Sunday, June 30, 2013

Dark O' the Moon

It was one of those days when so many things go wrong you just have to laugh.  It started when I mistakenly deleted a fairly lengthy entry I'd written and had no time to try to recreate it.  Not the end of the world, a minor irritation.  After mowing the other day I'd washed down the little tractor.  It wouldn't start when I later wanted to put it in the shed, but I thought perhaps I'd gotten something wet and so let it sit out overnight.  On my way out to do chores yesterday, it wouldn't start again.  Not even a click.  Dead battery.  A few days ago the battery in one of the smoke alarms died, but not before screaming in agony and scaring me silly.  I fear these are the beginnings of another cycle of battery failures.  Anticipating the heat in the barn, I tied a wet cloth around my neck, later around my head, but nothing stopped sweat pouring even from places I didn't know could sweat.  It's no easier on the goats to stand and be milked than on me, the milker.  Inga has a tendency to lean against my shoulder.  Goats are warm beasts at best and it sure didn't help the situation any to have her pressed next to my side.

After refilling the feeders for the hummers, who must suffer during a heat wave, and straining the milk, I tried to take a nap to get past the worst of the day.  That was interrupted by what would otherwise have been a welcome phone call.  Oh well, I needed to go to town to get a new battery anyhow.  At least the truck was air-conditioned.  At the store, there was a choice of two, and of course I bought the wrong one.  (I hadn't known there were additional critical numbers I should have written down.)  I did buy a movie, "Quartet," that I had been waiting months to come out on DVD, and was so anxious to see.

It was 108 degrees in town, and not much cooler here.  I had to run cold water into Bessie's pool before she could get in or I would have had a boiled hot dog.  After realizing my FUBAR with the battery, the thing to do was sit quietly and watch "Quartet."  Shortly after the beginning, the phone rang again.  This caller took about an hour.  That was okay, I wasn't doing anything anyhow, but the phone made my ear sweat.  Released at last, I started the movie again and was really enjoying some of my favorite actors.  And the power went out.  Are you kidding me?  Am I not supposed to see "Quartet"?  Not only the electricity, but the land line phone was dead.  The ceiling fans to circulate air are the only things that make the house bearable and the house quickly became intolerable.  Bess and I went out and splashed in her pool (she's good about sharing), then sat on the deck and listened to the sound of generators kicking on across the hills.

The power and the phone came back on about the time I had to put the kids to bed.  With water restored, I took a quick shower and called it quits for the day.  Maybe I'll watch "Quartet" today.  Or not.

Saturday, June 29, 2013


Well, I'm off to a great start this morning.  Having written an entry for the day (and it was a pretty good one), due to a glitch in the system I erased the whole thing instead of posting it.  Since it had mainly to do with the heat, I'm sure the topic will be just as hot (pun intended) tomorrow.  Suffice it to say that the days are spent watering animal and vegetable, trying to keep everything alive during the current heat wave.  I've got to get down to the sauna, otherwise known as the barn, and get those chores done and there's no time to write more.

Note to self:  double check before hitting delete.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Left Turn, Left Turn

All I need is a fancy helmet, a snazzy jumpsuit, and a sponsor.  I could be a race car driver!  Reaching speeds approaching an astonishing 0.5 mph in fourth gear (yeah, in my dreams), I roared around two yards late yesterday afternoon.  The lawn tractor cum mower has a right-hand throw, so it is best to make left turns only in order to avoid blowing clippings into as yet unmowed territory.  Just like Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer, I'm getting my start on a dirt track.  (I'll admit I'm not ready for the Nationwide or Sprint Cup races yet.)  In summer, the DCG (decomposed granite) soil here turns to fine dust on the surface and concrete two inches down.  Without amendments, it's really good for growing grapes and star thistle.  I've got a bumper crop of star thistle.  The plan was to mow just one yard, but with the dust and chaff blown up by the mower already in my eyes, hair, and coating my skin it seemed prudent to go on and finish both of the remaining areas at the same time.  It doesn't help that the ground squirrels have burrows everywhere and the mower creates thick clouds of dust as we pass over their dirt mounds.  Lap after lap, left turn, left turn.  The finish line in sight.  The checkered flag dropped and I won!  The victory celebration took place with a cold drink on the porch.

Look in your rear-vision mirror, Bowyer.  I'm coming for you!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Early Bird

With the advent of what promises to be a very hot week, it's the early bird that gets something done around here.  The turkey mamas and aunties get their little turklets up and moving at first light.  These are not all the poults that were on their way to breakfast; there are a lot of babies this year.  The flock spends the day in the shade down in the woods.  In the late afternoon, they come back the other way, only steps (turkey steps) away from the porch.  I keep expecting to see them standing on the step at the front door.  They stop to scratch and nap in the herb garden, especially if I've had the sprinkler going.

The days become segmented.  Heavy work has to be done early if it's to be done at all.  Yesterday I got a lot more weeding done in the lavender bed before barn chores.  Today, that will have to wait as mowing the side yard has moved to the top of the list; the star thistle is literally leaping from the ground.  After the goats are done, there is a cool-down period that could last a couple of hours.  The heat is enervating and I have no ambition, let alone capability, to do anything.  Even hanging laundry has to be in the morning as the sun could beat you to your knees later on.  Early evening when the shadows are long is the time for the light stuff, housework, etc.

The sun is just cresting the hills and I've got to get moving.  It's going to be a hot day.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Not Hay

If one should "make hay while the sun shines," what should one do on an overcast day?  Dolly's rain clouds left with a last hurrah yesterday after a good downpour in the morning, followed by some pretty blustery winds.  There was intermittent sunshine in the afternoon, but it was still generally cloudy.  After days of housebound inactivity, Bess and I were more than ready to get outside.  Too wet to mow.  Weeds!  The tall weeds in the lavender bed beckoned and we answered the call.  The damp ground easily released bunch after bunch, roots and all, and the piles grew larger.  Not too hot, not too cold under the grey sky, Bessie and I worked our way around half of the bed before joints started screaming, "Enough!"  Most of the lavender plants are visible now, loaded with fragrant blossoms.  That alone is incentive to finish the job.  Maybe today, maybe not.  Depends if the sun is shining.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

More Than I Asked For

The misty rain of the morning yesterday was lovely, but not terribly effective for anything more than making my hair kink up like a Brillo pad.  I politely asked Dolly if she could please provide enough rain to at least wash the windshield on the truck.  The goats were going to be unhappy anyway, and she might as well use her powers for the greater good.  After all, if a little is good, more is better (although there is also the problem of too much of a good thing).  Waving goodbye, she promised to try.

It rained all day, a gentle, soaking rain that settled the dust, washed the trees, watered the plants, and cleaned my windshield well.  In fact, it is still raining this morning.  I'm saying that woman has the power!

It was a great day to stay in the house, kick back and do a bit of nothing.  Camille and Honey stopped by in the afternoon.  Camille had rescued a tiny kitten from somewhere and needed some goat milk for the waif until Animal Rescue (not the wildlife variety) could accept it today.  As I've said before, goat milk is like Type O blood, a universal donor that almost any mammal infant can tolerate.  (With the proviso that human babies should not be given raw milk of any type.)

Camille said Honey got all excited when the truck turned up the road and she knew they were coming here.  Honey bounded in and went right to the treat box; she knows a good thing.  Honey tries very hard to get her friend Bessie Anne to play games with her, bowing down on elbows in the traditional dog invitation to play or bumping Bess with her hips.  Honey is at least six years younger with a lot more energy and Bess often declines.  Honey will then flop down with a huge, lip-fluttering sigh and declare Bessie a dud as a playmate.  Yesterday was an exception and the two dogs raced in circles through the house, playing hide-and-seek and tag until both were exhausted and Camille and I were roaring with laughter.

Great visits with both of my friends and rain, to boot.  What more could one ask for?

Monday, June 24, 2013


Dolly, the Amazing Rain Lady, has done it again.  She managed to create a small rain delay during the NASCAR race at Sonoma yesterday and the deck is wet this morning and  a misty rain is falling.  I'd be hard-pressed to complain; the temperatures have been most pleasant, almost cool.

A Wildlife Rescue lady, Linda, phoned last evening with a report on Doug.  I had not called to ask; if he didn't make it, I didn't want to know.  Wendy had passed Doug on to Linda, who seems to be the primary care-giver in our area for orphaned or abandoned baby squirrels.  She now has six, so Doug has plenty of playmates.  Linda says Doug is doing well, but will probably always be the runt.  That may be the reason he was left behind.  I have noted that Tony and his crew of ground squirrels share some character traits with cats.  They dig a hole and then bury their bathroom business and they mark territory with scent glands under their chin.  It seems that squirrels, like kittens, are born with eyes closed and are unable to see well for nearly a month.  (I'd been worried about the little guy's half-open eyes.)  It was nice to get the update on Doug.

One chore I will not have to do today is watering plants.  Thank you, Dolly!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Like A Top

Other than milking in the morning and putting the animals to bed at night, I'm not held to any particular schedule anymore.  I eat when I'm hungry and sleep when I'm tired.  This comes after a lifetime of regimented days as a parent and in the work force.  When I no longer had those responsibilities, it was a little disorienting to realize the clock was no longer dictating my actions.  With that in mind, I still seem to work better with a [self-imposed] deadline and I procrastinate until the last minute, then dash to do what needs to be done in a race with myself.  The day before, I had done absolutely nothing to get ready for Dolly's visit.  Yesterday I watered the tomatoes (which I finally got planted out in the garden), weeded another barrel, did a little more weeding in the lavender bed, changed the bedding in the guest room, dusted and vacuumed the house, fed the chickens and milked the goats, mucked out stalls, washed buckets, and was cleaned up and smiling when Doll drove up at 11.  Whew!

After spinning like a top all morning, I was more than ready for a day of chatter with my friend.  The weather was mild and we spent much time out on the deck, talking and watching the turkey tribes wander past.  The first day of each visit runs well into the night as we laugh and catch up on our news.  I don't know how the phrase "slept like a top" developed, unless, after furiously spinning around, one just falls over and lies still.  I do know I slept like a top last night.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

More Than Three

They say that problems come in threes.  In some situations here, they come en masse, but selectively.  Some years back, every battery in the house went dead in a matter of weeks, including the battery in the truck and lawn tractor and the remote control for the TV.  I was buying batteries in bulk.  Before that, it was light bulbs.  I think I replaced 37 light bulbs, one after another.  I felt doomed to darkness.

Right now I am having a problem with doors.  In damp weather, the living room door to the deck swells and, although it can be opened, it screeches like a banshee.  The coming of summer solved that.  Both sheds have storm doors to protect the inner doors from the elements.  This seemed to anger the elements because during a particularly bad wind, one storm door was pulled open and then ripped from its hinges.  Fortunately, the glass did not break.  That door is now awaiting attention inside the shed, and the other door will just have to fend for itself.  I'd been having trouble with the screen door from the bedroom to the deck; it was getting harder and harder to close.  The bedroom door is so convenient when I'm here at my desk because it's only a step away when the cats want in and out.  They want in and out a lot.  Last week the screen door fell apart, pieces clanging to the deck.  Does this happen to everyone?  I was able to get it together enough to pull it shut and lock it tight.  Now cats and I have to go through the laundry room door.  The drop-down door to the Silkies' Taj is falling off.  It makes a little ramp for those kids to go in and out, but now they could fall through the crack when it's open.  The most recent failure was when I was leaving to take Doug to the rescue lady.  Honestly, I could hardly believe that the handle to the passenger door was falling off.  That couldn't be happening, but it was.  I could see where a hex-head screw had fallen out but, since it was gone, had no idea what size was required.  The nice man at the auto parts store had no idea, either.  His catalog did not even list a replacement piece.  Evidently this is not a common problem.  When I asked for a Plan B, he was kind enough to come out and take a look and actually found a screw that fit and fixed the door.  He felt heroic and I felt gratitude.  Pete already fixed the door to the milking room.  This house has nine doors, not counting screen doors.  The truck has three doors.  Between the sheds and the barn and feed room there are seven doors (counting the one already fallen).  I'm not holding my breath.

One door I will have no trouble opening today is the front door when Dolly arrives.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Under the Big Top

 "La-a-a-dies and gentlemen!  Please direct your attention to the center ring, where you will see the astounding and death-defying aerial acrobatics of Mighty Mouse!  Note that there is no safety net and it is a long way down.  Bandmaster, drum roll, please."

P. T. Barnum has nothing on me.  I have my very own circus, and the acts change daily.  What in the world possessed this mouse to do what he was doing, which was repetitively going up and down the rope I use to bring Sheila into the milking room.  Mice obviously do not suffer from acrophobia, as he had to be up on the high girder to get to the rope in the first place.  I have replaced my flapping clown shoes (two pairs of new shoes in one year, woohoo!), so I have assumed the role of ringmaster of this Big Top I call home.

The herb garden has become a day-care center for turkeys.  There can be from six to twenty adults and babies hanging out among the thyme and marjoram at any time of day, not bothered in the least by our comings and goings.  It can get a little noisy when the turklets are rambunctious before nap time.

Dolly is arriving tomorrow for three days.  Rain is predicted for Monday.  Of course it is; Dolly is coming.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

What's In A Name?

Driving down to the big road on my way to get feed yesterday, Camille was coming home and we stopped to talk.  (We do that up here.)  Honey crawled over the back seat to get into Camille's lap so she, too, could say hi.  Honey is a big dog and Camille drives a small truck; it was a tight squeeze.  Camille said, "Okay, you can say hello to your Auntie."

Later, while watering deck plants in the cool of the early evening, my mind went off on one of its excursions and ended up on "Auntie."  My mother was very particular about what she would be called.  When I was a little kid, two small cousins were staying with us and the little boy asked Aunt Esther if he could do something or other.  "Honey, don't call me Aunt Esther," wanting him to only use her first name.  He thought for a minute.  "Uncle Esther?"  That was back in the day when children were taught to call all adults Mr. So-and-so or Mrs. So-and-so as a sign of respect.  My own children called one neighbor simply Mister.  Neither my sister nor I ever called our parent anything other than Mother, never Mama or Mom; that was unthinkable.  Her grandchildren were taught to use Grandmother and nothing else, no diminutives like Grannie or Nana, and certainly not Grandma or the even more dreaded Grandmaw!  The little ones had difficulty and it usually came out as "Granmuzzer."

That train of thought pulled into the station, and so I am now Honey's Auntie.  It could be worse.  She might call me Uncle.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Diamond Dust

In a text message yesterday, Deb told me to go out and look at the sun.  (Did she want me to go blind?)  I did as I was bidden and was stunned to see the rainbow halo and promptly started spreading the word to others.  Doing a little research, I found these phenomena are called Sun Dogs or Diamond Dust, formed by light refracted by ice crystals in the air.
Going out time after time to see this beauty, I noted that there were actually two rings, the lower one very faint but even more colorful.

Coming back to the house in the morning, accompanied by Bessie and Frank, suddenly there was a lot of movement in the herb garden.  The mamas and aunties had brought all the baby turklets to rest in the shade and browse.  There's something not quite right about preseasoning a turkey with thyme, marjoram, and rosemary before they are defeathered and ready for the oven.  Even with the dog and cat there, the turkeys are now so comfortable that they just moved over and didn't leave.  It probably helped that Bess and Frank ignored them.

In an old song, John Denver sang, "Some days are diamonds; some days are stone."  Yesterday was a diamond dust day.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Doug's Big Adventure

I breathed a big sigh of relief yesterday when I did not find the baby squirrel where I'd left him, and went on with the business of the day.  Making the last trip around the corner to fill the feed bucket, oh crum, there he was in the doorway to the stalls, weak and struggling.  What to do, what to do?  The only thing I could think of at the moment to revive him was to dip out still-foaming, warm goat milk in my hand.  (I later threw out that bucketful.)  With a little encouragement, he began to lap at it and his movements became a bit stronger.  I still had to finish up in the barn and get back to the house, so I stuffed him in a bib pocket, one with a snap closure, for a ride-along.

In the medical supplies kept for the goats there were syringes.  I filled one with warm milk and sat down with Doug (by this time I knew his name was Doug) for his breakfast.  With tiny paws on the "bottle," Doug lapped up a little more, gaining strength.  He'd become cold and dehydrated during his night alone.  I heated a beanbag and put Doug, wrapped in clean wool from Poppy, on top.  He snuggled down and closed his eyes for a nap.  With cats in the house and my inexperience with wild babies, it would not have been right to try to raise him by myself.  I called Sierra Wildlife Rescue.  This is a nonprofit, all-volunteer group and they could not have been nicer.  With no hesitation, they agreed to take Doug, saying they'd just received three other baby squirrels and he would fit right in.  I was very happy to be assured that, so far, I'd done all the right things for this little guy.  With distance being a factor, Wendy and I agreed to meet up at the market for the transfer.  I packed up Doug and he went for a trip in the truck.  Boy, will he have stories to tell!  It was with some reluctance that I said goodbye, but it was for the best, Doug's best. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Send In the Clowns

Some days have a natural theme song and yesterday it was definitely "Send In the Clowns."  Oh, wait.  That was me.  Flappity whappity, what the heck?!  The sole on one of my new (okay, almost new) shoes had come loose almost back to the heel.  Ka-whap, ka-whap; all that was needed was the sound of a calliope in the background for my clown act.

Looking out while milking, I saw two deer walking on the driveway just outside the goat pen.  The goats lifted their heads and the deer stopped.  For a long minute, the does of two similar species stood and looked at each other as if looking in a mirror, and then the deer moved on.

When the deck was in afternoon shade,  I took Bessie Anne out and began giving her a puppy cut with the clippers, shearing off a big pile of fur.  She seems so much more comfortable.  Bess needs a little more touch-up work before I'll take her close-up photo, but she's so darned cute.

Putting the girls to bed last evening, I heard a very different sound, a kind of chittering, coming from the walkway by Ruthie's stall.  Tucking all the goats in, I went in the near dark to investigate and found this tiny squirrel, smaller than a sparrow and smaller than the palm of my hand.  It wasn't moving much, but was certainly vocal.  Even little squirrels can bite, so I gently picked it up by the tail and moved it out where the light was better to get a good look.  I don't know why this baby was out on its own all alone.  Perhaps the mama was moving it to new quarters and got scared off when the goats came in.  In hopes that this was the case and that she would come for it, I carefully put it back close to where I'd found it, but by a bag of wool so it would stay warm.  I know that sometimes a wild mother will recognize some deformity in her young and oust it.  I hope it's not there when I go down to the barn this morning.  I'd like to think it is back in the company of its family.

Between my silly shoe and the animal acts, I'm not sure if I'm running a farm or a circus.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Please Be Seated

After giving me a dose of attitude the other morning, Tony took a day off and I saw neither hide nor hair of him.  Yesterday he was back and no amount of squirted milk was going to deter him from the breakfast bar.  The crew was not necessarily patient, but they did wait for brunch to be set out.  I've noted that squirrels have a unique way of holding their place in line.  I can't imagine how they do it, but I will find one drop of pee or just one "pellet" in the bowl, left like a calling card.  As for Tony, the mice have decided that if they are to eat at all, they've got to stand their ground.  At times, the two species are munching nose to nose.  I've tried to explain to Tony that, yes, it is an all-you-can-eat buffet, but taking food home is discouraged.  Still he packs his cheeks with meals to go.

No other motorcycle has that deep, throaty rumble that identifies a Harley.  I could hear Dave and his friend, Chainsaw (Jason), coming long before they got to my road.  As they circled the drive, the flock of turkeys resting under the front oak slowly moved off, but gave Chainsaw's girlfriend Brandi, who was riding on the pillion, a sample of the wildlife here.  It's always gratifying to hear the reactions when guests admire the views surrounding Farview.  We spent a pleasant afternoon meal together before they rumbled off again.

Bess is overdue for a summer haircut.  We've dealt with foxtails, the dagger-like seeds from the bracken, and the little Velcro burrs, but there is a new weed this year that is driving us both nutso.  It weaves her fur into a mass that is darned near impossible to brush out.  If she so much as steps off a path, it's there waiting and she comes back a total mess.  Most of last evening was spent trying to make her comfortable.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


The day was going so well.  I'd finished weeding the barrel (ta da!) for tomatoes before barn chores and was feeling pretty good about that.  Back in the house, I'd cleaned up the buckets and was sitting down to plan the rest of the day when Camille and Honey drove up with a surprise invitation to go to lunch.  Without a second thought, I hurriedly spiffed up and off we went to Toscano Winery down in Amador County.  The buildings are Italianesque, with trickling water fountains, roses perfuming the air, and Andrea Bocelli's glorious voice soaring in the background.  Camille and I enjoyed lunch outside and leisurely shared a bottle of wine while Honey enjoyed the attention of passersby.  The weather couldn't have been better.  On the way home, reluctant to end the day, Camille suggested a stop at The Pub.  Sounded good to me!  (I now can highly recommend their Kilt-Lifter beer.)  Getting ready to leave, I discovered an urgent phone message from Craig, my son-in-law; he never does this.  Cell phone service gets spotty in the hills and I couldn't get a signal.  There had been several recent tragedies in my extended family and I hit the panic button, imagining the worst.  Pulling up in my driveway, there was a car in front and as we stopped, I could see a man's silhouette inside my house.  Panic of another sort!  Joel came out and then I was sure something terrible had happened.  It hadn't.  It turned out to be a comedy of errors.

Joel had come over to bring me a gift of sweet cherries and baby carrots and found the truck there and no one answered the door.  Worried that something might have happened to me, he called Deb and Craig, who knew nothing of my plans.  They called Dave, who also was clueless.  Judy was contact central and was passing messages back and forth.  Joel, bless him, had gone all over the place looking for me, including the house.  He explained all this and I, so relieved that my family was safe, burst into tears.  It had never occurred to me to tell anyone other than Bessie Anne that I was leaving.  It is gratifying to know that, should something be wrong here, I've got dear neighbors and family who care.  Joel left, Camille left, and I was left to call the Kids to apologize and let them know all was well.

Until the very end, it had been a most excellent day.

Friday, June 14, 2013

They're Taking Over

I had no more than sat down beside Sheila to milk than Tony showed up.  Anyone who watched "The Sopranos" will know Tony, head of one of the Families.  He went to the mouse food; I squirted him with milk.  He went back to the food; another squirt.  Food, squirt.  Food, squirt.  When he'd had enough of this, he came to the edge of the stand, stood on his hind legs, looked me in the eye and said with a New Jersey accent, "Hey, lady.  What's widchu?  Ya put the food down, I'm gonna eat it!  Quit with the milk business already!"  I think my laughing out loud hurt his feelings and he finally left the room, only to wait with his crew for the squirrel brunch I put out daily after I'd finished the barn chores.  He got the last laugh.

Frank now decides when it's time for me to get up.  He begins with a subtle approach, walking around on the bed talking in that unmistakeable Siamese cat way.  If I don't respond, he comes up to my face and says loudly, "Get up!  It's time to get up, I said!"  By this time I am awake, but choose to keep my eyes shut and try to ignore him.  No dice.  He is on a mission and determined, so begins to stomp up and down my back and legs.  He is not a small cat.  I get up.  Frank lies down and goes back to sleep.  His job is done.

I'm not in charge.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Small Things

Peeping and yeeping just outside the window in the morning caused me to stand and look out beyond the computer.  Eighteen little turklets were making their way up the drive, accompanied by mamas and aunties.  Like BBs on a plate, the little ones scattered here and there, causing their mothers no end of concern, which they voiced loudly.  It was not a quiet morning.

Looking past the Silkie pen, I saw that which I did not expect to see; an apricot on a tree planted years ago that had never borne fruit.  Putting down the feed bucket, I went for a closer look.  It truly was an apricot and even more astounding, it was ripe and the birds had not yet taken a bite!  It was just the one apricot with no hint of others to come, but, oh, the taste was heavenly, sweet and jammy.

The mice wait in their corner in the milking room for the grain thrown down for their breakfast.  The squirrels know they will get brunch after I finish with the goats and generally wait in the big room.  However, one brazen, impatient squirrel comes through the door, looking right in my eyes as he creepy-creeps over and pushes the mice out of the way to stuff his cheeks full of their food.  As punishment for his impudence, I've started squirting him with milk (I've got pretty good aim with those nozzles).  He's another one who has trouble with cause-and-effect and we go through the procedure several times before he gets the idea.  By then he's coated with milk.  I wonder how he explains that to the others.

Small things, yes, but they made for a good day.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Hot Tamales

"Hot tamales!  Get 'em here!"  I was a kid on a train trip when we pulled in to San Antonio, Texas.  I can hear the vendor's voices hawking their wares at the station.  As an adult with children of my own, we were camping on the sand at San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico.  Each evening a little boy came through the campground selling his mother's tamales from an enameled bucket.  I've got a long history with tamales.

Camille, Debbie K. and I got started a little late, but once we got rolling, it was Katy-bar-the-door!  Honey, ever hopeful, positioned herself so that she could clean up any mistakes while I shredded the pork.  I had three different recipes, so we were using bits from each and creating a fourth.  Debbie K. took on the masa and we ended up using all ten pounds of masa harina, with the liquid from the pork and from the boiled chiles for flavor.  Debbie had made tamales before, but it was a new experience for Camille.  It wasn't long until they were turning out packets like pros.  I was chief cook and bottle washer.  Lots of chatter and giggles and a slurp of beer now and then, and the tamales started piling up.  I didn't actually count how many, but I cooked five big soup pots loaded with dozens of tamales each.  We had time to sample the first batch of the pork while others steamed.  The ladies were mighty pleased.  Then it was back to work; we had yet to make the jack cheese and jalapeno pepper variety.  There was time for a much-needed break while they cooked.   Served with a fresh tomatillo salsa on top, they were really good, too.  As the sun started dropping, I packed to-go bags (sorry, Honey, no doggy bags) for Debbie and Camille.  We all agreed it was a worthwhile endeavor and a very good day.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Better Still

It was just a few days ago that I was sweltering and drained of all ambition.  Yesterday I needed a work shirt over the tank top most of the day, it was that cool.  Instead of taking advantage of the weather to pull weeds, I used the opportunity to sit on the deck and read and I make no apologies.  Those times will be few and far between as the season locks in and temperatures climb.  It was a good day to make plans.

Back in the early '80s, I was struck with the urge to try my hand at making tamales.  I was introduced to an older Latina woman who could give me a recipe and pointers.  When asked help, she said, "Oh, honey, I quit making them years ago; they're too much work.  I buy mine now."  She did give me a recipe that I wrote down, starting with eight pounds of meat and ten pounds of masa!  The Kids were all home then and they were recruited (i.e., drafted) into a production line.  The woman was right; they are a lot of work, but the end result is so good.

Tamales are not something I would ever want to make alone.  They are a community project.  Since the Kids are no longer here, I have enlisted Camille and Debbie K.  Heh heh, they don't know what they're in for.  I did a lot of the prep work yesterday:  putting a pork butt in the crock pot overnight, boiling, seeding and blending the dried chiles for the sauce, soaking the corn husks, cleaning the tomatillos.  In addition to the pork tamales, we'll also make some with cheese and green chiles.

That's the Plan For the Day.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Much Better

When I say I need to do some weeding, I'm not talking about pulling a few sprouts here and there.  I mean capital-W weeding!  To give this a bit of perspective, this barrel is over five feet across and the weeds are at least two feet tall.  Until TG used the weed eater on the paths, the barrels were nearly hidden.  I couldn't get this barrel cleared before barn time, but it was a start.
The birds are sitting around waiting for these grapes to ripen.  These are the Thompson seedless, and the Red Globe vine is just as laden.  A few more barrels with their bumper crop of weeds are in the background.  Call it job security.

Thankfully, the temperature stayed in the 80s yesterday and there was so much to do outside.  After watching the race at Pocono, I jumped on the tractor and got the front yard and a bit of the side yard mowed in the afternoon.  It's not nearly as pleasant to mow when the dirt has turned to dust and the weeds (laughingly called my lawn) are dry.  The breeze blows the chaff into my hair and eyes and down my neck, but it's got to be done before the star thistle sets its blooms and painful seeds.  Did I say job security?
Going out toward dusk to fill the hummers' feeders again, I saw this beautiful young buck grazing in the triangle going down to the woods.  Some time back, there was an unusually light-colored doe I named Tawny.  She returned for several years with her fawns, and this has to be one of her lineage.  Others in the herd are the more normal darker color.
This fine boy's antlers are just starting to sprout, covered in "velvet."  This is a black-tail deer, a subspecies of mule deer.  Not hard to see how they got that name.  The presence of Bess and me on the deck bothered him not at all.  Digital cameras are so great.  I took a lot of shots of him posing this way and that.  Bess takes deer in her stride; they still take my breath away.

The day was cooler and it was easier to sleep last night.  Until I had the dream where I was given $800,000.  I was so excited I woke myself up trying to decide where I was going to sink a new well!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

More Of the Same

Five o'clock a.m.  Sixty-eight degrees outside.  Eighty degrees in the house this morning.  I find it more than irritating when the weather forecasters get so excited as they talk about "breaking records."  I have no interest in breaking 100 degrees at any time.  It was 110 at my daughter's house yesterday.  Since I had no intention of going out to pull weeds from the garden barrels, I watered deck plants and herb garden instead.  Turkeys lay in patches of shade with wings outspread, looking very much like open umbrellas set down in the yard.  As soon as I turned off the sprinkler, Frank found a cool spot in the tall, still-dripping marjoram to nap.  When a cat chooses wet, you know it's hot.  Bessie Anne went out several times to her pool, coming in to lie on the stone hearth.  It is important to stay hydrated in this heat.  I prefer my water flavored with barley and hops, or in the form of ice cubes marinated in bourbon.  The hummers went through more than two quarts of "juice" yesterday.

Palace Malice came from far back in the pack to win the third leg of the Triple Crown at Belmont.  Veteran jockey Mike Smith held him in until the last turn and then came thundering past Orb and Oxbow who had set the pace and were exhausted from the mile-and-a-half run.  I do love horse racing.

"They" say it's supposed to be cooler today.  We'll see.

Saturday, June 8, 2013


Yeesh!  I wonder for whom the "living is easy" in summertime.  I know it isn't me.  The thermometer is on an outside wall that is never in direct sunshine and it pegged at one-hundred yesterday and stayed there until after dusk.  Bessie Anne remembered the routine from last year.  "Bess, want to go in your pool?," and she runs to the right door.  At the pool, she carefully steps over the side and wades around, waiting for me to pour water over her shoulders.  Getting out, she barely shakes off, preferring to drip dry.  The summer influx of ants and earwigs has begun; they come in looking for shade and water.  It's an annual battle.  Squirrels in the barn ignore me and flatten themselves in the dirt, trying to keep cool, and the chickens take a dozen dust baths a day.

Tree Guy came over midday to weed-eat the garden.  Just going outside to show him where the equipment was darned near brought me to my knees.  The sun was like a physical force beating down.  He was done in a half-hour and I don't know how he lasted that long.  I did notice while I was out there that the grape vines (Red Globe and Thompson seedless) are loaded with fruit, more than ever before.  Now that the paths are cleared, I'll have to weed the barrels and hope it's not too late to plant something.  That will have to wait until I can soak the soil enough to pull those weeds, and that won't happen in full daylight.

The summer solstice is not until June 21.  That's what it says on paper.  The thermometer tells me that summer is here now.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Road Trip

Too hot to do much of anything else yesterday, I took a little trip down memory lane.  I went by car.  My dad taught me to drive in what must have been a 1952 two-door Chevy.  He always drove a Chevrolet and Mother always had a late-model Buick.  I was probably fourteen.  Kids in my area practiced their new driving skills in the huge parking lot at Santa Anita Racetrack during the off season.  Daddy was not known as a patient man, but he stuck with it as I learned the "H" pattern of the gearshift on the steering column and coordination of clutch, brake, and gas.  Starting and stopping and parallel parking over and over again.  (I don't know why I needed parallel parking as our little town still had diagonal parking on the main street then.)  As long ago as that was, even now I can hear the terror in his voice, "You're turning too fast!  Slow down!  You're going to turn the car over!"  There was one lesson I learned by example only.  If I heard it once, I heard a hundred times how my sister, learning to drive, had driven over a glass bottle and blew a tire back in the day when tires were thin and motorists carried patches to fix them.  I guess she got what-for that wouldn't quit.  To this day, I do not drive over anything in the road.

Daddy taught me the mechanics and safety of driving.  Mother taught me the fun.  It sounds perfectly crazy now, but with a long stretch ahead coming down a mountain or hillside, she'd turn off the engine and we'd see how far we could coast.  Speed limits were never an issue for her; she ignored them.  Much, much later, she would pile my sister's kids in her Volkswagen Bug, put the car in reverse and go backwards in tight circles until those kids were howling with laughter.  Some of Mother's lessons were of the what-not-to-do type.  However, before I got my license she and I took a road trip to Canada and I drove almost all the way.  It was hands-on experience in all types of terrain that has stood me in good stead all these years.  Knock on wood, my driving record is clean. 

Back at Farview after that mental excursion, I dragged Bessie's wading pool out of the barn, set it up on the deck and filled it for her.  We're due for triple-digit weather this weekend and she'll need it.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


Allie (Ali, Ally? drat, I should have asked) and Tess were my enthusiastic WWOOFers yesterday.  By now I have a pretty set routine and standard patter for getting the morning started when WWOOFers arrive.  We become acquainted in the kitchen while beginning the cheese-making process; the curd sets while we tend to the goats.  These young women attend Scripps College in SoCal, both with Poli Sci majors (maybe there's hope for our future).  They decided that WWOOFing during summer break would be a learning adventure; Allie will be going on to another farm after her sojourn at Tim's goat ranch and Tess will go home to be with family.

Down in the barn, my girls cooperated nicely and both Tess and Allie did well at the milking process.  The mice appeared on cue while the ground squirrels waited in the wings.  Having spent a week working with the meat goats, it was interesting to the ladies to see the difference with dairy goats and between large and small herds.  Buckets full, we headed back to the house for the next step in making chevre.  The cheddar cheese bread had just finished baking and the kitchen had that wonderful aroma.  Warming the whey and stirring the curd is a hands-on experience.  It's easier to feel how the curd changes than to explain it.  Leaving the cheese to hang and drain, icy cold white gaspacho was a refreshing lunch on a rapidly heating day.

Making cheese is not difficult, but it is time consuming.  Allie and Tess were up for another lesson so I brought out the wool and drop spindles and they spun yarn while we talked of many things (of cabbages and kings, as it were).  Each WWOOFer brings a new perspective and they are not the only ones who learn throughout their day with me.  It certainly broadens my experience to spend time with diverse, happy people.  As we later took a stroll around the deck, the turkey mama paraded her brood in the back yard but, sadly, there were only five following her this time.

The women tried a sample of the finished product of their day's effort and pronounced it delicious.  They wrote down recipes and techniques.  As all good things must, our time together came to an end.  I so enjoyed their company.

It was a good day.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Sign Of the Times

The best indicator of our changeable weather of late is the clothesline with the week's array of tank tops, T-shirts, and turtleneck, with a work shirt thrown in for good measure.  (Yes, that is one of my Clint Bowyer T-shirts, worn on race day.)  The laundry went on the line just after daybreak; it's in direct sun the rest of the day.

Watering deck plants is now a daily chore before going to the barn.   It's a pleasant enough task in the early morning light.  Yesterday, the turkey mama brought her little choo-choo train of turklets (poults) through the back yard, hurrying them into the underbrush when she realized I was watching.  The other day a huge jackrabbit went bounding by.  One never knows what or who will show up.

My temper had cooled enough that I was able to call Joe, the Tractor Repair Guy, in the afternoon about the now unreliable lawn tractor.  I had turned my back on it and didn't want to face that problem last week.  He was going to be in the area after he closed his shop yesterday and was going to come over to put in the shutoff valve on the gas line anyway.  It seems the latest problem might have been vapor lock from a plugged gas tank cap, an easy (free) fix.  After he left, there was plenty of daylight left and it seemed prudent to finish mowing down the west field.  The darned star thistle was rearing its ugly head again.  The foxtails are bad enough; star thistle is worse.

The WWOOFers are due this morning and there are things to do before they arrive.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

En Garde!

"You look funny."  "Yeah?  Well, you look funnier!"  "Aw, your mother wears combat boots and she dresses you funny."

Driving past the corner on my way to town, I paused to watch Shadow and Cricket, both decked out in fly masks, a necessity up here and common to see on horses.  The masks look very much like the face guards worn by fencing duelists.  The two donkeys had been grazing together, but then the verbal abuse started.  I think the "combat boots" comment was the deciding factor and the fight was on.  Ears back and teeth bared, they swung their heads and battered each other.  Like a chihuahua taking on a Great Dane, Shadow has no concept of his size.  Camille had brought Cricket to be a buddy for Shadow, thinking as we humans do that Shadow was lonely.  Shadow would prefer to be an only child.  He doesn't like to play nice.

I certainly don't blame Trash Guy for wanting to beat the heat, but he comes earlier and earlier as summer approaches.  I've got to get the barrel down to the big road today; I missed him last week.

Monday, June 3, 2013


The next set of WWOOFers is coming on Wednesday, two female college students from SoCal.  I can only hope it won't be as hot then as it was yesterday.  The barn was an oven in the morning even after I'd taken the covers off the window openings, trying to catch whatever breeze might blow through.  How I wish the mulberry trees had been planted last fall.  The nursery told me that they won't be ready (how does a tree get "ready"?) until July or August.  A little shade would be nice now.  It is what it is, however, and the girls will get a taste of the reality of farm life.  I'm thinking a cold white gazpacho and fresh bread might go well for lunch.

Poor Shadow.  He got a foxtail in his eye and Camille had to have the vet come to take it out and treat the scratched cornea.  Poor Camille.  An emergency visit on a Sunday means a hefty bill.

The darned bluejays have discovered the strawberries and beat me to the ripest ones.  I can imagine what they'll do to the plums.  Oh well, there will certainly be enough to share this year.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

It's A Secret

Shh.  I don't want Joel to know I baked a pie last night.  I owe him a pie, but this wasn't one he would want anyway as he is not a big fan of vegetables.  Years back, my friend Linda gave me a recipe for Russian Cabbage Pie that I tried and thought was wonderful.  Somewhere along the line, the recipe went missing.  That pie came into my mind recently and stuck there until it became almost an obsession.  I wanted that pie!   Bless her heart, Linda sent it again.

Yesterday was a very hot day, too hot to do much of anything, and cooking was a low priority in an overheated kitchen.  Bess and I went to the feed store in the late afternoon.  Camille waved from her patio as we passed by on the way home so I knew her chores were done.  I was still having visions of that pie.  Oh, what the heck, I needed to put this thing to rest and I couldn't make the kitchen any hotter.  Camille accepted an invitation to an impromptu dinner and I went to work.  Most of the prep was done by the time she and Honey came up and we talked while the pie went into the oven and the sun went over the yardarm.  Memory had served me well and that pie was everything I'd hoped for:  savory with a variety of herbs, rich with hard-boiled eggs and cream cheese, flavorful with cabbage and onions, and a golden flaky crust.  Camille and I pigged out on pie while Honey dragged toys out of the basket.  That recipe is going into a safe place for the next time the urge strikes again.

Don't tell Joel about this.  I still owe him a pie.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Critter Day

A mouse came and sat in the shadows as I milked.  It didn't move when the goats were switched out, so I picked it up and took a closer look.  Aw, the poor creature had died right there.  Then, in my hand, one eye squinted slightly in the sunlight.  I wasn't about to give mouth-to-muzzle, but did begin one-finger chest compressions and soon its little legs started twitching.  I was hopeful, but had a goat on the stand and had to leave the tiny one on its own.  It didn't make it, but I tried.

It was the day for Bessie Anne's yearly well-baby checkup, physical, and immunizations.  Turning out of the driveway on our way to town, a turkey hen stood in the middle of the dirt road.  As usual, I'd cut the timing pretty close and was a bit irritated at this feathered roadblock.  At a full stop, Bess and I waited for her to move.  Suddenly out of the underbrush came a baby turkey (turklet?), followed by five more.  When the crossing guard had all six chicks safely on the other side, she gave us a last glance and followed them.

Going to the doctor is not Bessie's favorite thing to do.  The first thing she does once inside is head under a chair, trying to keep as low a profile as possible.  Dr. Ric and his techs are very kind, but she knows she's not there to make friends.  Bess got her shots and a pedicure and a clean bill of health.  However, Dr. Ric noted that she had put on a few pounds over the winter; he even used the offensive "O" word (obese), followed by the dreaded "D" word (diet).  On the way home, I told Bess I'd give her a summer haircut and that should drop a pound or two right off the bat.

I mentioned to Dr. Ric about the morning's episode of giving CPR to a mouse.  He told me he'd done the same thing with a squirrel, going so far as to try to breathe life back to the tiny thing.  No wonder he's my favorite vet.

Bess had been such a good girl that she got a treat when we got home.  The "T" word (tomorrow) is soon enough to start a "D."