Sunday, February 28, 2010

Gonna Be A Great Day!

The first good omen for the day was opening my eyes and seeing stars!  Then, while it was still dark, I looked out the west windows and saw the setting moon...huge, full, and bright orange...breathtaking.  And now the sun is shining!! 

As I look past the computer screen toward the south pasture, I see a roving gang of young tom turkeys parading past.  My neighbor Dennis has dubbed them the Mafia Crew, as they are sometimes accompanied by an older Don.  There are usually five or six boys that band together every year just prior to mating season.  They practice their moves in front of each other like teenagers, strutting their stuff, spreading their bronze tail feathers and gobbling loudly.  "Whaddya think, Bro...pretty impressive, huh?"  The hens are still playing shy, and it won't be until later that the boys will start thumping their wing tips on the ground to get the girls' attention.  My friend Doris and I sat in her front yard one year and watched two overaged lotharios do their darndest to prove they still had what it takes to get a girl as they spread their tails with missing and bent feathers and beat their wings like Ringo on a bad day...and the targeted hen continued to search for seeds, pointedly ignoring them.  They finally took the hint and walked together slowly down the road, tails drooping, two old men dreaming of one last hurrah. 

Sunshine after a few days of rain is the perfect antidote for cabin fever.  It's gonna be a great day!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Know When You're Happy

I won't lie.  It's no fun to feel ice-cold water dripping down your collar or sit to milk with pant legs soaked to the knees from wind-driven rain.  I don't enjoy slipping and sliding in the gooey chicken pen, hoping I don't go turtle, flat on my back (again).  There was a moment last evening, however, after all the critters were tucked in for the night, that was pure pleasure.  The chores for the day were done, the woodstove had warmed the house nicely and my wet clothes were spread on chairs to dry, Swedish meatballs were simmering.  As I stood at the kitchen sink, looking out at the fading light and the pounding rain, listening to the wind prowl around the house, I realized just how fortunate I am.  I have work that is physically challenging, animals that I love, books to stimulate my mind and imagination, projects to satisfy my "artistic" side, family and friends I adore.  I was warm and dry and comfort food was waiting.  My mother told me, "Know when you're happy," and I certainly knew it last night. 

The storm continues to rage this morning, and I may have to work a little harder to remember that feeling today.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Just a Piddly Day

I took advantage yesterday of a break between storms to take care of some of those niggling chores that I've been putting off.  (I think about joining Procrastinators Anonymous, but never get around to it.)  I nailed back boards on the splitter shed that previous winds had torn down, WD-40d the sticking, squeaking door on the truck, dead-headed the flowering weeds along the curve of the driveway, and went down to the pasture to check on the memorial trees for Steve and his friend Dan.  Last year the deer broke through the chicken-wire protection and stripped the white mulberry I'd planted for Steve...the stick they left me is a goner and I'll have to plant something else there for him.  I'd bought a crabapple some time back, but after careful consideration, I think I'll plant it out in the garden where it might have a chance of surviving.  I fear the little apples might be even more of a temptation than the mulberry.  Today's storm is predicted to be bigger and better (worse?) than the one earlier in the week, so I stocked up on firewood.  I also went down to Mt. Aukum to get more feed for the goats and chickens...can't haul feed bags in the rain and we were getting low.  I put an ad in the little weekly sales paper for Nineteen and Tessie.  If they sell, I will miss them both, but I really need the barn space.  Nineteen is such a sweet, affectionate boy...he waits at the gate for a rub-up in the evening, and then turns and frisks his way down to the barn ahead of me.  I hope a potential buyer will overlook Tessie's one horn that makes her look either like a unicorn, or has a periscope up, and see her as the unique individual she is.  I want to sell them as a pair, since they've never been separated in two years, and goats form strong bonds. 

There seems to be an epidemic of leg injuries.  Bessie is recovering nicely, but now Poppy has developed a limp in a foreleg.  She is too big and too strong for me to handle alone, and doesn't like to be touched on her best days.  I'm hoping that, like Bessie, it is just a muscle strain and that she will heal on her own. 

I need to finish battening down the hatches...again.  It's good to have those little chores completed.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Promises, Promises

These photos were taken yesterday in between rain squalls when I'd gone out to bring more firewood up to the porch.  It's good to have these reminders, else I'd think it was still winter.  Bessie's look says it all..."Mom, you're crazy, and why are we out here, anyhow?"  The wind is howling and the rain is beating on the windows this morning.  It's like taking the truck through the car wash...I'm not complaining...I won't have to wash those windows for awhile. 

Tuesdays are not good days to sleep in.  I didn't wake up until nearly six-thirty, and it was a toss-up whether to throw on clothes and get the trash down to the big road in the rain or make a cup of coffee.  Coffee won.  Everything yesterday was an hour behind schedule...that made the goats cranky and the chickens had given up hope.  No one accepted my profuse apologies.  Every day I throw down a handful of goat chow for the barn birds and mice who come to keep me company while I milk.  Normally they wait until I'm well into the chore before appearing.  Evidently they all woke up on time, as yesterday they were lined up and waiting (no, really!).  There is just one species of sparrow that comes in for snacks.  Blue jays and blackbirds sometime come to the square wire on the window openings, but do not come in.  My intimidation factor for the mice is nil.  They duck out of the way when I switch out goats, but as soon as they hear the squirt, squirt into the milk pail, they come out to browse again.  In every handful of chow, there are one or two large kernels of rolled corn...the Willy Wonka's fun to see which mouse will find it first.  Simple amusement for a simple mind. 

Bess (who shows great improvement), Frank and Pearl have made their forays out into the rain this morning to take care of business and dashed back in again.  The fire is stoked.  I'm back on schedule.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cats & Dogs, etc.

Well, we dodged the bullet yesterday.  Bessie Anne has been limping badly, not bearing weight on her back leg for a week.  With Frank's recent surgery fresh in my mind and fear in my heart, off we went to the vet.  Three x-rays and a hefty bill later, Dr. Ric determined it was "just" a soft tissue injury that should heal with time and some good pain meds.  While I know she's still hurting, it could have been worse.  Bess behaves very well in the waiting room during her doctor visits, greeting other patients as they come in with wags and sniffs, then sitting by my side.  She resists having her weight taken right there in public...I know just how she feels.  All the attendants exclaimed to each other, "My, she doesn't look that heavy!"  I explained that we have big bones, and thanked them for the compliment.  Once in the examining room, Bess heads for safety under the visitor's chair, and it darned near takes a tow truck to get her out.  It's easier just to lift the chair!  She then accepts the humiliation of having her temperature taken, endures the assistant's grunts as she is hefted to the table, and forgives Dr. Ric for whatever he must do by licking his hand afterward.  She knows very well which door leads out, and I need a hand on the leash once that door is opened.  We'll do a rerun next week when we go back for a recheck. 

Frank and Pearl appear in this entry simply because I took their pictures.  Dr. Ric wanted photos of Bessie and Frank for his "patient scrapbook."  Pearl sat there, ready for her closeup, so I couldn't leave her out.  I wish the picture showed Frank's blue eyes, but it does give an idea of his size versus hers.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Open Letter To Alexandra

In reponse to your comment of Saturday, February was just what I'd hoped for when I started making these entries.  I firmly believe it is a truth that we can be homesick for a place we've never seen, nostalgic for an era in which we've never lived, or yearn for someone we've not met.  It was that truth that made me know I was home here before I even saw the house.  I had done the corporate thing, worked the high-stress jobs...and I was good at what I did.  But in the recesses of my being, I knew it wasn't me.  I realize and appreciate that I received an opportunity to step into a lifestyle that absolutely fits my needs and fills my soul.  It gives me immense pleasure to share my home and watch my guests shed their cares and accept the peace Farview bestows, and I wanted to be able to extend that feeling through writing about the farm.  Being here is like a step back in time, even for those who aren't old enough to remember "the good old days."  I appreciate everyone's comments...they let me know that perhaps I'm getting close to hitting the mark.

All Teats Are Not Created Equal

A teat in the hand is worth...  Close encounters of the udder kind...  So many teats, so little time...  Udderly ridiculous!  I was so ignorant of goat anatomy that at first I thought the udder was one big milk bag with two faucets.  Discovering that the two sides did not empty at the same rate, I found that there are actually two separate compartments, called cisterns, filled with milk glands and ducts that feel like clusters of peeled grapes.  Teats come in all shapes and sizes, another surprise.  I guess I thought that if you've seen one, you've seen 'em all.  Lucy, my first milker, has teats as big as yams.  Engorged after kidding, those teats were too big to get my hand around.  Ruthie started with teensy teats and it took forever to get her emptied, squeezing with just thumb and forefinger.  Her teats improved with time and/or I'm more experienced, and she's my favorite milker now.  Cindy's nippies are just the right size, but she has tiny orifices, and it takes quite a lot of pressure to get a pencil-lead thin stream of milk.  Inga's teats are a nightmare, about an inch long and two inches wide at the base...nothing to grab onto.  Milking her means violating a prime rule, which is not to squeeze above the teat base so as not to damage the glands.  She requires some finesse to avoid those grapes.  I used to babysit a goat named Miracle, whose teats stuck out to the side like handlebars and had to be bent down toward the bucket.  I couldn't resist a few vroom-vrooms like a motorcycle rider every morning.  Her stallmate had long banana-shapes, and if it weren't difficult enough lifting them up and over the bucket lip, she tried to "help" by squatting during the process.  Sheila's teats look promising, but only delivery will tell.  Variety is the spice of life, and it sure makes milking challenging.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


If Winter is an "old man," then Spring is a capricious flirt.  She teased us with a couple of smiling, blue-gold days, luring us outside to enjoy her charms, but yesterday she withdrew and hid behind a fan of fog and overcast.  Like a dropped hankie from a romance novel, she left behind the blossoming almond tree and the first daffodils to bloom...a promise that she'd return. 

As an aside...capricious (whimsical, changeable) comes from capra, which means goat.  Capricorn, caper...the goat has contributed many words to our language.

The gray day drained my incentive to do any spring cleaning, inside or out, and I holed up with a good book while Bessie Anne and the cats snoozed the day away.  We'll wait for Spring.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Marie Antoinette and Me

The only thing I have in common with the Queen of France is that we've both taken milk baths.  However, I do believe hers were planned.  Mine were not.  I just finished a lovely little book, given to me by another high school classmate, Judy, called Goat Song, by Brad Kessler.  It chronicles his first year raising dairy goats (Nubians), and for me it was reading and reliving a lot of the same experiences.  I agonized with him the frustrations of a first-year milker, the kicked-over buckets (always the full one) and the foot in the bucket that you can't get the girl to raise out again.  Time is a great teacher, and I've learned over the years to anticipate a goat's reactions.  They do not like change of any kind, so any alteration in schedule, room, etc., has to be made in small increments.  Even putting the barn rake in a different corner is cause enough to spook the girls.  They thrive on routine.  Brad waited until his doe had delivered her kid before putting her on the stand, and then wondered why she danced and kicked and didn't want her udder touched.  I've said before that you can get a goat to do anything you want, as long as it was on her agenda anyhow.  The trick is to put your wishes into her routine.  That first year, I took my share of impromptu milk baths and expanded my vocabulary of cuss words.  In time, I learned to start putting a first-year doe on the stand from the day she's been bred, and that is her routine for the rest of her life.  She learns from day one that is where the goodies are, and she gets brushed every day.  This is done not only to make her feel and look good, it is when I check her hide for cuts or sores, and it keeps the odd hair or piece of grass from falling into the milk pail.  I really like the hands-on bonding, too.  Coming to the stand also makes giving yearly shots and monthly hoof trims much easier for both of us.  Sheila is due to deliver next month.  She already knows her place in line and comes eagerly to breakfast.  I've been brushing her and "feeling her up" (and, yes, I do feel a little perverted) for over three months now, so she's used to being touched while she eats.  This week, I've started putting an empty bucket under her, sitting beside her and really massaging her little beginner udder.  She danced and gave me that look at first, but I'd rather have an empty bucket kicked than a full one.  In a week's time, she's now settled into the new routine, and I really don't anticipate any problems when we go for real.  Milk baths never did anything for me, anyhow.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

An Ordinary Day

Yesterday was an ordinary day, but it was warm and sunny and I enjoyed every minute.  It was not a two-fer day...didn't need two pairs of socks or two shirts...didn't even need a jacket to go down to the barn.  After finishing their alfalfa breakfast, the goats stretched out on the slope to doze in the morning sun and chew their cud.  The hens were all outside, scratching for choice tidbits and gossiping.  The old almond tree in the northwest orchard has burst into a pale pink cloud of blossoms.  Daffodils are heavy with buds, promising their pools of sunshine soon.  I do have some miniature daffys, but I really prefer the big, blowsy King Alfreds.  I did a load of laundry and Frank and Pearl played tag around my legs as I hung out the wash for the first time this spring.  I did get some housework done, but outdoors kept calling me through the open front door (it was that warm!).  Surrendering, I grabbed the rake and got a start on the blanket of leaves in the front garden.  The oaks are totally barren now, so it's not an exercise in futility.  Raking only under the hedge by the windows and clearing the pathways, there was still a mountain of leaves to move down to the slopes, where the wind will take over the rest of the clean up.  I was told when I first moved here that there would always be one more snow after the dogwood trees bloomed.  I scoffed at what I thought was a local legend, but found that it's true every year, and the dogwoods haven't blossomed yet.  So it's too early to uncover the herb gardens and iris bed.  The thick blanket of leaves there will protect the young shoots just now pushing up.  I set a loaf of golden yellow egg bread to bake while I did chores, ready to come out of the oven when I came back to the house after putting the girls to bed at dusk.  Warm bread with butter and my neighbor Joel's gift of his tart-sweet homemade blackberry jam was the perfect dinner after an ordinary day, made extraordinary only by a sense of beauty and accomplishment.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Can We Talk?

Women pretend they don't happen.  Men and boys are proud of theirs.  My nephew Phil sent me an email with more information than anyone needs regarding passing gas...farts.  What is it about guys and farts?  I think it's a rite of initiation for little boys who learn, in the absence of the real thing, to make the sound with the cupped-hand-in-the-armpit technique at a very young age.  Grown men give high-fives for the longest, loudest, smelliest...I'm not sure what the scoring system entails.  Farts are followed closely by burps, also a cause for celebration in Man Society.

This is by way of introducing the fact that goats fart.  If they cough, they fart.  They get what Larry the Cable Guy calls the "walking farts," tooting with every step as they amble up the path.  When my neighbor Joel walks the fenceline of his vineyard, he's not sure with which end the girls are greeting him.  My grandson was about eight when he first came here to visit and, of course, went with me to the milking room.  He was standing very close to the back end, watching the milking process intently, when Ruthie let go a blast that blew his hair back.  Having been taught that farts were not "socially acceptable," he looked at me to see my reaction to this faux pas.  When I started smiling, it sent this little boy into gales of laughter.  "She farted, Grandma!  She farted!!"  I'm sure it was the highlight of his visit, and he probably shared it later at school in Show-and-Tell.  After all, he's a guy.

Monday, February 15, 2010

You Might Be A Redneck...

I know that the stereotypical NASCAR fan is a beer-guzzling, good-ole-boy, Southern redneck who scratches, chews, and spits...and some of us are (yeah, Bud Light is my drink of choice and I'm from Southern California).  Judy drinks fine wine from crystal glasses, Joel enjoys scotch, some don't drink at all, and few of my friends spit.  However, once you're a fan of're hooked!  Yesterday was the opening race of the season, and my local network of friends and family made the "good luck" calls before the green flag fell.  My driver, Clint Bowyer (we all have our favorites), was doing pretty darned well, and I hesitated to answer when the phone rang.  I could hardly hear the caller because of crowd noise behind was Cousin Mark, who was at the race in Daytona, Florida, and wanted me to share the experience!  He kept yelling out, "Slow down, Clint!  Diane wants to say Hi!!"  I can imagine what the folks in the stand with him thought.  I was laughing so hard I couldn't talk.  Clay has called me during races in Texas and Fontana, CA; Cousin Christy has called from Phoenix, and it's so neat that these guys "take me along."  The funniest call of yesterday, though, was when Clay told me his brother had called him...from church!...whispering, "What lap is it?  Who's ahead?"  Now that's a fan! 

The race was red-flagged (stopped) twice while potholes in the track were repaired...potholes at Daytona?!  I had time to go out and sweep a winter's worth of leaves off the deck, so it wasn't a wasted day, but a race that normally lasts four hours stretched out to over six.  That gives an idea of the speed at which these guys drive...five hundred miles in less than four hours...don't try this at home! 

Say what you will about NASCAR fans...the tens of thousands in attendance at a race are on their feet when the American flag is presented, every man removes his hat and a hand is over every heart when the Star Spangled Banner is played, and every head is bowed for the invocation prayer.  If that's a redneck, then I'm proud to be one. 

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Pedicures & Pruning

The girls all needed their hooves trimmed and it was finally sunny enough yesterday morning to start their spa day.  So as not to keep them on the stand too long, I do just one hoof on each goat per day, so it's a four-day process.  Because Tessie and Nineteen have breakfast served in their room, they're not used to coming to the stand.  I had to bring them, one at a time, out and around and into the milking room.  They argued the point until they saw the bowl of grain waiting.  I'm not above bribery for cooperation.  Not wanting to repeat this for four days, however, I trimmed all eight toes on these two.  If getting them in was hard, getting them to stay out was even more difficult.  "Hey, you have treats in there!  We want back in!"  Finishing the barn chores was a hoot with all the pushing and shoving going on.  I can imagine what today's going to be like.

It was the first day in I can't remember when that I didn't light the woodstove.  By afternoon, I realized it was still sunny and I was wasting it all in the house.  I grabbed the shears and went out to the west point and spent a couple of hours pruning a wildly overgrown wisteria vine planted in the corner of the vegetable garden.  There is a mountain of trimmings, and I haven't even approached the inside of the fence line.  Bessie Anne got tired of gopher holes and lazed in the sun nearby.  Hearing the patter of little feet, I looked down and there were two of the barred Rock hens (Inspectors 14 and 32?) who had come all the way out to the point to make sure I was doing a good job.  Guess I passed.  It was such a good day.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Goat Nomenclature 101

"Billy" and "nanny" are outmoded terms for adult male and female goats.  Deer are the nearest relatives in the hierarchy to goats, and so adult males are bucks, females are does.  However, like horses, fathers are sires and mothers are dams.  The offspring are kids, a nongender-specific term, like "child."  Male kids are bucklings, females are doelings.  A neutered male is a wether.  There are many breeds of goats.  Some of the more readily identifiable are the Nubians, with long, droopy ears, and the La Manchas, whose ears are simply nubs that look like curled up snails.  Nigerian dwarfs are little guys with big attitude.  Boers are husky goats raised for meat.  Saanens are almost always pure white, noted for heavy milk production.  Mohairs are raised for their fine, long hair.  In some breeds, both males and females will have horns, and in others, only the males.  Goats are found world wide and can survive in almost any climate, eating whatever is available.  They can free range, but can be kept in a space as small as a city back yard.  More goat meat is eaten than beef or pork world wide, but not necessarily in America.

I raise pure-bred Alpines, the goats that Grandfather had in that old book, "Heidi."  That is purely by accident, but, as it turns out, a good choice.  Nubians and La Manchas are noisy, continually bleating with what I consider a very irritating voice.  Alpines are a quiet breed.  Both sexes of Alpines have horns, but all my kids are disbudded by ten days old.  Any males born to my herd are castrated by banding at two months. 

Bucks are ready, willing, and able to breed at a very early age, and that strong (very strong) smell associated with goats is due only to a breeding buck.  The females and wethers have no odor.  Like a dude getting ready for a date, a buck will spray himself with what he has available (urine) to make himself attractive to the ladies.  Since he replenishes his "aftershave" frequently, that odor clings and rubs off on everything he touches.  Females come into season every twenty-eight to thirty days, but will accept a male in only a twenty-four hour period, so he has just a small window of time in which to impress the girls.  A buck is a single-minded, sex-stupid breeding machine, but there is a tender courtship ritual, and the girls call the shots.  A rejected buck is a dejected buck, but he lives on hope!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Frank and Pearl

Frank and Pearl are brother and sister cats who were abandoned when tiny little kits.  Pearl cried all the way home, ergo, Poor Pitiful Pearl, but I had no name for the male.  They are Siamese-Tabby mix.  Pearl is a petite tabby with a buff undercoat, and Frank is a big boy with the crossed blue eyes of a Siamese, but with tabby rings around his tail and legs.  I was trying to think of an elegant name for this handsome boy, but Steve took one look at him and said, "Frank.  Frank is a good, honest, barn-cat name," and so Frank it was.  When we adopted Bessie Anne, it was Frank who took over her care and training, washing her face and ears and slapping her down when needed.  They're still best friends.  Pearl is the better hunter, leaving her trophies (or parts thereof) by the front or kitchen doors.  Frank is the lover, weaving figure-eights around your legs.  Pearl prefers to fly under the radar, coming to visitors only if there's a promise of a treat.  Pearl likes to watch television, and prefers the Animal Planet the point that she will lay back in her cat bed like it's a recliner to see better.  She took a particular interest in the Eukanua Dog Show the other night.  Bessie Anne hides milk bones in that cat bed.  It was always Pearl's domain until recently.  Frank walked by while Pearl was sleeping, perhaps looking too comfortable.  He stood over her.  She paid no attention.  He slapped her with one paw.  So what.  He pounced on her, got her to chase him down the hall, raced back ahead of her and leaped into the bed...ha! ha!  They now take turns.  Last summer Frank had a terrible accident and had to have surgery on his leg.  He was confined for several weeks in the bathroom to recuperate.  When brother and sister were reunited, he was still wearing that cone-head thing and to Pearl he looked like Frank-enstein's monster!  Even after the cone was removed, it was weeks before she stopped hissing and running from him...and he never understood why.  They are once again inseparable and complete the triad of my little house kids.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Sunny Disposition

After another day of gloomy weather, I woke up this morning totally uninspired to write.  Yesterday was just plain drudgery.  Every task took twice as long as normal to accomplish.  I had to force myself to slog out to the chickens and down to the goats in constant drizzling rain.  The girls were cranky too, and impatient.  It's hard to milk when your hands are stiff and cold and cleaning the barn seemed an exercise in futility.  Being brushed by Poppy was like getting hit with a wet sponge.  The fire in the woodstove had gone out and I had run out of wood up on the porch, so it was back out into the rain to haul another wagon of firewood up to the house as the temperature dropped.  I couldn't even have any cheese with this whine because it's been a couple of weeks since I've been to town!

It's amazing what a little sunshine will do for my attitude!  Stumpy and I were both eager to get outside this morning (she'd been housebound).  After the little girls tumbled out of their house, I could leave their big door open.  The sodden pasture of yesterday was shimmering in the early morning sunlight like a field of diamonds.  The big girls came in to the stand in their normal order and that chore was done in no time.  The air is filled with the chatter of the wild birds, and I feel like yelling, too.  I know how badly the rain is needed, and I truly do appreciate it, but, gee, it's nice to get a break!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sex and the City

It's a bit of a stretch to call Fair Play a "city."  During the Gold Rush days, it was a "watering hole" and gambling hot spot for the miners.  It's rather nice to know it got the name of Fair Play, as opposed to the self-explanatory nickname for Placerville--"Hangtown."  In descending order of size, the dictionary lists city, town, village, and hamlet.  (Hamlet sounds like a small pig to me.)  I guess we'd qualify as a mini-hamlet.  Far past its glory days, Fair Play now consists of a pretentious bistro that caters only to the flatlanders who come up for wine tasting and the Fair Play Hardware.  The hardware store has been there forever, and was run for many, many years by a woman who was in her nineties when we moved here.  Joyce has since retired, but still lives next to the store.  The site of the bistro used to house a small convenience store that my late friend Doris and her husband Dennis promoted as the Downtown Fair Play Mall.  Everyone on the hill would stop in the store for some forgotten grocery item, one of Doris's wonderful deli sandwiches, or to catch up on the news...they knew everybody.  When a stray cow would show up in the yard here (used to be a common occurrence) Doris.  If a siren was heard down on the road (a rare occurrence) Doris.  She had her finger on the pulse of the community.  A couple of years ago, we did get a stop sign at the T by the store and bistro.  That makes it easier to give directions into the hinterlands. 

Waiting for the "sex?"  Well, that's a story for another day.

Monday, February 8, 2010


Superbowl Sunday, and there I was, beer and chips by my side, rooting for those underdogs, the New Orleans Saints.  It's hard to do "The Wave" when you're a cheering section of one, so my son and I were texting Wahoos and Go Saints back and forth.  Just after half-time, I had to rush out and put the kids to bed.  I was in the hen pen when Dave wrote "Colts made touch down."  It took a couple of minutes before I could text back, "Me too."  It doesn't pay to hurry when you're out in wet chicken poop.  My feet went out from under and I landed flat on my back in...yup.  I did not go for the two-point conversion!  The goats still needed to be tucked in so, soggy, stinky, but unhurt, I tended to them.  After watching the Saints go to victory, I had, guess what, scrambled eggs for dinner...surprise!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Day of Rest

It's NASCAR season again!  Yesterday was the Shootout, and next Sunday opens at Daytona.  I've been following NASCAR only for the past five years, but have become an avid fan of the sport.  I'm the late bloomer in the family, and was introduced by my son Dave and Clay (the "good son"...a story for another day).  I grew up when drag racing and car clubs were just beginning in southern California, and used to go to Pomona and Riverside for sanctioned drags and dirt track racing.  Like the rest of the nation, I reserved Memorial Day for the Indy 500, but never really got into Formula One racing.  Chino had only two stop lights when I lived there.  Driving through town one evening, a high school kid pulled alongside at a stop in a hot car and gunned his engine, undoubtedly to get my daughter's attention.  What the heck...I accepted the challenge, gunned my engine in response, and beat him to the next stop!  I was a mother, driving a nine-passenger station wagon with four teenagers in the back, and I'll admit that if the "race" had gone farther, he'd have taken me.  My poor embarrassed daughter slunk down in her seat and explained that she had to go to school with that boy the next day.  I told her not to worry, he would never admit to having been beaten by a mother.  I now run NASCAR Central, keeping stat sheets on the family's favorite drivers, and dispense "mojo" to the kid who calls in first on race day, and there are strict rules governing who gets what!  All of this by way of saying I won't be making entries to the blog on Sundays...I'll be getting ready for the race!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Six Degrees

I spent yesterday here at the farm in the company of two delightful ladies, complete strangers to me.  Let me see if I can explain how they came to be here, and the six degrees of separation of people who are actually connected by common acquaintance. 

Sandy and I graduated from the same small girls' school, but we lost contact for nearly fifty years.  I've known my friend Florence almost from the time I moved to Sacramento in the late seventies.  Florence and Dan moved to Fiddletown (a couple of hills over) a few years after Steve and I moved to Fair Play.  Sandy and I reconnected some years back, and she then shared my blog with Kit, her ex-sister-in-law, and Kit began to leave fun comments.  Kit came to Fiddletown to visit her aunt (no relation to Sandy).  It was surprising enough that someone from southern California knew that Fiddletown exists.  Kit wanted to meet the big and little girls at Farview, so I invited her and her aunt for lunch, since they'd be so close.  It turned out that Aunt Katherine had sold Florence and Dan their property in Fiddletown, we had a number of friends in common, and that it's a small world after all.  (Oh good I'll be humming that all day long!)  I'm just sorry that Sandy couldn't have made the circle complete. 

Friday, February 5, 2010

One Step Back

I seem always to want to take a process one step back.  I learned as a kid from my mother how to crochet, and later taught myself to knit.  One summer at a little country fair, I watched a woman at a spinning wheel turn wool into yarn.  She had a business called "Arachne's Obsession."  Isn't that a great name for a spinner?!  I chattered on all the way home about how super it would be to take the handwork I had always done one step back and make the yarn myself.  That year my husband presented me with my very own spinning wheel for Christmas.  I was thrilled with the wheel, but not so much with my first attempts at yarn making.  It's not as easy as it looks.  I've since learned that people actually pay for the thick-and-thin yarn I produced, but then I was so disappointed.  Perseverence does pay off and I now produce yarn I'm proud of. 

It's that same wish to go backwards that brought me to goats.  We were at a local flea market and, don't ask me why, I got to talking about goats with one of the vendors.  She mentioned that a family down on Mt. Aukum Road had kids for sale right then.  Hmmm.  On the way to the feed store to get Louie, the pig, some feed, I chattered on (I do that a lot) about how great it would be to actually have our own milk and learn to make cheese.  We passed the goat farm, and by the time we got to the feed store, I'd convinced Steve that owning goats would be a good thing.  We bought goat chow along with pig feed and then went back to look at the goats.  Of course, we fell in love and bought Lucy and Ruth on the spot.  We had to ask them to hold the girls for a couple of weeks because we had no space ready for them.  Impetuosity can get you into trouble.  We had to fix up the shed, tear out barbed wire fencing, run a water line, and put up a new square-wire fence.  I had no idea how to milk a goat and had to ask if I could come to the goat farm for lessons.  Ohmigosh!  You can't believe how excited I was and how thrilled at instant success.  I called everyone I knew to share the news.  Then came the morning the girls arrived, just as we finished the last of the fencing.  We settled the girls and went in, tired and happy, to make breakfast.  I looked out the kitchen window, and there were the goats, who had jumped the fence and followed us to the house.  We ran out, herded them back to the pen, and Steve dug out a high spot where he thought they'd jumped out.  We went back to the house.  And there were the girls again.  Before we went out again to catch and release, I thought I'd turned off the burner on the electric stove.  As we returned again, there was a strange sound and I opened the door to a smoke-filled house and a blaring smoke alarm.  My heart pounded as I realized I could have burned down the house!  My husband did not say anything, and there was nothing I could say.  We sat at the table, wordless, for the better part of an hour.  Then he got up, said, "Come on," and we went to the hardware store and bought an electric fence.  And that's how we came to raise goats.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Barn That Grew Like Topsy

Down in the southwest pasture, under a huge oak, there was a decrepit shed that had been used as a pig pen, with a sign that said, "Hog Hilton."  When Lucy and Ruth arrived one May (a story for another day), we cleaned up and repaired the shed, thinking it would do as shelter for the goats.  Steve built a milking stand, and it was pleasant to sit outside on a spring morning, milking and enjoying my surroundings.  Then the rains came, and it wasn't pleasant anymore.  "Steve!  I need a milking room!"  So my obliging husband built a room onto the shed and we moved the stand inside.  In due time, Lucy and Ruth were bred and pregnant.  "Steve!  I need a delivery room and nursery!"  So he built on to the shed and the milking room and added a big sleeping room and a smaller nursery with connecting doors.  Since the original shed was no longer needed for the goats, we moved Louie, the pot-bellied pig who moved up with us from West Sacramento, down into the goat pen.  The next year, Lucy, Ruth, and their offspring, Victoria, Cindy, Dora, and Esther, were all pregnant and due at the same time.  "Steve!  I need more delivery rooms!!"  That's when he started calling this the Winchester Goat House after the mansion in San Jose where there had been unending construction.  This time he was going to expand the space so he wouldn't be called on again.  He built three big stalls, a smaller space for the kids, and a hallway.  This worked...for awhile.  Poppy came to live with us and needed a room of her own, so she claimed one of the stalls.  Ruth can't get along with the herd, and has her own room.  The wether can't eat the regular diet of alfalfa, so must be kept separate at breakfast time and has stayed in the third "delivery room," with Tessie, his littermate, for company.  Sheila's baby is due in March, and there's no room in the inn.  This is one of the problems I consider down in the goat barn.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hope Springs

It's a cold, gray, drizzly morning.  It rained during the night and the woodstove is doing its best to hold out the damp.  There were a few days of sunshine, but let another day like this come and it's as if those days never happened.  It's just light out enough to see, and there in the grayness I see a narcissus in bloom!  It's a harbinger that spring might be just around the corner and these winter doldrums will end.  Narcissus march at the front of the vanguard, followed by daffodils and forsythia waving their yellow banners.  Next, the slopes of my yard will be covered with tiny baby-blue-eyes and something that looks like a wild sweet pea in pink.  Days like this send me to the seed catalogs, knowing it is way too early to plant, but dreaming of armloads of flowers and baskets of vegetables to come. 

I have a question.  I know how bulbs divide and multiply, but how do they migrate?  Over the years, I have planted hundreds of daffodil, narcissus, crocus, day lily, freesia, and other assorted bulbs.  (I've tried tulips, too, but the squirrels dug them up before I could get back into the house.)  Not all have survived...some were eaten by tree squirrels, ground squirrels and gophers, some died of damp rot, some were pruned into oblivion by the deer.  What I want to know is how a bulb could end up over one hundred feet from any planting area.  Yesterday I noted a daffodil sending up shoots down by the path to the goat barn.  Now, I know I never planted a single bulb in that field.  Did it roll down a long gopher tunnel?  Did it somehow manage to move on its own like those mysterious rocks in the desert?  Is a bird redecorating my yard?  Something to ponder down in the goat barn while I wait for spring.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

You Can Dress Me Up, But....

Haut couture doesn't work for me.  The uniform of the day is denim bibbies.  Long bibbies and turtle-neck sweaters for winter, short bibbies and tank tops for summer.  On those few occasions a year when I get dressed up, I need a checklist.  Makeup?  Check.  Bra?  Check.  A few years back, I was invited to join friends at a Robert Burns Dinner (a gala, formal Scots affair) down in Jackson.  I did it up right!  New pantyhose, a real hairdo, full war paint, and a silky black pantsuit I hadn't worn for some time.  I left the truck with the valet and sashayed into the damn, I looked good!!  Glancing down as I found my way to the banquet room, I thought that I didn't remember those pants being so long.  A few steps further and I felt those pants swishing around my ankles.  Coming to a full stop, I realized I was in real danger of making more of an entrance than I'd planned.  I spent the evening clutching my failed waistband and waiting to make a graceful retreat.  Yup, you can dress me up, but don't take me anywhere!

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Things

Few things can settle my mind and put peace in my soul like sitting on the deck overlooking the south pasture and the hills beyond.  At first, thoughts crowd in and the chatter of birds in the oaks is distracting.  Slowly, the warmth of the sun soothes and I surrender.  My hearing expands to include not just the local colony of birds, but a pair of high-flying red-tail hawks screeching their hunting cries, the gossip of the free-range chickens down by the woods, and even the jake brakes of a truck over on Mt. Aukum Road about five miles away.  Throw in a good book and the dog at my feet and my world is complete.

My favorite chore is hanging laundry on the line.  I'm grateful for my dryer in the wintertime, but as soon as the weather permits, I love to do the washing just to have an excuse to go out to the clothesline.  There's something very satisfying about snapping out the wrinkles before hanging a towel, and then watching the shirts and pants dance to unheard tunes.  On hot summer days, Frank has learned that the damp wash still in the basket is a cool place, and frequently my "clean" clothes have cat footprints.  Oh well.  Tee-shirts and sheets taken off the line and folded right then are as if they'd been ironed smooth, something that never seems to happen in the dryer.  Often in the evening there are deer in the south pasture, watching me watch them.  What could be better? 

Naps are high on my list of priorities.  In the summertime, sleep will get me past the worst of the day's heat, and snuggling under an afghan with the dog and a couple of cats chases winter's chill when the woodstove struggles to keep out the cold.  Even a short nap is like a bonus for taking care of business during the day.

We all know the words to Julie Andrews's song...and these are a few of my favorite things.