Thursday, July 31, 2014

Return To Downton

The thermometer read 100 degrees when I got back to the house from the barn.  It stayed pegged there throughout the day.  One of the last things left in my "bug-out" bag was the set of DVDs of "Downton Abbey" that I'd borrowed from Deb and Craig.  (I packed only the really important stuff!)  Knowing not much would get accomplished in the heat, I settled in and got ready for another marathon at/of Downton.  Between episodes, Bessie Anne and I went out to the deck for a cool-down.  The plants were gasping, I was sweating, Bess was panting.  The water in her pool was too hot for her so in between giving the plants a drink, I filled the pool with cold water.  She immediately stepped in of her own accord and waded around.  I turned the spray up over my head and reveled in a cool shower - several times.  Back in the house, I'd no more sat down to join my friends at the Abbey than the power went out.  Aaargh.  I'd been so diligent about keeping my cell phone charged during the fire; wouldn't you know I'd let the battery get down to one bar?  I found out today that a transformer had blown over on Sand Ridge.  A friend of mine had seen it blow and her husband and a few neighbors almost had the resulting fire put out before the fire department got there.  Whew.  Here, after an hour with no fans and no TV, the power came back.  Another bullet dodged.

I have more to say about Downton Abbey, but that's another story for another day.  I need to get down to the barn.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Their Own Bed

Lumpy, too soft, too hard - it doesn't matter.  There is nothing quite like crawling into your very own bed after any time away from home.  The goats and Poppy were so obviously happy yesterday morning that they had slept in their rooms and we had returned to the swing of our normal routine.  I am so grateful that a couple of nights outside is the worst that happened to them during this latest crisis.  The Sand Fire is nearly contained and we are no longer in danger here.

And life goes on.  Babe continues to run along the railing.  Ralph, blast him, has decided he doesn't like the mini-blinds in the front bedroom window and has broken a number of slats to get a better view.  I won't say it adds much to the look of the house.  I had put Celeste's treats in the pile to take if we needed to leave.  She let me know yesterday  it was time to unpack and tend to business, my main job being to give her goodies.  Bessie Anne knew something was wrong and had been clinging to me like a limpet for days.  She napped most of yesterday, as did I.  The girls went into the barn and the chickens into their coops last night with nary a complaint.  Life goes on.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Almost All Clear

I have posted photos of some spectacular sunsets in the past.  Not that this one isn't pretty, but it has special significance because, for the first time since last Friday, there is NO smoke on the horizon.  The relief is tremendous, equal to the tension we've been under the last few days.  I can't say enough good things about the valiant firefighters who have worked in triple-digit weather to knock the fire down to about 75% now.  They are heroes.

I put the girls into the barn and the chickens slept with shut doors last night.  My thinking had been to leave them an escape route if the fire came.  Taking a chance with nighttime wild things seemed the better choice than being locked in.  The chickens didn't seem to have an opinion, but the goats and Poppy did not like the disruption of their routine and complained loudly morning and evening.  Worried, they clumped together during the day, not spreading out to graze as they normally would.  There is something to be said for leaving the girls outside:  no need to clean stalls.

Dog and cat food was in the truck, ready for a quick getaway.  I brought the bags back into the house last night.  The fire is not out yet, but the immediate danger seems past and I think we can start the return to normal.  Deciding to travel light, I don't have a lot to put back.

I am blessed with so much love from my dear family and friends.  Calls and notes from caring people near and far fill my heart and I am grateful for each and every one.  My daughter posted today on FaceBook, attributing me with strength I certainly don't feel.  I've been scared silly.  Any strength I might have had is due to my children and loved ones.  Thank you, one and all.

It's a good day.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Roller Coaster

The past few days have been an emotional up and down.  Do we stay?  Do we go?  What to do?  Tree Guy and Son came up here yesterday because they couldn't see anything from their place and I took advantage of them to make a quick run to the grocery store (was out of cat food and Ralph and Celeste were complaining).  I put out a couple of camp chairs and handed TG & Son a beer so they could watch the smoke in comfort and ease.  They would watch the house just in case.  The "big road" was closed south of where I needed to go, and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get back home if I didn't hurry.  (I had no problems, but did race to the store and back.)  I can't see any smoke at all today, so I think we're out of danger.

Hard to believe, but I slept in until almost 7:30 today.  Can't remember the last time that happened.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Long, Long Day

I'm still here.  It was pretty iffy for most of yesterday as the Sand Fire continued to spread.  It went from 40 acres to more than 4,000 in what seemed like no time and was coming in our direction.  One of the most frustrating things throughout the day was our inability to get accurate, updated information.  The telephone and computer were our lifeline.  Calls were flying back and forth with good wishes, shared fears, offers of help, rumors, and facts.  Deb, even though I know she was afraid and upset, kept me anchored and on course as I went through the house, gathering what I might need if we had to evacuate.  I know without asking that Craig is her support person as well as mine.  I certainly didn't need a fire to remind me of who and what is important.  Deb was command central for all her brothers, feeding information and photos and letting them know that we were still okay.  Things got pretty tense when a notice was sent out that our area was under voluntary evacuation.  The truck was packed and ready to go (still is), but I decided to wait until it was mandatory.  Thankfully, that knock on the door didn't come in the night.

I'll get caught up in more detail tomorrow.  Tensions and emotions ran high yesterday and it was a long, long day.  Thanks to all for the support from everyone.  It helps.

Just got my laugh for the morning.  I have a pile by the door of last-minute stuff to take if necessary, including a bag with dog and cat treats.  Ralph and Celeste are lying together right by that bag.  If I'm going to take their treats, they're going too!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Scary Stuff

This is not the not the sight one wishes to see, but one we all fear.  It had been a pretty uneventful day.  I'd been back and forth in front of the front door any number of times, always glancing out to see what critters were cruising through.  In late afternoon, I noticed the sky had a strange color and stepped outside.  From the doorway, the big oak blocked my view of this column of smoke rising in the southwest.  It's difficult to judge distance, but the fire was too close, regardless, and it was a big one.  The TV news had already picked it up so I was able to find out that the location was over on Sand Ridge Road, closer to Plymouth than El Dorado, near Highway 49.  Reported to be about 40 acres when this photo was taken, it jumped to 300 in what seemed like minutes, and is now at 1,300 acres.
It's easy to see how the base of the smoke column spread in just a couple of hours.  Homes have burned and many people have been evacuated to Placerville.  As always, I think of the wildlife that will be killed.

Glow from the flames was clearly visible after dark, and they danced in my dreams last night.

God bless the firefighters.  They are working in triple-digit weather, in addition to what must be unbelievable heat near the fire.  Scary stuff, this.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Bird Watching

We take our bird watching pretty seriously up here.  In fact, we not only watch our own birds, we keep an eye on others', too.  My friend Cam had business that would take her over to Reno yesterday.  The timing of her trip was such that she could care for Shadow, Cricket (donkeys) and the chickens and cats, but knew the hummingbird bottles would go dry before their evening feeding.  The little guys slurp "juice" all day, but are most active at sunup and sundown and she didn't want them to go hungry through the night, so asked me to be her bird-sitter.  There are many, many hummers in our area.  A winery up the road is named Colibri Ridge; colibri is a variety of hummingbird.  Accordingly, I went down to Camille's and refilled her feeders in the afternoon, hummers buzzing around my head all the while.  My hummers are drinking two quarts of juice a day, sometimes more.  Once these flying jewels come under our custody, we take the job seriously.  The pleasure of watching these birds is worth the time and trouble.

I continue to try to stem the tide of ants in the kitchen.  Single scouts are squooshed on the spot and the spray can is kept handy for the rivers of tiny black ants.  With the cats and Bessie Anne, the spray must be used judiciously so only the ants are killed.

In addition to the home invasion above, there was a break-in of another sort yesterday.  When Patrick unloaded a delivery of alfalfa the day before, he had not rechained the hog-panel gates to the feed section.  Those same deer I'd called delightful got another "D" word yesterday when I discovered they'd torn one panel off the hinges and helped themselves.  I guess I'd rather be Lady Bountiful voluntarily dispensing largesse than be ripped off by vagrants, even though the end result is the same.

The sun is just cresting the hill.  I'd better go get breakfast for the hummingbirds before they start banging on the windows.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Pick Ups

I have a proclivity for picking up the odd bits and bobs I find:  a pretty stone, a shed lizard skin, vulture feathers, whatever might catch my eye.  This large (dead) insect was on the mat outside the dining room door.  I'd never seen one like it.  It's big, with a wingspan well over two inches.  On the news the other day, they showed video of an enormous swarm of mayflies in Wisconsin.  It got me to wondering, and sure enough, that's what my bug is, a mayfly.  I wonder if it got caught in a head wind and blown off course.  And what is a mayfly doing out in the middle of July?

Stepping out on the deck to fill the feeders for the hummers, I startled a pair of does and a spotted fawn who had been sampling the birdseed.  They bounced down the hill and into the woods.  No matter how long I've lived here, the sight of deer in my yard takes my breath away.

Spurred on by cooler weather and a very guilty conscience, I cautiously opened the door to what used to be my office and is now a storage room.  It's storage for anything I want to get out of the way and don't know where it goes and it had gotten to the point that I'd close my eyes, throw something in and shut the door quickly.  I've dubbed the room The Black Hole of Calcutta.  Just breaking down a stack of empty boxes (never know when you might need one of those) and popping gobs of bubble wrap (ditto) has cleared a lot of floor space.  Now, of course, I've got a pile of cardboard and plastic.  I'll probably move that out to the barn where it will stay until... well, until.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Hum For Happy

We always knew when Jackie was eating something she really liked.  She hummed a happy little tuneless hum.  (Jackie was a woman I worked with years back.)  Esther likes to have, in fact, demands to have her head rubbed before eating her breakfast.  It's her way of starting the day happy.  Esther hums while getting her massage; yes, goats do hum.

They say that herding cats is difficult.  It's also hard to walk when being herded by a cat.  Celeste has developed a new method for getting treats.  If I'm up and moving but ignore (or miss) her nearly inaudible, "Shhh, let's you and me go get me a goody," she will walk directly in front of my feet until I'm turned in the right direction and headed toward the kitchen.  When she's sure I've got the message, she'll run ahead to the counter and stare pointedly at the little bag of treats.  I count out three, four on a good day, and she of the quiet voice begins to purr loudly.  Celeste can hum too.

The days are getting shorter.  Fifteen minutes of daylight have been shaved off each end.  It's actually chilly this morning and a heavy mist is drifting down the hills.  I'm humming!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Running Late (Update)

Had to get the trash to the big road...rush.  Had a wonderful early morning phone chat with my daughter (it's her birthday!)...rush.  Need to get to the barn before I melt like the Wicked Witch of the West (or was it East?)...rush.  I'll come back here after I get done with chores and catch up with yesterday's rush.

Whew!  Rush hour(s) over.

Had to laugh this morning after I dropped off my trash barrel.  Camille was coming out of her driveway (she lives on the corner) and we had a gridlock (all two of us)!  That's rush hour in Fair Play.

The old saying goes, "Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today."  That's twice as true down in the goat barn.  The other day when it was so bloody hot (today was just hot) and I was running really, really late, I could not make myself clean the stalls without keeling over with heat stroke.  Just milking was hard enough and one night of dirty stalls wouldn't hurt the girls.  Yes, well.  In-N-Out Burger has nothing on goats; they invented the slogan In-N-Out.  Whatever they take in is going to come out.  Goats are prolific poopers.  My coming late to the barn left them more time inside to drop their loads and, believe me, they did.  Yesterday I raked and hauled two full buckets of roly-polys out to the poop pile.  Note to self:  never again let a day go by without cleaning stalls.

I saw an amazing sight on my way back to the water trough from the barn.  I've never before seen a hawk go into a stoop for a kill.  Catching movement in the air over the big section of pen, I watched a red-tail drop like a stone from the sky and heard a very short cry from an unwary ground squirrel.  The hawk then stood on its prey, obviously giving the coup de gras (grace).  It waited and postured over the body until it finally took off with its trophy meal, giving a victorious screech as it went.

The delta breezes are blowing hot air from the valley through the foothills and up, causing thunderstorms over the nearby mountains.  We had a power blip yesterday and right now thunder rolls and the winds blow.  It's cooler for us, but the constant threat of fire from lightning strikes hangs over our heads.  So far, so good.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Mrs. Lot

Were it not for the hose to sluice off in the morning I would bear a striking resemblance to Lot's wife, a pillar of salt, after sweating like a horse down in the barn.  Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was very late getting to the girls yesterday and we all paid the penalty.  I will try not to do that again.

It was the day of my friend Tim's second, for lack of a better term, farmers' market.  The plan is to do this monthly.  I think Tim thinks of it more as a social event, a good excuse for a potluck lunch (they provided barbecued linguica and Portuguese beans - yum!).  There were new faces in the group and more guests than last month.  This is strictly word-of-mouth and no advertising.  The young vet's wife made a wonderful sourdough bread to sell.  Camille sold all her eggs and is contemplating buying more chickens, and all my cheese went in a hurry.  That made a week in the kitchen worth the time.  A thick cloud cover rolled over, protecting us from the beating sun.  A few moments of spitting rain only increased the humidity, however.  We were hoping for more rain that might have done us some good.

The lowered sky made for a spectacular sunset, so lovely that I went back in the house for the camera on the way to the barn.  Even though I was early by the clock, the girls were sure night was falling and they were eager to go to bed.

 We've got the nighttime routine down pat.  In the few minutes it took to tuck the kids in, the sky had changed dramatically.  This was taken on the path in the goat pen.  It struck me that there are so many moments in life that are fleeting.  They should be cherished when they come.

It was a good day, salty with sweat or not.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Out Of My Way!

I may have mentioned that Farview is pocked with ground squirrel holes.  Visitors are warned to watch their step as footing is fraught with danger.  This particular crater is behind and under one of the utility sheds.  I can see the mound of dirt from the round room.  Busy in the kitchen all day yesterday, finishing the last batches of cheese and baking Orange-Cranberry muffins and a pan of double chocolate brownies, I passed through the round room any number of times.  Quite often I saw one of the squirrel tribe sitting upright on his front porch in the shade, just chilling and surveying his personal domain.

There are seven tom turkeys who seem to have taken up residence here.  The boys are always waiting for breakfast in the morning, drift around the property during the day, and settle down in the dust when it's hot.  On one of my trips through the round room in the afternoon, I noted that one of the boys was nestled by the corner of the shed.  Suddenly I heard a very loud "Beep BEEP!" and that turkey leapt to his feet.  He'd been blocking the way and the Chief told him in no uncertain terms to, "Move it, buddy."  Given the difference in size, it was pretty funny to see who was in charge.

Evidently there is no connecting passageway in the squirrel duplex.  Either that or Chief just wanted to establish dominance.  The turkey was, in fact, just a squatter.

They make me laugh.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Say Cheese

The inside of my refrigerator is a wall of white.  Batch after batch of cheese, day after day in the week before another "Farm Day" sale.  Salty feta is best if left to mellow for four or five days, but chevre, without the preservative salt, needs to be made just before selling.  It's more difficult to do quality control when the weather is hot.  The beginning process is the same, but timing is more critical.  If milk is left too long to set the curd or the curd is let hang too long while draining the whey, the milk begins to ferment and explodes, ruining the entire batch.  I've had to throw out a couple of batches this week because I got busy with one thing or another and didn't watch close enough.  Fortunately, I have a constant supply of raw material.  It takes close to two gallons of milk to make a pound of cheese.

Ralph has designated four-thirty as the Children's Hour.  I normally get up at five, but four-thirty seems way too early.  That matters not to Ralph.  I wake when I hear him rummaging around on the desk, knocking things over or off, or feel him jumping on the bed.  He'll come and snuggle under my chin.  I love him, but not so much at four-thirty in the morning.  Today he started redecorating while it was still dark.  I just found a small ornament on the floor; it used to hang on the wall.  I've put it back before, but I guess I'll have to find another setting for it now.  I'd like to find the reset button on his alarm clock so we could both sleep in until five.

Another day, another batch of cheese.  Oh well, I'm up now.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Farview Ambience

I am fortunate to have friends who are willing to be guinea pigs for untried recipes when I've got the urge to cook.  "Fast food" and "take-out" are irrelevant terms when we live twenty miles from town, but I was in the mood for Chinese food.  There was a break from the heat yesterday and Camille and Arden accepted an impromptu invitation for dinner.  Orange Chicken turned out great, crispy bites with tangy sweet-and-sour sauce.  Chow Mein was good, but perhaps not notable.  I was disappointed in the Spring Rolls, too chewy in my opinion.  If there's a next time, I'll stir fry some of the vegetables first.  I'd actually like to try Egg Rolls instead.  I really enjoy adding to my culinary repertoire, and the company of good friends.

I did get the housework and kitchen prep done, but was running too close to the deadline.  Oh well, it's not like the ladies haven't seen me in dusty bibbies before.  Call it Farview ambience.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Cosmos and Me

My mother used to say, "Thoughts go out into the cosmos and come back as action."  That may have been her way of warning to be careful what you wish for, but it may also have been meant to be inspiring.  Either way, sometimes the timing of coincidence is just strange.  Clay and I mentioned a guy we both know and haven't heard from in years.  This morning that guy turned up on my FB page.  Down in the barn the other day, I mused that I'd not seen any black-widow spiders.  In seasons past, there had been dozens.  That very morning, I looked up to see one of those shiny black ladies lurking in a corner.  (I keep a special stick just for the purpose of dispatching those arachnids.)  It often happens that I'll think a friend's name and within a day or two that friend will call.  Since I'm very aware of my connection with the cosmos, I try to be careful about the thoughts I send out there.

Babe and Ralph have a thing going.  Babe shows up on the deck rail in the morning, running back and forth to catch Ralph's attention.  Then he lays on the corner post to taunt the cat.  Ralph does his kek-kek-kek until Babe heads off and Ralph races through the house to look out the bedroom windows until he's sure the squirrel is gone.

The crazy weather this year seems to have thrown Nature a curve ball.  It's pretty late in the season for a group of bluejay fledglings, but the Baby Hueys are showing up in the barn to do the squat-and-flutter "feed me!" dance.  Some still wear bits of chick fluff feathers on their heads.  Their parents are running ragged trying to fill those gaping beaks.

No matter how hard I try to think dust away, I fear that action is up to me.  The cosmos let me down.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Winner Take All

I may have intimated in the past that my family is competitive.  We play board games and penny-ante poker.  We place nickle bets on races (cars and horses) and football.  In this friendly spirit of one-upsmanship, the boys began giving and taking away Good Son points and it may be a version of "Mother always liked you best."  I'm not really involved in this.  I think it started with Clay.  He probably did an act of kindness (which he does quite often) and the others said, "Oh, sure.  You're the Good Son."  It became the watch-word for the boys.  Deb (she gets nongender points) and Craig got points when they busted their butts doing yard work up here.  Dave called Clay to gloat about his Good Son points when he replaced the storm doors recently.  Clay racked up points yesterday when he got a head start on painting the trim on the house.  The base of the deck is essentially one story up with one end fifteen feet above the ground.  That means a hundred trips up and down, painting as far as the arm can reach and having to move the ladder forward.  It was "only" 96 degrees in the shade.  My job was to provide ice water and an occasional beer and make lunch and dinner to keep up his strength.

In the midst of this project, Harold the iron-monger and his helper, Lulu, came up.  Harold deals in scrap and will take just about anything made of metal.  I called Clay away from his work (gave him a break) to advise me on what I needed to keep and what to give Harold.  I was very glad to get rid of a set of oxy-acetylene tanks from the shop.  What with this, that, and the other thing, Harold drove off with a big pickup load full of what I considered trash and he considered treasure.

A fringe benefit for me while they're scoring points is getting to spend some one-on-one time with the Kids, a chance to talk and get caught up with what's happening in their lives.  When it's a free-for-all get together, we're always involved in the activity of the day and chatting is a sideline.

Who's the winner in the Good Son point competition?  It's me!

It was a good day.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Weather Or Not

Weather remains the topic of the day, whether I like it or not.  Right now, I do not like the weather.  Unbelievably, yesterday was hotter than the day before; 106 was predicted for the foothills, a degree or two warmer than the 104-5 for the valley.  I went down to the barn a good hour and a half earlier than usual.  The time-telling shadow had not even begun to slide down the wall.  Sheila and Poppy were still lying down in their stall and all the girls were surprised to see me off schedule.  Even so, I was wringing wet before I'd finished with Inga, first girl up.  Usually I splash water on my face on the way back to the house; yesterday I held the hose over my head and let it run.  Can't imagine what that did for my hair, and didn't care.  With Clay coming, I needed to lay in some supplies so did go up to the "local" grocery store later.  Like an idiot, I bought ice cream which, of course, melted during the 15-mile trip home.  The deck plants are watered daily.  Still, while visiting Downton again, I watched the comfrey plant wilt and then droop and knew the other plants were doing the same.  I felt bad, but could no more have gone out under that brutal sun than fly.  Bessie couldn't have gone in her pool even if she'd wanted to; the water was hot enough to boil a hot dog (pun intended).  We did go to the rescue when that side of the house was in shade.  I can only hope we were in time.

Running menus through my mind and dreading the thought of standing in the kitchen cooking (literally and figuratively), I settled on a crock-pot pot roast for tonight.  Clay deserves a hot meal after the work he plans to do.  The weather man has promised a ten-degree drop in the temperature today.  We'll see whether or not he's right.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Too Darn Hot

Cole Porter wrote "Too Darn Hot" for a musical in 1948.  It's becoming my theme song.  I should probably inform the post office that I've moved to Downton Abbey since I'm spending most of my time there lately.  Bessie asked three times yesterday to go in her pool and I took advantage each time we went out to turn the hose nozzle to mist and stand under it to get cool for a minute.  Ralph chooses to nap in the shower stall and Celeste trades places on the tile with Bess.  Trying to keep the herb garden alive, I move the sprinkler in stages across the front yard, limiting the time so I don't run the well dry.  The turkeys follow the sprinkler, scratching wallows in the damp ground.  Between the squirrel holes and the turkeys, the yard looks as if we'd been under attack by bombers.  Barn birds sit on the wires with beaks wide open in the heat.  The worst is that it hasn't cooled off at night, which is usually our saving grace.  The only way to get to sleep is to take a tepid shower and go to bed wet.

My after-market son, Clay, is coming up tomorrow to paint the trim on the house.  I tried to dissuade him, but he insists he'll be okay.  The paint is peeling and we've been looking pretty ratty.  One would think I'd jump at his offer, but I don't want to see him keel over.  It's too darn hot.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Tessie Is A Lady

Tessie is my unicorn girl, the youngest goat in the herd.  (This is not a recent photo.  There's not a blade of green grass to be found anywhere now, and Lucy, on the right, left us a long while back.)  Each of the girls has her own personality, special in her own way.  Tessie is the most ladylike of all.  She is generally not confrontational, which is a good thing due to being the only one armed with a weapon, as it were.  She seldom takes cuts in line to come in, unlike others who shall remain nameless.  When her turn comes, she gets immediately up on the platform, waits for me to fill her bowl, and stands quietly to be brushed.  I can't brush hard enough to suit Esther, but Tessie's hide is more sensitive and needs a soft touch.  Tess gives a half-pail of milk a day.  I might wish for larger orifices as, even though she has nice-sized teats, it's hard work to empty her udder, but one can't have everything.  Tessie doesn't stamp or dance around.  How a goat stands makes a difference when milking, and Tess keeps her back feet apart so it's easy to grasp the teats.  It happens that some grain from the bowl falls on the stand (unless it's Cindy, who eats like a vacuum cleaner).  When finished, the rest of the girls simply get down and get out.  Tessie likes things neat and tidy and must pick up every fallen smidgeon and morsel before leaving.  She has an unusual habit of sniffing the uprights and bars on the stand.  I've no idea what she's smelling, but it's her ritual.  I've got rowdies, complainers, and needies.  Tessie is a lady.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Waste Not

Water conservation is a big deal in California these days in drought conditions.  Living here with a low-volume well, water conservation is a way of life.  Yesterday was touted to be the last cool day for a week.  Remember, cool is a relative term; it only reached 89.  Sweaty, dirty, smelly after coming up from the barn, I considered my options.  The west field needed mowing as the star thistle was growing again.  Man, that plant could give survival technique lessons to the botanical world.  It thrives, regardless.  Less than a hundred degrees was the incentive to "get-'er-done."  As desperate as I was for a shower, it would have been a waste of water before firing up Fu Manchu.  Round and round we went in the field, dust and chaff blowing everywhere.  I lowered the blade another notch and darned near scalped the ground.  I didn't go down the driveway and won't for the duration for fear of the blades striking gravel and throwing sparks.  Whatever is growing there will just have to be.  The front and side yards may get one more mowing, or not.  In the field there is a volunteer oak with brush at the base.  As I made passes, a lizard, one of my totems, darted out.  I avoided the silly thing, but it did it again and again as I went around and around.  The last time, it stopped a foot away from the tire.  I inched forward and it wouldn't budge.  Was this a lizard with a death wish or an omen?  I finally backed up and made a wide detour.  When done with the job, I looked like I'd been covered with cocoa powder, the dust was that thick.

After more than an hour under the noonday sun, that shower felt heavenly.  Then, of course, there I was all clean and tidy.  I didn't want to waste that, either, so made a hit-and-run trip to town.  One thing does lead to another.

When I got back, I discovered that Ralph had removed the last obstacle to comfort and had kicked the telephone on his end table to the floor.  Further discussion would be a waste of breath.  I capitulated and moved the phone.

Waste not, want not.  The motto of the day.

Friday, July 11, 2014


Not always, of course, but it happens often enough to give rise to the superstition that death comes in threes.  The night before, I'd found Musashi, the gorgeous white Silky rooster with turquoise earlobes, lying still in the Taj.  A gift from Deb and Craig and full grown, I don't know how old he was when he came here.  The two younger roosters had taken to beating up on him.  Why is it that creatures pick on the weak or elderly?  In the morning, a very young mouse hadn't been able to climb out of the goats' feed bucket and probably died of panic.  The crows set up such a racket nearby in the afternoon that I went to the front door to see what that was all about.  They were repeatedly dive-bombing a large hawk (I'm assuming it was a red-tail) who was holding his ground and standing in the driveway.  As I watched, the hawk took flight with one of the numerous baby squirrels that have been playing in the front yard in his or her talons.  I wasn't as surprised to see a bird of prey, although seldom so close, as the fact that the crows were so defensive.  That makes three, and that's enough.  It's a hard world for little creatures.

The air above the goat pen has been filled with the annual influx of dragonflies hovering on gossamer wings.  Do they migrate?  There won't be any, and then one day they are everywhere.  They'll be here for awhile, and then there will be none again.

After the drama of the day, it was a fitting close to walk out and see this beautiful sunset like a benediction.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Farview Farm on a hot day is very still and quiet.  Bessie Anne staked out her favorite spot on her loveseat.  She becomes a little anxious if a guest chooses to sit on this couch and doesn't leave room for her.  She'll pace in front of them, finally sitting at their feet; she's not being friendly as much as territorial (but don't tell anyone).  Bess moves from her sofa to the tiles in the entryway and then to the hearthstones behind the wood stove, anywhere it might be cooler.

Having worked hard at clearing his space and tired from harassing the hummers, Ralph stretched out for a snooze where he could catch any passing breeze.

If the philodenron in the background looks a little ratty, it's because I took it out on the deck for a shower from the hose on one of those days when I was in a cleaning frenzy.  My mistake was leaving it out there to dry and the intense sun burned the leaves to a crisp.  Note that the lace curtain has no tie-back.  Thanks, Ralph.

Celeste chose a more conventional place to nap, although she has an unconventional pose.  Not as rambunctious as Ralph, Celeste has a personality all her own.  In the kitchen, she will barely brush against my leg.  When I look down, she silently mouths the word "meow."  I know what she wants, and it is our secret.  Over on the counter where the cat dish is, I will lay out three of her special treats.  I don't know why it has to be a secret because Ralph has no interest in treats, but I go along and whisper too.  Ralph is a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy.

Me?  I spent the day back at Downton Abbey.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Ralph, Oh Ralph

Ralph feels very comfortable here.  He is redecorating the house to suit himself.   As the only male in residence, he finds my extensive collection of pigs too girly and cutesy for his taste and has cleared several shelves.  One small pig was evidently so distasteful that he hid it weeks ago and I've not found it yet.  A framed photo was not to his liking and was knocked to the floor so many times I finally rescued it and put it away.  The bath mat in front of the shower had to go.  There are certain toys from Bessie's basket that he wants placed in different rooms.  I pick them up and put them in the basket; he puts them back exactly where he feels they belong.  I may end up with just valances above the windows.  The long lace curtains at the side are a bone of contention between us.  They used to be held by tie-backs with a nice poof; no more.  A full-grown cat swinging on a lace curtain will tear off a tie-back.  I know this for certain.  What I don't know is how he manages to swing on the curtain and not rip it to pieces.  He likes the longer look so he can play hide-and-seek through the lace.  We have "conversations" about this, with me yelling and him ignoring me.  Ralph has chosen a particular end table as a nap site and swiped off everything but the telephone so he can stretch out in comfort.  I seldom go downstairs anymore, but Ralph does.  I am a bit afraid to go down and find what changes he may have wrought there.  As he goes about his decorating chores, he gives quiet "Brrpp, brrpps" of satisfaction, much like humming to himself.  When I try to talk to him about this problem, this little red-headed boy gives me a look of wide-eyed innocence and assures me he has no problem.  Oh Ralph.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

To The Manor Born

One hundred degrees, no breeze, and a cloud cover that increased humidity.  It was not a day to take on any big or even little project.  I once had a relative who explained the reason she didn't do this or that menial task was because she'd been "to the manor born."  Although not born there, I spent nearly the entire day at the manor house, Downton Abbey, to be exact.  A fan of the PBS series "Downton Abbey" from the very first, I've watched every episode and had recorded several seasons.  Those were lost to me when the receiver was recently replaced.  As luck would have it, Deb and Craig purchased the entire set and loaned the DVDs to me.  I'd been saving them for just such a day as yesterday.  Once I'd figured out the complicated series of buttons that must be pushed in sequence on the three remote controls to get to the DVD player, I settled in to enter the lives of British peerage and those who serve them.  A far cry from Farview Farm and worlds apart, I sat in bibbies with a cat on my lap (too hot for comfort, but I wouldn't disturb her) and watched ladies in elegant dress and beautiful jewels upstairs and uniformed, hard-working servants downstairs in the Abbey.

Back to reality with a thud.  Time to put the goats in the barn and the chickens in their coops.  Amazingly, it only took that one night of herding the pullets.  They dithered as a group and then the little ones trooped in as if they'd always done so.  Good girls!

It doesn't appear to be any cooler today.  If you're looking for me, I'll be at Downton.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Yum Yum

The thing to do when it gets triple-digit hot is stand in the kitchen and make dozens of gyoza, garlicky Japanese pork dumplings, so that's what I did.  I had to go to the feed store anyhow and went on up the road to the grocery store for gyoza ingredients.  I figured the 75-pound bags of feed were safe in the back of the pickup or, at least, if someone were to steal them they'd be noticed.  The dumplings freeze well, but even so the recipe makes a lot, enough to share.  Camille was up for an impromptu meal that included roasted Brussels sprouts and joined me.  It's been years since I've made gyoza and they were every bit as good as I'd remembered.  Yum.

I'm about ready to change Squint's name to Cleopatra since a milk bath is now part of his morning routine.  Even though I put down his separate serving, he still came for a bite of the mice's breakfast and got a squirt in the eye for trying.

The pullets continue to cluster together but they all ran into the coop at dusk with the big kids, for which I was so grateful.  When the temperature soars, the air becomes heavy, so heavy you can feel it pressing on your skin.  It's difficult to breathe and chasing chickens was the last thing I wanted to do.

It's supposed to be hotter today.  Wondering what I should make for dinner tonight.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

New Kids

The pullets are definitely feeling like new kids on the block.  After their first night in with the big kids, they clumped together in a corner when I opened the coop in the morning.  I left them to work it out on their own and tended to other chores.  By afternoon they were out in the pen, running and fluttering their lopsided wings and having a gay old time.  Having done it a number of times in the past, I knew what was coming at sundown.  The rest of the flock knows the routine and heads into the coop without hesitation for their nightly treat.  The pullets, once again grouped together, had no idea what to do.  Herding chickens is much like herding cats.  They go every which way but where they should, and those little bird legs are faster than mine.  It's very much like being in a real-life pinball game as they ping around the pen.  Catching one and putting her inside, I'm grateful for the Dutch door to their house because I could shut the bottom half to keep her in while going after the others.  Bessie Anne wants desperately to help and runs around the fence line on the outside.  This isn't much help to me, as I'll get the runaways into a corner, be ready to grab one, and Bess charges the fence and the kids race away.  Drat.  Out of breath and out of patience, finally I dropped the last of the little ones over the door and was able to shut them in for the night.  I can only hope these new kids are quick learners.  Walking back to the house in the fading light, Bessie looked up at me and said, "Good job, Mom.  We did it!"  I'm sure she felt a high-five was in order.  I didn't have the heart to tell her it might have gone faster without her help.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Independence Day

Long may it wave.  I didn't take a photo "by dawn's early light" as there wasn't a puff of air moving when I ran the flag up the pole yesterday.  By afternoon there was a pretty stiff breeze and gave me the opportunity for this shot on the Fourth of July, 2014.

The day began with defeat.  I showed the white flag, I surrendered, I gave up and gave in.  Squint wore me down and I quit the fight.  He'd come in for the mice's breakfast, I'd squirt him, he'd give me the stink-eye (also known as the hairy eyeball) and, dripping with milk, he'd go on eating.  The mice were getting shortchanged on grain and there is a new class of kindergartners looking for food.  Discretion being the better part of valor in this case, I put down a small handful by Squint's "door" (the entrance he'd dug for himself into the milking room) in hopes we could all have a peaceful morning.  What's one more mouth to feed amongst so many?

This is what a player looks like when he's played out.  Ralph had been up to his morning zanies.  Don't ask me what he was up to in the empty bathtub.  I really don't know, but he made a lot of noise.  Cats really know how to r-e-l-a-x.

A couple of days ago, I did get the wings clipped on the two remaining pullets.  Last night it was time for the big transfer.  Additions to the flock have a much better chance for acceptance if they're put in after dark and the established chickens have gone to sleep.  Evidently chickens do not count beaks at evening roll call and are not surprised at new faces in the morning.  Even with my wonderful lighted hat, it was no easy task to get into the dog run, open the nighttime coop, and take one pullet at a time over to the "big house."  This ploy has worked in the past and I have great hopes for these little girls.  I know the roosters will be happy to see some fresh hotties.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Ralph's A Player

Longfellow wrote a lovely poem, The Children's Hour, about his daughters and their playtime at dusk.  Ralph, my furry boy, plays morning and night.  He rests during the day; he needs to keep up his strength.

Dogie, Bessie Anne's predecessor, loved her toys.  She never tore out the stuffing or chewed off a nose or ear.  Her favorite was a hedgehog that she protected and carried everywhere.  Victor, the cat who moved here with us, was also given toys (usually by Deb and Craig).  Victor never got to play with his toys.  Dogie, so careful with her own possessions, destroyed or hid nearly every toy Victor ever had.  Cat and dog got along beautifully, with this one exception.

Ralph began pulling toys out of Bessie's basket of goodies, dragging them through the house.  Bess doesn't seem to mind.  The other day I found a few little cat toys that had been given to Victor and I'd rescued before Dogie could chomp them to bits.  I gave these toys to Celeste and Ralph.  Celeste will occasionally wrestle with Ralph, but is too sedate to romp with a toy.  Ralph, on the other hand, went berserk.  His favorite is a small, furry thing about the size of and looking much like a hamster.  Ralph flings his hamster in the air, tosses and then chases the thing down the stairs, and rolls with it in paroxysms of ecstasy.  Unusual for a cat, he maintains sustained interest and plays for the better part of an hour with his toy.

Ralph also likes to play in water.  He patty-paws in the shower stall as soon as I step out.  He goes head first to splash in the toilet.  He sits on the sink to watch the water swirl as I brush my teeth, and would very much like to help wash dishes in the kitchen.

Celeste sits on my lap and we watch Ralph zing up and down the hall, race through the room, leap on the sill to bat at the screen to scare the hummers, and in general make a fool of himself.  Unless he jumps on sleeping Bessie Anne (and he does that), Bessie ignores his antics.  Celeste gives me a look and says, "He's a boy.  What're ya gonna do?"  Ralph's a player.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hen's Revenge

My intention yesterday was to clip the wings on the three remaining pullets when I let them out of their little coop in the morning while it was still cool (cool being a relative term these days).  Having learned from past mistakes, I clip the feathers on just one wing.  That throws the bird off balance so it can't fly.  They can still get lift if both wings are equal.  With that in mind, I clip the same wing on all birds so there's no guessing who's done and who's not.  Creeping into the dog run, I opened the door to the coop and grabbed the first hen out.  She voiced her displeasure but tolerated the procedure (it's very quick and painless, like getting a haircut).  But then, just as I was going to release her, she bit into my tender inner forearm and hung on.  Ow!!  I had to give her a tunk on the head to make her let go.  Nursing my bruised arm, I gave up on The Plan for the day.  Four down, two to go.

I really didn't think about it when I decided to make Margarita Chicken (tequila and lime sauce) over a bed of couscous and veggies last night.  In retrospect, revenge doesn't have to be sweet, but it can be tasty!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Drip Dry Day

Milking is a miserable chore when it's hot and there's no two ways about it.  Stopping to top off the water trough and sluice down face, neck, and arms on the way back to the house is mandatory.  Even so, I'm dry before I hit the shade from the oak in the driveway.

The window A/C in the bedroom cranked away while I balanced the checkbook and payed bills online but could do little more than stir the air in the afternoon.  It was better than nothing.  Bessie went out several times to wade in her pool, keeping to the shade to protect her poor little paws on the hot deck.  I pour water over her back to help cool her off.  She gives one shake and still is nearly dry by the time she's back in the house.

The few ants in the kitchen before have turned into tiny black rivers here, there, and everywhere.  I should be used to their annual appearance, but they drive me wild.  I stocked up on ant spray on my last trip to town and spritz a stream every time I go into the kitchen but they keep coming.

The most ambitious undertaking of the day was laundry.  I'm perfectly willing to let the machine do the hard work.  Not wanting to go out to hang clothes in direct sun during the middle of the afternoon, I waited.  At five o'clock it was ninety-five degrees when I hung the first load and put in the second to wash.  In that short period of time the clothes on the line were bone dry, and I'm talking heavy denim bibbies.  All three loads were dry before the critters' bedtime.

The pullets are big enough to transfer to the big pen.  Their voices, like teenage boys, have changed from the peeping and cheeping to deeper clucks.  I started the process of clipping wings last night and caught three of the six.  It's not easy when I'm bent over and crouched in their low, wire-covered pen, and they're fast little boogers.  I ended the day as I began, dripping sweat.

It's much cooler this morning.  So far.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

It's Belgium

You realize you're hard up for blog fodder when you take a picture of your feet in new shoes.  I actually did that, but some semblance of sanity returned before posting it.  What is it with shoemakers these days?  When I was a kid, I either outgrew the shoes or scuffed the toes badly.  Now, the soles come unglued and flap like clown shoes, and then I come unglued.  Going to town for a new pair wasn't a hardship in the heat yesterday; the truck has AC.  I ended up back in Women's shoes, FYI.

Worked on trimming up Bessie's coat a bit more before putting her in her wading pool for a quick dip.  Keeping animals, fowl, and plants watered is a full-time job when it's 100 in the shade.

It must be Belgium, because it's Tuesday.  Bess and I made the trash run down to the big road before sunup this morning.  And that's the big news of the day.