Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Made It!

Strong north winds yesterday and again today.  The chill factor when the thermometer is at 34 drops to the 20s.  Let me be perfectly clear: we're cold!  (And I don't wish comparison with Fargo, please.)  The goats are always pleased when the wind comes from the north and blows oak leaves into their pen.  The girls will forgo alfalfa in their search for oak leaves, considering them the next best thing to M&Ms or potato chips.  Tessie waddled along the fence line searching for munchies and spraddle-legged with a full udder, was at least easy to catch yesterday while her attention was elsewhere.  Up on the stand, the slightest first touch turned her spigots on full blast; very little squeezing needed.  Mission accomplished.

Winds from the north set the wind chimes jangling and whip around the house, blowing mountains of leaves onto the porch.  An overly optimistic weatherman had promised just the one day of strong wind and so I put off pulling more firewood to the house, not wishing to get beaten by the tarp.  Yes, well, the wind still howls this morning.  We made it through with only a few power blips.  Others were not so lucky with trees going down like tenpins across the  hills. 

When I'm on the move and there is no lap available, Ralph and Celeste become snuggle bunnies to keep each other warm.  I dare not sit down until I'm ready to stay in the chair for awhile because Bessie Anne immediately claims her spot.  If she's in the other chair, instead of getting down and asking to join me, she now takes a shortcut across the intervening table, knocking telephone, books, reading glasses, etc., aside and plops into my lap.  A fifty-pound dog plops!  Celeste jumps up and claims whatever space is left, leaving Ralph, poor dear, to curl up alone wherever he can.

Tomorrow is, as Scarlett said, another day; the beginning of a new year.  New Year's Eve is a time of reflection, time to look back on another year of joys and losses, excitement and the blahs.  Writing this journal of sorts is of great benefit for me.  It causes me to look at every day, every event, with an eye to what is important in my life and to see the natural beauty with which I am surrounded.  My family, my animals, and my friends are always uppermost on a long, long list of that for which I am grateful.  Another year gone by.  Made it!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Some Days...

Some days are just like that.  Tessie the Terrible has been getting pretty independent lately.  "I hear you calling me and I'll come down to the barn when I darn well feel like it."  She's always the last one in anyhow, so when she gets snotty I go ahead and clean the back stalls and fill the feed bucket for the next day so as not to waste time.  She finally wanders down the hill and comes in.  Yesterday was one of those days.  I called, I cleaned, I even walked up to head her in the right direction.  Couldn't grab her collar.  I'm out of stall space to isolate her so I can bring her in like Sheila and Inga.  I waited.  She looked at me.  I looked at her.  It was freezing cold out and I was not inclined to walk the pen on icy grass.  "Okay, kiddo.  Last chance."  She looked at me.  When I put the girls to bed last night, Tessie was already walking bowlegged and udders really fill up overnight.  I'll bet she begs to be first this morning.  Robert Heinlein wrote "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress."  Tessie's going to put my name in there somewhere, but I won't be bested by a goat.

Back at the house and trying to thaw out, I pulled the throw over my legs and was immediately joined by Bessie and Celeste.  Who warms who here?  Ralph checked to see, but there was no room left.  I get warm; I get sleepy.  A nap seemed in order.  "Ring ring."  Quick conversation.  Went back to sleep.  "Ring ring."  Some days you can't catch a break.

Yesterday bridges in Placerville were closed due to ice on the road.  Today is supposed to be colder and big winds are predicted that will intensify the chill factor.  Kansas?  I think we've been transported to Fargo!  This is sunny California, for crying out loud.  It's going to be one of those days.

Monday, December 29, 2014


Li'l Dave and Taylor slept in so I had some precious one-on-one time with my son Larry before I had to go down to the barn yesterday.  Our group get-togethers are so much fun, but busy lives limit the  the special individual visits that I treasure.  It was so nice to sit and talk (and play a little cards, of course).  Back up at the house, the others were also up and it was time to fix a country breakfast of sausage, hash browns, and eggs with cheese.  Taylor has a hat fetish and every time she came out of "her" room, she was wearing a different chapeau.  I happen to have any number of hats for play, but, for Taylor, a bow, a visor, a paper paint mask will do.  Kids with autism have their own view of the universe.

The guys were in no hurry after the rush of the day before, so we lounged and talked, watched a little TV, and they also went back downstairs to do some more jammin' on guitar and drums.  Sitting upstairs, I could feel the vibrations as they rocked out some R&B.  Larry writes music and I love it when he plays his original stuff.  When it came time to pack up, I had no idea how many components a drum set has.  The guys got their exercise making countless trips up and down stairs.  I did ask Li'l Dave if he'd ever considered the piccolo instead.  He said, "Many times!"

It happens over and over again.  "Now make another sweep through the house and make sure you have everything.  It's a long way back if you leave something.  Do you have your cellphones and sunglasses, etc.?"  Goodbyes and "Love you" said, the last of the Christmas crowd drove off.  Celeste, whom no one had seen from the git-go, came out of hiding and demanded a lap.  Ralph discovered bits of ribbon and other new toys with which he amused himself.  Not much later, I found one of Larry's birthday gifts given by his oh-so-timely sister and brother-in-law (Larry's birthday is in the first week of January and I think Deb does this just to show off) left on the dining room table.  Rats!  Almost always I find some forgotten item left behind.  Worse still, in the outside refrigerator I found all the jars of spiced butter-rum mix I'd made for each of the Kids to go with the cookies and candies bags.  Double rats!

Wood stove warmth, goats and chickens in bed, cats and dog on my lap, quiet house.  Nothing on the To-Do list for today.  A perfect ending to a perfect Christmas.  Ahhh.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Better Late Than Never

 I don't think anyone noticed that the tree had only one ornament.  (I was still wrapping gifts when the first car pulled up.) What the heck, if Christmas can be late, what am I worried about?

The group was still pretty sedate at this point after chowing down on chili verde and guacamole.  Deb, Craig, Larry, Dave, Clay, Sandra, and "Li'l Dave."  Taylor was playing in "her" room.  She has appropriated the guest room as her very own; intruders not welcome!

Camille and her mom, Olga, came a little later, but in time for the real festivities.  It's sometimes hard to tell the grownups from the kids at Christmas.  We put a $5 limit on gifts, which calls for a little ingenuity.  Somehow toys always find their way under the tree.  This year Santa (aka Dave, the bearded one) handed out Silly String.  Did I mention we have fun? 

Downstairs, play of another sort began.  Larry on guitar and Li'l Dave on drums really rocked the house.  The audience sat around the bar and played dice, bouncing on their stools to the music.  Gosh, those guys are good!

One by one, trucks and cars pulled away into the night.  Larry, Li'l Dave, and Taylor stayed over.  And Christmas is done for another year.  (Maybe I'll just leave the tree in the living room and get a head start for next year.)

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Count On It

"The hurrier I go, the behinder I get."  That would be me.  The corollary is, "Don't look behind; something might be gaining on you."  (Courtesy of Satchel Paige.)  In my case, it's Christmas.  This goose is probably the only one in the house ready for our holiday today.  My personal goose is cooked, as I have a grand total of one decoration on the tree and no lights whatsoever.  Gifts remain unwrapped.  I did get the chili verde in the oven to bake low and slow overnight.  Maybe with the wonderful aroma of pork and chilies, the Kids will overlook my sins of omission.  The Christmas spirit is willing, it's my flesh that's weak.  (I've got to quit quoting or misquoting platitudes!)

I suppose New Year's will sneak in here someday soon.  Doesn't matter.  I won't be ready.  Count on it.

Friday, December 26, 2014


It seems to be my destiny to always run late, even with the best intentions, and it goes against my nature to fight fate.  Not only were the truck doors frozen shut yesterday morning, the doors to the feed room were also frozen and no amount of pulling or prying would get them open.  Waiting until the sun (thankfully, there was sun) thawed the ice meant the critters had a late breakfast and I was still milking when I'm usually back at the house.  It set the tone for the whole day.  A second batch of candy turned out a lot better than the first, but took time I'd planned to move on to another project.  Meringue cookies died in the bowl and had to go down the drain.  There wasn't enough time to start a new batch before feeding time.  It was another "wading in Jell-O" day.

It's a balmy 32 degrees this morning; a lot better than the 26 yesterday.  It did warm up into the 40s, but a northwest wind put out a chill factor that made it seem a lot colder all day.  An old song from WWI, "Keep the Home Fires Burning," is my theme song.  I've already got the wood stove cranked up this morning.

I've got big plans and high hopes for today.  With a little help from destiny, I might be ready for Christmas tomorrow.  Or not.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Ho Ho Ho!

December 25, 2014

I don't know whether it was a "midnight clear" last night, but it's a white, wintery world this morning for traditional Christmas Day.  A storm blew in yesterday afternoon with strong winds and buckets of rain.  I'd gotten wagons of wood to the porch just in time.  Tending to the animals in the morning, I'd left the big door to the hen house closed and the gate open to the play yard so all critters could get under cover just in case the predictions were right, and it was a good thing I did.

The thermometer pegged at 26 degrees this morning and there is heavy, heavy frost in the pastures and on the deck.  Bessie and I will not be going walkabout out there; it's like black ice and not worth taking a chance.  There is something I need from the truck.  Ha!  The doors are frozen shut.  It's a good thing I don't have to go anywhere.  Pouring water on the seals has no effect.  (Safety Tip:  never pour hot water on frozen doors or windows or glass will crack.  And no, I didn't learn the hard way.)

My friend Tom came for a holiday visit yesterday and brought his recently acquired German shepherd puppy, Braca (not sure of spelling).  Braca said, "Why, yes, thank you.  I would like one of those cookies [milk bones], and I would like hers, too."  Bessie Anne explained that, no, she would keep her cookie to herself.  Boys being boys, he helped himself to Bess's food dish and slurped up a full bowl of water.  Bouncing through the house, Braca discovered the toy box and rooted around without finding anything inspiring.  Ralph's toy mouse had Braca's attention for awhile, but then, oh joy!, he found a small piece of firewood.  He happily settled down to gnaw bark and spit splinters.  Tom said his trips outside in the middle of the night with his puppy are down to only once or twice so he's getting more rest now.  Two- or four-legged, it's nice to have children around during the holidays.

I still have two days before my crowd arrives and I need each and every minute.  I've only had a year to prepare and I'm still running late.  Ho ho ho!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Day Off

Putting holiday prep on hold yesterday, my friend Arden and I went into town to celebrate her birthday with lunch and a little shopping.  Both of us being the last of the big spenders, we cruised the aisles at Dollar Tree and Grocery Outlet.  From start to finish, it was a day filled with smiles, and not just mine and Arden's.  Placerville is a small town and we stayed up at the far east end, but it was the neatest thing.  Everywhere we went, people were smiling.  Clerks in stores were joking and laughing with customers.  A busker who hangs out on the sidewalk with his guitar was singing Christmas carols and did a riff as I walked by to catch up with Arden and asked if I'd been a good girl (at my age?!).  Santa hats were prevalent.  I happened to be wearing jingle-bell earrings and a holiday vest over my bibbies; nuthin' if not stylin'.  Customers standing in check-out lines were polite(!) and wishing each other happy holidays.  It was as if the small-town Christmas spirit had infected everyone and gone viral.

Arden and I got back just in time for me to put the kids to bed.  The girls were all standing in a cluster at the corner of the pen, waiting and watching for my return at sundown.  Ginger came pitter-pattering when I approached, anxious to rejoin the flock before dark.  Bessie Anne came out to say goodbye to Arden and then it was back in the house for her.  I'd barely gotten my purchases into the kitchen after barn duty when Celeste began herding me to my chair as if she'd waited all day for a lap, plunking herself down as soon as I'd sat.  It's nice to be missed.  I did not get one single thing done at home, but I wouldn't trade yesterday for anything.  It was a good day and I'm happy my friend shared it with me.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


The sun and the welcoming committee were both up and out yesterday.  It's clear to me that I was never meant to live in rainy environs or where the sun doesn't shine for months on end.  My spirits lifted as the sun rose after a stretch of rainy days.  It was time to take my own advice:  A thing will either get done, or it won't.  It's amazing how much can be accomplished when one stops dithering in a panicked state and settles to the task(s) at hand.  I may or may not get everything I'd planned done by Saturday, but isn't that the same with everyone at Christmas time?

Bessie Anne has been losing her sight and her hearing for some time now, and it's getting worse.  Without meaning to, I sometimes startle her with a touch because she didn't hear me coming near.  She'll let loose a bark when she thinks she hears something and there's nothing there, and she doesn't hear a car drive up anymore.  The other evening, a soggy Poppy down by the barn looked unfamiliar at that distance and Bess warned me about this intruder.  As her senses diminish, she feels the need to be with me at all times.  I feel bad for her these busy days when I'm going back and forth through the house.  She doesn't get much rest as she follows me from room to room.  Asking to go outside, Bessie looks over her shoulder and waits for me to come too.  It may not be convenient, but I go with my little friend.  It's a small thing to do.

The sun went down in a blaze of glory last evening.  It was a pretty satisfying day.

Bessie and I went down to the corner this morning to lie in wait for Trash Guy.  We meet on an annual basis at Christmas when I hand him a small "thank you" for doing all the heavy lifting throughout the year.  Bess just likes to go for a ride.

The sun is up.  It's going to be a good day.

Monday, December 22, 2014

One Of Those Days

Bessie Anne and I go walkabout on the deck together, and then she heads down the drive to do her morning business.  I'd meant to just take a photo of the low-lying mist in the hills across the way after another night of rain but caught my little rag-mop girl on her way.

I've been living in a fool's paradise, thinking I had another two weeks before my gang gathers for "our" Christmas.  In my mind, I had until January 3, and even mentioned that I could take advantage of after-Christmas sales.  Ha!  And how's that workin' for ya?  It was a huge shock to really look at the calendar and get hit 'twixt the eyes and see that the Kids will be here this coming Saturday.  Panic with a capital P!!  I've been cruising along at my normal slow speed, doing a little baking now and then, a little decorating here and there.  The time I thought I had was pulled out from under.  Time to kick it into high gear and four-wheel drive!  My friend Linda did her best to talk me out of my whine-and-snivel pity party, and was partially successful.  I did start some more baking and got the pans out of the oven before (wait for it) the power went out.  That was one of the only good things that happened all day.  I have the PG&E number on speed dial on the land line, but it's been awhile since I've had to use it.  Was it "Mem 1" or "Mem 2"?  In complete darkness, of course I chose the wrong one.  Twice.  My apologies to Mem 2.

There is an honest-to-God sunrise this morning and the sky is clear.  It's going to be a good day.  Not like yesterday.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

They're Everywhere!

I keep hearing Ray Stevens in my head.  To paraphrase the lyrics from "Santa Claus Is Watchin' You," they're everywhere, everywhere I go.  Turkeys, that is.  They hang around outside the front door in the morning.  Dozens come running when I go out to put down birdseed and let the hens out.  They gather by the water bowl.  They jump into the chicken pen to share the scratch and even go in the coop to get out of the rain.  Lately, twelve or so turkey hens have been lying in wait in the goat pen and run after me as I head to the barn.  We make quite a parade.

Yesterday rain was falling while I was milking, making a racket on the metal roof.  The little barn birds were inside, sitting on the square-wire dividers between the stalls.  And then there were loud bumps and thumps overhead and strange scritching sounds and then running back and forth.  No.  It couldn't be.  But yes, it was.  The hens were up there, hunting for I don't know what among the twigs and bark fallen from the old oak.  These girls were on the roof of Louie's old room, the photo taken in a gap between the big room and the little shed.  It's one thing for the sparrows and jays to stand on the roof and quite another for the turkeys who must weigh over 20 pounds each to walk across the plexiglass panels.  I really feared that one would break through, get herself trapped, and I'd have to figure out a way to free a frantic wild turkey; not something I wanted to do.  Goats milked and barn cleaned, I made ready to slog back up the hill with the milk buckets.  The girls always accompany me as far as the gate, usually racing to be the first.  Yesterday the brigade included the contingent of turkeys following behind.  Me, the goats, and the turkeys.  I can't get away from the turkeys.  They're everywhere.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Rainy Day Play Pictorial

Kids and/or cats plus rainy days are not a good combination.  They tend to get bored and then into mischief.  It was Celeste's turn to hide in the tunnel.  Ralph brrrped brrrped and even Bessie got into the game.

Having successfully pushed his sister out of the cave, Ralph snuck in.

He had to wait awhile for Celeste to wander by, not quite close enough for the attack cat, but he tried.  Celeste, like any big sister (I don't know why I think she's the older; they're littermates), did her best to ignore her brother's antics.

Bored with the game and irritated with each other, a fight broke out.  Ralph used his martial arts training and taekwondo'ed Celeste with a kick to the face.

The siblings' battles never last long and they don't hold grudges.  After wearing themselves out with a race through the house, upstairs and down, the cats settled down together for a nap.  The problem there is that they chose Bessie Anne's chair.

Bess obligingly moved over to the other chair, my chair, leaving me that little corner when I was ready for a break.  I believe in the saying, "Let sleeping dogs lie," and so I perched on the edge.  Who's the grownup here, anyhow?

It rained steadily throughout the day and all last night.  It's still raining.  I expect a rerun.

Friday, December 19, 2014


Nine arugula leaves do not a salad make, but these are what I got.  This is the planter which I'd so hopefully seeded with assorted lettuces and greens last spring and which was raided over and over by birds and the ground squirrels that invaded the deck.  How these two plants survived and why they waited until now to come up is beyond me.  It's a case of "Take what you get and be glad that you got it."  Now I wonder if they will make it through the temperatures that have dropped to near freezing. 

The Christmas tree box went back to the shed, but the UPS box was full of cat (Celeste) and so stays in the living room.  Celeste is watching Ralph, who is hiding under the ruffle on the slipcover and waiting to attack.  That happens to be a multipurpose ruffle.  Bessie Anne uses it to dry off after an outing on a damp day and she's tucked up one section to allow the cats better access to their tunnel.  What with the bark bits scattered across the carpet, I've quit apologizing for my unique home decor, courtesy of the house critters.

After several grey and rainy days, it was nice to see a sunset, any sunset, again.  It had been a sunshiny day, but cold.  It was a day to bring more wood to the porch (rain is predicted), keep the wood stove going, and get a handle on holiday baking.  Carols playing, the house warm and filled with the scent of cinnamon and nutmeg, it was a good day.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Christmas Box

(With apologies to Richard Evans, author, and Maureen O'Hara and Richard Thomas, TV movie.)

Rain all day, but no wind (yay!).  Wood stove cranked up to high.  It was a good day to assemble the dratted artificial Christmas tree with 1,000 color-coded branches.  It had seemed a good idea at the time and was only $5; what was I thinking?  Old, black-and-white mystery movies were on TV.  Goody.  Ralph and Celeste have had so much fun with the big plastic bag, using it like a slip-and-slide on the entryway tiles, I'd forgotten that the best present a cat can get is an empty box.  The felines waited and watched as I slowly pulled out branch after prickly branch to spread, fluff, and insert into the "trunk" while muttering a steady stream of distinctly un-Christmasy epithets.  I'd no sooner moved the finished tree over to the corner when the cats moved in.  The box that holds the tree is about three feet long and five inches square (no, really, and the tree turns out to be over six feet tall!).  Two cats would fit nicely, but Ralph and Celeste don't share well.  They jumped in and out, pushing and shoving each other to claim the space.  Ralph used the box as a bunker from which to ambush sleeping Bessie Anne.  Celeste hid under the flaps to slap Ralph.  Don't give away the secret, but I think I know what the cats will get for Christmas.

Well after dark, I saw headlights coming up my drive.  City folk might not understand, but no one comes visiting unannounced up here, and never after dark.  It's either an emergency, some poor soul lost in the hills, or someone up to no good.  I forgot the season.  Going to the door and turning on the porch light, it was with relief that I saw the UPS truck pull up with a Christmas box of another sort.  My brother-in-law, Stan, has become, with lots of practice, a brewmaster of fine beer and ales and I'm a happy, yearly recipient of a bottle of his latest and best.  This year it is a rye beer.  I might open the box early, but I'll wait until the holiday to pop the top.  Lynne, his wife, concocts and jars wonderful mixes.  One year it was beans and spices for a delicious soup, last year it was a mix for triple-chocolate cookies.  This year, with the addition of applesauce, the ingredients are for a spice cake.  It's always something different and always a treat.

Back to the tree.  I chose not to start stringing the lights or putting on decorations.  I'm hoping that the cats will become bored with the bare branches and ignore it when it's finished.  They were definitely inspecting it when Bess and I left to go to the grocery store and I feared I'd find it on its side when we got back.  So far, so good.  Maybe if there are enough empty boxes around, they'll stay occupied and leave the tree alone.  That remains to be seen.

It was a good day.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Break Time

The morning sun worked hard to burn through the cloud cover yesterday and it paid off.  We caught a break between storms.  It stayed dry (all things being relative) most of the day.  I was able to trundle a bag of feed down to the barn and bring a couple more wagon loads of firewood to the porch without getting soaked or blown away.  For good measure, I even got a little baking done!

The cats have learned just how close they can come to the wood stove to stay toasty and not get their fur singed.  Both Ralph and Celeste inspect every armful of firewood I bring in and pry off bits of bark to play with as soon as I lay it down.  Housework is an exercise in futility; however, I am saving money on cat toys.  Ralph, in particular, is easily amused and batting bark hockey pucks around the living room keeps him happy for a long time.  Nothing pleases Celeste more than a lap, my lap.  Feeling needy, she will herd me toward my chair.  I don't have to have a rock fall on me to get the hint.  She's all about break time.

I get a little help with decorations every year from the zygo cactus plants in the breakfast room (the round room off the kitchen in a house where no one eats breakfast).  They don't call zygos Christmas cactus for nothing; this is the season when they put out their colorful blooms.  This particular cactus holds a special place in my heart.  Steve gave it to me nearly thirty years ago.  It was a tiny sprout in a decorative Valentine planter.  So it wasn't the right occasion for a zygo and it had no flowers, but who cares?  I sure didn't.  Seeing that I didn't kill it off, Deb and Craig have added to my collection of zygo cacti over the years and now I've a number of pink ones, as well as spectacular white blossoms, too.  Please do not point out to me that the plant is dusty.  I see it too.  In other words, give me a break!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Round Two

Even with sophisticated Doppler radar and satellite views from space, weather prediction is still more art than science.  After all the hype regarding the storm last week (which most certainly did have flooding and high winds), we were told that a second wave of moisture was coming at us, but without the strong winds of the prior event.  Yeah, how's that workin' for ya?  Nature, with her perverse ways, blew that one out of the water for the weather guys and gals yesterday.  We got rain, yes, but the winds were quite literally gale force, and I'm pretty sure even stronger than last week.  I'd burned my last stick of firewood from the porch rack and needed to replenish from the tarp-covered stack under the oak.  I'd be lying if I said it wasn't scary with the overhead branches creaking and bending or being whipped by the edges of the tarp as I filled my little red wagon.  One wagon load was all I was willing or able to haul; the wind nearly swept me off my feet on the way back to the house.  Several blips and brown-outs put baking on hold another day.  I'm falling farther and farther behind here and am very happy that our holiday has been postponed.  Becoming desperate for clean bibbies and socks, I had to take a chance and do laundry, hoping with all my heart that both washer and dryer could finish their jobs and not leave me with a muddy, sodden mess to deal with.  It was with a huge sigh of relief that I folded clothes in the afternoon.  Poppy, with her weatherproof coat, was still grazing in the big field last evening, but the goats were huddled together in the covered playpen area and were not willing to take turns going into their rooms.  It was wet chaos.  Fair weather or foul (fowl?), Ginger insists on leaving the flock and going her own way.  However, my little soggy hen eagerly pitter-pattered after me when I put the chickens to bed.  We both slipped and slid on slick leaves in our path, still buffeted by wind.

Leaving sugarplums to others, visions of thermostats danced in my dreams last night.  It's raining this morning, but the wind appears to have died down.  We've made it through Round Two.  They're saying another weather front is waiting off the coast and headed our way.  Stay tuned.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Holiday Cheer

Some days ago I brought bins, boxes, and bags of decorations into the house and onto the porch with the thought of putting them up during a power outage.  We never lost power and so the bins, boxes, and bags sat unopened.  In a burst of holiday spirit yesterday, I pulled out the wreaths I made some years back and hung them on doors and walls.  (Must start somewhere.)
Turning around, I discovered Ralph (aka Destructo) had claimed the empty bag.  He wouldn't leave.  The plastic bag made such a delicious slithery sound when he wiggled.  I've had trepidations about assembling the Christmas tree for fear of the dreaded Ralph.
I had worried about Ralph, but it was Celeste who found a homemade felt ornament and carried it around like a mouse in her mouth before dropping it to bat hither and yon and from room to room.  This is my first Christmas with these cats and I think we're in for a busy season.

Another wave of storms is predicted and I needed more feed for the goats, as well as a new salt block.  Bess and I loaded up to go to Mt. Aukum.  I've wanted for some time to get a photo of the black cow with the white stripe down its back, but there was always a car behind me or the cow was not facing the right way.  This cow and one or two others is all that are left of the herd of fifty or more that belonged to a previous next-door neighbor and they now live down on Omo Ranch Road.  The cattle are a cross between Black Angus and some breed I can't remember.  We called them the "skunk cows" for the obvious reason.  Joe, the neighbor, had a lackadaisical approach and kept his fencing up in a Pa Kettle spit-and-bubble gum fashion.  Many were the times that all fifty cows would be in my front yard, munching in the herb garden.  Trying to get them all back through the hole they'd broken was like putting toothpaste back in the tube, cattle squirting every which way.  Just seeing this cow brings back memories that make me laugh.

My family won't gather for Christmas until January 3rd,  It remains to be seen what decorations I put up and, if up, how many Ralph and Celeste tear down before then.

Sunday, December 14, 2014


That bright sunrise and blue sky yesterday didn't last long.  Nature pulled one of her quick-change tricks.  In the time it took me to dress and get going on chores, the sky was grey, a light mist was falling, and it was bloody cold.  Phooey.  I'd bought a new pair of double fleece gloves, but can't wear them while washing udders or milking and so had to apologize to the girls for frosty fingers to start their day.

I've learned from experience not to leave the room until the wood stove gets up to temperature and the top vent is closed lest a chimney fire occur.  Therefore, I don't light the logs until after chores and can spend a little time in the living room.  "Gaslight" with Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, and Joseph Cotten was just starting.  It's a movie I've seen more than thirty times and never tire of watching again.  Nominated for seven Academy Awards and winning four, it's an exercise in perfection.  Nineteen-year-old Angela Lansbury made her American film debut in "Gaslight."  Needless to say, the room was warm by the time the movie was over.

The sun made a few brief appearances during the afternoon, but sundown was again overcast and cold.  Phooey.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Dawn's Early Light

It may not compare with some of the spectacular sunrise photos, but after days of rain and wind it's very nice to see any sunrise.  Up until yesterday, it had been a pretty warm storm, and then the temperature dropped.  Snow levels crept down the mountain and it took forever to get the house warmed up.  It's in the mid 30s this morning.  My neighbor's vineyard and my south pasture are covered in a low ground fog, but I don't see a cloud in the sky.

I'll be playing catch up today.  Anticipating a power outage, I'd set aside some chores that could be done in daylight without electricity.  They're still waiting.  Oh well, as the saying goes, it'll keep me out of the pool hall.

A couple of days in the chair, artfully draped in warm furry friends, and I've seen more TV ads than anyone should have to watch.  Some of them make me nutso.  There is a wristband sort of thing for kids to wear that gives "points" or some other reward for exercising a minute or so.  How did we come to this?  Back in the day, being stuck in the house was a punishment and rainy days were pure hell.  Kids couldn't wait to get outside to play, ride bikes, hike the hills (we lived in a rural area), walk to a friend's house, climb trees.  At school, when the bell rang for recess, children boiled out of the classrooms in a flood of running and screaming to clamber over the jungle gym, the swings on long chains, the monkey bars, and the teeter-totters, all on asphalt.  Individual jump ropes were the training ground for the long ropes, and learning to do Double-Dutch was real success.  Bruises and scraped knees were a given.  Kids learned to get better at whatever it was.  Games of dodge-ball and tag-you're-it were played without adult supervision.  There were winners and losers and hurt feelings and grins of triumph.  Whiners got laughed at.  Kids were great at "no quarter asked, no quarter given."  Bullies were shunned by the entire play yard.  Kids had fun without an app to tell them to get off their butts.  I'm a fine one to talk; it was me in the chair like a couch potato for two days.  I'm ready for recess!

It's burning daylight and I've got things to do.  It's going to be a fine day.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Still Here

There was a scary moment yesterday morning when lightning struck close by and thunder was so loud the barn walls shook.  That big dead oak hanging over the roof would be a perfect lightning rod and I wasted no time getting the last goat milked and all of us out and away.  After the fact (of course), back in the house I unplugged computer and TVs.  Of course (again), there were no more strikes, just a lot of rain.  FB is showing a number of downed trees in nearby roads, but so far, so good here on the property.  The wind that had been blowing hard before chores died down and it was a day and night of steady rain.  The only blip in the power happened this morning as I sat down to write the blog.  Of course.

It was a day to keep the fire stoked and a cat on my lap.  Celeste is very obliging in that regard.  Bessie Anne gets her nose a little out of joint and crowds in, sometimes pushing Celeste up on the arm of the chair, reminding me that she was my girl first and should have priority treatment.  Baking got put on hold as I really expected the electricity to fail.  I've lived up here long enough now to know that we're not yet out of those woods.  The ground is saturated and trees can fall from their own weight.  My mantra is "So far, so good."  Still here.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

It's Here

This is what "It's coming" looks like.  Without benefit of newscasts or internet, the animals know when weather is headed our way.  The girls couldn't wait to get into the barn last evening.  Even Poppy, with her dulcet tones, was bellowing, "Let me in!"  And that was while it was still calm; the calm before the storm.

I was particularly grateful for electricity and water yesterday.  Bessie Anne, just at bedtime the night before, had yarked up all over the living room and again on the comforter on the bed.  I was able to wash and dry the bedding and clean up and vacuum the carpet.  The day was again spent getting ready for what is purported to be the worst storm in any number of years.  Oil lamps have been filled and wicks trimmed.  I did more baking, making sure everything was washed up afterward.  My friend Linda suggested making a pot of coffee and keeping it in the fridge, and I took her advice.  Our dependence on electricity these days is mind-boggling.  There is instant coffee in the cupboard, but "real" coffee has no substitute.  Bessie and I spent some time on the deck and I looked at my surroundings, wondering if they will look the same when this blows over.  The trees, always the trees, are my biggest worry.  Bess felt a lot better after losing what it was that had made her sick, and she enjoyed being out in the weak sunshine.  Flocks of blackbirds shot by like missiles overhead, propelled by a brisk tailwind.

The first winds hit about 11 last night (woke me up from my nap in the chair).  Dog and cats escorted me down the hall and huddled around me on the bed as we listened to the wind roar around the house.  The rain has not yet arrived this morning, but the wind is with us still.  It was reassuring to wake and see the red numbers on the bedside clock.  So far, so good.  I'm crossing my fingers for the trees and the barn roof.  It's going to be an interesting day.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Waiting Game

 It was as if Nature was holding her breath, waiting with the rest of us for the storm to come in.  This is just one of the wires crowded with blackbirds yesterday morning.  They did not fly away as I approached on my way to the barn, but continued to watch the sky, grey after that brilliant sunrise.  And they were quiet, unusually quiet for birds normally chattering to beat the band.

There were things I could have done and things I should have done, and what did I do after barn chores?  I took Bessie Anne and a book and we went out to sit on the deck while we could.  In spite of the overcast, it was warm outside and we decided to take advantage in anticipation of becoming housebound.  Later, I brought one of the Christmas trees and a number of bins of decorations into the house.  Once I get the tree put together (aargh) and the twinky lights on it, I can put the rest of the stuff up and around without electricity.  This is called planning ahead.  The TV and internet are full of warnings about the high winds, heavy rains, and potential for power outages and flooding.  Flooding is not a concern here, but loss of electricity and water are.  I've made pitchers of hummer food to keep in the refrigerator just in case, and keep all waterers topped off.

Others were more ambitious than I.  It was a burn day and smoke wreathed the hill across the way at sundown.  My own burn pile is there in front of the truck.  I won't light it unless someone is here with me.  Even with the ground still damp from the last rain, it's possible for the fire to get away faster than I can move, and I feel better if I've got backup.

Nature is such a tease.  Seeing a sunrise like this today, it's hard to believe the storm that is due to come in tonight.  She's showing off her brightest colors, knowing full well she's going to hide them in the coming days.  And so we wait.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Early Birds

The thing is, I wasn't even running late.  I'm used to hearing turkeys talk as they stroll about the yards or congregate under the oaks, but yesterday morning one turkey sounded particularly close.  Yup, there was a hen standing on the deck rail, looking in the living room window and yelling repeatedly, "We want breakfast!  We want breakfast!"  Gee willikers, now the turkeys are getting bossy.

Three-thirty a.m.  Long, skinny cat arms slide under my face on the pillow.  Cat paws knead the blanket over my chest.  Cat body plops down heavily on my legs.  Ralph is up early.  Once he's sure I'm awake, he leaves the bed to jump up on the desk and start knocking pencils to the floor and move other objects around.  Waiting until I doze off again, he comes to the window sill over my head and rattles the cords to the blinds.  I turn over and try to get back to sleep.  "We'll be having none of that, m'lady!"  Ralph jumps down on the pillow and launches himself to the floor, landing like a ton of bricks with a loud thump.  He enlists Celeste's help and the two of them race across the bed.  Four-thirty a.m.  I give up and get up.  It's going to be a long day.

The feed store was a busy place yesterday, and I passed Patrick coming and going as he delivered hay.  I'm not the only one stocking up before the weather changes for the worse.  The goat barn is battened down as much as I can make it.  There's still that hole in the roof, but now there's a bucket underneath.  Deck furniture has been secured.  The truck is parked out on the point.  Now we play the waiting game. 

Sunset last night was pretty spectacular, but I guess I should thank Ralph for getting me up in time to see this morning's sunrise.  We early birds get the best photos.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Bossy Bessie

This reminded me of that line from Jurassic Park, "Objects may be closer than they appear."  These turkeys were no more than a couple of feet from my feet.  The toms are no gentlemen, as they pushed the ladies out of the way to get to the grain first, but don't they look grand?

Bessie Anne is feeling better these days and we're both happy about that.  There is still one problem, however.  Like any mother with a sick kid, I was catering to her every need while she was feeling punk.  One look from those puppy-dog eyes and I would open doors, boost her up to whatever chair or couch she wished, tempt her with tidbits from my plate.  She liked all that attention and wishes it to continue.  To be honest, she's spoiled rotten and I did it to myself.  Now if I don't rush to do her bidding, she gives an imperious command bark.  "Now!  Open this door right now!"  "Chair!  This chair and I want it now!"  Celeste, curled up and warm on my lap, gets displaced as I try to meet Her Ladyship's demands.  The single bark is tolerable; it's when I don't ask "How high?" when she says jump that she starts to whine.  Bessie Anne has a high-pitched whine that is much like fingernails on a chalkboard and it makes me shudder and my skin crawl.  Just as when my Kids were little, whining gets an immediate "NO!"  That is not acceptable and she needs to learn that, too.  I have my limits.

There are reports of a mega-storm headed this way later this week.  They're saying five to ten inches of rain an hour with strong winds above fifty miles an hour here in the foothills.  I'll be moving the truck out to the point, out from under the oaks.  If I miss a day or two of posting here, it will be because the power has gone out.  We've been lucky so far that way.  I spent most of yesterday catching up on laundry and getting a start on holiday baking (the oven is electric).  I'll go today to replenish the feed supply for the critters.  There is a good stock of firewood on the porch and there is bottled water handy.  I keep the added expense of a land-line phone just for such occasions.  The wireless phones are inoperative during an outage.  I make sure the cell phone is charged every night.  This ain't my first rodeo and I know how to prepare.  In the meantime, one more sunset couldn't hurt.  Even Miss Bossy Bessie agrees.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

First Step

They say that admitting there is a problem is the first step to recovery.  I am told I have a problem, but I'm not sure I believe that and I'm not sure I am looking for salvation.  I'm not a hoarder but will admit to a certain reluctance to throw things away.

My barn shoes had sprung any number of leaks.  With the rainy season finally here and the yards full of mud (and a lot of et cetera), I broke down and bought a new pair on my last trip to town.  The new shoes look just like the old pair, but are warm and keep my feet dry.  And there sat the sad old, broken shoes, covered in barnyard et cetera.  It seemed so cold hearted to dump them in the trash bin.  They'd worked hard and done their job well.  I tend to bond with my shoes.  On a shelf high up in the back of the closet, there is a box full of beautiful high heels that I will never wear again but cannot bear to part with.  I go through barn shoes at an alarming rate and could easily accumulate a mountain of these used-up shoes and so, reluctantly, I let the old pair go.

In the kitchen, I use those sponges with a scratchy pad on one side to wash dishes.  I keep a supply under the sink.  I use a sponge until there is no more scratch and the sponge hangs in shreds; it still washes the dishes.  Like that line in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, "I'm not dead yet!"  This drives my daughter batty.  I can always tell when she's been at the sink, as the next day I find a new sponge on the counter and no sign of the old ratty but perfectly good one.  I think she hides the remains in her purse to take away.  I hope she gives it a decent burial.

California recently passed a ban on plastic bags from the grocery store.  Not to worry.  I will not go without.  I have a lifetime supply in a barrel-size (plastic) bag.  I will have the corner on the black-market for those who need a plastic-bag fix.  I don't throw them willy-nilly out there to destroy the environment, but there are those things for which nothing but a plastic bag will do; used cat litter being one, and I'm sure Trash Guy would agree.

Years ago I cancelled all my magazine subscriptions.  I had to.  I'd run out of space to keep the ever-growing collection of every issue of every magazine I had.  I'd give a new addition a quick once-over when it arrived, then set it aside for some future day when I'd have time to read the articles and cut out recipes and/or projects.  There are shelves and drawers everywhere in the house stacked with magazines still awaiting my attention.  I could fill a landfill with unread magazines.

I will not address the issue of books.  Books, to me, are like children and animals:  once you have them, they are yours for the duration.

Again, while I'm not yet ready to say I have a problem, when I am ready to take that first step, I'll take it in a new pair of shoes.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Wings In the Wings

All morning chores begin with throwing down bird seed for the wild things.  Meant originally for the doves and sparrows, squirrels, turkeys, gophers, and even deer know where to get a free meal.  The doves and sparrows have to elbow their way to get a bite.  It's a bit intimidating when thirty-plus turkeys come running at you as you step off the porch.  After feeding the feathered hordes, the next job is to open the chicken coops and let the little kids out.  They get scratch (cracked corn and other grains) thrown down and then I fill the waterers.  I'd not even gotten started when I turned and there were turkeys waiting impatiently on the fence rail to join the hens.  I'm really glad there are no elephants cruising the hills.  They'd probably wait in the wings for the goats' alfalfa.

On any trip to town, I cross two loops of the middle fork of the Cosumnes River (unless I go via Pleasant Valley and then also cross the north fork).  For months, the water level has been so low one could wade across the river.  After our recent rains, it was wonderful to see torrents of water rushing downstream again yesterday.  I'd waited to make the trip for a day or two because of road conditions.  The wind and rain had brought tons of leaves and pine needles down, making the roads as slick as ice.  The leaves had blown away, but pine needles were rolled into small logs, nature's speed bumps.  It was a quick trip and I didn't waste any time getting home.

It seems to be the vogue on FB to post selfies taken over a year; how's that for ego?  I could probably make a calendar of 365 photos of the sky, morning, noon, and night.  I never cease to be enthralled by the beauty.  I love having a camera at my fingertips and, by virtue of technology, not having to wait for film to be developed.  This was taken after another good day.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Morning and Night

After milking and/or feeding the goats, the next chore is to clean stalls.  The barn being built as it is, I have to rake up the poo pellets, shovel them into a two-gallon bucket that hangs on the wall, haul the bucket out and empty it over the fence (always checking first to see which way the wind is blowing).  Going about the business of the day, when I took the bucket off the nail, I found this little creature at the bottom, nearly dead.  What to do?  Well, I just happened to have some warm milk at hand that wasn't needed, dipped in a finger and let the little kid lap at a few drops.  It took a few tries before he stopped blowing bubbles and actually took in a couple of sips.  Cold he was, so I held him close in my palm and blew warm breath over him.  Gradually, Larry (named after one of my kind-hearted, animal-loving Kids) began to stir and it gave me hope.

However, now I was in a quandary of another sort.  I could imagine the gleam of joy in the cats' eyes if I were to bring Larry into the house, but I wasn't sure he could make it if I were to leave him.  Time was slipping by and I still had stalls to clean.  I had to make a decision.  Warmed, he was moving better and so I put him down close to a mouse hole, hoping that if it weren't the right one, another mouse would give him directions home.  Not sure if I'd find his keeled-over body or him gone when I got done in the back of the barn, I was delighted to find that Larry had made his way over to the breakfast bar, stuffing his face.  A little wobbly, yes, but sitting up and taking nourishment!  I love happy endings.

It was hard to decide whether to call today's entry "Morning and Night" or "East and West."  Another spectacular sunset in the west, definitely, but then I turned back toward the house and saw the full moon rising in the east.  How to choose which view?  Like a double-dip ice cream cone when there are two favorite flavors, I opted for both.

Sun lighting the bottom of the clouds and moon shining down from above.

It was a good day.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Inside and Out

Feast or famine.  Drought or deluge.  Holy cow!  This storm has been a doozy.  The goat barn has sprung a thousand leaks from where nails have worked loose and, worse, one of the plexiglass panels has a chunk broken out.  Fortunately, it's not over a stall, so it's not an emergency situation.  So far, so good with the trees; only small branches have fallen.  There were times yesterday when it felt like the house was being hit by a battering ram, the wind was that fierce.  I understand over an inch of rain fell in under an hour, and the rain continued most of the day.  With no time for the ground to absorb anything, there were flash floods and standing water everywhere.  Everywhere but here on top of the hill.  The barn, of course, is down at the bottom.

Ralph had the right idea.  He spent most of the afternoon in front of the wood stove.  I spent most of the afternoon stoking the wood stove for Ralph.  Celeste made herself a nest of blankets on the bed instead of taking up residence on my lap, which, for a change, was a good thing.  Perhaps out of boredom after days of indoor confinement, Bessie Anne could not settle anywhere.  "Help me up into my chair, Mom."  "Boost me up onto the couch, Mom."  "I changed my mind.  Mom, I'd rather lie on this couch, please."  "Put the footrest up on the recliner, Mom, I want to be with you."  "Let me out the door, Mom.  No, this door!"  I was up and down like a pogo stick.  (I'm going to change my name to Gertrude.)

I was happy for a break in the rain at sundown, and then I stepped outside.  Gusts of wind nearly took me off my feet.  The bare ground down by the barn was a quagmire and made for treacherous walking even without the wind.  Poppy brushed against me as she pushed her way past to get to her room.  It was like getting slapped with a wet sponge and my pant legs were soaked.  Holding on with one hand to anything I could find, I slipped and slid around the hen house to shut both doors, and accomplished the deed without going down.

It rained throughout the night.  The gutters cannot hold all the water and I could hear the waterfall from the overflow outside the bedroom windows.  It's raining this morning.  It's hard to complain when we need the water so badly, but, if it's not too much to ask, we don't need it all at once.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

...But A Memory

The morning sunshine of December 1st is a thing of the past, a memory.  A storm rolled in that night and rages still.  Here on the hilltop a fierce wind blows and rain beats against the house.  Trees are my biggest worry in weather like this; trunks split and branches fall.  Some locals have started a FB page with news from the surrounding areas.  It was a lifeline during the wildfires.  There were reports yesterday of trees down on Bucks Bar Road, blocking traffic.  People with police scanners put out the word on accidents, etc.  I'd planned to get a leg up on holiday baking (using leftover sour cream), but the threat of a power outage and an electric oven put the kibosh on that.  It was a day to keep the dishes and the laundry done in case we have no water.

Rainy days put a hitch in the git-along down in the barn.  The whole system goes to pot.  Inga, first up, didn't want to leave her stall.  With urging, she finally dashed out and around the corner into the milking room.  Standard procedure is to next let Cindy out and then to the big room for Esther and Tessie.  Cindy got as far as the covered play yard and balked.  I shut the door to the back stalls and left her where she was.  It was useless to even try to get Esther and Tess out so I let them be.  Inga milked, nothing for it but to push her out into the rain.  Sheila is always led out on a rope, so she didn't have a choice.  Poppy, good old Poppy, is so routine oriented that she came out on her own.  Her thick wool seems to make her impervious to rain.  Needless to say, I didn't have to call Cindy to get her in for breakfast; she barreled into the room as soon as Sheila went out.  There is a connecting door between the big room and the milking room, so Esther and Tessie were let in one at a time for their turn on the stand.  I'd left the gate to the play yard open and the girls congregated in there, milling around and crying.  I had to push my way through to clean the stalls, haul out the buckets of poo, and refill the feed bucket for the next day.  Without a doubt, today will be a rerun.  The girls will not be happy.

I answered a phone call laughing last night.  When the phone rang I'd had a moment of panic, wondering why someone would call so late.  All the Kids know that if they call after 8 p.m. they'd better be bleeding.  The skies had been dark all day, so I might be forgiven for thinking it was late.  As I picked up the phone, I glanced at the clock.  Six o'clock.  And I laughed.

Time to fire up the wood stove to warm the house before I go down to the barn.  It's going to be another one of those days.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Something Different

Morning walkabouts are some of my favorites (I spend as much time as I can outdoors).   Sunlight was gilding the fall colors yesterday after a day of gloom.  As I was telling a friend, I wish I had the vocabulary to accurately describe the scent and feel of the air after a rain.  "Fresh" doesn't do it justice.
Just after taking this view to the northeast, Bess informed me with a low growl that there was something in the front pasture.  At first, I couldn't see what she saw and then I got down to her level.  Just beyond the fence was a doe lying still, not even an ear twitched.  She was looking at us looking at her.  It's not common for the local deer to lie out in the open when so much cover is available, but it's possible this lady was also enjoying the sunshine and the view.  I'd like to think so.

After days of turkey, turkey sandwiches, and dressing and gravy (all of which I love), I craved something spicy last night.  There are many recipes for the main Thanksgiving leftovers, but then there are those bits and bobs in the refrigerator; what to do about them?  Spanish rolls!  Amounts for this recipe depend totally on what is on hand and to taste, so no specifics are given.  Filling:  (with what was in my fridge) grated cheddar cheese, finely chopped hard-boiled eggs and olives with a clove of garlic (I used the food processor), enough bottled salsa to moisten (supplemented with a dash of sriracha), sliced scallions, a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper.  My handful of olives happened to have rosemary and thyme included, but any herbs, or none, would do.  Mix well and stuff into leftover dinner rolls (I had ten).  For dinner, I wrapped two in foil and heated in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes until the cheese was melted.  The rest I bagged in plastic to go in the freezer.  Hot, spicy, satisfying, and a lot of space cleared in the fridge.

It was a good day.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Only Child

In every group of multiples, there are times when a member wishes to be an "only child."  I snapped this "aww" moment last night and was thinking how cute it was that Celeste was hugging me.  Then I noted the smirk of satisfaction and realized she'd spread out so there was no room on my lap for Ralph or Bess.

Bessie hasn't been feeling so well lately, her normal routine abandoned and her food bowl untouched.  For the first time in days she asked for her early morning milk bone today and I was happy to give it.  She wanted the routine, but didn't really want the treat.  What to do?  If she just put it down, the cats might get it.  Bess wandered through the dark house, poking the treat in one crevice or another, then taking it back.  I caught her hiding it under the stuffed animals in her toy box, but she remembered that Ralph sometimes pulls out a toy to drag around.  Not safe there.  I keep my socks loose and handy in a basket by my desk.  Evidently Bessie Anne feels I am to be trusted because she brought the milk bone into the bedroom and buried it under my socks.  Another example of the Only Child Syndrome.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

It's All Relative

After the hustle-bustle and hubbub of Thanksgiving, we're almost back to normal - "normal" being the relative term here.  The oversize pots and pans, for which no kitchen I know has room to store, have been replaced in the shed.  My frantic last-minute racing around has returned to my usual crawl.  Even Bessie Anne, whose strange behavior has been concerning the last few days, seems back on an even keel.  I think she was even more tired and stressed than I.  I love holidays, but as she and I get older they do take their toll.

I asked an acquaintance about her Thanksgiving and she said it was pretty good; at least nobody, including herself, ended up in tears this year.  That forcefully brought home to me how fortunate I am to have my family.  No sniping, no fighting, no jealousy, no tears.  Teasing, yes, and constantly, but never with meanness.  Competition, definitely, but why play if you don't want to win?  Brothers (including my after-market boys), sister, familiar guests and strangers; all get and give heartfelt hugs and kisses coming and going.  All things being relative, I believe that's the way it should be and I never take it for granted.

The weather on Thursday was glorious, sunny and bright, but unusual for this late in November.  It turned back to normal yesterday.  Cold, rainy, windy; definitely a two-cat lap day.  Taking a bite out of the woodpile on the porch, I kept the stove going all afternoon.

I stepped out on the deck a few minutes ago to catch this sunrise.  No sooner had I sat down again than the cloud cover returned and darkened the sky.  That's normal for this time of year.

Saturday, November 29, 2014


And the naps just kept on coming.  I was tired from the minute I opened my eyes in the morning.  Goats fed and milked, stalls cleaned.  Back at the house, I sat down and fell asleep.  I'd really wanted to join dear relatives who were holiday camping down the road apiece (Pine Grove), but the thought of getting in the truck and driving was overwhelming.  Also, I had to wait for a delivery of alfalfa.  I napped until Patrick knocked on the door to let me know he'd offloaded the bales.

Trying to stay awake, Bess, who was as exhausted as I, suggested we go outside for a bit.  We wanted to enjoy the sunshine while we had it.  Rain was predicted for today, and these unusual clouds were the forerunner coming out of the southwest.  Whenever I see this type of clouds, I hear Hoagy Carmichael singing "Old Buttermilk Sky."  Click on the picture to enlarge it and see the two vultures circling overhead.

Propane Guy arrived and topped off the tank, so I'm assured of hot water and a working stove top for the holiday season.  Deliverymen in our area, be they propane, Fed-Ex, UPS, whatever, are clever guys who carry a supply of milk bones in their truck.  Bessie Anne starts wagging as soon as any delivery truck pulls up and goes to greet her "best friends."  Not too many houses up here don't have at least one dog in residence.

Bessie and Celeste vied for a place on my lap and we all (surprise) napped throughout the afternoon.  Come sundown, the cloud formation hadn't changed, but the light certainly had.  This was shot from a different angle than most of my sunset photos.  I'd just tucked the Silkies in the Taj and was afraid if I waited until the big hens were in for the night, I'd lose the glorious color.  They call Montana "big sky country."  It would be hard to beat our sky here in Fair Play.

Later, while finishing a turkey sandwich and smacking my lips, I commiserated with my friend Linda, who had joined others for dinner and had no Thanksgiving leftovers.  My own crowd had descended like locusts and filled bags and containers to take home.  Not to worry, I still have plenty.  It's the company I treasure on Thanksgiving Day and the leftovers I enjoy after they leave.

The clouds that marched eastward yesterday got organized and the promised rain began last night.  After an evening nap, we all went to bed early.  It's a very stormy morning and I've got to put the window coverings up on the goat barn.  That's farm life.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving Rerun

One of the many benefits of getting up early is seeing a sunrise like this.  I dislike hitting the floor running and enjoy coffee and quiet time before starting the day.  Once the wheels started turning yesterday, it was nonstop for the duration.  The turkey (the one without plumage) was in the oven by 6:30.  A shower and clean clothes before barn work is asking for disaster; a milk spill would be almost guaranteed, so I put that off.  The girls were uncommonly cooperative and each received my thanks.  I was no more than back in the house and pulling out the vacuum cleaner when Dave, Sandra, and her daughter Katie pulled up.  Nothing like doing your housework after the guests arrive.  To illustrate why I waited, just after I'd swept the living room Bessie Anne came in and left leaves, a twig, and a couple of foxtails on her way through.  It's a game I cannot win.  Dave was restocking the firewood rack when Clay arrived, followed by Deb and Craig and then Larry and his friends Joe, Phoebe, and young Joey.  Other invitees were, for good reasons, unable to attend.  Deb and Craig took on KP duties and peeled pounds of potatoes before joining the inevitable poker game.  When the time came, Dave and Larry combined forces to carve the turkey.  Of the fifty-odd Thanksgiving turkeys I've roasted over the years, I have never carved a turkey myself.  The boys vie for the job, nibbling at the bits to the point I wasn't sure there'd be enough left to put on the table.  Tradition runs strong here, and the menu never changes.  It's a rerun every year.  It was Craig's birthday, so it's no surprise there was pecan pie for dessert.  (I learned years ago not to put a wax candle in a hot pecan pie.)  Family, friends, good doesn't get much better than that.  Except winning at poker, but I can't have everything.

It was an exceptionally good day.