Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

A good dose of patriotism never hurts.  I've been watching old WWII movies on TCM and AMC the last couple of days.  I don't care so much for those promoting hatred for the enemy; we were "the enemy," too.  That never solves anything.  But I love the sense of pride in country, the heroism of the troops, the caring and love of the brotherhood in these black-and-white films.  It's easy to become disillusioned with government and to bemoan our loss of status in the world, but if America is known for anything, I think it is an inherent sense of optimism...the opinion that we can "make it better."  (And sometimes that gets us into trouble.)  I was taught as a child to stand at attention whenever the flag passed by and whenever I heard The Star-spangled Banner, even if that song came on the radio in our own living room.  I still get goosebumps every week, watching the opening ceremonies of a NASCAR race.  I abhor war anywhere, and I wish there weren't the reason for Memorial Day, but America and all she stands for is worth defending and I thank God for all those who thought so too.  It's daylight now, and I'm going out to hang my Stars and's the only way I know to say 'thank you.'

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Odd Thought

I surprised myself yesterday morning by figuring out how to remove and clean the J-pipe from under the bathroom sink.  Being on a septic system, one can't use many of the commercial drain cleaners; mustn't kill off the good bacteria.  I was quite pleased that I even remembered to put a bucket underneath first.  Watching all those DIY shows paid off.

Shirt-sleeve weather in the barn, and it occurred to me that the only one who might enjoy a rainy morning is Sheila.  Being the omega of the herd, she has to dart in to snatch a mouthful of alfalfa, dodging the slings and arrows of the older girls.  On a rainy day, they head for the shelter of the oak and Sheila, braving the elements, is left to eat her breakfast in peace. 

Met with the tattoo artist to design my "ink."  Clay and I will go on Wednesday to do the deed. 

It's a good thing I'm not (very) vain about my appearance.  I have an adverse reaction to mosquito bites, swelling up like a toad at the site.  I've been invited to a barbecue today at a nearby ranch.  A couple of days ago I was bitten on the jaw, and now look like a lopsided bulldog.  That will certainly make a great impression.  I suppose I could go topless to draw attention away from my face, but that's probably not a great impression, either.  A glass filled with ice held to the jaw helps reduce the swelling some, and a couple of fingers of good whiskey over the ice helps my attitude.  By the time the ice has melted, who cares? 

One of the buff Orpington hens has "gone broody."  For the past three or four nights, I tuck the hens into their house and then go to the hay barn to gather the free-ranger eggs and there is this little wannabe mama, fluffed out over that day's clutch of eggs.  She gives a sigh of resignation as I pluck her out from between the bales and take her back to the hen house night after night.  I give her points for persistence. 

Gorgeous weather for Memorial Day Weekend.  God bless America and all who serve her.  "All gave some; some gave all."

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Stumpy's Great Escape

The first chore of the day is to tend to the Silkie chicks.  As I was putting in fresh water and feed yesterday, I evidently didn't close the door to the laundry room when I went in.  Usually Stumpy oversees my tasks, but I glanced behind me and there she was, stumping down the hall.  I had my hands full at the moment, but thought it was okay...I knew she was headed toward the front door.  Finished with the chicks, I went to look for Stumpy...and couldn't find her.  Bessie Anne, ever watchful for "her" chickens, ratted her out.  Evidently Stumpy flipped a U in the hall and decided to check out the guest room.  There she was, hopping up and down on the bed.  Perhaps she is tired of sharing her quarters with the kindergartners and wanted a room of her own again. 

The sun came out in the morning and, after milking was done, I grabbed a book and went out to sit on the deck, joining the blue-belly lizards that were doing push-ups on the railing.  I am reading The Peacocks of Baboquivari, loaned to me by Arden.  It's a day-to-day account of an ornithologist who spent six months alone in the hill country of Arizona studying the bird life in that area.  If she'd had electricity in her little cabin, Erma Fisk could have been a blogger.  One paragraph caught my eye:  "If this account deals chiefly and interminably with weather it is because when you live in the country weather is what controls your life."  So I'm not the only one who notes the weather daily, whining and applauding appropriately.  It's the first thing I check in the morning and the last thing I note before going to bed.

The sparrows who used to join me in the milking room have moved on, their place taken by a bold California blue jay (scrub jay).  This bird showed up one morning, perched on the half-open Dutch door, and did a number of fly-bys overhead, making me consider that perhaps a hat would save me from a "birding."  Not content with sharing the grain thrown down for the mice, this robber baron found the full bucket of feed up on the shelf.  Now he shows up every morning for breakfast and helps himself, sitting companionably at the doorway for a few minutes before heading off to do whatever it is birds do during the day. 

Friday, May 28, 2010

Attitude Adjustment

I was pouting all day yesterday, scuffing the toes of my shoes, muttering to myself about the damn rain and wondering if it would ever stop.  Then I was struck with a revelation.  What did I really have to complain about?  I am in a warm house, with plenty of food for me and feed for the animals.  While damp, the animals all have shelter.  I don't have acres of crops to worry about.  The critters and I are healthy.  I've seen documentaries on the drought years in Arkansas and Oklahoma, and the women shoveling dust out of their that's worthy of whining.  So I get a little wet going out to tend the goats and chickens; I've got dry clothes to put on afterward.  Putting it all in perspective, it wasn't hard to adjust my attitude.  Growing like gangbusters, my yards will stay a green a lot longer this year.  I don't have to water the plants on the deck.  And guess what...the skies are clear and the sun is shining this morning!  That's the best cure for cabin fever.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Here We Go Again

The sun came out briefly a few times yesterday...just enough to give false hope.  The rest of the day it rained, sometimes as much as an inch in an hour.  Since I couldn't be outside, the next best thing was to wash windows so I could see outside.  The dog (and cat) pillow has become a bone of contention in the household.  The inside kids have evidently worked out some sort of time-share program, and Pearl gets really pissy if someone wants to take cuts when it's her turn.  The cats have their own bed, but this is bigger and fluffier, and Bess evidently doesn't have much say in this situation. 

The rain let up somewhat along about sundown, and then I heard the chickens squawking in a panic.  Given past history with my neighbor's dogs, that always starts my heart racing, and Bessie and I went out to see what started this ruckus.  The sodden free-rangers came running to me, and Bess, nose to the ground, scouted the territory.  Then she went under the barn and immediately the cause became clear.  Clouds of pungent skunk perfume came wafting out, followed closely by Bessie Anne, who started rolling in the wet grass.  It was close to the kids' bedtime anyhow, so I tucked everyone inside their respective rooms, and then went to prepare Bessie's bath while she had to sit, stinking and shivering, on the front porch.  Up close and personal, skunk scent has an overpowering smell of garlic and chemicals, and it is very oily.  Like poison oak, it clings to anything it touches, and I couldn't let Bess into the house without being on a leash.  A vet, whose name I propose for sainthood, gave me the recipe for a magic solution to de-scent a dog.  One gallon of warm water, eight ounces of hydrogen peroxide, and two-to-three tablespoons of Dawn dish soap.  This works like magic; as soon as it's poured over the dog and worked into a lather, all smell is gone.  A little Febreze took care of the residual perfume in the air.  Of course, everything I was wearing had to go into the wash immediately because there's no way to lift a dog into the tub without getting skunked, too.  One good thing...Bessie got the pillow to herself last evening.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sharing is Caring

On my last trip to town, I bought a dog pillow for Bessie Anne.  She's been having trouble lately, due to arthritis in her hind leg, getting up on her favorite chair or the love seat, and I want my small friend to be comfy and close.  She wasn't sure she liked the pillow when I got it.  She was still on the big bed when I got up yesterday morning (she sleeps in), and I wish I could have gotten a picture of what I found when I came out to the living room...Frank and Pearl had taken over the pillow and were cuddled together, but it was still dark and I move a lot slower pre-coffee.  While Pearl ate breakfast, Frank took advantage and stretched out.  Note that he is in sunlight, the last we saw of that before it started RAINING again.  They continued to switch positions most of the day, until Bess got the idea that it must be a pretty good place to lie, and she claimed the space.  This upset Pearl no end, and she would stand and yell at Bessie to get off "her" pillow, finally deciding that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, and squeezed in.  Animals know how to compromise.
The house is in chaos, and it's a good thing no company is on the books.  Larry was going to come back today to finish painting the living room and barn.  Can't paint outside in the rain, so we rescheduled for next week.  In the meantime, I moved everything that could be moved and took down pictures, etc., and put the trim tape around, and we'll just live this way for a week, because I'm sure not going to move it a second time.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Not In Kansas

It started in the morning while in the barn.  A ground squirrel started giving that "danger" chirping right outside the milking room.  I needed to switch out girls, so opened the door, thinking the squirrel would race away, but no.  Evidently I now fall under its aegis; one of the clan.  It stood up on tiny hind feet, five feet away, continuing to chirp and looked me in the eye as if to say, "Pay attention!  Can't you hear the warning?  Run away and hide! NOW!"  Fortunately, the girls had changed places and I was able to obey my leader's command. 

I needed to go to town for a few things, one of which was Velcro strips to rehang the blackboard on the refrigerator.  I explained what I wanted to the nice man at WalMart.  He showed me what they had, and I asked if it had good, strong adhesive.  He told me that it was industrial strength and I could put a battleship together with those strips.  I said, "Oh, good, because that's my next project."  Long pause..."Umm, right."  That'll give him something to think about on long winter nights.

Coming home on Fair Play Road, I rounded a bend and came face to face with a sheep in full wool, loping toward me in the correct lane, followed closely by a guy in a beat-up pickup.  This was a sheep with a destination, and I watched as it passed me and then, in the rear-view mirror, saw it make a legal left-hand turn onto the road going up to the Ranch Estates.  I'm used to seeing hard-pedaling bike riders and red-faced, panting joggers, but I will admit this was something new.  You pretty much know you're not in Kansas anymore.

As an aside, the night before, I found a pretty nest with thirteen eggs tucked in the ferns down under the deck.  Not knowing how old they were, of course they had to be pitched, but it's good to know where the little girls are hiding out.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Driven to Distraction

I could accomplish so much more if I weren't so easily distracted.  It's not that one chore leads to another; it's that while doing one chore, I see something else that needs doing, stop the first task mid stride, take on the new something, and may or may not get back to the original project.  There used to be a cartoon in the funny papers, "Family Circle," in which one of the kids would be sent out on an errand, and it would show by a dotted line the circuitous route taken to get from here to there.  (There may still be such a cartoon.  I wouldn't know.  I haven't taken or seen a newspaper for over five years.  If something really important happens out in the world, some concerned citizen will tell me.  But I digress...what was I saying about distraction?)  My own path yesterday (every day!) would have shown a series of loops and zigzags as I muddled through clearing out stuff stuffed into a corner of the living room.  I have all the instincts of a pack rat, bordering on becoming a hoarder.  Almost everything that comes my way gets set aside somewhere.  I might need that someday, or someone else might be able to use that.  So-and-so gave me that, so I can't throw that out.  I don't have time to look at that magazine right now, but there'll come a rainy day (or several months of rainy days) when I'll go through it for craft projects or recipes that sound good at the moment, but I may never make.  Magazines are my downfall, and I let all subscriptions lapse five years ago, realizing that I still have piles and stacks and bags and drawers full of the darned things, some still in their mailing wrappers.  Of course, while cleaning, I had to sit periodically and go through a handful of magazines lest I miss some jewel tucked in those pages...detour.  Going down the hall to put something away, I noted that the bathroom needed a swipe...detour.  Finding a bucket of coins, I had to count out and wrap hundreds of pennies; all six dollars and fifty cents worth...detour.  Before taking several photo albums downstairs for storage, I had to look again at dear faces and relive fun times...detour.  While making the bed in the guest room, remembered that I hadn't posted a morning entry to the journal...detour.  Stopped to pick a few weeds on the way to feed the chickens...detour.  I guess it's like somebody or other famous said, "Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Speed Racer

I had the lawn tractor kicked into high gear on Friday, racing against the threatening rain clouds to get the much-needed mowing done.  As I putt-putted up and down the driveway, around in ever-narrowing circles in the side, front, and back yards, and headed toward the west field, the winds increased and the skies lowered.  It takes about four hours to get everything mowed, and I wondered if I was going to make it without getting soaked.  The west field is a marvelous indicator of the passing of time.  I seem to have kept ahead of the weed that throws up flags of mercy, pretty little pink flowers, cutting it down ruthlessly even in its prime because it turns on you and ends up with treacherous, pointed seeds on the ends of augers that I call whirligigs.  Now it is the time of lupine and red clover...lots of red clover.  This seems to be the flower of choice for the many, many bumblebees up here.  We have all-black bumblers and yellow-and-black bumblers, some large, some small, and I'm talking in the hundreds.  Bumblers do not dart anywhere.  I could see them ahead, and would yell, "Get out of the way," but I fear there were a few that did not make it out of the path of the mower, for which I said, "Forgive me, Lord, and bless the little pygmies in Papua, New Guinea."  I got everything done that I could, and tucked the tractor into its little shed and brought a load of firewood up to the house not twenty minutes before the first drops of rain fell.  It rained all Friday night.

My very own rays of sunshine arrived yesterday...Larry and Taylor.  Larry had generously offered to paint the front of the barn, and together we would paint the living room.  An icy-cold wind was blowing and the sun played hide-and-seek in the dark clouds all day.  Larry got a good start on scraping the peeling paint from the barn before it got too darned miserable outside and the sun called "Uncle."  Fortunately (for me) we had the living room to tackle.  I'm pretty good at the cut-in work, but not so much on ladders anymore.  Larry doesn't even need or use a ladder!  I had to let the fire in the wood stove go out so we could paint behind it, so we hurried with that part so I could light it again to keep us all from freezing.  Taking down, washing, and putting back all the tchotzkies (spelling?) taking longer than the painting, but, gee, it looks nice.  It's always good to spend time with one's son, and Taylor kept us laughing with her antics.  Larry puttered around with the Toyota and, unbelievably, it started on the first try!  I non-op'd that truck well over a year ago.  I may sell it, but it does give a certain sense of security to have two vehicles, living so far from anything up here. 

All in all, it was a most satisfying weekend...and I beat the rain!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Recorded Sound

We were the first on our block to have a wire recorder when I was a kid.  Now that I think of it, we were the only ones I ever knew who had a wire recorder.  I would say the machine was as big as a console radio, but that presupposes that anyone remembers that radios once were big pieces of furniture with dials and tubes that lit up; big enough for the family could sit around to hear Amos and Andy, Inner Sanctum, The Adventures of Sky King.  The only thing I remember my mother actually recording was her brother Harry, who used to get tipsy every holiday, loudly singing off-key Christmas carols and then urging my cousins, Linda and Pauline, to, "Aww, come on, honey, play just one more song," on their accordions.  (Who brings an accordion to Christmas dinner?)  The wire recorder, I fear, has gone the way of the dinosaur. 

How times have changed.  I was discussing short-term memory loss with my friend Linda, stating that I had really good ideas for the blog while down in the barn, but the train of thought often left the station without me by the time I got around to writing it down.  In the mail the other day I discovered that Linda had sent me a tiny digital recorder, about half the size of my cell phone, so I could make notes while in the barn and therefore produce real literary gems.  The accompanying card had a quotation by Malcolm Cowley worth repeating, "They tell me that you'll lose your mind when you grow older.  What they don't tell you is that you won't miss it very much."  At any rate, I tucked this tiny machine into the pocket of my bibbies and went down to do chores yesterday, hoping to catch a stray ray of brilliance for posterity.  Thinking I'd best try it out, even though not yet hit by inspiration, I turned it on, sat it on my lap, and nattered away while tending to the girls.  And then I hit replay.  The overriding sound was something loud, rhythmic and repetitive, like waves hitting the shore.  When I realized I had carefully recorded the sound of milk hitting the bucket, any thoughts I might have had for the journal were blown away on gales of laughter.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Sound of Music

These hills will be alive with the sound of music this weekend...and probably for many weekends to come.  The wineries in the area draw customers (locally called "winers") to their tasting rooms by providing live bands and tasty little food tidbits, and sometimes an all-out buffet.  I see my neighbor to the south is setting up today for just such an affair.  (No one lives there; it's just a few acres of grape vines and a tasting room.)  Up here on top of the hill, I'm in a unique listening position to hear it all, depending on which door I go out.  Out on the deck to the north, Perry Creek Winery may have a James Taylor-sounding duo or a combo that plays a lot of Santana.  By the chicken pen, I might hear Windwalker's Dixieland band (my sister's favorite).  Across the hill from the front yard, the bodhran, fiddle, and tin whistle play lively Celtic tunes on the patio at Fitzpatrick's (that would be my favorite).  On the deck to the south, I can't really tell if it's Oakstone or DK Cellars, or perhaps Colibri Ridge, but there's a rock band playing somewhere up on Slug Gulch.  Iverson Winery, over by the trattoria (used to be the bistro), doesn't have a signature band yet, and Fleur de Lys (my south neighbor) just plays tapes, usually zydeco.  The flatlanders come in droves, clogging our narrow roads but helping the local economy.  Steve always said that because there are no lines down the middle, flatlanders think the roads are all one-way...their way.  My solution is to stay home...and enjoy the music.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Rosy Outlook

In between rain showers yesterday, I noticed that the Cecile Brunner rose had burst into bloom.  It sits out in the south yard near the clothesline, protected from the deer by its own chicken wire fence.  Deb and Craig gave me this plant some years back.  It has survived snow and real drought, and has more flowers this year than ever, an example of fortitude in the face of adversity.  The Cecile Brunner is an old, old rose; pale pink, with tiny little buds and mini-flowers grown on long canes.  Once in fashion, the buds were used for corsages for young girls.  Given time, the plant will throw up its canes and form a pink frothy fountain or bouquet.  I had such a plant when I lived in West Sacramento, but what I really remember is the Cecile Brunner from my girlhood in Arcadia.  Vincent Spenser lived in a house behind ours, and would just climb over the fence when he wanted to visit.  There was a huge Cecile Brunner plant against that fence, so big that the canes drooped over and made a rose-covered bower that he and I could sit under, hidden and private...a perfect place to share secrets and plans.  Spense and I were buddies, pals...this was in the early fifties, still an age of innocence, and we were young and innocent, too.  The romance of the setting was enough. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Again...or Still

I've been trying to avoid the "W" word, but weather is once again the topic of the day.  It drizzled rain all day yesterday, and today looks like more of the same.  I really need to go to the feed store and get grass hay for Nineteen (wethers can't/shouldn't eat alfalfa...they're prone to bladder stones from the higher something-or-other content), but I don't want to bring home a soggy bale.  The bed of the truck could double as a wading pool.  I will be doing laundry, but will have to use the dryer instead of the clothes line.  Got on the Gray Rock slip-and-slide to take the trash to the big road this morning.  I want to take photos of probably the prettiest hanging basket of flowers I've ever seen, the urn of bright Gerbera daisies, and the many pots of hot-pink geraniums I received on Saturday, but a gray-sky background wouldn't do them justice.  Even if it stops raining today, it'll be days before I can mow the yards, and the weeds are nearly a foot high already.  I heard on the news that this has already been declared a drought year with mandatory water rationing in Sacramento and environs...does that governing agency not look out the window?!  The lakes, reservoirs, rivers, creeks, ponds, and potholes are overflowing...and it's a drought.  Duh.  Ah, well.  As with so much in life, it is what it is...get over it and get on with it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

As Normal As It Gets

The festivities are over, the guests have gone home.  Life at Farview has returned to as normal as it ever gets.  Frank and Pearl come in to sleep on the bed again.  Larry brought Chloe, his beautiful, bouncy Boxer puppy, and the cats kept a low (very low) profile while she was here, preferring to stay out in the barn at night.  I had mowed before the party, but the weeds have shot up a foot overnight.  I heard a minor dispute amongst the chickens last evening and went to check on them.  A mother turkey had brought twelve little turklets to feed on the birdseed I provide and was warning the hens not to come too close.  There's always one straggler lagging behind the troop, yeeping at the top of its lungs, "Wait for me!"  Turkey babies lack the discipline of quail and follow mama in a loose-knit group.  Quail babies line up and follow like a choo-choo train.  Word of the free lunch has gotten out in the hummingbird community and the tiny guys are slurping up two quarts of "juice" a day.  It's time to get back on schedule and go milk the girls...back to normal.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Who's Luckier Than Me?

On Friday, as I was participating in a World-Class Procrastinator's Contest (and winning), thinking about what still needed to get done for the party on Saturday...I heard tires crunch on the gravel drive.  Not expecting anyone.  Hmmm.  Who could it be?  Three men got out.  Ah, that's Larry (my youngest son)...not due until the next day, but welcome any day, any way...but who's that with him?  Ohmigawd!  That's Pete and Jake, my middle son and grandson, whom I haven't seen in five years!  Hugs and tears.  Procrastinators sometimes get bit in the butt...and it doesn't matter.  I'd trade an immaculate house on any given day for five minutes with any one of my Kids, with no apologies. 

Describing Saturday is going to sound like a seventies/eighties love fest and hard to do without being maudlin.  Of course there were the chickens to tend and goats to be milked, but waking up with two of my boys and a grandson in the house was enough to start the day right...and it only got better.  The guys kicked in and picked up the slack with housework while I was down at the barn, and we were looking good by the time the first guests arrived for my birthday party.  I hope everyone has a day in which everything goes right and in which there is nothing but love.  Sappy as that might sound, it is the most wonderful feeling in the world.  Deb is the utmost in organizers and had the house looking festive with flowers and ribbons in no time.  Her attention to detail is phenomenal.  Thanks to her and Craig, it was a party the minute anyone walked in the door.  The taco bar, condiments, side dishes, dips filled the seven-foot dining room table and no one went away hungry.  The most wonderful sound in the world was the sound of laughter from the two tables of poker.  Deb and Craig, Dave, Pete and Jake, Larry, Clay, Dolly, Arden, Joel, Judy and children and my dear friends.  I'm not going to list their oh-so-very generous and oh-so-much appreciated gifts (my thank you's will never be enough), but I do have to give honorable mention to the most many seventy-year-old women receive a certificate for a tattoo?  I have been known in the past to save a five-year gift certificate until the four-year, three-hundred sixty-fourth day to redeem, but this is one I'm going to use soon.  I got a risque but discreet tattoo in the early nineteen-eighties just to prove to the nurses in the convalescent hospital (when I get there) that I wasn't always this old.  This will be just for fun, but I want to put it in a place that won't sag. 

It was hard to say goodbye to those who left last night, to those who stayed over until this morning...the house seems so empty today.  Memories are gold, and I am a very, very rich woman.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Going Dark

Logging may be short and/or sporadic for a few days.  Company is coming tomorrow and there is a lot to do.  Today will be pretty much spent cooking (one of my favorite things to do) and finishing cleaning house (not one of my favorite things to do).  Being a world-class procrastinator, I've left a lot to the last minute...perhaps I just like the challenge of a deadline.  In my defense (and who am I defending against but myself?), there's only so much one can do ahead of time.  Leaves will continue to fall on the deck, dust will settle again on the furniture, Bess and the cats and I will continue to make tracks on the carpet, pies will go soggy...there, those are enough excuses for anyone.  Deb asked me what kind of birthday cake I wanted, but I really prefer pie, and I'm going to make two of my favorites, homemade butterscotch and buttermilk.  I think a person must have ties to Texas to know and appreciate buttermilk pie; most people have never heard of it .  My daddy was from Temple, in East Texas, and the recipe I use was his mother's.  It's a light, lemony custard and the melted butter rises to form a golden brown crust on the surface.  Yum.  Butterscotch, when it doesn't come out of a box, is rich, unctuous, totally sinful and satisfying.  Pork butts will slow bake for eight hours for pulled-pork tacos, to go with guacamole and Pete's recipe for pico de gallo.  The Kids (except for Pete, who will be missed) and friends are coming...enough to have two tables for poker!  Some will be staying over, and I'm planning cranberry-lemon scones for their breakfast.  It will be grand to have the house filled again with people I love...even if it means I have to dust.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bump & Strip - No Grind

In long ago times...before X-rated movies, before Lennie Bruce popularized profanity, before topless bars and lap dances...there was burlesque (or, as my brother-in-law called it, burly-cue).  Jokes in burlesque alluded to sex by innuendo and an accompanying leer.  The girls wore pasties and G-strings.  Gypsie Rose Lee made an art of the strip tease by never quite revealing all.  Marie Wilson was a ditzy blond who starred in Ken Murray's Blackouts.  Milton Berle and Burt Lahr (later, the Cowardly Lion) got their start in the burlesque houses.  My mother, who could be a prude on her best days and a Puritan on the worst, had a fascination with burlesque.  She loved the music...that down-and-dirty beat of the bass drum, followed by a tympannic drum roll and the clash of the cymbals as the girls hit their stride.  She taught me how to do the shimmy, the bump-and-grind, and that great, sexy hip-thrust strut...and she knew her stuff. 

What has this to do with farming?  Terminology.  Just as goats have the ability to withhold milk, not "letting it down," they also can hold back a reserve at the end.  Kids will vigorously head butt the udder to get the last of the goodies.  I give what's called "the bump," a gentle massage.  It's not good to leave milk in the udder.  Some can be resorbed, but there's the risk of clotting and ultimately mastitis.  After no more milk can be squeezed, then comes the strip...running thumb and forefinger down the teat to get the last drops.  All that's missing is the music.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

As the World Turns

It's light at five o'clock on a good morning now, and when I let Bessie and the cats out, the birds are in full voice in the front yard oaks.  I've never lived anywhere before that I've been so conscious of the earth's rotation.  It happens without giving notice, but at one time of year the sun and moon rise directly behind a pair of pine trees at the top of the hill across the road, perfectly framed in the picture window.  Then, gradually, I realize that the earth has turned and sunrise and moonrise come up over the hills to the southeast, almost down by the light tower on Omo Ranch Road (or maybe it's on Hwy. 88...hard to tell from here). 

It is much the same, I think, as getting older.  It just happens while you're busy doing something else, and then one day you realize you're honest-to-God old.  That's chronologically, I mean.  It's somehow shocking to realize you're turning seventy by the calendar, when you're nowhere near that on the inside.  I stopped by the Fair Play Mall (the hardware store also sells a few groceries) yesterday and bought an ice cream bar...haven't had one in years.  It tasted just as good as when I'd buy one from the Good Humor man for a dime...this one cost a dollar and a quarter.  Oh, I know I have more trouble now with the seventy-five-pound bags of goat chow, and I puff harder coming back up the hill, and it would be delusional to think I was even middle-aged, but!  I have to bite my tongue when my Kids tell me not to climb up onto the roof, and not to do this or that anymore, things I've always done...when I stop and think, of course they're right.  And then there's my sister.  We share the same birthday, and she will be eighty-six, and she can't believe that, either.  The trouble is, I still have the same feelings and thoughts and interests I've always had.  The shell I wear has nothing to do with the "me" inside.  The dignity and wisdom that are supposed to come with age elude me...they're somewhere out there in the future.  Maybe the world just hasn't turned far enough.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rainy Days & Mondays...

It poured rain all day yesterday.  Stumpy was stuck in the laundry room with four yeeping chicks.  The beautiful lilacs by the kitchen window are beaten down.  More branches and leaves cover the front yard.  I postponed a needed trip to town and tried to keep a fire going in the wood stove.  Going outside, I was met by soggy chickens and sodden goats.  Coming back in, I couldn't have been wetter if I'd stood in the shower with my clothes on.  I am a big fan of Celtic music, and have so many tapes and CDs I'm surprised Ireland and Scotland don't consider me an archive source; however, even that lively beat wouldn't lift the spirits on a day like that.  I'm tired of writing about the weather...I'm tired of the weather.

That said, the sun is shining brightly this morning, and the weather report says we're due for eighty-degree days this week.  Having raced and beaten the trash guy to the corner, I can say that it's still bloody cold out there and I darned near had to throw the truck into four-wheel drive to get back up the slushy road.  Nothing like a little fishtailing to get a jump start on the day. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Oh, Hail!

After some days of glorious weather, yesterday morning the clouds were down over the hilltops and the sky was grey...again.  At least the rain held off until I'd finished in the barn, but it was back to warm gloves and double sweaters.  Later, the skies opened up and poured rain, and then hail.  Seems to me I've heard that song before.  It was a good day to clean up stacks of paperwork and magazines that I'd set aside until "later" and watch old movies.  (Sometimes "later" takes longer to roll around than it should...with any luck, I can usually find something more urgent or interesting to do.)  Most of the time, living without central heat or air conditioning is a minor inconvenience, but once in awhile I remember how nice it was to turn the thermostat up or down a notch for instant comfort.  Knowing (okay, hoping) that we are at the tail end of winter, it didn't seem worthwhile to clean the wood stove and haul in firewood just for the day.  I did receive heartwarming calls from all of my Kids for Mother's Day.  With the exception of my SoCal son, we're getting together next weekend for a combined birthday/Mother's Day celebration.  I've decided to use capital-K for my people Kids and lower case-K for the animal/fowl variety, since I use the term interchangeably and laugh to myself at the looks of resultant confusion.  If I could just speak in capitals, I'd be home free. 

In the late afternoon, I joined Joel and Judy, their daughter, and a friend for dinner and a lovely evening of good food and conversation.  It was still light when I got home to put the (lower case) kids to bed.  The free rangers have given up on finding more exciting nesting sites, and all the eggs were either in the hen house or back in the feed barn.  I'd discovered some in the crawl space under the coop, but they'll have to stay there as I'm neither in shape nor inclined to go in there after them. 

It's grey again this morning.  I may rethink my position on firewood.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Big Surprise

Deb and Craig called yesterday and said they were going to make a "fly by" trip up, and that they had something for me.  Knowing they'd been camping for a week and had just gotten home and that they were coming up next weekend, I told them to wait and save the "whatever" until then.  It's a long trip and I knew they were tired.  "No, we can't.  It's perishable."  Hmmm.  Pizza?  Flowers?  Of all the things I might have thought of, my surprise was great when they drove up and presented four Silkie chicks!  I've always wanted Silkies, but felt they were an extravagance; luxury chickens, as it were.  These chicks come with a story.  It seems there was a flock of Silkies at the campground, but they had no water and the wrong kind of food...Deb knows about these things because of her association with my flock.  She and Craig decided to rescue as many as they could, and were given four.  My big-hearted kids (with Craig's mother's permission, I have claimed him as one of my own) drove all over hell and gone in the hinterlands, finding a store where they could outfit the chicks, and also food and waterers for the chickens they had to leave behind.  These little guys/girls (??), as yet unnamed, will be Stumpy's roommates until they're big enough to join the flock.  Bess and Pearl are checking out the new kids on the block.  Frank just said, "Oh, God...she's gone and done it again," and wandered off.  Bessie Anne wouldn't hurt the chicks, but she does like to boink the cage to watch them flutter and yerp.  As Deb and Craig were leaving, we discovered that, just like Ginger in "Chicken Run," Stumpy had made a Great Escape, aided by the ground squirrels who had created an opening under the edge of her pen, and was galloping around with the rest of the free rangers.  Craig plugged the holes, and Stumps was sent back to The Cooler. 

I thank Deb and Craig for my Silkies, and I thank God for my dear kids...all my kids.  Tomorrow is Mothers' Day...all mothers should be as lucky as I.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Bea and Me

Watching the mice clans play at my feet in the barn the other day, I realized I am living in a real-life Beatrix Potter tale.  One of my mother mice could easily be Mrs. Tittlemouse and, although my rabbits tend to be jackrabbits, Peter Cottontail could be out there somewhere in the south pasture.  Jemima Puddleduck (wild, in my version) flies overhead, quacking out the five o'clock news.  I suppose I play the part of Mr. MacGregor, or I would...if I ever get the garden planted. 

That which I feared might happen...has happened.  I picked up only six eggs last night.  That means the free-rangers have gone rogue and have found new nesting spots and now I must start a nightly egg hunt.  Since I wait until almost dusk to put the girls to bed, I'm thinking an egg hunt in the dark is not my idea of fun.  The little girls drift down as far as the edge of the woods during the day.  I haven't gone into the woods for years.  It's not the walk down, it's the hike back up the hill that gets to me.  I prefer to enjoy the view from a distance.  I don't need the eggs; there are buckets of eggs stacked up in the refrigerator.  However, eggs on the ground will draw raccoons and foxes, both of which are a danger to the hens.  There's nothing for it but to pull on my hiking boots and get out there and hunt.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lilacs & Lawn Tractors

Yesterday was a day of glorious spring sunshine with a cooling breeze that wafted the heavy perfume of the lilacs in through the kitchen windows.  Perfection.  The lilacs are drawing butterflies of several varieties, like jewels pinned on a lovely gown.  After hours of mowing, I needed to stand for awhile and so pulled all the weeds in front of the porch and up the walkway.  (Should have done that before taking the photo.)  After that, I needed to sit for awhile.  I left the pulled weeds in neat piles, planning to dispose of them later, but when I went out again, the free-range chickens had scattered weeds everywhere as they searched for the goodies they were sure I'd hidden just for them.  That'll teach me to put off a chore.  "If you don't have time to do a job right the first time, do you have time to do it over?"

While mowing, I scared a baby ground squirrel that had been playing in the woodpile by the clothes line, and a mother squirrel stuffing her nest with dried grasses out on the west point.  Years ago I read The Stand by Stephen King, in which he referred several times to a book called Watership Down by Richard Adams.  I'd never seen a writer tout another author's book, and wondered if it was a real book or just an interesting device for King's story.  When I found Watership Down, I had to read it to see what was so great that another author would mention it...and found a delightful story in which all the characters were rabbits.  Adams had created a language, complete with glossary, for these creatures (a la Klingon in Star Trek), and a word we in the family adopted was "hrududu."  A hrududu is anything mechanized, a car, truck, tractor, etc., that made a loud noise and frightened the rabbits.  As I zoomed toward these squirrels, I could hear them screaming, "The hrududu is coming!  The hrududu is coming!" 

Walking out at sundown to put the kids to bed, the smell of new-mown greens and still-warm lilacs filled the air.  It doesn't get much better.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mowing Postponed

My plans to mow yesterday pretty went much kaput in a whirl of exitement and chaos.  The day before, I had ordered a new refrigerator, the old one being thirty years old and failing.  "And when will that be delivered?"  "Either tomorrow or Sunday, but if it's tomorrow, we'll call you tonight."  (They didn't call.)  On the way home from Martell, I stopped at Mt. Aukum and ordered feed and alfalfa.  "And when will that be delivered?"  "Either Wednesday or Thursday."  Planning ahead, I did go through the refrigerator and clean out jars of desiccated olives, bottles with a quarter-inch of salad dressing, and the container of strawberry cream cheese that had hidden in a small dark corner long past its "use by" date.  (Deb and Larry still tease me about the carrots they found that could be tied in knots.)  It's not like I could put everything in boxes and leave the fridge and freezer empty for five or six days. 

Down in the goat barn, I lined out my mowing schedule.  First, the south yard and under the clothes line...take a break, hang the washing, and then on to the west field and front yard.  I had just hauled up the milk buckets when the phone rang.  It was the delivery guys with the refrigerator.  "We're on our way."  Well, alrightie then.  I still had the milk to strain and cool before I could start taking stuff from the fridge.  The phone rang.  It was Patrick from Mt. Aukum.  "I'm on my way."  Okey dokey.  Of course, the two trucks arrived within minutes of each other, while I was frantically tossing food into bags and filling up counters.  Bless Patrick's heart, while I was busy in the house, he not only unloaded the feed, he opened the bags and filled the bins where I keep the chicken scratch and pellets. 

About the refrigerator.  I had carefully measured to make sure the new one would fit in the old space and that the doors would open without hitting the island.  It does and they do; however, I did not anticipate that the new one would be quite so big.  It's about six inches taller, wider and deeper, and I shall name it Moby Dick.  It has an additional feature which I've not had before, an ice maker.  As Bessie Anne and I were watching television in the evening, we both jumped out of our skins when there was a crash in the kitchen, followed by a death-rattle gurgle.  Moby had gotten cold enough to start making ice.  Numerous times last night, Bessie would sleepily go "bwfff, bwfff" to let me know Moby was on duty.  I think we'll get used to it.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


The local meet-and-greet spot was busy this morning as the neighborhood celebrated Trash Day (as we do every week).  Played catch up with Dennis; haven't seen him for awhile.  Those unfortunates who have to go off the hill to work waved as they went by.  There is a whole code of waves...lifting a few fingers off the wheel to acknowledge passing strangers, an open hand to say thanks for the courtesy of waiting at a one-way bridge, and a full-fledged wave for friends...and of course there is the one-finger salute to bicycle riders who won't move over.  (Why anyone would want to ride a bike on our narrow, bumpy, rutted, pot-holed, hilly roads is beyond me in the first place.) 

Looking out the window, I can darned near see the grass growing in the early morning sunlight.  After all the rain, and the last few days of seventy-degrees, the grass/weeds is shooting up like rockets.  No dancing on the roof for me today...I see a lawn tractor in my future.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mystery Solved

My visiting friend had read about the Rod-RI-go bird.  This past weekend, when that sorrowing bird would call, I'd ask, "There!  Did you hear that?"  Of course, the bird would immediately go silent.  This happened several times and I felt I was about to be accused of making it up, or just plain "hearing things."  As we were saying goodbye while standing in the driveway on Sunday morning, the bird, close by, began crying again for her lost lover.  We scanned the trees, trying to find her.  Dolly suddenly spied the bird in the brush pile in the front yard, "It's a quail!"  Sure enough, we could see the bobbing topknot.  My mind knew it had to be some territorial bird call, but my heart prefers the romance of my imagination.

Ground squirrels also post sentries while the troops forage, and they make the most irritating sound.  It's a very metallic, repetitive chirp that is very much like a T-post being pounded into the ground with a hammer, and it goes on and on and on.  The sentry sits atop a fence post and keeps look out for danger, and I'm sure the squirrels hunting for seeds above ground find it very reassuring to hear the "still safe" call, but I will admit to times I have screamed, "Shut up!  Shut up for God's sake!," probably causing my neighbors to wonder what's going on at Farview Farm.  Ah well, a little mystery is good for them.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

May Day

Wonder of did not rain once throughout Dolly's visit.  We watched Calvin Borel win his third Kentucky Derby, followed by NASCAR, and we talked and talked.  I asked her if she had done anything special as a kid in Pennsylvania for May Day, the first of May.  Giving it some thought, she said, "Yes, we had a May pole at school."  I did too, here in California.  It is a long-gone tradition, I fear, but it was fun and really beautiful.  A tall pole was erected with many long, multicolored ribbons attached at the top.  Children would form a ring away from the base, each holding a ribbon, and the girls would skip one way, the boys the other, and the ribbons would braid all the way down the pole as the circle of children got smaller and smaller.  I'm sure there was some song, too, but I've forgotten that part.  My mother had another May Day tradition.  She and I would make tiny baskets with handles from construction paper and that white library paste that every kid at that time tasted at least once.  These baskets were filled with little flowers from the garden, and I would take them to the neighbors' houses, hang the May basket on the front door handle, ring the bell and run away.  These were probably some pagan rituals from the dim past, but they were lovely ways to welcome spring.