Saturday, December 31, 2016

Animal House

("Animal House," 1978 - John Belushi, Tim Matheson)

At least twenty toms and hens were waiting at the breakfast bar yesterday, and when I called, "Turk, turk, turk," ten or fifteen more came running up from the woods.  It's amazing to see them clustered in such large numbers.

Woodpeckers are back at work storing food for the winter.  I know this because, without a ceiling now, the floor of the shed where I keep the birdseed is again littered with acorns.  They stuff them in under the soffit and I kick them out the door.  This is not what I consider a game.

What the ground squirrels are doing is also not funny.  When I had the oil changed in the truck earlier this week, the nice man told me there were signs of damage to the wiring.  Some years back, a squirrel had made a nest under the hood and had chewed through the battery cable.  I remember the insurance agent passing the phone throughout the office, asking me to explain the situation to others, and hearing them all laughing as I told my tale of woe.  "Tain't funny, McGee" (Fibber McGee & Molly, radio show from 1935-1959).

You know that feeling that you're being watched?  There was, in fact, a peeping tom looking in my bedroom window yesterday.  Going into the guest room, there was Ralph watching the bird on deck rail and making that kek-kek-kek sound cats make when excited.  Now that was funny.

A little later, Bess and I went out to soak up some rays from the weak winter sun.  We weren't the only ones out and about.  Six deer came strolling up the driveway.  Four of them peeled off and went down into the south pasture.  The last two stopped, aware of our presence on the deck and, not sure what to do, turned and came bounding across the back yard with gazelle-like leaps that each covered ten or more feet.  Awesome.

After a pretty rough start to the morning, it turned out to be a good day at Animal House.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Uffdah!

Just spent 2-1/2 hours with tech support to restore my computer to some semblance of normal after. - wait for it - being hacked yesterday!  It was a total loss of all my sites, etc., and my angel tech was able to restore - well, as I said, close to normal.  It's a good thing (although not at the time) I woke up at 4 a.m today and didn't have to bail out to go milk goats or put the goats on hold.

Not much happened of note yesterday, although it was warm enough to keep the front door open in the afternoon.

I'm not kidding, it rattled me not to have computer access.  It's become a big part of life here for me, and my lifeline to "the world."

Uffdah!  What a way to end the year and start the day.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

What Was That?

I didn't mention the earthquake of night before last because until I saw notices on FB, I really wasn't sure what the heck had wakened me.  I'd heard what could best be described as "chittering," and the cats took off like bats.  What was that?!  It lasted a short while then stopped.  The cats came back and I rolled over.  Then it began again and we did a rerun.  I'll tell you what it sounded like and it sounded like mice or ground squirrels had somehow gotten into the walls and were chewing their way out, and I wasn't sure the cats hadn't gone to investigate.  Well, that wasn't anything I could deal with in the middle of the night (and didn't want to face in the morning, either).  The second time was shorter, and the third was shorter still and then stopped and we all went back to sleep.  It was almost a relief to find out that something in the room had been reverberating with the temblors and I wouldn't have to call an exterminator.  The quakes had originated over in Nevada in a sparsely populated area and evidently did no damage anywhere.

Esther had a good day yesterday and ate a pretty good breakfast for a change.  Unfortunately, I saw neither hide nor hair of Diva.

It's well known that I have an affinity for pigs.  I haven't seen the movie "Babe" (1995, James Cromwell) for a long time, but succumbed yesterday.  I'd forgotten just how good it was.  In case you've forgotten the secret password, it's Baa-ram-ewe.  It could come in handy if you need a sheep's cooperation.

The day was quite warm, relatively speaking, and a good time to bring more wood up to the porch.  The goats lazed in the sun and the chickens happily spent time outside, scratching and quietly gossiping.

It was a good day.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

As If...

As if worrying about Esther weren't enough, I now have concern about Diva.  A couple of nights ago while I was putting the girls to bed, I lifted down the grain bucket for nighty-night treats and found a couple of mice inside.  The light is pretty dim in the milking room, but I saw one mouse pop out while the other seemed slow to move.  I gave it a helping hand and put it down on the ground where it made its way to a mouse hole.  I wasn't sure, but I thought I saw Diva's buff spots.  With the girls waiting to come in, I had other things to think about. When Diva didn't come out for her milk yesterday, well....  I'm hoping she just decided to sleep in for a change.

Esther, by the way, is still a little wobbly and didn't eat breakfast, but the crisis seems to have passed.  Fingers crossed.

Truck was overdue for an oil change.  The place where I'd taken him for service for years had closed.  What to do?  There is a little shop in Mt. Aukum, but they advertise tires primarily.  On an off chance, I stopped in last week to ask if they also serviced vehicles.  Ta da!  Another chore scratched off the list yesterday.

That was probably the only thing accomplished as I again picked up the Deaver book and that was that until it was finished.  His plots have more twists and turns than a corkscrew.   One thing I really like about his stories is that he often involves modern technology as a weapon...really makes one think.

For the first time in a week, it's above freezing this morning.  I have a little space heater back here in the bedroom, but what they don't say is how much space it will heat.  In this case, it's about twelve inches.  By the time I'm finished with the computer, my fingers are numb and I make some pretty interesting typos.  It's a good thing I proofread before hitting save.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Hangin' In

As reluctant as I was to go to the barn yesterday, I was even more happy (and surprised) to find Esther on her feet.  She came out, albeit slowly, when her door was opened.  Declining breakfast, she did make her way up to the water trough with Inga.  Yes, that's ice floating in the water; I'd cracked it on the way down.  As I've said so many times before, so far, so good.  I know goats are not indestructible, but they sometimes give that impression.  At least Esther is hangin' in for now.

Milk Guy came in early afternoon and I was able to push an extra dozen eggs on him.  Later, I received a most welcome phone call from my grandson Jake, who was home on leave and able to spend the holiday with his mother's family and his dad, Pete.  Having just spent time in Washington state learning survival training, his next post will be in Oklahoma.  A southern California kid, he's dreading being stationed so far from the ocean.  I completely understand.

There were things I could have and should have been doing yesterday, but instead picked up a new book by Jeffrey Deaver, one of my favorite mystery writers.  I was introduced to Deaver by Pete some years back and I've been hooked ever since.

All things considered, especially Esther, it was a good day.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Finish Line

The old year is winding down and the finish line is in sight.  I can't say 2016 started out great what with the discovery of cancer, but I think it's safe to say that saga has a happy ending.  I took a little time this morning to re-read January and February from this Farview Farm diary of 2016.  It is true that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Some things break and are fixed, small tragedies are survived, animals create havoc and joy, there are births and deaths, weather is predictably unpredictable, family stays constant.  In other words, that's life.

Yesterday was bittersweet.  Esther is reaching her finish line.  Cindy and Esther are sisters, two of triplets born to Lucy.  They are both 15 years old, ancient for a goat.  Cindy has had health issues in the past and I've held my breath until she rallied.  Esther has had no such problems.  That said, the day before, Esther did not come in for breakfast and I could not find her at bedtime.  I had put all the others inside before she finally appeared around the corner of the barn and relieved my worries.  Yesterday morning, after a cold, cold night, she was lying down and shivering in the stall.  I tended to all the others and she still had not moved.  This was not good.  There are reasons not to leave a girl in the barn for a day:  one, there is no water in the barn and I can't think of anything worse for an animal than not to be able to get a drink.  Two, if they die, it's nearly impossible for me to haul the body over the sills and outside.  With much encouragement, pushing and pulling, I got Esther up on her wobbly legs and out the door.  Even with weak sunlight, it was warmer outside than in and I hoped this would give her strength.  I went out to check on her throughout the day and she managed to get herself up to the water trough and was still on her feet at nightfall.  Confused, it took some time and guidance to get her into the barn and she stumbled in, but she made it.  Good old girl.  I know her end is coming, but I really don't want to go down to the barn this morning.

I've been writing this blog of daily farm adventures for nearly seven years.  Not every day is good, but it is my firm belief that there is something good in every day.  It helps my attitude to review each day and focus on the positive.  I would truly like to thank everyone, over 125,000 hits to date, who has checked in to see what's happening at Farview.  The response has been overwhelmingly more than I ever, ever anticipated.  Ya'll come back now, and we'll go through the new year together.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Wonderful Life

(Apologies to James Stewart and Donna Reed for borrowing the title of their classic 1946 Christmas film.)

All that worrying was for naught.  The day turned out to be sunny and bright, actually a beautiful day, and the boys had no problems on the road.  We did, however, miss Deb and Craig's company as Craig had come down with some bug or other and they had to cancel all their Christmas plans.  As it was on Thanksgiving, football was the order of the day until dinner was ready.  The consensus was the chili verde was the best I've ever made (I tweaked the ingredients just a bit).  Since I've been making it for years, I'll take that as a compliment.  To celebrate Larry's upcoming birthday I made a 70's retro dessert, Blueberry-Pineapple Delight, his favorite.  There are cake people and there are pie people.  We are definitely on the side of pie and the boys reminisced about the year I made everyone's favorite on a day when we could all be together, eight in all, as I remember.

We put a five-dollar limit on gifts and that brings out the best, most imaginative presents, ranging from Scratcher cards (given with the hope that one or more of us becomes a millionaire), an all-in-one survival tool the size and width of a credit card, to more piggy kitchen implements (for me).  It's all about the fun and not the price.

Wrappings were cleared away and we got down to some serious poker for big stakes.  It's amazing how much competitive spirit is involved with a two-dollar buy in.  We played for hours and, sadly, I lost my entire two dollars.  Sigh.

When it was time for the guys to leave, I loaded them up with my presents:  a variety of savory baked items, squares of gingerbread, and a jar of pickled eggs with beets and onion.  (Try boiling and peeling seven dozen eggs sometime.  It's a labor of love.)  At risk of being called an egg pusher, I forced a dozen fresh eggs too on anyone who would take them.  The little girls have been cranking them out and they're piling up at an alarming rate.


I've got two more Christmases to look forward to:  one when Deb and Craig come up and another in February when Pete resettles in the area.  With us, it's a never-ending celebration!

For now, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Cry Wolf.

I don't know whether I'm coming or going, which way is up, and whether Christmas is off or on.  After days of dire warnings regarding the weather, we got rain.  Rain and wind in the morning, just rain all day.  Certainly not the deluge predicted.  Cold, yes, it was cold and Stove struggled to keep up, but after putting out the word to the Kids and waiting for the five or six hours of snow down to 2,000 feet last night as predicted, nothing.  It has even quit raining this morning.  Bess went out at o'dark-thirty and came in dry, not even wet feet.  Nature is having a big laugh at my expense for sure.  My Kids may lose faith in me after being such an alarmist.  I know, however, if I'd said nothing the Old Girl would have sent down rain and sleet and snow that not even the postman would have braved.  The boys will have a good time car-pooling with Clay regardless, but I'm waiting for an acceptable hour to call Deb and Craig to see if they want to change plans again and come up today after all.  Local news doesn't come on until seven and I want to see how the weatherman is going to explain this gaffe.  I don't wish to cry wolf again.

"If you snooze, you lose" applied to me last night.  As is my habit, I fell asleep in the chair for a nap before bedtime.  I was horrified to wake at midnight as I still had to de-bone and cube a seven-pound pork butt and get chili verde made and in the oven to slow cook overnight (not a lot of "overnight" left).  Bessie Anne doesn't see well anymore, but she is definitely the watchdog on timing and she told me in no uncertain terms that I should not be fooling around in the kitchen and we must go to bed now.  I and the house kids made our way down the hall about 3 a.m.  Ralph must have been really cold because I'd no more than got into bed than he crawled into the cat cave under the covers to snuggle.

With just enough light to see, the sky is completely clear this morning.  Oh well, Merry Christmas one and all!

Friday, December 23, 2016

All Those Bases

I'm running around like a nutter these days what with Christmas and company, weather, a Kid's birthday in another couple of weeks, etc., etc., etc.  That's a lot of bases to cover.  I never liked baseball in the first place, always the last to be picked for the team (for good reason), and baseball has only three bases to hit.  I'm expecting any minute to hear, "You're OUT!," as I wade through jello these days, moving as fast as I can and getting nowhere.  Sigh.

Nature snickers at me now in the mornings.  The winds of late pushing up under the metal panels on the barn roof have loosened nails and allow rain or melting frost to drip down inside in a neat little row of puddles.  One such row is exactly where I sit on the milking stand.  Wet britches on a cold morning is an eye opener, and Nature gets a real giggle.  Better me than the goats, though.  They've got enough to deal with.

With little time to spare, I had to make another trip into town yesterday when I realized there wasn't enough cat litter to outlast the storm.  Like toilet paper, there are those things one just cannot do without.  Speaking of TP, some long time back someone posed a question:  when money is tight, what is the one luxury you will not give up?  My answer:  two-ply toilet paper!

We've passed the winter solstice and the days will begin to get longer, but that hasn't happened yet.  Getting home just before sundown, it was a question of priorities:  goats and chickens inside versus firewood to the porch or get groceries into the house first.  I was going into the house anyway, so loaded up (first base), then put the big and little girls to bed (second base), and while there was still enough light to see, brought two wagon loads of wood up (rounding third and headed for home base!).  Safe!!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

It Is What It Is

The clouds at sunrise yesterday were beautiful, but rather ominous and they reinforced my worries about the weekend.  The sun came out while I was in the barn and the girls basked in the warmth, bedded down in the grass and chewing their cud.

Diva came for her morning slurp.  She's such a regular that now I can identify her by sight.  Her coat is piebald, with tan spots on head and shoulders, unusual for a mouse.  There are a couple of newbies in the colony, youngsters who have to work up their courage before dashing out to grab a tidbit on the run.  It takes a couple of false starts before they'll take a chance.  I try not to make eye contact with them as that sends them right back into their hole.

Speaking of coats, the girls have got their thick winter gear on.  I have a feeling they're going to need it.

Expecting the worst, Bess and I made a trip to Mt. Aukum to restock goat chow and chicken scratch.  Before Thing started raiding the feed room, I could buy three bags of chow at a time and life was easier.  I don't mind feeding creatures, but I prefer to do it on my terms.

I'd fretted all morning and finally put out a text to the NorCal Kids, offering to postpone Christmas because of the weather.  Deb and Craig decided they'll come up after New Year's and I certainly don't blame them.  It's an hour and a half trip from their house, not fun in the rain and especially not in snow.  Larry's tires are getting worn and my driveway is steep on a good day.  It would be a slip-and-slide when it's icy.  Clay drove a big semi rig for years, going up to Redding and over the mountains to Reno in winter, so he offered to have Larry and Dave carpool with him (Good Son points, for sure).  So, once again, our holiday will be piecemeal and extended.  It is what it is.  It is Christmas for me and cause for celebration whenever my Kids come up.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

It's Personal

Nature has it in for me, me and me alone.  The last few days have been glorious, blue skies and temps up in the 50s.  I've been keeping an eagle eye on the weather reports, hoping nothing would change in the next few days that would delay our Christmas again.  Why, Nature?  Why would you throw a rainstorm on Friday and dump snow on Saturday, just when my Kids are (or were) coming up?  It's hard not to take it personally, just when I've got my herd of cats finally organized and headed up the hill on an actual holiday.  Weathermen have been wrong before, and Nature is notorious for playing games with me.  I'm sure that if I call off the gathering for this weekend and postpone it until who knows when, Nature will grin an evil grin if she brings a sunny, dry day.  At the same time, I don't want the Kids driving in bad weather on our icy back roads.  Aarrgh.  White Christmas, phooey!

Being that it was lovely outside yesterday, I went out to sit on the deck with Bess Anne. before going in to pay bills (boy, was that a downer).  The forsythia had a few pitiful blossoms and they must have drawn this bumblebee, who came in for an up-close-and-personal landing on my leg.  Bee stayed for quite awhile, taking time to clean his face and check out the territory before flying off again.  It was an omen from a bee totem, asking, "Are you busy enough?"  The answer to that is, of course, no.

I guess I'll forge ahead with prep like I had good sense and hope for the best.  Maybe Nature is just playing a joke on me and will relent this weekend.  Maybe.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

That's Ama-a-azing!

I kept hearing Huell Howser's enthusiastic catch phrase in my head yesterday.  Zipping around with the carpet sweeper just wasn't cutting it, so I decided to call the vacuum cleaner company helpline again.  "Please hold.  Someone will be with you shortly."  I listened to one of Beethoven's Concertos on an endless loop.  Sitting with the defunct vacuum cleaner between my knees and nothing else to think about, along about Big B's fifth rerun, I started really looking at the fitting of hoses, etc.  There had to be a way to detach the fershlugging parts.  Aha!  I wondered what that tiny, previously overlooked latch did, pushed it, and ta da!  Flushed with success, I found another latch, and then another!  After exactly 24 minutes and 14 seconds on hold, with two very clogged hoses in hand I hung up on Beethoven and took the hoses outside to unclog them.  It's amazing what a little time and a lot of desperation can accomplish.  Even better, I got all the parts back together in working order again.

Inga was back on the lead rope again yesterday and morning barn chores were uneventful.

In the afternoon, Propane Guy drove up.  Like an expensive genie, along about the time I start thinking, "I hope he doesn't come soon.  I don't need that bill right now," he magically appears.  It's as if the thought alone conjures him.  Amazing.  Bessie Anne sat waiting on the porch, her tail wagging like a metronome.  I surreptitiously slipped PG a milk bone to give to her.  She thinks all deliverymen bring her cookies, and she waits patiently without barking for her treat.

Probably the most amazing event of the day was that I knocked two more time-consuming items off the Christmas To-Do list, three if you count putting the Santa outfit on the ceramic goose by the door.

It was a good day.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Warming Trend

While it's not yet bikini weather, we're up in the low 30s this morning as opposed to the 20s of the past few days.  The weather app on my cellphone has changed from "chance of snow" back to "chance of rain" (which happens to be zip today).  It was colder yesterday by far and I had to break ice in the water trough for the goats and there were ice crystals in the inside chicken waterers, too.  Heavy frost in shaded areas didn't melt off until late afternoon.  Slip-and-slide mud in the chicken pen and goat paths had frozen and would have made for a hard landing, so caution was the watchword of the day.  I feel like a wuss, windging about this California winter when the east coast is getting slammed with ice storms, but hey, it's what I've got.

Inga has been so good about heading right into the milking room that I haven't used the rope lead on her for the past week, but that brat was just waiting for her chance and took off running yesterday.  Crum.  "Fine.  Just fine, my girl.  Stay out and miss your breakfast."  I changed the lineup and went about my chores.  As I finished with the last one, the girls had clustered outside the door.  Aha!  I was able to grab Inga's necklace (collar) and bring her in and get her milked.  "She who laughs last," and all that.

Taking apart everything I could see how to do, I still wasn't able to get the vacuum cleaner to stop throwing out clouds of dust or get it to pick up anything.  Evidently the company doesn't think people should be vacuuming on Sunday because their helpline was not open.  Aarrgh.  I'm recharging the carpet sweeper, and that will have to do.

Otherwise, I actually made inroads on the To-Do list, including firewood to make Stove happy.  Arden stopped by for a visit and was able to sample some of the baked goods fresh out of the oven.  There is a slight chance I might make the deadline after all.  Hope springs eternal.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sigh

Can't say it warmed up much yesterday, but it was sunny and bright.  Those doggone girls pulled the covering off the barn window again, so that was the first order of the day.  I'm beginning to think they do it on purpose for entertainment.  They stand in a semicircle to watch me struggle to hold the heavy board in place with one hand while hammering with the other, chewing their cud like kids eating popcorn at the circus.  I delivered a stern lecture regarding destruction of property, but they were less than impressed, turned their back and walked away.  Sigh.

If only my production matched my ambition....  I continue to go to bed with a Not-Done list longer than the To-Do list I had in the morning.  This "make haste slowly" business is getting to be a drag.  I'm my own worst enemy, and I know it.  I'm going to make a New Year's resolution to join the other side next year.  I'll do that very thing as soon as I get around to making that list.

One thing I absolutely have to do today or suffer the consequences is to bring more firewood to the porch.  Stove is doing his best, but demands a constant supply of resources.  He absolutely gobbles up wood.  Like the plant in "Little Shop Of Horrors," all day long he says, "Feed me!"

It seems no matter what I do accomplish, the list continues to grow.  I think evil fairies come in the night and forge my handwriting to add to the list.  Oh well, a thing will either get done...or it won't.  Sigh.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Mousecicles

Okay, we've traded the wind and rain for freezing temperatures (it's 28 degrees this morning).  It's not unusual to find a mouse or mice in the feed bucket as I start barn chores, but they normally pop right out and go about their business with a full tummy.  Yesterday, however, the mouse in the bucket was barely moving, probably suffering from exhaustion and hypothermia.  I lifted him out by the tail, but the poor wee mite was too weak to walk, let alone run, and lay shivering on the stand.  Nothing for it but to hold him in my hand (which was none too warm, I fear) and wait until the shaking stopped.  I put him down by the entrance to a mouse house and sent him on his way with good wishes as he wobbled none too steady to what I hoped was the warmth and protection of family.  What a way to start the day.

It was grand to come back up from the barn and see smoke curling around the chimney, knowing I'd be walking into a warm house to thaw my frigid fingers.  Without the wind, Stove had decided to cooperate before I'd left.

Ralph has his own way of getting warm.  He torments Celeste, in this case, by slapping her face repeatedly until she's had enough and takes off running after him, followed by a wrestling match.  Her flicking tail is clearly saying, "One more time, big boy.  Do that just one more time and you've had it."  If these two were my Kids when younger, I'd soon be hearing, "He touched me, Mom!  He touched me for no good reason!"

I spent most of the afternoon in the kitchen, a good place to be on a cold day.  Potato soup from the freezer made a most satisfying dinner.  The sun had come out, but sure didn't raise the temperature.  Bess and I went out at sundown and it was cold enough to make my eyes water.  Clouds over the Sierras say loud and clear that it's not yet over for them.  Those to the right are down toward Yosemite.  Neither Bessie nor I dawdled while putting the kids to bed, and she beat me to the door on the way back.

It was a good day.

Friday, December 16, 2016

So Far...

Man oh man, did we ever get the wind yesterday.  It did rain a lot most of the day, but I don't think it was as intense here as predicted.  After trips to the barn, my bibbies were wet to the knee and my heavy canvas barn coat is still damp.  The local FB community is full of notifications about power outages in the area, but thankfully we dodged that bullet.  The wind was the big deal here, nearly ripping a stocking cap off my head and taking my feet out from under.  Three of my Kids have long commutes to and from work and I needed to touch base with them last night, just a few words to know they'd gotten home safe.  (Yes, I'm one of those mothers.)  Stove did his best, but it was as if the wind was sucking the heat up the chimney.  It put a pretty good dent in the wood rack supply, trying to keep Stove happy.  After being awakened at 3 a.m., it was a good day to pile on the cats and dog and watch marathon Blue Bloods reruns and nap.  Soggy goats and sodden chickens were happy to go to bed early.  It was, as Pooh and Piglet would say, a blustery day, but we all made it through, and it seems calm this morning.

So far, so good.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Wait Is Over

Nature was still in a holding pattern yesterday.  It's certainly not because I'm looking forward to slogging through mud and doodah in the rain, but it's been like waiting for the other shoe to drop this week.  Should I go to the store now?  Should I haul grain to the barn today?  "It's coming.  It's going to be a big one!," and then nothing.  Well, the wait is over, at least the windy part.  The first gusts slammed into the house like a freight train this morning about 3 a.m.  No rain as yet, but the winds are sustained and I mean howling!  Now my anxieties have turned to electricity.  This kind of wind topples trees and takes out power lines.  I'm in the throes of Christmas baking (another trip to the store yesterday for more supplies).  The stove top is propane, but the ovens are electric.  Loss of power would leave me dead in the water, as well as with no water.  And, of course, there are the computer and cellphone to worry about.  Honestly, if it's not one thing, it's another.

The wicks are trimmed and the oil lamps filled.  Flashlights are at the ready.  Plenty of bottled water has been stored.  Laundry has been washed and dried and the dishwasher has been run.  I'm about as ready to deal with what may come as I can be.  Now it's a case of keeping fingers crossed, and wait and see again (and baking like a madwoman in the meantime).

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Slight Delay

"Push 'em back!  Push 'em back!  Wa-a-ay back!," was a football cheer in high school, and someone in charge of weather must have been saying this about the arrival of the rain.  The atmospheric river predicted for Tuesday was a no-show.  Oh, some sprinkles did fall.  Care to hazard a guess as to when?  Two steps off the porch on my way to the barn last evening, just enough to frizz my hair and cause pandemonium among the goats.  Now they're saying the "big rain" (flood warnings, even) will fall on Thursday.  I hope Nature quits this fooling around and either gets it over with or forgets about the whole thing before it gets pushed back and ruins Christmas.

One good thing about the slight delay, I was able to restock the wood rack with dry logs during the day.  I've filled my little red wagon with firewood in the rain before, but one thing I will not do is go to the woodpile at night.  The footing is treacherous in the dark, and the pile is a favorite hangout for black widows (always wear heavy leather gloves).  I've found snake skins in there, and squirrel nests and hibernating lizards.  One just never knows, and I'm not willing to take a chance.

This watch-and-wait routine is wearing. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

I Lost The Race

Darn goats!  Goats are notorious cribbers, chewing on fence rails, barn walls, and the pressed-wood winter covers for the window opening.  They have no upper front teeth and one would think they'd get a mouthful of splinters, but that doesn't stop them.  I was racing through chores yesterday and discovered that they'd pulled one cover completely off.  Fortunately, it had just happened but I had to take the time to put it back up (I keep a hammer in the barn for such occasions).  If they'd done it during the day, I'd have had to make repairs in the cold and dark.  For all the gloom of early morning, the day turned warm and beautiful, but the nights get cold and the storm coming is predicted to be a doozy, 4-8 inches of rain.  Fixing the window used up the time to bring up firewood to the porch.  Crum.

The doctor's office was busy and the wait was longer than usual.  I got a good report and won't have to go back for six months (yay!).  With sundown coming so early, there was barely enough time to do some, but not all, of the errands I'd planned in town.  Getting feed was mandatory, so I made the loop down to Mt. Aukum, getting home just before dark.  Not sure when the rain would hit, waiting until morning to trundle the bag to the barn was not an option.  No daylight left, so no firewood last night.

I was racing all day, but I didn't win.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Obsessed

After the cold, wet days of late, sunrise yesterday morning in a field of blue was a delightful surprise.  I realize I have an obsession with the sky up here, but what I see is too beautiful not to share.  Even grey days when mist drifts through the hills have a charm all their own, especially when Stove is cooperating..  I don't have the camera skills to capture the intensity of a storm when the trees, especially the pines, bow down and branches with lingering leaves blow in one direction, and there is no way to picture the sound of the wind and pounding rain.

The thermometer is on a roller-coaster ride, up (a little) and then down (a lot).  My weather app can't keep up.  It will show snow in the forecast and then it changes.  It shows an optimistic 45 degrees this morning while my on-site thermometer declares 40.  Snow is again predicted for Friday, with a high of 41 (woohoo!).  I've got a follow-up doctor's appointment today (hard to believe it's been six months since surgery) and will try to take care of as many errands as time will allow while in town.  Before I leave, however, I need to restock the wood rack.  App says it will rain again tomorrows and I'm nearly out of goat chow.  It doesn't do to bring soggy feed home in the back of the pickup, and it's not kind to ask the guys to load it when it's pouring rain.

I'm not the only one with an obsession.  Diva comes out every morning to check the shovel for her milk fix.  How does she know to wait until Sheila, always second in line, is on the stand?  Sheila is the only girl with directional teats.  Inga's are too small and Tessie's orifices are too tight to get a good distance squirt.  Let the first stream from Sheila hit the bucket and Diva appears like magic.  Go figure.

No sunrise yet, but from what little I can see it looks like another overcast day ahead.  Things to do, places to go, weather notwithstanding.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

I Can't Believe...

I couldn't believe how long Bessie Anne held a grudge yesterday.  She couldn't believe I'd actually thrown away her very own bone that she had dug up and taken such care with and protected from predatory cats.  She went out into the storm (and it was a real storm all day) to look again several times, and then stayed out on the porch to sulk and make her point, turning her head away and ignoring me when I'd open the door to invite her in.  By afternoon, she was over her snit and finally forgave me.

After days of fussing with Stove with little success, I couldn't believe how quickly the logs lit yesterday (did that really happen?) and how fast the house heated.  Stove's timing couldn't have been better because I came back from the barn totally soaked and cold.  In addition to regular chores, I'd had to extend the ditch in front of the play yard to keep the yard from flooding.  It's meant to be a dry haven for the girls, not a pool party.

I also had to do more fence work on the chicken pen.  I can't believe I didn't do a beak count the night before, but was horrified when I went into the pen and a sodden, pitiful hen came around the corner to meet me.  "How did you get out, sweetheart?  You poor little girl."  No, the small door hadn't come down as I'd feared.  There was another opening under the fence on another side.  Crum.  The saying is "Mad as a wet hen," but this soggy chicken was just grateful to rejoin the flock, get some breakfast, and get inside.  I blocked the hole as best I could, so I was dripping wet before I even got to the barn.

I had a long talk with Pete, my middle son.  After years of living away from his siblings and me, he'll be moving to the Sacramento area in February and that makes me unbelievably happy.  I like having all my chicks "in the nest," so to speak.

Something I can believe in is Santa Claus.  I got into a fight at school when I was a child and some of the other kids were saying he wasn't real.  When I told my mother, she explained that he was real, but when children get too old for toys, Santa's yearly gift was the Christmas spirit.  Didn't I see the smiles on everyone's face and hear the holiday wishes?  Didn't we plan our presents for each other?  That was the real Santa Claus.

I do believe.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Playing With Fire

The goats were giving me what-for even before I got to the barn.  Need I say I was late again?  Stove was being cranky and no matter how I adjusted vents, emptied the ash tray, or shoved in wood, I couldn't get the blasted thing to fire up and stay lit.  The problem is that once the process has started, Stove can't be left on his own until he's up and going, hence my tardiness in feeding, etc.

Bess was walking a fine line yesterday, too.  She didn't want to go out with me on another misty morning, but did ask later on.  She was outside quite a long time and I'd begun to worry about her.  When she came to the door, she had her head down and I did not see that she had a deer bone in her mouth when I let her in.  Bones in the house are verboten, and she knows this.  It wasn't until I heard her snarl and snap at Ralph, who evidently got too close to her trophy that I saw what she had snuck in with.  Of course, she was reprimanded for 1) bringing in the dirty old bone, and 2) being mean to Ralph.  I took the offending object away and threw it outside.  Bessie Anne was not happy.

Since it wasn't raining in the early afternoon, I took advantage to go to the grocery store, carefully banking the fire before leaving.  What was to have been a quick in-and-out shopping trip turned into an ordeal when I found that the store was busy rearranging aisles, shelves, and locations.  I had to ask for directions several times for several items on my list, and was amused to find that "adult libations" had been moved to a special, hidden corner, but still right next to what I guess are acceptable children's drinks.  Go figure.  California has put a ban on single-use plastic bags, so one either has to bring a supply from home or pay extra for paper bags at the store.  It's a pain in the patoot to have to remember and, since I never know how many I'll need, I take in a large bag full of smaller bags.  Fortunately, I'll admit I'm a bag hoarder and have a lifetime supply at home.

Back home, after I'd brought in the groceries (saving the bags for future use), Bessie asked to go out again.  Don't you know that little sneak found and brought the bone back in?  I took it away and threw it out again.  Like a pouting child, she gave me dirty looks and mumbled under her breath and wouldn't come lie close to me for the rest of the evening.  Deal with it, girlfriend.

Oh, Camille called yesterday to say that a neighbor had taken a look at her pellet stove and discovered a hidden loose electrical plug.  What a time-saving, money-saving relief!

We're predicted to get about three inches of rain today, fulfilling the promise of the clouds at sundown last evening.  This morning, the wind is howling and rain is beating against the windows.  By next weekend, we're on the books for several days of snow.  Along about 5 a.m.today, Bess asked to go out.  In this weather I thought it would be a quick trip.  It took a little longer than I'd expected.  She came back wet and...with the bone.  Oh, no, my girl.  We're done with that game.  The bone is in the trash.  You've played with fire one too many times.

Friday, December 9, 2016

North vs. South

It was a dreary, dreary day.  Nature has devised a weather contest, North vs. South.  First we had the Arctic Express bringing freezing cold wind and rain down from Alaska.  Now we have the Pineapple Express with warmer temperatures and moisture coming up from Hawaii.  After days of runny nose and icy toes, the house finally warmed enough for me to take off the jacket indoors (double long-sleeve tee-shirts still) and the cats left my lap to lie in front of the stove.  While it only misted, the skies were depressingly grey all day.  I don't know which is worse.  When it truly rains, at least the earth gets the benefit.

Stove is using up firewood at an alarming rate, so I took advantage of no rain to bring more wagonloads up to the porch.  Bessie used the opportunity to get a breath of fresh air.  She'd been reluctant to join me during morning chores and I couldn't blame her, but a girl can only hold it just so long.  After days of sitting on the counter, the butter finally reached "room temperature" and softened so that it could be blended with other ingredients.  I spent the afternoon in the kitchen.  The Christmas tree lights aren't going anywhere.

Could be worse.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Baby Steps

One doesn't (i.e., I don't) want to rush into these things.  I find it's best to make progress slowly, so I brought in the bin of ornaments for the Christmas tree yesterday, as well as multiple strands of twinky lights.  That was enough for one day.

Put more wood on the fire.  Adjust the vents.  Wait for the blaze.  Wait some more.  Readjust the vents.  The wood stove must have been watching and learning about going slowly because the house didn't warm up until about 9 o'clock last night, just about the time rain started falling.  Son of a gun, the thermometer got all the way up to 62 degrees inside!  The water troughs had been frozen over in the morning and there was still ice in the water in the afternoon.  Even when it's not raining, I leave the gate open to the play yard for the girls when it's really cold.  I figure that three walls around them gives them a place to huddle together out of the wind.  It had been sunny when I started chores so I left the big door open to the chicken coop, but the sunshine didn't last long and I closed it again later on.

Bess Anne went out with me at dusk.  I noticed her sniffing and scratching by the fence while I was tucking the hens inside and went to see what had caught her interest.  Oh crum.  Some wild thing had pulled the chicken wire out in a couple of places, trying to get inside.  I went back in to do a quick beak count and was relieved to find all the little girls accounted for and then tried to repair the fence as much as possible in the fading light.  Dang, if it's not one thing, it's another.

It will be an accomplishment if I get the lights put on the tree today.  Baby steps.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Fa La Lalala

'Tis the season and I'm searching for the spirit.  It took all afternoon to put the Christmas tree together.  Whatever possessed me to buy a tree that has to have every single branch fluffed out and inserted separately?  Oh, right, it was the five-dollar price tag.  I am my mother's daughter.  Mother would buy a grocery bag full of canned foods that had no label because they were only a dime each.  Dinner was an adventure:  three cans of peas and perhaps a can of dog food (fortunately, we had a dog).
While I was busy with the project of the day, Ralph and Celeste took turn playing in the cardboard fort, hunkering down and then leaping out to ambush one another.  I did, in fact, get the tree put together and in place and it has two ornaments already!  One was a gift last year from Deb and Craig, the other is the reindeer from Mary.  I am sworn to put up lights and finish the decorating today.  Or maybe tomorrow.  Or not.

Camille had been out scouting for fireplaces just in case the repairman who won't be there until Saturday can't fix her present pellet stove.  In an attempt to put a dent in the leftovers, I made a turkey potpie and invited Cam for dinner and a chance to get warm.  The potpie turned out well and there's only enough left over (that word again) for dinner tonight.

I know what I'll be watching today.  "Our Grapes Have Tender Vines" (1945, Edward G. Robinson, Agnes Moorehead, and Margaret O'Brien).  It's a wonderful, feel-good movie, and bad guy Robinson plays an uncharacteristic, gentle farmer (and Norwegian, to boot) and he does a masterful job.  There are scenes in which he takes his daughter in the early morning to watch a circus train unload.  It brings me memories of doing that with our Kids.  We couldn't afford to take them to the circus proper, but we did go to see the animals and clowns come down from the train and parade through the streets to the grounds.

It's a winter-white world out there this morning, frost as heavy as snow.  That's enough to say that it's the season.  Ho ho ho, and a hey-nonny-nonny!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

These Shoes...

These shoes aren't meant for walking (to paraphrase Nancy Sinatra's song "These Boots Are Meant For Walking").  Another pair of barn shoes bit the dust yesterday while I was restocking the wood rack.  I noticed immediately when a cold breeze hit my toes because the sole had let go of the upper.  I've had enough practice putting shoes in the trash that I can do it now with only a pang of guilt, and I had a secret weapon:  another pair waiting in the wings.  I used the same system that I use with canned goods, batteries, light bulbs, etc., and bought ahead of need.  Take that, Shoe God.

Restocking the wood rack was also a case of prevention.  Days of rain and freezing temps are predicted for this week and I wanted to be ready.  I felt so bad for Camille, who called to say her pellet stove had gone on the fritz.  We had a pellet stove here when we moved in.  I hated the blasted thing because the blower made a most irritating sound when it came on.  Also, because the blower and auger run on electricity, when the power goes out...no heat.  I was ever so happy when Steve switched us over to a wood stove.  Cam is faced with trying to get someone to come quickly to fix her stove, buy a new one, or change over to wood or propane.  Wood stoves are dirty, no two ways about it.  Ashes, dirt and bark bits from the logs, they're messy but the heat is reliable.

The heat is reliable, yes, but there was another example of the fact that it doesn't turn corners yesterday.  I wanted to make a recipe that called for softened, room-temperature butter.  Those recipes never take into account the temperature of the room.  In summer when the temp is 90-plus, best put the butter in a bowl or prepare to wipe up a yellow puddle.  I took butter from the refrigerator yesterday afternoon; it's still a hard brick this morning.

Note to self:  buy another pair of shoes on the next trip to town.  It pays to be prepared.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Faster Than...

Superman ("Faster than a speeding bullet...") has nothing on Time.  I'm sure it was just a few days ago that I was complaining about the unsufferable heat and now I'm trying to keep the wood stove lit.  I'm still working on Thanksgiving leftovers and making plans for the next holiday.  Oh crum.  I looked at the calendar and see I'm running out of time there, too.  I'm going to get caught with my Christmas tree down again if I don't get a move on.  I have no idea where Time goes or why it zips past in a blink, but it does, and I can't keep up!

Lap space these nights is at a premium.  Celeste bulls her way onto the lap proper, while Ralph fits himself wherever he can, sometimes in the most uncomfortable positions, but he is determined.  Poor Bess Anne is odd man out and has to settle for her comfy bed and blanket by my feet, or else snuggle down in the other recliner or on the couch.  She'd really like to join the pack, but there is only so much room and I have to tell her no.

Bedtime is another matter.  Bessie gets the prime spot on the pillow and moves over there right after her obligatory back and shoulder massage.  Celeste curls up in the curve of my legs, while Ralph has rediscovered the cat cave under the blanket.  We are, indeed, a cozy bunch.

Barely first light and I feel I'm already behind the eight-ball.  It's not visions of sugarplums dancing in my head, it's lists of all the things I need to do while there's still time.  Time is not my friend.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

It's On The Line

Having tall sons is a blessing for me.  (Not necessarily when I'm fussing and they pat me on the head and say, "There, there.  Nice mommy.")  When my clotheslines broke a couple of months ago, I was devastated.  Hanging laundry is one of my great pleasures.  Definitely grateful for a dryer, but it just isn't the same.  Without benefit of ladder, my boys restrung the lines on Thanksgiving and Deb painstakingly transferred all the clothespins.  Yesterday I washed all the holiday table linens and hung them outside.  Just seeing the napkins fluttering in the breeze made me happy.  The best part of line drying is taking items down to fold and put in the basket.  In the dryer, everything would have had to be ironed (aarrgh!).  Coming off the line, there wasn't a wrinkle to be seen, tablecloths flat and smooth and ready to be put away.

Thanks, Kids, from a grateful mom.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

And So It Begins!

My holiday season got off to a swinging start yesterday when I met my friend Mary for lunch at Poor Red's.  My daughter Deb and I worked with Mary for the same company back in the late '80s, early '90s and we've maintained contact all these years.  Mary is making the family rounds this week:  our lunch yesterday and she's meeting up with Deb today.  Honestly, we did not coordinate our holiday sweaters so it's pure coincidence that we look like a pair of smiling purple grapes.  In case there's a question, I'm having one of Red's famous Gold Cadillacs and Mary's drink of choice was a Grasshopper.  Order a blender drink at Red's and you get a champagne glass and water glass full.  You get your money's worth at Red's.

After a leisurely, very good lunch and lots of reminiscing and catching-up conversation, we headed back out into the cold.  As a punctuation point to the holiday theme, Mary gifted me with a reindeer tree ornament.  Now I'm obligated to decorate the Christmas tree this year.

Cheers!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Snippets

It's only been a week, but as I looked around the living room yesterday I realized it needed dusting again.  I don't know whether to aarrgh or sigh.

I don't need pilates or fitness training or whatever health trend is in fashion these days.  The little app on my phone informs me I log about a mile and a half walking every day.  I got plenty of exercise yesterday thanks to Bessie Anne who could not make up her mind.  "I need to go out!"  I opened the door.  "I've changed my mind."  I closed the door.  Five minutes later, "I need to go out!"  Open.  "Never mind."  Close.  The next time I opened the door, I helped her out gently with a foot to her backside.  Three minutes later, "I want back in now."  It was as if we were on an endless loop all day.  In addition to her cataracts and near-total deafness, I think the old girl may be slipping a cog or two.  I can only hope for as much patience when my turn comes.

Cindy has been off her feed for several days now and has developed explosive diarrhea.  I can tell from her eyes that she just doesn't feel good.  I've been mulling over how to help her, and evidently my subconscious worked on it overnight because my first thought this morning was, "Kaopectate!"  Why didn't I think of that before?  I've used it on baby goats to stop diarrhea, but haven't had kids in years.  And how does one dose a goat?  I keep a supply of new syringes and needles on hand.  A clean syringe without a needle filled with the medicine slips into the mouth in the gap between the front teeth (lower jaw only) and the grinders in back, the same place the bit fits on a horse.  Working alone, it's best to have the goat's head in the stanchions first.

I sometimes wish chickens had an on-off switch.  Earlier this year the little girls weren't trying very hard and there were some weeks I hadn't enough eggs for my customer.  Now I'm picking up six to eight a day and there are buckets of eggs piling up in the fridge.  And, of course, now my customer is working out of the country for the time being.  I'm giving them away like door prizes (I foisted a dozen on Harold), and still they multiply.  I don't eat breakfast and continue to whittle away at the turkey so eggs for dinner are out.  Shades of barrooms of the past, I may end up pickling some.

Except for the dust, it was a good day.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Come And Gone

One day they're there, the next they're gone.  It's as if there were a shift-change in the bird world and one crew comes on as another one leaves.  I haven't seen a Steller's jay, brilliant blue with a black crest, in ages.  Suddenly yesterday one was on the deck rail and driving Ralph bonkers by flying at the window and back.  There are still a few, but very few, California jays still in the area.  The noisy neighbors, the crows, have pretty much moved on, replaced by huge numbers of smaller blackbirds.  Coming back from the barn, I heard a pair of red-tail hawks working the area, and the other night I heard owls hooting on the hunt.  With the advent of cold weather, all but a few hummingbirds have moved out.  Camille has noticed this, too, at her place.  Possibly because there were much fewer acorns this year (probably because of the drought), there were fewer woodpeckers, and now most of them are gone now.  While the majority of vultures left in September, thankfully the maintenance crew stayed behind.  Ring-tail doves have taken the place of mourning doves.  The one constant is the turkeys, who continue to gather at the breakfast stand every morning, making another hopeful pass in the afternoon.

Bright sunshine one day, gloomy clouds the next.  While not frozen over, there definitely was ice in the water troughs yesterday.  I turned off the water supply to the deck faucet, and must remember to wrap the pipes on the outside faucets today.

The anthem for the season is a WWI song "Till The Boys Come Home," which begins, "Keep the home fires burning...."  I've got to get back in the habit of banking the coals at night so it's easy to get a fire started in the morning.  I didn't night before last and once again the house was frigid until well after barn duty yesterday. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Is It Bedtime Yet?

Once upon a time, long, long ago, like every kid I would complain that it was too early to be sent to bed.  "Just a little while longer.  Just five more minutes.  Puleez!"  Yesterday I changed from the icy-cold sheets of summer to the snuggly-soft fleece sheets of winter and as I made the bed, it was all I could do to keep from crawling in right then and there.  Being the grownup that I pretend to be, I restrained myself, but it wasn't easy.  What with the changeable weather of late, I'd left the cotton sheets but complained to myself every night as I added socks and pajama bottoms under my gown and put a heated beanbag between the sheets to thaw my feet.  It's a well-known fact that heat will not turn corners.  Even though the living areas will warm up, the bedroom stays as frigid as an icebox all winter, and winter is upon us.  It barely reached into the low 40s yesterday, and that's just a taste of what's to come.

Bedtime for the girls is now about 4 p.m., and believe me, they are ready to go in for the night.  No "five more minutes" for them.  The reverse sunset was stunning when Bess and I went out to do our chores.  Unfortunately, I missed getting the small herd of deer going down the driveway in the picture above.

In the last rays of sunlight, the chickens were clustered by their door.  No need to ask if they were ready for bed.  They trooped inside like little soldiers to have a snack before perching on their roosts.

All afternoon I imagined how good my bed would feel and you know what?  It was even better.  No extra protection, no extra heat needed.  No shock to the system to open sleepy eyes wide.  No waking up in the night because a foot slid over and hit an iceberg.  The sun isn't up yet and I'm already wondering if it's bedtime yet.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

It's All About The Nap

Misty, some light rain, and cold.  The only things warm in the barn were the udders.  The play yard gate was opened and the big coop door was closed.  Not the most pleasant of mornings.  Back at the house, fingers and toes chilled to the bone, I punched up the fire and made a hot drink before settling into my chair.  Bess had gone out with me and was as cold as I and she pushed her way onto the chair so we could warm each other, a living lap rug.  Soon we were snoozing happily, waking only when the fire had died down.  It was a day for piddly chores, consolidating leftover leftovers (like loaves and fishes, they seem to multiply), doing dishes, and keeping the fire stoked.  Another quick nap in the afternoon before putting the girls inside for the night.  Camille called on her way home from town and I warned her about the fog, dense enough that I could barely see the road in front of the pasture.  She called later to say that there had been no fog until she was almost home and that we must be in a low-lying cloud bank.  Yet another turkey sandwich for dinner (five days' worth of turkey and I think I could fly) and yet another nap before bedtime.  It's all about the nap.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Diva

There's one in every bunch.  We all know that one, the one who requires (if not demands) special attention, privileges, favors.  I can't call BF Betty and Jealous Jennie divas because all they ask for is affection.  (Yesterday it was Jennie in the morning and Betty at night.)  However, there is a certain mouse in the barn I've named Diva.  Every morning I squirt milk on two sets of wipes, one on the ledge and the other draped over the wipes bucket, and mice literally come out of the woodwork to sip, crowding each other at the bar.  Diva, however, refuses to drink with the hoi polloi, sitting on her haunches in front of the shovel until I squirt a few streams so that it runs down for her to lap at and then at the pool at the bottom.  She drinks in solitary splendor.  Who would think the barn could be so entertaining?

After all the prep and busyness of the last week, I would have liked nothing more than to sit and be a couch potato yesterday, but it was not to be.  Running short on goat chow and since it was a sunny day, a trip to the feed store was mandatory.  Like it or not, I also had to run into town.  I could make it all in one loop, but Bessie Anne loves to go to what she calls the Cookie Store and I hate to disappoint my little girl.  More rain is due today, so all the feed had to be unloaded and put under cover when we got home.  It amounted to 205 pounds of feed, and I have to admit it's getting harder to drag the bags out of the truck these days.

That done, it was off to town.  There were two stops, one at either end of Placerville, and that meant getting on the freeway.  Yesterday it wasn't so free.  Not only was it the weekend, it was Thanksgiving weekend and opening day for many of the ski resorts, and while nothing like freeways in Los Angeles, the road was packed, some cars still carrying snow on top.  Passing Placerville, the speed limit is 30 mph, but it's only for a short distance and after passing the last stop light, cars leapt out of the gate like race horses.  As for myself, I really didn't mind because Placerville does Christmas proud.  Nearly every post in the fence along the road has a small Christmas tree atop, decorated, I believe, by local organizations and businesses and they do compete.  It's really very pretty and helps the holiday spirit.

It gets dark so very early now, so I had to rush home, unload the truck (again), and tend to barn chores before the girls balked at going into dark stalls.  One last cuddle for Betty and I was done (and done in) for the day.  Oh, right.  Still had groceries to put away.  Sigh.

And, of course, there was Stove to punch up and stoke before settling into my chair.  It was a good day.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Back to Normal

After days of frenetic activity, company, and goat craziness, it's time to get back to normal (whatever "normal" is).  The girls came in in orderly fashion yesterday for a change.  There was one small contretemps when Sheila had an accident on the stand, fortunately the results of which did not flood where I sit.  Either the weather has dampened Tessie's ardor or she's finished her cycle.  Whichever, we're both calmer now.

On Thanksgiving, while Dave was carving the bird, Craig had asked what to do with the wings, etc.  I told him to package them up for the chickens.  "Will they eat that stuff?"  "Oh yeah!"  It wasn't raining when I let the little girls and guy out of the coop yesterday and they ran to the meat like a flock of vultures.  I checked on the way back to the house and they had picked the bones clean in that short time.  There's something ironic about chickens eating turkey, but it's not for me to judge, any more than when Louie the pig ate sausage and bacon and licked his (pork) chops.

The skies opened up and rain fell most of the day.  Harold had driven his forklift under a tarp and caused a waterfall.  His arrival here was delayed while he changed into dry clothes.  (Hard not to laugh.)  Fortunately, Stove had cooperated and the house was warm, and Harold did yeoman's duty with a fork on the leftovers.  Three days later, there is hardly a dent noticeable.  It's off to the freezer with some of that stuff.

We were as back to normal here as we're gonna get.  It was a good day.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

T-Day Plus Two

There is a drawback to having a wood stove as the source of heat.  It's necessary to keep a close eye when starting a fire lest it die out or catch on while you're not watching and send flames up into the chimney.  The temperature had plummeted yesterday but I didn't have time to babysit the wood stove, so the house was absolutely frigid when Linda arrived.  How cold was it?  Well, I had reheated all the dishes from Thanksgiving and took them out of the oven piping hot just as Linda arrived.  We filled our plates and took them into the dining room.  Halfway through, the ice-cold plate needed to go into the microwave to heat up again.  It was that cold.

After eating, we went into the living room so I could start a fire and hopefully warm up.  Of course, yesterday was the day the wood would not catch.  Flames would give a glimmer of hope and then die.  Three times I lit the fire.  We did have a nice visit, Linda with the piggy neck warmer on and probably wishing she had gloves.  Naturally, just as it was time for her to leave, the stove started throwing out heat.  Aargh.

Lesson learned, I will light the stove before going down to the barn today.  Harold is coming for late lunch-early dinner (Thanksgiving times three for me).  If this keeps up, I will start sprouting feathers.

At least sunset had a good blaze going last evening.

Friday, November 25, 2016

T-Day Plus One

It was a race to the finish line yesterday.  It started out as one of those "what else can go wrong" mornings when the drain plug to the kitchen sink fell apart.  Of all days, when it seems every dish, pot and pan in the house needs washing.  I got it put back together enough to hold water, so that was okay.

Holidays are one of the few times I wish I didn't have milk goats.  Those chores take such a huge chunk of time.  Wouldn't you know Tessie shouldered out of the barn before Esther and then wouldn't come in to be milked.  My adjoining neighbor has a variety of animals and I think one may be a buck because Tess stood at the pen fence line, inviting her Romeo over for a liaison.  My patience and time were running short so I left her and went back to the house.

One of the last-minute chores is vacuuming.  I'm whipping through the living room and then noticed that nothing was going into the canister.  Oh crum.  There is evidently a blockage in some hose or another, but I'd gotten messages that the Kids were coming up earlier than expected, which was a good thing, but left me no time to fiddle with the vacuum.  The carpet got short shrift, but was at least presentable.

It is such a joy to see trucks and cars and smiling faces arrive.  Craig, my son-in-law whom I adore, is the official turkey baster and he went right to work on the first but certainly not the last baste of the day.  Deb is my right-hand man in the kitchen, keeping me on track and taking over so many chores.  I put together the basics and she makes it happen.  It's been at least five years since I've seen my grandson Brandon and had never met his lady Ashley, so their visit to Dave was at the precisely right time.  The group was almost complete when Clay came.  When Larry arrived, these worker bees took care of many tasks I'd not been able to do (like fixing the leak in the feed room roof and stringing clothesline).  Cam and Honey came so Bessie had her company to enjoy, too.

Does any holiday dinner ever start on time?  Not at my house.  Pies finally in the oven, the group sat down to eat.  My love cup runneth over.  FYI, the Brussels sprouts may become a staple and even replace the green bean casserole.

We broke with our family tradition and watched football during the day just like regular people.  The cards and chips didn't come out until after dinner.  I broke pretty close to even.

For the first time ever, I didn't send everyone home loaded with leftovers because, ta da!, Linda is coming to share the same dinner today.

It was a good, make that best day.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

T-Day!

Drinking coffee and trying to get my eyes open enough to get it in gear and get going.  Everything but the turkey and pies was done yesterday.  Now I've got Big Bird to deal with.  I think (hope) this 23-1/2 pounder will fill those empty stomachs.

I wish everyone family, friends, and food to celebrate this day of giving thanks.

Coffee's gone, and so is time.

It's going to be a good day!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Missing

I miss my friend Dolly, especially around the holidays.  She and her husband Dan were our neighbors and became our best friends.  Deb was single then and was the fifth member of our quintet.  We all did so many things together:  the Dixon Lamb Fair, the Courtland Pear Fair, decorating Christmas cookies, going camping for New Years; the group was up for any crazy thing suggested.  Dinner was at our house almost every weekend, followed by board games or cards.  After we moved to Fair Play, my birthday gift to Dolly for years was a two-week vacation here.  Dan was a big, quiet guy who, like Steve, had been in the navy.  Steve did enough talking for the two of them, and they were best buddies.  Dan died a few years before Dolly and I know Steve missed him terribly, too.

One of our traditions was to go pick out our Christmas trees at a farm by the river, just down the road from where we lived.  The five of us always went the day after Thanksgiving whatever the weather, and came home to make Irish coffee.  About two weeks before Christmas, we'd all go back to cut our trees, haul them home, and yes, make Irish coffee.  Dolly was big on decorations for any and every holiday and her house fairly exploded at Christmas.  If she were alive, I'd never get away with a bare tree in my living room (as I did last year).

I am so looking forward to having my family and friends here on Thursday.  My traditional toast before dinner has for years been:  "Here's to those who came before us, to those who will come after us, and to those who are with us now."  I miss my friend Dolly.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Don't Talk, Sniff

Cleaning the barn yesterday and hauling a couple of buckets of poo out to the dung heap, I thought, as I have before, how fortunate it is that goat manure has no smell, unlike that of horse and cattle.  Raking up the roly-poly pellets, I remembered my mother.  I'll explain.  Once upon a time long, long ago when I was a child, there was no Disneyland and no television.  California did not have any freeways.  I know that's hard to believe now.  I would say that travel took longer then, but there were not the traffic jams, either, so it's probably a wash.  My family spent a lot of time at the beach, and the one road to get there went by the Bandini fertilizer plant with mountains of manure piled high.  Sprinklers kept the piles wet and cooled down, as cow and horse dung will generate considerable heat and can combust.  Inevitably, as we passed Bandini my mother would say, "Don't talk, sniff!"  Like an idiot, I would, catching a whiff of noxious fumes, and I did it every time.  That's enough potty talk.

Cam called yesterday, saying she was on her way to Folsom to shop and asking if I needed anything.  While I rarely to never change the Thanksgiving menu, I've had it in my mind that Brussels sprouts would be a good addition.  They are delicious when roasted, nothing like the soggy little boiled cabbages of my childhood.  Cam said, "You can make my mother's recipe (it must have been Mother's Day) with pancetta and fontina cheese!"  That sounded good to me and I added them to the list.  Not only did Camille do my shopping (yay!), when she delivered the goods, she brought California Roll sushi for dinner.  It's been years, more than I care to count, since I've had sushi and I love it!  In the words of my mother, "Don't talk, eat!"

It was a good day.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Depends

So much of what happens here depends on the weather.  Had to add another chore to the list yesterday due to the rain and cold and bring a load of firewood up to the porch.  Actually a couple of chores because the wood stove ashes need to be cleared every day, and when the (metal) trash can gets full it has to be taken to the burn pile and emptied.  Haven't needed to do that in months.

While milking in the morning just a light drizzle of rain was falling, but it somehow influenced a big flock of blackbirds that has moved into the oaks.  They were chattering like crazy, and loud!  I love how the birds will take off in formation, dozens and dozens at a time, swooping and swirling as with one mind.  How do they keep from crashing into one another on the fly?

Wet weather definitely has an effect on the goats.  Our barn routine gets totally out of whack when it rains.  The girls get cranky and quarrel among themselves.  Instead of going up to the corner for alfalfa, on rainy days the ones let loose cluster around the gate to the play yard waiting for it to open, which doesn't happen until the last milker is let out.  At bedtime, they push and shove, trying to be the first to be let inside.

This doesn't happen with the chickens.  On drear days I always shut the big door to the coop, but unless it is pouring the little girls stay outside, pecking and scratching and turning over fallen leaves for the bugs I suppose are brought out of the damp earth.  It's like a wet treasure hunt.

Turkeys continue to gather for breakfast and throughout the day, but instead of the toms fluffed out and showing off, they all march as if to a dirge, dressed in funereal black.


Whether I cook or not depends on the weather.  The salads or bowls of cold cereal of summer have lost their appeal and I think more in terms of soups or just about anything that goes in the oven.

It's grey, gloomy, and misting outside at first light this morning.  Bessie Anne went outside for a potty break and came in, her coat dripping.  That wouldn't be so bad, but she immediately wanted up on the bed and promptly plopped herself on my pillow.  And so starts the day.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Wait For It

The sky overhead was darkening at 10:30 a.m. yesterday when I took this photo, giving a preview of what was to come.  And it came.  It rained all day and all night.  I did, however, catch a break at what I can assume was sundown because I could put the kids to bed and not get soaked.  The house was freezing and it was time to give in and light the wood stove.  Ahhh.  In no time at all, the chill was gone.  Bess and the cats lay by the hearth, turning over now and again to toast the other side.

I was also warmed by a telephone call from old friends, Joe and Carol, who were my neighbors down the hill when we first moved here.  After they sold their place in Fair Play, they moved to Arizona and I haven't heard from them in ages.  Joe was and is a character.  He used to run cattle on his property and they continually either jumped the fence (who knew?!) or broke through to browse in my front yard.  It was quite an experience to come out of the shower and find thirty or so cows staring at me through the window.  Once, Carol called to say they had an orphaned calf and would I like to see it.  Well, of course!  It was a surprise to find that they were keeping the baby warm in the kitchen of their double-wide trailer.  I hardly knew how to respond.  I don't think I ever heard either of them say a mean word about anyone.  Good people.  They're back in California for a time to receive medical care, and I look forward to a visit in the near future.  I'm so glad they called.

The weathermen/women are still predicting that the sun will come out by Thanksgiving.  I guess we'll wait and see.

It was a good day.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Under The Wire

Racing through barn chores (being careful not to trip again), washing buckets, getting a head start on lunch, and whipping through the living room with the vacuum cleaner, I barely made it under the wire before my friend came.  Does it count that she arrived early?  Candy is not only my friend, she is the only hairdresser I've trusted for years.  Her shop is closed now, but, believe it or not, Candy makes house calls!  Lest it be thought that I spend a lot of time in hair salons, I get a cut or trim every year or so, need it or not.  Curly hair can get pretty unruly when left untended, but the goats don't care if I look like the wreck of the Hesperus.  After the events of this past year, I felt the need for something different and told Candy to "go for it."  She showed great restraint in not going radical, but did cut inches off my mop.  I feel quite lightheaded now.

I have vowed no more company until Thursday.  I've got to knuckle down and work on the house, period, end of story.  I've been making a bit of progress every day, but not nearly enough.  As Robert Frost wrote, "I've miles to go before I sleep."  It's a race to the finish now.

Tessie and Esther have had a disagreement.  Lately Tess has been trying to force her way into the back stalls instead of going to the big room that she shares with Esther at night.  I'm wary of arguing with a unicorn, but have managed so far to hold her off.  Esther is just vocal, complaining about going in with her roommate.  Telling the girls to play nice is like teaching a pig to sing.  It's not effective and just irritates the pig.

BF Betty evidently has been feeling needy.  She's missed getting picked up in the morning (I've been running short on time).  The rest of the flock troops into the coop at sundown as usual, but as I'm shutting the doors, there's one hen still in the pen.  It's Betty, and instead of allowing me to herd her inside, she waits until I pick her up for a nighty-night cuddle.  She talks in a low voice.  "Buck buck buck," she whispers.  It's a very nice way to end the day.

It was a good day.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Winter White

It sure looked like winter here yesterday.  Heavy, heavy frost on everything and temp down in the 30s.  Definitely needed gloves and a warm jacket when I went to tend the goats.  Tessie isn't happy being held in isolation until all the others are done, but it's her own fault.  The sun was warm and the girls all laid down to soak it up, especially Esther, who chose a spot next to the barn wall to rest her head and get reflected heat.

It wasn't just the frost that was white yesterday.  On the way back to the house and carrying two buckets of milk, I tripped and did a classic face-plant.  The buckets went flying and milk sprayed back over me.  After I did a systems check and found nothing broken (bruised, yes), I had to laugh.  I wished I could have seen it.

I really must keep better track of what day it is.  It was firm in my mind that my lunch guest was coming yesterday and started prepping for her arrival.  She's very prompt so when the time came and went, I called, somewhat worried.  She is coming...today.  Sigh.

Good Son Clay came up with a truck bed and trailer full of firewood.  Poor guy had to load it by himself, but I helped with unloading.  There's more to be done with this bounty, as it needs to be split and stacked. I think I'll enlist Helper Dude for that.

Awoke in the dark this morning to the sound of Bessie Anne yarking up on the bed.  Not may favorite way to wake up.  She went right back to sleep.  I could not.  I see laundry in my future today.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Out On Strike

As often happens when faced with a daunting situation (e.g., Thanksgiving prep), my mind and I went on a sit-down strike yesterday.  Knowing full well that it is self-defeating, I do nothing.  Maybe I need the pressure of a sprint to the finish, I don't know.  Wishful thinking turns into magical thinking, even though I know the good fairies will not come in the night to do what I should have done during the day.  They never do.

Nature pulled another "gotcha" in the morning.  It was sunny when I went out to do chores, but by the time I got to the barn those high clouds started spitting rain before opening up and pouring.  That, of course, threw the goats into a tizzy and the routine went whacko.  She took pity and quit when I'd finished, but I left the play yard gate open in case she took another jab.  I'd left the big door to the chicken coop open, but closed it on my way back to the house.  The temperature had dropped like a rock.  Even though it didn't rain again, at least the little girls would be warmer.

That ridiculously silly piggy neck warmer got a lot of use yesterday.  Even though temps didn't reach the mid-50s, I didn't want to light the wood stove just yet.  With the pig on my shoulders and two cats on my lap, I was comfy and that was my only excuse for not getting anything done.  I can find a rationale for just about everything.

That being said, I've got to get it in gear and put the pedal to the metal today.  Not only is a friend coming for lunch, Clay called last evening and said he is bringing a load of firewood in the morning.  He's really racking up the Good Son points!

The strike is over.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

T-Day Minus Eight

Not being part of the routine, of course I forgot to take nails to the barn yesterday.  Scrounging nails from the one remaining cover, I was able to put up two window coverings for the girls' protection.  Under a blue sky on a warm day, it was difficult to believe they'd be necessary, but it's done (minus one).

I've made the same Thanksgiving dinner for over fifty(!) years with few additions or changes to the menu.  Hey, if it works, stick with it.  The star, of course, is the turkey.  No wimpy bird will do, and I know the grocery store down in Cameron Park would carry the 23-24 pounder I needed at a good price.  I've not been there in some long time and so was surprised to see that the store's name had changed, as well as placement of items in the aisles.  Shopping took a lot longer than I'd hoped as I cruised up and down, back and forth, passing the evaporated milk for pumpkin pie at least three times.  I just love shopping...not!  Cart overflowing, I finally got checked out.  By then the sky was completely overcast and the wind was rising as groceries were loaded into the truck.  In the few blocks it took to get to the freeway, rain started falling and continued to fall until I got to Diamond Springs.  I imagined unloading all those bags and the looks I'd be getting from the goats, but I got lucky and it wasn't raining at home.  At first.  Groceries in the house and then a race to the barn to put the girls to bed, chickens next.  One more task, taking the trash to the big road.  That's when my luck ran out and I got soaked hauling the bins from Camille's driveway across the road.  Ready to sit down and take a breath, I saw all those groceries waiting to be put away.  Aarrgh.

Day One done, and counting.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Busy Days Ahead

Rain is due to come in tonight, bringing cold temperatures for the next couple of days.  I've got to remember to put some nails in my pocket before going to the barn this morning so I can put up what I call storm windows (covers for the window openings) for the girls.

It must be something in the Leghorn genes.  As I came back up the hill, sure enough, one of the brown Leghorns was outside the chicken pen just as Runaway Rhonda used to be.  Fortunately, she snuck back under the fence to get her share of the milk.  Not about to lose another hen to predators, I had to jerry-rig some way to block two openings.  It's not pretty, but it works.

I had planned to take myself to lunch in town yesterday (an anniversary celebration) and do a bit of shopping.  However, with rain coming Camille needed to get another side of her barn painted and we both worry about her getting up on a ladder "alone."  It wouldn't do for her to call me and me be far away in an emergency, so I stayed home and blew a ton of leaves off the deck.  The trees aren't through dropping their load, but the leaf blower isn't much good when the leaves are wet and I wanted to get ahead of the game.

I'd been going around the house thinking, "Okay, I'll need to get this, that, and the other thing done before Thanksgiving," but not too far ahead of time.  As I checked my little grocery list in late afternoon, I also looked at the calendar and my jaw dropped.  Thanksgiving is next week!  Gadzooks, I'm going to get caught behind the eight-ball if I don't get a move on.  Shopping for a holiday dinner is pretty extensive, not the quick, in-and-out trip I'd planned.  That doesn't even begin to address the major house cleaning ahead.  Aargh!

I tried to get a picture of the Super Moon (and it was big!) as it rose last night, but got no cooperation from the camera.  Evidently, the moon has not been this close to earth since the 1940s.  I tried.

Things to do and places to go.  There are busy days ahead.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Made It

I am so happy to report that in the light of morning, all chickens had made it and were present and accounted for.  I'd been especially worried about the oldest girl, a black-and-white Plymouth barred rock, as she's been showing signs of aging and decline.  She must have been hiding in one of those dark corners, but she came out with the others for breakfast yesterday.

Camille had stopped by the night before to share a glass of a chocolate wine she'd found..  (Yes, there truly is such a thing and it is absolutely delicious.)  In the course of our conversation, she asked if there was any of the tomato pie left.  I had to disappoint her, saying I'd had the one piece left for lunch.  However, there were more tomatoes in the basket and if she liked, I'd make another one last night.  "Yes!"  By this time, I had the recipe in my head so doing a repeat was easy, and the second pie turned out as well as the first.  I sent a big wedge home with her, but I've got leftovers again.  This will be day four of tomato pie, and I'm pretty sure I'm done with tomatoes for awhile.

I thought that until I walked out to put the kids to bed and found the sky was filled with the rosy tomato color of those strawberry tomatoes in the clouds.

It was a good day, even though Jimmy Johnson didn't win the race in Phoenix.  Bummer.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Lost It

Drat!  I don't know what was going on with Ralph and Celeste yesterday, some sort of sibling battle, I think.  It started in the wee hours of the morning with a real cat fight on the bed.  Not one of the mock wrestling matches they usually have, but a growling, hissing, biting fight that ended with a race through the house.  I did not appreciate being wakened at 3 a.m. in that fashion.  Later, Celeste was lying in a patch of sunlight when Ralph walked over and sat on her, a brother's revenge.  I so wanted to take a picture, but lost the chance when Celeste rolled out from under her silly sibling.

I had hoped that Tessie had learned her lesson and so let her out of the barn with Esther.  Surely two days of being confined before milking would have taught her not to walk away from me.  Well, I lost that one and we'll have to double down today.  It's up to me to accept a change in the regimen.

On one of my unsuccessful forays to catch Tess, I walked by the dead tree at the side of the barn.  In a hole in the trunk was a small lizard basking in the sunshine and it had a brilliant patch of blue on its throat, absolutely beautiful (if you like lizards).  Again I wanted a picture to share, but my movement scared the little guy and he ducked back into the shadows.  Another opportunity lost.

Just before sundown, the flock in the chicken pen set up a ruckus that usually signals danger.  I wasn't able to go outside just then, but later, after the goats were tucked in, I put the chickens in the coop.  As is my habit, I did a beak count and it seemed I came up short a hen.  I didn't see any feathers outside the fence, and it was too dark by then to check the corners of the hen house.  In a day of losses, I hope I didn't lose one of the little girls.