Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hold the Good Thought

Bessie Anne has had some complications and so spent last night in the veterinary hospital for tests.  She is in good hands.  Dr. Ric is a compassionate doctor and Courtney, the tech, has known and loved Bessie since her first visit for puppy shots.  I should be able to pick up my girl today, and will update the journal tomorrow.  Hold the good thought.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I Was This Close

"Drivers, start your engines!"  Every NASCAR race begins with those words.  I could hear the roar of the crowd as I fired up the little tractor yesterday.  I was thinking Daytona, but given the varied terrain, it was probably Infineon at Sonoma.  Because the mower has a right-hand throw, it was "Left turn, left turn, left turn" in the slowest race ever.  Up and down the driveway, around the obstacle course in the side yard, almost fell into the squirrel pits in the front yard, coming close to the wall in the back yard, heading to the west point and...just as I could see the white flag and the finish line ahead...I ran out of gas and got a DNF (did not finish).  Dang it!  Ah, well, that's racing. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Honor Guard

The flag snapped in the wind and bright sunshine yesterday, hanging from the flagpole at the corner of the deck.  Memorial Day.  One doesn't wish others a "Happy Memorial Day," as it is a day for reflection and reverence for those who died for their country.  There is a long history of military service in my family.  My great-grandfather's discharge papers from the Army of the Confederacy hang on my living room wall, my father was a soldier in World War I, and many others, including my sons, have served in ensuing conflicts.  We are fortunate in that all of our servicemen came home after their tour of duty.  I fly the flag on Memorial Day with respect for those who did not.

At sundown I went out to bring the flag in, and there in the front pasture were three deer.  I know I tend to read more into the actions of animals than may be there, but these deer faced the flag and stood motionless at attention until it was lowered and folded.  The bugle blowing "Taps" was just in my mind.  The honor guard was real.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Condo Living

All those nest builders in the barn have now become parents.  Where they once flew back and forth bringing building materials, they are now run ragged bringing breakfast for the babies.  The barn used to be a haven of peace and quiet while I milked; not any more.  It's like living in an apartment building with noisy neighbors.  Those babies never shut up!  Their constant yeep, yeep, yeep fills the air, driving the parents and me to distraction.  In relays, mother and father work incessantly to fill those demanding bottomless pits.  I can't think I'm the only one looking forward to "empty nest syndrome."

Bessie Anne is feeling better, enough to want to go outside with me for chores.  Her voice is hoarse and certainly not as effective as she might wish.  The pills she must take are given a half-hour apart morning and night.  After just these few days, when she sees me coming with a treat in one hand and the pill in the other, she gets up to leave the room.  I am relentless.  Four or five more days of this and it may turn her off treats for life.  It's still better than giving a pill to a cat!

Opening the door to let the cats in last night, I was hit in the face with the overpowering scent of skunk.  I don't know where those critters go in winter, but they're back!  I do not, will not, feed skunks (whatever it is they eat).  There is no more room in this inn. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Cold Day, Hot Dogs

We awoke again to drizzling skies and chill air.  Geared up as if it were January and not almost June, I had just started on the first milker when the rest of the herd, eating breakfast at the corner of the pen, threw up their heads, wheeled as one and thundered back to the barn.  Unbelievably, after what we went through not so many months ago, there were two of my neighbor's dogs again, running at the fence and barking at the goats.  I used my cell phone first for photos and then to call Animal Control.  The dogs eventually ran back to their own property.  Barn chores took longer than usual because the girls were spooked and reluctant to come into a confined space.  Later in the day, I received several hateful, accusatory text messages from my neighbor, who had apparently been hit with a hefty fine from Animal Control.

Bessie Anne is recuperating.  She doesn't care much for the two pills twice a day (and they are big pills), but the extra treats help.  She's also getting a soft diet to help her raw throat.  I could have made do with an extra jacket, but it was a cold day and I thought a fire might make her feel better and she snuggled close to the wood stove to snooze.  She could get used to this invalid routine.

The skies are clear this morning.  I'm hoping for a better day today.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Poor old Bessie Anne had a rough day yesterday.  I couldn't get an appointment with the vet for her until late afternoon so we had to wait it out.  She continued to hack and cough, didn't want to go outside, didn't want to eat or drink.  I got more and more worried and started to think of worst-case scenarios.  But then, as so often happens, by the time we drove to town and waited (and waited) our turn, she wasn't coughing anymore.  Dr. Ric always smiles when he sees Bessie; he says she's his only patient with dreadlocks (not matted, it's just the way her hair grows).  After a thorough checkup, it seems that whatever she'd swallowed, probably a foxtail, was gone, but that her throat was terribly inflamed and raw.  She's on a course of antibiotics and soft food.  Bess is so good about taking pills.  I pop one in her mouth and follow it immediately with one of her special treats; gone!  I do like a happy ending.

After a few false starts, it began raining in earnest in the afternoon and it got darned cold.  In a tank top the day before, yesterday I was back in a turtleneck sweater.  There were a few suspicious splats on the windshield, but not enough to qualify as snow on the dogwoods.  The grapes are far enough along that Joel was more worried about hail, which would have been devastating.  Dodged that bullet.

Bessie slept through the night, which meant I did too.  Another happy ending.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Damsels In Distress

The day started out so well.  Good weather, barn chores done early, milk strained and eggs washed.  Ready, set, go!  Kellan arrived first, a bunch of fragrant, beautiful sweet peas in her hand.  They were my brother-in-law's favorite flower and always bring him to mind.  We'd concluded our business, loaded her purchases into her car, and said goodbye.  Back in the house, I looked out and saw that Kellan was still in the driveway, hood up.  Oh dear.  Car would not start.  We tried everything in our limited automotive arsenal to no avail.  Just then, my second customer of the day drove up.  No problems there.  Kellan made arrangements with AAA to come tow the car to her house; a half-hour wait.  In half an hour, AAA called and explained it might be another hour and a half due to multiple calls for assistance and only three drivers.  I'm sure it put a crimp in Kellan's day.  It simply gave me more time to enjoy this young woman's company.  We went out among the hummers to enjoy the flowers and view from the deck and then had time for a snack before the tow truck pulled up.  When he maneuvered her car to hook up, wouldn't you know that the beastly thing started right up?  He had some suggestions as to why it had failed before and then, kind man that he was, said he would follow Kellan through Bucks Bar to her turnoff in case there was a further problem.  That's customer service!

Later, Judy had planned to come pick up some eggs and called to say she was on her way.  And then called back to say she wasn't.  She didn't know that Joel, without realizing, had taken her car to do errands of his own.  No problem, the eggs will be here when she gets here.

My own little lady, Bessie Anne, woke me at two-thirty last night, frantic to go outside.  She'd been coughing earlier in the day and I thought she might have swallowed a foxtail that got caught.  Robe, slippers, hard hat, leash, and we went out so she could self-medicate with grass.  She grazed and retched for two hours in the dark and cold before coming back in to get some sleep.  I fear we'll have to make a trip to the doctor's today, as she's still crying and coughing in between naps.  I'm hoping for the same happy ending as the other damsels had.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

My New Best Friend

We sat together in companionable silence.  I continued milking while my new friend took a break from her housekeeping chores and had a little snack, picking through the grain like it was a box of chocolates.  She'd earned her rest, continuing to make any number of forays into the field for fresh bedding for her new home.  Nutkin (just plain "Nutty") was making nice, evidently deciding that "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em."  She'd done her best to drive me away the day before, but not one of those ear-piercing chirps yesterday.  While accepting my presence, Nutty established her position, not budging an inch as I moved about with the milk buckets and switching out goats.  She is clearly in charge of her ground-level domain, and I can like it or lump it.

Overhead, the sparrows add the finishing touches to their apartments.  The one Silkie feather that appeared last week started a trend; jealous, other sparrow wives send their hubbies out to find such furbelows for their homes.  It's normal for these busy little birds to chatter as they work, but then suddenly the entire colony will begin screeching and cluster on the hog panels and I look for the intruder.  Blue jays are three or four times the size of the sparrows.  I don't know if they present a danger or are just unwelcome visitors, but they send the little birds into a tizzy.  I'll admit that the black band by the jay's eyes make it look like a bandit, and if something that size appeared in my doorway, I'd panic, too.

Like Ralph and Sam (from the Looney Tunes cartoons of the '50s), I imagine Nutty and I will clock in together this morning.  After all, we're friends now.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I heard the sound even before I opened the door to the milking room.  It got louder as I stepped inside, but I couldn't find the source and it seemed to drift from one spot to another.  I knew what it was, but not where.  Ground squirrels have the most irritating, high-pitched, unbelievably loud warning chirp, uttered with an annoying regularity that sets my teeth on edge.  The noise continued as I went about the business of letting the girls out and getting Cindy up on the stand and ready to milk.  And then I saw her, this little creature with the big attitude.  Far from being afraid of me, she was telling me in no uncertain terms that she had moved in and I was not welcome, and she told me to my face!  In addition to the burrow under the milking stand, she'd opened up this other tunnel, as well, which seems to be in use on several levels by the resident mice who poked their heads out to see what the fuss was about.  It's a regular apartment complex!
Neither of us was willing to back off, so we reached a tenuous detente and went on with our chores.  I continued to switch out goats, sit and milk, and rake out the stalls.  She made trip after trip outside, coming back in with her mouth stuffed with grasses for her nest, occasionally giving me a garbled chirp as she passed by.  These photos were not taken with telephoto; she's darned near running over my foot.

It's said that like begets like.  One of us is meshugana.  Or maybe it's just us.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bits and Bobs

It must happen innumerable times that go unnoticed.  It isn't until you rip a fingernail down into the quick that it becomes apparent just how many times a day you bang your fingers on something.  It seems I can't do anything without stubbing the injured finger.  In my mind's eye, that finger balloons like a cartoon hand, accompanied by the throbbing beat of a big bass drum.  Outwardly, like a paper cut, it's not an injury that will get much sympathy, but it hurts like the very devil and I'll be so glad when that little armor plate grows out again.

I received a notice from the vet that Bessie Anne is due for her annual checkup and inoculations.  This time they've also asked for a stool sample.  Now that presents a problem.  Bess is a private sort of girl and has ten acres in which to do her business unseen.  Not that there aren't plenty of "land mines" laying about, it's that they aren't identifiable as hers.  Coyotes using the driveway as a nighttime freeway frequently drop a calling card, and how do I know if a particular lump might not be that of another dog passing through?  It's not as if Bessie can produce on request.  Dogs can and will piddle anywhere and frequently, but that brings to mind a friend from years back who was told to obtain a midstream urine catch from her German shepherd.  They'd go out into the back yard, the dog would hike his leg, she would thrust a cup underneath, that would startle the dog and he'd drop his leg and the whole idea.  He got paranoid about going potty and was in danger of urinary retention.  She said she'd never felt so much like a pervert.  I'll have to ask the vet if this is a critically necessary test for Bess.  We may have to (pardon the pun) pass.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Better Late Than Never

Deb and Craig make so many occasions here even more special with flowers.  They brought this gorgeous armful for Mother's Day, and I'm just now putting it in the journal to share.

I had other photos from yesterday, Ruffles on the swinging rope and Poppy showing off her new hairdo, but lost them in transition to the computer and, trying to be efficient, had deleted them from the camera.  Some days are like that.

Bessie Anne moves with me wherever I go, from room to room, outdoors and in.  She got her exercise yesterday and must have thought I'd lost my mind.  I was working at the computer when Deb called to remind me about the solar eclipse.  It took a couple of tries (and trips outside) to get the pinhole-in-the-paper viewer right, and then I'd go out every so once in awhile to check the moon's progress in front of the sun.  It was amazing.  All Bess knew was that she'd be snoozing comfortably by my feet, have to get up and go out with me just to stand in the driveway, come back in...and do it all over again.

A friend asked if I'd started spinning Poppy's wool.  Not hardly.  It's a pretty lengthy process.  First I'll open up the fleece and pick out the really nasty clumps from around her backside and the short belly wool to throw away.  Then the fleece needs to be carefully washed.  I used to do it in batches by hand, but have found a way to use the machine to save time.  Water temperature is very important, but most important of all is that there be no agitation of the wool, lest one end up with a huge clump of unusable felt.  It takes a couple of washes and even more rinses to get a year's worth of dirt out.  The spin cycle on the washer helps, but then all that wool has to be spread out on sheets to dry thoroughly and turned over again and again.  Then it must be carded, something I'll do in fits and starts, working until my wrists ache.  A full fleece could take a month or more to card into usable rolags.  Only then will the wool be spun.  That will be a project for this winter.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Poppy's Spa Day

Timing it just right, Shearer Guy arrived in the early evening so he could give Poppy her summer "do" and pedicure in the shade, easier on both of them.  It also meant I could put the goats into the barn for the night, otherwise they'd have been poking their noses where they shouldn't and generally making pests of themselves.  After all, this was Poppy's spa day.  Shearer Guy isn't a big man, but he works so quickly and confidently that Poppy doesn't fight him at all.  Including the hoof trim, the entire job took less than ten minutes.  In the past, there have been shearers who took much longer and left Poppy looking like she'd been attacked by wolves.  SG has never nicked her once.  He makes no "second cuts" that leave short bits and pieces of wool, causing noils when spinning.  Her entire fleece rolls off as if in one piece, easy to bag up.  Poppy looks as relaxed as if she'd had a full-body massage.  When she got up to join Sheila in their stall, her short wool coat fairly oozed lanolin.

Until Shearer Guy arrived, it was a total race day, starting with the Pit Crew Challenge in the morning.  How six guys can change four tires, fill the tank with gas, run forty yards and then push a car back those forty yards in seconds, not minutes, seconds! is unbelievable.

Watching the Preakness was like watching a rerun of the Kentucky Derby.  "I'll Have Another" came from back in the field and beat "Bodemeister," who had run in front from the gate, again.  I can't wait for the last jewel in the Triple Crown at Belmont in three weeks.  It's been thirty-four years since a horse has won that honor.  Maybe this is the year, and "I'll Have Another" is the horse.

To top off the day, NASCAR ran the All-Star Race in the afternoon.  Not for points, this race is for bragging rights and a lot of money.  It's every man for himself and they go all out; it's just a lot of fun for drivers and spectators.

It was a good day!  (Just ask Poppy.)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Love Story

"I remember the exact moment I fell in love with her.  She was standing on stage in the auditorium at an assembly, singing 'Wayfaring Stranger.'"  My neighbor Dennis was a taciturn man, and this romantic statement surprised me.  I had gone up the road to visit Doris, his wife, my friend, who was terminally ill, and he and I were sitting outside in the dark, taking a break.  They had been high school sweethearts and married young.  The couple had three daughters and stayed married, living many years in Fair Play.  They were the first locals I met up here.  Doris and I became good buddies; she was up for any adventure.  Dennis was nothing but kind to me.  Doris died a couple of years ago, Dennis just last week.  I thought of his statement yesterday when I went to his "celebration."  They're buried together in the old Fair Play cemetery, still in the neighborhood, just over the hill.

Friday, May 18, 2012

More Perqs

Another perquisite of procrastination:  what with weather and one thing and another, I have not yet replaced the gnawed panel on the goat barn door.  The girls waiting their turn might occasionally poke their head through to see how things are progressing on the milking stand, but have stopped trying to force their way in.  The benefit to me of the gaping hole is that it allows a welcome cross breeze on hot days.  I may just hold off on that repair until the rainy season comes again.

I discovered a perq of a different sort this week.  It seems that in some cases one's eyesight gets better with advancing age.  After thirty-odd years of wearing bifocals, I now need glasses only for reading.  Following the optometrist's advice, I bought half a dozen pairs of "dollar store" glasses and sprinkled them throughout the house so I don't have to hunt when they're needed.  That's pretty cool.  I've had to adjust my routine, however, since reaching for my glasses was one of the first things I did in the morning.  I also have to get used to seeing my face without frames (eek!). 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Procrastination Plus(es)

There are some benefits to being a procrastinator of the first water (a phrase that means, in the days when the entire family bathed one after another in the same tub of water, due to my elevated status I'd get to go first while it was still hot and clean).  When I started working in the barn (twelve years ago; how can that be?), I was assiduous about the cobwebs, sweeping them from corners and rafters and keeping it neat and tidy.  Now the barn looks like I've decorated for Halloween.  The upside to this is that the cobwebs snare the flies and the wasps avoid building their nests where there are webs.  It's only when the webs get filled with dust and are no longer sticky and look more like hanging banners that I knock them down.

Time and tide may wait for no man, but I've found that if I put off buying something that I just must have, I usually didn't need it in the first place.  I've saved a bundle by not giving in immediately to temptation.  However, yesterday I had to buy a new pair of barn shoes, the soles having separated from the uppers on the old pair.  It was either start singing "Send In the Clowns" while wearing flapping shoes or go to the store.  There was just one pair left on the shelf like my old ones, so I was spared the agonies of having to choose a new style.  I absolutely hate to go shopping and would have delayed longer if I could, but some things just can't be put off.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Instant Gratification

It might take a long while to get there, but, believe me, there is gratification the instant I climb off the little tractor and look around at the huge expanse of newly mown green (I want to say "grass").  Like a sailor coming ashore, I stand on wobbling legs for a bit after taking on the west point.  There's a lot of time to think during this solitary chore.  Seems to me it's a lot like many things in life that might appear daunting at first.  You just have to take that first step.  Put your head down and get on with it.  You might miss a few places and have to go back and do it over; that's okay.  It might seem like all you're doing is going in circles and getting nowhere.  If you look closely though, there are so many beautiful things along the way.  In this case, red clover that draws the bumblebees, blue lupine, the many shades of green, the last purple wisteria on the vines, goats and sheep grazing quietly in the nearby pen, oak leaves dancing in the breeze.  Almost without realizing it, you make that last pass and the job is done.  That's satisfaction.

Back at the house, Bessie Anne at my feet and a cold beer in my hand, we sat on the porch to sniff the air and watch the sun go down.  Isn't it funny that "green" has a scent all its own?  Pearl was off doing something important, but Frank came to join us.  He may have wanted to go for a ride, but I'd made enough circles for the day.  That old red wagon has seen better days.  The bottom rusted out years ago and my son Dave welded a new plate on and replaced the hard tires.  I use that wagon all the time, hauling firewood to the porch, weeds to the burn pile, small stuff that is too heavy to carry.  It might not be pretty; so what?

There was one last chore before I could shut it down for the day.  The mower had to be washed.  I'd skipped this the last couple of times I'd mowed and it was in desperate need.  I just want to know, because it is so necessary to do, why the manufacturers made it so difficult.  Even the heaviest jet stream from the hose will not wash out the accumulated gunk, and it's almost impossible to get my hand into the nooks and crannies to pull it out.  Drenched with back spray and kneeling in mud, raising and lowering the blades, I finally got the little tractor ready for bed.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tale Of A Happy Tail

Who says dogs don't dream?  I was in my own dreamland at four this morning when I was awakened by a rhythmic thumping on the bed that got faster and faster.  It was startling to say the least, and it took me a minute in the dark to realize that what I was hearing and feeling was Bessie Anne's tail as she awaited the approach of some beloved person in her dream.  I would not have waked her from that joy for anything.  I've watched her paws move and heard sleepy little yips as she's chased some critter in a dream; maybe in her dreams she actually catches it.  I've also heard the whines and growls when the dreams went bad (I will touch her then to end the fear).  To dream requires imagination.  Who says they are "just" animals?

I made contact with the Sheep Shearer Guy and he's coming on Saturday to give Poppy her summer "do."  It's hard to hit the mark between too cold and too hot at this time of year.  Yesterday, although sunny, a stiff wind blew and I needed a jacket all day.  Poor old Poppy can't "layer;" with her, it's all or nothing.  She doesn't have a choice, but I'd rather she shiver for a few days than suffer with the heat in a thick wool coat, and it's catch-as-catch-can with the shearer.

I beat Trash Guy to the corner this morning.  It's going to be a good day!

Monday, May 14, 2012

No Place Like Home

Home is where the heart is.  Home is also wherever you can find room.  This is just one of the many above-ground homes currently under construction in the barn.  The subterranean dwellers are also building a community, both in the barn and in the field.  With ten acres, I'd thought I wouldn't have any close neighbors.  Silly me.  It's getting pretty crowded around here.

There's no rattier bunch of chickens than mine right now.  They're downright embarrassing.  Bare butts, necks, and backs abound.  Boys and girls alike are stripping down in their semi-annual moult.  Egg production drops at this time; last night I picked up only three.  Mad King George and Tzar Nicholas still prance around as if dressed in royal raiment, but look more like old dudes in Bermuda shorts and black dress socks and wingtips, and tattered, at that.  Oh, well, if you're going to run around in your skivvies, home is the place to do it.

Hand watering plants has been added to the chore list now that warm weather has arrived.  I shared deck space with the hummers in the early evening as I watered the potted plants.  I had to fill their feeders twice yesterday.  A person could have worse company.  Frank and Pearl were playing leapfrog with the tiny resident frogs in the pots.  Bessie Anne, my constant companion, alerted me to the deer resting in the tall grass on the north slope off the deck, not too far from where the turkeys feed.  I told her it was okay, the deer could stay, so she settled down to keep an eye on the stranger.  That was good, because even her bark did not disturb the deer, who was obviously settling in for the night in her home.

My heart is here.  There is room for all.  There's no place like home.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Good, Better, Best

Most of my days are good days, some better than others, and then there are the days shared with my Kids; those are the best.  Yesterday, a combined celebration of birthday/Mother's Day, was certainly one of the gold-star variety.  Deb arrived shortly after I'd finished with barn chores, then Dave, Larry, and Clay came roaring up on their motorcycles (my very own biker gang!).  There were some missing (and missed) persons:  Pete lives in southern California, Craig had to stay home and treat some bug that had laid him low, and Susan had a prior commitment.  Deb set to work and made huge bowls of guacamole and pico de gallo to go with the pulled pork and shredded chicken I had ready for a taco bar while I made a big pan of Spanish rice as a side dish and a lemon meringue pie for dessert.  For me, there's nothing better than being in the kitchen talking, laughing, cooking, sampling with those I love most on this earth.  (Okay, it's the best place to be even with strangers.  They can't stay strangers long when there's food involved.)  I received cards from family and friends, some that touched my heart and others that tickled my funny bone.

Who knew that tacos have as much tryptophan as turkey?  They must, because after eating, the boys (to me, they'll always be boys) went into the living room to turn on NASCAR and doze.  Deb and I used the quiet time to catch up on each other's news.  Later, Larry went out and got my weedeater going; he's not a NASCAR fan.  He and Deb had to leave early.  Dave and Clay stayed until the end of the race, which Clay's driver won.  Clay was happy.  Dave, not s'much.  As darkness fell, Bessie Anne and I stood in the driveway and watched as the last taillights blinked.

On a scale of one to ten, days with my Kids are twelves...the best.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Horse of a Different Color

Bessie Anne accepts with equanimity almost all the creatures on the farm.  She lies quietly outside the goat pen while I'm in the barn.  She no longer chases after deer, and lets the turkeys walk right by.  Except for bedtime, when she herds from the fence perimeter, she ignores the chickens.  With a long-suffering expression, she lets the cats rub up on her and wash her face.  Just to keep her hand in, she makes an occasional dash at a ground squirrel, but she knows she isn't going to catch one.  Horses hold no interest for her.  The critters that throw her for a loop, even after all the years they've lived next door, are my neighbor's llamas.  The Push Me-Pull Yous seem to surprise her every time and she gives a couple of barks whenever their heads appear on her horizon.  She looks at me with eyes that say, "What are they?"  For their part, the tall, arrogant llamas look down their patrician noses at my little girl and simply can't be bothered.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Going Green

"Going Green" is the in thing to do these days.  Heck, we up here have been doing it for years.  Even on the road, hill people are easy to identify and distinguish from traveling flatlanders.  We all drive green vehicles.  This is the time of year when the oaks coat everything with a mantle of sticky green pollen.  Even though I had done it the day before, I had to use the wash/wipe thingy again so I could see out of the windshield when I drove down to Mt. Aukum yesterday.  Chairs and tables on the deck--green.  Deck railing--green.  We take "going green" seriously.

Tree Guy did a good job yesterday of moving most of the cut wood out of the side yard, some to the wood pile, some to the burn pile (which he burned).  He also cleaned a lot of accumulated bark and other debris from under the oak (the one that is so generous with its pollen).  That meant it was my turn.  I spent the afternoon on the mower.  Front yard, side yard (finally!), driveway, back yard, over by the chicken pens as far as I could get.  'Round and 'round she goes; where she'll stop, nobody knows!  The sun was dropping when I shut it down, climbing off and stumbling back to the house.  There is no such thing as "even ground" here, and riding the mower is like spending hours on a bucking horse.  There's still the west point to tackle today, but I'd had it.

One more chore to do before sundown, taking down the sweet-smelling laundry from the line.  Bess and the cats lay on the newly mown grass while I unpinned and folded the clothes, and we all watched the deer in the front pasture.  It was a perfect ending to a pretty darned good day.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Time Warp

My usual cry is, "Where did the time go?!"  I've been getting down to the barn earlier in an attempt to beat the heat (ninety-four degrees yesterday in Diamond Springs), but getting back to the house later.  How could that be?  I knew I wasn't dawdling, actually hurrying a bit more.  It took a couple of days to figure out this time warp mystery.  It's the goats' fault!  It was a case of putting two and two together, or, in this case, two hundred and two hundred.  The girls have been feeding on the lush green grass in their pens and have jumped up their milk production to the point it's like milking an extra goat (or two).  Each girl accounts for an additional two- to three-hundred squirts and the milk is darned near filling both of the two-gallon buckets.  No wonder it's taking longer!

Because of the sudden rise in temperature, with no cooling down in the near future, I started taking off the window covers to allow a cross breeze in the barn.  It might get a little chilly for the girls at night, but it's the only way to survive in the (late) morning.  I think the dogwoods were off their game this year.  The possibility of another snow is pretty slim.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Neighborhood

One of the construction workers at the building site went into overload yesterday.  A male sparrow wearing a cap of rust-colored feathers and carrying a beakfull of grasses landed on the outer hog panel.  He sat there looking this way and that, occasionally giving a pathetic, muffled cheep.  He looked for all the world like a man coming out of Lowe's with a load of material, wondering where in heck he'd parked his truck.  With all the nest building going on, I think this guy has been working overtime and just forgot where he was supposed to deliver the goods.  He finally flew off around the outside of the barn, probably to meet up with an irate boss.

Birds aren't the only critters building nests in the barn.  The warm (make that hot) weather has brought out the paper wasps, yellowjackets, and mud daubers.  I am continually on the lookout for the start of nests in the corners and rafters, knocking down three or four every day now.  Wasps, like mosquitoes, are insects for which I can find no redeeming qualities.  Even the website I went to gave a halfhearted, apologetic, "Well, they do provide food for bears and birds."  There are no bears in this immediate vicinity and my birds want nothing to do with wasps.  Bees have an honest, hard-working hum; the buzzing of wasps is malevolent.  While I can admire the intricate chambers created by the paper wasps, I do not hesitate to mash them flat with the flat side of a hammer when I can reach them.  For the nests too high up, I've found a non-poisonous spray; the only kind I can use in the barn.

The barn swallows were evidently just looky-loos and have rejected our particular housing tract.  I've seen no sign of them moving in.  Darn it.  Well, I guess you just can't choose your neighbors.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

On and On

I don't think there's room in the barn for one more nest.  Every nook and cranny is stuffed with grasses, twigs, weeds (and Silkie feathers).  Sparrow seduction scenes continue to play out.  I can imagine the cacophony when those nests are filled with baby birds all yeeping for their breakfast.

The wipes bucket needed emptying again.  Not wanting a repeat of last month's tragedy, I took a trash bag down to the barn and started filling it slowly by hand.  Two mama mice leaped out of the bucket, so I know there are nests at the bottom.  I stopped when I uncovered a fresh earthworm, obviously brought in as a meal for the young ones, and left the rest of the wipes (and the babies) undisturbed.

I see the same mice again and again, so much so that I can identify individual characteristics.  I have a particular fondness for Squinty; he makes me smile every time.  Both eyes are open now, but still much smaller than the norm.  His ears stick out to the side instead of upright like his brethren, and he looks a lot like Dopey in Snow White.

Kellan and William came for the last load of poop from Nineteen's stall.  From now on there will just be the accumulated daily contributions from the girls; no end to that.   I got the word that their pigs are enjoying the buckets of unsold milk and are gaining the hoped-for weight.  I appreciate the fact that old milk is going to good use and not down the drain.  I also appreciate the oyster mushrooms they brought.  My Kids are coming up this weekend and I put in a request with K&W for more sunflower shoots.  Who would have thought that the tiny plants, pulled when there are just two leaves, would be so delicious?  William had suggested them for tacos.  I tried them recently and gorged myself; the texture and flavor are unbelievable.  The Kids are in for a real treat.

During cold, wet weather, anything that should be taken out to store in the sheds or barn gets put in the small room off the kitchen.  As with dust, I think something that sits around long enough belongs there.  I realized yesterday just how much had piled up and with the warm day, had no more excuses.  It took several trips.  Then, of course, I needed to reorganize the sheds so there'd be room for the new stuff.  Weeds had grown up through the "porch" boards in front of the sheds.  I had to stop to pull those.

It just goes on and on.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Shut Your Eyes (and Ears)

The barn is a hot and steamy place these days, and I'm not talking about temperature.  S-e-x is rampant.  It's not enough that the goats are taking out their frustrations in ongoing battles, now the birds are getting in on the act.  In the area of the dormitory next to the milking room, there is an unused shelf high up.  It has become a scene of seduction for the sparrows.  As the rooms are separated by half-walls and hog panels, I have no way of avoiding being a voyeur.  I don't know what line the male gives the female to entice her over to the bachelor pad, but he must be a pretty smooth talker.  I do know he keeps up a constant chatter, undoubtedly telling her of his undying love and that he will still respect her in the morning.  Surprisingly, he gently covers the female repeatedly, and she sits submissively waiting for him.  I'm more used to the action in the chicken pen, where the boys roughly grab the girls by the back of the neck to hold them down, the hen squawking bloody murder for the second or two the act takes.  The sparrows are definitely more gentlemanly in their approach.  They don't call them "love nests" for nothing.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Day At the Races

The butterflies came back yesterday, working hard to get a sip of nectar in a strong breeze.  I don't know if the darker one in the bottom photo is another species or just an anomaly of coloring for the tiger swallowtail.  The lilacs are a big buffet for all sorts of insects and birds, and I've got a front-row seat in the kitchen for all of the action.

Perhaps the barn swallows read this journal and took my suggestion.  Yesterday they appeared in, of all places, the barn!  Several swooped through the big dormitory room and others scoped out the back hallway, one waiting patiently on the closest fence line for me to finish filling the feed bucket at the end of my chores. The barn would be the safest place of all for them to construct their nests, and they'd be in good company.  Like women at a quilting bee, the nest-building sparrows chatter amongst themselves, sometimes with voices raised to the point of drowning out the swoosh of milk into the bucket.  What with the mice running over my feet on their way to do mouse business and the ground squirrels popping in and out of their burrows and the busy, busy birds overhead, the goats, Poppy, and I are in the minority in this little community.

I could have called this entry "The Lost Weekend."  No, not spent in an alcoholic haze like the old Ray Milland movie, just sitting in front of the TV watching races (hence the Marx Brothers' movie title).  Yesterday I spent four hours watching all the hoopla at the Kentucky Derby, culminating in two minutes of heart-pounding race.  I know I'll do the same thing in two weeks when they run the Preakness at Pimlico, the second jewel in the Triple Crown, and later at Belmont, the third.  My family has strong ties to Santa Anita Racetrack and horse racing in general.  As much as I love NASCAR (I'll be watching that today), seeing magnificent animals run nearly brings me to tears.  Of course I put down an imaginary bet (any competition can use a little spice), but racing, to me, is never about the money.  That's a good thing, because I sure didn't win yesterday.  Oh well, I have high hopes for today.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Exercise In Futility

Company was coming!  From experience, I know there are those things that must be left to the last minute if there is any chance the house (or I) will look presentable when required.  I jumped the gun yesterday and vacuumed before leaving the house.  I also showered and put on clean bibbies before going to the barn.  What was I thinking?  By the time I was done with the chickens my socks were soaked and when I got down to the goats my britches were sopping wet to the knees.  Anyone with curly hair knows what happens in drizzling rain; hair takes on the appearance of a Brillo pad, the curls getting tighter and tighter.  Before the girls leave the stand every day, they shove their head under my arm and rub vigorously against the front of my bib, leaving dirty smudges.  After milking and slogging my way back through the ankle-high weeds, a very wet Bessie Anne, Pearl, and Frank met me at the door and beat me into the house, leaving footprints and a trail of oak pollen fronds everywhere.  So much for the efforts of the morning.  Tree Guy came by and a milk customer needed an emergency pick-up, so it was a race to get a dessert made to serve my guests.  I was out of time to make any repairs on house or attire.

Arden arrived with a friend of hers.  They were on an excursion to counteract the effects of cabin fever that strikes us all after another spell of gloomy days.  The sun broke out and, as we sat in the kitchen eating butterscotch pie, suddenly there were butterflies spotlighted on the lilacs by the windows.  These were tiger swallowtails, huge and bright yellow with black stripes, not the more common monarchs that I'm used to seeing.  They were just spectacular.  The hummers are back in growing numbers and put on their own show by the dining room windows.  (They slurped up two quarts of juice yesterday alone.)  I hope the "entertainment" Farview provided took attention away from footprints and frizzy hair.  It's always so good to see Arden and I enjoyed meeting her friend.  As for the rest, well, some days are like that.

PS:  tonight is the night of the "super moon," when the moon is closest to the earth and looms larger than on any other night.  It is best viewed when it is just coming over the horizon in the evening. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

OK Corral

Attitude, like yawning, is contagious.  Sheila's crankiness not only did not improve, it infected the rest of the girls and, for whatever reason, they all turned on Tessie.  For the most part, Tessie is a pacifist, which is a good thing.  The only goat in the herd with a horn, and that one horn pointy, ten inches long, and curved forward, puts Tessie in the position of bringing a gun to a knife fight when it comes to headbutting.  Being of a gentle nature, she seems very aware of her advantage and is careful to avoid doing damage to her opponents.  When the girls ganged up on her in the morning, Tess took to the tree for refuge out of their reach.  She stood in that tree for most of the day while the others circled below like waiting lions.  I'm assuming that we're dealing with raging hormones here and a case of collective PMS.  I hope the Earps and the Clantons were able to settle their differences during the night and the yard is a goat pen again instead of the OK Corral.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Bird Of A Feather

The barn birds, mostly sparrows and wrens, are busy, busy, busy with nest building these days.  They make trip after trip for materials, and rest for a minute on the hog-panel dividers with their beaks full of fresh grasses, dried weeds, or small sticks before going on home.  I had to laugh yesterday when a sparrow landed with something out of the ordinary in his mouth.  His wife evidently is one of those Joneses with whom everyone will want to keep up, having a nest that will be the focal point of envy in the bird community.  No common weeds for his lady!  This enterprising fellow had flown far afield, all the way over to the chicken pens, and was bringing an offering of white Silkie down feathers to accessorize their nursery.  I hope she appreciated his efforts.

Sheila got up on the wrong side of the stall yesterday.  She came out of the barn locked and loaded, spoiling for a fight.  She taunted and punched each and every one of the girls, including Poppy, while waiting for her turn on the stand.  She did come in to be milked, panting from running Inga around the pen.  She hadn't gotten it out of her system by bedtime, and had Tessie up in the tree afraid to come down, poor thing.  It took some finagling to get everyone into their rooms and settled for the night.  I hope Sheila wakes up in a better mood today.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Color Purple & Flying Worms

The wisteria that nearly covers two sides of the garden fence is now in full bloom, the lovely lavender flowers punctuated by the bright gold California poppies nearly buried in the weeds (another project for another day).  There's a story behind this wisteria vine.  When I bought the house in West Sacramento, I put in a wisteria that took hold and grew.  I lived there for eighteen years.  Not once in eighteen years did that plant put out even one flower.  I was so disappointed.  Steve and I moved up here.  Running errands in town one year, I noted several nurseries and the blooming wisterias and mentioned to Steve that at least one could tell if they were getting a plant that would flower.  Some while later, he and a friend went to town and came back with a small wisteria vine as a surprise for me, probably the one vine in the nursery without any blossoms or buds, and I silently thought, "Oh, no.  Here we go again."  It took several years for this plant to come into its own, but once it did....  It was so pleasant out on the point that I stayed and weeded out three of the smaller barrels.  The chickens are always so pleased when I take on this chore, as they always get big piles of succulent greens as I go back to the house.
One of the best decisions I've made was to plant these lilacs in front of the kitchen windows.  This is, of course, the time of year when they are at their most spectacular, their sweet perfume wafting in on the breeze.  Butterflies flit among the purple flowers, and birds of many varieties sit in the branches right at eye level.  The bushes have grown tall enough now to provide some shade in the summer from the strong afternoon sun.
It is the season of the flying worms.  I have no idea what these little bright-green wigglers become, but they come every year.  They float through the air on strands of what look like cobweb.  When I was flying a small plane, I would see them as high as five thousand feet up, pretty amazing.

Putting the girls to bed in the barn last night, I checked the nest for the baby mice.  I'd looked in the morning and they were all there and alive.  In the evening, not a sign of even one.  Since this is my story and I can make up any ending I wish, I've decided that the mama mouse came and carried them, one at a time, to a safer place of her own choosing.  I like happy endings.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Nada Paso

"Nothing happened (nada paso)."  That was the first thought in my mind when I sat down to write about yesterday.  I seem to be on a one-day-on (work hard), one-day-off (do nothing) schedule.  Then I took a good look:  Kellan and Will came early, laden with a box of veggies for me, to continue work in Nineteen's stall.  Will uncovered a nest of tiny, pink, hairless baby mice.  Gentle man that he is, he moved the nest into the nursery stall and we all hope the mama will find them there.  We did work out a Plan B so that the goats' routine was not disturbed this time and the milking went smoothly.  I was afraid the girls were slowing down work in the stalls by demanding to have their heads rubbed; I could hear Will and Kellan laughing and talking to them.  Will said it was no problem, it gave them an excuse for a short break between hauling buckets of poop.

Later in the day, Tree Guy drifted through and we made a plan for work on the wood piles (maybe Thursday).

Hummers are showing up in great numbers now, slurping up "juice" as fast as I can make it.  In the beginning, I would buy the packaged commercial powder for these little birds.  Then more and more would show up at the feeders and the cost became prohibitive.  Looking at the ingredients, I found that the only difference between it and plain sugar water (at a one-to-four ratio) was red dye.  I go through a lot of sugar in a season, but the joy of being so close to these flying jewels far outweighs that cost.

Frogs of all sizes are showing up everywhere.  Little green peepers up to large, warty toads.  They sing from their flower pots on the deck.  They hop ahead of me on the path at dusk.  They eye me from underneath logs.  They sit on the porch to watch the sunset.  I really like frogs.

As I reviewed the day, I saw I was wrong.  A lot happened.  It was a good day.