Sunday, September 30, 2012

Moon Over Farview

It could be called an ordinary day.  A load of laundry, barn chores, a little housework.  Joel stopped by for a quick chat.  He's overseeing the grape harvest for a number of vineyards; this is his busiest time of year.  Having been given a particular ingredient, I was inspired to bake fourteen loaves of (shhh, it's a secret) for Christmas, summer heat notwithstanding.  A milk customer and her family picked up a week's supply for Lulu the Lamb.

All in all, a pretty satisfactory day, perhaps a little more productive than usual in this weather.  It was as I was coming back up from putting the critters to bed that I had one of those moments.  Porch lights welcoming and nearly full moon rising.  I know I rarely leave, but it's good to be home.

Saturday, September 29, 2012


I found Peter Parker, my own little spider man, sulking in the corner.  For a couple of days I'd been too busy in the barn to catch flies for him and his buddies and he obviously was in a snit.  Usually when he'd see me he'd run to the middle of his web and make it fairly dance with anticipation.  Yesterday he turned his back and ignored me.  I don't take rejection well, so sat while Esther was eating her cereal and attempted to curry favor with a tiny arachnoid by trapping a couple of flies.  As sometimes happens, trying too hard results in failure.  I had to settle into the chore; it takes patience.  Finally, just before Esther finished her last bite, success!  It seems the affections of a spider can be cheaply bought for the price of one little morsel.  I was forgiven.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Sands of Time

Somebody opened the chute on my hourglass yesterday and the day was gone before I could get anything I'd planned done.  Just as well; it was too darned hot to get really ambitious.  I know it is a portent of things to come, however.  Time speeds up and slips away as we head into the holiday season.  (Don't kill the messenger.)  Not all votes are in, but the majority count indicates that the family will actually have Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving this year, and Christmas will be celebrated the Saturday before Dec. 25.  Close enough for horseshoes, hand grenades, and government work, unlike last year when we were weeks off the calendar dates.

I mentioned that the bird population is in flux.  Yesterday I saw the first stellar jay, a much flashier relative of the scrub jays that were down in the barn.  Blackbirds have arrived in droves to take the place of the doves that summered here.

I don't expect to see Tree Guy in the near future.  All the men in his family go elk hunting together every year over in Montana or Wyoming, and it's just another sign that fall is here.

Heat or no heat, I'd better get busy today.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


The changes are so subtle and gradual that they might be missed.  I don't know exactly when the blue jays left, but Baby Huey and his worn-to-a-nub parents no longer share the goats' breakfast.  The large flock of small barn birds (some kind of sparrow?) has returned to fill that gap.  Acorns are dropping and red-headed woodpeckers are pile-driving them into every available crevice and hole.  Turkeys are massing in larger numbers, drifting through morning and afternoon, males and females still separate.  Unless they're running late this year, I think I missed the awesome vulture migration.  The maintenance crew has stayed behind to clean up roadkill, thank goodness.  Another week of high temperatures is predicted, which makes the grape growers happy.  (Me, not so much.)  It will bring the sugar level up in the grapes before harvest.  Leaves in the woods need colder nights to turn color, but more leaves are certainly collecting on the deck.  The frog chorus is warming up, preparing for the symphony when the rains come. 

There was confusion in the ranks last night when I put all the critters inside before sundown.  "We don't want to go to bed!  It's still light out!"  Logistics become a problem when I have a dinner invitation, but I sure wasn't going to miss Joel and Judy's party, so it's put the kids in the barn and coops and race back to the house to shower and change.  It puts a whole new, delicious spin on "eat local, eat fresh" when the host and hostess catch and then smoke the trout.  Traditional dishes and familiar faces made for a delightful evening.

Just another sign that fall is coming.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Donkey Spit

Invited for an afternoon libation, I went down the road to Camille's yesterday.  Going up her long, curved driveway, I was met and accompanied to the house by Honey, who was disappointed to find I hadn't brought Bessie Anne.  Cooler outside than in, Camille and I opted to sit out under the trees, I in a chair and she on the tailgate of her truck.  In a few minutes, Shadow, the mini-donkey, came to join the party.  I know full well that the curled upper lip is a way to enhance the sense of smell, but it sure looks like a smile and Shadow was smiling all the way.  Like my goat Cindy, Shadow wants to sniff a person's breath.  I've read that Indians think it's the way an animal "smells" your soul.  Sitting in the chair put me on a face-to-face level with this little boy.  Shadow may look like Eeyore, but that's the only resemblance.  He is a most sociable creature.  It is a little difficult to carry on a conversation, talking while lip to lip with that long donkey face pressed against mine.  He stepped away for a minute or two to chase some chickens out of Camille's flower bed (she actually has a flower bed), but came back to nuzzle me again.  And lick.  And lick some more.  I've spent a lot of time around horses, and goats, of course, and none of them has ever licked me.  Camille said he's not done that before.  Those soulful dark eyes looked directly into mine and he licked my cheeks, my brow, my ears.  I can honestly say Shadow and I have bonded.  By the time I came home my face was stiff with donkey spit.  What a hoot!  (And I enjoyed Camille's company, too.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Half Moon

Half a moon is better than none when Bessie Anne wants to go walkies at night.  It's amazing how much moonlight is cast when there are no street lights, no neon signs, no flood lights, house or car lights to dull that lovely glow.  I didn't need my hat lamps last night to see the numerous piles of deer scat that told me a pretty large number had recently passed through the property, using the driveway as a thoroughfare.  Perhaps they also were out for an evening stroll.  Pearl was off doing something important, but Frank joined us on our walk.  He has trouble staying on point, darting off to inspect this leaf or that, lagging behind just so he can thunder past us.  The mountain was very quiet last night as Bess sniffed her way around the driveway, stopping to leave a few scents of her own here and there.  Joel told me they'd been awakened a few nights ago by a troop of raccoons squabbling under their windows.  I'd just as soon not run into even one of those masked marauders.  Cute as they are, they can really do a number on a dog.  Another reason to walk Bessie on a leash and not let her out on her own after dark.

Six o'clock on a Tuesday morning and it's pitch dark outside.  The sun hasn't risen and the moon has set.  I could use that half moon to see to get the trash down to the big road.  Shadow, the mini-donkey down on the corner, is braying his morning song.  It's time to start the day.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Super Sunday

NASCAR and football are the only sports I follow (okay, horse racing is right up there, too).  Baseball is not my game, never has been.  Always the last to be chosen and then stuck so far out in the field there was no chance I could ruin things for the team, my aversion to baseball began early in life.  Steve hated car races and would hide the TV remote when the Kids were coming up so they couldn't turn on NASCAR.  He was a rabid football fan, rooting for the Steelers and yelling so loud he scared the dog.  I, myself, like the Minnesota Vikings, always have.  After Steve was gone, I started watching NASCAR and only followed the scores on football.  Of late, I've started watching games again.  All this by way of saying that yesterday was a great day for sports.  I switched back and forth to keep track of who was winning at the race in Loudon, New Hampshire, and the Vikings game (Vikings won!  My driver did not).  Intending to go in and prep dinner for an invited guest, I got diverted to a documentary about Seabiscuit, and then caught the end of a Pittsburgh Steelers game (they lost).

It's just amazing how much one can do in a time crunch.  Whirling like a dervish, I got the food prep done, sheets off the line and back on the bed, vacuumed and dusted (extra points there), and had time to watch five huge tom turkeys bouncing on the low-hanging limbs of an oak like they were on a carnival ride.  My friend and I had a great dinner and a most enjoyable evening.  Bessie Anne and Honey, a German shepherd, are best buddies so they had a good time too.  (Frank and Pearl don't come near the house when a strange dog is here.)

All in all, it was a super Sunday.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Day Is Done

"Day is done.  Gone the sun...."  The poignant lyrics to Taps play so often in my head.  I live in a beautiful place with lovely views all around, but none are as spectacular as the sunsets.  I, and my Kids after me, happened to be fortunate enough to live in a place and/or a time when it was safe for children to play outside unsupervised "until it gets dark."  All the years of their growing up, I watched for nightfall and waited for my chicks to come home.  I'm still making sure that all in my care are tucked in and safe by dark.

Sunsets range from pastels to sky on fire.  These photos were taken on different nights, but the changes occur so rapidly that it is possible to see both scenes on the same evening.  Long after I'm gone, I think my son Dave will think of me sometimes at sundown, as we often call the other's attention to a particularly breathtaking day's end.  My kitchen windows, the front door, and the coops and barns are all toward the west and my chores always take me outside at dusk so it's impossible for me to miss the show.  Regardless of how the day has gone, there is always a good ending.

Day is done.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Some Days

There are days when the blog fodder piles up faster than I can write.  Days when the animals are just too funny.  Days full of joy when the Kids or dear friends come to visit.  Whiny days when it is too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, or I have to dust.  Days of despair when a beloved goat dies or an oak falls.  Exciting days when a storm rages or I've found a great new writer.  And then there are the other days.  Ordinary days.

I let the chickens out of their coops and fed them.  They and the wild birds shared the last of Joel's soft apples, cut in chunks as a special treat.  Goats were milked and all the barn critters had breakfast of one sort or another.  Milk was strained and the buckets washed, hummingbird feeders filled, and the kitchen cleaned up.  Tree Guy and Sons came to make more small logs out of big ones.  I did enough housework to keep from feeling guilt but put off dusting for another day.  Jennie came to get milk for her lamb (named Lulu, of all things).  I worked out a new design for a beaded Christmas ornament.  Dusk fell.  The chickens got their nightie-night treats and I gathered the eggs before shutting their doors.  The girls and Poppy led the way down to the barn and bed.  Frank did figure-eights around my legs as I filled the water trough, and Bess and Pearl joined the parade back to the house where lights glowed and dinner waited.

Some days are like that.  Just ordinary days.

Friday, September 21, 2012

That Was A Lulu

I realized yesterday that even though I feed the barn spiders almost daily, I haven't named a single one. 
That's not like me.  A fly is bigger than the body on one of these little guys and maybe that's why I haven't formed an emotional attachment.  My train of thought started chugging.  What was the name of Spider-Man's alter ego?  I know that Superman was Clark Kent, but that's as far as I got.  Superhero movies are not my favorite genre, and I don't even know Batman's real name.  All these guys got their start in comic books, but I didn't read them.  In fact, the only comic books I remember reading as a kid were Classic Comics and Little Lulu.  My mother liked Little Lulu even more than I, and loved episodes with Ol' Witch Hazel and Little Itch.  (What does that say about my mother?)  Mad Magazine hit its stride about the time I came into my teens and I never missed an issue for years (and what does that say about me?).  I guess, like TG's sons, I will name Spider One and Spider Two, etc., and continue to feed them in rotation - the spiders, not the sons.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Action Heroes

No capes, thunderbolts, or sticky webs.  My action heroes wouldn't wear tights if their lives depended on it.  Pickup trucks and tractors instead of Batmobiles.  I may not be a swooning damsel in distress, but I can count on my guys to come to my rescue all the same.  How many times has Joel come riding over the hill to attack the dreaded star thistle?  Yesterday Tree Guy and Sons arrived armed with chainsaws to save the endangered oak.  There is more to be done, but with the four hundred or more pounds cut off the end the limb raised itself at least six inches, enough to close the gap on the trunk.  TG threw several big leafy end branches, each the size of a small tree, over into the goat pen.  Within minutes the girls had stripped every leaf; one would think they hadn't eaten in a week.  Sons One and Two had worked under the oak the day before until they ran into a nest of red ants and No. 2 Son got a bite on the neck.  Every hero runs into some version of kryptonite.  Yesterday they opted for the tree down in the field.  I don't blame 'em.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Tree Guy's Sons One and Two came to split wood and decided to work on the stuff left from last year under the front yard oak.  I'm sure the weatherman was disappointed because we didn't hit ninety degrees and go for the record, but it was still warm enough that working in the shade was more appealing to the guys than down in the sun in the field.  When the splitter stopped after a few hours, I went out to give atta-boys.  Walking around under the tree while the guys showed me all they'd accomplished, I noticed a trail of sap running down the oak.  Chills ran down my spine as I realized the weight of a huge branch was splitting the trunk.  After losing trees last year, I couldn't face the thought of losing another.  TG drove up about then and we discussed a plan of action.  That limb will have to come off and pretty soon if the tree is to be saved.  Not exactly the way I wanted to stock the woodpile.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

That Time Again

Tree Guy and Second Son arrived unexpectedly yesterday and started unloading chainsaws, etc.  TG said they were going down to the big oak in the goat pen and start cutting those huge rounds into chunks that would fit in the splitter.  You wouldn't know it by the temperature, but it's time to start thinking about firewood again.  The record for the most consecutive days of ninety degrees and above was set in 1899 when there were twenty days straight.  The weatherman was almost giddy as he announced, at day sixteen, there was a good chance we could beat the record this year!  I was not nearly as excited at that prospect.  TG and Son will be back today.  A well-stocked woodpile; now that's exciting.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Picking Up Strangers

The last task before heading back to the house every evening is to top off the goats' water trough.  The short hose and spigot are just outside the fence so the goats can't help themselves.  As I scanned the horizons and the darkening skies, the lights on my wonderful hard hat caught a strange lump on the hose where there shouldn't be a lump at all.  When I picked up the hose, I also had unknowingly picked up a small hitchhiker. This tiny frog had come along for the ride and sat patiently where he was until I was done and had carefully replaced the hose on the ground.

Once upon a time, the world really was a kinder, gentler place.  Coming out of the Depression and going into the war years (World War II, the "war to end all wars"), those who had cars were proud to give a ride to those who had none.  It was not uncommon to see a bindlestiff, a hobo, a man out of a job and looking for work, walking on the side of the road.  In fact, a few came to our house and my mother always had some odd job or other and paid with a hot meal.  My dad had ridden to California from Texas in a boxcar.  We always stopped and gave a lift to those men.  After the war began, there was a huge influx of servicemen stationed in our area of southern California.  Long Beach was a port city flooded with sailors, soldiers and marines waiting to ship out.  Those homesick boys would hitchhike for miles when they got leave for an invitation for one of my tall, redheaded sister's parties, my mother's meals, my dad's kindness.  We never knew who or how many would be at the house when we came home.  Those kids slept on chairs and on the floor, and they danced to Big Band records with my sister and her girlfriends.  They even danced with me!  It would have been unpatriotic to pass a serviceman on the road.  (My sister eventually married one of those sailors.)

What a shame that it is no longer safe (and it is not) to pick up strangers.  Unless they are frogs.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Easy As Pie

I have been known to be overcome with unbridled enthusiasm.  No, it's true.  Years back, my daughter Deb and I went up to Apple Hill in Camino during the season and Boa Vista Farm had a deal on apples.  Buy twenty pounds and get twenty pounds free.  Who could pass up free?  I bought forty pounds.  Poor Deb gets suckered into a lot of my schemes, like the time we made orange marmalade (but that's another story for another day).

Faced with eighty pounds of apples, she agreed to help peel and slice for pies.  We worked until our fingers were so cramped they wouldn't straighten out, and we weren't halfway done.  I couldn't open my hand enough to wave goodbye as she abandoned me to my folly.

It happened that Steve needed something from a particular hardware store across town.  I browsed the shelves while waiting for him and came across this strange-looking implement. 

Holy moly!  I'd never seen such a thing before (now they're everywhere), but it was exactly what I needed.  With a few cranks of the handle, it peels, cores and slices an apple in a minute.  I did in a couple of hours what had taken two of us all day to accomplish.  Of course, I called Deb to tell her of this wondrous implement.  Her hands were still so sore she could hardly hold the phone.  As I recall, she hung up on me.

A couple of days ago Joel brought me a big bag of gorgeous apples from his trees.  Last night I had a guest over for dinner.  Start to finish, crust to filling, I had a pie in the oven in less than an hour.

If I were stranded on a desert island (that had apple trees), this is the tool I'd want with me.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Blame It On the Heat

Heat makes me cranky (or as Joel calls it, crotchety).  I have to dig deep to find any patience.  An act of kindness yesterday snapped me out of it.

Sweating like a horse, all I wanted was to get finished in the barn.  Five down, one to go - there was light at the end of this hot tunnel.  I'd noted Sheila up in the tree before, and she didn't come when I called her, so I grabbed the rope and went around the corner of the barn to get her - and almost had a coronary!  A man, a stranger, was walking toward me from behind the barn.  He was one of Joel's crew, and hurriedly explained he had seen the goat in the tree and he saw the wire fencing (that we'd put up to keep the girls from dancing out on the roof of the barn) and thought she'd gotten caught up there.  He was coming to her rescue.  Aside from the fact that he'd scared the snot out of me, I thanked him profusely.  It wasn't easy for him to get over the seven- or eight-foot deer fence to come help a goat in trouble.  Had it really been a problem and I wasn't right there, I couldn't have heard her from the house.  Sheila, by this time, had jumped out of the tree and was standing by my side.  The young man got himself back over the fence, I milked Sheila, and it was a happy ending for all of us.

Friday, September 14, 2012


One or more night birds have taken over the territory.  Unlike the owls who normally work the area after dark, hunt in pairs, and have a mournful "who-whooo" cry, this latest bunch make a sound akin to fingernails scraping down a blackboard and they make this sound incessantly from dusk to dawn until I want to scream, "Shut up!  Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!"  I was ready to blame screech owls, and with that name, why not, but found out it couldn't be them.  The most likely candidate is a nighthawk.  I truly don't understand how these birds could possibly catch anything.  Their constant yelling is like a deer hunter carrying a tambourine and beating on a drum.

I did not realize that my second childhood would be accompanied by talcum powder.  I am irritated in more ways than one by heat rash in inconvenient and inappropriate places.  They don't call it prickly heat for nothing.

I don't like but understand the rising cost of food.  What is really irritating is that what used to be a five-pound bag of sugar is now four pounds at the same price.  The size of the container and the price have not changed for two pounds of coffee, but the label shows it only contains twenty-four ounces now.

There!  I feel better now.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Back To Normal

Anyone who knows me is aware that "normal" is a relative term in my life.  The drummer to whom I march isn't even in the same band!  Be that as it may, things got back to as close to normal as they ever get around here yesterday.  The girls acted as if nothing had ever happened and all came in to be milked right on cue.  Sheila and Inga - oh my gosh, they were stretched to the limit.  Poor things.  I had tried to warn them, but they were too scared to hear a word.  It's almost impossible to get a grip on Inga's little nippies when she's that full.  They stick out more to the sides when her udder is tight and I got sprayed good until I could get enough emptied out to point the "nozzle" into the bucket.  Sheila only needed a light touch and then for a bit I didn't even have to squeeze.  It was like opening the spigot and the milk just flowed out from the pressure.  I had a lot of milk to haul back up to the house.  We all felt a lot better when that chore was done.

Ground squirrels live on the ground.  Grey squirrels live in trees.  Them's the rules.  There's a rebel in every crowd, and I have a ground squirrel who is doing a crossover.  He gets himself up on the bird feeder in the big oak and not only helps himself to the bird seed, he sits there and gives that extremely irritating yip, yip, yip and drives away the birds for whom the seed was intended.  It's just not the norm.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Something Is Out There

Ruth usually ambles out of the barn, sometimes holding up Sheila and Poppy.  I wondered what was up yesterday when she couldn't get out fast enough, the other two close behind.  I let Cindy into the milking room and instead of jumping up on the stand for breakfast, all she wanted was out!  Coaxing and blocking, I finally convinced her to stick with the program.  Opening the door for the other three, I could see they were torn between huddling at the back of the stall and wanting to get out.  They finally opted for out and raced past me.  What the heck was going on?  It takes a lot to keep a goat from going to food.  The alfalfa was up at the corner as usual, but only Poppy went to eat.  The herd clustered together, not just spooked but scared witless, staring as a group at the northwest corner.  Finished with Cindy, she bolted out of the barn.  I managed to get Esther, then Ruth, into the room, but neither would eat a bite and couldn't wait to be let free, beating on the door with their hooves.  I caught Tessie and had to keep the rope on her neck to get her up on the stand to be milked.  She barely touched her cereal.  I never could catch Inga or Sheila so they didn't get milked.

I did not see or hear anything that might have terrified the girls so.  They never took their attention from that corner where, I'm sorry to say, the dogs have come from before.  I went out several times through the day and the herd continued to huddle together.  As night fell, they pushed and shoved to get into their rooms.

Something is out there.  I don't know what.  I may never know.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mighty Oaks

Tree Guy stopped by yesterday.  The course of our conversation drifted through football (and biased commentators), the wildfire lines where he'd been working, my need for a water reservoir tank, the pipe clamp he needed to borrow, the status of the firewood pile (with an eye toward winter), Indian casinos, and so on (and on).  Walking outside, I mentioned that my neighbor has planted a large number of trees all along our fence line and that I wished I knew what kind they were.  The saplings have taken hold well and are growing fast and will be beautiful when grown.  Tree Guy, being a tree guy, went over to take a closer look.  He came back saying he was glad they weren't birch, as birch send up shoots along the root system and where you have one, you'll soon have a forest.  I bemoaned the loss of the oak by the barn and the shade it provided for what is now the sauna.  TG immediately went into planning mode.  "Okay, what we'll do is this," and he was off and running.  Nothing is finalized yet, but it's my impression we (and I use that term "we" loosely) are going to plant four or five fruited mulberry trees along the fence line between the two goat pens, along with a drip water line on a timer.  A couple will be strategically placed so that their shade will fall on the barn in the morning.  The girls need more shade in the summer and protection from the elements in the winter.  They can share the fruit with the birds, and maybe leave some for me.  Sounds like a plan.

Tree Guy was on a roll!  He then decided I need more oaks in the front yard, backup in case a dire fate should befall the one already standing there.  I was given instructions and the two of us went around in the driveway like kids on an Easter egg hunt, looking for acorns of the right size, color and weight, without worm holes.  I ended up with a pocketful.  I have been assigned to find more, and I am to plant them in pots on the deck (where he's trusting me to water them).  I'm guessing the thought is that if we (I) plant a lot, then a few will grow and he'll have the raw materials for The Plan.

After all, "Mighty oaks from little acorns grow."

Monday, September 10, 2012

Table Manners

The reason the goats willingly jump up on the stand and put their head into the stock is that there is a platform on the other side with a hole cut just big enough for a bowl of cereal (goat chow).  They have breakfast while I tend to their other end, be it milking, hoof trimming, or shots.  Each goat gets exactly the same feed and exactly the same amount, and that's where all "sameness" ends.

Cindy, first in line, simply inhales her food.  She gobbles it down like she'll never get another meal.  Finished and freed, Cindy jumps off the stand and heads for the small pile put down for the mice.  She gets a mouthful of their grain, I grab her ears to pull her away, and out the door she goes.  We do this every morning.  Ruth hangs around the barn and waits to be next (the others go up to the corner for alfalfa).  Ruthie is my oldest girl now and will not be rushed.  She eats s-l-o-w-ly, giving me time to clean stalls and I'm usually done first.  She always tips the bowl to get every last crumb.  Ruth takes her time getting off the stand, waiting for a butt rub and then turning to get a head rub too.  Her dawdling drives Inga, impatiently waiting outside the door, nuts.  Other than being easily spooked, Inga is a no-nonsense girl.  She plants her feet solidly and enjoys her breakfast.  Her idiosyncrasy is that, when the cereal is gone, she removes the empty bowl and looks down through the "porthole."  I suppose she's watching the mice and squirrels, but who knows.  Vanity, thy name is Esther.  Esther will not begin to eat until she's been brushed and prettied for the day.  She, like Ruth, is not a milker, so I can either take a break or finish cleaning.  Esther inevitably turns her dish over.  We've had discussions about wastefulness, but she prefers to nibble the grain from the tray instead of the bowl, regardless of how much gets spilled on the ground.  What kind of kickback is she getting from the mice?  By this time, Tessie is getting panicky that she is going to miss out and stands on hind legs so she can see over the Dutch door.  Esther ignores her and continues to rub her head against my side until she's darned good and ready to go out.  Tessie dashes in, jumps up on the stand and gets a little frantic until I fill the bowl.  Then she settles down and has probably the best manners of any of them.  Tess still wears a collar.  Finished with her own breakfast, she has to clean up any of Esther's spilled cereal on the stand and really would like to get to that on the ground.  I need that collar to haul her off and head her toward the door.  Then there's Sheila, the caboose on the goat train.  Some days she shows up at the door right on time and some days we have to play Chase Me.  Regardless, once she begins eating and I start milking, she's my reward for whatever I've gone through with the others.  She milks out as much or more as any of the others but in half the time and twice as easy.  When done, she and I head out to open the gate to the big field and then she stands there with me to get a little lovin' before I go back in to set up the barn for bedtime.

None of them puts their elbows on the table.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Missed Opportunities

There I was without my camera.  The whole family came to get milk yesterday:  my friend Jenny, her husband Drew, their four little stairstep kids (so like my own at that age), and the Barbados lamb, Lulu.  Bessie Anne went out to greet the guests as she always does.  She was especially happy to see the children; somebody to play with.  And then Lulu, barely a third of Bessie's size, was put down on the ground and came trotting forward to say hi and Bessie Anne freaked out!  Whatever it was, she'd never seen one of those before.  Braveheart she's not, and came racing back to hide behind my legs.  Assured that the tiny lamb, whose umbilical cord hadn't yet dropped off, presented no danger, Bess touched noses and then became Lulu's protector.

We grownups stood in the drive talking while the kids and animals played around us.  Glancing over Jenny's shoulder, I just cracked up.  One of her little boys, not wanting to miss out on anything by having to go in the house, had pulled down the front of his britches and was watering some weeds.  I had to laugh because exactly the same thing had happened when my sons were small.  Deja vu.

The NASCAR night race at Richmond started almost two hours late because of rain, and then, just shy of halfway, was delayed longer by another squall passing over.  In my house, early to rise does mean early to bed, and I couldn't keep my eyes open to wait it out.  Wouldn't you know that I missed seeing my driver winning the race?  Good on ya, Clint Bowyer!

Just a day of missed opportunities.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Just Like Peanuts

I can't read just one book.  One inevitably leads to another.  I knew when I picked up Taylor's "An Irish Country Courtship" that I was opening the flood gates.  Showing more restraint than usual, I'm managing to stretch one book into two days, but having finished "Courtship" I immediately went for Christopher Moore's "Lamb."  It's an irreverent story that has me laughing out loud.  I found parts so funny that I had to call my friend Arden and read her a paragraph or two.  One great thing about being loaned books is that I'm exposed to writers I probably wouldn't have picked up on my own.  A drawback is that I have to give the books back.

The new blanket isn't getting a fair shake.  On the bed for only a few nights, it's already suffering from rejection.  It's just a case of poor timing, in that it is hot again and the blanket has to be thrown back in order to sleep comfortably.  We'll work it out.

A friend will be coming for milk today for a tiny bummer Barbados lamb.  Barbados sheep are common in this area, used as brush eaters.  Barbados have hair instead of wool and they shed their coat each year.  It will be good to see my friend again as it has been awhile, and it is always good to be able to help a baby animal.

I think I've got time to get in a few chapters before going down to the barn.

Friday, September 7, 2012


I'm worried about Frank.  It's not an identity crisis; he knows who he is and answers to his name.  It's not a gender crisis although, as a neutered male, that could be confusing.  Frank appears to be having a species crisis, acting more like dog than cat.  Although there are several constantly refreshed water dishes, both indoors and out, I frequently find Frank drinking out of the toilet.  To do this, he has to get halfway into the toilet, with only his hindquarters and tail sticking out.  Bessie Anne likes Fritos.  Frank likes Fritos.  I don't think cats are supposed to like Fritos.  Frank hangs out now and again with Pearl, his sister, and they do hunt together, but his true love is Bess.  She is the one he runs to when he comes in the house, rubbing all over her, taking her face in his paws and looking into her eyes, lifting her ears to help her clean those hard-to-reach places.  Bessie gets a shoulder massage every night at bedtime (I already said I was a nut), and Frank joins me and "makes muffins" on Bess's butt.  The look on Bessie's face tells me she doesn't think this is normal behavior for a cat either.  I'm worried about Frank.

I'm having a small crisis of my own.  The blanket I've had on the bed for years and years has finally worn itself thin and ragged.  I bought a new blanket, but I'm having trouble letting go of the old "blankie."  Look, there's where Bessie chewed when she was a puppy.  Those holes are where Frank took a spell of attacking moving feet when he was just a kitten.  It seems so cold and indifferent to just throw this blanket that has warmed me on winter nights and has so much history into the garbage can.  Not left with many alternatives, I suppose I'll have to say goodbye come Trash Day Tuesday, but it won't be easy.  I haven't bonded with the new blanket yet.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cool Days, Hot Goats

The cloud cover moved up from the south, the wind picked up, and a light rain began.  Opening the barn doors was like opening the starting gate for breeding season.  Goats (and deer) don't normally mate during the heat and long days of summer.  Waiting until fall ensures that the babies will be born in the spring when forage is at its best.  Given the conditions yesterday morning, the girls did everything but holler "Woohoo!!"  They pranced, they danced, they headbutted, and they took turns mounting.  They ran and spun in circles.  Unless they are in a flat-out panic, goats look like rocking horses bobbing up and down when they run.  The ones on the stand gobbled down their breakfast so they could get back to the party.  Talk about a celebration!  I didn't have the heart to tell them I wasn't going to rent a buck this year.

Coming back up from the barn, I noticed that the first naked ladies have come back to Farview.  A cluster of those pink amaryllis has sprung up by the wood pile.  Since they send up no greenery first, their arrival is always a surprise.

It's been too hot to read lately.  I preferred to sit in front of the TV and be spoon fed my entertainment.  The rain continued off and on all day yesterday and I picked up my newest favorite author, Patrick Taylor.  He writes Irish like Fannie Flagg writes southern with a lilt and cadence of dialogue and interesting characters I love.  There is a line in this latest book, The Past Is A Foreign Country:  They Do Things Differently There.  That pretty much describes how I feel when I reminisce about how it was when I was a child:  things were different then.  Because it is my wont to swallow books whole in a single day, I was determined to savor this latest.  Read a chapter, go do housework.  Read a chapter, fill the hummers' feeders.  Read a chapter.  Oh, go on and read a couple more.  I'm only half-way through so I have something to look forward to today.  I showed a little more self-restraint than the goats.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Almond Joy Day

"Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't."  That old commercial for Almond Joy and Mounds started my day yesterday.  Buckets in hand, I was ready to step out the door when I saw the turkey ladies in the herb garden again.  There is a particular wild grass that grows unbidden and unwanted there.  Digging out most, I always leave some for the turkeys.  It sends up tall stalks covered in tiny seeds that are a favorite of the big birds.  They run the stems through their beaks, stripping the seeds like kids licking straws from a milk shake.  Telling myself that the longer I delayed, the hotter the barn would be, still I waited until the ladies had moved on.  Nuts do things like that.

How do they know?  I had to look up when deer hunting season will start, but the deer already knew.  One of the does I'd seen in the pasture was down by the woods in the morning and the buck streaked across the front drive at nightfall.  They've moved into my little patch of forest for sanctuary.  How do they know they'll be safe here?

It's back up into the nineties again.  Nuts.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Gentleman Caller

Not until he moved did I see the two-point buck at the edge of the shadow in the front pasture, and then I saw his two ladies over toward the right.  (Click on the picture to expand.) Bess had told me we had visitors, so we stepped out on the deck to greet them.  Our hospitality was evidently acceptable because when we went out at dusk to put the girls to bed, this handsome gentleman and his girlfriends were out by the goat pen.  They took off down into the woods before Bess caught sight, which was a good thing.  I don't think she could have resisted giving chase.

Dislike of dusting is hereditary.  My mother hated to dust.  She said that was why she had girls, so she could pass on that chore to us.  Not only that, she planned it carefully.  I was born on my sister's sixteenth birthday so that by the time my sister was ready to leave home, Mother had a trainee waiting in the wings.  When I was a kid, we had dark mahogany furniture (do they even make mahogany furniture anymore?) with filigree curlicues.  It showed every speck of dust and fingerprint.  Lemon oil was her polish of choice.  Zesting a lemon now takes me back in time and I feel I should pick up a dust rag.  I spent a good portion of the afternoon on Labor Day dusting.  I hated it.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Mouse Breath

The full moon has had more than the coyotes out hunting.  Last night at bedtime I went to the door to call the cats in, and there was Frank in the walkway, crunching and munching on something that I didn't want to see close up.  Pearl did not answer my call, busy on a hunt of her own, so I simply closed the door.  Frank sleeps on the bed with Bessie and me and there are just some things I'd rather not do - smelling mouse breath on a snoring cat is one of them.

Valentine is a full-size donkey who lives to the north of me and has as long as I've been here.  Shadow is a miniature donkey who recently moved in toward the south.  They are both very vocal animals, waking early and greeting the day like the roosters.  They call back and forth over the hill, and sometimes sing in unison.  Between the donkeys and the crowing cocks, there is no need for an alarm clock up here.  Since I'm up before dawn, it's nice to know I'm not alone.

Frank and Pearl came in a bit ago, very pleased with themselves.  They'll undoubtedly sleep all day, but not with me.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Just Do It

I find myself with a case of the blahs.  Not the blues...just a pervasive lassitude and no ambition.  It could be the arrival of fall, I don't know.  I do know the remedy, however.  It's time to pull out that To-Do list, shake the dust off the dust rag, and just do it.  There's no cure for the blahs like activity.

Sparrow's romance seems to have been short lived.  He's once again perched alone at night, his two ladies having moved on.  Was it something he said?  One wonders about these things.

Spiders are believers in DIY.  It sometimes happens while I'm taking a break while Ruthie or Esther is on the stand (they're nonmilkers) that I will swat a fly.  Then I drop said fly into a spider web.  If the fly is already dead, the spider has no interest.  The trick is to just stun the pesky thing.  Then the daddy longlegs will dart over for the kill and immediately begin packaging the leftovers.  Unlike Mickey Mouse in The Brave Little Tailor, I can't do seven with one blow, but I've got a pretty good ratio of eight for twelve on a good day.  It seems to be my mission in life to feed all.  Spiders have to eat too.

Now where did I put that list?

Saturday, September 1, 2012


It wasn't because the delta breeze was blowing.  It was cooler, yes, but yesterday was that magical day when the air just felt different, that day when you know that the season has changed and fall has arrived.  I'd noticed a couple of dropped acorns in the drive; time to get out the hard hats for the hens.  I've been talking to the chickens anyhow.  They've been stripped down to their bikinis for the summer; now they've got to put their feathers back on.  This group of turkey ladies chatted amiably together as they pecked and scratched through the herb garden in the afternoon.  The marjoram, yarrow, and thyme have crept out into the walkway, but it's so hard to keep plants alive that I haven't the heart to dig these adventurers up and keep them confined.  Besides, it smells good if you should happen to step on a few.

Blue moon rising didn't look blue to me, but it was a nice thought.  I heard we won't get another until 2015.  The beastie boys, the "children of the night," (in other words, the coyotes) have been running the hills in the moonlight and singing their night songs.  They awaken something primal in Bessie Anne.  She tries to join in the chorus, but sounds, as I was telling Joel, like she was gargling with battery acid.

Temps back up in the high nineties are predicted for this week, but you'd never know it this morning.  I woke up frozen, wishing I had the quilt back on the bed.  It was easier to get up and put on slippers and robe than lie there trying to get warm.  Now that's a change!