Dogless

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dogs

GoofsI didn’t really realize the implications when Buddy died.  I wasn’t thinking of being dogless.

My daughter has been “borrowing” Sophie to help her get through the loss of Buddy.  I understand this and wholeheartedly support it.  She slept with Buddy for 14 years, she needs something breathing next to her at night.  I’ve been there.

Chester is truly Bill’s dog.  He does everything and goes everywhere with him.  He spent the last week in Rowe with me but I know he missed being with Bill (except maybe for the one night he got to sleep on the bed with Cait while she was visiting).  He seemed to smile about that for days.

I realized yesterday that my life with dogs centers around food and being outdoors.  I was baking all day and doing it with Julia Child’s style – in other words I was making a HUGE mess.  Normally when things end up on the floor the dogs are there to pick it up.  I’m thinking I may not even realize how much of a mess I make because the dogs are cleaning up after me.  This may sound disgusting but I know anyone reading this who has a dog knows exactly what I’m talking about.

The other thing is they love to be outdoors.  Every single time I open a door to the outside world they are out.  There’s something to be said about not having to go out when the temperatures are below zero but there is also something about being forced to breathe fresh air regardless of the chill.  They also show me how wonderful winter can be.  They love the snow – LOVE it.  I forget how much they love it each year until the first snow when their total delight and enthusiasm is hard to miss.  The thing is they never get sick of it, no matter how long the winter is.

We can all learn lessons about loving our circumstances by hanging out with our dogs.  They are happy and content with just being as long as they are with their people.  Definitely something to aspire to.

 

One Fine Day

comments 2
Outdoors

150222 Snow (7)

The weather broke here if only for one day.  Long enough to get outdoors, move some snow, clean the coop and then do some snowshoeing.  The temperature got to a balmy 36 degrees which felt downright tropical.

The snow is deep.  Anywhere from 3 to 4 feet, then there is the drifting.

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Chester always wants to go with us.  I was afraid he might quit halfway through this hike.  It’s one thing to be on snowshoes, quite another to be sinking up to your neck with every step.

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The sky was so blue and the sun so warm it was hard to remember how much we’ve complained about the snow.  Truth be told I love winter when it’s like this.  If it stays above 20 degrees and the wind doesn’t blow I can be outdoors.

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What really amazed me was Chester still relentlessly following us around with that ball after the hike he just took.  He carried it the whole way then sat with the snowshoes in the sun waiting for the next adventure and hoping it involved that ball.

Thank goodness for days like this.  It’s like a reset for your soul.  Spring is on its way it just may be June before all of this snow is gone.

 

The Romance of Owning Chickens

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Chickens

Paul

For years, decades actually, I wanted a small flock of chickens.  I dreamed of  them do their chicken thing – foraging, interacting with one another, hanging out in the backyard, producing beautiful eggs for my breakfast.  It was another step towards producing my own food.  I didn’t come into this unaware of the realities of farming.  I had spent my childhood and teenage years surrounded by farm animals – horses, cows, goats, sheep and chickens.  I was familiar with the smells and maintenance involved.

What I wasn’t prepared for was this –

Ice

Ice, practically having to move on my hands and knees to get to the coop.

From the shed door

Snow – every. single. day.

Poop

And chicken poop, the quantity can boggle the mind.  Even better when it is frozen into the box and you have to use a putty knife to clean it.

Eggs

But this is what it’s all about – fresh and delicious.  Found in my backyard.

140915 Coop in Garden

Soon enough things will look like this again and all of us will be much happier.

Whining (Like Everyone Else)

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Uncategorized

This is the scene outside of one of the windows facing north.  I love the way the shadow of smoke moves around the snow-covered yard.  That being said the other feeling that pops into my head is exhaustion.  Yup, I’m tired.  Tired of the snow, tired of hauling wood in, tired of being cooped up in the house with the subzero temperatures making it decidedly unpleasant to be outdoors.

Damn it’s been cold.  Not only low temperatures but the wind chill has been brutal.  Yup, we have the best snowshoeing I’ve seen in years but the wind just makes it impossible to enjoy.  Sigh.

The wood stove has been a blessing, a wonderful respite when returning from the cold.  Stand and slowly turn in front of it, like a rotisserie until your jeans are so hot you can’t stand it anymore (and sometimes I wonder if I’m not risking second degree burns – it would smell before I spontaneously combust, right?).

The way the weather has been my wood supply will last through March (if I’m lucky).  There are two other piles outside but they are under 3 to 4 feet of snow so I’d have to want it pretty bad to get it.  We had over 6 cords in the fall, down to a cord and a half.

Spring is coming.  The sun is so warm and we’ve been seeing it a little more often.  It might be below freezing but the ice is melting on the south side of the house and it’s doing its springtime job of heating the house in the morning.  Those builders knew what they were doing when they situated a house in 1790, passive solar.

Snow in the forecast for tomorrow.  Wildly fluctuating temperatures for next week but c’mon, March is almost here.  So I’ll soak the sun up through the windows, keep the stove loaded and plan and dream about the gardens that are awaiting me under the snow.  They’ll be here, they always show up.

Dead of Winter

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Uncategorized

150211 Sunrise

My plan to photograph the sunrise every morning from the same spot has run into a little glitch – the window will soon be completely covered with snow.  Maybe if I stand on a chair it’ll work unless we get another couple of feet of snow.

The storms keep coming.  Three Mondays in a row we have received over a foot of snow.  The small “dustings” during the middle of each week have been more like 8″ to 10″inches.  It’s beautiful, light snow since it’s been so cold.

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Things are seriously buried.  The lump on the left – the table on the patio.  The other mounds are piles of snow we’ve moved to make room for more.  Always planning for the next storm, that’s the mode we’re in now.  The banks are pushed back and piled high waiting for the next storm.  The town crew wings back the banks keeping the roads wide and the visibility good.  I always took that for granted until I lived in an area that apparently doesn’t own a wing plow.  The roads get more and more narrow with each storm and eventually a 4 lane highway is down to 2 lanes and the traffic is insane.  Not missing that I can tell you.

Along with the plowing there are things that needed immediate attention with the forecast of yet another couple of snowstorms for the end of this week.  The roof on the shed needed to be cleaned off.  Although this building was constructed using posts and beams the weight of the snow could easily overwhelm the structure.  Better to be safe than sorry.

A phone call made and help arrived.  The neighbors dog enjoyed this whole thing quite a bit more than any of us.  Dogs and snow are a wonderful combination and they always seem to lighten the mood of winter.  They always see the play potential, we could do well to learn that from them.

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Looking at the chairs warmer weather seems pretty far off but the sun has been out and the skies are blue.  You can feel the difference.   The plants know spring is coming.  Sugaring will be happening in a few weeks – it always does but when the snow keeps piling up it sometimes seems as though it’s months away.

 

Aftermath

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Uncategorized

150203 Squirrel Tracks

As much as some people hate winter I have to tell you that yesterday’s snowstorm was pretty amazing.  This morning is one of those bright, clear, blue sky days.  It’s really cold.  It’s really beautiful.

We have a red squirrel that seems to love looking in the windows of the house.  There’s a pile of snow in the corner of the house and the ell that is above the window now and it looks in on us several times during the day.  This morning I looked out as the sun was coming up to see the evidence of its peeping. I love how even its tracks to the table are.

I know how incredibly destructive these animals can be but must admit I also think they are one of the cutest rodents there is.  It’s a special treat to me to look out the window and have one staring back less than a foot away.  Of course it’s not so good when the dogs see the squirrel at that close a range.  They tend to be loud and rather destructive to the woodwork.  Fortunately they are oblivious most of the time, not expecting to see a squirrel that close while in the house.

Surrounded by wonder and beauty, that’s so much of what happens here on so many occasions.

Our Buddy

comments 8
dogs / Family

IMG_1572

 

There are dogs and then there are dogs.  Those of you that have ever been blessed with the company of a dog understand that throughout a lifetime some of them stand out.  Their personalities are a total fit and they form an unforgettable bond.  Buddy was just such a dog.  After 14 years of making us laugh almost every single day we had to say goodbye this past Saturday.  It was difficult yet not unexpected.

Buddy was our last family dog coming to us when my daughters were in junior high and high school.  He was part of all of their circles of friends and enough of a character to remain in their memories even though they hadn’t seen him for years.  He was the athlete, the clown and the sweetest animal I have ever known.  He moved through the transition of a family of 4 to one of just 2 adults.  He remained my youngest daughter’s best friend, she was his person. He was always part of coming home.

I’m in the same camp as Jon Katz when it comes to the end of our dogs lives.  I believe Buddy’s job was finished here and it was time for him to move on to the next.  We have dogs come into our lives with just what we need at the time.  They have a job.  They are the ones that get us through particular trials and contribute to the joys we have in our lives.  When their job is done they move on.  I like to think of Buddy’s spirit moving on to another family where he can entertain kids and adults with his antics and loved for the gentle spirit that he was.

We knew it was time on Friday and our vet came to the house Saturday afternoon.  Buddy hated going to the vet more than any animal I have known and we wanted to do right by him.  He died in Cait’s lap, his favorite spot for many, many years, giving us a peaceful closure so important to saying goodbye to someone you love.  He will truly be missed.

Yup, Snowing Again!

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Uncategorized

It’s snowed all but one day (at least a little) since last week’s snowpocalypse non event here.  This storm seems to be making up for it.  About a foot on the ground so far with no stopping in sight.   Ahhh, the snowshoes will be coming out!  It’s the only way I’ll get to the bird feeders and they are wondering where I am.

Snowpocalypse

comments 3
Cooking

150127 Brownies (1)

 

If I was to believe what I was hearing on every news outlet (and alerts on my phone) I would have thought today was really the end of the world as I know it.  When you live in Rowe it snows pretty much every. single. day. so I was at least expecting 5 or 6 inches on the ground when I woke up this morning.  Nope, maybe 3 with it blowing all around.

The hype did get me into gear in the baking arena though and I made a huge pan of my favorite chocolate comfort food.  I found the recipe for these brownies almost 7 years ago in Yankee Magazine.  Julies’s Brownies is my go to brownie for a crowd or just for days when chocolate is the only thing that will do.

I am NOT a brownie baker – my kids will attest to that.  I have made so many variations of brownies over the years – all of which were dismal failures. This recipe, followed to the letter is a winner and the best you will ever have.  It makes a huge pan of brownies and I often put nuts on half and leave the other plain (for those walnut haters).  I then cut them up and freeze half.  There are always brownies available and they freeze perfectly.  I’ve linked the recipe but here it is as well.  They are that good.

Julie’s Brownies

Total Time: 35

Yield: about 40 pieces

Sometimes you just need chocolate to get things on an even keel. My dear friend Julie Fox makes these killer (and easy-to-do) brownies. They taste even better if someone makes them for you, so consider baking them for someone you love.

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, for greasing
  • 4 tablespoons plus 3-1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Instructions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 12×17-inch jelly-roll pan and dust with 4 tablespoons sugar. Discard any sugar that doesn’t adhere to pan. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine 3 sticks butter and chocolate. Cook, stirring occasionally, until both have melted. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat eggs with 3-1/2 cups sugar until blended but not “frothy.” Stir in vanilla, then chocolate. Add flour, stirring until just combined. Fold in nuts if you like

Spread batter in prepared pan and bake 35 minutes, or until set. (A wooden toothpick inserted in the center should come out almost clean.) Let cool completely before cutting.

So make yourself a batch – whether it’s storming out or sunny.  You know why?  They make the world’s best breakfast.

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Weaving Hooks and Eyes

comments 3
Craft

150113 Hooks and Eyes(2)

The last time I posted about this particular project I had left it wondering what the heck I was doing wrong because the pattern wasn’t looking quite like the draft.  My weaving instructor looked at it (under the cloak of darkness) and emailed me that I had been treadling it wrong.  I was close but not quite right.

The structure for this project comes from a back issue of Weaver’s Craft – Issue 11 Vol. 3, No. 1 Spring 2002.  I’ve added a link for my weaving friends because so many people asked me to explain it.  Honestly, I’m not deep enough into the project to do so.  I had an aha moment while I was weaving the other day (and doing it properly).  I realized when throwing the white shuttle that I was weaving the same pattern on the back side.  How cool is that?

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I love the thickness of this fabric – perfect for placemats.  They will be totally reversible, light on one side, dark on the other.

The best thing about this structure for me is that I can use any overshot pattern and weave something that doesn’t have long floats that snag and pull.  Perfect for baby blankets, table linens, anything that will be used regularly.  Overshot has enough complexity to keep me interested while weaving and looks far more complicated than it is.  Threading and weaving requires a little more concentration but it’s totally worth it in the end as you can see.