Thursday, October 21, 2010

Book Cover Photo?

Amid my other writing projects (oh yeah, and I'm trying to paint all our fences before the weather turns cold), I'm making the final edits of my book of essays about living in the country. The working title is So Much Sky.

My son Graham took the photo above of our Katahdin ewe and Haflinger Sam standing together in our barnyard one evening. It's a really awesome (and oddly bizarre) composition. As it's fairly difficult (okay, impossible!) to pose livestock (especially multiple species), getting a shot like this is pure luck. The sun rays shooting out of the clouds are a bonus. We have amazing sunsets at the farm, but this one is especially celestial.

My friend Sundie is designing the book cover using this photo. It's a horizontal photo that needs to go on a vertical book cover. I hope it works out.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Maximus Grazing

Maximus, my son Graham's African spurred tortoise, is changing his address for the winter. During the summer he hangs out in our greenhouse, eating tomatoes and greens from the the garden. During the winter, he has less glamorous digs indoors in a large aluminum stock tank with a heat lamp that provides sunshine. Today, October 10, it's bizarrely warm outside (84 degrees F.), so Doug set Maximus out on the lawn so he could stretch his legs, graze on a little grass and enjoy the big, wide-open world. Our Jack Russell terrier Archer couldn't take his eyes off Maximus on the lawn, but was too intimidated to venture closer than a sniff.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Sputnik The Corgi

I know that hearing about how adorable other people's puppies are is really boring. Because, really, you might say, all puppies are cute. And that there can be no "cutest puppy." But you are wrong. I have just spent the weekend with the most adorable puppy ever. My son Tristan's new puppy, Sputnik.

Sputnik is a tricolored Corgi puppy and looks like he was assembled with spare dog parts: His big-dog head is fitted on a small-dog body. His batlike ears face forward when he's thinking and twitch sideways when he's eavesdropping. His cinder-block body rides on four stubby legs that end in big clubby feet. (In fact, his ears are longer than his legs.) He wobble-walks across the ground like a wind-up toy.

Smitten? Yes!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sheep and Wool Festival: Adel, IA

The rain clouds parted for a few hours last weekend so the Adel Sheep and Wool Festival could proceed amid raindrops in steamy sunshine. The festival is a unlikely mix of livestock and fiber people. The common denominator, of course, is sheep.

You can distinguish the sheep/goat/alpaca raisers by their outfits: muck boots and jeans. The fiber fans are decidedly more colorful, some wearing hand-loomed garments.

As always, the dog trials were a hoot to watch. The "field" was a puddle-filled, mud-fest with a Border Collie expertly moving three sodden Dorset ewes around in a figure-8, a gate run, then into a corral. The test of wills between dog and ewes is filled with tension and comedy. The ewes create a united front of wet wool and angry attitudes, stomping a front leg in indignation. The dog takes a step closer and the sheep run like ninnies. So much for the show of toughness.

Some dogs exhibit amazing control, dropping on command, and lunging fast in large outruns at a "Way to Me" command. Others are tongue-hanging, crazy-eyed, trigger-happy zealots that shoot the sheep all over the field like pool balls on a billiard table.

I bought a really cool, hand-loomed scarf from an alpaca raiser from Maxwell, IA (C&M Acres). The scarf is made from the fiber from Black Label Johnnie and Alydar (a black- and a white-fleeced alpaca, respectively). Both are pictured on the scarf label. What a cool way to market fiber products--by the alpaca the fiber was shorn from.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Country Woman Essay

Raising kids in the country. This was my topic in a recent essay published in Country Woman magazine. Here's an excerpt:

"Our sons are in college now, living in small rooms in big cities. But I like to think the lessons they learned growing up in the country resonate with them every day. That they learned patience by calming an ­anxious horse; gentleness by bottle-feeding a motherless lamb; and the importance of speed and precision by cadging an egg out from under a broody hen."

To read the whole thing, click here.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring is Back!

After one monster of a winter, spring has finally returned. The 4-foot snow drifts are melting, melting. And in their absence are bulbs already pushing up out of the ground. Snowdrops are blooming right now in our shade garden. And the daffodils are 5 inches tall, budded and ready to pop. A couple warm days of sun and our yard is going to be ablaze in sunny blooms. A big sigh of relief!

I've been thinking about daffodils a lot. Wishing for them. And writing about them too. Read about the 10 Top Daffodils for the Midwest in Midwest Living magazine. And although you can't plant bulbs right now, you can buy little pots of 'Tete-a-Tete' and other small narcissus in garden centers. There's nothing more cheering!