Friday, February 26, 2010

4x4 x 3 x 2

One 4x4 Ford F350 turbo diesel truck with Snow Dog plow.
3 strong men with shovels. 2 draft horses.
That's what it took to get us out of the driveway Friday morning.

How much snow did we get? Hard to say. We can see the grass, yet not the porch. We'll say about 15 inches for is still blowing and snowing.

The challenge:
A monster snow drift in the
driveway, which spread about 80 feet between the barn and the road.

The men:
Kevin, my hubby and innkeeper of The Hayward House. Elam, our neighbor and dairy farmer. Bill, our 81 year old neighbor and all around nice guy.

Can you guess who owned the 4x4 Ford F350 equipped with a Snow Dog?

The result?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fear of Frying

Our dog Jake has a fear of frying. No, he's not afraid of heat (actually, he loves lying in the hot sun on the stone sidewalk). But rather, he's afraid of the sound of sizzling from a pan on the stove. I'll give you a little Jake history shortly, but first, here's a couple of disclaimers: Don't worry about getting out the tissues. At the time of this writing, the Jakester is alive and well. Let's face it. He's probably the healthiest dog around. Furthermore, let it be known that we have never hit, kicked, burned, abandoned, or otherwise inflicted any manner of cruelty on this dog.

We're not sure what breeds combined to sire this fine mix, but when we found him at the kennel as an 8 week old pup, his tag listed him as a lab/shepherd. I believe that was simply to make him more appealing to the general population and therefore more adoptable. Once we got to know him, however, we found not a molecule of lab or shepherd in this crazy mutt. He's white with brown and black spots. He's tall and skinny. He hates the water. He loves to run, leap, and chase. He does not drool. Did I say he loves to chase? And he always smells wonderful - like a new puppy. His attitude (and attention span) is terrier and hound from the end of his wet, black nose to the tip of his whippet tail. My dad says he's part goat. What other animal could reduce an aluminum soda can into a pile of metal filings without injury or stomach upset? Or, scratch and gnaw a door frame down to the studs, nails poking through and a heap of wood kindling on the floor?

These incidents should have been a sign. There is this problem. Jake's sensitive, the vet says, and anxious. Afraid we will abandon him (no way!) and never return (we ALWAYS return, doesn't he know that by now?). He's tried to scratch his way out of the kitchen to find us, and has broken all four canine teeth in the process. He's chewed a door frame down to the stud, exposing nails and leaving splinters of wood in a pile. Was he hearing ghosts? Was it a sound in a pitch undetectable to the human ear? We see the immediate change in demeanor when a perceived threat is in his space. He cowers, tail between his legs, and slowly creeps to the nearest door, or hides under a table, or tries to climb onto your lap to get away from whatever it is. Threats include the sound of sizzling. Or a buzzing fly (he's afraid of the flyswatter). Or from a clip binder (it's the snapping sound). And now, for his own safety, for the comfort of our guests, and for our peace of mind, he may no longer be left alone in the house. Either he goes with us for a ride (oh boy--RIDE!) or is locked-down in an undisclosed location. Sometimes he goes to Paws & Whiskers Boarding Kennel, where he is showered with love and exercised three times a day. Or he gets a mid-week indulgence: A visit to doggy-day-care at a horse farm, and a chance to play all day in the mud, and just be a dog with a dozen or so of his kind.

Anxieties aside, he is one gentle companion who is always on his best behavior for guests. Tail wagging, he greets new arrivals with a run onto the porch, and a charge back into the house to find his favorite toy, often a mangled stuffed animal or a joint compound bucket lid, rough from gnawing. While we are making breakfast, he whines at the door until we let him into the dining room where he waits patiently and expectantly for his new friends, always hopeful for a handout. He's even garnered a few personal notes in the guest book.

Jake turns 11 years old next month, but he's still as spry and playful as a puppy. During a game of Kong-Frisbee (a toy advertised as indestructible but Jake managed to chew a hole in it), he runs with abandon, leaps and stretches for the prize, his ears extended like wings and all four paws are off the ground. Our neighbor's little boy laughed until he fell over when he saw this stunt for the first time. Oh, the joy of a happy dog, doing what he loves the most. Running. Chasing. Leaping. He's not afraid to fly. What style! What technique! Fly, Jakey, fly!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My Best Friend is Amish

Mary, our Amish neighbor, has become one of my best friends. Never in a million years would I have expected this to happen. I attend her children's Christmas program at the one-room school house. She scurries across the field to deliver buttery, right-out-of-the-oven pretzels or home-made bread. We are invited over for dinner. Every October I help her and her extended family wrap hundreds of cakes, pies, cookies, and breads for the Apple Festival booth. She and her daughters helped Kevin by filling helium balloons and fixing up the house for my surprise birthday party, appearing unexpectedly at the door, right when he needed them most, asking "What can we do to help?" We pile in the car or the buggy and go for ice-cream. Her children visit with a wagon full of kittens, invite us to see their baby bunnies or new chicks. When their baby brother was born, they couldn't wait for us to get home from work so they could be the first to tell us! I've taught the little boy to give me "high five."

Through our kitchen window I can see the foot-worn path through the cow pasture between our houses, a narrow, winding tether connecting our lives to theirs. You see, the Amish in this vicinity of Seneca County are of the Old Order, and (for reasons which I won’t begin to explain in this blog) their telephone is in our barn. Twice a day, Mary or her husband treks to the barn to conduct business, connect with family, or to order a driver for traveling distances too far for a horse-drawn buggy. And, if we’re lucky, we get a chance to exchange stories.

A real treat for us is a church Sunday, when buggies fill the roads and you feel the rumbling of steel wheels and clopping of horses hooves. At night, the horses are illuminated by two flashing headlights, and in the winter they steam with sweat and whinny in patchy clouds of iced breath. It’s like a promenade of pearls, each buggy following close behind another up over the hill, down into the dip and past the house.

Every morning I walk the dog past their farm, and I can set my watch by the activity in the milking barn. The chinking of chains against metal, the flat clang of the milk bucket on the concrete floor, the mooing, the steadiness and order of her life, and even the smell of manure are a comfort to me. (no, I cant' believe that either!) The gas lights from her kitchen brighten the driveway, drawing me in.
She gives and expects nothing in return. Her life is centered around her family, her faith, and her farm. She teaches by example. She’s a good neighbor and I am a better neighbor for it. We giggle. We share stories about our families. We respect one another's culture, but laugh at them as well. We talk about food, quilting, canning, farming, organic farming, parenting, marriage, weather, and just about any issue of the day. Never negative, never judgmental, her conversation always ends on a positive note and lifts my spirit. In her modesty, she would be humbled by this post dedicated to her. I am humbled that she calls me her friend.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Winter Sport

Winter is upon us bringing short days and sustaining winds from the west. And while we are closed for the season, we engage in our favorite winter sport: RENOVATION!

Our current project is to renovate what probably was, in the original floor plans, the library. Should be simple--no plumbing, but a large room with two windows, three doors, one double pocket door, and a large walk-in closet which we'll make into a guest pantry, complete with a small refrigerator and microwave.

A blank slate, this big empty room, waiting for purpose. Make it a game or media room? Not quite in keeping with our "quiet country setting." Hire an Amish cabinet maker to construct bookcases covering the 9ft walls from floor to ceiling? Stunning, but not quite right. We waited to be inspired, and in the meantime refinished the floors, placed a few vintage chairs around a nice rug, hung a reprint of an old local town map on the wall knowing...hoping...that by and by an idea would strike us. A visit to the local printer was the inspiration we needed. Vintage maps! We visualize a quiet reading room with vintage maps of New York towns hung salon style from wooden picture rails, on walls painted the color'll get back to you on that! Choice can be torture.

We insulate, we hang drywall, and Kevin works diligently and tirelessly putting in switches and light boxes, and taping and mudding. Soon I'll be sporting my new Carhartt overalls (oh, goody!) and help with the sanding and painting.

As we peeled away layers of wallpaper, we exposed the trends and styles of long ago. The bottom layer is like a fresco, adhered to the crumbling horsehair plaster which, when removed, reveals square nails in the framing and lath so dry it crackles and spits when we burn it.

From behind the lath, plaster and small hickory nuts spill onto the floor, each nut hollowed out on both sides. I imagine the squirrels, who lived here when the house sat empty, scurrying through the walls, nesting, and stocking up for the cold winter.