Sunday, October 31, 2010

New Toy

I won't get my new toy until [our] Thanksgiving, but I'm as excited as a Kid waiting for Christmas.  At the Fiddletown party, a friend was using a tiny little camera no bigger than my cell phone.  I was immediately struck with a bad case of the Gotta-Have-Its.  The camera I use now is certainly a lot smaller than the box Brownie I used as a kid (that's probably a museum piece by now), and it is digital, which I thought was better than sliced bread when I first got it.  No more taking roll after roll of film in and then waiting weeks for them to be developed and printed.  Shoot, I remember when color film came out...everything before that was in black-and-white.  A lot of film was wasted because we always took at least two shots, hoping at least one would show more than just the feet of the subject.  I've been taking a lot more photos this year to include in the blog, but always need to go back to the house for the camera, hoping the deer, turkeys, mice, clouds...whatever...will stay put long enough for me to get back, huffing and puffing.  There are so many photo ops that go uncaptured while I trek back up the hill, or not.  The new toy will slip right into my bibbies, always at the ready!  I do have a fear, though.  What with the cell phone, the teensy recorder, cigs and lighter (yes, I hang onto my vices...I have so few left), whatever tool or other implement I may be carrying, and soon the new camera, if I fall into a river, I will sink like a rock!  Ah, must take chances in life.  Deb and Craig are kind enough to do my specialty and/or quantity shopping at Costco, they've already got the camera, and I'll see them next month (which fortunately starts tomorrow)!  They'll also bring another twenty-five pounds of sugar for the hummers; that's about one-hundred pounds so far this year; and a couple of cases of diaper wipes for the goats.  Good thing they've got a big-enough car.

It's Halloween, All-Hallows-Evening, the night for ghosties and goblins and witches.  We get no trick-or-treaters here.  Steve always said that if any Kid would hike up our driveway, he/she would get (and deserve) the whole bag of candy.  Yes, I still buy the candy...but only the kind I like the best...and then I eat it all!  Ha-ha-haaaaa!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dark o' the Moon

It's starting again.  When it happened five years ago, it was alarming and fairly spooky.  Now I know what to expect and am prepared.  In case anyone wondered, the life expectancy of a light bulb is five years.  In late 2005, I replaced approximately forty-seven burned-out light bulbs in a very short time, and batteries in every battery-driven appliance in the house, as well as batteries in two trucks and the lawn tractor.  It was a black time in my life anyhow, and it seemed like The Powers That Be were conspiring to keep me in the dark.  In the past week, two bulbs in the kitchen, one in the dining room, one in the hall, and two in the bathroom have burned out.  Batteries went dead in the TV remote, the camera, and the flashlight.  It's almost laughable that even the moon, which has been so full and bright of late, sometimes shining through the cloud cover, is on the wane.  I'm ready for this cycle, stocked up on light bulbs of every shape and size and nine-volt, double- and triple-A, C, and D batteries.  (Why aren't there "B" batteries?)  Let there be light!!

I did turn in the paperwork for a Citizen's Arrest/Citation, and my neighbor will be served today.  Unless she decides to go to court to fight it, the result will most likely be a fine.  There was a great line in a movie I saw recently, "You can make a choice, but you can't choose the consequence."  I hope there will be no retaliation for a problem that is not of my making.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Last Straw

Any number of titles sprang to mind...War Declared in Fair Play; Gauntlet Thrown; Fed Up to Here; Enough is Enough.  This photo is of two of my neighbor's dogs inspecting Bessie Anne (not putting her best face forward) as I encountered them yesterday morning at the corner of the chicken pen when I went out to feed.  I had thankfully not yet let the hens out of their coop.  Bloody hell.  I just went through this two weeks ago and was assured then by neighbor and her husband the problem would not arise again...the same empty promise I've received the last twenty-two times the dogs have been allowed to run loose.  (I'm an old medical records administrator and I know the advantage of keeping documentation.)  To my knowledge, these particular two have not been responsible for any of the previous death and destruction, but, regardless of our "wide open spaces," there are still leash laws and dogs from my neighbor's pack have left pitiful chicken corpses in their wake.  Despite lamentations and protestations from my neighbors, neither I nor Animal Control personnel have been able to make a significant impact regarding the severity of the situation.  I am left without recourse than to file a complaint with the District Attorney.  I could shoot the dogs, and that is an alternative mentioned by Animal Control, but it is not the dogs' fault....  At the beginning of the year, I had a flock of over thirty hens, and added eighteen chicks in the spring.  Allowing five deaths from old age and losing four to coyotes, I now have eleven hens (not counting the Silkies).  The rest were left in the yard by the dogs after the squeaky-toys were broken.  The last straw has fallen...I will take the papers to town today.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rainy Day Play

The clouds rolled in and the wind picked up in the afternoon.  Rain is predicted again for today.  With a little more forethought this go-round, the wood pile is now tarped, more firewood is on the porch, and the deck chairs are tucked away.  The bin of grape stems has been emptied and returned, tailbone intact, and the girls enjoyed their treat (with more to come).  I finished the book I'd started the day before, and had to restrain myself from jumping right into the sequel, saving it for the rainy days ahead.  My son, Dave, called in the evening.  He was with a friend and they'd been discussing how to keep her children occupied when house-bound.  He was calling to get the recipe for salt water taffy...something we'd make on a rainy day when the Kids were small.  It pleases me no end that, lo, these many years later, he would remember a childhood event with such pleasure.  It was sticky and messy and more candy got eaten during the process than was saved, and none of that mattered because they were having so much fun.  Money was really tight when the Kids were growing up and I had to get inventive to find ways to keep them busy.  The erasers on a box of pencils could be cut into shapes (I did the cutting at their direction) and with a few drops of food coloring could be used to make stamps for stationery.  Bits of string dipped into diluted white glue were made into shapes like snowflakes and left to dry and stiffen on waxed paper, to be hung later in the window.  Flour-and-water paste and torn strips of newspaper made papier-mache. 

Makes me want to go out and rent some Kids for a day. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Big Bird(s)

Five or six turkeys were waiting for breakfast yesterday before I even stepped out the door.  They waited as I got their grain and walked slowly to the feeding station, softly calling, "Turk, turk, turk."  Not only did these hold their ground as I approached, more turkeys started coming out of the woodwork!  They were flying over fences and out of trees, running up the hill, until there were at least fifteen.  Evidently the word is out that I'm no threat.  As was mentioned a couple of days ago, the big males are starting to fan and posture.  What amused me more was that they had congregated in the driveway later as Bess and I went to get feed for the goats.  Bessie, without a word from me, took her cues and we were able to walk amongst the flock, moving slowly and not making eye contact.  She was able to maintain composure when I'm sure her instincts were to run, chase, and watch the birds flutter and squawk.  These big birds simply parted and let us walk through.  It was magical.

It was a gorgeous fall day and, after tending to the goats, I took a book out to the deck to enjoy the sunshine and cool breeze.  Haven't done that in ages.  It might have been a mistake, though, as I really got into "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," and three hundred pages later, realized I had done little else all day.  In late afternoon, my neighbor called me to come get a bin of grape stems for the girls.  He does this every year after the crush.  The stems have a high sugar content and the girls come to the fence and yell as I fork over their treats...not too many at a time.  I'm going to be extra careful this year, as last October I was up in the truck bed doling out the goodies, slipped, landed on the ground and heard and felt my tailbone snap.  Not an experience I'd care to repeat.  It would make it hard to sit and read, and I've got a good book to finish.

Re. the stats:  I would love to hear from other make a connection.  Writing is self-satisfying, and knowing there are readers is unbelievably gratifying, but statistics are so dry. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Thanks...& Thanks Again

Tending to chores yesterday, I glanced over into the "orchard" (where the trees don't grow well and the birds get all of the fruit, when there is any) and noticed a four-foot post in the ground where I hadn't put a post.  My curiosity piqued, I wandered over and found that the post was the broken end of a fifteen-foot branch that had evidently dropped straight down from the oak, buried (and I mean solidly buried) itself in the ground, and snapped off.  Loggers call these limbs widow makers for good reason.  I thanked my poor, overworked guardian angels that no animals, chickens, buildings, vehicles, or me was underneath when it fell.  Tree Guy hasn't come back.  I think I'll use the fallen branch to light a fire under his tail and get the oak over the barn taken down.  Goat kebabs are not on my menu.

I check the Blogspot statistics every day.  I find that since June (when the stats became available) I've got readers in twenty-five countries, including the U.S., recently picking up Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan.  I have no way of knowing the constitution of these readers.  They may be nationals interested in a very small slice of Americana, or like Cousin Mark, countrymen in foreign places finding The View a way to touch home.  Those readers in the States may live in big cities, finding amusement (I hope not derision) in a completely different lifestyle, or country women (or men) like myself, finding common threads.  There are between thirty and fifty "hits" a day, over forty-six hundred to date.  This contact, albeit anonymous, makes the world seem much smaller and a much friendlier place.  Thanks to everyone who takes the time to see The View From Farview Farm through my eyes.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ahhh, Yes

Just as a second pregnancy brings flashbacks of the prior labor, the first real storm of the year reminds one of last winter's trials and tribulations.  Slogging through the mud, slipping and sliding in the chicken pen, sitting in soggy bibbies to milk wet goats.  Ahhh,'s all coming back to me now.  The driving rain and roaring wind never let up all day.  Returning to the house, I couldn't have been wetter if I'd stood in the shower with my clothes on.  Even my socks were wet through my winter boots.  Mercifully, the power stayed on and everything could go right into the dryer.  I had turned the Silkies' crate so the rain wouldn't blow in, but the wind shifted and last night I found three wet hens under the stand and a lone egg sloshing around in the crate.  I retrieved the egg, dumped out the water, brought straw, put the littlest girls to bed, and made a lean-to of sorts to protect the door.  The goats had to be pushed outside in the morning and then nearly stampeded to get back in at night.  Long winter, wet spring, short summer, and winter's here again.  Oh, yes...I remember.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Dark & Stormy Night

The rain continued to fall, and the woman and her dog sat alone in the quiet house at night.  Suddenly, from out in the dark, there came a tapping at the window.  She had heard no car in the drive and no footsteps on the deck.  Before she could rise from her chair, the tapping came at a window in another room.  Hackles up, the dog ran to look.  Following and turning on the porch lights, the woman could see there was no one there, but the tapping continued....  And she laughed.

The rain had brought out the huge pine beetles again.  It's a once-a-year phenomenon.  I remember how really frightened I was the first year soon after we moved here when I heard those ghostly fingers tapping at the windows.  Steve was working nights and I was alone then, too. 

It wasn't until the predicted storm really hit last night and I had lit a fire in the wood stove that I remembered, with all my preparations, that I hadn't tarped the woodpile.  Hearing the wind rearrange the deck furniture long after I'd gone to bed, I had also forgotten to put that away.  Drat.  It takes only one foray out into the rain for Pearl to fall back into her "Fluff me now!" routine as she darts into the house.  Being a manly man, Frank prefers to roll on the floor and dry himself.  Bessie Anne waits until she's in the middle of the living room before shaking herself and then rubbing dry on any available furniture and/or the walls.  Oh, the joys of winter are coming.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pride Goeth

If it is true that 'pride goeth before a fall,' then the Silkies are getting a premature lesson in humility.  After some failed attempts to put a cover over their pen, I had to resort to putting their dog-crate coop into a large plastic trash bag and making it tight with duct tape...about the farthest imaginable from the Taj that they've been promised.  I'm not sure chickens understand forethought, but I did try to explain this was for their own good and would keep them dry in the coming storm.  The front of this cave is closed with an open grate, so they can still see out and get fresh air. 

In addition to taking all of the diaper wipes out of the bucket in the milking room, the squirrels have taken the plastic package wrappers.  I envision looking out on a rainy day and seeing squirrels in little blue plastic ponchos in the goat pen.  I can think of no other reason.

I let the gutters go in favor of mowing down the tall weeds in the back yard, and then starting the weedeater that Dave and Zach repaired and cutting down the majority of weeds in the garden before I ran out of steam.  It was all still dry; if left until later, it would become a sodden mass, and it was a chore that desperately needed doing.  I still need to put the covers over the "windows" in the goat barn...and maybe get to the gutters.  Or not.  It started misting as I was putting the kids to bed, and I know it rained some during the night.  I think we're just about ready.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Batten the Hatches!

The TV weathermen are predicting an inch or two of rain to fall on Sunday.  That's a bit of a dump after a dry spell.  My personal forecasters are in agreement, however, that we're going to be "for it" this winter.  I previously noted that diaper wipes were missing from the bucket in the milking the bucket is completely empty, including those I throw in every day, and there's not a wipe to be seen.  They've all been taken underground to line nests and burrows.  The neighborhood sounds like we've been invaded by an army of jackhammers.  Woodpeckers are hammering away in every nook and cranny, stuffing acorns in any available space.  Squirrels dart across the yard, mouths filled with grasses and cheeks crammed with seeds.  The TV weather guys have all sorts of scientific equipment for their assessment, but I trust the "locals" more.  I reread my personal journal from this time last year.  A big storm hit then, too, and we were twenty hours without power.  Yesterday I did all the laundry, checked to make sure the oil lamps were filled and the wicks trimmed, and took apart the woodstove and cleaned the catalytic converter and the glass front.  The rack on the front porch is filled with firewood.  Propitiously, I got a delivery of propane yesterday, so the cookstove is at the ready.  Today I'll clean the gutters and rig some sort of shelter for the Silkies' crate (until the Taj arrives).  Winter takes a little more preparation up here than just locating the umbrella.

When I awoke this morning, I was struck by the thought:  why is it so hard to sleep on a hot summer's night, and so comfy-cozy to burrow down into the warm blankets when it's cold outside?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Chicken at the Door

On a day when not much is going on, I can always count on the chickens to provide subject material.  This is one of a pair of hens who came calling, knocking politely on the front door.  Bess Anne has adopted a ho-hum attitude...I guess she's used to our visitors by now.  There's something about chickens that makes me think of fussy little old "club" ladies, fluffing their skirts, gossiping and chattering.  I made a tactical error awhile back and threw some wilted lettuce leaves down to the "ladies" from the deck.  Now whenever I step out the kitchen door, the hens come running with that funny chicken lope to stand below like Romeo under the balcony, waiting for a treat.  Obviously, I'm still trainable because, lacking anything else, I will toss down some frozen peas.  I just hate to see a disappointed chicken. 

October must be the start of turkey mating season.  The toms are beginning to strut their stuff, fanning their tails, getting red in the face, deepening their voices.  All this to impress the hens, who give the impression they couldn't care less.  Like kids at a junior high dance, the girls cluster together while the males posture on the other side of the gym, showing off, hoping the chosen girl will say yes.

Down in the valley, October brings fog.  Up here, we get early morning and evening ground mists that float through the trees, giving an other-world look to the hills across the way.  The moon is full now, and Frank stays out to do a little midnight hunting by its light.  He comes in as I'm getting up and sleeps all day.  Pearl forgoes the hunt for the comfort of a warm bed at night.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Deb and Craig are building a coop for the Silkies, the mini-chickens who now sleep in a dog crate.  Deb and Craig have a proprietary interest in these hens, as they rescued them as chicks, and want to see them well and happy.  Happy?  These chickens are going to be the envy of chickens everywhere when their new home is delivered.  I've been getting calls:  what are the measurements of the gate? can we get the top cover off? how close can we drive the truck? will you see if we can take the pen apart?  The project for shelter for three little chickens has taken on monumental proportions.  Deb and Craig are both perfectionists, and I knew it would be something beyond ordinary, but who would imagine a coop with a solar-powered fan?  I simply cannot wait to see it!  I just don't know how I'm going to explain to the other hens why they have to live in the equivalent of "the projects" and they accuse me of being a slum lord.

My son Larry took on the assignment of organizing the troops and deciding when we would celebrate Thanksgiving this year.  The actual date of a holiday has never mattered as much to my family as when it was most convenient to get everyone together.  Also, if I stay flexible, it allows those with in-laws and exes to join those with more traditional views and it's a win-win all around.  It takes a lot of pressure off working people, too.  We will be having Thanksgiving on the Saturday before the national holiday, which will give the others a chance to overdose on turkey the following week.  There've been times we didn't celebrate Christmas until January.  At one New Year's Eve party, everyone was fading about ten o'clock.  What the heck...we set the kitchen timer, did the traditional count down, and when it went off, did the kissy-kissy, hoisted the Champagne, Happy New Year! bit.  It was midnight somewhere and it worked for us.  It was such fun, we set the timer at least three times!  It isn't the when, it's who you're with. 

The holidays are starting, and the Silkie Taj is coming...I can't wait!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


There is something so homey about a cat on the windowsill.  I even like to see them in a stranger's house while driving by.  They just look peaceful and content.  Looks can be deceiving, however.  One never knows what cats are thinking.  For all I know, Pearl may be planning a coup to take over the household, or salivating while watching a particularly plump bird in the tree outside.  I prefer to think she is daydreaming pleasant thoughts and just watching the clouds drift by.

At daybreak today, as I was getting ready to take the trash to the big road, the Beastie Boys were making a kill down in my woods.  It's easy to follow the drama as it unfolds:  the pack in full voice as they close in, and the sudden silence when it's over.  There is a dichotomy of feelings:  pity for the prey, but gladness that the pack will feed. 

This is where I live.  It's home.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Four & Twenty

"Four and twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie...."  That childhood poem sprang to mind when I walked out to feed yesterday and was struck by a cacophony of chatter from all these birds.  The ones sharing breakfast with the little girls are in addition to those on the wires.  There were no blackbirds here the day before, and I don't know if they are moving in or moving through.  As well as the poem, they always make me think of the song associated with Isadora Duncan, "Bye-bye, Blackbird."

It threatened rain all day, but it wasn't until I was driving down to Fiddletown to attend a farewell party for friends that the clouds let go, and me without a coat.  Fiddletown is another small community, just over a couple of hills as the crow (or blackbird) flies, but it's a pretty circuitous route by road.  My friends are exchanging mountains for the coast of Baja.  They'll be missed.

Apropos of absolutely nothing, I have to mention the Minnesota Vikings-Dallas Cowboys football game of yesterday.  While I was delighted that the Vikings won, the last play by the Cowboys was classic...high school football at its best and will go down in the annals of the game.  I lost count of the number of times the ball was passed laterally, backwards and forwards...never say die!

Sunday, October 17, 2010


"Lord, give me patience...and I want it now!"  That's been my plea for years...right up there with wanting to be tall, thin, and have straight hair.  At this stage in life I realize I won't grow any more; I am preventing [more] wrinkles by plumping skin from the inside; having wash-and-wear hair has its advantages.  I'm still working on patience, and I'm about to have another lesson.  I've found another Tree Guy who is going to take down the big oak over the barn, probably next week.  He's got a great plan:  he's going to leave the five main branches on the massive trunk at about eight feet from the ground so they can be used as the base for a roof to shelter the girls until the trees I'll plant around the barn can grow to provide shade.  Fruitless mulberries are notoriously fast growing, as long as I can protect the roots from the ground squirrels and the trunks from the girls.  If I have any luck and a lot of patience, in about two years I should have shade again. 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Footsteps Behind Me

The morning routine is this:  after milking, I stop at the chicken pen to fill a bowl of milk for the little girls, then head for the house with Bess and the cats following, so I didn't think a thing about it when I heard the pitter-patter of little feet yesterday.  Carrying the two milk pails, I opened the screen door and headed into the kitchen.  And then I heard, "Brrrk, brrrk," in the dining room.  I saw Pearl, I saw Bessie Anne, and that sure wasn't Frank.
One of the barred rock hens was strolling around the dining room, looking for all the world like an invited guest, checking out the view and the bric-a-brac.  She made a tour of the kitchen before wandering into the breakfast room.  It appears she is checking out the wine rack.  "Hmmm, I think the white pairs well with chicken." 

It seems I'm destined to have a chicken in the house.  I will say that, before being ushered out, this little girl was very well behaved and there were no sploops left as a calling card. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Six Degrees

One more example of how small the world really is....  A friend from the valley wanted to meet for lunch.  "There must be some nice little restaurants near you."  Not so much.  I suggested meeting in Pleasant Valley at "Bones," a biker bar that has amazing hamburgers, and sent directions.  Even compared to Fair Play, Pleasant Valley still would not qualify as a town...which is what Mary was expecting, but it does have a landmark gas station.  Business was fairly slow as we sat at the bar and chatted.  During the course of the conversation, I mentioned the Dobermans that had been in the goat pen.  The bartender (bartenderess? bartenderette?), wiping glasses nearby, said, "Do you live somewhere around Winery-By-the-Creek?  Those were my friend's dogs and she had to pay a huge fine to get them out of the pound."  Yikes.  I didn't want to get eighty-sixed!  More patrons arrived and Mary and I were able to enjoy our meal.  Standing in the parking lot later saying goodbye, a woman followed us out and said, "I want to thank you for protecting my dogs.  I was so worried about them when they went missing and was so relieved when I got the call from Animal Control."  Given that I don't go out often, that I would choose that particular place, and don't find Dobermans in my yard all the time, what are the chances that the bartender would overhear our talk or that the owner would come into the bar that day?  I commend the owner for her responsible attitude, understanding that my concern was for the animals, hers as well as mine.

I used to laugh when someone would ask, "Where are you from?," when I lived in Southern California and I'd say, "Anaheim."  Then they'd say, "Oh!  Do you know So-and-So?"  (Anaheim is a huge city.)  Now I'm thinking that's not as might be possible.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Close Encounters

Last evening I had one of those close encounters of the worst kind.  Well, maybe not the worst for me, but pretty startling to see the last eighteen inches of a snake slithering down a mouse hole in Ruthie's stall at bedtime.  It was, for sure, going to be the worst for the mousie family living below.  And then at six-thirty this morning Bessie sounded the alarm and I went to the door and found two of my neighbor's dogs, Gigi and Lefty, on the front porch.  I called my neighbor this time, and this time only.  I have zero tolerance for these dogs who are part of the pack that has killed my chickens in the past.

Changing the subject, I tried something new for dinner last night.  Maybe I'm the last in the world to know about frying cauliflower, but dang that's good stuff!  I made a batter with flour, baking powder, salt, tumeric, curry powder, cayenne, and beer, dipped and fried cauliflower florets in a half-inch of oil until golden.  Crispy and flavorful on the outside, sweet and tender-crisp on the inside.  I was making up the recipe on the fly, so didn't write it down on paper, but have definitely filed it in the memory bank.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


The comments today require an "official" response, which I am more than pleased to provide. 

Wow, Linda...kind words from an avid reader of all genres, and as such are particularly appreciated.  When not much is going on here, I have to reach father afield to come up with something...anything...that might possibly be of interest.  Thanks for hanging with me.

Kathryn:  I hesitated to mention "Hell," which I have played countless hours with my mother, my sister, my Kids, my nephews and nieces from time immemorial.  A particular memory regarding this card game of double solitaire involves our moving into a new house in an upscale neighborhood when I was in my early teens. Our next-door neighbor had a maid, for crying out loud, and the mother wore matched sweater sets and nylons (those came before pantyhose) and a string of pearls...every day.  It was summer and all our windows were open, and Mother and I played Hell.  For those not familiar with the game, it is played very fast, and the first one to use all their cards is required to yell (and I do mean yell), "HELL!"  My mother was not surprised that she and Mrs. Woolston never became friends.  I'm sure Mrs. Woolston played bridge; Mother played poker.  We played Hell.

Story Time

Once upon a time, long, long ago, before there was television and video arcades and other electronic entertainments, people gathered together and played games.  I grew up in a family of inveterate, competitive gamers.  My dad's clan was from Texas, and their game of choice was dominoes.  They played Forty-Two, which needed a lot of dominoes and evidently required slamming the tiles onto the table.  (I've never found anyone today who knows how to play Forty-Two.)  The sound of dominoes being shuffled takes me right back to my Aunt Esta and Uncle Minyard's house.  Aunt Jimmy and Uncle Clyde were part of the poker-playing circuit.  Mother and Daddy had two sets of poker friends and each group met at one anothers' house a couple of times a month.  It irritated Steve no end that I can fall asleep anywhere, anytime, just by closing my eyes.  It probably comes from being taken to all those card games as a kid, falling asleep on strange beds, listening to the shuffle of cards and the clack of chips.  Most of the other couples were childless, but I loved to go to the Hatches where there were kids to play with...and they were allowed to bounce on their beds!  Mother was competitive to the nth degree.  She and I once played Tiddly-Winks all night long because she wasn't winning, and I was just a little girl!  Mother and my first mother-in-law didn't speak for years...until they discovered they both played Pinochle, and then they came for monthly card games at our house.  I learned to play cards as soon as I could hold a deck, and Mother was no quarter asked, no quarter given.  No concessions were given for age.  As I told Kathryn, my Kids learned nine-ten-jack-queen-king before they went to school.  My sister had seven Kids, I had four, and Mother would take on all comers, playing Gin and Five-hundred Rummy.  As she got older, she'd play with a Kid until they got good enough to beat her consistently, and then she'd quit that one and go on to a younger child.  She just hated to lose. 

Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  The cards will come out as soon as the clan arrives.  I can't wait!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Don't Smile

Mice and squirrels race for the safety of their burrows, and all it takes is a smile.  Because we humans smile to show pleasure and friendliness, it's easy to forget that animals consider a show of teeth as a threat or hostility.  My furry little companions in the barn, comfortable as they are in my presence, are still on high alert at all times for any sign of danger.  Working with animals requires a different mind set, one which sometimes goes against instinct.  It's important to move slowly and speak softly, even in a potentially dangerous situation.  Yelling can be interpreted as aggression and, at the very least, increases excitement.  Even mice dislike a direct look...not hard to understand when one remembers the mesmerizing stare of a cat on the hunt.  Dogs particularly consider prolonged eye contact as aggression.  When petting, it's best to reach under the chin first and not over the head.  Most predators (or human abusers) attack from above, and keeping the hands low reduces fear.  Because an animal's hide is so tough, it's easy to forget that their skin is sensitive enough to feel a fly land, so a slap must be painful.  Grazing animals' eyes are wide set in order to expand their field of vision, but they still cannot see behind themselves, so keeping a hand on their rump while passing behind lets them know where you are.  Goats are sensitive to touch and really prefer two hands on at all times...just one hand on the udder will start them dancing (and they're ticklish!).  I can't communicate my thoughts or intentions to the animals with words, so it's up to me to give cues that can be understood.  I don't have any scientific studies to back me, but I do spend a lot of time observing and trying to see the world through others' eyes.  While I am constantly amused by my little and not-so-little friends, I try not to show teeth.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Do A Little Dance

Poppy came to stand at the barn gate while I was preparing the nighttime feed dishes, hoping to mooch a few mouthfuls.  She knows I'm a soft touch where she's concerned.  She's such an Eeyore kind of girl, plodding stolidly through life.  Therefore it was a little alarming when, after getting one handful of grain, she started doing a little rumba or cha-cha with her hind legs and then ran off...a little like seeing Lady Liberty lift her skirts in a Can-Can.  Finishing the barn chores, I noted Poppy was once again her placid self.  What was that all about?!  Later in the day, while doing more weeding, I saw that the fire ants are coming to the surface, and that answered the question.  Once a year these red devils open their nests and boil out over the ground.  Their bite burns and stings and they hang on with a phenomenal grip.  One poor dog of mine came crying with an ant clamped to her nose, so I can easily understand why Poppy, who must have been standing over a nest, danced and ran. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010


It doesn't take millenia to change the topography of the earth.  In the thirteen years I've lived at Farview Farm, I've watched it happen in front of my eyes.  In one of the big, immovable granite boulders down in the south pasture, there is a V-shaped crack that was about a foot wide at the top.  Over the years, the crack has widened and the rocks have shifted until they are now a foot apart at the bottom.  Each spring, when the accumulation of leaves has been raked off the yards, huge piles have been hauled over to what had been a significant drop-off.  Those leaves have composted and compacted and been returned to earth and that hill is now a gentle slope.  Gophers, moles, voles, and ground squirrels tunnel under and soften the dirt, which creates "ankle-buster" holes and sunken areas.  Wild turkeys and free-range chickens scratch vigorously while searching for tidbits and redistribute dirt in the process.  In the goat pen, the girls have pawed out large depressions in which they lie, either to get protection from the wind or to cooler earth in summer.  The people who lived here first used bottles for target practice on the rocks in the pasture.  They also burned all their household trash in the middle of the front yard, including cans and bottles.  A car window was broken out and the glass left in the driveway.  I can't say how much of this detritus I've picked up, but each year I'd think, "Well, that's the last of it.  There can't be any more."  And yet, I'm still finding pieces of glass that have perked to the surface over time.  Just another example of how the earth is continually shifting.  The only change.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Precious Commodity

"Rock garden" is a misnomer.  There is an area in the front yard that I call my rock garden, and even defined it with edging.  I have planted pounds of flower seeds; eaten by the birds.  I have planted tons of bulbs and tubers; eaten by the gophers.  I have planted actual plants; eaten by the deer.  There is, in fact, an outcropping of grey granite boulders, but the only things that grow in that "garden" are weeds...tall, straggly, burr-covered weeds, now dead.  I've spent the last couple of days pulling out those weeds.  Weeding, like milking, gives the mind an opportunity to go free-wheeling....

My mother taught me about the Gift of Time, but not while she was alive.  She had said, "If I have any money to leave, I want you to use it to travel."  By today's standards, my inheritance was a pittance, but I made it stretch into a year.  I quit my job and took a year's worth of early retirement; time well spent.  I did go to Europe, and I did go to visit all those friends I had told for years that, "I'll come and see you if I ever have time."  I refinished furniture and made quilts and worked on other projects I hadn't had time for.  She and I had had a couple of really rocky years in the past, and I came to appreciate the fact that we'd had time to reconcile and enjoy each other before she died.  What she really gave me was not money; it was the Gift of Time.  The Kids lead such busy lives; whenever they come up, what I appreciate more than anything is their time.  It's the hours that Joel has given me when he mows down the fields that mean as much as the work.  In an economics class, I learned about opportunity cost...if you spend your money on this, you won't have it to spend on that.  The same applies to time...there are only so many hours in a day, and if you do this, you won't have time for that.  Time is a precious commodity, and when those you love, family and friends, give you time from their lives, it is a Gift from the heart.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Men In My Life

My knights rode up in a white truck, substituting horsepower for the hooves of a prancing charger.  Dave and Zach unloaded the weedeater that they had taken and repaired.  As if that weren't enough to earn my gratitude, they immediately fired up the splitter and set about reducing the log pile to firewood.  The guys were dressed for the sunny weather they'd left down in the valley and weren't prepared for the overcast sky and chill wind, but the activity kept them warm.  However, I think they were glad when it started spitting rain and they could call it quits and come into the house.  I had just taken the brownies out of the oven, and Blackstone could not have made them disappear any quicker than Dave and Zach! 

While I was preparing an early dinner, Dishwasher Guy finally came...timing off, as to be expected.  He was here while I cooked dinner (working around him and his array of tools), the guys ate dinner, and quite awhile after dinner.  He replaced a small part and found a kinked line.  Go figure.  I'm just glad I had insurance and wasn't paying by the hour.

On Zach's first visit, he didn't have time to really see the property, and while we were taking the Grand Tour after dinner in the late afternoon sunshine that had broken through, the tom turkeys paraded by and the chickens along came for a stroll, chattering all the while.  Any time spent with my Kids is prime time, and I so enjoyed Dave's company.  When it was time for them to leave, Zach told Dave, "You go.  I want to stay."  That filled my heart.  Gotta love the men in my life.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

More Visitors

It was business as usual.  Feed and water the hens, let them out of their coops.  Haul alfalfa down to the goats...wait!  It took me a second to process the fact that those pacing creatures in the goat pen were a pair of Doberman pinschers, inside the fence line.  Call me chicken, but I saw "Reservoir Dogs" and I wasn't about to go into the pen with these animals.  The hens were free ranging and Bess was at my side, so I couldn't let the Dobies out, and there was no way to let the goats free.  Aren't I glad I spend the time to tuck all animals in at night?  Having jumped the fence to get in to the goats, the hot wire kept the dogs from jumping out.  I ran to get the phone and the camera, and called Animal Control.  In the meantime, the black-and-tan girl (they were both females) had dug her way into Joel and Judy's vineyard.  Of course, she was the one with the collar and tags.  After a short rest, she took off.  The red cried and paced, wanting to go with her friend, but stayed in the pen until Animal Control Gal came.  I wasn't the only one who was nervous about getting this heavily muscled dog into the truck, but there were no problems at all.  As Animal Control Gal said, "I'm all about the treats," and had pocketsful to gain cooperation (although she did wisely muzzle Red before lifting her into the cage).  Bessie Anne said she'd get in the truck, too, if that's all it took to get some goodies.  AC Gal doled out a few just because Bessie was "screaming cute."  Black-and-tan came back to the fence line just as AC Gal was ready to leave, and was so glad to be back with her friend, almost ran to the truck.  She not only had a collar, she was microchipped so her family could be found right away.  All the while this drama was unfolding, the goats, who normally holler at the top of their lungs whenever they see me, were keeping a very low profile and didn't make a peep.  They may not be the sharpest pencils in the box, but they recognize danger. 

This unexpected turn of events put me way behind schedule, and I was late getting to my friend Arden's for lunch.  Arden, like my daughter, belongs to the Martha Stewart school of presentation, and she makes the most delicious soups and salads.  Both offerings were chock full of fresh ingredients, and I felt healthier just looking at them and so satisfied after eating.  We may be at opposite political poles, but long ago we agreed to disagree, resulting in interesting, stimulating conversation, and it was the most pleasant way to share an afternoon.

More company is due today.  Dave and Zach are coming up!  Now these are two "big dogs" I will be happy to see.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Unexpected Guests

The first unannounced arrival was Valentine, my neighbor's donkey, who either jumped the fence or came through a bent gate.  I discovered her out behind the garden on my way to milk, and so could only leave a phone message that Valentine had come calling.  That's not being a good hostess, but I didn't have time to break out the cookies and milk just then.  Valentine would have to learn that at this time of year, the grass isn't greener anywhere.  (Owner later retrieved escapee and fixed gate.)

The next guests to arrive in the afternoon were these two Rhodies, politely knocking on the doors to the breakfast room after getting no response at the dining room doors.  It's very strange to hear knocking, go to the door and find no one there...until you look down to your feet.  Perhaps they'd heard there was a vacancy in the laundry room, or that there might be corn on the evening's menu.  To get here, these little girls had to come all the way around the house on the deck.  Pretty adventuresome, I think.  Since I didn't invite them in (what can I say?), they took the fast way out and leaped off the deck and fluttered to the ground.

Joel did a drive-by later and brought some of his home-canned fruits and tomatoes.  He makes the best applesauce!  (Joel did come in.)

With all this company, it's a good thing I dusted!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It's About Esther

Esther seem to be suffering from either presenile dementia or just short-term memory loss, or it could be that she's pulling a scam to get seconds.  She normally comes fourth in line to be fed (she's not a milker), but lately she's been taking cuts and coming to the door in second or third place.  That's not the problem.  It's the fact that she then comes back again and again.  I explain, "Esther, you've already had your breakfast."  "I have?  I don't remember that."  "Esther, you're still burping cereal!"  "But it's my turn!  I'm sure of it.  I always follow Sheila."  "Yes, but today you came in right after Lucy.  Remember that?"  "No, I don't!  And I want my breakfast!  Let me in!"  It's very difficult to argue with a single-minded goat.

It's spitting rain this morning; enough to need the wipers when I took the trash down to the big road.  This cooler weather has me re-energized and I've been taking care of some of those chores that were so easy to put off during the heat.  All the critters are in bed by seven now, and I'm relearning how to cope with the long evenings. 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Yuki Goes Punk

There never was a more pitiful-looking, bedraggled chicken than Yuki yesterday morning.  She'd gotten wet from the rain and her fluffy topknot stood up in punk-rocker spikes; discolored, to boot.  Because she was so dusty to begin with, her white feathers were dirty brown.  Satomi and Keiko evidently kept their heads under their wings (or under Yuki) and were not nearly so disheveled.  Because it is going to be the base for the Chicken Taj Mahal that Craig is building, I dragged an old milking stand into the Silkie pen to give the little girls a place to get under cover.  And it was just in time, because the earlier light rain became a downpour while I was milking (me without a hat or jacket). 

The rain stopped and the sun came out later on.  After the race, it was absolutely mandatory to go spend some time outside.  All the trees and the truck were washed clean, there was no more dust, and the air was perfumed by the pines.  The free-rangers were ecstatic, scratching in the damp earth for bugs brought to the surface.  The shower did wonders for Yuki, pristine and fluffy again.  Searching for any reason to stay outdoors, I cleaned up accumulated odds and ends out on the west point and the dead bracken under the front live oak.  In amongst the log rounds waiting to be split, I found quite a lot of firewood-sized pieces, pulled them out and stacked them for winter.  I also found the abandoned, intact shed skins of several lizards; somewhat startling until I see that they are not inhabited.  In the past, I've discovered hibernating reason I will not go out to the woodpile after dark. 

Last night another cell passed over, lightning waking Bess and me, shaking the house with thunder.  It's just light enough to see that there are still black clouds over the mountains to the east, and there is a thick, dark cloud cover over the valley to the west.  If Yuki goes for the punk look today, at least she'll be clean.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

It's Raining!

I awoke to the welcome sound of rain this morning, and it's been falling steadily for several hours now.  This is a perfect first rain...not too hard, but certainly enough to wash off the truck and even settle the thick dust.  Last evening I startled a jackrabbit out in the open (thankfully Bessie was occupied elsewhere), and it left a trail of ever-present dust in the still air as it raced for cover.  I'm trying to think of a way to give the Silkies some protection in their pen; this is the first rain they'll have seen.  I suppose they can just duck into their little house for now (if they've got enough sense).  One of the squirrel engineers down at the barn has not shown a lot of forethought.  A major tunnel entrance is right in front of the door to the sleeping room, and precisely in the path of the runoff when it rains.  Even the diaper-wipe blankets will not keep the family dry in that case.  On the other hand, the hole might act as a drain and divert the water from going into the bedroom...and that's a good thing.  I don't know what effect the rain will have on the grape harvest.  I realize full well that I did a lot of complaining about rain at the beginning of the year, but that was about too much rain for too long.  All things in moderation (in a perfect world).

Fresh homemade pasta is addicting.  It's not just the taste and texture that appeals; the process is amazing.  It's very similar to making bread, in that the dough becomes silky and satiny...very sensuous.  Unlike bread making, which takes a long time, pasta happens almost instantly.  The recipe I've had the best results with calls for five eggs, so the pasta is very rich and flavorful.  Yesterday I took half a batch of pasta and a pound of chevre cheese to barter with Kim at dkcellars for a bottle of her Meritage red wine.  Heck of a deal!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Sailors' Delight

I don't know how much credence to put in the saying, "Red sky at night, sailors' delight," but if it's true, there have to be a lot of happy seamen today.  The cloud cover that came over in the late afternoon only made it humid, but it made for a spectacular sunset. 

I know the cats are happy.  Years ago, Steve's mom and dad brought us back sheepskin rugs from a trip to Australia.  I threw them in the washing machine yesterday and dried them on the line, and Frank and Pearl went into throes of ecstasy when I put the fluffy white skins back on the bathroom floor. 

I'm happy, too.  Cooler...much is predicted for this week.  My gosh, it's October already. 

Friday, October 1, 2010


And the subject is...stinkbugs!  Outnumbering the mice and squirrels in the barn, these inch-long, shiny black beetles move slowly like tiny robots going about their business, whatever that might be.  I have a feeling they're some kind of dung beetle, although I've never actually seen them do anything with the "product."  When threatened, they hike their back end up as if aiming, and perhaps they do emit some stinky chemical because the birds back off. 

Yesterday was a red-letter day in the Silkie pen.  I picked up one egg in the morning and another at night, so at least two of these mini-chickens are girls.  I have two...can I hear three?  Maybe they're just late bloomers.

For the third appointment, I again waited for Dishwasher Guy, and after the mandatory four-hour wait (stuck in the house by the phone) was again told he couldn't make it.  Aaargh.  DW Guy said he can't come now until the seventh.  He did promise me he'd have the dishwasher fixed by Thanksgiving.  What a relief!  I might get a little tight-jawed, but am truly grateful it's the dishwasher and not the toilet.

Temperatures dropped from one-hundred four to one hundred yesterday.  While it seems impossible, those four degrees actually felt cooler.  Not cool, but cooler.  Take what you get and be glad that you got it.