Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Bunny Trail

Cottontail rabbits used to abound here.  They would congregate in the orchard for morning meetings and use the driveway as a freeway from here to there, always busy and going somewhere.  Occasionally there were also the big jackrabbits.  I haven't seen a cottontail in years, but lately, in early evening as I water the deck plants, I've seen more and more jackrabbits under the old fruit trees in the front orchard.  Large rabbits with long, long ears, they are perfectly camouflaged in the tall weeds.  After some unsuccessful, exhausting forays, Bessie Anne has learned it's not worth her effort to chase them, and so we watch them together.

Back in the 1980s, I was reading The Stand by Stephen King, in which he referenced another book, Watership Down.  I couldn't think that one author was actually touting another so felt it was part of King's fiction.  Rarely can I pass a book store without popping in, and one day there it was:  Watership Down by Richard Adams.  While all the characters are rabbits, it is not a children's story.  It is full of good and evil, romance and tragedy, deceit and triumph.  Just as Trekkies know the Klingon language, Adams put in a glossary of lapine language.  "Tharn" (frightened into immobility) and "Hrududu" (any motor vehicle) have become part of my own vocabulary.  If I could only hear the the rabbits, I know I could interpret what they are saying.

I realize that rabbits can be pests but, as with the other wildlife that visit or live on the farm, I do enjoy their company.  That said, I am glad the garden (such as it is) is fully fenced.  I wonder where the cottontails went.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Not Just Another Day

The day did not begin auspiciously.  "Hey, mister, you're scaring my goats!"  It was hot, I was hurrying, and had one last goat to milk.  Of course, it was Inga.  Inga was ambling her way to the barn when the herd turned toward the fence line and gave a few snorts.  It was Joel, walking the water line in his vineyard (which, by the way, is growing like gangbusters).  We exchanged a few pleasantries and I went back to coaxing Inga into the barn.  She was being a total butthead, coming to the door, getting as far as putting her nose in, and then backing away.  Almost at the point of walking off and leaving her to swell up and suffer, I gave it one last shot and she came in.  I made it back to the house just before Deb and Craig drove up.
 They came loaded with goodies from their garden:  tomatoes, basil, onions, an eggplant, and fresh buffalo mozzarella.  The aroma from the platter Deb prepared was enough to make the angels weep.  (Did I mention she does a beautiful presentation?)  Sighs of satisfaction were the only sounds at the lunch table.  It was a perfect summertime meal.

I am, once again, being dragged into the 21st century, this time with Craig's help.  I have a full cabinet of VHS tapes.  Thinking to play one a few weeks ago, I was more than distressed when the VHS player swallowed the tape and wouldn't give it back.  It happened to be a video of my wedding to Steve and was absolutely irreplaceable.  Imagine my excitement when I found I could buy a machine that would dub VHS onto DVD (new-age alphabet soup).  I had gotten so far as opening the box and looking at the installation manual, but it might as well have been written in a foreign language.  Craig to the rescue!  In what seemed like no time at all, he had the new machine in place and working and had retrieved the precious tape from the jaws of the old one with little to no damage.  Together, we watched the dear faces of many who are no longer with us and remembered a happy day.  Deb had been my beautiful Maid of Honor, and it was all four of my Kids who answered, "We do," when asked who was giving this woman away.  The conversion to DVD was successful, but just to make sure, we did another of home movies of several of long-ago camping trips and a bang-up birthday party.  Ain't technology grand?  Craig is my hero.

Time with my Kids is special, a memorable meal together, a dance at my wasn't just another day.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Win Some, Lose Some

I did a little happy dance of triumph in the barn the other day.  After another major skirmish with the ground squirrels, I finally convinced them that their latest choice of a burrow was not to my liking.  It took a couple of weeks of them digging and me filling in the hole in the corner where the girls stand to look out.  I did not delude myself that I'd won the war; a good thing, as they almost immediately opened a new tunnel under the grain barrel in the little stall on the other side of the barn.  As this hole doesn't put the girls' legs in danger, I may let it stay in hopes that a small victory will keep them from expanding their territory.

I am less successful in the battle with ants.  I deal with the scouts on a daily basis, trying to stave off a full-scale invasion, but once in awhile I look down to find an army on the march, usually toward Bessie's food bowl.  They also go to the water dish.  I'd feel sorry for them if they weren't such pests.  I am severely outnumbered, but know this particular war will end when summer is over.

I can really get into this barter system.  A friend brought me cantaloupes and honeydews, more than I can use right away.  Camille had gone down to Slough House (everyone in the area knows Slough House produce) and offered some sweetcorn she'd bought.  I traded a melon for a couple of ears of corn, the first I've had this summer.  Works for me!

The house is finally put back together after a week or so of disarray, and just in time.  Deb and Craig are coming up today.  They're bringing the fruits of their labor from their garden, including eggplant.  (Aubergine sounds so much more classy.)  It's a sign of Deb's devotion that she will cook eggplant for Craig.  He and I are fans of eggplant; she is not.  I grew up with eggplant on what were then meatless Fridays.  I have enough recipes for eggplant to write a cookbook on them alone as I tried without success to get my Kids to eat eggplant when they were younger.  Not one of the four can or will eat eggplant to this day.  Evidently the liking for that vegetable is not hereditary.  Ah well, win some, lose some.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Foodie Isn't A Bad Word

Mother was not a memorable cook.  Other than baking spices, I can recall that she had only chili powder and bay leaves in the cupboard, and used onion and garlic sparingly.  Married at 18, I couldn't boil water.  One of my new sisters-in-law, Dorothy, gave us a wonderful wedding gift.  She took me to the spice aisle in the grocery store.  As she pulled herbs and spices I'd never heard of from the shelves, she explained their taste and use.  Indian, Chinese, Mexican, Italian; the cart began to fill.  It was a great crash course in cookery.

Those were the days of "waste not, want not," and with all those little jars and bottles with exotic names and scents, I searched for ways to put them to use.  Jim, the Kids' dad, liked to eat, and would bring home recipes to try.  I made some real clinkers along the way, but slowly gained success.  My own sister was an accomplished cook and shared her expertise.  "What does it mean to 'knead the dough until silky?'"  My first attempt at baking bread involved many phone calls and must have driven her nuts.

One thing I never had time for was elegant presentation.  Four children in less than five years required that I cook a lot and get it on the table.  Over time I gained confidence and learned to love cooking.  With little money to spare, a good meal was one gift I could give my family.  As I was always trying something new, the Kids developed educated palates and a taste for eclectic foods.  While they might still call home for what they call "Dial-A-Chef," each has surpassed me as good cooks.  Deb could put Martha Stewart to shame with her attention to detail and Dave can cook Mexican food that would make Aaron Sanchez drool.  Pete sends me his recipes and Larry has cooked in fine restaurants.

Cooking for Steve was a challenge.  Garlic was okay, but onions were out.  Spicy, not s'much.  Fried meat, fried potatoes, and white gravy was gourmet dining.  His idea of a green vegetable was spinach noodles.  We both learned to accommodate to a degree.  As I said, a challenge.

Someone recently called me a foodie, and I guess I am.  Too hot to do much else lately, I've been watching and clearing programs I'd DVRd and realize that most of them are cooking shows, the ones from which I can learn something.  I still love to cook.  Mother would be so proud.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Home Stretch

At some point in time, this project from hell will come to an end.  Finally all those windows and the lace curtains are washed.  (They looked so pretty dancing on the line.)  Camille came last evening to help put up the two longest rods.  I'm not vertically challenged, but do need to get up on the step stool to reach the fixtures.  Camille is taller and just popped that end in.  Harrumph!  She had to go back to her place for a forgotten item and left Honey with us.  Honey suffers from separation anxiety and was frantic when she realized Camille was taking off on the quad without her.  Bessie Anne did what she could to reassure Honey, lying by her side when Honey quit running from door to door.  That dog was a picture of true happiness when Camille rode up again.

Brown, brown, brown.  The only green left is that of the danged star thistle.  No wonder the dust lies thick everywhere.  What I wouldn't give for a patch of lawn to rest my eyes.

Friday, July 26, 2013

No Hope

There is no light at the end of my tunnel.  While successfully avoiding washing the last windows, slipcovers I'd ordered arrived yesterday.  Heat notwithstanding, I was anxious to see how they'd look on two recliners and a loveseat and once again I was pulled into the vortex.  Moving furniture to fit the covers meant vacuuming underneath.  Couldn't just sweep patches, so did that job too.  That highlighted the dust.  Okay, fine.  As an impetus to getting those windows finished and the curtains back up, I invited Camille to dinner tonight.  Nothing like company coming to spur me on.  There must be an end to this madness.  Soon.

Note to self:  Do not put the laundry basket down on an anthill while taking clothes off the line and then carry it back on my hip.  Ants do not like to be transported and relocated.  Man, those little boogers can bite!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

I Got It

"Be careful what you wish for."  How many times I've heard or said that, right along with "Ask, and you shall receive."  I asked for relief from the days-long illness that had struck.  It seems the antidote for exuberant housecleaning is heat, and it arrived yesterday.  Stopped dead in my tracks, the step stool sits in the dining room, the growing pile of lace panels lies on the living room floor, and more pigs to wash are on the kitchen counter.  (Those 36 clean ones done the day before are just the tip of the pigberg in my house.)  Much as I dislike going to town, driving in an air-conditioned truck seemed the lesser of two evils compared to washing more windows.  It was 101 degrees in Diamond Springs.  At 9:30 last night it was 80 outside and 86 inside here, and that was after running the whole-house fan.  My efforts at sprucing up have ended in a bigger-than-ever mess.  I shall be more careful in phrasing my requests in the future.

In the beginning, I was a veritable Birdie Hicks about the barn, swiping down every cobweb before the spiders could catch a bite to eat.  I still rake up and haul out two buckets of goat poo every day, but now the rafters, corners, nooks and crannies are festooned with spider webs.  When I was in my neat-and-tidy phase, I had to hang sticky fly strips in an attempt to keep down that population, a losing proposition if ever there was.  And then one day it dawned on me; I was buying fly strips to do exactly what the spiders would do for free.  I like free, and I've learned to like spiders.  In fact, I encourage them by catching flies and tossing them to the nearest waiting daddy-longlegs.  I'm never going to win the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval down there anyhow, and I appreciate the help.

Given the forecast, I can't hope for a relapse of my malady before next week.  By then, the pile of curtains and the step stool will be dusty.  I can't win, but I'll be careful what I wish for.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Antidote, Please

Undoubtedly brought on by a couple of cooler days, I have been stricken with an illness that causes uncontrollable cleaning.  It had an insidious beginning, the simple thought that the lace curtains in the living room looked dusty.  Since lace curtains are in most of the rooms, it stands to reason that they are all dusty.  As happens frequently, one thing leads to another, and now the symptoms are severe.  Starting in the kitchen, I took down the valance.  Might as well wash the windows while they're bare.  As long as the ladder was out, I could wash the light fixtures.  Same thing happened in the breakfast room (what I call the "round room").  That small room has three windows and a pair of French doors.  The doors have ten panes of glass each; twenty if you wash both sides.  That's forty for the pair.  Aargh.  Moving on to the dining room, same number of windows, but bigger, and doors.  In addition, the clean windows made the salt-and-pepper collection (all pigs, of course) look bad.  Washed all 36 pigs and put them back.  It's taken two days to do two rooms.  I still haven't reached the living room, and I have yet to launder any curtains.  I am hoping for a quick recovery.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Gimme A Drink!

 The struggle to keep things alive goes on.  One day, just one day without water left this comfrey plant and others gasping and on the brink of life.  The day before had been not quite so hot and I thought I could forgo the evening ritual.  I keep a dishpan of water by the chicken pen for Bess and the cats when they are outside, as well as for the wild things drifting through.  It is dry and empty every morning.

The restorative power of water is amazing, as is the will to live.  After a long drink of water and a couple of hours, this plant I shall name Lazarus rose again.  The mice jump and cavort after their milk in the morning. I'm not quite willing to haul water down to the barn for them, so they have to make do with what's at hand (yes, I meant to say that).

Sunset was pretty spectacular, but paled in comparison to the light show later last night.  An electrical storm blew through with strobe lights and thunder that would put a rock concert to shame.  Thankfully, there was just one blip in the power, but I had the oil lamps ready.  Bessie doesn't hide or cry during a storm, but she sticks to my side like a limpet if I move from room to room.  There was a good bit of rain that came with the storm, but the first thing I did this morning was scan the horizon for columns of wildfire smoke.  So far, so good.  I'll drink to that.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Sound of Music

"If I had the wings of an angel, over these prison walls I would fly.  I'd fly to the arms of my darling, and there I'd be willing to die."  My daddy had a sweet, tenor voice and loved to sing.  I don't remember, but was told many times that he would walk his baby girl to sleep while singing "The Prisoner's Song," an unconventional lullaby at best.  That was my introduction to music.

I had two records (78 rpm) when I was a little girl and I played them over and over.  One was a precursor to today's audio books, a reading of "The Selfish Giant."  Not until I was an adult did I know it was written by Oscar Wilde.  I had no idea he wrote children's stories; I knew I loved it.  The other was a recording of Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf," in which the characters are represented by themes and individual instruments in the orchestra.  (The oboe was the duck, Peter was the strings, a flute represented the bird, and the wicked wolf was the French horns.)  I wouldn't know an oboe from my elbow if it were not for this music.  Record players back in the day had steel needles that wore down the grooves and made the sound scratchy.  I played "Peter and the Wolf" so many times the music was barely audible.

It is quiet in the barn.  We each have our jobs to do and settle into our work.  Then our theme songs begin to emerge.  The goats' rhythmic chewing is punctuated by the occasional stamp of a foot.  Milk hitting the bucket zings.  There is the occasional flutter of bird wings as a robbing jay comes in to steal grain.  Crows caw and hawks screech in the background and sparrows chatter in the dead tree just outside.  A truck rumbling up the dirt road is a timpani drum roll.  Every day begins with a symphony.  Not a bad way to start the day.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Shot Down

It's a good thing I checked my horoscope first thing this morning.  It said, and I quote, "...avoid any chance you might have to bore others today."  Drat!  I had this really great entry planned, full of simile and alliteration, about the heat moving in like an uninvited, unwelcome, intrusive guest and staying way too long (Monty Woolley, "The Man Who Came To Dinner").  I had most of it written in my head while down in the barn, words and ideas flowing like the sweat pouring down my face.  Like my imaginary boring guest, I have dwelt on the subject of heat too much and too often.  So here I sit, shot down, madly searching through my mental files for something, anything, that might be of interest to anyone but myself.

Blogspot keeps track of how many "hits" my blog gets every day (30-60), and from which countries.  My imagination travels far and wide to the sixty-nine countries that have checked in so far.  My list is full of, to me, exotic, historic, romantic names:  Macedonia, Nepal, Gabon, Sudan, Kazakhstan.  I try to picture the readers in distant lands.  Are they farmers looking for similar experience?  Are they servicemen and women touching base with home?  Are they looking for a picture of America?  Are they city dwellers aching for a more peaceful lifestyle?  Are they young, old, male, female?  The statistics provided prod me to keep on writing, but they are dry and colorless.  "Real" authors must also have questions about their readers, the who and why of their followers.  Ah, well.  It is enough to know that some beyond my family and friends find my scribbles about Farview Farm entertaining.  It's more than I could ever have hoped for.

The sun is up and I need to get down to the barn before it gets too hot.  Sorry, it's boring but just a fact of life.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


"Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly."  That line from the song "Can't help lovin' dat man o' mine" from "Showboat" kept running through my head down in the barn.  The birds were conspicuous by their absence yesterday.  Not a chirp.  No birds in the air, no birds in the barn.  It was as if they also felt the heat pressing down.  Mice forewent grain in favor of the milk, climbing over each other to get the moisture.  I had a moment of panic when, later in the day, I found that the sprinkler that I'd set to water the herb garden was just spitting, even when I turned the faucet full bore.  The thought that the well would go dry is terrifying.  It did come back later enough that I could give deck plants a drink and take a shower.  Bessie splashed in her pool several times.  The cats either sleep in the house or under the feed barn when it's hot, not inclined to wet their feet under any circumstances.  I know the hummers are out and about even though I don't see much of them.  The feeders are drained almost as soon as I fill them, and I'm filling all three twice a day.

Nearly ninety degrees in the house, even the ceiling fans aren't cooling much.  Everything comes to a screeching halt in summer, including the birds.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Smooth Moves

Goats are pretty straightforward animals:  vocal with their wants, aggressive in their fighting, openly affectionate and playful.  Subtlety is reserved for the milking stand.  Good posture is important when milking, back straight, arms bent at the elbows, wrists neutral.  It's an ergonomic thing and lessens strain on muscles and joints.  My stand requires that I sit with legs outstretched.  It is advisable to aim the stream to the center of the bucket to avoid spray-back hitting the goats' feet; tickles like flies and they'll stamp (not good).  For the most part, the girls stand patiently for the six to ten or twelve minutes (depending on the udder) it takes to do the job, but they do get their jollies.  Squeezing away, getting a rhythm, thinking pleasant thoughts, I'm in the zone.  It is not until I'm listing over to right or left and in danger of falling off, or leaning back or so far forward I could be doing yoga, that I realize the goat has shifted her weight, seemingly without moving her feet, and I'm no longer in position.  Inga is especially good at this.  With apologies to the country-western song with a slightly different title, this is when I do the Butt-Scoot Boogie.  Bucket must follow goat, and so I dance to their tune.  I think it amuses the girls.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Next Step

To find the easiest, quickest way to do something, ask a lazy person.  We spend a lot of time thinking about such things.  I must have been affected by exposure to Frank Gilbreth's time-and-motion studies when I was ten years old and saw the movie "Cheaper By the Dozen" (the original with Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy).

One trick, especially with a recurring task, is not to do just the job at hand, but think about what comes next and plan ahead.  An important step in cooking is mise en place (putting in place) during prep so that ingredients are organized before turning on the stove.  It's a good principle.  I'm down in the barn every morning anyhow, either sweating or freezing as the weather dictates, so it only takes a few minutes more after milking to set up for the bedtime snacks and to get everything ready for the next day.  Before I worked out this system, getting the goats into the barn at night took a lot of running around in the pen and took over half an hour, and they would mob me as I coaxed them in with grain.  Now it takes about five minutes.  I open doors, they go in.  Nighty-night!  In the morning, food is in the dish before the first girl gets on the stand and the show begins.  Easy-peasy.

Hanging laundry on the line is so much easier than using the dryer.  I have some control over the next step.  It doesn't matter in which order clothes are hung on the line, but as I take them down to fold, I take them in groups as to how they'll be put away or used.  For instance, fresh bedding was going right back on the bed yesterday.  Pillow cases go on last, so they went in the basket first, then the top sheet, followed by the bottom sheet which would go on the bed first.  I didn't have to dig through all the clean laundry and making the bed took a matter of minutes.  Even if I remember to take clothes out of the dryer before they wrinkle again, everything comes out higgledy-piggledy and I've got to spend time sorting out to put stuff away.

Consistency is another element.  Once a system has been perfected, I stick to it.  Sometimes an offer of assistance, though appreciated, is declined because the order is disrupted.

Investing a little time thinking about the next step when working gives me more time to do something fun, or to do nothing.  That's a pretty good return on an investment.  Think about it.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Still Got It

Truly, I haven't lost it by posting this picture.  The forecast is for days and days of triple-digit weather coming up and I just wanted something to remind me that this heat wave, too, shall pass.

My preoccupation with weather is because so much of what, when, and where work can be done is dependent on the weather.  The star thistle is growing up again and I can't do a thing about it.  When it is hot and dry, grass fires in the past have been started by tractors striking sparks.  I don't want to be the cause of destruction.  Just as I fill the oil lamps and stock the porch rack with firewood in the winter, I'm planning a list of indoor chores to work on when the temperature rises.  I spoke to the guy who bought one of the huge fallen tree trunks last year.  It's been sitting in my yard under an unbeautiful tarp and I suggested it might be time to move it out now.  Heavy equipment will be required, even if he chooses to have it milled here.  It took three years for the ruts to even out after the last time large trucks drove over the front yard in wet weather.

Speaking of fallen trees, yesterday afternoon I heard and felt a big thump on the deck.  My first thought was a tree or branch had dropped, so my relief was great when I found it was a hanging planter that had broken.  I can deal with that.

Things to do, places to go before I lose it in the heat.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Who's To Say?

"Normal" is such a relative term, subject to the situation.  On opening the grain bucket yesterday, it seemed perfectly natural to me that the little mouse inside would climb trustingly into my hand to be lifted out.  To some, that behavior might not be normal for either the mouse or for me.  Who's to say?

In my late 30s I bought a motorcycle that had to be delivered to the house.  I'd never driven one.  Normal?  I learned, and the concentration required and the freedom provided helped me through some rough days.

In my 40s, I started a muffler and welding business, never having looked under a car before and with no idea of how to weld.  Normal?  I went to welding school, thinking I couldn't supervise employees if I didn't know that they were doing a good job.

In my 60s, I bought dairy goats.  Other than at the fair, I'd never been close to a goat of any kind.  There are those who think I'm a nutter because I milk every day and tend the herd at an age when many are playing mahjong and watching the soaps.

Yesterday the squatty-fluttery sparrow was back on the deck at the same time and in the same place as before, doing her strange little dance.  Is that normal?  Who's to say.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Rocky Start

Preface:  sat down this morning to compose my thoughts and write.  Frank, who was in, wanted to sit on my lap and stand on the keyboard.  Pearl, who was out, wanted in.  Put Frank down and got up to let Pearl in the laundry room door.  She changed her mind.  Sat down.  Bessie, who was out, wanted in through the living room door.  Got up to let her in.  Sat down.  Pearl, now that everyone else was in, changed her mind again and wanted in.  Opened the laundry room door for her.  Sat down.  And so the day begins.

Yesterday also had an inauspicious beginning.  Having hurried through last-minute house prep for the guys' early arrival, knowing they'd be here before I finished barn chores, I put on clean bibbies (no sense putting on makeup that would run in the heat) and called it good.  Sure enough, Dave and Jason drove in just as I had Tessie, last to be milked, up on the stand.  I lost my concentration and, with maybe twenty more squirts to go, Tess put her foot in the bucket and left me sitting in a pool of milk soaking into my britches.  Oh goody.  Can't leave milk in the udder, so I finished her up, then switched her out for Cindy (nonmilker) and set up the feed for the next day, wet pants flapping against my leg.  Clay rode up (another Harley guy) just as I got back to the house, still dripping.  What could I do but laugh?  Said hi to all, took a shower and put on more clean clothes.

I wish I could say what it was like to see three big biker dudes together in the little Silkie pen as they fixed the broken door to the Taj.  The pen is covered with (what else?) chicken wire, high enough for me but not for anyone over six feet tall (all three of them), so they were crouched over and banging heads on the support poles.  The Silkies were panicked and crammed into a corner of the Taj while screw guns whined.  That done, the guys reinstalled the storm door that wind had torn off the first shed.  I am well on the way to recovery from the broken-door epidemic that struck recently.

I had lunch laid out and ready when the workers got back to the house.  My kitchen shrinks when filled with men.  Eyes lit up when I handed out ice cream bars for dessert.  Even grown men turn into little kids when they've got a popsickle stick in their hand.

Dave and Jason had to leave.  Clay and I watched the finish of the race and then "Taking Chance," a must-see movie, before he rumbled back down the road.

After a rocky start, it was such a good day.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Just Noodling

On some days, the topic for an entry just leaps out and grabs me.  On others, like yesterday, when nothing much has happened, I just noodle around.  That's a term now used for a way of going after catfish with hands only, but I think of noodling in the way Hoagy Carmichael did; just fooling around with ideas (in his case, piano keys).

For the last couple of afternoons, a vulture has been circling low in the back yard.  I mean low, swooping at the level of the deck rail and so close it seemed his wing would brush it.  It's a bit like seeing a 747 coming past and it's enough to have me going out to possibly see the reason, which I've not been able to find.  It's just the one bird with this aberrant behavior and it's nowhere near time for the annual migration.

A sparrow also caught my attention the other day with behavior I've never seen before.  Instead of hopping around as they do, it landed on the deck and squatted, then, for lack of a better term, crawled around.  Every so once in awhile, it would spread its wings and quiver.  I thought perhaps it was injured or had heat stroke and was worried that the cats would find it, and so kept watching, even as I moved from room to room.  One of life's little mysteries, I'll never know the reason because Sparrow flew off after this strange ritual dance.

Too hot to work up enthusiasm for much of anything else (and because there's an A/C in the bedroom), I was checking email on the computer before putting the goats to bed and suddenly saw two bucks running the fence line, turning the corner to dash down the driveway to the road.  These boys were big, with beautifully spread, two-point antlers (might have been more points; they were moving fast).  Deer season will open in a few months.  I hope these guys have enough sense to seek sanctuary in my woods because they are fair game for hunters.

Plans changed and Dave and Jason and Clay will all be coming up today.  I've learned to be flexible and philosophical about such things.  In other words, I don't dust until I see the whites of their eyes.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Boys' Toys

This 1959 Ford tractor is now considered an antique.  (What does that make me?!)  Clay thinks someone he knows may be interested in buying it.  I hope so.  It's been part of the landscape far too long and I'd like to think it could still be of use.  The bucket is not an accessory; it's there to keep rain and/or wasps out of the exhaust pipe.  There are many attachments:  disks, harrows, a drag blade, and the drop-down mower bar that I personally think of as a weapon of mass destruction.

Steve was as happy as a kid with a big Tonka toy the day we picked up the tractor.  There was an immediate bond and he never lost his affection for it.  He painted and puttered and babied it.  He kept our section of the dirt road graded, augered holes for trees that were later eaten by deer or the horses we boarded, and disked the south pasture that Joel now is kind enough to tend.  The mower bar has a number of sharp, pointy teeth that look like they could chomp through steel.  I always made sure the dog, Dogie, was in the house whenever Steve put that thing to use.  Mother had told me of spending summers on farms when she was a girl and how she would take water to the men who were working the horse-drawn combines under the hot sun.  Thinking of that, every hour or so I'd take a cold soda out to my own farmer as he chugged around the field.  It was pleasant to take a break together and talk about our plans for Farview Farm.

I don't know what the asking price should be for the tractor.  The memories are priceless.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Hawk Eye

There is a reason a street (well, okay, a dirt road) around the corner is named "Hawk Haven."  A number of red-tail hawks live and work in this area.  One in particular has a very short commute.  He nests in nearby pines and only has to cross the road to hunt.  My property is a veritable food bank of ground squirrels and mice.  Given the rate at which these little critters multiply, it is a sustainable resource.  Hawk spends a good portion of the day sitting on the power pole at the corner of the goat pen, sometimes getting a different angle from the pole at the edge of the driveway.  When the wind was so strong the other day, he had to cling to the wire to keep from getting blown away but he was still on the clock and stayed on duty.  The squirrels do post guards, but because Hawk is there daily I think they become complacent.  He is pretty darned clever.  In the morning, he swoops down from the west, reversing in the afternoon, always facing the sun so that his shadow does not precede and send a warning to a potential victim.  Even so, he doesn't seem to have a particularly high success ratio.  Either that, or he takes his meal home to eat in private.  Every so once in awhile, I do see him having a snack up on top of the pole.  Like a football game in which I like both teams, I can root for either side here.  "Ha!  Dodged the bullet that time, squirrel," or "Good on ya, mate!" when the hawk gets a hit.

There are also roads in the area named Foxtail, Gopher Hole, Anthill, and Moody, none of which appeal.  However, just off Bucks Bar Road is the Minibar Trail.  That has possibilities.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Going, Going, Gone

Having had it morning, noon, and night for days, I am happy to say that the potato salad is all gone.  Dave and a couple of his friends are coming up on Saturday and Clay is coming to watch NASCAR on Sunday.  I will not be making potato salad.  It will be a l-o-n-g time before I make potato salad again.

A hot wind blew all day yesterday.  The thermometer pegged at 100 in the shade.  Thunderheads over the hills had us all keeping a weather watch.  Last year over fifty fires were started by lightning strikes.  The underbrush is thick and dry, and the threat is real.  Three tom turkeys spent the day in the front yard under the oaks, beaks agape as they tried to stay cool.  The flock of turklets and their nannies cruised by in the afternoon.  The little ones are approaching adolescence.  With all of the coyote activity lately, even during the day, I am surprised but pleased to see that the number of poults has not diminished.

Not even halfway into July and the days are getting shorter.  Six o'clock and the sun has not yet risen.  I've got to get the kids in by 8:30 at night or it's too dark and the goats are spooked.

Ruth evidently made an abject apology that was finally accepted by the herd and peace reigned in the pen once more.  I brushed her down gently in the morning as I knew she'd been battered the day before and was probably tender and sore.  At least they didn't pull out her hair as they've done in the past.  Now if she just learns to choose her words wisely.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What Did She Say?

I have no idea what Ruthie might have said that ticked off the other girls, but it must have been pretty bad because the entire herd turned on her yesterday morning.  While milking Tessie, I could hear the sound of bone hitting bone in a head-butting match outside, and watched as a group and then ones and twos would chase Ruth in the pen.  As the ultimate punishment, they put Cindy on duty to keep Ruthie from getting to the alfalfa.  Ruth kept trying to say she was sorry, but if she made a move toward breakfast, Cindy put her ears back and swung her head.  I have no separate pen to isolate the outcast so they will have to settle it themselves.  Ruthie is getting up there in years, but she's never learned to watch what she says.  She's been a scrapper all her life.

The beastie boys took last night off and Bess and I were happy.  For the better part of a week, the pack has called the meeting to order down in the front pasture about 3:30 a.m., howling and yipping at the top of their lungs.  That's enough to make you sit straight up in bed.

The coyotes are not the only night owls.  Having slept all day in this hot weather, Frank and Pearl have been staying out to hunt after dark.  They are successful.  I know this because they bring their snacks to either the front porch or one of the kitchen doors to dine.  It is amazing that the inedible parts look as if they'd been surgically removed, intact and clean as a whistle.  How do they do that, working with teeth and claws?  It behooves me to watch my step as I walk out the door.  In the morning, the cats are waiting to come in.  Frank gives a polite burp as he passes by.

I'm getting pretty tired of potato salad.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Once Is A Habit

If I take a nap one afternoon, the next day I need a nap.  I don't usually eat lunch but if I do have a snack, the next day I'm hungry.  It only takes once for something to become a habit for me.  Honey, the German shepherd, works on that same principle.  She came to visit last evening and, of course, the first thing she did was bound over to the dog biscuit box.  She does that every time now.  On her last visit when she wanted Bessie Anne to play, I got Bess to play Chase Me by running around like a nut through the house with Honey close on our heels.  Camille and I were talking in the kitchen last night and Honey stood in front of me and started vocalizing (which is different than whining).  A little slow on the uptake, I finally realized that she wanted to play The Game.  Ever the obliging hostess, I ran around the corner to hide as I do with Bessie.  One small problem.  Honey's legs are so long that she was right with me and there was no hiding from her.  Consequently, we ran a few laps going one way and then the other before I pooped out.  Bessie just watched the show.  Some people jog for exercise; I'll invite Honey over when I want a workout.  It's our new habit.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Color Purple

Lavender plants on the deck are in full bloom, as are the licorice mint that have spread to nearly every pot, some growing four feet tall, and that purple color attracts bees.  Marjoram in the herb garden also has a purple flower and it also gets its share of attention.  Bees are the only creatures who are working hard and fast in the heat (yes, it's hot again).  Small honey bees are shouldered aside by larger black-and-yellow bumblebees.  It won't be long until the gang of bigger-still all black bumblers takes over.  They work all day, and we share the early evening hours as I go along watering the plants.  I wonder where their hives are, and will they get some rest when they go home.

The earwig invasion was brief and fairly wimpy this year, thankfully.  They are a particularly unlovely insect.  Ants, on the other hand, have launched a full-scale attack.  These are tiny grease ants and they invade every year.  Spraying the door sill from the deck into the kitchen has been added to the daily morning chores.

Mice in the bucket, sitting up on their haunches waiting for milk, make me think of the orphans in Oliver Twist.  "May I have more gruel, please?"

Right now I'm watching over twenty turklets and their guardians meander up the drive on their way to the feeding station under the kitchen oak.  It's a pleasant sight and a nice way to start the day.  Even though they've darned near cleaned me out of plums, it is also very pleasant to see Tawny II and Lady Friend in the orchard in the purple shadows of evening.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


"What we have here is a failure to communicate."  Strother Martin's line from "Cool Hand Luke" was certainly appropriate yesterday.  Seeing Dave ride up alone on the Harley about four hours after the anticipated arrival time was my first clue.  Since we'd discussed what tools he'd need to bring, I'd interpreted that to mean it would be a working visit.  What he really meant was that he'd be coming up to assess what needed doing.  Turns out the doors to the Taj and the first shed can be repaired at some point in the future, but the two storm doors on the weather side of the house must be replaced.  I was afraid of that.

Sandra had an event to attend that had been postponed to yesterday due to the extreme heat.  Dave simply forgot to give me a heads-up on that.  I was disappointed not to meet her.

I thought they'd be coming up in the truck and that I'd be able to send leftovers home.  Maybe five pounds of potato salad was overkill.  It's a good thing I like potato salad.

The house is dusted, I've got breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the fridge for the next week, and any day spent in the company of one of my Kids is a good day.  Are we clear on that?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

I'm Glad

"Take what you get and be glad that you got it."  That's a well-used saying in our family.  Down in the valley, the stats dropped from 111 to 91; definitely not cool, but oh-so-much cooler and I'll take it and be oh-so-glad.  It's hard to think, let alone think about something specific, when overheated.  The delta breeze finally kicked in yesterday and I was able to put together a menu for today and get up to the store for ingredients.  My son Dave and his lady, Sandra, are coming up.  I would have cancelled the visit if we were still in that heat wave, even though I conscripted Dave (a carpenter) to see what can be done with my multitudinous door problems.  Sandra has not been here before so I went the extra mile and waved the dust rag around; first impressions, and all that.  It's funny; when you're a kid, you want your parents to like your friends.  Then you get to a certain age and don't want to embarrass your kids in front of their friends.

The mice now sit in the wipes bucket, lined up and waiting to be squirted in the morning.  Sandra has said she'd like to go down to the barn with me.  I hope they get here in time, and I hope she finds the mice as amusing as I do.  For me, it's like being in a real-life cartoon.

Tawny II and Lady Friend were in the orchard again last evening, just about the time I go out to refill the hummers' feeders.  They gave me a nod and went on munching plums, the seeds plopping from the side of their mouths as they chew.

Bessie went to her pool only once yesterday, and we both slept well last night; it was that cool.  I'm glad.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Keeping Up Appearances

"Are You Being Served?," "Fawlty Towers," "Vicar of Dibley;" I love the vintage British sitcoms.  One of the best was/is "Keeping Up Appearances" with pretentious Hyacinth Bucket (which she pronounced Bouquet).  I added to my daily haute couture wardrobe, but only Hyacinth's blue-collar brother-in-law Onslow might approve of the homie bandana tied low on my forehead.  It was the only way to cope with perspiration while milking during the seven-day stretch of triple-digit temperatures.  Probably not my best look but it worked, and the goats kept their opinion to themselves.

Yesterday was the hottest of all and nothing but keeping all things watered got done.  Last night Bess and I performed a pas de deux as we each tried to find cooler spots on the sheets.  I lost track of the number of times Bessie went wading in her pool.  I wasn't the only one playing in the sprinkler; the turklets wandered through the wet plants under the spray and birds splashed in the birdbath in the herb garden.  I can't let water run for long at any one time for fear of running the well dry.  While soaking deck plants in early evening, I saw that Tawny II had brought a lady friend to enjoy a plum dessert.  Later when I went out to put the kids to bed, Lady Friend had sneaked back alone and found the smaller tree (just her size) in the new orchard and was helping herself to seconds.  "Are you being served?" I asked.  (Can't get away from those sitcoms.)

It might be fear of a general uprising, but the weather prognosticators are predicting a week of low nineties to come.  I'm for it! 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Visiting Royalty

Without going down to the orchard, I know from a distance that the plums are ripe.  On one of our many trips out to her pool, Bessie Anne and I watched Tawny II from the deck as he plucked and munched his way under the tree.  The antlers on this "prince of the forest" continue to grow.  Already handsome, by fall he will be spectacular with a full rack.  Main course in the goat pen with the girls, dessert under the trees, he dines his way through Farview as if this were his personal fiefdom.  Not in the least startled by our appearance, Tawny II gazed back at us with disdain suited to royalty and picked another plum.

We are graced by his presence.  (Perhaps his highness will leave us a few plums.)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Full Service

Brave knights should always have a damsel in distress waiting in the wings, and today I get to be the fair maiden.  Joel and some of his crew will be here soon to borrow tables and chairs for his big Fourth of July bash.  Since I am such a wuss about the little tractor battery, I have asked if one of the guys will put in the new one for me.  I will appreciate their service.

Almost ten degrees lower this morning, a real cooling trend.

The AT&T guy came out yesterday to check the lines.  During the recent power outages, the land line telephone also went out; not good.  When the power came back, so did the phone lines.  Repair Guy realized that the battery backup at the local relay station was not working properly (which was what I'd suggested when I made the repair request).  The corporate mind is a wondrous thing.  Because the phone was now working, Repair Guy's supervisor would not let him submit a request to have the backup battery replaced.  In this age of specialization, RG is a Cable Guy and it would take a Battery Guy to make the change, and never the twain shall meet.  Even though there were other complaints, it seems that Supervisor will only approve the remedy if (make that "when") it happens again.  No such thing as preventive maintenance.  RG had done what he could.  As it was 104 in the shade, I sent him off with a few bottles of cold water and just shook my head.

Farview Farm is a full-service establishment.  In addition to the cereal (goat chow) I throw down for the barn mice, I am now putting milk on it for them.  When I was trying to shoo off Tony the squirrel, I had squirted him with milk.  Some of it sprayed onto the wipes bucket.  I did notice that the mice immediately licked it off, but I didn't pay a lot of attention.  With the blistering heat and no nighttime dew, the mice are suffering from lack of moisture.  I have started pointing streams at the bucket and the little critters are climbing all over each other to get at the milk.  It puts a whole new meaning on "We aim to please."

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Midsummer Night's Dream

Ice floes, ice cream, ice cubes, Iceland; such are the stuff of dreams now.  The nights stay so warm that I am awakened by the dog's harsh panting beside me.  Eighty-two degrees at five a.m.  We lost electricity again yesterday, this time an intentional shut-down for hours by the power company because of a fire down in Shingle Springs.  I did get a laugh in the morning when the weather persons suggested people should check on the well being of their elderly neighbors because of the heat.  I started thinking about who I should call, and then realized, for crying out loud, they were talking about me!  I remember my dad, in his 80s, telling about this "young guy."  When I asked him how old this young guy was, he said, "Oh, probably somewhere in his 60s."  It's all about perspective.

I feel so bad for all the animals during a heat wave.  Every bird, wild and domestic, has an open beak as they try to get air and cool off.  The turkeys sit in the shade with wings akimbo.  The chickens settle themselves into the dust, fluffing their feathers and tossing dirt over their back.  Bessie moves from the entryway tiles to the stone hearth, trying to find a cooler spot.  Goats and sheep lie like stones until the sun drops.  It doesn't help that there are hotter places on earth.  Misery does not love nor need company; it can be miserable all on its own.

The door saga continues.  This time it was the little trap door in the toilet mechanism that keeps the water from running on and on.  Why, after all these years, would it suddenly become balky and refuse to close?  When I figured out how all that stuff worked, I was able to make an adjustment and we're back on good terms again.

Six a.m.  I think I'll let Bessie go wading in her pool and start the day off right.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Right Or Wrong

One of my favorite lines is, "I thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken."  As much as I love to be right, I'm happy to be proven wrong, as in the case of the tractor battery.  Turns out I bought the right one after all.  Now all that's necessary is that I get up the courage to install it.  I wimp out with anything electrical; electricity scares me senseless.

"...five, six, seven goats and a sheep."  No, wait!  I've only got six goats.  Anyone who works with livestock gets in the habit of counting noses and toeses, and I automatically counted and then recounted the girls as I drove up the drive the other day.  Same size, shape, and color, but that extra nose did not belong to a goat.  That young buck I posted a photo of some time back was grazing in the pen.  When he realized he'd been busted, he jumped two fences as if on wings and took off to the woods.  Awesome.

There was another hiccup in the power yesterday; this one didn't last long.  I guess those with air-conditioners had them cranked up on high.  One thing about loss of electricity or even the threat is that it teaches you to live in the moment.  Do it now!  Don't wait until later to water the plants.  Take a shower when needed.  Keep all watering troughs filled to the brim.  Recharge the cell phone regularly.  And hold the good thought.

I can highly recommend "Quartet."