Saturday, February 28, 2015

Photo Essay

The goats had to wait for me as I was so taken by the morning sun playing behind the clouds on the way down to the barn.  The two puffs below the horizon are the smoke from a couple of hellacious burn piles up on Omo Ranch Road.

In the middle of the day, after bringing a load of firewood up to the porch Bess and I took a breather on the deck and saw that the clouds were marshalling their forces, spectacular with the light behind.  That firewood came in handy later as the temperature continued to drop and the wind picked up.

It seemed only fitting to show the clouds as they were at the end of day.  With exquisite timing, the rain held off until I was on the way back again, and then it poured.  The chicken pen was full of turkeys, all those not taking shelter under the manzanita bushes, and they weren't about to leave just because I showed up.  Ginger, as usual, was running around outside the fence and we were all getting soaked.  Bessie Anne lost patience and tried to herd Ginger in, but the little dingaling got scared and ran down into the orchard.  With the Silkies and the rest of the big hens in their rooms and the turkeys busy with a quickly thrown handful of grain, I put Bess in the feed room and tried to coax Ginger to come back, but she wasn't having any of that.  Slogging about and getting wet to the skin, I gave up and Bessie and I went in.  I've such a soft spot for Ginger that I couldn't leave her out in the dark and went back outside again.  My little red hen was tucked up on a hay bale but hopped down and ran with me into her pen and rushed in the door.  By then the cloudburst was over.  Chores done for the day, I turned...

and was struck by a glorious blaze of light and a stupendous sunset.

It was a good day.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Poppy 'Round the Corner

I get such a kick out of Poppy, the old Suffolk ewe.  On those days when the goats are cantankerous, Poppy can always make me smile and soothe my ruffled attitude.  Her arthritis is getting bad and there are some mornings when it takes her awhile to work out the kinks in her knees.  She shuffles and limps her way out of her room and into the sunshine (she likes sunshine but isn't fazed by rain).  Like The Little Engine That Could, once she gets going there's no stopping her on her way up to the alfalfa.  It just takes her a little longer these days.  In fact, if she makes up her mind to go anywhere, she's so determined it takes great strength to turn her in another direction.  Every now and again Poppy gets a runny nose.  She burbles along, blowing what Kathy V. calls snot-rockets.  It might be allergies, because it never lasts long and, as for the rest of us, it seems to come on when the oak pollen flies.  Poppy has a pretty good sense of timing.  I don't know if she counts how many goats go in and come out of the milking room, or if she listens to the banging of the buckets, but she shows up down at the barn about the time I'm finishing chores.  She knows the difference between the bucket I use to haul out poop from the stalls and the one I bring in grain for the next day.  I look for her black snoot poking out as she lurks around the corner, peeking to see if I've got "her" bucket.  If it's the right one, she comes to stand at the door, waiting for her handout; make that three handouts.  She gets three and no more.  Sometimes Sheila wants to get in on the act.  That's the only time Poppy gets cranky and throws her head around.  "You've already had yours!"  Sheila backs off.  For the longest time, Poppy did not want to be touched.  As she's aged, she now seems to enjoy having her oh-so-soft head rubbed, and I take advantage of every opportunity.

Poppy is already past the published "expiration date" for Suffolks.  Driving past or walking down to the pen, I always count noses, making sure all my girls are up and on their feet.  I know one day she won't get up, but I don't think I'll ever stop looking for Poppy 'round the corner.

 It was a good day.

Thursday, February 26, 2015


"Don't bring a knife to a gunfight," so the saying goes.  That's about the only time a knife wouldn't be useful, in my opinion.  I would feel absolutely naked without a knife in my pocket (or purse, should it be one of those rare occasions when I'm wearing a dress).  You just never know.  I've not counted the number of times a day that I've pulled out my pocketknife for one reason or another.  I've cut twine, trimmed stems, scraped sills in the barn (pesky birds), opened boxes and feed bags, cut roses, cleaned fingernails, pulled splinters; you name it.  My knife is kept clean and sharpened always.

Duct tape is another thing I wouldn't want to be without.  I don't keep a roll in my purse, but there's always duct tape in my truck.  Sure came in handy when a radiator hose blew in a friend's car.  A strip of tape will keep lug nuts from rolling away if a tire needs changing.  The tape is right there behind the seat next to a few strands of baling twine.

Twine will keep lumber or replacement storm doors from shifting or flying out of the bed of the truck after a trip to Lowe's.  Twine makes a good impromptu goat leash.  I use a loop of baling twine to hold the big door to the hen house open during the day.  If the wind were to blow it shut and a chicken was in the could be ugly.

Back in the day, when hunting with my father-in-law, he always had a bottle of Four Roses bourbon in his truck.  He said it was in case of snake bite.  I don't think the whiskey would have done anything for the poison, but he'd go out happy.  There are those indispensable things one should never be without.

The chances of my getting into a gunfight are slim to none.  In the meantime, I'll keep my knife.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Little Bites

Soon after the first of the year I made a list, a pretty long list (okay, a very long list), of things that need repairing, building, tearing down, cleaning up, etc.  I wish I hadn't done that.  I look at that list periodically and then put it down and walk away.  It's simply overwhelming and I choke.  Yesterday I tried a new approach.  I made another list.  "Things I Must Do Today."  I wrote just three items, three things I thought might be manageable in one day.  Three things are a way to take little bites out of the whole megillah, little nibbles that can actually be accomplished in a day.  Since one thing on yesterday's list was to go to town and pick up Bessie Anne's heartworm medicine, I was able to cross off only two, but I'm new at this process and I'm not going to beat myself up over it.  I just moved that chore down a notch to today's list and added two more.  This could work!

Gary does not believe in little bites.  He opened the entrance to his burrow right next to the breakfast bar and began shoveling grain into his saddlebags.  This small, sleek creature can pack an amazing amount into his cheek pouches, and he made so many trips I had to put down more food so the mice wouldn't go hungry.

Nature is playing with us.  She gives us a little taste of spring and then takes it away.  Mornings have been down in the 30s, close to freezing, and I had to pull one of those closeted turtleneck shirts down again yesterday.  The deck and fields are white with heavy frost this morning.  She teases with a hint of rain, but doesn't keep her promise.  The word fickle comes to mind.

Now where did I put that list?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ms. Mesta and Me

Perle Mesta was a socialite party-giver and ambassador in the 1950-60s era, known worldwide as "The hostess with the mostest."  I doubt I'll ever make the cover of Time magazine as she did, but my hospitality will not be faulted.  Turkeys are lined up and waiting to join one of my hen parties, and now outnumber the chickens.  Latecomers head up the slope on the run.  It's the same thing in a smaller version in the Silkie pen.  Instead of turkeys, dozens and dozens of sparrows and dinky birds (all who can fit through the chain-link fence) attend the breakfast meeting with the Silkies.  I am assured there will be no "regrets" to my invitations.  Oh, wait.  I didn't send out invitations.

Bess and I had to make a flying trip to Mt. Aukum the other day.  A costly mishap had occurred.  During the last storm when the wind had blown the outer door off the feed room, the hard-driven rain had gotten in under the inner door and wet a 75-pound bag of goat chow.  I thought I'd gotten it moved far enough away, but that storm was a doozy.  Not until I'd trundled the bag down to the barn to pour into the barrel did I realize the feed had gone moldy and totally useless.  Moldy grain can kill a goat.  Goat chow ain't cheap; however, there was nothing for it but to race to the store to replenish the supply so the girls would have breakfast.  I've now got the problem of how to dispose of 75 pounds of feed where it won't poison any creature.  This is not a city situation, for sure.

A dry north wind blew all day yesterday and the chill factor was significant.  It hadn't been a particularly warm day to begin with and by last night I was seriously considering lighting a fire.  I might have done had I not been pinned to the chair by the ever-present Bess and Celeste.  (I didn't invite them, either.)  The furries were comfortable curled in my lap, but my feet were sticking out and getting colder by the minute.  It was a good excuse to go to bed early.  All this hostessing is exhausting.

Monday, February 23, 2015

War Zone

"Man your battle stations!"  It has reached an alarming state.  I'm afraid to sit down anymore.  The minute I do, I'm immediately under attack from both sides and my lap is the desired "high ground" that must be occupied at all costs.  Bessie Anne, normally a well-trained, well-behaved dog, no longer takes no for an answer and pushes, shoves, and struggles to climb up into the chair.  A solid fifty pounds, when she's in my lap I am nailed in place.  Celeste goes for a sneak attack, approaching from the rear, springing up over my shoulder and claiming whatever space is not taken up by dog.  This does not leave much room for me.  Thankfully, neither of them has a flag to plant or I'd be poked with holes like a sieve.  I'd like to think that both sides just want my company or possibly the warmth of togetherness, but it's probably species competition.  Unless he were to sit on my head, Ralph is odd man out.  He is possibly the strategist, directing the occupying forces from his bunker under the dining room table, safely behind the lines and ensconced on the one chair with a cushion.  Squooshed flat and immobile, it's difficult to work on The Project unless I've shown some forethought and gathered all materials nearby beforehand.  This is not always the case and The Project comes to a screeching halt until a truce is called.  It's not easy being a living war zone.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

I Love A Parade

After a day of small chores here and there, Bessie and I went out to enjoy the afternoon sunshine.  Cool enough to need a jacket, it was pleasant working in the lavender bed as shadows lengthened.  The granite boulders in what is laughingly called The Rock Garden (the only things growing there are rocks) make a good spot to sit and rest after a stint of bending and stooping.  Bess lay by my feet at the edge of the driveway when we heard rustling over by the first shed.  Evidently there had been a committee meeting of the TLC (Turkey Ladies' Club) and it was breaking up so the girls could get home in time for dinner.  Surely they would detour around me and the dog, but no.  These six were less than half of the turkeys parading past on their way to who knows where and they weren't to be deterred.

Later, down in the shop I finished enough pieces to complete more of The Project.  As I become familiar with the equipment, I'm more confident and competent and the work is going faster.  A big advantage is that I'm more comfortable claiming the shop as my own workspace, no longer a stranger in a strange land (apologies to Robert Heinlein).  Upstairs in the evening, a very disappointed Bessie was banished to her own chair instead of my preferred lap while I worked on assembly.  I was able to improve on the prototype and may actually redo that first attempt.  The concept was good but lacked finesse and the execution was faulty.  I don't know about perfect, but practice does, indeed, make better.

It was a good day.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Don't Cry

People who say the wrong thing at the wrong time are said to have stuck their foot in it.  Sheila accomplished that without saying a word.  Three squirts away from being done and Sheila stuck her foot in the bucket and milk flowed everywhere.  As insurance, I use two buckets just in case; two girls' milk goes in the first and the third's in the other.  I might wonder why it is that a mishap never occurs when it's the first goat up or the bucket is still relatively empty.  No.  If it's going to happen, it's always when the bucket is full, full, full.  Worse, yesterday Sheila wouldn't lift her foot out of the pail and it was a struggle to lift it without making more of a mess.  That done, once started the job had to be finished, like it or not.  The one tiny bit of luck was that not much got over onto my side of the stand so I was spared a warm bath, especially since I still had Tessie to milk and Esther and Cindy to bring in for breakfast.  Also fortunate, it was not a day when milk had to be saved for my customer.

We're told not to cry over spilt milk, but they didn't say anything about cussing.

Happy birthday to my Kid Clay!

Friday, February 20, 2015

That Time Of Year

If I'm reading the signs right, spring is here.  Bouquets of daffodils are scattered all over the yards.  The almond tree was beaten ragged by the storms, but the plum and peach are covered in blossoms.  Back in the day, Perez Prado put out a jazzy mambo song called "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White;" same colors, different fruit.

The first Baby Blue-Eyes appeared yesterday, tiny flowers smaller than the surrounding clover.  Yes, I do look for clover with four leaves.  The forsythia is popping with bright yellow flowers on the deck.

The notice to renew registration on the truck has arrived, the girls are cycling through estrus, and the surest sign of all - the annual outbreak of spring fever has struck.  Facing the busiest season of all, I've come down with lassitude and enervation.  Knowing what's coming, I do nothing.  Looking here, there, and everywhere at all the things that need doing before the heat of summer, the best I've done so far is make lists.  To avoid doing something more productive, Bess and I went out several times yesterday to play Pick-Up-Sticks in the yard.  The bracken fern is beginning to grow and I'll need to weed-eat it soon.  Fallen branches, debris from the log splitter and chainsaw, and all manner of bark pieces litter the ground around the woodpile.  All that would play havoc with the weed-eater or mower, so cleaning the area wasn't exactly an exercise in futility, and it got us out of the house.

Thinking I really should go downstairs to work on The Project in the afternoon, of course I turned the other way and walked out the front door.  "Whoa, what is that?!"  I stood stock-still and watched to make sure those two fireballs in the sky weren't moving, because they sure looked like something from outer space.  It didn't help that the sun appeared like a humongous explosion on the horizon.  Reassured that the earth was safe from aliens, Bess and I went on with the business of doing nothing.  It's that time of year.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Black and White

There must be some law of physics, or perhaps it's the dreaded Murphy's doing, dictating that a tissue will only be missed and left in a pocket to be thrown into the washing machine when it's a load of dark clothes; i.e., black or grey winter, long-sleeve, turtleneck tee-shirts.  It never happens with bright summer tank tops or white sheets.  Laundry on the line yesterday was covered with confetti like leftovers from a Mardi Gras parade; appropriate, I suppose, since it was the day after Fat Tuesday.  I don't understand how a tissue so fragile that it disintegrates in water can become as tough as whang leather when dry and nearly impossible to remove.  Those tiny flecks won't shake off and can't be brushed off.  Each piece had been applied with super glue.  Observers would think I'd developed a passion for black-and-white polka dots.  Fortunately for me, the only visitors yesterday were turkeys.  However, a tribe of thirty or so were hanging around toward sundown just across the drive from the clothesline, some perched on the deck rail and, while I'm not sure, I think they were snickering behind their wings.

We take our amusement where we can up here.  Camille called in the morning to invite me to come watch the entertainment at her place.  A huge pine next to her frontage road had died and was threatening power lines.  PG&E had come to take it down.  I had chores to tend, but from here I could see the brave guy with the chainsaw up at the very tippy top.  We're talking about an 80-90 foot tree.  Cam said that one really big branch had been sawn through and had dropped into her yard and shattered.  Oops.  She and her mom had taken prime seats on her patio to watch the show.  As I said, we're easily amused.

Sunrise and sunset come earlier and later now, another sign that spring is just around the corner.  Regardless of the lovely warm days, the temperature drops with the sun and there must be a very high dew point.  Last evening as I was taking down my tissue-flecked laundry, the shirts were already slightly damp again.  In the morning, the deck looks as if light rain had fallen and my pant legs are soaked by the time I get down to the barn.  At least the plants are getting some moisture.

The warm shirts have been put up on the high shelf for the duration.  Next winter I'll pull them out again and wonder why they're covered with paper flecks.  Oh well.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Inga came in as requested and was milked out satisfactorily.  First up on the stand, she then proceeded to drive the rest of us crazy.  I'd known what her problem was the other day without her saying a word, but yesterday she told the world that she was in heat and not, repeat not, happy.  Pacing back and forth and whining incessantly (Rolling Stones, "Can't Get No Satisfaction" playing in the background), Inga got on everyone's nerves to the point where Tessie bashed her in the side.  "Shut up!  Shut up-shut up-shut up!"  I left them to deal with it and got out of Dodge.

In the milking room, I've been noticing a phenomenon I'd not seen before.  All the adolescent mice seem to have been banished to a colony on one side of the room while the adults and some pregnant moms live on the other.  The breakfast cereal is thrown down on the grownup's side so the teenagers have had to cross over and sneak a treat if they can.  Not wishing to be accused of playing favorites, I put some grain down by the burrow openings on the kids' side.  It's as if they discovered a goldmine.  Some take a piece and rush back down the hole to safety and others bravely sit up on the surface and nibble, watching me with tiny bright eyes.  I like playing Lady Bountiful.

I felt great satisfaction as I put the finishing touches on the prototype for The Project yesterday.  It's pretty close to what I'd envisioned, and I've worked out how to do some parts better and/or easier.  Enthusiasm renewed, I punched holes for three more Projects, becoming more confident in using the drill press (wearing my goggles!).

The shop was always No Man's Land for me, strictly Steve's realm.  It's mainly been used for storage in the last few years.  Don't where to put it?  Put it in the shop.  Out of sight, out of mind.  Now that I've got a reason to go downstairs, I see what a disaster area it's become.  Tools scattered everywhere, boxes and bags of "stuff" piled in the middle, no rhyme or reason to anything.  Barely making a dent, every time I go down there now I clean up a small area.  I know where screwdrivers, wrenches, and pliers go.  Trash is getting thrown out.  If and when I find the nails (searched for 5 years for those suckers), I will put them somewhere for easy access.  There is a tremendous satisfaction in claiming space as one's own.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Start To Finish

Milking Inga went about as expected.  After playing hookey the day before, her bag was as tight as a tick and almost impossible to get started.  I truly sympathized even though I did tell her it was her own danged fault.  That overfilled udder was tender and her way of telling me just how sore it felt was to lift one hind leg or the other and kick like crazy.  Not only did I have those tiny teats to contend with, I had to protect the bucket, leaving me just one hand for the job.  Milk squirted everywhere and the process took forever.  The other girls milled around outside.  Unlike Inga, they were all anxious for their turn.  I don't know which of us was more relieved when she left the barn.

Most of the day was spent working on The Project, sometimes upstairs, sometimes down.  I finally (big sigh of relief here) finished the prototype and I'm pretty happy with the results.  Amazing what a difference the right tools make.  After the previous struggles, I'd become determined to complete one, but "had me doots" about going into production.  The finish work is a bit fussy and tedious, but as long as I can keep Bess and the cats off my lap so they don't scatter materials, I can deal with that.  Onward, ever onward!

Camille was thinning a patch of wild violets and asked if I could use some.  Of course!  I adore violets.  Leaving an unhappy Bess at home, I loaded up trash for the big road and then stopped at Cam's for a short visit and to get the plants just before sundown.  Honey kept licking my pant legs and Cam thought I might have milk on them.  Might?  I'd been drenched! 

Lacking a time-lapse camera, these three photos show just how quickly the sky will change in the time from walking down to the barn to the way back, and then just after putting the hens to bed.

Same day, same sky, and different in a matter of minutes.  I've been accused of becoming obsessed with sunrise and sunset and it's true.  Just call me Tevye (and isn't it fitting that he was The Dairyman?).

Monday, February 16, 2015

Good News, Bad News, Good Again

Standing by Cindy's side, waiting for her to finish her breakfast (she's a nonmilker), I looked down and thought, "Holy cow!  That's a mouse on steroids!"  No, it was Gary Gopher, back after a long absence.  Oblivious to my presence, Gary made trip after trip to fill his cheek pouches.  He was cleaning up leftovers from the mice and I had no problem with that.

I did have a problem, however, with Miss Inga.  The routine has gone smoothly for quite awhile and I'd been lulled into a false sense of security.  It would be a day when the Kids were coming up that she chose not to come into the milking room.  No amount of wheedling, begging, or cussing would bring her in and I didn't have time to walk the pen in hopes of catching her.  On your head be it, Inga.  See ya tomorrow.

How I love to look out the kitchen window and see my Kids drive up.  It is a three-day weekend and I feel quite honored that they shared a precious day off with me.  Deb and Craig are my personal big-box store shoppers and had brought a case of diaper wipes.  I had to explain to Craig why he had to go in the back door to the feed shed where the wipes are stored, the front door being held shut by a weight and a wedge of cardboard because of the last storm.  Dave and Bird rode up while Deb and Craig were lunching on onion-and-bacon pie.  The guys, and other members of Freed Spirits, had stopped for a burger at Bones.  Dave and Bird gathered some tools and dismantled the two broken storm doors and fixed the inner door to the feed shed so it can once again open and close (yay!).  Dave came in with a good news-bad news scenario.  The extra storm door I'd bought (that didn't fit the feed shed) would definitely fit the first shed (good news), but due to some technical difficulties with the siding (bad news), could not be installed without Larry's expertise.  Another excuse to see the Kids again was good news for me.

One of the biggest favors of the day was Dave setting up and teaching me how to use the drill press.  Ohmigosh!  It took seconds to do what I've been struggling with for weeks on The Project.  There's hope!  In addition to instruction on the operation of the drill and making sure I could do it on my own, Dave took time to explain potential dangers, one of which being metal splinters in the eye, and suggested safety glasses.  Rummaging through cupboards and drawers, I found these oh-so-stylish goggles.  There is great freedom in being old enough not to care how silly one appears.  Looking like an indoor scuba diver was a crackup, and Craig titled this "Safety first."

The bikers rumbled off down the drive, careful not to drop into a chasm, and Deb and Craig left shortly thereafter.  "Love you!" was still echoing when Celeste came out of hiding, elusive girl that she is.

Gosh, it was a good day.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Mouse By Any Other Name...

It isn't true that one mouse looks just like another.  However, there has to be some physical characteristic that stands out before they get named.  It doesn't have to be anything as drastic as one-eyed Mini-Squint.  Li'l Larry has blended into the group now that he's full size.  There's a new kid on the block that I see every day now.  He has light patches around his eyes, ergo, his name is Bags.  Bruiser is an oversize mouse who shoulders others aside at the breakfast bar.  Vieja (old woman) went on to her reward some time back.

It's pretty much the same with chickens, although it could be personality features that I identify as well as physical attributes.  Ginger, of course, is the star of the flock now.  While I admire her intrepid spirit, I do worry about her being outside the pen all by her lonesome.  It's been a bad week for the Silkies.  I found the black rooster dead the other day, and one of the hens is not doing very well.  If she goes, that will leave just two, a hen and a rooster.  They don't seem to have as long a life span as the big chickens.

Multitudes of little barn birds gather each morning.  Lately they've been joined by much larger birds, soft grey without many markings, and they are all named Margalo.  In the Stuart Little movie, Margalo is yellow, but as I remember her from the book, she was a lovely grey.  At any rate, it's always nice to see the Margalos.

If I don't get down to the barn pretty soon, all living things will be named Hungry.  The Kids will be arriving around noon and I don't want to get caught with my dustrag down.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

When All Else Fails...

One can sit and stare at a blank page for just so long.  Writer's block has struck and I'm at a loss for words this morning, so I'm falling back on my old standbys.  Sunset last night was as lovely as ever.  It's as good a place as any to start.

Pete, my SoCal Kid, sent a triumphant photo of his newly restored Triumph motorcycle yesterday.  Pete inherited the bike from his dad and it needed a lot of work and a long time to get back in running order.  Given the age of the bike and the fact that parts come from England, it's been a challenge.  The sound of a Triumph is almost as throaty as that of a Harley.  If my guys ever get together, put in the earplugs!

Sunrise this morning was worthy of a Valentine's Day photo.  We're certainly off to a great start.
If today is good, tomorrow will be even better:  Deb, Craig, and Dave are coming up!  (And perhaps I'll find more inspiration for the blog.)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Omega Day

It might be strange to start at the end, but until sundown not much got done yesterday.  Not only did my hand cramp after using the drill the day before, I seem to have strained some of those muscles and chose to give myself the day off (after barn chores, of course).

Time after time, I tell myself, "No more sunset photos.  Enough, already!"  And then I walk out and see colors and/or cloud formations that cry out to be shared.

Some time back, and apparently for "no good reason" (that's a family tag line that I might explain someday), Deb and Craig gave me a cookbook called "Plenty."  While the author, Yotam Ottolenghi, is not a vegetarian, the recipes in the book are all delicious-sounding vegetable dishes.  Jonathan Lovekin's gorgeous photographs would flip any carnivore, and Ottolenghi's text reads as well as any novel.  Looking in the fridge for the makings of dinner last night, I found mighty slim pickings.  Only that lonely cauliflower caught my eye.  One cauliflower does not a dinner make, but then I thought of "Plenty."  Surely there would be a recipe in there I could use.  I had to make some substitutions as I did not have smoked mozzarella on hand for "Smoky Cauliflower Frittata," but my finished dish turned out to look exactly like the photograph and was absolutely outstanding.

It was a great meal and a good day.
(Happy birthday today to my son Dave!)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

My Lap, My Life

Currently, this is my View From Farview Farm.  I've become a lap magnet.  Sometimes Bessie Anne's need to be with me is overwhelming, and Celeste is taking her cue from Bess.  At times, it's Bess on my lap and Celeste at the side, but they take turns.  Ralph is generally off doing Ralph things.  When this photo was taken, he was having a high old time with the tear strip from a package of tortillas.  (He's easy to amuse.)  On occasion, he will pile on and find whatever lap space is available, usually on Celeste's head.

Bessie Anne's gimpy legs make it difficult for her to negotiate the stairs, but given her need to be with me, yesterday we both went down to tackle The Project again.  The cats are not allowed into the shop area; too many nooks, crannies, and hidey holes and I'd never find them when ready to leave.  My plan to switch batteries and drills is working.  Or, to be honest, it would work if I didn't wimp out.  I never dreamed the process would consume so much time and energy.  "Go slow," the man said.  There isn't any choice but to go slow.  Drill, dip.  Drill, dip.  One hole punched (switch drills) and one in progress before my hand cramped and legs and back were screaming, "Quit!"  Among the multitude of tools and trash in the shop, I identified a drill press.  I've never used a drill press, but it's possible it might make the job easier.  My assignment for today is to find online instructions.  I continue to hold out hope for The Project.  If I give Bess a beginning boost, she can usually make it up the rest of the stairs on her own and we emerged at the top like bats from a cave.

Tree Guy knows trees, but he doesn't know goats.  He put the "protection" fence too close to the one critical mulberry tree I'd wanted to shade the barn.  The girls have learned to stand on the square wire to lean over to reach the sapling and have chewed off beginner branches and nibbled on the trunk bark.  Yesterday they hadn't the decency to wait until I'd left the pen.  Sheila and Tessie were tag-teaming on the tree and I was yelling like some demented thing.  "Bad goat!  Bad goat!"  I'm sure Robert, who was working at his winery, got his chuckle for the day.

There are days when I'm happy to see the sun go down and know that the trials and tribulations are over for the day, that day, anyhow.  I went into the house and made a lap.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Like It Or Not

It's no secret that going to town is not my favorite thing to do, or that I like shopping even less.  Even so, every couple of weeks it's a necessary evil and yesterday was bite-the-bullet day.  Avoiding the axle-deep ruts in the driveway was pretty exciting on the way down, and coming back up later was even worse.  Fishtailing from side to side on the slope, wheels spinning, I wasn't sure I wasn't going to need 4WD, but made it okay.  Shortly after unpacking my purchases, my milk-and-egg customer drove up (I'd forgotten he was due).  I'd no more than said hello when he asked if I had a mattock.  Of course I have a mattock, what good farm wife would be without?  This goodhearted man took said tool and, without another word, went to work on the driveway.  It's a long, steep driveway and deeply rutted on both sides.  An hour later, just before sundown, dripping sweat and panting, my customer put the mattock away and came to the door.  I was trying to express my gratitude, planning to at least comp his milk and eggs, when he said, "Just pay it forward."  I will try.

February 10th was my dad's birthday and he was on my mind much of the day.  My mother had a volatile personality, but my father was a quiet constant in my life.  A sharecropper's son, Daddy left Texas and never looked back.  He was a "townie" through and through, a natty dresser and always wore a suit and tie, even at the beach.  I think he may have owned one short-sleeve sports shirt, but I don't remember ever seeing him wear it.  I often wonder what he'd think of my current lifestyle, but probably best I don't know.  He died on my 40th birthday and I was privileged to be with him that day.  It seemed so fitting:  he was there when I came into the world, and I was there when he left.

A trip to town doesn't leave much time for else in the day.  As Earle drove away down the newly repaired driveway, I walked "into the sunset" to put the girls to bed.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Still Damp

The sun came out and stayed out and drew Bess and me like a magnet, and we weren't the only ones.  It's no longer unusual to see turkeys on the deck rail, but previously they were on the outside and we were on the inside.  Yesterday, on one of our walkabouts we rounded a corner and there were two of the peeping toms (except these were hens) on the rail.  One bailed, but this one stayed even as Bessie walked to the corner.  Bess and I decided to go in the living room door and leave the wildlife alone.

After days of watching rain and waiting tensely for the next disaster, I felt comfortable enough to go down and tackle The Project.  Again.  The drill battery was recharged and I had my instructions and cup of water at the ready.  "Go slow," the man said, so I did.  I drilled at quarter speed, wiped and dipped the bit as directed.  Just before, and I mean just before the bit punched through, the drill went rrrr, rrrrrr, rrrrrrr, and stopped.  The furshlugginer battery had died again.  Hunting for a spare battery for the Makita (one would think Steve would have at least two), I discovered a Ryobi drill and two, count 'em, two! batteries, both dead as doornails.  Okay, Plan B.  I put the Makita's and one of the Ryobi batteries in their chargers.  The next time I take on The Project, I will round-robin the drills and their doggone batteries.  I'd started out thinking I would make a lot of these Projects; now I'd like to finish even just the one.

It being Monday and having missed the week before, it was "take the trash to the big road" day.  Bess and I loaded up and started down the drive, now known as Farview Farm Canyon Road.  The torrential rains had washed gullies over a foot deep and it was tricky going.  I had anticipated some damage, but nothing as bad as I found.  I don't need a crystal ball to see there will be some tractor work in my future.

After days of gloomy weather, the most beautiful part of this sunset is that we could see the setting sun.

Four a.m.  I awoke as Bess tromped over my sleeping body and being shaken as Ralph thundered through the house, racing back to make bankshots off the end of the bed.  It's going to be a long day.  That's all right, we've been promised sunshine all day long.

Monday, February 9, 2015

What's A Cubit?

I'm ready to send away for the schematics for an ark.  Lacking those instructions, maybe I could use some of the downed branches to build a raft.  Not only did it rain all day yesterday, in the afternoon there was another spectacular downpour, accompanied by blinding lightning and deafening thunder claps.  During that electrical display, I was speaking to my niece in New Hampshire, listening with sympathy as she described having to cancel a trip to Florida due to another two feet of snow on top of the six to eight feet already on the ground.  We didn't talk long as the crackling in my ear had me envisioning electrocution by phone.  The last few days have been tense.

In need of some comfort food, I looked for a recipe for potato soup.  Don't laugh; I have never made potato soup.  Way back in time, a sister-in-law made the best version of that dish and I didn't want to compete.  I scrapped the recipe I found as it began with "one slice of bacon."  Remembering the smoky flavor of my SIL's soup, I knew "one slice" wasn't going to come close.  Conferring with my niece and Linda, chowder cooks both, I used their suggestions, added some twists of my own, and indulged in a thick, creamy, bacon-rich bowl of warm heavenly flavor.

Grateful for just the light rain that fell at sundown, I got the girls to bed.  All stalls had dry space for the goats to lie down, but the aisle in the back part of the barn was awash.  One good thing about our decomposed granite soil here, it drains quickly.  However, it continued to rain steadily throughout the night, so I might still need that ark today.  What's a cubit?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Rains Came

"The Rains Came," 1939 movie with Tyrone Power, Myrna Loy, and George Brent.  Great flick.  Don't bother with the 1955 remake, "The Rains of Ranchipur," with Richard Burton (made a terrible Indian; the turban did nothing for him), Lana Turner, and Fred MacMurray.

The first order of business yesterday was a joyride on the oak leaf slip-and-slide down to the edge of the woods to retrieve the trashcan lid.  Why is it that the hill back up is much steeper than the way down?  It's not often I see my house from this angle with the outside view of the round room.

Thankfully, the terrific winds of the day before had died down and I was able to tend to morning barn chores without problem.  Lest I be accused of animal abuse by doing nothing about the hole in the barn roof, that gaping space is not over any stall and even with some spray hitting Inga's room, she has the biggest stall and plenty of dry area in which to lie down.  I did a further assessment of damage to the property and found, happily, only more downed branches.

And then the rains came.  The weatherman had said there might be a few showers during the day.  He was wrong.  On the off chance, I'd closed the big door to the hen house and left the play yard open for the girls.  In early afternoon, the sky simply opened and dumped water in torrents.  The rain came so hard and fast that the gutters overloaded and even tore away the downspout.  It went on and on without letup, and I was so reminded of that movie.  Sitting on top of the hill, there was no worry about flooding at the house, but I was concerned about the barn at the bottom.  It was still pouring at nightfall and I will admit to reluctance at the thought of going out in it, but one does what one has to do and I tucked everyone in.  Needless to say, all critters were happy to see me.  Back at the house, my quickly stripped-off bibbies and socks were hung over a chair in front of the wood stove.  They still aren't dry, they were that wet.  The word is that we got over three inches of rain yesterday.  We need rain, yes, but spread out would be better than all at once.

There had been a slight problem with the stove earlier when I tried to put in a chunk of wood that was a tiny bit too large and the door would not shut.  The part in the stove had caught fire, so there was no taking it out again.  Smoke billowed out and one by one smoke alarms went off down the hallway.  (Nice to know they work.)  Opening doors and calming the dog and cats, I finally got the log pushed all the way in and the stove closed.  Once that crisis had passed, I went down to drill some holes for The Project.  Yeah, how's that working for ya?  The battery had died again.  This is turning into an exercise in futility bar none.

It is said that hope springs eternal.  Given the gorgeous sunrise this morning, I am hoping for a better day today.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Not Pretty

Ominous was the only word for sunrise yesterday and I hoped (in vain, as it turned out) that it was not a preview of coming attractions.  I had to move into the shelter of the house to take this shot as the wind on the south side was blowing so hard as to move the camera in my hands.  The hummingbird feeders were swinging like the bells of St. Mary's and Bessie's ears streamed back.  We agreed to cut our walkabout short and headed back into the house.

There was no sign of the trash can lid and I assumed it would be found somewhere in Placer County someday.  I raced through the milking and barn chores with the wind thundering against the walls and roof, and finished before the rain started.  The goats were as nervous as I and clustered close to the barn.  Leaving the gate to the play yard open for the girls to get shelter, I hauled the milk up to the house.  When the rain began about noon, it was a deluge beating on the windows.  It was not a day to concentrate on anything and The Project was again put on hold.  I walked through the house time and again, looking out at the trees and hoping to see them all upright.  So far, so good.  From the advantage of height, I did see the lid down in the north field by the woods, but left it where it lay as I sure wasn't going out in that storm.  Wonder of wonders, there was only one brief blip in the power all day.

I decided to put the girls to bed early; it was dark at 4 o'clock anyhow.  I really, really didn't want to go outside, but there was nothing for it but to gear up and do the deed.  It was all I could do to keep my feet under me, the wind was that strong and the rain stung like buckshot.  I got the first clue when I stepped into the goat pen and saw pieces of the roof panel piled up against the fence.  Ah, yes.  I could hear the Serendipity Singers warbling, "My roof's got a hole in it and I might drown," as the girls rushed into their rooms.  Any shelter was better than none, and there was naught to do in that weather.

The storm door on the feed shed had been lashed back and was, I thought, safe.  I was wrong.  The wind had blown it completely apart and pieces lay all over.  Amazingly, the glass panels were still intact.

The storm door on the first shed fared somewhat better, but is being held on by just one screw.  The frame is demolished and the whole door will have to be replaced.  I put in an SOS call to my son Dave, who (fortunately for him and unfortunately for me) has just started a new job with 10-hour days and 6 days a week.  This weekend is a washout anyway (how's that for an understatement?) due to the weather and the damage has already been done, so there's no urgency.

I had thought Ginger would be frantic to get inside with the flock, but, again, I was wrong.  With the rain pelting down and the wind blowing strong, the little twit was scratching and pecking with the turkeys down in the orchard and would not come when I called.  I tucked the rest of the chickens inside, told her she was on her own, and went in to get dry.  My conscience got the better of me as darkness fell and so I went out again.  Bess stayed indoors and said, "She's your chicken, Mom.  I want nothing to do with her."  This time, a soggy little chicken came running and beat me to the gate.  "I thought you'd never get here!"  We'll have to discuss her timing.

I can't really say it was a good day, but if this is as bad as it gets, it was tolerable.  Fingers crossed.

Friday, February 6, 2015

What's the Attraction?

With a warm, light breeze blowing, I stood on the deck and watched Bessie Anne bravely go walkabout by herself.  She did not, however, look both ways before crossing the drive into the south pasture and narrowly escaped being run over by the tribe of turkeys on the march.  I was astonished when the leaders made a hard right turn and the train followed Bess into the field.  Then the entire troop came after her as she came back up the hill.  What in the world?

It was cause for concern when the toms fluffed up, but maybe that was just for show.  It could be that the hens are the warriors.  I honestly didn't know if the turkeys were only curious or angry that their territory had been breached.  My little dog was seriously outweighed and outnumbered if a battle were in the offing.  The turkeys continued to trail Bess down and back up the slope.  I also didn't know if Bessie didn't see or hear the big birds, or if ignoring them was a self-preservation technique.  The event passed without incident.  Bess came back up on the deck and the turkeys paraded on to the feeding station.  I wish I knew what the attraction had been.

Beautiful, but dumb.  The almond tree has the worst sense of timing in the arboreal world.  That pleasant breeze turned into a big wind later in the day and four days of rain are predicted.  (The wind is howling even as we speak this morning, and something I overlooked yesterday is banging around on the deck.)  All those lovely pink blossoms will litter the orchard today, and who knows if the tree will set fruit after that.

Beside moving deck furniture, etc., into safety, one thing I definitely needed to do was bring firewood up to the porch before the rains come.  However, in a wind storm one risks getting a beating by the tarp covering the woodpile.  Luckily, the wind died down long enough in late afternoon and I was able to replenish the rack without getting whipped.

There were definitely storm clouds on the horizon last evening.  If the weather guys are right, we'll be getting a deluge in several waves into next week.  We need the rain, but one worries when heavy rain and strong winds come in combination.  The hatches are battened to the best of my ability.  Now it's wait and see.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Seesaw Day

I'll bet there are kids today who have never seen a seesaw, the old-fashioned wooden kind that was in every school yard everywhere.  I imagine that in an attempt to protect children from themselves, all implements of possible danger have been removed so there are probably no more seesaws, kid-powered merry-go-rounds, monkey bars, and swings on long chains that made you feel you could reach the stars.  Of course we got bumps and scrapes, road-rash from falling on asphalt, and all those "bad" things.  We also got hands-on experience in teamwork and daily exercise (without an app to prompt one to put down the electronic gizmos and get up and play).  But I digress.

Yesterday was a seesaw ride at Farview.  I'd no more come back from the barn when Patrick called and said he'd be on his way with the alfalfa and grain delivery.  Yay!  No more worry that it wouldn't come before the rain.  Patrick bucked the bales into the feed barn and even put the chicken feed into the barrels for me.  That was an up.  The bill was nearly $300.  Down.

Got off my rusty-dusty and swept and polished the living room.  Up.  Bessie Anne tracked in leaves and twigs.  Down.  Left to go buy more drill bits and picked up the mail on my way out.  Found a check from a class-action settlement in which I hadn't even been aware I was involved, and it covered nearly half of the feed bill.  Up.

Coming back from the hardware store, I noted that Patrick hadn't shut the storm door to the feed room and it was standing open.  On closer inspection, the wind had obviously slammed the door back and forth until it was disintegrated beyond repair.  Down.  Not only that, the inner door latch would not keep the door closed.  Down.  The feed room has two doors, front and rear, so I went around and put a 40-lb. bag of feed down to keep the front door closed temporarily.  Having two doors was an Up.

The rule of thumb here is "Call before you come."  Twice in the past week people have appeared out of the blue, apparently without warning.  "I thought you were going to call," sez I.  "I did," sez they.  Voice mail messages left on house or cell phones do not count if I'm working in the barn or driving and don't see them before I see you.  Down.

While deciding if there was enough time to try the new drill bits in what was left of the afternoon, I sat down and was promptly joined by Bess and Celeste.  A can of beer was on the table beside me.  Bessie kicked Celeste and Celeste kicked the beer.  Down.  The can was almost empty.  Up.

The living room looked nice.  There was leftover pizza for dinner.  All the critters went into their rooms without problem.  There was more beer in the fridge.  All in all, I'd say it was an "Up" day.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


Back in the day when I was a beginner at using a computer, whenever there was a problem the on-call tech was brought in.  I followed him around asking questions.  His best advice was to start with the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) method.  In other words, if the screen stays black, look to see if the machine is plugged in before delving deeper.  (Surprisingly, sometimes something that easy was the answer.)  I was bemoaning my fate regarding my secret project and the broken drill bits.  My friend Linda did the "leg work" and hunted down a website for me that explained in clearest terms that a little cup of water nearby would cool the bit and allow the drill to do its work.  It seems that friction and the resultant heat are what dulls and then breaks the bit.  Fancy, expensive tools and bits are not required.  Once I saw the demonstration, it all made sense and my enthusiasm has been renewed.  I do need to buy more metal-cutting bits, but now I know how to do the job correctly and am back on track with the project.  There have been many times in the last nearly 10 years that I've thought, "Doggone it, Steve, why didn't you teach me some of this stuff if you were going to leave so soon?!"  If Linda lived closer, I'd give her a big kiss for getting this info and for teaching me how to mine the computer for such gems.

I put in an order yesterday for a delivery of alfalfa and grain.  I hope it gets here before the predicted rain this weekend.  I'm pretty good about planning ahead, but I'm on the last bale and it won't last a whole week.  I'm okay on grain, but if it comes with the alfalfa delivery young, strong, male arms will unload it for me, saving my aching back.  (KISS)

Fresh mozzarella and raw mushrooms will stay fresh just so long.  In the waste not-want not way I was raised, I made another pizza last night, and used the second half of the dough.  Same ingredients, same success.  In fact, having had a little experience in spreading the dough, this second pizza might have been even better.  DIY is definitely the way to go, and it's a KISS recipe.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Dusky Doings

"Wait Until Dark" was a great suspense movie (1967) with Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, and Richard Crenna.  (Stick with me; I'll introduce you to a lot of the golden oldies.)

Not much suspense here, but a lot of things happen about dusk.  I understand why the herd of turkeys shows up for breakfast every morning, but can only wonder why they troop through the yard every evening.  Bird seed is thrown down only once a day and the chickens' bedtime snacks are given in the coops, so food is not the reason for the turkey parade.  I don't know where they wander off to during the day, but I know where they come back to before dark.

I'd bagged up the trash to haul down the road and was ready to take the laundry off the line when my niece in New Hampshire called.  The east coast has been getting slammed with winter storms.  She'd sent photos of snow three and four feet deep in front of the doors, and reported that the drifts were now up to the window level.  And here we are on the west coast, hoping there will be even a little rain this weekend.  One could wish for a bit of parity.

Our conversation lasted until I had to call a halt because it was getting dark, and we know how the goats are about going into the barn then.  Suzanne's day had ended long before, bur I still had work to do.  Topping off the water trough, I looked over one shoulder at the rising moon and then the other to see the setting sun.  It was a perfect opportunity to try that panorama feature of the camera and got this 180-degree shot.  Ginger had given up on me and had tucked herself onto a bale in the feed barn, but came running when I opened the gate, more than ready to join the flock inside.

I never did get the trash to the big road (missed my chance this morning) and the laundry still hangs on the line.  Regardless, it was a good day.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Win Some, Lose Some

I may never buy pizza again.  For a lark (and because I didn't know what I was doing in the first place), I added garlic powder and an Italian herb mix to the crust ingredients; that's a winner!  The recipe made enough crust for two pizzas, but it evidently freezes well so I won't overdose for days.  Hot from the oven, the sliced mozzarella was yummy, but next time I do believe I'll grate the cheese on top.

While searching in the barn for the pizza stone(s) I was sure I had but couldn't find, I did discover another madeleine cookie pan.  Did I mention that Steve was deserving of a bumper sticker that said, "I brake for yard sales!"?  I've had the gently-used pans for years but have never made the cookies.  Uncovering this treasure may just be the impetus I need.

Continuing what is turning out to be The NeverEnding Story, I did go downstairs during halftime and I was successful in recharging the battery.  That was a good thing.  I did drill one more hole (a good thing) before the bit broke on the second (not so good).  I'm still determined to finish this project, but must admit my enthusiasm has waned.

Regardless of your team affiliation, yesterday's Super Bowl was a tight, edge-of-your-seat game up to and including the last few seconds.  Being a New England Patriots fan, I groaned and thought all was lost, and then Ta Da!  That unreal save earlier by Jermaine Kearse will have football players shaking their heads for years.

Stepping out last evening, I was stunned once again by the sunset and stopped to take this shot.
On the way back up from the goat barn, a matter of minutes, the sky had completely changed, ergo, another photo.
After tucking the chickens in for the night, I turned to look for Bessie Anne and discovered an entirely different view.  Each, in my opinion, is a winner.

It was a good day.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Humdrum Day

Even the most ordinary of days has bright spots to elevate the spirit.  I get really excited when the phone rings early on a Saturday morning; it means my daughter has some time to talk and catch up and I'm smiling before the first ring stops.  Life down in the valley goes at breakneck speed and time zips by in the blink of an eye.  A leisurely mother-daughter chat while we share a cup of coffee is a great way to start the day.

My fit of pique the other day did nothing to resolve the drill issue.  I had put the dead battery in the charger before I stomped up the stairs, but neglected to push the on button.  For someone who has avoided going downstairs for months on end, I've made more trips up and down in the last week than in the last five years.  (Okay, that's an exaggeration, but it makes the point.)  I won't say discovering that the battery was not resuscitated was a highlight, but it did raise my hackles.  I was reminded of Jack Lemmon's line from "The Great Race" to Peter Falk, "Push the button, Max!"  We'll see how successful I was with the charger today, probably during Super Bowl halftime.  Or not.

Back in the day, we used to throw big parties on Super Bowl Sundays with lots of competitive partisan yelling and plenty to eat and drink.  In the spirit of yesteryear, I decided I would make pizza today for myself.  I've never created a homemade pizza.  Checking online for a dough recipe, I particularly liked the advice of one cook who said it was not wise to overload with toppings because the crust would be doughy "...and you will be sad."  Not wishing to be sad, I will be judicious when I put on salami, pepperoni, olives, onions, red pepper flakes, and mushrooms, with the obligatory mozzarella and Parmesan.  There was a tub of my own marinara sauce in the freezer, thawing as we speak.

I'm getting an inkling of the lives of Chang and Eng, famed Siamese twins of the 1800s.  I am rarely to never alone anymore.  In the living room, Bessie Anne and Celeste, and occasionally Ralph pile onto my lap, legs, and chest.  Here at the computer, Ralph and Bess are behind me on the bed.  Bessie knows there is no room for her as I sit at the desk, but Celeste squeezes onto what lap is available and lies with her head across my arm.  This makes for some interesting typos as I can't quite reach all the keys.  I only hope to catch all the errors before hitting "publish" and ask indulgence for those I miss.

A load of laundry hung on the line, a drive to the grocery store, a disappointing trip downstairs; just a humdrum day that ended with another lovely sunset.  It was a good day.