Templeton the delightful mini Poodle.

Traveling from here is a bit tiring... there is all the preparation for a normal trip, plus planning animal care and making sure there is enough feed and hay and shavings and all to last while I am gone. It is a two hour drive to and from the airport, and getting a non stop ticket anywhere from Portland, ME is a neat trick. So I find that today I am not much use at all. I've been sitting like a lump, and enjoying it.

As my parents used to say, "Good to go away, better to come home again." The dogs snuggled up to me seem to agree.