Monday, June 30, 2014

For Naught

Recovery from the cleaning sickness was assisted yesterday by nearly triple-digit weather.  Sitting still to watch an old movie was almost mandatory.  One of the first things I do upon awakening is try to figure out what day it might be (that comes with retirement, when one day is much like another).  My friend Kit and I have a running tag line, "It's Belgium!," on trash day.  Don't you know that was the film playing?  "If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium," made in 1969 with a very young and quite handsome Ian McShane.  Lounging with feet up, I really enjoyed sitting guilt free in the freshly vacuumed and polished living room.  Bessie either heard or sensed something outside.  When I opened the screen door, she took off like a shot toward the woods.  She coursed through the field and was gone quite some time.  I heard and saw nothing, but trust her instincts.  Bess came back in covered with stickers and matted with burrs, pulling them out and dropping them all over that pristine carpet.  All that work for naught.

As soon as there was enough shade on the deck, I took Bessie out and worked with the clippers to get as much of the stuff as I could from her coat.  Getting her summer puppy cut is not her favorite thing.  Needing both hands to work, I've got to keep one foot on the leash to make her stay in one spot.  There's still much to do, but at least the majority of the matted fur is off.

Before I could get the vacuum cleaner out again, Camille and Honey came by.  Not much good to say, "You should have seen my clean house yesterday."  Oh well.  It was nice while it lasted.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

It Will Pass

Stricken with a strange malady for the last two days that has caused uncontrollable fits of housecleaning, I can only hope it is of the 48-hour variety, as I'm about tired of it right now.  This totally unexpected illness came on without warning.  I suddenly found myself scrubbing floors, swiping cobwebs, and... wait for it... dusting!  I'm not even expecting company.  (I've been known to invite guests for the added incentive to dust.)  Like a summer cold, it will pass.

I did not see the dog again yesterday.  I absolutely hate the feeling of being on high alert, hypervigilant for sight and sound above and beyond looking for snakes, hawks, foxes, coyotes, mountain lions, and the dozens of et ceteras that might endanger my animals and fowl.  Milking, I darned near strained my neck while watching the goats up in the corner for any sign of stress.  The turkeys lounging about in the yard are my watch birds.  If they're still and peaceful when the chickens fire off, I know there's no immediate threat and the little girls are just cheering some hen event.

Babe is getting in a rut.  He shows up daily right around eight in the morning looking for Ralph, or perhaps just looking to see how the other half lives.  This is Babe's favorite corner.  He might go all the way to the end of the rail, but comes back here to stretch out.  Go figure.

Oh dear and drat.  That window I'm looking out needs washing.  That's a bad symptom and I'm still infected.  Maybe if I look the other way....

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Messed Up Morning

About 4 this morning, a cat crawled into my arms and said, "Love me now!"  I suggested that the timing was off and asked if this could wait until daylight.  "No.  Now is good for me," and emphasizes the statement with a small chomp on my finger.  Fine.  Pet, pet, rub, rub.  "Now go to sleep so I can go to sleep."  "No.  Not satisfied, need more."  Since all cats are black in the dark, I didn't know which of my felines was feeling needy in the night until I heard the snorking that passes for purring with Ralph.  Celeste has a perfect purr box.  And Ralph drools, not his most attractive attribute.  That should have been my first clue.  So, slightly soggy and me still stroking a snorking Ralph, we finally fell back asleep.  Of course, I woke up for real well after sunup and will be running behind schedule for the rest of the day.

Sitting here waiting for inspiration (some days that takes longer than others), I heard a dog barking way too close.  Going out and armed with a camera, sure enough, there was one of my neighbor's dogs trying to get into the chicken pen.  I only caught a glimpse and didn't have enough time to take a photo before said dog faded away and back home.  After all that has happened in the past, it's difficult to describe how hard and fast I flashed angry at the thought, "Here we go again."  Talk about a messed up morning.

I tried to take a picture of Babe yesterday but it didn't turn out well enough to post.  Ralph was snoozing on the couch when Babe came up on the rail again.  "Can Ralphie come out and play?"  "No, Babe.  No."

I hope this day ends better than it began.  One can hope.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Ralph and the Babe

Is this funny, or what?  What really cracked me up yesterday was that Babe ran back and forth on the railing just to taunt Ralph.  Ralph knocked things over and off the sills as he went from window to window.  "Kek, kek, kek" (which translates to "I will get you, you evil little grey thing, and chomp your bones!").  Ralph talks a good fight, but would tuck tail and run if Babe ever came in the house.

Celeste is a perfectionist and I would love to turn over housekeeping duties to her.  She is never satisfied with how Ralph covers his stuff in the litter box and comes after him to do it over.  Sometimes she doesn't wait for him to leave the box before she starts to scratch the litter over.  I think Ralph is spoiled.  Ralph takes no responsibility for the crumbs and bits that fall out of his mouth and leaves it to Celeste to tidy up around their food dishes on the counter. I'm pretty sure that with a few lessons, she could take over the dusting and she'd do a good job.  I'm such a dreamer.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

They're Everywhere!

In separate conversations, Pete and Clay let me know they think I might be spending too much time with the squirrels and getting a little squirrely myself.  What can I say?  Yesterday Tree Squirrel (aka Beach Babe) and Ground Squirrel (Junior) teamed up, one on the railing and the other on the deck at the same time.  I keep hearing Ray Stevens singing, "They're everywhere!  They're everywhere!"  I'm not ready to show the white flag just yet, but I'm getting there.  Bessie Anne doesn't even lift her head anymore when the home invaders show up.

Speaking of home invaders, I'm getting a little antsy these days.  It's that time of year when there are streams of tiny black ants in the house, looking for food and water.  I find them in the bathroom sink when I brush my teeth.  They're particularly fond of Bessie's bowl of dog chow in the kitchen.  So far, so good with the cat dishes.  I spray the baseboards and they move their train up the wall.  This invasion happens every year so I'm used to it, but that doesn't mean I like it.  It could be worse.  It could be the dreaded red fire ants or the huge black wood ants, or, worse still, the thousands of earwigs that were in the house when we moved in.  I really don't like earwigs.

Got three yards and down the drive mowed yesterday.  Mowing after it's gone dry isn't as much a pleasure as a chore.  The breeze that makes it bearable in the heat also blows dust in waves and chaff down my neck and in my hair.  Only the star thistle is green and growing, and growing, and growing.  Don't tell me this plant isn't a survivor.  I have to keep lowering the mower blades as the plant puts out its thistles on shorter and shorter stalks as I cut it down.

Overcast skies this morning and cool enough for a robe.  As hundred-degree days are forecast for this weekend,  I will most certainly enjoy this weather while I can.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Who Says?

Who says animals can't talk?  Aside from the barks, purrs, tweets, squeaks, "Chuck, Chuck, Chuck," etc., animals say more without making a sound than can be imagined.  It's not like I don't have enough critter blog fodder right here at Farview, but this photo of Dave's "son" Smoke is too good not to share.  The look on Smoke's face says it all.  Smoke has some trouble with his back legs and that creates a sore on his foot, which he aggravates by licking.  When it gets too bad, he has to wear The Cone of Shame while the sore heals.  Smoke does not like The Cone of Shame.  He said so.

We are quite a parade in the morning, the cats, Bessie Anne, and me as we go down the hall to the kitchen before sunup.  Nothing happens until I get the coffee maker going, then Bess starts her happy dance, wriggling and prancing in front of her treat drawer.  She needs no words to ask for the one soft treat she gets every morning.  (Milk bones are reserved for good behavior when guests come and the lamb/rice bars are her reward for either going for a ride in the truck or when I come back after leaving her home alone.)  Celeste is more subtle.  Waiting for the coffee to drip through, I'll feel a soft touch on my legs.  Looking down, I see Celeste lip sync a silent "Meow" as she brushes against me.  She says she wants her morning goodies, too.  Ralph, the resident goofball, has no interest in treats (and I've tried several kinds for him).  He goes off in the other room and attacks Bessie's soft toys, dragging them all over the house.  Celeste lets Ralph think he is the alpha male until she's had enough and then takes him down a peg.

Yes, I talk to the animals and they speak to me.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Animal Farm

Seriously?  Stepping out to feed the hummers and do a morning walkabout, a grey squirrel high up in one of the young oaks in the backyard started yelling, "Chuck, Chuck, Chuck!"  I told him to pipe down and explained that I had every right to be there.  That's when I saw the second grey squirrel right there, lying flat out on the railing like a bikini babe at the beach.  This one held his ground as I approached, but reluctantly got up to leave.  Changing his mind, he turned around and came back at me, stamping his forefeet in that tom-tom dance that squirrels do when they're irritated.  I'm a grown woman and I refuse to be intimidated by a five-inch tall squirrel.

Two five-inch squirrels were waiting in the oak, sitting on the bird feeder and chittering at me to hurry up.  Eye to eye and only a foot away, these bold boogers were giving me what-for in no uncertain terms.  Turkeys were lurking behind the tree, waiting for the outcome and hoping for their breakfast, too.

Squint had gathered a squad down in the barn.  They took turns raiding the mice's grain pile, each getting a few squirts with each mouthful.  Maybe they've decided that a milk shower was the price for breakfast, or else they've developed a taste for milk on their cereal.

George Orwell's "Animal Farm" or John Belushi's "Animal House;" take your pick.  I'm outnumbered here and the animals are taking over.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Barn Stories

Squint called in reinforcements yesterday, and he developed a new plan of action.  He sent Tip in first to scout the territory and take the first hit.  Tip is missing the top portion of one ear, a casualty of some previous battle.  Tip got blasted with a stream of milk.  Before I could "reload," Squint darted in for a morsel of grain and back out again.  Tip wasn't about to be suckered in twice as a diversionary tactic and took off for dryer ground.  Squint has learned that if he waits until the udder is almost empty to make a raid (I think he listens for the sound in the bucket), instead of getting hit with a fire-hose stream, the faucet just goes phfft, phfft, phfft.  It is irritating when a squirrel talks with his mouth full and says, "Take your best shot, lady," and I'm out of ammo.

I loaded up the truck in the afternoon and Cam and I took off to participate in my friend Tim's Farm Product sale.  He's been planning an event like this for some time.  He'd invited a number of vendors and had buyers lined up.  Well, it was one of those times when "the best laid plans of mice and men oft gang astray."  The eight people there, not counting a few children, included Tim and his lady, Kathryn, Tim's mom, an old friend from the Bay Area (people from the Bay always capitalize their Area), Tim's vet and his wife, and Cam and me.  Cam and I were the vendors, the only vendors.  Not the crowd he'd hoped for and, sadly, none of the other invitees had the courtesy to tell him they would not be coming.  He and Kathryn had set up in the breezeway of his barn and there was, indeed, a wonderful breeze.  A three-day-old goat kid ran around to amuse the Kids and his Anatolian guard dog, Alice, barked an accompaniment from the stall where she'd been locked in.  Alice takes her guard duties seriously and thus is not people friendly.  We'd been asked to contribute to a potluck luncheon; Tim providing home-grown porkchops studded with garlic.  It really was a lovely way to spend an afternoon in good company.  As it turned out, Cam sold all of her eggs and I made a considerable profit from my foccacia and cheese, bringing back one small loaf and trading the last two small packages of cheese to Cam for sugar for the hummers.

It was a good day.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Steve came from a large, loving family that comes together once a year for Reunion and has for many, many years.  Not counting the annual crop of kids, 50-75 adults show up and, man, do they have a good time!  I first attended with Steve over 25 years ago, met this hug-happy group, and we looked forward this major event every year.  I hadn't been able to bring myself to go since he died.  This year, when his brother Glenn called I decided to make the trip, but didn't commit right then.  I contacted my friend Dolly, who used to attend with her family, and she and her daughter Jodi agreed to go with me, but we kept it a secret.

The group was camping up in So. Lake Tahoe, about two hours from here.  Our arrival in early afternoon was a complete surprise to all but one cousin, Misti, who had sent me directions the night before and promised to keep quiet.  Tears and hugs, tears and hugs all around.  I'd meant to take a lot of pictures, but with dear faces coming in waves as word got out, the only photo I took was of Steve's cousin Scott and Steve's twin brother Stan.  I don't need to point out the family resemblance.  The only one goofier than these two might be Cousin Mark.  While it was lovely to meet the babies, it was simply amazing to see the college graduates, those who hadn't even been born when I joined the family.  Many are married now.  Nine or ten years is a long time to be away from people you love and the few hours we had were not long enough, but they were hours well spent.  Goodbye hugs were bittersweet.

Driving back down the mountain, Dolly, Jodi and I commented on how great it is to be with a group of Family (capital F family) who sincerely love and enjoy each other, young and old.  The children show respect.  The grownups never lose the ability to play and have fun.  (The themed Dress-up Night is always a hoot.)

Celeste came out of hiding as soon as the ladies were gone, Bessie Anne reassured herself that I wasn't leaving again, and Ralph rocketed through the house like a thing gone mad.  At sundown, I put the girls in the barn and tucked the chickens in for the night.  Memories came flooding back.  Steve would have agreed; it was a good day.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Oh, Omar!

Didn't Omar Khayyam say, "A loaf of bread, a hunk of cheese, and thou"?  Oh, no; that was wine, not cheese.  I'm about bread and cheesed out, having spent yesterday on two more pounds of chevre and another four (smaller) loaves of the staff of life, with a quick trip to the feed store while the dough was rising.  My daughter, more knowledgeable than I about such matters, convinced me by text and then phone that I priced the bread too low, and Emmy agreed.  Okay, I'll up it.

The morning had an inauspicious start yesterday.  I heard Poppy bellowing as I walked into the pen.  I was early, so she couldn't be complaining about slow service.  My clue to Poppy's unhappy yelling was when Sheila poked her head over the chain link gate to the barn.  Oh crum.  How did Sheila get out of her stall and then slam the door on poor Poppy?  Poppy can't bear to be without her roommate.  Leaving the mystery to be solved another time, I had to milk Sheila first, leaving Inga to wait and throwing off the whole sequence.  The girls go into a tizzy if their routine is interrupted.  Going back for Inga, I had to use a rope to guide her, and we had a disagreement about which way to go.  I ended up losing a chunk of hide from my arm, but she went up on the stand.  The other girls milled about, not sure about this change in The Plan.  Squint made his raid on the grain and got doused again.

I've got a day trip planned today and so will get a reprieve from bread and milk duty.  (To be continued.)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Squint, the Sequel

This is the reward for good little squirrels who wait patiently for their breakfast.  Squint is not among them.  Squint is off somewhere trying to clean sticky, warm milk from his fur.  He was absolutely drenched by the time I'd finished with the girls yesterday.  I'll give him P for persistence, for sure.  At first, he may have thought it was liquid falling from the sky (indoors, but he's a squirrel and doesn't know better).  Then he would sit up and look right at me while I squirted him in the face.  He got the idea and also got sneaky about his thievery, going for the grain at the edge of the pile where he thought I couldn't see him.  I could, and "shot" him again.  The mice think all this is great, as they get the extra milk sprayed around.  Squint has his own cheering section.  I can see this turning into "Rocky."  Squint III, Squint IV, etc.

It was a two-fer day.  Two pounds of chevre cheese, two loaves of olive-onion focaccia.  I was discussing pricing with my friend Linda.  It takes two gallons of milk to make a pound of cheese, so I charge the same price for the cheese as I do for the milk, a little more for the feta because more steps and time are involved.  I'm thinking $3 a loaf is fair for the bread; that won't cover the cost of ingredients, but a sale is a sale.  It's a good thing I really like milking goats and making bread because I think it comes out that I'm working for way less than a dollar an hour.  I laughed when Washington state raised minimum wage to $15/hour.  I seem to have come full circle.  I was working in a dress shop when I was fifteen and was thrilled when my boss raised my pay to a dollar an hour.  Those were the good old days.

I can set the dough to rise for today's bread before going down to the goats.  I'll have to wait until I get back to the house with more milk for cheese.  Wait for the sequel, Bread and Cheese III.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Throwback Thursday

TBT seems to be the rage on Facebook these days, so I'm adopting the idea for TVFFF (The View From Farview Farm).  No, not really; it's just that yesterday was one of those days without much in the way of blog fodder.  In my cycle of work hard one day and do nothing the next, it was a do-nothing day and I rested.  These two handsome men are my son Pete and grandson Jake as they made fettuccini during their visit back in 2012.  Jake turned 20 this month; how time does fly.  Pete's Triumph tee-shirt is a throwback tribute in its own right.  He inherited his dad's motorcycle and has been in the long process of restoring it.  I could be mistaken, but I believe it is the same bike I rode on behind his dad back in the 1960s.  Now that is a throwback!

Squint is one persistent ground squirrel.  Pushing a rope uphill is easier than dissuading a determined squirrel.  Squint (one eye is almost closed) is not willing to wait for the breakfast I will put down later in the big room and insists he's going to eat with the mice in the milking room.  Mice sit nibbling on one piece of grain each; Squint packs his cheek pouches with cereal as fast as he can and will scarf down an entire handful in no time, leaving the mice to go hungry.  I hit him with a stream of milk every time he shows up, and he shows up all the time.  His cohorts flatten themselves in the big room, watching and waiting with varying degrees of patience, sometimes checking the bowl in hopes that I might have relented and fed them early.  Time will tell whether Squint or I give in first.  He may not realize I'm a stubborn woman armed with an endless supply of ammunition.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Ladies' Day

Arden and Camille accepted an invitation to come for lunch and be guinea pigs, taste testing the variety of focaccia I've been baking the last few days.  To "sweeten the pot," I threw in chilled and creamy cucumber soup and a freezer of homemade ice cream.  To make it a real ladies' day, Arden brought grapes, cheese, and a bottle of wine.  (We usually pop a can of beer and call it good.)  Cam had spent the morning dealing with tire problems.  Out here in the boonies, an air compressor can be a girl's best friend.  Sitting and talking, munching grapes and the olive oil-rich bread, was a most pleasant way to spend an afternoon.  I'd made plain, rosemary and garlic, and olive and onion focaccia; we agreed the olive and onion was the favorite.  I'll be making more of that for a sale on Sunday.

Bessie Anne is the official greeter for the household, walking guests from their car to the house.  She's neither a barker nor a jumper, but wags an unmistakeable hello.  She was especially happy to see Honey arrive.  Honey, sure she was included in the lunch invitation, promptly emptied Bessie's food dish, drank a bowl of water, and dug out her favorite squeaky toy from the basket.  Ralph is fearless and goes nose to nose with the big German shepherd.  Honey has kitties of her own and is no threat to Ralph.  Celeste did her magician's act, disappearing when a car arrives and coming out like a rabbit from a hat before the car hits the end of the drive when leaving.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

No Empty Nest Here

Drat!  Celeste moved while I was trying to find the camera in the dark.  She had been lying on the pillow to the left, Bessie's usual spot.  That left Bessie very little room to move over after her nightly back rub, so Bess squeezed into the middle, leaving very little room for me on the right.  A strange phenomenon happens when an animal settles in; they suddenly gain a ton of weight and become immoveable.  If they give any notice at all, it is to open one eye and say, "Wha?  You talkin' to me?"  Trying to change position last night, one leg was pinned.  Finally dislodging the weight that held me down (the struggle woke me up), I flipped over and was immediately rammed again by whichever cat was chilly and wanted to snuggle.  I suppose I should be grateful for the little space the furries give me in this nest I call "my" bed.

I thought the adolescent barn sparrows' squat-and-flutter dance was funny, but nothing compared to a bluejay birdlett, and a young crow outdoes them all.  While on a phone call yesterday, suddenly there was such a racket of squawking and screeching outside that I had to go make sure something was not attacking the chickens.  It was so loud that the other party on the line could hear.  Turned out to be a teenage crow, obviously feeling a sense of entitlement and giving his parents hell because their service was slow.  All three were on the ground by the feeding station, with Baby stamping his feet and yelling in a classic temper tantrum.  While staying close, the parents turned their back on their kid and let him wear himself out.  They'd evidently decided that it was time for Baby to fend for himself, but didn't want him to come to harm.  When the kid saw that his antics had no effect, he shut his beak and flew up into the tree to pout.  Having raised their chick to adulthood, the parents flew off in another direction; probably a vacation in Hawaii.  I doubt they'll suffer from "empty-nest" syndrome.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Take Your Pick

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."  My mother was famous for tossing these kinds of old-time mottos at me.  I also have a fridge magnet that says, "If at first you don't succeed, to hell with it."  Take your pick.  I can go either way, myself.  It's best not to get locked in to one way of doing things with the goats, so maybe Mother was right..

Plan A:  in the beginning, I'd go into the stalls first at night, carrying grain to get the goats to follow.  That worked until they got too pushy, mobbing me and actually knocking me down.

Plan B:  for years, I've put down feed in bowls every morning so the girls would have something to look forward to at night, knowing that some grain would go to the birds, mice, and squirrels.  All I had to do was open the stall door and the girls would rush in.  The little critters have always been considerate and left enough for the goats' nighty-night treat.  Until recently, that is.  Lately, the greedy-guts have eaten every crumb and the goats have complained mightily as they looked in the empty bowls.

Obviously, Plan C was in order.  Now I have to leave the goats outside at night while I go in one door, put down a few mouthfuls of grain, go back outside and let the girls in another door.  We'll see how long this works.  I'm certainly getting my exercise.

Oh, and in case anyone worries about these things, I still put out a small scoop of grain in the morning for the little barn creatures.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Slim Pickings

This Asian lily, like the green in the fields, is but a memory now.  The vineyards are lush and verdant, but brown is the predominant color around here once the rains stopped coming.

Toilet paper and cat litter are two things one must never, ever run out of.  Frank and Pearl were indoor-outdoor cats so litter was not an issue.  They only used the box on rainy days and for emergencies.  Ralph and Celeste are indoor kitties and I clean that box no less than six times a day.  Sometimes they use the box in tandem.  I never go in the bathroom alone; one or the other always comes with and leaves an offering in the box.  All this pottying necessitated a flying trip to town yesterday as there is no substitute for cat litter.  When ya gotta go, ya gotta go, whether it be to town or the box.

I wish I had more pictures of my dad.  He hated being photographed, and I have only one photo where he's smiling.  One of eleven kids, Daddy was a sharecropper's son and worked hard as a child in east Texas in cotton and corn fields.  His hands were testimony to his past, gnarled and scarred.  He put himself through business school, determined never to do farm work again.  In the army in WWI, he was sent to France, the only one of his brothers to join the service.  A civilian again, the country suffered the Great Depression.  Desperate to leave Texas, Daddy "rode the rails" in a boxcar to California.  You'd have to have known my dad to appreciate that, in his baggage, he carried what was then called an "ice cream" suit; white flannel and quite spiffy.  It went with his straw boater hat.  In all my years, I think Daddy owned only one sport shirt.  He always dressed in suit and tie and always wore a hat, either felt or straw depending on the season.  He worked hard to improve himself and give my mother and me a comfortable life, sending me to a private school for a better education.  I often wonder what he would think of me now, dressed in bibbies and shoveling manure.  It's not just on Father's Day that I think of my father.

What with the trip to town, there's not much to report on Farview from yesterday; pretty slim pickings.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Amusement Rides

As I've said, it's the small things that amuse me.  The goat barn is a hive of activity in the morning:  me coming in and going out with the girls, squirrels checking to see if I've put out their buffet and sometimes stretching out flat on the ground to wait, and birds, all those busy, busy birds.  The bold jays wait for no man/woman.  They get into the feed bucket up on the shelf and help themselves, doing fly-bys so close overhead that their wings ruffle my hair.  Sometimes the little birds band together, all yelling at the top of their lungs to drive off a particularly pesky bluejay (they won't stay gone long).  The ones that really crack me up are the fledgeling barn sparrows.  These Baby Hueys are every bit as big as their parents and are capable of flying, landing on the square-wire window dividers to do their "feed-me!" dance.  It's a kind of half-squat with wings akimbo and fluttering like mad, turning this way and that with mouth wide open.  They make me think of all those goofy dances from the '60s:  the Mashed Potato, the Pony, even the Twist.  These babies would definitely have been an inspiration for a new dance craze.

While a nonmilker was on the stand yesterday, I went in with the rake to clean the big room.  One of those pancake squirrels lay in there just watching, for all the world like a man sitting on the couch while wifey vacuums.  "Pick up your feet, Mister!"  Begrudgingly, he finally moved out of my way.

Star thistle is not amusing.  Right now it's the only green thing in the yards and it's growing inches every day.  I'm trying desperately to stay ahead of it, keeping it mowed before those dreaded spiny seed heads form.  Before I could hang clothes on the line, I first had to mow the side yard right after barn chores.  I'll have to get the gas cans filled before I can do the front, back and back side yards.  Fu won't run on air.  It takes about a half-gallon of gasoline and the better part of an hour to mow just one of the yards, more for the west field.

Barn chores, laundry and mowing done, it seemed a good idea to take the rest of the day off.  It's been forever since I've picked up a book to start and finish before sundown.  Once in awhile I like a "fluff mystery," entertaining and not requiring a lot of deep thought; another amusement ride for the mind.

It was a good day.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Man In the Moon

"I see the moon, the moon sees me...."  A full white moon was just cresting the hills in the east last evening as I topped off the goats' water trough, one of the last chores of the day.  If the moon did, indeed, see me, it was looking at a very satisfied woman at the end of a very productive day.

Dave drove up as I finished in the barn (and I'd started early).  We did a quick recon and went to work.  "We" is a term used loosely here, as my job was to step and fetch and try to stay out of Dave's way.  The day before, I'd purchased three storm doors to replace ones that were disintegrating after years of weather abuse, and Dave was drafted as the installer.  I'd had the forethought to recharge the battery for the cordless drill and stock supplies for lunch, the rest was up to him.

I hate, absolutely hate, going down to the shop to look for a specific anything.  Steve had a mysterious system of placement and he took the secret with him.  It took five years before I found nails, nails! for crying out loud.  The only way I find anything is when I'm looking for something else.  Case in point, while hunting for drill bits yesterday, I found the PVC parts (we have hundreds) I couldn't find when I needed one recently and had to buy new.  I found one size of bit, Dave found the other.  It's a guy thing.

We caught a break in that the day was considerably cooler, but the south end of the house gets the brunt of sun regardless.  Dave is a journeyman carpenter, so there were no mistakes, no misplaced holes or off-center handles.  I am an experienced helper and holder.  As if planned, the drill gun battery ran out of juice after the first door was in, perfect timing for a lunch break (nap included).  Recharged, it was back to work.  The second door went in much quicker than the first, but I won't say easier.  The third door will go on the feed room and will wait in the barn for another day.  I did ask Dave if he'd like me to "lose his number."  Finished with a job well done, Dave was able to ride off before the sun was too low in the west for safe driving.  I owe all my Kids such a huge debt of gratitude for help above and beyond.

Still jazzed about my new, great-looking storm doors and filled with enthusiasm, I got the deck plants watered and the west field mowed before evening chores.   Yup, the man in the moon looked down at a very happy woman at the end of a very good day.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


I didn't know it then, but lack of money when my Kids were small was, in its own way, a gift of time.  Hiring a sitter for four babies would have cost more than whatever wages I could have made and so I was able to be a stay-at-home mom.  Those years with my children were precious.

As they grew older, I began taking classes with an eye toward a profession and eventually went to work in medical records.  Work was really a pleasure; I got paid for doing something I truly enjoyed.  Those were busy, busy years, juggling a job and four teenagers (a job in itself).

Moving to Sacramento and remarried, I was again given a gift of time.  Going back to college was an opportunity to take all those classes that weren't included in a technical curriculum.  History, art and music appreciation, humanities, comparative religion, creative writing; I took 'em all and more.  I was having such a good time that I was devastated when City College said I had too many credits and had to move on, but it took that push to send me to State University and I graduated.  (I snuck back to City College for courses in sign language.)

Circumstances sent me back into the work force for a number of years.  Single again, working then was my saving grace, and I had a profession to fall back on.  Another gift of time came with an inheritance.  I took a year off and did all those things one says they would do if they only had the time.  I refinished furniture, made quilts, visited far-away friends, and took a trip to Europe.  I started a business and met Steve.

We eventually moved here to Farview where once more I have been given time to enjoy my animals and work of a different kind.  The point of all this, I suppose, is to encourage recognition of the importance of appreciating those periods of time in our lives for what they are:  gifts.

It's cooler today (insert smiley face here).

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


I kid you not.  Even if the Queen of England were due for a visit in five minutes, I would still sit down to cool off after coming up from the barn.  I would apologize, but Her Royal Highness would just have to wait.  The one or two degree drop in temperature yesterday didn't make much difference.

Capo, the tree squirrel, made another early morning raid along the rail.  He made me think of the band of grey, furry bully boys in South Land Park years ago.  I was taking night classes at city college and had to cross the park at dusk.  The squirrels would come in numbers, so bold as to stand on my foot, demanding a toll to cross their turf.  I ended up carrying graham crackers in my pockets so I could get to class.

Why is it, I wonder, that the one sure way to find where the cat sicked up a fur ball is with bare feet in a dark hall?

Poppy seems to be over her spell of giddiness and has stopped singing.  I'm glad to see she spends most of the day in the shade, as I'd hate to see a sheep with a sunburn.

Bessie Anne has the pool routine down pat.  She went so far as to put all four feet in yesterday.  That's a good thing, as I've splashed so much over her that the pool has lost half of its water.

There sometimes comes a moment toward sundown when the mountain goes completely quiet.  It's awesome.  No bird calls, no engine rumbles, no dog barks, no leaf rustles.  It's as if someone hit the pause button and the world went still.  Then the moment is over and life goes on as usual.

It could be my imagination, or perhaps wishful thinking, but it feels a little cooler this morning.  One can hope.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Impure Thoughts

Mornings spent sweating in a sauna snuggled up to an overheated goat have cleansed my skin of all impurities.  I mean every pore has been flushed!  Getting down to the barn an hour early did nothing to help; the milking room was already an oven.  It's going to be a long summer.

Poppy has had an odd reaction to being shorn.  Normally quiet unless provoked (usually by a meal served late), she has become very vocal.  I think of it in terms of dulcet tones, but in reality she has a gutteral bellow.  Maybe she thinks of it as singing because there is no apparent reason.  She bellows in her stall, while ambling along up to the alfalfa corner or lying in the shade.  She lacks a volume control knob and bellows her one note full blast.  The goats think she's gone bonkers.  I think she's just happy to be rid of forty-plus pounds of overcoat and is perhaps a bit lightheaded.

I've been thinking evil thoughts about the doggone squirrel(s) who still digs in my potted plants on the deck, throwing dirt everywhere just out of pure meanness.  Maybe it is related to Thing who lives in the barn.  Sneaky, it now digs in pots at the end of the deck, out of my line of sight.

Bessie and I took the trash down to the big road this morning.  Glancing up the hill into the south pasture on the way back, I saw the heron standing in silhouette.  A beautiful start to the day.

Yesterday was, if possible, even hotter than the day before.  I only had to ask Bessie Anne once if she wanted to go in her pool and she ran to the door.  Such a funny little dog.  She steps into the pool daintily with her front feet only and waits for me to splash water over her shoulders and back.  Satisfied, she gets out, gives one shake and leaves her coat to drip dry (in the house, of course).  Having tested the waters once, later in the day she stood at the door a couple of times and barked, "Pool!"  Being well trained, I got up each time and took her out for a repeat dip.

The movie for the day seemed quite appropriate.  "Sunday Too Far Away" is a 1975 film about Australian sheep shearers in the 1950s.  "The Sundowners," with Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr, has long been a favorite of mine; also about sheep shearers in the Outback.  At any rate, it was another do-nothing day.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Not Nice

"It's not nice to fool Mother Nature," say the vultures.  They are focused on the huge mound of fleece outside the pen (I haven't figured out how I'm going to dispose of it).  They know that "sheep" hasn't moved, but it hasn't got the distinctive smell that tells them it's dinnertime.

It was 80 degrees at 8 a.m. yesterday, a pretty good indicator of what was coming.  My sensor is on the north side of the house in a spot that never gets direct sunlight.  Aarrgh.  On days like that, anything that needs doing must get done early or it won't get done, period.  I even declined an invitation to go wine tasting at a mini-festival put on by a few local wineries.  (Cam told me later there was great food and bands.  I was happy for her.)  For me, after sweating buckets down in the barn, it was a day to sit and cheer Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s, win and then indulge in a "Lonesome Dove" marathon.  "Sit" being the definitive term here.  Bess and the cats moved from tiles in the entryway to the stone hearth.  It's cooler downstairs, but wild horses couldn't have dragged Ralph down there again.  Once the south end of the house was in shade, I brought Bessie's wading pool out from the barn and filled it.  Much as I love her, I wasn't about to stand in the sun to do that job.  By this afternoon, the water will be warm, if not hot.  In the meantime, I sprayed her to cool her off and stood under the water myself.  I'm not above playing in the sprinkler, either.

Hot weather is just not nice.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

...Sweat and Tears

Nature opened the doors to the blast furnace and cranked it up yesterday.  It's a good thing we had the race to turn our minds from the heat.  I was still in the throes of last-minute cleaning when Sandra arrived, quite pleased with herself as it was the first time she'd driven up without a navigator and didn't get lost once.  Trust me, that's a feat worth celebrating.  She brought the fixings to make German berrocks:  meat, cabbage, and onion baked turnovers.  I already had dry-rub drumsticks in one oven and they were smelling good.  When Clay came in, he showed new talent as a bartender, making us a tall, refreshing Belmont Breeze, a combination of bourbon, pomegranate juice, and lemonade.  Tasty stuff, that!  Deb and Craig were loaded down with an unusual, amazingly good dip made with pureed peas, garlic, and (I apologize) something else I can't remember.  Whatever it was, the dip was a big hit and I'll get the recipe.  They also brought pita chips and garlic-stuffed olives.  I'd also made an old standby, three-bean salad with tarragon and balsamic vinegar.  Camille and Honey came shortly after we'd loaded the table.  This was a help-yourself spread and we spent the afternoon watching what has been called "the longest three hours for a three-minute finish," eating (yes!), and enjoying each other's company.  I won't say we weren't disappointed when California Chrome didn't win - we were.  I wasn't the only one crying, but then, I always cry when watching horses run.  Win, place, or show, Tonalist and his jockey did a great job, but we agreed with Steve Coburn that the field for the Belmont would be leveled if only horses that had also run in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness should race for the Triple Crown.  To ease our sorrow and cool our heated brows, it was time to make a big tub of homemade ice cream.  Boy, did that hit the spot!

Saying goodbye to the flatlanders was bittersweet.  I probably won't see most of them until fall when the weather is more conducive for a visit.  I'll miss them, but I don't blame them.

Celeste is so funny.  She won't come out if strangers are in the house.  She's not the social animal that Ralph has become.  Celeste appears immediately after the last car leaves as if she'd been watching out the window to see it go.  She hung around me all evening, and it was strange that Ralph didn't show up as usual.  I thought he'd come out from wherever when at bedtime, but no Ralph and I got worried.  Aha!  He'd followed the boys downstairs when they were doing me a favor and had inadvertently got himself shut in down there.  After telling me how bad it had been all alone in the dark, he headed first for the water bowl and then for the litter box.  Poor little boy.  I like happy endings.

It was a good day.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Post Time

Poppy got a new summer "do" and a pedicure yesterday.  This sheep-size mountain of wool is just the fleece Tim, the shearer guy, removed.  Will the real Poppy please stand up?  She nearly floated away!  It has gotten hot so fast and I was feeling such pity for poor Poppy with that heavy wool coat.  In years past, Tim has always come toward sundown and I put the girls to bed so he could shear Pop without interference.  Yesterday he came in early afternoon and I was concerned, needlessly as it turned out.  Referring to himself as "Uncle Timmy," he walked into the pen and sweet-talked Poppy into a halter and tied to a fence post in no time flat while he got his equipment ready.  The goats clustered around her, protecting one of their herd, but then all came to stand beside me to watch Uncle Timmy go to work.  I was so lucky to find Tim; he's a Grade-A shearer, fast and sure, and leaves no nicks on the sheep and no "second cuts" on the fleece.  Since it's been two years since Poppy got a haircut, I won't be using this matted wool to spin, but second cuts can ruin a fleece for spinning.

The Belmont race will run today and the aficionados in the family will gather here so we can watch together and root for California Chrome, hoping he can win the Triple Crown.  I do love NASCAR, but horse racing is the best!  We're doing potluck snacks so no one has to work hard.  I haven't told the Kids, but I just got a new ice cream maker.  Fresh milk and fresh eggs in homemade vanilla ice cream sounds awfully good to me on a hot day.  I even remembered to get ice when I was at the feed store.

Can't wait to hear, "Riders up!"  It's going to be a good day.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Great Minds

It is said that great minds think alike.  I'd just figured out how I was going to get the TV stand out of the truck when I got a text from my daughter with the same solution.  "Can you open the box and bring in a few pieces at a time?"  I guess that's what's called "thinking outside the box."  Putting the cabinet together wasn't necessarily difficult, but it was a long process.  I appreciated Ralph's help when I dropped one of the umpteen fastener gizzies.  I was going to get down on hands and knees to look for it, but Ralph found it first and batted it right to me.  Celeste got bored and went to sleep, but Ralph was very involved, crawling in and out of the empty box, inspecting every part as the stand went together.  (Every job needs a superintendent.)

Constructing the stand turned out to be the easy part.  In order to thread the cables and wires to the receiver through the back of the cabinet, they first had to be unplugged.  That's when the fun began.  It was the hottest day of the year so far and I was running sweat.  I did (or thought I did) remember which wire went to which plug, but the wires weren't long enough to allow me to see the fittings and had to be attached by touch alone in a very cramped space.  The very last one was the booger.  Time for a break.  Calmer, I went back to the job and, of course, got the cable connected.  Quite pleased with myself, I turned everything on, only to get a "No signal" message on the TV.  I could have cried.  Did I plug in something wrong?  Did I break the entire system?  Once again I called my angels in tech support (this one was actually named Angie!).  My relief can only be imagined when the problem turned out to be just a loose connection and easily fixed.  I actually had hooked up everything in the right place.  Ta da!

Ralph did a final inspection before giving it his stamp of approval.  It was time to put the goats to bed.  It had been, as I'd anticipated, a long day.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

No Fair In Fair Play

Hearing the pitter-patter of little feet, I looked up to see this grey squirrel cruising through.  I don't know if I'm on the border of two warring gangs or if the tree squirrels and ground squirrels have formed a coalition.  Is this a cohort or the capo of an enemy crew?  Since the grey came in the morning and the brown comes in the afternoon, are they working different shifts?  The only thing I know for sure is that my plants are being decimated.  It's just not fair!

"Some assembly required."  Yes, well, I'll get right on that as soon as I figure out how to get the box out of the truck.  I bought a cabinet-slash-stand to put the new TV and associated appliances on.  A very nice, muscular young man loaded it up for me yesterday.  What was I thinking?  He had made it look effortless.  For me, it's going to take some effort.  When or if I get it into the house, then there will be the fun of putting it together.  With any luck, the instructions will be in English, preferably with pictures.  Two doors, umpteen adjustable shelves, fending off marauding squirrels.  It's going to be a long day.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Ticked Off

I'm mad!  If I had a solution, I'd fix the problem.  A young, bold, teenage vandal strikes at Farview nearly daily, and he does it in broad daylight!  I've seen this rapscallion myself and can give an accurate description:  about 5", 9 oz., brown hair and eyes, maybe 10" long, nose to tail.  It's possible he goes to a ground squirrel continuation school that lets out early, because he shows up here about one o'clock.  He's out of control.  It wasn't enough that he completely destroyed the lettuce crop.  I got only two of what promised to be the best and most strawberries I've ever grown.  You-know-who got the rest.  The two spindly yellow cherry tomato plants are just setting fruit.  They're spindly because he's eaten most of the leaves.  He checks frequently on the progress of the tomatoes, but I've managed to scare him away so far.  What he can't or doesn't want to eat, this hooligan destroys.  It's just pure meanness to go along the deck, throwing dirt out of pots and littering the boards.  Petunias are ragged because he nibbles the outer petals of those bright flowers.  Some days he darts from shadow to shadow and on others he will run along the rail.  I've lived in peace with colonies of ground squirrels for years.  I've tried not to complain as I stumble in their bomb pits, throw dust when mowing through their burrow mounds, or watch them gobbling down the goats' grain.  I've accommodated them by removing temptation by planting in barrels in the garden.  The only place I've asked to keep sacrosanct is the deck, off limits to all but the turkeys, hummers, and lizards, who do no damage.  So much for what I want.  I'm only human in an animal world.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Watch Your Step

My friend Linda suggested I be more discriminating when I put out the welcome mat.  I'm thinking of pulling it in completely.  Blithely walking out the door to change the sprinkler in the herb garden in the late afternoon, I nearly stepped on this visitor's tail.  I hadn't heard him/her knock, so was unaware I had company.  Fortunately, Bessie Anne had opted to stay in the house so I didn't have to worry about her inquisitive nose.
Markings don't mean a thing, especially when surprised as I was.  As if turned to stone, I didn't move while I assessed the situation.  No rattles on the tail:  check.  No diamond-shaped head:  check.  Breathe a sigh of relief:  check.  This gopher snake (I looked it up) was one of the good guys.  Not counting the S-curves on this dude/dudette, I measured the length at just over five feet.  Snake was as still as I while I took photos, then slipped off the porch and was immediately camouflaged in the dry leaves.

The only rattlesnake I've ever seen here was almost in the same place, right in the corner of the porch.  Steve, our then-dog Dogie, and I were coming home, Dogie and I in the lead.  I'd never heard a rattlesnake playing the maracas before, but that sound was unmistakeable.  Snake was coiled in the corner and giving fair warning.  I got the dog in the house, yelled a warning to Steve, and went in to get a gun.  Steve had other ideas.  He grabbed a rake, pinned Snake down and told me to take the hoe and chop off Snake's head.  I would rather have dispatched Snake from a distance, but followed orders.  Eeeuw.  That snake was less than two feet long in reality, but seemed a lot bigger at the time.

I had to take the trash down to the big road this morning.  Common sense told me that no self-respecting snake would be on that cold cement at dawn, but I definitely looked before taking that first step out the door.  And I'll be doing that for some time.

Monday, June 2, 2014


My personal angel yesterday was Alex in tech support (not with Sony).  I explained my tale of woe with the danged multiple remotes.

"No, no, no!  Is easy fix."
"Really?  You can do this?"
"Most certainly!"
"Then you will be my hero."
"I like be your hero."

Alex told me what buttons to push and in what order.  It took two minutes max.

"Work okay now?"
"Yes!  And I don't need the other remote at all?"
"Yay!  Put other remote in drawer.  You no need anymore."
"Alex, you are my knight in shining armor.  You've made my life so much easier."
"I like be knight.  You make my day."

And I shall live a happy life with one, only one, remote!  I spent the day watching NASCAR, ducking when the cars came toward me, able to read the numbers on their side, and having a whale of a time.  If you come looking for me, I'll be right there in front of the TV, one remote by my side.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A Remote Corner

There is a remote corner of hell and I'm in it.  My personal shoppers, Deb and Craig, delivered the new TV yesterday.  One person carried it in and two had to lift the old one away.  The monstrous old beast is sitting in the entryway, waiting for more hands and muscles to get it downstairs.  Craig is my electronics guru and soon had the TV, satellite receiver, and DVD player connected and up and running.  As I told Deb, I felt like I'd just dropped into Oz about the time black and white turned into technicolor.  It's not just the size of the picture, it's the color and clarity; absolutely astounding.  Like it or not (and I like it!), I'm being dragged into the 21st century.

My kindhearted Kids had plans for the evening and had to leave early; it's a long drive home for them.  And that's when my descent into hell began.  I now need three remotes to operate the equipment where before I needed only one.  All three are black and similar in shape, and it takes all three to turn stuff on.  The "do something" buttons are in different places.  One remote changes the channels, but another one changes the volume.  This one will bring up the program guide, but that one won't.  I could operate the one remote for the old TV while blindfolded; I'm kinetically oriented.  These unfriendly remotes won't communicate with each other, and they definitely keep secrets from me.  Left to my own devices, I promptly got into trouble.  Obviously I had the wrong remote in hand and/or pushed the wrong button because I completely lost that wonderful picture and had a screen of grey snow and a message that said, "No signal."  Oh crum.  I didn't know what I'd done or how to fix it.  The nice technical support people for Sony take the weekend and all evenings off.  Evidently one must schedule all crises during normal working hours.  What's up with that?!  I refused to panic (I would probably push the wrong panic button) and resisted the urge to sit in the corner and cry.  It's not easy to operate a remote with one's fingers crossed, hoping to hit the right sequence.  I could not tell you how or with which remote, but with trial and error I got the picture back.  I did not change the channel the rest of the evening, used all three remotes to turn off all three electronics, and went to bed early.

If you look for me today, you know where to find me.  I'm the one in the remote corner.