Good Dog

The kids were 6ish and under when we had to put Clint & Fenway down, our 13 & 14-year-old Yellow Labs.  The plan to wait until each was old enough to train their own dog was partly for them to experience responsibility, give them the opportunity to become educated in animal handling, and also to allow them the gift of relationship that pets provide.  It was tough, in the interim, and we glommed onto every dog that we came across, snuggling and petting to get a “fix.”

When our eldest was 10, he’d been pouring through dog books for nearly a year and had picked out a handful of potential puppies for us to look at.  Our youngest, 6 at the time, was allergic to many types of pet dander, so we shopped pups by bringing her to each litter, exposing her to the lot to see how she reacted, and chose accordingly.  Char was NOT allergic to Springer Spaniels and that was how we ended up with Abe.

In July of 2001, the family drove to a kennel in East Burke, Vermont , the Northeast Kingdom, and sat on the floor of an English Springer Spaniel nursery for about an hour.  It was difficult to decide in the sea of wiggly-waggy tails.  The largest pup hung back and didn’t clamor for attention, patient to be discovered and cuddled.  Those traits seemed noble for a youngster and that is how Jody ended up selecting him.  He had chosen the name, “Sir Abraham, Lord of Tintagel” based on his admiration for Abraham Lincoln and the village associated with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.  “Abe” for short.

A bird-dog wasn’t the wisest choice a family could make when they raise chickens and other poultry, but Abe was smart and Jody was dedicated to his training.  We can’t recollect exactly, but we think he only killed one or two chickens in his early days.  (This is notably successful as Jackie, Sarah Jane’s Spaniel three years later, had numbers in the teens to her “credit.”)

From early on, he was an old soul of a dog, learning his lessons quickly and possessing wisdom beyond his years, as they say.  However, there was the one disconnect which plagued him consistently to the end of his time:  he refused to return the stick or ball or toy in a game of fetch.  He’d stand on the outskirts and bark for attention to play, then would fetch the toy enthusiastically and hold on to it.  We smartened up as our dog-family grew, choosing Abe as a game-ender if we got tired of throwing for the other two(who seem to have no “off” button.)  If you fatigued of  fetch with the pups, just toss it to Abe and he’d finish for you.

He collected quantities of sticks in his mouth, contributing to his nubbins of teeth after only a few years.  Our vet definitely gave us some wrist-slaps for that, but his stick-dog status was almost irreversible by that point.  And yes, a couple of times in his life he had a piece of kindling wedged into his mouth whereby we had to pry his jaws while extracting the lodged, oversized splinters.

He loved nothing more than when a car full of kids pulled up and playmates spilled out. Parents would find themselves hanging around, waiting for their kids or the dogs to tire, but neither would.  It was a nice way to extend visits, actually.

It is likely that Abe best-loved being with Jody and being on the water.  The two would walk to the pond daily before Jody could drive.  Jody would cast(Abe was never one to wander and would sit and wait by the pond), and afterward, he would get to jump in and swim, paddling after sticks or balls that Jody would toss in.  He’d charge and dive with enthusiasm, never tiring, finding the floating objects, returning them to shore to await the next toss.

Streamside fishing was a different type of playground, allowing him to explore woodlands and splash about, downstream, while his boy fished up, and up, and upstream.  If Abe was to try to play upstream, it ended the fishing outings early as the trout would scatter after he’d slogged about.

As Jody got older, Abe thrilled for the boating outings and was the designated first mate.  He loved inspecting the fish, giving them a kiss of approval before Jody would release them.  He would brace for the fast ride with the wind in his hair, ears, gums flapping.  He snorted and snuffled about as the boat would slow and idle, regaining his footing for the new location.  He followed Jody during his college bass fishing tournament career with the Virginia Tech Bass Fishing Team.  He became known at regional and national tournaments as a mascot.  He popped into the car for the 12 hour trips to Virginia, happy and wagging when we’d arrive.

He had endearing traits of collapsing and rolling over with grateful enthusiasm when you would arrive home after being away, or greeting you with a huge grin.  The grin was so absurd and I’m not sure if we ever did get an opportunity to photograph it – but everyone that saw it would remark “Look!  He’s smiling!”  We are all sure he was mimicking us, he was certainly smart enough.  We also think that he taught Cricket, our youngest Spaniel, to smile.

He’d started to show his age about a year ago, what with those oversized limbs and all of the wear & tear from a lifetime of fetching…So it was not a surprise to recognize recently that he was at that point in his life.  We always sort of thought he’d maybe lose his legs, his mobility, and that would be our sign.  In the last month, though, we noticed he’d developed some growths which we’d decided not to explore. He’d become markedly anemic, had more labored breathing and was just slowing down to that point when you know that surgery and treatments are likely going to prolong the inevitable.  In the last 6 days, he’d stopped eating.

Jody moved to Minnesota in the past month for a job he secured in his final semester of college.  Relocating to an apartment a time-zone away, travelling for work, & senior-pup-status all meant that Abe should stay here on the farm.  I’d phoned him on Sunday to tell him the sad news.

I dug a big old hole in the ground by the pond for him yesterday. We brought him there on our laps in the back of the pickup truck and set him down. The first thing he did was walk down to the edge to get a drink of water, then stare off at the big willow tree.  We can only wonder what he was thinking.  Our very compassionate vet-friend came by to put him down, to give us kind words and guidance.  He’d also brought along his tech assistant who generously supported in every way.  Friends and neighbors across the board offered condolences.

We wrapped him in a beautiful quilted tapestry that Char had made and our family carefully nestled him into his grave.  We took our time covering him carefully with daisies and soil, and gently filled in the space to the top.  We’re going to plant a tree there.  Sarah Jane believes his spirit will always be felt here on the farm.

As do I.

Good Dog, Abe

Good Dog, Abe

little pup, big bowl

little pup, big bowl

Jody, SJ & Char with Abe in 2001 on Lake Champlain

Jody, SJ & Char with Abe in 2001 on Lake Champlain

Abe, trolling the pond

Abe, trolling the pond

Front of the boat

Front of the boat

Game on

Game on

Cricket looked up to Abe from the start

Cricket looked up to Abe from the start

2006 Christmas picture -yup, Abe is the flying dog

2006 Christmas picture -yup, Abe is the flying dog

Ice fishing pup

Ice fishing pup

Abe, not feeling the cold

Abe, not feeling the cold

Tournament Abe & his boy

Tournament Abe & his boy

Fast boat ride Abe

Fast boat ride Abe

Mile Around Woods & Abe

Mile Around Woods, North Bennington, Vermont

Fresh Eggs

We wash the eggs the day we pack them for sale.

Last night I was busy painting our bathroom. I’d hoped for a night off in the kitchen but it didn’t quite work out the way I’d envisioned.  Dinner was exquisite anyway.  I cooked two delicious and very fresh eggs.  They were perfect.

We’re just spoiled rotten around here.

Taking the daily eggs out to the road side.

Taking the daily eggs out to the road side.

Fresh Eggs sign boasts a Barred Rock on one side, a Rhode Island Red on the other.

Fresh Eggs sign boasts a Barred Rock on one side, a Rhode Island Red on the other.

I stand at the side of the road all day long and yell "Fresh Eggs!" (Only yoking, folks!)

I stand at the side of the road all day long and yell “Fresh Eggs!” (Only yolking, folks!)

Jackie will lick you if you steal 'em!

Jackie will lick you if you steal ’em!

This is how we sell eggs in the country.

This is how we sell eggs in the country.

Hard working hens having a nibble of grain on a winter's day.  They are free to forage as well, though winter foraging is a bit slimmer than the rest of the year.

Hard working hens having a nibble of grain on a winter’s day. They are free to forage as well, though winter foraging is a bit slimmer than the rest of the year.

Sassy Wing and a Prayer Farm Sultan-mix hen is very comfortable with me and Cricket

Sassy Wing and a Prayer Farm Sultan-mix hen is very comfortable with me and Cricket

Hmmm, wonder how these would stack up in a taste test?

Hmmm, wonder how these would stack up in a taste test?

Flying. Nuns.

Yesterday a friend and goat admirer stopped by while I was doing morning chores.  I was bundled to the nines, it was bitter in the a.m. and the morning barn is a cold barn.

Funny thing is that the evening beforehand I was having a great time mocking the commercials about some sort of cosmetic surgery to reconstruct your chin/neck to reveal a more youthful image to the world.  The point of the ad was that the sagging neck was unsightly, ugly, made you less than perfect and life was hardly worthwhile if you could fix it all with a new, younger neckline.  I mocked the ad so much that Char started giving me stern looks that it was quite enough, Mom.

Anyway, I never intended to be so moved as to remedy my own “sagging neckline” with my wooly neckwarmer this a.m., but the souvenir photo my friend sent along to me this evening had me in giggles.  I realized I was effectively combatting the cold while simultaneously “improving” my look!

I hope you can laugh along with me.  In the end, I just think a nun’s habit would do the trick as well.

Patricia & Farmer Tam

Patricia & Sister/Farmer Tam

But let’s talk about Patricia.  She is my beautiful mixed Nubian yearling doe.  She & her stall mates, Lucia & Marcia, love attention.  Of late, the goats have to stay inside because I need to do some fence repair on their pasture.  Waiting for a break in the weather, and after hearing this weekend’s forecast, it will be a few more days.

Patricia somehow managed to leap out of the window of their stall in the afternoon after I’d locked things up in the barn.  Or so I thought.  In the evening, Jim discovered her in the locked, (or so I thought), tack room, chowing down on the bin of sheep grain.  I did an extra evening check to make sure she wasn’t suffering from her overindulgence, and she sprightly jumped up onto the stall door to give me a hello,  just as she had in the morning.  She was as round as a barrel, but fine.

Jim did a special tie-job on the stall door/window, hopefully foiling attempt #2.  But hey, if these guys have learned how to fly, I’m banking on God to lend me a hand.

Healthy & Happy New Year

Greetings from Cricket
Today, a Farmer Tam toast:

May you avoid colic, Coggins-disease, hoof-rot, hookworm & whipworm, mites, lice, fleas, ticks and all of the other ailments we’ve either read about, vaccinated against, or actually had to treat in our own flocks and herds. May you avoid cranky stall-mates, annoying flies, obnoxiously loud baaah-ing, greedy herd-mates, and pecking-order fouls.
Ducks in a Row

All health & happiness in 2013 to you, our friends. Tra-la-la!
Going in

On to the ring of day

Driftwood is burning blue, wild walk the wall shadows
Night winds go riding by, riding by the lochie meadows
On to the ring of day, flows Mira stream singing:
Caidil gu la laddie, la laddie. Sleep the dark away

Close by Beinn Bhreagh‘s stream, wander the lost lambies
Here, there and everywhere, everywhere their troubled mammies
Find them and bring them home, sing them to sleep singing:
Caidil gu la laddie, la laddie. Sleep the night away

Daddy is on the bay, he’ll keep a pot brewin’
Save us from tumbling down, tumbling down to rack and ruin
Pray Mary send him home, safe from the foam singing:
Caidil gu la laddie, la laddie. Sleep the stars away
Caidil gu la laddie, la laddie. Sleep the stars away.

-Cape Breton Lullaby, lyrics by Kenneth Leslie

Recently, Char & I had tripped northward for some college visits.  She is very interested in Celtic Studies and there are some comprehensive programs in Nova Scotia universities.  This post is simply to share the scenery.  We saw a minimum of 6 rainbows along the way and I’d wished there’d been a way to capture the surreal event of driving through a glimmering rainbow!  The road, the car, the dashboard, the AIR was shimmering and glittering and it was akin to spirit walking.

The wipers were off and on, off and on for the entirety of our trip and it made me feel we were on the “Island of Hegg” out of “The Decoy Bride”, a favorite British romantic comedy of mine.

There is a song that my girls and I love, “Cape Breton Lullaby”, and so, of course, on our Nova Scotia bucket list was to find “Mira Stream” to sing – which we did.

While in Antigonish, NS, we helped to round up a mama and her baby Alpaca to go off with their new owners at the “Azelia Farmhouse”

This little one had just been born 5 days earlier to her mama and they stood off and out of the way during the round up.

Rainbows over Nova Scotia Highway 104

the inland sea, Bras d’Or Lake, on Cape Breton

looking back to the south over Brad d’Or Lake on Cape Breton –

Cape Breton’s coastal city Sydney has a very popular, but tiny, downtown and the queen street of it all is “Charlotte St.”, where we, of course, posed Charlotte!

Mira Bay, Cape Breton, NS

Mira “Gut” -bridges to the “gut” of the Mira River before it flows into the bay.

Sea Grass on Mira Beach

Sea flowers on Mira Beach

St Anns Look Off Cape Breton Nova Scotia is on the Trans Canada Highway on Cape Breton Island. Situated on the north side of the westbound lane is a look off overlooking St Anns Bay. From here you can see the beginnings of the Cabot Trail, the Englishtown ferry and the magnificent Cape Breton Highlands.

positioned across the street from “Lickatreat” and “Tim Horton’s”, this pillar sat silently awaiting the rush of summer patrons. We were satisfied just viewing the establishment. We’ll take a rain check on the vittles, thanks.

You’ll find what I thought was so exciting about this on your own, I think…

Crepes with bananas and Nutella at the Naked Crepe Bistro in Wolfville, NS

Lobster is king in Nova Scotia -here is the parting look in Halifax

Stones and Bones

 In A Disused Graveyard

 The living come with grassy tread
 To read the gravestones on the hill;
 The graveyard draws the living still,
 But never anymore the dead.
 The verses in it say and say:
 "The ones who living come today
 To read the stones and go away
 Tomorrow dead will come to stay."
 So sure of death the marbles rhyme,
 Yet can't help marking all the time
 How no one dead will seem to come.
 What is it men are shrinking from?
 It would be easy to be clever
 And tell the stones: Men hate to die
 And have stopped dying now forever.
 I think they would believe the lie.

 Robert Frost

I pulled up to wander the Center Shaftsbury Cemetery at dusk and captured the last shimmer of a rainbow above.

From the “State of VermontMarble Trail“, our cemetery is described as containing “some superb examples of 18th century marble gravestones. The marble for these gravestones came from Shaftsbury’s West Mountain quarry which was also known as the White Marble Quarry.”

Some of the oldest dates that I notice are from 1771, 1785, 1791…many throughout the 1800s and 1900s to present day.  

Our cemetery is maintained by a crew from the town year round.  I would really like to try to graze my sheep here someday.  I think it’d be a win-win for the taxpayers and for our flock.  

Above we have Hurricane Sandy bidding adieu to the Southshire.

I noticed the slim-profiled headstones have longevity.


I’m the picture of health, so no worries here.   I’ve often told my family that when I die, I hope to be cremated, for a few reasons, and that I want them to sprinkle my ashes over a hayfield up north that I’ve always admired.  But I’m thinking that it’s rather a garden right here in this town I’ve lived in for the past 24 years.  

Oh, what was Mr. Frost trying to tell us?


Thought I’d throw 33 photos out there to catch you up on the past month around here.  Thanks for visiting the farm!

Son Jody and some little fans: He took 3rd place in the FLW Northern Regional Conference Bass Fishing Tournament at Philpott Lake in Virginia.  He has qualified for the second time, now, for the National Championship in his 4 years at Virginia Tech.  He is excited to represent Virginia Tech, with two other teammates, in April, 2013 for the FLW National Championship.  Some adorable youngsters brought their t-shirts to him to autograph after Day 3 in Martinsville, VA.  He was speechless!

Freedom Rangers ready for processing -this was their last day of the good life before we put them in the freezer.  We sell them as meatbirds, and they are also all the chicken that we eat throughout the year.  It’s a good feeling to be able to put your own food on the table, especially knowing that they had a great life running around, foraging, comfortable and clean.

Turkeys are constantly getting themselves trapped in the garden.  They know how to get themselves in, but then they forget out to get out.  This is a daily thing.

Some intense cobwebs in the rafters of the barn.  We did a BIG clean this past week to prepare for an annual barn party.  It’s so much more satisfying to clean when you can really see the difference, don’t you agree?!

Morning Glories still blooming in October.  They certainly do make us happy going in and out the front door.  Sadly we will get a killing frost sooner than later and it’s difficult to cover them when that happens.

Lucky for Char & I, the Virginia Tech botanical gardens are gorgeous any season.  These Calla Lilies were all abloom in front of the water garden.  We try to take the gardens in every chance we can when we are in Virginia.

Char & I were very much rewarded in a quest for ice cream one evening while college-visiting in Asheville, NC.  Here is the menu at Ultimate Ice Cream.  I had the Brown Sugar, Bacon & Maple +  Piney Branch Pear ice creams.  Amazing!

Loved these container gardens outside a cute cafe in Asheville, NC

Puppy prints on the tile of “Three Dog Bakery” in Asheville, NC – We asked the lady at the counter if they actually sold all of those decadent dog biscuits.  She astonished us by saying that one woman orders $200 worth of biscuits each month!  It was a very fun store to visit for pet lovers like ourselves.

Piggies were our fave at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, NC.  Sadly, the class that Char was going to visit was M.I.A..  We still don’t know if it had been cancelled or what, but we sat around waiting for the teacher & students to show up for about 15 minutes before someone came and told us that for some reason, the class wasn’t being held that day.  Well, we did enjoy the campus and most especially, the piggies!

Abe gets the whole backseat to himself.  This dog has had an amazing month, fighting a nasty infection that had him pretty seriously set back.  In spite of the slew of meds he’s on now, it was all worth it for him – he is on his feet in a flash when you say, “Abe, do you want to go see Jody?!”  Visiting his boy in VA was the reward for quiet riding in the backseat for 2800 miles.  You may notice the wet window behind him – rained almost non-stop for the entire journey.  Yay.

Apple, Pear Ginger, Pumpkin, Raspberry Currant, Cranberry Apple, Blackberry, & Blueberry Pies were happening and happening and happening!  We are now at a pause for the season as the market that carried our pies is now closed for the season.  The pies will be back on the “shelves”, so to speak, for Thanksgiving CSA shares.

“The Park” in our backyard -Ruger is glad to have been freshly shod, everyone heading out for afternoon grazing.

Trunk full of Mums

Shaftsbury, Vermont is a beautiful part of New England – sometimes we feel like hobbits.

3 week old hen chicks in their new coop – settling in for winter.  Sold about 60 hens this past year and am replenishing our flock.

Schilling likes to type – hence, I don’t get around to it sometimes.

Iz had a salon visit with Char one afternoon – pretty girl!

Big sister SJ & her friends’ motivational posters for Char before her SAT

Caramel Apples – SJ & her crew of college friends made a batch this past Columbus Day Weekend.  They were delicious.

Martha, the indispensable personal assistant, taking a breather after helping me to prepare for the Myers Road Pumpkin Party.  It was so much fun, without about 100 neighbors & guests, and this gal is my amazing sidekick to keep it frolicsome!

SJ gives Caroline, a college friend & Floridian, a lesson on Ruger Jac.

The turkeys attend the Myers Rd. Pumpkin Party – and yes, I did have to hose everything down after shoo-ing them away.

Giles, experiencing his first autumn.

Jackie & Cricket in the front seat on the way to their vet check – they were fine but they act like they’re going to die every time they get there.

Azalea blooms in October!

Char’s comfort food choice on a sick day.

My choice for lunch – energizing Minestrone that I’d made the day before.  It’s so delicious I eat two bowls at a time!

Kitties curl up

Shaggy Shetland Sheep, day before shearing!

Goats mug the camera!

Turkey time of year – they are underfoot everywhere you go outside

Apple Crisp Cookies for choir night – made up this recipe myself!

Goldenrod days

The Goldenrod is blooming.  So many activities jammed into each day as we harvest, put up, begin new adventures, think about changing the seasons.  Each day full.

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Some of us have been away from the farm and are back, but we’re heading out again.  It’s a major feat, any of you that own a farm know, to get away for even a day.  So to be gone for 5 and then for 3, well, a lot can happen.

A quick peek at leading up to the first departure has me and my friends and family preparing 90 pies in my absence to carry on my baking business:

Good friend Kerry and I feel the “force” of rolling out 90 pies for the freezer!

Grammie & Sarah Jane having a fluting party.

And here, a couple pics from my absence reveals the why and the where and the how of the getaway:

Son Jody wins trip to FLW Forrest Wood Cup Tournament on Lake Lanier, invites mom to be his all-expense-paid guest and we go fishing with FLW Off! Pro Terry Bolton!

We are guests of FLW at the Forrest Wood Cup Tournament launch and weigh-ins for 4 days on Lake Lanier & in Duluth, Georgia.  Day 4 of the Forrest Wood Cup culminated in a huge and historical win for 21 year old Jacob Wheeler of Indianapolis, IN.

I have a lot of musings about those few days away.  That’s what is nice about leaving town.  Experiences to make you appreciate your backyard and your community as well as the growth from seeing different places, inhaling and learning what you can from new smells, sampling a variety of tastes, listening and hearing fresh sounds and experiencing touch in a changed-up environment.

And nothing says “re-entry” like taking your bag out of the overhead compartment of the airplane on the last leg home and having it slam full-force into your eye/cheekbone, leaving you with a nice black-eye upon awaking the first morning back home.

Meanwhile, my fabulous farm-girl daughters and their friends baked and delivered my pie orders, the fatties(my meatbirds) are fatter, the turkeys are larger and more beautiful, the chickens are still happy, the sheep and goats were thrilled to see me, the pony laughed when I fed her an apple, and the dogs and cats climbed on me all night long.

Here’s to August!