Saturday, March 31, 2012

To the Rescue

"Eight Ball," not in the side pocket, but tucked for warmth in the front of my friend's jacket.  I had received another SOS call early in the morning, "Do you have any milk? I need it now!"  Tim raises Kiko meat goats and a doe had delivered triplets, one of which was not getting enough or even any milk and was dying. I said I had buckets in hand to go to the barn.  "This baby can't wait.  I'm bringing him and heading your way!"  I was milking when Tim and Eight Ball arrived.  He had not been exaggerating.  Eight Ball couldn't even hold his head up and had not been able to stand for hours, getting weaker and weaker.  I poured Cindy's warm milk into a pan and Tim, with a little one-handed help from me (still milking with the other), got a tube down the baby's throat and used a syringe to get some nourishment into that tiny tummy.  It seemed pretty touch-and-go for a bit, Eight Ball's head lolling on Tim's arm, eyes closed.  I went on tending to my barn chores.  Eight Ball perked up a little, so much that when we gave him some of Tessie's milk, we could use just the syringe because he could at least swallow on his own.  A stranger in the barn freaked out Inga (she spooks if I hang my jacket on a nail), so Tim took the baby out of the pen to sit on the grass in the sunshine, thankful that there was sunshine.

The transformation was utterly (udderly!) amazing.  By the time I'd finished in the barn, Eight Ball was on his feet, nosing in the grass.  When Bessie Anne (who had been standing guard over the baby) sniffed his little behind, Eight Ball spun, tossed his head, and gave her attitude.  Talk about instant gratification.  I sent Tim and Eight Ball home with a gallon of milk.  This little boy is going to be just fine.  My girls are heroines once again.

It was a good day.  (The storm is back this morning.)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Friends With Benefits

I needed a new vegetable brush, just a simple little brush to scrub potatoes.  It took three stores before I found a reasonable facsimile of what I wanted.  What I really wanted was a brush like the Fuller Brush Man used to give away as a thank you for letting him show his wares.  When I was a kid, there were all sorts of door-to-door salesmen.  No one thought a thing then about opening the door to strangers and inviting them in.  During and after The Depression years many men found work this way.  It couldn't have been easy, walking long miles lugging heavy sample cases, facing rejection with every push of the doorbell.  We lived at the outskirts of a rural area, a many-hundred-acre truck (vegetable) farm just across the road and, like most women then, my mother did not work outside the home and was semi-isolated.  Mother might have had no interest in buying a set of Encyclopedia Britannica books, but she always listened to the enthusiastic spiel, offering a chance to sit down and a glass of water or a cup of coffee.  Like traveling tinkers of old, these men brought news, jokes, and gossip to housewives, and once in awhile they even made a sale.

I and my wares remain stationary, and my customers come to me.  Yesterday was a bonanza day, with an egg customer in the early morning (before goats) and milk customers later on.  More than the sales, I enjoy catching up on what's going on in their lives, discussions on weather, growing conditions, domestic animals and wildlife, etc., etc., etc.  When Bessie Anne was a puppy, if she behaved well and didn't bark or jump, she got a treat.  Now she nearly throws her back out, wiggling at the door, eager to greet a guest politely and accompany them to the kitchen where we do business.  The problem is that she still expects a treat and might get a little pushy if I'm slow in delivering.  That's her problem.  Mine is that I have to watch my garrulous tongue.  Most days, I have only the animals to talk to and I have a tendency to run off at the mouth, given the opportunity to actually converse with people.  Kellen and William brought me the "gimme" yesterday, more of those delicious oyster mushrooms; way better than a vegetable brush!

It was a good day.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Winnetka West

Big Noise From Winnetka is a Bob Crosby Big Band song from the '40s, often thought of as "Big Wind."  Watching Bessie the other day as she waited in the drive with her ears flapping like standards on a flagpole from the wind, that was the song I heard.  I wasn't sure we wouldn't all end up in the Land of Oz.  Yesterday the wind died, so the torrents of rain fell straight down instead of sideways as they had the day before.  Rain pounded on the metal roof of the barn so loudly that I couldn't hear the milk swish into the pail by my side.  Water ran into the girls' sleeping room in rivulets so that I had to make a trench to direct it through.  I drew the lucky number, though, because the rain slacked off as I made my way back to the house, slogging through ankle-high wet grass with two buckets of milk.  I'd anticipated a second shower of the day, this one ice cold.  Bess had the good sense to wait up on the porch during the deluge this time.  The dust pits dug by the chickens are now swimming pools, if the hens were so inclined.  I've got my work cut out for me whenever we dry out.  The weeds are taking full advantage of this rain-sun-rain to sprout up and are going to be out of control soon.  My days will be spent on the mower.  The weatherman has promised a short break before the next storm hits this weekend.  March is definitely going out like a lion this year.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Holy Cow!

Squirrel burrows and mice holes are nothing new in the barn.  A pile of fresh dirt by the milking stand did cause me to look under the stand yesterday and, Holy Cow!, I couldn't believe it.  Some thing or things have a major excavation going on under there.  There is a crater nearly the size of the stand itself and close to two feet deep.  It (or they) must be carrying out loads of dirt through tunnels because the one small pile was the only evidence, the giveaway left by some careless miner.  A leg or two of the stand have tipped in the past when an underground burrow collapsed, but I can see stand, goat, and me dropping into a pit and lost if this goes on.  This latest storm blew in with fierce wind and heavy rain, so there's no dry dirt with which to fill the hole.  One just never knows what form excitement will take up here.

There's some suspense I can do without.  Strong winds for days combined with soaked earth have me really concerned about the safety of the trees.  I pace through the house, looking out windows to check the treeline on all sides.  I know some big dead branches have broken and fallen, fortunately in areas where they did no harm.  The old beauties, the oaks, are the ones I worry about.  We've all been asking for rain.  Well, we got it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


It's nice to know I'm still trainable.  Sheila has persevered, even though she probably thinks I'm a little slow on the uptake, and I've finally learned the program to her satisfaction.  Unless it is raining, in which case she is right there at the door banging to be let in, when it is her turn to get up on the stand we must play The Game.  I stand in the doorway and call her name.  There is a short wait and then she peeks her head around the corner.  This gives me hope.  I coax, I plead, I demand.  She just looks at me.  She pulls her head back.  I cuss.  Sheila peeks again.  Okay, fine.  We move on in The Game.  I grab the lead rope and head after her.  She no longer roams all over the pen (it's a big pen) as she found out I lost interest easily and quit playing, and that wasn't any fun for her.  Now we play her version of Ring-Around-the-Rosy.  She ambles all the way around the barn, me trailing after her (usually muttering something about danged goats).  When she gets to the milking room door, she stops and looks back over her shoulder as if to say, "I win!  Now come on, we've got work to do."  I swear that girl can smile.  Wanna play?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Great Finish

The big, fat, wet, plopping snowflakes that had fallen at dawn were replaced by off-and-on downpours of rain all day.  "Sunny California" is going to lose its reputation with easterners.  The NASCAR race was held down in SoCal at Fontana, and Clay was there (without his jacket).  Enough laps had been run so that when it started raining down in buckets a winner could be declared, but it couldn't have been pleasant for those stuck in the stands, far from the parking lots, when the race was called.

I'm old enough to remember when crooners, not rappers, were in vogue.  Bing Crosby, The crooner of all time, warbled, "Where the blue of the night meets the gold of the day...," and that fits these photos perfectly.  Stepping out the door to tend to nighttime chores, the blushing pink sky nearly stopped me in my tracks.  It did, in fact, and I went back in for the camera.  After tucking the chickens in their coops, the sun had dropped below the horizon, but left the night light on.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Win Some

The wind that had awakened me yesterday died down, but the sky remained heavily overcast.  Rain seemed imminent all day.  This did not bode well for someone expecting delivery of a refrigerator in the afternoon.  Like watching a spinning roulette wheel, I kept waiting for the ball and the first raindrop to fall.  Believe it or not, I won!  It stayed dry.  Delivery Guy showed up well within his window of time, hooked up the new (used) fridge, whisked away the defunct one, and drove off with a couple of buckets of eggs that would have gone to waste.  (I couldn't talk him into taking a Silkie rooster.)

After the excitement died down (hey, it's all relative and a matter of perception), it was a good day for piddly chores in the house, a good book, and a nap.  Even the wood stove cooperated.

It's raining today.  It's snowing!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Turn of Events

It was a higgledy-piggledy kind of day, not the one I'd planned.  Opening the door to the milk refrigerator, I did bit of a double-take.  No light.  Burned-out bulb?  No light on the freezer side, either.  Hmmm.  Had the power gone out?  No, kitchen lights were still on.  Hmmm.  Later, I checked the breakers.  Nope.  No problem there.  I had to face the fact that the refrigerator had died.  Fortunately, it was between milk pick-ups, so nothing would sour.

Getting down to business, I took the new brush down to the barn.  The top photo shows Mouse Mama's home now.  I disturbed it one more time to show the beginnings of her nest and the destruction of the old brush, and then put it back the way she likes it.  The girls seem to enjoy the new brush.  It has stiffer bristles and they do like to have their backs scratched.

It was dry and sunny when Kellan and William came for poop.  We chatted through the barn wall as I milked and they shoveled.  Before they left, they dropped off a thank-you gift on the porch.  Fragrant leeks, young carrots, and tiny, sweet baby turnips made such a beautiful picture.  See what a little goat poop and a lot of hard work can produce.  No wonder these gorgeous vegetables are called "produce."

Unable to go without milk and egg storage space, I had to make a trip to Shingle Springs to find another used refrigerator.  One never leaves home up here without tending to as many things as possible so, even though they weren't on my schedule, I made a couple of other stops along the way home.  The refrigerator will be delivered today.

By nightfall, the dark clouds had gathered again.  Wanting to take advantage of the fresh vegetables, I threw in a couple of potatoes and some herbs and made a soup in which every component stood on its own, no meat required.  Soup and a slice of homemade cheddar cheese bread on a cold night...heavenly.

The wind is up this morning and rain is threatened sometime today.

Friday, March 23, 2012


I surrender, I give up.  Mouse Mama had once again started a nest behind the curry brush.  I can't credit her with good sense, but she takes the prize for obstinate determination.  I did have to use the brush one more day for the girls, but I was careful not to disturb Mama's nursery and even left her a bit of gratis fluff.  I was able to find a new brush at the feed store, so all's right in my world.

As the hens came tumbling down the ramp yesterday morning, Iron Monger Guy and his helper drove up.  He'd lost the directions to my new neighbor's place and thought I might help, and I was happy to do so.  IMG is a big tease and a lot of fun.  Even though it set me a bit behind, it was a nice surprise and a great way to start the day.

Down in the pen, the girls all seemed to have been struck with a silly stick.  (My dad would have said they had a feather up the butt.)  Mock battles broke out everywhere, just for show.  Not known for running, Inga and Sheila raced around the pen at full bore, seemingly for the joy of it.  The fits of gaiety did not interfere with taking turns on the stand, so I could just take pleasure in their own.

My regular Thursday milk customer came for the last time.  Sarah's own goats were bred and delivered, so she has her own milk source now.  I will miss her gentle company once a week, and seeing her little girls as they grow.  Kellan and William, the poop-scooping team, will take Sarah's place for milk on Thursdays, so I won't be quite so bereft.  In fact, since the promise of rain that had threatened all day was not fulfilled, they will probably be here this morning to move my poop pile to their place.

Cold and heavily overcast here, my niece in New Hampshire called toward evening.  It had been eighty-three degrees there and she'd spent the day working in her herb garden.  It felt like we'd stepped into a flip-flopped alternate universe, our seasons are so out of whack.

It was a good day.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

E For Effort

D for Determination.  F for Futility.  A little mouse mama is trying so hard to make a nest and I keep wrecking her project.  It is unfortunate that she has chosen the wrong place and the wrong materials.  I use a natural fiber bristle brush (similar to the brushes men used to use to shine their shoes) to brush down the goats every morning, and keep it close at hand on a block between the wall studs.  Over time, it has accumulated soft undercoat hair deep in the bristles.  Some days ago, I noticed a little pile of fluff and stuff in the corner behind the brush as I went about my chores.  It fell on the ground and I thought no more about it.  The next day, a mouse jumped to the ground as I picked up the brush.  Sometimes the girls will toss a bit of grain about and, let's face it, seeing a mouse in the barn is no surprise.  I brushed another pile of stuff off the block.  When I found the same mouse and the same small pile a third and fourth time, I actually looked at the stuff and then looked at the brush.  Mama had been systematically chewing away the bristles on the back side to get at the undercoat hair and trying to build her nest.  She's nearly destroyed the brush in the process.  I really do give her credit for ingenuity, but I need that brush.  Even after all these days of losing all her work, she doesn't give up.  I certainly don't want to be responsible for a homeless little mouse giving birth in a back alley somewhere.  I've got to go to the feed store today.  Maybe I can find a back-up brush and another place to keep it.  S for Sucker.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

When the Cat's Away

It was considerably warmer in the barn yesterday and it brought the mice out to play.  A section of thin rope (used when I have to collar a reluctant Sheila) hangs from a nail by the door.  Milking away, thinking good thoughts, I caught motion.  A mouse was climbing head first down the rope, would sit on the knot at the bottom, and climb back up again.  The little creature did this over and over, for no obvious reason other than fun.  Eventually it tired of that game and went on to walk the tightrope on the beams.

A burrow mate of Ruffles has made an appearance.  This mouse is tiny, with unusual squinty eyes.  Even the smallest mouse normally has bright round eyes; not this one.  Not quite blind, it must at least be nearsighted, as it does bump into corners as it dashes under the stand to get to the fallen grain.  Makes me think of "three blind mice" every time it pops up.

Irresistibly drawn by the sunshine, I started a book I was given some years ago, "A Recipe For Bees."  I'd picked it up at the time, read a few paragraphs without interest, and put it down.  It's been sitting in my bedroom, accusing me as I walked by, all this time.  I must have been in a different frame of mind back then, as yesterday I could relate to the story and the characters and lost myself for nearly the rest of the day.  Funny how that happens.

There was a mackerel sky at daybreak this morning, a unique formation of clouds.  Another name is buttermilk sky, and that made me think of the old Hoagy Carmichael song.  I'll probably be humming that all day.  That should override the current Hickory Dickory Dock.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sleepy Time Gal

It was a struggle all day:  struggled to haul a bag of grain down to the barn through the wet mud in the morning, struggled to get and then keep the house warm, struggled to keep my eyes open.  The slip-and-slide in the chicken pen had bruised more than my ego and I struggled not to hobble around like an old lady.  Wait, I am an old lady, something I tend to forget until I'm so rudely reminded.  As one of those "early to bed, early to rise" people, three days of fun activities and (for me) late nights required a nap or two.  The most productive thing I did all day was getting milk and eggs ready for my customers.  The sun did come out so I think my guests had good traveling weather.  Most of the snow has melted from my property, but the surrounding hills are still covered.  The turkey flock that had put on such a show of strutting and flirting to entertain Suzanne and Richard made a return engagement.  All in all, it was a good day.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Wine and Weather

The last three days have been one big round of the local wineries.  Not dissuaded by rain, wind, or snow, Suzanne, Richard and I braved the elements to sample the wares of DK Cellars, Colibri Ridge, Van der Vivjer, Pallisandro, Perry Creek, Windwalker, Iverson, and Oakstone, ending the days with the hosts and other guests at Lucinda's Country Inn for, ah!, another glass of wine and nibbles.  We'd get back here in time to put the kids to bed and fix dinner.  I understand people on the east coast were out in flipflops and shorts.  We watched the snow fly here, and Dave sent me photos of West Sacramento covered in hail.  After such a dry winter, the vintners we spoke with were very happy to see the snow, saying it was the best way to soak the ground for the grapes.  The goats were not so pleased and, I knew it would happen, my feet went out from under me in the chicken pen last night.  My bibbies went into the washer for the second time yesterday.

Suzanne and Richard will be flying out early today so we said our goodbyes last night.  I hope it isn't another eleven years before I see them again.  It was a good visit.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Satellite internet access may be the greatest thing since sliced bread, unless it's snowing.  Satellite television is just terrific, unless it's snowing.  My guests from New Hampshire came to California for a number of reasons, one of which was to get away from a New Hampshire winter.  So what do we give them?  Days of downpour rain and now snow.  The wind must have finally blown the snow from the satellite dishes, because I could finally get on line.

I will say that the weather, wet, windy, and cold, has not dampened our spirits...spirits being the definitive term here.  We sampled the wares at a few more of the local wineries yesterday, coming home at dark to the corned beef and cabbage dinner that had been simmering in the crock pot all day.  The snow had started to fall in the early afternoon.  It didn't really accumulate until sometime during the night.  So far so good with the power (fingers crossed).

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Lost and Found

My niece and her husband blew in to town yesterday (the wind was strong enough to turn their umbrellas inside out) from New Hampshire.  Putting their fate in the hands of an untrustworthy GPS system (I think the thing was downright evil), they managed to get themselves lost out here in the hinterlands, not once, but twice on the way from Placerville.  When they did arrive, the kindest thing to do was take them wine tasting, guaranteed to sooth jangled nerves even on a rainy day.  It's been eleven years since we've been together.  They will be staying at a lovely nearby B&B (cat allergies).  Barn chores notwithstanding, we'll find time to catch up on lost years.  And maybe we'll get a break in the rain.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bad Rap

Bessie Anne looked over my shoulder the other day and saw I'd posted a story about her refusal to go outside.  I explained that I hadn't actually called her a wuss, but she felt maligned anyway and was determined to prove me wrong.  The cats could not have cared less.  Frank was a bit put out that I had not caught his best side in the photo, but they ignored the story just as they had ignored me.

It was only misting as Bessie and I went out together yesterday.  Bess took her usual place to watch at the edge of the goat pen and I went on down to do my barn chores.  "See, Mom.  Neither rain, nor snow...I'll do my job!"  Cindy, the first girl, was up on the stand when it began to rain.  I expected, and hoped, that Bessie would cut and run and go up to the shelter of the porch.  By the time I was milking Inga, second in line, the rain had become a downpour and was beating on the metal roof.  Bess held her ground while all six goats took their turn and I cleaned the stalls.  Now, if anyone can understand stubborn, I can, but even I have limits.  It rained the entire time I was (dry) in the barn and Bessie Anne would not leave her post.  Back at the porch, soaked to the skin, she gave "bad hair day" a whole new definition.  My guilt was building and I swore I'd never say another derogatory word about my little friend.  Wait!  Is she giving me the raspberry?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Little Red Wagon

If I were to ever pester my mother when I was a Kid, asking the same thing over and over, she would recite a little ditty in a sing-song voice, "Little red wagon, tongue is draggin'.  Second verse, same as the first."  That was my signal to back off.  I had become repetitive and was getting on her nerves.

Yesterday was a Red Wagon day.  Same rain, same slip-and-slide in the chicken pen, same soggy sheep shouldering past me on the way to her room at night, even a rerun on dinner leftovers.  I did amuse myself in the Silkie pen when I had one of those "out of body" experiences, seeing myself as others might (and thankful no one could!).  I have mentioned the wonderful hard hat Craig made for me, the hat with multiple lights so I can go out at night to do chores hands free.  A cold wind was whipping as I was gearing up to put the kids to bed.  I needed the lighted hat to hunt for eggs in the coop, but it wouldn't protect my ears very well.  Hmm.  My solution was to first put on a stocking cap and then the hard hat.  As I was saving my footing doing my pole dance in the Silkie pen with one hand, the other holding the grain bucket, the hard hat began sliding as the littlest kids were trooping up their ramp.  What to let go of and what to grab?  I was moving, as my daddy would have said, faster than a hog on ice and managed to save the whole kit and caboodle.  I will settle for cold ears should that situation ever recur.

Looks like we're going to get a little break in the weather today, overcast but not raining this morning.  Hope the pens dry out a bit, else I'll be pulling that little red wagon again tonight.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Up and At 'Em!

Five o'clock clock time.  Four a.m. my time.  My body knows when it's being bamboozled and cheated.  Like a good little automaton, I roll out of bed to go make coffee, trying to stay in step with the "real" world.  And so the day begins.

"Okay, kids, who's ready to go outside?  Someone?  Anyone?"  Shall I say their response was significantly underwhelming?  Not one of my faithful companions would leave their spot on the bed to go with me out into the rain yesterday morning.  Earlier, Bessie Anne had made a reluctant dash to the truck so we could get the trash down to the big road, and said she'd had enough of that, thank you very much.  Little turncoats.

After the computer gremlins had had their fun, it turned out to be a great rainy day (barn chores notwithstanding).  On the off chance that we might lose power during this rain storm that is supposed to last all week, I baked two big sour cream coffee cakes so I'll have something to feed this weekend's guests.  While the house was filling with that wonderful warm cinnamon aroma, I watched a 1941 Ida Lupino murder mystery movie, with Elsa Lanchester as one of her dotty sisters and Louis Hayward playing against type (he was so suave) as her conniving brother.  As long as the oven was already warmed, I decided to make albondigas for dinner.  Spicy Mexican meatballs baked in a rich tomato-beef broth with a baked potato on the side were ready by the time I'd put the goats to bed (no hesitation from them!).  With my usual lack of self-control, I had a slice of coffee cake for dessert.  (There was a reason I'd made two.)

It might have had a slow start, but it was a good day, and we need the rain.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

In Brief

The storm hit this morning.  The computer is acting funky.  The baby mice didn't make it.  More tomorrow if possible.

Monday, March 12, 2012


There are days I think I should pack a bag and sit on the porch to wait for the "men in white coats with butterfly nets."  All day long I was converting "real time" to the "new time."  I got all the clocks in the house changed, but my cell phone refused to make the switch.  I knew just how it felt, but figured it really needed to get in line.  After waiting patiently all day for it to catch up, I finally had to call Deb and Craig.  I'm on their plan and needed their assistance to move the time forward.  I'm still trying to figure out what Daylight Savings Time saved.  It was dark at six in the morning and dark at six at night...duh.

Notwithstanding that Ruffles (and others) had helped themselves to fresh diaper wipes, the bucket was full and needed to be emptied.  I'd seen some of the little critters on the top of the pile, but thought they were just shopping for new bedding.  At nightfall, I brought the bucket up to the trash barrel.  Pulling out clumps of wipes, I suddenly saw movement.  I feel terrible.  I have orphaned a nest of babies down at the bottom of the pail.  I carefully lifted out the nest with hopefully enough surrounding wipes to keep the little ones warm and put it in a safe place in the first shed.  These babies are about half grown, not pink, hairless newborns, but I don't know if they're old enough to forage on their own.  Some enterprising mother mouse had decided to take the easy route instead of dragging a blanket to her house; simply make a home in the blankets.  What person in her right mind would try to save these little vermin?  Who said I was in my right mind?

I should have listened to Bessie Anne.  She'd gone out for a potty run toward sundown.  Then she started barking (she's not really a barky kind of girl) in the driveway.  She sounded pretty serious, so I went to the door to see what had raised her hackles.  I couldn't see anything, so reassured her and went on with whatever I was doing.  Bess quit sounding off so I thought all was well.  Passing a window, my heart leapt into my throat when I saw a stranger walking on the drive.  Living alone in an isolated area, the last thing you expect or want to see is an unannounced pedestrian on the property.  A thousand thoughts ran through my head:  Bessie wasn't barking (had she been silenced in some dreadful way?), do I grab the phone for 911 or go straight for the .38?  The person was far enough away, so I opened the door.  "Can I help you?"  Big sigh of relief.  It was Faye's mama, looking for her runaway girl.  Bess had recognized her.  I did tell Layla that she'd scared the snot out of me and if she were going to walk up here again, please let me know.  I'd rather have the men in white coats than the sheriff's deputies on scene.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

There's Something About A Harley

A Harley-Davidson motorcycle has a sound like no other bike out there.  It announces its presence with a deep-throated, aggressive rumble, even at an idle.  What with one thing and another, I was late getting to the barn yesterday and hurried through the chores, listening all the while for a Harley.  With perfect timing, I had just finished straining the milk back at the house when that rumble told me my son had arrived.  What a luxury to have an afternoon to do nothing but sit, talk, and enjoy each other's company.  Dave frequently works seven days a week at two jobs and doesn't have much time to share, so I take it as a gift when he comes up.  When he left in the late afternoon, I could follow the sound of his bike down the dirt road to the big road and all the way out to E-16.  There's just something about a Harley.

I told myself I would not spout off with my semi-annual diatribe against Daylight Savings Time.  Some promises are not meant to be kept (like my telling my Kids that they'd best shape up or I'd trade them for a mongoose...they didn't realize there are no mongooses in the US so they were safe).  Once again, my schedule has been shattered by the changing of the clock.  Being a "morning person" with the majority of chores to do before noon, I much prefer my sunshine at the beginning of the day.

Oh well, it wouldn't matter today's raining.  Ruffles got her fresh bedding pulled in just in time, and my biker-dude son made his visit just in time, whatever time it was.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


No, I haven't traded bibbies for a frou-frou mode of dress.  Ruffles is a small mouse with one frilled ear who lives in a burrow by the corner of the inside door in the milking room.  She's gotten braver over time.  It used to take several false starts before she could work up the courage to dash across the room to where the goats carelessly drop grain from their breakfast bowl.  Now she pops her head up, gives me a good-morning glance, and goes about her business.  Yesterday it would seem she was redecorating her home and had pulled a fresh wipe into the opening.  Since I often mention the housekeeping habits of the underground inhabitants, I had decided to take a picture when I'd finished the last milker.  As it happened, after escorting Sheila out I turned, only to find that Ruffles had pulled the wipe entirely into her house and there was nothing to photograph.  You'll just have to take my word.

Ruffles of another sort, ruffled feathers, were on display before I went to the barn.  I counted eighteen hens and young toms, but there was no question about who was in charge.  Big as he was, this patriarch doubled in size and beat his wingtips on the ground to make sure he had the flock's attention.

I'm amazed at how he can make his wattles change to a fiery red and his normally grey head takes on an almost turquoise blue.  Pretty impressive.

Sadly, the little lamb who needed milk didn't make it through the night.  Those of us who work with animals know this happens, but I don't think we ever take it lightly.  It hurts.

My son, Dave, is coming up today.  In the last week the weather has turned from turtlenecks to tank tops, and for a motorcycle rider that's just too good to pass up.  The ride through green hills on country roads on a warm day is gorgeous.  Another drop in temperature and heavy rain is predicted for all next week, so I'm particularly glad he's taking advantage to come up now.  I'm simply looking forward to his company. 

I wonder if Ruffles got word that cold weather is coming again and that's why she pulled in a fresh blanket.

Friday, March 9, 2012


I got another of those calls yesterday.  "Do you have goat milk?"  This time it was for a newborn lamb.  This is a very strange year; animal moms in the area are rejecting their offspring, and a number of the little ones are healthy but weak and not thriving.  My own girls are doing their best, but I fear that demand for their milk is going to exceed supply if this keeps up.  So far, so good, and this latest caller will be here early this morning.  To save a baby, I cut the price of milk to less than half, which means I've come full circle.  I used to babysit in my early teens for fifty cents an hour, and that's what I'm making now.

Tree Guy and son came again yesterday to split wood and set off one of the burn piles.  I had planned to make the run to town much earlier, but took the time to haul all those stacks of pulled weeds over to the burn while I had the chance.  The yard is looking better and better.  However, that made the shopping trip a mad dash so I could get home for the milk customer who was due at four-thirty.  She didn't make it, and will come today.  While waiting for another customer in the morning (who was due the day before), I actually did finish my sewing project and was able to finally clear off the dining room table, so I have made some progress on the house.  Life has somehow become rather frenetic.  I may have to grab a book later and go sit on the deck.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


I had the best intentions yesterday to get so much done, and actually got a few things crossed off before heading to the barn.  Then it all went downhill.  Like Inga the other day, after that frigid beginning the pull of the sunshine was too great to resist and the book I was reading was too good, so my little furry entourage and I went out to the deck to sit.  I could offer the excuse of an aching back from stacking and hauling firewood, but, honestly, I just wanted to read.  My conscience did gig me now and then, but for some reason I couldn't understand Sanskrit, either.  (There's a lot of that going around.)  No, I'm just plain guilty.  Like Inga, I will pay the price.  My conscience is speaking basic English and has grown spurs.  My list is twice as long today and since company is coming this weekend, I've run out of time.

All the same, it was a good day.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


After switching all day between pouting with dark clouds and beaming with sunshine, Spring finally decided on giving us the cold shoulder.  The temperature never got up to fifty yesterday, and this morning it is a brisk twenty-four.  I am ever so glad that the chimney now has a good draw so the wood stove can do its thing.  Still dark, I don't know yet which face Spring will show today.  This would not be the day, frown or smile, to have all the doors open again.

Oh, Inga.  She cannot seem to get the concept of cause and effect.  A few days ago, when the lure of lying in the sun was too great, she absolutely refused to come in to be milked.  As I told a friend, there is no creature on earth who can have a more stupid look on its face than a goat who does not want to do what is asked.  No matter that they've had the same routine every day of their adult life, it's as if I suddenly began speaking Sanskrit.  I did explain to Inga that we would both be hurting the next day if she continued to play dumb, but dumb she was.  She showed up at the door the following morning begging to be let in, spraddle-legged with a bulging udder.  Inga, with her teensy teats, is difficult to milk on an average day; when the bag is overfull, it is almost impossible and takes forever.  There is nothing to grab on to.  The teats aren't long enough to be directional so milk squirts everywhere at first and, by the time she's empty, my hands have cramped up something fierce.  We did have a long conversation on this subject, but I doubt it had much effect.  A goat's gonna do what a goat has to do.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Her Other Face

Spring put on her makeup and dressed in her best finery yesterday, showing her warm, sunny smile.  She accessorized her bright green dress here and there with sprigs of daffodils.  Strutting her stuff, she enticed many outside to enjoy her company.  I saw the first ground squirrels to come out in the goat pen, sunning themselves by their burrows.  Tree Guy and Number Two son came to clean my chimney.  They did the brush work up on the roof.  I cleaned the dislodged creosote out of the stove, the dirty part of that job.  Son then set himself to splitting the big pile of cut rounds in the front side yard.  TG started rearranging and stacking the woodpile.  I spent a couple of hours helping and hauling wagon loads up to the porch.  Joel stopped by with carrot tops for the chickens, which they enjoyed immensely.  It was with great reluctance that I finally went inside and faced the reality of housework.

Spring woke up in a foul temper today, scowling behind a low cloud cover, having a right old tantrum, blowing wind and spitting rain, kicking leaves every which way.  Her changeable temperament certainly makes life interesting.  One just never knows.

Monday, March 5, 2012


Eggs were starting to pile up in the refrigerator, supply exceeding demand, especially the Silkie eggs.  I abhor waste and began to think about what I could do with this overabundance before I had to throw them out.  It's best to use older eggs for hard boiling as they're much easier to peel.  Aha!  Pickled eggs would do the trick.  The recipe I found called for six hard-boiled eggs.  Six?  Pshaw, not worth the time and effort.  I boiled eighty-six.  Granted, these were the Silkie eggs, half the size of regular eggs, the equivalent of only forty-three of the others.  That doesn't sound reasonable even to me, but I was in the grip.  I really must learn to curtail my enthusiasm.  For statistical purposes, it takes exactly two-thirds of a four-hour NASCAR race to peel eighty-six mini-eggs.  Twenty eggs fit into one wide-mouth quart jar.  Two jars are pickling in a beet-juice brine for the pink color, and two have Thai chili vinegar (I made a gallon of that some time ago, again in the throes of madness).  Now, instead of one bucket of eggs, I have four quart jars taking up space in the refrigerator.  Anyone doing the math would realize I had six eggs left over.  I made deviled egg salad, spread that on crackers, and ate it for dinner.  Then I went out to put the critters to bed.  And picked up another dozen eggs.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

My Heart Goes...

Housework.  The bane of my existence.  It has always been the most repetitive, thankless job there ever was.  I love the way the house looks when it's done; it's the knowing it will have to be done all over again tomorrow, undoubtedly the basis for the saying, "Woman's work is never done."  Like trying to empty the ocean with a thimble, it never ends.  In the midst of inside chores yesterday afternoon, the pull of outdoors became too great and I grabbed a book and Bessie Anne and I escaped to the deck.  It was perfect sit-outside weather, warm sun, blue sky, and cooling breeze.  And then I heard them.  Had I not been playing hooky, I would have missed the first waves of wild geese heading north.  They take my breath away every year.  Flying high, the Vs form and reform as the leaders, who do the hard work of "breaking" the air for the others, give way to new leaders and fall back in line for a breather.  Every year, I hear Frankie Laine singing that song from the '50s, "My heart knows what the wild goose knows, and I must go where the wild goose goes."  Once begun, this migration could go on for days.  The book forgotten in my lap, I could only sit and watch and listen.

Frank has been struck with a bad case of the Needys.  Pearl has always been more aloof than Frank, but yesterday afternoon he was stuck to me like a burr.  If I sat down, he was in my lap.  He was at my side if I went outdoors.  We went from room to room together inside.  He slept on my feet all night long.  Normally I roll out of bed as soon as my eyes open.  This morning he sat on my chest, head-butting until I petted him, purring and, yes, drooling.  I enjoy his company, of course, but this approaches ridiculous.  He's sitting on my feet as I write.  Ah, well.  It could be worse.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Just Layin' Around

The sunshine brought out the best in all of us yesterday.  For a change, there were no fights in the goat pen.  As each girl finished her stint on the stand, she went out to find her place in the sun, lay down, and peacefully started chewing cud.  Barn chores done, Bessie Anne and I sat at the end of the deck for a couple of chapters, soaking up the rays.  Even in the house later, Frank and Pearl went straight for the sunny front bedroom and Bess stretched out in a bright patch on the floor.  We all took a nap, and then went out to do some yard work.  There is an added bonus to trimming the lavender bed; your hands get scented with that wonderful, clean-smelling perfume.  The guys had thrown loads of firewood down in a higgledy-piggledy pile that I condensed and straightened under the oak.  This stuff, while not huge rounds, had not been split into wood stove size yet.  Tree Guy is still waiting for a replacement part for the splitter, and I don't like to leave spread-out spaces for snakes to hide when they start coming out.  The few lizards I uncovered were almost comatose with the cold, and I tucked them into new safe hidey-holes.  The ground was still too wet for the chickens to take dust baths, but they lay out in rows like they were getting a tan at the beach.  I had to laugh at sundown.  One of the girls wouldn't leave the sunshine even to go lay an egg, and there it was out in the pen.  Much as I appreciated the rain, I sure enjoyed the sun.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Don't Ask

One thing the years have taught me is never to ask "What next?" or "What else can go wrong?"  Having written the day's entry and just noodling around on the computer, watching snowflakes whiz by the window in the wind yesterday, the power went out.  Oh, good grief.  I'd fought the good fight with the wood stove the day before and now the electricity was going against me.  Seriously?  I have the power company on speed dial on the land line.  The mechanical voice told me they were not aware of any outage in my area, but they'd be "on the scene shortly."  Bless those workers who go out to brave the elements, they had power restored in about an hour.  I don't know; maybe it was someone in an office pushing buttons.  I don't care.  I had lights and water again!

Rain took over and the snow didn't stick.  The goats complained even more than I.  Poppy, in her wool coat, just plodded along, indifferent to the weather.  She's a girl who likes her victuals, and not much would keep her from getting up to the corner of the pen for breakfast.  From the milking stand, I could see several clumps of daffodils that had burst into bloom under the live oak up by the house.  The poor things had been beaten down to the ground and were laid flat.  A cherry, a couple of peach, and one of the plum trees are popping blossoms.  The almond tree is definitely the worse for wear.  It seems so counterproductive to put forth this effort just when the weather is at its worst.  Is it that Nature likes a challenge, or what?

Hit and miss all day, the rain let up around sundown.  My own challenge was getting around in the chicken pens, slipping and sliding and trying to stay upright as I tucked the little kids in for the night.  The goats raced me to the barn, Poppy lumbering in what for her was high gear.  No problem getting them into their rooms; they darned near pushed me out of the way as soon as I opened their doors.

Okay...a couple of glitches here and was still a good day.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Light My Fire!

Jim Morrison should have gotten royalties, I sang his song so many times yesterday as I fought with the wood stove and the wind.  Once engaged in battle, I couldn't leave the living room and so was late getting to the coops and barn.  I will admit it was one of those mornings when the thought of raising little furry hamsters in the house was more appealing than goats outside.  The fire finally did catch and hold and I geared up and went out.  For starters, the wind had rattled the latch loose on the big chicken coop; the door was wide open and rain had blown in.  The little kids were huddled back in the corner and came running for reassurance when I took them their breakfast.  (Or maybe they just came running for breakfast.)  Down in the goat barn, the wind howled under the open eaves of the metal roof and the rain beat down like kettledrums.  The girls had to be forced outside once they'd eaten and been milked.  I didn't blame them, but had no option.  I did leave the covered "playpen" area open for them for protection, and they had Louie's old room to get in out of the rain.

The rest of the day was anticlimactic after that frenetic beginning.  The wind had sucked every bit of stored heat out through the open doors, so even though the wood stove was finally doing its best, the house was freezing for most of the day.  There was nothing for it but to curl up under an afghan with a hot drink and a new book and read and nap for the afternoon, looking up to see the rain blowing sideways.  It all eased up toward evening, but just as I was ready to step outside to put the kids to bed, it gave one last blow and downpour just to prove who was in charge.  It wasn't me.