Monday, October 19, 2020

W.O.W. (Way Out West) weekend...

 Last Christmas Chris gifted me with three "Golden Tickets." One of them was for a "Romantic Weekend Getaway." He plotted and planned, and the second weekend in October he whisked me off to collect on my gift. I didn't know what our destination was, except it would be to the west of home. We left early on Saturday, stopped in Augusta to run a few errands, then headed off down some beautiful roads. The day was sunny and fine, and the foliage stunning. 

We drove for about 2 hours, past lakes and over hills, viewing vistas that had me sighing happily. After a while we reached a picturesque little town and I said, "Oh, this is cute. We should come explore here sometime." Chris grinned delighedly as he turned into the driveway of a beautiful inn. "I'm glad you like it, this is where we are staying." 

It was a little too soon to check in so we rode around until we found a likely place to grab a bite of lunch. After we checked in we walked around the glorious grounds, checked out where the heated outdoor pool was, and explored a bit.  We enjoyed a nice supper that evening, then went to our suite where we sat before a warm fire and listened to a wild thunderstorm rage outside. It was lovely. 

The next morning we visited a fabulous bakery and grabbed freshly made bagels to go, then off we went. 

The plan for this day was to explore Rangeley. Neither of us had been there before. I wish I could describe what a gift the light was that day as we drove. The birch trees fairly glowed, their bark bright as if they were lit from within, their leaves looking as if they were ignited. 

Rangeley is in the lakes region, and we were treated to views of rivers and lakes around almost every turn. 

This pretty female Mallard duck walked right up, so close I could feel her feathers brush past my ankle. 

The scenery was so incredible, I kept saying, "Wow," over and over again. Chris swooped his car off at an overlook. 

We drank this vista in like it was fine wine. The sun was warm on our faces, but the air hovered just above freezing. Giddy with beauty, we continued on, back down the mountain to where the foliage still shone in all its October splendor. 

In Rangeley we walked up and down the main street, popped into a store or two, and had a magnificent lunch on a deck overlooking the lake. Then we traveled a different route back to our inn, with more scenes that made me utter, "Wow." 

I found this full sized horse statue in Bethel. 

On it's face it has the Emerson quote, "The earth laughs in flowers." 
I decided that in the fall, it chortles with leaves.

We headed for the heated pool. Once I was in, Chris vanished. I swam laps, my head in the cool fall air, my body in the deliciously warm water. I had the place to myself, except for a small group of little girls who were playing mermaid off to one side of the pool. Their mothers supervised from lounge chairs, wearing fleece jackets and cozy scarves. "My name will be Rosa," said one little fish to the others, but you can call me Rosie." Another said, "My mermaid name is Isabella, but you can call me Bella." The littlest one, her arms clasped around the neck of a bigger girl loudly announced, "And there is an ARMY OF UNICORNS!" I chuckled and thought back fondly to the days I had my own wee mermaid. 

Chris returned and handed me a delicious glass of Grand Mariner. We canoodled and sipped, then finally dragged ourselves into the chilly air and headed back to our room. I stopped by the patient mothers and said, "I enjoyed your girls so much." One said, "Oh, we were hoping they were not bothering you!" The other said, "We were a little jealous, you out there by yourself, enjoying your drink, with no kids demanding your attention." I assured them that I was not at all bothered, and said, "I enjoyed my time alone today, but don't be in a rush, this season with little kids will pass so quickly." 

The seasons are flying by. Chris makes me stop to enjoy them by planning special times like this. This Golden Ticket weekend was a lottery winner. 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Freshening up...

 We loved this house when we moved here 17 years ago, but little by little we have been making changes to make it more "ours." One area that has vexed me since the beginning was the laundry room and guest bath. The laundry room had indoor/outdoor carpet that smelled like dirty diapers. I tore it out early on, and painted the plywood subfloor, but it was impossible to keep clean and looked horrible. The bathroom had a tolerable linoleum floor, but I didn't like it very much. Both rooms had built in cabinets. We tore out the one in the bathroom early on and put a bureau there. It was useful but didn't look good. The cabinets in the laundry room were deep, things put there got "lost" in the back. The washer/dryer blocked one of  the doors and made it hard to access. Meanwhile the big closet in the room had a nice shelf on top of it that ended up being a place where we crammed blankets, quilts and other linens. It looked messy, disorganized and things put there were hard for me to access. 

This spring I decided that both spaces were really quite nice, but so unattractive I didn't enjoy being in them. I didn't want to spend a lot of money to do a major overhaul, but it occurred to me that changing out the floor would make a huge difference. I picked out some laminate that looked like whitewashed planks and ordered it. The day the men came to install them, they got the floor started then called me up, "Your house is old and uneven. This floor will be ruined in 6 months. You will be better off with linoleum." They tore up what I had chosen and I was back at square #1. I changed up the plan I had, and went for a rather bright pattern of versatile linoleum instead of the very plain look I originally had in mind. 

Meanwhile, a carpenter friend came and tore out all the built in's. A neighbor friend came and fixed the several dry wall problems the rooms had. It took a while for the floor to come in, but one happy day they came and did a beautiful job installing it. The whole place was so much brighter!  The carpenter came back and put up trim where it was missing. I ordered new light fixtures to replace the very unattractive ones that we had, and my curmudgeon of an electrician came and put them up for me. Next a coat of paint, (color masterfully chosen by interior designer niece Elyse to harmonize with the floor)  made everything look clean and fresh. 

During all this time I spied a vintage sink at an "antique" place. It was outside, and pretty rough. 

 I could imagine it replacing the oh so ugly sink and vanity. For $50 we brought it home. 

The plumbers came and installed it. They put in a new faucet for me, too. 

This entire project started in May or June. Today it is almost finished. Instead of dreading to be in the laundry room, I find excuses to go there now. Clean, organized, bright and pretty, it is a space that makes me happy to be in.  

Niece Aimee found this marvelous painted bureau in New Hampshire, and picked it up for us. I think a small lamp will look good there, I'm on the hunt! Big wicker baskets collect clothes waiting to be washed and dried.

In the bathroom the old sink with its new faucets stands proud under the new lights and a simple oval mirror. A vintage bassinet holds guest towels, tissues, lotion and travel sized toothpaste along with new toothbrushes. Things to make a visitor feel welcome. 
We found this metal dry sink years ago at a yard sale for a song. It looks pretty under the sky light. 

The adorable vintage medicine cabinet came up on Facebook Marketplace. It was a dirty putty color. Hannah and I painted it one sunny afternoon sitting at the picnic table. We made the inside a sweet pale blue. The back of the mirror has someone's name and "1935" drawn on it. A marvelous hand made treasure. 

The new floor I had in mind blossomed into something a little bit larger, but we are pleased with the end result. 

Owning a home means never-ending projects, constant freshening up. This particular freshening was a bit of creative fun. 

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Fond Farewell...

 In early August friend Hannah came to visit. Covid had put college on hold, so she was doing a little traveling. Maine agreed with her and she stayed a while. 

She spent time exploring the area. She taught herself to knit socks, read a stack of books, painted and wrote and created. She went to Acadia National Park many times, hiking its stunning trails. She kayaked and swam, reorganized all my kitchen cabinets and was a pleasant guest. Her mom, Angel, flew to Maine last week, and worked from here, fitting in a few little fun trips with her daughter. She brought some of her bread starter with her and baked beautiful loaves of fragrant sour dough while she was here. Yesterday they loaded up Hannah's car and headed south. But they promised to come back to our happy place next summer, and we will look forward to that. 

The house feels strangely empty when guests leave. Chris and I enjoy each others company, but it's always a little sad when we see friends or family roll out of the driveway. They leave echoes of laughter behind, and we are enriched by their being here. 

In this case, Angel left a loaf of her peerless bread. I turned it into French Toast this morning. It was incredible. 

Now we get back to our normal pattern of life. There are things to do to get ready for winter... wood to stack and things to make the animal houses warmer when the temperature drops. Today we will start off on those chores, just the two of us, but nourished by the visit of special friends. 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Early frost...

 I lit a fire in the wood stove last night, keeping the downstairs of the house warm for the puppies. I was glad of it this morning, when the thermometer read 32F. I added a log and opened the damper, and flames leapt and crackled. 

Outside the world showed frosty evidence of the drop in temperature. 

A thin skim of ice covered the duck pool and animal water containers. 

The ducks don't seem to care. 

It won't be long until it is too cold to use the garden hoses, and watering the animals will become a far more difficult chore than it is in the warm months. I don't take the gift of running water lightly. 

This time of year tends to make me nostalgic. I hear the calls of Canada Geese as they pass overhead, heading south, and am transported to the yard of my childhood home. My father spent hours each fall, raking leaves from the lawns. The yard was deeply shaded by tall oak and maple trees, and they created much work when the leaves fell.  Dad would rake them into an old shower curtain liner, then gather the corners up and haul it, full to bursting, to a part of the property near a wooded area called, "The Edge."  There was a sharp drop off here, and each years bounty of leaves helped to level out this area.  After 30 autumns he had built the space up enough to create a sloping lawn there. He would always burn some leaves, too, the fragrant smoke curling blue up to meet the chilly sky, where the calls of migrating geese haunted the air. I had my own little rake, and would make small piles beside his big ones. Of course, some of the bigger piles got jumped in, over and over, until they needed to be redone and taken off to the edge. 

Last week, using the miracle of the internet, I brought up Tom Rush's version of the song "Urge for Going." I played it for Rachel while we worked. Again I was swept back in time, sitting in the passenger seat of my brothers old Mustang, Tom Rush singing from an 8 track tape shoved into the dashboard. Dana drove fast but well, the car bouncing over the rutted back roads, and I was joyful to be there with him, hearing the yearning song as the fall foliage few past. 

Back then my roots were shallow, holding me in place just long enough to grow, and sprout some wings. I had yearnings of my own, as intangible as the perfume of burning fall leaves. Now I listen to the sweet strains of this favorite song and remember the longing I once had with fondness. My roots now are deep and strong, embedded in the cooling rocky Maine soil, bracing for the time when, "bully winds rub their face down in the snow."

                                         (photo credit 

Urge for Going

And I awoke today and found the frost perched on the town
It hovered in a frozen sky and gobbled summer down
When the sun turns traitor cold
And shivering trees are standing in a naked row
I get the urge for going but I never seem to go
And I get the urge for going when the meadow grass is turning brown
Summertime is falling down winter's closing in
I had a girl in summertime with summer colored skin
And not another man in town my darling's heart could win
But when the leaves fell trembling down
And bully winds did rub their face down in the snow
She got the urge for going I had to let her go
She got the urge for going when the meadow grass was turning brown
And summertime was falling down and winters closing in
Now the warriors of winter they give a cold triumphant shout
All that stays is dying all that lives is getting out
See the geese in chevron flight
Flapping and a-racin on before the snow
Got the urge for going they've got the wings to go
And they get the urge for going when the meadow grass is turning brown
Summertime is falling down and winter's closing in
I'll ply the fire with kindling, I'll pull the blankets to my chin
I'll lock the vagrant winter out I'll bolt my wandering in
I'd like to call back summertime
And have her stay for just another month or so
But she's got the urge for going I guess she'll have to go
And she's gets the urge for going when the meadow grass is turning
All her empire's are falling down winter's closing in
And I get the urge for going when the meadow grass is turning brown
And summertime is falling down
Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Joni Mitchell
Urge for Going lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Crazy Crow Music / Siquomb Music Publishing

Monday, September 14, 2020

Many good things...

 I spent most of the day away from home today, which is rare for me. It started out nicely by being treated to breakfast at the wonderful Hartstone Inn with my customer/friend Karen.We dined royally, and had a nice chat. That was sweet. Then I ran a bunch of errands. I went to the hardware store, and to TJMaxx for the first time since Covid. I took my time, steeping myself in retail therapy, something I have not done in ages. I even stooped so low as to run into the Dollar Tree, a store I loathe, because I needed a specific thing, cheap. More on that in a moment. 

After that I went to a doctors appointment because my ankle has been sore on and off for months. I've been limping so much that now my knee hurts, too. He looked me over and said, (and I quote) "Well, you are all jacked up." He thinks he can fairly easily remedy the situation and wants to see me again in two weeks. This was encouragingly good news. 

When I got home I went to work with the items from the Dollar Tree. 

Last year I made a beautiful arrangement in the little coop window box with dried flowers. It looked terrific for two days, then it rained and all was lost. So this year I went with tacky fake leaves, flowers and a cute little scarecrow. It's bright and festive and quite happy to look at, (as long as you don't look too close.) 

Last spring my neighbor/friend Penny gifted me with some dahlia tubers. They are blooming now, beautifully. 

And the duck that was dragged and injured by a fox 8 days ago? She is doing quite well! She has a little limp, and rests more than the other ducks, but she seems stronger each day. 

Best of all, I think, is how delightful the little pugs are. They have changed a lot in just the last few days, playing with each other, toddling around, making little "grrrr" sounds and one even wagged her tail today. It's a whole lot of cuteness in one space. 

They are three weeks old now. Soon we will introduce some solid food and I think Opal will be relieved to not be their soul source of sustenance. 

Here at the farmlette, despite listening to the news each day, I am able to forget, sometimes, what a mess the our country is in right now. I am able to focus on the animals and wonderful people that surround me instead. On my rare days "out in the world," it is all so much more clear.I find myself feeling a bit overwhelmed and depressed. 

Then I come home, and see my sturdy house beckoning. The flowers are cheerful and the dogs leap with joy to see me. Chris greets me with a kiss, and the beautiful flag snaps smartly in the cool breeze. I am reminded that there so many good things.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Late summer day...

 It's not really fall yet, but it's coming. We celebrate this time each year by making vats of tomato sauce so we can enjoy the taste of summer during the long winter. Bushel boxes of tomatoes are purchased from the farm stand, and we add in the bounty from our own garden, too. The counter top cooker is pressed into service. We add onions, garlic, hot and sweet peppers. 

 Then the whole thing simmers for hours until it become mush. Next we ladle the contents of the pan into a blender, pureeing all of it. It is returned to the cooker. We add olive oil, tomato paste, salt, pepper, oregano, thyme and a little sugar. Then the whole thing simmers all day long, perfuming the house with the most amazing scent. When it was done Chris tasted it, and looked thoughtful. He asked for a second sample. A slow smile crossed his face, "It's PERFECT," he pronounced. 

This year it was Rachel in the lead of making the sauce, with help from Hannah. I was back up, but mostly I was preparing supper. 

Niece Elyse has been promising to bring her new beau Kevin to visit for ages. The puppies were an excellent lure, and things were arranged. 

I roasted a home raised chicken, made a pile of mashed potatoes, baked some fresh bread,cooked some peas and planned an appetizer and dessert of fresh peaches and berries over ice cream. Meanwhile Hannah and Rachel made multiple batches of pesto with basil grown in our garden and garlic from the farm up the street. It is destined for family dining and gifts, too. 

Three minutes after Kevin and Elyse arrived, all the dogs were in Kevin's lap. They know good people when they meet them. 

Five minutes after they entered, Elyse was holding a puppy and her eyes were leaking a little. The cuteness does that to some people. 

A jolly visit was had, the meal was enjoyed. Donkeys and goats were patted by guests, and the tomato sauce and pesto were put to bed. Much was accomplished on one late summer day. 

Monday, September 7, 2020

Fox ..!

 After a peaceful afternoon nap I woke and was reading the final chapters of a good book. From the hen yard, one of the chickens began to cluck loudly.Chickens will often vocalize after laying an egg. Poultry fanciers call this "the egg song." I've read a variety of articles about why they do it, most seem to think it is to distract any predators away from their nest site. The noise this bird was making was similar to an egg song, but more strident, and went on and on.  I could barely hear it over the fan in the window, but after a few moments decided I should see what the fuss was about. I came down the stairs, and let the dogs out. Bravo and Flirt both barked alarm barks, so I hurried out to see what was up. There was a fox at the edge of the meadow. Small, probably one of this years kits, its coat glowed a deep and vibrant russet against the green grass. Bravo poised, impatient, as I fumbled with the latch on the gate, and as soon as I cracked it open he was through like a shot, running flat after the intruder. The fox hesitated just a second, looking over its shoulder at the dog barreling in his direction, then stretched and fairly flew to the far end where the grass meets a stand of white pine. He vanished under the electric fence and into the woods. Bravo stopped at the wire, cocked his leg to leave a calling card, then pranced back to me, proud. 

I watched him approach and scanned the pasture. The goats and donkeys were off in a scrubby area having an evening meal. The chickens and ducks were all in the hen yard, having tucked themselves there when the fox made itself known. Then I saw something white moving at the left edge of the pasture. A duck was there, huddled in the grass, but raising her head to look around. She was far from the rest of the birds, and too still. I walked to her and was pleased to see her stand at my approach, and take a few wobbling steps. Once I was close I could see crimson blood staining her snowy feathers. She let me pick her up, something I have never done before, and barely struggled as I carried her across the field to her coop. She had shallow wounds on the back of her neck, and near her rump. I rinsed the injuries with water, and put her in her coop with food and drink. She stayed there a little while, then awkwardly came out and sat among the other birds. She was panting and trembling, but I was encouraged to see her drink and move around a bit.

This morning she is still with us. She moves as if it hurts, but is up and about. I am hopeful that she will survive. 

Bravo is on high alert, hoping for a chance to chase the fox again. I am hopeful the thing will hunt elsewhere after being escorted from our yard by my good dog. I will pay better attention to the chickens conversation in the future, their warning was loud and clear.