Sunday, July 31, 2011

Skinks, Etc.

I'm always a little leery of slithery things, so when I caught sight of a tail disappearing behind Twenty-Two's "bed" in the nursery, I went to investigate to make sure it wasn't something that could harm him.  This turned out to be just a little something about eight inches long, shiny-smooth, very snakelike in appearance and movement, but with legs.  The word "skink" sprang to mind, but I had to check it out later to be sure.  It was, indeed, a skink, which I discovered is one of the largest groups of lizards, with over six hundred varieties.  This skink is nothing like my lizard totem who lives in the lettuce barrel, but anything that eats insects is welcome at Farview.

From past experience, I know that baby goats like to sleep in the shallow rubber feed bowls I use in the barn and so have kept an old one just for the kidlets.  Twins and triplets always cluster in their birth groups to sleep, and I think that for a single-o like Twenty-Two, curling up in the dish helps him feel not quite so much alone.  At nine days old, he's already getting tiny horn spikes.  I have no one available to burn the horn buds this time, but (if Tree Guy's friend comes through) since he's going to get a job as a brush eater and Nineteen has a scur, maybe a set of horns will be an asset.

Larry and Taylor drove up just as I finished barn chores yesterday.  It was the first time I'd seen Taylor since her surgery, and it was more than great to see her standing straight and tall.  If it weren't for the scar from the base of her neck to the lower back, one would never guess from her movement she'd had two rods placed in her spine to correct aggressive scoliosis.  Larry pirated some wire from the old boat (Steve would have been so proud, as he was the Scrounge King) and was able to jerryrig the wiring from his truck to the travel trailer well enough to take the trailer home to finish and improve the job.  I had a momentary pang as I watched the little trailer leave the driveway for the last time; it's been a part of Farview landscape for so long.  It had been lovely to visit with Larry and Tay for the afternoon.

It was a good day.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Under the Wire

Throughout the day, I had bathed Bessie's eye while waiting for the four o'clock appointment with Dr. Ric.  While out for a potty break in the afternoon, Bess caught sight of something and took off after it into the underbrush and came back covered with those godawful tiny Velcro burrs...terrible timing.  It took a full hour to brush them out of her coat...I was tempted to shave her down like a Mexican hairless.  (She'd done the same thing twice the day before.)  With the temperature hovering around one hundred, sweat was dripping as I worked on her...Dr. Ric was going to have to take me as I was because there'd be no time to clean up if we were going to make the appointment.  At the very last minute, I washed her face and checked her eye one more time...and this time I could see the foxtail and was able to remove it, much to her relief and mine!  I called and cancelled our visit, and explained I still had the ophthalmic antibiotic from our last go-round with a foxtail and would apply that.  Talk about just making it under the wire!  Repeated skunkings, leg injuries, foxtails, her as I do, I'd have to say my little dog is a slow learner.

In contrast, in a week's time Twenty-Two has the bottle routine down pat, stands on his own four feet to drink, and no longer needs me to pry open his jaws to get the nipple in.  Tessie has also learned the breakfast-milking pattern and does no more than stamp her foot a couple of times during the process.  Some of the chickens need remedial training regarding bedtime and I, Pick-Me-Up Peggy under my arm, still have to herd them into the house every night.  Ah, well.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Call of the Wild

I didn't allow enough time to mow the front yard before chores yesterday, but didn't want to waste the "cool" of the morning so decided to attack the lavender bed again.  I'm not talking about plucking a few interlopers from amongst the posies; this hayrick, larger by far than Bessie Anne, is about an hour's worth of weeding...and I'm not done yet.

The beastie boys were either up early or out late, making their presence known as they made their way up the canyon behind Dennis's place long after daybreak.  Their yips and howls cause an atavistic response from Bessie Anne.  She doesn't buy in when the dogs down the road set up a commotion, but let the coyote pack pass by and she throws back her head and sings along.

Tree Guy and Number Three Son came by in the early afternoon to split another cord of the oak rounds down in the goat pen.  I'd talked to TG about needing to reduce the size of the herd, and yesterday he said one of his other customers would like Nineteen and Twenty-Two (when he's old enough, and neutered) as brush-eaters on his property.  I would be so happy to have the boys go together, a band of brothers, as it were.  I've tried never to sell just one goat unless it's to an established herd; they'd be so unhappy alone.  I've learned not to count my chickens until they've hatched (and it's darned hard afterward as they run around!), but I hope this customer of TG's really comes through.

Whiling away the heat later in the day, I was brushing burrs from Bessie's coat when I discovered she's evidently gotten another foxtail in her eye.  It was too late to get her to the vet's.  I'm hoping that cool compresses and a couple of doses of the antibiotic from the last episode have at least made her more comfortable until I can get an appointment today.

To finish the day with a bang, the girls were fighting down in the pen at bedtime and one slammed into the gate and caught my thumb in the latch just as I was going in to put down their snack bowls.  Running blood, I got the big ones settled in their respective stalls, but still had to give the nighty-night bottle to Twenty-Two.  I couldn't see in the near dark in the barn, but tried to keep the blood out of the milk and off him.  I was relieved to see later that I won't have to ask Dr. Ric to throw a couple of stitches in me after he's tended to Bessie Anne.

All's well that ends well.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

False Colors

Grass might grow a couple of inches in a week or so; star thistle shoots up a foot or more.  I have star thistle and no grass.  In an attempt to beat the heat yesterday, I got an early start and mowed down the west point and down the drive before it was time to take on barn chores.  Even so, while cutting the last swath I could feel the sun start burning through my shirt.

After throwing down bird seed under the oak, the first chore every day is to let the Silkies out of the Taj and make sure they have water.  The roosters were loudly proclaiming their presence and greeting the sun.  Then I heard a tentative, almost whispered, "Cockadooo," response from the hen house next to the small pen.  Although none of the "hens" I've raised in this latest batch has yet to show any of the secondary male characteristics of comb, wattles, and spurs, it would appear that someone has been flying under false colors.  None of the flock would 'fess up as they came tumbling down the ramp.  I'm hoping there is only one impostor in the bunch.  I was going to put up a notice to try to sell some of the Silkie boys, but now I'll wait and see how many males are in the big flock; maybe I can give a group discount, or perhaps a "buy one, get two free" deal.  Otherwise I might end up down in front of the grocery store with a box of roosters like those people with litters of puppies.

It used to be the comfrey plant, but the epazote has taken over the responsibility of informing me that it's time to water.  The epazote wilts, I water, it stands up straight again.  It's like plant push-ups, and in this weather, the epazote is getting a good workout.

Getting a head start worked pretty well yesterday.  Maybe I'll mow the front and side yards as soon as the sun comes up today.  Or not.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mother and Son

Milking Tessie yesterday was anticlimactic after the drama of the preceding days.  She pretty much kept all four feet on the stand and I was able to empty the udder, even to the bump-and-strip at the end.  Tessie is going to be a good milker once she gets over the urge to be a tap-dancer.  Given that she delivered so far into summer, I am only milking her once a day.  Twice a day is better for a couple of months at first, but it's just too darned hot for her and for me to do a nighttime stint on the stand.

Twenty-Two is really coming into his own.  Like all babies, at first all he did was eat and sleep.  Now he wants to play a bit after his tummy is full, and he's sucking down a full bottle at every feeding.  When I pick him up to sit him on my lap, he immediately starts nuzzling and doing the head butting that gets the milk flowing from the moms.  I've explained that his milk comes from the bottle.  His eyes are blue, and won't change to golden brown for another month or so.  Since I am now his "herd," Twenty-Two tries to follow when I leave.  It's hard to be an only child when you're a kid, goat or otherwise.

Hearing a noise on the deck this morning as I went to make coffee, I turned on the porch light and there was Rocky Raccoon, busy working on the lid to the empty dog treat container again.  Bessie Anne about lost it, yelling, "Let me at him!"  There was no way I would let her out...raccoons can really do a number on a dog.  I'm banging on the glass door, Bess is barking her head off, and Rocky just looked at us, said, "Fine.  Just fine.  You're a lousy hostess anyhow," and ambled over to the corner and down the post at the end of the deck in his own good time.  Obviously, I've got to find another place to keep the recycle bag.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Have To Laugh

Tessie and I had a successful milking yesterday.  That simply means she did not flood the room with milk.  It does not mean I had a clean getaway.  She has taken to holding one hind foot up, poised to tip the bucket.  I can block and hold it with the back of one hand, but that is awkward and makes it difficult to direct the stream from her smallish teats.  Consequently, I squirted milk up my nose, in my armpit, all over my bibbies, on the stand...and some in the bucket.  With a first-time milker, that's considered success.

Tess has taken the separation from Twenty-Two pretty well.  She spends her days with the herd and not hanging around the barn.  She does talk to him across the hall when she comes in at night.  I give her reports on his progress, and let her sniff his scent on the bottle and me to reassure her that he is doing fine.  The novelty has worn off and, though heads are raised, the group does not gang up on me as I go down for feedings.

The barn swallow who spattered the lawn tractor with mud evidently decided that side of the barn was too noisy and abandoned that nest.  What is it they say about real estate?  Location, location, location.  Of the two nests that were started on the hay side of the barn, only one was completed.  I disturb her only once a day when I get the alfalfa for the goats in the morning, and she vacates the premises for that short time.

Pick-me-up Peggy and I continue the nightly chicken round up.  Herding hens one-handed is a bit difficult, but how can I refuse this little girl?  She seems to love the ride-along.  Timing is everything, and life would be so much easier if I could put the chickens to bed after the goats.  It would be darker then and they'd probably go in on their own.  Bessie Anne is the monkey wrench in that plan.  Besides, I'd miss my little black-and-white helper hen's company.

Dripping milk in the morning, a chicken under my arm in the evening...some days you just have to laugh.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Should'a Known

I knew that first milking went too smoothly and it couldn't last.  Yesterday was a total disaster.  Poor Tessie's udder was shiny tight and I was working as quickly as I could to relieve the pressure when it was her turn on the stand.  It was going pretty well and I could fend off the occasional stamping hoof as long as she had food in the dish, but when she ran out, trouble started.  I discovered it is impossible to get a shoulder under the belly of a bucking goat to keep the back feet in the air and still milk an unhappy doe.  The inevitable happened and nearly a gallon of milk went flying.  It occurred to me once again that it is a good thing there is no one in hearing distance.  Fortunately, I was within a couple of squirts of being finished with Tessie, and I decided we could both live with that and I turned her out.  I had really wanted to save that last day of colostrum (produced for about three days after birth), but at least I had a quart left from the day before in the refrigerator.

The rest of the day went by in a blur of milk and water.  In the heat that has arrived again, everything needs watering at least once a day; plants, chickens, dog, cats, and goats (and sheep).  Every time I turned around, it was time for another bottle for Twenty-Two.  As it is for people babies, the bottle needs to be heated (what did we do before microwaves?), washed, refilled.  Trekking down to the barn, I am accompanied by the pushing, shoving herd on each visit.  Poppy has figured out that there is nothing in it for her and goes on about her business in the field.  Waking from a nap, Twenty-Two takes time out to pee.  And pee.  And pee.  He must hold it in between feedings, and we have a couple of minutes of silent communion, just looking at each other, before he finally comes to sit in my lap.  It's really pretty funny.  He has taken to the bottle like a pro, chugging down all but about an inch every time.  It's like watching a balloon as his belly swells with the intake.  It's hard to leave him, as he's started crying, not wanting to be left alone, when I go out of the stall.  It's a drawback to being a surrogate mother, as he gives a very human-like "ma-a-a-a," and I'll admit to giving a momentary thought to putting him in the laundry room (the chickens aren't using it).  Sanity returned just in time.

The midnight marauder got really ticked off.  I'd put an empty, covered plastic container that used to hold dog treats in the recycle bag on the deck by the kitchen door.  Yesterday I found the container all the way around on the other side of the deck, the lid covered with teeth and claw marks, but intact.  Unlike someone who shall remain nameless, the marauder must do his cussing under his breath because neither Bessie nor I heard anything in the middle of the night.

I'm holding the good thought for the milking this morning, but....

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Are You My Mama?

It was a day of big changes.  Tessie got milked.  The routine of getting up on the stand for breakfast is just the start.  The actual milking for the first time is always a challenge.  I've become pretty good at blocking flying feet while keeping a semi-steady stream of milk flowing, but it does take concentration.  Tessie's milk had to be kept separate to save the colostrum for the baby.  She actually did well.  I turned her out to rejoin the herd when we were done.

While Esther, a nonmilker, was having her breakfast, I cleaned out the nursery.  Twenty-Two had had his breakfast directly from the source and was ready for a nap, so making the transfer wasn't difficult for him.  He just lay down and went to sleep.

It's been a while since I've been in the baby routine, and had forgotten how time consuming that is.  It seemed I'd barely gotten back from the barn when it was time to get Twenty-Two's first bottle ready and warmed.  The herd is not used to me coming into the pen during the day, and they came from all corners.  Why are you here?  What are you doing?  What do you have?  Like iron filings to a magnet, they clustered to me and we went in a clump to the barn.  Some babies fight taking milk from a bottle and clamp their little jaws shut like a tightly closed clam.  Twenty-Two was one of the easiest I've ever had.  That doesn't mean, however, that we weren't both sprayed and dripping with milk by the time he'd sucked down a few ounces.  The second bottle in early afternoon went just as well, and he drank over eight ounces.  In the photo, he's not posing, he's peeing, but it got him to stand still long enough to finally get a good shot.  That white slash up the side is a throwback to his great-grandfather, Karma.  The white markings by his eyes are typical of the Swiss Alpine breed.  By bedtime, we were old hands at the routine and he filled his tummy with most of the sixteen-ounce bottle.  That's a lot for such a little guy, but it would help him sleep well on his first night alone.

I've been asked why I take the babies away from their mother so soon.  Bottle-fed kids learn quickly that people mean food and become used to being touched, carried, and handled in general.  It's much better to have a goat come to you than have to chase it down.  Early and constant human contact simplifies milking or hoof trimming later on.  It's more work on my part, and it's hard on the mother for a week or so, but a hand-raised kid is more saleable, if that is the goal, and easier to deal with if it is to stay in the herd.  Twenty-Two will stay isolated for the two months before he is weaned.  He and I are going to become best friends.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Nothing To Do

The To-Do List had reached double-column status.  Larry and I had been so busy racing from one task to another that I hadn't kept up with crossing off jobs as they were done.  Coming back up from the barn yesterday, I started erasing the completed chores, one after the other, and realized that the entire list was gone...there was nothing left on the board!  And Larry had even taken on some things that hadn't even made the list, like the feed barn doors and digging out around the goat pen gate so it would close better.  Other than watering everything, I had nothing to do all day but walk around and admire how nice everything looked...and nap...several naps, in fact.

Napping seemed to be the order of the day for Twenty-Two, also.  Getting born is hard work.  Making sure she had everything she'd need, I left Tessie in for one more day so she could get some rest, too.  When I went down in the afternoon to check on mother and son, I found Twenty-Two had wedged himself into one of the openings the squirrels had made under the barn wall and could go neither forward nor back.  What is it with boys?  Given the least opportunity to get into trouble, they jump on it or, in this case, into it.  Pulling him free, I put him next to his mama and he went straight for some comfort food.  I've got to work out a new schedule today, as I'll turn Tessie out with the herd and start bottle feeding Twenty-Two.

I don't think I can stretch that "nothing to do" into two days, but it sure was nice to lie back like the Lady to the Manor born for the day.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Surprise Package

Tessie is always the last doe to leave the barn in the morning and sometimes needs a little coaxing, but when I stepped in yesterday, she wouldn't move.  And then I was stunned to see why.  It wasn't the Wells-Fargo Wagon but the stork that had made a surprise delivery in the wee hours of the day.  Tess had already passed the placenta, which sometimes takes a couple of hours after the birth, and the little kid was having breakfast.  I had actually decided that Tessie's visit to sex camp had not been successful.  She showed no real signs of pregnancy in belly or udder, and certainly no indication of impending delivery...I had been checking her daily.  As a first-time mom, perhaps Tessie was as surprised as I.  I had not separated her from the others, so perhaps Cindy, Esther, and Inga acted as aunties and helped her through the labor.  As soon as the baby stepped away from the breakfast bar, I scooped it up to check for gender and was, I'll admit, disappointed to find he was a male.  It's harder to find a buyer for bucks/wethers, and they usually go to an unhappy fate.  As are all babies, little Twenty-Two is a cutie.  It will be hard not to become attached.  I cleaned the big room, gave Tessie grain and alfalfa and brought her a bucket of water, and left her and baby inside for the day.

Larry had come to see the newest addition to the herd, and then he and I were on a dead run for the rest of the day.  As well as the defunct pool, there is a nonfunctioning boat and trailer that has been sitting by the driveway for a number of years, gradually becoming filled to overflowing with an accumulation of trash; the idea being to haul the whole thing to the dump.  It had become an embarrassment, needing only a rusting washing machine to complete the trashy picture.  Unable to move the boat, Larry had transferred most of the contents to my pickup and, looking like the "before" picture of the Beverly Hillbillies, we headed off to town.  In addition to the dump run (which is now called, for some unknown reason, as a transfer station), we had a number of other stops to make, including a hunt for a new doorbell.  Due to previous bad experiences at Home Depot I've avoided going there for years, but I was running out of local options.  We found exactly what we needed, helped by available, friendly personnel, and I went out of my way to find a manager to congratulate the store on the total turn-around in attitude.  It was unfortunate that some ditsy woman backed into my truck as we were leaving, but no damage was done.

Larry wasn't successful in changing out some wiring on his truck to accommodate the travel trailer; he'd hoped to be able to take it down to the valley on this trip.  There just aren't enough words to say how grateful I am for all that was accomplished in four days.  Larry has earned a rest, and I need a rest!  As my friend Dolly said, we're ready to be published in "Farm Beautiful."  The pleasure of my son's company can't be measured.  I started missing him as soon as his taillights rounded the driveway.

It was a good week.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day Three

The third day was the charm.  An infinitesimal speck of something in the carburetor was keeping the gas from flowing in the weedeater; once cleaned, the eater chomped up weeds as if it were starving.  I heard it running while I was down in the barn and almost did a jig with a whoop and holler, but refrained in case I'd jinx the whole thing.  Besides, I had my own problem down there.  Just for cheap insurance, I use two buckets for the milk.  Yesterday I'd finished with Cindy and Ruth in the first bucket.  Cleaned the stalls while Esther was having breakfast.  Milked Inga, a heavy contributor, into the second bucket, and was halfway through milking Sheila.  She stamped a hind foot faster than I could react, caught just the lip of the bucket, and a veritable tsunami of milk flooded over the stand.  Sure glad I had that first bucket set aside and safe.

I may have mentioned, probably in connection with poker games, that my Kids are somewhat competitive (yes, that's an understatement).   Larry said he wasn't about to let the machine win.  Larry cut down the chest-high weeds in and around the garden, around the feed barn and the chicken pens, around the oak tree, under the deck, and cut a path to the bird feeder.  That weedeater got a workout like it's never had before.  Weedeating is a one-man job, so I took advantage of the time to catch up on housework.

Undermined by ground squirrels, the feed barn had settled and the double doors no longer closed properly.  Irritated, Larry rebuilt the support structure (I got to hold and hand things) and fixed that situation.  Later, I was doing prep work for dinner and that darned Kid was up on the roof, cleaning the gutters on the front of the house.  There's just no stopping him!  Putting the entree in the oven, I went out to the back yard to help him load the defunct above-ground pool that had been lying in an eyesore pile for years into my pickup.  So big and heavy that it would have taken more than the two of us to lift, he got the Sawzall (man's best friend) and cut it into manageable chunks and we loaded it up.  I can't say what a relief it is to have that out of the yard.  A run to the dump is in our future today.

Meatloaf is comfort food.  I threw in some wasabi mashed potatoes and fresh green beans, and my boy was a happy camper last night.  Heaven knows he earned a Hungry Man dinner.

It was a very good day.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Home, Sweet Home

This bird house/feeder had not only fallen into disrepair, it had fallen off the tree and had lain in the dirt for several years.  One of Steve's many talents was building incredible, detailed bird houses to give to friends, and this treasure was mine.  Larry put a new roof on the barn, built a new platform, and rehung the feeder on the big oak off the breakfast room.  It does my heart good to see it back in its rightful place.  Grey squirrels compete with sparrows for the bird seed; no problem there.  However, though technically turkeys are birds and it is a bird feeder, this bird house was not built to withstand the weight of three humongous turkeys who felt they shouldn't have to dine with the hoi polloi below.  That's why it fell off the tree in the first place.

Larry replaced the mini-blinds in the guest room.  What a welcome difference that made!  I've never heard of anyone else's doorbell disintegrating, but mine had.  Dave and I had tried to fix it with Super Glue without success.  Larry took it apart again and I made the run to Mt. Aukum to find a new one.  Dave at the feed store just looked at me over his glasses when I asked if he had one of those round doorbell push thingies.  Long pause.  Said he didn't have a stock of thingies (and he didn't have any doorbells, either).

After much tinkering the night before, Larry got the weedeater to run...twice...for seven minutes each time.  Blast!

By far, the biggest job of the day was cutting down three youngish-but-large oaks down by the driveway.  Live oaks have prickly leaves like holly, and in between the oaks were the treacherous, low-growing buck brush with thorns.  A neophyte with a chainsaw, Larry did an excellent job of felling the oaks, trimming the buck brush back to reach them.  My job was to pull the trimmings away and help load the truck to haul them up to the burn pile.  We must have made seven or more trips with the branches piled higher than the cab.  When burn season comes again, I'm going to have to get a special permit to fire off the mountain of brush.  (I may just put up an official "Bird Sanctuary" sign and leave the pile there.)  It was fortunate for me that the chain came off the saw before my legs gave out.  It was a gift from heaven.  With the underbrush cleared, I was able to see the poison oak where Larry and I had been working and I could feel hives coming up on my arms.  Aaargh.  Coming back to the house (at last), we took showers with Fels-Naphtha soap and I threw our clothes immediately into the washer.  We seem to have dodged that bullet.

Dinner was do-it-yourself with leftovers.  I don't think I had the energy to scramble an egg.  Larry again went down to fool with the weedeater.  I didn't even feel guilty when I fell asleep in the chair to take a nap before going to bed.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Good Job!

The weedeater would start...but it wouldn't stay running.  How frustrating.  My son Larry came up yesterday to give me a little time and a lot of effort, tackling some of the bigger chores at Farview.  Weedeating the garden was at the top of the list, and there it stays until the dratted machine will do its job.  Not one to sit around, Larry trimmed the photinia hedge in front of the house, then cleaned up the debris and weeds from underneath.  It had gotten pretty seedy looking, and now looks spiffy!  He replaced a second bulb in the sensor light on the porch.  Since the critters go in at dusk, it's really very nice to have the porch light come on when I'm walking back up to the house, not that I need it to's the welcoming aspect I enjoy.  Cleaning the gutters was next on the agenda, and, boy, did they ever need that!  The worst offender is the residue from the long fronds from the oaks, and the gutters were almost solid with that gunk.  I'm not so good on ladders anymore, so in addition to everything else Larry did, I do so appreciate his taking that on.  Tree Guy stopped by after his day job and gave Larry a quick lesson in chainsaws; best to learn from an expert.  The only thing I know about chainsaws is "run away!"  There are a lot of volunteer live oaks, particularly down by the entrance to the driveway, that are beginning to break down the fence.  I think that's going to go on today's To-Do list.

Like a pointer bird dog, my primary job was to search, find, and retrieve...a particular tool, nails, tape...whatever was needed.  There are multiples of almost everything because if one is working up by the barn, it's a booger to have to go get a tool that's down in the shop, and vice versa, but nothing is where one would expect it (Steve's organization).  The only way I know where anything is is because I noted it while I was searching for something else.

My only real contribution to the day was to cook.  Larry had mentioned fried Spam sandwiches from when he was a kid, so he got one of those for lunch.  Fresh pico de gallo and tortilla chips for a snack.  Skirt steak marinated in olive oil, garlic, and lime juice, quick grilled and sliced on the bias; sweet corn; crispy home fry potatoes with garlic and red pepper flakes; strawberry shortcake...dinner!  I do love to cook, and even more I love to cook for my Kids.  After dinner, Larry went down to the shop to tinker with the blasted weedeater.  A little TV for me...and to bed.

It was a good day.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Day Away

Judy called early in the morning with an invitation to join her and Joel at Colibri Ridge for that winery's anniversary party.  "Let me check my social calendar."  No, the Queen of England wasn't due for a visit.  No, I wasn't on the agenda to present my solution to the budget problems in front of Congress.  I could DVR NASCAR.  By golly, I was free for the afternoon, and said a resounding yes!  The weather was perfection, even a little chilly.  John throws a good party.  Grilled cheeseburgers with a topping of mushrooms in a Merlot reduction and other goodies, and of course the wine-tasting bar was open.  Joel selected a bottle of mourvedre to go with our lunch.  I don't pretend to have a sophisticated palate when it comes to wine, but I've certainly learned a lot since moving to grape country, and can at least "talk the talk."  I've learned to appreciate the spice, fruit, and floral notes in wine, but really tend to go with, "Oh, yum!  I like that!," when it comes to picking a bottle.  Mojo, the guitarist/singer who has performed at all John's functions, was there.  You know how good he is when his music can interrupt an in-depth conversation between grape growers about the effects of this bizarre weather on the vines, and he gets a round of applause every time.  Any afternoon in the company of my friends is a good one, and yesterday was no exception.

Jeans and a tee-shirt constitute formal attire up here, so I took advantage of getting dressed up to throw both pair of bibbies to wash while I was gone.  Hanging them to dry after I got home meant I stayed in my party duds...and felt disinclined to do any more work for the day.  Oh, what the heck...I was on vacation!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

White Noise

"Mommy.  Mommy.  Mommymommymommy."  Parents learn to listen for intonation.  Nothing wrong?  Then that constant demand for attention gets tuned out and turned into white noise in the background.  That happens daily now with Nineteen.  He makes such a pest of himself if I let him out with the girls in the morning that he continues to get breakfast room service.  I know he's lonely since Tessie moved herself some time back into the big room with Cindy, Esther, and Inga.  He whines continually in his stall until I'm done milking and/or feeding all six of the girls.  He whines with his mouth full while he's eating.  I've watched him whining while he's looking out of his window.  He's just a whiner, and I really don't hear him anymore in the morning.

The weather this summer is just crazy.  Here it is, the middle of July, and the days are in the seventies and low eighties, with nights dipping into the fifties.  That's ever so pleasant, but unreal.  Last night it was downright cold.  Frank never moved off my feet and Bessie Anne was jammed full length up against my back, and I was darned glad to have them there.  At one-thirty, however, Bess woke up and barked.  The moon is full again and it was light enough to see a raccoon, not fazed in the least by the dog, going the length of the deck toward the recycling bag around by the kitchen door.  A week or so ago I found the bag opened and scratches on an empty mayonnaise jar.  I gave a passing thought to raccoons but figured it must have been the cats.  I haven't seen raccoons up here for several years.  They give home invasion a whole new meaning.  What do they the neighborhood?  Any bottle or jar that goes into the bag is lidded and usually rinsed so there's no smell to draw an animal up to the house in the first place and then all the way around to the kitchen.  Checking this morning, it evidently found nothing to its liking; the bag wasn't even disturbed.  Am I supposed to feel bad now that we've been stamped "Reject" by the wildlife?

Once again I performed the nightly chicken roundup with a hen under my arm.  I'm pretty sure her name is Pick-Me-Up Peggy.  She runs to meet me at the gate, snuggles in my arm when I scoop her up, and we go on about the business of herding the others in.  I may be snubbed by the raccoon, but my chicken loves me.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Bound To Happen

I'd been questioning the gender of some of the young Silkies for a while, but none had yet developed the really bulging comb that Musashi has (and had from the beginning).  It was too much to hope that all six of the chicks would turn out to be girls.  Sure enough, yesterday one of the greys began giving out with a beginner's crow.  Like an adolescent boy whose voice is cracking, it takes a while for the cockerel to develop his true tones and doodle-doos.  I have my doubts about a couple of the others, and will wait a bit to be sure before trying to find the boys new homes.  There can only be one rooster in that pen.  (The girls need their rest!)

Satomi and Keiko are going broody again, and I feel bad about denying their wish for motherhood, but there's just so much room in the Taj, and ten is about all it will hold.

There are gender issues in the big pen, also.  Getting the chicks when they're just a couple of days old, they are too young to be sex specific.  I'm pretty sure the big, black and white splashed Araucana is a male (he's really gorgeous), and there's a strong possibility that one of the Rhodies is also a rooster.  If they continue to get along, the number of girls and the size of the coop might allow both of them to stay.

In every flock, there are a few who stand out, who capture my attention and affection.  Yuki in the Silkie pen, with her come-hither squat, is one of those.  Special hens in the big pen from the past have included little brain-damaged, paralyzed Donna and her companion, Madelyn; Stumpy, of course; Crooks, whose beak halves overlapped but who lived many years with that challenge; and Tattle-Tale Tessie, who ratted out her companions every night.  There is a strong contender for the Number One position this year.  This batch of young ones seems to have a little trouble getting with the nighttime program.  While most are going in on schedule, there are those hold-outs who need herding in at dusk.  As I come into the pen, the renegades run to the far corners...all but one.  For the past week, one smallish, black and white barred Rock has run to me.  Not wanting to step on her or trip over her as I chased down the escape artists, I picked her up and carried her with me as I herded the runaways into the coop, then gave her a cuddle and a little sweet talk before tucking her in at last.  Now that is our nightly routine.  It's a bit awkward, trying to herd chickens who won't stay in once they go in, manage the Dutch door to the house, and close latches with a chicken under my arm.  I tried putting her in with the first group to go in, but she squirted back out and ran right to me again.  She seems to be a one-woman chicken.  She hasn't told me her name yet.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Nick of Time

Things happen when they do for a reason.  The Great Chicken Caper that caused me to reinforce the fence around the pen was not a day too soon.  Yesterday in the early morning, I caught a blur of movement down in the front was a coyote racing for the woods.  Later, while watering the deck plants, Coyote and I had a moment of silent communion as she stood at the edge of said woods and just looked at me.  It's possible we were having the same thought, "Go away!"  It gave me great satisfaction to know that there wouldn't be a chicken dinner in her future.  It relieved my mind of worry as I had to go to town yesterday, and I knew my little girls were safe.

The timing of my going grocery shopping turned out to be good, also.  Having put off the trip for a month meant supplies were low.  I was still unloading the truck when I got a most welcome call from one of my sons, who told me he was planning to come up for a few days on Monday.  I actually have fresh vegetables and a supply of meat on hand!  Chatting with the butcher at the meat counter, I mused how it was that I came to discover skirt steak so late in life.  We agreed that fat equals flavor, and rib eye steak was better than fillet mignon in that regard.  Having once tried skirt steak, so quick, so tender and flavorful, it will be hard to go back to anything else...and the price is right.  Stew beef, liver, flank steak...once upon a time, these were "throw away" meats; pennies a pound.  Then they became trendy and the price soared.  Even knuckle bones, which the butcher literally gave away, now cost a couple of dollars each.  While it is easy to bemoan the high cost of food now, one must remember that in the "good old days," minimum wage was less than a dollar an hour.

I even have cookies to serve my Kid.  Man, I'm on a good-timing roll here!

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Almost as satisfying as seeing the cleared ground in the rock garden is watching the piles of pulled weeds grow.  It's my own personal "atta-boy."  Only the lone iris (and weeds) grows...water the rocks as I might, they stubbornly refuse to do anything but lie there.  Inspector Frank is on the job, suggesting that I might want to haul those weed piles away now.

Behind the lavender bed (about half done with the weeding there), those tall, spiky things are wild mullein, a medicinal herb.  These have sprung up in the area where the brush pile used to be.  Huge furry leaves and five- to six-foot-tall spikes that will eventually have lovely yellow flowers, mullein thrives on neglect and sprouts up everywhere.  Feverfew, which has tiny, daisy-like flowers, is also in bloom now, as is St. John's wort, which has bright yellow flowers.  There is a bank of wort around the circular part of the driveway, but until today I never knew what it was.  If a "weed" stays green without effort on my part, has pretty flowers, and isn't obstructing an area I want for something else, I leave it do the deer, which is an added bonus.

Waiting for my milk customers (due at eleven-thirty, arriving at five-thirty), I didn't want to get into a dirty outside project like weedeating the garden.  After enough housework to feel I'd paid my dues for the day, I gave in to a craving for cookies.  Laughing to myself as I mixed one batch of oatmeal-raisin dough, I remembered all the cookies I baked for the Kids back in the day.  One batch of anything wouldn't have been worth getting the bowls dirty; any one of the Kids could have been the prototype for the Cookie Monster.  Like baby birds, they stood around the oven waiting for the first pans to come out, and those cookies were gone in a magician's flash.  Rarely did the Kids have bought cookies in their school lunches, so I did a lot of baking in those days.  I once found a recipe for molasses cookies that made twelve dozen.  We were going on a road trip so I doubled it, thinking they'd have treats in the car.  The soft cookies clumped up in the bags and could only be broken off in chunks, and it turned out the Kids weren't fond of molasses in the first place.  Go figure.

When my customers arrived, they came bearing several tomato plants that came from a friend of theirs.  Unlabeled, these mystery tomatoes are some type of heirloom varieties.  What fun it will be to find out what's in the surprise packages.  They also brought two Black Beauty eggplant plants.  My own seeds for eggplant did not sprout, so these are treasures.  Craig and I are the only ones who will be thrilled by the eggplants; as Craig says, "More for you and me!"

Being the adult that I am, after careful consideration I decided that six cookies in each hand constituted a balanced diet for dinner.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What A Day

The barn floor was literally littered yesterday with furry pancakes; six or seven squirrels lying languorously, waiting for the breakfast buffet.  Al is the one who makes me laugh out loud.  He has taken to making a dive, head down and forearms outstretched, into an an area of loose dirt, looking for all the world like a base runner diving for home plate.  Confident he's been called "Safe!," he lifts his head and blows puffs of dust from his snoot and blinks dirt from his eyes.  Lying full length, he proceeds to chew on the wad of seeds he's carrying in his cheek pouch, just like a ball player.  Who needs TV?

Coming back up the hill, lugging two buckets of milk, I glanced over and noted chickens where chickens ought not be.  There were a couple of the older hens scratching happily in the leaves under the oak...maybe they'd flown over the fence, and I hoped against hope that the pullets hadn't followed.  Setting down the buckets, I went around the other side of the hen house and, drat it!, there were the majority of the little girls out in the thick weeds.  Even more upset than I that her chickens were on the loose, Bessie immediately went into round-up mode, dashing about and sending the pullets into panic.  Bessie turns off her hearing when she's intent on her job, so it took some doing to catch her on the fly and put her into the nearby feed room.  "But, Mom, I can help!"  Scared, the pullets clustered at the fence line and I was able to catch and drop them one at a time over the fence back into their pen.  I found the hole under the chicken wire where they'd made their great escape and blocked it temporarily with a wooden pallet.  I've been plugging escape routes with whatever came to hand for some time, but it was obviously time to do some serious repairs.  Releasing a chastened Bess from solitary confinement, I took the milk in to strain and chill, and took a breather for myself.  Out in the barn, I uncovered the tail end of a roll of two-inch by four-inch wire fencing.  Perfect.  Then came the search for the big bolt cutters I knew we had.  The right tool makes any job easier, and I needed to cut the fencing to size.  Given Steve's sense of organization, I always find a lot of things I might need in the future while I'm hunting for what I need now; nothing, of course, where one might expect it to be.  I did find the bolt cutters, I did cut the fencing, I did reinforce large sections of the chicken pen.  Whatever plan I might have had for the morning was shot in the foot, for sure.

In the afternoon, I really wanted to get the weeds in the vegetable garden cut down.  I had to move the lawn tractor to get the weedeater out.  Well, as long as I had to start the mower anyway, I might as well mow the front yard...and then the side yard.  Thinking there might still be time to get to the garden, I needed to hose off the tractor; it had been a little wheezy toward the last and struggling up the hills.  That spray that had cooled the Tire Guy turned into a full-fledged fountain and little to nothing was coming out of the squirter end.  Remembering that I'd seen a broken hose reel somewhere (while I was searching for something else), I found that and removed the perfectly good feeder hose to replace the leaking one on the wall reel.  There was a slight delay here while I ran to get the spray to kill the wasps that were building a nest in the reel.  There was definitely a method to Steve's madness about saving every little thing, and I give him credit where due.  However, by the time I'd finished switching hoses and washing down the tractor, there was about enough daylight left to water the garden and call it a day.

I left the tractor out so I can get to the weedeater tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Lookin' Good!

Woke up yesterday to a cool morning...we've been given a welcome respite from the heat.  Shortly after the sun was well and truly up, there was the sound of a tractor in my drive and there was Joel (tires intact).  If one needed a definition of "good neighbors," one would look no further than Joel and Judy.

Joel clanked along disking through the star thistle in the south field and I went on about my chores.  Poppy sure looks good with her summer "do."  Running my hand over her newly shorn wool, there is so much lanolin that she feels almost damp.  The high-water mark on her fleece from the winter's muck had ruined it for spinning.  I could have done, but it would have taken so much washing to get it ready I felt it wasn't worth the trouble.

Construction on the barn swallows' condos goes on apace.  Those little birds are Master masons, starting with a base on the back wall, then slowly building up layer upon layer of daubs of mud mixed with grasses (like adobe) in a convex pattern.  Only so much is laid down each day and let to dry.  How do they know how large to build so that the nest will accommodate eggs and mama?  How do they know how to construct a complicated rounded form with mud, of all things?  Is it their spit that makes the mud sticky enough to stay on the rafter?

It has long been my opinion that God and good neighbors should help those who help themselves, so late in the afternoon I jumped on my little tractor and mowed down the west field.  The star thistle hasn't yet set flowers and it's the perfect time to try to stay ahead of their painful thorns.  Bouncing along in the slanting rays of the setting sun, goats and sheep chewing cud in the next pen over, watching the circle of unmown weeds get smaller and smaller, cutting down the weeds in the driveway next to the well-turned earth of the south pasture....

After the job was done and the tractor was put away, I sat with Bess and the cats on the porch with a glass of sippin' whiskey and watched the last of the sunset before the kids' bedtime, smelled mown grass and fresh earth, and looked out over the cleaned yards of Farview.  Dang, we're lookin' good!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Time Traveler

Doctor Who travels through time and space in a telephone booth.  H. G. Wells had a time machine.  Captain Kirk had his, "Beam me up, Scottie," platform.  For me, a pea pod took me instantly from the present back to being six or seven years old, sitting on my mother's porch on a late afternoon.  The sound of the crunch breaking the pod is as familiar to me as my own name.  The smell of just-mown grass is the only thing I can think of that smells "greener" than fresh peas.  Opening each little surprise package to discover those silky green pearls hasn't lost its charm.  Plonk, plonk, plonk as they fall into the pot.  All those years fell away as I shelled the peas for dinner the other night, and I was a little girl again.  What I had forgotten was how meaty, tasty, full of flavor and texture fresh peas are compared to frozen.  How glad I am I got the garden going again.

Sheep-shearer Guy called just after I came up from the barn yesterday and said he had put me on the schedule for about four o'clock in the afternoon.  (Yippee!)  I told him that certainly worked for me, and I'd see him then.  I spent the day trying to figure out how I was going to get Poppy in from the field (she doesn't herd well), and how I was going to get Nineteen in to get his hooves trimmed without getting mobbed by the girls.  About four o'clock, I thought I'd do a little (more) weeding while waiting.  Finished the section around the front of the house.  Hmmm.  Moved out to the rock garden.  Finished the one side entirely, with a quick break for a fast dance when I disturbed a nest of fire ants.  Picts and Huns couldn't have rushed out more fiercely to defend their home turf, and those little boogers hurt!  They are the pit bulls of the ant world, biting and not letting go.  Got a good start on the remaining side of the rock garden, but getting pretty tired and by seven o'clock was wondering if Sheep-shearer Guy had changed his schedule.  Just then the phone rang; he was up in Grizzly Flat and headed in my direction.  I decided to wait in the house while I could still stand up straight.  Guy brought his girlfriend along, which relieved me from acting as helper, for which, at this point, I was grateful.  There is no electricity down at the barn for his shears and my little generator hadn't been used for a year.  I had fingers crossed on both hands, and that dear little machine started on the first pull!  It being nearly sundown, the easiest course of action was just to put all the animals to bed and then Poppy would be easy to separate and contain.  As he started her pedicure with her lying on her back, she gave a kick that drove the razor-sharp shears into his thumb.  Being a manly man, he cussed a blue streak but refused offers of Betadine and Band-Aids and continued on with his work, dripping blood as he went.  It probably would have taken me longer to get up to the house and back than it took him to finish his job.  In no time, Poppy was pounds lighter and dancing on fancy feet.  Nineteen got his toenails trimmed in a flash.  Everything was done before the sun went down.  Sheep-shearer Guy and girlfriend gave me big hugs, jumped in their truck, and with a cry of, "See ya next year!," were gone in a swirl of dust.  And the rock garden looks good, too.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Bee Song

It was really quite pleasant yesterday to be weeding out in the lavender garden in the early morning with Bess and Pearl.  (Frank stayed in, sleeping off his night of carousing.)  Working along, mind freewheeling, I became aware of constant humming from bees in the lavender plants.  Listening a little more closely, I realized that each bee was humming on a different note.  The song would change as one bee would take the spotlight to hum a brief aria, or swell as more joined the chorus.  I'm evidently not the only one who likes to get a job done before the heat of the day, but it was so nice to have companions who sing as they work.

Farview has evidently been given good references, as new construction is going on.   I've been keeping an eye on the swallows' nest in the tractor side of the feed barn, trying to see if they've hatched any eggs.  Tucked up safely in the rafters, the cats can't possibly get to it, but the swallows dive bomb Pearl any time she gets near the barn now.  Steve built two wings on the original barn, one open to store larger equipment and one semi-enclosed for the alfalfa and straw.  For days, I've seen swallows flying out of the hay side and wondered what the heck they were doing over there when the nest is on the other side.  Yesterday I discovered a condominium is going up; two new nests are being built side by side.  It will be nice to have new neighbors.  Frank and Pearl want me to ask them to, wait...they want to ask them for dinner.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Mad Dogs & Englishmen

It seems we're going to have only two seasons this year, winter and summer.  I vaguely remember thinking spring had arrived, but she was gone in the blink of an eye and summer was upon us.  With the heat, I follow the example set by the animals, napping through the worst of it during the day.  The cats have taken to staying out all night.  Frank and Pearl just showed up at the door to be let in.  After a nighttime foray, each of them comes to me for a little loving, quite demanding in their wish to be petted and sweet-talked before they go to the kitchen to augment their mouse snacks with some regulation cat food.

Dave laughed at me while he was here, saying he could follow my pattern of weeding the different areas in the yard by noting which areas would have been in the shade throughout the day, and he was right.  As Noel Coward wrote, "Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun."  Last evening I went out to the vegetable garden and picked the first peas and a few turnips.  There are tomatoes growing and green on the vines.  The Thompson seedless and Red Globe grape vines are loaded with clusters this year; maybe the birds will generously leave me a taste.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Cross That Off

"Nooo!"  I quite literally threw back the cover and sprang from bed in the dark this morning, mentally yelling at the cat clinging to the newly screened door in the living room.  One of the jobs Dave did yesterday was, in my nightmare, in danger of destruction!  Standing there, trying to orient myself to the real world, I remembered that both Frank and Pearl had come in last night and so it must have been a dream.  It was time to get up anyhow, but that wasn't the wake-up call of choice.

After Dave left, I just walked around enjoying and in awe of all he'd accomplished in just three or four hours.  That includes all the time spent in the shop downstairs hunting for things like drill bits and the screening tool.  Steve had his own incomprehensible system of organization.  (It took me five years to find where he'd put the nails.)

The cranky weedeater now fires up (almost) immediately.  The sensor light on the porch, nonfunctional for years, now works again.  The volunteer oak that was growing underneath and endangering the deck boards is cut down and hauled to the burn pile.  While I made a quick run to the feed and general store for a replacement halogen bulb and gas for the weedeater, Dave had gotten on the riding mower and cut down the high weeds on the drop-off slope of the front yard.  I nearly had a coronary when I came back and saw what he'd done.  The angle of that hill scares me silly and it really should have been done with the weedeater.  It just looks so nice that I didn't beat him around the head and shoulders as he deserved for taking such a chance.  The defunct doorbell needs a new part, but Dave showed me how to fix it myself when I get that part.  Electricity scares me, but he assured me that I won't get blown across the porch or into kingdom come.  I have a tiny, "lady's," battery-driven hand drill that just isn't up to the job I need to do down in the barn.  Dave showed me how to recharge the big, manly Ryobi drill downstairs.  I'm pretty good at rescreening window screens, but knew I couldn't take down the screen door and put it back up by myself.  At around six-foot five, it was, as he put it, a piece of cake for Dave.  My job was to hand him screws, a job at which I excel!

It was certainly a day of accomplishments and appreciation.  Now if those darned dream cats will just quit hanging on the screen.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Summer brings its own upside-down schedule, rising an extra hour early, trying to beat the heat, getting as much done as possible before the sun comes up.  Every day begins by filling the hummingbird feeders.  Trying to survive, they drink quarts of juice a day.  I've put additional waterers in the chicken pens; they drink gallons of water.  Milking has been moved up a couple of hours from the winter program, and still I drip sweat.  Working with Inga is the worst...she has a tendency to lean into my shoulder; nice and snugly in cold weather...not so much in the heat.  Tessie should be due to deliver her kid fairly soon, and adding another hour in the barn milking her, too, as well as bottle feeding the baby...hmmm.  Breeding her so late was a big mistake.  Watering the garden is now an every day chore...I skipped a day and last evening the tomatoes were wilting.  The pumpkins and cantaloupe have sprouted.  The beans are up about four inches.  Turnips and peas are ready to pick (must put that on the To-Do List), and if I don't get to the lettuce soon, it will bolt.

Dave is coming up today to help me with some things for which I have neither the required strength or knowledge.  The weedeater is balky coming out of winter retirement, and I've not been able to get it started.  This is an annual event; once it is fired up, I have no problems the rest of the season.  Star thistle is getting waist high around the perimeter of the feed barn and the tractor mower can't get close enough.  As much as I'll appreciate getting some necessary chores off the list, I'll enjoy Dave's company even more.

Tire Guy brought Joel's tractor tire back yesterday and I've lost my biggest piece of yard art.  The tractor had been left in the sun, and I think Tire Guy was grateful for the leak in the hose he was using to fill the inner tube with water, as it gave him a rather pleasant shower during a hot job.

I took advantage of a similar situation in the early evening.  The sprinkler was on in the herb garden as I was weeding...closer and closer to that cooling that I was fairly soaked by the time I needed to put the kids to bed, cooled by evaporation.  Bess and the cats found freshly turned earth to lie down and watch.  When I turned off the water, they all moved over to cooler, damp spots. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Frogs' Revenge

Last night as I was putting down the snack bowls in the individual stalls before letting the girls (and boy) in, I caught movement by my foot.  It didn't slither, it didn't sort of galumphed along.  A bit difficult to see in the gloom of the barn, I finally figured out it was a toad about the size of a flattened lemon.  As it was headed for the sill of the stall and would be squashed when I shut the door behind Nineteen, I picked it up and moved it to safety.  Admittedly, frogs and toads in our area don't have many means of fangs, no spiny prickles, no stingers, but I have never picked up a frog in my life that didn't exact revenge.  They pee, and this toad was no exception. 

The first shed in front of the house was set up as a bathroom and laundry room for the people who lived in a trailer as they built the house.  I use it for storage.  There is an overweight peeper frog who lives in the unused toilet.  I lift the lid every morning because once in a while a mouse will fall into the water in the bowl...sometimes I can save the swimmer, sometimes I scoop out the floater...but I always say good morning to the frog sitting on the rim.

A kid I knew was almost arrested because of a frog.  George lived in the neighborhood near my muffler and welding business in the valley and, when he needed a little money, I'd hire him to sweep out the shop.  In his thirties, George was challenged.  Somehow we got to talking about frogs; I said I liked them and wanted them in my garden.  George told me he knew where some frogs were and if he caught them, would I buy them?  At a quarter a frog, it was a heck of a deal.  George started bringing me frogs, laughing because they'd all peed on him.  He had a thriving business until he was out one night on a hunt in his neighborhood and the police were called because the homeowner had reported a peeping tom.  George was able to sufficiently explain himself to avoid being taken to jail, but he had to promise to stop his nightly forays.  Just as garden was overrun with frogs by that time.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Belly Up

I kept hearing Marlene Dietrich's throaty, accented voice singing "Belly Up To the Bar, Boys!" in "Destry Rides Again."  (Her role as a cow town saloon keeper was as bad a piece of casting as could be.)  I was still working in the barn when these little freeloaders jumped in the goats' nighttime treat bowl.  I might as well have rung the dinner bell!  They seem to understand they have to leave a little something for the goats or I'd cut off their supply of breakfast goodies.

Pearl has preempted my sock basket, throwing socks out on the floor until she has her nest just right.  I really must take "my" and "mine" from my vocabulary...obviously, everything is "ours," or perhaps "theirs."

Joel and Judy's Fabulous Fourth of July party was outstanding, as it always is; definitely an A-List event.  They provide hamburgers and hot dogs and beer and wine.  Tables groaned with the potluck hors d'oeuvres, side dishes, and desserts.  It was again a case of "belly up to the bar," as many of the guests are local vintners who bring their best to share and show off.  The cooks also dig deep into their recipe sources for new and delicious dishes.  There were many of those smiling faces I may see only once or twice a year, and it's always fun to play catch up.  I fear my reputation precedes me as, during an introduction, it's not uncommon to hear, "Oh, you're the Goat Lady!"  As I told someone yesterday, I'm glad I don't raise pigs.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fireworks In My Mind

There are no fireworks in Fair Play on the Fourth of July for fear of fire (how's that for alliteration?).  I have to go back in memory if I want to see those diamonds in the sky.  When I was a kid, some years we'd go to the monster fireworks displays at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena where the boom of the cannon bombs would reverberate in my chest.  Sometimes the whole family would picnic with many other spectators at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, watching the display from blankets spread on the grass, joining the crowd with those irrepressible oohs and aahs.  I liked it when we stayed home and I could set a match to those black pellets that would rise up and writhe in coils like snakes in the driveway; those were the only thing I was allowed to light myself.  Next would come the sparklers in the gathering dusk.  In those days, sparklers were formed on wires and, yes, even sparklers could be dangerous.  I, myself, stepped on a hot wire in the dark with bare feet, but I think they were more beautiful and certainly lasted longer than the puny, safer sticks of today.  It was hard waiting for dark when my dad would light the fountains of Vesuvius and spinning "flowers" in the street in front of our house.  My son Larry and I spent a memorable Fourth on the beach at Waikiki, sitting with our backs against the sea wall, watching the fireworks from the big hotels shoot out over the ocean to be reflected in the water.  In West Sacramento, neighbors with children would pool their fireworks and come out to the cul-de-sac to put on a show for the kids.  Steve and I would climb up on our roof where we not only had the best seats for the local display, we could see the big shows put on in Sacramento, Davis, Dixon, and all the way down in Elk Grove; it seemed the surrounding horizon was filled with fireworks just for us...and we didn't have to buy tickets or find a parking place.  I won't really miss seeing fireworks in the sky tonight...I can see them in my mind.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Social Butterfly

It takes a pretty big draw to get me to leave home, and an even bigger attraction to make me drive to the valley.  Even then, up until I walk out the door with my keys in my hand, I want to throw myself on the floor, drum my heels, and holler, "I don't want to go-o-o!!"  (I have a very active inner child.)  Once my inner adult regains control, I go ahead and have a wonderful time.  The occasion yesterday was a surprise party to honor one of my brothers-in-law on his birthday.  I wouldn't have missed it for the world.  It was grand to connect with family and old friends.  My niece and nephew were the perfect hosts and had provided everything for which a guest could wish, but they couldn't do a thing about the heat...over one-hundred one...and I felt like the Wicked Witch, "I'm melting!"  Like a horse headed back to the barn, I had to set the cruise control on the truck to keep it from bolting on the way home.  (Just so my brother-in-law knows how special he is, I also missed a NASCAR race at Daytona.)

Tomorrow the social whirl continues with the annual Fourth of July party at Joel and Judy's.  I have given my inner child a stern talking-to, reminding her how much she always looks forward to this event.  I hope we can avoid the going-away scene again...but I have my doubts.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


Although I've neither seen nor read the popular series of vampire movies and books in vogue right now, I can understand why they are named "Twilight."  Coming back from the barn by the last light of the sun, I am enthralled by the evening arrival of the bats.  There seems to be a larger number this year, and they are so welcome as they dine on mosquitoes, gnats, and other pesky insects.  I stand fascinated, watching the tiny creatures, smaller than a sparrow, as they flit and swoop in silhouette against the fading rays.  Bats have a different wing beat than anything else I know, more flutter than stroke.  If I stand very still, they might dip very close, but move too fast for me to get more than a glimpse of their mouse-like body.  As with so many of the wild things, I wish I could hold one for just a minute.

Bram Stoker didn't do much for the bats' popularity, the sight of a bat now striking fear in many.  No matter how many times I've read "Dracula," I can still scare myself silly by reading that book on a dark and stormy night, sitting alone with just the one lamp lit.  Written in 1897, it is still a powerful novel.

I once read some statistics on how long it would be before insects inundated the world if the bug-eaters were eliminated, and it wasn't long.  Bats truly help keep the world in twilight.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Clean Bill

Bessie Anne had her follow-up visit at the vet's yesterday and I'm happy to say she stayed on her feet, albeit reluctantly, and her leg is apparently healing well.  I would say that Bessie is a medium-sized dog, but she must have felt like a moose in the waiting room.  It was apparently Dinky-Dog Day; there were four Chihuahuas, one pug named Gretchen, and a bulldog named Dozer (he didn't fit in with the dinkies, either).  As is the case with the short-muzzle dogs, the sound of Gretchen and Dozer snorting, snuffling, and panting filled the room.  All these purebreds...and Bessie Anne.  My girl got some sideways glances.  It didn't help that, although her body hair is trimmed short, I left her face and head alone so she looks a bit like a moth-eaten lion.  I leave her face be so that she will still recognize herself when she looks in the mirror.  Bessie Anne got all her immunizations updated, we're legal with the County, and she got a pedicure.  I can trim goat hooves as needed, but cannot trim her toenails for the life of me.

Bess's sit-down strike last week brought back memories of a prior dog, Gildas, a purebred Pembroke Welsh Corgi.  Gillie was a clown who came to me when she was two months old.  As she grew, I thought she was beautiful.  We entered her in a puppy show in Pleasanton, what we thought would be her start on the show circuit.  Arriving at the show grounds, surrounded by Corgis, we realized that Gillie's coat had not grown in to Corgi standards...the others had thick, fluffy coats and Gillie's was...well, less than that.  She and I had been practicing daily, walking on the lead, taking a "stack" (that stance that is required to show off the dog's best features); she knew just what to do.  I did say that dogs are sensitive about their appearance.  Our event was the last in the day and Gillie had plenty of opportunity to look over the opposition.  When it was time for the puppies to show in the ring, I was given my numbered armband and we got in line.  When there were just two more dogs in front of us, Gillie, giving a human cry, "Aahhh!," threw herself on her back.  I envisioned having to drag this inert dog around the ring by the leash.  Setting her upright on her feet, in a low voice I kept telling her, "Just get through this and I'll never humiliate you like this again.  Please, please, please stay up."  The still photos of the event do not show my mouth working the entire time we were in the ring.  The judge was an important personage brought from England to judge the show.  She looked me in the eye as I put Gildas, this comparatively ratty-looking dog, on the table for inspection.  I told her, "Just do your thing and let us get out of here."  Our participation in dog shows for the rest of her life consisted of watching Westminster and Eukanuba on TV.

At least when Bessie sees herself, she won't be embarrassed, and I'll never enter her in a show.