Wednesday, May 24, 2017


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.


This winter we went through enormous amounts of bird seed.  Now that there are bugs and such out, there is diminished activity at the feeders. Still, there is enough action out there that visitors comment things like, "You have so many different kinds of birds than we do at our feeders." And, "I've never seen so may birds come to one place before."  Some days they just beg to have their pictures taken.

I am happy to oblige.  This is a male Rose Breasted Grossbeak. I have two pair of them here, and hope they will stay and raise chicks as they did last summer.  The females are very differently marked, with nondescript brown and white stripes.

 This bird looks like a sparrow that was dipped in Kool Aid to me. I believe it is a Purple Finch.

 I have a large amount of woodpeckers here, this is a wee male Downy.

There were few Mourning Doves about our place when we first moved in, but now sometimes 18 or so of them will gather in the crab apple tree, and take turns at the feeder.  They like the bird bath I have out, too, drinking deeply and wading in it with their funny pink feet.

One of them left this in my pansy pot, and never came back to take care of it.

Not all the birds that come to the yard visit the feeders.  I put special food out each day for the crows, and have managed to attract a pair of Raven's, as well.  This guy enchants me. He is huge, and flaps down on broad, dark wings, blocking the sun from the glass as he passes by.

And not all the animals that come in search of sustenance are birds, either.  Check out this cheeky lass. She looked up at me, startled, and dropped the sunflower seed hull. You can see it falling, just over her right paw.  I don't have a lot of squirrels here, but one or two stop in from time to time for a square meal. 

There are plenty of Goldfinches flitting about.  Their brightness is in stark contrast to the colors of many of the other birds here. They never fail to catch my eye. 

I'll keep the feeders full all summer.  Watching the birds, and seeing visitors enjoy them, brightens my days.

Monday, May 8, 2017

A happy project...

I bought a sweet little greenhouse a few years ago, second hand.  I have under-utilized it, which makes me feel bad. Part of the problem is that the door is broken, and we are not sure how to fix it.
Today, even though it is rainy and grey outside, I decided to tidy things up in there.  It was stacked with cast-off flower pots, and some logs had made their way in there, don't ask me how.  A few old bags of mulch were stacked in the corner, and some unloved and very dead plants stood forlornly on the benches. It was a hot mess.

 I had originally thought to put a load of gravel in the little house for flooring, but that would be a.) a lot of work and b.) trouble if we wanted to move the greenhouse somewhere else later.  All that gravel would be impossible to remove from the lawn.  Sometimes in the wee hours good ideas come to me. One came to me this morning around 2:00 AM and I acted on it once I was up and running.

I cleaned out the dead plants. I wiped down the benches.  I got rid of broken or ugly pots, and neatly stacked the nice ones I'd like to re-use.  Then I got a hoe out and removed the straggly weeds and old, dead grass that was underfoot.

The little space sighed in relief.  Next I opened up those bags of mulch and spread them around.  If we ever move the house the mulch will compost into the grass, no problem!

Next I brought a bunch of sun hardy houseplants out.

I may still plant some seeds in pots and get them going, though I'm a little late, it will still be fun.

While I was out in the misty rain I planted a new rose bush I'd bought, and a grape vine, too.  It felt good to be out mucking around in the dirt. And now when I glance at my green house I smile instead of grimace.  A project well done.

May in Maine...

It's been a gray and rainy month so far, but it seems silly to complain after last summers drought.
The plants certainly don't mind...

 Gentle new leaves are unfurling around last seasons fruit, and on old wood.

I try to plant some flower bulbs each fall, gradually increasing the number of bright flowers that burst, glowing, each spring.

On their own, they multiply each year, and are most welcome after a long Maine winter.

In a few days the fruit trees will add their blossoms to the mix, and the air will be rich with their perfume and the buzzing of bees.

After a weekend away I had to agree with my flag, home IS where the heart is.

Chris and Rachel took excellent care of all the animals while I was away.  This morning I was happy to wake in my own soft bed and hop up to see and tend to the critters.

 The broiler chicks are getting their adult feathers in, and I will move them  to a new enclosure outside soon.  Maybe today if the rain holds off a bit.

 This hen is broody and sitting on a dozen eggs.  Broody hens settle on a nest and only get up once a day (sometimes every other day) to eat, drink and eliminate.  Otherwise they are spread out rather flatly, in a sort of chicken trance,warming the eggs with their deep feathered chest for 21 or so long days.

I'm not sure if this duck is broody or not. I hope not, I'd rather not have ducklings. She is pretty under the brush pile, though.

The goat girls seemed happy to have me back, staring at my face and pressing their cheeks against mine.

I saved the best for last... ready?
Last fall we got a very  nice hay rack. The upper portion holds the hay up off the ground, and the tray underneath catches fallen bits to keep it clean.  Sometimes it holds other things, too, it seems.
Seven wee baby goats, all tucked in on top of the hay. Interestingly enough, they tend to cuddle closest to their siblings, so on the left the three kids that belong to Ella are all intertwined, then Jane's two press against each other in the middle, and Celeste's lovely doelings are cheek to cheek on the right. Here the mama's  are close by keeping a watchful eye out, (though, truly, goats are not terribly attentive mothers.)  I find this scene so sweet I simply had to share.

May at FairWinds is a treat.

Bravo's big adventure...

I've been taking Bravo to Wag It for lessons since he was a fluffy 8 week old baby dog.  We started out with basic puppy classes, where he and the other pups tussled and tumbled and learned rudimentary manners.  Then we progressed to slightly more advanced lessons, and from there to beginning agility classes and Wag It Games.  The Games classes are tons of fun.  A far cry from my first introduction to obedience in the 70's, where we'd put choke collars on our dogs and jerk them around to force them to behave.  Games classes were invented by Sumac Grant-Johnson to be fun and create a working partnership between handler and dog. The two footed half of the team has to learn the correct methods to communicate to the four footed half how to jump through hoops, traverse through tunnels, walk over balance beams, roll a tube with their nose, heel along happily side by side while going through a variety of patterns.  It is amazing to watch the dogs think and comprehend and it really does create a special relationship as you work and learn together.  A few months ago I overheard Sumac talking about teaching a weekend long games class right here in Maine and I asked her if she thought it was something Bravo and I could do. She said we could but the class was full. A few weeks later someone had to drop out and we were offered the spot.  I signed right up!  It was only after paying for the weekend that I realized the class was a four hour drive from home, right near the Canadian border.

When Chris and I first got married he always seemed a little nervous when I was behind the wheel of the car. I'm a perfectly good and safe driver, but I began to abdicate driving chores to him.  It's been a while since I've embarked on a trip of any distance by myself.  But off Bravo and I went last Friday after work, in a heavy rain.
He's always been a good car dog, but he'd never been on a trip this long.  He was a bit restless at first, then curled up in a ball beside me and slept soundly all the way to Presque Isle.  Once there I checked into the hotel, took Bravo for a little walk to make sure he was empty, and then introduced him his new surroundings.  The hotel was very dog friendly, even offering this next to the bowl of mints for human visitors.

After a careful examination of our room, Bravo played ball with me for a bit, then settled in. There was a troupe of clowns staying on the same hall.  They had their doors open and were visiting about, making lots of happy noises. Bravo wanted to bark each time he heard a door slam, or a person laugh or traipse past our door. I had to convince him that this was a bad idea.  Tired from the long drive in the rain, I fell asleep.  He did, too, in positioning himself flat against the door, a barrier between those strange sounds and his resting human.  He stayed there all night.

The next day I joined 12 or so other dog/handler teams in a large room.  We all set crates up and chose chairs distributed around the outer walls, facing into a center ring.  Bravo was excited to see everyone, and wanted to be introduced to both people and pets.  But this was a working weekend, with no puppy romps on the schedule. Two of his play pals were there, and it was hard for him to understand that they could not cavort.  At first he was a little pouty.  If I could put a cartoon bubble over his head it would say, "You said we were gonna have FUN!"
But things got more interesting soon enough. We were out in the center ring learning new ways to move together in an exercise called "shadow skills."  This is challenging for me because I am neither graceful nor coordinated, and hard for him because he is a bouncy puppy with a lot on his mind, but we both learned some things and will practice our skills at home.  All day we were up and about, assisted by the able instructors. The dogs ate lots and lots of treats as they practiced new behaviors, and the humans shared some laughs as we tried to navigate the skills we were learning. After lunch the instructors set up a course as it would appear in a Wag It Games trial, and each of us had a chance to practice our technique.  Bravo was very interested in smelling the carpet, and only moderately interested in paying attention to me, be he was no worse than the other dogs there, and we muddled along nicely.  He was very tired at the end of the day, and discovered the comfort of his own full sized bed in the hotel room. The clowns had gone, the room was quiet, and he slept soundly like a seasoned hotel guest through the night.

Sunday morning he was whiny and restless.  I drove him to a beautiful state park nearby and let him run a bit.  He raced up a trail, ran in "zoomie" circles around me, and then saw three ducks on a lake. He charged to greet them and before he realized the consequences to his actions he was in water up to his ears, paddling after the retreating fowl. His face registered surprise and he headed for shore, slightly abashed.  More running and playing, and then we headed back for day #2 of instruction.

This day was more to his liking.  There were hoops set in patterns to maneuver, tunnels to zoom through, balance beams to walk.  We practiced walking backward on the beam, with moderate success.  All the dogs were interested in the bright equipment placed around the room, tails were wagging! One fun game was a row of cardboard "bricks" set up like giant dominoes.  Bravo learned to push a large tube with his nose, smacking it into the first brick and setting off a chain reaction of tumbling toys. I swear I saw him laugh. I wish I had pictures to share, but my hands were full and you'll have to make due with word images.

Later in the day we did some scent work games.  10 little, empty containers are set up in two rows.  The handler puts some treats in one container and gives it to the judge. The judge places the container in one of the rows and the dog has to find the container with the treat, and give a clear signal that this is the one he or she was looking for. Some dogs pick the container in question up, some lie down when they find it. Bravo smacks it firmly with his right front paw, then snaps his handsome head up to meet my gaze. "THIS ONE!" he says.

  Another version of the game is called, "Quarry Quest." Instead of a treat in a container, there is raw sheep wool.  The other containers have some fluffy poly fiber fill in them.  The dog must find the one with the wool. Bravo did well with that game, too.  Sumac explained that when dogs do scent work they use a special part of their brain that they do not exercise all the time, and it makes the dogs tired. It's a good way to entertain and work out a dog on a rainy day, playing scent games at home.  After lunch the staff again set the ring up as they would for a trial, and the dogs were able to compete.  I almost left before this happened, anticipating the long ride home. But Sumac said she loved to end the weekend with this because the dogs find it so enjoyable, "Like kids at recess!"  I didn't want to deprive Bravo of a fun event, so stayed.  I was glad we did.

The first trial was sniffing the two rows of containers with a treat as described above. Bravo found the correct one in something like 20 seconds, and clearly marked it.  He won a 4th place ribbon and some cookies for his efforts.  Next the ring was set up with colorful fabric tents and several empty vessels were hidden about, with one tent containing the tub with the treat.  To my amazement Bravo sniffed out the right one 5 seconds!  For this he won first place in our class, another ribbon, and of course, more cookies.

We packed the truck with our belongings and the pretty ribbons.  Knowing what to expect this time, and weary from his day, Bravo settled with a sigh, his nose on my thigh, and home we headed. The scanning radio picked up stations where the announcers spoke French, and for many a mile route 95 was empty of traffic except for us, in our little red truck, zooming south.  Deer grazed along the roadside, and frequent signs warned of moose crossing.  The swampy scenery made it easy to image them there, but we didn't see any.

My mother used to say, "It's nice to go away, but it's good to get home."  I signed deeply when I saw warm light glowing from our windows, and Bravo woke and sat up smartly, tail waving against the seat.  We were warmly welcomed and glad to be back on familiar turf.  It was an excellent adventure.