Monday, December 31, 2012

Holy Cow!

(And why is it that only cows get blessed in this way?  I guess Holy Chicken! just doesn't have the same ring, but one wonders.)

Regardless, it's hard to believe another year has already come and gone.  For me, it's been one of those win some-lose some years.  My stack of chips (and a few trees) may be down a bit, but in the long run I'm still ahead of the game.  I don't make resolutions for the new year.  I wake up every morning resolved to get more done, to get ahead of deadlines, not to procrastinate, to dust.  I spend so much time on the guilt train on a daily basis that I really don't need to make resolutions for a year ahead.  The only promise to myself that I do keep is to try.

Another thing hard to believe is that I'm heading into the fourth year of writing this journal and how many pop in for a look-see at what's going on at the farm.  I started keeping a list of the countries that show up on the stats page of the blogsite; it's simply astounding and I'd like to share (in order of appearance).

United States, Colombia, Canada, China, Japan, Denmark, Latvia, Russia, Poland, Indonesia, India, South Africa, Spain, Chile, France, Vietnam, Germany, Taiwan, Brazil, Italy, Pakistan, Ecuador, Iraq, Iran, Philippines, Netherlands, South Korea, Mexico, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Sweden, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Croatia, Armenia, Slovenia, Israel, Slovakia, Singapore, Belgium, Georgia (the country, not the state), Venezuela, Belarus, Malaysia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Mongolia, Honduras, Hong Kong, Serbia, Tunisia, Moldova, Turkey, Nigeria, Sudan, Macedonia, Lebanon, Gabon, Switzerland, Australia, Kazakhstan.

In three years, there has been a total of 40,593 visitors.  That blows my hair back!  I realize there are some who read because they know me and it's a way to keep in touch, but what about readers in Belarus or Kazakhstan?  Are they farmers who want to compare notes?  Are the readers in Iraq or Iran members of the Armed Forces who want to touch base with home?  And how do readers in these far-away places find Farview Farm in the first place?  How I wish the blogsite made it easier to leave a comment without jumping through hoops.  In that regard it's not particularly user friendly.  I'd love to "meet" some more of the readers, like those who have signed on as Followers. Maybe it's better this way.  It lets my imagination go free wheeling without rein.  There are friends I forced to watch one of my favorite movies, "The Story of the Weeping Camel," that ends with a family on the Mongolian plains sitting in a yurt with a satellite dish and a generator.  Perhaps it's a housewife in a high-rise in Paris who reads TVFFF to take a break from city life.  Maybe that's how this works.  As I've said many times, I don't go anywhere and I don't do anything, but isn't it grand to think this little farm goes all over the world?

Happy New Year, world!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

'Twas the Day...

'Twas the day after Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring...except me.  Bessie Anne is snoring on the bed behind me.  Larry and Taylor are still asleep, having decided to stay over last night, which was a special treat for me.  Frank and Pearl are outside, braving the thirty-two-degree morning.  I've kicked up the wood stove and have coffee in hand; such a peaceful way to start the day.

I know everyone thinks their Christmas was the best; I know mine was.  Weather conditions were perfect; crisp, cold and sunny; no rain, snow, or fog.  Deb and Craig arrived while I was finishing up with the girls (milking in record time, I might add) and took over the kitchen to make appetizers of crisp puff pastry topped with caramelized onions and a choice of Gruyere or gorgonzola cheese to be ready when the boys got here.  Ohmigosh, they were good.  Deb and I took advantage of a little time alone to exchange our personal gifts.  For twenty-two years, Deb has given me the gift that my father always gave me at Christmas, and always with the same phrase, "This is from Grandpa and me (and now Craig, too)."  It's not the gift as much as the sentiment that touches my heart.  I reciprocate by giving Deb the same gift that Steve always spent a lot of time picking out just for her, as well as a traditional gift just from me.  (We're a family big on tradition.)

True to form, it wasn't long after Dave, Pinto (Zack), Larry and Taylor, and Clay arrived that the poker game began.  If I can't sit in, there is no place I'd rather be than in the kitchen where I can hear the laughing and teasing while I cook.  When the White Chili and a big pan of cheesy cornbread were done and plates were filled, there was the silence around the table that tells a cook "she done good."

A five-dollar limit on gifts brought out the creative side in the Kids.  Deb and Craig made beautiful Origami ornaments with beads and the hoped for homemade  peppermint bark candy that we all love.  Clay, and I'm laughing as I write this, gave everyone packages of gift-wrapped toilet paper!  (He's the practical Kid.)  Larry presented us with scratchers and I'm happy to say mine paid off.  Pinto added to my collection with three little stuffed pigs.  We all agreed that Dave won the prize for originality in each of our gifts.  As a for-instance, I received a kitchen whisk with a pig handle and a "charming" pig shower cap, complete with ears.  Taylor promptly appropriated the shower cap and wore it for the rest of the day.  We've started taking advantage of our get-togethers to celebrate whatever birthdays are near and this time it was for Larry and Pinto.  I still owe Pinto a cake, but Larry was kind enough to share his.

Some, who shall remain nameless, had lost their two-dollar buy-in at the poker table, so Deb and I went down to the games cupboard and found Scattergories.  It was a happy choice; even more laughing and hooting as we played the game until it was time for those who had to leave.  Larry, Clay and I watched some TV and talked until Clay, too, went home.  One-on-one time with any of my Kids is special, and last night was no exception.  The only thing better is when we're all together, missing Pete and Jake.  They so would have enjoyed themselves.

It was a good day...the best!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ho Ho Ho!

It's Christmas morning!  (Don't look at the calendar; I rarely do.)  As is my wont, I'm not ready but it really doesn't matter.  The important things are done and the rest is just fluff.

Temperatures are in the mid thirties, almost a heat wave compared to the last few mornings.  I picked up quite a few eggs from the bigger girls last night.  I'm guessing it was too cold for them to play outside and since they were in the coop, they decided they might as well do something productive.  My little kids always lay their eggs in the afternoon anyhow.  The Silkies snuggle together so tightly at bedtime that they look like a black and white ball of feathers.  One of the white roosters was still up and was trying to force his way into the pack, dislodging one of the hens.  She gave him a good what-for and shoved herself back into place.

I've got wood stacked on the porch and presents under the tree (lights only, still).  It's as done as it's going to get.  It's a day that I wish I had a hired hand to take care of barn chores, but the Kids are used to me waving hello from the stalls when they drive up.  Some mamas greet guests at the door; not me.  Almost sunrise; time to get a move on.  It's Christmas!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Set In My Ways

Ah, the comfort of returning to a routine!  Wake up, turn on the computer, go make coffee, return with a steaming cup and settle in.  Perhaps that's why I understand the goats and their need to do the same thing in the same way every day.  I've had my days of excitement and change, literally a "been there, done that" lifetime.  Like the girls, I enjoy the sense of security that comes with routine now.

I'm navigating my way through a new keyboard (the letters are larger, but some keys are not in the same place as before) and operating system.  One advantage to purchasing the new equipment from a local business is that this particular store also provides ongoing tech support.  Free!  For the life (hopefully a long life!) of the machine.  And Justin is a local fellow with whom I can communicate easily.  Life is good again.

Twenty-seven degrees this morning, but I got the fire going early (on the way to make coffee).  As we all know, heat does not turn corners so the computer room, aka the bedroom, is still frosty, but the living room is toasty.  The trick to dealing with wet wood is to put a few logs in front of the stove so they're dry and burnable when needed.  As I put wood in the stove, I bring in more to keep up the supply.  One has to plan ahead or suffer a cold house.

This is my second try at Christmas Eve.  I should be used to it by now.  The tree, as with so many things in life, will either get done or it won't.  I'm not going to sweat the small stuff.  It's a given that as soon as the cards are dealt and the chips stacked, no one will notice the tree anyhow.  I'm not the only one set in my ways.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ta DA!

Back from the brink of disaster!  (Oh, who'm I kidding?  I fell right off that cliff.)  The thing is, the old computer died deader than a doornail.  A quick trip to the bank and all is right in my world with a brand-spanking new computer.  It is amazing to me how bereft I felt without this contact with the outside world for the few days I was struggling.  I really appreciate the phone calls I received from dear ones who look for the blog every day and were worried when I didn't show up.  Thanks also to Kit, who puts a comment on the last entry to let everyone know I'm alive and kicking (windgeing is more like it) if I can't make an entry.

In the meantime, the goats have coped with more rain.  There is, truly, a use for squirrel and mouse burrows.  The holes act as a drain for standing rain water!  Probably doesn't do much for the little critters, but the big barn inhabitants really appreciate not having to wade through ankle-deep puddles.  The sun came out today, but the temperature dropped wa-a-a-y down.  Had to bring out the water whacker again for the water troughs.  Bloody cold, says I.

One would think that given a delay in our Christmas get-together, I'd be more prepared.  A couple of trips to town and computer headaches haven't put me farther ahead, however. The tree still isn't decorated.  I did get all the presents wrapped, only to discover the next day that the tape had let go on every package, leaving wings of paper sticking out like the vultures on the fence posts.  Santa had left gifts of treats for Frank, Pearl, and Bessie and the kids were going to wait until Saturday to open them.  Unfortunately, as Pearl was standing in front of the treat drawer letting me know she'd really, really like some goodies, Mother Hubbard's cupboard was bare.  The only solution was to let Frank open a present early (or late, as the case may be) so we could get Pearl to shut up.

I had a lovely dinner with Joel, Judy, and Shari on Christmas Day, and have been invited back again for New Year's Eve.  I can tell myself it's just another day on the calendar, but it's awfully nice to share the "real" dates with good friends.

Given that I've been sleeping in (5:30 a.m.) with no blogligations, if I wake up in time tomorrow...stay tuned!

Monday, December 24, 2012

What's A Cubit?

The storm upped the ante yesterday with even more rain and stronger winds.  Down in the barn, the girls quivered on the stand; we all waited for one of the rippling metal panels to blow off the roof.  Later I prowled through the house, looking out windows to see that all trees were still standing and where broken limbs might have fallen.  So far, so good with the trees, and branches have not dropped where they might do damage.  Miraculously, we did not lose power.  It was a day to put on a pot of bean stew and make holiday phone calls to family and friends and keep putting logs on the fire.

Not until nightfall did I discover a real problem.  All seemed well until I opened the inner door to the back stalls where Ruthie, Sheila and Poppy sleep.  The hallway was awash, the lake (we'd gone right past puddle) over the tops of my shoes.  My first thought was that the roof had given way, but found that it was a buildup of runoff from outside.  In the interest of expediency and without considering consequences, we had built the barn at the bottom of the hill, and the barn itself follows the slope downward.  What were we thinking?!  The water seemed to be collected just in the hallway and the stalls remained dry, so after encouraging the girls to wade through the mess I got them to bed.  All I could hope was that the dam didn't break during the night and flood their rooms.  I don't know what a cubit is and wouldn't know how to build an ark.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Change of Plans

The storm raged, the wet wood wouldn't catch in the stove and the house was freezing, I'd sent out the word that our Christmas would be postponed.  I was set up perfectly for a day of wallowing in self-pity.

Down in the barn, I changed the routine in that Sheila and Inga had been spooked by my neighbor's yowling cat the day before and had not been milked.  Instead of letting them all out at once and waiting for the girls to come back one at a time, they stayed confined until I'd finished each one until only Inga and Tessie were left in the big room.  Those two got into a fight, bashing each other into the walls hard enough to shake the barn.  Since Tessie, with her unicorn horn, brings a knife to a fistfight, they had to be separated while Ruth was on the stand.

Slogging through mud and rain and soaked to the skin by the time I got back to the house, all I could think of was Eloise, the little girl who lived at The Plaza Hotel.  I wanted a doorman.  I wanted room service.  I wanted a thermostat!  Oh, poor pitiful me.

Finally the fire was blazing and barn coat and bibbies were hung on chairs to drip dry in front of the stove and I settled in to concentrate on bemoaning my fate.  Interrupted by the doorbell, there was my friend Tom who had driven all the way out from town to bring a plate of stollen (he makes the best stollen ever) and his cheerful smile.  His visit certainly ratcheted up my spirits.  A warm hug will do that every time.

I did try to recover my down-spiraling mood, but it wasn't the same.  As I have found at other times in my life, it is too darned depressing to stay depressed.  It came to me that, much as I would have liked to believe, this wasn't all about me.  My Kids were also deprived of their family Christmas and were as disappointed as I.  Speaking with all of them throughout the day, I found that Clay and Susan were sick and wouldn't have been able to come.  When the purpose is to be all together, that alone would have put a damper on the festivities.  We hadn't cancelled Christmas, only postponed it.  From there on, it was easy to count the many, many blessings of my life.

Gearing up in dry, warm bibbies and coat to put the kids to bed, I found my watch cap was still soaked.  (Note to self:  put all wet clothing in front of the stove when it's raining.)

After a short hiatus, the storm has struck again this morning, wind howling and rain beating.  Change of plans today; no pity party.  It all comes down to "take what you get and be glad that you got it."  I am really a very happy woman with all the riches of family and friends.  (But no thermostat.)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Charlie Brown Christmas

"It was a dark and stormy night."  That was the beginning of every story Snoopy wrote sitting up on the rooftop of his doghouse.  The Kids pitch a fit if they think I'm going back up on the roof, so here I sit, but my story begins the same. 

It was a dark and stormy night.  Really dark.  I had a sinking feeling driving back from town yesterday when I saw a couple of PG&E trucks not far from home.  Sure enough, no power.  The wind had torn the screen door off from the first shed.  I'm talking a significant storm here.  PG&E has a wicked sense of humor.  "We expect to have power restored by five p.m."  Well, heck.  It was four-thirty; that's not so bad.  At five-thirty, they said, "We expect to have power restored by eleven thirty-six p.m."  (PG&E likes precision.)  Not able to do anything in the dark house, Bess (and Frank) and I went to bed early.  I didn't want to fall asleep in the chair with the oil lamps burning.  Waking numerous times during the night, the realization came that we would have to postpone Christmas.  This storm is really bad and it would make me a crazy person to think of the Kids on the road.  Flashlight in hand, at six a.m. I was calling for a PG&E update when the lights came back on!  Hurriedly making a cup of coffee and flushing the toilet, I hoped to find a weather report.  Weekend local news evidently is not so concerned with weather.  I've already talked with Deb and we've agreed that it would be better to spend a happy holiday together at another time than try driving through this mess and me worried sick.  We'll share the task of contacting the boys before they head up the hill.

I won't say I'm not disappointed.  I am.  On the plus side (what Steve would have called "the bright side"), all I had on the Christmas tree were the lights.  Pretty dismal when there's no electricity.  Talk about a Charlie Brown tree.  Christmas is when we're all together (and missing Pete).  By then I'll have lost this bah-humbug attitude.  Shining a little light on the subject does wonders.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Joy To My World

Ah, the joy, the freedom of cruising the Internet with gay abandon once again.  Switching screens at will, typing and seeing letters appear immediately; gosh, it has me almost giddy.

At six yesterday morning, I called to cancel the onsite tech appointment.  Probably fifteen minutes on hold as the recorded voice repeatedly thanked me for my patience (which fortunately had been replenished).  It took three people and a supervisor to cancel the appointment and another to reverse the charges.  Funny, yes, but not surprising when a call came in the afternoon from the technician who wanted to confirm his appointment here.  Aaargh.

Frank is a fairly big boy, especially when he bulks up in winter, but he is still normal cat size.  However, there is some magic that occurs at night.  On the bed, in the dark, he becomes this huge, immovable monolith.  Attempting to turn over, I find myself trapped between snoring Bessie Anne and sleeping Frank.  I thought cats were supposed to be on high alert, waking at the twitch of a whisker.  Not Frank.  Swaddled in the sheets, I can't move.  Thrashing as best I can has no effect.  Talking out loud doesn't faze him.  He just settles in deeper.  Fully awake now, I squeeze out like toothpaste at the top, over the pillow.  Frank sleeps on.  Bessie continues to snore.

This is my Christmas Eve; the Kids will be here tomorrow.  They will, indeed, bring joy to my world.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


I've had it with computers, computer techs, and that whole business.  It's time to say, "Enough is enough, and I've had enough!"  Thank goodness the evil Grace, for all her talking, never got around to asking/telling me to do or change anything because the fifty-nine (yes, 59!) updates that downloaded yesterday morning seem to have healed the problem.  My financials are gone forever but in the grand scheme of things, I can live with that.  Out here in the boonies, the telephone and the Internet keep me in touch with the outside world.  The loss of either leaves me feeling very isolated.  Were the Internet animate, I would give it a hug and say, "Welcome back!"  (I'm going to cancel tomorrow's appointment.)

Under Pearl's close supervision, I did get one Christmas tree put together last evening.  She inspected every branch that came out of the box, chewing on a few before passing judgment, stepping back to get a better view of the construction.  I guess I did an okay job because as soon as I moved the completed tree to the corner, Pearl turned her attention to her primary goal, the box.  The box still sits in the living room as I couldn't bring myself to dislodge the small cat who had made herself so comfortable.  Frank apparently is waiting until I get the tree decorated; he is fond of batting ornaments and chewing on the pearl swags.  There will be a slight delay with that as I did not check the strands of lights before laboriously putting them on the tree.  Silly me.  Of course the three connected cords needed to be distributed and redistributed before I plugged them in.  Of course it is the middle strand that is nonfunctioning.  Of course I walked away and abandoned that project for the night.  It wouldn't do to pitch the thing out into the dark, which was my first inclination.  My patience has been worn down to a nub.

Even the ground was frozen yesterday.  The chickens had mini-ice rinks in their pens where the rain puddles were.  I left them to play while I crunched on icy grass in the path down to the barn.  Bundled up like Nanook of the North (inside joke here with my daughter Deb), I still had to apologize to the goats as I put icy fingers on their warm udders.  Cindy is down to giving only about a cup a day and I had decided not to milk her at all and let her dry up completely.  She got up on the stand, ate her breakfast, and I put her out the door.  "Mom!  You forgot something!"  Routine is so ingrained in these animals, she tried to force her way back in every time I opened the door.  Finally I let her in and squeezed out that pitiful cupful.  She went away happy.  Hey, if that's all it takes.

Twenty-six again this morning.  I need to get the wood stove going.  Enough of the high-tech stuff, I'm ready to get back to basics. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Postcard From The Edge

Once upon a time, my mother had gotten herself lost while driving in a strange area on a rainy, foggy night.  She called me crying from a pay phone (this was in the days before cell phones).  "Now I know what purgatory is.  I keep driving back and forth past the same places and getting nowhere."  I understand that feeling very well.  I had better luck getting my mother on the right road than the techs have had getting my computer back to normal.  In fact, while they've been "fixing," they managed to lose all of my financial records.  All of the techs, of which there have been many, were friendly and I believe they tried their best.  Until Grace.  Grace is an idiot.  Regardless of her computer skills, she should never be allowed contact with customers.  I am a pretty patient person.  Realizing we had communication difficulties, I asked to be transferred to another tech.  She refused.  I had been pushed to the brink; Grace sent me over the edge.  Even getting transferred to a supervisor was pure agony and resulted in my yelling into the phone (that's not like me).  The supervisor decided that an on-site technician would be required and said tech will be here Friday.  Another day lost and another day to lose at a time when I need every minute to get ready for the Kids on Saturday.

Twenty-six degrees this morning.  Sunny and bright yesterday, I still had to use my "water whacker" to break the ice in the water troughs, and I don't think we got far into the forties by afternoon.  Grace did me one favor; she got me hot under the collar.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Whiny Days and Winy Nights

It seems I have dropped into the Seventh Circle of the Inferno.  Computer problems are ongoing.  Bits and pieces come and go, giving and then dashing hope.  I was almost glad of the rain yesterday because I was so late getting down to the girls and I knew they wouldn't want to go outside anyway.  The rain was steady as I walked to the barn and a deluge as I slogged back up to the house.  Baking has come to a screeching halt as I do battle with the dark forces of the Internet.  Slow as treacle, the computer downloads the latest band-aid and I run to the kitchen.  I got so far as to put partial ingredients in a bowl, and there it stopped as a new glitch was discovered.  The computer elves work in the Philippines.  There is a fifteen-hour time difference.  Yesterday I worked with Jack, then JJ, then Jay ("J" being the letter for the day, I guess).  I fell asleep last night, waiting for the call-back that never came.  Sigh.

Miss Scarlett may have thought that tomorrow would be different.  I, on the other hand, keep getting reruns.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Lost In Space

The past two days have been an exercise in futility, and it's not over yet.  Nine hours with various techs from several sources, three hours more this morning, and there are still glitches with the computer and systems.  As an example, to get into one program, I needed to log in.  It (the computer, which is evil) said I wasn't registered.  I tried to register.  It said I was already registered.  I rode that merry-go-round until I was ready to run screaming in the hills.  A technician in Texas changed the password, but dropped the call before she could tell me the new one.  Aaargh!  Of course that meant calling back and going through the automated directory again.  It took the second and then a third tech a couple of tries before success, but at least I am now able to access email.  The blogsite is not behaving normally, but I have great hopes for making this entry.  In the meantime, a storm has hit just to add to the misery.  Ho ho ho.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Checking In

Computer problems are enough to drive one up the wall.  Last night four technicians in four separate phone calls told me they were going to connect me with a more advanced tech, and each time the call was dropped.  I'm a fairly patient person, but by call five I will admit I was pretty tight-jawed.  It would seem that not all problems were solved last night, so this entry is short.  Between battling the computer and wrestling with the wood stove, what I might have to say would probably be bleeped anyhow.

As Miss Scarlett would say, "Tomorrow is another day."

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Difficult Day

I was taught as a child not to look as we passed an accident on the road, not because it was something I should not see but because it would be intruding on someone else's pain.  In a catastrophic event such as 9/11 or the massacre in Connecticut yesterday, it seems almost imperative to sit and watch and cry in a vain attempt to share the burden of sorrow in the only way I can.  I met Tree Guy and Son Two with tears when they came to clean the chimney around noon.  They had not seen the news, and it swept two grown men off their feet.

The house was so cold we could see our breath, so the guys did what they had come to do, and also fixed a downstairs door that had recently obstinately refused to close.  Tree Guy had ordered the Pakistani mulberry trees (tall, with large fruit, he tells me), but they will not be delivered until June.  June!

Waving goodbye with one hand, I gathered firewood with the other and rushed in to light the wood stove.  It seemed to take forever and by afternoon I was desperate for human contact and warmth.  I called my single neighbor Debbie and after the last barn chores we went to The Pub for a hot meal.  Bangers and mash was comfort food and I was in good company.  The stove had done its job by the time I got home.  It was a good ending to a difficult day.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Murphy's Law

Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
Actually, it isn't so much that anything is going wrong, it's the timing of the thing that's off.  It never warmed up yesterday.  I can state this with certainty because Bessie's pool (yes, I should have emptied it long before this) was frozen in the morning and it was still frozen in the afternoon.  I had a devil of a time getting the wood stove going and had to give up the attempt until after barn chores.  I've been blaming the wood and the rain.  The stove had not been giving those warning smoke burps and I honestly had been keeping an eye on the spark catcher (for lack of the technical term) at the top of the chimney.  When I had problems last year and called in the professional, he told me I should not bank the fire at night; it was the low, slow burn that was causing the bad creosote buildup.  I paid for the advice, so I took it.  Not having any warmth in the house makes for an interesting game of morning hopscotch as I jump from the carpeted bedroom over to the rug in front of the bathroom sink, then to the bathmat in front of the shower, then back to the sink where I've left my slippers.

But I digress.  Thirty-two degrees yesterday, thirty today.  I know there are places more frigid than mine, but I still call that cold.  I did get the fire going yesterday afternoon, but as I was coming back up from the kids' bedtime last evening I could not see smoke from the chimney and could not see through the wire screen of the spark thingy.  Creosote.  Arrgh.  I put in a call to Tree Guy.  He is going to send one of the Sons to sweep the chimney today.  That is a good thing; it's just the timing of the thing.  I can't even try to light a fire this morning so Son One or Two can do the job without getting burned.  Back in the day on Laugh In, Rowan and Martin would award the Fickle Finger of Fate.  In my case, I got the Frigid Finger.  The chimney only needs cleaning when the temperature drops.  At least it's not raining!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sunshine On A Rainy Day

Doggone it, I have to admit I am enjoying this WWOOFer experience.  It's pretty neat to know you will have something in common with strangers.  Aaron and Tessa are from Vancouver, BC, Canada.  He is a stonemason and Tessa raises organic vegetables on an inner-city plot, selling her produce by subscription much as Kellan and William had done.  They both dream of living a country lifestyle and are using WWOOF to educate themselves before taking the big leap.  Young, intelligent, enthusiastic, they were good company.

This being my fourth go-round, I have my patter down cold.  We prepared the milk to set curd before stepping out into the drizzling rain to start chores.  Aaron sent us all into gales of laughter as he was milking Sheila (who had come in on her own and didn't play ring-around-the-rosy).  "I can't seem to get any more milk out."  "Well, do you think she might be empty?"  And, of course, she was.

Tessa, on seeing Poppy and my spinning wheel, had expressed interest in learning how to make yarn.  After step two in making feta and having had lunch, I went to The Black Hole and retrieved my bag of washed wool, carders, and drop spindles.  Aaron discovered it isn't as easy as it might look.  Tessa got the hang of it right away.  She had an incentive.  They had visited the nearby alpaca ranch and, with high hopes, had purchased alpaca wool, not realizing she would get a spinning lesson so soon.

The sun put in a brief appearance in the late afternoon, just in time to create a spectacular sunset.  My guests walked out to enjoy the view just before Tim came to pick them up.  I sent them home with bags of cheese and, hopefully, good memories of their day at Farview.  I know they certainly brightened my day.

Thirty-two degrees this morning and the frost is so thick it looks like snow.  No rain clouds on the horizon, but I need to get the wood stove fired up.  It's cold!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I Should Have A Horse

It's only appropriate that I should have a horse to ride through Fair Play shouting, "The WWOOFers are coming!  The WWOOFers are coming!"  People might take notice then.  Hollering out the window of a pickup simply doesn't have the same effect; people just think you've gone bonkers.  Regardless, a young couple from Canada will be my guests for a day of goat milking and cheese making, and they will be here shortly.  The rain beat them by about six hours.  Oh goody.  We all know how fractious goats get on rainy days.

Tree Guy dropped off Sons One and Two yesterday morning and bailed out like he was in a sinking canoe.  Sons, with pickax and shovel, dug a two-hundred foot ditch, laid a PVC drip line and sprinkler heads, buried the whole thing, and put in T-posts in readiness for fencing to protect the mulberry trees when they arrive.  The weather was perfect for such a job, and the guys said the ground was like butter.  They certainly earned the beer I doled out at the end of the day.  They intend to come back for whatever reason this morning, but with the rain, I'll give 'em a pass if they don't show.

Since I don't have a horse, I'll just go around the house announcing, "The WWOOFers are coming!," to Bess and the cats.  They already think I'm bonkers.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Odd Thought

Stray thoughts were drifting around the barn the way they do, and I suddenly wondered why adults don't get cooties.  You never hear a grownup say, "Eeuw!  Don't sit so close!  Don't touch me 'cause you've got cooties!"  All children know about cooties.  Cooties are capricious and contagious.  Boys get 'em more than girls; best friends never get 'em.  When I was a kid we made cootie catchers out of origami-style folded paper; work it just right and you could prove the other kid had cooties (or not).  There was a board game that I am sure was developed just so kids could identify a cootie, although without the cootie catchers, I never knew anyone who had actually seen one.  Kids are believers in the unseen (boogeymen and tooth fairies, for example) so it never occurred to us to doubt the reality of their existence.  The thing is, when is it, at what age do we stop getting cooties?  Does the taste of a grownup not appeal to cooties?  Is it a developed immunity as it is with, say, mumps?  Get 'em once and be safe forever?  Perhaps it is simply that imagination shrinks as the body grows.  I wonder.

Of all people, I ran into Tree Guy in town yesterday.  He said he and Number Two Son will be here this morning to at least get a start on the water line for the trees he's going to put in.  Wahoo!  I've been wondering where he's been.

I was in the cleaning supplies aisle looking for a new mop because of my last fiasco with the kitchen floor.  Next to me was a woman at least half a head shorter and hair greyer than mine.  She started laughing and said, "Here I am looking at this stuff like I'm actually going to clean something!"  I told her she was a woman after my own heart.  It seems she'd spilled red wine on an area rug given by her daughter-in-law and she was thinking about trying to scrub it out.  Then again, she thought she might just replace the carpet.  Another woman walked by and asked if we knew where the dusting spray might be.  In unison, as if we'd practiced, my companion and I said, "You dust?!"  That woman just muttered something and went on with her search, obviously not a kindred spirit.  The old(er) lady and I stood and chattered for a bit and she told me one of the funniest farm jokes I've heard in a while, but I can't put it in print.

Some things, like cooties, are better left to the imagination.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Lazy Day

Milking went a little faster than usual.  Cindy is in the process of drying up, not producing much and so she's off the stand much quicker.  This is pretty good timing because Lulu, the little bummer Barbados sheep, has been weaned.  With one remaining customer, there's not the demand for milk that there was.  Sheila was actually waiting at the door for her turn so we didn't have to do-si-do around the barn.  Since my personal motto is "Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow," having extra time in the morning meant more time to sit in the sunshine with a book.  It was a good book (another Christopher Moore) and difficult to put down even back in the house.  So I didn't.  About the only productive activity I did all day was bring a couple of wagons of firewood up to the porch.

Any day with a good book is a good day.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Love Is Blind

Don't kiss ___________ by the garden gate.
Love is blind, but the neighbors ain't.

While cleaning out closets some while back, I ran across my autograph book from grade school.  Back in the day, autograph books were the rage.  This was before yearbooks or annuals.  My book is full of classmates' childish scrawls and scraps of poetry like the little bon mot above.  This one came to mind particularly as I watched a tom turkey fluff his feathers and strut his stuff as he paraded back and forth in front of a group of females, doing his best to impress them with his virility and mighty masculine self.  I don't know if he was nearsighted, practicing, or just plain desperate.  The females (and I'm taking a guess here because gender was difficult to determine) which were sitting on fence posts and pointedly ignoring the turkey were vultures!  If he was serious, it is true that love is blind.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Yum Yum!

There are as many definitions of "comfort food" as there are individuals.  Without giving it any forethought, standing at the stove last night with the aroma wafting up I realized I was making my version of true comfort food.  Looking though cupboards, fridge and freezer for inspiration, I pulled out a can of corned beef.  Carrots?  Check.  Potatoes, onions?  Check, check.  Corned beef hash!  Chop the veggies, mix in the meat and a couple of eggs (four when using Silkies), and you're halfway there.  Heat a large skillet with olive oil and butter.  Calories are not a comfort food consideration.  Pat the mixture down evenly and leave it alone.  The secret to good hash is to let the bottom get good and brown before turning over and repeating.  The crispy parts are the best, and this procedure cannot be rushed.  Add more butter as needed.  Continue to turn and brown until potatoes and carrots are soft and the whole thing has crispy bits throughout.  One cannot equate ready-made hash in a can to the homemade variety.  I'll bet I could convert a vegetarian with homemade hash.  I can't finish a hamburger in one sitting, but I can go back for seconds of hash.  Eat 'em up, chomp chomp!

Friday, December 7, 2012


After a couple days of rain, it was great to see blue sky yesterday morning.  Starting chores for the day included throwing down birdseed and letting the chickens out of their coop.  As I turned to latch the gate, I noticed a new member of the flock.  A young turkey hen was saying, "Buck, buck, buck," hoping to remain incognito and have a little chicken scratch for breakfast.  Notoriously skittish, I'm always amazed at how tame wild turkeys become when food is involved.

My joy at seeing sunshine was short lived.  Before I finished milking, fog crept in and blotted out the blue sky.  Anticipating a warm day, I had not lit a fire in the wood stove before leaving the house.  Big mistake.  Had I put a log in the hot coals from the night's fire first thing, I would have come back to the comfort of a warm room.  The problem is this:  the wood I am using now is the heavy, dense oak from the old tree down in the goat pen.  I do not have any kindling.  It takes forever and many false starts to get the logs to catch fire when the stove is cold.  My particular stove has two doors and three vents.  Wood is loaded from the side; the glass door is to watch the fire.  Once I start the process, I cannot leave the room.  It's a complicated procedure of opening two vents, maybe three, lighting the fire-starter blocks, waiting to see if it catches, then if all goes well, shutting all but the small lowest vent.  This is because when/if it gets going good, the blaze will go up the chimney flue and the heat will start the draw to keep the fire going.  If I'm not there to watch, the draw can become so great that it pulls the fire up and could start a chimney fire, something to fear.

I fought with that fire most of the day, watching it catch, then go out, catch, go out.  In the meantime the fog got thicker outside and a damp chill crept in.  I added a jacket to my attire.  By bedtime, the house was finally warm.  I had to shut down the stove for the night.  Arrgh.

The sun is just coming up and the sky looks blue.  I've got to go light a fire.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Just Around the Corner

Yikes!  I do pretty well keeping track of which day of the week it is, but I don't have a lot of reason to look at the calendar for dates, which is why most birthday greetings I send are the belated variety and I am frequently blindsided by upcoming events.  Like Thanksgiving.  And Christmas.  Fully aware that these holidays come in batches, I had a pretty good idea after the turkey leftovers were gone that Christmas would be coming up but it wasn't until yesterday that I realized it would be here so soon.  It's coming with the speed of a train and I am, once again, not ready.  The price of postage has prohibited sending cards, which is a shame because that was something I truly enjoyed.  It does, however, free up some time for other preparations.  Yesterday was another rainy day (just regular rain and not a storm) and a good day to stay inside and bake cookies.  It made me miss my Kids.  Not just my Kids as they are now, but my Kids when they were little.  With four Kids, there was one to lick the beater, one to lick the spoon, and two shared the bowl.  I never bothered with cookie recipes that made fewer than five or six dozen; they weren't worth my time.  Like baby birds, the Kids would wait around the oven for the first pan to come out and those cookies were snatched up in the blink of an eye.  Baking cookies is a lot more fun with children in the kitchen.

Decorating the tree is more fun with Kids, too.  Back in the day, we still put tinsel on the branches.  Deb would carefully place each strand just so.  The boys would stand back and lob a handful in the general direction of the tree or each other and laugh like loons.  Martha Stewart would not have been pleased.  We made red and green construction paper chains, glued with homemade flour and water paste, which didn't taste as good as the white library glue that came in a jar and every child I ever knew sampled at least once.  I made a clay dough from flour, salt, and water and the Kids made ornaments, some of which I still have.

Traveling down Memory Lane is nice, but it's not taking me in the right direction.  I need to step on the gas and get going.  Christmas is right around the corner!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Leather and Feather

We set a new record yesterday, Sheila and I.  Nine full laps around the perimeter of the pen and three or four short ones around the barn.  The day that I can't out-stubborn a goat is the day I'll turn in my badge.  These are not speed races; we walk at a comfortable pace, she staying just out of reach.  Teasing, Sheila will pause to scratch her ear or grab a mouthful of grass.  Just as I close in, rope in hand, she moves off again.  "Psych!"  (Sheila has a mean streak.)  Following that swollen udder up and down the slopes, I explained to her that many useful items are made of goat skin and, trust me, I was ready to tan her hide.  Having worked up a good appetite for breakfast, she finally stopped at the barn door and I was able to finish my morning chores.

It was a semi-sunny day and Bess stayed out when I came back to the house.  Stepping out to put the strained milk in the deck fridge, I saw the darnedest sight.  A tribe of fifteen or so turkeys was under the oak scarfing up birdseed, and Bessie walked straight through their midst, headed toward the woods.  Eight of the big birds (they're bigger than Bess) broke off and trailed after my dog.  For a minute I was afraid they were going to attack, but no, they were just going for a walk with her.  They followed as she tracked back and forth and finally came back up the hill.  Bessie Anne has become The Turkey Whisperer.

Flushed with the success of getting Sheila into the barn in the morning, I had decided to move her and Poppy into the other stall at night even if Poppy objected.  It was raining lightly as I tucked in the chickens and headed down to the big girls, and I thought it would make the job easier.  Poppy and her roommate were first in and I got them headed in the right direction.  Suddenly out of nowhere, Cindy was in the stall too.  The gate hadn't latched fully and I was under siege.  Cindy scared Poppy.  Poppy ran out.  Sheila fought Cindy.  Tessie came in.  I chased Poppy.  Poppy fought me.  Goats were everywhere before I could finally sort them, pushing four outside and Ruth into her stall alone.  What had begun so easily had turned into a rout and in the narrow hallways I had to wrestle a large, wet, lanolin-slick, very unwilling sheep into her room.  As long as there was food in the dish, Sheila had stayed where she belonged (for a change).  The four who had waited outside went willingly into their room and I slammed the door and slogged back up the hill.

Oy, what a day!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Lookin' Spiffy

It wasn't just the windows that got rain washed.  The goat girls are showered and shiny, too.  What leaves are left on the trees are bright green or gold, and the grass (or what passes for grass in my yard) sparkles with droplets like diamonds.  Poor old Poppy, on the other hand, is carrying probably thirty pounds of waterlogged wool.  Even after a day of sunshine, she still feels like a soaked sponge.  Sheila is walking a little spraddle-legged as she yet again refused to come in yesterday.  After a few laps around the barn in wet weeds to my ankles, I quit and left her looking at me with that expression that said, "But the game's not over!"  Yes, it was.

Give me a little sunshine after days of rain and I am drawn to the deck bench like a lemming to the cliff.  After spending a little time outside with Christopher Moore, I got an attack of conscience and went in to run appliances requiring electricity.  Fortunately, dusting does not require electricity and I was able to put that low on the list.  With fair assurance that the power would stay on, I got a pretty good start on holiday baking.  A batch of pumpkin cookies was cooling on the counter when Earle came to pick up milk.  I could see his fingers twitching, so said, "Have one."  I am still laughing as I think of Earle talking as if to distract me as he ate one..after another.

The rain has brought a change in the cats' and my routine.  The storm doors in the bedroom and laundry room swell until, if opened, they won't close again, so winter brings an end to the convenience of just standing and letting the kids in when I'm at the computer.  They jump up on the bench to let me know their need, and now I must go to the living room and let them in that door.  When I put up the Christmas tree, that door too will be blocked and we will have to go all the way to the dining room.  We're none of us pleased, but that's just the way it is.

I heard that we in northern California got over twenty-five percent of our annual rainfall in just five days.  I believe it.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Safe, Sound, and Soggy

Yesterday morning was just plain scary.  Somehow, in spite of gale-force wind and torrential rain, we made it through intact here.  My neighbor lost one of the huge oaks in her pasture, but no horses were hurt.  A friend of Joel's was right, it did sound like the windows were being power-washed.  In a walk-around later, I saw that, indeed, the glass has been scoured clean!  I delayed going to the barn until, thankfully, the wind dropped.  The rain continued to pour down.  Even though I put my barn coat in front of the fire later, it was so soaked that it was not dry by evening chores; that's wet.

Finally, the storm passed and the sun came out.  Bess, the cats and I went for a tour to check for damage (and didn't find any).  Walking out after days of rain is like the day that a fever breaks, it just feels so good.  The credit for this photo goes to Joel, who called just as I was about to get ready to put the kids to bed and asked if I'd seen the fog bank coming down Perry Creek.  (There really is a year-round creek paralleling Perry Creek Road.)  The cut is so deep that only the very top of the fog can be seen from here; pretty awesome.  Speaking of creeks, this property has a "seasonal creek" that crosses the meadow at the bottom of the woods.  We had no idea what that meant when we moved here, but found that it is only a creek when it rains (duh).  Standing on the deck in the afternoon, the sound of rushing water told me that it is the season.

Light enough to see now, the sky looks pretty clear.  More rain is due tomorrow, but I'll be happy for the break today.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Do A Little Dance

It is no surprise that I enjoy the company of barn mice.  However, occasionally they do surprise me.  Frequently they pop out of the grain bucket and run for cover as I remove the lid in the morning.  I'm used to that and am prepared.  Yesterday, however, when the overfed mouse leaped out and ran, it ran directly under my bibbies and up my leg.  I will admit to a yelp and some fast footwork.  Talk about a morning jump-start!  (The mouse probably felt the same way.)

Giving credit where credit is due, the weather people have been spot on in their predictions for these storms.  Yesterday was more of a steady rain, lacking the driving wind.  It seemed peaceful after the preceding gales.  They said today would be the worst and, unfortunately, it seems they were right again.  Here on the crest of the hill, it sounds like a freight train is passing just outside the windows in the dark.  It's going to be a howler down in the barn later on and I'm not looking forward to facing frantic goats.  My continuing thought is, "Save the trees.  Please protect the trees."  The wind creates a sense of urgency, as I expect the power to go out at any moment, and am grateful when it does not.  Storms are a lot easier to handle alone when the lights are on and the TV makes "people" sounds.

The cats are unhappy again, but they'll have to cope with the indoor facilities. It could be raining dogs out there in the dark.  Frank and Pearl refuse to accept "NO."  They repeatedly request, then demand to be let out.  When denied, they prowl around muttering derogatory epithets better left unheard.

It's going to be an interesting day.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Nasty Day In the Neighborhood

Wind tearing leaves from the trees and breaking small branches, sneaking cold fingers in any gap in window or door.  Rain pouring down like somebody left the spigot open full wide, beating on the metal barn roof like thunder.  I could barely hear my cell phone when Joel called to tell me the power had gone out.  Oh goody.

Soaked to the knees and squelching in wet shoes, cold water dripping down my neck, I slogged my way back to a dark house.  Coat, hat, socks, shirt and bibbies laid out in front of the wood stove, I changed into dry sweats and tried to decide what to do with the rest of the day.  While there was still light outside (albeit dim), the choice was easy.  I picked up a book; what a surprise!  My son Pete introduced me to Christopher Moore, whose writing is witty, irreverent, intelligent, with a perverse sense of humor.  (Actually, that sounds a lot like Pete.)  Moore's books are impossible for me to read without laughing out loud or wishing someone were near so I could share a particularly funny passage.  The power came back after maybe three hours, but by that time I was immersed in the story.  Turning on a lamp just made reading easier.

This morning is just a rerun of yesterday, hopefully without a power outage.  I really must get something productive accomplished today.