Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Night On the Town

Ah, this giddy social whirl!  I accepted a friend's invitation to join them for dinner, traded bibbies for clean jeans after putting the goats to bed, and slipped across the border into Amador County to the Moose Lodge.  It was "Taco Monday!"  Just being out after dark was an adventure; it happens so rarely.  I had to remind myself to watch out for deer, the same warning I give every visitor who drives at night.  I saw three on the way over, including a buck with an impressive rack, and who knows how many went unseen.  I'd not been to the Lodge before.  I found my friends and was introduced to friends of theirs, fellow Moose.  We all sat together while waiting for our meal and talked about goats.  Some years back I had sold several kids to Tim, never thinking that he'd become addicted.  He has branched out and he and his lady, Kathryn, now have over fifty Kiko meat goats, in addition to the original Alpines from me.  In turn, he had recently sold four Kikos to the couple on my left.  Goats are like peanuts; you can't have just one.  The tacos, when they arrived (served by a cute Kid, as he put it, "almost fourteen"), were huge!  I asked what the Moose do, thinking of charities, parades, etc., and was told, "We eat!"  It seems they have fish fries, prime rib nights, burn-your-own steak barbecues, and the list goes on.  They proved the point, two couples having brought dessert to share:  a pear streusel pie and a home grown-cherry cheesecake.  Home by eight, I waddled up to the door, stuffed to the gills.  It was a good night.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Rush Hour

Once upon a time there were three cars headed north on Mt. Aukum Road, four cars headed south, and three cars waiting to turn one way or the other at the T-intersection on Fair Play Road.  The north- and southbound cars wanted to turn east.  It was total gridlock and, true story (I know, because I was in the fourth car going home), it made the traffic report on a local radio station.  I got a little concerned here yesterday.  Tree Guy's No. Two son and his girlfriend showed up while I was milking.  They came to split wood down in the pen.  Shortly after that (I'm still milking), Kellan and William arrived to scoop poop down in the pen.  Had one more car driven up, I was going to have to hire a traffic director!

Still whittling away at the stuff in The Hole, I came across a big stack of photographs that will definitely go in the "keep" pile.  There was the Lady Lucinda in her prime, and Louie the pig snuffling along.  That young man, my grandson Jake, was perhaps five years old and his daddy's hair wasn't grey when they were here for a Christmas visit.  Taylor, three, had crawled up on her Grandpa Steve's lap and they were both sound asleep.  There were other photos of many faces I'll never see again.  There was a traffic jam in my mind as memories came crowding in.  No wonder clearing The Hole is taking so long.  There are some things you just can't rush.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Still In the Hole

There's something to be said (mostly unprintable) for keeping every little thing that comes one's way.  I'm still wading through stuff in the Black Hole.  This isn't a job to rush or take lightly.  There are decisions to be made.  Another big box of loose papers surfaced and had to be sorted:  some things to be filed (I do have a filing cabinet somewhere and I'll get around to that one of these days); some things to be kept for sentimental reasons in, yes, another box; and a lot to be pitched and burned.  It's kind of fun to wander down a paper trail, picking up memories like daisies along the way. 

Bits and bobs of other things keep popping up as I work my way across this Everest.  Lengths of pretty ribbon that came with lovely gifts.  I'm known for giving presents in brown paper grocery bags, as should be expected from a woman whose idea of fashion is wearing bibbies.  I could change my ways and reuse these ribbons someday, so I roll them up carefully and put them on a shelf.  I've started making stacks:  sewing materials in one pile, yarns and crochet and embroidery thread in another, the big box of polymer clay and paraphernalia over there, bouquets of silk flowers where they won't get squished, art supplies, and beads, beads, beads.

My problem has always been that I can't go into any project in a small way.  If I find a new medium in which to work, polymer clay for instance, I want every color there is.  I want all the instruction books and tools.  Soap making:  there are molds and pots and essential oils.  For a time, I made my own paper, including pressed flowers from the garden, and there are the forms for that.  I got interested in bobbin lace, and Deb contributed to my downfall there by giving me a complete kit with a dozen or more bobbins.  Painting:  I could outfit an artist's studio with paint, paper, brushes.  Unfortunately, before I've used up everything I've acquired for one craft, by the time I've mastered it, I've moved on to something else.  I do return on occasion so I cannot dispose of a thing; I might need it again.  I think the best I can hope for in this venture is to condense, repack, and find another room.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Stella and Lucy

"You've got to be kidding.  You want to go out now?  Really?"  I'd finally gotten the wood stove fired up, traded my bibbies for sweat pants, and had settled in for the evening.  Bessie Anne looked me straight in the eye and assured me this was not a false alarm.  A couple of nights previously she'd said she had the call, but when we got out the door she put her nose to the ground and went in search of a bone she'd worried about and needed to bring back up to the porch.  Our priorities differ, and I would have preferred to let that little chore wait until morning when she could hunt on her own.  A potty request cannot be ignored, however, so I put on a heavy jacket and my lighted hat, opting for the hard hat with bigger lights because there was only a thumbnail moon, and out we went.  With the clearing of the cloud cover, the temperature had plummeted and the sky was crystal clear.  I might have been reluctant to leave the living room, but once outside I had to stand in awe.  The music in my head went from "Stella By Starlight" (1944) to "Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds" (1967).  With just that sliver of moon, every star in the firmament twinkled and shone.  No queen ever wore a more beautiful diadem.  Even the cats' breath was coming in puffs as we looked up in the chill air.  Then Bessie shook herself, took a quick tinkle, and we all went back to the warmth that awaited us.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Guess Who?

When my Kids were little, a friend with two children would send them to my house and tell them, "Just keep moving.  She'll never know you're there."  There is understandable confusion about how many are in the group.  I have four Kids; six, counting my two "after-market" sons.  Pete, my middle son (third child), doesn't appear often in this journal because he lives nearly five hundred miles away.  Like Nessie, he does surface periodically, and this photo arrived yesterday.  I'm posting it to prove he isn't a figment of my imagination.  The handsome young dude with Pete (also a good-looking guy) is his son, Jake.  The occasion was a Varsity Football Dinner, and I'm going to claim a grandma's boasting right and announce that Jake was recognized as a Scholar-Athlete, which means that not only did he play on the varsity defense team, he maintains a 3.9 GPA.  No wonder Pete has that proud papa grin.  (I think these "Men In Black" must go to the same haberdasher.)

On another note, Joel called and asked, in a very hurt voice, why his name wasn't included in the Poop Lottery.  It's funny, because I'd just been wondering about that during Think Time down in the barn.  Joel has been tending the pile with his tractor and claiming poop for years.  I'm going to have to develop a spread sheet to keep track of who gets what when.

Tree Guy and sons One and Two came out of the mists yesterday and set up down in the pen, ready to do some more cutting on the fallen oak.  No sooner had they taken the chainsaws out of the truck than a few raindrops fell.  They packed up again and drove off.  The rain stopped falling.  Drat.

By nightfall, the clouds had crept down the hill and enveloped us in mist and damping all sound.  Goats, chickens, cats and dog were all eager to get inside their various shelters with doors shut.  Me too.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


There was a message on the machine when I got back up from the barn yesterday.  It was Kellan, asking for dibs on the poop pile.  (She and William got edged out on the last go-round.)  Earle is out of town for another week, and he's laid claim to Nineteen's stall, so Kellan and William drew the winning number this time.  I don't know why this contest strikes me so funny, but it does.  I'm the one who is coming out ahead as the pile grows at an alarming rate in the winter, the girls spending longer hours in the barn and doing what goats do.  In the beginning when I had only a couple of goats, I would haul a  bucket or two up the hill daily to dump behind the garden fence.  More goats, more poop, and Steve got me a cart so I could carry the additional load (gee, thanks).  I don't know precisely when it happened, but over time the hill became steeper and the garden moved farther away, and trundling a cart of poop became more than I could handle.  I don't honestly remember if it was in the wet of winter or the heat of summer when I conceded defeat, but I started dumping the buckets over the pen fence into what was the south pasture.  That's now part of the new pen, but still accessible by truck or tractor.  We're due for a week or so of sunshine, so say the weathermen, and William and I agreed that he should wait a few days for the ground to dry out before they come for more garden gold, so as not to put ruts in the pasture.  It's obvious I'm going to have to start taking reservations for more than the "B&B."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Black Hole

There is a room in this house, the door to which is always closed.  In fairness to my guests, I really should put up a sign, "Enter at your own risk."  It is the equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle or a black hole in space.  It is the room where things go, never to be seen again.  When I was doing medical transcription as a home-based business, this was my office and was set up with two desks and computers because I also trained future transcriptionists here.  The closet was converted with shelving to hold office supplies, and there are several floor-to-ceiling bookcases for resource materials.  When I closed the business, the room slowly started changing.  I finally had time for crafts and, although I didn't get rid of anything that had to do with transcription, tubs of material, yarn, paints, polymer clay, crochet thread, silk flowers, instruction books, and beads, beads, and more beads filled not only what little shelf space was available, but started to fill floor space, too.  Pretty soon there was only a small path, and then stuff got stacked on top of stuff and the piles began to grow.  The room became the repository for anything I didn't have room for elsewhere, or that armful of stuff that I wanted to get out of sight in a hurry because a car just drove up.  That room had become a hoarder's paradise.


It was as if Nature had a hangover yesterday.  The big blowout of the previous days was over, but there was a residual headache; cloudy grey skies and below-par temps.  It wasn't a day for outside chores.  Passing the closed door, I decided to peek in.  Perhaps the good fairies had come in the night and organized everything while I was sleeping.  Aaargh!  No such luck.  Resisting the impulse to quietly close the door again and pretend the room no longer existed, I waded in, armed with good intentions and trash bags.  When did I become obsessed with boxes?  Boxes of all shapes and sizes, boxes full of other boxes.  Just clearing out stacks of empty boxes opened up a lot of space.  (And just what am I supposed to do with all those boxes now?)  There were also boxes with stuff; I'd wondered where those earrings had gone.  I checked with Deb, my resource person, and found I could dispense with 1989 tax paperwork; lots of those kinds of boxes.  Baskets:  Easter baskets, shallow baskets, baskets with handles and baskets without.  I see that there are also shelves of baskets that I can't reach yet.  For crying out loud, how many baskets does one person need?!  I come from a generation that believes in "use it up, wear it out, make do or do without," but this is ridiculous.  I've got to go to town today, but when I come back, I'm on a mission.  I haven't cleared even halfway across the room yet.  In the meantime, I'm going to shut the door.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Kicking Back

Even though it was a totally relaxed weekend, the day after company leaves is always just a kick-back day.  A nap in the early afternoon is obligatory.  There's always a load or two of laundry to do and the rhythmic thump-thump-thump of the dryer makes my eyelids heavy.  I do love to hang clothes on the line outside, but I sure am grateful for the dryer on blustery wet days.  I heard they got snow a little farther up the hill, but all we got was rain, wind, and more rain.  It's still too dark to tell what today will bring.  In the late afternoon I got started on some holiday-delayed sewing projects and was going great guns until the machine needle broke; my last needle, of course.  I've got to go to town tomorrow anyhow, but it would have been nice to finish something begun months back.  My ambition comes in fits and starts.  I can only hope it's still around after I get more needles.

While my neighbors and I welcome the rain, the animals aren't so pleased.  I had to alter the routine in the barn yesterday because the girls refused to go outside.  It was only after they'd been let, one at a time, through the inside door to the milking room for their breakfast bowl that I could push them out into the rain.  Once they'd gone up to the corner for the alfalfa, they did have shelter back at the barn, but they weren't happy.  The chickens have a choice, but it was a pretty bedraggled bunch in the coops at bedtime.

If nothing else, the plants got watered and the truck got washed.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Still Stormin'

The visit from Larry and Taylor turned what could have been dull, drear days into a fun weekend.  Yesterday we lazed around, played some cards (I didn't win), watched a few documentaries, dozed off and on, ate pulled-pork burritos, and then it was time for them to head back down the hill in the late afternoon.

The storm continues to howl.  The wind has blown the tarp off the wood pile under the oak.  This may present a problem when the firewood on the porch runs out.  The wood stove, when it is needed most, gets cranky in bad weather and requires constant feeding and attention.  If the fire isn't hot enough to create a good updraft in the flue, Stove will belch back billows of black smoke into the room, necessitating open doors and windows even on the coldest days to clear before the smoke alarm goes off and terrorizes the animals.  Even though I stocked the rack well, the wind has blown spray up on the porch as far as the front door and dampened the stack.  I have a system to deal with this, bringing in extra logs to lay by Stove to dry out before they're needed.  I don't know how well that's going to work if the wood is totally wet.  Oh, well.  One problem at a time.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Oh, the Joy!

Woot woot!  Winner, winner, chicken dinner!  The joy, the pure, unadulterated bliss that comes from taking down the reigning Perquacky King!  For ever so long, Larry has taken on any and all comers at this game and come out victorious.  We have a particular ceremony to acknowledge a game winner in which hands must be clapped and raised while declaring "Champion of the World!"  Well, meet the new Champion.  It's me!  Larry said it didn't count because there weren't any witnesses, so I promptly called and forced him to confess his downfall to Deb and Craig.  In retaliation, he soundly trounced me at Rummy and then hid the cards so I had no chance to recover.  That's okay, I rest comfortably on my Perquacky laurels.  (No, there's no competitive spirit in this family.  None whatsoever.  Wanna bet?)

Grey, cold, windy, wet...it was a great day!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

It's About Time

Waking, I rolled over to check the clock and saw that I had no time.  Really...no time at all.  The storm had hit with a vengeance last night and we were having another power outage.  Normally I'd just roll over and go back to sleep and wait for daybreak, but I thought of my unexpected and oh-so-welcome guests (Larry and Taylor had come up for the weekend) and hit the panic button instead of snooze.  My bedside flashlight was on the fritz (note to self:  fix that today), so I felt my way cautiously down the hall.  Finding the kitchen flashlight, I saw it was three a.m., got to the land-line phone and hit speed dial for PG&E.  Miss Mechanical Voice told me they were aware of our problem, were on site to fix said problem, and would have an update around five.  The cats had been holed up in the barn last night and refused to make the dash through the rain at bedtime.  They evidently saw the flashlight moving around and came yowling to the door to be let in, bedraggled and apologetic.  Going back to bed, I left the flashlight on the floor pointing down the hall in case Larry or Tay had to get up in the dark.  Lying there, I kept running contingency plans through my mind:  there was still water in the kettle for instant coffee, Taylor doesn't watch TV anyhow and Larry and I could play cards, the rain would have filled the water trough, there was enough soup and homemade rye bread left from last night's dinner.  The biggest problem would be the danged toilets.  Flatlanders just aren't used to not flushing.  Playing different scenarios, suddenly there were clicks and buzzes and the clock started blinking red numbers again.  Ta da!  Bless those PG&E guys who braved the dark and stormy night to come to our aid.  My mind at peace, I went back to sleep.  Now I'm out of time.  I need to get ready to go to the barn.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Perfect Timing

PG&E cut the power on the dot yesterday morning.  That's okay, I was ready for 'em.  Everything that needed washing, including me, was clean; everything that could be done, was done.  Under cloudy skies, it was still dry as I trundled a bag of grain down to the barn.  A change in weather triggers something in the animals; even the oldest girls were absolutely giddy, frisking about like kids instead of sedately eating their alfalfa in the pen.  Finished with the milking, it was so comforting on the way back to see smoke from the wood stove wreathing the chimney, knowing the house would wrap me in warmth when I walked in.  Switching the stove top from electric to propane was one of the smartest changes we made.  I heated water for a cup of hot cider and settled down with a good book.  I read for awhile, then got up to take ornaments off the remaining Christmas tree.  Frank very much wanted to be involved in the deconstruction, so that process took a little longer than anticipated.  Appliances ordinarily hum, thump, and gurgle unnoticed with a life of their own.  With no electricity, the house becomes unnaturally quiet.  I could hear the field crew laughing and singing in my neighbor's vineyard as they cut back the vines and hurried to beat the rain.  PG&E crews also hurried with whatever it was they were doing; the power came back on just after one o'clock, well ahead of schedule.  The skies continued to darken and finally the rain came.  Perfect timing.

It was a good day.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Be Prepared

Downed power lines, blown transformers, lightning strikes.  There are lots of reasons to lose electricity up here.  Today we are going to have a scheduled power outage from eight-thirty until two-thirty; that's if "they" get done by then.  The letter sent out also mentioned that they might have to reschedule without prior notice.  I've done about as much as I can to get ready for this "inconvenience."  The worst part is knowing we'll be without water all day.  I made sure last night that all the animals have water.  I've filled the tea kettle and a big soup pot for drinking and rinsing, but one can't flush in advance.  Everything that needed recharging has been charged.

It is light enough now to see the overcast sky.  We've all been doing a rain dance lately (Joel says I should invite Dolly back), but they'll stop working on the power lines or whatever it is PG&E has planned if it rains today.  Catch-22.  Just in case, I went down to the feed store to restock grain for the girls yesterday, and brought more firewood up to the porch.

I took down one of the Christmas trees in the afternoon, including laboriously dabbing color-coordinated paint on each of the many individual branches in case the little stickers fall off.  I left the other tree to do today; it will be a good project to tackle that won't need electricity.

I've manned my battle station and am as prepared as I can be.  Oh, no!  I just remembered that if I don't do laundry and quick!, I won't have any clean socks for tomorrow.  Gotta go!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Not S' Bad

Here I was, ready to do some first-class whining about the drop in temperature down into the teens, and then I got a call from my friend in Seattle who is facing a major snow storm and read my favorite blog, "Of Moose and Men," in Alaska where the thermometer is reading minus-twelve.  I'm certainly not going down to the barn in a bikini this morning, but frozen pipes and frigid fingers are pretty picayune when I hear what others are facing. 

In defense of my own sniveling, it is cold enough that the cats have opted for indoor potty-box privileges, having put one foot out the door and backing up quickly.  I've had to wait until late afternoon to fill the waterers and trough; no water from the taps in the morning.  Bessie snoozes in the house, moving from one patch of sunlight to another, finally parking by the wood stove which has been fired up all day and well banked last night.  Birds were skating on the goats' trough yesterday, and I had to whack through the ice to let the girls drink.  It may not be so bad, but it's pretty darned cold!

Last year I mentioned seeing for the first time the two bushtit nests, those marvels of weaving hanging in the bare oak branches.  The other day I started noticing more; there are at least nine in three different trees.  Have they always been there, or are we being colonized?

Woot woot!  We're almost up to thirty degrees this morning!  It's going to be a good day.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It Was Time

The heart knows when it is time to let go of "stuff."  The hot tub in the backyard had sat unused for a long, long time, filled not only with water but with memories.  Crisp, clear, quiet nights, looking up at a sky filled with stars and the Milky Way.  The women who had helped get ready for my daughter's wedding taking an hour before bedtime the night before to ease aching muscles, laughing and chattering together in the dark.  Best of all, afternoons on winter days, steam rising up, Jack Daniel's in hand, snowflakes piling up on our big cowboy hats, hooting as we dashed buck nekkid back to the house in the frigid air.  How we loved those snowy days.

It was time.  Yesterday Clay and his friend Eric came up to take the tub to Eric's house.  Wild blackberries had overgrown a section by the back door and nearly over the tub so, like it or not, the guys had to cut back the vines first.  Shadows were lengthening and the temperature was dropping by the time they loaded the tub and tied it down in the pickup, and they were more than ready for hot and hearty macaroni and cheese with garlicky green beans on the side.

I watched the tub go.  I kept the memories.

Monday, January 16, 2012


If there ever was a day to be a bird, yesterday was it.  It was as if an avian holiday had been announced and every bird in the area, from the largest to the tiniest, spent the day playing.  Not a particularly sunny day for a change, the wind picked up in late morning and that seemed to be the signal.  Big flocks of wee sparrows flew in formation, turning in unison this way and that, and then for no apparent reason would tumble apart like leaves.  Vultures and hawks soared and swooped again and again, seemingly just for the fun of it.  Crows caught a tailwind and zipped by like jet planes.  Doves headed into the wind and hung nearly motionless in the sky.  This all went on for hours.  Even as the sun was setting, shadows continued flitting across the windows toward the west as if the birds were asking for "just a little while longer."  I felt sorry for the earthbound chickens who could only stand on the sidelines and watch their feathered brethren take to the skies.  I wouldn't have minded a pair of wings, myself.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sittin' On A Stump

Morning chores were done, milk strained and buckets washed.  Yes, of course there were those darned Christmas trees staring at me, but I picked up the book I'd started the day before and sat down to read.  Practice makes perfect, and I've gotten really good at ignoring accusatory inanimate objects.  Turning the last page with a satisfied sigh in the early afternoon, outdoors beckoned.  There was still a tangle of brush under the oak that should be pulled over to the burn pile, and now seemed as good a time as any.  Frank and Pearl were curled up like bookends in a patch of sunshine in the guest room and said to go ahead without them.  Bess was up for a little exercise and so we went out together.  Hauling the brush took a number of trips, wending through the stacks of cut rounds left by Tree Guy in the front yard, still waiting to be split.  Not a hard job, nothing to work up a sweat, but it needed doing.

It is said that work is its own reward, but the real payoff is when it's done, sitting on a stump in the slanting sunshine, crossing one more thing off the list.  I watched Bessie Anne course her way back and forth across the drive, following some scent or other into the south pasture; she had business of her own to attend.  That finished, she came and sat by my feet and we listened to and watched the birds flit from tree to tree for awhile in companionable silence, my hand on her head.  There are worse ways to spend an afternoon.

It was a good day.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

No Fodder

Well, this is a pitiful state of affairs.  There just isn't much in the way of blog fodder in the larder today.  The weather remains constant while we wait for the promised rain.  All the animals are behaving well, coming and going as requested, producing as expected.  It's one of those times when "no news is good news."  That, in itself, is reason to rejoice; a breathing space, as it were.  Certainly there are other days when I would promise to get back on if the merry-go-round would just stop for a minute and let me off for a break, when circumstances are such that I think I couldn't take another hit.  I'll just enjoy the calm right now.  It isn't daylight yet; who knows what the day will bring?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Girl Talk

You might not think it to look at her with her squatty body and her scruffy hair, but Bessie Anne is very much a girlie girl.  She tries hard to be a good hostess to all guests, but she flirts outrageously with men, even in front of their wives.  She bats her lashes and looks at them with her big brown eyes while sitting at their feet, hanging on their every word.  She pulls every trick out of her bag, clearly saying, "Aren't I cute?"  Absolutely shameless, she throws herself on her back, all four feet in the air, wiggling with delight when a man succumbs and rubs her tummy.  She instinctively knows which men she can con into giving her a treat and which ones will play her favorite game of Scare Me.  (Craig is a total sucker for that one.)  Even Propane Guy has been known to go back to his truck for a doggy biscuit just for her.  Her self-opinion got jumped up at Christmas.  Deb and Craig gave her a new tag with her name and phone number engraved in fancy script, surrounded with facets that catch and reflect the light like diamonds (a girl's best friend).  She shakes her head to hear the jingle and watch the light dance.  "Finally, a little bling that befits my beauty!"

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Clouds On the Horizon

Good news and bad news.  The good news is that the weatherman is predicting rain for the middle of next week.  Our days of late have been sunny and warm; perfect weather for people, but we need rain so badly that the thought of wet days makes me want to cheer.  It's been so dry that high fire-danger warnings have been posted up here, unheard of in January, and Tree Guy hasn't been able to take care of the brush piles (to which he keeps adding from his yard) because of "no burn" days.  No one needs to remind me how bitterly I complained when it rained for days on end last winter.  "All things in moderation," sez I. 

The darker cloud looming is tax time right around the corner.  Every year I tell myself I will take care of all that paperwork asap, and every year I put an added burden on my Tax Guy by running it out until the last minute.  Hmm, if I tell myself that I can't take down the Christmas trees until I get the tax stuff done so the trees will be a constant reminder, what's the worst that can happen?  Dust-covered Christmas trees still up mid-April?  I'll have to think about that.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mid Winter Thoughts

Kathy V. did some research and found out that ground squirrels do, indeed, hibernate in the winter, going deep into their burrows and closing the openings with loose dirt.  I like my imagined cold-weather sojourn for the little critters better.  I envision them stretched out on some sun-drenched Miami beach, sipping tiny mojitos or Cuba libres with little paper umbrellas while The Girl From Ipanema plays in the background.  (I know--too much time on my hands.)

Flickers are back in the area.  They've been wreaking havoc over at Joel's, drilling holes in his log-cabin house and pump house.  Siding on my house has saved me from the same fate.  Before it was installed, the trim boards looked like the aftermath of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre with machine gun holes.  Flickers really are pretty birds, larger than our red-headed woodpeckers.  Sitting on the deck yesterday, I watched and listened.  Their call is a kind of "peeuw, peeuw, peeuw," followed by a deep-throated chuckle.

The girls' milk is going interstate.  Monday's customer called yesterday and asked for an extra gallon.  His son and wife were visiting from Oregon and were so taken with the goat milk at his house that they wanted some to take home.  I'm so proud of my girls.

It occurred to me as I sat in the sun on the deck after milking that I am now going to have to take down those Christmas trees that I (and Dolly) so laboriously constructed.  It will be interesting to see how long I can put that off. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


"Someone's been sleeping in my bed," said the Little Bear, "and here she is!"  In my case, it is the Mama Bear who finds the sleeping girl on the Mama Bear's side of the bed.  At night, blond Bessie Anne lies on my side until she gets a shoulder massage and then reluctantly and with much urging moves over.  She can't wait for me to get up in the morning so she can move back to my spot.  She obviously knows what pillows are for.  Fortunately for me, she doesn't drool in her sleep.  Between Bess and the cats, this is about as much as my bed gets made.  (God forbid I should disturb a sleeping creature.)

One of my most touching (pun intended) gifts this year is this large cotton towel, folded to show, with prints made by Calendula and Anara (three- and one-year-old girls) with the help of their mama.  It puts new spin on a "hand" towel.  Calendula's hair is red gold, Anara's is pure gold.

I love all the Goldilocks in my life.

Monday, January 9, 2012


Standing in the kitchen for days, going up and down stairs not climbed for years, going to bed late (and getting up in the night with Bessie).  I was tired and suffering from post-holiday letdown.  That's the only excuse I have for committing a huge social gaffe last night.  I completely forgot that it was Judy's Tenth-Year cancer-free party.  I was already in my nightshirt and just waiting for eight o'clock so I could go to bed when she called.  Even then it didn't click in and it wasn't until she asked where I was that I got that sinking feeling of realization and was overcome with embarrassment.  It was the best reason for a celebration and certainly not a party I would have missed for my friend.  I hang my head in abject shame for such a blunder.

Coming back up from putting the goats to bed last night, I was struck by the phenomenal glow around the rising full moon.  The night before, on my many excursions out with Bessie Anne, the moon was so bright that I didn't need to click on my lighted cap to see my way around the drive.  The moonlight washed out the stars.

I think Bess was as tired as I.  We both went to bed early and slept through the night.  Now I'm up, and she's snoring behind me on the bed.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Perfect Day

Our Christmas was well worth waiting for.  It was a mad dash to get everything done before the Kids got here, but it all came together at the last minute.  No mishaps in the barn to cause a delay, and I got back up to the house before the first truck drove up with Deb and Craig.  They work together to make the most incredible fresh crab mousse, studded with large chunks of sweet crab.  I have no shame in saying I dove in like it was an Olympic event as soon as they opened the container.  And it was a good thing I did.  Clay, Dave, and Larry and Susan arrived, and I could see them eyeing the mousse over shoulders as they kissed and hugged everyone, getting the amenities out of the way so they could head for the crackers and crab.

A lot (okay, all) of our family get-togethers are centered around the kitchen.  Craig and Clay were assigned to make another appetizer, dates stuffed with goat cheese, wrapped with bacon, and broiled.  Dave, still in his motorcycle leathers, supervised, and Deb was washing rice to go with the chili verde that was simmering in the oven.  I'm kicking myself because I didn't get a picture of Larry, the birthday boy, or his lady, Susan.

A horde of locusts could not have gone through the appetizers faster, and we headed to the living room for presents.  My Kids are incredibly generous and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.  We do presents the slow way, one at a time in rotation, so as to see and appreciate each one.

Dinner was a serve-yourself affair, and then we all headed out to check some stuff in the feed barn.  Deb and Susan wanted to look at some beaded ornaments and the guys pulled the old '69 Honda trail bike out from the back to inspect.  After I put the goats and chickens to bed, some broke out the cards and poker chips and some went downstairs to reminisce.  A call from Pete and Jake, my SoCal son and grandson, made the day complete.  Everyone was tired after the extended holiday season, and so all the revelers were on the road home by seven-thirty.

It was a good day.

I can't say the same about last night.  Something Bessie Anne ate was going through her like corn through a goose.  She woke me at eleven, again at one-thirty, and still again at four a.m.  None of these was a false alarm, but dang, I overslept again.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Goin' South

I'm wondering if Miami has had a large influx of ground squirrels recently.  It occurred to me that it's been maybe a month since I've seen even a single ground squirrel.  Not one scrounging a handout in the barn, not one chirping sentry in the field, not one running to home base under the brush pile.  I could understand a winter migration if there were snow on the ground or a deluge of rain, but this has been a warm, dry winter.  Eleven of the last fifteen days have been sixty degrees or above.  I think the last rain was in November.  Where did they go, and why?

I do know that my plans for early prep time for Christmas did go south.  I'm sitting here and still have packages to wrap before the Kids get here this morning.  It seems that the more time I have, I have more time to delay.  Ah well, what would Christmas be without that last-minute panic?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Lick and A Promise

The journal is going to get short shrift today; it's my Christmas Eve.  It matters not that I've had two weeks longer than the rest of humanity to get ready, there's always that last-minute flurry of activity.  All day yesterday was spent in the kitchen; today will be no different.  Since Craig joined our family, a huge pot of chili verde served over rice has become our traditional Christmas dinner.  It's one of his favorite dishes and the one he requests.  It's a one-pot meal (well, two, if you count the rice cooker) and everyone can serve themselves, so it makes my job easier.  After all the other rich and sweet holiday foods, something spicy hits the spot.  I cut up ten pounds of pork butt yesterday and will brown it up this morning; the gallons of stew will need to simmer most of today and overnight in the oven.  I need to get cookin'!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Personality Profiles

All my doelings (baby girl goats) have been named alphabetically in succession; the last was called Vickie II.  Had Esther been born when the letter V turned up, her name should have been Vanity.  She will jump up on the stand for breakfast, but will not take a bite until I pick up the brush and then still will wait until I walk around and pretty up both sides of her coat.  Esther wants to look her best before facing the world.  Cindy and Esther are sisters, two of triplets born that year.  Their sibling, Dora, was sold years back.  Cindy shows none of her sister's reticence; she charges into the milking room first and woe to me if I'm slow getting the food in her dish.  Cindy does everything in a rush, dithering around as I open gates at night, shouldering her way past the others so as to be first into the big room at bedtime.  Ruth has been a hellion in her day, but has become more placid with age.  She will be twelve next month; the eldest in the herd.  She still must have a room by herself at night, though, because she now gets the worst of any fight she starts.  We've often accused Ruthie of being a ham, as she strikes a pose and "grins" whenever she catches sight of a camera.  In truth, what she's doing when she curls her upper lip back is called flehmening, exposing the Jacobs gland which is a highly developed scent detector in the roof of the mouth.  Inga is the skittery one.  She is a worrier, startled by sights and sounds, peeking around corners, most reluctant to go into a dark room.  She is my "Pigpen" girl; no matter how many times I brush her down, her hair always goes every which way but smooth, bits of flotsam and jetsam stuck here and there.  Sheila remains my Valley Girl, bouncing and skipping her way down the hill.  When I "hear" her voice, it's punctuated with "like," and "ya know."  Tessie is the "Good Sister."  She comes when called, stands quietly while being milked, gives a ton of milk with easy teats, and fights only when provoked.  Everyone needs one Tessie in a herd.

And then there is Poppy, the goat in sheep's clothing.  Having been raised since infancy with the herd and on goat's milk, she thinks she's an ugly-duckling sister.  She's always the last in line, slowest to get the treats Joel sometimes throws over the fence.  She "speaks" to me in the dolorous tones of Eeyore.

All these personalities make it difficult for me to think of my girls as "just goats," or "just animals."  They are individuals, each with her own character.  And they are characters!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


I've heard of range wars, turf wars, and corporate wars, but never in all my born days did I ever expect to be on the battleground, smack-dab in the middle of a poop war.  And it's escalating!  Earle came yesterday and staked out his claim to all the poop in Nineteen's old stall.  He'd hoped to be able to drive his little truck down to the barn and fill it from there, but the gate is too narrow.  After sequestering the goats and Poppy in the new pen, I offered him the use of my lawn tractor and trailer, pulled it out of the shed for him, and left him to it.  I thought there wasn't a man in the world who wouldn't know how to run one of those; silly me.  I did not mean to embarrass Earle, truly.  It was only when he came to the front door again to ask if I'd be kind enough to drive the tractor to the barn for him that I realized agriculture probably hadn't been his college major.  It's a wise man who knows his limitations.

I haul out between two and four big buckets of my renewable resource from the barn daily, and the poop pile grows rapidly. Careful scheduling is going to be a must or I'm going to have to establish some Marquess of Queensberry rules here. No dueling with pitchforks at ten paces. No guerrilla tactics, no night raids to get a jump on the competition.

I'm definitely going to be the winner in this race between Earle and Kellen and William to get to the poop first.  Kellen and William have brought me carrots, bok choy, and sweet baby Tokyo turnips from their garden.  Earle has offered to prune the sadly neglected peach and plum trees in the front orchard.  With continued cooperation from the girls, this could be a win-win-win war.  Seriously!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

It's A Treat

Just the sound of jingling car keys would set Dogie (Bessie Anne's predecessor) to dancing.  "Go bye-bye?" was every bit as exciting as "Dinner's ready."  She knew if I turned left at Fair Play Road we were going to the "cookie store," otherwise known as the feed store, where they keep an open box of dog biscuits for our local traveling companions.  A right turn meant we were going to The Big Road, a real road trip for her that might lead all the way to Diamond Springs and, with any luck, might take us on the freeway overpass!  For whatever reason, Dogie loved to go on an overpass and would look down with fascination on those little cars below.  That was the frosting on her cake.  It got to the point that if I picked up my keys just to move them and she heard, I had to take her out to the Blazer I was driving then and she would jump in the back seat and I, as chauffeur, would take her for a couple of spins around the driveway.  That dog just loved to go for a ride.

I am not deluded into thinking that Bessie Anne gets real pleasure from getting into the truck.  As a small pup, she broke her leg and anytime we went for a drive, it was to The House of Pain...the vet's office, for surgery or checkups.  For a long time, she wanted nothing to do with any vehicle, and I didn't blame her.  Getting the keys out was her signal to hide.  I really missed having her with me, and so started getting her leash before the keys and not giving her the option.  At first we would go no farther than the mailbox, gradually leading to the "cookie store" and so on.  Upon our return to the house, I would give her a treat and tell her how proud I was.  I haven't needed the leash for a long time now.  Bess will "load up" willingly, especially on trash days.  We just got back from the corner.  What hasn't changed is her real reason for going along.  She wants her treat!

This sunrise was my treat this morning.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Be It Resolved...

I've actually done pretty well with last year's (unstated) resolution.  I didn't say it out loud because then it would become a "have to," and I don't do well with "have to's," even when it's me giving the orders.  Let's just say I suggested to myself that life might be, if not easier, at least neater if I were to put a thing away instead of just putting it down wherever I happened to be.  For the most part, I've been successful.  I have noticed that I don't go into full-fledged panic about clutter if someone shows up at the door.

I wake up each morning with an ambitious list of things I will do that day.  It usually turns out that the list was overly ambitious to the point of being overwhelming, stunning me into inactivity like a pole-axed ox.  After giving this situation considerable thought, I'm suggesting to myself this year that I look at the list and pick two attainable goals for the day.  It actually worked yesterday.  I felt a good sense of accomplishment last night, instead of kicking myself for not doing anything I'd planned, as I usually do.  Since my suggestion is not a hard-and-fast rule, I've nothing to rebel against, no reason to set my heels and balk.  I think it might work.  (Dusting is not on the list for today.)

It snowed on New Year's Day last year.  Yesterday was so warm I went to the barn in shirt sleeves and still popped a sweat.  I didn't light the wood stove day or night.  The front door stayed open all afternoon.  I crossed two things off my To-Do list.

It was a good day.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Late Start

Oh great.  Just great.  The first day of the new year and I'm already late.  I truly hope this is not a portent of things to come.  I knew I was in trouble the minute I opened my peepers and saw sunshine instead of stars.  I can't remember the last time I awoke to daylight.  And I was home by nine last night!

Joel, Judy and I have our roots in Southern California.  Lawry's Prime Rib Restaurant in Beverly Hills is a fine-dining institution dating back to the 1930s, famous for prime rib and creamed spinach brought to the table in rolling silver carts.  Last night, as befitted the occasion, Joel recreated the menu perfectly with meat so tender and succulent I didn't need a knife.  Judy's garlicky Caesar salad was a piquant counterpoint.  They even remembered the horseradish in whipped cream.  Gosh darn, it was good.  I didn't even miss the rolling cart.  Equally enjoyable was the company, which included Judy's daughter Shari and her dad, Lee.  I can't imagine a nicer way to usher in the new year than with old friends.

Just because I'm a show-off, this lemon meringue pie was my contribution to the meal.  It turned out well, if I do say so myself.  Lemon pie is my favorite and I unabashedly snagged a couple of leftover slices to bring back because the best time to eat pie is for breakfast!

If I hurry now, the goats and chickens won't know I got such a late start and I can maintain my shaky reputation.

Happy New Year!