Thursday, March 31, 2011

There's a Limit

I've arbitrarily refused to sell goats in the past when the buyer didn't meet my standards.  Forgiving two prior no-shows, I worked extra hard in the barn and spiffed up the house because the woman who'd said she definitely wanted Nineteen was coming yesterday.  I had geared myself emotionally to let my boy go; this woman talked a good talk, and we'd spoken about her taking Tessie's kids after weaning.  And I waited.  And waited.  Two and one-half hours after our appointment time, I called and told her I'd save her the trip out.  I might be cranky, but Nineteen is too sweet to go to someone so irresponsible.  There's a limit.

Having pretty much shot the day, in late afternoon Bess, the cats and I walked down into the south pasture to sit on the grinding rock and enjoy the sunshine.  Bessie Anne cocked an ear to the new neighbors across the road, Pearl checked out some ground squirrel burrows, and Frank just sat beside me getting his ears rubbed.  Suddenly, from behind, we were joined by a new companion.  This lizard ran across my lap and down my pants leg, turned to a better vantage point, and we looked at each other. 
I talked to my new friend, I moved to more comfortable positions, I took pictures.  Other than moving to the other, sunnier leg, Lizard stayed put.  We sat together for more than a half-hour, and I was beginning to wonder if I was going to have to invite him in for dinner.  Mice, squirrels, turkeys, chickens, goats, sheep, dog, and cats.  What next?  Come on, there's a limit!  Finally Lizard abandoned me with a flick of his tail as I stood up to go back to the house. 

On those days when I think there's nothing to write about, something always turns up.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Just Look

"Well, just look what the sun brought out!"  Finishing the barn chores, I looked up yesterday to see Fence Guy and Number Three son (I sound like Charlie Chan) unloading tools from their truck.  The still-wet ground was just right for setting the corner posts in concrete.  I did mention to Fence Guy that the firewood on my porch was a rescue gift from my neighbor, and asked if there was a possibility he might get around to splitting the rest of the barn oak rounds soon.  Leaving Son to set the posts, Fence Guy (putting on his Tree Guy hat) checked the splitter.  Of course, in the way of all things mechanical, the splitter would not start.  That's not technically would start, but would not thereafter run.  I'll give Tree Guy credit for giving it the old college try; he checked everything that could be checked and pulled that starter rope until I (and he) thought his arm would fall off.  Evidently Number Two son is the family mechanic, and the splitter will have to wait until he gets a day off from his day job.  At least it's back on the To-Do list.

I am the official Fetch-It person for tools, etc., some of which are in the barn and some in the house.  After the men left, I took a breather on the deck, and saw that the sun had also brought out a few bees, a good sign, and some wasps, not so welcome.  The big ring-tail doves have joined the crowd under the feeding oak.  Their call is much different than the mourning doves'.  Quail are out in greater numbers, crying frantically for Rod-RI-go again.  The time change was almost unnoticeable during the rainy days, and it was a surprise to find that sundown isn't until almost seven-thirty now.  It's time to take down the barriers in the Taj and give the chicks some freedom.  If chasing down one escapee was funny, trying to capture three of the speedy little boogers last night had me nearly hysterical.  The nanny hens and Musashi were dithering around, getting in the way, and didn't settle down until I finally plopped the last chick into the house.  The free-ranging hens have remembered the bedtime routine and come running up the slope or creeping out from under the barn when I rattle the grain bucket and they parade into their house for the night.  Walking down to the goat pen, the evening was filled with the sound of the frog chorus tuning up for the symphony of spring.  It isn't just the turkeys whose thoughts have turned to love in the sunshine.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Turkey Trot

He was on my side of the fence, she was in J&J vineyard.  That didn't stop his courtship dance, and this boy was dressed for success.  (How those bronze feathers gleam in the sunshine!)  Gobbling loudly to get her attention, he then shook that fan in a way that would put Sally Rand to shame, and "whumped" the ground with his wings.  On my way to the barn, I didn't see if one or the other jumped the fence.
Barn chores were done in record time, as the girls were as anxious to get out in the sunshine as I after what seemed like interminable days of rain and gloom.  As each one finished her breakfast, she found a place to lie down and soak in the warmth.  Poppy did a good job on her beached-whale impression.

While milking Cindy, I heard the loud turkey equivalent of, "Fight!  Fight!"  Looking up the hill, at first I couldn't figure out what I was seeing.  These two toms were engaged in battle...but in the strangest way.  It appears that it was a test of strength with necks entwined rather than an attempt to do damage, and they circled left and right in a graceful pas de deux, never separating.  Each combatant had a "second," and, like corner men at a boxing match, they yelled encouragement and possibly instructions.  This fight lasted while I milked three goats, and I could hear it go on even after they'd gone over the crest of the hill.  This was "boys only," as there were no hens nearby. 

Sometimes I feel that I'm turning the pages of a living National Geographic...the things I've seen here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Blue Monday

Drat!  I was promised sunshine today, and it's just as grey and gloomy this morning as it was yesterday.  The rain did hold off until after dark, and I do appreciate that small favor.  Like a small kid who's been promised a trip to the ice cream shop and didn't get to go, I feel like kicking my heels and sulking.  Ah well, it's early yet, and perhaps it's another lesson in patience (of which I'm in short supply).

All day yesterday I revelled in flipping switches and pushing buttons and actually getting a response from the appliances.  I watched NASCAR, finished the aioli, and vacuumed the carpets.  I've been working at perfecting risotto, and needed the oven to caramelize the butternut squash.  My criteria for a successful recipe is, "Would I pay for this in a restaurant?" (if I ever went to a restaurant).  The answer to last night's attempt would have been a resounding, "Yes!"  I wish I'd written down the ingredients used, as I was cooking without a recipe.  Gosh, it was good.

While in the kitchen, I glanced out the window and was startled to see three tom turkeys, tails spread and feathers fluffed, come strutting together down the walkway to the front door.  I thought, "Good grief, I'm not prepared for gentlemen callers."  (Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie.)  I needn't have worried as they made an abrupt turn and headed for the feeding oak.  These boys had just dressed early in their finery to make a grand entrance to impress the hens who were already under the tree. 

Once again, I think I have a buyer for Nineteen.  It's very hard to think of letting him go, especially after his compassion when Lucy was down.  He is such a sweet boy.  Economics and good sense tell me that I must thin the herd, but my heart tells me I'm going to miss him terribly, and I know it will be the same for Tessie.  Lucy has a strong relationship with a particular drum-beating bunny...she just keeps going and going and going.  There are days I am sure it will be her last, but she greets me again in the morning, asking for her bowl of cereal, so we just muddle along together.

Ohmigosh!  Can it be?  The sun is rising and it's pushing the cloud cover aside.  Maybe it will be a blue-sky day after all!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Quiet Day

The freezer in the laundry room makes a mechanical kind of gurgle and hum.  The ice-maker in the kitchen drops a few cubes and then refills its water supply.  A log in the wood stove settles into the coals.  These ambient sounds are mostly ignored in the course of a normal day, but when the power goes out as it did yesterday, there are few to no house sounds at all.  There is little traffic on our road, and so few planes pass over, it is cause to look up.  Months can go by without hearing a police, fire, or ambulance siren.  Up here, when the power goes out, it isn't just's silent.  Five hours of silence on a grey, wintry day is lonely.  Everything I could think of to fill the time (and one never knows how long that time will be) required electricity.  Can't bake bread, can't vacuum the carpet, can't cook anything that needs water, can't use the computer, and for once I'd already dusted.  Hmmm.  When everything stopped a little after noon, I was starting the process of making aioli and had just peeled and crushed twelve cloves of garlic; not the best time to be without water to wash up.  This was going to be a quick recipe with the food processor before delivering goat cheese to a first-time customer and then going to the feed store.  I'm sure I made a lasting impression, reeking of garlic as I was.  As darkness approached, popcorn seemed to be the best choice for dinner.  It didn't need water, and wouldn't require lengthy cooking by candle light.  The propane stove top functions during an outage as long as I have matches to fire it up, as the electric starter, of course, doesn't work.  Dark evenings stretch out forever, and I was so grateful when the beeps and growls of the appliances announced Power On! at five-thirty.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

They're Back

It's hard to describe the feeling of a heart that sinks and races at the same time, but that's what happened yesterday when I saw my neighbor's dogs coming up the drive when it was light enough to see.  Thankfully, all my animals were still tucked in safely.  Hoping to pass on some of the kindness I had received the day before, I called my neighbor instead of Animal Control.  I found her explanation of "someone must have left the kitchen door open last night" strangely unsatisfying, given that there were six inches of snow on the ground.  Going out later, tracks showed that the dogs had been all around on the deck, had tag-teamed and killed a rabbit by the drive, and had dug four or five pits while going after ground squirrels, one right by the goat pen.  Just what I need, more ankle-busters.  Having had such a wonderful outing, those dogs are going to be anxious for a repeat performance.  "We're doing all we can," obviously isn't working.  I just hate the need to be hypervigilant in my peaceable kingdom.

Continuing yesterday's black-and-white theme, Cindy posed in the snow, giving her opinion of the situation by sticking out her tongue.  My sentiments exactly.  The temperature soared into the forties and by afternoon most of the snow had melted away.  I can hear rain hitting the windows this morning, without the howling winds of the previous storms.  Parts of the barn are simply awash and there's nothing I can do about it.  Weather Guy has promised sunshine by early next week, but he may be trying to forestall a riot with those golden words.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Black and White World

I'd been feeling very much like Bob Cratchit, asking for just one more lump of coal.  My supply of split wood for the stove was dwindling fast and I've been very frugal with the fire.  Rain was pounding down in sheets and the wind blew hard enough to rattle the chimney pipe yesterday morning.  Dan Rowen and Dick Martin on Laugh In used to hand out the Fickle Finger of Fate.  I was apologizing to the girls in the barn for the Frigid Fingers of Farview.  Judy and I were commiserating about the thoroughly nasty weather in the afternoon, and I mentioned I was down to maybe two more little red wagons' worth of firewood.
The epitome of the adage "A friend in need is a friend, indeed," Joel drove up a couple of hours later with three of his crew and a pickup load of wood.  It was freezing cold, the wind blew Joel's hat off, and those guys were moving fast.  In what seemed like no time at all, my porch was stacked high with wood, and I stoked the fire high.  For the first time in days, I was able to take off my jacket in the house.  How do you say thank you enough for such an act of kindness?
Just as it was time to go down and put the big girls to bed (the chickens had been cooped all day), it started snowing, and it was coming down hard and fast.  I reluctantly geared up, thinking that I should have raised hamsters (difficult to milk, but at least they live indoors), and headed out the door.  A flock of miserable turkeys was clustered under the feeding oak, trying to find a few leftovers from breakfast.  Taking pity, I threw out a scoop of feed and went on down to the goat pen, where I had to scrape a layer of snow off Poppy as she went into her room.  Goats shake off water just like big, overgrown dogs, and each one gave me a shower as they passed by.  Goody.

Back in the (warm) house, I glanced out and saw that in the thirty minutes or so since the first flakes fell, the turkeys were coated in snow as they ate dinner.  As I was taking their picture, quail came up from the woods to join in the feast.  If it weren't for the one or two red turkey heads, these look like black-and-white photos.  Within an hour, the satellite dishes went out, and the snow kept coming.  By dark, I'd measured over four inches.  The power stayed on until ten o'clock.  Like Mrs. Danvers, I drifted through the house with an oil lamp held high as Bessie Anne, the cats, and I made our way to bed.  How nice to see the blinking clock this morning.  I have so much for which to be grateful.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cabin Fever

Frank and Pearl are on a rampage.  Today's storm is predicted to be worse than yesterday, and even at this early hour, the cats are racing up and down the hall, up and down the stairs, and ambushing each other around every corner.  They made a quick trip outside while my coffee was perking, and wanted right back in.  They hold wrestling matches, which Pearl usually wins, in the living room.  If they could people speak, they'd be saying, "We're bored.  There's nothing to do.  We're b-o-r-e-d!"  Thank goodness they can amuse each other. 

Cabin fever has also hit the Silkie coop.  It was a good thing the rain let up a little yesterday afternoon, because one of the striped chicks jumped ship and was being protected in the yard by a bedraggled nanny who seemed very glad to see me last night.  If chasing a faster-than-lightning chick was funny when it was dry, it was downright ludicrous in the wet pen.  I was slipping and sliding, the chick was yeeping loudly, the hens and Musashi were cheering from the bleachers (I don't know which side they were on), and we could probably sign this act with Barnum and Bailey.  I'd filled the holes that would have allowed the chick to get under the Taj, but there's a narrow gap between the house and the fence and, of course, that's where Chick would run.  I'd go to one side.  Chick would go to the other.  We played this game for a bit, until Chick finally made a break for it and I was able to corner the little one and tuck her/him in with the others.

Bessie Anne is perfectly willing to be a couch potato as long as she can curl up on my lap.  It's a day-long struggle to keep the fire going, as all the wood is damp or soaked, so she opts for the warmest place she can find.  Bess is a fifty-pound lump, and she moves aside begrudgingly when I need to get up.

I'm not going to address the goats and Poppy.  They let their feelings on the subject be known at every opportunity.

We will all be so glad to see a sunny day.  It's the only cure for what ails us.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


"Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy."  Lyrics from a John Denver song were in my head yesterday as we got the promised break in between storms.  Yes, the wind and rain are back today, but I'm trying to hold on to the memory of sunshine.  That, of course, brings up an old movie from the seventies, "Sunshine," a real tear-jerker starring Cliff DeYoung.  You never know where the rails will lead when you get on a train of thought.

Even though the sun was playing peekaboo in the clouds, Bessie and I were desperate to be outside so we took a walk down into the south field yesterday afternoon.  Steve's new tree has been well watered without any help from me.  One advantage of the new fence line (when it's finished) will be that I'll be able to see the goats in the extended pasture from the house.  The grinding rock in the middle of the field has always been a great place to sit and contemplate nature (or your navel, depending), and now it will be just at the edge of the fence line and will be a great place to sit and watch the goats.  They love to have company, walking along the fence and hoping for a handout.  They have Joel well trained.  They run to the corner whenever he's out in his vineyard, and he'll even stop his tractor to get off and throw over a handful of grape leaves or a bunch of weeds.

The damned wind has me going from window to window, checking for downed trees.  There is a row of tall pines in my section of woods, and they are dancing a graceful arboreal ballet.  It would be beautiful if it were not so worrisome as they bend and bow their heads.  The forsythia just outside on the deck must have blossoms stuck on with super glue as not one blows off as the branches shiver and shake in the wind.  The flowering plums and peaches are not so lucky, and the ground underneath is littered with pink and white petals.  If Nature's intent is procreation, her timing is really off in March.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Gimme a Break

A small victory, but mine own...I beat Trash Guy to the corner this morning!  And I remembered the bag of recyclables, and I left the tailgate of the truck open on the way back to let the inches-deep accumulation of rain and leaves drain out.  Even though the mailbox was frozen shut and the wipers had to work through the slush on the windshield, it was not raining and I will take every good thing that comes my way and give thanks.  There were a few, brief moments of sunshine yesterday, just long enough for my friend to come for her week's supply of milk without getting drenched; another triumph.  Last night's hail is still thick on the deck, a pretty good indicator of the temperature outside.  Weather Guy tells me the next storm isn't due until tomorrow, and that in itself is cause for celebration.  I am so ready for a break.  I know I'm a contender for the Whine of the Week Award, and I may even win!

Yesterday was a great day to stay in (not much choice there) and watch old movies.  "Journey for Margaret" with Margaret O'Brien, Robert Young, and Laraine Day; "Kings Row" with Ronald Reagan (in his best, if not only, real acting role), Robert Cummings, and Ann Sheridan.  Reagan used a line from "Kings Row" for the title of his autobiography, "Where's the Rest of Me?"  To assuage my guilt for an otherwise do-nothing day, I dusted the living room. 

The rain gods may be just resting up for their next assault, but the skies are almost clear this morning.  I'm going to enjoy this break while I've got it!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dodged the Snowball

It was a miserable day, weatherwise, but the predicted snow storm fizzled out and there were just a few flurries.  The wood stove struggled unsuccessfully to warm the house.  It didn't help that the wind had blown rain up onto the porch wood pile and I was drying chunks of wood in front of what little fire I could get going so I could keep the stove stoked.  The morning routine was a disaster.  The rain pounding on the metal roof had the girls spooked.  They all wanted into the milking room at the same time, and no one wanted to go outside.  Poppy, in her wool overcoat, ignored the weather and waddled up the slope to enjoy a peaceful breakfast all alone.  I opened up a gated area of the barn for additional shelter for the goats, left Lucy shut in her room (thinking it would be better for her to be thirsty than drowned, if she were to go down again outside), and kept the chickens cooped all day.

In the afternoon, I got one of those phone calls.  "You don't know me, but do you have any goat milk now?"  This lady raises beef cattle, and a calf was born outside during the last snow storm.  Range cattle tend to drop their calves in any out of the way place, trying to protect them from predators, but that makes it difficult for the rancher to help in case of a problem.  This little one was already in trouble when found and brought into the kitchen to warm up.  Range cattle do not take kindly to milking, even with the best intentions.  A newborn calf in the house is one thing.  Bringing in a full-grown cow is quite another, so the woman was looking for a substitute.  Dave at Mt. Aukum store had given her my number.  She left here with a gallon of milk, but called later in the evening to tell me the calf had succumbed before she could get back home.  I could only commiserate.  We try so hard.

In need of some comfort myself, it was a perfect night to make white chili with chicken, cannellini, hominy, lots of spices, herbs and green chiles, and sour cream.  It's raining again this morning, but the wind has died down.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sorry, Moon

Last night was the night of the Super Moon.  We here in Fair Play missed the show, and it wouldn't be surprising if the winds and rain that blew all night didn't throw the moon out of its orbit entirely.  "In like a lion, out like a lamb" is a bunch of bunk.  March 2011 came in with a bad attitude and it looks like she's going out the same way.  Last night was a real howler, and it's still raining this morning, although the wind seems to have abated somewhat at the moment.  The local (Sacramento) news was full of wind warnings and pictures of cars being moved around like Tinker Toys on the wet roads, with gusts up to and over fifty miles an hour and rain falling at two inches an hour in some areas.  There is a lot of flooding down in Sacramento.  Once again I am anxious for daylight to see if my trees sustained any damage.  I am grateful that we still have far, so good.  Watching the news right now (6:30 a.m.) is not reassuring, and if the snow that is predicted for our area comes, it will be a white-out blizzard.  This is one of those days I'll keep the chickens in their coops and leave the barn door chained open for the's that bad. 

On my last trip to town, I was looking everywhere to see if the dogwoods had bloomed.  Word has it that we get one more snow after those trees flower (and it's been proved true in the past), but no such luck last week.  My forsythia is a bright bouquet of yellow, but that plant evidently holds no forecasting power up here. 

I try very hard not to worry too much about those things over which I have no control, but the weather is certainly a cause for concern today.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Curve Ball

You've got to hand it to the old girl; Nature throws a mean curve ball.  The day before, Poppy and the goats were laid out in the sun, soaking up the rays.  Yesterday morning was windy and rainy, and then the snow came in the afternoon, and it came fast and furious.  (But isn't it beautiful?)  Nature also has unerring aim.  It takes a special talent to drop a load of snow from a branch and hit that single spot between your collar and your neck.  Putting the big girls to bed, they were soaked...period. 
Five of the free-range chickens had sought shelter under the barn.  I opened the gate to their pen and called them over.  "We can't!  It's too deep and we're too widdle!  Help us!"  We're talking all of five feet here.  They stood clustered under the eave and dithered like chickens do until I went over and ferried them, one at a time, to their coop.  I must have missed that chore in the fine print in my contract. 

I hope this storm that is still raging this morning blows over by tonight.  The moon is full and will be the closest to earth in its orbit in the last decade, and will appear larger than normal.  I'd like to see that.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Farview Fish and Whale

Sometimes I think Pearl is demented.  Normally a rather sedate cat, when we are outside together, she has had a habit since kittenhood of running in front of me, throwing herself on the ground and flopping around like a fish out of water...a catfish!  I have no idea of the purpose of this writhing and twisting, but it cracks me up just the same.  On our way to do chores or just going for a walk, she repeats this maneuver again and again.  She never does this in the house.  It isn't that she wants to be petted, the way a dog will turn belly up for a tummy rub.  Who knows what cats think.

I'd wanted to get a picture of Poppy yesterday, but she raised her head at the last moment and ruined the effect.  Poppy is a sheep of generous proportions, and when she lies flat out she looks just like a beached whale in the pen.  One doesn't expect these piscatorial references on a farm (unless it's a fish farm).

Both cats usually go out after dinner for a nightly foray and come in when I call them at bedtime.  Pearl dutifully came when called last night, but Frank was a no-show.  The temperature had dropped again and I knew another storm was due, so I dawdled around, opening the door periodically and calling his name.  One starts to worry about an encounter with a predatory night creature.  If Pearl knew where her brother was, she wasn't telling.  About the time I was ready to give up, Frank appeared on the porch.  My concern had evidently been transmitted to Bessie Anne, who had to sniff and lick him all over as soon as he stepped into the house.  Once she determined he was alright, we could all troop off to bed.  And so ended a rather uneventful day at Farview.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Arbor Day

No, I'm not confused...I know it's St. Patrick's Day, but I will be planting a tree today.  I could just as easily have called this Memorial Day, because I like to plant a tree in memory of a loved one.  I went to town yesterday and bought a fruited mulberry for Steve.  The trees I've planted for him previously suffered and succumbed to either drought or deer, but I am determined.  I like the idea of a tree that will not only provide shade, but also fruit to feed the birds (and maybe me, too, if they save me a few).  Given our weather of late, with more rain predicted for tomorrow, drought appears not to be a problem in the near future.  Better fencing should take care of the deer.  To me, a tree is a more fitting memorial than a headstone.

Sarah and her daughters came by for milk yesterday.  You've got to love a three-year-old who starts a sentence with, "A couple of days ago...."  That's big talk for a little kid.  Sarah and her husband are attempting full-time farming, and they put a lot of time and money into growing organic products, animal and vegetable.  In order to certify "organic," they not only have to not introduce pesticides and chemicals themselves into their product, they have to be able to provenance the feed for their chickens and pigs, etc., has been grown chemical free.  She is well aware of the problems that Monsanto is causing with the genetically altered corn because they are suffering the trickle effect of trying to find untreated corn.  Monsanto is a juggernaut, rolling over small farmers who refuse to buy their seed.  Clothianidin from Bayer was something new for her to worry about.  I just did a little more Googling on this, and find it abhorrent that Bayer has accused farmers of causing the bee problem because of incorrect application of the pesticide, and then offered reimbursement to the bee keepers.  Money cannot replace bees, for Pete's sake! 

Same subject, different tack:  were it not for Joel, I would not have had a watermelon last year.  In the grocery store, I could find nothing but tasteless seedless watermelons, and wouldn't waste my money.  Joel grew his own (from and with seeds), and they were so sweet and refreshing on a hot day.  My dad's dad had been a sharecropper in Texas, and Daddy would tell of growing so many watermelons that they would go into the field, break open a melon to eat just the heart, leaving the seeds to go back into the ground.  Daddy thought that California melons were wimpy...the really good, big melons came from Texas and were what he called "rattlesnake" melons (with stripes).  To prove his point, he made a trip back to Texas and came home with just two melons that completely filled the trunk of his car.  Like Crocodile Dundee, "Now that's a melon!"  And what kid from my generation didn't have a seed-spitting contest?  It is such a pity that future generations will accept insipid tomatoes as a fact of life, when home-grown are so delicious.  I've done so much prep work in the garden, and I've got my dander up now...I will plant my heirloom seeds this year.  In years past, Steve could hardly wait for the first tomato to ripen so he could have a BLT.  I will admit that, with the tomatoes from Joel's garden, I've skipped the bacon and lettuce, and made sandwiches with toast, mayo, and those wonderful, flavorful, juice-dripping tomatoes. 

To my Irish sister, wherever she may be on the High Seas (on her world cruise), Erin go bragh!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Headache on the Horizon

I'd never heard of Colony Collapse, and when Linda sent me a link on this subject, I thought it might be a little late to revisit Roanoke as a matter of current importance.  What I found, however, were articles on a world-wide decline in bee colonies that has agronomists worried.  It seems that Bayer makes more than aspirin.  In addition to I-don't-know-what-all else, they are the US producers of Clothianidin, a nicotinoid chemical for use on corn and canola seed to eradicate certain unwanted insects.  It is less than reassuring to read the EPA report that states Clothianidin has a "not-likely" human carcinogen rating.  It also states there is the potential for acute and/or chronic toxic effects for pollinators, i.e., bees, birds, and mammals.  (Funny, I thought humans were mammals.)  Is this why, in addition to the cold weather, that I've seen so few bees this year?  Kind of makes me wonder what the Environmental Protection Agency is protecting.  Big business springs to mind.

In Barbara Kingsolver's book, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," I learned that Monsanto, among other chemical companies, has genetically altered a large variety of seeds so that it is impossible for the plants to reproduce naturally, hence requiring the purchase of new, treated seeds each year.  "Heirloom" is a big buzz word in the natural food world.  There is a network of people who are trying to save the seeds from "OP" (open pollinator), nontreated vegetables and flowers so that the chemical companies won't take over completely.  However, if Bayer manages to eliminate the pollinators, it won't matter if the plant has been altered.

This is a very simplistic presentation, but hopefully it does provide food for thought regarding our food source.  We could be going the way of the dinosaurs, all in the name of Progress.  It's another example of "Just because a thing can be done, it doesn't mean it should be done."

Okay, I'm getting off the soapbox now.

PS:  Had to come back in to correct the title of Kingsolver's book, a big gaffe for which I apologize.  I urge all to read up on these subjects.  I'm not a conspiracist, but it is more than alarming to realize that our food sources are being manipulated without general knowledge.  According to the EPA testing was done on Clothianidin on mice, rats, dogs, and in nearly all cases, the reproductive systems were adversely affected, but, oh goody, the chemical didn't appear to cause cancer.  It isn't a great leap to project this result to humans.  To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Poster Child

Lucy is evidently auditioning to become the poster child for that commercial, "Help!  I've fallen and I can't get up!"  She can lie down and get up again on her own; I've watched her.  It's when something goes wonky and she falls over that she's stuck there.  She was absolutely fine yesterday. 

Timing, as they say, is everything.  On one of my trips out to check on the old girl, I took a minute to stand watching the free-range hens scratching in the leaves in the north orchard.  Right in front of my eyes, a red-tail hawk swooped down out of the sky and attempted to grab a Rhodie.  The chicken was squawking bloody murder, and I ran yelling, "Drop it!  Drop it right now!," and waving my arms like an even bigger bird of prey.  It worked.  The hawk took off sans lunch, and the hen raced for the coop.  I wonder if it was the same Rhodie I saved from the fox last summer.  Yogi Berra said it, "It was deja vu all over again."  I noticed the chickens all stayed close to the barn the rest of the day.  The add-on ell is on pier blocks and they can duck for cover under there. 

Ah, yes...timing.  Trash Guy and I are out of sync.  He seems to have made the adjustment to New Time better than I. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Stormy Weather

(Now I'll be hearing Lena Horne's voice in my head all day.) 

Fence Guy and Third Son came yesterday and put in all the T-posts for the new fence line and laid out the rolls of fencing.  The clouds were marshalling forces and the guys were racing to beat the rain.  They finished up before the first drops fell, but who knows when this latest series of storms will be over so they can cement in the corner posts and hang the gates.

It was beginning to rain in earnest about the "old" bedtime, so even though it wasn't dusk yet by the "new" time, I went out to put the kids to bed.  That was a good decision, because Lucy was down again in the middle of the pen, shivering, but otherwise motionless.  I was able to roll her over and get her up on her feet, and ultimately guide her to her room, with many rest stops on the way.  Poor old girl.

The skies opened up in the middle of the night, with blinding lightning and thunder loud enough to shake the windows.  The cats ducked for cover, racing for downstairs, and Bessie Anne shoved up against me for comfort.  The light show was followed by a tremendous downpour of either rain or hail that went on for what seemed like forever.  Even though all the animals are under shelter, I always feel so bad for them in one of these storms.  They must think it's the end of the world.

In this time-warped alternate universe, I'm doomed to be late.  Waking up at six o'clock would put me behind, but seeing the sun (weak though it is this morning) and knowing that it is now seven really threw me for a loop.  I really do know that, in the grand scheme of things, it's irrelevant, because I am the only one who sets my schedule.  I must learn to be more flexible...after all, obviously time is.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Behind the Time

It's not uncommon for me to be out of the loop.  I don't take a newspaper, and watch television news primarily for the weather reports.  Enough big stuff filters through so I'm not totally ignorant of the world outside of Fair Play.  However, my chain did get yanked this morning.  Awakening in the dark as per usual, I glanced at the bedside clock.  Sometimes I wake up at three a.m. and think about it before deciding that's really way too early and go back to sleep.  (Sometimes I get up then; Bessie Anne and Frank are used to my erratic sleep habits.  Pearl could care less as she sleeps in another room.)  This morning the clock said five-eleven and I excused myself to Frank, who was sleeping on my feet, and rolled out of bed.  A little later, coffee mug in hand, I turned on the computer, only to discover I'd evidently gone into a black hole whilst in the kitchen.  The computer announced it was six twenty-seven.  Clock said, no.  Five twenty-seven.  Reality check...turn on the TV.  TV sided with computer.  Six twenty-seven.  I've been blind-sided by the dreaded time change...and left behind the time. 

Morning chores are done pretty much by the clock, but bedtime for the animals comes at sundown, regardless of time.  The timing borders on critical.  Too soon and, like balky children, no one wants to go to bed and it requires a major round up.  Too late and the chickens put themselves to bed without their nighttime snack and the goats mob around me, crying and complaining, and I feel guilty.  Sundown will come when it will, but this dratted time change will mess up my day completely.  (And if that's the worst thing that happens, aren't I lucky?)

Fence Guy's Third Son drew the short straw yesterday and, by himself, carried all the T-posts and rolls of fencing down to the south pasture, sweating bullets on a cool afternoon.  I may get pulled into service today to hold posts, etc., if Fence Guy and/or older brothers have duties elsewhere.  NASCAR isn't running this weekend, so I'm available.

The big hens, who have stayed in their pen for several months now, seem to have regained their collective memory of how to fly and the majority were out free-ranging yesterday.  I thought perhaps they'd tunneled under the fence, but a quick walk-around showed no holes.  Perhaps the greens I've been throwing to them after weeding in the garden proved too great a temptation.  I just hope they remember to lay their eggs in the hay barn. 

Regarding eggs:  I took away the remaining egg that Yuki was dutifully sitting on.  It was well past the hatch date and she needed a break.  I did crack that egg, and it evidently had not been fertilized (but, boy, it was smelly!). 

Finishing with the chickens, I had that feeling I was being watched...and I was.  Ten or so of the big tom turkeys who show up with the breakfast brigade were clustered just outside the pen, pointedly moving in my direction.  I don't mind giving morning treats to this gang of feathered Freddy Freeloaders, but have never fed them at night.  However, not wanting to be mugged, discretion seemed the better part of valor and I buckled, getting a scoop of grain for the Boys.  They actually ran, almost to my feet, but I was able to make a getaway unscathed.  As I've said before, I'm easily trained, especially by intimidation.

I see by the clock, I'm late!

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Yesterday was a roller-coaster ride from start to finish, so finding these natural bouquets of daffodils in the north orchard gave a focal point of something beautiful and cheery.  Learning of the earthquake in Japan and the tsunami that roared across the ocean to wreak havoc here certainly put my picayune complaints about rainy days in perspective.  A good portion of the day was spent trying to get news of relatives in Hawaii and on Wake Island (maximum altitude seven feet).  It wasn't until late last night I got the family's all-clear.  In all the hours of news coverage of the devastation, the interview that stays with me was with the Reverend from the Buddhist Church in Sacramento who said, "It is Nature.  There is no reason to ask 'why.'"  Strangely enough, something I'd learned from this same church gave me the most comfort when Steve died.  Acceptance and patience; difficult, worthwhile lessons.

The oldest chicks, in only a week, are growing tiny, but real, wing feathers.  The littlest black one's stubby wings are still covered in fluff.  Predictions are for rain every other day for the next week.  I will leave the barrier up and check every so often during the day to make sure the chicks haven't jumped ship for the world outside.  The gaps under the Taj have been filled in, but I'd hate to think of the nannies having to stay out in the rain to shelter runaways.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Soggy Day

"A soggy day in Fair Play town.  Had me low.  Had me down."  My sincere apologies to George and Ira Gershwin, but another day of rain did that to me.  These are trampoline days.  The sun comes out and I'm up and full of enthusiasm for the next chore.  The grey clouds roll in and I'm down and bogged with inertia.  "Self," I said, "Get over yourself!"

Tessie had the hoped-for calming effect on Nineteen and he didn't whine once yesterday morning.  He got a little frantic when I took her out of the stall alone to take her into the milking room for a bowl of grain and a bit of grooming.  This will be the new routine for her/them.  Getting a pregnant doe early on into the habit of getting up on the stand every morning, brushed down, and being touched (in a rather familiar way) forestalls a lot of problems down the line after delivery when she'll need to be milked.  I'd rather deal with them doing their Fred Astaire dancing without a bucket underneath. 

I don't hold much hope for the last Silkie egg.  Worried about escaping chicks in yesterday's cold and rain, I kept going out to check on them, and found the egg cold.  It's possible that it had not been fertilized, or perhaps Yuki had just misjudged.  I'll give it another day, and then remove it from the nest.  The six fluff balls are running around the coop, yeeping at the top of their lungs, eating and drinking well.  I think ten is just about all the Taj will hold comfortably, anyhow.  Now we'll have to wait and see how many are pullets and how many cockerels there are...think pink!

The sunshine is bright this morning.  It's going to be an Up Day.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My Heart Goes

"Do you hear them?!  Do you see them?!"  It was just too exciting not to share.  Calling Judy,  I told her to go out on her deck right away.  It was the start of the spring migration of the Canadian honkers on their way home, and it's a phenomenal experience.  Just as the vultures fly overhead when they leave in September, I'm lucky enough to be in the flight path of the geese.  Their cacophony fills the air.  They came by thousands in waves over the hills to the south, heading directly north, and it went on for several hours.  Every year I hear the old Frankie Laine "Wild Goose Song," with the lyrics, "My heart goes where the wild goose goes...." 

Clicking on the photos will enlarge them to get a better idea of the numbers in just the one vee.  Judy had never seen the migration before, and I could hear the awe in her voice.  I really don't want to go with the birds, but I wish them well on their travels.

I'd much rather do spring cleaning outside than in, and yesterday I raked a mountain of leaves off just one side of the front walkway.  (And I'm feeling it today.)  Pushing the pile down the hill to the north slope, I ended up cleaning some dead weeds from under the deck, where years ago I'd planted violets, and found they'd started blooming.  Even just one of these sweet-scented flowers will fill a room with perfume.  I'd be hard pressed to choose a favorite flower, but violets are certainly high on the list.

Tessie came home late in the afternoon and, as expected, had to run the gauntlet.  Even mild-mannered Poppy got into the melee, bashing poor Tess and getting in her licks when she could shoulder past the other girls.  Tess must be smarter than the average goat, as she refused to fight back and the herd got bored quickly and peace reigned again.  After a month away at camp, she still remembered the nighttime drill and went right into the stall with Nineteen.  Maybe he won't whine this morning...maybe.

Going to put the Silkies to bed, Satomi was sitting out in their yard and wouldn't budge.  Good nanny that she is, she was protecting one of the adventuresome white chicks who'd jumped the barrier and couldn't get back into the coop.  Catching that chick was like chasing a pinball in action.  It didn't help that Bessie Anne was on the outside of the pen, racing around and frantic to help herd the baby.  This morning I'll grab a shovel and fill in the gaps that allowed that little twerp to hide under the chicken house.  We were all relieved when I tucked the chick back in the coop under a hen.  I thought I'd taken enough precautions.  Obviously not.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Bees, Please

The weather of late has kept the bees dormant, and it's a real concern.  Fruit and nut trees are blossoming, but the bees haven't come out to do their pollination work, without which there will be little to no fruit or nuts.  Down in the valley, there are huge almond orchards and the growers are very worried about this year's crop.  My lone almond tree has been beat to shreds by the wind, hail, and snow; not much hope there.  Now the plum trees are flowering, and the crab apple I finally got into the ground is showing pink buds.  Wake up, bees!  Wake up!

Going out to the garden to clean up the piles of weeds pulled the other day, I passed the first patch of Baby Blue Eyes. These sweet little wildflowers will dictate my mowing patterns (when the surrounding weeds get a little higher) because I want them to reseed and proliferate.  My mowing paths would make a drunken sailor proud as I swerve around these little bouquets delivered by Nature each spring.
Gently lifting Yuki last evening, I discovered a tiny black chick just drying off.  So far, the score is two striped chicks, three white, and now the black.  One egg left in the box of chicklits.

Lucy must have watched "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," as she totters about saying, "I'm not dead yet!"  She looks like the wreck of the Hesperus, but she's eating everything in sight, drinking gallons, and all systems are working well.  She goes in and out of her stall (the milking room) without assistance.  After spending that day by her side when she was down and everything but paralyzed, I just don't know what to think...but I'm glad.

Tessie is coming home from camp today.  I do not envy her the re-entry process.  Any time a new goat is introduced, or a returning goat comes back, they have to run the gauntlet to establish or re-establish their place in the pecking order of the herd.  This means they fight each and every one in the pen in turn.  I know what's coming, and there's not a darned thing I can do about it.  It's a heck of a welcome, for sure.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Just Another Day

Before leaving the house, I do the Fair Play version of the macarena.  Pat the left bibbie pocket for cigarettes and lighter; pat the right bibbie pocket for camera; pat right pants pocket for cell phone; lift one foot or the other to make sure I've got on barn shoes or go-to-town shoes as appropriate...go!  It can be somewhat embarrassing if it's one of those rare occasions when I'm not wearing bibbies and appear to be patting inappropriate places for no good reason.  Yes, even in the face of advice to the contrary, I still smoke.  I have so few vices left, I tend to hang on to those I can. 

Nineteen is a whiner.  Tessie is still at camp, and he complains about it every day.  He has breakfast in his room while I milk and feed the girls, and even with his mouth full he whines the entire time.  It doesn't help that the girls are cycling again, and when freed, he rushes out to see who is the flavor of the day. 

The barn mice have had new litters, and tiny little ones are showing up at the breakfast buffet.  While I do enjoy their company while milking, the one that ran up my arm yesterday when I opened the grain bucket lid did cause me to yelp.  How did that little sucker get in there in the first place?! 

The crows are back, raucous birds that they are.  The barn birds, some kind of sparrow, have also returned.  There is another kind of bird in the barn, also.  It's larger than the sparrows, and a soft, uniform grey-brown.  I think of it as the Margalo bird (from Stuart Little). 

The newly hatched chicks stand around on the sidelines like kindergartners thrust into a class of second-graders, watching the older chicks to see what to do and how to do it.  It only takes a day or two for them to catch on and learn the rules.  Poor Yuki, stuck on the nest, is fair game for Musashi and he has his way with her while she squawks, "Don't squash the eggs, you fool!"

Yesterday's squall dumped a load of hail just at daybreak, the wind driving it into drifts on the deck like snow.  The sun came out later, but drifting clouds dropped the temperature enough to make it uncomfortable to sit on the deck and read.  Bessie Anne and I opted to stay in the house and keep the wood stove stoked.

Aside from complete control of the TV remote, one of the benefits of living alone is that, if you choose to bake oatmeal-raisin cookies for dinner, no one tells you that you can't.  I do eat healthy food...just not always at the same meal.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sugar and Spice

My daughter was my father's reward for putting up with me.  From the git-go, she loved wearing the ruffled socks and frilly dresses that I had forever eschewed.  She did not have to be bribed to put on a skirt.  All her life, she has been the consummate lady, and she is one of the best friends, in the best sense of that word, that anyone could hope for.

Listening to my neighbor's sons the other day of course led me to thinking about our daughters as children, too.  My mother could not cope with my four Kids en masse, and so would invite one at a time to stay with her.  Each of them had the opportunity for individual attention, and my daughter, in particular, enjoyed the niceties of special breakfasts and outings that Mother provided.  I used to see more of my neighbor's girl.  When she was ten, I invited her and a friend who was staying over to a tea boys allowed.  (Sometimes a girl just needs a break from rowdy brothers.)  The girls were advised to wear dresses.  When they arrived at the appointed hour, I had them choose from my large selection of hats.  I come from an era when such an occasion required gloves, straight seams on stockings, and, of course, a hat.  Seating them like grownups, I served fancy finger sandwiches with crusts trimmed, several kinds of cookies and cake, and a fruit compote.  The girls bought in to the program immediately, and made polite, albeit ten-years-old, conversation as they passed the good china, dabbed with napkins, and slurped pot after pot of sweet tea.  It was exactly the kind of party that would have delighted my daughter. 

Another white chick hatched yesterday; two more eggs left.  The hens have self-appointed duties.  Yuki is the incubator and rarely leaves the nest.  Satomi and Keiko are in charge of the babies; it's under their feathers the chicks run for safety and for warmth.  I find it surprising that after the clutch was laid, none of the hens has made another egg.  Not that I blame them.  They're very busy just now.

The window of opportunity for Fence/Tree Guy to finish with the oak and start the fencing has slammed with a clap of thunder and a downpour of rain.  It's another blustery day.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

For Just a Little While

A snippet of poetry kept going through my head yesterday.  The whole poem, "Rock Me to Sleep," is pretty dark and had no bearing on my thoughts.  It was the first line, "Backward, turn backward, oh Time in thy flight.  Make me a child again just for tonight," and the wish wasn't for me. 

One thing does lead to another.  I went out to check on the chicks.  There are four now, two stripey and two white.  I thought it would be nice to give the girls some greens, and went on out to the garden where the weeds are growing like...weeds.  Before pulling fresh treats for the hens, I decided to divest a few more of the planting tubs of the accumulation of dead weeds from prior years.  It became a mission to finish all the tubs, but as I came to the last two, tendrils from the corner wisteria kept tangling in my hair.  Fine.  So, grabbing the clippers, I pruned the wisteria.  There were still the two tubs.  By this time my back was beginning to scream, but I'd gotten stubborn about the project.  What really kept me going, though, were the boys.

One of my neighbors has three sons and a daughter, as do I.  I believe the oldest boy is in his last year of high school, and he had friends over yesterday.  While out in the garden, I heard whooping, laughing, yelling back and forth, and the sound of toy guns firing.  I could tell from the voices that these were young men, surely shaving by now, and probably very cool at school, but they were having the best time playing like little boys amongst the trees and rocks in the pasture.  It made me ache for the time when my sons were children, playing self-invented games, laughing and chasing each other.  "Backward, turn backward...."  I wanted to kiss boys' grubby necks, hear them call me Mama, empty pockets of things only boys would treasure (I'd learned never to empty those pockets in the dark, and to reach in very carefully in case something was still alive).  I wanted to put band-aids on scraped knees, and have small arms around my neck again.  I wanted to scrub dirty-boy rings from the bathtub.  I wanted to give and get good-night kisses as I tucked them in bed and say, "Good night, sleep tight.  Don't let the bedbugs bite.  Wake up bright in the morning light to do what's right.  Good night!"  "Backward, turn backward...."  Listening to the boys next door brought back a flood of memories and, memory being selective as it is, I chose all of the good ones.  I don't really want to go back and have a do-over.  I wouldn't change a thing about the men my sons have become.  I don't need time to turn backward; I just enjoyed listening to those happy voices and revisiting my sons' childhood. 

And I got all the tubs weeded and the wisteria pruned, and I gave an armload of greenery to the chickens.  The chicks are doing well.  It was a good day.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


I used to subscribe to a magazine called "Piecework."  It was (and still is) devoted to articles regarding all the kinds of handwork that have been done through time and across the world:  knitting, crochet, embroidery, weaving, etc.  I like the sense of continuity I get when I pick up yarn and needles or thread and hook or sit with wool at the spinning wheel or at the loom.  These are activities that have gone on since Man learned to make textiles and threw off animal skins.  For me, it's the process as much as the product.  There's a kind of genetic memory involved when your hands "remember" what your mind has not yet learned.

My mother taught me to crochet when I was a little girl.  I can remember sitting on the front porch, struggling to crochet a simple chain stitch.  I made yards and yards of chain stitch, not allowed to move on until I had perfected tension and gauge.  Mother may have been a difficult taskmaster, but I appreciate her efforts now, rarely having to rip out imperfections and start over.

This train of thought started yesterday with a book I was reading in the sunshine (while it lasted) on the deck after chores.  Debbie Macomber has a series of stories about a woman who opened a yarn shop, and her connection with her women customers and the calming effect of repetitive handwork.  I remember my mother telling me that my hands had to be relaxed for the tension of the piece to be right, and in the process of relaxing my hands, I've found that the body and mind follow.

My reading was interrupted by the arrival of Tree Guy, who has now changed hats and has become Fence Guy.  His first statement was, "You didn't have to get dressed up just for me!"  It took me a minute to realize I was wearing a new set of go-to-town bibbies.  Yep.  I'm a fashionista!  We staked out the line for the new addition to the goat pen in the south pasture, and discussed the placement of gates (and I do have spares).  Like a kid in a candy store, Fence Guy ran around finding T-posts, peeler cores, rolls of square-wire fencing, bags of clips, a post driver, post-hole diggers, U-nails, come-alongs...just about all the materials needed for the three-hundred some-odd feet of new fence.  As he searched through the barn, it was, "Oh, look!  There's a (whatever) and more (thingies)!  And there are even (something-or-others)!"  Steve always said there'd be a use for whatever he'd saved or scrounged. 

Just as I feel a connection with women through handwork, given Fence Guy's admiration for the accumulated treasure trove, I think men are connected through "stuff." 

Friday, March 4, 2011


So far, so good with the three chicks.  (The little white one stayed tucked under Yuki and missed its photo op.)  Boy, I am lovin' the digital camera!  It took five shots before these two settled down to pose for their close-up.  All chicks are bits of downy fluff, but these little kids already have the beginnings of the distinctive Silkie leg and foot feathers.  It looks so funny on tiny legs no bigger than toothpicks.  With the speckled heads and red-brown stripe down the back, I can't imagine what these two will look like when they're grown.  I'll just be happy if they continue to grow.  Yuki is sitting on the last four eggs...more chick-lits to follow.

After the hubbub and drama of the week prior, yesterday was a welcome break.  The sun shone all day, all the livestock stayed healthy, and my trees remained upright.  I made a quick run into town, and it was apparent along the way that I wasn't the only one with wind damage.  A huge pine had fallen, pulling up the entire root system, and there were many branches down along the roads.  Job security for Tree Guys.  It's easier to cope with the rainy days as long as we get a break now and then.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

One One-thousand

Nature put on a light show last night that would rival anything on the Las Vegas strip, accompanied by deafening drum rolls.  All the kids were tucked into barn and coop, and I was fixing dinner when I noticed that the clouds were behaving strangely, dropping down to cover the surrounding hilltops and quickly darkening.  Then the first lightning strike lit up the sky, and it wasn't too far away.  It is said that you can tell the distance if you count, "one one-thousand, two one-thousand," etc., from sighting the lightning to hearing the thunder and judge how many miles.  As the storm cell moved over, it got to the point where I could count, "One," and never get the one-thousand out before the thunder rolled.  That's too darned close for comfort.  The only saving grace was that, if a tree were struck by lightning, the accompanying pouring rain would have immediately put out any fire.  I was pulling plugs on computer and television and waiting for the power to go out, but we dodged that bullet.  The driving rain continued on into the night after the light show moved on.

It's for sure that March came in like a lion.  The strong wind and heavy rain of yesterday morning did let up in the afternoon.  All the trees remained upright.  I had put up another barrier board for the chicks, and went out several times to check on the little cheepers.  There are two of the striped ones, and a tiny white one had just come out of the shell.  By nightfall, it was running around with the others.  The water level had dropped in the waterer, so maybe we're past that hurdle.  I am so hoping. 

Before the evening's drama, I had watched a comedy yesterday morning.  The turkey flock that had been moving through Joel and Judy's vineyard flew over the fence to come to breakfast under my oak...all but one, who misjudged and landed in the goat pen.  As my friend Linda says, some village is missing its idiot, because this goofy bird forgot how it got into the pen in the first place and ran the fence lines, calling, "Wait for me!"  The goats were out and munching alfalfa, and finally the turkey said, "Oh, what the heck," and moved into the center of the herd and ate with them.  Meanwhile, on the outside of the pen, a tom was chatting up a hen turkey, and was trying to impress her with his display of fanned tail and spread wings.  His macho posturing was foiled by the wind that blew his tail feathers up over his head like a girl's skirts, exposing his pantaloons and nether parts.  Sometimes you just have to laugh. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Not S' Good

Dang it.  The little black and white chicks died yesterday, and I don't know why.  I put chick starter and a small waterer in the Taj, but I have a feeling that the moms didn't teach the little ones to drink there, as they're used to going outside for water.  There just isn't anything more pitiable than those tiny bodies.  I know that at least one more of the striped chicks hatched yesterday.  The only room I can really close off is the laundry room, and I've used it as a nursery before, but always with older chicks from the feed store.  I have no way to heat it, and these wee little ones need the warmth of their mamas.  It's a dilemma.

I'm becoming totally paranoid.  A howling wind storm came up during the night, and all I can think about is falling trees.  It's raining and the ground is already soft.  Tree Guy assured me that if the pasture oak goes down, it won't cause any more damage, and he was here yesterday and we walked around to assess the condition of the oaks around the house.  Joel has had three or four of his trees go down in his driveway.  It's a cause for real concern, and my luck hasn't been so good lately.  I'll feel a little better when it gets light enough to see outside...everything is scarier in the dark.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Baby Makes Three

I should have said, make that three babies.  Deb and Craig had told  me that, at the chicken orphanage where they found the Silkies, there was a choice of white, black, and gray.  They didn't say anything about stripes or multicolors.  I certainly don't want to accuse one of the girls of inappropriate conduct with a quail, but....  Whatever it is, it is cute!  As soon as I put it down, it did a "duck and cover" and all I got was a photo of its fluffy butt. 
Tree Guy and Son worked on the oak again yesterday.  That grand old girl now reminds me of Dickens's Miss Haversham, dressed in ragged remnants of past glory. They left the two upright sections as is.  If they fall at some time in the future, they'll drop into the pasture and do no damage.  At least the view isn't totally denuded, for which I'm thankful. 
TG and I have been discussing moving the goat pen fence and expanding the girls' turf.  The south pasture has lain fallow for years, growing only star thistle.  At one time, Steve and I considered putting in a grove of olive trees, but it would have meant sinking another well for irrigation.  Goats do well in a very small space, but I prefer to see them moving about with more freedom.  I've got to hit the reserves to pay for the tree, so might as well get it all over with at once.