Wednesday, August 31, 2011

M Is For...

Memorial:  something designed to keep remembrance alive.  Those of us who love our dogs (cats, hamsters, lizards...pets) can list the names and attributes of every single one with whom we've shared our lives.  It takes nothing away from my affection for Bessie Anne or any of my other beloved dogs when I talk about Dogie.  Dogie was just special, a once-in-a-lifetime dog.

When we bought this place, the sellers had two dogs; a little, inside rat-dog (who had ruined the carpet in every room in the house) and a medium-large mongrel who lived outside.  The sellers asked if I wanted the mongrel because, one way or the other, they weren't going to take the dog with them.  Four years old, she was literally a throw-away dog.  I've never understood that; they'd raised her from a puppy.  Maybe that explains why her name was D-O-G...she didn't even have a real name.  I was working two jobs at the time and facing a three-hour commute, but I knew I'd be spending a lot of time alone here; Steve was also working long hours.  It would be a good idea to have a dog who was familiar with the place for company and protection.  D-O-G was entertaining gentlemen callers at the time.  My work hours would preclude taking care of puppies.  I said we'd take the dog if they'd have her spayed and let her recover while the house was going through escrow and they agreed.

Steve moved up here a couple of weeks before me, living in our trailer while he readied the house.  He spouted a lot of rules for this dog, whom we had renamed Dogie (close enough not to confuse her, but with a little more dignity).  She was going to "do this" and not "do that."  I would get daily reports, and it was pretty obvious from the git-go that she was worming her way into his heart.  The "outside" dog had moved into the trailer, was sharing his breakfast toast, and he kept saying how smart she was.

I had an inside cat, Victor, who had never had to share space with any other animal and thought he was the king.  He took one look at the dog and stayed under the bed for a month.  It was Dogie who patiently taught him that they could co-exist.  Never before allowed in the house, she never had an accident.  Dogie was the ultimate hostess, greeting guests with decorum, making sure they were comfortable in her presence.  The only time she showed aggression was if anyone was wearing a black hat.  Somewhere in her history, she had been mistreated by someone wearing a black hat.  A friend she knew well drove up one day wearing a black ten-gallon hat and she wouldn't let him out of the truck until he took it off.  I trusted her instincts implicitly.  A repairman came and Dogie started a low growl in the back of her throat, following him from room to room.  I kept her with me until he left.  She never did that before nor after, but I trusted her.

Dogie had never ridden in a car before, and her first experience was a long trip to a family reunion.  She loved it!  She liked to ride in the back seat like a queen with a chauffeur.  The jingle of car keys was enough to get her excited, and I'll admit there were times we'd get in the car and I'd drive around the driveway just to please her.  She claimed the shotgun seat when my granddaughter was visiting and wouldn't budge.  After all, it was her car!

She picked up every trick Steve taught her and loved to show off.  Dogie would take nothing that wasn't hers.  I bought big boxes of dog biscuits and could leave them open on the floor, knowing she would wait.  However, she was a hoarder, hiding a stash so she could have one when she wanted.  She would con my friend Dolly into giving her several in succession, but then would hide them under Dolly's pillow.  Dogie could get five big dog biscuits into her mouth at one time, and kept trying for six.  Once Dolly told Dogie no, she'd already had enough.  Dogie went and got one from her stash and came and ate it at Dolly's feet.  "There, take that!"

Dogie didn't walk...she danced.  She danced her way into everyone's heart.  Many of our friends who had beloved dogs of their own would sing Dogie's praises.  She was just that kind of dog. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

L Is For...

Ninety-nine percent of my time schedules are self-imposed, and I still manage to run Late.  It was after midnight when I went to bed last night because I got so engrossed in a sewing project for Christmas presents.  Consequently, I'm Late this morning getting the trash down to the big road.  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that, come Christmas, I still won't be ready.  Joel, Judy, and Arden are all compulsively punctual...more power to 'em.  It does put the spurs to my sides when we are to meet for any occasion.

I was Laughing at the squirrels in the barn yesterday.  It was a case of Lost and found.  A passing squirrel suddenly stopped and started digging madly in the dirt.  My thought was it might be making another pass-through under the barn wall, another hole to plug.  However, evidently mice had put a stash of stolen grain in a shallow burrow.  (Another sign of an early winter?)  The word spread and more squirrels came to raid the Larder.  It was "serve yourself," but only one at a time...there would be a minor skirmish if one had trouble waiting its turn.

It occurred to me yesterday, as it has so many times in the past, how Lucky I am to have the time to sit and observe my little world.  It would have been so easy to miss the small squirrel drama had I not been there milking.  I see these furry brigands so often that I recognize individuals; one has a malformed tail, another is missing the tip of his ear, that one is obviously a matriarch, and, of course, there's Al Pacino.  The same goes for the mice...I know them by their physical and personality characteristics.  Sometimes it gets down to the minutiae of life and death...a spider wrapping a victim in its version of Saran wrap for a later meal is a marvel of efficiency. 

Tree Guy came and cut more oak.  Only the huge trunk is left whole, and he cut the underneath branches so there's no possibility it could roll.  Every worker needs his atta-boys, so when he was done, I went out so he could show me the day's accomplishments.  While talking, we watched a pair of red-tail hawks on the hunt.  More knowledgeable than I, he knew that one was very young by its coloring and the lack of a full tail spread.  It made a couple of failed attacks on the ground squirrels, but then it sat on a power pole and watched the successful adult as if to say, "How'd you do that?"

No wonder I'm always Late...I'm watching my very own nature documentary.  By the way, I missed the trash truck...again.

(No, Kathy V., not yet.)

Monday, August 29, 2011

K Is For...

Kids...the four-legged variety.  Twenty-Two is just over a month old now and quite full of himself.  He is a stocky little guy and is beginning to give me attitude.  He has the run of the barn during the day, racing in the hallway and doing bank shots off the walls in the play yard.  Difficult to describe, almost from birth there are facial gender specifics in goats...even baby boys look masculine and females appear, well, girlie.  Twenty-Two is all boy.  There is an ingrained trait that goats have that drives me nuts; they insist on going ahead of me and then stopping.  When I'm in the pen, we all go as a herd, and as I'm hauling heavy milk buckets back up the hill this constant stop and start gets a bit irritating.  Twenty-Two does the very same thing; one, it delays the work, and two, I'm in danger of tripping over him and mashing him flat.  Like all little boys, he is reluctant to go to bed, until he remembers that's where he gets his bottles and then he can't get into his stall fast enough.  In the Alpine breed, both sexes have horns and beards.  Scurs notwithstanding, Twenty-Two is the first kid I've allowed to grow horns naturally and I'm surprised at how fast they're growing.  Rambunctious in his eagerness to get to the milk, I have to watch I don't get hooked under the arm or chin as I sit on my bucket seat.  Bottles empty and tummy full, he rests his head against my leg in the evening for a few minutes of stroking and sweet talk until his eyelids begin to droop.  His curly baby hair is still so soft.  It's not a bad way to end the day.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

J Is For...

J was Just about driving me nuts!  I went to sleep browsing through J words as if through a dictionary flea market, picking some up and discarding them all, and woke up still hunting through the J bins.  Jewel kept catching my eye.  Farview abounds with jewels and gemstones.  Diamonds in a diadem could not sparkle more than sunlight caught on fresh snow or in a drop of dew in a spider web.  Emeralds and rubies flash as the hummers dart around the feeders.  The goats' eyes are amber and Frank's are turquoise, while Bessie's are the molasses brown of topaz.  Blue jays are sapphires and crows are onyx.  Amethysts in varying shades are everywhere in the lavender, pennyroyal, and licorice mint.  Eggs are spheres of alabaster.  I live in a veritable jewelry box, surrounded by beauty and true wealth.

The all-clear has sounded.  My neighbor called last evening to say her dogs had finally returned home, so we can come off high alert (until the next time).

Rising temperatures have taken the starch out of my ambitions.  When I should have been making preparations for my guest next weekend, a good part of yesterday was spent hiding out in the bedroom with the window air-conditioner.  Going down to the barn is like walking into a sauna and I come out dripping; "glowing" doesn't even begin to cover it when one is pouring sweat.  This has been one of the mildest summers in my memory, but that will not stop me from complaining when it's 92 in the house...that's Just darned hot!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I Is For...

ICE.  In Case of Emergency.  The east coast of the United States is just beginning to feel the effects of Hurricane Irene, which has the potential to be a monster storm.  A friend on Facebook posted good advice to pet owners who are preparing for evacuation:  make sure pets have collars and tags, and take pictures for Lost posters if needed later.  An additional piece of  FB info:  write your phone number on the collar.

ICE:  September 11 is coming up soon.  One seemingly trivial thing has stayed with me since that day in 2001:  SPCA workers going door to door searching for abandoned pets in evacuated apartment buildings days after the event, saying over and over, "I hope the people left the toilet lid up so the animals can get water."  It doesn't have to be a cataclysmic occurrence; any accident that delays returning home could leave an animal to become dehydrated when their water bowl goes empty.  Seat down...lid up!

ICE:  it's not enough to put a contact number in a cell phone or address book.  It needs to be identified as an ICE number.  (In my cell phone, I simply put "ICE" in place of a name.  I also have a card with "Please contact" numbers inside the door of the cupboard over my house phone.)  Rescue workers will be looking for ICE.  Years ago, my father was in a terrible car accident one afternoon and was severely injured, unable to speak.  Divorced for years, Daddy was a ladies' man and carried a "little black book" with the names of many women.  Trying to find a family member to notify, the police started calling (to the embarrassment of some ladies, I'm sure).  My name was in the book, but with no identifier (even as daughter), and I didn't find out that my dad was in the hospital until three in the took that long for the police to work through the alphabet.

One always hopes that these simple precautions are never needed, but I'm a big believer in what I call "cheap Insurance."

Friday, August 26, 2011

H Is For...

Here we go again...on High Alert.  Coming back into the house after stacking wood before barn chores yesterday, I found a message from my neighbor telling me that, once again, her dogs were on the loose.  I did appreciate the warning, but I hate the panicky feeling it generated as her dogs are known killers.  The flock is not free-ranging now, but hearing a chicken squawk or Bessie Anne bark while I'm stuck down in the milking room sets my heart to pounding, wondering what's going on up by the house.  Later on, I heard dogs down at my neighbor's and assumed her pack had returned.  Not feeling entirely certain, I called in the early afternoon and one of her sons informed me that they were still looking for the escapees.  One of the things on Tree/Fence Guy's To-Do List was to put a hog panel across the big farm gate to the new pen.  It had been put on the back burner because I'm home with the goats in the daytime and they go into the barn at night, so I wasn't too worried about coyotes.  A pack of dogs slaughtered an entire flock of sheep just around the corner in the past, so I put in an emergency call to Fence Guy and told him that task needed to be moved to Priority One.  He has a soft spot for the girls and throws leafy branches from the oak into their pen for a treat.  He came right away and secured the gate.  I still don't know if the dogs have returned home.

Here we go again.  I thought I'd fixed the vacuum cleaner, but when I really needed it yesterday because Arden was coming for early dinner and a movie, it was totally kaput.  She's a good friend and overlooked the burrs on the carpet, and I so enjoyed her visit.

Here we go again.  With the many delays throughout the day, I was racing to get myself cleaned up before Arden got here.  With minutes to spare, I jumped into the shower and my vision immediately became blurry...what the heck?!  It took me a minute to realize I was standing under the running water with my glasses on.  Duh.  Chalk up another one of Bo's blunders. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

G Is For...

Not every day is a Capital-G good day, but almost every day is good in some way.  A long time ago in a totally unrelated class, the instructor turned and asked, "How many of you are happy fifty percent of the time?"  A number of hands went up, but not mine.  "How many are happy thirty percent of the time?"  More hands went up, but not mine.  "Ten percent?"  Seemingly satisfied, he returned to the the class subject.  Oh, Good Grief!  I'd been waiting for him to raise the percentages, not drop down.  I'm not sure I'd want to get out of bed if I thought I'd face a day with only a fifty-fifty chance of being happy.  I'm not talking about laughing-out-loud happy all the time, or going around all day with a silly grin.  Something my mother said when I was a kid has stuck with me all my life..."Know when you're happy."  In that same vein, she explained that, "This, too, shall pass," referred to good times as well as bad, and it was important to recognize those moments of joy and even contentment when they come, to acknowledge the now.

Life at Farview gives me so many, many opportunities for happiness.  (Let me expand, in general, gives us so many chances.)  All I have to do is lift my eyes to see sunrises and sunsets, a soaring hawk, a breeze fluttering leaves like tiny banners, storm clouds marshaling forces over the mountains, the seasonal changing panorama of the surrounding hills.  All I have to do is listen to the roosters welcoming the day, the yips and howls of the beastie boys running in the night, the gentle nuh-nuh-nuh of a mother doe as she murmurs to her newborn kid, the plop of big, wet snowflakes hitting the deck.  All I have to do is touch a warm udder, the silken feathers of a hen in my arms, the fur of Bessie Anne as she gets her nightly massage, newly turned earth in the garden.

I'm not some dithering Pollyanna.  I'm beset with trials and tribulations as is everyone else.  I have those times when I want to throw back my head and howl.  They pass.

Yesterday Tree Guy came and whittled away some more at the oak.  I had a nice chat with one of my sons, who shared some good news.  My milk customer brought her two little girls and I had a chance to nuzzle that sweet baby neck.  I fixed my balky vacuum cleaner, and got more work done on a sewing project.  Pick-Me-Up Peggy sought me out at bedtime for a cuddle.

It was a Good day.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

F Is For...

Fragrance.  Nothing is so evocative to memory as a whiff of something in the air.  The olfactory system is fully developed at birth.  Babies' eyes may not focus or, like puppies, may not even be open, but they will know their mother and others by their scent.  A veterinarian once told me that the sense of smell is the last to go, and to put my hand next to her nose to comfort a dying dog. 

I am Forever imprinted with the Fragrance of Farview.  When a goat burps, she blows out the clean scent of grain, almost sweet.  (I won't dwell on what she blows out the other end.)  A goat barn smells different from a horse barn, which is different from a cow barn, and so on; I find none of them unpleasant, and the barn means home to me.  I wear Eau de Goat every day.  There is nothing in the world like puppy breath.  The smells of new-mown grass, sheets fresh from the line, the first woodsmoke in the fall, brushing by pine and cedar trees in my woods, lilacs by the kitchen window.  The scent of just-cut wood, of which I've had too much lately; even that brings back memories of days spent with Steve cutting firewood in the forest.  As much as I detest the weed, the smell of bracken will remind me of Farview.  The pungent scent of skunk...yes, that's Farview, too. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

E Is For...

Eeeuw!  It could have been Embarrassing.  Just moments before my milk customer was due to arrive, I glanced out as I passed by the front door and noticed that the cats had left the larger part of a fresh vole kill on the porch.  Not exactly the most pleasant welcome for a guest.  Frank and Pearl are usually neater than that, but they do insist on dining on what they consider their patio, leaving the help to clean up the leftovers.

Enthusiam is contagious.  A great-niece I haven't seen for ten years is coming to visit over Labor Day weekend, and I'm getting more frequent updates on her stages of preparedness.  As I told her last night, I just hope we live up to her Expectations.  The first thing for me, of course, is to start planning menus.  Then I begin looking around, trying to see this place through new Eyes.  How long have those cobwebs been in that corner?!

Eating dinner last night was a gustatory pleasure.  Fresh beans, cooked just long enough to leave them crisp and bright green, mixed with a combination of brown rice and barley, dressed with a sauce of sherry, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil.  I haven't figured out what to do with that one small beet yet.  I don't think that, like wire coathangers left alone in a dark closet, it will multiply by itself in the refrigerator.

Monday, August 22, 2011

D Is For...

"Delightful, Delicious, De-Lovely!"  Okay, Cole Porter got there first, and I know he wasn't referring to a sandwich.  In the late afternoon, I went out to the garden to pick the first green beans and do a little watering.  A few turnips were ready, and a single beet, and then I saw the ripe red tomatoes and my plans for dinner changed.  The turnip and beet greens went to the chickens on my way back to the house.  I didn't even wait to fry bacon, but sliced the tomatoes while the bread was in the toaster.  It might seem like humble fare, but the taste of thick-sliced, juice-dripping, just-picked tomatoes still warm from the sun against a background of mayonnaise is hard to beat.  I'll do something with the green beans and the beet tonight.

D is also for Delayed.  For whatever reason, the girls were balky about coming in for milking yesterday (and the day before) and the routine went kattywhompus and took forever.  Esther, the nonmilker, is usually the second or third in for breakfast and I run around the corner and give Twenty-Two his bottles while she eats.  She came in last yesterday after a lot of coaxing and Twenty-Two had to wait.  Inga hadn't come in on Saturday and her full bag took twice as long to empty.  By the time I got to Twenty-Two, he was sure he'd never eat again and attacked those bottles with a vengeance.  He sucked so hard and fast he pulled the nipple off the first bottle and I was D for Drenched.  I was able to save some, but it was D-ifficult to get the nipple back on with milk-sticky fingers while trying to fend off a frantic baby.  It's hard enough on the little guy to get cut back to two feedings a day without throwing delaying tactics into the mix.  I will say he and I both enjoyed our D-inners.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

C Is For...

C is for Chimney.  (Oh, good grief.  I seem to have gotten hung up on the alphabet.  Oh, well...we'll ride this pony for a while and see where it takes us.)  The wood stove has a metal chimney.  It's like dust on the furniture; when a thing has been there long enough, I may look at it, but quit really seeing it.  Not too long ago, I did note there was a circle of discoloration on the chimney stack and some on the roof below it, indications that there had been, thankfully, just a small chimney fire last winter.  Not wanting to put responsibility on family or friends, I called a professional to come and inspect and, if need be, repair the damage.  We've had a bit of a problem connecting, but Chimney Guy finally drove up yesterday and got out of his truck wearing the traditional chimney sweep top hat, doffing it in the grand gesture.  Like a physician, he asked questions and I described symptoms.  He then went up on the roof for a hands-on inspection, coming down to say the integrity of the pipes had not been damaged.  I had been seeing dollar signs flash in front of my eyes, so I was much relieved.  It seems that, with the wood pile dwindling, I had been frugal putting on logs and keeping a low fire, allowing gases to condense and form creosote instead of burning off.  I had been unbelievably lucky that the chimney fire had been contained to just the one hot spot and high up.  I got chills thinking of the "might have been."  I won't make that mistake again.  His minimal bill paid, Chimney Guy exchanged his top hat for a ball cap and drove off.  We dispensed with the "see you soon" farewell.

C could also be for Crying.  At one month, Twenty-Two is old enough to start the weaning process and I began cutting back on his bottle feeding yesterday.  He is drinking water from his dish and eating some grain, and I need him to start upping his intake of solids.  Twenty-Two is not happy at this turn of events and is quite vocal about it.  It's not easy listening to a baby cry.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

B Is For....

B is for Bravery, and I awarded myself that medal yesterday.  When Tree Guy and I were fiddling around with the tractor, we noted a large number of wasps buzzing around under the upside down bucket covering the exhaust pipe.  Armed with a can of spray, TG was reluctant to get close enough to give it a shot and besides, the wind was blowing.  Steve had been swarmed by wasps as a child and was absolutely phobic about any insect with a stinger.  Big, burly man that he was, many was the time I would hear a panicky voice yelling at me to "Come quick!," and I'd have to deal with whatever bee or wasp that had come close to him.  I told Tree Guy that I would take care of the current problem.  I'm not exactly afraid of wasps, but I certainly am aware of potential danger.  They are fairly dormant early in the morning, but I still needed to pluck up my courage to lift that bucket.  (I was never a fast runner on my best day.)  Holy Toledo!  There was a huge nest filled with eggs and totally covered in slow-moving adults.  I sprayed the heck out of everything in sight and escaped unscathed.  Success breeds ambition, and I went on the hunt for other nests.  Another big nest was just inside the screen door to one of the sheds, but the bonanza was, in all places, inside the breaker panel on the house.  Six large nests with eggs were plastered in there, again covered in wasps.  It was starting to warm up by that time and I decided against pushing my luck any further.

Down in the goat pen, there was another kind of problem.  Fence Guy had brought some sort of connector doohickeys to attach to the hot wire so I could pull the wires back to let the goats through the gate to the new pen.  Evidently one connector had not been firmly attached and it and that wire were laying on the ground.  I've never tried to hide the fact that electricity scares me silly...even low-volt hot wire.  Logic told me that if the wire was down, the connection to the solar battery had been broken.  Logic probably told Steve that a wasp wouldn't kill him.  Logic doesn't have much to do with it when faced with something scary.  Well, I couldn't leave that wire hanging so I picked it up, reattached it to the connector, and wiped my sweaty brow and palms.  No shock, no blue sparks, no singed skin.  Another fear faced and overcome.   And, yes, Kathy V., B is for Beer, which I had as soon as I went back to the house after barn chores!

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Is For....

A for Annoying, S for Sneaky, P for Painful and Persistent, U for Ubiquitous, D for Dratted; give me a letter and I'll find a pejorative to describe the everlasting B for Bane of our lives, the star thistle.  Like the mythical Hydra, if one head is cut off, two grow back, and this darned plant is smart!  It will grow to three or four feet tall if left alone, but if cut or mowed, it won't die, it just starts putting out its spiny constellations closer to the ground.  Milking got set back a bit yesterday while I dropped the blade on the mower a couple of notches and attacked the enemy on the west point.  Heat and lack of water have killed off all other vegetation, but star thistle thrives under those conditions.  I detest the darned stuff.

I had barely cooled off from my sojourn in the barn when Tree Guy drove up, but this time he was wearing his Fence Guy hat.  When he cut the fence to put in the connecting gate between the two goat pens, he also cut the hot wire.  Loosely folded back, the goats had caught their feet in the cold "hot" wire and pulled out hundreds of yards that I removed from the pen to prevent injury.  It won't be too much longer before I let Twenty-Two out into the pen and I want him trained to avoid fences via the hot wire.  Fence Guy could have done the job alone, but another pair of hands (mine) turned an hour job into twenty minutes.  He carried the heavy spool of wire and I threaded it through the post clips.  We were accompanied by the seven-member goat committee all the way.

"Let's go see if we can fire up the tractor!"  Who is we, Kemosabe?  I dutifully trailed along in the hot sun over to the tractor.  TG has made it his mission to get the old Ford up and running so I can put it up for sale.  The battery is deader than a doornail, but TG thought he might get it going with a jump start from his truck.  I held switches while he revved the truck engine, and we could get a good clicking sound, but no turn over.  He thinks it might be the solenoid.  I think I should sell it "as is."  He is so enthusiastic, I don't want to throw cold water on his project.  By this time, I was W for Wilting, and we decided to try again another day.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Barn Dance

All that are missing are the fiddles and the caller, but we have a barn dance every morning.  Flicking tails take the place of swishing crinolines at our square dance.  On a good day when everyone remembers the routine, it could be put to music (Turkey In the Straw?).  There is the promenade as the first goats leave the barn to go up to the alfalfa corner, followed by an allemande left as the girls switch places on the milking stand.  They do a fancy do-si-do past each other in the doorway.  I keep the rhythm going as I squirt milk into the pail, and Nineteen and Twenty-Two provide the background vocals.  Since I have the biggest feet, it's my own darned fault if my toes get stepped on.  Yeehaw!

Tree Guy came and whittled away some more of the downed oak.  Number Three Son came as TG was finishing up for the day (with a kid's perfect sense of timing) and helped pull some brush over to the field.  I've sold a truckload of the smaller firewood to a neighbor, to be picked up when their kid comes to visit.  Even sharing the wood with TG as partial payment for the work, between the two trees that went down I'll have enough firewood for two or three years.  After the bones of this latest behemoth have been picked clean, there will still be work to be done on the live oak standing next to the stump.  These two trees grew up close together, each leaning somewhat away from the other, and the live oak will have to be trimmed out to keep it from falling without its neighbor's support.  I suppose, in this economy, I should be happy to provide job security to a local.    I think I'll be happier when I see light at the end of this tunnel.

And the beat goes on.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Getting Antsy

Tiny black grease ants, slightly larger sugar ants, huge black wood ants, and the dreaded red "fire" ants...we get 'em all.  During a long, hot summer, it's not uncommon for the smaller ants to come in the house looking for water.  There's been only one brief invasion this year, and that was easily repelled.  There have been years when I really had to watch where I stood while topping off the goats' water trough because the red ants were nesting everywhere out by the pen.  The thought occurred to me the other day that I hadn't seen any this year, and, believe me, I watch.  One thing you don't want to do is stand on a red ant hill.  Like tiny pit bulls, when red ants bite, they won't let go, and you know right away why they're called fire ants.  Once my dog came running to me, crying and pawing at her face; a red ant had latched on to her tender nose!  Tree Guy didn't come yesterday so I was doing more laundry.  I use an old-fashioned (what a surprise), big wicker basket to transport the wash to and from the clothesline, balancing it on my hip and under my arm.  Bringing in a load of sweet-smelling sheets, I put it down in the bedroom and went back to whatever I'd been doing.  Ouch!  I felt a tiny, red-hot poker stabbing the underside of my arm.  Ouch!  That little devil-demon poked me again in the ribs.  Probably looking at the oak tree, I hadn't noticed that I'd put the laundry basket down on a nest of red ants and some had hitched a ride into the house.  I'm just oh-so-glad I hadn't been waiting for underwear to dry...these are not the kind of ants I'd want in my pants!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Where Did It Go?

There is a children's book called "Attic of the Wind" in which, as I recall, there is a place where all lost things are stored.  There must be a place like that for days which are simply gone; those times when one looks back and wonders where that day went.  Like socks that disappear in the laundry, yesterday is gone forever and I haven't the slightest idea what I did with it.  Plants got watered, goats were milked, animals and fowl got fed, some minor projects were finished.  On the whole, though, based on performance, I would not get a merit badge for yesterday's accomplishments.  I feel that I didn't earn my keep.

The days are getting shorter; sunup comes later and sundown comes earlier.  Twenty-Two's bottles have to be warmed before eight o'clock now or I'm walking back up from the barn in the dark.  Never again will I breed a doe so late.  Bottle feeding in the summer is akin to elective surgery:  you feel pretty good walking into the hospital (in this case, the barn), knowing you're going to hurt when you walk out.  Even the nighttime feeding at dusk leaves me drenched in sweat.  In the past, I've always tried to have the kids weaned by May; a much better plan.  Twenty-Two won't be finished with bottles until the end of September.

With just a quarter of the leafed branches gone, already the trunk of the fallen oak looks like the skeleton of a leviathan laying in the yard.  It's easier to think of it as firewood now.  I'm getting used to the change in the skyline, but do miss the shade that tree provided.  I think it was in junior high (I believe that's called "middle school" now) that I learned that everything is energy, and although it might be transformed, e.g., water into steam, that energy is never lost.  I'll keep that in mind when I stoke the stove one winter.  At least I'll know where that tree went.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tree Work

And so it begins.  Tree Guy came yesterday to start work on the fallen oak.  The sheer size of the task before him must have been daunting, especially working alone.  It's a multi-phase job; all of the branches with leaves must be removed first and hauled out of the way.  Since Joel disked the south pasture and nothing is growing there, I let TG cut the fence so he could pull the branches across the driveway and into that field to start a new burn pile, and it's going to be a doozy.  Like children with their noses pressed to the candy store window, the goats lined up on their side of the fence and begged.  Every so once in awhile TG would throw a branch into their pen and they were on it like piranhas, stripping the leaves in a matter of minutes, leaving the skeleton bare.  There is considerable danger involved in what might seem a simple job of cutting up the downed tree.  The huge trunk is resting on unbroken branches and could roll, or those branches could break and the trunk would drop; definitely something that should be left to professionals.

Tree Guy worked several hours, sweating buckets alone in the hot sun.  As we walked around later and he showed me what he'd accomplished, which was a lot, and collected his well-deserved atta-boys, he mentioned the many, many full-sized acorns already on the tree (another sign of an early winter?).  TG told me his grandparents were members of one of the coastal tribes of Native Americans and, as a boy, his grandmother had had him collect gunnysacks of acorns every year for porridge and bread.  Some time back I had a conversation with a woman from the Miwok tribe who told me it took a year to make flour from acorns.  Collecting, drying, shelling, leaching, drying again, and then grinding by hand...unimaginable tedious work.  TG also told of going with his grandparents to the ocean to collect edible seaweed and sea urchins, and stories of hunting and fishing, of course.  TG works at his own pace on his own schedule.  He said he'd be back Tuesday or Wednesday.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Waiting Game

It didn't seem prudent to do laundry yesterday when Tree Guy was due to work on the fallen oak.  Flapping sheets would have impeded his progress and flying sawdust would have negated my own efforts.  So I waited...and waited.  About two o'clock, TG drove up with...get ready for it...branches from his trees to throw onto my burn pile!  Talk about taking coal to Newcastle.  Mrs. TG had her own Honey-Do list and TG had been doing yard work and pruning trees at his house.  They live close by and it only made sense to dispose of the greenery here (what difference will a few more branches make?), but it still made me laugh.  When Sons had dug post holes for the new fence line, they had inadvertently buried the hose used to water the memorial trees in the south pasture, and buried it well.  In the summer heat, I had not had the energy nor inclination to dig it out, but those trees needed water.  TG took time to free the hose for me.  He said he'd be back today to work on the oak, so laundry will have to wait another day.

Just as it is with small people children, everything now has to be timed around Twenty-Two's feeding schedule.  After Tree Guy left, it was time for the baby's bottles, and then I had to make a quick run to town so I could get back for the evening feeding.  It seems to me I'd just bought a pair, but the soles had let go on my barn shoes and were flapping like clown feet, so there was nothing for it but to make the trip.

Pearl has been playing the Inagin-Outagin Flanagan game all morning.  I'll bet I've gotten up eight times in twenty minutes to open the door for her.  There is a convenient door to the deck in the bedroom, but then she'll want to come in through the laundry room.  Dogs have owners; cats have staff.

I hope Tree Guy comes to work today.  I think I'll feel better once the remains have been removed.  Seeing that beautiful oak lying there is depressing.  And I've got laundry to do.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


There are some mistakes "I'm sorry" just can't fix. 

One of Patrick's missions in life is to keep the grapevine growing.  The chatter starts flowing as he gets out of his truck when he arrives with a delivery from the feed store, and he was in fine form yesterday as he unloaded goat chow and chicken feed.  None of his gossip is malicious; he's a good kid, but he does love to talk.  Opening the gate to the hay section, I showed him the swallow's nest in the rafters.  There were not one, but two baby birds with their heads over the rim and mouths wide open.  Tiny little things with just a few tufts of feathers showing.  It was hot, and high cloud cover made it somewhat humid.  Patrick had already unloaded five hundred pounds of grain, and there were ten bales of alfalfa, each over a hundred pounds.  As he was bucking the alfalfa into the barn, I went to get him a cold soda; he'd earned it!  I noted he'd stacked the bales a little higher than I find convenient, but it was too hot to ask him to restack it.  Still talking a mile a minute, he finished up and drove away.  Patrick always makes me smile.

A short while later, I was walking out with Twenty-Two's afternoon bottles and glanced at the hay barn.  The thought struck that bales stacked that high might put the nest within reach of the cats.  I put the bottles down and went to move the alfalfa.  It was too late.  The entire nest had been pulled from the rafter and there was no sign of those dear little ones.  It's such a tiny tragedy in the grand scheme of life, but it could have been prevented.  I could hardly bear it at sundown, hearing the swallows calling as they swooped again and again into the barn.  No apology could ever be enough, but I am so, so sorry.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Back to Basics

After the drama of the day before, yesterday was a relief.  It was back to business as usual, all routines in place.  More weeding before starting chores; now the battleground is over by the first shed in front of the house where the iris bed used to be.  After the tank was moved, the guys who deliver propane have dragged their big hose through there and the iris have been decimated over the years.  It's hard to complain, though, as these guys always have a kind word and a doggy biscuit for Bessie Anne.  They probably know the dogs on their route better than the people.  Truth be told, I actually like to weed.  It is a lot more satisfying than, say, dusting.

After his breakfast, I left Twenty-Two to have the run of his play yard and the hallway in the barn.  He still has two bottles three times a day, but I've put down a small bowl of grain for him to nibble.  He's growing at an astounding rate; standing on his hind legs, he can almost see over the top of the half gate to "the pit" (the small nursery stall).  After his dinner bottles, he was curling up in his grain dish before I even left the barn; he may be growing, but he's still a baby.

Chimney Guy, who was due today to inspect my chimney flue, called to say he'd wracked up his truck on a bad road to an outlying customer and wouldn't be able to make our appointment.  (Would we be considered "inlying?")  We rescheduled.

Deb and Craig are once again guilty of an act of generosity and kindness.  I can only hope that, for them, what goes around comes around.

Bess and the cats accompanied me as we watered the deck plants and the vegetable garden in the late afternoon.  Frank had stopped by the feed barn, and it drove the swallows wild.  They make a "weekie-weekie" sound like a dog's squeaky toy and were yelling and madly diving at Frank.  Frank, with his big, blue, crossed eyes just watched them.

Peggy came up for her nightly cuddle as I tucked the chickens in for the night.  It's such a pleasant way to end an ordinary day.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Better Day

When the tree dropped yesterday, my spirits fell too.  I could envision myself in a high-rise condo with no yard work, no responsibilities, no gaping mouths to feed, going out for early-bird dinners, wearing dresses and pretty shoes, losing the calluses on my hands and getting my nails done.  Wake up, woman!  For me, that's not just a dream world, it's a nightmare.  Where would be the challenge or the joy?  What would be my purpose?  I'd be bored stiff in a week.  As has been said, "It's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there."

Tree Guy and Mrs. TG came late in the day to assess the latest project.  His first comment, "Well, we won't have to haul the wood very far to the woodpile."  (I knew he'd say that!)  It was the first time Mrs. TG had been here, and she noted the beautiful views, as do all who come here.  My response, "Yes, and more keep opening up all the time."  He and the sons will be back on Saturday.

My milk customer and I had one of those uniquely country-style conversations yesterday.  She also had a buckling born this year and needs to neuter him.  We discussed castration methods and timing.  She's never done it before and I've helped...let's see...twenty-one times so far.  I loaned her the Elastrator and bands to get the job done.  She'll come and help me when it's Twenty-Two's turn; it's a two-person job.  What would I have to talk about if I lived in that condo?

It took nearly all day to get my attitude adjusted after it had seemed my world was literally falling down around my ears.  It took that long to put it all back in perspective.  This is my world and I wouldn't trade it for anything.  Today will be a lot better.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dropping Like Flies

Another giant has fallen.  What a start to the day.  At first light, sitting at the computer and wondering what to write about today, I heard a crack, a rumble, and a crash.  The big, beautiful oak that has been such an asset to my skyline is gone.  No professional could have dropped this tree with more precision.  It missed the clothesline.  It missed the Cecile Brunner rose that I love, and it came within inches of the driveway.  Had it come this way, it would have squooshed the end of the house and deck, and probably Bessie and me.  Had it gone to the west, I would have lost the splitter and the live oak.  I know that many, many birds have lost their homes.  I feel a tremendous sense of loss, could have been so much worse.  When it's a "decent" hour, I'll put a call in to Tree Guy.  I didn't realize we were going to have such a longlasting relationship.  Seems I'm not only going to put his kids through college, now they can start thinking about postgraduate school.  At least it won't be far to stack the firewood.  As Steve was wont to say, "Look at the bright side."

Whatever thoughts I might have had for today's entry have gone completely from my mind.  As with so much in life, it is what it is.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Open Wide

Another mouth to feed, but thank goodness I'm not the one who has that chore.  Yesterday afternoon I finally decided to start moving mountains...the mountains of pulled weeds...and went to get the yard cart out by the feed barn.  There was no sound or movement to get my attention, but I'm always checking my surroundings.  Looking up, there was this tiny beak, wide open, over the lip of the swallow's nest.  I know there were shells of at least two eggs, so wonder where the other baby is and if it lived.  I'm glad I'd figured out the camera feature on my cell phone; it took a bit longer to find out how to send the photo to my computer.

Stuffing the cart and piling it high, I managed to get two piles of weeds in and hauled down to the north slope and dumped.  The cart is heavy even when empty, and pulling it back up the hill was enough for me to call it quits for the day.

The UPS truck came trundling up the drive later on and The Man In Brown brought my new bibbies!  Stiff as boards, the first thing was to get them into the washer and out on the line.  It will take a number of washings before I can walk and not crackle.  The manufacturers seem to feel that hip size requires leg length; 'tain't necessarily so.  One can acquire a lot of alfalfa and foxtails in a four-roll cuff (okay, I'm somewhat vertically challenged), and I'm determined to pull out the sewing machine and hem these to length before I wear them.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Lazy Day

The lavender bed is finally and completely weed free (temporarily, of course).  Being a NASCAR Sunday, that was about the only productive thing I got done yesterday.  There was a long rain delay in the middle of the race at Pocono so I took the obligatory NASCAR nap; felt good.

As happens so frequently, once again I am glad I'm not visible to any neighbors.  On the way down to the barn in the morning, I carry Twenty-Two's bottles in one of the empty milk buckets.  On the way back to the house, both buckets are full and there's no room in my pockets, so I've been stuffing the empty bottles down the front of my bibbies.  Glancing down, I noticed that just the bottle nipples were showing.  It's been a long time since I could be described as perky.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

What's Cookin'?

Hot though it might be in the barn at milking time, this has been a relatively mild summer.  When temperatures soar in the triple digits and no air-conditioning, I neither expect nor want company.  Therefore it was a double pleasure yesterday with a visit from Deb and Craig and a high of eighty-nine.  They brought some wasabi corn chips that were a perfect compliment to the chilled soup I served for lunch.  I've been asked to include some recipes in this journal, and summertime is a good time for
3 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, cut in chunks
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 cup sour cream
Put all but the sour cream into a blender and whirl until silky smooth.  Add sour cream and pulse until blended.  Chill until icy cold.  Can garnish with any green herb, or just a sprinkle of black pepper.
Serves four.

Deb and Craig have started their first vegetable garden and are flushed with success.  Their herbs are doing particularly well, and they brought sage, oregano, and basil to share.  I traded them some thyme from my front yard.  Knowing they are perfectionists, I could see their orderly garden in my mind's eye and was a little embarrassed to take them out to my catch-as-catch-can vegetable patch, but needed peas for a dish I was making for dinner.  They picked peas while I pulled turnips.  Evidently Craig does not need fair warning before being served a turnip, and I sent a bunch home with them.  Shelling peas together in the kitchen later, I hadn't realized neither of them had ever had a fresh pea.  English peas and lima beans just aren't sold in grocery stores anymore...sugar peas, yes, but they aren't the same.  Enjoying the texture and taste at dinner, they both were enthusiastic and said they would add peas to their garden next year.  We might be starting a trend here.

Deb and Craig came down to the barn to meet Twenty-Two when it was time for his bottle(s).  He's a heart stealer, for sure.  We also inspected the chicken pens.  They have a proprietary interest in the Silkies, as they started that flock in the first place, and also built the Taj.

All good things come to an end, and any visit with my Kids ends too soon, but it was a good day.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Going, Going, Gone

The wipes bucket in the milking room needed emptying so I thought nothing of it when I saw a used wipe on the floor while tending to Cindy, always first in.  Switching out the girls on the stand is a pretty rapid process, one wants in for her breakfast and the other wants out, and I didn't pick up the wipe.  If I thought about it at all when I noted it in a different place while milking Ruthie, I must have kicked it over there.  Esther is a nonmilker and I take advantage of the "down time" while she eats breakfast to grab the bottles and run around to the nursery and feed Twenty-Two.  It was while milking Inga that I saw the diaper wipe had started a descent down a mouse hole. I watched it slowly disappear.  It took Missus Mousie the entire time it took me to milk out Tessie and Sheila to get that wipe all the way home.  I'm hoping she's just doing some redecorating, perhaps putting up new curtains or replacing the bedspread.  If the mice are starting to line their burrows in August, we're in for a long, cold winter.

About noon, I got a call from my neighbor to the south, Robert.  "One of your goats is in my vineyard!"  Wha-a-at?!  Grabbing a leash, my mind raced as I headed down the big pen.  How in the world had they gotten through the fence?  It's eight-foot deer fencing, topped with two strands of barbed wire.  A kid, maybe, but a grown goat would not crawl under.  How could there be a hole big enough?  By the time I got to the bottom of the pasture and met Robert, Sheila had gotten herself back on home turf.  Turns out that when Robert's guy fixed his fence in the spring, he didn't tie it in with Joel's fence at the last post.  There was just enough room for an enterprising escape artist to squeeze through and get to those tempting green vines.  Sheila, having been caught in the act, hadn't had time to do any damage, and Robert's workers had been trimming the vines anyhow.  I found enough wire to snug it up temporarily, and Robert said he'd make permanent repairs.  Trudging back up the field to the house, I gave thanks that only one goat had gotten out (I'd imagined trying to round up the herd), that Robert had been at the tasting room to see Sheila or I'd never have known, that the escape route had been closed, and that no damage had been done.

I emptied the wipes bucket last night.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Mother and Child Reunion

Tessie saw Twenty-Two yesterday for the first time in two weeks.  Paul Simon's song immediately came into my mind (and has been stuck there) as soon as I took this photo.  Twenty-Two had an identity crisis; he's so firmly bonded to me I'm not sure he knows he's a goat.  Like a shy little kid, he hid behind my legs and it took a bit of urging to get him to go to the gate to say hello to his real mama.  Tessie certainly remembered him and talked to him constantly in that special voice goat mothers use for their kids.  I hope it reassured her to see that he's fine and didn't make the separation more difficult for her.  He's a sturdy little boy and is fast outgrowing the nursery stall.  After breakfast and lunch I've been letting him into the hall to get some exercise, but hadn't let him out to the play yard until he was big enough not to squeeze through the gap by the gate posts.  In another week I'll give him the run of the barn, but will keep him separate from the herd until he's weaned.

Going to get the goats' alfalfa in the morning, I discovered these tiny eggshells under the swallow's nest.  At first I feared they'd been thrown out intact and broke on impact, but on inspection it was obvious that the babies, at least two, have hatched.  The speckled shells are incredibly delicate; even putting them on this small oak leaf for size comparison was difficult without shattering.  The nest is too high for me to see into, even climbing up on a couple of bales.  Mama bird stayed close by and I didn't want to send her into a dither by prolonging my visit.

My dear little camera is showing a "lens error" message and needs to go to Nikon for repair.  The nice lady I spoke to assured me it would be back in seven to ten days.  I'll be lost without it when I send it in, as I just never knows when a great "photo op" like the two above is going to turn up.  Putting the camera in my pocket now is as natural as putting on my glasses.

A cooler day was incentive to get the side and back yards mowed in the afternoon.  The danged star thistle is about the only thing growing now, but it does persist.  If it stays cool today, I might actually get the mountains of pulled weeds moved out of the front yard.  Or not.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Animal Farm

Frank has always come around for a swipe or two when I've been brushing out Bessie Anne.  He finally figured out why Bess has been getting so much attention lately, so he came in covered with burrs and signed in for an appointment.  I was able to squeeze him in between Bessie brushings and so assuaged his feelings of jealousy.  Pearl either has more emotional equanimity or she just hasn't found the right burr patch yet.

I'm laughing as I write this.  My last dream before waking this morning was filled with animals (none of my current residents), all needing to be fed, one needing an emergency visit to the vet, baby birds showing up in cupboards.  There's no escape!

I had to do a double take in the garden.  I knew I had planted carrots.  Slow to germinate, they were finally taking off and the leafy tops were up about six inches.  I couldn't believe it when I looked in that barrel...not one carrot!  Not one.  There was barren ground that looked as if it had never been planted.  It must be the same critter that ate down all of the cilantro.  When this persnickety purloiner likes something, it likes it a lot!

The new bedtime routine is working well.  Last night Peggy had already gone into the coop, but came running out to stand at my feet, waiting to be picked up.  What goes on in that little chicken brain?

I sit on an overturned bucket to give Twenty-Two his bottle(s).  He's developing his own pattern.  When his tummy is as tight as a drum, he rests against my leg while I massage his back and shoulders and stroke his head.  Otherwise as bouncy as a rubber ball, he gets so relaxed his eyelids start to droop.

George Orwell had his version of Animal Farm...I've got mine.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Git 'Er Done!

Oh, man...I was on a roll.  I was geared up and pedal down.  It was going to be a great "git 'er done!" day.  By eight o'clock I had the computer work done, the trash down to the big road, all chickens fed, watered, and released, the front yard mowed, and the better part of a cord of split wood (that the guys had just thrown down in a pile) neatly stacked on pallets.  Like department stores that start selling parkas in July, we are always planning for the next season.  I was so pleased that I'd be able to get to the barn early, get those chores done, and maybe mow the side yard before it got way too hot.  Bess and I went back into the house for a little breather before gathering up the milk buckets.  She flopped, panting, on the cool hearth. 

While I'd been stacking wood, she'd been running around under the oak, looking up and barking, telling me that there was something that didn't belong there in the tree.  It wasn't a "Danger!" bark; more, "I see you and I want you gone!"  I try to show respect for Bessie's instincts and go look when she gives a warning.  She's not a yapping dog, so I listen to her.  It might just be the sound of the first rain drops that set her off, but sometimes there's actually something out there.  The raccoon has been visiting almost nightly even though the recycle bag has been moved.  Try as I might, I couldn't see anything in the branches, no give-away movement or sound.  It could have been a squirrel.  At any rate, break time over, I reached down to give my early-warning system a belly rub as I headed to the kitchen...and it all came to a screeching halt.  I hadn't gotten all of the dreaded, dreadful bracken pulled from under the live oak, and Bessie Anne was covered in bijillions of tiny, tiny daggers, and I'm not exaggerating for effect.  Hadn't we just gone through this with the Velcro burrs?  We went out on the porch and I spent the next hour brushing seeds out of her coat and from between her toes.  Ambition drained with every stroke.  Not only was I not early to the barn, I was way behind schedule.  So much for git 'er done.

After bedtime barn chores, Bess enjoys laying on the porch in the cool of evening while I wash up the baby bottles.  Last night she did a perimeter check before coming in and...was covered in burrs again.  Deja vu. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Lest it be thought I do nothing but torment my plants, this pennyroyal stays upright, green, and blooming to save my tattered reputation.  The bees and hummers love the pennyroyal, which has a lovely peppermint scent.  This leads me to a particular thought.  One can buy clover honey, orange honey, lavender honey, et cetera, delicately flavored with the flowers from which the bees harvested.  The onion chives and garlic chives on the deck are budding up and ready to bloom.  Like all alliums, they will have beautiful globes made up of many tiny florets, which the bees will also visit.  Garlic honey?  Lavender honey with overtones of onion?  Just wondering.

Another question thrown out to the universe.  Why is it that when a pair of jeans (or in this case, bibbies) gets just to that point of perfection, washed and worn to a softness akin to suede, they rip and/or disintegrate?  My friend Judy, who loves to go shopping and is up on the latest fashions, tells me that down on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, people pay big bucks for artfully ripped jeans.  Uh huh.  As with my shoes, I have/had one pair of go-to-town bibbies and two pair for work, the plan being that when one of the work bibbies gave up the ghost, I'd get another and start the rotation.  The plan went to pot when both work bibbies fell apart at the same time, legs in shreds and rips in the bibs so I'm in danger of losing the whole thing.  Donning the only pair left, I...yes...I went to town (which I admit wasn't such a hardship as the truck has air-conditioning).  I also needed a particular clip to hold the linchpin for the trailer to the lawn tractor.  The stores which have been my mainstays for bibbies no longer keep them stocked, and as for the clip which probably costs twenty-five cents, three stores only sold them in a five-dollar set with the linchpin, which I didn't need.  Coming home empty-handed (but looking spiffy), I ordered two new pair on line.  Until they're delivered, I'll just have to hope that no one comes visiting on laundry day when my one and only set of bibbies is on the line.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Summer Whine

"One and two, and one and two."  I can hear the epazote counting off as it does its every-other-day calisthenics.  I certainly don't need a fancy hydrometer as long as this plant does its wilt-and-stretch exercises; these before and after photos taken a day apart tell it all.  I water the deck plants one day, the vegetable garden the next, and everything else in between.  The big chickens are sucking down two gallons a day.  In addition, I fill a one-gallon waterer for them at night and it's dry by morning. 
My daughter and I were contenders in the Summer Whine and Snivel Contest yesterday, trying to outdo each other with tales of how hot we were.  She said her husband kept checking her for signs of spontaneous combustion as they did their yard work down in the valley.  I told her she was probably safe, in that the pouring sweat would put out any flames that appeared.

Twenty-Two has upped his intake to a bottle and a half at each feeding.  As a point of general information, I use sixteen-ounce plastic 7-Up bottles with a lamb nipple.  I've tried water bottles and other sodas in the past, but they all collapsed under the kid's vigorous sucking.  When Twenty-Two was born and I wasn't prepared, Larry and I went on a quest for 7-Up that day.  (7-Up could probably put that commendation in their advertising.)

Not conceding defeat, I have reached a compromise with the critters about bedtime.  Timing it just so, the Silkies will go into the Taj first, tempted by their nighty-night treats.  Moving over to the big pen, I tuck Pick-me-up Peggy under my arm and together we put down the treats in the hen house, gather any eggs laid, and shut the little door, leaving the balky chickens to their own devices outside until after I get done with the goats.  Peggy seems content to be put down in the house when I leave her to fill the nighttime waterer.  If it goes well, this gets me to the goat barn while it's light enough so they all go in readily and Twenty-Two gets his bottle(s) while I can still see.  After topping off the water trough (done three or four times a day in this weather), I stop at the hen house on the way back to the house where they've all tucked themselves in for the night and shut the big door.  It seems a bit convoluted, but way better than chasing chickens and bucking bedtime goats.  When it's all said and done, it's nine o'clock and all's well.

In response to Callykid's comment from yesterday, alligator lizards and skinks are different lizard species.  The alligators are much bigger and look very much like their namesakes with elongated snouts.  Skinks are much more like snakes, smaller, with narrow, triangular heads, and I have no idea what their namesake could be.  Skinks are really rather pretty, but I think the alligator lizards are just plain ugly.

As for Kathryn's question from a few days ago about "bump and strip," I refer to the May 13, 2010, entry for an explanation.