Tuesday, July 31, 2012


You'd have to remember Greta Garbo to appreciate, "I vant to be ah-lone."  I think of that famous line every night when I look up after tucking Ruth, Poppy and Sheila into their rooms and head out to put the other four into the big room.  To the left of the door, up on the lintel, there is a space between blocks that is big enough for just one bird, and there he sits still as a stone.  It is a male barn sparrow.  The headlamps on my hat catch light from his bright eyes, but he doesn't flutter or move.  Why has he picked this unlikely roosting perch?  Is he a confirmed bachelor, a hermit bird shunning the flock, an outcast?  I personally think he is a parent of that nest of chicks that I hear on the other side of the barn in the morning and, tired of hearing "Feed me!" all day, has found himself a little Man Cave retreat.

"Oh, no!  Not again!"  As I put the chickens into their coops last night, Bessie suddenly took off running to the far side of the feed barn.  What was she after now?  Then I was hit with a wave of pungent skunk scent.  Nooo!  I still had the goats and Poppy to tend and I just couldn't face my silly dog.  Mentally checking my supplies for a de-skunking bath, I went on about my chores, stink still heavy in the air.  Coming back from the barn, I couldn't avoid her any longer and called Bess to me.  Wonder of wonders, it wasn't her!  It had to be either a road kill or some other poor dog got sprayed.  Not my problem.  I apologized for thinking the worst, and Bess and I walked back to the house by the light of the nearly full moon.

One hundred-four in Diamond Springs in the afternoon.  Regardless, it was a good day.

Monday, July 30, 2012

No Excuse

My being late to the barn two days in a row did not sit well with the ground squirrels.  I had settled into the routine with Cindy on the stand when one, obviously in charge, stood on his hind legs in the open doorway to the big room, looked me in the eye, and began to scold.  This squirrel gave me "what for" like I've never been given.  He gave me a dressing down that would have made a Marine DI proud.  I believe my parentage was called into question, and I was accused of everything short of sinking the Titanic.  Not even a foot high as he sat there, this squirrel knew you are as tall as you think you are and it mattered not that I was looking down at him.  Chittering away, he said his piece, dismissed me with a flick of his tail, and left to report to the grievance committee.  Stunned, I muttered an apology and hurried with my tasks so I could get breakfast in their bowls.  Who's training whom around here?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Years and Seasons

This is the Year of the Dragon, but it is the season of the rabbit.  Looking out at daybreak and dusk, I see rabbits.  Long-eared jackrabbits sitting still as statues on the slopes of the yards or loping leisurely up and down the driveway.  Lone rabbits and rabbits in groups.  Where have they been?  Why are they here now?  How long will they stay?  (And do I have to feed them?)  One doesn't see herds of migrating bunnies traveling on the roads or through the hills, so why haven't these rabbits been apparent all year?  Even if they had hunkered down and hibernated during the winter, surely they wouldn't wait until the end of July to come outside.  Ah, well, another subject to ponder while down in the barn.

Once in awhile, amidst the dozens of green and red Anna's hummingbirds that come to the feeders, one with bronze and gold feathers will show up.  I've never seen more than one at a time, but usually one per season.  Why is this, I wonder.  Is it an anomaly?  Is it a fellow traveler from a different flock?  So far this summer, these little guys in large numbers have managed to slurp their way through sixty pounds of sugar.  I'm mixing four quarts of "juice" a day now, filling three feeders twice.  They were waiting for me just at dawn this morning, buzzing my head and clicking in their impatience, sneaking a sip even as I rehung the bottles.

What will the next season bring?

Saturday, July 28, 2012


I have my very own toolbox with my very own set of tools.  Admittedly, they are more of the "girly" type, especially the little battery-operated drill/screw driver, and for most jobs in the house, I don't need a sixteen-ounce hammer.  I'm the next best thing to phobic about using power tools since I had the muffler and welding shop years ago.  Steve was holding a pipe overhead while I cut it with the Sawzall.  The saw bucked and I sliced into his inner wrist.  That about did it for me (and him!).  I've avoided power tools whenever possible ever since.

The top and bottom of the Dutch door to the milking room are held shut by a bolt dropped through corresponding holes.  The bottom hole wasn't quite big enough to let this happen easily.  Certainly not a big deal to fix; just get a larger bit and drill it out.  My little battery-run outfit wasn't going to be able to handle it, so I went down to No-Man's Land (the shop) and got the big Makita cordless drill.  Turning this and twisting that, I finally got the bits changed and locked into place.  That should have been a clue that I didn't have the slightest idea what I was doing, but I forged ahead just like I had good sense.

Hauling the heavy drill along with the milk buckets to the barn, it seemed prudent to fix the door before letting the girls out.  They vociferously disagreed with this plan, so I needed to hurry.  I was at a slight height disadvantage, so it was a bit awkward to get the bit placed just so, and it started to bind up about halfway down.  I know darned good and well there is a mechanism to get a drill to reverse, but I hadn't checked in advance where it was on the Makita, and I couldn't see because it was over my head.  Just fine.  Feeling like a complete idiot, I had to manually back the whole thing out just to get the drill out of the door.  The goats were bawling, Poppy was bellowing, I was sweating bullets.  Setting the drill aside, I took care of the morning's chores.

Giving myself a rah-rah pep talk, I picked up the Makita again, found the switch (marked with an F for forward, R for reverse, duh), and drilled the hole the right size.  Mission accomplished.  DIY, my Aunt Fanny!  But I got-'er-done.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Come Into My Parlor

The brain of a fly must be no bigger than the head of a pin.  Still, these pesky critters can be trained, and they can tell time.  Just like the squirrels and the mice, a cluster of flies comes every morning at the same time when I'm about halfway through milking Cindy, the first goat.  The mice poke their heads out of their burrows and the squirrels duck through holes in the barn wall looking for grain.  The flies gather together for the sacrificial squirt.  I've found that if I aim one stream of milk onto the stand, it keeps the flies busy and not bothering either the goat or me.  Sometimes I'm preemptive, but if not, I'll glance down and there they are, milling about and waiting in the same spot for their slurp.

On the subject of flies, taking a break while Esther (nonmilker) was having breakfast, I watched a daddy-longlegs with a fly it had trapped.  Quick as a wink, that spider wrapped up the fly in a swaddling of web silk like a housewife covering leftovers with cling film.  Could be that the fly was too full of milk to get away in the first place and staggered into the web.

Speaking of training (get on board my train of thought here), Huey and Dewey, those overgrown scrub jay boys, are finally getting the message.  They are following their overworked parents to the grain bucket.  At first they would perch on the edge of the bucket while Ma hopped in to get a snack and hand it up to them.  Now they're going in and feeding themselves.  I can't  say I'm happy about the goat food going down the birds' gullets, but I do sympathize with those parents and their loutish sons.

And so it goes in my parlor.  One way or another, everything gets fed.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Girl Can't Help It

(With a nod to Little Richard.)  All has been made clear.  Dolly's rainmaking powers have been explained.  It seems that there was a terrible storm on the night she was born in Pennsylvania with rain, thunder and lightning all the way to the hospital.  Her parents recounted the story of their wild ride every birthday.  The god Thor seems to have kept an eye on Dolly all these years and sends reminders.  It's not Dolly's fault.  Rain, anyone?

Joel stopped by to share some peaches he'd been gifted.  White peaches are so delicate, ripening fast and bruising easily.  Too soft to eat out of hand, how best to use these fragrant beauties?  I had extra pie dough in the fridge, just enough to cover a cobbler.  It made a grand finale to a dinner of leftovers.

Tree Guy, aka Go-To, replaced the outlets in the bedroom so I can use the plugs without fear of burning down the house.  The power surge seems to have fried the satellite receiver, but the company will send a new one.  With the potential for far greater danger, I got off pretty darned lucky.

It was a good day.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Nothing For Granted

Turn the tap and water flows.  Flip a switch and the lights go on.  Simple things that most of us expect and take for granted.  Spend a day or two (thankfully, not more) without electricity and water and appreciation grows in leaps and bounds.  Everything is pretty much back to normal (and I realize that's a relative term) here.  Plants watered, dishes washed, toilets flushed.  Life is good.

The subject on everyone's lips is the storm and its aftermath.  Consensus is that it was the most intense electrical storm that anyone can remember.  A friend in Mt. Aukum spent some anxious hours as firefighters fought blazing fields across the road from his ranch.  He was told that lightning started over fifty fires in the area, fortunately mostly small ones.  On the home front, I had to make a number of calls, but found out I didn't have to have an electrician come to check the wiring to a couple of outlets.  Seeing sparks fly when I tried to plug the computer back in had me scared silly that I was going to burn the house down.  It seems just the receptacles must be replaced.  Tree Guy has become my new Go-To Guy and he'll be by sometime today to do just that.

There was a change in my landscape yesterday.  The kid who delivered a load of grain and alfalfa on Monday hemmed and hawed and kicked the tires on that old boat and trailer that has sat by the driveway for seven years.  It's been an obstacle and an eyesore.  "Ever think of getting rid of that anytime soon?," said Kid.  "Anytime you want to come and take it away," said I.  Yesterday Kid, his dad, and a friend came and hooked it up.  Dad had to be as excited as Kid.  It must be a guy thing.  I'd been ready to fill the ugly thing with dirt and plant it with flowers, but these males considered it a treasure.  Happy sailing!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dolly Did It!

The National Weather Service can name tropical storms anything they want, from Eulalie to Zebediah.  At Farview, all storms are named Dolly, and this last one was a doozie!  Dolly and my daughter share a birthday, which happened to fall on Sunday, so naturally they were both in my thoughts that day.  I'd noticed the clouds at sundown, worthy of a photo, but they were moving dead east and so never gave them another thought.  Dolly was having none of that!  By golly, she was going to celebrate.  I'd heard some rumbling over the mountains at bedtime, then shortly before midnight probably the worst electrical storm I've seen in fifteen years was on top of us.  I mean, right on top of us!  There seemed no interval between lightning strikes and thunder shook the windows like cannons going off.  Rain (courtesy of Dolly) came down in torrents.  Bessie Anne was scared out of her mind.  If she'd gotten any closer, she'd have been on the other side of me.  The cats wanted no part of this light show and ran downstairs.  Suddenly there was a loud pop and sparks flew from the electrical outlet by the bed just before it all went dark in the house.  Lightning lit my way as we (Bessie still stuck to my side like a burr) went to call PG&E about the outage.  The phone was dead, no dial tone, no nothing.  Not once in all these years and all the past storms have I lost the land line.  Yikes!  The cell phone became my life line.  I made the call and then Bess and I went back to bed, she huddled next to me as the storm went on and on.  Lying by my back wasn't close enough, so she clambered over the top of me to lie where I could put my arms around her.  Storms are not her thing, even when they're sent by Dolly.

Yesterday was a day of waiting.  I made calls to PG&E and AT&T, hoarding my cell phone power bars like gold, and waited.  And waited.  Joel and Judy had gotten electricity back by six-thirty in the morning.  Not me.  Sometime around three in the afternoon, Phone Guy showed up.  He confirmed my fear that we had taken close to a direct hit.  Important parts in the junction box were fried, but it was, for him, an easy fix.  He was just finishing up when Power Guy drove in.  It took no time for Power Guy to determine that the main transformer out on the pole was also fried, or toast, depending on who's doing the cooking.  He said he'd arranged for a crew to come and replace it, but it would happen "today."  Well, the three big trucks driven by three big guys didn't show up until one-thirty, but I wasn't about to quibble.  After a day with no water and a night with no lights, I was just so darned glad to see them at all.  Those poor guys had been on the job since six yesterday morning, and they were still smiling.  I sat in the driveway, well out of their way, and watched them switch out the transformer.  Not a lot in life really scares me, but electricity is at the top of the list of things that do, and I wanted to make sure someone would be there if one of the guys went flying off into space.  It took the crew about an hour to complete the job, and I stuck around so I could express my gratitude to each of them.

I'd also like to thank those who called or texted when no blog appeared yesterday.  It was very kind.  I've worked a deal with Kathryn.  If it's at all possible, I will let her know whatever disaster might have occurred and she will add a comment to the blog from the day before, so anyone who might have worried can stop worrying.

And so it was another day at Farview Farm.  Happy birthday, Dolly, and happy birthday, Deb!  Maybe next year we can stick to just candles on the cake.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

That Darned Goat!

If I'd been on prime-time TV, I'd have been bleeped.  The day before, Sheila pulled one of her "maybe I will and maybe I won't" tricks and it was just too hot to chase her down to get her into the milking room.  "Fine.  Just stay out and swell up like a toad.  You'll be sorry."  Yesterday was hotter still, but I couldn't let her go two days in a row when she played coy again, so Ring Around the Rosy it was.  Soaked with sweat after milking the other three and feeding the two nonmilkers, mucking stalls, and chasing Sheila, I was down to stripping the teats after milking her out and looking forward to freedom when she lifted a foot, caught the lip of the overly full bucket, and splashed out nearly two gallons of milk.  "Bleep, bleep, bleep!!!"  Trying very hard, I finally found two bright sides to this situation.  One, the bucket tipped away from me, and two, the milk settled the dust in the room.

Some days are harder than others.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Shows and No-shows

Who knew that beetles dress in pinstripe suits?  This slow-moving fellow seemed in no hurry to get to his business meeting, so Pete and Jake had a chance to get a good look at him while they were here.  The turkey moms and their kids also put in an appearance every day, but Pete was disappointed that no bats showed up at dusk.  I wish they had, not just to show them off, but because the mosquitoes are out again and the bats would have had a feast.  I'd told Pete of the turkey wars of the past, males doing battle, urged on by the females.  No toms had come by during his visit, but yesterday I heard the war cries and there were the boys going at it, spurs flashing and feathers flying.  Pete will just have to take my word.

The day after company leaves is pretty much a do-nothing day for me.  Right now, with temps on the rise again, I can use the heat as an excuse, but I would sit on my duff even if it were the middle of winter.  The most ambitious tasks accomplished were keeping the feeders filled for the hummers and watering the deck plants.  Snacking on leftovers, watching DVR'd programs, napping off and on, I looked around at all the things that need doing and put them on the list for "tomorrow."  Well, it's now "tomorrow" and time to start crossing stuff off that list.

It was a good day.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Helping Hands

It began early.  Tessie got spooked just after I'd gotten her into the milking room.  She made a mad scramble for the nearest exit, which happened to be the hole in the door (that I hadn't fixed on purpose because of the air flow).  Somehow, Tess got herself through, ripping the door off its bottom hinge in the process.  Pete didn't say anything, but I could hear him thinking, "Oh, no!  Not another thing to fix."  Tessie, the silly goose, after wreaking havoc, turned right around, came in and got up on the stand as if nothing had happened.  That's a goat for you.  I finished with the milking line up and locked the girls into the other pen.  A guy doesn't need six supervisors on a job.  (Poppy couldn't have cared less.)

Fortunately, I already had the replacement panel cut to size, but it took time to dismantle the door, find new nails and screws (it had taken me five years to find where Steve, with his convoluted storage system, had put nails in the first place), and realign the frame.  After days of great weather, yesterday was hot, of course.  Pete and Jake had planned to head for home about one, but this unexpected setback certainly delayed their departure.  Working as a team, they got the repaired door back in place, a job well done.  Anyone who knows Pete will look at this photo and wonder what it is that is different.  After a lifetime of hair that was curlier than mine, his hair has gone straight (and nearly white)!

Showered, fed, and rehydrated, the guys finally drove down the drive about three-thirty, facing a long drive after a long day.  It was hard to see them go.  The house was unnaturally quiet.  Bessie and Frank went into a blue funk; Jake had become their special friend and they missed him as much as I.

I walked around the property at sundown before putting the critters to bed.  Everything looks so neat and tidy, evidence of all the hard work the boys did on their "vacation."  There are times when chores get ahead of me and I'm overwhelmed.  With their help, Pete and Jake got me back to square one where now it will be a matter of just keeping up.  I am so grateful for their helping hands.

It was a good visit.  It was a good day.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Day Off

The rolling weed-whacker had been giving Pete fits from the git-go, starting or not, running or not, seemingly possessed by some perverse gremlin.  Some machines are just like that.  I'd been telling him to just leave it be, he and Jake had done enough the day before, but it's hard to get a grown man to mind when a task has become a challenge.  While I milked, I could hear the whacker running for a bit, and then silence.  It wasn't until a small piece broke in front of his eyes that Pete finally threw in the towel and could leave the field of battle with honor.  (Did I say that competitiveness is a strong family trait?)  That meant we could honestly take the rest of the day off without guilt.

I'd recorded the first two episodes of "The Newsroom," a series that just began and that I wanted the boys to see.  The theme is integrity in the media (or lack thereof) and the need for an informed electorate.  It's a subject that Pete and I have discussed, and Jake is old enough to vote this year and needs to start questioning his sources.  Unless it's a race day, I don't usually push television on my guests, but we had the day off and had time for a little TV before moving on to the main event back at the card table.

I took a break to make some tartlets filled with caramelized onions, topped with a mixture of homemade goat cheese, egg, and fresh thyme and baked, to be eaten while still warm.  The cook took the rest of the day off, too.  With enough leftovers in the fridge to feed Cox's army, it was a fend-for-yourself night for dinner.

Calling it quits at eleven last night, I slunk off to bed, a disappointed loser.  Dang, I hate when that happens!

It was a good day, even so.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Men (Still) at Work

I'd say there was no rest for the wicked, but they've been such good boys.  We awoke to fog yesterday and it was cold enough to put on jackets...in July!  Given such perfect weather conditions, Pete and Jake got a few instructions on lawn tractor and rolling weed-whacker and, while I went on with my morning chores, they started mowing and whacking all over the place.  Like Energizer Bunnies, they just kept going and going until they had this place looking like Farm Beautiful.  (I think they really liked the little tractor, and took turns on it!)  They certainly earned a hearty lunch and then, what a surprise, we played cards for the rest of the afternoon.  I won, and then left the arena to fix dinner.

At sundown, Jake came along with his dad in hopes of seeing the Wallendas put on their show, and the mice didn't fail to delight.  One tiny little one became ring shy and didn't want to make the final leap for freedom, staying in the bucket until urged out and then hanging around on the stand.  He finally made an awkward jump and a terrible landing before scurrying off after the others.  Cheap entertainment.

The guys discovered an "antique" X-Box (from when they first came out) and a stack of games.  Technology has swiftly moved on, but it's still strange to hear an eighteen-year-old say, "Remember when...."  I begged off for early(er) bedtime and left them happily blowing up tanks and firing missiles.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Workin' Men

"Oh, goody!  A vacation at Mom's!"  Not.  I recognize an opportunity when I see one, and wasn't about to turn down an offer of help.  We got a break in the weather, so while I milked, the boys (I know they're men, but I'm the Mom/Grandma and they'll always be my boys) cleaned the barn like it hasn't been in ages.  We still had the opportunity to keep talking across the stalls, so it wasn't lost time.

Kellan and Wil stopped by for milk and brought a supply of fresh vegetables and salad greens.  How's that for perfect timing?  I'm always so proud to introduce my Kids to my friends, and vice versa.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows us that we broke out the cards in the afternoon, and there went the rest of the day.  Taking on all comers, I emerged as Champion of the Day!  (It's a ritual we've had for years that humbles the losers and exalts the winner.  It's good to be queen!)

Not through for the day, into the kitchen we went and I made the boys work for their dinner.  Making homemade pasta was a new experience for them (come to think of it, so was cleaning a barn).  Pete and Jake took turns being the handler and manning the crank.  In no time at all they were working like pros and the fettuccine was perfect.  I made a spicy Cajun shrimp sauce to pour over it and that with the fresh salad greens was a yummy meal.

During the barn chores in the morning, a few squirrels and mice did make brief appearances, but they tend to be shy around strangers.  Pete went with me to put the girls to bed.  I heard rustling in the hanging feed bucket and told Pete to "come see."  Taking the lid off the bucket, I'm not kidding when I say that a minimum of fifteen mice raced in circles and sprang out like popcorn, running for their hidey-holes.  Pete cracked up laughing at his introduction to the Flying Wallendas.  Welcome to farm life!

I put on a movie for the guys...and went to bed.

It was a good day.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Taste of Home

The apricot pie did it for me; my own little time machine.  From picking fruit in our orchard to fish fries at the beach with pie for dessert, I was a kid again in summertime.  For my son Pete, it was the potato salad.  He started exclaiming at first bite that it was just as he remembered it.  A certain taste, a smell, a few notes of a forgotten song and memories come flooding back.

It was a long drive for Pete and Jake and they arrived just before it was time to put the critters to bed.  If I miss curfew, the chickens will tuck themselves in, just waiting for me to close their doors.  Jake came with me down to the barn where there were a few moments of chaos because the goats were spooked at going into dark stalls.  Smoke from the wildfires burning to the north made spectacular striations against the last of the sunlight.  After dinner we sat at the table and talked until after midnight.  It's been two years since I've seen these guys and we barely scratched the surface of catching up.

My furry little alarm clocks made sure I didn't oversleep this morning, even though I begged for five minutes more.  They take their job seriously.  The boys are still asleep.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

No Cooperation

I've been trying to get a photo of Huey and Dewey, those moosey, overgrown scrub jay adolescents down at the barn, but by the time I get the cell phone-camera out of my bibbies while milking one-handed, a parent will bring a tidbit and the boys get so excited they darned near fall off the perch and the pictures show just a blur of wings and open mouths.

Sheila pulled an "Inga" yesterday and refused to come in to be milked, preferring to stay up with the alfalfa and looking at me like she'd never heard the word 'Sheila' before in her life.  After schlepping a big bag of grain to the barn, milking the others, and cleaning the stalls, I was disinclined to chase her the length of the pen in the heat.  I gave her fair warning and plenty of time to change her mind, but no, so I picked up the buckets and went home.  We'll both pay for that today.

My guys are due in tonight, and that meant a major shopping trip yesterday.  A trip to the grocery store plus an errand or two took almost five hours, including travel time.  No wonder I go only once a month.  I'd planned on getting apples for a pie, but when I found ripe apricots at a decent price, I changed that plan immediately.  Usually the stores carry rock-hard, green, flavorless apricots, but these were at the peak of perfection and I couldn't resist.  Going back again to my childhood, apricot pie epitomizes the flavor of summer for me, more than sweet corn, more than watermelon.  I could say this pie will be for Pete and Jake, but if truth were told, this one is for me!

Well, as Frost wrote, "I have miles to go before I sleep."  There's a lot more than baking pies to do today.  I'll bet Sheila is the first one in the door this morning!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Corner

I can't keep up.  It's mid July and there are a couple of months of summer yet, but we seem to have turned some sort of seasonal corner without my even seeing it coming.  Almost six-thirty and the sun has barely crested the hills.  Last week I was putting the critters to bed at nine; last night it was dark at eight-thirty.  At this rate, I'd better locate the Christmas ornaments soon.

I seem to be awash in nostalgia these days.  Tom, a milk customer, stopped by yesterday and, don't ask me how, we got on the subject of sparklers.  Tom spent years of his childhood in Germany (a military father).  While they didn't celebrate the Fourth of July there, they did have sparklers.  We agreed that the old ones were the best, the real ones on a wire that lasted long enough to write your name in the dark.  The new ones are a pale excuse and go phhht before you could write your initials.  Yes, they are undoubtedly safer, but not nearly as much fun.  That led us to other things we used to do and have that are now verboten by the government for our own good.  How did we ever survive?

It wasn't as hot yesterday, but just the one day without watering and the deck plants wilted.  The delta breezes that we all wait for, hope and pray for, during a heat wave kicked in in the afternoon and I made some progress in my preparations.  It takes a while for those cooling winds to work their way from the coast across the valley to the hills.

Another sign that we're headed toward fall is the appearance of the dragonflies.  The other day I saw one; yesterday a full squadron was patrolling the fields.  How time flies when you're having fun.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sweat of My Brow

It's predicted to be in the mid nineties today.  That ten-degree drop is going to feel like an arctic blast after the last couple of days.  I know there are hotter places in the world, and I don't care.  When I'm hot, I whine.  Down in the barn, sweat trickles down my back and drips from my eyelashes.  There's no way to rush a goat or the process, so it's an hour and a half in the sauna.  Trying to get ready for Pete's visit, just walking down the hallway will pop a sweat, so it's do a little, sit a lot.  I keep a bag of seedless grapes in the freezer and take out a few throughout the day.  Eaten while frozen, each little grape-cicle is like a bite of sorbet, cool and refreshing but without the calories.  Bessie Anne and I both went for a dip in the pool in the afternoon.  I guess while Pete and Jake are here, we'll all have to take turns; it was pretty crowded with just the two of us. 

It took me back to when I was a kid.  It seems I've come full circle.  My "pool" then was my mother's big galvanized wash tub out in the back yard.  Mother used that tub and a scrubbing board when there were just a few things to wash.  I was fourteen years old before she got an automatic washing machine.  She used a machine that sat out on the service porch with rollers to squeeze out the water.  The tub had to be filled manually, but it did have paddles that operated with electricity.  It's a good thing I was familiar with that washer, because I had the same kind when I had my first baby.  Handmade diapers from lengths of flannel.  Fill the tub, wash the diapers.  Run them through the wringer.  Drain the soapy water and refill the tub with clear water.  Rinse the diapers and wring them out again.  My mother told me that "good mothers" rinsed diapers five times, and God knows I wanted to be a good mother.  Doing laundry took a whole day.  On rainy days, our apartment looked like a flannel forest, drying diapers festooned everywhere.  I don't take washing machines or dryers for granted, that's for sure.  But you can't sit in one to cool off on a hot day.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Still of the Night

The heat has brought everything to a screeching halt. As I watered the deck plants in the early evening, the mountain was eerily quiet.  Not even a bird chirp or call broke the silence.  The turkey hens and their adolescent chicks moved like ghosts across the front pasture.  Closer to me, there was the low buzz of small black bumblebees with fuzzy, bright-yellow heads.  Licorice mint grows tall and puts out spikes of lavender flowers that are a favorite of the bumblers and the hummers.  The mint has spread to nearly every pot on the deck, and the bumblers kept me company as we moved together down the line.

Stan is Kellan and Wil's partner.  He is a bee keeper, hence Mellifera Farm.  Mellifera means honey bearer.  Stan told Kellan, and Kellan told me, that honey bees are neat, tidy creatures who are meticulous housekeepers, cleaning their hives every day.  Bumblebees, on the other hand, appear to be the neighborhood slobs, letting their trash pile up until their hives actually stink (if one were to get close enough to sniff). 

With temperatures above one hundred in the shade at noon (and that's when I quit looking at the thermometer), I'm not going to pass judgment on the bumblebees.  Even with company coming, not much got done yesterday except a little laundry and the barn chores.  I just want to sit still.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

All Things Come

Sister de Chantal, a dear little old nun at my high school, used to say in a quavering voice, "Patience is a virtue.  Virtue is a grace.  Grace is a little girl who didn't wash her face."  To this day, I think of her whenever the word 'patience' comes to mind.  I recited that bit of doggerel to the ground squirrel who had made himself comfortable on the stall divider while waiting for me to finish up in the barn and put his breakfast down.  Others of his companions lay on the ground, stretching and yawning, sometimes with eyes half closed or nibbling on a stray bit of grain.  Unlike the scrub jay who helps himself from the feed bucket, these guys seem to know that all things come to he who waits.

It's enough that I keep track of the days of the week:  trash day, who's coming for milk when and how much, race day, etc.  Dates are beyond me.  It's a very good thing I just happened to glance at the calendar yesterday morning because I had made arrangements to meet a friend for lunch, and that had completely slipped my mind.  It also made me realize that Pete and Jake are not coming in a week, they will arrive in four days!  Good grief, I've much to do before they get here.

The heat was oppressive in the afternoon (after a fun lunch with my friend in an air-conditioned restaurant), and Bessie didn't need to be asked twice when I suggested she might want to go in the pool.  Usually I have to lift her front feet over the edge, but this time she stepped in on her own and waited for me to pour the bath-warm water over her back.  That's my excuse to go wading with her.  As I've said before, it's a good thing we're out of the public view.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Call Me Lucky

It's definite.  My son Pete and grandson Jake are coming up in a week for a short visit.  It's been two years, so I am excited!  It's unfortunate that we won't be able to have a meeting of the clan with his brothers and sister because it will be a midweek trip.  Of course I'm planning menus and making lists.  I think it's so funny that, when asked for a favorite, the Kids put meatloaf at the top for comfort food.  They've each evolved their own versions, but who am I to argue?

Milking yesterday was difficult with fingers swollen stiff and a hand that looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy's, skin taut and shiny.  The swelling is only slightly less today, but I get chills when I think of what might have been.  Spray can in hand (the good hand), I went looking for the wasp/hornet nest under the lavender bush last evening.  I found a nest the size of an orange, covered with those malevolent insects.  How I'd gotten away with just the one sting is unbelievable.  Given my reaction, had the colony come after me, I'd be in the hospital now.  That lapse in judgement has taught me to take my own rules more seriously. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Hot Stuff

The sun had dropped far enough to put the east side of the house in shade so Bess and I escaped the heat inside by going out on the deck.  She went for a dip in the pool, and I started watering the potted plants.  Picking off dead flowers as I worked down the line, I actually was thinking of farm-life warnings to give my grandson, a city kid all the way, when he comes to visit soon.  The first two on the list are always, "Don't put your hand anywhere you can't see," and "Watch where you put your feet."  Not taking my own advice, I reached under the lavender bush to break off some dead branches and suddenly felt a pain in my finger like I'd been hit with hot welding slag.  I can speak of this with confidence, but that's another story for another day.  A really mad hornet followed my hand from underneath the lavender.  The water hose saved me from further attack, and Bess and I beat a quick retreat into the house.  Holy Toledo!  That one tiny injection hurt like blue blazes.  A paste of baking soda and a few drops of water put out the fire, but it didn't stop the swelling.  Icing my hand all evening after chores, by bedtime the puffiness was working its way up my wrist.  Powerful stuff, that venom.  Poor Clay; just before he came up last time, he'd been stung on his lip and hand.  I'd been sympathetic then, but now I could truly commiserate.  On the bright side, it's been years since I've seen my hand without wrinkles or ropey veins.

Placerville's only newspaper is a weekly.  I'd checked it and the Sacramento daily for news about the Oakstone Winery fire without success, and there'd been nothing on TV, either.  This morning I got an email from my friend in Seattle with a website, inedc.com/1-1263, an online El Dorado county newspaper.  Who knew?  There are plenty of photos showing the complete destruction of the winery, damages estimated at ten million dollars.  I don't believe that takes into account the wine that has been aging for three and four years, waiting for perfection.  What a loss.

Temperatures are predicted to go into triple digits this week.  One way or another, it's been a hot time in the old town lately.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Faster Than Wildfire

Shortly after I posted the journal yesterday, Judy called with news on the fire.  The grapevine up here grows fast!  Oakstone Winery, just up the road and over the hill on Slug Gulch, evidently was destroyed.  It was the source of the fire and our volunteer fire department was able to keep it from spreading.  It is so sad to hear of a neighbor's tragedy.  The two-story building with tasting room, storage tanks, and hundreds of cases of wine, and I don't know what-all equipment; a huge investment of money, years of work, emotion, and pride, gone in a matter of hours.  I don't believe there were any injuries, so there is reason to be thankful.

Dave called in the morning to ask for the Mama Mojo for his NASCAR favorite, Tony Stewart (I have the power, don't you know!).  Most of the race was just go round and round, but the finish!  Oh my gosh, it was a bang-up finish!  Tony had started next to last and worked his way up on a difficult track to win.  My reputation is intact.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Where There's Smoke

Getting up before daylight, I thought I smelled smoke and went around the house looking out windows, as if it would do any good in the dark.  At least I couldn't see any flames and so went about the business of coffee, etc.  Barely light now, a plume of smoke is rising on the eastern horizon from a fire that has to be either up on Slug Gulch or over on Omo Ranch.  One brief burst of siren set off all the dogs and the donkey down the road.  I can hear big trucks going up Slug Gulch, so I'm thinking it's in that direction.  The last few years have been relatively fire free and it's easy to get lulled into a false sense of security.  It's a danger we face every year.  All eyes in the area will be facing eastward today.

Walking in the dim hallway yesterday, I glanced down and thought, "Well, what is that?"  Oh, good grief.  It was a five-inch lizard that dashed into the bathroom when I moved toward it.  Together, we had a mad scramble until I grabbed a washcloth and trapped it to take outside and put in a flower pot.  These guys are carrying the totem thing too far!

Trucks are still on the move.  It's not light enough for the water-carrying helicopters or the spotter plane yet.  Man, it gets tense when there's smoke.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Everybody Out Of the Nest!

Wings akimbo and beak agape, the scrub jay sat on the wire in the barn, just looking around.  I thought it was the heat that caused him to sit so.  Another jay joined the first and assumed the same posture.  A third bird landed and it sent the two into a tizzy, both frantically fluttering their wings.  These fully grown lummoxes were still being fed by their parents!  Now really.  Old enough to fly on their own, albeit not too far past the learner's permit stage, these boys were big enough to get a job and fend for themselves.  They could not possibly fit in their hatchling nest, but were still being treated like babies by their folks.  I kept thinking of Baby Huey, the big duckling in diapers in a long-ago cartoon.  The overworked parent jays need to consider some tough love here.  Everybody out of the nest!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

No Fireworks Here

It was a day to nap in the heat, pull out a marinated tri-tip for an early dinner, and watch old movies.  Fireworks are not allowed in our area due to the high fire danger, not even those Fourth of July staples like sparklers.  This year there weren't even so many guns going off after dark, the hill celebration in lieu of fireworks.

Bess was lying on the porch after we'd put the kids to bed, enjoying the cool of early evening, when the coyote pack came yipping and howling through the back yard; not the front meadow, the back yard!  I ran out on the deck, flipping on the lights and yelling, and Bess charged after them.  The coyotes took off, but my nutty dog evidently treed whatever they were chasing down in the woods and stayed there barking.  The burr-filled weeds are taller down there than Bessie, and when she finally came back to the house, she was a mass of stickers, twigs, and burrs.  The rest of the evening until bedtime was spent brushing and untangling Bess.  Having given her a haircut made the job a little easier, but still.  Dumb dog, but she meant well.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

By Dawn's Early Light

Fourth of July.  Independence Day.  I'm old enough to be old fashioned, and raising the Stars and Stripes still gives me a thrill.  Happy birthday, America!

The kids have always been encouraged to bring their friends home.  Going out to the kitchen to make coffee this morning, I found that Frank had invited a little friend in to play.  Apologizing to both of them, I had to tell Frank that frogs are better outside playmates as I ushered the little one out the door.

Seasons come marching up from the valley.  Deb sent me this photo (and others), rightfully proud of the garden she and Craig started.  Just the thought of a BLT with this beauty makes me drool.  There are seven green nubbins on the cherry tomato plants I have on the deck.  I am so jealous.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Seventh Heaven

Bliss.  Pure bliss.  Kellan brought the promised squash blossoms, as well as just-picked fingerling potatoes and cherry tomatoes (and three kinds of squash, but those will be for another day).  I darned near started salivating when I saw the blossoms and at three-thirty decided that, yes, it was time for dinner (one of the advantages of living alone).  Rubbed with olive oil and sprinkled with coarse salt, the potatoes and tomatoes went into a 350-degree oven on a baking sheet for thirty-five minutes while I prepared the blossoms.  The beer batter I use calls for one-third cup of flour, half-teaspoon of salt, half-teaspoon of corn starch, dash of cayenne (optional), one-third cup of beer, and one egg.  Beat the egg white separately to soft peaks.  Mix the dry ingredients with the beer and egg yolk.  Gently fold in the beaten white.  This recipe can be tripled, not increasing salt or corn starch.  It is good for vegetables and shrimp.  Dipped in the batter, the blossoms were sauteed until golden on all sides in olive oil and butter, and were ready by the time the potatoes came out of the oven.  Topping the bite-size potatoes like crostini with tart-sweet tomatoes made a mouthful of summer.  The squash blossoms were every bit as delicious as I'd anticipated, delicate yet rich.  I was in gustatory heaven.

It was a good day.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Going Batty

Again watching the bats at dusk last night, I thought of the line I should have used when Clay was here:  He brings out the bats in me.  (Oh well, it makes me laugh.)  I was standing by the goat pen enjoying the last rays of the sun competing with the glow of the newly risen moon when a really large bird silently swooped past to land on the power pole at the corner of the pen.  Still light enough to see the silhouette, I could tell it was an owl, a very big owl.  During the day, that pole is the hunting perch for redtail hawks.  It evidently does double duty for owls at night.

For days now, two mother turkey hens have brought their babies grazing through the property in the morning.  They cluck softly to the little ones; a pleasant sound.  Not quite so nice is the raucous cawing of the flock of crows that has returned in large numbers.  Twenty-plus were in the side oak in the afternoon as I watered deck plants.  I wish I understood them better.  They would all sit mute in the tree for moments at a time and then would all take off together, yelling at the top of their lungs, only to quickly return and start over again.  To what purpose, I wonder.

Cleaning out the closet in the spare bedroom was like an archeological dig.  I gave away the crossbow years ago, but unearthed the arrows that should have gone too.  Long unused clothing went into bags for charity, except for the red-lined black satin cloak for the Count Dracula costume that Taylor likes to wear when she's here.  Why a box of .22 shells was in that closet is anyone's guess.  Cleaning the closet was the easy precursor to approaching the Black Hole, the "work room" where everything gets shoved.  I'm going to have to gird my loins before going in there.  Another job for another day.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Make My Day

Hearing Clay's Harley rumbling up the road was enough to make my day.  Bessie's tail started thumping before he rounded the drive.  He came up to share his last day of vacation and to watch the NASCAR race.  We did watch the race, but mostly we talked.  He laughed at my pool, saying it looked a lot bigger in the photo.  Bess is an outrageous flirt with men, batting her big brown eyes and wiggling like a teenage girl, and Clay is one of her favorites.  She really gave him the business, and he couldn't resist.  Dinner was simple but filling, and food always tastes better in good company.  It's such fun to introduce others to the delicious sunflower shoots that Kellan adds to the salad bag.  They have texture and rich flavor unlike anything else.  It would be worth growing sunflowers for the tiny plants alone.  After dinner and the finish of the race, we went out at sundown to put the critters to bed.  Bats swooped and flitted in the dusk.  A nearly full moon was out, bright enough to make shadows as soon as the sun dropped.  It would make for a beautiful nighttime motorcycle ride.

It was a good day.