Friday, January 28, 2011

The Rituals of Houselions

Photo 1: How to Make Love to a Blanket

This is Beamer, a totally humorless Maine Coon cat, who is utterly and awkwardly in love with my blanket. (Frasier calls this blanket "Big Lovey" because it's soft like her Lovey.)

Beamer is the oldest cat in the house and the one whom the other cats tend to steal food from. He has a small meow. But then he also peed on our bed at 2 AM one morning and sings weird songs on the staircase at night, so I think he's crazier than the other cats give him credit for.

Photo 2: Solid Gold!

I know to many of you this just looks like a cat licking, you know, its butt. But this is Greta - our tin hat schizophrenic cat - and I like to think of this pose as her version of jazz hands. Whenever I see that little paw thrust in the air, I hear the intro to Solid Gold.

(Tangent - I think Fray is going to be one step ahead in life because she won't grow up thinking Solid Gold represents the pinnacle of civilization.)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Better Get to Steppin'

As Fray demonstrates, walking in "deep snow" can get difficult around here. (Toddler grunt = very cute.)

Cue vintage Tina: Better Get to Steppin'. Totally different kind of steppin, but steppin.

With the extra snow, and my encumbered status as a pregnant lady/increasingly reluctant runner, snowshoeing is where it's at. When the snow is deep and you're making fresh tracks, it's a great workout.

Sometimes I get to cheat a little and use the Dogtor's tracks (though his stride is hard for me to maintain) - but one can often put money on the fact that a Dogtor route will involve hills - hills that he will make look easy while I grit my teeth and summon my inner goat. (Capricorn!)

Yesterday I hit the trail solo, and was delighted by a rogue beam of sun that followed me for a few minutes. There is something remarkable about a walk in the woods alone, especially in winter. I wish I could bottle up a bit of the clear headedness I feel after traipsing about in the cold woods for an hour.

Oh, and what kind of screwed up weather am I living in when 28 degrees feels balmy? Must be that sweet little inner-parasite warming me up. 17 weeks to go.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Dogtor Charms All

Story time at the Mayhew-Bergman's ... one-eyed snow leopards, savage spaniels, and toddlers in shit-kicking pink John Deere boots.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Savage Spaniel

In one of my stories, a character is warned: Make peace with the food chain before it breaks your heart.

I would do well heeding my own advice today.

It's slushy - sleeting and snowing. Getting Frasier off to school - not to mention out in the driveway and into the car - is a feat in itself. I try to put on her jacket - she howls. I give her a minute on her own to come around to the idea; she doesn't. I corner her in the kitchen - the jacket is on and Mommy is victorious. I step into the boots the Dogtor has rigged with Yak-Trax for the ice (pregnant ladies and icy driveways are a notoriously bad combination). I put Fray on one hip, wipe the oatmeal off her chin, get the daycare bag on the other arm, and look out the window at the car warming up in the driveway.

Just past the car, Betsy Spaniel is hovering over fresh kill in the front yard - the rabbit whose den she has been marking for some time. And it's not a little rabbit - it's the size of a cat. This I see clearly as my father-in-law picks it up by its hind legs after I try, unsuccessfully, to call Betsy off the carcass. He lets dogs be dogs, but this morning makes the sage point that whatever Betsy eats may end up on the floor of the house later.

I imagine I see something like self-loathing in Betsy's eyes - she hasn't yet torn into the rabbit, as if she doesn't have the heart. She's my Southern Belle, my small dog. But she has the heart to eat a rabbit (in spades) and she isn't worried about disappointing me - she's just doing what dogs do, and probably savoring the moment. Think about all the ones she's killed and eaten that you know nothing about, my father-in-law reminds me.

Frasier is unfazed at the sight of the rabbit - perhaps it looks to her like the stuffed and stitched one she sleeps with in her crib. I am fazed. I think back to the other night - the sounds of suffering in the attic space over my head as a flying squirrel dragged a trap around in the midst of a death spiral. I had to wake the Dogtor because I wasn't woman enough to address the situation on my own. I wasn't woman enough to move the rabbit carcass this morning.

I want Frasier (and baby girl wumpus #2) to be woman enough to do these things - this means vegetarian, soft-hearted Momma has to buck up.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Give a Chicken a Bath

You's just the normal Sunday afternoon at the Mayhew-Bergman house. The living room is still stuffed with the painters' ladders and drop cloths. Dishes are half in, half out of the newly painted cabinets. Fresh banana-chocolate chip-nut muffins are on the counter top.

And so is a chicken.

Miss Djuna, our only silkie hen, has not been doing well. She's been hiding out in the coop while the other chickens peck about in the goat stall and in the pasture's snow, weaving between the goat and horse legs. She's missing out on some fun. We think she may be egg bound.

So what do you do for an egg bound chicken? The same thing you do for most ladies in distress - offer her a warm bath. Then you dry her off (little silkie afro = insanely fun to dry and poof), put her in a cat crate, and let her hang out on the kitchen table in front of the woodstove. (A wet chicken in 20 degree weather is a dead chicken. She needs drying time.)

The Dogtor even let me palpate her abdomen. I'm sure I did something helpful, even if I didn't know what I was touching, because I found a big #2 in the towel after the bath. That's right.

And so we'll watch some football later, make dinner, wipe the muddy dog snow-prints off the kitchen floor for the thousandth time, and do our best to keep the cats away from the crate. And pretend like it's totally normal to have a silkie on the table.

(Will Frasier go to college thinking it's normal to have LIVE chickens on the dinner table?)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Why I'm Looking Forward to May

...because - ideally - I'll be done with my second pregnancy, and have a lovely little girl to show for it. The Dogtor and I are thrilled to be welcoming another little female darling around May 31.

Years ago, if you'd told me I'd be 20 weeks pregnant and taking 3 and 4 mile runs in the snow in 11 degree weather, I might have fainted. But I'm trudging on, determined to run until 25 weeks. (My original goal was 20, but I've still got something left. A very slow, stubborn something.)

Sometimes it's like doing the Running Man or jogging in sand - you put one foot down and slide, repeat. Most of the time I'm just glad I live in a rural place, because pregnant runners need frequent pit stops. That's about all I'll say on that topic.

I can no longer outrun the nasty Jack Russell terrier who lives on the hill and has an unfair camouflage advantage in the snow. He comes tearing through the orchard and out into the road and I kick gravel and snow and yell and generally look foolish while he tries to bite my ankles.

If you see me running, wave - I need the morale boost. Unless I'm behind a tree. Then you can pretend you don't see me. I'd appreciate that.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Final Ploughshares Post - An Editing Strategy in Winter

I've been going hard since September, and now my blogging duties at Ploughshares are done. I enjoyed the weekly challenge of coming up with new content, and became a fan of the mini-web essay format.

Final Essay: An Editing Strategy in Winter

I sign off with a nod to fellow Vermont writer Elliott Merrick - check him out if you have the time. I know there are 2 million farm memoirs, but he's the original deal - an Ivy League educated city boy with no money grabbing up a hardscrabble farm in the Depression era. Top that. I can't.

He will charm you, I promise. I'm reading his collection Cruising at Last right now. The cover is very 1994-Someone-Discovered-Print-Shop, and I believe it was put together posthumously, so it lacks the total polish and cohesiveness of his earlier work - but it's still wonderful. He builds his own sailboat with his wife and sails the Carolina coast. Dream.

Image from

Wok Woll

What We've Been Up to in the New Year:

1. Fray rang it in with some freestylin' at the mic - Rock and Roll.

2. We rang it in with a giant bonfire and then an Indian-themed potluck dinner in front of a living room fire. The house still smells of curry, which I have mixed feelings about. Spicy.

3. Snowshoeing, and more snowshoeing...although the snow has retreated after a BALMY weekend in the upper thirties.

4. I still have a weird addiction to coffee-flavored yogurt.

5. The house is getting painted, which brings joy and chaos. Paint fumes + curry + wet dogs = sensory delight. Eau d' Modern Farmhouse.