Monday, November 30, 2015

South Pole

Hard to believe, but there is still hail in patches on the deck after five or six days.  I'd left the tap by the chicken pen just a little loose and yesterday there was a long icicle from the spout (glad I'd let it drip!).  I'd done the same thing with the faucet by the goat trough, which was covered with ice, and when I turned it on, ice cubes shot out of the short hose.  The hens are rapidly re-feathering from their moult and the girls' coats are furring up.  I know there are places in the world much colder (Siberia, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, etc.) but right here and now, it's what I'd call cold!  My phone app optimistically says it is 34 this morning, but the house thermometer tells me like it is, 30.

I'd foolishly not restocked the wood stove before going to the barn yesterday and when I got back to the house, it was warmer outside than in, and that's not saying much.  Wishing to get some feeling back in my frozen fingers, I took Bess and a book out to sit in the sunshine.  A little more disciplined than the last time, fifty pages was my limit yesterday.  It wasn't easy to put it down, but I did it.  I'm trying to curb my compulsions.

My phone tells me we're going to 48 today, but I'm not going to break out the bikini.  Seems more like parkas and fleece-lined boots would be better.

Note to self:  put more wood on the fire.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Runs In The Family

My sister would quote what she called an ancient curse, "May you have an interesting life."  After Pete's "interesting" trip up here and the following traveling adventures, I had one of my own yesterday.  Needing to stock up at the feed store in the afternoon, Bessie and I went down to Mt. Aukum, tended to business and headed home.  On narrow, two-lane Omo Ranch Rd. about two miles in from the store, I heard a bumpity-thump sound.  It's not unusual to hear and feel thumps up here as there are numerous potholes, ruts, and patches on all South County roads, but this noise was "different."  Fortunately, there was a small space to pull off to the side and stop.  One, two, three tires were fine, and then there was the fourth, hanging in shreds on the rim.  I swear it was like a pit-stop in a NASCAR race.  Oh crum.

Now, there were some good things in this tale of woe.  The truck, albeit on a decided slant, was safely off the road.  There are many cellphone dead zones up here.  I had two bars and was able to call Triple-A.  It wasn't raining or snowing, although there was still hail in pockets on the ground because it was so cold.  The nice lady at AAA said it might be 45 minutes.  Piece of cake.  This was at 2:30.  I turned off everything (including the heater) but the emergency flashers and settled in to wait.  Bessie Anne curled up in her seat and went to sleep.  I commend the two trucks and a car that stopped to ask if I was okay and did I need help.  I have other words for those who flew by like bats out of hell, their draft shaking the truck in the wake.  While sitting there, I watched five deer amble across the road at one time or another and prayed they would get out of the way before another "bat" flew by.

The sun was dropping and the cold creeped in.  At two-and-a-quarter hours, I called back to AAA.  "The truck is in your vicinity and should be there shortly."  Esau showed up about fifteen minutes later.  Young guy, ex-Marine (I know, there's no such thing as an ex-Marine), with a big smile and reassuring words.  My hero!  Given the slant of the hill and the damp soil, it was no easy task to get the truck jacked up, the shreds pulled off and the spare installed, but he got-'r-done!  I'd noticed the blinkers going bonkers and asked Esau to wait while I tried to start the truck.  Turned the key.  Nothing.  He had one of those instant jump-start thingies and I was able to fire up the engine.  Another one of those "good things."  Dark enough to need headlights by then, Bess and I got home, left the truck running to hopefully boost the battery, and headed down to the barn and coop.

It was an interesting day, but it had a happy ending.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Not As Planned

Thanksgiving did not go exactly as I'd planned or hoped and it's no one's fault but my own.  Bless all my Kids for their kindness and my friends for their patience.

Some of the guys stayed over.  Dave sleeps best in the recliner, and Larry took the only available bed.  Joe and Pete got stuck with the couches.  Couldn't get the downstairs gas fireplace to light and it was like a deep-freeze down there.  Larry and Joe took off in the morning.  It's been a long time, but Dave, Pete and I watched back-to-back Man Flicks, action films, all day.  If I left the room, I'd come back and ask how many had been killed in the few minutes I'd been gone.  "Three, with number four coming up."  Definitely a guy thing.

The crew had taken over barn chores Thursday night.  The goats are well into their routine.  There was only one mix-up when Cindy and Sheila got put into the wrong stalls.  Yesterday morning, Sheila complained long and loud about having to sleep in "her" (Cindy's) bedroom.

It never got out of the 30s yesterday and a cold, cold wind blew.  I'm thankful for all the extra firewood.  We needed it!

I'd hoped for a longer visit with Pete.  Years go by sometimes before I see him, but he had to take a bus back to SoCal to deal with insurance and how to get transportation.  All in one piece, and nothing broken or needing a Band-Aid.  It's all good.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Day Off

My apologies, but I'm taking the day off.  I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.  I'm particularly thankful for my family and friends who took over when I bailed out early.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Giving Thanks

There are many, many reasons in my life for which to be thankful, but today I am especially grateful that my son Pete walked away unhurt from a hit-and-run accident last night that totaled his car somewhere out in boonies of the San Joaquin valley.  I was plugging along in the kitchen about 5:30 when Pete called to tell me that traffic was so bad that it had taken him three hours just to get north of Los Angeles and he might arrive here a little later than planned.  He thought he was somewhere down around Merced.  I warned him of the icy roads up here and to be careful and not push it.  (The chili was made, cornbread not yet.)

Not ten minutes later the phone rang again.  Pete's voice was shaky as he told me he'd been rear-ended, his car was totaled (rear wheel completely sheared off), and after hitting another car, the coward had taken off like a bat.  "Are you hurt?!"  "No, Mom, but I don't know where I am and how I'm going to get out of here."  While he waited for CHP to arrive, and being reassured that he truly was unhurt, I put out calls to his siblings.  I am also grateful that my family truly is "one for all, and all for one."  After a flurry of round-robin calls and it was determined that the police had given Pete a ride to the town of Tulare, Larry headed out to go get his brother.  Larry would take Pete home for the night and they will be here today.

And, silly me, this is what had me worried for the travelers.  This is hail, not snow, although there were flurries of snowflakes off and on throughout the day.  A half-hour of hail left hail two inches deep in places.
It had been one of those "wading in Jell-O" days.  I did get a lot of the prep work done, but there is much left to do.

Ralph and Celeste had the right idea.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Just A Minute

Overcast, windy and cold(!) yesterday morning.  It was, as our friend Pooh would say, "...a blustery day."  Helper Dude showed up just as I was ready to step out the door to head for the barn.  I really wouldn't have blamed him had he chosen to stay warm indoors at home, but he chose to work.  He set about splitting rounds for firewood and I went about my chores, shutting the big door to the coop and leaving the play yard gate open for the goats.  Rain held off until I was back in the house.  I'll say this for HD, he doesn't dog it with any task.  In two hours, he'd split and stacked nearly two cords of wood.  He's a good kid and a great help to me.  With rain pelting down at last, he roared off on his quad, headed to his next job.

I much prefer those "aha!" moments.  Instead, what I had yesterday was a "smack yourself in the forehead, duh" revelation when I realized I had no pumpkin for the pumpkin pies.  Happily, there was a let-up in the rain when I headed up to the local grocery store.  Coming back down on the S-turns near Happy Valley Rd., there was a breathtaking break in the clouds and I pulled over to take the shot.  It only took a minute and rain again kicked in as I drove away.

Back home and the groceries unloaded (never waste a trip for just one item), I glanced out and saw this.  The cold nights of late have finally brought color to the hills, too pretty to pass up.  In the minute it took to step outside, a flurry of snowflakes fell and then it was over.  Back inside, with that wealth of firewood on hand, I lit the stove.  Frugal versus frozen, I chose to be warm.  After dark, hail pounded on the deck.  That didn't last long, either.

Fully expecting to see snow this morning, the deck is surprisingly clear.  That could change in a minute.

Pete is making the long trip up from SoCal today.  Me?  I'll be doing all the prep work for tomorrow.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Big Picture

Narcissus must be in turkey seventh heaven.  He's been crooning to his reflection in the truck bumper for some time, but yesterday he discovered the "big picture" in the glass of the shed storm door!  Oh joy!  A full-size image, and he turned this way and that to admire that fine boy, singing all the while.  That shed is where I store the feed for the wild birds, the first stop in the morning routine.  Narcissus was reluctant to leave his mirror but I needed to get going.  Coming back up later from the barn, I found him there again, preening and strutting back and forth.  I don't know whether to laugh or feel bad for him.

I guess downstairs won't see much action when the gang gets here on Thursday.  There is a gas fireplace down there, but I discovered the danged thing won't turn on.  Early last week I put in a call to a repair service and left a desperate message.  They called me back yesterday.  The earliest appointment I could get is December 10.  That's fine for Christmas, but isn't much help for Thanksgiving.  Trust me, it's like a deep-freeze downstairs and unless the Kids are dressed for the Arctic, the bar won't get any takers and woe betide any sleep-overs in the frigid dorm.  (I've got plenty of sleeping bags, just in case.)

As for the upstairs, on our afternoon outing, Bessie Anne and I took advantage of the sunny day to stock the wood rack on the porch.  Unless it gets really cold, I make do with a heavier jacket indoors and hoard the firewood like it was gold.  I can't ask guests to do the same.  The sky (barely visible just now) doesn't look promising, but if the rain holds off, Helper Dude is coming today to split more rounds.  He knows he will be on his own because he only has the morning available and we all know where I spent my morning hours.

I get up early.  My cellphone prefers to sleep in and it takes awhile for it to wake up and face the day.  I compulsively check the weather app first thing.  Half awake, CP gives me yesterday's temps.  "No, dear, it's Tuesday, not Monday.  Please catch up."  It knows what day it is in Chino, but it takes coaxing to give me the correct day and forecast for Fair Play.  Oh well.  Until CP wakes up and gets with the program, I can check the house thermometer and when it's light enough I can look out and see what the day might hold in store, weatherwise.

Prepping for what is to come, I turned off unnecessary water faucets yesterday so those pipes don't freeze.  Deck plants will have to depend on nature's water for the duration.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Perfect Ending

So many things got checked off the To-Do list yesterday, this in the midst of watching the last NASCAR race of the season.  After sitting on my duff for days, it felt so good to finally accomplish something.

At the end of a productive day, walking out into this sunset was the icing on the cake.  But there was more to come.  The weather app on my phone is still showing a snowflake for Wednesday so, in the spirit of being proactive, I pulled the winter fleece sheets out of the linen closet for my bed and a flannel set for the guest room.  I'd forgotten how comfy, snuggly good it feels to climb between those soft sheets.  No ice-cold shock to the feet last night.  It was the perfect ending to a really good day.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Hatches Battened

It has been so warm the last few days (low 60s) that I've been holding off covering the window openings in the goat barn.  The girls do love to look out and the breeze has been cooling their stalls, so I waited.  Even a jacket was too warm in the barn yesterday, making it hard to think that winter is just around the corner.  However, given the rainy, cold, even snowy forecast for this coming week, discretion seemed the better part of valor and I'd rather put up the board covers in sunshine rather than have water dripping off the eaves and down my neck.  Always curious, the girls were in my way as I worked.  I'll still hear their complaints when it rains, but now they'll be protected at night when temperatures drop.

Since Pete is coming up a day ahead of Thanksgiving, I've been trying to think of a dinner menu for that night.  Obviously, chicken would be a foul (pun intended) in light of turkey the next day.  It was a bad case of wishful thinking when I bought some baby Brussels sprouts, hoping that Pete had outgrown his aversion to green vegetables.  "Would you consider roasted Brussels sprouts, Pete?"  (No pause.)  "No."  Hmmm.  In response to some following suggestions, the third time he mentioned cornbread I decided chili and cornbread would be it.  Doesn't take a brick wall to fall on me.  I got the hint.

As is often the case when there are many items on the To-Do list, I am overwhelmed into inaction.  Not much got done yesterday besides battening down the hatches on the barn.  I seem to get more done as the deadline approaches.  In the meantime, the list continues to grow.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Bessie Knows Best

Just as Bessie Anne takes me for an outing in the morning, she also has me accompany her on a walkabout in the afternoon.  Bess always has my best interests at heart and knows when I need fresh air.  Some days we sit on the porch, but yesterday she suggested that we go out to the picnic table under the oak.  I had no objections so followed her lead.  From that vantage, the view was to the west, overlooking the upper corner of the goat pen.  It's common to see turkeys, vultures, and often the dinky birds sipping water from the trough, but I was startled yesterday when suddenly there was frantic splashing.  I almost started over there, worried that a bird had fallen in and was drowning.  Then I realized that the small birds ringing the edge were diving in for a quick bath, almost "walking on water" as they fluttered in and out.  There were dozens in the flock and they were having such a good time.  Every so often the group would fly off, returning for another dip and splash.  There are no dirty birds at Farview.

Bessie's timing had been perfect.  If she hadn't asked me along, I would have missed all the fun.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Great Start, Better Finish

Running late, as usual (why don't I just change start-up time so I can be "on time"), I was still in the barn when my cellphone rang.  I answered without looking to see the caller and was mightily surprised that it was my middle son, Pete.  Better yet, he said his plans had changed and he (and maybe my grandson, Jake) would be coming up for Thanksgiving after all!  That means my entire crew will be together for the holiday and makes me one happy mama.  What a great way to start the day.

Back to the goats and the phone rang again.  Milking one-handed, I answered.  It was Linda.  A customer in her store was in need of goat milk for some newborn puppies whose mother had developed milk fever, a common calcium deficiency after giving birth.  We made arrangements for a pick-up later.

I find I can text and milk at the same time, which is a good thing, because I was still at it when I got a message from my daughter.  By this time, I was laughing.  Maybe the goats weren't because everything was somewhat delayed, but what're ya gonna do?

Back up at the house, the lady with the puppies came for milk, bringing a Perrier bottle, a plastic soft drink bottle, and what looked like a small pickle jar.  I suggested she find some Mason jars for next time.  Small-mouth bottles are impossible to clean thoroughly.

Spiffed up, I made the trek down to Cameron Park.  Grocery shopping took longer than expected because, in my lengthy absence, they'd moved everything in the store and required many trips up and down aisles with many returns and go-backs.  Wearing a new set of bibbies, I had to smile when a woman walked past and said, "I really like your overalls.  I used to wear them all the time."  It's not the first time I've had comments on my attire and it always makes me smile.

Imagine coming up the driveway and seeing a spike-horn buck standing silhouetted against this gorgeous sunset.  He bounded off into the south pasture before I could snap a photo.  The girls were standing at the corner of their pen, wondering when they could go to bed.  Without taking time to unload the truck, I headed toward the barn.
In the short while it took to tuck the goats in, the colors had started to change as I walked back up the path.
Like a slide show, the sky became more and more beautiful.  It took seven trips to unload almost everything out of the truck, but who could complain with a view like this?  Cat litter and two cases of beer could wait.

This was the last shot, the brightest blaze fading to pink, before I closed the truck doors and went in to face the multitude of grocery bags on every counter in the kitchen.
This is the staging area for Thanksgiving dinner.  It does not include refrigerator items which include six pounds of butter, four pounds of margarine, celery, three bags of cranberries, and two pounds of bacon, or ten pounds of potatoes in the bin, etc., etc., nor the 23-plus pound turkey in the outside fridge.  I hope there will be enough.  Inspector Celeste is on the job.

It was a better-than-good day.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Monkey Wrenches

Oh crum.  Just the other day I said that I liked Nature's plan of a couple of days of rain a week.  Now she's throwing a monkey wrench into my plans for Thanksgiving with the prediction of snow here next Wednesday and Thursday.  That's carrying things a bit too far.  Not all of my Kids have 4WD vehicles and my dirt driveway is pretty steep.  I've got to do the "big" shopping down in Cameron Park today, so I'll just carry on like I had good sense and hope for the best.  Once the supplies are in, it's not like the holiday cooking can be postponed.  I wrote out the grocery list a couple of weeks ago.  All I have to do now is find it.

Whatever project I had in mind for yesterday got put on hold.  I finished the last page in the book by one o'clock, but then remembered it was bill-paying day.  I'm always glad when that's done, but it is depressing to watch funds bleed away in the process and it always takes longer than one would think.

The computer desk is just a step away from the bed, situated facing southeast so I can see the sunrise and a lovely view of the hills behind the monitor.  Periodically while I'm working, I will feel the lightest, most gentle touch on my shoulder.  Ralph, yes, rowdy Ralph, has stretched out one paw to pat me as he stands on the bed behind.  Swinging the chair around, I invite him to sit on my lap for a cuddle.  He usually accepts, but Ralph never stays in one place long.  He's a very busy boy.

I'd better get busy, too.  One never knows how many monkey wrenches will be thrown into the works today.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Doesn't Take Much

I'm easily amused.  It probably comes under the heading of "simple pleasures for simple minds," but I get tickled when I hear Narcissus sweet-talking to his reflection in the truck bumper.  I'll say this for him, he is a constant lover.  The other toms walk past, probably thinking, "He's at it again."

I also get a kick out of the myriad mice in the barn.  My tiny companions in the milk room barely move away as I go about the business of the day.  While they eventually clean up every last morsel, they pick through the piles of grain for the choicest pieces first, nibbling flakes of corn and cracking seeds while sitting and watching me with bright bead eyes.  Excitement is rampant when the first squirts of milk hit the rake and wipes.  Speaking of wipes, little housewives are padding their winter nests with used wipes filched from the bucket.

It seemed that every time I looked out a window yesterday I saw deer.  There were four, two does, two fawns, in the side yards when Bess and I went out to sit on the deck.  I saw more in ones and twos throughout the day, and at nightfall there were five at one time behind the chicken pen.  It pleases me that the wildlife seem to recognize that neither I nor my dog are a threat.  They don't run from either of us.  A flock of fifteen turkey hens walked within a few feet of Bessie Anne as she sat on the steps.  She just watched the parade go by.

I made a tactical error by picking up a book after barn chores to take out to the deck.  I haven't been reading of late, but that hadn't stopped me from buying more.  "I'll read only until I get warmed up and then tend to business."  "Business," whatever might have been on the agenda, got lost in the pages somewhere.  Moving from the deck to the living room, the next thing I knew it was time to put the kids to bed.  Four hundred-fifty pages down, about two-fifty to go.  I promise, right after I finish this one, I won't pick up another book until after Thanksgiving.

The wood stove was lit before the coffee was made this morning while it was still dark.  First light - what can I say?  It doesn't take much to please me.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Calm After The Storm

Were it not for hail still on the ground, wet grass, and the ice still in Bessie's pool at noon, one would never have known that there had been a full-blown storm the day before.  It simply was a glorious day yesterday.  Cold, yes, but warm enough to sit in the sun on the deck with Bess and bask like lizards.  After the excitement of the games and races on Sunday, the only things I had planned were 1) taking the trash down to the big road and 2) hauling a couple of wagon loads of firewood up to the porch.  Mission accomplished!  I'm at an age and stage in life where I can take pleasure in the little things, and like to portion out chores.  I no longer have the urge to get it all done in a day.

My new phone has a kind of pedometer gizmo that tells me (like I didn't know) that I average walking over a mile a day.  There are days when it feels like that mile is uphill both ways.  I was concerned that Bessie Anne was not getting enough exercise.  She's been on a diet and has lost some of her pudge, but limits the majority of her activity to moving from one nap spot to another or going out on a potty run.  A "real" walk would be good for both of us.  Yeah, and how's that working for ya?  We go out together and I head around the drive.  Bess accompanies me just so far, plops down, and says, "You go on, Mom.  I'll wait right here for you."  She makes me think of that sentence in typing class, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog."  I head back to the house.  "Oh, good, Mom.  I knew you'd come to your senses."

It's a scientific fact that heat does not turn corners.  No matter how warm I can get the living room, heat never makes it down the hall and into the bedrooms.  That's okay by me, I sleep better in a cold room.  However, waking up clinging to the edge of the bed with not enough blankets to cover my bum, cats jammed up against my legs and the dog sleeping on half of my pillow, huffing into my face, is not my idea of a good rest.  It is an accurate indicator of how cold it has gotten during the night.  Last night was pretty darned cold.

I like the pattern Nature has gotten into with one or two stormy days a week.  We need the rain and the sun just makes us appreciate it all the more.  It was a good day.

Monday, November 16, 2015

...And Dropping

It started raining during the night and continued raining most of yesterday.  Loathe as I am to use the dryer, it seemed a good day to do laundry (okay, I was running out of socks and didn't have a choice), clean the kitchen, and turn on the dishwasher.  The NASCAR race in Phoenix was on a rain delay.  Clay went over there to watch it and spent the afternoon in the car trying to stay warm (with help from a bottle of JD) until the track was dry enough to start the race.  Me?  The wood stove was glowing, the Steelers beat the Cleveland Browns, the Vikings beat the Raiders, and, as it turned out, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., won the race when it was called due to more rain in Phoenix.  How good can it get?

I'd switched over to a DVR'd program when Deb called with the news that a big storm cell was headed in my direction.  There had been a weather alert on live TV that I'd missed.  At that moment in time, the rain had stopped, the wind had died down, and the sun was peeking out.  Bess took advantage to make a quick trip outside, and I couldn't see any signs that bad (make that "worse") weather was coming.  It had been in the mid-to-high 30s all day, and then the temp started dropping.

Within a half-hour of Deb's call, it was 32 degrees, the skies blackened, thunder rattled the windows, and hail began to bounce on the deck.  Almost exactly seven minutes later and it was all over and we were left with this pea-size stuff all over.  It wasn't even raining when I went out to put the kids to bed.  They'd been huddled in the play yard and coop all day and were most happy to see me, rushing into their rooms and telling me all about it.  After crunching through the hail drifts and crust and getting through the slip-and-slide in the chicken pen, I was very glad I'd bought that boot brush thingy for the porch.  Good timing, that.

A bag of split-pea soup from the freezer warmed up my innards after the cold, and a cup of hot cider with a tot of what we euphemistically call "brown sugar" warmed my frozen fingers.

Thirty degrees this morning.  Got the wood stove fired up before the coffee went on.  Light enough to see outside now and yesterday's hail still covers deck and the slopes.  I'm grateful I don't have to go anywhere this morning as I'm sure the truck door handle would be frozen shut and the windshield covered in ice.

It was a good day.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Once Is A Tradition

Just as when Steve had one of anything, it immediately became a "collection," it seems that in my circle, if we do anything once it becomes a tradition.  This applies even to my dog.  It is my practice when back at the house after barn chores to sit down for a bit to rest.  A week or so ago, I'd no more than sat when Bessie asked to go out.  At her bidding (I'm well trained), I got up and opened the door for her.  "You come, too."  Since I was going to sit anyhow and it was a nice day, I decided I could just as well sit outside on the deck.  Next day, same timing, same routine.  And the next, and the next.  Tradition.

Yesterday was a day of tradition for me.  Ten years ago, Steve asked me where I'd like to go for our anniversary lunch.  (With goats, dinner out was/is never an option.)  I was hungry for Chinese food, but then remembered that he liked Mexican better and suggested Tortilla Flats in Placerville.  It was his anniversary, too, after all.  Turned out, through no fault of his, it was the only time in his too-short life that he ever stood me up on a date.  With few exceptions over the years, I've celebrated our anniversary by going to Tortilla Flats for lunch, sometimes with a friend, sometimes alone.  Yesterday, Linda was my guest for the occasion (she even brought flowers!) and it was lovely, a truly happy day.  Later, we wandered in and out of some of the great shops in Old Town, and I frivolously treated myself to a new can crusher and a boot brush/scraper for the front porch.  Anyone who knew Steve would acknowledge that those are exactly the kind of gifts he would have chosen for me, too.

Back home again, I caught an old segment of Huell Howser ("That's amAZing!") when he visited the Kellogg Horse Ranch in Pomona, California, in 1992, and that reminded me of another tradition, this one involving my mother.  My mother was not into animals, per se, and I don't know how it started, but for years on Mother's Day my dad and I would take her to the Kellogg Ranch for their special tribute to mothers.  The horse show featured many mares and their foals, beautiful and darling.  They must have planned their breeding season carefully for the occasion.  Even Mother could not resist their appeal.

Just for the sake of "tradition," though not spectacular, I took a picture of last evening's sunset anyhow.  The computer, however, will not give me the photo.  I guess enough is enough.

It was a good day.

PS:  a wild wind is blowing and a storm is on its way in.  Poor Bess.  What will she do?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Long Way Home

It was another dreaded "go to town" day.  Nothing for it but to bite the bullet and go.  I wish flatlanders would realize that a truck does not handle curves like a sports car and that you can't make me go faster by riding on my back bumper.  One never knows when an animal (deer, cats, squirrels, etc.) is going to jump out into the road.  Hitting a deer would be awful, getting plowed into from behind would be worse, and swerving into oncoming traffic would be tragic.  There are not that many places to pull off to the side, but I know where they are and I always use them to let traffic go by.

Be that as it may, there were fewer cars on the road on the way home and I had a chance to actually look at the scenery.  Walnut trees in particular turn a glorious golden color in the fall.  Cold nights have tinged vineyards with reds, greens, and gold.  We seem to be in an every-seven-day cycle of rain and the hills are green again.  All that beauty almost makes a trip into town worthwhile.

Linda's path to her new home has had some glitches and pitfalls and there have been delays.  We are to meet for lunch today and I'm looking forward to that..

It's funny how quickly one can acclimate to cold weather.  (I never get used to heat in summer.)  A couple of freezing mornings and 50 degrees becomes shirt-sleeve weather.  There are times when I've got the wood stove going and it gets so warm in the house that I've had to open the front door!  Last night, with a couple of cats on my lap and a dog by my legs, I didn't even bother lighting the stove.

Thanksgiving is looming on the horizon.  While my Kids didn't grow up here, I think they're looking forward to "coming home." 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Just Venting

I'm guessing that there aren't too many out there in this day and age who depend solely on wood stoves for heat.  Consider this Wood Stove 101.  Other stoves may have other systems, so I can only report on mine, which has two doors, a glass door in the front and another on the side.  The side door is handy for inserting logs straight in (one would have to finagle wood in the small front door).  Heat is controlled by a series of vents.  I'm constantly fooling with the vents.

To get a fire started, first open the small vents at the front with the lever.  This will stay open as long as the fire is going.  No air, no fire.  Next, open the top vent which controls the flue flap (say that fast three times).  Insert the firewood (typically, I put in three logs to start) through the side door and add some sort of igniter.  I'm partial to Strike-A-Fire blocks, myself.  Close the door.  My stove has a thermometer on the chimney which indicates when the heat has reached a level that the flue can "draw" on its own and the top vent can be closed.  It also indicates when the heat is reaching a danger point and a chimney fire could ensue.  This can happen in a heartbeat if one leaves the room and doesn't watch the levels.  Wood stoves definitely need attention.

Okay, the fire is going well and warmth is filling the room.  This is a good time to bring in more firewood because it won't be long until the fire must be fed.  Remember to open the top vent before opening the door.  This causes flames to shoot up the chimney instead of out into your face.  I have a cousin who lost his beard by forgetting this important step.  Add the wood, shut the door, and close the top vent.  Otherwise, we go back to chimney fire territory.

If one hasn't been watching and the fire has died down too far, there is another vent/door that will act like a bellows and provide a rush of air.  There is a door at the very bottom of the stove to access the ash tray underneath the grate.  Be judicious when using this door as results are immediate.  Never open this door without opening the top vent first.  Remember to close top vent again.

The type of wood used is important.  Cedar burns hot and leaves no ash, great for getting a fire going, but it doesn't last long.  Pine is good, but it leaves more creosote in the chimney and we know creosote can catch fire.  Oak is harder to start, but is longer lasting and needs less wood in the long run.

When going to bed at night or leaving the house for any length of time during the day, banking the fire needs only making sure there is some wood in the stove and shutting all vents.  Since stoves are not airtight, there will be enough air to keep the coals hot without a fire.

There is a World War I song, "Keep the Home Fires Burning," that I love.  Keep your home fires burning, and keep an eye on those vents!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Stuff Of Dreams

Dreams.  Like time travel, you're never sure where you'll end up or who you'll meet in a dream.  I awoke this morning in a panic because I couldn't find a recipe for panna cotta.  (I've never made panna cotta.)  I'd been challenged to use lavender in a recipe of my choosing (I watch a lot of cooking shows) and panna cotta popped into my head.  I knew how I'd infuse the flavor and exactly how to make the presentation.  The problem was I had no idea how to make the darned thing.  I decided, because time was running out, to wing it and had the eggs, cream, and lavender blossoms heating.  I can't tell you how it turned out because I woke up.  Evidently the stress was too great.  What a way to start the day.

Who doesn't dream of a BFF (best friend forever)?  I've often wondered why it is that Cindy frequently stops to put her nose to mine before getting off the stand in the morning.  She is the only one in the herd to do so.  I also watch a lot of nature, wildlife, and veterinarian-type shows and recently saw a documentary on animal behaviors.  It seems that in a herd of horses, they will pick out a special friend and one of the ways they communicate this bonding is by blowing in each other's nostrils.  It was indicated that a horse will have only two or three BFFs in a lifetime.  Given this information, I am quite honored and touched to be chosen as Cindy's best friend.

It doesn't take a lot to please me.  The Wells-Fargo wagon (aka UPS) drove up just before sundown to deliver two new pairs of bibbies and I was thrilled!  To be honest, I get excited any time that brown truck drives up.  Why is it that denim gets soft and pliable and really comfortable and then gets holes?  It happens every time.  I make do with four sets, and two wore out at the same time.  Given the low temperatures now, wind whistling through the gaps made for a uncomfortable outing.  I've been working at it, and am happy to report that I could get a size down and they fit!  Before I can wear the new duds, they'll have to go through several washing to get them to at least bend at the knee.  I can wait, but I can dream.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Head In The Clouds

Bessie Anne reminds me of a little kid who always wants to hold mommy's hand.  She'll ask to go outside, but then hesitates by the open door and says, "But you come, too!"  It doesn't take much of an excuse to draw me along. so we go together out to the end of the deck to sit in the sunshine for awhile.  There was still a lot of moisture in these leftovers from the day before, and they were beautiful floating in the clear blue sky.

A power outage was to be expected during the height of the storm a couple of days ago.  It was very unexpected yesterday when the sun was shining, but there you go; it happened.  I've been taking my time washing the last of the windows, but with not much else to do in the middle of the day, it seemed a good use of "down" time.  The power came back on within an hour, just out long enough to have to reset all the digital clocks in the house.  For someone without a strict schedule to keep, I sure have a lot of clocks.

Only this last remnant of clouds remained at sundown.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Timing Is Everything

Temperatures plummeted while the rain fell yesterday.  Somehow I managed to get barn chores done in the morning during a lull, which was good timing.  The big girls were happy that I left the play yard open for them, and I shut the big door to the chicken coop for the little girls and Nicholas.  But....  I hadn't gotten the fire lit before leaving the house and, believe me, it was cold!  Once chill settles in, it takes forever to get the house warm.  The day was spent huddled in the chair, sipping hot cider, piling on dog and cats, and heating the "bean bag" to thaw frozen fingers.  Going out at eventide, the wind had a wicked bite and I was glad I'd put on a watch cap instead of the ball cap I'd worn in the morning.  By dark, the warmth of the wood stove finally kicked in, and then Craig and Deb informed me there was a tornado warning approaching the east up the Hwy. 16 corridor (they'd thought at first it was Hwy. 50, which is closer to me).  Oh crum.  My first thought in high winds is for the trees.  While there have been a few sightings in past years, tornadoes are unusual in California and people are certainly not prepared for such events.  Watching the news, it seemed that by 6:30 the storm had blown itself out after going through Rancho Murrieta and we were in the clear.  Heavy rain continued to fall all night, and snow fell at elevations just a little up the hill.

As it's been a whole year since I've had to worry about such things, I'd forgotten about banking the wood stove at night.  Not wanting a frigid repeat, I did just that at bedtime.  This morning (36 degrees), it was only necessary to throw a couple of logs into the coals to get the fire started.  Timing is everything.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Old Man Is Snoring

"It's raining.  It's pouring.  The old man is snoring.  He sat up in bed and bumped his head and couldn't get up in the morning."

I wonder how many of us recited this ditty as children, and do kids still say it when the rains come?  It was a good day to stay inside yesterday.  I'd received a challenge to bet on the Steelers-Raiders game from my son Pete, so I was obliged to switch back and forth between football and NASCAR.  It was one hellah good game and the Steelers won!  Unfortunately, I'd given Pete six points so I still lost.  I now owe Pete one macaroon cookie (he'd have owed me a dollar).  As the saying goes, I'd rather owe him than cheat him out of it.  NASCAR had a nail-biter of a finish, with Jimmy Johnson fighting his way to the checkered flag.  The icing on the cake was that the Vikings also won.  Did I mention I am a fan of football and all kinds of racing?

The skies opened up about three o'clock.  By three-thirty, it was about as dark as it was going to get and I went out to put the kids to bed early.  The girls are never so glad to see me as when I show up on a wet day to let them into the barn.  With almost perfect timing, Linda came during a lull in the rain to pick up the rest of her belongings.  It's good to know that she won't be far away.

I need to get new recliners.  The ones I have are pretty shot, but it's hard to find the oversize kind.  I couldn't settle for the narrow-seat bun-huggers because I'm rarely in my chair alone.  There must be room for me, Bessie Anne, and Ralph and Celeste.  Last night with the rain coming down and the wood stove glowing, it was nice to have my little family snuggling on my lap and legs.  I don't know about the old man, but the four of us were snoring in no time flat.

It was a good day.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Unfinished Business

For openers, the goats' hooves are trimmed, a chore we are all glad is done and over until the next time.

The windows, however, are only half done:  kitchen, "round room," and four 10-pane-per-panel French doors, which are a real pain to clean.  The curtains went up on all clean windows, but there are still the dining room and living room to finish.  I may or may not tackle the rest of the house, but there's no hurry.  This place has more windows than Carter has Little Liver pills.

The papers for the home Linda is buying are not ready to sign yet, but she has found another place to stay for the duration and will be moving today.  It is so unfortunate that our animals could not get along (who'da thunk it?).  Luna has been miserable confined to her room and my cats have been so territorial, fixated on the stranger in our midst, that they've not been happy, either.  Linda left Luna at her store for three nights and that made Linda so lonesome, not a good solution.  I think, pets notwithstanding, that we've helped my friend make the transition from urban living in Seattle to rural Fair Play.  She is off on a life-changing adventure and we (well, most of the "we" in my house) wish her nothing but the best.  I can't speak for Celeste and Ralph.

It's NASCAR Sunday, so there's a pretty good chance I'll finish the living room windows today while watching the race.  Then I'll be a winner, too!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Dancing On Air

Three-quarters of the way trimming goat hooves (one hoof each goat every day).  I can't trim hooves during the latter days of summer, they're just too hard and I no longer have the hand strength to do the job.  After a few days of walking through wet grass (weeds), the hoof walls soften enough that I can cut them back.  Goat hooves fold in to the middle and it must be like walking on marbles.  While they hate to have their feet fooled with, when the task is finished they must be dancing on air.

Goats weren't the only ones floating yesterday.  It's time for the semi-annual wash curtains and get ready for the holidays.  After the hoof job and taking down the curtains, my legs rebelled against climbing the step stool to wash the windows, so this process is going to take a few days.  Rain is due again tomorrow, so it was nice to take advantage of the lovely weather yesterday.  I like to see this lacy laundry dancing on the breeze.

It was a good day.

Friday, November 6, 2015


Twilight was coming fast, as it does this time of year.  With the ground squirrels' booby-traps in the path, it seemed prudent to turn on the porch lights before heading down to the barn last evening.  All critters tucked in for the night, I was headed back up when I had to stop and just look for a minute.  The house looked so welcoming.  It had never warmed up much and I'd lit the wood stove early in the day, so I knew that warmth awaited inside.  I never go any farther away than the barn (trips to town notwithstanding) so it might seem strange to say I love coming home every night, but I do.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

You Can't Make Me

Luna does not like going to work with Linda.  She's pretty vocal in expressing her displeasure as she's been carried out to the car every morning.  Having had enough, yesterday she said, "I'm not going, and you can't make me!"  Linda went back to her room to get Luna, then came out saying, "I can't find her anywhere," and the search began.  Upstairs and down, there are a hundred hidey-holes for a cat in the house.  My cats were not giving signals that they'd seen Luna (yes, they still growl and hiss at the "space invader") and I had not seen a dark streak pass by, but we looked and looked.  Linda had to leave for work, and I had chores to attend.  While milking, I tried to think of anywhere we'd not checked.  Coming back to the house, the first thing I did was go down the hall and, sure enough, there was Luna on her bed, smirking, I swear.  I called Linda to let her know that the lost had been found.  "I'll be home in a few minutes."  I know her relief was great.  Cats do not like to acknowledge that they are not rulers of their universe, but Linda took charge and hauled a grumbling Luna away.  That was enough drama for one day.

It's been a long time since there's been ice in Bessie's pool, but it was that cold yesterday.  Guess it's time to empty, scrub, and put the pool away for the season.  Escaping the chilled house in the afternoon, my girl and I went out to sit in the sunshine.  A good breeze was blowing and I listened to a symphony in green.  The black oak has few leaves left and bare branches have a whistling sound, backed by the rustle of the live oaks.  Pine trees take the chorus with a constant murmur, punctuated by the occasional bird call.  All this music, and the performance was free!

Lighting the wood stove in late afternoon was in order and putting the comforter back on the bed was mandatory last night.  I think it's safe to say winter is just around the corner.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Playing The Odds

Odds were only slightly better than fifty-fifty that the laundry would dry on the line yesterday, but what the heck, I was willing to take the gamble.  Linda has been living out of a suitcase with limited wardrobe, so there's been a lot more washing to do lately.  At 37 degrees this morning, I'll bet she wishes she'd brought long-johns.  Even with the sun playing peek-a-boo behind the clouds all day, everything on the line but one pair of socks (?) got dry.  I win!

Odds are against this late-comer rain beetle ever finding a mate.  The rest of that group came out with the first rain.  The clothespin is there to give a perspective on the size of these bugs.  They're big!  They are also clumsy and have a talent for ending up on their backs like turtles.  I turned this guy over twice in the morning and finally told him he was on his own.

It's a sure bet I'll be lighting the wood stove today.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Light My Fire

(With apologies to The Doors.)

It was a good, steady rain all day yesterday, the kind we need so much.  Complaints from the goats notwithstanding, the morning went pretty smooth.  The first day of rain only takes shutting a few windows for comfort.  By the second day, dampness sets in and that requires the wood stove to take the chill away.  I'd already cleaned out the ashes from last season and Dave's bunch of worker bees had filled the porch rack with firewood so I was good to go.  I sometimes bemoan the loss of central heat and air, but there's nothing quite as cozy as a room with a wood stove glowing when rain is falling.

Great minds think alike, it seems, and Linda and I have had chili on the brain.  The night before, she fixed Chinese Chili with beef, five spice, tomatoes, herbs, and ginger, which might sound odd but was truly delicious!  Last night I made White Chili with chicken, cannellini, hominy, and sour cream.  It's a favorite of mine and never fails to please.  We're well stocked with leftovers and chili, like spaghetti, is better the next day anyway.

Snow was reported 10 miles east of Placerville yesterday, so we've got a great kickoff to the season.  With just the little rain we've had recently, the fields have taken on a blush of green, such a nice change from the dead brown we've seen for months.  One wet winter will not get California out of the drought, but it should help those of us dependent on ground water for our wells.  Rain always brings the deer down from high country and there are four or five hanging out under my oaks and in my woods every day now.

It's been a struggle, but I've been trying very hard to keep my rants and whines about the change in time to a minimum this year.  When I explained to Linda that one of my biggest complaints is that longer hours in the barn overnight means more goat poop to rake and haul every morning, she said, "Ah, I get it!"  And that's enough about that.

It was a good day.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Hitches In The Git-Along

I got a pretty good indicator early on how the day was going to go, and I do mean early on!  Woke up at 4:30, not such a big deal.  Only when I sat down at the computer with coffee in hand did I realize I'd not changed the clocks to Standard Time and it was, in reality, only 3:30 a.m.  Aargh.

The next glitch was the computer that refused to acknowledge me and would not let me log in or retrieve email.  Writing the blog was out of the question.  Russell in Technical Support and I spent a couple of hours trying this and that without success.  We went through Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer.  I was feeling like a dispossessed person thrown out into the cold when Russell put me on hold ("Noo, don't leave me!").  He came back with the news that it was a HughesNet problem that had been recognized universally and they were working to fix.  At least it wasn't against me personally.  They did not, however, get it fixed yesterday.

Rain started falling (a good thing) before I'd gotten the feed unloaded from the truck.  Nothing quite like hugging a 50-pound wet bag of scratch to your chest or dragging a 75-pounder into the shed in a drizzle.  Of course I'd forgotten to bring the hand cart up from the barn the night before.  Happily, the rain had stopped at sundown (no sundown to see) so the girls went into the barn easily and it just meant an extra trip to bring up the hand cart and trundle the goat chow back to the barn.  Oh well, a minor glitch.

On Halloween, being the adults we are, Linda and I decided to take our glasses and go trick-or-treating at Camille's.  I called ahead to make sure she was home; she was not, so I left a message.  Cam called back later and said she and Honey wanted to trick-or-treat at my house.  As I'm short on costumes but long on hats (cowboy hats, Davy Crockett hats, fedoras, Red Hat hats, etc.), I grabbed the chicken and pig hats so we could get in the spirit.  (I couldn't post the picture yesterday because I couldn't post anything.)

There's just no way to get around the fact that my cats do not like Luna.  It's not like they will accept any explanation or request to "just get along."  Bessie Anne backs up her team as The Enforcer.  After a particularly bloody encounter, Linda now takes Luna to work with her and for that period, there is peace in my valley.  Luna is a sweet girl and I feel bad for her.  There was a brief spat in the hall just now.  I hope that's the only hitch in the git-along today.

It's raining.