Friday, July 21, 2017

Trips and dogs and goats and such...

In case  you have been wondering why there have been no new blog posts lately, it is because of this: I'm a klutz.

Two weeks ago at dog training class my dog zoomed  through a series of hoops and towards me in a way I was not expecting, running under my uplifted foot/leg as I was walking briskly.  I stumbled, and felt myself going down.  Of course, when one falls it all happens in just an instant, but I did have the thought, as gravity grasped me, "ROLL LEFT!"  This is because last year I fell and dislocated my right shoulder.  I have just recently begun to feel like that injury is completely healed, and I did not want to repeat the ordeal.  So, I twisted my body in such a way that all my weight landed on my left knee when I fell.  It was a rather innocent little fall, really, and on thick rubberized matting, so I felt quite fine when I popped up.  My knee felt funny, but I figured I'd walk it off.  Moments later that knee was so swollen my pants legs were tight and I realized I had done a bit of damage.


I came straight home and filled a gallon zip lock bag with ice.  Bravo looked on with interest as I propped my knee up and applied the cold stuff.  By the next morning I was mighty sore, and some impressive bruising had begun.  But the knee joint seemed fine, so I treating the injury as any soft tissue damage, with rest, ice, compression and elevation.  OK, maybe not so much rest, because there were goats to milk and feed to carry and dogs to exercise and grooming to do.  After a week, it was worse. Much worse. Two nurse friends scared me enough  that I went to the ER.  I was scolded, xrayed, ultra-sounded and cat scanned. After all that they sent home to rest, ice, compress and elevate.  With emphasis on the REST. So that's what I've been doing, while my endlessly patient husband and amazingly generous daughter do all my chores, cook my food, do my work.  Ok I've been doing a little work,
with my leg propped up on the grooming table, an ice pack wrapped in place.  I am feeling a bit better, and will hopefully resume blogging at a more frequent pace.

Meanwhile,  I finally got around to putting out some on-line advertisements to sell some goat kids.  We had 7 kids born here this spring, and sold two when they were quite young because they were bottle babies.  The remaining 5 have grown fat and happy, drinking mothers milk and dining on pasture.  I have to admit, I like them. But it was time for them to go make someone else laugh at their antics, so I took pictures and put the word out.




And today the phone rang. "Hi, I'm calling about your kids for sale. I'd like to buy the doeling."  Well that should have been good news, but I found myself stalling.  I couldn't bring myself to just say, "OK, come on over."  I had to grill the poor woman.  Did she have other goats to keep my girl company? Did she have appropriate shelter for goats? Did they have fenced pasture? She answered all my questions correctly, and 2 hours later her handsome, young husband pulled up.  "I'd like to buy a wether (boy), too," he said." 

And as quick as that two pretty babies were bundled up into the back of his truck.  Secure in a large dog crate, with a nice comfy pad for them to stand on, too. 

They protested. Loudly.  Meanwhile, back in the pasture, their mothers ignored their piteous cries. 
Off they went, to live on a 150 acre farm.  I hope they will be happy and loved and have wonderful little goatie lives.  I'm going to miss them. 




Thursday, July 13, 2017

Happy mistakes...

I make a lot of mistakes.  Some turn out ok.  For instance, marrying a man who proposes the first time he meets you, after only 8 dates, is a Mistake with a capital "M."  But after 33 years I can say that things worked out just fine.

When I ordered 25 Cornish-x chicks to be delivered at the end of April, I also made a call to have them processed, because these things need to be planned in advance.

In the past we have planned the date 7 or 8 weeks out.  These birds grow insanely fast.  But I wanted birds that were a little bigger, and the website where I ordered the chicks recommended a 12 week growth period.  So, I followed their suggestion set the schedule up. It was a mistake.

I realized my error when the birds were about 8 weeks old. They were huge.  Destined by genetics to grow large, they had the added benefit of eating grass, weeds and bugs on pasture, PLUS a gallon or so of warm goat milk to drink every, single morning.


They were so big they couldn't easily get in and out of the hutches they slept in at night, so for several weeks we had to catch each of them in the evening to put them in the safe enclosures.  In the morning we would set out food and water, and tip the hutches on their sides so the birds could waddle out to the pasture. I wished I could change the plan, but those processing dates don't change easily. 

 I spent the next few weeks worrying about how big they were getting. Yesterday was the date.  We packed them snugly into hay-lined crates in the back of my truck.  When the strong guys at the butcher shop unloaded the crates, they groaned and remarked at the weight of the things.  

When we picked the processed birds up this morning the staff marveled at the size of the birds.  "You will cook one chicken and eat for days!"  they said.

Rachel pulled one of last years chickens out of the freezer and weighed it.
Four and a half pounds.  They were all about this size.

Then she placed one of this years crop on there.
Just shy of 9 pounds. And this was not the biggest one, either.  I'm pretty sure the biggest guys were around 12 pounds.

This years crop of meat birds caused me some time fretting.  But now I have two freezers packed full of enormous,  pastured, milk fed, home -raised chicken.  There will be good eating ahead.  I can hardly wait to see what mistake I make next!

Friday, July 7, 2017

So much life in our lives...

In the past I have had a sweet little vegetable garden. Last year I couldn't because my arm was injured. This year I had the best of intentions, but was a little later getting started than I should have been, and lacked energy and focus.  Then I had an excellent idea.  I planted the whole thing in pumpkins.  Field pumpkins, pie pumpkins and pretty white pumpkins. They are blossoming and growing nicely.  We will have lots of pumpkins to decorate during our upcoming fall wedding.
The broiler chickens are enormous.  I made a mistake when I scheduled their butcher date, and they are nearly the size of turkeys.  I have worried and fretted about them the last few weeks, concerned that they would die on hot days, that their legs would give out under their weight, that they would keel over from heart attacks.  So far they are all doing ok, but I've gained a few gray hairs over the whole thing.  Hopefully they will be so delicious I will forget the worrisome weeks. Just four more days to agonize over them. 
Yesterday I saw a large bird land on our dead tree, and did a double take.

A Turkey Vulture, perched just over where the broilers are living, no doubt setting goals. I was fascinated to watch it, up close and personal. It lifted off after a while and sailed away. While they are rather un-lovely up close, they are incredible to watch when they soar.

This time of year there is so much life in our life.  Before kissing me goodbye to go to work, Chris leaned in and looked at me with what I thought was love in his eyes.  Turns out it was curiosity.  He leaned closer, and stared at my cheek. Then he reached tenderly towards my face and... plucked something.  I froze. He pulled his hand away. Dangling from his fingertips was a strand of spider silk and from that hung a wee, tiny spider, which had been resting on my cheek.  Sometimes there is a little too much life around here!





Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Family...

Tonight we hugged and kissed and said goodbye to 4 far-flung family members who we do not see often enough. Chris' three sisters and once niece came from Florida and Mississippi to take  peek at Maine and spend time with us.  It was a joy to welcome them here.

We took them to see some of our favorite places; the view from Mt. Battie, the quaint charm of downtown Camden, Rockport Harbor...
Chris was so happy to spend time with his sisters. He especially enjoyed showing sister Meg around, as she had never visited before.
 I always enjoy spending time with my in-laws.  They are a fun and funny bunch, and we laugh a lot when we are together.
We prepared a few meals for them.  Chris likes to show love by cooking, and he trotted out some of his best dinners for his beloveds. Cajun Shrimp Scampi, steamed lobster, double breaded pork cutlets with lemon/dill sauce, each more delicious than the last.  Everyone joined us for breakfast a couple of times, too. Moments around the table were marked with stories told;  some old family favorites were trotted out with flair, and some new ones delighted us, as well.
One night they took us out to celebrate Rachel and Evans engagement.  They brought generous and thoughtful gifts, and we dined on the waterfront while the sun went down, celebrating a sweet union.

It was a visit rich in all the best things, catching up on the events we miss when we are so far apart, hearing about other family members, eating too much good food. There were hugs and grins and a good time all around. We even went wedding dress shopping... successfully. The aunts and cousin seemed to enjoy being a part of the process when Rachel said "yes," to the dress! 

And now they are packing up to go back to warmer climes, leaving us with happy memories and grateful hearts for good times spent with family. I hope only hope that they cherished the time as much as I did. 


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Poor decisions...

As a human being I am prone to making some poor decisions.  I made one last night, thinking with my heart instead of my head.  And you know what? I'm not sorry.

Here is the story.  Three years ago Luna, my first and all-time favorite goat, had twin kids, a boy and a girl.  I sold them both, but thought long and hard before selling the doeling.  She was a pretty thing, and I knew she might be Luna's last kid.  But, I was trying to be a very good farmer, and knowing that Luna had never been a very healthy goat, I decided not to keep her daughter.  My neighbors bought her and another little female goat from me. I got to see them from time to time, and all was well.

Then the neighbors decided they didn't want goats any more and told me they wanted to sell theirs. I found someone I knew who wanted them, and off they went to their new home.

Last night I received a message from the young woman who had the goats.  "I know you really liked that Saanen doe. I am thinning my herd, and I will give her to you if you want her. I can bring her by tomorrow." I told Chris. "You HAVE to get her," he said.  It was a bad idea.  I have plenty of goats, more than I need, truth be told. And my original decision not to keep her was sound.

But then there is this; I have been missing Luna so much. She was the heart of my little farm and I still find myself looking for her when I go out to the pasture.  If her current owner sold this Luna daughter to someone else, I would lose the chance to have a little piece of Luna forever.


This afternoon I got a text message, "I'll be there in 15 minutes."  I stopped what I was doing and when I heard her truck pull in, I walked outside. I have to admit, my heart skipped a beat when I saw the lovely little doe surveying her surroundings.  She looks exactly like her mama.

The other goats did a little sniffing. A little head butting.  But mostly all was calm in the pasture.
The Luna daughter was called, "May," in her last home, and that is a perfectly nice name, but I think we will call her, "Spirit."  I feel like the ghost of her mother is back on the farm.
She is very friendly, follows me like a puppy, and just like that, she has leaped into my heart.  The very same heart that over-ruled my head and made a bad decision.  I'm still not sorry.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Calm after the storm...

Yesterday unfolded in a rather hectic manner.  A professional photographer friend asked if she could come take some pictures of my animals for a project she is working on.  She mentioned that she'd love to be able to take pictures of the goat kids dancing on the horses back, something she has done in years past.  I told her that lately the morning routine involved Chanel lying down in the pasture somewhere shortly after 7:00 AM and if she felt like being here early she stood a chance of catching the images she desired.  So I was up, showered and dressed by 6, doing chores looking more civilized than I normally do with wild hair and wearing pajamas.  My friend came and Chanel and the kids complied. Many photos were taken.

Moments after she left, my first of three grooming clients arrived.  I took care of each of those pets, and the moment the last dog left I flew out the door with Bravo to go to a training session in preparation for a competition we entered for next weekend.  That was fun and he did well.  We scooted out a bit early because we were expecting visitors.  A long time grooming friend from Florida and her sister were in Maine to pick up her new puppy, Breeze. Breeze is an English Shepherd, and from the same parents as Bravo.  My friend drove here to see us and let us meet little Breeze. What a treat!


They were packing up to head back to Portland when three friends arrived to watch the last of the Triple Crown horse races, the Belmont Stakes. We traditionally have a little pot luck meal and watch the races together.  The theme for this supper was Mexican. Chris made carne asada, I made fresh tortillas, Rachel made guacamole, and Marion brought delicious refried beans, home made salsa, and a mouth watering strawberry/rhubarb crisp.  A feast!

After our guests left, Rachel and Evans filled up her little car with more items, and Smooch the pooch. With a jaunty wave they headed off to Belfast to spend their first night in their cozy new apartment. And just like that both the busy day and a life chapter were ended.  We were down to two dogs and no child at home.  Chris and I looked at each other and sighed.  Suddenly the house seemed very, very quiet.

This morning as I did chores I could hear birds singing and flies buzzing.  The rabbits were dancing around the yard.

And mama bluebird was busily bringing food to her chicks. In and out of the nest box she goes, all day long.
Unlike ours, her nest is not empty.

A warm summer day stretches before me, ripe with promise, and calm. New beginnings are afoot.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Some people...

My daughter is getting married in October.  We are plotting and planning the event, with a fair amount of glee.  A practical woman, she is planning to be a frugal bride.  "The marriage is important, not a big, expensive party."  We've been working extra, selling things we no longer need or love and squirreling away any cash we can lay our hands on into a little vintage tin box. A growing wedding fund.  Grooming tips are going in there, too, and we have mentioned this to several customers.  Some now come in to pay for their grooming with a few dollar bills folded in hand, nodding towards the box, "Put this in the fund," they say with shy smiles.  It delights us.

One of the things Rachel wants to do is to collect mis-matched but pretty china plates to serve the wedding feast on.  We've been scouring antique shops and plan to hit some yard sales. I mentioned this to one of my customers while I was grooming her dog and we were chatting.  She seemed to think it was an interesting idea.

A few days later she was at the door, unexpectedly.  She had a pretty wicker basket in hand...
Inside were 4 beautiful china plates, in perfect condition.  "I went to an antique store with a friend and told her about your daughters plan," she said.  "She spied these.  They are Haviland. And there is a little something for the fund, too."  Inside, a lovely card with a crisp $50. bill.  Rachel and I both found that our eyes became strangely leaky when we took in the sweetness of this incredibly thoughtful gift.

Some people bring us much joy.



Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Presto change-o..!

Here's a little secret.  I have disliked my garage doors for years and years.

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I never saw them when they were new, but I'm sure they were not pretty then, either.  Time was not kind. Though they were automatic, the creaks and groans and rumbles they made when we pushed the button rivaled the sounds of a wooden roller coaster from the '60's.  The paint was a mess, and several of the windows were broken because the doors were warped and when they opened/shut sometimes a pane of glass would spontaneously explode.  It made for some excitement if you were standing nearby.  

A few years back I started noticing some carriage style garage doors appearing around, and I was struck with a horrid case of envy. I coveted and coveted.  They looked SO much better than my ratty old things.  I priced them out and it was clear that they were out of my budget. I tried not to fixate, but to me our garage doors made our whole place look shabby and worn.  

For my birthday this year Chris, (I really should refer to him as Saint Chris, I think) gifted me with a wad of cash from his recent work bonus and told me to go get new doors.  

Imagine my excitement when this morning this van backed smoothly into the driveway. 

Just one van, and one guy.  I had envisioned a job of this magnitude would take a trailer full of equipment and a whole crew.  I was wrong.  It took Eric all day, but he worked along at a steady rate and by days end I was treated to this view. 

When I push the button the doors glide up smoothly and quietly. No screaming of metal on metal, no shattering glass.  There is not much adventure to open these beauties, and I'm good with that.  

I feel like the whole place has had a face lift. Presto change-o!  What a difference.  One of the best birthday presents of all time, don't you think? 


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Visitors...

The large animal veterinarian came today.  She is a lovely person, with the sort of intellect that makes me stand back in admiration.  Young, pretty, vibrant and kind, I feel blessed to know her.

First she gave Chanel an exam.  Well into senior citizen status, (I think she is 31 this year) Chanel still looks good. Her winter coat is gone and she is showing off her sweet summer dapples. She is slimmer than she often is, too.
But her doctor has concerns.  This may be her last summer, and it was suggested that her riding days are probably over.  She had a rabies shot, and some other shots to keep her fit.  As always, she stood stock still and behaved like a lady.  She is such a good horse.

Next Abraham had his shots.
He's been very frisky lately, enjoying the spring weather and romping about. He can often be seen running, bucking, in general having a happy frolic. Today he tried to be a terror. Pulling at the lead rope, trying his best to get away. "Is he always a jerk?" the doctor asked.  I assured her that he was normally a solid citizen. He spun and bucked.  But he met his match with the vet.  She taught me how to "snub," him.  We looped the lead rope around a tree and held his head fast.  "NEVER do this with a horse," she said, "but it works great with donkey's."  Sure enough, he became very still and had his shots without incidence.

The three adult goats all had rabies shots. The kids had a combo vaccine to keep them healthy.
I shelled out some cash and a baggie full of brownies, and the visit was over.

Dinner was put in the oven, then I took my camera out to the pasture.

The kids (around a month old) were leaping like deer.


Just outside the fence I discovered one of the ducks, on a beautiful nest. By rights the ducks should be locked up in a coop at night to keep them safe, but my ducks are quite wild and in the fine weather they flat refuse to let me keep them safe. On top of that, they hide nests where I can't find them.  I have tried my best to prevent them from nesting and  hatching ducklings.

 But I have failed. My husband quips, "Life is persistent." I didn't have the heart to remove her eggs at this point, but I wasn't feeling happy about new ducklings to find homes for. When I came near she rose and hissed furiously.

Lifted off the nest, she showed a huge pile of eggs.  Oh my. Fourteen at least.

Fast forward till 1:00 AM. I was sleeping peacefully when my daughter called out,  "There is something in the pasture and the ducks are going nuts."  I got up and dressed as fast as I could, bleary and confused.  Out we went with flashlights.The mama duck was quacking loudly, and racing around the pasture.  We had scared off whatever critter was out there, and after a good look around went back to bed, worried.

This morning I could only find 4 out of 5 ducks. And every last egg was gone from the pretty nest.  All day I felt sad that one of my ducks had been carried off.  In the afternoon, when work was done, I walked out to do chores. And there were all 5 ducks.  Sometimes living with livestock presents mysteries.  Where had that missing duck been all day?  Who made off with all the hidden eggs?

Visitors.  Some bring happiness by arriving, like our veterinarian, and some by leaving, like the night time marauder.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

... of happiness

All winter two male bluebirds were here. Through snow and storms and inhospitable weather, they stayed.  They came to the feeder, (very unusual for bluebirds) and I fed them meal worms and our seed mix has fruit, which they seemed to enjoy.  In late winter two females joined the bachelors and stayed for weeks. Then they vanished for months.

Now it is nesting season and I put two nice nest boxes up. One new one is where I can see it from where I work.
We installed the new suite in March, when snow was still on the ground.  Within 10 minutes of the nest box being hung, a handsome male bluebird swooped in to check it out. I was elated, thinking of a sweet couple raising a brood right outside my window.  But no further interest was shown.  When the snow was gone, a few tree swallows checked the new digs out, but rejected it. Then some English Sparrows thought they'd move in. I strongly discouraged this... shooing them away when they landed, removing each nest they began to build, and finally leaving the front of the box open for a few days until they finally got discouraged.  

My efforts paid off.  Today I saw this... 

A waving strand of grass or hay.  I stared and was rewarded for my efforts.  
A little head emerged. 

Handsome man, readying a nest for his beloved. Oh how I hope there will be a nest and chicks and more marvelous bluebirds born.  


Monday, May 15, 2017

Out in the world...

Since I started working from home 2 1/2 years ago, I spend most of my time right here.  That is good with me, because honestly, there is no where on earth I'd rather be.  My husband and daughter tease me because when I do go out to a store or something I walk around with wide eyes, entranced by all the STUFF!  I tease them right back by muttering, "The colors!  THE COLORS!" and acting like I have been living on a desert island or something.  I also find that after being out for a bit, having a perfectly marvelous time, I rather suddenly hit a saturation point with all the noise and people and stuff and say, "OK!  I'm done. Let's go home."

I recently had an experience which made me remember just why it is that I prefer to be home. Sometimes going "out in the world," (which I call any foray away from here) is just downright annoying.  For my birthday, sweet husband Chris gave me an envelope stuffed full of cash.  I have been wanting new garage doors, well, ever since we moved here.  Ours are old, tired looking, outdated and broken.  Our garage is a very nice structure, but those shabby old doors make the whole place look unloved.  The envelope full of cash was carefully saved and measured out to buy me lovely, new, carriage house style doors like this:


He had gotten the idea to surprise me with this generous gift when he was in a big box hardware store (I won't mention any names, but it's not the one known for it's orange color scheme,) and noticed that they were having a sale on garage doors.  After a chat with the salesman about exactly what kind of doors we wanted, he took his written estimate and saved up the money to let me order my hearts desire.  Then on my birthday he gave me the cash, the print out of the estimate, and squired me off to the closest of the chain of stores so we could order the new portals. I was pretty darn excited.

We got to the store and talked to a nice man in the garage door and more department.  He couldn't find the estimate that the man at the other store did at the other chain. We showed him the print out and he scoffed. It was all wrong.  The guy at the first store had under-quoted by about $600.  Blunder #1.

We bit the bullet, massaged our budget, and went forward. We paid to have someone come out and see our site to make sure the measurements and all were correct.  They said someone would call us to set up a visit with the week. Three weeks later no one had called.  Oversight #2. We called and the nice guy said, "Oops. We sent the request to the wrong department."

The site inspector was scheduled to arrive at 8:00 AM one weekday.  This is a bit early for me, because I have a husband to cook breakfast and pack a lunch for, chickens and ducks and rabbits to feed and water, goats and a donkey and a horse to feed and water, baby goats to bottle feed and mama goats to milk. There are cookies to bake for the grooming customers of the day, too.  Oh, and a bouncy dog to throw a toy for a thousand times so he is nice and tired.  My mornings are not relaxing. At 7:30 that morning I was poised to run upstairs, take a very, VERY fast shower and get dressed so I'd be ready for the guy at 8.  Just then he pulled up. I was covered in hay and milk and looking like a very scary person. It was embarrassing.  Snafu #3.

They man was very nice, seemed to be nonplussed by my terrifying appearance, and was altogether professional. He sent his information to the big box store, and after 10 days or so they contacted us and told us that the estimate would be more than anticipated because we would need new rails and motors for the doors.  More budget massaging ensued.

Today was my day off. I gathered up the cash for the purchase and headed to the store.  When I got to the garage doors and more department, the same nice man that had waited on us before was there, talking to another customer.  I waited patiently. After a bit he asked, "Can I help you?"  I said, "I am here to finalize my garage door order."  He spoke to the customer he was helping.  The man said, "I'm not done, but I've taken a lot of your time and I'll wait."

The door guy came and punched my information into the computer.  "This estimate doesn't include the motorized openers."  I replied, "I believe it does." He rolled his eyes a little, "No. No. It doesn't."  I sighed.  Recalculating.

He punched my information into the computer. Over and over and OVER again.  He was unable to add the additional information for the installation.  I waited patiently. The other customer waited patiently.  The poor door guy began to sweat and mutter. He called his co-worker. "Are you in the building?"  He explained his problem. Then he turned to me and said, "I'm sorry. I can't make this work. You will have to come back."  I'm a patient woman. I work with animals. My niece calls me, "Epically Patient Aunt Daryl, ( EPAD for short.) I was feeling impatient. I explained to him that it was my day off. That I had come into town for this express purpose. That I had cash to pay for the doors and installation.  He shrugged.  "Sorry," and turned to the other customer.

As I walked away, I thought, "This is silly. Surely there is a manager that can help with the computer issue."  So I went to the customer service desk. A very young man was unoccupied at the first register.  I told him my plight.  He looked vexed, and would not meet my gaze.  His eyes stared at some spot over my head.  An older woman next to him was on the phone, multi tasking. "I can help," she said to him. He sighed in relief. When she was done on the phone she said to me, "It's his first week." I understood, and relayed my story to the woman.  "Who did you speak to?" she asked.  "Gerry," I said. "He was very nice, but was having problems with the computer. I wonder if a manager could help?"  She called a manager.  "He'll be along.  Can you shop a little?"  I gave her my cell phone number and immersed myself in the garden department.  I waited a while. When I returned, the woman who helped me was no where to be seen. The young guy refused to meet my gaze.  I waited. I waited some more.  A young woman asked, "Are you here about the garage doors?" I said I was, "The computer is down," she said.

I decided at that moment that I needed ice cream. Good thing Dorman's ice cream shoppe was across the street.  Surely some peppermint stick would lower my blood pressure.

I had a scoop. With hot fudge. And whipped cream. Perhaps a few nuts.  And a cherry.

While I was out in the world I visited a friend, and ran an errand. Then there was a message on my phone from the store.  "I had a brain blink. Come on back and buy your doors."  So, no computer failure after all? Hmm.

I called my husband.  "Talk me down.  I should just go back and pay for the doors, right?"  He surprised me said, "I'd advise otherwise."  It was 4:48.  I called a small local garage door store and explained my plight. He gave me a quote for the same doors and hardware for $400 less in two minutes.

I went straight home and bottle fed the goat kids. I hauled hay, threw a ball for Bravo, brushed the horse and donkey, fed the chickens.  I cooked supper. It was good to be home, with no nonsense. Being out in the world makes me grumpy sometimes.