Wednesday, May 18, 2022

How to eat an elephant...

 The old joke goes something like this; "How do you eat an elephant?" The answer is, "One bite at a  time." Chris has been nibbling at the "elephant" that is the hundreds of small trees to be cut at the edge of our new property.   Weather and time permitting, he takes his saw up and whacks down a few at a time. Tonight when he got home from work, we worked together, cutting and stacking 30 trees. 

The setting sun makes it hard to see, but the pile of cut trees is getting rather large. He estimates he has cut around 150 so far. 

Several lovely young birch trees were hidden by all the scrub pines. They are a favorite of mine, and it's a delight to look up from the house and see them standing out as we slowly remove the pines. 

When we got done, we rode around the block. I saw a new baby calf at my neighbor's place and some cute pigs at another farm. Chris put on his best Maine accent and quipped, "It was right enjoyable working together." I had a good laugh. But he was correct. It was right enjoyable. 


Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Wildlife...

 When we first moved to Maine, I was country drunk. Having lived in a city, I had been hungry for open spaces, trees, and grass and hoped we would have a little wildlife around us.  Those first weeks I was overjoyed when a flock of Goldfinches began to decimate my bird feeder. I discovered that Tree Swallows were nesting in a birdhouse the previous owners had left behind. One memorable day I found a pile of deer scat in the meadow. I was so excited! A few days later, I heard what I thought was a wild turkey gobbling in the woods. Such a delight. 

I've gotten better at looking for wildlife now that I've lived here a while. Now, happily, I see and hear it everywhere. This morning my eyes opened around 5:30. The window was open, a cool spring breeze wafting in. On that breeze, we could hear a turkey repeatedly gobbling and the happy honks of Canada geese. A peaceful way to start the day.

Most evenings, we have a visiting herd of deer. Sometimes as many as 9. They politely stay in the meadow, leaving our gardens and yard alone.

Lately, a flock of turkeys has been hanging out. I love to see the Tom display his tail feathers, trying to woo the hens. 

There is a steady stream of hummingbirds, woodpeckers, nuthatches, and more at the bird feeder outside the studio window. Each glimpse, visit, and sound is a joy to me. How I love living here. 


Sunday, May 8, 2022

Mother's Day...

 

I received flowers from my son-in-love for Mother's Day. Ruffled tulips, grown locally. He delivered them to work, one bunch for Rachel, one for me, with two bottles of Rose. 

I was deeply touched by this thoughtfulness, as you can imagine. He didn't stop there, however! The next day he sent in lunch for both of us.  Rachel's sandwich was labeled "First Lady." Mine?  

It was a chicken sandwich in excellent locally baked pita bread. The bread was crusted in herbs and simply amazing. 

Yesterday was Derby day. We have invited friends to join us for a light meal and watch the race for years. I made Moose chili (friend Scott bagged a moose last fall.) There were lots of appetizers and jalapeno cheddar cornbread. I also tried a new recipe for dessert, one from Erin French, Rhubarb Spoon Cake. I cut the rhubarb from my garden and used our fresh eggs. I cooked it up in a cast-iron skillet and served it with whipped cream made from thick Jersey cream from a local farm. It was delicious and fun to bake. You can find the recipe here if you'd like to try it:                                                                                https://tastecooking.com/recipes/rhubarb-spoon-cake/.

Evans made mint juleps for those who wanted to try one, with lots of fresh, crushed mint. I don't like bourbon, but I tasted one, and they were delicious. Chris used his new popcorn popper, and people enjoyed the buttery, Parmesan-topped stuff by the fistful. 
Earlier in the day, we had a visit from a favorite 6-year-old. She's been coming to the farm to see the animals since she was 4. This girl has an innate sense of how to behave around animals, and they all love to see her. I expect she will make a career with critters. I hope she fondly remembers brushing the goats and patting the dogs here when she is older. 


Mother's Day was extra special this year because it is Rachel's first year as a mom. Her family joined us for a pancake breakfast (the Owlet tried pancakes, sausage, and bacon crumbs.) Then Rachel, the Owlet, and I headed to Bangor to check out an antique mall we had heard about. I got to wear the baby in a front pack as we explored. She charmed other patrons by giving them her patented toothless grin each time they made eye contact. 

We found a few tiny treasures and enjoyed exploring. We went to one more store after this, then headed for lunch. Rachel is teaching me how to appreciate Japanese food and sushi. 


We had a feast. The Owlet tried a little rice, avocado, and pickled ginger. She is 6 months old now and exploring the world beyond milk adorably. 

Every morning I wake up, see the sun slanting through the windows of this old house, and feel grateful. People often tell me how lucky I am, and they are right. I am thankful for all these gifts and mindful of the blessings heaped upon me. It was a magical Mother's Day. 





Sunday, May 1, 2022

New things to love...

 Son-in-love Evans is busy making raised garden beds and an excellent composter for their new home this spring. I mentioned that I would enjoy a similar composter, and guess what he made me? 

It's a thing of beauty and wonderfully sturdy. I've been brushing up on my composting knowledge and am looking forward to turning eggshells, coffee grounds, and goat poo into fertile garden soil. 

Our beloved Silkie chickens were recently laid to rest. They were very elderly (10 or more years old), blind, and confused. I miss them, and the wee empty coop seems sad. I made arrangements to get some other small birds to house there. Chris drove me to a little town near Bangor, where we met up with a nice man who raises bantam (small) Cochin chickens. He brought me out a sturdy box full of fluffy chicks. 

Once home, I got them tucked into their brooder with a heat lamp, food, water, and soft bedding. 
 

They will look like this when grown and weigh in at a whopping 26-30 ounces. 


Bravo loves baby chicks and was very excited to see these arrive at the farm. 

He also loves the Owlet. I took a long series of photos this morning. I got one that does not show her face, so I can share. The baby was on my lap and repeatedly laid her head on Bravo's back, twining her fingers through his silken coat. The other pictures show him twisting his head and neck into extreme contortions so he could try to lick her hands, face, or ears. We don't encourage his licking her, but he is determined and gets the occasional swipe in. She does not seem to mind. He guards all the small things here, and she is no exception. 
Composter, baby, and new chicks. Lots to love! 





Thursday, April 28, 2022

Flew the coop...

This time of year, the hens bring a lot to the table in the way of delicious, fresh eggs. These are not your everyday average grocery store eggs. The yolks are deep orange and stand tall when cracked. The shells are firm; it takes a good tap to crack these beauties. And they taste delicious. 

We provide the hens with a clean, safe coop to live in. Inside the enclosure are private nest boxes lined with fragrant pine shavings. We've even gone so far as to hang bright bandana curtains in front of the nest boxes, so the ladies can have privacy. For the most part, they buy into our plan, allowing me to quickly collect a basket full of eggs from the coop each afternoon. But sometimes, a bird will develop a different plan. 

Something caught my eye mid-morning. A chicken up inside the goat's hay rack. The rack is elevated and has a decent layer of hay in it. The chicken had left the cozy coop. Then she had exited her fenced yard and strutted across the big pasture. I wonder what she thought when she hopped up, 3 and a half feet or more, to perch on top of the loose, slippery hay. I noticed that she settled there and stayed awhile. 


This evening while I was doing chores, I investigated. 

Indeed, she had left something behind. 

The goats wanted to see what was so interesting. 


They didn't see what I found so appealing. I popped the egg in my pocket and finished chores, smiling about one chicken's wandering ways and creative nesting choices. 

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Spring and things...

 Spring comes slowly this far north. To me, this makes it all that much sweeter. I found this little hyacinth braving the still-chill air in the side garden yesterday. It has sprouted unbidden next to the vintage scythe that molders there. 


My sister, not far from us in New Hampshire, reports that the forsythia (the well-known bush that blooms brilliant yellow with early blossoms promising warmer days) is almost gone by. I wandered out to check on mine. 

It is just barely beginning to bud. 

My neighbor just up the road reports that no daffodils are blooming at their house yet. I have a few, with more still waiting in the wings. 

While taking pictures, I heard a familiar, annoying chuckle. 

3 or 4 gulls have been hanging around here for the past few months. We are 15 miles from the ocean, and I am not sure why the gulls find my place attractive, except that I feed a small flock of crows and a couple of ravens here. This week I saw the gulls chasing one of my crows off, away from its breakfast. I hope the gulls tire of my roof and chimney and head to the shore soon. 

A couple of years ago, Rachel's father-in-law brought them the Steiff teddy bear that had belonged to his mother. It is approximately 100 years old. The bear has been staying with us because they lived in a tiny apartment and have cats that tend to bother things they shouldn't. Yesterday, he visited The Owlett and brought her a Steiff bear of her very own. She was enchanted with it. I took this picture of the two bears, 100 years apart, waiting for the Owlett to be old enough to play with them in earnest. 



Late last summer, Chris and I made a dream come true.  We bought the parcel of land that adjoins our property. In my heart, this piece of meadow has always been mine, but in reality, it belonged (at first) to someone who lived away and never visited and then to new neighbors who bought it and built a vacation home down the road from us. We became friendly, and they very nicely let us graze our animals there for years. We expressed an interest in buying this small section of their land if they ever wanted to sell it, and last year they told us they did. It took us about 30 seconds to decide it was a deal we could not resist. When we bought our house, it came with two acres of land, and now we own a whisker under 5. Today we walked up and did some exploring. There is a meadow, a young stand of pine trees, and some older woods as well. This time of year, there is even a brook that rushes over boulders, chanting the happiest of songs. 

We want to cut down a bunch of the young pines to reclaim the meadow they are taking over, and today made our first effort, cutting 15 or so of them and hauling them to the burn pile. It is a bit of a daunting project but working together, we should be able to make good progress. Here is the view from the tree line, looking back to our home. The brook is behind me, singing. My heart is, too. 







Sunday, April 10, 2022

Eggcellent adventure...

 Rachel and I received an intriguing invitation to gather at the home of one of her friend's parents to create pysanky eggs. There are a million wonderful things about raising a child; one of them is that I have met some of my favorite people through her. Kathy and Scott hosted today's gathering. Going to their house is a treat because it is incredibly cozy and filled with beautiful things. The kind of home that begs you to choose a book from the shelves that line the walls and curl up on the soft sofa for a long, peaceful day of quiet bliss. 

A big bed of snowdrops greeted us outside. A foreshadowing of the delights that awaited as the day unfolded. The house was deliciously warmed by the woodstove and smelled of scones baking. An orange tree bloomed and fruited in a sunny window. 

Although I had heard the name of the famous Ukrainian eggs and had seen pictures of them, I had no idea how the beautiful designs on them were created. Kathy had the table set, so everyone had a place to try their hand at the art. 
An egg, a wedge of beeswax, and a candle were the basics of the recipe. Kathy patiently explained the process. 

We chose a stylus and heated it over the candle. Then scooped a little beeswax into it. Next, we drew a design in wax onto the egg. Since this was my first time doing this, and I am not particularly artistic, I went with a very simple drawing. Most of the other people at the table had done this before and were more confident and bold.



 Images were drawn in wax, the egg was dunked in the dye for a bath, then more images applied, and another layer of pigment was added if desired. Lighter shades were used first, then darker colors as the process went on. 



This egg was created by Kathy, who is very artistic and has lots of pysanky experience. Here is my rather sad attempt... a goat! Just one color of dye. 

Once the process is completed, one holds the egg near the flame until the wax melts. It is then wiped away, bit by bit.

Some of the eggs in this basket are 50 years old. The liquids inside have dried, leaving just the fragile beauty of shell and dye remaining. 

One woman at the table created a unique,  intricate, multi-layered design. As she was finishing up,  melting the wax and wiping it off, the egg shattered in her grasp. We all gasped. She shrugged, prosaic. Art imitates life... sometimes things are going along beautifully until they are not. 

But today was all maple scones, snowdrops, and beauty. It was an eggcellent day.