July 3, 2019

Yesterday the sky around the barn was filled with flashing wings. It appeared as if the nest of barn swallows in the hayloft had finally fledged and jumped to the air. The tree swallows in the birdbox on the gate post will soon follow. Summer is passing!

I try not to mourn or panic but simply appreciate the beauty.

The Eagle Has Landed

June 25, 2019

Early last Thursday morning crows were screeching and our dogs went crazy barking at the glass porch doors. I jumped up and ran to look out, assuming I would see a coyote (though wondering why the crows were fussing — coyotes don’t bother crows). Instead I saw this huge bird, mobbed by so many dozens of screaming and dive-bombing crows that in confusion he lighted on the top of my manure pile. He finally flew away toward the woods to the north, the mob in pursuit.

I was happily surprised to see him back in the top of the giant spruce in the driveway the next morning, when I was able to get some photos.

I checked with a naturalist acquaintance on Facebook. As I guessed, it was a young bald eagle. “Third year,” said the naturalist.

Lucy’s camera is terrific. The eagle was sitting in the crown of a very tall tree as I leaned back against the hood of our car in the driveway below. The camera later showed me details I could not see with my eyes.

Meanwhile the next tree over was collecting crows, loudly sounding the alarm. At last the eagle had had enough, and with a heavy flap of wings he departed.

In the summer on the farm the natural world is full of wonder at every turn. The tree frogs calling when I walk the dog at night. The wild turkeys in the pastures. The garter snakes that slide away through the grass. The bluebirds and goldfinches swaying on the fence lines, the barn swallows swooping in and out of the hay loft, the snowshoe hares nibbling grass along the driveway. All of these are little jolts of joy.

I am so blessed to live here.

Let It Go

November 3, 2018

It’s been a tough week. I wrote my builder a quick note of inquiry last Saturday when I discovered that he had come to the house while I was at work and removed all his scaffolding and ladders. These have sat here since last November, when he left promising to return in May to finish the work he had been paid for the previous June. In May he wrote an angry email and promised to return in August. At the end of August he returned briefly and promised to finish the rest of the work. At that time he told me to order $800 worth of brick. The brick is stacked on our porch.

He never came back.

We had house guests over the weekend, friends and teenagers in town for the memorial of my former student who died. The memorial was beautiful … and draining. We returned home exhausted.

At this low ebb, after more than a month of silence, I found an email from the builder. In the next six weeks, he would send me a couple of checks, covering what he considered the remaining work. (He appended a short list.) But he would not return.

He wrote, “I consider this a fair and honest resolution/closure to our contract,” and (bizarrely) reassured me, “I’m not upset.”

I was shocked.

As he left for a three-day business trip DH said patiently, “Just write, I look forward to receiving your checks.”

Even hot-tempered Damon growled over the phone, “Just write OK — or you won’t get fuckin’ nothin’.”

But I couldn’t get over my sense of betrayal. The list he provided, even without all the promised work already removed, still left out a number of items. I thought the real dollar amount was quite a bit more. I wrote him a short, polite note, stating that I was sorry he would not return and listing those items.

The next morning I received a long email, attacking me as self-centered, grasping, and ungrateful. How dare I bring up those items, when he had lost so much money on my job due to having to work around us? (Because he didn’t meet his finish date, a point he has consistently failed to note.) The personal viciousness of the email made me feel sick. After trashing my character, the email closed piously, “I will pray for you.”

I have never been able to cope with anger directed at me. What a fool I had been to reply! DH was gone and I felt shaky for days. I told myself to move on but I had to flog myself into putting one foot after another, walking the dogs, doing barn chores, teaching my classes. I did not sleep.

One afternoon I was mucking the barn when a confused yellow-shafted flicker flew in and then tried to hide by stuffing himself in a crevice behind a beam. I gently pulled him down. I “knew” the bird was a message from my late mother, who taught me about flickers so many years ago.

I carried the bird carefully outside — and then I let it go.

Today I’ll start moving the brick off the porch.


And Bears, Oh My!

October 17, 2018

Here is our old apple tree in early October. When I bought this land fifteen years ago, this tree was leaning out from the edge of a balsam forest. I cut the forest and saved the tree. In gratitude for the restored sunshine it has borne bounteous crops of apples almost every year, despite never being pruned to trim out sucker branches and allow light into the crown. (It’s on the list.) Now our new house has been built 100 feet from the tree and it is framed in my study window.

Someday I will have enough time to pick the apples and make cider, sauce, and pies, but that day is not yet. For now, animals domestic and wild take the fruit. Here are the cattle and Lucy’s horse Birch picking up windfalls in 2011.

I see deer prints and coyote scat regularly.

Last week there were a thousand drops under the tree and after filling an 18-gallon tub, I gave up and decided to fence the sheep away from them, for fear they would gorge, colic, and die. Two nights ago we had a windstorm that shook the house. Yesterday the grass under the tree was a solid carpet of apples.

Last night I took our little cairn terrier, Toby, out on a leash for a quick pee before I served dinner. It was dark. Toby whined and I looked up to see a large black bear sitting under the apple tree. As the mama ran off, a cub dropped out of the tree and raced after her.


Reality Check

July 31, 2018

I almost always work alone. Though I am accustomed to it, in times of stress I can get a little lonely and blue. Then God sends me a reminder of the miracle of creation. Yesterday there was a goldfinch feeding on a single stalk of timothy outside my kitchen window. The day before a kestrel was perched on a fence post. This morning it was this tiny frog.

What a beautiful world!

Days Are Passing

July 15, 2018

I am aware of the ticking clock. Both sets of bluebirds in my bluebird boxes have left the nest. The clutch of tree swallows in the box near the barn fledged the day before the official start of summer. I happened to be there and spent ten minutes watching the five babies try their wings. The barn seems lonelier now, without all the busy swooping.

Summer is fleeting here.


Explosion of Mice

May 16, 2018

This winter my barn had a mouse population explosion. I was constantly finding mice drowned in water buckets, mice in the grain bins, mice chewing holes into bags in the grain shed, mouse droppings everywhere. The tack room stank of mice. There were even mouse droppings in the cat’s food dish!  I knew something had to be done, but I don’t like killing and I put off dealing with the problem. Naturally, the problem grew.

When the snowbanks finally ebbed, I bought a simple set-up for a bucket mousetrap. This is a “walk the plank” trap which encourages the foraging mouse to creep out on a plank baited with peanut butter. The see-saw plank releases and the mouse falls into a bucket out of which it can’t jump. The directions say to fill the bottom of the bucket with several inches of water, but drowning is a slow and panicky death that I wouldn’t inflict on anything. Instead, I have driven the captured mice a mile down the road and released them in the forest.

Forty-three mice re-homed so far this spring.