Sunday, August 31, 2014

Not Just Good

Some days are just better than others.  Some of those days come as a surprise, and some you're sure of from the git-go.  Yesterday was one of the best.  House jobs were finished early.  Barn chores went smoothly with the girls coming in on schedule (for a change) and I was done on time.  I was just getting the pecan pie ready to go into the oven when Deb and Craig arrived.  They had picked up KFC; that's a real treat for me.  Bessie Anne makes such a fool of herself when Craig comes up.  She's a gracious hostess to all, but she does have her favorites and Craig is highest on her list.  She can play him like a fiddle, flirting like a floozy and conning him out of special treats.  Ralph put in an appearance to grab a snack and check out the new people before going back to sleep in the shower stall.  Who knows why cats do anything?  Celeste gathered her courage and almost made it to the kitchen before turning chicken and running back to her hidey-hole.  I don't think Deb's ever seen her.

Deb and Craig drag me kicking and screaming into the 21st Century, with me yelling, "No, General Custer.  I don't want to go!"  They got me my first cell phone, of the flip variety, a long time ago.  I'd insisted I didn't need one, but it soon became part of my wardrobe.  Then they traded that in for a newer style, but still a basic phone (with a camera!).  They spent a good portion of yesterday showing me all the neat stuff they can do with their, what?, I-phones, Smart phones, Otter boxes, whatever they are.  Having dipped my toes into the cell phone waters, I think I'm ready to take the plunge and go for an upgrade.  I'm actually excited at the thought of learning all that new technology.  There's a nifty app (see, I'm learning the lingo) that shows the constellations.  The night sky is so clear up here and filled with stars.  I recognize the Big and Little Dippers, and that's the extent of my astrological knowledge.  It would be grand to identify others when Bess and I go for walkies after dark.  I'm learning to like this Brave New World.

It's always too soon for a visit with the Kids to end.  I prefer the hugs of greeting to the ones of goodbye, sweet though they be.  Shortly after Bessie and I walked back to the house, I glanced out and did a double-take.  Three of the pullets were outside the pen.  Those little boogers are faster than an Arizona road runner, so no way was I going to chase them down, and Bess is quick, but she'd run them to death, more hindrance than help.  Keeping a sharp eye out for predators, I waited until just before dusk.  Leaving the dog in the house, I put the rest of the chickens into the coop so I could leave the gate open.  The pullets dithered around while I got behind them and walked slowly as they ran the fence line until they found the opening.  One at a time, they ducked into the pen.  I followed, shut the gate, opened the coop door, and in they went.  Whew, easy peasy!  I see I need to clip wings again.

It wasn't just a good day, it was great.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

You Have Mail

A nice surprise awaited me in the email inbox, a note from Christopher, the young man who came here with the film crew a year ago.  Christopher was gathering data on those of us who are "megabloggers," frequent flyers on the internet, as it were, and he conducted interviews to fill in the gaps on why we do it.  The last I'd heard, the film Jesse made was going to a film festival, but I don't know how it did.  Christopher had said DVDs might be made available, but that hasn't happened yet.  In the interim, he sent a link to a website where the film can be seen and gave permission to share it. 
You can check it out at  Just remember that that "old" woman isn't the real me.  Except for the curly hair, I'm sure I look nothing like "her."  I'd love to get feedback from anyone who checks out the film.  The topic is interesting, I think.

Deb and Craig are coming up today and I am so very far behind in prep for my company.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Carpe Diem

Searching frantically through my mental files to find a subject for today, I glanced out the window to the east.  Believe it or not, what I saw was even more spectacular than this photo.  By the time I stepped outside with the camera, the brilliant reds had mellowed and in the minute it's taken to write two sentences, the colors have faded completely.  It's a metaphor for so much of what happens in life.  Missed opportunities.  Catching the moment.  Seizing the day, as it were.  So many times we look but do not see that which is right in front of us.  It is so easy to get tunnel vision as we focus on the task at hand.  I've talked before about my theory of Yesterday and Tomorrow people; those who only look backward for happy times and those who think they'll only be happy "when."  I've tried all my life to be a Today person, to appreciate that which is happening now.  That philosophy works for me, in that it makes for great memories and heightened anticipation.

Just think, had I not turned my head at the very right moment, I would have missed a gorgeous sunrise and wouldn't have had much to write about today.  Not much out of the ordinary happened yesterday.  I did watch two interesting documentaries about warthogs and honey badgers, but that was hardly blog fodder.  Time to get out there now and carpe some diem!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Doesn't Take Much

It doesn't take much to make me laugh.  It's a hoot every morning when I let the chickens out of the coop.  The Mafia Boys hang around waiting for me to throw down the scratch (they prefer it to the bird seed under the oak).  On some days I'm still in the pen when they fly over the fence, they're that bold.  What cracks me up is the hen who will take on a turkey four times her size and chase him around and finally drive him out.  "All for me, none for you!"

I haven't seen Squint, the ground squirrel I used to squirt with milk, in quite a while.  For that matter, Gary the Gopher hasn't put in an appearance lately, either.  However, there is a mouse named Mini-Squint who joins the tribe for breakfast now.  Mini-Squint also has a bum eye.  It doesn't slow him down in the least, but he keeps his good eye on me while he's munching and slurping.

Bessie Anne is a mellow dog.  She's not a barker, for which I am thankful.  It actually takes quite a  lot to upset her, but there is a ground squirrel close to the house that gets on her very last nerve.  The ground squirrels have an irritating, metallic, repetitive yip used by the look-out.  It goes on and on, and it's bad enough when they're down in the field or by the barn.  Bess often lies by the open front door to catch the breeze and keep an eye on the property.  When the nearby squirrel starts yipping, Bessie will take it as long as she can and then fires off, barking and turning to look at me as if to say, "Can't you hear that?  Do something!  Make it stop!!"  I go to the front door, the squirrel quits, and calm is restored.  For awhile.  I think the squirrel does it just to piss off the dog.

I had sent enough pecan pie home with Tom for his wife and daughter.  He called yesterday to tell me how much he liked it and had saved enough for one more plate.  "Didn't you share that?"  "Ohhellno!  I'm not going to share my pecan pie with anyone!"  Makes me laugh.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sign Of The Times

The ant invasion seems to be over, at least they're not appearing en masse as they were.  What I don't understand is, if they lay down a trail for the troops to follow to the goodies, why can't they tell when there's been a huge massacre?  I killed 'em by the hundreds and still they came.  I felt secure enough yesterday to put the cans of ant spray I'd had at the ready back into the cupboard.  Whew.

The vultures are gathering, more each day.  There were thirty resting in the barren branches of the dead oak over the barn yesterday morning.  Normally, these huge, silent birds fly off as I approach.  It was strange to walk slowly to the barn as they sat above and watched me.  Along about September 19-24, the vultures will get into formation for their migration to the Owens Valley.  It's an awesome sight I look forward to every year.

When Camille came over the other night, she brought a feather for me to identify.  She was not happy when I told her it was from a red-tail hawk because she'd found it in the open breezeway of her barn where her chickens live, especially because she's getting new pullets today.  I'm thinking the hawk lost it over her pasture and the wind blew it in.  The birds are pretty savvy about going into enclosed spaces.  Since it is apparently illegal to possess one of these feathers, I wasn't too happy with Camille because she left the evidence with me!

The last time I saw Tom, we had just had the Great Pie Day to celebrate family birthdays.  I described the "menu."  When I mentioned pecan pie, his eyes lit up.  "Would you make a pecan pie for me?"  That was months ago.  He gave me a day's notice that he was coming by yesterday for milk.  I think he'd forgotten all about it, but I surprised him with a pecan pie just coming out of the oven when he arrived.  He went away one happy man.  It's possible that Deb and Craig might come up this weekend.  It's a good thing I made crust for two pies because pecan is Craig's favorite and I'll be making one for him too.  I couldn't bear the guilt if I had to tell him I'd made a pie for someone else and not for him.  I don't have any buttermilk, or I'd make Deb's favorite, also.  Maybe next time.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dinner and A Movie

Tomatoes, eggplant, tomatillos, onions.  All that produce from the Farmers' Market still waiting.  Hmmm.  A day in the kitchen is a happy day for me, and yesterday was a good day.  I happen to enjoy eggplant.  That is a good thing.  Having grown up with meatless Fridays, aubergine (love that word) was served often.  I tried with my Kids and have dozens of recipes, but there isn't one who doesn't gag at the mention.  Evidently a taste for eggplant is not hereditary.  The cooking marathon began with fresh tomato marinara.  A minute in simmering water and a quick dip in an ice bath makes peeling tomatoes a snap.  While the sauce bubbled, I moved on.

I've made raw tomatillo salsa many times, but tried a new technique I'd seen by roasting the tomatillos, onions, and jalapenos before processing.  I wasn't really happy with the results; roasting brings out a sugary sweetness and I'd expected the almost-tart, citrus-like flavor of tomatillos.  The jalapenos mellowed and I had to add sriracha to give a little kick.  Edible, but not great.  One of those ideas that was great in theory but not so great in practice.

Ingredients on hand, eggplant Parmesan was the plan.  Crusted with homemade bread crumbs and grated cheese for added flavor, the golden-brown slices of fried eggplant were layered with marinara, mozzarella, and shaved Parmesan and baked.  It was everything I'd hoped for.

 Camille is a vegetable nut like I am, and accepted an invitation for dinner.  She brought a movie (Argo) to watch while we ate.  My house is such a disappointment for Honey.  Younger by years than Bessie Anne, Honey really wants to play and tries hard to get Bess to romp.  Bess looks at Honey and says, "Get away, kid, ya bother me," and lies by my feet.  Ralph has no fear of the big German shepherd, and teases her by rolling and stretching and peeking around corners.  (Celeste does her Houdini escape act and is never seen.)  Honey would like to play tag with Ralph, but he'll have none of that.  When Honey has tried every way she knows to get someone to play to no avail, she gives a "rowr, rowr, rowr" of disgust and goes to sleep.  She thinks I have a household of duds.

The evening was a success for everyone but Honey.

Monday, August 25, 2014


A number of his family and friends gathered recently to celebrate the long life of a grand old man.  The guest of honor was present only in everyone's heart.  Those who stood spoke of Bill's integrity, honesty, hard work ethics, and love.  We who sat in the shade of trees planted long ago next to Tinka's most beautiful gardens nodded in agreement and also learned things we'd not known before.  There were tears, but also moments of laughter; the funniest was when Tinka's longtime pastor began by saying how wonderful Maxine had been, supporting Bill and being constantly at his side.  Quizzical looks were being passed ("Who is Maxine?") and the pastor realized his mistake, calling Tinka by the first name that popped into his head.  I don't know that I've ever seen a man of the cloth so embarrassed.  The church ladies set up tables groaning with food.  Church ladies are good at that.  One introduced herself to me, saying, "I'm the head honcho."  My friend Kit, Bill's niece, had come from southern California with her two sons and we sat together.  I'd not met Jed and Jake; they're every bit as nice as their mother has bragged about.  Tinka is the most serene woman I've ever met.  I'm so glad we've become friends.  Bill sure would have enjoyed his party.

On the way home, I needed to stop and get restocked with chicken and goat feed.  I walked into the store I've been going to for seventeen years and was nonplussed when Joanie, the owner, stared at me and said, "Who are you?"  I thought, "Oh, my God, she's losing it!"  Then she said, "In all these years I've never seen you in a dress.  Where's your uniform?"  Maybe I should get gussied up more often and not shock the natives again.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

It's Magic

I am a proficient practitioner of magical thinking, been doing it for years and have it down to a science.  When I think a thing, consider it done.  For example, I might think, "Gee, I haven't talked to good old So-and-So for ages.  I must give them a call."  Then I'll imagine how our conversation will go; what I want to tell them and how they'll respond.  I can get quite detailed as I write the script.  Of course, I'm busy doing something while all this chitchat is going on in my mind.  By the time I get back to the house or done with the project, the thought of picking up the phone has left me.  Consequently, it may be a long time before So-and-So actually hears from me, but I'm satisfied because "we" had such a nice talk.

I've woken up for some time now envisioning planting the mulberry tree.  I know exactly what tools I'll need and where they are(!).  I'll use the big yellow cart to haul everything down to the field.  I remember that I'll need gloves.  I know it needs to be done before letting the goats out of the barn and before it gets too hot, or maybe after putting them to bed and before it gets dark.  And that's the sticking point; I run out of time or daylight.  Having planted it so many times now, I'm surprised to see the tree still on the front porch.

Time is also subject to my magical thinking.  I'm positive I'll have X much time to beat the deadline and can get such-and-such done well in advance.  This time I won't get caught with my dusting down.  This time I will get showered and out the door and not be late to an event.  It's not that I drag my feet or sit on my duff, it's that I always think I can do everything in the time allotted.  And how's that working?

Perhaps I'm not as proficient as I thought.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Telling On Me

Camille described to me a conversation she'd had with a county official regarding some of the discrepancies in the reverse 911 calls (automated telephone warnings issued in an emergency) during the recent Sand Fire.  She told of the one call she'd received about voluntary evacuation and that to Debbie K. telling of the all-clear (but no prior call telling her to get out), and an elderly woman up the road who hadn't gotten any notification at all.  I listened and started trying to figure out who else besides me on Gray Rock hadn't gotten a call.  Then it dawned - I was the elderly woman!  My years qualify me for the appellation, but I simply never think of myself like that.  However, it may explain the next event.

There are three remote controls to the left of my chair:  the television itself, the satellite dish, and the DVD/VHS player.  The wireless phone is to my right.  Yesterday I wanted to make a call to an unfamiliar number.  Phone book in hand, I punched in the numbers, put the phone to my ear, and wondered if it had gone dead.  No dial tone, no nothing.  Thinking I might have not pushed "talk," I looked at the phone and cracked up laughing.  In my hand was one of the remotes.  As Deb said, it might be a "universal" remote, but it won't do everything.

It's worth getting up early to see Venus and Saturn at their brightest and very close to the new moon in the east while it's still dark.  It's also worth it to see a doe and a growing fawn browsing on the oak over the woodpile in the pale morning light.

I don't mind telling tales on me.  If you can't laugh at yourself....

Friday, August 22, 2014

All The News

Five a.m.  A thumbnail moon still hangs in the dark sky in the east, only three inches or so over the horizon.  Ready or not, the seasons are changing and we're moving towards fall.  The patch of sunlight on the wall of the milking room that moves as the sun moves tells me daily that the earth is turning.  Instead of sliding straight down to the floor, now that bright square slips around the corner into the big room.

There are a number of oh-so-pregnant mice at the breakfast buffet these days.  Just what I need, more mouths to feed.  One character I am pleased to have back is my favorite spider.  His web was damaged and I thought he was gone for good.  I'm pretty good at catching flies for the daddy longlegs.  Others take my offerings as their rightful due; this little guy gets so excited when I drop a goody on his web, racing to see and then poking to see if it is "done" before wrapping it up and putting in his larder.

Red-tail hawks apparently are monogamous.  A pair has worked this area for as long as I can remember, nesting high in the pines across the road.  I wonder if something happened to one as a single bird (I can't tell male from female) cried continuously for as long as I was in the barn and later.  Or maybe it's mating season and one was either asking or boasting.

Ralph could give lessons in joy.  He finds pleasure in the little things of life:  a paper towel, a bottle cap skittering across the floor, the sound of knickknacks falling from a shelf.  Yesterday he amused himself for the longest time with a baby grasshopper that had found its unfortunate way into the house.  Later, I removed the remains.

There's a new Thing in town.  After a long hiatus, I am once again finding items knocked onto the floor in the feed room.  The lid was off one barrel last evening, but no critter was inside.  I've not gone into the middle room to see what the extent of damage is in there.  Sometimes I just don't want to know.

As it says in the New York Times, that's all the news that's fit to print.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


I dislike using power tools.  Ever since the time I accidentally sliced Steve's wrist with a reciprocal saw that bucked while I was cutting off an exhaust pipe (another story for another day), I have avoided power tools of any type.  I've been able to make do so far with simple hand tools; saws, hammers, and screwdrivers.  Sometimes you just have to face your fears and do what needs to be done.  A few days ago the bottom half of the Dutch door on the hen house dropped almost off, being held to the coop by one remaining screw on one hinge.  I knew what I had to do and I didn't want to do it.  There is a big cordless screw gun downstairs.  I've always been very good at handing it to whatever guy needs it and then stepping back.  I've not even been in charge of recharging the battery.  Dave had been using it when replacing storm doors so I thought the battery might be low.  Dave got a laugh when I had to call him to find out how to get the danged battery out of the gun.  Tired of manhandling the door open and closed and afraid the last screw would let go and the door would fall and squish a chicken, battery recharged and a supply of screws in my pocket, I went out to face Goliath.  A couple of false starts and a few dropped screws and, ta da!, mission accomplished.  Both hinges are firmly in place and the door is secure.  I'm going to put that on my resume.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Need A Push?

What with one thing and another, lately I've been lacking the incentive to attend to housework.  It's never at the top of my list on my best days, but it was time to do something about it.  To ensure that I stayed on track, I invited Camille and Arden for a Ladies' Night supper.  I wouldn't want to get caught with my housekeeping down and it was just the push I needed.  At the Farmers' Market, I'd bought a big box of fresh produce and was given pounds of wonderful just-picked tomatoes.  The red globes were perfect for Summer Tomato Pie with lots of cheese.  I wouldn't bother making it with anything but home-grown tomatoes.  The pie and green beans with olive oil, garlic, and balsamic added up to a light summer dinner.  Enjoyable company made the efforts of the day worthwhile, as I knew it would.

The hummingbirds have their own way of pushing me to do their will.  I'm scraping the bottom of the 25-pound sack of sugar (75 pounds so far this summer), and I've been stretching it out by waiting until all the feeders are completely empty before refilling.  Impatient, the hummers peer in every window until they find me and then bang on the glass.  "Lady!  Hey, lady, we need some service here!"

Something spooked the goats during the night.  Nervous as they came out of the barn, they snorted and stared, bunched in a group instead of going up for alfalfa.  I got a little spooked myself, as I'd read of several recent sightings of a couple of mountain lions and a bear in the area.  It's not surprising, as the wildfire undoubtedly pushed wildlife out into more populated space and domestic animals make for easy pickings.  Tessie needed a pull, not a push, to come to the milking room.  Failing to coax her with feed, I gave up and we started the long walk-around.  Fortunately, she wears a collar so all I needed was to get close enough.

Epazote has become the tattletale plant on the deck.  It used to be the comfrey that would wilt first if I were slow to water, but epazote has taken on the job of telling me to get the job done.   Sometimes I just need a push.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Turf War

It was a turf war of sorts, but subtle.  Stepping out on the deck, I caught sight of a doe grazing in the big orchard.  Like the goats, deer seem to have a fondness for dry leaves.  I think they liken them to potato chips as they crunch away.  The seven Mafia Boys who had been lounging in the shade of the shed evidently saw the deer at the same time.  The deer was several feet away from the feeding station and had not yet discovered whatever grain was left over from breakfast.  The turkeys were not going to take any chances.  All seven got up and slowly, and I mean slowly, walked past the deer and took up their positions under the oak.  Not realizing she'd been effectively blocked from the real goodies, the deer went on eating dry leaves.

Ralph claims any new territory as his very own turf.  If he had his druthers, he'd like a supply of flags to plant, proclaiming Ralphland.  I rarely use the dryer in summer, but ran out of clean socks and had no time to wait.  Ralph was mightily disappointed as I removed all the accessories from his new quarters, and even more upset when I hauled him out, too.

Why I think of this place as mine, I don't know.  Obviously, I'm a squatter here, living on everyone else's turf.  I appreciate their tolerance.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Dark Side

The morning went well and I was on schedule.  Some personal stuff cropped up and the day did a flip to the dark side.  Scrambling to stick to the plan, I felt like a puppy trying to get traction on a tile floor, moving like mad and getting nowhere.  I wish I'd had time to take a photo of the tarts; they were absolutely gorgeous, if only an hour late coming out of the oven.  Coursing back and forth through the house like a bird dog on the hunt, I'll bet I passed the very thing I was looking for fifteen times.  Stop.  Take a deep breath.  Look again.  "Aha!  There you are, you booger!"  (Smack self on forehead.)  Eventually, I did make it over to Tim and Kathryn's place.  They had invited a larger number of participants and it was fun to meet new people.  I was sold out of product as soon as I opened the cooler.  Cam and I took separate trucks yesterday.  She sells eggs.  She'd called earlier and asked if I had one spare egg as she was short for the last dozen she'd packed up.  During my frenzy, I washed the one egg requested and to keep it safe, put it in a small, clean, empty sour cream container in the refrigerator next to my cheese so I wouldn't forget it.  At the big barn where the sale is held, Camille asked if I'd remembered the egg.  Proudly, I got the container, held it out, and let her look at (wait for it) the last of the sour cream.  Somebody got a helluva deal on eleven eggs.  Some people are one brick shy of a full load; I was one egg shy for a dozen.  And I should probably stock up on bricks.

Back to the dark side:  during the recent fire, Tim and Kathryn had to evacuate, not only themselves, but over 100 goats!  Driving over yesterday, my jaw dropped when I saw the devastation the fire wrought to acres and acres of land.  Trees hundreds of years old blackened and burnt on hill after hill.  It was simply unbelievable that the flames had stopped precisely at the other side of a narrow paved county road fronting Tim's property.  Bell Ranch was completely unscathed, not a leaf nor blade of grass had been scorched.

It was nice to end the day on the bright side.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Taking the Heat

As the saying goes, "If you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen."  It was a pretty hot day anyhow, so how much worse would it be to run the oven?  I got it in my head to make cinnamon buns to take to the Farmers' Market, in addition to the feta and chevre cheese.  Ended up spending most of the day in the kitchen, actually one of my favorite rooms in the house.

While the cheese was draining and the dough was rising, Bessie and I went out to water plants on the deck.  A live band at a nearby winery was covering Carole King and then morphed into Santana, making for a lovely way to spend time outside.  Seven young tom turkeys hang out here almost all day, every day.  As I moved along the deck above, they meandered through the back yard and into the orchard, making small talk among themselves.  Neither Bess nor I hold any intimidation for these boys.  Bessie has adopted my practice of moving slowly in their presence and she can walk within feet of the turkeys and not spook them in the least.

The aroma of baking bread tinged with the scent of cinnamon is heavenly, worth all the effort, I promise.  The cheese turned out well, too.  My prime objective in making chevre was to make goat cheese and caramelized onion mini-tarts as my potluck offering.  That means a good part of today will also be spent in the kitchen.  I can take it.

Saturday, August 16, 2014


Cheese, cheese, cheese.  I have made cheese every day this week to fill orders for feta at Tim's sale tomorrow.  I don't know what to call these events:  farm sale, open air market, possibly just an excuse for a get-together once a month.  Cam brings eggs, I have cheese, the vet's wife makes wonderful bread.  Tim and Kathryn provide the main dish and the rest of the attendees bring potluck side dishes.  I did have one batch of cheese "blow up" on a particularly hot day because I let it drain too long.  It didn't go to waste as the chickens love cheese.  Feta needs a few days to mellow out the salt, so today I'll make chevre.  Because it does not have salt for preservation, chevre must be fresh.

Pricing my product, be it cheese or any other craft, has always been a problem for me.  I rely on my daughter to make the decision on cost as I tend to underprice the items.  She does a lot more shopping than I and is able to price my product competitively.  I hesitantly put a $14/lb tag on feta, and gasped when I got orders for six pounds this week.  To me, that's a lot of money.  However, I just went on line and found that some producers are charging $11 and up for 8 oz.  I do know that the price of feed has gone sky high.  Alfalfa has risen from $6/bale when I started with goats up to nearly $20, especially at this time of year, and I'm not buying the premium stuff.  A bag of grain is just shy of $24 and lasts less than ten days.  The girls go through a bale of alfalfa a week.  Not taking into account the labor involved in milking or making the cheese, I guess that $14 a pound isn't asking too much.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Ralph Plays Rough

Ralph got carried away.  It's one thing to explain a paper towel in the living room, but quite another to say that "the cat did it" (yeah, sure) and left shredded paper in the dining room.  I would just as soon not have Ralph learn the joys of ripping up stuff.  With guests coming yesterday, I removed Destructo's latest toy.  I left the Santa teddy and all the others as he would have dragged them out again anyhow.

The morning had started with a rush.  Camille had to make another trip to Reno, leaving well before dawn, so I went down to feed Shadow and Cricket and let the chickens out of their stall.  Cricket, the donkey, is in the habit of waiting for Cam up at the house so they can walk down to the barn together.  Sure enough, there he was.  It took a little convincing to get him to follow me.  Shadow, the mini-burro, could not have cared less who was going to feed him as long as the apples got put in his dish.  That done, I needed to get home and do my own chores.

Dave and a friend, John, drove up as the last goat left the room and I finished up in the barn.  The guys spent a couple of happy hours down in the shop, making sure the big air compressor worked (it did) and browsing through the many, many miscellaneous tools.  As Dave said, every time he does that, he finds goodies he'd overlooked before.  John decided to buy the compressor and a box of other stuff, and arranged with Dave to have the compressor delivered.  That will give me another chance to see my Kid.  I gave the guys lunch, and then they had to take off.

With temperatures rising, not much else got done the rest of the day.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Doesn't Take Much

I was having one of those "blues and blahs" days that everyone gets now and then.  Forcing myself to do something productive is one way to overcome negative feelings.  Going through the dining room on my way to do something else, I noticed that a sheet of paper towel had fallen to the floor under the table.  As I bent to pick it up, Ralph zinged past me and grabbed it, pulling it to the other room.  My house looks like a daycare center at all times, with kitty and dog toys scattered about.  Now I've got real trash in the living room too.  Ralph would fling the paper into the air, run underneath as it fell, roll with it wrapped around his head, all the while making his happy "Brrp brrp" noises.  That cat entertained himself for the longest time, making me laugh out loud.  He made me think of the little kids who would rather play with the wrapping paper instead of the gift inside the box.  Ralph is a living example that it doesn't take much to be happy, and I'd rather leave the paper towel there and explain it than take it away from my cat.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Not A Total Loss

Any day with my boys is a day well spent.  Just because not everything went as planned didn't mean it was a wasted day.  One of Dave's buddies bailed at the last minute so I couldn't pull one off door duty to plant the mulberry.  I had to move the tree up onto the porch because deer were eating the leaves at night.  It's still on the porch.  Dave and Bird went out to swap the disintegrating door on the feed room for a new one.  Dave came back, "Well, it's not good news."  After taking the old door off, it turns out the new door is about four inches too small.  Since I measured and know what I requested when I bought all three storm doors, it's my fault for not checking the boxes before accepting them.  The guys were able to jerry-rig and reinstall the old door.  Maybe it will last another year.  Or not.  Steve would be so pleased to know I've got a brand-new spare door in case I ever need one.  He was a man who thought if one was good, six would be better.  There are probably seventy-five screwdrivers in a drawer downstairs.

While the storm door fiasco was going on, Clay went to work painting the wood posts under the deck.  He'd planned on staying the night and finishing the job today.  He found out before he left home that he'd been called in to work so had to go back before dark.  So much for that plan.  He had more bad news.  One of the support beams is rotting out and needs replacing.  I'll have to give the logistics of that a little more thought.

I spent most of the day in the kitchen making potato salad and Rodeo sandwiches for lunch.  With the work projects halted, the guys sat at the counter, ate and told stories.  Dave and Bird wanted to beat traffic and so roared off on their Harleys, and Clay went back down to do a little more painting.  I cleaned up from one meal and started on the next.  The Orange Chicken had been such a success when I made it the first time I wanted to make it again, with fried rice with veggies on the side.  Clay and I were able to squeeze in dinner before dark when he had to leave and I had to put the kids to bed.

The tree isn't planted, the storm door isn't changed, the trim isn't all painted, the trash isn't loaded in the truck.  I got to spend the day with my boys, and they will be back.  It was not a total loss.  It was a good day.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Stuff Of Dreams

I was having a perfectly lovely dream the other night when a strange lady (in my dream) came up to me, never said a word, raked my arm with her fingernails for no good reason and walked away.  It seemed so real, if inexplicable.  I could feel the pain and almost surfaced out of sleep, but the woman was gone and I just went on with whatever I was dreaming.  In the morning, when I saw blood on my arm and on the sheets, it took me a minute to realize it was not from the woman who had so rudely interrupted my dream.  Bessie Anne had evidently turned over in the night and caught me with her toenails, caught me good.  It's so funny how the real world can enter the dream world.

Yesterday was a nightmare of another sort.  An electrical storm blew in, seemingly out of nowhere.  The sun was shining and the sky was blue overhead.  Suddenly there was a clap of thunder that shook the windows.  The turkeys outside went crazy, yelling and running around.  The herd of horses next door went racing back and forth, all neighing loudly.  Bessie Anne darned near climbed into my lap and the cats ran under the bed.  There were dark clouds over Placerville and I could see lightning strikes and the thunder continued to roll.  Of course, the power went off about then and stayed off for a couple of hours, more or less.

An outage in winter is an inconvenience.  I can stay warm with the wood stove and the cooktop is propane.  I can collect rain or snow for water if it's out for long.  In summer, it's just plain awful.  The ceiling fans which make heat almost bearable stop and the air is still.  There is no relief, inside or out.  I had been sitting for a cool-down after chores, planning to take a much needed shower and put in a load of laundry.  So much for plans.  I had to laugh; Tree Guy lives close by but down in a cut, and he drives up here to see what he can see, be it smoke or weather, from my hilltop.  He showed up yesterday.  We watched the storm move up the corridor to the mountains.  The horses' hooves made their own thunder, matching that from above.  Bess would not leave my side, almost tripping me as we walked out to the point for a better view.

TG left, and I considered what I could do next.  Everything that needed doing needed electricity.  I had dusted (yes, believe it or not) the day before, so I couldn't even do that to fill time.  I couldn't do dishes, I couldn't do laundry, and I sure wasn't going to go work outside in the heat.

When the power came back (yay!), I double-timed everything and took off for grocery shopping in town.  The fellas are coming up today and I needed to get started prepping food.

And such is the stuff dreams are made of (with apologies to Shakespeare).

Monday, August 11, 2014

It's Working

Before the SPCP (Society For Prevention Of Cruelty To Plants) comes after me, I feel it necessary to defend my position on my boot camp for foliage.  It is said that which does not kill us makes us stronger, and that is the premise of the shape up or ship out program.  Steve gave me a tiny Zygo cactus (Christmas cactus) back in the mid-1980s.  It has been repotted any number of times, lives in the round room, has grown large, and blooms every year.  Miniature roses on the deck were brought from the old house nearly 18 years ago; I don't remember how long I'd had them there before we moved.  They bloom tiny red and white roses annually.  Hyssop is a wimp plant that has never thrived in camp; I quit trying.  The philodendron in the living room has moved from one table to another for nine years, fading and rebounding wherever it is placed.  I thought I'd lost it when I recently left it in the sun on the deck after giving it a much needed shower (it was dusty), but it came through the crisis and is recuperating nicely, a testimony to its strength of will.  Two African violets have sat on windowsills in the round room, drooping now and again under benign neglect.  Yes, I make them beg.  Both are perky (at the moment) and full of flowers.  An azalea under the deck couldn't cut the mustard and was washed out of the program.  In 1995, I took a new job.  In the office where I was to work, the previous employee had left a potted Chinese evergreen plant that was gasping its last breath with its  three remaining leaves.  I asked if I might tend it and was given permission.  That evergreen lives in the bathroom, full and bushy, and still puts out white lilylike blooms every year.  It gets a drink of water only after its done calisthenics, bending to touch its toes.  A friend would come to my house and surreptitiously put a finger in the dirt of a limp potted plant.  "Stop that!  I saw what you did.  That plant needs to finish its bend-and-stretch before it will get a drink!  I won't tolerate weaklings."

Yes, I'm a tough DI, but I can't argue with success.  Whatever might be thought of my methods, the program is working.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Thin Lizzie and Me

"The Boys Are Back In Town" played in my head all day yesterday, albeit a few days prematurely.  Clay had already made plans to come up and Dave informed me in the morning that he and a couple of Freed Spirits buddies would also be arriving on Tuesday.  They've all got projects planned, and may include planting the mulberry tree on the list; lucky me!  My job will be to feed 'da boys;' my pleasure, as always.  They put in a request for what has become their traditional bacon, egg, cheese, and onion sandwiches.  I'll need to restock the larder today.

Ralph wakes up in a feisty mood.  He romps across the bed in the dark a few times to make sure Bess and I are awake.  He zings up and down the hall while I make coffee, ambushing Bessie and Celeste from around corners as they grump into the kitchen.  He was particularly pesky this morning, to the point that Celeste took him on in the bathroom behind me, wrestling and growling, a real cat fight.  Bessie Anne lies in the knee-hole of my desk with her head on my feet when I'm at the computer.  Evidently the cats got on her last nerve today because she bolted out and broke up the battle, not letting Ralph even come back into the bedroom.  Quiet reigns once more and Bess is back to warming my toes.  Celeste has gone back to sleep in her little cat hammock.  Ralph is down the hall somewhere, nursing hurt feelings and probably planning a coup.

And so our day begins.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Joyce and Me

I read somewhere that the two best times to plant a tree are twenty years ago and right now.  The tree project that began last year in the goat pen had one failure.  Out of the five trees planted, the most critical tree, the one that started the whole thing, the one I wanted to provide shade for the barn, that tree died.  I had such hopes.  Fortunately, the nursery down below Diamond Springs had a few more Pakistan mulberry trees.  Yesterday I took aluminum cans to the recycling center and got enough money to fund another tree, a really healthy-looking specimen.  I need to get it in the ground before milking or the girls will strip the leaves while I'm digging the hole.  Fingers crossed.

It's bothered me that I did not mention a couple more inspirational mice yesterday, the county mouse/city mouse from Aesop's Fables and Beatrix Potter's Mrs. Tittlemouse.  Credit should be given where deserved.

I'll go along with Joyce Kilmer, who wrote, "I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree."  Surrounded by oaks, pines, cedars, and many others, I still want more.  I particularly want one more mulberry tree to grow and thrive and provide shade and fruit for me, the goats, and the birds.  And, okay, the ground squirrels.  Sort of.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Love Affair

The heat from the valley is pushing all that lovely cloud cover that kept us cool for a couple of days up and over the foothills.  Sure makes for some impressive afternoon thunderheads.

My mother was the next best thing to phobic when it came to mice, therefore I find it ironic that she unwittingly fostered my love for the small creatures.  Two of my favorite books as a child were Stuart Little and Walter the Lazy Mouse, both read over and over again.  Having a mouse for a pet was unthinkable in our house, but I was always delighted to find one in the feed bins at my aunt's.  She, like Mother, would run screaming.  I never understood that reaction.  My own colony down in the barn have learned the routine as well as the goats.  They come early for grain, but know that the milk will not be served until Sheila is on the stand.  Inga, first up, has nondirectional teats and I can't squirt with any accuracy over to the milk bar.  Ten or fifteen mice of all ages begin to congregate as soon as Sheila puts her head in the stanchion.  If they had tiny cups, I can imagine them banging on the table with impatience.  I direct a stream over to the side and the mice converge, lapping up the pools and puddles and sipping from the wipe I placed for them.  Good to the last drop!

After a slow start, yesterday was a good day.

Thursday, August 7, 2014


Blank page.  Blank mind.  One of those days when I must leave it to the reader to fill in the blanks.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

I Wonder

What is it, I wonder, about putting fresh sheets on the bed that makes cats crazy?  Ralph is not the first cat I've had go bonkers as I make the bed; Frank and his predecessor, Victor, also went mad as March hares on laundry days.  Female felines like Celeste and Pearl seem to understand this is a chore and not a game and ignore the whole process, letting staff do the work.  Ralph pounced on every crease and corner as I spread the bottom sheet, claws out as if he were fighting demons.  He played hide-and-seek as the top sheet floated down.  It's very difficult to make a smooth bed with a large lump tunneling across like a high-speed mole, and tucking in must be done quickly before I'm tagged as It.

What is it, I wonder, that makes the bathroom a favorite meeting spot for cats?  Privacy is a thing of the past.  Going potty is considered a social event.  They will come out of a sound sleep to join me, even if I try to sneak in.  We use our respective litter boxes, and sometimes Ralph and Celeste have their buns in their box at the same time, facing in different directions.  Personally, I think this is carrying togetherness a bit too far, but then, I'm not a cat.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Alpha and Omega

Yesterday ended as it had begun, with a light pattering of rain.  How welcome it was to walk to the barn with skin damp from an external source for a change.  Not enough to even settle the dust, anything falling from the sky discombobulates the goats so our rehearsed routine went kablooey.  At first they didn't want to go outside, and then they broke back into the milking room twice while I was cleaning the stalls.  I heard my neighbor who was working in his vineyard laughing as I was yelling, "Bad goat!  Bad goat!"  (And other epithets.)

Another ten-degree drop in temperature brought us down into the eighties, wahoo!  Absolutely invigorating!  I know it can't last, but I can most certainly enjoy it while it's here.  For days, the most exercise Bessie had was moving from one spot to another, trying to find someplace cooler to sleep.  Yesterday she took herself on a little walk all the way down the drive and back, checking the perimeter, as it were.

The battle with the army of ants continues.  There must be a huge colony in the walls, as they come out of the electric sockets and light fixtures.  I kill them by ones and by hundreds.  Being in the kitchen, I can't use spray on the counters so swipe them away with a sponge and drown the enemy.  Paranoid, I peer under cabinets, behind utensils, and along baseboards every time I walk through that room, breathing a sigh of relief when none are found and cussing a blue streak while reaching for sponge or spray can when one of those long black trains is spied.  This is an annual event.  One of these days they will go as quickly as they came.  I hope that day comes soon.

There was no problem in putting the girls to bed last evening.  They beat me to the barn.  Ants notwithstanding, it was a good day.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Dressed Down

Scrub jays may not have the brilliant plumage or flashy crest of their cousins, the Steller's jays, but they take the prize for chutzpah.  Scrubs are among the variety of sparrows, etc., that I clump together as "barn birds."  The barn is really a noisy place on any given morning as the birds gather for a klatch, but it is the jays that fly into the milking room and help themselves from the feed bucket; the sparrows have better manners.  Tending to business, I was cleaning one of the back stalls yesterday when a young scrub landed on the wire grate covering the window opening and proceeded to give me "what for."  I've not had such a dressing down in ages.  I'm not sure if my offense was my simple presence on his turf or he was complaining because I was slow laying down breakfast, but it was clear he was not happy with me.  His harangue was loud and long, lasting the entire while I was in the stall.  I tried to explain I'd be done and out of his way in a minute, but he wasn't having any of it and continued to screech at me until I took bucket, shovel and rake and left.  You've not been scolded until you've been scolded by a scrub jay.

While not ready to put on a parka, the ten-degree drop in temperature to 93 yesterday felt almost cool.  It was quite wonderful not to drip sweat while milking, although the humidity was higher because of the cloud cover and caused a film of clinging moisture on the body.  (I don't know which is worse.)  With the change in weather, I summoned enough ambition to hunt for Ralph's missing hamster toy.  I discovered his catnip mouse halfway down the stairwell.  While crawling around the rooms, looking under and behind furniture, I realized that Ralph was creeping alongside, joining the search.  I found several of my pigs he'd knocked off shelves while he was redecorating, but we never did find his hamster.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Tough It Out

I'm a firm believer in exercise.  No!  Not for me; anyone who knows me also knows it's inconceivable I'd do such a thing.  However, I run a boot camp for plants, indoors and out.  I think it's healthy for the green and growing to stretch the limits of endurance.  The rules are explained to every new plant brought to the farm.  There will be no mollycoddling.  This is no place for wimps.  They must learn to suck it up and they'll be the stronger for it.  Flexibility is a must.  They will be deprived and rewarded.  Just when they think they'll die from lack of water, bent over and touching their virtual toes in defeat, they will be given the life source and spring back time and again.  Faded foliage will not be tolerated; chlorophyll is their personal responsibility.  Should they be of the flowering variety, they will be allowed to keep the results of their efforts as I prefer to see blossoms on the plant rather than cut and put in a vase; that should be consolation enough.  I do believe in second chances and on those occasions when a plant appears to give up, I maintain hope and wait for resurrection.  It might take as much as a year for one that seemingly expired to quit hiding from the program and put out a green leaf; I'm very patient.

As I look out the window this morning, I see that the deck plants are wilting.  It's obvious that they need another pep talk (and a drink of water).  In the meantime:  "One and two, and one and two!  Touch those toes!  Bend and stretch!  No whining there in the big pot, get a grip!"  I can see I've got my job cut out today.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Au Revoir, Downton

Extreme heat robs me of ambition and energy.  I've been able to escape by going to Downton Abbey.  I was raised at a time when Emily Post and Miss Manners ruled, before Dear Abby and the tell-all gossip columns.  As children, we were taught the protocols of behavior that would be expected throughout our lives, protocols that may seem stultifying now but put secure boundaries in place then.  Boiled down to essentials, it seems to me that courtesy was the underlying foundation.  In the process of progress, some of that has been lost, I fear.  At any rate, I've appreciated that aspect of life at Downton.  The women upstairs have worn some of the most beautiful clothing I've ever seen, dresses that made me gasp (just as their corsets took their breath away).  Men in evening dress, ohmigosh, so elegant even a homely man looks handsome.  I'm just glad I don't have to starch and iron those shirtfronts.  Romance, intrigue, comedy, murder, wonderful characterizations (I even enjoy hating smarmy Thomas), my time at Downton has been so pleasant.  Years ago when I read Shogun by James Clavell, I so loved the story that I put the book down before the last chapter because I didn't want it to end.  Of course, I did read it all later.  I feel the same way about Downton Abbey and so it was with great reluctance that I watched the last episode available to me yesterday.  I'm so glad to know there is another season waiting in the wings.  Where shall I go now?

Quail are such shy little birds.  It took years for colonies to move on to the property, so it was a great surprise when I saw a covey cruising through the herb garden yesterday.  I've never had them come so close to the house before.  Cam and I were mentioning the other day that we've not seen many baby turkeys this year.  There was one train of youngsters that ran through here some long while back, but that was it until this morning.  Just before dawn about ten poults, maybe a month or two old, came up the hill with their nannies.  Nice to see.

Temperature dropping into the 90s is predicted for this week.  That may not seem like much but, after the last few days, it will be so welcome.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Talking To Strangers

Against all advice to the contrary, I often find myself talking to strangers.  To the husband standing or sitting by the dressing room doors while wifey tries on something new, I might say, "They also serve who only stand and wait."  To the elderly gentleman wearing Madras plaid Bermuda shorts with black dress socks and wingtip shoes, "Whaddya say, Sport?"  If a child says, "Excuse me," or some other polite comment, I might tell the mother, "You're doing a good job."  While shopping yesterday, an older dude in a cowboy hat and waxed mustaches six inches long to either side (no, really!) was humming a happy little tune as he went up and down the aisles.  When I passed him several times in different areas and he was still humming, I finally told him,"You've got to control this unbridled joy.  It's contagious and pretty soon you'll have the entire store infected!"  At the grocery store later, I saw what the woman ahead of me at check-out was buying and ran back to pick up a like carton, and told her, "I was fighting temptation so well until I saw your Rocky Road ice cream, and I lost the battle!"  It's amazing how a throw-away line can put a smile on a stranger's face.

One hundred-three degrees yesterday.  I hated to leave the dog and cats in the house, but I did a runner and took the air-conditioned truck to town.  The day before I'd gone to the feed store but hadn't unloaded a bag of feed, just too damned hot to face it.  It wasn't until I'd made the first stop to pick up Bessie's heart-worm meds that I saw the bag still in the truck bed.  Then, of course, I worried about leaving it unprotected.  There doesn't seem to be much of a demand for lactating goat chow because no one ripped me off while I made other, lengthier stops.  It's still in the back of the truck, still too hot to put it away.

In one regard, writing these daily entries is another way of talking to strangers.  It's all about making someone smile.