Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I'm new here

Hi. I'm Agatha Rain. I'm new here. I joined the Deer Run family about 3 weeks ago.

I used to have a family, but they went away. I was left abandoned in a building with no food and no water. I was discovered on Christmas Eve, and taken to a scary place that had lots of animals in jail cells. I didn't understand what I did wrong to end up there. Why was I left behind? Where was my family....the people who said they loved me when I was a cute kitten? Why didn't they love me enough when I grew up to take me along where they went? How could they just leave me like I was nothing!!! What did I do wrong? What????? I was very confused.

I got to the scary building, and some really nice people got me some needed medical care. I had these awful bites all over my body, and they hurt and itched so much I couldn't help myself, I scratched off a lot of my fur. It hurt, but the nice people who found me helped me with that too, and gave me lots of yummy food. I was so hungry, it had been a pretty long time for me trapped with nothing to eat or drink. I was still really scared though. There were lots of animals who were scared like me, and it was noisy.

I ended up in another jail cell but in a place where I was by myself. I remember a lot of people walking by my cage, and sticking their fingers in at me to try and touch me. I didn't like that. Then these 2 other people showed up, something was different about them. They stood back from the jail cell and softly spoke to me. They didn't try to touch me, or bang on my cell. They wanted to know about me, and I remember them looking at me while talking to the guard. After awhile, they came up to me and asked ME if they could hold me. I stuck my paw out to them right then and there! I was very excited, they asked ME for permission! So, when the door opened, I just about leaped into the ladies arms!!! I began to purr, but truthfully inside I was crying "please don't leave me here."

They heard me! They must have heard me! They carried me all around, softly rocking me and asking me if I trusted them enough to let them love me! I really wasn't about trust anymore.... I still don't know what I did wrong with my last mommy & daddy. It didn't matter though, I told them I would do my best to love again, so they took me home.

I have 2 sisters and a brother now, and its been a lot of adjusting for all of us. I am still really hungry all the time, I cannot believe I will always have food to eat, so I try and "steal" things. I don't mean to be bad, I just am afraid I'll be alone and hungry again. Mommy caught me eating lettuce out of a bowl. She looked very sad when she saw this happening. She said she understands that I am confused, and cannot trust things yet. Trust takes a long time.

I love finding sunny patches to roll around in. Mommy gave me this really weird stuff that makes me all silly. Whatever that is, don't let it end!

I sleep on mommy & daddy's office chair as much as possible. Its peaceful there, and the "others" cannot find me there. I don't like confrontations, and I am still pretty scared by the brother & sister situation. My fur is growing back in, and I don't itch anymore either.

I have a new doctor, he seems nice, but doctors aren't my thing, so I hope I don't have to go there much. I heard them talking saying I'm just fine.

Mommy says I am beautiful. I want to believe her, maybe in time I can trust things. Its pretty nice here, and I'd like to stay. They tell me all the time I'm permanent. Its hard to have your heart broken, and start over.

By the way.... I liked to be called Aggie, ok?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The face of 101

It happened. Pop turned 101 on Sunday.

Pop's church had a party and special cake for him after service. There were about 300 people there. Later in the day, we in the neighborhood converged upon him for chocolate cake, hugs, kisses and great fellowship. Here's a picture of Pop's cake, and the birthday boy himself blowing out the candles.

The Thursday prior, Pop's golf group had 90 people turn out for the game. After the tournament, about 30 more people showed up for a total just over 120 celebrating at the club with a party, cake and good cheer.

Personally, I do not look ahead that far regarding my life. I have considered though, if I did live to be 101, I hope I could be a fraction of the person Pop is, and be surrounded by so many people who genuinely care.

The plans are already in motion.... next year, there's going to be fireworks shot from a boat in the ocean near Pop's house. Pop's already excited. So am I. We all are. He's placed his cake order too... surprise, surprise.... "chocolate cake, honey, with a side of kisses." Love ya Pop!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

I hear music

I live in Paradise. What's that saying "home is where the heart is." Right, ok. So, now I say "paradise is where the heart is." Here on this island is Paradise.

Yesterday was 86 degrees. Today just about hit 80. There were puffy clouds in the sky, and it was this amazing blue. I call it Skyy blue, just in case anyone is wondering.

Boats on the water. Birds in the sky. Cake in the oven (don't forget, Pop turns 101 tomorrow!!) I see flip flops on my beach. I see sunglasses sitting by the pool....

Tonight we went to a local tiki bar where Howard Livingston & the MM 24 Band (that's Mile Marker 24 for those uninitiated to Keys lingo) were playing. It was the CD release party for their 5th disc. Interesting fact. Howard has an outboard motor he takes to every gig modified with a blender attached. He makes margaritas in there for the crowd.

Back to the gig....Jam packed. I didn't see too many people I knew, seems they've got their groupies and so forth. We arrive, the 4 of us, park down the street... cars everywhere. Jam packed at the tiki, did I mention? Hit the bar. Wave hello to those we happen to know. Hit the bar again. What? A 2 hour wait to get a table? That's ok... there's a bar, what's our hurry, we're on island time. The band comes on well before the table is ready... Howard hops up and screams into the mic "OH YEAH, PARADISE BABY, WE'RE IN IT!" Crowd seems pretty liquored up by now, hollers back, toasting the band with their beverages of choice. Steel drums begin, trumpet, sax, steel guitar, all comes together... he's "Living on Key West Time" la la la. Oh happy day. 2 songs later the band leaves the stage, its like a crazy scene from Mardi Gras. They're all over the dance floor, the band that is. They're playing all their instruments on the dance floor dancing with all the people! Paradise baby!

Ooo, our table's ready! There's our friends Tim & Joanne still waiting for a table.... Us: come sit with us, ok? Them: Yes, sure, we'd love to! 6 of us now.... hit the bar. Yay, here comes the server, ooh, he's ready for another drink order, yay. (yes, of course there was a designated driver by the way...) We eat. We drink. We're laughing like idiots. The band goes on break. We run down to get my CD signed. Me: "hey Howard, thanks for doing the gig, this is great!" Him: "this is Paradise, this is perfect!" Yay! Howard signs my CD. I forget to take a picture. I'm a big dope.

Ah..... another day, and night, in paradise. Who needs Buffett on a day like today?

Friday, March 26, 2010

On Baking Bread

Hand made. Hand crafted. From scratch. Artisan. Whatever you call it, its how bread should be made.

Before coming here, I'd never baked bread before in my entire life. I should have though. Living here, baking bread is not easy. Other places I've lived it would have been much easier. Now I've got to worry about wind and humidity because I live on the ocean. It has taken me close to 3 years to perfect bread worthy of serving. No one would imagine the amount of failed recipes and attempts I've had at baking bread. Recently & finally, success.

There is a photo taken of me with my first ever successful loaves of bread. The expression on my face is actually joy. That, and surprise. I'm not sure what is more remarkable, the bread or the photo. Its the first time in about 20 years I actually asked to have a photo taken. Anyone who knows me realizes that you do not take photos of me. Those who do not know me, take note please. Back to the bread....

I do not own a bread machine. I do not want a bread machine. I want bread to be like I can buy in an old-fashioned New York (or NJ for that matter) bakery. You know the type... you walk into a small hole in the wall place, black and white vinyl tiles on the floor. Cakes & cookies everywhere, but the smell through and through is fresh baked bread. I love bread.

I took a cooking class with a chef. She asked me to arrive early to help her prep for the class. We were having casual conversation, but honestly I felt very inadequate in the presence of a very well known chef who is a published author. When I first arrived at her house, after introductions, she bluntly told me that all work in her kitchen is to be done by hand, and wanted to watch my knife skills. So, she handed me something to prep, and I did it. I guess I passed, because next thing I knew I was washing, peeling, slicing, dicing and chopping for about 2.5 hours. So, what does this have to do with bread you may wonder. Its this.... as I was working, I told her that all my kitchen work is done by hand too, as I felt it was one of the secrets to good tasting food. She simply replied "of course it is." Very matter of fact. Almost, but not quite, in a condescending tone. But, the thing is, most people don't do things that way anymore. So, this is the way with the bread.

My bread is a very simple recipe, but once I've mixed the dough in my stand mixer, I have to knead it. This is kind of tedious, it does take time. There's a proper way to knead dough, and I notice differences in the bread if I take a short cut.

So, after kneading the dough it goes into my proof box. If I didn't have a proof box, I could not make bread here. The humidity does evil things to baked goods, especially when it comes to non-traditional vegan baking. Trust me. Throw in some winds gusting through the house, and that's even more fun. Once the dough comes out of the proof box, guess what, I have to knead it again. When I am working with the dough, sometimes its almost trance-like. Meditative I suppose. Shape the loaves, and pop them back in the proof box. When they come out, pop them in the oven, and like a miracle out comes bread. Real bread.

If you're more of a city girl like me.... I think you'll understand why it was so important how, after almost 3 years of trying to make bread from scratch, to get that picture of me and my bread.

French toast tomorrow here at the inn. With my hand made, hand crafted, from scratch, artisan bread. Life is good.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


One of my best friends is turning 101 on Sunday. His name is George. Everyone calls him Pop.

I first met Pop when he was 96. I was driving down the road, and saw an old man at the street hoisting large palm fronds into trash cans. It was, I think, the month of July. Hot. Very hot. I pulled over. "Sir, would you like some help with that?" I asked. Sweat poured off his brow. He said "Your timing's perfect. I just finished. Where were ya an hour ago?" a smile flashed across his face and he busted out laughing as he saw the expression of horror on my face. Laughed so hard he almost split a side. After I realized the joke I said "I'm your new neighbor, my name is Jen." We quickly became friends (No, he didn't want any help either... "I want to do it myself" is one of his most spoken lines. Whatever "it" is depends on the day, but he wants to do it himself).

Pop and I come from different times, different worlds, different ways and different views. Yet, he is one of the best friends I've ever had. We spend a lot of time together. I drive Pop to his club twice a week, drop him off for his golf games. He runs his group twice a week, getting the biggest turnout in the club of anyone. Every Tuesday and Thursday. He keeps track of the tote board and money. Manually. Not so easy when there's upwards of 60 people in the group. No help necessary. "I want to do it myself."

Pop is very pragmatic. He has lived through many historical events. Has buried 1 son, his wife, siblings (has 1 brother surviving, just turned 94!), been in the military,and faced so many things I cannot imagine....but doesn't want to talk about the past. Instead, Pop likes to read newspapers, watch sports, the news, and look forward. He prefers to speak about current events, cooking, friendships, animals, family, and plans he's making. When you do something nice for Pop, he'll make you a shoo fly pie from scratch and give it to you. Pop knows I'm vegan, so when he wants to make me a pie, he'll ask me for my "special butter" and then make me my pie. I never had shoo fly pie before I met Pop.

When Pop was turning 100, he had a couple weeks that he became downright wistful. He wasn't as chatty either. I wondered what was going on. Finally, he confided he was thinking about his life, and his purpose in life. He said he had come to realize that he is a missionary. His mission is to spread the word of love. Once he was able to speak that, he went right back to his pragmatic and peaceful self.

Pop really is living his mission. Every day he goes outside to fill the bird baths. Then he'll sit in his chair and watch all the people go by the street. He's got a kind word and comment for everyone that passes "hey gorgeous" "keep on keepin' on honey" "looking good buddy!" Sometimes he'll do this for hours. Often the passers-by will trek up the drive to sit and talk with Pop. Its quiet on my street, and I can hear the laughing sometimes all the way down to my house. I know Pop is out holding court.

Pop has a golf cart he drives around his yard to help him with his yard work now. He drives it up and down the street too, visiting everyone and anyone. On the golf cart is a giant LOUD airhorn, placed courtesy of my better half. Pop loves that horn. One of his other daily rituals is to get on that cart and blast that horn. He says its so the neighborhood knows he's up and ok. I listen for that horn every morning. Sometimes he drives down here, pulls into the driveway and lays on that horn like there's no tomorrow. I'll run down the back steps with a plate of pancakes and a muffin as he's hollering "what's cooking honey?" He'll collect the pancakes and off he goes after collecting a kiss too.

Pop's got "it" figured out. He wakes every day literally with a song in his heart. Sometimes, he sings his conversations to you, just making up a tune to go with the words "hello honey, how was your day?" "Isn't today beautiful, I love you" all sung from the heart & soul of my 100 year old friend. Pop's songs are for everyone. He sings a lot, and shares them with everyone. I think if you climbed to the top of a mountain to meet a great guru, Pop should be the right one there. You'd ask "oh great one, what is the meaning of life?" and he'd reply "simple honey... love. And cake." Yup, he's got "it" figured out.

I'm making a cake for one of Pop's many 101st parties. He's placed his order.... "chocolate cake honey, with a side of kisses."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Something about Peri

This is Periwinkle. Peri for short. He is quite the celebrity at Deer Run. He has a very responsible and loving family of his own, yet he chooses to spend quite a bit of time here. He is what you would call a "people cat." Part of Peri's self-ordained responsiblities are keeping an eye on the neighborhood. He takes his job seriously. This photo shows him patrolling the beach here.

I've never known a cat like Peri. He never seems to tire of attention and affection. He's exceptionally intelligent, and an excellent communicator. With one quick look, or a well timed meow, you instantly knows what he wants.

Peri follows us on walks down the beach and back. He will follow us onto the sandbar out in the ocean. He will walk out on that same sandbar at dawn sometimes, all alone, just to go sniff things, check out the mangrove, and make sure everything is "in order." Then, he'll walk back, up the steps to demand a snack (organic, of course). After that, he'll walk down to the deck and do some grooming in a nice sunny patch. Finally, he'll stretch out for his 1st nap of the day. He's got his priorities, you know?

When new guests arrive, he has to "break them in." He'll look at you, sniff your shoes, and watch as you begin to settle in here. Once you have chosen your beach chair or hammock, odds are he will have to inspect your lap for suitability as well.

Peri is a free spirit. He is fearless, elegant, loyal, loving, generous, friendly and an excellent teacher. He is beautiful inside and out. Now you know something about Peri.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Have you ever considered life without animals? I have. My thoughts are within the context of how enriched my life is BECAUSE of animals that when the thought crosses my mind about life without them, its how much more empty things would be for me. I am surrounded by animals. Actually, we all are on this Earth, aren't we? Here at Deer Run, we've got animals in our home, all essentially rescues of some sort. Outside, there's endangered Key deer, endangered sea turtles, shore birds, song birds, hawks, crabs, fish, snakes, wood rats, insects, dogs, cats, and so much more.

What got me to this subject today is I was thinking about people who do not like animals. I've met them, even been quite close to a few of them at various times in my life. However, there's a part of me that immediately is skeptical of one who does not like animals. In the past, I would brush that feeling aside, but as I've gotten older, I'm unwilling to ignore that little voice in my head. Now, I'm not talking about someone who's had a bad experience with an animal (ie: an injury) or an allergy. I'm talking about someone who just does not like animals. I've come to realize that typically is an indicator of someone I do not want to be close to. I guess mostly that's because I'm an "animal person." My whole life, even as a child, my love of animals was nurtured. My mom loved animals, especially cats. Cats loved her too. I think if my mom were still alive, she would be an animal rights advocate.

My dad was a "dog person." He didn't dislike other animals, he just really loved dogs. He loved other people's dogs especially, being someone who didn't want to be tied to the responsibility of having his own dog especially later in life. I had to learn to respect that. I didn't understand it for a long time. Dad came to love a few special cats in his life time too, I think mostly because they had strong "dog-like" attributes, but they were still felines through and through.

Animals teach us many important things: sleeping when we need it, how to thoroughly enjoy a good meal, the importance of stretching, the importance of making time to play, loyalty, patience, and of course love.

How can someone not love something that is, at their core, all about love. I am profoundly grateful for the animals, and simply cannot imagine how incomplete my life would be without them.

Today, I spent a lot of time looking at all the animals inside and outside my home. I could spend all day just doing this... watching animals. Hours of entertainment, you know what I mean, don't you? I'm going to post some pictures soon of animals around here. Tonight, won't you give some extra thanks for the animals. Ask the Universe to watch over and protect them. It is a very different world the animals live in, often times full of bad things. They can use all the help they can get.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Blog is Born!

Living the dream at Deer Run. Is that what we do? Its what most people tell us we do. Truth be told, it IS pretty amazing here. We live on an island actually closer to Cuba than to Miami, yet we're in the good old USA. We own and operate an eco-friendly, organic, vegan, bed and breakfast. We're the real deal. You've got to drive a lot of bridges to get to our island. I'm not a fan of bridges. I also cannot swim, and have an irrational fear of water. Bridges & water. There's a little irony in living here for me.

March has been a big month for us. We're featured in the current issue of VegNews Magazine (March/April 2010) and were just honored as the "Greenest Business of the Year - 2009" in the Florida Keys by Florida Keys GLEE. Also, the week before last, we attended training to be Save-a-Turtle volunteers, and also additional training in stranding and salvage. That means we can help assist hurt or dead turtles now too. All species of sea turtles are now either threatened or endangered. You cannot just go around touching these special animals, you've got to have training, and even with some training you've got to have permission from the authorities. Living where we do, there's often situations with sea turtles needing assistance. We feel its an obligation of ours to become involved with these mysterious creatures. So, as SAT volunteers, we'll be walking our appointed stretch of beach every day looking for turtle tracks and nests. We'll be writing a lot about that as the season wears on. Last year we walked the beaches too, and had some incredible experiences with sea turtles. I'll share some stories and photos in future entries. Looking forward to another season with the turtles!

The day has come to a close for me and this first blog entry. Let's see what tomorrow brings, shall we?