Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Under The Influence

Yesterday was proof positive that my activities and mood are definitely influenced by weather.  Cool and breezy, it was a great day to get numerous small chores done and spend time on the deck with Bess.  I'd planned on gassing up John Dear and tackling a yard or two in the late afternoon, but Cam had been up our road and stopped by and offered to take my trash down to the big road on her way down.  I wouldn't turn down a deal like that.  Of course she stayed to chat.  We're planning to go to the Highland Games in Plymouth soon.

It isn't just the turkeys that come running when I throw down birdseed in the morning.  Now a ground squirrel races up, too.  Squirrels have always joined the chickens in the pen; now they don't bother to leave when I go in again.  I just get dirty looks as they continue to fill their cheeks.  The squirrel who currently visits the milking room is definitely not Persistent Percy.  This fellow pokes his head up to check out the food supply, but a loud "No!" is enough to send him away.  I'm being overrun with these furry pests.

I hope this weather lasts a few more days.  There's plenty more to do here.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

What Could Be Better?

What could be better than a day in the company of one's son?  The company of two sons, of course!  It turned out that Pete had invited Dave, also a bachelor, to share a meal.  Pete outdid himself on the barbecue with steak, baked potatoes with rosemary, and grilled peaches.  And I sat there like Lady Astor's horse and didn't have to lift a finger!  We talked and laughed together all afternoon.

In the morning, I had watched a number of touching ceremonies in various military cemeteries across the nation.  During the Vietnam War, I, like so many others, wore a bracelet engraved with the name of a POW/MIA victim.  I wore the bracelet until it broke in two, but I knew nothing about the man and never learned the end of the story.  There was not the research capability then that the internet provides now.  I've never forgotten the name on my bracelet and on the off chance I might find something, I keyed in William J. Brashear.  And there it was.  William Brashear was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force whose two-man fighter jet was shot down in a jungle in Laos in 1969.  To this day he remains MIA, but he is not forgotten.  Major Brashear was from Chula Vista, California.

It was a most memorable Memorial Day, and what could be a better ending than a sunset like this?

Monday, May 29, 2017


My mother used to say, "If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride."  I know there's no chance, but, oh, how I wish a day like yesterday would be the hottest day of summer.  It hovered close to 80, definitely warm but comfortable.  I know, however, that's just the tip of the iceberg (how's that for an oxymoron?).  Nature has not yet opened the oven door.

I wished someone would have answered the phone because I really wanted to call in sick yesterday.  I felt punk all day, to the point that I called Cam and rescinded my invitation for dinner.  Regardless, I still had to go to the feed store.  I might not have felt like eating, but the critters could not go without.  Thankfully, it appears to have been one of those 24-hour episodes because I'm up and running (albeit slowly) this morning.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

One Of Those

Yesterday was one of those days.  It's bad enough when you do something silly or make a mistake, but it's that much worse when you have to admit it.  I'd gone to the store the day before specifically to get ingredients for the Russian Pie, depending on my Teflon mind to remember the recipe (mistake number one).  I had to call Pete in the morning to ask if he'd stop and get mushrooms on his way up.  He asked if I needed anything else.  "Oh no," I answered blithely (mistake number two).  Pete drinks a lot of coffee with creamer.  I thought I had plenty of creamer.  I did not, but didn't check until it was too late to call him again.  Dang!

Mistake number three was the biggie.  Bessie Anne had her vet appointment so she could get her rabies vaccination in order to have her county dog license renewed.  They gave me the filled-out form to mail in as proof and taped the new tag to that paper.  I was told I could make a copy and send that in.  Later, in a rush to meet the deadline, I made the copy, addressed and stamped the envelope, and got it down to the mailbox.  In between prep work for the pie and cleaning up the house yesterday, I decided to put the tag on Bessie's collar.  I found the copy, just the copy.  It was embarrassing to call Animal Services and admit I had mailed them the new tag and could they please send it back.  At least the gal got her chuckle for the day.

After a morning of blunders, the day got better from then on.  The weather was great, Pete gave the Russian Pie his approval, and it was grand to spend the afternoon with my son.  Due to distance, his visits in the past have been brief and far between.

Shortly after Pete left, Cam stopped by.  (She's coming tonight for leftovers.)

Rough start notwithstanding, it was a good day.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Dead Or Alive

Why is it, I wonder, that when one battery dies, so many die at the same time?  Are they like lemmings that reportedly follow one over a cliff to their doom?  It's fortunate that I keep a lot of batteries of all sizes on hand because I'm in the middle of a fatal battery epidemic right now.  The other day I had to replace four AAA batteries in a remote control for the living room TV, and yesterday the wireless mouse for the computer stopped working.  Yup, dead battery.  It only needed one AA to revive.  Note to self:  restock AAAs.

With goats, there is no such thing as a day off so the long weekend has little significance other than it is for Memorial Day, a deeply meaningful holiday.  Pete works from home so days off do not mean a change of venue for him, either.  We've been planning to get together at some time.  I want to try out a recipe on him, hoping to find a green vegetable he'll actually like.  Win some, lose some.  When the Kids were little, because I really, really like eggplant, I tried recipe after recipe in an attempt to find one they'd enjoy.  Epic fail.  But I digress.  Pete is coming up today for savory Russian Pie made with cabbage.  Then he invited me to his home on Monday for steak.  He listed a number of reasons why I should come down, ending with, "You've got to leave the farm sometime, Mom!"  Me:  "You had me when you said steak."

It barely got out of the 50s yesterday.  Heavenly weather.  Makes one glad to be alive.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Song Of The Day

Glancing out the window in the morning, I immediately heard Willie Nelson singing one of his theme songs.  To paraphrase, "Out of food again.  Oh good grief, they're out of food again!"  All three of the hummers' feeders were empty.  I cannot keep up with the demands of those tiny guzzlers.  They've gone through over thirty pounds of sugar already, and I've got a twenty-five pound sack waiting.

It barely reached 70 yesterday, a day that commanded deck time.  Bessie and I were happy to comply.

Cam came by in the afternoon to share her day of good news, always nice to hear.  We talked until near sundown and we both had animals to tend.  There was but dim light in the feed room, so I was cautious when I noted that the lid was off the chicken scratch.  The last time that happened there were three little fat mice in the barrel.  I found out for sure that I don't scream.  I bellowed when I reached in and Thing tried to run up my arm.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Pie In The Face

Just before he left office, the prior mayor of Sacramento had a pie pushed in his face by a protestor.  This is evidently a punishable crime.  Personally, I like pie in my face.  In, I say, not on.  I like pie warm from the oven, but I like it even better for breakfast the next day.  It's about the only thing I will eat in the morning.  And it's not bad for lunch, either.  Pie doesn't keep well and it would be such a shame to let it go to waste.  (I'm very good at rationalization.)

I'm beginning to feel like a weather reporter.  Not that it's all that interesting, but the weather has such an impact on life here, dictating what can and should be done on any given day.  The deltas made it all the way up here and it was a good ten degrees cooler yesterday.  I've been waiting for the right conditions to dust the house.  Not the furniture, the house.  The vinyl siding collects dust like a magnet and the front porch was an especial mess.  It was a perfect day to hose it down and the dust washed off in dirty waves.  I did get a number of sundry chores done, but that was the most satisfying.

I wasn't the only one ready for a sit-down in the afternoon.  I love it that my companions are best friends.  Celeste had cleaned Bessie's face before snuggling up back to back.

It was a good day.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

See Spot Run

Those of us of a certain age will remember the "Dick And Jane" readers from grade school.  My mother had taught me to read before I went to kindergarten so I found these simplistic books totally boring, but who could forget "See Dick run.  See Jane run.  See Spot (their dog) run."?  Down in the barn there is a small mouse whose fur has lighter patches instead of the sleek grey-brown coats of the others.  Of course his name is Spot, and Spot does run.  He belongs to the tribe under the inner wall of the milk room and he comes out to eat his cereal on that side.  Then he races under the milking stand to get a drink of milk from the soaked wipe on the outer sill.  While I enjoy all the mousies, I do like to have at least one I can recognize by name.

It was 85 degrees by 11:00 yesterday morning and it didn't stop there.  I don't need an excuse to do nothing, but I'll certainly take one if the opportunity arises.  Needing to clear space on the DVR, I binge-watched a number of episodes of "Call The Midwife."  The setting is the poverty stricken east end of London in postwar 1950s.  England was still suffering from the effects of World War II and I can't help comparing that with the booming economy in America during those years.  Having attended a convent school for two years, I can relate to the nuns who run the midwifery program.

We're supposed to get a break from the heat by this weekend.  Maybe I'll be more productive then.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Forward And Back

I so looked forward to seeing two lovely friends yesterday.  They never disappoint.  And they brought lunch!  Given that it was the hottest day so far (86) and the fact I hadn't dusted, we ate al fresco in the shade on the deck where we could catch a whiff of breeze now and then.  Tinka and Kit unloaded a buffet of finger foods:  fresh veggies, chips, several dips, and a high-class frittata with artichoke hearts.  It was a perfect meal on such a day.  Knowing that I have a fondness for KFC cole slaw, they presented a tub of that which I didn't have to share!  I had taken the apple pie out of the oven shortly after the ladies arrived and it was well received.  We see each other so seldom that it was an afternoon of nonstop talking.  Kit gave me a bag of Trader Joe's goodies, including licorice, ginger cookies and other treats.  Like Bessie Anne when given a treat, if I had a tail, it would be wagging.

All too soon it was time for the gals to head back to Tinka's house.  Kit has a long drive back to SoCal ahead of her today. Those ladies give great goodbye hugs.

It was a day to look back on with fond good memories.

Note how far the earth has turned.  The sun used to go down behind the trees on the left, now it is setting behind the tree on the right.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Get It In Gear

I seem to be stuck in neutral lately.  I look around at all that needs to be done and I'm stunned into inactivity.  If I get even one major chore done in a day I call it success, but seventeen more things pile up behind it and scream for attention.

I got a call from my son in Hawaii yesterday.  He told of going paddle-boarding in the ocean and having a six-foot manta ray cruise by, as well as a large number of giant sea turtles.  In true island style, he's bought a minivan to tootle around in.  Larry is truly in his element.  While I miss him terribly, I am so happy for him.

Kit and Tinka are coming today and I've simply got to get it in gear and get something done.  The weeds can wait.  (No, they won't wait, they'll just keep growing!)  I promised to bake an apple pie for the ladies and that's at the top of my To-Do list.  To paraphrase a NASCAR announcer, "Lady, start your engine!"

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Lost And Found

Fortunately, Go-To Guy had not gone fishing.  Saturday or not, he was already working at another job in the area when I called and said he'd swing by when he finished.  He arrived while I was milking out Tessie and went right to work.  Turns out my loss of water was due to a break in the line.  I hate to think what next month's electric bill will be as the pump had kept running all night long.  I don't know what kind of magic he used to locate the break, but Go-To and his son Trevor had to dig down a good three feet and there it was.  As these things go, of course Go-To needed some parts he didn't have.  Not to worry.  After the usual search down in the shop (it took me five years of hunting before I found where he kept the nails), we found Steve's stash of PVC fittings and believe it or not they were exactly the size GT needed.  There are times when my husband's hoarding habits come in handy.  Given that yesterday was one of the hottest so far, I was glad for the guys' sake that the break happened under the shade of a big oak.

Being without water is scary.  My biggest worry always is for the animals.  I can go without a shower and make do with bottled water, but the chickens drink about two gallons a day, the goats guzzle it down, and the hummers are up to two quarts of juice now.  I was so grateful that GT could fit me in and that the problem was solved so quickly.

Later, I had to make a quick run to the grocery store, and it was a quick run because that huge sinkhole had finally been repaired and the road was open.  I'd promised to make an apple pie for the ladies who are coming tomorrow; hard to do when you have no apples.  I also needed a cabbage for a recipe I have in mind and I had a hankering for liverwurst.  I got the apples and a lot of other supplies, but forgot the cabbage and liverwurst.  If someone finds a wandering mind, please return to owner.

As if the day hadn't had enough excitement, I settled in to watch the Preakness.  Let's just say that Always Dreaming had his head in the clouds and came in a disappointing fourth.  Sigh.

Cam came by later, a nice finish to the afternoon.

Saturday, May 20, 2017


"Houston, we have a problem."

True to form, after a flurry of activity and a rash of company, yesterday was a day off.  The temperature rose to almost 80, as my long-ago neighbor would say, "hotting up."  It was a good day to sit in the shade on the deck and then come in and pay bills.  (Who'm I kidding, that's never a good day.)  I noticed while cleaning up the kitchen that the water flow would periodically diminish, but it came right back.  No big deal.  Then, after putting the girls in the barn for the night I was topping off their trough when the water slowed to a trickle.  "Houston, we have a problem."  I'll have to put in a call to Go-To Guy today and hope he hasn't gone fishing.  I've got long-distance company (Kit and Tinka) coming on Monday and it won't do to tell them not to flush.

Another hen died, one of the old Rhodies (Rhode Island reds).  Nicholas's harem is getting smaller and smaller.  That leaves me (and him) with nine hens.  Maybe I should have bought more chicks when I had the chance.

The Preakness is running today.  If it's as hot today, it will be good to just sit and watch the ponies race.  There was enough water to make a cup of coffee this morning.  That's a good start.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Revolving Door

Guests came and went in waves yesterday.  The first to arrive was Candy, a circuit-riding hairdresser who, at one time, had a shop in Somerset and now makes house calls.  I was in bad need of a trim and Candy is good company.  It was a win-win.  She clipped and we talked.  Being a professional, Candy is able to do both at the same time. When I was a kid, my mother always cut my hair.  In high school, the fashion for girls at that time was long straight hair with a tiny curl at the end.  Some would go to the extreme of ironing their hair and rolling the bottom around a pencil.  I could go for the length, but straight was beyond me.  Mother was trimming my hair and visiting with a friend of hers.  They talked and talked and Mother cut and cut.  And then there was silence.  I looked in the mirror.  Eeek!  I had a poodle-cut before Gina Lollobrigida made it stylish.  A boy wrote in my yearbook, "To the girl with the bird's nest hair."  Sigh.

Arden came over just before Candy had to leave and then Cam arrived before Arden left.  It was an afternoon gab fest.

It was a good day.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Flying Colors

Bessie Anne came through her exam yesterday like a champ.  She was very brave and didn't hide under the chair in the waiting room as she used to.  There were times in the past when I had to slide her across the floor to the scale; she simply wouldn't get to her feet.  She wasn't thrilled about having her weight taken (I never am, either), but she complied and we were both happy that she'd lost a pound!  I appreciated that the vet tech who took Bess's temperature apologized first.  It's a rude procedure from someone who'd never been introduced.  Dr. Ric has been Bessie's doctor since she was a puppy and he's not above saying she's one of his favorites.  Being a yearly exam, several shots and a blood test were required, not fun in anyone's book, but Bess remained stoic.  Bessie is, to say the least, an unusual looking dog with excellent manners, friendly to all but not forward.  She makes a hit with anyone who meets her.  The usual question is, "What breed is she?"  My answer is, "Pick one, you'll be right."

I try never to go to town for just one reason and try to take care of as many errands as possible on a grand sweep.  I had one unavoidable in-and-out stop to make, otherwise I would never leave a dog in the car even on a cool day as yesterday turned out to be.  I don't know which of us was more glad to get home.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


I think Nature may have slammed the door on spring yesterday.  It was cold, windy, and a grand finale of rain.  It's predicted to go to 100 down in the valley by the end of the week, but she sure gave it one last hurrah up here.  ("The Last Hurrah," 1958, Spencer Tracy, Jeffrey Hunter, James Gleason.)  The last week of gorgeous weather had me spoiled.  I knew it couldn't last, but it sure was nice while it was here.

In the musical "Oklahoma," the corn may be high as an elephant's eye, but in Fair Play the weeds in the pens are now as high as a goat's back.  When the girls lie down, it's like playing "Where's Waldo?"  They're completely hidden.  After slogging through that wet jungle last evening, my shoes and socks were soaked and my britches were drenched and I know it's going to be more of the same this morning.

Deb had told me how much fun her cat Clyde had with tissue paper, so I kept a piece from a birthday gift out for Ralph.  He plays with bottle caps, Christmas bows, and, of course, the bald hamster, so I could imagine him with the paper.  Wrong.  When he discovered it, it scared the snot out of him and he wouldn't go near it.  Celeste decided it was her color and took possession.

Bess has to go for her well-baby checkup and immunizations today.  I hope she doesn't get dinged for being "portly" again.  That doesn't do much for a girl's ego.  I've changed her feeding, but she doesn't get as much exercise as she did when younger.  It's too bad her examinations aren't scheduled for summer when I've clipped her fur and she's much lighter.

The hills across the way are hidden in fog this morning and the sky is heavily overcast.  Again.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Dark To Light

I grew up when telephones weighed ten pounds, had a rotary dial, the cloth-covered cord wasn't curly, utilitarian black was the only color offered, and a real live operator answered when "0" was dialed.  I don't remember the numbers, but all prefixes were the first two letters of an assigned word; ours was BUdlong.  Long-distance calls had to be placed through an operator and were a really big deal.  If a call came in while we were gone, we didn't know about it.  There was no such thing as call waiting, voice mail, or caller ID.  How did we ever survive?

It's no wonder that I am amazed at and enthralled by new technology.  We've come out of the communication dark ages.  Cellphones are not just telephones but miniaturized computers that put the whole world in your hand.  The Kids (Deb and Craig) gave me my first flip phone after Steve died and gave instructions that I was to carry it at all times, just in case.  They've kept me upgraded and now I've got a fancy-dancy Smart Phone or I-phone, whatever.  I'm still known to push the wrong icon and hang up on a caller, but I'm pretty good with it most of the time.

I was panic stricken yesterday when my cellphone screen was black, stayed black, and there was no response whatsoever to a reboot and the home button had no effect at all.  Aarrgh!  What do do?  A multitude of scenarios ran through my head, none of them good.  In addition to being my connection with the outside world, the phone would literally be my lifeline if there was an emergency down in the barn or out on the property.  It is my habit to put the phone on its charger before going to bed, and I knew I'd done that so the problem had to be significant.  I kept picking up the phone, hoping against hope for a glimmer of life, and then TaDa! a brief signal showed.  The charger evidently has an upside and a downside to make connection and I'd chosen the wrong one the night before.  It was the battery, and all it needed to revive was some time plugged in.  Let there be light!

Speaking of the light side, this is one of the cards I received.  It totally cracks me up.  The look on that cat's face is priceless.  If its eyes were green, it would be Celeste, and I'm pretty sure that would be her reaction were I to get to my feet and do the boogaloo.

After the hoopla of the day before, I took yesterday off and started and finished a book I'd been loaned and asked to read, something I've not done in a long time.

It was a good day.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Send In The Clowns

One would never think, looking at this somber group, that we spent the day laughing.  Pete, Dave, and Deb and Craig began arriving about noon, laden with food and goodies.  Pete started off the food fest with dates stuffed with goat cheese, wrapped in bacon and broiled, a delicious combination of salty, sweet, crisp and chewy in one bite.  Deb and Craig brought the fixings for slow-cooked pork sliders in barbecue sauce, caramelized onions, chips, and they know I'm a sucker for KFC cole slaw.  Pete had also made a pineapple-blueberry crisp.  He brought it to the table with one candle, and the candle played "Happy Birthday!"  The Kids showered me with gifts and I received so many funny, touching cards from friends and family.  Later in the day Larry called from Hawaii and it was so good to hear his voice.  In the morning I'd received calls from my Kid Clay, who had to work, and my grandson Jake who is stationed in Oklahoma and that was a lovely surprise.

I should have taken a photo after the first hand of poker, because I won that one big time.  The rest of the day, not s' much.  It was worth the price of admission to listen to the teasing and the laughter.  Whenever I think of my Kids, I always think of the laughter.

It was a most wonderful, memorable day.

And then my cellphone died.  I know what I'll be doing today.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Weeds And Wasps

Weeds and wasps are the bane of my life, and they show up about the same time of year.  I'll give them P for persistence because neither will give up, no matter how hard I try to eradicate them.  So far in the last couple of weeks I've sprayed five beginner wasp nests under the rail and under the eaves on the house and taken down three in the barn.  These are the paper wasps that build marvels of construction, intricate honeycomb structures of a tissue paper substance in which to lay eggs so there will be more wasps.  Google tells me that the nests are made of ground plant fibers and wasp spit.  Who knew that wasps had saliva?!  I used to be able to find a nonpoisonous spray to use in the barn, but no longer.  I won't spray poison down there, so have to take down those nests with a broom handle.  Fortunately, wasps are not active in the morning and that lessens the possibility of a retaliatory attack.  (That was a lesson learned the hard way.)

I'm surprised the mud daubers haven't shown up yet as there is plenty of raw material for them to work with after all the rain.  Their nests are exceptionally durable honeycomb structures of tiny mud balls mixed with spit (again with the spit!).  Google says that mud daubers are not aggressive, but I don't ask for ID or credentials before destroying these insects.

It was another bluebird day and I could stand being cooped in the house just so long.  My constant companion and I went outside to the herb garden.  My intent was to do a bit of weeding, but Bess just wanted to lie in the sun.  Unfortunately, she wanted to lie right where I was pulling weeds.  I worked around her so there is a dog-shaped island in the yard.  The chickens love it at this time of year because I throw them the results of my work.  I weeded until I couldn't stand up straight, and the yard looks as if I hadn't done anything.  Danged weeds.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Flip A Coin

Life is all about choices.  Yesterday was another golden day.  Hmmm...stay inside and do housework or go outside and do some mowing?  Difficult as the choice was (not!), I opted for sunshine and enough breeze to blow away the dust and chaff.  I gassed up John and off we went.  Another choice...side yard under the clothesline first or the west field?  I'd mowed the field not long ago but the weeds were tall again.  I hadn't approached the side yard yet, so side yard it was.  The Cecile Brunner rose in the side yard is a stunning bouquet of tiny, delicate pink blossoms now, an added bonus to the day. 

I don't think one ever forgets one's first love.  I still miss funny old Fu Manchu, but John and I are becoming more comfortable with each other.  He's big and manly, but somewhat top heavy and that makes mowing on a sideways slope or on the edge of a drop-off feel dangerous.  As we worked our way through two-foot high weeds, I'm sure John was wondering what chlorophyll hell he'd fallen into.  He probably came from a suburban backyard with a dichondra lawn.  Fu, on the other hand, has gone to a lawnmower's retirement heaven.

It was still fairly early when we finished the side yard.  Should we carry on, or should I go in?  No contest.  I can see that mowing is going to be a weekly chore for the duration.  Weeds had grown up as if I'd never mowed the field.  John cuts a wide swath, but when the stuff is thick and lush we can only take half-bites and it takes longer.  Patches of California poppies have sprung up near the garden (what used to be a garden), nearly hidden in the weeds.  Mow them down or go around?  We went around.  The machines are called riding lawnmowers, but in John's case, he is a driving mower.  I'm becoming more used to the gas peddle and he doesn't take off like a racehorse getting out of the gate as he did.  It's like learning to drive all over again.  (I can remember my dad clinging to the door and yelling, "Slow down when you're turning!")

Two yards are about all I can handle on John before my wrists give out and he is ready for a rest.  Like a horse, when I turn off the blades John knows it's time to head for the barn and he nearly flies.

Later, Arden came for a visit and brought fresh cherries!  We talked and spit seeds in our most ladylike fashion.

I have no choice today.  Dust waits for no man (or woman).

It was a good day.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Busy, Busy, Busy

I felt like one of those parent birds in the oak yesterday, flitting from here to there and back again.  There is going to be a huge increase this year in the number of whatever kind of birds those are.  They fly too high and fast for me to get a good look at; all I know is they're smaller than a blackbird.  From day's first light to last, those babies are yelling at the top of their lungs and the parents can't keep up with the demands, but they try.

While taking a quick breather after barn chores I got a nice surprise, a text from Deb saying she and the boys are coming up this weekend.  Not having heard anything and so not expecting company, I've been sitting on my duff regarding house chores.  Actually, I don't need an excuse not to do housework, but it helps.  (The baby birds are waking up and beginning to sing the "Feed Me!" song.)

There was no time to fret about the house as I needed to get sluiced down and spruced up to meet Linda at Poor Red's for a celebratory lunch as her guest.  The weather as glorious and I dug down to the bottom of the pile and pulled out the first tank top of the year.  Red's never disappoints.  The French dip sandwich with a schmear of horseradish aioli is delish.  What with rain and one thing and another, it's been quite awhile since Linda and I have gotten together and it was good to spend time in her company.  We sat outside on the patio and dawdled over our meal.

When we parted, I needed to go to Wally World ("National Lampoon's Vacation," 1983, Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo).  I'd mentioned to Linda that I could finish shopping in less than a half hour, and she doubted me.  I picked up everything on my list in 25 minutes (ha ha!), and then everything came to a screeching halt.  At the checkout counter, I'd finished my transaction when the system decided to reboot and the register ate my check.  I felt bad for the associate (when did "clerk" become a distasteful word?) as the line behind me began to get restless and started to grumble.  She'd put out an SOS for a manager who must have been on a coffee break.  She redirected traffic while we waited.  And waited.  It was the machine that took pity and finally released my check and I was set free.

The plan after shopping was to get home, unpack groceries, and get John Dear out to do some much-needed mowing.  So much for plans.  A cloud cover swept over and a cold wind began to blow and I wasn't about to get on the tractor under those conditions.

It was a busy but most pleasant day.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Cat In The Lap

"I'm ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille" ("Sunset Boulevard"1950, William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim).  Celeste is definitely a lap kitty and a great snuggler.  I'm not sure how this is going to work out when summer lands on us, but the feel of her soft fur under my hand is very comforting.  My friend Doris used to come by to pet my animals just to get a "fur fix" after her cat Ringo died.  Whenever Doris called, she would always say, "This is Doris up the road."  Until I really got to know her, I thought her name was Doris Uptheroad.

I haven't seen Snake for some time.  That's a bit worrisome to me, not because I'm worried about him, it's more that I don't know if he's found a new hiding spot.  I don't like surprises, and would much rather see him first.

Last year Camille grew an heirloom tomato called Orange Strawberry.  They were so good, juicy and very low acid.  She wanted some again this year, but was having difficulty finding them at her usual nurseries.  She called yesterday, very excited to tell me she'd located a few plants down at Amador Flower Farm and did I one any.  At the risk of putting tomatoes on that dratted squirrel's diet, I'm going to try growing one on the deck.  These tomatoes are so delicious that I made bacon and tomato sandwiches without the bacon last year.

Time is so relative.  An hour can seem as long as a day and a month zip by in a week.  It hardly seems possible that I had surgery a year ago.  We're back at the full moon again.  It sneaks up on me and I'm greatly surprised when I look up and see the Man In The Moon looking back.

I'm meeting Linda for lunch today!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


Anyone driving past Cam's place might wonder which planet this animal with strange antennae came from, and rightfully so.  Ginger is a new acquisition for my friend.  She is a significantly undersized Alpine goat who, unfortunately, had not been dehorned (polled).  It's also unfortunate that her prior owner did not teach this little girl good manners.

Ever see a goat wink?  Probably no more often than seeing a goat with such a fancy headdress.  Ginger was allowed to develop the bad habit of butting and hooking with her horns, and tennis balls held on by duct tape are Camille's protective solution.  Being the artistic sort, Cam gussied them up with a covering of colorful tape.  The horns have very sharp points that could really do some damage.

Ginger was meant to be a companion, a buddy, for Shadow, the mini-donkey, but she's being acclimated to her new surroundings and supplemented diet before Cam will put the pair together.

Strange sights are not uncommon in these hills, but admittedly Ginger is one of the strangest.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

They Come And They Go

My geriatric hen is on her way out.  Old Lady is the last of the barred rocks and it seems like I've had her forever.  She's a sweet bird and was a good layer back in her prime, and I'll miss her.  Old chickens' toes get so gnarly and I was surprised to see that her comb actually started to shrink.  When a hen is of laying age her comb is big and bright red, dulling as the years go on and productivity drops, but I'd never seen one shrink to a nubbin like Old Lady's (maybe I have had her forever).  She's been moving slower for some time.  The rest of the flock comes tumbling out the drop door in the morning, but Old Lady stays inside for awhile and we have a conversation as I check for eggs and fill the waterers.  Once again, I am struck by a chicken's life force.  They don't give up the ghost without a fight.  Old Lady has been knocking on Death's door for two days now.

If age were the criteria, Tzar Nicholas will be the next to go (not any time soon, I hope).  Poor Nick, he is/was such a handsome guy.  The little girls keep him from getting too full of himself by pulling out his tail feathers.  From the front, he's quite impressive.  When he turns, the part that goes over the fence last is bare.  Since he never sees that angle, he struts his stuff around the pen, wearing the Emperor's New Clothes.

When Pete moved up here (well, to Nor-Cal), he had stopped at Mt. Aukum and told me they had new chicks!  I was tempted, but I think I'll hold off another year.  With Old Lady's passing, I'll be down to ten hens and the Tzar.  I'm still picking up at least five eggs a day now and I use so few that they're piling up in the fridge.  I sell only a dozen a week, and give them away like door prizes when the Kids come up.

Since I'm so good at whining about the weather, I should note that the last couple of days have been perfection and I've got nothing to complain about.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Writer's Block

There are days when words and ideas crowd my head, begging to be put "on paper."  And then there are times like this morning when my mind is as blank as the screen, probably following a do-nothing day.  Yesterday was NASCAR and not much got done.  In fact, between the Kentucky Derby and the race at Talladega, it was pretty much a lost weekend (although nothing like "The Lost Weekend" - 1945, Ray Milland, Jane Wyman).  I did get a few piddly chores done in an attempt to assuage my guilt, but certainly nothing to write about.

I can count on Bessie Anne to get me out of my chair when she wants to go outside.  She has gotten very needy as she ages.  I'll open the door for her, the door of her choosing, and then she stands there looking at me.  "You come too, Mom.  Let's do this together."  If by some chance I'm actually busy, I'll take a step out and she'll follow, but then I step back in and leave her to look out the rails on her own.  Bess is okay with that, but she never stays outside long by herself.  Her eyes are getting cloudy with cataracts and she's almost totally deaf now.  It's a good thing I've always used hand signals in her training as we rely on them for communication these days.

Race or no race, I went with Bess a couple of times to enjoy the outdoors.  The last couple of days have been chilly (seems forever since I've used that word), but the sun did break through in the afternoon and sitting on the deck was grand.  I was right about the baby birds in the oak.  I wonder why the birds hadn't nested there before, or why I haven't noticed that sound in the past if they had.  I'm usually pretty attuned to my surroundings.

In the words of Forrest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that."

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Oldtime Movies

Instead of hearing music, yesterday I was seeing old movies.  The vineyard next door is burgeoning with green leaves now, so of course I thought of "Our Vines Have Tender Grapes" (1945, Edward G. Robinson, Margaret O'Brien, Agnes Moorehead).  Edward G. is better known for his bad-guy roles, but in this film he plays the unlikely role of a Norwegian farmer, father to Miss O'Brien.  It is a very gentle, feel-good movie.  After seeing acres of sticks with their arms stuck out all winter, it's lovely to see the promise of good things to come.

Even though I live on top of the hill, looking out from the deck yesterday immediately brought another favorite movie to mind, "How Green Was My Valley" (1941, Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O'Hara, Roddy McDowell).  I could see, but wasn't able to get a good angle for a photo, the slope down to the woods covered with small yellow flowers.  They're probably some kind of dreadful weed, but they sure are pretty.  I did say that the backyard looks like I'd mowed with my eyes shut.  You'll have to take my word that the "island" really is full of lupine and purple vetch and was left on purpose.

Taking a breather on the deck after chores, I listened to an unusual, almost constant sound coming from the big south oak.  As I watched small birds take off and come right back, landing in the same spots, I realized I must be hearing babies in the nest!  How cool is that?  Definitely not scary like "The Birds" (1963, Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor).

In true Kentucky Derby tradition, I dressed for the occasion ("A Day At The Races" 1937, Groucho, Chico, and Harpo Marx).  Texts went flying back and forth as the family placed their nickel bets, some were as funny as the Marx Brothers.  I did not win.

I love old movies.  It was a good day.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Slow Start

Getting started yesterday took longer than usual.  Computer problems continued, to the point I put in a call to my service provider.  The little cookie with whom I was connected did some tippy-tapping and decided it was my computer and not their problem.  Let me say from the git-go that I try to stay patient and maintain a sense of humor when dealing with tech support because, after all, I'm asking for their help and need them on my side.  In this case, that wasn't working so well.  Over the years, I've found there is one phrase that will break such an impasse, "Let me speak to your supervisor."  That is not something a junior tech wants to hear.  "Why?"  "Because we are not communicating."  From that point, regardless of her balking, I stopped talking and only repeated the phrase, "Let me speak to your supervisor."  Supervisor Lady came on, did some checking, discovered there was, indeed, a significant problem on their side, and passed me forward to a tech support honcho.  Honcho found out that the system should have been reconfigured to adapt to the new modem.  Two and a half hours from the first call, I was back up in running order.  Whew.

Either Thing has expanded his territory or senseless destruction is built in to the ground squirrel genes. Cohabiting with wild life here is, for the most part, truly enjoyable.  Between booby traps and bunkers in the pathways and yards, grain thievery in the barn, and this kind of mess, ground squirrels, cute as they may be, are not my favorites.

The blessed delta breezes kicked in at last.  What a difference the wind coming in from the coast makes.  After the heat of the last few days and starting out getting hot under the collar, a drop in temperature was just what I needed.

All's well that ends well.

Friday, May 5, 2017

I Have Issues

I've been beset with electrical and computer problems this morning.  Up at 4:00, I certainly didn't expect a power blip at that hour, but while I was loading the coffee maker the kitchen went dark.  Oh goody.  Fortunately, the lights came back on before I had time to get really cranky, off just long enough to have to reset the clocks.

I've had computer issues for some time, hence the upgrade and new modem which, unfortunately, did not resolve all the problems.  That power blip may have turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as I had to force a hard shutdown and the system, on its own, did a "chkdsk" and deleted a number of files that had no business being there.  So far, so good.

I looked at the photo of Inga that was posted yesterday.  Her hair is a mess, going every which way.  I can relate.  I brush her hair every morning, as I do mine (not with the same brush), and mine is as unruly as hers and there's not much I can do about either.  Goats' coats are as individual as people's heads.  Sheila's hair is always smooth, and Tessie has the softest coat of all.  Esther's was thick, even in summer, and it really bulked up in winter.

Ralph is having his own issues this morning.  He is feeling particularly needy and I've felt his paw on my shoulder any number of times.  Sometimes he wants to come over onto my lap, but today he just wants me to swivel around and give him some lovin', and of course I do.

The days are definitely getting longer.  It's 5:30 and already light enough to see silhouettes.  It doesn't get dark until 8 and that's when I put the goats in the barn.  Since I usually fall asleep about 9:30, I might as well just bed down with the girls.  No, then Bessie would have issues.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Losing My Cool

Once again I was glad that no one lives within earshot of the barn because that dadratted Sheila tipped the bucket again and I lost it, bellowing my limited but colorful collection of cusswords as the white wave flowed over the milking stand.  Man, she is quick, her aim is true, and her timing is exquisite.  She was about ten squirts away from the finish so all my work dripped off the edge or sat in pools.  Not the best way to start the day.

The grass/weeds is belly deep on the girls now (this is Inga).  I've stopped supplementing with alfalfa for the time being as (1) they're not going hungry and (2) they need to chomp this stuff down before fire season.  People actually hire goats for brush control.  And what do my girls do?  They stick their head through the fence, sure that the adage "the grass is always greener on the other side" is true, and I just about lose it.

I'm such a weather wuss.  Another thing I've lost are the cool days.  It was over 80 yesterday.  After winter, anything in the 50s is shirtsleeve weather, and when it goes to 70, I pop a sweat.  Rain and a 30-degree drop in temperature are predicted for this weekend and, much as I might whine about it, I'm about ready for some rain.

I had to wait until 5 o'clock to bring out John Dear.  John and I have not yet established a relationship.  I don't think he likes taking orders from a female.  I really miss good old Fu Manchu.  On Fu, I could set the controls and let my mind wander and enjoy the scenery while we made the rounds.  John is more like driving a car on a crowded freeway and I can't take my attention off him for a minute.  We did manage to get part of the slope and most of the backyard mowed.  I say "most" because I left patches of lupine that have sprung up this year.  The Baby Blue-Eyes are finished blooming, but the lupine and purple vetch have taken their place and I do want to promote wildflowers.  As a consequence, the yard looks like it had been mowed by a drunken sailor (no offense to the navy).  We also managed to mow the front yard, and that about did it for me.  Driving John is an upper-body workout and I was ready for a cool drink.  I'd lost my cool enough yesterday.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Livin' Large!

This old gal has been living the good life!  Pete's filet on Sunday and then yesterday I was invited to a steak and lobster(!!) dinner at Camille's.  Olga, Cam's mom, has been visiting Cam and had brought lobsters from Montana and they asked me to share.  They didn't have to ask twice.  Cam described the menu they'd planned (drool) and I asked if I could bring dessert.

 In our family, this is considered the kitchen bible, the  "Woman's Home Companion Cook Book" published in 1942.  This was my mother's copy and I was fortunate that she gave it to me.  It has always been my go-to resource for basic, well-written recipes.  We're not talking fancy meals or French cuisine (Julia Child cornered that market), but straight forward instructions on darned near everything. including how to set a table.  Obviously, my copy has seen a lot of use.  The poor thing has lost the covering on its spine and the back has to be carried separately.  Be that as it may, Deb has already requested to be next in line.

I have made countless apple pies over the years, and I still use the same recipe (does it show?).  The kids' dad was a police officer and there were many times that I would have an apple pie hot from the oven ready when he got off the evening shift at 11.  It got so that his buddies would come home with him in hopes of a slice of pie.

I do not, however, use the crust recipe from this book.  I've tried many, but the best, never-fail recipe I've found is in "The Farm House Cook Book" by Susan Herrmann Loomis.  Needless to say, I read cookbooks like novels, and have well over one hundred on my shelves, including Loomis's French and Italian books.

Deb and I used to go up to Apple Hill and buy forty to sixty pounds of apples.  I'd make fourteen pies at a time to put in the freezer, as well as applesauce and strudel.  We'd peel apples until our hands cramped.  It was after (of course) one such episode that I found this handy-dandy item in an old-time hardware store.  It is an apple peeler-corer-slicer and is absolutely indispensable.  Bless whoever invented this great, time-saving kitchen tool.

Steak, lobster, Greek salad, sauteed zucchini and summer squash, mashed potatoes with bacon, and apple pie for dessert.  I'm tellin' you, I'm livin' large!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

On The Move

I'm about ready for a do-nothing day, but a trip to town was mandatory yesterday.  Among grocery staples, I needed to buy new brooms.  I prefer the old-time straw brooms, and so does Thing.  Until Thing (aka Destructo) moved in and went (make that goes) on a daily rampage, I had a straw broom in the feed room to keep it neat and tidy, or a semblance thereof.  What I have now is a broom handle with perhaps seventeen straws.  The straws couldn't be tasty and they must be too stiff to line a nest, so I can only think Thing is purely vindictive.  The room itself is a complete disaster:  supplies flung from shelves, broken Christmas ornaments, a hanging bag of packing noodles or whatever they're called torn open and the contents strewn, Thing's calling cards here and there; as I said, a disaster.  The room is overdue for a major, major cleanup and a dump run, but I needed a broom.  I don't know if it will work, but I bought a broom with a plastic brush(?).  A gal's gotta try.  Oh, the second broom is for the front porch.  While not gnawed, over time and weather the straw has taken a definite sideways bend and it is unwieldy and inefficient.

Multiple brooms, multiple tools.  Basic tools are everywhere here:  in the breakfast room, in the kitchen, in the upper barn (both middle and the feed room), and in the goat barn.  Specialty tools are in the workshop downstairs.  This place is so spread out and there's nothing worse than to need a hammer or a screwdriver (or a broom) in a hurry and have to go up, down, or over to find one.  There are times that Steve's penchant for hoarding pays off.

I'm in danger of becoming one of "those" people.  We all know them, head down, eyes glued to the tiny screen, fingers tip-tapping away.  I'm still discovering the delights of my cellphone and had to tear myself away to go to the store.  It's a good thing I'm on a 30-foot tether, the limit of my WiFi, so I won't be one of those people out in public.

The sun starts to rise about five these days, so I'm trying to get on the move earlier and let the girls out of the barn.  With only the three chomping away, the weeds are getting the upper hand, almost knee high now and I want to give the girls more time outside.

Gotta go!

Monday, May 1, 2017


One step forward and two steps back.  Anxious to play with my updated, upgraded cellphone with the WiFi capabilities, all was well yesterday morning until I tried to send a text message.  Like Alice down the rabbit hole, I fell into a strange new world with icons I'd never seen and requests for which I had no answer.  And I was trapped there.  No way in or out.  I'd shut the phone down, but when I powered up again I was back in NeverLand.  I didn't know Pete's weekend schedule and didn't want to wake him with a call (i.e., a cry for help).  Somehow or other, I did manage to send a text asking if he were up, the text accompanied with a floating bouquet of balloons (like I would ever do such a thing).  Pete called and tried his best to talk me through the maze.  There are certain difficulties when one person describes what they see and the other does not see the same thing.  "Okay, now hit 'send.'"  "Pete, there is no 'send' button anywhere on the screen."  "Of course there's a 'send' button."  Turned out the 'send' key had been replaced with a little green 'up' arrow.  We were talking apples and oranges and not getting anywhere.  Aarrgh!  Before the frustration level hit critical mass, it was time for me to do barn chores.

Snake was back in his favorite spot.  I'd only been able to see about two feet or so as he posed propped up in the corner, but knew there was more snake down below.  Omigosh, he slowly came out along the floor by the wall and Snake was well over five feet long, maybe even six as I never did see his tail!  We have a Gentleman's Agreement; I don't bother him and he doesn't bother me.

On my way back from the barn, Pete called (on my cellphone) and said he'd be up in an hour or so to assess/fix the problem.  I hated like blazes to take up his entire weekend, but he was gracious and insisted and I was desperate.  When he arrived, he came bearing gifts...steaks to grill for early dinner.  These were not just your run-of-the-mill steaks, but filet mignon!  Ohmigosh, I can't remember the last time I had steak, period, and filet mignon?!

Turning our attention to the cellphone, turned out I had to reset the Apple connection and reboot the WiFi and do this, that, and the other thing (and figure out that little green 'up' arrow).  At least with that, Pete realized I hadn't gone blind or senile; there really was no 'send' key.

Then it was time to grill the steaks.  Pete had premarinated those beauties.  He was a little distressed that I had no barbecue.  The best I could offer was a grill pan, which had always worked for me.  "Well, okay, Mom, but if these don't turn out it will be your fault."  He was happy with the char and grill marks.  He cut off little test bites and I almost swooned.  As I've said, I love it when the student surpasses the teacher.  I could never cook a steak to perfection as Pete did.  Ohmigosh, it's hard to think one could drool while eating, but I managed it.  Butter tender, juicy and flavorful, except for "Oh my God, that's good!," all conversation came to a screeching halt until the last bite went down.

We had time for an afternoon of conversation and then Pete took off, having done yeoman's duty in the kitchen and on the computer, taking my gratitude on both fronts.

It was a more-than-good day!