Friday, May 31, 2013

Will Work For Pie

It's difficult to repay someone who won't take money for his time and gasoline, and it wasn't like I could return the favor to my friend and neighbor Joel, who came over and disked down all the weeds in my south pasture yesterday morning with his big tractor.  Flatlanders might not appreciate that this is a really big deal up here.  That field of knee-high weeds was a real fire hazard and we're heading into a very dry summer, the rain this week notwithstanding.  Talking with Joel later, I asked again how I could thank him with more than words; such kindness deserves a reward.  Finally he said that the next time I bake pies, I could bake one for him.  That debt is now on my books and I will be so happy to pay.

Yesterday was one of those Goldilocks days, not too hot and not too cold.  Farview was showing off for the coterie of ladies who came to share their time here.  Kit and Earlene had driven up together from SoCal to visit Tinka, Kit's aunt who lives over the hill in Fiddletown.  Earlene Fowler is an author and kindly brought me a copy of her latest book, The Road To Cardinal Valley.  Kit, Tinka and I have become friends through one of those roundabout, "small world" coincidences that sometimes brings people together.  Chattering like magpies, after lunch we went out to visit the chickens and goats.  Poppy lay unmoving in the shade like a big beached whale and it was a bit worrisome until she raised her head.  Time does fly by when you're having fun, and it seemed way too soon when the ladies had to leave.

It was a good day.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Chicken Run

Once upon a, wait, that was just yesterday!  This is a story about a little red hen.  The chickens are always plotting ways to escape their pen.  They remember how nice it was to free range and have forgotten the dangers.  I try to be very careful when entering their gate to block the way either with a bucket or my foot as they cluster around the entrance.  Yesterday was an extra-milk day and so the chickens were getting their share.  They were very excited and ran to their bowl and, thinking they were all occupied, I wasn't quite as vigilant as I should have been as I opened the gate to step out.  Sure enough, one hen saw her opportunity and slipped out behind my leg to freedom.  Drat!  This situation was a real dilemma as I couldn't leave the gate open to chase her in; there would be a mass exodus by the others.  Of course, the first place she headed was under the coop, big enough for a chicken but way too small for me.  Bessie had stayed in the house and I was grateful because, eager to help, she would have done nothing but create chaos.  Pearl became my point man.  "Go in there and make her come out, Pearl!"  And Pearl did.  The red hen came out from under the coop and we began making the rounds of the pen.  For once, I was glad of the surrounding weeds because they slowed her down.  Mad King George was either encouraging her or scolding her from inside the pen, running along the fence line.  He distracted her enough that I was able to grab her legs and effect a rescue.  I returned Red to the flock.  All that was left for me to do was pick a hundred or so little dart weed seeds out of my socks before going back to the house.  I do like a happy ending to these little tales.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Spacious Skies

I seem to be on an "America, the Beautiful" kick, even though my version has "amber waves of weeds" and my "fruited plain" is one small orchard.  After a misty damp morning yesterday, the skies cleared and it was a perfectly gorgeous afternoon.

The prognosticators are saying the temperatures will soar to one hundred by the weekend and that caused me to set some priorities.  With guests arriving tomorrow, there is a lot to be done.  Deciding that dusting could be done even in the heat, mowing the fast-growing west field seemed the better option as I didn't want to get caught with the place looking raggedy again.  Tootling around and around in the late afternoon was so pleasant.  The sun was dropping and I felt I might be in a race to finish before it went down.  Mowing is not a job one can rush.  Nearing the end, I had no more had the thought, "I love my little tractor.  It's such a good workhorse," than the engine died.  Again.  It was like a recurring nightmare.  Spurring it on, I got the darned thing (it's a love-hate relationship) back to the shed and left it to suffer its death throes on its own.  I'm doomed to have a shaggy yard, regardless.

Having watched every weather newscast, what I did not anticipate was waking today to the wettest morning yet, not just drizzle but real rain.  The grey clouds are so low they cover the hilltops across the way.  The spacious blue skies of yesterday are but a memory.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Couch Potato

The weather created a forced day off yesterday.  It never rained hard but drizzled off and on all day, leaving the yards too wet to mow.  Walking down to the goats, I could see the west field sprouting weeds even as I watched.  I do believe it's a conspiracy.

As it was Memorial Day (by the calendar) and too wet to work outside, I immersed myself in war documentaries, learning much and feeling more.  I mentioned the Lt. Dan Band yesterday; I failed (because I didn't know then) to credit Kimo Williams, a Vietnam veteran, as the band's co-founder with Gary Sinise.  While most of the men in my family served in the armed forces, dating back to a great-great grandfather in the Civil War (I've got his discharge papers) and my father in World War I (optimistically and erroneously called the War To End All Wars), we've suffered no casualties.  I've found it is possible to abhor war and still have tremendous pride in those who serve our country.

The tomato plants have already set fruit, tiny green globes filled with promise.  This goofy weather has been good for the strawberry plants; they're bigger and healthier than in years past and I pop a few sweet berries in my mouth as I water (on the dry days, whenever they are).  I thought it was a trick of sunlight on the leaves, but yesterday realized the plum tree in the front orchard is loaded with fruit.  Once I picked forty pounds of plums from that tree, but it's not put forth much in recent years and what there was was snatched up by birds and deer.  I know the almond tree in the back orchard has its heaviest crop ever.  Nature is an advocate of affirmative action, not discriminating between good and bad or that which I want and don't want.  If I wish her bounty, I'll also get her weeds.  I'll take it.

The drizzle of the early morning has let up and the sun is trying to break through.  I've had enough of sitting on the couch.  I may not win this war on weeds, but at least I'm still fighting.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

Resisting temptation is not one of my virtues, but I did not pull one single weed yesterday even though the urge was strong.  NASCAR ran a 600-mile race that took fore-v-e-r.

Whoever is in charge of changing the clocks backwards and forwards also appears to be in charge of the calendar, moving holidays around at will and at random.  Those of us who have difficulty knowing which end is up would like a little consistency here.  Memorial Day used to be on May 31, regardless of the day of the week; I could count on it.  (Back in the day, that was also the date granted by fashion to wear white shoes for the summer.)  By pulling some magical switcheroo, today, May 27, is Memorial Day this year.  (Get out your white shoes, ladies!)  The concert in Washington, D.C., last night included a wonderful tribute to Charles Durning, a WWII vet and active supporter of veterans who is now buried in Arlington Cemetary, as well as to all servicemen and women.  Gary Sinise was one of the hosts.  Mr. Sinise is a co-creator of the Lt. Dan Band and I can't praise him enough for what he and this group of musicians do without Hollywood fanfare in support of our troops abroad and at home.  There are many televised oral histories from veterans of past wars this weekend, supplemented with documentary film; well worth watching.  Regardless of how much time has passed, their memories still cause these heroes to weep and a hard-to-swallow lump in my throat.  Particularly painful was the derision and scorn experienced by those returning home from Vietnam.  That war was not created by those who fought and they'd already been through hell.  It's been said that old men make war and send young men fight them.  I heard a statement yesterday that war commissions in all countries should consist of mothers with young children; there would be no wars.  We protect our young.

Nature seems as confused as I; rain is predicted for today.  Normally I would fly the flag with respect from the pole on the deck, but it is not appropriate to do so in the rain.  A silent salute to the fallen will have to suffice.  God bless them all.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Weak In the Knees

Weak in the head is more like it.  I was not going to weed anything yesterday.  I'd had it with weeding.  I concentrated on doing some much-needed housework.  I never got around to making that birthday pie, so decided to try making curd with the lemons.  Finally found a recipe in a Scottish Highlands cookbook and man, is that stuff good (and easy)!  I've got some special company coming later this week and the curd should go well with an angel food cake.

Like an itch that needed scratching, those darned weeds kept niggling at me until I could stand it no longer and we all went outide.  Frank and Pearl took turns ambushing each other in the tall stuff when they weren't plaguing me.  I felt I'd deprived the children of their playground as I stripped away their hiding places.

That mountain of weeds behind Bessie is the result of the afternoon's efforts.  It could be my imagination, but I think she's asking, "Are we done yet?"  Even Frank is yawning with boredom and Pearl has left the scene.  Oh crum.  Now that those weeds are gone, I can see the leaves that will need to be raked.  Will it never end?  Will my back hold out until it does? 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Still At It

The weather has been perfect for working outdoors and those weeds are a powerful magnet.  I pull weeds before barn chores.  I pull weeds after a short sit-down.  I pull weeds in the afternoon before sundown.  The job would go a bit faster if it were not for my helpers.  Bessie Anne flops down just ahead of me and I've got to work around her and then go back and clean up when she moves on.  Pearl has given up her supervisory obligations and just plays with the seed end of the pulled weeds, tearing apart the pile or hanging on a trailing piece as I move to throw them down the hill.  I explain that they should go play elsewhere and they look at me and say, "But we're here for you, Mom."

Tobias made his rounds this morning.  The beastie boys were in full voice, running up the road under a full moon at midnight, so I heard and then ignored Tobias at five a.m.  I know what I'll be doing today.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Amber Waves Of Grain

Foxtail weeds must be good for something; some bird or beast must feed on the darned things because they're everywhere.  If there were a market for them, I'd be rolling in money.  As it is, the breezes blow through the three-feet-tall growth and it does look like "America the Beautiful" if I look at it just right; a lot of work if I don't.  The last couple of days have been spent bent over, pulling weeds and pulling weeds and pulling weeds and I've barely made a dent.  At least it's a start.  About the time I was ready to pack it in yesterday anyhow, Camille called and invited me down for a cool libation.  Perfect timing.  I did pause long enough to wash my hands before making a dust trail down the road!

Tobias, the big tom turkey who seems to have moved in, has appointed himself the town crier.  "Five o'clock and all's well!"  Every morning at five on the dot, he circles the house again and again and makes his announcement for all to hear.  Having done his job, he waits for me to throw out his breakfast under the oak.  Tobias is huge and it's almost intimidating when he runs toward me, stopping only a few feet away.  His beard, that tuft of hair-like feathers on his chest, is the longest I've seen; probably ten inches.  The neighbors and I might wish he'd sleep in a little longer.

All's well.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Brain Drain

Cricket and Shadow have worked out their own system at mealtime.  Equal amounts of food are placed in two bowls, one for each.  Sure that the other was getting more, they both go to one bowl and eat that up, then go to the other bowl and finish that off together.  Hey, if it works for them....  Shadow not only has long, square-cut bangs, he's also grown big mutton-chop sideburns.  Maybe he thinks they balance out his rotund belly.  I'm used to stiff goat hair, so it was surprising to find that the donkeys have soft plush coats like stuffed toy animals.  I'm sure the alpacas are also soft, but they're don't-touch-me critters so I never got a chance to see for myself.

Finished with chores at Camille's, I was driving home and going through the checklist to make sure I hadn't forgotten anybody or anything.  Ready to pull into my drive, oh crum!  Brain drain.  I'd filled the tubs for the alpacas and chickens and hadn't turned off the water.  There are a lot of things a person could just let go, but leaving water running up here is not one of them.  Camille would come home to a well run dry and wouldn't that be just great.  The boys were disappointed when they found I hadn't come back to give them second helpings.

Pearl has become quite demanding at night and we've become quite a comedy act.  It makes me think of my mother, who taught her kids and grandkids how to rub our head and pat our tummy at the same time, a trick of coordination.  I feel like that as I scrub my teeth with one hand and stroke Pearl with the other, and then try not to spit toothpaste on the cat as she walks the high wire on the narrow sink ledge.  And to all, a good night!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Three Ts

Tank top, T-shirt, or turtleneck.  The weather changes so rapidly now that I have no idea what to put on in the morning.  It can drop (or rise) twenty degrees in a day.  T-shirt weather makes me feel like Goldilocks in the baby bear's bed; not too hot and not too cold, just right.

Before making a quick trip to town the other day, I finally remembered to take a few minutes to put the registration sticker on the truck and change the taillight bulb.  I'd only think of it when I got in the truck to go somewhere and forget about it when I got back home.  I knew there were different screws in the coupling and took out a Phillips and a flat-head.  Why, oh why, I'd like to know, was it necessary to put a Phillips screw and a hex screw in the same housing.  Back into the house for the hex ratchet.  Taillight bulbs have a funky flat base and socket.  The offending bulb would not slip out.  I pulled gently, I pulled hard.  If the glass broke I'd be dead in the water.  The flat-head screwdriver came into play when I finally pried the bulb out (there were no flat-head screws in the assembly).  The nice man had sold me some goopy stuff to put on the new bulb's bottom to help the connection and I smeared that all over before inserting it.  Ta da!  Wrong.  I tried the blinker; it wouldn't work without turning on the engine.  Back into the house for the keys.  Turned on the engine, tried the blinker.  The blinker didn't blink.  Rats.  Took the blankety-blank thing apart again and struggled to get the now-smeared bulb out again.  Maybe I'd replaced the wrong bulb.  Tried changing the top one.  Same results.  Put another bulb in the middle socket.  Same results.  Now I couldn't get the connector cable to snap in.  Cursing all automotive makers, I got the still-not-working module back in place, put all the bulbs and tools and little package of goop into a bag, and drove into town.  I conscientiously rolled down the window and made the appropriate hand signal before making every left-hand turn, wondering as I did if any drivers on the road even knew what hand signals were.  One of the young men in the film crew had told me he'd just learned how to drive an old stick-shift car!  There were no automatics and no blinkers back in the day.  I went to the store where I'd bought the bulbs and, much as I hated to, asked for help.  The nice man came out and was able to snap the connector cable back in place.  Finally, ta da.  I was too exasperated for an exclamation point.  Just ta da.

Driving up to the house last evening, I saw the glass-topped table and patio chairs were all knocked over in Camille's front yard.  There had been a pretty strong breeze throughout the day, but surely not strong enough to blow down the furniture.  Fortunately the glass had not broken.  Just then Cricket and Shadow came up the drive.  They have the run of the property and those boys had evidently had a wild party while their mama was gone.  Rather than give them a second shot, I didn't put the table back up.  The glass had survived the first drop, it might not make it a second time.  I'll leave Camille to deal with their bad behavior.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Evil Twins & Others

The morning feeding went pretty well.  It's a fairly involved process because all of the animals have special catering needs.  The cats get half a can of wet food sprinkled with a few cat treats, and a bowl of dry kibble.  I rarely see the cats, and even then it's just a glimpse as they run at the sight of strangers.  Any leftovers go to the chickens the next day.

The top photo is Frick (Caspian), he of the gorgeous brown eyes.

 This is Frack (Titanic).  Poor Frack could have used some orthodontist work as a child, and every day is a "bad hair" day for him.  The boys are two different breeds of alpacas, thus the difference in their looks.  Is it any wonder I think of them as a comedy team?

Shadow (on the left) hurriedly gobbled his breakfast and then went over to see what Cricket might have left in his bowl.  Looking like a barrel on sticks, Shadow doesn't need the extra feed.  I need to get a better picture of Shadow.  He goes to the same barber as Frack.

Twice a day, Frick and Frack get one kind of pellet and Shadow and Cricket get a mix of two kinds.  They also get baby carrots cut in half.  The chickens get two kinds of feed daily.  I feel like a short-order cook.

Dinner time is a repeat of the morning and all was going well until the alpacas got into a fight.  They've got strange hooves, two toes with long pointed nails.  It started with just name calling.  (Frick probably said something about Frack's funky teeth.)  Their voices range from a high, pig-like squeal to a deep, low moan.  The verbal squabble progressed to rearing and striking out with those pointy feet and then chasing each other around their pen, yelling to beat the band.  One thing I do not want to have to do is call out a vet.  They settled the dispute before any injuries occurred and I was able to come home and put my own kids to bed.

It was, in fact, a busy day.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Yard Duty

Camera in hand, I will be on yard duty again at Camille's for a few days.  This time I'm determined to get some photos of Frick and Frack (Titanic and Caspian), Shadow, and a new resident donkey, Cricket.  Frick and Frack, or as Camille calls them, "The Evil Twins," were recently shorn and look even more bizarre than they did before.  The game plan will have changed, as Shadow is rather jealous of Cricket and though much smaller tends to bully the new kid on the block.  Cricket was brought in as a companion for Shadow, but Shadow would prefer to be an only child.

Tinka and Bill gifted me with walnuts from their trees some while back.  I took the opportunity yesterday to sit and watch "Giant" and shell walnuts (it's a three-hour movie).  I've shelled nuts all my life, but Bill showed me a never-fail way to crack walnuts that leaves the meat in perfect halves with minimal mess from the shells.  It's true, you're never too old to learn new tricks.

I'd forgotten that "Giant" made such a strong anti-prejudice statement, rare in 1956.  I was never enamored of James Dean; how much angst can one handle?  I did like the movies he was in, but was much more a fan of the 1949 Mercury he drove in "Rebel Without A Cause" than his acting.  It was fun to see Dennis Hopper, later to earn a bad-boy reputation, play the "good son."

The bats have returned, flitting and swooping at sundown.  These tiny creatures hold a strange fascination for me.  As a child, I was taken to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico and I've never forgotten seeing what seemed like a never-ending black cloud of bats flying out of the caves at dusk; awesome in the true sense of the word.  The tour program was rather primitive in the 1940s.  I just Googled the site and now the bats are a small footnote at the bottom of the article.

Places to go, mouths to feed.  It's going to be a busy day.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Animal Antics

The other day Camille and Honey stopped by.  Honey bounded in the door and went immediately to the dog biscuit box; that's our routine now.  Sometimes she helps herself, but this time waited politely for a treat and of course Bessie got one too.  Camille and I went to sit outside, accompanied by our girls.  When I moved up here, I'd brought a lot of plants from the old house and in amongst them were some ornamental strawberries, tasteless but pretty.  They're full of little red berries right now.  For some reason (and who knows what dogs think), Honey went around plucking off berries and spitting them out on the deck.  She never tried to eat one, but she obviously didn't like them on the plant.

I keep spare buckets, pieces of rope, and some tools down in the barn; never know what I'll need and it's too far to run back to the house.  The last day it rained, I'd left the sheltered "play yard" open for the girls.  A bucket was hanging on the wall and they managed to get it down and drag it out into the pen.  I'd seen it there, but left it out as they obviously were playing with it. 
While bringing sheets off the clothesline yesterday, I saw what I thought was Ruth carrying the bucket, followed by the others through the pen.  As they came closer, I realized that Ruthie had somehow gotten her head through the bail and was stuck with that unwieldy thing around her neck.  I don't know if the herd was laughing at her or trying to help the poor girl.  Guess it shows what kind of person I am because I ran to get the camera first and then went to Ruthie's rescue.

He (she?) isn't doing anything particularly  amusing, but this is one of the tiny toads in the Taj.  He had a larger companion who disappeared down the tunnel before I took the photo.

Gary Stevens took the lead on Oxbow at the running of the Preakness yesterday and ruined Orb's chance at trying for the Triple Crown.  My Lucky Day (my bet) came in second.  The Belmont Stakes will run on June 8.

Horsepower of another sort won Jimmie Johnson a million dollars in the All-Star NASCAR race.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

As the World Turns

It always comes as a surprise when I realize that the earth has again turned on its axis and the sun comes up in a different place.  West is west, but sunrise appears to move from the southwest to the northwest.  The change is imperceptible and it is not until I get hit in the eyes by a stray beam from a window that was previously in shade that I know it has happened again.  Moonrise, for a portion of the year, is over the hills by Omo Ranch.  Soon it will be perfectly framed in the big picture window in the living room, breathtaking when the moon is full.

The Silkies' coop, the Taj, has become a condominium.  A family of toads has moved into the basement (a burrow underneath).  The door to the Taj drops down to form a ramp for the chickens and now every night as I shut it, I find toads enjoying the sunset under the protection of the ramp.  These are daredevil toads, as the chickens enjoy a good meal of frog legs and would have no problem going hunting for fresh meat.  I wish the little creatures well; the Toad Taj has a nice ring, I think.

Yesterday was a perfect day for mowing and once started, I couldn't stop.  I needed to do laundry, so thought I'd mow the side yard so I wouldn't be blowing chaff all over clothes on the line.  It looked so nice, maybe I'd just do the front yard, too.  What the heck, the backyard beckoned and I answered.  Tootling down the slope to get there, I cut a wide swath that looked unfinished.  The solution was to keep going.  And going.  I didn't do the front orchard because the earth is so soft there that I'd bury the wheels, and I didn't get close under the oak because of some fallen branches that will need to be picked up first.  Fu Man Chu and I got our workout, but, dang! the yards look good.  I even got all the laundry done.  If I can gather up my intestinal fortitude, I will get out the rolling weed-eater someday soon.  I really hate that piece of equipment, but it needs doing and I'll never get a garden planted without it.

Today, I think I'll just rest on my laurels.  I hope they're soft; my sit-down is sore.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cockeyed Optimist

Carried away on a wave of enthusiasm what with the warm weather and the anticipation of more mowing, I did something I rarely-to-never do.  Instead of putting the tractor back under cover in the shed when I finished, I left it out by the front walk the other day.  I had also left bags of feed in the truck instead of putting them inside the shed.  Nature has a wicked sense of humor and she must have gotten a big laugh when she sent rain, a good, steady rain, yesterday and watched me race out in the early morning to put the tractor away and haul wet, heavy bags.  I never saw it coming.  Bessie Anne and I had gone for walkies the night before and I noted that even a fingernail sliver of a moon was bright enough to cast shadows.  There hadn't been a cloud in the sky.  I usually tilt the tractor seat forward when I'm finished (to break connection with the battery terminals) and I hadn't done that either, so the seat of my bibbies was soaked when I went down to milk.  If the Old Girl meant to teach me an object lesson, it left a lasting impression.

The rain finally let up in the afternoon.  Unable to mow the wet grasses, I took advantage of the softened earth to finish hand weeding the front walkway, nibbling away at what seems (is!) a daunting job if viewed as a whole.  Everywhere I look there are weeds up to my knees.

At sundown I could see rain being wrung from the last of the clouds that had drifted away from our area and out over the valley.

The day before I had potted red, yellow, and orange cherry tomato plants for the deck, and they definitely were watered in.  This crazy weather has been beneficial to the strawberry plants; this year they are bigger and better than they've ever been and I've already had two berries, beating the birds for once.  I brought the plants with me when we moved here, so they've survived over fifteen years and continue to sprout more.  They get "E" for effort, for sure.

It's bright and sunny this morning and I'm optimistic the yards will dry by this afternoon and I'll get more mowing done.  Unless Nature is playing another trick on me. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Fu Man Chu

Give me another couple of days and I'll be asking everyone who was here last weekend back for a do-over.  I had so wanted the place to look its best and it came off looking raggedy, unkempt and uncared for.  The yards were shaggy with weeds, but do look so pretty when mowed, especially at this time of year when they're still green.  All my plans went down the drain when the mower quit and I could only hope that my guests raised their eyes up to the hills and horizon and not down at the ground.

Since its last trip to the ER, the mower is running like brand new.  Poor thing, it must have been suffering for some time.  Too windy to mow in the morning, I finally got a chance to get outside in the afternoon and tackle the unfinished west field.  Buckety-bucking along, bouncing over hillocks and dropping into squirrel holes, going in ever-narrowing circles, Tim McGraw's song "Live Like You Were Dying" came to mind.  Specifically, the line that goes, "...I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu."  Other than the farm itself, I am not in the habit of naming inanimate things, but after that gut-busting ride, the mower has been christened Fu Man Chu.  The driveway and west field are looking good; only four more yards to go.  I wonder if saddle sores qualify for Workers' Comp.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Back To the Norm

Looking out the window at first light this morning, there were a couple of Peeping Thomasinas looking back at me.  Unabashed at being caught, the does continued grazing on the greenery and reaching up to munch on peach tree leaves long after the coffee was made and I was back to the computer.

"Normal" is such a relative term and can have so many interpretations.  Such as it is, after the flurry of activity and comings and goings of the weekend, Farview is back to normal.  It was comfortable to slip into my slow-paced routine, the morning walkabout, milking without pushing for time, watching an old movie (the 1936 version of "Showboat" with Irene Dunne and Paul Robeson) during my cool-down period after barn chores.  How nice it was to receive so many calls and cards from family and friends (it was my birthday); call-waiting sometimes had them in a holding pattern!

The lawn tractor was returned, complete with new carburetor.  Joe is going to come back sometime this week to install an in-line gas shut-off valve that will allow me to burn off the gas in the carburetor after use.  The big tractor has one and I know it protects it protects the equipment.

The weather was good and I'd planned on getting started on the mowing, but it was getting late and I still needed to go to the feed store.  I'd also planned on baking a birthday pie (more preferable to me than cake), but received an invitation to dinner at a neighbor's.  The mowing could wait for another day and I wasn't about to turn down a dinner out.

It was a good day, and thanks to all who made it one.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mother and Daughter

It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I think my children (and I include my "after-market" sons), men and woman now, are pretty darned special people.  Loving, industrious, funny, generous, kind, loyal, and many more adjectives that make them the kind of people I like to know and am proud to call my friends.  I don't live in their pockets and they don't hover over me.  It could be days, weeks or months between phone calls and months or years between visits.  It's not for lack of caring, it's because life interferes and there are time constraints on us all.

In a family of men, it's natural that the only two females would develop a particular bond (over time; the teenage years don't count).  When my first child, my daughter, was born, I didn't think I could ever love another child as much as I did her.  Of course, I thought that when each of the boys was born, too.  I found that the heart has an infinite capacity for expansion and when I say to any or all, "I love you with all my heart," it is absolutely true.

On Sunday Deb gave me a wrapped gift and asked me not to open it until after everyone had gone.  I could tell it was a book and wondered about the secrecy.  After waving the last goodbye and picking a few weeds on the way back to the house, the first thing I did was open the package and flipped through what I thought were blank pages.  I thought it was a journal like the many I've filled over the years.  It is a journal, but like no other.  I've asked permission to share the concept, but will never share the contents.  It is a Mother and Daughter Traveling Journal.  Deb made the first entry last December and several others followed.  The idea is this:  it is an opportunity for us to write down particular memories, intimate feelings, worries, day-to-day stuff; anything and/or everything that comes to mind that we might want to share only with each other.  The book will be handed over to the other for the same kind of entries until the next face-to-face contact, traveling back and forth.  It doesn't surprise me that my daughter would conceive such a thoughtful, personal project.  It's just the way she is.  Wouldn't it be grand for other mothers and daughters to adopt the idea?

Monday, May 13, 2013

As Expected

Whew!  Yesterday was everything I expected, hoped for, and more.  While the nieces breakfasted, I did as much prep work as possible for the big meal later in the day.  Then, regardless of everyone else's timetable, the goats needed my attention and I left the nieces to get ready for departure and went down to the barn.  Bless their hearts, all the goat girls cooperated and I was almost done when Deb, Craig, Larry, Terry and Arvin (Craig's parents) drove up.  Since the cell phone is almost an extension of myself now, I was able to receive calls from the two missing Kids (Pete and Clay) with loving Mother's Day wishes, holding the phone with one hand and milking with the other.

Dave rode up on his Harley just after Arvin helped me haul the milk buckets up to the house, so the cousins were able to connect for a short while; it's been years between visits.  I wish Michelle and Lori had been able to stay longer.

It seemed very fitting for a Mother's Day menu to use recipes from my mother (at Deb's request); warm German potato salad and sweet-and-sour German red cabbage, and Deb and Craig had brought a ton of assorted sausages to grill.  Those two took over the kitchen so I could get ready (that meant clean bibbies) for Christopher and the film crew who were already at the bottom of the drive.

The anticipated chaos began with a flurry of introductions.  Then the family counted out chips and dealt cards and settled into the poker game while Christopher explained how the interview process worked and gave me a little background on his research project.  The film crew, Jesse, Aaron, and Allan, searched outside for an appropriate setting, moving furniture on the deck, looking for electrical plugs, etc.  The day was rapidly heating up and the site they chose was in direct sunlight at the end of the deck.  I won't say it wasn't intimidating, but Christopher made the interview as painless as possible and I found it most interesting.  About the time he and I were ready to melt in the sun, Aaron called a halt when the camera let him know it had reached maximum tolerance for the heat.  That, however, was not the end of the process.  The crew wanted to film a segment in front of the computer.  I've never been so glad I'd dusted the room and made the bed, even in the morning's rush.  We were a cozy bunch, five of us, cameras and sound equipment, crammed into my room, with Bessie Anne supervising us all.  She'd also drifted in and out of the outdoors portion, getting her own claim to fame.

While all this was going on, we'd occasionally hear bursts of laughter from the poker table and the guys would apologize for keeping me occupied on Mother's Day.  It was hard not to rush the crew because I really wanted to be with my family.  The aromas of grilled sausages and the vinegary cabbage were enticing.  Finally, releases were signed and equipment packed up.  The crew had a long drive back to southern California, so I sent them off with a sausage for the road.  There was one last piece of business.  Christopher had a small Polaroid camera and asked for a picture of just him and me together.  He had learned it was a custom in Thailand to take instant photos with a new friend and each would have a copy.  I now have more than just a memory of this out-of-the-ordinary experience.

At long last, I was able to join my family for a meal and a few hands of poker.  It was very special that Terry and I were able to share Mother's Day together since we both call Craig our son.  As is typical after dinner, the boys stretched out and caught a few ZZZs.  Sundown approached and it was time for goodbyes and "Love you" down the drive.

It was a good day.  No, it was a most excellent day!

Sunday, May 12, 2013


More of the same with the nieces; talk, laugh, nap (both Michelle and I flaked out on Lori), eat.  New technology isn't always a blessing, as Lori had her laptop and had to work out a project that took most of the day.  Vacations used to be a chance to get away and leave the everyday world behind; now phones and computers drag that world along wherever one goes.

The biggest tom turkey paraded around the house all day long, gobbling loudly and spreading his tail and fluffing his feathers.  He circled through the yards, around and around, showing off for my guests.  I'm sure he was looking for some willing turkey girls, but the nieces got a kick out of him too.

It seems that once the door into summer opened, it opened with a bang.  It's just darned hot.  It's time to stop rushing around in the heat and relax, and that's what I plan on doing tomorrow.  Today will be a whirlwind day, as the nieces, unfortunately, have to leave about the time the rest of the family arrives, and then the USC crew will be here a little after noon.  It's going to be a great day, but perhaps not relaxing..

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Cheep A Little

Yesterday reminded me of the song from "The Music Man," Talk A Little, Cheep A Little, as Michelle, Lori and I had years of talk to catch up on.  Both women lived out of state for long periods of time, but are back in southern California now.  One of the first things they asked when they got here was, "What is that place where the many-colored flowers come down the hill?"  They'd driven by the iris farm; I knew they'd find it stunning.  I may send them over to visit that farm today while I grab a nap.  Staying up after midnight and getting up at daybreak is not my norm, for sure.

The tractor will survive but needs a new carburetor, a part that must be ordered, of course.  That and a transfusion of cash will pull it through to mow another field.  In the meantime, the red clover has come into bloom and the bees are happy, happy, happy.

The weather is a quick-change artist, rain one day and nearly 90 degrees the next.  Michelle and I went around opening windows again, hoping to catch a breeze.  I think today is going to be more of the same. 

Friday, May 10, 2013


Nature is either showing that she is a better housekeeper than I or trying to help me by distracting my guests this weekend.  Either way, she's doing a great job.  Days of rain have washed the dust from trees and fields and the hills are a hundred shades of green.  Brilliant yellow Scotch broom bushes line the road out of Diamond Springs.  The iris farm around the corner is in bloom and it looks like a slope scattered with multicolored jewels.  A hill closer to home has a blanket of purple lupine and the wedge of hill toward my woods competes with yellow wild mustard.  The sun came out yesterday and put a spotlight on all her glory.

When Camille asked me to go along to a friend's house to get some tomato plants, I dropped everything and jumped in the truck.  I am so glad I did.  I haven't been up on Grizzly Flat Rd. for years and had forgotten what a beautiful drive it is.  Friend lives on a side road that curves and twists along the mountainside and every turn showed a spectacular view across the canyon.  Friend is a capital-G Gardener and her home is like a nursery for vegetables and flowers.  I will admit to a bit of a snicker when she noted that she hasn't been able to stay ahead of the weeds either.  Misery does love company.  We compared notes on what the deer will and won't eat and agreed there isn't much they won't.  Her vegetable plots are behind high fences, but her roses showed signs of being brunch, and she has a problem with gophers too.

Of course leaving home put me farther behind with my own chores (milking Inga had given me a late start in the first place), but I wouldn't have missed the outing.  Every showoff needs an audience, and I had a front-row ticket.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Deal With It

My method of coping when I find myself slipping into overload is to stop looking at the big picture.  The Big Picture is too overwhelming and I get stunned into inertia.  It's much easier to deal with small segments one step at a time.  The tractor did get picked up yesterday; check.  The grocery shopping did get done; check.  The rain did stop; good.  The tractor didn't get back; oh well.  The cheese did get made; done.  Inga didn't come in to get milked; can't do a thing about that.

The day before our wedding in 1987, I was pulled over by a CHP officer for not having current registration tags on my van.  "But I have them right here!" and I took them out of the console.  "Were you waiting until next year to put them on?" asked the officer.  (Tags are dated for the following year.)  I envisioned a rerun of that embarrassing event when I got in the truck to go to town yesterday.  Last week I'd received new tags for the truck and stuck them under the visor so as not to forget about them.  Of course, I forgot about them and there they are still.  To fuel my paranoia on the road, my left turn signal and taillight went out.  I made an extra stop in town so that if I were pulled over on the way home, I could produce my registration tags and the new bulb for the taillight.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I got home without incident.  Just another couple of items for The List.

That darned Inga.  It wasn't enough that she stood watching me with that blank stare yesterday.  Just so I'd know she was thumbing her nose at me, she looked into my eyes as she lay down.  Well, we'll deal with that today.

It's a bright, sunshiny morning.  It's going to be a good day, one step at a time.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Waiting Game

Any accomplishments yesterday were little ones and done in bits and pieces.  I was waiting, you see, and didn't want to tackle any involved projects and get interrupted (it's my story and I'm sticking to it).  Joe had said he'd pick up the lawn tractor early.  I nearly strained my neck muscles peering over the goat's back while milking, trying to see if he'd arrived while I was in the barn.  No.  Even though it was raining again, I could do laundry while waiting and while the machine did the work I could wash eggs to take to the hardware store.  No-show Joe, so Bessie and I made a quick run to deliver dozens of eggs and rush back.  Joe's boss called and said he was running late but would be here by 2:30.  That worked because he'd be here and gone before the 4 o'clock appointment for a phone call requested by Sonia, the gal with the research project.  More odds and ends of chores while waiting.  At 3:40, I called and rescheduled Joe for today.  And I waited.  After I'd sent a reminder email, Sonia called about 4:30.  She won't be coming with the crew after all and just wanted to touch base.

Today I'm waiting for the rain to go away.  Three days of rain so far.  Even if the tractor were running, everything is too wet to mow, and I'm not about to go out and pull weeds in this weather.  The days are spent in bibbies soaked to the knees from slogging through tall grasses that are only going to get taller when the sun shines again.

"Little drops of water, little grains of sand, make the mighty ocean and the beauteous land."  So went a poem from my youth.  All those piddling chores might add up to a finished project and give me a chance at winning the waiting game.  I'll just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

More Paper, Please

I've got to make a list of my lists.  There are little scraps of paper everywhere as I jot down something to do or get as I head toward what promises to be a crazy, fun weekend.  I wake up at night with the logistics of coordination whirling in my head.

Michelle and Lori, my niece and great-niece, are arriving on Friday from southern California.  It's been ages, literally years, since I've seen either and I'm so excited.  They picked a day when they could travel together, not realizing the significance of May 12, Mother's Day.  That's okay, it will give them a chance to reunite with their cousins as my Kids, give or take a couple, are coming up on Sunday.  Craig's mom and dad, Terry and Arvin, will be joining us and that pleases me no end.

In addition to all those comings and goings (as if that weren't enough), I've been invited to participate in a USC PhD research project on blogging and bloggers.  Christopher and Sonia and her crew of three will be here on, of course, Sunday to film an interview.  ("I'm ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille.")  This just came up in the last week and there has been a flurry of communication to work out the details.  I'm just not sure how we're going to fit an interview in during a poker game.

Could it get any more insane?  I go into a tizzy at the thought of dusting the living room when a neighbor comes over.  Recipes, shopping lists, To-Do lists, time schedules, arrivals and departures, upstairs-downstairs cleaning; I need more paper.  In the midst of all this, there are goats to milk.  The nice man is coming to pick up the sick tractor today.  If he brings it back healthy and in time, I'll need to finish mowing the west field before company comes.

I need to fall back on my mantra in such occasions:  A thing will either get done, or it won't.  One thing is sure, it's going to be a fun time.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Cinco Sank

After barn chores, NASCAR at Talladega beckoned and I settled in for another day of racing.  Then my conscience got the upper hand.  The weeds in the west field had been growing at an alarming rate, the weather was perfect - not too hot, cold, or windy - and I could always tape the race.  Feeling quite virtuous, I got on the mower and started making laps.  The little tractor had been acting funky the last time out, but it started right up and all seemed well.  Tootling along in the sunshine, cutting swath after swath, was quite pleasant.  Then the mower developed a slight cough.  I fiddled with the choke and throttle, convinced myself it wasn't a serious illness, and kept going.  Big mistake.  Making the corner at Turn Three (NASCAR fans can relate) on the uphill straightaway, the cough became a dying gasp and the condition was terminal.  Far from the shed, there was no way I could push the tractor up the slope and I couldn't leave it in the field.  Like an EMT with cardiac paddles, I'd get the engine to start and go three feet before it would quit again.  Traveling all the way in fits and starts, I got the tractor under cover at last and walked off and left it to die in peace.  Of course it happened on a Sunday and the repair shop was closed.  Virtue would have to get its own reward because with less than half the field mowed, I couldn't finish the job.

Unlike horses, cars won't race in the rain, and the downpour in Kentucky moved over to Alabama yesterday.  During the long delay as the drivers waited to see if the storm cell would pass, I got the house spiffed up for company.  Luckily for the drivers and unfortunately for me, the sun came out at Talladega with 63 laps to go.  Of course I had to watch the end of the race and that put me way behind in dinner prep and I scorched the Spanish rice just as Camille, Olga and Honey drove up (and my driver came in sixth).  Rice notwithstanding, we had a pleasant evening.  So much for Cinco de Mayo.

Awoke to rain this morning and a grey, cold day.  Sure wish I'd gotten the field mowed.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Day At the Races

(Sounds like an old  Marx Brothers movie, doesn't it?)  Everything came to a screeching halt yesterday when I was reminded it was the running of the Kentucky Derby.  Some furious texting went on as several of us in the family declared our picks before the Run For the Roses.  Eight hours of television culminating in a less-than-two-minute race.  I love horse racing even more than NASCAR.  Watching those magnificent animal athletes brings me nearly to tears every time.  Then, too, there is the gambling aspect and I enjoy that also.  My imaginary bets made me some loose change throughout the day, but I lost the bundle on the Derby.  My horse, It's My Lucky Day, came in fourth, out of the running, and I never saw Orb coming.  I really thought Revolutionary with Calvin Borel aboard would win on that sloppy track.  I held the good thought for Gary Stevens on Oxbow; making a comeback at age 50 and after leaving racing for seven years is gutsy.  It's hard not to be pleased for Shug McGaughey, Orb's trainer, and his first Derby win in 34 years.  The pouring-down rain didn't dampen any spirits at Churchill Downs; I think the mint juleps helped.  Hats were as outrageous as ever, the big ones acting as umbrellas.

This is going to be "the lost weekend" as NASCAR runs today.  I'll have to watch that with one eye, as I have company coming for a Cinco de Mayo dinner tonight.

The horses will run again in the Preakness, second leg of the Triple Crown at Pimlico, Maryland.  Don't call me on the 18th unless you want to talk racing!

Saturday, May 4, 2013


The trek to town the other day did not include going all the way down to the grocery store; that's about a 75-mile round trip that I make once a month.  Maybe it's the weather, maybe it's watching the goats chowing down on all the greens in their pen, maybe it's seeing pictures of my Seattle friend's garden; whatever the reason, I've been craving fresh vegetables.  It got bad enough yesterday that I went up to the local store (only 10 miles away) and indulged in Brussels sprouts, kale, lettuce, and the like.  There was no rhubarb or I would have gotten that, too.  My mother was of the old school and believed that rhubarb in the spring thinned the thick sludge of winter blood; I just like it.  A friend gave me some strawberries last week and I ate them with just a sprinkle of sugar and a splash of balsamic vinegar; yummy.

There are very few items on my wish list.  There is little I need or want as I have nearly every darned thing to make my life complete.  But (there's always a "but") I have recently seen commercials for a small John Deere tractor with an easily detachable front loader and a drive-over mower deck attachment.  Now that's something a person could really use.  Do I need it?  No, but it's nice to think about.  I guess it's like guys and new cars.

Speaking of cars, Dave and a friend were going to come up tomorrow, but there was an accident.  The friend was riding his motorcycle on the freeway and a car changed lanes in front of him.  Thankfully there were no serious injuries, but a severe bang-up (I don't know if the bike survived).  Just a word of caution to all motorists:  with the rising cost of gasoline and the approach of good weather, there will be more and more motorcyclists on the road.  We are all conditioned to look for other cars, but it is so important to put motorcycles on the radar too.  I'm just sayin'.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Make Lemonade

For some time now I've been trying to come up with a way to replicate the milking experience for someone who doesn't have (or doesn't want to have, or is thinking about having) a goat.  I believe I've finally got it.  For a three-goat morning, the first step would be to get, oh, say a thousand lemons, give or take a few.   Cut the lemons in half.  Get comfortable with legs outstretched, bucket to the right, elbows at the side and forearms over the bucket.  Take a lemon half in each hand and begin.  Squeeze the juice into the bucket, release, get another lemon.  Squeeze, release, get another lemon.  Repeat 498 times in ten minutes and the imaginary Tessie is done.  Take a small rest; this would be the time it takes to get one goat off the stand and another up and brushed, approximately three minutes.  Assume the position, lemons in hand, and squeeze the juice from another 350 in ten minutes.  This would be Inga on a good day.  If it were one of "those" days, plan on 600 lemons for her and thirty minutes.  Take another break.  Sheila is the reward for all of this; she'll require only 200-250 lemons and probably only six minutes, but there will be an equal amount of juice.

Consider that this procedure must be done every day, 365 per year, and there could be three other goats to feed and brush down, and stalls to be raked and poop to be hauled out (directions not required). 

With all of that lemon juice on hand, I would suggest boiling up some simple syrup with a goodly amount of lemon zest.  Combine syrup, juice, and water and, voila, lemonade!  Now, wasn't that easy?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Way To Start the Day

My day began with a real eye opener.  Neither a Bloody Mary nor a startling revelation, but a jump start, just the same.  Before heading down to the goat barn, I thought I'd take care of one little chore first.  The air filter on the little tractor needed cleaning and since it was sitting out in front of the water hose, I could rinse it off and let it dry while I tended to the girls.  The hose reel is on the feed barn wall just over the spigot, and the hose has a pistol-grip sprayer attached.  I opened the faucet all the way and then yelped and danced as I got caught with a blast of cold water right in the midsection.  I'd left the sprayer facing out instead of down and it was cocked and fully loaded.  Sitting in dripping wet bibbies while milking goats is not my idea of fun, but I was definitely awake.

Later on, a trip to town took precedence over mowing.  Getting into the truck, I found I couldn't see out the windshield because of all the sticky green pollen from the oaks.  Nothing for it but to drive over to the dreaded hose reel and rinse the truck.  I most certainly had the sprayer in hand before turning on the faucet this time.  I keep an eye out for all wildlife, watching the skies and the fields, and never have I seen seen the flying elephants that left droppings on my vehicle.  No bird could possibly leave plops the size that I rinsed off yesterday.  Where did those elephants come from and when did they learn to fly?  (Dumbo comes to mind.)

Regardless of the wet beginning and the trip to town notwithstanding, it was a good day.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wheels On the Bus

Today's topic is...oh, wait...there is no topic.  These days I spend most of  my time mowing and/or weeding, and not much else is happening.  My version of the song goes, "The wheels on the tractor go round and round," as I make endless passes in one yard or another.  Company is coming both this weekend and next and I do need to tackle some housework.  The dilemma is this:  hotter weather is predicted and I can work inside better than outside in the heat, so for now the outside chores get the nod.  (Couldn't she do both?  Yes, but she doesn't want to.)

A gopher, not a ground squirrel for a change, has tunneled up into the Silkie pen.  I know they are not known for good eyesight so I don't know if the one poking his head up didn't see me come in yesterday or if it was waiting for me to throw the grain into its mouth, but he certainly was in no hurry to leave the scene.  Is there no end to the freeloaders?

The warm days have brought out my totems, the lizards, in full force.  All shapes and sizes are darting here and there, doing push-ups on the porch, and napping in the sun.  A pretty big fellow made good his escape intact as I dodged the squirrel hillocks while mowing the front yard yesterday.  All little insect eaters are welcome.  At least they catch their own dinner.

I didn't bother to put the mower under cover last night.  I know what I'll be doing today.