Monday, October 31, 2011

Many Hands

After breakfast and before letting the goats out of the barn, Deb and Craig were pressed into service.  It isn't that I couldn't have done the work by myself, but their willing hands and generous hearts made an hours-long job zip by (and it was a subtle ploy of mine to enjoy their company a little longer).  Goats are inveterate "rubbers," leaning almost perpendicular as they rub along a wall, any wall or fence available.  Over time, the girls had thinned out the outer barn panels to the point the nails no longer held and one panel was peeling back; not good with winter approaching.  Craig nailed a "band-aid" board over the seam, which the girls will appreciate when the cold winds blow.  Any work with the little tractor in the pen has to be done without goats in attendance.  Like teenagers with new learner's permits, they insist on driving, pushing each other off the seat, or chewing on tires or wires and, in general, making terrible nuisances of themselves.  With the girls still confined and complaining loudly and bitterly, we hooked trailer to tractor and went down to do some clean up.  Louie the Pig's old house had nearly disintegrated since his demise.  Generations of goat kids jumping off the roof tends to do that.  Craig dismantled what was left and we loaded the pieces, and then he drove around while Deb and I picked up a trailer load of branches and sticks spread throughout the pen from when Tree Guy worked on that oak.  The burn pile replenished, I had to get to the milking and the Kids had their own plans for the day.  Before leaving, they covered the stacked wood with a tarp for me, and took some loose firewood for the camping trips they have planned.  Sitting in the milking room next to Cindy as Deb and Craig drove down the drive, our mutual cries of, "Love you!," echoed in the air and in my heart.

It was a good day.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Broken Drum

It was a day like a broken couldn't beat it (one of my mother's many sayings).  The Kids' timing was perfect, arriving just as I got back to the house with the milk.  The weather was fully cooperative as we went out to the the remnants of the garden, picking green beans and the lone pumpkin for us and some overripe tomatoes for the chickens.  Warm in the sun, cool in the shade, we stood and watched the chickens in both pens for awhile, laughing at their antics.  Deb and Craig hadn't been up since the last oak fell, so we wandered over that way while catching up on our news.  Farview worked its magic as we stood on the deck, just looking and listening to the peaceful surroundings.  They both work high-stress jobs and I could see them visibly relax as the hummingbirds hovered nearby.  We watched an excellent movie that ended just at the critters' bedtime, and then dinner.  I'd pay money for a broken drum like that.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Tricks and Treats

Pearl put one over on Frank this morning.  He pretty much goes where she goes and does what she does, so when she went to the kitchen door while I was making coffee and asked to be let out, he went out.  Pearl held back and didn't go through.  As soon as I shut the door and went back for my coffee, she ran to the Treat Drawer and made her wishes known.  Two minutes later, she said she wanted out.  I swear I could hear her sing-song voice telling Frank, "I got a treat...and you didn't.  Hahahaa!"

I had planned a treat for Deb and Craig.  I had wild blackberries in the freezer (picked and gifted by Joel), and wanted to make a blackberry puree and red wine reduction to pour warm over a wedge of Brie cheese for an appetizer.  It is a pain in the patoot to mash the softened berries through a strainer to get the seedless puree, but worth the effort.  That done, I added the wine and a little dab of sugar with the least pinch of cloves and set the mix to simmer and reduce.  And then my downfall.  I opened a new book by an author new to me.  The pan with the burned, hardened mess still sits soaking in the sink.  At some point today, I will caramelize some onions for the Brie and I won't pick up a book.

A good part of yesterday was spent in the kitchen (before I opened the book).  This change in the weather calls out for comfort food, and those bags of dried Lima beans had my name on them.  I started quick-soaking one bag, then read the label that said, "Makes six cups."  Well, six cups would not be enough!  I put the second bag to soak.  There's a predictable end to this story.  I have enough ham hocks and Lima beans to feed Cox's army.  In addition, I'd already taken out and thawed the meat for stew for dinner tonight.  I hope Deb and Craig are hungry.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Different View

I do have a few gentlemen callers, husbands of my milk and egg customers who have been drafted into service to make the pick up once in awhile.  I might run into Joel at the fence line.  Tree Guy or Go-To always stop to talk when they come to work.  Same-sex conversations are comfortable and affirmative; there is a base of common knowledge regardless of background or education.  It is, however, talking with the opposite sex that gives an opportunity to stretch conversational muscles and gain a different point of view.  Speaking only from my own experience (and from a woman's standpoint), men deal in absolutes.  Joel and I most frequently discuss weather and the effects on his vineyard and my animals.  With Tree Guy, depending on the season, talk may turn to hunting or the building of a dream barn or engines.  If we were only asked, Tom and I have solved the nation's economic problems.  Yesterday's conversation with Guy (no adjective, that's his name) was most enlightening.  He shared a lot of knowledge about the attributes of various manures; cow, pig, chicken, goat, and the best type of poop to use for different applications.  I did know that goat droppings are great for soil amendment in the local decomposed granite, but had no idea that pig manure is best used for growing root vegetables, chicken for the leafy varieties, etc.  Guy raises all sorts of livestock on his farm and knows whereof he speaks.  Still talking, we drifted out to the old tractor; he has had his eye on the spring harrow and the spike harrow, but I really want to keep all of the implements to sell as a package.  Digging around in the weeds, he found a small snow plow that would attach to the front of a Jeep or four-wheel drive truck.  I didn't even know we had such a thing, and mentioned I would put it in the pile of scrap metal I've accumulated for the ironmonger whenever he shows up.  Ha!  Guy's eyes lit up like a Christmas tree.  I recognized the signs of a scrounge and his avarice for acquisition.  "Well," he mused, "if you're just going to give it away...."  Happy as a clam, Guy drove off with the plow in the back of his pickup.  Sarah will probably be happier with the milk and eggs.  It's all in one's viewpoint.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Looking Forward

Squirrels, woodpeckers, and me.  We're all stocking our larders for winter.  In spring and summer, I so look forward as each fresh fruit and vegetable makes its appearance:  asparagus, rhubarb, artichokes, spring onions, strawberries, sweet corn, watermelon.  It's no secret that I am an advocate of eating local, eating seasonal, but the season for "fresh" is winding down.  After a spate of company, I found I'd run out of an indispensable staple, onions.  Rather than make the trek all the way down the hill to my favorite (cheaper) grocery for just the one item, I went up the road ten miles or so to a "local" store.  Big mistake.  They stock a number of specialty items not available in the bigger store and I found myself cruising the aisles and filling my cart.  I make most of my own bread and have had a devil of a time locating rye flour (bought two of those).  Warm gingerbread with rum-soaked raisins and chopped crystallized ginger is killer on a cold night; bought a pound of ginger so I can bake ahead and freeze.  I'd not been able to find the large, meaty dried lima beans I prefer (bought two of those); a big pot of limas and ham hocks is in my near future.  As long as I was in that section, the split peas for soup caught my eye (bought two).  I'm looking forward to a visit from Deb and Craig this weekend, and they are kind enough to pick up some bulk items at Costco for me.  I've put in an order for walnuts and pecans, getting ready for the annual Christmas baking.  The squirrels and I, both hoarding nuts.  Stocking up a bit at a time now saves a big grocery bill later.  I may bemoan soggy feet and frozen fingers later, but I am looking forward to winter meals.

Earthquakes are much in the news lately.  Last night we felt one here.  I didn't so much feel it as hear it...a quivering in the windows and items on the shelves.  Strangely enough, Bessie Anne did not seem affected; usually dogs are the first alarms during a temblor.  Checking the news this morning, this quake was centered above Lake Tahoe and was only a 4.-something; in California, that's next to nothing.  "Yup, that's an earthquake," and then you turn over and go back to sleep, and I did.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Night Song

Bessie Anne said she wasn't quite ready to come in the house after putting the kids to bed and stayed out on the porch step to watch the last rays of the sunset.  Frank and Pearl kept her company, writhing and rubbing against her face before settling down at her side.  I tend to think of this as "The Children's Hour."  Because it was well after dark before Bess finally asked to come in, I thought perhaps we'd forgo the now-established evening walk.  No, a habit is a habit, after all.  We all do love our routines.  I snapped on her lead and out we went into the night, not even a sliver of moon to light our way.  When it's dark up here, it's really dark.  There is no ambient light from street lamps or buildings, and there are no nearby houses with light shining from the windows.  Even the lights on my hat had difficult piercing the night so we could pick our way along the drive.  I could see Frank and Pearl only by the glow from their eyes when they turned my way, little headlights in the dark.  A pair of owls were working the area, signaling back and forth, one directly across the road, the other moving behind the garden.  The cats were nervous and stayed much closer to me than usual, realizing they could be fair game for the huge birds.  A stranger chimed in from what's left of the big oak in the goat pen...a call I've never heard before.  From the sound, it also was a big bird.  I wonder what it could be.  My little parade did a quick-march back to the house, the cats looking over their shoulders, and we all went in together, leaving the hunters to sing their night song in the dark.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Be Quiet!

I may have to revise my opinion of fall being a quiet season.  Walking along the driveway strewn with fallen leaves sounds like walking through bags of potato chips, rustling and crackling with every step.  Acorns dropping on the shed roofs and truck bed sound like we're being bombarded with boulders.  Woodpeckers are jackhammering away, packing stores for winter.  Crows may have a large vocabulary, but how they understand each other is beyond me since they all talk at once, yelling at full volume as they crowd together on the power lines.

With the earlier sundown, Pick-Me-Up Peggy has been going to bed with the flock and I've missed her earnest little face looking up.  She evidently had the same thought, as last night she came out of the coop as I was shutting doors and again asked to be held.  I find her so endearing as she snuggles in my arms.  The hens have started to pick up production again after a fairly long (dare I say it?) lay off.  One or two eggs a day does not a dozen make and I've had to tell my customers we were out of supplies on several occasions.  It's a case of feast or famine; either there's not enough or there are buckets of eggs overflowing in the fridge.  With each egg being laid throught the day, the pep squad gives a loud cheer.

Hormones still rage in the goat pen.  It's hard to sit in the milking room, listening to the thud of bone on bone as the quarreling girls head butt.  The males are not let out of the barn until I'm done milking, and Nineteen whines continuously, apparently thinking he could help the situation.

Whatever made me think it was quiet?

Monday, October 24, 2011


Purely by chance last night while flipping channels (something I rarely do), suddenly pictures of a huge flock of crows caught my eye.  The program was called "A Murder of Crows," on PBS.  Having just mentioned same, I got interested and certainly learned a lot.  I found myself taking notes as if there would be a test later.  Field studies show that these are the most intelligent of all birds.  Apes use tools; crows make tools.  Their warning cries actually define the danger for others:  cat, hawk, human, etc.  Studies indicate they have a vocabulary of over two hundred calls in two dialects for communicating with the group and family.  Crows have phenomenal memory, recognizing faces seen only once over a two-year period, associating that face with pleasure or unpleasantness and reacting accordingly.  They mate for life, the union lasting twenty years or so, and generations live together in an extended family group.  When a member dies, the flock will gather together at the site to sit for a moment of silence.  I'm certainly going to look at the resident flock with new respect.

As one who remembers when it took an instruction manual the size of a telephone book to operate a VHS tape recorder for the television, I love DVR!  I particularly appreciated it yesterday when Tree Guy showed up to stack split wood when there were just twenty laps to go at the NASCAR race at Talladega (one of the most exciting tracks on the circuit) and "my" driver was close to the front of the pack.  I could tear myself away only because I knew I could catch the end of the race later, and went out to help.  It only seemed right since TG had come to work on a Sunday.  Together we stacked nearly a cord of wood and cleaned up most of the mountain of split logs.  TG is going to go elk hunting in a week or so and wanted to make sure I'd be set in case a storm blows in here while he's gone.  Going back into the house, I could pick up the race where I'd left it and watch Clint Bowyer swing out at the very last minute and pick up the checkered flag!  I yelled so loud I scared the dog.

It was a good day.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Spring is an operatic diva announcing her arrival on stage.  Summer lands with a thump like a little boy in his father's boots.  Winter either screams in with a storm or creeps in under cover of snow.  Fall is quiet.  It's that time of suspension just before sleep comes at night.  Leaves drift down, putting a blanket over the shoulders of the earth.  It's a melancholy season for me.  My only symptom of the "empty-nest" syndrome when my family grew up came at sundown, that time of day when I wanted my Kids home and tucked under my wings.  Autumn is the sundown of the year.

A covey of quail, a lamentation of swans, a pod of whales...and a murder of crows.  I wanted desperately to title this entry "A Murder At Farview," but decided that would be too inflammatory, although appropriate under the circumstances.  A murder of crows has taken up temporary residence here.  As has been said, nature abhors a vacuum.  The season may be a time of quiet, but the crows have come to fill that void.  They shout and scream with raucous caws throughout the day, inciting the smaller fowl to raise their voices in an attempt to be heard above the din.  I don't know where they came from.  I don't know where they'll go.  They certainly make their presence known while they're here.

Bessie Anne and I are a lot alike (and it's not just our hairdo).  If I take a nap one day, the next day I need a nap.  She had to take a walk after dark the other we have to go out every night.  When I respond to her single yip by getting up, putting on a jacket and my lighted hat, and picking up her leash, she runs around flinging toys and then stands at the door waiting for me to clip on the lead.  Heading out, we are joined by Frank and Pearl and we all parade together around the driveway.  Bess does some serious sniffing along the way, stopping here and there to read the fine print.  The cats zigzag across our path and ambush each other from behind bushes, resulting in furious games of tag.  There's usually a pause down at the bottom of the circle and we all look at the stars for a bit before heading back to the lights of home.  There are worse ways to end a day.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Just A Day

It was one of those Teflon days when everything just slid by, certainly not one to mark on the calendar.  No unusual or funny animal events, nothing different in the landscape.  Scurrying around in my mind, searching for a hook on which to hang a thought, nothing sticks out about yesterday.  In the movie, "Bambi," Thumper's mother tells him, "If you can't say something nice [or interesting], don't say anything at all."  Yesterday was here, and as days went.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Start To Finish

I wonder what Southerners call it when a situation starts to unravel and fall apart.  Where I'm from, we call it "goin' South," and my day started in that direction and it was all downhill from there.  Nothing big, nothing disastrous.  Just a series of glitches and hiccups from dawn to dark. 

Shortly after sunup, I heard the now familiar, "Fa-ye!  Faaaye!"  That old girl should have been named Rover.  I kept an eye out, but she hadn't come here.  Just a bit later, I was getting dressed after my shower when the smoke alarm in my bedroom started screaming, shooting the cats who had been snoozing on the bed straight up into the air and starting Bess to barking.  Since I was in the bedroom in the midst of this chaos, I knew there was no fire.  The alarm has evidently gotten supersensitive and the warmer, steamy air from the bathroom had set it off.  This does not bode well for the winter months ahead.

I have trouble keeping track of what day it is at the best of times, so when my Wednesday milk customer changed to Thursday this week, that was enough to discombobulate me.  We'd agreed on eleven o'clock.  She called just as I was ready to step out the front door and said she'd be here in a half-hour.  Oh, good grief.  She knows where everything is, so I went on down to the barn.  In the middle of milking Cindy, I saw Sarah's Jeep making the turn in the drive, followed by that rascal Faye.  Moving the bucket to safety and leaving Cindy on the stand, I panted my way back to the house and gave a breathless greeting to Sarah, leashed Faye to the porch, made a very brief phone call to her owner, and got back down to the barn before Cindy broke her neck in the stock.

The day was already shot, so it seemed reasonable to pay bills and do housework and get all the misery over and done.

Come sundown, I was ready to step off the porch and put the critters to bed when I looked down and saw this little snake.  I could see the brown-and-tan markings, but not the nose nor tail.  I went back for the tongs and put Bess in the house, just in case.  I was so hoping this little guy was not a baby rattler, but didn't want to bash one of the good snakes and needed to make sure.
Skinny as a pencil and well over a foot long, the dropping temperature had slowed it down, making it easy to pick up.  I'm not up on herpetology and still can't identify the species, but it was one of the benign breeds and so I put it in a safe place and told it to "live long and prosper."

Timing is everything.  Dolly is afflicted with ophidiophobia and freezes at the sight of a snake.  In her eyes, lizards are snakes with legs and it was an act of bravery for her to help Dave last weekend with the woodpile, which was loaded with lizards.  Had this little one come out while she was here, she'd never have left the house.

Bessie Anne is also affected by the nightfall.  She hasn't needed to go out at night all summer, but evidently didn't get business taken care of before sundown last evening and so, just to put the topper on the day, we had to make the trek around the driveway in the dark.  It was just one of those days.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

If I Had A Hammer

"If I had a hammer, I'd hammer in the morning; I'd hammer in the evening...."  Peter, Paul, and Mary harmonize this old song in my head as I pound nails back into the deck.  It's a job that has to be done every couple of years because those who built the deck didn't plan ahead and use screws.  The boards are in a constant state of flux, expanding and contracting in the wind, rain, and sun, and over time the nails work up out of the wood.  When the Kids were younger and I needed some "alone" time, I would go out and weed the yard; if they approached, they might be asked to help.  My current supervisors (Bess and the cats) find other ways to occupy themselves as I tunk along the deck.  I'm not sure if it's the noise or the vibrations, but they definitely make themselves scarce while I'm working.

The BG (before goats) job now is to get more of the split wood stacked in preparation for winter.  Like pounding nails, I try to get a bit done every morning.  When I went later to Mt. Aukum for feed, as well as more fuel for the mower, I asked for and was given more wooden pallets.  In the past, I've been reluctant to use these to stack the wood, thinking it might provide hiding places for rattlesnakes.  I realize now that the ground squirrels will waste no time burrowing underneath and filling the gaps with mounded dirt and my worries are for naught.

The warm days and cool nights have sent the goats into their estrus cycles and the pen is a hotbed of PMS.  The girls are cranky and the least little thing will start a fight.  When not head-butting or body-slamming, one or the other will just stand and yell, tail fluttering like a flag in a high wind.  Nineteen knows what is expected and he certainly does his best to help but, lacking the necessary equipment, he just adds to the general frustration.  Twenty-Two stands on the sidelines as if he's walked into Bedlam.

Like the rest of the critters on this place, I'm attuned to daylight hours.  My day is done at sundown; a couple of hours after dark and I think it's bedtime.  What the heck, it's only eight-thirty?  Unlike the animals, I can't sleep through until sunup.  It's enough that I wake up around five now.  Eyelids dropped early last night as I sat in the chair, waking later to go to bed.  Today started at four; what am I going to do when the time changes and I get up at three a.m.?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Get A Job

After days of sitting on my duff like Lady Astor's horse (enjoying every minute), it did feel good to be productive again yesterday.  Before going to work, I was taking my morning constitutional around the deck and looked over at the side yard.  It's been an itch demanding to be scratched.  Tree Guy had burned the brush pile, so that part was mostly done.  Dennis and Dave took truckloads of most of the smaller cut wood, and that helped clean up some.  Nothing can be done about the huge pile of rounds waiting to be split, but the rest of that yard was a mess.  Accompanied (and supervised) by Bess and the cats, I put everything ready for the wood stove in one pile, burnable limbs that still need to be cut to size in another, rolled a few loose rounds over to the splitting stack, and then restocked the burn pile with all the residual brush.  There's much work left to be done, but at least it looks neat and tidy now.  I had to apologize to the chickens and goats for being a bit late getting their breakfast.

Tree Guy showed up while I was in the barn, evidently also spurred by ambition, and set off a big bonfire with a couple of the brush piles down in the new section of the goat pen (the girls have been locked out of there for days).  While tending the fire, he multi-tasked with the chain saw, bucking fallen limbs and cutting them to length.

Pushing away the looming spectre of housework, I went out in the afternoon, fired up the mower and took down the star thistle in the west field, down the driveway and the road front, and finished up by mowing the back yards.  It's almost worth letting it get straggly just for the satisfaction when it all looks so nice.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mixed Signals

"Red sky at dawning, sailors take warning."  There must be a pretty confused navy out there, as Nature sent the very same picture at dusk; "Red sky at night, sailors' delight."  For those of us on dry land, we are simply treated to spectacular displays at either end of the day.

Dolly and I walked out together in the morning, each of us going to our own brand of reality, she with a suitcase, me with buckets.  Down in the barn, I played reruns of her visit and enjoyed our time all over again.

The morning lineup usually goes like this in the milking room:  Cindy is the first on the stand, followed by Esther.  There can be a bit of change with the remaining four, depending on who has the fuller bag or who'd rather stay for another bite of alfalfa.  Ruth generally ambles down next, and then Inga.  Tessie has Inga's number.  Inga is the most timid, and will startle if I've put the barn rake in a different place.  If Tessie feels Inga is taking too long to finish her cereal, she'll stand outside and snort (the danger signal), and Inga can't get out of the milking room fast enough.  It's kind of a mean trick, but it works every time and it cracks me up.  I'm always happy when Sheila is the last in line.  She's the easiest to milk, I can do her fastest, and she's like the reward for working through the others.

A quick trip to town emphasized the change in seasons.  It's not just my pastures that have greened up with the recent rains.  There is "gold in them thar hills;" trees overhanging the road are dressing in their fall finery and golden leaves are spotlighted everywhere.  The zinfandel vines are turning red.  As much as I protest any trip to town, I'll have to admit it is an outstandingly beautiful drive, always prettier when I'm on my way home.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sonny Days

Two sons in two's a boy bonanza!  (To the rest of the world, they are men; to me, they'll always be my boys.)  When you start a day laughing out loud before daybreak, you know it can only get better.  Just as in "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider," the sun came out and dried up all the rain before I had to start chores, but it sure was funny while it lasted.  Late getting down to the barn, my timing was exquisite.  Dave drove up while I was milking, on a mission to get firewood.  By the time I'd turned the last girl loose in the pen, Dave and Dolly had his truck bed filled to the gunnels.  That was her punishment for causing the rain that had delayed Joel and his crew from harvesting grapes.  Joel had called while the rain was still falling, also laughing and saying that the rainmaker's visa to the hill country was going to be cancelled.  By now, everyone has faith in Dolly's powers.

Work done, we were all free to enjoy the rest of the day (except, of course, Joel, who still had to go pick grapes).  Dolly decided to stay over one more night.  There were plenty of leftovers, so no one had to cook.  It had been such a long time between visits, it was wonderful to spend time with Dave, as it had been with Clay.  Like a sponge, I try to absorb all I can while my Kids are with me, holding the minutes for later during the "dry" spells.  It's a true statement that time flies when you're having fun, and this weekend just whizzed by.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Time Machine

The hills surrounding Farview could have been the set of an old western movie yesterday as smoke from burn piles here and there sent signals back and forth.  Dolly and I stood on the deck in the early morning and watched the smoke from Dennis's fire drift like mist down through the pines, back lit in the pasture by the rising sun.  Catching a whiff reminded us of the many campfires we've sat around over the years, the places we'd been and the people we were with.  It occurred to me later as I was milking that the sense of smell is everyone's personal Tardis, the mechanism by which we can be instantly transported through time and space into the past.  A particular scent will conjure faces, places, and/or events faster than words.  A smell can be the "Open Sesame" to doors long forgotten.  A man walks by wearing Old Spice aftershave and I am by my father's side.  Catching the smell of warm woolen cloth, I am fifteen years old and attending my boyfriend's graduation from boot camp, hugging him in his navy blues.  Opening a jar of apricot jam sends me into my mother's kitchen as she and my sister can jar upon jar of jam with fruit picked from our orchard, kerchiefs tied around their heads and faces glowing from the heat.  A veterinarian explained to me once that the sense of smell is the last to leave the body and to put my hand next to the nose of the beloved dog we were easing out of her pain so that she would know to the end that I was with her...perhaps that is the teleportation into the future.

It was a night race yesterday.  Dolly is more fanatical about NASCAR than I (she's been a fan longer), and we planned the day around race time.  It was such a great and pleasant surprise when Clay came up to watch the race with us.  I've always had difficulty knowing the best way to introduce this young man.  "Son" isn't correct...he has his own mama, although I'm proud he also calls me Mom.  "Adopted son" sounds too legal, too formal.  "Friend" doesn't begin to describe that I love him like a blood child.  It came to me in a flash.  I am Clay's "Aftermarket Mama!"  The three of us had a terrific afternoon and evening, sharing conversation, a meal, and a race (which their shared favorite driver unfortunately lost).

Yesterday was another sunny, bright, warm day and Dolly was sure the spell was over and done.  She sleeps while I am typing, and I'm afraid I will wake her with my laughter in the early morning dark.  It's raining!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Dolly's Promise

In so many ways, I can always count on Dolly.  No matter how many months go by between visits, when we do get together the conversation picks up where it left off the last time and it's as if no time at all had passed.  Our running joke is that she is a rainmaker.  Dolly always keeps her promise, albeit yesterday it was a weak one.  The day was hot and bright, and we had even commented that perhaps the charm (or curse) had been broken.  Most of the afternoon was spent in the kitchen talking while I used up the last huge zucchini for an equally huge batch of fritters.  (I love 'em and Dolly hadn't had them before.)  Still talking, we spent some time out on the deck, noting that it was a very still and quiet day, and later went out to see what was left of the garden.  And then looked up.  Without our noticing, the cloud cover had moved in and the sky had darkened.  Dolly's here!

Satisfied that the point had been made, the clouds moved on over the hills and left us with an absolutely beautiful sunset.

It was a good day.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Open and Shut

The temperature, rising and falling as it does this time of year, is on the upswing.  The last windows washed and the last curtains rehung at last, now I'm going around opening windows again.  (Being the exercise fanatic that I am, that would be the Farview version of push-ups.)  The laundry dancing on the line was a mix of tank tops and turtlenecks.  I'd compromised with a denim work shirt, but easily could have gone sleeveless, it was that warm.

Tree Guy and Sons One and Two split a mountain of firewood yesterday from rounds of old wood under the front oak, but they are figuratively still in the foothills of the firewood Himalayas.  With all the splitting already done, there are still huge piles of rounds down in the goat pen, and they haven't yet approached the piles from the last downed tree.  And there is more old wood, too.  I believe TG's plan for today is to burn the enormous piles of brush down in the new section of pen.  That's going to be some big bonfire!  Were he not a professional firefighter, I'd be worried.

Another reason to keep the goats confined in the old pen for awhile is to let the grass get higher in the new pen, alternating their grazing ground.  The girls aren't going to care for that program, as they now daily stand in a cluster waiting for me to open the gate after the last milker gets off the stand.  They truly dislike any disruption in their routine.

After catching up on undone chores from the day before, I decided to try a new recipe for a warm grape cake last night.  It smelled wonderful coming out of the oven, but I felt it was important to try a slice to be sure...I certainly wouldn't want to serve Dolly something sub par today.  The cake is golden and tender, studded with amethyst bursts of flavor.  Surely she won't miss that one slice.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bug Bit

Aching joints were the last thing I needed in the milking room.  Getting sick was the last thing I wanted two days before a guest's arrival.  "Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care" also whacked whatever bug it was that bit me.  Yesterday was a lost day, doing only that which had to be done, sleeping the rest of the time.  All systems are go this morning, and there's a lot to catch up on.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

She Knows the Drill

The old dog came trotting up the drive just as I walked out the door with the buckets, ready to go to the barn.  "Well, good morning, Faye.  Do you want a cookie?"  Whoever said old dogs can't learn new tricks was sadly mistaken.  Faye immediately went to the front porch and waited at the front door while I went in to get milk bones for her and Bessie Anne (can't show favoritism), and then she sat while I leashed her to the post.  Sound travels in a crazy way here in the hills...I could hear her owners calling for Faye, and I was yelling at the top of my lungs, "She's here!  Faye is here again!," but they couldn't hear me.  I phoned them and waited until Fritz came after his runaway girl.  It's one way to get to know your neighbors.  Faye happily hopped up into the truck.  I could be wrong, but I think I heard her say, "See you later," as they drove off.

After the downpour of the day before, yesterday was absolutely gorgeous.  The tinge of green I'd seen is now full blown, the pastures carpeted with half-inch grasses.  It's like a magician's trick, it happened so fast.  Still too wet to mow, I was able to take advantage of the soft ground to pull some of the six-foot, dying mullein plants in the front yard.  Pretty when they're fresh and new, they get ratty looking as summer ends.  Go-To Guy came in the afternoon to clean the chimney and, boy, did it need cleaning!  Half a bucket of creosote chunks came tumbling down.  He manned the brushes and I cleaned out the debris below.  It should be noted that I said not one word yesterday about the rain correlating with Dolly's impending visit, but it's nice to know that if history should repeat itself while she is here, I'll be able to light a fire to keep us warm.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How Quickly One Forgets

"Eighty percent chance of showers."  One-hundred percent definite downpour all day is more like it.  It all came back to me in a rush...sitting on a muddy stand next to a dripping goat, fumbling with frigid fingers.  Ah, Maurice Chevalier, I remember it well.  Fall has fallen in the foothills (I do enjoy alliteration).  It never ceases to amaze me how quickly a day or two of rain and a few days of sun will bring green to the barren ground.  The goat pens, dry and brown a couple of days ago, are already tinged with the dormant seeds that have sprung to life.  A long day of rain brought out the pine beetles last night, those huge bumbling bugs that tap against the windows like ghostly fingers in the dark.  Still not able to light the wood stove, it was a good day to bake (another eight loaves of zucchini bread) and wash more windows.  The deer herd came and went as if they owned the place, and flocks of sodden turkeys stood like statues under the sheltering trees.  At nightfall, I could see that Nineteen had been washed clean of his purple polka dots from the grape skins.  All in all, it was a good day.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Bags & Bucks

I know it's a mistake even as I do it...boy goats should not get names.  Twenty-Two has facial markings that circle his eyes and, without meaning to, I've started calling him "Bags."  He rarely stands still, so I was lucky to get his closeup.  Goats have such simian noses, and I get a kick out of their smiley lips.  I hope Tree Guy's friend makes up his mind about the boys soon.  Nineteen and Twenty-Two need to find a new home.  It's going to be hard enough to let them go as it is without naming them.

Going outside is getting tricky.  It's not unusual to see one or two deer in the yard at dusk or sometimes in the late afternoon, and they've run for cover if I step out the door.  Lately, an entire herd has been showing up at all times of day, a mix of bucks and does, and they're ready for a showdown.  This would indicate rutting season has begun, and the bucks get single-minded, sex-stupid, and aggressive.  I've never seen such numbers together in all the time I've lived here, and certainly none as bold as this bunch.  Neither Bess nor I would come out well in a confrontation with a set of two-foot antlers.  Consequently, I go around looking out windows before stepping outside, and keep Bessie Anne close to me while I do chores.  It's a little like being held hostage by wildlife. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Usual Suspects

Last night was another triumph for Joel and Judy at their semiannual holiday dinner.  From the first glimpse of the elegant tables to the last bite of delicious, traditional dishes, guests were treated to a delightful evening.  Hugs and kisses were handed around, as were wine bottles, in this gathering of old friends.  I had such a good time.

I had to pull my usual disappearing act.  It was too early to put the kids to bed before I left for the party, so I had to duck out and race home just before dinner was served.  By then it was close enough to sundown that no one gave me a hard time as I tucked them into coops and stalls.  I have to be careful to act casual and not rush around or the critters catch the vibes and balk.  Bessie Anne was a bit put out that I was leaving again and turner her face to the corner and wouldn't say goodbye.  Coming up the driveway, I discovered it isn't just mice who will play while the cat's away...a herd of ten or more deer were grazing and browsing their way across the front yard.  Instead of being embarrassed at getting caught, they acted as if I were the intruder.  They obviously thought I'd be gone for the evening and were going to brazen it out, not leaving until I walked almost into their midst.  Chores done and hurrying back, I was in time to fill my plate at the buffet and enjoy the company already at table.

The afternoon had been spent baking a cheesecake with fresh eggs and homemade goat cheese instead of ricotta or cottage cheese.  After years of experimentation, I've combined parts of three recipes into one I find very satisfactory, silky in texture and not too dense.  That was my contribution to dinner.

It was a good day.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Tactical Error

Seduced by the warmth of the sun after some pretty cold, wet days that had been preceded by some darned hot ones, I grabbed a book when I came back up from the barn and went out to sit on the deck.  That was a mistake.  There was a lot I could have, and should have, done instead, but the combination of a beautiful day and a new thriller novel was a siren's call I couldn't resist.  A few weak feelings of guilt intruded, but I pushed them aside and turned the page.  The book I had started in the morning was finished by sundown and the day ended as it had begun, in the barn, with not a lot but my personal pleasure in between.  It was a good day.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Visiting Day

The first arrival was the rain, the rain I'd been able to avoid the day before.  Yesterday it started as I let the first goats out of the barn and fell steadily for hours.  I missed a quick visit from Joel while I was milking.  He has been perfecting his canning techniques and brought me a jar of beautiful alabaster pears (and a few fresh pears, too) and left them on the porch.  The sun came out in early afternoon, the sky filled with a gorgeous, constantly moving cloud display. 

Shortly thereafter, Tree Guy appeared.  The soaking rain made it safe to set off the brush piles, and he was antsy after two days of inactivity.  TG had intended to burn just the one pile out by the garden, but the weather held and he just couldn't help lighting off a second by the fallen oak in the side yard.  I went out to help pick up the twiggy debris that covered the ground.  It was actually warmer outside than in the house, and there was a toasty bonfire.  TG is going elk hunting next month, and we talked guns and told hunting stories.  Conversation moved in many different directions as we worked and he tended the fire.  A light rain started falling again just about the time there was nothing left but a pile of ashes, and it was time for Bess and me to go back in the house.

Giving a last hurrah before going down, the sun caught and limned the four antlered bucks browsing for leaves and acorns right in front of the kitchen windows.  I'm very glad to see they've made it safely through the season.  I get proprietary about "my" deer.

Thinking I'd seen the last visitors for the day, it was more than a little surprising when I started to go out for evening chores and looked into Faye's brown eyes right there on the doorstep.  She readily accepted being leashed to the porch post again, as well as a few dog cookies and a pan of water, while I called her owners.  (I'm going to put their number on speed dial.)  Hurriedly putting all the critters to bed, Bess and I then sat on the porch with Faye and waited for Missus Owner to come for her.  She explained they are building a larger dog run for Faye so she won't be so confined during the day, hoping that will help curb her wandering tendencies.

I had more visitors yesterday than I'd get in a month.  It was a good day.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Frank's Way

Frank Sinatra may have done it his way, but we took the cue from our Frank yesterday.  The wind blew, the rain fell, the hail bounced, and it was a darned good day to curl up and nap.  Because the chimney hasn't been swept yet, I can't light a fire in the wood stove.  When I pulled the Snuggie out of summer storage, Bessie Anne joined me in the recliner, also wanting to cover up and get warm.  We all dozed off and on and watched programs I'd DVRd and saved just for such a day. 

Frank's bed is a hand-me-down from a much smaller cat and he could barely squeeze in.  Clyde, my daughter and son-in-law's cat, is totally wacky.  Spoiled and picky beyond belief, he has every toy and creature comfort known to man.  Frank and Pearl are the happy recipients of Clyde's rejects; in fact, both cat beds came from Clyde.  Frank might have been more comfortable in the larger of the two, but Pearl acted like she might want to get into the smaller, and sibling rivalry forced his hand.

Much as I'd like to, I really can't complain about the weather.  My timing was such that I missed the rain both in the morning and evening as I was doing chores.  The dust has settled, the truck is washed, and the world smells fresh and clean.  It was a good day.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Like Cliff, Norm, and Frasier at Cheers, these birds were bellied up to the bar, sipping and chatting yesterday morning.  They and their friends are one reason I keep the trough topped off.  There have been occasions when the level has dropped and a bird has leaned over too far and toppled in; some I've been able to save, some not.

The birds were able to enjoy the sunshine in the morning and I made a trip to the feed store later while the cloud cover moved in.  Those seventy-five-pound bags of goat chow are a lot easier to unload when it's not raining.

It amuses me that, at this stage in my life, I've become a pole dancer.  When the Silkie pen was enlarged, the original framework was left in place, leaving a metal pole in the middle just as the ground slopes away.  To get from one side of the coop door to the other, it's easier to hold onto that pole and swing around.  I get a chuckle out of it, even if the boys (roosters) don't pay much attention.

The storm held off until after dark last night, but it's in full swing this morning, wind and rain beating on the windows.  This will be Twenty-Two's first experience with rain (he was still confined in the barn during the last storm).  They won't appreciate it, but all the goats can do with a good shower.  My neighbor to the south has been crushing grapes.  He's been throwing residual, sugar-laden stems over the fence for the kids and in their eagerness to get to the goodies they've been pelted and stained with sticky purple grape skins.  I must admit that the goats are a bunch of winos.  Cheers!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Foiled Again

I have ruined some squirrel's plans for winter.  As I went into the first shed to get birdseed yesterday morning, I noted the mountain of empty boxes thrown into a heap.  (One never knows when a good cardboard box might be needed.)  Swept along on the tide of cleaning madness and leaving the birds to tap their feet as they waited for breakfast, I thought, "Now is the time!," and started breaking the boxes down to be put out with the trash today.  And then I picked up a heavy "empty" box.  It was full of acorns, carefully shucked of their caps and neatly stored for future use.  That wasn't the only box of acorns.  I ended up throwing out over a gallon of winter stores.  Poor squirrels.

Going to the grocery store just once a month leaves one gasping at the checkout stand.  I could paper walls with the long receipts.  I never let the truck's gas tank get more than half empty as it would cause a coronary to look at the total for a full tank at the gas station.  Given the rising cost of feed, I wish I could claim all the feathered and hooved "kids" on my income tax.  Ah, well.

I needed to make the grocery run yesterday, hoping to beat the predicted storm...and I did.  The rain in the valley has not yet made it up the hill.  Temperatures plummeted last night.  I awoke several times with Bessie Anne jammed up against my back and Frank lying like a rock on my feet.  Tank tops one day, turtlenecks the next.  Tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner...fall comfort food at its best!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Still In the Grip

Lace curtains don't dance on the breeze as much as they float.  I know I'm a bit "tetched," but I just love to watch laundry on the line.  After hanging this load, it occurred to me that I'd better take advantage of what might be the last day of sunshine for a while (according to the weathermen) and I ended up washing all the curtains in the house.  Order has been restored in the living room, but now I have all those other windows to wash.  House-cleaningitis still has me in its grip.

Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, cream gravy.  Sunday dinner.  Even after all this time, I still find it difficult to cook for one.  It feels like a child playing house to mash just a single potato, but I craved a real Sunday dinner last night and I must say it was darned good.  When all my Kids were home, I never cooked less than fourteen pork chops at a meal.  On taco night, two dozen tacos went on the table for starters and I continued cooking more while they ate those.  A three-pound meatloaf would not be enough for leftovers.  I have stew pots, long unused now, that are big enough for an army.  One piece of chicken?  Child's play!

By sundown, the temperature had dropped and the wind had picked up.  After barn chores, I went through the house closing windows, washed and yet-to-be-washed, and put the comforter back on the bed.  Time to tighten the seat belt for the fall roller coaster.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Oh dear.  I recognize the signs and symptoms.  I seem to have caught a case of house-cleaningitis.  I'd hoped it was just a one-day bout when I found myself washing all the glass doors last week, but yesterday I had a relapse and it's more serious than I'd thought.  I should have realized what was happening when I started knocking down cobwebs in the hen house in the morning.  Then later, with not a single guest on the near horizon, I was struck with the urge to, dare I say it, dust.  It gets worse.  Polishing everything in my path along one wall, I came to the windows.  Abandoning the dust rag, I took down all the curtains in the living room and threw them into the washing machine.  Of course that exposed windows that needed cleaning, so I did that.  The silk ficus tree went out on the deck for a shower with the hose.  Now I'm in real trouble.  Because the first symptom of this illness didn't appear until late afternoon and darkness comes earlier these days, that's where I stopped.  The curtains are down and the room is only half dusted.  The ficus tree stands in the middle of the room.  This is a scenario that just screams for an impromptu visitor to come to the door today.  Were that to happen, I'll just explain I'm sick and the house has been quarantined for fear of contagion. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

It's A Dog-Meet-Dog World

Bessie Anne had company of her own yesterday.  Bess knew that there was a dog in my guest's truck and circled the vehicle, whining, "Come out!  Come out and play!"  Camille and I had concluded our business and were standing in the drive discussing, what else, the weather.  Asking permission, she opened the camper shell and introduced her girl, Honey, a gorgeous, black-and-tan German shepherd.  Honey bounded out and went nose to nose with Bessie Anne.  It was quite a picture...this sleek purebred, twice the size of my squatty, rough-coated girl of well-mixed lineage.  It's a good thing Bess is filled with self-confidence or she might have been intimidated.  Like ladies at a garden tea, both girls observed the proprieties of dog greeting dog.  Neither stared directly at the other, each giving sideways glances with no sign of aggression.  Tails waved casually...not the stiff, tense, tail-in-the-air wag that is a warning signal.  After the obligatory butt sniff, the girls bowed to each other...the bent elbows that are the invitation to play...and they were off!  They played tag and chase, Bess having to run twice as fast to keep up with Honey's long legs.  They each stopped to piddle a few drops here and there, leaving the equivalent of a calling card.  When Honey was asked to, "Load up," into the truck again, Bessie flopped to the ground, tongue lolling from a happy, tired grin.
I know Camille through the circuitous way one meets people up here.  She had been given my number by the friend of a friend of a friend who knew I had goats.  Camille was one of those callers who started with, "Is this the Goat Lady?"  Continuing on the merry-go-round, she did not want milk for herself, but for a neighbor of hers.  Some weeks ago, I saw Camille down at the for-sale property on the corner at the big road, and then this week again and I stopped to say hello.  It seems that she has bought that house and is doing some remodeling before moving in.  She asked about goat cheese and I promised to make some for her, hence her visit yesterday.  She bought a pound of chevre, but I don't think much made it home, as she kept nibbling from the bag as we stood and talked.  It will be nice to have a new neighbor, and Bessie Anne will be happy to have a new friend.