Sunday, September 17, 2017

reflecting on summer

At the grocery store it suddenly hit me:
I haven't tasted watermelon even once this year, and it's nearly apple season!

We didn't have a Summer this year in my neck of the woods. We really didn't. What we had was a Mud Season that went on and on and on, and simultaneously became what is known in Massachusetts as "wick-id haht." All the paddocks have been awfully wet, and the little barn paddock never dried out - ever! It's still muddy and slippery despite the hay "stepping stones" I recently threw down in desperation so I could get to the various shelters and feeders with less risk of falling. Like their goatherd, the goats also step carefully from spot to spot on the hay, and not because they are silly or "spoiled," in fact, just the opposite. These goats have the survival sense to try to keep their feet from becoming diseased due to constant exposure to moisture. And I appreciate this trait, because although I do my best to keep up with frequent checks and trims, if we get all the way to Winter with healthy hooves this year it will be some kind of miracle.

Campion feels that his hooves are PERFECT and he would appreciate it if I would please STOP checking and trimming because it involves a human (me) Touching His Feet! UGH!!

Continuing with the theme "Summer, Lack Of": a few words about the gardens. if you've been reading Comptonia for more than a year - and I know some of you have been reading it since the beginning for which I thank you very much - you know I put a lot of determined effort into growing as much of my own food as possible. It's important to me economically and from a health perspective.

Well, if I was genuinely dependent upon what I grow to get me through the Winter, this is without doubt the Winter I would starve. The relentlessly rainy months made planting difficult for the gardener, and growing a challenge for the plants. After finally managing to plant - and trellis - about 40 feet of pole bean rows, I harvested a total of two and a half handfuls - literally - of beans this year. The okra is about a foot high now. My fingers are crossed for the Candy Roaster squash which are currently in valiant flower, as are the Suyo Long cucumbers. If you look closely, you may see a tiny cucumber on this vine:

Even the hardy perennial flowers have struggled, and I've been sketching and painting here at home more often than in the woods this year, in appreciation. Below are a few days from #DrawingAugust, each done either just before or just after a rainstorm, in a little spot between the perennial gardens and the stilt barn.

This folding chair has been kept in the stilt barn, dusty but dry,
and ready to set up for a quick session with watercolors or pen:

If you were sitting in that folding chair and looked down by your feet,
you would see these violet leaves:

If you then turned your head slightly to the left, your eye-level view would be a wild tangle of hyssop, bee balm, and goldenrod:

When the mosquitoes forced your retreat to the porch,
you might endure them for one more minute while you stand and dab a watercolor sketch of this unidentified butterfly enjoying the bee balm:

Even though it hasn't been a Summer, these past few months have provided occasional sunny moments and, eventually, precious and colorful flowers for which I am deeply grateful. More than once a drenched but stalwart daylily was the highlight of morning and evening chores.

And in case you missed it in the picture above, here is a closer look at a tiny cucumber with flower still attached, tucked back behind the stem:

Fingers crossed!


Just a quick blogistics note...

When I put up a new post, I usually respond to comments on the previous post at the same time. My internetting has been in fits and starts recently, so this may mean a lengthy delay between your comment and my response - sorry!

Comments are one of the best parts of blogging, and according to the blog stats, I receive an average of roughly one comment per 100 pageviews - you folks are a quiet lot! I do try to stay in touch either through comments on your blogs, or here. I just want you to know you may have to look back to the prior post for a response to a comment you've made on Comptonia.

Does that make sense?
I hope so.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

goats for sale

Every once in a while someone contacts me through the blog
to ask if I sell cashmere goats.

Yes and no. I don't breed with an eye to selling stock - if I did, I would be routinely breeding all my does, which I don't - so I rarely have goats to sell. But right now I do. So I thought I'd just mention it here in case anyone is interested or would like to pass the information along.

I know each of my goats very well, and am happy to provide my opinion on which goats would be suitable for a particular home and "job"...such as invasive plant control, giving a handspinner some very nice fiber to play with, or providing companionship and entertainment.

My email address is linked in my profile, and is the easiest way to send specific questions about my goats. For general information about cashmere and caring for cashmere goats, this link to the Cashmere Goat Association website is very helpful.



Sunday, August 27, 2017

gone and back again

An exciting thing happened Monday.
No, not the eclipse.
The reappearance of this character:

Zebra Mouse.

Last Autumn, Della found it. All by herself. I had never seen it before - I can only guess it was in the bottom of the little bag of treats sent along by the shelter. It became Della's very own special toy. Moxie played with lots of things; Della played with Zebra Mouse. It was very little - as was Della - and it was fuzzy with bright white stripes and a tail made of curly feathers. By November, when the picture above was taken, Zebra Mouse had clearly been through the wars. I was rather touched when Della surprised me by placing it on my keyboard, inviting me into the game.
(I'm not much good at sports, but it is true that I can throw a stuffed mouse farther than anyone else in this house.)

Then - cue dramatic music - one day last Winter, Zebra Mouse disappeared.
Della didn't know where it was. Moxie didn't either.
Sweeping and vacuuming were futile - I tried! And I asked my Occasional Helper to please keep an eye out for a small, ratty-looking, greyish lump.

But months and months went by...

...and Monday, Zebra Mouse was back. On the carpet in the middle of the parlor floor. A couple of feet away from Moxie, who was not playing with it. She never had.
I think Moxie found it for Della.

Mox is very talented at finding things. In this picture, she has found a tiny frog*:

Moxie has been eating a little better, and being a little bit more active for short periods of time. I think she devoted one burst of energy to fishing Zebra Mouse out of whatever crack in the universe it had fallen into.

And oh my gosh, the excitement level around here has skyrocketed! These pictures are blurry because Della is in constant motion. Constant, happy motion.

 Thanks, Moxie!

Now, the other disappearance/reappearance of Monday.
I had no special plans for watching the eclipse, but about five minutes before it began to be visible in my neck of the woods, I made a little camera obscura with a cardboard box, and went out to the garden by the south paddock. Here's what the sun looked like in the box, just before the eclipse:

The sky clouded up just as the actual eclipse was beginning. So I stopped stumbling around with my face stuck in a box, and turned to see this:

Fern, watching my performance.
Unimpressed by eclipse.
Wondering if there's something good to eat in that box.

We've had some really nice weather this past week, so I've been mostly off the computer and outdoors: taking Piper to the woods, catching up on a few outdoor chores, and painting a little. Trying to cram as much "Summer" as possible into every non-raining day. Still plenty of mosquitoes, so it feels authentic.

I hope you all had a great week - here's to the one ahead!

*I rescued the frog.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Friday, August 18, 2017

flashback friday

It's been raining all day today.
So here is a photograph taken yesterday.

Once again, it all comes back to Leighton.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

another week

I've been waiting for a positive moment for a Moxie update, and I think I'd better take this one: breakfast this morning. With plenty of time, and quiet coaxing (she is a Cat, and none of your upbeat, dog-encouragement tactics are of any use here) plus a timely mid-meal addition of meat from a jar of baby food, Moxie ate more than half her pre-illness amount of breakfast. This is the most she has eaten at one time in more than two weeks, so huzzah for that! I've learned not to see this as a turning point, though, because this illness doesn't seem to work that way; there has been no clear progression of improvement. With the odd and fluctuating symptoms, I begin to wonder if it might be Lyme disease or some such ailment. I hope not. In fact, I've been afraid to even think it.

When I saw Della and Moxie napping together the other day, I hoped it meant we were getting back to normal. But Moxie soon went back to sleeping inside the carrier or on top of the tower, by herself.

Looking back at the past week (this began very suddenly, three long weeks ago), Moxie is doing better: to some extent, in some ways, most of the time.

I am grateful for that, and am trying to keep some perspective - things could be so much worse. But beneath the genuine gratitude and optimism, it is breaking my heart that a one-year-old kitty is feeling anything other than fit and fine and full of beans.

Thanks so much for all your comments, which are very much appreciated. And thanks to those of you who contacted me to ask how Moxie is doing. Sorry I've been out of touch, but I really was waiting for a positive moment to hang a blog-post on.

Not sure I've made this a very positive post though, have I?
Would you like to have just photographs in the coming week?
I can do that!
Here's one to start:

The hyssop is humming with bees these days, any time it isn't raining.
It's so nice to have something normal happening in the waterlogged gardens of this rainy, rainy year!

Friday, August 4, 2017


You know how sometimes - like on a Friday afternoon when you are waiting for a call from your vet who is consulting remotely with a radiologist and will get back to you within the hour - well, you know how in such times you may find yourself somehow trying to make a deal with fate?

The call just came. Moxie does not have to be rushed straight back to the vet's office where she spent a harrowing two hours this morning. Because Moxie does not have to have major surgery this afternoon.


She will be on a new, anti-inflammatory medication, right here at home, while I continue to try to keep her eating and hydrated and in good spirits. Monday, we will see how she is doing. We're still at sea as far as identifying the source of the problem, but - at least for today - the news is so much better than it might have been. For now, supportive care, not major surgery.

And I will be spending every possible hour this weekend cleaning the house. I can't overstate how happy and grateful I am for this opportunity. I have never approached housework with such genuine joy in my entire life.

Thank you so much for your good thoughts and prayers - this week has been difficult, hour by hour, day by day, and it helped me very much to know you were thinking of Moxie.

Please have a wonderful weekend, and tell me all about it!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017


Moxie has been having mysterious symptoms for the past week, and the vet's treatment has not yet had the anticipated results. I'm hoping so much that Mox will not have to go back to the vet tomorrow - the recent visit was very hard on her, and I fear a next visit would be worse.

I'd be grateful if you would please keep a good thought or prayer for Moxie - it's awfully hard when a joyful, active creature is feeling poorly, especially when you don't know how to help.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

heading in

It's been a lovely three days, weather-wise. 

Piper and I spent more than two hours in the woods one afternoon. I didn't bring the camera - which is why you are looking at pictures of bees in the garden instead of Piper in the woods - and Piper was determined that I was not going to open a sketchbook. We walked and sat and watched little birds skimming over the water and one of us picked blueberries and one of us went kerplunk! into the mucky pond.

Actually, it's probably just as well you are not looking at pictures of Piper.

One sunny morning, a very playful Moxie suddenly joined me in the big garden where I was getting ready to do some work. Outdoors, Moxie is usually intent on hunting and not at all interested in socializing. So when she actually invited me to play, I of course forgot all about working.

Della and Moxie do play together outdoors, and hunt together too, while I'm puttering around or doing barn chores. When I decide it's time to go back inside, they do not always agree with me. I often have to locate one of them by watching the other. Moxie is nearly invisible in undergrowth, but Della is usually easier to spot. Here's Della in full camouflage mode:


Evening chores done, heading in to make supper.

Dessert will be blueberry cake.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

and ye shall find

Yesterday I went looking for a yellow daylily.

Last year, a lovely one bloomed along the top of the steep bank garden between the driveway and the Upper West Side paddock. I hadn't noticed it this year.

Until I went looking.
I looked down onto the garden from the paddock above -
it was a sort of low-altitude aerial reconnaissance mission -
and there it was, rising lemony in a sea of green:

I made a note to get in there on the first decent day, to remove clinging climbers that are complicating the lives of perennial plants I am taking pains to encourage.

If there is one thing this season of rain has made clear, it is that procrastination is a fool's game. So today when I got back from the recycling run and trip to the library and feedstore and dairy, I went down with pruners and a huge plastic tub to fill with clippings. Tsuga and her girls spotted me right away and ambled down to the fence to await a salad delivery.



The bank garden has come a long way in the past three years or so.
It's a lot of work to try to reclaim it, but the rewards are great.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

fun in a box

 This exciting box arrived yesterday. It was expected.

Usually I open packages right away, but yesterday was a tough day, physically. Instead of thinking my exciting package would turn the day around, it seemed more likely that the difficult day would dull the joy of the package. So I waited til today.

 A week ago I decided to augment my set of Staedtler watercolor pencils. I had to choose a different brand, so that I could order from Open Stock and choose each color individually. I've been very happy with the Staedtlers, so I hope these Faber-Castells work well with them.

 The individual labels peeled off easily, which is very nice. The last time I bought pencils from an art supply store, the labels were not only thoroughly stuck on but also wrapped in tape, right around the entire pencil - talk about overkill. Nothing gets those labels off, and it's a nuisance when trying to sharpen the pencils.

Staedtlers on bottom, Faber-Castells on top.
(And in case an eagle-eyed reader notices it, there is one Caran d'Ache pencil, also. I bought that one last year when I was really craving Payne's Grey.)

Today I began working on an ink drawing with watercolor.
Here's the ink:

And here's the beginning of the watercolor:

If it comes out well, I'll post another picture.

If you've never used watercolor pencils, I encourage you to give them a try. Here's a close-up look:

So. Much. Fun.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

brief gardening update

Some of the candy roaster squash seeds that were planted one week ago have sprouted in the Very Raised Bed!

And I'm hoping this is a top-setting onion, often called an Egyptian Walking Onion. I was late getting the sets planted because I didn't want them to rot. I'm hoping to get these established this year, and have an ongoing supply of onion-y, shallot-y, chive-y goodness forever and ever.

I am finding the milkweed flowers quite remarkable. Some have already faded, so I am spending time looking at them closely each day. I think if you left-click on my images, they open in a separate gallery window at a larger size...might be worth a look.

During a break in the rain yesterday, I went out and pulled weeds from the steep bank garden for a couple of hour-long sessions. It was soggy work amongst the wet foliage, but some progress was made and the goats enjoyed the harvest of bittersweet, wild grapevine, and mock orange. I had to stop and walk back up to the house to get online for a few minutes, to check the toxicity of the mock orange (Philadelphus). The only risk I could find was that the seeds might be poisonous to some animals. So I broke off all the tips of branches with seed pods, before carrying the rest to the goats.

The black raspberries are ripening! Usually there are only a few ripe at one time and - just as with my precious blueberries - I eat them on the spot. This time I was able to pick a little cupful and put them aside for a supper of berries and yogurt. Yum.

I hope you are having a wonderful weekend!
Anything special planned?