Thursday, October 31, 2013

Shopping Spree

Bess went with me to The Cookie Store (aka the feed store).  The owners keep an open box of milk bones for the furry ones who ride shotgun, and I always take two (they're small) when my girl travels with me.  Bessie wiggles on the seat when I come back to the truck and sniffs to check that I remembered her goodies.  I have, in the past, forgotten and had to go back in, explaining that my dog wouldn't let me get back in the vehicle without treats.  The funny thing is that I put her cookies on the console between us and she won't touch them, not until we get back home.  She'll jump out of the truck and whirl around to receive one milk bone at a time.  She eats the first one and takes the second one off to bury.  Goofy dog.

Like it or not, I had to go to town later in the day.  The truck was overdue for an oil change so, having a few extra minutes, I stopped in at the oil change store.  Sitting down to wait, I was next to a lady with a little blond Frenchie (French bulldog, the kind with the big bat ears), four months old.  What started with a lick on the hand became a puppy in my lap.  Puppy discovered the brass buttons on my go-to-town bibbies and had a wonderful time until her mama had to leave.  There's nothing in the world like puppy breath.

At Wally World, I knew I had to break down and buy some new socks (aarrgh).  Wending my way through the unfamiliar territory of ladies wear, I passed a display of nightshirts (I guess they call them nightgowns).  With the recent drop in temperature, the flannel ones looked pretty good to me and, wait for it...I bought one!  Had to laugh at the memory of the first Christmas after I'd married the Kids' dad at eighteen.  Both mothers gave me nightgowns that year.  My mother's gift was a floor-length, high-necked, long-sleeved flannel gown.  His mother gave me a set of see-through baby-doll pajamas.  Hmmm.  Differing aims, I think.

Three stores in one day.  I was exhausted.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Then and Now

I grew up in a black-and-white world.  All photos taken with my big, clunky Brownie box camera were with black-and-white film.  Until Kodak revolutionized the industry with Kodachrome, all photographs looked like Whistler's Mother.  One would never know from photos that my sister had beautiful red hair back in the day (but maybe the freckles gave it away).  All movies were black and white.  In that scene in "The Wizard of Oz" where Dorothy lands in Oz and the movie switches to Technicolor, it was truly magical and the theater audience gasped.  The first televisions were only black and white; something we were used to, but a step backwards.

Cameras got smaller as time went on and almost all commercial film was in color.  In the 1980s, an ex-sister-in-law and I toured Europe.  We agreed in advance that we would each take 12 rolls of film (24 pictures per roll) and alternate our shots so as to get the biggest bang (the most photos) for our buck.  I had not realized that she was technologically inept.  A couple of times she opened the camera, exposed the roll of film and lost everything.  I don't know what she did, but found out later that several of her rolls turned out nothing but blue pictures.  After the first fiasco, I took pictures of everything so we'd have something to look back on.  Returning home, it cost a fortune to have the photos developed and took weeks.

Coming from this background, I am absolutely fascinated by the tiny digital cameras available today.  My phone takes pictures, for crying out loud!  I can store them, print them, share them, all in the blink of an eye and for free!  Because pictures can be seen immediately, there is no more, "Just one more for insurance," in case the subject moved or blinked.  For every photo I post, I've taken dozens more just because I can.  My cell phone is always in my bibbie pocket, but sometimes I'll step back in the house to get my camera.  I did that last evening just to get one more sunset too beautiful not to share.  I couldn't help myself.

Opening an eye at four this morning, the moon was just clearing the eastern horizon.  It was like a slice of bright orange pumpkin lying on its back.  I had a brief thought of trying to take a picture, but good sense prevailed.  Rolling over, I went back to sleep for another hour.  (But it would have been a great photograph.)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Shirtsleeves one day; turtleneck, jacket, and gloves the next.  The morning sun tried hard to peek from behind the curtain of clouds without success.  I apologized to each of the milkers when I washed her udder with a cold wipe.  Not yet the frigid weather of winter, it was still grey, damp, and chilly and the wind continued to whistle.  The woodpile is very much like a bank account; withdrawals should not be made frivolously because it is a finite resource.  When it is gone, it is all gone.  Back up at the house, with company coming for dinner I rationalized that firing up the wood stove was only right for the comfort of my guests.  That's what I told myself, but the truth was that I was cold and that's all there was to it, so I brought in an armload of wood and lit a fire.  The first fire of the season is something of an event:  will the logs catch, will the chimney draw, will the stove smoke?  Once the house gets cold, it takes a long time to warm up.  Staying busy with housecleaning and kitchen prep work, it wasn't until I sat down for a break that I realized how warm and cozy the living room had become.  With Bess Anne soaking in the heat stretched out in front of the stove, I sent quick thank-yous to the wood cutters and chimney sweep.  Dinner was good, the company was great, and, like the baby bear's bed, the house was "just right."

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Breakfast Club

Members of the Breakfast Club were out in force yesterday.  The business meeting was held in the side yard with all members present and then they broke for refreshments.  This committee was assigned to the second seating, as the dining area was already full, but they were hurrying to get in line.  Bessie Anne (look closely; she is the same color as the leaves) was the self-appointed Sergeant At Arms.
The early birds were helping themselves to the buffet, including the one up on the feeder in the balcony.  There had been many loud disputes during the general assembly, but conversation at breakfast was muffled as the members continued to talk, but with mouths full.

The wind blew this way and that all day, gaining strength as sundown approached.  The goats needed no coaxing to go into the barn and the chickens were already tucked in.  By nightfall, it was howling and at bedtime, instead of her usual hidey-hole, Pearl came and slept with Bess and me on the bed for comfort.  She explained that she was not a scaredy cat. but she thought we might need the company.  Rain came sometime after dark and the storm still blows this morning.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Equal Opportunity

Having spent the day before in the company of ladies, it seemed only right to share time yesterday with males.  No wonder they call Harley-Davidsons "rolling thunder."  Down in the barn, I could track that deep, throaty roar of the bikes from more than a mile away when Dave and his friend Anthony rode up in the morning.  Not just a social call, the guys had come up to haul the last load of cut rounds from down in the woods up to the house.  I had asked Dave what he'd like for lunch and the answer was, "Fried-egg sammies, of course!"  Once a tradition, always a tradition, it seems.  I got my giggle for the day when Dave (6'4-5") squeezed himself behind the wheel of my truck (I'm 5'6") to drive down through the pasture to the trees.  With the seat finally moved back so his knees weren't up around his ears, the guys got the job done in no time.  My kitchen is set up so that guests can keep me company while I cook, and we told stories and jokes and laughed until the sandwiches were gone and it was time for them to leave.

Some days are good, some are great, and I've had two in a row that were perfect.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Girls' Day Out

It is somewhat incongruous for females of a certain age (the youngest of us in her 50s) to maintain the 'girl' title, but Women's Day Out doesn't have the same ring.  The point is, four of us tootled ourselves down to Toscano Winery in Amador County to partake of the Friday salad and pasta buffet.  And wine (the White Barbera was particularly nice).  Perfect weather, congenial companions (lots of laughing), good food; it was a great way to spend an afternoon.  Camille, her mom Olga, Debbie K. from "up the road," and I dawdled on the lovely Italianate patio with the tinkling fountain until we had to get back to reality.

Picking up my truck at Camille's later, I had driven through and stopped to close the field gate across her driveway when I looked back to see Shadow, the mini-donkey, trotting toward me.  Worried that he might be making a break for it, I stood at the gate to shoo him back.  Shadow walked right up to me and lifted his head to rest on my chest, snuffling against my neck with his soft nose and looking quietly into my eyes.  Shadow is a very short donkey and my ear was as high as he could reach.  Unlike the coarse hair of the goats or the sleek hair of a horse, Shadow feels like a plush stuffed toy.  I have no idea what was in his mind, but we stayed like this for long moments, motionless except for me stroking his neck and murmuring endearments to this long-eared friend.  The spell broke and he moved away.  It seems all he wanted was to say a gentle goodbye.

It was a fitting end to a perfect afternoon.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Cranked Up

It simply doesn't do to change the routine; it just makes the girls cranky.  Tree Guy won't plant the remaining two trees in the big pen until he scrounges up some fence wire to cage the saplings.  I can't let the girls into the pen until the job is finished.  The way it's supposed to work is this:  after the last goat leaves the stand, she and I walk over and open the gate so they can all graze the other field and lie in the shade of the big oak, and I go on to finish the barn chores.  Poppy waits at the gate; she likes to be first in line.  For the past week, I have not opened the gate.  Poppy never gives up hope.  She noses the bars and rattles the chain, and then shoots sorrowful looks at me over her shoulder as she stands and waits.  I feel bad when I ignore her.  The other girls are getting into shoving matches in their impatience and someone pulled a mouthful of hair from Inga's back.  I can make small, incremental adjustments in their time schedule as the hours of daylight lessen, but not letting them into the big pen is a major change in routine and the girls are not, repeat, not happy.  And when the goats aren't happy, "ain't nobody happy."

I'm the one having trouble with another change.  Sundown is coming earlier and earlier (and I don't even want to talk about the coming time change).  It has been my habit for years to walk out in the evening and tuck in the chickens first, then go on down to the goat barn, circling back to the house when I'm done.  If I'm running the least bit late, I've had trouble convincing the big girls to go into darkened stalls.  Rethinking the process, lately I've switched my route and put the goats to bed first while it's still light, then go back to the chickens, who've by then already gone into their coops.  Habits are hard to break.  Done with the goats, I've been done for the night.  Now I have to remember that the chicken doors are still open and I've had to retrace my steps to gather eggs and make sure the little girls are safe from hungry night things.  The change in routine is working well for the critters, and I'll get used to time.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


My mother hated to dust worse than anything.  (I can't help it; it's hereditary.)  However, she was an ironing fool.  She ironed everything.  My dad was a bit of a dandy who liked a lot of starch in his shirts and always had a well-placed, points-up handkerchief in the breast pocket of his suit, and he always wore a suit.  Those weren't the only items Mother ironed.  She ironed his boxer shorts, my bras (when that time came), and dish towels.  She even had a mangle, a big console machine with heat and a padded roller, that was used for sheets, tablecloths, curtains; anything flat.  Nothing escaped her.  She was obsessive to the point that she ironed rags, fergawdssake!  I swear that if she'd figured a way to iron it as she got older, she wouldn't have had a wrinkle in her face.

The ironing gene skipped a generation, for which I am so grateful.  When the Kids were little and their dad was a rookie cop (police officer, that is), I took in washing and ironing from single guys on the force.  The three-crease military press on uniform shirts was a stinker to perfect.  What with his clothes, the Kids' clothes, my clothes, and the iron-for-hire clothes, I'll bet I set up the ironing board every day of the week.  No one was happier than I when drip-dry, wash-and-wear material was invented.  After that, about the only time the iron came out was when I was sewing; of course, I did a lot of sewing back in the day.

Deb, my daughter, got caught with a double whammy, poor girl.  She not only hates to dust, but is compelled to iron everything.  Whenever we'd shop for dresses or material, I'd be looking at labels for easy-care items and she'd inevitably pick out those which would require ironing.  I'll bet she irons Craig's tee-shirts.  She can't help it; blame it on my mother.

I have an iron and an ironing board.  I remember where they are.  I think the iron still works, but it's been so long.  The thing is, if I had to iron something today, I'd have to dust the iron first and it's well known how I feel about that. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Moving Right Along

Tree Guy and I had a bit of a contretemps.  I wanted the mulberry trees that were ordered last December and purchased in early August put in the ground (it's nearly November).  We had a discussion.  He wanted to wait longer.  I'm a patient woman, but had run short of that particular commodity.  TG knows I have family backup and I didn't want to have to call out the "big guns."  TG came on Monday and planted three of the five trees.  Normally garrulous, TG "punished" me with monosyllables, but did accept bottles of chilled water as he worked.  Lacking some parts for the watering system, he had to come back yesterday and repair that.  Evidently feeling that I'd been sufficiently chastised and his point made, we are now back on good terms and he chattered away like a magpie once more.  There are still two trees to be planted.  Hmmm.

Six more wipes were missing from the bucket yesterday.  How many blankets do those little guys need?!  If, at some far-distant time in the future, that pen is ever plowed, someone is going to wonder why all those cloth bits keep turning up.  That'll keep 'em guessing!

Apropos of absolutely nothing, I watched a fascinating documentary last night about William "Dummy" Hoy, a deaf major league baseball player in the 1800s.  Hoy was the inspiration for the hand signals used still today by umpires.  He had an amazing career in baseball and was inducted into the Cincinnati Hall of Fame; however, not yet into the National Hall of Fame at Cooperstown.  The film, "Signs of the Time," was made in an attempt to achieve that ultimate reward for Hoy.  Baseball is not my game.  I hated to play it and don't enjoy watching it.  I do think credit should be given where credit is due.

As soon as the sun comes up, I'm going to water three trees in the ground and two trees in their pots.  I guess that's progress.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

By Any Other Name

A Thing by any other name would still be a stinker.  Going in to my side of the feed barn, the small room I was allotted to keep the chicken feed and my craft and gardening supplies, I found that Thing had taken revenge because I had picked up and put those red plastic whatevers out of his reach in the big room.  Thing had chewed a large hole in a box of new Christmas ornaments and it must have been hard work to pull one of the slippery globes up and out (the box was in a bucket) in order to dash it on the floor, but Thing, aka The Grinch, was determined.  Picking up the broken shards, I considered this a declaration of war.

I heard the skitter-skatter of feet through the leaves as I filled the water pan for the wild things and looked up to see turkeys running toward me.  The hens barely waited for me to put the pan down before dipping their beaks.  The look on Bessie's face says it all.

Every morning I throw a minimum of six used diaper/udder wipes in the bucket.  Every morning for the past week the bucket has been empty.  It's pretty obvious that the mice and ground squirrel mamas are stocking up on fresh bedding for the winter.  It's been a dry October with mild temperatures and it seems early to me to be getting ready for cold and wet, but I've learned to watch the signs and if the little ones tell me it's time, then it behooves me to get my act together now and finish battening the hatches.

Thing and the wild things have taken over the farm.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sleepy Sunday

Only two things were accomplished yesterday:  a good nap and a good dinner.  Sundays are made for napping, it's almost obligatory.  Even the race at Talladega, home of the "Big One" (crash), wasn't enough to keep my eyes open.  It's a 500-mile race and I'll bet I slept through 250.  The commentators were becoming frantic, trying to keep interest alive as they promised viewers that the "big one" was coming.  Even though the finish was under a yellow flag, the "big one" never came.  Restrictor plates have slowed speed and force a different style of driving at Talladega from the bad old days when multi-car crashes killed drivers.  I appreciate the safety factor, and I enjoyed the nap.

Aubergines (the gussied-up name for eggplant) are members of the Nightshade family, as are potatoes and tomatoes.  My children, gourmets though they be, consider eggplant by any name to be from the Deadly Nightshade group and make gagging sounds at the mere mention.  I like eggplant, always have, but I've eaten enough eggplant recently to give my skin a purplish tinge (I'm convinced of that).  Of the four Craig gave me, the first one was simply breaded and fried.  The next two went into eggplant parmesan, enough for meals for a week.  The last one sat on the counter.  I gave brief thought to feeding it to the chickens, but no, I would not waste it so.  But how to fix it?  I put slices drizzled with olive oil in the oven and sauteed onion and garlic while penne rigate cooked.  Deglazing the pan with white wine, I added diced, soft eggplant slices, peas, and cream, salt, pepper, and a few red chile flakes, let the sauce reduce and poured in the drained penne.  A sprinkle of parmesan and, ta da!

That's enough accomplishment on a Sunday.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

October Song

Sing a song of chainsaws with a chorus full of frogs.  Hear the croaking peepers and the felling of the logs.  Listen to the castanets of dry leaves as they fall.  October's come, the signs are clear.  Dum-de-dumpty all.  (My "poetry" will only go so far.)

Walking out in the morning, the yipping of the beastie boys was replaced with the whine of chainsaws and the drone of a splitter over on a hill to the south.  Grape growers are harvesting, and there was the thump of big bins laden with fruit being dropped by forklifts.  Someone (probably a frustrated hunter) was trying to improve his aim at target practice with a .22 nearby.  Certainly not so many as when I had the pool, there is still a colony of tiny frogs that has moved into the potted plants on the deck and they tune up big time day and night.  Acorns are dropping and banging on truck and roofs.  Even without a calendar, I'd know it was October.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Hunter's Moon

October's full moon is the Hunter's Moon.  Deer season has closed, but the coyotes, the beastie boys, are taking advantage of the bright night light.  Almost six-thirty:  the sun has not yet brought a tinge of color to the sky, but the fields and hills are clear in the moonlight and the boys have been yipping and yodeling for a couple of hours.  They've moved a bit farther up the road and over the opposing hill now, but at four-thirty they were down in my woods and singing to beat the band.  Beside me on the bed, Bessie's feet twitched and, in her sleep, joined the pack with little yips.  Dogs never quite lose their atavistic connection with wolves and their coyote cousins.

Thinking ahead to the holiday baking, I spent the afternoon cracking walnuts - lots of walnuts - and I have half a grocery bag still unshelled.  These nuts were a gift from my Fiddletown friend Tinka, and they are wonderful, full and meaty and not a worm in the bunch.  Shelling nuts is a great way to while away an autumn afternoon; productive without hard work.  Warm enough to leave the front door open, I could watch the turkeys scratch and gabble in the herb garden and a pair of young ground squirrels cavorting on the boulders across the driveway while I hammered and picked.

Nearly seven and the coyotes still sing, caught in the spell of the Hunter's Moon.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Going Home

I went back home for a visit last night, back to stand in my mother's kitchen.  I arrived after dinner, the dishes were done, the drying towel spread over the utility sink in the service porch next to the wringer washer, and the only light was the little light on the stove.  A pot of cornmeal mush was bubbling on the burner and I was so happy because that meant Mother would be frying slabs of mush for breakfast in the morning.  The mush had to chill in a loaf pan overnight, so she only ever made it after dinner.

My trip back in time was initiated because I took a package of leftover polenta from the freezer for my own dinner last night and decided to fry it up.  It's been ages since I've had fried mush (polenta is a fancy word for mush).  Daddy preferred his crispy slices with Karo syrup, but I liked it, and still like it, plain with salt and butter.

Standing in the dim light of memory, I looked around my mother's kitchen and was amazed at what she didn't have.  No garbage disposal, no dishwasher; people did those chores.  I hated going out to the garbage can by the road at night.  No electric mixer, not even a whisk.  We had a rotary beater.  Try making meringue or divinity or the then-popular boiled icing with one of those!  We'd take turns with the little crank handle ("Faster!  Faster!") until our arms fell off.  Cake recipes included instructions to "beat three hundred strokes" with a wooden spoon.  There was an electric toaster, but it had to be watched because it didn't pop up on its own.  We became adept at scraping off the burned bits.  The coffee pot was the perk variety that sat on the stove; you knew it had boiled enough by the smell.  Some women made good coffee, some didn't.  No electric skillets, no nonstick pans.  We had cast-iron skillets only, and everything stuck in our pans.  No Cuisinarts or blenders.  We chopped, sliced, and diced by hand.  If we wanted crushed ice, we took one of the two ice-cube trays from the tiny freezer, ran it under hot water until the cubes fell out, put them in a bag and hit it with a hammer.  Mother never owned a microwave oven, and wouldn't have trusted it if she had.

Returning to the here-and-now, I enjoyed every bite of fried mush, as well as my trip back home.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


When did I lose the ability to fly?  I used to soar, swoop and dive.  In childhood dreams, I would be running and suddenly my steps would be longer and bounding and I would be lighter and then I'd be aloft.  Awake, I would tie two corners of one of my mother's big silk scarves around my neck, hold the other two as high as my arms could reach, and hope if I ran fast enough the wind would catch in my sail and lift me up (it never did).  As an adult, I thrilled when the opportunity came to learn to fly a single-engine plane.  I still have the shirt I wore when I lost my "pin feathers."  There is a ritual ceremony in which the tail of one's shirt is cut off after the first solo flight.  A few more solo trips and then circumstances of life intervened and I flew no more.  I no longer dream that I can fly, but I feel a kinship with the many birds that I watch every day, and perhaps a touch of envy.  I am earthbound.

Camille has brought her mother from Montana for a prolonged visit and I am relieved of my stewardship of her animals.  Breakfast for the alpacas went a bit smoother yesterday. They showed ever so slightly less aggression and so I will tender a halfhearted apology to the breed.  In time, we might have established rapport.  Or not. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

None For Me, Thanks

As a teenager, I babysat with children in the neighborhood.  I liked them; some more than others, but I liked them.  I grew up and had four of my own.  Now I am babysitting with alpacas and I have learned one thing.  I want none for myself.  Frick and Frack look like fluffy cartoon characters with liquid brown eyes.  Looks are deceiving.  I dislike passing judgement on the entire breed because Frick and Frack are my only up-close-and-personal contact, but they are not good ambassadors for alpacas.  They are cranky and contentious and thoroughly disagreeable.  It may be this is because they are both intact males, but, trust me, I know what parts these boys would lose first were they mine.  I've got to work out a better plan for serving their meals.  Juggling two cups of pellets and an armload of hay and trying to work the thumb latch on their gate while they charge the fence with ears laid back and gnarly teeth showing behind bifurcated lips isn't easy.  Screeching at the top of their lungs is akin to amplified fingernails on a blackboard.  Like goats, alpacas have two toes.  Unlike goats, alpacas do not have hooves.  The toes on an alpaca look like prehistoric claws; horny, curved, and sharp.  They could do some damage.  So far, I've avoided getting hit with a wad of smelly spit (called projectile regurgitation), which is another way they show displeasure.  There was a moment of panic when I couldn't find where Frick had moved his bowl and the boys were pushing and shoving each other trying to get to the feed cups in my hand.  Trying to stave off disaster, I threw all the pellets into the one bowl I could find while I looked for the other.  Immensely territorial, that started an even worse fight.  "Sharing" is not in the alpacas' vocabulary, nor is "play nice."  Locating the second bowl, it was then necessary to snatch Frack's bowl away to give Frick some for his breakfast.  That done (quickly!), I backed out of the pen.  We do this twice a day.  The rest of the animals and fowl are a piece of cake.

Home and my own menagerie never looked so good.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Dog and Pony Show

Eyes flew open at 4:15 this morning.  "Ohmigawd, I forgot the apple treats!"  My own dog-and-pony show here at Farview is nothing compared to the three-ring circus down the road.  Two more cats have been added and hummingbird feeders have been hung since my last tour of duty.  I'd gone down the night before for a crash refresher course; took too long and five of my six goats would not go in the darkened barn when I got home.  They spent the night outside and I spent that night listening to the coyote pack yip and howl and fearing what I'd find in the morning.  (All was well.)  Last night was my first night as caretaker and the plan needed revision.  Not wishing a rerun of the previous fiasco, I tucked my herd in first while they could see to the back of their stalls, then drove down the road for the next act.

Four cats get equal portions of food.  Two get fed in the house; one gets fed on the patio; one gets fed down in the barn.  Two cats must be locked in the house at night; one cat can come and go at will; one cat sleeps anywhere, probably in the barn.  I was lucky; the two cats under house arrest did come in when I called and I was able to run around and shut doors.  Two of three hummer bottles were empty; I'll deal with them this morning.

Taking the remaining portion of cat food, I drove down to the barn where I was met by Shadow and Cricket, the donkey and burro, who have the run of the property.  They each get a half-cup of pellets and share a half-flake of alfalfa and a half-flake of grass hay.  Grabbing another cup of pellets for Frick and Frack, the alpacas that have been sequestered in a pen across the way, I went into their yard to be greeted by their cranky screeching.  (They'll get grass hay in the mornings.)  Remembering to tie the door open so the phantom cat could get in but keep Shadow and Cricket out, I left the food for Sofia, the cat that zipped by like a flash.  That left only the twenty or thirty chickens who were reluctant to go to bed early and had to be herded into their room.  Free-ranging as the hens do, eggs are laid everywhere during the day and must be gathered at night.  They're particularly fond of the feed mangers in three or four stalls, but they also choose boxes and corners, so it's an egg hunt in semi-light.  Inside animals in, outside animals out, all critters fed.  I came home and put my own chickens to bed.  Mission accomplished and the curtain could fall on the last act.

Drat!  I forgot to cut up the apples.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Gifts Of Time

Bessie Anne is the most accident prone dog I've ever known.  Dr. Ric, our veterinarian, and Bess are well acquainted.  It seems to be a law of nature that emergency situations only arise on weekends when vet fees are doubled, so when Bessie was nonweight-bearing on a hind leg on Saturday, I took a wait-and-see attitude.  I keep a supply of doggy painkillers on hand and made her as comfortable as possible, hoping it was just a strained muscle and not a fracture or worse.  A day of bed rest and some good dope did the trick and she was up and about without a limp yesterday.

Twenty-four hours of house arrest made both of us anxious to get outside in the afternoon; I'm a firm believer in the restorative powers of sunshine.  Accompanied by Pearl, who goes everywhere with us now, we went out to the front yard.  There are granite boulders by the drive that are just the right size to sit upon and contemplate.  (My granddaughter called them her Thinking Rocks.)  Bess soaked up the warmth and Pearl shared her attentions, rubbing up on me and then jumping down to purr and rub on Bessie.  Pearl does a great impression of a catfish, flopping on her side and flipping back and forth on the ground, and she put on quite a show for us.  It struck me that I had just opened a gift of time.  I had nowhere to go and nothing to do but enjoy this particular moment.  A few marshmallow puffs of cloud played tag in the sky.  Wind through the drying leaves sounded almost like falling rain.  A large murder of crows, more than fifty, gathered in the oak over the sheds, using their "indoor voices" to discuss matters of importance.  Instead of raucous cawing, they use a low, guttural, almost growling sound when the committee meets.  Periodically, groups of eight or ten would fly up in a burst of enthusiasm and put on an exhibition of aerial acrobatics, swooping, diving, chasing, before settling back on the branches.

Life seems to be on fast-forward these days for so many, with few opportunities to "just sit one out."  Doing nothing, in my mind, is not a waste.  When the chances come, these gifts of time should be opened slowly, savored and appreciated fully.  They pass quickly and one never knows when the next one will come.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Flannels and Funnels

Tank tops have been stored for the winter.  Denim work shirts have been the order of the day, but needed a jacket morning and evening.  I needed something better for the transition and so pulled a flannel shirt out of the closet.  Perfect.  No jacket needed on a crisp fall morning.  Coutures are missing a bet by not designing flannel shirts for women, but they are only found in the men's department.  There is something so comfy-cozy, like a hug, when slipping into soft, well-washed flannel.  Being one of the "use it up, wear it out" generation, most of my daily wardrobe, such as it is, consists of Steve's tee-shirts, shirts, and socks.  He was the clothes horse of the family.  Bibbies, turtlenecks, and shoes are my own.  Deb and Craig gift me with anything dress-up, so my pretty tops are all from them.  I don't know why it's taken me so long to get to the back of the closet where I'd hung the flannel shirts.  I'm moving them all to the front for fall.  Flannel shouldn't be just for the guys.

I was enjoying the feel of the shirt and thinking about the turkeys that came running when I called, "Turk, turk, turk," as I threw down their seed and the four deer standing in the orchard behind the chicken pens, so I was startled by the vultures.  There were vultures everywhere, in the trees, on the posts, and fifty or so pedestrians just standing around on the ground.  They rose in a black cloud as I approached, some moving to other trees and some settling back down a bit farther off.  I'm certainly used to seeing these birds on the property, but never in such numbers so close.  It wasn't until I was down in the barn that the birds, evidently waiting for stragglers to arrive, took off in funnel formation and slowly drifted off to the east.  It was a secondary migration group of hundreds.  The maintenance crew resumed their position on the posts around the pen, wings spread to the sun.  I've read that vultures seem to like the company of humans and will "adopt" a homestead as their own.  Well, I like them, too, and am pleased these elegant birds have chosen Farview to call home.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fall In Your Face

Sixteen years ago (this week), this black oak tree at the edge of the back yard was just an acorn.  It wasn't here when we moved in.  Now it is my season indicator.  This photo doesn't do justice to the leaves that were flashing gold in the afternoon sun, but does show that the foliage is thinning and turning color.  Fall has arrived.  Walking out to the garden to pick the tomatoes that have finally turned red (very slow this year), I gathered dry leafy branches that the wind had knocked from the oak in the front yard and tossed them into the goat pen.  The girls had been resting down at the bottom of the big pen but came running up to the corner for their favorite treat.  As if I'd opened a bag of potato chips, they were munching and crunching and calling for more.  Like vacuum cleaners, they cruise the pen looking for any goodies the wind might blow their way.  It's a pity the only tree in their yard is a live oak.  They've de-leafed the branches as high as they can reach, but it is an evergreen and doesn't drop any snacks for the girls.  When Tree Guy gets around to planting the deciduous mulberry trees along the inside fence line (which I'm hoping will be soon), there should be enough leaves in the fall to please the insatiable goats.

The first vee of geese going south honked their way past the house yesterday, another sure sign that fall is here.  I wonder if the vultures that stay in the area as the maintenance crew drew the long or short straws; if staying behind is pleasure or punishment, not having to make the long trip down to the Owens Valley versus losing the companionship of the many that leave.

It's not cold enough to light a fire, but I did consider pulling the Snuggy out of the closet last night.  Bessie Anne and the goats are putting on their winter coats.  The chickens are re-feathering, thank goodness.  They stripped down to bare-back bikinis during the heat of summer and I was worried they'd freeze as cold weather approached.

All the portents are in place.  Fall is here.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Scratch One

The breeze had a bit of an edge, but the sun was shining and it was a perfect day to follow through and take one item off the To-Do List.  Bessie Anne and I went out and she supervised while I scrubbed the algae from the bottom of her pool and scooped out the leaves (it's been a while since she's gone wading).  We simply sat together and enjoyed the day while the pool dried, and then walked out to the feed barn to store the pool for winter.  It was as bad as I'd anticipated.  I'm going to give myself credit for one-and-a-half items off the list because I cleaned up a lot of Thing's mess in the barn.  Thing had been on another rampage.  He seems to have a particular mad on for the red plastic whatever-they-are's that hold hot wire off the T-posts.  I don't know how many times I've picked them up when he's thrown them out of crates and boxes, but once again they were scattered all over the barn.  In addition to tools knocked off shelves and chewed paper bits, I also picked up one small dead snake and four desiccated dead mice.  Is this how Thing deals with intruders?  How big is Thing anyhow?  Never having seen him, he remains a mystery; a mysterious being with a bad attitude.  He's one Thing I'd like to scratch off my list.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

To-Do List

The weather is changing rapidly and that means the To-Do List gets a little longer.  Rain that threatened most of the day did not appear, so I've still got to water the plants, but it was chilly enough for the quilted flannel jacket that becomes part of my daily uniform as fall approaches.  I brought the first wagon loads of firewood up to the porch.  I couldn't bring myself to light the wood stove, but I did think about it.  Harold, the ironmonger, came by the other day just to visit.  We agreed that central heat is quite wonderful (ah, yes, I remember it well), but there's nothing like a wood fire to take the dampness from the air on a drizzling day.  Today the plan is to scrub out and empty Bessie's pool and store it in the feed barn.  I really don't want to open the feed barn because I know that Thing has been wreaking havoc in there in my absence.  Thing has claimed the barn as his domain and takes exception to any intrusion.  In a fit of pique, he throws things around and off shelves, tears up any bits of paper he can find, and makes a general mess of everything.  I've still got to wrap foam insulation around the standing water pipes.  While the rain passed us by, the high Sierras got snow yesterday.  Cold weather is just around the corner and I need to get some items crossed off the list.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Acting Squirrelly

I received these photos of Doug and a dear note from Linda, the Sierra Wildlife rescuer who has been taking care of this abandoned baby all this time.  Linda said she had released Doug to the wild the day after she took these pictures.   Even though she had a number of squirrels she'd been fostering, Doug held a special place in her heart and it was hard for her to let him go.  For his part, Doug will never have it so good again.  Talk about living in the lap of luxury!
Just look at this face!  I know, as does everyone up here, that the ground squirrels can be absolute pests, burrowing where they're not wanted, decimating gardens above and below ground, spoiling nap time with incessant metallic chirping, but how could anyone not fall in love with this face?

I hope Doug makes a smooth transition to life on his own, finding a warm place to sleep and plenty of food.  After catered meals and elegant quarters, it might be a little difficult at first.  It was a pleasure to have made his acquaintance.  Bye-bye, Doug.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Follow the Leader

"Neither a leader nor a follower be.  Hold my hand; walk along with me."  Goats would not understand that concept.  I once read that there is a problem with a pack train of llamas.  Evidently llamas do not like to lead and the first in line must be switched out every so often to lessen their stress.  Goats would not have that problem.  Each goat wants to be the leader.  When the goats and I are in the pen together, we walk as a herd.  I do not get to be the leader.  The girls push and jostle to be at the front, and one usually trots to go before me.  I don't mind following because I'm slower going up the hill than they, but it doesn't do to follow too closely.  Goats can and will drop a load of pellets as they walk.  What I take exception to is that one will pass me and then stop.  No reason.  She'll just stop.  When I'm loaded down with two milk buckets on the way back to the house, this is particularly irritating because I need the momentum as I huff and puff up the hill.

It was propitious that I watched a segment of The Barefoot Contessa before heading to the store for mozzarella to make Eggplant Parmesan for a shared dinner last night.  Ina Garten showed a recipe for mashed chickpea bruschetta.  I had all the fixings and decided to give it a try.  Quick, easy, inexpensive, and very tasty; it's a winner!

Pearl had so much fun yesterday morning that she tried the game again today.  One o'clock and there she was, squeaking her wake-up call.  Pet didn't want to participate and played 'possum.  It evidently wasn't as enjoyable without a reaction so Pearl went away.  She returned at 5:03 a.m.  A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.  Pet got up.  I'm not the leader.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Pearl Pushes, Pet Rebels

Pearl pushed the envelope this morning and tried some boot-camp training tactics.  She went around the bed sounding the wake-up call starting at one o'clock, again at two o'clock, and continuing every hour on the hour until Pet finally responded at five a.m.  Pet was not happy; in fact, Pet was downright grumpy.  Pet shuffled down the hall, led by Pearl, but Pet decided that a rebellion was in order and put on the coffee before going to the treat drawer as demanded by Pearl, who continued to issue orders as if she were still in charge.  Whatever Pet had planned on writing today has gone out of her head.  The coffee has not yet kicked in and thought processes are slow.  Pearl is probably thinking up some kind of retaliation.  I don't care.  Sometimes a pet just has to take a stand.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

North Wind

A pretty big wind storm blew in the other night.  Worried, as always, about damage to the trees, I went out after daybreak to survey the property, thinking also that I'd find the deck knee deep in leaves again.  (I'd just swept it the day before.)  Trees were intact, and it was a pleasant surprise to find that it must have been a north wind because the deck was entirely free of leaves.  Would that I could call it up at will, the best leaf blower made!  Most of our wind comes from the west or southwest.  It also blows leaves, but piles them on the deck.

I thought I was putting up the bed frames in the front yard as fencing.  The ground squirrels have turned them into a jungle gym.  The little ones perch on the posts and walk the rails and have a high old time.  I walked through the house yesterday, listening for what sounded like a smoke alarm battery getting low.  That chirp I'd been hearing was from a guardian squirrel keeping watch while the children played.  Another noisy neighbor.

The chicken pens are pitted with holes the little girls have scratched for their dust baths.  I've said they are digging to China for take-out dinners.  It seems the goats also have a liking for Mu Shu as they are pawing out deep wallows in their yard.  The bucket is there for perspective.  It's a bit odd to look into the pen and see just the head of a goat sticking up.  This particular pit must be in prime real estate as the ground squirrels have claimed the property next door.

Pearl has a pet of her own and has developed a training program to bend it to her will.  It took her very little time to get the pet to open and close doors for her, but longer to have said pet to give her a treat at five in the morning.  Pet was willing to wake up when Pearl sounded the alarm, but mistakenly thought that coffee should come before treats.  Pearl is persistent and consistent, making her wishes clearly known, and Pet is beginning to come around.  It's nice to know that Pet is still trainable.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Noisy Neighbors

New neighbors have moved in and they have shattered the peace and quiet here at Farview.  I didn't think any birds could be louder than the crows, but a big flock of woodpeckers has arrived and they have the crows beat by a country mile.  The woodpeckers have taken up residence in the big side oak by the drive.  They have a particularly irritating call that sounds much like an old-fashioned hand saw:  voopah, voopah, voopah, over and over again all day long.  Acorns are beginning to fall (sounding like hand grenades as they hit the truck) so it won't be long until the woodpeckers start their jackhammer pounding on tree limbs and unprotected eaves.

Two tribes of turkeys were skirmishing in the morning and the air was filled with war whoops as they circled and clashed.  Crows sat in the trees and cheered them on with raucous voices like fans at a soccer match.  Hawks screeched on high.  All this activity just outside the pens set off the roosters and they added their crowing to the cacophony.

I have a backlog of books that has been waiting for some time.  The weather has been perfect to sit on the deck and indulge.  All I asked for was a little peace and quiet.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Here And Now

Thinking I had perhaps touched on a thought previously, I went back and read some early entries this morning.  I couldn't find what I was looking for so it is possible still that I am repeating myself today.  That happens, and I ask for indulgence when I'm guilty.

When a nephew was young and visited often, he was never satisfied with anything in his life.  "I will be so happy when...," always thinking that happiness was just out of his reach.  My second husband was one of those who clung to the past, holding on to grudges and pain from long ago, and even the good times seemed over for him.  They helped formulate my philosophy that there are three categories:  the Today, Tomorrow, and Yesterday people.  Those who are continually looking backward or only forward cannot fully appreciate and take pleasure in the present.  I am not a Pollyanna, greeting every adversity with a sappy smile, but there are bright spots during the darkest days.  It was truly enjoyable to go back and read about the daily adventures here, and I look with anticipation at what might come next, but today, good, bad, or indifferent, is what I will deal with.  I make plans.  Of course I do, but have learned with time to be flexible; plans don't always work out.  I have memories, mostly wonderful, sometimes painful, but they do not override my life.  As I was writing yesterday about my favorite things, it struck me that they are all the small things that make my day, any day, my favorite.  I'm a Today person, living in the Here and Now.  I like it that way.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

My Favorite Thing

If there is ever a need, I will have a corner on the garlic chive market.  Every one of those star-shaped flowers has become a round green seed pod, equally pretty in their own way.  Given a little more time, the pods will open and show the hard black seed inside.  Alliums are determined, never-say-die plants.

The lone turkey in the background above is one of the Six Silly Sisters, a group of girls who travel together.  That one is the silliest of all.  She dithers and delays and gets herself separated from the troupe, then runs about calling, "Where are you guys?  Wait up!  Wait for me!"  In the time it took me to water my way around the deck, the Sisters made a full circle around the house, and Super Silly was still running behind and missed her photo op.

In the next-to-last pot at the far end, there was a little surprise.  The columbine that came along when I'd gotten the pansies from Camille months ago had bloomed for the first time.

Moving along the deck from sun to shadow with leaves twirling down (job security) and hummers doing a fly-by past my head, I thought, "This is my favorite thing to do."  No, wait.  Hanging laundry on the line is my favorite thing.  Wrong again.  Riding around on the lawn tractor mowing down weeds is my favorite thing.  Looking into a deer's eyes before it turns to go back into the woods; watching the vultures circle or a hawk dive; listening to the hens gossip at bedtime; filling a bucket with foaming milk from a contented goat; sitting with Bessie's head on my feet and Pearl safe nearby; seeing my family piling out of their trucks (all but Pete drive trucks) or calling "Love you!" as they go down the drive; sunrise and sunset.  How can only one thing be the favorite when life is filled with such moments and so many more?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

When I Sits

"When I works, I works hard.  When I plays, I plays hard.  And when I sits, I jes' sits."  My mother had this motto on her wall, and it has stuck in my head.  I do my work now in fits and starts with a lot of sitting in between.  Leaves on the deck were ankle deep again.  With just a light breeze yesterday, it seemed prudent to push the mountain around and off the deck.  If left to accumulate until the rains come, they would become as slick as (fill in the blank).  That was the big chore of the day.  Like dusting, it seemed an exercise in futility, as I know I'll have to do it again and again.  There are lots of leaves left on the trees and I know where they'll end up.  Spurred by an unusual burst of enthusiasm and a gorgeous day, I finished putting up the remaining pieces of bed frame as a decorative fence across the herb garden.  It's a little quirky, but I like it.  On a rare trip downstairs to the shop, I located the rasp I needed after opening just a few drawers and cabinets; cause for celebration as I have great difficulty finding anything in Steve's domain.  The door to the Taj was sticking and needed trimming just a bit.

Going out to tend to that chore, I found one of the tiny white Silkie hens was dying.  They are such dear little things.  I brought her into the house and laid her on a soft towel in the laundry room to ease her last journey.  This leaves me with four roosters and only two hens, one white, one black.  I may let the hens hatch another clutch of eggs in hopes of more females.  There are too many roosters as it is, but I cannot bring myself to dispatch any of them.

Cindy has come around and was first one into the barn last night.  She makes me think of the line in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail;" "I'm not dead yet!"

After tucking in the critters and dinner of fried eggplant, my work was done for the day and it was time to "jes' sit."  Eggplant was a contribution from Deb and Craig's garden; from Craig because he knows I love it; from Deb because she hates the stuff and brought four just to get rid of them.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


When I was younger, the "old" people (must have been all of forty) would say, "If you think time flies by now, wait until you get older."  As with almost all of what they told me then, they were right.  Good grief, it's October already!  We've got to start thinking about holidays, the holidays, the big, important holidays, and I'm not ready.  I noticed the last few times I was in town that the stores were starting to display Halloween candy.  Just as an aside, when did they drop the apostrophe in Hallowe'en?  It is, after all, a contraction of Hallow's Evening.  Oh well, never mind.  Anyhow, does anyone honestly think that candy bought in September is going to still be around the house by October 31?  Not in my house, for sure!  I have no will power to resist candy corn or black jelly beans.  After Halloween (with or without an apostrophe), everything gets kicked into high gear for Thanksgiving and doesn't stop until the New Year.  Nooo, I'm not ready.

On my last trip to the feed store, slash hardware store, slash oh-you-name-it store (it's where I buy chicks in the spring), I bought two long tubes of foam insulation to wrap the standing water pipes before we get to freezing weather.  Chris is a long-time employee there and we tease and laugh a lot together.  I told him I was having a hard time not bonking him on the head with one of the tubes; he told me a woman he'd not talked to before did just that.  At least I gave him fair warning.

Pearl has an internal alarm clock set at five a.m.  That's about when I get up anyway, so I don't mind.  A girl's gotta go when a girl's gotta go and if that's when she needs to go outside, so be it.  I did get a bit peeved the other morning when, instead of going to the door to be let out, she led me into the kitchen to stand in front of the treat drawer and mew.  Getting up in the dark to give a cat a goody seems extreme.  Frank had a wimpy, rather pathetic excuse for a male meow, but Pearl has a broken squeaker, one of those raspy, cracked voices it is impossible to ignore.

Cindy seems to have rallied some and was more animated yesterday.  She had distanced herself from the herd for days and would still not go in with the others last night.  I've been coaxing her into the covered, fenced play yard to keep her safe.

Safety is the order of the day.  The hills resound with gunfire during deer season.  Some nutter must be using an elephant gun, it was so loud the other day; way too much fire power for hunting deer.  "My" deer are in the yard all day and evening, looking for sanctuary.  Their water pan must be refilled twice a day.  I think they bed down in my woods after dark.

Dark is coming earlier every day, and sunrise coming later.  Bedtime for my Bonzos (you'd have to be old enough to recognize that Ronald Reagan movie) is at 6:30 now or the girls won't go into a dark stall.

Where has this year gone?