Friday, February 28, 2014

Can't Complain

You play, you pay.  After days of beautiful weather and a great visit with my friend, the bill came due yesterday.  A night of rain meant I was watching my feet on the way down the slope and so was surprised when I went in the barn to let the girls out.  The roof is corrugated metal with several clear plexiglass panels for light.  It was dimmer inside than it should have been.  Over Cindy's stall, I saw some twiggy stuff overhead, and more over what had been Ruthie's room.  Once all the goats were outside, I went around to see what was what.  Oh crum!  Two very large, bare branches had broken in the dead tree.  The upside down tops were resting on the roof and the butt ends were hung up in the tree itself.  Fortunately, the roof was not damaged, but the wind has continued to blow and the second wave of storm hit last night.  I put in a call to Tree Guy, who came in the afternoon to assess the situation and will hopefully come back today to get the branches down.  It was pretty spooky to sit and milk while the wind gusted and the branches screeched against the metal.  Like waiting for the other shoe to drop, I waited for the branches to fall the rest of the way down.

Milking did not take as long as usual yesterday.  Inga's pretty new necklace is useless if she won't come close enough for me to grab it.  I suppose I'll have to buy accessories for all the girls as they seem to be jealous of Inga's finery.  She wanted to come in but as she approached the door, one of the others would bash her away.  I walked out to her but the others would walk with me and Inga stayed just out of my reach and theirs.  Crum, another day with an unmilked Inga.

With no other choice, I had to put the girls into the barn for the night, fingers crossed that they would be safe.  Had another slip-and-slide event while tucking the chickens in and went down hard, luckily not on the side with the still-sore rib.  It was an equal opportunity fall.

We need this rain so much.  The barn remained intact.  Bruised but not broken.  Can't complain.  (But I was relieved when the day was over.)

Thursday, February 27, 2014


Paper money in America is approximately six inches long and can be used to "guesstimate" measurements.  I guesstimated the length of Tessie's collar, but wasn't too sure when I bought a new collar for that brat, Inga.  Thinking it might be short, a couple of extra holes would make it fit.  Without a hole punch, hmm.  For the goat, it was a stout nylon weave with a metal buckle.  Those plastic quick-release buckles wouldn't last five minutes.  Nylon melts.  Holding a very pointy metal screw with pliers, I heated the screw over a flame.  Zippo!  One hole done.  Another might be useful, just in case.  Note to self:  work very quickly when melting through nylon.  Any pause and the screw will weld with the cooling nylon and be most difficult to extract.  Two holes finally in place, Inga now has accessorized with a bright blue necklace.  (Tessie wears red.)  The rest of the herd will probably take up a petition so they can get necklaces too.

All good things must come to an end and Linda left this morning.  After a lengthy search, we found her sunglasses in the truck.  She informed me that Seattle is the sunglasses capital of the world.  They see the sun so seldom there that the residents can never find the sunglasses that they must have as, like moles, they come out when there is that bright light in the sky.  Just to make her feel at home and facilitate her re-entry to Seattle, rain started to fall yesterday and by nightfall we were in a real storm.  With her help, the porch wood rack was restocked before the first drops fell.  It is hard to say goodbye when you don't know when the next visit will be.

The trash barrel is down by the woods.  A plastic bag is stuck in the junipers.  The wind blew rain up onto the wood rack.  I have my work cut out today.

Yesterday, and the entire time with my friend, was good.  Taillights make me sad.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

High Notes

After a day dedicated to contracts for a short-term job (yay!), a phone interview for a second position, and computer work in general, it seemed only right to get Linda outdoors and finish on a high note.  What better way than to spend time with a lot of baby goats?  We picked up Camille and headed over to Bell Ranch Kikos where my friends Tim and Kathryn have a herd of well over a hundred adults and nearly thirty kids (so far).  Soft, bouncy, noisy, funny; baby goats are guaranteed to put a smile on your face.  One would make you grin and a bunch of 'em will make you laugh out loud.

And how was my day?  It started while I was letting the chickens out of the coop in the morning and noticed a turkey drinking from a faucet that should not be dripping.  Since the doggone turkeys have taken over and are in and onto everything, it might be that one had landed on the handle and twisted.  No such luck.  The faucet must be replaced.  Even a trickle over time will run the well dry.  The feed store carries hardware also and with rain predicted, it was prudent to pick up grain at the same time as the new faucet.  Then came the fun stuff.  I located and dug up the console in the driveway where the lines run to outlying water pipes.  Unfortunately, the handle to the one line I needed to turn off would not turn.  I've only watched others change faucets so I had the general idea without the details.  Panicked at the thought of running out of water, I called Go-To Guy, who said he could come but not until nearly dark.  As I was explaining the situation to Linda, I had one of those "ah ha!" moments.  (Smack self on forehead.)  It was a simple matter to turn off the main water supply from the well and about three minutes to switch the faucets.  I cancelled the emergency call to Go-To.  Note to self:  don't make the call until thinking the problem through.

It really was a successful day.  Linda will be gainfully employed and I learned a new trade.  We deserved to celebrate on a high note with a bunch of bouncy kids.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

WiFi and Wild Things

Two loads of laundry washed and hung before barn chores, it was time to start the day.  My schedule, such as it is, works out well for guests as it gives an opportunity for them to shower and leisurely ease into whatever comes next while I'm in the barn.  Back in the house, I brought Satomi out so as to assess her condition.  Trying to walk on the slick tiles of the laundry room was too difficult for the little hen.  In the living room, she appeared mesmerized by the pattern in the carpet and then took a few tentative steps.  Linda and I cheered her progress.  That scared Satomi and she splooped (silly me, did I think she wouldn't?).  It seems she can move pretty darned fast with enough incentive.  I finally caught her and put her back in the infirmary and cleaned up the carpet.  I'm thinking a few more days and she can rejoin her flock and she can finish her rehab outside.

I do have satellite computer service, but no WiFi and Linda needed to access her account.  We seem to be lucky for each other.  She is bringing rain in the next few days, and while here she has received not one but two job offers.  My neighbor had mentioned that The Pub had free WiFi, so Linda treated me to lunch there and she could tend to business.  It was a nice surprise when Camille dropped in and I could introduce my guest.

Bessie Anne enjoys company and plays the role of hostess well, but she has limits.  Guests generally sit in what Bess considers "her" chair.  In her best indoor voice, she asked Linda to move.  Linda didn't.  Reprimanded for raising her voice and being a bit more demanding, Bessie gave me the stink eye and, with a huge sigh, flopped down on the doggie bed. 

I also have limits and the turkeys are pushing the boundaries.  I do not begrudge them the wild bird seed I throw out in the morning.  They are, after all, wild birds, albeit a great deal larger than the sparrows and juncos I'd anticipated.  I even put down extra scratch in the chicken pen in the morning because the turkeys now intermingle with the hens for breakfast.  However, it was a bit much last night when two turkeys came out of the coop where they'd been snacking on the lay pellets reserved for the chickens.  I never dreamed the wild things would go into a building well-trafficked by humans.

Linda and I talked long into the night.  It was a good day.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Antidote

A visit from a dear friend is "good for what ails ya."  I had a plan and a timeline worked out to get everything necessary done before Linda arrived.  As the saying goes, "Make a plan and listen to God laugh."  One thing and another happened to throw a monkey wrench into the works and I was still scrambling to finish as she drove up (but finish, I did!).  Farview was showing off for company.  There is a lot of green on the ground now and bouquets of daffodils have cropped up everywhere.  In just one day, the winter-barren oaks have popped out leaf buds.  It was a perfect afternoon to sit outside in the warm sun with a light breeze and catch up with a friend of what must be close to thirty years.  Distance and the passage of time are irrelevant as we pick up the threads of conversation as if we'd seen each other yesterday.

After what had been a long day for each of us, we'd agreed to an early bedtime.  And what did I say about making plans?  As night was falling, I'd lit the wood stove to take off the chill.  I put in one last log about the time we were yawning and nodding.  That was a mistake.  That log was about one inch too long for the fire box and I could not shut the door.  Not shutting the door meant smoke escaped into the room.  Smoke in the room set off the alarms, first one, then another, then all at once.  Poor Satomi in the laundry room was about to have a coronary.  Bessie ran around berserk.  I was opening doors and windows on a cold night.  Sleep was out of the question until that piece of solid oak burned down enough to allow the door to close.

Laughter, the perfect antidote for such a situation.  It was a good day.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Then There Were Five

Ruthie died.  I dislike the euphemisms surrounding mortality.  She did not pass away, she did not cross over.  Death is blunt.  We who live on farms and work with animals come to know death well and learn to accept its inevitability.  If one in our care is suffering, death may even be welcomed.  Ruth did not suffer.  All signs pointed to a very quick end for an aged goat.  This is not to say, however, that I do not feel the pain of loss.  Coming up short on the nose count hurts.  That empty stall hurts.  Not sitting with Ruth while she nibbles her way through her cereal hurts.  My herd is smaller and my heart is heavier.

We have a wonderful ability to compartmentalize; it allows us to go on with our lives.  Alone, it was necessary for me to deal with Ruth's body.  Deb was due to arrive and I could not involve her gentle heart.  In the past, I have had to ask for help and I know what distress it has caused others.  You just do what needs to be done and get on with it.

Done with barn chores, it was great to look up and see my daughter's smiling face.  We get so little one-on-one time, this was such a gift.  Lunch did not turn out as we'd anticipated.  I'd been given some fresh pork liver and I fixed bacon and onions, traditional side dishes.  We found out why beef and calves' liver is sold at the grocery and not pork.  It has an exceptionally strong flavor.  Bacon and onions hardly constituted a meal, but some days are like that.  Luckily (but hardly surprising) there was leftover pie to finish.  Too soon, it was time for Deb to leave.

Linda will be here today!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Mouse That Roared

(With apologies to the 1955 movie of the same name, starring Peter Sellers.)

There is a colony of mice living in the supply box high on the wall of the milking room.  I hear them rustling around as I tend to the milking.  Once in awhile, one or more will climb up inside on the chain that holds the drop-down door to pop their head out the opening and watch me work.  They are generally a peaceful, harmonious group.  I have no idea what happened yesterday to upset the status quo, but it all went to hell in a handbasket.  It could be that a war had broken out between factions and a general was sounding the war cry and shouting out orders, but I imagine that the children had gotten on the mother's last nerve and she was giving them what-for in no uncertain terms.  At any rate, one mouse was yelling at length at the top of its lungs and I could hear others ducking for cover.  Having blown off steam, the mouse that roared settled down.  In my mind's eye, I could see little mice with their faces to the corner as they waited for Mama's storm to pass.

Inga, spraddle-legged and moving slow, came in to be milked.  Once again we had the conversation (lecture) about cause and effect, but I don't hold out a lot of hope there.  I suppose I could learn to throw a lasso, but first I'm going to buy a collar for my wayward girl, something to grab when she comes within range.

A couple of years ago my niece and her husband left sunny New Hampshire and visited here when we had a snow storm.  My friend from rain-soaked Seattle is arriving, expecting sunshine, just as heavy precipitation is predicted next week.  Go figure.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Pointing Fingers

I was raised as an only child.  With sixteen years between us, I can barely remember the time before my sister married and left home.  I liked being the only child.  Single children have the luxury of uninterrupted time and the undivided attention of their parents.  Time to read, to lie in the grass and watch ants, to listen, to develop an active imagination.  I didn't have to share my toys and nobody broke my Crayons.  My mother would periodically arrange "play dates" and signed me up for Bluebirds (Campfire Girls) and then Girl Scouts, undoubtedly because she felt her little hoyden needed socializing.

There is a drawback to being an only child.  If (make that when) something gets broken, etc., there is no one else to take the blame.  If it was done or not done, you did it.  What was I going to do, point at my father?  My own Kids could have been named Who Me, I Didn't Do It, Huh Uh, and I Don't Know.  They banded together and it was four against one.  My daughter had her own room, but the boys slept together in a larger dorm situation.  For a short while I had a spare room for sewing and reading, but then one of the boys said he wanted a room all to himself.  After his bed had been moved in, I went upstairs one night to find him lying asleep on the floor outside the dorm room.  When asked why, he said, "Mama, I couldn't hear anyone breathing and I couldn't go to sleep."  I guess there are benefits to being one of a group, too.  Besides, they could always point fingers at each other.

While Inga is a member of the herd, she has no one to blame for her troubles but herself.  Another day without milking.  I'll bet she is first in line today.

UPDATE:  Satomi remains in the infirmary, but is moving around a bit more.  She is a quiet little thing and I haven't heard a cluck out of her.  Black eyes in a black fluffy chicken make it difficult to tell which end is which when she is sitting.

Morning Mouse has not shown up for a week or so.  He has either tired of the Bucket Game or has found another source of entertainment.

Thing, I am happy to say, has not reappeared either.  I have not gone into the middle barn to see what havoc he might have wrought there.

My daughter will come up to share a few hours on Saturday, which pleases me no end.  On Sunday, my friend Linda from Seattle will arrive for what I know will be a too-short visit.  If I don't get the dusting done, I will have no one to blame but myself.  I'd better get busy.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

When She Was Good...

"There was a little girl, and she had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead.  When she was good, she was very, very good.  And when she was bad, she was horrid."

My mother was fond of reciting this to me.  As I have curly hair, I didn't think it was all that great.  I did remember this doggerel yesterday, however, when Inga pulled her "Whut, you talkin' to me?" act.  I jinxed myself and should have expected it.  For three or four days, the milking had gone like a breeze.  When the girls are behaving well and the teats are open and free and the milk just flows, it is a real pleasure and it cuts a third of the time.  There are the other days when milking is real work.  I had been thanking the girls for their cooperation and looking forward to the job each day.  Yesterday Sheila was easy, Tessie was easy, and then there was Inga.  "Inga!  Come on, Inga."  She stood at the corner of the pen and looked at me.  "Inga, honey, come on in and get your breakfast!"  She took four or five steps in my direction.  "Good girl, Inga.  Come on."  She stopped.  I shook the feed bowl to entice her to the barn.  She lay down.  "Aaargh."  Grabbing the rope, I started toward her.  She got up and walked away.  Inga and I went up hill and down, around and around.  I walked slow, she walked slow.  I sped up, she ran.  Winded and tired, I gave up.  When Inga is good, she is very, very good.  Yesterday she was horrid.

Is it possible to overdose on pie?  Clay came up in the afternoon.  He'd volunteered to come back and help finish up the leftovers from the Pie Fest.  I had sent some home with him and both he and I had been whittling away at what we had, but there was plenty left.  As if pie for dessert weren't enough, I made an asparagus and onion quiche for our main course.  I don't know about overdose, but I do know I'm full of pie!

If Inga was bad yesterday, it will be worse for both of us today.  A tight udder and tiny teats are nothing to look forward to.  And she doesn't even have curly hair.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Night Light

When it is dark here, it is very, very dark.  Can't see your hand in front of your face dark.  When the moon is full, as it is now, it is a floodlight in the sky, so bright it washes out the stars and one can literally read newsprint outside.  Bessie Anne wanted to go walkies before the moon rose, so I put on the wonderful lighted hardhat that Craig made and recently updated to LEDs and out we went into the dark.  Night birds cry and little birds roosting in the oaks rustle uneasily in the leaves overhead as we pass by.  A pair of small eyes over by the chicken pen caught in the light from my hat stare; a cat? a fox?  The glow winks out as the little creature turns away.  Bessie's nose leads us around the drive and she marks her territory here and there before we head back to the house, mission accomplished.

Before one of our extended Christmases, Deb and Craig had given me a set of three night lights.  Not just any old night lights, these are LEDs with battery backup that will provide soft light during a power outage.  I've always put flashlights by the guest beds and have given warnings never to get up in the night without carrying one, but once there was a terrible accident here because my guest disregarded instructions and fell down the stairs in the dark.  That made me absolutely paranoid when anyone stayed over.  I put those first three lights in both bathrooms and the hall, and asked for more.  The Kids brought up three more last weekend and now there is one in the kitchen, the guest room, and downstairs.  In the dark of night, my house glows like the Starship Enterprise.  I feel much better.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

You Have Yours...

You have yours, I have mine.  We all have 'em...quirks, idiosyncrasies, habits.  Even the goats have 'em.  The change in sleeping quarters for Cindy and Satomi has wreaked havoc with routine.  On our best days when all goes smoothly, we still look like a Keystone Cops comedy as I run around opening this door and that, letting the girls out or herding them in to their rooms.  It all goes to pot when there is a disruption.  I noticed yesterday that I had left the grooming brush out from the morning's spa treatment for the girls.  It normally gets put in a case after the last goat is done to keep the mice from chewing it up.  Sure enough, the little critters had busily pulled soft fluff out of the bristles during the night and bristles were missing.  In the flurry of getting the right goats into the right rooms at bedtime, I'd also left the gate between the pens open; normally closed at night purely as a precautionary measure.  It also keeps the girls contained while waiting for their turn on stand in the morning.

Cindy is not used to being let out first, so she wanders the hall while I open the door for Ruthie.  "No, no!  You go on outside!"  Ruthie is old and slow and needs some coaxing.  She isn't used to seeing another goat in the hall and so comes to a complete halt.  Sheila, standing on her hind legs, is watching all this over her half-door, and Poppy begins to bellow at the delay.  Finally getting the first batch out and Sheila up on the stand, the last three are let out and I settle down to milk.  Mice are waiting on the sidelines for milk and cereal.  The barn birds begin their aerial dogfights, sometimes diving so close that their wings ruffle my hair.  Impatient, they jump into the feed bucket on the shelf and help themselves, squabbling over who gets first helpings.

I've come to expect certain behavior from each of the girls.  Esther wants her head rubbed before putting it into the stock and to see me pick up the brush before beginning to eat.  She wants to make sure she's going to be spiffed up for the day.  (She's very vain.)  Before leaving the room, Cindy puts her face up to mine.  For some reason, she likes to smell my breath (???).  Tessie prefers that I fill her bowl before she comes in, and she is the only goat that leaves the stand to the left; all others go to their right.  Inga will stop to clean up every dropped kernel before she'll go out, and Sheila has to check out the big room (where she never goes) through the connecting grate.  Ruth's legs are too wobbly now to allow her to jump up on the stand so I sit and hold the bowl within her reach while she slowly noses her way through the cereal.  There is a misconception that goats will eat any- and everything; not so.  It's pretty funny to see the pellets added to lactating goat chow bloop out the side of Ruthie's mouth like watermelon seeds.  They are obviously not her favorite.  She will eat them, but only as a last resort.

My normal routine for cleaning stalls and filling feed bowls and buckets is completely shot.  It's up to me to develop a new one so I don't leave brushes out and gates open.  It is once again brought home to me that the belief that I'm in charge is an illusion in my own mind.

I had forgotten that chickens like to be covered, but did darken the cage with a big towel last night for Satomi.  She's moving around a bit more, and has adopted the folded "landing pad" instead of sitting in the feed bowl all day.  I had to introduce her to the new waterer.  Change is hard, even for little hens.

Monday, February 17, 2014

House Hen

I seem destined to have a chicken in residence, my residence.  Once again the laundry room has been called into duty as an infirmary.  Saturday night, Satomi (or it might be Yuki; they're indistinguishable) was lying flat out and motionless in the Silkie pen.  With a sinking feeling, I picked her up, only to have her snuggle against my chest.  She was alive!  A houseful of people was not the time to bring her in, so she spent the night tucked into a soft cat bed in the feed room.

Bessie Anne believes that all chickens are her chickens.  Never having had puppies of her own, she adopts chicks and chickens with a mother's instincts.  From outside the fence, she herds any reluctant bird into the coop at bedtime.  When the chickens were free ranging, it was her job to round them up in the evening and bring them home to the pen.  Under Bessie's supervision, I got new quarters set up for Satomi with water and feed in the house.  It appears she has an injured leg.  I suspect it was an overly amorous, hormonally driven rooster who caught this little hen unbalanced and unprepared.  The nurse in charge (Bessie Anne) sniffed the patient from beak to butt, nosing under the feathers to assess her condition before I was allowed to settle Satomi in her room.  Throughout the day, Bess would come to me and whine.  No, she didn't want to go outside.  It was time, in her opinion, to go check on Satomi, so down the hall we would go, make sure the hen was all right, and then Bess would settle back down to whatever she was doing before.  Why I had to accompany Nurse, I don't know, but she was adamant.  Satomi has chosen the feed dish as her nesting spot.  I wish her a speedy recovery, so we can all get some rest.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

# Still Laughing

 Pie Fest 2014!

Pies were still in the ovens when the Kids arrived, so the work crews assembled and took care of some much needed repairs and other chores for me.  Left to right:  Larry and Susan, Katie, Sandra and Dave, Craig, Clay, and Deb.

 Left to right:  cherry, peach, buttermilk, butterscotch, lemon meringue, pecan, filo-wrapped drumsticks (Larry got a head start, being the official taste tester for the rest of us), blueberry-pineapple, and in the middle is a bowl of pico de gallo.  In front is a nearly invisible cappuccino ice cream pie covered in whipped cream (and a bare drumstick because we ran out of filo).

The reason (as if we needed one) for this get-together was a Christmas and combined birthday party so, of course, there were presents.  The boys were gifted with liquor-filled shot glasses and generously shared.  (This one's for you, Pete.)  Kids and cards just go together so we ate in the kitchen and left the dining room table for more important activities.  I don't tweet or toot or boop and beep, but Katie started the phrase-of-the-day with, "Hashtag, good call!"  It wasn't long before everyone was "hashtagging."  I wish there were a sound track to play because laughter is contagious, and there was constant laughter all day long.  The thing is, days with my Kids are never long enough for me.

The boys had nailed down that loose panel on the goat barn roof (good timing because it rained during the night), fixed a loose latch on Ruthie's door, and rehung the door to the empty stall.  I wasn't sure how bedtime would go, but needn't have worried.  Cindy went directly into her new room and gave a sigh of relief, "At last!"  Esther, Inga and Tessie had better get along.  I'm out of places to put cranky or picked-on individuals.

Leftovers packed up to go, hugs all around, and "Love you!" called out into the night.  Bess and I walked back into a very, very quiet house.  But listen.  There are still the echoes of laughing.

It was a wonderful day.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Shop and Prep

With the deadline (that being today) looming, yesterday was a flurry of activity.  To do the big shopping means a forty-five minute drive down the hill.  I don't do that any more often than I have to.  Obviously, it's been awhile; there was some foofah hamburger that was over $7 a pound!  (I didn't buy it.)  Back in the '80s on a trip to Hawaii, I yelped because hamburger was a dollar a pound, double what it cost on the mainland.  I guess I have to get out more.

I'm going to enlist the boys' help today with a few chores.  There is an unused stall that needs to be called into service.  Steve built it to very close specs and as the building settled, the door stuck closed.  I haven't needed it, but now Cindy needs a room of her own.  As they did with poor Ruthie, the herd has taken to beating up on Cindy.  In the big room, someone bashed her into a door jamb and she's got a big hematoma on her side.  She's been sleeping in the gated playpen area, but needs a real room.  If the guys can get the door open and the frame planed, she will have one.  It will mean a change in the routine (always difficult) and one more stall to rake out, but it will make Cindy's life much better. 

Pies, pies, pies.  I'm about halfway done with the baking and must carry on.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Turkey Trot

For those who have never seen a turkey other than on the Thanksgiving table, it might be hard to realize just how big those birds are in real life.  Puffed out, some of the toms are twice the size of Bessie Anne.  Da' boys that I heard on the drive yesterday were joined by some hens and they all came running when I put down feed.  These are just a few of the many.  It's crazy how many there are!

And that deer herd I'd seen down on Omo Ranch?  I wonder if they followed me home, because there they all were coming up the drive yesterday morning at first light.  Wildlife is suddenly appearing in great numbers this season.

For an overcast day, it was unusually warm.  There was a spectacular sunset and Bess and I went out for a stroll in the glow after putting the kids to bed.  We headed over to the south side yard and darned near had to kick little birds out of our way.  Steve's dad, Glenn, was a sweetheart if ever there was one.  He called any tiny unidentified birds "dinky birds."  The dinky birds are on the ground daily in huge numbers at dusk, and I'm talking hundreds.  They run along in the goat pen and I assume they're pecking for seeds.  Rather than take off flying as Bessie and I came closer, they just scattered and ran.  It was pretty funny.

The day ended as it began, with turkeys.  Bessie Anne had stayed out a little longer than I ("Please, Mom, just five more minutes!").  Suddenly I heard what seemed like all the turkeys in the flock sound off in a panic down in the woods.  Then Bessie chimed in with her deeper, "Come quick, there's danger," voice.  Out on the deck, I could hear but not see the turkeys as they continued to scream, and Bess was at the edge of the woods but would not go farther, focused and barking.  Like Bessie Anne, I wasn't about to go down under the trees to find the cause.  Turkeys are turkeys, and Bess and I are chickens after dark.  The drama ended, the turkeys quieted, Bessie Anne came back to the house, but the mystery remains.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

It's A Guy Thing

"Oh, man, that's cool!"  "How'd ya get those feathers spread like that?"  "What d'ya think about this strut?"  "Wow, dude, that'll make her pinfeathers flutter!"  These are just a few of the fifteen or so young toms that were showing off just for each other in the front yard yesterday morning.  Not a hen in sight, they obviously were practicing how they would impress the ladies.  They also, I might add, were all gobbling at the top of their lungs at the same time and they were loud!  Bessie Anne took one look and gave the flock a wide berth as we walked out to the feed barn.

Bess and I made a quick trip to the feed store (or, as she calls it, the cookie store) in the afternoon and passed a herd of maybe ten deer grazing off the side of the road.  It's been years since I've seen so many deer together.  Bessie likes to go to the cookie store.  The proprietor keeps an open box of small milk bones for the many customers who travel with their dogs.  Darned near every pickup truck has at least one canine companion on board.  Bess checks me out before I can get into the truck, sniffing for her cookies.  I put two on the console between us.  She rests her head on them but won't take even one.  At home, she'll wait until I unload the grain and then stand in front of me so I can't move until she gets her cookie.  She eats the first one, comes back again for the second, which she takes and hides for a snack later.  Funny little girl.

Not quite daylight.  I hear "da boys" coming up the drive.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Six goats, one sheep.  While one girl is on the stand, five goats and one sheep are up at the corner chowing down on alfalfa, changing places one at a time (except Poppy) to come into the milking room.  Finished with barn chores yesterday I headed up to the gate with the buckets.  Instead of our usual parade, the pen was littered with six goats and one sheep lying in the sun, dozing or chewing cud, soaking up the warmth.  After straining milk and washing buckets, I picked up a book and asked Bess, "Want to go outside?"  The words were barely out of my mouth and she jumped out of "her" recliner, tail wagging, and ran to the door (she knows the drill).  Not too hot, not too cold, my girl and I sat on the deck for a long while.  Those goats had the right idea.

I doubt the neighbors pay me much mind anymore.  If they glance up the hill on washdays, they might, however, wonder if I were housing a small army or perhaps a marching band.  Thirty socks hanging on the line for just one woman?  The thing is, in wintertime the only way to get through it without frozen toes is to wear double socks.  Oh well, keep 'em guessing.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Sunshine On My Shoulders

I really wanted pictures of the clouds yesterday and was shooting this blind as I aimed south.  I didn't expect the sun to be the "star" of the photo, but it sure is.

When the Kids were little, we lived in an area of adobe clay.  Dry, it is as hard as cement and it's no surprise it was (and still is) used for bricks, fences, and homes.  With proper conditioners (I suggest rabbit poop) to aerate, it will grow anything.  Wet, it is a gluey mess that sticks to everything, including itself.  I once weighed the Kids' shoes when they came in from playing and each shoe was encased in ten pounds of mud!  The Kids thought it was a hoot to walk around like Frankenstein's monster, but those shoes had to be rinsed and scraped before the mud hardened forever.

Up here, the soil is decomposed granite (DCG).  It also requires a conditioner to hold water in the garden (of course, I suggest goat poop, known as garden gold).  Dry, it is as fine as powder and dust clouds roll when it is disturbed.  Wet, it is as slippery as Teflon, even without the chickens' contributions.  Because it will not hold water, give it a couple of hours without rain and the soil is dry again.  In the pen, wallows scraped out by the goats had become wading pools during the rain.  By the time I'd finished milking the last goat yesterday those wallows were empty again.  The slide marks I'd made on the path on my way down were still there but dry on my walk back up.  Conditions were perfect and I was as happy as a clam when Tree Guy showed up to finish planting the two remaining mulberry trees for the goat pen shade project.  Goats being what they are, the trees have to be caged with strong wire fencing if they are to have even the slightest chance of survival.  Planting, therefore, was not a simple job of digging a hole and plunking in the tree.  TG has promised to finish the water line before summer comes.

The porch woodpile is replenished.  The sun is rising.  All is right in my world.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Slippery Slope

There is a fine line between too little and too much and we are definitely in one of those "be careful what you wish for" situations.  Six days ago, we all said, "We need rain, give us some rain!"  Five days ago, everyone was saying, "Isn't this rain wonderful?"  After days of steady rain, the cry is, "Enough already!"  My balancing act begins with the first step off the porch.  The chicken pens are the worst as a misstep could spell disaster.  I'm not sure if I would billed as a tightrope walker or a clown act as I c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y open doors, put down food and water, and tend the littlest kids.  Both pens are on a slight slope and there is nothing to grab in a fall.  The goat barn is at the bottom of the hill; you get the picture.  The girls have churned the mud into slurry in front of the milking room door and footing is treacherous, especially when both hands are gripping buckets.  With mud even in the sheltered areas, I had to leave the big rooms open for the girls yesterday.  By evening, the wind had blown in rain and only the back stalls were dry.  Chaos reigned at bedtime as the routine had been disrupted and no one but Poppy knew where she was supposed to be.  Big wet Poppy shouldered her way through the crowded hallway and headed right to her stall, then bellowed because her snack hadn't been put down yet.  Two sets of bibbies and a pair of sweat pants are waiting to be hosed down before they can go in the wash.

Heeding the weather reports, I had piled the porch rack high with firewood last week.  There is just enough left to light the wood stove this morning.  I'm hoping for a break today so I can restock it without a soaking.

It is raining.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Question

To climb, or not to climb:  that was the question.  I heard the problem even before I got to the barn.  The wind had torn one of the plexiglass panels on the roof loose and every gust would cause it to rise and bang down.  Not too much rain had gotten into the stall shared by Poppy and Sheila, but that loud noise must have been awful during the night for all the girls.  What to do?  Even were I brave (foolish) enough to climb a ladder anymore, past experience has taught me that working alone while the goats are out is not a good idea; they insist on getting into the act.  If the panel kept flapping, it would eventually break.  It pains me to have to ask for help, but finally called one of my Kids for advice.  He suggested I find a couple of old boards in the pen and shove them up on the panel, hoping to hold it down.  That worked briefly, but at least kept it from rising up as high as before.  Drat.  Help comes in mysterious ways just when you need it most.  Dave called and said a motorcycle buddy who lived in the area had some business to take care of and then would be over to nail down the roof; what a kind offer.  Then my friend Tim called.  He needed something of mine; was I going to be home?  I explained the situation and, yes, I was here waiting for Dave's friend.  A short while later Tim drove up, screw gun in hand, and took charge.  (I called Dave immediately to let him know his buddy was off the hook.)

They call this a warm rain, but when the drops are stinging like rock salt on your face and the wind is whipping wet pant legs, it doesn't feel very warm.  Slogging down to the barn and surrounded by complaining goats, my job was to hold the ladder for the few minutes it took Tim to screw down the panel.  Mission accomplished, the only question then was whether my good Samaritan wanted cream in his cup of hot coffee.

It is still raining and the wind is still blowing.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Under Cover

Not all here at Farview are as pleased as I to have the rain.  Nothing looks quite as pitiful as a goat huddled up against the barn wall outside with water dripping on her head.  I'm not as sympathetic as I might be because I left the play yard gate open and there are any number of other places the girls can go under cover.  The turkeys must be holed up somewhere in the woods; not one came for a handout yesterday, morning or evening.  Even the mice in the milking room were fewer in number.  Some of the regulars were lapping up milk and eating cereal, but I imagine most stayed in their diaper wipe-lined nests, pulling the covers up over their heads.  Only the little birds went about their business on a wet and dark day.

It is just first light this morning.  Hunger has overcome discomfort because I hear a flock of turkeys hurrying each other along as they come up the drive.  It is still raining, a good, steady rain, and a pretty stiff wind is kicking.  I hope there are leftovers from yesterday under the oak for them.  I'm not ready to go outside yet.  I want to get the fire going before leaving the house.  Bessie Anne is behind me on the bed, wrapped up under cover.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Wet and Happy

Raindrops keep falling on my head, la la la!  The promised rain finally arrived yesterday and is continuing this morning.  It is supposed to carry on through the weekend and three to five inches of the wet stuff is predicted from two storms blowing into the Sierras.  I know, I know.  In years past I have complained bitterly (and will again) when we've had nothing but rain for weeks on end, but this moisture is so desperately needed in California.  The United States is topsy-turvy in terms of weather this winter and both east and west coasts have severe conditions.  For me, there is a particular benefit from these showers.  Since the turkeys have begun perching in the oaks, there were some pretty spectacular sploops on my truck.  The polka dots dropped by the sparrows and crows were penny ante compared to turkey graffiti.  It will be nice to see out of the windshield again.

The big hens either have waterproof feathers or enough sense to stay in their coop when it rains.  The Silkies are a bedraggled bunch in the evening, muddy and wet.  Even though the goats and Poppy have places to stay dry in their pens, they are natural complainers and express themselves in no uncertain terms as they push and shove to get into the barn at night.  Bessie Anne snoozed and I watched old suspense movies yesterday while keeping the stove stoked.  I'd forgotten just how good "Wait Until Dark" with Audrey Hepburn was.

It was a good day.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


Morning Mouse (as in "Good morning, Mouse") continues to appear on a daily basis in the scratch barrel.  He or she has learned to hop into the bucket to be lifted to freedom and I enjoy starting my day with this encounter.  Meaning no offense, I assign gender arbitrarily when there are no obvious clues and mice keep their private parts private.  It's easy to visually differentiate the sex of turkeys, but nearly impossible with vultures.  Male plumage is so apparent in most avians, but not vultures.  I wonder why that is.  I wonder about so many things with the creatures that abound here.  For instance, it's not unusual to occasionally find a dead mouse, small bird, or lizard, but why is there never a sign of a dead turkey?  Are they like elephants and have a specific graveyard?  If they just keeled over and were taken by the cleanup crew (vultures, coyotes, etc.), I'd think there would be telltale feathers or something.  On the very day I'd been wondering about that, I found a deceased hawk by the clothesline, and that was strange.  Earlier I'd noticed crows driving a hawk away; maybe he was victim of such an attack, but I don't know.  Come to think of it, I've never found a crow on the ground, either.

As I've mentioned previously, my mother was not an animal person in any way and got hysterical at the sight of a mouse or lizard.  My sister liked dogs, hated cats, and had inherited my mother's phobias.  I'm sure there were times Mother wondered where her strange daughter (me) had come from.  It was my father who persuaded her to allow me a dog, a cat, my horned toads, a bird, and a horse.  They were, in all ways, my responsibility.  When my Kids were growing up, we had umpteen dogs (kept two and found homes for the puppies; those were the days before spay and neuter), a cat, a couple of rabbits, a hamster, a goose, a tortoise, some sort of ground squirrel or chipmunk, many, many guppies, and an occasional bird (ill-fated parakeets), most at the same time.  Mother wondered aloud then if I'd lost my mind.  She'd not have to wonder now if she saw me milking goats and feeding mice; she'd know I'd gone bonkers.  I'm a happy nutter (insert big smiley face here).

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

On The Wing

I quit counting at forty, but they kept coming.  The turkeys were pouring out of the woodwork yesterday, massing in numbers at the breakfast bar under the oak and then separating into smaller parties.  It's pretty obvious that I am not considered a threat.  I was much closer to these intruders to the chicken pen than the photo shows.  Just a few of the many can be seen in the background waiting for the next seating.  The chickens seem to think discretion is the better part of valor and now just move out of the way.  It helps that I throw down double helpings of scratch.

I had no more broken the layer of ice in the pan of water left for the wild things than it was surrounded by these toms.  (Those are hen turkeys in with the chickens.)  Tree Guy and Number Two Son showed up shortly after this and were nearly drooling at the thought of turkey sandwiches.  Sorry, guys.  No shooting here.  We did stand and watch the big birds, discussing the fact that almost all of the toms seem very young, as evidenced by the tuft of beard on the chest.  This beard, which is a growth of thin, straggly feathers, lengthens as the male ages.  The "Mafia Boys" who used to cruise through had beards over six inches, but they haven't shown up for awhile.

I am happy to report that Tree Guy and Son made a tiny bit of progress toward getting the last mulberry trees in the ground while they waited for Earle, supervisor on the log cutting that was the reason they were here.  The mulberries are a project that has been hanging fire for nearly a year and a half and I so want it finished.  Earle feels the same way about the tree trunk.  We're moving ahead, slowly.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Oh Well

Another day of broken promise.  Bess and I sat on the deck after chores until the clouds covered the sun and it became too cold to enjoy being outside.  Obviously heavy with moisture, those clouds, beautiful though they were, did not release one drop of rain.

Tree Guy and Earle came in the afternoon to whittle away on the fallen trunk.  Getting it cut into manageable pieces is a lengthy process.  The tree was very old and the wood is dense and heavy.  Earle plans to plank it out for some project he has in mind and so needs chunks as long as possible and cut with the grain.  If not done carefully, it could end up as very expensive firewood and so TG is taking his time.  Leaving the men to their work, Bess and I went in to stay by the fire and warm up.

There's not even one cloud in the sky this morning.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Promises, Promises

Nature was all talk and no show yesterday.  The weatherman promised rain, the cloud cover promised rain, and nothing happened.  It was as disappointing as Peyton Manning's performance in the Super Bowl.  I was rooting for the Seahawks but expected more from the Broncos.  It would have been a perfect day for rain.  Tucked inside with the fire going and plans for corned beef hash for dinner, "the" football game of the season to watch, wind whipping and grey skies, and not one drop of rain fell.

I often wonder who is training whom here, and I'm not sure the animals haven't gotten the upper hand (paw, hoof, claw).  For the past week or so, every morning I've found one small mouse in the barrel of chicken feed.  I think it is the same mouse each day.  At first, Mouse would race in circles and try to leap out as I trapped it in a small bucket, lifting it out and setting it free.  As time went on, Mouse began to sit quietly and wait for the "elevator" to freedom when I lift the lid.  Now we've got the system down pat and it's part of my morning routine.

And then there are the turkeys who come in droves for me to put down their breakfast.  They know when I step out for a walkabout, the wait won't be long and they begin to congregate under the oak.  Not satisfied with the birdseed, they are moving in on the chickens.  I must throw down double helpings of scratch if the hens are to get any.  The roosters, those manly protectors of the flock, turn away and ignore the intruders, leaving the hens to fluff up and charge.  The turkeys snicker and continue to feed as the pint-size munchkins attempt to guard their territory.  Those turkeys have my number, too.

Lowering skies this morning again carry the promise of rain.  We'll see if Nature is as good as her word today.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Keep Moving

When my four Kids were little, running around and into everything, a friend would send her two children over to play and tell them, "Just keep moving.  She'll never know you're there."  Maybe that's why I'm so compulsive about counting noses in pens and coops now.  No, wait.  That's because one of my Kids (who shall remain nameless) would wander off while on an outing and I was constantly hunting for said Kid.

Actually, "keep moving" is pretty good advice under many circumstances.  Physical activity is good for the body and the mind.  I'm told that runners have an endorphin rush and get a feeling of euphoria when they "hit the wall."  (I wouldn't know about that, ever.  I'm not an extremist.)  I do know that cleaning out a closet or digging in the garden can ease a broken heart.  Anxiety is lessened when the body is busy.  Kneading bread dough leaches away anger.  It takes surprisingly little time for unused muscles to atrophy and joints to stiffen; ask anyone who has worn a cast or has arthritis.

These thoughts came to me yesterday after I had tended the goats and chickens.  I won't say I didn't let out a couple of moans now and then while hauling buckets, but it wasn't until I was in the house and firmly ensconced in the recliner that the rib came back to the forefront.  Working with the animals and doing what needed to be done took attention away from myself.  I think inactivity is one of the reasons so many older persons dwell on their health or lack thereof.  When the body is still, the mind goes searching and can easily settle on an ache, pain, or unhappiness until that becomes the focus of life.  Activity directors in convalescent hospitals (I'm sure someone has renamed these holding centers with something more aesthetic now) are challenged to provide exercise even to those in wheelchairs; it really does help.  There are lessened opportunities or incentives for many of the elderly to stay active, and that is such a shame.  As for myself, I gave my mind a little trip with a book and some sunshine on the deck, and then came back in and baked some cookies.  I needed to keep moving.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Upside My Head

Like it or not, a trip to town was mandatory yesterday.  Getting in and out of the truck was as  imagined and our rutted road just added to the fun.  The first stop was at a little shop where I know the proprietress, an older woman, well.  She stood with a grimace and said she'd just pulled a muscle in her back.  Before I could commiserate, an elderly gentleman with a cane came in and immediately began telling his own tale of woe.  I thought, "Good grief, this is a meeting of the walking zombies from Night of the Living Dead!"  Not wishing to participate in this misery fest, I quickly concluded my business and backed away, having said little more than hello.  (I don't think my absence was noted as they were involved in one-upping each other's pain.)  This was a smack upside my head and I would like to take back every whine and whimper uttered.  I don't want to be one of "them."

Bessie Anne came here after Frank and Pearl were in residence.  She is discovering the perks of being an only child.  Plenty of room on the lap, no competition for treats, no shared attention; I don't want her to get to used to this.  I left my number at the vet's office and also checked the bulletin board at the feed store.  Bess needs some buddies!