Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Faces: Some Old, Some New

The chickens get let out first thing every morning.  Pellets are in a hanging bucket in the coop.  Scratch gets thrown down in their yard; keeps them busy and they ingest sand as well as the oyster shell for their craws.  When I don't need to save milk, the little kids get a bowlful on my way back to the house.  Going in to give them a slurp yesterday I found Gunther, a relative of Gary's.  He had burrowed up for grain and was just hanging out in the hole, head not quite above ground, beady eyes squinting in the light.  The hens came running for their milk, but avoided stomping on Gunther's head.  Gophers must have such poor eyesight.  It took Gunther a while to realize I was there, or maybe he just didn't care.  I said good morning and went on my way, but it was nice to see a new face.

Ground squirrels have been noticeably absent down in the barn, but they're making up for it in spades now.  They're bouncing all over the pen in large numbers and I've been hearing the chirp of the lookouts.  In the big room, Crook showed up yesterday, bent tail and all.  Like mice, the squirrels have to have some distinguishable characteristics before they get a name.

There are five or six very gravid mice who come for breakfast.  I found that the gestation period is about three weeks, so there should be new faces pretty soon.  Without predation, mice can live up to three years.  Mini-squint continues to make an appearance; he's a pretty tough little guy who doesn't take guff from the others.

The first, and so far only, iris popped into bloom yesterday in the rock garden.  To my surprise, a sixth peony plant has also come up.

Birds come and birds go.  Just now large numbers of mourning doves are visiting, bringing their sad calls.  Soon they'll be replaced by the bigger ringneck doves.

My guilt had reached critical mass, spurring me to finish the tax stuff and get it in the mail yesterday, along with a long-overdue package.  It's apparent my motto is "Never do today what you can put off 'til tomorrow."

It's been heating up pretty good lately, certainly enough to pop a sweat down in the barn.  The process of opening windows has begun in the house.  Of course, now we're promised cooler weather this week.  I'm not complaining!  A bit of cloud cover makes for a pretty sunset.

.A familiar face is coming for early dinner tonight.  Arden and I are going to make pizzas.  I'm sure pizza is one of the four food groups necessary for good health.

It was a good day.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Just Another Day

"Hi, what are you doing?"  It was Go-To Guy.  Me, "It's Sunday.  I'm watching NASCAR, what else would I be doing?"  Go-To, "Just wanted to make sure you weren't in the shower because I'm coming by and will shut off your water."  One does get the strangest phone calls up here.  No water?!  And the race was on.  Wash the last of the dishes, make a pitcher of hummer juice, answer a call of nature and flush.  I didn't know how long I'd be without water while Go-To finished the repair on the line and there are priorities.

It's so hard to complain about the weather on a gorgeous day (but I'll try).  On the way back from the barn, I noted that the high grass is beginning to turn brown.  Too soon!  It doesn't bode well for summer and the water supply.  Being on a well, it is cause for concern.  At any rate, Go-To went to the first shed where the pressure tank and control valves are to turn off the water.  He came back in a minute and asked if I had the key to that door.  My heart sank, as that door has never been locked and I feared the mechanism had broken and what was I to do about that?  The storm door torn off in the last storm was still leaning against the wall as I've not been able to replace it yet and I sure didn't need another broken door.  He turned the handle to show me how it was locked, looked at me, and we both went hysterical.  "Push, don't pull."  Whew!  That was an easy, funny fix.  It took next to no time for him to repair the water line to the trees in the field and Debbie and I had a nice chat.

On my way back to the house, this little totem was posing on the porch wood rack.  He'd evidently had a close encounter of the worst kind and was regenerating his tail, or most thereof.  Lizards have the capability to "throw" their tail off in an attempt to distract a predator.  The tail will never grow as it was, but enough to give the critter balance.

A cloud bank southeast toward Yosemite caught the last of the sun's rays at bedtime for the girls last evening.  Poppy is becoming forgetful.  She heads toward the barn but becomes distracted.  For many nights now, I've had to put the goats in and then go back to herd Poppy to the barn.  I've got Bessie in the house and Poppy in the field, both getting old with bad memory problems.  Ah, well, the trials and tribulations of aging.

It was a good day.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Spring Has Sprung

The herb garden needed watering (in March!).  The huge rosemary bush has been blooming and full of bees for awhile.  I'm always so happy to see the bees; so necessary for so many plants and trees and the colonies have been dwindling the last few years.

Trying new plants and flowers is always iffy up here.  Ground squirrels and voles eat the bulbs.  Deer eat the plants.  It's either arid or freezing, too hot or too wet.  I had such hopes for the peonies Deb and Craig gave me last year, but one never knows.  Thus it's been so exciting to find each of the five plants come out of dormancy and up out of the ground.  The Kids probably worry about my sanity as I've sent them pictures as each little sprout appeared.  Peonies die back completely and I wasn't sure the plants would return.  It was a huge relief when I saw the last one poking up yesterday.  Going back to the house to turn on the sprinkler (in March!), the lilacs were irresistible.  They fill the air with perfume.  Butterflies haven't found them yet, but I'm on watch.  Ralph and Celeste are also on watch.  They sit on the kitchen windowsills, making eck-eck-eck chatter when they see the little dinky birds flutter in the lilacs.  I'd planned on keeping the bushes trimmed back neat and tidy, but they give wonderful shade to the west-facing kitchen in summer when shade is really needed and so I've let them grow higgledy-piggledy as they will.

On the east side, the hummers gathered for dinner.  I'm well into the second 25-pound sack of sugar.  It amazes me how much these birds drink and how fast.  The three feeders combined hold two quarts and already I fill them at least once and sometimes twice a day.  Clicking on the photo will enlarge it and the dozen or so hummers can easily be seen.

When I was a kid, the ditty went, "Spring has sprung.  Fall has fell.  Summer's here and it's hotter than...usual."  (We felt very naughty as we recited.)

It was a good day.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Quick Change

In what seems like only a few days, I've gone from worrying about whether I'd have enough firewood to get through winter to wondering if my deodorant was working; the weather has changed that fast.  In the last load of laundry, I was hanging turtleneck sweaters on the line.  Yesterday I wore a sleeveless dress.  Yes, I said dress, and I wasn't sure I wouldn't have to show ID to prove it was really me when I went to a lovely luncheon at Tinka's to reunite with Kit and Earlene.  I'm so seldom out of bibby uniform.  There has been no time to acclimate to the change in temperature, more than a twenty-degree climb.  We've had snow some years as late as April and May, but I don't recall that it's ever been this warm this early before.  It's not yet hot, as I think of hot, but way too warm for March.  It did make it pleasant to sit on Tinka's patio to have her pecan pie after lunch and talk and talk in the midst of her well-manicured garden.  The violets were running rampant everywhere, one of my favorite flowers.  As always, time with friends flies by too fast.

I've been holding off posting a photo of The Project because Kit was coming up and one was made for her birthday and I didn't want to spoil the surprise.  By default, I was given a big box of stainless steel flatware.  This box traveled for years to every annual Family Reunion.  Due to changing times, Steve's family has chosen disposable forks and spoons and no longer needed that box.  What to do with what seemed like hundreds of pieces of mismatched flatware?  I decided, if I could, to change them into wind chimes.  The flattened spoons make a pretty tinkle in the breeze.  Stainless steel is a booger to drill and mash, hence the need for a new vise and the drill press.  I already had the needle-nose and flat pliers.  I won't say it was a quick change, but I've got the system down pretty well now and have made five so far.

I had to make another change when I got home.  Going down to the barn in a dress and sandals; hmmm, no.  Back to bibbies and heavy shoes.

It was a good day.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Rose Parade

"Everything's Coming Up Roses" (Gypsy, 1959).  It's too early for roses to be blooming, but nobody told them and so they're bursting out.

This is Angel Face.  The plant was given to me, appropriately, when Steve died.  I've given an Angel Face to others; it's a great commemorative plant.

I'm ashamed to say I don't remember the name of this heritage rose.  It was chosen for its perfume, as well as beauty.  It lives in the sadly neglected Pig Garden (Louie's old pen), but it comes back year after year regardless.

Another overachiever also lives in the Pig Garden.  This a single rose!  It looks like a full bouquet and was also chosen for the perfume.

Purple Tiger was given to me years and years ago.  The plant is full of buds, but is the slowest to blossom out.  I always think of the woman who gave it to me when the purple and white stripes appear.
The last, and the least, is the little Cecile Brunner.  This rose brings many memories for me, going back to my teenage years and forward to Deb and Craig who gave this one to me.

My mother had an extensive rose garden, and I've planted roses wherever I've lived.  I always think of her when the roses bloom.

For me, roses should be called "Forget Me Not."

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Inga's Fault

Gorgeous morning.  Cool but not cold.  Birds singing, flowers blooming, grass green, not a cloud in the sky.  All was right in my world.  And then....  I let the first goat out to go around to the milking room.  Inga had been so good lately that I'd been lulled into complacency, more fool me.  Inga walked past the door and stopped about ten feet away.  Okay, I'll play the game.  I waited.  I coaxed and wheedled, rattled the food dish, begged and cursed.  Fine, on your head be it.  I'll take Sheila first, even though it would completely upset the routine.  Sheila went up on the stand and Poppy gimped her way out, poor old girl (I'm giving her an aspirin a day now and it seems to be helping).  Esther came in after Sheila.  Inga would come close, but not close enough to grab her collar.  Drat!  Only Cindy was left.  She's often the last one in for breakfast, watching and waiting for her turn.  I called, but she didn't come.  I walked around the barn one way and then another, calling her name.  No Cindy.  I started to panic and began looking for a body.  Nothing.  Where could she have gone?  Who or what could have taken my goat?  Then it dawned on me.  Ohmigosh, in the disruption caused by Inga, I'd never let Cindy out of her stall!  The look on that girl's face when I opened her gate said it all.  Apologizing profusely, I brought her around and tried to pretend it was a new routine.  She knew better.  When Cindy was done, I went on with chores, ignoring Inga.  That worked.  Goats don't like to be ignored, and she finally came close enough to catch and I got her milked.  They call it a horse laugh, but I think it's a goat snicker.

After such an unsettling morning, I'd hoped for a better day.  Did a little more toward taxes, but then realized I was out of supplies and must go to town.  Three trips back and forth to unload the truck, and then Ralph had to inspect everything from the bags, extending that process.  Weary, it was a pleasure to walk into this sunset and know the day, such as it was, was done.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

These Times

Thomas Paine must have had me in mind when he said, "These are the times that try men's souls."  Trust me, I knew what would happen, and it happened.  There was a very good reason why I put off doing taxes.  It was a postponement of insanity.  No matter how much I prep and even without Ralph's help, I become a lunatic, a raving maniac, when I finally bite the bullet and settle down to actually do the deed.  My long-time CPA sends me an easy-to-understand packet, simplified like "Tax Prep For Dummies."  That is not the problem.

The problem is that I fall into The Twilight Zone each and every year.  It began yesterday with the calculator.  Where did I put the calculator?  Math is not my forte and a calculator is imperative for anything past two-plus-two.  Not in the desk, not by my chair.  I know because I checked those places several, make that "many," times.  Perhaps I'd left it in the bin I took to the farm sales at Tim's.  Where is the bin?  Not in the workroom, not in the feed barn, not in either of the sheds.  I know because I made umpteen trips to check, Bessie Anne trailing after me and wondering why we were doing this.  I had taken it to Tim's, but had left it in the cash box.  I knew where the cash box was, but never did find the bin.  That search will have to wait for another day.

Calculator in hand, I settled down to tally the milk and egg sales for the year.  Piece of cake.  Fifteen minutes.

In order to enter the farm expenses and income on already-prepared spreadsheets, I needed the check register for 2014.  I keep all check registers in one drawer for easy retrieval.  I have registers well past 1999 (Steve's theories rubbed off).  Where is the register for 2014?  Not in the drawer, not by the computer, not in my purse.  I didn't know why I might have put it in my purse, but I looked anyhow.  Bessie Anne finally gave up following me from room to room, up and down the halls, back and forth throughout the house, and lay down to wait for the madness to pass.  I'd used that register not too long ago and knew I'd placed where it could be easily located, but where?  Truly, it takes more time finding stuff than it does to fill out the forms.  Did I find the register?  Of course I did.  It was right there in plain sight, or would have been had I not put something on top of it.  Here's where Twilight Zone really sets in.  Between the time I left the dining room where I'd found it and the bedroom where the computer is, that register disappeared.  As I do every year, I screamed, "I just had it in my hand!  How could I lose it in those few feet?!"  Bessie was no help at all and the cats had run for cover.  Tracing and retracing my moves, I finally discovered that for whatever reason I'd put the damn thing in my pocket.  Shaking and shaken, I sat down to do data entry.  Partially completed and beginning to calm down, I glanced out the window and saw that it was nearly dark.  Crum!

Bess wasn't sure if I were going out to put the kids to bed or on another quest and if she should follow or not.  We walked out together at last to do the familiar chores of evening.  I left everything in the house behind.  If I can find anything again, I'll take up the burden today.  Or not.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Avoidance Redux

It's very hard work to avoid doing that which you do not want to do.  I went out to the barn (Steve's part) to get more material for The Project.  I wasn't going to work on The Project; that would have been too obvious a ploy and it's an excuse that has been used before.  That part of the barn, the largest section, is and has been a mess, a conglomeration of tools, odd equipment, Steve's collections of whatever he found interesting at any given moment, boxes of outdated papers, cans of nails and screws, welding rods for welding machines we no longer have, and the largest group of et cetera this side of a flea market.  Steve's philosophy was that nothing should ever be thrown away, "You just never know...."  An example:  two cordless drills (a good thing), but the two nearby chargers had the plugs cut off the cords.  I don't know why the plugs had been removed.  One can assume that someday he would replace them, but....  There is a long workbench along one wall, piled high with bits and bobs of this and that, tools that never found their way back to the toolbox, and plenty of dust and Thing droppings.  Perfect!  I set to with a will.  I cleaned and organized, pitched the obviously broken and unusable and, in the end, have a workbench where one could actually do something and find the necessary items to do it.  Bess wandered in and out, sneezing at the dust, supervising a while and going back out to lie in the sun.  Cleaning the workbench is only a drop in the bucket compared to the entire room, but it wouldn't be prudent to take it all on at one go.  I'll save up excuses for another day.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Art Of Avoidance

The day was spent finding ways to avoid doing that which must be done.  I'm happy to say a number of inconsequential tasks were performed, and a couple that really mattered.  I've streamlined and perfected production on The Project and completed another unit start to finish.  As a token gesture, all those papers Ralph scattered were picked up.  The only form damaged by fang and claw was one of Bessie Anne's vet reports; funny how that happened.  Fearful that I might be sucked into actually getting a start on taxes, I quickly left the room and did not return.  I did not go so far as dusting, but it was an ace-in-the-hole option.  By not doing what I was suppose to do, I got a lot done.

Rain had been promised and by sundown it very much looked like it might happen.  Nature took a page from my playbook and, in spite of those clouds, avoided an all-out rain.  We've had more moisture on the deck from a heavy dew.  Taxes will have to wait today.  Obviously, I will have to water all plants instead.  (Practice makes perfect.)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Back To School

My sympathy for Bessie Anne's deteriorating eyesight and hearing has been overriding my good sense, creating a lapse in good manners.  This little girl has taken every advantage of my sympathy, becoming a small, furry tyrant.  I find this unacceptable and we've begun retraining.  This is the face of a dog who does not like going back to school.

Her constant need to be in my lap had become weighty and wearing.  She is now allowed up in my chair when I choose, otherwise finds herself blocked by hand or leg.  Bess is  persistent and doesn't give up easily, but I remain calm, consistent, and determined.  Once I've said no, I can't relent.  Disappointed, she finally goes over to her chair or couch, lies down and gives a huge sigh.  We usually go out together (always together) numerous times throughout the day to do one thing or another or just sit and enjoy the outdoors.  I was speaking with a friend on the phone yesterday when Bessie decided it was time for an outing.  She got pretty vocal about it, pushy, in fact.  In the spirit of setting boundaries, I did not immediately meet her demands, hence this face.  She's pretty good with the guilt card.  I'm not trying to teach an old dog new tricks, but giving her a refresher course as a reminder of just who is the leader of this pack.  That would be me.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Gossamer Strings and Puffs of Fluff

It was a glorious morning.  The cherry tree (which has never borne fruit) was in full blossom.  In addition to that lacy beauty, there were iridescent strands floating through the air, carrying those tiny worms from the live oak tree.  I've yet to find out what they are, but their webs are lovely.

The girls are shedding their winter coats.  I liken it to taking off scratchy woolen longjohns.  The goats so obviously like being brushed every morning, leaning into my hand, and Esther actually hums with pleasure.  They also rub against the chain link fencing and gates, trying to rid themselves of dead hair.  I've got to clean the brush after each girl, getting a big puff of fluff that gets thrown out the milking room door.  The birds, in turn, take that fluff to line the nests they are building under the eaves.

It was a perfect day to mow, tax forms notwithstanding.  There was a light overcast and a cooling breeze, and the whirligig weeds were studding the fields.  If I got at it, maybe I could prevent those awful seeds from maturing and making life hell for us all.  Any excuse to procrastinate is a good one, and this one seemed worthwhile.  My dear little tractor started right up after a winter layoff.  I got the south yard and the west field mowed before my butt gave out.   It seemed to me that the ride was a bit stiffer, but it may be that I'm just a year older.  At any rate, it was a good day and a job well done.

I wasn't the only one busy yesterday.  Ralph had his own work at hand.  Celeste had been drafted to act as a paperweight.  The tiny local post office is closed on the weekend so I have two days in which to put documents back in order and do the dreaded deed.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Mother's Little Helper

(With apologies to the Rolling Stones.)

Reports have been coming in from gloating relatives and friends:  "I sent my tax stuff in today.  Have you done yours?"  I have a guilt meter that has to reach a certain level before I'm motivated.  The meter was approaching critical mass yesterday and I finally got the drawer with the year's receipts and started weeding out the nonessential.  That job was made more difficult because Bessie wanted to be (where else?) in my lap, which was full of papers at the time.

Sorting finally accomplished in spite of Bess, I laid out the necessary statements, etc., on the table in preparation for the hard part.  Ralph appeared.  "I see you need my help, Mom.  I'll get right on it!"  (His definition of getting on it and mine differ.)  The neatly arranged piles were quickly scattered.  Anything Ralph felt was irrelevant went onto the floor.  He flopped around like a fish out of water, sending forms flying.

If I succeeded in getting him off the table, he sat on a chair and grabbed papers with a paw.  "But, Mom, I'm helping!"  How is it that a creature can be so irritating and such a crack-up at the same time?

Oh well, I'd brought the guilt meter down a few notches by getting a start.  I hadn't really wanted to do the task anyway, and Ralph was having such a good time.  I left the room laughing.  At that, he really was helping.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Talking Smack

The smoke from this burn pile up on Omo Ranch Road yesterday makes the picayune plume from mine look pitiful, no matter how impressed I was.  Regardless, coals are still throwing heat four days after the burn here even with a thorough soaking.  I can't imagine how long a big burn like this one will smolder.

Since before daylight this morning, two tom turkeys have been loudly talking smack to each other in my backyard.  They face off and puff up, but so far have limited their fight to just words.  A third tom is lurking behind the side oak, not sure if he wants to get into the fracas.  Wisely, he just walked away down into the south pasture, keeping the tree between him and the thugs.

Speaking of lurkers, I got a shot of Poppy peeking around the corner yesterday, waiting to see which bucket I had in hand.  I'd just finished dumping onto the poop pile.  She knows that bucket and stays put.  Poppy is well aware that my next chore will be to fill the feed bucket for the next day.  I couldn't get out of the room because she came around to block the door, mooching her morning treat.  She does make me smile.

We are in the prime of spring.  Colors pop, blues and greens so bright they nearly hurt the eyes.  I planted some red salvia and yellow marigolds on the deck in the afternoon.  There has been an influx of hummingbirds and their jewel colors shine in the sun.  They're drinking a good two quarts of juice a day already.  I got another 25-lb sack of sugar just for them on the last trip to town.  Temperatures are mild and the days are so pleasant.

It's daylight and the toms have settled their differences.  I'm still messed up with the time change.  Right on schedule with the sun, I'm late by the clock and half the day is gone by the time I get back to the house.  I'm trying hard to adapt, but I still talk smack.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


After the workout of the day before, a St. Patrick's Day celebration seemed in order; mandatory, in fact.  Let's face it, everyone is Irish on St. Paddy's.  The corned beef went into the crock pot before 6 a.m.  Low and slow is the only way for really tender, juicy corned beef.  After barn chores, Irish soda bread went together in the bread machine.  I'm all about using mechanical servants, especially when I've other household duties to perform.

Camille, her mom Olga, and Honey came right on time.  We'd planned for an early dinner as Cam and I have our animals to tend at sundown.  In the spirit of the day, Olga brought the coloring so we could have our drinks shamrock green.  Slainte!!  The brown loaf of soda bread is by Olga's arm, and the applesauce cake studded with fruit she brought is behind that.

As we were finishing our meal, Go-To Guy and his wife Debbie came by just in time for a green beer, a few nibbles of corned beef (we'd not left much), and a slice of cake.  Jim is going to finish repairs soon on that frozen, broken pipe line.  We're heading into the dry season and those trees in the pen and field will need watering.  It was a pleasant gathering of congenial friends.

Company gone at dusk, Bess and I walked out to finish chores.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Feeling It

It was a perfect day for it; I just wasn't expecting it.  The morning was cool with a light overcast and none of the wind and high temp of the previous day.  Last week Helper Dude and I had discussed the need to set off the burn pile sometime soon before burn season closed.  He was to call me later this week.  Three goats done and two to go when HD drove up on his John Deere mower, trailer behind.  "I was in the neighborhood and thought we might burn today."  (In the neighborhood??!!  I must admire this young man's ambition.)  "Okay, but I can't leave the barn just now.  The hose is there, the rake and shovel are there.  You can get started and I'll be up as soon as I finish with the girls."  I usually sit and take a breather after bringing the buckets to the house, but Michael had lit the fire so I joined him.

It should be mentioned that the burn pile was a year's accumulation of weeds, limbs and twigs and about 6x8 feet by 4 feet high (small by Fair Play standards).  Flames reach up over 10 feet and the heat is intense.  Fire creates its own wind and burning leaves can fly high and head over the field or toward the feed barn and must be shot down with water.  The pile must be tended until the flames die back.  HD kept an eye out while I began to bring more deadwood from over by and behind the chicken pen and in the orchard.  My plan (why do I bother?) had been to take my time over a couple of days to get this done, but I wasn't about to lose an opportunity.  I gathered and hauled load after load up the slope in the big yard cart, muscles in legs and back complaining.  We traded places and HD dragged the larger limbs to cut up with his chainsaw to throw on the pile.  He used the rake to push the edges in and stir the white-hot coals, followed by a column of smoke.  I'll freely admit that the heat was more than I could take that close to the pile.  It seemed to take forever before there was only a smoldering mass that could be cooled with a stream from the hose in a cloud of steam and left on its own.  In actuality, all had been accomplished in a little over two hours.  Keeping up with HD is a killer, and I'm really feeling it this morning.

I was feeling it last night, too, and the thought of Bessie Anne on my sore legs was too much to bear.  She begged, she pleaded, she whined and then barked.  "Sorry, girl, not tonight."  She wouldn't get in her chair or her sofa and she wouldn't lie on her bed and blanket.  She chose to show her feeling of rejection by turning her back and ignoring me completely.

It was another productive day.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Shall We Dance?

"Shall we dance (bom bom bom)?"  Memorable song from "The King and I," 1956, Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner, a great musical.  It was a remake of "Anna and the King of Siam," 1946, Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison, which was not a musical, but a really good flick.  The third remake, "Anna and the King," 1999, Jodie Foster and Yun-Fat Chow, dealt more with the politics involved at the time.

At any rate, the theme song was certainly playing yesterday as laundry danced on the line.

"I Won't Dance."  (1935, "Roberta," Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Irene Dunne.)  Celeste had no interest in dancing or anything but a nap, going so far as to hide her face.

"Topsy-Turvy," 1999, Allan Corduner and Jim Broadbent, a gorgeous film about Gilbert and Sullivan and the writing of "The Mikado."

Ralph has a different perspective on the world, definitely topsy-turvy, even when he sleeps.

Ralph, my redheaded troublemaker, marches to a different drummer.  I had just removed the liverwurst and mayo from the refrigerator and turned to shut the door.  And...  "You talkin' to me?"  ("Taxi Driver," 1976, Robert De Niro.)

 It was another day at the movies.  It was a good day.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Visiting Day

Tom and his German Shepherd, Bracca, drove up just as I was shutting the door on the barn and ready to head to the house.  Tom and his family have been customers and friends of mine for over twelve years now.  I don't see them as often anymore, so it's a special treat for me.  Bracca was here once before as a little pup whose ears couldn't quite stand up as they should.  Still well under a year old, he is growing into one of the prettiest (better make that "handsomest" as he's named after some warrior) Shepherds I've seen.  Bessie Anne performed her meet-and-greet hostess duties and ushered our guests into the house.  The cats, of course, ran for their bunker as soon as the door opened.  Bracca, like Honey, headed right for the milk bowl and also managed to grab a quick snack before Tom picked up Bess's food dish.  Shepherds are talkers and Bracca kept up a constant commentary on our conversation.  He was having a little trouble with "sit-stay" in this new environment.  With Tom's permission, I got a handful of milk bones, making sure to give Bessie her share, and asked Bracca to sit before giving a treat.  A fast learner, he was soon at my feet, using the dog version of the Vulcan mind-meld to get another milk bone.  "Look how good I'm sitting.  Look, I said!"  As an older girl, Bess quickly loses interest in canine capers and goes to lie down elsewhere whenever we have dog guests.  Before leaving, Bracca marked a trail outside so he'd know for next time.

It was nice to see Tom, too.

It was a good day.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

I'm Exhausted

More got done in two hours yesterday than has been done in two months.  Sapling live oaks that were growing up under the deck, threatening to come through the boards, were taken down.  Firewood that was too long for the stove was cut into usable lengths with a chainsaw and stacked.  Two big slash piles were hauled over to the burn pile.  Bessie Anne got a much-needed pedicure.  She does not, repeat not, like to have her feet touched and it was a wrestling match and many treats to get a modicum of cooperation.  The decrepit, falling-down board fence along the lower driveway was not replaced, but propped back up with T-posts and wire; a spit-and-bubblegum repair, to be sure, but 100% better than it was.

Helper Dude got all this done in two hours (two and a half, but who's counting?).  I was only permitted to observe regardless of my offers to help, and I'm exhausted.  Michael is like the Energizer Bunny.  "Michael, take a break."  "Michael, would you like some water?"  "No, I'm fine.  What's next on the list?"  Wise in the ways of the world of women, this 15-year-old young man had suggested(!) I make a list.  HD doesn't really need supervision, but he's a talker and, I think, likes company while he works, and works, and works.  We discussed future jobs, including the burn pile before burn season is over.  Not that I can't light it by myself; I have done, but I'm not comfortable doing it alone on the off chance that a spark would set off a brush fire or land on the feed barn roof.  There are those things, like using a chainsaw, that should only be done when someone else is around for an emergency.

When HD tootled off on his riding mower (a favored mode of transportation up here), Bessie and I went in for a nap.  Whither I go, she goes, and we were exhausted.

It was a good day!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Knock It Off!

My house frequently looks like a daycare center; toys are scattered throughout.  I say they're toys, but to the uninitiated, they might look like trash.  Vacuuming becomes an exercise in, well, exercise as I bend and stretch to pick up the accumulation of treasures Ralph has deposited in all rooms.  Ralph is easily amused, and needs no help to find playthings.  One of his favorite activities is knocking things off and/or over.  No counter, shelf, or table is safe.  The dining room table is really only used for company and so I write cards and letters there.  Pens and pencils don't stay long.  Plop.  Coins on the bathroom sink.  Clink.  Big, thick rubber bands from the broccoli.  Boing.  Slow in putting the bow on a package.  Rustle rustle.  Plastic tear strip.  Scritch scritch.  All day long I hear thuds, thumps, and crashes from another room and wonder what he's playing with now.  I find the darndest things in the darndest places.  Ralph bats his toys down the stairwell, thunders down after them, only to haul them back up so he can do it again.  There are some real toys in the mix, little stuffed critters that he drags around, but his true enjoyment comes from those odds and ends.

Yesterday I discovered he'd knocked over a ceramic pig, breaking off one of its ears.  Taking the pieces into the kitchen, I dug the superglue out of the junk drawer to put the poor pig back together.  I did not count on Ralph's supervision.  If I'd had a go-cam, the video would have gone viral.  Top off the glue.  Bap!  Onto the floor.  I retrieve it.  We did that a couple of times.  Open tube in hand, I dab glue on the tiny ear piece.  Now I'm in a quandary.  I need two hands to put the ear on the pig, but if I put either the ear or the tube down, I know where it will go, and I can't face a superglued cat.  Ralph is determined to help.  I don't want his help.  I'm shouting (and laughing) and trying to elbow Ralph out of the way.  "No, Mom, I can do this.  Trust me!"  I hide the tube of glue behind a canister and turn my back to hold the broken pieces together.  Ralph is having none of that and stands with his front paws on my shoulders, watching to see that I do it right.  "Brrrp, brrrp!  A little more to the left, Mom, move it more to the left."  Okay, so the pig's ear is a little cattywhompus, but at last check, it's held together.  Until Ralph knocks it off again.

I'm not the only one who sometimes gets irritated with Ralph's antics.  Ralph, like it's a younger brother's duty, torments his sister Celeste throughout the day, pushing her off the couch when she's napping, chasing her down the hall, pouncing on her from ambush.  Just as I was ready to turn out the lights so we could all go to bed last night, Celeste had finally had enough.  "Knock it off, Ralph!"

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Satisfaction Guaranteed

Once in awhile the stars align and everything turns out as hoped for.  Yesterday while down in the barn, dealing with unhappy goats and listening to the rain, memories came flooding in, one in particular.  My dad said his wish was to wake up to rain on the roof, a yellow rose on his pillow, and hot biscuits and gravy waiting on the table.  Years ago, it so happened that he was visiting me.  While I had no control over the rain, it did come down that morning, the rose garden was in bloom, and I had breakfast ready before he got out of bed.  The smile on his face that day was unforgettable.

More than twenty-five years ago, I used to have lunch at a patisserie in Sacramento.  When I get hooked on something good, I stick with it, and always ordered sliced turkey and avocado on a croissant.  Haven't had one since.  Yesterday, in a totally indulgent mood and because it's been on my mind of late (and had to go to town anyhow), I bought all the fixings for that sandwich.  I could hardly wait to get home.  Mmmm, it was exactly as I remembered and I was one happy lady.

Already over the edge, I also purchased a hunk of liverwurst.  I don't buy it often because good liverwurst is hard to find.  There are those who would either turn up or hold their nose, but liverwurst was a staple when I was growing up.  I love it cold in a sandwich with a slice of pickle, but even more when it's fried in butter to get a nice brown, crisp edge, served hot with plain bread and butter, real butter.  Three slices of liverwurst is exactly right for one piece of bread; sends me to nirvana.  I can't wait for dinner tonight.

And for tomorrow, there is a butternut squash to roast.  I tell myself every time that this time I will make butternut squash ravioli or risotto, and every single time I end up eating that caramelized treat as soon as it comes out of the oven.

Wiping the mayo off my chin, the rain over, I walked out to put the kids to bed.  It had been a tremendously satisfying day.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Nothing Personal

The girls are having a worse time adjusting to the time change than I.  It has been mentioned (several times) that goats adhere to a set regimen and find any change upsetting.  The other day, Inga got freaky because I had left the truck parked by the barn where she could see it.  The truck is usually out of sight over by the first shed.  Inga wouldn't come in for breakfast until she'd reassured herself that the new Thing was not a danger.  I'm trying to get into lockstep with the rest of California so I'm showing up at the barn shortly after sunrise, an hour early (old time).  Like many of us, the girls observe a morning routine to take care of "personal business" and accidents are rare.  Sheila, she of the foot-in-the-bucket, barely made it up on the stand before letting go, and it wasn't milk.  It wasn't her fault and I could not take it personally.  After all, I'm the one who threw the monkey wrench.

Nature is playing games with me.  I'd like to say me personally, but....  It's been a while since we've had rain and, early in the season or not, I had to turn the water back on to give the wilting deck plants a drink yesterday.  Today, I awoke to rain and Nature is laughing.

I don't think Ginger did it on purpose to scare me when she hid in the junipers in the late afternoon, leaping out and squawking loudly as I walked by, scaring me silly.  I don't think so, but....

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

That's For The Birds

After a short hiatus, I was back to working on The Project again yesterday, somewhat hampered by the dog in my lap and the cat who wanted to be there.  (I am similarly hampered at the moment by Celeste, who has squeezed herself onto my lap at the desk, her head lying across my arm making typing very difficult.  It's better, though, than when she lies on the hand using the mouse and puts her butt on the "return" key.)   Persevering, I continued putting parts together until there was a dreadful thunk on the window.  Pushing Bessie Anne onto the floor and stepping over the cat, I went outside to assess the damage (to the bird, not the window).  This tiny guy was on the bench, fortunately just stunned.  There have been times I've found a bird who hit the glass wrong and was beyond saving.  The bench was in shadow and the temperature was dropping.  Hummers don't have much body heat and can't afford to lose any more, so I picked him up and held him in cupped hands to give him warmth.  We moved into the sunlight for the additional heat and he began to stir, but sat still for quite awhile.  There is something magical about holding one of these birds.  They weigh next to nothing.  Hummers are continually on the move, so getting to inspect one up close and personal is amazing.  It was a great relief and a tinge of loss when he was finally revived enough to take off like a shot.

At first, I thought the birds hit the window because they didn't see the glass.  Over time, I realize it only happens at certain times of the year and I believe it might be mating season and the males are trying to drive off a potential rival.  It is certainly mating season for the turkeys.  In the orchard, a couple of toms were posturing for a group of hens, doing their best to impress and sweet talk the ladies.  Among the hens was a bird of a different color; a wannabe.  Ginger was in the group, pretending she belonged.  Hens of both species were studiously ignoring the males, continuing to gossip among themselves and scratching under the leaves.  I wanted to get a photo of the boys as they strutted and preened, but they stayed in shadow, as close to the girls as allowed.  Later on, things heated up.  Over in the south pasture, a large group of turkeys of both sexes were gathered and yelling.  It appeared that some females were jealous and were driving other girls away and the males stood around cheering.

Spring is in the air, for the birds, that is.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Dinosaur Walking

It occurred to me as I was trying to explain to the girls why I'd showed up early in the barn (early by "our" time, late by DST) that I am an anachronism, a walking, talking dinosaur.  The original experiment with Daylight Saving Time lasted only seven months in 1918.  It was not resurrected until 1942 and stopped in 1945.  My mother was not influenced either by DST or my whining that I didn't want to go to bed while it was still light out.  "Shut your eyes and it won't be light."  Not until 1966 did DST become uniform across America, except for those renegade states of Hawaii and (most of) Arizona.  This is not a complaint, just a recitation of historical fact, and the fact that there was no DST during most of my growing up and probably why I am reluctant to adapt, lo, these many years later.

I learned on and drove a stick-shift vehicle until there were no stick-shift vehicles available.  It's my opinion that clutch-brake-accelerator improved concentration and coordination.  I still prefer shifting gears myself; I'm stubborn that way, but what're ya gonna do?  I understand there are young people and some not so young who have never even seen a car without automatic drive.

When I learned how to weld, oxygen-acetylene was the only option.  That was well before arc welding (MIG and TIG) and laser welding.  What can I say, I'm old school.  And, I might add, I was one of only two women in the class and we were considered anomalies.

I'll admit I was slow to take to a microwave oven, and a late holdout when it came to a food processor, now both indispensable tools in the kitchen.  Even so, I use the microwave to thaw and reheat, not cook, and I still use a knife to cut vegetables.
The processor is excellent for pie dough.  I truly appreciate my stand mixer for pizza dough and myriad other dishes.  (This is last night's pizza with the last of the pepperoni.)  I have an extensive collection of cookbooks, and have to go way back in time to find recipes that call for "beat 300 strokes."  The assumption is that everyone has access to an electric mixer of some kind.  The point here is that I well remember beating cake batter or divinity candy, counting steadily, until my arm was ready to fall off.

The sun is just rising, not aware that it is late (by DST), and this lumbering dinosaur needs to get moving.  I'd say "get it in gear," but that's automatic now.  I'm trying to keep up with the times, if I could just figure out what time it is.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

You Win

Bessie Anne and Celeste were obviously exhausted and in need of a lap nap after I finished the barn chores.  I've been trying to wean Bess from her obsession, but there are those times when I weaken, guilt-ridden from her reproachful looks, and say, "You win.  Climb aboard."  Celeste takes advantage of every opportunity and whatever space is left.  It's not so bad when there is a good old movie to watch while I'm nailed to the chair, but yesterday I was stuck with reruns of NCIS.  I like NCIS, but have seen every episode many times.  Sigh.

Another arena in which I've given up and tossed in the towel is the change to Daylight Savings Time.  For days now I've been getting up at 4:30 so I'd be prepared for the blankety-blank time change this morning.  Five-thirty on the dot (new time), my eyes opened.  The body and mind still know it was 4:30, but at least I'm keeping pace with the rest of California.  I'm not going to perform my semiannual rant-and-rave act.  It's a pointless, futile expenditure of energy.  My little voice crying in the wilderness can't win.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Less Stress

The new approach to chores that I started last month is working!  Instead of being overwhelmed by the long, long list of things that need doing, I pared it down to just three; three "Things I Must Do Today."  I won't lie.  I don't always check off the entire list in one day, but definitely accomplish at least one.  I no longer get mired down with guilt.  Two things left on the list are no big deal.  Facing two chores and adding one more is doable, and the satisfaction of crossing off a couple is enough.

I've also gone to Plan B in the barn.  Since Sheila is my nemesis with the milk bucket, I've switched from adding her contribution to that of Inga's, risking the loss of over a gallon if Sheila sticks her foot in it.  Inga's milk goes in the first bucket and I bring out the second for Sheila.  If there is a mishap, not nearly so much goes flying.  Tessie's milk can then go in either one, but the danger is past once Sheila is off the stand.

I'm working on an alternative to dealing with Bessie Anne.  As her faculties decline, she's developed an obsession to being on my lap.  Once, she was happy being in her chair as I sat in mine.  No longer satisfied with that, she's begun climbing over the chair and table to get to me, knocking projects, remote controls, etc., over or off in the process.  Bess struggles to haul herself up to be with me and will not take no for an answer.  I truly wish to accommodate her needs, but fifty pounds is a chunk of dog and quite literally weighs me down after awhile.  I've tried blocking her with leg or hand to no avail.  She simply won't give up.  Yelling accomplishes nothing as her hearing is so bad now, and makes me feel terrible.  Short of standing all evening, I haven't found the right answer yet.  I'm working on it.

At this stage in life, I'm all about less stress.

Perhaps not outstanding, sunset last night was calming nonetheless.  All animals and fowl tucked in for the night.  One significant chore of longstanding crossed off the list.  It was a good day.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Meanwhile, Down In The Barn

This big old tom turkey was waiting for breakfast with the chickens.  That "beard" of funky feathers on his chest is an indicator of age, said to help attract females to the older and wiser.  Female turkeys, that is.  The hens were not in the least impressed.  Nicholas, the rooster, had no intention of tangling with the tom, but the hens kept running him off and away from their feed.  They're spunky little girls.

There are so many mice in the barn now that I've got to put down feed on both sides of the room to satisfy appetites.  I've wanted for the longest time to get a picture of Mini-Squint, the one-eyed mouse.  He shows up daily, but usually on the grownups' side.  Yesterday he popped up out of the burrow on the adolescents' side.  Mini has little to no fear of me and, in fact, posed for his closeup.  I was rooting for Mini-Squint to grab the Willie Wonka prize, that large, flat kernel of corn, and was so happy when he took it.  (Okay, I'm easily amused.)  Mice paws are so very tiny.  It's difficult to imagine the bones and vessels in such miniscule "hands."  Mice who get the Wonka prize race with it in their mouth back down the burrow, but frequently the little creatures will sit up on the surface and munch the smaller grains, holding the treat like a ham sandwich and nibbling away.

At the same time, across the room the milk bar was open and the customers had bellied up for their morning slurp.  It's hard to see them all, but seven mice were sucking milk out of the wipes and more were waiting in the wings.  Sheila and the milk bucket notwithstanding, it's never dull in the barn.

I've got a great new Helper Dude.  Michael is a 15-year-old almost-neighbor (just down the road and around the corner) who wants to earn his own money.  My woodpile was looking like Mother Hubbard's cupboard, pretty darned low.  There were plenty of rounds piled under the oak, cut by Dave and his buddies, but it was much like looking at cookies through the bakery window; not reachable by me.  I knew how to run the log splitter, but realized I'd never be able to wrestle those rounds.  Michael got the splitter started, no easy task as it hadn't been run in quite a while.  Helper Dude provided the muscle and I ran the ram; in less than two hours we'd split and stacked a cord of wood and had it tarped over for the next cold spell.  I foresee a happy future for Michael and me.  As Camille said, we'll run out of money before we run out of jobs for Helper Dude.

Thursday, March 5, 2015


Yogi Berra said it best, "It's like deja vu all over again."  The morning was going so well.  Fresh from the shower, a clean set of bibbies and shirt, cool enough for a jacket but not cold; I was ready to face the day.  Chickens (and turkeys) fed, I headed to the goat barn.  Inga went right into the milking room and, for a change, was easy to empty.  She gave well over a half-gallon and I was ahead of the game!  Poppy led the way out when it was her turn and I brought Sheila around.  Grain in her bowl and her coat brushed, I put the bucket under Sheila and sat down.  I was just reaching for the teats when she (wait for it) put her foot in the bucket again.  For the second time in as many weeks, she sent milk flying.  This time her aim was better and I got drenched.  Pants and jacket were thoroughly soaked.  A warm milk bath might sound pleasant.  It's not.  Warm milk quickly turns cold and sitting in icy, sticky britches while milking out a goat is not my idea of a great way to spend time.  The quilted flannel jacket had to come off immediately.  Like it or not, and I did not, I still had Sheila and Tessie to milk, Esther and Cindy to feed, and the stalls to clean.  Wet pants flapping against my legs, I tended to chores and headed back to the house for another shower and clean, dry clothes.

I might enjoy watching the same movies over and over, but yesterday's scene is not one I'd like to see rerun again.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sucker For Romance

I got sucked into a vortex of romance yesterday.  I'm talking capital-R Romance in films where sex was left to the imagination in fade-to-black scenes.  "Dodsworth" (1936, Walter Houston, Ruth Chatterton, Mary Astor, David Niven) was playing when I came back from the barn and the day got shot down right then and there.  I truly intended to get some work done as soon as I saw The End, but as luck would have it, "Dodsworth" was followed by "Now, Voyager."  I've seen "Now, Voyager" (1942, Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, Claude Raines, Gladys Cooper) countless times and could recite the script from memory.  Back in the day, the Kids' dad made points by lighting two cigarettes at one time like Henreid's romantic gesture.  Of course I had to watch "Now, Voyager."  Two movies down and the day was moving on, but wouldn't you know "Love Affair" was next?  This was the original 1939 version with Charles Boyer, Irene Dunne, and the always impressive Maria Ouspenskaya.  A gal could drown in Boyer's liquid brown eyes and his voice and accent could seduce a statue.  Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr made a credible remake in 1957, "An Affair To Remember."  I never miss watching "An Affair To Remember."  (The third remake doesn't deserve honorable mention.)  Thankfully, "Dark Victory" was not on the film agenda or my cause would have been completely lost.  I've seen "Dark Victory" (1939, Bette Davis, George Brent, Humphrey Bogart, and a very young Ronald Reagan) so many times, I can walk through the room, catch a scene, and cry right on cue.

Dewy-eyed and sighing, replete with romance, I walked out with Bess to put the kids to bed.  It was a good day.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Off the Mark

The weather prognosticators are having a hard time hitting the mark this season.  This is what "10% chance of rain" looks like.  "Forty percent" produced a deluge.  Ten percent was just a nice, steady rain for most of the day yesterday.  Perhaps I need to learn how to interpret the stats a little better.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about the rain.  We need all we can get.  I rather like the one-day-on, one-day-off system, and I very much appreciated that the sky didn't open up until I was back in the house after barn chores.  It was a day to keep the home fires burning (old British WWI song) and make comfort food for dinner.  Biscuits, sausage gravy, and hash brown potatoes hit the spot.  (At least someone was right on the mark.)

The rain let up before it was time to put the kids to bed.  Footing was a little loosey-goosey in the chicken pen, but I managed to stay upright.  All in all, it was a good day.

Monday, March 2, 2015

New Toys

NASCAR season has begun and race days are shot.  Not much gets done while "da boys" (and Danika) go round and round.  I had to explain to Kathy V. that a nap is obligatory along about lap 127.  I, myself, did not know about the NASCAR nap rule, but that was my introduction to racing.  Dave and Clay, both diehard fans, had come up and turned on a race.  I'd never watched NASCAR and wasn't too interested.  Horse racing was my game, but if they wanted to see it, it wasn't my place to tell my guests no.  So there I was, watching an unfamiliar sport and not knowing what was going on, when I realized I was watching alone.  Both guys were sound asleep in the recliners.  They later explained the rules, noting that even though their eyes were closed (and they were snoring), one ear stayed open so if anything extraordinary like a major pile-up happened, they'd know.  Hey, it works for me.

Bessie Anne and I took advantage of the magic of DVR and instant replay to take a couple of breaks and go outside to enjoy what turned out to be a gorgeous day.  The rain had washed everything clean and the forsythia in full bloom was especially bright.

Close to sundown, I answered a call from my niece Michelle who had just bought a new cellphone and was trying to figure out how it worked; I was a test case.  I could definitely commiserate as, and Deb will attest, until I learned how to operate my new phone I really wanted to throw the thing against the wall.  I'm getting better at not hanging up on Linda now, but she generally sends me a text first to tell me she's going to call (oh, she of little faith).  There were a couple of glitches on Michelle's end, but we were talking as I walked out and down to the barn.  Daylight was fading and we all know what that means.  As the goats were starting to go in, I lost contact with Michelle.  I figured she'd pushed a wrong button.  "Hello?  Hello?"  With the phone in my hand, I heard the text message tone coming from my pocket.  Huh?!  Turns out I'd left the house while talking on the wireless house phone.  Now I know what the wireless range is.  Dang these new toys. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Forty Percent

Cold.  Cold enough to apologize to Inga when I put frigid fingers to her udder.  I'm talking California cold here, which must make me seem like some wingeing wimp to those buried in snow up to the eaves in the east, but cold, just the same.  Cold and wet.  Since the girls do not want to go (make that will not go) outside on rainy days, the routine goes to pot from the git-go.  Waiting goats who normally go up to feed on alfalfa stay in their stalls until the last minute.  Those who've been in and out of the milking room race around to the covered play yard to clump together and complain.  When either Esther or Cindy (the two nonmilkers) are up on the stand, I use the time to clean the big room or take a breather and check my cellphone for anything new.  Yesterday, with nose and eaves dripping, I checked the weather app and burst out laughing.  I saw there was a forty percent chance of rain in my locale.  I wish I could have put down a bet on those odds.  Rain was beating on the roof, on my head, on the goats and poor old Poppy.  Forty percent, my foot!

I'd made a tactical error by not lighting a fire before starting chores and the house was cold!  (Did I mention it was cold?)  When the sun finally came out, Bess and I thawed out by sitting on the deck.  We weren't the only ones warming up.  Turkeys were coming out in droves.  Their colors are so beautiful in sunlight.  When these boys get excited, their heads glow blue and their wattles shine bright red.  They really put on a display.

Enough photos taken by the locals the other day put a name to a phenomenon I've seen before.  It's called reverse sunset.  This was taken after putting Ginger to bed the other day, but I thought I'd posted enough sky pictures for one blog.  The oaks are filling with leaves already.  I haven't yet raked up the fallen ones from last season.  Oh well, job security.  There's a forty percent chance I'll get around to it someday.