Friday, August 31, 2012

The Road To...

I'm just full of good intentions, and see where they get me.  Coming back up from the barn, I found a phone message from Joel.  He and Judy were off on a day trip.  He'd left an irrigation line running and asked if I'd go over and turn it off.  He gave instructions on where it was (through the gate, up to the left forty feet to the end of the row) and how to turn it off (turn the valve and the noise will quit).  I was so pleased to be able to return, in a very small way, one of the many favors Joel and Judy have done for me.  Uh huh.  Fortunately, I listened to the message a couple of times.  Yes, there was a hint that he meant the gate down at the road and not the gate between our properties.  Okay, I can do this.  Even though our fields abut, our driveways are maybe a mile or two apart, so I drove.  I found the pipe with the valve and gauge.  I turned the valve and the noise stopped and the pressure gauge dropped.  Ta da!  Mission accomplished.

Joel called when they got home.  All of the valves on all of the pipes at my house are set up so that the handle is in line with the pipe when open, and closed when perpendicular (I know this because I checked again after we talked).  Seems that Joel's are just the opposite.  Not only had I not shut off the water, I'd opened it up full force.  The noise that stopped and the gauge that dropped were his system's way of taking a deep breath before the deluge that blew apart a connection in the lines.  Joel was very kind.  It must have been difficult to say thanks for trying when I'd done nothing but make him more work.

I had such good intentions.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Good Intentions

It has heated up a little, but that's no excuse.  I had the best intentions of getting to work on my To-Do list.  A cool-down period is mandatory after coming back from the barn, and I made the mistake of turning on the TV.  TCM has been showcasing great actresses.  I got hooked on Ava Gardner on Tuesday and yesterday was Ingrid Bergman's turn.  I couldn't begin to count the number of times I've seen "Gaslight," and I never tire of it.

My love affair with classic movies was fostered by my mother, who came to California in the 1930s during the Great Depression.  Movie tickets were a dime and it was a way to escape from harsh reality for awhile.  Even when I was a kid, movies played all day and night and you could see the cartoons and a double feature as many times as you wanted for just the one price of admission (in my time, that was fifty cents).  Hollywood was mecca, and movie stars were gods and goddesses to my mother.  Santa Anita racetrack opened in 1934, and Mother worked as a waitress in the coffee shop.  She loved to tell of the actors who came to her station, big names of the day like Bing Crosby (an investor in the track), Barbara Stanwyck and her then-husband, the handsome Robert Taylor.  Mother even got into the movies once as an extra in a crowd scene, fleeing from a burning circus tent.  She and I would re-enact our favorite movies at home, taking turns playing the good or bad guys.

I'm having such a good time introducing another generation to classic films by loaning my collection to Kellan and William.  They've enjoyed early Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine in "Suspicion," had never seen Lawrence Olivier, laughed at William Powell in "My Man Godfrey."  They borrow three movies one week and trade them for another three the next.

Today will be a little more productive.  I just won't turn on the television.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Once In A....

The guys around the world who make calendars don't seem to agree on much.  I'm going to stick with The Farmer's Almanac and say that there will be a "blue moon" on August 31, the second full moon in one month.  I know for sure the darned thing is bright.  I'd gone through the regular nighttime routine and was ready to climb into bed last night when I looked out the window to the deck.  Had I forgotten to turn out the living room lights?  It sure looked like it.  Back down the hall to check.  No, but light was streaming in the windows.  Ohmigosh, it was moonlight.  Just to prove a point, I took printed material outside and sure enough, it was bright enough to read a paper.

There have been a number of plane crashes reported in the news lately.   I thought I was going to witness one yesterday afternoon.  A wave of sound came rumbling at us and the windows shook.  At first I thought the plane was going to hit us, it was that close.  Bess came running to me as I went to look as it passed over us.  If the angle had been different, I'm sure I could have looked the pilot of the big tanker plane in the eye.  Headed due east, it seemed to barely clear the tree tops and I just knew the next thing would be a ball of flame in the hills by Omo Ranch.  Why it didn't and why it was flying so low, I'll never know.  I just hope that only happens once in a blue moon.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Big To-Do

An overheated brain isn't capable of much thought.  It's probably a safety device that keeps the body from exerting itself unnecessarily and causing damage during a heat wave.  Given that the last few days have been down in the eighties, my brain has begun functioning again (no comments, please) and darned if the first thing it did was write out a big, long To-Do List.  I had hoped for something a little more in the go-wild-and-crazy category, and what do I get?  Clear brush from under the corner oak.  Use loppers and cut down the wild blackberry vines that once again threaten to block the outside door to downstairs.  Start working on Christmas presents (really?).  Sweep the old leaves off the deck to make room for the new ones that have begun to fall.  Stuff like that.  Not fun stuff.  Perhaps it's another protective situation; maybe one shouldn't quit sweating cold turkey and this is the brain's way of tapering off.  Not one to rush into anything, I started small this morning and took the trash down to the big road.  Now I've got to take another look at that list.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Comfort Zone

Ahhh.  Thanks to the delta breezes, there was a dramatic drop in temperature yesterday and we all breathed a sigh of relief.  For the first time in I can't remember when, I didn't come out of the barn dripping wet from the inside out.  The girls waiting their turn frisked about like kids.  Large flocks of turkeys drifted through the property all day; they had been staying down in the shade of the woods during the heat.  I hadn't blamed the little girls for not wanting to sit in a hot box.  Egg production had fallen to one, maybe three a day.  Last evening I picked up eight!  The bird bath in the herb garden was a riot of activity with lots of splashing and chatter going on as the wild birds came to cool off.  We're all back in our comfort zone.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Grand Central

It was a day of comings and goings and began with a short visit from Joel who brought treats for the chickens.  As it was predicted to drop to eighty-nine, he reminded me to haul more firewood up to the porch so I could withstand the sudden chill.  Smart alec.  With some tomato trimmings thrown in with the carrot tops, the little girls enjoyed salad for breakfast.

After I'd finished with chores and a bit of housework, Dave rode up on his Harley.  (What is worse than finding a dead squirrel on the porch as a guest arrives?  Finding half a squirrel.  Thanks, Frank.)  Bessie Anne nearly turns herself inside out when the Kids come up.  She's as pleased to see them as I.  Bacon and fresh tomato sandwiches for lunch and nonstop conversation; it was a great one-on-one day.

Dave had to leave before the late race at Bristol started.  I fear he missed the display of histrionics shown by his favorite driver, Tony Stewart, after his car was wrecked.  Tsk tsk.

My milk customers stopped by after a day of wine tasting to drop off more jars for their Monday pick-up and stayed for a short chat.  (Gotta love that DVR.)

Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, has died.  I had to touch base with Deb last night to ask if she remembered his amazing first step on Luna, and she did.  As young as they were, I wanted the Kids to be even a remote part of that momentous occasion and sat all of them in front of the television to watch the landing, and then trotted them outside to look at The Man On the Moon.  I also remember the interviews with Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov, science-fiction writers of the day.  The space travel they'd only imagined had become reality.  And what would H. G. Wells have said?  No matter how prepared he was, Armstrong was a brave man to take that "One small step."

Saturday, August 25, 2012

In Lilliput

Chickens are such funny little creatures.  Perhaps because they also walk on two legs, they seem like tiny people to me.  Every morning when I open the hen house doors, they come tumbling down the ramp or leaping off the stoop and cluster around my feet.  I feel like Gulliver must have when he was surrounded by Lilliputians.  They eagerly search the morning's grain for vegetable trimmings from the house and squabble over any tidbit found.  Joel has promised some carrot tops later today, and I know that when I walk out toward the pen, the flock will come running so fast they'll skid around the corner.  You just can't beat a chicken's enthusiasm.

Also in the wee category, I've found a critter that can out-stubborn a mule.  A colony of red ants moved in by the water faucet at the fence line to the goat pen.  These ants aren't called fire ants for nothing.  Their bites sting and burn, and once they've got a grip they don't let go.  I've pretty much got a live-and-let-live attitude toward most creatures, but I've seen goats dance when a red ant has clamped on to an ankle and a dog cry in pain with an ant clinging to her tender nose.  I know firsthand how it feels because they'll sneak up under a pants leg and chomp.  It hurts!  These ants must move on.  For a couple of weeks now I've flooded their nest morning and night when I top off the water trough.  They float out on the man-made tsunami and out into the field.  I destroy the subterranean tunnels and nurseries.  And the next day they are going about the business of rebuilding and we do it all over again.  Talk about stubborn!

Dave, oldest son, called last night and said he'd be coming up today.  Dave towers over me, so instead of Gulliver, I'm going to be one of the little people.  Regardless, it's going to be a good day.

Friday, August 24, 2012


I've been on quite a trip the past two days (without benefit of chemical stimulation, I might add).  Animal Control Guy called the other day and informed me that my neighbor intends to fight the latest leash-law citation in court.  In preparation for such an event, I started going through my personal journals, calendars where I note daily events, and the blog for documentation.  If I have to appear before a judge, I will carry ammunition.

Anyone who has seen "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" (I particularly like the original with Robert Donat and Greer Garson) will remember the final scene where Chippington sees a parade of faces from his past.  Reading my journals has been like that for me; a real trip down Memory Lane.  For two days, I've been riding the crest of a gamut of emotions evoked by entries about holidays, visits from family and friends, loss of friends both human and animal, frustration with weather (and animals), joy, gratitude, sorrow, and on and on.  Some events had been forgotten.  Some, even from four years ago (when Annie's dogs first became a real problem), are still fresh in my mind.  A sentence, a paragraph, one photo, and my mind played out the whole scene.  Now that's a trip!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Risque Business

Sparrow seems to have established a menage a trois.  Being a circumspect young male and discreet, he is in his cubby and his two female companions are in the next cubby over when I go down to the goat barn at night.  Even the girls are careful about appearances and are at opposite ends of their "room."  Everyone's reputation is intact.  Uh huh.  (I feel like I'm writing for one of the tell-all tabloids!  If I took photos, I could be a paparazzo.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

There Is Hope

There are times I have to fight cynicism.  Government, the economy, global warming, work ethics; the list of disappointments goes on.  I got a real boost yesterday, a glimpse of hope.  Perhaps the solution for recovery is not a major overhaul (I doubt the country could reach a consensus anyhow), but in the efforts and dedication of some young people who do not want to change the whole world, just their world.  I've mentioned Kellan and William, who work so hard in their garden and at selling their produce, spreading the word about local and fresh like evangelists.  Yesterday I met two more kids (no offense intended; everyone under fifty is a kid to me) who are looking for a new lifestyle and willing to work to get it.

Tim delivered Ryan and Tanisha promptly at seven.  Knowing it would take time to set a curd, the first thing we did was add rennet to a couple of gallons of milk.  Tim stayed to have breakfast while I got acquainted with the kids.  They are from New Hampshire; not an "M" state, but close.  This is their first trip to California and they took advantage by flying in to San Francisco and driving down toward San Diego before reporting for their apprenticeship with Tim.

My girls did pretty well with the strangers in the barn.  Unfortunately, they did not cooperate with the planned hoof trimming.  Rather than risk injury to man, woman, or beast, I called it off.  Tanisha and Ryan took turns with the milking and once they got the rhythm and the grip, did very well.  When Esther and Ruth (nonmilkers) were on the stand, the kids cleaned the stalls and I took a break.  As with any training session, it always takes longer to accomplish the chores, so it was time to fix lunch when we got back to the house.

In order to give a more complete cheese experience, we decided to make feta.  There is more to the process than chevre.  Cheese making is more an art than a science, and it is easier to see and feel the change in the curd than to explain it.  Hanging the curd to drain the whey, we worked on lunch.  Hot pasta with a cold sauce of Kellan and William's tiny, sweet grape tomatoes, and garlic, basil, parsley, walnuts, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil whirled in the processor filled up their "empty spot," and didn't require standing over a hot stove to prepare.

The meal over, the curd was cut and salted, and we sat and relaxed while waiting for Tim to come back for their ride home.  Ryan and Tanisha took their experience and a package of feta away, and left me with a vision of what might be.  I now know two couples who want to make a difference with honest hard work and a return to basic values.  That's a start.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

On a Dead Run

It's not even light out and I'm already cooking.  Yes, really cooking in the kitchen and not from the heat.  It seems part of the deal, in addition to teaching the apprentices, is that breakfast and lunch be provided.  A lot that I planned to get done yesterday got delayed because of a run to town to file papers with Animal Control, so I've really got to get cracking this morning.

This is going to be an interesting day.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Not Again!

I heard somewhere that one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.  If that is true, either I or my neighbor must be nutty as a fruitcake.  I truly couldn't believe it when I looked out at dusk and saw two of her dogs in my front yard again; the larger brown and smaller black Labradoodles.  It hasn't been even three months since her dogs were here last.  I had received an impassioned, two-page, typewritten letter from her then, telling me that "good neighbors" work together to solve a problem, the implication being that I was not a good neighbor.  Since I cannot pen her dogs for her nor bring myself to shoot them, I don't know what my part would be in the solution.  The goats were bunched together in the corner of the pen, trembling and giving their "danger" snorts, so I know the dogs had been harassing them again.  I was darn near trampled as the girls rushed to get into the safety of the barn.  Animal Control will be informed.  Maybe this time the insanity will stop.

The world is turning on its axis again.  Daylight starts later and ends earlier these days.  Not cool yet by any stretch of the imagination, yesterday's temp was not in the triple digits.  The number of pedestrian turkeys working their way across the property is growing.  A very large flock of quail has taken up residence in the unburned brush pile out by the garden.  (It seems I'm destined to have that unsightly lump of clippings forever on my horizon.)  Pre-season football is back; my loyalties are divided between the Vikings and the Steelers.  Yup, we're heading toward fall.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Help Is On the Way

Meat goats and milk goats, while the same species, are two very different animals.  My friend Tim has probably a hundred meat goats now.  He recently answered an ad by a young couple from one of the eastern "M" states (Michigan, Massachusetts, Maine?) who wanted to apprentice with a goat rancher.  Such an arrangement can be a win-win situation.  Helping hands in exchange for hands-on training.  The couple's month-long sojourn with him is drawing to an end soon.

Tim called the other day, and now I'm involved.  It seems the pair want to learn how to milk goats and make cheese (so Tim says), and so, of course, Tim thought of me.  (It could also be that after working together twenty-four/seven, they all might need a break.)  He did a pretty good selling job, saying that the Kids would trim hooves, clean stalls, etc.; anything I wanted or needed done.  By Tuesday temps are predicted to be down in the 80s, or I would have said no.  Teaching takes time, and extending my stay in the sauna in the heat would not be worth whatever assistance the Kids might give.  He's to drop them off by seven.  That will give us time to get acquainted and get a batch of chevre started.  By the time we finish in the barn, the curd will have set.  I do enjoy teaching, and it will be fun to meet new people on my home turf.  (And the girls are due for a pedicure!)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Shadow Knows

I was fortunate enough to grow up at a time before television, video games, or Facebook.  What we had was radio, Parcheesi, face-to-face conversation, and books that came from the library.  As an added benefit, I was essentially raised as an only child of older parents in a neighborhood without many in my age group.  I learned early on to be comfortable in my own company.  This combination of factors required the development of imagination.  It was surprising, and sometimes disappointing, to see the real faces of actors I'd known only by their voice on the radio; not always as I'd imagined at all.  It wasn't just me, either.  My parents had lengthy debates on whether the lead singer of the Ink Spots was male or female, especially when they sang, "If I Didn't Care."  It turned out that Bill Kenny had a beautiful falsetto.  Our radio was half the size of a refrigerator, a combination piece as the top opened to reveal a record player (78s, of course).  We listened to Bob Hope, Fibber McGee and Molly, Jack Benny, The Lone Ranger, Burns and Allen, dramatic performances by big-name stars of the day, and my favorites, the mysteries.  Suspense, Mystery Theater, The Whistler, Inner Sanctum (with the creaking door), and The Shadow.  "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?  The Shadow knows."  Sitting on the floor in front of the radio with only the light of the dials...oooh, I can still feel the shivers.  Radio was interactive entertainment.  It required audience participation as we conjured pictures, assisted by sound effects, as the stories were narrated by men with deep, mellifluous voices.

And what does any of this have to do with the farm?  I think of it often down in the barn when I might wonder what time it is or how long the milking is taking.  I can get a pretty accurate idea when I look for the square of light from the doorway and see how far it has moved down the wall as the sun moves across the sky.  The Shadow Knows.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Just Enough

Bessie Anne, as pictures have shown, doesn't always have sense to come in out of the rain.  When it comes to heat, however, she's a pretty smart cookie with enough sense to stay inside.  I gather up milk buckets, etc., to go to the barn in the morning.  She lifts her head from her cool spot on the entry tiles and says, "You're on your own, Mom.  I'll be here when you get back."  As Steve used to say about the goats, "They're your toys.  Go play and have a nice time."

Extremes in temperature, hot or cold, make me wonder if I have any sense at all.  There are days when I'd be lying if I said I was eager to do chores.  Delay doesn't pay, though.  Dragging around in the morning doesn't make the situation any better.  "Maybe I need another cup of coffee."  "I'd better watch the news to see what the weatherman has to say."  "Oh, look!  The hummers' feeder is almost empty."  Any and every excuse not to rush down into that oven-like barn and sit with an overheated goat seems like a good one.  Same thing in the winter when the barn is a freezer.  The only one I'm fooling is me.  It only gets hotter (or colder) as the morning wears on.  I know that.  And still there are days when I procrastinate.

The funny thing is, dripping sweat or dripping rain notwithstanding, I get a tremendous sense of satisfaction from the animals and fowl in my care.  I enjoy their company and their product.  I like being a part of their lives, as they are a part of mine.  That's enough to keep me doing what I do.  And Bessie Anne is waiting when I get back.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Getting Better

To paraphrase an old song, "in the cool, cool, cool of the morning," it's actually comfortable today at daybreak.  It was quite wonderful to wake up during the night and realize I wanted to pull the blanket back over.  During a stretch such as we've had, it's hard to remember that it is colder more months than it is hot because it seems like the oven will be turned up forever.  Predicted to go back to triple digit today, I'm just grateful for the respite while it's here.

It may be that the forced exercise was good for my hand.  It was like milking with a boxing glove yesterday, but the swelling has gone down considerably.  Still puffy from fingertips to elbow, I can at least bend the fingers now.

Any reason to play in the water when it's hot is a good one, so I decided to hose down the siding on the house, at least the part that was in shade.  Bessie Anne moved along with me and we got the cooling benefit of the back spray.  In the process, I disturbed Ms. Praying Mantis.  The abdomen of the female is leaf shaped; pencil slim on the male.  I put her in one of the flower pots and wished her good hunting.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Everybody's Talking 'Bout It

"Hot enough for ya?"  Standard conversational opener after seven days of triple-digit heat.  The very air is condensed, hard to breathe.  It presses against skin with a tangible weight.  Smoke from wildfires burning clear across the valley has made its way to the foothills, scenting and flavoring the air.  That in itself is a danger, masking the warning smell of smoke should a nearby fire break out.  All we can do about the weather is talk.

The venom from one little wasp sting is powerful stuff.  Swelling in my hand is such that I can't hold a coffee cup this morning, and is working its way past the wrist.  Milking was an experience yesterday.  With fingers like stiff sausages, today it will be more difficult still.  I might be a little panicky had I not recently gone through this with the other hand.

Perhaps I misjudged Sparrow's male appeal.  Last night he had not one but two females enticed to his bachelor pad.  Three sets of shiny black eyes follow me as I move about putting the girls into their stalls, the birds sitting motionless.

One thing about gardeners, they love to share.  Debbie K. came by yesterday with a gift of tomatoes, green onions, and zucchini.  Last night, grated squash, chopped green onion, eggs, a little Bisquick and a good squirt of sriracha made wonderful zucchini pancakes for dinner.

It's supposed to be only (only!) ninety-eight today.  I hope that wasn't just talk.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Not Fair

Unfair!  Unfair, I say!  I did not reach into a place I could not see, I simply moved a chair on the deck while watering last evening and got nailed by another danged wasp.  Getting stabbed with a red-hot poker couldn't hurt worse.  As it happened, at that time I was enjoying a little sundowner of bourbon with ice and so stuck the injured finger into the glass.  Alcohol is an antiseptic and the ice (and bourbon) helped the pain.  On a run into town earlier, I'd noted that it was 112 degrees in Diamond Springs.  If I didn't finish watering the potted plants, I'd lose them; it only takes a day in this weather.  In spite of numerous evil insects buzzing about, I got the job done.  They seemed satisfied with their preliminary strike and didn't attack again.  Determined to get the last laugh (and revenge!), I went out after dark and sprayed the heck out of a really big nest.  Ha!  Take that, you devils!

I'm passing on a hint from my friend Linda.  After my last sting, she suggested a paste of meat tenderizer.  I tried that and I'm here to say that it immediately took away that immense burning pain.  It didn't stop the swelling, however.  Once again, I have no dimples in my knuckles and my palm looks like a paw.  Milking this morning will be a challenge as I can barely bend the affected finger.

Mr. Sparrow sweet-talked a lady friend over to his pad in the barn last night.  I could have told him that relationship was going nowhere.  She wouldn't join him in his cubby, but stayed in the "living room" one space over.  Can't blame a guy for trying.

We're due for another day of one-hundred-plus degrees today, and then get one day of (wait for it) ninety-eight! before it climbs back to triple digits.  As with the wasp sting, I'll take whatever relief I can get.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Christmas Day

"'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse."
According to the poem, this must be Christmas Day.  Yesterday was one of those slightly eerie days when no barn creatures appeared to keep me company as I milked.  Not a mouse, bird, or squirrel stirred.  I don't blame them.  If the goats and I had a choice, we wouldn't have been under that metal roof in direct sun either.  Chores were done in record time with no frills and no fooling around.

Back at the house, Dave and I were comparing notes by phone on the race at Watkins Glen.  They say we lose body heat through our head.  Maybe so, but I know for sure that stripping off shoes and socks (or sticking feet out from under the blanket at night) makes me feel a lot cooler.  I mentioned to Dave that it was in the high nineties in the house and it wasn't just shoes I'd taken off.  As a construction foreman, he's used to working in heat and suggested a wet towel around my neck.  That felt pretty good.  So good, in fact, that I soaked my loose tank top and put it back on wet.  It cooled a lot more body space than just the towel.  It was at that moment I realized I had become my mother.

Somewhere in the (imaginary) Mother's Manual it says that parents must embarrass their children (and grandchildren) on a regular basis.  I know my mother followed this rule, and I'm sure I did, too.  Mother lived for a time in a small apartment complex without air conditioning.  Her method of coping with heat was to sit outside wearing a wet slip and watch TV through the open door.  That in itself was mortifying, but she made Deb and me wet our clothes when we visited and join her, and that was worse.  In those days, I'd have rather put up with the heat.

Yesterday, every time I took Bess out for a dip in her pool, I soaked my top too.  Just getting cool for a little while was our Christmas present.

The heat is not going to let up today and what's worse, dark clouds are building up over the mountain.  I'm going through my pre-electrical outage drill just in case.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Full Circle

The house where I lived as a child was in a (semi)rural area, did not have air conditioning, had a septic tank, and I played in the sprinkler.  All these years and a number of different houses later, I live in a rural area, don't have air conditioning, once again have a septic tank, and I'm still playing in the sprinkler.  One of my sons got a huge laugh out of the mental picture he got when he texted late in the afternoon to ask what I was doing...and I told him.  The cooling spray from the sprinkler as I watered the herb garden and plants across the front of the house had been too appealing to resist.  I'd switched to short bibbies and I'll admit to doing a little prancing and dancing as I moved the sprinkler from here to there without turning it off in between.  Frank and Pearl stayed out of the water, but followed behind, stretching out full length on the newly dampened earth in the shade.  Bess abandoned The Look to actually bark, telling me she wanted a dip in the pool, and she did that three times in the afternoon.

I was taken by the symmetry and beautiful construction of this spider web in the milking room.  At the angle I viewed it as I took a breather on the end of the milking stand, the gossamer threads caught the sunlight with iridescence.

The male sparrow continues to roost alone in his cubbyhole over the barn door.  The funny thing is that I never see him during the day.

Seventy-four degrees outside at six this morning; eighty in the house.  That's all I'm going to say about that.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

And Now For the Weather

Seventy-four is a delightful temperature; not too hot, not too cold.  I like seventy-four.  Of course, that was outside at five-thirty this morning, and it was seventy-eight in the house.  Yes, I'm obsessing about the heat.  I know it is much hotter in the Kalahari desert, but I'm not there and I have to work with what I've got.  It was 108 in Diamond Springs yesterday afternoon.  I think that's hot.  I had escaped for awhile and went to Arden's for some great conversation, a wonderful lunch, and air conditioning!  Had it not been for my animals, I would have taken a sleeping bag and rented space on her couch.  As soon as I got home, Bessie headed for the pool and a cooling dip.  The cats walk around the outside of it and I'm sorely tempted to pick them up and dunk their furry little selves, but I don't have enough band-aids.

It is predicted to be hotter today.  I can predict a bigger whine tomorrow.

Friday, August 10, 2012


Years back, a friend and I were on a small commercial prop job waiting to fly out of Lake Tahoe.  Sitting in the plane on the tarmac, we waited.  And waited.  The pilot came on the intercom and explained that the plane was "a tad heavy" and we might need to unload some luggage or passengers or, best case scenario, if we got the right "puff of air," we could take off and make it over the surrounding mountains.  She and I looked at each other, thinking it was rather bizarre that our lives could depend on a puff of air.  (Obviously, we made it.)

In the barn on these hot days, I find myself again wishing for "a puff of air" as if my life depended on it.  The slightest breeze wafting through gives a tiny measure of relief.  None of the girls is in season, darn it, because when they are, their tail whirls like a helicopter and would fan the air.  I'm grateful when one of the jays swoops overhead to the grain bucket because their flight fans the air a bit.

At noon yesterday, it was 102 on the side of the house that the sun never hits and 94 in the house.  At seven o'clock in the evening, it was 94 outside and 92 inside.  The delta breeze, nature's air conditioner for northern California, is too much to hope for, so I'm left waiting.  Waiting for a puff of air.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Doldrums

The best way to sit while milking a goat is next to her on the stand facing her south end, torso upright and legs straight out in an L position.  It's only when you're sitting bent forward in a V that you realize the front legs of the stand have once again sunk into the squirrel burrows.  The poor goat can't tell you that she's getting a head rush, trying to eat while her rump's in the air.  (As one might imagine, this happened again yesterday.)

The summer doldrums are upon us, those days when even putting on the brakes for things to come to a screeching halt would take too much effort.  Bess quickly learned the routine.  After spending most of the day trying to stay cool by moving from tiles to hearth, she lifts her head in the afternoon and gives me The Look.  "Want to go in the pool?"  She immediately goes to the door to the deck.  At first I had to put her front feet in before she'd go into the water.  Now she steps daintily over the edge without urging and stands waiting while I scoop water over her back.  The pool has to be in afternoon shadow or the water is too hot.

Water is such a precious resource.  When I'd spent a day without it after the electrical storm, I almost cried, "No! Don't waste it!," when the telephone guy poured a half-bottle of warm water from his truck out on the ground.  Water features are lovely in the garden, but having one would make me a crazy person.  The sound of running water sends me racing for the off valve!  Down in the valley, we had mister hoses all around the gazebo and it was wonderful to sit out there, cool on the hottest days.  Up here, all I'd be able to think about would be that I was running the well dry.  Watering the plants has to be done in shifts and for only so long.  I might yearn for a real grass lawn, but could I spare the water to keep it green?

Yesterday morning, blinking numbers on the clock told me there'd been an electrical hiccup during the night.  Why we lose power more during summer than in winter is beyond my ken.  All I can do is keep all troughs and bowls topped up and hope for the best.  At least hoping doesn't take much of my energy; there's not a lot to spare.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Shape Up!

I see all these commercials for gyms and personal trainers, and people jogging and biking, just to get or stay in shape.  Instead of a B&B, I should open the Farview Fitness Farm.  We could offer a mile-a-day (total) walk down to the barn and back (more, if Sheila is playing Ring-Around-the-Rosy).  Plenty of waist twists, bending and lifting, while raking and shoveling goat poop out of the stalls.  Over a thousand reps to develop hand strength while squeezing teats for four goats.  The morning hike back up the hill from the barn includes carrying two buckets of milk.  The barn itself is a sauna in summer, guaranteed to sweat all impurities from the skin.  Today, for a special treat, there are four fifty-pound bags of chicken and bird feed and two seventy-five-pound bags of goat chow to unload from the truck.  One bag of chow will have to be trundled on the handcart down to the barn, lifted and emptied into the mouse-proof barrel.

Yesterday afternoon, there was a ruckus out by the chicken pens, with one prolonged, strange-sounding clucking going on.  A coyote was moving slowly off down the slope to the woods.  Leaving an anxious Bess in the house, I stepped out on the deck with the gun and fired a shot for effect.  The coyote took off, but I could still hear that clucking, now coming from down the hill.  Nothing for it but to go see if I could find the injured fowl.  Going down wasn't too bad.  I could hear the bird, now from here, now from there, as I went back and forth, but couldn't see any movement anywhere.  Finally I looked up and there was a turkey hen high up in an oak.  She appeared surprisingly unharmed, for which I was glad, but I still had to get back up to the house and that's a very steep slope; steeper in the heat of the day.  If I were running the fitness farm, that would be an added benefit to offer my clients.  They, too, could "go for the burn."

Hmmm.  I'll have to give this idea more thought.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Dog Days

Heat up, energy down.  Yup, we're in the dog days of summer.  This will be a short entry because 1) little of interest occurred yesterday except marathon sweating and 2) I've got to get down to the barn earlier if I'm to survive.  The heat seemed to have gotten to the mice, too.  As I sat resting on the stand while Esther was eating, suddenly a mouse dropped at my feet in the dust.  A short while later, another (or the same one?) hit the lid of the empty bucket with a clang like cymbals.  Thrill-seeking teenagers or adults overcome by heat stroke?  Mice must have bones of India rubber.  Falling the equivalent of me leaping from the Empire State building, instead of being splattered on the ground, these little creatures jump up and scamper off.  I keep a constant eye on water for everything, including juice for the hummers.  They're draining their feeders almost as soon as I hang them.  The big water pan I leave out for the wild things is empty every morning, and the chickens are drinking three gallons a day.  Hanging a load of laundry, as soon as I got the last piece on the line, I could go back and take down the first.  Without a breeze, the dry air sucked every bit of moisture from the cloth.  Doing laundry was about as much as I could accomplish yesterday.

This is the week of the Perseid meteor shower, said to be at its best this Saturday.  I just have to remember to go back out after dark.  Bessie Anne hasn't needed to go walkies lately and, without that incentive, I rarely go outside at night.

O crum!  A big Rottweiler just cruised through the yard.  That's all I need.  I know Rotties can be really sweet dogs, but I'd be hesitant to approach a stray.  Thankfully, he went on down the drive and hopefully was on his way home.  Probably stopped off for a drink of water.  I was going to say this ain't the corner pub, but in a way I guess it is.  Keep on moving, big boy.  This isn't what I anticipated when I said these are the Dog Days.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Days of Wine and Races

The storm that went over Pocono, Pennsylvania, yesterday made ours of the day before seem pretty picayune.  It delayed the beginning of the NASCAR race so that I could actually watch the start when I got back from the barn, and then ended the race early with a torrential downpour and lightning.  I didn't find out until today that lightning strikes hit fleeing spectators, killing one; a terrible ending.

It was the weekend of the annual SlugFest, an event thrown by the four wineries up on Slug Gulch.  "Slug," by the way, has nothing to do with the garden-variety slimy things, but is a mining term from the gold rush days.  My new neighbor Camille and I had talked about going to the wine tasting the day before, but, given the unsettled weather, had opted out.  She stopped by yesterday and again asked if I wanted to go.  The race was over early, the weather was relatively mild; what the heck, let's go for it!  As we both had dawdled away most of the day, we went only to DK Cellars at the top of the hill.  Kim and Dave are the most gracious hosts, they make lovely wines, and their venue has one of the most spectacular views around.  Camille, her gorgeous, well-behaved, German shepherd Honey, and I sat and sipped, laughed and chatted, and became better acquainted.  It was the last day of the event and Kim had time to join us with her dog, Madelyn.  I never leave DK Cellars without a bottle of Short Bus red.  Short Bus, in this case, refers to a small yellow school bus that has been converted to a "limo," a party bus that brings tours to the wine country.

 With apologies to the 1962 film, Days of Wine and Roses, it was a good day for wine and races in Fair Play.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


Another wild time in the old sky last night.  Thor amused himself by tossing lightning bolts hither and yon.  The elves moved west from the Catskills and bowled their games directly overhead.  Rain left over from Dolly's last party provided liquid refreshment.  To quote Yogi Berra, "It was deja vu all over again."

The clouds started rolling over in the afternoon, with occasional distant thunder over the mountains to the east.  The temperature dropped to a comfortable level.  Ah, relief!  And then it started raining and the lightning strikes were closer.  I unplugged the computer, not wanting to tempt fate twice.  The rain was brief, but the storm lingered.  One-thousand one, one-thousand two, BANG!  It was dark at least a half-hour before usual, and thunder rolled around me as I tucked the kids in bed.  The chickens didn't need any tucking; they were huddled together in their coops when I got to them.  The goats and Poppy pushed and shoved to get into the barn first.  Poor creatures, I can't imagine what they think on a day like this.

Back at the house, I made sure the cell phone was charged and there was water in the tea kettle, matches by the oil lamps, and working batteries in the flashlights.  This ain't my first rodeo.  I made sure to walk calmly and slowly so as not to make Bessie Anne more nervous than she was already.  The last storm really spooked her.  She followed me like a shadow, and stuck to me like a limpet when I sat down.  Deb and Craig called after nine to let me know a major storm cell was right over their heads (I could hear the thunder over the phone) and coming my way.  Sure enough, it took about an hour to get across the valley, bringing heavy rain.  With the lightning so close, it seemed prudent to turn off the TV, so I sat quietly with Bess plastered to my leg as we waited for the storm to pass.  We made it through without loss of power and when the last flash and clap ended, we went to bed.

It was a doozy of a day.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Barn Babies

Babies are cute.  Baby mice and squirrels are no exception.  Perhaps I should qualify that:  pink, blind, hairless, wriggling newborn mice are not cute.  By the time they are old enough to come out of the burrows and join the elders for breakfast, they are darned cute.  There is a whole crop of youngsters down in the milking room, from kindergartners to middle schoolers.  The mice kids have a combination of terror and bravado, daring each other to go to the grain pile first, leaping in fear if a goat stamps her foot.  Squirrel babies play tag in the big room, kicking up dust until scolded by one of the moms.  The goat barn has become one big nursery.

I like eggplant, Craig likes eggplant.  I like anchovies, Craig likes anchovies.  Deb likes neither.  (Is it any wonder he is my favorite son-in-law?)  So as not to contaminate our shared pizzas and ruin them for Deb yesterday, he and I got anchovies on the side.  Lingering over lunch, we watched the Olympic games on a big-screen TV, talking all the while, in the comfort of an air-conditioned restaurant.  Even though it was a few degrees cooler than the day before, it was still in the nineties in my house and it seemed like cruel and inhuman punishment to make them sit in that heat.  Any time with my Kids is never long enough.  Oh, my gosh, it was a good day.

Awoke this morning to the scary smell of smoke again.  Finally located it over on Perry Creek or coming down from Slug Gulch; either is too close for comfort.  No fire trucks came roaring up and the smoke appears to have dissipated, so it must have been some idiot trying not to get caught burning a brush pile before daylight.

Friday, August 3, 2012


Temps are supposed to drop by a few degrees today, something to look forward to in its own right, but especially because Deb and Craig are coming up.  I say goodbye to my local Kids along about May and it could be Thanksgiving before I see them again.  Pete's visit was a complete surprise, and Clay might brave the heat to come and watch a NASCAR race (a sedentary activity that doesn't raise a sweat), but otherwise it's just too darned hot to enjoy a visit.  Deb and Craig have a few days off from work and are sharing one of those days with me, summer or not.  We're going to go for lunch to a pizzeria up the road in Pleasant Valley.  This might not be a big deal for flatlanders (I think there was one pizza shop for every ten people in West Sacramento), but I haven't been out for pizza in years so I'm pretty excited.  It's also possible that it might be air conditioned!

Tree Guy (aka Go-To) stopped by in the afternoon.  He has anticipation of another sort.  He is being called out to fight a wildfire somewhere up the Highway 50 corridor.  I live on the high ground, and he wanted to look for telltale smoke.  That is his "day job," running a firefighting crew.  The fire must be back in wilderness, because we couldn't see any plumes.  Last month he spent eighteen days on a wildfire in Utah.  Dangerous, hot work; not something I'd look forward to. 

Bessie Anne spends her afternoons moving from the entryway tiles to the stone hearth in an attempt to stay cool.  When I ask her, "Want to go in the pool?," she jumps up and goes to the door.  She'll go directly to the pool and while she might need assistance getting her front feet in, once in the water I can almost hear her sigh of relief.  I scoop water over her back and get her good and soaked before she steps out.  It's amazing how energized she is afterward.

I've got to get cracking here...Deb and Craig are coming!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Home Invasion

I didn't even know we'd had a break-in until I walked out in the morning and saw the gate to the feed barn torn off the hinges and laying on the ground.  I guess the temptation was too great and the opportunity was right there.  There has been a full moon, so the danged deer didn't even need a flashlight.  I doubt they would have read the "No Admittance" sign anyhow.

A bit later, I gasped as I looked up while milking Sheila.  One of the girls was walking along the driveway on the outside of the fence!  How could she possibly have gotten out?  Then I realized it was a totally brown animal and the only all-brown goat I have is Sheila and she was right next to me.  It wasn't a goat at all; it was a deer right out there in the open in full daylight!  Was it one of the nighttime intruders, come back for seconds?  This doe went almost nose to nose with Tessie through the fence and then nonchalantly moseyed down the drive, nibbling at tidbits all the while.

As if that weren't enough, later in the day I glanced out onto the deck and saw some critter creepy-creeping along behind the pots.  It was a brazen ground squirrel that had come all the way around, checking the progress on the cherry tomato plants I'd planted in the strawberry pot.  I've only gotten two or three tomatoes myself; now I know why.

It is also the time of year for the annual invasion of tiny black ants in the kitchen.  They seem to appear when it is hot and dry and I think they come in looking for water.  As long as they're in, they might have a snack from the cats' dish, but rarely do they go anywhere else but the sink.  They come in the dark and in the morning I rinse them down the drain.  This only lasts a week or so, and there weren't any out there today.

It evidently isn't enough that I feed nearly every darned creature that walks or flies in the area, now they're going for self-serve.  The thought that I'm in charge is an illusion.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Half Step Back

I tried to take a step back in technology, and found out you can't get there from here.  Bessie Anne and the cats go out and come in a dozen times a day, each time tracking in burrs, foxtails, bits of leaves, etc.  If I were fanatical, I could vacuum the carpet four times a day, but make do with two or three times a week.  Vacuuming is the last-minute chore when company is due so there's a chance it will look good when they walk in.  The carpet was at its worst the day the power went out and there was nothing I could do about it.  That's when I decided I needed a carpet sweeper, one of those tools we had when I was a kid.  It was a kind of low box on wheels with brushes that swept up the debris as it was pushed around, no electricity required.  On my last trip to town, in amongst the fancy-dancy turbo this's and wind-tunnel that's vacuum cleaners, I finally located what looked like what I wanted.  There were several models, but all of them were (rechargeable) battery operated.  In their attempt to modernize, the manufacturers assume everyone will have electricity, which sort of defeats the purpose.  If I hadn't been impatient, I could have gone to Lehman's Catalog where everything sold is nonelectric, but I went ahead and got one of the battery-operated sweepers.  It will certainly be easier to use on the stairs than the big upright vacuum.  Not meant for heavy-duty cleaning, it does a good job on a quick pick up and as long as I'm diligent about keeping it recharged, it should be good to go.  So much for "going green."