It just keeps snowing.

Day 259 of 365

Today, it snowed and snowed and snowed and snowed. I took this picture of the chickens just about 3:00 in the afternoon, and it kept snowing all afternoon and evening. I think it’s still snowing. We shoveled snow all day long. I am very tired. Ron is very tired. Our son helped a lot, and he is also very tired.

I think most of us had a rough day from this much snow. The poor chickens were only out of the coop for maybe an hour, and the poor ducks just sat in the snow hiding under their wings. I took them warm water four times, and maybe that helped, but it was still a very boring day for a duck.

Two people who did not have a boring day and, in fact, had a fantastic day are Boudica and Bairre. Great Pyrenees love the snow. Snow is the best to them, and we had a whole bunch of it today. I must get a video of Bairre playing.

But watching Boudica is my favorite. I wish I could convey her beauty. There is no picture that can do her justice. Every winter, when the pile of snow gets really, really high, Boudica loves to climb to the top and do her guarding work at the top of the little snow hill. Poor girl. It’s the only height she can get. Great Pyrenees are from the Great Pyrenees mountains that separate France and Spain. I imagine Great Pyrenees must naturally love getting some height.

Tonight, after dinner, I looked outside to see Boudica on her little hill, watching the road, watching the woods–protecting us. In the sparkly snow in the warm light from the porch, she looked like the most magnificent thing I think I have ever seen. It’s like, when I see her, I can see all the way to the Great Pyrenees mountains.

He’s so fluffy!

Day 257 of 365

Today, I did not have to throw away eggs! We got just five, but I was so thankful to get to keep all of them.

Also, we discovered that Bairre has stepped up his game when it comes to being bratty. Lately, he has been taking the duck water bowls, dumping them, and then dragging them through the snow. We have had to fill up the duck bowls too many times of late. But, today, Bairre decided to dump the food dish and then drag it through the snow. He left duck food everywhere in the snow, which is terrible because you never want to leave any food out for rats. We struggle enough!

Of course, we could not pick up the food. It’s just under the snow. Hopefully, the Blue Jays will clean it up fairly quickly. They love to steal duck food.

Yesterday, when I was baking the bread, FOUR times, he pulled the towel off of the rising loaves! Of course, he’s just bored and trying to get attention. We try to play with him a lot and give him loads of attention, but I’m telling you, Bairre has high standards.

It’s okay though. We’ll keep trying. He’s like a giant, living teddy bear. He’s so fluffy! It’s like heaven to pet him. He’s so fluffy that, tonight, I noticed my son’s hand left an imprint in the fluff after he gave Bairre some pets. How can a puppy be that fluffy? Gus had very soft fur, but it wasn’t so fluffy. Boudica’s fur is pretty fluffy, but Baire is like Great Pyrenees–extra.

Anyway, I wish everyone could come pet Bairre’s fluffy head because it will surely make you happy.

Snow Shoveling…with Friends

Day 253 of 365

The snow was real snow today, not ice-snow, and the sun was out making for a lovely day. It was a good day to shovel snow, especially when you have such good friends who hang out with you while you shovel.

This is little Arwen. She is, perhaps, my favorite chicken. She’s the last baby from Rooster and is the great grand baby of Poe. She reminds me a lot of Poe. She’s smart and chill and observant. She hung out with me the whole time I shoveled in the chicken area, and then, when I went to shovel the deck, I saw her roaming around the whole yard, just walking on top of the snow. Isn’t she beautiful? And do you remember her from this summer? She was the little chick who would sneak under the fence and steal watermelon from the big chickens this summer. I had never seen anything like it. Her boldness was surprising, and I wondered what she would be like as a grown up. Really, really smart. That’s what she’s like as a grown up.

This is Dvorak and the back side of Piatigorsky. My little crew I raised this summer mostly sticks together still. I think Dvorak was the first one out of the coop today. Being cooped up with Rooster all day long was stressful. Dvorak completely understands that Rooster is the boss.

Every time I shovel this path, many hens will follow me out there. That’s Arwen in the front, and Poe Jr. Jr. is behind her.

These are some of the trees in the chicken area. They look so beautiful to me in the snow. We have lots of oaks, some maples, and some birch. We also have a lot of pine and fir trees.

You can see we are starting to get a little pile of snow. After a winter of no winter, I don’t mind the snow. The chickens, on the other hand, are not fans.

This is little Arwen. After I finished shoveling, she just took off around the whole property all by herself. Here, she is exploring the garden, which looks so empty in the winter time.

This is on the other side of our property where the ducks live and the dogs work and play. Bairre can’t be trusted with the chickens yet, and he’s barely able to be trusted with the ducks. We have had setbacks in the last week. It’s a reminder that Great Pyrenees do have to be taught not to chase the little things. Boudica is rebelling and not helping, which is unfortunate because she’s the best teacher, but today, Ron told her, “If he gets into the ducks, I’m gonna be grumpy at you.” I am not even kidding. Bairre did not get into the ducks the whole rest of the day.

And here she is. I think she’s the most majestic being I have ever known. Isn’t she beautiful? I think I ask that all the time, but I just marvel at her.

And last but not least, here comes Bairre. He was just playing with his stuffed gnome in the snow, but I was making such a fuss over Boudica being so beautiful. This meant Bairre had to come assert his cuteness. He is definitely majestic too.

What I Know About Bairre So Far

Day 217 of 365

It takes some time to get to know someone, and since Bairre is still a puppy, he’s still his baby self. But I am enjoying getting to know him, seeing who he is and how he behaves in the world. In many ways, he’s so much like Gus that it’s surprising. He even holds his nose up for me to kiss it, just like Gus used to do. I very often forget and call him Gus.

Still, he’s definitely his own person. I have been working late tonight, but here is a short list of interesting things I have observed about Bairre so far. After all, it seems about time for a puppy update.

  1. He loves Boudica, but not so devotedly as Gus did. This could change over time, but he will argue with Boudica and be sassy with her. He also doesn’t look at her the way Gus did. Gus looked at Boudica like she was the most wonderful thing in the history of the world. However, I did notice how he acted when Boudica came home from the vet last week. He was very, very happy to see her, and for a little bit, his adoration for her reminded me of Gus.
  2. He’s mostly a daddy’s boy. He loves me a lot, but there’s something about daddy, it seems. Interestingly, when we first got him and I saw Bairre and Ron together, I thought they were meant to be. So far, they are.
  3. He has a hurt leg right now. He has a vet appointment next Monday. We don’t know if he is injured from wrestling with Boudica or if it is something else. But when he’s hurting, he becomes a mama’s boy. The last two nights, he has sat with me on the couch and acted like a baby. This is very unusual. He usually wants to be a big boy.
  4. He loves to get attention, even from strangers. In fact, he seems confused if a stranger doesn’t stop to admire him. This is unusual in my Pyrenees experience so far. I wonder if he will grow out of this. We’ll see.
  5. He’s way too smart, as you expect from a Pyrenees, of course. But the cutest thing is that he’s too smart for Boudica’s tricks. Boudica used to trick Gus. She could trick him out of treats, out of being the center of attention, and more. I see her try the same things with Bairre. He fell for a few things early on, but he’s already not having that anymore. He’s smart and sassy.
  6. He’s a foodie. Most Pyrs, I have read, are not very food driven. This seemed to be true for Gus and Boudica. Because Pyrs are not food driven, it can make it difficult to “train” them, though I kind of hate that word. Still, Bairre is a foodie and will “come” and “sit” for a bite of cheese. He also LOVES it when I come home from Tiller & Rye with a moose cookie for dogs. He thinks he’s so fancy when I bring home one of those.
  7. I am not sure, but I think he punishes us when he doesn’t get his way. No, I’m pretty sure this is correct. I think I’ve seen it happen too many times know. You kind of hope for the best and hope it’s a coincidence, but I’m pretty sure he’s a stinker on many matters. He’s so cute though.
  8. He is very big hearted and charming. I can see why we were so taken by him when we met his litter. I have never seen such a little charmer. He can be so very sweet.
  9. He has turned our hallway into his toy room. He drags everything he owns and then some things we own–plus all the things the cats own–into the hallway every day. I pick everything up. He drags everything back out. Right now, in his hallway/room, there is his stuffed gnome, his unicorn, his puppy dog, one of my LL Bean boots, Boudica’s unicorn, Ron’s socks, and a flip flop. None of this was here earlier today. I don’t even know when he’s doing it.
  10. He loves to play in water. The water dishes are not sacred, and he splashes water everywhere. We have had to start putting a glass of water on the table for the kitties because they don’t want to drink out of the water dishes after Bairre has had a pool party in them. Poor kitties. Thankfully, he’s pretty good with the kitties overall, and I think they like to play with him.
  11. He snort/grunts like a little piglet when he is happy to see you or wants a treat or is curious about something. This is the most endearing thing I have ever seen in my life. I must try to get it on video.

These are the things I can think of right now. I hope to write more about him as he grows older. He’s still learning the ropes in terms of the chickens and ducks, but he did mostly learn that’s he’s not supposed to chase the ducks. He’s definitely smart.

Bairre, the Celebrity

Day 207 of 365

Today was a great day! We had to take some copies of the Farmer-ish annual to the MOFGA store in Freeport, Maine today, and the MOFGA store is in LL Bean park. Since the trip was so long, we had to take Bairre, so we decided to take Bairre for a walk through the park area to let him stretch his legs and to give all of us a chance to see the beautiful holiday decorations–okay to give me a chance to see the beautiful holiday decorations. Truly, the decorations in the park were gorgeous. I had never been to LL Bean part during the holiday season, and it was lovely!

But the best part was Bairre. He was a celebrity! It took us nearly one hour to walk about three blocks, and it was because people were coming from every direction to see Bairre! People were oohing and ahhing and asking if they could pet him. And, when they did, Bairre just leaned in. He is a charmer! He grunted and wagged his tail and gave hugs. Two ladies actually came back after a first round of Bairre snuggles and asked for more. We were like, “sure!” Two little girls, both under the age of 5, just kissed and kissed him on his little head. Children were squealing with delight when they touched his fluffy fur. He is fantastically fluffy! A couple of times, there was actually a line. For real, people were waiting in line to get their turn to pet Bairre. I’ll bet Bairre officially greeted 100 people today. Maybe more.

And, of course, there were a million questions, so Ron and I had to give a few TED Talks on Great Pyrenees: Yes, they are quite chill. But, yes, they are still difficult dogs. Yes, they are great with children. Yes, they get very, very big. And, yes, they are very, very fluffy.

It was the best day. I could not stop smiling. The whole park was all festive, so it was like Bairre added this mini polar bear experience to the whole thing. Even Ron and our son were smiling all afternoon, and they are usually quite Grinchy about holiday festivities.

It is interesting to see who Bairre is as a person. Neither of our other Pyrenees have been so charming to people. In fact, Gus was suspicious of everyone–for ever. But Bairre just loves to be admired. I swear, I could see his little puppy head getting bigger by the minute, but I was glad for it. He’s a beautiful creature, inside and out. He should be admired.

Water Buckets

Day 194 of 365

This morning marked one of our annual milestones on our little farm. This morning, the outside water was frozen solid, so it was time to start hauling water from the house to animals. We use five gallon buckets, fill them up in the tub in our guest bathroom, and haul them all over our property. The chickens live near the front of the house. The ducks live at the back of the house. So we haul water every which way.

I used to feel worn out from carrying all of that water. I looked it up, and a 5 gallon bucket filled with water weighs 42 pounds. That’s not a little–at least not to me. But, over time, I have built up strength, and I am able to carry them without too much trouble, well, except for the trouble having two curious cats and a curious puppy cause. Oh my goodness! They were all three in the middle of everything all morning. Still, I try to remember to enjoy them and their curiosity.

I also have come to find a kind of joy in the service in relation to my water carrying–a task I will be completing for the next four months or so. I love bringing the warm water to the ducks because they love the warm water extra. They have a little tub we fill up, plus their 3 water dishes. I love when the just jump into the warm water and seem so happy.

The chickens aren’t quite as grateful for the fresh warm water, but they are some too. It’s the gratefulness you can see on their faces, especially those ducks, that really keeps me going in the winter. I have found that I am the type of person who will give and give and give as long as I feel appreciated. And the animals are endlessly grateful. They have a pretty good existence here. I have learned how to “listen” to our animals when they try to communicate with me, and it helps a lot. They have come to understand how to best get my attention, and I have some to understand that I need to pay close attention to such things. But they are always so grateful. It’s like a never-ending well of gratefulness with them, so I am a never-ending well of giving for them.

It has made for an interesting and wonderful life.

Here are some pictures from morning chores today, on this milestone. It will be another milestone on the farm when we can, once again, use the hoses for the water in the spring.

Puppies and Ducks

Day 178 of 365

It’s Thursday night, so I have many essays to grade, especially this Thursday because, well, puppy.

But I have a quick story that I am going to try my best to capture on video if it happens again. And I’m guessing it will happen again.

Boudica is starting to really chip in and help with Bairre. This morning, she baby sat for a good two hours. I was so thankful. I got so much done. Still, even Boudica gets worn out from him, and she looks at me like, “Yeah, I’m done.”

This afternoon, they were both outside with Ron while he worked in the duck yard. We do not leave the puppy alone with the ducks yet because he does chase them, and we don’t want a duck to get hurt. Since Ron was outside with them, I didn’t worry, but then I heard a terrible duck commotion. I ran outside just in time to see the ducks going one way and Bairre going the other. I also saw Ron laughing so hard.

“Did you see it?” he asked.

I told him I did not. He said it was too bad because it was hilarious. He said Boudica has been trying to keep in between Bairre and the ducks, but after a bit, she was just done. Ron said Boudica looked at Bairre like, “Go ahead, little boy.”

So Bairre started chasing the ducks when suddenly our male duck, Antonio, turned around, put his bill down low, and just charged the puppy. Ron said Bairre looked terrified and started just running and running with his tail tucked under. Apparently, Antonio chased him for a good bit before moving on and returning to his girls.

Ron said it was the funniest thing he had ever seen. He also added that Boudica thought the whole thing was pretty fantastic too.

PS You see what I see in those eyes, right?

I live with good people.

Day 176 of 365

In Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book, Braiding Sweetgrass, in the chapter on language, she writes about how the words for plants and animals in the native Potawatomi language translates into something like “tree people” and “bird people.”

When I first read this, I cried because I call my animals people. I just don’t have a better word for how they seem to me. It has always felt to me that the way most other people speak of chickens or ducks or dogs or any animal is not the way I see these animals. Everyone is “people” to me, and we are equal in my mind. I am reminded this week, as we have brought home a new puppy, that I live with the best people.

Boudica is doing much better with the new puppy. She still grumps at him some, but I am certain she is mainly doing it to make sure he knows his place. Still, she has started to play with him, and it’s just joyful to watch. She needed a playmate so badly, which I thought was the case. She is six years old but still a puppy in her heart. She would try to play with me, but I just wasn’t very fun. Bairre seems pretty fun though. And, oh my goodness, he thinks Boudica is the coolest person in the world.

Boudica is also already teaching him some. Ron said that she got between him and the ducks yesterday when he tried to chase the ducks. And to allow us an opportunity to get some work done, we will put the puppy on the deck, close the gates, and tell Boudica to keep an eye on him. She actually does for the most part.

I am also so impressed with the kitties. Betty really seems to like Bairre. He has chased her a bit and gotten a few swats, but she studies him and will play with him a little bit. It’s fascinating, especially the study. The first night we brought him home, she started following him around, only she was like lurking in the shadows, and he was oblivious to it. But everywhere he went, Betty was poking her head around the corner to see what and who he was. This was fantastic for me to watch. And once she determined he was okay, she started getting really close to him.

Bella was terrified of him at first but now plays with him a little. Mainly, she investigates him while he’s sleeping, which is the cutest thing ever. He will be sleeping, and after some initial sniffs, she will reach out and touch his fur. Maybe she’s trying to see why he’s so fluffy. He’s very fluffy.

I was thinking today about how wonderful these animals are and how thankful I am to them for getting along. We have not always had the best luck with members of our little family getting along. Gus was so jealous of Sophie, and she was pretty disgusted by him. Those two had a few stressful incidences over the years. But, so far, it seems everyone in our family has accepted Bairre and seems to kind of like him. He is pretty cute and charming. And, boy, isn’t it the truth that being cute and charming goes a long way in the world? I wouldn’t know about this first hand, but I have seen it in action.

Anyway, I am thankful to all of my people, and I try to remember to show it. I am fortunate. I get to live with really good people.

Reflections on the Loss of a Farm Dog—and the Hope to Begin Again

Day 169 of 365

In two weeks, it will be one year since we lost our Great Pyrenees, Gus, to lymphoma. Just typing the word “lymphoma” makes me angry and sad. He was only four years old, and he was certainly one of the great loves of my life. 

I don’t know if it was the return of the fall, the return of the season when we lost him, or the loss of my kitty Sophie that has triggered a deep and terrible sadness that has been almost confusing to me and just impossible to shake. I pretend, of course, like I am just fine, but sometimes, when people ask me how I am doing, instead of saying “fine,” I just want to start crying and say “I miss my dog.” 

After he died, I was sick and shocked and confused and numb. I couldn’t even write about all of it, which is usually how I deal with my grief. I felt frozen. The physical pain was so strong the first two days that I thought I might have a stroke. My uncle, also a deep lover of animals, had a stroke fairly young after he and my aunt lost their dog unexpectedly. I started to worry that might happen to me if I didn’t get myself into a better space. I had never felt so much physical pain after a loss. 

There was also this strange kind of panic feeling. He was our farm dog, a really good farm dog. He was a giant mess of a dog, who treated our house like a barn, but he was an amazing guard dog. When we lost him, though we still had Boudica, I felt panicked about what we were going to do without him. He loved “mama’s ducks,” and they loved him back after that time he literally chased a hawk off of their backs. Who would care for the ducks? 

That kind of feeling of loss was new to me. Before we got our Great Pyrenees, I didn’t know what it felt like to be cared for by a dog. Great Pyrenees are raised to be independent thinkers, and they are so highly intelligent, living with them is like living with a furry human. When Gus and Boudica would behave badly, I would call them our “bad roommates.” Pyrenees are quite unique. They are considered a very difficult breed because they are almost untrainable. If they love you, they will do what you ask, but they demand respect. If you don’t respect their intelligence, things will not go well. Our sweet Boudica thinks we barely know how to take care of ourselves. She barks at us when we leave or go for a walk, and I know exactly what she’s saying, “Get back here, so I can take care of you!” When our son was little, she would just about lose her mind when he would go for a walk or a bike ride.

I had lost some dogs before in my life, one was my first great dog soulmate, but I had never felt the pain like I felt when we lost Gus.

I have been thinking so deeply of late about why I am so sad again. It has to be the season. 

When we knew he was going to pass, I would spend time with him every evening outside. He loved to look at the moon and stars, so I would sit with him and look at the moon and stars with him—and tell him just how very much I was going to miss him. We sat there on those fall evenings, and I tried to tell myself that I wanted to remember to stop and look at the moon and stars like Gus always did. Sadly, I almost never do because looking at the stars without Gus hurts too much still.

He was my baby. He could be difficult and stubborn, but, for his mama, he would do anything. And he had this zest for life, an optimism, that made me love him extra. I work so hard to be an optimist because I seem to need it, but I live amongst pessimists. Ron says, “it’s not pessimism; it’s realism.” So you get the idea. 

Gus would get excited about things with me. His face was so expressive, I could tell what he was thinking all the time. When he was excited to see me, he would smile, and his eyes would squint, and we shared a deep love for one another that seems almost impossible to describe. I suppose everyone thinks that about their dogs though. 

Still, he seemed special, unusually expressive. When we first got him, I would marvel at how much his face mimicked human expressions. He would not just smile and squint, but he could be frowny and look so stubborn. The night before he died, after I helped him into his chair one last time, he looked into my face so long and so deeply, and I knew what he was thinking. He looked at me with such love, and I knew he was telling me he was going to miss me. 

I can’t believe I am writing this down. It’s very painful. I’ll need to stop remembering that time because it makes me cry, and when I cry, Boudica worries. 

Still, lately, I think about him all the time. In my thinking, I started to realize just how much I missed his optimism and zest for life. I started to wonder if, maybe, it was time to get a puppy, to try again. The reality is that we need to get a puppy before Boudica gets too old, as she is critical in training another dog. She will teach a puppy how guard the chickens and the ducks and to look for aerial predators, which is something not all livestock guardian dogs know how to do. It was something Gus taught her, interestingly, and we need that knowledge to be passed down. 

This weekend, Ron said he had been wondering about a puppy. He seemed hesitant to ask me about it, but I told him I had been wondering the same thing. Ron went online to the AKC website and found someone in upstate New York with puppies, born right around Boudica’s birthday and ready to go this weekend. 

Of course, the puppies were adorable. Great Pyrenees are magnificent dogs, and when they are babies, they look just like tiny bears—so much fluff. Ron asked, “Should I send them a message?” I paused for a long time. We talked about the pros and cons of getting a puppy one more time, and then I said, “Send it. I’m ready.” 

And so he did. 

This weekend, we will be driving to upstate New York to pick up a new little boy. I feel nervous. I am only somewhat nervous about the work in store, the lack of sleep that is coming our way. I am mainly nervous about what it will be like with a new boy. Will he help me hurt less? Will it all hurt more? 

Hopefully, our new boy will be a little less messy than Gus and a little less stubborn and a little less suspicious of every single human on the planet. Maybe a little less giant (Gus was massive and weighed 130 pounds with a head so big you could give just his head a hug). Maybe he’ll be a little less jealous of the kitties. 

Maybe he will be another good friend to me, as Gus was and as Boudica is. Hopefully, having a baby around will bring some joy, as they tend to do. At the very least, maybe I’ll be so busy with a baby that I won’t have as much time to miss my Gus. 

But I am still scared, scared to love another being so deeply that the loss will feel like it’s going to kill me. I would like to think that maybe I can hold myself back a little, love a little less knowing what’s coming, but then I know me. I won’t. I’ll be head over heels once again. .