Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Blahs

Now I know why television series go into summer hiatus and schools take summer breaks.  It isn't for a vacation.  It's because the brain goes numb in heat.  There are no original thoughts and information isn't processed well.  Animals may hibernate in winter, but they go dormant in rising temperatures.  Bess and the cats sleep all day.  Poppy and the girls lie quietly in the shade, browsing only in the early morning and late afternoon.  Even the chickens are silent and still in the daytime.  Egg production has dropped...even that takes too much effort.  The air is tangibly heavy; you can feel it press on your skin.  Nights are getting longer now, probably Nature's way of giving the earth more time to cool off.  The calendar says it's fall, but summer still clings and shouts. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


"Situation normal, all fouled up."  (Sanitized version of a WWII acronym.)  On Saturday, the dishwasher was added to the current list of problems.  Calling home buyer's insurance, I was told someone would come out on Monday.  Monday, I was told they'd assigned it to a company that no longer serviced this area, but someone else would come on Tuesday between one and five.  I just love those "windows."  Being tethered to the house because I must answer the phone when the tech calls or be cancelled was okay because it was one hundred degrees at eleven a.m. and sitting still seemed like a good idea.  After waiting the four hours, DW Guy called at five, saying he was running late, had one more call before me, and would see me when he saw me.  Yippee, Skippy.  At five-thirty, the power went out.  Without the ceiling fan, it was hotter inside than out, so Bessie Anne and I joined the chickens in the front yard in the shade.  Without electricity, DW Guy didn't stand a chance of fixing the dishwasher (although it was tempting to let him try).  I called and was able to cancel the appointment, but couldn't reschedule until Thursday.  SNAFU.  Electricity returned at seven.  It's all good.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dirty Bird

Yuki needs a good shaking...or maybe just a shower.  All the hens cool themselves and retard mites by taking dust baths, and then they fluff themselves off and look good.  When Yuki, on the other hand, takes a dust bath, she looks like a well-used feather duster.  Her pure white, downy feathers hold the dirt like a magnet.  Her feathered feet look like she's been making mud pies.  Satomi's and Keiko's black feathers don't show the dust, so even though they also have the same fluffy feathers, they can get away with it.  For someone like myself who puts dusting at the far, far bottom of the list, having a dusty chicken is a bit much.

At four-fifty-four this morning, well before dawn, from further up the road there were two shots about five seconds apart from what sounded like a .38 pistol...too big for a .22, not big enough for a .45, and not a rifle.  No cars came down Gray Rock, and no sirens have gone up.  I don't much care for this type of mystery. 

We're still in the doldrums...too hot to move unless it's before sunup or after sundown.  Makes me appreciate the old-movies channels on TV.  Bessie goes with me as I put the critters to bed, and asks for a cool drink from the hose while I'm filling the water troughs.  In the house, she moves from tile to hearth and back, trying to find a cooler spot during the day.  There isn't one.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fun And Games

It's back to mid nineties and due to go higher this week.  It's a good thing the mowing and most of the outside work got done while it was cooler, because I'm back to doing only the essentials.  ESPN coverage of the NASCAR race at Dover yesterday was frustrating.  The race itself was just an interruption in a four-hour-long series of commercials.  Ten laps to the finish...and they broke for commercials!  Maybe it's the heat, or maybe I just need something to yerp about. 

The free-range hens are engaging in a game of hide-and-seek.  I've been picking up fewer eggs lately, but thought it might be the heat or perhaps the girls were going into molt.  On a hunch, I looked under the junipers and found a clutch of eighteen eggs.  Not knowing when they were laid, they'll have to be pitched.  Checking under all the bushes last evening, there were two eggs in a different spot (these were fresh), and none in the previous nest.  Going out at dusk makes the "seek" part of the game rather challenging, and it doesn't help that the brown eggs blend in with the dead leaves.  There are perfectly good laying boxes in their house, and lots of straw in the hay barn, but where's the fun in that? 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Freddie Freeloaders

The turkeys have taken a page from the squirrels' play book.  I had barely thrown down the scratch and left the yard when two of the Mafia Boys joined the little girls for breakfast.  The three other members of this crew had already started on the birdseed under the big oak.  Whatever gives me the crazy idea that I'm in charge?  The hen in the left foreground is Lucky.  She's the chicken I made the fox spit out.  The fox got a mouthful of tail feathers.  She got...lucky! 

Passing by the open front door in the early afternoon, I noticed this doe standing by the truck, admiring herself in the side mirror.  By the time I'd gotten the camera, she'd moved between the front sheds and was just under the windows in the breakfast room.  She was aware of my presence, but continued to munch oak leaves without concern.  The deer usually come out at dusk, but I've seen a lot more during the daytime lately.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Snotty Coyotes

Coyotes, the Beastie Boys of the neighborhood, have an in-your-face way of letting you know you're on their turf and don't forget it.  They leave scat in the middle of a well-worn pathway so you can't miss it, or in the driveway close to the house just to reinforce the fact that they own the night.  I can hear Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula, "Listen to the singing of the Children of the Night!," as the pack runs the hills under the full moon.  The grapes must be close to harvest time, as the scat is full of grape seeds and skins now.  It makes me smile to think of these killers daintily selecting grapes from the vines...along the lines of "real men don't eat quiche."  I wonder if they're selective about varietals and vintages.  The vintners use all sorts of sophisticated equipment to tell when the grapes are at their peak...all they really need to do is look at the ground.  Down in the south pasture, there is an outcropping of granite rocks (hence Gray Rock Road), and one has a depression that speaks of long-gone generations of probably Miwok Indians who used it as a grinding stone for acorns.  The coyotes have an unerring ability to hit that mark to leave a calling card.  Back in the day when Steve and I would hike in the mountains, I would find scat on high rocks in unlikely places.  In addition to marking their territory, they evidently like a potty with a view.

The full moon rises behind the hill to the east, silhouetting the pines on the crest.  The sight stops me in my tracks every time.  One can literally read a newspaper by the light of the moon, and should I open my eyes at three, it's easy to think I've slept late and it's already dawn.  The vulture migration always comes around the week of the nineteenth of September...I'll have to go back to old calendars to see if that correlates with the full moon.  Since the buzzards gather in the late afternoon, do they travel by night?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Near Miss

I've been waiting and watching for the past week, but still I nearly missed it.  The blinds have been drawn against the summer sun, but late yesterday afternoon I raised them to get the full benefit of the large window in the living room...and there they were!  It is the annual September migration of vultures, and it is a truly awesome sight.  These huge, silent birds come winging in from the corners of the earth and begin to circle, and it happens right over this house.  There are eventually vultures in the hundreds, although the numbers have dwindled over the years.  As they gather, they form a vortex, a funnel cloud of dark birds whirling up high to the sky, and like a tornado, they drift to the north and back, waiting for the last arrivals.  Seeing so many birds, absolutely silent, is eerie.  When the complement is reached (and how do they know?), they swirl en masse over the hill to the east and are gone, as quietly as they came.  It's so easy to miss this one-day, once-a-year event, but it's breathtaking to behold.  I've discovered that these birds travel down the Owens river to winter in the Owens desert in the Mojave.  A few vultures evidently draw the short straw and are left behind in the area as the maintenance crew, and aren't we glad of that.  I've tried many times to photograph this event, but my rinkydink camera cannot capture it.  A wide-angle, telephoto lens is needed to do it justice.  I'm so glad to catch it again by sight.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Stars In My Eyes

Stars in the sky are things of beauty and light.  Stars on the ground...not so much.  It was a perfect day to get out and mow down the third generation of star thistle.  It wasn't too hot, and there was a light breeze to blow away the dust cloud that arose to surround me and the lawn tractor.  I got three yards mowed before calling it quits.  Star thistle is harder to kill than a Hydra...cut off one head and two grow back, but you have to keep trying.  Just working outside again was a joy, and constructive destruction is always satisfying.

Tree Guy came in the late afternoon to assess the dead live oak (how's that for an oxymoron?) down by the barn.  Taking anyone into the goat pen is an experience.  All the goats and Poppy cluster around, nudging and nuzzling, tasting clothes and fingers, pulling at shoe strings, curious to the nth degree.  Poppy soon wandered off, once she realized no treats were in the offing.  Tree Guy was very tolerant of his nosy entourage, and explained he had been raised, and missed, being around livestock.  (Not everyone feels the same way.)  He said the tree is structurally sound in the main, but two large, heavy branches over the barn should come down.  He showed me how to check for stress fractures in the tree and in the ground; the latter would show that the root system was raising.  Right now, we're in no eminent danger and that's a relief.  To give an indication of how inflation has escalated, twelve years ago this same company removed mistletoe and all dead limbs from six trees, burned the twiggy stuff, and cut and stacked the "good" wood.  The price for all that was the same as it will cost to have just those two limbs removed, with the debris being left where it falls.  They would take it out of the pen for an additional one hundred seventy-five dollars.  I could buy a nice used car for the price of cutting down the entire tree.  I appreciate that isn't necessary just yet, but since I'd rather be proactive than reactive, I'll make an appointment to get those limbs sectioned out.  The girls can use them for a playground.  Stars and dollar signs dance in my eyes.  Can't get rid of one and can't keep the other.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Early autumn is not my favorite time of year, just as sundown is not my favorite time of day, notwithstanding both can be beautiful.  Both evoke such poignant memories.  My Kids were raised at a time and in a place where they could go out in the rolling Chino hills and be gone all day, the rule being they had to be home by dark.  Come sundown, like a mother hen, I wanted all my chicks inside, under my wings.  The coming dusk was a time of waiting, always tinged with slight anxiety.  Now, as darkness approaches, I count beaks and muzzles, wanting all in my care to be safe for the night, well fed and warm.  Fall is the sundown of the year, and the transition somehow makes me sad.  It signals the beginning of the end, as it were...another day done, another year gone.  Once the change is complete, it's a different matter.  The hills will blaze with color, there will be the smell of wood smoke in the air, and there will be the anticipation of the holidays to come.  This is the time of waiting.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Another Reminder

I was a little late getting the wash that included both pair of bibbies hung on the line yesterday.  Getting busy with other house chores, I didn't get them taken down before going out at dusk to put the kids to bed.  No big deal...plenty of time in the morning.  Yes, well...that didn't take into account that today is trash day and I couldn't very well go down to the big road in my robe, nor that at this time of year we get heavy dew in the morning.  Nothing like going out before dawn and then sliding into a pair of cold, clammy bibbies.  That's an eye opener, I can say!  Just another reminder to do a thing when it needs to be done. 

Last week, someone (inadvertently, I'm sure) made off with the lid to my trash barrel.  I've got this thing about utilitarian items and have a need to "beautify" them, usually by painting with flowers, etc., so my lid was decorated with a ring of posies and big house numbers...similar to my mailbox.  When I took the trash down this morning, there was my lid, leaning on the fence.  It's some kind of commentary when my barrel lid travels away from home more than I do. 

Monday, September 20, 2010


Heart pounding and thoughts racing, I awoke at four-thirty this morning.  Of course that's why the branch over the goat barn has been drooping  lower and lower!  It's been a subject of curiosity to me for the past week or so, but only in passing.  The original shed that was the nucleus of the barn was built under a huge, old, dying oak tree.  Even in death, the skeleton of this giant has been a thing of beauty and the mass of barren branches has continued to provide a measure of shade and shelter for the girls.  Over time, I've had what appeared to be dangerous branches fact, Larry trimmed some that rubbed on the roof just last week.  Yesterday I noticed that the drooping branch in question has come low enough in just the past few weeks for the goats to scratch their backs on, and I thought, "Well, isn't that odd."  Evidently that has been perking in my subconscious, and I think I have the answer.  The weight of the tree itself and the burrowing under the roots by the squirrels who aren't hanging out waiting for brunch are combining to bring this ancient one down...on top of the barn!  Now I've got to find an arborist quickly before the winter winds and rain cause it to fall and squash the barn, the goats, and me!

Just yesterday I told a friend that I do not believe age brings wisdom, but it does give one perspective.  Coming right on the heels of the septic tank saga, this latest crisis might make me throw my head back and howl...and that's a tempting thought.  However, fighting a riptide in life only makes it worse, doesn't solve the problem, and can pull you under.  So far, no one and no thing has been hurt.  It's only money.  And I won't have to worry about firewood for a couple of years.  As my daddy used to say, "What will it matter a hundred years from now."  That's perspective.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Question of Gender

Being who I am, I have a fondness for the saying, "I thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken."  It may be that I made an error in guessing the gender of the Silkies.  I am totally unfamiliar with this breed of chicken, and do not recognize their secondary sex characteristics.  From the few pictures I have of Silkies, it appears that the roosters wear their combs closer to the beak than the laying breeds, and Waylon's comb was much bigger from the git-go than the others.  However, if the three "girls" really are all females, only one seems to be laying eggs.  Because "she" still waits and does the come-hither squat, I do think that Yuki is the producer.  Satomi and Keiko wear their black busbies low over their eyes, and it's really hard to tell about the comb.  Ah, well...all are welcome.

As it became light, I saw that we'd had a sprinkle of rain during the night.  And then the light changed.  For a brief moment, everything I could see took on a gorgeous pink glow.  This is one of those "Come see!" sunrises that needs to be shared.  More rain is promised/threatened for today (opinion will vary, depending on whether you're a grape grower).  I, personally, would be very grateful to have a good rain settle down the dust from all the digging of late.

Back to the Silkies.  The single egg I pick up every other day or so remains small.  It seems very strange to gather perhaps six and a half eggs in the evening.  It will take some calculations to adjust a recipe that calls for two large eggs to eight or ten Silkie eggs.  I would like to give credit where credit is due for production, and rather than have "A Boy Named Sue," I should like to call everyone by their right name.  Time will tell.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Picture Is Worth...

It might have been thought a flight of fancy when I said Carlsbad Cavern was created by ground squirrels.  This is proof of fact.  These are the entrances to the Farview Farm Caves in the girls' smaller sleeping room, and a portrait of the engineer.  He is surveying the damage done to the tunnels to the left where the ground gave way under the girls.   

The horizontal boards on all walls of the barn are to keep the girls from pushing through.  Goats are notorious for this, and will walk along at a tilt, rubbing on the walls.

This is a tunnel entrance into the milking room, just behind the stand.  One of the diaper wipe "blankets" is drying before being taken underground by the mouse on the left. 

One of the furry pancakes hanging out in the big sleeping room, waiting for me to finish milking.  (That's my foot sticking up off the milking stand.)  The patches of light on the ground to the right are from the openings the squirrels have made under the walls of the barn for easier access.

This was not taken with a telephoto lens.  When I said I have mice...I have MICE!  It's a good thing I'm not afraid of them, because they sure aren't afraid of me. 

I am in the entrance to the smaller sleeping room, bucket and rake in hand, finishing up the last of the barn chores, but moving too slow for these impatient ones.  There are three in the bowl and one standing guard...not against me, obviously, but more approaching squirrels.  Not only have they dug under the wall here, they've taken out boards!  I guess it's easier than going underground.

The girls have their artistic side, and the salt block is a work in progress.  I did not notice Ruthie approaching as I tried to find an angle that would show all the nooks and crannies of the block.  That's her shadow on the right.  I should have known that anything out of the ordinary would arouse the girls' curiosity, and just as I took the photo, I was ringed by goats wanting to know what I was doing back in the pen (I'd already taken the milk buckets out).  Nineteen thought he'd like to try photography and nearly got the camera out of my hand.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I'm Feeling It

Amazing how muscles that sit quietly, unassuming and unidentified, will jump up and shout to be recognized after a day of unaccustomed exercise.  Dave and Zach got the log splitter running...something about "old gas" and vapor locks...and decided to get a start on the log pile.  Both men are recovering from shoulder injuries, so they tag-teamed on the splitter and I stacked, and stacked, and stacked.  Taking a break, Dave glanced up at the chimney and gasped.  It seems that, although I was totally unaware at the time, last winter there had been a creosote fire in the flue.  Fortunately, it was above the roof line, evidenced by the discolored metal of the chimney, and was self-limited.  It brought tears to think of what disaster might have happened, and relief that it had not.  Splitting wood was forgotten as the guys immediately got the brushes and went up on the roof and swept the chimney, no small feat with their injured shoulders.  I'm not the only one who's feeling it today.

Earlier in the day, after the apple pie went into the oven, I'd made the dough for fresh pasta and let it rest.  When the guys blew the whistle and called it quitting time, we cleaned up and then started rolling spaghetti strands.  Zach turned away when I said I was making a clam, crab and cream cheese white sauce, so I pulled a jar of homemade red out of the freezer for him.  Dave and I dug into the clam sauce...and we were all happy.  There was almost no room for the pies.

I'm not only feeling screaming muscles, I'm also feeling very thankful for my son and Zach, and for that which could have been worse and wasn't. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Getting Ready

The approach of fall is more eminent than I'd realized.  I use diaper wipes down in the barn to clean udders and hands.  There is a big bucket for the used ones, which was ready to bring up and empty...until yesterday.  Going in to feed Lucy, I noticed the level of used wipes was down about two inches!  Then I saw wipes sticking out of nearly every mouse and squirrel hole.  The mamas are getting ready for winter, too.  I have mental pictures of furry families snuggling in soft, scented nests and babies being tucked in with little white blankets pulled over their shoulders on long winter nights. 

Along the same lines, Dave and his roommate, Zach, are coming up today to make sure the log splitter is working well.  When all the Kids can get together, we'll have a work day to split and stack firewood for the year.  In anticipation of the boys' arrival today, I made a fresh peach pie and a batch of cheese, and have an apple pie ready to put into the oven (always better warm).  I'll have to think of something more substantial to feed them, but it doesn't hurt to start with dessert. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Naked Ladies

My mother announced one day that there were naked ladies out in the yard.  I'm sure my father had to restrain himself from running to the window.  There are naked ladies in my yard now.  They always arrive unannounced, and it's such a surprise to find them standing pink and proud.  I don't know the true name of this particular type of common amaryllis...I've always ever known them as the naked ladies.  The tall stem shoots up before the green leaves appear, and then the large, pink trumpet-shaped flowers open in clusters.  These bulbs were given to me years ago by a neighbor who was thinning hers, and I tucked them in hide-away places around the property.  Fortunately, the gophers and ground squirrels don't find them as appealing as I.

When I was a kid, you'd wake up one morning and just know it was the day to take your jump rope to school, or your set of jacks.  Sure enough, when you piled out of the bus, everyone had brought their jump rope, too.  It was jump rope season.  Yesterday I spent the day washing comforters, pillows, and afghans.  I talked to my neighbor and my friend in Seattle, and they both said they were thinking of doing the same thing.  It's fall, and time to start thinking about getting ready for winter.  Regardless of the official date on the calendar, fall began yesterday here.  There is a definite change in the feel of the air.  There will undoubtedly be more days of high heat, but it will be summer's last hurrah. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Not A Good Day

As hard as we might wish, life does not always give us do-overs.  Sunday evening, relaxed from the wine and relief at the end of the septic tank saga, I fell asleep in the chair.  The phone woke me, thankfully, at was full dark.  I threw on my lighted hat and dashed out to put everyone to bed.  The chickens had tucked themselves in and all that was needed was to shut their doors, and then get down and get the goats and Poppy into their rooms.  It wasn't until Monday morning that I realized I hadn't brought Stumpy in for the night.  Normally, she's the first one I tend to in the evening and I guess I thought I'd already done that when I headed back to the house.  I started praying that she was all right.  The Night Thing that had crawled under her playpen left me a trail of feathers to let me know there would be no redemption for my lapse in responsibility.  There will be no more three-note "Yoo-OOO-who!" in the morning from the laundry room to let me know I'm running a little late.  "I'm sorry" are just meaningless words.

And the septic tank saga was not finished.  Smelly Mel pulled in at ten-thirty with a backhoe and a dump truck full of rock, along with a helper with pickup full of pipe.  Keith's backhoe is still in the front yard, and Mel came barreling out of his truck, wanting to know what was going on.  I loathe confrontation and had been dreading even getting a phone call.  I told him I had called innumerable times, and he came in and called his own number, doubting my word.  (It's still disconnected.)  He asked what Keith had done; I told him, and he said if that was all I'd wanted, he would have done it for a thousand dollars less and he would have used bigger, better rock, etc., etc., etc.  Then he told me he didn't want to haul the rock back across the county to Georgetown and he would dump it here for three hundred dollars.  If it had been smaller rock, I would have bought it for the driveway, but his load was not useful for anything.  He departed, but we did not part as friends.

It was not a good day.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Super Sunday

After a rather, how shall I say it...eventful week, Joel and Judy's invitation to accompany them to the annual Blessing of the Grapes at Colibri Ridge was most welcome.  This event usually takes place in August, just before harvest begins.  The cool weather and rain this summer that many of us have so enjoyed has not been good for the grapes.  It was doubly unfortunate that the blessing had to take place on the opening date of football season, because John prepared tri-tip sliders with all the fixings.  The crowd that normally comes to the ceremony and to taste the grapes and the wine from those grapes evidently stayed home with beer, pretzels and football.  The prayer this year included an extension asking for a few more weeks of eighty-plus days to ripen the grapes.  I have to admit I said a rather weak "amen," as I cope much better in eighty and below.  Mike "Mojo" played classic rock and roll on his guitar, a light breeze blew on a sunny day, the food was good, the wine was great, and I was in the company of sweet friends.  DK Cellar is a neighboring winery to Colibri (Hummingbird) Ridge, and Kim invited a few of us over to sample their fine wares, as well.  I sampled myself into complete happiness.  It was a lovely day.

I still haven't been able to reach Smelly Mel.  I hope he doesn't show up unannounced today.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Fait Accompli

Men at Work.  Denny, a virtuoso on the backhoe, is digging the pipeline down to the new leach field (which now runs directly to the left of the backhoe).  Keith, owner of Lewis Construction, is supervising this portion of the job, and Kevin, Denny's son and a helluva worker, is shoveling out loose dirt.  This photo was taken Friday morning.  The bottom picture was taken today, Sunday, showing the finished project.  These burly, tattooed angels decided they wouldn't leave me "as was" for the weekend and came Saturday to finish the job.  In addition, the rock/gravel that wasn't needed for the leach field was spread over a section of my dirt added act of kindness.  I can now flush at will, run the dishwasher, and wash clothes!  All's right in my world. 

To make the weekend even better, my son Larry and granddaughter Taylor came up on Friday evening.  After the guys were done, Larry and I went down to the goat barn.  Any project down there is a two-man job.  Larry didn't believe me until he got up on the roof and the goats either climbed the ladder to join him or knocked it over, leaving him stranded.  With me standing guard (I'm good at that) over the girls, Larry sealed all the leaks that had sprung during the winter rains and cut limbs from the oak that were rubbing on the roof.  Larry also crossed another couple of items off the To-Do List while he was here.
As I've mentioned before, when guests arrive, they are ensconced in the "computer room," and I don't have access.  This is especially so when Taylor visits.  Taylor is autistic and, while she doesn't speak, she makes her likes, dislikes, wants and don't wants very clear.  This room is her room and visitors are not welcome.  I've been escorted to the door in the past.  Since Larry made a spur-of-the-moment decision to come up, I didn't have an opportunity to forewarn that I wouldn't be writing on the blog.  It is so very heartwarming that I've received a couple of calls, asking if I were all right.  I am.  And thank you for your caring hearts.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Money Pit

Talk about flushing money down the toilet!  This is the pit and trench that Go-To dug by hand to uncover the septic tank.  A friend sent another tank guy to take a look and his estimate was much better than Smelly Mel's, although the original diagnosis was correct.  The leach field has failed and must be replaced.  All I know is this involves a lot of digging, rock, pipes, and money.  I called another guy to come and pump out the tank (more money).  This gentleman talked nonstop during the entire process.  Those of us who spend a lot of time alone seem to spew words and ideas without control if given a captive audience.  I do it myself, so I understand, but it still makes me smile.  Not twenty minutes after pump guy left, Keith and his helper, Denny, drove up and unloaded a backhoe in the front yard.  This place, normally a "no-man's land," is crawling with men.  Bessie Anne is beside herself with all the comings and goings.  She and Frank have to inspect everything.  Frank is actually in the bucket of the backhoe in the photo, and later went up into the cab to check that out, too. 
Bess apparently has short-term memory loss. In the house at dusk, she looked out the door and began growling at the strange figure looming in the shadows of the front yard (the backhoe). 

Attempting to reach Smelly Mel to cancel his appointment for next week, I discovered that his phone has been disconnected!  My guardian angels are on duty, albeit their wings are pretty dirty right now, they're holding their robes up high, and I fear they smell to high heaven, but they sent the right guy at the right time. 

To be continued.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I'm getting my exercise running around opening and closing windows and taking the quilt off the bed and putting it back on.  On Tuesday I was sweating buckets in a tank top; yesterday I needed a turtle-neck sweater.  The temperature dropped from mid nineties to high sixties.  The wind blew and the sky threatened rain all day.  At least the sun is shining this morning. 

The other day I was trundling a seventy-five-pound bag of goat chow down to the barn on the hand cart.  I'd noticed that one tire was getting low and had made a mental note to put air in it "sometime."  Half-way down the hill in the pen, the tire came off the wheel.  The girls had seen me coming and were bawling, I was cussing a blue streak, that made Bessie bark, and not one of us was happy.  Back up at the feed barn, I was able to get the tire to hold air long enough to get the feed to the girls before it gave up entirely.  This was a good lesson in "Don't put off til tomorrow what you should do today."  The little tire shop down in Mt. Aukum was doing a thriving business yesterday and I spent a good hour waiting for the guys to put in an inner tube.  My companions in line were an interesting group.  There was a seventy-five-year-old psychiatrist who had blown a tire on his horse trailer.  He was a competition endurance rider, and was recovering from six broken ribs.  Another gentleman, well into his cups early in the day, had just pulled in and, while getting the spare out from under his truck, dropped the entire assembly on his thumb.  He let out an inventive stream of invectives, but having previously administered internal anesthetic helped him with the pain.  He became quite fascinated while watching the thumb swell to twice its normal size, and encouraged us to watch with him.  Hmmm.  My third companion was a loquacious local lady.  I learned her family's history in the area, as well as that of most of her friends.  My tire repaired, the guys loaded a bale of orchard grass for Nineteen, and I made a dash for freedom. 

After the salad or cereal dinners during the hot spell, ham and lentil soup was on the menu last night.  One just never knows when the weather is going to do a one-eighty.  (Go-To got held up on his day job, so he'll try again for tonight.  The saga goes on.)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ducks and Dollar Signs

As I sat milking, thinking of nothing in particular, a mouse suddenly dropped from nowhere into the corner of the barn.  It had to have jumped from a rafter!  It is undoubtedly one of the Flying Wallendas, that troupe of daredevil mice that gathers on the tall feed barrel at dusk.  There are about a dozen who leap off into space when I uncover the feed bowls.  I think they do it as much for the thrill as for the food.  I once sat in a restaurant that overlooked a rushing river and noticed a flotilla of ducks going downstream in the rapids.  A little later, a flock of ducks flew by, heading up river.  And then there were ducks bobbing by in the water.  This scene repeated itself over and over.  Those daffy ducks were shooting the chute just for the fun of it, like kids on a roller-coaster.  Don't tell me animals don't have a sense of humor.

Smelly Mel came and assessed the septic tank situation.  It made me think of Diane Keaton in "Baby Boom."  I almost dropped to my knees when he told me what it was going to cost to fix.  It's not exactly the sort of problem one can ignore.  It isn't going to self-heal or go away in time, and it isn't something one can do without.  Mel is booked until next week.  It's going to involve backhoes and dump trucks of rock and dollar signs flying by like ducks headed upstream.  I left a message for Go-To that we wouldn't be filling in the pit, so I was startled to see him drive up last evening.  There are some good people in this world, and Go-To is one of them.  He thought Mel might be wrong about the failed leach lines and wanted to check it out further.  Go-To worked until I had to get him a flashlight.  He's still not satisfied, and is coming back tonight.  Mrs. Go-To came along, and it's no surprise that she is just as nice as Go-To. 

To be continued.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Cinderella Story

My coach was a 4WD pickup, and the eight white horses...well, the mice were brown and just stayed mice, but I certainly felt like Cinderella at the ball down at Deb and Craig's.  We were happily joined by Craig's mom, Terry, for a barbecued ribs lunch over which I could wax rhapsodic and embarrass them terribly.  It was a perfect end-of-summer meal.  Suffice it to say, anyone who gets an invitation to eat at any of my kids' homes is in for a real treat.  And they have air conditioning.  And they have a plush, green grass lawn.  And they have an absolutely insane cat named Clyde, who is worth the price of admission by himself.  I just had a great time in good company.  Like Cinderella, when I got back home it was time to take off the go-to-town duds and don my dirty bibbies and exchange the glass slippers for barn shoes and put the goats and chickens to bed.  My princes are coming today...Smelly Mel and Go-To will deliver me from the evil septic tank.  All tales need a happy ending...I'm home.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Going AWOL

It's not even light out and I'm already starting to get nervous.  As soon as I finish in the barn (and then get sluiced off), I'm going down to the valley to Deb and Craig's.  One would think I'd be used to leaving by now; it's been four, maybe five times this year.  Is this the same me who worked as a consultant and commuted from Sacramento to Salinas and back in a day?  I was always on the road in northern California and thought nothing of it.  Yes, well...that was then, this is now.  I will leave Bessie Anne in charge. 

Sheila got her collar off and I had to hunt the pen to find it.  She's the only girl to wear one, and I tell her it's because she's special.  In reality, it's because my Valley Girl is flighty and easily distracted, and I sometimes have to redirect her attention.  She'd prefer one with rhinestones, I'm sure, but the best I could do is a pretty purple "necklace." 

It's Labor Day.  I was never sure as a kid whether that meant you got a day off from labor, or if you had to work harder on that day.  With the economy as it is, now I think just having a job is cause to celebrate.  One thing about goats...the barn will need cleaning, holiday or not.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

To Be Continued

This septic tank saga will evolve over time.  The solution is occurring in stages.  Go-To appeared promptly at seven-thirty yesterday morning.  He literally "appeared" while I was in the hen pen and scared me silly.  I didn't hear his truck at all, and suddenly he was standing there, coffee mug in hand and a big smile on his face.  With pick and shovel, it took Go-To three hours to dig down to the tank.  Once past the surface "dust," the decomposed granite earth goes straight to hard pan that is like concrete in the summer and just as difficult to break.  The tank definitely needs pumping out, and Go-To advised me to call "Smelly Mel."  No joke...that's the real name.  It took a couple of tries before I reached Mel, and the real laughs came while waiting for the connection...his message machine plays "Oooh, ooh...What's that smell?" (Grateful Dead?).  I guess you have to have a sense of humor in that business (and no sense of smell!).  Smelly Mel can't come until Tuesday, so I've got an aromatic open pit in the meantime.  I also have an aromatic dog, as Bessie finds the exposed hill of dirt, dampened with you-know-what, just the place to lie.  After Mel does his thing, Go-To will come back to fill in the hole.  To be continued.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Cranky Frank

Frank did a little successful hunting yesterday afternoon and brought his kill to the front walkway to play with before making a meal.  One of the free-range chickens wandered up to see what he had, and to ask if he'd like to play a little polo as the flock does with their victims.  The heat made Frankie cranky, and he got  territorial with the hen, who ran squawking.  That upset Bess, who, with me, was watching from the house.  Bessie is very protective of her chickens.  She started yelling to chastise Frank, and then I had to speak to her.  It's not hard to see how these dramas snowball out of control. 

Go-To called in the late afternoon and said he'd be here early this morning, so I don't know yet how my personal drama with the septic tank is going to end.  I just recalled Erma Bombeck's story, "The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank."  Yeah, well.

Judy and I were discussing another difference between here and city living.  We commented on hearing a helicopter the other night.  That is a rare occurrence at any time, and especially after dark.  It undoubtedly was a Life Flight.  About the only other time we see or hear helicopters is if there's a fire, or they are checking the power lines going over the mountain.  I can see from television news programs that they are as numerous as dragonflies down in the valley.  Up here, hearing a chopper is cause to step outside to see, and a subject for conversation. 

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Crappy Day

When my son called to say hi and find out how my day was going, I had to tell him I was up to my armpits in doodah.  I was scooping buckets of poop out of the barn at the time, and had put in a call to my Go-To guy because the septic tank was/is overflowing.  If the bathrooms weren't upstairs, they'd be backing up...yech.  That's something for which to be grateful.  There are so many things flatlanders take for granted:  electricity, sewers, running water at the turn of a tap.  Water conservation is a way of life up here so the well won't run dry.  I can't imagine how much work and money is going to be involved in this septic tank situation; not sure I want to think about it too hard.  The free-range chickens and turkeys think it is a bonanza with that damp dirt to scratch and cool off in.  (There's always a bright side for somebody.)   Like "Waiting for Godot," I'm waiting for Go-To.  He's going to fit me into his schedule when he can.  In the meantime, there's no other way to say it, it's a crappy day.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dream World

It's no secret that dogs dream.  Their paws move and you know they're running free in their dream world.  They talk in their sleep, snuffling noises, little barks, sometimes whining.  Bessie Anne was snoozing on the couch yesterday afternoon and she was in a happy dream.  I heard a thump...her tail was starting to wag, and as whoever or whatever it was that she was greeting came closer in her world, her tail started going to beat the band.  It's nice to think that my little companion and friend is happy, even with her eyes closed.

I envision a dream of my own in which I am confronted by a committee of squirrels, demanding air conditioning in the barn and wanting to know when they're going to get satellite hook-up.  I made up the bed last night with freshly washed sheets taken from the clothesline in the afternoon.  What a wonderful feel and smell.  My mother didn't get a dryer until I was fourteen, so the smell of air-dried sheets is what I grew up with.  I was in bed sick a lot as a kid, and the feel of fresh, crisp sheets still comforts me.  One needs comforting when one dreams of squabbling squirrels.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I Surrender

I am sending up the white flag, as it's pretty obvious I've lost the game, the match, the battle, the war!  The animals have won, and all I can hope for now is peace and mercy.  I got a delivery of alfalfa yesterday, and was hardly back in the house when I noticed a dark shape streaking away...a deer had come to feed before I could get the gate back on the shed.  How do they know?  Jungle drums?  Telepathy?  Last night when Pearl came in, she brought a not-dead mouse along.  It mattered not that I have explained many times that there are indoor toys and outdoor toys, and they are not interchangeable.  Pearl was not happy with me when I took her toy gingerly by the tail and put it out on the porch...and for all I know, the mouse was not happy either.  This morning when I opened the front door to see if the mouse was still there (it was not), there was a doe right in the driveway, and she watched me and had no inclination to leave.  Thinking this might be a photo op, I went to get the camera.  She had moved around to the breakfast room and I stepped out onto the deck.  As I was trying for a (camera) shot, suddenly the buck rounded the corner.  While I was shooting him, the smallest member of the family appeared, a young fawn, just out of its spots.  Isn't that just lovely...a family out for breakfast...on my dime!  I used to think that the squirrels who raced away as I approached the goat pen were running for cover.  Oh, no!  They are hurrying to wash their face and paws before mealtime.  I give up.

The pictures are pretty dim, but so was the light.  One does the best one can with what one has.