Sunday, July 31, 2016

Not Much

It is fitting to start at the end of day because not much went on during daylight hours.  The unrelenting heat continued, made worse by smoke in the air from the Soberanes fire over in Monterey County.  That, and not clouds, is the dark layer in the sky at sundown.

With the clotheslines down, my most ambitious undertaking was to move laundry from the washer to the dryer, then fold it.

A highlight of the day was a call from my grandson Jake, who is finishing Air Force boot camp in San Antonio.  I hardly recognize this young man, certainly not the kid who visited here shortly before he began his enlistment.  Poor guy, he'll be trading the heat of Texas for the humidity of his next station in Mississippi.  (And I whine about the temperatures here.)

Vultures were hanging around the goat pen again, looking for another handout.  I'm hoping never to provide another snake for them.  They'd left neither skin nor scale of the last one.  (Was going to say "hide nor hair," but that would have been inaccurate.)

There will be an impromptu meeting of the Ladies today at Linda's for dinner.  She, in addition to being a great cook, has air conditioning!!

It's predicted to be four or five degrees cooler today, still in the 90s.  That's not much, but I'll take it!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Jump Start

The morning routine goes like this:  get Inga up on the stand, get the brush, brush down one side of her, open the connecting door to the big room as I walk around her rump, brush down the other side, put the brush back and get the wipes.  So far, so good.  Except that Inga was making funny little snorts, almost like she was whispering an alarm.  "What's up with you, silly girl?"  Only then did I notice the snake just inside the big room.  Yep, there was the diamond-shaped head and the rattles, only three, but....  Snake was slithering away as I grabbed the shovel, but then it stopped and coiled.  This was a good thing as I didn't want to have to chase after it in the tall, dry weeds outside among the goats and I sure didn't want the thing lurking and coming back again.  The shovel was a good weapon and Snake was nearly cut in two.  I went back to Inga and started milking with shaking hands.  I always get after-the-fact nerves.

There is this thing about snakes that I had forgotten.  My mind told me that the snake was dead, but when the two parts began to slowly writhe, my eyes screamed like Dr. Frankenstein, "It's alive!"  Reflexes continued to fire for some time and Snake moved periodically the entire time until I could get Inga down and out and bash Snake a few more good whacks.  It wouldn't be an understatement to say I was hypervigilant the rest of the morning.  I took Snake out of the pen on my way to the house to leave as breakfast for the vultures.

Week One of radiation done.  Only fifteen more days to go!

Late in the afternoon when the deck was in shade, Bess and I went out to water the stricken plants.  I was working my way down the rail when suddenly the hose ran dry.  What the heck?!  Had a pipe broken somewhere and the well run dry?  All sorts of dire thoughts ran through my head as I went in to try the faucet in the kitchen.  Nothing.  Aaargh.  Only then did I notice that the power was out, and had probably been out for some time.  The pressure tank needs electricity to pump to the house, duh.  Still better than a broken pipe, and I've learned to count my blessings.  The power came back after a couple of hours and once again all was right in my world.

Let's just say it was an unusual day.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Holy Cow!

Why is it, I wonder, that only bovines get so blessed?  Nobody says, "Holy skunk," or "Holy cat."  (It doesn't pay to let the mind wander early in the morning.)

The Swedes have nothing on me.  I've got a sauna right here in Fair Play.  I call it the barn.  It's a dry sauna; the only thing wet in there is me.  Holy cow, it's hot down there!  I think about getting a wall thermometer to see how much hotter it is under that low metal roof in direct sunlight, but then, it might be better not to know.

The radiology staff work like a well-oiled machine.  The whole procedure is down to a science, including an automatic check-in system using a bar-code card.  Just enough time to slip into one of those fashionable half-gowns before a voice in the wall tells me to, "Come on back."  Two techs are waiting with my custom-fitted mold on the table where I am to lie.  Barely enough time for pleasantries and a couple of measurements before they duck out of the room, the machine starts its thing, and zut! it's over.  Holy cow, they're fast!  I kid you not, from walk in to walk out took fifteen minutes yesterday.

Cam and Honey came by just after I got home.  Cam and I sat in the living room where the ceiling fan at least stirred the air.  There wasn't a puff of breeze out on the deck where we usually go.  She and I sat like limp dishrags, but the dogs were suddenly energized.  They raced back and forth playing tag.  Honey grabbed a squeaky toy out of the basket and tossed it in the air.  "Weekie, weekie, weekie!"  We finally threw both girls outside to roughhouse.  Holy cow, where did that come from?

Looks like today is going to be more of the same.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Oohs And Ahhs

In winter, I feel so bad when I use an ice-cold, wet wipe to clean a girl's udder and she jumps and says, "Ooh!"  These days when it is 90-plus or 100 as it was yesterday, a goat's response is, "Ahhh.  Don't stop."

Bessie Anne also said, "Ahhh," as she stood in her pool and I poured water over her back and shoulders when I got home.  She meets me at the door, panting from the heat.  I leave the ceiling fan on and plenty of water in several bowls, but there's not much else I can do for her (or for me, either).

"Aarrgh!"  Thankfully, gas prices are down right now.  My only stop after treatment was for gasoline.  "Can I stretch out one more trip?  Better not."  Besides, the cost of filling an empty tank would probably give me a coronary.  Like medicine, it's easier to swallow smaller doses.

"Ooh!" (or something close) when a second clothesline broke.  The remaining line will do for hanging socks, but not much else.  I'm waiting for some tall person to come by to put up new lines.  I could do it, but were I to get up on a ladder and fall, if the landing didn't kill me, my Kids would.  I'm not sure of the logic of threatening bodily harm if I were to hurt myself, but I've been warned.

"Really?!"  After years of slo-w-l-y whittling away at a high that I won't disclose, I finally weigh less than the lie that I put on my driver's license way back when.  (I never lie about my age, but can't say the same for my weight.)  Working toward ten-pound goals took forever.  Whether I can keep it off remains to be seen, but it's cause for celebration now.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Taking Sides

I think it works like this:  the mice have babies, the babies become adolescents, the parents kick them out of the nest, the kids move over to the other side of the room, and a new clan is formed.  There are raids on the opposing camp, dashes across to steal grain and a race back to safety.  If caught by the home team, there is a fierce, if brief, tussle.  Mice have this amazing ability to leap straight up into the air, probably six times their own height, to evade injury.  Sometimes it's this popcorn effect that catches my eye first and alerts me to the Lilliputian warfare.  Clan allegiance is pretty strong, members pretty much sticking to their own territory.  Therefore it was unusual to see that Dumbo, the undersized mouse with the big, low-set ears, had moved over to the other side and back with the older mice.  I guess there are bullies in the mouse world, too.  He continues to keep a low profile, but seems to be well accepted now.

In the light of day, I was finally able to find where that tool goes on the vacuum cleaner (thought I was losing my mind) and finally got the carpet swept before Arden came for a lunch of tea-party leftovers.  Unfortunately, I had to give her the bum's rush because I had to get down the hill.  My only time clock normally is sundown, and I'm not used to having to make appointments during the day.

After sweating buckets in the barn, a shower was mandatory (no time before Arden came).  I'd been told not to put deodorant on the affected side before treatment.  In this weather?  "Poor you.  Better stay on my good side."  I've got to reach a happy medium as I'd cut it pretty fine getting to my appointment on Monday so allowed more time yesterday.  Too much time as it turned out.  That's okay.  The office is air conditioned and I had a good book.  It was more pleasant to sit there than at home.

Bess had been stuck in the hot house all day.  It only seemed fair to put her in the truck after I got back from town to take the trash down to the big road.  The truck has air conditioning and would give her a bit of relief.  The things we do for our furry friends.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Day One

Camille put perspective on the situation for me.  I was bemoaning facing four weeks of radiation therapy that began yesterday.  "Four weeks?  That's only twenty days.  You can do twenty days, and now there are only nineteen to go."  She was absolutely right.  It's just five days a week.  I'm not used to having anything resembling a weekend in my life and saw a month of driving stretching out ahead.

Allowing forty-five minutes for the trip was cutting it too short.  If there had been lookie-loos in the canyon or a traffic jam on the freeway I wouldn't have made it in time.  The treatment itself took perhaps ten minutes and all I had to do was lie there.  It's totally painless.  I met with the doctor afterward who explained that there may be some fatigue later and the skin over the area will appear sunburned.  I can deal with that.  Then it was the nurse's turn to give me instructions, saying that the doctor would be checking in once a week and all I would need to do was lift my shirt.  "Do I get beads?"  "Pardon me?"  "Well, if I have to flash everyone as if it were Mardi Gras, I want beads."  She said she'd check with the head office about that.

I stopped on the way home to buy a new vacuum cleaner.  If I have to leave home, I'm going to make the most of every trip.  Putting the thing together later, there is one on-board tool for which I can find no spot, no clip, no knob, to put the darned thing.  The instructions show me that I have it, but not where it goes.  Oh well, that's the least of my worries.

Cam stopped by about then, so I still need to vacuum because Arden is coming for lunch today.  Turns out it was my fault she missed the tea.  I'd given her the wrong date, and I must make it up to her.

Day One was quite a day.  Nineteen to go.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Hit And Miss

Ah well, some days are like that.  The menu for the tea party was not difficult, but did require a lot of fussy prep work mincing carrots, green beans, red bell pepper, red onion, celery, scallions, and a bit of garlic to mix with cream cheese to spread on thinly sliced whole-grain bread for triple-decker sandwiches (cut in triangles, lady-style, of course).  Leeks sauteed at the same time, ready for ham-and-leek mini quiches to be baked just before tea time.  I'd made gingerbread with brandy-soaked raisins and lemon custard bars a day ahead.

The kitchen was no hotter than any other room, so going to the living room was just to rest my legs.  I would have picked the hottest day so far to throw a party, and why choose a Sunday?  I knew it was a NASCAR day.  Alternating between the chopping board and the race track, I cleaned up in the kitchen and set the table with pretty vintage dishes and a centerpiece of a miniature tea set.

And then Linda called.  An emergency situation had arisen and she couldn't come.  Crum.

Nothing for it but to carry on and pull out the vacuum cleaner.  Swept about a six-foot square and the dad-ratted thing died.  Are you kidding me?!  Dead, deader than a door nail.  (Evidently door nails, whatever they are, have a short life expectancy.)  I lost incentive to dust and sat down to watch the race to the end. 

Showered and in a dress (again!), I'd put the quiches in the oven and they were ready just as Camille and Honey drove up.  Cam wore shorts and a lovely big-brimmed hat.  She was ready for the tea party!  Honey is up for any party that includes a cookie (milk bone).  We waited for Arden.  And waited.  (Found out later that she'd written the wrong date on the calendar.  Drat.)  And then we opened the champagne and filled our plates and glasses while listening to rock-and-roll from the '60s and '70s, reminiscing about our lives back in the day.

Linda and Arden were certainly missed, but the food was a hit and Camille's company is always a pleasure.  It was a hit-and-miss kind of day.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Good Intentions

With the best of intentions (I even made a to-do list), I did not get everything done yesterday.  The heat is like an anchor around my neck and I go into slow motion.  I'm not the only one affected.  The chickens take desultory dust baths and turkeys rest quietly in the shade instead of going on parade.  Ralph and Celeste lie in this room and that, only moving when the sun strikes their spot and they try to find a cooler place.  Bess does pretty much the same, only asking to go outside when she knows I'll soak her down with the hose.  I turned the sprinkler on in the front garden to fill the birdbath for our feathered friends.  I'm not ashamed to say I stood in the spray myself.  Only the baby squirrels race around like the nut-cases they are.  Not a hint of the delta breezes blew and the heat was plain oppressive.

Well, that which did not get done yesterday is not going to do itself today and I need to get a move on while it is still relatively cool.  At least I've still got the list and that should point me in the right direction.  That's my intention.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Party Plans

Call me The Mad Hatter if you will, but I'm throwing a tea party for the Ladies of Fair Play tomorrow.  It just seems like a ladylike, fun thing to do, a little different from the norm and I'm fortunate that my friends are willing to play along with me.  I have a wall full of hats in all shapes and sizes so we can play dress up in high fashion if the Ladies don't bring their own.  "Tea party" is a misnomer as, being grownups, we'll be pouring champagne and skip the tea.

Cleaning house more than a day in advance is an exercise in futility.  Dust resettles before you can leave the room and the dog tracks in leaves and burrs every time she comes in the house, so those are last-minute chores.  Wouldn't you know the temperature has been rising in leaps and bounds?  I did get a start on baking desserts yesterday.  When it's in the 90s, having the oven on hardly makes a difference.  Finishing the savories will have to wait until tomorrow, but I can do a lot of the prep work today.

Taking a break from the kitchen, Bess and I went out on the deck in the afternoon, hoping to catch a breath of air.  Not only was there a breeze, there was music coming from one of the wineries.  How pleasant.  Cam came by later to enjoy the unexpected concert, bringing Honey to play with Bess, and a small goat she's babysitting who stayed in the truck.  (I know proper English would dictate that people are "who" and animals and things are "that."  Not in our world.)

It was a good, if hot, day.

Friday, July 22, 2016


Bessie Anne and I were sitting out on the deck in the shade to enjoy the cooling breeze.  I'd gotten sucked into watching a couple of old movies back to back, "Waterloo Bridge" (Vivien Leigh, Robert Taylor, 1940) and "Prisoner of Zenda" (Ronald Colman, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., C. Aubrey Smith, Raymond Massey, David Niven, 1937), and needed some fresh air.  I got air alright.  Bessie likes to lie by my feet with her head resting on the lower railing, watching the scene below and thinking doggie thoughts, perhaps dreaming doggie dreams.  Birds were chirping, hens were clucking, and the neighbor's donkey brayed.  From under the table by my side came quiet little toots, not the silent but deadly sort.  Bess does not normally have gas attacks, but she definitely had one yesterday.  I was grateful for the breeze that prevented a miasma from forming.  (I once had a dog who could create a green fog that would make your eyes water.)  Bessie was oblivious, not even raising her head at the minor explosions.  I should have named her Tootsie.

Today is my daughter's birthday.  I remember her birth day, one of the happiest days of my life, as if it were yesterday.  She is still my joy.

Thursday, July 21, 2016


I met my friend Harold for a late lunch yesterday and we went to Jackson, the southern equivalent of Placerville.  It's a pretty drive through rolling hills in the heart of gold country and the tiny hamlet of Dry Town.  Before the new road went in the winding, two-lane road crept through Amador City and Sutter Creek, slow going.  The now four-lane highway bypasses those towns and shortens the driving time.  Few of us up here will leave home for just one thing, so we made a stop before lunch for a piece of hardware Harold needed and at a grocery store afterward.  It turns out that Harold is a shopper, zipping around in a motorized grocery cart like a NASCAR driver.

I feel much like Cinderella at the stroke of midnight on those rare occasions when I get gussied up and wear a dress, a couple of times a year, I'd say.  On coming home, my white horses turn back into mice, the truck is a pumpkin, and I'm back in baggy bibbies.  The ball is over.

It was a good day.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Farview Version

"The Twelve Days Of Christmas," Farview style, played in my head all day yesterday after seeing this squirrel sentry pretending to be a partridge in a (dead) pear tree.

There's only one maid a-milking around here, but there are a whole lot more than four calling birds and some of them actually are doves, possibly of the turtle variety.

There are no swans a-swimming due to lack of water, and the hens are plain old American, not French.  Not even they are laying much this year, and I have no geese.

We're fresh out of all the rest of the merry-makers, those dancing ladies, leaping lords, pipers and drummers, and I've only the one golden ring.

There are only 157 days until Christmas.  Time to get in the spirit!  Ho ho ho!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

I'm Thinking

When my daughter was a little girl, maybe in kindergarten or first grade, what she wanted most for her birthday that year was an umbrella.  Her birthday is in July.  It's not easy to find an umbrella in SoCal in July.  It's even harder to gift wrap an umbrella if you find one, trust me.  She was thrilled, regardless.  So there she was with a new umbrella and hot, dry skies above.  I can see her still, sitting in a corner looking out the window, saying plaintively, "Mama, wouldn't you think God would make it rain for a little girl with a brand new umbrella?"  I thought about that.  "Come on, honey, come with me and bring your present."  We went out to the front yard (who cares what the neighbors think?) and I turned on the water and pointed the hose in the air and my child marched back and forth like Christopher Robin in "Winnie The Pooh" under the spray.  She was happy.

I'm thinking along those lines as I pass by John Deere (I think of him as John Dear).  Wouldn't you think that a gal with a brand new tractor could catch a break and get a little rain so she could mow a yard or two (or four)?  Although it was noticeably cooler yesterday, the July sun continues to beat down and John stays in his shed, probably feeling unwanted and unloved, definitely unused.  Poor John.  Poor me.  That's what I'm thinking.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Uninvited

One girl on the stand, the herd in the pen, everything going smoothly when I heard the girls snort the alarm.  All heads were pointed in one direction, but I couldn't see the why of it.  Taking the bucket with me (never leave a milk bucket under a goat unless you want to sit back down in a puddle), I went to look.  Aha!  An uninvited coyote was standing in the front yard checking the chicken breakfast menu.  "Hmmm.  Shall I go for the red or the black and white today?"  Once again I was glad I'm not in view or hearing of my neighbors as I banged on the barn walls and hollered, "Git!  Get out of here!"  I did startle Coyote but obviously didn't scare him/her.  He (arbitrary gender assignment) calmly turned and trotted back down the driveway.  The hens had been safe all the while, but I'd prefer the predators would go after some of the ubiquitous ground squirrels.

Camille and I were comparing notes on the squirrels, also uninvited visitors.  After many years of living down on the corner and never having these little boogers on her property, she found one in her barn the other day and was outraged.  I immediately disclaimed ownership.  All of "my" squirrels are accounted for.  We agreed they wouldn't be quite so obnoxious if they would show some courtesy and good manners.  Mice will take one piece of grain at a time, either scurrying away with it or sitting nibbling quietly until it is gone.  They'll then politely wipe their mouth before choosing another snack.  Squirrels, on the other hand, push their way in and stuff their pouches full, showing no self-restraint whatsoever.  If they pause at all, it's to chew noisily with their mouth full and open.  Just plain rude, I say.

Another creature I've never invited into the house is an ant.  Make that "ants" plural.  But still they come, and come in droves every summer.  I'm assuming they come for water.  I might sympathize with their need, but it isn't as if I didn't have water sources outside for all wild things.  They overstep their bounds, as far as I'm concerned.  An ant in the house is a dead ant in my book and I wage a daily war with them during the season.

I didn't exactly invite Ralph to my lap last night, but he appeared and decided to just chill for awhile.  Now he's the kind of uninvited guest I can enjoy.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Jar Is Full

Whether we're talking about getting in a pickle or a jam, the local jar is getting pretty full.  I had my drama last week with the two-tractor tango.  Yesterday Cam's truck went kerphlooey and she needed to get to town to pick up a prescription.  The scratch barrel was empty down to the last kernel so I had to go to the feed store.  I did need supplies from town, but was putting it off (what a surprise).  Being without a vehicle up here is a big deal, more than an inconvenience, and she was in a jam.  She didn't have to ask.  I picked her up a short while later and off we went.

Down in Mt. Aukum, I took the opportunity to fill the truck's gas tank.  Never knowing when an emergency might arise, I get antsy when the gauge shows half empty.  I didn't need alfalfa yet, but the sale price was too good to resist.  "Make hay while the sun shines," yes, but buy it when the price drops.  No, I don't buck hay anymore; it will be delivered next week.

Cam shops the way I do:  zip, zap, in and out.  We completed our tasks in town in no time and were back on the road toward home.  I was happy to help my friend out of her particular pickle.  Beau has offered to take a look at and hopefully fix her truck.  That's what friends do when the jar gets full.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Hands Full

I had my hands full yesterday, literally.  Each new piece of electronic equipment requires another remote.  I have three:  one for the satellite, one for the TV, and one for the snazzy machine that dubs VHS to DVD.  There is a corded landline phone next to one that is wireless and, of course, there is the cellphone.  All of these marvels are on tables next to my chair.  (Except the cellphone, which stays in my pocket at all times.)  Thus I might be forgiven if I, on occasion, try to change the channel with the wireless phone or wonder why I'm not getting a dial tone when I've picked up and try to make a phone call on the TV remote.  It's not that I am electronically challenged, it's just the physicality of it that is sometimes overwhelming.

I don't do much during this overheated weather but read or watch television (when I pick the right remote).  Getting engrossed in either passes the time and sometimes allows one to ignore how hot it is.  If Colin Firth has ever made a bad film, I haven't seen it.  From comedy to serious drama, he outshines his costars, in my opinion.  Yesterday I watched "The Railway Man," certainly not an easy movie but he was excellent and believable, as always.

Clouds at sundown shot up like fireworks, a belated Fourth of July celebration.  Looking up while filling the water trough later, I noted that the moon is nearly full again.  How time does fly when you're having fun.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Beat Goes On

"And the beat goes on," (Sonny & Cher).  In the ongoing saga of Fu Manchu, it's more a case of a "beat down."  The wandering boy was returned to me late yesterday, and then I was handed a bill for over $200.  "For a new inner tube?!"  "Oh, it didn't need an inner tube.  Dirt had gotten in the rim and needed to be brushed out.  We did give it a complete service and put on new blades.  And, of course, there's the delivery charge."  When I picked my jaw up off the ground, I said, "You never called to give me an estimate or get approval!"  He went off on a long spiel about the fire at the shop and his health problems and how hard it was to get in touch with customers, on and on ad nauseam.  Then he told me how lucky it was that the tractor had survived and that he'd been really easy on me with the labor charges because it took longer than an hour and a half to do the job.  Let's just say my sympathy tank was running on empty.  He then mentioned that he was "pretty sure" the rolling weed-eater was toast.  I will not be replacing that soon as I don't need another Lazarus.

Someone turned the oven up yesterday, and the fire was still glowing at sundown.  Bessie Anne and I had baked long and slow all day and were well done by the time we put the girls to bed.  We'd gone out several times to stand in the mist from the hose or to join the birds standing in the spray from the sprinkler.  It's our saving grace when the temperature rises.

Poor old Fu.  All dressed up and nowhere to go.  He doesn't even have a room to come home to anymore since John moved in.  He breaks my heart as well as my wallet.  I'll have to find a niche for him somewhere as he is now sitting sadly in front of the hay barn.  At some point I'll try to rehome him and hope that his new owners will appreciate his services as I have.  His beat will go on.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Out Of The Ashes

Mark Twain said, "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."  Fu Manchu could say the same.  Seeing the photos of the burned remains of a yard full of equipment at the repair shop and the post by the owner's daughter, "We've lost everything," led me to believe that Fu was no more.  I waited and heard nothing from the shop, and finally contacted my insurance company (the owner had let his insurance lapse).  Given depreciation, etc., I was happy to get a check that would cover perhaps half of the cost of replacement, half a loaf being better than none, and signed on the line for John.  Camille bought a new weed-eater (that woman is a weed-eating fool!).  She'd taken her old one to the shop the morning of the fire and was sure it was also a victim.

There I was, happily going forward and reverse on my new wheels, when I got a call from the repair shop.  "Your tractor survived and we'll get it to you soon.  We haven't found your rolling weed-eater yet."  To say I was stunned is an understatement.  Now I was in a pickle.  Two tractors is a bit of overkill.  (Steve wouldn't have thought so, he who wanted fifty of everything.)  Fu and I had a long and happy life together, but I'd already given my heart to John.  I called my insurance company to get instructions.  They were simple, "Send the money back."  Ah, well.  Such is life.  Camille also got a call from the shop.  Now she has two weed-eaters.  I'm tellin' ya, we're living high on the hog here in the hinterlands.

All Fu Manchu had needed was a new inner tube for one tire.  I'll still have to pay for that.  Crum.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Cowgirl Up!

I just love manuals and instruction books.  They are my adult equivalent of Linus's security blanket ("Peanuts," Charles Schulz).  For two days, John had been sitting out alone in the hot sun and I was feeling pretty guilty.  And sad.  Here I had a brand-new-to-me tractor and we couldn't communicate.  Printed pages in hand, I went out after the heat of the day had lessened to try again. The John Deere manual comes with lots of pictures, too, so I was hopeful we could get a dialogue going.  Throttle up, turn the key, vroom!  So far, so good.  I'd gotten that far on my own the other day, but John had balked and wouldn't move.  There is a parking brake lever that wouldn't release.  Turns out I hadn't pushed hard enough on the brake pedal.  Getting braver, I squooshed that sucker down and, ta da!, the lever released.  I looked all over John and I checked the manual again, but I'll be darned if I could find where they'd hidden the speed control lever.  (Light bulb goes on.)  John is an automatic, no clutch, no shifter.  Who knew?!  John is in the Rolls-Royce category of yard tractors and I had no idea.  Cautiously, we moved forward, and then I got brave enough to try reverse (another foot pedal).  Forward, reverse.  Forward, reverse.  Gaining confidence, it was time to lower the mowing blades on an isolated patch of star thistle where there was no danger of sparking a fire.  And, nothing.  Huh?  Lowered the blades farther and tried again.  Nothing.  I even considered that the blades were missing, silly me, but what good is a mower that wouldn't cut warm butter?  Back to the manual, and discovered what that PTO (power take-off) button was for.  With a roar and a cloud of dust, John chomped down a ten-foot patch of thistle in no time flat.  How I wish the weather was more amenable to mowing; I can't wait!  Flushed with success, I tucked John into his little shed for the night.  I think we're going to be just fine.  Given John's superior suspension, it's not the same as bucking around on Fu Manchu, but it's good to be up on a big bull again.  Cowgirl up!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Leaving Home

I don't like to leave home.  With careful planning, I'd gotten my grocery shopping and errand running in town down to twice a month, with maybe a quick trip to the feed store every so often.  That suited me just fine.  All the way home yesterday from the "mapping" at the radiation oncology office, I tried to work out the logistic nightmare of having to go to Cameron Park five days a week for a month.  (Hey, it's only four weeks; I lucked out there.)  Goats in the morning, change clothes, leave the house by 2:30, appointment at 3:30 (they tell me each treatment will take no more than 15 minutes), probably catch commuter traffic on the way home so toss in another hour, change back to bibbies, have a bite to eat, put goats and chickens to bed, and call it a day.  ("Please, Mr. Custer, I don't wanna go," song by Larry Verne, 1960.)

Well, look at the bright side.  It's not winter, when roads would be icy and slick and/or it could be raining or worse, and the goats would need to be in the barn before dark at 4:30.  There's always a bright side.  And the truck has air conditioning.

John sits where I left him.  Deb found a John Deere manual online that I can print out (all 60 pages).  There wasn't enough time to get that done yesterday, but I did get to read it.  It seems part of my trouble is that all pedals, etc., are exactly on opposite sides to Fu's mechanics.  John doesn't want to leave home either; he wants to get into his little shed where he belongs.

July 25th is D-Day for the grand adventure to begin.  That gives me two weeks of freedom, and I'm going to enjoy it.  At home!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Sit, Stay!

Scott (Delivery Guy) called in early morning to say he'd be here between 9:30 and 1.  I said that was fine.  With the Ladies coming in the evening, I not only dusted, I polished(!) while waiting and looking out the windows and door for the big semi DG said he was driving.  The darned vacuum cleaner quit again halfway through the living room and I put it in the closet for a time out.  About 12:30, the phone rang again.  "Where are you exactly?"  "Where are you, Scott?"  "I keep ending up at this park."  "Sit, stay, Scott.  I'll be right there."  Many of the roads up here loop around and it can be confusing.  Off I went to the rescue, found DG and led him back.  He'd been circling around and missed my road every time.  He unloaded John and gave me a crash course.  "This is where the gas goes.  This lever does this.  That button does that.  That is for cruise control (cruise control?!).  Only pull this rod out if you need to push the tractor somewhere."  Nodding dutifully, I tried to ask semi-intelligent questions while following him around as he quickly pointed to this and that and talking a mile a minute.  My mistake was not having a hands-on demonstration.  "Can I go online and get a manual?"  "Oh, sure, and you can print it out."  (I really, really like manuals.)  After giving DG a soda and offering the use of the bathroom (it's necessary up here to do that), he rumbled off and I immediately went to the computer.  To my dismay, there are no free manuals and I'd already spent my allowance.  Sigh.

How hard could it be?  Turned out to be pretty doggone difficult.  I could start the engine.  Period.  None of the other buttons or levers would cooperate.  I pulled, pushed, and turned this knob and that switch.  Nada.  And so John sits exactly where he was parked.  This does not bode well for our future relationship, I must say.

Leaving John sitting there to sulk, it was back to the kitchen for me.  The Ladies arrived and I must say that dinner was, as Linda said, fabulous!  The pork roast topped with caramelized onions and balsamic vinegar was done to perfection.  Lidia's mashed potatoes cooked together with green beans and garlic, drizzled with olive oil, was a tasty change from the usual.  Linda's crisp green salad was delicious, and Arden's fruit salad was a perfect ending to the meal.  Good company makes everything taste better, and I was in fine company last night.

"Sit, stay, John.  We'll talk about this tomorrow."

Sunday, July 10, 2016


BOLO (cop talk for "Be on the lookout for...") is taken very seriously in the world of squirrels.  Every day there is a guardian posted overlooking the field headed down to the woods.  It's not always the same squirrel so there must be a changing of the guard.  Yesterday there were two.  A pair of hawks has been working the neighborhood, soaring overhead and filling the air with their screams.  I am so overrun with squirrels, I honestly don't know which side of this food chain I'm rooting for.

Before someone points out that the fence is in need of repair, I should mention that the wires were cut the year the line from the septic tank to the leach field broke and the heavy equipment had to get into that field.  I've no need for that fence and left it "as is."

Drat.  I'd hung a couple of loads of laundry out to dry yesterday.  It was a perfect day for that chore, sunny, not too hot, and a cooling breeze blowing.  When I went out in the afternoon to bring in the sweet-smelling sheets, etc., I found that one line had broken and those sheets were on the ground, still attached.

I will definitely BOLO today.  The John Deere will be delivered (no time frame given), and we're having another meeting of The Ladies Of Fair Play tonight.  This is going to be one of the easiest menus I've fixed:  Cam donated a pork roast (I just need to put it in the oven), Linda is bringing a salad (she makes the best dressing), and Arden is providing a fruit bowl for dessert (is there anything better in the summertime?).  All that's left for me to do is make mashed potatoes and fix fresh green beans.  I'm eagerly looking forward to both events.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Random Acts

Throughout my life I have been the recipient of random acts of kindness that continue to amaze me.  Walking down to the goat pen yesterday morning, I heard a big engine coming slowly up my drive.  Hmmm?  Cresting the hill came Beau on his big-boy John Deere tractor.  No lawn tractor this, his has a front-loader bucket and ripper blades behind.  "Hi, Beau!  What are you up to this fine morning?"  "I've come to take out that star thistle in your west field."  (Silence here because I was speechless.)  He had evidently noted the overgrowth the day before.  Before I could gather my wits, he and his JD rumbled over and went to work.  The girls were waiting so I tended to my chores.  It takes me a little bit more than an hour to milk and clean and for that time Beau trundled back and forth in the field.  We finished about the same time.  Beau looked like the gingerbread man, covered in fine silt dust head to toe.  "How hard would it be to talk you in to a cold beer?"  "Just say 'beer.'"

Beau adamantly refused my offer of payment, saying that I hadn't asked him to do anything.  I tried to give him something for the gas and he refused that also.  All I had left was my sincere gratitude for an act of kindness.

It was a good day.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Up And Down

I sat down to watch "Tea With Mussolini," a very good movie with a stellar ensemble of (mostly) older women.  I'm so grateful for the "pause" button because periodically I had to get up to accompany Bessie when she asked to go out.  I had to get up again when the propane delivery guy drove up.  He was new to this route so I needed to show him where the tank was, down the hill and around the corner.  I slipped him a milk bone, asking him to give it to Bess and explaining that previous drivers had carried a supply in the truck.  Bessie now thinks that all deliverymen bring cookies and I didn't want her to be disappointed.

In the afternoon, Camille and Honey from down the road and Beau from up the road came by.  A nice breeze (yay for the deltas!) was blowing so again we went out to the deck where Cam and I sat down and Beau preferred to stand up.  With so much happening in the news, it was pleasant to just talk "of shoes, and ships, and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings" (Lewis Carroll), and set controversy aside.

It was an up-and-down kind of day.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

On The Road Again

Dang, I thought my commuting days were over but (there's always a "but") it's true, I will be hitting the road again.  Cameron Park, here I come.  On Monday I'll go down for "mapping" and a CT scan.  Mapping will include tattoo dots.  I'm thinking later I'll figure out how to fit them into the constellation of Taurus and get the job finished (pity the poor tattoo artist for that job).  Treatment won't begin until six weeks after surgery.  Dr. D gave consideration to my travel time and will up the radiation dose (strength?) to lessen the therapy by a week, but that's still five days a week for a month.  Aarrgh.

Yesterday was trash pick-up day.  I stopped down at the corner on the way home to trundle Cam's bin (which we share now) back to her house.  Bumping along across the road and almost to her drive, I saw that she'd already brought hers back.  It seems I was stealing someone else's bin.  Hoping I hadn't been seen, I guiltily put some stranger's barrel back where it had been.

We've had a lovely break from the heat lately, only into the mid-to-low 80s.  That's my kind of summer.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Along For The Ride

Yesterday was pretty much of a do-nothing day.  I did start a new Stephen King novel, "Finders Keepers," after barn chores and am about halfway through it.  When he's on point, King writes a roller-coaster of a story.  There have been times in the past when he'd fall off the rails at the end; that remains to be seen in this book.  Not too many chores get crossed off the list when I'm reading.  Oh well.

Cam and Honey stopped by in the afternoon and we sat out on the deck to visit.  I mentioned that I'll be meeting the radiologist today to determine the next step in this journey I'm on.  Cam said, "That must be scary."  It isn't, really.  I don't have enough information to know what's coming next, and I've learned not to project into the future when it's a situation over which I will have no control.  I'm just along for the ride on this one.

The dogs like it when we sit outside.  Honey goes exploring and Bess goes along (for the ride) to supervise Honey.  After checking on the chickens and goats, the two come back to lie by us.  That is, Honey will stay quiet just so long before she gets bored.  Then she starts vying for attention, talking up a storm (not barking, she "talks"), rolling over with a silly smile, asking to be petted, and, most of all, trying to get Bessie to play.  Bessie declines.  She's reached senior citizen status and chooses to stay by me.  Honey, much younger, thinks Bess is a dud as a playmate, but she does get excited when she knows they're coming here.  Maybe the milk bones have something to do with that.

It is my understanding that radiation therapy entails daily treatments (five days a week) for a month or so.  Normally I leave home perhaps twice a month, so I find that prospect somewhat daunting, but it's not worth losing sleep over.  I may be along for the ride, but it's going to involve a lot of driving.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

It's Official!

Yesterday I joined the ranks of official Farmers.  I bought a John Deere (lawn) tractor!  There's something about that familiar green and yellow that shouts "farm" to me.  My friend Harold called in the morning to ask if I'd like to go with him to look at tractors down in Martell.  In addition to his ironworks and foundry, Harold has repaired equipment of all kinds all his life and I knew his advice would be invaluable.  He said he'd throw in lunch, an offer I couldn't refuse on the Fourth of July.  Much like at a car lot, I drooled over the John Deeres (out of my price range), sneered at the Husqvarnas (too many plastic parts), and looked seriously at the Troy-Bilts.  Then the manager who was helping us suggested a used John Deere that had been turned in on an upgrade, no repairs needed.  She reduced the price to match a Troy-Bilt, offered free delivery, and I found out later there was a $200 rebate!

With ten acres to tend, a lawn (what a misnomer that is!) tractor is mandatory.  With the cremation of Fu Manchu still fresh in my mind and a dwindling bank account under consideration, Harold and I went for lunch and to weigh my options.  Right here I'm going to add that liver and onions was on the menu, a dish I'd rather have than prime rib any day.  I took that as a sign and we went back to purchase John.  He won't be delivered until next Sunday, but there's no hurry.  Hot, dry weather and the danger of a spark setting a fire will put off mowing for awhile and it will take me some time to acquaint myself with a new-to-me vehicle.  I won't say I'm not eager to fire him up and start doing laps and the dreaded star thistle is taking over and setting their painful thorny seeds, but safety comes first.

We'd gotten a break in the weather, I'd spent the afternoon in good company, ate liver and onions, and I've gotten a replacement tractor named John.

 It was a good day.  It's official!

Monday, July 4, 2016

When Will It End?

On days when I don't need milk for the house or a customer, I stop on the way back from the barn and fill a couple of bowls for the chickens.  Chickens love milk, go figure.  I'm used to seeing turkeys and the ubiquitous squirrels in the pen, helping themselves to the morning scratch, but I did a double-take yesterday while I was filling the water pan for the wild things.  This squirrel had pushed himself in between hens for a slurp of milk.  He wasn't dissuaded even when bonked on the head, only moving over to the other side.

There are days when I don't know whether to laugh or cry about the squirrels.  Of course I do.  As Larry the Cable Guy would say, "That's funny right there."

Happy Fourth of July!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Day In The Life

There I was, sailing along on calm seas in the sweltering heat of the tropics (okay, sitting on the milking stand in the barn), when the klaxon sounded and the captain yelled, "All hands on deck!  Man your battle stations!  Prepare to repel all boarders!"  We were under attack by brigands and pirates intent on stealing our golden bounty.  They came from the left.  They came from the right.  They came from ahead and behind.  No more would one be driven off when another would spring aboard.  They were relentless and I was helpless.  I needed a water cannon, not the milk stream I fired.  Not until they'd taken the last grain did the pirates hoist the Jolly Roger and leave us be, singing "Yo, ho ho" as they went.  I'm pretty sure I heard them.

Is this the saddest picture ever?  I'd taken Bessie Anne out to squirt her down with the hose in the heat of the afternoon.  Apparently that wasn't enough for her because she climbed into her (dry) pool, waiting.  The pool had sprung a leak and I was going to throw it away.  There is no look like that of an accusing dog.  Leak or no leak, I filled the pool again and will continue to do so until I can get a replacement.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Party's Over

What with one thing or another, I've been indulging in a Pity Party lately and it's time to quit all the whining and sniveling.  My daughter says I could give complaining classes ranging from beginners to advanced.  I am qualified by years and years of experience.  However, it is also important to know when to stop, and for me that time is now.  It is too depressing to stay depressed.

There is a small bird out there with a large headache today.  Hearing a thud on the big window, I went out yesterday to find a sparrow had knocked himself silly.  Not sure if he was dazed or dead, I sat and held him in my hand and was relieved when he opened his eyes.  It took quite a while for him to regain his senses, blinking and turning his head before he finally flew off.  Even though Ralph and Celeste are indoor cats, I don't like to leave an injured bird alone because there are other predators out there.

It was laundry day.  I would hang a load on the line, put another in the washer, go out to hang the second and take down the first.  It was that hot.  I might mention that this was in late afternoon when the clothesline was in shade.  I'm not silly enough to go out to work in direct sunlight.

Time to count my blessings, which I have in abundance.  It was a good day.

Friday, July 1, 2016

I Can 'Ear You Now

(You'd have to have seen that commercial...)

It's been a tough year for ears down in the barn.  Two squirrels, "Raggedy" and "Andy," have torn ears, one on the left and one on the right.  I'm thinking these two are henchmen for the gang of thugs (I believe the Mafia calls them soldiers), and their intended victims fought back.  I was under siege by the entire tribe yesterday, ganged up on, as it were.  It wasn't just Percy and Pal, thugs were coming at me from all sides and all the time.  It was an all-out raid!  My head was swiveling back and forth and I was stamping and swatting like a madwoman.  It's hard to concentrate on the job at hand with that kind of distraction.

There is an undersized mouse that also has ear abnormalities.  "Dumbo" (Disney, 1941) has ears set low on his head.  He is one of those who sits nearby to eat his breakfast, looking steadily into my eyes all the while.  He's an endearing little chap.

Inga is getting ready for retirement.  Ever since her first kid years ago, she's been a heavy milker, almost impossible to dry up even when I tried.  Giving less and less, she's down to about a quart a day now, and that's fine with me.  Always the hardest to milk with those little bubble teats, I won't be sorry to stop, especially in this heat.  Sheila and Tessie give a good gallon combined, so it's not like I'll run out of milk any time soon.  Inga has more than earned a rest.