Monday, February 29, 2016

Pick Me! Pick Me!

In my mind, I hear Pomp and Circumstance playing as these puffed up editions march slowly around a single mousy female.  They, I'm sure, consider themselves masters of the universe, but it's the hen who has the power of choice.  Can't say the boys didn't dress to impress, though.  I never get to see how the dating game ends, but it sure is interesting to watch the show.

I got started on an undercoat of paint for the well house.  Go-To Guy was kind enough to put it on the old picnic table so I'll be able to work on it without becoming a contortionist.  A trip to the hardware store for more paint is on the agenda for today.  It is, as they say, a work in progress.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Heads Up

"Super-size me!"  Fifteen or twenty toms fluffed up to twice their size and strutting their stuff are a pretty impressive sight, but it's harder than one would think to get a picture.  These big showoffs seem to be camera shy.  Like a balloon deflating, by the time I'm ready they've flattened their feathers and just look "normal."  I so wanted this boy to turn toward me in the sunlight as this shot doesn't do justice to the brilliant bronze and turquoise colors on his back.  As the poof goes down, the blue head returns to grey and the bright red wattles shrink and fade.  They really are quick-change artists.

Go-To Guy learned his lesson.  He called yesterday to give me a heads up and say he and his missus were on their way over.  I guess he didn't want a repeat show of my haphazard coiffure at the door.  Nor did I.  GT had already poured the concrete footing and was bringing up the well-pump housing he'd built for protection.  It needs painting, and that's my job.  I've got some ideas, but am still mulling it over before I tackle the project.  (Procrastination at its best.)

Every job GT does involves a tax on his fee in the form of a cold beer when he's done.  Mrs. GT has a root beer, and we all enjoy a good conversation.  When I get the housing painted, they'll be back for the installation.  I look forward to their company (and the heads-up call).

Saturday, February 27, 2016

New Shoes

I did go to town.  I didn't like it, no matter how beautiful the scenery on the way.  Definitely more flowering quince in bloom.  There are restaurants and fast food joints in town, and a couple of places where I could get a root beer float.  I think about these things on the way in and as I go past one or another.  "Mmmm, that would taste good."  Panda Express is right there in the Walmart parking lot and I'm a sucker for orange chicken.  Across the street is a Chinese restaurant that makes great Beef Chow Fun.  It's been years since I've been to either.  I think, "Okay, I'll get the shopping done and then I'll stop for a treat."  By the time I'm done in the store(s), all I can think about is getting home.

They just don't make $20 shoes like they used to.  I'll bet the last pair of barn shoes didn't last six months.  The man-made materials started peeling and then the soles separated from the uppers.  Fortunately I noted this before going to town and was able to get another pair before I started flapping like a clown and/or having to make a third trip.  I've certainly paid more for shoes, but they didn't last any longer than the cheap-os.  I guess it's all part of the cost of doing business.  I did like Kit's idea to use worn-out shoes as small planters on the deck.  It couldn't look any stranger than a Christmas wreath on the door in July.  Of course, I'd have to go to town to buy plants.  Okay, scratch that.

Last evening, the sky was going for the layered look.

PS:  Kit, "Cherry Pink" was a cha cha cha. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

He's Back

I couldn't do it.  I could not make myself go into town again yesterday.  What's worse, I cannot make myself feel guilty about it.  It was a prime example of "Never do today that which can be put off until tomorrow."

In response to a request, Helper Dude texted me just as I was heading to the barn and said he had some time to trim Bessie Anne's nails and finish hauling the twiggy stuff from that big oak branch that fell over to the burn pile.  Yippee Skippy, both jobs needed doing.  HD moved brush while I did the milking and then we worked together on Bess.  HD is very gentle and patient with her as she does not like her feet messed with.

After Helper Dude left, I convinced myself that the day was already shot and it was too late to head to town.  I had very strong arguments, but will admit I didn't fight it very hard.  Sitting on the deck in front of the now-in-full-bloom forsythia seemed the better choice.  Bess thought so too.  While enjoying the sunshine in early afternoon, I heard those lovelorn lady quail calling for that love-'em-and-leave-'em rascal, Rodrigo.  He evidently really made the rounds this year.  In my yard, "Rod-RI-go!  Rod-RI-go!"  Across the road, "Rod-RI-go!, Rod-RI-go!"  Down the hill, "Rod-RI-go!"  Heartbroken females crying for that guy who won't come back.  Sigh.

Wishing to give the appearance of being productive, I moved around to the front porch and turned the sprinkler on in the herb garden.  As soon as the spray hit the dry birdbath, the birds started coming.  Big bully blue jays commandeered the bath, yelling at the top of their lungs, fluttering and splashing as the water deepened.  Little birds played in the spray amongst the leaves on the ground.  Well, I couldn't leave that show and so sat and watched until the garden was soaked.  I have definite priorities.

As the sun and temperature dropped, I went in to do a little baking (yes, for Christmas; don't judge me).

It was a good day.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Pink And White

Back in the '50s, Perez Prado put out a popular song called "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White."  I was reminded of it on a trip to town yesterday, although the fruits were wrong.  Around what seemed like every curve in the road there were pink and white plum trees in full blossom.  As they are in my yard, plums are the first to bloom in this area.  For an added punch of color, acacia trees dripped their bright yellow flowers and there were salmon-colored flowering quince.  It would be difficult to say which is more beautiful, the drive in spring or the reds and golds of fall.  The delicate plum trees also made me think of frothy ice cream sodas.

Back in my day, drug stores were not the diverse stores they are now and just sold drugs (the good kind), but almost all had a soda fountain.  The drug store in my home town (I think it was a Rexall, but could be wrong) also fixed sandwiches and light meals.  Red, who manned the fountain and griddle known as a flat top, always with a cigarette dangling from his lips and a paper hat on his head, was a whiz at grilled cheese or tuna fish sandwiches for lunch or open-face hot beef sandwiches with gravy in the evening.  Best of all were the sodas, made from scratch with various syrups and carbonated water.  My mother always ordered a Black Cow with root beer, chocolate syrup, and vanilla ice cream, and my favorite was a crushed pineapple soda with strawberry ice cream, hence the flashback to the pink and white plums.

As long as I'm speaking of sodas, I should mention my Aunt Ruth.  I had two aunts on my mother's side (and many more on my dad's).  Aunt Hilda was tall and spare, Aunt Ruth was a pudgy dumpling.  I spent a lot of time with both of them as neither had children of their own and I suppose I was the rent-a-kid in the family.  Aunt Hilda had the next best thing to a farm.  Aunt Ruth liked to eat.  Her idea of a soda was a pint of ice cream (each) and a whole bottle of 7-Up (each). "Don't tell your mother."

It's a good thing it is a beautiful drive into town as I'm going to have to go again today.  A stop I should have made and didn't was at the vet's office for Bessie's heart worm medication.  They don't stock it on hand to be picked up at will.  One has to call it in to be picked up late the next afternoon.  I get a six-month supply at a time and remembered to call, but whizzed right by yesterday since it's not in my regular routine.  Aargh.  While I'm down there, I might stop in for a root beer float, the next best thing to a soda.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Good Company

It's been awhile since my friend Arden has come by, so it was grand to see her yesterday.  In her honor, I did bake that second batch of crackers so she'd have a nibble to go with our afternoon drink.  As good as they are cold, the crackers are even better warm.  No, I did not dust.  There's such a thing as going too far and it would have seemed pretentious.

It might be inferred that I am food oriented, and I'd be hard-pressed to deny it.  However, having cooked for a large family and a lot of friends over the years, it's very difficult to cook some recipes for just one.  I'm really hungry for batter-dipped cauliflower with curry powder, tumeric, and cayenne, but it makes quite a lot and doesn't hold well for leftovers.  Therefore, I'm planning on inviting The Ladies Of Fair Play for dinner soon:  Arden, Cam, and Linda (who moved out of the area, but lived here long enough to qualify).  Luckily for me, they're up for trying new menus.  I'm waiting for inspiration for a main dish.

Had to laugh at Tote's comment yesterday.  It seems I'm in good company and she is a charter member of Procrastinators Unanimous, having just taken down her Christmas tree last week.  (My tree still stands.  I win!)

It was a good day.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Practice Makes Perfect

I'm thinking about setting up seminars for those Type-A personalities who want to learn the fine art of procrastination.  If I do say so myself, I've got it down to a science.  It would be easy to weed out the wannabes.  Anyone who shows up on time obviously needs the help.  Dilettantes would drift in when they get around to it.  If they miss the meeting altogether, they'd be at the expert level already and only signed up for the refreshments, which I may or may not have made.

Putting off that which must be done takes practice and relapses into productivity are to be expected.  Take it from one who still has a Christmas tree in the living room in February, I know about these things.  Since the wood stove hasn't been needed for a week or two, it's taken longer for dust to accumulate.  With sunlight streaming in the open door yesterday, I did note that chore might be put on The List.  Accordingly, instead of getting a dust rag, I went into the kitchen to make another batch of cheddar crackers for Christmas gifts (how's that for procrastination par excellence?), the first attempt with the pastry bag resulting in a sprained wrist.  A better method turned out well, so well I'll probably (the definitive term) make another batch today.  We'll get around to Christmas one of these days.

Inga has been an acolyte in procrastination, but with dire consequences.  Yesterday the leash came into play and milking went off without a hitch.  Sometimes it's necessary to bite the bullet and get a thing done on time, even though it goes against the grain.

The seminar project needs more thinking.  It doesn't pay to rush into anything.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Sun Down, Moon Up

One of the girls had not come in to be milked for three days.  Three guesses as to which one (and the first two don't count).  Of course, it was Inga.  Again.  Usually by the second day of this silliness she figures out how to end that painfully swollen udder and gets up on the stand, but not this go-round.  Aargh.  Nothing for it but the leash, which she hates, to bring her out of her stall and into the milking room.  I know it hurts her when the bag is so full, and it does no good to tell her she did it to herself.  Her tiny teats are almost impossible to grasp when the skin is so taut and it is a two-finger squeeze, one side at a time, until I can get enough milked out and the udder becomes supple.  The process is complicated because she lifts a hind leg in pain on either side and the risk of a foot in the bucket is real.  Milk squirts everywhere:  on me, on her, on the stand, and some in the pail (if I'm lucky).  To give some perspective, normally I can milk Inga in about 300 squeezes and approximately 10 minutes.  Yesterday it was over 700 squeezes and 25 minutes.  Mother was not pleased, nor were the girls who had to wait for their turn.  Inga had better get used to the leash.

There's not much to write about on a NASCAR Sunday.  The sound of engines is soporific and I took the obligatory race-day nap, grateful for the replay feature on the television.  I can go back to when my eyes closed to see what I might have missed and fast-forward through commercials.  NASCAR days are very restful.

Sunset last evening was lovely, but what really caught my eye when chores were done was the full moon rising.

Inga notwithstanding, it was a good day.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Give Me A Break

Bess and I took our after-barn morning break on the deck, sitting in the sunshine and noting the very first forsythia blossom and the tulip plants that had popped up overnight.  Later, I was trying to prioritize the To-Do list when I realized it was bill-paying day.  Aaargh.  Nothing for it but to fire up the computer and get it over with.  Since that blew my incentive to do housework out of the water (never my favorite thing to do on any given day), it seemed a good time to reconcile a couple of months of bank statements (okay, since November; time flies when you're having fun).  Tax prep is on the horizon, after all, and I'd need updated information.  Since credit cards are strictly for emergencies and I carry very little cash, almost all of my purchases are made by check.  It's a tedious but necessary chore to enter them into the computer accounting system.  I was approaching the finish line when the phone rang.  Yay!  Saved by the bell.  Cam said she was on her way over to visit.  Any excuse to put off an onerous task is a good one.  (After the debacle of the day before, I quickly ran a brush through my hair.)

Although the sun has been shining the last few days, it hasn't come close to warm.  I'm used to a chilly house, but didn't realize how cold it was until Cam suggested we sit on the porch because "it might be warmer."  Accordingly, we went outside to talk and Honey led Bessie on a merry chase around the property.  Honey is much younger and it wasn't long before Bess was dragging behind, especially on the uphill.  I could, as they say, feel her pain.  Both dogs finally plopped at our feet and Cam and I talked until time to put our critters to bed.  It was a lovely afternoon break.

Today is the start of NASCAR season and also Clay's birthday, both cause for celebration.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Mirror, Mirror

Once upon a time, long, long ago, when my Kids were little, one of the Kids (who shall remain nameless) wanted to play hairdresser and I was the victim.  Said Kid twirled and spun my hair and put in a whole packet of bobby pins.  The doorbell rang and we all went to answer it (the Kids were like a flock of ducklings and followed me everywhere).  This was back in the day when there were door-to-door salesmen:  vacuum cleaners, Fuller Brush men, insurance, etc.  "Yes, can I help you?"  The man standing there looked at me, took two steps back, and said, "No, that's okay, thank you," and turned and left.  Well, that was odd.  It was only later that I looked in the mirror and understood his reaction.  I had a helmet of bobby pins and tufts of hair sticking out every which way.  My beautician had created a unique alien look that would have scared any sane male.

I discovered yesterday that the winds had blown down a wall on the well housing, a structure that protects the well pump down by the road.  The housing had been getting pretty decrepit over the years and I knew it would need replacing at some point; I just wasn't ready to do it right now.  However, the best laid plans and all that.  I put in a call to Go-To Guy who said he'd check on material prices and get back to me in the evening with an estimate.  I was finishing a book in the afternoon and was surprised when the doorbell rang.  It was Go-To, who had a cancellation and decided to stop by.  We talked about the well housing, and cabbages and kings, and he went off to his next job.  A short while later I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.  Deja vu!  It looked like I had brushed my hair with an egg beater, what with the wind, pulling off my hoodie, and goats rubbing up against me.  I looked absolutely demented.  Laughing hysterically, I called Go-To and asked how he had kept from laughing or screaming when I opened the door.  He laughed and said, "Well, we're friends...."

Note to self:  look in the mirror before answering the doorbell.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Storm Troopers

Another stormy night, but only a light mist falling yesterday morning.  Just enough sunshine to create a rainbow behind the danged mistletoe.  There are two massive invading forces up here:  mistletoe above and star thistle below, almost impossible to eradicate.  This happens to be my neighbor's tree, but I have one that is almost as bad.  Mistletoe killed the oak down by the goat barn.  It is the enemy.

Bessie Anne has her own set routines, a schedule she adheres to for daily outings.  The thing is, she demands that I come along.  In good weather, we (and I do mean "we") go outside on the deck after I'm finished with barn chores.  About three o'clock, we go out the front door.  Sometimes I'm permitted to sit on the porch while she checks the perimeter.  Yesterday I pulled weeds in the herb garden.  It's too early in the season to rake leaves, but I felt the need to be productive.  The storm clouds of the last few days were retreating, the battle over for the time being.

My redheaded ninja warrior was on the prowl in the afternoon.  Sitting at the table doing some paperwork, I heard a noise behind me where there should be no noise.  The armoire is a good eight feet tall, a safe place (I thought) to keep a collection of beautiful vases given over the years with gorgeous bouquets from Deb and Craig.  Is there nowhere this cat won't go?  Carefully and with great stealth, he managed not to knock any over.  Whew.
Worn out from the day's search-and-destroy mission(s), Ralph was caught in this rare moment of repose last evening.  I have no doubt he was conserving strength and planning his next attack.  Like the weather, Ralph is full of surprises.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

False Alarm

"Sound the alarm first and ask questions later."  That's a goat's first rule for survival.  One hellacious wind was blowing yesterday and the girls were on edge.  Inga darted into the milking room without delay, but Sheila, on a leash, balked when it was her turn.  I'd no more than put her up on the stand when the herd started sounding off snorting the danger signal like crazy and all heads pointed in one direction.  Of course I looked to see what had them so upset.  With dogs on the loose and the possibility of predatory wildlife, it doesn't pay to ignore a warning.  Following their line of vision, it turned out to be a large white plastic bag that had blown up against the far fence in the big pen.  False alarm, but they weren't convinced.  Poor Sheila did not believe my reassurances and fear literally scared the poop out of her.  (Yes, I did sweep away the raisinettes before sitting down to milk.)  The girls continued to stare and snort until the wind blew the bag up and away, probably into the next county.  That plastic sack could not be trusted.

The wind blew at what seemed like gale force most of the day with sporadic rain.  The full force of the storm held off until dark and then hit like Thor's hammer.  Safe inside with a lap full of furry friends, we were happily watching "saved" segments of Downton Abbey when the power went out about 8:15.  Once again I was so grateful for the nightlights that automatically convert to battery when there is no electricity.  It makes all the difference, not being plunged into total darkness.  I made the obligatory call to PG&E and then sat there.  Hmmm.  There's just not a lot to do when the power goes out at night, so I gathered my tribe and we went to bed.

Early to bed and early to rise.  Blinking numbers on the clock this morning so power had been restored, but no idea of the time.  Once awake, I can't just lie there so went to make coffee and find the cellphone.  Aarrgh.  Not much past 3.  The wind still howls and it's pouring down rain.  I can only hope all trees are standing.

It's going to be one of those days.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

It's A Cat's Life

Cats have a tendency to take themselves very seriously.  "I meant to do that."  Every day, Ralph and/or Celeste do something that totally cracks me up, and they have no idea why I'm laughing.  Yesterday these two were looking out the front door as they so often do, when I realized Ralph was sitting on Celeste and she seemed to think it was the most natural thing in the world.  ???  I've mostly had single cats, one at a time:  Smokey, Tooloo, Annie, and Victor.  Only after we moved to Farview and Victor died at age 18 did I adopt a pair, brother and sister Frank and Pearl.  Watching them interact for years made me decide to take both Ralph and Celeste when they were offered, and it was one of the best decisions ever.  They sleep together snuggled up on the bed for naps, sometimes in spoon formation, and I find that so endearing.  Ralph ambushes his sister on a regular basis, leaping out at her from the stairwell or from behind corners and instigating a wrestling match or a chase.  Celeste will take his foolishness just so long before she takes him down, smacks him a good one, bites his neck (gently), and pins him to the floor.  I'm not in danger of becoming that crazy cat lady with a horde, but I do find that two cats are more fun than one.

With rain predicted today, I pulled the leaf blower out of retirement yesterday afternoon to rid the deck of the accumulated piles and drifts from winter.  There had been no sense doing it until the trees were completely bare; I don't believe in wasted effort.  I knew Linda was going to stop by, but I did not see her car drive up nor, with the sound of the blower and my concentration on getting the job done, did I see her standing nearby.  I almost wish I could have seen myself jump-start when I looked up.  I'm sure it was classic.  Fortunately, I am not a screamer and I did not throw the leaf blower at her.  It did take a minute for my heart to start beating again.  We had a nice visit.

Strong winds came up in the night and are really howling this morning.  After days of gorgeous weather, we're back in it again with heavily overcast skies.  The blossoming almond tree was a bit premature, I fear.  There will be no looking out the open door for the cats today.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Pretty As A Picture

How can I start my day with anything but a smile when greeted by this handsome fellow?  Cricket was again waiting when I drove up Cam's drive and we went through the same routine, me paying the price of an apple chunk to get back in the truck.

Three days ago, there wasn't a blossom or bloom on the property.  As if by magic on Valentine's Day, just in time to show off for Deb and Craig, spring sprang!  These are the first tiny Baby Blue Eyes to appear.
Blossoms popped out on previously bare branches on the almond tree.  This was taken in the morning.  By afternoon, there was double this amount, lacy and lovely.
As I was walking down the slope to get a better shot of the almond tree, I noted a couple of turkeys scratching in the dirt and a lot of activity between their feet.  Hmmm.  Going closer, I saw this ground squirrel intent on digging a hole.  This is not an enlarged photo; he let me get this close  Squirrel was not intimidated and was definitely intent on his work.  I'm the one who backed off.  The look on his face told me that was the better option.
This is just one of many bouquets of daffodils that showed up in my yard.  I don't know what says spring better than the bright yellow daffys.  It's still amazing to me how the bulbs have migrated over the years from where they were planted to where they are now.
Any pictorial of Farview Farm would not be complete without a sundown.

It was a good day.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Cause For Celebration

Well, that went well.

Officially, yesterday was Valentine's Day.  Unofficially, it was a multipurpose holiday, and I certainly had cause for celebration on many fronts.  Made it down to Cam's early to feed her critters per instructions.  Cricket, the burro, was waiting up by the house and poked his long nose in the truck window as soon as I'd parked.  He had to wait while I prepared treats and refreshed the cats' food dishes.  I had to pay the toll with an apple chunk before Cricket would let me back in the truck.  Down in the barn, Shadow, the mini-donkey, and the chickens were waiting for their breakfast.  The feeding rituals at Cam's are complicated, but everyone got let in or out as directed and all were busy eating when I left.

Back at Farview, I got my own critters fed, milked (as appropriate), and the barn cleaned in record time.  For me, guilt is a great motivator and after the distractions of the day before, I had plenty of motivation.  I whipped through the to-do list chores and accomplished some that I hadn't even put on the board.  I was unstoppable.  Bessie Anne gave up following me from room to room, I was moving so fast.  I even had the table set by the time Deb and Craig arrived with bags and a bucket from KFC (how's that for a plus?).  While I think of fast food often, I rarely, and I'm talking once a year or so, actually have the "food of the gods," and it is such a treat.  A visit from my Kids is cause for celebration in itself, but throw in some KFC and I'm in heaven.

Chicken and coleslaw were not the only things Deb and Craig had carried in.  Giving up on a joint gathering of the clan, they'd brought Christmas too!  Soon gift wrap was flying through the air.  It was a good thing I'd left the tree up in the living room, bare as it was, because I was given a beautiful ornament, the only ornament on the tree.  The Kids had pretty much stuck to our $5 gift limit.  I cannot say the same for their cat, Clyde.  He must have saved all of his allowance for the year, because when I opened the package from him, I found a Blu-Ray DVD player and "Dances With Wolves."  Cats play by their own rules; what can I say?  Even the cat is dragging me into the 21st century.  (I still have drawers and shelves stocked with obsolete VHS tapes.)  Fortunately for me, Craig was there to hook up the new machine, otherwise I'd still be looking at the player in its box.  I am now the happy owner of four, count 'em, four! remote controls.  Good luck with that.  I can't imagine a better movie to watch in the new, astounding clarity than the sweeping vistas of "Dances With Wolves."

It has been noted that my family is big on traditions, of which Christmas is not the least.  The box of See's candy from Deb and Grandpa (my father) has meant Christmas to me for the 35 years since his death.  Steve's personal gift to Deb was always a perfume bottle, and he has continued to find one for her for the past 11 years.  I've lost count of the boxes, some ornamental, some actually useful, in many shapes and sizes, that I have given Deb over the years.  Tradition!

As the sun set, my dear Kids drove home, I tucked my other kids in, ate dinner of See's candy and leftover coleslaw (hey, I'm a grownup and can eat what I want), and reflected on all the reasons why the day was a true cause for celebration.

It was a good day.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


It seems I have the attention span of a gnat.  Anyone who has seen the animated movie "Up" knows that saying "Squirrel" could distract an attacking pack of dogs (I particularly loved the dog with the bad overbite and lisp).  It was important yesterday to get a lot done, so important that I put the to-do list up on the white board instead of the usual scrap of paper so it couldn't be ignored.  I started on a chore and noticed that the hummingbird feeders were empty.  (Thquirrel!)  While filling the feeders, I was tickled by long dry fronds of winter-dead licorice mint.  (Thquirrel!)  It was imperative that I clean out a few flower pots right then.  Back in the house.  Now what was I doing?  Forgetting the original chore, I got the vacuum cleaner from the closet.  Bess Anne needed to go outside.  (Thquirrel!)  It was such a beautiful day, I joined her for awhile.  There were two slices of pizza left in the fridge calling my name.  Bess agreed we should have lunch just to get the box out of the refrigerator.  It wouldn't take long to vacuum later, so we took a break.  During the break, Jacques Pepin's Heart & Soul show came on.  I never miss an episode of his.  (Thquirrel!)

And that's the way the entire day went, one distraction after another.  I got a grand total of one crossed off the list (vacuuming the house).  I guess some progress is better than none.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

It's All Relative

There are certainly issues of concern out there in the big world today:  global warming, terrorism, presidential elections, California drought, to name but a few.  Here at Farview, we are not immune to tragedy, but on a much smaller, more personal scale.  There was no need to call out CSI yesterday to tell me there had been a murder, even though there was no body.  This pitiful little pile of fluff and fur by the goat pen told the tale.  I'm guessing either a bunny or a squirrel didn't make it home and an owl or possibly a coyote had breakfasted well.  Living as closely with a variety of animals and fowl as I do, I wonder how sentient these creatures are.  Is there a family waiting in a burrow, worried about the one who will never return?  Do they grieve?  Certainly not an event to make headlines but, all things being relative, definitely a tragedy to those involved, the victim not the least.

I will be caring for Camille's critters for a few days and went down yesterday to get an update on their schedules:  who gets what, when, and where every morning (another gal has evening chores).  Dry food, canned food, treats and water for the cats.  Seeded, chunked-up apples (one-half each) for the donkeys.  Senior pellets for Cricket, hay pellets for Shadow, and a split flake of alfalfa between the two.  Scratch and mash for the chickens.  Honey will be staying with friends, and the alpacas are no longer in residence.  My animals would feel absolutely neglected if I told them about the special treatment Cam's kids get, so I won't tell them.  It's all relative.

Speaking of relatives, today is my son Dave's birthday, and tomorrow my daughter and son from another mother are coming up.  That's the best kind of relativity.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Calendar Challenged

It's no secret that I have trouble with the calendar:  days of the week, holidays (still waiting for Christmas), birthdays, etc.  The problem is evidently infectious because even my cellphone isn't really sure of the date or time in the morning.  It's slower to wake up than I.  I know this when the clock tells me 4:30 a.m. and the phone says it's 11:30 p.m. from the night before.  Like me, it waits until the coffee is made to catch up.  The working world happily anticipates the weekend.  Goats are a seven-day-a-week job and "weekend" is not in our vocabulary.  If the landline phone rings before 6 a.m., I know before I pick up that it must be Saturday or possibly Sunday.  Better yet, since it is not a "normal" visiting time, I know who it is.  Unlike any phone call after 8 p.m., this is not an emergency.  (My family knows that if they call after 8, they'd better be bleeding!)  Deb and Craig work goofy hours and get up around the same time as I.  Deb can't break the habit.  Craig sleeps in on days off, so Deb sometimes calls to chat in the wee hours of the morning while he snoozes.  It's becoming a ritual, one I look forward to and so enjoy.  Mother-daughter time is precious.  I won't get a call this weekend but I'm not sad because, be still my heart, Deb and Craig are coming up on Sunday!  Craig is one of my bonus boys like Clay, and this week is a Son Bonanza.  Did I mention that I'd lost my bet with Deb, Craig, and Clay on the Super Bowl?  The lengths some people will go to collect their nickel winnings.

Okay.  This is Friday, tomorrow is Saturday, and then comes Sunday.  Yay!  Got it!!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Making Tracks

The Breakfast Club had not yet gathered when I tossed down the buffet yesterday, so I wondered what had made multiple parallel lines in the dirt (click the picture to enlarge).  That mystery was solved when the toms arrived, puffed out to twice their size and strutting with measured pace.  They periodically would strike their wingtips against the ground and drag them along as they walked.  "Look at me!  Am I not fine?!"  That little female looks positively mousy next to the boys all dressed up, and it's hard to tell if she was suitably impressed with the display of testosterone or more interested in a good meal.

I'm a little worried about the prospects of a true El Nino year.  It's not yet March and the girls are starting to shed their undercoat fluff.  It has been unseasonably warm the last few days and difficult to remember that it was just a little over a week ago that we had snow.  It was very nice, however, to see rushing water in the Cosumnes river yesterday.  One can hope.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Red Letter Day

It is so great when an ordinary day turns into an extraordinary day, and yesterday was exactly that.  Linda and I had arranged to meet for lunch and then I got word that Clay was coming up.  Critters fed, barn chores done, spiffed up in clean bibbies, and I was ready to go.  (Okay, so I didn't get the dusting done.)  The weather was perfect and Clay took advantage to ride up on his Harley, the roar of that big engine announcing his arrival long before he came up the drive.  Once upon a time, long, long ago (back in the '70s) I bought a motorcycle when few-to-no women rode bikes alone.  Having ridden behind on the buddy seat for years, I really loved the feeling of independence of driving by myself.  This said, I almost wished I could ride with Clay, but reality struck and so we took my truck up to Pleasant Valley.  We met Linda at The Pizza Factory.  At the risk of sounding like a commercial, The Pizza Factory makes really great pizza.  The franchises are consistent and never fail to please.  With the temp in the 70s, we sat on the patio to pig out on pepperoni and one of my favorites, the Blanca, nothing but cheese and garlic.  It'll keep you safe from vampires, I promise!  Stuffed to the gills, it was time to say goodbye and head back to the house.

I had asked Clay for help with the acorn problem in the shed.  Day after day, I'd been pushing out acorns to be eaten by the turkeys and squirrels and had cleared a path back to the birdseed barrel.  The ceiling, drywall and insulation, still hung in shreds, blocking the door and threatening to come crashing down.  It wasn't something I wanted to tackle on my own, fearing the body might not be found later under the avalanche of acorns.  Ever willing to rack up Good Son points, Clay carefully pulled down the hanging sections of ceiling and dodging the downfall.  One of these days I'm going to have to load up the truck and make another dump run with the broken drywall panels.

Any day one (or more) of my kids come up is a very special day, and yesterday was no exception, a red letter day, indeed.

As an aside, a text from Emmy proved the power of the pen.  She let me know that "nostalgia got the best" of her, and she'd bought liverwurst, and it was as good as she'd remembered.  We could start a whole new marketing trend!

It was a good day.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Littles and the Bigs

Some sort of selection-slash-separation process seems to be going on in the mouse colony.  It could be that the teenagers are moving out on their own, or perhaps the adults have had it and have kicked their half-grown offspring out of the nest to fend for themselves.  Naturally, I put down grain for both tribes.  As I sit on the milking stand, to my left are the youngsters.  I have to look under the goat's belly to see the grownups on my right so I see more of the kids, and sometimes it's startling how much bigger the adults are.  I had thought that mice bred continuously throughout the year, but I realized it's been quite awhile since I've seen actual babies.

I have no scientific proof and Google doesn't provide much help, but observation alone tells me that there is a specific cycle going on.  The parents appear to raise one litter at a time, all at or near the same time, keeping the little ones close by until they're capable of being on their own.  That's when the dynamics and locations change.  Right now, the adults are enjoying some down time, taking a breather before starting a new family.  I haven't seen any obviously pregnant females in quite awhile.  According to what information I could find, estrus may come in March.  Some "experts" say that mice breed continuously.  Perhaps they do in captivity, but not from what I see with wild mice.  All agree that there is a 21-day gestation period, which would result in the first litters of hairless, blind pups arriving in April.  I'll have to pay more attention to the calendar and see how this plays out.

All I know for sure is that the Littles are on the left and the Bigs are on the right for the time being.  If the Littles become sexually active, will they move back to the right?  Will there be two colonies of Bigs?  If so, where will the new crop of Littles go?  Ahh, 'tis a mystery.

Monday, February 8, 2016


There I was, cleaning stalls and thinking about normal things, and my train of thought suddenly jumped the rails and there was my mother and snails.  My mother had a pathological hatred of snails.  Many's the time she'd get me out of bed and into the yard at sunup to go snail hunting.  She said we had to be out there while the dew was still on the ground.  Were it up to her, snails would have been eradicated, or at least on the endangered species list.  I can almost see her dancing a tarantella on the lawn in the early morning as she stamped on the gastropod molluscs.  It was embarrassing; she didn't confine her hunt to our yard alone.  Just as she would pull weeds wherever we were, she killed snails when we were visiting, too.  While I would stomp alongside her, doing my part, I was a terrible disappointment to Mother.  I was more interested in a snail's method of locomotion and could watch them for hours.  As a kid, I thought snails were a form of slug that had found a little house to carry for shelter like a hermit crab.  Wrong.

I guess the point of this is that, of all the places I've lived, up here is the only place that has no snails.  Gophers, voles, ground and tree squirrels, deer, all determined to eat whatever I try to grow, but no snails.  In all these years, I've seen three banana slugs and not one snail.  Note to self:  get thinking back on track.

I'm sure anyone who paid the outrageous price for a ticket is crowing about the "great" Super Bowl 50 yesterday.  After so much hype, I felt it was a pretty lackluster game, and few outstanding commercials, to boot.  But that's just my opinion.

The sausage and peppers turned out even better than hoped for, so it was a good day, regardless.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Family Meeting

I called the meeting to order.  Bessie Anne, Ralph, and Celeste gathered around to hear The Word According To Mom regarding sleeping arrangements.  It's possible that I only had their attention because of the treats I was handing out, but, hey, they serve donuts and drinks at board meetings, don't they?  Whatever it takes, sez I.  Using my most serious tones, I explained to the group that this swaddling of the mom in blankets at night had to stop, and stop right now.  I'm sure they nodded in agreement before they lost interest and began wandering off.  Ralph said he had business to attend to, Celeste caught sight of a squirrel in the front yard, and Bess fell asleep.  Having said my piece, I felt better, and crossed my fingers.

Maybe it was the growly voice, but something clicked and last night the critters took their assigned spots on the bed.  I'd like to say I got a good night's sleep, but....  I kept waking up to see if I were trapped and, finding freedom, I kept turning like a rotisserie chicken and poking a foot out from the blankets again and again, just because I could.  It was pure joy, but not very restful.

No words are necessary.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Bedtime Claustrophobia

When we brought Bessie Anne home from the shelter, I had a nice puffy dog bed for her next to the people bed and suggested she be trained to sleep there.  Steve said, "No, she's too little and she needs to sleep with us."  "Us" meant on my side next to me.  And so it was.  Later, when I was alone, Bessie moved over to the empty pillow and claimed that as her spot.  That worked.  When Ralph and Celeste moved in, they claimed the foot of the bed by my feet and I had no say in the matter.  Since they stayed to the middle side of the bed, I might get pushed to the edge but could still poke a foot out from under the covers and I was okay with that.  I'm one of those people who sleep "hot" even in winter and regulate heat by pushing a foot out to cool off.  The last few nights I have awakened in a panic, not able to turn over and not able to get a foot free, blankets nailed down by Bess on one side and the cats on the other.  It's positively claustrophobic and I'm helpless.  The cats are heavier than the marble lions at the library and Bess, jammed against my back, is an immovable object.  I'm trapped!  Struggle as I might, I'm effectively cocooned.  We're going to have to have a family meeting about this.

It is so much easier to acclimatize to cold weather than hot.  Temps in the 50s are shirt-sleeve, open-door days, and yesterday was one of those.  Hearing Ralph's kek-kek-kek alert, I looked up to see the cats intently watching the turkeys parading past on the driveway.  "Oh, look, Celeste!  One for you and one for me!"

It was a good day, but a helluva night.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Bessie Is A Bull

Since Bessie Anne was a shelter dog, her actual birthday is unknown.  We brought her home toward the end of March when she was approximately eight weeks old, so odds are she's probably a Pisces, possibly an Aquarius.  However, one bull recognizes another and in her heart, she's Taurus through and through.  She is determined (some might say stubborn), focused (possibly single-minded), loves treats (sometimes to excess), and she does not like change.  We have our routines in place and things should be done in the same way, preferably at the same time of day, every day.  I understand.

I have had the same welcome mat on the front step for close to 20 years and it was getting worn, colorless, and pretty ratty, so I recently bought a new one.  I spent a bit of time choosing one that Bessie would like because her favorite afternoon spot is lying on the porch in the sunshine.  (Mornings are spent with me on the deck.)  Other mats would be more efficient to wipe shoes clean but they would not have been so comfortable for my friend, so I opted for one very similar in style to the old one, flat and thin.  So much for good intentions.  I rolled up the worn mat and proudly put down the new one.  Bess sniffed it all over and stamped it "reject."  For well over a week she has squeezed herself onto what space was left on the step, avoiding the new mat entirely.  Crum.  I guess I've wiped enough barnyard "stuff" on the mat over time so that it has developed the right character to satisfy my girl.  I noticed yesterday that she has once again resumed her spot.  We Taureans may not like change, but we can adapt.  And that's no bull.

Thursday, February 4, 2016


I don't know which feels better:  getting an unreachable itch scratched or satisfying a food craving, but oh, what a relief it is!  One and one-half liverwurst, muenster cheese, and mayo sandwiches on fresh, extra-sour rye bread for dinner last night.  Satisfaction guaranteed.  I'd become absolutely fixated and it was worth the trip to the grocery store to get liverwurst if for no other reason than I could stop thinking about it.  Not wanting to waste a trip, I started going through flavor profiles as I walked the aisles.  Superbowl Sunday coming up.  Hmmm.  Nobody is coming over, but it didn't seem right not to have football fare.  Italian sausage and peppers would be appropriate.  Check.  I haven't fixed a real grown-up meal in awhile.  Hmmm.  Crock-pot beef roast with dry onion and cream of mushroom soups, with mashed potatoes and gravy and a side of steamed broccoli.  The aroma of that cooking all day, oh yeah!  Check.  With the fridge stocked, maybe I can quit thinking about food now.  Lots of leftovers in my future; oh goody!

The weather is flopping around like a fish out of water.  Snow on Tuesday, and by Monday we're predicted to be in the 70s.  Yesterday all the water troughs and bowls were frozen.  Today there's no sign of frost.  It's hard to know how to dress.  Bibbies, of course, but which jacket or how many jackets to put on?  The layered look is definitely "in" this winter.  It was grand to drive over the bridges on the Cosumnes river and see water rushing between the banks.  It's been awhile, for sure.

It's always nice to be welcomed home.  Bessie Anne is usually at the door to greet me, but I got a laugh from an unexpected source yesterday when I drove up.  Narcissus was in his place and could hardly wait for me to park the truck.  I was unloading bags and he was already crooning to his reflection.  He may need an intervention.  There's no "ahhh" in his future.

It was a good day.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


"Yesterday" (Beatles, 1965).  Finishing up the blog when I noticed snow falling and went to take this picture yesterday morning.  Had to go out the dining room door because the Christmas tree was still in front of the living room door.  Will it ever stop being an accent piece in the living room??  I was joined on the deck by four hummingbirds at the feeder.  Poor little things were just sitting there, probably trying to conserve energy.

An hour, hour-and-a-half later I moved The Tree out of the way and this is the view from the living room door.  It was a day-long struggle to keep the wood stove cranked up to speed.  All the snow was gone by noon, but it never got to 40 degrees outside and the house was cold.  Bessie Anne got her feelings hurt because the cats were on my lap and I told her no.  There's just such a difference between a 10- 12-pound cat and an almost 50-pound dog on my legs.  (Bess has big bones.)

Imagine my dismay after chores when I discovered the landline phone was dead.  For a communications company, AT&T leaves something to be desired.  It took three calls (on the cellphone), dutifully punching buttons as directed, and a full half-hour to finally talk to a real, live person.  "You are a real, live person, aren't you, Mike?"  Mike had no sense of humor whatsoever.  It seems you have to be calling from the number with the problem for the AT&T automated system to register the problem, which is a problem when that number is out of service, don't you see?  Mike informed me that the lines had been cut and the best he could promise was they would be repaired by Friday at 9 p.m.  Aarrgh.  Imagine my surprise when the house phone rang a half-hour later.  It was a wrong number, but I wasn't going to complain.  I then got three separate calls from different AT&T reps, informing me that the lines had been fixed.  When the one gentleman reported that number such-and-such was back in service, I couldn't help myself.  "Yes, dear, that's the number you dialed to reach me, even as we speak."

As such days go, it went.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Road Trip

Winter.  California winter, to be sure, but it is winter and I've had enough wet and cold so that cabin fever is setting in and I'm getting the itch to travel.  Once upon a time, long, long ago, I did a lot of traveling.  My father bought my mother a new Buick every two years, and every new car meant a road trip to "break it in."  No more than 50 miles per hour for X number of miles (100?  500?).  This was well before freeways so we weren't holding up traffic.  A favorite destination for these biennial outings was the Hotel El Rancho in Santa Maria, a town known for a once-a-year tri-tip pit barbecue and beans festival.  A shorter trip might find us at the Miramar Hotel in Santa Barbara on the coast.  Towards autumn, we might go to Yosemite National Park.  My dad wasn't much for tent camping, so we stayed at the Ahwahnee Hotel.  We all enjoyed the evening campfire and park ranger talks, but especially the firefall from Glacier Point after dark, when a huge bonfire was pushed off the cliff and embers cascaded down.  They no longer do that, but it was spectacular.  I've been to Yellowstone National Park any number of times, and never failed to be amazed at Nature at her finest there.  When I was 15, my mother and I took off on a road trip and ended up in Vancouver, British Columbia.  That trip was when I learned to drive, really drive.  My dad had taught me the rudiments in the empty parking lot at Santa Anita Race Track, but that was nothing to driving through the mountains of Washington.  I remember him clinging to the door, yelling, "Slow down!  Slow down!"  Mother was made of sterner stuff.  Long vacations meant a train ride, possibly to the east coast or even to Mexico City.  Just walking into Union Station in Los Angeles was exciting.  Hawaii was on my itinerary twice, and I loved it.  Later in life, one of my greatest experiences was going to eleven countries overseas, a trip never to be forgotten.

Ah, well.  That was then, this is now.  Even if it weren't for the goats, chickens, dog, and cats, I know I wouldn't leave here if a trip were offered.  Going as far as Cameron Park fills me with dread.

Omigosh, it's snowing!  And I'll be stuck in the cabin...again.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Roller Coaster

The thermometer has taken a trip on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.  The last few weeks have been surprisingly warm, well into the 50s and even up to the 60s, even when it rained.  We evidently got to the top of the roller coaster yesterday when temps plummeted.  Pea-size hail hit like rock salt when I was putting the kids to bed last evening.  Farther up the hill, I hear a good five inches of snow fell, but we didn't get any.  Twenty-six degrees at 5 o'clock this morning; sure glad I've got firewood on the porch.

Here it is February and I'm still trying to get a consensus as to when we might celebrate Christmas.  We've always had a pretty relaxed attitude toward the calendar for holidays, but even I think this is carrying it a bit far.  Dave and Clay had come up and I'd handed off the homemade holiday snacks (still waiting on the table for Deb, Craig, and Larry), and now Dave and Clay are asking for refills.  I told Clay that people were beginning to look at me funny because I still have a Christmas tree in my living room.  He said that I talk to mice and turkeys and people look at me funny anyhow.  He's right, of course.  What can I say?

After a short burst of sunlight while the hail plonked down, the cloud cover came back at sundown.

The weather app tells me it's now 30 at 6 a.m., feels like 25, and there's a 10% chance of snow today.  Guess the roller coaster ride isn't over.  Hang on!