Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Trivial Pursuit

Sitting here waiting for the coffee to kick in, my mind is as blank as the screen.  As the odd thought scurries through, I'll try to catch a couple to share.

A friend down in the valley runs a rabbit rescue service.  She sent me photos a group of rabbits with an attractive woman that were taken for a promotional calendar.  Would these be the original playboy bunnies?  Could one be the mad March hare?  I can't say too much because Deb and Craig's cat, Clyde, is in a calendar on my wall in a pose that would put Burt Reynolds to shame.

Inga not only came without coaxing yesterday, she stood outside the door crying to be let in.  After the copious quantity of the day before, there wasn't much milk in the bag, but cramped fingers still had a problem with the process.

It seems the barn mice are using the diaper (udder) wipes in many ways.  I knew they were taking dry wipes for winter blankets.  Now I watch obviously pregnant mamas shred a wipe into fluff to line their nests.  The oddest thing to me is that as the weather gets warmer and drier, when I toss damp wipes into the bucket they are immediately set upon by mice who rush to suck out moisture. 

I was lucky enough to catch a National Geographic documentary on hummingbirds.  I will not ever be lax in filling their feeders again.  These little guys need to feed every fifteen minutes.  They make it through the night only by going into torpor, their heartbeats dropping from 400 beats per minute to 40 so as to conserve energy.  One of my long-asked questions was answered:  a baby hummer's beak is normal to the size of the bird when hatched and lengthens as the bird grows.  Kind of like a teenage boy's legs.

That's it.  The screen has gone blank again.  It's Trash Day Tuesday and I've got to get this show on the road.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Inga, Inga

Chores begin earlier these days as it's nearly light at five-thirty.  My morning walkabout now includes watering the deck plants as our brief spring appears to be over and summer is close on its heels.  The heat is bringing out those malevolent wasps and this nest in the lavender plant was one of a dozen that I found on the deck yesterday.  (That ratty lavender is over twenty years old, so forgive its unkempt appearance.)

I've seen some strange things here on the farm, but I never anticipated seeing mice porn up close and personal as I did yesterday.  It occurs to me that they are getting too comfortable in my presence when they'll go humpity-humpity right there by my feet.  TMI!

Inga, oh Inga.  Her bag was so full she was squirting milk all over her feet, but she was still reluctant to come in and let me help her.  I'd known milking her was going to take longer so I'd gone down to the barn earlier than usual, but it was still getting hot (went up to the 90s).  Finished with the other girls, I tried the coaxing thing but it didn't work.  Finally I grabbed the rope and went after her.  The only reason I caught her was because she couldn't walk very fast with that swollen udder, but she still made it up to the top of the hill.  Then the battle to get her back to the barn began, one stubborn step at a time and me pulling on the rope and trying not to choke her (although that idea had occurred to me).  Up on the stand at last, milking her was as painful for her and tedious for me as I'd expected.  It averages about six minutes to milk Sheila and, on a good day, maybe ten minutes each for Tessie and Inga; it's the difference in teats; milk production is almost the same for all three.  Already overheated from the struggle to get Inga to come in and with the barn heating up like an oven, sweat streamed into my eyes as I tried to get the milk from those tiny teats streamed into the bucket.  Neither made the job any easier, nor did her constantly putting one back leg in the air, ready to kick.  Thirty minutes later, we were both relieved that the ordeal was over.

One two-gallon bucket has the combined milk from Tessie and Sheila and one has the day's contribution from Inga.  I'd like to think that she learned her lesson.  I've always been an optimist.

I'm not ashamed to say that milking was the last productive thing I did for the rest of the day.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Goat's Gonna Do...

Bright, perhaps, but goats are not very smart.  Stubborn, definitely.  Night before last, Cindy got it into her head that she was not going into the barn.  I coaxed, wheedled, sweet-talked, and threatened.  I tried bribing with grain.  I gave her options.  "You don't want to go in that door?  How about this one?"  I carefully explained all the possible dire consequences of her rash decision.  Finally, as the light and my patience faded, I told her good night and good luck and went back to the house.

Stubbornness, like crankiness, appears to be contagious.  The day before, Inga had refused to come in to be milked.  Yesterday her bag was so full she had a hard time trying to lie down, but when it was her turn to get on the stand, she would not.  Inga would either ignore me completely or come so close her nose would be in the doorway, but not near enough to put her in a headlock so I could pull her in.  At my least move, she'd back away.  It's enough to drive me crazy (I know, short drive).  If milking her yesterday would have been hard, today is going to be torture.  If she comes in, that is.

The end to Cindy's saga is a happy one.  She literally ran to meet me at the gate in the morning, telling me how sorry she was and darned near stepping on my heels to follow me down to the barn.  She promised to never, ever do that again.  Bet me.  A goat's gonna do what a goat's gonna do.  Deal with it.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Just Looking

I looked around yesterday at all that needs doing here.  That's it.  I just looked.  Time in the barn was shortened because Inga and Esther opted not to come in and I was disinclined to do more than perfunctory coaxing.  I did have to resettle the milking stand.  Usually, it is quite apparent from the tilt that the underground workers burrowed under one of the legs; this time the whole darned stand had dropped four inches.  I quickly figured this out when I realized I was almost sitting on the ground and my knees were up under my chin.

Unlike the legs on those skinny, ultra-tight, shrink-wrap jeans that seem to be in vogue now, the legs on bibbies are full and loose.  I'll take comfort over style any day; however, it seems they leave one vulnerable to a sneak attack.  As my back was turned, bending over weeding, a mosquito flew up the pants leg and bit me on, how to put this delicately, on my sit-down, my bum, my (as Forrest Gump would say) butt-ock.  For someone allergic to mosquito bites, this is not prime territory for an attack; certainly not an itch one could scratch in public.

As if that weren't enough to make me feel like a hick, reaching into my pocket to pay for a haircut, the bills came out with a handful of alfalfa bits sprinkled all over the counter.  Good grief.  No wonder I seldom leave home.

Having taken a full day for R&R, I'll have to do more than just look today.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Think I Was Kidding?

Did I mention I have a weed problem?  This little patch between the feed barn and the hen house is just the tip of the (green) iceberg.  Having ridiculed myself in print, it was time to quit procrastinating, gird my loins and begin the attack.  The first problem was starting the weed-eater.  I'd had it overhauled last fall and the nice man shortened the pull rope so I'd have a better shot at getting it going.  The old rope was so long it must have been designed for a tall man with arms the length of an orangutan's.  Even so, after a winter season of sitting idle it took, oh, forty or so pulls before the danged machine even coughed.
Just about the time I was panting and ready to give up, the engine caught, blew out a cloud of white smoke, and roared to life.  (Drat.  It was going to be such a plausible excuse to put off the job.)  My weed-eater is on wheels and the size of a small lawn mower, supposedly easy to use.  Not.  I wimped out after clearing this one small area.  My hands went numb from the vibrations and my shoulders just gave out from horsing the machine up the slope.  I checked the time and it was, indeed, beer-thirty.
I think the appropriate term is "job security."  There is probably an acre of weeds around the chicken pens and down the slope that I cannot mow with the lawn tractor.  ("Lawn" makes me laugh.)  I'd like to ignore the whole thing, but the weeds won't stay green long and will constitute a fire hazard when dry.  I must and will make small forays, but not today.  Today, I hurt.  I'm not kidding.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Need A Reason?

I am a champion procrastinator, but my next-best talent is rationalizing.  I can make up a really good reason to do or not do just about anything.  Looking at the weeds growing taller and taller by the day  (Bessie Anne is lost to view when she goes down the hill) and knowing I must get the weed-eater going, I decided that I should mow the side yard instead.  After all, I had been yerping about TG not moving the fallen limbs and not being able to mow there and since his last visit, I'd lost that excuse.  As extra penance (and a further delaying tactic), I also mowed the back yard.  I was going to mow the lower side yard too, but it was covered with lupine and...well, hmm, it didn't seem right to destroy wildflowers.  Sounded to me like a reason to quit right there.

Most of the day was shot watching "Ghandi," a movie I'm sorry to say I'd never seen.  With all that is going on in the world these days, it was healing to see a person who taught tolerance for everything but injustice.  The older I get, the more I appreciate history.  Age has given me a better perspective, I think.  And I learn things I did not know; for instance, how Pakistan came to be a country, until I watched "Ghandi."  I actually remember listening to the voting results when Israel became an independent state, but Pakistan slid under my radar.

Watching an informative movie, a movie so long that it required an intermission, was a good reason not to go out and weed-eat or mow until late afternoon.  See?  It's easy.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Back Me Up

 I didn't exactly lie when Frank wanted to know where his missing jungle had gone, I just shrugged my shoulders and gave him a blank look.  I'd waited until he was napping in the house to go out and pull weeds, and would prefer not to have to make a full confession.  Not willing to give up his game, Frank hid under the barberry bush in the falling-apart barrel, sure he could not be seen.
There are plenty of weeds left to pull, but at least the walkway looks more like a walkway, if you don't count the marjoram, thyme, and yarrow spreading out.  I really have to fire up the rolling weed-eater, but I keep putting it off.  While I love to mow with the little tractor, I hate the weed-eater.  Any excuse is a good one to delay dragging it out, but I'm running out of excuses.
Pearl was off somewhere doing cat things and Frank had no playmate.  Bess and I were sitting on the porch in the slanting rays of the afternoon sun, so Frank pulled up a chair and joined us.  Not as much fun perhaps, but we were better than nothing.

During morning chores, it was Sheila and Cindy battling it out.  I'm seeing a common denominator here.  Is Sheila vying for Queen of the Herd?

David, the Animal Control Guy, stopped by in the afternoon.  (I hadn't called him.)  Turned out he wanted to know if I knew anyone who had weaner pigs for sale.  As it happens, I do, and I gave him a phone number.  Amazing how this kind of information gets around.  I always get a chuckle when I get a call for the Goat Lady from someone who got my number from somebody who knew someone who knew I'd have milk for sale.  The farm grapevine is alive and well.

While I am perfectly willing to share most info, I'd rather Frank not learn who ruined his playground.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Something In the Water?

Sheila and Inga have settled their differences; no more goat-up-a-tree games yesterday.  However, the mice colony appears to have been infected with the war bug.  There were squabbles and outright battles all morning.  One mouse would chase another in circles, round and round, until the chasee would turn and go up on its haunches to face the chaser, who would then back off.  Ferocious squeaks (how's that for an oxymoron?) sounded from all corners of the milking room.  What is going on?

The cranky infection has spread.  Camille stopped by in the afternoon and said that Frick and Frack had been spitting gobs at each other and poor Shadow all day.  Eeuw!

I don't believe cranky was involved, but the cats had a great time playing Tyger, Tyger In the Night in the weed patch.  They took turns hiding in the tall grass to ambush the other, leaping out to pounce on a sibling and then race away.

Mother's little helper (not the one in the song by the Rolling Stones!) followed behind as I worked my way pulling weeds down the front path.  Bessie Anne felt that, if Mom wanted holes, she'd dig me holes.  A large portion of the walkway is now weed free, but pocked with craters like the moon.

I had to leave Frank's "jungle" as he'd gotten bored scaring his sister.  Coming closer to his lair, I'd wrap my hand around a clump of weeds and he'd attack my fingers.  Not willing to enter into a game for which I had no defense, I called it quits for the day.

The Children of the Night (coyotes) sang and yipped on the hill across the road under a nearly full moon last night, and the owls were still hunting in the dark this morning.  I love the songs the mountain sings, music without words.

Monday, April 22, 2013

I Dood It

"I dood it," was a line of Red Skelton's (a long-ago comedian).  I'm borrowing it because Camille got home yesterday and my duty at Farm Two is done and the pressure is off.  All noses and toeses were accounted for.  I really had meant to take the camera down and get pictures of Frick, Frack, and Shadow but was always in a time crunch.  One of these days, perhaps.

Tree Guy came as promised yesterday and set off the burn pile and moved all of the loose wood out of the side yard.  Of course it was the hottest day so far and TG was sweating bullets.  Those jobs have been hanging fire for a long time.  Now TG can also say, "I dood it."

I, however, have lost my excuse not to mow those sections of yard.  I put that on The List and instead got a start on pulling weeds in the front walkway.  It would be so much easier to get the weed eater and whack away, but volunteer marjoram, thyme, and yarrow have snuck out of the herb garden and are thriving.  I just can't bring myself to chop them up along with the weeds.  Even if they get stepped on, they release such lovely scent.  Bessie Anne loves it when I pull weeds.  As soon as I uncover a patch of bare ground, she plops herself down on the cool earth.  Frank and Pearl swing by to assess progress as good supervisors should.  The chickens get the benefit of fresh greens.  It's a win-win for all things but my back.  I'll settle for the satisfaction and overlook the aches.

I have no idea what set them off in the first place, but Sheila and Inga continued with their grudge match for the second day.  Once again, there was Inga up in the tree at sundown.  I learned a long time ago never to get between battling goats but this was ridiculous and I wanted to get back to the house.  I got a rope around Sheila's neck and dragged her away to her room.  Inga, the older, was more than happy to come out of the tree and go to bed.

As an aside and to answer a question from Cloud, I write the journal as I drink my morning coffee, so each entry refers to the happenings of the day before.  Not much goes on here before daybreak, and I'm usually too tired to approach writing anything after dark.  In other words, I'm always a day late and a dollar short.  It was a good day.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Day Is Done

The morning feeding at Farm Two went pretty well.  The animals were all glad to see me, the alpacas behaved well, and there were no floaters in the pool.  Back home, Sheila and Inga got into it, breaking it up just long enough to get milked.  I needed to finish those chores because Deb and Craig were coming up.

When they arrived, they were laden with gifts...for me!  Two peony plants and a delphinium (early Mother's Day presents), and an ebelskiver pan.  The special, formed pan for little, ball-shaped Danish pancakes evoked memories of trips to Solvang, and we decided to make some for lunch.  Holy Toledo!  Four or five bowls to make the batter and forever to cook the little boogers.  Lunch turned out to be early dinner.  They took the pan home, with my blessing.  My dear ones planted the white and pink peonies out in the front garden where I can see them from the kitchen window, and potted the delphinium on the (deer proof) deck.

Sheila and Inga were still battling at sundown.  I don't know what gets into the girls to make them fight like that.  Sheila had Inga forced up into the tree and both ignored my pleas to come into the barn.  Everybody else followed the routine, but I had to leave those two so I could get to Farm Two.

The morning ease had lulled me into a false sense of security.  When I got to the barn, Frick and Frack pushed Shadow out of the way and it hurt his feelings.  His food goes down first, but the Evil Twins growled at him and he wouldn't come over.  Their bowls were much easier to find since it was still light and I tried to coax them to their own food without much luck.  What finally convinced them was when Shadow snatched a bite from Frack's bowl.  Each species gets a different chow.  I left them to sort themselves out while I tucked the errant chickens in their room and hunted for eggs.  I was running out of daylight.  That done, Shadow put his head against my chest for a cuddle.  He's a sensitive fellow.  With his muzzle under my chin, I looked down his long nose into his big brown eyes.  What's not to love about that donkey?  Everyone fed and bedded, I was leaving and locked the last gate when I looked back up at the house and saw a light in the kitchen.  Drat.  I got turned around and drove back up, only to find that it was a night light and that I hadn't forgotten to turn anything off after all.  Dark by the time I got home, I stumbled down the path to give Sheila and Inga another try.  Realizing they were out alone and on their own, each went readily into their rooms this time.  Poppy was bellowing for her roommate and only shut up when Sheila came in.  Done, at last.

The highlight of my day was time with Deb and Craig.  The critters, not s'much.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Watched Clock...

Watched pots don't boil, and watched clocks don't move; that's the way it works.  I waited all day for sundown (how's that for stating the obvious?), anxious about getting animals at both farms tucked in for the night.  It was my first day on duty and I wanted to do a good job.  I walk a fine line here at bedtime because the chickens don't want to go in their coops while it is too light, but the goats won't go in the barn if it is too dark for them to see into the far corners of their stalls.  Not sure about how much time it would take at Camille's, working on my own, I kept an eye on the clock and tried to judge the remaining daylight.  Wait, wait, wait, now!  Racing through chores here, I jumped in the truck to go to Farm Two, trying to beat the sinking sun.  Fed the cats, cut carrots for Shadow, got down to the barn, parceled out the feed for him and the alpacas (who were waiting in the appropriate pasture).  So far, so good.  Found Shadow's bowl, found one bowl for Frick.  Where, oh where, was the bowl for Frack?  Frack was following inches behind me and growling.  Yes, alpacas can growl.  If Frick finished his chow before I could put down Frack's meal, I knew there would be a food fight and not funny.  This was taking too much time; that darned clock was now spinning on fast forward.  Found the bowl and fed Frack.  On to the chickens.  Found the renegade hen in the unauthorized feeder.  Yes, chickens also growl.  Went to put her in the feeder where she spends the night (?) and discovered it was already occupied.  No instructions for such an occurrence; let 'em work it out.  Picked up seven eggs in the near dark.  Shut and locked gates and doors.  Said goodnight to all and drove home.

Watched the clock.  Is it my bedtime yet?

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Winnah!

"The win-n-n-ah and still champeen!"  Those words echo from my childhood.  My dad and uncles (my dad was one of eleven children) circled their chairs in front of the big console radio to listen to championship boxing matches.  Those were the days when the big-name fighters were Sugar Ray Robinson, Jake LaMotta, and Rocky Graziano, and the sport was dominated by Joe Louis.  My mother and aunts would be around the dining room table, playing cards or a Texas domino game called "42."  The card players were serious, but the men were talking and shouting.  I stuck with the guys and listened to the fight announcers.

And what does that have to do with the farm?  When I went in to clean the big sleeping room in the barn and found the squirrel hole that I have been packing and repacking, stuffing and refilling day after day for weeks was untouched, I did a little Happy Dance and declared myself The Winnah!!  Yes!  Hey, my opportunities for victory are few and far between and their scope is small, so I'll take 'em when and where I find 'em.

It was a good day.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Chaos Is King

Kids of any species are known to act out when introductions are made and best behavior is hoped for; Camille's critters are no exception.  The cats are to be fed in the house; zoot! one streaked by (she said I'd probably never see the other one).  Shadow is to get four baby carrots cut into pieces so he thinks he's getting more.  Camille explained the routine as we walked down the steep slope to the barn.  Yeah, well, good luck with that.

The alpacas are differing breeds.  Titanic is white and has a fluffy topknot.  Caspian is cream-colored and wears what looks like a cheap toupee with bangs.  I think of them as Frick and Frack.  While we were in the feed room, Frick and Frack slipped through to the pasture where they're not supposed to be and Shadow followed.  They were all supposed to be fed on one side of the gate, but since no one was cooperating Camille thought it was easier to move the bowls.  There are 25 chickens to be let out and fed.  They all free range during the day and (she assured me) put themselves back into the barn at night.  I was shown the hidey-holes where the hens might stash their eggs that I am to pick up at night.  Honey, who will be staying elsewhere, has a thing she does with the rooster.  The dog will make drive-by passes until the rooster chases her, then turns so she can chase the rooster.  It's a game of longstanding, with no harm, no foul (fowl?).  Honey was having so much fun, she tried to get Shadow involved in the play and got shouted at.  ("She never does that," said Camille.)  The alpacas refused to be herded back where they belonged and Shadow wandered off on his own.  Kids will be kids.

Like my own situation, there is a series of gates, doors, and latches.  The rule of thumb is:  if it was open, leave it open; if it was closed, shut it; if it was shut, lock it.  I hope to be forgiven any confusion with the rest of it as, after explaining how it should be, Camille decided to leave the alpacas and donkey in that pasture and that changes the placement of bowls and timing of who gets what when.

After the hike back up to the house, it was explained that I would need to check the pool daily for any wild critters that might have fallen in.  I forgot to ask what to do with any that might have drowned in the night.

I find that mowing has a calming effect, so I spent time in the afternoon riding around the west field, dodging new squirrel mounds and burrows and thinking serene thoughts.  I can't count the number of times I woke in the night, trying to remember which hen gets lifted in or out of which feeder bin so she'll have privacy for brooding, wondering what I'll do if the chickens aren't all in the barn, and hoping Frick and Frack will stay in the pasture where they're not supposed to be.  One change is all I can cope with.  I'm all for controlled chaos.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Up and At 'Em!

There will be no more of this lollygagging, sleeping in until five-thirty, then laying around eating bonbons and watching the soaps!  My friend Camille will be taking a short trip and I've promised to take care of her animals.  This morning will be my orientation.  It will be interesting to see how I merge our two schedules.  I hope I can make friends with the alpacas and not get hit with their spit wads.

Tree Guy stopped by during the blustery afternoon yesterday.  I had asked for a plan of action to complete some longstanding projects.  I was concerned that birds had started nesting in the brush piled up from last fall down in the south pasture.  I understand roasted quail is a delicacy, but not in my yard.  We walked down to the burn pile and could not find signs of any residents, so that is going on the To-Do List.  The pile of uncut firewood in the middle of the side yard is another item, as is cleaning up under the front oak.  Rain followed by sunshine has made the weeds shoot up everywhere, but nowhere as high as under that oak.  TG said he'd be back on Friday.  Or maybe Saturday.

My niece in New Hampshire called.  A good friend of hers, a nurse, had been working at the Boston Marathon and had helped with the injured.  Cell phone service had immediately been closed off in that city in case that had been the means of bomb detonation so the nurse was unable to call home.  Subways had been shut down and car travel was impossible.  My niece was, much later, able to contact her friend and said that since the nurse was unable to leave the area, in typical Irish Bostonian fashion, she'd found a bar and had a beer while waiting for a bus.  When all else fails....

Yikes!  Just look at the time.  I've got to report for duty!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Dark Clouds

Many years ago (more than I'd like to count), my first rotation as an intern in medical records was in a solemn office supervised by a woman who did not tolerate much talking, let alone levity.  (However, she did like cake so any occasion, for instance the anniversary of the moon walk, calling for a cake was celebrated, quietly.)  New to the environment, I watched to see who were the players.  One woman was particularly kind and helpful to me, teaching me my duties and the ropes.  One warm day she and I were working in close quarters and I whispered to her, "You'd better stay on my good side today."  She looked at me with a startled expression.  "I had only enough deodorant for one arm," I told her (of course, I was teasing).  When Bev burst out laughing, I knew we were destined to be friends, and so we became.  She was the single mother of three sons, the youngest close to my daughter's age.  Our two families had so much fun together over the years and I have so many happy memories.  We were our support during rough times and took pleasure from each other's joy in good times.  We've always stayed in touch, less frequently perhaps as years and distance separated us, but always there for the other.  Good friends like Bev are hard to come by and treasured when they are found.  Her son informed me yesterday that Bev had died after a protracted illness. The light is a little dimmer without Beverly in my life.

Regardless of the sunshine, dark clouds rolled over Boston and all of America yesterday.  Another chink in our armor.  I don't know who could do such a thing as setting those bombs and I will never understand the reasoning behind it.  Lives were lost and lives forever changed, to what end?

It was a day in which I withdrew to the comfort of the routine and mundane here on the farm.  I tended the animals.  I lit a warm fire.  I looked out at the wild turkeys and the wildflowers.  I talked to distant relatives and to other old friends, touching briefly on the Boston tragedy and then moving by unspoken consent to ordinary conversation, each call ending with, "I love you."  Thunder rolled and rain and hail fell.

Yesterday was a day filled with dark clouds.  The sun is shining brightly today.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Battle Zone

Range wars, turf battles, territorial squabbles.  Something has affected nearly all the creatures on the hill.  The goats are pairing off constantly and butting heads (no mystery there, we know what, or the lack of what, makes them cranky).  The loser goes over and gives poor Poppy a couple of thumps "just because."  A big tom turkey noisily intimidated a younger male until the young one flew up onto a fence rail to escape.  Bessie, normally placid, ran off a small herd of deer that was grazing in the side yard down into the south pasture.  Mice face off on their haunches like mini-boxers, squeaking threats and baring tiny teeth.  Barn birds fly at each other while making a terrible racket, fighting over nesting sites under the eaves.  Down at Camille's, the alpacas spit their evil-smelling saliva at Shadow, the donkey, and made a direct hit.

I'm fighting my own fight with the ground squirrels in the barn.  I usually maintain a laissez faire attitude about their tunneling until and unless the holes are inconvenient for me or a danger to the goats.  When that happens, I pack the entrance with the readily available material (need I say it?) and tamp it down.  Every morning I find the same holes and every morning I fill them again.  This normally goes on for about a week until they give up and move on, but lately they've become more determined.  I'm getting a bit testy with them, but all I can do is outlast the crazy critters.  It is, after all, my turf.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Second Helpings

I could tell from the hesitation in his text message that Clay wasn't thrilled with the idea of having Brussels sprouts for dinner.  I'd asked him to pick up a pound on his way up the hill.  Good Son that he is and wanting to keep his high standing, he complied.  He hedged his bet by also bringing a couple of artichokes, and we had those as a first course.  The menu would consist of pork tenderloin, roasted Brussels sprouts, and Deb's recipe that totally transforms 'tater tots into a garlicky-rosemary gourmet dish, with wine-sauteed apple crepes for dessert.  Clay and I agreed that the mushy boiled Brussels sprouts we'd been served as kids were abominable and generations of kids have been turned away from what, I've found out, can be something outstanding.  Trying to keep the doubt from his face, Clay agreed to try them, just for me.  Trimmed and halved, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with coarse salt, roasted in a hot oven until fork tender, the outer leaves of the sprouts become crispy chips and the inside is sweet and delicious, nothing like the sprouts our mothers served.  I knew I had a winner and a convert when Clay took a second, bigger helping and said he's going to add Brussels sprouts to his vegetable shopping list.

The falling tree or breaking branch remains a mystery.  At first light, I walked around to every tree on the upper property and could find nothing.  I really was worried about walking under a broken branch that hadn't made it to the ground yet.  That cracking sound the night before was something I've unfortunately heard a couple of times before and Bessie's reaction told me it wasn't my imagination.  In the afternoon, Clay walked down into the woods a ways but couldn't find any downed tree either.  Sound travels in strange ways through the hills, and it must have been a tree on someone else's property.  They have my sympathy.

To clear up any confusion, I have six children:  Deb, Dave, Pete, and Larry, the children of my body, and Clay and Craig, the sons of my heart (whose mothers graciously share them with me).  I unashamedly say they are all the loves of my life.  The NASCAR race that Clay had come up to watch with me was the background to cooking, dinner, and good old-fashioned conversation.  I'll take second helpings of that any day and every time.

It was a good day.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Waiting For Dawn

It was a lovely warm day and I had spent the afternoon mowing the front yard and doing some weeding.  After evening chores it was still warm enough to leave the front door open and Bess was sitting on the front porch watching twilight fall.  Then I heard the unmistakeable rolling cra-a-a-ck of a falling tree or big limb, but not the whump when it landed.  Bessie whimpered and I brought her in while I went for a quick survey with a flashlight.  In the near-dark, I couldn't find anything amiss close to the house, but we're waiting for dawn to find where and how much damage was done.  I'm really not interested in providing job security for Tree Guy in this manner.

Pete and I reverted to being ten-year-olds as my SoCal son and I sent photos back and forth, trying to out-gross each other with our current owies.  I personally think my mosquito bite tops his swollen elbow bursa, but gave him the required sympathy; that's what moms do.  Clay is coming up today and maybe I can impress him (okay, I'm not as mature as one might think).

Looking out windows in the dim morning light, I can't see the stricken tree.  I'm still waiting for daylight.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Sleepy Time Gal

In the grip of a bad reaction to a mosquito bite (those little buggers can do a number on me), I slept.  I slept all day and slept all night.  Tending to the animals was about as much as I could handle.  It was a perfectly gorgeous day but wasted on me.  I woke at one point when the hummers banged on the windows to let me know they'd run out of juice.  They are not shy about demanding prompt service.  I filled their feeders and went right back to sleep.  Walking out at dusk to put the kids to bed, I noted that the weeds have shot up another four inches.  There is too much to do here to spend another day in the land of Nod.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

What To Wear?

Flipping channels recently, I noted there is a TV program for women called, "What Not To Wear."  Life and fashion used to be a lot simpler.  All I had to do was follow my mother's rules:

* Never wear white shoes before Memorial Day or after Labor Day.
* Always wash gloves between wearings.
* Make sure stocking seams are straight and heels of shoes aren't scuffed.  (You can't see your backside, but others can.)  Perhaps I should point out that stockings (hosiery) came in pairs, one for each leg, and were held up by garter belts or girdles.  Pantyhose without seams were far in the future. 

That was pretty much it.  Females, young and old, would put on a hat at the "drop of a hat."  Any occasion was a good one to put on a pretty chapeau.  I had, and still have, a large collection of hats.

Currently, the question is not so much what not to wear, as what to wear.  At this time of year, the temperature can vary twenty degrees from day to day.  The barn coat, turtleneck shirt, and gloves that barely keep me warm one day are traded for a tank top the next.  Ball caps and bibbies, that's about as much fashion as I can handle these days.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

R & R Day

Dear Diary:
Took the day off after milking the goats, cleaning the barn, washing a couple of dozen eggs, doing the laundry, and going to the post office twice (had to go back because the nice man forgot to give me the stamps I'd bought).  Sat in the sun, finished a book, took a nap.  Made a Spanish tortilla for dinner.  Will write more tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Turrible Big Weight

History does have a way of repeating.  I'm either in a time warp or the Twilight Zone because I just checked back and found that exactly one year ago I finally got my tax stuff in the mail (which I will do as soon as the post office opens), and when I wrote about it on Tuesday (as it is today), I had overslept (which I did this morning).  I'm leaning towards the Twilight Zone because a critical document that I just had in my hand while preparing the packet would suddenly disappear into thin air.  How could that happen?  I had not left the room and no one else was in the house.  This happened more than once.  I spent more time looking for something I'd just had than in filling out the forms.  One, and probably the only, benefit to doing this yearly onerous task is that I end up sorting the many stacks of papers I'm prone to accumulate and, in my crazed state, pitch and file so I don't go through the same stack twice.  At any rate, the deed is done and it's a huge weight off my mind.

In those stacks of loose papers, I ran across a number of recipes I'd written out from different cooking shows on TV and found one for Honeycomb Candy.  Instead of the beating I should have had for procrastination, I decided to treat myself for finally getting the job done.  The recipe is really very easy.  Butter a baking sheet and set aside.  Stir together 1/2 cup of sugar and 4 tbsp. of dark corn syrup (Karo) in a saucepan.  Bring to a slow boil.  Swirl the pan but do not stir until the mixture comes to 300 degrees (hard crack).  Remove from the heat and stir in 1-1/2 tsp. of baking soda.  The mixture will foam up and become light.  Don't overmix.  Turn out onto the baking sheet; do not spread it out.  When cool, break into pieces.  Light and crisp, guaranteed to give a sugar high that will lift burdened spirits at tax time.

Monday, April 8, 2013

If It Walks Like A ...

In the interest of self-preservation, goats firmly adhere to the premise that if it walks like a dog, it is probably a wolf, and if it walks like a cat there's a darned good chance it is a mountain lion.  Therefore, it stands to reason that goats hit the panic button very quickly and rather often.

Joel had let me know that the girls were pushing heads under the fence in their pen to get to the weeds on his side.  The girls have the better part of two acres covered in thick green grass right now, but every goat knows that grass on the other side is, in fact, greener and better.  On my way to the barn yesterday I took a little detour to walk the fence line to see where the miscreants were pushing through.  I hadn't realized that Frank, who never (as far as I know) goes into the goat pen, had accompanied me.  Frank, to put it bluntly, is a big wuss.  The sound of a plastic grocery bag sends him running.  His sister Pearl can beat him with one paw tied behind her back.  He even has a wimpy meow.  Finished with my inspection, I went on to the barn, sure that Frank would go back out to join Bessie Anne to wait in the driveway.

Letting the girls out of their stalls, I put Sheila on the stand and set about the morning's chores.  The herd went up to the corner for their alfalfa and all seemed well.  Then I heard the warning snorts and saw the girls wheel as one and focus on the fence line.  It seems that Frank had not yet left the pen, and we know how goats feel about felines.  When Sheila was milked, I let her out and, with some effort, coaxed Tessie in.  Frank, mad with his new-found power, had placed himself in the fork of the dead oak where the girls play Queen of the Hill, and took a royal pose to watch the fun.  The goats huddled together in defensive posture and continued to snort the alarm.  Tessie, trapped in the headstall, was sure she'd be the next victim and, in a panic, put her foot into the nearly full bucket.  All that work for nothing, and drenched with milk to boot.  As insurance against just such an event, I always use two buckets.  Grabbing the clean pail and cussing the cat, I finished with Tess and turned her out.  Everything took twice as long as it should have because I had to really work at convincing the rest of the girls to come in, especially Inga.  At some point in time Frank got bored and wandered off, a well-satisfied smirk on his face, I'm sure.

If it walks like a mad wet hen, it's probably me.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Willy Wonka Prize

In every handful of goat chow thrown down each morning as breakfast for the mice there are one or two really large kernels of rolled corn and those are called the Willy Wonka prize.  Yesterday's lucky winner was at first thrilled, I'm sure, but then found that it wasn't so great after all.  It was a very little mouse and he had a hard time carrying his trophy corn, let alone holding it to eat.  Then his troubles began.  Other mice became jealous of his prize and wanted to take it from him.  If he dropped down into a burrow, he immediately popped back out, followed by a would-be thief.  I watched this mouse stop for a few nibbles, dodge a mugger, go to another corner for another bite or two, fend off another attacker, and on and on.  I imagine that today he'll settle for small oats and leave the Willy Wonka for some other "lucky" mouse.

All of the plants I was gifted are potted now and seem happy in their new homes.  Since the only way we were able to find them in the tall grass was by their blossoms, the deck now has all the bright colors of the cheery violas and pansies.  Camille had also given me a couple of columbine plants that are now in a pot on the shaded side.  I couldn't put any of the plants out in the yard; that was what Steve called "feeding the deer." 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

No Excuse

Any excuse is a good one when procrastinating, and I'm very good at making excuses and even better at procrastination.  There is something I must do that I don't want to do, so it suddenly became important yesterday to wash several dozen eggs to take to the hardware store.  (Doesn't every hardware store sell eggs?)  Then my friend Camille called and asked if I wanted some viola plants that had volunteered all over her yard, so naturally I had to go over and dig up a couple of dozen of those and several other flowering plants that were going to fall victim to the weed-eater if I didn't rescue them.  That was a pleasant way to shoot an hour down.  Back home, it was too late to pot the plants or start the project I didn't want to do in the first place.  Given that it was too early to do night chores and there were just a few chapters left in the latest book I'd been reading, I finished them off.  (Night Watch by Terry Pratchett; really good book.)  It was still daylight.  Camille had been kind enough to donate her flowers; it seemed only right that I invite her for dinner and a movie.  She was up for that and she and Honey came right over.  It's nice to have a neighbor who understands that, at a certain time, the movie gets put on "pause."  Camille went home to put her alpacas, chickens, and Shadow, the donkey, to bed while I tucked my critters in their rooms.  Then she came back and we finished watching "Lincoln."

I'm afraid I used up all my excuses yesterday and may have to face the music.  No.  Wait!  There are all those plants that must be potted today.  Whew!  For a minute there, I was worried I'd have no excuse.  As the saying goes, "Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow."

Friday, April 5, 2013


The wizard who waves his wand and brings inanimate objects to life has a wicked sense of humor.  My truck came with a key fob that would lock and unlock the doors and set the security alarm system.  It was pretty nifty until it turned on me.  It would lie in wait until I was in a crowded parking lot to strike (humiliation works best when there is an audience).  Push the button, get into the truck; no problem.  Whammo!  The door locks would click, the screaming alarm would go off, and there I'd be, locked in the vehicle and people turning to see the woman who was obviously stealing the truck.  The only thing that didn't work was the ignition.  I couldn't flee the scene and there was no way to turn the thing off; believe me, I tried.  I was forced to sit there red-faced until "it" had had its laugh and let me go home.  When it first happened I thought it was a one-time aberration.  When it happened a second time, I took the thing off the key chain and it's darned lucky I didn't take a hammer to it before I hid it in a dark drawer, never to see the light of day again.

I was given a cute little stuffed piggy on a key chain by someone adding to my collection of pigabilia.  When the pig was squeezed in a certain way, it would sound off with long, loud squeals and hoots of maniacal laughter.  I hung the piggy on a fastener of my purse and did not squeeze it.  This object would wait until I was in the long, solemn line at the bank (see above re. audience) and then, without provocation, go into its act.  Again, there was no way to stop it until the last giggle died away.  Some people laughed, and some thought I should be institutionalized.  I changed purses.

Just now I have a pair of bibbies that are smiling at my expense.  The straps on bibbies are adjustable.  Normally, once set, that's where they stay.  This pair has exceptionally long straps and I hitch them up as far as they'll go.  Slowly and without drawing attention, these straps relax their hold and stretch out.  I don't notice this until I realize that the crotch of the bibbies is hanging down around my knees and the cuffs are dragging on the ground.  If that isn't a fashion statement, I don't know what is.  Like I said, wicked.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


Flora and fauna change with the seasons.  The hummingbird colony is growing by leaps and bounds daily, slurping up a couple of bottles of juice a day.  I'm hitting the bottom of a ten-pound sack of  sugar already, using two cups of sugar to eight cups of water to make their "juice."  The mourning doves have moved on, their place taken by the much larger collared doves whose wings make such a clatter when they fly off in formation.  True bluebirds have arrived, little birds with rosy breasts and bright blue backs.

Patches of Baby blue eyes are everywhere.  Even more than the arrival of robins, these cheery little faces mean spring to me.  With rain promised today, I did some mowing yesterday, whizzing around and trying to avoid these lovely wildflowers.

Tree Guy and No. One Son came by early in the morning and planted a Chinese pistache tree in the south pasture, a replacement memorial tree for Steve.  I've had bad luck with prior trees, and have my fingers crossed for this one.  The guys didn't have time to take care of other items on the To-Do list, but promised they'd return soon.

My Kids are also seasonal and I don't blame them.  Most of our get-togethers are in the fall and spring.  Dave probably won't be up in the near future as the oak trees are heavy with pollen-laden fronds.  He's allergy prone and suffers in pollen season.  It looks like summer will be early this year.  I don't expect to see any of the Kids after the temperature rises; we all suffer in the heat.  Spring is the season for company; I've got a couple of sets of guests on the calendar for April and May, and the weather should hold good for them.

As promised, an April shower is here.  The new tree will get watered and I don't have to lift a finger.  It's going to be a good day.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Thing has thrown down the gauntlet (and a lot of other stuff, as well).  The last time I went into the barn I picked up all the red hot-wire gizmos Thing had flung around, put them into the blue milk crate, and swept the aisle.  In an attempt to reach detente, knowing Thing had pushed stuff off shelves in the past, I put the crate out of his way in the middle of the barn.  I don't know if this is Thing's idea of home decor, or whether I just sent him (I think it's a "him") into a snit and he threw a hizzyfit, but this is what I found when I went in to find a tool yesterday.  Thing had to work hard to get all those gizmos out of the crate, find more paper to tear up, and add more rocks to the pile in the foreground.  I wasn't happy when I went into the barn, and Thing sent me into a snit of my own.

Bess and I had gone down to the big road to get the mail.  On the way back, my neighbor flagged me down to tell me that one of the goats had gotten tangled in the fencing that Tree Guy had put up in preparation for planting the mulberry trees.  I'd told TG some weeks ago that the girls were pushing on the fences and that was a problem, a problem he'd chosen to ignore.  Ruthie had freed herself, unhurt, by the time I got back to the house, but the chicken-wire fencing was a disaster.  I'd gone to the barn to get a really neat tool that is a combination of hammer, pliers, twister, puller, and wire cutter; indispensable for working on fencing.  That's when I found the mess that Thing had created.  With the goat pen job at hand, there was no time to deal with Thing, but we're going to have to have a talk.  I did speak with Tree Guy, telling him about the downed fences and that the girls had snapped off one of the PVC water pipes he'd installed. 

On a bright note, in the mailbox I found a care package from my friend with a sweet card, a cute plaque, and a bag of licorice.  Licorice for dinner, yum!  A second bright note:  Pete said the stuffed dates were delicious and he'd scored big points with his son Jake.  Mom rules!  (Now if I can convince Thing of that.)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Another Country

Whenever my mother would expound on a topic and anyone piped up with an opinion, she would say, "Well, another country heard from."  Well, I just heard from another country.  Sue, the WWOOFer from Canada, sent me a lovely note and some pictures of the day she and Doreen were here at Farview.  Carefully and slowly stirring the curd to separate it from the whey in the cheese-making process, they were certainly intent on the job at hand.  It was such a pleasure to host these ladies, and a double pleasure to get a follow-up email and photos to share.

Here is where it all begins, every morning of every day of the year.  This is Sheila and me at work.  (I'd recognize that udder anywhere.)  The underground excavators had also been working; see the hole to my left.  Sue and Doreen had taken their first turn at milking and I was just finishing it up so as not to keep any one goat on the stand too long.  When it was Tessie's turn, the women had a grip (pun intended) on the task and were able to get most of her milk without my help.

It rained the day the WWOOFers were here, and it rained yesterday.  Sunny and bright when I went down to the barn, before I finished the rain was pounding down.  It's a good thing I have lids for the milk buckets.  Bess showed good sense and was waiting on the porch when I slogged my way back to the house.  The whole day was like that, sunshine alternating with drenching rain.  It ended before my friend Camille came to share leftovers for dinner.  Honey, much younger, tried so hard to get Bessie Anne to play, dragging toys out of the basket and dropping them in front of Bess's nose, but Bess declined the offer.  Giving a huge sigh, Honey decided to take a nap too.

I had to laugh; Pete, my SoCal Kid, called me from a grocery store to ask about goat cheese.  Would feta do to make the stuffed date appetizers I'd mentioned on Saturday?  Since the store had no chevre, I suggested he use ricotta as an acceptable substitute.  Pete might not have been able to join his siblings here, but he was darned sure going to share in the goodies, even if he had to make them himself!

It was a good day.

Monday, April 1, 2013

New Shoes

It seemed almost criminal to put on a pair of brand-new, shiny shoes and wear them down to the barn first thing.  Growing up in the war years of the 1940s with parents who had come through the Great Depression, I was taught that new shoes were to be cherished (unless they were the dreaded Buster Brown brown oxfords that I hated).  When I was a kid, all shoes were made of real leather and that was a commodity that was rationed to make shoes and boots for the servicemen and women during WWII; so many things were.  Old school shoes became play shoes, regardless that they were too small by then.  How many times did I hear, "Don't scuff your shoes!" or "Don't drag your toes," probably when I was wearing the oxfords and hoping to wear them out fast.  My dad was somewhat of a dandy, always dressed to the nines with a pocket handkerchief that matched his tie and shoes so shiny you could see your face.  When he would take me downtown (in our tiny little town), we would go to the shoeshine stand on the sidewalk, sit in the high chairs, and the man would polish our shoes.  I thought that was so cool.  It was undoubtedly those blasted brown oxfords that gave me my passion for high heels (which I was not allowed to wear until I was fifteen).  I still have a box in my closet with twenty or so pairs of high heels that I will never wear again but am unable to throw out.  I'm having trouble throwing away the old barn shoes that are cracked and split and unwearable.  I didn't realize how uncomfortable they'd become until I put on the new pair, but haven't been able to put them in the trash bin yet.

The grass was high and wet, the barn had the usual doodah, the chicken pen full of droppings, and the new shoes aren't shiny anymore.  Oh well, I've still got a pair of go-to-town shoes in the closet.