Sunday, November 30, 2014

It's All Relative

After the hustle-bustle and hubbub of Thanksgiving, we're almost back to normal - "normal" being the relative term here.  The oversize pots and pans, for which no kitchen I know has room to store, have been replaced in the shed.  My frantic last-minute racing around has returned to my usual crawl.  Even Bessie Anne, whose strange behavior has been concerning the last few days, seems back on an even keel.  I think she was even more tired and stressed than I.  I love holidays, but as she and I get older they do take their toll.

I asked an acquaintance about her Thanksgiving and she said it was pretty good; at least nobody, including herself, ended up in tears this year.  That forcefully brought home to me how fortunate I am to have my family.  No sniping, no fighting, no jealousy, no tears.  Teasing, yes, and constantly, but never with meanness.  Competition, definitely, but why play if you don't want to win?  Brothers (including my after-market boys), sister, familiar guests and strangers; all get and give heartfelt hugs and kisses coming and going.  All things being relative, I believe that's the way it should be and I never take it for granted.

The weather on Thursday was glorious, sunny and bright, but unusual for this late in November.  It turned back to normal yesterday.  Cold, rainy, windy; definitely a two-cat lap day.  Taking a bite out of the woodpile on the porch, I kept the stove going all afternoon.

I stepped out on the deck a few minutes ago to catch this sunrise.  No sooner had I sat down again than the cloud cover returned and darkened the sky.  That's normal for this time of year.

Saturday, November 29, 2014


And the naps just kept on coming.  I was tired from the minute I opened my eyes in the morning.  Goats fed and milked, stalls cleaned.  Back at the house, I sat down and fell asleep.  I'd really wanted to join dear relatives who were holiday camping down the road apiece (Pine Grove), but the thought of getting in the truck and driving was overwhelming.  Also, I had to wait for a delivery of alfalfa.  I napped until Patrick knocked on the door to let me know he'd offloaded the bales.

Trying to stay awake, Bess, who was as exhausted as I, suggested we go outside for a bit.  We wanted to enjoy the sunshine while we had it.  Rain was predicted for today, and these unusual clouds were the forerunner coming out of the southwest.  Whenever I see this type of clouds, I hear Hoagy Carmichael singing "Old Buttermilk Sky."  Click on the picture to enlarge it and see the two vultures circling overhead.

Propane Guy arrived and topped off the tank, so I'm assured of hot water and a working stove top for the holiday season.  Deliverymen in our area, be they propane, Fed-Ex, UPS, whatever, are clever guys who carry a supply of milk bones in their truck.  Bessie Anne starts wagging as soon as any delivery truck pulls up and goes to greet her "best friends."  Not too many houses up here don't have at least one dog in residence.

Bessie and Celeste vied for a place on my lap and we all (surprise) napped throughout the afternoon.  Come sundown, the cloud formation hadn't changed, but the light certainly had.  This was shot from a different angle than most of my sunset photos.  I'd just tucked the Silkies in the Taj and was afraid if I waited until the big hens were in for the night, I'd lose the glorious color.  They call Montana "big sky country."  It would be hard to beat our sky here in Fair Play.

Later, while finishing a turkey sandwich and smacking my lips, I commiserated with my friend Linda, who had joined others for dinner and had no Thanksgiving leftovers.  My own crowd had descended like locusts and filled bags and containers to take home.  Not to worry, I still have plenty.  It's the company I treasure on Thanksgiving Day and the leftovers I enjoy after they leave.

The clouds that marched eastward yesterday got organized and the promised rain began last night.  After an evening nap, we all went to bed early.  It's a very stormy morning and I've got to put the window coverings up on the goat barn.  That's farm life.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving Rerun

One of the many benefits of getting up early is seeing a sunrise like this.  I dislike hitting the floor running and enjoy coffee and quiet time before starting the day.  Once the wheels started turning yesterday, it was nonstop for the duration.  The turkey (the one without plumage) was in the oven by 6:30.  A shower and clean clothes before barn work is asking for disaster; a milk spill would be almost guaranteed, so I put that off.  The girls were uncommonly cooperative and each received my thanks.  I was no more than back in the house and pulling out the vacuum cleaner when Dave, Sandra, and her daughter Katie pulled up.  Nothing like doing your housework after the guests arrive.  To illustrate why I waited, just after I'd swept the living room Bessie Anne came in and left leaves, a twig, and a couple of foxtails on her way through.  It's a game I cannot win.  Dave was restocking the firewood rack when Clay arrived, followed by Deb and Craig and then Larry and his friends Joe, Phoebe, and young Joey.  Other invitees were, for good reasons, unable to attend.  Deb and Craig took on KP duties and peeled pounds of potatoes before joining the inevitable poker game.  When the time came, Dave and Larry combined forces to carve the turkey.  Of the fifty-odd Thanksgiving turkeys I've roasted over the years, I have never carved a turkey myself.  The boys vie for the job, nibbling at the bits to the point I wasn't sure there'd be enough left to put on the table.  Tradition runs strong here, and the menu never changes.  It's a rerun every year.  It was Craig's birthday, so it's no surprise there was pecan pie for dessert.  (I learned years ago not to put a wax candle in a hot pecan pie.)  Family, friends, good doesn't get much better than that.  Except winning at poker, but I can't have everything.

It was an exceptionally good day.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Guess Who's (Not) Coming To Dinner

 Breakfast, yes.  Dinner, no.  These beautiful boys were on parade yesterday, secure in the knowledge that they would not be invited to the Thanksgiving table.
I don't think the bird feeder was meant to hold birds of this size, and definitely not two at a time.  The twelve or so on the ground were only half of the tribe who arrived for the buffet.

Patient or impatient, these birds were waiting for the second seating.  It was a busy morning at the Farview Farm Cafe.

I've finished my coffee and another turkey needs my attention in the kitchen.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


When the last goat leaves the stand, I open the gate to the big pen to give the girls more room to graze.  It's my habit then to take a minute to scan the horizon; one, because it's just a beautiful sight; two, looking for smoke plumes that might be from fire or an illegal burn pile; and three, to see what weather might be headed our way.  Yesterday as I stood there I kept hearing a crow cawing but couldn't see it (or them).  Overhead, a kettle of vultures was circling, coasting on the thermals.  There in the vortex was one crow, yelling, "Hey, Ma!  Look at me!  I'm flying with the big birds!"  Whoever said that birds of a feather flock together was wrong.

Cindy's constant complaining was bad enough.  Yesterday, she shut up and Tessie and Inga took up the chant.  It seems goats never get too old to come into heat.  Aaargh.

The timing was perfect to watch "Plymouth Adventure," (1952, Spencer Tracy, Van Johnson, and Gene Tierney) while tearing loaf after loaf of bread for stuffing in the afternoon.  This romanticized version of the pilgrims' voyage to the New World was actually a pretty good flick.  Too much housework makes a dull girl, and I needed to get a leg up on food prep.  (That's my story.)

I always count noses at sundown whether in the pen or the hen house.  Once again, there was one too many in the goat pen.  The girls were clustered up by the gate, all watching the interloper.  My first thought was, "Oh crum, another mouth to feed."  The deer seemed in no hurry to leave, but finally turned as I got closer and effortlessly leapt over the fences and away.

I have my chair, Bessie Anne has hers.  She is aging and has always had trouble with her back legs.  If she can get a good enough running start, she can make it onto her chair by herself, but some days she needs a boost.  Last night, she started to make an attempt and then put on the brakes.  Like Goldilocks, she said, "Somebody's sleeping in my chair!  Mom, you have to do something!"  Celeste had, indeed, preempted Bess's spot and was curled up in the recliner.  Celeste had no intention of vacating and Bessie was insistent.  I gave the dog a helping hand and the two snuggled together for the evening.  Ralph?  Ralph does his own thing.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Game Face

"The game's afoot!" or "What?  You talkin' to me?"  Tessie, the unicorn, was ready for a walkabout.  I was not.  One thing about goats, they are very curious.  Tess got so interested in the camera and what I was doing that I got close enough to grab that collar and haul her into the barn.  Ha ha!  Almost as good as winning a hand at poker.

Cindy, on the other hand, was constantly in the way yesterday.  She is in season and nearly drove me nuts, incessantly bawling and complaining about the lack of male companionship.  Just in case I might be ignoring her, she rose up to stick her head over the Dutch door while I was milking Sheila to yell in my face.  "I get it.  But I can't help you."  That wasn't the answer she wanted, so she went around the corner of the barn and continued to whine.  Thank goodness it's short-lived, twenty-four-hour condition.

The table in the round room is the staging area for supplies for Thanksgiving, piled high with yams, onions, loaves of bread, that bag of potatoes that sent me to two stores, and such canned goods as will be needed.  Milk Guy wanted to know yesterday if I was planning to feed an army.  Preparations in the house are moving along, but the real work will start tomorrow.  I was talking with my friend Tinka and we agreed that, living alone as we do, cooking for family is a joy.  I'm happy just thinking about it.  I'd sure rather cook than dust!

Monday, November 24, 2014

See It My Way

Any way you look at it, sundown was gorgeous yesterday.  After tucking the girls in the barn, I looked up to see the oaks by the house gilded by the sun.  The goats have worn trails through the pasture up to the water trough and the corner where the alfalfa is thrown.  This view is looking toward the north.

Turning to the west, sunset had taken on another aspect.  It's a sight I never tire of seeing.

The day never warmed up much after a very chilly start, so it was necessary to bring several wagon loads of firewood up to the porch to keep the stove stoked.  The hearth stone is semicircular, and is now ringed with furry critters as Bess and the cats toast one side and then the other (when there's no available lap).

Come Thursday and the house will fill with people, Celeste will disappear for the duration, Ralph will make a periodic appearance, undoubtedly choosing Dave (who is allergic to cats) as his favorite target, and Bessie Anne will be beside herself with joy because her boys are here.  Me, I'll be in hog heaven.  Can't you see it now?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Fair Play Style

Tank tops are a distant memory, put away in drawers for the duration.  The weather app on my phone tells me it is 45 degrees here in Fair Play; that's rather optimistic as the thermometer informs me it is 34 outside.  I tend to believe the thermometer.  My current oh-so-stylish vogue is a turtleneck sweater and a flannel shirt under bibbies and, when headed to the barn in the rain, a fleece-lined canvas jacket and a Michael Jackson felt hat (can't carry two milk buckets and an umbrella).  When it's not raining, the hat is replaced with a watch cap jammed down to the eyebrows.  I haven't yet gone on an all-out search for a warmer set (put somewhere safe last spring) so make do with a pair of gardening gloves.  To complete the ensemble, both shoes have sprung leaks so I squelch through the muck.  I don't know why the photographers from "Elle" or "Cosmopolitan" haven't come knocking on my door.

It's well known how much I love to go shopping (NOT).  Thinking to get it out of the way and give the turkey time to thaw, I bit the bullet and went to the grocery store wa-a-ay down the hill on Friday to get supplies for the holiday.  It seems an order had gotten screwed up and there were no potatoes available.  "We'll get some in tomorrow."  Heads will roll!  My own head would be bouncing alongside, as, unbelievable as it seems, I had forgotten to get the bread for stuffing.  It was right there on the list.  I must have been so discombobulated by the absence of potatoes that I skipped right over the bread.  (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)  Rain or no rain, I had, oh joy, to go up to the closer market yesterday.  As I put 10 pounds of potatoes and 8 loaves of bread on the counter, the checker asked, "Are you making stuffing?"  "Well, yes, I am.  I've got 17 coming for dinner."  "Oh.  I'm expecting 20 and only got 3 loaves.  Maybe I need more?"  Three loaves?!  It wouldn't be worth my time.  What about leftovers?  The main reason to make a turkey dinner is to have leftovers!  After eating their fill at the table and before going home, my gang descends like lions to bag up leftovers.  That's how we do it in Fair Play.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I Know Who You Are

Someone might have noticed yesterday, before I caught it myself and fixed the error, that I called Ralph Frank.  This happens to me all the time.  Red-headed Ralph bears no resemblance to Frank, who was Siamese, so that's no excuse.  I might be forgiven for calling Celeste Pearl because Pearl was also a grey tabby.  I frequently apologize to Inga for yelling at Tessie, but using Inga's name.  This is, unfortunately, a long-standing problem.

When the Kids were little and I wanted one or the other for something, I'd call out the whole litany of names before hitting on the right one.  At one time I thought about having their name tattooed on their forehead for quick identification and a shot at getting it correct.  But that meant I'd have to have them in line of sight, so I gave up on the idea.  In desperation, I finally started calling them all Arthur (even my daughter).  Only one of the four was offended.  "But, Mama, I'm ___________.  Don't you know me?"  "Oh, honey, of course I do.  I'm so sorry.  Now, Arthur, go on outside and play."

It's a familial thing.  I inherited it from my mother.  My confusion with a flock of Kids might be understandable, but Mother had only two daughters.  My sister had red hair, was tall, and was sixteen years older than I.  She'd married and had children of her own when I was growing up.  Still, my mother would call us by the other's name.  Like my own Kids, my sister and I had to develop a strong sense of self or wonder all our lives who in heck we were.  We quit correcting Mother; we knew she knew us.

So, my friends and family, regardless of how I may address you, I know who you are.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Give Me A Sign

I have a sign that says "Goat Crossing" and one that says "Pig Crossing" (that was when I had Louie).  It's obvious that I now need a sign that says "Turkey Crossing."  This is the tail end of the traffic jam caused by the 17 turkeys in the driveway on their way to the breakfast buffet.

Cold and overcast all day, the rain didn't come until after 3:00, but then it poured.  I hate to put the goats in the barn too early because they can't get to water so I hesitated to go out.  Then I realized they wouldn't go in the rain even if they wanted a drink.  Bess had enough sense to stay in the house when I geared up and trekked outside.  The girls nearly ran me down in their rush to get inside.  I don't need a sign to tell me that goats hate rain.

Ginger had taken refuge under the feed barn.  She stayed there while I shut the door to the Taj for the Silkies, but got worried when I headed to the big hen house.  Obviously wishing she had a newspaper to hold over her head, she made a dash across the way like a fussy lady crossing the road and went under the coop to get out of the rain.  Afraid she would get left out in the dark, Ginger finally ran zig-zagging past me to get to the gate.  "Let me in!  Let me in-let me in-let me in!"  Once inside, she shook like a dog and fluffed her feathers, joining the flock who'd stayed dry all day.

All those poor turkeys were huddled under the manzanita and whatever relief they could find under the nearly denuded oaks, shoulders hunched against the rain.  They needed a sign pointing to the live oaks that said, "This way to dry shelter."

The wood stove had been cranked up all day and the warm house sure felt good when I came back, dripping wet and chilled.  Bessie, Celeste, and Ralph took their assigned places on my lap and legs.  It's nice to get a little help from my friends.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Wading In Jell-O

There are those days when I do keep moving ahead, but slowly.  I'm still washing windows.  A wicked, fierce wind drove what rain we had yesterday so I'm saved the work of cleaning the outside of the glass (big smiley face here).  I'd had enough sense to put the empty trash barrel into the shed so I don't have to chase it into the next county today.

Milking took longer than it should have.  It's not that the girls aren't cooperating.  Some days the teats aren't as forthcoming and it takes a lot more effort to extract the milk.  On a good day, I can empty Inga with 250-300 squirts.  Yesterday her milk was going every which way but into the bucket.  Over 400 squeezes later, the stand and I were drenched and sticky.  And she was only the first.  Weather being what it was, Tessie almost came in when invited and didn't go far when I had to go get her.

Cindy seems to be recovered from whatever it was that ailed her.  Her appetite has returned.  As worrisome as it was when she went off her feed, even worse was the fact that there were no droppings in her stall of a morning.  Goats are prolific poopers.  Even though she'd been doing some grazing, no poop pellets meant she wasn't processing her food.  The last couple of days, all systems are GO!  It's the little things that make me happy.

With Thanksgiving a week away, I'm on the countdown and must move faster.  Yeah, and how's that working?

Sunset was a bit of a dud last night.  The wind was enough to take the feet right out from under.  The sun goes down by 4:30 now, but none of the critters complain about going to bed early.  Ginger was stepping on my feet in her rush to get inside.

Sunrise this morning made up for sunset last night.  More stormy weather is in our forecast and that's a good thing, but a sight like this makes it all worthwhile.

If I could just get out of this Jell-O mold....

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Short Straw

It might be my imagination, but it seems to me there are more turkeys congregating in the yard these days.  Could it be because Thanksgiving is just around the corner?  This crowd was waiting for the Breakfast Lady and more were waiting in the wings (check out the ones on the railing of the chicken pen fence).

Because most are seen here as pedestrians around here, it's easy to forget that turkeys are powerful fliers.  I'd been watching the big birds cruising through the goat pen while milking.  Finished with chores and closing the last door yesterday, I heard the yeeping call turkeys have when conversing quietly amongst themselves, but could not determine the direction until I looked up.  Hard to see even in the dead branches, one was roosting about two-thirds up on the far right hand and one, not in the photo, was well to the left.  This tree is usually occupied by the high-flying vulture colony, but they've moved over to the oak by the driveway for some reason.

It is my opinion that the goats draw straws to see who is going to be my morning tormentor.  I'm not sure, however, if the girl who gets the short straw is the loser or the winner.  "Let me!  Let me 'get her goat' this morning!"  I've thwarted Sheila and Inga by changing their rooms and switching the routine.  If Cindy and Esther get balky, it's no skin off my nose because they aren't milkers.  If they won't come in for grain, they won't starve; there's alfalfa and plenty of graze on the ground.  It's Tessie who has taken up the torch.  "Tessie, it's your turn and your breakfast is ready," I coo.  "Come on, Tessie.  I haven't got all day," getting a bit brusk.  "Tessie, dammit!  Get your butt in here!"  And Tessie stands and stares.  "What?  You talkin' to me?"  Her bag is full every morning and I can't let her go a day without milking and so, with great reluctance, I go after her.  Maybe the goats took a vote and decided I need more aerobic exercise.  I approach slowly.  She turns and walks away.  Getting close, I move a little faster.  She goes a little faster too, staying one step out of reach.  Over to the fence, up the hill, around the water trough, down the hill.  I think she waits until she hears me huffing and puffing and only then allows me to grab her collar.  I swear she's smiling.  Once caught, she is completely docile and heads right for the barn.  Tell me she doesn't know what she's doing.  I have no spare room to put her in and no way to isolate her as I have the other renegades.  Come the rainy days that are predicted for the rest of this week, the fun and games will stop.  I'll get the last laugh because I can make Tessie wait outside until I'm darned good and ready to let her come in.  In the meantime....

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


With the best of intentions, I did not get Bessie's pool cleaned.  I didn't want to be wet and covered in gunk when Milk Guy arrived.  (Hey, you take your excuses where you find them.)  It was a day to let the electronic servants do the work.  Put in couple loads of laundry (and I even used the dryer!) and run the dishwasher and ta da! there's a grand sense of accomplishment with little to no effort.

On our morning walkabout, there were three deer, a full-grown doe and two youngsters, down in the front orchard and pasture.  Back lit by the sun, they were stunning but the photo didn't show them to advantage.  Enjoying the warmth on the deck, I realized I'd shoved the "take" from Sunday's sale in my pocket.  My OCD comes out when money is concerned.  I like all the bills facing the same way and in descending order.  I scared the deer when I laughed out loud as I was arranging the bills to suit and saw this stamp.  "Not to be used for bribing politicians.  Amend the constitution."  Cheaper and more effective than a billboard, I guess.

The day was mild, but the temperature plummets at sundown.  I had a good fire going before putting the kids in for the night.  Two large does were grazing in the big pen as the goats, Poppy, and I paraded down to the barn.  The deer watched and then surprisingly went on eating even as I opened and closed gates and doors with a bang.

The hardest chore I did all day was changing the sheets on the bed, made difficult by the goofy cats and Bessie Anne.  Ralph and Celeste pounce and play while I'm trying to open and spread the sheets and make it nearly impossible to smooth the bedding.  Bess is so routine oriented that she wants to get in her place as soon as we turn out the living room lights and go down the hall.  Too short to make the leap, she stands by the bed and yips, waiting impatiently for a boost up.  Mission accomplished in spite of the house critters, it was the height of luxury to slip between fleece sheets and not have that shock of chill factor from cold cotton.

It was a good day.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Fall Upon Us

Having been busy with this, that, and the other thing lately, I've yet to empty and clean Bessie's summer wading pool.  The water level is down and it's full of leaves.  On yesterday's early morning walkabout, I found a thick layer of ice in the pool.  That tells me two things:  it's definitely time to put the pool away (Bess cannot skate on ice) and fall has officially arrived.  It is so much easier to acclimate to cold weather than hot.  I knew the house was cold, but a turtleneck sweater under the bibbies and quilted flannel shirt made it bearable.  When it gets hot and you get down to skin, there's nothing left to take off.  I hadn't realized the temperature had dropped to freezing outside, but Bess and I double-timed our walk and I dressed accordingly before going out to do barn chores.

Books will be my downfall.  Coming back to the house, sunshine on the deck lured me outside for a quick rest.  At the tail end of an excellent story, I thought to sit long enough to warm up and read just a fast chapter, maybe two, before getting things ready to take to Market Day.  I needed to weigh and bag up feta cheese, wash eggs, and prepare a potato casserole for the potluck.  The sun felt so good on my face.  "Well, it won't take long to read just one more chapter.  There's still lots of time."  It's probably not necessary to say that I eventually turned the last page and closed the book before looking at the clock again.  And the race was on!  Throw the casserole together and put it in the oven (crank up the heat to make up for lack of time and hope for the best), carefully wash a couple of dozen eggs (can't rush that) to put in cartons, separately package five pounds of feta, change clothes (don't forget to switch shoes too, barn shoes won't do), do my best with the face, load up the truck, say goodbye to the dog and cats (who have been watching the whirlwind whip through the house with wonder), and drive to Tim's, keeping an eye out for roving herds of deer.  Amazingly, I was only a half-hour late and, believe it or not, was the first one there!  I don't know that the others' excuses were.  I just can't resist a good book.

It was a good day.  Today will be a good day to clean out the pool.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Can You See Me Now?

Meanwhile, back on the farm, I'm back to washing windows.  Perhaps I shouldn't have done it, but I counted up how many windows there are in this house.  It's daunting.  Seven of the ten doors are 10-pane glass doors; that's 140 "windows" (both sides) right there, and two glass storm doors.  Add in 30 more real windows, give or take, and it's more than a two-day job just to clean the inside.  And that doesn't address the multitudinous mirrors throughout the house.  The mirrors are not for vanity:  I lived in a condo for a time and didn't want to buy artwork that might not fit the decor when I moved, so invested in antique mirrors to fill wall space.  I have a lot of mirrors.  I buy the large economy-sized bottles of window cleaner.

In the midst of this madness, I got enough cheese made to fill my quota for the Market today, and I'll take a break from washing windows.  It will be a good day.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

You Can Run...

No sooner are the doors opened to the chicken coop than the hens and Nicolas come tumbling out, scrambling for the scratch thrown down in their yard.  (Turkeys hang around on the outside of the pen, waiting for me to step out so they can fly over to join their small feathered friends.)  I swear there are days when Ginger must be waiting with legs clamped together.  Instead of going for breakfast, she immediately jumps the fence and runs away.  The next step on my morning list is to put alfalfa in the cart to take to the goat pen.  Ginger has found her hidey-hole in the feed barn, tucked away in a corner and hidden (she thinks) under the sled used to haul feed when there's snow on the ground.  That's where she's chosen to lay her eggs, and yesterday was one of those days she couldn't wait a minute longer.  As I stepped closer to take her picture, she backed up, fluffed her feathers out, and growled a warning.  "A little privacy here, if you please!"  I turned away and pretended I hadn't seen her.  I'm just glad she's chosen one place and one place (hopefully) only.  Saves me from having to go on a daily egg hunt for my little free-range runaway.

The view from Inga's window in the goat barn was too pretty to resist.  Robert's vineyard is bursting with reds, greens, and golds of fall color.  Catching sight of this makes raking and shoveling goat poop from the stalls a lot more pleasant.  Come really cold weather and rainy days (!!), the window openings will be covered over.  Oh well, by then the leaves will have dropped and the view will be barren.  But the poop will go on and on.

I usually concentrate on sunrise and sunset, but the sky at mid afternoon was gorgeous.  Chill, but not cold enough to light a fire, Bess (she had the duty) and I went out to the deck to enjoy the sporadic sunshine.

It's a good thing I hadn't waited.  After putting the goats to bed, I started tucking in the chickens.  Ginger, who normally greets me and rushes to be first in the gate to the big pen, did not appear.  Maybe she's on the other side of the coop.  I got the feed bucket for nighty-night snacks.  Still no Ginger.  Thinking she might have gone broody, I checked her hidey-hole.  Empty and the egg abandoned.  I started getting worried.  Shutting the door to the Taj for the Silkies, I heard a rusting in the leaves to the west, over by the fence line.  There was my little red-headed girl, scratching away for one last goody in the fading light.  Bessie, who was again my escort, was more than ready to herd Ginger home, but responded well to "Leave it!"  ("Good girl, Bess!")  Ginger looked around as if surprised to see how fast the sun was fading and came running.  I'd have had no time to take a day's-end photo.  All present and accounted for, doors closed against the darkness, Bessie Anne and I went back to the house.

It was a good day.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Escort Service

Celeste has joined my escort service.  For years, Bessie Anne has been my constant companion and now Celeste is in training for the job.  (Ralph is busy doing Ralph things.)  Sometimes Bess and Celeste work in tandem and sometimes they tag-team, but I go nowhere alone in the house.  Ever.  I don't know if they're acting as bodyguards or are doubtful of my activities, but I am under constant surveillance.  Bessie Anne has the detail when I go outside.  Inside, Celeste will wake from a sound sleep to walk close by my side down the hall or simply into another room.  Bess will occasionally wait to see if I'm coming back before following.  Now that Celeste has joined the ranks Bessie feels more comfortable if I'm out of her sight for a few minutes.  Privacy is a thing of the past.  There is no escape from this eagle-eyed dynamic duo.

The rain had stopped by the time I was in the barn, but it stayed cold and misty all day.  Not quite a drizzle, it was wet enough to dampen the goats and frizzle my hair.  As I told Linda, on foggy days I bear an amazing resemblance to a Brillo pad.  The break in the clouds at sundown was not the only bright spot in my day.

The smile on Clay's face when he came up was like a ray of sunshine and I'm sure my own was a reflection.  I'm honored when the Kids share precious time off with me.  Deb and Craig visited on their long weekend and Clay is on vacation.  Dave takes time away from other work.  It's pretty cool.  Clay and I talked and talked, and puttered around downstairs in the morass we call "the shop."  The question always is, "Why do you suppose he (Steve) felt the need for 8 (or 12 or 50) of these?"  And there is no answer.

"Wrestling Ernest Hemingway" is a much-loved movie and I wanted to dub it from VHS to DVD.  Clay was up for watching it, so I got out the instruction manual.  After a few false starts with the two remotes, I got the machines working.  One never knows what will appeal to another, so I was pleased when Clay said, "That was one damned good movie!"

Bessie Anne, after holding back all day, could stand it no longer and shamelessly begged for Clay's attention.  She completely lost it, almost turning herself inside out.  Clay got down on the floor to play and snuggle with my girl.  The look on her face as she crawled into his lap was pure bliss.  After such a day, I know just how she felt.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Let's Talk Turkey

Bright sunshine here in early morning, with a backdrop of fog moving up the Hwy. 50 corridor.  That's pretty much how yesterday went, with cloud cover moving over and then the sun breaking through.  Not quite cold enough for a fire, but definitely more comfortable with a warm cat on my lap (when I sat).  One batch of cheese hanging and another setting curd on the stove.  In the afternoon, Bess said she'd had enough of being housebound.  "Let's you and me go outside, Mom.  No, you have to come too!"  It being sunny at the moment, I went outside too.

Bessie checked the perimeter and I sat on the deck and listened to the turkeys.  A group of eight hens under the live oak by the house was conversing with another flock down in the woods.  Turkeys have what appears to be a fairly extensive vocabulary.  The familiar "gobble-gobble" is not actually used all that much, more during times of conflict than any other.  There is a kind of whistle, and a clucking sound, and an almost "peep-peep-peep."  When one of the flock gets separated (usually because one will forget how to fly back over the fence), they cry with the most plaintive call of all.  "Where are you?  Wait for me!  Don't leave me all alone!"  The war cries when flocks fight need no interpretation, but I wish there were a lexicon of turkey talk so I could listen in with more assurance to their conversations.  The important mating ritual is carried out in silence.  The males strut with measured steps, tails spread regally, accompanied only by the drumbeat of wings on the ground.  Females seemingly ignore these posturings, quietly pecking through the leaves as if they could care less but, I see, watching from the corner of their eyes while choosing whose favors to accept.  I'm an inveterate, unabashed eavesdropper; what can I say?

Welcome rain came in the night (the girls will have a differing opinion) and it continues to drizzle as it becomes light.  Clay is coming up today.  I see chicken stroganoff in his future and a great day in mine.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Pushing Buttons

I get a thrill when I raise the flag and yesterday, Veterans Day, was no exception.  It doesn't matter if no one but me sees it on this tiny dirt road, I like knowing it's there.

That bright, early-morning sunshine did not last.  On my way down to the barn, a solid bank of fog was pulling itself over the hills to the west with long grey fingers.  I hadn't finished with the girls before the temperature dropped and mist filled the air.  I had to go to town (another day lost) and had a wood stove dilemma.  The house was cold and I felt bad for Bessie and the cats, but I don't like to leave with a fire going, and I try not to bank the fire because it increases the creosote buildup in the chimney.  Deciding that the critters were wearing fur coats and had plenty of warm nesting spots in the house, I reluctantly drove off into the gloom.

I've been hitting the panic button about getting the house ready for Thanksgiving.  I got a bit snarky (for which I apologize) about the wasted day on Monday because my To-Do list wasn't getting crossed off and time was running out.  It turns out I was pushing the wrong button.  A reminder call from Tim pointed out that this coming Sunday is his Market Day.  Aaargh!  I really should look at the calendar more often.  I thought I had another week to get ready and had not only not made any cheese, I hadn't even saved enough milk.  The chickens were happily slurping up a large portion of what should have been brought up to the house.  Back-peddling as fast as I could, I tried to get out of going to the Market this month but Tim already had orders for three pounds of feta so I was stuck.  I hurriedly put what milk I had to set a curd and hoped for the best.  I have two weeks to get ready for Thanksgiving; plenty of time to push that button.  It seems I'm a big proponent of "When in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout!"

On returning home, the order of business was:  get a fire started, unload the truck, put frozen food in the freezer, take down the flag before dark, and put the critters to bed.  It was only 4:30, but my lighted hat was needed to get the girls to go in.

What a day.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Waiting Game

Milk Guy (usually) comes on Mondays.  He is very good about letting me know, albeit sometimes at the last minute, if he isn't going to be able to make it and that is truly appreciated.  However, when he is going to get here on Monday is iffy.  Sometimes he lets me know in the morning that he won't be here until late in the afternoon, and I appreciate the heads-up so I can line out my day.  If I don't hear anything, he usually gets here about 11:30 and that's fine with me.  But then there are days like yesterday when I wait.  Eleven-thirty came and went.  I hate to start a "dirty" project when company might show up at the door, so I just waited.  Rain is predicted in a few days and I needed to buy and unload feed before then.  I waited as long as I could and then made it down to Mt. Aukum, hoping Milk Guy didn't come while I was gone.  Bess and I got back as quickly as we could, and waited.  With the time change, sundown comes early and my habit is to have dinner before going to the barn.  (If it gets dark any sooner, I'll be eating dinner at noon.)  Do I start cooking and mess up the kitchen?  There had been no word and no sign of Milk Guy, so I pretty much figured he wouldn't be coming.  A rumbling tummy made my decision, and I had everything timed so I would have a few minutes to eat before chores.  The goats have to be inside by 5 or they balk at going in at all.  Just before I was going to plate up, Milk Guy pulled in.  I'm grateful for the business and didn't want him to feel I was giving him the bum's rush, but the sun was sinking fast.  I followed him out and hurried to the barn.  The girls, as predicted, didn't want to go into the darkened barn.  By the time I got them tucked in, Ginger was the next best thing to panicked, sure she'd be left out in the night.  The Silkies had given up and put themselves to bed.  I came in to a stone-cold dinner, but the waiting was over.

Perspective is a funny thing.  I can do nothing all day and be perfectly satisfied with that.  Doing nothing while "waiting" for something or someone feels like a wasted day.  I need to adjust my attitude. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!

The only "space" Sheila was lost in was between her ears.  Tessie was up on the stand when Sheila started firing off danger snorts, accompanied by Inga.  This did nothing for Tessie's peace of mind, sure she was about to be attacked by some unknown, unseen source.  Sheila and Inga were staring intently up at the big oak.  Of course I looked to see what was causing the panic and saw nothing but the turkeys.  Mating season must be rolling around again because all seven members of the Boys' Club were strutting their stuff, practicing their moves before approaching the females.  Goofy Sheila must have forgotten what the boys look like with tail feathers fanned out and continued to snort and pace.  Inga soon figured it out and, bored with Sheila's histrionics, wandered off.  Released after milking, Tessie couldn't get out of the barn fast enough, ready to flee the scene.  When she realized it was a false alarm, she gave Sheila a look that said, "Seriously?" and went up to munch alfalfa.  Sheila saw that the rest of the herd was calm and finally settled down, somewhat embarrassed, I'm sure.  She meant well.

I know that I'm becoming a bit obsessive about sunsets; I can't seem to quit.  Grey skies will come soon enough and these opportunities will be lost.  The lacy leaf filigree that gives such perspective will become stark bare branches.  To paraphrase Robert Herrick, "Gather ye sunsets while ye may...."  Carpe diem!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Good Gets Better

 Some days start out well and then go south and you end up wishing you'd never gotten out of bed.  Yesterday was not one of those days.  The early morning sun caught the colors of the peach and plum trees and made them glow against the dark green of the pines.  It was a portent of what was to come.

My Kids give the best hugs ever.  No fakey-phony kiss-kiss for them.  A hug from any one of them wraps you up in an embrace that exudes love.  My Deb and my Craig (yes, I am proprietary) arrived shortly after I finished barn chores and had gotten started on a pie crust and egg salad for lunch, and everything came to a screeching halt while I got and gave welcoming hugs.  Bessie Anne said a quick hello to Deb, but she wasn't shy about going to Craig, her favorite "boy."  The Kids had some extra days off for Veterans Day weekend and were sharing one with me.  We worked together to make sandwiches and fries and I got an apple pie into the oven.  Conversation flowed.  Both Deb and Craig work hard at stressful jobs and it was grand to see them relax over the course of the afternoon.  Too soon it was time for good-bye hugs and "Love you!" as they drove away.

Sunset was determined to get into the act.  This was on the way to the barn.  I'm happy to report that Cindy had eaten her breakfast and had been grazing during the day.  Now it's Poppy who has my attention.  She's been arthritic for some time now, but yesterday she couldn't put weight on one leg at all and it was painful to watch her hobble around in the pen.  Poppy's getting pretty darned old in the sheep world, nearly 14, and I may have to make some hard decisions soon.
Just like the day, sunset got better and better.  It pays to take one last look before going into the house at dusk.

Some days are just plain bad, some are so-so, some are good, and, if you're very lucky, some are the best.  This was one of the best!

Saturday, November 8, 2014


The trouble with housework never ends.  And one thing always leads to another.  Unlike balancing a column of numbers, or putting down a book, or finishing the last bite of a good meal, with housework you do the same thing over and over with no end in sight.  Sigh.  Shining windows put a spotlight on cobwebs previously unnoticed and dust coating the knickknacks sitting on a high shelf.  Fine, just fine.  Weeding; now weeding is something I can get into.  It might be a whole season before that will need repeating.  Mowing is another satisfaction-producing task; could be another week or two before it has to be done again.  I really enjoy cooking although it's an every-day job.  Different cuisines, different ingredients, different techniques.  That's something to look forward to.  Even laundry, if you have enough socks and don't have any kids around, doesn't have to be done all the time.  (Four teenagers, two showers each a day, two towels for each shower.  Yeah, I washed at least one load every single day for years back then.)  Don't get me wrong, I love the end result after a bout of major cleaning.  The trouble is, by the time I get the last room polished and spiffed up, the first room needs attention again.  Dust the same furniture, sweep the same floors, wash the same glassware.  Capital B boring.

I get a reprieve today (insert smiley face here).  Deb and Craig are coming up!  I'm perfectly willing to lose whatever weak momentum I had and put off housework one more day.  That's my trouble, I'm a very good procrastinator.  But don't those washed windows look good?  Trust me, the rest will still be there tomorrow.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Catch Me If You Can

It is not yet breeding season for the turkeys.  They make me think of early high school dances (back in the day) when the boys would stand awkwardly on one side of the gymnasium while the girls primped and preened, sitting on the other side.  Finally, one boy, driven by testosterone and the goading of his male cohorts, would cross the barren No Man's Land in the middle and approach the lady of his choice and ask for a dance.  Then it was as if the flood gates opened and a herd of big-footed, gangling boys would rush across to the line of girls in three or four crinoline slips and poodle skirts and the dance would begin.  These hens were waiting for breakfast and the toms hung back.  It won't be too long before the groups merge.

The goats, on the other hand, are going through their cycles again, cranky as all get out and frustrated.  Female goats will modify their behavior in the absence of a male.  Tessie was being courted by Sheila when it was Tess's turn to come in and she was more interested in Sheila than in getting her udder emptied.  We made several laps around the pen while I tried to divert Tessie, and it wasn't until Sheila made her final move that I was able to grab Tess's collar and take her back to the barn.

I got a good start on window washing; not close to finishing, but at least it's a start.  Like a little kid, Bessie Anne would whine when it was our usual time to go outside.  If I didn't respond immediately, her whining would get louder and louder.  It was a case of drop what I was doing and go with her or yell at my friend.  I can't take the look of reproach from those puppy-dog eyes when I shout at Bess, so we would sit on the porch long enough to satisfy her and then resume chores.  That's my excuse for not finishing all the windows.  Works for me.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Blue Blazes

The last page turned, the book put down, and I'm out of excuses.  The question now is where to begin.  It's a matter of priorities.  I'm thinking windows first, as they should stay clean until Thanksgiving, and then work my way down the list to those things that must be done last minute. I don't know how I'm going to sell the plan to Bessie Anne.  She's taken a liking to book-and-bench breaks and gets a bit bossy if I dilly-dally when she wants "us" to go outside.

There were 30-40 turkeys in the goat pen yesterday morning, and they were in no hurry to vacate the premises.  They parted like waves as I passed through and wandered amongst the goats when I let the girls out.  Cindy is giving me cause for concern.  She and Esther are two of triplets and are the oldest girls in the herd, going on thirteen.  Cindy has gone off her feed before, but rallied and came back.  She didn't eat all of her bedtime snack and didn't want breakfast.  One worries when a goat doesn't eat, it's so not like them.  Age takes its toll.

Cooking for one can be a challenge.  I sometimes circumvent the situation by cooking a lot and freezing.  Last night I baked seven mini-meat loaves, also throwing a potato in the oven for my dinner.  I like knowing I've got six more meals ready to go, and only the one bowl and pan to wash!  I'm trying hard to adapt to the new time schedule:  sundown at 5:00 now.  I rarely have a reason to go out after dark (unless I get an urgent demand from Bess), and so I'm back in the house when evening falls.  While working in the kitchen, I caught sight of this sunset and couldn't resist grabbing the camera for one more photo.  It was a good day.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Right, Left

Lists to the left of me, lists to the right.  Making lists is as far as I've gotten toward fall cleaning for Thanksgiving.  My thinking goes something like this:  I'm already behind schedule so I might as well finish the book I'm reading now and then go blue blazes on the lists.  (I've got ready-made lists of excuses, too.)

The buck and his ladies were in the yard again in the morning, and each cleared the four-foot boundary fence in an effortless, graceful leap.  More and more turkeys are showing up for breakfast, hanging out in the front yard while waiting and then running across the driveway to the buffet.  Bessie Anne got caught in the middle of traffic yesterday and the turkeys surged around her.  The expression on her face!

As soon as my milk customer drove off, I went to cast my election ballot.  I'm sure the guv'mint would prefer I mail it in, but I'm old-school and like the tradition of going to the polling place with my neighbors and putting that very American piece of paper in the box myself.  I liked that a father was accompanied by two young daughters and he was explaining to them exactly what he was doing and why.  Who knows what changes will be made in the process by the time those girls are old enough to vote; at least they'll have a memory of how it used to be.

 It was an "ordinary" sunset, but a pretty spectacular full moonrise.  
Celeste jumped the gun last evening.  I didn't get a chance to change into warmer sweat pants or grab the lap throw.  That cat is asleep as soon as she shuts her eyes, and she shuts her eyes as soon as she's in position.  I'd be hard put to give a reason, but I'm reluctant to disturb any sleeping animal.  By the time we went to bed, my toes were frozen and my legs were stiff, but Celeste was happy.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Miss November

As if for a calendar layout, Bessie Anne decorated herself with fall foliage from the forsythia and posed as Miss November.  It doesn't take her long to pick up on a routine.  When I take a book and say, "I'm going outside now," she beats me to the door and leads the way to the bench on the deck.  I'm working on my winter tan, sitting in the morning sun and reading.  "Just a chapter or two" expands into 300-400 pages.  I tell myself every time that I'll put the book down when the sun gets too hot and we go back into the house.  Yeah, and how's that working?

Mr. November strolled through the yard with a couple of ladies in the morning.  I spotted the 3-point buck (that would be a 6-point in Texas, but that's not an accusation that Texans exaggerate) and two does while I was switching out girls in the milking room.  Hunting season ended a couple of days ago and the rut is about to begin, so it wasn't a surprise to see a buck roaming around.

Like the goats and chickens, come sundown and I'm ready to go to bed.  The long evening stretches out, seemingly forever.  It's been chilly, but not so cold after dark that I want to burn up precious firewood, so it's the recliner and lap robe, supplemented with a warm cat or two.  Changing the clocks has an effect; they slow down to a crawl.  Bedtime?  No, it's only 7:30.  Bedtime yet?  Grownups can't go to bed at 8:00.  How about now?  It's 8:30 and I close my eyes for just a minute.  We all wake up from our nap about 11 and go to bed.  Four-thirty a.m. and we're all wide awake.  I do much better with gradual, natural change.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Long Live the King

Mad King Charles (the barred rock rooster) died the other day, probably from old age and undoubtedly from an overactive libido.  He bequeathed the flock of hens to Tzar Nicolas, the Araucana with the golden ruff and no tail feathers.  Nicolas has had to play second fiddle for years and seems to be reveling in becoming the only cock on the walk.  Since Charles and Nicolas were hatched at the same time, I'm not sure this burst of breeding activity bodes well for Nic's longevity, but he will go out smiling.

In the seventeen years I've lived here, a pet cemetery (or, as Stephen King would write it, "Pet Sematary") has developed under a large oak overlooking a slope to the west at the edge of the property.  I've had large numbers of chickens over the years and they do not have exceptionally long life spans.  Too many have died to be buried here, even those with noteworthy personalities.  There seems to be an unwritten rule that chickens will not expire close to Tuesday, so they must be immediately bagged up tightly and frozen before transport to the big road.  This prevents contamination and any scent.  All Kids know not to open any white plastic trash bags in the big freezer.

Farm life gives a different and probably more realistic perspective on life and death.  Both just happen.  We welcome each new birth and mourn each passing, and go on with our chores.  The King is dead.  Long live The King.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


Wake-up time is wake-up time, regardless of what the clock says.  "Get to sleep an extra hour" is pure silliness.  I shall not go off on my seasonal tantrum, but I'm not happy about the blankety-blank Daylight Savings situation.  "Their" definition of Standard Time and mine differs, since it's anything but standard when "they" keep changing it.  Oh well, I woke up at the now four-thirty and I'll just have to deal with it.

Yesterday was a day of celebration for my mother-in-law's 90th birthday.  My sister-in-law, Lynne, and her husband Stan had organized a party for family and friends at a long-established Italian  restaurant, and they did an outstanding job.  I don't get to spend much time with that side of the family, and nephews and nieces whom I've known since they were born are now handsome and lovely men and women.  Best of all, they're funny!  There is a new great-great-grandson for Billie, a tiny baby boy who was passed around like a party favor and never woke up.  All too soon it was time for me to head back up the hill.

Why is it that the drive home is so much shorter than the trip away?  I made a stop at a grocery store that I like, thinking to be in and out in no time.  The store had been completely renovated and nothing was where it "should" be, and it took a lot longer to find the few items I wanted than I'd hoped.  There was an unexpected bonus, though.  It doesn't pay to run around in the hills without a full tank of gas, so I stopped to fill up and paid $3.05/gallon!!  Haven't seen gas that cheap for...I don't remember when.

Got home in time to watch The Breeders Cup at Santa Anita, unpack the groceries, get a fire going in the wood stove, and put the kids to bed before dark.  Still in my go-to-town jeans and not my ubiquitous bibbies, I didn't have my phone in a pocket and so missed out on a photo of the huge, stupendous thunderheads over the mountains, touched with a rosy gold from the last rays of the setting sun.  Darn.

It was a good day.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Treats, No Tricks

The weathermen (weather women, weather people, weather's so awkward trying to be PC) got the rain right, but their timing was way off.  They'd said it was to start in the early morning yesterday, taper off for the Trick-Or-Treaters, and come back late at night.  Oh well, it's an art, not a science, and I think Nature likes a giggle now and then.

The temperature was definitely down and the cloud cover was heavy enough while tending to the goats that I left the gate open to the covered playpen for the girls so they could shelter from the rain when it came and closed the big door to the hen house to keep them a bit warmer.  Cam and Debbie K. were coming for dinner, so my day was spent doing housework and cooking.  The wood stove took the chill off while I started a big pot of ham hocks and lima beans.  The rain finally came about 3, and the critters were happy to be put to bed early by 4:30.  By the time the ladies, including Honey, arrived, the beans were cooked, the cornbread was baked, and the pie was in the oven timed to come out for dessert.
Camille had donated apples from her tree, variety unknown, but they made a wonderful pie, tart-sweet, and didn't turn to mush.  While rolling out the dough, I tried to guestimate how many pies I've made in my lifetime; too many to count.  The Kids' dad was a police officer and many were the times I'd have an apple pie ready to come out of the oven when he and his buddies would get off the 3-11 shift.  The Kids have always preferred pie over cake (e.g., the Great Pie Day in February), as do I.

Conversation at the table came to a halt as we tucked into comfort food and listened to rain beetles tapping at the windows.  None of us dressed in costume, but we definitely were treated last night.  Stuffed to the gills, the ladies went off into the rainy night.  I put another log on the fire, Celeste came out of  hiding to warm my lap, Bessie Anne and Ralph settled in front of the stove, and we all called it a good day.