Monday, April 30, 2012

Making Mountains

Seems to me I said something about needing to rake leaves.  Um hmm.  No time like the present, sez I, so out I went in the afternoon to get a start on the project.  My ever-present companions thought this was great fun.  Frank and Pearl seem enchanted by the rustle of dry leaves, and have to inspect under every rake load.  Bessie Anne just likes to flop on the cool dirt uncovered.  It actually felt good to pop a sweat after a winter of house-bound inactivity, and satisfying to watch the mountain of leaves build.
I will need to hold those good thoughts, as that mountain is just the tip of the iceberg.  All those leaves came from just the one area under the hedge (which needs trimming) in front of the house.  I haven't begun to touch the herb garden or the area beneath the lilacs or along the driveway or.... This really is a job that needs to be viewed in the small picture, as the larger is just too daunting.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

One Thing Leads...

Having picked up all those twigs and branches from the front yard, the next logical step was to mow it.  So I did.  This time of year is the best.  On any given day, the weather is perfect, trees are in blossom, flowers (if I had any) would be blooming, and, if I squint my eyes just so, I get the illusion that all this neatly trimmed green stuff is actually a lawn.  Mowing the yards is even more satisfying than hanging laundry on the line and a better excuse to be outside longer.  Back in the house, I found myself wandering from room to room just so I could look out at the results of my efforts.  I gave myself a case of the guilts for showing favoritism for outdoors over in- and broke down and dusted, that way I could watch NASCAR with a clear conscience.  Walking out at dusk, I noted all the leaves still covering the herb garden.  Just thinking "garden" took my eyes to the vegetable garden, thick with weeds.  Who knows where this will all end.

Oh!  I'd mentioned barn swallows yesterday.  As if I'd conjured them from thin air, a pair appeared as I was on my morning walkabout, swooping just off the railing.  Could it be?  Bess and I strolled down the hill to take a look and sure enough, the birds have started building on the crossbeams under the deck.  Clever little things, they'll be high enough to be safe from the cats, and they're in an area that won't get flooded when I water the potted plants above.  It'll be nice to have new neighbors.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Live and Learn

Shortly after posting yesterday's entry, I went out to the deck refrigerator (purchased last month) where the milk and eggs are stored, only to find the refrigerator was dead.  No lights, no humming.  Same symptoms as the previous fridge.  So much for high hopes for the day.  I called the appliance store.  "Did you check the breaker?"  I'd already done that.  "Is there a GFI (ground fault interrupter)?"  I didn't think so.  "Get a lamp and plug it into the socket to see if that works."  I got a lamp, but the plug for the fridge was hard to remove.  And then I saw it.  There was a GFI!  Plain white, not the red and black I was used to in the house.  Pushed the little button and voila!  Appliance Guy explained patiently that one could not run a refrigerator on a socket with a GFI.  I explained to him, just as patiently, that a refrigerator had been plugged in there for the previous eleven years.  "Oh."  It seems I had prematurely pronounced the old fridge dead.  I moved the plug over to the other socket.  I won't make that mistake again.

Hopes raised once more, a good portion of the sunny afternoon was spent picking up fallen branches in the front yard.  There were fewer this year than last; only one heaping cartfull to haul to the burn pile.  Except it's too late to burn, not because of fire danger, but because the birds have already built their nests in the thicket.  They've also constructed their nurseries on the beams in the barn.  I've watched them gathering grasses and fluff and tucking them away in the corners high up.  There's a regular colony up there.  I wish the barn swallows would follow the sparrows' example.  The cats rarely go down to the goat barn, whereas they always hang out in the feed barn where we had the swallows tragedy last year.  In this case, it would be learn and live.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Fact Or Fiction

With all of the trials and tribulations yesterday, I also had to make a run to town, something I love to do (she said sarcastically).  However, as I rounded a bend on Pleasant Valley Road, there was a dogwood tree full of gorgeous white blossoms.  Local legend has it that there will be one more snow after the dogwoods bloom.  I've found it to be so in the past, but we'll see.  It's getting pretty late in the season for snow.

There are many trees in bloom right now, girls in frilly pink or white dresses standing with their tall pine escorts wearing green.  There is a low-growing, thorny bush that I know only as buckbrush, and even that has put out white flowers.  Only one manzanita bush grows here; it has pink blossoms.  It's as if each plant is vying for attention, probably from bees, but they certainly have me looking.

Birds are calling, the sun is coming up, it's not raining.  I have high hopes for today.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Domino Effect

Gonna give this a try.  It's been a helluva morning.  Started out well.  Coffee, back to the computer, wrote the blog, tried to publish it...and then it all went down hill.  Started getting funky messages, all pertaining to failure of browser to connect to website.  I'm not totally computer illiterate, but nothing I knew to do would fix the problem.  Chickens have been fed and freed from the coops, goats have been milked and released into the pen, Thursday milk buyer has been here and gone...all late, late, late.  My fault and nobody else's.  Those who do not smoke will not appreciate the added frustration of running out of cigarettes.  Two days of rain have left the fields soggy and I'm wet to the knees, squelching around in sodden socks from slogging through the thick grass.

Received a call from Judy and text messages from Linda and Kathryn asking if I were okay because of no blog entry.  It's more than comforting to know that 1) the blog is being read and 2) I'm being watched over by caring friends, and not necessarily in that order.

Other than I'm ready to spit nails, all is well at Farview Farm. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Open and Shut

Open the windows.  Shut the windows.  Open, shut.  Open, shut.  It's that time of year and the windows are my only means of air conditioning as the temperature soars, then plummets.  It's my springtime exercise program.

My friend Arden and her little dog Audrey accepted an impromptu invitation to lunch yesterday.  I must give Bessie Anne extra points; she's the Perle Mesta of the dog world.  She graciously allowed Audrey to root through her toy basket and pick one of her favorites to toss and chew.  She shared her bowl of dog food; after all, the invitation was for lunch.  Audrey, for her part, was the perfect guest.  She did not invade Frank's downstairs sanctuary (Pearl wisely stayed out in the feed barn), and she asked appropriately to be taken outside when the need was there.  Oh, yes, and Arden behaved herself, too.  I'm teasing, of course.  Arden is one of my "bestest" friends.  We never run out of topics for conversation.

It doesn't look like the predicted rain is going to come today.  I'll have to open the windows.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Goldilocks Day

Like Baby Bear's bed, yesterday was "just right."  Not too hot, not too cold, breeze and not wind; just right.  Kellan and Will wanted to make an unscheduled poop scoop.  We'd thought it might be best if they came before I let the goats out of the barn since they're taking it out of Nineteen's old stall, so we got an early start on the day.  It was a good idea, but we're going to have to go to Plan B next time.  It worked well for the people involved, but it threw the girls into a tizzy and after Kellan and William left, their truck laden with "product," the routine went to pot.  I coaxed, I cajoled, I begged, and I cussed as I tried to get reluctant goats into the milking room.  Sheila and I made three trips around the barn before she finally stepped inside.  Inga would go so far as to put her nose in the doorway, I'd hold my breath, and then she'd snort and pull back...again and again.  That early start was for naught.

In the afternoon, the chickens went hysterical, all of them screaming at the top of their lungs.  Bess and I went to investigate and couldn't find the source of their panic.  I did notice, however, that the bracken had grown to four feet surrounding the pens and would hide predators.  The little girls aren't free ranging anymore, but I didn't want to give wild things any ideas.  Bracken is much easier to deal with when green as those billions of painful pointy seeds aren't present.  (Note to self:  pull all bracken earlier next year.)  Pearl would move ahead of me into the tall stuff and lie in wait.  Blake's "Tyger!  Tyger!" kept going through my mind.  I don't know what game she was playing, but she obviously thought it was fun.  Behind me, Bessie Anne would flop down onto the newly exposed cool earth.  After clearing a three-foot swath around both pens, I felt I'd earned a nap so the three of us went back to the house.

With the sun passing over the yardarm and not wanting to waste such a beautiful day, I fired up the mower later and spent a few hours going around and around and up and down.  It's a good thing I did, as the weeds on the west point and the back yard were, in a week's time, thick enough already to slow the blades.  Doing a mindless, repetitive task is an opportunity to notice the little things.  The huge wisteria in the garden has started decorating with purple pagoda bells.  Lizards, large and small, sun themselves, unmindful of the machine roaring past, while tiny frogs flee for their lives.  Baby Blue Eyes and other wild flowers are peeping out.  Tree Guy is beginning to make me think of Colonel Flagg (in M.A.S.H.), who "comes and goes like the wind."  I really, really need him to finish up the wood piles in the side yard before the weeds get unmanageable there.  It's nearly impossible to mow around the scattered logs and unsplit rounds.  The front yard is my fault; I need to pull the wagon around and pick up the dropped branches.  The weeds there are not as high or thick yet (that's my excuse and I'm stickin' to it).

All in all, I'd say it was a "just right" day, start to finish.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Big Bang

The day started off with a bang.  I was enjoying an early morning phone chat with my daughter Deb when there was a huge whump! that shook the windows, followed by a sound like rolling thunder.  What the heck was that?!  Had it not been for the after-sound, I'd have thought it was a very nearby tree going down.  California born and bred, I've been in any number of earthquakes, but this was not an earthquake.  A little later, Judy and I conferred and finally decided it was going to be another of life's mysteries.  I went about getting ready for chores and then Judy called again.  It had been on the news:  it was a meteor!  Being Sunday, I had to wait for the five o'clock news for details, but in my mind I envisioned another Crater Lake being formed.  Turns out the sound was the sonic boom as the meteor passed overhead and fragmented into rubble.  Others had actually seen it pass over.  That sucker had to have been close!  One mystery solved.

In the afternoon, I heard an unfortunately familiar thump on the big window in the living room.  It does happen that birds will hit the glass.  I always go out to see because if the bird is just stunned, I will move it to a safe place to recover just in case one of the cats is looking for easy pickings.  Yesterday, this little jewel of a bird was lying on its back and I thought perhaps it was beyond saving.  Looking closer, I could see a beady little eye looking back at me.  I turned it over so the tiny lungs would have a better chance and in a minute, he stood up to get his bearings.  He and I sat together for some time before he regained his senses and flew off.

I like happy endings.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

All Rise!

The sun is rising earlier; it's light enough to see by five-thirty now.  The temperature has soared twenty or thirty degrees in the last couple of days, well into the eighties, pushing hard on ninety.  Wasps are out in large numbers, hovering up by the eaves of the house and the barn, looking for likely nest sites.  All the windows are up and open wide day and night.  All that grass I mowed down last week?  It's shot up at least six inches.  The best sign of the changing weather is the tan on my arms that is rising like flood waters in the levees.  The high-water mark starts with hands and wrists, moves up to forearms, then a bit above the elbows as long sleeves are pushed higher, and, if today is anything like yesterday, I may have to go the full monty and put on a tank top.  It's perfectly appropriate that we move on into summer; I just wish it didn't happen in two days.  I don't acclimate that quickly.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Second Seating

Back in the day, my family took a lot of train trips, some short, more longer.  We traveled down to Mexico City by train, and across the United States from California to Louisiana.  It was a great way for a kid to travel because I wasn't confined to the back seat for endless miles in the car.  When mealtime approached, a white-coated porter would traverse the length of the train, bonging on a mini-xylophone.  This was before airplanes became the favored mode, so there were many passengers and that required two seatings in the dining car.

Bent Tail popped his head up out of his recently cleaned burrow and waited there patiently the entire time I was milking Inga.  It was as if he was willing me to hurry up and sound the gong for the second seating for breakfast (the mice were already at table, busily munching fallen grain by my feet).  Just another mouth to feed.

Friday, April 20, 2012

They've Taken Over

Like some legends, I am in control only in my own mind.  As Pearl and I went out to throw down the bird seed, this big tom turkey came running out from behind the oak.  As these birds are normally skittish, it was somewhat startling when he kept coming at us.  I thought he'd take off when I scattered the seed.  Silly me, that's what he came for!  I have to change where I throw the seed daily, as the undergrounders come up for their breakfast, too.  I won't be too surprised if some morning there's a head popped up in every hole, mouth wide open, saying, "Just put it here, lady."
The strangest part of this episode with the turkey is that he stayed around all day, parading back and forth in the driveway in front of the house.  Is he an outcast?  Is he a scout for a flock?  Is he moving in?

The mice in the barn don't wait for me to leave before climbing into the feed bucket.  Between milkers, I set the bucket up on a shelf.  The barn birds swoop so close their wings ruffle my hair as they go to rummage around in the pail while I'm otherwise occupied.  Now I have to look before scooping out breakfast for the next girl up because there might be a mouse in there.  I've got to either tip the bucket or lift out the little creatures.
The voles would do better to stay in their burrows.  There is a glut on the market right now, so much so that the cats are eating just the choicest cuts, leaving the remainder on the porch, on the drive, on the deck for me to clean up.

I live to serve.  I'm not in charge.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

New Developments

The farm is becoming a condo complex.  Construction is going on everywhere.  Supervisors keep a sharp eye on all activities, sounding little whistles of warning should a worker slack off or veer off track.  I would not object to my new neighbors if they would just stay within the confines of their allotted sites, but I do take exception when they encroach upon my personal space.  Daily, I kick dirt back down the holes that appear overnight in the barn, or stuff them with goat poop.  Not easily deterred, these little excavators just move the entrance to their living quarters over a foot or two and make it even bigger.  The danged ground squirrels have taken it a step too far now.  Two sets of squatters have moved in under the porch.  They seem to think they own the place.  With the better weather, I leave the front door open and, looking out, there are squirrels sitting on my veranda enjoying my view!  I've darned near got to kick them out of the way as I come and go.  I wonder if I could claim them as dependents.

I had to restrain myself yesterday.  There, in big, bold letters on the door to the feed store, was a sign, "Chicks are here!"  Down in the valley, that might indicate the beginning of Happy Hour.  Up here, well, it just means that the first delivery of baby chicks had arrived.  The little ones are kept downstairs and it was so tempting to go down, just for a look.  I know me, though, and I'd come back up with a dozen or so of the dear little things.  I have no self-control in these matters.  Eggs from the girls I have are piling up in the refrigerator as it is.  Turning away from temptation, I got what I came for and that's all...this time. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wild Child

Sugar and spice and everything nice; that's what little girls are made of.
Snips and snails and puppy dog tails; that's what little boys are made of.

I always thought boys got the better deal.  It seemed expected that boys would get dirty.  They could take their shirts off in the summertime.  Spitting the farthest was applauded.  Their games involved pretend guns and swords and mayhem.  A quick once over with a damp comb and they were ready for company.  Trees were meant for boys to climb and puddles were meant to stomp.

I can still see my mother's face when she found me watching snails crawl on my arm as I tried to figure out their method of locomotion or at the fair with snakes wrapped around my neck at one of the exhibits.  One Halloween, I'd dressed up like a boy and trick-or-treating at one house, the boy's father invited me to join the Boy Scouts.  I was ecstatic until my father had to go the next day and explain why I couldn't sign up.  Later, I was a Girl Scout and stayed in the troop as long as they were doing the camping and outdoor stuff, and quit as soon as they started working on the "girly" badges.  I had to be bribed to put on a dress for any reason other than school.  In high school, I definitely appreciated the differences, but still hung out with the guys.  They talked about the really interesting stuff:  cars, tools, sports.  They didn't gossip.  Tony, a shy kid who lived down the street, came from a poor family and his hygiene wasn't the greatest, but he was accepted for exactly who he was.

All of this by way of saying I have the best of all worlds here for a girl such as I was.  I can do all of those "sugar and spice" things now when the mood takes me, but I can get down and dirty with the animals and it's accepted.  I don't throw a hizzyfit if Bessie drags up a deer haunch.  I can shoot guns and carry a knife.  I have women friends who become more dear to me each year.  I can still hang out with the guys and talk tractors and engines.  I still appreciate snakes, while watching out for the rattlers, and am surrounded by fascinating wildlife.  I'm past the age of climbing trees, but I think about it now and then.  (I do leave my shirt on in the summertime.) 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Back Again

It's not a bad thing that spring is taking its time in coming.  For sure, I need to ease into the gardening routine.  A couple of hours on the mower and weeding just one tub gave me a backache that required a day of sitting to recover.  The morning had promised a beautiful day, then the cloud cover moved in and took away whatever guilt I might have had for plunking down in front of the television after barn chores.

I did make a run up to the market in Pleasant Valley in the afternoon.  The store was abuzz, all of the checkers chattering about the crime spree of the night before.  It seemed that a couple of ambitious thieves had stolen a forklift from the hardware store across the road, driven it over to the market, crashed through the doors, and attempted to steal the huge safe inside.  Thwarted by the immense weight, this daring duo stole six packs of cigarettes (not even cartons!) and took off.  Ambitious, yes.  Smart, not so much.  They wore masks, but not gloves, and left fingerprints everywhere.  Pretty exciting stuff for a small town.

Moving a little better today, I need to get the trash down to the big road.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Caught A Break

Earlier in the day I was bemoaning the fact that NASCAR had had a Saturday night race and therefore my Sunday and the rest of the week would be thrown off track.  I didn't realize it would be a blessing in disguise.  I had taken my turn around the deck; there wasn't much warmth in that morning sun breaking through.  However, by the time I'd finished in the barn the ground was littered with goats, sheep, dog, and cats, all stretched out and basking after days of rain.  Naturally, I grabbed a book and went out to get my share of those rays.  After noon, the pull to work outside became too strong and I fired up the mower.  The grass/weeds had dried sufficiently to start cutting it down.  A bluebird day, a cooling breeze, the smell of new-mown grass and the peppery scent of just doesn't get much better than that.  Still too nice to go inside after I'd put the tractor back in the shed, Bessie and I went out to the garden where I weeded out one of the tubs.  It was the kind of day that gets one enthused about planting.  That's a while off yet, but it couldn't hurt anything but my back to get a jump on it.  Heading back to the house, I dropped off greens for the chickens.  There's a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment from working outside that dusting never gives.  I was ever so happy at the end of the day that NASCAR had given me the wave-around. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

There's A Limit

It's a bit like providing valet parking for bank robbers.  Every morning I find one or two, sometimes five or six, mice in the covered grain bucket hung high on the wall.  Acrobatic little devils that they are, they chewed an entrance hole just under the top edge.  It used to be that they'd leap out like popcorn and scatter when I pried off the lid.  The last few days, there they sit in the bucket, waiting for me to pick them up and set them free.  I don't know whether they've eaten themselves into a stupor or if they just want better service.

And there's another thing.  Mouse Mama is still working on her nest behind the old curry brush.  Trying to be a good neighbor and help out, I've been putting bits of fluff down for her after grooming the girls and I put her brush back if it falls off the shelf.  But, yesterday I found that she's started nibbling on the new brush.  That is going too far and we're going to have to have a talk.

Regardless of what I'm doing or how comfortably I might be ensconced in my recliner, I open the door for cats and dog (who cannot seem to organize and come and go as a unit).  I open the treat drawer and go to the milk bone box when requested.  I hurry to put out seed for the birds who hang about tapping their impatient toes in the morning.  I play ring-around-the-rosy with the goats.  I try to accommodate all the furred and feathered creatures here, but I must learn to set boundaries.  There's a limit!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Break Out

Tinka, my Fiddletown friend with the fabulous flower garden (how's that for alliteration?) called.  We compared and commiserated about our cases of cabin fever.  The earlier snows had not stuck in either of our locales.  We'd each gotten buckets of rain, forcing another day indoors.  There isn't much to do inside but housework; not a favorite activity for either of us.  Knowing that we need the rain doesn't stop the feeling that we're being held prisoners on house arrest.
A bit later, the sun broke out and Bessie Anne and I ran outside like kids at recess.  Pulling the knife I always carry out of my pocket, I went to work trimming back the biggest lavender bush in the front yard.  I'd started it some time ago and it's been bugging me ever since.  I could have finished it in one fell swoop if I'd used the hedge clippers, but cutting lavender back with a knife leaves my hands so wonderfully scented.   Bess coursed around the yard, checking out the newest ground squirrel burrows.  She looks so little out in the west field.  Those majestic clouds soon gathered forces and blocked out the sun, the cold wind kicked up again, and it was time to head back to the house.  Oh well.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Just Like A Woman

Nature simply couldn't make up her mind yesterday.  She blew in before dawn with howling wind and pouring rain and kept that up until I was finished in the barn.  Relenting, she parted the clouds and let the sun peek through when Kellan came for milk.  Nature is a wicked tease, though, because as Kellan was leaving, she dumped a bucket of rain on her head.  A little later, I had to go down to Mt. Aukum.  As if trying on new outfits, in the time it took to drive six miles I went through sunshine, hail, light mist, and a deluge.  The one constant all day was the cold.  Nature vacillated all afternoon between sun and rain, and it seemed to be tapering off (and that's what the weatherman had promised).  With the longer days, I've been putting the critters to bed around seven-thirty.  Along about five, Deb and Craig called.  They'd seen a warning on TV that a cell of really bad weather (including possible tornadoes) was moving up out of the lower valley into my area.  I had noticed that the sky was getting really black.  I'm no dummy.  Bess and I geared up and we went out to tuck everybody inside, early or not.  About seven, Nature hit us with her best shot.  As if everything during the day was just a preview of coming attractions, rain pounded down just before the hail started in earnest.  Turning on the deck lights, I watched as the boards were covered with white in a matter of minutes.  Thunder and lightning were so close, I started unplugging appliances.  The cats ran downstairs and Bessie huddled close.  I called Deb and Craig to thank them for the heads up; they'd saved me from a soaking.

It might seem I'm preoccupied with weather.  Down in the valley, bad weather was more of an inconvenience.  Up here, dealing with the animals and the property, our lives are pretty much dictated by Nature.  Regardless of what we plan, what we can do is determined by her.  Tree Guy had planned to fire up the burn piles yesterday.  Not.  I had planned to get the mower out and whack down the rapidly growing weeds.  Not.  I still have the barn door to fix.  Not.  I hope the old girl gets this temper tantrum out of her system soon.

It's raining SNOWING!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Oh, Happy Day!

I should have bought a lottery ticket.  I should have gone to Reno.  Jupiter must have been aligned with Mars because it was a day filled with good news, lifting my spirits that even the pouring rain could not dampen.  As soon as the morning's milk was strained, I raced into Placerville to get the truck smogged.  My good old workhorse is fourteen years old and I had my fingers crossed.  The truck of the man ahead of me failed the test and I eavesdropped enough to hear the jaw-dropping total of what it would cost to fix the problems.  I crossed legs and toes.  I almost did a happy dance right there in the shop when I was told my truck passed!

I have been stressing for nearly a week over the summons to jury duty.  I believe in the system.  I also believe it behooves retired persons to serve.  For the most part, we have life experience, if not legal training.  For the most part, we have the time to give.  For the most part, serving does not create the hardships that are placed on those in the work force or mothers of small children.  I have sat on panels in the past and found the experience interesting and rewarding.  This time, I simply did not know how I was going to make it happen.  The logistics of getting the girls milked well before daylight with no electricity in the barn, the stalls (and myself) cleaned, and getting to Placerville on time were overwhelming.  There just aren't that many substitute goat milkers available, and I don't know any, period.  I had called and left a voice-mail message with the court last Friday.  The recorded voice had informed me that any request for an excuse must be in writing, and I promised I would provide same.  I hadn't had time to do it, but when I picked up the mail on my way back from town, lo and behold, there was a card saying that my request had been considered and granted and I am permanently excused from jury duty!  They must have heard the desperation in my voice.

Karin (my apologies for previously misspelling her name) called.  The tax packet had been received and processed and I will receive a modest refund.  I will wear out my shoes doing the happy dance!

To end the day on the same high note, I talked with a friend who's been going through a rough patch, and things are looking up for her.  Best of all, a family member of mine had had one of those onerous medical tests and had gotten a clean bill of health.

It was a good day.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Behind the Curve

The fates were against me.  I was late with everything I did yesterday and I swear it wasn't because I was doing my world-class procrastination.  (Well, that's not entirely true; I've already admitted to sleeping in until trash time.  I'll take the hit on that one.)  Early morning phone calls delayed me getting down to the barn and I was still milking when Tree Guy showed up unexpectedly.  He finished cleaning up the last of the debris from the fallen oak in the goat pen while I cleaned the last stalls and readied the nighttime snacks for the girls.

One thing everyone notices in my house (besides the collection of pigabilia) is the stacks and stacks of books everywhere.  There are filled bookcases in nearly every room, bags and boxes of books upstairs, and the long wall of shelves with over three thousand books downstairs.  While certainly willing to share, I'm very particular about to whom I will loan a book.  The book must be returned timely and in the same condition it left.  TG has started borrowing books for his wife (who meets the criteria above), and he wanted to swap read for unread for her.  This, of course, entailed a lengthy discussion of topics and authors so he could make an informed selection.  Four books in hand, he left.

That made me late getting to the feed store.  I wanted to get a supply of grain under cover before the rain came.  On the very narrow road to Mt. Aukum, I was able to swerve and avoid a large roadkill in  the middle of the lane because no cars were coming.  On the way back, I stopped to pull the big boar raccoon over to the side.  The small car headed in my direction would not have been able to either avoid or pass over it and was willing to wait for me to clear the road. 

Hurrying, I unloaded the goat chow and chicken feed so I could get back to the house before my milk customer arrived.  He had had quite a day for himself and wanted to tell about it, so I was late getting the kids tucked in until nearly dark.  It seems when one starts the day behind the curve, one is doomed to end there.

It wasn't until I awoke to the sound of heavy rain this morning that I remembered the fifty-pound bag of bird seed still in the bed of the truck, waiting to be taken to the other shed.  Drat.  Behind the eight-ball again.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


It appears that I procrastinate even in my sleep.  The only mornings that I really must wake up early are Tuesdays, so those are the days I wake up at six and have to make a mad dash to get the trash down to the big road.  Trash Guy and I met at the corner at the same time this morning.  An early memory is the sound of my father jingling coins in his pocket as a sign of his frustration because I was dragging my feet again.  At boarding school, I sat on the floor in the bathroom with a portable typewriter (the neolithic version of a laptop) on my lap, writing a term paper the night before it was due.  I finally got the tax packet in the mail to my CPA yesterday.  Even then, I missed a window of time.  The post office in River Pines closed some time ago; the portable building that housed it is completely gone.  The post office in Somerset now has just one employee and the entire office is closed for an hour for lunch!  I had other business in town, so rather than wait the half-hour until it reopened, I went on down to Diamond Springs and dropped off my mail there.

Leaving home at this time of year is made easier by the scenery on the drive.  Just because we don't fight freeway traffic doesn't mean we can zone out behind the wheel, however.  We have our own version of road hazards, including the multitudinous potholes and frost heaves in the pavement (where there's pavement).  A doe crossed in front of me.  Where there is one deer, there are liable to be others.  A pedestrian turkey dithered at the side of the road, made a hard left and dashed in front of the truck.  Missed him.  A little more winding and up-and-down hilly, the roads in this direction are just as lovely as the drive the other day down to Martell.  Another storm is predicted to hit tonight.  I kept an eye out for dogwoods in bloom, our forecasters for one more snow.  There are peaches and plums and other blossoming trees along the way, but nary a flowering dogwood.  Drat.  Even the trees are procrastinating.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Tradition, with Variations

I inherited the Easter menu from my mother.  I like it and have not seen reason to change it in the last fifty-odd years.  It's easy, little to no work, serves many, and it tastes good.  What more could one ask?  The dinner crowd was small this year:  Deb and Craig, and Cousin Mark and his lady, Dawn.  Time passes in a blink; not until we started counting did we realize it's been twelve years since Mark was here last.  It was Dawn's first visit.  I don't usually serve appetizers, but the dates stuffed with fresh goat cheese, wrapped with bacon, and broiled were such a hit at Christmas that I got the assembly line going on those little tidbits.  The combination of sweet, salty, and creamy is a real winner.  Another tweak to the menu was that instead of dyed hard-boiled Easter eggs, I brought out a jar of the spicy pickled Silkie eggs.  I can tell I'm going to have to make more of those.  In the past, Easter was one meal for which I would forgo salad, but Kellan and William had brought me a bag of mixed baby spring greens and pea shoots, sprinkled with bright yellow and orange flower petals and it was just too pretty not to share.  I tried a new recipe for dressing that was similar to a Caesar with Parmesan cheese that turned out really well.  I guess it's okay to try something new once in a while.  Something that never changes is my contentment when family is gathered at the table, or the pangs that strike when the last car drives down the hill.  "Love you!"

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sitting Up

When asked, "How are you?," a doctor I once knew would always respond, "Sitting up, taking nourishment, thanks."  After the tax-time trauma of the day before, yesterday was a day to sit in the sun, retreat into a book, keep the wood stove cranked up, and sip some of Judy's chicken soup.  Company is coming today, balm of another sort.  Easter dinner is the least taxing (there's that dreaded word again) of all holiday meals, so I shan't have to exert much effort there.  In other words, I'm recovering nicely.

Who would think to find thrill-seeking behavior in mice?  If there really is a mouse circus somewhere, I've got some contenders for the center ring.  Ruffles is sitting at the right corner of the door opening, having climbed there on the diagonal support (click the photo).  He's catching his breath before launching himself out into space like a bungee jumper without the bungee.  To see this once was startling; I thought he'd fallen and was sure I'd find him splatted on the ground.  To see him do this again and again was amazing.  There are tightrope walkers and rope climbers in my troupe, as well.  I have the best seat in the house for the smallest Greatest Show On Earth!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

War and Peace

Tax time makes me a crazy person.  Every year I swear I will prepare the packet of requested information and get it to Tax Guy in a timely fashion.  This year I was more organized than ever before, sorting receipts, totting up feed bills, etc., during that brief flurry of cleaning out the work room back in, what, February?  The dining room table was covered with stacks of papers; all that was needed was to enter the info on the worksheet.  Well, that didn't happen.  Company came and all those stacks got swept up into a pile and hidden.  Out of sight, out of mind.  I wish I knew how to do the taxes myself.  It's bad enough that I shoot myself in the foot; it's worse that I put an additional burden on Tax Guy and his team as collateral damage.  Guilt immobilizes me.  I know what I should do.  I know what I must do.  The closer a deadline looms, the guiltier I become and I move at a snail's pace.  There's something about taxes that sends me right into the Twilight Zone.  I will have a document right there in my hand, not leave the room, and suddenly that piece of paper disappears.  More time is spent hunting for something I just had than anything else.  Yesterday was do-or-die day, my personal get-'er-done deadline.  I was on a roll, entering figures on the worksheet like I knew what I was doing.  Then disaster struck.  The guv'mint, in its wisdom, has decreed that when one reaches a certain age, one must take out a specified amount from savings each year.  This makes no sense to me as there is always the possibility that one might outlive one's money; therefore one should save as much as possible.  It seems I overlooked this mandatory deduction from one account.  The penalty is a whopping fifty percent!  When I quit banging my head on the wall, I called Tax Guy's office to (1) ask forgiveness for being so late and (2) find out if anything could be done about this deduction debacle.  I started out saying, "I need help, but I wish to remain anonymous."  It should be said that I talk to the gals in the office only once a year.  Just a couple of sentences later, Cathy laughingly asked, "Is this (Bo)?"  Busted.  She granted me dispensation for tardiness, and then handed the phone to Karen, my main source of help and information.  Amazingly, she remembers all about the critters on the farm and asked about them all.  Sympathetic as she was, the Feds are the Feds and I'll get hit with the penalty.  Sheesh.

Rattled and ragged, it was wonderful to go to Joel and Judy's for Passover dinner last night.  Hugged by friends and handed a glass (or two) of wine by my host and hostess, I was able to let it go and relax.  I would say I am a spiritual person, but not religious.  Participating in the reading of the Haggadah, however, is comforting.  Having been raised in a different religion, I still appreciate the ceremonies and rituals of faith...and the food!  Nourished in body and soul, I enjoyed the evening tremendously.

And then I came home and found a notice that I've been called for jury duty.  It was just one of those days.

Friday, April 6, 2012


I don't hear voices.  I hear music.  I usually wake up with some song or other playing in my head.  That cerebral radio is tuned to a music station all day long.  Looking at this view to the east from the as-yet-unrepaired barn door yesterday, I could hear Harry Belafonte belting out "Great Gettin' Up Mornin'."  That small dark speck in the grass just under the top bar of the gate is a ground squirrel who was also enjoying the scenery.  (Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

Kellan and William arrived to pick up milk, eggs, and a load of poop.  (Some shopping list!)  They came bearing assorted baby salad greens, sprinkled with edible flower petals, and bok choy (pak choi) from their organic garden.  They also had a proposal for my consideration.  They raise pigs on their farm.  They know I go grocery shopping but once a month.  In return for any extra milk and old eggs (I cannot use or sell all that the girls produce) for their pigs, Kellan and William would bring me a weekly supply of fresh vegetables.  The words were barely out of their mouths before I said yes!  I could really get into this barter thing.  I always feel so guilty when unused milk goes down the drain or eggs go into the trash.  I get ravenous for fresh vegetables, gorging the week after a shopping trip and doing without the rest of the month.  Talk about a win-win situation, I'm drooling with anticipation.  ("Anticipation," Carly Simon.)

The day had been sunny and bright, but darned cold.  I don't know what it is about sundown or why there is just that one band of clouds, but again there are those visible isolated areas of rainfall.  "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head," from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  I never know what I'm going to hear next, but I like what I hear.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Alpha and Omega

The day began with an attempted break in.  In just one afternoon, the girls had enlarged the hole in the barn door to the point that Tessie (the unicorn), on her knees, thought she could sneak into the milking room.  Thwarted, she went off in a huff, but that didn't prevent others coming by to assess their chances, peering in at the milking activities and eyeing the grain bucket.

Regardless of anything else on my agenda, I had to get some plywood.  The twenty-five-mile drive down to Martell is one of the prettiest, especially at this time of year on a sunny day.  The rolling hills are green, green, green!, dotted with old oaks, sprinkled with red Hereford, black Angus, and creamy Charolais cattle, with splashes of bright yellow wild mustard at the sides of the road.  Puffy white clouds in a blue sky overhead.  The old road still dips down into Dry Town, but a new, much wider addition bypasses Amador City and Sutter Creek.  On the way home, with fix-it material cut to size and stuffed into the back compartment of the truck, I stopped in Plymouth (aka Pokerville) for gas (yikes!) and groceries.  Up here, one does as many errands as possible on an outing.  That stop will save me another trip to town in the other direction.  It did, however, get me home too late to make the repairs on the barn door.

Some poor sucker drew the unlucky number at sundown, because it sure was raining on their parade somewhere.  It's not often one sees such an isolated rainfall.  Those puffy whites of the afternoon were getting organized in the west.

Topping up the water trough is my last chore of the day.  Looking up, wisps of clouds were drifting over the face of the full moon and reflecting in the trough.  Although I sometimes feel as though I live on another planet, this isn't Mars.  The second moon is just an aberration of my camera (sure is pretty, though).

It was a good day.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

In the Company of Men

In the military, a company consists of 80-225 men.  The men in my company at Farview yesterday were four.  Clay arrived shortly after morning chores.  We took advantage of the gorgeous day to stand in the sunshine on the deck and talk, later moving over to chairs in the shade.  It had been a rough week for Clay.  I could see him visibly relax as Farview worked its magic.  There's just something about the views and country sounds here that ease the spirit.  Earle showed up to get his milk and eggs and he, too,  sat down to chat.  He had business to discuss with Tree Guy, so I made a call and TG came over.  Beer and sodas were passed around and a party spirit prevailed.  Some time later, Earle and TG left to determine what work was in the offing at Earle's property.  Joel had recently given me a jar of home-grown tomatoes he'd canned with red bell peppers, also from his garden.  That was the inspiration for an early dinner of Creole shrimp and rice.  Clay and I had just finished the last bite (delicious, and, yes, I am bragging) when Tom popped in for a beer and talk at the table, and a gallon of milk to take home at sundown.

Clay and I went out to tuck the chickens and goats in bed, I wearing my hard hat with the bright lights.  With just a rim of red sunset at the horizon and a full moon appearing once and again behind gathering rain clouds overhead, we stood in the quiet and watched bats flitting after bugs drawn by the beams from my hat.  Without the lights, we'd never have known the bats were there, swooping so close in the night.  Throughout the day we'd talked of family and friends, those who'd left us and those with us still.  The first raindrops pattered as he closed his car door and waved goodbye.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

If I'm Lyin'...

A rumor has been bandied about that I might exaggerate when talking about the girls.  I offer this as proof positive that I speak the truth, the "hole" truth, in the case of the rapidly disappearing barn door.  An unidentified miscreant was at work on a peek hole higher up, caught by the security camera in the milking room.

There are two sides to every story.  On advice of legal counsel, Cindy declined to speak for publication, but she insisted I show this picture depicting her innocence.  She has no priors for vandalism, but she is accused of guilt by association and being an accessory to the crime, acting as a lookout.  Esther, believed to be the ringleader of the gang, was not available for comment.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Loose Ends

Goats, my goats at least, suffer from OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder).  The girls will fixate on something and worry it until it's gone.  In particular, they do not like loose ends.  Guests who wear designer clothing with those fancy little label tags find themselves being plucked like a bass violin as the goats try to remove the tags.  I really need a few days of sunshine soon because I've got to go get a sheet of plywood to replace the bottom half of the Dutch door to the milking room.  Steve made a tactical error when he used OSB (oriented strand board) to make that door.  We were both new to goats back then and didn't realize why this would be a mistake.  OSB is made of compressed wood chips and, over time, moisture will cause bits of chips to raise and stick out.  That happened to the door and the goats got to work, pulling off those pesky tags.  They can't help it; the urge is great and beyond their control.  A few small holes appeared in the door as the girls tugged at the softer bits.  Okay, no big deal.  But, as the holes at the bottom got larger, the obsession also grew.  Esther, especially, found that she could break off pieces from the edges.  I hear her gnawing away like a beaver as I'm milking and yelling, "Quit!"  Like that does any good.  Holes started as the size of a mouse, then a squirrel, and what with the latest rain and the soft wood, the hole at the bottom now would allow entry to a baby bear.  Yesterday she was breaking off pieces the size of saucers.  If I don't get that panel replaced soon, there won't be any door at all and the girls will come and go into the milking room at will.  Trust me, that would not be fun (for me).  And that doesn't address the cold wind and/or rain that comes whistling in.  Some chores on the To-Do list can wait.  I must tie up this loose end...with finished plywood.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Some Days Are Stones

Another early morning call.  "Hey, Tim!  How's our boy?"  Tim had phoned to let me know Eight Ball had just died.  My heart dropped like a rock.  It seemed the little kid had been fine during the night and had been taking milk, but then faded, went comatose, and died.  Tim, doing his best, had tried chest compression and mouth-to-nose breathing, but it didn't help.  I had thought Eight Ball was just a few days old; he was a couple of weeks old and I don't know how long he had been without nourishment when he was brought here.  In retrospect, we should have added molasses to Cindy's warm milk.  Severe dehydration can cause ketoacidosis and death; sometimes an infusion of high sugar can help.  No matter how many animals one has, the loss of a single one hurts.  Eight Ball wasn't mine.  It still hurts.

The storm was fierce and raging, rain pounding and wind roaring like a freight train most of the day.  At times, snow mixed with the rain but was quickly washed away.  The front porch was wet all the way to the door, the stacked firewood soaked.  My bibbies were damp to the knee from rain blowing sideways.  The little bird-brained chickens had enough sense to stay in their coops, else they'd have been plastered up against the fencing like posters on a wall.  I got word that Clay's dad had died.  Due to a prior engagement, I had to turn down a visit from one of Steve's cousins.  A day that started badly just kept getting worse.

It's still raining this morning, but not as heavily.  From a walk around inside the house, looking out the windows, I don't see any tree damage from the wind (which has stopped).  I'm holding on to the hope that today will be a good day.