Saturday, April 30, 2016

It's A Start

Watching.  Waiting.  Watching some more.  Nope, no rain clouds overhead, so Bess and I went out to mow.  (She's recovered from her accident the day before.)  Gassed up Fu Manchu and off we went, down the drive, down by the road, the back yard, and the side yard.  It was a perfect afternoon for this kind of work, warm sun and a nice breeze.  The Cecile Brunner is obviously thriving with this on-again, off-again weather and is loaded with those sweet little roses.  The west field could have used a trim and I've yet to tackle the front yard, but by the time I'd finished what I'd started I'd gone butt dead and needed a pit stop anyhow, reason enough to call it quits.  Another storm cell blew in last night.  More twiggy branches down and everything is soaked this morning.  Oh well.

I'm destined not to have fresh salad greens.  This leaf lettuce was coming along nicely.  In fact, it was to the point that I thought, "Just another couple of days," and it would be ready to pick enough for dinner.  Yeah, how's that workin' for ya?  The ground squirrel bandit has struck again.  Fortunately, he doesn't have a taste for the Thai basil in the same pot.  I think the wild things are getting a little too comfortable.  The other day there was a large deposit of turkey poop on the front porch right by the door where no turkey should be, and a squirrel had brought a helping of sunflower seeds from the bird-feeding station and left a pile of shells on the porch, as well.  They're pushing the boundaries of my hospitality.

There's always more to do, but at least I got a start.  It was a good day.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Oh Crum

Man, I was on a roll.  Encouraged by another sunny day, laundry hung on the line, fresh bag of feed in the back of the truck, chicks fed and watered and their diapers changed (the cardboard under their cage), doing some other little piddly chores, and it all went to pot when it started raining (again).  I raced to get the clothes in and struggled to get that 75-pound bag of goat chow out of the truck.  Patrick had put it up toward the middle of the bed instead of back by the tailgate.  I'm not as agile as I once was and climbing up there had me laughing at my own awkwardness.  Wet chow gets moldy in a hurry and would make the girls sick if they ate it, so I had no choice.  Whew.  And then, wouldn't you just know, it stopped raining and the sun came out for the rest of the day.

Bessie Anne likes to go to the feed store.  Even more, she likes the two (always two) milk bones she gets when we get home.  With her short little legs, Bess needs a boost to get into the truck, but manages to get out by herself.  Until yesterday.  When she carefully and slowly jumped down, her back legs twisted under her and she pulled a muscle.  I'm hoping that's all she hurt.  It took her awhile to get to her feet and she limped her way to the house.  I have some doggy painkillers and gave her one, hoping it would help.  Bessie napped the rest of the day and wisely chose not to go with me to put the kids to bed.  She seems to be better this morning.  She's had such bad luck with her legs, breaking one in two places when she was a puppy and then cracking a heel later in life.  She's the only dog I've ever insured for injuries and it turned out to be a good thing, because she's sure racked up the bills.  Would not have believed a dog could be so accident prone.

Fifteen years ago yesterday was Deb and Craig's wedding, which was held here.  It sure brought back memories.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

This Close

It was a perfectly gorgeous morning, shining sun and blue skies.  Milking went well and I got the stalls cleaned in no time.  Bess really likes our daily routine of going out to sit on the deck when I get back to the house, even if she went to sit and watch while I'm in the barn.  It's "our" thing to do.  She's big on togetherness.  I had some business to attend to and phone calls to make.  Purse in hand, I was finally ready to go to the feed store.  In fact, Cam had called and I'd asked her if she needed anything because I was going to leave.  And then.  In a matter of seconds the sky went dark, there was thunder and lightning and hail, followed by a downpour.  I was this close, but obviously the trip for feed was cancelled.  Ratchafratch.

After months of waking in the dark, it's unsettling to open my eyes to light.  The sun is not yet up over the hills in the east, but it's definitely not dark and I get the feeling I'm late even at 5 a.m.  The days are definitely longer, sunset not until nearly 8.  It throws me off as I've been fixing my evening meal after putting the kids in for the night.  If I did that now, I'd be eating dinner in bed.

It will take another couple of days for the yards to dry so mowing has been put off again.  I almost got started yesterday.  I was this close.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Ever Changing

As much as I hate going into town, I have to admit it's a beautiful drive.  Like flipping the pages of a calendar, the scenery changes on every trip and around every curve.  The blue and white wild lavenders in the hills have been replaced by brilliant yellow Scotch broom shrubs and fields of purple lupine.  The flowering fruit trees are busy producing fruit now, their branches green and leafy.

The weather at this time of year is just as changeable.  It's a bright, sunny morning, but thunderstorms are predicted for this afternoon.  I'll take that any time over the dog days of summer or days of endless rain.  I need to get to the feed store today before the skies open up.  The chicks have eaten nearly ten pounds of mash already, and I might as well get another bag of goat chow while I'm at it.

Camille offered me a deal and I took her up on it.  Since neither one of us generates enough trash to fill a garbage can weekly, we share her containers and will split the bill.  (My cans were confiscated by waste management because I didn't follow the new rules.  Call me a rebel.)  Saves me a trip to the dump and cuts her cost in half.  Works for me!

Green stuff on the property is sprouting up faster than one could imagine.  Priorities:  housework or mowing.  Hmmm.  Some things don't change.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Monday Blues

Company two days running and the accompanying prep had me totally discombobulated, so it was a shock when I realized yesterday was Monday and Milk Guy was coming.  I had not saved Sunday's milk for him.  Aaargh.  Heading for the barn, I could only hope that Sheila would not put a foot in the bucket.  Given the girls' fresh grass diet, I wasn't worried there would be enough milk.  Between them, the three milkers are pumping out a gallon and a half a day now.  Let me rephrase that.  I am squeezing out a gallon and a half, and it takes a lot more work and time.  There were fortunately no untoward incidents during the process and I strained and bottled MG's order in time.

Another goat owner called to ask about one of his does with an udder problem.  Her kid had a preference for just one nipple and the other side was getting large and firm.  In case I didn't explain, a goat's udder has two separate "compartments," one for each teat.  In this case, the milk in the full side was congealing into a curd and, if left, could result in mastitis.  He needed to get it milked out, and fast.  I once had a girl with an injured teat and it took two hours to massage the mass and get her udder empty.  And yes, I do get some strange phone calls.

The hummers are coming in larger numbers now and drinking two quarts of juice a day.  (They made a great hit with Bruno and he sent a video clip of my flying jewels to relatives overseas.)  Filling their feeders was about the only productive thing I did yesterday.  I'd planned a day off anyway and Mondays are great for watching TV.  A number of my favorite programs run on Sunday nights and I DVR them to watch later (on Monday).
It was a good day, Monday or not.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Expanding Horizons

Yesterday was edifying in many ways.  Tecla is from the Netherlands and Bruno is from Belgium.  They are both world travelers.  They have lived in a number of areas of the United States.  They've had, and continue to have, adventures that most of us would only dream of.  Listening to their conversation was like reading a National Geographic magazine and I learned so much.  One small example:  when hiking in bear county, one should carry a "bear can" to keep food safe, but check with the rangers about whether pepper spray is legal in that park.  Who knew?  Tecla goes all over, including other countries, to volunteer on various farms, working with agriculture and animals, sometimes speaking the language and sometimes "winging it."  She's fearless.  They described biking as a means of transportation in Holland and in the Bay Area where they live now.  It made me laugh.  I had to tell them of the one time, and one time only, that I decided when the Kids were young that I would use one of their bikes for exercise.  After peddling a few hilly blocks, I figured I'd better head back toward the house so my body could be found and identified.  They had spent the morning at Tim's, helping to trim hooves, deworm, and give shots to 70!! goats.  When they got here, they'd more than earned a cold beer and a hot meal.

Laughing comes easy to this couple, and it was such a pleasure to spend time in their upbeat company.

It was a good day.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Cockeyed Optimist

(Song from South Pacific.)

Procrastinators are the epitome of eternal optimists.  We always think we can get everything done at the last minute and stretch time available to fit our needs.  For all procrastinators in training, the first rule of thumb is plan ahead and prioritize, otherwise panic will take over and you'll get caught with your dustrag down.  When crunch-time comes, think about what must be done and what could wait.  For example, you can cook after your guests arrive, but not take a shower.  Take the shower first thing even if you have go milk goats and just hope for the best.  The whole room looks better when the carpet is vacuumed.  Do that and worry about dusting later.  What's a little dust between friends?  Sweep the front porch.  As Mother said, "You only get one chance to make a first impression."

We had not actually set a firm time but following precedent, I shot for eleven o'clock for Tecla and Bruno's arrival yesterday.  I love my bread machine.  The first thing (after a shower) was to put ingredients for Black Forest pumpernickel in and let the electric servant go to work.  The aroma of fresh-baked bread goes a long way toward forgiveness when guests walk in.  There wasn't much time after barn chores, so I whirled like a dervish on one task after another.  Eleven o'clock came and went.  Like the guy who fell from a tall building who, as he passed one floor after another, kept saying, "So far, so good," I kept knocking jobs off the list.  About 1:30, I started getting worried.  Had I put down the wrong date?  At 2, Tecla texted and said they'd be here around 3:30-ish.  More time to get more done.  The white chili I'd prepared for lunch would be a good dinner, but then found out they were expected elsewhere.  Ah, well.  Such is life.

Bruno is as much a delight as his wife, Tecla, and how can one be peeved when guests arrive bearing beer and a homemade Dutch apple pie?  Tecla, from the Netherlands, made the real McCoy.  I think the pumpernickel sealed the deal here and they asked to come back today for lunch.  All that housework did not go to waste.  We had a good visit and I look forward to today.

Why is it, I wonder, that only after they'd left, did I see that cobweb hanging from a light fixture in the bathroom?

It was a good, if tiring, day.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Just Wait

"If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes."  Yesterday was one of those days.  Helper Dude came early to cut down weeds.  The sun had (had being the definitive term) been shining, but when HD arrived it was overcast and blustery.  He got an amazing amount of ground covered in an hour before it began to sprinkle and he called it quits.

By the time I went down to the barn it was really raining.  While I went through the more complicated rainy-day routine with the girls, it began to pour, rain coming down in sheets and windy.  Really, really windy!  Back in the house, I wrung out my socks and hung my dripping bibbies over the tub.  The wind did die down, but it continued to rain heavily all day.

In early after noon, the thunder and lightning show began.  Loud booms and bright flashes.  Shortly after that, it started to hail pea-size bits of ice.  It would hail, stop, and then hail more and harder.  Then, would you believe it, the sun came out.

We got the full weather menu yesterday.  Gee, I'm sure glad I'd watered the plants the day before.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Can't Wait

As good as I am at procrastinating (and I'm pretty darn good), there are some things that just can't wait.  Rain was predicted for last night.  If we got any, it looks like it was nothing more than light mist so it was good that I watered the deck plants anyhow yesterday.  The poor things were drooping and begging for water.  I don't talk to nor play music for my plants, but I try not to torture them (too much).

I'm really glad that we didn't get a downpour this go-round.  I've been holding off on weed-eating and had trouble connecting with Helper Dude.  That dratted, for lack of the proper name, bracken weed is starting to bloom and that means the fershluggen dart seeds aren't far behind.  Bless his pointy head, HD is coming this morning.  Talk about job security, I've got it in spades.

I knew that somewhere out in the sheds I had a regulation chick feeder.  I finally got around to hunting it up.  The flat, round thing I'd been using allowed the chicks to make a worse mess than necessary.  I'm not up for making more work for myself.  In addition, the long, narrow feeder gives the little ones more room, as does the smaller water bottle.

Kit asked about sex-link chickens:  they are cross breeds and the chicks come out "color coded" by gender, pretty much assuring that one buys hens and not roosters.  When you "pays yer money and takes yer choice," you take what you get.  Sexing baby chicks is very difficult and one usually waits to see a larger comb develop to realize you've got another male in your flock.  Tzar Nicholas and Mad King George got along well, but roosters are normally competitive and fight over their hens or they get very mean towards people.  I had some that made me take a broom handle into the pen to save me from injury.  (That was after one drove a spur into my calf.)  By the way, it is hard to read a chicken's expression, but I'm pretty sure I saw a smile on Tzar Nicholas's face when I told him he'd be getting new additions to his harem in the future.

Tecla, the WOOFer, is coming to visit again tomorrow and this time is bringing her husband, Bruno.  I can't wait!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Just Like A Kid

There are behavioral traits that seem universal across species, and that's not me just anthropomorphizing again.  Baby anythings are much alike.  I would put the chicks at about the toddler stage now.  Having raised my own flock of people chicklets, it's like being transported back in time to watch these little birds.  The sun is just coming over the hill now and I heard the first peeps of the day.  I went in to take off the nighttime blanket covering their cage and fill the feeder for breakfast.  Like all babies, the chicks have voracious appetites.  Yesterday they ate four full cups of feed.  I found a smaller water bottle so they have more room to run around and play, and that they do!  Until they get a little older, they'll get lukewarm water.  Like kids on the playground, the chicks chase and yell, getting louder and louder.  Several times throughout the day, they all settle down, snuggling together for a nap.  They get especially rowdy just before bedtime.  Coming back in from putting the bigger kids to bed at sundown, I cover them with a bath towel to hold the day's warmth and shut their door for the night.  How many countless times in my life have I said, "Good night, sleep tight.  Don't let the bedbugs bite," just as my mother said to me.  (She and I always ended it with, "I wish I may, I wish I might have the wish I wish tonight."  A nice thought to go to sleep on.)

It might seem a little nutty to raise chicks in the house.  Like human children, they are messy.  Really messy.  They're learning to scratch for their food and the mash gets thrown all over.   Ah, memories of highchairs and smeared baby food.  I'm grateful I don't have to change tiny diapers, but the cardboard under the cage still has to be changed frequently.

Time does fly.  It seems no time at all since the last full moon.  In a very short time, the chicks, like kids, will be ready to go out on their own.  As it was with my Kids, I'll miss them when they go.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Can't Help Myself

I have no excuse for getting more chickens.  I certainly don't need more eggs.  The fact of the matter is that I just love chickens.  I resisted as long as possible after the "Chicks are in" sign went up at the feed store.  The chick cages are downstairs and I forced myself not to go there, knowing that if I saw them, I'd want them.  I thought I'd made it past the crisis when Cam called, "Dave's got a really good price on chicks that are old enough to have their feathers."  It's an advantage to get older babies; they're not as prone to weaken early and, let's face it, it doesn't cost as much in chick mash when they're close to being put outside on regular feed.  I'd had such success with the red sex-link hens from a couple of years ago, strong birds and good producers.  Hmmm.  I weakened.  I called and asked Patrick if they had any red sex-links.  "Yes, but we call them red layers."  "Do you have any Araucanas?"  "No, not this year, but we've got white leghorns and brown (I forgot what)."  Okay, I'll admit it, I'm addicted.  "Save me four of the reds, two whites and two browns."  Getting only eight showed great restraint!  I picked them up yesterday.

Once again, the laundry room has turned into a nursery.  This is Ralph and Celeste's first experience with resident birds, but Bessie Anne is an old hand at the game.  After initial curiosity, the cats seem to have lost interest.  I so enjoy hearing the cheeps and trills from these busy babies.  It won't be long until I move them out to the protected yard and Taj Mahal until they're big enough to put in with the flock.

It was a good day.

Happy birthday to my son, Pete!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Milkman Cometh

(Apologies to Eugene O'Neill)

I was down in the barn milking when I got a call from Milk Guy, saying he'd be here in a half-hour or so.  Hmmm.  I really do try to accommodate his erratic schedule, but there was no way I could finish barn chores and get back to the house that fast, so had to ask for a time extension.  I'm picking up at least four eggs a day now, so the dozen MG buys weekly are definitely fresh.  As added insurance, I wait until the day he comes to wash the eggs.  When laid, eggs are coated with a mucus that seals them airtight for a time.  For Monday pick-up, milk is saved on Sunday just in case Sheila puts a foot in the bucket or some other catastrophe befalls.  The girls are producing like dairy cows just now, but during the dry days of summer, the supply is not as much so I can fill a jar with Monday's extra if need be.  It's called planning ahead.

At any rate, the eggs were clean, if damp, and in their carton and milk jars were ready when MG drove up.  I'd only delayed his planned activities by a short time.

I think Bessie's eyes are getting worse.  Whenever I'm at the computer and at night, my stumpy-legged little girl needs a boost up onto the bed.  She puts her front legs up for leverage so I can help get the back end up there.  Until this last week, she's been able to jump down on her own.  Lately, I leave the room and she starts crying, sometimes walking along the edge of the bed, looking down but afraid to make the leap.  I'd like to help, but she's too heavy for me to carry, so the best I can do is offer encouragement.  I think she's lost depth perception.  It must be like jumping into the abyss for her.  I'm going to try putting a milk crate by the bed and see if she can manage with that.

Monday, April 18, 2016

What's Cookin'?

I watch a lot of cooking shows:  some for recipes, some for techniques, and some just because.  Jacques Pepin (my favorite chef) brought back a lot of memories the other day.  I was 18 when the Kids' dad and I married and, to be honest, I couldn't boil water.  My mother did plain cooking straight out of the Midwest and was not very adventuresome in the kitchen.  I only remember bay leaves, chili powder, and cinnamon in her spice cupboard.  KD (Kids' dad) liked to eat and set about schooling me, bringing home recipes to try and critiquing my efforts.  His sister was probably my biggest and best inspiration.  It was she who stocked my cabinets with spices and herbs I'd never heard of and taught me how to use them.  I found out I liked to cook, which was a good thing because the Kids arrived and soon there were a lot of mouths to feed.

KD's family had a once-a-year get-together at Christmas for adults only.  As time went on, it fell to my sister-in-law and I to take turns hosting the event and there was mild competition between us to see who could outdo the other.  One memorable dinner was the year I had a Greek theme, complete with blue-and-white dishes.  I'd rented Greek music (this was back in the day when music came on records, probably 78s, possibly 45s, but maybe the newer LPs) from the library.  The menu included Avgolemono (lemon and egg soup), moussaka (eggplant and beef casserole), classic Greek salad, and baklava (walnuts and honey layered in filo dough).  I don't do much cooking anymore, but I still like to learn and keep my hand in once in awhile.

Ralph came and sat in my lap during the race yesterday.  He never stays long so I enjoy his company whenever I can.  There he was, nestled up cozily, when my stomach grumbled and rolled right next to his head.  I wish I could describe the look on his face.  Priceless.  He left, and I laughed.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Keeping Up

This cart full of appetizers is only the beginning, picked up just in the driveway from the front door to the feed barn.  The yards are similarly littered, but will wait for another day.  I don't like to overload the girls with anything new in their diet so as not to upset their gastrointestinal tract.  Sometimes the herd is mean to Cindy.  When I'd handed just one branch over the other day, Cindy got maybe one leaf before the others snatched it away.  Yesterday I pitched this load over the fence before letting the girls out.  For whatever reason, Cindy went up to the corner first and alone while Inga was up on the stand and Esther and Tessie hung around the barn.  (Sheila has to stay in her stall until I'm done with Inga and can bring Sheila around on a lead so she doesn't go walkabout.  I'm done playing that game.)  The upshot is that Cindy got her choice of the best bits while the others dallied.  Ha ha!

The sentry on duty called in reinforcements.  Four eyes are better than two.  They stood like statues, one facing one way, one facing the other, even as the goats and I walked within feet of them.  Anyone who as seen the video clip that went viral of the squirrel calling, "Alan!  Alan!" will understand what I hear in my mind's ear when I see these guys.

There were no downed branches out in the west field and the wind had died down.  It was a perfect afternoon to give Fu a workout and tootle around (and around and around) out there.  We also mowed down the long drive and out by the road.  We may not keep up with the Joneses, but we do try to keep up with the weeds.

It was a good day.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Trash And Treasure

Apropos of absolutely nothing (well, yesterday's entry, maybe), I woke up this morning hearing Rosalind Russell singing "Everything's Coming Up Roses" ("Gypsy" 1962).  I never know where the sound track in my mind is going to go, and sometimes it takes me pretty far afield.  This is "Kansas," the second new peony, with ruffles like a flamenco skirt.  There are ten peonies up and budding now.

On the other side of the walkway is this Spanish lavender in full flower.  The Spanish doesn't have the same sweet scent as the French, but it certainly has flair, each floret with a perky topknot.

I had thought to get going on the mowing yesterday, but it was very windy and I changed my mind.  As it does this time of year, the wind blew many, many young twiggy branches out of the oaks and littered the yards.  That will put off mowing until they're all picked up.  "One man's trash...."  I will throw all of those leafy twigs over to the goats.  The only thing the girls like better than those green leaves is the same leaves after they're dry.  They crunch them like potato chips and I swear they're smiling.

It's nice to make a goat smile.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Award Goes To...

Sometimes buried in winter snow or gasping for water in blistering summer heat, these two little mini-roses surely win the award for longevity.  They came with me from the valley almost 19 years ago, and they'd been in my yard down there for at least five years or more then.  I'm certainly not the rosarian that my friend Tinka is, but I do love roses just the same.  These perky miniatures and the Cecile Brunner (also a small flower) out in the yard are just now bursting into blossom.  It's like greeting old friends each year.  So far, so good with the Tropicana that Deb and Craig gave me last year, the one the ground squirrels ate every flower.  It hasn't put out a rose yet, but the critters didn't attack the roots as I feared they would.  The plant looks strong and healthy.  Two of the roses the Kids transplanted from their yard into the Pig Garden didn't make it, but the other three (including a new one) are thriving.

A good portion of yesterday was spent with Ralph and/or Celeste on my lap, I was that glad to have them safe and sound and in the house.  I was so afraid I'd never feel Ralph's gentle touch on my shoulder while at the computer, and there he was again this morning.  Sometimes he wants to climb over to my lap while I'm at the computer, and sometimes he just touches me lightly to remind me he's there.

Sunset last evening was stunning, another award winner.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

My Boyfriend's Back

(1963, The Angels)

I didn't know it when I took this picture on my way out of the goat barn in the morning, but I would soon be asking for this little guy's help when I had to put out a BOLO (be on the lookout) on Ralph.  It's hard to describe how heartsick I was to wake up from a nap and found the wind had blown open the kitchen door.  Totally panicked, I went through the house looking for Ralph and Celeste.  They usually sleep during my naptimes and I hoped and hoped that was the case yesterday.  But no.  They were gone.  Going outside, my heart in my throat, I called and called, and went slowly (so as not to scare them, should they be hiding) around the house.  It was such a relief to find Celeste on the deck.  She was afraid and crying, never having been outdoors here, but let me pick her up and take her inside.  Ohmigosh, she stuck to me like a limpet.  Poor little girl.  But Ralph was out there alone.

I can't tell you how many times throughout the rest of the day Bess and I went out looking for my little redheaded boy.  There are so many, many real dangers out there in the daytime, let alone after dark.  Seeing a hawk swoop down made my heart stop until I knew it wasn't for Ralph.  Same thing when vultures lined up on the fence posts.  My imagination dreamed up the worst of the worst.  Night fell and still no Ralph.

Five-thirty in the morning, dark and raining, and a small voice outside woke me.  Could it be?  Barefoot and in my nightgown, turning on porch lights as I went, I raced out to the deck and there he was!  The little twerp stayed behind the potted plants all the way around the house until I caught him by the dining room doors, both of us soaked.  Ralph evidently had not figured out how to use the outside facilities, because the first thing he did was head for the litter box.  Next stop was the food dish.  Now he's curled up on the bed beside Celeste and Bessie Anne.  As deep as my depression had been, my relief is greater.

Yesterday was not a good day.  Today, nothing can go wrong.  My boyfriend's back.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Speaking Terms

After a quick stop at the AT&T store yesterday, Phone and 'Puter are communicating again and I can play catch up with some photos.  This was "dawn's early light" last week.
Hog heaven!  These beady-eyed piglets make me smile every day.  The small whisk is perfect for scrambling an egg or two and the little spatula scrapes the bowl.  The big spatula flips sausage patties (shhh).  The two little guys open their mouths to clip potato chip bags when I pig out on snacks.  The swine matryoshka are a set of measuring cups.  Seriously!  Do my Kids know what I like, or what?  Can't you see Dave haunting the kitchen implement department and asking, "Where are your pigs?  My mom needs more pigs."
Introducing Shirley Temple, one of the new peony plants and the first to bloom.  Kansas isn't far behind, and yesterday I saw that most of the re-emerging plants have buds.  It's going to be so beautiful.
It's hard to believe, but the wisteria vine (and it's just one vine) has even more blossoms now.  This obviously was taken on one of the few sunny days we've had lately.  I wish I could share that wonderful perfume.
These beauties came from Deb and Craig at Easter.  The bulbs are in water only, no dirt.  The petals are beginning to drop now, but they sure added a spot of sunshine to my kitchen.
Biner clips are getting pretty darned fancy these days.  I had a choice of these girly pink or manly camo' clips.  Since they're mostly used to keep the goat girls from opening gates and doors, I went for the pink.

I don't hide the fact that I hate to go shopping, and yesterday was a walk through hell.  I learn a store's layout so I can get in and get out quickly.  Walmart was in the process of moving everything, entire departments were shifting.  The biner clips, for example, had moved from the camping supplies to hardware, hidden in the nuts-and-bolts section.  Huh?  It took forever to find anything and, in my frustration, I missed a couple of items on my list; windshield wiper blades, for instance.  Another couple of rainy days are on the horizon and I hope I don't have to drive then.  My current set is shredding.
I know sunset photos have been sorely missed.  This wasn't the most spectacular, but it fills the need.

It's good to be back!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Fans of NCIS will recognize Gibbs's Rule #9, "Never go anywhere without a knife."  I discovered yesterday down in the barn that I had broken one of the primaries.  Reaching in my pocket for the knife I always carry, it was empty!  Oh crum.  Changing to a fresh set of bibbies earlier, I'd not transferred the knife and extra carabiner clip that are indispensable here.  Talk about feeling naked!  It went way past underdressed.  I just never know when either of those tools will be needed.  Just in case, on those rare occasions I put on a dress, there's also a knife in my purse.  I trust in Gibbs.

At the other end of the spectrum, I've been going overboard on socks the last few days.  Even though it didn't really rain yesterday, wading through the still-wet weeds soaked my socks and I've been going through two pair a day.  I see a lot of laundry in my future.

Had to laugh yesterday when Milk Guy arrived, full of the story of how his dog had run into a skunk the night before and Mrs. MG had gone on line and found a marvelous solution to remove skunk smell.  Ha!  I've had (and needed) that recipe for years, ever since the first time Bessie Anne ran afoul of one of the black-and-white kitties.  Bless her stubborn little heart, she once got skunked seven times in one year.  I keep the supplies on hand, even though she's either wised up or skunks no longer come visiting.  FYI, it's a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and two tablespoons of Dawn dish soap (and it has to be Dawn) in a gallon of water.  Wash the victim and rinse well.  It's magic and the smell is instantly gone.  Like a knife in the pocket, you just never know when you'll need it.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Job Security

Animals and acreage guarantee one will always have work, job security at its finest.  The job description might change with the seasons, but there will always be something on the horizon.  After some months of letting Fu sit winter idle, he'd better be ready to do yeoman's work.  It looks like the sun will shine today following our lovely, much-needed rain and that will spur weed growth.  Not wanting to expose new or re-emerging plants in what used to be the herb garden to winter cold (it's now the peony bed), the thick layer of protective leaves will also have to be cleared soon.  I got a great photo of the new Shirley Temple peony in full bloom; it is almost white with deep pink streaks.  Kansas, its neighbor, will be a deep red compliment.  (Pictures will follow whenever phone talks to computer.)  That dratted bracken (I know that not the right name, but have yet to identify the plant) is taking over and getting taller and taller.  I see a lot of weed-eating in my future, hopefully before the dart-like seeds appear.  If I do get around to clearing and then planting a vegetable garden this year, that will add about an hour of watering and weeding to the day, as well as caring for the deck plants.

Yep, that's job security.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

A Soft Day

It was a fine, soft day.  In other words, it rained steadily morning and night.  The lilac blossoms bowed down with the weight of the water, and the wisteria drooped along the fence line.  The new Shirley Temple peony buds started to open; they will be a lovely pale pink, almost white.  Slogging down to the barn (twice) through tall grasses soaked my pant legs to the knees, and I risked life and limb in the chicken pen goo (also twice).

Not only did it rain here, it also rained in Texas.  I know this because there was a two-hour delay in the start of the Saturday evening NASCAR race.  After waiting and waiting as it got later and later and finally getting to watch (my guy is in the tank, hasn't been doing well at all, sad to say), I was dealt a low blow toward the end.  I'd set the DVR to record two other programs and when that happens, live TV is cut off.  Aaargh.  I found out today online that Jimmy Johnson did it again, he's that good.

The weather being what it was, it was perfect night to make the Curried Lentil soup mix from Deb and Craig for dinner.  Hot, filling, nicely spiced, and comforting after putting the kids to bed.  I'm always surprised at how quickly lentils cook.  I'm more used to working with split peas and dry lima and pinto beans, and they take hours.

Today is a day for leftovers, leftover clouds and leftover soup.  Another soft day.

PS:  it occurred to me that yesterday's topic might have been confusing.  It was a quote from Shakespeare, "The quality of mercy is not strained, it falleth from heaven as the gentle rain."

Saturday, April 9, 2016

It Falleth From Heaven

T'wasn't mercy, but a warm, gentle rain that started falling from the skies yesterday afternoon.  The girls were not pleased, to say the least, as they dashed for shelter last night.  It's been awhile, so when I awoke in the middle of the night and heard dripping, my first thought was a leaky faucet.  Nope, just rain from the eaves.

Maybe the rain will keep the wasps dormant for a few days.  Out in the sunshine yesterday, I sprayed and knocked down ten brand new wasp nests from under the lip of the deck railing.  I've been so happy to see all the bees buzzing in the lilacs and rosemary bushes; wasps are an entirely different matter.  I've yet to discover any benefit derived from wasps and hornets.  They're just plain mean, as far as I can tell.  Warm weather brings them out in droves and I keep spray all around the deck to try to keep them in check.  I even have a poison-free spray down in the barn in case they show up there.  We have paper wasps and mud daubers and I don't like either one; I'm an equal-opportunity hater.

It's a good thing I got Fu up and running when I did.  This rain (it's still raining this morning) will cause the weeds/grasses to shoot up more and I got only the one yard mowed so far.  The milk is almost thick, it is so creamy at this time of year.  The girls are gorging on greenery in their pens, so much that I've been able to cut back on the breakfast alfalfa.  Any weeds pulled get thrown to the chickens.  Also, to paraphrase a George Jones song, "It's a good year for the roses."  Some in the pig pen garden are blooming already and the others are so green and healthy.  This rain is falling at just the right time for the roses and the peonies.

Friday, April 8, 2016


Okay, I'll admit it.  I'm getting to be a regular old grouch.  It appears that I called to thank Code Enforcement prematurely.  The quiet of the last week or so has been heavenly.  Today I discovered that the MX (motocross) track was just closed temporarily for "repairs" and to "figure out their water needs."  Water is such a precious, limited commodity and they have "water needs?"  I shall be making another phone call.

Some time back the waste management company (garbage removal) said we could no longer use our own trash barrels but must use the new, improved bins they would provide at a "small cost increase."  These bins, one for trash and one for recyclables, are large, unwieldy, and very heavy even when empty.  The little wheels might be great in urban areas, but are impossible to roll on dirt roads.  However, they would allow the trash truck to use mechanical arms to lift and empty and save Trash Guy extra work.  Okay, I'd go along with that.  Like 95% of the residents on my road (there aren't too many of us, admittedly), I left the new bins down at the corner and hauled what trash I have down there in bags, not necessarily convenient.  Then Trash Guy decided that he didn't want to turn onto our road; it would be easier for him if all the bins were moved across the street, so he did that and there they were, lined up like soldiers.  That street is very narrow and curvy and it wasn't safe to drive over and stop in the middle of the road to move my bags from the truck to the bin, so I walked my stuff over, making several trips.  Whatever, right?  I don't generate enough trash to justify a trip down to the Big Road every week, so I missed the notice placed on the cans (Camille called me) saying that the bins must be removed within 12 hours after pick-up and placed there no sooner than 12 hours before.  By the way, recyclables, under the new rules, were only picked up every other week and who could keep track of that?  Also, the bins could not be within sight of the road after removing them.  There's no way I could lift those bins empty, let alone haul them down full.  I went down yesterday to pull the notice off my bin so I could read it for myself and, lo and behold, I had no bins on the road.  Without notice, because I had not complied with the new rules, my bins had been confiscated.  Long story, well, not short, but the upshot is that yesterday I called Waste Management and cancelled my service.  The dump is only a little out of my way when I go to town twice a month, and can't cost any more than the so-called service.

Have a complaint?  Give it to me.  I'm getting good at it.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Quick Change

It's the time of year when it's difficult to keep up with the rapidly changing weather.  Seems only a week or so ago I needed a hoodie and warm gloves because of the cold.  Yesterday we were in the 80s and I was sweating down in the barn.  Bess and I were grateful for the warmth of the south end of the deck when it was chilly.  Now we sit in the shade of the covered north end and hope for a breeze.  I poured standing water out of the potted plants outside so they didn't drown; yesterday I had to water those same plants that were now wilting and dry.  I've gone from turtlenecks to T-shirts and am thinking about tank tops.

However, the forecast is for rain tomorrow and temps in the 50s.  Go figure.  I've been planning to switch the fleece sheets for cotton, having already removed the winter blanket.  Maybe I'll hold off on that a few days.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Let Me Count The Ways

(Apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning.)

Back in the day when I had a real job, I had an office and a paycheck and all that good stuff.  I actually worked two full-time jobs for ten years.  I was organized and focused and task oriented.  Now, not s'much.  I know what I need to do, what I should do, and automatically start finding ways to put off doing anything.  (Taking care of the animals is first priority and, while I might run late once in awhile, they are never neglected.)

I thought it might be helpful to those Type-A personalities who are having trouble relaxing their schedules to get a few pointers in procrastination.  "All work and no play," etc.  Yesterday was a good example and fairly educational.  I'm in the middle of a paperwork project that I really don't want to do, a good starting point for a distraction exercise.

Getting ready to go to the barn, I noticed the hummingbird feeders were empty.  They could wait, but getting to the goats late would use up more of the day and put off the project.  (1) Mix the "juice" and fill the feeders.  Barn chores done, while taking the obligatory rest break I saw that an episode of "Criminal Minds" was on that I hadn't seen before.  (2) Watch TV.  Lest there be a guilt build-up, I sorted papers at the same time.  Okay, time to knuckle down and do some work.  Am I hungry?  I think I'm hungry.  Maybe have a little something first.  (3) Stave off starvation with a couple of fried tortillas.  Go to work.  What?  You have to go outside right now, Bess?  (4) Go sit on the deck with Bess Anne.  GTW.  Heading to the computer, there was a pile of laundry that I'd put off (extra points right there).  (5) Put the laundry in the washer.  GTW.  Did some work.  Don't tell me you have to go outside again, Bess.  (6) Go outside to sit in the shade with Bessie.  GTW a little while until the washing was done.  (7) Hang washing on the line.  GTW.  By this time we're well into the afternoon.  Time for a break.  (8) Go out front to pull some weeds.  Even a chore I enjoy can be put off because I remembered that I wanted to call Code Enforcement to say thank you for shutting down the dirt bike track and restoring peace to the hills.  (9) Call the County office.  GTW and actually get something done until the washing had to come off the line.  (10) You get the idea....

With a little practice, anyone can become a champion procrastinator.  However, you don't have to start right away.  In fact, I'd advise against it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Always Something

Buried in paperwork most of the day, a beautiful day, and there I was stuck in the house.  Phooey.  There is a saying, "About as exciting as watching grass grow."  Well, maybe not exciting, but the grass here is growing great guns.  Well versed in the art of procrastination, I decided that the paperwork could be done after dark, but the mowing needed to be done right then.  Accordingly, Bess and I went out to the feed barn where the lawn tractor had been parked, lo these many months.  Checked the tires for air; all good.  Filled the gas tank and crossed my fingers that Fu Manchu would start.  Ta da!  The old boy fired up on the first try!  Put it in gear and....  Nothing.  No movement forward or back.  ???  It was only then that I noted that the ground squirrels had burrowed underneath and the tires had sunk deep into the dirt.  Okay, I can do this.  Given that there is a slight slope under the shed, I thought that if I dug a trench toward the downward side, I could give Fu a runway.  Wrong.  I tried lifting the back end up enough to lessen the anchor.  No.  Pacing around the front yard while the grass was growing even as I looked, I weighed my limited options.  In a slight panic and definite desperation, I texted Helper Dude and asked if he could bring his quad and a tow rope to pull Fu Manchu out of his ditch.  Luckily, HD came right away.  HD is nearly 16, over six feet tall, and he took one look at the situation, bent slightly and lifted the back end out of the dirt and onto firm ground.  (I'd tried that.)  HD rode off to do whatever it is that 16-year-olds do, and I rode off to mow the side yard.  It was by then nearly sundown.  Just as well.  I may need another excuse to get out of the house today.  There's always something.

Monday, April 4, 2016


My happy cup overfloweth.  Any visit from my Kids is a Red Letter event, and two visits in as many weeks sends me over the moon.  Deb and Craig came up yesterday!  As if that weren't gift enough, they drove up and unloaded two big, healthy peony plants loaded with buds.  Not only that, the two worker bees planted them in what used to be the herb garden.  I didn't have to lift a finger.  I'm officially changing the name of that plot to The Peony Garden.  After the growing season, peonies die off and disappear, but pop up again in spring.  I've been watching the plants they'd previously given emerge one at a time.  It will be a virtual forest of peonies and I can't wait for them all to bloom.  The Kids also gifted me with a Thai basil plant.  Since I don't trust the squirrels, I will not plant it in what used to be the herb garden, but in a pot on the deck.  The ground squirrels are out in full force now, racing around in the front yard, playing tag, sounding off with that irritating chirp, and the brazen little devils are coming right up to the screen door on the porch to torment Ralph and Celeste.  I'll be darned if I'm going to spice up their salads with basil, too. 

And then...and then Deb and Craig brought out a bucket of KFC!  How's that for the frosting on the cake?  We did not, however, have cake.  I finally paid off my debt to Craig and had made a pecan pie when I found out they were coming up.  (My boy is a sucker for pecan pie.)

Craig knows someone who may be interested in the old tractor and all the implements that have been sitting in the field.  I would be so happy to know it/they were fulfilling destiny and not sitting like yard art, sadly unused all these years.  Fingers crossed.  We went out to take some photos, and then did a walkabout in the yards, stopping to chat with the goats, who are always curious about guests.

It's going to get hot soon and I know that will curtail any visits from the valley Kids.  "Oh, let's go visit Mom in the sweat box!"  Not!  (They all have A/C.  I don't.)  The weather was perfect yesterday, and seeing Deb and Craig was perfect, too.

Sunday, April 3, 2016


Today would have been my mother's 112th birthday; she's been gone 33 years.  Good grief, those are impressive numbers.  Mother left me a legacy of love of words.  I've mentioned before how, on our many road trips when I was a kid, she would point out something and ask how many ways I could describe it using just one word.  For example:  butte, mesa, plateau all refer to an uprising of earth on the plains.  Probably because of her approaching birthday, I got to thinking about the imagery of words while cleaning stalls yesterday.  Just one word can create a picture, a sound, a taste, a smell in your mind.  Listen to cacophony or tremolo.  Smell vinegary or lemony, or gingerbread.  See the difference between gleaming and gloaming.  Love and hate evoke emotions.  Words are powerful tools.

Not eager to overextend activities after the headache of the day before, piddly chores were in order, with plenty of breaks.  On one of our outings to the deck, Bessie Anne and I sat down to watch four deer in a sylvan setting (down by the edge of the woods, as it were).  Migraines amplify sound.  After an enforced day of quiet, Bess evidently required a little excitement.  Watching the deer browse on newly sprouted oak leaves and graze on verdant slopes got too much for her and she took off around the deck and headed toward the deer.  Not in the least afraid, the deer obligingly played the game and moved off into the woods.  That was enough for Bess and she came back to me.  I'm not sure if the herd was thumbing their nose at the dog or proving they felt safe here, but a few minutes later all four were feeding down in the front pasture.

I took some good photos yesterday which, unfortunately, I cannot share until I get the cellphone and the computer back on speaking terms.  I fear that's going to take a trip to the AT&T store for some professional help.  One of these days.  In the meantime, I'll try to draw pictures with words.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

April Fooled Me

"You think you're going visiting and have a good time today?  I'll show you," said April.  I'd awakened with a migraine headache, but thought I could catch it early and soldier on.  I did get the sink unplugged, the pie baked, a load of laundry done, and the chickens fed and goats milked before I cried uncle.  Cleaning stalls was beyond my capabilities yesterday, it just was.  Migraines affect my vision and driving wasn't a good idea.  Weighing my options, reluctantly I called Tinka to say I was definitely going to miss lunch with her, Kit, Earlene, and Tinka's daughter whom I've not yet met, but I'd try to make it later in the day.  Well, that didn't happen.  I am ill so seldom that I don't know how to act.  Approaching a state of catatonia, I didn't do anything I wanted or needed to do for the rest of the day.  It was a perfectly beautiful day, and I could hear April sniggering as I missed the whole thing.

Fortunately, migraines last only so long and today is a much better day.  I missed the window of opportunity to see my friend Kit on her once a year or every-other-year visit.  Ratchafratch.  April did a number on me, for sure.  The stalls await.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Stop And Go

Got the truck gassed up so I'm ready to get over the hill to Fiddletown today.  The gas cans are filled so I'm ready to mow whenever I get around to it.  I thought about doing it yesterday, but a fairly strong, very chilly wind was blowing and I opted to put that job off.  On our afternoon outing (Bess insisted), I did put in time pulling some of that pretty, fern-like weed that springs up in shady areas under the oak and behind the chicken pen.  It's really lovely, but will soon put out those dratted dagger-like seeds that stick in socks and Bess's fur, so it's best to get a start on it while I can.

I received a wonderful text yesterday saying that Deb and Craig are coming up on Sunday.  She didn't say what was the occasion, but it doesn't matter.  Two visits in close succession are a reason to celebrate.  I made pie crust yesterday, enough for two single-crust pies.  It's always best to chill the dough thoroughly, so I'm ahead on the peaches-and-cream pie for today (finally made up my mind), and with any luck I'll make the pecan pie I owe Craig on Sunday.

The "stop" part of this is the danged bathroom sink.  It's been stopping up a lot lately.  Putting drain cleaner in takes timing because the cats' litter box is in that bathroom and Ralph, being Ralph, has to inspect any and everything different.  I don't want them not to have access to their box, but I also don't want Ralph anywhere near the drain cleaner.  The cats are taking their morning nap now, so I gave the sink a healthy dose of cleaner and shut the door.  I hope to heck it works, because the alternative is taking the pipes apart to check the trap.  I'd be worried about the septic tank backing up, but that sink is the only drain with a problem.  I don't think I'd have a problem getting the P-trap apart; it's getting it back together that scares me.  Fingers crossed.

I'd better get a move on if I'm going to get a running start on the day.