Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Usual Suspects

There were a few missing (and missed) faces in yesterday's lineup; Pete lives in SoCal and Larry just moved and was getting settled into a new place.  Deb, Craig, Dave, Pinto (Dave's housemate), and Clay came up and immediately the cards came out.  Note:  my stacks of red and blue chips are bigger than Clay's whites, but I'm not bragging.  It's not hard to tell from body language in this photo who were losing at the moment.  At any other time, I was laughing too hard to take pictures.  This Wild Bunch are quick-witted teasers and no one, not even the exalted Mother, is exempt from the jibes.  Anyone out of the game for a minute was assigned a kitchen task, so dinner prep was easy on everyone.
Dave is the appointed carver in the family, a job he relishes because it gives him first dibs on tasting.  The ham that Deb and Craig brought this year was particularly good.  Pinto is learning that every holiday here calls for a traditional menu that never varies from year to year.  Yesterday I did add an appetizer of dates stuffed with (homemade) goat cheese, wrapped with bacon and broiled, but all other dishes were, in Tevye's word, Tradition!

After the meal, the table was quickly cleared so the poker game could continue.  We watched a pretty impressive thunder storm over the mountains as we played, but the threatened rain was a wimpy squall of a few minutes when it passed over.  It did rain during the night, just enough to give another spurt to the weed growth.  I see more days of mowing in my future.

Probably from time immemorial, gamblers have cried, "Baby needs new shoes!" as they place a bet.  Well, I got new shoes.  As I told Deb, I could get used to having a personal shopper.  She and Craig were able to find the pair that I'd been looking for.  Now that's painless shopping!  It just added to the pleasure of an already great day.  The house seems so very quiet after the last Kid leaves.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Bunny Trail

Peter Cottontail may have hopped down his path; I, on the other hand, am at a full gallop.  Once again, the family took a glance at the calendar to get an estimated date for Easter and picked today for our get-together.  We might as well throw darts at the darned thing for all the attention we pay to organized holidays.  It took the better part of a 1940s Greer Garson movie to peel several dozen Silkie eggs to devil yesterday.  They are tiny eggs with an amazingly hard shell and a larger-than-normal yolk, perfect for bite-sized deviled eggs, but a lot of work.  Having an abundance (make that "overabundance") of eggs, I also made an angel food cake.  Back in the day when eggs were dear and only the whites were needed, I'd drop the yolks into boiling water to use for egg salad.  Now I know I'll pick up close to a dozen again today; no shortage of eggs here!  Pinto, Dave's housemate, missed out on a birthday cake at Thanksgiving and I owe him one.  The angel food will go with the strawberries I'd frozen last season.  The dinner rolls I made unfortunately turned out like hockey pucks, over-baked due to my inattention because of an unexpected guest.  I may give them a second shot today, otherwise we'll do without and the chickens will have rolls to go with their scratch (cracked corn and other stuff).  In the midst of all the KP duties, I did...wait for it...dust!  (Do I hear the sound of applause?)  Misplaced holiday or not, the goats won't milk themselves and there's still more to be done before the Kids get here.

Happy Easter!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Spring Song

The oak trees are silent in the dead heat of summer.  Only the birds taking refuge in their green shade chatter and chirp.  In fall, the least puff of air sets the dry brown leaves clicking like hundreds of castanets.  Wind whistles through bare branches in winter.  Only in spring do the oaks find their true voice.  Sitting on the deck in the morning sun, I listened to the oak trees hum their song of spring in a light breeze yesterday.  I was powerless to resist their sirens' call.

Thursday, March 28, 2013


 My camera has either a bad attitude or a wicked sense of humor, or both.  It is definitely selfish.  It is difficult to cope when inanimate objects take on a life of their own, especially when they get the upper hand and grab control.  Nikki (it's a Nikon camera) is in collusion with the computer and they like to tease and thwart. I can take teasing.  I dislike thwarting.

A couple of days ago I thought the thunderheads massing over the mountain were pretty and went out on the deck to take a photo.  It had sprinkled rain in the morning, but the afternoon was clear blue skies.  Bessie, cleverly disguised as a clump of weeds, watched the four does in the front pasture below.  Note:  the deer are in the front pasture that borders the road.  Bessie Anne is standing in the back yard, as the front of the house faces away from the road.  It's a bit confusing, but that's how it is.

I had thought to post the pictures the next day, but Nikki thought otherwise.  She refused to give up the photos.  Sometimes I can trick her by using different means of access, but nothing I tried would make her spit them out.  Today, after several attempts, she relented and made the transfer.  That's when 'Puter took over the game and hid them from me.  I had to search through several sites and a number of folders, and I'm sure I could hear 'Puter and Nikki chuckling.  The photos are nothing spectacular, but once found, by golly I was going to put them out there.  Take that, Nikki!  So there, 'Puter!  You're not the only ones with attitude.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cats and Dogs

Frank is just a fool when it comes to Bessie Anne.  He simply adores her and ignores the fact that she is a dog and he is a cat.  Disregarding that he is male, he cleans her face, lifts up her ears for a good wash, and grooms her as if she were a kitten, his kitten.  Yesterday he came to the door and I went to let him in.  Bessie thought that as long as I was opening the door anyway, she'd go out.  "Oh, my friend!  You're coming out to play with me!," and Frank greeted Bess with little mewling sounds, purrs, headbutts and rubs, and stayed to sit beside her in the sunshine.  Bessie will lie just outside the fence while I'm in tending to the goats.  From the milking room I can see Frank come to her from wherever he's been off doing cat things and rub and make figure-eights in front of her.  Sometimes she'll move to get away from him, but he follows and finally flops down with her to wait.  Our bedtime routine every night has been that Bessie Anne lies on my pillow until she gets a back and shoulder massage (I know, it's ridiculous) and then moves over to her pillow.  Frank has waited at the foot of the bed until recently.  Lately he's been "helping" me by kneading ("making muffins") her backside.  I've warned him about using claws; so far, so good.  Bessie seems to tolerate his ministrations, but once in awhile she'll give me a look that says, "Is it supposed to be like this?"  I guess it's better than fighting like cats and dogs, but I don't know what to tell her.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Here and Now

This is the view seen when looking past the computer screen when I'm "working."  It is what I see from the bench on the deck where I read.  Bessie Anne accessorized herself with forsythia blossoms yesterday morning and I tried to get a photo, but she couldn't decide which was her best side and kept turning around until the flowers fell off; opportunity lost.  It won't be long until the forsythia and anemones will be a memory, their place taken by the tulips and ranunculus that are already pushing up.

For the last week, coming back up from the goat pen I've noticed a lone ground squirrel sitting upright and motionless at the edge of the old burn pile (nothing but a mound of ash there now).  Squirrel thinks he is invisible or invincible.  I clank just a few feet past him with the milk buckets and sometimes stop and talk to him.  He sits with head slightly turned (no eye contact) and ignores me.  It is only when Bess says she's had enough of this and makes her move that he drops down into his burrow.  There is evidently no ratter in Bessie's mixed bag of heritage because she takes no further action.  I have seen her predecessor, Dogie, dig a pit so deep only her hind quarters were above ground as she went after a critter.

Taking Bess for walkies last night, the near-full moon was so bright it washed the stars from the sky.  We stood together in the driveway loop and listened to a pair of owls calling on the hill across the road, one tenor, one baritone (or maybe it was soprano and alto or a mix of genders, what do I know?).  It was a chill night and we soon walked back up to the house where I'd had the wood stove lit.

It was a good day.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Unseen

"Thing" was a character in The Munsters, a disembodied, voiceless hand in a box.  "The Thing" was a 1951 sci-fi movie with James Arness (remade with Kurt Russell in 1982).  I have my own Thing.  It lives in the barn and it is sloppy and has a bad temper.  Since I've never seen it, I'm not sure what it is or from where it came (outer space is not out of the question).  I think it has lived in the barn for a long time.  Thing evidently tunneled up years ago, destroying a section of the floor in a corner, because Steve had put a carpeted rubber mat over the hole.  He never mentioned that Thing had moved in.  Thing has since destroyed the mat, and is now bringing up rocks to fill the space.  Thing cannot be too large; there are no big hidey-holes to live in, but lots of little nooks and crannies in the barn.  I had thought the torn and chewed paper I recently retrieved was the work of mice, but perhaps Thing had friends over and it really was confetti for a party.  Among the many items stored in the barn are a bunch of red, six-inch-long, plastic gizmos that are used to keep hot wire away from fence T-posts (check a farm glossary somewhere if you don't know what these are).  These gizmos apparently tick Thing off.  I find them flung all around the room.  I pick them up.  Thing throws them out.  Thing does not like them.  The alfalfa is stored outside one wall of the barn, and my feed-slash-craft room is on another.  I never hear Thing moving in the big section.  I never hear scurrying or catch a glimpse of a fast-moving creature when I go in for gas for the tractor or to use the air compressor.  I assume Thing is silent, invisible, and messy.  If we're going to share living space, I just wish Thing would pick up after him-her-itself. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Antidote

Antidote:  that which relieves, prevents, or counteracts.  In other words, the cure for what ails ya.  Antidotes come in many forms.  My Kids learned early on never to say, "I'm bored," for they knew I had the cure for that.  It was called "work."  There's nothing like a dog by your side to help get through a sad time.  Like any good friend, words are simply not necessary when you're really down.  A simple case of the blahs can be cured with a good book.  Comfort food can fix darned near anything.  There are those who say the same thing about chocolate, but it's never done that much for me (except See's candy at Christmas, and then I'm out of control; the Kids' dad used to put it in his gun lock box and dole it out to me one piece a day).  Yesterday I spent ugly hours at the computer paying bills, but I found the perfect antidote.  I fired up the lawn tractor and rode around mowing a couple of yards, avoiding the patches of Baby blue eyes in the back yard, and trimming the grass[sic] along the goat pen and down by the road.  Sitting on the porch afterwards with Bess and a cold beer in the still-warm afternoon...well, it was a good day after all.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Glorious Technicolor

Black, blue, purple, red, and the promise of green and yellow to follow.  The night of the last rain, slipping and sliding in the chicken pen as I shut the coop doors, my feet went out from under me and I landed hard, fortunately (or not) in relatively soft mud, etc.  I leave "etc." to the imagination.  Adding insult to injury, or injury to injury, bringing wood in to restock the fire, I tripped over Frank and stopped myself from falling again with a hand on the stove.  No serious results from either incident, just some bruises here and there, including a pretty spectacular bull's eye on my bum, and a slight burn on my palm.  A klutz, yes, but, boy, am I colorful!

The drive into town yesterday was also in glorious technicolor.  Up at the corner in Somerset, flowering quince are showing off their salmon-pink blossoms.  In Diamond Springs, plum trees lining the road have traded their lacy pink flowers for deep purple leaves and acacia trees are heavy with bright yellow fronds.  Throughout the drive, old apple trees where settlers might have lived are highlighted with white.  The hills are blanketed in green, growth spurred on by the rain followed by sunshine.  Still no dogwood, however.

The trip to town was initiated because I need new barn shoes.  I was trying to be proactive because the current pair is about ready to give up the ghost but has not yet sprung leaks.  Well, good luck with that because the store was out of that style.  Drat!  Anyone who knows me knows how much I hate shopping, period, and shopping for shoes worst of all.  Fortune smiled on me as my daughter called just at that time and said she would check the store in her neighborhood (gotta love cell phones!), saving me from having to try on something new.  Side note:  I was hiding back in the shoe department, almost whispering as I talked to Deb, and a young man with his phone to his ear walked by almost yelling.  People don't seem to realize that privacy on the phone is an illusion in public.

In this colorful world, the shoes I want are plain black.

Friday, March 22, 2013

What Time Is It?

Bessie Anne, like her canine predecessors, is the official family timekeeper.  It's not an easy job trying to keep me on schedule, let alone on the straight and narrow. 

I am, by nature, a dawdler.  I've had a lot of practice and I'm good at it.  An early childhood memory is the sound of my dad impatiently jingling coins in his pocket as he tried to hurry me along.  My mother frequently lost me on sidewalks and in stores because I lagged behind.  Steve once (and only once) beeped the car horn while he waited in the driveway for me to come out.

Once Bess has learned the routine, she does her best to keep me in line.  Like me, she has a little trouble making the transition when the clocks are moved backward or forward, but she adapts faster than I do, and she doesn't complain.  In the morning and again at night, when it's time to tend to the animals, she gets antsy, asks to be let out but then won't go.  She'll stand at the door, looking into my eyes, and say, "Mom, we've got a job to do.  Let's get going!"  Lacking my cooperation, she lies down with a huge sigh, obviously disappointed in me.  On nights when I might doze in the chair, Bessie comes and whines to tell me it is bedtime.  Her internal clock is more reliable than the ones on the wall.  I do a lot of apologizing to my dog because I'm late again.  It's not her fault.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Hip Chicks

One never knows what to expect when the WWOOFers come.  Although every experience with the travelers has been a good one for me, yesterday was the best.  Susan and Doreen are friends from the Vancouver, BC, area and this is their fourth WWOOFing trip.  Women in their sixties, they are up for every challenge and have such enthusiasm for life.  In Hawaii, they hacked their way through semi-jungle to clear land for someone's garden.  Milking goats must have seemed pretty tame after that, but they really enjoyed meeting the girls.  They got the hang of milking right away, laughing all the while.  There is such pleasure in sharing what one likes to do best.  We made a batch of chevre, and Susan took copious notes.  There was talk of Canada's regulations prohibiting the sale of raw milk (and owning guns of any kind).  The hummers obliged with an aerial performance while we had lunch.  It was a rainy day, a day for soup, fresh bread, and a fire in the wood stove.  I had thought to show them how to spin Poppy's wool using a drop spindle, but time flew by in conversation about books, family, and travel.  Doreen originally came from Scotland, emigrating to Canada in her twenties, and still has a lovely lilt in her speech.  She had lived some time in the Yukon wilderness.  Susan and her husband have plans to move someday to a small island in Canada.  They'd missed their chance to be hippies in the past; just goes to show it's never too late.

Landlocked and home-bound as I am now (by choice), I so admire these women for their adventuresome spirit and gaiety.  I appreciate that they took pleasure in everything Farview had to offer.  I miss them already.  It was a good day.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I Wasn't Kidding

I've been known to embellish a story now and again, but I do not exaggerate.  After tamping down the dirt in one squirrel hole the night before, when I went to the little feed stall yesterday morning I found two new holes and a mountain of fresh dirt.  If these guys get organized, I'm in trouble!

I saw the first bluebird of the season yesterday; such pretty little birds with true blue backs and rosy breasts.  Plants on the deck were getting droopy and needed water, even though rain was predicted (it's here).  Sometimes even one day will make the difference between a live plant and a dead one.  It adds about an hour to the work schedule, but it's pleasant to walk about outside, doing something productive while essentially doing nothing.  I heard the Rod-RI-go bird crying for its lost mate again.  It has expanded its vocabulary and now calls, "Come back!  Come back, Rod-RI-go!"  Evidently all male quail are named Rodrigo and all are cads who love their ladies and leave them brokenhearted.

We've had a stretch of beautiful weather, warm days and cool nights.  Today, with the ladies arriving soon to learn to milk and make cheese, it's raining.  Of course it is.  Like washing the car (who still does that? must be flatlanders) or a visit from Dolly, watering plants will guarantee rain the next day.  I did it to myself.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

In The Papers

I can see the headlines now:  "Goat Lady Lost In Sinkhole In Fair Play."  Weird stories about sinkholes have been in the news lately, and they've been attributed to water or weak rock foundations or some such.  If it happens here, I'll know the real reason.  The ground squirrels in (under) the barn have come out of hibernation and have kicked their underground activities into high gear.  Stepping into the milking room yesterday, an unseen tunnel collapsed and my foot sank up to the ankle.  Every day there are more holes and mounds of freshly dug earth, first in one room and then another.  I refill the holes.  They dig bigger holes.  The milking stand took an alarming tilt as Sheila jumped up when one of the stand legs suddenly dropped four inches.  Sheila didn't care; she was intent on getting her breakfast.  I couldn't lift the stand with a goat too and she wasn't about to get down, so it sure made milking a challenge.  From the size of the holes in the mini-stall where the feed barrel is kept, it looks like we are being invaded by excavating elephants.  Elephants with attitudes!  I push the dirt back into the hole in the morning and again into the bigger hole at night.  It's like I'm being flipped off, and it's becoming a test of wills.  Ground squirrels are little creatures, certainly not as big as the grey tree squirrels, but, boy, are they determined.

Two women WWOOFers from Canada are due here tomorrow for the farm experience.  I'm going to hand them a shovel and let them have at it. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Green Acres

It was too nice a day to stay indoors.  After watching my driver come in fifth (that's not a bad showing for points) at Bristol, Bessie Anne and I headed outside.  She selected a vantage point in the shade of an oak and I fired up the lawn tractor for the first time this year.  The grass-slash-weeds had not reached a critical height, but last year's dead weeds had the place looking pretty straggly and I decided to get a jump on it.  Putt-putting around the west field on a warm spring day is my idea of heaven, and I was humming the theme song to "Green Acres."  (It occurs to me that there is a whole generation out there who wouldn't know what that is.)  I steered the tractor around patches of Baby blue eyes.  I can't bear to cut down these cheery little wildflowers that pop up every year, even if it does make the mowing look hit-and-miss.  I also had to avoid some pretty big burrows in the field, courtesy of the busy, busy ground squirrels.  A word to the wise:  wait until after you ride around on a gut-busting tractor for an hour or so to have that beer.  By the time I was making the last few passes, I'd kicked the tractor into fifth gear to git 'er done! 

After a short break (yup), I started mowing the south yard.  Unfortunately, under the broken oak by the clothesline where Tree Guy had been working, the terrain has changed and I high-centered the tractor in the weeds.  The tractor may be little, but it's still pretty darned heavy and it was a struggle to lift it up and over that hump.  That done, I finished that yard and decided I'd accomplished enough for the day.  Bess and I sat on the porch, sniffing the perfume of new-mown grass.  I was thinking there was no better aroma, but then thought of a baby's neck, puppy breath, frying onions and garlic, fresh bread, roast pork, lily-of-the-valley, my dad's Old Spice aftershave, pine trees; ohmigawsh, this world is full of wonderful smells.

All that thinking made me hungry and I went in to make Bubble and Squeak for dinner.  I can't say that cooked cabbage is my favorite smell, but that dish sure made me, in words members of the Duck Dynasty cult will recognize, happy, happy, happy!

It was a good day.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

You Just Know

Sometimes you open your eyes and just know from the git-go that it's going to be a good day.  For the second time in three days I had a corned beef in the crock pot before daylight.  In my opinion, you can never have too much corned beef.  I was actually hoping for leftovers because I am looking forward to making Bubble and Squeak.  Milking went smoothly in spite of Inga's overfull bag (she'll never learn) and I finished in plenty of time to get back to the house before Deb and Craig drove up.

Bessie Anne greeted Deb with enthusiasm, but then firmly attached herself like a limpet to Craig.  She wangled her way into his lap, looked adoringly into his eyes and assured him that he was "the only one."  She's shameless.  (She'd told Clay the same exact thing.)  Pearl muttered a quick "hello" as she passed through the room before darting out the door.  She's polite, but somewhat antisocial.  Frank, on the other hand, pulled his "purr, rub, and pet me" routine on both Deb and Craig.  He has no gender preference; he's an equal-opportunity cat.

I had some kitchen chores to attend, and the Kids went outside.  Checking later, I discovered that they had the pole saw and were cutting all reachable mistletoe out of the oaks.  Mistletoe, that parasitic plant, had killed the oak over the goat barn, and it's been spreading to all the trees.  Anything to deter it is so helpful and I really appreciated Deb and Craig's work.

I watch a lot of cooking shows and had seen Chef Jacques Pepin make a dessert I'd been dying to try, Orange Souffle Crepes.  With company here, it seemed the perfect opportunity.  (I almost made them when Clay was here, but we got to talking and time slipped away.)  I had no recipe, but we watched the program and took notes.  Working together, we made the crepes and the souffle filling.  Deb is put the finishing touch on the baked crepes.
Sprinkled with a splash of orange liqueur, this dish smelled heavenly and tasted divine.

Good company and good food.  It was a good day, start to finish.  Some days, you just know.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Long Ago and Far Away

With company coming today, I needed to finish digging through the trove of memorabilia in the milk crate.  I had a little extra time because that danged Inga skipped breakfast (and milking) again.  I believed we'd worked out a new system:  she would dawdle and I would go out with the grain bowl, fending off the others who thought seconds were a good idea, and coax her to follow me.  It was working.  Yesterday she stayed up at the corner, pensively chewing on alfalfa, dreamily staring off into the distance, and totally ignoring me.

A friend came to get some milk and eggs and brought the youngest of her four children.  Bessie was delighted with this little boy; someone to play with who was just her size.  I think the towheaded boy was not quite three.  I handed him a dog biscuit to give to Bess and he did, after he took a bite.

I should say here that Bessie likes men and males in general.  She had made an absolute fool of herself over Clay, flirting outrageously, batting her eyelashes, scooting so close she was sitting on his feet, anything to get his attention.  There will be a repeat performance today; she's got Craig wrapped around her little finger (if she had fingers).

At any rate, I later dived head first into the past again, pulling out cards and letters from the crate, smiling as memories came flooding back.  The pearl in this collection was a small scrap of yellowed paper, thin as tissue, the writing in my father's hand.  My parents' marriage was not a particularly happy one and they ultimately divorced, but this note was a declaration of his love for my mother, probably written early on in their relationship.  I wondered why she had saved it, and then realized it was perhaps for the same reason I kept poems I had written to my Kids' father and saved some of his letters to me; to let our children know that there had been love in a time long ago and far away.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Confessions Of A Hoarder

I think of it more like "saving," but I'd be hard pressed to explain why or from what, but I do keep things, mostly paper things.

Clay and I had finished a lunch of fried-egg sandwiches, a tradition that goes back to when he, Steve, and I would go cut wood in the forest, when Earle drove up to get a truck load of manure for his bamboo trees.  I have a nice assortment of that stuff between the chickens and the goats, but it's strictly "load your own."  It's a win-win deal as all it costs Earle is his labor for the garden gold and it certainly helps me keep hills from becoming mountains of this ever-renewing resource.

The tire on my wheelbarrow was flat so we moved it over to the barn to use the air compressor.  The main section of the barn was Steve's domain and I rarely go in there.  Opening the door was opening the door on havoc.  Whatever creature(s) that claimed this space had thrown tools and other items from the shelves onto the floor, gnawed on anything cloth, and chewed paper into confetti.  I keep stuff, but I'm small time compared to Steve.  Floor-to-ceiling shelves are crammed with anything and everything.  There is barely room to squeeze by all the boxes, crates, cans, and bags on the floor, and any walkway was covered with the mess left by the furry whatever.  A large crate stuffed with paper goods caught my eye.  Leaving Earle to fill the tire and get on with the poop scooping, Clay and I started pulling items out of the crate.  Would you believe that I found my (unofficial) birth certificate from the hospital?  An album of old photos, tons of cards and letters, a transcript from grade school, yellowed newspapers; it was a time capsule in a crate.  Way too much stuff to spend time on just then, we shook out the mice droppings and carried it into the house for my later inspection.

Clay's plans had changed and he wasn't able to spend the night, but we had such a great day and an early St. Patrick's Day dinner of corned beef and cabbage.  After he left, I thought to take a quick peek in the crate, and I fell through a hole in time.  It seems I've kept greeting cards from people and occasions I no longer remember, every card I've ever received from my Kids, pictures of good-old what's his/her name, and letters.  Letters from long-dead relatives, letters from friends who are still my friends to this day.  Even though years ago I lived not far from my mother, saw her nearly every week, and spoke to her almost daily, I wrote her letters, lots of letters.  She evidently was a saver too, and years after the fact she returned them to me and I've kept them.  Those letters are like a journal of time when my children were little, funny things they had said or did, and how their personalities were developing.  At some time in the future the Kids will enjoy reading them.

Long into the night, I ran these treasures through my hands.  I did ruthlessly sort out cards from "B."  Who the heck was "B"?  I threw out unidentified photos of faces I no longer recognize and pictures of ostriches at the zoo.  I got about halfway to the bottom of the crate.  I'll weed out more.  But there is a good-sized pile that I will hoard.  It's just the way I am.  Maybe some day I'll go into the work room and tackle the mountain of stuff in there.  Or not.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Tomorrow, Scarlett

To paraphrase Abe Lincoln, I can please some of the people all of the time.  I may please all of the people some of the time.  I cannot please all of the people all of the time.  Personally, I am pleased that anyone reads this journal at all.

I said in the beginning that the purpose was to share day-to-day farm life.  I realize that what I find fascinating or amusing may not be others' cup of tea.  My mother would have said, "Eeuw," at any reference to mice, but I get queries from some people who worry about those babies.  Some might say, "Oh, no, not another photo of a sunset." There are days here when not much has happened of interest to me or anyone else.  Those are the days when I might stumble down memory lane.  Having lived a long life, my memory bank is a full storehouse.  FDR was the only president I knew when I was a kid, and a lot of history has gone under my bridge.  Readers are a kind of captive audience so I can wander around at will in my writing and wait for the comments later.

Living here on the farm with the animals has given me an appreciation of life and an acceptance of the end of life.  It happens.  Writing this journal makes me look at every day and think, really think, about the things that have given me joy (dusting isn't one of them).  I do not live in a Pollyanna world.  I have worries and concerns, anger and angst like anyone else.  I just don't dwell on them.  (Okay, I'm still fussing about the change to Daylight Savings Time, but I'll get over it.)

I thank everyone who takes time to give me a comment about the journal, be they family or friends, positive or negative, in person or on the blog.  Writers like to know they are being read.

In the meantime, the rising sun is putting a pink glow in the sky.  The bright yellow forsythia is in full blossom just outside the window, pulling my eyes away from the computer.  Clay will be here this morning.  Scarlett O'Hara might say tomorrow is another day.  I'm looking forward to today!  I'll write about it tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Coming Or Going?

I'm doomed.  At the best of times, I don't know which end is up or whether I'm coming or going.  Steve used to say I looked like a duck in a shooting gallery as I'd leave a room, remember a forgotten item, whirl to go back for it, decide I didn't need it, spin back around, and repeat.  My sleep pattern is such that I am still waking up at the old time, which means I'm an hour late by the clock.  I had been congratulating myself for being early for two recent appointments; now I've been set up for failure.  My daughter told me, "Embrace it, Mom.  You can't change it."  I don't plan to get that intimate with something I don't like.

The calendar has joined the conspiracy to do me in.  Days are zipping by like leaves in a whirlwind.  Easter has sneaked into March.  It can't be St. Patrick's Day this weekend; I don't have a corned beef yet!  It's as if birthdays are written in invisible ink, only becoming apparent after the fact.  All I send are belated wishes.

Even the weather is against me.  It's still winter, but I'm not dressed for days in the 70s.  The jacket that I've thrown on to go to the barn has me sweating on the way back.  (Sorry.  Ladies don't sweat, we "glow.")  I've been glowing a lot lately.

I did a lot of dusting yesterday.  No, that's not a sign of the apocalypse.  It means Clay is coming up tomorrow and Deb and Craig will be here on Saturday and, by golly, I'm going to be ready!  (Today is Wednesday, right?)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Another Garden

Kindergarten is such a lovely word, translated as "garden of children."  I spent a heavenly hour yesterday in a kindergarten of sorts, surrounded by little kids.  I've been getting nearly daily reports from my friend Tim as the goat babies were born and decided to go see for myself.  It was a beautiful, warm spring day and the rolling hills of Tim's ranch were green and dotted here and there with grazing Kiko goats.  They were watched over by Alice, an Anatolian shepherd dog.  Not surprisingly, Lex, Tim's ninety-nine and forty-four percent pure wolf, is not allowed anywhere near the goats.  Tim and I strolled down the long hill to the barn and there they were, twenty-six baby goats, the oldest not more than two weeks old.  He's built a secure large nursery pen under a shady oak, and babies were everywhere, some napping, a few showing off with awkward attempts at leaping, and some taking off at a dead run for a lap around the pen.  Each has been named and introductions were made.  Like their human counterparts, these babies love to snuggle.  So young, their coats are soft and curly and they smell so fresh and clean.  A couple tried to suckle my fingers, telling me it was past their snack time.  Their moms had been let out to graze for a few hours and the little ones were getting hungry.  Loud bleating from a nearby slope announced that a mama was full of milk and ready to feed her baby.  Tim and Kathryn do not milk their goats; Kikos are meat animals.  Eight years ago I sold four kids to Tim as brush eaters.  Who knew?

Two female WWOOFers from Canada are due to arrive at Bell Ranch today.  Eighteen more goat babies are due in the next week or two.  Those women have a wonderful experience in store, playing and working in a kindergarten.

Monday, March 11, 2013

What Does It Take?

There is a vast difference between feeling rich and being wealthy (although it would be nice to have money, too, I'm sure).  Having done my time when the cupboards were bare, I feel secure when I see shelves of canned goods in the pantry; it's like money in the bank for me.  Hanging laundry on the line in the sunshine yesterday, I didn't need a yacht to feel the breeze on my face or see the sheets billowing like sails.  It didn't matter that I'd made the bed myself, a queen slipping between those crisp, sweet-smelling sheets last night could not have been more satisfied.  My diamonds are in the night sky, more beautiful than any I could wear around my neck.  The colors and artistry in the sunrise and sunset rival any painting in the Louvre.  I have few friends in number, but they are true friends and I value them as treasures, far more precious than any amount of acquaintances.  In my travels in this and other countries, I have seen many, many beautiful and astounding sights, but the ever-changing panorama from my deck never fails to delight without leaving home.  My dog loves me, period, full stop.  Working with the animals gives my days purpose and a feeling of being useful, better by far to me than sitting in a boardroom somewhere.  My children and family are where my true wealth lies.  They fill the coffers of my heart to overflowing.

What does it take to make me feel rich?  Not much.  In my little corner of the world, I'm richer than Croesus. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Wait For It

"Wait your turn!"  This photo of the baby mouse next to the adult was taken one-handed with my phone and shot under the goat's belly while I was milking.  (The things I do for a picture.)  Since the adult is pretty darned little, it gives a good idea of just how tiny the baby is.

The drive into town yesterday was absolutely gorgeous.  Plum, almond, and peach trees were in bloom around every curve and hill, looking for all the world like the froth on strawberry and vanilla sodas (you have to be old enough to remember ice-cream sodas at the soda fountain to appreciate that simile).  Surprisingly, although my daffodils are blooming everywhere, the road to town was bare of those yellow bouquets.  I kept an eye out for the dogwoods, but no blossoms there either.  Since we're due for temps in the 70s, either I missed the blooms before the last snow or nature is going to pull a fast one this year and fool us all.

Fire in the wood stove crackling, good program on TV, cat in my lap last night.  That, naturally, is when Bessie Anne said she needed to go out for a walk.  Nooo, I don't want to go.  Of course, we did step out into the cold, dark night for a turn around the driveway.  I don't know which I like better, nights with a full moon glowing or frosty nights with no ambient light to dim the stars that seem to come closer to earth, glittering like diamonds.

Wait for I hear a whine coming?  Yes, it's that time of year again.  The clock said five o'clock, but my body knew it was only four in the morning.  I really wanted to turn over, go back to sleep and wait for "real time."  The rest of the day-slash-week will be spent trying to adjust one against the other.  Oh well, I'm awake now; might as well get a jump on the day.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

I Know, I Know

The rustlings and squeaks coming from the big medicine box on the milking room wall had made me curious so a few weeks ago I opened the drop-down door to take a peek.  I didn't write about it at the time because I felt so bad about what happened next.  The box was literally teeming with mice; I mean a lot of mice.  Mice of all sizes and they were in a panic at being discovered.  I couldn't shut the door right away because a dozen or more baby mice, fully formed but no bigger than a peanut in the shell, were in the crack and I didn't want to squish them.  As I hesitated, the tiny creatures began to fall or leap off the door to the floor.  I was able to catch a few by the tail and put them back in the box, but most scrambled away.  I felt terrible for the little kids and for their mamas.  I knew there was no way the adults could get the babies up the wall to the nest and thought the infants would never survive on their own.  I underestimated their resourcefulness and will to live.

My mother and sister (both terrified of mice) would call me six kinds of idiot to hear me say that I have been so happy in the last week to see the kindergartners come to get spilled goat chow for breakfast.  The waifs, now half the size of a walnut, have made their own colony burrowed in the used-wipe bucket, running up and down the section of broom handle I put in there to allow the wayward to escape.  I hope I'm not spawning a gang of hooligans, as this group will grow up without adult supervision to keep them in line.  They don't have much fear of me and will sit and munch on a corn kernel as I move about.  Five or six at a time will come out of the bucket to play hide-and-seek behind the shovel and rake.  Their antics make me smile and sometimes laugh out loud.

I know.  I know that mice are considered vermin.  I know they can be destructive.  I know they are costly in terms of grain wasted.  I know they are prey to cats and hawks or that I will find the corpse of one who zigged when it should have zagged in the goats' stall.  I know the chickens find them to be a delicacy.  I know all that, and I don't care.  I find mice amusing companions while I tend my farm animals.  Live and let live, I say.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Puttin' On the Ritz

Dressed to impress, these gents were really strutting their stuff yesterday.  Looking like a chorus line of fan dancers, no super model could have walked the runway with more seduction.  Heads glowing turquoise and wattles throbbing red, these toms marched in slow cadence among perhaps twenty females on the slope in the early morning.  It is obviously "ladies' choice" in the turkey world.

What always strikes me so funny is that the ladies are so subtle, feigning indifference to the manly display.  Like teenage girls at a sock hop, they must be checking out the boys but won't give them the satisfaction of open admiration.  Dejected, one by one the toms folded their tails and decided to keep up their strength and soothe their egos with a bite of breakfast.  Later, down in the privacy of the woods, I heard the sounds of the boys "pitching woo."  It seemed the ladies had made their choice.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

All Aboard!

The train of thought is ready to roll!  Some days are like that and all I can do is go along for the ride.

A long time ago, in some waiting room or other, I read a magazine article that asked the question, "What won't you give up?"  In times of economic crisis (personal or national), it seems there is always some small luxury we aren't willing to do without.  The answers given were things like Starbuck's coffee, chocolate-chip ice cream, or manicures; it was a women's magazine.  My mother may have dressed plainly, but her slips were frothy with lace.  For myself, I would gnaw on bark before I'd give up two-ply toilet paper.

There are divided camps when it comes to toilet paper.  There are those who bring the loose end over the top, and those who let it drop down behind, and never the twain shall meet.  Back in the day, public restrooms had regular rolls of toilet paper like the rest of us mortals instead of those tiny tissue squares or the more modern humongous rolls that, in a pinch, could be used as a spare tire on a small car.  Sammy Davis, Jr., had a "flap to the front" compulsion and, in an interview, said that whenever he was playing a gig at a particular hotel in Las Vegas, would go into every stall in the bathroom and change the roll to suit.  I understand.

There are also two separate groups involving the issue of mayonnaise versus Miracle Whip.  There is a subsection of mayo people, of which I am a member, who will only buy Best Foods (Hellmann's).  Either the Miracle Whip contingency is more tolerant or simply outnumbered because they seem to survive in a mayonnaise world, but the mayo people avoid Miracle Whip like vampires shun garlic.

Back to toilet paper.  I realize there is a need to cut corners here and there, but I had to laugh when I opened a new package of toilet paper recently.  It looked a little strange on the roller.  The empty cardboard tube was still in hand, so I measured.  The new roll was a full half-inch shorter in length than the old and the old tube fit completely inside the new.  To all intents and purposes, the tissue looks exactly the same and it certainly cost the same.  It does seem a bit of a cheat, but it was two ply!

Having made a full circle, the train has returned to the station.  Please watch your step as you leave.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Fight Club

There was none of the fanfare from the crowd that normally accompanies a fight, in fact, no crowd, period.  I just happened to glance out the kitchen window, saw these two young tom turkeys in silent combat, and grabbed the camera.

Thinking my presence would send the boys off into the woods, at first I kept my distance, but these two were serious and so intent that I was no distraction at all.  None of these pictures were taken with a zoom lens.   Following them around the yard, at one point I actually bopped one on the back to break them apart or at least call a time out.  They didn't even blink.

There seems to be a two-part strategy in a turkey battle:  grab the opponent's beak in your mouth, hang on and pull him around, or wrap your neck around his and push as hard as you can.  As an up-close and personal spectator, I can say it is an amazing sight.  This was not a fight to the death, but a display of dominance.  Realizing I was not going to dissuade these toms in any way, I left them to it and went back in the house.  Some while later, I saw that two older males had joined the younger and were obviously coaching them on technique, sparring and then breaking apart while the young ones watched.  They all walked off together, lessons learned.

I see the darnedest things.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

So Unlike Me

To paraphrase that old Scottish ditty, "You take the high road and I'll take the slow road...."  I'd say I took back roads to get to my friends' home in Fiddletown, but there are no "front" roads at all.  Starting out on what one could hardly call a two-lane road, a sign soon announced that "road narrows ahead."  It wasn't kidding.  The first bridge to cross was so narrow I worried about the side mirrors on the truck, and the road ahead wasn't much wider.  Dips, ruts, curves and potholes keep the speed down, but still a couple of farms put up "Slow to 15" signs.  Whizzing along at 25, I obligingly put on the brakes as I passed.  Taking the slow road has its advantages.  There is time to really look at the scenery of the forests and farms, the deer and the spring crop of calves.  Knowing the drive would take awhile, I gave myself plenty of time to cross the hills; too much time, as it turned out.

Some time back when I was in that furious frenzy of housecleaning, my daughter called and asked, "Who are you, and what have you done with my mother?!"  I had to ask myself a similar question yesterday when I found I was twenty minutes early at Tinka and Bill's.  It was definitely not like me.  It was one thing to claim the prize when I beat Arden by three minutes last week, but twenty minutes?  I seriously considered pulling over by the side of the road to wait, and I would have if there had been space to do so.  Anyone coming that early to my house would have found me frantic to finish getting ready and whirling like a dervish, but Tinka is totally more organized than I and greeted me with open arms as if nothing were amiss.  She'd made a delicious Italian meatball soup and a fresh apple cake with lemon sauce.  (I'm a sucker for lemon anything.)  It's been awhile since I've seen Tinka and Bill and it was great to catch up on news and enjoy their company on a gorgeous spring day.  We watched a coyote cross their pasture and a hawk circling above that had its eye on Tinka's hens.  In both cases, getting the guns took too long.  A neighbor's goat herd came ambling down the hill.  Their cats, Smudge, Frank (they have a Frank too), and Mildred rubbed around our ankles and asked to be petted.  Another feline was a scaredy cat and kept its distance so I wasn't introduced.  Even though I'd arrived early, it was hard to tear myself away to come home to my own critters.  It was a good day.

The photos of my anemones and almond tree are gratuitous, just because it was such a pretty day and because I could get them into the computer, and rain is due again tonight.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Equal Time

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
I've always loved the lyrics of that song from "Fiddler On the Roof."  The red sunrise of the day before the rain was followed last evening by this glorious sunset.  In the spirit of fair play (in Fair Play), I felt it was deserving of equal time here.

It was a half-hearted rain, more of a drizzle off and on, a perfect day to stay in, watch the race, and bake bread to take to Tinka and Bill today.  I tried a new recipe for challah (such a pretty loaf) and good old, tried-and-true Black Forest pumpernickel.  It's a good thing the challah made two loaves because my house smelled so delicious, had I not been able to slice into one there's a distinct possibility I would have shortchanged Tinka and Bill.  I'm good, but not that good, and fresh-baked bread is just too much temptation.

The local turkey tribe and I seem to be on the same wake-up schedule.  At five-thirty every morning, the turkey commune that evidently has moved into my woods loudly starts the day, even before the neighborhood roosters sound off.  I'm fascinated by the internal clock of animals. I think we're about to get screwed up again when the powers that be decide to change the clocks.  Not concerned with such human folderol, my feathered and furred friends will stick with sunrise-sunset and go on about their business.

The skies are clear this morning.  It's going to be another good day.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Where There's A Will

"Where there's a will, there's a way."

Another phone call yesterday to Nikon didn't produce any results, positive or otherwise, but this morning I finally figured out a back door to force my camera to give up some photos.  This was the "red sky at dawning" yesterday that presaged the rain that came during the night.

One of the brave and hardy anemone buds that withstood the snow (there was still snow down on the slope toward the woods).

Inga?  She's a work in progress.  I understood yesterday that she has priorities.  The girls are going through their cycles and when in heat they become as single-minded as the bucks.  I did explain (again!) that we were not going to have an easy time of it today, but she wasn't listening.

The forsythia has put out its first yellow blossoms and daffodils have begun spotting the yard with pools of gold.  Anemones are dotting nearly every pot on the deck now, and the plum trees and the almond are nearly in full flower.  (Perhaps I'll take more pictures, now that it doesn't seem so futile.)  Grey and overcast this morning, a sunny day in spring makes one antsy to get outside and plant something.  This is such a beautiful time of year.  And so is fall.  And so is winter.  I'm not so fond of summer.  That is like paying the bill for the other seasons.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Trick Is...

The trick to getting out of work without guilt is to have one of those bursts of ambition on a day when you have to go somewhere.  Walking down to the barn yesterday on a perfectly gorgeous morning, I passed the weed-choked garden plot.  "This would be a good day to get out the weed whacker and get that cleaned up."  "Oh, that's right.  I can't.  I'm to meet Arden for lunch (for real, this time)."  Coming back up to the house, I thought, "I really should pick up all those fallen branches and twigs from the front yard.  Oh, I can't do that today."  Taking a quick break before getting spiffed up for my outing, there was no time to swipe off dust in the living room.  There you go!  All of the credit for thinking good thoughts and none of the guilt because I didn't follow through.  Easy peasy.

I enlisted the waitress as a witness to the fact that, hard as it might be to believe, not only was I on time, I was early at the restaurant.  (Okay, calling Bones a "restaurant" might be overdoing it.  Bones is essentially a biker bar that serves outstanding hamburgers to an eclectic clientele.)  Arden gave me some "lame excuse" about a broken watch or some such.  Didn't matter.  I beat her by three minutes and I claim victory!  We don't get together often anymore and it was great to spend time with my friend.

Arden provided me with a reason to avoid any work for the rest of the day by loaning me books by an previously unread author, so of course I had to take one out to the deck just for a sampling.  Ta da!  A whole day off, guilt free. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Laugh or Cry

Arden:  "Our lunch date is for tomorrow.  It's on my calendar."
Me:  "I'm looking at my calendar.  It says we're on for today."

 Since it was Arden's idea in the first place, of course I had to back off.  Half the time, I don't even look at the calendar (I missed a dear friend's birthday recently for just that reason) and one day is much like another.  I was right; it was on my calendar, but I'd written it on the wrong date.  It was a good thing Arden read this journal yesterday, caught my error and called because we would have gone out to lunch, just not together.

As it turned out, I would have been late anyway.  The last words to pass my lips will probably be, "Inga, pleeeze come in."  The day before, she had once again given me that blank stare, "Whuh?  You talkin' to me?"  I've finally gotten Sheila to go with the program, but Inga is still a hold-out.  After much coaxing and cussing on my part, Inga jumped up on the stand and we went through the now-familiar milk bath and hoof kicking routine and it took forever.

It was one of those days when I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.  I laughed.