Sunday, January 31, 2016

Street Creds

Crum.  My credibility level with the big and little girls dropped yesterday.  Silly me, I listened to the weather report and followed the phone app and shut the coop door and left the play yard gate open because "rain will come by 2 o'clock."  I'm pretty sure I had the kids convinced I had a grip on the weather and knew strange and wonderful things and, best of all, I was in control.  (I almost convinced myself.)  These clouds at sundown were as close as we came to rain all day.  To add insult to injury, the skies opened up during the night and it's still pouring.  How am I going to get my street creds back?

I wasn't the only one thinking of liver this week.  Jacques Pepin is one of my most favorite chefs and wouldn't you know yesterday's episode of Heart and Soul featured liver?  (He also cooked pig feet and tripe.  I will never get that adventurous.)  Lacking the main ingredient for what I wanted, I settled for oatmeal with dried cranberries last night.  I don't eat breakfast in the morning, but love breakfast for dinner:  oatmeal, bacon and eggs, biscuits and gravy, sausage and hominy.  My mother might have been German, my dad was pure country.

Muffled, constant crying from the hallway.  There was Celeste with her mouth full of a toy that Ralph was trying to take away and she was ratting him out.  Siblings.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

No Accounting

"There's no accounting for taste."  It's probably time to shop at a real grocery store instead of a quick stop in the limited aisles at Walmart.  Opening doors and drawers in the kitchen yesterday in search of something (anything) fast and edible, my mind wandered and I started thinking about what would really taste good right then.  I realize it wouldn't be on everyone's menu, but I fixated on a cold liverwurst sandwich and garlic dill pickles!  Fried liverwurst with a good char, even better.  Limburger cheese and Rye Crisp crackers!  Is my German heritage showing?  I can't go so far as my mother and the Kids' dad who both enjoyed pickled pigs' feet; too much gristle for my taste.  It's getting harder and harder to find good liverwurst or even braunschweiger (there is a difference, I think), and next to impossible to find Limburger cheese.  When I wanted some alone time when the kids were little, I could clear them out of the house faster than you could say Jack Robinson by opening a package of Limburger.  (I did a quick disappearing act of my own when their dad would fry kidneys.)

Gnawing on a disappointing raw carrot in desperation, I came across the Christmas present from my sister-in-law, Lynne.  For years, Lynne has sent a Mason jar of some or another type of ready-to-make layered "stuff."  She's very inventive.  It might be a mixture of dried beans for soup or chili, or a triple-fudge cookie.  With the addition of a couple of fresh items, voila!  Yesterday I added applesauce and two eggs to the contents of the jar and in no time at all the house was perfumed and I was munching on warm spice cake.  My brother-in-law, Stan, always sends along a bottle of his home-brewed beer and I'd be hard pressed to say which of their gifts I enjoy more.

It rained almost all of yesterday, but it was a tolerable type of rain; a drizzle instead of a downpour and next to no wind.  The girls, big and little, even ventured out in the afternoon.  The chickens are evidently bored in wet weather and have settled down to lay some eggs in the coop.

It's not hard to tell where the warmest spot in the house was.  Ralph and Celeste claimed their spot in front of the stove.  Bess, of course, was on my lap.  After the exertions of the day before, I was ready for some down time.  And cake.  (But I'm still thinking about liverwurst.)

Friday, January 29, 2016

Ahead Of The Game

I'm usually behind the eight-ball, so it was a nice surprise to find myself ahead of the game at the end of the day.  First order of business was to trundle a 50-pound block of trace-mineral salt to the goat pen and a 75-pound bag of feed to the barn.  The salt block always seems heavier than the feed; probably because it's inert and the bag has some give and movement.

Point of interest:  cat litter is heavy, no two ways about it.  I just bought a jug of litter that professes to be "lighter," and the lid proclaims, "Lift me!"  By golly, it is lighter.  Well, duh.  The "light" jug weighs 15 pounds, as opposed to the 20-pound jug of the heavy stuff.  Kind of like that, "Which is heavier, a pound of feathers or a pound of steel?"  I'm assuming the new litter is sold by volume, not weight, because the jugs are the same size, but really?

Out of the five, four (including Inga) girls came into the milking room on schedule.  Tessie wanted to play the wait-for-me game, but I'm on to her.  It might be a sign of insecurity, but Tessie cannot bear to be ignored.  When she dawdles, I go on about my business, gathering shovel, rake, and bucket and go in to clean the back stalls.  In a few minutes, reliable as clockwork, she's at the gate to the play yard.  "Hey!  You forgot me!"  The stalls can wait, so I go tend to Tessie.

Onward and upward.  I have a tendency to unload smaller bags of groceries from the truck after a trip to town, but leave the heavier stuff in back of the seat until needed, like the bags of cat food and sugar and flour, which I buy in bulk.  With days of rain in the forecast, it seemed prudent to get the big bags into the house after barn chores.  Mission accomplished.  They're saying we might even get snow on Sunday, so I hauled even more firewood to the porch and emptied the ash can on the burn pile; it pays to be prepared.

Darkening skies and dropping temperature prompted a fire in the wood stove.  It was burning well and warming the house when the rain started about 3 o'clock.  How nice it was to be ahead of the game for a change.

Muscles are screaming, but it was a good day.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Play The Game

Let out of her stall, Inga faked a left turn into the milking room and then walked on up the field.  "Inga!  Get your butt in here right now!"  She stopped, looked back at me and said, "Come on, play the game.  You know how by now."  Oh crum, not again.  Fighting off an incipient migraine, I had no patience and no inclination to engage.  One by one, I went on with the others, giving Inga an opportunity in between each time.  "No.  You're supposed to chase me.  You're not playing by the rules.  Try again."  There's nothing quite so maddening as that blank goat stare, unless it is their ability to stay one step out of reach.  Stalls cleaned, feed bucket refilled, and I'd had it for the morning.  I resisted the urge to give Inga a kick as I walked past her reclining figure in the grass and went back to the house.  We'll deal with that overfilled udder today.

I'm a fine one to talk.  I played my own version of Beat The Clock yesterday.  I did make the run to the feed store.  I did reload the porch rack.  And I did start and finish that Kellerman book.  I won!

Inga notwithstanding, it was a good day.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Play And Pay

"Baa, baa, black sheep.  Have you any wool?"  "Yes, sir, yes sir, three bags full."  Inga has only one bag, but it was full of milk yesterday.  Spraddle-legged, she waddled into the milking room without hesitation.  We both paid the price for her playing hooky the day before.  It took forever to get her emptied, and my fingers were cramping by the time I'd finished the third girl.

I shouldn't point even a cramped finger at Inga.  I've played the last couple of days myself.  Blowing off a day at the movies was bad enough, but then I buried my nose in a book yesterday and couldn't get it out until the last page was turned just before evening chores.  I know better; it's that self-control thing again that seems to be left out of my DNA.  I should have gone to the feed store.  I should have brought firewood to the porch.  The list of what I should have done is pretty lengthy.  I will pay for it today.  Rain is due again on Friday and there are those things that must be done before it comes and I'd best get my rear in gear and go for it.

I did not turn on TCM yesterday and I will not pick up that new book today.  Scout's honor.  Well, it's been a long time since I've been a Girl Scout but, as I recall, the oath only promises to try.  I will try not to pick up the book, sunshine on the deck notwithstanding.  The price for another play day is adding up and I haven't got a lot in reserve.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


There are times I find myself chanting, "Come on, menopause," to the goat goddess in charge of caprine hormones, even though I know that goats never get too old. The girls are cycling again and are more interested in sex than eating.  All I want to do is finish feeding, milking, and cleaning stalls, but during these exercises in frustration (mine and theirs) I spend a lot of time trying to break one or the other's concentration to coax them into the milking room.  Yesterday, it was Inga in the grip.  Again.  She never did come in for breakfast.  The one good thing is that estrus lasts only a short while, maybe two days, in each goat.  The unfortunate aspect is that the girls tend to come into heat at different times so this "looking for love in all the wrong places" gets stretched out over a couple of weeks.  Aaargh.

Linda found her very own helper dude and they came in the morning to load up the dining room table that came with the chairs I wanted.  I was down in the barn, so didn't see them leave with the table tied upside down to the top of her vehicle.  Just as well.  She told me later that it was a scary, scary drive home, but all's well that ends well, and we're both satisfied with our purchases.

A trip into town was on the agenda, and not even that could spoil the glorious, sunshiny day.  Rain is predicted for the end of the week, and I've learned to appreciate the good days when they come.  I know better than to cruise down certain aisles at Walmart, but....  Ended up splurging on a DVD, "The Martian," and Jonathan Kellerman's latest book, "Motive."  I might have passed on the movie, but I have no self-control in the book aisle.

Back at home later, a car drove up and a very distraught woman got out.  She was spreading the word in the neighborhood that two large dogs had just killed one of her alpacas and mauled another in front of her eyes and she was helpless to stop them, another case of dogs allowed to run free and pack up.  I wish the animals' owners could have seen this poor lady's anguish and tears.  Up here, those of us with livestock know the danger of coyotes and mountain lions, but the scariest times are when "pets" go rogue.

Milk Guy came and went.  I've been unable to supply him with eggs the last two weeks, but could sell a dozen yesterday because the little girls finally settled down to business and I've been picking up three and four a day.  Inga could take a lesson.  That Inga.

Monday, January 25, 2016


I gave in to weakness yesterday and watched old movies.  TCM is very seductive to a buff like me.  Musicals are not my favorite genre, but I remembered "A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court" (1949, Bing Crosby, Rhonda Fleming, William Bendix) from when I was a kid.  It's still a good flick, if you like musicals.  That was followed by "Mame," a remake of "Auntie Mame" (1958, Rosalind Russell).  "Mame" (1974, Lucille Ball, Bea Arthur), in my opinion, should never have been made:  stilted acting, terrible directing and worse editing.  It was painful to watch, but I kept hoping for some redeeming feature that never came.  Fortunately, "His Girl Friday" (1940, Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy), with quick, smart dialogue and wonderful characters, took the taste of "Mame" out of my mind.

Having spent most of the day at the movies, it was time to take care of some piddly chores, just enough to assuage my guilt.  I won't even look at the guide for TCM today.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Moonlight Serenade

Very strange to wake this morning and look out to see moonlight and not hear rain.  It might be possible that we'll get a sunny day today, and wouldn't that be nice.

After another rainy night, I didn't need to put on a heavy jacket when starting chores yesterday because, lo and behold, the sun peeked out.  Fed the turkeys and chickens and made it all the way to the barn before the skies opened up again.  I'd no more than gotten the girls out of their stalls and into their yard when the wind kicked up and the rain fell down.  The girls complain even better and definitely louder than I.  I lost my privileges because there was just a light mist on my way back to the house and I escaped a soaking.

Turkeys and squirrels have been vying for the acorns pushed out daily from the first shed.  Looking out the kitchen window, I laughed to see a grey squirrel puff up his tail and charge one of the big toms.  The big male turkey leaped into the air like my mother when she saw a mouse.  It was a pretty small David to go up against Goliath, but he won.

Unfortunately, the break didn't last long and it poured all day.  Paying bills was on the agenda, so I needed to stay in the house anyhow.  I am, however, down to the last stick of firewood on the porch and so am very happy to see possibilities today to restock the rack.  Temps haven't been exceptionally low, but dampness seeps into the house and sucks the heat out.

Until this morning, I didn't even know we are in the full-moon phase.  Lovely.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Tee Time

No, I haven't taken up golf and I didn't misspell Tea.  I refer to the T-for-Taxes time that will soon be upon us.  It's good to start thinking about it now so I'll have more time to procrastinate.  Far be it from me to rush into these things.  Yesterday I opened the drawer where I throw a year's worth of receipts, looked at that pile of paper for a good long while, and shut the drawer.  That was accomplishment enough for one day.  Hey, it's a start.  I'm also preparing my best excuses for being late getting my forms to Tax Guy, and up at the top of the list is, "My cat ate my homework."  I can count on Ralph to back me up on that one.

It rained yesterday, it rained last night, and it is raining this morning.  That's about as depressing as thinking about taxes.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Friday, January 22, 2016

How Does She Know?

As happens so often, I wonder what the animals are thinking.  Lately, I've "heard" the goats and chickens saying "How does she know?" when I leave the gate to the play yard open or shut the door to the coop and it's not raining.  I don't tell them that I watch the weather reports on TV and the phone app and know we're in for rain later in the day.  I prefer to keep the illusion that I'm omniscient.  I'm hoping no one gives away my secrets.

It is the same as when the Kids were little.  As long as I could hear them upstairs talking and/or laughing and/or crying, all was well (maybe not the crying).  When they all went quiet at the same time, I'd holler, "Whatever you're doing, stop it right now!"  And then I would hear whispering, "How does she know?"  For a short time when the Kids were still gullible, I told them I was a Twilo and had eyes in the back of my head.  (That's from a very old 1963 Dick Van Dyke Show episode.)  Hey, when you're outnumbered by two- or four-legged kids, you've got to have every edge you can get.

It had been a pretty fair day yesterday so it wasn't necessary to light Stove until sundown.  I got up to put another log on the fire last night and when I came back to what had been my empty chair, there was no room in the inn for me.  Why do I persist in calling it "my" chair?

Heavy, heavy overcast this morning and heavy, heavy winds are buffeting the house now.  The girls won't be asking how I know to leave their gate open today.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Let There Be Heat!

Caught a real break yesterday.  First, it was a sunny day.  I'm getting dizzy from this weather merry-go-round, but am so glad when the sun shines.  Bess and I spent the obligatory time on the deck; in fact, I stretched it out so as to finish the book I'd started.  Next, Chimney Guy called to say he could be here tomorrow (now today) and I gave him directions.  The big-time bonus came when he called again later in the afternoon and said he'd be here in maybe a half-hour!  Oh, good grief.  I, fortunately, had not tried to start a fire and so the chimney and stove were cold.  That was a good thing.  I had not, however, cleaned out the ashes, so got busy with that.  (One tries to make a good first impression.)

Chimney Guy arrived and the one who made the best impression was Bessie Anne, who greeted and then  flirted outrageously with this gentleman as soon as he got out of his truck.  What can I say?  She likes men.  Having fallen to her charms, CG turned his attention to Stove.  When the top was removed, the creosote-laden catalytic converter was exposed, to my shame.  "You have starved this stove for air!"  It's true:  I'm an unintentional stove abuser.  CG used an industrial shop vac to get the converter parts cleaned, chastising me all the while and pointing out that he hadn't even swept the chimney yet.  I hung my head and apologized; it was, after all, my fault.  I'd hoped for a few points for calling him (good luck with that).  Up on the roof with his brushes, I kept hearing "Chim Chim Cheree" (Mary Poppins, 1964) in my head as CG worked.  Back in the house, he vacuumed out the residue, explaining all the while that Stove needed air.  Yes, I got that.  CG was done in no time and did not make me raise my hand and swear an oath to treat Stove better before slipping Bess a dog biscuit and driving off into the sunset.


It was a good day.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Livin' The Life

Country living isn't all beer and skittles.  As in "I Never Promised You A Rose Garden," "...along with the sunshine, ya gotta have a little rain sometime."  After the beautiful sunny day, we got rain in buckets yesterday.  The wind was gusting, according to the weather reports, at 50-plus mph.  I was dragging my feet.  Conditions were right for a power outage so I put a load of socks in the washer and hoped for the best.  Knowing I'd come back from the barn soaked and cold, it seemed prudent to light the wood stove first.  That's called procrastination with a purpose.  Yes, well....  I cleaned the ashes out, brought in logs, and set fire.  Oh good grief!  Whether it was the strong winds or creosote buildup in the chimney, I couldn't get a good draw.  Instead of a blaze, the stove belched out clouds of smoke.  Trying to keep the smoke alarm from going off and sending the house critters into a panic, I started shutting vents and opening doors; multiple doors, hoping to get a cross draft.  At least in that I was successful and wind whistled through the room.  Stove continued to send out big burps, so I had to leave the house open and reluctantly head out for chores.

Wind so strong it threatened to take my feet out from under and rain hitting like shotgun pellets.  Chickens huddled together at the back of their coop.  Goats complaining bitterly and loudly, both at my late arrival and at the weather.  Rainy-day schedule in effect.  Poor girls; I can't leave them in the barn because they'd have no access to water.  Mud.  Mud everywhere.  No letup in sight.

As I'd thought, it was warmer outside than in the house, but Stove had stopped smoking.  Helper Dude said he had no experience cleaning chimneys, so no local help.  The weekend and the Kids were too far away to ask them for assistance.  It took a couple of calls, but finally contacted a pro chimney sweep who may be able to come this week.  "I'll get back to you."  As of yet, he hasn't.  Sigh.

Ever hopeful, and with time to properly tend a fire, I lit Stove again, adjusting this vent and that until a good blaze got going and the chimney had sufficient draw, so we were comfortable for the time being.  Late in the afternoon, the wind died down and the rain stopped.  Yes, Scarlett, tomorrow is another day.

That's livin' the life in the country.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

My Kind Of Day

It was such a pleasant surprise when the rain stopped and the sun came out and stayed out yesterday morning.  It was an unexpected bluebird day, start to finish.  The girls, including Tessie, came in on cue, did their duty, and went out again.  Narcissus was crooning by the truck.  The hens have been either on strike or on vacation.  I haven't gathered a total of a dozen eggs in almost two weeks, but one was inspired to drop a gift yesterday.  I, myself, was also inspired and got a lot of household chores out of the way, right after I'd taken Bess and a book out to the deck.  In the afternoon, it was warmer outside than in, and I brought several wagons of wood to the porch and took advantage of the day to just sit on the porch awhile before lighting the stove.  It was the best of both worlds:  rain (which we need so badly) all night and a sunny day.  That's my kind of day.

With the help of tech support, I got the television in the bedroom working again last night.  Ta da!

It was a good day.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Fuzzy Goats

In the rarefied world of goat shows, the participants are clipped, groomed, and bathed (and probably powdered) before stepping into the ring.  The purpose of all this pampering is to give the judges a clean view of the goat's body lines and conformation of a doe's udder.  The coat can hide a multitude of sins.  I prefer my girls au naturel, referred to by the cognoscenti as "fuzzy goats."  My girls have their beards intact and their hair comes and goes with the seasons; thick in winter, thinning out when summer heat arrives.

Only once was a goat of mine clipped.  The prior owners of the AGA-registered Lady Lucinda (my first goat) asked to take her to a local show to see how she measured up.  They took her overnight to get Lucy ready for her close-up and let her bag fill to dripping so as to best show off her attributes (her teats were as big as yams).  I'm sorry to say that Lady Lucinda did not place well, and I had to console her later, telling her I'd never put her through that humiliation again; she was just fine as-is by me.  Worse, when she came home, she'd caught a case of the goat equivalent of kennel cough and needed shots of penicillin.  I hardly knew my girl without her beard and with a clean-shaven udder.  When the hair on her udder was growing back, it was like snuggling with a man with a three-day growth of beard, doggone prickly!  Teats are always smooth, but the bag itself can get pretty hairy.  It's important when milking not to painfully pull a hair; a drawback to a fuzzy goat.

Trying to get a fire going with green wood took all day yesterday and the house was cold.  It was a grey, drizzly day and some comfort food was in order.  Ham hocks and lima beans, and to go with, a loaf of Black Forrest pumpernickel bread.  I really do like the physical process of making bread by hand; kneading the dough is very satisfying, but I'm not adverse to taking advantage of the bread machine, either, especially when I had to keep an eye on the wood stove and couldn't spend a lot of time in the kitchen.  This particular recipe gives such rich flavor with rye, whole wheat, and white flours, cocoa, molasses, and a healthy helping of caraway seeds.  The finished loaf has a crunchy crust and tender interior, a perfect accompaniment to the creamy beans.

A steady, heavy rain came in the night and continues this morning.  Waking in the dark, I discovered that the power had gone out at some time; the flashing red digital numbers on the clock were a dead giveaway, but obviously the electricity was back on.  Still half asleep, I wondered if it were too early to get up; I try to sleep in until at least 4:30.  The cellphone was in the other room.  Hmmm.  I know, I'll turn on the television and that will tell me the time.  One should never push buttons on the remote in the dark (don't ask why I didn't turn on the light).  Working with a flashlight (still not awake, obviously), I managed to screw up the television so now get nothing.  Sigh.  Stumbling out to the kitchen to make coffee, the battery-run clock announced it was 3:30 a.m.  It's going to be a long day, and the fuzzy, soggy goats await.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Other Side

Rambunctious Ralph, always knocking anything and everything off any flat surface, dragging toys out of the basket and spreading them throughout the house, thundering up and down the stairs, ambushing his sister Celeste, and making mischief in general.  Who'd have thought he has such a gentle side?  Celeste becomes absolutely pushy as she herds me toward the treat bag in the kitchen.  She is insistent about claiming the best (warmest) spot on my lap, and she's been known to put out claws when she paws at my pants leg, her exclamation mark when she wants attention.  (I have explained to her that if she puts holes in me, I will leak.)

Ralph is primarily interested in his own entertainment, busy, busy, busy, off doing something or other and making a mess.  I would expect a full-blown attack or a body slam from Mr. Rowdy.  It then comes as a surprise whenever I feel the softest, lightest, feather touch on my shoulder and find Ralph behind me.  He can reach across the narrow aisle in the kitchen when I'm at the stove, or he'll be at my side while I'm washing dishes.  (Pat pat.)  "I don't mean to bother you, but it would be nice to have a treat, if you're not too busy."  Rarely does Ralph push his way into whatever space might be left on my lap.  More often, he'll lie on the top of the chair back, resting one foot on my shoulder to let me know he's there.  Lately, he's taken to jumping up on the tank when I'm using the bathroom facilities (why is it that Americans are reluctant to call the toilet a toilet?), and I won't even know he's behind me until I feel that touch.

During his everyday rough-and-tumble activities, Ralph makes me laugh all the time, but I do love to see his other side, gentle and affectionate.  Larry did me such a favor when he picked Ralph and Celeste to be my cat-panions.

Saturday, January 16, 2016


"Here comes the sun..." (Beatles, Abbey Road, 1969).  Bess and I spent most of yesterday sitting on the deck in the sunshine.  Down in the front meadow, a doe and her fawns grazed in the warmth.  Narcissus happily crooned to his reflection in the chrome.  The chickens spent the day scratching in their yard and the goats went from pen to pen, filling up on green grass.  It truly was a day to "enjoy it while it's here," because it is raining again this morning.  Sigh.

Who would have thought that goats have such distinctive personalities?  Tessie has developed a tendency to tarry.  In the ordinary daily lineup, Inga comes in first, followed by Sheila.  The other three are loose in the pen by that time, and Esther inevitably is waiting at the door for Sheila to come out.  It's a toss-up whether Cindy or Tessie comes in next; usually it's Cindy.  Tessie ambles down from the alfalfa in the corner, and then we play the waiting game.  "Come on, Tessie.  Come on in and get your breakfast."  "Well, maybe I will and maybe I won't."  She will come toward the door and then walk right past.  She will come to the door and put her head inside and then back away.  "Tessie!  Get your fuzzy butt in here so we can finish the chores!"  "What's your hurry?"  In disgust, I shut the door and gather the rake and shovel to move on.  "Fine.  Just go without your cereal then.  See if I care whether your bag overfills."  As soon as I'm ready to start cleaning stalls, Tessie stands on her hind legs to look over the half-door.  "Hey!  What about me?"  And, of course, I put down the tools and let her in.  There was a movie called "Reindeer Games."  Someone should make a film named "Goat Games," with Tessie in the starring role.

Friday, January 15, 2016

This Close...

Powerball fever hit the nation, in fact, hit several nations, as I understand Canadians were streaming over the border to purchase tickets, too.  With the chance of winning over one billion dollars, why not?  That's too much money for the average person to even imagine.  I had one of those heart-stopping moments of hope in the early morning hours yesterday when I saw that one of the three big-time winners was from Chino Hills, California.  I moved to Sacramento from Chino nearly 35 years ago, before there was a Chino Hills.  When I left, Chino had just put in a second stop light on the main drag in that little sheep and dairy cattle town.  We had lived six miles out of town, with nothing but corn fields and ranches in between.  With the progress of time, the town has undoubtedly grown and Chino Hills became a city unto itself (the Kids' dad was, at one time, the mayor of Chino Hills), but it's still a pretty rural place and doesn't take up much room on the map.  The point of all this is the fact that my son, Pete, and grandson, Jake, live in Chino Hills now.  Was 4:30 too early to call and find out if Pete was a winner?  Wouldn't that be way past wonderful?  Especially after the bad fortune of having his car wrecked at Thanksgiving, he was due for some good luck.  I'd held the good thought for all of the Kids and would have been just as thrilled if the broadcast had said Woodland, West Sacramento, Citrus Heights, or South Sacramento, but just the thought that it could be....  Ah, well.  Close, but no cigar.

Personally, I considered myself lucky to have avoided several downpours yesterday, catching a break and getting back to the house minutes before the skies sprang big leaks.  I'd been this close to getting drenched.  I guess it's all in one's perspective. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Did I Mention...?

Caught a break in the rain when I went out for morning chores yesterday.  Bess declined to join me; what a surprise.  Did I mention that there was an east wind?  Trying to fill the pot for the wild things was a challenge with the water blowing sideways.

One member of the Mouse Pack was unhappy that I had not mentioned him in the list of new players.  China is an undersized kid with almond-shaped eyes.  He is rather shy and only takes grain from the edge of the pile, then ducks back into the burrow.  The others will pick through to get the best goodies.  China takes whatever is closest.  I didn't mean to leave him off the roster, but hadn't seen him for a day or two until yesterday and he reminded me.  Gomenasai.

I've been immersed in World War II for a week or so.  I reread the second in Ken Follett's latest historic trilogy, "Winter Of The World."  Fascinating stuff for someone who grew up in that era (and anyone else).  Having turned the last page and shut the cover, I looked for something else to read on a stormy day and picked up a book loaned to me by Arden some time ago.  It took two days to finish "The World At Night" by Alan Furst.  Again about WWII, but from a different viewpoint.  Fascinating material and also so well written.  Immediately, I chose to start "Red Gold," sequel to "The World At Night."  It is so enjoyable to be introduced to new-to-me authors and find treasures.

Listening to love songs from the '50s and then a concert by Willie Nelson, trying to keep the wood stove up to speed, reading good books, heating leftovers from the night before, warmed by lap cats and dog, did I mention it was a good day?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

East Wind

One upon a time, long, long ago, I was on a cotton farm in Arizona, staying with friends.  I didn't understand at that time why they turned on the weather channel even before starting the coffee.  Now I do.  I may not know what's going on elsewhere in the outside world, but, by golly, I try not to miss a weather report every morning.  Regardless of the season, hot or cold, dry or wet, weather significantly affects daily life here.  Rain had been predicted for the next week, but I didn't hear the part about the wind.  The storm hit about 1 a.m., and I mean hit like a freight train.

Trying to stay ahead of the game, Bess and I went to Mt. Aukum yesterday to fill the truck's gas tank and stock up on feed.  Later, I brought load after load of firewood up to the porch.  The wind is out of the east, so perhaps the rain won't get blown onto the wood rack on the west side.  Wind chimes on the east deck are almost straight out, clanging, not tinkling.

Bessie Anne normally makes a potty run while I'm at the computer and began whining on the bed; her signal request to go outside.  I got up and Celeste immediately jumped onto my chair.  Great.  I turned on the porch light and opened the door for Bess.  "No, thanks, but I'm not going out in that."  She led the way to the front door.  Repeat:  light, door, "No."  Okay, so we went to the covered-deck door in the dining room.  Semi-repeat:  light, door, "No," and I pushed her out.  Two steps into the wind and she came back and barked, "Let me in!  I can hold it!"  I relented.  Back to the computer and I pushed Celeste off the chair.  Ask my Kids about the Mean Mother Of The Year award.  When they were too young to know better, I used to tell them I had to say no to some requests because I needed points and I wanted to win that award.  (Hey, it's my story and I'm sticking to it.)  Bess and Celeste are going to nominate me, for sure.

Rain is pounding against the windows and I can hear the east wind pushing lawn furniture around outside.  It's going to be one of those days.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

New Players

There are a couple of new regulars in the Mouse Pack (just as entertaining as Sinatra's Rat Pack, but smaller) in the milking room.  When Kinks was alive (the little guy with the broken tail), I started putting down a separate bit of grain for him because the other kids would bully him.  I continued to put grain there just in case he came back, but he never did.  Pal has taken Kinks' place.  Pal doesn't have any particular physical attribute to make him stand out; it's his attitude.  That little pile of feed is just a foot or two from my side when I'm milking.  The other mice duck for cover if I move, but Pal sits quietly and politely eats his breakfast, regardless.  He watches me with calm eyes.  It's as if he knows I'm a friend.  I enjoy his company.

Twitchy comes every morning, too.  The other mice are cautious, but Twitchy carries it to the extreme.  He appears out of the burrow hole in the corner, some distance from the buffet.  He may poke his head out three or four times like a Jack-in-the-box before he gathers enough courage to actually come into the room.  He then takes a few steps (mouse steps) in and then pops back down.  This is repeated I don't know how many times, gaining a little ground each time before he finally gets to the grain.  He disappears in a heartbeat if I even turn my head in his direction so I watch out of the corner of my eye.  He never stops to eat like most of the others, but grabs a kernel and dashes for home.  I don't know if he stashes his hoard or gobbles it in safety, but he makes trip after trip each day.  I applaud his reluctant bravery.

It seems the Mouse Pack feels the same way about rainy days as the goats.  When it's very stormy, few to none of them come out of their burrows even for breakfast.  I envision them tucked in their underground nests, snuggled warmly in blankets of stolen diaper wipes.  They must draw straws to see who is going to go for take-out because the grain is gone by next day.  With this short stretch of sunny days, they've been coming in hoards to eat their fill and slurp up some milk.

It's always nice to see new players on stage. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Light And Dark

Light and dark, up and down, to and fro...take your pick.  It was one of those days.  A bright, beautiful, almost warm morning, and the girls all went to lie in the sun after their stint on the stand.  It was a perfect day to be outside; however, the Minnesota Vikings were playing in the Superbowl wild-card game against the Seattle Seahawks and I couldn't miss that.  One point.  We (Vikings) lost by one point.  Sigh?  No, cry.  As my Kids say, "And then depression sets in."  Now I've got to pin my sights on the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Hope springs eternal.

Suitable to my mood, by the time the game was over the gloomy cloud cover was also overhead.  Crum.  Another lost opportunity.

At sundown, the dark cloud bank had moved over to the west, leaving a sliver of light at the horizon and brightening the the trailers above.  The temperature dropped significantly and I hurried through chores to get back in the house to fire up the wood stove.

Somewhere in the 4 a.m. time frame, Ralph leaves his customary place in bed behind my knees and puts a soft paw against my face.  He's done it often enough that I know the routine.  I lift the covers and my redheaded cuddlebug goes into the blanket cave to snuggle against my chest and we both go back to sleep.  There are worse ways to start the day.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Wandering Mind

The sound track in my mind started playing "Sweet and Low (Wind of the Western Sea)" in the barn.  It was one of the few true lullabies I sang to my babies.  More often, I opted for less traditional songs like "St. Louis Blues."  Poor Kids, they never stood a chance.  In an all-girls high school, only one other gal and I had true alto voices so we were assured of being in the glee club and I got the starring male roles in all our plays.  I have a heck of a time with "The Star-Spangled Banner," and have to drop it a couple of octaves.  My dad had a lovely tenor voice, so I don't know what happened.  By now, I'm used to answering the phone and hearing, "Hello, sir."

Instead of true rain, yesterday was just drizzly and cold.  Unfortunately, one piece of mail thrown into the creek was a seed catalog from Sheepers and it hasn't dried out yet.  It was the kind of day I would have loved to sit and turn pages of their beautiful catalog and dream of spring.  Sigh.  Sheepers has enticed me in the past to invest in such "exotics" as amaranth (Love Lies Bleeding), an unusual, gorgeous plant with edible seeds, and bullseye (chiogga) beets.  Recipes are often included.

Beau, a neighbor, came by to look at the tractor implements.  Sadly, amongst the harrows, discs, and drag blades sitting unused in the yard, the one thing he wanted was an auger, and it was the one piece I'd sold.  Sigh.  Beau noted the large number of turkeys in residence.  We're coming up on breeding season.  The boys are strutting their stuff and fights break out.  A couple of toms were getting it on as Beau and I were walking out to the tractor, twining their necks in battle as the crowd around them cheered.  Beau and his wife Katie are recent arrivals from the Bay Area and are enthralled by the wildlife here.  I hope they never lose that feeling.

Bored by house arrest, it was a day to let the mind wander.  And dust.  And that's how bored I was.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

And You Thought...

It might be thought that I exaggerate.  I do not.  This is the obstacle course as laid out by, could it be Ralph?  The living and dining rooms are equally littered.  Let's just say I get my exercise when vacuuming.  The house perpetually looks like a daycare center.

Back on December 23, I posted a picture when the ceiling and acorns fell in the shed.  It's taken awhile, shoving a bucket of acorns out every day, but progress is being made to empty the room.  At the rate I'm going, who knows how long it will take.  I'm very close to being able to lift out that section of drywall.  What to do with it then, I have no idea.  I hope the squirrels don't lose their taste for acorns.

Glory be, we had a full day of sunshine yesterday!  Rain is forecast again today.  Crum.  Bess and I went out twice to sit and bask on the deck.  There are things I could have and should have been doing, but I wasn't going to waste a minute.  As I cleaned stalls and hauled out buckets of poo, I noticed Esther lying down dozing with her head resting on the barn wall, eyes half shut.  She evidently feels the same way about sunshine as I.

It was a good day.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Just Ask

It might be a case of "the squeaky wheel gets the grease," but just yesterday I was complaining about too many rainy days in succession and wouldn't you know the sun came out later in the morning?  Admittedly, it was weak and without much warmth, but there it was, regardless.  One good thing about the local DCG soil (decomposed granite), it drains quickly, and by afternoon the mud had mostly solidified again.

For the first time in days, the house eventually got warm.  I'd been worried about the catalytic converter in the wood stove (a big-ticket item), but I think I've found the current problem.  It's very possible that Helper Dude loaded the porch rack with green (unseasoned) wood.  He should have known better, because he's the one who cut and split oak from that huge branch that fell late last year.  Hey, he's only 15, so he gets a pass.  I figured it out only when I got down to previously stacked wood (thanks, Dave and Clay) and the stove got hot immediately.

I use the cellphone quite a bit for texting, but make and receive very few actual calls.  When I do get a call, I'm almost guaranteed to hang up instead of answering.  What can I say?  The little red button on the left has a phone on it and I push that instead of the green one on the right.  I did it again yesterday when Milk Guy called to change his pick-up day next week.  Sorry, it's not personal.

I received a letter from the Postmaster General's office; a form to report stolen mail.  One of the questions was, "Describe material stolen."  I've a bit of a problem with that because while I can describe what was found, I have no way of knowing what else might have been stolen and kept.  Another question was, "Was a police report made?"  Well, no.  I called the Sheriff's Office immediately and was told an officer would contact me as soon as one was available.  That was last Sunday and I've seen neither hide nor hair of any deputy to date.  I'm getting the same feeling as when I call PG&E on the landline (the only working phone when there is no electricity) to report a power outage and the recorded voice tells me I can make the report online.  Hmmm, if I had power, I wouldn't be calling.

Walking through the living room is like traveling through an obstacle course.  Ralph and Celeste have found a new trove of treasure.  They've figured out how to open the louvered doors to the guest room closet where I stash Taylor's favorite stuffed toys.  I never know what new surprise is in store when I go out in the morning nor what I'll have to step over or kick out of my way.

Sunset last night was cold and cloud covered.  This morning is cold, but, guess what, the sun is coming up bright and clear.  I just had to ask.  Ta da!

Happy birthday to my son Larry!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Too Much Of A Good Thing

When I lived down in the valley, my home was in a triangle bordered by the Yolo causeway, the deep-water channel, and the Sacramento river.  I lived there in what was called the 100-year flood and it got pretty hairy, watching the waters rise and waiting to see if the levees would hold.  They did.  Flood insurance is one thing I don't need up here on the crest of the hill, but I'm a little tired of being wet.  El Nino (sorry, can't type the tilde) has arrived and we are getting wave after wave of storms, seemingly for days on end.  Turkeys flock together under the oaks, shoulders hunched and wet feathers dark.  No offense to either profession, but they make me think of solemn, morose clergymen or undertakers as they slowly pace in groups.  We have been on rainy-day routine down at the barn.  I leave the girls in their stalls until they need to come into the milking room instead of turning them out, all but one, to go up for alfalfa and a stretch of the legs to wait their turn.  The wind has been out of the east, blowing rain halfway into the sheltered play yard.  There is plenty of room for them to stay dry during the day, but the space is limited.  Mud is two inches deep in front of the barn, making footing a challenge, and I don't even want to talk about the chicken pen.  I open the little door and ramp to the coop, the hens cluster in the doorway and say, "Nuh uh, we're not going out in that!"  After making sure they've got food and water, I close the big door and make my way carefully out of their pen.

Dogs have phenomenal bladder control.  Given several opportunities, Bessie Anne declined to go out in the wind (really heavy yesterday) and rain.  There is no litter box for dogs and I was beginning to worry about how long she could hold it.  Linda dropped by unexpectedly in early afternoon and only then could I push Bess out the door.  Linda and I goth a laugh when Bessie came back in.  Obviously feeling lighter than air, she raced around, found one of the cats' toys and tossed it like a puppy, getting Linda to chase her (her favorite game).  "Oh, what a relief it is!"

Having shown remarkable restraint, I waited until last night to try the coconut-ginger simmering sauce with chicken (thighs this time), chunked up potatoes and carrots, and a sprinkling of peas.  Really, really good, but I like the vindaloo more.  I'm going to ask my personal shoppers to put these sauces on the list for their next visit.

My weather app tells me we'll get showers today and maybe, just maybe, sunshine tomorrow.  Some rain is good, but it is possible to get too much of a good thing.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


Cuddlebugs, snuggle-bunnies, whatever term is used, I've got 'em.  I cannot sit down anywhere without an immediate response from Ralph and Celeste, and sometimes Bessie Anne.  Boots may be made for walking, but laps are definitely made for cuddling.  I've explained that I may only be sitting for a minute, but it matters not.  I've tried perching on the edge of the chair, elbows on knees to hide the lap, but Celeste will stretch across my forearms.  Any port in a storm, she says.  Ralph headbutts his way to where he wants to be, regardless.  Bessie sits by my feet and whimpers piteously, "What about me?," until I lift her up.  I'm a sucker for puppy eyes.

Bedtime is a group activity.  Bessie's stumpy legs won't get her up on the bed so she is given a boost.  She lies down on my pillow until she gets a back and shoulder massage.  I often wish she could return the favor.  Relaxed, she moves over to her pillow and only then can I slip in.  As soon as the lights are out, Celeste and Ralph sneak up and plant themselves firmly cuddled up together against my legs.  Do they honestly think I won't notice them?  Ten- to thirteen-pound cats suddenly become the weight of boulders, immovable objects, and the blankets are nailed down.  I cling to my allotted space on the edge of the bed, and so goes the night.

The goats huddle rather than cuddle together in wet weather, and they did a lot of huddling again yesterday.  I know we need the rain, but I'd much prefer smaller doses.  Four or five days in a row is a bit much, and my jackets and bibbies aren't getting dried out between feedings.  The wood stove is struggling to keep the dampness out.  I think I might need to replace the catalytic converter because it's hard to keep a fire going up into the "burn zone."  The converter has a secondary air inlet vent and I've got that sucker nearly wide open, to no avail.  A low burn creates more creosote in the chimney.  Crum.

Even with the rain all day, the morning offering of acorns was gone by nightfall.  This plan is working!

I'm having to make a lot of corrections today.  Ralph put a paw gently on my shoulder and when I turned in the chair, he jumped from the bed to my lap.  He is lying across my forearms and I'm peeking across his back to the screen.  As someone or other said, "A cat is a cat and that is that."  Cats are cuddlebugs. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

One Ringy-Dingy

Most of yesterday was spent on the telephone trying to locate people whose mail had been stolen along with mine, speaking with a couple and leaving messages where I could for others.  A call to the local post office had resulted in a call to to the Postmaster General's office and a transfer to the Investigation Division.  The ID stressed the importance of notifying everyone affected because it wasn't the found material, it was what the thieves may have kept for identity theft that was most important.  I've done what I can.

It wasn't a bad day to stay inside as it rained most of the day.  I caught a break in the morning and evening, but don't think I'll be that lucky today.  Awoke to a real howler of a storm and it hasn't let up.  Another day of cranky goats and soggy chickens.  Ah well.

My daughter had gifted me with two simmering sauces:  Indian vindaloo and a coconut curry, neither of which I'd tried.  Ohmigosh!  The night before, I cut up and browned a chicken breast, added onion, mixed vegetables, and the vindaloo sauce to bubble away.  I'm not ashamed to say I gorged at dinner.  I was planning to save the remainder for last night's dinner, but it kept calling my name and I ate it for lunch.  (And I don't usually eat lunch.)  Spicy, tangy, without a lot of heat, vindaloo was so satisfying on a rainy day.  Hmmm, is it too soon to try the coconut curry tonight?

The acorn situation seems to be resolving.  Every morning, I push out about a bucketful into the yard.  Every night, all those acorns are gone.  Squirrels, turkeys, deer?  I don't know, but the tide is turning and there are some happy, well-fed critters out there.  It will take months and I'll have to do something about the downed ceiling one of these days, but at least I can get to the birdseed without losing my footing.  There is a second problem, however.  Yesterday I noted woodpeckers still banking their bounty through the soffit automatic teller.  I hope they're not just redepositing.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Lost And Found

Well, yesterday was interesting.  Thanks to the internet, a notice was put up on a local website regarding a box of stolen mail found in a nearby creek, and Linda and Cam both called (at the same time) to tell me some of my mail was included.  I met Cam down at the big road and we went down to the creek.  A good Samaritan had brought the soggy mess up to the road and Cam was able to get down the bank and retrieve some still floating in the water.  It's not unusual for my mailbox to be empty, and not much besides junk mail and bills when it's not.  The waste disposal bill comes every other month, so I wasn't looking for it, but sure enough, there it was, as well as some other important stuff.  Postmarks indicated everything went through the post office on December 29, so the theft had to occur recently.  There was mail and a package for ten nearby addresses.  I sorted by name and set everything out to drip dry on the porch, then contacted the Sheriff's Dept.  Of course I forgot that it was Sunday and wondered why the post office didn't answer the phone.  Duh.  I recognized a neighbor's name and was able to let her know, and they came to retrieve her envelopes.  We live in interesting times.

Another loss occurred in early evening when the power went out.  Drat!  The Vikings-Green Bay Packers game had just started when the world went dark.  Thankfully, Dave kept me up on the score and, even better, let me know that the Minnesota Vikings won!!  I'd been waiting and waiting for the new season of Downton Abbey to start.  No power, no DVR, no Downton Abbey.  Crum.  Hours later when the lights came back on and I could blow out the oil lamp, I did a search and found DA will show again on Thursday.  That made me a lot happier than find a soggy bill.

Win some, lose some, win again.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Taste Of Summer

In addition to the Christmas fruitcake, Kathy V. sent three little pots of homemade jam:  raspberry, blueberry, and apricot.  I try not to be prejudiced, but I will admit to a preference for apricot anything.  Toast and apricot jam last night put the taste of summer in my mouth.  Now she's got me thinking about fresh sweet corn and watermelon.  Back in the day, before so much produce was imported, we were all seasonal eaters.  Spring was rhubarb and baby asparagus.  Summer was, as I said, sweet corn and watermelon.  Fall brought butternut squash, and in winter we went to dried lima beans and ham hocks, soups and homemade bread.  Now it's difficult to tell the seasons because fresh produce of all types is available all year round.

I know it's officially winter and the thermometer proves it, but the days are almost imperceptibly getting longer.  Daybreak is a few minutes earlier and I don't have to put the girls to bed until 5 p.m. now.  For awhile there, I had to head out at 4.  The last few days have been rain free, but the next four are predicted to be wet again.

Bessie Anne lazed around all day yesterday.  I think she's over whatever ailed her, for which we're both grateful.  I've had a bit of a wonky hip lately, so was also thankful that Helper Dude could come over to unload the feed bags from the truck and haul the 75-pounder down to the barn, climb up on a step stool to change an overhead light bulb, and restock the wood rack.  If I can't do the work myself, I'm a great supervisor.

It will take awhile to get out of the California drought, but with the rain we've gotten of late, I think there'll be enough ground water to risk a garden this year.  Sitting on the porch on a summer's day shelling fresh peas sounds heavenly.  I can taste them now.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Dirty Business

No two ways about it, wood stoves are dirty.  There are always bits of bark and leaves on the logs and they end up on the hearth.  I've traded the dust of summer for the film of ash that is inevitable from stirring the coals and emptying the ash pan from under the grate.  Ah well, small price to pay for the heat.

Being from Texas, my dad loved the traditional black-eyed peas on New Year's, said to bring good luck for the year.  Farther south, I guess it is Hoppin' John, also made with black-eyed peas but with other veggies and rice.  I was never able to develop a taste for those peas, so yesterday I went a little farther afield.  My daughter reminded me yesterday of Craig's family favorite for their traditional Japanese holiday meal.  I had all the fixings, so made miso soup with mochi.  Miso is a fermented bean paste with wonderful, rich flavor.  Mochi are little cakes made from pounded rice, slightly sweet and definitely chewy whether baked or boiled.  Together, the dish is called ozoni.  Green onions are better, but I made do with paper-thin sliced white onion cooked in the broth.  Piping hot and hearty, it was my good luck last night.

Cam called to tell me of her morning's adventure.  She was headed up toward Grizzly Flat, turned on to a road and slid out on black ice.  Fortunately, she didn't hit anything, but was good and stuck, not able to move forward nor reverse.  The only tool she had was a rake and used that to try to chip enough of the ice away from the tires until the rake broke.  There are many dead zones for cellphones up here, but luckily she was able to make a call out to Triple-A.  She only had to wait 45 minutes for the truck to arrive, and it took 3 minutes for him to tow her to safety.  She abandoned her plans for the day.  This is the first morning I've awakened to more than 32 degrees (it's 34).  There are still chunks of frozen hail here and there in the yards and the birdbath remains an ice rink after a week of freezing temperatures.

I should have served some ozoni to Bessie Anne so as to share the luck.  I'll be washing the comforter today because she's thrown up twice on the bed this morning.  Talk about dirty business.

Friday, January 1, 2016


Like millions of others, I will be watching the Pasadena Rose Parade today.  As a kid, before television (yes, children, once upon a time there was no television), we lived in a small town near Pasadena.  Only once did we brave the crowds to attend the parade in person.  Colorado Boulevard was a sea of faces and, being little, a forest of knees.  Once was enough for our family.  What we did do was go to Pasadena on New Year's Day in the afternoon.  All the floats were parked in a specific area and we could walk around to see the real thing up close.   As I recall, some of the flowers were a little tattered from wind and contact, but they were amazing, just the same.  Later, I was privileged to go to a boarding high school in the hills above Pasadena, overlooking the Rose Bowl.  Pasadena remains close to my heart.

Country living being what it is, we had an early, brief New Year's celebration yesterday.  December 31 is also Cam's birthday, another reason to party!  Linda and Camille came in the afternoon and Linda brought a quiche and some nibbles.  I had the cheese to go with her crackers.  A quick drink, a munch, and a toast to the New Year was the extent of the festivities at Farview.  Cam was going down to The Pub and needed to be there before 4 p.m.  It's an English pub and celebrates New Year on London time.  Linda needed to be home before dark as the roads are still slick with ice.

It was nice to ring out the old year and usher in 2016 with friends.  Happy New Year!