Thursday, December 31, 2015

Auld Lang Syne

Times gone by (translation of auld lang syne).  Something I do going into every new year is sit down with the old calendar to enter birthdays, anniversaries, etc., in the new calendar.  That, in itself, is an exercise in futility because odds are I won't look in time and am perpetually late in sending good wishes and cards, but it's important to make the effort.  More importantly, I use the calendar as a sort of date book, noting who came up on any occasion, so turning the pages from one month to another is a trip down memory lane.  It makes me smile to think of happy times with my Kids and friends, and friends of friends.  I also write in major occurrences on the farm (falling trees, etc.) and when anyone or animal dies.  At year's end, it is good to pay my respects again.

A new, blank calendar is a symbol of hope to me, waiting to be filled with - who knows what.  That's what makes a new calendar exciting and unpredictable.


The cranky computer relented and let me pull up yesterday's photo of Celeste and Babe in a quiet moment.  She's been having such a good time tossing the piglet that I haven't been able to make myself take it away from her.  Celeste must have taken lessons from Ralph.  She's even started making the brrrp-brrrp sounds for which he's famous.  Her personality has certainly undergone a change.

Acorns continue to pour out when I open the door every morning.  I've just pushed them to the side as I stumbled in to get birdseed.  Yesterday I was amazed to find not one single acorn outside.  Evidently the grey squirrels are gorging somewhere in the trees.  Happy happy!

There was a stranger in our midst in the mists of morning yesterday.  A blue heron had been at the goat trough and took off flying in its peculiar Z-shape when I approached.  It was a rare and special sight.

I hope everyone has some wonderful memories of auld lang syne and a calendar waiting to be filled with exciting events in the New Year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wild Side

Celeste is showing a new side of her personality.  Usually she is calm, rather sedate, and the one who keeps rowdy Ralph in line.  In the last week, she's done an about-face, leaping about, chasing Ralph, playing with toys and the bits and bobs he's dragged out.  I got a good photo of her yesterday, but the computer is cranky and won't let me pull it up to post.  Not content with the overflowing basket of cat and dog toys, she found one of my stuffed pigs, a small replica of Babe from the movie.  I became aware of this when I was hit in the head with Babe, flung through the air by Celeste.  I think we'll have to have a talk about yours and mine.  She and Ralph seem to have done a switcheroo.  Now he is the one snoozing on my lap or on the couch while she races around like something demented.  It could be worse; they could both be acting like nutters at the same time.

The rain, hail, and frost had the truck cleaned up and looking good, but when I left for a trip to town (aaargh) yesterday I was taken aback to find the hood of the truck covered in muddy prints and a few "deposits."  It appears that Narcissus and his mates have taken to roosting on the truck.  These are big birds and they leave big tracks.  I think they're making themselves way too comfortable here.

Tomorrow is New Year's Eve.  It is also Camille's birthday.  I've invited her and Linda to stop by for a drink in the afternoon.  That's about as much of a walk on the wild side as I'm ready to do these days.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Begin And End

The day ended as it had begun - cold.  In between, it was cold.  A light dusting of snow had fallen in the early morning dark, which turned into a benefit because when the sun did come out the snow melted fast, taking a lot of the hail away with it.  Regardless, as the photo shows, the sun didn't stay out long and we never got above the 30s all day.  The birdbath in the herb garden remains a frozen skating rink.

A solution to the acorn problem may be ahead.  The ground squirrels must be tucked into their burrows, but I noticed a large number of grey tree squirrels out and about the shed yesterday.  If those acorns aren't petrified, the grey squirrels have hit the mother lode.  Perhaps all I need do, when I dredge up enough ambition, is barrow them to the drop off in the yard and let the critters take them away.  But then, where will they store them?  This could be an unending acorn round-robin situation.

Is there a better kitchen aroma than bacon and onions frying?  Well, yes, but bacon and onions are right up there at the top of my list.  Hungry, but not wanting to do a lot of cooking and needing to do something with a tub of leftover mashed potatoes, I thought, "Potato Soup!"  The weather certainly cried out for some comfort food and what better than a bowl of hot soup?  When the diced bacon was crisp and the onions softened, I dumped in the mashed potatoes, added some herbs and spices, poured in quite a lot of milk and heated to a low boil.  Ladled into a dish, the addition of grated sharp cheddar cheese was the perfect finishing touch for a winter meal.  Portioned into bags when cool, the rest of the soup went into the freezer.  Win now-win later!

 My phone tells me optimistically that we may heat up to 43 today.  Yeah, well, it said that yesterday, too.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Brrrr!

I'm not complaining, mind you, but this hail on the deck fell four days ago and has yet to melt away.  A good portion of the chicken pen is shaded, also with a thick coating of ice.  A ground heave makes it hard to open the gate to their pen.  Filling their waterers has to be done in the evening because the faucet is frozen in the morning.  Same for the goats' trough, and I broke through two inches of ice yesterday so they could drink.  "Watch your step" is the motto of the day because slipping and landing on frozen ground would be painful.  Shivering is a way the body tries to stay warm, but it doesn't work so well for the goats when they're up on the stand.  I try to hurry the milking so the girls can get out in the sunshine (when there's sunshine).  At times they shiver so hard I feel I'm getting DIY milk shakes.  I dare not let the wood stove go completely cold because once the house is chilled it takes hours to warm up again and the cats, dog and I huddle together for what comfort we can give each other.  To put it plainly, it's cold!

I haven't seen Kinks for some time now and feel he's gone to Mouse Heaven.  Two new identifiables are on scene:  China, whose eyes are almond shaped instead of seed-bead round, and Hunch, who eats his grain with his head hunched down between his shoulder blades in a way that's all his own.  The goats pay no-never-mind to my head gear, but when I've got a stocking cap jammed under my hoodie, the mice all stop to look, sometimes running away as if they'd seen a monster.  Myself, I just avoid mirrors.

Given the on-again, off-again plans for Christmas, I decided I could open the gift from Santa that had been left in the mailbox.  It was a brand new Zippo lighter.  There's only one secret Santa that recently has watched me struggle with lighters that either wouldn't light at all or raised calluses because of multiple necessary flicks.  Thank you, Linda.  I also owe gratitude to Kathy V., who sent me a care package of homemade jams and a fruitcake.  Fruitcake has a special place in my heart and holds many memories that I'd shared with Kathy V.  I'm told there are those who do not like fruitcake, which I've never understood.  Christmas without fruitcake would not be Christmas any more than Easter would be Easter without colored eggs.

Bessie Anne just made a quick (really quick) trip outside to piddle and I could hear her crunching through the ice on the deck in the dark.  I'm guessing it isn't going to warm up much today, either.  Brrrr!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Half A Loaf

"Half a loaf is better than none."  I'm here to say that half a Christmas is almost as good as the whole megillah.  Dave and Clay came up yesterday, not really to celebrate the holiday but for a visit.  Opening the door and seeing their smiling faces was like opening the best of presents.  When Dave arrived, he commandeered Clay and they stacked the porch rack high with firewood.  What they accomplished in minutes would have taken me an hour, and I so appreciate their labor.  All that wood will warm more than the cockles of my heart.

The guys laughed as hard as I had when I opened the door to the shed to show them and the acorns came rolling out.  It's really jaw-dropping awesome.  Unfortunately, they had no helpful ideas on how to dispose of this bounty, either.  I just shut the door again and we went into the house.  Some things are better left ignored.

Clay had said he had a story to tell me.  It concerns what I now call the Crum Society.  It seems he had told a few coworkers about the blog and, out of curiosity, they started reading about Farview Farm.  "Crum" has now become a buzz word among my new fans.  What fun!  Dave chimed in and said his accountant has become a constant reader, too, after hearing about the mice with names down in the barn.  The world works in mysterious ways.  I love the thought of connection with people I'll never meet.

I spent awhile in the kitchen.  Clay could and Dave couldn't stay for dinner and I put a one-pot meal together and in the oven.  As always happens when any of the Kids get together, the sound of laughter from the other room gladdens my heart.  Not just relations, my Kids genuinely like each other as friends.

Dave had places to go and people to see, so took off about sundown.  Clay and I sat down to share chicken, potatoes, carrots, and peas in wine sauce and some good conversation.

It might not have been Christmas, but it was the next best thing.  It was a good day.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Shades of Christmas Past

It being Christmas Day yesterday and our holiday postponed, I wasn't feeling very festive, more Scrooge than Tiny Tim.  Paying bills just rubbed salt in the wound.  And then I was visited by the Ghosts of some Christmases Past.

I've told before how, when I was a kid, Santa came to our house on Christmas Eve in varying and ingenious ways, never the same way twice and never at the same time.  Mother and Daddy were at odds every year.  He wanted formal trees, sometimes white or flocked, and Mother wanted old-fashioned full green firs.  They reached an every-other-year compromise.  Christmas Day was usually spent at one relative's or another, frequently at Mother's brother Uncle Harry's.  Uncle Harry overindulged in the spiked eggnog and insisted on singing at the top of his lungs, and his carving of the turkey was, let us say, unique.  Daddy's been gone 35 years, Mother 31, but I saw them clear as day.

The scene changed and I saw the Kid's dad and I putting bicycles together well past midnight for four sleeping children.  He was strictly a Christmas-morning kind of guy.  Christmas Eve was when our parents came to visit, but no presents could be opened.  The grandparents had to come in shifts.  Family dynamics being what they were, my parents had divorced and would not come at the same time.  His parents had divorced and would not speak to each other.  My mother had gotten mad at his mother at our wedding (she could hold a grudge!) and they could not be together.  Battle lines were drawn and it took great planning, as well as timing, to keep the spirit of the holiday from turning into warfare.  All those faces came back to me yesterday.

My friend Dolly appeared and she was appalled at my undecorated tree.  Her house screamed Christmas every year, decorated to the nines with every conceivable reindeer possible.  I might say that she decorated for every holiday, not just Christmas.  Her husband Dan was a laconic guy who put up with our brand of crazy.  It was nice to see them again.

Steve loved Christmas and his excitement made all the trouble of baking and cooking and decorating easy.  Even more than the Kids, he wanted stocking hung, filled with goodies and surprises.  He wanted a brightly lit tree in the living room and downstairs.  There were even little trees and a Santa mirror in the bathroom!  I received the most detailed wish lists, including prices and stores.  I still carry the paper to which he'd cut out and stapled wanted items so I could get exactly the ones he wanted.  Christmas Eve was our private time for our gifts to each other, but he couldn't wait for the family to show up for the festivities to begin.  One year when Deb was staying with us, she was sleeping in and he couldn't take it.  He clomped past her room, calling out loudly (and unnecessarily) as he went.  It might have been all of six a.m.  The holiday isn't the same without him.

You know, it wasn't such a bad day after all.

It's down in the 20s again this morning, but knowing Clay, and maybe Dave, will be here keeps me warm.  It's going to be a good day.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Oh Phoo!

Bah humbug.  Christmas at Farview has been postponed until further notice when Larry recovers and Deb and Craig get over the creeping crud they've come down with.  Since we've never paid much attention to the calendar, preferring to make our holidays whenever we can all get together, I really have no complaints.  Clay said he's coming up tomorrow anyhow and Dave hasn't made up his mind yet.  We won't do "Christmas" per se, but I will certainly enjoy the company.  Chili verde, however, will have to wait until the gang's all here.

Weather ran the gamut yesterday, starting with wind and rain and ending with a big bang.  Several times there were flurries of snow, enough to cover the deck, rain again, and then everything stopped and there was a period of calm.  And then....  And then in late afternoon there was an alert on the cellphone and on TV announcing a tornado had hit in Folsom and was headed this way, warning all to stay indoors and away from windows.  Well, that was unexpected, to say the least.  Rather than see goats whirling past as in the Wizard Of Oz, it seemed prudent to put the girls inside.  Bess and I had no more than started out the door when hail the size of Tic-Tacs started falling, lightning flashed literally overhead and huge, I mean really huge, claps of thunder shook the ground.  Did I say the day ended with a bang?  Walking on acorns was good training for the hail pellets, arms outstretched and careful steps like a tightrope walker.  We never did get the winds, but I breathed a sigh of relief when all the furred and feathered clan were inside and safe for the night.  Camille and I had compared notes when we got the first warning.  She has a longer, steeper hill to travel to her barn and we agreed to connect when we were both back in the house, just in case.  It's what neighbors do; we watch out for each other.

Down in the 20s this morning, hail still covers the ground.  It's the Farview version of a white Christmas, whether it's Christmas or not.  Happy holidays to all you traditionalists!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Bright Spots

After days of rain and gloomy weather, the sun came out yesterday.  "What is that bright light in the sky?"  Even though the grass (or what passes for grass up here) was wet, the goats settled down to bask in the weak warmth after breakfast.

Trying to get to the birdseed through the acorns was like walking on ball bearings and could be hazardous to one's health.  It's not enough that I have to cope with the chicken pen slip-and-slide or the shoe-sucking muck in the goat pen or the frozen leaves on the deck.  I don't need to go to an amusement park to get my thrills, for sure.  I've not yet come up with a disposal program for all those acorns, but the guys were full of suggestions, most of them pure evil.  Clay suggested I give everyone slingshots for Christmas and let them have an Acorn War.  Hmmm.  No.  "Kid, you'll put your eye out."  (He said he'd bring goggles.)  Until I figure it out, I choose to shut the door and ignore the problem, although I doubt it will go away.

After waiting months (months!!) for Workers' Compensation to approve, Larry finally had his knee surgery this week.  Not such a bright spot is that he won't make it up to be with the gang for Christmas.  That's two of my chicks who won't be here in the nest for the holiday. 

Taking advantage of the sunny day, I drove up to Grizzly Flat to finally pick up the oak table and chairs.  The lady and I had been trying to connect, but timing and rain kept delaying the project.  That was another bright spot in my day, as was having Helper Dude come over to unload the furniture from the truck.  The chairs went into the dining room and the table went down into the shop.  Three dining room tables for a single woman seems a bit of overkill.  (But Steve would be so proud.)

Having burned the last stick of firewood on the porch, it seemed prudent to bring wagon after wagon load of wood to the porch in the afternoon.  Well stocked just in time as the temperature started dropping about sundown and I got a fire going.  It's windy and rainy again this morning and snow is predicted by 8 a.m., reverting to rain and then coming back by 5 p.m. to last through the night.  Seems like I'm in for a white Christmas.  With any luck, it will melt off by Saturday when the Kids come up.  They are, as always, the brightest spots in my life.

It was a good day.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Sur-PRISE!!

I imagine the whole mountain heard me laughing yesterday morning when I opened the door to the shed to get birdseed and acorns came pouring out.  Talk about a surprise!!  Stunned, I just stood there for a minute, trying to process what I was seeing.  Acorns two feet deep.  Hundreds of pounds of acorns.  Twenty-five years of diligent effort by woodpeckers stashing acorns into holes bored in the eaves had come crashing down.

The weight of the years finally brought down the entire ceiling in the shed, dumping acorn treasure on the floor.  There are going to be a lot of disappointed birds.  As a friend of mine said, it's the family inheritance.

I waded through acorns, got the birdseed, served the waiting turkeys, and shut the door.  I simply don't know how I'm going to dispose of all these acorns.  Can't put 'em in the trash, can't burn 'em, can't imagine the mountain of acorns if I pile 'em down the hill.  It will take a week just to get 'em out of the shed!  This is going to require some careful thought.  One thing for sure, life at Farview is full of surprises and some, like this one, just make me laugh.

I got another, better, surprise later when I stopped to pick up my mail on the way to the grocery store.  Santa had left a gaily wrapped small package in the box.  Since it was from Santa Claus (he'd signed it), I will wait until Christmas to open it, but I am definitely curious.

Two surprises in one day were enough for me.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

In The Hood

Why?  It's a question I ask myself frequently on many occasions.  I have had hooded sweatshirts and jackets for years, but opted for hats, ball caps, and beanies in inclement weather even when wearing said hoodies.  Why?  It might possibly be because, on TV, hoodies seem to be the choice of young men who hide their faces, wearing their pants below their underwear, while performing nefarious deeds and I didn't want guilt by association.  (However, I think my bibbies would have been a dead giveaway.)  Only recently did I pull the hood up over my head on a rainy, windy day.  What a revelation!  One of the biggest benefits is that water dripping from the eaves of the sheds and barns that had previously hit the back of my neck with unerring aim can chill me no longer.  Ears numbed from the wind stay warm.  Why?  Why did it take me so long?  There is a Dutch proverb that says, "Too soon old, too late smart."  I say better late than never.

As for what's happening in the 'hood, I'm still working on the holiday spirit.  For the umpty-umpth time, I watched "Miracle On 34th Street" (the original 1947 film with Maureen O'Hara, Natalie Wood, John Payne, and Edmund Gwinn - by far better than the remake) and started putting my $5 Christmas tree together.  It only took an hour and a half this year, but I had help and supervision.  Multiple, multiple branches had been bunched and crammed into this box that was barely big enough for Celeste.  Each branch had to be spread, fluffed, and tediously inserted into slots in the "trunk," also in sections that had to be assembled.
The movie and the tree were finished at about the same time and I was able to put the tannenbaum in place.  Celeste was bored by this time, but Ralph, oh Ralph, was going to check it out.  Given Ralph's penchant for knocking this, that, and everything to the floor, I may or may not put ornaments on the tree.  This may be as holiday as it gets at Farview.

It rained without let up all day yesterday and throughout the night.  It's raining still this morning.  Mud sucked at my shoes down at the barn.  The goats were grumpy.  Chickens huddled in their coop.  I had a heart-stopping moment this morning as I made my way to the kitchen and found the front door standing open.  No, we hadn't slept through a home invasion; the wind was that strong.  Wind-blown rain had also soaked the firewood up on the porch.  I'd fought all day to keep a fire going yesterday, and it looks like it's going to be a rerun today.  Thank goodness for my hoodie.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Insurance

"Don't put all your eggs in one basket."  The same principle applies to milk.  With just three aging milkers, I could easily use one bucket for all, but working with goats has taught me that's not a good idea.  Two buckets are insurance against what happened yesterday.  Inga came in, got milked, and I put that bucket up on the shelf, getting the other one ready for Sheila.  As sweet as she is, Sheila can be my troublemaker.  She is a very easy milker and it takes half the time to get her empty as the others, but....  Without warning and about an inch of milk at the bottom,  Sheila stuck her foot in the bucket.  Aaargh.  All that milk wasted and I still had to milk her out.  Suffice it to say we had a one-sided discussion about certain behavior.  (When chastising a goat, it goes in one ear and out the other, but it makes me feel better.)  Next up was Tessie, and that's where the insurance paid off.  Knowing Sheila's milk would be thrown out, I pulled down the first bucket and was able to save enough in that to make up the jars for Milk Guy today.  That's another insurance policy in that I save the milk from the day before he's due, just in case lightning fast feet would strike twice in both buckets.

Another day spent in the kitchen.  One more day should do it.  Linda came by in the afternoon for a short visit and to pick up some items she'd stored here.  Rain started falling just as she was leaving, but I lucked out again when it was time to put the girls to bed.

Still black as pitch out this morning, a full-blown storm is raging with howling winds and pounding rain.  I was able to pull another wagon of firewood up to the porch yesterday, insurance against a turn in the weather.  It pays to be prepared.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Lucked Out

I really lucked out yesterday.  (For those not familiar with the American idiom, that means I was very lucky.)  It stopped raining just as I headed out to the barn and the girls came and went in normal fashion and I didn't have to sit in soggy clothes while milking.  Knowing the break was temporary, I left the play yard open and shut the big door to the chicken coop, a good thing because it did rain off and on all day.

Badly in need of some holiday spirit, I put on traditional Christmas music and spent most of the day in the kitchen.  In between the timer going off on one or the other of two ovens (serious baking going on), I readied a few Christmas cards.  Back in the day before postage rates went sky high, I'd have a hundred or so cards to send every year and felt bad if they didn't get in the mail right after Thanksgiving.  It's been my habit to tape cards received to the kitchen cupboards to decorate an otherwise barren room.  In years past, every cupboard door was filled with holiday cheer.  I'm not the only one, it seems, to find the cost prohibitive because there is a total of 10 cards so far.  Perfectly understandable, but a little sad.

My self-prescribed therapy worked!  Having actually accomplished some holiday preparation lifted my spirits greatly.  I might even tackle putting the tree up today.  (Let's not get carried away.)

My luck held at sundown and I caught another break while putting the kids to bed.  All that moisture from yesterday is ice everywhere today.  Brrr.  Even with a little space heater blasting back here in the bedroom, it's been days since my morning cup of coffee hasn't gone cold before I can take the last sip.

It was a good day.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Look What The Wind Blew In

"Look what the wind blew in," was one of my mother's sayings when an unexpected guest would come to the house.  In this case, the wind blew in last night and brought a dose of rain.  It's still falling but fortunately the wind has died down somewhat, having done its job right well.  There are few to no leaves left in the oaks and the wind now whistles through bare branches.  The ground is literally covered in dead leaves (job security for next spring) and will provide a thick blanket for the dormant plants underneath.

The girls and I will go into rainy-day mode in the barn today.  None of them wants to go outside and our regular pattern is completely disrupted.  When literally pushed out the door after breakfast, they reluctantly put their head down and rush to the nearest shelter.  The last ones are lucky because I will then leave the play yard gate open for them all.  In case there are disputes, the odd man out can take refuge in what used to be Louie's shed, lacking the warmth of the huddled masses but out of the wind and rain.

What the wind sucks out is heat from the house.  The well-stocked porch rack has a dwindling supply of firewood as I've tried to warm the room.  Last night Celeste was clinging like a limpet to her place on my lap.  She is a creature who likes her comfort.  Bessie Anne and Ralph snuggled together in the other chair while the wood stove did its best.  Once it gets going, it does a credible job, but sometimes it takes a long time to get going.  (A bit like me.)

We're on the countdown to Christmas.  Maybe if I can get the wind to blow at my back, I'll move a little faster.  Or not.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Wading In Jell-O

"The hurrier I go, the behinder I get."  (Lewis Carroll)  That's me as any deadline approaches.  I know better than to make a date for any earlier than noon.  With effort and the best of intentions, I can't get chores done and cleaned up and out of the house to meet anyone, and yesterday was no exception.  Just color me late and be done with it.  Linda had suggested 11 a.m., settled for 11:30, and I made it to Bones by 11:50.  After lunch, Cam and I followed Linda up to her new house.  It's a quirky house, with rooms and pop-outs added on here and there.  Loaded with potential, Linda will have projects to keep her from here to hell-won't-have-it.  It will be fun to see Linda, with inherent good taste, make this house her home.

Upon returning to my house, I found a voicemail message from Milk Guy saying he was on his way over.  He had said he was not coming for milk this week and I'd had no forewarning.  It was just fortunate that I'd saved a quart and a half that morning, else he'd have made the trip for nothing.  The hens have slowed down production.  I had 13 eggs, giving him a dozen and leaving me one.  Luckily, nothing I'm making for the holidays requires eggs or I'd be the one strictly out of luck.  I'll be darned if I'm going to buy store-bought.

With daylight waning, I put the girls to bed and called it a day.  Nothing accomplished, but some days are like that when you're wading in Jell-O, moving but not getting anywhere.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Throwback Thursday

High school graduation, 1957, sixteen years old.  Fifty-eight years later, it's like looking at a familiar stranger (how's that for a contradiction in terms?).  No, that's not true.  The mirror now is where the stranger lives.  Grey hair, wrinkles galore, gnarly fingers, aching joints.  Who is that old woman?!  The funny thing is, on any given day I have a better relationship with the "her" in the picture.  I understand Her better, certainly better than I did way back when, and definitely better than I understand me now.  I'm still waiting to find out what I'm going to be when I grow up.

I sometimes feel I've lived through several lifetimes on this earth.  Completely different lifestyles in each, in different locales.  Mother, housewife, college student in my thirties, professional working woman, welder and business owner, and finally farmer.  Whew!  I can imagine the look on Her face if I told her she'd be milking goats in her seventies.

I've heard it said that the one thing we can count on is change.  Might be for better, might be for worse, but nothing stays the same.  Throwback Thursdays are an opportunity to look back.  Mondays are for a new beginning.  I wonder what's next!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

My Enemy

I am my own worst enemy.  The more there is to do, the less I do.  I don't even try to make excuses anymore.  Ten days away from "our" Christmas and still I dawdle, knowing full well that today and tomorrow are lost causes.  There is a local community website where items are put up for sale.  I've been trying for a couple of weeks to connect with a woman who posted a round oak dining room table and chairs.  I don't know yet what I'll do with the table as three dining room tables are probably overkill, but I really need the chairs.  She finally called yesterday and I'm to pick up the set today.  Tomorrow I'm to meet Linda and Cam for lunch and then go see Linda's new house.  Two days shot down in flames.  The tree still sits in the box.  The dough (the project-from-hell dough) still sits in the refrigerator.  I fear I'm going to be on Santa's Naughty List.

A call from my friend Tom is always welcome, and a visit is even better.  He'd said he and his coworker, Goyo, would stop by yesterday about 3.  Okay, I had plenty of time.  The doorbell rang at 1.  Nooo!  Not surprisingly, I'd not gotten everything planned done.  Give a guy a beer and they'll forgive just about anything.  What's a little dust between friends?  I'd met Goyo once before, but couldn't recall his name.  I knew it started with a G, and Tom and Goyo got a kick out of my substitute, "Guapo."  (Guapo means Handsome.)  Dusting done or not, it was lovely to spend the afternoon playing catch-up with these two gentlemen.

The weather app on my phone is the eternal optimist, calling a couple of degrees warmer in winter and cooler in summer.  Awakening at 4:30 this morning, Phone told me it was 30 degrees.  I tend to trust the house thermometer more, and it called it at 24 degrees.  Inside, it is now all the way up to 44!  One thing I cannot procrastinate with today is bringing more firewood up to the porch, lest I turn Bess, Ralph and Celeste into pup- and catscicles.

Even in the enclosed hen house, their water had turned to ice yesterday.  Since the taps were frozen, they had to wait until the containers thawed to get a drink.  Once again I had to break through for the goats to get to their water.  There are fewer hummingbirds wintering over this year, but I continue to fill their feeders.  Out of the three, one was completely frozen yesterday.  I always worry that the poor creatures will put their tongue into the tube and get stuck to the ice like that kid in "A Christmas Story."

I did get as far, and only that far, as making a To-Do list yesterday.  If I quit fighting myself, I might actually get to cross off an item or two today.  Or not.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Sun Shines Bright

"...on my old Kentucky home...."  Totally un-PC song these days, but it kept going through my head yesterday when the sun came out and made the frost in the fields sparkle like diamonds.  Bright light in the sky all day, but it gave no warmth.  I had to break the ice in the water trough on my way to the barn, and I felt so bad putting frigid fingers under the girls.  Bess and I did go out later to sit on the deck, but I stayed bundled in two jackets and a scarf and we didn't stay long.  Bessie's coat has grown out from her summer "do," but she's never had hair on her pink belly and I couldn't think she was enjoying our outing all that much in the cold.

I've got to put Plan B into action.  That baking recipe has turned into the project from hell.  Back at it yesterday, the piping bag split (aargh!), I've seriously strained my wrist with all the pushing and twisting, and I've still got dough to work with.  It came to me in the middle of the night that I can make "buttons" instead of strips.  I'd give it up as a lost cause if the outcome weren't so tasty.

Oh good grief!  Evidently Trash Guy didn't get the notice that our pickup day has been changed.  He's at my neighbors' (being a winery, they get preferential, door-to-door treatment) right now.  The notice was very specific that the new date would start on Wednesday, December 16.  Even when I look at the calendar, I can't win.

I went so far as to bring in the box with the DIY Christmas tree yesterday.  The box is sitting in the entryway.  After the debacle with the baking project, I'm not quite ready to tackle putting all those color-coded branches on the trunk.  Sometimes it's hard to dredge up the Ho-Ho-Ho spirit.  I'm working on it.  Wish me luck!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Cold Enough For Ya?

With the exquisite timing for which I am famous, I stepped out the door to do chores just as the first raindrops fell yesterday.  Layered up like an oompa-loompa with thermal shirt, hooded sweatshirt, canvas jacket, and wearing double fleece gloves, I still felt the rain hit with the sting of needles and the wind darn near took my feet out from under.  Like it or not, I left both doors to the hen house closed after checking their food and water supply.  I doubt they would have stepped foot outdoors anyhow, but didn't want to chance finding them soaking wet and plastered up against the fence.  I've got a pretty effective rainy-day routine worked out for the goats so milking went fairly smooth.  Cold, wet, yes, but it was a case of git-'er-done, so I did it.

Back in the house, I pulled chairs up to the hearth and spread out jackets and gloves to dry.  Short of stripping, there wasn't much I could do about the wet-to-the-knees bibbies but wait it out.  Just keep moving was the order of the day.  Using the proof cycle on the oven ( a very low setting to let bread dough rise), I actually got that stiff dough I'd made softened enough to put through the pastry bag.  It was a good day to work in the kitchen and I got a couple of gift items checked off.  Ta da!

The wind did die down but the rain continued throughout the day and the temperature continued to drop.  The jacket-draped chairs unfortunately blocked the heat from the room but concentrated it by the hearth, which pleased Ralph and Celeste no end.  They rarely moved from their chosen spots all day.  I do believe I mentioned I am calendar challenged.  Only after I'd strained and bottled milk for Milk Guy did I notice he would not be here today.  Sigh.

Again bundled up like Nanook of the North (go ahead and laugh, Deb - sorry, private joke), I headed out to put the girls to bed.  The rain had stopped and the goats had been under shelter all day, but they were eager to get to their rooms for bedtime snacks, just the same.  The chickens, bored in confinement, had put themselves to bed before dark.

Twenty-eight degrees this morning and it's a white, wintry world out there.  No snow, but icy frost, for sure. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Let There Be Heat!

Eight a.m.  (Knock knock knock.)  Plumber Guy came out early on a Saturday morning, installed the thermocouple in the gas fireplace, made sure everything was working, handed me his most reasonable bill, and was out the door.  He had a date with his son and some friends and their sons to watch every single previous episode of Star Wars back to back so the boys would be up to date when they would go see the latest in the series.  He said it was for the kids, but, hmmm, I wonder if the dads might not have dreamed up this movie marathon for their own enjoyment.  I remember taking my Kids to the theater to see the first Star Wars in 1977.  Time flies like a star ship!

It's very reassuring to have wood on the porch and (safe) heat downstairs as well.  The predicted winds are howling outside like banshees, a whole lot of banshees, this morning.  No rain yet, but it will come.  I find the wind harder to deal with than rain.  Point of fact:  know which way the wind is blowing before dumping a bucketful of stall "product" over the fence.

It's a given that I am calendar challenged.  I try to keep track of Mondays so I'm ready for Milk Guy.  It didn't help when NASCAR season ended.  Races usually occurred on Sundays, meaning the next day was Monday and now I've lost that clue.  Mondays are followed by Trash Day Tuesdays.  I get thrown for a loop when Milk Guy changes his schedule.  Yesterday I received notice that Trash Day has been officially moved to Wednesday.  Aaarrgh!  I'm not a conspiracist, but I'm beginning to think there's a plot to keep me off kilter here.  The plotters should pick on someone who's a bigger challenge.

I know better.  I should know better.  After the failed attempt to pipe out dough the other day, I temporarily gave up, put the dough in the refrigerator, and washed the pastry bag and tips.  Thinking I'd give it another shot today, I set out the implements on the counter last evening.  Sometime during the night, Ralph (I didn't need to guess who) evidently knocked the one critical tip off the counter and made away with it.  It's not in the kitchen, the living or dining rooms.  Ralph just looks at me wide-eyed when asked.  It may never reappear.

I'm going to stock and stoke the wood stove and revel in its warmth.  It's Sunday (I'm pretty sure) and I'm going to take the day off.  Right after I milk and feed and clean the barn and get milk bottled for tomorrow.  Uh huh.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Bright Spots

There are times in life, even on the darkest days, you have to look for the bright spots.  Down in the barn yesterday, rain was still falling from dark skies when I noticed that there were actual shadows on the walls of the milking room.  That could only mean one thing.  This shot was taken from the doorway.  Talk about a bright spot!

Plumber Guy showed up right on time.  It's fortunate that he called when he was leaving Placerville because he was headed down to Plymouth to get here, about 30-plus miles out of his way.  Fair Play is almost exactly 17 miles southeast of P'ville and 17 miles northeast of Plymouth.  I'm not sure how far it is to Plymouth from P'ville, but it's not hard to do the math.  I gave him easy directions (which he followed!) and he was here in 20 minutes.

Gas fireplaces have some sort of nonflammable fake logs to disperse the flames.  I thought it was pretty clever of Plumber Guy to use his phone to take a picture of the placement before disassembling that jigsaw puzzle of logs, laying the pieces out just so.  He found and fixed the leaking pipe, then carefully put the whole mess back together using the photo.  And then he found the thermocouple had gone kerflooey.  Crum, a dark cloud.  No, he didn't have one with him.  Double dark.  No, there was no identification as to what brand of fireplace it was.  I told him where and when we'd bought it.  He made a call and found they knew what it was and that they had the necessary part.  A bright spot!  PG said he'd pick up the part on his way home and that he'd be back today before time for me to go milk.  Double bright!

The rain held off for the rest of the day, which was a good thing because the rack on the porch was nearly empty.  After PG left, Bessie Anne and I went out to bring three wagon loads of firewood up to the house.  It's in the low 30s this morning and predicted to get colder in the next few days, down into the 20s.

The day ended as it had begun, with a bright spot.  I've learned to take 'em when they come.

It was a good day.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Luck And Beyond

There were a few breaks in the storm yesterday.  During one of the "dry" spells, Repair Guy for the fireplace showed up (good timing).  I explained the problem (the fireplace wouldn't light) and showed him downstairs.  He hadn't even crossed the room before he said, "You've got a gas leak."  Oh crum!  I can't imagine how long propane has been leaking into the room.  I certainly have never smelled that garlic/bad egg odor that identifies propane, but then I so rarely go downstairs anymore, and it seems to have been just a tiny leak.  It's a good thing that the fireplace wouldn't start or I could have blown up the house!  How's that for luck?  I've always left a window slightly open down there and that probably saved us.  Repair Guy turned off the gas to the fireplace so that danger is past, but he legally could not work on the pipes.  He said I needed a plumber and he'd be back after the leak was fixed to work on getting the fireplace going.

After RG left, I went on the hunt for a plumber.  How was I to know there are different kinds of plumbers?  Evidently "plumber," like "doctor," is a general term for the trade, but like medicine, this is the age of specialization and there are no GP plumbers.  Four phone calls later, I finally reached a gas-pipe plumber and (I could hardly believe my luck!) he made an appointment for today!  It had taken two weeks for RG's appointment.  Visions of sugarplums might dance in children's heads, but I see dollar signs flashing every time I turn around.  Oh well.

"Room temperature" is a relative term.  The day was pretty much shot for anything else, so I decided to do a little baking late in the day.  The new recipe I wanted to try required piping soft, buttery dough into strips.  "Leave the butter to soften at room temperature for at least two hours."  Check.  In my enthusiasm, I'd made a double batch.  I tried every which way, but I'd have needed Arnold Schwarzenegger's muscles to push the dough through the pastry bag.  I put the bowl into a hot water bath, but all that did was turn the hot water cold.  (The bowl was "room temperature.")  After several attempts, I gave up.  It seemed my luck had run out for the time being.  I will try again today; not that the room will be any warmer, but I've got a few more tricks up my sleeve that might work.

It rained most of yesterday and it is raining still this morning.  At least the wind has died down.  It blew like crazy yesterday and smaller branches came crashing down from the oaks.  So far, so good with the trees themselves.

All things considered, I'm a lucky woman and it was a good day.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

Nothing like leaving the house to make you so glad to be home again.  I did, in fact, make it down to Folsom yesterday.  It's been years since I've made that trek.  The area has grown and landmarks that stood me in good stead in the past have changed.  I got myself lost only once and, by fortuitous chance, made a couple of turns and found I was just a block or two from where I needed to be.  My luck held and I was in and out of the "big box" store with everything needed in an hour!  No cruising the aisles, although it was tempting as long as I was there.

Because I passionately dislike shopping of any kind, I ease the pain and amuse myself with a simple experiment.  I do not walk around with a goofy grin on my face, but smile and nod as I pass other shoppers intent on the hunt.  I find it rewarding that no matter how serious their expression might have been when they approach, inevitably they smile back.  I hope they "pay it forward."  I think the world needs more smiles.

Knowing I had cut it short, I barely made it home before it was full dark.  It's almost mid-December, and it was a little disappointing to see only two houses in that hour-long trip that were decorated with Christmas lights.  It used to be an annual event to drive out in the evening at this time of year just to see all the pretty sights.  Ah well.  I guess it's a sign of the times.

The girls were clustered at the corner of their pen, keeping watch for their errant "mother."  Quickly changing from my go-to-town shoes to the current pair of clodhoppers, I put on the wonderful lighted hardhat created by my son-of-another-mother, Craig, and went out to tuck the anxious goats to bed.  Because, thanks to my headgear, they were able to see to the back of the stalls and there was no problem getting them into the barn.  The chickens had given up hope and were all roosting and drowsy in the coop.  They can have their nighttime treat in the morning.

The predicted storm blew in during the night, "blew" being the definitive term here.  Rain is pouring down and the wind is howling.  I have an appointment today with Repair Guy to get the downstairs gas fireplace working.  It's like a deep freeze down there now, and it would be nice to have the Christmas gathering next to that fireplace.  However, since Repair Guy has to drive quite a distance, I guess I'll understand if he wants to reschedule.

Upstairs or down, it's nice to be home.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Today's The Day

For three days I've been trying to get down to Folsom (and my enthusiasm for that trip can only be imagined), but something or other has come up that has prevented me from going.  Like it or not (not), today is the day.  A predicted substantial storm is due to blow in tomorrow.  If I didn't want to leave on a good day, I surely don't want to travel in the rain and I'm running out of time and excuses.

My milk customer is out of sync and really threw me a curve ball.  He usually comes on Monday, but last week said he'd be here on Wednesday (today), then called yesterday morning and said he'd be here later on.  Oh good grief.  I knew I'd not be able to get down the hill and back in time, so there went Plan A.

Left to my own devices (scary thought), I got caught up on some housework, including dusting(!), while waiting.  If that isn't an indicator of boredom and/or desperation, I don't know what is.  Looking around at gleaming furniture, etc., I thought, "Oh, what the heck," and started bringing in Christmas decorations.  Not a lot, mind you.  No sense going overboard, but wreaths are hung and the ceramic pig and goose are wearing Santa outfits.  Ho, ho, ho.  I'm not quite ready to face the arduous task of putting the Christmas tree together; I've yet to develop that degree of holiday spirit.

After Milk Guy came and went, it was still daylight so Bess and I made a run to the feed store.  It seemed prudent to get supplies on hand before the rains come.  It's hard enough to trundle the big bags down to the barn when the weather is good.

All things considered, it was a good day.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

In 'N Out

In 'n out, not to be confused with the super-duper hamburger chain, nor with hospital charting for liquid input and output.  This is about goats.

The girls are each given exactly the same amount of grain and alfalfa every day.  The milkers give approximately the same amount of milk every day.  Except when it rains.  On sunny days, the girls spend a good deal of time grazing their pens, be it green grass or dry weeds.  On rainy days, they huddle together under shelter.  One would think that the grazing would simply be supplemental, but it evidently has an impact on their systems.  The day after a steady rainfall, there is a marked reduction in milk production, as much as a quart all together.  I can count on it.  Once the sun comes out again, it might take a day or two to come back to full speed.  Who knew?  This is just one of the aspects of farm life I find interesting.

The blackbirds are back in force, lining up on power lines and filling the air with their constant chatter.  They descend in hordes to pick through the fields and fight their way to the birdseed.  Where do they come from?  Where do they go?

Life is full of ups and downs.  Here at Farview, it's mainly sunups and sundowns.  This was the view behind the computer monitor this morning.  I'll take the ups where I find them.

It's going to be a good day.

Monday, December 7, 2015

On The Edge

"If you snooze, you lose," does not apply in my household.  I'd been sitting comfortably all by myself (for a change) last evening.  Getting up to check on something in the oven, I could not have been out of the room for two minutes, but when I came back this was all the space that was left for me.  Did these two members of the Furry Tribe work in collusion?  "Hurry up!  Get settled and shut your eyes.  She'll never notice us, and she certainly won't make us move."  Far be it from me to accuse Bess and Ralph of faking sleep, but I did raise four Kids so I wouldn't put it past them, either.  The Furries were right about one thing; I perched on the edge.  Do they know me, or what?

Christmas is looming on the horizon.  Like a storm sweeping up from the valley, the holiday will be here before I know it, and certainly before I'm ready.  (Story of my life.)  I'm at the stage of thinking about it, just on the edge of acting.  The Kids lead such busy lives with not much time for baking, etc., so for some years I've made up packages of homemade goodies at Christmas.  I tried a new recipe last night.  It had good flavor, but will need some tweaking before presentation.  At least it was a start, worth a couple of points but no seegar!

Maybe the Furries are trying to tell me to get off my butt and get going.  Or maybe they just want my warm chair.  Either way, I'm on the edge.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

To Be, or Knot To Be

More wind and rain is predicted for today (the wind definitely arrived during the night, rain still pending).  It seemed prudent to restock the porch rack with firewood yesterday while it was dry outside.  I'd been in such a hurry to get the woodpile tarped the other day in the wind that I was doing whatever it took to get it tied down.  I knew when I did it that the square knot I'd wanted had slipped into a granny knot, but had to move on to the next grommet fast.  Knowing I'd goofed, I made sure the rest of the tie-downs were made with secure square or even surgeon's knots as I moved around the stack.  Yesterday, sure enough, the granny had lost its grip and the twine was lying there limp and it might have been my imagination, but I think the grommet eye was giving me an accusatory look.  Steve was an Eagle Scout and drove truck for a number of years and he would have been so ashamed.  Trying for redemption, I retied the knot and loaded the wagon three times as punishment (and insurance).

On the same subject and the reason I mentioned that Steve drove truck, there is a most handy hitch called a trucker's knot, very useful for tying up a package of this or that because it can easily be undone with a single tug, but will tighten itself if the contents threaten to come loose.  I'd seen Steve make this knot hundreds of times, but he'd never shown me exactly how it was done.  On my own, as the need arose I had to figure out how to do it by myself, counting on memory.  Mine might be only a reasonable facsimile, but it works.  Instructions are available online, and I highly recommend learning how; it certainly comes in handy.  It wasn't necessary while tarping the woodpile because I won't need to save the twine and will just cut it as I use wood and fold back the covering.

It hasn't been particularly cold these last few days, but the almost constant wind has sucked heat out of the house and so I've had the wood stove fired up all day.  Ralph and Celeste have staked their claim to places right by the hearth, leaving Bess to jam herself into my chair and I'm left perched on the edge.  Whatever it takes.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Abbondanza

Wildlife was front and center in abundance yesterday, start to finish.  Opening the door at first light to step out for more firewood, there was a spike-horn buck in the front driveway.  He evidently didn't hear the door, as he ambled along without a care.  Maybe 15 turkey hens were impatiently waiting for the breakfast buffet to open when I went out for chores.  Coming back from the barn, a pair of red-tail hawks had been eyeing the hens from the big oak.  Loudly voicing their displeasure at my approach, they flew off.  Those chickens aren't dummies.  They had all clustered in the coop, quiet as mice.  Later on, when Bess and I went to sit on the deck to thaw out, the spike and two ladies were grazing in the front pasture.  They lifted their heads, but went on as if we weren't there.  I kind of like that.

It was a good day.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Where You Find It

Awoke to a howling wind yesterday.  It roared around the house like a freight train.  Down in the barn, the metal roof creaked, groaned and rattled, and I feared that one of the panels might tear off.  Our winds usually come out of the west or south; this was an east wind, not necessarily cold, but really strong.  As a result, dry oak leaves were blown into the goat pen.  Inga, first girl up, spied a leaf and got distracted, running around chomping up the equivalent of goat potato chips instead of coming into the milking room.  Okay, Plan B.  The normal, orderly sequence of the milking parade became seriously out of whack, but eventually everyone got fed and/or milked, including Inga.

Rain was predicted for later in the day, so Bess and I made a hit-and-run trip down to Mt. Aukum for another tarp.  Sure didn't want Helper Dude's work to go for naught.  Now, this tarp-covered woodpile might not seem like an occasion for amusement, but it's important to take an opportunity for laughs where you find it.  The first problem was getting the 12x20 ft., heavy, cold plastic tarp unfolded.  Tarp took on a life of its own and fought me at every turn, folding back on itself constantly.  Finally stretched out full length, the fun started for real.  Winds were gusting 15-30 mph and I'm trying to get the tarp over the woodpile.  Tarp bellied like sheets on a sailing ship on the high seas.  Trying to anchor one end down with a piece of heavy, fresh-cut wood was futile.  The wind flipped the logs off like they were nothing.  Running back and forth and around the stack like something demented and, by this time laughing like a loon, I finally got enough wood chunks piled on to pull Tarp into place, if not perfect.  It was then I discovered that Tarp was not quite long enough and definitely not wide enough.  Crum.  In the past, I could anchor the coverings with more chunks of wood.  With nothing to put wood on, another Plan B was in order.  The woodpile was stacked on old pallets, and there were grommets along Tarp's edges.  Hmmm.  What did I have in unending supply that could be used for tie-downs?  Bailing twine!  While being beaten soundly about the head and shoulders by flapping Tarp, I was able to get twine through the grommets and under the edges of the pallets and, ta da!, the deed was done.  Raindrops started falling as I headed back to the house.  I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror and, believe me, I looked like no one you'd want to take home to mother.

I might take fun where it's found.  Ralph takes what space he can find, jamming himself into whatever nooks and crannies in the recliner left for him by Celeste.  Later, when the footrest was up and we'd been joined by Bessie Anne, Ralph perched behind my head like a pirate's parrot.  Whatever works.

It rained throughout the day and I was content in front of the well-stocked and well-stoked wood stove.  However, it was raining particularly hard when it was time to put the girls to bed.  I had, of course, left the play yard open for them during the day, so sorting them out to get them one at a time into the appropriate stalls would be a challenge.  I thought I had a plan, and then it all went to pot.  Cindy was first in, as she should be, but then the others shouldered past the gate and rushed in behind her.  Nooo!  Chaos reigned.  Goats pushing and shoving, running in and out of stalls, trying to get at the food bowls; it was like being in a living, breathing pinball machine.  What are ya gonna do but laugh?  It seemed impossible, but I actually got everyone in and settled.  Whew.  The chickens, those supposed birdbrains, had enough sense to put themselves to bed, waiting for their nighttime snacks and for me to shut their doors.  Mission accomplished, soaked to the skin, I went back to the house and the warm fire.

It was a good day.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Truck Talk

"Ten-four, good buddy."  No, this isn't going to be about "Smokey and the Bandit" or about CB radio lingo.  (My CB "handle" was Lucky Strike, back in the day.)  This is about my truck.

After the episode on the road the other day, other than running the trash down to the big road, I have been leery of driving said truck.  I didn't want to tempt fate and have the possibility of lightning striking twice and blowing another tire.  Nothing for it but to bite the bullet and take the truck down to Diamond Springs.  I talked to Truck the whole way.  "Just hold on, we can do this."  "Almost there, don't give up on me now."  Fortunately, there was little traffic on Bucks Bar and I could ease around the many curves.  I'd chosen a time when I hoped the automotive department was over the rush, but had taken a book to while away the wait, just in case.  Totally surprised, there were no cars in line and they took the truck right in.  I asked for four tires and to have the battery checked.  No surprise, the battery was shot.  "May I please have a new battery, too?"  Believe it or not, I was in and out in 45 minutes.  I won't say those guys are ready to be a pit crew for NASCAR, but they did a doggone good job, including balancing the tires.  I've been holding on to a gift card from Deb and Craig for ten years and that certainly eased the pain at checkout, but, regardless....

I was simply was not prepared for Truck's reaction to new footwear.  He pranced like a pony, he danced on air, he was raring to go!  I had another stop to make on the other side of town and really had to watch the speedometer and ease off the accelerator because Truck wanted to race every car on the road.  As an aside, the stretch of Hwy. 50 behind Old Placerville is a joy at Christmas.  That section is lined with Christmas trees every few feet, each decorated by a different organization, and is simply lovely.  If I hadn't had to keep both hands on the reins, I'd have taken a photo.

I did notice while driving that when the battery was changed, that put the radio into Lock mode.  After taking care of business at the one store, I decided to unlock the system while still in the parking lot.  This had happened once before and I had the secret code to enter.  Pulling out the manual, I followed the directions.  Failed.  Tried and failed again and again.  I'm pretty good at reading and following instructions, but this was becoming ridiculous.  Phooey.  Given that I was still in town, I drove back across and pulled in to the dealership where Truck was bought.  "I need a little help here, please."  Joe, the manager, caught Billy, the radio Wiz, and we all went out to fix Truck's problem.  I wanted to watch and find out what I'd been doing wrong, and Joe wanted to know, himself.  Turns out, there was a critical mistake in the printed directions and I'd never have been able to fix it.  Five minutes later and I was on the road home, singing to the radio.

Truck was cornering on the curves like a Ferrari and taking hills like a gazelle.  New tires have totally changed his personality.  Who knew?  There's life in the old boy yet.

Shortly after returning home, it was time to put the kids to bed, and this was last evening's sunset.

It was a good day.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Winter Wealthy

Growing up in a post-Depression family, watching my mother struggle with rationing during WWII, learning to make do and stretch it out had its benefits.  There were lean times later on when the Kids were little.  One meal I'd like to forget was serving cornmeal griddlecakes with homemade "syrup" for dinner because that was all there was in the cupboard and fridge.  Those times, however, have left me with a phobia about empty shelves and nothing in the freezer.  It's not just the distance to the stores that makes me antsy when I open or use the last (or even next-to-last) of anything.  Steve believed all the hype about Y2K (the fear that all computer systems would crash because of the millennium) and stocked us up for a year.

With a dwindling supply of firewood, I'd become very frugal when it came to lighting the wood stove, regardless of the temperature.  Another jacket, a lap robe, heating the "beanbag" would get me through another day.  Then Clay brought up all those rounds from the valley.  Wahoo!  Helper Dude has earned his pay and I am rich, up to my eyeballs in split logs.  He added another cord to the pile yesterday.  There is more under the tarps (note to self:  get another tarp), so I'm pretty well set for this season.

Like money in the bank, these fresh-cut rounds need to age for a year and will be a great start for next winter.  It's like having spending cash and a savings account.  That's what I'd call winter wealthy!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Rambling

The trash disposal company threw me a curve ball.  Some time back, they sent a notice "offering" those handy-dandy new trash containers with wheels and attached lids, one for trash and one for recyclables.  Those containers would be great in urban areas - just roll 'em down the driveway to the curb.  However, up here with no paved driveway and no curb, they present a problem in logistics.  The wheels and handle placement would make it very unwieldy to get into the truck.  I declined the "offer."  Then I discovered it wasn't an offer, the change was mandatory.  Crum.  My solution was to leave the containers down at the big road and haul my trash and stuff down in bags; maybe not the best, but it'll have to do.

Still dark this morning when I got a text from one of the Kids asking for a recipe.  "Give me a minute to find it."  I have a bookcase full of cookbooks, some professional and a number of notebooks filled with handwritten or clipped recipes collected over 50 years.  I have a visual memory, meaning I could "see" the recipe, the paper it was written on, and that it was in my handwriting.  The problem was, which notebook was it in?  Third time was the charm.  Too dark to take a picture to send, I had to laboriously type the recipe into a text message for Kid.  The things we do for our children.

Barely first light, and Helper Dude is out there splitting wood.  It's in the low 30s (my deranged phone thinks it is 41) and since I'm a wuss, HD is on his own.  I'll give the kid all the points for ambition.  'Nuff said.

Made a call to find out the procedure to get new tires on the truck.  "First come, first served."  They have the size I need (took some detection to figure that out) in stock.  "Any day better than another?"  "Don't come tomorrow, it's payday!"  Good to know.  I'm not going anywhere anyhow.

The Kids are semi-organized for Christmas.  Still one country to report in, but the consensus seems to be the day after everyone else.  Whatever works.

Low on feed last week, I was down to the bottom of the barrel where there were remnants of that awful feed that no one liked.  If Pete were starving, I'll bet he'd eat Brussels sprouts, and I had to give the girls, etc., what I had.  Eat it or go hungry, but, boy, did I get the stink-eye from the mice!  I got back in their good graces when I brought home the sweet cob.

And that, as the New York Times would say, is all the news that's fit to print.

Monday, November 30, 2015

South Pole

Hard to believe, but there is still hail in patches on the deck after five or six days.  I'd left the tap by the chicken pen just a little loose and yesterday there was a long icicle from the spout (glad I'd let it drip!).  I'd done the same thing with the faucet by the goat trough, which was covered with ice, and when I turned it on, ice cubes shot out of the short hose.  The hens are rapidly re-feathering from their moult and the girls' coats are furring up.  I know there are places in the world much colder (Siberia, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, etc.) but right here and now, it's what I'd call cold!  My phone app optimistically says it is 34 this morning, but the house thermometer tells me like it is, 30.

I'd foolishly not restocked the wood stove before going to the barn yesterday and when I got back to the house, it was warmer outside than in, and that's not saying much.  Wishing to get some feeling back in my frozen fingers, I took Bess and a book out to sit in the sunshine.  A little more disciplined than the last time, fifty pages was my limit yesterday.  It wasn't easy to put it down, but I did it.  I'm trying to curb my compulsions.

My phone tells me we're going to 48 today, but I'm not going to break out the bikini.  Seems more like parkas and fleece-lined boots would be better.

Note to self:  put more wood on the fire.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Runs In The Family

My sister would quote what she called an ancient curse, "May you have an interesting life."  After Pete's "interesting" trip up here and the following traveling adventures, I had one of my own yesterday.  Needing to stock up at the feed store in the afternoon, Bessie and I went down to Mt. Aukum, tended to business and headed home.  On narrow, two-lane Omo Ranch Rd. about two miles in from the store, I heard a bumpity-thump sound.  It's not unusual to hear and feel thumps up here as there are numerous potholes, ruts, and patches on all South County roads, but this noise was "different."  Fortunately, there was a small space to pull off to the side and stop.  One, two, three tires were fine, and then there was the fourth, hanging in shreds on the rim.  I swear it was like a pit-stop in a NASCAR race.  Oh crum.

Now, there were some good things in this tale of woe.  The truck, albeit on a decided slant, was safely off the road.  There are many cellphone dead zones up here.  I had two bars and was able to call Triple-A.  It wasn't raining or snowing, although there was still hail in pockets on the ground because it was so cold.  The nice lady at AAA said it might be 45 minutes.  Piece of cake.  This was at 2:30.  I turned off everything (including the heater) but the emergency flashers and settled in to wait.  Bessie Anne curled up in her seat and went to sleep.  I commend the two trucks and a car that stopped to ask if I was okay and did I need help.  I have other words for those who flew by like bats out of hell, their draft shaking the truck in the wake.  While sitting there, I watched five deer amble across the road at one time or another and prayed they would get out of the way before another "bat" flew by.

The sun was dropping and the cold creeped in.  At two-and-a-quarter hours, I called back to AAA.  "The truck is in your vicinity and should be there shortly."  Esau showed up about fifteen minutes later.  Young guy, ex-Marine (I know, there's no such thing as an ex-Marine), with a big smile and reassuring words.  My hero!  Given the slant of the hill and the damp soil, it was no easy task to get the truck jacked up, the shreds pulled off and the spare installed, but he got-'r-done!  I'd noticed the blinkers going bonkers and asked Esau to wait while I tried to start the truck.  Turned the key.  Nothing.  He had one of those instant jump-start thingies and I was able to fire up the engine.  Another one of those "good things."  Dark enough to need headlights by then, Bess and I got home, left the truck running to hopefully boost the battery, and headed down to the barn and coop.

It was an interesting day, but it had a happy ending.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Not As Planned

Thanksgiving did not go exactly as I'd planned or hoped and it's no one's fault but my own.  Bless all my Kids for their kindness and my friends for their patience.

Some of the guys stayed over.  Dave sleeps best in the recliner, and Larry took the only available bed.  Joe and Pete got stuck with the couches.  Couldn't get the downstairs gas fireplace to light and it was like a deep-freeze down there.  Larry and Joe took off in the morning.  It's been a long time, but Dave, Pete and I watched back-to-back Man Flicks, action films, all day.  If I left the room, I'd come back and ask how many had been killed in the few minutes I'd been gone.  "Three, with number four coming up."  Definitely a guy thing.

The crew had taken over barn chores Thursday night.  The goats are well into their routine.  There was only one mix-up when Cindy and Sheila got put into the wrong stalls.  Yesterday morning, Sheila complained long and loud about having to sleep in "her" (Cindy's) bedroom.

It never got out of the 30s yesterday and a cold, cold wind blew.  I'm thankful for all the extra firewood.  We needed it!

I'd hoped for a longer visit with Pete.  Years go by sometimes before I see him, but he had to take a bus back to SoCal to deal with insurance and how to get transportation.  All in one piece, and nothing broken or needing a Band-Aid.  It's all good.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Day Off

My apologies, but I'm taking the day off.  I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.  I'm particularly thankful for my family and friends who took over when I bailed out early.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Giving Thanks

There are many, many reasons in my life for which to be thankful, but today I am especially grateful that my son Pete walked away unhurt from a hit-and-run accident last night that totaled his car somewhere out in boonies of the San Joaquin valley.  I was plugging along in the kitchen about 5:30 when Pete called to tell me that traffic was so bad that it had taken him three hours just to get north of Los Angeles and he might arrive here a little later than planned.  He thought he was somewhere down around Merced.  I warned him of the icy roads up here and to be careful and not push it.  (The chili was made, cornbread not yet.)

Not ten minutes later the phone rang again.  Pete's voice was shaky as he told me he'd been rear-ended, his car was totaled (rear wheel completely sheared off), and after hitting another car, the coward had taken off like a bat.  "Are you hurt?!"  "No, Mom, but I don't know where I am and how I'm going to get out of here."  While he waited for CHP to arrive, and being reassured that he truly was unhurt, I put out calls to his siblings.  I am also grateful that my family truly is "one for all, and all for one."  After a flurry of round-robin calls and it was determined that the police had given Pete a ride to the town of Tulare, Larry headed out to go get his brother.  Larry would take Pete home for the night and they will be here today.

And, silly me, this is what had me worried for the travelers.  This is hail, not snow, although there were flurries of snowflakes off and on throughout the day.  A half-hour of hail left hail two inches deep in places.
It had been one of those "wading in Jell-O" days.  I did get a lot of the prep work done, but there is much left to do.

Ralph and Celeste had the right idea.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Just A Minute

Overcast, windy and cold(!) yesterday morning.  It was, as our friend Pooh would say, "...a blustery day."  Helper Dude showed up just as I was ready to step out the door to head for the barn.  I really wouldn't have blamed him had he chosen to stay warm indoors at home, but he chose to work.  He set about splitting rounds for firewood and I went about my chores, shutting the big door to the coop and leaving the play yard gate open for the goats.  Rain held off until I was back in the house.  I'll say this for HD, he doesn't dog it with any task.  In two hours, he'd split and stacked nearly two cords of wood.  He's a good kid and a great help to me.  With rain pelting down at last, he roared off on his quad, headed to his next job.

I much prefer those "aha!" moments.  Instead, what I had yesterday was a "smack yourself in the forehead, duh" revelation when I realized I had no pumpkin for the pumpkin pies.  Happily, there was a let-up in the rain when I headed up to the local grocery store.  Coming back down on the S-turns near Happy Valley Rd., there was a breathtaking break in the clouds and I pulled over to take the shot.  It only took a minute and rain again kicked in as I drove away.

Back home and the groceries unloaded (never waste a trip for just one item), I glanced out and saw this.  The cold nights of late have finally brought color to the hills, too pretty to pass up.  In the minute it took to step outside, a flurry of snowflakes fell and then it was over.  Back inside, with that wealth of firewood on hand, I lit the stove.  Frugal versus frozen, I chose to be warm.  After dark, hail pounded on the deck.  That didn't last long, either.

Fully expecting to see snow this morning, the deck is surprisingly clear.  That could change in a minute.

Pete is making the long trip up from SoCal today.  Me?  I'll be doing all the prep work for tomorrow.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Big Picture

Narcissus must be in turkey seventh heaven.  He's been crooning to his reflection in the truck bumper for some time, but yesterday he discovered the "big picture" in the glass of the shed storm door!  Oh joy!  A full-size image, and he turned this way and that to admire that fine boy, singing all the while.  That shed is where I store the feed for the wild birds, the first stop in the morning routine.  Narcissus was reluctant to leave his mirror but I needed to get going.  Coming back up later from the barn, I found him there again, preening and strutting back and forth.  I don't know whether to laugh or feel bad for him.

I guess downstairs won't see much action when the gang gets here on Thursday.  There is a gas fireplace down there, but I discovered the danged thing won't turn on.  Early last week I put in a call to a repair service and left a desperate message.  They called me back yesterday.  The earliest appointment I could get is December 10.  That's fine for Christmas, but isn't much help for Thanksgiving.  Trust me, it's like a deep-freeze downstairs and unless the Kids are dressed for the Arctic, the bar won't get any takers and woe betide any sleep-overs in the frigid dorm.  (I've got plenty of sleeping bags, just in case.)

As for the upstairs, on our afternoon outing, Bessie Anne and I took advantage of the sunny day to stock the wood rack on the porch.  Unless it gets really cold, I make do with a heavier jacket indoors and hoard the firewood like it was gold.  I can't ask guests to do the same.  The sky (barely visible just now) doesn't look promising, but if the rain holds off, Helper Dude is coming today to split more rounds.  He knows he will be on his own because he only has the morning available and we all know where I spent my morning hours.

I get up early.  My cellphone prefers to sleep in and it takes awhile for it to wake up and face the day.  I compulsively check the weather app first thing.  Half awake, CP gives me yesterday's temps.  "No, dear, it's Tuesday, not Monday.  Please catch up."  It knows what day it is in Chino, but it takes coaxing to give me the correct day and forecast for Fair Play.  Oh well.  Until CP wakes up and gets with the program, I can check the house thermometer and when it's light enough I can look out and see what the day might hold in store, weatherwise.

Prepping for what is to come, I turned off unnecessary water faucets yesterday so those pipes don't freeze.  Deck plants will have to depend on nature's water for the duration.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Perfect Ending

So many things got checked off the To-Do list yesterday, this in the midst of watching the last NASCAR race of the season.  After sitting on my duff for days, it felt so good to finally accomplish something.

At the end of a productive day, walking out into this sunset was the icing on the cake.  But there was more to come.  The weather app on my phone is still showing a snowflake for Wednesday so, in the spirit of being proactive, I pulled the winter fleece sheets out of the linen closet for my bed and a flannel set for the guest room.  I'd forgotten how comfy, snuggly good it feels to climb between those soft sheets.  No ice-cold shock to the feet last night.  It was the perfect ending to a really good day.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Hatches Battened

It has been so warm the last few days (low 60s) that I've been holding off covering the window openings in the goat barn.  The girls do love to look out and the breeze has been cooling their stalls, so I waited.  Even a jacket was too warm in the barn yesterday, making it hard to think that winter is just around the corner.  However, given the rainy, cold, even snowy forecast for this coming week, discretion seemed the better part of valor and I'd rather put up the board covers in sunshine rather than have water dripping off the eaves and down my neck.  Always curious, the girls were in my way as I worked.  I'll still hear their complaints when it rains, but now they'll be protected at night when temperatures drop.

Since Pete is coming up a day ahead of Thanksgiving, I've been trying to think of a dinner menu for that night.  Obviously, chicken would be a foul (pun intended) in light of turkey the next day.  It was a bad case of wishful thinking when I bought some baby Brussels sprouts, hoping that Pete had outgrown his aversion to green vegetables.  "Would you consider roasted Brussels sprouts, Pete?"  (No pause.)  "No."  Hmmm.  In response to some following suggestions, the third time he mentioned cornbread I decided chili and cornbread would be it.  Doesn't take a brick wall to fall on me.  I got the hint.

As is often the case when there are many items on the To-Do list, I am overwhelmed into inaction.  Not much got done yesterday besides battening down the hatches on the barn.  I seem to get more done as the deadline approaches.  In the meantime, the list continues to grow.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Bessie Knows Best

Just as Bessie Anne takes me for an outing in the morning, she also has me accompany her on a walkabout in the afternoon.  Bess always has my best interests at heart and knows when I need fresh air.  Some days we sit on the porch, but yesterday she suggested that we go out to the picnic table under the oak.  I had no objections so followed her lead.  From that vantage, the view was to the west, overlooking the upper corner of the goat pen.  It's common to see turkeys, vultures, and often the dinky birds sipping water from the trough, but I was startled yesterday when suddenly there was frantic splashing.  I almost started over there, worried that a bird had fallen in and was drowning.  Then I realized that the small birds ringing the edge were diving in for a quick bath, almost "walking on water" as they fluttered in and out.  There were dozens in the flock and they were having such a good time.  Every so often the group would fly off, returning for another dip and splash.  There are no dirty birds at Farview.

Bessie's timing had been perfect.  If she hadn't asked me along, I would have missed all the fun.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Great Start, Better Finish

Running late, as usual (why don't I just change start-up time so I can be "on time"), I was still in the barn when my cellphone rang.  I answered without looking to see the caller and was mightily surprised that it was my middle son, Pete.  Better yet, he said his plans had changed and he (and maybe my grandson, Jake) would be coming up for Thanksgiving after all!  That means my entire crew will be together for the holiday and makes me one happy mama.  What a great way to start the day.

Back to the goats and the phone rang again.  Milking one-handed, I answered.  It was Linda.  A customer in her store was in need of goat milk for some newborn puppies whose mother had developed milk fever, a common calcium deficiency after giving birth.  We made arrangements for a pick-up later.

I find I can text and milk at the same time, which is a good thing, because I was still at it when I got a message from my daughter.  By this time, I was laughing.  Maybe the goats weren't because everything was somewhat delayed, but what're ya gonna do?

Back up at the house, the lady with the puppies came for milk, bringing a Perrier bottle, a plastic soft drink bottle, and what looked like a small pickle jar.  I suggested she find some Mason jars for next time.  Small-mouth bottles are impossible to clean thoroughly.

Spiffed up, I made the trek down to Cameron Park.  Grocery shopping took longer than expected because, in my lengthy absence, they'd moved everything in the store and required many trips up and down aisles with many returns and go-backs.  Wearing a new set of bibbies, I had to smile when a woman walked past and said, "I really like your overalls.  I used to wear them all the time."  It's not the first time I've had comments on my attire and it always makes me smile.

Imagine coming up the driveway and seeing a spike-horn buck standing silhouetted against this gorgeous sunset.  He bounded off into the south pasture before I could snap a photo.  The girls were standing at the corner of their pen, wondering when they could go to bed.  Without taking time to unload the truck, I headed toward the barn.
In the short while it took to tuck the goats in, the colors had started to change as I walked back up the path.
Like a slide show, the sky became more and more beautiful.  It took seven trips to unload almost everything out of the truck, but who could complain with a view like this?  Cat litter and two cases of beer could wait.

This was the last shot, the brightest blaze fading to pink, before I closed the truck doors and went in to face the multitude of grocery bags on every counter in the kitchen.
This is the staging area for Thanksgiving dinner.  It does not include refrigerator items which include six pounds of butter, four pounds of margarine, celery, three bags of cranberries, and two pounds of bacon, or ten pounds of potatoes in the bin, etc., etc., nor the 23-plus pound turkey in the outside fridge.  I hope there will be enough.  Inspector Celeste is on the job.

It was a better-than-good day.