Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Clean-up Crew

Those of you who've followed my scribbles for any time know that the goat barn is my thinking place...where my mind can go free-wheeling while I milk, and I can ponder the problems of the world and consider life in general.  I sort through thoughts suitable for the blog, hold long conversations in which I play all roles, plan the rest of the day, and worry about crises in the lives of others.  While the warm milk froths into the bucket, through the open dutch door I watch the weather, the goats outside in the pen, and the birds in the tops of the oaks.  There is one tree where the local vultures congregate, warming themselves in the early morning sunlight or resting from their work.  These are huge birds with a nearly five-foot wing span and, unlike other species of birds, these are totally silent.  Vultures have a rather ominous reputation, and it was alarming to me the first time I walked toward the goat pen and saw a vulture on every single post around the pen, perfectly still and facing the barn.  Ohmigosh, I was sure I'd find a dead goat, and these birds were waiting for breakfast to be served!  (They were just sunning themselves.)  The birds in this photo are on the fence to the front pasture, but it gives an idea of how many gather at a time, and the picture doesn't even show the ones up in the tree or on the fence going down the driveway.  The thought occurred to me that the world would be a pretty stinky place in no time at all without this clean-up crew.  Birds and varmits have a short life span, and they have no emergency rooms or burial grounds and up here we get a lot of road kill, too.  Vultures are found all over the world, taking care of business, and we really owe them a debt of gratitude.  And that's the thought for the day.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Patter of Tiny Feet

I get such a kick out of the little girls at bedtime.   A number fly over the fence in the morning to free range, laying their eggs in the hay barn, and most fly back into the pen at dusk.  There are those, however, who prefer to wait until I open the gate for them to rejoin the flock.  When I go out to attend to nighttime chores, these "leftovers" come running to me like puppies, and I hear their pat-pat-pat as they follow me to the feed shed, running to keep up.  The back of that shed is up a couple of steps, and they hop up after me to make sure I get the nighttime snacks.  The other night, I got the snacks, went back to the pen, everyone went in and I shut the coop doors.  As I walked around the shed to go to the goats, I heard a chicken in distress, but where?  It seems one adventurous girl had gone into the shed after me and got herself shut in.  "Help!  Help!  It's dark in here and I'm all alone!"  Unlike Stumpy, the free-rangers don't normally let me pick them up, but this frightened hen practically leaped into my arms.  I took her back and tucked her in with the others...she now stays at the bottom of the steps.  Who needs TV for drama?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

And Now A Commercial...

I'm going to digress today to throw in a plug for Melissa D'Arabian's Ten Dollar Meals on the Food  Channel.  I watched her win the Next Food Channel Star show, and ran across her program the other day.  Last night I made her menu...herb-crusted pork loin and braised red cabbage with apple, fennel seed, and a little red wine.  I've never made a better pork roast, and Joel, who normally runs from vegetables, had thirds on the cabbage.  We all signed up for the Clean Plate Club.  Dinner for four really did cost less than ten dollars!  Pork loin was less than the price of hamburger.  I'm definitely putting her on my DVR list.

I explained to all the critters that their cooperation would be greatly appreciated last night, and would you believe it...they all went in like good little kids.  After whirling through the house like a dervish all day, I actually was ready with ten whole minutes to spare!  (That's got to be some kind of record.)  As I told Dennis, you can come to my house late, but for crying out loud, don't come early! 

Even though I'm no longer an official member of the Red Hat Society, I'm taking Judy with me today to meet up with the Red Hat Gold Diggers (my old chapter) for luncheon at one of the local Indian casinos.  It's my belief that Red Hatting is more of a lifestyle and mind set than membership. When you get to that stage in life when you just don't give a darn what "impression" you make, you qualify for Red Hats!  After all, Girls Just Want to Have Fun!!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Goats Rule!

Company is coming for dinner tonight.  This is a little more complicated than one might think, as one must plan around the goats' schedule.  The morning, which might better be spent spiffing up the house, will instead be spent milking and cleaning the barn and associated chores.  Guests must arrive after the girls have been put to bed, but cooking must all be done before that.  One can only hope everyone behaves well and doesn't resist going to their room, delaying the process.  Timing is everything! 

Once upon a time, when I had just Lucy and Ruth, who was a baby, I won a night's stay at a local B&B.  We decided to make this a real event.  We put on our go-to-town clothes, checked into the B&B (only a mile from home) and drove the 20 miles into Diamond Springs for early dinner.  Since Lucy was on twice-a-day milking, we then came home, I changed into barn clothes and did the chores, changed back into my nice outfit, and we went on up the road for our romantic get-away.  At five the next morning, I left Steve snoozing in the suite, came home, changed into barn regalia, and went to the barn.  It, of course, was raining.  At that time I had no real barn and no milking room and the stand was outside.  Lucy would not go out into the rain, so I crawled around in the little shed, trying to get her to stand still, while Ruth snatched the hat off my head and played keep-away.  Bedraggled, dirty, and wet, I had to shower, change clothes again, and go back to the B&B for continental breakfast with Steve.  As I said, goats rule...just about everything. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Farview Farm in Fair Play

"How did you ever find this place?" is a frequently asked question, since it's out in the back of beyond in a place no one ever heard of.  Steve and I were working different shifts and communicated through post-its and the occasional phone call during the week.  Coming home one night, I found a real estate throw-away on the table with a note that said, "Look through this.  I know which place you want."  We had not even considered moving, so what was this about?  I thumbed through the little paper, saw one place that had appeal, and when Steve called, he said, "You like the one on page such-and-such, second down next to the fold," and he was right.  "Want to go take a look?"  I called Deb, she was up for an adventure too, and we made an appointment with the realtor.  Following detailed directions, we finally found Somerset.  Bill (he's also a neighbor) showed us a couple of other, unsuitable,  places first, and then the house on Gray Rock.  Deb and I were whispering in the back seat that, yeah, like anyone would live on this bumpy dirt road, but as soon as we turned up the drive, I knew we were home, and so did Steve.  The house needed a lot of work - didn't matter.  The residents had their trash pile and a pumpkin patch in the front yard - didn't matter.  The fields were overgrown with weeds - didn't matter.  We were home and that was that.  We moved in two months later.  But where did we live?  Where did you ever live where they asked where you wanted your mail to come?  We could have our pick of Somerset, Mt. Aukum, or as far south as River Pines.  We chose Somerset, only six miles away.  It wasn't until later that we could use Fair Play (Wines With Altitude!) as our address (same post office and zip).  Inspired by Gladys Taber and her tales of Stillmeadow Farm in Connecticut, this place deserved a name and, given the surroundings, Farview Farm seemed appropriate...if it weren't for one stretch of hills, we could see all the way across the valley to the coastal range.  And that's how Farview Farm in Fair Play came about. 

Monday, January 25, 2010

Dear Hearts & Gentle People

I lived in Sacramento for five years and didn't know one single neighbor.  I knew the name of the family across the street only because of misdelivered mail.  As we were looking at property up here, it amused us that everyone we drove past stopped their activity to turn, look, and wave.  It didn't take us long after we moved to Fair Play to discover that "neighbor" meant more than just the people next door.  Now, I do want to say that we had wonderful friends in West Sacramento, with many shared activities, and happily we still get together.  Hill people (as opposed to flatlanders) form a network that goes beyond friendship.  There's an unofficial phone chain...a mountain lion has been sighted, rattlesnakes are coming out, there's smoke rising from the next hill, there's a deer in your vineyard, someone's dog (or cow) has gone missing.  Pretty soon we're all on alert.  I just spent a joyous evening at my neighbors', celebrating her eight years cancer free.  I've heard an engine running close by, and looked out to see my neighbor on a tractor, disking the big south pasture, unasked, unannounced, but so appreciated.  A gathering filled the Grange Hall recently (yes, the Grange is active here) to give support to a family that had just lost their wife and mother.  I know from experience how comforting those hugs and murmured words are.  Condolence means shared sorrow, and it really is significant to my neighbors.  The mailboxes are down at the big road (that just means it's paved), and that's where we take the trash barrels for pick up once a week.  That's the meet-and-greet place, where we catch up on the local news.  Gray Rock Road is a bumpy, deeply rutted dirt road, and there's no traffic to speak of.  I find myself turning to look and wave when a car goes by...there goes Dennis down to get the mail; hmmm, Farrell is late for work today; somebody up the road must be having company.  Guess I'm not a flatlander anymore.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

My Constant Companion

A nudge on my leg reminds me that I've not yet introduced Bessie Anne, and she's not a girl to be ignored!  Our prior dog, Dogie, is worthy of a book of her own, but that's a story for another day.  When she died, many mourned with us, and Steve said he wanted no more dogs.  But he went to work every day and I was here, and there was such a hole in my heart that I knew only another dog could fill.  My daughter Deb found a litter of 8-week-old puppies at a shelter near her and we all went to see.  My only requirement was that the dog be a short-haired female.  And there was Bessie Anne, a dark chocolate brown border collie/labrador mix...made to order!  For a month I kept her leash tied to my bibbies until I was sure she knew her boundaries outside.  The first night I let her out to potty on her own, she evidently raced around the deck, took a flying leap out into space and landed 15 feet down, breaking her back leg in two places.  My vet happens to be an orthopedic specialist, and two surgeries later you'd never know she'd been injured.  It was a rough start for such a little girl. 

We noticed her appearance was changing.  She grew blond curls on her head like a cocker spaniel, and her tail had long hair at the base, short hair at the end.  Her fur grew medium long and lighter until she's now a blond (I'm making no judgments).  Her chest broadened like a bulldog.  She grew a ruff over her shoulders like a collie.  What was this dog?  This didn't happen overnight, and I still call her "a work in progress."  The only breeds I can't identify are border collie and labrador! 

And then she discovered skunks.  She got skunked seven times in one year!  Once she got skunked when the power was water, no bath, and the ladies from the Red Hat Society were coming for luncheon that day.  Now if she needs to go out after dark, I walk her on a leash.  Okay, I'm a slow learner, too.

We go everywhere together, be it out to the goats and chickens, or from room to room.  Bessie knows my routine better than I, and prods me if I'm running late.  She's a gracious hostess to guests, and a big sister to Frank and Pearl.  She's my early warning system for danger.  She's my friend and constant companion.  She's filled that hole in my heart.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Listen to the Quiet

You know it has snowed during the night before you look out the window by the absolute silence.  Not that it's very noisy up here at 4 a.m. on any given day, but there's a stillness like no other after a snowfall.  I don't go out and dance around and try to catch flakes on my tongue like Steve and Deb and I did the first year after he and I moved up here, but there's still that moment of ahhh...after all, I'm a southern California girl.  The house is built into a hill, so that you walk in on ground level, but there's a walk-out basement below.  Sitting in the living room, you're at tree-top level, and when it snows, you don't see it fall to the's like being inside a snow globe as the white stuff swirls past the windows.  We bought a kid's sled that first year and whooshed down the hill in the front pasture, laughing like loons, just the two of us.  Now I use the sled to haul alfalfa to the goats when it snows, but I'm still tempted to jump on it myself! 

I laughed this morning as I read a request for the recipe for barley/kielbasa soup...if it wasn't a "family secret."  The only secret to soup is what you have in your pantry and freezer!  I had one lonely, limp onion, some carrots and celery, a can of chicken broth, and almost the only meat in the freezer that survived the power outage was kielbasa.  Noodles, orzo,'s a package of barley!  That would go good.  Throw in some rosemary, bay leaves, dried parsley, red pepper flakes.  Cover with water, let it simmer, and call it soup.  There are no convenience stores on every corner here.  Up the hill about 10 miles is a small market, but I normally do my shopping 25 miles down the road, going maybe twice a month.  You learn to plan ahead, make do, or do without.  Or make soup!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Getting A Break

I think (hope) that yesterday was the worst in this series of storms and, although rain is predicted for today, the fierce winds have abated.  Stumpy has been in isolation for two days, rather than see her plastered up against the dog run walls, and I didn't even open the door to the hen house.  The little girls wouldn't have stood a chance in the eye of the storm.  The goat barn has a metal roof, and it was like being in a war zone with rain pounding, branches banging, and wind lifting the panels and slamming them down.  It was one of those days when I wished I was raising hamsters instead of milk goats.  A flock of 46 (!!) wild turkeys huddled for shelter under the oak off the breakfast room.  No matter how I stoked the woodstove, the wind sucked the heat from the house and for most of the day my three little companions were on my lap.  There were only momentary lapses in power, but the rain washed out the satellite TV for awhile.  We're all's all good.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Best Laid Plans...

I awoke this morning with the dog and both cats huddled on the bed with me like shipwreck survivors and the wind screaming like a live thing trying to get in.  It was reassuring to see the glow from the bedside clock, and I'm amazed we still have power.  Most of my pre-storm preparations have gone for naught.  Despite the trenches, the barn flooded with the 1-1/2 inches of rain we received yesterday.  The wind moved the deck furniture around the house and into the herb garden.  Fifty mph gusts drove rain up onto the firewood I'd carefully stacked by the front door.  I fully expected to see the silly chickens who insist on going free-range whirling past the windows, followed by a crone on a bicycle.  Last night I played a slippery game of hide-and-seek around and around the hen house with one of those goofy little girls who couldn't find the open gate. 

Bessie Anne, Frank and Pearl made a quick foray outside this morning, and an even quicker return.  It's trash day, but I've opted not to haul the barrel down to the big road.  It's enough that I'll have to psych up to go out and milk.  It's just light enough to see outside now, and it's going to be a rerun of yesterday.  It's still raining.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Rainy Days & Homemade Bread

When I was a kid, on a rainy day I used to hurry home from the bus stop after school because I knew my mother would have made soup and a loaf of bread.  That wonderful aroma when I opened the front door!  I think we all fall back on comfort foods on a gray's the grown-up equivalent of sticking our thumb in our mouth for security.  It rained hard and steady all day yesterday, and I made barley and kielbasa soup and a golden loaf of cheese bread.  For me, it pushed the clouds and time back and I was in my mother's kitchen again.  I started the same tradition for my kids, and I hope they have the same good memories.  But then there was the year that it rained and I made bread.  It rained the next day, and I made bread.  More rain...more bread.  I was hiding loaves in the cupboards, the drawers, the fridge...finally the kids told me I had to stop!  The first time I tried to bake bread, I was constantly on the phone to my sister.  "It says knead until satiny...what the heck does that mean?!"  She was very patient and helpful, but I still turned out two bricks that could have been used as door stops or cornerstones for the Parthenon.  Not one to be taken down by a recipe, I worked at it until I could make something edible.  Rumors to the contrary, I am not stubborn, and I will fight to the death to prove it! 

We didn't get our daily bread at the grocery store (and there were no supermarkets) when I was a kid, and Mother didn't bake bread on a regular basis.  We went to the bakery once a week.  Mother had it timed so that we would get there when the afternoon loaves came out of the oven.  The proprietess was a tall, thin, gray-haired woman named Mary, who wore a little paper hat.  I know it's hard to believe now, but bread didn't come sliced in those days.  You had to ask for it, and Mary would put the bread into the slicing machine for you!  Mother always bought two sliced, and a warm loaf that we would tear apart and eat on the way home.

I've used making bread as a wonderful way to work off aggression, a way to carry on an aromatic tradition, a way to lift a mundane meal to greater heights, and, in this economy, to save money.  If you haven't yet, give it a try! 

It's still raining.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Weather's Coming!

Farview Farm is located on the crest of a hill, with 360-degree views (hence "Farview").  If weather is coming from the north/east, I watch the thunderclouds marshalling their forces and come marching down from the high Sierras.  If from the south/west, it takes the wall of rain about two hours to blow up from the valley.  My kids will call, "Better batten down the hatches,'re gonna get it!"  Today a week of wind and rain is being predicted.  I've brought extra firewood up to the house for the woodstove that is my source of heat.  It's inevitable that we'll lose power so I fill the oil lamps and trim the wicks and check the flashlights for batteries.  I'll make sure that all the watering bowls and troughs are full.  My source of water is a well and the pump needs electricity.  No power, no water.  During the storm in December, we lost power for 87-1/2 hours (sounds so much more impressive than four days).  My main concern always is water for the animals, followed by when I can flush again!  In December, I had snow to melt for the girls, but this is predicted as a warm storm.  The barn is unfortunately down at the bottom of the hill, and I've been digging trenches to keep the run-off from flooding the girls' rooms.  Yup, it's coming...I can hear the wind beginning to howl in the bare branches of the oaks by the house.  It's easy to imagine that the house is the prow of a ship in a storm, buffeted by the brunt of rain and wind.  The big girls hate rain and resist being pushed outside after feeding/milking.  Since I'm in charge of everything else in their lives, they complain bitterly that I should also change the weather.  No water line was run to the barn, so they must be ousted, and they do have shelter.  I've already taken extra feed to the barn, and put trash cans, etc., in protected places so I won't find them later in the next county.  Stumpy will stay in the laundry room, whining because she has no coloring book and crayons. 

When the power goes out, what you can do is dependent on what you can see.  I can bead, read, or do handwork during daylight.  If I really get bored, there's always dusting.  I'd rather file my nails first.  After sundown I bring the spinning wheel over by the woodstove and turn Poppy's wool into yarn.  That's done more by touch, not sight.  We switched the cooktop over to propane, so I can still cook (during the daylight!), but must remember not to try to bake anything in the electric oven. 

I am assured of one thing...the truck will get washed.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Supporting Cast

THE CHICKENS:  the goats (the big girls) push their way to center stage, but the bit players are the chickens (the little girls).  I just love chickens!  The flock started with 6, and now there are approximately 40.  (As I told my accountant, they're hard to count because they keep moving.)  Chickens are always busy, filled with enthusiasm for whatever they're doing.  When one lays an egg, the cheering squad arrives to acclaim loudly that was the best egg ever!..and they do this every time throughout the day.  When one finds a juicy bug, the entire flock runs to inspect it.  At night, they settle down and sleepily gossip together about the doings of the day. 

There have been special little girls over the years.  It may be TMI, but I do have one hen now who sleeps in the laundry room.  Stumpy broke her leg when she was just a pullet, and I splinted it and brought her into the "infirmary" to heal.  Unfortunately, she lost the foot and I can't put her back into population.  It's a fact that chickens do not tolerate the injured or infirm.  So...Stumpy sleeps in the house and has her own covered dog run during the day.  It's touching to see the wild turkeys come and sit by her for company.  One-legged or not, she can outrun me if she's not ready to come in!  There was Tattle-Tale Tessie, who accompanied me at dusk, quietly telling me all the mean things the other girls had done, "And then she said a bad word."  Rover follows me like a dog whenever I go outside.  Donna was a brain-damaged Barred Plymouth Rock who I brought in to die in peace.  She didn't die.  Although she was paraplegic, she learned to use her wings like crutches to propel herself, and she lived for years in the laundry room, going outside to sit under the junipers on a nice day.  The flock turned Madelyn into hamburger (chickenburger?)...who knows why...and I brought her in to die.  She didn't.  She became Donna's companion in the laundry room.   Long after she had healed and went back with the flock, she would come up on the porch at sundown and knock on the door (no, truly, she did!), saying she was ready to go to bed now.  I'd open the door, she'd hop up into the house, walk down the hall to "her" room, and settle herself for the night.  Many joined my mourning when Donna and Madelyn left us.  Frederick the Great literally rules the roost.  He's a gorgeous Osterlop-Araucana mix, black with gold neck feathers, and he gleams in the sun, showing irridescent turquoise and purple in his tail.  He's a benevolent dictator, letting the girls get the choicest tidbits, but keeping them in line.  (He enjoys all the privileges of his harem.)  Not all roosters are as gentle as Frederick.  There were a couple who were so aggressive that I couldn't go in to feed without taking a broomstick for defense.  They were delicious. 

You get the idea that you're "not in Kansas" anymore when your barefoot neighbor comes strolling up the hill with a black hen under her arm, asking to swap for one of my Buff Orpingtons.  This same neighbor appeared one day...did I want to see what she had in her bra?  Hmmm.  She reached in and brought out a newly-hatched baby quail.  She needed to keep it warm and safe.  Alrightie then! 

The little girls have kicked into full production and are giving close to two dozen eggs a day.  There's just me!  This could be considered too much of a good thing.  I have buckets of eggs in both refrigerators, and still they come.  I have a couple of customers, and I gave dozens of eggs as Christmas presents.  I make 10-egg angel food cakes, custards, souffles, pound cakes...I'm running out of ideas and space!! 

The sun is coming up, and Stumpy, in the next room, is beginning her morning ritual of banging on the washing machine, starting to squawk...quietly at first, growing in volume if she feels ignored.  It's time to begin the day.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Cast of Players

THE GIRLS:  Lucy - my first goat, purchased in 2000.  For a long time, Lucy (The Lady Lucinda of Iron Oak) was Queen (dominant female) of the herd and took her job seriously.  She dictated the pecking order and meted out punishment for any infraction of the rules.  It was her responsibility to protect the herd, warning of danger with a goat snort, and even kept visitors in their place.  Then there was a palace revolt and Lucy was deposed.  The herd beat her up and banished her to a far corner for days.  You never saw such a dejected animal.  I guess they voted for a democracy, as no one has stepped up to the throne.  Ruth - 8 weeks old when she came with Lucy.  If there is trouble to get into or someplace not to be, Ruth is your girl.  She's gotten into so much trouble with the herd, she has to have a room of her own at night...otherwise they snatch her bald.  She won't get off the stand in the morning until she gets her butt rubbed.  She's still producing milk, but not s'much.  Cindy - an earnest little milker.  Just inhales her food like she won't ever get another meal.  She is usually involved in every quarrel (maybe she starts them).  Esther - a rather vain girl.  She doesn't breed anymore, probably because it would ruin her figure.  She won't start to eat her breakfast until she gets her coat brushed.  Inga - shy and timid, Inga's mission in life is to provide milk.  I never seem to be able to dry her up, and she continues to produce in volume long after she's been freshened.  (Isn't that a great word for impregnated?  Puts a whole new slant on, "I think I'll just freshen up now.")  Sheila - a 2-year-old doe, and pregnant for the first time.  Her baby is due in March.  She's lowest on the totem pole and must wait until all the others have eaten, dashing in to grab a bite now and then before being run off...even Poppy gets to dominate Sheila.  Tessie - still lives with her littermate, #19.  Tessie has just one horn, making her the resident unicorn.  She shouldn't have any horns at all, but that's another story for another day.  #19 is a wether (neutered male), and boys get numbers, not names, because they are usually sold before they're 2 months old.  I found it was easier to let them go if they didn't have a name.  #19 is 2 years old...the market for goats fell just after he was born...and so he's still here.  #20 went to a barbecue and never came back. 

I realize I'm guilty of flagrant anthropomorphization, but when you live with animals day in and day out, they do take on a personality.  These girls (and boy) are a big part of my life, and caring for them is a responsibility and a pleasure.  They dictate the order of my days, determining when or if I can accept an invitation to dinner.  They've kept me here without a vacation for years.  They must be tended in winter's rain and snow or summer's heat, whether I feel well or not.  There are days when I just don't want to go down to the barn.  But...when I force myself on those days to gear up and get out, and on every other day...sitting next to these warm, affectionate, productive girls gives me a tremendous satisfaction that keeps me looking forward to the next batch of kids, and I wouldn't trade that for a trip around the world.  (Sorry, Pat.)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Girls Will Be Girls

You put a group of females together and sooner or later it's inevitable that one will make a snide comment or take a cut in line...whatever, it just happens.  I don't know who or what started it last night at bedtime in the goat pen, but it escalated into a full-blown cat fight.  It's usually a pair of does, probably establishing dominance or trying to keep their place in the pecking order.  Last night, it was Poppy, the sheep, and Cindy, one of the milkers. 

Poppy came to me as a month-old bummer lamb.  (A bummer has either been orphaned or disowned by its mother, and must "bum" milk from any available udder.)  As it happened, I had a group of goat kids the same age when Poppy arrived (small enough to fit into a cardboard box).  Consequently, she has grown up thinking she is a goat, including climbing trees...when she was much smaller...and head-butting with the best of them.  Unfortunately, Poppy is like the cowbird in the nest, she has outgrown her adopted siblings.  In full wool as she is now, she tips the scale at about 250.  The grown does are perhaps 120.  Poppy normally has the personality of Eeyore, munching her way stolidly through the days, but she does have buttons that can be pushed.  And pushing is her best defense.  While Cindy was prancing around, rearing up and coming down to butt heads, Poppy just stood firm and let Cindy wear herself down until they just stood head-to-head...Poppy was the immovable object.  I learned long ago never to get in the middle of a fight, but I did manage to distract the combatants and get Poppy headed toward the barn.  Cindy got in the last word by grabbing a mouthful of wool as Poppy left the arena.  (Bitch.)  As I said, girls will be girls.

The beastie boys were in full voice about 3 this morning, and close.  The local gang of coyotes was cruising either through the front pasture or on the road.  They are the reason all the critters on the farm go into housing at night.  Not too long ago they took down a full-grown deer in that same front pasture...the chickens would be just an appetizer. 

In case you wondered, the photo is of a sunset, taken from the front yard.  As you can see, the View From Farview Farm is spectacular!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

And so it begins...

I suppose that since I'm new at this, I'd best start with a mission statement. I hope to share a glimpse of life on a 10-acre farm in the foothills of northern California, where I live with 8 goats, 1 sheep, approx. 40 chickens, 1 dog, and 2 cats. I want to give hope to those who dream of country life, or perhaps to confirm the convictions of dedicated city dwellers. I'm a woman of "a certain age," a widow, and other women should know that limitations start with self...pull on your big-girl panties and give it (whatever "it" might be) a go. What's the worst that could happen...failure? So you try something else!

This morning started like every other morning...let the chickens (the little girls) out of their house. They come tumbling down their little ramp like kindergartners let out to recess. It's a pretty blustery day, so I shut their big door to keep the rain out and a little warmth in. Then it was down to the goat barn. The welded bar on one of the latches broke, so I had to innovate a latch with a couple of carabiners. Hey, it ain't pretty, but it works. Milked the three big girls who still produce, and cleaned the stalls while the nonmilkers ate their breakfast. Let the young wether and his sibling doe out of their stall. Of course, it started pouring rain while I was coming back up from the barn, and Bessie Anne (dog) and Frank and Pearl (sibling cats) beat me to the front door, yelling to be dried off. Animals first, me second. I strained the milk and got containers ready for my buyer, who comes tomorrow. Looks like it's going to be one of those days to stay inside by the woodstove. I might even get ambitious and dust...or not.

Welcome to my world!