As we reach the rise in the woods that dips down to the stream and the farm, Fate usually runs ahead of me. When I get to the gate leading into the back pasture, she is always waiting on the other side, her Border Collie intensity back as she waits for me to tell her to “get the sheep”.
These past few January days are warm enough for the ticks to come out and for the donkeys and sheep to do some winter grazing.
I didn’t feel like following anyone else’s path. So I walked through the woods with Fate following me, not thinking about anything but where to put my feet next.
And that’s how we found the twin trees, growing side by side, their roots covered in soft, bright green moss.
I’d been walking for at least an hour, was it them I was looking for all along. I sat between the tow leaning my back against one, my boots curled against the other, the moss surprisingly dry and warm.
I closed my eyes and let the thoughts and feelings run through me. I let them come and go without indulging them but letting them have their full say. And when I was done, I got up, stepped back and Fate stepped between the trees where I had just been.
I fumbled getting my iPhone out of my coat, silently asking her to stay, which she did, as she always does, as if she knows, which she probably does.
What did I feel when I sat between the trees? I felt safe, like I could have stayed there forever, like they were waiting for me.
The sheep are messy eaters. They plunge their heads into the hay feeder and when they lift them up their heads are covered in hay. Issachar, one of the new twins, insists on having his front feet in the feeder as he eats. And I often see the one sheep eating the hay off another’s back.
Yesterday, for the first time, Jon and I walked in the woods with Zinnia and Fate. Today I went for a walk with Fate and Zinnia. My first walk with Zinnia without Jon.
I had a pocket full of training treats and made sure she knew it. So as soon as we got out of the car I called her to me and gave her one. After that, every time I called her she came. Zinnia followed Fate over the little plank bridge as if she’s done it a million times.
It felt like the three of us have been walking in the woods together for a long time.
She and Fate got along as if there’s never been a problem between them. I did not for a moment worry about her running off. She not only followed Fate but paid attention to me too. And she never ran too far without stopping and looking back or actually running back to me.
As we came back to the road at the end of the walk, I told Fate to “walk with me” which means she walks behind me without running ahead. Zinnia listened as if she knew the command, which she had never heard before, and stayed behind me with Fate. Then she waited with Fate on the path till I walked to the car, and made sure no other cars were coming and called them to me.
Zinnia hopped in the car, covered in mud from the walk as if she did it every day.
It reminded me of the first few times I took Fate for a walk in the woods when she was a puppy. She just knew what to do. I can see the three of us having many good walks together.
“Let me see that again’, Jon said. It was the third time he watched the video I took of the red snail we got at the pet store yesterday.
On Thursday I saw that one of my Mystery Snails had died. He was acting unusual for a few days, staying in his shell, or hanging half out of it for a day then moving around again. But then I saw not only his empty shell but one of the goldfish eating the remains of his body.
With our Snail Party coming up next weekend I decided to get another Mystery Snail for the tank. Then I went to my friend Jackie’s house (Jackie is coming to the Snail party) and saw her new fish tank with guppies, a Mystery Snail, and two red shrimp.
I told Jon about the shrimp and the next day we were at the pet store.
We got two shrimp, one red and one yellow. The yellow one blends into the plants so she’s harder to find in the tank, but the red one is very visible and seems to love having its picture taken.
The video above is the one that Jon watched over and over again, as the tiny shrimp (it’s less than an inch long) busily fed itself while at the same time helping to keep the tank clean.
He named the shrimp Hydra after the Greek Goddess. (those little white dots on the plant below are nerite snail eggs. But they only hatch in saltwater so we won’t be having tons of baby snails.)
But we also got two new Mystery Snails. One with a brown and white shell and the other with an Ivory Shell. Two bottom feeder fish, and a few new plants.
My Snail Party is this Saturday and now our tank is so full of interesting animals, I’m not as concerned that there won’t be enough activity to keep people’s attention.
Here’s a time-lapse video of the new Ivory Mystery Snail.
I was doubtful when I made my Kitchen Mouse Potholders that anyone would want a mouse, even if it’s only a picture on a potholder, in their kitchen. But some of the people who bought them told me the most heartwarming and compassionate mouse stories, and I want to share them.
(Instead of making Christine’s mice into potholders I just backed them with a piece of fabric because she is going to frame them.)
” Believe it or not, she wrote me, “when my son was little he had pet mice and to teach him about hard decisions to make in life, when one developed a tumor, he actually chose to have surgery for his mouse, (it didn’t survive the surgery but he had other mice that lived good long mice lives) so we have a fondness for them – tame or wild.”
Then Christine told me how her son went to school to become a lawyer but decided not to practice because he found the law to be unfair. So he went back to school this time to become a nurse. Christine wonders “ if that planted the seed of interest.”
Then Barbara wrote to me about how when she and her husband bought a little cottage in 1994 it came with mice. “What is a cottage without mice?” she wrote. They would capture the mice in Have-a-Heart traps and drives miles away to let them go. Although she did have a feeling some of them made their way back.
But once at home Barbara caught a mouse in a “not so humane trap” but only his leg was stuck. So she nursed him back to health and when he was ready to be released she “watched him high tail it up the hill in my back yard”.
Jackie wrote me the last story in a card she sent with her check. It goes like this….
“Twenty years ago, I lived in a farrowing shed outside of Iowa City (the loveliest little nest). A Buddhist Monk lived there before me, old enough to have spent time in prison after the 1959 uprising in Tibet. He had rigged up a system for “catching” mice by tying bells around chicken bones, which he somehow suspended in a gallon-sized jar. Mice rang the bells waking him up and he would carry the jar outside and set them free over and over and over again.”
Zinnia has become a regular visitor to the barnyard in the morning. Today she tried to keep up with Fate as Fate ran circles around the sheep. Zinnia had short bursts of running as Fate ran round and round.
Jon took a video of it all which is below. Above is what Fate looked like, long-tongued and spittle-faced when I finally told her to lay down.
I just got back from lunch and was going to write about my Kitchen Mouse Potholders for sale but when I opened my Etsy Shop to link to it, all the potholders were gone. At first, I thought that something when wrong and for some reason, after I posted them in my shop they were deleted.
But then I saw that they were all sold.
So that’s the last of my Kitchen Mouse Potholders. They came from a linen towel that Carolyn gave me and I made and sold fifteen in all.