Wednesday, June 30, 2010

So Many Books, So Little Time

Anyone who knows me realizes that I am a confirmed, steadfast, and lifelong bibliophile.  I could go longer without eating than without a book.  I blame my mother, who taught me to read before I went to school.  We each had cards at three different libraries because she wasn't allowed to take out as many books as she could read for the allotted time frames.  My reading was never censored, and I quickly moved out of the "Dick and Jane" stage.  When we moved here, I made a list and realized I had over three thousand books to pack.  Who knows how many are on the shelves, in stacks and bags, boxes, and falling-over piles now.  Steve was not a reader, but he loved stories, and so our entertainment while camping or during power outages was me reading to him (sometimes by candlelight).  Linda sends me care packages full of books from Seattle, and others, like Arden, give or loan me books...bless 'em all.  I've been introduced to new authors that way whom I've either loved or hated.  I'm eclectic and will read anything.  If there's no book on the horizon, I'll settle for cereal boxes and toilet paper wrappers.  I shrink from gift cards, because I can never bring myself to use them...what if I make the wrong choice and waste a gift.  However, I once received a card for Barnes & Noble, and couldn't wait to pick and choose!  This is the topic of the day because Deb loaned me a book this weekend, "The Other Boleyn Girl."  Two days ago, while cooling down after my sojourn in the barn, I picked up the book just to glance at.  Daily chores notwithstanding, I read until 11:30 that night...five hundred-some pages...deep in a great story.  I swore yesterday I would not pick it up again because I had to go to town and I have company coming for dinner with a pretty complicated menu tonight.  Yeah, how's that workin'?  I finished the last couple of hundred pages with utmost satisfaction (and a little guilt), dashed down to the grocery store (always a three-hour trip), came home and started prep work for the dinner.  When Gabriel sounds his horn, I won't go until I see "The End."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Foggy Days

The skies were clear, the sun shining brightly, but down in the barn it was foggy.  Sweating like a horse (oops...glowing mightily), one learns to appreciate eyebrows; they divert some of the sweat/glow from running directly in one's eyes.  I actually got to the barn early yesterday, but even so, you get a good idea of what the day's going to be like when your face gets so hot your glasses fog up before ten o'clock! 

Jenny brought her husband, Drew, and the bummer pygmy goat, Gus, as well as Mikaela and two sleeping boys, when she came to get milk last evening.  At a month old, Gus is smaller than my kids when they're born, but this little twerp is fearless.  He jumped out of the car, made friends with Bessie Anne, met each of the free-range chickens on his own, and followed us everywhere like a puppy.  He sampled fallen oak leaves, did sporadic leap-and-twists, and stole my heart.  I don't normally get to meet the animals for whom I provide milk, and this was a delight.  I did get to go to the one-year birthday party thrown (no, really!) for a colt that had been orphaned, and a fine young stallion he was.  It makes me feel good, knowing the girls and I are making a difference for some babies.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Strawberry Fields Forever

When we moved to Fair Play, I brought truckloads of plants from the old homestead, including a strawberry pot that was just getting started.  The plants somehow survive during the snow and freezing weather of our winters and have come back every year, multiplying like crazy.  There have never been too many berries, and they're never very big, but those that develop have an intense burst of strawberry flavor.  In years past, I'd get a few of the berries before before the thieving bluejays descended.  I'd think, "That berry will be just right tomorrow," and the danged birds would get it before I could.  (They did the same thing with the cherry trees.)  This year, the strawberries were more prolific than ever before, and I actually got a handful every day...for awhile.  The lengthy spring this year evidently threw the jays off their schedule, but they have now arrived and are gorging on the berries that are still forming.  Ah well, I guess nothing lasts forever.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Saturday Night Live

Deb and Craig brought the fixings for mojitos.  I'd not had one before...great way to start the weekend!  We spent a great deal of time inspecting, measuring, planning a bigger, better habitat for the Silkies.  The three-person committee has come up with a time- and money-saving solution, utilizing a lot of the "treasures" on hand that will double the pen space, with a cover, that will keep the little darlings safe and content, with room to expand the flock in the future.  Craig's "chick source" has an offshoot of the Silkies called Frizzles.  If the Silkies are...let's say, different, the Frizzles are absolutely bizarre.  The feathers are all twisted backward, or, in the case of a chicken, forward.  I want some! 

The new Cooking Channel has reruns of old Julia Child episodes, and I'd saved one that showed Julia at her best/worst, eggs dropping on the floor, pieces of the gateau St. Honore breaking off, taking the electric beater out of the mix without turning it off.  Deb is a gourmet cook, and she was rolling on the floor.  Craig says he now understands why SNL spoofed her!  I loved the line, when she had put too much butter in for the pate a choux, said, "I guess I didn't have my glasses on when I was thinking."  Our own dinner was oven-barbecued ribs, wasabi mashed potatoes, and balsamic roasted onions.  The onions are a great side dish.  Quarter as many peeled onions as are needed, utilizing the root end to hold the quarters together, pour over a bottled vinaigrette (balsamic, if it's in the cupboard), with quite a lot of balsamic vinegar, a teaspoon of minced garlic, fresh or dried tarragon, and salt.  Marinate at least four hours, turning occasionally.  Line a pan with foil, pour in onions and marinade, and bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.  If I were using a barbecue, I'd leave the peeled marinated onions whole, put in double foil pockets, pour the marinade over, and put on the grill.  Caramelized, sweet, and yummy!

Craig went above and beyond trying to start the recalcitrant weedeater while it was still cool this morning, but to no avail.  I think I've missed the window of opportunity to start a garden after all.  Rain on Friday to one-hundred degrees today...hmmmShort window.

And visits with the Kids are always too short. 

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Chicks and Bucks

The light rain yesterday lasted most of the morning.  While it prevented me from mowing any more yards, it's hard to complain about the cooling effects.  It also settled the dust that is the bane of our lives in summer.  I'd feared that if it heated up later on it would be a humid day, but it just stayed cool.  Deb and Craig are coming up today and I got some housecleaning done.  Craig has been on the hunt for more Silkies and found a source in Davis.  Who knows, the girls may have new companions.  The little ones have adapted well to their dog crate home and tuck themselves in at dusk, eagerly awaiting release in the morning. 

Just before going out last evening, I glanced down to the front orchard and saw a beautiful big buck browsing for leaves in the plum trees.  He was a two-point, or forked horn, but his rack was impressive, the antlers at least two feet long, with a wide spread, still in velvet.  The question has arisen in the past, so perhaps I should explain that here on the west coast, only the points (prongs) on one side are counted.  Back east and in Texas, this buck would be considered a four-pointer, as they count all points.  Velvet is the term used for the blood-rich, soft covering that feeds the growing antlers.  This covering later dries and shreds as the horns harden, and the deer rub it off on trees and shrubs, in preparation for the battles they face in rutting season.  I wish it had been light enough to take a photo last night.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Men Sweat

I got a jump on the day yesterday and mowed the front yard before going down to the barn.  While the days are still lovely, they're heating up and, even though I was early, I was sweating pretty good in the barn.  I was going to say "sweating like a pig," but pigs lack sweat glands and cannot perspire.  That's why they look for mud puddles, etc., to regulate their temperature.  I was reminded of Mrs. Speicher, a grand old lady from Virginia who was a neighbor when the Kids were little.  I was complaining of dripping sweat, and she informed me, "Mah deah, men and horses sweat...ladies glow."  There are days when I'm glowing like a thousand-watt bulb.

The plan was to get one yard mowed each morning.  I can't believe that I woke up this morning to RAIN!  So much for planning.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Junk Man Cometh

Harold, the junk man, came up from Plymouth yesterday to pick up some more stuff from around the house and barn.  He's been here before.  He thinks he's found the mother lode.  Steve was a world-class scrounge...yard sales were full of treasures, and free was even better.  He would scan roadside trash for the gems only he would consider.  I never knew what would be at the end of the sentence when he'd say, "I got you something."  He once gave me sixteen garage doors.  What woman wouldn't be thrilled?  (He used them to build a garden shed, complete with porch and skylight.)  I had four rototillers, one of which actually works.  Harold took one, so I'm down to three.  I don't rototill.  Somebody gave Steve (oh joy!) an old boat and trailer.  The seats were put up in the barn, and the mice made nests in each one, so I pitched them at some point in time.  I've been filling the boat with trash, intending to take the whole thing to the dump and leaving it.  Harold's eyes lit up when he saw it.  Like Steve, he sees possibilities.  He's going to think about it.  Harold could be my new best friend. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

More to the Story

The hummers are slurping up more than two quarts of  "juice" a day!  Every time I look out, one of the feeders is empty.  Their tummies can't be that big...where do these tiny birds put it all?

Linda insists I tell an additional part to the story of the fiasco of changing the fuel filter on the lawn tractor, as if I needed more embarrassment.  While Dennis was rescuing me as I held the gas line closed, he said he'd forgotten to bring a jack knife to cut the hose.  I told him I was not inviting liberties, but if he would reach into the right pants pocket of my bibbies, he'd find such a knife.  I have to laugh even as I write this, remembering that we did not look at each other while he gingerly felt his way to the bottom of the pocket, first pulling out a ten-dollar bill and finally the knife.  Linda said you know you're seventy when you have to tip first for such service.  I wonder now if that's what Dennis meant when he said I'd made his day.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Stand & Deliver!

This morning as I was taking the trash down to the big road, a lone tom turkey rushed out from the bushes into the middle of Gray Rock, turned to face me and threw out his feathers and spread his tail.  I was driving the little black truck, and I wasn't sure if I were being hijacked or he thought I was a large female, lookin' good!  He gave ground as I slowly moved forward, but we went through the same routine on my way back to the house.  What's up with that?!  I guess it's nice to know I haven't lost my appeal.

The littlest kids did just fine in their confined quarters overnight.  The big "little" girls have food and water in their house, but there's no room for these niceties in the dog carrier, so it gets me moving earlier to let all the chickens out in the morning.  Bugs are more plentiful, and we'll all get started before the heat of the day. 

When I got Lucy and Ruth in 2000, I read everything on goats I could get my hands on, but still had a thousand questions and made numerous phone calls to my goat gurus, Joyce and Glenn, from whom I'd bought the girls.  They were so patient and helpful.  Glenn is still my go-to guy for banding (castrating) the boys and I should have called him to do the last horn bud burning so Tessie and Nineteen wouldn't have scurs (those gnarly residual horns).  They no longer keep goats; I believe they've moved on to pigs.  After ten years of living with my girls, I've evidently received the mantle of guru.  Over time, I started to get phone calls like the one I got yesterday about a grown wether who just wasn't eating well.  The fields are full of foxtails now, and from experience I know that they can jam up under the upper lip in front of the gums.  That's got to hurt!  Few veterinarians deal with goats; they're considered throw-away animals unless they're show quality.  They're pretty good about birthing problems, which seem to be universal in the animal world, or injuries, but general questions don't get answers.  As I did, one learns more from someone who raises goats and from experience.  Anyhow, I wish the wether well.

If I have to leave the house again soon, I think I'll take the big truck.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Something Wicked This Way Comes

I thought I had put the Silkie chicks in a safe place.  Chicken wire wrapped the bottom of the chain-link fence, chicken wire over the top, barriers around the outside of the pen.  I did not anticipate a small, wicked something burrowing up from underneath in the night, under the fence from the accompanying dog run, and killing Waylon as he slept under the pallet with his small flock.  I found him when I went out to feed this morning.  Poor little thing with his shiny black Elvis hairdo.  The girls, Yuki, Satomi, and Keiko, are all fine.  They were spared.  I have dug down and placed the wooden pallet so they can't get under it anymore, and instead of the doorless Quonset hut, I've put in a large dog carrier so I can close them in at night.  The only saving grace, if there is one, is that this was a kill for food; not the senseless killing of the dog pack for fun.  It doesn't make it less sorrowful, but it is understandable.  I just wish I'd done better.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Reality Speaks

I almost deleted this morning's post, but decided that if I were to give an accurate picture of life at Farview, I'd best show it, warts and all.  Sometimes I am struck by the lonelies.  Sometimes there is more work than I can face.  Sometimes it does hurt to miss and to miss out.  These times are infrequent and they pass quickly.  All of these things are not isolated to the farm, nor to me, but they happen.  My list, when I count my blessings, is long and rich.  I chose this lifestyle, and I would choose it again in a heartbeat.  The animals greet me with enthusiasm, whether I'm feeling blue or not.  I have a reason every day to get up and get going.  I have health that allows me to, albeit slower now, tend to that which needs doing.  I'm on no one's schedule but my own (and nature's).  My family lets me know in more ways than I can count that I am loved, and my friends are just caring, loving friends. 

Before going to the barn this morning, I got a lot of watering done, and more after coming back to the house.  The floor in the barn is finally drying, and I'm able to rake up buckets of the little pellets every day now.  After the NASCAR race (during which I broke down and dusted the living room), I moved a lot more brush over to the burn pile.  It's almost ready for phase three.  Sitting on the front porch in the late afternoon, sweat drying, the mountain was generous with the peace she bestows.  I know what a fortunate woman I am.

Jump Start

I'm going through one of those spells when it seems there is so much to do that I'm stunned into inactivity.  I need either a good swift kick in the arse or a set of jumper cables.  I can't even blame the weather, which has been unbelievably perfect for this time of year.  We're usually in triple digits by now, and last night I really needed the quilt back on the bed.  Perhaps I also am suffering from a case of the Poor Pitiful Me's.  This was Reunion Weekend for my husband's family and I wasn't there.  Fifty-plus of the clan get together every year, camping and having tremendous fun.  Thinking of them made me think of my husband even more than usual, and, to add another deposit to the memory bank, it's Father's Day, and I miss my daddy and Steve's dad, too.  These dark clouds float over every so once in awhile, and they pass.  I'm just grateful for the memories. 

Two of my absolute favorite farm jokes: 
Why does the chicken cross the road?  To prove to the raccoon (squirrel, deer, skunk) that it can be done! 
Two hens are standing there, looking at an egg on the ground.  "I don't know what it is, either.  It just fell out m'bum."

Okay, enough of wallowing in the doldrums...there's work to be done! 

Friday, June 18, 2010

Order Restored

The planets and stars must have gotten back in alignment because all the animals returned to their normal behavior (or as normal as that ever gets).  Inga, as predicted, was as full as a tick.  It took five-hundred twenty squeezes to empty her bag.  To put that in perspective, it is the equivalent of one-thousand forty soft lemons (one for each hand), each one to be squeezed dry in one squeeze.  That's a lot of lemons.  That's a lot of milk.

For several days now, there's been a wagon full of weeds just off the front porch, as well as the piles of pulled weeds in the lavender bed, and I'd looked at them long enough.  Going out to pull the wagon to empty down the hill, I was struck with the thought that, if it were a burn day, I could just burn the darned weeds and be done with them.  Usually by this time of year burning is suspended, but I made the call and, yes, 'twas a burn day!  I'll be honest.  Setting off the burn pile scares me silly, but it had to be done sooner or later, and I had all these weeds to dispose of.  I put Bess back in the house for safety, dragged the garden hose over to the pile, and struck the match.  Holy Toledo!!  In seconds the flames were twenty feet high, with a roaring noise and so much heat I couldn't get within ten yards of the pile.  My heart just pounding, I used the hose to wet down the ground all around the conflagration, praying that the fire wouldn't get out of hand.  The burn pile, which had been eight or ten feet square and about five feet or more high, didn't take more than fifteen minutes to burn to the ground, it was that fast and furious.  I started pulling branches out of the brush pile and dragging them over to the coals.  I pulled as much from the brush pile as had been in the original burn pile, and, even so, it hardly made a dent in the brush.  Another job for another day.

The sun was going down and I decided it was beer o'clock.  Bess and I sat on the front porch, well satisfied that the burn had gone safely.  There is something so ineffably peaceful about early evening on the mountain at this time of year.  It must be dinnertime, because all is quiet.  The hens come out for a desultory foray, nothing like the morning rush for bugs and goodies, and they scratch and cluck softly in the herb garden.  A cooling breeze rustles the leaves in the oak trees, and the cats take turns sitting by a vole hole, but not with any intensity.  Order has been restored, and all's right in my world.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Strange Day

I don't know if there was a change in ionic pressure, if the earth shifted on its axis, or what the heck else it might have been, but something had a strange effect on the animals on the hill yesterday.  It started while I was in the barn in the morning.  Robert ("Robair") evidently brought a new puppy to work with him at the winery, and the dog barked and whined incessantly for hours, to the point that Judy called to see if I was all right.  She thought it might have been Bessie Anne and that something might have happened to me.  (Wasn't that a caring thing to do?)  All the goats and Poppy were on edge, standing at alert, grazing only in snatches, and the orderly routine of coming to the milking room totally disrupted.  Inga refused to come in at all...she's going to have a painfully full bag today.  Annie's horses galloped in spurts and neighed loudly throughout the day, and dogs all over the hill barked off and on.  Bedtime was a disaster for my herd, still spooked.  A task that normally takes about five minutes took over a half-hour as I coaxed and cajoled one animal after another into the barn.  Poppy, usually a placid girl, actually had to be wrestled into the barn and, at about two-hundred fifty pounds, that was a job in itself.  I'm hoping for a calmer day today.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Alert Bess Averts Disaster

Bessie Anne gave her, "Come now, Mom!," bark just before sundown, and I went out to see.  She was running from side to side and peering under the big truck.  I thought, "Oh, no!  Please don't let it be a skunk."  I could just imagine driving with a hot engine that had been sprayed with skunk juice.  I approached cautiously, but couldn't see anything.  Then I saw that Bess was looking up and under.  "Not again!"  I popped the hood and just caught the outline of the squirrel that was hiding in the engine compartment.  There was also the evidence of several acorn meals, indicating that the squirrel was a squatter who was making a new home for itself in my truck. 

Some years back, I was in a busy parking lot in Cameron Park.  When I went to leave, just turning the ignition key set off the car alarm but wouldn't start the engine.  Trying this and that to no avail, with the horn blaring, I finally called Triple A and was rescued by Cheeto (no, really...that was his name).  When Cheeto opened the hood to disconnect the battery, there was a big squirrel nest, acorns in every nook and cranny, and the all the chewed wiring.  Of course, I later called to put in an insurance claim for the repairs.  The initial adjuster said, "A what did what?"  For no good reason I could discern other than office amusement, my call got passed to three or four other adjusters and I had to explain my predicament over and over and listen to them laugh.  It seems there aren't too many claims for squirrel damage. 

With Bess under the truck and me above, the squirrel had nowhere to go, so Bess and I got in, slamming hood and doors, and drove down to get the mail and the trash barrel.  I cleaned out all the detritus and checked the wiring carefully.  Thanks to Bessie Anne, the squatter was evicted before any damage was done.  Like it or not, I guess I'm going to have to go somewhere more often to show that the truck has not been abandoned. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Just Throw Money

Florence says you can fix any problem if you throw enough money at it.  I'm hoping that works for the pump switch.  Jim, The Pump Guy, was able to fit me into his schedule yesterday and put in a new, handy-dandy, improved switch.  It's so much better than the old one, which had to be reset manually after every power outage or pump problem.  (I had to reset it four or five times the day of the birthday party.)  Jim said this one would only need to be turned off if I were going away on vacation.  Like, where would I go?  He's always good for a laugh.  I paid him handsomely for his efforts, and sent him off with a dozen eggs as a tip. 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Lest I Be Accused

I suppose I could be accused of occasional embellishment, but I'd hate to be accused of out-and-out exaggeration when I describe chores.  Camera in hand, I went out yesterday to document some reality.  Top photo is of the lavender bed, with three large humps of pulled weeds, not counting the two wagon loads already hauled off.  To the left of the center daffodil patch is the portion not yet weeded.   Next shot is of the brush pile that hasn't yet been pulled over to the burn pile.  Third photo shows the mowed side yard (and the clothes line), with the last picture displaying the back side yard, unmowed. There's enough to do here to keep me out of the pool hall, for sure!
There was a panicky, heart-stopping moment the day after I put the chicks outside when I went to check on them after giving the hens their morning slurp of milk on my way back up to the house.  Not a chick in sight in the pen!  I looked in their little chicks.  Ohmigawd!  How did they get out?!  Then I heard a quiet little peep.  All four had gotten themselves under the pallet and were resting in its shade.  Whew.  They've got the bedtime routine down now, all tucked into their house before dark.

The switch or the gauge or something has gone funky on the pressure tank and water is once again iffy.  I've got to call Jim, the Pump Guy, and see what he can do.  I didn't know I was running out of water yesterday before I got into the shower and lathered.  That was fun.  Okay, that's an exaggeration.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Change of Address

The chicks have settled into their new home and are ready to put in a change-of-address card.  Last evening, all but one of the kids had put themselves to bed.  I think it was Keiko, but it might have been a disoriented (as well as "dis-Oriented") Waylon who was dithering around, calling to the others like a kid left out in a game of hide-and-seek when the rest of the gang had gone home.  I put her/him into the little house and all was right with the world.  These photos were taken this morning, before and just after they came out to play.  The "close up" shows Yuki and Waylon.  The pen had been filled by the same bank of high weeds as in the background.  Yesterday the little kids discovered the joys of dust baths and each chick was happily surrounded by a cloud of dust.  The free rangers and a few wild turkeys paraded past, checking out the new kids on the block.  Silkies not only have feathers on their feet, they have really big feet!  They look like they're wearing snowshoes...the Sasquatches of chickendom.

A really strong north wind blew in yesterday afternoon and it's still kicking up today.  After weeding a lot more in the lavender bed yesterday, I think I'll take today off and give my back and hands a rest.  While I work outside, the inside goes to pot, so it's not like there's nothing to do. 

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Green Thumb

It doesn't take long to get gardener's hands, and you don't have to grow anything to get a green thumb.  Spend two or three days weeding, and you get a green thumb, embedded dirt in your fingers, and nails that won't brush clean.  Last year for Mother's Day, Deb and Craig brought up a dozen big lavender plants that went into what had started out to be a rose garden in the front yard.  (The deer enjoyed the roses right down to the ground.)  All but one of the lavenders made it through the winter, but they've been hidden lately by weeds that are two feet high.  I've been taking advantage of the great weather we've been having, and weeding in the afternoons until I can't stand up anymore.  After three days, I'm about two-thirds done with the lavender bed and about half of the front walkway.  I can't contemplate facing the vegetable garden yet.

Yesterday I realized that the Silkies were outgrowing their little cage in the laundry room, so I cleaned out the thick, hip-high weeds (more weeding) from the big, wire-covered dog run out behind the hen house.  I put in a wooden pallet, covered it with plywood, and put a plastic half-barrel Quonset hut on it for their house.  Bess became frantic as I moved the chicks in their cage outside.  She adopts all chicks as her own and was worried.  I set Yuki, Satomi, Keiko, and Waylon free in their pen, and Bess and I sat for almost an hour and watched the little kids adapt to their new life outside.  Having spent their "chickhood" in a confined space, they remained clustered together...where one went, they all went.  "Bugs!  Look, there are bugs!  And green things to eat...try some of these things!"  Then Yuki discovered her wings and leaped and fluttered, so then they all had to leap and flutter.  I knew they would not realize they should/could go into their house at night, so I went out after dark and discovered all four jammed tightly together in their food dish.  I put the sleepy kids into their house, and hope that when they wake up this morning, they'll get the idea that this is their new home.  Stumpy has her room to herself again.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Some Days Are Diamonds

Some days are diamonds, and then there are the other kind...when things go south so fast all you can do is hang on and go for the ride.  After watering the plants on the deck, weeding by the front walkway, and milking, I needed to get the tires off the little tractor.  Joel and a helper had come up while I was in the barn to borrow a pair of come-alongs to fix his fence.  I could see Bessie Anne, laying in the sun, watching as the two men drove up, took the equipment, and went away, and she barely lifted her head.  Had they been thieves, Bess probably would have pointed out items of interest for them.  Some guard dog.  When I went out to address the tire situation, I finally figured out how to get the tires off (who knew they had spinning hub caps?), but couldn't figure out how to work the hydraulic jack.  I'd seen it done, but never actually used it before.  Fortunately, Joel brought back the come-alongs just then so I didn't have to call for help.  The kid at Mt. Aukum put inner tubes in the tires, I put them back on, and was so pleased with myself that I jumped on the tractor and roared off down the long driveway, forgetting to check the gas.  It's a long walk back up the drive to the barn.  "Serves you right, Dum-dum."  After filling the tank and making a couple of passes in the west field, I noticed the engine wasn't running quite right.  Hmmm.  Probably the air filter, so I stopped and cleaned that.  A couple of more passes...still hiccuping.  Must be the fuel filter.  I had a spare in the barn.  I can do this.  The vice grips wouldn't hold on the tubing.  Hmmm.  Well, if I take this end off, I can squeeze that end of the tube and put the other end on first, forgetting that I'd need both hands to accomplish this and one would be crimping the tube, and also that I'd just put two gallons of gas in the tank.  Without going into the full details, suffice it to say that I got a thumb over the end that was squirting gasoline like a fountain, could not get the other end off at all, and was totally stuck there.  Even trying to relax my cramping fingers resulted in another fount of gas, and I didn't think I could run into the barn fast enough to find another tool.  Perched on the running board, I contemplated my folly and tried to think of solutions.  Hmmm.  I finally pulled out my cell phone, one-handed, and called Dennis (Joel had already done his bit), briefly explained my predicament, listened to him laughing, and then sat and waited for my rescuer.  The only thing worse than doing something that ridiculous is having it witnessed.  Dennis chuckled the entire time and said it made his day.  I can't say it did the same for mine.  The good part of this story is that the new fuel filter solved the problem and I got almost all of the yards mowed.  I think I will be forgiven for not finishing the back yard.  That will be a story for another day.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Long Live the King

I found Frederick the Great dead last evening, his glorious golden and blue-black feathers still glistening in the last rays of the sun.  He really was a great rooster, protective and proud of his harem, always a gentleman to me, and truly beautiful.  His spurs had grown to an impressive four inches, causing him to have to step over each one as he walked, and they were needle sharp.  Roosters never seem to live as long as hens, probably because they expend so much energy, and Frederick had a large flock to service.  I've had good roosters and some bad ones, but Frederick was The Great. 

The owner of the little Nigerian bummer goat came for more milk, and said he is thriving and becoming a handful at just a week old.  She brought her own Kids, a girl and two boys, all very young.  One more boy and she could be me at that age...two Kids following like ducklings and one in arms.  While we did live in the country, how I wish we could have been on a farm as the Kids were growing up. 

Having dawdled away the morning, only doing the laundry, I went out to get some mowing done in the afternoon, discovering that one tire on the tractor was flat and another was completely off the rim.  Oh goody.  Putting this temporarily out of mind (in my best Scarlet O'Hara, "Tomorrow is another day"), but still feeling I hadn't earned my keep for the day, I went out again a little later to weed in the lavender bed in the front yard.  Five or six young tom turkeys were already there, enjoying the shade of the oak and chasing bugs in the "grass."  Anyone who has ever hunted turkeys will tell you they are very elusive birds...if you catch sight at all, it's now you see 'em, now you don't.  They just disappear in the blink of an eye, and that's what I expected yesterday.  To my surprise, they moved a few feet away and then we companionably spent an hour or so together, me creating a mountain of weeds and they doing whatever it is turkeys do.  There is something so special when a wild thing trusts.  They have such finely honed instincts for danger, it makes me feel I can't be all bad if a wild thing is willing to come close. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Power to the People

Today is California Primary Election day and I will be going soon to go cast my votes.  I like going to my polling place instead of using the mail-in ballot, with the thought that if I make the effort, my vote will count more.  I also like the "American-ness" of standing in line with my neighbors, each wanting to make our voice heard in our government.  I was in Greece at the time of a national election, and it was a fascinating process.  At Platka Square in Athens, successive evenings were given to each of the three parties, Socialist, Democratic (not the same as ours), and Communist (wow! right there out in the open, and they didn't have horns and tails nor nuthin'), to make their pitch to the public.  All Greek citizens are required to vote and must go back to their towns of origin.  Our Greek tour guide had to get a replacement guide for us so she could go home on election day.  My mother was a staunch Republican and my dad a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat.  They voted in every election and effectively cancelled each other out.  I personally vote a mixed bag, thinking that party lines have become pretty blurred.  I dislike the smear campaigns that were run for Governor this year.  I want someone to vote for, not someone to vote against.  I have politely listened to my husbands' (yes, that is plural possessive) arguments regarding candidates and issues, and it wasn't until we listened to the results that they found out I didn't necessarily vote as directed.  After all, I am my parents' child.

It is absolutely amazing that dogs have the unique ability to expand during the night.  Bessie Anne is a fairly small dog during the day, but in the bed after lights out she becomes the size of a Saint Bernard and takes up three-quarters of the space, allotting me just enough on the edge to keep from falling off.  When Frank and Pearl join up, I just can't move at all.  Usually I make every accommodation for my furry friends, but early this morning I really needed to stretch a leg.  Running into the usual block wall, this time I pushed back and...Bessie actually moved!  I felt so empowered! 

Monday, June 7, 2010

Those Crazy Kids

Because of unfortunate past experience with my neighbor's dogs, anytime the chickens fire off squawking I hit the panic button and go see that they're okay.  Several times lately, I've heard the little girls hollering, but all seemed calm when I looked out.  Yesterday, two hens were strolling on the deck, pecking once in awhile in the flower pots for stray bugs, but headed for the corner off the dining room.  The land slopes away at the back of the house, and this corner of the deck is fifteen feet or more from the ground.  I watched as these thrill-seeking kids, one at a time, leaped from the edge, yelling "Geronimo!" as they fluttered and flapped all the way down.  So that's what all the ruckus has been about...just chickens having fun.

There was a sad consequence for a male hummingbird who was evidently proving his macho to a reflection in the big window, and I found the tiny body when I was outside last evening.  It's so rare to have the opportunity to really study a hummingbird up close.  The body could not have weighed a whole ounce and felt like nothing in my hand.  The head feathers that appear such a brilliant ruby in flight are actually a magenta red, mixed with an iridescent gold-orange, but the emerald green of the back are truly green, blending to a dark grey at the tail.  Little jewels, nature's treasures.

The other morning I watched a sparrow fluttering on the ground, going up the front walkway, and Pearl slinking along a few feet behind.  The trick here is not to watch where the bird is going, but to see where it came from.  It was a parent bird, drawing the cat away from the nest I found in the hedge in front of the house.  As soon as the parent felt the cat was sufficiently distracted, it took off flying, leaving a disappointed Pearl behind.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Signs of the Seasons

Almost like clockwork, flies show up here on the first of June.  Down in the valley, they don't appear until September.  One would think they'd be year-round pests, but no.  In the barn, there's a loud buzzing from the pee-bees.  Dennis assures me they are wood bees (and what are those?).  These large bees only come when there's been standing water in the barn and they hover noisily over the puddles.  They'll disappear along with the moisture.  I've found and sprayed three wasp nests around the deck.  Several rattlesnakes were sighted sunning themselves yesterday as Arden and I went from one winery to another.  (Another reason I'm so grateful to Joel for cutting down the high weeds in the south pasture...I want to see their beady little eyes before they see me!)  One sure sign of flipping seasons is the change from the warm flannel sheets of winter to cool cotton sheets, which I did last night.  It doesn't take many days of sunshine before I have to add watering deck and front yard plants to my to-do list.  Something will need watering every day from now until winter comes again.  Four deer were in the front pasture last evening; they'll soon be scouting the orchards for fruit salad. 

The weather couldn't have been better yesterday for the Festival; sunny, with a cool breeze.  We went to some old favorites and also tried some new wineries, trying a few sips and nibbles at each place, but mainly enjoying the views and the music and good company.  Those things don't change.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Hurrier I Go

The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.  I received one of the now-familiar phone calls yesterday before going to the barn.  "Is this the Goat Lady?"  It seems a young Nigerian dwarf doe had given birth to a tiny kid and then wanted nothing to do with it.  This isn't uncommon in first-time mothers.  The owners had held her down so the kid could at least get some of the first milk, the colostrum, but decided they'd better have a backup plan and someone had given them my number.  The caller said she'd phone back later to let me know when she'd be here.  I got a wild hair (who'm I kidding...I've got a head full of wild hairs) to get a haircut (this only happens every two or three years) and got a last-minute appointment for noon.  Rushed through the milking with a half-hour to spare, enough time to finish the chores and get cleaned up.  As I was hurriedly straining the milk, the strainer tipped off the jar and there went milk all over the counter and stove top.  Clean up the milk, or clean me up?  I got to the hairdresser's on time, still in my bibbies and barn shoes. 

At five-thirty today, barely daylight, I could hear Joel out on his tractor, spraying his vineyard.  The work day starts early up here.  I, myself, am taking the day off (after milking and the other chores).  Arden and I are going to the Fair Play Wine Festival!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Lurking Sheep

Poppy knows that if she shows up at the right time after I finish milking, while I'm filling the feed bucket for the next day, she has a chance of getting a treat.  She might give a straight-leg kick to the door, or come to the gate to the feed room.  If the goats are anywhere around, they butt her or pull her wool, so she has taken to lurking behind the corner of the barn and poking just her head around to keep them from seeing her.  If she's timed it right, then she hurries to the gate and puts her big, moosey nose through the gap, her black tongue flicking in the most obvious nonverbal, "Gimme, gimme, gimme!"  I sneak her three small helpings from my hand...just three, but always three...and then she wanders off, probably humming, "Mother always liked me best."

Linda's comment yesterday made me smile..."She who can't be named," is a quote from the old BBC program, Rumpold of the Bailey, referring to Rumpold's bossy wife.  Anyone who is interested in the history of my little Earth Mother can Google the Venus of Willendorf.  The little figurine is thought to be the earliest representation of a human form.  We found it interesting that it is of an obese woman, at a time when that many calories must have been difficult to find.

The problem with tearing a room apart to paint is that it must be put back together afterward.  I'm trying to be selective.  One just accumulates so much stuff over the years.  It's overcast and threatening rain today...a good day to stay in and sort stuff.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

What's Mother Done Now?

T'was an eventful day yesterday.  Larry, with next to no help from me, painted the remaining wall in the living room, having finished the barn the day before.  One wall may not sound like much, but this is the wall that goes down the stairwell.  Not only do the stairs create their own painting problem, they make the ceiling about twenty feet up and Larry balanced precariously on two boards over the open stairwell to reach it.  Being the concerned parent I am, I gallivanted off with Clay, who had given me the gift certificate, to go get a tattoo and left Larry to deal with it.  We got back just in time to watch Larry wash out the brushes.  A fresh paint job does wonders and I so much appreciate all that Larry has done.

Clay and I went to Moontiger Tattoos in Placerville.  I took pictures of what I had in mind to Dale, the artist, who reworked his original drawing and then started the tat.  I fell in love with this little figure years ago in an art class in college, and she epitomizes the Earth Mother for me.  She is a stone carving, about four inches tall, from approximately 22,000 BC, found in Austria in 1908.  Clay wonders if anyone will recognize her, so I won't tell her name just yet.  Having received calls from Deb and Dave, I know they are waiting for the great unveiling, so here she is.

If she appears to be blushing, it's only because the skin is still red from the needle work.  (By the way, a penicillin shot hurts worse.)  My, my woman, is only about two inches tall, but she is strong and wouldn't blush for anyone.  To me, she says, "Take me as I am."  She's her own abundant person.  And she has curly wonder I can relate.  At least now, if I'm ever found wandering, the Kids will have no trouble giving identification marks.  Clay also got inked...the Jack Daniel's logo of Old No. 7 on his arm.  The family that gets tattooed together...and all that. 

When I put the kids to bed a couple of nights ago, I thought something looked different, and then realized that my dear neighbor, Joel, had been mowing.  He had come unannounced and cut down the big south pasture and the tall weeds on the slope of the front yard that I cannot get with my little tractor for fear of tipping over.  He came over again yesterday to finish up, and I went out to thank him...such little words for so much appreciation.  I also thank Judy, because it's her husband who could, and probably should, be doing things on their own homestead, and she loans him to me. 

Clay and Larry were able to stay for dinner, so I had an opportunity to extend what had been a most productive, enjoyable day. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

All Creatures, Great and Small

I am used to my tiny companions in the milking room.  When the baby mice come for breakfast, they are no bigger than a good-sized almond in the shell, and then there are those the size of a walnut.  The teenagers might be an inch-and-a-half; the adults are about two inches or a little bigger.  The ubiquitous ground squirrels are out of hibernation and have started showing up while I'm milking, looking for a handout.  As small and quick as they are, next to the mice the squirrels seem like lumbering brontosauruses.  A year or so ago, Cheeky and Nuts would come daily and hang out, watching me milk, sometimes laying flat out and sometimes getting themselves a snack, like popcorn at the movies.  While living alone, I certainly don't lack for company.

My small victory with the bathroom sink gave me confidence to tackle the dishwasher that had quit draining well.  Who invented hex screws anyhow?  Getting down to crawl into the cave of the machine wasn't the problem for me; it was the getting back up.  Let's just say I had a good excuse for getting to the goats late yesterday.  The dishwasher is working good again.

My friend in Mt. Aukum goes for animals in a big way.  Let me rephrase that, he goes for big animals.  His "dog" is a purebred wolf; his horse is a Belgian Blond draft horse.  He has a flock of Dutch Giant chickens; huge birds, reaching almost twenty pounds.  I saw enough of those chickens to know I'll stick with my little layers.  Those Giants are frighteningly aggressive, hens and roosters alike. 

The temperature jumped twenty degrees in a day and it's difficult to make the transition to eighty with no chance to acclimate.  Larry is coming back today to work on the barn.  While he's here, I'd like to get the burn pile started before it gets too hot and dry and the fire department closes down burn days.  The burn pile intimidates me and it would be nice to have his backup.