Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pots and Pets

When my high school roomie arrived last week, she brought a gift from another SoCal friend of mine, snacks and fancy staples cleverly packed into a flower pot.  The accompanying note stated the pot was "The Lady Lucinda Memorial Posy Pot," in honor of Lucy, the goat who died earlier this year.  Rain is predicted for four days out of seven this week and I wanted to get the pot planted yesterday, but then decided to decorate it so that Lucy will have flowers summer and winter.  I have potting soil and petunias at the ready...I'll let the rain do the watering.

All those little chicklets that didn't fill a shoebox when they came now are outgrowing their big rabbit cage.  It doesn't seem quite right to throw them out into a cold, wet world, so even if I could get the outside pen prepared, they'll have to stay crowded but dry in the laundry room for the time being.  They're all fully feathered now, and the baby fluff they shed lay in drifts in the corners.  Just walking toward their room sets off a frenzy as they flutter and yeep, yelling for more service in this establishment.  More water!  More food!  They are bottomless pits.

Monday, May 30, 2011


Veterans Day is to thank those living who have served in our armed forces.  Memorial Day is to remember those who served and were sacrificed.  Thoughts along those lines were going through my head in the barn yesterday.  Standing in the doorway, waiting for the next goat to amble down the hill for her turn on the stand, I was suddenly struck by the silence...total, absolute silence.  It is often quiet here, but there are always some ambient sounds.  No cock crowed, no bird chirped in a tree nor screeched in the sky, no car, truck, or tractor engine echoed through the hills.  It was as if Nature herself was in tune with my thoughts, taking a moment of silence to honor those who rest on her bosom or under her seas.  I think Nature does not discriminate or take sides; she shelters all patriots, all nationalities.  She is our final guardian.
Totally out of sync are these strawberries.  The dead leaves from the recent frosts have not yet been removed, and storm clouds were amassing over the hills even as I took the picture.  Strawberries are a summer fruit!  Rain spattered the windshield as I left for a barbecue at my friends' ranch in Mt. Aukum.  This did not bode well, but Nature favored them with sunshine alternating with passing clouds (but no rain) for a delightful day.  Everyone up here knows about the fabulous Lockford sausages, and we were treated to basil and garlic, Hawaiian, and oh-so-good Portuguese linquica.  A one-man band (harmonica and guitar) played and sang cowboy songs from my past:  Bob Wills, Hank Williams Sr., Patsy Cline.  I had the opportunity to "talk goat" with other breeders; castration, mastitis, etc., not everyone's favorite topics of conversation.  I hit rain again on the way home and could tell from the standing water that it had rained in Fair Play most of the day.  I had not planned to light a fire again this year, but when I found myself shivering after putting the kids to bed, I weakened and brought in another load of wood...totally out of sync.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

On My Toes

It is sometimes challenging, trying to stay a step ahead of the critters.  In the beginning of my goat experience I would feed grain in the morning and alfalfa in the evening, thinking they needed breakfast and dinner like people.  The problem with that program was that they wanted to dawdle over the alfalfa and not go into the barn as I wanted...and they're not people.  It would take upwards of half an hour to coax, wheedle, cuss, and chase them in for the night and I'd be exhausted from running up and down the hill in their pen.  This plan obviously needed a little more thought.  The solution was to give them grain as an inducement to get up on the stand for milking and throw down the alfalfa in the morning for them to munch on later at their leisure.  A little grain in their room(s) at night was the incentive to get them into the barn.  That also took a rethink because I started out going in with them, carrying the treat bucket, and would get mobbed and sometimes knocked down before I could put down their snack.  Now I get everything ready for them as part of morning chores, and bedtime takes no more than ten minutes.  I just open doors and they go in with little to no effort on my part.

My attempt to switch the laundry room chicks from dry mash to pellets yesterday was a dismal failure.  They threw out the pellets three times and then sat in the trough, yelling at the top of their lungs for food.  My thinking was that when they were hungry enough, they'd get the idea and eat the pellets.  Wrong.  Not wanting to be outsmarted by a bunch of little bird brains, I thought, "You want baby food?  You'll get baby food," and put the pellets in the trough and softened them with water.  Ta da!  Those hungry little birds ate two more bowls in rapid succession.  I'm all for win-win solutions.

It rained again yesterday, and there's no way I can out think Nature, so the chicks' pen isn't ready yet.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

As Good As

Sometimes I have to take my sunshine where I find it.  Yesterday was another dreary day that drained all ambition.  The grey sky and cold wind were not an incentive to get the mowing done.  It's almost June, for crying out loud!

On my way back from town the day before, as I was slowly negotiating the deep ruts and potholes, I found thousands of tiny mini-suns beside the road and thought I'd better capture them right then.  Sometimes a reflection is as good as the real thing to lift one's spirits.  These tiny, but tall, dandelions are all over the fields and meadows in the hills, splashes of sunshine even on the gloomiest days.  This photo is from the road approaching my house, looking up into the south pasture.  The copse of live oaks and buck brush is at the corner of my driveway and the dirt road, and the big oak just over the crest is what is left of the tree that split.

I had thought because the feeding trough was not being completely emptied as it had been, perhaps the chicks in the laundry room were past their growth spurt and were getting full on less.  Ha!  It dawned on me it was because their heads are now too big to fit through the holes in the chick feeder to get to the bottom of the tray.  It is time to remove that safety cover and start weaning them to adult pellets instead of chick mash.  Whenever the sun does shine, I've got to get them moved outdoors.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Farview Style

The sun came out and stayed out yesterday. After a quick but necessary run to town, I decided that the yards had dried out enough to mow and went out to get the little tractor from where it is kept under shelter in an open wing of the feed barn.  As I went to fill the gas tank, I noticed blobs of mud all over the engine cowling, steering wheel, etc.  It looked like some naughty little kid had thrown splats of mud all over.  Now where the heck did that come from?

My first thought was mud-dauber wasps, but I've seen lots of their nests and have never known them to be so untidy.  Looking up, I found this swallow's nest.  There are those who might not find such a discovery so exciting, but I think it is way beyond cool.  I've watched those graceful, swooping birds in flight around here, but never thought they'd ever choose to move in.  It took the quail almost four years before they felt secure enough to begin to build their nests and raise their young in the low-hanging oaks in the south pasture.  The only thing that could please me more is if I could find that the tiny local bats had moved in.  These are Nature's gifts, Farview style.
I have, over the years, sown hundreds of pounds of grass seed in the front yard, all for naught.  My "lawn," such as it is, is comprised totally of whatever weeds choose to grow...and grow...and grow.  Well over six inches, I'd so wanted to mow...and mow...and mow the yards before my guest arrived, but was done in by time and the weather.  It really looks pretty decent when cut down.

Putt-putting around on the tractor for a couple of hours in the afternoon, I got the front and side yards mowed.  There was enough warmth left in the sun to stay out and get some more weeding done in the middle octagon in the front yard.  It was time to quit when Bessie Anne began to flop down right in front of me, effectively stopping me from pulling the next patch of weeds.  Looking at the day's efforts, that's satisfaction, Farview style.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Silver Lining

Even the darkest days have a bright spot somewhere.  It rained off and on (mostly on) all day yesterday, postponing the much-needed mowing again.  Coming back up from the barn in the evening, I caught this sight of clouds limned with gold from the setting sun.  Standing in the drizzle, I could appreciate that the sun was shining somewhere.  My personal bright spot was taking advantage of the rainy day to catch my breath, watch old movies, snack on goodies sent by a friend, and do nothing.  A milk customer who normally has her two little girls in tow came while they were staying with daddy.  She stayed to talk, something we don't always have an opportunity to do.  They are a young couple, renting acreage and raising livestock and a big garden there while he clears trees and fields on their own nearby property, preparing to build a house, and they're just getting to the planning stage for that.  It is such an exciting time in their lives.  Her brief visit was another shining moment in my day.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Routine Reigns

Once again, after a guest's departure the house seems very quiet.  City Mouse has taken with her a variety of new experiences:  milking a goat, watching the process of making cheese, turning her head to watch a car go up the road, enjoying a hamburger in a biker bar.  Country stuff.  I hope she will have good memories.

Inga, upset by the change in routine and not coming into the barn the day before, was a booger to milk yesterday with that overfull udder...it took a record twenty-five minutes to accomplish.  I guess we all get set in our ways.  The chicks in the laundry room are growing like corn in Kansas...one can watch them get taller by the minute.  Where I could fill their feed trough once a day...now it takes three times a day and they are like ravenous wolves when I put the feeder down.  I cannot yet put them in with the hens...they would be hawk bait...but it won't be any time at all before they've outgrown their temporary home and I haven't decided yet how to make the transition.  If I can make it safe, they may move into Stumpy's old, covered pen.

It's back to the status quo for all us country mice.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Apple of My Eye

Apple pie right out of the oven is a pretty good way to end an apple pie kind of day.  City Mouse has had a chance to experience some of everyday life on the farm, including weeding a barrel in the garden and planting carrot seeds.  We've been so fortunate that the good weather has held, giving an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors.  My own grape vines (Red Flame and Thompson Seedless) are just beginning to put out tiny, tiny clusters of what will be a treat for the birds unless I can get there first.  Tree Guy came by (I'm trading him my leftover fencing for his labor) and he's going to cut in the last gate between the goat pens soon, as my neighbor has put up his fence between our properties.

The Children of the Night (coyotes, not Count Dracula's wolves) were on the hunt early this morning.  I followed their yips and howls through the hills in the dark.  By daybreak, all was calm and I saw two deer grazing in the front pasture.  It's trash day, and I've got to get the barrel down to the big road.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Down On the Farm

City Mouse had her first experience with the goats yesterday.  She did wonderfully well at her first attempt at milking, got milk flowing on the first squirt, and then decided to leave the job to the expert (that would be me).  Having someone with me in the milking room is a choreographed event.  "Move to the right.  Step into the other room and shut the door.  Move to the left."  The girls aren't used to strangers in their space and sometimes freak out and not behave, as was the case with Inga, whom I finally had to rope to get her into the barn so I could finish chores for the morning.  Stepping outside as we were ready to leave, the entire herd mobbed City Mouse, rubbing and mouthing pants, boots, and generally delighting Mouse.  Some had walked away before I could get the camera out, but I know this photo will be a happy reminder for her.  I had to convince her that goats do not make good house pets.

The chicks in the laundry room are growing apace, eating everything in sight and emptying their trough at least twice a day.  What goes in must come out, so they are requiring a little more attention these days.  They and I will be glad when they've reached the stage when they can go outside to join the "big" little girls.

It's always fun for me to introduce a newbie to what I consider the joys of Farview.  Today will bring new adventures.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

City Mouse

Yesterday was pretty much a flurry of housekeeping, awaiting the arrival of my friend.  It's a good thing she called while on the road to confirm directions because the computer map she had would have sent her miles and miles out of the way.  This place, in the back of beyond, is hard enough to find as it is.  And then Sandy arrived.  She went by Sandye with an "e" in high school, but is Alexandra now, and it suits her (but old habits are hard to break).  One would never have known Sandy had just driven for ten hours, stepping out of the car band-box fresh and pressed.  My good pair of bibbies was hanging on the line so I could only stand there in my grubbies, feeling very much the Country Mouse...and it didn't matter one single minute.  Funny how a good hug can do that. 

I lost my standing as NASCAR Central as we were too busy chattering like magpies, catching up on fifty-four years of history, to turn on last night's race and so I had no information when my son called for an update.  I'm so ashamed.

In addition to tending to the big house yesterday, I also fixed the hole where the Silkie had escaped with a handy chunk of four-by-four.  It pays not to throw anything away.  One just never knows.

The sun is shining.  It's going to be a good day.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

High Gear

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.   My company from southern California is coming today, a little earlier than planned, and I've got to kick it into high gear.  Guest prep will have to take a back seat to chores, though, and I've got an extra one this morning. 

Last evening as I went to the Silkies' pen, they were all excitedly dithering around and there on the outside of the fence was one of the white chicks, running back and forth, yeeping at the top its lungs.   I'd left Bess in the house, but the cats were with me and ready to take on the herding chores (and more).  Praying that the little one wouldn't head out into the field where I wouldn't stand a chance of catching it but the cats would, I finally got it shepherded safely into the pen and everyone closed in for the night.  With dusk rapidly falling, I could only make a cursory inspection of the fence line.  Today I must find out where the little one escaped and plug the hole.  Dusting will just have to wait.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Manuals, Awards, and Credibility

I read manuals.  Manuals are my friend.  I like the step-by-step instructions and the trouble-shooting sections.  I have depended on manuals for a long time. 

When my children were youngsters and asked to do something I felt was inadvisable, I would say (with a straight face), "Oh, I would let you do that, but I checked carefully and on page 342 of the Mother's Manual, it says that is not permitted.  I'm sorry."  Page 218 informed me that boys must help with dishes, as well as girls.  The Mother's Manual was a big book and it covered any eventuality that might arise.  That's where I looked to find out when my daughter could wear lipstick.  Sometimes the Manual did say yes...it wasn't all negatives.  Telling the Kids I had to check the Manual gave me a chance to decide whether I would or would not allow whatever it is they wanted, and it gave me irrefutable backup when it didn't go their way.  I mean, if it was in the Mother's Manual, how could they argue with that?  I wish there truly were a Mother's Manual...it would make life so much easier.

When the Kids and I moved to Sacramento, we discovered that all lawn clippings and brush trimmings were to be put out on the street for weekly pick up.  My incentive to enlist their help was the hope that we might win the Weed-of-the-Week Award, given for the biggest pile of yard trash.  They did question why we never won.  I told them someone two streets over had a bigger pile than ours and we'd just have to work harder the next week.

And then there was the Mean Mother of the Year Award, and I was a strong contender for this one.  If my Kids had the vote, I would have gotten the Lifetime Achievement Award in this category.  "No, you can't go with so-and-so to such-and-such.  I'm sorry, but I need the points for the Mean Mother of the Year."  I obviously made believers of the Kids, because after a particular denial, one Kid (names have been omitted to protect the gullible) stomped up the stairs, proclaiming loudly that, "You don't care.  All you care about is winning that darned award!"  I had drawn a blank at that moment because it hadn't been mentioned and asked, "What award?"  "You know!  That darned Mean Mother of the Year Award!"

It's a wonder my Kids believe anything I say...my credibility should be zip to none.  The one thing that comes out of my mouth that they can trust implicitly is that I love them with all my heart.  That's the truth.  (And I didn't have to check in The Manual for that.)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

In the Eye

It was not raining yesterday morning.  Hopes were dashed, though, when Bess and the cats and I took a turn around the deck and looked up.  (That sounds like we're on a cruise ship, which would be funny had we not been awash for days!)  The photos, top to bottom, are north, east, south, and west, and, while we were standing in sunshine, obviously we were just in the eye of the storm to come.  The clouds were marshaling their forces, circling our little wagon train before the attack.  Even the brief glimpse of the sun was like being plugged into my personal power source and I rushed to get the morning chores done while still energized.  When the rain came in early afternoon, it came in buckets, a downpour, a deluge.  It blew in waves past the windows.  It came from every conceivable direction.  Who would have expected a monsoon season in Fair Play?

There's not a cloud in the sky today.  Hope springs eternal.  An out-of-town, first-time guest is arriving on Monday; a roommate from high school whom I have not seen for fifty-four years.  I had thought to get the place spiffed up for her first impression, but the yards are so waterlogged, I don't think I'll be able to mow before she gets here even if it stays dry in the sky.  I guess we'll just have to be au natural, ratty-tatty yards, soggy paths, soaked goats and all. 

I am reminded of a time years ago in West Sacramento when an appraiser was coming.  I'd said at work that I wanted to leave on time so I could get the house picked up.  A coworker laughed and said, "Get real.  You have a pig living in the living room!"  (Louie, my pot-belly, was still a piglet at the time.  He was box-trained, I should add.)  Now I have sixteen chicks in the laundry room.  And I'm worried about the yards?
The computer gremlins will not let me edit for composition, so where the spacing appears is at their whim, not mine.  It's pretty obvious I'm in charge of very little around here.  That's okay, the sun is shining.  It will be a good day.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

And Yet Again

Rain is still the topic of the day.  We're all tired of rain; tired of seeing it, tired of talking about it, and yet it goes on.  Compared with the flooding and devastation in other parts of the nation, we're just a bunch of whiners, but it's our rain and we'll kick our heels on the floor and snivel if we want to.  I'm glad I posted photos of the brief hour or so of sunshine from Monday...nice memories.  The grass in the new section of goat pen is close to three feet high, beaten flat by the rain yesterday.  It might be noted that there is a mown strip next to the fence line.  That fencing is known as four-square.  The girls manage to fit their heads through those four-inch openings and graze the grass that they continue to believe really is greener on the other side.  Fence/Tree Guy can't finish his work here until it dries out some and if it doesn't happen soon....  The girls (and Nineteen) have cropped most of the grass in their pen.  If I can't let them into the new section until after all on their side is gone, I will have to wait until everything in the extension is sere and brown because an overabundance of greenery all at once would give them diarrhea, which can be deadly to goats.

The rain that pounded the grass flat also beat on the metal roof of the barn.  The girls aren't dumb.  Normally, they chomp down their cereal as fast as they can, finishing long before I'm done at the other end.  Yesterday they dawdled and poked, chewing each mouthful one-hundred times, cleaning up every scattered grain, and licking the bowl.  They didn't fool me; they just didn't want to go outside again.  I had to get behind a couple and literally push them out the door.  I did apologize for I knew just how they felt.  Bessie Anne, my faithful, constant companion, came with me as far as the chicken pen and said, "You're on your own, Mom.  Good luck with that," and headed right back to wait for me on the porch while I tended the goats.  Wuss dog.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ray and Me

There's refrain in one of Ray Stevens's old songs that goes, "They're everywhere!  They're everywhere!"  Everywhere I looked yesterday morning there were open mouths waiting to be fed, starting with the chicks in the laundry room.  They'd completely emptied their feeding trough and they were yeeping at the top of their lungs.  They've outgrown their shoebox boudoir; twelve or thirteen packed in like sardines and the remaining three or four huddling on the outside at bedtime, so the box was removed.

Out of three feeders, this was the only one with any juice for the breakfast crowd.  In the only sunshine of the day, these emerald and ruby jewels flashed while I filled the other bottles for the buzz-bombing others. 

While I was tending the hummers, this tom turkey was loudly demanding service.  Feeling much like a waitress at a truck stop during rush hour, I tried explaining I'd be with him in a moment, but that didn't shut him up.  Pearl was at my feet as I threw down the grain; it mattered not.  He didn't even wait for us to step away before beginning his breakfast.

Down in the barn, Poppy was bellowing in her dulcet tones and the others were bleating for their breakfast.  I apologized that I was running late because of all the other mouths to feed, put Cindy up on the stand and let the others out to go get their alfalfa appetizers.  Just starting to milk Cindy as she was eating, I caught sight of this ground squirrel munching on the mice's cereal.

Thus my day begins, surrounded by gaping maws waiting to be fed.  It could be worse.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bring It On

My loins are girded and, after coming through everything that got thrown my way yesterday, I'm ready to meet today's challenges.  I will admit that I approached the computer with caution, but so far, so good.  Nature threw everything but the kitchen sink at us yesterday, and with great intensity.  It was like moving through the seasons in fast forward...snow, rain, hail, wind, sunshine...rewind and repeat.  Not just a few flakes, or a light drizzle either.  Wind blew branches out of the trees.  Hail coated the ground.  Rain could have drowned a frog.  That saying, "If you don't like this weather, wait five minutes," was certainly true yesterday.  Fortunately, Nature was taking a breather at dusk when I went to put the kids to bed.  It was bloody cold and my pants got wet to the knee while slogging through high grass, but it wasn't raining.  Had I not been hurrying, I would have taken a photo of the Silkies.  Their fluffy topknots were damp and sticking up in spikes that would have made a punk rock star jealous.

I talked with Joel and Judy, Joel starting the conversation reciting his telephone prefix from years ago (as Kathryn did in her comment yesterday).  Funny how those things stay with us.  We commiserated about what the freeze would do to our gardens and the grape vines.  It wouldn't be the first year I've had to replant.  There's not much to be done for the emerging grape leaves, and that could be devastating for the growers.  Some farmers swear by the almanac, planting by the phases of the moon.  Up here, we need to pay more attention to the dogwood trees...they never lie.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Beyond Belief

Arrrgh...the computer gremlins had me in their sights again this morning.  In the past week Facebook and then email went away...and then came back.  Connection with the internet today was totally lost, and it didn't have to do with the snow (what Linda refers to as Dogwood Snowfall) coming down before daylight.  Fiddling frantically, kind of like Charlie Daniels at a hot gig, I tried every fix I could think of to retrieve that which had been lost, to no avail.  Fine.  Just fine.  My poor daughter called just about then to ask how I liked the new phone (explanation to follow).  I think she's sorry she called because I spewed like Vesuvius, epithets and apologies for same flying everywhere.  Tech support was not available and so I went on down to the goat barn, thinking a little physical exercise would cool me down.  The new phone (explanation to follow) has a pedometer!  Morning chores took one-thousand, one-hundred ninety steps; of vital interest to no one but myself, but, hey, if the phone can count 'em, the least I can do is read 'em.  The gremlins, having had their laugh for the day, took compassion or else got bored and gave me back the internet when I got back to the house.  Thank you, gremlins.  I will not ask "what's next?"

Yesterday the planets and stars were in alignment and the Kids and I arrived in P'ville within minutes of each other.  I am on their family plan for cell phones and, according to them, mine was due for an upgrade so we met at the phone store...a whole store just for phones!  Telephones have come a long way since I was a kid back in the Dark Ages.  Phones were black, period.  They were heavy enough to be used as deadly weapons, and the cords (all telephones had cords) were cloth covered and had no curls.  There was no such thing as an area code, and prefixes were real words...ours was BUdlong, and there were only six digits total.  If we needed to call long distance, we just dialed "O" on the rotary dial and the nice lady would help us, the same lady who looked up phone numbers and asked how our day was going.  That was then...this is now.

Deb and Craig got me my first cell phone for my security and their peace of mind nearly six years ago, and I adapted pretty well.  I never leave the house without patting one pocket or another to make sure I've got it with me.  It was a pretty basic flip phone I could text, etc., with the best of them.  The new phone is a different breed of cat.  It has a touch screen and a true keyboard...they take some getting used to.  While the Kids and I had an absolutely delicious Mexican lunch, I missed three calls because I couldn't figure out how to answer the darned thing.  It has beautiful "wallpaper" and I kept wanting to look at it instead of holding it to my ear.  I just love new technology, and I'm ashamed to admit, loving being in the Kids' company as I did (and always do), that I could hardly wait to get home and read the manual and find out exactly what this new toy could do.  Suffice it to say that the manual (grammar errors notwithstanding) left a lot to be desired.  It was mainly trial and error, and I was still playing with it at eleven-thirty last night, but I've got a pretty good handle on that sucker this morning.

Rain, hail, snow...still coming down; what do I care?  I've got firewood.  I've got internet.  I've got a really fancy-schmantzy phone that I can work.  I talked to all my Kids (new phone or old) and had a wonderful day with Deb and Craig.  Birthdays don't get much better, and mine was beyond belief.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Going To Town

Unlike those times when I dread a trip to town, I'm really looking forward to going to Placerville (known locally as P'ville) today.  I'll be meeting Deb and Craig for lunch!  The cloud cover has moved back in this morning, but nothing is going to rain on my parade today!

There are many self-help books on the market.  How to diet, to raise children, to overcome grief, to transition into the teen years, to become rich, etc., etc., etc.  I don't recall ever seeing a book that teaches one how to grow old.  I know, today being my birthday, I certainly fall into that category, but I don't really know how to behave.  On any given day (except the day after I've been bent over weeding), I don't feel my age.  It's such a surprise to look in the mirror and see that face...she can't be me!  I still have the impulse to do a cartwheel now and again.  I tried it once a couple of years back and darned near broke my neck, so I resist that impulse.  I still like to look at a handsome man (I try to resist that impulse, too, unsuccessfully).  My mother, as she got older, became ultra-dignified.  I fear that's not my style, but maybe if there were a book to teach me, I could try.

There was a different tone to the chickens' squawk yesterday and Bessie Anne and I moved faster out the door.  Sure enough, there went the coyote racing back down to the woods, with Bess hard on her trail.  The free-range hens have quit fleeing the coop and the hole was blocked under the Silkies' pen, so all the little kids were safe and sound.  No chicken dinner for coyote last night.

With no city lights to dull the effect, even a half-moon shines bright enough to make moon shadows up here.  Bess needed to go for a walk last night.  I was glad I'd put the leash on Bessie because as soon as we stepped out the door I caught a strong whiff of skunk.  The light on my hat caught the reflection of eyes in the dark...oh, no!  But it was just Frank, later joined by Pearl, and my little parade made the circuit around the driveway.  Bessie Anne tends to business, with frequent stops to sniff this or that.  Frank and Pearl lead the way, but get struck with flights of silliness and flop and roll on the drive or start a game of tag.  I think we all enjoy these outings.

Mustn't dawdle this morning...I'm going to town!

Friday, May 13, 2011

But I Digress

The Silkies were squawking though not panicked, but Bess and I decided to go take a look-see anyway, walking and not running.  The chickens were fine.  I noted a hole burrowed under their fence by some evil-intentioned wild thing.  Like Pa Kettle, I usually grab whatever comes to hand to plug these holes.  First-time company is coming in a couple of weeks and I thought it might be better to do a proper job of it.  There are some good-sized pieces of hog panel behind the feed barn, but I'd need the bolt cutters to trim one.  Going into Steve's section of the barn, I saw that Tree Guy and Sons had used a lot of tools but hadn't put them back.  "As long as I'm here, I'll just tidy this up (ignoring the destruction by the resident, wannabe-decorator ground squirrel)."  Never did find the bolt cutters.  Going to find a piece of firewood big enough to block the hole in lieu of hog panel, I noted that I still hadn't washed the yard tractor.  Plugged the hole in the chicken pen with a log and grabbed the hose to rinse off the tractor.  The hose had sprung a big leak and was sending up spray like Old Faithful.  Naturally I had parked the tractor next to the hose bib and got totally soaked.  Couldn't go back into the house dripping wet, so wandered past the flower garden (sans flowers at the moment) in the front yard.  Oh, crum...look at the weeds!

I'll be honest.  I'd rather spend hours weeding than fifteen minutes dusting.  It's a total bonus when the weeds are as pretty as these, a mix of red clover and blue lupine...and a bunch of other stuff I could easily do without.  That "garden" is a big octagon rimmed with lavender plants, with a rectangle in the center where the daffodils bloom.  I completely weeded the center section, by which time my shirt was dry and I was bent like a crone and the sun was close to the horizon.  Hobbling back to the house for what I considered a well-earned "sundowner," Pearl was waiting just inside the screen door.  She and Frank had been napping when I'd left the house four-plus hours before, and she really let me have it because I'd gone without her.  As I've said, we're supposed to do things together.  I just went out to check on the chickens.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Spring Ahead

It's not just the clocks that jump ahead in spring.  The To-Do List takes a giant leap forward, too, and weeding and watering are at the top.  After idling away most of the day, my conscience became an itch that had to be scratched so Bess and the cats and I went out and finished weeding the last half of the herb garden in the afternoon.  Unless I'm on the tractor ("Run away!"), any work outside is a community affair.  We all go out to the garden, where the peas, cilantro, and eggplant have now popped up.  We all go feed the chickens.  We all troop down to the goat pen in the evening.  We might be a rag-tag bunch, but I love my little furry family.

Goats, like cattle, generally travel single file from one place to another and wear a narrow trail through the grass.  I couldn't get the camera out fast enough to catch this little guy running on the path just ahead of Inga as she came down the hill to the barn for milking.  It was like traffic on the freeway, and if Inga had a horn (she's hornless), she'd have honked.  Once she was up on the stand, this little Nosy Parker sat outside.  "Wotcha doo-ing?"  "Why're ya doo-ing that?"  "Ain't ya done yet?"  He sat just outside the barn, pestering me with questions like a three-year-old kid, totally unafraid while I switched out goats on the stand and walked within a couple of feet while I prepared the nighttime feed bowls.  Another member of the furry family.
As if I didn't have enough of my own ground squirrels to contend with, one of Joel and Judy's stood on their side of the fence like a kid outside the playground.  "Hey, guys!  I want to play...can I come over?  Huh...can I, please?"  Now really!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Quick-Change Artist

After her temper tantrum of the day before, throwing lightning bolts and growling with thunder, Nature did an abrupt about-face and showed her sunny disposition yesterday and I was able to get out to the west field to mow in the afternoon.  The grass and weeds (mostly weeds!) had shot up over a foot in an amazingly short time.  This is most apparent under the wisteria vine to the left in the back corner of the garden.  The roof of the house is just over the hill. 
The goat pen is straight ahead.  While putt-putting along their fence line, the girls followed, hoping that some of that sweet-smelling stuff would get thrown their way.  As I moved in ever-decreasing concentric circles, they gave up and settled for the grass on their side of the fence.  It takes a lot longer to mow the field when the grass gets so high.  In order not to strain the poor old tractor (the little one), it's necessary to take baby bites, a half or sometimes even just a quarter of the blade space on each pass.  The field was liberally sprinkled with blue lupine and I always feel awful when I have to cut that down.  With no power steering and less-than-adequate springs, riding the mower is like riding a horse with a stiff-legged trot for a couple of hours...hard on the butt.  I'd planned to get all of the yards cut down, but after finishing this field, pleasant as it was to be outside on a glorious day, I called it quits and went in for a beer break.  It was a good day.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Thunder Rolls

(With apologies to Garth Brooks.)  Nothing much of note happened yesterday except the electrical storm that blew through in the afternoon and, for a brief time, it was a doozy.  I had received a phone call when the sky darkened, the wind picked up force, and the the lightning struck, followed by rolling thunder.  When the phone crackled in my ear as lightning lit the sky nearby, it was time to hang up and go unplug the computer and other vulnerable appliances.  Running through the rain, I hurried to close the hen house door.  The silly chickens had been in the coop, but came outside to see what I was doing and got soaked.  The day started out cold and got colder.  The darned wood stove is still being balky, belching smoke periodically and slow to catch fire.  It finally cooperated and Bess and the cats decided it would be better to stay curled up and warm instead of accompanying me to put the goats to bed.  The rain hadn't lasted long, but I can't say I blamed them.

There isn't a cloud in the sky this morning...we'll see.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Joining the Circus

In the past, I've mentioned the Flying Wallendas, the acrobatic troupe of twenty or so mice who go jumping off into space when I lift the cover on the nighttime feed bowls in the goat barn.  The other day while milking I saw a new act.  High up near the roof, a mouse was trying out a death-defying high-wire stunt on the header beam.  Wanting to go  from here to there, he had to maneuver around the stringers resting on the beam, dangerously hanging by two feet while still moving forward.  I held my breath the entire while until he made it to his goal.  He surely has earned a spot under the Big Top.  In ring three, an escape artist performs.  Cindy is one goat who has learned how to open latches on gates and doors, and the reason I have to double lock them all when I'm not down there.  When one of the milkers is up on the stand, her head is locked in between the stanchions by a dowel.  My personal Houdini has discovered a way to silently maneuver the dowel out when she's done eating.  I'm facing her nether end and am not aware of her shenanigans until she turns and jumps off the stand...ta da!...and I'm left sitting alone with the bucket.  I guess my clown act when I do a pratfall in the wet chicken pen would be my only contribution to the Farview Circus.  The weather itself is a quick-change artist.  Saturday morning was warm enough to warrant a tank top and I was considering removing the cover from the windows in the barn.  It was a gorgeous day for the party, but by dusk the temperature had dropped and the cloud cover had moved in.  Yesterday I was back in a turtle-neck sweater and jacket, and it's pretty darned chilly this morning without much in the way of sunrise.

Aren't I lucky?  I don't have to run away from home to join the circus!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Perfect Day

There are good days, great days, and then there are the perfect days.  The perfect storm occurs when all the elements converge at the same time in the same place to create something unique.  That exquisite combination of people and timing (and food and drink) occurred for me yesterday.  Last year's party raised the bar, and this year's jumped it!  Deb and Craig, Terry and Arvin, Dave, Larry and Taylor (Susan couldn't make it), Clay, and Mary arrived throughout the morning and early afternoon.  Deb color coordinated decorations for a lively atmosphere (Martha Stewart could learn from her!).  She and Craig were the entertainment directors, starting with a game of mini table tennis...on the dining room table!  The tiny paddles would fit in the palm of the hand, and watching one of my six-foot-five sons maneuvering with that would have made the sphinx giggle.  All the men went out to play mechanic on the big tractor.  It was male bonding time.  The consensus was the battery as the crux of the problem.  This gave the women a chance for a little girl talk.  After a sumptuous repast (interpret that as a lot of really good food), the next game...instead of our usual poker table...was bingo!  This was not the staid, intense game at the VFW hall.  There was much hooting, jibing, cheating, and the house fairly rocked with laughter.  We took a break so Craig's mom, Terry, and I could open Mother's Day presents and special, sweet, and funny cards.  (And my birthday gifts.)  Then we all rushed back to play more bingo...competitive bunch that we are.  There were prizes and bragging rights.  "I won...and you didn't.  Poor you.  It's good to be me." 

In the combination of elements for this celebration, the most important component was family.  Unable to be with us in person, my SoCal son was certainly in my thoughts and missed, but a gathering of most of the most-loved people in my life created, for me, The Perfect Day.  I could wish no better for all mothers.  It's good to be me.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Party Time!

One of my mother's most used sayings was "a lick and a promise."  It seems to apply to my life here.  There's an awful lot to do for one person, and most of the time it seems all I can accomplish is a dab here and a dab there, giving everything a lick and a promise.  This really struck home last evening as I was sweeping leaves and oak pollen off several hundred feet of deck, listing in my mind everything else that needed to be done for today's party with the Kids.  It used to be that Steve would spiff up the outdoors while I cleaned the inside when we had company coming, and neither of us went into overload.  Unless it was something fried, he couldn't cook worth a darn, but he was a great sous chef, cutting prep time in half for both of us.  On Easter, I dashed around with a dust rag before Deb and Craig and his parents got here.  It wasn't until we were sitting in the living room chatting that I realized I'd dusted everything but the coffee table.  No way to do that little chore in front of company, I sat there agonizing, hardly able to take my eyes away from the cats' signature paw prints.  Ah, well...give it a lick and a promise and enjoy the people...that's what I say!

I had a laugh yesterday.  I had to call the TV satellite company for a glitch in the system.  The tech was in Phoenix.  We got to chatting while running diagnostics, and he found it funny that I raise goats.  He decided that it would be necessary to send a local technician to cure the problem and said he could give me a Sunday morning appointment.  "No, I milk goats in the morning; make it for the afternoon."  "What kind of farmer are you?  Aren't you done by eight?"  I told him I write a blog before barn.  "Really?  What's it about?"  I told him it was just stuff about the farm, and he asked for the blog site.  I had no more than spelled it out, when he said, "What happened to your oak tree?  And there are your chickies.  Wow!  That goat's full of milk!"  He had typed it in while I was spelling...and I've got a new reader.  That's just hysterical to me.

My Kids are coming up and this is going to be a good day, whether I get everything done or not.  What's a little dust between family?

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Mighty Oak

"Mighty oaks from little acorns grow," and this one has been growing for a long, long time.  More of this old beauty had to come down and it broke my heart.  Tree Guy and Number Two Son came yesterday and played in my very own episode of  "Axe Men."  Bessie and I sat up on the hill, staying well out of danger and out of the way, and watched and listened as the cuts were made and wedges pounded in, and then, "It's gonna go!  It's gonna go!"  With an almost human groan and nearly in slow motion, this second part of the tree crashed to the ground.

Tree Guy is standing and the trunk is resting on the stump.  The winery, previously hidden from my view, is in the background.  TG is six feet tall and the trunk is nearly hip high, to give some perspective to the size of just one section of the tree.  There is still a lot of work to be done, but Tree Guy and Son will be back today. 
I told Tree Guy I was going to post his picture, and he immediately struck a Tree Guy pose, like a safari hunter with his trophy.  Number Two Son opted to stay in the background.  He is going to buck the wood in exchange for firewood for next winter.  Since I will have at least three years' worth for my own use, there will be plenty to spare (and not put such a dent in my pocketbook).  The remaining half of the tree may stand another twenty years and, in the meantime, will provide shade for the goats in the new pen.  Still, I hated to see even part of this mighty oak fall.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


The front yard is looking like Ruth's back, pretty scruffy where the other girls have pulled out patches of hair.  I had promised myself a day off.  So much for that.  With my back suggesting loudly that I join Weeders Anonymous, I thought I'd just give the peonies in the herb garden a better chance to push up after their winter under ground.  One weed leads to another, and I managed to work my way through about a third of that garden before I had to go milk.  Walking my milk customer out to her car later, there were weeds around the half-barrel planter by the front porch that were calling my name.  Tree Guy came by in the afternoon.  While he went down to talk to Robert about finishing up the chipping, I moved to the halfway mark in the herb garden.  I mean, I was outside anyway.  Going behind the lilacs to turn on the hose in the late afternoon, there were weeds next to the house.  I had to pull those, and cleared that side completely.  Now the other side of the porch looks ratty.  I still haven't finished pulling bracken.  I still haven't finished the front rock garden.  I still haven't finished the herb garden.  So many weeds, so little time.

This compulsion to pull weeds is an inherited trait.  Some of my clearest memories of my mother are of her bent over, pulling weeds.  I used to get embarrassed as a kid because she'd pull weeds in other people's yards!  She couldn't help herself, and neither can I.  When my Kids were younger and pestering me about something or other, I knew I could get some peace and quiet by going out to weed because, strangely enough, the compulsion seems to have skipped a generation and none of them wanted to pull weeds too.  I just need to focus now and finish one area at a time and stop this willynilly, hither-and-yon plucking. 

Out in the vegetable garden, the turnips are up, but the cilantro, peas, and eggplant (I did get the eggplant planted some days ago) are taking their time.  I'm not even going to think about the weeds out there!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Feelin' It

Temperatures have jumped up into the eighties and the warm days have brought out the lilac blossoms.  The lilac blossoms have brought out the butterflies.  It's exactly what I'd hoped for when I stuck six bare, eight-inch sticks in the ground the first year we lived here.  The wisteria vine out in the corner of the garden is heavy with buds.  It also was planted soon after we came and took a number of years before it bloomed.  Once started, it kicked into overdrive and now it's like working in a Chinese pagoda out there with the drooping lavender blossoms wafting in the breeze.

 On my morning walk-around, I started weeding the "rock garden" in the front yard; all that grow there are the granite rocks, daffodils in their time, a couple of hardy iris...and weeds.  My hands were already tired by the time I went down to the barn.  Bess and I took a breather while I put in a load of laundry, and then we headed down into the new pen.  There is a long (and I do mean long) stretch of four-strand barbed wire fence that has to come down.  Tree Guy/Fence Guy has promised to roll it up later for me, but I needed to take off the many, many clips holding the wires to the T-posts.  Those clips are a lot easier to put on than take off, each one needing to be untwisted.  Working in the afternoon sun was not unpleasant, but I was sweaty and tired by the time Tree Guy and Number Three Son pulled up with an industrial chipper to get my neighbor's yard cleaned of all the felled leafy stuff from the oak, blowing the mulch onto my side of the fence.  The goats won't mind.  Tree Guy needs to take down two more huge branches that are in danger of falling.  I will be so happy to be done with this project, and so will my piggybank.

Saw the buck again in the early evening, and his antlers are starting to branch, making him a two-point (California count) and eligible as a target come hunting season.  With apologies to the hunters, I hope Buck has enough sense to stay on the property come September or October.  I become very proprietary about "my" wildlife.

Bessie Anne and I were both pretty whupped last night, and she's behind me on the bed, still snoozing this morning.  I think I'll alternate watering and weeding days...and today will be a day to water.  I'm feelin' it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

No Doubt About It

It's time I faced the fact that I'm as mad as a March hare.  Sadly, one of the chicks didn't make it through the first night; it happens.  Dave at Mt. Aukum Feed Store said he would replace it, so I went down yesterday with that intent...and ended up buying an extra four Araucanas to keep the little one company on the way home.  The count now is sixteen chicks, ten Silkies, and seven layers.  All the chicks are only a few days old and much too early to sex (which has to do with gender identification and not lewd behavior), so the extra numbers are a kind of insurance in case there are cockerels in the mix.  Technically speaking, I did not get purebred Araucanas, but a mongrel breed called Ameraucanas.  They will lay the pastel-colored eggs and have the mutton-chop "ear" feathers of the purebreds, but have fewer breeding problems (which will not be an issue here).  For me, chickens are like potato chips...I can't have just one!

For whatever reason, the last time Steve worked down in the south pasture he dropped the disks off the tractor and left them in the field where they have stayed, lo these many years.  They were in the portion of the field which will be the new goat pen and would have been a sharp hazard for the girls, so Joel brought his big tractor over in the afternoon and we went down to pull out the huge double set of disks.  Not so easy.  The dratted ground squirrels had tunneled and burrowed and half-buried the disks, and two cotter pins sheared off while trying to free them.  So it was hike back up to the barn and find a set of thick chain and hooks to have another try.  Joel approached the disks from another angle, and this time was able to pull them loose while I cheered.  The big mound of dirt left behind has been named Mt. Joel.  Bess had trekked down and up and down the field with me, and I should have had a little flag for her to plant when she climbed the mound to flop at last on that cool earth.  Thanks to Joel, that's one more job crossed off of the To-Do List.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Just Say So

I'm getting a little peeved with the ground squirrel who has previously wreaked havoc in the big barn (Steve's area for tools and guy stuff), and who has now extended his living quarters to include the feed/craft wing...my space.  This squirrel must be an interior decorator with OCD who does not care for my sense of organization on the wall of shelves nor my decorating skills and is rearranging everything to suit himself.  Terra cotta flower pots have been pushed to the floor and broken.  Bags of plant food and other garden supplies have been torn open, sampled and scattered, not to his taste.  He disdains craft items I've stored for future projects, marking them most graphically.  I try very hard to live in harmony with my wildlife neighbors.  If he doesn't like the way I do things, I wish he'd just say so. 

The crew down in the goat barn is much more polite.  I will admit, however, that I'm not sure if this resident is waiting for breakfast to be served or kibitzing about my cleaning job.  "Hey, laaady...you missed a spot!" 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Here We Go Again

I had no intention of raising more chicks this year.  I've liked having my laundry room back, being able to throw in a load of wash at any old time of day or night and not worrying about disturbing the babies, leaving the door open for light and air down the hall.  Having only seven hens in the flock of layers, I'll admit to a passing thought that I might need more chickens.  (I must be daft.  I'm picking up three to five eggs a day, not counting the Silkies'...and there's only me to eat them!)  Bessie Anne has been begging and begging for more chicks to watch, and I've been saying no.
I went to Mt. Aukum for feed, gas for the tractor, and lengths of chain for the new pen gates.  The chain was downstairs...and so were the newly arrived chicks.  Well, I'll just take a peek.  Well, Bessie has been a very good girl and deserves a reward.  Well, I'll have four Araucanas, four barred rocks, and four Rhode Island reds.  And throw some chick mash into the feed order.  I must be daft.

Right now, the little barred rocks look like penguins, black with a white topknot and collar and wearing white diapers.  It's hard to believe that anything so tiny can be so loud.  Even through the closed door, the yeeping can drown out the TV!  Sometimes I think that Bessie Anne is trying some sort of Vulcan mind meld, she stares so intently at her charges.  It never works.  We are back in the routine...anytime I head down the hall for whatever reason, Bessie thinks we should open the door and check on the chicks.  I must be daft.

Update:  thankfully, Pearl and Lucky appear fully recovered.