Friday, April 30, 2010

She'd Fight Tigers

I took a break yesterday instead of cleaning the stalls and sat by Esther (a nonmilker) and watched mice.  There are at least ten babies now and several grownups, and when the babies had eaten their fill, they started to play...hide and seek, leap frog, follow the leader, tag.  They were nearly running over my boots, and I got to thinking that my mother would have run too...running and screaming right over the hill. 

One of my favorite family stories is of my mother and sister when my sister was a little girl.  Mother had a little mom-and-pop store and she and Pat lived in a room at the back.  Pat saw a mouse. She screamed and jumped up on the only high spot available...the toilet.  Mother would have fought tigers and leaped in front of trains to save her children, and she did what she had to do.  She pushed Pat off the toilet and jumped up there herself.  Poor Pat.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Provinces

Nothing makes me feel quite so provincial as having to go The City, as I did yesterday.  For most northern Californians, that means San Francisco...for me, it's just Sacramento, about sixty miles and a lifestyle away.  A couple of times a year, I may pass by The City on the way to and from the airport to pick up an out-of-town guest, but it's been probably ten years since I've really gone into town.  I got out my checklist to get dressed.  Fortunately, the weather precluded having to put on a real dress, but tries.  It's bad enough to have to explain that I can't make an early appointment because I have to milk the goats.  There's always a pause, and then a polite titter, followed by, "I see."  As is always the case, what seems perfectly normal to me is unusual to others.  The trip itself was uneventful, if I discount the rain, the hail, and the snow falling on the way back through Placerville.  At home, it hadn't snowed, but the hail was still in drifts on the ground.  The storm gave one last hurrah before bedtime last night, and the hail it dropped then is still on the deck, and it's thirty-four degrees this morning...but the sun is shining!

The fact that the sun is shining is very unusual, in that my friend Dolly is coming up tomorrow for the weekend.  (There will be a hiatus in the entries for a day or two.)  Dolly is a rainmaker, and we could make money sending her to drought areas.  At first it was funny, and now it's expected.  It doesn't matter if it is in winter or the middle of July...when Dolly visits, rain comes.  Perhaps this time she sent it ahead of her arrival. 

Here in the provinces, the hummers have sucked down twelve cups of "juice" in the last week.  I need to buy stock in sugar!  The sun is shining.  It's going to be a great day.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


What started as a drizzle when I took the trash to the big road yesterday became a deluge shortly thereafter.  I so did not want to go outside.  I called Joel and offered to sell him the goats, to take possession immediately, but he wasn't buying.  There was nothing for it but to gear up and get out there.  The rain thundered down on the metal roof while I milked and both the inside and the outside goats cried the entire time, all very nerve wracking.  Whoever turned on the tap upstairs left it open full blast all day.  Joel and I compared notes later on and we couldn't remember a time in the past when it had rained this hard for so long.  At one time, it hit hard enough to interrupt the satellite.  Being on top of the hill, I don't usually think about flood insurance, but it was getting worrisome.  It finally slacked off about dusk and the goats and chickens were so glad to see me.  The front yard was literally covered with leaves and branches beaten out of the trees by the force of the rain. 

After a day such as that, I was in need of some comfort food, and found a hidden box of tapioca in the cupboard.  The smell of vanilla and the taste of the tapioca pearls were the perfect antidote for what ailed me.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Land of Milk and Honey

The girls have upped their milk production again, to the point that I'm going to have to start taking two buckets down to the barn.  One two-gallon bucket has been sufficient, even with the addition of Sheila in the line up.  The level has been rising in the past couple of weeks, however, and for the last two mornings I've had to pour some down a squirrel hole to make room for Ruthie's contribution at the end of the line.  Milk weighs, I'm told, eight point six pounds a gallon, and hauling that nearly twenty-pound bucket up the hill has been getting harder.  Two buckets will even the load.  When there's a surplus of milk, I stop off at the chicken pen and pour a half-gallon or so for the little girls.  There is darned near a stampede as they come running and fluttering from inside and outside the pen to get their "slurps." 

Bessie Anne and I stood looking out the front screen door yesterday, just to see what the weather and the chickens were doing, when a ground squirrel, its mouth stuffed with dry leaves, came up the walk and ducked into a burrow it had dug right at the edge of the front porch.  I know this squirrel saw us, and Bessie was whining to get at it, and it had the temerity to come on ahead anyhow.  I guess one can't choose one's neighbors.

I've got the milk...I think the honey is down in Amador County.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Things Are Looking Up

"Things" are pretty much status quo, but I certainly am looking up.  The warmer weather has brought out the black widows in the goat barn and the wasps, hornets, yellow jackets (whatever...I'm not up on my entomology) everywhere else.  The spider of choice in the barn is the daddy long legs.  I used to tear down their webs to keep the barn from looking so ratty-tatty, but one day as I was tacking up a fly strip, the thought occurred to me that I was taking down natural fly catchers.  The daddy long legs are also early warning devices regarding black widows.  I don't know if the widows eat the long legs, or if the long legs just say, "There goes the neighborhood," when the widows move in and leave, but when I don't see the one, I'm sure to start seeing the other. 

Wasps (I'll use the term generically for all such malevolent insects) are a huge problem here every year.  There are two kinds I can identify...the mud daubers and the paper wasps.  Before Larry sided the house and enclosed the soffits, I would use a can of wasp spray a week on the daubers' nests under the eaves.  Now I see they've moved under the deck.  As they rise in numbers up over the railing, I hear Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" and see the helicopters in "Apocalypse Now."  The paper wasps make a really intriguing nest.  I usually find them about the size of a Christmas ornament in the chicken coop and in the branches of the oaks.  One year Steve called me to come see a nest the size of a football that he'd knocked out of a tree.  He assured me he'd sprayed it and it was empty.  Uh-huh.  Dumb and/or trusting, I, of course, poked the nest with a stick.  I cannot outrun a wasp. 

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I Talk To the Animals

My neighbor Judy drove up for eggs just as I was walking out to start the day with Stumpy under my arm.  Judy gave me the strangest look.  I don't think she was serious when she asked if Stumpy slept with me too.

While milking, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye, and there were six sets of tiny eyes staring back.  Braveheart's kids had come out from their corner to watch the show, lined up in a row, no bigger than thimbles.  It took Mrs. Braveheart a while to join her kidlets, but the babies were fearless.  I put down grain for them, and they each politely took a piece and settled in to see what would happen next.  They'd duck out of the way when I'd switch goats, but come right back to their seats, not two feet from my feet.  I assume Mr. Braveheart was off slaying dragons or some such.  Leaving the barn, ground squirrels in the pen had come up out of their burrows to enjoy the sunshine, resting their elbows on the edges of the holes and watching the goats.  It doesn't take much to amuse a ground squirrel.

I had to waste a perfectly good day of gorgeous weather by going into town for supplies, but as I made a stop at one store in Diamond Springs, there...right there in the parking lot...were two Canadian honkers sitting beside a mud puddle.  I guess when you're on a long trip, you take your rest stops where you find them.

Just before going out to put the girls to bed at sundown, I glanced down into the front orchard, and saw four does standing under the blooming cherry tree, an awesome sight.  These pretty ladies must be some relation to Tawny.  She was much lighter in color than the standard black-tail deer, and these were blonds, too.  It's so nice to see deer back in the neighborhood.

I had no idea California and Ohio had much in common, but it appears we share weather.  In the high seventies right now, a storm with snow down to 2,400 is predicted for Tuesday.  In the past, I've been wearing a tank top while hanging turtleneck sweaters on the line from the previous week's laundry.  Looks like it's going to be that way for awhile.

It was a most excellent day, spent in the company of large and small furred and feathered friends.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Zero to Sixty

The weather changes so fast here it could make your head spin like that kid in "The Exorcist."  Snow a couple of days ago, and this weekend it's supposed to go to eighty...winter to summer and a short week's worth of spring.  Whoever wrote Jack and the Beanstalk must have lived in Fair Play, where you can watch the weeds shoot up in front of your eyes.  At least now the goat barn will dry out. 

I'm getting the liniment out now.  The days ahead, weeding in the vegetable garden, are going to be hard on the back.  Having put it in writing, I'm now going to accomplish a garden this year, and no excuses.  Stubborn is a word I've heard said about me before...not that I agree.  I much prefer words like dedicated, intent, committed, persevering, determined, or, in the words of Larry the Cable Guy, "Git 'er done!"  (Mark's remark yesterday, "Lord forgive me and bless the poor pygmies in Papua, New Guinea," is also one of Larry's lines, and it cracks me up every time.)  I've got to move milking time up so that I can get in and out of the barn and into the garden before the heat of the day.  I think that will be okay with the girls.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Where I Belong

I've often thought that my poor parents must have felt I'd been dropped on their doorstep by evil gypsies.  My mother was not an animal person.  She would never have mistreated an animal, but she didn't particularly want them around her, either.  She would just shake her head when I would lay in the grass for hours and watch snails crawl up my arm...I wanted to know how they moved when they had no feet...or collect pocketsful of sowbugs.  (Pill bugs, roly-polys...I know now they are sauer bugs.)  After doing time with goldfish and a canary, I was allowed a cat and a dog.  The dog was named Blackie, but my mother never called him anything but Dog.  My father bought my first horse when I was twelve.  Mother was so opposed to this she left home for a week.  He had taught me to ride years was the one sport we did together.  I think he owned only one sport shirt in his life, and wore a suit and tie even when we went to the beach.  When I would go riding in a wash (gully, river bed) not so far away, I would catch and bring home "horny toads," lizards that look like mini-stegosaurus.  I brought so many home that my father finally had a special outdoor habitat built for them, probably because Mother didn't want them anywhere near, and who could blame her?  Daddy would bribe me to put on a dress, promising to take me out to dinner or to a favorite aunt's house...nine times out of ten it didn't work.  Mother was thirty-eight and Daddy in his forties when I came along unexpectedly, and they must have wondered how this misfit cowbird was left in their nest.  The fact that they humored me is to their credit.  My love for "all things great and small" is now fulfilled.  I'm where I belong.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

If You Fill It, They Will Come

Anyone who has been here at the right time of year has been amazed at the number of hummingbirds that come to my feeders.  The thrumming of wings from fifty-plus little helicopters fills the air, and there are flashes of brilliant green and red as they dart and wheel.  Hummers make a clicking sound, not a chirp and not a song...tiny little castanets...and they are noisy.  A few of these little guys winter over, but most go elsewhere when the temperature drops.  The other evening, I noticed a couple of them at the juice bottle, and decided it was time to start filling the feeders again.  This morning at dawn there were ten bellied up to the bar.  In just the summer months last year, I went through over seventy-five pounds of sugar, filling three four-cup feeders at least twice a day.  Where do they put it all?  When the ladies from the Red Hat Society would come, the hummers would practically swarm them because of their red hats gaily decorated with flowers...too much temptation for the birds.  I want desperately to see a baby hummer.  Knowing how small the eggs must be, how does that long beak fit?  Does it start out small and grow after hatching?  Is it long, but soft like the goat baby hooves, and harden later?  I know what and how robins and eagles feed their chicks in the nest, but how in the world does a mother feed a baby hummer...reverse straw action? 

The sun is breaking out this morning (!!) and the jackrabbits are traveling in numbers up and down the driveway.  The mouse in the laying box was there again last night.  I was more cautious as I reached into the dark recesses, but it still startled me.  Now I'm concerned that it's a mother mouse who believes she has found the maternity ward.  I really don't think I want to touch a nest of teensy hairless mouse babies.  One just never knows what the day will bring.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Weather was the news of the day yesterday.  In the span of a few hours, we had torrential rain, snow!, sunshine, hail, more rain, more sunshine, and ended with light rain in the evening.  Stumpy must have thought she'd been caught in a revolving door, I took her out and brought her back in so many times. 

I do not hide my affection for mice, but I will admit to jumping and yelping last night as I put my hand into a laying box to gather eggs and encountered something furry and moving.  I did not expect a mouse!  I wonder if it had climbed in there to cuddle under the hen's wing to get warm on such a bad-weather day, and, if so, what did the hen think about that?  That's a children's book that nearly writes itself.

Bulletin:  it's raining.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Odd Thought

The "R Word" is back...the wind blew in last night and the rain started about four this morning.  Neither the trash truck guy nor I were in any hurry to rendezvous today in the downpour, but we are both responsible people and did that which is expected.  Looks like another day in isolation for Stumpy.  Pearl has been out and back in, demanding, "Fluff me NAOW!"  I'm glad I got the laundry done and dried on the line yesterday.

I've got to get some help, counseling or something, for that distraught bird deserted by Rod-RI-go, before we both go bonkers.  She called incessantly yesterday, adding an "Oh, oh, oh," once in awhile like a swooning Victorian maiden.  She got to realize that it's over, he's gone and he's not coming back. 

The subject of volunteer plants has come up (as do some plants, like it or not).  I once planted New Zealand spinach.  Not good raw, it's pretty good steamed, but once planted, it's nearly impossible to get rid of and comes back year after year.  Tomatillos are another vegetable that you'd best get used to because the seeds must have a half-life of a thousand years.  In addition to varieties of squash, I planted a number of gourds of different kinds.  A niece came for a visit and I ran out to the garden and picked what looked like young zucchini, sauteed it with garlic and fresh herbs, and served it for dinner.  We all ate it, noting that it was a little pithy...stringy, in fact.  Giving it some thought, I realized I'd served the family a luffa sponge from a previous year's seed. 

In the grocery store, goat cheese is sold in five-ounce packets.  I make chevre in two-pound batches.  Eggs are piling up at an alarming rate.  Well, they would, wouldn't they, when I pick up twelve to sixteen a day.  Using odds and ends from the fridge and cupboard last night, I made a corn, cabbage, chevre, onion, and barley "pudding" with lots of fresh thyme from the herb garden and lots of eggs.  It was so darned good!  Tonight I plan to make a sauce with tomatoes frozen from a prior garden and make several baked penne casseroles layered with chevre (like riccotta) to freeze for future dinners.  It's wonderful to have such bounty to use with abandon.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sounds of Spring

Each season has its own colors, smell, and sounds.  One day the air just feels different and, without looking at the calendar, you know the seasons have changed.  The large number of birds that nest in the live oak in the front yard begin their noisy territorial chatter before daybreak now.  There aren't many songbirds up here; none of the meadowlarks or mockingbirds that I knew in southern California.  I don't know where the Rod-RI-go dude went, but his mate calls for him all day long and is getting somewhat frantic.  Another sound announcing the arrival of spring is the croaking of frogs.  These are little-bitty guys, the largest about the size of a quarter, but they've been gifted with big voices.  Many live in the flower pots on the deck, and when they gather for choir practice, they can drown out the television.  They're everywhere.  I almost squooshed one yesterday when I closed the barn door, and once in awhile one will sneak into the house to play with the cats.  (Not a good idea.)  In fall, one hears spring, it's lawn tractors and weed-whackers.  On a beautiful day like yesterday, it's a siren song that calls one to join in, and I succumbed.  While milking, I do a lot of planning, hold mental conversations, work out problems.  There is something Zen-like about mowing on the little tractor.  Cutting down the better part of an acre, up hill and down, takes some concentration:  following the pattern, avoiding pitfalls dug by Bess as she hunts gophers, saving patches of wildflowers.  It's a time of pure sensation...the smell of the mown "grass," the feel of the sun on shoulders and the breeze, the sound of the engine.  No serious thought is required.  It creates a bubble of calm in time.  I love to mow.

Rocket did go on vacation during the night.  I really like that thought. 

Oh good's not yet seven o'clock and that dippy bird is already yelling for Rod-RI-go...he must not have come home last night either. 

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mayo and Holidays

Goat milk at this time of year is particularly good.  The girls have plenty of green feed, in addition to the alfalfa and grain they get all year round, and the milk is so creamy it's almost yellow.  It makes heavenly chevre or feta.  The girls have also upped their production.  Milking only once a day, I'm still bringing up two gallons every morning.  Before I acquired enough gallon glass jars, I used to put the milk into multiple empty plastic mayonnaise jars.  One of Steve's funniest one-liners was a time he opened the refrigerator as he made a sandwich, stood there for a minute looking at the wall of white, and said, "Will the real mayonnaise please step forward."  It still cracks me up.

I think Rocket is about to "go on holiday."  (That was a euphemism in the movie "Chicken Run" for dying.)  A long time ago, my son Pete called from southern California and asked if I could take in another chicken.  My grandson Jake's class (first grade?) had hatched chicks, it was the end of the school year, and they had these little creatures that now needed homes.  (Poor planning on the teacher's part.)  Jake volunteered to take one, but Pete lived in an apartment.  I agreed to adopt this orphan and Pete and Jake drove the five hundred miles...Pete stopping periodically to let the tiny chick out to exercise.  He remembered we had done this with the dogs when we moved to Sacramento, and I didn't have the heart to tell him the chick would have been just fine in the box the whole time.  Jake introduced me to Rachel, and we got her settled into the flock.  I later had to explain to Jake that I'd had to rename Rachel as Rocky.  "Dad, Grandma says that Rachel is a boy!"  I hatched a clutch of eggs sometime after Rocky had begun to enjoy his rooster privileges, and one of his progeny was as white as he...evidently some Leghorn in the heritage.  Since it takes a professional to determine the sex of a chick, and I'm not, I named this chick a unisex Rocket...could have gone either way.  Rocket turned out to be a hen, and she's been a good producer of brown eggs.  Jake will be sixteen this year, so Rocket has had a good long life.  She's the only white chicken in a flock of brown, red, and black and white hens, and I'll miss her when she goes...on holiday.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

It's All Perspective

Yesterday down in the goat barn, Flute Snoot brought out her/his progeny to meet me and have a little breakfast.  Tiny little mice with heads no bigger than a dried kidney bean, with the distinctve elongated nose of the parent.  Now you see 'em, now you don't...many forays out and quick ducks back underground before the little ones got brave enough to sit at the edge of the mouse hole to nibble on grain and watch me with solemn bright eyes.  After enjoying their company and antics, I brought the milk back up to the porch, and there was Frank, a mouse tail hanging from his lips and pieces-parts at his feet.  He also enjoys mice.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Gentlemen, Start Your Tractors!

After all these years, it still amuses me to see my neighbor Joel stop by for a quick visit...on his tractor.  We have a common gate between our adjoining properties, otherwise it's probably a mile going around by the big road.  We are starting to seriously think about our vegetable gardens, and Joel is going to try using some of my extra industrial plastic barrels for above-ground planting.  The first garden I planted here was wiped out by deer and my then-neighbor's donkey that jumped the fence.  The next year Steve fenced in a large area out on the west point and we tried again.  For two years, I fought with the gophers, ground squirrels, and voles.  I was holding onto a cabbage plant while a gopher was tugging it underground...true story!  Pumpkins grew large and beautiful and just at the point of picking, I'd go out and find them "deflated."  Gophers would come up underneath, gnaw a gopher-size hole in the bottom, and eat the pumpkin from the inside, not touching the outer shell.  How disappointing is that!  Water is a precious commodity, and the soil here is called DCG (decomposed granite).  What could be considered a thorough soaking elsewhere only goes down an inch or so and then runs off before it gets to the root system.  The solution to the problem was lidded barrels that Steve brought home from the commercial laundry where he worked, cut in half, and drilled.  Esthetically, my garden has all the appeal of a tank farm, but until gophers learn to jump three feet, the barrels thwart the little buggers and conserve water.  Some of the barrels are five feet across, perfect for the pumpkins, some only three feet.  Joel is going to try the barrel system this year, having fought his own good fight with the underground wildlife.  My girls, furred and feathered, provide enough fertilizer for both of us.  Joel and I try to plant different crops so only one of us is overwhelmed with zucchini or cucumbers and we trade the excess.  Nothing goes to waste, however, because the chickens gorge on overripe tomatoes and other trimmings.  I've missed the planting window two years in a row now, and it's not gonna happen this year! 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I Saw Dogwoods!

Good news, bad news.  It was that kind of day.  Good news:  the truck passed smog.  Bad news:  no one came to tell me the truck was done, so I sat outside for an unnecessary forty-five minutes waiting.  Good news:  it wasn't raining.  Bad news:  the rear turn signal went out just as I was leaving the shop.  Good news:  they replaced it at no charge.  Bad news:  didn't get five minutes down the road before the light went out again.  Good news:  I stopped at a parts store for new bulbs and the nice man said it might be the taillight module, less than forty dollars and I can replace it myself (yeah, he said I could).  Bad news:  the part has to be ordered and it means another trip into town.  Good news:  I saw the dogwoods in bloom on the way home...maybe just one more snow.  It's always good to end the day on a bright note.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I couldn't have guaranteed rain yesterday any more if I'd washed the truck.  This was more of the spring rain one would expect, gentle and sporadic, than the storms of the week prior. 

I've been thinking while I milk how fortunate I am to have the time and opportunity to see the little creatures, the mice and the barn birds, often enough and long enough to actually identify individuals.  Usually caught in a glimpse at a distance, I can observe them up close and personal.  One of the sparrows has a twisted wing feather, another has a much larger, brighter stripe of yellow on its head, one is very territorial and repels all invaders while it's picking out the best of the best.  Flute Snoot, the shy mouse, has an elongated nose with a brown tip.  One of the mice evidently had a dangerous encounter but escaped with just losing the end of its tail.  Braveheart is smaller and lighter in coloring, but not as light as Gray Ghost.  I'm not quite as familiar with all of the turkeys, but Lonesome Lulu, who wanders alone, never with a flock, is a frequent guest.  Of course there are the Mafia boys cruising the hill in a gang.  The deer that were so numerous when we moved here no longer come as often or in such numbers.  The wineries have all put up deer fencing and have altered the movements of the deer.  As much as I've complained when my flowers were devoured, I miss seeing all these beautiful animals.  I watched Tawny from the time she was a fawn all through to motherhood.  I would yell at her from the deck as she picked peaches down in the small orchard.  My fear factor is zilch, as she would just look up at me, chewing with her mouth full and juice running down her chin.  A pair of red-tail hawks come back year after year to build their nest in a tall pine across the road.  I hear their calls daily as they tag-team the ground squirrels, and it took my breath away the day I watched them mate.  Aren't I the lucky one?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I See The Light!

I hesitate to become too enthused because it may not last.  I almost don't want to mention it because I might put a jinx on it.  However, it is not raining and the sun is shining this morning.  Oh what the heck...WAHOO!! 

I have previously mentioned that I am not exactly the Fair Play fashion plate.  I would rather take a beating than go shopping.  Slogging through the wet has brought to my attention that one of my shoes has sprung a leak, which means a new pair of shoes.  Aaargh.  For years now it has been my practice to find a pair of shoes that fit, regardless of style.  Always low heels, always black, always sturdy.  And I buy two pairs at once.  One pair is for barn shoes, the other for go-to-town.  When the barn shoes wear through (as is the case at present), the go-to-town shoes become barn shoes and I go buy another pair just like them.  I don't have to make decisions, I don't have to try them on.  I can be in and out of the store in fifteen minutes flat.  The go-to-town shoes then become barn shoes and the new shoes are saved for leaving the property.  My game plan is sometimes derailed because the style is discontinued and that totally ruins my day.  Once upon a time, when I worked out in the real world and dressed up in suits and high heels, I found sling pumps that I liked and bought three pairs in different colors, red, black, and taupe.  This worked well until the morning I dressed in a hurry, drove the long commute to one of my consulting facilities, and someone pointed out that I was wearing one black and one red shoe.  That's me...a real trend setter. 

The sun is shining and, soggy socks or not, I'm going outside to enjoy it!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Up To Here

I've about had my fill of this weather.  Down in the goat barn, the wind roars like a freight train headed right for us.  The girls are cranky and have started pulling hair again.  Poor Ruthie seems to be the primary target and has several bald patches.  Stumpy is spending her second day in isolation in the laundry room.  A pair of bedraggled pedestrian turkeys just passed by on their way to scrounge breakfast.  Last night, a sodden group of free-range chickens followed me to the hen house, squelching through the muck to get in out of the downpour.  The cats cry to be let out, I open the door, they take one look and say, "Oh hell no!,"  and decide to use the indoor facilities.  Bessie Anne spends the day in front of the woodstove, her paws and lips moving as she dreams of running in the pasture.  I make soup and work on projects, but I'm mad to get outside again.

Just after Steve died, the small leak in the roof that he'd been meaning to patch someday became an honest-to-God hole and a portion of the ceiling in the breakfast room fell down, necessitating a new roof...not!  And it was raining.  I heaped blessings and pushed hot coffee on the crew that saved me.  As they were packing up when they were done, the foreman told me he'd had the feeling of being watched while they worked.  I explained that, being on top of the hill, no one could have been watching.  Then he pointed at the man in my tree, and we laughed.  My "man" is very subtle in dry weather, but becomes more readily apparent in the rain.  I like the thought that he is watching over me, too.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

But A Memory...

I took this photo of the rosemary bush a few days ago, knowing that the grey days were coming again and I might need help remembering the sunshine.  Sho' nuff, we're back to the two-fer days...two pair of pants, two pair of socks, two shirts.  There are actually a lot of memories connected to this rosemary-for-remembrance bush.  I planted it from a two-inch pot when we moved here going on thirteen years ago.  The thyme and oregano still thrive, but deer consumed the sage, borage, and other tender herbs, and heat and drought wiped out the varieties of mint.  Wild yarrow and feverfew moved in to fill the gaps.  I thought when we came here that I would finally have all the flower and herb gardens one could ever wish for, and planted accordingly.  Hollyhocks, sweetpeas, roses, black-eyed Susans, daisies, and so many, many more.  Our resident deer were the best fed on the mountain.  I finally put roses in planters on the deck, and then would wake in the middle of the night to the clomp-clomp of deer, coming all the way around to have a midnight snack right under the bedroom windows.  I blamed the deer for eating newly-planted marigolds in the half-barrels by the front porch, until I actually saw a plant disappear underground as it was stolen by a gopher that had chewed through the bottom to get to the goodies.  It's a life don't always get what you want, so be happy with what you get! 

Item for the Remember List:  always empty the alfalfa out of the bibby cuffs before putting into the wash.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Good Day's Work

I took advantage of an afternoon of glorious weather to mow down the yards.  After a winter of disuse, I was so pleased that the mower started (almost) right up.  Of course the tires were flat, but I'm brave enough now to start the air compressor and fix that problem.  I've always been sure that either the compressor or the tire was going to blow up, and I still approach both with caution.  Mowing comes right after hanging wash as one of my favorite chores.  It's a legitimate reason to be outdoors and, as a brother-in-law used to say about fishing,"When you're fishing [mowing], you can't be doing anything else."  It is so satisfying to make a higgledy-piggledy yard look neat and tidy, and unlike dusting, it won't have to be done again right away.  When the yards are green, as they are now, I can maintain the illusion that I have lawns.  The hundreds of pounds of grass seed I've put down over the years have fed many birds, I'm sure, because not one blade has grown.  The goats keep their distance, but follow along the fence line as I mow by their pen, always curious about what I'm doing.  It took over three hours to mow the west field, the back yard, just the higher stuff on the front and side yards, and down along the fence line on the road.  I will admit that I avoid the patches of Baby-blue-eyes and some unnamed bright magenta wild flower, wanting them to come back in following years.  I'd say that's a pretty good day's work.  It was the dinner hour when I finished, and the mountain was quiet as I sat on the front porch with a cold beer, Bessie Anne at my feet, enjoying the smell of new-mown "grass."  There is a bracken fern that grows in shady spots that has a strong peppery smell that spices the air with its aroma when mowed down.  A bird I haven't heard before sat in the front oak and cried, "Onetwothreefour-five, six."  It also has the counting compulsion, it seems, unlike the romantic the other day that called, "Rod-RI-go!  Rod-RI-go!"  A batch of chevre cheese was hanging in the kitchen, dinner was in the oven...yes, a good day's work.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Growling Hens & Scaredy-cat Goats

The chickens who choose to go free ranging have picked one spot in which to lay their eggs, which saves me from a daily hunt for their product.  There is a narrow gap between some bales of straw in the hay shed, and they squeeze into this small space for privacy.  As I was breaking a bale of alfalfa for the goats in the morning, I heard a low, gutteral growling and looked around for the source.  One hen had already claimed the nesting spot, and another was trying to move in and was being warned off.  The little girls may have a limited vocabulary, but there is no mistaking the intent.  I'll sometimes find eight or ten eggs in this hidey-hole, so the girls have worked out some system during the day to take turns.

The sun doesn't drop over the horizon until nearly seven-thirty now, but I must time putting the goats to bed a little before then.  Too soon, and they complain like little kids that it is too early and they're not sleepy yet.  Too late, and they panic if they can't see all the way to the back of their stalls and refuse to go in at all.  They dither around in a cluster outside the barn, snorting and pawing the ground.  I usually just open a gate or door and each knows where they're to go, but if it's too dark, I have to go in first and reassure them that there are no monsters in the closet.  Finally, the bravest will make a dash for it, the others waiting to make sure nothing bad happens, and then follow.  The chore may be the same every day, but the experience is always different.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


As the sun comes up, I can hear Gordon McRae singing, "Oh, what a beautiful morning...oh, what a beautiful day!"  The corn may not "be as high as an elephant's eye," but the grass (weeds) is growing at an alarming rate.  If everything wasn't still so wet from the rain/hail/snow on Monday, I would get the lawn tractor going and start mowing.  After the winter hiatus from outside chores, everything will start speeding up now until the heat of summer.  There are more leaves to rake from the front yard, the burn pile to fire up, the vegetable garden to weed and plant, the hen house to clean out...and it all needs to be done in that brief window between too wet and too hot.  Busy days are coming.

More entries for the Remember List:  turn all empty buckets in the goat barn on their side so mice who jump or fall in can get out.  In the dark of morning, turn on the porch light before opening the door so deer munching in the herb garden can get away before Bessie Anne goes out.  Even with a warming trend, fire up the woodstove before sundown because the nights are still cold

I don't know how things are in Gloccamorra or Oklahoma, but it sure is a gorgeous morning in Fair Play!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Good Day

What constitutes a good day?  So many factors are involved, and my own ideas differ from one day to the next.  Yesterday the sun was shining and I had time to sit on the deck and start a terrific new book after the chores were done.  My long-time egg customer came by and we had a quick chat before Sarah and her young friend arrived.  I had promised to teach Isabella (about ten or eleven years old) how to use the drop spindle.  Kids at that age are still unselfconscious and are willing to giggle at their own goofs.  Spinning on a drop spindle involves a lot of eye-hand coordination and I wish I could publish the pictures of Isabella's and Sarah's faces...perfect studies in concentration, but I didn't ask permission.  There was a lot of laughing going on!  When their arms gave out and they had given the process a valiant effort...with success, I might add...we went out to check on the girls, and Isabella was quite taken with Stumpy.  The days are getting longer, and after they left it was still warm enough to sit outside and read again.  One of my milk customers came by in the evening to pick up his week's supply. was a good day.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Remember List

For someone who has trouble remembering the days of the week and who should probably have a name tag sewn into her bibbies with a note that says, "If found, return to...," there certainly is a long list of things to remember on the farm.  Things like:  double latching every gate and door in the goat barn and pen; watching for ankle-busters, those holes dug by the ground squirrels and the bomb craters scratched out by the hens, so that I'll know where they are when covered with leaves or snow; getting gas every trip to town so the tank is never low in an emergency; keeping water troughs/bowls filled to the brim in case the power goes out, winter or summer; covering outdoor faucets with an insulating cap before a freeze; keeping a supply of toilet paper always; thanking every guest for the joy and laughter they bring. 

That last one is probably the easiest, as the memory of a visit from family and friends remains long after they've departed, and this holiday was no exception.  Good company, good food, and a day-long game of poker!  It was stormy most of the day, but we dodged the snow bullet.  Deb and Craig stayed over Sunday night, and I made fried mush for breakfast.  It was a childhood favorite of mine, and evidently for Deb, too, as she somehow brought up the subject in the evening and I jumped on the idea and made the mush that night so it would be set for the morning.  It was every bit as good as we remembered, and although it was a new experience for Craig and I think he would have like some bacon or sausage to go with, he enjoyed it, too. 

It was such a pleasure to have everyone certainly made it worthwhile to dust (whatever I happened to dust, and I didn't hit every flat surface).  Those who couldn't make it were missed.  I don't have to put this Easter on my Remember List.  It's locked in.  I wish I'd remembered to take photos.  (But I got the trash down to the big road this morning!)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Nobody Likes to Dust

Going out to get more firewood, I heard a buzzing and noticed this big black bumblebee on the crab apple tree (that is still on the front porch).  The lilac bushes behind it are heavy with buds and I am so looking forward to their heavenly scent coming in the kitchen windows...if it ever warms up enough to open the windows.  Someone will remind me I said that when I'm dripping sweat in the dead of summer, I'm sure. 
The eggs are dyed, the candy's in the bowl, and the kids are coming up today.  My mother has been in my thoughts a lot this week.  She was born on Easter Sunday, April 3, 1904, and named Esther because of that.  It could have been worse...she might have been born on Labor Day.  She only missed Easter by one day this year.  She hated dusting, too, and always said she had daughters so they could inherit that job.  When I was a kid, we had polished mahogany furniture with lots of curlicues.  I learned to hate dusting at an early age!  Be that as it may, it's the one job I have left to do before company arrives.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

No View Today

The gale-force winds and pounding rain of yesterday have abated, but it seems we are in a cloud bank or ground fog today and there is no view from Farview.  I can't even see past the front pasture to the road.  I'm just hoping for no snow tomorrow that would impede the kids coming up for Easter dinner.  We did have snow on Easter one year in the past.  The grandkids were here, and I threatened to put out white eggs for the egg hunt...I guess I am my mother's daughter.  I'm sorry the Araucana hens have quit laying (the one or two I have left are a little past their prime).  They lay the most beautifully colored eggs...turquoise, pink, mauve, or green.  It was like an Easter egg hunt every day.

Pearl just came in from her morning constitutional, demanding to be "fluffed."  When Frank gets wet, he just rolls around on the carpet and dries himself, but Pearl is very vocal, running and stopping in front of me until I grab a towel and fluff her fur.  She is very much a girlie-girl, and "to the manor born."  She is the epitome of the saying, "Dogs have owners, cats have staff."

I know it's April, but I saw more robins the other day and a poem I learned as a kid keeps going through my head:  "March wind doth blow and we shall have snow, and what will cock robin do then?  Poor thing."  I haven't been to town to look for the dogwoods, but I'm hoping we're rather done with that.

Friday, April 2, 2010

And Counting...

Thirty degrees this morning.  I'm getting down to the bottom of the split firewood pile, and have to dig out some of the wood from the dirt that the ground squirrels have thrown up as they build their burrows underneath this safe haven.  I used to send my youngest grandson mystery boxes when he was in first and second grade that included such treasures as a squirrel nest made of finely shredded inner bark and lined with soft grey belly fur, a huge molar from Louie (the pig), and an intact skeleton of a tree frog no bigger than my thumbnail.  I thought these things were just so neat, and a city kid would have something spectacular for show-and-tell.  Perhaps not responding was his dad's way of asking me to stop. 

My friend Florence and I have something in common...we are both compulsive counters.  It is one hundred fifty-three left-foot steps from the front porch to the gate of the goat pen (the right foot is the "and").  Yesterday it took one hundred eighty-six squeezes to milk out Ruth, three hundred forty-two for Inga, three hundred two for Cindy, and one hundred sixty-eight for Sheila.  I personally like to finish on an even number, but can't cheat to make it come out that way.  Odd numbers just seem incomplete to me.  Florence counts shovelfuls of dirt, nails hammered, etc.  She's quirky that way. 

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Was I Dreaming?

I'm almost sure there was snow on this forsythia yesterday.  Maybe it is some elaborate April Fool joke by Mother Nature.  It's the sort of thing my own mother would have pulled.  Some people claim Christmas, my husband's favorite holiday was mother loved April Fool's Day, and I was her favorite target.  My Girl Scout troop came for a sleep-over; my mother hid one of everyone's shoes.  In high school, when girls wore six crinoline slips under poodle skirts (a la Happy Days) and we all sat in groups on the quad grass for lunch, I opened my brown paper sack (we were too cool for lunch boxes) and found folded newspapers and scraps of wood, carefully wrapped like sandwiches in waxed paper.  Boy, did I get strange looks.  The year I was a sophomore, my mother woke me, said we were running late and I had to hurry with breakfast.  I dashed around and went across the street to whistle for Linda, a senior, so we could walk to the bus stop.  I whistled and Linda.  Finally I went to the door and knocked...and waited.  Finally Linda's mother came to the door, hair disheveled and pulling on her robe.  "What do you want?"  "Isn't Linda going to school today?"  "Of course she is, but it's only six o'clock, Diane."  My mother was surreptitiously pulling weeds in the front yard, watching me make an April Fool of myself, and laughing like a loon.  Mother would have loved snow/no snow.