Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Go Soak Your Head

It was a go-in-the-pool two or three times kind of day.  Bessie Anne has the routine down pat now.  She asks to go out and gets in her wading pool without help or encouragement and stands while I pour water over her back until she is soaked through.  Sometimes she has to wait until I add cold water as the sun overheats the shallow pool and I don't want a boiled hot dog.  Bess does a little drip dry while I stand under the mist from the hose.  Doesn't do much for my hair, but it's a way to survive.

I'm in the habit of DVRing back-to-back episodes of multi-part programs I want to see so as not to lose continuity.  It's also a good way to have entertainment on days when it takes too much energy to move.  I'm not a fan of much on daytime television.  PBS has a new series going (love PBS) called The Crimson Field staged in World War I (the war to end all wars, more's the pity it didn't) about medics and nurses in a field hospital, an early-day MASH unit, as it were.  I would recommend it.  Poldark is okay, a kind of Jane Austen knockoff.  (The opinions expressed are those of the management only.)

I have to laugh at some of my quirks.  I get a kick out of identifying film bloopers.  Whoa!  Did I really see what I thought I saw?  In Out Of Africa, there is a scene in which Robert Redford is peeling fruit from a bowl.  There are two pieces in the bowl, he takes one out and suddenly there is one in his hand and again two in the bowl.  Hmm.  Yesterday I watched an episode of NCIS, New Orleans.  A woman poured perhaps a finger of whiskey into a glass, took a drink, and when she put the glass down it had more than she'd poured in the first place.  I want a glass like that!

Bessie Anne likes to go to the feed store.  She knows I will always come out with two milk bones for her, and believe me, she checks before I can get back in the truck, and there must be two!  I had to wait until late afternoon to go to Mt. Aukum so the truck would be in shade for Bess.  I waited until this morning to unload the bags of feed.  Only in the mid 70s at 6:00, it was better than waiting for the sun to come up.

I think today is going to be a rerun.

Monday, June 29, 2015

One Of Those

A message from Camille was waiting when I got back from the barn.  "Just wanted to let you know that all of Al's dogs are loose and running on our road in case they show up at your house."  Oh goody.  This place seems to be a mecca for strays.  Over the years I've had three very large Holstein steers wander in, as well as several horses, a donkey, numerous dogs, several cats, and thirty or so cattle that broke through a connecting fence.  It's quite an experience to step out of the shower and find a herd of cows staring up at the window.  Cam said the dogs had gone down to the corner and turned right, so maybe they were headed home.  No such luck.  Not too much later I was enjoying the sight of ten little turklets and their mamas at the feeding station under the oak when this gang appeared.  Doing what dogs do, especially in a pack, they scattered the panicked babies every which way.  I grabbed a pocketful of milk bones and headed out before the dogs could do any real damage.  The pug and Pomeranian knew the drill by now; the other two took a bit of coaxing to go into the pen.  A Facebook contact had also had the dogs at her house, had talked to Al, and he agreed she could re-home them if (if??) they got out again.  She had asked me to call her instead of Animal Services if (that word again) the dogs showed up.  I left messages for Erin, but started getting worried when I hadn't heard back by 5:00.  I was simply not prepared to house the strays overnight.  In the meantime, the dogs apparently got bored and, well, when I went out to check on them the small brown male was having an intimate moment with the pug.  I gave a great sigh of relief when Erin finally called, saying she'd be here by 7:30.  She, however, was stunned to find out there were four, not two, and given the afternoon activities, one was undoubtedly carrying.  Erin was game and I helped her load up the pack.  I wish them all well.

At dusk, the baby turkeys were back, as well as that beautiful buck.  The plums must be ripe as the lower branches are now stripped and he had a purple mouth.

It was one of those days.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Visiting Hour

Early yesterday morning the two runaway dogs, the pug and the Pom, showed up on the deck right outside the door.  Bess told the repeat offenders in no uncertain terms that they should not be here and to go home!  Once again I was glad I live on top of the hill out of view from my neighbors as I ran out in my nightgown and a pair of shoes to try to pen the dogs.  Bessie had made believers of the duo and they took off running.  I'm not the only one in the area who has caught these dogs and returned them to the owner.  They need to be re-homed.

I much prefer this morning's guests.  It's been years since I've seen a buck with a four-point rack.  Earlier, a young doe had wandered by, heading for the herb garden.  My computer is in the perfect place to give me a view of wildlife and weather, and daybreak is the best time to see both.

It wasn't quite so hot yesterday, and there is a pretty good cloud cover today.  After several days of 100-plus degrees, I'm ready for a break.

Maybe I'll actually get something done today.  Or not.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Throw In The Sponge

As the child of Depression-Era parents, I was taught to use it up and wear it out.  Nothing got wasted, everything was saved.  Buttons were cut off clothing before being cut up for rags.  Rags were braided into rugs.  Bits of string were rolled into a ball.  Slivers of soap were dried and tucked into dresser drawers for their fragrance.  Habits of a lifetime are hard to break.  I seem to be incapable of throwing out plastic food containers from sour cream, yogurt, etc.  There are stacks and stacks tumbling out of any number of cupboards.  Empty boxes are piled in the spare room.  Who knows when I might need a box.  I have a supply of plastic grocery bags, more than any human could ever use.  They could come in handy one of these days.  All of these thoughts came to me yesterday when I threw out a kitchen sponge.  I use sponges with a scrubber side, and this one had no scrub left and the sponge was in shreds.  It was time to let go, but still I hesitated.  As I put the remains in the trash, I thought, "Deb would be so happy."  Some of my habits make my daughter nutso, and probably the worst are the sponges.  She's given up chastising me and just tosses the one in use and gets out a new one.  I felt guilty when I threw in the sponge, but Deb would be so proud.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Audience Participation

"Little Tommy Tucker sings for his supper..." so goes the nursery rhyme.  I don't make my guests sing, but often they do participate in getting dinner on the table.  It wasn't so long ago that Arden had to make her own pizza.  Others have learned the art of rolling out homemade pasta.  The Kids once had a production line going to make dates stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped with bacon for appetizers.  Last evening I had everything ready when Camille and Arden arrived and set them the task of rolling enchiladas with beef and onions, chopped black olives, and lots of cheese.  Dining together is a communal affair, and begins at the stove.

On what seemed like the hottest day so far, I'd also baked those tart-sweet lemon bars for dessert.  You've got me with any recipe that starts with "lemon."  Cleaning house in the heat made me wonder if I weren't addled, but it was too late to call off the invitation.  Sharing a meal and the company of friends was worth it all.

It was a good day. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Oh, Puhleez!

I love puns, especially bad ones, and am a proponent of prolific alliteration.  Can't help myself, so patience is requested.

Persistent Percy and his Pal were purloining prize pieces yesterday while Notch politely asked permission (denied).  Perspiration poured while I milked and later as I plodded up the hill with pails, huffing and puffing all the way.

This pitiful plant was about to expire, prompting me to unleash the power of water in the afternoon.  Bessie plopped panting in her pool while I played in the spray from the hose.

Same plant, now perky.

Okay, I'll quit.  It's obviously not good to let my mind go free-wheeling as I'm doing chores.  It could place me in peril.  Perish the thought!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


I wish ambition was contagious.  I am surrounded by ambitious women who accomplish so much every day.  I listen and watch and admire, but none of that seems to rub off.  In fact, it makes me tired.  I could blame it on the weather, but I think the problem goes deeper than that.  If I'm feeling especially perky, I might pick up a pencil and add a chore to my to-do list (which I have pared down to just three items so I'm not overwhelmed).  Or not.  There's no guaranty anything will get crossed off.  There are days when I won't even look at the list.  I have no supervisor, no boss to please.  It's just me telling me what I should do, and sometimes I don't listen.  There might be a flurry of activity when the burden of guilt becomes too heavy, but I wouldn't bet the farm that will happen.

I got caught with my dishes down yesterday.  Normally cleaning up the kitchen is the first job of the day when I get back from the barn, but I procrastinated (what a surprise) in the heat, needing a cool-down period.  I sometimes consider putting a thermometer in the barn to see what the actual temp is under that metal roof with no shade, but decide that it's best I don't know lest I keel over with the truth.  Cooling off took most of the day.  At any rate, I was busy doing nothing when Camille called to see if I was home.  I was.  She said she was on the road and was bringing me some of her home-grown apricots.  What she didn't say was that she was on my road, on my road and turning into my driveway.  There was no time to hide the evidence of my sloth.  Cleverly, I enticed her to join me out on the deck, avoiding the kitchen, and I listened to all the work she had done that day.  Ah, well.

Knowing myself as I do, last weekend I invited Cam and Arden for dinner tomorrow.  Ambitious or not, today is the day to clean and prep.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Afternoon Delight

"I'm going to the grocery store today.  Do you need anything?"  It's what we do for neighbors up here to save unnecessary trips.  Cam had a few items I could pick up for her, so I added them to my list.  What with one thing or another, I didn't leave until well after noon.  I'd just unpacked the bags at home when Harold called with an offer of watermelon, an offer I couldn't refuse!  Cam came to pick up her stuff and we were just kicking back when Harold arrived.  He'd brought enough melon to share, so we three sat at the picnic table under the oak, slurping ice-cold, sweet watermelon, talking, and enjoying the cooling breeze.  I highly recommend this as a way to spend a late afternoon in summer.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Summer Solstice

Yesterday was the summer solstice, the longest day and the shortest shadows of the year.  I couldn't think of a better way to start it off than an early morning call from my daughter (not on the cellphone so no problems there).  However, I did interrupt with some expletives when I saw the same two stray dogs, the pug and the Pom, come trotting up the driveway before the sun was fully up.  Animal Control does not come out on Sundays, it obviously is useless to call the owner, and I hadn't yet gotten dressed.  Phooey.  After some first-class ranting, I decided to ignore the dogs who were running loose here for the third time in less than two weeks.  They hung out here for the better part of an hour.  I hope they made it home okay.

Licorice mint is prolific, spread by seeds to nearly every pot on the deck.  Bees and the hummers love the tiny purple flowers on tall stalks.  On my morning walkabout, the bees were already hard at work.  I can only imagine what that honey must taste like.  I've also got lemon mint, but it hasn't come into bloom yet.  Crushing a few leaves from one or the other as I go past perfumes the air.

I've got this hot-diggity machine that will transfer VHS tapes, direct television, or DVR stuff to DVDs.  It takes some concerted effort with a couple of remotes to accomplish the deed, but I've got the manuals and plenty of time.  Yesterday I copied a great film, "The Man Who Would Be King," (1975) with Sean Connery, Michael Caine, and Christopher Plummer.  Michael Caine's exotically beautiful wife, Shakira, to whom he has been married for 42 years, had a small but integral part.  It should come as no surprise that I am a fan of old movies.  It was a great way to spend a long afternoon on the longest day of the year.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Ups and Downs

Stepping out to turn the sprinkler off in the pig (rose) garden, I found this tom turkey doing his best, and pretty good, impression of Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver.  "You talkin' to me?  You talkin' to me!"  Intent on his reflection in the chrome on the truck, he paid no attention to me.  There is a surprise of some kind every time I walk out the door.

Yarrow is a wildflower that has cropped up here, both yellow and white.  It dies back in winter, but comes up strong in the spring, not always where I'd wish, but it's pretty and so I leave it.  This particular plant is encroaching on the front walkway, so I just walk around it.  The leaves are purported to staunch bleeding; fortunately, I've not had occasion to test it.

I don't know what the payoff is for the goats, but Percy and his cohorts have got some deal going with a couple of the girls.  I've been doing my best to hold off the squirrels from the mouse feed, previously known as goat chow, until I'm done in the barn and put down food for the squirrels in their own bowl.  Now, however, the girls are tipping their breakfast bowl and dropping grain for Percy back behind the stand where I cannot see or reach.  I hear the crunching and munching.  I've explained to the goats that they will be SOL if they dump their food as I do not provide second helpings.  Go figure.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Can't Talk To Me

First off, if you call me on my cell phone, there's a 50-50 chance I'll hang up on you before the initial hello.  Doing the thumb-slide thing on the screen answers the phone.  I know that.  But a little red phone icon pops up and I feel compelled to touch it.  That cancels the call.  I'm getting better, but no promises.

Assuming we get through Step 1 and make the connection, I realize that having a conversation with me can be difficult.  Yesterday afternoon, I'd just finished watering the deck plants and Bess and I were taking a break when the hunting horns from Sherwood Forest (my ring tone) sounded from my bibby pocket.  "Hello?"  (Successful call connection.)  So there I was, sitting on the bench outside and conversing with my friend Linda.  My view to the south includes the parking lot, etc., of the winery next door.  I'd seen the proprietress drive off, the last to leave for the day.  Linda was chatting when I interrupted.  "Whoa, what's going on here.  There's a man walking up the driveway next door and going into their vineyard.  They're all gone and he shouldn't be there."  Telling Linda I'd call her back, I phoned the owners, but by that time the stranger had left.  It's the rural version of Neighborhood Watch, and they'd check it out.

I'm much better at making calls than receiving them, so I called Linda back so we could finish our talk, sort of.  Mid-sentence, "Ohmigosh, quail just went across the driveway.  I haven't seen quail in ages.  I love to see quail choo-choo trains."  Back to the subject, and then, "Oh, I forgot to tell you I think I saw a golden eagle a little while ago, riding the thermals with a group of vultures!  Cam has seen one at her place, but I'd not seen one until today."  And the talk went on before I broke in again.  "Oh, wow!  There's a contrail that made a sharp left turn over the hill to the south.  I've never seen one that hasn't gone straight across the sky.  What do you suppose?"  Linda was very patient with all these interruptions.  It's very possible that the next time we talk, she'll ask me to go inside first so we might have a chance at a grownup conversation.  Or not.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Incentive Plan

I'm big on incentive plans.  I had a couple of pork chops in the fridge and a kitchen floor that needed mopping.  Being the procrastinator par excellence, I had been putting off that chore long enough.  It was bite-the-bullet and get-it-done time, but I really didn't want to so I called my friend Cam and asked her over for dinner.  The menu was simple, pork chops and couscous combined with mixed vegetables.  Cam has been working in her garden and said she'd bring some snow peas and a zucchini to add to the couscous.  "You have squash?  Do you still have any blossoms?  Could you bring some of those?"  Ohmigosh, I was excited.  Camille, never having eaten them, didn't quite understand.

Nothing like company coming to put the spurs to my sides. I whipped through the kitchen, dry and wet mopping, vacuumed, dusted the dining room and set the table, showered and changed, and did the prep work on dinner before Cam and Honey arrived.  It took only a minute to make a light beer batter with a touch of cayenne to dip the squash blossoms in before sauteeing.  One bite was enough to take the dubious "Uh huh" look off Cam's face and replace it with "Mmmm."  It has been ages since I've had any of those delicate, tasty morsels.

Turned out to be a productive and thoroughly enjoyable day.  I just needed a little incentive.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Quick Getaway

When summer heat bears down, I look for escape in different ways.  Sometimes old movies, a book, or a quick trip down memory lane does the trick (since I'm obviously not leaving home these days).  A chance remark on television yesterday took me back to Paris.  It's hard for me now to believe that is 30 years ago since I was there.  One picks up the darnedest souvenirs, and this pack of cigarettes is one of the first and most Parisian things I brought back.  Probably every story I'd read involving the French had mentioned Gauloises dangling from some dude's lips.  Those were the days when I was smoking unfiltered Lucky Strikes, but I have to say that Gauloises were the strongest, harshest cigarettes I'd ever tasted, hence the nearly full pack still intact.

Regardless, in my mind I revisited Paris in the spring, remembering the food I ate, the trip on the Seine, losing my traveling companion at Notre Dame and nearly losing my mind hunting for her, the palace at Versailles, the Champs Elysees at night (called the street of diamonds and rubies because of the strings of car head- and taillights), and so much, much more.

Back home again, I took down laundry from the line (dry in minutes), refilled the hummers' feeders, watered wilting plants, stepped over dog and cats stretched out where they might catch a breeze, and wiped perspiration from my brow.  It had been nice to take a small vacation for a little while.  It was a good day.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Animal House

I decided that "Animal Farm" was too Orwellian and Belushi's "Animal House" was more appropriate and descriptive of life at Farview.  Bess declined to go outside and chose to wait in the house while I milked and did barn chores.  Ready for a sit down and cool off, I found there was no room in the inn.  Bessie had put up the Do Not Disturb sign and left me just enough space to perch on the edge of my chair.  Repeat, my chair.  It was a case of "Let sleeping dogs lie," so I perched.

It's not as if the resident kids lack for toys.  Their basket overflows, and others are scattered throughout the house, giving the appearance of a daycare center. 

Ralph (it's always Ralph) came into the room dragging this pig scrubber mitt from the bathroom.  He resembled a lion with a fresh kill.  It took me a minute to realize where this new toy had come from.  Ralphie has a short attention span and when he went on to other adventures, Celeste gave the poor pig a second mauling.

The plum trees are heavy with fruit this year.  I'm not the only one waiting for the plums to ripen.  Deer cruise through daily now in anticipation.  They get the low stuff and the birds go for the top.  If I'm lucky, I'll get some plums from the middle.  Or not.

About 3 a.m. an owl hooted seemingly right outside my window, followed by a few desperate screams from a small, unfortunate creature.  Given that owls give fair warning, it's surprising to me that they hunt successfully.  The owl flew off with his take-away meal and I went back to sleep.  And so ended another day at Animal House.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Ghost Town

Beautiful Downtown Fair Play (that's what my friend Doris used to print on her calendars when she and Dennis ran the little mom & pop grocery store) is in a decline.  The grocery store is now The Pub (I preferred the store).  Open 7 days a week previously, I noticed yesterday that The Pub is closing on Mondays.  Across the road is/was Fair Play Hardware.  It's been there forever.  Joyce, the prior owner, still worked there when she was well into her 90s.  Art took it over when Joyce finally hung up her hammers.  He added a cooler for sodas and stocked some snack foods, along with the hardware supplies.  It was nice to be able to pick up the occasional oddity close to home, especially when Steve was in the middle of a project and needed one more widget.  Months ago the "Open" sign didn't go on.  Hmmm.  Then a small sign said the store was closed for renovation, but there was never any activity.  Now even the sign is gone.  Since Beautiful Downtown Fair Play had only the two businesses, the loss of one could mean that Fair Play is again becoming a ghost town.  I discount the presence of Winery By The Creek next to The Pub as a business, as wineries are prevalent everywhere in this area.  Photographs from the 1800s show that once upon a time Fair Play was a fairly bustling mining camp.  All that is left from that era is the cemetery, where, by the way, Doris and Dennis are buried.  Well, if Fair Play is destined to be a ghost town, I know there will be a couple of friendly ghosts.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Hard Work

It's not easy being the Farview fashion plate.  It took time and effort to choose the color-coordinated blues of my summer ensemble yesterday, but the effect was definitely worth it.  Accessories like the sweaty sweatband are so important.  My casual, elegant hairstyle was selected especially for the occasion and pulled up and back with a retro banana clip.  Even though I'd thought it perfect, it was improved by Cindy carefully nosing through it before she left the stand, placing a few artful strands here and there, held in place by goat spit.  It pays to have a consultant.

With me as a role model for fashion, Percy and his pal were jealous and did some styling of their own with just a little help.  Doing their bait-and-switch routine, they both took advantage of the milk "product" to adopt a new hairdo.  Even though I aim for the eye and often hit the mark ("Hit me with your best shot!"), inevitably there is some spray-over.  The squirrels ended up looking like punk-rock band stars with fur spikes in a fetching Mohawk.  I wanted to take portrait photos, but the boys ran away to show off to their friends.

I am waiting for the calls for Vogue and Elle cover shots, knowing that my country casual style is going to be a trend setter.  I'm waiting.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Double-Take Day

So, there I am, milking away and thinking pleasant thoughts, when Percy showed up on his daily raid on the mouse food.  Squirt, squirt.  He's either getting used to getting hit in the eye or he's developing a taste for goat milk.  Okay, he ducked back, only to show up again a few minutes later on my left.  I've got pretty good aim on the right, but haven't the confidence to clear my lap on the left so I bat at him with my hand.  The little booger knows he's just out of reach and I think he likes the game.  I had just taken a swipe at Percy when there he was at the feed on my right!  How could he possibly have gotten over there so fast?  I nearly got whiplash when I caught movement on the left.  Percy has joined forces with another squirrel and they were tag-teaming me.  Why do I have the feeling I'm not winning this battle.

Another day of near-100 degrees, Bess wading in her pool, me soaking under the hose mist and remembering the long-ago joys of air-conditioning.  Realizing it was either "get over it" or become Miss Haversham in the midst of ruination, I raised enough ambition to dust the living room.  Feel free to do a double-take of your own; it was so unlike me.  And then, what to my wondering eyes should appear (not tiny reindeer) but the same two dogs that had been here last Wednesday.  I evidently had not done a good job of impressing upon the owner the need for keeping his dogs safe and at home.  The pug and Pom were suffering from the heat and willingly followed me into the Silkie pen, now known as dog solitary, for cool water, shade, and a couple of milk bones.  I had asked the owner for his phone number, but he hadn't shared.  However, caller ID had cleverly captured the number when he'd called me and I'd saved it.  "Hello, Al, I've got your dogs again."  This time he was only two hours later than the agreed time for pick up.  I explained again that I have zero tolerance for strays (past bad experience) and a three-strike rule.  The first time dogs show up could be an honest error and I try to get in touch with the owner.  A second time is a warning that whatever effort they made is not working.  All bets are off if the dogs show up a third time and my call would be to Animal Control.  Reclaiming an animal from Animal Control is very expensive, and the pug and Pom would be subject to additional fines for no tags.  While I had sympathy for Al's tale of financial woes (and who doesn't have those troubles these days?), my real concern is for his dogs.  I'd feel worse if the dogs were to get hit by a car or bitten by a rattlesnake or fall subject to any one of the myriad dangers in these hills.  I truly hope I don't see those dogs again.

I was going to take a photo at sundown, but it would have been a double-take of the day before.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Just Routine

It's all coming back to me.  It took just one day to drop me right back into the summer routine, starting with getting down to the barn early.  It helped, but only a little.  A good portion of the day was/is spent rotating the hose, giving brief periods of water to the herb garden and deck plants.  Birds come to cool off in the sprinkler and bird bath.  The sun is intense at this elevation and it doesn't take long to turn green stuff brown and crisp.  I don't have a lawn, more's the pity, but I do try to keep what little garden I have alive.  A nap during the worst of the heat is obligatory.  The hummers are trying to survive and I'm filling their feeders twice a day.  There is also a big pot of water outside for the wild things; it's nearly empty by morning.  Vultures and other bigger birds get their drinks from the goats' water trough.  Bess remembers the routine, too.  "Want to go in your pool?," and she heads for the door.  She goes wading and I stand under the mist from the hose several times a day.  Pretty much sedentary, I happily watched "The Princess Bride" yesterday.  I'd forgotten how good it is.

Too hot to do much cooking, corn fritters sounded good and easy.  This time I diced a jalapeno pepper into the batter.  Delicious plain, they were even better dipped into sweet chili sauce.

Part of the routine is turning on the whole-house fan at sundown while I put the girls to bed.  It doesn't really cool the house, but at least clears the day's accumulated hot air out of the attic space.  It was still 93 degrees at 9:30 last night.  (This morning at 5:15, it was 72 outside, 80 in the house.)

Even sundown looked hot.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Beginning At The End

Most of the day was spent waiting for sundown and, hopefully, a drop in temp.  The weatherman reported a 26-degree rise from the day before, almost a record switch.  Sure makes it hard to acclimatize.  Because of variability, I'd been holding off removing covers from the barn windows but decided yesterday that the girls could cope with cool (if it comes) and I couldn't take the heat anymore.  With the covers off, there is at least a chance of catching a cross breeze.  Little is easy when the girls are out and about.  They have a talent for getting in my way and they must supervise every action.  By the time I stored the panels after milking, it was a toss-up between cussing and laughing.
Neither sunset nor the reverse sunset looks very cool to me.

It's supposed to be even hotter today.  Oh goody.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Visiting Day

Rain, if it could be called that, started falling while I was milking and continued until after I was back in the house.  It did little more than polka dot the ground and definitely mess up my truck, but the cloud cover did hold the heat at bay so no complaints.

The first visitors of the day, and the first clutch of turklets I've seen this spring, were these mamas and babies at the feeding station.  They came back several times during the day.  I always hold the good thought for the youngsters as their mortality rate is pretty high due to predators.  These little ones aren't new chicks; I wonder how many siblings hatched that are now gone.

Later, I caught movement as I stepped out on the deck at noon and there was this little guy.  My guess was that he was a Pomeranian mix with a funny haircut; full mane and tail and fur cut short on the body, making him look like a tiny lion.  Leaving Bess in the house, I went outside to find...
his companion, an even smaller Pug mix female.  Now what to do with these two uninvited visitors?  Friendly little guys, I didn't want to leave them on their own (they were very interested in the chicken pen) and didn't want them to possibly go down to the big road and risk getting hit by a car.  No tags, no collars, but obviously pets.  I fetched a bowl of water and they followed me into the empty Silkie enclosure where they'd be safe while I decided on a course of action.

The internet is a powerful tool.  I put their "wanted" posters on a local Facebook site, saying I'd wait until 1:30 before calling Animal Control if the owner couldn't be found.  I put a deadline just to emphasize the urgency.  Cam and the community sprang into action.  I was on the phone to Animal Control at 2 (I'd waited) when the owner called.  I cancelled the report and the guy said he'd be here to pick up the dogs at 3:30.  At 3:30, he called again and said he'd be here at 5:30.  I kept checking on the dogs, making sure they still had water, giving them milk bones, and filling in the holes the little girl was digging.  She had one tunnel going that was deep enough that only her curly tail was above ground.  I will admit that by almost 7:30 when the owner finally showed up, I was a little tight-jawed.  These dogs were no danger to livestock (well, I was glad no chickens were free-ranging), but it is irresponsible to let dogs run loose and a danger to the dogs.

I'd had enough excitement for the day and was happy to see sundown, and a pretty one it was.

(No animals were injured during this production.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Caught A Break

The sun came up yesterday, threatening to be as hot as the day before.  I double-timed milking the goats and still didn't beat the heat.  The smiling weatherman had gleefully promised a drop in temperature, but I sure wasn't seeing it. The deck plants were in extremis, fading fast, so Bess hunted for shade while I gave them all life-giving water, ending by turning the nozzle to mist and standing under it until soaked; it felt so good!  I was getting desperate to get the field and yards mowed, but not at the risk of heat stroke.  For a minute, I thought about jumping on Fu while still wet but knew I'd be dry before getting to the shed.  Wonder of wonders, later on a cloud cover moved over.  It got cooler.  Then the deltas, those blessed winds from the coast, kicked in.  Wrong.  They roared in.  Open doors slammed, trees tossed back and forth, leaves whipped past.  Mowing just then wasn't a good idea.  And then we caught a break.  The wind dropped to a breeze, the clouds stayed put, and the temperature went down a good twenty degrees.

Not about to lose this opportunity, I fired up Fu Manchu and off we went.  Star thistle covered all open ground, but hadn't yet opened up (that had been my biggest fear).  I'd misjudged the gas in the tank and Fu ran dry, out at the far reach of the field, of course.  I hiked up to the barn and brought out one of the smaller gas cans for a refill.  Refreshed, Fu started right up and we continued making circles.  The west field done, the driveway was looking seedy, so we mowed down the middle strip, the sides, and then down along the road.  That's usually about as much as I can do at one time, but the weather was holding and the front yard weeds had grown a foot so we continued on.  A big patch of thistle had sprung up on the slope down to the backyard; might as well take care of that, too.  The backyard didn't really need it yet, but I gave it a once-over just to keep things even.  By this time, Bess was getting worried.  She knows my habits better than I and thought I should be done by now.  She'd been waiting on the porch, but came to lie in my path until she realized I wasn't going to stop, then moved to the deck to keep watch.  And then there was only the side yard left undone.  Knowing I'd pay for it later, Fu and I made the circuit and finished in a blaze of glory.  Raising the blades when it was all done was a tremendous relief and I kicked it up a gear and we dashed to the shed.  Good old Fu had earned his rest, for sure.  Me?  I could hardly straighten up and walk straight.  Bessie Anne was waiting in the walkway, running to me and doing the wiggy-butt dance.  "Mom!  What were you thinking?!  It's about time you quit.  Let's you and me go in the house and get me a treat for making me wait so long!"

A hot shower and a cold whiskey do wonders for aching muscles.  It was a good day.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

It's Coming...No, It's Here!

Continuing with yesterday's theme, this tiny guy (maybe 2-1/2") was a little too up close for comfort.  He was on the sill on the inside of the screen door in the morning.  I was glad the cats were elsewhere or Ralph, especially, would have thought he had a new toy.  Thankfully, Lizzie's visit was a short one.

The turkeys' feeding station is right by the pig garden.  Checking to see how the transplanted roses from Deb and Craig were doing, one was not only thriving, it was blooming!  This is one of three roses that had burst open on the bush.  Lovely.

The temperature was rising.  Down in the barn earlier than usual, I wasn't early enough.  By the time the last girl got off the stand, I was a sweaty, drippy mess.  Maybe it's just me, but I think it's way too early for high 90s up here and 105 in the valley.

Bessie Anne evidently felt the same way.  She obviously remembered how good the water felt the other day in Cam's pool.  In the summertime, Honey is always soaked.  She goes swimming on her own all the time, but this time she just kept watch over her little friend.

Not as luxurious as Cam's setting, I have put water in Bessie's little wading pool, but yesterday I had the sprinkler going in the front herb garden.  I sat in the shade on the porch, but Bess plunked herself down in the marjoram and thyme and stayed there in the spray until she was soaked and soggy.  Talk about a "bad hair" day!

I am still shaking my head over one of life's little mysteries.  On my way to the barn at dusk, halfway there on the path I looked down and saw...an egg.  A chicken egg.  A chicken egg right there where no chicken egg should be.  All beaks were accounted for so none of the little kids had gone free-ranging and I certainly don't carry eggs around where I might have dropped one.  I'm trying to figure out how some critter or other could have gotten an egg out of the coop, then out of the pen and all the way into the west field.  Not a crack nor tooth or claw mark on the shell.  I'll probably never know.

It was a hot day.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Up Close and Personal

Thirty to forty vultures were sunning on posts and poles around the pen yesterday.  As usual, most flew off as I trundled near with the cart and tossed out alfalfa for the girls.  The wagon gets left up at the corner and I carry the clanging buckets down to the barn.  I kept waiting for this bird to leave as I approached, and it didn't.  I was less than the gate's width away when I took this 'posed' photo.  Vultures are not dimorphic (there's a new word for you!), meaning there are no gender identifiers and no way to tell male from female, so I don't know if it was a he or a she.  The big birds were going to be disappointed if they were waiting for seconds and I had work to do and needed to get through the gate.  It wasn't until I came even closer that it took wing but only to move to a another nearby post.  Hmmm.

Percy continued his daily raids in the milking room while a friend stretched out full length in the big room for the duration.  There is a connecting door that gets opened for the view and any breeze that might blow through while a girl is on the stand and closed while switching them out to keep them headed in the right direction.  I thought surely that activity would scare the lounger away.  I was wrong.  After the last goat was done, I needed to rake and haul the nighttime offerings.  "Sorry, little friend, you have to move."  When I was perhaps three feet away, he finally deigned to lift his head.  Not until I actually started raking did he duck under the wall.  He and others were right there again when I put down their cereal.

I don't know what it was yesterday, but the creatures certainly behaved strangely.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Grand Opening

The day before there had been only buds.  Yesterday the Asian lilies opened in a grand burst of color all at once.  There are other pots of lilies at the other end of the deck, but those flowers are a rather anemic sort of washed-out pink/peach, nothing like these flaming beauties.

It's no secret that I am a sucker for horse racing and yesterday was a big day, indeed!  Housework and yard chores could wait while I watched the several hours of preliminary races and interviews, etc., leading up to the Belmont Stakes.  I like all the hoopla surrounding a big event like the Belmont, especially since American Pharoah had a chance to win the Triple Crown.  Thirty-seven years since a horse has run and won all three races, Santa Anita, Preakness, and Belmont, and up until yesterday, the Crown was taken only eleven times.  It's more fun to watch a race with company (so I don't feel like a nutter yelling alone with only the dog and cats, who think I've lost my mind), and I had company in a most unusual way yesterday.  The phone rang.  "Has he won yet?"  Cam was in the aisles of a crowded store in town.  I told her the horses were just then loading into the starting gate for the big race of the day and I really couldn't talk right then.  "Don't hang up!  Don't hang up on me!  Turn up the volume so I can hear, too!"  So there we were with me supplementing the play-by-play, and both of us yelling, "Oh, my God!  Hang on, baby, hang on!"  American Pharoah took the lead right out of the chute and never let go.  He made that mile-and-a-half look like a stroll around the block, winning with a five-horse lead.  Jockey Victor Espinoza had a well-earned grin that lit up the sky.  So I'm bawling in the living room and Camille was dancing around in the store when Pharoah crossed the finish line.  It was thrilling to watch history being made.  It was a unique pleasure to see Penny Chenery, in her 90s, in attendance at the race.  She was the owner of Secretariat, winner of the Crown in 1973.

Cam and Honey came here on their way home from town and we watched the race together.  The "rerun" was just as exciting the second time.  The sun went down on what had been a very good day.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Farm Foto Bombs

While Bess and I were on morning walkabout, this ground squirrel popped up in the middle of the big juniper bush.  It wasn't until later that I realized another of the critters had photo-bombed the picture in the background.

Down in the barn, a bluejay was waiting for me to open the feed bucket.  I took his picture, and there was Tessie.  I don't think Esther cared one way or another.  Bluejays don't wait to be served; they help themselves from the bucket on an overhead shelf while I tend to the girls.  Persistent Percy showed up as usual, but both hands were busy and I didn't take his picture.

Those of Percy's clan who have more patience and good manners wait in the big room, lounging about in the shade as the day gets warmer.

In the afternoon, the sky began to darken and Bess and I went down to the feed store.  I needed more goat chow and wanted to get it home and under cover, just in case it rained.  I'd been waiting throughout the day for an afternoon breeze to go out and mow down the west field.  Star thistle had sprouted up a foot but had not yet opened those dreadful, painful stars.  My timing was off, however, and I waited too long.  The off-and-on cloud cover thickened and thunder rolled.  Fu and I got a pretty good portion cut down before the rain started.  It seemed prudent to get out of the open field, tuck Fu Manchu in his shed, and head back to the house.

It was a good day.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Wait Your Turn!

For the past week I've been in an every-day battle with the one ground squirrel who is not willing to wait his turn.  He sneaks into the milking room to steal grain from the mice.  When he shows up on my right, I squirt him with the ammo at hand.  Sometimes he comes back four or five times and ends up drenched with milk.  When he creeps through a tunnel on my left, he's close enough for me to bat at with my hand.  Again and yet again.  I will give him P for Persistent.  He knows good and well that I put down a helping for the squirrels as soon as I'm finished with all other chores in the barn, but he will not get a P for Patient.  Squirrels have a unique way of leaving a placeholder instead of standing in line.  I have to admire their control, as they will leave exactly one drop of pee or one pellet of poop (which I pitch) to mark the bowl. Yesterday, these two greedy Gus's were waiting even before I put down the feed.  They dove in before I'd had a chance to step away.  I don't know whether it's lack of fear or respect, but I think they're funny.

A pretty good wind kicked up in the afternoon.  Later than usual, I threw in a load of laundry, hung it out, and everything was dry by sundown.  Nothing quite like fresh windblown and sun-dried sheets to slide between at night.

It was a good day.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Coming and Going

Ralph popped in for a quick lap visit yesterday.  I haven't posted any photos of him lately, so pulled the camera out of my pocket.  However, by the time I got it focused...
he was gone again.

Bessie Anne got her first clue as to where we were going when I put her leash on in the afternoon.  In her mind, leashes are for walkies in the dark; leashes in the daytime mean a trip to the vet.  It was time for her annual well-baby checkup and immunizations.  At the office, Bess immediately ducked under the chairs, hoping to keep a low profile.  It darn near took a crowbar to pry her out when her name was called.  Last year, in the kindest of terms, Dr. Ric said she was a 10.  Ten, in terms of dog, means overweight.  It has taken a revision in lifestyle, but Bess has lost three pounds and is now an 8; better, but a way to go.  Dr. Ric mentioned she still has love handles, but she's got a waist!  My girl is 11 now, and the cataracts and loss of hearing are to be expected.  Other than the symptoms of aging, Bessie is in excellent health and we're good to go for another year.  We were both glad to come home again.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Seeing Red

Ralph, my redheaded cat, is a natural-born clown.  He keeps himself and me amused, racing up and down the stairs, knocking anything and everything off all flat surfaces, making brrrp-brrrp sounds and, in general, making me laugh.  As with all middle children, I have to make sure he gets enough attention.  I stroke him whenever he's within reach, as he seldom can find a parking spot on my lap.  I've finally gotten Bessie Anne over her panic attacks, but Celeste continues to occupy her place in the chair most of the time.  Ralph did jump up for a couple of passes yesterday, but he is too "Ralph" to settle down for a nap or a cuddle; a quick inspection and he was off again.

By 11 a.m. yesterday, there were only scraps in the field for the three or four big birds left onsite.  Amazing.

If the old adage holds true, there must have been a lot of happy sailors last evening.  This red sky was a good way to end the day.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

From A Distance

All day yesterday I watched the cycle of life, fortunately from a distance.  Mentally divorcing myself from the source, watching the cleanup committee as they went about their work down at the far end of the pen was like watching a National Geographic documentary.  The vultures were on the job at first light.  As I looked on, a pair of ears moved through the tall weeds in the south pasture.  At first I thought it might be a jackrabbit, but when the ears popped up in the pen, I saw it was a coyote who had found its way under the fence.  Coyote drove off the big birds, but they only flew as far as the fence posts to wait.  After a quick meal, he left the scene and the birds went back to work.  I understand vultures can smell carrion five miles away and more and more came all day long.  It took the crew only four days to remove all traces the last time one of the large animals died, and I don't think it's going to take much longer now.  I awoke in the dark to the song of the pack, so the night shift was on duty, too.

It was, and is, emotionally wearing so it was with relief that I accepted Cam's invitation to come by in the afternoon to pick peas.  We sat on her patio talking and enjoying the results of all the work she has put into her garden and yard.  She's got some beautiful roses in bloom right now.  I've never taken Bess with me to go visit anyone, but she and Honey are good friends and I thought she might enjoy an outing, too.  On three acres, Camille has fenced an area in her backyard (with pool), so Bessie could run loose and explore, sniff, and mark to her heart's content.  She thought a drink from the pool might be a good idea, so Cam took her in to stand on the first step in the water.  Honey goes swimming all the time, but Bess was content to stand still, not afraid but not venturesome, either.  She's not been in water any deeper than her wading pool.  Cam had both snow peas and sugar snap peas and we picked a good helping of each.  Back at home, I made a stir-fry dinner of snow peas, onions, and carrots with a Marsala sauce that was divine.  There won't be very many sugar peas for tonight because they were so good raw while I was shelling them (I have so little self-control).

It was a good day.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Light and Dark

In the grip of a fit of pique yesterday, I didn't mention a surprise visit from strangers on Saturday.  I didn't hear a car, but suddenly there were people at my door, a couple of young grownups and some children.  It was more than a bit alarming, as this is not an urban area and strangers, especially those on foot, are suspect.  "Yes?  May I help you?"  Turned out they were the new neighbors up the road who had walked down to introduce themselves.  (Whew.)  Katie and Beau brought three of their four children, a baby girl in a backpack carrier, a kindergartner-sized girl, and a younger boy.  An older girl (maybe 8) had stayed home.  They had moved here from the Bay Area, looking to raise their children in a country atmosphere.  They had certainly come to the right place!  It was nice to meet new faces and we had a lovely visit.  The little boy, Clayton, became a permanent fixture on my lap.  I have a feeling I'll be seeing them again.

Even Lazarus didn't live forever.  I had wrongly predicted Poppy's demise too often, but somehow I knew yesterday morning that the waiting and watching were over.  She was down in the big pen, having stayed out again the night before, but I didn't want to admit it to myself and kept looking to see if she'd raise her head.  Sheila and Poppy had been roommates since Sheila was a baby, and it was heartbreaking to hear Sheila crying for her friend in the morning.  The gate between pens was open, but not one of the girls went to graze under the big oak during the day and stayed close to the barn.  Weighing my options, I decided to do nothing.  The danger of starting a grass fire was too great to take a chance with the lawn tractor, and it would have been only to move the body from one field to another.  The cleanup committee started gathering about dusk, and as many as 20 were at work when I put the girls to bed.  Poppy, the Poppy I knew and loved, was gone and it is somehow satisfying to know she is fulfilling one last destiny.