Friday, September 30, 2011

Battening Down

Sweltering in nearly one-hundred-degree heat, it's hard to believe the predictions of rain, wind, and nearly a thirty-degree drop in temperature due next week, but it would be foolish to ignore the prognosticators.  There are some outside chores I've been putting off that have now moved up on the list.  The chicken coops are in pretty good shape, but the goats have pulled a plywood wall panel loose on their barn and that needs to be nailed back or replaced.  That hasn't been a priority because it was just extra ventilation in the heat.  Odds and ends of yard tools, etc., that have been left out, handy for the next task, need to be gathered up and put away.  Larry cleaned out the gutters earlier, but I need to start thinking about getting the chimney swept.  Tree Guy stopped by yesterday to talk about a plan of attack for all the wood that is yet to be split and stacked.  The little daughter of my milk customer changed the costume on the ceramic goose by the front gets a new outfit every month and she just couldn't wait to put on its witch's Halloween hat and cape for October.  Without my noticing, the oak leaves have started to turn color, and every breeze carries a few floaters drifting down.

In a couple of weeks, I will have lived here at Farview fourteen years.  Because it was such a momentous change, the memories of our move up the hill are as clear as if it were yesterday.  It was all so new; a totally different lifestyle.  We had no idea then what we needed to do to get ready for fall or winter.  Now it is hard to remember that I ever lived anywhere else, and I know darned well that I'd better get busy. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wake Up!

It is the duty of every rooster to wake up the sun.  How else could the day begin?  There must be mornings when the boys would much rather sleep in, but they heed the call, waking in the dark to start vocalizing.  Mine are not the only roosters on the hill, but they are usually the first to clock in on the job.  The lazybones across the hill hit the snooze button a couple of times, but then chime in to help raise the sun.  There is a wide range of tone, and each Chanticleer has his individual vocabulary of welcome.  The barred rock rooster has a loud clarion call, whereas the flashy black-and-white Araucana sings out with a raspy croak.  He does his best, but he's never going to be picked to lead the chorus.  The Silkies outnumber all the others.  They try to make up in unified volume what they lack in size, but they continue to speak a different language, never quite getting the "cockadoodle-doo" to come out without an accent.  I wonder if roosters get depressed on overcast or rainy days, taking it personally and feeling they've failed their job when the sun doesn't appear.  All are present and accounted for this morning; we're all just waiting for sunrise.

The barred rock and Rhodie pullets in the big yard have started laying the little beginner eggs that are no larger than the full-grown Silkies'.  The Araucana girls have yet to kick in; I'm still waiting to see what colors they will lay.  Because the established hens have slowed down production, I've had to give my egg customers an eighteen-pack, giving additional small eggs to make up the equivalent of a dozen of the large.

There was a hen party of another sort yesterday.  Judy and I had agreed we needed a day out and drove up the road a piece for lunch, and it was such a nice surprise when we were joined by Judy's daughter Shari.  None of us are big socializers, but we had such a good time we've decided to make it a regular event.

The roosters can go back to bed now; they've done their job.  The sun is just getting up.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Old Dog

Faye, the old black Labrador who showed up here a while back, is still making a break for it.  In the mornings as I'm out on the deck filling the hummers' feeders for breakfast, watering the plants, or just considering The Plan for the day, I hear, "Fa-a-a-ye.  Fa-a-a-ye!," from up on Irish Acres, the even smaller dirt road across the way.  The voice moves up and down the hill and, as frustration builds, the calls are louder and less coaxing.  "Faye!  Faye!  Faye!"  Bess and I keep a look out in case she wanders up our drive, but since I tethered her to the porch the last time it's not likely she'll come back here, unless she also remembers the milk bones and water bowl.  During the brief conversation I had with the man when he came to retrieve his retriever, he mentioned that Faye had belonged to his son.  I know no other particulars or the circumstances that brought her to Fair Play.  She evidently misses the son, or perhaps she was a city dog and is having trouble adjusting to country living.  She was very happy to see the man when he came to get her, and he obviously cares for her or he wouldn't spend his mornings hunting for her.  I know he has to go to work, and still he calls and calls for her.  He either finds her or she comes back, because it happens again and again.  I'm left to imagine the story behind this drama, and to wish them both well.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Boys Are Back

"The Boys Are Back In Town!"  Thin Lizzie was singing loud and clear yesterday as the turkey toms started congregating under the oak and in the herb garden.  Haven't seen much of the boys this summer.  The hens and the one surviving youngster travel through every morning as they make the rounds of their feeding grounds, but only once in awhile have the toms shown up, and then only one or two.  There is a particular wild grass that springs up amongst the marjoram and thyme.  It is impossible to pull by hand; it needs a potato fork to dig out the massive root ball.  It throws up tall stems, covered in tiny seeds that are a favorite of the turkeys.  Just a few feet from the front porch, six big toms feasted, starting at the bottom of the stalk and stripping the seeds into their beaks.  This grass makes the front garden look so unkempt, but I let it grow just because the wild things love it.

The cooler weather brought back ambition and I started washing windows.  Never in my life have I cleaned windows so often as I have up here, primarily because I spend so much time looking out.  Even without the wildlife, each window presents a gorgeous view.  All seven doors to the deck are ten-pane glass; real time-consuming boogers to wash.  Only the front door is solid, and even that has an oval, beveled glass insert.  The one big window that is impossible to keep clean is that by the hummingbird feeders.  I don't know how those tiny birds do it, but that glass is always spotted with sticky bird spit.  I wish they'd have the courtesy to wipe their beaks before they whirl away, flinging droplets in their wake.  (I'm scraping the bottom of the second twenty-five-pound bag of sugar this summer.)

Tree Guy came by the other day (his trip to Plumas County was cancelled), bringing more branches from his trees for my burn pile.  I talked to him about the need to finish up dealing with the last oak that fell.  I will need the firewood to get me through the winter, and that yard needs to be cleaned up before the rainy season starts.  I can't mow that section as it is, and star thistle waits for no man. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Lost Day

The homestead got short shrift yesterday.  It was one of those days when I think back and say I didn't do a darned thing, although it was a busy, busy day.  After barn chores, I baked a cake to take to a Celebration of Life for a departed friend, dashed down the hill to attend that function, and came home just in time to help another friend clean up a newly established website.  Being a bit late getting the kids to bed had me rushing around shutting doors and I even missed a moment with Peggy and the red.  That's it.

After days of way-above-normal temperatures, fall once again sent warning signals.  The cloud cover came over (I heard there was a little rain down in the valley) and, for the first time this season, a long-sleeved shirt felt good down in the barn.  Woodpeckers have begun their rat-a-tat hammering, tucking away supplies for winter.  I'm beginning to hear the growl of augers as the nearby wine makers are starting the crush.  I can always tell when the grapes are just about ready to pick without going into the vineyards.  Coyotes are evidently big fans of sweet grapes.  They are such in-your-face critters.  They seem to purposefully leave their scat right in my pathways, and now the droppings are full of grape skins and seeds.  They appear to prefer red over white...little winos!  Flocks of noisy crows have moved in, intimidating the smaller birds at the feeding station, yelling at each other and pushing and shoving on the power lines.  The days are definitely shorter.  Yup, it's fall.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


The Green-eyed Monster has arisen in the chicken pen.  The flock runs to me whenever I step into their yard as they know I bring treats, and I lead them like the Pied Piper into the coop at night.  Pick-Me-Up Peggy stands in the doorway, waiting for her evening cuddle, as the others race for their snack.  I've noticed the little red hen, one of the Rhodies, hanging around Peggy before, but didn't think too much about it.  Last night, I had Peggy tucked under one arm as I went out to shut the small door and darned near tripped over the red hen as she ran in front of me.  "What are you doing, you little twerp?  Go on into the house!"  I tried to take a step...she moved in front...and again.  "What?  Are you jealous?  You want a ride too?!"  It is very difficult to pick up a chicken with one hand.  It is impossible to tend to the last chores, filling the waterers, etc., with a hen under each arm.  Those would have to wait until tomorrow as I needed to get down to the goat barn.  I put Peggy and the as-yet-unnamed red hen inside.  Before I could close the big door, they both popped out again, looking up at me.  I put them in.  They popped out.  This is getting out of hand.  These girls would rather have a ride than enjoy their nighttime treats.  I don't think this is normal behavior.  Peggy is strange by herself, and what possessed the red to think this is such a good idea?

Twenty-Two has integrated into the herd.  Inga has taken it upon herself to be his nanny.  He was playing big shot with her yesterday, racing around and wanting to head butt.  She would rear up and very gently thunk him on the forehead.  He has accepted the herd routines very well.  Twenty-Two doesn't know it, but he got his last bottle last night.  He's a big boy now.

All four bucks were back at dusk.  Bessie Anne took her cue from me and ignored them.  I know she saw the boys, but responded well to, "By me.  Stay by me."  Good girl.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Danged Deer

I am very happy to offer sanctuary to the deer.  I can put up with lilacs stripped of leaves.  I don't mind filling a dishpan with water twice a day so they can drink.  I'm willing to repeatedly fix the gate to the open side of the barn when they push/pull it off trying to get a snack of alfalfa.  However, a situation has arisen recently that has me concerned.  The bucks are forming a gang.  First there were two, now there are four.  While I might catch a glimpse at other times of the day, they are cruising through nightly at dusk now, just about the time that Bess Anne and I are starting our evening chores.  A couple of days ago, she and I had just finished watering the vegetable garden and were heading back to the house.  Four well-armed boys were standing right there in the driveway.  I'm glad I caught sight of the gang before Bess did and the breeze was blowing away from us.  A few years back, bucks were goring dogs left and right and I certainly don't want Bessie Anne to become another statistic.  I kept Bessie distracted and raised my voice, hoping the deer would move off...they didn't.  They stood their ground defiantly, daring me to bring it on.  The bully-boys were between us and the front door and no way to go around.  This standoff lasted over five minutes before, and I swear I could see it, the biggest buck with the biggest antlers stuck out his tongue and gave me the raspberry before leading his gang to amble down to the woods. 

Bessie wasn't happy last night when she had to stay in the house while I put everyone else to bed, but it's a good thing she did because the bucks were out by the chicken pen again.  I think it's pretty rude for guests to start intimidating the host.  Danged deer.

Friday, September 23, 2011

First Day At School

It was a big day for Twenty-Two.  This was his first peek around the corner of the barn at the big world that was opening up for him.  Any change in routine with the goats takes a bit of forethought.  Letting him out was no problem, but how about getting him back in?  I decided it might be best to give it a try while he still had a few more nights of bottle feeding.  Those liquid security blankets might be enough of an incentive so I wouldn't have to chase him down at dusk.

Twenty-Two was pretty brave as long as I was standing and watching.  He made a short excursion, but stayed pretty close to the area he could have seen from his playpen.  And then I needed to get the milk back up to the house.  Like any kindergartner on his first day, he followed so closely on the way up the hill that he was bumping into my legs, making little sounds of trepidation.  When he realized I was on the outside of the gate and he wasn't coming too,  he broke into full-throated cries, "Mama!  Don't leave me!"

It didn't take long for curiosity to get the best of him and he wandered in amongst the herd.  Most of the girls just ignored the new kid on the block or pushed him away with a toss of the head.  Inga showed the most interest, following him around, sniffing and talking to him.  Tessie, his mom, seemed to have forgotten him completely.  At exactly two months old, Twenty-Two is a pretty big boy.  Unable to contain himself any longer, he was soon running and doing that oh-so-goat leap and twist in the air.

And that's what got him into trouble.  I went out often during the day to check on my little boy.  For the most part, he learned his manners quickly and was grazing, napping, doing whatever the herd was doing.  However, late in the afternoon as I was going out to water the garden, I counted noses in the goat pen and had trouble locating the eighth little nose.  There he was in the water trough, back legs in the water and front legs over the edge, too scared to yell.  Given that it was a hundred-degree day, he looked for all the world like a kid who'd taken a dip in the pool, resting on his elbows at the side.  It was a bit of an emergency or I'd have taken a photo of that Kodak moment.  Rescued, he gave a good shake and once again clung to my legs, telling me all about this latest adventure.

My worries were for naught.  When I went to the barn at bedtime, Twenty-Two was the first one in the gate and he raced for his little stall, impatient for his bottles.  I know he slept well last night.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

New Adventure

She's done it again.  It's long been my friend Linda's practice to either guide me or drag me kicking and screaming into new adventures.  Years ago she convinced me to try a kundalini yoga class, where I sat on the floor with a dab of Tiger Balm (which burned like blue blazes) on my forehead to help focus.  I still use some of the breathing techniques to relieve stress.  It was she I joined for elaborate beach picnics.  My foray into jogging with her was short lived.  I know Linda was disappointed in me when I'd stop after a lap or two on the cinder track for a cigarette before slogging on.  On a prior visit, she bought me two books about eBay.  I did read both of them, but anything that needs two books (one was "for Dummies") to explain its use is too complicated to make it worth my time.  When she was here earlier this month, Linda introduced me to Craig's on-line "want-ads section" that is very simple to use.  Dipping my toe in the water, I posted two never-used life vests just hanging in the closet.  There were three immediate responses, and yesterday I took the vests into town and met the buyer in a very public parking lot for safety (resisting the urge to carry a rose in my teeth for identification) and sold them.  Ta da!  This could be the start of something big...or at least a way to dispose of some of a lifetime of accumulated detritus...and maybe a few roosters.

While I am venturing off into a new realm, Pick-Me-Up Peggy is feeling needier.  Usually she only comes for a cuddle at nighttime, but lately she's been foregoing morning cereal to stand at my feet until I lift her up.  Last night I carried her around while I threw grain and shut the little door, and then put her down inside with the others.  Before I could shut the big door, she popped out again and stood looking up at me.  What else could I do?  Of course I picked her up again, stroking her head and listening to her croon with her semi-closed eyes.  What is it with this chicken?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Do-Nothing Day

Temperatures are again tickling the edges of one hundred, hot enough to wilt my ambitions.  Even the animals move in slow motion, taking refuge in the shade.  The hens have all but stopped laying; I'm lucky to gather one or two eggs a day.  I've warned them they need to pick up the pace or I'll have to sing the Colonel Sanders Song (they know that's an idle threat).

Twenty-Two is not happy that he's been cut back to just the bedtime bottles, and he'll be less happy in another couple of days when even those are stopped.  I will be happy when I can let him out of the barn and not have to haul buckets of water down for him.  His growth is amazing; at two months, he is already half the size of an adult.  This little boy continues to give me attitude, but the herd will help school his behavior when he's out amongst them.  Their personalities are all so different, it's too much to hope that he will be the same as sweet Nineteen.

Tree Guy stopped by a couple of days ago (to bring more branches...what a crack-up!).  His "day job" is working on a forest fire fighting crew, and he came to tell me he and Number Two Son were headed to a fire up in Plumas County, perhaps for a couple of weeks.  Since TG is my go-between with the gentleman who is interested in the wethers, I'll have at least that long to get Twenty-Two socialized.

Taking advantage of the down time in the heat, yesterday was a day to reconcile bank statements, pay bills, watch old movies, and gorge on zucchini bread.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Bounty

Zucchini.  Zucchini and tomatillos.  Zucchini, tomatillos, and butternut squash.  Cousin Christi had brought this bounty from another cousin's garden.  When I go to town tomorrow, I'll get more cilantro for another batch of salsa verde and use up the tomatillos.  The butternut squash has a long shelf life and will wait until I'm ready to make risotto.  I always plan to make risotto, but once the squash comes out of the oven, caramelized and perfumed, it's inevitable that I eat it all up before the rice goes in the pan and the risotto never gets made.  And then there is the zucchini...all that zucchini.  One of my favorite light summer dinners is zucchini fritters with carrot, onion, and sriracha (and a dash of cumin) fact, I'd just made that for one of the previous guests; I'd actually bought the vegetable for that.  Yesterday I baked eight loaves of zucchini bread (and had that for dinner, period).  The problem is that even with the multiplied recipe, it only used up one large zucchini.  I bribed my milk customer into taking a zucchini by giving her a loaf of the bread.  The kitchen counter is still piled with zucchini and what didn't fit there is out on the front porch.  I may be giving zucchini bread for Christmas, or standing in front of the grocery store, handing it out like puppies.

Yesterday was also laundry day.  Putting away the folded clothes that were still in the basket so I could hang the next load, I noted that a shirt was folded strangely and a towel was certainly folded differently, and thought to myself, "Good grief, I must have been in a hurry when I did that!"  And then it hit me.  Duh.  Those clothes had been on the line when Christi was here and she had to have taken them down while I was in the barn.  Bless her heart.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Visiting Royalty

Warming Twenty-Two's beddy-bye bottles last evening, I glanced out the kitchen windows and looked into the eyes of King of the Forest and two princelings.  The king may be just a forked horn, but his rack is two to two-and-a-half feet high.  The younger bucks are spike horns.  I dawdled long enough to let them move on.  However, as I walked out with Bessie, I saw they'd just moved over behind the hen house.  "Ahem, ahem," I cleared my throat to give fair warning before Bess caught sight of the deer.  King was fearless and stood his ground even while I tended to the chickens.  It wasn't until I was filling their waterers that Bessie Anne finally saw the deer.  With those antlers, King could do real damage to a dog, but when Bess made a short charge, King and the boys finally bounded off and Bessie had enough good sense not to follow.  I hope those boys stay close (and idiots stay far away), as hunting season will open next week.

Another Prince of a guy, Mike discovered a potential disaster in the plumbing of the guest shower while the cousins visited.  Mulling it over for a couple of days, he came up with an inventive solution.  Miraculously, we were able to locate the necessary tools and materials in record time down in the shop.  All future guests in need of sluicing down will have Mike to thank that the water control doesn't pull through the wall into their hands.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Great Gettin' Up Morning

The moon has been so bright the last few nights I could think I'd left the lights on.  That's a good thing for Pearl as it will have made hunting easier.  Frank has come and gone in the house with impunity, trusting that Snoopy and Lucky are well contained.  Pearl, on the other hand, has wanted nothing to do with those beasties with teeth.  Had I not run into her several times yesterday while tending the chickens, I'd be worried.

Mike is also an early riser.  As it is for many unfortunate males, when the "girls" get to chattering, it's hard to get a word in edgewise.  It was nice to spend a little one-on-one time before he headed out for a golf date yesterday.  The weather could not be better for all concerned.  Christi took her dogs for a long walk up our shady road while I did barn chores, and then we spent the better part of the lovely day sitting on the deck with a cool breeze blowing and got caught up on family news.  Lucky seems to like me especially and he's a "leaner," pressing against my leg as I massage his shoulders.  Bessie will take just so much of that before she comes and leans against the other leg.  "I'm your girl, Mom.  Me too!" 

Little Mr. Full of Himself is being schooled in good manners.  Twenty-Two has started to jump up on me like a dog.  Like a dog, this is not acceptable.  In addition, he tries to hook with his horns, and this is not acceptable.  As I've told anyone who's bought a kid from me, what might be cute and feisty as a baby will not be cute when that baby is a full-grown, strong adult and bad behavior cannot be tolerated.  I want him to have a long, happy life and it's up to me to get him started on the right path.

The calendar says that fall won't be official for some time.  Nature says, "Watch me."  It isn't just that the days are cooler...acorns are dropping and the air itself has a different feel.  Summer may have a last hurrah, but it's fall.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Good Dogs

The cousins arrived, bringing an abundance of fresh produce...and two dogs, Lucky and Snoopy.  Bessie Anne is an exceptional hostess.  She greeted each canine guest politely, walked them to her favorite "spots," and graciously shared a few milk bones.  Lucky and Snoopy are really well-behaved, friendly and interested, and not boisterous.  It is I who feel like a dog and a lousy hostess.  Past experience has taught me that I cannot have visiting dogs in the house; one, because of the cats (the dogs are fine, it's the cats who freak out) and, two, because a past guest marked a spot, all canines cannot resist the urge to follow suit.  There is a dog run outside under a big oak, a doggy guest suite, and there is where Lucky and Snoopy are staying.  They come out frequently for walks and potty runs, and they're pretty satisfied with the accommodations, but I still feel bad about sending them to "the cooler."

As if Snoopy and Lucky weren't enough, after a quick trip for chips to go with the salsa verde I was making with the tomatillos Christi brought, we came back to find an old black lab in the driveway by the goat pen.  Hmmm.  Her collar tags announced her name was Faye, and there was a local phone number.  Unless a strange dog is obviously just passing (quickly) through, I contain the dog and try to locate the owner or call Animal Control.  A lost dog up here is prone to getting hit by a car or killed by coyotes...getting sent to the pokey is a preferable option.  The dog run was already occupied, and Lucky and Snoopy were very vocal in telling the interloper that there was no more room in the inn.  Bessie did her hostess thing again as we leashed Faye to the front porch and waited for her owner to arrive.  You just have to love labs...they do this bouncing with the front feet when they're happy, and Faye was very happy when the guy showed up a short while later.  Grey in the eyebrows and muzzle, she was new to the owners and the neighborhood and this old girl was just trying to "get back home."

As we were going to bed last night, Bessie Anne's sigh of satisfaction told me she'd had a good day...and I agreed.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Twenty-Two is "movin' slow and talkin' low" as to be expected, but he's actually recovering better and faster than others who've gone before.  He certainly hasn't lost his appetite.  He has much more interest in the cereal bowl now and it won't be long before he's completely weaned off the bottles.  He won't think that's so great, but he doesn't realize it will open up a whole new world outside the barn when I can let him loose with the herd when he no longer has an interest in udders.

I don't know what's up with Poppy.  Usually plodding silently through the days, for whatever reason she has started...for lack of a better term...singing.  The goats have a fairly extensive vocabulary of sounds, uttered in varying pitch and volume.  Poppy is a Johnny-One-Note and has no volume control...loud is all she knows.  The first couple of times I heard her bawling, I ran out to see what was happening.  Nothing.  She was just standing in the field with the others, bawling at the top of her lungs.  For all I know, she's trying to "talk" to the goats, but there's definitely a lack of communication.

Those deer I so enjoy seeing have completely denuded the lilac bushes in front of the kitchen of all leaves as high as they can reach.  With only the top branches left with greenery, the bushes look like they've got Bart Simpson haircuts.  While it's irritating, I can sympathize.  At this dry time of year there is little left for the wild things to eat.

I've given a lot of attention to the ground squirrels.  It took a long time for the grey squirrels with the fat, fluffy tails to come out of the woods and up to the nearby oaks, but they've settled in over the years.  This is the first year I've seen the babies.  I find it interesting that they've had their litters just before fall when there are plentiful acorns.  The little rowdies race up and down the oak and play tag and leapfrog in the front yard.  Over by the bird feeder oak, a territorial adult will beat a rapid tattoo with its front feet on a limb, telling me in no uncertain terms that I'm coming too close.

Steve's, and therefore my, cousins from Arizona are coming today for the weekend.  It's been so long since they've come for a visit and I'm so looking forward to their company.  I even dusted.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Poor Little Boy

"Hi, Mom.  What'cha doing?"  "Can't talk now, honey...I'm castrating a goat."  It hurts me to cause an animal pain in any way, but this was for Twenty-Two's own good, and actually gives him a chance for a long life as a wether.  It's definitely a two-person job and I was grateful for the help of a friend.  I'd been concerned because the gonads were not dropping (hence the earlier references to New Year's and Times Square), but finally everything was in place so we could accomplish the banding.  Most heart-breaking was that what Twenty-Two wanted afterward was the comfort of sucking on my thumb.  Poor little boy.

Tessie, Twenty-Two's mama, has settled into the morning routine and races to the barn when it's her turn.  Her one quirk is that she plants herself solidly on my side of the stand and every morning is a wrestling match as I shoulder and push her over so I can sit down.  She carries a full bag and is an easy milker.  I was congratulating her just yesterday for not dancing and kicking anymore, when she calmly lifted a foot and put it daintily into the half-full bucket.  I managed to get the foot out without sending the barn awash, throw out all that milk, and get a clean bucket to finish her up.  Some girls just can't take a compliment.

When the seasons change, they change in a hurry.  Six o'clock and it's barely first light this morning.  I need to start for the barns by seven at night, and even then need to turn on the porch light to see my way back. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Ladies Return

It's always such a surprise to see Naked Ladies at Farview.  Even though I planted the originals, their annual appearance still comes unexpectedly.  These amaryllis lie dormant in the earth most of the year, then rise up on slender stalks unaccompanied by greenery.  The pale pink trumpets stand proudly alone like Venus Rising From the Sea.  The leaves that feed the bulb will appear much later.  I know there must be some high-fallutin' botanical name for these plants, but I've ever only known them by the moniker "Naked Ladies."

On my next trip to town, I shall buy a number of "No Hunting" signs and post them around the property.  Three bucks were in the orchard yesterday afternoon and I want to afford them sanctuary.  Steve's family were all hunters, and I've been on my share of deer hunts.  As long as the kill is for food and not trophies, I have no argument.  We agreed when we moved here that no wildlife would be killed on the property.  Aside from other aspects, it simply would not be sporting.  The National Forest where it is legal to hunt is five miles away.  What others do on their home turf is none of my business.  Until the other day, I never felt the need to post my land, but one close call is one too many.  A hunter in the grip of "buck fever" loses focus.  Reason tells me that a sign will not deter idiots, but at least it will put them on notice.  I derive so much pleasure from seeing these Kings of the Forest, their ladies and their offspring.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Z Is For...

Z...hmmm.  Zounds!  I'd hate to come up with a Zero now.  One would hope to be at the Zenith, not the nadir.  There should be enough material in this Zany Zoo for one more bowl in the pot of alphabet soup.  Zealous in following my own rules, only flipping through the dictionary once and that, surprisingly, for S, each letter has almost Zipped into mind with its own inspiration, although some ZigZagged on their way.  Just having filled the feeders again, I guess I'll have to settle for the Zoom and Zing of the hummers.  I said at the start that I'd ride this alphabet pony and see how far it would take me...and here it is...A to Zed.  Good pony.

It being Tuesday, I beat the trash man to the corner, and so the day begins.  I have to find homes for some of the Silkie roosters.  There is one in particular who crows incessantly all day long.  I'm sure he'd be happier with his own harem.  The little Silkie girls are getting no rest at all.  In the big chicken pen last night, Pick-Me-Up Peggy ran to my feet.  "I'm here!  Don't forget me!"  What with the storm the night before and a somewhat erratic schedule, I've been a little late putting the kids to bed and she missed her bedtime cuddle.  I find that so endearing.

It's back to business as usual.  I shall try to find that Zen-like state of mind.  (One more kick from the pony!)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Y Is For...

Yelling!  Yelling (bellowing is probably more accurate) at the top of my lungs Yesterday at the idiot who, fortunately, was a lousy shot.  My friend and I were working at my computer in the afternoon when we were scared witless by the loud, way-too-close crack of a high-powered rifle and, hard to believe but true, the whiz of a bullet passing right outside the window by our heads.  Needing to see who might be shooting at us and at the same time wanting to stay away from the windows, we raced to the front room.  Looking out from a protected corner, I saw two bucks, a forked horn with a nice rack and a young spike, down in the little orchard in my front yard.  They obviously were the targets for this illegal, out-of-season, trespassing, idiot hunter who evidently never learned that it is important to know what is also behind the target.  It actually was a relief to see the deer as we weren't sure that we weren't under siege...not a good feeling on  September 11.  While I was hollering out the window, Linda was dialing 911.  The idiot had to have been on foot and definitely on my property.  The trajectory put the idiot at the edge of my woods.  That orchard cannot be seen from the road and we heard no vehicle.  There really was nothing the sheriff's deputy could do but cruise the area.

Shaken, but safe, we later sat on the deck and thanked our lucky stars that the close call was all it was.  Sitting among the hummingbirds that were coming for their evening meal, we saw the first lightning strikes over the mountain and heard the rumble of thunder.  A doozy of an electrical storm was brewing and coming our way.  The lightning was flashing every few seconds until it looked like a giant strobe light, accompanied by the constant crash of thunder that was unbelievably loud.    In minutes, the storm was directly overhead and rolling west.  A flock of birds wheeled in panic, not knowing which way to fly.  Having moved under cover before the rain hit, watching the show was incredibly exciting and we laughed like little kids.  I hoped for the best for the oaks and pitied the animals and chickens.  Bess was stuck a burr to my side and the cats were nowhere to be seen.  The clouds poured down rain in buckets.  We moved to the front porch to watch the storm move off, giving a parting shot or two before making a dramatic exit over the valley.  When I was finally able to go outside, the chickens were already in their houses and the goats and Poppy were ever so glad to get inside.  The meal I had prepped earlier but not yet cooked was long forgotten.  We again dined on pie and talked about the events of the day long into the night.

Linda can't say she didn't have a bang-up visit and a fantastic finale.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

X Is For...

X is the algebraic symbol for unknown quantity, and today I think X will have to stand on its own as such.  The only alphabetic "x" word that comes to mind is xenophobia, defined as fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners, and there is too much of that in the world and I won't capitalize it or expound upon it.

The heat persists.  Hoping to catch a bit of the erratic breeze, my friend and I moved our conversation out to the deck in the afternoon.  The dark clouds over the mountain would occasionally flash with lightning, followed by a clap of thunder.  The hummingbirds were out in full force at all three feeders, buzzing around our heads, occasionally hovering beside one or the other of us to eavesdrop.  One hummingbird is a joyful sight...thirty to fifty is just plain awesome.  Their aerial acrobatics surpass the Blue Angels.  Farview seemed determined to put on the best show possible yesterday.  As if the hummers weren't enough, Linda noted several vultures circling, thinking something must be dead across the way.  Continuing to watch, we saw more of the silent, huge birds joining the circle, and I realized it is September!  The annual migration always occurs in September.  It is earlier than previous years, but this has been a goofy, out-of-sync year anyhow.  With only about twenty forming the vortex, some soaring so high they became sparrow-sized specks, this must have been the precursor to the mass migration when there are X numbers in formation.  Even the preview was enough to bring out the goosebumps; it's a breathtaking sight.

Appetites stolen by the heat, we again snacked on picnic fare.  The main course...the only course...was an apple pie just out of the oven.  One of the benefits of being a grownup is eating dessert and calling it dinner.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

W Is For...

W is for Waiting.  No sooner had I put the birdseed in the feeder than I heard a small sound.  It was a well-camouflaged Pearl in the fork of the tree saying, "Shhh, Mom.  Pretend you don't see me."  She was waiting for breakfast.  In the bottom photo, it looks like she is conferring with the "man" in the tree. 

Waiting for my friend, Linda, to arrive, I plodded on through the day doing housework in fits and starts.  It was one of the hottest days since awhile, sit awhile.  Thunderheads had been building over the mountains all day.  In the afternoon, they spilled over the ridge and the sky darkened.  Distant thunder rolled.  Big, fat raindrops started to patter on the deck.  Remembering I had laundry on the line, I dashed out to gather it in just as the UPS driver pulled up.  We both stood in the cooling felt so good.
Back in the day when we both wore bikinis, Linda and I would go on picnics at a beach on the American River.  No peanut butter sandwiches for us!  Linda would stop at The Fish Emporium gourmet food store and our picnic basket would be stocked with sourdough baguettes, pate, caviar, a divine cheese, and a bota bag of daiquiris.  My jaw dropped last evening when she unloaded exactly these same goodies, as well as a salami and smoked oysters.  The bota bag was missing, but I had a bottle of chilled rose wine ready.  All thoughts of cooking dinner went out the window, and we picnicked in the living room and toasted the good old days and the bikinis we used to wear.

Friday, September 9, 2011

V Is For...

Vicissitudes and Vagaries...just because I like the words...simply Variations on yesterday's theme of the peaks and Valleys of life, the changeability that certainly maintains interest.  The only thing that I'm sure of today is that it is going to be hotter than yesterday.  Of course it is arriving this evening.  Coming from Seattle where everyone runs outside to see the phenomenon of the sun shining in the sky, my friend is going to melt like a marshmallow in the microwave when she lands in Sacramento.  I misspoke.  I'm also sure I won't get everything done that needs doing.  I move a lot slower in the heat.

In town (briefly and under duress) yesterday, I pumped a half-tank of gas in the truck.  Good grief!  Computing how many pre-tax hours I would have had to work to pay for that purchase alone set me back on my heels.

Twenty-Two is the small monkey wrench thrown in the daily system in the barn.  I can't leave the lid off the feed barrel that is his launching pad because it would be filled with mice in no time, so he pops out of the nursery stall like a jumping bean and is constantly underfoot.  Letting the big goats and Poppy in and out is getting complicated.  Twenty-Two only has another couple of weeks on the bottle; once weaned, I can let him out in the big pen with the does and maybe this madness will stop.  Or not.

Vascillating, while it's still dark and cool, between writing and working, my conscience has finally gotten the upper hand and I'm going to go dust something.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

U Is For...

Up...and its counterpoint, down.  One of my favorite lines from a great movie, "Lion In Winter," comes after a particularly violent quarrel and Katharine Hepburn says, "What family doesn't have its ups and downs?"  I am so fortunate to be spared the emotional sturm und drang in my family that I sometimes observe in others, but that doesn't mean life at Farview is without its Ups and downs.  The hike back Up the hill from the barn always seems steeper and longer than the walk down.  The mercury rises and falls (lately just rising).  Most trees are standing Upright, thankfully, but I've had my share of those dropping this year.  It's an exaggeration, but it seems I get Up from my chair a hundred times a day to open the door for my little Inagin-Outagin Flanagans.  The weeds come Up; I cut 'em down.  Not unique to Farview, the price of everything just goes Up.  It surprised me the first time I saw the hackles go Up on the neck of a testy goat...I didn't know they had any.  Egg production in the Silkie pen is Up, but down in the big hen house.  (I think the heat has sent the big girls on strike.)  Yesterday I sold two dozen of the half-size Silkie eggs for the price of a dozen of the regular...only seemed fair.  Today my sense of anticipation is Up.  My friend is coming down from Seattle for four days.  I'd better hurry Up and get some chores done so I can enjoy some down time with her.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

T Is For...

Travel.  Just because I'm root bound now doesn't mean that was always the case.  Any excuse was a good one for my parents to pack up for a road trip.  How Times have changed.  Radios were optional in cars and reception was iffy.  Air conditioning meant you opened the windows.  The gear shift was on the steering column; there was no automatic.  We entertained ourselves on long empty stretches by singing.  My dad was born in the late 1800s and my mother in 1904...they had a wealth of songs from their past, as well as the then-current hits in the forties.  Larger cities had hotels, but we mostly stayed in little cabins in tourist camps, the precursor to motels.  If not by car, we traveled by steam engine trains.  Those were the days when a porter would come down the aisle, ringing a gong to announce mealtime.  The tables in the dining car were set with white linen and heavy silver.  It was wonderful to fall asleep in the fold-down bed to the rocking of the train and clickety-clack of the wheels, watching the stars fly by out in the night.  We traveled by train from southern California to Louisiana and later to Mexico City.  We drove all over the United States, except for the northeastern-most coast.  I drove before I had a license to Canada and back with my mother.  We took the boat to Catalina Island, and the plane to San Francisco.  Air travel then was certainly different.  My mother had become enthralled with airplanes as a girl when a barnstormer came through their town and she got to ride in an open biplane.  Our flight to San Francisco was in a very small plane and my dad was scared spitless.  He didn't fly again until he was in his late seventies.  I've since flown countless times and even learned to fly a single-engine Cessna.

I've been to Alaska and Hawaii, to Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Germany, France, and England.  I put forty thousand miles a year on my car when I was a consultant.  I'm happy to stay put now.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

S Is For...

Sauna.  The latch burns my fingers before I open the door, and I know what's coming.  Setting the empty buckets down, I go from stall to stall, releasing the inmates, bringing one girl into the small, overheated room.  Even before taking my place next to my warm companion on the stand, my face is covered with a damp film.  My heavy denim bibbies hold the heat on my legs as if I were covered in blankets.  Working as quickly as I can to get this girl milked and out again, sweat begins to pour from my face, pooling in my glasses and dripping from my runs in rivulets down my spine.  Oh!  I straighten to catch an errant puff of breeze that wafts through the barn on this still day.  I'm on the far side of the goat, so she catches and blocks most of it.  Doggedly, I work my way through one goat after the other...three down, three to go.  When Esther comes in for her breakfast, I grab the baby's bottles and race around to the nursery and let him chug down his milk.  Two to go.  This time in purgatory seems to last forever.  In reality, on a good day I can finish all the barn chores in less than an hour and a half.  The last goat needs coaxing to come in, and I can't blame her.  Standing in the blazing sun, "Come on, Sheila...come on in and let's get this over with.  Please, Sheila.  Pleeeease, Sheila!  Sheila, get your stupid butt in this barn right this instant!  Please, Sheila."  She finally takes that first step over the threshold, I get her milked out, and we're home free.  I get the nighttime snacks ready, put out water and "cereal" for Twenty-Two, and start the trek back up to the house, soaking wet and lugging two full milk buckets.  The Queen of England could be pulling up the drive, and it wouldn't be enough to make me get up from my chair under the ceiling fan when I get to the house at last.  It's my own fault...enjoying my visitor's company, I let myself get way behind Schedule.  Opportunity costs sometime come with a's called a Sauna.

Monday, September 5, 2011

R Is For... in "stuck in a rut."  Life here is essentially the same day after day, every day.  That's pretty much the definition of boring.  The odd thing is that no two days are ever the same, and I'd be hard-pressed to be bored.  The sun comes up every day, but its appearance is ever changing.  Today happens to be painted in muted pastels.  Weather...well, unpredictable at best. unending chore, but even they are different in everything but persistence.  The personalities of the animals make the repetitive tasks involved in their care entertaining and sometimes surprising.  I never know when a mouse will jump out when I take the lid off the breakfast grain bucket.  Milking the same goat tomorrow will be different from today; the teat orifices might be more open or closed, her stance might make the job easier or more difficult, she might have more milk or less.  Among the spectators in the barn, the regulars might return or new squirrel and mice faces show up.  The wildlife population is always out there, but the cast is in constant rotation, changing with the seasons.  Just as I was thinking I hadn't seen any tom turkeys in a long time, three showed up at the feeding station yesterday.  I haven't seen deer on the property in awhile, but noted that the leaves on a planted tree in the pasture are going missing and I know who to blame.

Repetition provides consistency.  There is comfort in knowing my constant role at Farview, knowing what is expected.  Life itself throws enough curve balls, puts enough obstacles in the way.  Excitement is where you find it.  My road may be rutted, but I like the direction it is headed.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Q Is For...

Quite the lad!  Little Mr. Full of Himself, Twenty-Two has learned to jump up on the lidded feed barrel in his crib.  The next step was, of course, to jump over the gate.  Now I never know where he'll be, except underfoot.  I'm going to try soon to move him in with Nineteen and hope they'll get along as roommates.

Time schedules get a bit wonky when I have company (there's so much to talk about), and it doesn't help that the days are getting shorter.  Almost dark when I was putting the girls to bed last night, Esther, last in line, got herself spooked and was on high alert.  Peering through the dusk, I finally located the source of her panic.  Frank was walking along the fence line.  Snorting the danger signal, Esther wouldn't go in the barn until Frank got close enough for her to see he was the same old cat she saw every day.  She gave one last snort of disgust and went to bed.

One entertainment I can offer here is wine tasting.  We happened to hit the three wineries at a slow moment in their busy day yesterday and my great-niece and I were able to chat a bit with our hosts as we sipped.  Fair Play promotes the local product as "Wines With Altitude," and one of the fringe benefits of each winery is a tremendous view.

To Kathy V.:  there is cause for celebration in Times Square.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

P Is For...

Perpetual hope.  Bessie Anne never gives up.  Years ago, my friend Doris and I would take turns driving to town to do our grocery shopping.  She liked to go shopping, and going together made it less onerous for me.  Doris drove a van.  On one hot afternoon when it was her turn, Doris suggested getting a chai latte "for the road" home.  Back at the house, we were unloading my groceries and left the big door in the van open.  Such easy access was an irresistible invitation and Bess got in to check it out.  Getting out, I swear that dog had a blissful expression...and a muzzle covered in whipped cream.  Doris had left her drink open on the console.  Since then, whenever anyone arrives here, no drug-sniffing dog could inspect a vehicle with more intensity.  She'll check out the car before she greets the driver, and I have to explain.  After all this time, Bessie Anne has never given up hope that there might be more whipped cream.

Let a guest walk in the door and Bessie Anne is sure it's a Party and, "Let's start with treats!"  That started as a way to distract her, an incentive and reward for not jumping up on people (a dog trait I do not enjoy).  My great-niece found her way here from southern California yesterday afternoon.  Bess greeted her politely after checking out the car and led the way to the kitchen for a cold beer and a biscuit...and I didn't mix up who got what.  It was a Party!

Friday, September 2, 2011

O Is For...

Opportunity cost.  That's just about the only thing I remember from Economics 1A class.  It's a two-word explanation for "you can't have your cake and eat it, too."  The simple definition of opportunity cost is:  when finite resources are spent on "this," there won't be enough to buy "that;" it's a lost opportunity.  (At the risk of going political, I wish more government officials had been required to take that class.)  Opportunity cost applies to time as well as finance.  There are just so many hours in a day.  Time spent dusting means I can't spend time reading.  It really boils down to choices.  I choose to live out here "in the back of beyond" and do without city conveniences.  I choose to raise goats and chickens (et cetera) with their regimented time constraints and forgo the pleasures of traveling.  I can't say that we were aware of all of the ramifications at the time, but moving to Farview Farm was the right choice, and I'm glad we took that opportunity.  I've "got the cake" and it tastes darned good.

My great-niece arrives later today for the weekend.  I'm losing prep time right now.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

N Is For...

Nature's bounty.  My garden is a bit hit-and-miss this year.  The cantaloupes are just setting fruit, and if the pumpkins ever get past the blossom stage, they won't be ready until Christmas.  The green beans are fabulous, I must say, and the tomatoes, though sweet as sugar, are dinky little things.  I am so fortunate to have friends whose gardens are producing, and they share!  Yesterday Joel brought a watermelon at the peak of perfection (had that for dinner!), cucumbers, and a jar of his homemade pickles.  Sarah arrived with a basket of eggplants, tiny yellow grape tomatoes, a big heritage tomato, bell peppers and hot peppers, cucumbers (I can see white gazpacho on the menu), and yellow squash.  I got a laugh when Sarah said, "Friends don't give friends zucchini."  Barbara Kingsolver, in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, described the small town church parking lot where all car windows were rolled up and the doors locked lest the churchgoers come out to find big bags of zucchini on the front seat.  The irony is that I didn't plant zucchini this year, thinking some kind person would give me some!  My great-niece is due to arrive tomorrow and I am so happy to have all these wonderful home-grown vegetables to serve.

Nick of time.  I could turn this into a testimonial to the Royal Vacuum Cleaner Company (they make the Dirt Devil).  I called customer service last Friday just to see if there was anything else I could do to get my not-so-old vacuum going again, having tried everything I knew to revive it.  Two of the nicest, friendliest, most efficient service reps and one corporate honcho later, my vacuum was laid to rest and I ordered a new one at a significantly reduced price.  (Honcho actually directed me to the low-end vacuum to meet my needs.)  I was told the order would be expedited.  Yeah, yeah...heard that one before.  I was lining up my apologies to my great-niece, Lori, for the appearance of my carpet, but what could I do?  I nearly fell over when Fed-Ex drove up yesterday with a new, improved model...three working days after my call!  I'm really impressed...and, dang, the carpet looks good.

Numbers One and Two sons accompanied Tree Guy yesterday and they went down to the oak in the goat pen to buck and split more firewood.  The men and the splitter are definitely getting a workout this year.