Quiet

Our post-holiday hibernation has begun.

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On New Year’s Eve we went to a beautiful wedding – our dear friends Heather and Terry. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more beautiful wedding. I also cannot conceive of a better way to have ushered out the old year. Maddie and John were there with us, and afterward we waited for midnight and welcomed 2017 (and let’s be honest, told 2016 to go f*ck itself) with our friends the Stowells.

The next day I took down the tree and hauled it out to the flock to snack on.  It was a bit of a wet and muddy start to the year, and though I’m out making sure the shelters are dry for them, it’s just been too gross out to do much more with them lately. It’s likely too early to be able to check for any kind of udder development, and they’re not too keen on being chased around anyway.

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I am enjoying the winter light, though, and the cozy feeling inside.  This time of year all I want to do is bake bread, and in the interest of hygge and making winter enjoyable for everyone, I’ve been doing just that as much as I can.

We also decided to make Orzo a house dog. He simply could not be contained on our property, and hasn’t seemed to taken to the guarding life. He’s more of a chaser – which is great if you have tons of acreage and another dog or two to stay with the flock . We simply don’t have the land for that, and he never seemed happy out there. So, we cleaned him up and brought him in, and though I think he’d still rather be outside roaming, he has adjusted to being an indoor pet, and is for the most part very chill.

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He’s filled in right where Cini left off. He loves the cats and they love him. He and Pippa get along just fine. He’s also mostly adjusted to being walked on a leash.

Except.

Except that we got a few inches of snow this week. Just enough to be a light covering, melt slightly, and refreeze into ice. When I took him out the other night, as usual, I brought a heavy maglight  flashlight and let him do his business. On the way back in, I started up the stairs to the back deck, and he…didn’t. He pulled to my left, away from the deck, and I slipped on the icy steps, and fell into the shed and bannister. My ring finger got caught and smashed under the weight of me plus the maglight. And broke.

So that was fun! I’m in a splint for 4-6 weeks while it heals. Paul’s been on Orzo walk duty since, and Orzo’s made himself snuggly for me in the meantime.

And yes! I did mention snow!

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Not much, just a couple of inches. Still, enough to be lovely.

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As for Sabine, she doesn’t seem fazed at all that Orzo isn’t out there with her. She’s always slept among the sheep and stood guard, even when Orzo beckoned her to play.  She is a true guard dog, and bonded to her flock. And she loooooooves the snow! When it was falling she was rolling around in it and looking quite pleased. Given the choice between her shelter and the snow, she’ll take the snow, every time. Hopefully this won’t be the extent of our winter weather this year!

Solstice

“And so the Shortest Day came and the year died

And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world

Came people singing, dancing,

To drive the dark away.

They lighted candles in the winter trees;

They hung their homes with evergreen;

They burned beseeching fires all night long

To keep the year alive.

And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake

They shouted, reveling.

Through all the frosty ages you can hear them

Echoing behind us – listen!

All the long echoes, sing the same delight,

This Shortest Day,

As promise wakens in the sleeping land:

They carol, feast, give thanks,

And dearly love their friends,

And hope for peace.

And now so do we, here, now.

This year and every year.”

 

Susan Cooper

 

It’s the Winter Solstice, once again. Slowly but surely the light will come back now, as we round the year and tilt toward summer again.  But first, winter is upon us (though it remains relatively warm here, and aggravatingly snow-free). It felt fitting to spend the day baking cookies and enjoying each other’s company. In the late afternoon I took my usual walk around the pastures and found my center among the natural world.  This is my favorite time of year for walking in the woods and bringing treats to the sheep. Though low, the stream is full of tiny minnows. The dried-up weeds and vines and fallen trees become like hedgerows, teeming with birds. You’d be forgiven for thinking there was a huge animal crashing about out there, the birds are so plentiful and noisy. It’s hard to get pictures of them; I haven’t got a zoom lens and they fly off in huge clouds of winds and chirping if I get too close.

I can see now that the small, wild holly trees are thriving, and I’m hoping I can transplant them at some point to a better location. I also found the remains of a skunk in the back pasture, who I assume was killed by one of the many hawks we see out there every day. We’d been smelling the pervasive scent rather strongly back in October, but never found the source.

After dinner the girls and I bundled into the car and we set off for our yearly viewing of Christmas lights. It seemed fitting on the night of the Solstice to celebrate the colorful lights people have on their homes.

Happy Solstice, all. May your days be long and bright, and your nights warm and cheerful.

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Gearing Up For Christmas

We are finally starting to really feel some of the holiday spirit we’ve been needing. I won’t give all the credit to gluhwein and egg nog, but it certainly hasn’t hurt!

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Everyone loves the tree!  It feels magical at night with the tree lights and the heady scent of fresh pine. If only we’d get some snow, to complete the effect.

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We’ve only just begun our cookie baking in earnest, and I’m definitely feeling the crunch. We’ve managed to get some pfeffernusse done today and I’m working on linzer cookies next. Tomorrow I’ll put the kids to work making the iced cookies.

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Oona’s been working on her Christmas gift knitting in between devouring chapters of Harry Potter.  She’s completely obsessed right now, and I couldn’t be happier. I told Paul that since she was too young to really appreciate Harry Potter World when we went to Universal Studios that we’ll have to taker her again!

Tonight we are watching It’s A Wonderful Life while I frantically work on more cookies, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Pig Building

You’ll have to bear with the pictures here – they were taken through the window with my phone, because every time I try to capture this outside with my camera, they stop.

Lately the pigs have taken to nest building in the side yard. They’ve been accumulating old feed bags, sticks, hay, and leaves and creating a massive pile that they burrow into.

Keep in mind that these guys have an actual shelter to sleep in, and to stay out of the weather.

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Here they are shouting and scratching around.

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Churchill burrowing.

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And now you can’t even see him under there.

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Meanwhile Charlie’s working on bringing another load of hay and leaves.

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Cracks me up seeing them carrying these piles in their mouths.

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Charlie’s turn to burrow.  Eventually he went for more hay and then lost interest for awhile.

Im half tempted to move their nest into their shelter so they’ll stay in there, but I also wonder if that will just make them mad.

 

 

The Land of Goodbyes

I’ve been pretty quiet here for a few weeks. It’s been pretty fair to say that we’ve taken a few gut punches recently and I’ve not really been ready to talk about it; in fact I haven’t really wanted to talk much at all. But, I’m feeling like I can at least dip a toe back into life and try to see how to move forward and how to keep going while still trying to come to terms with reality.

This past weekend we had to bury our grumpy old man, Gulliver. I didn’t expect it to happen so soon, and I certainly wasn’t prepared with how hard it would hit me. Certainly he was getting old, but not that old. Looking back, though, I can see that the last year he was clearly much slower, much more subdued. He spent the vast majority of his time curled up in the laundry, not really wanting to interact. I’d try to make him come downstairs and sit on someone’s lap, or at least curl up on the couch and be around the family, but he’d inevitably and slowly hobble back up the stairs to the relative dark and comfort of the dirty clothes. Eventually I put a gate up so he wouldn’t keep making this retreat and we could actually keep an eye on him. I also knew he must be developing arthritis, since the stairs seemed to bother him now.

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He was happy to have a lap most days, but you could tell he just wanted to go off on his own.

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On Saturday he passed away at home, next to Paul, quietly. He simply stopped breathing, and that was that. If nothing else, I am glad he was home, warm and dry, and not alone.

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We used to joke that he was going to live forever because he was such a mean little thing sometimes. There’s no one in this house he hasn’t bitten at least once. Nevertheless, I’m going to miss the little booger, quite a lot.

Unfortunately, his loss is a rather “insult to injury” situation, because there is even more bad news.

On Monday the 14th of this month, Cini wandered out for his early morning pee and never returned.

We’ve spent countless hours trudging in the rain and mud through numerous yards, woods, drainage ditches, creeks, storm drains, and neighborhoods. I’ve driven all over the county, even to spots that I know deep down he’d never make it to on his own, with his bad hips. I’ve posted all over the internet. I’ve had conversations about him with everyone I’ve come into contact with who lives locally. I’ve called the shelters. It’s as if he simply vanished. It’s eerily similar to how Gulliver tried so hard to be off on his own, and many friends have said it seems like he probably did just that. I am having a hard time accepting that. True, he was very old for a dog of his size and breed. He was having trouble getting around and he was getting skinnier and skinnier despite being fed more and more. He just didn’t seem close to death’s door…..but then again neither did Gulliver. It’s been a bitter pill to swallow, and truthfully, I keep spitting it out. It’s been two weeks and I am still looking for him every day. Still hoping against hope.

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The only thing I’ve been able to do to offer myself any real comfort is simply doubling down on the affection and treats for the remaining dogs. It helps, but it doesn’t fill that hole.

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Honestly I don’t think I will ever stop looking. Not knowing is very, very difficult.

It feels very quiet and lonely in the house lately. We’ve put up a tree and decorated, and soon I will unabashedly throw myself into Christmas. For the moment, though, I am not through with my grief, and I have more walks to take through the woods before I can come out and fully join the world again.