Friday, July 31, 2015

Wicked Witch

Unlike the Wicked Witch of the East in the 'Wizard of Oz,' yesterday I first screamed, "I'm melting!" and then threw water over my head.  Nothing helped.  I kept Bessie Anne soaked to the skin, and Ralph and Celeste vegetated wherever they could find cool(er) floors.  No such thing as cool in this weather.

Helper Dude came in the late morning to give Bess a pedicure.  She had caught me with a toenail a night or two ago as she turned over in bed and I woke up to blood on the sheets.  One would think that her nails would be worn down from running over the gravel and sand here, but no.  Dude has the tools and the strength to hold a wriggling dog who does not like to have her feet touched and I'm grateful.

We made no points in the neighborhood this morning.  Since Bess does not hear a car drive up even when she's lying by the open door, I can only think she smelled some evil night thing in the yard and sounded the alarm at 4:30; too early by anyone's standards.  There was no going back to sleep.  About 5:30 she asked nicely to go out and take care of personal business.  As she was calm then, I complied.  Big mistake.  Not quite light out, she dashed around in the dark like something demented, loudly warning off whatever real or imagined enemy was out there.  It being Friday, I can hope that whatever neighbors in hearing had to get up anyhow to go to work.  The one command that Bessie does not heed is 'recall.'  I've tried every training trick I know, but she becomes focused and single-minded and she totally ignores me.  Yelling is ineffective and only adds to the chaos.  I decided that perhaps if I remained quiet, the neighbors might think it was some stray dog disturbing their sleep.  Being the cowardly lion was preferable to being the local witch.

Real clouds in the sky last evening might be a portent of a cooler day today.  I wish I knew some magic spell to bring the delta breezes back.

Thursday, July 30, 2015


The phone rang.  "What are you watching?"  I've become so predictable.  Over 100 degrees in the shade, 94 in the house, and I'm a well-baked couch potato in front of the television.  I'd just finished one of several documentaries, one of which was "The Seventies."  It's being shown as history now, which I find amusing because, for me, those years are as if they were yesterday.  It is sometimes difficult to reconcile the "me" in my mind with the "me" in the mirror.  After my conversation with Linda (we're both becoming excited about her impending visit), I watched "Journey For Margaret," the 1942 film that introduced Margaret O'Brien (Robert Young, Laraine Day, Fay Bainter, Nigel Bruce).  The little boy, William Severn, was every bit as darling as Margaret O'Brien, but never seems to get the same credit as she.  As with so many of the old movies, I've seen it countless times and never tire of it.

I gave up on using mist on myself while Bessie was in her pool and went straight to running water over my head.  With the mist, I'd be dry again before I got back in the house; useless.  I wish there was more I could do for the animals.  The wild things only come out in early morning or late afternoon, after the blazing sun drops.  Mice are pushing and shoving to get to the milk I squirt out for them in the morning, desperate for moisture.  Birds sit with beaks wide open.  Vultures line the edge of the goat trough to dip in for a drink.  I'm filling the water bowls for the chickens and wild things twice a day now, and the hummers are sucking up over two quarts of juice.  It's a struggle to keep what little remains green alive in the yard.

I'm watching old movies, yes, but I'm also scanning the skyline constantly for smoke.  It's in the air; I can smell it.  I wish I could say that the smudge on the horizon and the reflected glow at sundown last evening were clouds, but in fact it is smoke from the Lowell fire up around Grass Valley and possibly still from the Kyburz fire, which is contained but not out yet.  I can't imagine the torture being experienced by the firefighters in this heat.  As one said in an interview, their heavy gear is meant to keep heat out, but also holds it in and they suffer.  They are heroes.

Supposedly, we're due to drop back into the nineties tomorrow.  In the meantime, I'll check the TV guide.  You know where to find me.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Hmmm.  Found these tracks outside the gate to the goat pen.  The hind feet are about 4-5 inches long, so it has to be a pretty good-sized animal. They're too "fat" to be jackrabbit tracks, but I can't even guess what else they might be.  They're certainly not dog, cat (of any size), or bear.  Google just informed me they're not raccoon; not enough toes.  I've gotten pretty good at identifying prints, but these?  I haven't a clue.

When it is one degree shy of 80 at 6:00 a.m., it doesn't take Dick Tracy to detect it's going to be another hot one.  All house activity comes to a screeching halt when the temperatures rise.  Bess got soaked twice in her pool yesterday and I darn near got in there with her.  I turned the hose mist on myself four times while making my way down the deck and watering the drooping plants.

This is going to be another do-nothing day and I'll still work up a sweat.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

I Know Better

There are things I've learned over the years.  I've learned when hiking (yes, I used to go hiking) never to step over a log without looking on the other side first; snakes could be hiding.  I've learned never to get firewood from the pile without gloves; black widow spiders hide in the hidey-holes.  I've learned not to reach into dark places; who knows what could be lurking.  Uh huh.  Night before last at near dark, I reached into the feed barrel for the chickens' nighty-night treat and felt something furry against my hand.  Removing said hand quickly, I turned on the light and found, not a mouse, but a squirrel.  Squirrel burrowed into the corn.  "If I can't see you, you can't see me."  I tilted the barrel and set it free.  Last night, I needed to empty in a new bag of scratch but before I could unzip the bag, I heard sounds from the barrel.  Smarter, I turned on the light before lifting the lid.  There were two, not one, but two very overweight squirrels in there.  One used amazon strength and leaped out on its own; this tubby was stuck.  "So, what are ya gonna do about it, lady?"  What I did was take this mug shot for future identification, then tilt the barrel and let the thief beat feet out the door.  I know better than to take on a sumo squirrel.

Monday, July 27, 2015


I knew what would happen yesterday when I left the feathers on the the table, but didn't know the timing would be such that I would catch him in the act.
A few sniffs here, a couple of pats there, and...
(Serious stuff, this.)
...there it goes!

It is Ralph's belief that the entire house is his toy box.  He gets such obvious enjoyment from the simplest of things, very much like a little kid who would rather play with the wrappings and the box than the gift inside.  I don't even mind picking up after him because I know he's had such a good time.

Needless to say, it was a good day.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Birds Of A Feather

Either the vultures are stripping down because of the heat or it is moulting season.  I am finding vulture feathers everywhere.  While these may not look impressive in the photo, note that the long one is fifteen inches!  In flight, the big birds look black, but in reality they're dark brown tinged with black.  The underside is an opalescent mother-of-pearl verging on white.  The down feathers are pure white.  I find the different shapes interesting and wish I knew more about ornithology and bird anatomy and physiology.  I left the feathers on the table.  Want to bet Ralph will let them stay there?  This morning he found bits of string on the counter.  Now they're on the floor.

Ralph is usually off doing Ralph things, but lately Celeste has handed off a tour of lap duty and Mom watching to my redheaded boy.  He's been stopping by my chair more often.  He doesn't stay long, but it's not his usual habit to stay close to me.  I believe Celeste feels Ralph may be sufficiently trained as to finally be reliable or she might just need a break.  She continues to accompany me when I leave the room.  I wonder if, in their opinion, I'll ever get grown up enough to be left on my own.  (Sometimes I wonder that myself.)

I've got to make some changes in my morning routine and get down to the barn much earlier.  I do dawdle, not willing to clock in until my internal monitor says I absolutely must or there will be consequences.  The consequence in hot weather is pain and suffering.  I'm a procrastinator, not a masochist.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Don't Get Excited

Weather reporters (meteorologists) make me crazy.  Cold weather, hot weather, wet weather and they are jumping up and down with excitement.  "We're going to be breaking all records with these temperatures!"  Personally, I don't look forward to below-zero in the winter or over 100 in the summer or flood conditions ever, and record-setting extremes are not on my list of favorites.  This morning the guy is in ecstasy because we should be well above 100 degrees later this coming week.  He is euphoric.  I am depressed.

I had been thinking how sweet it was to be followed here and there throughout the house by Bess and the cats.  On reflection, I'm beginning to feel that I'm under surveillance.  I am accompanied everywhere by one or more of the furries.  To whom are they reporting?  Why am I being watched?  I am never allowed a moment's privacy.  Down at the barn, the duty is taken by mice, goats, and squirrels.  Eyes follow me at all times.  I think my paranoia is showing.

Well, it's heating up and I'd best get this show on the road.  Don't get too excited.  I don't have much on the agenda today, and you can ask the house detectives if I do or don't get anything done.  I think they take notes.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Do Nothing

The burst of activity when company comes is usually followed by a do-nothing day.  It's nice when guests leave on a Wednesday because Thursdays are Blue Bloods marathon days, a perfect way to veg out and decompress.  The goats got milked, the barn got cleaned, the chickens were fed, the hummers' bottles were refilled, Bess and the cats got their treats and, other than that, I did nothing all day.  After considering preparing something for dinner, a bowl of that homemade ice cream was the preferred option; no cooking required.

About that ice cream.  Running short of the rock salt I normally use from the grocery store, I was at WalMart just before the guys came and picked up this bag (the Spanish label translates to "for homemade ice cream").  When I had the machine going at dusk the other night I did think the salt looked a little strange, some of it being rather dark, but I had no time then to really examine it.  It wasn't going in food and there is a natural grey salt, so I continued to pour it in with the ice in the bucket.
There is always some residual undissolved salt in the water after making a freezer of ice cream, but when I went to empty the bucket, the bottom was full of the grey "salt."  I don't usually strain the water, but I will be taking this gravel and the unused portion in the bag back to WalMart.  Given the amount, the bag must have been at least half rock; not rock salt, just plain old rock.  Buyer beware!

I have no other stories to tell, no other photos to share.  It was a good do-nothing day.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

They Come and Go

In a family of tall people, I am somewhat height challenged, although not short by ordinary standards.  My Kids pat me on the head and tell me I'm a nice mommy as they tower over me.  It is somewhat of an inconvenience, but there are times I can make it work in my favor.  My guests returned shortly after my barn chores and I assigned the guys the task of restringing the clothesline.  One cord had snapped completely and the other two were frayed after only 18 years of continual use.  They just don't make cord like they used to.  For me to do it, I'd have had to use a ladder and I'm not good on ladders anymore.  Jeff and Tim are well over six feet tall and it took them no time at all to replace all strands of clothesline.  This is a working farm and no one is exempt.  Every job needs a supervisor or two, so Richard and I sat in the shade and directed the crew.  Those blessed delta breezes made yesterday much more pleasant than the day before when we sweltered in the heat.  It was so pleasant under the trees that we all sat outside to talk rather than go back in the house.  The guys had been looking forward to doing a little wine tasting in California and here I am, surrounded by vineyards.  Unfortunately, the tasting rooms are open only on the weekends so no whining about no wine, please.  They decided they might have better luck over in the Napa-Sonoma area and took off after lunch.  It had been a rather disjointed but all-in-all pleasant visit.

Later, I received a message from my friend Linda with the dates for her stay with me.  I've been so looking forward to seeing her and she and her tripod (three-legged) cat Luna will be here in a couple of weeks.  Bessie tolerates all animals ("Oh good grief, Mom's gone and done it again.  Oh well.") and I'm hoping Ralph and Celeste will be a good host and hostess to the visiting feline.  One good thing; the guest room is ready!

I did not see the snake in the hen house at sundown, but I'll admit to some hesitation when I reached into the dark corner where the hens prefer to lay their eggs.  I like snakes (most snakes), but I like to see them first.

It was a good day.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Another mouth to feed.  This little guy (only about two feet long) surprised me in the coop when I brought back in the waterer for the chickens.  From the belly bulge, it's pretty obvious he had breakfasted well on a mouse (not one I knew personally).  It's always a bit unnerving to find a snake until I can get a good look at the head and tail.  I checked again when I came back up from the goat barn and he was still hanging out in the corner.  With any luck, he'll stick around and grow big enough to take on some of the ground squirrels.  I am completely overrun with those boogers.  Some of their burrows are big enough for badgers!

Word came late in the day that my guests would not be arriving until 6 p.m.  Given that extra time, I was able to accomplish all that I should have done in the week prior, including the dusting!  I'd made the dough and had done the prep work earlier, so when the guys came I put them to work making their own pizzas for dinner.  Homemade pizza takes only about 15 minutes in the oven.  As they ate, I started the ice cream maker going for their dessert.  There's something unmistakable about the sound of an old-time ice cream machine and if you've heard it once, it evokes memories of childhood and lazy summer evenings.  After making up three beds upstairs and down, it wasn't the best surprise when the guys told me they'd gotten a motel for the night.  I wish I'd known.  They're planning to come back (sometime) today, subject to change without prior notice, I assume.

It was a busy, busy day.

Happy birthday to my daughter Deb!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

One Man's Trash...

No trash-to-treasure here.  In my case, it's one woman's weeds are another bird's feed.  Those tall, straggly weeds in the herb garden that give the place such an unkempt look are the turkeys' delight.  They run their beak up the seed-laden stalks again and again, moving from plant to plant.  Every year I dig out most of these weeds, but always leave some for the turks (the things I do for the critters).  These are only two of the half-dozen grazing in the front yard yesterday.

Well, a thing will either get done or it won't.  Two separate sets of unexpected company showed up so I did not accomplish all I'd hoped.  I traded Camille some sweetcorn for a bag of homegrown yellow pattypan squash.  She'd brought Brownie, a real cutie young dog she's fostering, along with Honey.  Honey immediately took Brownie to the milk bone box, so Brownie became my friend right off the bat.  Bessie Anne was her usual gracious self.  She played with the puppy and Honey for awhile and then came to lie down by my feet on the porch.  Bess is so tolerant of all other animals.

I have no idea when the guys will arrive, but the sun is coming up and I'd best see what I can get done this morning.  D-Day is here.

Monday, July 20, 2015


One more day until D-Day.  If I had accomplished everything I'd envisioned, I could be watching the soaps and eating bonbons today in a sparkling, dust-free house.  True to form, I've procrastinated to the last minute and now I'm out of minutes.  Every morning I think, "I'll do this, and then I'll do that, followed by the other thing."  My imagination is very productive to the point I'm completely overwhelmed and exhausted before I begin.  Enough of this shillyshallying.  Today is the day!

There is a website for locals from this area.  I wasn't the only one who posted a photo of last evening's sunset there.  Every view was slightly different but all were gorgeous.  The girls wondered why it was taking me so long to get them tucked into the barn.  I was looking at the sky, but try explaining that to a goat.

Time to rev up my engine and get my butt in gear.  We're on the countdown now and the flag is ready to drop (NASCAR fans will relate).  Ready, steady, GO!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Fine Romance

With apologies to Jerome Kern, a more appropriate title here to a great song would be "A Fine Bromance."  Every morning for days now I've been hearing some soft sweet talking going on as I feed birds and free chickens.  A rather confused tom turkey has nestled himself next to the front bumper of the truck and is cooing to his own reflection.  I have named him Narcissus after the Greek god who fell in love with his own beauty.  I wondered as I drove off to town yesterday if Narcissus pined for his true love while the truck was gone.

The house still needs work, but the bedding is washed and the larder is stocked for when the dudes show up, whenever that might be.  At the store, one lone ear of corn lay in the bin.  Of course, no "associate" (when did clerk become a bad word?) was around in the produce department at the time.  Going on about my business, I went back to Produce later and finally snagged an "associate" who didn't work in that department but said she would check in back for me.  And I waited.  And waited.  But it paid off when she appeared with another "associate" pushing a trolley with a load of fresh corn.  I really wanted to show off our California sweetcorn to these easterners.  Back home again, I'd no more unloaded the truck when my niece called.  It's her husband and two grown sons who will be visiting.  I mentioned that I'd bought corn to serve and, oh crum, she said they'd probably had their fill of corn because they live near several farms that raise a variety of sweetcorn and they'd been pigging out for weeks.  Why do I have the feeling I'm just not going to win?

This photo of sunset does not show what I really wanted.  Pretty, yes, but it was not until I enlarged and cropped the heck out of it could I see the sliver of moon and Venus to the right.
"Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight.  I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight."  I grew up reciting this nursery rhyme and say it still.  Last night I wished for a successful visit with my guests.  I threw in an extra wish that Narcissus doesn't get his heart broken.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Final Answer

Game shows are rarely on my agenda, but I understand there is one in which the tagline is, "Is that your final answer?"  Yesterday I finally got a response from my great-nephew regarding next week's visit.  Not knowing the specifics and being able to prepare had been making me a crazy person.  What day are they coming?  Will they be staying here or at a motel?  How many days will they be here?  One meal a day or three?  Aaargh!  It's one thing and a lot of fun to take off on an aimless, go-where-the-spirit-moves-me vacation.  It's quite another to be the destination.  So.  As of last night the current plan is for the guys to arrive Tuesday and stay here into Thursday.  That was Jeff's final answer.  Ta da!  We agreed that getting this group organized was very much like herding cats.  At least now I can make plans of my own, the first of which is to go shopping today.

I don't want to say anything too loud for fear of jinxing it, but it's been several days since I've had to fight off Percy and Pal in the barn.  I'd like to think they've finally gotten the idea and have been trained to be patient like the rest of the tribe, but doubt that's the final answer.

Housework is boring.  Boring to do, boring to write and read about.  I love the end result, but it's never really the end, is it?  Dust will accumulate, Bess will bring in more stickers and burrs, etc., etc., ad nauseum.  In the poem "Charge of the Light Brigade," the line goes, "Theirs not to reason why.  Theirs but to do or die."  Paraphrase that into "Theirs but to pick up the dust rag again and again."  And that's my final answer.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Beat the Heat

During a cool-down period (one of many) yesterday, I watched a favorite movie, "Westward the Women" (1951, Robert Taylor, Denise Darcel, Hope Emerson, and Henry Nakamura).  There is, of course, the inevitable romance mandatory for every western, but it's a pretty gritty tale of a wagon train of mail-order brides going to California.  The movie must have been pure hell to make in heat and rough terrain.  Very little was glamorized, probably as close to the truth as Hollywood ever got in the 1950s.

Put Anthony Hopkins in the credits and I'm your gal.  I did a little more time traveling yesterday when I watched "Bobby" (2006, Hopkins, Harry Belafonte, William H. Macy, and a plethora of well-known actors), about the assassination of Bobby Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel in 1968.  As it happened, I saw the actual coverage on the night it happened.  The Kids' dad was getting ready to go on a late-night stakeout, so I was still up and watching TV.  I grew up in the "Yes, dear" era.  I've always been grateful that voting is done in private, which has allowed me to listen to husbands telling me who I should vote for (for whom I should vote, for the purists), dutifully responding, "Yes, dear," and then going behind the curtain and doing as I darn well please.  My straight-ticket Republican husband would have had a hizzy fit if he'd known I'd thrown my ballot to Robert Kennedy that year.  (I vote the person, not the party.)  At any rate, I was "there" when Bobby was shot.  One person who was not portrayed in the film was Rosey Grier.  I will never forget the grief on that man's face.  It's a film worth watching.

Movies, the older the better, are one way to beat the heat.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Drop Anchor

Like these clouds at sunset, yesterday just drifted past.  Heating up again and I just couldn't seem to settle into any specific task.  Bessie Anne gave up trying to follow me from room to room and went to lie down on the hearth stone behind the wood stove.  I watched deck plants droop and wilt throughout the day, but had to wait until dusk to go out and water.  Being neither a mad dog nor English, I wasn't about to go out in the noonday sun.  Sparrows and wrens, bluejays and woodpeckers came to splash and cool off in the birdbath and the spray from the sprinkler in the herb garden in late afternoon.  The bowl of water I'd filled for the wild things in the morning was almost empty by evening.  I'm lucky to pick up even one egg a day when it's hot; the hens just quit laying and I don't blame them one bit.

I'm hoping to get some specifics from my impending guests.  I'm running out of time here and even though I get more done as a deadline approaches, I need to know where the finish line lies.  In the meantime, I've got to quit drifting around like a rudderless boat, drop anchor, and get something done.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Time Traveler

It's grand to have the luxury of time to let my mind wander at will (and sometimes against my will).  Unless I'm embroiled with Percy and Pal, milking is a chore that promotes free-wheeling thoughts.  Going round and round on Fu Manchu gives ample time for day-trippin'.  Sitting with Bess at the end of the deck is like sitting in the station just waiting for the train to come rolling in.  Sometimes I project ahead, but with more past behind me than future in front, I often go backwards in time as I did the other day while looking at big white clouds piling up over the mountains.  Thunderheads.  Hmmm.  And I was off on a trip.

Like a lot of girls, I was crazy about horses from the git-go.  Back in the day, riding stables with horses to rent were everywhere.  They're a thing of the past now.  I was very young when my dad started taking me riding.  I was given lessons, but riding alone with him is one of my first memories.  When I wasn't riding horses, I was reading about them, every book I could get my hands on.  Thunderhead and Flicka and the great series by Will James, including Smoky the Cowhorse.  Steinbeck's The Red Pony left me sobbing.  Black Beauty and The Black Stallion were read again and again.  Papa, my grandfather, was a resource for Louis L'Amour and other western writers.  (I also got my first anatomy lessons from Papa's collection of National Geographic magazines.)  I flew to Seventh Heaven on my twelfth birthday when Daddy surprised me with Teddy, a Quarter Horse-Morgan, totally bomb-proof and the best first horse any girl could wish for.  It was a different world then.  A little girl could ride alone anywhere and be safe.  I would go out for moonlight rides by myself and no one gave it a second thought.  Now there are kids who don't know what it is like to even play in their own front yard because of very real danger.  Sadly, Teddy died a couple of years later.  To ease my grief, Daddy bought me Slippery's Chance, a big red Tennessee Walker, one of those wonderful gaited horses with a ride like a rocking chair.  Slip had been gelded late and never lost his interest in the ladies.  We'd moved by then and were near to a bridle trail that led into the mountains.  Again, I'd be gone all day on my horse with his tireless stride eating up the ground.  And then I went away to boarding school and eventually Slip was sold.  For years and years later, my dreams were filled with riding.

Who knew that clouds were the ticket to a trip to the past.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Moving On

Had to get moving pretty early this morning as it is trash day.  I'd not accumulated enough last week to make going down to the big road worthwhile.  I don't want Trash Guy thinking I'm not holding up my end of the deal.  Bessie Anne knows when I put on shoes before sunup that she is going for a ride, and a ride in the truck means a treat when we get home.  Ta da!

Well past foxtails, we've now moved on from dreaded burr clover to the truly awful beggar's lice, tiny Velcro-like burrs that cover Bess by thousands.  My intention is to give her a puppy-cut, but the weather has been so changeable that I've hesitated.  It's been a choice between putting her in the wading pool or knitting her a sweater.  So far, the pool has won the cut of the cards.  In between, I've been brushing out burrs by the handfuls every night.  Thanks to the help of the worker bees who used the weed-whacker, we've successfully avoided the darts of years gone by.  That evil weed got cut down well before setting seeds.

Ground squirrels have moved in on the chickens.  I see as many (or more) squirrels going in and out of the coop as chickens.  I don't know how the hens feel about these squatters.

I've got to get a move on for a major house cleaning for company next week.  The problem is that I don't know if the three guys will be staying here or in a motel, nor for how many days they'll be here.  The room downstairs can be easily converted to a dorm with futon and fold-out couch for Jeff and Tim, and Richard can have the guest room upstairs.  It's menus and shopping that have me in a quandary.  I'm not a three-meals-a-day person myself, but I realize that others are.  It's not like there is a shopping center just down the block so I need to stock up if they're staying.

Trash Guy just roared past down at the corner, so it's time for me to get moving again.  Enough lollygagging for one morning.

Monday, July 13, 2015


Once in awhile, if you're lucky, you have one of those days when you say, "It just doesn't get any better than this."  I'd be lying if I said I hadn't dreaded the drive down to the valley, but it turned out to be a piece of cake.  Traffic was light and polite all the way both coming and going, even through Sacramento.  No white knuckles on the wheel even once.

How grand it is to be greeted with open hearts and arms and winning smiles.  Even Clyde, the very vocal cat, said hello.  He actually said a lot more throughout the day, particularly about the spareribs.  The weather was kind and it was most pleasant to sit with Deb under the big umbrella on the patio with a portable mister that uses recycled water while Craig worked magic at the barbecue.  Ice-cold lemonade tinkled in our glasses as we watched hummingbirds at the feeders nearby.  Perfectionists in all that they do, Deb and Craig showed with pride their raised garden beds, bursting with herbs, flowers, and vegetables.  I had thought to take an American Gothic type of photo of the urban farmers, but those smiles said it all.  I've never known a couple who work so well together.  When the grill master brought the meat off the barbecue, we sat down to a delicious meal of baby back ribs, baked beans (which had turned out well), and KFC coleslaw (which, in our opinion, is the best!).  Only Clyde was talking, begging for a rib, as we munched away.  Time flew by and just as I was getting ready to leave, Craig's mom and dad, Terry and Arvin, popped in; such a nice surprise.

Why is it that the road home seems so much shorter than the trip away?   I replayed my wonderful day with the Kids on the drive.  It was good to come home to be welcomed by Bessie and the cats, all of whom said they'd missed me terribly and where was their dinner.

It was a perfect day.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

No Spring Left

I opened my eyes to a blood-red skyline this morning.  In the time it took to get to the living room where I'd left the camera/phone, the brilliant colors had paled; still lovely, but not as outstanding.  What struck me next was the direction of sunrise.  Most of the year the sun comes up behind the hills almost due east.  I'm not a mathematician, but I'd estimate this shot is close to 30-40 degrees to the northeast now.  Funny how I'd never noticed the turning of the earth until I moved up here.

I knew when I awoke to sunrise that I'd "overslept."  I'm usually at the computer, coffee in hand, before it gets light out.  That burst of ambition the day before had wiped me out.  I just don't spring back like I used to.  Yesterday I let the machines do the hard work.  Hanging laundry on the line was my big accomplishment for the day.  That, and making the baked beans to take to Deb and Craig's today.  I can't remember the last time I went down to the valley; must be two or three years ago now.  Were it not for the pleasure of seeing my Kids, I'd avoid the trip altogether.  I'm glad it's a Sunday so I won't be dealing with rush-hour traffic.  Two or three cars at a stop sign is considered a traffic jam up here.  There aren't more than five or six stop lights in all of Diamond Springs, which is about as much "town" as I get to anymore.  My circle of travel is shrinking. 

It was slightly warmer yesterday and will be hotter still today.  After that wonderful cool spell last week, it seems even the false spring is over. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Feelin' It

There I was, well into July, working in the barn with a denim jacket on.  Unreal, but no complaints!  Chores seemed to go so much faster, and it was still early when I got back to the house.  A quick sit-down and it was back outside again.  I was afraid the cloud cover would burn off and the opportunity to mow would go away.  Fu gassed up and ready to go, we headed to the back slope.  Grey sky, cool breeze, perfect weather for mowing.  Backyard done, we cut down the side yard.  The danged star thistle had grown under the clothesline, making laundry days painful.  Not anymore!  We mowed along the fence line and down the drive, but not out in front by the road.  Too much gravel and the chance of sparks and too far away from any water source to risk that.  So far, so good.  Little spits of rain now and then kept us going and next was the front yard.  Down in the valley, people are being urged to "let their yard go California gold" and cut back on watering their lawns.  Ha!  I can't remember what it was like to have a lawn.  I often wish that Fu Manchu had power steering, but there is a benefit to having to make wide turns; it offers the opportunity to go over any area that might have been missed on the first pass.  Under other circumstances I might have quit after two, maybe three yards, but the weather held and I wasn't sure when or if it might come again this summer.  "Come on, Fu, we can do this!"  I topped off his tank (wishing I could do the same for myself), and we took on the west point.  Three solid hours of mowing and finally we were done.  Poor old Fu looked like I felt.

On a roll, after a quick but necessary nap, I loaded the truck with bags of squooshed cans and Bessie Anne and I headed to El Dorado and the recycling center.  I go only a couple of times a year and was running out of storage space.  Unlike a lot of dogs, Bess doesn't really like riding in the truck, mainly snoozing and only occasionally lifting her head.  As a puppy, she used to get car sick and barf on the seat.  She got over that, thank goodness, but she has no interest in where we're going.  Unless we're going to the cookie store (feed store), that is.  As a surprise, we made a detour to Mt. Aukum on the way home.  I needed a bag of goat chow and Bess deserved a treat.

For the last chore of the day, I gave Fu Manchu a much-needed bath.  He may not sparkle, but sure looks better than he did after yeoman's work.

A glass of whiskey and a seat on the deck at day's end, listening to the quiet with my girl and looking over the hills eased my aches and pains.

I may be feeling it this morning, but it was a good day.

Friday, July 10, 2015


It's hard to describe how great it was yesterday to feel goosebumps on bare arms in July.  Cleaning stalls in the morning was truly a no-sweat job.  Back in the house, not only did I not need a cool-down period, I finally had to close the front door because of the chill breeze (wasn't about to spoil the effect by putting on a long-sleeve shirt!).  The morning fog morphed into overcast skies that lasted throughout most of the day.  Bess and I spent a good while outdoors and I cleaned and refilled her pool and watered deck plants.  I found two hidden ripe strawberries that the marauding squirrels had missed.  As sweet as they were, also sweet was the thought that I was denying those little boogers that treat.  The big buck was out for a stroll in the front pasture.  His awesome rack is still in velvet.  Thunder rolled from behind the hills to the east, coming from the slopes of the Sierras.  Last night I left the blanket on the bed and it was a pleasure to have Celeste curl up by my feet.  The whole day was a cause for celebration.

This morning, there is evidence that it had rained during the night.  The deck is wet and the skies are still grey.  If it stays damp and cool, I think there will be no danger if I mow down a couple of the yards that are covered in star thistle.  Out-of-state company is coming in a week or so and the place looks so raggedy.  Besides, those pointy spears hurt me and I can only imagine what they do to Bessie Anne.  I'd been keeping ahead of the thistles but then it got so hot and dry so fast and the fire danger from a spark was too terrible that I put Fu Manchu in the shed for the duration.  I never expected a break like this!

It was a good day.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Not Nothing

"Why is she posting a photo of nothing?" you might ask.  The thing is, this is not nothing.  It is fog!  Woke up on this cool morning (in the 50s) to see the hills hidden by fog.  That is cause for celebration, for sure.  Days of heat with nonstop ceiling fans night and day have left me with an awful episode of dry eyes.  "Dry eye" is such a misnomer, as it causes a constant stream of tears.  I bear an amazing resemblance to the loser in a prize fight with swollen, red lids and flaming eyeballs.  I could scare small children and the dog isn't too sure, either.  This, too, shall pass, but I am most certainly glad to see some moisture in the air today.

Dealing with the goats individually on a daily basis, their personalities are readily apparent.  Creatures in masses must have some outstanding characteristic to bring one to the fore, like the hens Tattletale Tessie or Pick-Me-Up Peggy, or Mini-Squint, the one-eyed mouse.  I haven't seen Mini-Squint for over a week and fear he has gone to that great cheese factory in the sky.  Of the many mice who come for breakfast every day, only Kinks stands out now.  Some accident has left him with a double break in his tail and I can only tell it's him as he's going away.  Percy has become inured to getting hit with a stream of milk.  He has taken as many as twenty direct strikes in a row, squinting and brushing away the drips as he stuffs his face.  The mice on that side of the room have to take their cereal soggy with over-spray.  Pal comes up on my left, in danger of getting stomped as I can reach him with my foot, so he pokes his head up in the hole and gives me the stink eye, awaiting his chance to sneak a bite.  Notch, with the ragged ear, continues to show patience as he lies in the big room, knowing I'll serve breakfast there later.

Even though it was cooler yesterday, only small tasks were accomplished while I treated my sore eyes with ice packs.  I have more hopes for today.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

At Last

"Oh, what a relief it is!"  That line from an old Alka-Seltzer commercial kept playing in my head yesterday when the temperature finally dropped.  I can't say it was exactly cool, but it was almost pleasant down in the barn.  At least I wasn't covered in a sheen of perspiration as I had been for the last week.  At this time of year it will undoubtedly be a brief respite, but I'll take what I can get and be glad that I got it!

While I'm keeping a wary eye out, I've also gotten a grip on the ant situation for the moment.  At least there weren't those black trains going across the counters this morning.  Maybe the little boogers are just regrouping the masses for another onslaught, but again, I'm happy for the break.  I use ant spray on the walls and corners, and have found that a healthy dose of 409 works on the counters.

Back in the day when I was a medical records consultant for a nursing home corporation, it was nothing to drive 400 miles a day (round trip) and I did that for a number of years.  I essentially lived in my car.  Now I probably drive less than 20 miles in a week unless I have to make one of the dreaded trips to town.  I might make it as far as Sacramento or Woodland once or twice a year.  However, I will be making that trek this weekend at Deb and Craig's invitation for a barbecue.  The price of admission is a pot of baked beans.  I make pretty darn good baked beans.  Wa-a-ay back in the day as a new bride to the Kids' father, I won (first thing I'd ever won) a barbecue cookbook (which I still have) in which there was a recipe for baked beans.  It was an immediate success and I've been making it ever since.  My mother had told me that one should always hold back a couple of special recipes and not share because then you'd always have something unique to bring to the table.  That baked beans recipe is one of those.  Yes, Deb has it, but, come on, there's nothing like Mom's cooking and, besides, it got me invited, didn't it?

Sixty degrees this morning.  Heavenly!  It's going to be a good day.

Wouldn't want anyone to go into withdrawal from lack of a sunset photo, so, at last, here it is.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Home Invasion

Just as it is possible to tell the changing of the seasons here by the type of burrs, stickers, etc., outside, the same applies to what insects are invading the house.  At certain times, earwigs (I hate earwigs!), little fluttery moth-like things, mosquitoes, flies, and weevils become the bane of my life.  I am grateful they don't all come at once.  They come, stay for awhile, and then go.  Right now, tiny sugar ants are invading the kitchen.  Camille is having the same problem.  If there were no other clues, we would know that summer is here when the ants arrive.  They stream in through the windows, pour out of electrical sockets, run along baseboards and ceiling and across the countertops.  One must be judicious about using ant spray in the kitchen, but at this time of year I live with a can of spray in one hand and cleaning spray in the other.  I wipe out long trains on the counter with a wet sponge and rinse them down the drain.  I think, "There, you boogers!  I've got you all!"  But there is an endless supply of ants out there.  I've been told that the scouts lay down a scent trail for others to follow to whatever goodies they hunt.  I wish the same applied to the scent of dead bodies.  "Warning!  Go no farther!  Death awaits!"  No such luck.  They just keep coming.  There is always a bright spot under every dark cloud; these are little sugar ants and not the big black wood ants or, worse, the red fire ants.  Those would be a real problem.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Yum Yum!

The phone rang during my cool-down period after my stint in the barn, aka the sauna.  "Hi, are you going to be around for awhile?"  "Yes, Cam, I am."  Shortly, Cam and Honey arrived bearing gifts.  The main reason for the visit was to listen to a comedy radio show (the name of which totally escapes me) that she likes on Sunday mornings and wanted me to hear.  Prepared, she'd brought a little portable radio that she turned on while laying out a slab of smoked salmon and crackers.  Somewhat hesitant to try eating squash blossoms the first time, they'd evidently made a hit with Cam because she also brought a bowl of flowers for me to saute and show her how to make the batter.  Talk about a sumptuous brunch!  I've had the pleasure of sharing the salmon with Cam before and it is decadent.  The show was so funny that I nearly sprayed the kitchen with cracker crumbs while laughing.  We agreed it might be a good idea to make this a frequent ritual.

Days of heat had robbed me of my appetite.  Dinner, if it could be called that, had been consisting of a bowl of cereal or, worse, peanut butter and a spoon.  With a slight but noticeable drop in temperature, last night I put a couple of spareribs in the oven and made warm German potato salad, tart-sweet with plenty of smoky bacon and onions.  Potato salad, either traditional or German style, has always been a big favorite in my family.  In years past, it was nothing to make salad with five or ten pounds of potatoes, and on one occasion, twenty pounds.  I wasn't sure how last night's effort would turn out, using only three dinky spuds, but I made it happen!

Every evening as I walk out to put the Kids to bed I tell myself, "You will not, repeat not, take any more pictures of the sunset.  Enough already!"  And then I get that first glimpse and it takes my breath away and without thinking I reach for the camera.  I'm addicted.

It was such a good day.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Guess Who Came To Dinner

The breakfast room is the most unused room in the house (I don't eat breakfast).  Second to that is the dining room, which only gets called to duty when there is company, so I haven't had reason to clean out the collection of toys left there when Cam's Honey and Arden's Audrey were last here for dinner.  Other playthings scattered throughout the house by the dogs were picked up long ago.  Ralph is continually finding new toys, such as the pull strip on plastic bags and the thick rubber bands from bunches of broccoli.  I don't mind so much that the house looks like a doggy daycare center, but Ralph makes us look trashy so I'm always picking up after him.

I needed a way to celebrate the holiday on the Fourth of July so, with a burst of ambition, I vacuumed and dusted!  This turned out to be propitious, as my friend Harold called and said he'd like to come over, bringing a watermelon to share.  It was nice not to get caught with my dust down.  Some time back, the Kids had given me a window air conditioner for the dining room which makes it bearable in summer, so we sat in there, sans toys, to enjoy the sweet melon.  Harold, as is everyone, was impressed with the number of hummingbirds at the feeders.  Company or not, the plants on the deck were in desperate need of water, so we talked out on the deck for the rest of the afternoon, moving from one shady spot to another.  Bess went wading in her pool.  I did ask permission before turning a mist of water on Harold, who gave the slightest hesitation, but then, as I did, truly enjoyed the cooling effect.  It brought back memories of playing in the sprinkler and water fights when we were kids, long before this drought that would have made us guilty at the waste.

An impromptu watermelon picnic, good company, and this natural fiery display made it a great Fourth of July.

It was a good day.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Miss Manners

 As usual, I was counting noses and toeses and then...huh?  It's not enough that the squirrels have given the chicken pen a unique, bombed-out look burrowing up when I'm not around, now they've given up any pretense of subtlety and join the girls as I stand there.  I don't think I'd mind the squirrels quite so much if they would just show some good manners.

Percy and his gang irritate me no end down in the barn.  I do put down food for them, asking only that they wait their turn.  Percy has gotten to the point that he gives me what Craig calls the hairy eyeball, staring me down, even squinting in derision, until I bat or stomp at him when he tries to steal from the mice.  The mice are so polite by comparison.  Each mouse will take one piece of food at a time, either sitting up and eating it there or taking it away to stash.  The danged greedy squirrels pack their pouches as fast as they can, bits falling from their lips, until there's nothing left for the rest.  Sharing is not in their vocabulary.

There is a hospitality line that must not be crossed, as the coyote who came trotting up the driveway yesterday found out.  If it was here for water, I'm sorry, but there are limits as to what I will provide.  Bess barked and I clapped and yelled until it turned around and went back the way it came.  Water is available for the wild things, but coyotes must come in the night when the livestock is safe in their barn and coop.

That gorgeous buck and one of his ladies were here this morning.  He was under the oak again, but she was standing on hind legs trying to get a bite of the mimosa tree.  Sorry, lady, that's not on the menu.

Yesterday's viewing selection was The Story of GI Joe, a great movie with Burgess Meredeth about war correspondent Ernie Pyle, winner of a Pulitzer prize.  I caught this rare photo of Ralph in repose.  It's usually Celeste who joins me, but yesterday it was Ralph.  I took advantage of the occasion to brush his coat, which he seemed to like, before he settled beside me for a snooze.  Given the heat, I was happy he was not on my lap.  For a change, he showed some manners.

Happy Fourth of July!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Sound Of Music

Sometimes there is a soundtrack playing in my head.  Lately "Delta Dawn" has been looping as I've been waiting and hoping for the delta breezes to kick in to bring in relief from the heat.  The cloud cover that caused humidity was caused by monsoons pushed over the mountains from Arizona.  Yesterday we were caught right in the middle of winds and clouds from the east and the deltas from the west.  Temperatures did drop (yay!), but an unfortunate byproduct was an impressive electrical storm with ground-shaking thunder and lightning as it crossed overhead.  Almost immediately after it had passed, moving on to the west, I got two calls from friends in the area:  "Can you see any smoke?"  Sadly, the answer was yes.  Locals readily recognize Bucks Bar Road and the one-lane bridge crossing over the Cosumnes River.  A lightning strike sparked a fast-moving fire just to the west of the bridge and smoke boiled up.  Reports this morning state the Buckaroo fire in rugged terrain is about fifty percent contained.

I'm sure the rain that came shortly before dusk helped the firefighters do their job.  Re. the rain, the song of the moment was, of course, "Singing In The Rain," and Bess and I went out to stand on the deck and revel in that glorious coolness.  (Cool being a relative term here.) 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

That'll Be The Day

Thing 1 (or maybe 2) was not content with the opening he'd made in the scratch barrel and yesterday attacked the bag of feed before I could put it away.  There are times I feel I'm under siege.

A cloud cover came over yesterday that kept temps down in the high 90s, but worse, created humidity that was next to unbearable.  My mother was born in 1904 and grew up in a house on the Illinois River.  She told of how, in summer, the family would pull mattresses out onto the "sleeping porch" at night.  They also had an outdoor kitchen for cooking in the summer because of the terrible humidity.  She came from an unusual family for that era.  It was normal then for males to have and inherit land and money, but in Mother's family it was the women who controlled all that.  My grandmother owned one house, bordered on either side by homes owned by her mother and her sister, Mother's grandmother and aunt.  Family farms in Illinois and Wisconsin were owned by women relatives.  Later and married to my father, it was my mother who bought four adjoining lots in California.

Back to the present.  It was another day spent in front of the television.  I found a couple of segments of Madam Secretary I'd saved.  I was such a fan of The West Wing and Madam Secretary comes close.  After that I went western and watched Jeremiah Johnson, Little Big Man, and finished up with John Wayne in The Searchers.  Anyone who ever saw it will recognize the tag line, "That'll be the day!"

In an effort too keep what green plants I have alive, I moved the sprinkler here and there throughout the day.  A side benefit is watching birds of all sizes play in the spray.  Even turkeys rested in overspray from the rose pen.  As Cole Porter's song says, "It's too darn hot!"
Wisps of clouds covered the face of the rising moon.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Small Vandals

I may be the one in the barn with the homie headband, but I am not the leader of the gang of small thugs who invaded yesterday.  I used to buy three bags of grain at a time, saving trips to Mt. Aukum, but had to quit when Thing 1 or Thing 2 ('scuse me, Dr. Seuss) started stealing in the feed barn.  Having trundled this brand-new, fresh bag down to the goat barn in the morning, I had a girl up on the stand when I heard the sounds of ripping, tearing, squabbling over the spoils, and the munch, munch, munch going on in the hall behind.  Impatient goats prevented me from emptying the bag into the covered barrel before starting chores.  If there was a bright spot in all this, it is that Percy and his cohort were busy with the mother lode and didn't come in to steal breakfast from the mice.

Yesterday's sit-and-be-quiet viewing included the last two of fourteen excellent episodes of The Jewel In The Crown (1984, PBS), about India becoming independent of England in the 1940s.  Interspersed in the story were film clips from that time, adding verite.  Deb and I had watched the series at her apartment when it first came out.  She made a chicken curry to die for (my mouth waters even now) to make it a real Indian experience.  Just as with a good book, I hated to see the story end.

There is an interesting website with posts from the local community.  There were reports yesterday of temps up as high as 114 in the area.  This morning as early as 5:30, it was 81 here.  It doesn't bode well for what today might hold.