Sunday, August 20, 2017

Not Seen, Not Gone

 Just because I haven't seen Percy, Patience, or any of the others in the gang down in the barn doesn't mean they've left or changed their ways.  As I suspected, they come in after I've gone for the day and wreak their own brand of havoc.  Their latest caper is pulling used wipes out of the bucket and strewing them around.  This was an unusually large haul yesterday and left in the milking room.  Other wipes stick up in tufts where the squirrels are pulling them down into their burrows.  It's a right mess, that is.  Furry little thieves and vandals.

As someone who grew up at a time when one turned to encyclopedias or had to make a trip to the library (kids today will never have to learn the Dewey Decimal System) for any kind of research, I am enthralled with the internet and the enormous range of information immediately available.  As a for instance, I was watching a movie yesterday with an actor whose name I could not recall, nor the film I'd seen him in before.  No encyclopedia nor library would have provided either with no better reference, but, there at my fingertips with the merest hint, was not only his name but his biography.  Turns out that Sir David Mark Rylance is not only a celebrated actor, he is an anti-conflict activist.  Who knew?  A short while later, I wanted a recipe for dipping sauce for gyoza (Japanese dumplings) and, ta da!, there it was.  Marvelous!

It was a Saturday NASCAR race, so not much but piddly chores got done during the day.  I didn't get my bibbies in a bunch because it was too darned hot to do a lot and I'd watered the deck plants the day before.

On my way back from putting the girls to bed, I decided to stop by the feed shed to see if shutting that window had stopped the vandalism in there.  It had not.  Thing's place has been taken over by rats (eeuw!) of all sizes.  Without my nightly appearance, the creatures had run rampant. breaking more stuff and helping themselves to the lay pellets that Thing didn't care for in the plastic trash barrel.  When I turned on the light, there was a mad dash for cover, but just because I couldn't see them didn't mean they were gone.  Rats!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Going On

I dislike the phrase, "moving on" which, to me, means moving away from.  I think people recover by simply going on, putting one step in front of the other and getting through the day.

It seems I've been abandoned by the barn mice, and have seen neither hide nor hair of the squirrels.  I don't much care that the squirrels don't plague me, but I really miss the mice.  After finding those two in the feed barrel, not another one has shown up.  Aside from the goats, there's nothing to keep me company and nothing to watch while milking but the spiders in their web in the corner.  Sigh.

Robert the Raider on the deck has a protoge, a very small but equally destructive squirrel named Bobby.  Bobby is working on his creepy-sneaky stuff, hiding behind pots as he shops for something tasty.  He's not as bold and brassy as his mentor (maybe his father) yet.  I wouldn't have seen him, but noticed some greenery shaking and realized it was being devoured.

"My" turkeys are evidently Italian.  Harold had given me a large, overripe zucchini that had been next on the menu for the chickens.  I cut it up and threw it down with the birdseed yesterday, not knowing if the turkeys would eat it.  They ate it.  There wasn't a smidgen left by the time I walked back to the house.  Perhaps I won't have to overfeed the garbage disposal after all.

There are more and more vultures every day.  Yesterday there were at least fifteen sitting on the posts and wires around the pen and a couple getting a drink from the goat trough.  The big annual migration will occur in maybe a month and perhaps these guys are putting in their reservations early.  These huge birds are absolutely awesome.

Yesterday was better.  It's too depressing to stay depressed, but I wasn't up for accepting a lunch invitation from Arden yet.  I'm not good company when I'm feeling low.

Summer isn't over yet, as the rising temperatures remind us, but the world is turning on its axis in that direction.  Daylight comes by 6 a.m. and the girls are ready for bed by 7:30 at night.  Life goes on.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Changes

Just as acquiring animals changes one's routines and habits, so does losing them (I prefer the former).  Down to three goats now and only two milkers, barn chores go quickly.  I enjoy the goats; they are quirky, productive, (sometimes) affectionate animals.  My first two, Lucy and Ruth, were bought on a spur-of-the moment decision.  Had I realized how restrictive they were, I might have had second thoughts, but probably not.  Where would I go and what would I do anyhow?  They, and all animals, in my opinion, give purpose to life.

I enjoy the goats, but it was the chickens that gave me joy.  I could sit and watch them for hours.  They're such busy little creatures, taking off running for no apparent reason, taking dust baths in the summer, doing the chicken dance (scratch, scratch, scratch, take two steps back to see if a tidbit had been uncovered, and do it all over again), and talking.  Chickens talk all the time.  After awhile, you realize they have a fairly extensive vocabulary with clucks and squawks and just plain sociable chatting as the occasion demands.  Deb and I went together to buy my first chicks after Steve had built a fenced pen next to what had been a storage shed, and I've not been without a flock ever since.  At one time I had as many as forty.

Since the first six, I've always said that if my garbage disposal had to depend on what I feed it, it would starve.  All vegetable trimmings would go to the chickens, and the flock would come tumbling down the ramp to see if there were goodies in with the scratch.  Now I'm in a dilemma.  I guess the too-soft zucchini on the counter and the stem end of a couple of tomatoes will go to the turkeys.  I'd send the garbage disposal into shock if I started giving it a full meal.  Unneeded milk always went to the chickens.  It was painful to throw it down the drain yesterday.

It's a good thing humans are adaptable and can cope with change, because it's the one sure thing in life.  Nothing stays the same.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Mea Culpa

There is no one to blame but myself.  It was getting dark, I didn't have a flashlight and, after putting the big girls to bed two nights ago, I decided not to take a chance on falling in the chicken pen.  The little girls were all inside anyway.  Not often, but there had been a few times in the past that I'd not shut the doors to the coop without problems.  Going out to feed in the morning, the hen house was strangely quiet.  "Oh, please, let everyone be all right."  And then I saw a body lying in the pen.  "No, oh no!"  Expecting to find all the others huddled together inside, I couldn't believe that they were all gone.  All of the hens and Nicholas, gone.  I looked in the laying boxes and in dark corners, then went outside to look again.  This couldn't be.  There was a second body in the corner of the pen, one of the brown leghorns.  Whatever the thing or things were, they had taken six chickens in the night and left just these two on the ground.  I had failed to keep my animals safe and my guilt and grief were overwhelming.  I brought the bodies out and put them on the stand by the water faucet to be bagged up later, and went down to tend to the goats.

Back at the house, I called a place down in Shingle Springs called The Poultry Palace, thinking to replace the flock immediately.  It's not the time of year for chicks, and I hoped for older hens anyway.  Talking with Jay, he thought the killer might have been foxes, but probably a bobcat.  I'd walked the fence and found no holes either in the fence or underneath, so it had to have been something big enough to jump over.  Going out later to take care of the two remains, I couldn't believe it, but they were gone!  Whatever it was, it had come back for the leftovers in broad daylight.  After consideration, I called Jay back and told him I wouldn't be coming down; I didn't want to put out more bait, sentencing more chickens to death.  I will get more chickens at some time, but not yet.

How empty the nighttime routine seemed with just the goats to tuck in last night, and how it hurt my heart this morning to hear my neighbor's rooster greeting the day.  Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.  (Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.)  I have no one to blame but myself.

It was not a good day.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

One Day And Holding

The record of 48 consecutive days of 90 degrees and above down in the valley is finally at an end.  It was again a most pleasant day up here.  That's a holding pattern I could get used to.

Vultures are coming back in greater numbers now.  I took a hard look at those on the fence posts yesterday morning because they had black heads instead of the red I'm familiar with.  Turns out they are immature turkey vultures whose bald heads will turn red later.  There does not seem to be a ready way to determine sex, male and female not having particular characteristics.

The mice are beginning to come back from vacation.  There were two in the goats' feed barrel when I was filling the bucket yesterday.  Can you imagine how hard it is to scoop up a mouse who is racing around like Jimmie Johnson and all I have is a cottage cheese container?  I didn't want to terrify the little guys, but couldn't leave them in there, either.  It took some doing, but they were finally set free.  Bluejays are a constant down in the barn, and yesterday they were joined by some sort of sparrow or wren.  They've been absent for awhile. 

It was a good day to get some watering done, and this little guy was enjoying an evening bath.  He's somewhat larger than the barn birds.  He'd jump in, splash around, then sit on the edge and chirp with joy.  Doesn't take much to please a bird.

Beau had been doing some work for Cam and they stopped by for a drink as she was driving him home.  Honey is so funny (sounds like the title of a song).  She knows the routine and when she comes in, she immediately goes to the cookie box (milk bones) for a treat.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Day Off

Five-thirty a.m. and the foxes are barking and yipping in the dark down along Perry Creek.  There really is a creek, not just the name of a road, and it evidently makes for good hunting.  Foxes have none of the melodic yodeling of the coyotes, and they definitely carry on longer until the neighborhood dogs get irritated and yell at them to shut up.  I haven't used or needed an alarm clock for years.

After a flurry of company, welcome as it was, I took yesterday off.  It was a perfect day to sit out on the deck with Bess and think pleasant thoughts, watching the turkeys and feeling the breeze.  The deltas had kicked in for real and the temperatures were in the low eighties; such a relief!  It won't last, but, gosh, it was so nice to get a break from the heat.  The cats came out of hiding, wherever they go when it's hot, and took turns sitting on my lap.  Ralph "made muffins," that rhythmic kneading that cats do, with such an intent, serious look on his face.  I had a chunk of polenta in the fridge, fried it crispy, and put a few drops of truffle oil to finish; heavenly!

There are things I could have done and should have done, and I don't feel one bit guilty about not doing any of them.  As my daddy would have said, "Put that in your pipe and smoke it!"

It was a good day.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Celebrate!

It seems the barn mice have all gone on vacation.  I haven't seen even one for several days.  I imagine they're all on a beach in the Bahamas, eating coconuts and sipping banana daiquiris while lying under the little pink paper umbrellas that usually come with a froo-froo drink, probably to celebrate the downfall of the Percy gang.  They haven't sent so much as a postcard.

Man, I've been living high on the hog the last couple of days.  First the KFC with Deb and Craig, and then Pete came up yesterday with all the fixings for a steak dinner that he cooked and plated:  filet mignon, grilled peaches, and a baby arugula, spinach, and tomato salad with almonds.  He introduced me to black truffle oil and now I wonder how I got along without it.  Now I understand the word umami.  My only contribution was an appetizer of batter-dipped and sauteed zucchini blossoms that Deb and Craig had brought from their garden.  (Forget the squash, I'd grow zucchini just for the blossoms!)

Two days of visits from my Kids is more than enough reason for celebration in my house.  Add in two great meals and I'm over the moon!

It was a good day.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Hard To Beat

Some days are good, start to finish.  I can't be the only one who looks for omens:  three green lights in a row means good luck; if Tessie is easy to milk, that's a good sign, too.  Yesterday and she and I were in and out of the barn in no time, so I was ready when Deb and Craig arrived.  My personal shoppers had filled my list from the "big box" store and brought KFC.  Those were just bonuses as the real treat was spending the day with these Kids.  After lunch, Craig napped and Deb and I had some one-on-one time to catch up.  The day just sped by and way too soon it was time to call out, "Love you!" as they drove away.

Later, Cam called.  I answered, saying, "You do realize I'm twelve years old right now?"  She said, "And just how did that happen?"  "Time travel.  I'm watching 'The Quiet Man.'"  Memories had come flooding in.  It came out in 1952, and I saw it at a drive-in with my sister and her four little kids in a station wagon.  My brother-in-law sold tickets so we got in free.  It took three tries before we actually saw the movie:  the first time it rained and the second time the show had sold out.  Finally we got in, got the kids settled in the back, and munched on popcorn that my sister had made at home (money was tight back then) and put in a big brown grocery bag.  I have seen this marvelous film with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara countless times since then, never tire of it, and always go back to being twelve years old.

To put the frosting on the day's cake, Pete called and said he's coming up today to celebrate National Filet Mignon Day.  Now that's a holiday I'm happy to get behind!

As days go, yesterday was hard to beat.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Close Encounters

Had to make a hit-and-run trip to town yesterday (aarrgh).  I put on a clean shirt but wore the morning's bibbies and my barn shoes.  The little grocery store was crammed with people and there were long lines to check out.  The smiling young man behind me, meaning to be pleasant, said, "I see you've been working in the garden today."  "Umm, no, I raise goats," as if that would explain everything.  A conversation ensued regarding goats, and I mentioned I sometimes made cheese, chevre in particular.  "Oh, that's exciting!  Do you have a card?"  Reaching into my purse, I tried to give him a doctor's appointment card but finally dug out one of my business cards.  It would be nice to have another customer.

In the feed room last evening, I heard sounds again and was looking at the shelves, but there, on the other side of the window, was a mouse standing on his hind legs, pawing at the glass, trying to get through.  It was almost exactly as I'd imagined.

The last thing I do before going back to the house at night is check the wild thing's water pot.  I don't know if I rescued this little guy or ruined his sunset swim, but he was just floating there and I thought he was dead.  Nope.

This was not the morning to sleep in, so of course that's what I did.  Deb and Craig are coming up and I'm going to get caught with my dust rag down.  Again.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Oh Dear

All was quiet in the feed room in the morning and I was filled with smug satisfaction, thinking I'd finally outsmarted Thing and his wrecking crew.  Down in the barn, it was a little lonely because, although it was nice not to have to battle Percy and gang, not one mouse came out for breakfast or a slurp of milk.  I guess my feelings for the smallest residents at Farview depend on location, location, location.  There was only the borborygmus of the goats to keep me company.  I just love the word borborygmus (rumbling in the stomach and gut due to movement of gas) because it sounds just like what it is.  It is very important to hear this in horses, goats, cattle, etc., because a quiet gut is a sign of colic, which can be deadly.  Flatulence in humans is embarrassing, but when a goat passes gas, it's reassuring.  (I don't know how you can work this information into polite conversation, but feel free to use it should the occasion arise.)

In the afternoon I made a big batch of marinara sauce with tomatoes from Beau's garden.  Gardeners are known for optimism and enthusiasm and are incapable of planting one or two of anything, resulting in an overabundance of everything.  I'm about squash-ed out.  As much as I like them, there are just so many ways to fix a squash and I've done them all.  Too many tomatoes can always be made into sauce.  Back in the day, Joel and I would coordinate our gardens so we could plant different vegetables and trade off.  Offering zucchini to a person who had planted zucchini was taking coals to Newcastle.

At day's end when I was putting the kids to bed, I turned on the light in the feed room and, wouldn't you know it, heard the sound of small feet scurrying for cover.  Oh dear.  There weren't nearly as many as before, but still.  Now I don't know if Thing had chewed his way in, or if I'd trapped a few laggards in the feed room where they can't get to the feed or get out.  That's the stuff of nightmares.  Oh dear.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Heh Heh Heh!

I shut the connecting window into the feed room first thing yesterday, feeling delightfully evil as I did so.  All day I kept imagining little whiskered noses pressed against the glass like kids outside a toy store or, more likely, a bakery.  In between hearing "We Are The Champions" (Queen, 1977), I worried about retaliation.  I doubt that Thing is going to take this sitting down.  If he and his minions organize, I could be in big trouble.  One possible scenario is that they will chew through the wall and take revenge.  The best possible outcome, of course, is that they would all move on and become someone else's problem (dream on).  To be continued....

Shortly after returning from the barn (no squirrels!), my friend Harold called with an invitation to meet for lunch that I was happy to accept.  Funny how leaving home to do something fun with a friend is so different than a trip to the store or the doctor's office.  Harold is good company and lunch was delicious (and the cafe was air conditioned!).  It was a most pleasant break in the day.

The temperature has been climbing incrementally and the deck plants were gasping so watering was next on the to-do list.  Robert the Raider is evidently Mexican, as he discovered the epazote plant and broke stems and ate leaves, leaving that perennial herb a disaster.  My deck is so sad.  Every pot, and there are many, used to be filled with flowers that I changed with the seasons.  Now, I can't justify the money to provide feed for the squirrels.  The only thing left in most pots is garlic chives.  At least they do put out a pretty seed head and they're just about ready to bloom, so I have something to look forward to.  Chives are not to Robert's liking, heh heh heh.

Cam and Honey came by in late afternoon.  Celeste is my early warning signal.  She takes off like a shot at the first sound of an engine and doesn't come out of hiding until she hears that engine leave.  Ralph, on the other hand, is becoming quite social.  He has taken the measure of Honey, knows she's no threat, and even rubs against her when she lies down.  He's pretty funny, although I don't know how Honey feels about that.

I had to put the kids to bed by flashlight.  Counting beaks as I do every night, I discovered that the little red hen didn't make it.  Doggone it.  My flock is reduced to seven hens and Tzar Nicholas.  I see chicks in my future next spring.

It was a sad ending to a good day.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Lightening The Load

Guilt is a heavy burden, heavier by far than sacks of feed.  I've been looking around at things left undone and I'm tired of feeling guilty.  Yesterday I started taking baby steps to drop my load.  Thing and his rat pack have been overwhelmingly destructive in the feed room, to the point where I gave up and left everything they'd knocked off shelves, torn up, chewed up, or otherwise ruined right where it lay.  A tornado couldn't have made a worse mess.  I've been stepping over, on, and around all this stuff and, of course, feeling guilty.

The middle part of the barn was built by a commercial shed company and has small screened windows on either side.  Steve built on wings, one to store the bales of alfalfa and straw, the small room for my craft supplies and chicken feed, and a port for the lawn tractor and rototillers.  Yes, rototillers; at one time we had three.  Steve always felt that if one was good; three (or more) was better.  The windows were left open for ventilation.

Thing and his cronies live in the middle section of the barn and tore out the screen into the feed room  for easy access.  I've been trying to figure out how to put chicken wire over the opening to keep them out, but it just now dawned on me, "Woman, shut the window, you twit!"  Well, duh.  (That's the first item on my agenda for today.)   At any rate, I didn't spend much time yesterday because I needed to get to the goat barn before it got too hot, but I got a start on cleaning up the room.  I'm not yet guilt free, but I feel better.

Candy, the circuit-riding hairdresser, came to the house yesterday.  She is a friend as well, and we spent a couple of hours just talking before she trimmed my unruly mop.  It's not just the feed room that's getting neat and tidy.

Bess and I took the trash down to the road where I found a large, heavy desk chair stuffed in the recycle bin I share with Camille.  Seriously?  I had to remove the chair so I could put in my contribution, but put it back, thinking it was Cam's.  Turns out some neighbor decided to use our bin to get rid of his/her trash; not very neighborly.  Cam went across and took the chair out again, lightening our load of recyclables.

And so ended a rather eventful day.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

In The Beginning

In the beginning, it was drippy-sweat hot down in the barn.  It was nice to see that the Westies have found their way over to the grain in the Easties' territory.  They poke their head out, recon the situation, then make a fast dash under the milking stand, grab a morsel and hotfoot it  back home.  Still no sign of Percy or his gang.

By the time my milk customer arrived, the deltas had made their way up from the valley and the day became quite pleasant.  Cam called in the afternoon with an offer of homegrown Persian cucumbers.  Since she was out running errands, I told her that if she would pick up some sour cream I'd make White Gazpacho for a light dinner.  It is a fast, easy summer soup.  Peel and seed three cucumbers, cut in chunks and put in a blender.  Throw in one small peeled clove of garlic, add half a can of chicken broth, a pint of sour cream, salt and white pepper to taste, and whirl until smooth.  It's best if allowed to chill thoroughly, but we didn't wait.

Sitting out on the deck, we watched a mama turkey and three of her five youngsters search for leftovers under the oak.  There is such a high mortality rate for turkeys, so three is a pretty good ratio.

We both have animals to tend, so all visits end by sundown at this time of year.  It won't be all that long until day's end will come by 4:30.

It was a good day.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Heigh Ho!

Okay, I'm not Bashful, but on any given day I can be any of the remaining six from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937):  Happy (when there's a break in the weather or when my Kids come up), Grumpy (when it's hot), Sneezy (every morning, especially in pollen season), Dopey (any/every day), Doc (as needed if one of the critters gets hurt or sick), and most of all, Sleepy.  It used to drive Steve batty because I can fall asleep anywhere almost as soon as I close my eyes.  I sleep a lot during the day in summer as a way to escape from the heat.  I also sleep when it's not hot, just because I can.

I got caught yesterday when Cam came up to use her laptop because her Internet connection is on the fritz at her house.  I got her set up on the deck and then went back in to watch NASCAR and give her some privacy.  It doesn't take long hearing the ebb and flow of engines and watching cars go round and round to put a person to sleep; it's very hypnotic.  I never heard her leave.

I've not seen the big dogs in the vineyard again.  That makes me Happy.  What I've been hearing lately are foxes.  Their yipping is entirely different from the coyotes, but they're definitely busy hunting as I've never heard before.  The wildlife population changes as more and more people move in.  There are so few deer now, when they used to travel in herds.  I do miss them, even though they decimated my gardens, or what I hoped would become my gardens.

Something is wrong with one of the Rhodies.  She seems to be fine during the day, but for the past few evenings at sundown she can't walk well and sits hunkered down in the yard when the others go into the coop.  I pick her up, give her a cuddle and kind words, and put her in for the night.  I wish I could be Doc, but simply don't know enough about chickens to help her.

Having slept in this morning, instead of the 4:30 a.m. wake-ups of the past week, I'm running late.  Heigh ho, heigh ho!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Break Dance

No, neither goats nor I were on our backs, spinning with feet in the air to hip-hop music, but we were all doing a happy dance yesterday because there was finally a break in the weather.    Boy, it did wonders for attitude.  There was some concern about humidity when there was a spattering of rain while down in the barn, but that really didn't become an issue because, wait for it, the deltas started kicking in.

After barn chores Bess and I had to make a quick run for more lay pellets.  Now I'm wondering if the dadratted ground squirrels aren't raiding the feeder in the hen house in addition to the milk bowl.  If the hens were eating all those pellets, they'd be waddling like ducks by now, I think.

We had to hurry home to start prepping for an early dinner with Pete.  I made that Chicken with Vinegar Sauce again just to make sure it was as good as I thought it was.  It was.  How pleasant to enjoy the company of my Kid and being able to sit out on the deck with a breeze blowing instead of wiping a constant stream of sweat.

There was a pretty spectacular sunset last evening, a fitting ending to a good day.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

I Can't Win

Any thought that I finally got the upper hand in the squirrel war is an illusion in my own mind.  In my heart of hearts, I know without a doubt that no sooner than I latch the door on the barn than Percy and his gang rush into the milking room to push the mice aside and pillage the grain pile.

It's kind of cute when Turk runs ahead of me to the feeding station every day.  "Good morning, Turk, and how are we doing today?"  "Can the chatter, lady, and serve my breakfast."  (Squirrels aren't known for good manners, or perhaps they just wake up cranky.)

I see roving hopefuls outside the chicken pen when I let the little girls out and throw down their scratch, but they have the decency to wait until I leave the yard before joining the al fresco buffet.  On my way back to the house yesterday, I counted six of the little boogers on the clean-up committee, making sure no grain was left on the ground; hopefully the chickens had had their fill.  On days when I don't need milk for the house or for my customer, I fill these bowls for the chickens.  For the chickens, I said.  No more than ten steps outside the pen, I looked back to see these two slurping up a milk shake.  I can't win.

The hen in the foreground is one of the brown leghorns, easily recognized by her tam o' shanter-style comb worn at a rakish angle, as well as the white earlobe.  The leghorns are such a kick.  The leghorns have a loud, maniacal-laughter cackle, unlike any of the other hens.  They are thinner and taller, and have a tendency to race around the pen for no apparent good reason.

The goats and I got a bit of a fright last evening when two very large, very aggressive dogs rushed the fence line in the vineyard to the west, barking deep, threatening warnings.  I bellowed at them to "go home!" but they weren't going to back down.  The girls clustered at my side, but I was finally able to get them into their stalls and safe.  I've never seen these dogs before and can only hope they don't belong to the people who bought the property, and that they'd just wandered in from the road.  Tall deer fencing would keep dogs from jumping over, but dogs can dig under easily.  I don't need that kind of worry.

Back to the subject of squirrels.  Pete is having problems of his own with the furry vandals.  There are several fruit trees in his yard, including a very large pear tree, absolutely loaded with fruit.  His squirrels climb the branches, cut down clusters of pears, and then gnaw their way in to the seeds.  Why just the seeds and not the flesh is anyone's guess.  However, they leave the uneaten remains on his lawn (oh sure, he has a lawn) to rot or for Pete to pick up.  I have no answers for him.  Perhaps I'll give him a white flag to fly when he concedes defeat, because he isn't going to win, either.

Friday, August 4, 2017

FYI

It may be that this is a useless bit of information for many, but it may be helpful for some.  When bending over to clean a goat's udder before milking, keep your head above the level of the goat's back.  Otherwise, she will wag her tail and with unerring aim get you right in the eye.  I should take my own advice, as I can tell you it's like getting hit with a short, hard, hairy rope.

I could have saved myself much aggravation when trying to train squirrels if I'd gone for The Bopper first.  (I never really bopped them; only gave a poke or two.)  Percy and his crew got so used to being soaked that being squirted didn't faze them anymore.  Except for Louie the Lookout checking in, I haven't seen a squirrel in the milking room for days.  The mice tribes are beginning to relax and enjoy their breakfast cereal and milk again.  They do love milk.

In addition to other quirks and foibles, I should admit that I am a compulsive proofreader.  Books that have typographic errors or misused words drive me mad and, even in a borrowed book, I must correct the mistake (in pencil).  I remember a story in which it was stated that the character put her raincoat over a chair.  Wait a minute, where did it say she came in with a raincoat?  I had to read back through to find out.  Turned out it never said she had a coat of any kind.  Aha!  The editor missed that one.  My compulsion extends to movies.  In "Out Of Africa" Robert Redford and Meryl Streep are sitting by a campfire and there are three pieces of fruit on the table.  Redford picks up one.  He has it in his hand, but the film again shows three on the plate.  Oops!  Yesterday I was watching TV (too hot to do much else) and there was a scene in which there was a glass of whiskey on the piano.  The character took a drink and the level in the glass went down.  So far, so good.  However, as the scene progressed, the glass magically filled and emptied all on its own.  Trust me, I ran and reran it over and over just to be sure.  I can't help myself.

The earth has absorbed so much heat that it can't cool off overnight.  At 4:30 this morning it was 80 degrees outside and 84 in the house.  Where are those deltas when we need them?  The clouds gathering at sundown only portend that we may get thunderstorms over the mountains today.  Rain would be welcome, but lightning just increases the fire danger.  FYI, not good.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Well Done

As the saying goes, "Stick a fork in me...I'm done."  Not rare, not medium, I am well done.  Depending on where I am, I'm either baked, fried, or parboiled.  One hundred-two in the shade yesterday, it was 92 in the house.  No ceiling fan or spray bottle can keep up with that.  I make no apology for doing nothing but taking multiple naps throughout the day, the only way I know to escape.  All my good housekeeping intentions have gone up in flames.

This nearly empty two-gallon pot was filled to the brim the night before with water for the wild things.  I refilled it in the morning.  It was a good two inches down when I came back up from the goat barn (hereafter to be known as The Oven), presumably by the turkeys.  By nightfall, the pot was over half empty.  Poor things.

The goat trough is topped off morning and night.  If they've not drunk much, I still fill to overflowing to float out whatever bits of alfalfa or feathers might have fallen in.  Last evening they'd dropped the level a good three inches (that's a lot of gallons!) throughout the day.  The vultures are either moulting or simply stripping down to their undies because I am finding more large feathers on the ground and downy fluff in the trough.

Turkeys stand in groups in shade wherever they find it, mouths agape and wings akimbo.  Only the baby squirrels are active, chasing around the yard while their parents lie flattened.  Shaddup can't seem to summon the energy to yip and yerp lately.

Bess Anne is over 13 now and, like me, doesn't cope well with this heat.  During the middle of the day when taking her out to her pool would be putting her in hot water, now I use my spray bottle to try to cool her off.  We both drip our way through the day.

I can't say it was a particularly good day, but at last it was done.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Road Trip

It was one of those rare times when every stop light between here and Cameron Park (five, maybe six) was green yesterday.  I'd allowed for an hour on the road and that was cut by fifteen minutes, so I was early and Doctor was running late.  No worries, I'd brought a book and the office was cool.

I really like this new Doc even though she is recommending another medication.  I'll look into it, but withheld a decision.  The last med recommended traded recurrence of breast cancer with the possible side effect of endometrial cancer and I declined the offer.  During the course of conversation, she asked if I saw my children often and I told her that I don't plan on seeing them much during summer due to my lack of air conditioning and not wanting to submit them to that torture, but that we are in close contact.  The look on her face!  "You don't have air conditioning?!  I thought everyone had air conditioning."  Of course I had to throw in that I had only a wood stove for heat, just for the shock value.  She said it sounded like where she came from in India, and that her grandmum had only a well for water.  Naturally I said that I, also, was on a well, but didn't have to haul water up by rope, and it was only a problem when the electricity was out.  You'd have thought I'd sprouted a second head.  "I would die.  I would just die!," she said.

Not wanting to waste the trip, I made a stop for supplies on the way home.  I'd felt so bad having to leave Bess in the house for so long in the heat.  Poor little girl was panting like crazy when I got back.  It being trash day, she got so excited when I gathered up my offering to the garbage gods.  "Road trip!"  It's not a long way to go, but I cranked up the A/C and left the engine running while I hauled the trash can across the road from Cam's and picked up my mail, and her breathing was much better by the time she got her treat back at the house.  I also took her out on the deck and misted her wet down to the skin.  The cats find dark hidy-holes and sleep on the really hot days, and yesterday was really hot.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Who Are You?

I look in the mirror and ask, "Who are you, and what have you done with the Farview Farm lady?"  I certainly don't recognize this woman who has become a cleaning fanatic in my house.  It's gotten to the point that I'll hand pick a single bit of cat fluff or broken leaf from the carpet, use the carpet sweeper if there are just a few, and pull out the vacuum if Bess has brought in half her weight in burrs, instead of thinking, "I've got to get around to that one of these days."  The round room is just about finished.  Moving somewhat slower yesterday because of the heat which continues to climb, I still managed to actually take storage items out to the shed instead of just shifting them around in the room and get most of the little pig curio pieces washed and replaced.  Cam is going to take the two scratching posts used by Victor back in the day and Frank and Pearl after him.  Ralph and Celeste came to me as older kittens and I was never able to train them to use the posts.  Camille works with rescue groups and said they would certainly take them (one man's trash is another man's treasure).  I'll have to admit that I was so impressed with the results so far that I turned on the light in the round room last night before bedtime just to admire my handiwork.  Now, however, I walk through the dining room and think, "Ohmigosh, look at that!  Those shelves need attention."  Will this never end?

I live with a spray bottle in hand, squirting face and neck throughout the day as a way to stay alive when it's this hot.  Topping off the goat trough, I use the hose to wet my entire head, resulting in a rather unique hairdo, but I could care less.  In the afternoon when the deck was in shade, Bess and I went out to water the gasping plants, clean and refill her pool, and soak us both under the mist.

Down in urban areas, a neighbor might ask to borrow a cup of sugar.  Cam called the other day and asked if I had a come-along, a tool used to pull fencing, as well as other things.  Not only did I have one, I knew right where it was.  Surprise, surprise, I also knew where to find the tile cutter that Deb and Craig needed, and the branch saw Beau used to trim the front hedge.  It's a different world up here.

Today will be an off day as I'll be going down to meet a new oncologist for a follow up, my other doctor having moved to the Bay Area.  Oh well, the truck and office have A/C, and I can use the rest.

Monday, July 31, 2017

I Don't Mind

The squirrels continue to play the game and I continue to have the Big Bopper (think "Chantilly Lace," 1954, J.P. Richardson) at the ready.  Louie checked in a couple of times and took back the word, but it might have been Persistent Percy or one of his cohorts, Impatient Irving, who decided to make a test run.  Just raising the Bopper was enough to send him packing.  I don't mind playing the game as long as I'm winning.

Bessie Anne had a senior moment yesterday morning.  We have a set routine:  I start the coffee maker, then fill cat and dog dishes, then give Bess her morning treats.  By that time the coffee is done, I pour a cup and we all go back to the bedroom for some computer work.  Bess evidently had a gap in the synapse because she stayed alone in the kitchen and started barking, looking out into the dark.  Poor little girl had forgotten the routine and thought I'd gone outside without her.  I touched her shoulder.  "Oh, Mom!  There you are!  I thought you were lost."

I also don't mind being bitten by the cleaning bug, but why (why!) did it have to bite in the middle of summer?  Yesterday's project was the seldom-used breakfast room, aka, the round room.  My sister was the only one who actually had breakfast in there; I use it mainly for storage:  twenty-five-pound bags of sugar for the hummers, spare milk jars, lots of empty egg cartons, the leaf blower, and anything else I can't find another place for.  That room was long overdue for a massive overhaul, but why, I ask again, did I decide to clean it on one of the hottest days of the year?  Dripping sweat, I made great inroads, but there's still much to do.  That room contains a large portion of pigabilia that needs to be taken down and washed.  I hope I don't lose momentum before it's all done.

I get no cooperation from my camera when it comes to moon shots.  What looks like a full moon was actually almost exactly half full.  (Yes, I'm one of those glass-half-full people.) 

Four-thirty a.m. today.  Pat, pat, pat.  Ralph again.  I'd have rather slept a little longer, but I guess I don't mind.  There are worse ways to be awakened.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

To The Manor Born

Louie the Lookout is a new member of Percy's band of bad boys.  They seem to be taking the advice of Patience and are staying out of the milking room until I leave.  Louie poked his head in three or four times yesterday, made eye contact, and went back to tell the gang, "Nope, not yet, She's still there."  (They call me She; that, and probably other names I'd rather not know.)

Trying to beat the heat, I go down to the barn earlier each day and it makes no difference.  I can't get ahead of 84 degrees.  (It was 72 at 4:30 this morning.)  Eighty-four was the ambient temperature; I can only imagine what it was under the metal roof in direct sun.  I've often thought of putting a gauge inside, but I'm probably better off not knowing.  Each of the girls has a stall with windows; the milking room is more enclosed.  I don't spend any more time than necessary, for my sake and theirs.

Star thistle is rampant.  It's such an evil weed, with hard, spiky thorns that really hurt.  My yards and fields look so unkempt, and there's not a darned thing I can do about it.  It was determined that the Ranch Fire was started on someone's property, undoubtedly by a mower striking gravel and throwing sparks.  I'd never take that chance, regardless of how shabby we look.

I settled for a semi- two-fer yesterday.  Like a lady to the manor born, I put my staff to work washing dishes and doing laundry.  I even used the dryer instead of going out under the noonday sun.  I compromised by folding and even putting clothes away.  Hey, I live alone and it's just as easy to pull a shirt off a stack as out of the closet.  To assuage any guilt at not taking on any big items on the list, I took care of a number of piddly chores, with plenty of sit-down time in between.

Cam and Honey came by in the afternoon.  Camille is taking advantage of my lending library.  I've got literally thousands of books from which to chose.  Summer has just as much down time as the depth of winter up here.  Cam works harder than almost any woman I know, but realizes that working outside in this heat is a killer.  Reading is a good way to spend indoor time.  She takes five books, brings them back, and takes five more.  She tells me what kind she likes, and I have fun picking out a selection for her.

It was a good day.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

On Day

One day on, one day off; that seems to be my work schedule.  Yesterday was an "on" day.  Tired of beating myself up over things not done (I'm my worst critic) and using heat, etc., as an excuse for doing even less, I attacked the living room with gusto.  I dusted, swept, even moving furniture to vacuum behind, and replaced a slip cover.  This is the season for hyperactive spiders and I destroyed cobwebs everywhere.  I'm always ambivalent about that, knowing that if there are webs, there is an abundance of insects for spider food and I'm just as glad to be rid of them, but don't want the rooms to look like Miss Havisham's creepy house ("Great Expectations," Charles Dickens).  Bess attempted to save me from myself, telling me periodically that it was break time and that "we" needed to go rest on the deck for a bit (and who am I to argue?).  Finished, it was rewarding to sit and look at polished wood and burr-less carpet.  That's the thing about housework, though, it won't stay that way for long.

It will be interesting to see if I can maintain this burst of ambition and go for a two-fer.  Or not.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Dodged That Danger

They certainly had other things to do, but it got a little frustrating yesterday when CalFire and the other website for fire updates didn't post anything much past 6:30 a.m., saying that the Ranch Fire was 40% contained.  I couldn't see any smoke throughout the day and that was hopeful.  Not until afternoon did the word go out that the fire had been held to 154 acres and was 100% contained, all evacuations were lifted, no structures had burned, and it was all over but the shouting.  There was an outpouring of gratitude from the locals to the firefighters who had worked through the night to hold the line.  It was great to send good news to my Kids.

How nice it was to get back to what we call normal.  Being on high alert is wearing.  Even the barn chores were without incident.  Percy may be the Don of his gang, but Patience seems to have become the consigliere and is advising...patience.  "All things come to those who wait, boys."  I knew they were lurking in the back hallway, but none showed up in the milking room.  I can imagine they rushed in like the hordes of Genghis Khan as soon as I shut the door when leaving.  At least the mice got to eat breakfast in peace.

It seems so strange to me that just at the time when the hens go on summer break, laying few to no eggs, their intake of lay pellets increases to an alarming amount.  There is a large hanging bucket feeder in the coop that normally needs filling perhaps once a week; now it's empty in three days or so.  Go figure.

Beau came by again, this time bringing tomatoes which I happily accepted (I'm about zucchini-ed out).  He has been contacting neighbors about participating in purchasing gravel to resurface our road.  It is a private road and is not maintained by the county, and desperately needs attention.  After the rains of winter, there are ruts deep enough to snap an axle.  Beau will spread and pack the material with his big-boy tractor, and he seems to be getting full cooperation from the residents.  That's something to look forward to.

What with rising temperatures and being able to relax, it was pretty much a do-nothing day.  Bedtime went smoothly for the two- and four-legged critters.  Coming out of the chicken pen, there was a thumb-nail moon in a cloudless sky over the red glow of sundown.  That's the kind of red glow I like to see.

It was a good day.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Too Close

The first call came about 2:30, "Can you see smoke?"  Oh, crum, there it was.  It's that nightmare season we all dread.  Cam's place is down in a cut and she has no view of the surrounding hills, so calls me if there's any hint of fire.  This one started on the south side of Omo Ranch Road, east of East-16, actually in Amador County, but quickly moving up into El Dorado County.  The wet winter led to the growth of heavy underbrush, giving fuel to any fire.

Cam continued to call for updates and I was continually going outside to check.  This shot was taken almost exactly an hour after the first.  By this time there were a number of big tanker planes and several helicopters with dump buckets tackling the blaze.  The breeze that we considered a blessing was working against the firefighters (bless 'em all), blowing east and northeast; in other words, our direction.  The local Facebook page was inundated with posts from frantic neighbors.  Roads were being closed and parents were desperate to get home to their children and animals.

Then began the mandatory evacuation orders.  Nearby rescue sites were set up for people and animals.  This community pulls together in an emergency.  Wanting my Kids to hear it from me first instead of on the news, I sent texts telling that we were okay and so far, so good.  This is the skyline about 5:30.

Beau and three of his kids came by.  He decided to start working toward getting my tractor and trimmed the big hedge in front of the house.  The kids used my wagon to haul branches out to the burn pile.  Then he did a major clean up with his leaf blower.  Hey, lookin' good here.

At 5:30 this morning, the Ranch Fire, as it's called, is at 154 acres, 15% contained, and so far no structures have burned.  Some roads are reopened and mandatory evacuations have been lifted, voluntary only.  Barely light now, and I see neither smoke nor blaze to the south.  There are conflicting emotions in a situation like this:  deep sorrow for those immediately affected, and overwhelming gratitude that we are not.  So far, so good.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Stuck

(Stealers Wheel, 1973)  Instead of clowns and jokers, it was "Squirrels to the left of me, squirrels to the right, and I'm stuck in the middle again."  Percy and the fuzzy bunch were back yesterday.  They got a little help from Inga, who tipped her dish so there was some grain behind the stand, but their hearts weren't really in it for a full-force raid.  A loud "NO!" turned away those who poked their head out on my left and a squirt in their general direction (didn't even have to make a direct hit) sent the right side packing.  I again tried to get a photo of Patience who popped up behind me, but could hear her munching and crunching on the dropped cereal.  I don't do selfies, but did take the time later to figure out how to direct the camera behind me, so maybe I'll have better luck with this elusive lady another time.  It's been a little like waiting for the other shoe to drop as I knew that the squirrels hadn't given up on a free meal.  At least they aren't bent on murder and mayhem.

There are hordes running rampant up at the house.  Shaddup went on and on yesterday with that oh-so-irritating yip of his.  I banged the screen door in hopes of shutting him up, but he simply moved to another vantage point and started hollering again.  Young squirrels (there are lots of little ones now) ran around and played tag on the front porch.  Ralph and Celeste watch them like I watch TV.  Robert comes creepy-creeping along the deck daily on his mission of destruction.  One thing I don't run short of is squirrels.

Cam and Honey stopped by in the afternoon and we all went out to sit on the deck to catch the breeze.  After awhile, Honey got bored and wanted some attention.  She rolled around with a goofy grin on her face and got us laughing at her antics.  Camille had called earlier, asking if I knew anything about a new fire.  She'd been coming back from town and could see smoke and flames off of Cedar Ravine.  I truly hate this time of year.  I learned later that the fire had been contained.  Whew!

Nearing the end of July and the seasons are slowly changing.  Not so long ago it was light by 5 a.m. This shot was taken this morning at 6 and the sun isn't up yet.  A week of high temperatures is predicted.  I'm not looking forward to that.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Ode To Joy

(Apologies to Beethoven.)

Pete told me not too long ago, "Mom, this place brings you joy," and it made me stop and think.  I'm sometimes overwhelmed with trying to keep up with maintenance of the grounds and buildings and can get a bit discouraged.  Joy is defined as one step above happy and I think it also includes contentment, and I think Pete was absolutely right.  Not every day is a double-rainbow day, but there are moments in nearly every day that I do realize are special.

Sweat dripping off my nose and eyelashes in the barn yesterday was not the most pleasant, but it struck me how lucky I am to have the trust of my animals and, at my age, to be able to continue this work, and to enjoy the company of creatures large and small.  (No squirrels in the barn again, ta da!)  Sometimes I think I've slipped a cog; milking is hard work and I never drink milk and use very little in cooking, but selling a gallon now and then gives me pocket change and, best of all, I love to see the chickens come running when I fill their bowl in the morning.  I might complain about being tied here because of the goats, but my days would be empty without them.  There are days when I drag my feet, but sitting next to one of the girls and hearing the ping of milk in the bucket is always satisfying.

There is a deep feeling of peace that comes from just sitting quietly on either end of the deck with Bess Anne by my feet as we look out at absolute beauty.  In late afternoon, she and I went out on the front porch to try to catch any breeze that might come.  I had the sprinkler going in the herb garden and it was spraying into the bird bath.  It wasn't long before we were joined by a number of sparrows, a bluejay, and a red-headed woodpecker who all played in the shower and fluttered in the bath.  It was nice to share the joy.

One of these days the weather will change and I'll get the yards and field mowed.  Until then, there's no sense getting my britches in a bunch over something I have no control.  Honeybees and bumblers are making the most of the dandelion-like flowers on the star thistle, so even that dadratted weed is serving a purpose.  I saw the first train of little turkletts following their mama the other day when she brought them to the feeding station.

Pete was right, this place does bring me joy.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Silent Night

It was another of those strikingly quiet moments toward sundown.  I'd just finished watering the deck plants, soaking Bess in her pool and misting myself and we took a moment to drip dry.  The view of the hills to the south is much altered by the loss of that huge oak limb.  Some might appreciate the openness, but I mourn the loss of that beautiful, full tree as it was.

It had been a busy day, what with another trip to town.  Normally I'd have made all my necessary stops in one go-round after Deb's party, but wasn't going to miss the opportunity to spend extra time with Clay and Pete.  Jiminy, it was hot enough that just opening the truck door could burn your hand (not at home, the truck is parked in the shade).  A/C on full blast at least made the trip bearable.

It's been the better part of a week with no squirrels in the milking room.  I'm still on high alert, constantly peering under the goat's belly.  The mice are more relaxed, spending time at the grain pile to eat instead of doing a grab-and-run.  It's hard to believe I've actually scared off Percy and his gang.  They're probably waiting in a bunch on the other side of the wall, but it's nice to have a little peace in the barn during chores for a change.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Second Place

Animal stories took second place because yesterday was all about people.  There were no squirrels in the milking room anyhow (can it be I'm winning?).

Clay had decided to drive up here and we could go down to El Dorado together and he arrived right on time.  We had a heart-stopping moment on Bucks Bar when an idiot came screaming around us on a curve over a double yellow (no passing) line into the face of oncoming traffic.  Horns blared, but there was no collision.  That fool was an accident waiting to happen.  Shaken, I drove on and we pulled in front of Poor Red's with four minutes to spare.  It was nice to have had the extra time in the truck to talk with Clay.  Deb, the birthday star, and Craig arrived almost at the same time and we all went in to find Pete, and Dave and Jester, who had ridden up on their motorcycles, out on the patio.  It was so nice to be with a group of convivial people who honestly like each other.  Camille came to wish Deb happy birthday just as we had finished lunch.  She had again been beset with fencing problems.  No getting around the fact that it was July hot even though we were under wide umbrellas, so there wasn't much dawdling as we said goodbyes.  I believe Deb had a good day in the company of her loving family..

Pete came back to the house and he, Clay and I enjoyed good conversation.  Pete had come to check out my computer and external hard drive to see if they would be compatible with what he has in mind for the camera-in-the-barn project.  Oh, the pressure.

Time did, as it does, rolled on and it was time for the guys to leave, and I put the kids to bed just before sundown.  It was a good day.. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Things To Do, Places To Go

Another early morning wake-up; not Ralph this time, but the Children of the Night, the coyotes.  The packs run the ridge across the road on their way down to Perry Creek, their favorite hunting ground, and there are pups to train at this time of year.  Their yipping and yodeling sets off the local dogs and it's a cacophony of sound.

I don't delude myself that I've actually won the war, but there were no squirrels in the milking room yesterday; two days in a row!  That was a good thing because I'd cleaned out all the used udder wipes (labeled as diaper wipes) from the bucket and had to put my weapon of choice, the broom handle, in there to rescue fallen mice.  I'd thought it would be okay until I finished milking, but don't you know I had no more taken Inga out and there was a little guy frantically hopping up and down at the bottom.  I put the stick in so he was able to escape.  The things I do for these critters.

Thing is out for revenge.  Piqued at not being able to get at the chicken scratch, he and his buddies had a hissy fit and completely cleared off one of the shelves.  They threw garden supplies, jars, and Christmas baskets to the floor, then chewed and tore anything made of paper.  They'd already made a right mess of the room, but now it's a disaster zone.  When the weather gets cooler (one can always hope), it's going to be a week's worth of work to get it cleaned.  Ralph and Celeste are indoor kitties; what I need are large, hungry barn cats with attitude.

I have so been looking forward to today.  It's my daughter Deb's birthday and Craig, her husband, is throwing a party for family and friends down at Poor Red's.  Pete, living closer, has come up more frequently, but I never count on seeing the other Kids between Mother's Day and Thanksgiving due to the heat and lack of A/C, so in addition to celebrating Deb's special day, it will just be so nice to enjoy an interim visit with them all.  Well, almost all.  Larry called from Hawaii the other day and we caught up on our news, his, of course, being more exciting than mine.  Squirrel wars can't hold a candle to swimming in the ocean with giant sea turtles.

It's going to be a good day.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Win Some

I look left and right when I should be looking up.  First thing, one of the Wallendas took a flying leap from a beam and landed at my feet in the morning.  I swear mice are made of India rubber.  They fall the equivalent of a 20 story building and race off like they'd just stepped off a curb.

Just because not one of the local thugs showed up (yes, again!!) didn't mean I was safe from thieves.  Blue jays are constantly helping themselves from the feed bucket.  Sometimes there is a line waiting for me to get out of the way, as this one was yesterday.  As I sit milking, they swoop down and I feel the wind from their wings.

If ya can't beat 'em, you have to try to out think 'em.  There are going to be a lot of disappointed mice, rats, and squirrels in the feed barn because the scratch is now stored in that metal trash can.  Let's see Thing chew his way into that!  That's a combined weight of 305 pounds of feed to unload.  I learned my lesson the last time I didn't get it all put away.  I've got to win some once in awhile.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

How Was Your Morning?

Ralph picks the darndest times to get needy.  Do cats have bad dreams?  It wasn't the first time that Ralph has patted my sleeping face at 4 a.m.  His touch is feather light, but insistent.  He wants to be petted and reassured.  It's hard to be affectionate when what I want is to sleep.  Pat, pat, pat.  So I stroke his back until his nighttime heeby-jeebies are gone and he finally lies down to spoon in the curve of my belly.  Flick.  Flick, flick, flick.  I can tell when he's asleep when he stops brushing my face with his tail.  It's one way to start the day.

Percy and his crew did wait until Tessie was up yesterday, knowing that she was a pretty ineffective weapon.  Man, those squirrels keep me on my toes.  I moved my stick over to the right side.  It is just long enough to give the enemy a poke, and poke I did.  I got the feeling that the gang thought I wasn't playing fair, but enough is enough!  I felt a little bad for Squint because he couldn't see the stick coming on that side.

Beau came roaring up on his quad later, bringing more zucchini and other squashes from his garden.  Gotta love this bountiful time of year!

Cam came up in the afternoon to show me her latest discovery.  She'd found that the unwieldy, two-wheeled trash barrels provided by the company would fit on the trailer hitch on her truck by the handle and could be hauled back and forth that way.  We got to laughing so hard when it dawned on us that she had driven all the way up here with barrel attached just to share this fascinating bit of info.  We've got to get a life!!

Smoke hung like a cloud cover most of the day, not clearing until late afternoon.  It is thick over the hills again this morning.  Pete called, worried because he'd seen one of the big tanker planes fly over and headed in this direction.  So far, so good on that score.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Where There Is Smoke

Barely light out and the hills to the south are shrouded with smoke that has blown in from the Mariposa fire down around Yosemite.  It's that dreaded time of year. 

The barn squirrels seem to be sticking to the delayed-start game plan.  I can deal with that.  One or two did show up early, including Squint.  Either he came with the problem and I never noticed, or he's been hit in the eye too many times because he seems not to be able to open it well.  I hope it's not my fault.because I've never meant to hurt, only deter.

We caught a bit of a break yesterday when the hoped-for delta breezes came up from the valley.  Temps stayed in the high 80s, bearable, and when Bess and I sat on the deck it was almost pleasant.  Days of sustained heat (or rain) are wearing.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Egg And I

(With apologies to author Betty MacDonald.)

Only the Brown Leghorns are producing now; the rest of the little girls are on summer hiatus.  As a consequence, I was two short of a dozen of the freshest eggs for my customer yesterday and I filled in from the week before.  As I told him, the older eggs were the best for hard boiling because they shell so much easier.

I used my mother's method for years:  put the eggs in water, bring to a boil, boil for 20 minutes or so, then take out and shock in cold water.  The whites were like rubber (I fed mine to the dog) and looked like they'd been pecked by birds because of nicks while peeling and the yolk always had a green circle, but she (and I) didn't know any better.  Just as I recently learned a better way to scramble eggs, at some point I learned how to cook a perfect hard-boiled egg like this beauty in the bowl.  I think (hope) it's worth sharing.

Part of the problem is in the name.  Eggs should never be boiled; it toughens the albumin (the whites) and some chemical reaction creates that green around the yolk.  Older eggs are best because they have a larger air sac to expand and allow the shell to separate more easily.  Put the eggs in cold water, bring just to a bare simmer, put on a lid and turn off the heat.  Let sit 10-15 minutes, drain, and cover with running cold water a short while.  They will peel like a dream, the whites will be tender, and the yellow yolks will be cooked all the way through without any discoloration.

I made a bowl of egg salad yesterday for egg-and-ham sandwiches.  Nom nom nom.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Paranoia

"Paranoia strikes deep, into your life it will creep."  ("For What It's Worth" song by Buffalo Springfield, 1966.)

As irritating as those little boogers are, it was almost a relief when the squirrels started showing up one at a time yesterday.  Evidently one of their number held out for caution at the war council instead of the all-out, full-scale attack I'd feared.  They're smart little devils, though.  They figured out that if they delay until Tessie, last in line, is on the stand they stand a better chance.  Getting hit with milk from Sheila is significant, but pretty wimpy from Tess.  The difference is like a fire hose and a water pistol.  With Tessie's tiny orifices, I can't get the same pressure and the stream is more like a phffft.  That's why it takes so much longer to milk her out for the same amount as Sheila.  The furry gang also seemed to realize that if they waited long enough I would be leaving the barn and they could pillage to their heart's content.  Believe me, I don't spend any more time under that metal roof than necessary.  The delayed start also gave the mice a chance to grab a bite first.

Back in the house, I'm paranoid about ants.  It's an annual event, but I never get used to it.  They are mostly in the kitchen, but can show up anywhere.  It's pretty alarming when an ant crawls across my glasses while they're on my face as it's magnified umpteen times and looks the size of a 747.  I sometimes forget what I went into the kitchen for in the first place because I'm on ant watch.  They'll show up in a tiny black train along the ceiling, along the baseboards, on the counters, under the upper cupboards, and on the windowsills.  I'm armed with my squirt bottle of 409 and I shoot to kill.  It's one way to clean house.

The heat seems to be on a roller coaster, spiking on the weekends and dropping a bit in the middle.  It was particularly bad yesterday, so I had a good excuse to do nothing but watch NASCAR and sweat.  And then I went to the store to buy ice cream for dinner.  I was that desperate.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Plot Thickens

Now I'm scared.  The day before, I was ready to throw rocks at the squirrels.  They were coming at me like locusts.  I was geared up and ready to do battle again yesterday, and...nothing.  Not one of the gang showed a whisker or a paw.  No Percy, no Patience, nobody.  Where were they?  I fear they were all holding a council of war somewhere, plotting my downfall in a most unpleasant manner.  A mouse landing on my head was nothing, but I worry about an attack of the killer squirrels.  Milking went smoothly, the mice ate their breakfast unmolested, and I got the heck out of what had become a creepy barn.

Camille and Honey came for dinner last night.  We'd talked about putting it off until it got a little cooler, but I'd seen a recipe on TV that I really wanted to try.  I could taste the flavors in my mind and wanted to see if the dish was as good as I imagined.  It was a hot day, but that wasn't going to change soon and we had to eat anyhow, so we decided to go for it.  The ingredients were simple.  Prep was a little fussy, but easy.  The hard part was because the chef had not given any measurements and I had to guess at amounts.  I am so glad Cam is willing to be a guinea pig for my whims.  Chicken in Vinegar Sauce might sound strange, but ohmigosh, was it ever good!  Complex flavors with sweet caramelized carrots and onions complimenting the tender chicken and tartness of the sauce.  After the first tentative bite, we both dove in like starving wolves.  Cam urged me to keep watching cooking shows.

It was hard to decide which view was more beautiful last night.  The reverse sunset to the east was awesome, and the sun setting in the west was just as spectacular.

It was a fitting ending to a good day.

I'm a little concerned about what will happen in the barn this morning.  Hmmm.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

East Side, West Side

I'm trying.  Oh, how I'm trying.  My latest plan to thwart Percy and his gang was to put down feed for the mice in just one place.  Protecting two sites wasn't working.  The squirrels were using the "divide and conquer" technique and my squirt-and-bop couldn't keep up with them.  One pile of grain meant that the mice on the west side would have to travel over to the east side for breakfast, and I wasn't sure how the east side colony would feel about having early morning company, but if any of the littles were going to get any food at all, something had to give.  It seemed to work and the mice were eating...for a while.

The east side is the squirt side, a little too far for the stick, and I'd have to reach under the goat of the day and that would cause another set of problems.  Squirrels coming up for a snack on the west side couldn't believe there was nothing there, and boy, did I ever get the stink-eye.  The first few raiders to the east were driven back by a well-placed stream of milk.  I'm pretty good (should be, I've had enough practice) and can hit a squirrel in the eye at one pace (mine, not theirs).  Persistent Percy has a cousin, Patience.  I looked behind me and there was Patience with her elbows on the stand between the goat's feet, waiting for grain to drop from the goat's mouth.  I tried so hard to get a photo, but it's almost impossible to milk with one hand and try to take a picture with the cellphone while looking the wrong way.  In the meanwhile, Percy decided that since he was already wet, he might as well go whole hog.  I swear I made at least twenty direct hits and he was dripping wet and he wouldn't leave.  I'd get him in the eye, he'd squint, shake his head, and go on filling his cheeks.  Following Percy's example, others came to join him until there were too many to fight.  Besides, I was running out of milk.  I haven't thought up a Plan C yet.

Pete and I were talking later and I was telling of my trials and tribulations.  He is insistent that I get one of those GoPro cameras for the barn.  He wants to see videos of the barn wars.  I'm thinking about it.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Mean Sister

It has happened before, but it is hard to watch every time and there's not a darned thing I can do to stop it.  When one of the herd gets old, it sometimes happens that the eldest gets picked on and beat up by one or more of the others.  Lucy took the brunt in her day and was driven to the far corner of the pen and not allowed to feed on the alfalfa until the others had finished.  Ruth was butted and had great patches of hair snatched out.  This time it's Inga, and Sheila is the bully.  Poor Inga.  She has always been the most timid of all the girls and easily spooked.  She's been gentle and probably the least trouble, aside from that hard-to-milk udder that was certainly not her fault.  Sheila took a mad on and goes around with her hackles raised (goats do have a mane of sorts) like a schoolyard bully showing off his muscles.  She is just plain mean to Inga, making her wait out of range until she and Tessie have had their fill of alfalfa and bashing her a good one every chance she gets.  At bedtime, she drives Inga away from the gate and wait.  The other night, while I was undoing the latch to the barn and Inga was by my side hoping to be first in, Sheila gave her a head butt so hard that Inga was smashed into the wall so hard I thought the panel would break.  Inga was okay, but then I was afraid Sheila had broken her neck because it was crooked to the side and she didn't seem able to straighten it.  She walked around the corner of the barn and evidently shook it off because her head was on straight when she came back.  Whew!  It would have meant putting her down had it been broken.  It didn't teach her a darned thing though, because she is back to being the mean sister again and making poor Inga cry.  The only good thing, if there is such a thing, is that it was Sheila and not Tessie that bashed Inga.  Had it been the unicorn, Inga would have been skewered like a shish kebab.

Cam and Honey came by in the afternoon.  Bessie was so happy to have a playmate and was more active with Honey than she's been in days.  Honey is a big German Shepherd and it's like watching Mutt and Jeff when the two go running around.

To paraphrase Sonny and Cher, "And the heat goes on."

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Jump Start

The last thing I expected yesterday morning was a mouse on my head, but I should know by now to anticipate the unexpected.  Evidently the Flying Wallendas have returned and one of that acrobatic, daredevil troupe was helping himself to breakfast.  Instead of waiting for a ride when I lift the grain bucket down from its nail (it's not unusual to find a mouse or two in there in the morning), this one took a flying leap, used my head for a landing site, and then jumped down to the milking stand.  Well, that's one way to start the day.

Somebody threw away two perfectly good cats, just threw 'em down and left.  The most exercise Ralph and Celeste get on a hot day is moving from one spot to another, and Bessie does the same.  I understand completely.

I might have had a jump start, but my battery was dead again by nightfall.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Win One For The Gipper

("Knute Rockne, All American," Pat O'Brien, Ronald Reagan, 1940)

Percy is in an early morning huddle with the rest of the barn squirrels.  They've got a playbook and plan a game strategy for the day.  "You go left, I'll go right, and you over there make a feint from the front."  They decide on blitzes, short runs, and when all else fails, somebody will have to stand their line and, "Win one for the Gipper," whether it means getting hit in the eye with a stream of sticky milk or getting a poke in the ribs.  Right now the score is Squirrels: 52, Me: 7.  (I know...I've got too much time on my hands.)

Obviously, I didn't get all the birdseed out of the truck bed.  This fellow was self-assigned to the cleanup committee and was busily getting into every nook and cranny.  I wonder if he also dusts (with a feather duster, no doubt).

There was enough of a breeze yesterday to make the heat almost bearable.  Oh goody.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Look Both Ways

"Look both ways," is good advice before crossing the street or entering an argument.  Up here, it's mandatory, especially when stepping in or out of the front door at this time of year.  The only rattlesnake I've seen (knock on wood) was on the front porch, and I posted a picture of that 5-6 foot gopher snake I found there some time back.  Since snakes cannot regulate their temperature, when it's this hot they come up to cool off in the shade on the cement.  I also look both ways when entering the barn.  Snake might be in there for the same reason.  I just don't like those kinds of surprises.

I am continually looking to the left and right while milking, on guard for the next squirrel attack.  It's extremely annoying.


Think I was kidding?  Whoever said there is no free lunch didn't know my opportunistic bunch.  Before leaving for town yesterday I had to bring out the barrel, brush in as much as I could off the tailgate, and drag the barrel back inside.  Unlike the barns, the shed where the birdseed is kept has a cement floor (ha ha!).  With the corrugated liner, I couldn't get all of the seed and, like Hansel and Gretel, I'm sure I left a trail of "crumbs" all the way to town.

Beau stopped by with two of his girls in the afternoon.  "Want to trade some zucchini for a cold beer?"  Well, of course!  As zucchini does, some had bolted and gotten too big and seedy, so the girls gave those to the chickens.  Happy chickens.

What with additional watering and ceiling fans going night and day, the electric bill was high this month.  Not as high as when the water line broke, but enough to widen my eyes.  Ah, well, the better to look both ways.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Moving Forward

Eleven a.m.  One-hundred degrees outside in the shade, 85 in the house.  Regardless, it was time to get moving yesterday.  House chores not done for ages simply had to get done, period.  The rib had healed to the point I could face a lot of that which had been put off and I was completely bored by sitting all day watching television.  Admittedly, I was moving slowly, but did get quite a bit accomplished.

The bed of the truck is a disaster.  Because of the way the wild things had ripped the bag of bird seed open, I couldn't drag it out without dumping the whole thing.  Knowing the critters would continue to help themselves, it seemed prudent to wait until the bag was lighter and more manageable.  I did not expect them to devour nearly forty pounds of feed in such a short time!  The squirrels (the usual suspects) in their feeding frenzy had pushed a lot off onto the ground so the turkeys are also partaking.  It was a mistake I won't make again.

I'm under siege, I tell you.  The barn battle with Percy, et al, continues.  I changed the routine slightly, waiting to put down breakfast for the mice until Inga was on the stand, hoping it would give the littles at least a fighting chance.  It has only made the squirrels more determined.  They are ganging up, attacking in twos and threes at a time.  I got in a couple of good licks yesterday, poking my weapon into the tunnel, and squirting one with milk until his face was dripping, but I am so outnumbered.

Ralph wandered the hall and rooms yesterday, calling and calling.  I realized he was yelling for his sister, and realized I hadn't seen Celeste for some time.  A bit worried, I also started looking for her but couldn't find her in any of her usual hidey-holes.  I finally figured she had gone downstairs to avoid the heat in the upper rooms, and she did come up later.  Ralph was so happy to see her that he jumped on her back and bit her in the neck.  I guess that's not much different than a mother hugging and then spanking a kid when they've wandered off and are found.

I'm behind the eight-ball with the doggone star thistle.  I hurt my rib when the weather was right and the plants were small enough to keep in check, but I couldn't face jouncing around on John Dear then.  We're moving into fire season and it's too hot to even think about mowing in the middle of the day.  That dreaded weed is starting to put out its dagger-like thorns that hurt like the devil when they poke through my britches.  Bess got herself into a patch of the tiny Velcro weeds and her coat is a total mess, the fur knitted together like a mat.  I'm sure it's painful when I try to comb them out and she will let me work on her just so long.  She's a mess.

A trip to town today is mandatory.  The only thing to look forward to about that is the A/C in the truck.  I'd better get moving.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Another Phase

Haven't seen an ant in several days, so it seems that Fate is sending me another irritating phase of life where things electrical go kerflooey.  Hot as a baked potato and dripping wet from the hose after coming up from the barn, I was ready to have a sit down and try to cool off.  I picked up the remote, pushed a button, and...nothing.  On, off, channel guide...nothing worked.  Usually when this happens it means the batteries are dead, but I'd replaced them recently, twice in fact.  Good grief, this thing is eating batteries like they were jellybeans.  Okay, new batteries installed, I started pushing buttons.  Nothing.  I keep a good supply of all sizes of batteries and thought perhaps the new batteries from the drawer might have been old, so replaced the "new" batteries with even newer ones and got the same response.  Nada, zilch, zippo.  I hit the reset button on the receiver and got a message on the screen that there was complete loss of signal.  Aarrgh.  Unplugging the power cord didn't help.  It was time to call 911-tech support.  The nice lady determined that the remote was deader than a door nail and they would send me a new one.  "And what do I do in the meantime?"  She walked me through the steps of which buttons to push on the receiver, actually got a picture back on the screen, and wished me a good day.  Uh huh.  So for a week or however long it would take for the new remote to get here, I'd need to get up every time I wanted to change the channel, turn down the sound, etc., and there was no way to get to any prerecorded programs or DVR anything new.  Ratchafratch.  I have two satellite receivers, each with two televisions and two remotes, #1 and #2 (I did mention that Steve went overboard on telephones and televisions).  I knew a #2 would not work on a primary receiver, but wondered if the #1 in my bedroom would work on the living room TV.  It was worth a try.  Ta da!  I'm back in business until the new remote arrives.  Now all I have to do is remember to take the thing with me from room to room.

Drat.  I couldn't get a photo that would show the really unusual moon last evening.  It was full and glowing red, what I think is called a blood moon.  The picture of sunset isn't particularly spectacular, but the deepest red in the picture is the same color as the moon.




This morning it is the computer that's gone wonky.  It's running as slow on satellite as it used to on dial-up.  Just another phase.


I've learned never to ask, "What next."