Monday, March 31, 2014

Has Anyone Seen A Dogwood?

The day started out sunny and warm; didn't need a jacket down in the barn.  Wished I'd had a camera with me to get a shot of that gorgeous blue sky and residual puffy clouds.  Poppy and the girls spread out in the pens to graze as soon as they'd finished their "chores."  The hill was looking pretty darned good when my friends arrived for lunch.  A loaf of bread was just coming out of the oven (do I know how to make points or not?!).  What with one thing and another, several years had slipped by since we'd gotten together.  I had so enjoyed Sherry and Larry's company in the past, and it was no different yesterday.  Bessie was excited to meet Bonnie, their Aussie/border collie mix, and graciously shared her food bowl, her milk bowl, a couple of "cookies," and watched while Bonnie nosed through her toy bin.  Ralph and Celeste are just getting comfortable around Bessie Anne and I didn't know what Bonnie's reaction to cats would be, so I shut the bedroom door again.  A long, leisurely afternoon with friends is a lovely way to spend a day.  The temperature started dropping and I lit the wood stove.  By the time we said goodbye, it was plain cold outside and the wind had picked up.

In the evening, it rained again and then hail pounded down, quickly covering the deck.  Forecasters predicted rain today and, believe it or not, snow down to 2,500 feet tomorrow.  That means we could get some white stuff here.  I've looked for dogwood trees in bloom on every trip to town, but haven't seen one.  The warm weather lately had me thinking I'd missed their brief flowering period and there would be no more snow warnings.  It appears I was wrong.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Different View

This is a new view from Farview.  Ralph (aka Mr. Patty Paws) is potty paddling, his favorite pastime.  Celeste sometimes supervises, but is disinclined to soak her feet.  (And that's enough alliteration for today.)

It wasn't raining here when I left for town yesterday, but, boy, did I get caught in it on the road.  The sky opened up and dumped buckets.  Even with the wipers on high, it was hard to see ahead at times.  All destination stops were done in record time, including buying another pair of shoes; same style, right size.  This time I went right to the men's department.  It is discriminatory that men's shoes are more sturdily constructed than women's.  The reason I had to buy shoes at all is because the soles kept flapping loose.  The women's barn shoes I've been buying are every bit as ugly as the men's, but the soles on the male variety are sewn on, not glued.  Go figure.  Now I'll have a pair I can wear in summer without double socks.  (And they were on sale!)

It rained on the way to town, while I was in town, and all the way home.  I put a lot of soggy critters to bed last evening and it was still raining.  While watching TV about 7:30, suddenly there were tornado warnings for the northern valley.  That's twice in the last week I've seen the alerts.  Somehow I thought tornadoes only occurred in the daytime.  How terrifying it must be when they strike after dark.  I know southern California was hit with an earthquake a day or two ago.  What's going on?

The sky is clearing this morning and company is coming for lunch.  It's going to be a good day, even if the toilet seat is wet.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

When It's Great

It's not only good, it's great when one of the Kids comes up for the day, and yesterday it was Clay's smiling face at the door.  Knowing that I'd received club patches from the Freed Spirits, he brought me a fine, regulation leather vest.  This Club Momma will be stylin' when I hang out with Bam Bam and the other dudes (even the thought of it makes me laugh).  With the changeable weather we've been having, Clay helped bring a couple of wagonloads of wood up to the porch.  That was timely, as it is wet, dark, and windy this morning.  One-on-one time with the Kids is so special and Clay is good company.

He asked about the cats and, like magic, Ralph appeared.  Ralph was drawn to Clay like a magnet and was all over him like they were long-lost buddies.  I fear Celeste is going to be like Tulu, a cat we had for many years long ago.  There were guests who came often who never knew we had a cat, she made herself so scarce when company was in the house.

I've been getting in a menu rut lately.  I like to cook and Clay likes to eat, so I extended my repertoire to chicken piccata and mushroom risotto for dinner, with warm custard for dessert.  I've been working on getting risotto just right for some time now and, if I do say so myself, last night it was great!  Clay went home with a full tummy.

Computer problems have plagued me lately.  I spent over an hour on the phone with a tech the day before, and ran into a different situation yesterday when trying to send attachments.  After Clay left, I contacted tech support again.  The nice man tried everything he knew, spoke with the next techs up the chain, but nothing they did could solve the problem.  It was sent up the line to the engineers, who may be able to identify and fix.  "We'll get back to you."  Great.

Working with the tech took a long time and the furries gave up on me as it got later and later.  Bess snored with her head on my feet under the desk.  Celeste and Ralph napped and cuddled to keep warm.  When I finally climbed in bed, all three glommed on like I was the lifeboat and they were sinking.

It was a great day.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Over The Hump

Morning Mouse starts my day with a smile as he waits calmly for his elevator ride out of the feed barrel.  No frantic zinging in circles, he steps into the bucket (the No. 10 bus) and gets out at his stop.  It just tickles me.

I think we're over the hump as far as the cats are concerned.  Both Ralph and Celeste were very much in evidence yesterday, all over the house.  I'd been using the quiet carpet sweeper so as not to scare them, but it was time to get out the vacuum cleaner for a better job.  They not only did not run away, Ralph the Brave actually charged the noisy machine.  He also discovered that the window sill in the kitchen is a good bird-watching post.  The lilacs just outside are full of dinky birds.  The sink full of water is an added bonus.  Celeste chose one of Bessie's toys from the basket and carried it like a kitten up and down the hall.

The goat pens are green, green, green (well fertilized) and the grass is ankle high.  Grazing on this lush feed has a huge impact on the milk.  The girls have stepped up production and the milk is so rich it's almost yellow with cream.  The chickens are laying more eggs now, too.  There's nothing like custard made with fresh eggs and creamy milk, eaten warm.

The recent flurry of housecleaning came just in time.  Friends dropped in to purchase eggs in the afternoon and Clay called to say he was coming up today.  Here I am, all spiffed and dusted and ready for company.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hot and Cold

Flushed with the success of the prior day, rather than sitting on my laurels I spent yesterday packing up all those receipts and papers, filing some and pitching others.  The dining room table gradually emerged and is once again serviceable for meals.  One thing led to another and (drum roll please) I dusted the living room!  I know!  Hey, when you're hot, you're hot!

It was rainy and cold most of the day.  What is it the farmers say?  "Can't dance, and it's too wet to plow."  Fired up the wood stove to take the chill out of the air and just kept moving.  Ralph and Celeste came out of hiding.  Ralph discovered the hummingbird feeder right outside a living room window; better than TV for a cat.  Linda commented that the "kittens" are not lightweight.  Celeste is ten pounds, Ralph is twelve pounds.  I cannot carry both of them at the same time.  In addition to paddling in the potty, Ralph barely waits for me to come out so he can play patty-paws in the shower stall.

The Sacramento valley is becoming Tornado Alley.  All news channels were reporting funnel clouds and touch-downs throughout the afternoon.  As the weather was moving toward them, I checked in with Deb and Craig.  They live in the suburbs.  The broadcasters were advising anyone in danger to "get down into a ditch or basement."  Deb and Craig had neither and Craig wouldn't have had time to dig a ditch, so it was a very good thing that the winds passed them by.

It was a good day.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Light As Air

The weight of the world is off my shoulders:  all tax stuff finished and put in the mail to my tax guy.  For me, I'm ahead of schedule.  I keep fairly organized records and file a straightforward return, so it's not a difficult task, but I loathe it just the same.  I put it off as long as possible and then get loaded down with guilt because I know I've added to an already burdened CPA and his crew.  One would think I'd do it early just to have this "light as air" feeling when it's done.  Every year I swear it will be different.  It never is.

Celeste and Ralph, out of the bat cave in the light of day.  Woohoo!  Not only that, but last night both cats came out into the living room.  Celeste voluntarily sat in my lap for a bit and both cats inspected the premises, right there in front of Bessie Anne.  Then the thunder rolled and the rain came down and, zoot!, it was back to the bat cave.  The storm was brief but pretty fierce when it hit.

What is it about boy cats and potties?  Any girl cats I've ever had paid no attention to the toilet, but boy cats seem fascinated.  Victor was obsessed, Frank had definite interest, and Ralph paddles every chance he gets.  Whoever said cats don't like water only knew female felines.  Sitting down on wet, cold paw prints is not pleasant.  Did I hear someone say to put the lid down?  As I've mentioned before, I learned on 9/11 that leaving the lid up would give animals water in case of a disaster until they could be rescued.  Ah well.  I can forgive that little redhead anything.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Good Intentions

I thought I was seeing a new species of bird.  It had the coloring and shape of the standard barn birds, but sported a huge mustache.  It sat quite awhile on the shelf so I got a really good look, but it took some time to see that the mustache was actually a beakful of Poppy wool.  It must be nesting season.  As this was a male bird, I imagine he was waiting for a lady bird to notice what a good provider he would be and choose him as a mate.

It might be nesting season for the birds.  For me, it is tax season.  Receipts and papers have been sorted and spread over the dining room table for a week.  Yesterday I jumped in with both feet and sharpened several pencils in readiness.  As long as I had the sharpener out, I might as well sharpen all the pencils in the house.  I didn't think it would take that long to hunt them down.  Sitting at the table to do some data entry at last, I noticed the hummingbird feeders were low.  I couldn't let those little beggars go hungry so got up to make some juice.  After filling the bottles out on the deck, it seemed necessary to water a few of the potted plants.  Feeding the hummers made me realize that I was hungry, so I made a sandwich.  Not wanting to get crumbs on those important papers, I sat in the living room and got interested in an episode of NCIS that I had seen many, many times before.  Maybe if I watched it again, there might be a different ending this time (it could happen) and it was only an hour show.  Omigosh, I remembered that, with rain predicted this week, I had to go to the feed store to stock goat chow.  After unloading the truck and back in the house, I got a phone call from my friend Linda with news about her new job and I wanted to hear all about it.  Before I knew it, it was time to put the kids to bed.  With the best of intentions, I didn't get very far with the tax stuff.  I don't know where time goes.

Last night I changed sheets from those cozy fleece to regular cotton.  The effect on Ralph was immediate and startling.  It was as if he'd been hit with a cattle prod.  As I was making the bed, he was attacking the sheets, pouncing and darting like a mad thing.  It only got worse as I tried to smooth them.  Bess and Celeste looked on.  He couldn't stop himself even when the blanket covered the offending sheets.  As I'd feared, my feet became a moving target when I got in bed.  I yelled.  Bess and I slept alone last night.

Monday, March 24, 2014


It was a selfie moment and I so wished for a camera last night.  However, since I was pinned down and could not move, the chance would have been lost anyhow.  Four heads on one pillow - make that three heads and a whole cat on one pillow.  Come bedtime, we are a very close-knit group, Bessie Anne, Ralph, Celeste, and I.  It would have made a great picture.

"Kek.  Kek kek kek."  Ralph watches birds outside the windows and speaks a universal cat language of discovery.  I can't wait to see how he'll respond when turkeys parade on the railing.

I fear Celeste has become institutionalized.  She spends more time in the bat cave and I see less and less of her in the daytime.  It may be that I will have to bring both cats out and shut the bedroom door behind them, leaving them no recourse but to make friends with Bess and find new hidey holes.  I think Ralph would be up for the challenge; he's pushing boundaries already.  (I just realized this will need rethinking.  The much-used litter box is in the bathroom and no way will I cut off access to that!)

There are certain advantages to living alone:  complete power over the remote control, eating and sleeping whenever the mood strikes, stuff like that.  A significant drawback is that there is no one around to give shoulder or back rubs.  Esther is the solution to that problem here.  She insists on rubbing her head on me before she'll get down from the stand, usually under my arm and against my ribs.  I've found that if I position myself just right, her bony head rubbing vigorously is a most satisfactory, if brief, back massage.  One learns to improvise.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Breakfast Brigade

The things I do.  This one photo tells it all.  Grain down for their breakfast, broomstick in the wipes bucket so they can get out, and milk squirted for a quick slurp.  These are just a few of the mousies who rushed out yesterday morning.  I like the one who used the rake like a staircase to join the breakfast brigade.

I put the midnight plan into action and will admit to an evil giggle as I dumped stinky cat litter into the squirrel burrow.  I actually get a kick out of the busy little critters, but they are so darned destructive.  I try to adopt a "live and let live" attitude, but the holes and mounds all over the property are a pain to contend with, especially during mowing season (which will begin very soon).

Rain is predicted for later this week, but it was a perfect day to do laundry and hang clothes outside.  With the urge to "go green," we should see clotheslines going up all over California.  It's a great use of solar power, and it's free!

Back in the house, it was a nice surprise to get a call from Cousin Mark.  He was attending a NASCAR race and had the opportunity to meet Clint Bowyer (my driver/hero).  Mark said Clint was just as nice as I might have hoped, greeting Mark with a big country-boy grin.  It was special that Mark took the time to call and tell me about it before the race began.

Ralph is going stir-crazy and is ready to make a break for it.  He still goes humpty-back when he sees Bessie Anne, but he came into the living room last night and into the kitchen this morning, testing the waters with short forays.  That's real gutsy, in my opinion.  Bess whines because she wants him back in the bat cave, but doesn't make a move toward him.  I reward her with "good girl" and sometimes a cookie.  Celeste is still cautious, only coming out when I'm in the bathroom and onto the bed at night.  All the furries seem to agree that the bed is neutral territory.

It was a good day.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Mother, May I?

I thought we'd made some progress the other day.  Yesterday Bessie Anne was back on duty as hall monitor, giving short woof commands to the cats if they tried to venture out of the bedroom.  I really need to teach Ralph and Celeste the rules to "Mother, May I?"  Perhaps if the cats knew the rules or the password, they'd have a better chance at freedom.  Bessie might let them take three giant steps.  Ralph is getting wily, keeping watch to see if Bess is asleep in her chair or by my feet.  I caught glimpses of him as he raced past the front door into the kitchen and back.  Celeste seems a little more laid back.  She only comes out of the bat cave when I'm in the bathroom.

Isolation is definitely getting to Ralph.  He's got a wild hair this morning and has made several laps around the computer and has been playing a thundering game of hockey with the ducky in the bathtub again.  With Bessie under the desk, he goes down the hall to the front bathroom to open the cupboard door and let it bang shut.  On the bed, he pounces and attacks the flowers on the comforter.  We'll all be very glad when the warden gives him a reprieve.

I had one of those middle-of-the-night epiphanies.  Cleaning the litter box umpteen times a day is resulting in pounds of used litter.  I'd been worried that Trash Guy would get a hernia while emptying my barrel, but what else could I do.  I awoke with the answer right there in front of me (I don't know what others dream about).  There is a squirrel hole in a portion of the driveway and it goes down probably eight feet (that squirrel either comes from or is going to China) and is close to eight inches across.  Ta da!  I shall dump the used litter down the squirrel hole, and when that hole is filled, I'll find another one, and another one, ad infinitum.  Odds are I will not run out of either resource.  Trash Guy will never know that he owes me a debt of gratitude.  Note to self:  find out whether children in China are told if they dig all the way through, they'll end up in America.

Friday, March 21, 2014

What'cha Doing?

All plans for the day went right out the window when I got a text on my way back from the barn.  "Hi, Mom!  What'cha doing?"  Since my hands were full of milk buckets and it's no safer to walk and text than drive while texting, I didn't answer until I was back in the house.  It was a neat surprise when Dave invited me to lunch at Bones (where else?) with him and a buddy who were going for a ride on the first day of spring.  Anthony had been promoted from Hang-around to Prospect.  I had time to get cleaned up and pin my Freed Spirit patches on a fresh pair of bibbies.  I got a chuckle at the thought of a grandma "flying the colors."  I'm so glad the guys have found a destination site close to me; it gives me a chance to spend a little extra time with Dave.

Celeste and Ralph made great strides in bravery yesterday.  They came creeping down the hall, knowing Bess and I were in the living room; the first time I've seen them come out of the bedroom on their own in daylight.  Ralph sat enthralled at the screen door watching birds while Celeste made a tour of the room, giving Bess a wide berth.  Good girl that she is, Bessie pretended not to see either cat.  They didn't stay long before running back to the bat cave, but it was a good start.

As for bedtime, they've taken over.  Celeste firmly ensconced herself with her head on my arm, cuddled against my side.  Ralph stretched out on my pillow, leaving me a tiny corner.  A combined twenty pounds of cat is immovable.  Whatever makes 'em happy.

It was a good day.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Too Early

Setting aside things I should have been doing (procrastination being the name of the game), Bess and I went out to tend plants on the deck in the warm afternoon sunshine.  The water line had been turned off for the winter and mid March seems way too early for plants to droop, but droop they did, gasping for a drink.  Bess moved along with me, lying in the sun and then shifting to shade while I cleaned out dead leaves and plants from pots.  It was a most pleasant way to while away an hour or so.  Pink and purple anemones in full bloom were worthy of a photo, but I really didn't want to go in the house for the camera just then.  Hummers thrummed the air around the feeders, so close to my head I feared getting skewered while watering the plants underneath.

A few days ago, the sound of a helicopter low overhead got my attention while I was milking.  Up here where there is little air traffic, helicopters are not good news.  It could be LifeFlight or it could mean a fire.  When the 'copter made several passes, I came out of the barn to see the whirlybird with the hanging bucket getting water out of Boondock Lake.  This time it was a fire.  Scanning the horizon, I was relieved to see no smoke in the immediate vicinity but there was a column rising somewhere up toward Grizzly Flat.  With drought conditions and heat this early, it doesn't bode well for the fire season this year.

Ralph feels safe under cover of darkness and makes a pest of himself as I type.  From the bed behind, he puts a paw on my shoulder so I'll turn and he can get on my lap.  He'd very much like to use the keyboard to add his own comments, but I decline.  Thwarted, he goes behind the monitor and over the desk, knocking things left and right.  Misjudging, he fell off and hit the modem.  (Note to self:  "save" frequently in case Ralph pulls wires loose.)  Right now he's over on the dresser, wreaking havoc there.  I have no idea where Celeste might be.  Bessie Anne raises her head from my feet, sighs, and says, "You wanted cats, Mom.  You got 'em."

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


There are days when it seems all I do is feed open mouths and deal with the end product of that process.  It starts with the chickens.  I've got to throw down extra scratch with the turkeys now lined up or there wouldn't be enough for the hens.  I can't keep up with the stuff in the coops.  With the turkey parade on the drive and walkways, there are inevitable droppings to watch for.  Innumerable wild birds are in the trees waiting for their seed.  Down in the barn, it's goats, mice, birds, ground squirrels, and now the gopher that is tunneling up to stuff his face.  He literally packs his cheeks to overflowing before ducking back down.  I rake and shovel a two-gallon bucket of goat poop every day.  It seems I'm continually scraping ledges under bird perches and brushing mouse pellets off of shelves.  Hummers are gathering in large numbers.  Even with three feeders, every time I turn around one or all are empty and I must make more juice, two quarts at a time.  Even teeny tiny droppings accumulate.  Bessie's bowl gets filled while I make coffee.  Fortunately, she has a lot of space outside and chooses not to do her business close to the house.  Curious, I weighed Celeste yesterday.  She's a hefty ten pounds, not surprising as the cats eat a huge bowl of food daily.  Equally unsurprising is the number of times a day I clean the litter box.  It's a case of what goes in must come out.

The bed has become treaty territory.  Bess moved down to the foot and relinquished her place on the pillow to the two cats last night; all night.  A queen-size bed and I cling to the edge in the narrow space I'm allotted.  Obviously, I'm not the queen.  Ralph is pretty brave as long as I'm near, but heads for the bat cave when Bessie is on the move.  Celeste starts purring as soon as she sees me and will stay on my lap in the chair, but heads down the hall if I have to get up.  Neither cat will come out of the bedroom on their own.  We're working on that.

Tree Guy finally finished the water line to the mulberries yesterday.  I restrained from shouting, "Wahoo!," and politely thanked him.  The project was started nearly two years ago.  In this unseasonably warm weather, I'd been putting out gentle reminders, worried about the trees without water.  They wintered well and are putting out new leaves and I didn't want a setback.

I hear scratching in the litter box.  Again?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Home Sweet Home

To the casual observer, it might very well look like nothing is happening at Farview.  In fact, this photo was taken to commemorate a momentous occasion.  Bess and Celeste are only feet apart - in the living room!  My self-appointed deputy, Bessie Anne, had kept the cats in isolation in the back of the house for a week.  It was time for an intervention.  I carried a very unsure Celeste down the hall to sit with me.  Bess questioned but did not argue her presence and soon settled in her own chair, keeping one eye on the cat, just the same.  Celeste readily adjusted and we sat together for a long time.  Ralph stayed under the bed.

Apparently Celeste shared the news that the rules of house arrest had been lessened because, at bedtime, it was Bessie, Ralph, and me on the bed after lights out.  Ralph made up with a week's worth of lovin', rubbing, rolling, sitting on my head, and cuddling.  Celeste let him have his one-on-one time alone and Bess ignored everybody.

It remains to be seen if the spell really has been broken, but this morning the cats are racing around the bedroom, banging around in the bathroom, and venturing down the hall on their own.  Bessie seems content to snooze with her head on my feet.  It's a really big deal.

There is nothing quite like seeing a full moon rise behind the pines on the ridge across the road and listening to the coyotes sing their wild songs. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

It's On Me

"Your mother wears combat boots, and she dresses you funny, too!"  Kids used to taunt each other like this back in the day.  (I have no idea what they say now.)  My mother did not wear combat boots, but I should probably not be seen in public.  On a recent trip to town, I had to buy a new pair of shoes.  Aaargh.  I cruised the shoe aisle, looking for the same shoe style I've worn for years so I didn't have to go through the trauma of making decisions and trying on anything different.  The store no longer carries that shoe.  Fine, just fine.  Barn shoes will never make me a fashionista.  I need them to be sturdy and comfortable, period.  I finally found a pair that would do, brown slip-ons.  They are not pretty.  It was cold the day of purchase and I was wearing wintertime double socks and so didn't notice that they are slightly too large.  The last time I went to town, I checked the shoe department for a size smaller.  They've stopped carrying that style.  Of course.  The nice man suggested I try looking on line.  I did.  That's where I found out that the shoes I am wearing are men's shoes, misplaced in the women's section and misplaced on me.  It's the next best thing to wearing combat boots.  My poor children.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Cat and Mouse

Haha hahahaaa!  (That's me, laughing like the lunatic I've become.)  I woke up last night because I didn't hear the cats.

Morning Mouse took a few days off, but came back.  Who says mice can't be trained?  Mouse sits patiently in the feed barrel like a rider at a bus stop.  I put the scoop bucket down next to him, he steps in, I lift him out and take him to a safe corner where he gets out, gives a wave of his tail, and says, "See ya tomorrow."

In the dark before dawn, Ralph and Celeste are playing ping-pong in the (empty) bathtub with my rubber ducky.  (Stop that!  I can hear you laughing, you know.)  Celeste appears like a small grey ghost whenever I'm in the bathroom, and she evidently liked the idea of some one-on-one at bedtime.  We did a repeat of the nighttime lovies.  Bessie Anne is accepting of her after just one night.  Ralph, not s'much.  She has not hurt him in any way, but just giving chase down the hall has put the fear of Dog into him.  I've got to remember that it's been only a week and these things do take time.

 My niece, who researches such things, told me that Ralph is a "red cat."  Red cats are tabbies with a specific chromosomal pattern and are usually male, known for mellow personalities.  They're also called marmalades, and it is easy to see why.  When Ralph is brave enough to join his sister (?) in the bathroom, he stretches and rolls and, unlike prior cats in my experience, wants his belly rubbed like a dog.

I've created a group of milk junkies down in the barn.  With the change in routine, Inga is now first up on the stand.  The mice must wait because of Inga's nondirectional teats; there's no way I can squirt a serving over to their juice bar from her.  They line up as I bring in Sheila, their milk goddess.  As many as a dozen push and shove to slurp up their warm liquid gold.  Grain is forgotten on the ground while they drink their fill.  Who knew?

Satomi reintegrated safely with her little flock.  I've mentioned it before, but the best way to introduce or reintroduce a chicken to an existing flock is after dark when the others are asleep.  When they wake up in the morning, it goes something like, "Oh, hello.  You look familiar, dear, but I've forgotten your name."  Chickens seem to have short- and long-term memory loss.  Put an unfamiliar hen in the pen during the daytime and they're in real danger from the others as an intruder.  The little girls have accepted the turkey hens at breakfast, but yesterday a tom jumped in.  One of the barred Rock hens fluffed up and charged.  That hen kept that turkey, three times her size, from getting more than just a few grains of corn.  Those lazy, good-for-nothing roosters looked on while she held the tom at bay.  Women's work is never done.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Fits and Starts

We started out with one step forward, two steps back, but we're moving toward two steps forward, one step back.  I may have created a situation by shutting doors to protect the cats.  Bess seems to have gotten the impression that I mean the kitties to stay in the bedroom forever.  She does fine with them in the bathroom or bedroom; they're free to move at will.  However, let one head down the hall and she is after them like a shot.  She scared Ralph silly yesterday.  Thankfully, "Leave it!" is a command Bess understands and obeys.

Celeste is going to be the go-between, the ground breaker, the envoy.  She shows up now whenever I'm in the bathroom (I gave up privacy a long time ago), obviously needing some people contact.  Ralph keeps a low profile in the cave, but yesterday she coaxed him to join us.  Bess was fine with both of them until Ralph ventured out into the hall.  I didn't see him for the rest of the day.  Celeste was there again as I readied for bed.  Okay, we might as well take this to the next level.  Bessie Anne was already in her place for the night so, holding Celeste, we sat down next to her.  Bess stayed calm, Celeste stayed calm (Ralph was under the bed).  I got into bed and Celeste settled at my side as if this had always been our routine.  Bess sighed, seemed resigned, and went to sleep.  I know, because she snores.

Ralph needed to work out cramps after being stuck in the cave all day and was ready to play after lights out.  Having done her job, Celeste joined him in a rousing game of tag throughout the house since the night watchman was off duty.  This morning I discovered they'd pulled all the towels out of the front bathroom cubby; I'll bet that was fun.  They also pulled toilet paper rolls from storage in my bathroom.  Just now I heard a huge thump from the laundry room as they leaped up on the washing machine (did I mention these are heavy cats?).  Bess is at my feet and it is still dark, so the kitties are still on the loose.  I'm not getting much sleep lately.

Fully recovered, Satomi went back to the Taj after dark last night.  One less critter in Animal House.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Poor Timing

Drat!  A trip to town was imperative yesterday, like it or not.  Frank and Pearl had been indoor-outdoor cats and used the litter box generally in the winter only.  Ralph and Celeste get their exercise by jumping in and out of the box and we were running short of litter.  There are those items for which there is no substitute, litter being one of them.  The cats were in their cave under the bed when I went into the bathroom for a quick spiff-up before leaving.  Standing at the sink and feeling a tentative brush against my leg, I looked down to see Celeste rubbing up and purring.  Yes!  The "ignore them" treatment was working!  Lots of rewarding strokes and sweet talk kept her with me, even when Bessie Anne entered the room.  The two nosed each other without growl or hiss and it was a red-letter day.  The timing was off, though, because I did have to leave just as we'd reached success.  Even worse, as Bess and I were walking away, Ralph came out of the cave to see why everyone but him was having a good time.  I'm sure he would have joined in, but I had no choice.  A trip to town is a minimum of three hours round trip and I had to get on the road.  I lacked confidence that a cat-dog war would not break out in my absence, so once again shut the cats in the bedroom.  I'm hoping for a repeat performance today.  Timing is everything.

Two days ago the house was so cold I lit a fire before going down to the barn.  Yesterday the temp was in the high 70s.  It is only mid March.  Nature's timing is off, too.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Take Your Pick

One or the other:  we are either "Animal House" (John Belushi) or "Animal Farm" (George Orwell) and Bess and I are Big Sister watching.  After getting the TV turned back on and Celeste from behind the furniture (opening now blocked), Bessie and I decided to take a new tack.  We are ignoring the cats.  Cats, perverse creatures that they are, do not like to be ignored.  Show me the cat that does not know in its heart that it is the Master of the Universe.  Working at the computer in the afternoon with Bess lying in the kneehole of the desk and my back to the cats, it wasn't long until Ralph and Celeste came out from under the bed, checked us out and then went to explore the rest of the house.  They did retreat to their cave later, but like little bats came out after lights out and played throughout the night.  They are wreaking havoc in the bathroom right now, knocking stuff off the counters, hoping to get our attention.  Celeste makes a funny "brrrp" sound, not a miaow.  Ralph as yet remains silent.  I know for a fact that all their systems are working.  I clean the litter box at least six times a day.  It's no wonder Larry referred to them as "chunky monkeys," as the food dish is quickly emptied.  They are amazingly "sturdy" cats (i.e., heavy!) for their size.

I think our new strategy will work.  I feel so sorry for Ralph and Celeste.  They were taken from the people they knew, driven miles and miles on winding roads (Bess used to get carsick), dropped into a strange world that included one of the dreaded "them," a dog, and an unfamiliar lady who kept pulling them out of safe places.

Comedians learned a long time ago that people will laugh at a pratfall.  I got a laugh the other day when two of the Silkie roosters had a set-to.  One jumped up to attack the other, missed, and landed face first in a mud puddle.  If a bird could show embarrassment, that rooster was embarrassed.  He shook himself off, strutted away, and muttered, "I meant to do that."

Why is it that the one critical piece of documentation necessary to prepare taxes, that paper that was put in an unforgettable place, suddenly disappears into thin air?  It happens every year, and every year I think I've forestalled such an event.  It's like "Groundhog Day," and I go over and over again, hunting for the doggone thing.  The dog thinks I've lost my mind as I riffle through drawers, pace through rooms, and shuffle stacks of receipts.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Pretty Rough Day, Good Night

One of these days, we will come to a meeting of the minds.  Yesterday was not that day.  Ralph spent the entire time under the bed.  Searching what I thought was every nook and cranny in the house, I could not find Celeste.  Where could she be?  I either took or put Bessie Anne outside to give Celeste an opportunity to come out of hiding.  No sign of her anywhere.  Sitting down to ponder the situation in the afternoon, I suddenly saw a little face peeking out from behind the entertainment center.  Celeste!  Given the position of the furniture, there was no way to pry her out.  Great.  Now what do I do?  I put a poor, confused Bessie Anne outside again and opened a can of tuna.  Never underestimate the power of tuna.  Celeste crept out, began to eat, and I was able to pick her up and take her back to the "cooler" (remember The Great Escape or Hogan's Heroes?).  Ralph got the scent and came from under the bed to join Celeste.  Both kitties seem to accept me (the Great Provider of Tuna) and let me pet and love 'em up, but I shut the bathroom door again so they could attend to kitty business in peace and so I could let Bess back in the house.

Last night went much better even with all doors open and I think we all got a pretty good rest; I know I did.  This morning Ralph was still in the bathroom on his own and I knew where to look for Celeste.  While the coffee was brewing, I thought I'd watch the news.  Celeste thought otherwise.  Back behind the big entertainment center, she stepped on the switch to the surge protector.  No television for me.  It's still dark out, the wind is howling at gale force, Bess is on the bed, Celeste is under the bed, Ralph is in the bathroom, the chicken is in the laundry room, and I'm going to tear my hair out.  I hope I don't run out of tuna.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Pretty Good Day, Rough Night

I always take a breather and sit for a spell when finished in the barn.  The nosy neighbors were back again, eight of them, and I'd actually taken a photo of one who had made herself right at home and was roosting on the railing, forcing the others to leapfrog over her as they peered in the windows.  Back in my chair, I heard a loud thump and glanced up to see this hen who wanted a closer look.  She'd jumped over onto the bench just under the window.  Dufus birds.

It was time to bite the bullet and make some introductions.  Cats and dog had been sniffing under the bathroom door, so each species knew the other was there.  After two days, I didn't want the cats to think they'd been convicted and sent to an isolation cell.  Putting Bessie on a lead, I took a deep breath and we went in.  Ralph and Celeste made a beeline for the cubby, with Ralph, the protector, on the outside.  Bessie Anne misses her feline companions and wanted to make friends.  I'm not sure the cats had previous contact with dogs, and they didn't share Bessie's feelings.  Ralph humped up and hissed.  Bessie, like her predecessors, Dogie and cat Victor, decided to take the slow and easy route.  She laid down quietly and we stayed like that until Ralph and Celeste came out of hiding and, in best cat fashion, ignored our presence.  (Nothing can make you invisible like a cat who doesn't wish to see you.)  That was enough for a first meeting, so Bess and I left, shutting the bedroom door so the cats could begin to explore more territory.

After a rainy morning, the afternoon was glorious and Bessie Anne and I went out to enjoy some sunshine.  After all, it was her house that had been invaded and she needed some one-on-one time, especially since she'd been so good earlier.  That barren oak is suddenly full of leaflets.  The forsythia has been in bloom for over a month.

At bedtime, I was faced with a dilemma.  The cats were under the bed, a great hiding place with the dust ruffle, so I couldn't shut them in the bathroom again.  Closing off rooms where they should not go, I left the bedroom door open to the rest of the house.  And so to sleep, perchance to dream.  Not.  Bess knew the cats were loose and wanted to find them.  Hand on her collar and a firm, "Stay," we went to sleep.  For awhile.  Every time she'd move, I'd wake up.  Every hour on the hour.  Once she jumped off the bed.  "Honest, Mom, I'm not looking for cats, I just want a drink of water (slurp, slurp)."  Since she can't jump back on the bed on her own, I got up and hoisted her.  That was at 3:15.  Right now, Bess is under the desk with her head on my feet.  Ralph is on the bed behind me.  Celeste remains in hiding.  We had a momentary contretemps when Bessie wanted a closer view and Ralph did his hissing thing.  This is going to take some time.  I need a nap.

Monday, March 10, 2014

When All Else Fails

This is as much as I'd seen of the kitties since their arrival, and this only because I'd pulled some towels out of the cubby where they were hiding.  I'd tried coaxing, wheedling, and treats.  "We don't want your stinkin' treats, lady."  Oh no, what if they hate me?!  I would go in often to talk to them, reach in and pet what I could, and hoped that time and a kind word would work.  I knew they hadn't touched the bowl of food nor used the litter box, and it wasn't looking good for our future together.
When all else fails, try a special meal.  I don't normally feed wet cat food, but always keep some on hand.  It was time to pull out the big guns and go for broke.  I waved the bowl in front of the cubby, put it down, and stepped away.  Like trolls from under the bridge, Ralph and Whatshername came creeping out to take turns chowing down.  Ta da!  I'd been so anxious to get the cats safely into the house, this is really the first look I'd had at WHN.  She's such a pretty girl.  With a white undercoat, she has fur like a cloud.
Ralph (he blabbed his name right off the bat) relaxed on the bathmat after filling his tummy.  Larry had told me that Ralph was touted to be the lover of the two and he did come up for a rub-up and stroking after his meal, my tip for providing the food, but chose to remain aloof and I wasn't going to push the issue.  All good things in their own time.

It did surprise me when girl cat was the one who demanded attention, pushing and shoving her face against my hand and asking for more (attention, not food).  In the process, she told me in confidence that her name is Celeste.  I told her I thought that was a very pretty name and suits her well.

For the rest of the day, whenever I'd visit, Ralph and Celeste would come out for a rub-up and I finally got to play with them.  I was very pleased to see that the litter box was getting used (it's the small things in life that make us happy) and the dry food bowl was getting emptied.  We're taking baby steps.  Now that they are used to me, I will introduce Bessie Anne today.  If all goes well (fingers crossed), I'll expand their territory to include the bedroom.  It's so nice to feel cat fur again.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Where To Begin?

So many good things happened yesterday, I could hardly stop smiling.  From jacket, gloves, and hat, the weather changed to shirtsleeves.  The barn routine went smoothly for a change.  Zip-zip and everyone was in, out, and done so I could get spiffed up (clean bibbies) to meet my luncheon companions at Bones.  Any day a gal gets to hang out with six good-looking dudes is a good day.  Son Larry was already there; more about him later.  Son Dave (Bam Bam), Jester, Bird, Nimrod, and Jeff, all members of the Freed Spirits MC, rumbled up on their Harleys.
Club patches are taken very seriously and not handed out freely.  I know this, and so when Dave presented me with the one and only Club Momma patch, I was honored.  He explained to me that the club had voted me "in" and the patch was created especially for me. The boys (yes, they are all grown men, but they're boys to me) have given me nothing but respect, generosity, and kindness, and they all call me Mom.  I'm very privileged.

Laughter mingled with the hamburgers and time passed too quickly.  The guys were on a day ride, and they were burning daylight.  Larry and I waved goodbye as the Harleys roared off, and then turned to conclude our business.

I'd put my search for kittens on hold while so many other things were happening, but Larry, on his own, had been looking.  He had found two, a boy and girl, and had brought them with him.  He'd fallen in love with their photos and confessed after meeting the duo he considered keeping them for himself.  The kittens, less than a year old, were loose in his truck.  Had I known, I would have brought along a carrier.  Prying the cats from hidey holes under seats and behind tools was an ordeal.  I barely got a look at them while making the transfer, and they promptly made themselves scarce in my truck.  Larry had business to attend and the cats and I were on our own.  There were a few tense moments on the drive home when boy cat thought that under the gas pedal would be a good place to hide.  A scared, loose cat is not a good thing in a moving truck.  Home safe at last, I got the kittens into the house and into the bathroom where I'd put food, water, and a litter box.  An introduction to Bessie Anne would have to wait; these little ones had been traumatized enough.  Photos are also put on hold as the cats immediately found safe haven in the towel cubbies and behind the potted plants.  Going back periodically to sit quietly and pet whatever I could reach, I did get the girl to purr and boy to come out briefly.  Animals will tell you their names when they're ready.  Boy said his name is Ralph, but girl is still keeping a secret.

Man, it was a good day!  (And I haven't said one word about the time change.)

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Moving Right Along

It isn't just the goats who have mating on their mind.  The tom turkeys strut slowly, parading in front of the hens and showing their feathery finery.  They are the original fan dancers.  One thought leads to another and of course that one brought me to Sally Rand, probably the most famous fan dancer of the 1930s and '40s.  I believe I've mentioned that my mother had a fascination with burlesque and the strippers who worked in the "burlycues."  Those were the days when stripping was a specialized art and the girls wore (and, by law, had to wear) pasties and g-strings.  It was as much about the tease as the strip, and one of the best at that was Gypsy Rose Lee.  I never got to see Sally or Gypsy, but did watch Lili St. Cyr perform in Las Vegas.  Too young then to even go into a casino, I stood unnoticed behind the doorway to the darkened theater to see Lili's bathtub-and-bubble routine.  I got parked outside a lot of places when my parents went inside.  At any rate, fifteen or twenty turkeys with their tails fanned out, turning gracefully and taking measured steps brought back memories for me.  I could almost hear the boom-ta-ta-boom of the music.

The turkeys are much more subtle than the goats.  One or more of the girls go around with their tongue stuck out and that sex-stupid look on their face.  It's almost embarrassing.  TG stopped by the other morning while I was in the pen and I saw his look when one of the girls was trying to help out another.  Hey, it happens.

Today is going to be a great day.  I won't say just what is going to happen.  That's my tease.  All will be revealed tomorrow.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Blogger's Block

It finally happened to me.  I cannot think of one item of interest to anyone.  Not that yesterday wasn't a good day; it was.  But it was just another day.  Milked the goats, cleaned the kitchen, deadheaded some plants in the yard.  Big whoop.  Rain again last night, but without the pyrotechnics of the night before.  One of those days when you just watch the grass grow, or you would if you had any grass.  After the flurry of guests (hadn't mentioned that Arden had come for lunch the other day and we had a great chat and before that I'd gone down to Camille's for eggplant parmesan), yesterday was pretty tame.  It's not often I can use the term 'bored,' but yesterday Bess and I took several walkabouts just to get out of the house.

Bessie Anne had a senior moment this morning.  We'd both slept late and were a bit groggy still when we wandered out to the kitchen.  While I was waiting for coffee, Bess went into the dining room, sat for a moment, and gave a short, confused bark.  I don't know why, but she will only eat her dog biscuits in the dining room.  It dawned on her that she didn't have a cookie yet, and she was obviously embarrassed to come back and ask.  I told her it happens to everyone and not to feel bad.  She had her cookie, I had my coffee, and we can only hope for more inspiration today.

It was a blah day.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Fun and Games

Those flagging tails are a sure sign it's going to be one of those days.  The girls are cycling and it makes them crazy.  I'm positive that is what caused Tessie to bash Inga.  They take turns playing different roles.  One will jealously guard the other and drive away possible admirers.  Another gets tired of the constant "attention."  Just putting a hand on a rump as I pass behind is enough to start that tail to wagging furiously.  Fights break out without reason.  Nerves are frayed.  Frustration is the name of the game.  The does are on a twenty-eight to thirty-day cycle and fortunately they seem to be in unison.  It doesn't last long when it comes, and they do "go dormant," but it's no fun for anyone when they're in the midst of it.  We're in the midst of it.

How's this for a unique hostess gift?  Bessie Anne and I drove down to the big road to pick up the mail and I found a package from my friend Linda.  Some women watch soap operas; I am addicted to cooking shows.  During Linda's visit I managed to sneak in a peek at a couple of my favorites and a chef was pitting olives with one of these tools.  "Well, isn't that just the coolest thing?"  So here I am with this great olive/cherry pitter and not a kalamata or bing in sight.  I see a trip to town in the near future.  Linda included a lovely container of her homemade scented body lotion.  She could start a cottage industry with that; it's wonderful.

Rip Van Winkle's dwarfs played a rousing game of nine-pins last night.  Another storm hit, bringing lightning and thunder.  Lots of lightning and thunder and pounding rain.  We need the rain, but Bessie said she could do without the thunder.  The flash of light behind closed eyes was enough to wake me, and the thunderclap was right overhead.  Bess will calm down when I put my hand on her back, but she snuggles closer and closer.  I feel bad for the barn critters and wild things as they must be scared to death during an electrical storm.

Enough of the fun and games, Nature.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Took this photo in the mist of morn yesterday.  These are the "branches" that had dropped onto the barn roof.  I have trees on the property that aren't this big, and it's just a little barn.  Now I'm having nightmares about the rest of the tree falling, especially with the rain-softened earth.

Inga is doing well.  I'll give it another couple of days before using her milk again, but didn't see a tinge of pink yesterday.  She's got the bedtime routine down, but not s'much in the morning.  She darned near yanked my arm out of the socket while we made our way around to the MR.  She's not used to being constrained with the collar, and it has her spooked.

Larry got a lead on two kittens, a male (orange) and a female (tabby).  If they're still available, he'll bring them up this weekend.  They are a little older than I'd hoped and I'm concerned about Bess accepting them, where to keep them while they acclimate, have they been neutered, etc., etc., etc.  To be on the safe side, I washed the two cat beds in readiness.  (Had to check them for dog biscuits first; a favorite hiding spot.)

I heard a terrible rumor that there may be another time change in the near future.  I'm just getting used to naturally longer days and adjusting bedtimes for the kids and dinnertime for me.  (I had to get used to lunch and dinner; grew up with dinner at noon and supper at night.)  Daylight Savings Time throws me into a tizzy.  I simply cannot understand the reasoning behind it.  Sun comes up, sun goes down, everything in between is daylight.

Oh well, ours is not to wonder why.  No sense worrying about those things one cannot change (except the clocks).

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Getting Better

Inga's injury seems to be healing; at least we seem to be over the worst of it.

If I thought I had a clown act before, the new system must look twice as funny.  I will never be able to ask anyone to take over barn chores for a day; they couldn't follow the choreography involved.  It goes like this:  open the milking room door, put the buckets inside, fill the cereal bowl and put down a handful of grain for the mice.  Go around to the back stalls and herd Cindy outside.  She dawdles.  Go back for Inga, who hasn't yet gotten with the program, and pull her by the collar around to the milking room (MR) and up on the stand.  Go around outside to let Tessie and Esther out of the big room.  Back to MR and milk Inga while listening to Poppy bellow and Sheila whimper as they wait.  Push Inga out the door, go to back stalls, let Poppy out and throw a rope around Sheila's neck to bring her to MR.  Milk Sheila, squirting milk for the mice, and push her out.  Esther pulls the seniority card and comes in next.  Rake and shovel the big room floor while Esther eats, and empty the poo bucket contents over the fence.  Cindy is impatiently waiting outside and rushes in when Esther is done.  Take bucket, rake, and shovel around to clean the back stalls.  By the time I'm done with that, Cindy is finished and Tessie is ready to come in.  Milk Tessie.  Goat work complete, all that's left is putting down the nighttime snacks and filling the feed bucket for the next day.  Is it any wonder I hear calliope music?  All I need are the big red nose and floppy shoes.  I wish I knew then what I know now; we'd have built the barn with an entirely different plan.

Monday, March 3, 2014

How's That Working Out?

Farm life is not idyllic.  Sometimes it gets downright ugly.  Having had no success with Plans A and B, I'd come up with C to get Inga milked.  It seemed so simple.  Instead of letting Esther, Tessie, and Inga, the three girls who sleep in the big room, out all together, I would bring one at a time into the milking room and not give Inga a chance to balk at coming to me.  Yeah, and how'd that work out?  While Esther was having breakfast, I went around to clean the back stalls.  Suddenly I heard pounding feet, a big crash, and Inga scream.  I yelled and the fight stopped.  Esther out, Tessie in and milked, and it was Inga's turn at last.  I could find no sign of injury and breathed a premature sigh of relief.  Because there's always the potential for the stray hoof or tipped bucket, I always use two to guarantee some milk will be saved.  With an empty bucket, I sat down to work with Inga (two days without milking so I knew it would be hard work).  It was horrifying to squirt fresh blood from one teat.  Evidently Tessie had bashed Inga's udder; no external cut, but damage to vessels inside.  Regardless, Inga had to be milked out; there was no choice.  Stoic, she ate her breakfast while continuing to pour blood throughout the entire process.  It tears me apart to think I put any animal in harm's way.  With the best of intentions, Plan C was a total, ugly failure.  Once Inga was back out with the rest of the herd, all differences were forgotten and the girls went placidly grazing through the pens.  At nightfall, I faced another dilemma, but one with an easy solution.  Sheila and Poppy in one stall, Cindy in another, Tessie and Esther in the big room, and Inga went willingly into Ruthie's old stall.

I hope today will be better.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

It's All Good

Yesterday was Tree Guy's "tomorrow" from three days ago.  (Don't try to follow that; it's just a way to amuse myself.)  The important thing is that the branches are off the barn roof and the roof did not cave in.  I saw TG drive up and watched as he headed down to the pen alone.  I wondered how long it would take before he'd be back to ask for help.  Not too long.  He'd discovered that goats insist on helping with any chore in the pen, clustering around, nibbling on shirts, pants, shoes, tools, and generally getting in the way.  He didn't need help pulling the branch, which was the size of a fairly large tree; he needed me to keep the goats away.

Dave and the Freed Spirits had planned a group motorcycle ride to the foothills and I was to meet them for lunch.  Dave called for a weather report in the morning and I had to tell him, "Wet, windy, and cold."  They wisely decided to postpone their outing for a week.  The sun did come out later in the day, but the wind was pretty fierce at times and didn't die down until nearly dark.

Camille had invited me to attend an appreciation dinner for volunteer servers at the local fund-raiser crab feeds.  Camille and her mom, Olga, had participated, and I got to be the "plus one" as their guest last night.  Good food and great company, a terrific combination.

It was a good day.

Saturday, March 1, 2014


Rain in the morning, then a dry spell with sunshine, followed by a lot more rain.  Moving a bit slower than usual, it seemed a good day to stay inside, keep the fire going, and clear off some of the DVRd programs I'd been saving.  Bess Anne was up for that, and evidently Tree Guy felt the same way at his house.  He did not come to get the branches off the barn roof during the dry part of the day.  "Tomorrow" does not mean the same thing to everyone, I guess.  Maybe today is the "tomorrow" he meant.

One thing about having company, there are leftovers!  I'd been nibbling away at an asparagus and onion quiche, and yesterday had helpings of a cauliflower gratin, both of which had improved with their stay in the fridge.  I do love to cook, but cooking for one isn't nearly as much fun.  The really big pots and pans I used (and needed) when my family was home have been retired to the shed.  There is enough fresh salsa to get me through today, but tomorrow I'll have to cook something new.

Satomi has recovered from her hurt leg and I could probably introduce her back to her little flock.  However, it seems unkind to put her outside while it is still so wet.  A bit longer in the infirmary won't hurt either of us.  Maybe tomorrow.