Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Lost Cause

Some days you just have to wonder "why?"  The front walkway was looking pretty good after the clumps of wild grass were cleared away.  Oaks have been busy covering the herb garden with a layer of mulch, but foot traffic (Bess and mine) kept the path open.  Yeah, and how's that workin' for ya?  Ginger and her two cohorts fly the coop daily and yesterday they ventured into the front garden.  I can't help myself; I love to look out the front door or windows and see chickens in the yard and hear them gossiping among themselves.  TG stopped by to give me an estimate on extending the water line to the trees.  I stepped out the door as he got out of his car.  He got as far as the walkway and said, "Wow!  Did the wind blow every leaf in the county here?"  The walk was wall-to-wall ankle-deep in leaves.  The little red hens had cleared the herb garden and scratched everything into the path.  Why do I try?

There is a success story of sorts, however.  The last few nights at bedtime, Miss Ditz has actually gone into the hen house with the flock.  It takes a bit of coaxing, and she's the very last one, but she does finally come into the pen to join up with the others.  It's not the safest thing to let the chickens free range during the day, but it was the nighttime that really had me worried.  It's been years since I've seen raccoons here, but I know they're out there.  Foxes hunt at night.  Even though she'd tuck herself in a corner on top of a bale of straw, I worried about this little girl alone in the dark.  I breathe a sigh of relief when everyone is tucked in.

Guilt ridden, I dusted.  Then I heard the tractors down the hill at Robert's for the grape harvest and watched the dust roll in.  It's a lost cause.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Heaven And Earth

Last year my niece sent me the most wonderful gardening gloves.  They're made of some space-age material, so thin I can feel the difference between a weed and a "plant," flexible, with a good grip.  The problem is, I don't often set out to do weeding, it's an impromptu thing with me.  After a drizzly start to the day yesterday, Bess and I went out in the afternoon for a walk and a breath of fresh air.  My motivation usually comes after the fact.  Before company comes and I'm rushing around, "good enough" seems the order of the day.  After they leave, I look at the place through their eyes and think, "Oh, good grief, I should have done this, that, and the other thing!"  I get used to seeing things a certain way, so it's not a problem for me.  Stepping off the deck, I actually looked at clumps of tall dried weeds nearby.  With damp soil, they were easy to pull out and didn't take much time.  My girl and I walked on to the drive and into the front yard.  It had gotten way too hot before I finished weeding the lavender bed this year.  "Well, that looks like hell.  What must my guests have thought?"  And I started pulling weeds.  I did think of those wonderful gloves sitting in the drawer, but knew if I broke the momentum, all would be lost.  And so I kept on weeding.  I like weeding.  Who wouldn't like a worthwhile project outside on a warm afternoon, my companion close by and with a view like mine, heaven and earth right in front of my eyes?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

No Complaints

The sun played peek-a-boo in the clouds all day.  I could get used to this Goldilocks weather; not too hot, not too cold, just right!  After a spell of inactivity, I needed to get outside and do a little work.  That higgledy-piggledy wild grass the turkeys love had jumped the boundaries of the herb garden and moved over into the walkway.  With a root ball the size of a football, it has to be dug out and the dirt beat out of the mass of fine roots.  It's a chore.  Moving down the path to the side, digging as I went, evidently Bess felt I should clear the front walkway instead and she came and lay down right over the clump I was ready to attack and wouldn't budge.  I know when to follow the supervisor's directions.  Marjoram, yarrow, and thyme have also crept out of bounds, but at least there's a reason to keep them and they're not rampant and they smell good when stepped on.  It was warm enough to work without my jacket on.  Digging and beating, I cleared the walkway of two huge armloads of wild grass before calling it quits.  I sat for a few minutes on the porch in the afterglow of a job well done, watching the army of clouds march up from the valley to organize over the hills behind me.  I had no more than walked into the house when the first roll of thunder came.  Following my instincts, I hurriedly turned on the dishwasher, made a pitcher of hummer juice in advance, and unplugged the computer.  Bang!  Lightning flashed, thunder rolled, and the rain came down in buckets.  It went on and on.  It was late afternoon, but early by the clock for the kids' bedtime.  However, it seemed prudent to put them all in for the night and out of the wet.  Gearing up, I went out in the downpour.  Believe me, there was no hesitation on the girls' part; they couldn't wait to get inside.

Back in the house, I was called to duty and put on my Smokey Bear hat to look for the smoke Cam thought she saw.  Lightning can equal fire even in the rain, but fortunately it was not the case this time.  The truck isn't going to know how to behave; it hasn't been this clean in ages.

With wind changing direction constantly, discretion called for almost closing all windows or getting soaked sills.  I broke down and put the comforter back on the bed before gathering the snugglers last night.  It's hard to believe that a week ago we were sweltering, but a twenty-degree drop in temperature has really chilled the house.  I'm not complaining.  The rain has come at night and doesn't interfere and the days are perfectly lovely.

It was a good day.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sitting Around

I've been pretty sedentary the last few days, but there's a reason.  The cool weather has made a lap-kitty out of Celeste.  In addition to herding me to the kitchen for treats, she now directs me to my chair and darn near pushes me into it, immediately leaping to my lap and settling in.  She smacked Ralph's face when he thought he'd like to try cuddling too.  With the deliciously chilly nights, my sleeping habits have changed.  Bess jams up against my back, Ralph sleeps on my feet, and Celeste once again picks the prime real estate in the warm curve by my belly.  We're a cozy bunch, but it prevents me from turning over as is my wont.  Ah, well.  As long as they're happy.

It's no longer necessary to be on watch for the King fire.  Rain again last night put a real damper on the dragon (but brought danger of mudslides), and it's wonderful to know that the firefighters are beginning to demobilize.  We're not out of fire season yet, but at least one monster has been put at bay.

The little red hens are running with the big dogs now.  I look out to see them scratching and pecking in the midst of the flock of turkeys under the oak.  They look like puppies amongst dinosaurs.  Two come right to me at bedtime, eager to go in the coop, and Ginger has found her niche on a bale of straw in the hay section of the barn.

Enough of this sitting around.  I need to get something accomplished today.

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Day At The Movies

A steady, gentle, soaking rain fell during the day.  Loving that sound and the feeling of being cool, bordering on cold, for a change, I bundled in a quilted jacket rather than close the windows.  Disinclined to do much of anything, I sat with Celeste on my lap for added warmth and played reruns in my mind of good times spent with Dolly and others who are no longer with me.

Steve and I used to throw parties at the drop of a hat for a coterie of friends known as The Wild Bunch.  None of us had little kids, so no babysitters required.  We celebrated holidays, of course, but some parties were for no good reason at all.  Deb, single at the time, was a member in good standing of The Bunch.  We all went camping together for Thanksgiving and at New Year's (campgrounds are nearly empty then and we had the park to ourselves).  It was at one of our Halloween costume parties that Clay became a welcome addition to the family.  (Like the Man Who Came To Dinner, he came to the party and virtually never left!)  The Millennium celebration was a gala affair.  All women in evening wear and men in tuxes or fancy dress.  Champagne and dancing.  Midnight buffet while listening to Kenny G. playing Auld Lang Syne.  Toasting each other with memories of other good times.  Burying a time capsule on New Year's Day with artifacts contributed by everyone.  Dolly and Dan, Deb, Steve and I used to go to every little local fair in the valley:  the Courtland Pear Fair, the Dixon Lamb Fair, the Yolo County Fair, and every Highland Game, etc.  Just after Thanksgiving, we'd all go down the river road to a Christmas tree farm and pick out our cut-your-own trees, then come home in the blustery weather and have a hot Irish coffee (or two).  The guys played lumberjack closer to Christmas and that was cause for another party.  Poker games; many, many of those. 

My birthday gift to Dolly for years was a two-week vacation up here.  Steve was working, so it was pretty much a girls-only time together, special for both of us.  Deb and Craig were married here, with close to 200 guests expected.  Dolly volunteered, and we spent two weeks before the wedding planting fresh, all white flowers on the deck and in the yard, setting up the bridal arch, and the myriad other details for such an event.  I did all the cooking that could be done ahead for the wedding brunch and breakfast the next day.  Dolly and I laughed like loons, exhausted, and I never could have done it without her.  My God, we did laugh.

The photo was taken yesterday afternoon when the rain Dolly brought had stopped and the sun came out.  Bess and I took a walk, breathing in the scent of newly washed pines and damp earth.  Some of the memories brought tears, but most, like rainbows, brought joy.  I realized I didn't need to say goodbye to my friend; she'll never really leave.  My mother used to say that you live as long as someone speaks your name.  Mother was wise in her way.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hello, Dolly!

Nothing like putting your guests to work.  Richard had made a very kind offer of help, and we'd planned a particular job for him while I tended to barn chores.  Because of circumstances, that plan went by the wayside but that didn't get him off the hook.  That carefully swept deck was again ankle deep in leaves; that's what we call job security.  As I was gathering buckets, Heidi grabbed the broom and started in.  Poor gal, she got stuck working while Richard walked with me into the drive to watch the gathering of vultures.  "Thanks a lot, Dad."  She did a bang-up job, and then I watched her face as the wind kicked up and more leaves fell right where she'd just cleared.  After lunch and with a long drive ahead, Richard and Heidi packed up, gave me hugs, and drove away.  It was an informative and interesting visit.  Both father and daughter are world travelers with tales of far-away places.

Some things shouldn't be put off.  The remainder of the day was a do-nothing day, and a nap was on the agenda.  Planning a trip to Sacramento today, I rested and recharged my batteries, so to speak.  I needed to get down the hill to say goodbye to my friend who was in the last stages before dying.  I waited too long.  Dolly, of "She Who Brings Rain" fame, died last night.  I had no more than texted a good-night message to her when her daughter sent a text back saying Dolly had just passed.  We've been friends for such a long time, close to 25 years.  We've laughed and cried together, often at the same time.  It's hard to think we won't be making any more fun and wonderful memories together.

Would you believe it's  raining here?  Well, hello, Dolly!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Just Keep Moving

"Goosey Goosey Gander, where shall I wander?  Upstairs and downstairs, and in my lady's chamber."  It's an old nursery rhyme, but it sure fit me yesterday.  Such a flurry of housecleaning!  All done but for - wait for it - dusting the living room before my guests arrived.  Hey, I'm not superwoman.  (I told them it is my guestbook and they could feel free to write their names.)  Why is it, I wonder, that there are always a cobweb or two that hide until visitors come?  I could have sworn I got them all.

Short shrift on the blog this morning.  I need to get a jump start on breakfast.  And, if they sleep in a bit, I may even get some dusting in before daybreak.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The White Rabbit

"I'm late, I'm late for a very important date!"  This statement by the White Rabbit seems to be my theme song.  My mind is filled with ambition and plans; it's the rest of me lacking in follow-through.  One day of push hard is followed by do nothing.  Unfortunately, yesterday was one of the "do-nothing" days; doubly unfortunate because company is arriving today.  It reminds me of a time years ago when I was leaving work early because an appraiser was coming to look at the house and I wanted to get it spiffed up.  One of my coworkers said, "What are you worried about?  You have a pig living in the house!"  That was when Louie, the pot-belly, was little and before he moved outside.  In Louie's (and my) defense, he was potty-box trained.  Hopefully, Richard and his daughter Heidi will take into account the country conditions and give me a pass.  Or not.

Ginger remains at large.

UPDATE:  6:54 a.m., 9/22/14, 87,592 acres, 7,388 personnel, 35% contained.  Sounds like they're finally getting a hold on the dragon.

Things to do, places to go, even if it's only down the rabbit hole!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Start To Finish

One way, perhaps the only way, to find cat yark on the floor in the dark is with bare feet.  Guaranteed success every time.  What I don't know is whether the cat carefully plans placement in the path of the unsuspecting, or if feet have naturally built-in sensors for the substance.  Either way, that was my eye-opener and beginning of my day yesterday.  (Yes, I believe in omens.)

Ginger, aka Miss Ditz, came out from under the feed barn when I came out and we did our laps again.  She won.  Again.

Drastic changes in the weather affect the animals in the goofiest way.  It's as if the ions get them all charged up.  Cool, almost misty, and overcast yesterday, the girls were struck giddy.  During and after the milking routine, they did their hobby-horse galloping around the pen and, not fighting, had jousting matches, one against another and changing partners.

I don't know if two more of the pullets were coaxed out by Ginger or were overcome with jealousy of her freedom, but they joined the little renegade and spent a joyful day out of the pen.

My day was spent in a race, with its own set of frustrations, to get ready for the Farmer's Market.  It's always a pleasant event, made even more so by the much cooler weather.  It's the deadlines and packing up that are a pain in the patoot.  On the way home I saw large herds of deer in the fields by the road, undoubtedly driven to more populated areas by the recent Sand fire that had burnt their usual habitat.

Come evening, two of the little red hens came running as soon as they saw me coming.  "It's She Who Feeds Us!"  They were on my heels when I opened the gate and needed no chasing down.  And then there's Ginger.  Who knows where she was.

Because I had to deal with the eager runaways, I was late getting to the goat barn.  As my punishment, not one of the girls would come in, not even Poppy.  Poppy has a more forgiving nature and finally pushed her way to her room, but her roommate, Sheila, was holding a grudge.  She and the others stood at a distance and just looked at me.  Poppy had gobbled down the nighttime treats and started bellowing for Sheila.  When Sheila relented and came in, Poppy came out when I opened the door and we started all over again.  It would take too much time to describe the rest.  Suffice it to say I was running back and forth like a demented thing, opening and closing doors, alternately coaxing and yelling at the hold-outs, and, as darkness fell, getting the last goat into the barn.

It was one of those days, start to finish.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Outside Looking In

Ginger, the escape artist (remember "Chicken Run"?), made it through the night before, I'm happy to say.  She is a dingbat, however, and is still on the loose.  This little birdbrain evidently has forgotten that I am the She Who Brings Food and only remembers I am She With Dog, even though Bessie Anne remained in the house.  Ginger saw me, squawked, and went running down into the orchard.  We walked back and forth together (at a distance).  Trying another approach, I threw down the scratch in the pen, propping the gate open, and headed her in that direction.  We started doing laps, first in one direction, then another, with Miss Ditz going past the gate every time.  With chickens to let out and goats to milk, I gave up.  When the flock came out of the coop, Ginger desperately wanted to join them.  Chicken herding is a two-man job; one to open the gate when the hen is close enough and one to chase the chicken.  Can't leave the gate open when the others are in the pen, or there'd be no chickens in the pen, period.

Hoping Ginger had learned her lesson, I went out in the evening to tuck everyone in.  That was a futile hope as we had a rerun of the night before and once again I had to leave her to her fate.  I'll bet she was one sorry chicken.  Well after dark, a big thunder-and-lightning storm rolled in, with strong gusting wind but only a smattering of rain.

There has been no update since 9:30 last night, when the King was at 81,994 acres.  Fingers crossed that no new fires were started by lightning.  Hwy. 50 through Placerville is lined with signs thanking the firefighters, and placards hang on every overpass.  Camille called with a full report, saying that she had talked with a firefighter from Orange County who told her that he'd never seen such community support.  "We never see anything like this at home."  I've heard that no personnel can pay for anything in any restaurant; either the food is given free or the bill is paid by patrons.

UPDATE:  7:15 a.m., 82,018 acres, 5,094 personnel.

No update available on Ginger at this time.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Spoke Too Soon

Taken at the usual site yesterday morning.  Thick smoke in every direction.  How bad was it, you ask?  Bad enough that when some idiot started another fire (quickly put down) right around the corner alongside the road, I couldn't find any new smoke amongst that already drifting from the King.  Now that's scary.  The wind had shifted to the northeast and was blowing smoke back to the southwest.
Sunrise yesterday.  Look hard to find the sun.  The taste of smoke all day yesterday.  Small potatoes compared to what it must be like for the heroes on the line.  As of this morning, 80,944 acres; at least it isn't going forward like a freight train, but still far from contained.

One of the pullets jumped the fence and was happily scratching and taking dust baths under the lavender behind the first shed, unconcerned by the tom turkey who was courting two females nearby.  I don't speak the lingo, but that boy was sweet-talking those girls big time.  I didn't know a turkey could coo.  The hens were nestled down in the santolina, listening to his spiel.  In the turkey world, the hens get to make the choice and this fella was giving it his all.

I really don't want to go outside this morning, afraid of what I might find.  The little pullet has come out before and then gotten herself back in the pen again, so I didn't think too much about it when I didn't see her last night and let Bess come with me to put the kids to bed.  I was just starting to count beaks in the hen house when the escapee came out from under the feed barn, headed for home.  Bess took one look and took off, scaring the little kid back under the barn.  Bess thinks she's helping.  I locked Bessie in the feed room and coaxed and begged the hen to come out.  Not happening.  Finally, I had to give up and the dog and I went back to the house.  I hope the little red hen survived the night things.

Friday, September 19, 2014


After nearly a week of seeing the terrible smoke cloud, this was a most welcome sight yesterday; cloud cover with moisture (we didn't get any rain, but that's okay).  These clouds were moving north over the burn area and gave the firefighters a bit of a break, at least enough to get containment at the south end near Pollock Pines and Placerville.  Cooler weather also slowed the fire's progress:  76,389 acres as of 6:30 a.m. today.  It is, however, heading up toward Tahoe.

Camille said that when the firefighters have a few hours off duty, they seem to find peace and respite from the danger and chaos by walking quietly among the animal pens at the rescue site at the fairgrounds.  The locals have really stepped up for the influx of personnel (4,429 on site):  free food at many restaurants in town, as well as food brought by neighbors; a moving company that has offered to evacuate anyone in need; Dr. Ric (my vet) opened his office to care for small pets and, if necessary, board them; and, of course, those like Camille who take care of displaced livestock.

Whether accident or intentional, it seems that this fire was set by man, not nature.  Five million dollars a day is the cost of fighting the King.  A man was arrested yesterday and his bail was set at ten million dollars.  How could anyone possibly recompense the State for expenses, or the families who were driven from their homes, or the firefighters for putting it all on the line to save lives and their families who send them off to work?  If intentional, no punishment is great enough.  If accidental, the person responsible is too dumb to be left out in society.  Just sayin'.  (And I'm not saying that the man arrested is the perpetrator:  innocent until proven guilty.)

In between making cheese, checking fire reports, and entertaining an unexpected guest, had to zip into town yesterday.  Needed to shop for groceries for next week's visitors.  It's somehow surprising that life goes on as usual during times of stress.  (Still haven't dusted.)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Tale Of The Dragon

9/17/14, 9:30 p.m., 27,930 acres.

I recently read that a firefighter said there is a dragon in every fire.  The King fire dragon is a living being, devouring everything in its path, breathing flames and belching smoke.  The smoke cloud changes character hourly and it is awesome, in the most powerful sense of the word.  Like watching an impending train wreck, it's impossible to turn away even knowing pain and devastation will follow.  I had several different vantage points yesterday when I made a quick run to the feed store.

9/18/14, 6:46 a.m., 70,944 acres.

Winds were strong out of the southwest yesterday, driving the fire northeast up towards Hwy. 80 and closer to Lake Tahoe.

Regardless, life here goes on as we know it.  Once again I'm in the throes of making cheese for Sunday's Market.  The heat caused three batches to blow up and all had to be thrown to the chickens.  Time and resources wasted.  Tim commissioned me to paint identifying signs for each of the vendors, but it's hard to sit and be creative when dripping sweat.  Out-of-towners are coming for an overnight visit next week and that sends me into a tizzy.  Heidi, whom I've never met, is a Bay Area city gal and I had to warn her to bring old clothes and, especially, old shoes.  Women have shown up before in high heels and fancy dresses; doesn't work here.  This is the worst time of year to show off Farview:  dry, brown, hot, dusty, and dead leaves cover everything (including the dratted deck again).  Bessie stands at the edge of her pool and I splash her with warm water.  There is no room for her amongst the leaves in the pool.  Robert was in the midst of a crush yesterday morning.  Evidently something went wrong with the auger.  I heard him yelling, "Turn it off!  Turn it off!," and it ground to a halt.  I didn't hear it fire up again.  White smoke to the north, blue smoke from the south.  (I've heard Robert before.  He's French-Canadian and can cuss in several languages.  He puts me to shame.)

I'm dragging my feet today.  I know I've got to dust, and I don't want to.  See how I am?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

King Fire

The King fire continues to be uppermost in the minds of all of us hill folk.  The photos I've posted have been taken from the same vantage point on my deck at about the same time every day.  Bad enough when this monster was gobbling up un- or sparsely inhabited acreage toward the northeast, it was scary to see yesterday that the direction had shifted to the west (dark smoke on the left).  It's headed toward Pollock Pines and possibly Camino.  As of 10:30 last night, the fire had burned 12,780 acres, still definitely out of control.  Hwy. 50 has been closed.  Due to the excellent efforts of the many, many firefighters on the ground and in the air, so far no structures have burned.

Camille was again called out to work with Animal Rescue.  Honey is staying with Debbie K.  Cam was on the road, headed back to get her animals tucked in and to pack up sleeping gear.  She was to be on duty at the evacuation center in Placerville all night last night.  Horses and cattle would be checked every couple of hours.  Poor goats, the throw-away animals, had to be housed elsewhere as the fairgrounds had no stalls or corrals suitable for these escape artists.  It must sound like Noah's ark, what with the chickens, turkeys, and pheasants(!) yelling at the top of their lungs.  Animal Control has charge of dogs and cats.

My own home front is a little more secure now.  Dave and Clay showed up before I headed to the barn and went to work right away replacing two support posts under the deck and were done shortly after I got back to the house.  It really helps when the supervisor knows what he's doing, and Dave is the go-to guy in the family when it comes to construction.  When I went to sign off on the work, I had to laugh.  Dave had told me to "stay off that corner," so I'd carefully avoided "that corner."  When I saw which posts he and Clay had removed, they weren't from "that corner."  The repairs were made directly under the area where I had been blithely walking and watering plants, etc.  Ignorance is bliss.  The guys headed back down the hill before I could feed them lunch.  So grateful for their help, I felt bad that they went away with empty bellies.

Sunset last night was beautiful.  However, it was scary because those aren't dark clouds drifting across the sun and valley, it is smoke.

UPDATE:  6:45 a.m.  Fire has burned 18,544 acres.  Burning trees falling across Hwy. 50.  Oh crum.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

And Growing

As of 7 p.m., the King fire had spread to 8,600 acres, traveling up the Hwy. 50 corridor.  This beast is moving fast.  Containment had been at 10%, now dropped to 5%.  There are a couple of community websites, full of panic and wonderful offers of help, places to bring animals and homes and centers opened for evacuees.  Those with scanners do a great job of sending out warnings.  As I learned during the Sand fire, one can't rely on reverse 911 calls.  Well out of the path here, all I can say is that the smoke clouds are fearsomely awesome from a distance.  This was taken about 4 p.m. yesterday.

Here at home, Mini-Squint continues to amuse.  He is fearless (maybe that's how he ended up with one eye).  I know he sees me, but refuses to budge from the milk-soaked wipe or piece of grain as I move about the room.  He has darn near run over my foot if I'm in his way.  Pretty feisty little twerp for a mouse.

Continuing to learn new tricks on my phone, I found the emojis all by myself!  I have as much fun with ring tones as with anything else.  Like the house cell phones, the tunes put a smile on my face.  I've changed Siri; living in No-Man's Land as I do, it's nice to hear a male voice once in awhile.  I need to leave the iPhone in my pocket today; the boys (Dave and Clay) are coming up to work on the deck supports and I haven't done a single thing to get ready for them.

Thankfully, it is supposed to be cooler today.  Not only am I relieved for myself and the animals (yesterday was sweltering), I'm grateful for the boys and the firefighters.

UPDATE:  7:15 a.m.  Fire has grown to 11,570 acres, 5% contained (which means they haven't got a grip).

Monday, September 15, 2014

Not Over Yet

Busy learning new stuff about the iPhone, I wasn't paying much attention to the outdoors until Camille called to tell me about the King Fire east of Pollock Pines.  The fire had started the day before and had been held to about ten acres.  It jumped the lines during the night and by 11 a.m. it was 100 acres.  There was a knock on the door.  Tree Guy and Mrs. TG had come to Smokey's Place to see what they could see.  (I really do need one of those hats.)  At this point in the afternoon, the fire covered 1,000 acres and last night it had grown to over 3,000.  It's always informative when TG comes to look for smoke.  This plume, he told me, is in three layers.  The dark shelf at the bottom is true smoke, ashes, and the burning embers that sends the fire on ahead.  There is an orange-red layer above that which is the true heat of the fire, and the white topper is a cloud formed by moisture created by the fire itself.  He said he's worked wildfires where that cloud would actually create a thunder-lightning-rainstorm overhead.  Yubanet.com is about the only website that gives up-to-date information.  Later on in the afternoon, Camille called again to say the animal rescue group to which she belongs had been activated and she was heading out; would I put her animals to bed?  Cam's group works with large animals only, helping to find space for livestock and has trailers standing by to move them.  I'm so proud of her.

In between checking yubanet and playing with features on the phone, I didn't get much done the rest of the day.  Too hot to do anything, anyhow (90 degrees at 9:00).  Come sundown, I put my kids to bed and then went to Cam's.  Cricket and Shadow were waiting in the near-dark up by the house, impatiently waiting for their nighty-night treats, and followed me down to the barn.  Cleverly remembering to take my lighted hard hat, I was able to count the chickens in their two stalls and shut them in.  All present and accounted for.  Cam had told me to go down late because the eight pullets, like all little kids, were reluctant to go to bed while it was still light.

Deb had also been playing "new phone," and sent me a message just before I went to bed about emojis.  I'd never heard of such things (it's a brave new world out there!).  She promised to tell me about them today.  Linda had told me earlier about the voice-activated texting aid.  Man, this is a steep learning curve I'm on.

This morning the visible smoke is not as high, but has definitely spread much farther to the northeast.  Pretty obvious fire season is not over yet.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Good To Go

It took some doing, but I made it to the phone store just under the wire to meet Deb and Craig.  It was one of those days when I hit every one of the seven signals in Diamond Springs on red, even though I was saying, "Green, green, green!  Come on, gimme a green!"  I even said please.  It turned out that Deb was also upgrading and we got the same phone, which meant we could, in theory, help each other with the learning curve.  I say we, but the truth is my daughter and son-of-another-mother bought my phone as an early birthday present for me; about nine months early.  The new phone has lots of bells and whistles and a touch screen (more about that in a minute).  The Kids picked out a case that is waterproof (probably because I put my old phone in the washing machine - twice), dust proof, and, just in case I am trampled by a herd of angry goats or turkeys, break proof.  All the syncing and switching stuff was done at the store.  I was itching to get my hands on the phone so I could start playing.

But first, I'd promised the Kids lunch at Bones.  On the way, we passed hundreds, literally hundreds, of bikers.  I knew Dave had organized a Mystery Ride but didn't remember that it was the day for Kacie's Ride For Hope, plus it was Saturday and good (hot) weather to be out on a motorcycle.  Bones being a biker bar, we were lucky to find parking space and there was enough leather in the bar to cover a football field.  They were a happy bunch, with many clubs represented and a lot of "civilian" independent bikers.

Back home at last, Craig took his obligatory nap while Deb and I got out our new toys.  Deb's phone had to be charged so we started with mine.  Aarrgh.  We ran into one problem after another.  That which should have been easy turned into an exercise in frustration.  One by one, we (she) got this and that working.  And then.  And then I tried using the blankety-blank touch screen to text.  I flunked texting over and over.  Cuss words flowed like water downhill.  We tried to find the instruction guide online (I'm big on instruction manuals) and ran into more problems.  Deb was as patient as could be.  Craig, wanting to help, cleaned the filters on the two little window air conditioners (I didn't even know they had filters).  Manual located (we'd asked Siri; yes! I now have Siri!, but Siri insisted on looking for Manuel), wrinkles ironed out, it was time for the Kids to leave at sundown and I can only imagine their relief as they drove away.  Goats and chickens put to bed and calm restored, I played with my toy until, believe it or not, I was texting and sending like a pro, those big old thumbs finally under control.

I was good to go in more ways than one.  My personal shoppers had brought up a new supply of two-ply TP.  (Photo taken with new phone!)

It was a good day.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Hog Heaven

The girls are in ecstasy.  I'm doling out that fragrant grass hay from Wyoming.  They would make pigs of themselves if given half a chance, so I'm rationing it.  And for dessert, my neighbor to the south is forking over grape stems after the crush.  There is so much sugar in the stems, it's like candy for the goats.  (I think there's a little fermentation going on there, too.)  When they see Robert heading toward the fence, they rush to greet him, followed by plodding Poppy.  I try not to get my feelings hurt because their love affair with Robert is brief and only once a year.

It's a fact of life that as one gets older, skin becomes more delicate and tears easily.  I'm constantly getting nicks and bruises on my forearms.  Even a stiff stem from a flake of alfalfa will punch a hole.  My skin rips like one-ply toilet paper.  Which brings up a point.  I once read an article asking, if one were cutting costs and saving money, what would be the one "luxury" a person would not do without.  Some answered with Starbuck's coffee, fancy shoes, etc.  My luxury item always would be two-ply toilet paper.  There are a lot of things I would forgo, but you'll always find two-ply in my bathroom (with the end coming over the top toward the front).  That makes me happy.

Friday, September 12, 2014


No use crying over spilt milk, but a few choice cuss words will get you past it.  "Kick the bucket" has a different meaning when dealing with dairy goats.  It's been quite awhile, but Sheila caught me (and the bucket) off guard yesterday and two goats' worth of milk went on the ground.  I was just very happy that it did go on the ground and not on the milking stand where I was sitting.  I've sat in a lake of warm milk before and, trust me on this, it's not pleasant.  I learned a long time ago to use two buckets, just in case, so there would be some product to bring back to the house.

"If I'm lyin', I'm dyin'."  Told you yesterday that leaves were falling.  This is the deck after just one day.  If I were obsessive about such things, I could sweep leaves daily, but it takes as much work to sweep a few and not nearly as satisfying as brushing a mountain down the way.
This is the short section by the dining room, also leaf strewn.  Bessie Anne, my constant companion, is becoming a photo bomber, trying to get in every shot.

I've taken to sitting at the new little table in the late afternoon.  The view doesn't have the same scope as the bench on the south side, but I can watch the chickens, busy little creatures as they are.  Two of the pullets flew up to the top rail of their pen fence.  I thought, "Oh, oh.  They're making a break for freedom," but it turned out they were getting a different perspective and strutted back and forth, showing off in front of their grounded sisters before fluttering back into the pen.  As I watched, a pair of young ground squirrels got in with the hens and played a rousing game of tag, racing up the ramp into the coop and out again, sliding down the ramp and in between the chickens.  This is my brand of reality TV.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Time Traveler

Watch the look on a little Kid's face when a grizzled grandpa or wrinkled grannie says, "When I was a child like you...."  Kids simply cannot make the connection.  Children cannot project into the future, but the elderly spend a lot of time in the past.  I did a bit of time travel myself last night as I fried potatoes for dinner.  I was going to pour the bacon fat from the BT sandwiches into the coffee can for used oil, but then remembered how good my mother's fried potatoes had been.  Once upon a time (in the 1940s) every kitchen, at least every kitchen I knew, had a jar or can for drippings.  Persnickety housewives would strain the fat from bacon or pork chops, but my mother appreciated the flavor of the fond (the little browned bits left in the pan) and left the lard as is.  At one time during World War II, the grease cans were saved and given for the war effort.  I can't imagine what the government did with all that bacon fat; I guess it was the precursor to recycling.  It sure put a crimp in cooking.  Butter was almost impossible to get, rationed and requiring coupons to buy when it could be found.  That was the advent of margarine, then called Oleo, and, believe me, it did not taste or look like butter.  Willing to do her part, Mother did contribute grease, but held some back for us.  Bacon fat went into the bottom of the cast-iron skillet to make cornbread.  White bread was fried crisp and brown in the fat after cooking pork chops.  No one had heard of cholesterol in those days, and somehow we managed to survive.  All this was going through my head as I thinly sliced potatoes, skin on, and browned them in bacon grease.  Who knew potatoes could be a time machine?  They sure were good.

Bessie Anne appreciates not having to wade through mounds of dried leaves on the deck, and I appreciate her not bringing in and dropping leaves throughout the house.  Take a look while it's this clean.  More leaves are falling even as we speak.  Like dusting, it's a never-ending job.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Respect Your Elders

Dave has years of construction experience and was the logical choice to ask for help with the failing deck posts.  He and Clay came up yesterday to take a closer look.  Clay may have made a tactical error when he told Dave, "You're the boss."  Older brothers naturally assume that is their position anyway, but to be given the verbal okay solidifies their attitude, as Clay found out when he was given the tape measure and told to do this or that, go here or there.  Every job needs a supervisor and one can't argue with success, but every so once in awhile my oldest boy needs a reminder that I've still got seniority.  Clay is so good natured, he went along with the program (after all, he'd taken the helper's role voluntarily).  Kathy V. had given me three beautiful home-grown tomatoes that were perfect for BTs (BLTs without the L) for lunch.  Usually I hand out the sandwiches as they're made, but with sibling rivalry on the line, I had the boys (grown men, but my boys always) wait until I could serve them at the same time.  They do so make me laugh.  I have more smiles in my future because the guys will be back next week to replace two posts.

The leaves are off the deck.  Check that from the list.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

It's On The List

It was on the list to get the table and chairs I'd won out of the truck and reassemble the table yesterday.  Check.  No spare room in the house.  Where to put the new acquisition?  I think it goes quite nicely out on the covered part of the deck.  The colors go well with the pale yellow house, and it will be a pleasant place to sit in the shade or out of a summer rain.  Rain, you say?  Why, yes.  Yesterday began with a smattering of rain, only enough to dampen the deck, but it did rain.

One thing does lead to another.  The list has included raking leaves off the deck for some time now.  It's easier to ignore the list than one might think.  However, the new-to-me, gently used table should not have to sit on a ratty-looking deck covered with the fallen stuff and so it was time to take a look at the list.  This is the "before" picture of the long section behind the house.  Unfortunately, there is not enough room under the railing to just push the leaves off so they must be broomed all the way around.

This is the half-done results.  And this is where I stopped for the day.  The sun had dropped and putting the kids to bed was enough of an excuse for me (any excuse is a good one).  Dave and Clay are riding up today to assess what time and materials will be necessary to repair or replace the support posts under the deck before I have to put up yellow caution tape.  The leaves may have to wait.  Now where did I put that list?

Another photo from the goat show.  The end.

Monday, September 8, 2014

New Old Friends

Kathy V. and I have known each other for some long while, "talking" often via email and FB messaging, but until yesterday we'd never met.  Kathy V. (she's always "Kathy V." to me) is the friend of a friend of a friend and we were "introduced" because of our mutual interest in goats.  Kathy V., her husband Richard and granddaughter Violette, traveled six hours with six goats in tow to a sanctioned goat show in Placerville.  Knowing she was so close was an opportunity I wasn't going to miss.  Finished with my girls, I made a dash into town to the fairgrounds.  Walking toward the goat barn, Kathy V. waved at me from a distance.  I knew it was her by her by her hat.  How did she recognize me?  Maybe it was the bibbies.  Introduced to Violette, Richard, and the goats, it felt like I was joining old friends, and not at all like meeting strangers.  Kathy V. was the inspiration for a novel by Earlene Fowler, "The Saddlemaker's Wife."  The book is a fictional mystery, but Kathy V. is, indeed, the wife of a saddlemaker. I've seen pictures of Richard's beautiful creations.  He's an artist in leather.

When three goats had to be in the ring at the same time, Richard got called into service with Violette while Kathy V. took another goat into another ring.  Violette, age 8, coached her grandpa and answered the judge's questions.  Emily, Violette's sister, had not been able to come, but Violette is a veteran of the show circuit and took a second place ribbon.

Even I got into the act and was made to feel useful.  Dairy goats are not milked before judging, allowed to overfill, sometimes to the point of leaking, to show off their udders.  It's an act of kindness to milk them out after their turn.  This girl is like Inga with teensy-tiny titties, hard on the hands, and I spelled Kathy V. for awhile.  Goats will sometimes protest when strange hands take on the chore, but this girl and I got along fine.

To cap an already fine day, I had bought five tickets for the fund-raising raffle and won two major prizes!  I brought home a lovely painted drop-leaf table and two matching chairs, and traded Kathy V. a king-size comforter for a bale of Wyoming high-mountain grass hay.  It was also a way to thank her for the goody-bag she'd brought me with copper boluses for the goats, figs (she knows I love 'em), homemade syrup, and I don't know what else.

It was a long, interesting, fun day, and it was hard to say goodbye to my new old friends.  Need I say it?  It was a very good day.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Pay It Forward

Uncertain about her future, my friend Linda is undergoing changes in her life and facing new challenges.  We talk frequently as I fall into the "been there, done that" category and when I say, "I understand," I really do.  There are those times when iron will fails and determination falters, when "I can do this" turns into "I need help!"  Linda found herself working on a project in her home and nothing was going right (sound familiar?).  Days of trying, spending money and time, and nothing worked.  It puts a ding in your pride to throw in the towel, but sometimes there's nothing else but to call in a pro.  Linda made the call.  Lock Guy and wife (remember my Go-To Guy and his wife who have come to my rescue many times?) came within the hour, he fixed the problem in minutes (and how frustrating is that?!), and most amazing of all, he traded his time and expertise for the new locks Linda had bought and didn't need.  He didn't charge her a dime!  That act of kindness when it was so needed brought my stoic friend to tears.  In an attempt to help her pay it forward, I promised to put Lock Guy's website here in hopes of giving him more exposure.  Linda lives two states away, up in Washington.  I'm not sure exactly how it works, but even if you don't need a locksmith and you aren't anywhere near Ballard, Washington, it will help him if you check the website ballardlockandkey.com.

It occurred to me yesterday as I looked at Bessie Anne that she bears an amazing resemblance to Rod Stewart or, conversely, that Rod Stewart looks a lot like Bessie Anne.  (Sorry, I don't seem to be able to turn off the italics.)

We aren't making points in the neighborhood this morning.  Bess leaped from bed at 4:30 and ran barking to every door.  Not about to let her out at that hour, I made her wait until just before daylight when I know the neighbors leave for work.  She's been outside barking off and on, running around like a nut, ever since.  I can see or hear nothing, but something has had her going.  I don't know what it is, but she's "protecting" us from something and for that I am grateful.  Funny little girl.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Not In Kansas

As Dorothy said to Toto when they landed in Oz, "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."  Pulling into the parking lot at the bank yesterday, I looked around at the various vehicles and saw this.  Note that there is even a rifle in the saddle scabbard.  Well, as I've said, this is country living at its finest.

On the way home during what passes for "rush hour" traffic up here (that's a string of at least six cars), I passed a bad accident on Bucks Bar Road.  Traffic was being directed by a couple of CHP officers and some civilians.  On my way again, just after crossing the almost-dry Middle Fork of the Cosumnes river, I did a double take when I saw a large black llama about to cross the road.  I came to a near stop and threw on my flashers.  Llama stepped back to the side, where I could see one or more others on a little side road.  There are very few places to pull over on Bucks Bar, so I had to wait until I turned onto the "really" big road to stop and call 911.  "What emergency are you reporting?"  "I need to report a loose llama on Bucks Bar Road before there is an accident."  "A loose what?!"  "Llama.  A loose llama."  I'm sure the dispatcher had to do a reality check, too, to make sure she was still in El Dorado County.

It was an interesting trip to town.

Friday, September 5, 2014

New Leaves

"Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better."  My mother had sayings for every occasion, and this is one she'd use if I were trying harder.  Well, I'm trying harder here.  Yesterday I was trying not to run as late as I had been.  Why is it that bad habits are the easy ones to achieve and harder to break?  Anyhow, even though I was "on time," (it's not like I'm punching a clock) this squirrel was waiting and giving me what for.  I've named him Gene Krupa because he starts drumming his feet when he wants me to step away.  The little barn bird feeder that Steve made is beginning to fall to pieces after years of turkeys stomping on the roof and squirrels scratching into the platform for the very last morsel.  The whole thing fell off the tree some years ago and Larry reinstalled it.  I wonder if Angie's List has a mini-barn renovator on call.

Tuesdays are trash days but, if I'm really on top of my game, I take the barrel down to the big road on Monday evening so I don't have to rush to beat the early morning pick-up on Tuesday.  It's still dark now when Trash Guy rolls up.  Many's the day, though, that I have to throw on clothes and make a dash for the truck, hoping to beat TG to the corner.

Turning over another new leaf on the tree, I shocked even myself by dusting for no good reason yesterday.  No company coming, and hardly enough dust to write your name.  I just did it.  Will wonders never cease!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Road Trip

I've got to get out more and that's all there is to it.  This thought came to me when I realized I hadn't even gone out as far as the big road in almost two weeks, not even to pick up the mail.  (Didn't have enough trash to bother on Monday.)  I get busy with one thing or another or, more importantly, doing nothing, and before I know it the day is gone.  A trip to town blows at least three hours, three hours I'd rather spend doing anything else.  Bess was up for a little road trip, so I had the truck serviced and packed a lunch (No, just kidding!) and we drove down yesterday to clean out the mailbox and make the mail-lady happy.  Ninety percent of the mail was political flyers, grocery store ads, and other waste of trees and my time.  There were a few nuggets amongst the paper rubble, including a note from Tinka and a refund check!, so that made the trip worthwhile.

Unless it's raining (rain being a far-distant memory this summer), my day isn't complete without some time spent sitting on the bench at the end of the deck.  We wait until the bench is in shade, and then Bess lies with her head on the lowest rail and I just sit and we look and listen.  The Mafia Boys drifted through yesterday, missing one of their number.  There had been seven, now there are six.  Did one of them find a girlfriend or another reason to leave the gang?  There are faint indicators that fall is coming, the barest change in color on the oak leaves, and there are a lot more leaves on the deck.  Woodpeckers flash their red heads as they ratatatat on posts and branches.  Bluejays, for the most part, seem to have moved on.  The winery below is stockpiling huge bins as Robert prepares for the grape harvest.  It won't be long until the grind of augers is heard as the growers crush the season's bounty.  We see Fritz, Luis, and the man across the road come home from work and it's bittersweet, remembering hearing Steve's truck coming up the drive.  After all this time, I still have to spell the word "daddy," or Bessie runs to the front door to wait.  Sundown approaches and we go back in the house before putting the kids to bed, break time over.

A real road trip to town is in my future.  I'll be going in on Sunday to see one of those "friends I haven't met yet."  Kathy V. is bringing her granddaughters and goats to a "fuzzy goat show" in Placerville and I'm looking forward to that event.  Kathy V. (that's how I think of her, including the V) and I have frequent internet communication but never in person.  She falls into that "six degrees of separation" theory that never fails to amaze.

In the meantime, I'm perfectly happy to stay home.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


Running late yesterday (I know, what a surprise!), I found myself apologizing to all the critters as I hurried to throw down birdseed for the squirrels and turkeys (and wild birds, but they get just the leavings) and open coops and barn.  I'd already fed and watered dog and cats.  I suffer under the delusion that I'm in charge.  It's voluntary servitude, but servitude it is.  There isn't a one of the furred or feathered residents, wild and domestic, that wouldn't stand with paws, claws, or hooves on hip, look me in the eye and say, "You're not the boss of me!"  One yip from Good Queen Bess and I rush to open a door.  "Oh, you don't want to go out this door?  Would Your Highness prefer that door?"  I allow Celeste to herd me toward the treat bag and laugh as I do so, often several times a day.  I've found myself getting up from the milking stand to put down grain for the mice who gather with baleful stares should there be a lapse in the morning routine.  I might refer to "my" cats, "my" goats, etc., but in reality I am their minion, indentured from the start.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

Excuse me.  Bess just indicated she'd rather lie on the bed than under the desk and, being short and somewhat portly, she needs a boost.  I've got to go now, the Queen has spoken.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Three's Company

Any poker player will tell you that if deuces are good, treys are better.  I was able to parlay a pair of guests into trips yesterday when Camille accepted an invitation for leftovers.  When I clean house, I want my money's worth!  I've had enough company in the last three days to last for a little while, at least until the dust settles, as it were, and I feel the need to dust again.

What I did not need yesterday was a pair of scares.  My house being on the top of the hill, if there is a smell of smoke in the air, I either get a call or see a car coming up the drive.  "Where's the fire?"  Cam called yesterday afternoon and Bess and I went out to see what we could see.  Sure enough, there were two columns of smoke rising and blending over to the west.  Helicopters and tanker planes were circling overhead and the afternoon breeze had kicked up and was blowing in our direction.  Oh crum, here we go again.  Both Camille and I headed for our computers.  There are a couple of websites set up by locals and we found out during the Sand fire that those sites are almost the only way to get any accurate information in an emergency.  Cam and I are our own hotline, staying on the phone while each of us checks one of the two sites and comparing notes on what we find, trying to locate where the fires are.  Turned out that they were way too close for comfort, on our side of the highway and a little to the south.  One very tech savvy guy posted aerial maps with the fires pinpointed and if the firefighters in the air and on the ground hadn't done such an excellent job (again), we would have been in real trouble here.  There were a few anxious hours before the all clear notice came.  I did say that, if I'm to be the neighborhood lookout for fires, I want a Smokey the Bear hat to make it official.

Cam had unexpected company and so she and Honey came later in the evening.  Dinner was reheated Russian pie and I'd gone ahead and eaten earlier.  We rehashed the day's events while she ate.  (The pie got another rave review.)  It wasn't until Cam was leaving and I turned on the porch light that we realized she hadn't latched the front screen door.  Ralph had made several appearances, flirting with Honey as he does.  He often sits by the front door, looking out on a world in which he'd never set foot.  I started searching the house upstairs and down, Cam and I calling his name.  Celeste poked her head out of the closet, but no Ralph.  I had such a sinking feeling and was just about ready to punch the panic button when he ran up on the porch.  I opened the door and he raced in, as glad to be inside as I was to see him.

Three of a kind and a pair makes a full house, but I'll settle for just the three any day.  Don't need any more scares, thank you.

Monday, September 1, 2014


For those who, like myself, are less than enamored with housekeeping, I offer this handy hint:  invite back-to-back company.  Twice the pleasure and half the work.  Spiff up the house for the first guests and, unless they're a really rowdy bunch, it will still be presentable the next day for the second gathering.

I had this principle in mind when Arden came for dinner last night.  Because I didn't have to race around with dust rag and vacuum, there was more time to prepare a Russian pie.  It's a recipe introduced to me years ago by Linda, a vegetarian at the time.  It's easy, but a bit fussy.  Having made it once, I get a craving for it every so once in awhile, and Arden was up for a new experience.  I explained it was a vegetarian dish and I think she was afraid she'd go into meat withdrawal, so she brought kielbasa.  The ingredients for the pie sound like an odd combination:  cabbage, onions, mushrooms, cream cheese, hard-boiled eggs, marjoram, tarragon, basil, and dill.  The vegetables are all sauteed separately before layering in the shell, so the pie only needs baking to brown the crust and meld the juices.  The result is rich, filling, and so flavorful.  Arden agreed we didn't need the meat to complete the meal (but who's going to turn down caramelized sausage and onions?).  The recipe for Russian Vegetarian Pie can be found at allrecipes.com.  They include a recipe for the crust, but I always use my standby never-fail recipe for pie crust.  The photo doesn't do justice to the golden brown deliciousness awaiting.

There is an added bonus for hostessing two-fers, leftovers!  I highly recommend this practice to all.  As you-know-who would say, "Bon appetit!"