Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Phone Woes

Many people have only cellphones these days, those mini-computers, cameras, sources of entertainment that can be taken any- and everywhere.  The only drawback that I can see is that they must be regularly recharged.  That becomes a problem up here where power goes out, sometimes at length.  I have all these nifty wireless phones in the house that are useless without electricity.  Also, depending on the provider, cell service is spotty and there are many dead zones.  That explains why many of us in the hills, including me, keep an active landline as well as having a cellphone.  In an emergency, calls to 911 can be automatically traced by address.  A 911 call on my cellphone, because I'm on Craig's family plan, would identify my location in Woodland.  I need a landline.

Camille found herself in a pickle when her landline went dead and has been out for two weeks.  She has a cellphone, but her only charger is in her truck.  Also, her property just down the road does not get cell service.  We normally talk regularly, but for two weeks I knew if she called that she was driving around recharging her cell and was in a spot where it worked.  She told me of an episode in the past when the landlines had gone dead.  When the lines were repaired, they had literally crossed wires.  Calls to one person were routed to another.  Before they knew about the problem, one couple thought they were being pranked when they kept receiving Happy Birthday calls and got pretty testy about it.  Worse, the young woman whose birthday it was thought she'd been forgotten and that nobody loved her.

My landline went on the blink the day I went into town and I called it in (on my cell).  When I got home, the dial tone was back and I thought no more about it.  Yesterday while I was in the barn, I was surprised to see the AT&T repair truck coming up the drive.  I couldn't leave with a girl on the stand, so Phone Guy and I hollered back and forth.  He had come to check the lines going into the house, so I gave him directions to the box and we both went about our chores.  Before he got back in his truck, he yelled that, yes, I did have a dial tone, but it wasn't mine.  (Who knew?)  He was going to some junction box to fix the situation and would be back.  Returning to the house later, I did have a dial tone and tried to call Camille to see if she was back on line.  The call went through, but ten seconds later we were cut off.  She tried a couple of times to call me with the same results.  Aarrgh!

Calling AT&T for repair service is an exercise in patience.  Long gone are the days when dialing 0 (on a rotary dial) would get you an honest-to-God real person on the line, a woman with a friendly, sympathetic voice who would plug in her cords and get your call where it needed to go, one-stop shopping, as it were.  Now it's, "Push 1, 2, whatever and we'll play nice music and tell you that your call is important and stay on the line."  It took 45 minutes (I'm not kidding) to be rerouted to Greg.  I'd no more started telling him my tale of woe when Cam called in (yay for call waiting) and said she'd found Phone Guy having lunch at The Pub and he knew about the problem and would be back to fix it.  I told Greg that it was all under control.  He was happy, I was happy, and Cam was pleased.  I've got to hand it to her, she doesn't give up easily!  Later in the day, PG worked his magic and our phones are once again in service.

It's raining.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

No View From Farview

At least the fog didn't sneak in as a surprise yesterday.  This photo was taken in the same direction and at approximately the same time as the one from the day before, and I can only assume there is a sunrise back there somewhere because you sure couldn't prove it in this one.  Temperature in the 30s and the fog was thicker and so damp that moisture dripping from the trees sounded like rain.  Anyone with curly hair will understand what happens on a day like this.  My hair takes on a life of its own, frizzing out of control.  By the time I got back in the house, I could easily have been mistaken for Albert Einstein.

It's bad enough that I have to put cold hands on warm(ish) goats, first-in-line Inga especially.  Knowing what's coming, she starts shivering before I even sit down.  I, too, pay the penalty.  I have a "frozen" finger (won't bend) as a result of a botched surgery years ago.  Unable to curl up for warmth with its companions, it sticks out alone as I'm milking and becomes, in the literal sense, painfully frozen.  Naught for it but to keep on working.

As it did the day before, the sun came out in the afternoon and I was able to make a run for town.  There was no black ice on the roads as there had been and the biggest potholes had been temporarily patched.  There were enough smaller potholes to keep it interesting.  Because of the late start, it was a hit-and-run excursion, grabbing only the essentials on the list and heading home.  I made it up the drive as the sun was setting and got the girls, big and little, tucked in before dark.

Rain is due tonight.  Sigh.

Monday, January 16, 2017


I was singing "Oh What A Beautiful Morning" ("Oklahoma," Gordon MacRae) on the way to the barn.  It was, indeed, beautiful.  And then....  Chores finished and goats also enjoying the sunshine, on my way back to the house I noted grey sky to the west and thought, "Oh, those poor people down in the valley," and how lucky I was to have blue overhead.  Yeah, well, hold that good thought, chickie.  In the time it took to walk from the gate to the pen and up to the house, the fog had raced into the foothills and was covering my neighbor's vineyard.  I had no more than put the buckets down in the kitchen and it was a grey, grey world.  I couldn't even see the road.  Drat!  I'd been waiting for one more day of sunshine to make the trek to town.  So much for that idea.  I might not like it, but I'll drive in rain and I've driven in snow.  I hate fog.  Staying home seemed the better part of valor.

I had stepped out on the deck by the dining room in early afternoon and saw a coyote loping away down into the woods after doing a little window shopping by the chicken pen.  Of course, I yelled and stomped, but she circled back and tried to get under my neighbor's fence before heading in under the trees.  That's when I saw she had brought a pup along on a training mission.  I know they need to eat, just not my hens.

Cam, of necessity, had ventured out and came by when her errands were done.  She had, not Honey, but a young rescue dog she's been fostering, who waited in her truck.  As quickly as it had come, the fog lifted and we sat out on the front porch to enjoy what warmth we could get and watch her dog and Bessie Anne play.  The dogs were as happy as the humans to be outside.

It was a nice finish to a yucky day.

Sunday, January 15, 2017


It was 'loverly' to see blue skies and a real sunrise yesterday.  I might say, however, that the photo was taken at risk to life and limb.  I didn't realize until I'd taken two steps out that the deck was coated with a film of ice.  Yeesh!

With the sun full up, it was also nice to sit on the stand to milk and not have my knees under my nose anymore.  Each of the girls in turn spooked when they saw the white feed bags tucked under the legs of the stand.  It's their sense of self-preservation, but they do not like changes of any kind.  I have to put the rake and shovel back exactly where they were.  That bucket has to hang on that nail, not any other.  There were not supposed to be patches of white on the floor, but they'll get used to them.

Knowing that another week of rain is predicted, I didn't want to waste a minute of sunshine.  Bess and I sat on the deck and soaked up rays.  Later, we went out with the intent to bring up firewood, but I became distracted with the lovely afternoon and spent a long while pulling straggly dead weeds from the lavender bed.  Any excuse was a good one to stay outside.  Three heavy wagons of wood in the rack, and my back was crying "Uncle," so it was back in the house for a sit-down.

Leftovers are a single person's best friend, but I was hungry for something "new."  Browned chicken thighs with potato and carrot chunks, onions, garlic, and thyme in a reduced white wine and butter sauce made for fine dining in my book.

Stove was so happy last night with fresh wood and plenty of air.  As the temperature dropped, he cranked out the heat.  Good boy.

It was a good day.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

You Just Know

You just know it's going to be one of those days when you tackle the first chore of the day and it goes kerflooey.  The little door to the coop is a drop-down that forms a ramp for the chickens to run up and down.  The big door (the people door) is a Dutch door.  I opened the top, no problem.  I opened the bottom half and the blankety-blank thing nearly fell off in my hands.  The coop/storage shed could easily be 27 years old ( the house was built in 1990) and our weather extremes wreak havoc with wood.  The hinge screws had pulled out of the rotten support and left the door hanging and me hanging on.  This was not the way I wanted to start the day; the chickens could have cared less.  I managed to tie the door back enough that it wouldn't fall off and flatten a hen and went down to deal with the goats, my mind racing furiously through various scenarios for repair.

The glorious sun had come out so the daily routine went smoothly, the girls eager to get their duty done so they could go outside to bask in the grass.  The milking stand was buried in mud, another problem to deal with and I added that to the list.  After days of downpour, I was finally able to do a good job of cleaning the still-damp stalls and put down more sawdust chips for Sheila and Cindy.

The third item on the list was getting the chimney cleaned.  Impossible to keep a fire going the day before and unable to bank any coals, Stove and the chimney flue were stone cold, perfect timing to be swept.  But what to do?  I called Dave.  I knew he was home from work suffering from a bad case of shingles, but hoped one of the FSMC guys might have the day off and be willing to come help.  Fortunately for them, but not for me, they were all gainfully employed.  Sigh.  I put in a text to Helper Dude and, ta da!, he answered and would be here in early afternoon!  (Insert "smiley face" here.)

HD roared up the drive on his quad, girlfriend clinging on behind, and I told him what needed to be done.  "No problem."  In order of importance, he tackled the door to the coop first so I could put the little kids to bed safely come nightfall.  He relocated the hinge in solid wood and also fixed the clasp to that half-door.  (Smiley face.)

Next was the chimney.  HD is quite tall and only needed the eight-foot ladder to get on the roof.  He provided the muscle to wire brush the creosote buildup down through the flue, while I did the dirty work of digging it out from inside Stove at the bottom.  Silently, I was singing "Chim Chim Cher-ee" and covered with soot to the elbows.  It's a dirty job, but somebody had to do it.

Cleaned up with soap and water, we headed to the barn where HD was able to pull all 12 inches of the stand legs out of the mud, fill in the squirrel tunnels and level the ground, tamp down the dirt, and replace the stand as it should be.  Having an endless supply, we folded empty feed bags and tucked them under the legs to hopefully keep them from sinking again.

Unbelievably, everything was done in an hour.  Ah, youth!  We settled our business, he and girlfriend (who had said perhaps all of ten words the entire time) climbed back on the quad and roared off down the drive.  (Smiley face with exclamation points here.)

The only thing spectacular about this sunset is that there was a sun to see setting.  You just know it's been a good day when problems have been solved and all's right with your world.  I went to bed with a big smile on my face.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Rainy Day Play

I was pretty good about thinking up things to keep the Kids occupied on rainy days when they were little.  Making molasses taffy was messy, but they had fun.  Finger painting, messy fun.  (I'm seeing a pattern here.)  After days of not being able to go outside, watching innumerable reruns of Criminal Minds, CSI, and Blue Bloods, I was ready to bang my head against the wall with boredom.  And what did I do for fun?  I dusted.  Ta da!  I've got several unread books, but I really had to get off my rusty-dusty and do something positive and minimally active.  The downpour of the morning had subsided to a day-long drizzle not conducive to hauling firewood, so I was still stuck in the house.  Dusting equals desperation, but the living room glows!

Stove is choking.  No matter how I stoked and vented, I couldn't keep a good blaze going.  It's pretty obvious he needs a chimney cleaning.  I called my neighbor Beau who is looking for handyman jobs, but wouldn't you know he got hit hard by some bug his kids brought home from school and is sick as a dog.  No help there for the time being.  Stove and I are going to have to limp along together and hope for the best.

Even though John Dear's back is turned to me as I walk by, I can tell he's feeling neglected.  I actually dreamed last night of tootling around with John in the sunshine, mowing here, there, and everywhere.  Sigh.

Speaking of last night, looking out on the deck I had trouble recognizing what I was seeing.  Had it snowed?  No, that white light was moonlight!  It seems like forever since the skies have been clear enough to see the moon.  That was a good sign.  This morning, however, that light on the deck when Bessie went out was ice.  With no cloud cover, the temperature dropped below freezing and what was wet is now frozen.  I really need to make a trip to town and had been waiting for the rain to stop.  Now I don't want to take a chance on icy roads.  Aaarrgh.

I guess today I'll dust the dining room, but my heart won't be in it.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

One Brief Moment

Gee willikers, I was as wet yesterday coming back from the barn as I've been in the worst of the storm, and there wasn't any wind, it was raining that hard.  I spoke too soon about the back stalls staying dry.  Inga's and the big room were okay, but Sheila's and Cindy's were a muddy mess.  I hauled a big bale of cedar sawdust down and put a four-inch thick layer in the dryest corner for each of them.  It isn't the best solution, but it was the best I could do.

Days of rain have affected us all.  Even the cats, who never go outside, have a bad case of cabin fever.  Ralph and Celeste raced through the house as if chased by demons, and wrestled and fought all day.  Bess Anne sulks when she can't go out.  She stands by a door (pick any door, this house has eight to the outside) and gives a bark.  I open the door, she stands and looks out, gives a disgusted sigh and goes back to lie down.  The goats are cranky and bicker and butt.  If there is the slightest letup, the chickens dash outside to look for bugs under sodden leaves.  I am depressed and apathetic.  There are things I could be doing, and I do nothing.  In the afternoon the rain stopped and for one brief moment the sun came out and I saw a tiny patch of blue sky.  Oh joy!  As I was hunting for a dry jacket to go out and bring up more firewood (the porch supply is nearly depleted), it started to hail and then rain again.  Ratchafratch.

News reports are full of weather conditions here and in the valley.  Flooding is rampant, even in downtown Placerville where little Hangtown Creek has overflowed into the streets.  Deb sent a photo of the Yolo causeway, which now looks like a huge lake with water from the Sacramento River.  El Dorado County has declared a state of emergency.  The local FB page has notices of downed trees blocking roads and huge potholes, one so deep that someone floated an empty milk jug to warn drivers.  All this to say I'm not overreacting to the situation.

It is raining this morning, but the weekend is forecast to be dry.  Please, please, pleeeze let them not be giving us false hope.  I need a little ray of sunshine.