Friday, July 21, 2017

Flying Lessons


It happened like this last year...but there were fewer geese. About the first week of June, two adult birds, walked out of the tall grass, separating the "wetlands" on one side of the property, followed by three gosligs, just old enough to get into the water. This year it is four adults and 9 goslings--no doubt, at least one has returned from last year, with family ir friends.

They have been here the summer, since June. Flying lessons began yesterday. The adults coax the adolescents to fly down the slight slope into the pond, at the same time calling and honking, much as they will when they leave in a few weeks, or pass by on their way north or south.

I like the idea of the geese on the pond, and they arrived shortly after Mr. Duck's demise and Mrs. Duck's return to the safety of a wading pool at a neighbor's home, so they filled the void of the duck shenanigans, but I've definitely cut back on swimming in the pond.

I wonder how many will return next year and what we might do to deter them? The former owner had a large alligator head floating in the middle of the pond, and we all thought it was his sense of humor. It probably was to keep  the geese at someone else's pond.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Strawberries


A summer tradition the past couple years is the June trek to LaVigne's Farm to pick the most delicious strawberries. It was a hot morning after rain off and on for the past few weeks, and the berries were just perfect. The real challenge is to be realistic about the time it takes to process them into the freezer, or to make jelly. As luck would have it, there are still frozen berries from last year that will go into smoothies before these are eaten.

With the exception of a pint, these were all cleaned and put on trays in the freezer. Perhaps we'll make jelly later in the summer.

Picking strawberries always takes me back to my grandfather's backyard truck garden on Bayshore Rd. in Cape May. As a child, Gram would let us pick berries and sit out at the side of the road to sell what we picked. We then saved the quarters we earned for skee-ball on the boardwalk, or amusement rides in Wildwood. It seems like yesterday, in the field, feeling the sun on my shoulders, picking the just the ripest berries--I'm a kid again dreaming about the beach and strawberry shortbread with homemade whip cream. 

I can't wait for the blueberries to ripen up!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Where's Dinner


Late in the afternoon the senior goats are taking over the patio, making themselves comfortable, waiting for the cocktail hour. Just because there's a barn in the background, or rubber boats in the entryway doesn't mean there's a real farmer on the property, "Right gals?"

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Frozen Dock

 The First Nor'easter


The first heavy snowfall of the season arrived yesterday, so it was a couple hours of cleanup, which of course, included creating a path around the pond with the snow blower. It was one of those times when I was questioning my sanity and priorities, because it was cold, and I'm not at all convinced that the ice beneath the snow is still good for skating. Time will tell.

Sane or not, if you've had the opportunity to skate by moonlight in your front yard, or anywhere for that matter, you'll understand that it is worth the chance, spending a bit of time preparing for the next opportunity. Forecast calls for more snow today, followed by another Nor'easter bringing nearly 2 feet of snow...maybe it's time to get out the skies again! 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Hen House

Falling Snow


This was Wednesday morning, after the Nor'easter had just started building up some steam. So far, this year, we've missed the heavy snowfall--instead we've received several storms that are a mixture of snow, followed by freezing rain. It has kept the snowfall down but made the commuting a real mess.

This is the "new" hen house, at the end of the fence, half buried in snow,  waiting for clearer weather and a new flock of laying hens.   

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Duck Tracks

 Duck Tracks in the Snow


Our ducks keep a watchful eye on the pond. They seem to have taken to the barn for the winter, without too much difficulty--they do, after all, have a little turtle-shaped wading pool, with a water heater to prevent the water from freezing. Usually, Mr. and Mrs. Duck walk down to the shore and look out over the frozen pond, and share a few duck words at what used to be the water's edge, then return to the barn. Today was different though, one of them decided to take a little walk along the pond. I wonder if they have a little calendar on which they are crossing off the days until the water thaws?

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Lionel Milk Car

Dad's Lionel Trains


  I can't remember the last year Dad's trains were set up. I think it was in Lincroft, NJ which would have been 1973, or so--perhaps 43 years ago. We didn't know that would be the last time they would be set up. I remember the first time I saw them, as a young child in Jackson, MI. They were set up in the basement, on a piece of plywood set on top of wooden barrels, in which the train gear was stored. This might have been 1963, when I was 4.

It was an amazing setup! There was a trestle, and tunnel, fruit trees, and a station with people waiting, and there was the smell of electricity when it was turned on, and the hum of the controller as you pushed it forward to speed the trains up, or pulled back to slow them down. I was 4 years old then, and the train set was amazing with the lights on the trains, the sleek looking diesel, and the locomotive. The milk car was one of my favorites because as it went around, the milkman would move in and out. and little cans fo milk could be released.

The boxes of trains were located in the garage, at my mom's home and will now go to my sister's storage unit. No telling if they will still run, although I suspect they will. I asked Mom if she had any idea how Dad saved the money as a kid to buy his trains, but she didn't know. She guessed he may have gotten one car a year. This is just one of the questions, I wish I'd thought to ask Dad before he died.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Machines

 Snowblowers That Start


The snowblower wouldn't start recently, and as it turned out, it was because the gas I used to fill it, had some water in it. Before it would start, I needed to drain the gas out using, of all things, a basting tool, sucking up a little at a time.

Two years ago, this snowblower stopped running after about 45 minutes. Aa it turned out, a defect in the engine permitted a drain oil drain plug to work itself loose, draining out all the oil, until the engine seized. I bought a new engine and had it installed.

I realized, even before this happened, I have a sneaking suspicion that engines will not start, and this goes back to a place that I can't remember. I love engines and anything with a motor--lawn mowers, motorcycles, scooters-- but I am not surprised when these things don't work for me, and always suspicious, as if it is just a matter of time before I am betrayed by this engine.

There is nothing quite like the magic of a working snowblower. Without it, there would be hours of work shoveling the snow away from the barn doors and keeping a path to the barn for hay or delivering grain. I think about the gas that is used, and I am always amazed at the amount of work a quart of gas can do. I also think about all of us jsut starting our snowblowers and living our lives in such a way that we just use a quart of gas, instead of considering other, alternative ways.

For now, this winter, at 57 I am just grateful that the new engine starts nearly every time I pull the starter rope, and it is easy to replace the sheer pins when they snap off. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Winter Grazing

Brief Thaw


Even the ducks enjoyed the milder weather that exposed the grass for a couple days . We know what the goats were doing--eating the thawed grass, picking out just the right clumps. We still don't know what the ducks found so exciting, there was no chance of an insect out and near the surface in this weather--do they eat grass too?

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Hay Helpers

 Helping With the Hay


Mr. and Mrs. Duck take a few minutes out of their busy schedule in the heated wading pool to offer a helping inspirational quack or two while hay is being hauled up to the barn loft. Inspiration is always in short supply loading hay in the winter! 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Three Goats

Hello You Does!


Piper, Simone, and Star. Piper is one of the original goats in our herd, and she came from farmer Joel. She has never been bred, and we are hoping her date was successful with Eddie a few weeks ago. Piper is a taller goat, part Nubian and Alpine. Eddie, on the other hand, was much shorter, a Nigerian Dwarf. It made, I'm certain for an exciting date. Simone too, original came from farmer Joel, and has been bar n pals with Piper, since the beginning. Simone is self-appointed queen of the herd and is the oldest of the goats. We chose not to introduce her to Eddie, for that reason. She may be retired at this point. Star, the goat on the right, is one of Simone's daughters, and we are hopeful she was bred successfully with Eddie.

It's hard not to have a great day after a greeting like this in the barn! 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Not Yet, Ducks

Ducks Checking on Spring


Mr. and Mrs. Duck ventured into the front yard, because the snow has completely melted. I thought they were simply taking a look at the condition of the pond--which they did, but then spent an hour nosing around the brown leaves and frost. Were they just curious, or was there something for them to eat in the grass? The ducks really do live in a different world! 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

New Nest Egg

Winter Relinquishing to Spring


Mrs. Duck has made a small indentation in the hay, in a corner beneath a board up against a wall, and has been laying an egg each day. It seems to have begin almost the same time the light began to grower longer during the day. It is a wonderful sign to walk into the barn, when it is 15 degrees, snow on the ground, and a real bite to the air, to find a fresh egg. Mrs. Duck is not sitting on the egg nor does she seem protective at all at this time.

It is still January, and darn cold, but there is an egg, in the corner of the barn, and spring will come...  

Friday, January 13, 2017

Skating

Skating Away


Skating Away
Skating Away
Skating Away, On the thin ice of a new day...

Ian Anderson, Jethro Tull

 There was no skating last year, and it seems there was very little skating the year before. We've had an odd mix of snow, sleet and rain this year, with some recent fluctuations in the weather, that has left the ice really excellent, with just enough ripples to keep you on your toes.

After the last snow, I cleared off a path with the snowblower all around the perimeter. It was ready for the waxing moon, and i was able to skate one early evening by moonlight. I kept thinking to myself that there was nothing like skating by moonlight--I kept pinching myself, it felt like a gift. 

I remembered years ago, that my father took us skating, as kids, to a public park in Holmdel. NJ. I recall  being amazed at how well he skated--very gracefully, and was able to skate backwards as well! I remembered, in the moonlight, that he would take each of our skates between his legs, and use a tool that hooked the cross of the laces and pulled them tight. He went eye by eye and tightened them, sending us on our way. I wondered if I'd ever told my son that his grandfather was a good ice skater, and for some reason, this seemed very important suddenly.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Library Table

A Family Heirloom Begins


This must be the beginning of a family heirloom. This oak library table was the source of many jokes and snide remarks over the years. Mom brought this table home many years ago--at least 10, when she and Dad were up visiting. I'm not certain where it came from, but it was mustard yellow originally, and in pieces. Off it went, as I said it would, to the shed, where it was moved several times, before it inhabited a corner, behind a make-shift workbench, beneath a canvas bag with old sweatshirts, and an ash bucket with a rusted bottom next to it.Each time the shed was straightened out, I thought about dragging it out to the roadside with a "FREE" sign on it.

At one point, Bev saw it, and suggested it was something she wanted to undertake. This was a couple years ago. It was one of the things that was finally moved from the shed, when the recent tenants moved in this past fall. Like many of Mom's projects, this one expanded, because the hardware was no longer working, the pedestals were cracked and needed to be filled in, the finish on the top was in different layers and needed to be smoothed out, etc.

So the heirloom to be went to her ex husband's, who actually knows how to work on wood furniture, and he repaired the surface, drilled new holes for the pedestal legs, and returned it to us in a condition for painting. After painting, it went into the Air B&B room for the television. It looked beautiful. I was skeptical, but now there is a new story that involved our extended family and created this new heirloom, "The Oak Library Table That Mom Dragged Home."  

Friday, January 6, 2017

Swiping the Gingerbread

This Will Be Trouble!


An ugly rumor started some years ago, which is absolutely true. After the holidays, before meeting me, the gingerbread house that Bev made would go into the trash, presumably because it was stale, after sitting out for a couple weeks. In my world, there is almost no such thing as stale candy or cookies...and certainly not gingerbread. So, each year, when the signal was given, I would begin the demolition process. Some years were faster than others, but it was always an excess. Each year, Bev would look at the carnage--point it out to friends, neighbors, and family, as though I was the only one in the world capable of such excess.

All I can say is that those pink jammies in the picture are not mine, and a hunk of chocolate covered pretzel at the door is missing!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Fresh snow

Heavy Snow


Although the accumulation of snow was not very high, the snow mixed with rain and sleet at several points in the storm, making it heavy, weighing down the evergreen limbs. I watched our goats immediately run for the branches that were now low enough to the ground, from the snow, to eat. Fresh evergreen salad after the storm, and they all seemed delighted with the treat. I had often wondered what deer found to eat in the winter, and it occurred to me watching the goats, that while the storm may have brought chores to some of us, it brought a meal to others, heartily enjoyed on a cold winter's day!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Uncles Farm Set

Putting Away the Farm


Uncle Levan's farm set stayed up slightly longer than the Christmas tree, but by only a day or two. It was wrapped and put away, with care, while i was at work. It had quite a few updates this year, some straw for the animals, a weather vane, the fruit trees were painted, and it was loved.

There is a poem, a conversation, a burning ember from this putting up and taking down. It is a joy, that for me is also shadowed somehow, by the taking down, the end of the holiday, the hands that have touched this farm that are not here today. Would the joy and the nostalgia be different if i could shake off the story of how it was made? The B&W photos of the old Dickinson farmstead in Erma-- my grandfather with Mom as a little girl, my great grandparents on their 65th wedding anniversary? Knowing Uncle Levan was a talented sign painter and communicated by handing folks a pad and pencil to write on, because he was deaf?

All of these stories, and more go up with the tree, and the inherited ornaments, with each chicken and lamb of the farm set. One by one they are recalled, with a smile, with some sorrow that this as passed, and I wonder if it is just me, or if the beauty I see in each of these things, the tug I feel from Christmases past are part of the elegance of this moment. Perhaps it is all a part of the Solstice season, when there is just less between this world and the spirits, and we are all able to be together for a brief celebration, before being returned to the box, and next year's memories. Until next year, Uncle!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Muskrat Trails in the Snow

Muskrat Bob Sledding


For most of the summer, we watched a muskrat going back and forth across the pond, usually with cattails in it's mouth. At first we had no idea what it was and Bev reminded me on more than one occasion, as I was about to go swimming, that in addition to the snapping turtle that belonged in Jurassic Park, there was an unknown something or other crisscrossing the pond.

A conversation with the former owner solved the riddle. He reported that he often had muskrats, and they did a great job of controlling the cattails, and indeed, he has. There are far fewer around the pond in previous years, and for this I am grateful.

The other day, our next door neighbor, who I know very little after 4 years, I must confess, appeared to be working on his lawn tractor with the snowblower mounted to the front. We'd received quite a bit of snow, so I walked over with a shovel in hand to help. When I arrived, he reported there was a muskrat up in the snowblower...and I was mightily reassured to learn that it had not been run over, but ran up underneath when it got startled crossing the driveway. 

With a fishing pole and a couple shovel handles we convinced the muskrat to vacate the undercarriage of the John Deere and off he went, sliding along on his belly like a bobsledder . I was gld to learn that my neighbor would take the time to coax a startled muskrat out from under his tractor!