Monday, March 31, 2014

Monday Musings

I am going to trade in my Carharts for a pressure suit pretty soon.  All these ups and downs.  Then there's the frost heaves.  Feels as though I've been on a mechanical bull marathon.  Wheehaw!

As is usually the case when the weather turns, it is lovely during the weekdays and then stinky on the weekends.  Between the high winds and pouring rain, most of the snow is gone.  The wind does help dry it off and I am happy enough with mud.  Even the mud that practically sucks your boots off! 

Exactly eight years ago today, I signed my life away and received the keys to the Little Lucky.  It is (and was) my first all-mine house and I was delirious with happiness when I fit the key in the lock, opened the front door and went inside.  It was a beautiful Spring day, warm and sunny, with soft breezes.  I walked down the road and there were hundreds of pollywogs in little ponds by the side of the road (now long gone, thanks to clear cutting and gravel truck traffic).  My parents met me after the closing with the only furniture I owned at the time - a double mattress & box springs and metal frame.  Donated by them, the sweeties.  I had a few sticks of furniture - two chairs and my Great Aunt Edie's (she of the knitting prowess and one-Scotch-one-cigarette-a-day fame) side table.  The inside and the outside of the Little Lucky has been a work in progress.  Come to think of it, so have I!

I have been reminiscing over the transformation of the LLF - from the arrivals and departures (my original 'flock' of Icelandics, Flora, Cocoa and Bart) to my short-lived but much adored Guinea Forest Hogs (Kate Miller and Ethel Merman), it's been fun remembering. 

I also managed to squeeze in some spring cleaning of the LLF-related type - I raked up all the dessicated corn cobs from the chicken yard, cleaned three quarters of the goat barn, shoveled the discarded sunflower casings from all of the deck that was not still encased in ice and snow, started to dismantle the hoops in the front beds, pruned the plum trees, wrapped the willow bush hybrids in netting to dissuade the deer from eating the new shoots, and went out and communed with my sheep.  As adorable as my goats are, I absolutely love my Icelandic sheep.  L.O.V.E. them.  I am working on Norman, but he is the jumpy sort.  Linden and Juno are like large, woolly Labradors.  And it's so nice to spend time scritching Linden behind the ears, instead of chasing him around with a paintbrush loaded with noxious chemicals.

Today is also Cookie's 14th birthday.  Scrappy turned 14 on March 10, and we celebrated all week.  Cookie is thrilled with lap time in the morning - time usually spent knitting.  This morning, the knitting went by the wayside and Cookie and I spent an enjoyable hour of lap-sitting time.  Then I slipped him a little cooked chicken and he purred so loudly, his nose ran.  Nut.

I can't believe how wonderful it felt to be outside - even in the wind and sleety rain!  I'm planning on getting my cold frame ready for spinach this week, and seeds will be started indoors.  A week from today, Lovey is due to arrive, so there's plenty to do to get ready.  Woot!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Pardon my rant.

Twice this has happened to me.  Twice I have met (virtually), fallen in love and jumped through the hoops to adopt a dog.  Only to have their foster families pull them out of the deal at the very last minute.  I have fostered dogs and know how hard it is to hand them on to their forever home - no matter how wonderful the new family is, it's tough to say goodbye.  I have also been a foster failure.  But I never, ever waited until a family had chosen her to pull the rug out from under them.  I knew within a week that she was staying with me and I was making the commitment to give her a home for the rest of her life.

I am trying not to let this put me off adopting another dog from a rescue group.  And I am definitely still welcoming Lovey into our group.  Thank goodness her foster mom is willing to let her come to us.  If there is a small, snuggly dog in my future, he or she will come to me.  But I am not going to Alabama to find him or her.

And that's all I'm saying about that.

And soon we are xxxx two.

Technically, we soon will be seven six.  If you count me.  And if you count the Boyz, which I am not doing because they are on THE LIST today.  I have officially jinxed this operation.  Mickey, it seems, DID have a foster family, who ONCE AGAIN, decided that now that someone really wanted him, won't give him up.

Lift off from Mobile, Alabama is set for the morning of April 6.  I'm not sure where we fall in the delivery process, as there are other dogs going to other places in the Northeast, but it will be sometime during that week.  We are ready - I have Scrappy all pumped up (of course, he thinks it's all about food), I have washed the dog beds, put the big crate together, hoarded a load of rawhide chews, and have gotten a few new toys.

One for him.

One for her.

And a case of cheap but good wine bottle of JD for her... :)

Monday, March 24, 2014

At least I keep them entertained...

I had to sit in a meeting this morning with our staff, a couple of people from our NYC office and a couple of clients.  As I sat there, I noticed that the people on either side of me - and the people across the conference table from me - and everyone in the room - were subtly sniffing the air.  I realized that they were inhaling my perfume of the day - Eau d'Kopertox (main ingredient:  copper sulfate).  Honestly, I HAD taken a shower AND scrubbed my hands with pumice soap after applying Linden's morning coating.

And, if that was not bad enough, in the middle of the meeting there was the distinct (but slight subdued) baaing of sheep.  Basso sheep, baritone sheep, alto sheep.  I had forgotten to turn off my cell phone.  I just looked around like everyone else.

My boss gave me the hairy eyeball, then tried not to laugh out loud.  There was a lot of muffled snorting from my crew.

Speaking of copper sulfate...

Yesterday morning, my DS, Melanie, gamely showed up to help me apply Linden's initial coating of Kopertox.  This involved rassling the woolly, fat eel into submission and holding him down, while I trimmed his hoof some more, cleaned it up and painted on a liberal coating of Kopertox.  It was not clear after the fact if Linden or I received most of the application.  All I know is, he got enough.  This morning's go-around was slightly easier, as all I had to do was to get my hand around the affected appendage and paint madly, as he did a fast retreat.

And while I was at it, this weekend, I also wormed the three goatie girls.  Another toss up as to who got most of the Safeguard.  I think it was a tie.  They have tiny, tiny little mouths that emit some of the most spectacularly piercing sounds I have ever heard.  Except for Pickles, that is.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Healing Power of Love.

After getting disappointing news today - Gunner's foster family decided they couldn't bear to part with him and are adopting him - we are looking forward to the arrival of our girl, Lovey, sometime during the second week of April.  When the rescue gave me the background on her, I had no idea how far she had come:

Lovey Before and Now
She had been found in the woods with her brother - both of them with hardly any fur but plenty of mange, among many other issues.  I can't say enough about the wonderfulness of rescues.  The lengths they go through to bring a dog that has been sorely mistreated back to health and hope, boggles the mind.  I am very happy that I am going to get to meet Lovey's foster mom, Amy, too.  This woman is a miracle worker.  And, although I know she loves Lovey with a passion, I am also glad she is willing to give her into my care.  If you are anywhere near Mobile, Alabama (or even many miles away...) and looking for a canine companion, give ARF a look-see.

Does Lovey resemble anyone we know....hmmmm?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bumping and Grinding Along.

Never fear - you can take your hands from in front of your children's eyes now.  That kind of bumping and grinding has been tabled for years....

It's more the state of our roads - I swear that I have to fight sea sickness as I pitch and bounce across the mountain road.  This fierce winter has created more frost heaves in the road than Tetley's got teas.  Our main route - running north all the way through Vermont and south a long ways, is in deplorable shape in our stretch.  It's nothing more than miles of potholes strung together.  There have been rumors that the highway department MIGHT get around to resurfacing a portion of it.  I'll believe that when I see it.  And then I am sure I'll be mitching and boaning about the inconvenience of it all.

There's not much news to bring you.  Winter still has us in his grip and it will be a long while before all that ice and snow disappear.  Little blips of 40 degree weather has created some lovely, gorgeous, brown, muddy patches here and there.  But, best of all, two nights ago as I slogged out to feed the sheep/goats, I heard two redwinged blackbirds!  Halleluiah!  A (my) sure sign of spring!  I am sure they were saying to each other, "Who's bright idea was it to migrate here this early??  It's frickin freezing!"  But they were still here this morning - probably waiting for the wetlands to thaw. 

I am still treating Linden's hoof and he's still limping.  I did get a bottle of Kopertox, so that is Plan B, if he's not showing more signs of recovery by this weekend.  I've been working on getting Apria used to me touching her - this year is the Year of the Llama.  She needs hoof trimming, shearing, worming.  It may take a village.

Scrappy has a hot spot already.  I think it was brought on by the homemade wheat biscuits that I whipped up a week ago.  That's the only change in his diet.  I've been feeding him a grain free diet for quite some time, with no evidence of allergies or irritations.  The chickens appreciated the rest of the biscuits, while Scrappy looked at me as if I had lost my senses. 

Speaking of chickens, this has been a rough year for them.  I lost two hens early-on in the winter to SCUDS (sudden chicken unknown death syndrome), then another to a sinus infection that I was unable to treat successfully, then two to the hawk, then I came home a couple of days ago to find Betty laid out.  It looked as though she died suddenly - possibly a heart attack.  She was one of my rescued Red Ranger meat birds.  She was a big girl and I doubt if she ever laid an egg.  But she was Betty.  I am not going to buy any more chicks this year, but I may let a broody hen try to hatch a few.  Of course, everyone was broody in February, when it was multiple degrees below zero.  Now, with the day lengthening and the frigid temps finally skulking off in the night, not a one seems interested. 

I am trying to get used to my new hours and new job.  It is not easy.  While I am actually only working a half-hour longer, starting an hour earlier has cramped my style.  I did manage to negotiate down to only a half-hour lunch, since I never leave the office, never leave my desk, and usually work right through it.  It will help having the earlier daylight - I'll be able to get out and do things with plenty of time to throw myself together for work.  And, believe me, that is what I do.  Throw.

I'm still waiting to hear when the kids will arrive from Alabama.  I think the winter storm forecasts have made them wary.  I am hopeful that they will arrive in early April.  Big changes in store for a certain someone....

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Whiplash and Cue the Theme to the Brady Bunch...

Whiplash.  That's what it feels like, at least.  Balmy temps for a day or two, then WHAM!  Sub freezing.  It makes negotiating the ups and downs of the LLF terrain an adventure.  I am determined to make this the first winter in a long time that I don't have a major fall.  With the melting snow during the day, then freezing into sheet ice overnight, it's been a challenge.  Not to mention having to chop the gates out of the grip of two-three inches of ice on a regular basis.  As I sit here this morning trying to get the feeling back into my fingers, the sun is shining, it's 15 degrees and the wind is whistling outside of my window.  I managed to chop my gate to the chicken yard free of the ice (with only a small sacrifice of one of the vertical boards), schlepped 100 lbs of poultry feed and a bale of shavings back there, then wrenched the gate closed and prayed that would hold me until the Ice Age passed.  It's getting old, folks.

I spent most of Friday in my car - a three hour round trip to get sheep minerals, followed by a two-and-a-half hour round trip to take my car up for some repairs, followed by an hour round trip to do most of my weekend errands.  I managed to get into and out of Tractor Supply WITHOUT chicks.  It was painful - but I kept telling myself there was no place to put them.  I almost ran out the door, but made it out chick-less.

With camera in hand, I have been milling around taking pictures of the interior of the house and trying to shine a favorable light on my boy.  We are in the process of negotiating for a sister for Scrappy.  After many disappointing attempts to find a suitable, adoptable dog locally*, we ended up contacting a great rescue group out of Mobile, Alabama.  If all goes well, Lovie will be joining us the first part of April.  And Gunner.  Yes, this is what happens when I am not under adult supervision.  We are adopting two dogs.  BUT, in my own defense, one is a very little dog.  So I am counting it as one-and-a-half dogs.  Lovie is a delightful, playful, sweet natured Pit/Hound mix, who looks a lot like Scrappy.  They could be mistaken as, well, brother and sister.  Gunner is a 10 lb dachshund mix with the family trait of one ear up, one ear down.  And - as if I needed one more reason to justify the multiple addition - Lovie's foster mom and a couple of other volunteers are driving them up, with ten other dogs who are going to NE rescue groups.  One of the biggest problems with the southern rescues is that, not only do they have a bumper crop of homeless dogs (as do ALL parts of the country), but there are more high-kill shelters than there are up here.  Apparently, there is room at the inn up north and, as Lovie's FM was going to be coming up anyway...

I have pictures of both dogs on the fridge, and I point them out to Scrappy at every possible occasion.  It's a good thing there is no one of a two-legged stature, listening to this insanity.  I'm starting to get a glimpse of what I will be in 30 years.  And, frankly, it could be worse.  Maybe my nephew will make a documentary about his crazy ole auntie.

*Is it just me, or is demanding over $300 for a rescue hybrid a bad idea?  I realize how much money and time is put into these dogs, but, c'mon, people.  That's a heck of a lot of money.  I am also sure that it's done to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, and deter people with evil intentions, but it also deters those of us who just want to give them a loving, good home.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Why I Love My Vet.

Linden before hoof trimming.
Linden at the thought of hoof trimming.

Besides being a wonderfully decent and kind guy, my vet has the patience of Job.  Linden has been lame for a while and I knew there was trouble afoot (pun intended).  He is the sweetest wether you can meet.  He loves it when I scritch behind his ears - will look adoringly (or so I think) into your eyes as you give him a nice scratchy-all-over.  But try to get him to go where he doesn't want to go?  Crazy Sheep!!!

My vet came out last evening because I knew he needed (desperately) his hooves trimmed - especially his left front - and I cannot make any headway on my own.  So we manhandled him to the upper paddock and, after a lot of sweating and swearing (the swearing was all mine), we got him on his bum.  But he is the most squirmiest, wiggliest, unaccommodating sheep I have ever met.  It was a good thing I got the vet out when I did, as he did have hoof rot in that foot.  He got a good trimming and I am spraying his hoof everyday with a 1:4 bleach/water solution.

This is another reason I love my vet.  He does not dictate a long list of medications, return visits, and other costly measures.  He starts with the easiest and simplest things.  I am to spray the underside of his hoof every day for a couple of weeks; we will see how it looks; we will go from there.  My vet has both a small animal practice and a large animal practice.  He works all the time, at all hours of the day, and always has time to talk to you.  While we were leaning on his car talking - he drives a tiny, fuel-efficient Suzuki - his phone rang and it was a woman who's dog had slipped on the ice and hurt his back.  My vet jumped in his car and took off to meet her at the clinic, a half hour away.  His parting words were, "don't worry - I'll have the office bill you.  It won't be more than $60."  I love my vet.

This morning I went down to the shed with my spray bottle, grabbed the little cuss' leg and spritzed away.  Around and around in a circle.  This sure adds some excitement to my otherwise boring life...

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Dying Breed.

Last Monday, a friend and neighbor passed away suddenly.  I had noticed lots of pick up trucks at the farm, but that was not extraordinary.  What I didn't know, until his son, also my friend and neighbor, knocked on my front door at 6:15 AM Wednesday morning, was that his father had passed away suddenly from a heart attack.

While not surprised at the news, I was, nonetheless, greatly saddened.  Big L, the patriarch of a very large clan, was one of a dying breed of dairy farmers.  His father bought this farm many, many years ago (Big L was in his mid-eighties when he passed on), milking a relatively small number of cows - pretty much just enough to support his family.  Big L inherited the farm and continued the tradition, while raising a family of his own.  His first wife died of cancer and, eventually, Big L met and married a nice woman with children of her own, who he raised as his own, supporting a total of 11.  He was a hard worker, as are all dairy farmers.  There is no "vacation" for a dairy farmer.  It is a 365/24/7 job.  You have to know how to fix your own equipment, doctor your cows, bale your own hay, cut your own corn.  He finally handed the business down to his son, my present neighbor and friend.  Big L would drive the tractors at haying time, help cut the corn, and - of course - supervise.  His constant companion was a little Jack Russell terrier named Susie.  I think he loved that dog as much as any person.  His son is also the local dog warden and Susie was found as a stray and tippy-toed right into Big L's heart and home.  These last few years were tough ones for him, health-wise, and he spent most of his time sitting at his kitchen table with Susie by his side.  That is where he died.

He was a familiar figure during his retirement - driving (sloooooowly) around the town in his red pick up, stopping here and there to discuss local politics, the weather, the sorry state of dairy farming.  I would be out in my garden laboring away and he would roll up, roll down his window, and I would lean against the truck and we would spend an enjoyable half hour or so, complaining, laughing, and gossiping.

It is difficult to imagine passing by the farm (which I do twice a day) and not seeing the kitchen light on.  I'm glad I got to know him, and I will treasure the stories he told.  (One particularly alarming, yet funny, story involved Thanksgiving, a pair of loose trousers, and a close call.)  As is the custom here, there was a wake at his small church, followed by a service and burial in the local cemetery.  There were so many cars lining both sides of the road, that I had to park at a friend's house and walk down to the church.  As I looked over the gathering, lots of white hair and balding pates were interspersed in the congregation.  Alot of them are or were farmers, now retired.  Once his son decides to retire (or drops dead in the barn, as he declares), that is the end of this line.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Mixed Blessings.

The weekend was pretty great - I spent a nice early lunch with my parents and the granddog, zipped home and spread a 50# bag of sand on my driveway and walk in anticipation of my fragile dinner guest.  Who ended up putting the dinner date on the wrong day on her calendar, but drove right down when I called and we had a lovely time.  Then, Sunday morning, I met two of my favorite people at the firehouse breakfast where we people-watched and gossiped.  After breakfast, I drove up to my sister, Melanie's, toddled after her as she did her morning chores (I was very early), then we headed to Marianne's.  She had come back for the weekend and we never miss a chance to see our farm-sister-soul-sister, Marianne.  As we sat and chatted, Marianne said that she had offered to lease the farm to the Mennonite group in her area.  Melanie and I held our breath.  Were we going to lose our link to Marianne?  Lose the farm? 

Aside here.  Marianne's farm is the most heavenly place.  It is a beautiful old farmhouse (updated and beautifully restored) on 100 acres of land that rises up and provides views that make you catch your breath.  There's a large, new barn and a large greenhouse, lots of fencing, a pond.  I tell you, if I won the lottery, I'd know what I'd do with my winnings.  Just saying.

Back to my windy tale. 

Turns out they did not want to lease it - they were too busy.  Melanie and I sighed with relief and then said, at the same time, WE'LL LEASE IT!  Of course, we were mad.  Stark raving.  But Marianne said - Sure.  She and her husband would come back later in the month to prune the trees (apple, pear, plum) and we could have full use of the orchard, the blueberries, the gooseberries, the blackberries, the raspberries, the asparagus bed, the rhubarb bed, the greenhouse, and any other farmable spot.  For nothing.  She was just glad that it was being cared for.

Of course, this means more work for both of us, but the heady thought is that, what we don't use for ourselves, we can sell at the farmers market.  Melanie is already a member of an established market, as well as a vendor.  This kind of insanity could have been the residual effect of endless dark days of frigid temps, but the idea of actually being able to grow eggplant has completely drowned out the chorus of "No" in the back of my mind.  The farm is on my way to my parents, so it is not out of the way on the weekend.  Melanie and I work well as a team.  I can bring the boy and let him run around.  I can grow eggplant.

Will it work?  Well, I sure hope so.  I hope that I have an endless supply of Pollyanna.  I hope the garden gods smile down at us.  I hope spring comes.  My hope springs eternal...