Thursday, April 30, 2015


Purple Tiger is really showing off this year, as are all the roses.  They are thriving in this goofy spring weather.  Temperatures are fluctuating between 10-15 degrees in a matter of days.  Oh well, the roses are happy.

Yesterday was glorious, warm with a wonderful breeze.  Helper Dude putted up on his John Deere, ready to go to work.  This kid has a work ethic employers would die for and I see a great future for him.  I was happy to see him gear up with helmet with face mask and ear protection before arming himself with his weed-whacker to do battle with the thick, thigh-high weeds in the fenced vegetable garden area.  I didn't want him to have all the fun, so I fired up Fu Manchu and started going in circles in the west field.  The alternating rain and sunny days have given the weeds a huge boost and it was slow going.  Fu is getting old and cranky, so he can only take baby bites in the thickest of the thick.  Dude was done with his section long before me.  "What's next?"  I pointed him toward the weeds along the driveway on a long slope that I can't mow with Fu Manchu.  "What's next?"  The section behind the sheds and in front of the pig garden was in desperate need of attention.  Now it doesn't.  Everything got done in an hour and a half; it took me that long to mow the field.  I sent Dude off with a baggie of gladiolus corms for his mom.  She may or may not thank me for the extra work.

The front yard still needed mowing, but I'd had enough bouncing around for one day.  Reluctant to go in the house, I pulled more weeds in the patch behind the first shed.  Back and butt complaining, I finally had to call it quits.  Later in the afternoon I gave Fu a good washing before putting him back in his shelter.

Friends are coming tomorrow.  After all the fun I'd had in the sun, I knew I was condemned to do housework today.  Orange Chicken makes a mess of the stove, but I'll be cleaning the kitchen anyway.  Since ritual demanded it, the condemned ate a hearty meal.

Gosh, it was a good day!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Yikes!  Chills up the spine time!  It wasn't long ago that Helper Dude and I cleaned up all the fallen branches on the slope behind the chicken pen, so I took a second look at all that stuff on the ground yesterday morning.  That isn't a tree trunk sticking up, it's a broken branch that was driven at least a foot into the ground when it fell, surrounded by what had once been attached.  No wonder woodsmen call these "widowmakers."  I hate to think of the damage had a person or the truck had been under it, or if it had dropped into the hen pen.

"Practice makes perfect."   I'm getting really good at finding things to do that keep me from doing things I should.  It isn't always easy, but keeping the goal in mind and staying at it pays off.  In the late afternoon, I set the sprinkler in the herb garden.  While doing that, I noticed some (a lot) of weeds springing up in the walkway.  I started pulling weeds, not too many because I was working next to the spray from the sprinkler, but enough to justify staying outside.  Dragging my feet like a little kid, I looked for something else so I wouldn't have to go back in the house.  Some time back Deb and Craig had cleared their yard of gladiolus and brought me two big grocery sacks of corms, stalks, etc., attached.  The time is right for planting, but all the dead plant material had to be stripped off.  Perfect!  Sitting on the porch with Bessie Anne at my feet, watching the sun dip down, feeling the cooling breeze and watching a nearby hummer take a shower in the sprinkler, cleaning the corms was exactly the right thing to do.  Other chores would wait.

It was a good day!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


It is possible to be antsy and aimless at the same time.  I think I've diagnosed the problem as Spring Fever and I had a bad case yesterday.  It was such a beautiful day, too nice to stay indoors very long, but I lacked the ambition to tackle any big outdoor jobs and so Bess and I wore out the door hinges going back and forth.  We both played the In-Again Out-Again Flannigan game.  On the deck, we were joined by a number of lizards of varying sizes, all doing calisthenics in the sun.  Pulling a few weeds here and there justified (in my mind) wandering about in the yard.  Washing dishes and waving a dust rag around seemed punishment enough for staying inside.  We toted trash down to the big road.  Celeste was not happy with me as I didn't sit long enough for her to settle in my lap.  She'd just get comfortable and shut her eyes and I'd think of some other piddly chore and get up.

The sun is drifting, too.  In the photo of just a few days ago, taken from nearly the same vantage point and about the same time, the sun was to the left of those three pines on the distant hill.  As I've said before, I've never been so aware of the earth's rotation as I am up here.

Time is the only cure for Spring Fever.  I hope it was only a 24-hour bug as I really should focus today.  Or not.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Show and Tell

PBS recently ran a series on "Nature" regarding the home-building habits of a number of birds and animals.  I have my own Nature series right here.  The wind that came with the rain this weekend brought down this old bushtit nest.  I find it fascinating.  These tiny birds weave a swinging hammock or cradle with bits from a shredded blue tarp and orange threads torn from baling twine, adding a few twigs here and there for stability.  It is lined with fluff and down and some Poppy wool.  The cradles are hung out at the tip of the smallest branches so the babies get rocked to sleep to the song of the wind.

Someday I'm going to ask my grandson Jake what he thought of the packages I'd send him when he was in elementary school.  Being a city kid, he probably didn't know what to make of the squirrel nest made of shredded bark I found in the woodpile or the big molar from Louie, the pig.  I sent them so he'd have something for Show-and-Tell and he could one-up the others.  In truth, he probably thought his Grandma had slipped a cog.

In true pack rat tradition, I've always picked up bits and bobs of this and that.  I've kept the mud nest built by the barn swallows and pretty feathers from the roosters or wild birds, rocks with odd shapes or colors, and who knows what else.  I suppose it could be worse.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Perfect Storm

The unofficial report from the locals is that we got between two and a half to three inches of rain overnight.  It did not fall in the terrible deluge of some time ago, but was a perfect steady rainfall that soaked in instead of running off and ruining my driveway.  It continued to rain off and on during the day yesterday, but barn chores and walkabouts were done during the breaks.  The air was so fresh and clean, as is my truck now, that Bessie Anne and I went out in the afternoon to finish weeding the center section of the lavender bed.

Ginger is so funny.  She has the run of the property and her choice of anything growing, but when I throw an armful of weeds into the chicken pen, she's so afraid she's going to miss out on something that she appears and asks to be let back in their yard.  To keep her from becoming too hoity-toity, inevitably one of the flock gives Ginger a boink on the head when she goes past on her way through the gate.

It was a good day.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Day Off

There are times when I'll have an off day, a day when nothing goes right, my timing is off, and I'm just glad when they end.  Yesterday was not one of those.  I truly do love to mow, out in the sunshine, feeling productive, letting the machine do the work; however, after a few hours on that gut-buster the day before, I took yesterday off (barn chores notwithstanding).  I've stopped berating myself for being a lazy slug on those days when my most ambitious undertaking is making more juice for the hummers.  Like the goats, keeping the hummers fed is a daily job.

I got word that Dave is organizing a work day here with the dear biker dudes from Freed Spirits in the near future.  I need to get one more storm door for the feed barn.  I asked Dave about the size and he told me 3'6".  He put it in writing so I know I had the figures right.  It's my belief that there are word people and number people.  I am not a number person.  With my limited math capabilities, 3'6" converts to 42".  Checking on line, I could not find a 42" door.  With a sigh, Dave said to wait and he'd send me to Martell when the guys come up.  Sigh.

There had been the threat (or promise) of rain all day, but it didn't start until last night.  How lovely to hear that sound.  It was a good, steady, soaking rain, perfect for the newly planted roses, and it continues this morning.  I won't be working outside today, but having had a day off yesterday, I think I'll drill and squash some of that silverware today.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Long and the Short

Weather this spring has been goofy.  Some days as hot as summer, others (like today) overcast and rainy.  This combination has resulted in rapid growth of weeds, the stuff I laughingly call grass. I knew I needed to mow again, but it wasn't until I got the little tractor out that I realized just how long the weeds were.  Ohmigosh, the purple vetch in the backyard was up to the hubs.  The filaree weeds (with the whirligig seeds) in the side yard had stems as thick as pencils and needed several passes to mow down short.

Harold, the ironmonger, came by.  I'm still trying to clean up (get rid of) stuff that has been sitting unused for years and he wanted to assess what I might have and how much help he'd need to haul it away.  Harold and Steve would have been a dynamic duo, each trying to outdo the other in the scrounge department.  Harold had been here when I was finishing some of the wind chimes and evidently liked The Project, so much, in fact, that he brought me a bagful of forks and spoons so I can make more.  (I guess I'll be making more now, for sure.)  I asked how he happened to have so much silverware and he said he had coffee cans full, he just liked saving them so had plenty to share.  If I were texting, I'd throw in an LOL here.  When I began The Project, it was a way to use up stuff and get it out of the barn (yeah, and how's that working for you?).  Regardless, it was pleasant to take a break from mowing and sit in the shade for a chat.

Harold drove off and I did too, back on the mower for one more yard.  That was about all I could handle for one day.  The front yard and west field aren't going anywhere, so no worries.

The long and the short of it is, it was a good day. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Extreme Measures

Give a mouse a squirt of milk and it just goes nuts.  The milk bar is a popular hangout for the grey horde every morning.  I had been aiming for the wipes on the sill, but sometimes hit the poop rake by mistake.  When I saw the extreme measures the little guys would take to get every last drop, I started giving it a healthy shot, too.  What is funny, the mice seem to know they have to wait until Sheila is on the stand.  Inga, first in line, has those nondirectional teats, and the mice concentrate on their cereal.  As soon as Sheila comes in, they start lining up.  Every morning starts with a smile.

It is a bumper year for the Cecile Brunner rose, another sentimental favorite.  I love those tiny, nickel-size buds and the delicate pink color.  There are more flowers this year than ever before.  I'm in heaven.

It is possible to be in heaven and in hell at the same time.  The vandals who had destroyed the one Tropicana flower came back and took the remaining open rose.  What do do?  I thought about digging up the plant and moving it to another location in the pig garden, but would it be safe?  On a trip to town in the afternoon, I mulled over possible solutions to protect this beauty.  And then, ta da!, I remembered a tomato cage that Steve had made long, long ago that had been sitting unused for years.  Tomatoes are planted, when I plant them, out in the deer-fenced vegetable garden and don't need the cage.  Since little to nothing ever gets thrown out around here, I found the cage and it fit perfectly over the Tropicana.  This is not to say the ground squirrels might not come up underneath, but this will definitely stop the drive-by raids.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


There is a new crop of babies down in the milking room.  This is one of the middling kids.  I really wanted a picture with a grownup alongside for scale, but the little ones get beat up if they hang around.  The size of the pellets give an idea of how small he is.  There are even more tiny ones running around, but they just do flash-and-hide games now and it's hard to catch a photo one-handed.  They say it takes a village to raise a child.  The whole mouse tribe schools the youngsters in proper etiquette and infractions receive immediate and harsh retribution.

Evidently I'm not the only one attracted to the fruity aroma from the Tropicana rose.  This is evidence of Thug Life on the farm.  I'd been worried about deer, but I suspect that this vandalism was caused by a furry four-legged hooligan.  I'm hoping that the petal confetti remains are an indication that the rose did not taste as good as it smelled and that the perpetrator spread the word.  No other blooms were damaged and no one came to chew up the leftovers.  Ground squirrels beware!  I'm watching you.

And the sunsets just keep coming.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Proof Positive

I really don't need proof that there are nice people in the world.  I took the hose fitting with me to the feed/general store and asked Dave, the sometimes gruff and grizzled proprietor, for the next size smaller.  He listened to my tale of woe and said, "You don't need a different size.  You got the right one right here."  He explained that I needed to soak the cut end of the hose in hot water to soften it and the fitting should slide right on.  He could have shut his mouth and taken my money.  I had gotten to the store at the very last moment and the feed storage building was already shut down.  Patrick saw me drive up.  "Am I too late, Patrick?"  "I'll open up for you anytime."  Nice people.

Proof that spring is here is obvious every morning now.  If I sleep in until 5:30, the sky is light enough to see by.  That's a bit alarming because I've been waking up in the dark for months and get panicky when it's light out, thinking I'm way late.  Daylight Saving Time is hard enough to deal with.  On the other end of the day, the girls aren't put to bed now until almost 8 o'clock.  Because I was late getting to the store, I was late getting to the barn and coops.  Ginger was in a dither, thinking I'd forgotten about her, and was pacing back and forth in front of the gate.  Why she can get out of the pen and not back in is a mystery to me.

Sunset last evening gave me the opportunity to prove that my cell phone is back in working order.  Sometimes the beauty takes my breath away.

It was Pete's (my middle son) birthday, so it was an especially good day.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Dependence Day

Black.  That's all my cell phone screen showed.  Black.  No sign of life whatsoever.  Changing the plug-in and pushing all the little button thingies did nothing to resuscitate it.  Just a black screen and it sent me into panic.  It was a major lesson in how dependent I'd become on this amazing piece of technology.  I put in a call to my cell phone guru, Deb.  (This happened Saturday night.)  She had no ready answer.  Being the weekend, the store was closed so there would be no help until Monday.  Aaargh.  I don't actually make many phone calls with the cell, but living alone as I do with a lifestyle fraught with dangers to self or animals, I carry it with me at all times.  I text and message frequently, but use it most as a camera, always at the ready.

Back in the day, telephones were black, weighed ten pounds, and the short, cloth-covered cord didn't even have curls.  If you dialed O on the rotary dial, there was always a very nice lady (always a lady), a real person, who would look up numbers, place long-distance calls, and deal with emergencies as there was no 911 then.  The thing is, once you left the house, you lost contact with the "outside world."  Now the cell phone and the computer keep me in touch with friends around the world.  And mine had gone black, deader than a doornail.

Early yesterday morning, Deb called (on the land line).  Bless her heart, she had looked up a possible solution to try.  I put the house phone on speaker, another great innovation, to use both hands to push two buttons simultaneously.  Ta da!  Cell phone revived, I felt I had rejoined the human race.

Sunset last evening was beautiful and I took a photo while heading to the barn (and just because I could).

Sunday, April 19, 2015


Deb and Craig came up yesterday on a secret mission.  Excited, of course, to see them so soon again, I was still curious as to the why of their visit.  All was revealed when I finished with the goats.  Up at the house, they'd loaded my cart with two beautiful rose bushes, an early Mother's Day present, and also the tools for planting.

Tropicana is a sentimental favorite of mine.  I've had one in nearly every yard I've had.  The rose itself is beautiful, but it is the fruity perfume that appeals most.  When we moved here, one of the first plants I put in the ground was a Tropicana next to the front porch.  I didn't worry about the deer then as I was in blissful ignorance of their voracious appetites.  It wasn't until later and the deer were coming up on the deck and tromping around the corner of the house to munch on a potted rose under the bedroom window that my concerns were aroused.  They did, however, spare the Tropicana.  One day Steve was going to do something or other to the gutters and put up a ladder over the rose bush.  Thanks to the ground squirrels, the ground here is very unstable.  "Wait a minute, honey, and I'll hold the ladder for you."  "No, no, it's only going to take a second," and up he went.  When the ladder tipped over, he came down right in the middle of the Tropicana and squashed it flat.  He recovered from his injuries, the rose did not.  All this to explain why this gift is so special to me.

The second rose is called "Strike It Rich," a lovely golden yellow with a strong perfume.  My pair of worker bees planted this one in the pig garden to compliment the others they'd put in last week.  Nowhere close to my friend Tinka's garden yet (she's a master rosarian), thanks to Deb and Craig I'm closing the gap.

I should admit here that when I bought the replacement fitting for the hose in the pig garden, there was a choice of two sizes.  I picked the wrong one.  I will be going back to the hardware store today.

The roses are wonderful, but the best gift of all was the company of my dear ones.  Need I say it?  It was a good day.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Ups and Downs

"Bark!"  I get up to let Bessie out.  She lies down.  "I thought you wanted to go outside."  "No."  I sit down.  She gets up and goes to the other door.  "Bark!"  "If I get up again, trust me, you will go outside."  "Bark!"  I get up.  Bessie Anne goes outside.  I sit down.  "Bark!"  "I just let you out!  You can't want back in that soon."  "Bark!"  I get up and let her in.  She lies down.  I sit down.  Whew.

Celeste will be sound asleep nearby.  If I get up (without prompting from Bess), Celeste gets up, too.  If I head down the hall, she races ahead to our favorite meeting place, the bathroom.  If I head to the right, toward the kitchen, she herds me to the counter where the cat treats are kept.  It matters not that she had treats ten minutes before, if I go to the kitchen, it's munchy time.  When I open the bag, I put out two little piles, one for Celeste and one for Ralph, who appears out of nowhere every single time.  How does he know?

If I'm in the middle of chores and sit down for a quick rest, I have to sit on the edge of the chair.  If I sit back, Bessie and Celeste immediately get up and come to get up on my lap, then I can't get up.

Life is just full of ups and downs.

"I'm coming."

Friday, April 17, 2015

Easy Answers

It's that time of year.  Every morning is a challenge with spring's changeable weather.  How to dress?  Let me rephrase that; I do know how to dress myself, been doing it for years.  The question is what to put on.  Bibbies, of course, but what shirt goes under them on any given day?  Turtleneck, long- or short-sleeved T-shirt, or work shirt?  Cool enough for a jacket on the way to the barn, it's often too hot to wear on the slog back up the hill.  The house holds the nighttime chill for awhile, but when Bess and I go out to the deck to warm up, it's not long before we're baked and ready to go back inside.  Would that all of life's problems were so easily solved.

The little hardware store, one of the only two businesses in the downtown Fair Play mall, closed without notice some months back.  Doggone it, now I'll have to drive ten miles to get a hose fitting.  I discovered yesterday when I wanted to water the roses in the pig garden that at some time in the past I had cut one end off the hose, the end that goes to the water pipe.  I must have had a good reason, but it escapes me now.  The sprinkler is still attached to the useless piece so once I replace the fitting, I'll be good to go.  Another easy solution.

Some time back, I planted lettuce seeds in a pot on the deck.  Lettuce seeds are planted very shallow, and birds ate almost all before they had a chance.  However, two survived and had grown almost to the picking stage; "had" being the definitive word here.  I'm surprised that the ground squirrel who had obviously been casing the joint did not knock on the door and ask for a helping of vinaigrette to put on his salad.  I saw the culprit yesterday.  There are two nubs left in the pot.  I have no ready answer for this one.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

All Bets Are Off

I would not have bet a farthing, a plugged nickle, or given a tinker's damn for Poppy's chances, but, as Mark Twain said (and I'm paraphrasing), "Reports of her death are greatly exaggerated."  I have been amazed in the past at the strength of the life force in animals and fowl, and now in Poppy.  Reluctantly, I approached her yesterday morning, calculating how I would remove her bulk from the pen.  She had been motionless for hours.  She raised her head and I darn near fell over.  By the time I'd finished with the goats, Poppy was on her feet and haltingly making her way up the hill for a drink of water.  She'd not even tried the day before, another sign I was sure the end was near.  She again refused to go in last night.  Postponed for the time being, I know there will be an inevitable conclusion.  It is not heartless to wish that it had come quickly and not be prolonged for this sweet girl.  My tears were shed prematurely and I will not address this story again until it's over.

Purple Tiger opened up yesterday.  Angel Face continues to bloom.  Life goes on.

Helper Dude came again and weed-whacked the yards.  Talk about job security!  HD really likes to use his chainsaw, so I set him the task of trimming up the live oak over the woodpile.  It's a huge tree with branches drooping nearly to the ground, a lovely, shady canopy.  I've always left it as is because it provided a natural windbreak.  However, given drought conditions, those low-hanging limbs were also a fire hazard.  Considering the options, trimming seemed to be the best choice.  HD cut everything back to about seven feet from the ground and hauled a huge pile of trimmings over to the burn pile.  (He also likes to putt around with his little John Deere and trailer; he's not quite fifteen.)

I took a big armload of leafy branches to toss to the girls who were pacing along the fence line, hoping for a handout.  There was a problem, however.  The herd has turned on Cindy.  They had taken turns butting her in the morning, but seemed to have calmed down during the day.  Why they oust one member, I'll never know, but they would not let Cindy come near for a leafy snack.  In the interest of fair play, I brought her a branch of her own, away from the others.  She didn't even get a nibble before Tessie rushed over to take it away.  Just pure meanness, in my opinion, but I've learned it doesn't do to try to interfere.

The day before, I'd weeded for a couple of hours in the pig garden.  The rose bushes the Kids had brought were doing well and I wanted to showcase them.  Yesterday while HD was whacking down the yards, I pulled weeds behind the first shed where the Spanish lavender and santolina live.  Two days of weeding have left me bent over like a crone.  Want to bet I won't be weeding today?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Hard Day's Night

Beautiful though the sunset was, it was hard to leave the pen last night.  I've known for some while that Poppy was in a decline.  In the morning, she had not wanted to leave her stall, didn't want to move, period.  Logistics and practicality dictated she should not die in the barn.  Working alone, it would be nearly impossible to maneuver all 220-plus pounds over sills and around corners so I had to push and prod her outside.  Poppy found a place in the sun to lie on soft grass.  I went out any number of times during the day to check on her.  Sometimes she was up, sometimes down, but never moved more than a few feet away.  At bedtime, she was on her feet, eating grass, but did not want to come in.  Just as well.  Sheila was confused.  She and Poppy have been roommates all their lives and have never spent a night apart.  Finally, I put down a bowl of grain and left the playpen gate open so Pop could go under cover if she wished.  Rubbing that oh-so-soft head, I told my old girl goodnight and goodbye.

This is how I will always think of Poppy (and Sheila), waiting for her special treat after barn chores.  I've gone out several times this morning, starting at first light.  Poppy is in the same place outside, down and not moving.  I don't want to go down to the barn today.

I just don't.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Which Twin?

Who remembers the ad "Which twin has the Toni"?  Inga and I have something in common.  We both have bad-hair days, every day.  This picture was taken after she'd been brushed out; it makes no difference.  Her hair goes every which way.  She makes me think of Pigpen in the Peanuts cartoons.  Inga often accessorizes with bits of alfalfa or something else in her hair, trying to be stylish.  All the other goats have sleek hair and Inga is odd-man out.
This is me, also after brushing out.  See the resemblance?  I tried the alfalfa look too, but it doesn't work for me.  I don't know how Inga feels about her rough coat.  I always wanted straight hair.  My mother told me I'd lose the curl when I got older.  Either I'm not old enough or my mother was wrong.  (And my mother was never wrong.)

Ah, well.  One's mind does drift while milking and tending the girls.

Bess and I went up to the post office yesterday to mail a package.  I don't go there often.  Our dinky little PO is closed on Saturday and from one to two for lunch on weekdays.  Bessie Anne is used to trips to the feed store and getting her two "cookies" (milk bones).  She was so disappointed when I came back to the truck and had no treats, and believe me, she checked.

We got a little dab of rain last night.  We'll take whatever comes and be glad that we got it.  Talk of drought is in every conversation these days.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Gone Fishing

The morning sun put a spotlight on the Spanish lavender yesterday.  I can't decide if they look like purple pineapples or some wild-haired cartoon characters.

I spoke with Linda in the afternoon, she who thinks I'm weird.  She extended her sympathies to my Kids, who have had to put up with me all these years.  Oh, the stories they could tell (and I'm glad they don't).

A much-beloved brother-in-law from long ago was a fishing aficionado.  He'd say, "When you're fishing, you can't be doing anything else."  That was his way of getting out of chores.  I've adopted his philosophy but, in my case, it's weeding.  Looked at the list, looked at the dust, and took Bess out for an hour's worth of work in the lavender bed.  The chickens run to the fence line when I'm weeding.  They know fresh greens are coming.

If you're looking for me, I've "gone fishing."

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Thpeak To Me

Deb:  "I can't understand a word you're saying."
Me:  "I know.  Thath why I'm calling.  I can't underthtand me either."
I was absolutely cracking up.  Deb and Craig had brought all that candy for Easter.   I put one of those fruit-flavored squares of taffy in my mouth yesterday and it promptly glued itself to the roof and wouldn't let go.  I tharted to thpeak to Bethie Anne and about fell on the floor laughing.  It was a moment just too good not to share.  I'm fortunate in that my daughter has not had me committed; she's very tolerant.  It doesn't take much to amuse me, for sure.

The day had not had an auspicious beginning.  I'd run out of goat chow the day before, made a run to the feed store, and then trundled that heavy bag down through wet weeds to the barn in the morning.  In the bucket, there was just enough for the girls' breakfast and no more.  I filled the bowl for Inga and as I put the bucket back, I caught an edge on the high shelf and dumped two-thirds on the floor.  When you're too mad to cuss, that's mad!  It was a bonanza for the mice, but a pretty darned expensive meal.  When a nonmilker was on the stand, I went around to scoop feed out of the bag so I could finish chores.  I really wondered what the rest of the day had in store, but it all turned out well.

In between NASCAR and laundry, I got a few things crossed off my to-do list before I treated myself to the candy.  A day that ends in laughter is a good day.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Hole Truth

The first salvos have been fired in the annual turf war.  The ground squirrels have massed their troops and Farview is under attack.  This is just one of many openings to the underground bunkers in the barn, in the paths, in the fields, in the pens.  I am surrounded, but I will not surrender.  Some, like this one, I leave (although I'll smooth out that mountain of loose dirt) because it gives the squirrels a false sense of security and because it is not where a goat might catch a hoof or cause a person to trip and fall.  Others I fill in daily until the squirrel gets the idea and moves on.  I try to use local supplies (goat poop, wet, if possible) in the barn and used kitty litter up by the house.  The litter hardens like cement down in the hole and that is the end of that.  That hole, that is.

Bessie and I stepped out in the afternoon with a basket of laundry to hang.  There was a flutter of movement in the grass just past the far clothesline post.  Bess, with her poor eyesight, ignored it and went to lie in the shade.  This red-tail hawk had caught either a large lizard or a small snake and wasn't about to share, spreading its wings protectively over its kill.  Moving slowly, I put down the basket and took out the camera.

Hawk took off with his prize, but didn't go far.  He was a really big bird.

Flying low to the south, he landed in the field to eat his lunch.  Looking through the yard after he'd gone, I could find neither head nor tail of whatever it was, but Bess, finally aware of something happening, pointed out where the kill had been made.  (Her nose works just fine.)  My guess is that a lizard had been sunning on one of the stumps, fair game for hawk. 

These brief vignettes of nature are the highlights of my life up here.  There are surprises everywhere.  And that's the whole truth!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Guilty As Charged

The jury was in.  Accused of being a lazy slug yesterday, I have to accept the guilty verdict.  I tried explaining the mitigating circumstances, but the good weather was no real excuse for sitting on my duff all day.  Having a new book to read, it seemed reasonable to sit out on the deck after barn chores.  With hot weather on the horizon, it won't be long until I cannot indulge in this pleasure.  In the house, a marathon showing of "Blue Bloods" was running.  With all the scripted reality shows that are in vogue now, "Blue Bloods" is an oasis of sanity.  I recognize that is it a fictional family with values of honesty, integrity, dedication to service, and a sense of humor, but I like to think that those things are not isolated to the Reagans.  It's a good cop show, to boot.  Bess Anne was a co-conspirator in my sloth outdoors, and Celeste joined in when a lap came her way inside.  I don't know what punishment is in store for my little furries, but mine is a load of guilt and a work detail today.  I will willingly take up the yoke and enjoy the memory of a day off doing nothing.

When there is a dearth of blog fodder, I can always count on a sunset at end of day to provide an appropriate finish.  Last evening was no exception.

For me, it was a good day, guilty or not.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Carpe Diem

Did I mention the litterbug wind of the storm?  This is just a sample of the leafy twigs blown down in just one tiny section of the yard.  Yikes!

After the foofah of the previous oh-so-rainy day, the girls were eager to get their breakfast and get out to enjoy the sunshine and barn chores were a pleasure.  Everyone came to the stand in orderly fashion, ate every bite in their bowl, and no quarrels broke out.

I knew I was going to have to make a run into town, but could not resist sitting on the deck with Bess moving from sun to shade while I read, intermittently just watching clouds on parade.

On my return, there were things I should have done inside, but opted to take Bessie Anne out again for the pleasure of being outdoors.  It was that kind of day.  I gathered a big armload of oak leaves and tossed it to the girls.  Tessie took her little pile over to the side out of frame, fearful that she might not get to enjoy every bite.  Pretty wise, as the others would snatch leaves from another's mouth while they were chewing.

This turkey and I had a lot in common.  He was pecking through the front yard while I was treating the girls.  It's very difficult to get a photo of the turkeys' gorgeous blues and bronze, but I keep trying.  It was just too nice to go back into the house.  The temperature dropped in the shade, so Bess and I sat in the sunshine on a boulder in the rock garden.  Turkey seemed to enjoy our company and felt the same way about going in.  He settled himself down in the yard about twenty yards away, periodically trying to strike up a conversation.  I know people say, "Let's talk turkey," but I don't know the lingo.  We all sat in the weak warmth of the sunshine until even that was gone and the three of us went to our respective homes.  I got a fire going before time to tuck the girls in.

It was a good day.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Please Be Seated

Ralph has been showing signs of feeling left out.  Bessie Anne and Celeste have been hogging the lap, leaving no room for Ralphie.  I hadn't been too worried about my redheaded kid as he's usually off doing Ralph business, as evidenced by the thuds, rustles, and crashes from various rooms.  However, for the last few days the always ingenious Ralph has found a way to satisfy his need for togetherness.  In his eyes, my lap is a lap, wherever it might be and whenever available.  Being of the lady variety, I sit in the bathroom, ergo, creating a lap with room for just one.  Need I say more?

Yesterday's storm was a doozy.  The strong, strong winds of early morning finally died back some after filling the yards and driveway with leafy twigs from the oaks.  The girls will be so happy to get treats today.  The only thing better than dried oak leaves that crunch like potato chips are fresh oak leaves in a goat's eyes.  I am just grateful that the ground is littered with the twiggy bits and not big branches.  It rained buckets, hailed a couple of times until the deck looked like it had snowed, and rained some more.  Thunder rumbled in the afternoon, but we kept power.  Cold?  I hope to shout it was cold!  (Easterners will laugh at our wimpy temperatures, but hey, it's California.)  Even with a good fire going all day, the house didn't warm up until evening.  My weather app said that with the wind chill factor, it never got up to 30 degrees and was well down in the 20s.  Shoes and socks were soaked and bibbies were wet to the knee in the morning.  Long ago I'd purchased rubber knee-high boots, put them away and totally forgot about them.  Until last night.  Unbelievably, I found them in the first place I looked, put them on at dusk and feet stayed dry and toasty while tucking soggy goats and chickens in bed.  I'd been a bit concerned that after years of disuse the boots would crack, but they're made of stronger stuff than I'd thought.  People have posted photos of snow (not far away) on the dogwoods, the portent we've all been waiting for, so I guess winter is officially over.

I can't say that yesterday was one of the best, but we certainly need the rain and snow, so it wasn't one of the worst, either.  There is a light breeze ruffling the leaves, the sun is shining brightly, and the sky is clear.  I'm hearing a call of nature; can Ralph be far behind?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

What Blew In

Yesterday morning was bright and beautiful.  Bess and I weren't the only ones enjoying an early walkabout.  These two toms were promenading through the backyard.  Their chest beards are readily visible, a sign of maturity, as are the spurs on their legs.  The truck had gotten a good bath from the rain.  A disadvantage of so many oaks is that at this time of year everything is covered in yellow-green pollen.  It's easy to spot flatlanders on the road;  their vehicles are all different colors.  Locals' are the same shade of green.

With storm warnings on the news, I did a lot of prepping throughout the day, including bringing more wood to the porch.  Turned out to be a good thing.  This morning it went from overcast and dead calm to gale-force winds in seconds.  It sounded like a freight train when it hit and the trees are dancing and bending like...well, like nothing I like to see.  No rain as yet.  Oops, spoke too soon.  Even tiny drops are hitting the window like hail.  Crum.  Not looking forward to barn chores today.

In an attempt to use up some of the Easter leftovers, last night I put the potatoes, peas and ham into a scallop casserole.  Gosh, it was good.  The problem being that now I have leftover scalloped potatoes.  Hmmm.

No dawdling today.  I need to get the girls milked and get back to the house.  Losing power is a distinct possibility with winds like this and I need to be prepared.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Bed Of Roses

Goats are so perverse.  I explained to the girls when I went into the barn that company was coming and I needed full cooperation.  Yeah, and how's that workin' for ya?  I could, and should, have saved my breath.  Inga had been very good lately, but chose yesterday not to come into the milking room.  Precious time was lost while know the drill.  Milking went better than the day before, thank goodness, but the clock was ticking.  Deb and Craig drove up as I let Esther out and it was Tessie's turn.  I should call her Tessie the Teaser.  Close, but no cigar.  She'd come right to the doorway, even put one foot inside, and then back out and walk away.  "Psych!"  Finally had to do a couple of laps through the pen and chase her down, while Deb and Craig did a walkabout and waited.

Deb and Craig had been redoing their landscaping and had brought three rose plants from their yard.  For protection from the deer, we decided to put them in the defunct pig pen.  My first choice would have been right in the front garden, but I knew they'd be chomped down before the first bud opened.  Deb and I pulled weeds and Craig did the heavy work of digging holes.  Well fertilized from the years when Louie was in residence and covered with a heavy mulch of leaves, the pen is a perfect place for roses, and the Kids had brought big, beautiful plants.  A mist began falling as we patted in the last one.  My mother had always said that a rainy day was the perfect time to plant roses to give them the best chance of survival.  For these roses, it was a perfect day.  But that wasn't the end.  Deb and Craig gave me another peony, a red one to add to the herb garden.  Deciding exactly where to place it, we discovered another peony had emerged from last year.  With the new addition, that makes eight of these beauties!

The mist became rain by the time we went in, and it was cold enough to need a fire in the wood stove.  It wasn't long before Dave drove up and from then on, all I can remember is the laughter.  Deb and Craig brought a variety of Easter candy.  Busily taste testing the different kinds while waiting for the ham to bake, suddenly I heard, "Mom!  Dave just ate your peanut butter egg!"  (They'd brought just the one.)  Big sister tattling on little brother cracked us all up.  Some things don't change.  Holiday menus are cast in stone and the only variation this year was adding avocado to the deviled eggs; I was forgiven the deviation as the plate of eggs dwindled rapidly.

A good, steady rain fell while we ate and watched the multitude of hummers feeding outside.  Seats at all three feeders were full to capacity, with latecomers waiting for a space.  After the plates were cleared, the guys went into the living room for another tradition, an after-dinner nap.  Deb and I talked in the dining room, listening to their gentle snores.  Far from feeling abandoned, it gives me a wonderful sense of the Kids coming home when they're relaxed enough to fall asleep here.  They are company, yes, but they're family.

Most of the rain had passed by the time the Kids had to leave and was over when I went down to put the other kids to bed.

It was a very good day.

Sunday, April 5, 2015


Larry:  "Hi, Mom.  Whatcha doing?"
Me:  "Not much.  Just waiting for weather."  (Rain is predicted for today.)
Larry:  "Waiting for weather?!  Mom, you gotta get a life!  #twiddling thumbs."
There's no way to describe how we laughed about this last night.

Nothing bad happened, but the morning was a disaster yesterday.  For whatever reason, each of the milkers was hard to get going and difficult to milk out.  A goat that normally takes about 350 squeezes (yes, I count) took over 600.  My hands were going numb after Inga and it was downhill from there with two more to go.  Barn chores normally take a little over an hour; yesterday was closer to two and I was exhausted.

When company is coming, I wait until the last minute to vacuum and dust.  To do it sooner is an exercise in futility.  Every time Bess goes outside, she brings a little of it back into the house.  Celeste and Ralph get into a tussle and bits of fur fly here and there.  It makes no sense to shower and dress in fresh bibbies before going to the barn.  The girls, especially Esther, rub against me and nothing I'm wearing stays clean.  I'm going to be on a dead run today.

Sundown comes about 7:30 now and I wait until then to put the kids to bed.  In the brief time it takes to get the girls into their stalls and walk back up the hill, the colors of sunset have changed.  Last evening I took probably fifteen photos, each one different, and narrowed them down to these two.
I'm always so grateful that Joel left the three pines standing when he cleared his property for a vineyard.  They add such perspective to my view of the horizon.

Today I'm waiting in anticipation of my Kids coming up.  Even though we need the rain so badly, I'm hoping it waits until after the Kids leave.  They drive a long way to get here and it's not a pleasant drive in the rain, and that doesn't begin to address my disaster of a driveway.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Trend Setter

I'm seeing a trend here, purple to the left, right, front, back.  I really prefer the French lavender for its perfume, but I won't turn down the Spanish lavender that grows behind the first shed or the potted one on the deck.  The Spanish is a bit of a showoff, blooming early with flashy topknot flowers.  It just doesn't smell as sweet.  Both lavenders are slow to settle into a new home and need a little TLC to get established.  After that, they are very low maintenance and are drought resistant, perfect for me and the current drought conditions here.  Their companion plants are grey and green santolinas, both of which have loads of little yellow flowers and neither need much water.  An added bonus is that deer do not appear to like either lavender or santolinas.

I've worked out a barter agreement with a young family.  They need milk for their feeder pigs and I like fresh vegetables.  I could just give them the surplus milk, but I explained to Nicole that past experience has taught me that which has no cost is not always appreciated.  Pick-up days and times were ignored as if they, and I, didn't matter.  I may not leave often and may have little to nothing on my agenda, but I do try to accommodate and maintain a schedule.  She was fine with my conditions and brought a box of veggies to trade yesterday.  Milk for pigs does not need to be refrigerated and they seem to prefer the sour milk.  In fact, I was just reading articles that state soured milk is actually easier for pigs to digest, and definitely eliminates the need for GMO-based grain.  That's a win-win.  It was fun to meet Nicole and her two little children.

Getting up early as I do, I had the opportunity to see the lunar eclipse this morning, the so-called "blood moon."  Stumbling around in the dark had me wondering why I was doing this thing, but it was worth it to see that red orb in the sky.  I made it back to the house without falling flat on my face, stepping into a squirrel hole, or running into anything.  When the full moon is eclipsed, it is very, very dark.  It was a good start to the day.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Beauty and the Beast

Wisteria and weeds are the only things growing in my garden, but the wisteria is spectacular and the perfume is heavenly.  Once the wisteria took hold, it took off!  The one lonely plant has spread around three sides of the fence and has not been watered in years.  Every couple of years I prune it back, but otherwise it gets no maintenance.  The California poppies are a nice accent.

Ralph, oh Ralph.  In addition to checking in the refrigerator for sell-by dates, secretarial duties, and redecorating rooms in his unique style, it seems he has become a librarian.  I found signs of his labor when Bess and I came in from weeding in the lavender bed.  It might be asked why these books have not been put away (by me).  There is at least one bookcase in nearly every room in the house and an entire long wall of bookshelves downstairs.  Some shelves are stacked two deep for lack of room.  I packed and moved over 3,000 books when we came to Farview and have continued to add as the years went on.  Someday I may have to face the fact that I'm a book hoarder.  If Ralph intends to take on librarian duties, he's got his work cut out.

With Ralph around, I have job security.  All I have to do is follow him around and clean up his messes.  It's a full-time job.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Starring Celeste

Celeste complained recently that she was not getting her share of publicity and that Ralph has been hogging the spotlight.  It must be said that Celeste's complaints were very quiet and ladylike, much like her personality.  She has the tiniest, squeakiest voice, unlike Ralph the Mouth (remember Happy Days?) who talks to himself constantly as he plans his next - oh, who knows what his "next" will be!  Celeste does not involve herself in Ralph's shenanigans.  Unless she is giving him a beat-down when he finally gets on her nerves or she is herding me into the kitchen for a treat, this is how I most frequently see Celeste.  The photo was taken on a rare occasion when Bessie Anne was not in residence on my lap.  More frequently, Celeste has to squeeze into whatever space is left over, but squeeze she does.  In the evening, Ralph might make a brief appearance but he never settles down and is soon on his way to take care of Ralph business.

In order to give my lap a rest and because the day was much cooler, I fired up Fu Manchu and mowed the front yard, the driveway, and the frontage road yesterday.  We're looking mighty spiffy!  It was such a lovely afternoon, I didn't want to go back in the house so I got a bit of a start on weeding the lavender bed.  When the weeds are green as they are now, the product of this enterprise go over the fence to the chickens.  They scatter and scream as if I'd thrown a bomb, but immediately come back to chatter and pick out the best of the goodies.

Every time I turn around, all three feeders are empty.  More and more hummers show up and are sipping more than two quarts a day.  I can't imagine what it will be like when it gets really hot.  As the saying goes, "I live to serve."

A lap is a lap wherever it might be.  Celeste has pushed her way between me and the desk (trust me, there's not much room).  It's very difficult to type with this lump and her head on my arm.

It was a good day.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Heavy Duty

Ralph takes his self-imposed responsibilities as house cat very seriously.  I wish our means and methods coincided.  I posted photos of his secretarial work with the tax forms.  His filing system made sense only to him.  (A little like the woman I replaced years ago and I found paperwork for the elevator filed under "L."  True story.)  In addition to redecorating the living- and dining rooms, Ralph has now taken on the duties of housekeeper.  I've always tried to keep the guest bedroom neat and tidy in readiness for an unexpected stay-over.  Ralph has redone the room to his own liking, remaking the bed to suit.  He is very proud of his handiwork in the guest room.  I have learned never to ask, "What else?" because I'm afraid of the answer.

There's nothing like having a dinner guest make their own dinner.  Half the work and twice the fun!  Arden had not made pizza before, but she's always up for something new.  Making pizza is carte blanche to play with your food, a real hands-on experience, beginning with pressing out the dough.  We worked, if it can be called work, side by side.  Arden was rather pleased to find she'd have her very own pizza all to herself.

Toppings were a choice of sausage, pepperoni, salami, olives, onions, a ready-made sauce, and several cheeses.  One can get quite artistic with the placement of ingredients.  A few minutes in the oven and then came the best part, eating our creations!

I'd always avoided making pizza in the past, thinking it would take forever and needed special equipment:  a pizza stone for the oven, hours to make the dough, etc., etc.  Then I found the easiest recipe ever for a quick yeast dough and that a 400-degree oven and oiled parchment paper on a baking sheet would do the job.  It's become a staple in my diet.

Ralph is busy in the bathroom.  I can hear him brrrp-brrrping as he rearranges the bathmat in front of the stall shower.  He prefers it bunched up and over to the side instead of flat.  A cat's work is never done.