Tuesday, December 31, 2013


I'm all for new technology.  I love the DVR, flat screen monitors and TVs, cell phones, food processors, etc.  However, and I repeat, however, there are those times (as in a power outage) when one has to get back to low-tech basics.  My land-line telephone went out awhile back.  I found a surprisingly cheap model not too long ago but when I got it home, found it did not have a "speed dial" or memory feature as the old one did.  After my last guests left yesterday I made a hit-and-run trip to town.  It took three stores to find what I needed (batteries not included).  That type of phone just isn't being made anymore.  As I explained to the Nice Lady, I can find the right buttons in the dark when there's no electricity, but it's very difficult to look up the number for PG&E in the telephone book then.  Cell phones will work as long as they've been recharged (note to self:  keep cell phone charged).  There are wireless phones all over the house and I love that convenience, but I'm dead in the water without one direct land line.  Every cook needs a whisk and a box grater when the power goes out.  All those canned goods in the cupboard won't feed anyone if only an electric can opener is available, so I use an old-fashioned hand cranker.  A carpet sweeper or broom will get the house looking tidy when the vacuum cleaner won't run.  We switched out the electric stove top for propane gas after a three- or four-day stint without power and no way to even boil an egg.  I use the coffee maker every day, but keep a coffee pot for emergencies.  One of my wishes when I win the megabucks lottery is a windmill to pump water.  I really appreciate my wood stove in the winter.  My friend Camille has a pellet stove that is efficient for heat, but it requires electricity to run the auger.  Guess who freezes her butt when the power is out during a snow storm; not me.  I once needed to withdraw funds from a bank when their computers were down.  Impossible to believe, but no one in the bank knew how to handwrite a receipt so I could take out some money.  Shade-tree mechanics with a little experience could fix any vehicle engine for years.  Now a computer is required to diagnose a car problem.  Go figure.

As I said, I love new technology and enjoy the "toys" of the new generation.  Total dependence, however, is a grave mistake.  Sometimes one has to revert to the essentials to make it through the day.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Those Weren't Ants

My intentions were to write about my current guests, my great-niece from the Long Beach, CA, area and my great-nephew from New Hampshire.  I've not seen Jeff since he was a little, little boy and, while Lori and I are frequently in contact, it's been some time since she's visited.  Arriving in the morning, I fed them a quick breakfast and then Jeff did a tour of duty in the goat barn with me.  We all did a lot of nonstop talking and then they went to sample the wares of a few of the local winemakers in the afternoon while I caught up on some chores.  That's what I intended to describe.

At sundown, I went out alone to put the critters to bed.  Cindy got balky and would not go into the barn with the other goats.  Hoping to coax her in through the milking room, I lifted the lid of the grain bucket hanging on the wall and reached up to get a handful.  I wanted a handful of grain; what I got was more than a handful of mice.  The little thieves leapt out in twos and threes, running down my arm and jumping from my shoulder, and more kept coming.  And then it happened.  Two mice sprang out and landed with unerring aim, falling down inside the front of my bibbies.  Never have I been so glad that bibbies do not have a waistband or that I was wearing a turtleneck and not a tank top.  No clogger could have danced faster than I as I tried to get those mice down and out my pants legs.  I was laughing loud and so hard I scared Cindy and she ran into the milking room to hide.  Getting her in there was the plan in the first place; it was the unique method that surprised me, one I do not plan to repeat.  I was still laughing when I got back to the house to tell of my latest farm adventure, too good not to share.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

I Don' Wanna Grow Up!

Christmas is a time for children.  Responsible, hard-working, most of my "boys" well over six feet tall, and, as impossible as it seems to me, at or approaching middle age, Christmas brings out the child in each of my Kids.  Deb and Craig had been struck down by a wicked flu bug and, as with Pete down south, were very much missed yesterday.  Dave, his lady Sandra and her daughter Katie, Larry, and Clay timed their arrival so that the girls could spend a little time with me in the barn while the guys restocked the porch wood rack.  Chores over, it was time to shuffle cards and count out chips for some serious nickle-dime-quarter poker.  My mother would not tolerate talking during a poker game, and the kids' dad would leave the table if someone called a wild card.  Neither of them would have enjoyed the raucous banter, name calling, laughing (oh, the laughing!), and Larry's infamous "One-eyed Jacks, Suicide Kings, and Black Mariah" games at my house.  There were a couple of breaks for chile verde and bedtime for the critters, and then it was time for gifts.

Dave gave his brothers Ninja warrior weapons and headbands and, thankfully, Clay and Larry only shot each other and everybody else with the Nerf guns and did not throw the whirly star thingies or stab the dog with the little daggers.   Along with some lovely, serious gifts, I was presented with a farting stuffed pig.  It couldn't be a real Christmas without a new pig of some kind.  Watching the "inner child" in each adult come out to play was such fun.  It was a merry, merry day.  I hope they never grow up, and I don't want to, either.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Stuff Of Dreams

Those were not visions of sugarplums dancing in my head last night, they were lists of things yet undone flashing in front of my (closed) eyes.  Next to me, Bess was having "sympathy dreams" as she whined and cried in her sleep.  The baking is done, the chile verde simmered in the oven all night, the poker (dining room) table is cleared of all sewing projects, and presents were purchased.

As we are now all adults (I won't say "grown up;" that may never happen - insert smiley face here), we set a five-dollar limit on gifts.  That demands a degree of imagination and creativity.  Being the mom, I claim a certain exemption and throw in cookies and other goodies; somehow, they never complain or claim I've cheated.

Since one of the things unfinished is wrapping packages, I'd best get at it.  Shhh, I may dust, or not.

Friday, December 27, 2013

New Money

It's no secret how I feel about shopping; I'd rather take a beating.  I would go window shopping only if I were in the market for a window.  Cruise the malls?  Seriously?!  A friend was describing something recently and said, "You know, just like Starbucks."  I did not know.  I've never been in a Starbucks.  I do not do debit cards and save the credit card for true emergencies.  Checks and currency of the realm are used to make purchases.  All of this is leading to the fact that I found a crisp dollar bill amongst the change hurriedly shoved in my pocket in my rush to get out of the store on my last shopping expedition.  New money always makes me smile.

In the early days, one of my Kids (who shall remain nameless) was the family bank.  Frugal by nature, Kid saved allowances and gift money.  Kid was known to make loans to siblings, and even the father hit the Bank Of Kid a few times.  Loans were granted only on surrender of collateral:  piggy banks, a bicycle, something of substance.  (I believe the father's word was good enough for the loan department.)  Reneging was unthinkable; the bank would be closed to the offender forever and collateral forfeited.  Points were given if repayment was made with uncreased bills, i.e., new money.  It might be only family legend, but it has been said by reliable sources that Kid ironed wrinkled, old currency so that it stacked well.

I smoothed the dollar from my pocket and transferred it to my wallet.  New money makes me smile.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Number One

Not much got crossed off the list yesterday and I didn't feel one bit bad about it.  I will today when I have to double-time everything, but yesterday (Christmas Day) was spent at my friend Camille's.  I'd been invited for a simple midday meal of turkey soup, which sounded great to me.  As Camille described it, then her mom Olga just went wild, adding this and that to the menu until there was a veritable feast on the table.  Garlic chicken with crispy skin, baked yams, roasted Italian Brussels sprouts with pancetta, onions, and provolone cheese, and, of course, the turkey noodle soup.  The two ladies cooked up a storm.  Olga had also made banana bread, but I didn't have a nook or cranny left to put another bite.  With sympathy for the midwest and east-coasters who are suffering with ice storms and heavy snow, we sat on the sun-drenched patio in the afternoon and watched the kittens play and Honey stretch out and nap while we talked of "sailing ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings."  It was a great day in good company.

Back to reality.  Numerous lists have been made and revised.  Some, but not all, items have a line through.  It's coming down to priorities now:  what can actually get done, what can we do without, when is enough enough?  In a panic about our holiday, I don't want to lose sight of that which is most important - being together with family.  That's Number One on my list always.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Home Stretch

December 25.  The rest of the world is celebrating the holiday and I'm peddling as fast as I can to catch up.  Baked and stirred most of yesterday, and then I stepped in quicksand.  I had a bit of trouble while hunting in the freezer for the pork I knew was in there.  There wasn't any.  I know this for sure because I took everything out of the freezer and time slipped away while I put it all back.  Fearful that the nearest grocery store (which is a fair piece up the road) would either be closing early or out of pork, I called.  The nice man in the meat department said he had plenty of pork butts.  "And how much might they be?"  "Oh, about a billion dollars."  "Well, that's okay then; I won't have to break open the piggy bank."  He turned to ask someone the price, and I heard the response, "Punch in 1103."  "Wha-a-a-t?!," I yelped, thinking $11.03 a pound.  The nice man nearly dropped the phone he was laughing so hard.  There was a kitchen time out while I jumped in the truck and went to get the main ingredient for Saturday's chile verde.

Determined to get in the mode, I dragged out the box with the Christmas tree last night.  It took all of "A Christmas Carol" and most of "It's A Wonderful Life" to insert each color-coded branch into the trunk.  Filled with as much spirit as I could handle for one day, I left the tree au naturel and went to bed.

Happy holidays to one and all!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Playing Favorites

Favoritism has never been a problem with my Kids; each was and is my favorite, special in his or her own way.  When it comes to mice, however, I have to admit to partiality.  Psychologically, it has been proven that we are drawn to those who like us, and there is one mouse who gets more attention these days.  For some time, she (and it is a she) would bring a snack and sit a couple of feet from me and nibble as we looked each other in the eye.  I began to watch for her and she didn't disappoint.  Her coat is a little scruffy and I know why.  She has two small children (in people years, I'd say they are seven or eight) and they are hellions.  They race around in and out of the burrow, get in squabbles, and one is a total bully.  He has tried to snatch food from his mother and if his sibling should find a tidbit, Bully Boy immediately takes it away.  The breakfast buffet is across the room from Mama Mouse's house, a long way for such a tiny creature.  I've tried to make her life a bit easier by leaving Willy Wonka prizes (the biggest flakes of corn) by her doorstep.  That gives her some breathing space and more time to enjoy her meal while her rambunctious brood play tag, and I get to enjoy her company.  For the majority of mice, I squirt milk, I put down grain, and they're on their own.  Mama Mouse and I have bonded and, yes, she is my favorite.

Monday, December 23, 2013


Kathy V. is a friend I've never met.  In one of those round-about ways of the universe, we were introduced online by an in-person friend to us both, Kit, because Kathy V. (I always think of her with initial included) and I raise goats.  Kathy V. and I rise early and we frequently connect on Facebook before dawn for a quick chat.  The other day Kathy V. gave me the recipe for cajeta, Mexican goat milk caramel.  It didn't sound difficult and I'm overloaded with the main ingredient.  What the heck, I'd give it a try.  The directions said to "simmer for an hour," and then an additional half-hour of careful watching and stirring for the final reduction.  Simmer apparently means different things to different people.  My first batch "simmered" for nearly eight hours on Saturday and by the time it was caramelizing I was falling asleep and had to turn off the stove to stave off calamity, planning to continue the process the next day.  After consultation with Kathy V. yesterday, I was game to try again with the day's fresh milk.  An hour of what I call a low rolling boil brought the mixture to the correct stage (where eight hours had brought me before).  I had jars ready.  I was on the verge of success.  I heated the first batch and added it to the second in the interest of saving time so the caramel could thicken to perfection during the last critical half hour.

The phone rang.

Once scorched, there is no way to rescue a ruined pan of candy or caramel sauce; that burned flavor is in there to stay.  A double batch of cajeta and two days' work down the drain.  I reject the term "stubborn;" however, having tasted the almost-finished product, I am determined to make this happen.  (I will not, by the way, answer the telephone.)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Murder Mystery

I made a gruesome discovery yesterday morning.   The half-devoured body a barred Rock hen lay out in the open in the chicken pen.  How could this have possibly happened?  With no hiding places, I could not have missed her the night before and left her outside in danger.  Opening the doors to let the others out (after removing the remains), I found the crime scene inside.  Over time, the big door had warped, leaving a gap at the bottom; a gap not so big I was worried about the chickens getting out, but evidently big enough to allow a small or thin predator in.  Feathers on the floor told the tale.  When chickens sleep, they sleep deep.  I doubt they raised an alarm when the murderer entered, made its choice, and struck.  The flock had obliterated any footprints, so I have no idea what could have climbed the fence (nothing had dug under), squeezed through the opening and then dragged the prey outside.  The killer remains unknown and at large.  Last night I jammed a board up against the door, effectively closing the gap after the little kids were tucked inside.  I'd rather read a murder mystery than find one.

Saturday, December 21, 2013


I have a love/hate relationship with elastic, especially waistband elastic.  We start out fresh together and everything is hunky-dory.  It grips gently and promises to give and take (expand and contract) with me.  I believe in long-term togetherness; bibbies and socks are about the only clothing items I actually wear out.  Sweatpants are brought out only in the wintertime year after year, and then are not exposed to the elements.  They are layered under bibbies and protected.  Why then do they turn on me?  It is the evil elastic that has waited for its chance at a wicked giggle.  Pants under pants are not going to fall to the floor (as has happened to me with other britches and elastic-waisted underwear more than once in the past), but the day comes that I notice an uncomfortable bunching of what had belonged at my waist is now down around my bum.  Yup, the elastic has let go again.  Droopy drawers under bibbies make a fashion statement appropriate only for a down-on-the-farm segment of "I Love Lucy."  Now if I can just remember where I put the safety pins.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Ho! Ho! Ho!

With a big burst of enthusiasm and moved by the spirit of the holidays, I decorated for Christmas yesterday.  Well, this is as far as I got so I can't say I'm done with that deed.  BUT!  Wait for it...I brought one of the trees into the house!  It's still in the box, which I put behind the fake ficus, but it is in this house instead of the shed and I hummed "Jingle Bells" all the way.  By golly, I think I'm feeling holly-fied.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

What A Finish

In all ways, it had been a pretty nondescript day.  The same old barn chores, same old goats, same old household tasks.  Cloud cover moved in during the afternoon; nothing new there.  Ho hum.  At the appropriate time, I put the kids to bed in barn and coop without incident while it was still daylight.  Haven't needed the wood stove for a couple of days but the temp started dropping.  Had I not stepped out on the porch for wood, I would have missed this spectacular, unusual cloud formation and fire in the sky.  The day might have been blah, but the finish was a big bang.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Spinning Wheels

The last few days have been shirtsleeve weather; layered shirts, to be sure, but no jacket needed.  And still there is snow on the ground and ice in the driveway.  The truck did a little fishtailing on the way down to the feed store, but a couple hundred pounds of grain in the back end gave enough traction on the way back up so that four-wheel drive wasn't necessary this time.

I had stopped spinning my wheels about Christmas, too, and had been baking and sewing up a storm.  And then I got sidelined by a gift I was assured was "Not for Christmas."  I was twelve when the movie "The Quiet Man" (John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara) came out.  My sister Pat had four of her seven children by then.  Pat was not her name, but she'd never been called anything else because it was said she had the map of Ireland in her face and tall, red-haired, green-eyed, she took after her Irish dad's side of the family.  In 1952, my brother-in-law took a second job at a drive-in movie in El Monte.  One of the perks was that his family could get in free.  Anxious to see this film made in Ireland, my sister popped a big grocery sack of popcorn, loaded up her kids in the back of the station wagon (yes, it was a "woodie"), picked me up and off we went.  The first night, the drive-in was full and we were turned away.  We tried another night, got in, and then a thick fog descended and the theater was closed.  A third try; it rained.  Nothing if not determined, Pat loaded us up a fourth time and we got to watch Sean Thornton and Mary Kate Danaher at last.  My sister died this week.  Finding the DVD of "The Quiet Man" in the mail from my friend Kit yesterday brought back such a fun memory.  There was also Maureen O'Hara's memoir in the package.  I planned just to look at the pictures and then, well, read just the forward, maybe just the first few sentences.  Chapters later, it was time to put the goats to bed and I'd lost the whole afternoon.  It was a good day.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Old Dog, New Trick

Bessie Anne has taken on the job of teaching me a new trick.  It's nice to know she hasn't given up on me and thinks I'm still trainable.  This job is no small inconvenience as she'd rather sleep in and, in order for it to work properly, Bess has to get up with me in the morning and I keep rather erratic hours.  Regardless, for the sake of consistency, she follows me into the kitchen every day now.  Cat and dog both know that nothing happens until the coffee machine starts; that's a fact of life in my house.  Bess waits until she hears the click and then her work begins.  It's a little hard to describe her moon-walking, backward-stepping, butt-wiggling, head-shaking tap dance or how she maintains eye contact while going through these gyrations, but since it works every time, who am I to question her training methods?  Patiently, as soon as I take the first step in the right direction, Bessie leads me to the milk-bone box where I have learned to perform as requested and give her one treat, and only one.  In the beginning, I would ask, "This is what you want?  You want a milk bone at this hour?  Seriously?"  That I was slow on the uptake did not discourage her.  Another little dance convinced me that I was on the right track.  My reward for doing well is seeing her pleasure as she takes her treat to the dining room (which is where all ladies eat).  Starting the day with a success story is a good thing.

The turkeys were back in the goat pen last night.

Monday, December 16, 2013

They Come and Go

It was good to be out of the chair and up and moving again, perhaps a bit slower, but moving just the same.  I don't do sick or hurt very well; I get cranky.  Chores were a lot easier yesterday.

For days and days there have been turkeys around every corner, in every nook and cranny, and especially in the goat pen at night.  Therefore it was very strange at dusk when there was not one turkey in sight; none in the pen, none in the vineyard, none under or in the trees.  Where did they go and why?

I recently had the thought that it had been quite some time since I'd heard the beastie boys.  For awhile there, I heard them nearly every night, yipping and calling as they hunted in the hills.  As if that thought had conjured them, when the full moon rose last night, the coyotes gathered for choir practice and they sang.  They were not on the move and they did not yip and yodel; they sang a wild and beautiful song I've never heard before.  I stepped out on the deck.  Moonlight shining on snow in the pasture, voices raised in chorus; magical.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


This is not the time of year to take a day off, but I sat on the sidelines yesterday with a pulled chest muscle.  I would gladly have handed off barn chores to any passing stranger, but no strangers passed.  I was very thankful that the girls came in for breakfast in orderly fashion; raking out stalls was as much effort as I could put forth and chasing down a recalcitrant goat was not on my wish list.  Animals and fowl fed and watered, I retreated to the house where the most active thing I did all day was stoke the wood stove.  I could hear Freddy Fender singing "Wasted Days" and felt bad about it, but not so bad that I did anything.  After a day of rest, it was easier to move when I put the kids to bed.  And yes, the turkeys were in the pen...again.

I'll be back in the game today, Coach.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Hot and Cold

Turkeys in the goat pen have become a nightly thing.  Last evening they did at least have the courtesy not to block the path.  I tried to veer off or run ahead to get a shot that included the goats, but the girls either veered or ran with me (that herd instinct), so all I got was their shadows as we paraded to the barn.

I am not ready to break out the bikinis, but it did get up into the 50s yesterday.  (Mornings are still freezing and below.)  I had to make a trip into town and was a bit concerned about the roads.  While the pen has melted off, there is still snow in many areas of the yards and on the deck.  Down in Diamond Springs, two guys with shovels were clearing the sidewalks at WalMart, a week after the snowfall.  A couple of places on Bucks Bar get dicey when icy so it was a slower trip than usual, but I wanted to get home before the temp dropped and I almost made it.  The deeper snow in the shade at the bottom of the driveway had frozen again when I got to the house and tires just spun.  Four-wheel drive saved the day.  Groceries stayed in the truck while I hurried to get the goats tucked in while it was still light and closed the doors on the coops.  Priorities, you know.  Unloaded the truck, threw a log on the fire, handed Bessie a treat, and gave a great sigh.  It's good to be home.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Turkeys, Turkeys Everywhere

Partridges may live in pear trees; turkeys prefer pine.  At least five were clustered in the branches just off the deck while their buddies gathered under the oak at the edge of the woods.  Farview is absolutely overrun with turkeys.  A few of the Peeping Tomettes peered in the windows as they walked the rail again yesterday.  At least one tribe of twelve to fifteen waits behind the shed to come running when I throw down seed in the morning.  That major massing in Joel's vineyard the other day?  They've moved into the goat pen.  For two nights now, I've counted thirty-six in the pen and more coming over the fence and others gliding down from the tree over the barn when I arrive to put the girls to bed.  The large number is not surprising anymore; it is the fact that they so grudgingly move out of the way, barely.  The goats always come to meet me at the gate and we walk down to the barn together.  (Poppy moves slower so she heads in that direction as soon as she sees me coming.)  The progress of our parade is stalled as we wait for turkeys to give ground.  The goats are as confused as I and seem unwilling to challenge the invaders.  After the girls are tucked in, I head back up the slope, walking within a few feet of the big birds who stand as if daring me to question their right to be exactly where they are.  To paraphrase Coleridge:  Turkeys, turkeys everywhere; nor any bite to eat.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Ain't It Funny?

Willie Nelson could have been writing my theme song when he penned, "Ain't it funny how time slips away?"  Dates and events have a way of sneaking up on me and in many cases pass right by.  I know darned good and well that Christmas is just around the corner.  Have I done anything to get ready?  I have not.  I had a sewing project in mind.  That came to a screeching halt when the machine quit before I could run the first seam.  Rather than give in to my first impulse (which was to beat it with the sledge hammer that sits handily by the front door, left there after my last project), I turned my back on it.  Ignoring an inanimate object is not productive; it will not feel shame and it will not self-heal.  Ignoring it will, however, burn up two days of precious time.  Tools in hand, I finally approached said machine and was able to get it up and running again.  Our relationship will probably never be the same, but at least we can work together again.  That project is underway and hopefully will be completed in time.  Or not.

One would think my house would rival the Griswold's.  I have not one, but four, Christmas trees in the shed.  That shed is filled with bins of lights and ornaments and decorations.  Have I put up even one?  I have not.  This house used to scream Christmas; even the bathrooms were decked with holly.  Obviously the pressure of a deadline has not kicked in yet.  The oaks in the yard are more festive than I; there is mistletoe in their branches.

I have given a passing thought to holiday baking.  That's as far as it's gotten.  Have I baked one cookie?  I have not.  For awhile I could use the excuse that losing power was a possibility and I didn't want to end up with pans of raw dough in a cold oven.  It was a balmy thirty-four this morning and that delaying tactic won't fly.

The Kids won't be up for our celebration until the 28th so I've got a few days' grace.  Will I be ready?  I will not.  I'll probably be putting up the tree on the 27th.  Ain't it funny how time slips away?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Quartet and Trio

Ever get that feeling you are being watched?  Turned away here, these four turkey hens (can't call them Peeping Toms) had peered in the window and waited while I went to get the camera.  Lots of birds land on the rail but they are the small sparrows, blue jays, and black-caps, not these feathered behemoths.  It's a little spooky to have four sets of eyes staring at you.  Having had their photo op moment, the quartet continued on with stately, measured tread around the corner of the deck to peck at the dried seed fronds of the licorice mint.
Slightly warmer yesterday, I could use the cart instead of the sled to haul alfalfa to the goats, but in the shade, five days after the snowfall, there were still four inches of snow on the table.  It's been that cold.  One by one, the turkeys marched to the end of the deck and, like high divers, leaped into space and glided to the ground. 

I have learned to stoke the stove well before sitting down in the recliner at night.  Once the footrest goes up, I'm in the chair for the duration.  Bess snuggles at my side with her head on my ankles and Pearl takes her place on my lap and nobody moves.  The fleece throw has been replaced by fur as we three keep each other warm.  It could be worse.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Traffic Control

There is a lot of foot traffic at Farview.  I do see the turkeys and the occasional deer, but even so I did not realize until yesterday just how many pedestrian creatures travel through the property.  No vehicles had been on the driveway since the first snow fell.  While some renegades cut across the yard, I find it amusing that the majority of the walkers and joggers stayed on the drive.  When my milk customer came in the afternoon, having braved the icy roads, he asked how was my weekend.  It took me a minute while I tried to remember what a weekend was; that's not a word in my vocabulary.  "You must have had fun.  Looks like you had a lot of kids here."  Oh good grief!  He was talking about all the tracks in the driveway!

It really hasn't warmed up much for over a week.  Low 20s this morning, 46 in the house.  Enough snow melted yesterday that I found the lid to the trash barrel.  It had blown off the first night it snowed and I expected to find it down near the woods.  I'm glad I haven't had to go anywhere (the truck is 4-wheel drive) because the lid was lodged just behind a front tire.  It's also a good thing because I hate to drive in traffic, and pedestrians have the right of way.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Making Tracks

It was pretty much a rerun of the day before, but colder in the morning yesterday.  There must have been more snow during the night because I could not find the pan for the wild things' water at all.  The ice was so thick in the goat trough that I could not break it, no matter how hard I beat on it with my stick.  The girls had to settle for nibbling on snow until it warmed up (ha!) later in the day.  The sun did come out, melted the ice on the satellite dish so the TV came alive again, and thawed some of the snow on trees.  As the weight was lifted, one branch would spring up, knocking snow from its neighbors and sending sprays into the air; really quite pretty.

Tracks, and the occasional pile of scat, showed where the wild things had been.  Turkey tracks are interesting in that there is a light, straight line between the prints, possibly from one low toe.  Deer had been in and out of the goat pen cleaning up alfalfa leftovers, and the driveway was a regular thoroughfare as critters and pedestrian fowl made their way to the feeding station under the oak.  The chickens have not ventured out of their coops for two days; they are not as dumb as their reputations would have us believe.  While it would be easier to walk in my own footprints, it is not safe.  The compressed snow has turned to ice.  Snow looks light and fluffy, but I do not think it would make for a soft landing.  That's not the kind of track I'd like to leave.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Snow Days

Woke up yesterday to a white, white world.  It had started snowing the night before.  I didn't hear it (funky hearing loss from this blasted cold), but there had to be a pretty good wind out of the south that covered the satellite dishes in snow, so no television and no internet access (still no television).

Bessie Anne bounds around in the snow like a puppy.  As shaggy as her back is, she has never had any hair on her belly; just the thought of it makes me shiver.  Back on the porch, her legs are covered in icy snowballs.  I brush them off as best I can, she chews off others, and the rest melt on the rug.  Pearl has not left the house for days, deigning to use the indoor "latrine" provided.

I stopped counting at thirty-six.  The contrast of the dark turkeys in the snow was striking.  They stood like statues (frozen turkeys?) in the vineyard as I made my way up the hill after milking.  The tribe later cruised through my yards, looking for seed and water.  With the onset of snow, it is actually warmer than the days before and while slushy, the troughs and bowls were not frozen.

So far, so good with the power.  The wood stove had been stoked all day so the living room was cozy last night.  (Heat does not turn corners, so down the hall to the bedroom, not s'much.)  Bess and Pearl are in their next-to-best favorite winter hangout.  The best is when we are all in the recliner together.

Not much has melted, so it looks like a rerun of yesterday outside.  Doesn't look like more snow this morning, although the clouds to the southeast are pretty dark.  If I miss another entry here, be patient; the sun will shine again!

Friday, December 6, 2013

A First

Low temperatures are nothing new.  Ice in the trough has happened many times before (that stick was definitely necessary).  It was a first, however, when I opened the box of udder wipes and found them frozen stiff!  Knowing I was not going to save the milk yesterday, I could not bring myself to torture the girls that way and milked them come-as-you-are.  Carrying warm water to the Silkies worked well and it stayed liquid all day.  With no water coming from the tap in the morning, all I could do for the wild things was break a hole in the ice in their pan.  Still frozen at night, at least I could refill it and hope for the best.  Ratty Rita is finally starting to sprout feathers to cover her nudity, but it's taking too long.  She told me that she was worried too as I stroked her back last evening; she hinted she'd like to be a house chicken.  While that would not be a first, not this time, Rita.

My friend Tinka in Fiddletown told me last night that she would be happy with my 24 degrees; it was 17 at her place.  In some bizarre do-you-one-better race, it was 20 and falling here at five this morning.  Take that, Tinka!  Knowing there is a possibility of a power outage in our future, the laundry is done, the dishwasher has run, and all things electrical were accomplished yesterday.  They say the real cold is coming in tonight with snow predicted to 1,000 feet, and possibly to the eastern Sacramento border.  Wouldn't that be something?

Even if we keep power, if the satellite dish fills with snow I may not be able to access the computer to write an entry until there is a thaw.  The joys of high tech in a low-tech rural setting. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Carry A Big Stick

The routine has been to fill the waterers for the chickens in the morning.  That does not work in this weather.  Even with wrapped pipes (so far, so good), the faucets are frozen and nothing comes out until well after sunup.  There was a good inch of ice in the goat trough yesterday and there I was with no way to break it.  With a vague memory of having seen something suitable, I headed back to No-Man's Land, the barn.  Now that I think of it, No-Man's Land isn't quite right; more likely it is No-Girls-Allowed Land.  It was set up by a man and only men seem to be able to find whatever it is they're looking for, probably because they know what they're looking for.  They know instinctively where a guy would put the wire twister pliers, while I go poking around for that swirly-twirly thingy to connect the chicken wire.  Hoping not to encounter Thing and ignoring his latest destruction, in a back corner under a pile of unidentified guy stuff, I found a bundle of what I think are construction stakes.  At any rate, they were the right size to bash the ice in the trough so the girls could get a drink.  They would probably prefer hot cocoa, but there's a limit to my services.  I will, however, take a small container with warm water out to the Silkies this morning.  I found them sucking on ice cubes last evening because their waterer never did thaw.  I quickly got them some fresh water and gave them time to hydrate before tucking them in for the night.

I have relatives in New Hampshire, Maine, and Pennsylvania who must be laughing up their sleeves at this California whiner, given what their weather must be.  They would probably think that 24 degrees is a shirt-sleeve day.  Goody for them.  It's all relative, my relatives, and I think it's cold!  Today appears to be a repeat of yesterday, and I left the big stick by the water trough.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Told Ya So

I can see the satisfied smirks on the faces of the weather people as they look at thermometers today.  (What is the generic term we are supposed to use?  Oh, right.  Meteorologists!)  They were right, in spades.  After a not-so-cold morning, the temperature started dropping yesterday.  Tree Guy came in early afternoon to weatherize the sprinkler system for the new trees and it was doggone cold by then.  I'm a wuss and went back in the house to thaw after he left.  Later, a hoped-for ray of sunshine broke through and it was now-or-never time.  Putting foam wrap on pipes is not rocket science, but Steve or the boys always took care of that.  I really like the challenge of doing something new.  Whether I did it correctly remains to be seen, and I won't have to wait too long.  It is 24 degrees this morning.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


The days have been unusually warm for this time of year; no complaints from me.  It has been easy to become lulled and to put off getting finalized for winter.  Those in the know, or those who at least make better guesses, say that is about to come to an abrupt end with nighttime temps dropping into the 20s and hard-freeze warnings beginning tonight and lasting the rest of the week.  I covered the last window opening in the barn yesterday, and turned off the main water to some outlying pipes.  Making a run to stock up on feed in case the prediction of snow down to 2,500 feet comes true, alongside the road I noted a number of large trees that went down in the last big blow.  That is always such a worry here and, let's face it, we haven't had the best record with the oaks in the last couple years.  Deb and Craig loaded the porch rack with firewood, making trip after trip with the little red wagon, so I'm set there.  Capital-P Procrastinator that I am, I still have not put foam insulation around some of the standing water pipes; that's on the agenda for today.  I'm waiting for a call back from Tree Guy; I need his advice on what to do about the sprinkler system he put in for those trees he did plant, and how to winterize those still in the pots.  Making a mad dash to get the trash down to the big road today, I found it had drizzled during the night and there is still a heavy mist, dark skies, and a chill wind.  There's not going to be much in the way of transition here; winter is landing with a bang.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Other Guest

The Thanksgiving gathering included a guest I neglected to mention.  Honey, Camille's German shepherd, was very much a part of the party.  Our ritual greeting always begins with a trip to the milk-bone box; Bessie is included.  Bessie Anne is as good a hostess as one could find anywhere.  She is tolerant and generous, rarely vying for attention as Honey makes the rounds.  As humans settle in for conversation, Honey casually lies down with a front leg on either side of Bessie's food dish.  "Hmm hmm hmm (she hums).  Oh!  What's this?  A bowl of perfectly good food going to waste."  Like picking chocolates out of a box, she selects one kibble at a time.  That dish empty, she strolls over to Bess's milk bowl, hoping for some leftovers and giving it an extra good cleaning, just in case.  The room is large, but the cook top and work island make mine a two-butt kitchen.  Bess has learned to position herself out of the way; Honey, not s'much.  Both dogs (and all the men) close in while the turkey is carved.  So many tidbits are handed out, it's a wonder there is enough left to put on the table.  Bessie Anne and Honey are well-behaved girls and neither would beg in the dining room.  Having had her fill of the bird, Honey preempted Bess's couch, stretched out, and let the tryptophan take over.  I laughed as I walked through the room later as Honey had moved over to Bessie's dog bed.  It was a size-20 trying to fit into a size-6.  After the last guest left, I started picking up the toys that Honey had rooted out of the toy basket.  Struck by a thought, I looked under the cushion in Pearl's bed.  Pearl makes herself scarce when Honey visits.  With no Guard Cat On Duty, need I say it?  The treasured chunk of milk bone was...gone. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Getting Closer

A flock of tame vultures is not on my agenda.  (Before I go further, I know full well that purists will say that a flock of vultures is called a committee.)  At any rate, it's enough that I feed more wild things than a zoo without having to provide a meal for the vultures.  These birds that I find fascinating are marvels of biologic engineering, built to do what they do best in the most sanitary, efficient way possible.  Every morning now they sit on posts around the goat pen, warming themselves with wings spread to the morning sun.  They used to fly away when I approached but, over time, they've let me come closer before moving a post or two down the line.  As I was leaving the pen yesterday, one of the big birds was perched on the post by the gate.  Walking slowly, I kept going up the slope.  Vultures have large, dark eyes, and this one was watching me but made no move.  He (she?) let me get within three feet, almost touching distance, and sat there still.  Did this wild thing trust me?  Was it as curious about me as I was about it?  For a long moment, I stood there and we simply looked at each other.  Then the spell was broken and we each went about the business of the day.  It was magical while it lasted.

It is the first day of December.  Thanksgiving, the kickoff to the holiday season, is behind us.  My crew is going to celebrate Christmas the weekend after the 25th, but I'm already feeling the pressure.  Three weeks and then some and I know without a doubt that, even so, I will be running late.  Since I don't run as fast as I used to, I'm going to try to be a little more prepared this year.  (I say that every year, so good luck with that.)  The Big One is getting closer.