Mo Bloggin'

A little o' this, a little o' that

Archive for the tag “dogs”

Rain and reflections

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Watching the rain fall.

It’s been raining all day today and it’s wonderful. I can’t even believe I am saying that, but it’s funny how weather excesses or extremes, especially out of season excesses, can make you long for the opposite, and even make you anxious.

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Wet bee yard; the package bees (left hive) are still out flying – I love how gnarly they are!

For us here in the PNW, rain in November is relentless and pummels the house and the property. It’s often a little frightening at times for this Chicken Little, as the water sluices down the hillside, the ground turns to muck, and the river in the valley nearby overflows its banks (making the commute home from work worrisome).  As I listened to the music of the rain on the roof this morning I was reflecting at how in November, December, or January, I actually get a little scared when it rains this hard and steadily for hours. It’s not sweet music then, but an ominous wintertime soundtrack.  Today it was calming and comforting.

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Gorgeous blue sky on the last mile of my evening commute home.

If you’ve followed my blog for long, you know that I adore the sun and blue sky.  I realize more and more that I want to see more sky, more openness.  I love the trees, but it gets so claustrophobic sometimes, and especially at this time of year (I’ve spoken of this before), when the jungle-like growth begins to feel like it’s closing in.  And all winter long the constant rain and dark, cloudy skies, combined with the short daylight hours, feels oppressive and beyond dismal, day after day. The weather almost becomes the enemy, something to be fought and/or feared.

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Soggy with rain, the pool refilling with rainwater after last week’s heat.

Now we’ve had a spring unlike any I can remember, with drought-like conditions and record-breaking heat (90+ degrees in April – where the hell am I, anyway?).  This after a previous year of record-breaking weather patterns (2015’s dry spring and summer and record-breaking summer temps, followed by the wettest winter on record) and again I get anxious.  What does this mean for me, my animals, my bees, my planet? So you can see why the rain and cool temps—typical weather for a northwest May (and something to grumble about in a normal year)—was soothing today.

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Rain all day long, yet I’m totally okay with it.

The rain slowed later in the day and I let the sheep out to graze.  I assured them the rain was a good thing for the grass and browse they love, but still they wanted out. Noisy C-Kerry led the chorus of:  “We don’t care if we get wet, we’re sheep!  Just let us out!” The trees and under story are heavy with the rain, and branches are low to the ground with the weight of water. There was even a downed maple branch over the lower fence.  They are enjoying the heck out of it all, pruning and munching on the delicious green growth they love.

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Shearing day last week; one of these is not like the others.

I watch them and am reminded how much I love them. Well, maybe not so much when they’re gobbling up my hops vines, comfrey, or horseradish plants, or the beautiful woodland ferns and other plants (my wonderful Devil’s club!) out back, or peeling the bark off my fruit trees. I’ve learned to monitor them better, but still like to let them out to keep the grass mowed around the house, stretch the feed bill, and ease the pressure on their pasture.  And I reflected on them and my relationship to them—to all my animals—and not only what they mean to me, but what do I mean to them? How do they see me? (A few of the flock must see me with a scythe and hooded robe, judging by how they react to me every. single. time. they see me. Maybe there are hallucinogens in the hay I feed?)

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Eloise at the top of the corner post in the chicken run.

I am reflecting on all of this after reading a blog post by a fellow blogger, also a woman, also a farmer (though she, lucky girl, is able to do it full time).  Like many bloggers (can you believe I’ve been blogging for over 7 years now?) I like to follow other bloggers, especially those who are doing things similar to me: solo homesteaders like Belle Manor Farms and Morris Brook Farm, sheep raisers like Canfield Farm, just a few miles away, beekeepers, nature lovers and wildlife advocates. I’ve been following Celi and her Kitchens Garden blog for at least 4 years now, maybe longer, and I find it a delightful day-to-day account of what she’s doing. Sometimes the animals take center stage, sometimes the hard work of farming, sometimes the garden harvest and cooking of same, and sometimes we go on vacation with her (there are over 5,000 people who follow her blog – !!) – all this with great photos of her farm (by “Camera House” – even her camera has a name and entity – I love this woman!), her animals (spring babies!) and scenery on her travels.  She posts every single day, for which I am very envious, and she has copious numbers of commenters (the Fellowship), which she calls the Lounge of Commenters.  Isn’t that delightful?

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Salal blossoms.

At any rate, Celi had a wonderful post the other day.  Sometimes she just riffs on a thought and it can be profound, with observations as keen and insightful as any philosopher’s, as this one was. It was called A Chair of My Own.

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A recent bee convention over some old honeycomb I had. I got several species of bumblebee, as well as the honey bees and even a yellowjacket or two.

Many of the comments added to the conversation and further enlightenment, as they often do.  And I reflected on my own situation, with my own self-imposed cage(s), and then on to my own animals and their habits. How DO the sheep see me? Little Trixie and her brother Mungo seem to love me, with Mungo especially coming at a run and staying with me for as long as I’ll scratch his chin, even when the rest of the flock has run off to the ecstasy of release to fresh grass.  It warms my heart that the two of them, and their mother sometimes, would rather be with me than with the other sheep. Is it intentional? Do they know that this will keep them from the freezer permanently? Those feral ones who behave as if I’m coming with a noose when I’m just bringing them dinner…well, they are creating their own reality, as I will be reviewing this year’s shearing and making some decisions based on their fleeces (my freezer is almost empty and I’m beginning to really enjoy mutton).  And just that has me reeling with recognition.  I struggle with my own choices in life (mostly related to job/income) and how my perception of things colors my reality: the fear/s that keep me where I am, instead of where I want to go, who I want to be and what I want to accomplish before this gig is up.

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The bird dogs covering the driveway action: squirrels at one end, cars and motorcycles at the other, and croaking (teasing) ravens overhead.

And what do the dogs think of me, and our life here?  Or of the dog park of their life on the farm, but confining in its own way as well.  I think they know the oasis they provide for me (I tell them, and thank them, often), and hopefully know how profoundly grateful I am to them for keeping me afloat emotionally, mentally, and every other way there is.  I cannot repay them for all they give me, which is why I am so “lenient” on them with regards to making them behave. I sing to them as I make them dinner, or when I come home to their unbridled joy at seeing me (and me them!).  I make up the songs as I go, usually sung to an old, well-known tune, and I know it makes them happy when I sing (because they know I sing when I’m happy).  I also know they love it when I laugh, and I see how hard they work to keep me happy and laughing.  I joke that they have me very well trained (when I buy 10 boxes of biscuits at a time the clerks always ask me about it; we go through at least 3 (1-pound) boxes a week here).  But who am I to these creatures that mean so much to me?  Is it as profound to them as it is to me? I think of each of them and how they came to me, the obstacles they overcame to reach me, or for me to find them.  Is it just me, or is this as profound for everyone here?  I think of finding my first sheep, the serendipity around all of it…though I think it’s more than just chance, or coincidence.  Do they think that too?  How about you, and the animals in your life?

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Gratuitous cuteness: the old guy, traipsing into the house with his swamp legs after a dip in the swampy little pond-ette on a hot spring evening.

Waking up with flying squirrels

I make no secret that I sleep with dogs.  My running joke–though no one seems to enjoy it as much as I–is that every night is a three dog night.  Often the three cats will join us, for a snug six-pack of furry warmth next to me, on top of me, pushing me out.  I’ve awoken in all sorts of horizontal “Twister”-style contortions, with all of them surrounding me in a jigsaw puzzle of beating hearts.

Bedtop real estate is rarely contested, though there are grumbles and discussions, usually between Farley and Cutter.  While Farley always concedes, moving away in a scuttling rush, he does so with his warbling complaining growl (he wouldn’t dare growl for real) that elicits a talking response from Cutter.  Once The Monster (Cutter) is settled, always perpendicular to me, his head on my hip or leg, Farley leaps up to curl up next to /on my shoulder. 

Farley is the baby of the family.  Somewhere around 3 1/2 or 4 years old, he joined the pack three years ago.  The Rottweilers accepted him and his always wagging tail, and his insane energy and drives.  And I learned about the vast differences between a working breed and a sporting breed.  Far is all birddogbird dog, all the time.  During the long winter months, when the weather is lousy and the back yard is a soupy mire of mud, Farley finds ways to entertain himself, and in the process, me. 

My bird dog is all about his toys, and his delight with each one is such that I can’t help buying him new ones frequently.  He has a toy box that’s brimmng with stuffed squeakys and chew ropes, bones and balls.  Not to mention the sea turtles that are living under the bed, the pheasants lying around the house, the dimply honky ball (now in the wash), soft squeaky balls in every corner, a honking duck, a honking heart-shape (the honking sound is a siren song to Farley, so many of his toys have this) and the latest, a flying squirrel.  The toys are ever present, being tossed seductively to entice me to play.  As soon as I look at the item dropped by my feet he goes into a classic Setter crouch, poised for the feeble indoor throw, then the mad scramble for it as if there were even a remote chance of any competition for its retrieval.  He flips and tosses with delight (more than one toy has ended up in a pot of soup or sauce on the stove) and honks or squeaks incessantly.  And at the end of the night, one or more toys will have made it into the bed with us.  Thus, waking up bleary eyed and rolling over, I encounter this in the morning:

The squirrel

Yes, this flying squirrel is cousin to Rocky, of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame.  The chinstrap of his starred “helmet” turns into a slingshot, so one can launch him by pulling back on the tail and letting go.  The thing makes (er, made) a squirrelly chattering noise as it flies through the air, little red cape fluttering, eyes goggling out of its felt goggles.  The flying squirrel was pretty much anFarley instant hit. 

 I know it will only be a matter of time before another toy comes home with me to join the squadron.  And really, with a face like this, who could resist?

The search…continued

Okay, so to back up for a moment, let’s consider the “what” since the what to a large degree will determine the where.  (Who’s on first.)  No, really.  What I want is the primary part of the search, for me.  And first and foremost, I want acreage.  At least three acres and preferably five or more.  After living in town for nearly eight months now, this has become even more apparent to me.

After selling my house in Sammamish I moved to a rental home on acreage in Carnation.  Five blissful acres, bordered on two sides by a wildlife preserve, and two mostly quiet neighbors (both also on five or more acres) on the other two sides.  THIS is what I wanted when I left my one acre in Sammamish.  Elbow room and quiet, without feeling like your every move can be monitored by a nosy neighbor.  Room for the dogs to wander, for Farley to do his bird dog thing, and for all of us to settle in the quietude we needed after four stressful months of real estate frenzy.  Then, after eight months, real estate intervened again.  My landlord needed to put the home on the market and we moved into town.

At first living downtown in a small town was a fun novelty.  I hadn’t lived in a real neighborhood for over 25 years.  I could (and do) walk to the library, to the post office (this is a necessity, since they don’t deliver mail to this address — it seems the house is too close to the post office to warrant that service), to local shopping and restaurants, and to the large county park along the river.  This is hugely convenient, and during the December snowstorms, a great benefit.  But with the closeness and convenience comes, well, the closeness.  It’s a small town, so it’s not like there’s tons of traffic, but there is constant activity.  Foot traffic and vehicle traffic (especially motorcycles, big trucks and bicycles) make the dogs a little crazy.  Well, Farley anyway.  He’s easily stimulated, and can be an absolute idiot when outside and there’s activity on three sides of the house. 

The house here is on a large lot in the middle of the block, and completely fenced (chain link), with cross-fencing to keep the front and back yards separate.  That being said, we’re surrounded.  There are houses on each side and no privacy whatsoever.  No matter where you are on the property, you can be sure you’re in full view of someone, should they care to look.  This is true to a large extent for the inside of the house too, and I dress/undress furtively unless in one of the small bathrooms.  The neighbors are all nice people, and have put up with and/or been charmed by my chickens and the dogs.  But this closeness has just underlined my desire for more room, and the two homes in the past 16 months have provided great contrast and, in general terms, clarity.  My interests and desires lean toward animals and farming, and living  close enough to the hear telephone conversations of my neighbors on a warm day pretty much precludes both.

So, I know I need room in the form of multiple acres–literally, emotionally, spiritually, etcetera.  And I need a house on that acreage, preferably stick built, and certainly move in ready.  I’ve looked at a lot of parcels in the past 18 months, many very nice ones, some not so nice, some with nice bits, some where the preview pictures were totally deceiving. There was more than one that looked positively bucolic, only to arrive on site and find the Ma and Pa Kettle neighbors breathing down your neck, with pallet barns and blue tarps fluttering in the breeze in full view of your front window.  I’m sure they’re very nice people.  I’m still looking.

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