Thursday, March 31, 2016

Hodge-Podge Thoughts

Pinky is the mouse equivalent of Narcissus, the turkey who admires himself in anything shiny.  I set one of the buckets on the ground in the milking room.  Pinky runs around and around the stainless steel bucket, trying to get a better angle of her reflection.  What is it with these creatures?

The lawn tractor (mower) has had a vacation for months now, but all good things come to an end.  I need to take all the gas cans with me today when I fill up the truck.  Almost overnight, the yards are getting tall with weeds and need mowing.  Helper Dude used the last from the cans to start the burn pile.  It's still pretty cold, even with the sun shining.  The other morning there was ice in the troughs, and a chill wind blows daily.  If I don't get a head start on the weeds, it will just get harder later.  I admit I'm looking forward to tootling around (left turn, left turn, left turn - Fair Play NASCAR) when the weather is nice.

The drought may not be officially over, but I think it will be safe to plant a garden this year.  It will be another month or so before it will be safe from frost.  Deb and Craig already started their garden down in the valley, but birds stole most of their seeds already.  If it's not one thing, it's another.

I said I'd bring dessert tomorrow, but can't decide if I want to make a peaches-and-cream pie with the peaches in the freezer or buttermilk pie.  If you don't know buttermilk pie, you have no connections to Texas.  It is a light, lemony custard and is right up there with lemon meringue as my favorite.  I'm not much on cake, but love pie.  It might be remembered the year (was it just last year?) that I made eight pies in one day for our combined birthday party.  Dave mentioned yesterday that he will make the filling for butterscotch pie, but it never makes it to the pie shell because he ends up eating the butterscotch from the pan.

I guess the squirrels and turkeys have had their fill of acorns.  I got rid of a lot of the acorns in the shed by pushing a bucket or so out the door and they were gone by night fall, but lately they're starting to pile up and it's like walking on marbles when I put out the birdseed.  Now what am I to do with all the leftovers?

It's breaking daylight and I've got things to do and places to go, and had best get to it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Keep On Truckin'

Good old Truck.  Truck is 18 years old now and I hold my breath when it comes time for a smog check, wondering if this will be "the time."  Back in the day with a different car I would put over 40,000 miles a year on the engine.  Now I drive less than 3,000 miles annually, mostly here in the hills with a trip to the valley maybe once or twice a year.  But still, in car years 18 is getting up there.

A trip to town requires time calculation; it takes about a half-hour to get to Placerville.  Did I have enough time to get gas first?  No.  Did I have enough gas?  Y-e-s-s.  (I try to never let the tank get below half, but have had to make several trips recently and I'm not sure the gauge is reliable.)  I allowed 45 minutes in case there were flatlanders on the road.  I always carry a book along in the unlikely event I'm ever early, but what's 15 minutes?  Leaving Bess in charge, I headed out.  I only wear a watch when I'm going to town.  Going through Bucks Bar, I glanced at said watch and, oh no!  How could I possibly have miscalculated so badly?  I was going to be not 15 minutes early but an hour and fifteen minutes.  Good thing I had a book.  Figuratively smacking my forehead, it dawned on me that I had not set my watch to daylight saving time and was right on schedule.  (I've tried so hard not to go into my twice-a-year diatribe on the time change.)

The guys in the shop laughed when I arrived (early) and said they would not punish me by making me wait 15 minutes to start the paperwork.  In fact, they took Truck right in.  I'd barely read a chapter when Smog Guy came back, flourished the form and said we'd passed with flying colors.

Good old Truck.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Dressing Up

Little boys clomp around in their dad's shoes.  Little girls try on Mama's hats and high heels.  Playing dress up is part of every kid's history.  It is said that as we grow old, we enter a second childhood.  I do believe I've made the conversion because I realized the other day that I am playing dress up in somebody else's hide.  The skin I'm wearing now belongs to a much larger person as it certainly doesn't fit me.  It sags and ripples, and that person obviously feels about ironing as I do about dusting because all the wrinkles are permanent accessories.  No amount of hot water will shrink it to fit.  This game of dress up is combined with hide-and-seek, because I'm the me I always was until I look in the mirror; that's when the switch occurs.  Ah well, it still covers all the pieces-parts.  The answer, of course, is to stop looking in mirrors.

Nature can't make up her mind.  The weekend was warm, up in the 70s.  Yesterday I awoke to rain and it was cold, cold, cold.  The rain stopped, but I wished I'd worn gloves down to the barn.  Back in the house, I finally broke down and lit the wood stove.  That was a good thing, because later in the day it rained again and hailed.  Sunset was gorgeous (no pictures until I get the cellphone and computer back on speaking terms).  Temps are down in the 30s this morning with heavy frost, but the skies are (temporarily) clear.

This is going to be a busy week.  Today is go-to-town and get the truck smogged.  I've been invited to Tinka's in Fiddletown to meet up with Kit and Earlene on Friday.  Unlike the town trip, that's an outing to look forward to.  I might dress up in something other than bibbies for that.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Down Time

The day after a holiday (or even company for dinner) is a day for R&R.  I give myself a pass because the dreaded dusting and other onerous housework was done in advance.  The most ambitious chore done yesterday, besides barn work, was filling the hummer feeders.  Those little guys are gathering in great numbers again and emptying all three bottles daily.  Note to self:  put sugar on the grocery list.  Bessie Anne was a happy dog; the weather was sunny and warm so we spent a lot of time outside.  As her sight dims and her hearing goes, she feels more secure if we go out together.  I should have mentioned that Bess was in 7th heaven while the boys were here.  She loves Dave and Clay, but Craig is obviously her favorite.  Deb and I are chopped liver when the boys are around, no matter how much we flatter and treat her.

Dinner last night was a ham sandwich and jelly beans.  It took me a minute to translate "bon bons haricots" on the package into "jelly beans."  I ate the green ones so I'm pretty sure I covered all the food groups.

To finish off a do-nothing day, I watched "Mr. Selfridge" on PBS.  It's the final season of this series and I've been waiting and waiting.  Having seen documentaries on this man, I know there won't be a happy ending, but he was fascinating and Jeremy Piven has been excellent.  A preview of returning and new series was shown.  Good stuff coming on PBS!

It was a good day.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Ham And Eggs

"Merpy Christer!"  Yesterday was our family's combo holiday of the long-awaited Christmas and premature Easter.  Guess it's pretty obvious that we march to our own drummer and throw darts at the calendar to pick dates for get-togethers.  Since we're none of us quite grown up yet, I dyed eggs for my kiddies, but drew the line at hiding them.  I felt bad because I had no Easter candy to give my children.  I bought some, but I ate it.

Christmas has been piecemeal this year.  Dave and Clay came up on the agreed date and I'd given them the homemade goodies then.  Presents, per se, were held back until the group gathered.  Deb and Craig had come up last month and we exchanged gifts and they brought presents for Dave, Clay, and Larry, leaving them under the Christmas tree.  Keep up here.  Yesterday Dave was loaded with Easter bags filled with Christmas presents (I know, it's confusing), as well as chocolate bunnies and jelly beans.  Dave had gone hog wild for me and this hat was only one of piggy oriented presents in my bag.  I admit I'm partial to the oh-so-soft microwaveable pig neck warmer.  Sticking with the more conventional holiday, Deb and Craig brought a beautiful container of growing tulips for Easter.  I can't wait until they bloom.

As I've said before, every holiday dinner menu will be exactly the same as it was all the years before.  Easter is ham, hard-boiled eggs, red potatoes and peas combined, and jello folded into whipped cream.  No changes, no additions.  It's tradition!

The table cleared, cards came out and chips were distributed for another family tradition, poker.  I am very pleased to say that I came out ahead on our two-dollar buy in.

What I have not yet mentioned is that Clay was focused on Easter and forgot his Christmas gifts, and Larry wasn't able to come yesterday.  Christmas is going to be the never-ending holiday this year because the dadblasted tree is still in the living room and there are more presents underneath.  I guess I'll be saying ho-ho-ho on the Fourth of July.

As Yogi Berra said, "It ain't over til it's over."  It ain't over yet.

It was a very good day.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Practice Run

It wasn't Peter Cottontail hopping down the Bunny was Mr. Longears leisurely making his way down inside the fence line in the goat pen on a practice run.  We have a lot of jackrabbits up here, but very few cottontails anymore.  There used to be some crossbreeds in the past, probably Easter bunnies that escaped, but they were possibly done in by predators over time.  The goats were standing in the pen, just watching Mr. Longears as he made a sharp right at the barn, went across the pen and through the fence into Joel's vineyard.

Seeing wildlife is very often a case of being in the right place at the right time.  Later in the day, Bess and I were on walkabout when either the same or another jackrabbit headed to the vineyard, this time outside the pen by the main gate.  He suddenly put the pedal to the metal and squeezed through the fence and under the dead (not dead, just dormant) grape vines.  No dumb bunny, that, as a hawk swooped down, made a grab, and missed.  Screeching in frustration, the hawk flew off and Mr. Longears made his escape.

Not to worry, the Easter eggs will be delivered on time.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Lost In Space

Phooey on all electronics.  They do not play nice and I've about had it up to here with their attitudes.  Yesterday it was my computer having a fight with my browser and neither one would speak to the other.  They'd been having a tiff on and off for some time, but rebooting (and a few harsh words) seemed to settle them down and get them to shake hands again.  Yesterday they slammed their doors and turned their backs.  Multiple, multiple tests and trials by the nice guy at technical support did not have the desired result.  I don't know how it is at anyone else's house, but my computer tower is in a dark corner and there is a spaghetti snarl of wires going every which way.  "Unplug the wire going from here to there and plug it into someplace else."  I'm standing on my head with a flashlight in one hand, trying to find the right wire and the right slot, feeling like a dolt because I can't find the slot on the computer marked "LAN."  Turned out that Tech Guy was misdirecting me and there was no such slot on the computer; he'd meant modem.  Crum.  After he'd run all those tests and I had done my stint as a contortionist, switching two plugs on the router fixed the problem.  It was as simple as that.

However (there's always a lurking however).  Aaargh!  Now my SmartPhone will not talk to the computer and will not retrieve any Email.  I further bollixed the situation by trying to change the password.  I know full well that all of my info is somewhere out in space, but I can't get there from here.

It was not a good day.

Thursday, March 24, 2016


Two hours on the phone with technical support this morning (computer on the blink).  Up and running once again...but out of "play time."  Will try to get back to The View after barn chores.  Hold the good thought!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Well, That Was Different

It was a simply glorious morning.  Blue, blue skies, big puffy white clouds sailing over the hills, bright sunshine on green, green grass.  One of those "all's right with the world" days.  The girls behaved beautifully.  Two new (recognizable) faces appeared in the mouse colony, Pixie and Pinky.  Most of the little creatures' ears could be models for Mickey Mouse, round.  Pixie has pointed ears.  I thought at first I might be seeing them from an odd angle, but no, her ears have a decided point.  Hmmm.  Pinky is another anomaly, with pale fur and rosy ears and nose.  She's not an albino, but definitely different from the rest.  I was surprised to see Persistent Percy show up in the milking room, making a raid on the mice's feed.  It's been a long while since he's shown up.

After days of downpour, I agreed with Bess that it was a morning to sit on the deck in the sun after chores.  After months of bare branches on the oaks, it was almost strange to see a shadow on the ground under the oak in full leaf, certainly a sign of changing seasons.  It was not so pleasant to see the trees full of pollen fronds.

The supply of cat food was dangerously low and I needed to round out the supplies for Easter dinner, so a trip to the "local" grocery store was in order.  While getting ready to leave, the skies turned grey and suddenly rain and then hail! started falling.  The spring vagaries of weather are amazing.  Nothing for it but to go to the store anyhow.  It was a good reminder that I need to get new windshield wipers the next time I go to town.  It rained hard all the way to Pleasant Valley.  Shopping for just a few items did not take long, and when I walked out of the store, it was into blindingly bright sunshine again.  Go figure.

With the overcast skies of this past week gone, a full moon rose last night.  Sure could have used that celestial night light when the power went out.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Chickens Aren't Chicken

Rain off and on all day yesterday and the goats huddled in the play yard, in the little shed, and wherever they could stay out of the rain.  The chickens, on the other hand, went inside the coop only during the worst downpours.  When it was only drizzling, they were out in their pen, scratching and pecking as usual.  Maybe their feathers are more waterproof than goat hide, I don't know.  They are braver than I, for sure, because I holed up in the house all day.

In the evening, I settled in to watch "The Blue Gardenia" (1953, Anne Baxter, Richard Conte, Ann Sothern, Raymond Burr).  It isn't on my list of Top Ten, but not a bad flick.  About halfway through and...  Blip!  The power went out.  Found the flashlight, made the call to PG&E, and lit the oil lamp.  It was only 8:30, too early to go to bed (I'm a grownup, after all).  Sitting in the dim light, I was glad to have a warm, breathing cat on my lap and Bessie's head on my feet.  It can get pretty lonely in total silence and nearly complete darkness.  When Steve was alive and we lost power, we'd light the lamps and play cards.  I had a little light that would attach to a book and sometimes I'd read aloud to him.  Reading was difficult for him, but he did love to listen to a good story.  Being without electricity became an adventure.

One never knows when PG&E will find and fix the problem, but it's best to prepare for the long haul.  Note to self:  wash the glass chimneys and trim the wicks on the oil lamps soon.  I was running various scenarios through my head for the evening and, ta da!, the power came back.  It had been out for only 45 minutes, close to a record.  I blew out the lamp, waited for the television to find itself again on the satellite, fast-forwarded the movie to the last scene viewed, and just as Baxter was ready to confess...  Blip!  Back to black.  Oh, come on.  Not again.  About the time I'd decided to throw in the towel and find my way to the bedroom, ta da again.  Only a half-hour this time.  Okay, same routine:  found where the film had left off, hoped for the best, and watched to the end.  Went to bed.

End of story.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Rodeo Queen

Yesterday started, not with a bang, but a thump.  That was me hitting the ground.  Inga has been getting better and better about leaving the barn on a lead rope, and yesterday was the best yet.  She didn't fight me at all in her stall and I was mentally saying, "Good girl, way to go."  We were calmly walking in the aisle leaving the barn when she bolted.  It wasn't until we were through the gate, me hanging on to the rope, that I did a face plant in the ankle-high, very wet grass outside.  Inga dragged me around on the ground and I will admit to yelling expletives.  "Good girl" was not in there.  Letting a goat get the best of me (get my goat, as it were) wasn't going to happen, so I hung on, feeling very much like a rodeo calf roper while I struggled to get to my feet.  Once I was up, Inga pretended that nothing had happened and went directly into the milking room and up on the stand.  "Rhinestone Cowboy" played in my head while I sat in sopping britches to milk her out.  Her, and all the others.  My bibbies were still soaked when I got back to the house.  By then I could laugh about it and almost wish there'd been a camera around.

NASCAR race days are good days to get little chores done, and it seemed a good idea to keep moving so I didn't stiffen up after the morning activities.  The theory was, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," so I decorated the still-standing Christmas tree for Easter.  If it's still up in July, I'll add the Stars and Stripes.  What the heck.

With impeccable timing, Linda arrived just as the race came to a very exciting conclusion and we had a nice visit, and I got the girls back in the barn just before the rain started.

It was quite a day for the Queen of the Rodeo.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Peace And Quiet

"Do you hear it?"
"Hear what?  I don't hear anything."

There isn't a lot for modern-day kids to do up here if they're not into agriculture or animal husbandry.  I understand that.  Even if they're old enough for a driver's license, Placerville doesn't have a lot going for a teenager.   Dirt bikes provide recreation and a good way to blow off some steam for youngsters.  While I've been relieved that said kids didn't live right next door, when I'd hear dirt bikes roaring around someone's property once in awhile for the past nineteen years, I figured that kid wasn't out bashing mailboxes or getting into trouble some other way.  We knew they were kids because it was quiet during school hours on weekdays, a little more noisy on some weekends.

That said, the last couple of months have been almost intolerable.  Someone a hill or two over set up a dirt bike track for the "public" and the noise level increased daily as more riders joined the pack.  The first bikes fire up before I go down to the barn and the roaring is constant until sunset.  Those have to be some of the most calloused butts in Fair Play.  No breaks for lunch, no breaks at all.  No such thing as sitting on the deck or porch here to enjoy the quiet during the day on any day of the week.

I really believe in "do your own thing," until your thing affects me adversely.  Last week I called the County Supervisor's Office and County Code Enforcement to register a complaint regarding the noise.  Mine was not the only one received and I was told a case file had been opened and a letter had been sent.

Squeaky wheels are evidently louder than dirt bikes, because yesterday, and a Saturday at that, not one engine started all day long.  Ahh, the peace and quiet was wonderful.  It may not last long, but it sure was nice while it lasted.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Lost And Found

Lost and found, and lost again.  Bess was already loaded in the truck when I went back to the house for some forgotten item.  And there was hairless hamster!  Poor ratty little thing.  On a dead run, I snapped the photo, thinking that I'd put the stuffing back and sew him up when we got home.  So much for good intentions.  Ralph has hidden Hairy again.

Helper Dude showed up yesterday at first light to set the brush pile on fire.  It really, really needed to get done.  A lot more burnable stuff had been added and little birds like to build their nests in the brush.  I couldn't bear the thought of a birdie barbecue.  Also, it won't be long before no-burn season begins.  There are those chores for which I'm a wuss, and setting the brush pile alight alone is one of them.  Even with hose and shovel at the ready, if the fire got out of hand I don't move as fast as I used to and I'd not want to endanger others on the hill.  I was very happy to have HD's help and presence.

I had made a bad error in judgement, letting the tires on the hand cart get too low and the bead broke on one.  When I got around to starting the little air compressor, I made it worse by pushing the stem inside the rim.  Crum.  Dead in the water and no way to get grain down to the barn without the cart.  Fortunately, there is a tire repair shop right next to the feed store.  They keep rather erratic hours so I was hoping they'd be open yesterday, and they were!  Tire Guy had both tires fixed and filled by the time Feed Guy had loaded the grain.  I hadn't asked for an estimate, so I was a happy camper to pay the $5 bill.

Bubble and Squeak for dinner!

It was a good day.  (And maybe Hairy will show up again.)

Friday, March 18, 2016

Gone Missing

I fear Ralph may have murdered the hairless hamster and hidden the body.  Two wads of stuffing were found, one in the living room, one on the stairs.  I had picked up hamster and noted it had a rip, so set it aside to repair later.  My mistake.  I've saved the stuffing in case the husk turns up.  The hamster is/was hairless because the cats played so rough.  They have so many toys, but that one was a favorite.

My theory about the Bigs and Littles appears to be accurate.  Mice on the right side are getting downright chubby and obviously pregnant, waddling rather than running.  More Littles are showing up on the left, evidently cast out of the nests to live on their own and make room for the new crop of babies.  The Littles dash under the stand to get a drink of milk, which I can only squirt to the right.

I enjoyed the company of my friend Harold at dinner last night, and Harold enjoyed the corned beef and cabbage.  It's a once-a-year treat and it wouldn't be St. Patrick's Day without it.  I had to laugh, we both wore green shirts.  It wouldn't do for hostess or guest to be pinching the other.  Some traditions die hard.  I'd been worried that Bessie Anne might do a repeat of her poor behavior, but she went quietly under the table (I can't abide a begging dog) and put her head on Harold's foot.  I have no idea why she behaved as she did with Tecla.

The weather has been glorious, up in the low 70s.  The lilacs are full of buds and the oaks are almost fully leafed out.  It's a lovely green world out there.

It was a good day, unless you're a toy hamster.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Wearin' Of The Green

It is said that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day.  My redheaded sister was, in fact, Irish so I claim rights by association.  Ralph and Celeste look about as different as Pat and I, but with his red hair, I'm pretty sure he's Irish.  (He's playing with Celeste's hairless hamster toy.)  I do know that the corned beef was in the crock pot by 5:30 this morning, carrots, potatoes and cabbage to follow.  I'm going heavy on the potatoes and cabbage so there'll be enough for Bubble and Squeak in the days to come.

I was asking a FB friend today if she was wearing green as a guard against getting pinched.  She hurriedly put on a green sweatshirt as she has granddaughters who would take advantage of the unspoken permission to "get Granny."  Evidently wearing green makes one invisible to leprechauns, thus safe from the little devils' pinches on St. Patrick's Day.  I have no idea when this tradition started, but it was passed to me by my mother, and every kid I knew back in the day was watching with eagle eyes and evil intent to find anyone not protected.  If you pinched by mistake a kid wearing anything green, it was two-for-one payback.  Be safe out there today.

Erin go bragh!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Sun Sponges

Animals are as affected by weather as people.  Days of rain and wind had made the girls cranky and cantankerous.  While not raining the day before, the sun played hide and seek in the clouds and there was a chill wind blowing.  Yesterday was warm, start to finish.  The last thing I do before leaving the barn is open the gate to the big pen for the girls.  Turning, I saw all five had found a spot to lie or stand to soak up the sunshine, eyes half shut and drowsing.  Cindy and Esther were around the corner next to the wall, while Inga, Sheila and Tessie hung out in front, happy that the gate to the play yard was shut.  That, to them, meant no rain.  (In California now, of course, the sequel to that statement is always, "But we need it.")

For all of us, it was a good day.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Hidden Treasure

I am so used to stepping on, over, or around toys on the floor that I seldom look at them anymore.  Yes, there's the pig(s), the bear with the Santa hat, the racoon with no stuffing, the skunk, etc., but I don't really pay that much attention.  Ralph is always dragging some critter or other out of the toy basket, and, of course, there's his favorite white cord to pull from room to room.  Yesterday he was playing a rowdy game of one-man soccer that would have made Beckham jealous, batting and chasing a Christmas gift bow around the room.  Unfortunately he kicked a goal under the chest on the tiles in the foyer.  He was so disappointed at his loss and I thought to help him out by getting a stick to fish for the bow in the dark under the chest.  It's obvious that I should get a season ticket to his soccer games because I've missed a lot of action.  These are not all of the toys that I found he'd kicked under the chest, but it's enough of his treasures to present the idea.  Celeste won't play goalie, but she did grab up a hairless hamster to maul last evening.  Like a kid who'd rather play with the wrapping than the gift inside the box, Ralph went back to batting the bow.

The sun did come out yesterday and I did bring more wood up to the porch, and also cleaned up the lavender bed.

It was a good day.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Rainy Day Play

I had a conversation not long ago with one of my sons regarding rainy days during his childhood.  A clump of four Kids in five years and not much money took some ingenuity to keep them occupied when they were confined to the house.  There were no IPads, video games, or other electronic babysitters back then, and sometimes our television was on the blink.  It surprised me how much my son remembered:  pulling molasses taffy, a sticky mess with more in the mouth than on the tray; creating jewelry out of string and white glue; decorating plain paper with stamps cut into pencil erasers and an ink pad to make stationery; and papier-mache eggs from strips of torn newspaper and flour-and-water paste over balloon forms.  And, of course, hours of reading aloud to the Kids.  Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book," "Moby Dick" by Herman Melville, "Treasure Island" and others written by Robert Louis Stevenson, as well as other classics, and a family favorite, the "Frances the Badger" series by Russell Hoban.  (I found and bought the series for myself not so many years ago.)  There were activities that I'd forgotten, but remembered by my in-his-50s son.  The intent at the time might have been to keep peace in the house, but it sure was fun.  It is very nice to know that the Kids have some good childhood memories.

Ralph keeps himself occupied on rainy (and any other) days.  Yesterday he had a rousing game of hide and seek.  Obviously, if he can't see you, you can't see him.  I hesitate to tell him that hiding might be more effective if he'd stop "Brrp-brrping."

I'm hoping for a break in the weather today.  I used the last piece of firewood from the porch yesterday and really need to bring more to the house and would prefer not to get soaked when I do so.  The goat barn is a mire of mud, the dirt churned up in front of the play yard, and the chicken pen is again a slip-and-slide.  Even the little birds are hiding out in the coop with the hens.  The storm last night took out the internet and it took a phone call and some finagling to get service back this morning.  It's not just the change to Daylight Saving Time that made me late today.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Take A Risk

You can push my buttons, jerk my chain, or rattle my cage, but if you ring my doorbell without prior notice, you do so at your own risk.  It happened again.  My landline phone had gone funky, intermittently letting some calls through, hanging up on others before I could answer, etc.  The nice lady at the phone company said they'd send someone out, and the technician would call before arriving.  Uh huh.  I should explain that curly hair expands in damp weather (and we've had a lot of damp weather of late) like a dry sponge put into water.  I have little to no control over my hair on any given day, but I do try to make an effort.  Yesterday morning I'd been out to fill the hummingbird feeders and take a quick look to see if any trees were down.  The storm of the night before was calmer but a light rain was falling, on my head, of course.  Back in the house, gearing up for goat duty, and the doorbell rang.  Crum.  It was Telephone Guy.  No warning.  I got "The Look" again.  I showed him where the connection box was, told him I'd be down in the barn, and went back to get the buckets.  Glanced in the mirror.  This time my hair looked like I'd stuck my finger in a light socket.  Too late to do anything about it, the damage had been done, so I went on with chores. 

Moral to the story:  call before you show up at my door or risk facing the scary lady.  You've been warned.

Storming again today.  Oh crum.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

In Good Company

Tecla braved the storm and arrived yesterday morning right on time, amazing since she'd followed the GPS directions which invariably send travelers up to the far end of the Gray Rock loop (wrong!) and around and down an almost-impassable dirt road, sections of which are washed out during rainy weather.  This is a woman who just returned from a trip to Colombia and Chile, where she climbed glaciers(!), trekked with pack-laden donkeys, and hiked up mountains, so was unfazed by her adventure on the back roads of Fair Play.  A guest after my own heart, she brought beer and a Dutch boterkoek (butter cake) she'd made.  Boterkoek, as close as I can describe it, is a rich, crisp, shortbread type of cookie with an almost creamy inner texture and oh-so-good!  I could thank her only by putting a batch of feta cheese to hang while we talked.  And talked, and talked.  Tecla is a real-life travelog, facing fears and overcoming them.  A truly inspiring woman with unbounded joy in life.

Bessie Anne, who is normally the hostess-with-the-mostest, was an absolute pill yesterday.  Like a cranky three-year-old child, she whined and yipped for attention until it was embarrassing.  Countless times I had to excuse myself and deal with the whiner, giving her a few minutes of play time, when what I really wanted to do was send her to her room for a time out.  Tecla suggested Bess might want another treat, but I refused to reward bad behavior.  Even Ralph got into the act, making a pest of himself in the kitchen.  Was it something in the air?  Only Celeste remained hidden as she does when company is here.  Of course, as soon as Tecla left, Bess laid down and napped for the rest of the afternoon.

So far, so good for Clyde, Deb and Craig's cat.

The towel I'd stuffed under the window was absolutely sopping wet this morning, the storm was that strong.  No hesitation on the goats' part last evening as they pushed to get into their rooms.  For the most part, the chickens stayed in their coop all day.  A grey squirrel at the bird feeder kept his tail up over his head like an umbrella, while the sodden turkeys scratched below.

It was quite a day.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Off Limits - The Sequel

Yeah, how's that workin' for ya?  I'm a weak-willed, lily-livered, namby-pamby softy.  When I say I've got a furry lap robe, I mean it.  When I say off limits, no one believes I mean it.  Perhaps I should have lit a fire last night.  Ralph, Celeste and Bessie Anne obviously landed on any warm port in a storm.  Obviously, alone time is short lived in my house.  My legs are under there somewhere.

Hellacious storm this morning, wind howling and rain pounding.  Ah well.  It is what it is.  I stuffed a towel on the bedroom windowsill to prevent a recurrence of the soaking during the last storm.  I can't get the window closed so settled for the next best solution.  I hope the storm doesn't change Tecla's plan to visit today.

I'm holding the good thought for Deb and Craig.  Their cat, Clyde, had a serious seizure last night and I'm waiting to hear how he's doing.  My cats are quirky; Clyde is a total whack job.  He showed up at their door as a tiny kitten and walked into Cat Heaven.  No cat has ever had it better than Clyde.  Cosseted and spoiled beyond belief, he has been the apple of their eye and the cause of much cussing for over twelve years.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Off Limits

Togetherness is overrated.  It's a given that all four of us will sleep on what was once considered "my" side of the bed.  I've learned to deal with that because most of the night I'm sleeping, too.  It is only a problem when I wish to stretch out or turn over and am prohibited by heavy (really heavy), furry, immovable bodies.  The issue at the moment is "my" chair.  I just wanted some alone time in my chair yesterday.  Bessie Anne was having another anxiety attack, repeatedly demanding a boost up into my lap, whining and crying and staring into my eyes.  Refused, she would wander dejectedly over to her chair or either of the sofas she's claimed, jump up, lie down, and pout.  A few minutes later and she'd be back and we'd go through it all again.  "No!  You've got to leave me alone for a little while!  No."  And then there was Celeste.  Celeste doesn't ask for permission.  Out of nowhere, suddenly there's a cat on my lap.  "No, Celeste.  Not right now," and I'd push her off to the floor.  Cats ignore "no," it's simply not in their vocabulary.  Like a cork in water, she'd pop back up again.  We reached a compromise when I moved her from my lap to my side; at least she wasn't on me.  That hurt Bessie's feelings.  I could hear the Smothers Brothers (1960s), "Mother always liked you best."  Nothing in the world can give an accusatory stare like a disappointed dog.  "Why does she get to sit in your chair and I can't?"  Apologies and explanations meant nothing to Bess.  She wanted up in my lap and that was that.  There are just some times I need my own space.  I'm going to get an Off Limits sign and hope for the best.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


Bright sunny morning.  The girls came in on cue, did their bit, and went out to enjoy the warmth and green grassy stuff while I cleaned the barn.  A good feeling of accomplishment and done in record time.  Brimming with ambition, laundry was the first house chore of the day.  And then it all came to a screeching halt.  Cloud cover rolled in, drizzly rain started falling, the house got cold, and all good intentions drained away.  Bringing in a load of wood for the stove and getting it lit, I sat down (big mistake).  I'd DVRd "Crossfire Trail" (Tom Selleck, Wilford Brimley, Mark Harmon - 2001).  Ahh, Tom Selleck.  Sigh.  Nice piece of eye candy, that.  Can I be blamed for watching "Crossfire Trail"?  I'd intended to hold off watching the last and bittersweet episode of "Downton Abbey," but it had just come up on PBS and I'd blown half the day anyway.  After that came the BAFTA award ceremony for the cast and crew of "Downton Abbey."  That was a must-see.  I am obviously easily seduced.

Back to reality.  Bess and I took the trash down to the big road, our weekly outing.  One of the old Araucana hens had looked pretty peaked in the morning, but did come out for feed on her own.  I'd really hoped her ordeal would be over by bedtime, but she was still hanging on when I put the others inside for the night.  Nature is not always kind to little creatures.  Tucking her safely out of the way and hopefully in a warm spot, I closed the door and wished her safe journey.

Two loads of laundry washed, dried, and folded.  Period.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Herding Cats

The Christmas tree still stands in the living room.  Now we're heading toward Easter, another family holiday, and I'm heading toward a headache.  Clay works on Sundays.  Since we move holidays around the calendar like checkers on a board anyhow, I decided (all on my own) that Easter dinner would be on the Saturday before Easter this year so Clay could attend.  I text-messaged the agenda to the Kids.  The first response was from Clay:  "Can't come.  Have to work."  Aaargh.  In followup texts, it turned out that he could come on that Saturday and I gave a sigh of relief.  Premature, that was.  Deb and Craig were fine with Sunday dinner on Saturday (keep up here, confusing as it is).  The other two local sons, what can I say?  One has to check his social calendar and the other may go camping.  Getting my family organized is like herding cats.  I guess for those who show up, the Easter Bunny will hand out Christmas gifts and bow-wrapped eggs.

Another drizzly day and a damp chill invaded the house.  It's been a fairly warm storm this go-round, but yesterday I broke down and lit the wood stove.  It was perfect timing for a dinner of sausages, peppers, and onions to warm the "inner person."

Another sunset that took my breath away.

I'll leave a message for Peter Cottontail and hope for the best.

Monday, March 7, 2016

A Cup Of Sugar

This was the first of many shots I took yesterday of the rosemary bush in full bloom.  None of them, however, show the sparkling raindrops that I'd hoped to capture every time the sun came out.  After a pretty rough start to the morning, it was an on-again, off-again day.  The weatherman had predicted "showers."  What he should have said was, "Expect intermittent downpours."  During one of the breaks, Bessie and I went out to the herb garden and enjoyed a spell of warm sunshine.  She supervised while I deadheaded the last of the marjoram flowers.  It was great to see the first of the peony plants popping up.  Then the clouds came back and the wind picked up.  We chose discretion as the better part of valor and went back in to watch NASCAR.

Once upon a time when we lived in SoCal, a neighbor's son called and asked to borrow a cup of sugar.  "Yes."  Shortly after, he called to ask for a couple of cups of flour.  "Yes."  Next, "Do you have any vanilla?"  "Yes."  When he came to get the vanilla, curiosity got the better of me.  "What are you making?"  "We want to make a cake but we don't have any of the stuff."  Alrighty then.  Up here, I've been asked for batteries, tomato sauce, and, yes, sugar.  Yesterday Cam asked if I had any Betadine, an antiseptic solution.  Shadow, the mini-donkey, had a sore hoof that she was treating.  "Yes."  It pays to stock up on anything and everything; one never knows what the next request will be.

We didn't lose power once yesterday and I'm happy to say that the last episode of "Downton Abbey" recorded last night.  I am saving it as a special treat to watch in the future.  I will be just as sad when the series "Doc Martin" ends.  I've grown to love the characters in both shows and will miss them terribly as they leave.  Just hearing the theme music gives me the feeling of coming home or visiting good friends.

It is raining again (still).

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Off And On

Woke up at four this morning.  I know it was four because the clock told me so.  Went back to sleep.  Woke up at ??  It took a minute in complete darkness to realize the power had gone out.  Did I really open my eyes or am I still asleep and dreaming?  Nope.  No power.  Once again those nightlights that convert to battery were a lifesaver and I made it to the living room without incident.  Had just started pushing buttons on the land-line phone to contact PG&E (they're on speed-dial) when ta da! the electricity came back.  (As an aside, I find it so frustrating to listen to the recording tell me that it is so easy to inform PG&E of a power outage on their website.  If I had electricity, I wouldn't be in this predicament!  Duh.)   Grabbed the cellphone (which had been on charger) to see it was all of five o'clock.  Quickly began filling the coffee maker so I could start the day right.  Before I could flip the On switch, the power went off.  That's just plain mean.  It was, thankfully, only a blip and the lights soon came on.  Coffee in hand, I came back to the bedroom to find that the roaring winds last night had blown rain under the window left open one inch and onto the computer desk, the first time that's ever happened.  It was a doozy of a storm.  All is calm (so far) this morning, but I'm anxious to see if there was any damage done outside.

As if I could store them up in case we lost power yesterday, I watched a lot of DVRd movies.  "Papillon" (Dustin Hoffman and Steve McQueen) came out in 1973 and the Kids' dad and I went to see it in a theater.  I remember it was the first film I'd ever seen with graphic blood splashed at the camera and I gasped.  At the time, it was shocking.  The next movie was "Kingsman: The Secret Service" (Colin Firth, Michael Caine, Samuel L. Jackson - 2014).  How times have changed.  "Kingsman" had some of the goriest scenes going and I didn't even blink.  Colin Firth usually plays such sedate roles; he must have had a blast playing a shoot-'em-up, knock-'em-down action part.

Fingers crossed for power today.  After all, it's a NASCAR Sunday.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Be Prepared

Rain, raining, rained.  It's a wet world out there.  Heavy winds are predicted for this weekend and that ups the odds of a power outage.  It pays to be prepared so just in case I put in a load of laundry and ran the dishwasher last night.  I hauled feed down to the barn yesterday morning.  That was a bit of a struggle because one of the tires on the hand cart had gone completely flat.  Seventy-five pounds of grain and a tire threatening to come off the rim were not easy.  At least it was not raining then.

I am preparing to get really pissy if we lose power tomorrow night.  It's the series ending of "Downton Abbey" and I would be devastated to miss it.  I don't understand exactly how these things work, but the DVR records even when the television is turned off.  Somehow I expect small miracles and that the machine will do its job in the absence of electricity.

I learned yesterday that Tecla, the gal from the Netherlands who WWOOFs for Tim, will be here one day this week.  She was such a joy when she came last year and I'm so looking forward to seeing her again.  Company coming equals "What shall I cook?"  I'm thinking Italian sausage and peppers (yes, again).  The red and yellow peppers were on sale and I stocked up on my last trip to the store and I didn't even know I was preparing for company.

"Be prepared" is the Scout motto.  Some things you just don't forget.  Another Scout memory is of my daughter asking, "Mama, was Juliette Lowe your Girl Scout leader?"  Juliette Lowe founded the Girl Scouts in 1912.  I was in my early 30s when Deb asked.  "No, dear, she was not."  That was right up there with, "Mama, how old were you when they fought the Civil War?"  Age is in the perception.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Start To Finish

It was a good day from beginning to end.  I did get the dusting, vacuuming, and all the rest of those onerous tasks done.  I did get all the feed unloaded from the truck.  I did get prep work for dinner done before barn chores.  Whew.

I was actually ready when the Ladies arrived.  We'd agreed on an early meal.  Camille and I have animals to attend at sundown and Linda has the longer drive (Arden lives right around the corner), so 4:30 seemed about right.  Frying the cauliflower fritters took a little longer than I'd hoped, but turned out really well.  I tweaked the original recipe and added corn starch to the batter; that made for a crispier coating.  The pork tenderloin was juicy and tender, and Linda made a tasty dressing for the salad.  Fresh green beans completed the menu.

Conversation flowed easily between these women of diverse talents and interests.  As always, I had to put the kids to bed, leaving the Ladies to clear the table.  Honey came with me.  She's used to donkeys and chickens, but she's fascinated by the goats.  Just a light mist was falling, enough to produce this exquisite double rainbow as the sun went down.  It was the perfect ending to a great day.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Switching Sides

Go-To and Mrs. Go-To came in the afternoon to install the pump house down in the front pasture.  Actually, GT declined our help and managed this heavy structure by himself, getting it through the fence and field and onto the concrete base.  Mrs. GT and I discussed our frustration with men who say, "Oh, no.  I can do it by myself."  ('Nuff said.)  If GT strained a muscle, he wisely didn't say.
It turns out that my theory of the mice camps down in the milking room is at least partly correct.  Wink, the one-eyed mouse who lived on the left with the youngsters, has moved over to the grownup colony on the right.  In fact, a lot of the Littles seem to have changed sides as there are many more Bigs these days.  Not all have identifying characteristics so it's hard to tell exactly.  I haven't seen Kinks or Twitchy for quite awhile now.

I also have not seen ground squirrels in the room or in the yard for months, so it was startling to look up from the bucket and into the eyes of a squirrel in the big room yesterday.  Where have they been, do you suppose?  I can't say I'm particularly happy to see the return of these little varmints as they are so destructive.  Oh well.

In another switcheroo, rain is predicted within the next few hours.  It's been in the 70s the last few days and, need it as we do, I'm not ready for more rainy days.  It will, however, save me from having to water the deck plants.

The Ladies of Fair Play are due for dinner tonight and I'd best quit dawdling and dust.  How's that for a switch.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Almost There

The pump house is not quite ready for the big unveiling.  The detail painting is done.  I'm not really satisfied with it, but it will have to do.  Given that it will only be seen by people at a distance, the flower work should be bigger, but my brushes are of the smaller variety and I'm stuck with what I've got.  The work is more impressionistic than my norm and I don't think the deer or turkeys will be tempted to take a nibble.  Perhaps that's a good thing.  The box will get a spray of lacquer this morning and then I'll put in a call to Go-To so he can put it back over the pump, hopefully before the rain comes.

Tessie took a minute to think about it, and then came in on cue.  She's one of the better behaved girls once she's on the stand.  She doesn't kick or dance, she's patient however long it takes, and there's no dawdling when she's done.  It's just that sometime thing about coming in.  She makes it hard to complain, but it won't stop me.

All things considered, it was a good day.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Just Another Day

The early morning sun put a spotlight on the frothy plum trees in the front orchard yesterday.  The larger on the left was already established down the slope when we moved in.  The smaller on the right is a volunteer up at the edge of the drop off in the back yard.  I assume it grew from a seed dropped by a browsing deer.  Deer will darn near climb a tree to get ripe plums.  This is the first year the little tree has blossomed and I have hope for some fruit.

There appear to be microclimates here on the property.  The almond and a plum tree in the north orchard blossomed and are done already.  A spindly apricot nearby has put out a few pretty pink flowers.  None of the trees on that side have ever done well and many died.  For years, I kept trying, planting, caging, watering, etc.  I put in probably six cherry trees over time, as well as varieties of peach, nectarine, apple, and others; none lived.  The visions I had of flowering trees and bountiful harvests, all for naught.  Deer above, ground squirrels and gophers below, and poor placement.  Sigh.

Using a leash on Inga has solved her walk-away problem.  She still doesn't like it.  We have a mini-rodeo in her stall as I try to get the rope around her neck, and then she pulls so hard on the way to the milking room that she chokes and my shoulder feels dislocated.  I'm hoping she'll come to accept the process as Sheila has.  The girls are once again in season and yesterday it was Tessie who refused to come in.  She (make that we) will be sorry this morning.

The little post office in Somerset closes for a lunch hour between one and two (and it's not open on Saturday).  One has to plan one's outing carefully if one needs postal service.  I missed going early because Milk Guy was coming and so had to wait until after two yesterday on my way to the hardware store.  Both missions accomplished, there was only enough time to paint three sides of the well housing before dusk.  Go-To used T 111 siding and it's a real stinker to work with.  I had to scrub paint into all the nooks and crannies in the rough-cut wood, a lot more time consuming than painting drywall or even plywood.  Rain is looming on the horizon later this week and I need to get it finished so Go-To can reinstall the protection for the well pump.