Saturday, July 31, 2010

Too Early

Yesterday's activities were just too good to keep to myself or wait until morning to write them down, and so I must say that, at six-thirty, nothing of note has happened today...yet.  I do need to respond to Mark's comment.  Short of strapping on a holster and pistol or wrapping myself in a bandolier and slinging the rifle over my shoulder and going armed at all times, I'm pretty much stuck with the status quo (gun being where I'm not).  Also, it's the danged coyote's fault...she/he/it has always shown up at the north end of the house (where the rifle is).  This time it was on the east side (where the rifle isn't).  I think the neighbors find me strange enough as it is...were I to load up with ammo and go armed to the teeth, I can imagine their reactions.  I don't get a lot of company, but think it would be pretty intimidating, not to say unwelcoming, for my guests to see a rifle by my recliner. 

Typos or not, comments are always welcome!

The sun's just about full up...I wonder what today will bring....

Friday, July 30, 2010

La Vida Loca

I was ahead of my self-imposed schedule and feeling darned good about the way this morning started.  The five tom turkeys have evidently taken up residence here and were somewhat reluctant to leave the chicken pen, but they grudgingly flew out and moved a little way off while I tended to the girls.  As previously mentioned, wild turkeys can disappear while you're watching them if you blink for an instant.  However, one of these boys kept coming closer while I was filling the waterers for the girls, until he was just a few feet away...and almost tapping his foot with impatience.  Aha!  The pan of water for the wild things was empty.  I filled it and put it down and took a few steps.  Not only did he immediately come to the pan, he called one of his brethren to join him.  So much for my intimidation factor.

I know better.  I know that if I disrupt the goats' routine in any way, there will be consequences.  Lucy ate her breakfast; Sheila and Vicky were milked; Esther, a non-milker, came in to eat.  Normally, I use this break from milking to clean the barn, but today I really wanted to get a photo of Poppy's new "do."  She had finished eating and was down behind the barn.  I grabbed the camera out of my bibbies pocket and headed around the south end of the barn.  Big mistake.  Passing by the window in Nineteen and Tessie's stall without warning, Nineteen panicked and leaped over the gate into the locked hallway.  I rushed around and pushed him out into the yard, but that left Tessie alone in her stall, and she goes where ever Nineteen goes and was getting frantic, so I had to let her out, too.  When I opened the gate for Tessie, Ruthie pushed her way in.  The grass hay and grain barrel are behind a very low gate, and of course that's where Ruthie headed...and she wasn't about to be distracted.  I got her, with effort, into Poppy's empty stall and slammed the door, then went to let Esther off the stand.  Tessie and Nineteen remembered that the milking room is where I hand out goodies and they wanted in and were hanging on the half-door.  Esther couldn't get out that way, so I let her into the sleeping room...that redirected Nineteen and Tessie long enough for Inga to come in for milking.  Okay...Esther's in the sleeping room, Inga's done in the milking room, but that left Ruthie still locked in Poppy's stall, waiting to be milked.  I forced my way out with a scoop of grain and ran around to the far end of the barn and threw it on the ground.  That's what Nineteen and Tessie wanted in the first place, so I could let Esther and Inga out and rush to retrieve Ruth.  "Hurry, follow me, and be very, very quiet!"  Ruth and I snuck around to the milking room and I finished the last chore for the morning.  I think the Marx Brothers would have been jealous of this morning's escapades.  I never did get a picture of Poppy.

Back in the house and thinking the excitement was over for the day, I was catching a breath in the living room when I heard a loud squawking from the back yard.  I went out on the deck and there was a coyote standing below me with a Rhode Island Red pinned to the ground.  The rifle, of course, was at the other end of the house.  Dammit!  This required immediate action so, in my best "Mother" voice, I yelled, "Spit that out!  Spit that chicken out right now!!"  (I wonder what the neighbors thought hearing that.)  The coyote took off with a mouthful of feathers, and my poor denuded hen took off the other way to safety. 

I did go out later this afternoon to try again for a Poppy photo op, but she, sheared down to the skin, wisely stayed by the barn in the shade (no PF 50 available for sheep).  I may, or may not, try again tomorrow.

A Teflon Day

Everything went so smoothly yesterday.  I couldn't believe how heavy that little generator is, but I got it out of its high cabinet and hauled up on the hand cart to the feed barn after I finished milking.  That was a slight technical error in that the goats were done with their breakfast and wanted to help.  As I trundled along, one wanted to take the spark plug cap off and another wanted to pull on the starter rope.  Another thought it might be fun to ride on the hand cart, too.  They were all disappointed that they couldn't come through the gate.  I had called Joel for backup, thinking I wouldn't be able to get the generator started without help, but after reading every label on the machine and fiddling with sticking levers, the blessed little booger started right up and purred.  I tried to head off Joel and save him the time, but he was already through the gate and so we had a nice chat.  The tom turkeys were in the chicken pen again...are they coming for the grain or trying to make time with the girls? 

Tim, the shearer, had me worried as seven-thirty rolled around.  Is he coming at all?  Will it be dark when he gets here?  He pulled up as I was just putting my finger on the panic button.  A cold beer put a smile on his face, and he was delighted with the little generator...said he needs one just that size.  After my struggles of the morning, I felt such a wimp as he picked it up with one hand and carried it down to the barn.  I put all the kids to bed, and then brought Poppy out again.  This guy is such a pro...he had her sheared, wormed, and gave her a pedicure in less than a half-hour, and then trimmed the hooves on Nineteen and Tessie, too!  Poppy seemed to know she was in competent hands, and didn't fight at all.  In the past, she's come out looking like she'd had a date with Freddie Kruger, and the shearer looked like he'd gone ten rounds with Mohamed Ali.  It was too late to get a picture of Poppy's new look, but she has to feel better.  It took two of us to bring her fleece up out of the pen. 

I just love a day when everything goes well.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fingers Crossed

There are a couple of things to hope for today:  the little generator down in the barn hasn't been used for a couple of years and I really need it to start.  A shearer has promised to come tonight.  I need him to keep his promise, and he needs the generator for his shears.  Poppy is in desperate need of a haircut.  It's a bit of a Catch-22.  Normally, shearing is done around May so the sheep are comfortable when summer comes, and also so they can regrow a wool coat before winter.  Poor old Pop is caught right in the middle.  If the generator starts and if the shearer shows up...I wonder if there is Rogaine for sheep so she can stay warm when the snow flies.

It's unreal to think that the seasons are starting to swing again, but the days are getting shorter already.  I've been putting the kids to bed at sundown, leaving the house at eight-thirty with plenty of daylight.  Last night I was even a little early, about eight-twenty, and it was already too dark for the goats...they couldn't see back into the corners of their rooms and balked at going in.  I'm waking up later because it's not light yet at my "regular" time.  No wonder I get a little nutty when the clock changes...I have enough trouble keeping up with the sun.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Girls Without Guidance

Without Frederick's influence, it seems the hens have lost their incentive to preen and dress up, looking a little slovenly with feathers awry and not shaking off after a dust bath.  The free-rangers have also become lackadaisical about their laying habits, dropping eggs willy-nilly hither and yon.  I'm finding them in the front walkway, in the driveway, and on the path to the Silkies' pen.  The girls are also opening the door to strangers.  Yesterday there were five tom turkeys inside the chicken pen...who knows what ulterior motives these boys had.  It seems we're going to have to have a little pep talk here.  I can't  replace Frederick, but that's no reason for them to let themselves go like this.

Single moms have it tough.  Turkey hens usually have an auntie or a nanny to help out, but there is a hen with eleven turklets who is having to raise her brood alone.  She is doing her best, bringing the kids by morning and evening for the birdseed under the oak, but one or more of the little ones often gets separated and stands there and cries until she comes back.  She started out with twelve little ones, and the fact that she still has eleven does her credit.  The survival rate is pretty low for babies in the wild, given the ratio of predators.  Of course, the predators around here have developed a taste for chicken.  (So far, so good in that regard, and I've actually brought the rifle back in the house.)  Ah...I hear the little yeep-yeep-yeeps right now, and there goes the parade of turklets out for breakfast.

Pearl must be wondering what in the world she's done wrong.  Night before last, I called and called at bedtime, but she didn't come in.  She'd evidently snuck into the feed shed behind me and I didn't find I'd shut her in until morning.  She clung to me like a limpet all day, telling me over and over how sorry she was (I also apologized), and she was the first one in last night, not wanting to be stuck in isolation again. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

An Oatmeal Day

Yesterday was one of those days that provided no blog fodder.  Nothing to complain about, nothing exciting, no accomplishments, great or small.  Like a bowl of oatmeal without raisins...nothing to surprise the palate or spark the imagination.  That is not to say it was a bad's nice to hit a smooth stretch of road without potholes once in awhile, and I really like oatmeal (but I prefer it with raisins).  We've caught another break in the weather, and it was cool enough for a blanket last night.  One of the great things about life is that each day is a blank page, each morning is a new just never knows what that day will bring to the story.

What I do know is that today is Tuesday...trash day...and I'd best get moving before I miss that opportunity!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Squirrel Butts & Bad-attitude Bucks

The ground squirrels were lazing around the barn yesterday like guys hanging around the pool hall.  I was surprised to see Cheeky in the gang.  He was a regular last year, easily recognized by the notch in his ear, and I haven't seen him for awhile.  One of the last chores in the barn is putting out grain for the girls' nighttime snack, or I thought that was what I was doing.  I'd forgotten the poop shovel in the sleeping room.  When I opened the door to retrieve it, there was the food dish and all I could see was a ring of squirrel butts, heads in the dish and tails hanging over.  Those little bums better find gainful employment and quit leeching off the girls...I don't mind the occasional handout, but I'm not running a soup kitchen here!

Last evening, the big buck with the impressive rack was down in the front orchard, helping himself to half-ripe plums (perhaps I am wrong about the soup kitchen).  Just one doe was under another tree, and I wondered aloud why such a good-looking boy had such a small harem.  Then he turned and charged at the doe, running her out of the orchard.  Well, Mr. Greedy...handsome is as handsome does...and it's going to be a lonely winter for bucks with bad attitudes.

Shortly after returning to the house in the morning, an electrical storm passed over, thunder shaking the windows.  I'd already topped off all the waterers for the critters, and I rushed to put the cell phone on the charger and get the milk buckets washed.  I'd put a load of laundry in the machine and hoped it would finish before/if we lost power.  Loss of power is the least concern with a summer storm...lightning strikes set off fires in the dry forests that surround us, and I always run through my escape plan when I hear thunder so close.  This storm passed quickly with nothing untoward, and I got to watch NASCAR in its entirety.  It was a good day.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Random Thoughts

We're up in the triple digits again; too hot to do much of anything but keep the plants and animals watered.  I literally watered Bessie Anne last evening.  She was following me around as I tended the plants on the deck, flopping down and panting with the heat.  Knowing just how she felt, I hosed her down (thinking that if I didn't have to go down to the barn soon, I'd turn the hose on myself!).  Talk about rejuvenation...she raced about like a puppy, so obviously happy to be cooler.  It is the little things that count.

I miss having people to cook for, hot or not.  I realized yesterday that almost everything I've DVRd on the new receiver is a cooking show, and Julia Child's Kitchen sits right by my chair (I read cookbooks like novels).  I have an entire bookcase devoted solely to cookbooks and folders of clipped recipes.  Whenever anyone says they're coming to visit, dust can lay thick on the furniture while I plan menus.  I love the language of cooking.  Sauce Bearnaise sounds so much more elegant than white sauce.  Fricassee is just fun to say.  When I married at age eighteen, I quite literally couldn't boil water.  (I was also appalled to discover that toilets are not self-cleaning.)  In a very short time I had a family of six with big appetites to feed and it behooved me to learn to cook pretty darned fast.  My utensils from those days are huge; it takes a big pot to cook ten pounds of potatoes.  It was hard to learn to cook for two when the Kids left home, and now one mashed potato is enough for two meals.  I miss having people to cook for.  (For whom to cook...forgive the dangling participle.)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

It's All Relative

I awoke this morning with the feeling that I was late.  It was five forty-five, admittedly well past my usual wake-up time, but I don't punch a time clock and my only deadlines (except on trash day) are self-imposed.  I don't wear a watch unless I'm leaving the property, and I tell time by the shadows on the wall.  If, while milking, the patch of sunlight creeps down to my right foot, it's ten o' this time of year, that is.  That's only late if you happen to be the last goat milked.  Some days can seem endless, and years fly by in the blink of an eye.

Distance is another relative factor.  Down in the valley, walking across the street to the mailbox was a hike.  Up here, I probably log a mile a day or more between trips to the goat barn, doing chores, etc.  The world used to seem so big.  My own world consists of ten acres.  There's "my world," and "out there."  "Out there" isn't as far away as it used to be.  A high school classmate just emailed me (instant communication) that she is following the blog during her stay in Colombia.  The blog site has added a new stats tab that tells me from where readers are clicking in.  How amazing to discover that people in Russia, Japan, Canada, and Latvia (Latvia!!), and all over the United States have read/are reading about my little farm!  It seems my neighborhood has expanded.  I'd love it if more of my neighbors from "out there" would leave would be such fun to compare notes on our relative lifestyles.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Growing Up

I heard unusual sounds as I went out to feed yesterday...very "chicken-y," but certainly no voices I recognized.  (And, yes, I can tell the difference when the hens are talking, just as each goat has her own voice.)  It seems the little Japanese Silkies are growing up and have lost their baby cheeps.  It seems they speak in their native tongue, however, and my knowledge of Japanese is rudimentary at best, limited pretty much to pleasantries like dozo, ohio, domo arigato.  I find it so odd that their clucks and calls are so different from the other chickens in the flock.  I wonder if they can understand each other.  I can't wait to see what their eggs will be like.

Pearl opted to stay out all night last night.  Very much like handing the car keys to a teenager for the first time, I fretted about her, and was most relieved when she came running to the door when I let Frank and Bess out this morning.  We're almost at full moon, and I know the hunting is good at night, but I still worry lest the hunters become the huntees. 

By the time I finish putting the kids to bed it's nearly dark, and I find it very romantic to see the full moon reflected in the water trough as I fill it for the next day...the last chore for the evening.  I'm sure there's a poem in there somewhere.

The big girls have been beating up on Sheila something fierce, and she has been resisting going in with them at night, begging to be put anywhere else.  I certainly can't blame her, but there are no open rooms available.  Last night I gave in and put her in the milking room with Lucy.  Even if it gave her a night's respite, it's going to upset the order of things this morning.  We'll see.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Some corrections are in order:  it was pointed out to me that the word is susurus, not susur, and I am more than appreciative for the information.  I still like the way it sounds.

Also, I mentioned some time back that the Eskimos had probably one-hundred words for snow.  I read something recently that stated (and listed) the actual fifteen words in the Inuit language.  That'll teach me to listen to hearsay! 

I do love to be right...but when you're wrong, you're wrong and there's no sense trying to hide it.

Furry Pancakes

I'm beginning to feel I'm being used.  The mother ground squirrels are sending their children into the barn at milking time, ostensibly to watch the entertainment, but in reality so they'll have a little time to themselves.  Like kindergartners with their nap rugs (do they still have nap rugs and graham crackers in kindergarten?), these little kids settle in to watch the show.  Yesterday there were five, and one at a time they stretched out flat as pancakes, lined up like speed bumps (hillbilly undulations) with front and back legs splayed.  Slowly, the susurring lullaby of the milk hitting the bucket caused their lids to droop...and they slept.  Now I'm a babysitter for baby squirrels. 

I just love words that sound like their meaning.  Susur is one, cough is another.  How about zip, or sigh?  Thank you, Mother.  It was she who introduced me to the "susurring of the wind through the pine trees."

I conceded defeat and took Pearl to the vet to have her stitches removed.  A la fuel filter episode, I'd forgotten that I'd need both hands to cut the sutures, and that I'd need both hands to hold a cat who did not want to be held.  That left me two hands short, and rather than risk her ending up looking like she'd been treated by Edward Scissorhands, discretion seemed the better part of valor.  This time as we drove in to town, she called me everything but a child of God, even though I explained that it was for her own good.  She got clearance from Dr. Ric, and when we got home, I let her out of the crate (in the house) and told her to "Fly and be free!"  She immediately disappeared somewhere (but not in the dreaded bathroom) for several hours, and then spent a few more hours exploring familiar territories before asking to be let outside.  I really was concerned that she would take off for parts unknown to avoid the possibility of repeat imprisonment, but she and Frank came in at the appointed bedtime hour...and all's right in our world once again.

Today is my daughter's birthday.  As we were talking last night, the birthday of each of my children takes me back to their birth day, and the intense joy of meeting these unique individuals for the first time comes flooding back.  It's a happy birthday for them, and for me.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Got'cher Goat!

Goats are great companion animals.  Kit mentioned a news article about a race horse and its goat friend, and said she'd never heard of such a thing.  I was explaining to someone not too long ago that this is the genesis for the saying, "Don't let 'em get your goat!"  The need to bond with the herd, be it other goats, horses, or humans, is strong in goats, and race horses being somewhat high-strung will settle down in the calming presence of a constant companion during their travels from track to track.  Seabiscuit was a good example of the need for this relationship, although, as I recall, after trials with dogs and goats, finally found peace with a pony.  At any rate, it's long been known that if a competitor wanted to sabotage a race, abducting the favorite's companion could rattle the horse's nerves and distract it, causing it to run badly.  And there's the trivia for the day!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Has Anyone Seen the Remote?

I will admit to being, in the past, what might be called "remote challenged."  Steve could not keep his patty-paws off electronics, and was continually swapping out this for that, hooking one thing to and/or through another, and buying bigger and better remote controls.  The problem was that it would sometimes take three different remotes to just turn on the television.  Having been a transcriptionist for many, many years, I tend to be a kinetic person, using muscle memory to touch the keys without looking.  I would howl with frustration when he'd tell me he'd gotten a new remote, and also when I'd punch a key and lose the picture or sound...whatever.  In October 2005, he announced he was switching us to a new satellite company.  Oh goody...that meant a new remote...and the day after it was installed, he had to leave for a three-day seminar.  I couldn't even turn on the television, and now we had a DVR!  I sat for three days with the remote in one hand and the instruction manual in the other, going page by page until I could make that sucker do everything but make dinner and dust.  Recently the receiver went funky and the company sent me a new install myself.  No problemo, even though it also meant reprogramming everything.  The situation now is this:  the ceiling fan also works by remote. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Summer Whine

I did say during winter while I was complaining about the rain and the cold that it was just the preliminaries for the whining I would do during the summer.  Yesterday I was just heat stupid...rising temperatures seem to lower my eyelids, and I dozed off and on most of the day.  That was just fine with Bessie Anne, who only moved from one cool(er) spot to another.  At some point during the night, because it didn't cool off at all, I got up and turned on the window A/C that the Kids installed for me a while back.  If it's over 100 again today, we may hole up in the bedroom all day.

We will all be glad when Pearl's incision finally heals, I can take the stitches out, and she can be free!  And quiet...she can quit her incessant yammering, and be quiet.  All night long she told me over and over, sometimes patting my face because I wasn't paying attention, just how awful it's been.  Ah, well.  I guess if I can complain, she can too.

I'm afraid to say this too loud, but I haven't seen the coyote for days now.  I'm thinking, without any empirical proof, that it was a bitch coyote (gender, not judgement) that had whelped her litter in my woods, and now she's rejoined the pack.  I think this because it was a single coyote, and it's usually the beastie boys running the hills and hunting together.  Just in case, the rifle still sits at the ready on the deck.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

No Use Crying

Two squirts away from finishing up with Sheila yesterday, I was able to block her from putting a foot in the bucket, but the tip of her toe caught the edge and spilled three-quarters of a gallon of milk all over me and my clean bibbies.  I can't win.  At least I had another clean pair to put on so it wasn't a rerun of the day before.

Without thought, I've slipped into summertime mode...trying to get as much done as possible before going to the barn (and I've moved up milking time to avoid some of the heat), napping through the worst heat of the day, not doing much of anything in the afternoons, and staying up later to enjoy the evening cool.  It's the time of year when I don't pass a water bowl or trough without topping it up, just in case we lose power.  I put out a couple of pans of water for the wild things...the turkeys can empty a pan in a day, and I assume the ground squirrels and birds slurp up their share, too.  The hummers are out in full force, fifty or more at a time, and I'm putting out over two quarts of their juice a day, buying twenty or thirty pounds of sugar at a time.  I wonder if I can claim them as dependents.  All my plant life must be watered by hand.  The DCG (decomposed granite) soil won't hold water, so that's a daily chore come summer.  Fortunately, it doesn't require a lot of energy.  The weathermen are forecasting a cooling trend, down to the low nineties.  Whoopee.  Hot is hot.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

It's Hot!

It was 108 degrees yesterday as I came back through Diamond Springs.  I would not have ventured forth for, as I told Judy, "only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun," but a friend from southern California is in the area and may drop by and I was out of supplies.  I'll feed anybody anytime, but how they deal with the dust is up to them, because in this heat not much gets done after I finish with the goats in the morning.  I have two pair of in the hamper and one on me.  I was wearing the clean pair when I carried Stumpy out to her playpen and, unfortunately, she splooshed down my side.  That meant both pair went into the washing machine so I could go in to town.  It didn't make much sense to me to put on clean clothes just so I could sweat on them while I was waiting for fresh bibbies, so Bessie Anne and I sat around in the coverings we came with.  I kept my fingers crossed that the coyote would not show up, because the visual of me buck-nekkid on the deck with a rifle was too much even for me!

Coming back up the driveway in the early evening, there was a choo-choo train of baby quail following the mama engine.  These babies are unbelievably tiny, and they panic and dither, fluttering like leaves every which way until they see where mama went and then disappear into the brush. 

Deb and Craig invited me down for the day.  They have air conditioning.  The truck has air conditioning.  It's such a tempting offer, but Pearl is still locked in the bathroom and it wouldn't be right to leave.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Babies On Parade

There has been an explosion in the local wildlife baby population.  A tiny spotted fawn was in the backyard yesterday.  A turkey mom daily shepherds her flock of twelve little turklets around through the front...all of them peeping to beat the band.  Baby ground squirrels, about four inches long, cavort everywhere, and I do mean everywhere.  One little guy comes into the goat barn daily to see what's new and if I've put out his cereal yet.  A bluejay family also came to the milking room.  The kid was every bit as big as the parents, but sat there yelling...sounding a lot like the plant in "The Little Shop of Horrors," demanding, "FEED ME!"  This big lunk was big enough to go out and get a job, but the parents were still frantic to placate him, searching for fallen grain for him until I set out their buffet.  It's not difficult to figure out what the animals were doing during the long, wet winter.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

On A Kick

Watermelon.  Thoughts about summer inevitably get around to watermelon, and watermelon makes me think of my dad.  He thought the melons here in California were puny compared to those in Texas, and to prove his point, once made a trip back to his home state and bought back two watermelons that completely filled the trunk of his car.  He told tales of going into the fields when he was young, breaking melons open and eating just the hearts.  My parents divorced after close to forty years of marriage, and they visited my family separately after that.  Dad would bring a grocery bag full of candy for the Kids, until I had to ask him to stop...that much candy wasn't good for them.  "Well, what can I bring them then?"  Fruit.  Fruit would be good.  So then the grocery bags would be filled with a variety of fruit, and always a watermelon under his arm, the biggest he could find, in the summer.  Coconuts were a substitute in the winter.  This was fine for the occasional visit, but sometimes Dad would come frequently, loaded every time with fruit.  It got so I was hiding fruit in the bread drawer, in cupboards, in the oven...we couldn't keep up with the influx of fruit, and I didn't want to hurt his feelings.  One has to plan when to give little Kids watermelon.  Never after dinner unless you want to change the sheets every night.  Not at the table unless you want to mop the floor every day.  And sometimes there is too much of a good thing.

My Aunt Hilda made watermelon rind pickles that I loved when I was a kid.  Having a surfeit of watermelon, I tried to make those pickles, but never was able to find the slake lime required, and they won't get crisp without it.

There's a fun thing to do when you grow melons or pumpkins.  When the grandkids were little, I would scratch their name or a design in a very small pumpkin, just breaking through the tender skin and writing small.  Scar tissue forms and grows as the pumpkin grows, and Sabrina thought it was magic when I told her that there was a special melon or pumpkin out in the garden that already had her name on it.  It was better than an Easter egg hunt! 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Lazy Days

When Nat King Cole sang about the "lazy, hazy days of summer," he didn't mention it was because it was too darned hot to do anything...not because there was nothing to do!  We did get a whiff of the delta breeze yesterday, but still....  I took Bessie Anne and Pearl to the vet; Pearl to get her stitches out and Bess to get her well-baby shots.  I will say that was a bit of a challenge.  The first two trips, Pearl cried piteously all the way.  This time she knew where we were going and her tone of voice changed totally.  She was pissed!  I don't have a cat carrier, so use a huge, heavy metal animal crate.  I learned my lesson with cardboard carriers when Frank almost clawed his way out on Bucks Bar Road and I narrowly avoided driving with a maddened cat loose in the cab of the truck.  Once I got the kids into the vet's office, Bess did her best to become invisible, hiding under chairs.  Pearl's strategy is to ingratiate herself to everyone.  Unfortunately, the incision still hasn't healed and so I'll be stuck taking out the stitches myself later this week.  She is able to go without the conehead thingie and she's grateful for that, but she's still confined in isolation in the bathroom. 

Reminiscing about long-ago summers always makes me think about going barefoot.  I couldn't wait for the first day my mother would say it was okay to go without shoes.  I love the feel of cool grass under my feet.  There is no lawn here, only dirt, gravel, and weeds, and there's no going without shoes.  Even sandals or flip-flops are a big mistake.  When I go to Joel and Judy's Fourth of July party, I find a few moments to myself to sneak off my shoes and walk barefoot on their lawn, disregarding what strange looks I might get.  When I win the lottery, I'm going to bring in loads of grass sod, front and back, and I won't put my shoes back on until the snow flies!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Taste of Summer

Ohmigosh!  The taste of the first sweetcorn of the season!  Nothing says summer more than that.  Judy came by yesterday to share some Sloughhouse corn...renowned for being some of the best in the valley.  I know there are fancy butters and cooking techniques to enhance corn, but I think it's hard to improve on perfection...butter, salt and pepper...and I'm a happy camper.  When I moved to Sacramento in the late seventies, Highway 16 was a two-lane, winding road leading from Sacramento to the gold country towns and the foothills.  Sloughhouse is in a small valley nestled between hills and, in those days, was the only place I'd ever seen hops growing.  The entire area was filled with trellises on tall poles for the hop vines to climb, like bean poles for giants.  There was a tiny roadside stand that sold home garden vegetables, and corn was a dozen for a dollar.  Times change.  The road has been straightened and widened, the hops are all gone, and the little stand is little no longer and now sits at the edge of big corn and tomato fields and sells a huge variety of fresh vegetables and fruits.  I rather doubt the prices have remained the same, either.  There are actually guys to direct traffic in the parking lot!  The only constant is that taste of summer.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Hot Dog!

With rising temperatures, Bessie Anne moves from the hearth to the tile entryway, trying to find a cool spot to sleep during the heat of the day.  It was time for her summer buzz cut to lose her thick winter coat (first photo).  She gets a heavy ruff across her shoulders that always makes me think of the Yale collegiates during the Twenties with their raccoon coats.  They were called the Boola-Boola Boys.  I could not get her to look at the camera for the "after" shots.  There's something about getting a haircut that creates embarrassment for a dog.  As Dave said last night, now comes a week of saying, "Oh, you are so pretty!," and, "My, what a beautiful girl!," trying to rebuild her self-confidence.  Actually, Bess succumbs to flattery pretty easily, and in a week she'll think it was all her idea.  Now if I could just find a shearer for Poppy.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Farview Philosphy

Because it is our point of reference, I think most people tend to humanize animals, to interpret their expressions and actions in terms of our own experience.  I lose patience, however, with those who coo, "But they're my babies!"  While I call the animals and fowl in my care the "kids," to consider them other than what they are would deny them respect for their very animalness.  We have a symbiotic relationship.  It is our very differences that I appreciate and from which I learn.  I hope they gain more than just food and security from the experience, but there is no confusion between kids and Kids.

While I'm waxing philosophic, I recently told a great-niece that there may be times in life that the only thing we can change is our attitude.  Last night I was making aioli (homemade garlic mayonnaise) and grumbling to myself about having to peel twelve cloves of garlic...seemed like a lot of work and why didn't garlic come in one big package like an onion.  The thought then occurred that rarely did one need twelve cloves of garlic at once, and wasn't it clever that garlic came premeasured and wrapped.  The job became a lot easier with that simple thought, that change of attitude.  On a hot summer evening, a plate of chilled barely steamed vegetables dipped in aioli was heavenly.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I'm A Wuss

I didn't realize how shaken I was from the mowing adventure in the orchard until I went out to get on the tractor again yesterday.  I did not want to do it.  It wasn't the tractor's fault.  After all, it had the good sense to stop before I did.  Still, I had to make myself get back up on that pony and make a couple of tight-jawed passes before I settled into the rhythm of what has been a pleasurable chore.  The brush hog gives a rough cut, so before going to the barn I trimmed the west field.  Star thistle has a tough, fibrous stalk that is a real booger to mow.  The spiny seeds are terrible, and this weed is the bane of our county.  After finishing with the girls, I mowed the front yard and was working on the side yard when my customer came about noon for milk.  Andrew (maybe three years old) had to show me four or five times how he could take off and put his shoes back on.  It was a welcome break, and too hot by then to go back out. 

After the heat of the day, I did a lot of watering of the deck plants and the herb garden.  There's a bird bath there, and it was full of little birds, splashing and yelling at the top of their lungs.  Those waiting for a turn in the tub played in the sprinkler.  It's no wonder I call these creatures "kids."

Friday, July 9, 2010

My World

In my world, Santa drives a flatbed truck and guardian angels ride brush hogs.  Some years back, my Kids realized that what I really needed for Christmas, birthdays, etc., was alfalfa.  The guys at the feed store were embarrassed beyond words the first time they brought a gift delivery and I said I hadn't ordered any bales, and then stood there and bawled like a baby when they explained.  Yesterday, Joel came and mowed down the star thistle that had overtaken the west field and driveway.  I try not to cry when he does this.  I am surrounded by kindness.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bess and Pearl

You can follow the progression of the season by the burrs in your socks and pants cuffs.  We've gone through the whirligigs and burr clover, the bracken fern has thrown off its thousands of tiny spears, and now foxtails are the flavor of the day.  The dreaded star thistle is looming on the horizon.  Just as I was ready to leave with Pearl for the vet's yesterday, Bessie Anne took off like a bat down into the woods on the scent of the coyote.  I had to wait until she came back, fearing that she might actually meet up with the Wild Thing and I might need to take her to see Dr. Ric, too.  Bess finally came panting back up the hill, not injured in any way, but covered with the tiny seeds we call the Velcro burrs.  Late for Pearl's appointment, I had to leave her all stuck together in one mass until we got home.  I wish I could say she learned her lesson. 

Pearl has Stockholm Syndrome.  She has taken to sleeping in the crate, and no longer tries to escape the bathroom.  I am her new best friend.  Unfortunately, she popped a stitch and had to have a couple more put in by Dr. Ric, but the drain has been removed.  It does mean, however, that she has another six days in the conehead.  Poor Pitiful Pearl.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Kids and Cats

Dave had his shoulder repair surgery yesterday and I was his ride home.  What used to be a four- or five-day stay in the hospital is now done as an outpatient.  He should have been on clear liquids, but our first stop was for a cheeseburger and fries.  He was hungry!  Driving to West Sacramento, I realized how provincial I've become and how long it is between my trips to The City.  Of course we hit rush hour traffic, and passed a bad accident on the freeway.  I much prefer our country roads.  West Sacramento (west of the Sacramento River and in Yolo County) used to be a small town, known for forty bars and nine "Purple Experience" motels.  West Capitol Avenue used to be a stroll for the local hookers.  This town has done a complete buildings everywhere, new, wider roads, new subdivisions, new shopping centers.  Everything has a fresh, clean look, and I gawked like a country rube as we made a couple of necessary shopping stops.  Maybe I need to get out more...or not!  At any rate, Dave is home safe.  It's hard not to want to hover, no matter how old or big your Kid becomes. 

Without benefit of her whiskers or peripheral vision because of the conehead, Pearl runs around in the bath- and bedroom bumping into everything.  She seems to find it easier to see where she's been than where she's going, and does a lot of backing up.  Frank is still being a snot, but has mostly stopped the hissing and growling.  Now he rushes to take her favorite spots to lay (he never wanted them before), and I swear he smirks at her.  We go back to the vet today.  Frank doesn't realize that one of these days Pearl will be free again, and I think payback's gonna be a bitch.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Rosemary and Thyme

Among the pots and pots of plants I brought with me when we moved to Fair Play were many herbs, including feverfew and yarrow.  I went through a phase in the valley and had become very interested in medicinal herbs, as well as the cooking herbs.  Little did I know that both of the foregoing grow wild everywhere up here and I needn't have hauled them up the hill.  Both are in bloom right now; large heads of yellow yarrow and the tiny daisy-like flowers of the feverfew.  Over time, the rosemary has grown to a huge bush, and the three or four varieties of thyme have taken over most of the front-of-house garden.  Tansy is an old strewing herb, said to retard insects; it comes back full force every year.  I also grow motherwort, as well as a smaller southernwood.  Chives, regular and garlic, have such a pretty flower and seed head.  The seeds end up everywhere, in almost every flower pot on the deck, so I have an endless supply for cooking.  Lovage was too tender to survive the heat and cold, and bergamot didn't do well, either.  Epizote keeps cropping up.  One of my favorites is pennyroyal.  It's a lovely plant, with blue-purple flower clusters on a tall stem and the leaves vine over the sides of the pots.  If flies get pesky while I'm watering, I rub a handful of the leaves on my arms and the flies stay away.  The crushed leaves have a wonderful mint scent.  It's also good to put in the dog's bed to repel fleas.  Lemon and licorice mint are everywhere now, but the peppermint needed more water.  I grow comfrey; it's said the dried leaves will settle a goat's upset stomach.  The huge sage plant down below the deck provides seasoning, as well as beautiful purple flowers.  Lavender is so drought resistant, I can put it just about anywhere.  Betony comes back year after year.  There is still camomile out in the neglected vegetable garden.  The scented geraniums I brought with me didn't survive the first winter, but I keep trying.  Oregano is another hardy herb  in the front garden.  Grey and green santolinas flower in both the front and back yards.  Amaranthus (Love lies bleeding) isn't technically an herb, but it's such a useful plant.  I've only been able to grow it once or twice here.  A tall plant, over six feet, it has such unusual red, drooping, thick clusters of flowers.  The seeds can be used as a grain in cooking or baking, and the flowers are used to make dye for wool.  In the summertime, watering is a daily chore, and I've got to get outside now before it gets too hot.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Day Is Done

I heard a shot, and then, in the last red glow of the setting sun and the quiet that comes with sundown on the mountain, a lone bugler on a nearby hill started to play "Taps."  The notes of this most poignant song quavered and cracked like a voice filled with emotion.  I could only stand at attention with my eyes filled with tears...this was the most unexpected and fitting end to the Fourth of July.  I hope the bugler heard my applause of appreciation.

Yesterday had started with a bang; more like the thudding of my heart!  As I stepped into the milking room to start the routine, I glanced down and there, right by my foot, was a snake.  Standing stock still, I then saw that it was deader than a doornail.  I set about putting out food and letting the first girls out of the barn, and then went back to get a closer look at the snake.  Only about a foot long, it was the black-and-tan of a wannabe rattler, a gopher snake.  Lucy had stomped the snot out of that snake and I don't think there was an unbroken bone in its body.  It's good to know the girls can protect themselves.

Joel and Judy's party was a huge success...lots of nice people, tons of good food, and unbelievably moderate weather.  It's an event I look forward to each year.

The house kids and I spent a restless night.  Pearl had whined all day because she is in isolation, telling me sincerely whenever I'd go visit her that she didn't know what she'd done, but promised to never, ever do it again if I'd just let her out.  She's a pretty vocal cat anyhow, but now she talks nonstop.  At bedtime, I shut the bedroom door and let her in with Bess (who had to check her out, nose to tail), Frank and me for a little socialization.  All night long, whenever Pearl moved to enjoy a little "yard time," Frank would growl and hiss, Pearl would cry because he was being mean, and Bessie Anne would tell them both to shut up!  We'll all be glad when Pearl gets her conehead bonnet off, and maybe we can get some sleep.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Bumps and Bats

We seem to have hit one of those rough patches in the road.  Yesterday was spent at the vet's while Pearl had emergency surgery.  She had a gash on her neck from something that had happened the night before...fence? coyote? no idea.  It's too far to town to drop her off and come back, so I waited for hours.  There's always a book in the truck for just such occasions.  Poor Pitiful Pearl is now wearing a conehead, and it's Frank's turn to hiss at her.  It's been almost a year to the day that Frank injured his leg and also had surgery.  Pearl thought he was the Killer Clown from Outer Space then and shunned him like something evil.  Until the drain comes out, Pearl is confined in isolation in the big bathroom.  Bessie Anne whines and cries at the door, worried about her missing companion, hopefully making up for Frank's bad attitude.  I can't take Pearl in on Tuesday to have the drain removed, because Dave is having repair surgery on his shoulder, injured last October.  I should just set up an infirmary...I'm sure Stumpy would enjoy company in the laundry room.  Everyone hits these bumps in life...experience tells me they won't last, and I learned a long time ago to never ask, "What else can go wrong?"

The bats are finally here.  Their arrival was evidently delayed because of the long wet season.  I so look forward to watching them flit and dive in the early morning and twilight hours, silhouetted against the rising or setting sun.  I've been in love with bats ever since I can remember.  I was thrilled to meet Burma, a huge bat living at what was then called Africa USA in Vallejo, and she was my main attraction whenever we went.  She was over a foot tall, with cinnamon-colored plush velvet fur, golden eyes, and smooth black leather wings that spread nearly three feet.  I coveted her, but I'm happy with the tiny, three-inch bats who come back like swallows every year.

It's the Fourth of July, Independence Day, and I'm going to celebrate at Joel and Judy's annual barbecue bash this afternoon.  A rerun of the miniseries, "John Adams," will be showing soon and I highly recommend it.  It never hurts to be reminded how and why we got to be Americans. 

Saturday, July 3, 2010

When All Else Fails

Along about dusk, when calmer heads prevail, I went out to try the tractor one more time.  Nothing.  Sitting there in the gloaming, trying to think how I was going to get out of this one, it dawned on me that in the frustration of the morning I had not lifted the mower blades when it died.  It won't start with the blades down.  I knew that.  Duh.  Once I followed procedure, it fired right up...and then came the thrill of trying to get back up the hill with darkness approaching.  Kept hitting soft spots, sliding sideways, getting buried, spinning tires, and finally fighting my way to the top.  What didn't get mowed...won't.

I've been getting some razzing about using the two-dollar words.  I know it's the vogue to blame one's parents for everything, but this trait truly can be laid directly at my mother's feet.  We did a lot of traveling when I was a kid, sometimes by train but mostly by car, and I've been to all but the easternmost states.  For entertainment while riding along (when we weren't singing every song each of us knew), Mother would say, "What is that?"  "That's a cliff."  "How many other words are there for that?"  Or, "How many words for green can you think of?"  "Give me six different words to describe that tree."  Growing up before television and before the plethora of board games were invented, we played a lot of word games in the evening.  My parents would try to stump each other with the spelling of a new word.  My dad's downfall was asafoetida, and Mother gloated over her victory.  She insisted I study the Reader's Digest "A Word a Day" articles, and I always had a book of crossword puzzles to work.  We may not have the hundred-plus words to describe snow like the Eskimos, but we have such a rich language it's a shame not to dip into the treasure once in awhile.  (And I used up about a week's worth of short ones yesterday when the mower quit!)

Friday, July 2, 2010


Eleanor Roosevelt said that courage is doing that which you cannot do.  If that is so, I'm awarding myself a small badge for today's efforts.  Not that I'm finished.  I'm on a beer break because the mower left me no other choice.  (Of course, there's always a choice.  I could have gone straight for the Jack Daniel's!)  I did get some fairly decent swaths cut next to the chicken pen in the orchard and some good-sized patches and pathways cut under the oaks, burying the wheels up to the axles in loose dirt and leaf mold at one point, dropping into one of those squirrel pits and spinning the drive wheel at another.  Clinging like a burr and holding on with a death grip, I managed to hang on and do that which I cannot do...until the little tractor said, "What the hell are we doing?!," and quit.  Engine won't turn over.  No go no more.  I'm hoping, since it is down at the bottom of the hill, that it just needs a rest and a little quiet time (which I have promised!) and then will allow me to drive it back up to it's own space in the barn.  Otherwise, Eleanor and her courage be damned, because I'll leave it there and call it yard art.


Dis-cour-age:  to deprive of courage or confidence; dishearten; to hinder by inspiring by fear of consequences.  I spent yesterday in a blue funk, feeling that perhaps I was doing the wrong thing by staying here.  One of my primary concerns is always the care and safety of my herd, flock, and little coterie of house pets.  I am rarely-to-never afraid for myself here, and I hate the fear I've been feeling lately for the four- and little two-legged creatures under my protection.  I've felt I've always taken reasonable precautions, but things haven't been working out so well.  I hate being on high alert all the time, and being too late to save the kids.

All right, then.  It's obviously time to pull on my big-girl panties and do something about this situation.  I'm going out early this morning to mow down the neglected north orchard.  Perhaps if the coyotes have no cover, they'll think twice about coming so close.  As much as it calms my soul to see the free rangers scratching and clucking in the herb garden by the front door, or look up to find a chicken on the doorstep, peering in the screen door to say hi, I need to find a way to confine them to their pen.  Better confined than dead.  The orchard gets neglected because it's pretty difficult to mow.  The slopes are steep and the ubiquitous ground squirrels have undermined the soil, and the wheels of the mower drop into their unseen pits.  Steve, who actually liked participating in destruction derbies, considered Mr. Toad's Wild Ride a hoot, and Clay took it on in years to follow, laughing as he bounced up and down.  I must say I approach the job with more than a little trepidation, but I'm going to gird my loins and "get 'er done!"  I'll be darned if I'm going to be discouraged anymore. 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Loaded Guns and Flat Souffles

Yesterday was quite a day.  I need either a housekeeper or a sou chef, or both.  (It's also possible I should not have picked up that book.)  The brisket went into the slow oven at six a.m., and I whirled like a dervish the rest of the day. 

In the preceding two days, I'd lost five hens, one of which was my dear little Rover.  On Monday, I'd heard the chickens in panic mode in the afternoon; Bess and I went out but didn't see anything.  She tracked a scent down to the woods, but wisely came back to me.  That night I was three chickens down.  On Tuesday, I was in the barn when I heard the hens, but there was nothing I could do.  Two more chickens gone.  I knew it was a wild thing...dogs lose interest when they break the squeaky toy and leave it. This thing was taking for food.  I plugged the holes under the fence where most of the girls were sneaking out, but there are those who fly over.  Taking the morning's milk out to the refrigerator on the deck, I looked down and saw the culprit, a large coyote standing at the edge of the woods watching me.  It would have been a perfect shot.  I went in the wrong door to get the pistol quickly, and got back just as the coyote was turning shot at all.  I fired anyway, and that .38 made a big enough boom to scare it.  Now I've got the .22 rifle with the scope out on the deck. 

Most of dinner turned out well, and I did warn my guests that I was serving an untried recipe for roasted garlic-mashed potato souffle.  Well, it sounded good, but went flat while still in the oven.  Tasted okay, but not good enough to try to perfect.  I hope that Judy, Joel, and Arden had as good a time as I did last evening.  Having them each as friends is great, and having them all together is wonderful.