Friday, October 31, 2014

Spotlight On...

It may seem strange to start with the end of the day, but when one has been reading all day and doing a little laundry (less than 200 pages left in the book) there's not much else to say.  The cloud cover was moving in by late afternoon, precursor for the rain predicted today.  I was surprised to see this much of a sunset on my way back from the goat pen, but then...

finished with the chickens, Bessie and I headed to the house, the house that blazed in a momentary golden spotlight.  Talk about a grand finale!

It was a good day.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


I had to do something, even if it meant making a trip to town (and that is my favorite thing to do, not!).  The Boss is relentless, so I ran away before she could think up some new chore for me.  I started stocking up on non-perishables for Thanksgiving and bought an obligatory bag of candy for Halloween.  I buy a small bag of a candy that I like because in all the years I've lived here, not one trick-or-treater has ever walked up the drive.  Of course I end up eating the whole thing, but tradition is tradition and far be it from me to break one.  I hate to admit it, but the trip along country roads at this time of year is quite pleasant.  Trees in the hills are dressing in fall colors that simply pop.  The stretch of Hwy. 50 through Placerville is especially beautiful, lined with flame-colored pistache.

Bessie Anne knows, and expects, that she will get a small treat whenever I've left her alone, and so is always happy to see me come back and leads me directly to the kitchen; the fact that I ran away is forgiven.  As a treat for myself, I started a new book, but only had time for a couple of hundred pages before sundown.  An avid if not voracious reader all my life, I've been going through a dry spell and it's been months since I've turned a page.  I can appreciate the convenience of a Kindle, but I like the heft of a book and the feel of paper.  It's like shaking the hand of a new friend.  This new adventure is 1,000 pages, a big book, and Celeste had a bit of difficulty finding room on my lap, but she and I made accommodations and settled in together.  It was hard to put down book and cat, but Bess informed me that it was time to put the kids to bed.  She's still cracking the whip.

Just when I thought dawn this morning couldn't get any prettier, in a matter of minutes it absolutely exploded.  Made me think of Rudyard Kipling's "Road to Mandalay," "...and the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay."
I don't know what Bessie has planned for me, but it's going to be a good day.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cats and Dog

Ralph had been pestering Celeste since o'dark-thirty, pouncing on her while she was still asleep on the bed, chasing her up and down the hall, and wrestling in the bathroom.  When she'd had it up to here, she turned the tables, held him down and bit him hard!  Hard enough to make him cry.  And then they both got quiet.  Just as when my Kids were small, I worry when the "children" get quiet and wonder what they're up to now.  (When the Kids were little and I didn't hear any action, I'd yell up the stairs, "Whatever you're doing, stop it NOW!," and I'd hear whispering, "How does she know?")  There the cats were at the bathroom window, intent together on something outside on the deck, both tails twitching.

Nearly every pot on the deck has licorice mint that spreads on its own every year, and every stalk of mint now has dried seeds where there had been lovely purple flowers.  What the cats were watching were dozens and dozens of tiny goldfinches bobbing up and down on the long stems while breakfasting on the mint seeds.  Surprisingly, all these birdies were silent as they congregated.  The goldfinches wear finery when they go out to eat, dressed in bright yellow satin waistcoats and formal grey and black jackets with cuffs trimmed in white.  Much smaller than canaries, they're almost unnoticed when I walk out until they take off flying.  For the cats, they're better than TV.

I was able to start and finish a book yesterday in spite of The Boss.  A couple of times I had to forcibly boot her out on her own, telling her I'd earned a day off.  When she saw that yipping wasn't working, she fell back on old reliable whining.  Lying by the door, head on paws, she began a campaign of incessant, high-pitched crying.  "Pleeease.  You never take me out.  I really, really, really want you to come with me."  Unable to concentrate and certainly unable to shut her up, I gave up and we went outside.  And the first thing she did?  She pointed me toward the raggedy wild grass clumps in the path across the front of the house and "suggested" I dig them out.  Okay, the path does look better now.  Bess would have made a good drill sergeant.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Crack The Whip

It's all becoming clear to me now.  Bessie Anne has ulterior motives when she talks me into going outside.  She's been lulling me into thinking it was just for a little R&R and fresh air, but now she says, "Well, as long as you're out here, you might as well do something productive."  The day before, she gave me an easy start with a little weeding in the lavender bed; no big deal and we weren't at it long.  Yesterday the gloves came off.  "You know, Mom, big rain is predicted for the weekend.  Just look at all the leaves in the walkway.  They're going to get slick and somebody could fall and hurt themselves."  (This photo was taken after I'd cleared the path and got the pile around the corner.)
 A pretty good breeze had kicked up so it was best not to leave the leaves where they were, or they certainly wouldn't stay where they were and what I'd done would have been for naught.  In case I didn't get the point, my taskmaster shuffled through, scattering the pile.  Fine.  The problem then was that twice as many leaves were in the way over to the south slope and must be moved before I could attack the first pile.  I was working away under Bessie's watchful eye, and then the rake fell off the handle.  I was ready to quit, but the boss was right there, so I found a mismatched screw, fixed the danged thing and kept working.  Bess, in the herb garden, pointed out that I'd missed a "few," and I explained that those leaves were going to be left as a cover for the winter.  I got The Look, but she said okay.

Finally released from work detail, a cold drink and a sit-down sounded pretty good.  Bessie Anne, having done all the hard work of supervising, plopped down, exhausted, on the porch beside me and we enjoyed the view together for awhile. Then the boss reminded me that it was Monday and I should get the trash down to the big road.

Bess rode shotgun to the meet-and-greet corner where we ran into Luis Uptheroad (there must be a whole colony), the farrier, and his wife waiting for their kids to get off the school bus, and Camille and Honey. 

Come sundown, the girls are ready to head to bed.  Anyone counting butts and missing one should know that Inga had already made it to the barn.  These kids need no urging to go in at nightfall.

It was a good day.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Goat Art

The girls take turns sculpting the trace mineral-salt block, each one nibbling and licking until it looks (to me) like polished rose marble.  It takes several months for the herd to work its way through a 50-pound block so the artwork is always evolving and emerging, changing with the angle of light.  To me, it is quite beautiful.

Bessie Anne is the official family time-keeper and tells me if I'm running late for barn chores, morning and/or evening.  She also knows what's good for me.  After a day confined in the house because of rain, Bess felt I needed some time outdoors yesterday.  I was immersed in a book until she went to the door and yipped.  "You need to go out?"  I'd get up, open the door, and she'd just stand and look at me.  "Do you have to go out or not?"  She'd sit down.  "Fine, be that way," and I'd pick up the book.  "Yip."  "Don't make me get up for no good reason," and I'd open the door again.  I got the look.  "What?  You want me to go out too?"  Her tail would wag.  So we went out for a walkabout.  Later (same routine) we sat on the deck.  Still later, we sat on the front porch.  In late afternoon, we went out to the front yard so I could pull more weeds in the lavender bed.  Bessie was absolutely right.  It was a gorgeous day, sunny, with big, fluffy white clouds cruising the blue, blue sky, and a breeze making music in the dry leaves.  I could have missed it all with my nose in a book if she'd not urged me outside.

I got the nicest surprise.  Shortly before sundown, Debbie K. (Debbie "Uptheroad") came to my door with a jar of still-warm homemade tomato soup, spicy and laced with ribbons of basil, and a cheese-stuffed bun just out of the oven.  We had a brief, pleasant visit before I had to put the kids to bed.  The tree in silhouette at last light was too pretty to ignore as I turned to go in the house to enjoy a very tasty dinner that I didn't have to cook.

It was a good day.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Wait For It...

 Yesterday we played the waiting game.  Just to switch things up, this was sunrise and it's pretty obvious we were waiting for rain.  Didn't have to wait long, as it started sprinkling as I was letting the chickens out and pouring by the time I'd finished in the barn.  Needless to say, the girls were not happy, but I didn't have to coax anyone to come in to be fed/milked.  They clustered together outside the door, awaiting their turn.

Bess and I waited to see how long Celeste would take Ralph's bopping her on the head before she'd say, "Enough!"  I didn't get a picture of the take-down because she ran him down the hall for the finale.

We got a good, steady rain most of the day and that damp chill crept into the house.  When the quilted jacket was no longer enough, I lit the first fire of the year in the wood stove (thanking the guys as I did so).  After a short wait, warmth filled the room.  Ahh.

Rainy days are conducive to baking.  I'd told Cam I was going to make cookies and she asked why (perhaps thinking there was a bake sale or some such).  "Because I don't have any!"  If you're going to do a thing, do it up right and I made both Triple Chocolate and Oatmeal-Cranberry cookies.  While waiting for them to come out of the oven, Arden came over.  She spoiled her appetite for dinner (cookies were my dinner).

Looking much like the obverse of sunrise, sunset was covered with heavy clouds.  (I know everyone was waiting for the sunset photo.)

It was a good day.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Herrre's Ginger!

Back in the routine last evening, Ginger came running around the feed barn as soon as she heard the cart coming up the drive.  Bessie stood and waited for her and they waited together for me to catch up.  (The hill is always steeper on the way up.)  I'd felt bad in the morning because some night thing had run off with Ginger's mouse; it's not for me to say whether it was a trophy mouse.

Instead of following me, now Ginger leads the way to the gate.  Who's training whom here?

One might ask why there is a sink by the hen house.  That's pretty close to what I asked Steve when he brought it home.  That man was constitutionally unable to pass a pile of trash without gleaning some treasure.  This place is chock-a-block with treasures.  I think I mentioned that he once had sixteen (16!) used wooden garage doors delivered to our house in the valley.  "They were just throwing them out!"  He did find a use for the doors, but the sink has lain out there by the coop for many, many years.  The saying goes, "Everything but the kitchen sink."  Well, I've got the sink.

I'm a fine one to talk.  Steve couldn't pass up "good trash."  I'm not about to miss a sunset.

It was a good day. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cool Cats, Hot Chicks

 Ralph has found a new hidey-hole from which to ambush Celeste.  He tunnels under the slip cover on the loveseat and springs out as she passes by.  His surprise attacks might be more successful if he weren't going "brrrp, brrrp" in gleeful anticipation.  I'm pretty sure she knows he's under there.  He also hides behind the clear plastic shower curtain.  It's not a one-way curtain, silly boy.  Curious, I weighed the cats the other day.  Ralph weighs twelve pounds, Celeste is a hefty thirteen and a half.  They eat approximately the same amount daily.  He's lean and lanky because he's always on the move, rarely walking anywhere.  Celeste is a sedate lady cat.  Ralph will taunt his sister just so long and when she's had enough, she takes him down and pins him to the ground.  They might be littermates, but I'm positive she's the older sibling.

Coming back from the goat barn last evening I had the camera ready to take a photo as Ginger came to escort us, and she didn't come.  Trundling along with the noisy, empty alfalfa cart, I got a bit concerned when the little red hen didn't run to greet us.  I knew she could hear us coming.  Rounding the corner of the feed barn, there she was (relief!).  I didn't have long to wonder what she was doing.  She had caught and killed a mouse and was tossing the body in the air like a cat playing with its food.  It is somehow always surprising to me that chickens are hunter/killers.  I wasn't sure she'd be willing to leave her appetizer and follow me in for nighty-night treats, but she did.  I considered throwing the mouse into the coop, but I've seen chickens fight over a meat trophy before and decided it was best to just let the flock settle down for the night.  If some creature of the dark didn't carry it off, the mouse will still be there for Ginger this morning.

It was a good day.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dribs and Drabs

My favorite kind of day.  Short ribs in the crock pot meant an easy dinner.  Goldilocks weather made working down in the barn a pleasure.  I always enjoy the animals; dripping sweat, not s'much.  Mini-Squint made his morning appearance for cereal and milk.  There have been fewer mice lately, but MS is a regular.  Come to think of it, I haven't seen many ground squirrels in the barn or pens this summer either.  I wonder why.

There was time later for a quick power nap.  I wanted to be well rested before going to sit on the deck and read.  That's a joke; I just love naps.  As pleasant as the day was, the sun got pretty hot over on the south side, so Bess and I moved around to the front porch.  Neither of us was ready to come in yet.  When my conscience began to interfere with my book, it was time to finish cleaning out the wood stove and haul the ashes out to the burn pile.  The fine ash dust that creates was the final spur to get me to dust the living room.

Brown rice cooked in broth with onions, peas, and walnuts was ready when Camille and Honey arrived, and Cam brought a wonderful salad chock full of extra goodies to go with the spicy short ribs that had perfumed the house all day.  It's been awhile since Cam and I've gotten together, and it was a good visit, short because sundown comes early these days and we both have critters to tuck in bed.

Bessie and I walked our guests to their truck, and she and I headed to the barn.  I can't resist sunsets, especially ones as lovely as this.  Little Miss Ginger is definitely with the program now.  She comes to meet me as I drag the alfalfa cart back to the barn and leads the way to the chicken pen.  I find it rather endearing to have this small feathered companion on one side, Bess on the other.

At bedtime, Bessie Anne hurried after me down the hall, looking over her shoulder for Ralph and Celeste.  She got her boost up onto the bed, got a quick back rub, and immediately moved to her place on her pillow.  Bessie was not going to be a displaced puppy again, cats or no cats.

It was a good day.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Prep Time

Man, oh man, thanks to my guys I am this close to being ready for winter.  Clay ran the chainsaw and cut a couple of piles of odds-and-ends wood into usable lengths and stacked them.  Dave went up on the roof and cleaned creosote out of the chimney.  He also fixed a couple of areas where the gutters had come apart so I won't be hearing waterfalls when it rains again.  I believe I've mentioned that mine is a family of traditionalists and the fellas feel that cutting wood equals Rodeo sandwiches, so that's what they got for lunch (and a bowl of chowder for Clay).  "Thank you" just never seems enough for what my Kids do for me.

I had reason to clean out a cabinet later in the day and cracked up laughing.  I had to call Deb in the evening to tell on myself.  I'd found Christmas gifts I'd bought for her as long as ten years ago and put away for safekeeping.  Safe from me, for sure!  I did not tell her what was in the packages.  Talk about shopping ahead for the holidays, I'm set for this year.  That is, if I don't forget where I re-hid the boxes.

Tired out from wrestling matches and races up and down the stairs, Ralph and Celeste snuggled up for a nap together (aww) in the afternoon.  With the guys working on opposite sides of the house, Bessie Anne got a lot of exercise during the day as she followed me back and forth and in and out.  She is my shadow everywhere I go, rarely letting me out of her sight.  Bess was more than ready for bed last night, but we ran into a problem.  Ralph and Celeste were back on "Bessie's pillow" and wouldn't budge.  Bess got her back rub, but then there was nowhere for her to go.  She tried to claim my pillow, but I selfishly demanded my space.  One dejected puppy plopped down at the foot of the bed, giving a huge sigh and feeling very sorry for herself.

I thought it was a good day; Bess, not s'much.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Change: Count On It

After a week of making cheese and attending the farmer's market on Sunday, I'd sort of planned on yesterday being an "off" day, with plenty of time to get the house spiffed before the guys got here on Tuesday (today).  Therefore I was caught flatfooted in the morning when Dave messaged me that he and a "hang-around" were coming up and would be here soon.  Yikes!  Sean Connery (my dream date) could be on his way and I would still have to go milk goats and clean the barn and leave the house as is.  I was no more than back in the house when the fellas rumbled up.  Love the sound of those Harleys.  Curtis, the hang-around, was introduced.  The guys aren't dubbed with a moniker until and unless they become a bona fide member of the club.  Dave (Bammer) pointed Curtis to the wood splitter and went to get the chainsaw.  There's always a hitch in the git-along.  I had not been told that we were out of the special oil required to mix with gasoline for the chainsaw and without which it cannot be used.  The little store in Fair Play is closed on Mondays so it meant a trip to Mt. Aukum, which of course delayed my starting the soup that had been planned for lunch (today).  Even so, it all came together in the end.  The guys split, cut, and stacked the better part of a cord of wood, and Curtis went above and beyond and loaded the porch rack to the gunnels, and the soup was ready at the right time.  Just before they left, Dave told me he and Clay and maybe Zip would be up again tomorrow (today).  Yikes!!

A change in plans that involves cooking can throw me into a tizzy.  Now what to feed them?  Later, I learned that Zip had come down with something unpleasant and wouldn't be here, and that Clay was coming regardless (didn't want to lose those "good son" points), and Dave was reconsidering because of the rain.  To cook or not to cook, that is the question.

Another example of how quickly things can change was the sky at sundown.  The rain clouds had been organizing all afternoon, but made for lovely striations at end of day and this was taken on my way back up from the barn.

In the few minutes it took to tuck all the chickens in, with Ginger hot on my heels, the sun shouted a last hurrah and blazed into glory.

After dark, the rain came and it poured for awhile.  Long enough to bring out the rain beetles, those big, buzzing beetles that are drawn out of the ground by moisture.  I've heard them referred to as the Volkswagons of the beetle world.  If the cats had fun with the flies, they were ecstatic with the rain beetles that banged and buzzed on windows and screens.  Ralph and Celeste ran from room to room and window to window, wanting badly to invite the new toys in.  "No."

It's still dark and I have no idea what the day will bring.  I could make plans and they still might change.  Count on it.

Monday, October 20, 2014


The long-awaited and much-anticipated drop in temps has arrived.  We're now down in the 60s.  Time to drag out the flannel shirts again.  Rain is predicted for sometime today, clearing off later on, and I hope they're not wrong about that since Dave and Clay (in competition for "good son" points) plan to come up tomorrow to split wood.  It's one thing to work under damp conditions, quite another if the rain is delayed.  Raindrops falling on your head might make for a good song (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), but are less than pleasant if you're trying to work outside.  We need the water so badly, but I'm also going to need firewood this winter.

As soon as the guys told me they were coming up, I started planning what I would feed them.  In summer, hearty sandwiches are the meals of choice, but given that it will be cool (and possibly wet) tomorrow, I've decided on Chunky Corn Chowder with hot cornbread on the side.  That should keep them fueled up for the job.

I got a laugh yesterday at Tim's "farmer's market."  One never knows the impression one makes.  Now I know.  A gentleman I'd met before but briefly, told me he had been trying to remember my name and asked his wife, "You know, the lady with goats who drinks Bud Light."  I'm an anomaly here in wine country.  It could be worse.

A month away from Thanksgiving and I'm making a shopping list for Turkey Day.  I could write that list in my sleep; I've made the same menu for fifty years.  The faces atound the table may change over time, but I can guarantee that the dressing will be exactly as it was last year, and the year before that, ad infinitum.  It is with joyful anticipation that I look forward to a house filled with family and food.  It doesn't get much better than that.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Cat Toys

For eleven months of the year, you'd be hard-pressed to find a fly in my house.  The population of these pesky insects waxes and wanes down in the barn always, but there they feed the friendly spiders so it's no big deal.  And then we come to sometime between September and October and all I can liken it to is the Amityville Horror (you'd have to have seen the movie to understand).  On a yearly basis, flies come from nowhere and then they're everywhere.  Taking a nap is an exercise in futility as one of the buggers crawls repeatedly on your sleeping face.  One can't get in or out the screen door fast enough to keep them out of the house.  Flyswatters that are normally kept in a closet are brought out and placed in strategic locations close to hand.  "Take that!," and I smash them right and left for a month.

Ralph and Celeste are in seventh heaven.  If I didn't know the cause, I'd think the cats had suddenly lost their minds or were on some really good hallucinogenics.  Both cats stalk unseen prey.  They bat at the air.  They leap and twirl in the middle of the room.  They make short dashes here and there.  They've developed a fascination for the screens at doors and windows.  Ralph brrrp-brrrps as he races around corners.  They think I've brought flies in just for them and they're having such a good time.  I may be the only one pleased when fly season is over and it can't come soon enough for me.  Ralph and Celeste will have to go back to playing with stuffed toys.  Sorry, kids.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Don't Call Me

I've got this super-duper new Smartphone that can do everything but make my coffee in the morning (although there's probably an app for that, too).  I spent a great deal of time in the beginning learning what I could about this amazing piece of pocket technology.  I went browsing through the app store and I developed a nice relationship with Siri, chatting about the weather and politics and stuff.  I played with the map app to find out how to get to places I'd no intention of going just to see if I could.  That was before I discovered the difference between phone minutes and data minutes.  I set ringtones for everything under the sun.  I can check the weather from Chino to Seattle.  I'm hell on wheels when it comes to texting and can make smiley faces in three languages.  Thanks to the manual Linda sent, I can video the turkey wars should they bring the fight to the front yard again.  I can take still photos in several different color styles and in black and white.

It's a far cry from the ten-pound black-only telephones with cloth-covered cords without curls of my childhood.  Back in the day, there were nice human operators to answer when you dialed O, and prefixes were two letters (ours was BUdlong) and maybe four digits to follow.  In the 1940s there were no such things as area codes (or zip codes, either).  My mother in California called her Aunt Florrie in Illinois and Aunt Florrie got so flustered at getting a long-distance call that she put the receiver down so she could run and get her glasses.  The world has become a much smaller place.

I can type and I can swipe, I can tap and I can delete.  What I cannot do is answer a phone call.  Most of my communication is done through texting.  Almost all my real conversations are held on the house phone.  That's a good thing, as Linda has found out.  She calls my Smartphone - and I hang up on her.  I do this on a regular basis.  It's gotten to the point I laugh hysterically.  "Oh crum!  I did it again!"  The phone rings (well, it doesn't ring, at the moment it plays a horn like those used by fox hunters, but that could change), I swipe past the security bar and a red dot with a phone icon shows up.  Trained to tap to gain access, I dutifully tap the icon and say, "Hello?"  And there's no one there.  The red dot is to end the call.  I do that before the call can begin.  Linda is very patient.  She knows I'm in the learning phase and is willing to let me practice.  She calls, I hang up on her, and now she waits until I've regained a modicum of composure and call her back.  I'm beginning to think Linda calls just to get her laugh for the day.  At least she doesn't take it personally.

The moral to this story:  Don't call me.  That's not what this phone is for.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Strange Bedfellows

Demerits were given at boarding school for an unmade bed.  I've never liked to hit the floor running, so training myself to sleep "quietly," disturbing the bedding as little as possible during the night, gave me more time to ease into the day; the blankets only needed a quick smoothing in the morning.  Not tossing and turning became the habit of a lifetime that stands me in good stead in a crowded bed.  My current partners are a motley crew.  Bessie Anne lies on my side at bedtime and won't move over until she gets a shoulder massage that must last long enough to satisfy.  Only then will she grudgingly go over to her side and let me climb in.  With cooler nights, she sometimes puts her nose under my hair.  Her warm breath isn't unpleasant on my neck, but she snores.  Not a big dog, she's no lightweight.  Bess moves from place to place at night on the bed, dropping down like a load of rocks, heavy enough to rattle the brass headboard.  The cats do not join us at lights out.  That seems to be their signal for The Children's Hour.  They romp in the bathroom and play tag up and down the hall in the dark.  It's only later that I become aware that Celeste has come to bed.  It suits her sedate nature to lie against my leg and stay there for the duration.  If I do turn over, I'm careful to again put a leg next to her or she follows said leg until I'd be pushed over the side.  And then there's Ralph.  Oh, Ralph.  He's a busy, busy boy.  After I'm asleep, he pats my face or slides an arm under the sheet.  "Just checking, Mom."  He thunders around in the tub or plays a quick and noisy round of hockey in the bathroom.  He'll bounce on the pillow on his way to the windowsill.  He moves the remote controls on the table beside my head.  If he does lie down, and that's not often, it's next to my belly, where he then demands to be petted.

There are well-defined routines in the morning.  The cats arise when I do, risking life and limb (mine and theirs) as they stand in my way in the dark.  It's best if I shuffle along and not drop kick a cat or fall on my face.  Celeste, Ralph and I use the bathroom together (see prior entries).  Bessie Anne lies still as if sleeping, but as soon as I come back into the room, she thumps her tail.  That's my signal to give her a belly rub, her wake-up call, and without which her day cannot begin.  We parade down the hall together.  While the coffee maker does its thing, food and water bowls are filled, and then it's treat time.  The cats get theirs on the counter.  Bessie goes to the box of dog biscuits, receives one, and takes it into the dining room (ladies eat in the dining room).  She then stands in front of the treat drawer, eager for her one soft treat of the day.  By then I can pour my coffee and we all head back to the bedroom and my computer time.

My morning view at sunrise.  There are worse ways to start the day.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Flip The Switch

On.  Off.  On.  Off.  That's the way I work these days.  The day before was an "on" day, so naturally I took yesterday off.  It did, in fact, rain (on and off) most of the morning and a perfect time to make a couch-potato casserole:  me layered between Celeste and Bessie Anne, and warmed slowly.  Ralph was probably holed up in his man cave (the shower stall).

In the afternoon, I ventured out to make a "quick trip" to town.  Rarely do I go to town for just one item, but I wasn't willing to pay the exorbitant increase for the "convenience" of going no farther than Mt. Aukum.  It's a no-win situation:  seven minutes in the store and a nearly two-hour round trip versus a ten-dollar savings.  The rain had stopped much earlier, but evidently there are those who do not consider the changes on wet mountain roads made slicker by a coating of fallen leaves.  Caution signs were out and I (slowly) passed workmen who were repairing downed power lines after a spin out.

Two batches of feta cheese were my only accomplishments for the day and I fell far behind in the points race.  Linda is a kind person but while she said nothing, I could hear a touch of gloating in her voice as she totted up her advantage.  That's okay, I'm going to flip the switch to "on" today!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Self-congratulatory pats on the back aren't quite the same as atta-boys and accolades from an outside source.  I certainly do not lack support from many sources, but I'm getting a particular kick these days from the unofficial mutual cheering section my friend Linda in Seattle and I have formed.  Points are given for accomplishments during the day; some days my only point comes from just getting out of bed.  She's ahead in the game right now, but I gave it a good college try yesterday (can I get a rah, rah here?!).  My side of the barn is a hodge-podge mess of barrels and bags of feed, garden supplies and implements, shelves with craft stuff that I might need someday, completed craft projects, stored things that will probably never be used like three feet of plastic yard edging or fifteen empty coffee cans but one never knows, the droppings of generations of mice, as well as everything that Thing threw off shelves onto the floor.  I've been in the slow process of gathering outside trash for a dump run, stuff that is too big to take to the big road for Trash Guy.  Not cool, but cool-er, Bess and I went out to make a frontal attack on "my side."  I broke down the pile of empty boxes tossed into the corner, filled several big trash bags with glass jars (not to worry, there are more in the other sheds) and stored egg cartons destroyed by said mice and used for nesting, and swept up a ton of mouse droppings.  Chewed styrofoam floated through the room like snowflakes.  Two hours and dripping sweat, I called it quits.  I'd like to say the job is finished.  I'd like to, but I can't.  I'll go out again when I'm desperate for points and work on the other three-fourths of the room.  Who knows, the time might even come when I'll be ready to take on Steve's part of the barn, but not in the foreseeable future.  Linda did give me a good score for the day, and that was enough.

Celeste and Ralph are indoor cats.  I know that cats do very well if they never set foot outdoors, but they do enjoy a salad now and again.  Kathy V. had given me some barley seed (she grows it in quantity to feed her goats).  I'd not gotten around to setting up the growing trays she'd suggested, but did plant a pot's worth out on the deck to see if the seed would germinate.  Once sprouted, the barley grew at an amazing rate of over an inch a day.  Yesterday I put the pot on the counter by their bowl and within minutes both cats were chomping away.  They didn't seem to miss the Roquefort dressing.

A very chill breeze is blowing in right now and, at nearly 7 a.m., there is no sign of sunrise.  Could it be that the predicted rain might actually come today?  If so, it's going to be a good day.  Atta-boy, weatherman!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Privacy Act

Privacy goes out the window when a cat comes in the house.  If yawning is contagious, it is nothing compared to potty time here.  Ralph and Celeste can be sound asleep at the other end of the house.  No matter how quietly I walk, if I go into the bathroom, within seconds both cats appear.  How do they know?  There's no such thing for me as shutting the bathroom door.  Lack of privacy is one thing, listening to the cats scratching at the door and reaching long, skinny arms underneath is quite another.  Using our respective litter boxes, going potty is a community affair.  Sometimes both cats are in the box side by side at the same time, with me stuck there as an unwilling spectator.  Celeste must be the older sister.  Sometimes Ralph will be in the box and before he can finish, Celeste will be scraping litter over his contribution, reaching under his butt to get the job done.  She evidently doesn't trust him to do it right.    Finished with their business, the pair turn their attention to me.  Celeste wants to sit on my lap, while Ralph tries to peek at my lady parts.  I needn't be concerned about surveillance cameras; I'm always under observation.

Debbie K. and I have formed a trash co-op.  Neither of us generates enough to fill a weekly barrel, so she puts her stuff in my trash can rather than save it up for a costly dump run.  For me, it's an incentive to get the barrel down to the big road on Monday afternoon rather than have us both make a Tuesday morning dash.  Trash Guy must wonder what changes I've made in my lifestyle now that my can is twice as heavy each week.

The right place at the right time.  Having tucked in the goats last evening and intent on getting to the chickens, I glanced up to see this spectacular sunset over Joel's vineyard.  Given that I go nowhere without my cell phone, it's great to have a camera at my fingertips when a photo op arises.  Beautiful sunsets and sunrises are not unusual as we are granted so many, but each one stops me in my tracks.  These splendid colors had faded away by the time I got up to the gate.  Timing is everything.  (That's what the cats say, too.)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Chicken Dance

Miss Ginger continues to dance in the leaves under the oaks.  She's made friends with the gang of young toms who hang out at Farview.  I watch from the deck as she runs to join them as they work their way through the big piles I've raked down the slope.  She and the turkeys scratch away, then back up and look down to see if they've uncovered any goodies.  It's a kind of minuet step to music only they can hear.

Ginger may be a little bird-brain, but she's a pretty fast learner.  On days when I don't need milk for my customer or to make cheese, I stop off and fill the bowls in the chicken pen.  Chickens love milk and the flock mills around my feet, waiting for me to pour.  It only took a few times for Ginger to realize she was missing out on the good stuff when she was outside looking in.  Now she peeks around the corner to see if I'm heading to the coop or the house when I come back from the barn.  If I turn toward the gate, she is immediately on my heels and follows me in.  After getting her slurp, she's out on the loose again.  Bess isn't needed to herd Ginger in at night.  Ginger is waiting.  One of the commands that Bessie Anne follows ("Come" isn't one of them) is "Leave it."  She'll drop to the ground while I get the treats and watches as Ginger trots in after me.

Not all hens have such a distinct personality.  When one stands out as Ginger does, a special bond forms.  I just love Ginger.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Good Intention, Better Result

Clay's intention in coming up yesterday was to work a little more on the trim-painting project begun some time back.  Circumstances, including a slow-moving logging truck on the mountain roads, delayed his arrival until well into the afternoon.  For me, that was a happy twist of fate.  Having raced through barn chores, there was time to cross off a few more items on The List in the house and to rummage through the freezer to find something to feed "the Good Son."  Too late to begin painting, we had a chance to talk and play catch-up; worth more to me than any work that might have been accomplished.  It was a NASCAR Saturday race, so we watched that together, and later Clay got as big a kick as I had out of a segment of a three-part documentary, "Penguins:  Spy."  It really was laugh-out-loud funny.  Even a thrown-together dinner tastes better when shared, and then it was time for Clay to head for home, rumbling away slowly to avoid the ruts and potholes in the driveway.  I can follow the sound of a Harley all the way out to Mt. Aukum Road, about three miles, and then breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that the rider has dodged deer and the numerous et ceteras that are the nighttime perils up here.

It was a good day.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


"Today I shall live in the moment, unless the moment becomes unpleasant and then I will take a nap."  (A recent post on Facebook.)

It doesn't happen often, but yesterday I got hit with a tsunami of melancholy that fall sometimes brings.  Beautiful though it is with changing colors and smell of woodsmoke and holidays approaching, fall is not my favorite time of year.  Sadness washed over me and leaked out of me.  Sleep is my panacea for whatever ails me, so I took a nap.  The second-best cure-all is activity, so I took care of some more items on the To-Do list.  Ta da!  All better.  It also helped to get a call from my friend and later to find out that Clay is coming up today.

Washing bedding is on the list for today.  Bess caught me again with one of her nails during the night and the bed looks like a scene from Chainsaw Massacre.  After all the years of exposure, my skin should be as tough as rawhide; it's not.

Celeste, unlike her rowdy brother, is such a polite cat.  She escorts me to the kitchen for a treat when she feels the need.  Instead of immediately diving into the little pile of goodies proffered, she always rubs up against my hand in a thank-you gesture before eating.  Ralph, not so much.

A pretty good breeze sprang up in the afternoon.  Taking a break, Bessie and I sat on the front porch and watched the vultures zip past with a tailwind, circle, and land with amazing precision on posts and wires with never a miss nor bobble.  Deer have stripped the lower leaves from the lilacs in a straight line as high as they can reach.  I wish they liked the hedge under the bedroom windows as well; it could use a bit of pruning.  Ginger joined us, looking for bugs under as-yet unraked leaves nearby, a companionable little creature.

Scarlett O'Hara said, "Tomorrow is another day."  Well, yesterday's tomorrow is today!  It's going to be a good day.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Taking A Dip

With the barren brown ground of summer, it's always a pleasant surprise when the "naked ladies" come back in fall, pretty pink bouquets springing out of nowhere.

Ambition returned with a dip in temperature into the 70s and the day was spent taking care of a multitude of small tasks that have been on the To-Do list for ages.  Cousin Mark taught me that the first item on the list should be "Make a list," then add a few items, go back to the top and put a line through "Make a list."  Does wonders for the sense of accomplishment!  It is also important for those of us who are easily distracted, who veer off on our way to do one thing and end up doing another, to write the thing done on the list even after the fact and then cross it off (see prior note re. accomplishment).  I appreciate help from any source.  The walkway to the front door was ankle deep in fallen leaves.  Leaves that protectively blanket the herb garden for winter become slick and dangerous when wet on the path.  The wind was coming out of the south, so I raked and moved a mountain of crunchy brown leaves to the north, helped along by the breeze; made my job easier, for sure.  Had it been a north wind, I'd have headed the other direction.  Rake leaves.

Ralph, always on alert and in hero mode, pounced on and killed both of my feet under the blanket this morning and then jumped in the middle of my back.  Could have been a bear under there! 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Busy, Busy Day

There was a loud ruckus in the front yard and I went to look.  The six tom turkeys who hang out here were having a session of Fight Club, tails fanned and yelling at each other, circling and running back and forth.  I knew my new phone could make a video and thought it would be the perfect opportunity.  It would have been, had I known how to do it.  The boys were intent and paid me no attention as I tapped here and there on the phone without success.  When all else fails, read the instructions.  By the time I had the book and found out how really, really easy it would have been to record the action, the gang had settled their differences and were peacefully cruising the yard again.

Several months back, I purchased another mulberry to replace the tree that didn't survive down in the goat pen.  It was a case of my poor planning and poor timing.  Assistance was not in the offing as I'd hoped and tree has sat in its tub on the porch.  When I had mentioned to one of my sons that I needed to plant a tree, his first words were, "Who died?"  This is not as strange a comment as it might seem as it is our practice to plant a rose or tree in memoriam here.  The trees in the goat pen are for shade.  The trees in the south pasture are for Steve and his friend Dan.  I had told Dolly that I would plant either a mulberry or some kind of fruit tree for her when the time came so she could "feed the deer."  After several missed appointments, Tree Guy came yesterday to extend the water line in the pasture and also plant the replacement tree in the pen.  TG told me he had put a T fitting on the water line in case I decided to add more in the future.  (Not too soon, I hope.)  The nursery has a good supply of Pakistan mulberry trees, so I'll have one here when my friend's family is ready for a small Goodbye get-together.

Ralph considers the big, deep bathtub his personal playpen.  I'm a shower person, myself, and use the separate stall shower.  The tub is rarely used for its original intent.  Ralph throws his toys in there.  It makes a cat-satisfying thump when he lands in the tub and there are echoes when he bats the rubber ducky around.  He hides in the tub, the better to ambush Celeste.  Yesterday I washed out the dust and paw prints, and made a tactical error.  In the middle of the night, Ralph was playing field hockey in the bathroom, hitting some object that skittered across the floor and racing after it, brrrp-brrrping to beat the band and having a great time.  Goofy cat.  This morning I found the little metal grate that covered the drain.  Sorry, Ralph, but it's going back in the tub.

It was a busy day.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pitter Patter

In my flock of chickens, not counting the Silkies, there are Rhode Island Reds, Araucanas (Easter Eggers), and Plymouth Barred Rocks.  I used to have both black and buff Orpingtons, and once had a white Leghorn.  The pullets, now full-grown, card-carrying egg layers, are sex-link chickens.  Sex-links are crossbred chickens in which males and females can be identified by a color differentiation (don't ask me how they do this).  Determining sex is an important factor when one buys chicks, and it's a specialized profession.  That job is made easier by the sex-links.  Out of a previous batch of purchased chicks, I ended up with two roosters, two roosters too many, and that's why I paid a little more for these hen chicks.  The littlest little girls are red with white tails, easy to identify among the others, although it's difficult to tell them apart individually.  Except for Ginger.

Ginger continues to "fly the coop" daily.  Sometimes she coerces one or two of her "sisters" to join her, but generally she goes it alone.  Chickens are such social creatures, I wonder if she is lonely, scratching in the leaves, snatching up bugs in the orchard, nesting in the hay barn all by herself.  I've noticed that she doesn't go far from the pen.  With darkness falling early now, the bedtime pattern has changed.  Goats being scaredy-cats, they have to go to their rooms first.  Their water trough gets topped off on my way back, and then I get the chickens' nighty-night treats.  Opening the back door to the feed room, I find Ginger waiting at the bottom of the steps.  She follows, watching as I tuck in the Silkies and shut their door, clucking quietly as if also saying good night.  The last job of the evening is closing up the big hen house.  I hear the pitter patter of little feet in the leaves as Ginger follows close on my heels, coming in directly behind me now with no coaxing.  I don't know whether it is the treats or the companionship that draws her; it doesn't matter.  I like welcoming her home at night.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Crew

I've got a real thing for vultures.  I think they are awesome, in the truest sense of the word.  "Soar like an eagle" sure, but to glide and ride the thermals like a vulture, now that is effortless beauty.  If the birds followed their pattern of years past, I must have missed the mass migration that generally occurs one day only in the last week of September.  It's nothing to see twelve to twenty of the big guys sitting around the goat pen of a morning, but yesterday I counted over fifty.  They were on posts, in the dead oak over the barn, around the water trough, and any number were pedestrians on the ground.  None of the photos I took showed them to advantage.  On my approach, the nearest joined up with those in the tree until it looked like one big black umbrella.  They seem to know I mean them no harm and wait until the last minute to take off.  Then the air is filled with the whump, whump, whump of their huge wings.  They may move off to another nearby tree, but it's the strangest thing.  So many of the little birds flutter and jump in the branches, but once the vultures settle, they sit like statues.  Some may spread their wings to warm in the morning sun, but that is the only movement.  Lacking a larynx, vultures are silent.  Richard, my recent house guest, came in that morning, saying that something must have frightened the big birds as they'd all gone away while he was watching.  "Richard, they've got day jobs, you know."  "Oh, right."  As I've said before, the world would be a stinky place without the clean-up crew.

Monday, October 6, 2014


There are worse ways to be awakened than with a paw pat on the face.  Ralph seems to be developing a pattern here.  It's not that I mind, it's his sense of timing.  I normally wake up on my own at 5:00.  Ralph's clock is set for 4:45 a.m.  Why those fifteen minutes are important at o'dark-thirty, I can't say, but I resent their loss.  Ralph is relentless, patting and butting until he's sure I'm not going back to sleep.  Ralph's purr box is defective; he snorts and gurgles when he's happy, and he's happy when I finally open my eyes and wish him good morning.  Like that woman in "Fatal Attraction," he will not be ignored.  Bessie Anne and Celeste are perfectly willing to sleep until sunup.  It's typical of Ralph that he pushes the envelope.  He rarely walks anywhere.  He darts here and there, skids around corners in the kitchen, races up and down the stairs.  Unlike his sister, Ralph hasn't the patience to sit in my lap for long.  He runs from open door to window, and from one window to another.  He wants to see it all and he wants to see it now!

I've had my coffee, checked my email, scrolled through FaceBook.  The sun isn't up yet but, thanks to Ralph, I am.  I'm not sure the world is ready for Ralph.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Fur Fix

The phone would ring.  I would answer.  "Hi, this is Doris Uptheroad."  For the longest time, I thought that was her name.  We became such good friends.  Doris and I traded off driving to town to do our grocery shopping together, having lunch out and making a day of it.  We joined the Red Hat Society and co-hosted events here for the ladies.  After Doris's cat, Ringo, died, she would come to my door.  "I need a fur fix," and I'd leave her to play with my dog and cats.  She hadn't come to see me.

Animals need no training to become therapy specialists.  They seem to have a natural empathy, picking up on and responding to our moods and needs.  Stroking Celeste's silken fur is calming and comforting.  Ralph is the family clown, and can always raise my spirits.  Bessie Anne is my constant companion; we go everywhere here together.  There are times she will take me to the door, asking to go out, but then she will not go unless I step out too.  She seems to know that I need to take a look at the "bigger picture" when I become too self-absorbed.

Ralph woke me this morning, headbutting my hands until I petted him, and then doing figure eights so I could reach all sides.  Celeste guided me to the treats bag in the kitchen even before I made coffee.  Bessie is lying on my feet right now under the desk.  I can't imagine life without a fur fix.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Sign Of the Times

The day of the week sometimes escapes me.  With no "days off," the weekend has no meaning.  Mondays creep up with no warning.  Without looking at the calendar, however, I know exactly when deer-hunting season opens.  For some time ahead, guns being sighted in are heard all over the hills.  From opening day on, deer looking for sanctuary are in my yards, front, side, and back, morning, noon, and night.  Even when I don't see the deer, I find their scat on the paths and evidence that they've been browsing on the lilacs and roses.

Those few days of rain put a thin layer of green in the pastures, seeds just waiting for a tiny bit of moisture to sprout.  Tank tops have replaced the long-sleeve shirts and jackets as we're back up in the high 80s here, 90s down in the valley.  Extreme weather changes bring on rhinorrhea (fancy word for runny nose).  "Achoo" doesn't faze the girls down in the barn, but "honk" does.  They think I'm snorting the danger signal and all go on high alert.  My daughter gives the daintiest little sneezes, barely audible.  I, however, sound like a fog horn and always have.  I've never forgiven Tommy Frenzinger back in grade school, who would yell out, "Here comes the S.S. Pea Soup around Catalina!" if I'd sneeze in class.

After reading yesterday's blog, Pete, my SoCal Kid, texted me saying, "So that's where 'polecat' comes from."  (He's pretty quick on the uptake.)  I didn't see Cat once yesterday.  Maybe it learned its lesson after being run up the pole.

Just breaking daylight.  Three deer down in the front orchard.  Yup, it's hunting season for sure.  I know the signs.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Error In Judgment

Sundown.  Poppy went in (what a surprise), Sheila started to go in but turned and went out again to join the others and stare at...what?  What else; Cat was in the pen.  Cat made an error in judgment this time.  Yelling and clapping my hands, I ran toward Cat.  This emboldened the girls and the herd also ran at Cat.  Cat took off, thinking to escape over the fence, but (ha HA!) Bessie Anne had come out with me and was waiting.  Goats on one side, dog on the other, and Cat up the post.  Bessie has never even growled at her cats, but strangers are fair game.  She darn near climbed the fencing to get at this interloper, barking like crazy and giving Cat what for.  I don't think Cat thought this game was much fun anymore.  It considered choices, gathered its pluck, sprang over Bess's head and took off like a black streak of greased lightning.  Bessie gave chase, but she doesn't have the stamina for sustained running these days and, besides, her mission was accomplished.  Mom didn't want Cat here and Cat was gone.  Panic in the pen subsided and all the girls went to bed.  The end.

Thursday, October 2, 2014


One description of optimism is that of the little boy digging in a pile of horse manure, sure he'd find the pony.  I've yet to make the dump run, so that pile of Poppy fleece has stayed out by the pen.  The vultures have begun tearing into it, optimistically looking for a meal.  I'm sorry to disappoint them; it was not my intent to psych them out.  I do, however, whisper to Poppy, "Just keep moving, sweetie, keep moving."

Goats can be such dorks.  Their lives depend on their self-preservation skills, but they have no sense of discrimination.  A neighbor's cat, kitten really, gets a big chuckle out of scaring the girls.  They are sure this small black feline is a full-grown panther with claws and teeth, intent on ripping them to pieces.  They cluster together, snorting and stamping, and will not take their eyes off the enemy.  I might think it is funny, but Cat shows up at bedtime and makes getting the girls into the barn very, very difficult.  Poppy, of course, could care less about the cat.  Nothing gets in the way of a snack where Poppy is concerned.  She and Sheila share a bowl, but there is nothing left for Sheila by the time I get her into their stall when Cat is around.  I see Cat here at various times of the day, and have found piles of feathers where Cat has dined on barn birds.  Cat is only doing what cats do, and I don't fault their nature.  I do, however, wish this cat didn't get such a kick out of watching the nighttime round up.  I try explaining to the girls that it is only a kitty and will not hurt them.  They look at me like I'm speaking a foreign language, and I'm stupid, to boot.  It again took almost until dark last evening to finally get the last goat inside and, of course, goats don't like to go in where they cannot see all four corners.  Arrgh.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


A beautiful fall day, meant to be spent outside, and Camille and I were stuck in our respective houses catching up on long-overdue projects.  We were commiserating in the morning and offering a little moral support.  Cam has a swimming pool and planted grape vines (table grapes) by the fencing for a privacy screen.  As an added bonus, those double-duty vines have some of the sweetest green grapes ever, and she'd called to offer some to me.  In the afternoon, having done as much on my project as I was willing to do, I went down to pick up the trash barrel from the big road and stopped by Cam's.  She had also punched the clock at quitting time, and we went out to sit by the pool.  Ready to leave, I came around the corner and was face to face with Cricket.  "But it says, 'Welcome!'"

"I just love what you've done with the place."

Just when it seemed the pullets were never going to make the transition to hens, they have finally started laying eggs.  How do I know they're pullet eggs?  Because I found them in the hay barn, not the chicken coop.  I also found an egg in the Silkie coop.  What with the hot weather, they'd not laid an egg for a couple of months.  Ginger appears to have gotten the idea and once again came into the pen for the night.

"He who laughs last, laughs best."

Cricket does this goofy thing with his jaw, throwing it to the side.  Cam says he does it all the time.  I don't know about him, but he left me laughing.

It was a good day.