Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Is It Bedtime Yet?

Once upon a time, long, long ago, like every kid I would complain that it was too early to be sent to bed.  "Just a little while longer.  Just five more minutes.  Puleez!"  Yesterday I changed from the icy-cold sheets of summer to the snuggly-soft fleece sheets of winter and as I made the bed, it was all I could do to keep from crawling in right then and there.  Being the grownup that I pretend to be, I restrained myself, but it wasn't easy.  What with the changeable weather of late, I'd left the cotton sheets but complained to myself every night as I added socks and pajama bottoms under my gown and put a heated beanbag between the sheets to thaw my feet.  It's a well-known fact that heat will not turn corners.  Even though the living areas will warm up, the bedroom stays as frigid as an icebox all winter, and winter is upon us.  It barely reached into the low 40s yesterday, and that's just a taste of what's to come.

Bedtime for the girls is now about 4 p.m., and believe me, they are ready to go in for the night.  No "five more minutes" for them.  The reverse sunset was stunning when Bess and I went out to do our chores.  Unfortunately, I missed getting the small herd of deer going down the driveway in the picture above.

In the last rays of sunlight, the chickens were clustered by their door.  No need to ask if they were ready for bed.  They trooped inside like little soldiers to have a snack before perching on their roosts.

All afternoon I imagined how good my bed would feel and you know what?  It was even better.  No extra protection, no extra heat needed.  No shock to the system to open sleepy eyes wide.  No waking up in the night because a foot slid over and hit an iceberg.  The sun isn't up yet and I'm already wondering if it's bedtime yet.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

It's All About The Nap

Misty, some light rain, and cold.  The only things warm in the barn were the udders.  The play yard gate was opened and the big coop door was closed.  Not the most pleasant of mornings.  Back at the house, fingers and toes chilled to the bone, I punched up the fire and made a hot drink before settling into my chair.  Bess had gone out with me and was as cold as I and she pushed her way onto the chair so we could warm each other, a living lap rug.  Soon we were snoozing happily, waking only when the fire had died down.  It was a day for piddly chores, consolidating leftover leftovers (like loaves and fishes, they seem to multiply), doing dishes, and keeping the fire stoked.  Another quick nap in the afternoon before putting the girls inside for the night.  Camille called on her way home from town and I warned her about the fog, dense enough that I could barely see the road in front of the pasture.  She called later to say that there had been no fog until she was almost home and that we must be in a low-lying cloud bank.  Yet another turkey sandwich for dinner (five days' worth of turkey and I think I could fly) and yet another nap before bedtime.  It's all about the nap.

Monday, November 28, 2016


There's one in every bunch.  We all know that one, the one who requires (if not demands) special attention, privileges, favors.  I can't call BF Betty and Jealous Jennie divas because all they ask for is affection.  (Yesterday it was Jennie in the morning and Betty at night.)  However, there is a certain mouse in the barn I've named Diva.  Every morning I squirt milk on two sets of wipes, one on the ledge and the other draped over the wipes bucket, and mice literally come out of the woodwork to sip, crowding each other at the bar.  Diva, however, refuses to drink with the hoi polloi, sitting on her haunches in front of the shovel until I squirt a few streams so that it runs down for her to lap at and then at the pool at the bottom.  She drinks in solitary splendor.  Who would think the barn could be so entertaining?

After all the prep and busyness of the last week, I would have liked nothing more than to sit and be a couch potato yesterday, but it was not to be.  Running short on goat chow and since it was a sunny day, a trip to the feed store was mandatory.  Like it or not, I also had to run into town.  I could make it all in one loop, but Bessie Anne loves to go to what she calls the Cookie Store and I hate to disappoint my little girl.  More rain is due today, so all the feed had to be unloaded and put under cover when we got home.  It amounted to 205 pounds of feed, and I have to admit it's getting harder to drag the bags out of the truck these days.

That done, it was off to town.  There were two stops, one at either end of Placerville, and that meant getting on the freeway.  Yesterday it wasn't so free.  Not only was it the weekend, it was Thanksgiving weekend and opening day for many of the ski resorts, and while nothing like freeways in Los Angeles, the road was packed, some cars still carrying snow on top.  Passing Placerville, the speed limit is 30 mph, but it's only for a short distance and after passing the last stop light, cars leapt out of the gate like race horses.  As for myself, I really didn't mind because Placerville does Christmas proud.  Nearly every post in the fence along the road has a small Christmas tree atop, decorated, I believe, by local organizations and businesses and they do compete.  It's really very pretty and helps the holiday spirit.

It gets dark so very early now, so I had to rush home, unload the truck (again), and tend to barn chores before the girls balked at going into dark stalls.  One last cuddle for Betty and I was done (and done in) for the day.  Oh, right.  Still had groceries to put away.  Sigh.

And, of course, there was Stove to punch up and stoke before settling into my chair.  It was a good day.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Back to Normal

After days of frenetic activity, company, and goat craziness, it's time to get back to normal (whatever "normal" is).  The girls came in in orderly fashion yesterday for a change.  There was one small contretemps when Sheila had an accident on the stand, fortunately the results of which did not flood where I sit.  Either the weather has dampened Tessie's ardor or she's finished her cycle.  Whichever, we're both calmer now.

On Thanksgiving, while Dave was carving the bird, Craig had asked what to do with the wings, etc.  I told him to package them up for the chickens.  "Will they eat that stuff?"  "Oh yeah!"  It wasn't raining when I let the little girls and guy out of the coop yesterday and they ran to the meat like a flock of vultures.  I checked on the way back to the house and they had picked the bones clean in that short time.  There's something ironic about chickens eating turkey, but it's not for me to judge, any more than when Louie the pig ate sausage and bacon and licked his (pork) chops.

The skies opened up and rain fell most of the day.  Harold had driven his forklift under a tarp and caused a waterfall.  His arrival here was delayed while he changed into dry clothes.  (Hard not to laugh.)  Fortunately, Stove had cooperated and the house was warm, and Harold did yeoman's duty with a fork on the leftovers.  Three days later, there is hardly a dent noticeable.  It's off to the freezer with some of that stuff.

We were as back to normal here as we're gonna get.  It was a good day.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

T-Day Plus Two

There is a drawback to having a wood stove as the source of heat.  It's necessary to keep a close eye when starting a fire lest it die out or catch on while you're not watching and send flames up into the chimney.  The temperature had plummeted yesterday but I didn't have time to babysit the wood stove, so the house was absolutely frigid when Linda arrived.  How cold was it?  Well, I had reheated all the dishes from Thanksgiving and took them out of the oven piping hot just as Linda arrived.  We filled our plates and took them into the dining room.  Halfway through, the ice-cold plate needed to go into the microwave to heat up again.  It was that cold.

After eating, we went into the living room so I could start a fire and hopefully warm up.  Of course, yesterday was the day the wood would not catch.  Flames would give a glimmer of hope and then die.  Three times I lit the fire.  We did have a nice visit, Linda with the piggy neck warmer on and probably wishing she had gloves.  Naturally, just as it was time for her to leave, the stove started throwing out heat.  Aargh.

Lesson learned, I will light the stove before going down to the barn today.  Harold is coming for late lunch-early dinner (Thanksgiving times three for me).  If this keeps up, I will start sprouting feathers.

At least sunset had a good blaze going last evening.

Friday, November 25, 2016

T-Day Plus One

It was a race to the finish line yesterday.  It started out as one of those "what else can go wrong" mornings when the drain plug to the kitchen sink fell apart.  Of all days, when it seems every dish, pot and pan in the house needs washing.  I got it put back together enough to hold water, so that was okay.

Holidays are one of the few times I wish I didn't have milk goats.  Those chores take such a huge chunk of time.  Wouldn't you know Tessie shouldered out of the barn before Esther and then wouldn't come in to be milked.  My adjoining neighbor has a variety of animals and I think one may be a buck because Tess stood at the pen fence line, inviting her Romeo over for a liaison.  My patience and time were running short so I left her and went back to the house.

One of the last-minute chores is vacuuming.  I'm whipping through the living room and then noticed that nothing was going into the canister.  Oh crum.  There is evidently a blockage in some hose or another, but I'd gotten messages that the Kids were coming up earlier than expected, which was a good thing, but left me no time to fiddle with the vacuum.  The carpet got short shrift, but was at least presentable.

It is such a joy to see trucks and cars and smiling faces arrive.  Craig, my son-in-law whom I adore, is the official turkey baster and he went right to work on the first but certainly not the last baste of the day.  Deb is my right-hand man in the kitchen, keeping me on track and taking over so many chores.  I put together the basics and she makes it happen.  It's been at least five years since I've seen my grandson Brandon and had never met his lady Ashley, so their visit to Dave was at the precisely right time.  The group was almost complete when Clay came.  When Larry arrived, these worker bees took care of many tasks I'd not been able to do (like fixing the leak in the feed room roof and stringing clothesline).  Cam and Honey came so Bessie had her company to enjoy, too.

Does any holiday dinner ever start on time?  Not at my house.  Pies finally in the oven, the group sat down to eat.  My love cup runneth over.  FYI, the Brussels sprouts may become a staple and even replace the green bean casserole.

We broke with our family tradition and watched football during the day just like regular people.  The cards and chips didn't come out until after dinner.  I broke pretty close to even.

For the first time ever, I didn't send everyone home loaded with leftovers because, ta da!, Linda is coming to share the same dinner today.

It was a good, make that best day.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


Drinking coffee and trying to get my eyes open enough to get it in gear and get going.  Everything but the turkey and pies was done yesterday.  Now I've got Big Bird to deal with.  I think (hope) this 23-1/2 pounder will fill those empty stomachs.

I wish everyone family, friends, and food to celebrate this day of giving thanks.

Coffee's gone, and so is time.

It's going to be a good day!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


I miss my friend Dolly, especially around the holidays.  She and her husband Dan were our neighbors and became our best friends.  Deb was single then and was the fifth member of our quintet.  We all did so many things together:  the Dixon Lamb Fair, the Courtland Pear Fair, decorating Christmas cookies, going camping for New Years; the group was up for any crazy thing suggested.  Dinner was at our house almost every weekend, followed by board games or cards.  After we moved to Fair Play, my birthday gift to Dolly for years was a two-week vacation here.  Dan was a big, quiet guy who, like Steve, had been in the navy.  Steve did enough talking for the two of them, and they were best buddies.  Dan died a few years before Dolly and I know Steve missed him terribly, too.

One of our traditions was to go pick out our Christmas trees at a farm by the river, just down the road from where we lived.  The five of us always went the day after Thanksgiving whatever the weather, and came home to make Irish coffee.  About two weeks before Christmas, we'd all go back to cut our trees, haul them home, and yes, make Irish coffee.  Dolly was big on decorations for any and every holiday and her house fairly exploded at Christmas.  If she were alive, I'd never get away with a bare tree in my living room (as I did last year).

I am so looking forward to having my family and friends here on Thursday.  My traditional toast before dinner has for years been:  "Here's to those who came before us, to those who will come after us, and to those who are with us now."  I miss my friend Dolly.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Don't Talk, Sniff

Cleaning the barn yesterday and hauling a couple of buckets of poo out to the dung heap, I thought, as I have before, how fortunate it is that goat manure has no smell, unlike that of horse and cattle.  Raking up the roly-poly pellets, I remembered my mother.  I'll explain.  Once upon a time long, long ago when I was a child, there was no Disneyland and no television.  California did not have any freeways.  I know that's hard to believe now.  I would say that travel took longer then, but there were not the traffic jams, either, so it's probably a wash.  My family spent a lot of time at the beach, and the one road to get there went by the Bandini fertilizer plant with mountains of manure piled high.  Sprinklers kept the piles wet and cooled down, as cow and horse dung will generate considerable heat and can combust.  Inevitably, as we passed Bandini my mother would say, "Don't talk, sniff!"  Like an idiot, I would, catching a whiff of noxious fumes, and I did it every time.  That's enough potty talk.

Cam called yesterday, saying she was on her way to Folsom to shop and asking if I needed anything.  While I rarely to never change the Thanksgiving menu, I've had it in my mind that Brussels sprouts would be a good addition.  They are delicious when roasted, nothing like the soggy little boiled cabbages of my childhood.  Cam said, "You can make my mother's recipe (it must have been Mother's Day) with pancetta and fontina cheese!"  That sounded good to me and I added them to the list.  Not only did Camille do my shopping (yay!), when she delivered the goods, she brought California Roll sushi for dinner.  It's been years, more than I care to count, since I've had sushi and I love it!  In the words of my mother, "Don't talk, eat!"

It was a good day.

Monday, November 21, 2016


So much of what happens here depends on the weather.  Had to add another chore to the list yesterday due to the rain and cold and bring a load of firewood up to the porch.  Actually a couple of chores because the wood stove ashes need to be cleared every day, and when the (metal) trash can gets full it has to be taken to the burn pile and emptied.  Haven't needed to do that in months.

While milking in the morning just a light drizzle of rain was falling, but it somehow influenced a big flock of blackbirds that has moved into the oaks.  They were chattering like crazy, and loud!  I love how the birds will take off in formation, dozens and dozens at a time, swooping and swirling as with one mind.  How do they keep from crashing into one another on the fly?

Wet weather definitely has an effect on the goats.  Our barn routine gets totally out of whack when it rains.  The girls get cranky and quarrel among themselves.  Instead of going up to the corner for alfalfa, on rainy days the ones let loose cluster around the gate to the play yard waiting for it to open, which doesn't happen until the last milker is let out.  At bedtime, they push and shove, trying to be the first to be let inside.

This doesn't happen with the chickens.  On drear days I always shut the big door to the coop, but unless it is pouring the little girls stay outside, pecking and scratching and turning over fallen leaves for the bugs I suppose are brought out of the damp earth.  It's like a wet treasure hunt.

Turkeys continue to gather for breakfast and throughout the day, but instead of the toms fluffed out and showing off, they all march as if to a dirge, dressed in funereal black.

Whether I cook or not depends on the weather.  The salads or bowls of cold cereal of summer have lost their appeal and I think more in terms of soups or just about anything that goes in the oven.

It's grey, gloomy, and misting outside at first light this morning.  Bessie Anne went outside for a potty break and came in, her coat dripping.  That wouldn't be so bad, but she immediately wanted up on the bed and promptly plopped herself on my pillow.  And so starts the day.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Wait For It

The sky overhead was darkening at 10:30 a.m. yesterday when I took this photo, giving a preview of what was to come.  And it came.  It rained all day and all night.  I did, however, catch a break at what I can assume was sundown because I could put the kids to bed and not get soaked.  The house was freezing and it was time to give in and light the wood stove.  Ahhh.  In no time at all, the chill was gone.  Bess and the cats lay by the hearth, turning over now and again to toast the other side.

I was also warmed by a telephone call from old friends, Joe and Carol, who were my neighbors down the hill when we first moved here.  After they sold their place in Fair Play, they moved to Arizona and I haven't heard from them in ages.  Joe was and is a character.  He used to run cattle on his property and they continually either jumped the fence (who knew?!) or broke through to browse in my front yard.  It was quite an experience to come out of the shower and find thirty or so cows staring at me through the window.  Once, Carol called to say they had an orphaned calf and would I like to see it.  Well, of course!  It was a surprise to find that they were keeping the baby warm in the kitchen of their double-wide trailer.  I hardly knew how to respond.  I don't think I ever heard either of them say a mean word about anyone.  Good people.  They're back in California for a time to receive medical care, and I look forward to a visit in the near future.  I'm so glad they called.

The weathermen/women are still predicting that the sun will come out by Thanksgiving.  I guess we'll wait and see.

It was a good day.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Under The Wire

Racing through barn chores (being careful not to trip again), washing buckets, getting a head start on lunch, and whipping through the living room with the vacuum cleaner, I barely made it under the wire before my friend came.  Does it count that she arrived early?  Candy is not only my friend, she is the only hairdresser I've trusted for years.  Her shop is closed now, but, believe it or not, Candy makes house calls!  Lest it be thought that I spend a lot of time in hair salons, I get a cut or trim every year or so, need it or not.  Curly hair can get pretty unruly when left untended, but the goats don't care if I look like the wreck of the Hesperus.  After the events of this past year, I felt the need for something different and told Candy to "go for it."  She showed great restraint in not going radical, but did cut inches off my mop.  I feel quite lightheaded now.

I have vowed no more company until Thursday.  I've got to knuckle down and work on the house, period, end of story.  I've been making a bit of progress every day, but not nearly enough.  As Robert Frost wrote, "I've miles to go before I sleep."  It's a race to the finish now.

Tessie and Esther have had a disagreement.  Lately Tess has been trying to force her way into the back stalls instead of going to the big room that she shares with Esther at night.  I'm wary of arguing with a unicorn, but have managed so far to hold her off.  Esther is just vocal, complaining about going in with her roommate.  Telling the girls to play nice is like teaching a pig to sing.  It's not effective and just irritates the pig.

BF Betty evidently has been feeling needy.  She's missed getting picked up in the morning (I've been running short on time).  The rest of the flock troops into the coop at sundown as usual, but as I'm shutting the doors, there's one hen still in the pen.  It's Betty, and instead of allowing me to herd her inside, she waits until I pick her up for a nighty-night cuddle.  She talks in a low voice.  "Buck buck buck," she whispers.  It's a very nice way to end the day.

It was a good day.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Winter White

It sure looked like winter here yesterday.  Heavy, heavy frost on everything and temp down in the 30s.  Definitely needed gloves and a warm jacket when I went to tend the goats.  Tessie isn't happy being held in isolation until all the others are done, but it's her own fault.  The sun was warm and the girls all laid down to soak it up, especially Esther, who chose a spot next to the barn wall to rest her head and get reflected heat.

It wasn't just the frost that was white yesterday.  On the way back to the house and carrying two buckets of milk, I tripped and did a classic face-plant.  The buckets went flying and milk sprayed back over me.  After I did a systems check and found nothing broken (bruised, yes), I had to laugh.  I wished I could have seen it.

I really must keep better track of what day it is.  It was firm in my mind that my lunch guest was coming yesterday and started prepping for her arrival.  She's very prompt so when the time came and went, I called, somewhat worried.  She is  Sigh.

Good Son Clay came up with a truck bed and trailer full of firewood.  Poor guy had to load it by himself, but I helped with unloading.  There's more to be done with this bounty, as it needs to be split and stacked. I think I'll enlist Helper Dude for that.

Awoke in the dark this morning to the sound of Bessie Anne yarking up on the bed.  Not may favorite way to wake up.  She went right back to sleep.  I could not.  I see laundry in my future today.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Out On Strike

As often happens when faced with a daunting situation (e.g., Thanksgiving prep), my mind and I went on a sit-down strike yesterday.  Knowing full well that it is self-defeating, I do nothing.  Maybe I need the pressure of a sprint to the finish, I don't know.  Wishful thinking turns into magical thinking, even though I know the good fairies will not come in the night to do what I should have done during the day.  They never do.

Nature pulled another "gotcha" in the morning.  It was sunny when I went out to do chores, but by the time I got to the barn those high clouds started spitting rain before opening up and pouring.  That, of course, threw the goats into a tizzy and the routine went whacko.  She took pity and quit when I'd finished, but I left the play yard gate open in case she took another jab.  I'd left the big door to the chicken coop open, but closed it on my way back to the house.  The temperature had dropped like a rock.  Even though it didn't rain again, at least the little girls would be warmer.

That ridiculously silly piggy neck warmer got a lot of use yesterday.  Even though temps didn't reach the mid-50s, I didn't want to light the wood stove just yet.  With the pig on my shoulders and two cats on my lap, I was comfy and that was my only excuse for not getting anything done.  I can find a rationale for just about everything.

That being said, I've got to get it in gear and put the pedal to the metal today.  Not only is a friend coming for lunch, Clay called last evening and said he is bringing a load of firewood in the morning.  He's really racking up the Good Son points!

The strike is over.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

T-Day Minus Eight

Not being part of the routine, of course I forgot to take nails to the barn yesterday.  Scrounging nails from the one remaining cover, I was able to put up two window coverings for the girls' protection.  Under a blue sky on a warm day, it was difficult to believe they'd be necessary, but it's done (minus one).

I've made the same Thanksgiving dinner for over fifty(!) years with few additions or changes to the menu.  Hey, if it works, stick with it.  The star, of course, is the turkey.  No wimpy bird will do, and I know the grocery store down in Cameron Park would carry the 23-24 pounder I needed at a good price.  I've not been there in some long time and so was surprised to see that the store's name had changed, as well as placement of items in the aisles.  Shopping took a lot longer than I'd hoped as I cruised up and down, back and forth, passing the evaporated milk for pumpkin pie at least three times.  I just love shopping...not!  Cart overflowing, I finally got checked out.  By then the sky was completely overcast and the wind was rising as groceries were loaded into the truck.  In the few blocks it took to get to the freeway, rain started falling and continued to fall until I got to Diamond Springs.  I imagined unloading all those bags and the looks I'd be getting from the goats, but I got lucky and it wasn't raining at home.  At first.  Groceries in the house and then a race to the barn to put the girls to bed, chickens next.  One more task, taking the trash to the big road.  That's when my luck ran out and I got soaked hauling the bins from Camille's driveway across the road.  Ready to sit down and take a breath, I saw all those groceries waiting to be put away.  Aarrgh.

Day One done, and counting.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Busy Days Ahead

Rain is due to come in tonight, bringing cold temperatures for the next couple of days.  I've got to remember to put some nails in my pocket before going to the barn this morning so I can put up what I call storm windows (covers for the window openings) for the girls.

It must be something in the Leghorn genes.  As I came back up the hill, sure enough, one of the brown Leghorns was outside the chicken pen just as Runaway Rhonda used to be.  Fortunately, she snuck back under the fence to get her share of the milk.  Not about to lose another hen to predators, I had to jerry-rig some way to block two openings.  It's not pretty, but it works.

I had planned to take myself to lunch in town yesterday (an anniversary celebration) and do a bit of shopping.  However, with rain coming Camille needed to get another side of her barn painted and we both worry about her getting up on a ladder "alone."  It wouldn't do for her to call me and me be far away in an emergency, so I stayed home and blew a ton of leaves off the deck.  The trees aren't through dropping their load, but the leaf blower isn't much good when the leaves are wet and I wanted to get ahead of the game.

I'd been going around the house thinking, "Okay, I'll need to get this, that, and the other thing done before Thanksgiving," but not too far ahead of time.  As I checked my little grocery list in late afternoon, I also looked at the calendar and my jaw dropped.  Thanksgiving is next week!  Gadzooks, I'm going to get caught behind the eight-ball if I don't get a move on.  Shopping for a holiday dinner is pretty extensive, not the quick, in-and-out trip I'd planned.  That doesn't even begin to address the major house cleaning ahead.  Aargh!

I tried to get a picture of the Super Moon (and it was big!) as it rose last night, but got no cooperation from the camera.  Evidently, the moon has not been this close to earth since the 1940s.  I tried.

Things to do and places to go.  There are busy days ahead.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Made It

I am so happy to report that in the light of morning, all chickens had made it and were present and accounted for.  I'd been especially worried about the oldest girl, a black-and-white Plymouth barred rock, as she's been showing signs of aging and decline.  She must have been hiding in one of those dark corners, but she came out with the others for breakfast yesterday.

Camille had stopped by the night before to share a glass of a chocolate wine she'd found..  (Yes, there truly is such a thing and it is absolutely delicious.)  In the course of our conversation, she asked if there was any of the tomato pie left.  I had to disappoint her, saying I'd had the one piece left for lunch.  However, there were more tomatoes in the basket and if she liked, I'd make another one last night.  "Yes!"  By this time, I had the recipe in my head so doing a repeat was easy, and the second pie turned out as well as the first.  I sent a big wedge home with her, but I've got leftovers again.  This will be day four of tomato pie, and I'm pretty sure I'm done with tomatoes for awhile.

I thought that until I walked out to put the kids to bed and found the sky was filled with the rosy tomato color of those strawberry tomatoes in the clouds.

It was a good day, even though Jimmy Johnson didn't win the race in Phoenix.  Bummer.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Lost It

Drat!  I don't know what was going on with Ralph and Celeste yesterday, some sort of sibling battle, I think.  It started in the wee hours of the morning with a real cat fight on the bed.  Not one of the mock wrestling matches they usually have, but a growling, hissing, biting fight that ended with a race through the house.  I did not appreciate being wakened at 3 a.m. in that fashion.  Later, Celeste was lying in a patch of sunlight when Ralph walked over and sat on her, a brother's revenge.  I so wanted to take a picture, but lost the chance when Celeste rolled out from under her silly sibling.

I had hoped that Tessie had learned her lesson and so let her out of the barn with Esther.  Surely two days of being confined before milking would have taught her not to walk away from me.  Well, I lost that one and we'll have to double down today.  It's up to me to accept a change in the regimen.

On one of my unsuccessful forays to catch Tess, I walked by the dead tree at the side of the barn.  In a hole in the trunk was a small lizard basking in the sunshine and it had a brilliant patch of blue on its throat, absolutely beautiful (if you like lizards).  Again I wanted a picture to share, but my movement scared the little guy and he ducked back into the shadows.  Another opportunity lost.

Just before sundown, the flock in the chicken pen set up a ruckus that usually signals danger.  I wasn't able to go outside just then, but later, after the goats were tucked in, I put the chickens in the coop.  As is my habit, I did a beak count and it seemed I came up short a hen.  I didn't see any feathers outside the fence, and it was too dark by then to check the corners of the hen house.  In a day of losses, I hope I didn't lose one of the little girls.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Carry On

America is in such turmoil right now, so I was grateful for a friend's words, reminding me of Winston Churchill's quote during WWII, "Stay calm and carry on."

And carry on I do.  There is something to be said for sitting by a goat, resting my head against her warm side, hearing her stomach gurgle and listening to milk hitting the pail.  (FYI, there's a great word for stomach rumbling:  borborygmus.  Feel free to throw that into your conversation anytime.)  The mice in the barn care nothing for politics and come out for breakfast just the same.  In the chicken pen, Betty comes up for a cuddle and Jealous Jennie stands on my foot, waiting for her turn.  Bessie Anne, my constant companion, and I sat on the deck as we do to enjoy the panoramic, ever-changing sky.  These quiet moments soothe the soul.

I had the pie shell baked and most of the prep work done when Cam arrived bearing a tub of those marvelous strawberry tomatoes and Arden brought a variety of delicious fixings for salad.  All that remained for me to do was dice the tomatoes, mix everything together and pop the pie in the oven.  This impromptu dinner party with friends was a great opportunity to share views, talk books, and best of all, laugh.  The pie came out bubbling with cheesy goodness, full of ripe tomato flavor, and we darn near demolished it last night.

It was a good day.  I needed that.  Carry on.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Climate Change

I don't need a calendar to tell me we've had a change in the seasons.  The first, biggest, and best sign was when Deb and Craig came up last week and Clay the week before.  Summer heat and no A/C means I rarely see my Kids from Mother's Day to Thanksgiving.  I never get used to hot weather, but it always surprises me how quickly I acclimate to cool/cold days and nights.  Now temps in the 50s are shirt-sleeve weather, no jacket needed.  Sitting out on the deck in the shade with Bessie Anne yesterday was so pleasant.  A light breeze ruffled leaves in the oaks and whispered through the pines.  Dead leaves fluttered down.  Bess lies under the little table with her head on the bottom of the railing.  I often wonder what thoughts are going through her head as she watches birds and leaves drift by.  Turkey tribes are coming in greater numbers and the toms are really strutting their stuff, sweet-talking the ladies and hoping to impress.  Two more deer, both does this time, were inside the garden area in the morning.  If I'd actually planted a garden, I might feel differently about catching deer in there.  As it is, they just add to the pleasure of the day.

Camille, my friendly local produce pusher, called to ask if I could use some (more) tomatoes.  Arden had already planned to stop by this afternoon, so I told Cam that if she could stay for dinner, yes, bring tomatoes and I'll make a Summer Tomato Pie.  It might sound strange, but it's a recipe I've made many times before and it's delicious, a perfect way to celebrate the climate change.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Whatever It Takes

Tessie is a twerp.  She pulled that "Maybe I'll come in and maybe I won't" trick again the other day.  I'm down there yelling like a lunatic, coaxing, begging, demanding, and she gives me the blank stare for which goats are famous.  If I walk out, she moves just out of reach.  If I stand inside with the door open (trying to fend off Sheila, who thinks an open door is an invitation), Tessie comes just to the sill, sniffs the edge of the jamb, then turns and walks away.  Tess wears a collar, but it does no good to try and grab it because she backs away faster.  Twice in the past week or two she's pulled her shenanigans and twice I've had to leave her unmilked.  Fine.  We both pay the next day when her bag is full to bursting and it takes twice as long to milk her out.  I'm not about to let a goat "get my goat."  It puts a crimp in the program, but my solution is to let her roommate Esther out in the morning and keep Tessie inside.  When all the others have had their breakfast and been milked, I let Tess into the little room and we conclude our business.  It means I can't open the connecting door for air, light, and being able to see the others, but she's held captive and that saves me the frustration.  Whatever it takes.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Can You Hear Me Now?

I'm old school.  I like going to a local polling place to register my vote.  There is a feeling of community as neighbors gather to cast their ballot.  I went shortly after the polls opened yesterday and was pleased to see a line had formed as I was leaving.  Evidently I'm not the only one who is old school.

Just as I was slipping my ballot into the box, I got a call from telephone Repair Guy who said he was on his way.  Yay!  Over a week without a landline had been rough.  True to his word, RG showed up and made a quick inspection at the house.  He said he had to leave to check the line at the incoming box, but would be back soon.  I explained that I might possibly still be in the barn as, regardless of the situation, the goats had to be milked and I was already running late.

I finished with barn chores and RG had not come back.  Either he'd found a big problem or had run away.  My relief was great when he drove up again, and I took him a cold soda as a reward.  Turns out there were three separate "bad" spots in the line.  He fiddled a bit here and told me to go check the phone.  Ta da!  Can you hear me now?  I've never been so pleased to hear a dial tone.

I had decided this was not the appropriate forum to express my political views (there's always Facebook for those comments).  I've never seen such down-and-dirty campaigns for any and every office, national and local.  They were disheartening, and left me worried about the fate of America.

Regardless of the presidential outcome, the world continues to turn.  The sun comes up and goes down.  The animals get tucked in for the night.  My phone works again.  As much as it can be, there's peace in my little world.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Lady In Waiting

I waited all day Friday for the telephone repair guy (the landline went out last weekend).  No show.  They rescheduled "before 6 o'clock" yesterday.  I waited all day.  Late in the afternoon, I called to check on the status and finally got to speak to a real person.  "I'm going to send this over to (who knows who?) and expedite this."  Shortly after that, I received a recorded message that said, "We are unable to expedite this call and a tech has been scheduled for Monday, November 7 before 6 p.m."  Well, since yesterday was November 7, I didn't know how to respond.

My milk customer called (on my cellphone) and said he'd be here in a half-hour.  Forty-five minutes later he called again and said he'd be here in forty-five minutes.  An hour and a half later, he came to pick up milk and eggs.  Sigh.

It's amazing how much one can accomplish while waiting.   John Dear and I decided to mow the south yard (in the background).  In the foreground is the half-mown slope to the backyard, showing how high the star thistle is, and was.  Another project for another day.  John and I are getting to know each other.  With the wider deck, I found it took fewer passes to clear that yard, but Fu and I had our pattern down pat and John and I have to work out a new system.

One thing that comes sooner than expected now is sundown.  It sneaks up about 4:30.

I'm waiting for my body to acclimate to the new time.  Body says, "Wake up! It's 5 o'clock!"  Eyes tell me it is only 4 a.m.  Makes for a long day.

I'm waiting for an appropriate hour to put in yet another call to the phone company, hoping they didn't take me off the list, perhaps thinking that a tech came out yesterday.  Who knows how long I'll have to wait to be rescheduled.  If, by some strange chance, a tech comes out today at the wrong time, he'll have to wait for me to come back from voting.  I have priorities, too.

Monday, November 7, 2016


I awoke in the State of Confusion yesterday.  I visit there so often I should put in a change of address card.  Fully aware that Sunday was the dreaded time change, I intended to turn back the clocks Sunday night (duh).  The clock said 5 a.m., my usual wake-up time, but the computer said 4.  And the day went downhill from there.  Obviously, I had it wrong.

I tried to split the difference between new-old time to keep the girls on some semblance of schedule in the barn.  That didn't work out so well, as Tessie got up on her high horse and again refused to come in.  The goats have a highly defined sense of time and expect me to stay on track.

Okay, fine.  NASCAR was running in Texas and I settled down to watch the race.  It was raining in Texas so the start was delayed.  It was delayed so long that I went out to work on my relationship with John Dear and mow down the west field.  We had a failure to communicate at first.  It wasn't John's fault.  I had forgotten about the PTO button that allows the blades to spin.  John has a larger mowing deck and a shorter turn radius than Fu, and that took some getting used to.  It was a pleasure, however, to find that John has the next best thing to power steering and a much more comfortable seat.  No bucking bull ride on this boy.  Finished taking down three-foot-high, dead star thistle in that field, I put John in his shed and went back to watch the race.  Still on rain delay.

It's a good indicator of either frustration or boredom that I decided to make another run up to the grocery store.  They say a watched pot doesn't boil and I guess that's so.  After a five-hour delay(!), the race started while I was gone.  The blankety-blank time change screwed up bedtime for the critters.  What had been 6 o'clock was now 5 o'clock, and the overcast sky put it closer to 4:30.  Ratchafratch.

Like the chickens, I am conditioned to fall asleep not long after dark regardless of the time, and a nap in the chair is mandatory before going to bed.  I fell asleep and missed the end of that endless race.

It was a cattywumpus day, start to finish.

(And I woke up at what is now 4 a.m. today.  Aarrgh.)

Sunday, November 6, 2016


"Winner, winner, chicken dinner!"  Any time my Kids visit, I am the big winner, then add in that Deb and Craig did, indeed, bring a KFC chicken dinner yesterday and I was over the moon.  Since it is a thirty-minute drive to town, there is no such thing as fast food up here (unless top ramen from the cupboard counts), so that was a real treat.

As we were eating, Deb reminded me that the Breeders' Cup was running at Santa Anita, so we went in to watch that and start placing our bets.  Did I mention that we are a competitive group?  Horse racing, poker, NASCAR, football, doesn't matter.  No one could accuse us to being the last of the big spenders, however.  Poker has a $2 buy-in (nickle, dime, quarter chips), and bets on anything else are a nickle.  As for emotions, that nickle could as easily be a thousand dollars.  I had high hopes for Miss Temple City, but she let me down.  I grew up in Temple City and I felt betrayed as I once again dug in my pocket for another coin.  That darn Deb won five out of six races (Craig won once), and she gloated over her stash of thirty cents, twenty-five of which had been mine.  We were all Chromies so the last race was a wash as far as bets were concerned, and there was a unanimous groan when California Chrome lost by a neck to Arrogate.  As the saying goes, that's horse racing.

The weather was good, the dinner was yummy, and the company was terrific.  I'd say that made the whole day a winner.

Saturday, November 5, 2016


It was a day for reflections of one kind or another.  A wonky leg pretty much put me out of commission so I had plenty of time to think.  Waiting for the telephone landline repairman meant I couldn't go anywhere even had I wished to.  "We are committed to having repairs finished by 6 p.m.," the recorded message reassured me.  At 4 p.m. I received a text message saying I hadn't made the cut and had been rescheduled for Monday, another day shot.

Bess and I moved from indoors to outside; porch, deck in the sunshine, deck in the shade.  This photo from the front porch doesn't show what I'd hoped, the reflection of sunlight on rain-washed leaves shining like bits of hammered metal, but it's pretty and green, just the same.

Eleven years.  How can it possibly be that Steve died eleven years ago?  At the time, I wasn't sure I could make it through the next day, let alone a year.  I had to break it down to manageable sections, get through the next minute and let the minutes add up behind me.  Thanks to my Kids, extended family, friends, and the animals in my care, I've now got eleven years to reflect on, as well as the eighteen years (nineteen altogether) I had with Steve.

It is my feeling that not every day is good, but there is something good in every day.  It was a good day.

Friday, November 4, 2016

What Can I Say?

There's just not a lot to say about a day spent catching up on household chores.  Perhaps if I found the work more interesting, I could find more interesting words to describe the work.  Tending goats is repetitive, yes, but the girls have different personalities so there is that appeal daily.  Bessie Anne and I have our set routines, but they always make her so happy and I find that rewarding.  The scenery outside the house is constantly changing and I prefer to be out there where it's happening.  I really, really wanted to be in the sunshine tootling around on John Dear yesterday, but took the ascetic's viewpoint on self-denial and dusted, vacuumed, did laundry, and dry-mopped and tried to derive some satisfaction from that.  Partial success is better than none.  My real reward came from the baked pork chop and roasted carrots and parsnips for dinner.  I'd almost forgotten how good parsnips are.

My telephone landline went funky last weekend, and the repairman is due today.  Since our electricity is erratic, especially in winter, the landline becomes my lifeline if I can't charge my cell phone.  That being said, it has been a blessing not to receive those constant, dadratted, annoying robocalls from politicians this close to the elections.  Where did they get the idea that listening to a recorded voice would sway my opinion?  Way back in the day, I remember one candidate who walked the neighborhoods, knocking on doors and talking face-to-face about issues.  I voted for him then and, believe it or not, he's still active in the California legislature.  He had the personal touch.

I may have sealed my own fate this year by making an executive decision and putting out the word to the Kids that we will have Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving and will celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve day, period, end of story.  That means I've got to get my act in gear and be ready for all comers.  I'm thinking of putting the Christmas tree up now.  Or not.

What can I say?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Mighty Oaks

And the subject was:  acorns.  "Mighty oaks from little acorns grow," as the saying goes, meaning that everything has to start somewhere.  It might not seem like a big deal to many, but I made my first trip to the dump alone yesterday.  I had loaned out my cargo net, that big web thing that covers a pickup load to keep things from flying out, and so had to use one tie-down strap and a ridiculous substitute of twine strung across Bess's wading pool, a big, broken trash can, lots of insulation, and a ton of acorns, scared that stuff would scatter on the road.  I'll admit it.  I'm a wuss.  Driving slow across Bucks Bar, I lost count of the times I pulled over to let other vehicles pass and/or check that the load was intact.  For the first time, I found the turn to the dump (reclamation center) without passing that road three times.  My writing on the check was nearly illegible, my hands were shaking so.  The nice man directed me to a space and I backed in.  That was my biggest hang-up about going alone.  There is a five-foot drop off to the pit and I was terrified that, in addition to the load of trash, I'd end up dumping the truck over the edge, as well.  I can't have been the only one worried about this possible disaster because a low barrier had been installed.  Somewhat reassured, I still had to sit in the cab for a minute after I'd turned off the engine to settle my nerves.  (I said I was a wuss.)

And so I began unloading.  Pulling out the bigger pieces and flinging with abandon, I got down to the layer of acorns.  I'm not exaggerating when I say the guy with the big tractor blade/scooper machine had to make three passes to clear away all those acorns.  Mothers of my mother's era used to coerce their kids who would not finish their dinner by saying, "Think of the starving children in China."  Why some kid anywhere in the world who would want my uneaten broccoli was beyond me.  However, yesterday I could hear my mother's voice asking, "What about the starving squirrels in China," as I raked all those acorns out of the truck.  I had nightmares last night about thin, raggedy Chinese squirrels.

The truck and my heart were much lighter on the way home.  I had survived a solo trip to the dump, and am encouraged to face the next scary event.  It was a good day.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Time Flies

Somebody must have greased the gears on the clock yesterday because time just flew by.  Given the options of going out for lunch or having chili here, Clay chose the chili (which I take as a great compliment) even though it wasn't raining.  I hurried up and put a pan of cornbread in the oven and heated the pot of chili, which is always better the second day when flavors have melded.  Clay's truck had gone on the fritz so after eating, we headed out to load trash in my pickup.  Holy cow!  Just cleaning out the shed filled the bed of the truck.  In addition to the fallen drywall and insulation, there was, of course, an assortment of "treasures" that Steve had picked up at yard sales and elsewhere but never used.  That man was an inveterate "picker."  He had a long commute.  If someone had put their trash out by the road and he saw something interesting on the way to work and it was still there on his way home, he figured it was fair game and would pick it up.  I'm not kidding.  I imagined every dark cloud in the sky was Steve frowning as we loaded this stuff in the truck.  Clay learned at the foot of the master and managed to slip a thing or two into his car.  "Hey, I might be able to use this someday."

We ran out of time as we raked, shoveled, and swept some semblance of order in the shed.  While I threw crates of acorns out in the field, much of what went in the truck was acorns, enough to make the truck groan.  I can imagine what the guys at the dump are going to say.  "This woman is a nutter!  Why was she hoarding acorns?  And why is she giving them up now?  And how did we get so lucky?"  I can see the landfill in a few years, a forest of oak trees.

There wasn't enough time left to make the run to town, so we called it a day.  What a pleasure it was to spend some time, any time, with Clay and I so appreciate his help always.  Faced with what seemed like an insurmountable task, it went much faster with the two of us working together.  I sent him home with a dozen eggs, cornbread, and some cookies.  A small thank-you for his help.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Water Works

Rain or shine, Clay is coming up today.  If it rains, we'll stay in and eat cookies I baked just in case trick-or-treaters came by last night (no one did).  If the sun shines, we'll take a load of trash to the dump.  I was stymied in my plans to get ready for the potential outing because I didn't know which truck we might take.  There's a ton of trash around here, not the least of which is all the ceiling and insulation stuff that fell down in the shed from all those acorns.  Whenever I find myself in a quandary, my solution is to head for the kitchen to cook.  If we go to town, I plan to take Clay to Bones or Poor Red's, but just in case we don't, I wanted to be prepared and decided to make a pot of chili.  The corn bread will wait until we know the plan for the day.  Corn bread is always best hot from the oven.

About the time I was slicing and dicing to prep for the chili, Jim Hammonds drove up to finish repairing the wiring that operates the pressure tank.  Last week he'd jerry-rigged a quick fix and yesterday he did his usual, very professional job and now the wiring is secure.  Jim brags that I was his very first customer when he started his own water pump business, and I'm proud that he is so successful now.  I appreciate that we've become good friends, as well.  Debbie, his wife and sidekick, had her own project at home this time.  Jim plans his schedule so that I'm his last call of the day so he can enjoy a cold beer and we talk.  I continued to build the chili and it was fun to have an official taster.  He'd been leaning over the pot sniffing, so of course I handed him a spoon.  "Hmmm, needs a little more heat, I think."  So I added a can of diced jalapenos and more chili powder.  Another spoon (always use a clean one for taste testing) and, "You've nailed it."

Little to no rain yesterday, some last night, and today I know the inside water works, regardless.

It will be a good day.