Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween Treats

"Off with their heads!"  The Red Queen has spoken, beware!  Deb said it took nearly three months to sew this costume for the one day at work.  My daughter is creative and a perfectionist and I think she enjoys Halloween more as an adult than she ever did as a child.

Sitting in the barn, milking and thinking calm thoughts, suddenly there was a crash on the metal roof that gave my heart a jump start.  With the dead oak hanging over the barn, there is always a danger of a falling limb.  Before I could get up to see what the damage might be, I heard movement overhead.  Dead limbs don't move.  Hmmm.  Then there was the flutter of wings and a thump on the ground as a tom turkey flew off and landed.  What in the world could have interested it up there?  These guys would probably dress out at twenty pounds and I can't imagine what they weigh fully feathered, but I know it sounded like an elephant was on the roof.

Later as I was cleaning the back stalls, I saw movement outside, going too fast to be one of the goats.  A deer had gotten in the pen over the fence from the south pasture and, like the turkeys, forgotten how she got there.  The vineyards on two sides have "deer fencing" at least eight feet high to keep deer out.  In this case, they were keeping deer in.  The doe ran back and forth along the fence line before remembering what she'd come for and settled down to graze.  The girls in that same area paid her no never mind.  Her memory evidently came back as the last glimpse I had was of her tail going over the far (low) fence.

It was an interesting day.  Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Best Part

The best part of a trip to town is coming home.  Going to the store is never less than a three-hour round trip, and I had a couple of extra stops yesterday.  I'm a wuss and it wears me out.  I'm stocking up on nonperishables for Thanksgiving so as not to get stunned with a huge bill later, which meant extra bags to haul in from the truck.  Like many houses up here, there is no garage.  The danged ground squirrels have undermined the pathway so it can be a perilous journey just getting stuff to the front door.  It's challenge to see how many bags I can carry at a time to minimize the back and forth from truck to house.  Given the amount of canned goods yesterday, the bags won.  That job done, I was faced with putting everything away.  Aarrgh.  Now where did I put that magic wand?  Frozen food in the freezer, cold stuff in the fridge, cans stuffed in cupboards wherever there was room.  Finally.  With about an hour of daylight left, I poured a (well-earned) drink and Bessie Anne and I went out to sit at the picnic table under the oak to enjoy the setting sun, a soft breeze, and bird calls from every tree, bush, and power line.  Linda drove up, home from work and getting her California driver's license (four hours at DMV), and said, "That looks like a good place to be."  "Fix yourself a drink and join me."  (I thought I'd had a rough day.)  We three sat until it was time (about the time this photo was taken) to put the girls to bed.  The temperature dropped like a rock in a matter of minutes, enough that I needed a jacket to make the trek to the barn.  All chores done, I love coming back up to the house, the best part of the day.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Sky's The Limit

Wahoo!  The ransom was paid and the hostages have been released!  I turned off the blankety-blank iCloud and could get the cellphone to send a photo to a "message," but not to the computer.  (These machines really hold a grudge.) I was voicing my complaints again last night about the lack of communication between devices.  Linda is more cellphone savvy than I and was able, not to restore my prior method, but to find a way through a back door to send photos.  I've been saving this picture of sunset for over a week.

The rain of the night before didn't last long into the morning, but it was a promise of more to come.  Big, puffy white clouds sailed through the sky and Bess and I spent a lot of time outdoors yesterday enjoying the view.  At the time I took this photo of the reverse sunset last evening I thought it was an exercise in futility because I'd not be able to share it, but it was too pretty to resist.

I've always been a shutterbug.  There are dozens of albums downstairs, filled with people, places, animals, and just plain things from over the years.  Many are black-and-white, all we had when Brownie box cameras were "in."  Technicolor came to the movies and color film became available.  Back in the day, one would wait weeks to get rolls of film developed.  One-hour developing was wonderful!  Then came digital cameras, and now the tiny cellphones that take the best pictures ever and (with some hitches in the git-along) can go right on to the computer to print or not.  It seems the sky's the limit.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Toy Box

"Cloudy, with possibility of rain."  It was definitely overcast all day yesterday, but fairly warm outside, more so than in the house.  The deck plants were on the verge of collapse, saying they could not live one more day without water, and so Bessie Anne and I spent the better part of an hour out there.  It's a pleasant way to spend time.  Of course I awoke to the sound of dripping from the eaves this morning.  Now the plants will probably lose their lives by drowning.

Ralph and Celeste have many toys of their own, including Ralph's penchant for pull strips and bottle caps and the length of cord he drags all over the house.  Luna's toys are better.  My cats have a previously hidden talent for thievery.  Luna likes to take her naps under the covers.  I walk by and see a cat-size lump on the bed.  Evidently Ralph and Celeste also have made note of this and take the opportunity to do a little five-finger shopping in her room.  Bringing their booty out to the living room, they bat toys, roll around on the floor, and squabble over who gets to play with what.  It's a little embarrassing when Linda is home.  When she's not, I pick up the toys and throw them back to Luna (with apologies) and don't rat out my wayward kids.

Crows are back in town, back in droves.  The smaller blackbirds travel with their bigger brethren and power lines are full, post to post.  There is cawing from sunup to sundown.  Of course each species has a different call, but yesterday it came to me that each bird flies with a different sound of wings.  Vultures' huge wings go whump, whump, while the crows whir by.  Ring-tail doves make a clatter that can make you jump out of your skin if not prepared when they take off.  And then there are the hummers.

The plan was to make chicken potpie last night.  It turned out to be "chicken pot" as I got interested in "Madam Secretary" episodes and didn't make the crust to turn it into "pie."  As Linda said, we probably didn't need the extra calories.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

If It's Tuesday...

"If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium" (1969 movie, Suzanne Pleshette and Ian McShane).  That was then, this is now.  It's Tuesday so this must be Trash Day.  In what will probably be a futile attempt to stay ahead of the game, Bessie Anne and I took the barrel down to the big road yesterday.  Trash Guy roared up Robert's driveway (wineries get VIP treatment) just now and here I sit, still in my robe and smiling in the dark.

This is an old (2012) photo of Cindy, but that little black goat with her pink tongue stuck out is how she looks every night.  I'd take a current picture, but without cooperation from phone and computer, I couldn't post it.  Cindy gets so excited at bedtime, i.e., snack time.  She is always the first one into the barn and runs to her stall to see if her treat is there.  It's not.  I've not had time to get the bowls ready because she's followed right on my heels.  She spins in circles, sometimes nibbling at my arm over the half-door to the feed bin, that pink tongue at the ready.  She cracks me up.  In the photo, she's obviously pregnant; she's long past the age for breeding now.

Also an early riser, Linda is in the laundry room, ironing.  (I didn't think people still did that.)  I just walked down the dim hallway, cats racing around like pinballs.  Ralph was fascinated by the sight and sound of ironing (he'd sure never seen me do it), and Luna had gotten herself stuck in the bathroom because Celeste wouldn't let her cross the bridge without paying the toll ("Three Billy Goats Gruff," Norwegian fairy tale).  Since the household is up and moving, I don't want to be odd man out so I'd best get going.  After all, think of all that time I saved this Tuesday morning.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Trick And Treat

The computer and cellphone are still playing tricks on me.  iCloud continues to snatch my photos and won't give them back.  I didn't want iCloud in the first place.  It just appeared when I had to reboot the phone and it got "upgraded."  Thrown down into the pits is more like it.  If I can figure out how to get rid of iCloud without losing all my photos, I will be so happy!  The computer has slowed to a snail's pace.  I thought dial-up was slow, but this is worse.  HughesNet is punishing me because I won't buy more data minutes, and I won't buy more minutes because they won't tell me what changed so that the minutes I had were used.  Vicious cycle, that.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., is such a class act.  The finish of the NASCAR race at Talladega was a nail-biter.  The rules had changed so there would be only one attempt at a green-white-checkered flag.  Dale had bad luck on several occasions during the race and had fought his way to the front time and again.  He and Joey Logano were neck and neck on the last lap.  While Jr. is not "my" driver, I do root for him and so wanted him to win at Talladega.  Sure enough, a caution was called, the drivers lined up for a restart, and don't you know that before they hit the start-finish line another caution came out.  Officials declared it was not a "first attempt," so they lined up again and the green flag dropped.  The drivers hadn't even gotten up to speed when there was the Talladega Big One, a 12-car pile-up.  In horse racing, it would have been called a photo finish, Earnhardt and Logano were that close.  After much deliberation, Logano was called the winner by the width of a "splitter."  In an after-race interview, Dale didn't whine or pout.  He congratulated Joey and thanked his team for their great efforts.  Like I said, a class act.

My treat of the day came in the afternoon.  Linda had planned to go to an event and had put the ingredients together for a kind of cheesecake bar to share with the others.  All I had to do for her was put it together and get it in the oven.  Business at her shop was brisk yesterday and she was delayed coming home, so late that she'd missed the gathering.  Oh well, those ladies will never know what they missed!  It was good.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Eyes Have It

It simply doesn't pay for me to be a slug in the morning and run late.  The turkeys started gathering under the oak at their regular time, waiting for their handout.  Dawdling along, I just couldn't get it in gear yesterday.  What difference could a few minutes make?  Plenty.  "Lady!  Hey!  Lady!  Yes, you.  How 'bout a little service here?"  Looking up, I saw five pairs of eyes staring at me.  The turkeys were up on the deck rail and giving me "the look" through the window.  Guilt is a big motivator, so I rushed to get outside and tend to chores.  The main flock of fifteen-plus were waiting impatiently at the breakfast bar.  I didn't have to talk turkey to know what they were saying about me.  I've got to do better, and that's that.

The same attitude was present down in the barn.  Accusing mice and goat eyes were everywhere.  It wasn't my imagination, truly.  Fortunately, all the critters forgive and forget once their bellies are full (and udders empty).

"Hi, Honey, I'm home!"  Linda doesn't say it, but I hear it in my mind's ear just the same when she gets back from work.  I heard it all those years when Steve walked in the door.  She had a very successful day at the store yesterday and that put a big smile on her face.  The shop is open seven days a week and this week she's worked all of them (there are other, fill-in employees, too).  After several years of semi-retirement, she's enjoying getting back into a regular routine.  One of her part-timers has a winery and today Linda is going to an event at DK Cellars.  I was invited to come along as her "plus-one," but today's race is at Talladega, "The Big One."  Need I say more?

Not wanting a repeat of yesterday, I will be on time today.  I couldn't face all those eyes again.

Saturday, October 24, 2015


O-dark-thirty in the morning.  Yowling, hissing, and feet running up and down the hall.  The cats were at it again.  Celeste and Ralph caught Luna out of her room and were sending her back to confinement.  "And stay there!"  (I did not raise these kids to be bullies.)  Luna, with just three legs, humpity-humps around, but somehow manages to hold her own.  Given the situation, it was a surprise in the afternoon to find Luna firmly ensconced on the loveseat in the round room (now known as Linda's office).  She gave me the Dirty Harry look, the one that says, "Go ahead.  Make my day."  Other than a glimpse as I passed by her bedroom and a couple of times out in the kitchen, I've rarely seen Luna since she arrived.  I approached cautiously, offering the back of my hand for her to sniff, and then she let me pet her.  The cats and Bessie Anne wandered past without incident, so I think we may have reached detente.  Or not.

Helper Dude came yesterday and, like a beaver, started cutting up that huge limb that fell last month.  At fifteen, he really likes to use the chainsaw and, best of all, he likes zooming around on his quad and trailer to move the rounds up to the woodpile.  That wood will have to age for a year, so this is a job he can do whenever he has the time.  I give this young man all kinds of credit.  He has any number of clients for his services and fits them in between his home-schooling work.

My cellphone and my computer are at war.  Somehow, I ended up (none of my doing) with iCloud.  iCloud is holding my photos hostage.  Sometimes it takes days before they show up in my inbox, and sometimes they just get stuck in the cloud.  Sunrise the other morning was spectacular enough to draw me outside at first light, and last night's sunset was breathtaking.  I may or may not get to post them, depending on when and if the electronics reach detente.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Cra Cra

This is a cra cra crazy world we live in.  War and threat of war popping up everywhere, kids shooting kids, poverty and homelessness in what was considered the richest country in the world, vainglorious politicians spouting nonsense and slinging mud instead of offering solutions, and on and on.  Here in this backwater hamlet, I am aware of that world that I no longer understand.  Linda asked me about why I write the blog and I told her.

I have always considered Farview Farm as a place of peace.  It seems to offer a safe haven from the stresses of that "other" world out there.  The animals have a calming effect, as do the quiet and the views.  That's what I choose to project.  That's what I choose to focus on daily.  Oh sure, there is drama, tragedy, disaster of one sort or another here.  There is conflict and sadness.  Some days are mundane and boring.  It's life.  I choose not to dwell on the negatives.  I leave that to the news broadcasters; they do enough of that.

I never dreamed when I starting putting thoughts in print that, really, anyone but a handful might be interested.  The list of countries that pop in to read the blog has grown to 86, and 30-90 check it out daily.  Amazing.  It's possible, and I hope, that readers find the peace that I find, and that the farm is a place to come (virtually and in reality) away from everyday life.  I love to share the humor in the animals, domestic and wild, and like to think that others find them as funny as I.  I probably have more pictures of sunrises and sunsets than any professional photographer; they continue to take my breath away.  I hope that recipes inspire, and milking techniques are instructive.

I try to keep my (strong) opinions about politics, religion, and other contentious topics out of the blog.  Not that I don't have them, but this is not the place and is never my intention.  Writing daily as I do has an added benefit for me.  It causes me to focus on the good things that happen, and regardless of anything else, there is so much good for which to be grateful in my life.

Kit is, as Stephen King would say, my "Dear Constant Reader."  Emmy jumps in once in awhile, too.  How I wish others would leave a comment now and again to let me know how their lives are going, what brings them to Farview Farm, and/or leave a suggestion for improvement.  I would be so interested.

Until then.  It was a good day.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Step Back

Yesterday, October 21, 2015, was "Back To The Future" day for those who saw that movie.  For me, it was a step back in time.  It's been years since I've had to plan dinner and have it ready when the worker in the house came home.  The night before, Linda brought home a pizza and I had champagne chilled and ready to celebrate her new ownership of Pet Bath & Beyond.  Last night, that touch of fall weather made me think of albondigas and baked potatoes.  The spicy beef and chorizo meatballs in a broth and tomato sauce were bubbling in the oven when Linda walked in, tired and hungry.  On my own, dinner has been a catch-as-catch-can affair; sometimes I cook, often not.  It's good to be on a schedule again.

Speaking of schedules, the mice must have tiny clocks somewhere.  They certainly know when it is breakfast time.  Little faces peep out of burrows as they watch for me to bring in the buffet and then they run back to spread the word.  It used to be that the mice would come out, snatch up a piece of grain and quickly duck back down the hole.  Now more and more come out and stay out, munching until they're full, looking directly into my eyes.  Every so once in awhile, there will be a tussle when a bully takes over.  Poor little Kinks gets the worst of it.  He comes out to sneak a bite, hoping not to be seen, but mostly he gets run off empty handed.  After several fruitless tries yesterday, I put down a sprinkle of grain by the entrance he uses.  I know I shouldn't play favorites, but....

Amazingly, the Kids all responded to the survey and they all voted to have Thanksgiving on, wait for it, Thanksgiving!  This will be two years in a row.  Can it be we are becoming traditionalists?!  It's so unlike us.

It was a good day.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Fall Changes

Birds are good indicators of the changing seasons.  California blue jays are year-round residents, but the first stellar jays (technically, it is Steller's jays) just arrived on scene.  They winter over and then leave for wherever they came from in spring.  Flickers don't seem to travel in flocks like crows and robins.  They're really pretty birds with unusual markings of black bibs, spotted bellies, and striped backs.  I only see one or two each fall.  They're in the woodpecker family, but I've never seen them boring holes like their red-headed cousins.  I missed the mass migration of vultures last month, but the maintenance crew still hangs around, I'm happy to see.  Unless they're off on a work detail, they perch in the dead oak over the barn in the morning, flying off with a whump of wings when I approach with banging buckets, returning when I leave.  Every so once in awhile I'll find an interesting lump on the ground under that tree.  Vultures regurgitate a bolus of indigestible bone and hair or fur after a good meal, and I find them dried and solid.

The air definitely has a different feel, lighter somehow.  For me, this is perfect weather, warm enough still for a tank top during the day, with robe or jacket in the morning and evening.  (Linda, from Seattle, is in long sleeves and fleece vest.)  The girls have not yet grown their winter coats, but the chickens are refeathering bare backs.  A strong wind blew through after dark last night, rattling dry leaves in the trees like rain.  It sent me rushing outside to make sure it wasn't rain as I'd not unloaded a couple of bags of feed from the truck.

Only a month or so before Thanksgiving, it is time to get the Kids organized for the holiday.  We celebrate whenever the clan can coordinate days off, so there are times when we're out of sync with the rest of the world.  With two counties not reporting in yet, the majority seems to favor the traditional last Thursday this year.  (With Thanksgiving coming up, can Christmas be far behind?)

Strangely, other than the dry oaks, leaves on trees and grape vines on the surrounding hills have not changed color yet.  While temperatures have dropped, I think nights are not cold enough yet.

At any rate, it appears that fall is here at last.  (And I did get a tarp for the woodpile.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Busy, Busy

It was one of those days when I was on the run all day, then look back and wonder what I did.  Raced through the goat barn so I could meet my friend Arden for lunch up in Pleasant Valley.  It's been awhile and good to see her and play catch-up.  Linda's store is just a few miles from the cafe and at her request I got take-out to drop by for her lunch.  Today is her big first day as sole owner of Pet Bath & Beyond, a new venture and adventure for her.  Then I picked up Bessie Anne and we were off to Mt. Aukum for feed and hardware.  The night before, as I was tucking the chickens in bed, a hinge on the bottom of the Dutch door broke.  Aargh.  Struggling, I got the door shut to keep the hens safe and able to tie it up and open in the morning.  Helper Dude was able to come later in the afternoon to replace the hinge and tighten up the others.  For a half-door, it was danged heavy and I knew I'd not be able to fix it alone.  HD and I talked about him cutting up that big oak limb that fell last month.  He said that was do-able (he's fifteen).  The wood needs to age for a year, so there's no rush.  Laundry off the line and folded, trash down to the big road, just piddly but necessary stuff, and then it was time to put the kids to bed.  Linda put in a long day at work and was still at her computer when I tottered to my room.  Where did the day go?

It was a good day.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Shorter Days, Longer Nights

For Linda, days will become longer as she takes ownership of her new business tomorrow and her working hours will become extended.  For me and the animals who work during daylight only, late sunrise and early sundown as fall approaches shorten our daytime activities.  By 6:15 last evening, it was almost too late to get the girls in the barn and too dark to check for any last-minute eggs in the coop.

Lovely as the weather was yesterday, not much got done as it was NASCAR day.  Laundry is always the chore of choice when a race is on.  I've got to do something productive before I catch a case of the Guilts.  Besides, the days of sunshine will come to a halt soon and I much prefer clothes dried on the line to using the machine.  They look and smell better, and it's free!

She who thinks up the menu cooks.  Linda worked a short day yesterday, but she had a recipe in mind and so she got the duty.  I've been the happy recipient of some gourmet fare lately and last night's dinner was no exception.  Made-from-scratch Potatoes O'Brien with spices and some heat from a jalapeno pepper and the addition of smoked salmon and cream from the goat milk was to die for.  I'm more of a down-home cook and it's great to expand my repertoire.  It's a challenge to my skills to try new dishes.

It won't be long until we have to switch dinner time from before goats to after goats unless we want to eat at 4!  Shorter days means earlier bedtime, too.  My circadian rhythms are definitely in sync with daylight hours.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Begin And End

I hope word doesn't get out, but it seems that I can be wrong.  (I much prefer to be right.)  Yesterday was more frustrating than good, although there were, of course, good moments.  That solid downpour in the morning lasted over three hours and dumped 2-1/2 inches, but stopped completely before I had to go milk; didn't even need a hat and the girls cooperated.  Good beginning.

I have a carpet sweeper to do a quick spiff-up in between vacuuming.  It needed recharging.  The recharge light wouldn't come on.  Hmmm.  Maybe it needs a new battery.  Tried to take the back off and couldn't.  Called Support.  "The battery is not replaceable."  "Then what's wrong with it?"  "You might have to buy a new machine," and, "If you do get it running, be sure to clean the brushes or the belt will wear out and that's not replaceable, either."  Bad.  Evidently all the jiggling around did something because when plugged in again (I'm not a quitter), the little light came on.  Good.

My cellphone had been wonky for several days.  Nothing I tried had been successful.  The weather app continued to drag a day behind and frequently forgot where we live.  The phone started teasing me.  Sometimes it would give me mail, sometimes make me wait, and sometimes not giving it at all.  When it switched without warning from Fahrenheit to Celsius, I began to take it personally.  As I was going to town anyway, I went to the phone store and spent over an hour while the rep tried this, that, and the other thing.  When it got worse and the blasted thing interpreted my zip code as somewhere in Germany, she said, "You'll have to reinstall the base system, but be sure to back up the phone first."  Bad.  I had her show me how to do that and made my escape.  Good.

I'd found a feed store in town that carried milk filters, saving me a trip to Shingle Springs.  Good.  It started raining just as I left.  Good and Bad (we still need the rain).

It stopped raining as I came up the drive so I could unload a month's worth of groceries without getting soaked.  Good.  I forgot to buy a tarp for the woodpile.  Bad.

I was going to backup the phone and get the blasted thing going again or know the reason why.  The reason why was because my computer would not talk to the blankety-blank thing and just as I was losing it and ready to throw it out the window, Linda came home from work.  It wasn't necessary to ask, "How was your day?"  That was readily apparent.  Bad.  Linda came to the rescue and used her laptop to do the backup.  With her help, we got the system reinstalled, up and running.  Good.

The day ended as it had begun.  Breaks in the clouds and a light mist.  All things considered and most with a successful outcome, it was a good day.  I was right!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Start With A Bang!

Four o'clock in the morning.  Bang!  Nothing like a bright flash of lightning and loud clap of thunder to jump start the day.  It has been raining hard for two solid hours and that is most welcome, but the lightning has continued the whole time and we could do without that.  Within what seemed like minutes, the big pine beetles were banging on the screens.  They always come out with the first rain.  The whirring of their wings as they bumble along sounds like a cat growling.  Of course I waited until today to make the trip to town.  I was going to go yesterday, but Helper Dude had time to trim Bessie's nails so I stayed home.  (Any excuse is a good one.  I hate to go to town.)  Turkeys down in the woods are having hissy fits in the dark, adding to the din.  The cellphone is on the charger and I'm backing up the computer, just in case we lose power.  So far, so good.  One of the things on the shopping list is to get a tarp to cover the firewood, not that we need to light the wood stove yet, but the log pile does need to be under wraps.  Guess I'm a little late for that.  The truck is getting its seasonal car wash.  You can tell the hill people from the flatlanders by how dusty/dirty their vehicles are.  I'm definitely hill people. 

The goats will not be happy with the change in weather, although the worst of the electrical part of the storm seems to have blown over.  As for me, it's going to be a good day. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Promises, Promises

Doggone it!  All day long, cloud cover drifted over, went away, came back, flirting with a promise of rain but never following through.  Last evening it gave a last wave goodnight before the sun went down.

What is it with cats whenever I'm remaking the bed with fresh-from-the-line laundry?  Ralph and Celeste go simply bonkers, racing around under the billowing sheets, chasing corners as they float by, and making pests of themselves in general.  They don't make the task any easier as they romp on the bed, but they do make me laugh.

There was one eggplant left and I wanted to use it before it got soft, so the plan was to fry it up last night.  I watch a lot of cooking shows and happened to see a segment of The Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten) in which she made homemade basil mayonnaise.  She promised it was easy and delicious.  Hmmm.  Dipping crispy-creamy eggplant slices in basil mayonnaise sounded pretty good.  On one of her trips to town, Linda picked up fresh basil (actually, she bought the whole plant!), and I had plenty of eggs, lemon juice, and garlic on hand.  One appeal of Ina's recipe is that it uses a two-to-one ratio of vegetable oil to olive oil, making it a much lighter end product and less expensive.  Ina kept her promise.  Food processor whizzing, the mayonnaise was ready in no time and was truly delicious, bursting with flavor and just the right consistency.  Linda and I will be safe from vampires for a week, as the garlic-laden recipe makes a big batch and we shall be known as those ladies with the garlic breath.  I promise.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Just Cause

There was reason to celebrate last evening.  Linda is only days away from taking over her new business and yesterday got word that she is "in contract" on the house she wanted to buy.  A couple of bottles of hard cider were in order to toast her success.  I've been so impressed with my friend's dedication to detail, her knowledge, and her determination as she's dealt with obstreperous (local) government officials, bank screw-ups, and the myriad of forms to complete, all the while maintaining equilibrium in the face of what would have sent me screaming up the walls.

FYI:  Pam sprayed on the hummingbird feeders worked!  No bees in evidence yesterday, and the hummers were able to slurp in peace.

By unspoken agreement, yesterday was cleaning day.  Seeing the house through another's eyes has kept me on my toes in the dusting department.  Linda vacuumed, I dusted, and the kitchen got dry-mopped and counters cleaned.  Turns out we are a dynamic duo, a force to be reckoned with!  Another just cause to celebrate.

It was a good day.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

What's Buzzin', Cousin?

Linda is as busy as a bee these days, online filling out forms and on the phone dealing with representatives of different agencies, etc.  Then she's off and running to appointments here and there.  I get tired just watching her buzz around.

The barn is a hive of activity.  The mice are evidently preparing for the predicted El Nino, stealing wipes from the pail to pad their homes.  Sometimes the entrance is not quite big enough and I find tufts of wipes sticking out of the ground like the fancy-folded handkerchief in the breast pocket of my dad's suit.  Do men still do that?  One lady mouse was inspired to do a little interior decorating yesterday.  Every so once in awhile a vulture feather will blow into the barn.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a feather, a good-sized feather, sticking out of a hole.  Then the feather twitched.  Hmmm.  Slowly, bit by bit, the feather disappeared.  There is a tunnel of sorts with several "windows."  I watched the feather being tugged one way and then another.  "A little more to the left, dear.  No, move it back to the right."

For several days I and others have noted a few bees hanging out on and around the hummers' feeders.  They must have taken word back home because yesterday one bottle was thick with honeybees.  The bees became aggressive toward any hummer that approached and, believe me, I wasn't about to do anything to direct their anger toward me.  I recognize the drought situation and the lack of blooming things this year to sustain the little creatures, but this was too close to people and deprived the intended diners.  Linda Googled and found I'm not the only one who's had this problem.  Several recommendations were made and I chose spraying the base of the bottles with Pam (the housewife's WD-40).  Need I say that I waited until sundown and the bees had gone for the night before going out there?  I've used Pam before to stop ants from climbing down to the bottles and it worked for that, so we'll see about the bees.  The hummers did not seem to mind the oil and came in for dinner as usual.

Nothing special going on here with Bess and Celeste.  The photo just gives me a good buzz.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Rise And Fall

Temperatures rise again as summer tries to hang on with fang and claw.  I'm back to tank tops, sweat, and sluicing down while I top off the water trough in the morning.  There is a different feel in the air indicating fall is knocking at the door, but the days are still hot.

Cats can fall asleep anywhere, anytime, and in the darndest positions.  Ralph is usually too busy to sit with me, but the last couple of days he's come up on my lap.  He can make me laugh even when he's asleep.

Linda's experience with old black-and-white movies has sadly been lacking.  I feel it is my responsibility to educate her to the excellent acting, directing, photography, and writing in these films.  (She has no choice.  I maintain possession of the remote.)  The other day she was treated to "Adam's Rib" (1949) with the team of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.  How could she not enjoy the fast-paced, witty dialogue and well-written story by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin?  I'll switch the lineup soon with "The Blue Gardenia," (1959) with Anne Baxter and Richard Conte.  It is one of many movies in the film noir genre.

This view as night fell reminds me of "Midnight Lace," (1960) another thriller starring Doris Day (she screamed but did not sing in this one) and Rex Harrison.

Almost 7 a.m. and the sun is just now rising.  The seasons are changing, ready or not.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Music To My Ears

It was a pretty ordinary day.  Linda was gone, putting in some training hours to acquaint herself with her new business up in Pleasant Valley.  The rain-delayed NASCAR race was over and I was giving more than a passing thought to taking a nap.  And then I heard the sound of music.  A Harley-Davidson motorcycle makes a sound like no other, a deep, throaty rumble that is unmistakable, and when I hear one coming up my driveway it can mean only one thing, either Clay or Dave is here.  Yesterday it was Dave.  He had been on a ride with the Freed Spirits and was "in the neighborhood" and decided to stop by.  ("In the neighborhood" up here can be 10-20 miles away.  It's all relative.)  Not only was I so happy to see him, I wanted to hear about his trip to Portland, Oregon, to see his son and daughter over the weekend.  He'd had a good time, but unfortunately had lost his cellphone in the airport coming home.  How quickly we've become dependent on what used to be only a convenience.  On three weekends in succession, I've had visits from Clay, then Larry and Taylor, Deb and Craig the day before, and then Dave.  My cup is full, and if Pete should show up, it would overflow.

Linda got back in time for a short visit with Dave (they haven't seen each other in probably 20 years) before he had to roar off into the sunset.  I knew better than to ask him to stay for dinner last night since eggplant was on the menu.  He would have politely refused anyhow.  As for me, and Linda, too, I think, double-dredged in egg and flour spiced up with cayenne and fried crispy, the eggplant was the next best thing to gourmet fare.

It was a good day.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

And It Was

Yesterday I said I was expecting a good day, and it was.  Deb and Craig came up in time for lunch.  They brought a couple of gorgeous eggplants from their garden, a favorite of mine and Craig's and anathema to Deb.  She loves him so they grow them and she even cooks them for him.  I have enough recipes for eggplant to fill a cookbook, trying every which way to get my Kids to like it without success.  Fortunately, Linda likes it so I know what will be on the menu tonight.  (Actually, it would be on my menu anyhow and Linda could fend for herself.  See how I am?)

The project for the day was transferring the VHS tape of Deb and Craig's wedding to a DVD disc.  I've got this great gizmo that does just that.  It did take two of us (Craig and me) to get it going, one reading the manual and one pushing buttons on two or three remotes.  "Here, give me that."  "Rewind the blankety-blank thing and start over."  "It says right here...."  After several failed attempts, finally voila!, and we were thrown back nearly fifteen years in time.  The wedding was held in our backyard at the end of April, a time of year when everything outdoors is green and beautiful.  A late snow the week before had sent us into a panic, and it was grey and overcast in the early morning of the big day and I was trying to plan how we'd fit the 100 or so people into the house.  Then the skies cleared and the sun came out and it was a perfect day.  I cried as much yesterday as I did the day my most beautiful daughter walked down a red carpet on her father's arm to marry the most handsome man of her dreams, both of their faces absolutely glowing with love.  Watching the film was bittersweet as so many in attendance on that day are gone now, but wonderful to see dear ones alive and vibrant once again.

Time always goes too fast when the Kids come up.  Regardless, it was a truly good day.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Back On Track

It's amazing how smoothly and quickly chores go with a little cooperation from the goats.  Everyone was in sync yesterday.  Bring the first one in, get her milked, open the door to let her out and the next one is right there, ready to take her turn.  Bam, bam, bam and we were done.  I use the down time when the nonmilkers are on the stand to clean stalls.  Fill the feed bucket for the next day and then I'm outta there.  Would that every day could be like that.  Oh well.

The times they are a-changing (Bob Dylan, 1964).  It wasn't so long ago that I could wait until nearly 9 p.m. to put the girls in the barn.  Slowly, bedtime crept forward until sundown came at 7.  Last night I was almost too late at 7.  I see I'll need to get down to the barn by 6:30 for awhile.  Dinnertime gets shifted accordingly.  Prep yesterday afternoon got started at 4:30.  Bacon and onion quiche with Jarlsberg cheese, a spring-greens salad, and warm sourdough bread was pretty darn good.

Deb and Craig are coming up today (!!) and I'd thought I'd fix the quiche for lunch until I remembered that Craig is lactose intolerant.  It would not be kind to serve a milk product to this dear man.  It was bad enough that the first time I met him, not knowing of his problem, I served grilled cheese sandwiches and cream of tomato soup.  Heck of a note when your future mother-in-law tries to do you in right off the bat.  He really must have wondered what kind of family he was marrying into, as Dogie (our dog at the time) had found a deer leg down in the woods and was hauling it around the yard, probably not the best introduction.  At least there was no banjo music playing in the background (Deliverance, 1972).

The littlest girls have upped their egg production, so it will be egg-salad sandwiches for lunch today.  Linda has been enjoying truly farm-fresh eggs in one form or another frequently and now says she's spoiled for store bought.

It was a good day, and I'm looking forward to another today.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Ups And Downs

After riding the high on WWOOF day, I needed some down time yesterday and was napping so hard that I never heard Linda come back from house hunting.  She's up and down like a pogo stick, jumping through the hoops that the county is throwing at her for licenses, permits, inspections, etc. ad nauseum, to get her new business ready to open later this month.  It's almost a case of "You can't get there from here."  The search for a house goes slowly; great online, but not s'much in person.

It was almost eerie.  Stepping outside to fill the hummers' feeders, it took a minute to realize what I was hearing, which was nothing.  There were none of the usual ambient sounds.  The mountain had gone dead quiet.  No breeze through the trees, no bird calls, no dog barks, no chicken clucks.  Nothing.  Only silence.  It was like the world had taken a time-out.  It has happened before, but it is stunning when it does.  After a few minutes, a trucker hit the Jake brakes way over on Mt. Aukum road and that seemed to be the signal for restart.  Leaves rustled, hawks cried in the sky, and turkeys scratched for feed under the oaks.  It was as if the earth had been holding its breath and finally let it out again.

Inga had run, not walked, in to be milked yesterday.  Goats have such short-term memories that there is no guarantee she won't do it again, darn it.  We both paid the penalty for her stubbornness as it took forever to get her milked out.

The sky at sunset was, in the best sense of the word, awesome.  Walking down to the barn is sometimes the highlight of the day.

Same day, same sky, different colors.  This was post-goats and pre-chickens.  Every bit as beautiful.

It was a good day.

Thursday, October 8, 2015


Sharing my farm life is such a pleasure (probably why I write the blog) and providing a hands-on experience is a joy.  Tecla will go down in my books as a treasure, one of the best WWOOFers yet, eager to learn and ready to try anything.  Actually, that's true of every WWOOFer who's spent a day here, but I think Tecla had the most fun.  She's been working with my friend Tim on his meat-goat ranch, learning to trim hooves, give injections, clean stalls (there's always scut work), and painting.  He has a lot of Kiko goats, stocky, long-horned animals that roam his acreage, and Tecla helps herd them all into his barn at night, quite a chore in itself.  Meat goats have a much different temperament than milkers and are not so used to being touched.  Tim gives his helpers a day off by sending them to me for a day, and I get to share the experience.  There was a bonus yesterday because Linda got to meet Tecla too.  Tecla was originally from the Netherlands.  In her past travels, Linda had visited that country so there was immediate common ground.

A typical day with a WWOOFer starts with a cup of coffee while we get acquainted and I start a batch of cheese, heating milk to temperature before adding rennet.  The milk cools and sets a curd while we get started on the chores of the day.  Also typical is that Inga spooked and wouldn't come in to be milked.  Aarrgh.  Just so many laps around the pen and I gave up.  Sheila quivered like an aspen leaf, but at least cooperated.  Quickly following directions, Tecla had success on her first try.  I get a kick out of seeing the look of triumph on a newbie's face when that first stream of milk hits the bucket.  Esther and Cindy came in properly and Tecla brushed them down.  And then it was Tessie's turn.  It took a little coaxing to bring her in, but she quickly settled down.  Each goat is a different experience, teats and udders never the same, so I ask the guest to try each one.  I forgot to warn Tecla that Tessie is a leaner.  The photo shows the angle of Tessie's back legs as she rested nearly full weight on Tecla's shoulder.  Thank God for a sense of humor.

Stalls cleaned and leaving Inga to suffer the consequences of her choices, we headed back to the house for Step 2 of the cheese and a cold beer.  Cutting the set curd and slowly reheating to the correct stage, it was ready to hang and drain.  That gave Linda, Tecla, and I some down time to sit in the shade on the deck with a cool breeze blowing and really get acquainted.  We later ate lunch out there before Linda took off to do some business.  Tecla and I stayed out on the deck and talked (and talked).  One of my pleasures is learning of the different places and kinds of work a dedicated WWOOFer has been and done, and Tecla has been doing this for years in many countries.  Today she leaves the goat ranch to try her hand on a bee farm north of here.  I'm impressed.  Fully drained and the cheese cut in cubes and salted, Tecla packed up her feta, leaving with big, heartfelt hugs and a promise to stay in touch, perhaps coming back in March when she comes back to help Tim with kidding.

It was a great day.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Ahh, Peace

The crankiness seems to have worn itself out and peace and harmony prevailed yesterday, both in the house and the barn.  The girl cats took the avoidance route and kept out of each other's way.  Luna allows Ralph liberties that would be unacceptable with Celeste.  Hey, not everyone can be "besties."  Bessie pretty much sleeps through everything but is ready to spring into action and provide backup if and when I start yelling.  Down in the pen, there were some snide comments but no fighting, I'm pleased to say.  The girls lined up and came in in orderly fashion, did their stint on the stand and went about their business.  I actually finished milking and cleaning stalls in record time.

A WWOOFer is coming today.  It's been quite awhile since one of the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms participants has come for a day of learning how to make cheese and milk goats and I'm looking forward to it.  I'm always interested in hearing how they got interested in volunteering time and effort on farms across the world.  Linda has never been here on a cheese-making day, so it'll be a two-fer.

Hopefully, all critters, great and small, will behave themselves today, but know "kids" as I do, I'll not hold my breath.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Top Dog

There was a bit of a contretemps in the hallway yesterday.  Things had been going fairly smoothly even though Ralph and Celeste were encroaching on Luna's space, stealing her toys and snacking from her food dish.  Luna was slowly getting braver about coming out of isolation, joining Linda in the kitchen during early morning hours without problems.  And then it all went to the dogs.  Evidently one or the other crossed the line and Celeste and Luna got into a brief, loud fight, quickly ended by shouting by the refs and the combatants ran to their separate corners.  Since we didn't see the beginning, we can't place blame.  Celeste was well hidden under the bed, but Luna was out, her one paw (she's only got the one front leg) full of grey fur.  I'm thinking she came out top dog.

It is rather disconcerting to hear a head-butting match break out in the pen while I'm inside milking.  There's nothing I could do about it anyhow, but still I worry.  I feel better if it happens to be Tessie up on the stand and I know she and her one horn can't hurt any of the others.  There is no defined queen of the herd just now.  It's pretty obvious that Cindy is the omega goat.  She shies away from any conflicts and tries her best to avoid contact.  When one of the girls is spoiling for a fight, there is a particular sound they make and I know trouble is on the way.  Fortunately, most of the battles are short lived and peace has been restored by the time I finish in the barn and we all walk back up the hill together.  I never know who won and who lost.

I was going to say that the only dog in the house was the only one not in a fight, but during the girls' squabble in the morning, Ralph sat in plain view, looked at me and said, "It wasn't me.  I didn't do it, Mom.  See me right here."  He obviously wanted to get the Good Son points.

I'm hoping to get through today without a rematch.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Fine Dining

I thought it would be difficult to turn my over kitchen to someone else, seeing as how I tend to be somewhat territorial.  ("Somewhat" might be an understatement.)  The reality is that it is not only easy, it is very enjoyable.  The kitchen is a large room but with a large island with a workspace and a six-burner cooktop.  The aisles around the island are fairly narrow, making it a "one-butt" kitchen, and it's difficult for two to cook or prep at the same time without colliding.  Two butts can work, but only if they are well choreographed.  Given those circumstances, when either Linda or I fix dinner, the other might stay and keep company or clear out entirely.  We make up our own menus, using mainly what's on hand; sometimes picking up supplies if either of us is near a grocery store.

Last night was a fine dining experience.  There was even an appetizer course provided by Cam, who came up for a short visit toward sundown and brought smoked salmon and Gorgonzola cheese crackers.  Elegant fare, that.  Linda made a gourmet stew with beef, red wine, fresh mushrooms, potatoes, carrots, herbs, and turnips, and crusty, warm French bread alongside.  I could get used to this.  She's cooking again tonight.  Mmmm.

Larry and Taylor had to leave shortly after I came back from the barn so we never got to do the Perquacky playoff.  I also missed the morning guitar concert.  Larry's visits are few and far between, so each is precious to me.  Taylor made a big hit with Linda.  What's not to love, she's an affectionate, goofy kid.

It was a good day with a fine finish, and I'm already looking forward to dinner.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Name Of The Game

Let the games begin!  Linda, Larry, and I have had a marathon game of Perquacky going after dinner each night, the reason I've missed my bedtime two nights in a row.  I can live with that.  Before Larry and Taylor leave, we'll have to have a tie-breaker playoff or none of us will be satisfied.  Someone has to be crowned Champion of the World!

Both Linda and Larry have offered to spray WD-40 on the squeaking door to the front bathroom.  I have declined because all such doors (and there are more than a few of those in the house) are my "early warning system."  This morning, sitting here in the dark, I heard that door squeal.  "Hmm, someone is up early."  And then it squeaked again.  And again.  And again.  Hmm.  My thought was that either Linda or Larry was making their point.  Turned out to be Celeste and Luna, one on either side of the door, pushing it back and forth, playing their own game.

We were treated to play of another sort yesterday afternoon.  Linda is storing several vintage Martin acoustic guitars here and brought one out for Larry, an accomplished guitarist, who performed an impromptu concert.  Often on weekends there is music coming over the hills from various vineyards.  Turnabout is fair play (in Fair Play) and it was lovely to hear it right in my living room.  Hopefully the wine tasters nearby could enjoy it too.

Taylor was distraught to be told she could not go back to "her" room when she arrived.  Tay is autistic.  She always commandeers the guest room where she settles in and plays with toys kept in there for her or dresses up in clothes in the closet.  Squeaking doors were my signal that Taylor was playing her game of hide-and-seek down the hall, trying to gain entrance to the forbidden room.

Waiting is the name of the game for both Linda and Larry.  Linda is waiting for paperwork on the many permits, inspections, licenses, etc., necessary for the business she is buying.  She is trying to forge ahead, but the mills of the county gods grind exceedingly slow.  A month after his knee injury at work, Larry is still waiting for insurance to approve the necessary surgery on his knee.  On crutches and in pain, the wait must be interminable.

The weather was great.  A strong breeze cleared the air.  I have my family and friend here.  It was a good day.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Late...Just Late

Stayed up late.  Got up late.  Will be late getting down to the barn. Catch ya later!  Give me a pass...first time in nearly six years I've not written an entry.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Luna's Blues

It's sad to admit, but my cats are not a good host and hostess and are less than subtle in their ways of showing their discontent.  Ralph and Celeste allow Luna out of her jail cell in the early morning to share some alone-time with Linda and then send her back to isolation.  They guard the hallway in the afternoon in case Luna tries to make a break for it.  Bessie Anne provides backup.  Luna has an assortment of little toys to keep her occupied, if not happy, and her favorite is Mr. Purple Head.  At one time or another, Luna's toys have been discovered throughout the house, stolen by my kleptos, including Bessie Anne.  When Mr. Purple Head disappeared, an all-out, top-to-bottom search of the house was undertaken until he was found.  Neither of the cats (nor Bess) would confess.  As a guest, Luna has her own litterbox in the guest bathroom.  Ralph and Celeste have their own box in the back bathroom.  Linda has had to scoop more than usual because my cats are leaving deposits in Luna's box, a rather explicit message.  Just in case there was any misunderstanding, yesterday Linda discovered that one of my felines had barfed in her shoe, the shoes she was going to wear to town.  I think they're trying to tell her something, and all I can do is apologize.

As expected, the goats were not pleased by the onset of rain.  It discombobulated the morning routine for all concerned.  They clustered together outside the playpen while I went about chores, waiting for me to leave so they could get under shelter.  There are other places to get in out of the rain, but they like the playpen best.

There is a covered portion of the deck with table and chairs.  It is a pleasant place to sit and enjoy the sound of rain dripping through the leaves of the sheltering oaks.  Bess lies with her head on the lower rail by my feet and watches the squirrels and turkeys go about their business below.

Sunset was not the only highlight of my day.  I got a message from Larry that he and my granddaughter Taylor are coming up tonight.  That makes my heart happy.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Sky Is Falling!

Like Henny Penny and Chicken Little, I'm pretty sure the sky is falling, or at least it has developed a big leak.  It started dripping yesterday just after I'd hung a load of laundry on the line.  (Thank goodness for the dryer.)  Somebody stuffed a rag in it while I went down to put the kids to bed, but then the plug was pulled and it started raining for real.  What a wonderful, glorious sight and sound.  Not a storm, but a gentle rain that fell throughout the night and is still falling this morning.  The goats will not share my enthusiasm.  If this is the precursor to the predicted El Nino, they will have to get used to it.  California is in such desperate need of water that even a day's worth is welcome.  (Remind me I said that when I start whining about being wet and cold.)  Oh crum.  Cold.  I didn't tarp the woodpile.  Note to self:  buy a new tarp on the next trip to town.

Only a couple of days ago Linda and I were fixing light, hot weather meals (we take turns cooking), and last night we needed something more substantial, like fried chicken, mashed potatoes and cream gravy, and roasted Brussels sprouts.  Cooler and a little overcast, the night before she'd made a delicious cauliflower and potato soup.  It's fun to have someone to cook with and have dinner.  Linda is on her own for breakfast and lunch.  Yesterday morning I brought her an egg still warm from the hen.  Trust me, there is a difference between fresh and store-bought eggs, and the comparison isn't favorable for the store-bought.

I'd much rather see the sky falling than tree limbs.  It's a good day.