Thursday, September 29, 2011


For the past 31 years, my closest neighbors have been cows.  Over the decades I've watched "the cows come home" every evening right before dusk as they head back toward their barn. Yes, their pastures have wafted "ripe" in the summer's heat, and yes, they do bring lots of flies to the neighborhood, and yes, they provide a lot of patties for rolly-poly, poop-loving corgis, but they're really peace-loving beings with which to share one's life.

White Face (above) loves to taunt Mac and MerryBelle.  She pretends not to notice them until they work up the courage to approach her.  At the moment she senses they've let down their guard, she gives a big snort that sends Mac running and MerryBelle screaming. And, then she saunters on off, content that she's gotten the best of them yet again.

Some people speculate cows don't have personalities-that they're fairly dumb and lazy.  I take issue with that notion. Mama Brahma (above) is a serious, stern mom.  When her calf ventures out of her safety zone, she wastes no time in calling him back.  The poor little fellow is NEVER out of her sight. If he runs off to play with the other little ones, he has not a moment of privacy for escapades or ornery-ness, for Mama Brahma stays right behind him.. Yet, she is the most patient mom I've ever seen when her baby comes back to her to nurse.  While all the other cow moms mozy on along, she stands patiently alone until he has emptied all four udders and has no more to suckle.

How Now Brown Cow seems a bit grumpy from time to time, but she has beautiful eyes that reflect the horizon as she stares into the sunset.  If you look closely, you can see the blue of the distant sky in them.  She's the only one of my bovine friends who likes to have her head and nuzzle patted.  The hair behind her ear is as soft as cotton, and her "cow lick" looks like she's just been to the bovine beauty parlor.

When I tell folks I live with the animals, I'm really not kidding.  Two dogs accompany me everywhere I go on the farm; seven cats greet me every afternoon on the back  porch for their daily feeding and fill me in on their escapades of the day, and soon thereafter, the dogs let me know the bovines are approaching for their our afternoon gossip session over the fence. 

At The Farm, mine is a truly wonderful life that doesn't require trivial interaction or mundane conversation, and I like that just fine. Shortly, I'm off to get some tea and go catch up on upper field gossip with my bovine friends.


I am amazed by the quantity of mushrooms emerging from the moist earth now. I can hardly take a step in the back woods without flattening one. A rainy spring, semi-rainy summer, and a moist fall have obviously produced perfect growing conditions for these interesting being to thrive.

I don't know a lot about fungi, but I think they're pretty amazing to observe and ponder. Hence, I share them with those who see "The Farm Gazette."

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Sunday, September 25, 2011


I can't explain my recent obsession with old trucks and farm /road machinery other than to say I've got a thing for them....
Can't say why....
Can't say what's brought about
the attraction to abandonment and deterioration...

If I had to justify the reasons these old fellers charm my camera
and catch my fancy,
I suppose I'd argue
there's something about rust that redefines beauty -
Adds wrinkles to a once-polished chassis
And humility to a once powerful engine.
There's something about them I equate with solitude..
Left alone to oxidize in front of everyone and no one.

There's something about wondering who or what occupies the driver's seat now..
Snakes? Raccoons?  Possums?  Bugs that multiply by the thousands in nests
protected by carburators and radiators.
I'm afraid to poke my head in to see who has staked claim.

All I know is that they speak to me in the moment,
and I find myself driving the back roads looking for them -
truck-spotting along the way while birdwatching
and vice versa.

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Friday, September 23, 2011


MerryBelle, Mac and I had a breathtaking walk this afternoon.  The sky was semi-overcast, with intermittent showers, complemented by bursts of sun through lofty clouds from time to afternoon that spoke of the onset of autumn, for sure, and one that was defined by colors of fall's palate.

**Before I go further, I need to back up just a bit. In the last two weeks, a series of life's reality checks have gripped my heart.. Two of my former students, ages 42 and 30, passed away, one from an advanced malignancy that was an unanticipated discovery and the other from a sudden heart attack; a colleague for whom I have a world of respect has entered the last phase of his life, and my mentor and friend, Brian Dendle, suffered a heart attack - his second. Subsequently, there have been moments in the last 14 days when I found it difficult to access sustained joy.  I suppose that's natural; I've been a bit stunned.

Until today, I hadn't allowed my saddness to work its way to the surface, but as I wept on my way home from the funeral home, my heart opened once again to acceptance of the current and impending loss I feel. I have to remind myself that I always feel better after a good cry, for once I let go the tears flow, I feel so, so much lighter, more guided by perspective, and hugely more grateful for so many blessings in my life.**

Now, back to the story at hand....As the two rambunctious canines and I  made our way back into the field, I was struck, as I am every year,  by the predominance of  "yellow" everywhere. Unmown fields produce scads of goldenrod. Yellow leaves are beginning to blanket the earth, and my yellow dahlias are spectacular. There's even a fairy ring of yellow-capped mushrooms underneath the pine tree in the side yard.

Here are a few of the pics that best convey the ochres, butterscothes, light pastels, and combinations of fall' s yellow mixed with other colors.

If I could paint, I'd give this image a shot at incarnating on my canvas.  The picture doesn't do it justice. As I looked to the other side of the back field from the lower path , I had to hold the camera up over the tallest of the goldenrod to take the shot. This was the result, and in its simplicity, there is something I love. The clouds took my breath. (Imagine the goldenrod ten times as bright as the photo conveys.)

This, and the dahlia below, have just come into their own.  For some reason, my dahlias always bloom later than most people's. I didn't realize I had set out two yellow ones side by side, but their hues are different, as is their blossom structure. The tighter dahlia above looks like it would taste like a mixture of butterscotch and cinnamon.  The one below displays a greater delicateness.

I'm sure the rain of the last two days inspired the ring of fungi to break through the ground. The tops look like a lemon cookie with crushed almonds, but I don't think I'll be tasting one, that's for sure.
Graceful and content, Kwan Yin loves to be surrounded by varigated coleus.. This afternoon's light cast the perfect shadow to coordinate with the plants and her orb.

Happy Equniox...Balance, equilibrium, and prosperity in body, mind and spirit...and the opportunity to get outside and enjoy this special time of year....My wishes for all.....

Monday, September 19, 2011


After two cups of coffee on Saturday morning, my ritual usually includes a leisurely trip to Rink's, the local flea market whose entrance is marked by a huge neon yellow sign that proclaims STOP ALL FOREIGN AID.  (This impossible-to-miss banner's strategic placement makes it difficult for anyone traveling south on Route 7 to overlook the foreign policy message of its owner.) Rinks is a gathering place for an eclectic mix of people who want to unload their clutter, make the next month's rent, strike up a conversation about politics, etc. or like me, search for a singular, unique find that costs under $20 but will land me a spot on The Antiques Roadshow where I'll learn my item is worth thousands....Dream on, right?

I enjoy the interesting folks I see there, and I've actually become Rink's "regular." I'm quite recognizeable by the wide-brimmed, bright pink hat I wear on sunny days.  More than one person's asked me where my hat is if I'm not wearing it, confirming that I've probably been the topic of conversation for more than just one or two vendors over the course of a slow sales morning.  (I've noticed Eliza declines all invitations to go on my weekly treasure hunt, probably out of fear that she'll be seen with the lady in the Pepto Bismol-colored beach hat. Or, perhaps, flea markets are just not her cup of tea.)

Anyway, in the field off the parking lot at Rink's sit several old rusty vehicles that have caught my eye for a while now. This particular red truck, whose purpose I've yet to discern, has been parked alone in the field for years now.  On several occasions, I've had it in my mind to take a closer look....For some reason, I want to hop in and pretend I'm cruising down the road behind the mammoth steering wheel. It has a Beverly Hillbillies-large-equipment-type feel.

The crusty vehicle is full character and personality. I'm drawn to its "face." When I first looked at it carefully, images of a huge, slowly crawling insect came to mind. And then there's the bear ornament on the passenger side of the hood, which convinced me that yes, this was a powerful beast back in the day. However, the huge hornet nest hanging just inside the driver's door dissuaded me from trying to pull the handle and take a peak inside. Come winter, I might just have to try to pry the door open and see if I can get in and drive down country roads in my mind....

Mostly, the truck piques my fascination with dilapidation.  Things that are rusted and abandoned, that sit stagnantly and lonesomely in an overgrown field, that have faded in color and are decomposing at a slow, but steady rate (like my barn) catch my eye and subsequently, my imagination.  In those things, I see beauty and  sense a sincere respect.  As they morf through the natural process of decay, they take on an artful soul, and I want to get to know them better.  It's like talking to an older person and hearing stories of his/her purposeful, unique memories of youth, I suppose. There's a story here that someone has to know, and I want to hear it.

When I think about what this old truck brought to mind last Saturday, I equate the feeling with those moments when Samuel was young and absorbed with the story of Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel.  In the end, Mike built his house around the hole in the earth that his big, steam shovle had dug, and the two of them co-existed quite cozily in the cold weather, the antequated backhoe serving as companion and furnace. The final illustration in the book shows Mike Mulligan reading a book in his overstuffed 50"s chair while the steam shovel gazes at Mike, smiling obvious understanding / bond between a young boy and his best, albeit inanimate, friend.

More than likely, if I had a huge home in which I could house pieces the size of this truck, one might just find them as an "objets d'art" in my den....I like that idea, minus the hornet's nest.

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Saturday, September 17, 2011


A very moist spring, a relatively moist summer, and a pretty moist fall (so far) have produced great fungi in the woods and around the farm.  Here are the pics of a few I found on my walk in the woods. 

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Friday, September 16, 2011


Wednesday afternon, I got home early enough to get outside with the dogs and spend some time in the back field.   We had a wonderful walk  on a glorious early fall afternoon.  I've kept the path around the field mowed, so we can walk surrounded by goldenrod and ironweed that's as tall as I am.  The guy who is supposed to bring his tractor hasn't made it to cut the field this summer (although he promises he will), but that's turning out to be just fine with me.  I am enamored by the color combination of the brilliant goldenrod
yellows, the magenta of the ironweed, the viney and delicate morning glories and the periwinkle of the field asters.  Today as we walked, I felt like I was in Avatar land --literally hundred of
irridescent dragonflies accompanied us as we walked the path while the-last-of- summer butterflies danced from blossom to blossom on the ironweed. Truly magical.

There are few things that give me more joy than watching the dogs play on our walks. Mac's such a goofball....he's still limping a bit from an old injury, and subsequently isn't nearly as fast as MerryBelle, but he plods along a huge smile on his face.  I love to watch him run to me from a distance.  His ears flop up and down, he sorta sidewinds like Paco used to, and his face is filled with delight.  He just can't get enough of "stickplay ," but I've reduced the amount we play recently to see if I can get his shoulder back to normal.....I'm so in love with him. There's no one I'd rather sleep with than my Mackers!  Note in one of the photos that he's wearing some dung make-up...He feels quite studly after he rolls in poop....

MerryBelle's dainty, agile, graceful and fast!!  I'm more and more convinced that she has some Jack Russell or another line of terrier in her. She'll be great with agility if I can get her past a little hesitance about new things.  She and Mackers tumble around like Mac and Paco used to do.  Thankfully, they haven't had a
spat in a couple of weeks.  I've found that keeping food in their bowls and not going through a feeding ritual has neutralized both of their aggression completely.  (Plus, Mac does NOT want to get hammered by MB again....that's pretty obvious.) They've really become good friends.  In the morning when Mac and I go to get MB out of her crate, he kisses her sweetly, and she loves it.  She's responding to the clicker well and sits 100% of the time....the real truth
is that she loves treats.

Both Mackers and Loonis taunt the cats, especially the orange ones, fairly ruthlessly.  They don't hurt them, but the cats have about had enough of their antics and chasing.  For the first time, I saw Crooked Tail take a healthy swat at MB, who responded with a girlish squeal that made me laugh.  Her best cat friend is Shitly, who plops down on the ground and entices her to come play.  She pulls his tail and nips at him until he gets up, and then he rubs on her and she licks him.  It's interesting to me how each of the dogs has seemed to have his/her special kitty....Rufus & Clouseau, Paco & Bud, Mackers & Cato, and now
MerryBelle and Shitly. Of even greater interest is each cat's interaction with his/her special dog. Grumpy, particular, and peculiar Loonis still maintains that "no dog is a good dog."

MerryBelle's smile radiates her newfound happiness and acceptance at the farm. I do believe she's beginning to learn about trust and likes life in our pack. Still a bit awkward socially, she hestitates to fully let go of herself when she plays, but she's beginning to initiate some tossles and tumbles rather than stand back and watch. She's also a great lap dog who loves to sleep in the recliner with me while I read, grade papers or just relax.  Her only downside is that she lets go of some really, really rank farts.
Take a look at Mac's jaw, and you'll see how he loves to have poop plastered on his face - his version of dowsing on some Old Spice or whatever scent it is that guys wear now.  He's so proud when he finds some poop to roll in.  Coupled with MerryBelle's flatulence, the house sometimes takes on interesting aromas that most folks would find unbearable.  I haven't gotten used to the stinks; however, I can deal with it long enough to get MB outside and wash Mac's face with wipes.
Suffice to say, there's lots of canine energy to share at The Farm. These two are my companions, my source of joy, and my soul friends as we begin time alone again this fall.  No dull moments, that's for sure.

Saturday, September 03, 2011