Sunday, December 17, 2017


Charlie Brown's pathetic Christmas tree can't hold a candle to mine.  After an hour of inserting each furschluggen branch into slots in the trunk and carefully and artistically spreading them out last evening, I needed to move Tree over to the corner out of the way.  The trunk is in three pieces that kept separating and I finally had to hug Tree to keep it together during the shift.  Some of the deformity is exaggerated by the fake ficus tree in the corner doing one of those "fingers behind the head" things boys are so fond of doing in a group photo.  I meant to take a triumphant photo of an accomplishment.  Yeah, well.  I'll straighten out that squished section in the middle today.  Whether Tree gets decorated....  (Please note that the pig to the right is wearing his Santa suit.  Ho ho ho!)

The wind up here never reached the velocity that it did down in the valley.  Deb called early in the morning and the wind had already knocked over and broken big potted plants and played havoc with the decorations Craig had hung outside.  It was pretty cold, though, and more wood was brought to the porch.

Ralph, Celeste and I are going to have to have a meeting.  My plan to lie closer to the middle of the bed has backfired.  I certainly don't mind when they snuggle together and press up against my legs or feet when they're on the same side.  I'm one of those people who might have the comforter pulled up around my neck, but sleep hot and need to stick a foot out to regulate my temp even on a cold night.  It's when the cats turn into 50-pound boulders on either side and trap my legs that I wake up frantic to move.  I'm a little worried that they outnumber and might outvote me.

We're on the countdown to Christmas liftoff now.  I thought I was getting a grip on holiday preparations; my grip seemed to slip when I hugged Tree.  Pathetic.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Big Chill

"The Big Chill" was a 1983 movie with an ensemble cast that has nothing other than its title to do with today's topic.  As the daughter of a WWI veteran, I learned a number of the poignant war songs of that era and yesterday the opening line of one kept running through my head:  "Keep the home fires burning."  However, with all the wildfires still raging in California, that hardly seemed appropriate for a blog title.  The temperature dropped yesterday and Stove and I worked on our relationship and more wood was brought to the porch to feed his appetite.

My milk customer and some helpers came up in the afternoon.  Milk and eggs are no longer available, but he's determined not to go away empty handed.  He came for a trailer load of chicken and goat manure for his bamboo forest.  (I know!  Bamboo in Fair Play sounds incongruous, but he's a man of vision.)  Bamboo evidently requires a lot of manure.  MC has come several times a year in the past to pick up what here is termed "garden gold."  Hey, it saves me a lot of work and I'm happy to contribute.

Bess and I remind me of two elderly spinster aunties from my childhood, Annie and Libby.  They weren't really aunts, but friends of my great-aunt Kate and they were frequent visitors.  Annie was tall and spare and somewhat disapproving while Libby was short and plump and funny.  I'm not sure the sisters had ever lived separately and they were set in their ways, just like Bess and me.  Once a routine is developed, we read each other's mind and act accordingly.  Each morning while the coffee machine does its thing, I get a milk bone for Bess that she takes into the dining room to eat.  She then stands by the treat drawer and waits for a "bacon" bit that is followed by a small, crunchy marrow thing that Deb and Craig got her hooked on.  These goodies must come in exactly this order or I get "the look."

Strong winds and low temps are predicted for today.  While it's easy to get spoiled with the lovely days we've had this week, it is winter and cold weather is to be expected.  Rainfall so far has been about one percent of normal for December, and we're all hoping we're not headed into another year of drought.  In the meantime, I'll keep Stove happy and well fed.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Li'l Angels

Any mother of toddlers will say, "They're so sweet when they're asleep."  After breakfast, a bit of rough-and-tumble, and Celeste hauling her babies up and down the hall, this is how I find Celeste and Ralph every day.  They snuggle together for a nap, and groom each other's face and ears when they wake up.  It wasn't long after this yesterday and they were up again and Ralph was ambushing Celeste.  His favorite hiding spot is the stairwell and either she's very good at pretending or she really doesn't think he's going to jump out at her.  There is a wrestling match and then a chase sequence that usually ends with Celeste boxing Ralph's ears and a quick take-down.  Then they go back to bed or to neutral corners for another nap.  Mama's li'l angels.

I had a most pleasant visit with my friend Linda at The Pub in the afternoon for, as she put it, a holiday libation and a shared appetizer.  We don't talk as often anymore and it was nice to catch up on news.  She surprised me with a Christmas coffee mug ("Be naughty, save Santa a trip.") filled with Heath bars, which I love.  Before leaving, we stood outside for awhile to enjoy a lovely, warm day.

Not long after getting home, suddenly there were Camille's three escape artists at the door.  One of Cam's neighbors had an oak that fell and crushed her fence.  Buddy was taking full advantage of the opportunity to investigate the neighborhood and Sammi and Honey were along to keep him company on an adventure.  What do do?  Honey knows the house rules, but the other two do not and they like to chase cats.  I grabbed a handful of cookies (milk bones) and enticed the trio into the now-empty chicken pen and called Camille.  Busy in the house, she hadn't noticed her li'l angels had left the property.  She drove up immediately to retrieve them.  I couldn't swear to it, but I'm pretty sure Bess Anne went along the pen fence, saying, "Nanner, nanner, nanner.  You're in jail and I'm not."  After their run to freedom, I'll bet those dogs were ready for a nap when Cam got them home.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Happy Lap

My lap is usually full with a cat or two, but Bessie Anne evidently felt needy and/or left out and asked, no, demanded, to climb up for a snuggle.  "Tell me again, Mom.  Tell me how you found me when I was a puppy and you picked me out of all those other dogs.  Tell me how you looked in my eyes and knew my name was Bessie Anne, and how I was going to live with you and be your special girl forever.  Tell me that story again."  And so, of course, I did.

My visit with the surgeon went well and I'm cleared by him for another six months and yearly after that.  The drive to P'ville through Cedar Ravine is really lovely, with gentle curves through deep forest.  Lovely, that is, unless there is some yahoo trying to climb up your tailpipe, because there are few-to-no places to pull over to let them pass.

I lucked out yesterday both going and coming, and got home in plenty of time to get ready for my circuit-riding hairdresser.  It is such a luxury to get my hair trimmed at home and have a chat with a friend at the same time.

I touched base with Pete.  He is very pleased with the results of his surgery.  Recuperation will take some time.  Even though he works from home, he's taking a couple of weeks off to rest.

Every night, Bess gets a back rub and massage before moving over to her pillow to sleep.  I've finally learned to lie in the middle of the bed so as not to get pushed to (or over) the edge by the cats.  On these cold nights, Ralph comes to cuddle in the cat cave a couple of times.  He never stays long, just enough to warm up, and then he's out again.  It seems I have a full lap even lying down.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


Pete is on a straight path to recovery, according to his brother Dave.  Having both eyes operated on had to be traumatic, but he's a trooper and was home shortly after noon.  Dave was able to spread the good news to family and friends via group texts; ain't technology grand?!

It wasn't until I'd left the house on my way to an appointment with my oncologist that I remembered that Bucks Bar Road is closed for much needed repairs.  Taking the detour adds some time when going to town and I'm not as familiar with that route.  Aarrgh!  The doctor had the results of those multiple blood tests and had found a hiccup in one that will require some significant further tests next year.  Life is full of detours.

Appointments were running behind and I had to rush home (via the detour) to get back and tuck the goats in before dark at 4:30.  That done, Bess jumped in the truck and we took the trash down to the big road.  It's one of her favorite "road trips" because she gets a treat when we get home.

I have what I hope is my final appointment with the surgeon today and will leave in plenty of time.

Pete's news made it a good day, indeed.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

As They Go

As days go, yesterday was rather uninspired; not a bad day, but kind of blah.  After piddling around in the kitchen and getting some more goodies made and packed up, I made a token effort at housework, certainly not enough to break a sweat.  Bess and I went out several times to check on the girls.  They were fine, oblivious to any danger.  It was nice outdoors, much warmer than in the house.  The crazy laws of physics mean that, at this time of year, cold air settles in the valley and warm air rises to the foothills.  Pete is having trouble adjusting to "winter" in northern California after so many years of living either along the SoCal coast or inland in Chino.  I'm at the point where 50 degrees is considered shirtsleeve weather.  He's not there yet.

The other afternoon I watched a PBS special featuring the late Victor Borge.  I'm not much of a one for today's comedy, but I'd forgotten how very funny that man was; good clean humor that had me laughing out loud.

Hold the good thought for Pete, who is undergoing surgery today.  His brother Dave is providing transport, so Pete is in good hands.

Rather than blather on about a do-nothing day, I'll just say that, as days go, it went.

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Good Start

A beautiful sunrise was a good start to what turned out to be a productive day, and it's about time, too.  The family will celebrate Christmas on December 23, a Saturday.  Yes, we're out of sync with the rest of the world, but they all work and weekends are better for our get-togethers.  For us, it's not the date, but the who you're with that makes a holiday.  Behind as usual, I needed to get busy in the kitchen.  That's where I spent most of the day and actually got three things knocked off my list.  Dietary restrictions of one sort or another have put a real crimp in my Christmas gifting.  I don't want to be the cause of any health problems, for sure, but some traditions are hard to break.

My milk customer has been gone for a number of  weeks, but called on Saturday and I had to tell him the news:  Sheila has retired and I will no longer have milk for him.  He had dealt with "no eggs" pretty well, but "no milk" was a blow.  I gave him the number of a gal who raises goats and might be a supplier.  She called me later and said her does were in that dry period before kidding, but she passed him down the line to a friend of hers.  It's been many, many years since I've had to buy milk at the store, so I know how he feels.

I'd been on 911 duty for Cam, who had been painting again.  She stopped by on her way home at the end of the day to pick up a care package of sausage and peppers.  What had begun with a good start to the day came to a sad finish.  Cam called when she got home and said that something had killed her little goat, the one with psychedelic tennis balls on her horns.  There were wounds, but it hadn't been eaten.  We all live with possibility of predators up here, but it is devastating, all the same.  There have been sightings of mountain lions in the area lately, and it might have been a lioness teaching her young ones to hunt and kill.  My heart hurts for Camille, who is so very conscientious about her animals.  This goes way beyond "sigh."  I'll be checking on my girls more frequently.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Can't Do Little

 After all those years of cooking for four Kids with healthy appetites and their dad, I can't do little.  Fourteen pork chops or three dozen tacos; you get the idea.  Most of my pots and pans are outsized.  Learning to cook for one was difficult, and some recipes simply require a large quantity.  For instance, I can't imagine making spaghetti sauce for just one meal.  While in the produce section the other day looking for parsnips, I saw that the yellow and orange bell peppers looked really fresh and Italian sausage and peppers came to mind.  My daughter had lived in New York for a time with an Italian family and that was a Sunday dinner favorite.  Deb brought the recipe with her when she moved back to California.  Mrs. Bonti wouldn't recognize the version I now make.

Cooking time is short; it's the prep work that takes time.  While I was cutting peppers, onions, and garlic, two packages of mild and spicy sausages were browning.  (Can''t do little.)  Thankfully, Pete came up to share a late lunch, but there are plenty of leftovers for the freezer.

I'm really getting spoiled.  Pete brought a bowl of cut melons, some specialty apples (the name of which I can't remember), and a couple of avocados.  Poor Pete.  He probably thought he could avoid watching sports by coming on Saturday, but the Army-Navy football game was on.  What can I say?  Navy lost by one stinking point.  Drat.

There were no surprises in the feed bucket yesterday (insert smiley face here).

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A First

Ever since Smokey, a small black kitten, wandered into our yard when the Kids were just kids, I've seldom been without a cat or two.  A cat's catch phrase is always, "I meant to do that," trying to preserve their dignity when they've done something silly, and they're always doing something silly.  For instance Annie, who jumped up on the sideboard and knocked over an inkwell filled with green ink for a calligraphy project.  Annie was a tortoise (tricolor) cat, and green was not her color.  Smokey was a klutz who couldn't walk along a split-rail fence without falling off.  Victor.  Victor is a story all by himself.  And there were others over the years, but Ralph is in a category ("cat-egory," get it?) all by himself.  I walked into the bathroom last night and found the room festooned with toilet paper.  Not once had any previous cat done such a thing.  I'm used to Ralph finding new ways to amuse himself, but that was a first.  Hopefully, it was a one-off and also the last.

I did get to the grocery store and they did have parsnips.  Yay!

Friday, December 8, 2017

In The Loop

"Keep me in the loop," usually means, "Be sure I get the news, too."  Well, I realize I'm definitely in the endless loop that is Project DIN.  Some of the initial chores have moved themselves back on the list and need doing again and my enthusiasm is waning.  Can't say I was moving at breakneck speed yesterday, but did do enough to justify a fire in the afternoon.  That's progress.

Cold weather has me thinking about cooking again.  Summer dinners might consist of a bowl of cereal because the kitchen is too hot to be in there for any length of time.  I came to parsnips late in life, but once tried on a whim, they became a favorite, and they came to mind the other day.  My preferred method is to roast them with carrots and perhaps a few Brussels sprouts.  I need to go up to the grocery store today anyhow, and with any luck there will be parsnips.

While feeding the girls in the morning, a little mouse crept out, the first I've seen in a long time.  I put a dribble of grain down for it, hoping mousie would get it before the larger barn hooligans.  While I don't want the bigger bad boys in there, there is a huge sense of relief when the lid is removed and nothing is in the bucket but feed.  It goes against my nature to kill.

Well after dark the other night, suddenly there were cats on the deck just outside the living room, yowling and banging into things as they fought.  (I think they were fighting; cats in courtship are very vocal, too.)  Why they had to pick my house, I've no idea.  Ralph and Celeste, both neutered, ran to look out the windows, but Bessie Anne is so deaf now she didn't even lift her head.  In the morning, I found potted plants and a chair knocked over.  I hope the cats either settled their differences or she finally said yes.  Talk about noisy neighbors.

I'll get back on the housework treadmill today, moving forward and getting nowhere.  Sigh.

Thursday, December 7, 2017


There is a drawback to Project Do It Now.  After a couple of days of heavy lifting, dealing with the power outage while baking, and putting two more offerings to the bobcat gods in the freezer (yech), I took yesterday off.  I used to do one day on-one day off with impunity; a thing either got done or it didn't.  Sitting on my duff yesterday, however, filled me with guilt.  Not enough to make me get up and do something, but enough to make me feel bad.  I'm guessing I'll do double-time today.  Or not.

My self-imposed punishment was to not light Stove.  After all, it was in the low 50s outside (I couldn't make myself check the inside temp); how bad could it be?  (Pretty doggone cold, I can tell you that.)  Larry gave me a laugh; I'd texted him, noting it was down to the high 70s in Honolulu from the usual mid 80s and was he dealing with winter in the islands.  He responded that it was brutal; he'd nearly had to put on a shirt!

Bessie decided to bypass the middle man.  I thought I'd heard something the other day, but thought, "No, she wouldn't do that."  I heard the same sounds yesterday and got up to find she'd helped herself to a cookie (milk bone) from the box and taken it into the dining room where she's decided ladies like herself eat snacks.  We've worked hard to get her weight down and she was rebelling.  I moved the box and will just have to deal with her resentment, but do have to give her credit for ingenuity.  (She'd rather have a treat.)

I hope everyone has had a chance to see the Super Moon this week.  That enormous glowing globe rising behind the pine trees on the hill has been spectacular.  Nature outdid herself with the special effects.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Hide And Seek

It was trash day and I was checking waste baskets for the week's contribution to take to the big road.  There, in the bottom of an otherwise empty basket, was one of the piglets, thrown away, as a friend used to say, like an old dirty shirt.  Now, I don't want to blame unfairly because I wasn't a witness.  I'd like to imagine Ralph had flung one of Celeste's favorite babies into the air and it just landed there.  Giving him the benefit of doubt, it could have been an accident in a game of hide-and-seek.  Or not.  It was one of the tall baskets and no way could the cats have retrieved the piglet.  Celeste was in the room when I made the discovery, and she pounced on the baby when I tossed it out and ran to cover it up with the bath mat again.  I'm sure there are times Celeste wishes she was an only child.

It is with a certain amount of trepidation that I take the lid off the feed bucket in the milking room.  (Since I'm no longer milking, I guess I'll have to start calling it the feed room.)  On the one hand, I've been kind of glad when the trap has done its job; on the other, not finding a rat is a good thing, too.  I'd had to leave a bag of goat chow in the feed shed for a while and knew what I'd find when I had to take it to the barn yesterday.  It looked like a bomb had gone off in the room, with shredded paper and styrofoam all over the floor and nearly everything knocked off the shelves.  Teenage vandals could not have been more destructive (apologies to teenagers).  I truly try to cohabit with all kinds of wildlife, but this is intolerable.  It's going to take a bulldozer to clean that room.  With difficulty, I got the ripped bag of feed onto a cart, backed out and shut the door.  There are some things I just can't face and would rather hide my head.

It was very nice to have power and water yesterday.  Destructo rats notwithstanding, it was a good day.  Just ask Celeste.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

And Then...

A fierce wind howled and the temperature dropped yesterday.  Sure glad I'd swept the porch the day before so there was plenty of room for all the leaves now decorating the house.  You-know-who brings in a few with each time she comes in.

I had my day lined out and was going gangbusters.  I even declined a lunch invitation from Harold because I didn't want to break the momentum.  Newton's First Law says, "An object at rest stays at rest," and I'd rested on Sunday.  The first order of the day was to get a start on holiday baking.  While preparing a double batch of (shhh, I can't tell), I cleaned the kitchen as I went so I could cross that off the list at the same time.  Thank goodness I did.  I put the big pan of (it's a secret) in the oven and went in the living room to sweet-talk Stove because the house was freezing.  I knew exactly what I'd tackle next, and there was just enough time before Harold was due here and there were about fifteen minutes before the pan would come out of the oven, and then...the power went out.  Are you kidding me?!  And it wasn't just one of those blips we get so often; it went out and stayed out.  Aaarrgh!  I left the oven door shut and hoped the residual heat would be enough.

Harold brought me a pickup load of cedar rounds from a tree he'd planted maybe fifty years ago.  The tree had died due to the drought of the past few years.  Some of those rounds were huge and, between the two of us, we struggled to unload the truck.  Cam arrived to pick up my contribution for the bobcats and jumped in to help, bless her heart.  Harold loves to shop and knows I do not, and he also brought me a New York steak, a package of liverwurst, a cauliflower, and a honeydew melon.  How's that for a friend?

Golly, the house gets quiet without those background noises one never really pays attention to; the refrigerator humming now and then, the television, of course, etc.  It's hard to break the habit of flipping a light switch, and no matter how many times I reminded myself not to flush...well.  It wasn't too bad while there was still some daylight.  I had a book I've been doling out to myself because I like it so well I didn't want it to end.  With a cat or two on my lap, I settled in to read.  DIN had come to a screeching halt, what with no electricity and no water.  I put the girls to bed at sundown, and then what.  I lit a few oil lamps so I didn't trip over Bess, and read for a while with a flashlight before I remembered my wonderful hard hat with lights.  I had to laugh at the picture of myself wearing that in the house, but, hey, it worked!  It was a bit of an insult because I could see lights on in the house across the road while my house stayed dark.  PG&E outage line is on speed dial on the landline, and the last time I checked, they said I probably wouldn't get power back until this morning.  And then...ta da!  After only seven hours without, let there be light!

It was quite a day.  (The baked goods turned out okay.)

Monday, December 4, 2017

A Good Cause

DIN was somewhat delayed.  NASCAR has "gone dark" until February, but football is in full swing and the Vikings were playing yesterday.  I really get messed up when the Vikes and the Steelers have games on the same day.  I know that sounds like fickle loyalties, but it's actually the opposite.  Dave is a Vikings fan and Clay roots for the Steelers, and I can't show favoritism in the family.  Thank goodness the others aren't dyed-in-the-wool footballers or I'd be in real trouble.

Another rat got caught last evening, with the same result.  I was so appalled with the first one that I flung it out into the big field because I couldn't bear to look at it and some night creature came and took it away by morning.  This one got bagged up and put in the freezer.  The thing is, they go for a good cause and I have to keep that foremost in my mind or I couldn't do what needs to be done.  There are many rescue services up here for nearly every kind of wildlife there is in the hills.  (Remember Doug, the orphaned ground squirrel?)  Camille saves up rats from her barn (her dog Sammi does the killing) and when she has a dozen or so, she takes them to a bobcat rescue group, where there is a real need.  I'll be making my contribution, too.  Eeeuw.

After a night of rain, yesterday was sunny and crisp.  Stove cooperated and the house warmed up quickly.  There is a heavy frost on the deck today and Bessie Anne didn't dawdle on her morning constitutional.

Bess is something of a con artist.  I have two identical recliners in the living room.  She wants to sit in the other one (one is mine alone, or so I thought).  She stands in front of "her" chair and looks at me.  "I'm too little, Mom, you have to boost me up," and so I do.  The last time I went to town, I came home and where was my girl?  In my chair.  Evidently she's only too little when I'm around.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Pick Of The Day

Celeste was very picky while making her selection(s), nosing and pawing through the baskets.  Some babies were stamped "Reject" and tossed aside while she continued to search for just the right one.  Finally, having made her choice and with her mouth full, she went off down the hall, singing all the way.  Go figure.

Bessie began barking, "Intruder, intruder!," and ran to the living room door to the deck.  I went to see what had set her off, and there was Honey coming slowly toward us.  She really was funny as she knew she shouldn't have left home without permission and wasn't sure of her welcome here.  When I let her in and she was sure I wasn't going to scold her, omigosh, she stuck to me like a limpet.  As I told Camille when she came to pick up her wayward girl, I'd rather have Honey (and even Sammi) come here where they'd be safe when they were out on the town than down on the big road where they could get killed.  It brought back memories of Faye, the old black lab who used to come by every so once in awhile for a couple of cookies and a time-out on the porch waiting for her owners to pick her up.

The harsh realities of farm life were brought home to me last evening.  The trap I'd set in the barn had, in fact, caught a rat, a big one.  Unfortunately, it had caught, but not killed; that was left to me.  I did not have the most pleasant dreams in my sleep.

The DIN project paid off because the leaves got blown off just in time before the rain came sometime last night.  It really poured for awhile, but it has stopped just in time for Bess's potty run this morning, and only her feet got wet.  I took yesterday off, but it will be full steam ahead again today.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Visiting Hours

The doorbell rang in the morning while I was having a bit of a sit-down and waiting for Stove to get fired up.  I'm used to a chilly house, but company was coming in the afternoon and it would be better if they didn't have to leave their coats on.  Beau was also taking a break, brought his own coffee, and had come for a chat.

After he left, I kicked it into high gear, got the living room dusted, most of the leaves blown off the deck (some clumps were still too wet to move), and another wagon load of firewood brought to the porch.  I set out nibbles for Arden and Cam, who arrived soon after.

Bessie Anne had her own guests to entertain.  Arden brought her dear little dog Audrey, who has the softest fur and big, liquid brown eyes.  Poor Audrey had to stay on leash arrest because she chases cats and had an accident in the hall one of the last times she visited.  Honey did everything she could think of to get Audrey to come and play.  Honey rolled on her back and grinned, she "talked" in her most persuasive tones (Honey is a great talker), and even brought a toy to tease Audrey to play.  Poor Audrey.  Honey already knew that Bess is a dud.  Bessie will play for a little while or go outside with Honey, but being a senior citizen, soon wants to lie down for a brief nap.  All those toys I had picked up?  Between Celeste who had been making selections all day and Honey picking out her favorites, my house is back to looking more normal now.

I almost swooned when Cam brought out a slab of smoked salmon to share and we fell on it like hungry wolves.  It went well with the goat cheese (bought, not homemade) rolled in sweet dried cranberries and pecans, a gift from Thanksgiving.  I know I sure didn't need any dinner last night.

Good conversation, morning and afternoon, with good friends and neighbors.  It was a good day.

Friday, December 1, 2017

This Little Piggy...

Celeste is carrying this business with the piglets a bit too far.  It's a good thing I shut Stove down for the night, otherwise this little one I found in the dark of morning would have been roast pork.  Perhaps I'm misplacing blame; it's usually Ralph who  flings toys about.  Both cats will have to start over as all toys were picked up and put in the basket yesterday.

Heavy dew left the goat pen looking like a field of diamonds in the morning sun.  I wish this photo showed more of the sparkles, but it does show just how high the grass has already grown.  That ratchafratchin' rat was in the barn again.  I've been reluctant to set out the traps I bought, but, like the sheriff in an old western, "This barn ain't big enough for the two of us."

Project DIN is moving ahead, including moving furniture to sweep under and taking the fake ficus tree out to have the accumulated dust sprayed off and dry in the sun.  Ralph's handiwork was for naught when I remade the guest bed and straightened the bunched up rug.

The front-yard oak has fewer leaves with each photo.  I know exactly where they went.  Leaf blowing is on the agenda for today.

It was a good day.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Feeling The Chill

Celeste evidently took "Pig In A Blanket" quite literally.  Instead of a sausage wrapped in dough, she tucked one of the orphan piglets in a towel bath mat to warm it up yesterday.  Living in this house is like opening a surprise package every day; I never know what I'm going to find.

There was an unpleasant surprise in the barn.  As I went to lift down the grain bucket in the morning, a rat!, not a mouse, a humongous rat, the biggest rat I've ever seen, jumped off the lid and ran off along the beams.  I admit to prejudice.  I am very fond of mice, but wild rats are a different ball of wax.  They are creepy and distasteful, and a creature I can do without.  Camille said this one probably came up from her place (she's been plagued with them).  If so, I'm going to counter-attack and send squads of ground squirrels down to her.

Project DIN continues to move ahead, perhaps not at the pace of the day before.  The days have been lovely, but there is a definite chill in the air day and night and I took advantage of having to nurse Stove along to sit down for a bit.  Exertion takes its toll.  While not warm, there was sun enough to dry the comforter I'd washed.  I switched over to fleece sheets yesterday and they are so comfy I didn't need to put the comforter back on the bed last night.

I hear Celeste moving another orphan somewhere.  Keeping them warm is one thing.  I hope she doesn't decide they need a bath.  I can imagine where I'd find a toy floating and it's not a pleasant thought.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Project Do It Now

Project Do It Now got underway yesterday.  In all honesty, it should be called Project Catch Up, but I'm trying to be optimistic.  One item ticked off the list was to drag out all the tiny toys that Ralph had batted under the chest in the entryway.  I wonder if he yells, "Score!," in his mind when one crosses the goal line.  Celeste was horrified to see all these orphan babies and began rearranging them and carrying them to safety, crooning all the while.  She, too, has her work cut out.

Another thing I should have done in more timely fashion was to post a photo of the live Christmas wreath Lorraine brought as a hostess gift on Thanksgiving.  Putting up the Christmas tree is definitely on the list, but just in case, I do have something to show the holiday spirit.  (I put the Halloween decorations away yesterday.  Check.)

I'm not going to list all the chores accomplished (bor-ing!).  Suffice it to say that my pedometer recorded that I walked half a mile without leaving the house.  Camille had called to say that salmon would be served for lunch at the Senior Center, but I declined because I didn't want to break the momentum.  She cut a deal, however, and brought me one of the to-go lunches in trade for a packet of turkey leftovers.  Baked salmon with aioli, wild rice, cooked spinach, and grapes for dessert made for a delicious early dinner.  Six days of turkey and I thought I'd sprout feathers.

Like the sunset, I can't say yesterday ended in a blaze of glory, but I definitely have a glow of satisfaction.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


I'm making an early New Year's resolution today to stop procrastinating.  I could put it off until January 1, but that would be typical.  I'm very good at making excuses.  I even have some stored up for situations that haven't happened yet.  I can give excuses to friends for their problems.  I'm darned near a pro at it.  There comes a time, however, when there is a realization that things have gotten out of hand and thinking, "I'll do that tomorrow," (or the next day, or the next) just isn't working.  I can't promise to dust every day, but wish me luck.

After 24 hours and close to, or over, two inches of rain, the sun was so welcome yesterday.  Even a quick (now that's a relative term) trip to town wasn't so onerous, but I took time to sit outside with Bessie to revel in the warmth before leaving.  One task I'd put off before Thanksgiving was to blow the latest downfall of leaves off the deck.  I even had the blower charged up.  Of course that didn't get done in time, either.  Having to slog through piles of sodden leaves was part of what led to my resolution.  We're promised a few days of good weather and hopefully the leaves will dry out.  Note to self:  blow leaves off the deck as soon as possible.

Just after putting the girls to bed last evening, the neighbors' big dogs came roaring up to the fence; their timing was off if they'd wanted to scare the goats.  Surprisingly, the dogs were followed by a young family of five, the neighbors whom I'd never met.  We made introductions (the only name I remember, of course, is the one dog named Zeus).  They apologized for their animals and I explained that I knew the dogs were doing their job, but that they terrified the girls.  They understood.  Bess and the big dogs went nose to nose through the fence and seemed to make friends.  One can hope.

That glorious burst at sundown put an exclamation point on the day.

Monday, November 27, 2017

My Hat's Off

When I was growing up, there were strict, unwritten codes of dress for women, and they also applied to girls of all ages. I do appreciate that such codes have been relaxed now.  Back in the day, one did not wear white shoes before this holiday (possibly Memorial Day), nor after that one (I think Labor Day).  Unless you were Katharine Hepburn, women didn't wear trousers, at least in public.  I think my mother owned one pair of slacks in her life.  She despaired of her tomboy daughter who had to be bribed to put on a dress.  Girls were not allowed to come to school in pants or shorts.  I was sent home on the last day of my sophomore class because I'd brazenly worn a pair.  Gloves were de rigueur and white gloves were to be worn only once and then washed.  Hats were obligatory and not just for church.  Now hats were something I could get behind, and I never quite got over it.

I've always indulged my love of hats, and can still remember favorites from over the years.  I have hats stacked on hats in the entry hall.  For a period of time, I wore nothing but cowboy hats: straw, felt, casual, and formal, decorated and plain.  There are all-weather straw Shady Bradys and cool-weather felts.  My favorite, but rarely worn, is an honest-to-God Stetson given to me by Dave years back.  I don't remember my dad without a hat on, and he always said Stetsons were the ultimate best (although his were never westerns).  I've never worn mine much out of respect and for fear of damaging it, but have always been proud to own a Stetson.

For a period of time I was a member of the Red Hat Society and have any number of festive red hats for our outings.  Deb gave me the most elegant red hat of all in the only hat box I've ever owned.  Unfortunately, now those hats only gather dust.

On the coat rack, there are winter beanies and that silly pig hat that is such a comfort on cold days in the barn.  There is the greatest hard hat with lights that Craig made for any nighttime venture out of doors.  The "got milk?" ball cap is my go-to on rainy days, and there is a straw western with a huge brim that I used to wear for shade when I was gardening.  There is a black Michael Jackson-style felt that I could wear if I want to get down and boogie.

On the rack in the laundry room, there is an Indiana Jones fedora that I adore, as well as a Davy Crockett racoon cap (I've got two of those), and the oh-so-silly chicken and pig hats.  What can I say?  I just love hats.

I just don't wear hats much anymore.  Sigh.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Wandering Mind

I had the advantage of a rather unstructured childhood.  Oh, I had dance classes, music classes, Blue Birds (because I was too young to get into Brownies) and Girl Scouts, and the occasional play date arranged by my mother because she felt bad that I was an only child.  (What she didn't realize was that I liked being an "only.")  Even with all these activities, I had plenty of time to do nothing, to lie on my belly in the grass and watch ants or on my back watching clouds.  I could play games of my own devise and act all the parts in stories I made up.  In other words, I could let my mind wander (and wonder) at will.  My train of thought travels far and wide and takes me to wild and wonderful places.

This morning, perhaps because of our recent holiday, I boarded the train with stops on things for which I am thankful, beginning with toilet paper (don't ask).  That led to indoor plumbing (which my parents grew up without) and then to automatic washing machines.  When the first three of my Kids were babies, their diapers were long strips of flannel that had to be washed.  All I had was a wringer washing machine that had to be filled and emptied by hand.  Mother had told me that good mothers rinsed diapers five times, put through the wringer each time before hanging on the line, and so that was what I did for years.  Can you imagine the time that took on a daily basis?  I remember my joy when Larry was born; by then commercial sewn-cloth diapers were available and my dad bought me an automatic washing machine.  Ta da!  I didn't have a dryer until the fourth Kid, and when it was raining, all those diapers festooned inside the house.  Add dryers to the list.

I'm thankful for garbage disposals, even though now if my disposal had to live on what I feed it, it would starve to death because of being on a septic tank and because most scraps go to the (then) chickens and now turkeys.  It was my job as a kid to take the day's garbage out to the can at the road after dinner.  I'll admit I was afraid of the dark.  We lived in a semi-rural area and the house wasn't close to the road.  My wandering mind imagined all sorts of lurking dangers as I walked as slowly as possible out to the garbage can and ran back to the house as fast as I could, thankful for the safety of the front porch.

The train veered from the past into the present day.  Having grown up in a world without such things, I appreciate television, wireless telephones and cellphones, computers.  In addition to many, many material items, I'm thankful to live in such lovely surroundings with time to just enjoy the sights and to have my animals, indoors and out.

This was sunrise yesterday morning.  How could one not be thankful for such a glorious sight.  Even though it's not yet raining, the wind is howling in the dark this morning and I doubt there will be such a vision today.  I'm calculating how many days' worth of firewood there is on the porch.

There are worse things to have than a wandering mind, especially when it takes you to all the good things in life..

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Deep Breaths

After the flurry of activity the day before, yesterday was a day off.  Thanks to my Kids, all I really needed to do was put away the dishes, pots and pans, etc., that they had so kindly washed.  Cam stopped by to pick up the turkey carcass for the stock she makes for winter soups.  She had all the dogs with her and they got out of the truck to say hello to Bessie.  We got to laughing as all the dogs went through the ritual pee parade that dogs seem to enjoy so much.  Buddy stayed in the truck, but Honey, Sammi, and Bess followed one another around the front yard, each stopping to leave a scent mark in the same spot.  One wonders how they never run out and how they have such control.

The girls had not eaten all their alfalfa and deer had come in the night to enjoy the leftovers.  I can always tell when we've had visitors.  Goats are straightforward munchers, but deer eat in a swirling pattern and there were circular divots in the feed pile.

The turkeys also enjoyed the leftovers from Thanksgiving prep; trimmings from celery, apples, some soft cranberries, and bits of dinner rolls.  It would not be kind to put out turkey scraps.

It was a day to take deep breaths and make the most of the lovely weather, especially since we're due for several days of rain this weekend.  The realization that Christmas is the next holiday hit hard.  Good grief, it took me long enough to put out a few Halloween decorations (which, by the way, are still up).  Somehow, the subject had come up on Thursday and Deb suggested that everyone could help put up the Christmas tree.  Since that is a time-consuming task and Thanksgiving is devoted to poker and dinner, I nixed that offer.  Lorraine had given me a beautiful, fresh Christmas wreath for the front door, so I've already got a head start.  The tree will either get put up, or it won't.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Beyond Thankful

Yikes!  Dave, Lorraine, and Jester drove up about three hours early, right after I got back to the house, so of course I was caught with my dusting down.  It makes no sense to shower and change before going to the barn, so I didn't even have time to spiff up a bit as I'd planned.  Oh well.  My Kids are a forgiving bunch.

Deb, Craig, and Pete arrived soon.  Many hands make light work, and yesterday was proof of that.  My job is pretty much over when the turkey goes in the oven.  Deb and Lorraine helped ready the side dishes, and Craig is the official baster.  Dave is the traditional carver of turkeys, and Clay took Larry's place as sous chef and taster.  Yes, that's a mountain of sliced turkey.

There is that wonderful moment for any cook when guests begin to eat and suddenly all are silent and she knows they are savoring those first bites.  I mentioned that I've cooked the same Thanksgiving meal for over fifty years and suggested it might be time for a change.  "Gasp!  Why?!  Why would you do that?"  I guess Thanksgiving is not the time to try something new.  We did forego pumpkin pie in favor of pecan pie to celebrate Craig's birthday.

There was the traditional poker game before and after dinner (I won!).  The Kids doled out leftovers for everyone and then cleaned up the kitchen while I sat like the Queen of Sheba and stayed out of the way of the worker bees.

We were all conscious of the missing faces at the table, with Larry in Hawaii and Jake in Saudi Arabia.  Deb and Craig had made this sign and we sent this photo to the guys.  (Ain't technology grand?)  I asked Deb, "When did I get so short?"  "Mom, you've always been short."

Slowly, the group left in twos and threes, and Clay and Pete stayed for conversation for awhile.  Then the house was quiet, Celeste came out of hiding, and I was left to reflect on just how thankful I am for family and friends...beyond thankful, truly.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Hurry, Hurry

Since I'm running so late with everything that needs to be done today, I might as well start at the end so I'm ahead on at least one thing.  Sunset last night was lovely.  All I needed to do was put the bowl into the barrel and the little mice climbed right in.  Boy, they learned fast.

Ralph is being mean to Celeste.  She brought the one baby remaining in the bedroom out to join the others, and she'd no more than put it down when Ralph pounced on it and threw it downstairs.  This offended her no end.  She went down and got it (in this case it was a toy mouse), put it safely next to the others, and then turned and boxed Ralph's ears.  I imagine Deb can relate to the trials and tribulations of having a younger brother.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  I need to get the turkey in the oven.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

It Never Ends

"A man may work from dusk to dawn, but woman's work is never done."  If you doubt this, ask Celeste.  All these babies must be transported, one at a time, back and forth up and down the hall.  I don't know why she does this, and I'm not sure she does, either.  It's a self-appointed task and she takes it seriously.  One of these days, or nights, she will carry them all back to the bedroom, crooning or crying all the way.

A night bird, not an owl, has taken to hunting the property recently.  This bird has a particularly irritating call, similar to a squeaky rocking chair, and it makes this sound continuously.  After a while of listening to it, it begins to grate like fingernails on a chalkboard.  It's outside the bedroom window now.  I do not understand how the nighttime hunters ever catch anything when they constantly announce their presence.  Most self-respecting squirrels are underground anyhow.

A cat, either a neighbor's or a feral, has been hanging out in the big pen in the morning.  The girls are sure it is a lion and snort and stamp and cluster together.  There's no convincing them that the kitty is no danger.  Their instincts tell them different.  I'm just glad that Bessie's eyesight is so poor now.  She lets Celeste and Ralph snuggle up and rub all over her, but strange cats are not to be tolerated.

The night bird is squawking and Celeste is bringing a baby to the bedroom.  It never ends.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Mouse Whisperer

Goat chow is kept in the barn in a big, blue industrial barrel with a lid.  It has taken years, but mice have finally chewed a small hole up at the rim for access.  The girls get a nighty-night treat of a few mouthfuls of grain as an incentive to go in their stalls.  For some time now, almost every evening I find two or three (or more) mice in the barrel.  Once in, they can't get out again.  At first when I'd lift the lid, the mice would become hysterical and race around and around like it was a hippodrome.  Not about to try to catch them with my hands, with great effort and many misses, I'd scoop them up one at a time in a feed bowl and fling them out to freedom.  (The Flying Wallendas fly again!)  One thing is certain, mice are not stupid. The past few nights, I lift the lid, there are the mice, and I reach in with the bowl.  Surprisingly, the little creatures do not panic anymore.  They do not run around, but wait for the elevator to arrive, then actually climb into the bowl for a ride to the top.  On their own, they've evidently decided I mean them no harm.  I guess I can add Mouse Whisperer to my resume.  There probably won't be a big demand for my services, but it's always nice to expand one's repertoire.

Rain came again in the afternoon. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

At Last

A large breakfast crowd had gathered when I walked out the door (tap the picture to enlarge), muttering to themselves and ruffling their feathers.  Monarchs could not have marched more regally than the strutting toms toward the feeding station.  The hens, however, broke ranks when I threw down the seed and rushed to get there first.  It's quite a way to start the day.  One thing is for sure:  I dasn't run out of birdseed.

It seemed very strange to be walking down to the barn without a bucket yesterday.  Sheila has been giving not more than a couple of cups of milk a day and it is time to let her dry up.  I'll milk her maybe every other day for a week or so to help that process.  But, as I said, after all these years, not having a bucket and really working in the morning was very different.

Determined to make some advance toward the holiday, the kitchen seemed the most likely place to begin.  Groceries were sorted and a collection station was set up in the round room for Thursday's meal.  It helps to have everything in one place.  Progress was somewhat slowed by the Vikings vs. Rams football game, as well as the NASCAR race, and I went from kitchen to chair to catch up on scores and placements.  I'd made significant inroads on the kitchen when Pete called and said he'd like to come up, and had finished by the time he got here.  He tried to suppress a shudder when I offered him Limburger cheese or liverwurst; like I said, scarred for life.  Pete is neither a football nor race car fan, but he was tolerant when I'd periodically check on both.  (The Vikings kicked butt!)

Celeste has her babies on the move again.  I hear one being brought down the hall now, and I stepped on baby bear this morning.  An owl is hooting just outside in the dark.  These are the sounds of Farview in the morning.

What with some progress at last and a good visit with my Kid, it was a good day.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Almost Pleasant

I girded my loins (whatever that means) and bit the bullet and reluctantly drove to town.  Not just town, but down to Cameron Park!  The day was mild, traffic was light, and the hills were punctuated with pools of gold and spires of red.  Most of the potholes had been filled so I wasn't constantly swerving.  Winding, hilly Bucks Bar can be a beautiful drive when conditions are right.

I anticipated a grim crowd of tense customers fighting over turkeys and cranberries at the store.  (When it comes to shopping, I always anticipate the worst.)  I wonder if the store hadn't put something in the air conditioner, because, while there was a pre-holiday crowd, there were smiling faces and an exchange of pleasantries everywhere.  The nice man at the counter went in the back and found a 23-pound turkey for me.  It's my theory that it's too much work to roast a dinky 12-pounder.  Half the fun of Thanksgiving dinner is doling out leftovers, keeping plenty for self.  Imagine my surprise when I found I was actually having a good time.  And best of all, the store had not only liverwurst, but Limburger cheese!  I haven't been able to find that stinky, stinky cheese for years, and I love it.  Back when the Kids were small and I wanted a little peace and quiet, I would open a package of Limburger and the house would immediately empty.  I probably scarred the Kids for life.

I've made the same Thanksgiving menu for probably fifty years (don't mess with success).  While I took the precaution of making a list, I could probably shop for ingredients in my sleep.  I was in and out of the store in next to no time and was home well before the witching hour (4:30).

By sundown, bags and bags of food had been unloaded from the truck (you don't want to see my kitchen counters at the moment), I'd had a bit of a sit-down, and was ready to put the girls to bed.  As much as I detest shopping, I'd have to say that my outing yesterday was almost pleasurable.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Slowly, Slowly

It would be preferable to have steady, if slow, progress toward the holiday instead of the fits and starts I'm experiencing.  Ah, well, at least I'm moving forward, even at a snail's pace..

It was a lovely, crisp fall morning and the goat pen is entirely carpeted in green once again.  Those barely visible patches of grass are now about three inches tall and growing.  The weather was so nice that I was able to take more time and do a better job of cleaning the stalls.  Another couple of dewy mornings and the girls' hooves will be soft enough for a pedicure.

I received a surprise call from another brother-in-law yesterday with an invitation to meet for an early dinner at Poor Red's.  This is the same BIL who had advised me not to get a milk cow when I started talking livestock because I'd be so tied down to the animal's routine.  Well, I didn't get a cow, but I know he understood when I had to reluctantly refuse the invitation because the girls' bedtime is so early these days.  I'd gotten a late start getting ready to go shopping and had to postpone the trip because I couldn't have made it back by 4:30.  Be advised:  goats will put a crimp in your social life.

All of Celeste's foster babies have been transported from the bedroom back to the living room, one at a time and loudly.  As I don't walk around the living room with bare feet, I won't be stepping on a little furry body in the dark for awhile. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Progress Report

The thing about a progress report is that there should have been some progress made, or at least have a good excuse ready.  I have neither.

It poured rain all day.  Once again I appreciated that ridiculous piggy hat with ear flaps that kept my head dry during barn chores.  I left the big room open for the girls.  Between the rain and the wind, the play yard was wet and they would have been miserable instead of just cranky.

Back at the house, I got Stove cranked up, changed to a dry jacket, and sat down to warm up.  Just the act of sitting down is an invitation to Celeste.  She jumped into my lap; I was doomed and we spent the day napping off and on.

I hope to have a better report tomorrow.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Why, Celeste?

Sometimes Celeste does it in the daytime, but mostly at night after lights out, and I don't know why.  She wanders up and down the hall with one or another of the smallest soft toys like the bald hamster in her mouth, plaintively meowing the whole time.  Celeste has not had nor will ever have kittens, but it's as if she considers them babies.  At first I thought she was perhaps mourning over them, but now I wonder if she's singing to them as she carefully puts the little one in a safe place.  Ralph pounces on the toys, throws them in the air, and claws with his hind feet as if to disembowel the creature.  That is not Celeste's way.  Is some mothering instinct going on?  As I do so often with the animals, I wonder why.

It rained off and on most of yesterday.  I took advantage of a dry spell to bring more wood to the porch.  This isn't a particularly cold storm, but the dampness seeps into the house.  Thanks to Clay, there is a nice mix of oak and cedar to keep Stove happy.  I got a pretty good start on the glassware once Stove got going.  There are dozens of wine glasses to be washed.  Camille asked why so many when we are not a wine-drinking family (usually only at Thanksgiving).  There is no good answer.  It probably goes back to my theory that if one is good, more is better.  Steve built a long sideboard in the dining room, and that doesn't count all the glasses in the liquor armoire.  (I'm not going to mention the six or so complete sets of dishes in the other cupboard.  Steve used to call me the Imelda Marcos of dishes.)

The brunt of the storm hit after dark and the girls were tucked away in the barn.  The bedroom is on the south end of the house and, as I've said before, it's like being on the prow of a ship with the wind howling and rain banging on the windows.  I am so very glad I got the covers up on the barn in time.

It is still dark this morning and Celeste is coming down the hall with her mouth full...again.  Why, Celeste?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Mexican food has become an anniversary tradition for me.  It began because Steve had asked me what I'd like, and I said Chinese, but then changed my mind because I knew he liked Mexican better.  I've gone with friends and I've gone alone, but I go out for a Mexican lunch every November.  Cam accepted an impromptu invitation and we met at a restaurant new to me.  My benchmark for that cuisine is chile verde, and that which I enjoyed yesterday was excellent.  The problem with that system is, if the chile is not good, I don't go back, and if it is, that is all I ever order.  I once attended a week-long seminar out of town; on the second day I went to a Mexican restaurant.  Their chile verde was very good and I ended up returning for the same meal four days in a row.  You know you're in a rut when the waiter asks, "The usual?"

Another day of changing from work bibbies to go-to-town clothes and back again was wearing.  Just going to town is wearing, no matter how pleasurable the reason.  I spent what was left of the afternoon just fiddlefarting around.  That's a term my daddy used, and I learned in later years that it had, in fact, originated in east Texas, where he was from.  (I would really like to study lexicology.)

Today I need to knuckle down and start getting the house ready for company.  At last count, there were eight, possibly nine, coming up for Thanksgiving.  I'll leave the dusting for last.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Thirty-one Roses

The board covers got nailed up on the barn while the sun was shining in the morning, and that is a good thing because it was raining by nightfall.  There are big clear-plastic roof panels to let in light, so it isn't like going into a mole hole even at twilight.  The girls are such scaredy cats about going into a dark stall.

I had to make another trip to town.  Sigh.  The first stop was at the lab to have blood drawn.  The oncologist had sent four pages of tests she wanted done.  Good grief!  The phlebotomist was thrilled when she saw the veins in my arms.  After all these years of milking goats, the veins stand out like ropes.  The arteries were another matter.  It took her three tries and both arms to hit paydirt, and I kept reassuring her that it was okay, not to worry.  I needed to keep her calm and focused.  Six vials of blood later, I was released.  (So was she.)

A quick stop at one store, and then off to Home Depot.  There were plenty of people behind the counters, but not many helpers in the aisles.  I was on the hunt for a particular brand of rat trap that Camille had recommended.  From the postings by locals on FB, evidently rats are rampant this year as never before.  They've started coming into Cam's house, and I've got to get a handle on the situation in the feed barn before they think the welcome mat is out up here.

Mission accomplished, I headed off to Wally World with a list of just four things.  Imagine my horror when I heard on the radio that Thanksgiving is next week!  I knew that it was coming up soon; I just didn't think it was only a week away.  Aaarrgh!  There are just so many things to be found at WW, but I filled a cart with non-perishables.  At least it was a start.  It does, however, mean another trip to Cameron Park.

On our first anniversary, Steve gave me two red roses.  Why two?  One for the year past, and one for the year ahead.  From then on, I received roses for each year we'd been married, plus one.  He died just shy of our 18th.  Today, in my mind, I see thirty-one roses.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Off To The Races

There is only a week or two until the culmination of the NASCAR 2017 schedule with the final race of the season at Homestead, FL, so it was especially fun for me yesterday because Clay had gone to see the race at Phoenix and he essentially took me with him via texts and photos.  Gotta love technology.  For someone who grew up with 10-pound, black, rotary-dial telephones with woven material cords without a curl, these little pocket computers that do everything but fill your gas tank are a marvel.  I'm set adrift when NASCAR goes dark.  Not only do I count on a do-nothing day on the weekend, race day is one way I tell that it is the weekend.  Barn chores and feeding wildlife take no holiday.

This morning I need to put the covers back on the barn window openings.  I wait as long as possible before shutting off the girls' view of the world, but we're due for rain off and on this week and temperatures will be dropping.  There have been years when we'd get a spat of rain, followed by more heat, but that doesn't seem to be the case this year.  It is predicted to be a colder La Nina season.  I know that even on a sunny day, I needed Stove to take the chill from the house yesterday.

Bess seems to have undergone a transformation or rejuvenation of sorts.  For long months, she would not walk more than a few steps onto the slippery kitchen floor because her back legs would slip out from under her.  That all changed in a blink and now I find her behind me as I work at the sink or go out the kitchen door.  "Well, look at you, you brave girl!"

Faster than a speeding bullet, the holidays are coming at us.  I've got a major grocery list ready for Thanksgiving.  I just need to gird my loins to go shopping.  Aarrgh.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

A Day To Remember

Armistice Day, renamed Veterans Day, is honored on November 11 to commemorate the peace treaty signed between the Allied Forces and Germany at the end of World War I in 1918.  That was supposed to be the "War To End All Wars."  Would that were so.

There is a difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day, though both are days of remembrance for all servicemen and women.  So many of the men in my family served in one branch or another of the Armed Services over the years, beginning with my father in the Army and now with my grandson in the Air Force.  Actually, I could go back even farther on my mother's side to German immigrants who had left Germany to avoid whatever war they were fighting there and ended up being conscripted into the Army here to fight the Civil War.

At any rate, it was a beautiful morning to fly Old Glory and breathe a prayer of appreciation and for the safety of veterans, past and present, everywhere.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Turkey Trot

"Turk, turk, turk!"  And the race was on!  Turkeys came running from all directions.  They came in droves up from the woods.  They rushed past me from the front yard.  They were flying over the fence from my neighbor's pasture.  I kid you not, there were at least thirty at the feeding station and probably another thirty still straggling up the hill.  I tried to get a photo of this feathered horde. but dark birds in deep shadow...drat.  It's been ages since I've seen so many turkeys, males and females, together.  I'd thrown down the usual amount of birdseed, and I don't think it took five minutes for every last grain to be gone.  The rule is, no second helpings, sorry, Charlie and Charlotte.

 It was a bright, sunny morning with just a few puffy clouds in the sky.  A light breeze blew, certainly nothing like the strong winds of the past few days.  Feeding and milking went quickly because the girls were anxious to get outside and enjoy the day.  My milk customer has been out of town for a few weeks.  He's been a customer for a number of years, but I fear I'm going to have to disappoint him when he returns as Sheila is just about ready to close for business.  She's producing less and less milk these days.  I've always taken pride in the quality of the girls' product, and it would take so long to save up a gallon now that the milk would be old when he came for pick up.  Raw milk doesn't have a long shelf life, and I'd rather keep my good reputation.  Sheila and I are ready for retirement.

You know how it is when you get your mouth set for something?  I've been thinking about pumpkin cookies lately, and baking was the task I'd set for myself after barn chores.  (It's probably the fall weather that brought that on.)  Before I could get started, my friend Harold called with an invitation to meet for lunch.  Well, I wasn't about to turn that down.  I had just enough time to mix and bake a batch of cookies, and put a baker's dozen in a bag to take as a thank-you gift.  A bachelor, Harold cooks for himself, but baking isn't on his list of accomplishments. We met for fish and chips at The Pub and had a convivial visit.  While we talked, the sky darkened and then rain fell.  The morning had been so bright, I hadn't left the play yard open for the girls.  It didn't rain long, but they let me know I'd let them down when I got home.

A lunch out on the town and cookies for dinner.  It was a good day.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Never Gets Old

Bess and I stepped out on the deck yesterday morning.  I needed to put some recyclables in the bag and get something out of the freezer.  Turning to shut the door, it was I who froze at the sight of this buck and his lady on the slope to the woods, as well as a flock of turkeys close by.  I couldn't move fast enough to get my camera out, sure they'd take off into the trees.  I needn't have worried.  It was as if time stood still.  I took my photos and the deer didn't move.  Finally, I put the jars in the bag and opened the freezer.  They didn't move.  The turkeys wandered away, but the deer seemed content where they were.  Because of the bare branches, it's hard to see that the buck is a forked horn (two prongs to a side), even though that's a good-sized rack he's carrying.  Seeing wildlife here never gets old.  Finally, Bess and I went back into the house.  I checked back about fifteen minutes later; the deer were still there.  All in all, the pair stayed for nearly an hour.  They evidently took "make yourself at home" seriously.

There was enough rain overnight to show me where I needed to trench in front of the play yard.  It didn't seem nice to let the girls into a protected area with a river running through it.  Rain fell off and on throughout the day, but it never got below 50 so I didn't need to light a fire.

Time may have stopped while the deer and I watched each other, but it went into warp speed at sunset.  On my way down to the barn, the sun was the brightest it had been all day.

In the few minutes it took to get the girls into their rooms, that brilliant glow was just a memory and the clouds were pulling their blanket over the sky.

Wildlife and the ever-changing sky, they never get old.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Hold Off

Nature held off throwing a storm at us yesterday.  She threw a couple of test runs with some heavy gusts of wind during the day, and a smattering of rain on my way to town (aargh), but she wasn't serious.  I brought several wagon loads of wood up to the porch in case she changed her mind.  That big pile of firewood is just as comforting as a well-stocked cupboard.  I fired up Stove, one, because I could, and two, I thought how nice it would be to walk back into a warm house instead of an icebox when I got back from shopping.  Even though Bess and the cats wear fur coats, it didn't seem kind to leave them in a cold room while I gone.  The firewood this year is a great mix of oak and cedar.  Cedar burns hot and fast and leaves little ash; it's great for starting a fire.  Oak burns slowly and for a long time, but fills the ash tray under the grate.  How quickly one gets back in the routine.

Perhaps deer season is over, because I saw another beautifully antlered buck grazing in a field off the road.  I did my share of hunting back in the day and hold no prejudice, but now I'd rather just enjoy looking at these forest creatures.

Pete called in the evening.  "What's up with this cold?"  He's a southern California guy start to finish and winter, per se, is almost unknown to him.  "Well, Pete, it's because we have 'seasons' up here and this is just the beginning."  He hasn't been up here when we've had to postpone a holiday because of snow on the roads.  I often think of asking Larry if he gets bored with the constant low 80s in Hawaii.  Let me guess...I think not.

The goats and I were glad Nature let us get through the day without getting soaked.  I don't think we'll be that lucky today.  She let loose with a downpour and heavy winds last night and it continues this morning.  We might as well get used to it.  Nature held off as long as she could, but it's winter.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Split Up

Some time back, I posted a photo of the huge pile of cut rounds that Clay brought up.  Yesterday, Beau and I turned those logs into an even bigger pile of firewood.  I can hardly believe we got this much wood split in just a couple of hours.  No, I did not stack it neatly.  We were flying and I may or may not (probably not) get around to that.  Beau worked like a robot loading the logs onto the splitter while I worked the controls.  I can't compare our jobs, but I can say that by the time we were done, I was absolutely stupid tired.  We pulled a protective tarp over the wood pile and called it quits for the day.  I didn't light a fire last night because I was afraid I'd fall asleep while waiting for Stove to catch and settle.

This is the last of the seven-day black-and-white photo challenge for FB.  It was taken the day before and I really like the silhouettes against the afternoon sun and clouds.  I need to play with the camera more.  There are other interesting effects that I haven't even tried.  Most of my pictures are taken on the fly; the wild life won't pose long for just the right exposure.

Speaking of wild life, Bess and I took the trash down to the road in late afternoon and when I drove back to the house, an absolutely gorgeous three-point buck (that would be a six-point in Texas) was drinking from the water pot.  It must be close to deer season, and I hope this big boy stays on my property for sanctuary.  We looked at each other for a minute or two before he wandered off down to the woods.

Rain isn't due until tonight, but the wind sure howled after dark last night.  I have a feeling I'm going to be raiding the wood pile soon.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Believe Me

You'd better believe I kept a watchful eye in the barn yesterday.  There are plenty of places where Francois could have gotten in and I didn't want either of us coming up on the other unexpectedly.  When a skunk yells, "Surprise!," it's accompanied by a cloud of nauseating fumes, the last thing I wanted, for sure.  Fortunately, there was nothing in the goat barn but goats and the morning passed without incident.

I had gone down to Cam's to pick tomatoes as invited and came back with a box of yellow strawberry tomatoes and a lot of little cherry Sungolds.  Both yellow varieties are so sweet and lack the acid of the reds.  The Sungolds never make it in to a recipe because they get eaten as a snack out of hand.  The strawberries make a great sandwich, but are too sugary to make a good sauce alone.  I did, however, pull one of the bags of diced tomatoes from the freezer and added some of the yellows to make a tasty marinara.  I had never had Calabrese sausages before and wasn't sure the best way to fix them, but browned them well and then simmered until cooked through in the sauce.  The sausage was spicy, similar to linguica or chorizo, and went really well with marinara.  Believe me, good stuff, Maynard!  Thanks, Pete, for a new taste experience.  There was enough sausage for two meals, and tonight I'll throw some frozen shrimp into the leftover marinara for dinner.

Beau and his youngest daughter stopped by in the afternoon.  I'd sent a message asking if he might have time to split some of those logs in the big pile.  It's dropping into the 30s at night and not getting out of the 50s during the day, and we're due for more rain this week.  I'm pretty frugal with the firewood, but still....  Beau said he'd come back today.  I can run the splitter, but he'll have to handle those logs.

Holy cow!  Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and we all know what comes after that.  Believe me, I'm not ready.  I'm trying to cope with the time change.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Black And White

The girls were acting squirrely in the barn yesterday, and I have enough squirrels to deal with, thank you very much.  The last goat was out when Bessie, outside the pen, began a serious, "You'd better come see this, Mom," barking.  Oh, crum.  Pepe Le Pew's cousin was up at the corner on the inside, just a few feet from Bessie Anne.  Since skunks can spray upwards of 10 feet, I thought, "This isn't going to end well."  Fragrant Francois turned away from the fence without letting Bess have it in the face (whew!) and headed toward the barn.  Oh, no!  The goats clustered behind me as I grabbed a stick and tried to head the little creature off.  I'm not as fast as I once was, and Francois went into the shed at the side of the barn.  "No, kiddo, not gonna happen.  There is no welcome mat out for you here."  I banged on the walls and yelled and Frankie finally found a way out and went off around the far side of the barn. 

Thinking the drama was over, I went to clean the back stalls with rake and shovel.  Busy in Sheila's room, I turned and was shocked to see Francois in the aisle right behind me.  By this time, I was feeling sorry for the little guy.  It was a grey, cold morning and he probably just wanted some place to get warm.  There was, however, no room in this inn for this guest.  I was able to turn him away with the shovel and got him outside the barn, where we were joined by the goats.  Tessie, wanting to help, even butted the skunk.  Why she wasn't sprayed, I'll never know, but I was ever so grateful.  Can you imagine having to sit next to a skunked goat on the stand, or even have such an odiferous animal in the barn?  I was finally able to get Frankie out into the big pen where he trotted down toward Robert's fence line (and away from Bess).

I am worried that Francois might have had distemper like Pepe.  His reactions were not normal for a wild animal.  Animal Services is not open on weekends, so there was no one to call, but I'm concerned about an epidemic.

I had enough black-and-white excitement for one day...a whole lot of days, actually.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Timing Is Everything

A wood stove (my wood stove) is neither quick nor easy.  It takes patience to get a good blaze going, so timing is critical.  I can't just light a match under a piece of wood and walk away, so I have to be able to sit and watch between computer work and heading down to the barn.  That, or wait until I come back up to start the process.  There are three elements to a fire:  fuel, air, and a heat source.  Stove has three vents.  At least two have to be open when I want to get a fire going, and the third is the "big gun" when he's being balky.  Given that I get the wood lit, the temperature has to get to a certain point to get a good draw up the chimney, and then I can start closing all but one of the vents.  If the temp goes too high, there is danger of a chimney fire.  If the vents are closed too soon, the fire, deprived of oxygen, will go out.  It had rained hard during the night and there was a damp chill in the morning.  I'd gotten up early enough to take the time to work with Stove before chores, and it was lovely to come back to a warm room.

The goat pen had, for months, been a barren brown field.  With just a couple of mornings of heavy dew and then a night of rain, little sprouts of green from seeds that had been waiting had sprung up, visible for the first time yesterday.  It rained off and on most of the day.

Getting more firewood from the rack on the porch is tricky.  You just never know what you'll find.  This mother lizard and baby were immobile from the cold and I was careful not to disturb them further after taking away their protective cover.  I'm a little more cautious when getting wood from the stacked pile under the oak.  Lizards are one thing, snakes and black widow spiders are another.

Camille called in the afternoon to ask if I wanted to come down today and help pick the rest of the tomatoes from her vines.  If let go, the rainy weather would start them rotting.  What a waste that would be.  I see more marinara sauce in my future.  The timing is right.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Clear The Deck

It's certainly a good thing I blew all those leaves off the deck, what, a week ago?, so as to make room for all those that fell in the last day or two.  The promised rain came in the night, so these contributions aren't going anywhere for a while.  Sigh.

Company coming is a great incentive to get out the dust rag.  I've been much better about the living room lately, but then there was the dining room.  The dining room is a pain in the patoot to dust as it is full of pigabilia and other knickknacks (i.e., treasures), so it isn't a simple case of swiping across an empty surface.  There are times that a minimalistic approach to decor has its appeal.  The reality is that, dusting notwithstanding, I like looking at all the little piggy faces and thinking of friends and family that gave them to me.

Harold was coming up for an early dinner yesterday, so the pot roast went into the crock-pot well before sunup.  I like the '70s simple recipe with dry onion soup and a can of mushroom soup; it makes the best gravy!  Mashed potatoes and, wait for it, Brussels sprouts and bacon rounded out the menu.  Pete really spoiled me with one of my favorite vegetables and the thick-cut bacon.  Harold is easy to cook for and he's a good eater, and it was a pleasant afternoon.

Harold had no more gone down the driveway when Helper Dude drove up.  Thank goodness the rain had held off and he was able to safely get up on the roof to sweep the chimney.  That done, he took care of another much-needed, overdue task and trimmed Bessie's nails, something I will not attempt myself.  HD trains service dogs and is well-versed in nail trimming.  Bess certainly doesn't enjoy it, but he is so competent and assured that the job is over almost before she knows it.

It was only lightly misting when I put the girls to bed.  There was no arguing about going in; they almost pushed me out of the way to get inside.  A downpour heavy enough to wake me last night will reverse that procedure this morning; I'll have to push them to get them out of the barn.

Perhaps the rain will settle the dust and I'll be able to avoid that onerous job for a while.  Or not.

It was a good day.