Monday, August 30, 2010

Delicious Backyard Choking Hazards

Authors of child rearing literature like to give new mothers things to be afraid of, like choking hazards. Any time I see a peanut, raisin, or grape near Frasier, I'm on high alert. (Who am I kidding - I'm always on high alert. Hawk-like. On point.)

I'd like to add grape tomatoes to that list - not that Frasier has choked on one (yet) - but they are uber-plentiful in our yard right now and Frasier, independent being that she is, has no qualms about plucking one off the plant and devouring it, turning to me with guilty eyes and seeds plastered to her chin.

Sounds like every hippy dippy parent's dream, right? A kid voluntarily eating organic produce off the vine?

It terrifies me.

I used a whole heap of grape tomatoes tonight to make a spaghetti sauce. I roasted two heads of garlic, caramelized two yellow onions, sauteed a green pepper and squash, and added the oven roasted grape tomatoes (and generous pinches of our oregano and basil. And if I'm disclosing everything - fennel, chili powder, dried jalapenos, and smoked paprika.)

I'll miss summer cooking. I rarely use recipes. I cook like the Swedish Muppet chef on speed. I spend a reasonable amount of time every day thinking - how do I make the same vegetables from our garden taste different tonight? Serving them over polenta the other night was a hit, as was a big batch of Italian tomato/bread soup (pappa al pomodoro) last week.

I make epic batches of all things these days so that most can be put into the freezer for later. There are seven loaves of zucchini bread in the basement - five of them are double chocolate zuke bread. I'm gearing up for pesto. And maybe I'll start looking for more grape tomato recipes, so the mother hen in me can remove all choking hazards from the yard.

Friday, August 27, 2010

One-Eyed Goodness

Mr. Pi was recently found shot in the head and eye with a bb gun. He ended up at the vet clinic, and we ended up with one more cat - the nicest one yet.

When you're in the animal business - and technically I'm not - you come across many animals. You get a recalibrated sense of what makes not just a good pet, but a too-good-to-pass-up pet. And when you're married to someone in the animal business, you hear about these TGTPU pets. You go and see them in their cages. You see them in pain and anesthetized - and when they are totally down on their luck and still try to love on your hands through the cage bars, you decide that you absolutely cannot live without this animal in your life.

And that's how you end up in a four cat, four dog, five chicken, two goat, one horse, two fish household. It's how you end up one llama short of an animal sanctuary. (Llama, where are you? We're ready!)

A friend recently pointed out that I have at least two stories with one-eyed animals. Maybe it's the southern gothic in me. Maybe Mr. Pi is a totem of sorts.

Mr. Pi is not afraid of dogs. He's sporty. He's confident - even one eye down he feels entitled to excessive amounts of worship. He does a mysterious running man dance before he drinks his water. He's a talker. He cuddles well. He chitters at birds through the broken window. He tries to climb into the broken window pane while I'm on conference calls.

Do you mind if I put you on hold? My cat is stuck between the screen and the window pane.

Mr. Pi is all white except for a lick of gray on the crown of his head and a silver swath on the tip of his tail. His only flaw so far - he likes to drink my tea.

God help the person who cost him his eye. If I find you...I'll...well...I'm really bad at being threatening. But there's a special place in hell for people who shoot cats...and maybe hell is run by cats...and you've seen how they torture their prey, right?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Window Pain

I am short. The desk I use in the old veterinary clinic is high, because it was made for tall people. There is a window over the desk, which I closed yesterday when the storm hit. I tried to open it today, but FAILED. I put too much pressure on the glass pane and....crack. Busted. Shocked.

I looked down at my hand and realized I'd filleted my pointer and middle fingers. Blood, everywhere. I resolved to be rational. I sprinted out into the driveway and found OPA - the most rational being on the planet - arriving home from his surgery day at the clinic. I presented him with my maimed hand.

The competent veterinarian washed my cuts, applied ointment, and superglued my wounds. Then he bandaged my fingers. I never had to panic. Much.

But having a stroller to push, dinner to cook, and thousands of words to type...well, bandaged hands aren't ideal.

Onward, and thankful for medical professionals of ANY kind. Oh - and I really need to learn more about windows.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

August Chicken Update

The Mayhew-Bergman chickens are thriving. Here's some footage of them in tonight's summer storm. (So yes, that's wind rushing over the mic, not me heavy breathing double rainbow style.)

The silkies have grown a lot in the last two weeks. They seem a lot less fragile. The barred rocks (Sudio and Jezebel) are very personable - inquisitive and vocal. I love their clucking and the way they seem to ask questions - mostly like - so what did you bring me this time, human?

Magic Wings

Frasier loves bugs, and I'm glad. I indulge her love of critters and constantly try to model this behavior - e.g. - See, Frasier, Mommy likes spiders, too. Mommy doesn't squeal when she finds one on her arm. See how rational Mommy is?

And it extends: Of course Mommy likes snakes. And isn't afraid of grizzlies. And would totally manhandle a cougar. Or scratch it under the chin. (We're peaceable people, here.)

Butterfly conservatories
make it easy to demonstrate a love of bugs. Frasier was moved to interpretive dance. We made laps around the conservatory, and her enthusiasm never dimmed. And despite the warning signs, she grabbed one off a leaf. (It seemed okay afterward. I couldn't tell if my reactionary gasp was from fear of breaking rules or for the butterfly's welfare.)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Renegade Chickens

Sudio, one of our barred rocks, made a break from the coop this week. A quick scan of the crime scene leads me to think she climbed up one of the homemade perches, said a prayer, and hoped for the best as she coasted over the electric fence. She's on the right side of the law now. Or was last time I checked.

I'm still working through Breadloaf, but am on a bit of a truancy spree - getting a baby and husband fix in yesterday. I'm headed out for a run and then back to the mountain...

Confession: I'm eager to get back to the quiet farm life. But something about the fall schedule looks not-so-quiet...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Tomorrow I leave for the Breadloaf Writer's Conference. They've generously given me a scholarship, and I will try my darndest not to waste it, though I'm going to spend an awful lot of time driving back to Shaftsbury to see Frasier (and the Dogtor, of course.) Luckily those two are coming to visit me this weekend - very supportive.

I'll be back on the 21st, hopefully with some lovely photos of Ripton and an old growth forest. I'm largely packed, and we've found a way to squeeze my bike into the Prius.

It seems one can never escape dorm life - not even at 30. But who stays inside during the Vermont summer anyway?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Earthbound Sand Chickens

This video is an excellent summary of recent August afternoons. Beautiful weather and a saucy toddler with boundless energy romping outside. Exhibit A: Flashdance routine mid-sandbox. Jennifer Beals with pigtails.

And you know that's how chickens fly.

Today, we were admiring the chickens (check out the new outdoor coop component - fashioned by the Dogtor and OPA) and Fray took off toward her sandbox. She toppled a foot in front of it, then looked at her hand, then at me. Her fingers were black.

Yes, friends, dog poop. Probably reason #2,450 why four dogs and a toddler don't mix.

Mama went running - FAST - and got the SAVE. No hand to mouth. Relief. Yeah, I'm bragging.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Bird is the Word

Mayhew-Bergman Bird Updates:

1 - Every day I'm less scared of scooping up the chickens. I love to hold them (especially Jezebel), but I hate stressing them out. Frasier, on the other hand, is not scared. Chickens, learn fast if you value your necks.

2 - The silkie chicks are growing afros.

3 - The latest round of barn swallow chicks are big and making test flights. They are a serious bunch.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Garden Prizes

While this post could also be labeled "Bad Cell Phone Photography," it's just to show:

1) Our glut of cucumbers, squash, and spaghetti squash (there's no such thing as too much garlic, however)

2) Purple Peruvian Potatoes - say three times fast. Beautiful.

3) Monster Broccoli Head

4) The Latest Weird Carrot, AKA "Sexy Legs" (no match for the human carrot, however.)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Late Summer in Vermont

There's something in these sub-50 degree mornings that hints at Fall. It's time to take a critical look at the apple trees, compose the Fall semester syllabus, buy warmer clothes for Frasier. I'm devoting an hour or so a day to putting up food - making zucchini bread loaves, soups, sauteing greens. Buy stock in Ziploc.

We're enjoying the late summer. This weekend we zipped up to Manchester and got a bike for me (finally), and hit the Dutton Farm Stand - where I developed a crush on a miniature donkey and pygmy goats. Frasier got to practice her goose calls. (Why does my goose call sound like Marge Simpson?)

Clearbrook Farm has a lovely spread of sunflowers in their field on Old Depot Road. Our sunflowers are impossibly tall, but only one has bloomed so far.

On that note - many things in my life are impossibly tall: the Dogtor, my father-in-law, the sunflowers, the dill, our goats (pictured), the bin for the horse feed. I have to dive into the bin when the feed gets low - toes off the ground. I live in a tall person's world - which clearly means I need pygmy goats and miniature donkeys to commiserate with.