Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Take Two And Call Me

If I take four pain killers in a year, it's a bad year.  I think because I take so little (or no) medication, on those occasions when I need pills they're very effective.  It's my own theory, but it works for me. The old saying went, "Take two aspirin and call me in the morning."  (Those were the days when one could actually talk to your doctor.)  In other words, get over yourself.  By the time I went down to the goats, I was back in shape and am fine now.

Turkeys in the yard are a daily sight.  The other morning the toms were on parade, heading toward the breakfast bar.  All but one, standing on a rock just on the other side of the drive with its back turned.  It seemed different.  It was.  It was a vulture.  There is a resident crew on posts, trees, and wires, sometimes on the ground in the goat pen waiting their turn at the water trough, but never have I seen one so close to the house.  It eventually flew off, but it did make me wonder.

Once in awhile I will get a call to "Dr. Mom" from one of the Kids.  Advice ranges from, "Get yourself to the emergency room now!," "You might want to have that looked at by your doctor," whatever treatment I know will help, to, "Take two aspirin and call me in the morning."  Merck Manual has stood me in good stead many times when the situation was beyond my knowledge.  Lucy, in the "Peanuts" cartoon, had a sign that read, "The doctor is in."  I got one of those calls yesterday.  Fortunately, it was not an emergency and Kid and I took the wait-and-see route.

Skies were overcast all day and temps dropped into the 70s, delightful weather.  At sundown, the sun broke through and showed off with a blinding blaze that made the reverse fields glow like gold while I made my way to the goat pen.  I love the sight of my curving drive leading home.
Ever the quick-change artist, it was only a short time later that clouds moved back in to highlight the layers of blankets as the sun went to bed for the night.  If that view of peace and calm doesn't cure what ails ya, take two aspirin and call me in the morning.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sit, Stay

I know better.  Rushing around (unnecessarily, as it turned out) in the dark yesterday, I did not put on my wonderful lighted hardhat, thinking I knew the terrain out by the truck and that the porch light would be enough.  Almost home free, I was going back to the house for one more bag of trash when I tripped on an old iron barrel hoop that the wicked ground squirrels had pushed out into my way (it sure wasn't where I'd put it to save for the ironmonger).  Landing on my knee on the edge of the hoop brought me up short, but nothing was broken and I still needed to get down to the big road.  Mission accomplished, it wasn't until later that the wrenched muscles kicked in.  Linda had business to take care of down in town most of the day, and I was glad no one was home to witness my lack of ambition.  Milking done and animals cared for, I headed for the chair and followed my own advice.  "Sit, stay!"

Back in the day, Nat King Cole and also the Andrews Sisters put out a song called, "Straighten up and fly right."  It was playing in my head this morning as I hobbled out, bent over like a crone, to the kitchen for coffee and a couple of pain pills.  There's work to be done and one day of "sit, stay" was quite enough.

Hahaha!  Trash Guy is just going up Robert's drive.  Been there, done that!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Shot In The Dark

If it is true, as the saying goes, "A day late and a dollar short," does it mean if one is a day early that money will be coming in?  If so, then I should be independently wealthy by nightfall.  Last week I was, as usual, running behind and rushed to meet Trash Guy on the road before he trundled off to parts unknown.  Not wanting a repeat performance, I hurried around in the dark this morning to load up the truck and beat TG to the corner.  I got worried when I saw only one other barrel down by the mailboxes.  Hmmm?  Evidently I am not the only one who is calendar challenged.  It is Monday.  Not Tuesday.  Not trash day yet.  I had time.  Oh well.  I'll wait for the cash to roll in.

One benefit to getting rolling early this morning was this view of the Super Moon, still hanging in the western sky.  That blue dot in the middle is some sort of camera defect, probably due to the flash, and not supposed to be there.  We watched and waited for the lunar eclipse.  Unfortunately, the rising of the moon and beginning of the eclipse were hidden behind a low cloud cover, but we did get to see the eclipse itself, if not the "blood moon" effect.  Bessie was quite pleased to be out on night walkies; it's been a long time.

Having a handy-dandy leaf blower puts a terrible burden on a person.  In the past I could watch leaves pile up on the deck and think, "Well, I'll have to do something about that one of these days, but it's too hot (windy, cold, whatever excuse was at hand) to do right now.  The breezes blow and the leaves fall and I, the Great Procrastinator, am out of reasons to put it off.  I've been clearing the deck weekly, if only to justify the purchase.

Knowing that I'd probably not get a good shot in the dark last night, I took this photo of another (yes, yet another) fabulous sunset in the evening.

It's probably a long shot, but I'm planning how to spend all those dollars that will soon arrive.  It will be a blue moon before I'm ever early again.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

It's All Good

"It's all good, Mom," is one of my son's favorite sayings.  My youngest is the Joe Btfsplk (Al Capp's bad-luck cartoon character) of the family.  Whenever something unfortunate happens in his life (right now he's awaiting surgery on a blown knee), his ending comment is always, "It's all good."  Where this kind, gentle man got his unfailing sense of equanimity, I don't know, but I try to learn from him and act accordingly.  Some days that's harder than others.

The drought has placed terrible stress on the oaks.  This "branch" like a pretty good-sized tree actually fell the afternoon before, but I wasn't ready to go out and assess damage then.  We walked down the drive in the morning to see what was what.

It was a clean break.  The reason there was no whump when it fell is because the "trunk" never hit the ground, the leafy top cushioning the blow.
This puts perspective on the size of this branch.

Dollar signs flying past my eyes and mightily discouraged, it was time to find the good in any of this.  You know what?  There's plenty for which to be thankful.  This tree is far from the house.  Only leaves brushing past with inches to spare, it did not take down the board fence by the front pasture.  As tall is it is, the branch did not fall across and block the driveway.  The deer are grateful for the now within-reach snacks.  There is really no rush to do anything right at the moment.  Linda has volunteered to help use the loppers to remove the twiggy stuff so whenever I get around to asking the helper dudes of the day to use chainsaws (not me, baby!  I don't touch those things) their job will be easier.  The goats like oak leaves better than anything.  The wood will need to age, but I see a stash of firewood in my future for next year.  As Larry would say, it's all good.

Sweet cob in the breakfast bowls for the girls and dropped on the ground for the mice earned me forgiveness.  Every girl came in on the run (I think the word spread quickly) and every single one licked the bowl clean, including picky Esther and Cindy.  Crisis and revolt averted, peace has been restored in the barn.  Whew.  It's all good.

Saturday, September 26, 2015


Cracked corn stolen from the chickens bought me a partial pardon yesterday.  The mice were hoping for something a little better, but at least stopped giving me The Look.  Three of the goats ate the new feed okay.  Esther was going to balk again but I threw in a handful of corn and she ate some of the feed while picking through her bowl for the kernel bits.  Cindy wouldn't even come in the room.  Given what I had to clean up in her stall, what she had eaten the day before certainly hadn't agreed with her.  It's a sure bet Bess and I went to the feed store again.  I need full redemption.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Look

There will be another trip to the feed store today, not because I'm out of goat chow but because I got the wrong kind last time.  My preference for the girls is lactating goat chow, a mixture of whole grains and pellets.  It has a higher protein percentage and helps with milk production.  There are times when the store is out of the preferred chow and second best is sweet cob, same grains but no pellets.  That would be the girls' first choice as it has more molasses and those girls definitely like sugar on their cereal.  After feeding two bags of sweet cob, I'd hoped a new delivery of the LGC had come in, but no.  The store had a new brand of goat chow and I thought I'd give that a try.  This is a totally new type of feed in that it is all there, grains and green stuff, ground up very fine and combined in very small pellets with none of the whole grains and crushed corn that the girls and the mice like.  The goats seem to like it okay, all except Esther, who turned up her nose yesterday morning and dumped her dish.  The problem is the mice.

There are two clans of mice in the barn, living on either side of the milking room.  Each clan puts out sentries to keep watch and then alert their comrades that breakfast is being served.  The first day I put down the new feed there were a few traces of the sweet cob left in the bucket.  The mice picked through their servings (each side gets its own helping), trying to find the grains, giving me questioning looks when those pickings were slim.  Hey, guys, it's all I've got.  Yesterday there were no grains at all.  The clans ran back and forth to the opposite camp to see if they had any.  I'm apologizing like crazy but they weren't having any of that.  They lined up on either side like the warriors in Braveheart, and boy! did I ever get The Look.  Extra squirts of milk did not appease their disappointment in me.

This morning I'll take down some of the chicken feed as a peace offering, and then I'll go to the feed store again.  I don't deal well with guilt.

The day didn't have such a great beginning, but a rather spectacular finish.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Nothing If Not Consistent

If I make a goof once, I can be counted on to do it exactly the same way again.  It was "Get the danged freezer to the dump!" day and Linda came along for the ride (and to give assistance).  Driving the hilly, curvy road was interesting with that freezer shifting back and forth behind the cab.  When we got into town, I mentioned that I always miss the turn into the Waste Management Disposal Site (highfalutin' name for the dump) and asked her to watch for the sign.  It is a very small sign with small lettering, hidden on a post under a bigger sign about something else.  We saw it as we were going past.  I turned at the next road to go back.  Going this direction, there wasn't any sign at all so I missed the turn again.  Waste Management evidently likes to keep a low profile.  I turned around again and pulled over.  Linda got out her GPS, which would have been helpful but for the fact that we knew where the dump was.  It was almost a case of "you can't get there from here" because the road kept mysteriously disappearing.  Success came on the third go-round and we pulled in, paid the fee, and drove up to the nice man who was to direct me where to go.  I told him what I had and that if the tape didn't hold, it could be a really stinky mess.  His response, "Oh crap!"  Using his walkie-talkie to check with higher ups, it was decided to send us around to the industrial section rather than the public bays.  Hey, I just wanted the thing out of my truck.  And that presented a new problem.  It had taken two strong men to get the freezer into the truck and only short Linda and old me to get it out.  I had sort of counted on a gallant knight to come to our aid, but none seemed available.  I pulled and Linda pushed and because of the slick bed liner, the freezer slid out like it was next to nothing.  And, when it dropped, the tape held.  Feeling slightly criminal, we got out of Dodge!

The next stop was a small store hidden behind some commercial buildings.  Sometime back, the lady who runs the store changed the one day she's closed during the week.  It used to be Tuesday, now it's Wednesday.  Being the creature of habit I am, and rarely knowing what day of the week it is anyhow, I sometimes get it wrong.  A month ago when Linda was here, we went to town, pulled up to the little store, and it was Wednesday.  The door was locked.  Oh crum.  Yesterday, I pulled into the parking lot and Linda said, "There are a lot of cars back here so it seems she's open."  "Yes, at least it isn't Wednesday."  Pause.  "But is is Wednesday."  I had to pull out my phone to check and, by golly, it was Wednesday.  Yogi Berra was the king of malaprops, and we laughed hysterically when Linda quoted him, "It's deja vu all over again."  It was perfect.

I'm nothing if not consistent.  It was a good day.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Good Son

Got milk?  Why yes, I do!  I fear that the breakfast crowd have become milkaholics.  They seem to know that they won't get their "fix" until Sheila is on the stand, but a few double check the rake while I'm tending to Inga.  Disappointed, they settle for a bite of grain while they wait.  A few well-placed squirts fill the ridge on the rake and soak the wipe on the ledge and mice come out of the woodwork.  They lap and suck it up, requiring a number of refills.  The athletic ones climb up like acrobats, the less inclined wait below for drips to roll down the shovel.  These little cartoon characters crack me up.

On to the business of the day.  For years, there has been a competition for "Good Son Points" among the boys in the family (lucky me!).  "Oh sure, you're the good son!"  "What do you think, Mom, do I get some points for this?"  If a faux pas is made they will tell each other, "Boy, you sure lost good son points for that."  All of my children are special to me, but I must say that Clay upped the ante yesterday, bringing up another truck and trailer load of firewood.  Linda more than earned points by doing yeoman's duty, stacking the logs for the winter.  Being smaller stuff than the last load, I...well, okay, I still couldn't keep up with Clay and Linda, but I'm a helluva supervisor.  A cord of stacked wood is 4x4x8'.  Counting the rounds yet to be split, Clay has brought up over two cords of firewood in two weeks, loading it by himself and not depending on much help from me with the unload.  We were both thankful for Linda.

As if that wasn't enough to move up on the points board, when Helper Dude arrived, Clay and HD got the heavy, heavy dead freezer out of the shed and into my truck, no easy job that.  To make it worse, the stench was enough to knock a grown man over, liquid goo oozed out, and fruit flies swarmed.  Eeeuw!  I had tried to figure out how old the freezer was, at least 20 years, I thought.  When Linda saw it, she said, "Harvest gold.  Must be from the '70s."  Harvest gold and avocado green were the "in" appliance colors of those years.  Clay found a label that identified the freezer from 1975!  It certainly did its work.

It was a busy, busy, tiring day.  It was a good day.  Thanks, Clay!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

And Then...

Her plans and arrangements were all made, and then....  Linda must feel that she's fallen out of the tornado into Oz.  Having left Seattle behind, her rental agreement fell through and, literally homeless, my friend is stuck here while she looks for a house to buy in the area.  She is very patient with my bossy ways.  "No, the forks must go in the dishwasher tines up!"  (There's a reason for that.)  I am selfish with the TV remote, especially on NASCAR Sundays and "Blue Bloods" Thursdays.  Each of us having lived alone, we're still getting used to the transition from guest to housemate, and it's working very well (except for, perhaps, the remote, which I won't give up).  After the cool, moist weather in Seattle, Linda has also had to acclimate to the hot, dry summer here.  (I don't like it much, either.)  Luna is slowly coming out of her shell and out of her room more frequently.  Bessie Anne tolerates her and the cats avoid her, not exactly the welcoming committee, but it's working.

I went out to the second shed where extra this's and that's are stored to get a big trash bag, and then....  The first clue was the smell.  The big, very old freezer had died.  I don't know when because I don't go in that shed often.  The freezer was mainly for fruit and tomatoes, so not much was lost, although I do mourn the big pork roast from a home-grown hog that I was saving for a big family do.  I know that every fruit fly in America has put in a change-of-address card.  I called the disposal site (what we used to call the Dump) and the very nice lady told me I didn't have to clean the freezer before bringing it in.  My plan is to seal the door with duct tape and forget what's in there.  Clay is coming up today and maybe the three of us can load it in my truck for a trip to town tomorrow.

I have no idea how the "data allowance" on the computer works.  There is a little status meter on the tool bar and I dutifully check it daily.  When I shut the computer down yesterday after writing my piece, there was 63% left, and then....  Logging back in yesterday afternoon, I had no data allowance at all and the meter was totally in the red.  The attempt to find out how and why this happened and how to fix it took two hours on the phone to the Philippines.

There was just enough time to get down to the feed store to get goat chow before it closed.  Bessie Anne and I drove home with the air-conditioner blasting, and then....  Linda had fixed dinner while we were gone.  This housemate thing certainly has its perks.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Bad Movie

Gasp!  Coming back in from the barn, I saw that the living room screen door was ajar.  Oh crum!  Where are the cats?  Ralph and Celeste are indoor cats.  In Seattle, three-legged Luna had been allowed outside once in awhile, but not here.  Linda and I went upstairs and down, looking under beds and in closets.  Finally, and with a great sense of relief, all noses were present and accounted for.

The heat has returned with temps up in the 90s.  It was a good day to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers tromp the San Francisco 49ers (not that I play favorites, heh-heh).  After that came the first race in the NASCAR Chase.  Unfortunately, my guy, Clint Bowyer didn't make the cut and so will be out of the running for the big money.  Doing laundry is a way to be productive without a lot of effort while indulging in TV.  I sure didn't dawdle while hanging clothes on the line in the blazing sunshine.

After the race was over and the deck was in shade, it was time to give the poor plants a drink of water, a pleasant chore.  And then, like a rerun of a bad movie, we found that the dining room door had not closed fully.  Twice in one day the cats had an opportunity to escape.  We located Luna and Celeste, but Ralph remained missing.  Searching inside and out, we retraced our hunt again and again.  No Ralph.  It's hard to describe how my heart sank.  There was one more load of laundry to hang and I scanned the open fields and called and called for my sweet red cat.  Reluctantly, I went back into the house that would seem so empty and...lo and behold, Ralph emerged from the stairwell!  He'd evidently found a new hidey-hole downstairs and got overlooked during the search.  Relief washed over me in waves.  The lost had been found.

It might have been a bad movie, but it had a happy ending.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

You Know What You Have?

"You know what you have?  You have spunk!  (pause)  I hate spunk."  I never see or use the word spunk without hearing curmudgeonly Ed Asner talking to Mary Tyler Moore.  That word does come to mind, however, when I see the spunky hens chasing turkeys four times their size away from their food (which is every morning).

Ground squirrels have chutzpah.  They also join the chickens for breakfast and I see them going in and out of the coop with impunity.  Brazen little creatures, they are.

I know one hen did not have a good day yesterday.  It's simply unimaginable what it must have been like to lay this egg with ripples and wrinkles all around the shell.  This is not one of those eggs that once in a great while have a very thin, almost soft shell.  It's an honest-to-God hard-shelled egg that didn't want to go through the chute.  Ouch!

Knowing that we are in for another heat wave, I had a rare burst of ambition and got the rest of the windows and siding washed in the relative cool yesterday.  One of these days I might have enough ambition to wash the inside windows.  Or not.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Just Routine

As it is with old friends, Linda and I have quickly settled into our familiar routines.  I get up well before dawn to spend time on the computer.  She wakes later.  We're neither of us "morning people," preferring to ease into the day instead of hitting the ground running.  When I hear footsteps in the hall, I'll put on her pot of coffee (mine drunk hours before), say good morning, and retreat back to my bedroom.  She has a laptop 'puter and sets up on the kitchen counter.  Luna, who rarely comes out of her room during the day, has, I am told, taken advantage of this routine to join Linda in the kitchen and make herself at home.  Linda says the cat inspects windowsills and furniture with impunity, enjoying a brief period out of lockup.  I am evidently a scarier threat than my cats or Bess because should I appear, all I get is a glimpse of grey and a fluffy tail as Luna races past.

The Queen of England could be in residence and I would still have to excuse myself to do barn chores.  That routine is set in stone.

Buying a business (goes into escrow in the next week) and finding a house takes Linda away for most of the day.  The winds of the last few days deposited a new layer of leaves on the deck.  Now having the right tool for the job makes blowing those leaves away so much easier.  In fact, I could make this a new weekly routine.  I wish I could blow away the dust inside the house just as easily.

It was an unexpected surprise when Linda came home bearing a pizza and salad from The Pizza Factory last evening.  I quickly put the chicken I'd been thawing into the fridge and pulled out a couple of plates.  The Pizza Factory makes the best doggone pizza ever!  Nom nom nom!  What a nice break from the dinner routine.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Business As Usual

With all the comings and goings of late and whining about heat and smoke, I haven't been reporting much about the animals at Farview.  Regardless of what else is going on, they remain ever constant, ever changing, and always keep me grounded.

Kinks, the mouse with the crooked tail, shows up nearly every day.  He's the only individual in the tribe that I can readily identify, so I miss him when he's absent for roll call.

Much of what I do in the barn is done by rote and my mind wanders while performing the same chores day after day.  Get the goat up on the stand, grab the brush and get the girl prettified, pull two wipes to wash her udder in preparation for milking.  Oops!  Somehow that udder didn't feel quite right.  The look I got from Esther when I started swabbing brought me to my senses.  Esther has not given milk for a couple of years.

Cindy continues to have good days and not-so-good.  A couple of days ago, she was off her feed and refused to come in for breakfast.  I didn't push the issue, but it put the sequence out of whack.  Normally the last thing I do before leaving the barn is to open the gate to the big pen.  Somebody or other was due to arrive and I was hurrying to get back to the house.  Later, I noticed that all of the girls were lined up by the gate, staring longingly toward Robert's.  Boy, my name would have been Mudd!  Robert and his crew were doing another grape crush and, to the girls, that meant treats.  I went down and opened the gate.  I need all the points I can get.

With company here, I was running behind at dusk and reached into the grain bin without looking.  There was no time to deal with Thing, who was hiding at the bottom and raced over my hand in the dark.  I don't know which of us was the more surprised.  I rather unceremoniously scooped him out with a bucket and dumped him on the floor and went on about the business of putting the chickens to bed.

Honey bees cluster on the lacy white blossoms of the garlic chives.  As always, I wonder what that honey tastes like.  I'm thinking eeuw, but that's just me.

Hummers continue to come in droves to the feeders, sucking up over two quarts of juice a day.  They will literally bang on the windows if the bottles are empty.  One staple I must not run out of is sugar, bought in 25-pound bags just for them.

Business as usual at Farview Farm.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Welcome Back

Anyone remember the old TV series "Welcome Back, Kotter," the one that gave John Travolta his start playing Vinnie Barbarino?  Linda must feel she's also in a rerun, as she and Luna were welcomed back here yesterday.  Having left Seattle for good, she's trading city life for a place in the country but the house she'll be renting is not quite ready for a resident.  Happily, the cool weather held and the smoke, at least for now, did not hang over our heads.  Luna is once again confined in voluntary isolation, with the house cats standing guard outside her door.  Bessie Anne seems to have taken the opinion that, "Mom has done it again," and doesn't pay much attention this go-round.  Cam and Honey joined us for a celebratory dinner last night.  I made a version of a frozen pea salad with chopped radishes, mint and parsley, with a yogurt-lemon dressing.  It got a thumbs up from all, so I may try it again, another rerun.

Welcome back, Linda!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Hot And Cold

Standard tank top uniform.  Hmm, feels a little chilly (yes, I remember that word).  Put a denim shirt over the tank top.  Do the walkabout.  Hmm, feels right cold!  Take off denim shirt and put on a quilted flannel jacket.  Better.  While milking, watched mist roll in over the goat pen.  Scary for a minute because it looked just like smoke.  Back in the house, too chill for comfort.  Close one living room door.  Better.  Breeze blowing in.  Close the other door.  After what seemed like months, both doors were closed and it was an absolutely perfect day for what came next.

Clay, my son by another mother (too lengthy, I've decided to name him my "plus-one" Kid),  had called a day or so before and said he was coming up and was bringing some firewood.  Oh, goody!  I was thinking a truck bed of wood, and that would be so helpful.  My stash was pretty low going toward winter.  I didn't know Clay had acquired a new, big trailer and it and his truck were loaded to the gunnels with rounds, big rounds, of seasoned wood.  Following Steve's example, Clay is an accomplished scrounge and had scored this wood for free.  Steve would be so proud.  I'd like to say I helped unload this mountain of treasure, but truthfully was about as useful as teats on a boar, as my daddy used to say.  For an old gal, I've still got some pretty good "guns," but not enough for any but the smallest logs.  Poor Clay, who had to load the wood in the first place was stuck with the unloading, too.  And he said he'd be back next Tuesday with another truck and trailer!  The term is glutton for punishment.  I hope the weather will be as cooperative then.  Clay has split days off, so giving up one is a real gift, one I appreciate more than I can say.  The least I could do was give him a dinner to fill up his empty spot and hopefully replenish his energy.  As the firewood will warm the house in the future, Clay's company warmed my heart.

It was a good day in all ways.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

For A Change

Cats sleep in the darnedest positions.  For a change, I caught Ralph in a rare moment of repose yesterday.  Back to his normal antics this morning, he is racing around in the dark, brrrp-brrrping as he goes, and ambushing Celeste from under the dust ruffle on the bed.  She is not amused.

After days of thick smoke, heat, lassitude, and difficulty breathing, a most welcome breeze sprang up yesterday, offering some relief for a change.  Unfortunately, that lovely, smoke-moving breeze soon became a strong, gusting wind, as strong as any we've had of late.  From the piles of leaves on the deck now, one would never know I'd used the leaf blower (I think they call that job security).  While I found the cooler temperature and lack of smoke invigorating, I worried what the wind was doing to the Butte Fire.  I actually got more done in one day than I'd done in a week, polishing, washing, dry-mopping, and getting trash down to the big road.  (Must be careful not to strain my arm while patting self on the back.)  The best change of all came after dark when I heard, wait, can it be?, rain on the deck!  Really and truly rain!  Maybe this would give the fire-fighters a much-needed break.  It didn't last all night, but the deck and earth are still wet, a hopeful sign.  In the dim, predawn light, I can't tell if that is smoke or mist that hides the hills to the south, but I'm holding the good thought.

For a change, it was a good day.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Change Of Plans

It was one of those days when plans go awry and nothing to do but roll with it.  Steve's family is chock-full of cousins who are very close in their hearts, if not in distance.  Found out early in the morning that one, sadly, had died suddenly.  Chris and Mike, who were coming here, were diverted to join the gathering of the grieving clan.  Given that the smoke is still heavy in the air here, it's just as well.  All I can do is send love and hugs to all.

There was a brief spattering of rain while I was milking yesterday and, for a brief moment, I was hopeful.  But no, a couple of spits and that was that.  The temperature did drop a few degrees and perhaps that will help the firefighters.  As if the Butte Fire wasn't enough to strain resources, the Valley Fire sprang up in Lake County, where there are more cousins.  A good portion of the day was spent on FB and the phone, making contact and getting reassurance that all were safe.  We can expect an influx of displaced wildlife here, animals, reptiles, and fowl lucky enough to escape with their lives.  Heroic measures have been taken to rescue people and livestock, but the wild things are on their own.

These recent events certainly put everything in perspective, showing in graphics what is important.  Things are not.  People we hold dear are.  Just goes to show that our plans may not turn out the way we wish.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Play Your Hand

I don't like to pull the "age" card, but you play the hand you're dealt.  This is the view from the deck on any given day.  My company will have to take the house as it is today, as yesterday was not a good day to do much of anything.  The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak.

Essentially the same view completely obscured by smoke from the Butte Fire.  The air was thick and heavy, hard to breathe.  Taking care of the animals and making a quick run to the "local" grocery store was about all I could do.  It was one of those days when you realize you've moved into that "elderly" category where one is susceptible to air pollution.  Oh well, it is what it is.  And what's a little dust between friends? 

I fear there is some nutter firebug on the loose.  As if the Butte Fire, which is gobbling up homes by the dozens, weren't bad enough, there was also a small fire just up the road off of Slug Gulch and another up by Camille's property near Grizzly Flat.  Both of these fires were quickly put out by firefighter resources already stretched thin.  Just as bad, looting has begun in the areas evacuated over toward the Butte.  That leaves me wordless.

Temperatures are ever so slightly dropping and that's a good thing.  It's still too dark to see what the view will be today, but breathing is still somewhat difficult.  I guess clean sheets and a hot dinner will be the best I can do for Chris and Mike.  That's the hand they're being dealt.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Enough Of That

Unfortunately, there's not much to say that hasn't been said before.  The Butte Fire continues to rage, growing to nearly 65,000 acres overnight, and containment was down to 5% as of yesterday.  The pall of smoke hid the sun and ash rained down.  The temperature rose another notch or two.  That and the smoke made it hard to breathe and sapped what energy I might have had.

Okay, that's about enough of that!  No sense dwelling on that which cannot be controlled.

Not that Ralph can be controlled, but he's always good for a laugh.  These photos were taken recently (you can tell because that is bright sunshine on the floor, something we've not seen for days).  Tired of dragging his rope around, he started picking on Celeste, who was minding her own business and tucked up out of the way.

Ralph and Celeste often make me think of Deb and her three brothers when they were little.  Being the only girl in a bunch of boys was not easy for her.  Ralph tested the waters with a few tentative pats while Celeste did her best to ignore him.

And then it was Katy-bar-the-door!  Whap whap whap!  I was not able to get a picture of the end to this event.  Celeste leaped out of her hidey-hole and took Ralph down (You go, Deb!).  Satisfied that she had taught Brother a lesson, she calmly stalked away.  She'd had about enough of that.

Ready or not, guests are coming tomorrow.  Cousins are traveling from Oregon back to Arizona and, happily, will stay here for the night.  It's been way too long since I've seen Chris and Mike, two very special people.  Temps are due to drop this weekend and that's a good thing.  I could wish that conditions were better, but it is what it is.

Friday, September 11, 2015

A Glimpse Of Hell

The Butte Fire in Amador-Calaveras counties is the topic on everyone's mind here in the foothills.  This monster has grown to over 31,000 acres in what seems like the blink of an eye and containment has dropped to 10%.  Falling ash has sprinkled my deck.  This photo was taken at 11:00 yesterday.  By the time I left for town about 2, the sun was completely obliterated by thick black smoke from horizon to horizon.  It was eerie on the drive back home to see cars with headlights on at 4:30 in the afternoon, it was that dark.

This is what the sky looked like most of the day.  The taste of smoke is constant, eyes water, and breathing is difficult even at this distance.  Record heat in the 100s sure doesn't help.  Conditions for the true heroes, the firefighters on the line, are unimaginable.  It must be like standing at the gates of hell.  Mandatory evacuations are in effect for many and there is a scramble to get livestock and pets away.  The fire is non-directional so there is no one point of attack.

This is a more "artistic" shot, but doesn't give the same scope as the photo above.  I was able to talk with Tinka last evening and was reassured that she is in no imminent danger.  Cam came by and we discussed evacuation strategies.  Let's face it, no one is safe in fire season.

I can't say it was a good day and will settle for "so far, so good."

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Win Some, Lose Some

Poker games here are few and far between, but that doesn't dull the competitive spirit.  Running ahead of time or behind, the first thing I do when sitting down to milk is check the shadow on the door.  The game is to see if I can get all five girls on and off the stand before the shadow slides down and hits the floor.  There are no prizes, but that doesn't stop a little happy dance when I win.  Sometimes I award points for length of procrastination.  Just how long can I go without dusting?  Ah, one whole week!  Two points.  Whatever it might be, I am an honest competitor and no cheating is allowed.  Every morning, after checking Facebook and writing the blog, I play three games of solitaire on the computer.  First is plain Solitaire, then Spider Solitaire, and lastly Free Cell.  The point is that I cannot move on to the next game until the current one is won.  Like an omen, I know it's going to be a good day if I win on the first hand.  Some days it takes quite awhile before I can shut the computer down.  Sigh.

I'd like to say it was a burst of ambition fueled by success with the leaf blower, but the truth is that I jumped into a house-cleaning race (uninvited and unbeknownst to them) with Cam and Linda.  Linda has been working like a dog to get her house in Seattle ready to sell (it did!).  Cam has been working fingers to the bone to get a house ready for Linda to rent.  Linda will be settling here in the foothills within the week and needs a place to stay while looking for a permanent home.  My job so far has been to act as the cheering squad for both of these worker bees.  That alone wore me out.  I got points for procrastination, but finally took up the gauntlet yesterday.  Camille had said that one of her tasks was to wash windows and screens.  I told her about a great product, Windex Outdoor, that would cut that time to nothing with no effort involved.  The windows on my round room are about fifteen feet from the ground and years ago I was wondering how in the world I was going to clean them without endangering life and limb.  My sister told me about Windex Outdoor and I've used it ever since.  (This is not a commercial.)  The spray bottle fits on the water hose and has a switch for cleaning and rinsing and it works like a charm.  No streaks, no need to remove the screens.  Cam called the next day to thank me for the info; it had worked exactly as I'd said and saved her hours of hard work.  Okay, I couldn't stand it any longer.  Pulling out my own supply, I leaped into action yesterday and washed thirteen windows and glass-pane doors before the half-bottle of solution I had ran out.  That's got to be worth some points right there.  An added benefit is that the spray thingy, when on rinse, worked like a mini-power washer to clean the siding.  Who knew a house gets dusty on the outside, too?  I got a bonus star because I'd really meant to go to town yesterday, and cleaning windows was a ploy to put that off another day.

One race no one wants to be in is bigger or worse wildfires.  Temps were close to 100 yesterday and grass and underbrush crackle like tinder.  Going out last evening, an appalling cloud of smoke from the south made my heart sink.  My first thought was fear for my friend Tinka in Fiddletown.  A local FB page is a font of information and as soon as the kids were tucked in, I checked it out.  This pall of smoke is from a fire probably thirty miles away down near Jackson.  While still rural, it is in a more densely populated area and residents and firefighters are surely in my thoughts.  I hope they win this fight soon.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Where Have You Been?

Oh, baby, where have you been all my life?  Anticipation was high yesterday while waiting for the UPS "Wells-Fargo Wagon."  I'd checked the tracking number and knew the leaf blower was on its way.  I rarely to never order anything except books online and they come through the mail.  The gent in brown shorts drove up about five.  Knowing these guys don't have much time, I stuck a milk bone in my pocket for Bess before going out the door to meet him.  She thinks all deliverymen are the Cookie Guys and checks their trucks for her treat.  It's her reward for not barking at them, and it works.

Package in hand, I gave a perfunctory wave to UPS before tearing it open right there on the porch.  True to form, I read all the instructions before taking the parts out of the box (I can't help myself).  Seemed easy enough, and it was.  I knew the battery would need charging before tackling the deck, but it had enough juice to blow away the leaves stuck behind the firewood rack on the porch.  Yay!  The rack is loaded and can't be moved to sweep behind for most of the year.  Uninvited guests like snakes and black widow spiders make themselves at home there.  No more!

Fully charged in less than an hour, it was on to the deck.  This short section gives a pretty good picture of the job at hand.  Part of what had made this such a daunting task with a broom is that there is very little clearance under the pickets on the railing so that there was a veritable mountain of leaves that had to be swept and pushed from one end all the way down to the other.  I won't pretend to know the mechanics involved, but the leaf blower managed to blow them under the pickets in no time flat.
By the clock, it took six minutes to clear this area.  The tool is lightweight and very easy to use.  I'm not one to look for work, but this is something I could do every day (or not).  It is so nice to know that with a little warning, I could have the place looking good before company arrived.  I remember when the worker bees came up earlier this year and two of the ladies spent most of their time sweeping the deck.  It was hard for me to believe that the entire length was free of debris in a half-hour, done and done!
Celeste jumped in for a photo bomb just as I snapped the picture of this emerald gem.  No gas or oil, no pull cord, no emissions. I'm a happy, leaf-free camper.  My only question now is why did it take me so long to make the purchase.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Not Out Of The Woods

There is a twinge of guilt when reading about or seeing a wildfire rage in a distant area on the news.  Sorrow and sympathy for humans and wildlife affected are combined with relief that the fire is not close.  Yesterday multiple sirens came screaming up nearby roads and then helicopters roared overhead.  Everything came to a screeching halt here.  Camille called to ask what I could see or what I knew.  Not only was I out on the deck checking the skyline for smoke, but Tree Guy and Mrs. Tree Guy drove up immediately.  Like an old war horse, TG was a wildfire fighter for many years and sirens are like the trumpet call to arms for him.  On top of the hill, my place is the best place in the area to spot smoke.  We never did see any smoke, but the helicopters and spotter planes continued to circle over toward Slug Gulch and/or Omo Ranch.  There is a FB page by and for locals and while TG continued to watch for plumes, I checked online and found that there was a vegetation fire about five miles from here up Slug Gulch behind the previously burned-out Oakstone Winery.  Hmmm.  Wind was coming out of the northwest, which would have sent the fire to the east (another sigh of relief), had it gotten out of control.  All praise and many thanks to the firefighters who got the blaze knocked down within such a short time.  Given the tinder-dry underbrush and drought conditions, we've been so lucky so far in this season, but there's no rain in the forecast and we're not out of those woods yet.

On a much happier note, I got a quick, three-word text from my distant son Pete that brightened my day and gladdened my heart.  Like the smiley faces from Larry or the "Love ya, Mama" from Dave and the chats with Deb and Clay, those little notes are like the touch of a loved one's hand.

In the afternoon, turkeys by the chicken pen all sounded off at the same time.  I went to the window to see what had set them off.  The flock was clumped together, all staring down toward the woods and giving a warning call.  Try as I might, I did not see what they saw/had seen.  Shortly, they all turned and went about their business, so I assume the danger was past and the predator had moved on.  After the goats going on high alert the night before, I know that we're not out of those woods, either.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Dead Battery(ies)

One of those cycles has begun when the battery in this, that, and the other thing dies.  Sometimes they expire one at a time, sometimes all together or in groups.  I could deal with the living room wall clock slowing down five minutes, but gasping its last at fifteen minutes behind told me it's time to put the poor thing out of its misery and replace the battery.  A night ago, the batteries in the bedroom TV remote died without warning; no change the channel, no turn it off.  Dead, dead, dead.  Drat.  On the verge of sleep, the turning-it-off problem was solved by using the timer remote so I didn't have to listen to infomercials all night in my dreams.  One drawer in the kitchen is devoted to batteries, batteries of all sizes:  A, AA, AAA, C, D, and 9-volt (why are there no B batteries?).  As has been said before, it doesn't pay to run out of any staple up here, so batteries immediately went up on the board as soon as I'd replaced them in clock and remote.  I also kicked myself for not buying the 8-pack instead of the 4.  Once the cycle starts, I can anticipate more dead-o's in the near future.  The ones I really hate are the smoke alarms which signal imminent demise with an intermittent high-pitched scream that drives the cats and dog into a panic and doesn't do my heart rate any good, either.

There have been so many sightings of and/or killings by mountain lions in this area lately that the goats being spooked last night had me on high alert.  A task that normally takes about five minutes lasted a good half-hour last evening as no one wanted to go to bed.  I tried explaining that they'd be safer inside behind locked doors, but the girls clumped together, snorting and staring into Robert's vineyard.  Patience is definitely a virtue when working with animals, but mine was getting stretched thin as the sun dropped and dark was coming on.  Finally, slowly and one at a time, the girls gave up and hesitatingly went to their rooms.  By that time, my own batteries were getting low and I went back to the house to get recharged.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Paean To The Day

Nights have become very chilly and that is so very, very welcome.  The night before when I'd awake cold, I just piled on more cats and pulled the dog closer.  Last night I put the comforter back on the bed.  On morning walkabout yesterday I saw this vulture giving praise and welcoming the sun at the very top of the oak in the lower side yard and understood his feelings exactly.  Near 100s are predicted for later this week, but I'm not ready to think about that.  Some things are better dealt with by avoidance.

It is Labor Day weekend and I'm actually looking forward to a particular labor, although the tool will not arrive until Tuesday.  Leaves are falling in drifts, and Bess is accessorizing for the season.  Her shorter hairdo does not prevent oak leaves from collecting on her fur.  Almost the same buff color, they're quite attractive on her, but not on the carpet when she brings them in.  I'm thinking the newly purchased leaf blower may be a very good investment.

Saturday mornings have become very special to me.  My daughter Deb is also a very early riser, Craig not s'much.  Deb calls on Saturday before sunrise and we share coffee time and a mother-daughter chat before beginning our activities.  Another of my Kids, Larry, speaks to me in code.  At any time of day or night, on any day of the week, I will get a text with just a smiley face.  It simply means "I'm thinking about you."  I send a smiley face back that means "I love you."  Did I mention I really like my Kids?

The day ended as it had begun, with sunlight.

It was a good day.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Doesn't Get Much Better

It was neat to get a text from my son Dave on Thursday, asking if I'd like to meet him for lunch yesterday.  Would I?  Hmmm.  You bet!!  When?  Where?  (Where was a no-brainer as Bones in Pleasant Valley is "the" meet-and-greet watering hole up here.)  For once, the girls cooperated as I raced through barn chores and I was able to get to PV on time.  The temperature held in the 70s and it was a perfect day for a motorcycle ride; Dave's wasn't the only Harley parked in front.  We sat out on the patio under a shady umbrella to eat, drink, and talk.  With nothing else on our agendas, and on a weekday there was no crowd waiting for our table, we were able to share some rare one-on-one time for the whole afternoon.  That sends a mother over the moon.

Just when I thought the day couldn't get any better, it did!  Shortly after returning home, I received a call from Clay who also had the day off and time to talk.  We do have short, "Hi, how ya doing?" conversations, but not often long catch-up calls.  Great minds think alike, and it turns out Clay had just bought a leaf blower too.  (Mine will have more voltage and power, ha ha!)

Time is a precious commodity, and I so appreciate when it is gifted.

Need I say it?  It was a good day.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Keep It In The Family

Call it tradition, call it heritage, call it lack of imagination.  Call it what you will, my family tends to pass the same names around through generations, although there are no "Juniors" or "II, III," etc.  My sister had seven children and, being older, got first pick when naming her kids, although she showed the same lack of originality with her girls, all of whom have Mary or Marie as a middle name.  In my own tribe, like drawing from a deck of cards, we called on uncles and grandparents of both genders to hand out in random fashion.  Aunts were neglected, as Jimmy and Carl no longer seemed appropriate names for girls.  Within three generations, there are two named David, three James, two Matthew, three Alvena, three Lawrence, and two Peter.  Once in awhile, just for variety, we threw a new name into the mix and so have a Debra and a Steven (my husband Steve came later, and then we had two of those).  The others are all reruns.  In addition to relatives, a beloved hospital chaplain got mixed in twice.  Two of my sons carry his name, and one Kid got loaded with three names (two in the middle) so we could fit it in.  Whether used as first or middle was purely luck of the draw, but, by golly, we were going to keep those names in the family.

In the mid 70s, yesterday was weather heaven, a day to be relished.  I actually felt virtuous as I vacuumed, relieved to be up and moving again after sitting like a lump during the heat.  Outside, I wasn't quite ready to tackle the leaves on the deck with a broom.  Like first dipping a toe in the water, one must ease into physical activity.  Later in the evening, discussing that situation and my desire for a leaf blower with Linda, the decision was made and with her help, a battery-powered blower was ordered online and will be here next week.  Oh crum, there goes my last excuse.

PS:  I stand corrected.  One of my sister's four daughters was middle-named Esther, after our mother, who hated her name and wondered why my sister would inflict that on her child.  (My mother was named Esther because she was born on Easter that year.)  Duh.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Help Wanted

There is a "white board" on the refrigerator where I write my grocery list.  It doesn't do to run out of anything up here; there is no AM/PM on every (make that any) corner and nothing is open after dark, anyhow.  Since my memory bank is short on funds, I use that board on a daily basis.  I try to stock one ahead on everything and when the second can/jar/package is opened, that item immediately gets written on the board.

On that board also is a "Help Wanted" column where I list chores or projects that are either two-person jobs or something I cannot do myself.  My Kids used to ask, "What do you need done, Mom?," when they came up.  Now they can look at the board and decide if they have the time and/or inclination to tackle that chore right then or hold it for another day.  As they have in the past, sometimes they form a group, come up together, and clear the board all at once.  After Helper Dude came yesterday, I was able to erase everything on  the Help Wanted list.  Cindy's stall door once again swings freely without fear the whole thing would fall off.  The pull cord on the weedwhacker took a little finagling (HD isn't one to read instructions) to replace, but it got done.  Seventy gallons of green water went down a nearby squirrel hole when the goat trough drained.  Scrubbed and clean, filling it again certainly put in perspective what people in the Outingdale community have to deal with as they are restricted to only fifty gallons of water per day due to the drought.  Since the trough is emptied only once a year, I didn't feel too guilty.  It is so very nice to have the board cleared.

This boy needs help.  Maybe glasses, maybe counseling.  I wish I could play a recording of his sweet-talk as he wooed his reflection in the truck bumper.  Once, I thought perhaps the toms were threatening a potential rival in the chrome, but no.  There was no mistaking the intent of this male's cooing.  Aww, sweetie.  You "ain't gonna get no satisfaction" there (apologies to the Rolling Stones).

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

September Song

"Oh, it's a long, long time from May to December, but the days grow short when you reach September."  And that's the truth, be it literal or figurative.  Almost 7 a.m. and the sun isn't up yet, and the girls have to be in the barn by 7:30 p.m. or it is too dark for them to see the back of their stall and we have problems.  I've been seeing more vultures than usual riding the afternoon thermals.  Mid September is when those great birds begin their migration, an event that holds me in thrall every year.  Just saw a documentary yesterday that showed vultures to hold the world record for high flight; a particular breed has been spotted at altitudes higher than Mt. Everest!  On my last trip to town, there were displays of Halloween, that's pushing the envelope in my opinion.  Honestly, I don't know anyone with enough self-control to hold a bag (or even a bar) of candy for two months.  It is, however, a portent of what is to come.  (Can Christmas be far behind?)

There is a day when you wake up and just know the seasons have changed.  Somehow the air feels different, be it summer, winter, spring, or fall, even if the temperatures haven't changed that much.  It's time to begin getting ready for what comes next.  Helper Dude is coming today to help me replace a hinge on a stall door and empty and clean the goats' water trough.  Neither is a hard job, but both need two pairs of hands.  He's also going to replace the pull cord on the weedwhacker.  It won't be all that long until I'll be able to start cutting down the overgrowth of weeds, especially along the driveway.  There's not a lot I can do to prepare for the promised El Nino this winter, but I'll do what I can to get ready for autumn.  Make hay while the sun shines!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What Next?

Bess Anne is determined to have a neurosis and is trying out new ones all the time to see which one she likes best and which one works.  For a period of time, she would not step foot in the kitchen (she still won't come into the bathroom).  I refused to move her food dish, but did shift it to a place where she only had to come a few steps in.  When she was again comfortable coming into the room, Bess decided she would not go out to the deck via the round room doors.  I had to let her out through the doors in the dining room.  She's over that now because I finally told her, "It's either this door when I go out this way or you stay inside."  She nearly drove me over the edge when she was having panic attacks and had to be in my lap at all times, forcing her way up onto the chair, pushing Celeste (and Ralph on his rare appearances) out of the way.  I felt sorry for her and was guilty of indulging her and reinforcing that behavior.  I still let my girl join me, but only when I choose to allow it.  Okay, since none of that was working, Bess moved on.  She will ask to be let out.  I open the door (doesn't matter which door).  She stands and looks at me.  "You said you wanted out.  Are you going to go out or not?"  She looks at me.  I shut the door.  She stands there.  I open the door.  She looks at me.  Only when and if I take one or two steps out too will she come outside.  It's okay if I then step back into the house; she goes on about her business.  I don't mind this quirk so much as I'm usually ready to go outside anyhow.  It doesn't seem to help her OCD, however, and last night Bessie began recycling the "I must be in your lap now!" behavior, standing with her nose on the edge of the chair, staring at me with her big brown eyes, and whining piteously, or circling from place to place like a creature demented and crying.  It is very difficult to refuse, but it is not good for her and it certainly isn't good for me.  Lest I seem hardhearted, Bessie Anne is always with me and gets lots of attention and positive reinforcement for her normally good behavior.  A night does not go by without her customary back rub, and we sleep nose to nose.

One learns while raising children never to ask, "What next?," because there is always a "next" on the horizon.  I am trying to be as patient with Bess as I hope others will be with me when my time comes and my screws get loose.