Saturday, December 3, 2016

And So It Begins!

My holiday season got off to a swinging start yesterday when I met my friend Mary for lunch at Poor Red's.  My daughter Deb and I worked with Mary for the same company back in the late '80s, early '90s and we've maintained contact all these years.  Mary is making the family rounds this week:  our lunch yesterday and she's meeting up with Deb today.  Honestly, we did not coordinate our holiday sweaters so it's pure coincidence that we look like a pair of smiling purple grapes.  In case there's a question, I'm having one of Red's famous Gold Cadillacs and Mary's drink of choice was a Grasshopper.  Order a blender drink at Red's and you get a champagne glass and water glass full.  You get your money's worth at Red's.

After a leisurely, very good lunch and lots of reminiscing and catching-up conversation, we headed back out into the cold.  As a punctuation point to the holiday theme, Mary gifted me with a reindeer tree ornament.  Now I'm obligated to decorate the Christmas tree this year.


Friday, December 2, 2016


It's only been a week, but as I looked around the living room yesterday I realized it needed dusting again.  I don't know whether to aarrgh or sigh.

I don't need pilates or fitness training or whatever health trend is in fashion these days.  The little app on my phone informs me I log about a mile and a half walking every day.  I got plenty of exercise yesterday thanks to Bessie Anne who could not make up her mind.  "I need to go out!"  I opened the door.  "I've changed my mind."  I closed the door.  Five minutes later, "I need to go out!"  Open.  "Never mind."  Close.  The next time I opened the door, I helped her out gently with a foot to her backside.  Three minutes later, "I want back in now."  It was as if we were on an endless loop all day.  In addition to her cataracts and near-total deafness, I think the old girl may be slipping a cog or two.  I can only hope for as much patience when my turn comes.

Cindy has been off her feed for several days now and has developed explosive diarrhea.  I can tell from her eyes that she just doesn't feel good.  I've been mulling over how to help her, and evidently my subconscious worked on it overnight because my first thought this morning was, "Kaopectate!"  Why didn't I think of that before?  I've used it on baby goats to stop diarrhea, but haven't had kids in years.  And how does one dose a goat?  I keep a supply of new syringes and needles on hand.  A clean syringe without a needle filled with the medicine slips into the mouth in the gap between the front teeth (lower jaw only) and the grinders in back, the same place the bit fits on a horse.  Working alone, it's best to have the goat's head in the stanchions first.

I sometimes wish chickens had an on-off switch.  Earlier this year the little girls weren't trying very hard and there were some weeks I hadn't enough eggs for my customer.  Now I'm picking up six to eight a day and there are buckets of eggs piling up in the fridge.  And, of course, now my customer is working out of the country for the time being.  I'm giving them away like door prizes (I foisted a dozen on Harold), and still they multiply.  I don't eat breakfast and continue to whittle away at the turkey so eggs for dinner are out.  Shades of barrooms of the past, I may end up pickling some.

Except for the dust, it was a good day.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Come And Gone

One day they're there, the next they're gone.  It's as if there were a shift-change in the bird world and one crew comes on as another one leaves.  I haven't seen a Steller's jay, brilliant blue with a black crest, in ages.  Suddenly yesterday one was on the deck rail and driving Ralph bonkers by flying at the window and back.  There are still a few, but very few, California jays still in the area.  The noisy neighbors, the crows, have pretty much moved on, replaced by huge numbers of smaller blackbirds.  Coming back from the barn, I heard a pair of red-tail hawks working the area, and the other night I heard owls hooting on the hunt.  With the advent of cold weather, all but a few hummingbirds have moved out.  Camille has noticed this, too, at her place.  Possibly because there were much fewer acorns this year (probably because of the drought), there were fewer woodpeckers, and now most of them are gone now.  While the majority of vultures left in September, thankfully the maintenance crew stayed behind.  Ring-tail doves have taken the place of mourning doves.  The one constant is the turkeys, who continue to gather at the breakfast stand every morning, making another hopeful pass in the afternoon.

Bright sunshine one day, gloomy clouds the next.  While not frozen over, there definitely was ice in the water troughs yesterday.  I turned off the water supply to the deck faucet, and must remember to wrap the pipes on the outside faucets today.

The anthem for the season is a WWI song "Till The Boys Come Home," which begins, "Keep the home fires burning...."  I've got to get back in the habit of banking the coals at night so it's easy to get a fire started in the morning.  I didn't night before last and once again the house was frigid until well after barn duty yesterday. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Is It Bedtime Yet?

Once upon a time, long, long ago, like every kid I would complain that it was too early to be sent to bed.  "Just a little while longer.  Just five more minutes.  Puleez!"  Yesterday I changed from the icy-cold sheets of summer to the snuggly-soft fleece sheets of winter and as I made the bed, it was all I could do to keep from crawling in right then and there.  Being the grownup that I pretend to be, I restrained myself, but it wasn't easy.  What with the changeable weather of late, I'd left the cotton sheets but complained to myself every night as I added socks and pajama bottoms under my gown and put a heated beanbag between the sheets to thaw my feet.  It's a well-known fact that heat will not turn corners.  Even though the living areas will warm up, the bedroom stays as frigid as an icebox all winter, and winter is upon us.  It barely reached into the low 40s yesterday, and that's just a taste of what's to come.

Bedtime for the girls is now about 4 p.m., and believe me, they are ready to go in for the night.  No "five more minutes" for them.  The reverse sunset was stunning when Bess and I went out to do our chores.  Unfortunately, I missed getting the small herd of deer going down the driveway in the picture above.

In the last rays of sunlight, the chickens were clustered by their door.  No need to ask if they were ready for bed.  They trooped inside like little soldiers to have a snack before perching on their roosts.

All afternoon I imagined how good my bed would feel and you know what?  It was even better.  No extra protection, no extra heat needed.  No shock to the system to open sleepy eyes wide.  No waking up in the night because a foot slid over and hit an iceberg.  The sun isn't up yet and I'm already wondering if it's bedtime yet.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

It's All About The Nap

Misty, some light rain, and cold.  The only things warm in the barn were the udders.  The play yard gate was opened and the big coop door was closed.  Not the most pleasant of mornings.  Back at the house, fingers and toes chilled to the bone, I punched up the fire and made a hot drink before settling into my chair.  Bess had gone out with me and was as cold as I and she pushed her way onto the chair so we could warm each other, a living lap rug.  Soon we were snoozing happily, waking only when the fire had died down.  It was a day for piddly chores, consolidating leftover leftovers (like loaves and fishes, they seem to multiply), doing dishes, and keeping the fire stoked.  Another quick nap in the afternoon before putting the girls inside for the night.  Camille called on her way home from town and I warned her about the fog, dense enough that I could barely see the road in front of the pasture.  She called later to say that there had been no fog until she was almost home and that we must be in a low-lying cloud bank.  Yet another turkey sandwich for dinner (five days' worth of turkey and I think I could fly) and yet another nap before bedtime.  It's all about the nap.

Monday, November 28, 2016


There's one in every bunch.  We all know that one, the one who requires (if not demands) special attention, privileges, favors.  I can't call BF Betty and Jealous Jennie divas because all they ask for is affection.  (Yesterday it was Jennie in the morning and Betty at night.)  However, there is a certain mouse in the barn I've named Diva.  Every morning I squirt milk on two sets of wipes, one on the ledge and the other draped over the wipes bucket, and mice literally come out of the woodwork to sip, crowding each other at the bar.  Diva, however, refuses to drink with the hoi polloi, sitting on her haunches in front of the shovel until I squirt a few streams so that it runs down for her to lap at and then at the pool at the bottom.  She drinks in solitary splendor.  Who would think the barn could be so entertaining?

After all the prep and busyness of the last week, I would have liked nothing more than to sit and be a couch potato yesterday, but it was not to be.  Running short on goat chow and since it was a sunny day, a trip to the feed store was mandatory.  Like it or not, I also had to run into town.  I could make it all in one loop, but Bessie Anne loves to go to what she calls the Cookie Store and I hate to disappoint my little girl.  More rain is due today, so all the feed had to be unloaded and put under cover when we got home.  It amounted to 205 pounds of feed, and I have to admit it's getting harder to drag the bags out of the truck these days.

That done, it was off to town.  There were two stops, one at either end of Placerville, and that meant getting on the freeway.  Yesterday it wasn't so free.  Not only was it the weekend, it was Thanksgiving weekend and opening day for many of the ski resorts, and while nothing like freeways in Los Angeles, the road was packed, some cars still carrying snow on top.  Passing Placerville, the speed limit is 30 mph, but it's only for a short distance and after passing the last stop light, cars leapt out of the gate like race horses.  As for myself, I really didn't mind because Placerville does Christmas proud.  Nearly every post in the fence along the road has a small Christmas tree atop, decorated, I believe, by local organizations and businesses and they do compete.  It's really very pretty and helps the holiday spirit.

It gets dark so very early now, so I had to rush home, unload the truck (again), and tend to barn chores before the girls balked at going into dark stalls.  One last cuddle for Betty and I was done (and done in) for the day.  Oh, right.  Still had groceries to put away.  Sigh.

And, of course, there was Stove to punch up and stoke before settling into my chair.  It was a good day.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Back to Normal

After days of frenetic activity, company, and goat craziness, it's time to get back to normal (whatever "normal" is).  The girls came in in orderly fashion yesterday for a change.  There was one small contretemps when Sheila had an accident on the stand, fortunately the results of which did not flood where I sit.  Either the weather has dampened Tessie's ardor or she's finished her cycle.  Whichever, we're both calmer now.

On Thanksgiving, while Dave was carving the bird, Craig had asked what to do with the wings, etc.  I told him to package them up for the chickens.  "Will they eat that stuff?"  "Oh yeah!"  It wasn't raining when I let the little girls and guy out of the coop yesterday and they ran to the meat like a flock of vultures.  I checked on the way back to the house and they had picked the bones clean in that short time.  There's something ironic about chickens eating turkey, but it's not for me to judge, any more than when Louie the pig ate sausage and bacon and licked his (pork) chops.

The skies opened up and rain fell most of the day.  Harold had driven his forklift under a tarp and caused a waterfall.  His arrival here was delayed while he changed into dry clothes.  (Hard not to laugh.)  Fortunately, Stove had cooperated and the house was warm, and Harold did yeoman's duty with a fork on the leftovers.  Three days later, there is hardly a dent noticeable.  It's off to the freezer with some of that stuff.

We were as back to normal here as we're gonna get.  It was a good day.