A Good Home, Animals, Barns, Canadians, Country Living, Couples, Dogs, Life in canada

At Home with Valerie Rowley Pt. 1

My mother always raised chickens.  And when my husband and I got a place smack-dab in the country, some years ago, I wanted to raise chickens.

“Too much flippin’ work,” he said. “Never mind the fact that chickens attract weasels, foxes, you name it. No chickens!”

I got the drift: No chickens!

So imagine my delight in discovering, years later, that someone I know raises chickens.  And – what’s more –  invited me to come visit with her and them!

Blog Photo - Val and Chickens

That someone is designer Valerie Rowley.  She has 5 varieties of chickens.

“Silver Laced Wyandottes (small, bossy little hens); Buff Orpingtons – large, golden, affable hens – the archetypal Easter chick in fact. We also have Black Australorps – the Angelina Jolie of chickens with lustrous black feathers and large round eyes. “

Blog Photo - Vals chicken 3

Blog Photo - Vals Chicken 2

“Then we have the big Light Brahmas.  Grey and black with lovely feathery feet, they always make me smile.   They are extremely vocal with a wide chicken vocabulary of sounds and a clumsy, waddling gait .”

Blog Photo - Vals chickens roaming

“And then we have the Ameraucaunas.   They lay the blue and green-shelled eggs – a throw back to a jungle fowl years ago.  Sweet birds but tend to get picked on and rarely  fight back.”

Blog Photo - Vals chickens roaming

Blog Photo - Val Rainbow eggs

Happy memories from my childhood came flooding back at the sight of all these chickens roaming around the barn and the yard outside.

But raising chickens does have its challenges.  Just the other day, Val was busy sewing a “chicken saddle” to protect the back feathers of Cleopatra, a hen who had attracted the amorous advances of Mr. T., the rooster.

Blog Photo - Vals Rooster Mr T

Mr. T., Val says, “is still currently denuding more than a few of his  favourite hens of their neck and back feathers in the throes of his passion”.

Well … er … ahem….

After saying hello to Mr. T and the flock, I then met the dogs.   Val and her husband Chris raise and train Belgian Shepherd Dogs  – the Tervueren variety.

“There are four varieties of Belgian Shepherd, but I like the Tervueren because it is not  only extremely smart, athletic and loving but also very beautiful.   And aesthetics mean a lot to me of course!   They are also a healthy breed – not so popular, therefore not badly bred.”

Blog Photo - Vals dogs1

Val says the Tervueren is not a dog for everyone.  “They can be strong-willed and when young, often  in constant motion.”

Blog Photo - Val and Doggie

“You have to like exercise to own one of these dogs!   But when they work well they look amazing.   Neither Chris nor I would have anything else now.”

Thank you, Val, for a really lovely visit.

Next: Part 2. Val’s favourite spaces in her house and garden.

A Good Home, Angels, Birds, Books, Chronic pain, Dogs, Garden, Inspiration, Life Challenges, Pets, Photographs, Spiritual, Spring

The Angel

My staircase looked as tall as Mount Everest.  But there was no alternative: I’d have to climb the mountain.

My back and leg were on fire with pain.   As I’d done so many times before, I stood at the bottom of the stairs, summoning the courage.   Then I started climbing —  on hands, feet and knees — and told myself that I was a brave mountaineer.  Sometimes, you just have to lie to yourself and hope yourself believes it.

At the top landing, I sat down. The truth was that I felt exhausted, sorry for myself and not at all brave.   But it was worth the trip upstairs to my office.   An email came from my husband, who’d left for work early that morning.

“Forgot to tell you”,  he wrote.  “I heard a Cardinal singing this morning.  I looked out the kitchen door and saw a female… the male must have been nearby.”

Via vitalxrecognition.wordpress.com/
Via vitalxrecognition.wordpress.com/

I smiled.  I could almost hear the bird singing. Could almost believe that spring had really arrived and winter was really over.

It was mid- afternoon and my daughter’s little dog, Mr. D., woke up and headed downstairs.  It was time for his walk around the garden.

Photo by Hamlin Grange
Photo by Hamlin Grange

Together we went  out the door and into the garden, snowflakes swirling around us.

He scampered along and I followed slowly, leaning on my cane.   His fur is white, making him invisible against the snow without his sweater on.  And he’s so small that the low boxwood plants that border the centre garden bed can hide him completely.

At one point I couldn’t see Mr. D. at all, though he was standing just a few feet away, wearing his sweater.  Then I saw a blur of black and white speeding around the boxwood circle.  I smiled.  He slowed down till I caught up.

Photo by Hamlin Grange
Photo by Hamlin Grange

When we returned to the front doorway, I saw a small box, with my name on it.

I tore open the cardboard. There was a book inside.

It was Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things.  I’d been wanting to read it.

There was a short note accompanying the book:

“For Cynthia, who notices things ‘close up’ and understands in both visceral and transcendent ways the ‘Signature of All Things’ and can write so beautifully even when she hurts.”

Blog Photo - E Gilbert book

It was from Jacqui, who works at the London Public Library.  How did she know? I wondered.  How did she know that on a day like today, this gift would cheer me up no end?

I smiled. The angel at work again.

Sometimes the angel is a sound: the song of a cardinal on a winter day; the harmony played by the wind chimes on our verandah; the hilariously huge snore that comes from a tiny dog’s body as he snoozes on the floor beside me.

Sometimes she’s a scruffy-looking stranger.  The young man who rushed to open a heavy door for me, his kind smile illuminating his entire face.

Sometimes she’s a friend.  Jacqui, sending me that book.   My husband, telling me that spring is here: the birds are singing.  My sister, showing a keen understanding.

The phone rang.  My sister had asked me – I forget when, exactly – to find out something for her.  I did.  But now she was on the phone, asking for the answer, and I couldn’t remember what it was that I’d found out.  Too much pain, too little sleep, for days and nights on end.  I felt ashamed to tell her that I couldn’t remember.  I tried to speak; instead of words, a disjointed stutter was all I could manage.   For just a moment, I felt as if I might burst into tears.

My sister recognized the warning signs and reacted quickly.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “We’ll talk tomorrow. Just stop everything and rest now.”

Image Via achurchforstarvingartists.wordpress.com/
Via achurchforstarvingartists.wordpress.com/

I imagine that if the angel ever showed up as herself, she’d look like my mother:  soft brown skin, short, silver-grey hair, the picture of serenity.  In the meantime, she takes different forms and sounds, and helps me out when I least expect it.

“How do you manage to project such positive thoughts on your blog when you’re feeling so miserable?” a friend asked me one day.  She’d paid me a surprise visit, and found me struggling to get around.

“When I write on my blog, I try to uplift my readers,” I replied.   “Not sure what it does for them, but it sure makes me feel better!” At that, we’d both shared an understanding laugh and sipped our tea.

Of course, I should also have said:  “Did I ever tell you about the angel?”

Dedicated to Merle, Jane, Joanne — and all the other angels in my life.

 

A Good Home, Daydreams, Dogs, Pets

WHAT ARE THESE DOGS THINKING?

They are two of the sweetest little doggies you ever saw:  Mr. J. on the left and and Mr. D on the right, below. They’re my daughter’s pets and are a joy to be around.

They’re also the best of friends, who do almost everything together. Every so often, they’ll sit at that window for long minutes, staring out at the snow – or so I think.  Whatever they’re looking at, they seem very intent.

Blog Photo - Doggies in windowPhoto by H. Grange

When I go to the same window and look out, I don’t see anything moving. Not squirrels or rabbits or birds or any other creatures. Just trees and shrubs and snow.  Lots of snow.

Unless, of course,  dogs have telescopic vision and are seeing something that I can’t.

So what are our two little doggies staring at so intently?

And what are they thinking?  I know that dogs dream. But do they daydream as well?

And do they have silent conversations?

Mr. J: “Don’t you wish we could go back outside and play in that snow”?

Mr. D: “Not really- will this winter NEVER end?”

Mr. J:  “Isn’t it fun messing with the humans’ minds? Let’s just sit here and keep doing this.”

It’s one of life’s mysteries…..

Here’s to the pets who bring joy to our lives — sometimes when we least expect it.