Sunday, July 27, 2014

New spaces...

In one week I will leave my job at Yankee Clipper, where I have been happily employed for 11 years.
Those years encompass growth, amazing friendships, and more laughs than I could ever count. But soon I will stay home to do my work, in this space I have dreamed up and created.

That is the "long view." I invite the humans on the end of the leash to "sit, stay!" while I work. There is a Keurig coffee maker, a dish of home baked goodies and some books and magazines to help them while away the time.

So far I have groomed about 20 pets here in this space. It is tranquil. Lovely, peaceful music plays. For the most part I groom one pet or one family of pets at a time. I am still working out the details, but the work in progress? It works. The animals are (mostly) quite serene and calm.

Change is hard, but it brings growth. I am excited about this new venture, and challenges. It is fun to watch my new future unfold.

Regarding eggs...

Chickens can be a bit frustrating at times. In the spring they flood us with eggs. More than we can use. We give them away to neighbors and friends, we feed them to the dogs, we eat a lot of quiche. Then, invariably, some of the hens go broody. This means they are feeling in a family way and want to nest. A broody hen plants herself in a nest box and does not budge. She goes into a trance-like state, only getting off the nest long enough to eat and drink once or twice a day. And when she is broody she does not lay eggs. So egg production dwindles and the egg supply dries up some. Hens remain broody for almost a month. Since I am not interested in having new chicks, I don't really like having broody hens and this whole process frustrates me. There are ways to "break a broody," but I generally just let them do their thing.

Once the broody phase has passed the hens do something else. They moult. This means they drop their old feathers, and grow pretty new ones. All of a sudden the coop and hen yard are full of feathers: little downy feathers, long wing feathers. Everywhere. My husband will look at a pile of them gathered by an errant breeze and ask, "Honey, did a chicken 'splode?" Some of the hens moult rather seamlessly...they may look a little scruffy, but not too far from normal. Others lose so many feathers at once that they look like abused things for days. They new feathers come in looking like porcupine quills, hard-shelled pointy things. Soon the sheath covering each feather dissolves and the birds begin to look more normal. This new growth takes a lot out of the birds, and they stop laying. I check the nest boxes each day, and feel disappointed to find few or no eggs at all.

Then there are the ducks.

They don't bother with nest boxes or brooding. Every morning when I open the sturdy door of their house they stampede out, raring to meet the day. Quacking, they run past me, flat feet slapping over the grass. They are gone for a day of foraging about the meadow. There in the shavings of their house I find eggs, scattered about with reckless abandon. 2, 3 or 4 eggs, every day, no matter what. I have to bend low to climb into their house and gather the eggs, and getting out calls for a graceless maneuver, but it is worth it for the prize of those huge treasures.

Duck eggs taste like... eggs. And they are terrific for baking, with huge yolks. They come in shades of ivory or blue, a nice change from the basic brown hens eggs. And they are so big they make the chicken eggs look rather insignificant in comparison. Sometimes I think I should put the chickens in a pot and just keep ducks. Maybe if I tell the birds of this plan they'll up production!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Magic all around me...

My niece and her husband have rented a cabin near a beach here in Maine. They generously invited family members to come for a day or a night or two. I went today. It was a bit of a drive... a little under two hours. The cabin is rustic and cozy, with books tucked up on shelves and homey touches everywhere. Lots of windows looking out over meadow and some lovely woods leading to salt marshes.

Boarding kayaks and canoes we explored the salt marsh. It was lovely, silent, and empty of all other humans. After our trip we dined on fabulous salad, sandwiches, sister-made delicious potato salad and yummy lemon cake. A feast!

Niece Aimee organized a massive tye-dye project. I missed out on the creation, but got to enjoy the end results.

There was a private beach to explore... so beautiful!

Hardly any humans in sight, but there was a cheeky visitor!

A day with family in the sun. What could be better?

Good morning...

If I had to choose a favorite time of day, it would be morning. (Though cozy, quiet evenings have a charm all their own.) But when I open my eyes and see the light slanting in the window, and hear the sounds of the world waking up, I can't help but feel full of energy and excitement for what might unfold as I rise.

We have had a very large deer visiting in the meadow. One morning last week I glanced out in the pasture to find that he and the horse were grazing quite near one another. They had moved apart a good bit before I could grab my camera and try to capture the image, but this is what I wonder; do they enjoy each others company? Do they communicate to one another? I appreciate the loveliness of them there, heads down to graze, side by side in the morning mist.

I love how dewy and fresh the gardens and yard looks in the morning. The flower bed I revamped this summer is quite satisfying, offering a pretty spot to look and lots of blossoms for picking.

And then there is breakfast... what's not to love about that? Today's delightful start was a bowl of peaches with cream. So good I nearly swooned.

After milking Luna goat, I put all the adult goats in the hen yard, along with the horse. There they helped earn their keep by grazing the grass and pruning the weeds that poke in along the fence line. Then I gathered up the bucklings and put them in a crate in the back of my truck. They are headed to Marion's farm today, a week or so earlier than I had planned. Their little horns have grown and yesterday they got their heads stuck in the wire fence several times. I was home all day, and able to rescue them, but if they were to get stuck while I am away at work, well, that would be a terrible thing. Marion has bigger pastures with more browse,(branches and shrubs, goats preferred food) and hot wire to (hopefully) keep the lads out of trouble. They have settled down nicely to await transport but their mama is calling for them piteously from the pasture.

Next I swept out the pony shed, and shoveled out the goat shed, filled all the water buckets and bowls and pans, collected eggs, and weeded a bit. And next I am off to visit with family for a real, live DAY OFF at the beach. I knew when I opened my eyes it was going to be a good morning!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Farm smiles...

I am suddenly awash in ducks. I took in three from someone who had them and didn't want them, then 5 more from someone who was retiring some ducks used their whole lives to teach dogs to herd. None of these ducks had ever had much in the way of freedom. Now they have over an acre of fenced meadow to wander in, as well as the good-sized poultry yard. All day long they potter about, drilling their beaks into the dirt, nibbling on the seed tops of the grasses, hunting for bugs, and dabbling in their wading pool and all the water bowls I leave about the place. They just look so HAPPY. At dusk they can hardly wait to be ushered into their safe hutch, exhausted from a day of delightful duck activity.

Then there are the Silkie's. Above is "Feather," the one I took in after the rest of her flock was killed. I like her so much I almost-by-accident got three more. I dubbed them, "The Sillies." The white one is a rooster. I've had bad luck with roosters, but I suspect the tide has turned with the addition of this little dude. How scary can a chicken wearing big, white, feathered pantaloons be? I carry him around sometimes. He doesn't seem to mind. These birds are pretty useless, unless you count making me smile as being useful. And I do.

The bucklings are getting big. Soon they will move to friend Marion's farm, where they will prune shrubbery for her. Meanwhile they keep us entertained with their antics, leaping, frolicking and picking mock head butting fights with the big goats.

Chris kindly fastened the head of a push broom to the side of the shed entrance. The goats are itchy and they love to rub their heads and faces and sides on the stiff bristles of the broom head.

I've planted a lot of flowers this year, including some roses. This climbing rose has the loveliest blooms... fragrant and soft.

There is a lot to smile about here in the summer. Chris and Chanel agree.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Vintage gift...

A customer/friend gifted me with something really special last week.

An incredibly cute vintage toy box. She is an artist and carefully retouched the paint to freshen it up, without making it look too new.

Ziva appreciates it, too.

I love everything about it. The size, the shape, the colors and especially the kindness it was given with.

I've already put a few toys in it... a poodle Beanie Baby, a wee little slinky, a kaleidoscope,a puzzle, and a few more little delights. I will add a few coloring books and some crayons, and some kids books. Maybe a stuffed animal or two. I think this toy box will deliver a lot of smiles.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Visits from the locals...

In the flower garden one morning recently, something fell from the flag with an audible sound. I glanced up and found this enormous and beautiful moth on the edge of the bird bath. I asked it to climb up on my hand and it did, with tickley feet and incredible wings.

A little research showed it to be a Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia). Billed as North Americas largest moth,a member of the giant silk moth family. I was delighted that it chose to meet me.

Last night we had two more winged visitors, Little Brown Bats, swooping through the house after we'd had dinner and were sitting cozily in the living room. We ushered them outside, and hoped they didn't meet my friend the moth.