Cooking For Comfort

Yesterday I received the news that a lovely man, the husband of a dear friend, passed away suddenly from a heart attack. They were high school sweethearts, married in their early twenties, and had forty-seven years together in a marriage filled with a generosity of spirit and mutual admiration. Both worked hard their entire lives. Just turned seventy, he was still at his job as an engineer, she a teacher. Last year they had finally managed to take a vacation together. They were looking forward to more. As you know, I am a person who looks for the good, for that sliver of positive to build on. But I don’t see the world through rose-colored glasses. I don’t look at tragedies like this and say “it’s for the best” or “it’s God’s will.” (Let’s not get into a religious discussion here, and leave it at that.) Although I know her well enough to know that she will forge a good life from here on in, at this moment, there is cause for deep sadness.

I can’t change what happened. Words fail. In time, I will do what friends do, keep her part of our lives and provide companionship when she needs it. But today I will cook. She has a house full of family, bereft children and boisterous grandchildren. It is part of the tradition that I grew up in that one doesn’t become immobilized by sorrow, but that one reaches out and does something concrete to help others.

I have a menu in mind: chicken breasts baked with preserved lemon and pesto, brown rice pilaf, salad, popovers and peach crumble. A lasagna to put in the freezer.

What would you cook?

A Beautiful Winter

There’s four feet of snow out there, but I’m not cursing Old Man Winter yet. The truth is, that that much snow is wondrous.. Here is my street as the snow comes down.

street with snow

 

My neighbor can’t see outside because of the icicles, but my view is of a sparkling ice curtain.

icicles

 

Yes, there’s been some shoveling (and more shoveling) to do. But the mail is still delivered!

mailbox

 

On a walk yesterday with Lily I saw one of my favorite harbingers of spring. Pussy Willow. It’s not usually framed against such a pure white backdrop.

pussy willow

 

Looking up in that tree, there was this abandoned bird’s nest. I’ve never seen one with a cap of snow like that.

birds nest

 

Lily and I think that Old Man Winter has been putting on quite a show. When the sun is shining and the temperature is in the 20s, it’s downright enjoyable.

Lily on walk

 

 

However, not everyone has the same perspective.

Scooters view

A Sea Change

Last Saturday I traveled to New York City for a black tie event. It was a chance to put something on my feet other than insulated barn boots, and to wear something sparkly. It was a chance to have dinner in the glorious Gotham Hall.

IMG_6506

 

But, most importantly, it was a chance to keep my good friend, Karen Pryor, company at the Show Dogs of the Year Award Banquet, where she was being honored with a Trainer of the Year Award.

I’ve never been into the “dog fancy” and I have issues with the AKC and breeders who focus on looks to such extremes that dogs suffer from genetic predispositions to diseases and have physical issues as basic as being unable to breathe freely. I didn’t go to the awards because I am enthralled with that world of groomed and fluffed dogs. I went because whenever I have a chance to travel and spend time with Karen, I do.

This is a competitive group of people. The dogs that won year-end awards have been campaigned on an intense schedule. Behind each dog is a team of people – owners, handler, groomer, and more. I’ve heard stories of the politics of the show ring and the cutthroat culture of dog shows. Which is why it was so surprising to me how the evening unfolded.

Accepting an award, a man who has been showing dogs his entire adult life said, “This is the best year I’ve ever had, and not because of the wins. There has been a camaraderie this year I’ve not experienced before.” (I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist.) As each winner spoke at the podium, the same thing was said over and over. That there was a new sense of community, and because of that good will, that there was a joy in the competition. Profuse and genuine thanks were given, not just to their own team, but to all of the people that they competed with and interacted with on the show circuit.

Sitting at our table was the owner of the Obedience Dog of the Year. I’ve heard about how tough those trainers can be, and I’ve heard about how severe their methods can be. I confess to being jaded and wary. Yet there was this lovely woman – Victory Hulett (what an apt name!) who (in promotional materials) says that she gets results with motivational play. Seated with Victory, was her husband, who was beaming with pride. I talked with them about their relationship and his part in her success. I came away thinking that Reign, their brilliant Border Collie, succeeded because his world was filled with love.

Was it a coincidence, then, that the Trainer of the Year was someone who’s message for the last thirty years has been one of positive interactions between species? Of letting go of dominance and instead working to the yes, to the willing, to the cooperative? A sea change is defined as a broad transformation. I was witness to it last Saturday night.

karen Pryor

The next day Karen introduced me to one of her favorite places in the city – the Morgan Library, where there was a special exhibition of Lincoln’s writings. His genius and his humanity was there to read in his own hand. There is so much going on in the world right now that is horrible and barbaric. It’s depleting. But this weekend I felt like I was on a boat, being lifted and turned by the sea change. Let’s all try to follow that tide.

More Snow.

It’s official. We’ve had record-breaking snowfall this winter. And winter isn’t over yet. The Valentine’s Day storm brought another foot, plus, of snow, and high winds are making drifts of monster proportions. This was the scene on Sunday morning that my intrepid shoveling men faced.

back door

 

By the afternoon my son waded out, just to see what it’s like to walk through epic snow.

wading through snow

 

Steve shoveled. And shoveled. I think that we need a snow blower. Perhaps something like this. He resists. What do you think?

snow to barn

 

This is the path to the Little Barn.

T in snow

 

The goats get their paths shoveled, too. I fear that they are now very out of shape (more so than usual!) because there’s not much exercise that one can get when one’s paddock has been reduced to a snow canyon. Goats digest their food in their rumens – and to break down the tough forage, a lot of fermentation goes on, which acts as a natural furnace. To keep them warm I’ve been feeding extra hay. The goats are rather enjoying this winter!

goats in snow

 

The rabbit has had a path shoveled just for her. I don’t know what we’ll do when it snows again – there’s no place left to toss it.

Phoebe

 

This morning dawned sunny, but the temp remained at zero. That didn’t stop the hens from coming outside to get scratch grains. The extra carbohydrates will compensate for the calories that they need to burn to stay warm.

screenshot

 

The winds, though, are fierce today, and the hens prefer their coops. Lucky for them, I designed them to be sunny, spacious and airy. Inside, the temperature is a comfortable 20° F.

space in coop

 

There’s just one thing to do on a day like this. Find a sunny spot and wait for spring.

Scooter

Keeping A Rabbit With Your Flock

It’s been a couple of years since I wrote my FAQ on keeping a rabbit in with the flock. It was pre-Phoebe. There were no photos. I’ve revised it. In doing so, I went through years of photos and found this gem. Some of you will remember Candy, the Empress of the Barnyard. Here she is, talking to Pip, when he was still a youngster.

No doubt she was imparting some kernel of wisdom. Did Pip listen? I’m not sure. His brother, Caper, is the smartest of the Goat Boys.

Candy and goats