Crowz Nest

Because it's time... as it was once before.

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Location: Port Murray, NJ

I'm a bit old to be starting out in life again, but that's where I am. Sadly. Or gladly. It's where I am. Come along. Watch the fun. Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Best Part of Lawn Mowing

It's begun. It's that time of year again. From now until the end of August, every week the lawn will require mowing. Mowing the back yard isn't hard. Except for detailing in the corners and a couple of other places into which I can't get the lawn tractor, it's just a question of firing up the tractor and figuring out the best route around the garden beds. I know the mines back there, the rocks and roots that can shatter the blades. I know the boggy parts that are best avoided if there's been any rain. The first time I mowed back there 5 years ago, it took me over an hour to do. Now, I can get it done in less than 30 minutes. The remaining detailing, which has to be done with the push mower takes about the same. And then it's done. For another 5 days to a week.

The front yard is harder. It has to be done with the push mower. The areas are small and difficult to manoeuver in. The mower is heavy for me, and there are steep berms the mower needs to be dropped down and then pulled back up. More than once, my feet have slipped out from under me while pulling the mower back up. And all summer long, when it's hot, I invariably get seriously overheated when mowing the front.

Right now, though, we are at the end of a perfect spring day. It never hit 60 here. The sun was out most of the day. The daffodils, hyacinths, and forsythia have died off, but the lilacs and some of the lilies are starting. The plenaria are in bloom, and though they are wild and invasive, I love them. Every year, there are new and different wild flowers -- some might call them weeds, but I welcome them and will think of them as wild flowers. Last year, a low growing pretty plant started to grow up the side of a big stump. It has a small blue flower, and while it stays low, it climbs up and around rocks and stumps and even the fence. It's not a vine. It grows low and full, but it seems to climb and fill in spaces that beg for a flower. I have no idea what it is. If you know, let me know.This year, there's much more of it than there was last year, and I'm going to try and transplant some of it and move it out front. Because my friend Kevin has promised to solve the problem of mowing the berms for me. He's turning that part of the front yard into a rock garden. Whatever these things are, with the way they hug rocks and stumps, I think they'll look really pretty in a rock garden.

While that work has yet to be fully begun, he's dug out and around some of my land mines out back and created a pretty little rock garden there, too, which will be easy to mow around. And in the back, where there are large beds that have finally been cleared of the awful, invasive wild rose, he's planted some blueberries for me.

I think it will all look very pretty when he's done, And it'll certainly be welcome to have the mowing out front made easier, and the detailing around the land mines out back eliminated, or at least reduced. The work's not done. There's still planting to be done, and mulch to be put down. But the idea is there, and I love it.

I can already see that these improvements are going to make shorter work of mowing. And that is a very good thing. Because the very best part of mowing the lawn is being done with it. It's the time when I most enjoy walking around or sitting in the yard. The added enjoyment this evening was that it was cool enough to sit out there with a book, a cup of tea, and the dogs. Crow and Hudson both seem to enjoy rolling around in the grass after its been mown. Tonight, I further enriched the experience for them by digging around in the freezer for a couple of shank bones I knew I had in there. They enjoyed them al fresco while I enjoyed my book.

It's not a bad way to finish a day, reading, sipping tea, enjoying the mixed fragrance of freshly mown grass and blooming lilacs. No. In fact, it's a very good way to end the day.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Last morning of my mini-vacation

I'm sitting in the trailer at the farm, warming up with a cup of coffee, enjoying the final moments on the farm before I hit the road for home. Suzanne's gone down state to teach today and won't be home till late this evening. I've got the sheets and towels I used during my visit washed and in the dryer, the kitchen floor swept and scrubbed, the countertops scoured, and I've just come back from helping Wendy feed the barn. It's not all that cold, but it's really windy out, and it feels good to be out of it for a bit, with a nice cup of hot coffee in my hands.

Crow and Hudson have had a good time. There's been a fair share of excitement for them this time, as one group of cows keeps getting out of their pasture. They spend the day in the field behind our house, and at breakfast and dinner time, they saunter down the drive, about 30 feet away from the fenced yard where my guys are. It's funny to watch them, because they are more than willing to stare the dogs down, and the dogs respect it. They do bark at them, but it has a different timbre to it than when they bark at deer or other dogs at home. It's a far less excited, aroused bark, almost a greeting. There are young calves right now, and that amps up the willingness of the whole herd to be protective. Needless to say, this visit, I have not left the dogs out in the yard while I'm up at the barn. The cows are a sensible lot, and quite accustomed to dogs, but the fence is only those metal stakes and welded wire. It would be like paper under an onslaught of the weight of one of those girls if she took it into her head that the dogs were a threat to one of the babies. So, sadly, unless I knew exactly where the cows were, Crow and Hudson had to wait inside if I wasn't there.

I've got to say, there is probably nothing in the whole world cuter than a baby Highlander. They are just cuteness personified on the hoof, all round eyes and fluffy red coats, and softness. They make it hard to peel yourself away from the fields and out of the barn, despite the 30 mph winds in 30 degree temperatures. In fact, you don't even notice that you're cold, you're having so much fun with the animals, until you finally come inside and realize how much you want a hot cup of coffee.

I've enjoyed my stay. It's wonderful to visit with my friend, and with all of the dogs and the other animals here. I don't even mind the drive to get here, though the same can't be said about the drive home and the prospect of work again in the morning. Somehow, whatever's waiting on the other end seems to flavor the trip. There are no words for being in a place where you belong. This place makes things real for me. I have yet to identify why or how, but the smallest of interactions with any facet of life here brings me back to my center, and back into balance.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Old friends

It's Wednesday. I'm glad I've arranged to take Friday off this week. I'll be packing Crow and Hudson into the car after work on Thursday, and taking off for the farm. It can't come soon enough for me. I've had a very hard couple of weeks, for many reasons. Though I have dealt fairly well with the blows, they came fast and furiously, and I'm tired from dodging, darting, and dealing. I want to sit, to knit, to read, and to move among all my many old friends at the farm. Caring, sharing, touching my many friends - the many dogs, the cats, the horses, and donkeys, and cows, the very trees themselves - recharges and rejuvenates me in ways not available to me in my office. No matter how productive or rewarding my day at work may be, it never plugs me in to the things that truly matter the way time at the farm does.

Picture me there, with my good friend, Suzanne, surrounded by all my old friends, walking in the woods with Crow and Hudson, currying Joseph, the 34 year old Thoroughbred gelding, sharing those awful, orange-yellow circus peanut candies with the cows and the pigs. It's a wonder they don't start to glow in the dark!

As I walk up to the barn, I remember all the old friends who wait for me there; some are memories, warm and comforting; some still with us, with their bodies still youthful; all of them offering their own form of welcome and friendship.

There have been so many through the years, even though the barn itself is new, the aisles seem to echo with them. Jeremy, the black bull, whose bellow I could feel through my back as I lay on the earth that first Easter visit to the farm in 1998. Awake early, long before my husband and my friends, I had walked to the edge of the cow pasture and sat myself down on the dewy grass. After watching the cows peacefully grazing, I'd lain down next to the fence, watching the sky above, and the birds flying over, when I suddenly became aware that I could feel the cows' footfalls faintly in my body, the ground carrying the vibration, sharing it with me. Cool,I thought. But when Jeremy extended his neck and let out a deep bellow that echoed over the hills, and I realized I could actually feel this bellow transmitted through the earth, resonating through me, I was transported. Jeepers, the cranky paint, who might welcome you in one instant and take a swipe at you the next. Carson, grandma dog and matriarch, who slowly became my dear friend through the years, who honored me once with her trust when she chose to stay in my home while Suzanne went out, yet again, for another book signing. This was no small thing, for Carson to tell Suzanne to go on without her, and that she would be comfortable and safe, waiting at home with me and her grandkids.

And, perhaps most of all, Otter, mama to both Crow and Hudson, and then grandma dog, great-grandma dog, and even great great grandma before she chose to go, whose friendship came to mean so very much to me that I mourned her passing as deeply as I have ever mourned. Vali, and Grizzly, Banni and Chili, Bee, and so many more, too many to name, whose friendship once touched our lives so profoundly while they walked with us, whose spirits now blanket the farm with an abiding connection, caring, and love.

And every year, there is new life. Right now, one of the dogs is expecting a litter. Last year's calves are growing out, and new calves will come. Maybe this is why this place restores me like no other, because nowhere else that I spend time is the cycle of life so apparent, so steady, such an enveloping stream that lets me ship my oars and simply travel where life intends to take me.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

We're BACK...

It's been a long while. I apologize. In September, my mother's death sort of brought some things to a full stop, and sent other things, deeply internal and personal things that were not Blog-fodder, into motion.

So, from August to April, what has been happening will largely remain un-blogged. Two seasons passed, fall and winter. Appropriately, they are the fallow seasons. And as Spring begins, we'll try to begin again, while we spare you photographs of every intrepid daffodil as it pushes through last fall's unraked leaves.

Two days ago, Crow had her 12th birthday. Three weeks ago, she experienced an episode of essential vestibular syndrome. Glimpsing her mortality was not a lot of fun, but the episode, as sobering as it was, reminded me that this girl has never been sick a day in her life. For an EPI dog, this is quite remarkable. Once we got her stabilized after she was diagnosed at the age of 2, she simply blasted her way through life joyfully, without missing a step. There are no words for how much this girl means to me. As she lies at my feet at this very moment, gnawing on the remnants of a buffalo shin bone, she looks like forever to me, and reminds me to stay in the moment. The loss of her older brothers within 6 months of each other just over a year ago, and the sudden death of her litter sister in December had already reminded me that we can only ever be sure of the moment we're in. It does me no harm to remember that every time I look into her remarkable eyes, nor to remember to thank her every day for the very special openness and connection she offers to me without fail. Happy Birthday, Crow.

Hudson, of course, cannot be left out. My boy is 9 now, approaching his 10th birthday in June. He has become an amazing companion in his own right. He still has that big-boy-dog energy and sweetness, the sum total of which is a "Goober" quality that makes me laugh every single day. He has never lost the "huh?" factor, but as he's matured he's slowly revealed his own brand of intelligence and insight. Crow walks by my side; Hudson stumbles on ahead, and circles around and amazes us both with his non-stop ability to be amazed himself, by the simplest things in life.

And so, we roll along. Perhaps, just as Hudson reveals his innate smarts, we'll slowly reveal some of the things that occurred between August and April. Many socks were knit. Both figuratively and literally, there is always something on the needles. Seasons and time passed. And we're all still here, and promise to blog more faithfully.