Wednesday, February 25, 2015


It's snowing again. Hard. I have already shoveled paths and cleared off the cars, but my efforts have been obliterated by fat, fluffy flakes, piling up and covering any trace of my existence.

Chanel does not seem to mind. Though I'd happily carry her breakfast to the shed, she greeted me at the gate and dined alfresco.

The goats do not brook with such foolishness. They stay steadfast in the cozy shed, only peeking out for this photo when I called their names. They called back, "Maaa! Maaa!" then returned to their hay.

Yesterday Rachel and I popped into a favorite antique store in Camden. I found this adorable print. It is poster sized, and I well remember seeing these drawings when I was a child, in a cherished book. I am going to find a way to waterproof it and hang it over the grooming tub in my studio. It will make me smile every time I see those bright colors and that naughty spaniel leaping out of the tub!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Random Blog Thoughts...

Sometimes, when I don't really know what to write about, I grab my camera and take some pictures and go from there.

Today dawned in the positive temperatures. It has been below freezing for several weeks, and below zero more mornings than I care to remember. These temperatures make it hard on the livestock and hard on me when I care for the livestock. Most of all, it causes me to worry, and that is tiring. Seeing the thermometer on the deck register 27 degrees this morning made me do a happy little dance in the new snow. The animals were more upbeat and active too, and at one point the temperature rose to the mid 30's. It was a lovely reprieve, but cold air is moving back in soon. All the the ice cycles on the house dripped and dripped,(if you look to the right, you can SEE a drop caught in mid air!) and many of them came crashing down,shattering like glass with explosive sounds echoing over the silent snow.

The blue sky was a treat to see after many days of gray. The pathway to the studio is icy and those embankments are shoulder high. It is almost impossible to believe that the snow will ever go away; that grass and daffodils and tulips will take its place. I feel happy when I remember that Rachel and I tucked flower bulbs here and there in the fall. It will be such a treat to see things growing and blooming.

Something caught my eye as I was doing chores. Something amiss. This poor, hapless Morning Dove was caught in the feeder post. I gently lifted her out, and though her leg was chafed from the struggle it didn't appear to be broken. While I was carefully examining her she blew out of my grasp in a confetti of feathers, winging over the meadow and vanishing into a stand of pines.

The hens have not laid an egg since November. This afternoon while I was filling up their water bowl and feeder I spied this teeny, tiny egg off in the shavings. It must have slipped right out of a hen on the roost, so little she never noticed it!

Chris brought home a big bag of dried meal worms for the birds. We gave them today for a special treat. The hens were a bit suspicious of them at first, but then dove in and helped themselves to a welcome hi-protein treat. I put a few handfuls into the ducks water bowl. When I checked moments later, every worm had vanished.

The snow in the pasture is deep, deep. The four foot fence is merely a suggestion to the animals at this point. Luckily they are not interested in wading about in the stuff. They have made a small path from the shed to the gate, then to the water bucket. There they have milled about enough to make a small, flat area. I put hay there and it gets them out of the shed for a while. I should have helped them make more paths and open spaces, but I didn't. Next year I will do better.

When we first moved here I saw some foliage at the edge of the meadow move and heard what I thought was a wild turkey call.I was SO excited! I couldn't even see a turkey, but the thought of it being here made me giddy. I thought of that this week, when a flock of 20 very hungry turkeys began to come several times a day to gather the spilled seeds from the wild bird feeder, inches from the house. At first they were very wary, darting away across the yard, or lifting off in heavy flight if they saw me in the window. We bought corn for them, and scattered it on the snow, and a big block of compressed corn and seeds, and put it at the base of the bird feeder. By today they barely moved when I opened the door, and now they run towards me as I broadcast food for them from the little deck. Look how BIG their eyes are! That surprised me. They are willing models for my camera, and I can't get enough of taking their pictures.

And this last, random shot. Sister Deb gifted me with a nice, sturdy coat rack for the studio. It was a bit on the boring side, so I asked an artist friend to trade me some pet grooming in exchange for giving it a facelift. She painted it blue and created morning glory vines climbing up and blooming cheerily during this long winter.

And this closes today's desultory photos and blog thoughts. Photos of my surroundings often inspire me!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Who needs to be trained..?

I took Ziva for a private training lesson yesterday. It is something I have wanted to do for a long time, and I wish I had done it sooner. Ziva is a very smart dog. She wants to please, but sometimes she and I do not communicate as well I wish we would.
Sumac, the trainer, is gifted at her work. She watched Ziva as she came in, tail tucked, uncertain about what was going on. We chatted while Ziva explored the building, and after a few moments became comfortable and more secure.

Then Sumac got out some treats and began teaching Ziva how to do some things. Sit on a mat. Put her front feet on a box. Find a cookie under an obstacle. Ziva was all wags and happiness. She liked these games. She loved the cookies. She learned fast, eager to please her new best friend. I watched carefully, trying to learn what Sumac was trying to teach me. Wishing I were as smart as my dog.

We are going to work on these things, building a better understanding of how to work together, this dog and I. I know she will do beautifully, and the things we learn will help to keep her brain occupied and happy. I hope I fulfill my part of the effort in a satisfactory manner. My dog deserves that!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Feathered friends...

When we were getting ready to move from Memphis to Maine we looked at what felt like thousands of houses on line. One that I really liked had several nice things about it, but the most enchanting thing for me was that the real estate advertisement boasted that the place was a bird sanctuary. That house didn't work out for us, but I always wondered about those birds. Did the new owners continue to offer them a safe haven?

The first weekend we moved into this house, I bought a bird feeder and was delighted when Goldfinches arrived within moments of installing it, little shards of sunlight twittering through the air and dining happily just outside my kitchen window. It seemed an auspicious omen.

Fast forward 11 years and it occurs to me now that we have created a bit of a sanctuary right here at FairWinds.

I put a feeder just outside the window of my grooming studio. I cannot find the words to express the pleasure I get from watching the birds while I groom. They are mere inches from my nose. In this frigid weather we've been having the birds have been staying close to the feeders, and emptying them at an astonishing rate. I don't care. I fill the feeders happily and thrill at the whirl of feathers all around me. From the tiny Chickadees to the delicious looking turkeys...

... they keep me lovely company during the day.

Yesterday, while perched on my favorite seat in the house, something caught my eye outside the living room window. The tree branches are dotted with white snow, and I thought I saw some snow move. And there was a dark mass under it. I looked closer and lo and behold... a Bald Eagle was perched at the edge of the meadow. I think it was hoping a chicken would appear, but the hens were staying put in their cozy coop.

The Eagle stayed a while, surveying our property from a sturdy branch. And then some crows began to hassle it. It lifted off and flapped into the icy sky.

I rather like living in a bird sanctuary.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Kindness of strangers...

Today didn't really go as planned. I had thought to spend the day writing. Then my daughter asked me to join her in running an errand. She suggested we could have lunch at a favorite spot and check out a fun antique store nearby. It was an offer I couldn't refuse. My only stipulation was I needed to be home by 3 to groom a wonderful little cat.

So off we went, listening to pretty music and chatting happily. We got her errand taken care of, and even popped into Marden's, a fun store that often has great bargains. I stocked up on beautiful gift wrapping paper for .50 cents a roll! Then off to the favorite restaurant. Sadly, it was closed. As was the nearby antique store. Mildly dejected, we went to another favorite spot and dined on delicious ribs. But we had to hurry to get back in time for my appointment.

When we got to our road, there were large areas where wind had pushed snow deeply into the road. Rachel drove carefully, but when a truck pulling an over-sized trailer passed us, swerving a bit in our lane, the deep snow grabbed her tires and pushed her neatly into a snow bank. No damage was done but we were stuck fast. And it was only moments before I was to meet my customer.

I climbed out of the car, and no sooner did my feet meet the ground when a car stopped. An older man asked, "Need any help?" I asked if there were any way he could turn around and take me to my house, just a mile away. "Ayuh," he nodded. I hopped right in. I introduced myself. "I know who you are. I live right up the road. You wave to me all the time." I asked him where he had been off to when he so kindly stopped, "Down to the Mic Mac to get a cuppa coffee." "I'd be more than happy to make you a cup for your troubles," I told him. He smiled gently. "I mostly go to talk to my friends." Then he told me he had shingles blow off his roof in the last storm. "I'm not supposed to get up on the roof. I have two metal hips and one metal knee. I'm a bit older than you, you know. How old do you think I am?" Well, that is the sort of question that is often loaded, and really, I had no idea. He was clearly somewhere older than 60, but I had no idea how much older. He was robust and fit looking, obviously very capable. "68?" I guessed. He chuckled. "I've been married 70 years." I thought quick, "Well then, you must have gotten married when you were 10 and now you are 80." "I'll be 90 next month," he said. And really, he didn't look 90 by any stretch. I told him so. He looked pleased.

I arrived home just in time to groom one of my favorite cats. Meanwhile, Rachel and her little stuck car waited for AAA to come pull her out. While she waited, in the icy cold wind, no less than 15 or 20 different people stopped to offer her assistance. Women in small cars offered to let her use a phone. Young men with pick up trucks offered to give her a tow. Vehicle after vehicle stopped to make sure she was okay. When the tow truck finally arrived and pulled her free, he then insisted on following her home, "The road is bad between here and there, and I want to make sure you are safe."

No sooner did she arrive home safely, when the phone rang. It was my sweet husband. He was supposed to have the day off today, but was called into work for a few hours, which ended up being most of the day. "Honey, I have a problem," he said. "I stopped my car because something was stuck in the wheel well, and locked myself out. And honey, it's really COLD." He was a good 45 minutes away from home. Rachel and I jumped in my truck and drove as fast as we could to get him. I knew he was wearing dress shoes and casual work clothes and a light jacket. I felt sick to my stomach as I drove, white knuckled, to get him. The thought of him shivering by the side of the road make me feel quite ill. The temperatures were in the single digits and as I said, the wind was fierce. Rachel arranged for a locksmith to meet us. While Chris waited in the fading light, in the terrible cold, a man had stopped to let him use his phone to call me. A woman stopped and gave him a pair of gloves, and then some acquaintances who were passing by stopped and let him sit in the warmth of their car until I arrived.

Today didn't really go as planned, but looking back at it we are all feeling very blessed by the kindness of all those strangers.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

To see the wind...

We were supposed to have another blizzard today. The snow is already deep... our picnic table is completely and totally hidden beneath a blanket of white, not even a lump or hump to show its existence. The storm moved away from us, though, and we only got a few inches of light, powdery snow. But it was COLD and we did have wind.

The wind blew the snow around the roof and walls, swirling it past the windows so thick we could not see out. It buffeted the house, and caused the trees around us to dance and sway to the unearthly beat. It had a voice, loud and shrill and eerie.

If I paused while out taking care of the livestock I could feel the wind, icy on my skin. Beyond that, the snow made the wind visible.

This entity that is an invisible part of our daily lives? Suddenly I could see it. Snow swirled and eddied and dipped. It lifted and spun and swirled on the currents. Around the house, over the pasture, through the meadow. The light snow gave the wind a cold face.

And it is cold. -18 yesterday morning, single digits for most of today. The wind made it feel colder. Bundled up in Carhart overalls and a coat, heavy boots and two pair of gloves, I still became totally chilled while hauling water and hay and grain to the animals.

The chickens and ducks are coop bound due to the cold. I know they are bored, so today I hung a fresh cabbage in the hen house. By evening it was gone, every bit of its green goodness tucked into crops hungry for something other than the boring (but expensive) pellets I buy them. I added snips of cabbage to the ducks water bowl, and they happily gobbled it up.

I made frequent trips to the goat and pony shed, bringing hot water laced with molasses as a treat on a cold day. And all the while the wind blew and eddied about, showing itself as it danced a shameless, screaming, promenade.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Thoughts on stubborness...

My big sister Deb says I am stubborn. When she says it I get a little mad. But in the way of the world, big sisters are usually right, and that is true in this instance, too.

She says I am stubborn about not getting medical attention when I need it. Here is an example. A few years back I had something horrible going on with my scalp. It was red and sore and flaky and made me miserable. Months went by. One day my sister said, "If one of your dogs had skin problems you'd have them at the veterinarian before you could bat an eye. Buy you don't take care of your own skin!" Drat. She was right. I made an appointment with a dermatologist and got fixed up in a twinkling.

Recently the back of my leg got very sore. I have chronic circulatory problems with that leg, and have had a couple of bouts with superficial blood clots, uncomfortable but generally not dangerous. I figured that I was having a similar problem and began to treat myself; keeping my leg elevated, putting a heating pad under it, drinking lots and lots of water. But things didn't improve. A week or so went by, and the little voice in my head kept telling me I really needed to get that thing checked out, but I shushed the voice and went on about my business. And I did NOT tell my sister I was having any trouble!

Yesterday, in a snow storm, my husband said, "I can take the day off and take you to the emergency room if you want." I get a little whiny and a lot grumpy when I don't feel good, and I suspect he'd had about enough of living with me. I know I was sick of myself! "Oh alright!" I huffed. I took care of the animals, showered and dressed and off we went, slipping and sliding on snow crusted roads. Six hours, 1 ultrasound and a lot of blood tests later I was diagnosed with Deep Vein Thrombosis. I had correctly diagnosed the blood clot part, but it was not an innocent little superficial clot. It was the kind that can break off and cause one to have a stroke or drop dead. I could hear Deb's voice in my head,"STUBBORN!" and felt rather chastised. I should have had this taken care of sooner, and I am lucky that I am sitting here, sore leg elevated and hopefully healing.

And that is what I have been thinking about today. I've beaten myself up pretty well over my actions, then decided to cut myself some slack and think of times when being obstinate isn't so bad. The picture above? I am holding a little lamb born on my friends farm. The lamb was orphaned before it ever got to nurse and get immunities from its dam, and it's future looked grim. It needed some TLC and a minor miracle if it was going to survive. I begged my friend to let me have the lamb,and she kindly let me. I fed the little thing every few hours round the clock. I kept her next to my bed at night, waking often to care for her, and carried her to her work every day. I kept her warm and clean and full of food and potions designed to combat the interstitial woes common to young, orphaned critters. She thrived and grew and is now living a happy sheep life at a nice nearby farm.

And then there is this marriage I'm in. 30 years and 11 months we've been wed! I think a person has to exhibit a certain amount of determination to make a marriage work for that long in the current social climate. I'll take a pat on the back for being persistent enough to be half of the team that has kept a happy relationship going for three decades.

If I work at it I can think of a few other areas where my bullheadedness has paid off, and that cheers me right up. I vow to not be so resistant about seeking medical care in the future, but I may well keep some of my other mulish ways.

Difficult beauty...

From the front yard to the back, there is snow. Deep, beautiful, difficult snow.

Looking out is lovely,no doubt.

The animals, both wild and domesticated, need to eat a lot to stay warm. The temperatures are in the negative numbers over night, and in the 20's during the day. Doing chores is more challenging this time of year, but they must be done just the same. Water must be hauled and kept thawed, food must be brought, and often.

The 4 foot fencing to keep the livestock in is merely a suggestion at this point. Thankfully the horse and goats are quite suggestible. They stay close to the shed and the hay and the bucket of warm water. They placidly gaze out across the snow, and I wonder if they are dreaming of greener, easier days.

Monday, February 2, 2015

More snow...

It began to snow around 7 AM. Light, fluffy snow, tiny flakes, and coming down fast. It's pretty for certain, but I am worried where we will put it all when the time for shoveling begins. We already have drifts as tall as I am.

I am certain that the animals are bored. The chickens and ducks are "cooped up" and look quite forlorn. I try to make things better by bringing them out treats to sample, and tossing hay into their houses for them to dig through and peck at.

Chanel has been out in the snow, and her whiskers are coated in frost. I keep the food coming and bring fistful's of treats when I go out, and they expect nothing less. It feels a bit like being mugged when the the three goats and one horse begin rifling through my pockets. If you hear giggles coming from the shed, that will be me.

Ziva does not want to be out for long, but makes a few lightning fast zoom-y trips where we have created pathways... then back to the loveseat or her bed by the wood stove. It is clear she knows how to blow off enough steam that she can enjoy the enforced down-time the storms bring us.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Clams and good company...

One of my customers gifted me with 25 pounds of fresh Maine clams on Saturday. The timing was perfect, because niece Aimee was on her way for a visit, and she is a steamed clam lovin' kind of woman!

Chris did a magnificent job cooking them... the recipe involved white wine and garlic, onion, butter and fresh parsley. He is such a good cook. We ate until we were full, and there were still some left over. So tonight we made clam chowder- it came out especially well. I bought fresh Jersey cow milk at the nearby farm stand to make the chowder. Delicious!

While Aimee was here I groomed her little dog, Lucy, and then she, Rachel and I made a big batch of soap. It is almond scented and Aimee and Rachel decided to use oatmeal and brown sugar as exfoliates in the soap. The bars look very pretty. Now we wait to see if they harden up and cure properly.

I am honored that Aimee chose to come and visit with us. She had lots of fun family news to share, and I hung on her every word. Time spent laughing around the table and creating wonderful home made soap in my sun drenched kitchen was a slice of joy that will mellow to magnificent memories. It was warm and friendly inside, and snowy and bright outside. With punctuations of color.

It was a lovely weekend!