Monday, August 31, 2015

In Demand

There's an old joke about the kid who was digging through a pile of "road apples," sure he'd find the pony in there somewhere.  Yesterday my milk customer sent over a couple of guys to haul away a load of goat manure for his compost pile.  The girls had finally eaten or beaten down the high, dry weeds in the pen so I would allow a truck to drive in there without danger of a hot exhaust pipe starting a fire.  It took the fellows quite awhile, with two of them digging, to fill the trailer and it barely put a dent in the mountain of poo.  Earle has planted a forest of bamboo (don't ask) and evidently bamboo takes a lot of fertilizer.  The guys returned after awhile and asked if they could take the rest of Mt. Poo.  "Why, yes, you may!"  Goat manure is what can be called a renewable resource and the girls are always making more.  I haul out at least one full bucket from the stalls every day, every single day.  Dig as they might, the young men did not find any new goats in there.

Camille came by in the afternoon, bringing some of her sugar-sweet tiny grapes and a basket of Sun Gold cherry tomatoes to share.  I mentioned that Earle had taken all the manure.  "Oh, no!  I was just waiting for the weeds to go down to ask if I could get some for composting."  Who knew there would be such a demand?  As I told her, if she could wait, the girls would readily fill her request.  She decided to bring up one of her carts to leave with me.  I can dump the daily contribution in there and save us both a lot of work.  The only problem I foresee is that I know full well that the goats will be in and out of the cart all the time.  They love to jump in and on everything taller than themselves in an endless game of "Queen of the Mountain."

Bessie and I spent a lot of time outdoors enjoying the breeze and cooler weather.  I'm starting to think about firewood for winter, something I wouldn't have dreamed of last week.  The blanket was back on the bed last night and a robe feels good this morning.  I'm okay with that.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Knock Knock. Who's There?

"Who's that knocking at my door?"  "It's Barnacle Bill the Sailor!"  (Song from 1929, a ditty my mother sang often.)  It is certainly not unusual to see various tribes of turkeys making their way through the herb garden, stripping seeds from the long stems of wild grass.  However, I did not expect to see these big birds, two of them, right up on the front porch yesterday.  Ralph was making that kek-kek sound, but seemed a little intimidated but curious, just peeking around the corner.  As with the coyotes, my hospitality extends just so far, and the house is off limits to the toms.

What was more than welcome was the twenty-degree drop in temperature.  Down in Diamond Springs the day before, it was 103, so I'm not talking sweater weather yet, but high 70s- low 80s was such a relief.  As happens with any abrupt change, the goats went a little nutty.  For whatever reason, the herd picked on Tessie all morning.  She's the wrong girl to butt heads with, but I learned long ago not to get in the middle of a fight.  The others made a ring around the combatants (they'd take turns) as if cheering or goading them on.  Poor Tessie had to take refuge up in the tree to get a break, the bad girls waiting at the base and calling her names.  Peace had been restored by nightfall.

It was a good day.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Oh Say Can You See?

Can you see what I see?  Stepping out onto the deck yesterday afternoon, I saw this coyote standing quite still, not too far down the hill from the pen, downwind and just sniffing the breeze as if it was reading the menu.  "Hmm, chicken dinner sounds good to me."  The secret to seeing wildlife is to know the terrain and know when something is not quite right, something different, anything that was not there before.  And, of course, anything that is moving.  Hint:  coyote is in the middle of the photo, just past the edge of the of the shadow and under the last branch of the tree.
And if you thought I was "seeing things," this is coyote headed out after I stomped and yelled.

This morning, just at first light, I heard a strange chuckling sort of sound, similar to one of the calls made by turkeys, but a little different.  Going to the open bedroom door and looking out, there was either another or the same coyote standing in the side yard by the Cecile Brunner rose.  Stepping out onto the deck in bare feet, I wasn't about to stomp, but clapped my hands like gunshots and coyote took off racing down the driveway.  Let's not make a habit of this!

"I see the moon.  The moon sees me..."

And that's the view from Farview Farm.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Did I Mention...

Did I mention that fall has arrived?  As if proof were needed, leaves are once again covering the deck.  They crunch underfoot and Bessie looks like a cupcake covered in sprinkles whenever she goes outside (I'm glad I gave her a haircut!).  A generous girl, she brings some in the house to share.  Thank you, Bess.
I am left with the choice of trying to keep ahead of the game and sweep the deck daily or letting leaves pile up and feeling that huge sense of accomplishment once a month or so.  It's a long deck.  If this heat wave continues, it's a no-brainer.  This is just a preview of what is to come.

Temperatures soared again yesterday.  Ralph couldn't stretch out any farther if he tried.  Would that I were so limber.  How do cats get in these ridiculous positions anyhow?

Did I mention I like old movies?  I DVR a backlog of treasures for watching on just such a day as yesterday when it is too hot to do much of anything else.  "The Painted Veil" was originally made in 1934 with Greta Garbo, Herbert Marshall, and George Brent, all wonderful in their parts, but in my opinion the 2006 remake with Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, and Liev Schreiber was better.  The original "Waterloo Bridge" (Mae Clark and Kent Douglass, 1931) had a much grittier story line, but the acting was overly dramatic by today's standards.  The remake in 1940 with Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor was more "romantic."

Did I mention how much I love going to town?  Yeah, well, I've got to go in today.  Oh goody.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Dog Days

The cats lay motionless on the floor in front of the open doors.  Bessie Anne moved from place to place, flinging herself down, panting with the heat.  The weather had been so changeable, I'd hesitated to use the new clippers I'd bought, not wanting to have to knit a sweater for her if it got cold.  After our third trip out to her pool yesterday, that was it.  This is her "before" photo.  The leash was necessary because getting a haircut is not her favorite thing and the cord on the clippers is only so long.  Foot on the leash and clippers in hand, we began.  I honestly think she knew what was coming and was grateful.  This was the easiest clip-job I've ever done.  Bess lay still and let me work until the clippers got hot and my back gave out and I had to quit.

Yes, she needs another trim to even it up, but at least that heavy, thick, hot ruff over her shoulders is gone.  I never touch her head; there's only so much she can tolerate.  My dear girl is eleven years old, but she looks so darn cute with her summer "puppy cut."  Like any girl, she loves to be told how pretty she is (and I was laying it on thick), and fairly danced as we went out to put the kids to bed.

There was enough fur left over to make a good-sized Chihuahua.  I should probably name it.

It was a good day.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

When In Spain...

Once upon a time, long, long ago, I had a step-mother-in-law who was from Biarritz, Spain.  (We have a complicated family history.)  Pilar introduced me to a number of (to me, then) exotic dishes such as paella with chicken and a variety of seafood.  "I saved some clams so we could eat them raw."  Oh goody.  "No, no!  You can't just swallow them, you have to chew them three times.  Have another."  And tiny fresh sardines, floured and fried whole.  "Mama!  Did you see their eyes pop in the pan?!"  To my credit, I refused nothing, tried everything, and I thank her to this day for expanding my culinary horizons.  I also thank her from the bottom of my heart that she did not make the baby birds in squid ink tapas that she described as a favorite in Spain. 

One of Pilar's recipes that I made often when the Kids were home is Spanish tortilla.  Since it is usually served at room temperature, it is a great side dish to take on picnics as an alternative to chips, etc., and goes well with any barbecue.  It's a simple recipe with just well-seasoned potatoes and onions fried slowly until soft and then mixed with beaten eggs to cook until set.  I happen to have a few eggs (a few buckets!), and remembering this dish last night, decided I'd try to make a much smaller one than I had in the past.  The only tricky part is sliding the tortilla out onto a cookie sheet to turn over and put back into the skillet to brown the other side.  I could manage last night by myself using a smaller pan, but when the Kids were home and I was using a big, heavy cast-iron skillet with a lot of potatoes and a dozen eggs, that was a two-person job.  The aroma of cooking onions and potatoes whetted my appetite, and the Spanish tortilla was every bit as good as I'd remembered.  And I have leftovers!

With the miracle of the internet, I was sent the suggestion by a reader that the bird in yesterday's photo might be a white-tailed kite.  Guess what!  I looked it up and, by golly, I think they're right.  I know I've never seen this bird before, but we're evidently within it's range.  Thanks Kevin, Jerri and Glenn for the info.

There is a local chat page that has been full of sightings of bobcats, a few black bears, and a lot of mountain lions in the area lately.  Unfortunately, there have also been reports of goats, sheep, and alpacas being killed.  It wasn't so long ago that Camille, Linda, and I saw that very large bobcat down by my woods.  The consensus is that the fires and drought have brought wildlife closer to populated areas in search of food and water.  It's hard to blame the animals; they're fighting for survival.  The best we can do is keep a sharp eye out and take what measures we can to protect our livestock.

It was a rather uneventful day, but a really good dinner.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

It's For The Birds

Finished the last chore in the barn, brought out the buckets of milk, turned to put the latch on the door, and looked up.  The branches of the dead tree over the barn are often filled with vultures, sometimes 15 or more at a time, so seeing a bird overhead didn't surprise me.  However, this fine fellow was most certainly not a vulture, although almost as big.  Red-tail hawks often work this area, but this bird had the wrong coloring, and the hawks are smaller.  I'm not up on avian species, but I'm wondering if it was a golden eagle.  Available photos show eagles to have darker coloring, but....

Vultures usually fly away at my approach or movement, but Big Bird sat and watched me while I took his picture, and was still sitting in the tree after I'd left the pen and was topping off the water trough.  This gives a better perspective on his size.  He flew off, and his wing span was nearly that of the vultures.  There was no sign of the identifying red tail of the hawks.  Awesome, whatever he might be.

On any day that I don't need to save milk, I stop at the chicken pen on my way back to the house to give the little kids a splash of moo-juice (in this case, baa-juice).  Mama and her turklet are becoming regulars at the breakfast buffet, it seems.  Baby had no trouble flying out over the fence with Mama when I walked in.  She's getting to be a Big Bird too.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Summertime Blues

"Ain't no cure for the summertime blues..."  The yards are parched and brown; nothing to mow, no way to water them.  No more time than necessary is spent in that sweat-box barn with the animals, and they don't want to be in there either.  Moving the sprinkler in the herb garden and hosing down the plants on the deck does not constitute real physical activity any more than pushing buttons on the remote.  Lack of inspiration to cook in the overheated kitchen, the one room in the house that does not have but really needs an overhead fan, leads one to cereal for dinner.  Waaa!  Feel free to remind me of this when winter has turned my fingers blue and my nose red and the ground is white outside.  (Nothing if not patriotic.)

The turkey mom who traveled with her train of 8-10 babies behind has lost all but one.  She guards her one remaining chick, approaching adolescence, like a mother tiger.  Yesterday she flew over into the chicken pen to share the hens' grain and the baby ran back and forth outside the fence.  I'm pretty sure it's a little girl, but at that age it's hard to tell.  Baby finally gathered courage and made the flight to join Mama.  Then I worried.  It is so common for these birdbrains to forget how to get back over a fence; I hear even the adults calling, "Don't leave me!" as the flock moves on over and out of the goat pens.  I had to get on down to the girls, but was very relieved to find Baby gone when I came back up.  That was the drama for the day.

This is just one of a series of photos from last evening.  It was hard to choose.  The colors and formations changed from minute to minute as I moved from the house to the barn.  This was the last shot taken as I left the goat barn, having tucked in the girls.

It was a typical summertime day.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Race Day

It messes me up for the week when NASCAR races on Saturday.  I'm geared for Sunday races.  That means the next day is Monday and I'll need to save milk and eggs for my customer who comes on Tuesday, and Tuesday is trash day, and so on.  The rest of the week, I could care less what day it is.  Now I'll have to remind myself all day that today is Sunday.

Regardless, race days, whenever they are, are good days to do laundry.  It gives me the illusion of actually doing something without a lot of effort.  This was just the first load hung.  The photo was not taken for self-aggrandizement, but to show that the deltas winds had finally kicked in.  It was a 500-lap race, so Bess and I had time for a few minutes to sit in the shade and enjoy the breeze.  The temp was still at 90, but that wind helped.

The race at Bristol, Tennessee, ended just at sundown here, so I was able to see my driver come in at fifth place before putting the kids to bed.  That was pretty darn good considering he'd been spun out earlier and I'd almost given up hope for a top five finish.

It was a good day.  And today is Sunday...

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Boys And Their Toys

I'm very glad that Ralph's new favorite toy is a readily visible bright white, as he leaves it all over the house, just waiting to trip me up.  It is a leftover hank of clothesline that Ralph found on top of the washing machine (my fault).  Toy is becoming frayed, but Ralph doesn't care.  Celeste pawed at it once or twice and Bess has nosed it, but the girls cannot figure out its appeal.  It's a guy thing.

Licorice mint has spread to every pot on the deck.  It is pretty and tastes good, so I leave it.  Bees and birds love it.  Bees go after the pollen and hummers suck up the nectar.  As the purple flowers begin to die, dinky birds land on the long fronds to peck out the seeds.  The mint leaves are the first to droop, telling me when I need to water.  It is a multi-use plant.

At the bottom of this photo in the middle is one of Steve's toys, a Ford tractor from 1958-59, and its many implements.  It breaks my heart that it sits unused.  In my mind's eye, I can see him happily tootling around the fields of an afternoon, and I would take him a cold drink, as my mother had told of carrying water to the farmhands when she was a girl.  I never learned to drive the tractor; it was a guy thing.  And so it sits.

Friday, August 21, 2015

That Time Of Year

Once upon a time, long, long ago, both Kids and parents started looking toward Labor Day and the beginning of the school year with the same enthusiasm they'd waited for summer vacation.  Mothers were tired of hearing, "There's nothing to do."  (My response was, "Do you want me to find something for you to do?"  The answer was always, "No, no, it's okay, I'm going outside now.")  There were shopping trips for a new outfit and shoes for the first day of school, and haircuts for the boys.  That was in the days before year-round school.  Instead of nine months in class and three whole months of freedom, the school population was divided into tracks.  I don't remember the exact time elements, but there were so many months in school and so many weeks off, not the traditional three months.  It was pure hell if I couldn't get all four of my Kids on the same track, and chaos reigned.  It was difficult to coordinate with their dad to plan for a family vacation.  One saving grace was that while out of class, a Kid could sign up for special activities, and there were bowling lessons, fishing trips, etc., offered.  Also, if there was difficulty in a particular subject, the Kid could use that "off time" to go back for remedial work at school.  In the long run, I'd say there were benefits to year-round, but there wasn't the excitement of returning to renew friendships after a summer away.  I don't know what changed, but most of the kids up here are already back in school and the buses rule the roads, and we're not close to Labor Day, but it's that time of year.

This is the goats' favorite season.  Fleur de Lys Winery has started crushing grapes, and the goats rush to line up at the fence when Robert (Robair) calls, "Girls, girls, girls!"  Robert forks big piles of sugar-sweet stems over to them which they devour as if they'd never had a treat in their life.  (Like me and See's candy.)  They get excited when they hear the auger run.  Robert gets a kick out of proclaiming, "I am their new best friend!" every year.

Fallen leaves are beginning to drift on the deck, and acorns roll underfoot on the driveway.  With minimally cooler days, egg production is up again.  Just when it seems summer will never end, the signs are there.  It's that time of year again.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Blahs

It was a day with a decided dearth of blog fodder.  It was hot, but not hot enough to work up a good whine about.  The cats had a brief episode of activity in the morning and Ralph did drag his piece of cord halfway down the stairs, but then they both spent the day stretched out and sound asleep.  Barn chores were uneventful.  Bessie Anne didn't bug me to go outside.  There's nothing humorous nor interesting about doing the long-overdue task of balancing checkbook and reconciling statements, which is how I spent the afternoon.  Dinner consisted of uninspired leftovers.  My never-fail sunset was a pastel glow behind the haze in the valley, not worth a picture.  There is no vaccination against a case of the blahs.  One can only hope it was a 24-hour bug.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Tale Of A Tail

Ralph has no problem finding new ways to amuse himself.  He has dragged a long piece of cord through the house, of course leaving it stretched out in the living room.  He may or may not get back to it one of these days.  Tables and counters are swept clear, all extraneous items to be found on the floor.  As if he had never seen it before, yesterday Ralph discovered his own tail, a wonderful toy he can play with at any time.  The tail would twitch and he would grab it.  Tail would escape and Ralph would chase it, pinning it to the ground.  Tail would sneak around behind his back, and Ralph would circle to the left and then the right, Tail staying just out of reach.  Ralph had darn near exhausted himself before he caught Tail and gave it a good chomp.  Game over.

The temperature was one or two degrees less yesterday; I will not say "cooler."  Hovering at 100, 94 in the house, it was a good day to let the mechanical servants do the work so I washed all the bedding to hang on the line.  Only an hour for the comforters to dry, and that at 4 o'clock.  Little birds played in the sprinkler and birdbath, and the more sedate turkeys waited until I'd turned the water off to settle themselves in the wet herb garden to cool off.  Bessie Anne and I went out several times to her pool and the hose mist, and later drove down to pick up the empty trash barrel just for the pleasure of the truck A/C.

No soap or fabric conditioner can compete with the perfume of sunshine and fresh air of laundry brought in from the line, aromatherapy at its finest.  It was a good (hot) day.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Triple-Digit Doldrums

The deltas dropped, the mercury rose, and life as we know it came to a screeching halt.  I don't think sweating qualifies as an activity, but that was about the only thing I did all day.  One hundred two in the shade and still rising and nothing else moved.  The goats lay in the shade of the barn, the chickens clustered in their coop.  Not a turkey nor a deer in sight.  Even the squirrels went underground.  Had I been so inclined, it would have been hard to work with fingers crossed, hoping against hope that we would keep power.  At least the ceiling fan kept the hot air moving.  Late in the afternoon Bess and I went to the feed store.  For the first time I wished it was a little longer trip; the truck is air-conditioned and Bessie was able to stop panting as she had been all day.  I drove very slow on the way home so we could enjoy the ride as long as possible.  Trying to maintain that feeling, I put Bessie Anne in her pool and I watered the gasping deck plants, putting the hose on mist periodically and standing under it until soaked myself.  Long afternoon shadows brought out the turkeys, poor things walking slowly with beaks agape.  It may be wishful thinking, but I want desperately to believe the weather reporters who tell me that the heat is due to break today.  Or not.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Theatah - The Dahnse!

Okay, I stole the title from a chapter in Betty MacDonald's book "The Egg And I."  Everything was going so well yesterday in the barn, it was like a choreographed dance with the girls coming and going in orderly fashion.  To steal another quote, "All the world's a stage," (Shakespeare, As You Like It).  Farview Farm is the stage for an ongoing play.  The resident animals are the stars, sharing the spotlight with cameo appearances by the wildlife.  The scenery and lighting change with the seasons.  There is a script, but the actors are big on improvisation.  Cues are missed, as when the goats do not come in as directed.  I never know from one day to the next whether the play will be a drama, a comedy, a thriller, a soap opera, or a mystery.  The actors in the repertory take self-assigned roles.  Ralph is a natural comedian, with Celeste playing straight man to his antics.  Bessie Anne has moved into the part of dowager queen after a long-running stint as an ingenue.  The chickens and turkeys are bit players.  Deer have walk-on roles with no dialogue.  Actors retire or sadly leave the stage forever, to be replaced by fresh talent.  Background music is provided by nature, wind and birds, sometimes with the basso profundo of thunder offstage, the tympany of woodpeckers at work, or the offstage chorus of coyotes.  Me?  I'm the hired help.  I clean the sets, run the commissary, act as wardrobe mistress, and am the head go-fer.  I'm sometimes allowed to direct, but any thought that I am in charge is purely an illusion, probably because I believed my own reviews.

There are villains in the current play.  Three days ago, this bent, bare stick was a 12-foot mulberry sapling in full leaf.  It was the only one of five such trees planted to thrive so well (two were completely dead and two are struggling).  I'd noticed a few leaves at the bottom had been stripped and blamed the goats.  Since this skeleton was found in the morning, it turns out that the bad actors in the bunch are deer.  They completely tore down the surrounding protective fencing to perform murder.  The deer were not satisfied with the leaves from the lilacs that they've systematically eaten as high as they can reach.

The curtain rose this morning, but I have no idea what play will be performed today before the sun goes down.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Empty Nest

Linda and Luna flew the coop yesterday afternoon.  As always, the house seems very quiet after a guest leaves.  I can't say the same for Linda's car.  Luna, from whom not one peep was heard during her entire visit, began vocalizing as soon as she was put into her luxurious, spacious cat carrier in the back seat.  "Put the pedal to the metal, Mom, and let's beat feet outta here!"  I hope Linda enjoyed her stay at Farview.  I know poor Luna did not.  As for my kids, who had stayed pretty much in the bedroom when Linda was up and about, Ralph and Celeste were out and all over me as soon as they saw taillights go down the drive.  Spoiled, it had taken them days to get used to sharing my attention or having a stranger in the house, bolting when Linda walked into the room.

I heard Linda giggle as she was packing her cooler for the trip home.  She'd found the zucchini I'd tucked in there.  We'd joked about the need to lock one's car during zucchini season or gardeners whose plants were overproductive would fill it with that squash.  The one I passed on was a gift from Camille's garden.

Shortly after she left, Linda texted that she saw three firetrucks and a CHP running Code 3 (lights and siren) and headed in my direction.  I went out to look, but couldn't see smoke in any direction.  Turned out to be a fire up on Omo Ranch Rd. at the far end of Slug Gulch that was quickly put out, thanks to the rapid response.

Company or no company, the morning barn routine had to go on as usual, a little earlier yesterday in an attempt to beat the heat, only partially successful.  Guests are left to fend for themselves daily for that hour and a half.  People understand.  The goats would not if I didn't show up.  Yesterday the water pot that I'd filled the night before for the wild things was bone dry and if there had not been a chain around the wire gates to the alfalfa I'd have been raided.  Deer had pushed in one of the gates in an attempt to get at the bales.

The beastie boys were in the front pasture this morning, singing up a storm just before daybreak.  I haven't heard the coyotes that close in a long time.  The house may be quiet, but they weren't.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Works For Me

I'm very happy to say that Cindy appears to have recovered from her latest bout of whatever it was that made her sick.  She is eating well, hangs out with the herd, and has even put some meat back on her ribs.  Her poop is pellets again and not plops (one worries about these things).

Linda got a chuckle yesterday while taking laundry off the line when she realized my method of hanging clothes in the first place.  I pin them up in a certain way so that by starting at the far end to take them down, everything goes in the basket already sorted to put away.  Works for me.

Everything got watered yesterday.  Triple digits are predicted for the next three days and I wanted to give the plants the best chance to survive.  Watering has to be done in stages and is pretty much an all-day job.  My well has a fairly low draw-down (the amount of water that can be drawn) and one never wants to pump it dry.  The sprinkler isn't left on in one place very long, and there are "resting" times in between areas to let the well catch up.  Linda and I took advantage of a lovely breeze to sit in the shade on the porch and watch birds play in the sprinkler and birdbath.

I'm sorry to report that Bessie, Ralph, and Celeste have not been the best host and hostesses to our feline guest, Luna.  They've kept her isolated under room-arrest.  As an only child at home, she has been unhappy not being with her mom most of the day.  She tried to brave it out and came into the hallway to join Linda, but Ralph did the hiss-and-hump that cats do and Luna ducked back into her room.  I've had serious talks with my kids about courtesy, to no avail.

With leftovers from every meal cooked, there is a regular smorgasbord in the fridge so we had a no-cook dinner last night.  Works for me.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Creatures Of Habit

There are two doors on the chicken house, one small drop-down door that makes a ramp and one large Dutch door.  Every morning when the little door is opened first, the hens come tumbling down in a race to the grain thrown out for them.  Tzar Nicholas waits to have the big door opened and then struts out like the monarch he is.  Every morning.

Down in the goat barn, each of the girls has her own quirk.  No matter that we have the same daily routine and I am careful not to introduce anything new or leave anything out of place, when it's her turn, Inga peeks into the room first and takes hesitant steps inside before a quick leap onto the stand.  She's never sure that some evil thing might not be lurking in the shadows.  Sheila leaves some cereal in her dish, waiting until the last minute to gobble that up after I've finished with her and opened the head lock to let her out.  It's as if she likes making me wait.  Esther won't leave the stand without rubbing her head on my ribs, sometimes so hard she could knock me over.  Tessie is the calmest goat in the herd, standing to be milked without stamping or moving about.  She is also neat and tidy, cleaning up every last grain that might have fallen from the bowl every morning.  Tessie, unlike the others, will only leave the stand to the left.  I've learned to get out of her way.

Bessie Anne makes a pest of herself when a guest arrives.  She does not bark or jump up, but a guest means a cookie (milk bone) and she lets them know in no uncertain terms that one is expected, going so far as to show them where the box is.  Once she has her treat, she generally goes off somewhere for a snooze, mission accomplished.

There is no telling what a cat will do next so there is no "always" with Ralph and Celeste.  Cats are their own creatures with their own whims.  Their attitude seems to be "deal with it."

While I was hanging laundry yesterday afternoon, just over the rise I saw the big four-point buck lift his head from the pot of water I leave by the chicken pen for the wild things.  I was downwind so he didn't notice me for quite awhile and took his time to drink his fill.  Some days I fill that pot twice or more.  Turkeys sometimes stand around waiting for water in the morning.

Linda fell victim to my "Blue Bloods" Thursday habit.  I can't help myself.  It was a good day.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Dilly Day

It did not bode well.  I was bringing Sheila out of her stall and into the milking room with a rope looped around her neck as usual.  I got tired of playing "chase me" with her and so the leash is mandatory.  Up on the stand, rope off, and before I could get her bowl filled and her head in the stocks, the latch on the door let loose and Sheila was out like a shot.  She wouldn't come back and Tessie wouldn't come in.  That meant a hike up the hill and around the perimeter trying to catch a recalcitrant goat.  In the meantime, Cindy did come in and ate about a third of her breakfast, three times more than yesterday.  Goats can drop an alarming amount of weight in a very short time and her ribs were sticking out, so I was just happy she would eat anything.  The two stinkpots finally were caught and the morning's mission was accomplished.  I could only hope the rest of the day would go better.

The plan was this:  we would make a quick run into town, pick up cigarettes, stop at Walmart and get a new set of clippers so I can cut Bessie's hair, and get some fresh dill.  Easy-peasy.  Or not.  The cig store was closed.  We did find clippers, but no luck finding dill at Walmart.  Drive to the other side of town.  Grocery Outlet had lots of fresh herbs, but no dill.  Got cigs.  Had to take a long ride the back way to Pleasant Valley to avoid road work we'd passed on the main route.  Finally found a tiny packet of fresh dill at my "local" market.  One packet would have to do, as it was the only one there.

That quick trip for three items had taken over four hours.  What had been planned as an afternoon snack had become dinner.  Cheesecake conjures up a sweet dessert, but this is a savory smoked salmon cheesecake with green onions and capers and, wait for it, fresh dill.  Linda had looked at the photo on the recipe and said, "Oh, and you use fresh dill for garnish."  This tiny sprig was all that was left from the packet, but, by golly, presentation is everything.

Every night we've said we were going to go out at night to look for the Perseid meteor shower.  We didn't.  The trek to town had worn us out and we went to bed early last night, which meant we were both up early this morning.  I was disinclined to stand out in the chilly predawn.  Linda took a quick look just to say she had, but had almost the same luck seeing a shooting star as I'd had looking for dill.  (But the cheesecake was worth it.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

It's All Good

Cindy, the oldest goat in the herd, was not feeling well yesterday morning.  Diarrhea in a goat is not a good thing and the droppings in her stall were very loose.  (Not a pleasant subject, but this is farm life.)  She balked at leaving the barn and ate no breakfast.  During the day, she separated herself from the group.  I was getting pretty worried, so was greatly relieved when she rushed in last night and immediately went for her bedtime snacks.  She's had brief spells like this before and rallied.  For now, it's all good.

Linda went house hunting and found some possibilities; a couple got moved up on the list.  Some didn't even get visited as they were too far out in the hinterlands.  This is an exciting, challenging time for her, full of good changes.

"Are you guys busy?"  It was one of those great questions that precede the announcement of a visit!  One of Clay's buddies had just bought a new motorcycle and they wanted to go for a ride.  I love being a destination location.  The mild weather has held and it was a perfect day for a bike ride so it wasn't long before they were at the door.  Linda and Clay had never met.  It was funny when they each said, almost at the same time, "I've heard so much about you!"  It is always so good to see Clay.

Unless they are confirmed fans of some other shows, my guests are pretty much stuck watching whatever I choose on television.  When there is nothing else appealing, I can always fall back on TCM for a good old movie.  Last night they were playing "Cabin In The Sky," with the beautiful Lena Horne, Ethel Waters, and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson.  It's amusing to me when I realize that actors or other personalities from the past who are so familiar to me are complete unknowns to those younger than myself.  (It happens more and more frequently these days.)

Luna became very brave and joined us in the living room last night, doing some exploring and then relaxing on the couch.  Bessie was either sound asleep or choosing to ignore her.  She surprised Ralph, however, and there was some mutual hissing at a distance, but no real aggression.  That was a good thing, too.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Ladies Of Leisure

Yesterday we did nothing.  Well, that's not exactly true.  Linda set me up with WiFi, assuring me that I will no longer be using up data minutes on my cellphone and be in danger of losing my phone privileges.  I do trust her, but am still more than a little cautious.  If she's wrong, I'll rightfully hear about it.  I am, to use one of her phrases, cautiously optimistic.

The weather has been a gift, cool enough to sleep under a blanket last night.  Sure makes having company easier on me.  Luna has stayed in isolation, especially after Bess gave her what-for and needed a talking to.  Poor little three-legged cat.  Ralph and Celeste finally came out of their hiding places this morning, deciding that this person was not going to go away and they needed to stretch their legs.  I don't think they've really met Luna yet, but the bedrooms are at the back of the house so I don't always know what goes on back there.

We did a little watering yesterday, actually more for the pleasure of being outside.  After weeks of strenuous activity getting her house ready to put up for sale, it's been hard for my friend to transition into 'doing nothing.'  Myself, I do a lot of that and I'm a pretty good teacher.  She's a fast learner and will get over it.

We were both up early this morning and I had the pleasure of showing her that gorgeous four-point buck who was leisurely picking up acorns just outside the breakfast room.

It was a good day.

Monday, August 10, 2015

No Close-Ups

I won't be posting any photos of Linda.  Poor woman has the most spectacular black eye, the result of a loose fence brick and a clumsy cat.  I won't be posting any photos of Luna either, at least not until I get a good look at her.  I got a glimpse of furry tail as she was carried into the house and then she disappeared.  There were brief sightings in the shadows of the hallway late in the afternoon and a quick peek at bedtime, but that's it.  Bessie has evidently taken offense at this elusive behavior.  "Fine.  If that's the way you want to be, you'd just better stay hidden."  (She has barked at Luna and driven her back to her safe haven under the bed.)  Ralph and Celeste have not said how they feel about this feline company.

Camille called with the offer of squash blossoms from her garden.  Linda had never eaten them before, so Cam brought a dozen and I battered them up to saute and we all snacked on them before taking drinks out to the deck to hopefully catch a breeze.  While we sat talking of "shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings," I caught sight of what I at first thought was a mountain lion down by the edge of my woods.  Getting a better look, it turned out to be a very large bobcat, only the second I've seen in 18 years.  I quickly slipped a leash on Bess so she didn't rush off to do battle with that kitty who could have done her real harm.  The cat was too far away to get a good picture, so no close-up there, either.

After a 19-hour, straight-through drive from Washington, it was early to bed for my friend, and we called it a good day.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Eyes Have It

They're everywhere.  All shapes, colors, and sizes.  In the house, I am followed by brown (Bessie), golden (Ralph), and jade green (Celeste).  Outside, turkeys and vultures have surprisingly large, liquid-brown eyes.  The chickens, depending on breed, have red or orange eyes.  Down in the barn, many pairs of tiny black, beady mouse eyes follow my every move.  The squirrels watch with dramatic eyes of dark brown rimmed with white fur for effect.  Lizards' eyes have a vertical pupil, while the yellow eyes of the goats have a strange horizontal pupil.

Yesterday, an Araucana chicken's eyes closed for good.  No more green eggs from her.  With the exception of the red sex-link hens, the flock is getting old.  I'll need to get more chicks next spring.

A couple of days ago I mentioned seeing signs of early fall.  Barely light out now, I just heard a vee of geese fly over heading south.  Hmmm.

There's an advantage to age and I use it often.  You can smile and talk to strangers and be thought eccentric and not forward.  I get a real kick out of seeing smiles or laughs returned, sometimes, I'll admit, after a moment's hesitation while the person processes my intentions.  It can make a trip to the grocery store a lot more fun.  (I've also been known to dance in the aisles to the Muzak music if the mood takes me, even if I know eyes are on me.)  I got the shopping out of the way yesterday so the larder is stocked.

My eyes sprang open at 4:15 this morning.  I know Linda and Luna have made it out of Washington, through Oregon, and are somewhere on I-5 in California.  Her last report was from Weed.  I imagine she'll be here sooner rather than later.  As usual, I'm running late with stuff yet undone.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

A Penny Saved

I carry very little change in my wallet.  Coins received after a purchase usually go into a pocket as do coins found on the ground (I'm not too proud to pick up a penny), one good reason for wearing bibbies with lots of pockets.  Sometimes, of course, they remain hidden and end up in the washing machine to be found later.  Steve was in charge of emptying his own britches before putting them in the hamper because I told him any money found in the washer became property of the washerwoman.  I keep a piggy bank in the laundry room for just such treasure.  In fact, there are piggy banks and jars throughout the house.  The point of this being that in the cleanup yesterday, I unearthed a trove of coins of all denominations.  I found them in boxes, in drawers, under dresser scarves, in every imaginable and unimaginable place.  I discovered a number of Susan B. Anthony dollars.  What a mistake the Treasury made with those.  Nearly the same size as a quarter, but with a barely discernible different shape, I'm sure many were spent in error and wasted on a twenty-five-cent item.  Someday, maybe in the winter when it's cold and wet outside, I'll sit in front of the fire and sort and roll coins to take to the bank.  I'll probably need a forklift and a two-ton truck to haul them into town.

This is not a pretty sunset.  In fact, it's pretty darn sad.  The smoke in the valley still hangs in a thick layer.  The hardworking firefighters are getting a grip on containment, but fires continue to burn throughout the state.  The breezes that have made the last few days bearable for us have made it harder for those on the line.

I'm coming down to the wire and I'm almost ready for Linda's arrival tomorrow.

Friday, August 7, 2015


Percy and Pal, those pesky squirrels in the milking room, have been noticeable by their absence lately.  In fact, there have been no squirrels at all in the goat barn for several weeks.  Usually in hot weather any number come in and take a dust bath or just lie flat out in the shade in there.  I am not complaining, but it does make me wonder what is going on.  The little buggers are prevalent up by the house, standing up on top of the junipers to get a better view, playing tag in the driveway, and their holes are everywhere, so it isn't that the squirrel population has migrated.

Only the first week in August, and I'm noticing that some leaves on the black oak trees are already turning color.  Leaves are falling in the breeze and I'm finding acorns on the ground.  Maybe it's my imagination, but it seems way too early for fall.  We're a month or two out from normal.  Perhaps it's stress from the drought.

I've heard it said that people only notice that you've dusted when you haven't.  It's not like the dust fairy comes and takes on this onerous chore while you're sleeping.  I went through two dust rags while wiping down the bedroom yesterday.  That room always gets left until last, and sometimes not at all.  I can always shut the door to the inner sanctum, and I'm only in there to sleep.  Can't notice dust with your eyes closed.

Cooler weather, up in the low 80s, prevails and I'm grateful.  Noted another beautiful sunset last night.  Busy planning menus for the week ahead.

It was a good day.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

As I Was Saying...

Me:  "I've got to get to the feed store today or I'm going to have some very unhappy goats tomorrow."
Linda:  "As well as a lot of mice and ground squirrels."
Me:  "Got that straight!  I am so mad at the squirrel in the feed room.  There is a hole the size of a dinner plate in the lid of the grain barrel for access to the all-you-can eat buffet.  Worse, he doesn't like the way I've arranged things on the shelving in there.  Anything in his way and he knocks it to the floor.  I put it back, he knocks it off.  Right now there are three mailboxes, some hose, jars, and half-empty bags of plant fertilizer all over the room.  It's such a mess."
Linda:  "Umm, the next question would be, 'Why do you have three extra mailboxes?'"

Once upon a time I used to go to craft shows and sell painted items and handmade beaded jewelry, etc., and the feed/store room is crammed with supplies for same.  My own mailbox down on the big road is, I think, rather lovely, decorated with roses and greenery.  When I'm into a craft, I buy way more materials than needed, just in case.  There must have been a sale on mailboxes when I was in that mode, thus - three waiting in the wings.

I had just finished lunch and had to share with Linda the instructions on the soup label.  "Heat until hot."  As opposed to??  Lukewarm?  Unless vichyssoise was on the menu, what nutcase would not heat soup without being told?  Dutifully, I had followed directions and did enjoy the hot soup.

As I was saying, I'm whirling like a dervish trying to get the house presentable.  We're really on the countdown now.  Linda and Luna will be here in what my friend Dan used to call 'two days and a wake-up.'

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

It's About Time

We've lost about an hour of daylight.  The sun isn't up at 5:30 anymore and it goes down a little after 8 p.m. now, a half-hour off either end.  Whine as I might about the seemingly endless heat of summer, it's difficult to think ahead to the long, long nights of winter when it is dark at 4:30.  There was a wonderful break yesterday when the temperature was only in the mid 70s.  Clay informed me that it was actually sprinkling down in the valley.  We weren't that lucky, but I'll take the cooler day and be glad that I got it.

Normally by this time, I would have clipped Bessie's fur down to a puppy cut to save her from the heat and the burrs that cling and tangle.  In the mix of breeds in her heritage, there has to be some border collie because of the heavy ruff over her shoulders.  Her belly is almost hairless.  Go figure.  When I did decide to give her a haircut, I found that my clippers had quit.  Yesterday Camille brought her set over.  It took awhile to get them working, and then realized there was no guard to go with.  I sure don't want to give Bess a shave; she'd get sunburned!  It remains to be seen if I can clip her before summer is over.

I'm almost out of time before Linda arrives.  I've started the push to clean house, but any interruption is welcome.  I turn the page on the calendar and think, "Oh, that's a long way off and I've got plenty of time."  I always think that and I'm always running late.  Goats are a seven-days-a-week job and without a weekend break, the days run one into the other, slipping by before I know it.  I'll need to make another trip to town to restock supplies; that will take the better part of a day and use up what little time I have left.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Poor Timing

Ralph is not a sit-in-your-lap kind of cat.  He is always busy, busy, busy.  Lately, however, he has taken to lying in my lap, but at the most inappropriate times.  I'm not sure whose side he's on.  I'm a self-admitted procrastinator, but even so.  I will have been taking a breather and then think, "Okay, I'm going to get up and do - whatever."  No more than the thought and Ralph shows up.  Because he comes on my lap so seldom, I don't want to push him off and stamp him "Reject,"so I sit.  It's either a reason to keep moving or an excuse to postpone the next chore.  Either way, it's very nice to be doing head-butts with my boy Ralph, even though his timing is off.

The delta breezes kicked in yesterday, cooling the temperature and clearing the air.  This photo was taken several nights ago when the smoke had been thick throughout the day.  It's hard to breathe and the taste of smoke is always in your mouth on days like that, but it sure makes for a pretty sunset.

Monday, August 3, 2015

My Hero!

Forget the white horses and shining armor.  The knights up here wear bluejeans and ride John Deere tractors and this hero showed up at my door yesterday.  "Mouse," aka Steve, had come to help "the elderly woman."  (That still cracks me up.)  His two very well-trained dogs were riding in the cab, an Australian shepherd and a small, scruffy mixed-breed named Tank.  They were allowed to come down to meet Bessie, who thought those boys were very handsome.  Mouse and I discussed terms and time frames.  The price was right and he was ready to do the work right then, and who was I to stand in his way? The dogs loaded up and off they went on that monster tractor.

The driveway had become a road hazard with cuts deep enough to lose small children and large dogs.  The crown prevented cars from driving up and the ditches could have snapped an axle.  It took Mouse maybe forty minutes to smooth the drive and put a run-off ditch along the side.  Talk about having the right tool for the job!

It cost me a mere pittance (kind man), two beers, and milk bones and water for the dogs.  After Tractor Guy trundled off, Bess and I got in the truck and drove down and back up the driveway, and then we turned around and did it again just because we could!

I recognize a hero when I see one.

It was a good day!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A Fine Feathered Friend

A slight dip in temperature made the trip to town almost tolerable.  I've decided that humidity is worse than straight heat.

Sitting on the deck with Bess later in the afternoon and watching vultures make lazy circles above, it wasn't hard to tell which of the birds had been losing those feathers I've been finding.  It's surprising that this raggedy-winged fellow was still aerodynamically capable.  That fifteen-inch feather on the table gives a pretty good indication of the bird's size.

Camille knows a Tractor Guy who might, just might, be willing to smooth out my driveway which is the next best thing to impassable what with the deep ruts and high center crown.  I've been rat-holing funds for such an opportunity.  She told me she'd explained to Tractor Guy that she knows this "elderly woman" in desperate need.  It took me a minute to realize she meant me!  It's hard to "see ourselves as others see us" (Robert Burns).  Hey, I'll smooth my ruffled feathers and take help when it comes.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

No Relief

"Between the rock and the hard place" or "Between the devil and the deep blue sea."  Take your pick.  The morning sky in the east looked promising for a cooler day yesterday.  It did drop a few degrees, but replaced the higher numbers with high humidity and I really don't know which was worse, and no rain fell at all.  The day before I had skipped cleaning the stalls in the barn; the heat had really gotten to me and I figured the girls could stand one night in a poopy room and that was better than me falling over in a froth.  One night yes, two nights no, so like it or not the stalls got cleaned yesterday.  I feel so bad for the goats when I clean their udders with a frigid wipe in winter, but was envious yesterday as I cooled them with those damp cloths.

Ohmigosh!  I'm used to being watched.  It's no surprise anymore to look out the window when I'm at the computer and find a flock of turkeys peeping in.  However, hearing a very noisy bird on the deck rail now and looking out to find a quail was a big surprise.  They are such shy birds that seeing them running in single file on the ground is a treat.  One noisy quail by its lonesome out in the open was almost shocking.  Just goes to show, I never know what I'll see here.

Ordinarily I dislike a trip to town.  I've got to make that run today and I'm actually looking forward to a ride in the air-conditioned truck.  It may be the only relief in sight.