Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Dibs and Dabs

It was a smorgasbord of chores, a little of this, a little of that.  Pulled a lot more weeds by the "rock garden," the granite boulders in the front yard.  (Funny thing, no matter how much I tend and water them, those rocks never grow.)  Finally got around to planting the petunias and marigolds in pots on porch and deck.  Dashed down to the feed store for a bag of sweet cob.  They've been out of lactating goat chow and I'd bought a substitute brand of feed last time.  It's been a disaster.  The pellets crumble to dust if I look at them hard and the girls don't like the powder so I end up throwing out half of everything in their bowl.  The worst part is finding dead mice in the grain bucket every morning for three days.  If the feed kills mice, what does it do for the goats?  Took a shovel (I'm exaggerating) and cleaned out the laundry room.  Those chicks may not be as ready as I am for them to move outside.  I'm thinking maybe another week.

A couple of WWOOFers are coming today to learn to milk and make cheese.  I've got the routine and patter down pretty good now, and I'm looking forward to meeting new friends.  Maybe they'd like a quick lesson in running the weed-eater, too.  Hmmm.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Down and Dirty

Certainly there were other things that needed doing and I even did a few of them, but it was just too nice a day to stay indoors.  Walking through the house, I'd find myself making a sharp turn through any door for a quick getaway.  Bess was in full agreement and right behind me.  It's never a case of what to do, it's where to begin at this time of year.  Weeds sprout up here, there, and everywhere.  On one excursion, I got a small start on the crop in the rock garden.  Later, I became obsessed with a patch behind the junipers on the left and cleared the entire area, carrying a big armload of the intruders away.  Bessie Anne is a self-appointed time keeper.  She stays with me, moving from sun to shade, and prefers to lie on freshly exposed, cool dirt.  When she decides I've worked long enough (about the time I start to feel it in my back), she plants herself in front of my feet and won't move away.  Who am I to argue with an official?  It takes some scrubbing to get the dirt from under nails and off hands.  It's good clean dirt and a good excuse to be outside.

The beautiful, lush peony blossoms are such showoffs.  They certainly last longer than the lilacs that are quickly fading, glorious as they were.  The two plants from last year showed such promise, and I still have hopes for the smaller.  The larger had one big bud, the little one has two.  "Had" is the definitive term.  Some dastardly beast chomped the one bud clean off.  Either peonies taste nasty or said beast is waiting for the buds to ripen.  Since the new plant has not been touched, I'm thinking the flavor is off.

Getting down and dirty in the yard beats dusting any day.

Monday, April 28, 2014


I have done a lot of traveling in my lifetime:  to almost all of the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, to Mexico and Canada, and to eleven countries in Europe.  I used to travel daily throughout northern California in my job as a Medical Records consultant.  I've not been off the farm for more than an afternoon in more than nine years, and yesterday I felt trapped.  The very animals that I so love felt like an anchor.  It was the thought that I couldn't leave even if I wanted that weighed heavily.  I went to sit out on the deck and let the peace and beauty work their magic; it's a remedy that never fails.  Wanderlust washed away.  Where could I go that would be better than where I am?  What could I do that would be funnier, more dramatic, and constantly engaging than what I do every day?  As if the cosmos was listening, a neighbor I've not seen nor talked to since the Great Tamale Cook Day called and said she'd like to visit.  Debbie K. came down and we spent the afternoon talking, talking, talking and we shared leftovers for dinner.

It was a good day.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Pig In A Poke

It was an on-again, off-again sunshine day.  Every time the clouds parted, Bessie and I would take advantage to go out and do a little something like restocking the porch wood rack or deadheading the marjoram in the front garden, anything to get out of the house.  Then the sun would hide its face and the wind would blow cold and we'd make a quick retreat.  On one of our excursions around the deck, I looked down to see a very pregnant doe (deer variety) grazing in the front pasture.  From her swollen belly, I imagine it won't be long before she gives birth, maybe in my woods, and hopefully we'll get to see her fawn(s).

I'm not saying that one can influence kittens to become one way or another.  Cats have such definite, distinctive personalities and they are rarely as trainable as dogs.  At least with kittens, you get a pretty good idea from the start if they're going to be lovers, hunters, fighters, or, like Clyde, a cat I know, just plain crazy.  Ralph and Celeste came as young adults, sight unseen, picked from a photo by Larry.  They were the proverbial 'pig in a poke,' meaning you take what you get and deal with it.  I really lucked out with these two.  Their personalities differ, but they are such sweet cats.  Both firmly believe that laps are for cuddling, and I agree most of the time.  I'm not too sure about that while in the bathroom, but to them a lap is a lap, regardless.  Celeste is the more sedate of the two and occasionally takes it upon herself to chastise Ralph.  Ralph will zing around the house like a thing demented and Celeste will watch that red streak by for just so long before literally slapping him upside the head and stopping him in his tracks.  That usually results in a wrestling match because he says, "You aren't the boss of me!"  Celeste knows that the cat food dish has been moved to the counter.  She can easily make the jump and to make it more accessible I've pulled out a midway stool for her.  Even so, as I stand waiting for my coffee in the morning, she gives the tiniest meow and says, "I'm too little.  Lift me up."  And, of course, I do.  Celeste has also developed a liking for dog food (that dish is on the floor).  Dog kibble is larger than the dry cat food and as Celeste crunches away, bits fall from her mouth.  Bessie cleans up just about everything that drops in the kitchen, but she tells me that while she may have to tolerate sharing her food, she is not going to pick up after Celeste.  "That stuff has cat spit on it.  She's your cat.  You can clean it up."  And, of course, I do.  Both cats have made friends with Bessie Anne and share bed and chair with her.  I've brought so many critters into the house that Bess just heaves a sigh and says, "Here we go again."  Maybe she remembers that once upon a time, she was a little pig in a poke, too.  And I lucked out then, also.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Out the Window

All bets are off on a rainy day.  Whatever routine I might have had with the goats goes right out the window.  Nobody wants to come out and they fight to get back in.  As we all say in California this year, I'm not complaining about the rain, but it does put a crimp in the system.  Regardless of my being soaked to the knees and sitting with rain dripping down my neck from a wet hat, the goats must still be milked.  It's harder on a day when the refrigerator looks like a wall of white on the inside with stored milk and my customer is not due for more and I know all my work is for naught; the morning's milk is going to the chickens and down the drain.

The temperature had been in the high 70s and low 80s.  It seemed unnecessary to bring firewood up to the porch.  Silly me.  You'd think I would have remembered that we had snow two days before Deb and Craig's wedding thirteen years ago (on April 28).  It was damp (make that wet!) and cold yesterday and I was down to the last piece of wood in the afternoon.  Time to sit in the chair and pile on the animals, but Ralph needed to be persuaded to join in.  He became enthralled with raindrops rolling down the window.  I was very glad I'd mowed down the west field the day before.  The wet grass I waded through is an incentive to get out the weed-eater and whack down the weeds in the paths to the chicken pens.  They said another wave is due tomorrow night and then the seesaw weather is going up to the high 80s.  Go figure.  When I'm reasonably sure it will be dry for awhile, the chicks in the laundry room will be located to the outside playpen and we'll all be glad for that.

Looking out the window this morning, I see the sun is shining, causing a ground mist to rise.  I'm going to bring more wood up to the house, just in case.

Friday, April 25, 2014

My Lap Runneth Over

"Throwback Thursday" seems to be a big thing on Facebook these days with people sharing photos from their past.  Yesterday was Thursday and, without photos, I had one of those throwback moments.  I've mentioned before that my four Kids were born close together, over and done in five years.  It then stands to reason that we would sit in a cluster on the sofa or chair; my lap was always full and Kids were spilling over.  Our friends referred to my litter as The Group because the Kids were inseparable.  Of course there were times I wanted to tear out my hair, and I threatened to change my name to Gertrude as all I ever heard was "Mama, Mama, Mamamamama," but I had wonderful, precious, fun times with my Kids.  Come to think of it, I still do.  Last evening as I sat in the chair, Bessie Anne was lying squeezed onto the footrest of the recliner with her head on my ankles, Celeste was on my lap, and Ralph lay on my chest (the lap being full up).  With all those warm, weighty bodies pressed against me and my hand stroking fur, I was transported back in time.  If I closed my eyes, I could feel a child's soft, silky hair beneath my fingers and, if I listened closely, I could hear, "Mama, Mama," in Ralph's contented purr.  There are worse ways to spend an evening.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

On the Road Again/Still

I was nervous.  It's been ages since I've had to take the written exam for a driver's license.  In fact, I can't remember the last one, but the notice came this year and yesterday was the day.  The parking lot at DMV was full.  Inside, there was a line of people waiting to get their name on the list so they could sit down with many others waiting some more until a recorded voice called their number.  I'd brought a book, but wondered why I'd made an appointment when it was pretty obvious this was going to take some time.  It was a nice surprise when the line zipped along and even better when the lady behind the counter was actually smiling.  (It's been my past experience that DMV employees elsewhere must have been trained to remain expressionless, remove all traces of emotion from their voice, and move only in slow motion in a zombie-like state.)  I was given a number.  Only a page and a half into my book, my number was called.  Again I was met with a smile (???).  This young woman read off the stats from my last license.  "Has anything changed?"  "Well, my hair is not so much brown now, but there was no box for grey."  "Do you want me to put grey?"  "No, that's okay, I might change the color."  She read off the stated weight.  "Honey, I'm as close to that as I'll probably get in this lifetime.  Just leave it as is."  Photographed, fingerprinted, and eyesight checked, I was given the dreaded exam.  I had read the 119-page handbook twice, but DMV has a tricky way of wording questions so I took my time.  Handing the completed test to a third (yes, smiling) lady, I waited anxiously.  She marked it with a big red "100%" and drew a smiley face, to boot!  Where did these people come from?  The Placerville Department of Motor Vehicles is a prime example of courtesy and efficiency.  I was in and out (temporary license clutched in my hand) in no more than twenty-five minutes.  I'm good to go!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Spring Day

The rain had stopped before barn chores, but it was like this most of the day.  Windows that had been opened were shut again and I thought about lighting a fire, but put on a heavier jacket instead.

At those times when the sun broke through, Bess and I would go outside.  In the front yard, I got a small start on weeding the lavender bed.  Pulling greens made the chickens happy.  There are enough weeds to keep them in ecstasy.  The breeze kicked in whenever the cloud cover returned so we'd go back in the house and work on the computer (I worked, Bessie napped).  Outside again, on the deck this time, the pincushion flowers are blooming.  These perennials have come back season after season for at least fifteen years.  Deadheading the plants extends the flowering.
Ta da!  The very first teensy-tiny little lettuce poked through.  (It doesn't take much to get a gardener excited.)  I didn't rush in to mix up a vinaigrette, but I was very happy to see the beginnings of a salad in my future.  I'm a piker next to Deb and Craig, who have started planting their garden in earnest.  Listening to their list of vegetables, plants and seeds, I'm encouraged to get out the weed-eater and work on my own "real" garden area.  For the time being, I'll settle for what I've got, one seed at a time.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My Word Is Good

There was a bad incident in the goat barn on Sunday.  Cindy is usually the last girl in for breakfast, but Tessie wasn't around at the moment so Cindy took advantage and came in early.  I put her head in the stock, gave her a bowl of cereal, grabbed the rake, shovel, and bucket and went around to clean the back stalls while she ate.  I heard her cry out and thought she was letting me know she was done, but then she really bawled.  Dropping everything, I ran around and found that, in my hurry to clean up, I'd not noted the latch hadn't fastened on the milking room door.  Tessie the unicorn was mad because Cindy had taken a cut in line, had come in and was bashing poor Cindy on the stand.  With her head locked in, there wasn't a darned thing Cindy could do to protect herself or get away.  I got Tessie out and freed Cindy, apologizing profusely and promising I wouldn't let that happen ever again.

Gaining an animal's trust is so important to me and I work hard to gain it.  Yesterday Cindy was very reluctant to even come in for breakfast and I didn't blame her.  Coaxing her in gradually, even then she didn't want to get up on the stand.  When I told her I wouldn't let her be hurt again, I meant it.  I wanted to be done with barn chores, but I sat and held Cindy's bowl for her until she was confident and calm and began to eat.  She might not have understood my words, but now she knows I'll keep my promise.

Here is the promised photo of the new peony (I keep my word).  Deb and Craig gave me two peony plants last year that I am happy to say came back up this spring (peonies die off completely during winter).  They are to the right of the new bush, and each has a bud of its own.  There are some tall dead weeds in the background; they carry the seeds that the turkeys so enjoy.  I'll dig them out one of these days.  The green stuff is not weeds.  It is a combination of thyme, marjoram, and yarrow that will not stay contained where it belongs, creeping out into the walkway and up to the porch.  Oh well, it smells nice when stepped on.

Rain was promised for today and Nature was as good as her word.  So far, it is a nice, gentle rain that is perfect to settle the new plants and saves me from having to water again so soon.

Just in case anyone could misunderstand, my Kid Dave is as far from rotten as anyone could be, as are all of my kind, loving, generous children.  Take my word for it.

Monday, April 21, 2014

My Kid, the Traitor

My mother taught me to hold back a recipe for at least one specialty dish that everyone likes.  That way, you're always assured of an invitation to potlucks and parties.  If everyone knew how to make it, it wouldn't be special anymore.  My son Dave has been angling for a particular recipe for years without success.  I was making that dish yesterday because I knew how much he liked it.  I wasn't too worried about putting it together while we chatted in the kitchen; even if he could identify ingredients, he wouldn't know proportions.  I was working from a handwritten recipe on a scrap of paper.  That traitorous Kid came to stand beside me on some subterfuge and took a photo with his cellphone and then, laughing maniacally, showed me that my secret was no longer secret!  Rotten Kid.  I made him take a solemn oath not to share it with anyone else, but now his trustworthiness is in question.

Deb and Craig arrived about the time I'd quit yelling at Dave.  They brought the most beautiful, bud-laden peony bush (photos tomorrow), then got out a shovel and Deb planted it for me in the front garden.  It is placed right where I can see it from my chair and enjoy the oh-so-exotic flowers.  Dave and Craig also cleaned out the dog run where the chicks will live outside when the time is right.

As it is with all our holidays, the menu must remain the same year after year.  Even though I'd added that one potato dish for Rotten Dave, I still had to serve our traditional red potatoes and peas to go with the ham or it wouldn't have been Easter.

As soon as the table was cleared, chips were counted and cards were dealt.  What can I say?  We do cling to tradition!

All too soon, the Kids had to head back down the hill.  We were a small group this year, but it was a great day.  (Rotten Dave will probably make copies and pass out my recipe on the street corner.)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Somebunny's Coming

The Kids are coming up today and in honor of the occasion, I dusted.  I dusted high, low, up, down, and in my lady's chamber.  With warm weather, open doors, wind, and all the mowing going on, dust was everywhere.  In case there is any doubt, dusting is not on my list of favorite things to do.  The thing is, it will have to be (or should be) done again tomorrow.  I really love it when everything is polished and shiny, but not enough to want to do it the next day and the next.

A word to the wise.  Anyone thinking about raising chicks in the house should be forewarned that they are messy little boogers.  I mean capital M messy.  They eat incessantly and fling their food and its byproduct everywhere.  Were it not for the tile floor, I'd be in a world of hurt.  The little girls (I hope they're girls) have real feathers now, so the air is full of tiny, fluffy floating pinfeathers.  Did I mention they're noisy?  I've got to get the outdoor pen ready for the day (and I mean the very day) they're old enough to live outside.

Plan B worked so well with Celeste that she is now stuck to me like a limpet.  We go from room to room together and she is sitting on my lap even as I write.  The warden has given up her duties and all three napped together on the loveseat yesterday as I moved about doing the dreaded-D dusting.  It's a good thing I have an oversized recliner.  At one time last evening I had Ralph, Celeste, and Bessie Anne in the chair with me, one big, happy family.

It's Easter, my son Pete's birthday, and some of the Kids are coming up.  It's a day worth dusting for.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Plan B

If at first you don't succeed, go to Plan B.  I'd been letting Cindy out first, shutting the gate behind her, then going back for Inga.  Inga always made a break for it, pushing past me to go with Cindy.  Sometimes I could catch her collar, sometimes not.  Plan B in this case was to bring Inga out first, put her up on the stand in the headstall with her bowl of cereal, then go back and let Cindy out.  Ta da!

 Meet Gary, who thinks we are BFF.  For some time, I'd been trying to keep this gopher from eating the grain thrown down for the mice by squirting him in the face with milk.  It didn't work.  It's pretty obvious I hold no intimidation for Gary (note my stylin' shoe).  It used to bother me that the turkeys were eating the birdseed I put out for the little birds until it dawned on me that they were wild birds, too, and who was I to draw the line?  I guess when you serve an open buffet, you don't get to choose the guests.  Gary and I are going to have a talk, however, about not tunneling under the milking stand legs.  Quid pro quo.

Ralph is fascinated by the ceiling fan.  It's a very good thing there is no way he can reach it or I know a cat who would go flying across the room.

I'd been feeding the cats on a counter top in the bathroom, which they consider "their" room.  Celeste has been reluctant to join us in the rest of the house.  Plan B was to move their feed bowl out to the kitchen.  I see a lot more of Celeste now.

There should always be a Plan B.

Friday, April 18, 2014

How Green Was My Hilltop

(With apologies to the movie "How Green Was My Valley")

Joel mowed his vineyard.  Robert mowed his vineyard.  I mowed the front yard, the driveway, down by the road, the side yard, the upper and lower back yards.  That's all I did, that's all there was.

It was a good day.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Something Smells Good

Arden was coming for lunch and I had no idea what to fix.  Hmm.  A half-bag of baby spinach was an inspiration for a quiche.  The pastry shell baked, bacon and onions sauteed (gosh, that combo smells good!) before throwing in chopped spinach, and I whisked eggs and cream from the goat milk, adding some remnants of Parmesan cheese and a grating of nutmeg.  My friend arrived with a salad chock-full of goodies just before the quiche came out of the oven.  Talking in the kitchen while we waited, perfume from the lilacs wafted in through the open windows.  Earlier, I noted the butterflies that so enjoy the flowers have arrived.  It was lovely to spend time with Arden on such a beautiful day.
The girls followed their well-worn path at sundown and I followed, walking along the strip I'd cut and smelling new-mown grass.

It was a good day.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Smooth Sailing

Everything went as slick as a whistle yesterday, probably to make up for the chaos of the day before.  First off, it's been my intention for some time to plant lettuce seeds (more about them later) in an easily accessible pot on the deck and finally got that done right after sunup.  I needed more feed down at the barn.  Got the mower out and cut down a swath of high grass in the pen so I could trundle the bag on a handcart with less trouble.  My mama didn't raise any dummies and I sure didn't want a repeat of the prior morning, so I brought Inga out on a rope.  The rest of the barn chores went smoothly.  Well, twice I had to shore up the milking stand because the tunnels below collapsed and dropped the girls and me over in a tilt; there was that hiccup.  It was a perfect day for mowing, not hot with a light breeze, so I took a ride in the west field, hoping to get the whirligig weeds cut before their auger seeds matured.  Those seeds are a bane of my life.  I do love to mow.  A short rest and a cold drink seemed in order after that.  It's been nagging at me that I have not gotten out the weed-eater since Craig got it running.  There was a lot of day left.  Don't you know that sucker started on the first pull!  (Thank you, Craig.)  The weed-eater is an industrial type on two wheels.  It's rolling thunder on flat ground, but it takes the strength of a draft horse to push it around on hills and, of course, under the oak and around the woodpile it is hilly.  I didn't get as much done as I wanted, but did as much as I could before calling it quits.

Back in the house, I remembered that I had shoved the packets of lettuce seeds into a front pocket in the morning.  I'd planted just a few of three kinds of lettuce, planning on successive plantings instead of a lot at one time that ends up going to waste.  How much salad can one person eat?  One of the packets had broken open at the bottom.  Lettuce seeds are very small.  I didn't think I would ever get all of those seeds out of my pocket.  I imagined lettuce sprouting in the washing machine, in the pipes, and in the septic tank.  Not good.  Now I wonder if the lint removed from my pocket and put back with the seeds will grow dust bunnies outdoors.

It was a pretty eventful day and I was more than ready to sit with Camille and Honey when they came by in late afternoon.  It was a good day.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Early To Rise

Five o'clock in the morning.  That is the cats' potty hour.  They are meticulous about covering their contribution, scratching, scratching, scratching litter until they're sure I'm awake.  They also wake the chicks in the laundry room who begin to bang on their metal feed trough like prisoners raking a tin cup across the bars.

As long as I'm up, might as well get an early start on the day, right?  With the onset of warm weather, it's best to get down to the barn before it gets too hot anyhow.  That was the plan yesterday, and then it all went to hell in a hand-basket.  Inga has been so into the routine that I hadn't needed to grab her collar; she'd come out of her stall and go right into the milking room.  Not yesterday.  She wouldn't come in and neither would Cindy.  Frustrated, I made the mistake of going ahead and letting Esther and Tessie out so they could go get their alfalfa before bringing Sheila around.  I shut Sheila into the milking room but didn't get her up on the stand.  I ran back to get Esther and Tessie out of Sheila's stall (gate was open because Poppy dawdled).  Sheila pushed her way out of the milking room and wouldn't go back in.  Everyone was outside, no one would come in.  I tried to coax someone, anyone, by shaking a bowl of grain.  No takers.  Well, yes, there was one.  Not one to let food go to waste, Poppy volunteered.  Nooo!  The milkers have upped their production and all udders were full to capacity so walking away was not an option for me, although I was tempted.  It seems that ignoring a goat is the best way to get her attention.  Milling around and completely out of order, the girls finally gave in and came in one at a time.  Inga, intended to be first, was the last to relent.  Chores took a lot longer than anticipated.

To put the cap on the day, I needed to go grocery shopping.  I'd told Earle, my milk customer, to come after 4:30.  Earle is always late, so I wasn't worried when I got home at 4:36.  Earle was waiting.  I go grocery shopping maybe once a month.  There were a few bags in the front cab and Earle asked if I'd like help.  Hahaha!  I opened the back cab and it was piled high, bag upon bag.  "Why, yes, that would be great."  Earle picked up a bag, said he was in a bit of a hurry, and we went in to conduct business.  (I made numerous trips to the truck later.)

I fell asleep in the chair last night.  "Early to bed, early to rise...makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise."  Hahaha!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Piece Of Cake

As happens so often, once I force myself out the door I have a wonderful time and wonder why I was so reluctant to go.  It was a beautiful day, a smooth trip, and a terrific visit with my dear friend.  I hadn't seen either of her kids or grandkids for years.  Dolly and Jodi put out a spread of appetizers and then a spaghetti feed, and topped off the day with a basket of chocolate and a bottle of port to take home.  We sat on a lovely screened patio.  Tzar, a 19-year-old cat, tottered around, totally ignoring Chance, an elderly whippet-mix, and Daisy, a bouncy blond Lab.  It seemed very strange after my years up here to see fenced yards again, and I was very conscious of the sound of cars, airplanes, and helicopters.  I'm sure a weekday trip would be different, but I drove the freeway down and the "back way" home and encountered very little traffic either way.  It was a piece of cake.  Fields and hills are green at this time of year.  Closer to home, lilacs are in bloom everywhere.  I really was surprised to see that very little had changed on Highway 16 (haven't driven that way in years).  Somehow I'd expected more construction sites, but with few exceptions the pastures and fields were just the same.

Time passes in the blink of an eye and too much time had slipped by between visits with Dolly.  I was glad to get home, but more than glad that I went.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Big Adventure

In a complete reversal of our roles, I am going down to the valley to see Dolly today.  (I will not, however, be taking rain.)  Sacramento is all of 60-75 miles away.  I get down there once, maybe twice a year.  When she issued the invitation, there was a long pause.  "That would mean I'd have to leave home."  "Well, yes, there is that."  It was a pretty big deal for me when I went to Fiddletown last week.  I put off grocery shopping until the cupboard is bare.  The less I leave home, the less I want to leave.  There are times when I catch cabin fever, but that is an illness that passes quickly.  Regardless, because I am so looking forward to seeing Dolly and her family, I will gird my loins (that is on my dress-code check list), make sure all animals and fowl have food and water, and make the trek down the hill on the Big Road.  I'll be back this afternoon.  I'll be fine.

Go-To Guy and Mrs. GT came yesterday to fix the PVC faucet and pipe.  On a trip to the feed store cum hardware store earlier, I'd picked up a new inline turn-off valve.  It was pure dumb luck that I got the right size for the existing pipe.  Turns out that a pipe that measures 1" across is considered 3/4".  Who knew?  Must be some secret code that guys have devised.  GT did not enlighten me, he only laughed.  At any rate, I am now (for the moment) dripless.

I'm gearing up for a big adventure today.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

What Did I Do?

Bessie Anne slept soundly well past 4:30 this morning.  That does not mean, however, that I was afforded the same luxury.  Ralph has been appointed her majordomo.  To ensure efficiency and effectiveness, he did a little potty paddling before patting my face with a wet paw for wakies.  For backup, a cold nose thrust repeatedly into a closed eye did the trick.  I'm retired, for crying out loud!  I should be sleeping late, eating bonbons and watching the soaps.  I must have done something wrong.

Morning Mouse misread the time schedule and was waiting for the commuter bus when I went out to get the bedtime snacks for the chickens.  I've not seen him in the evening before.  I thought for a minute a new mouse was in the barrel, but no, MM waited for a ride and got off at his stop just like always.  Who has trained whom?

Celeste is still finding her niche in the household.  Either at Bessie's direction or her own inclination, she keeps a pretty low profile during the day.  I don't see much of her.  Oh, once in awhile now that the weather is warmer she'll come out to sit at the screen door with Ralph and do a bit of bird watching, but soon heads back down the hall.  Bedtime, my bedtime, is another story.  "Pet me.  Pet me now!"  I go to bed because I'm tired, but she's having none of that.  She jumps on the pillow next to my head and headbutts and pats and snuggles, demanding the attention I would have willingly given during the day.

Bess is asleep with her head on my feet.  Ralph and Celeste are asleep on the pillows behind me.  I wish I had a recording of Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever."  I'd crank it up to full volume, that's what I'd do!

Friday, April 11, 2014

MacNamara's Band

Bessie Anne woke me at 4:30 a.m., saying she absolutely had to go out right that minute.  Aaargh.  Well, when you gotta, you gotta, so we got up and plodded down the hall.  I turned on the porch light, opened the door, let her out, and watched her calmly sit down on the step.  Double aaargh.

"Oh, the drums go bang and the cymbals clang and the horns they blaze away...."  The song "MacNamara's Band" comes frequently to mind on my way to and from the barn.  The lid on one of the milk buckets doesn't sit right and it rattles and clangs as I walk along.  Tessie has joined the band.  She's found that if she stands on hind legs, she can get that unicorn horn under the edge of the metal roof overhang, give it a flip and make a wonderful racket.  All we need now are kazoos.

I put in a call to Go-To Guy (Jim) about the blankety-blank faucet and pipe.  It being Thursday and a workday, I asked if I'd called at a bad time.  "Nope.  Sittin' at the lake with a fishing pole and a beer."  (A benefit of being self-employed.)  I apologized for interrupting important business.  He'll be here tomorrow.

I get some strange requests.  "Do you have room in your freezer for half a hog?"  "Why yes, I do."  (The pork was butchered and wrapped.)  I don't however, have space in the laundry room for the nine or ten chicks that Camille wanted to move in.  She'd found a great buy on some pullets and had thought about getting them, but didn't have a pen ready.  The six I've got in residence are about all I can handle at the moment.  They're growing fast and eating me out of house and home.  Noisy little boogers, they begin banging on their metal feed trough as soon as there's a hint of daylight.  More band members.  They not only play in the percussion section, they also peep the vocals in the chorus.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Not So Handy

I'm going to have to call in the big guns.  My latest attempt at handyman work didn't turn out so well.  The hose on the deck had developed a drip, indicating the faucet was not shutting tightly.  Drips are no-nos.  I hadn't paid close enough attention when I purchased a replacement faucet and bought a male-female variety when a male-male was needed so what I had was useless.  Threaded equipment is, in fact, gender specific.  Okay, on to Plan B.  It might be possible to stop the drip by cleaning the existing faucet.  Steve had run a PVC pipe from the water line at ground level downstairs up to/through the deck.  There is a shutoff valve down below.  Down the hill, turn off the water, back up the hill.  The pliers from the kitchen were not big enough to turn the faucet.  Into the house, down to the shop, get the channel-locks, up the stairs.  The hose had been attached to the faucet and the faucet to the pipe for years and neither was easy to remove, but eventually I got both separated and the mechanism cleaned.  There is a white plastic tape to wrap the fitting and prevent leaks before reinstalling a water faucet.  It is very thin and has a tendency to tangle much like cling-wrap, even though it is not sticky.  One's vocabulary becomes creative.  Faucet reattached carefully as the PVC pipe is many years old, also.  Down the hill, turn on the water, back up the hill.  A small drip, but not from the hose.  The faucet needed one more turn.  I turned it.  No drip.  A tiny, tiny spray of water from a crack in the PVC.  Down the hill, turn off the water, back up the hill.  I've watched the guys use the purplely blue stuff and the goopy glue stuff, but no way am I going to cut and replace PVC pipe.  I don't have a vocabulary big enough for that.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Practice What You Preach

Forgoing all electronics (sorry for the spout-off yesterday), I spent the afternoon in the company of good friends in Fiddletown, talking, talking, talking.  Kit was up from southern California to visit her aunt and uncle, Tinka and Bill.  Tinka is an avid gardener; I've extolled her virtues before.  We agreed it is way too early for many of the flowers to be blooming.  This has been a very strange winter.  Lunch was served al fresco and included a lemon meringue pie (my favorite) for dessert.  It's been a year since Kit has been north.  Even though we're always in contact, face-to-face dialogue is the best.  It was fun to hear about Doris Day's 90th birthday party, which Kit had attended.  Just as I'm adjusting to the cats (Ralph is lying across my arm right now, making typing difficult), Tinka and Bill have a new rescue dog, Rosie.  Sitting on the patio in dappled sunlight, we watched Rosie explore the yard and bounce after butterflies.  Hummers buzzed through the air to many feeders as we chatted.  I did check one text message from a relative on the east coast telling that after months, snow had melted off their patio, but was still deep in the front yard.  I didn't have the heart to describe what a gorgeous day I was sharing.

The road over the hills to Fiddletown is an experience.  Flatlanders would consider it a one-lane road, not wide enough in places for two cars to pass, so it's a bit alarming to see a sign that says, "Road narrows, visibility limited."  It is a beautiful drive through woods and past green pastures with llamas, cattle, horses, deer, and wild geese grazing.  Many potholes in the road demand a slow speed if one values the suspension of the vehicle so there is ample opportunity to enjoy the view.  For the reckless souls, small pockets of homes along the way have posted 15 mph signs.

Back home again, Bessie Anne thoroughly investigated the smells of a new dog, but her jealousy was set aside with a small treat.  She forgives easily and well.  We talked about this, face to face.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Turn It Off

I have no idea what the dream was, but I woke up this morning just plain angry at car manufacturers.  I don't know any personally so this is not directed to individuals.  I take exception to the DVD players now available in family cars.  Don't people like each other anymore?  I will be the first to say that squabbling kids can get on your very last nerve.  If I heard it once, I heard it countless times from the Kids' dad, "Don't make me stop this car and come back there!"  We had a nine-passenger station wagon, the precursor to vans and SUVs.  We lived six miles from the nearest little town and twenty-five miles from the city, so leaving the house was a road trip.  The thing is, just like turning off the television before sitting down together for a meal, driving with Kids is an opportunity to talk and to listen.  It calls for a certain inventiveness to keep Kids occupied and not squabbling.  We sang a lot.  "B-I-N-G-O, and Bingo was his name-o."  That song still conjures up little faces in the back seats.  Giving points for seeing red cars or, when they were older, seeing out-of-state license plates and then asking what was the capitol of that state.  Knock-knock jokes.  The Kids would tell all the jokes they knew and then started making up new ones.  One would start a joke and another would make up the ending, which made no sense at all but cracked them all up anyhow.  Telling the Kids there were bad guys hiding on the overpass and the one who was riding shotgun had to protect us all (why else call it shotgun?).  "How many cows are in that field?  Okay, now divide that by two."  Given the illusion of privacy, older Kids will talk to each other about stuff they would not mention to parents.  Parents should listen and learn.  I love modern technology, I really do.  I just think there is a time and place for everything, including face-to-face communication, and a car can be a portal.  Turn off the DVDs, the GameBoys, the electronics, and talk together.  So say I.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Good Life

It was one of those days; a day when the sunshine is warm but not hot, all the animals cooperate, chores get done in record time, and the clock slows down in a good way.  Some days drag by, but yesterday seemed an extension of perfection.  Milking went well and the girls weren't cranky.  Nobody took cuts in line and there was no head butting.  Finished early, Bess and I went out on the deck to read and wait for NASCAR to start.  Back in the house, rain in Texas delayed the race.  I continued to read.  It continued to rain.  I napped.  It rained.  Enough already!  Early afternoon and too pretty outside to stay indoors.  Well, the weed-eater was working and the weeds were growing; that seemed a good project.  The little tractor was in the way.  Once it was fired up, I could think of yards that needed mowing so tootled off to do that.  Going in circles in the side yard, I kept thinking that mowing is my favorite thing to do, but then, no, hanging laundry is my favorite thing.  No, reading on the deck is the best.  As I continued to add to my list of favorites, I finished mowing the side yard, the back yard, and the south slope, dodging patches of Baby Blue-eyes that had sprung into bloom.  Parking the mower, I decided to leave weed-eating for another day.  Bessie stays on the porch, well away from danger, whenever I mow and was waiting for me.  We decided it was time to pour a sundowner and sit on the deck again, smell the perfume of mown greens and survey a job well done.  (Put that on the list of favorites.)  Dang, it's a good life!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Open the Pickle Jar, Please

You know how it is when you've tried and tried to get the darned jar open and simply cannot get the lid off?  And then you ask for help?  And you hand the jar to someone and it takes them one twist of the wrist to open it?  It's a mix of gratitude and frustration.  I had worn myself out trying to start the weed-eater.  Craig had to pull on the rope maybe three times and the danged thing fired up, blew a cloud of smoke, and ran like a champ for him.  He didn't even need "the squirty stuff."  Taking advantage of his flush of success, I directed him around to the tall weeds behind the feed barn just to "make sure" the machine was operating correctly.  Before we went back to the house, I wanted to start the wicked piece of equipment myself and, of course, with Craig watching it took me one pull.  I swear some machines are misogynists.

Ralph is a self-appointed Ambassador of Goodwill.  Deb and Craig had barely walked in the door when he appeared, peeking around a corner to see if the warden was on duty and then coming to greet our guests.  He spent most of the day ingratiating himself with some of his best tricks:  nose rubs, lap sitting, playing with the twitch toy, bird watching (with sound effects), and posing for selfies with the Kids.  Celeste did come out briefly to be oohed and ahhed over, and then it was back to the bat cave for her.  I don't know whether she is shy or aloof.  Bessie Anne gets just the slightest bit jealous when Ralph is receiving so much attention, especially from Craig, whom she considers "hers," and uses her big brown eyes to flirt outrageously with him.

It was such an unexpected and most welcome treat to have the Kids come up.  Need I say it was an excellent day?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Farm Song

I try to catch the weather reports in the morning just to get a heads-up on the day.  I lost a little confidence yesterday as I listened to the nice man say that the showers were over and it would be sunshine all day when I was looking out the window at hail pinging down.  Hmmm.

This mad social whirl goes on.  A long-time friend, Tom, had stopped by for milk the day before and stayed for a nice visit.  I see him and his family seldom anymore, but we keep in touch.  It was a pleasant surprise when he called with an invitation to join him and a co-worker for lunch at The Pub yesterday.  They were working a job in the area.  I sure wasn't going to say no!  And guess what!  Deb and Craig are coming up today.  It doesn't get much better for me.

The furries are working out a bedtime system.  He or she who gets to the pillow first calls Dibs and the others find places around the bed.  At least that's the way it is at lights out.  I awoke this morning wearing a fur mustache.  Ralph had joined me on my pillow and had thrown an arm across my face.  I can't describe how that had entered into my dreams.  "Phffft, phffft," as I spit and sputtered.  That woke Ralph and he jumped onto the widowsill to play with the mini-blind cords.  Any thought of going back to sleep went right out that window.

The chicks are early risers and, being more comfortable in their new surroundings, have added a trill to their peeping conversations.  It gets pretty noisy around here, what with the cats "brrrping" and Bessie Anne "rowl, rowl, rowling" and the chicks rolling their Rs.  Outside, the roosters greet the dawn and the turkeys yeep as they cross the yard.  Any delay in the program causes Poppy to throw in her baritone bellow.  The goats, in season again, sweet talk each other with an ongoing "unh, unh, unh."  No wonder I talk to myself a lot; I need to hear a people voice now and again.

Friday, April 4, 2014

It's Like This...

"Kek.  Kek-kek-kek."  Ralph and Celeste take turns sitting on the sill closest to the hummers and chattering.  Discretion being the better part of valor, I've moved the antique oil lamps and a large number of pigs to other locations for safety.

Since the warden (Bessie Anne) signed their release, the cats roam the house at will.  They've become quite playful, chasing each other up and down the stairs, batting wood chips like hockey pucks, holding wrestling matches in the living room, and pulling toys out of the basket.  Both Ralph and Celeste speak a language all their own, unlike any cats I've heard.  It's a kind of "brrrp" vocabulary, sometimes with a question mark, sometimes with an exclamation point.  Both cats are very gentle; neither has put out claws to me or to Bessie.  We're starting to feel like a family.

I had to take the truck in to be smogged yesterday.  I'm happy to say it passed with flying colors.  It's a 1998 model, and I hold my breath and cross my fingers each time it needs to be tested.  Leaving the smog station, I passed a new business in town, Tractor Supply, and thought I'd take a look-see.  I came home with another(!) replacement faucet, a package of T-post clips, a box planter so I can grow lettuces and radishes close at hand on the deck, a Concord grape plant, and six red chicks.  That's my kind of shopping.

Having recently regained the laundry room after Satomi rejoined the flock, I once again have chickens in residence.  Why do I do these things?  Bessie Anne always assumes guardianship of any house hens, and Ralph thought I'd brought them just for him ("Oh, goody!!").  The chicks undoubtedly felt they'd been dropped into hell, meant as appetizers for the furries.  I got the little fluff balls settled in with chick mash, warm water, and a box to huddle in for warmth.  Both dog and cat finally got bored and left the room.  The chicks were awake at five this morning, pecking and peeping to beat the band.  In the early morning light, five deer are munching their way across the yard and the turkeys are marching up the drive.

It's like this.  I will never suffer from "empty nest" syndrome.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Go Ahead and Laugh

Sun and rain have the weeds and grasses shooting up, particularly behind the feed barn and around the chicken pens.  Housebound for days, it seemed a good idea to get outside and get the weed-eater going in the afternoon.  In order to get to the weed-eater, I had to move the lawn tractor.  As long as I had the tractor going, I might as well mow the west field.  That done, I approached the weed-eater.  It's a two-wheeled piece of equipment that has been temperamental in the past.  Yesterday was no exception.  When it was overhauled last year, the nice man shortened the pull rope to a length I could handle.  I pulled.  Nothing.  I pumped the little red choke button.  Nothing.  I pulled.  And pulled and pulled and pulled.  Nothing.  Incidentally, I also checked the spark plug, which was clean and had good contact.  I put the weed-eater away and blocked it in with the tractor and turned my back on it.  I called Dave.  "Dave, I want to get the weed-eater started.  I've seen you guys use some squirty stuff and I have some, but I don't know where to squirt it.  I know it doesn't go in the whirlygig place."  When he quit laughing at my lack of technical terminology, Dave patiently explained about removing the air filter, finding the intake hole and spraying Engine Start (who knew?) at the carburetor and then pulling the rope.  I may try again today.  Or not.

Ralph loves the potty, and not just for paddling.  He will wake from a sound sleep or come running from another room if I go in to use the facilities.  He immediately leaps up on my lap.  It's not that I don't enjoy his company; I do.  However, I leave it to the imagination when I say it is difficult to finish the paperwork with an immoveable cat on my lap.  Celeste usually joins us, but is content to wind around my feet and be petted.  Long gone are the days of a quick in-and-out of the bathroom.  By the way, stuffing squirrel burrows with clumping cat litter turns out to be a great plan.  The used litter turns almost to concrete.  If I run out of burrows (not likely), I may start to work on the ruts and potholes in the road. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Eyes Have It

I wish I had the equipment and the expertise to take photos of the furries' eyes to share.  Bessie Anne has had "people eyes" since puppyhood.  Large and liquid brown with whites showing (unlike so many typical dogs whose irises fill the area), her expressions are unmistakeable.  What she thinks is right there in her eyes.

Many cats have yellow eyes.  Redheaded Ralph's are an unusual deep red-gold and match his fur perfectly.  His expression is generally one of surprise.  The cat whose eyes brought me to the subject in the first place is Celeste.  Being the shyest and spending most of her time in the bat cave, I've not been able to pay as much attention to Celeste.  When she has come close, it's mainly been to get a chin scratch, and she shut her eyes in pleasure with that smiley face cats get.  It was just the other day when I got a really, really good look at her up close and personal and was mesmerized.  I would have said her eyes were green, but they're more than that.  A ring of well-defined pale jade surrounds the pupil and beyond that is a ring of pale gold.  I've never seen eyes like hers before, stunningly beautiful.

As cold as it was, we did not get snow yesterday.  In fact, when I stepped out for a brief walkabout in the morning, I was standing in bright sunshine.  Looking to the south, it was pretty clear what was coming and I'd barely gotten back in the house before the rain poured down.  It was another day of unhappy goats.  The area in front of the barn had been churned into a quagmire of mud.  I really watch my footing down there as I wouldn't want to land in that!

The wood stove had done its job and the house was toasty when Camille and Olga came for lunch.  Good company and white chili warmed our insides, as well.  Honey is still on a leash and is not, repeat not, happy about that.  She is used to running and playing with Bessie and was very vocal in her displeasure.  Honey "talks," she does not whine.  Because Cam was holding the lead, Honey went to "Grandma" to tell how mean Cam was being.  If that weren't funny enough, Bessie Anne also went to Olga to ask for a reprieve for Honey, using the same vocalization tones.  When they got no positive results, boy, the look in Bessie's eyes spoke accusatory volumes.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Yo-Yo Days

Spring weather makes life interesting for the meteorologists.  It's thirty-four degrees this morning (perfect for a possible snow day); a couple of days ago I was in shirtsleeves and eighty degrees is predicted for the valley by the weekend.  Yesterday's storm was a doozy with torrents of rain and wind that blew branches from the trees.  The hummers did not hover at the feeders, but clung with both feet to keep from being blown away.  By nightfall, every depression in the chicken pens was a swimming pool and walking through the grasses to the barn had my pant legs sodden to the knee.  The girls were clustered in the covered, protected playpen area, each wanting to be first into her room, and then Poppy rolled through like a juggernaut, shouldering goats out of the way.  There was no question then as to who would go first.

The weather is a topic in every conversation, always qualified by, "But I'm not complaining.  We need the rain."  Regardless of what has been happening on the east coast, we in California are still considered to be in drought conditions, especially because the snow pack isn't deep enough this year.  If you want to see a really excited meteorologist, let him/her start talking about snow showing up on the Doppler.

Emotion and ambition are as erratic as the thermometer in spring.  On grey, cold, blustery days, I want only to snuggle with the furries in the chair in front of the fire.  Being stuck in the house should inspire spring cleaning; it does not.  On warm days when the sky is blue and the sun is shining, housework needs doing and I want to play outside.  I can tell that others are succumbing to cabin fever and need to get out; guests for lunch three times this week.  We can talk about the weather.