Monday, July 31, 2017

I Don't Mind

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 30, 2017

To The Manor Born

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

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

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

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

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

It was a good day.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

On Day

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

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

Friday, July 28, 2017

Dodged That Danger

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

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

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

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

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

It was a good day.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Too Close

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Ode To Joy

(Apologies to Beethoven.)

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

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

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

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

Pete was right, this place does bring me joy.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Silent Night

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

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

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

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Second Place

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Things To Do, Places To Go

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

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

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

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

It's going to be a good day.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Win Some

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

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

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

Thursday, July 20, 2017

How Was Your Morning?

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Where There Is Smoke

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Egg And I

(With apologies to author Betty MacDonald.)

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 17, 2017


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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Plot Thickens

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

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

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

It was a fitting ending to a good day.

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

Saturday, July 15, 2017

East Side, West Side

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

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

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

Friday, July 14, 2017

Mean Sister

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

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

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

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Jump Start

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Win One For The Gipper

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Look Both Ways

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 10, 2017

Moving Forward

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Another Phase

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 8, 2017

And It's Not Even August

Mr. McGuigan was my sophomore-year high school English teacher.  I guess we were to learn English by osmosis because I remember more reading assignments than parsing and participles, but perhaps that is because I liked reading better.  We read Silas Marner and I think something by Shakespeare, but a short story by William Fryer Harvey has stayed with me all these years.  August Heat is a tale of two men driven to madness by, you guessed it, summer heat.  It came to mind yesterday when the thermometer soared here, worse down in the valley.

Running the hose over my head on the way to the barn and again on the way back, with dripping hair sticking out every which way I undoubtedly looked like something that would scare small children and large dogs.  So be it.  With spray bottle at the ready, it was a day to sit still and binge watch reruns of M.A.S.H.  Had company come to the door, I'd probably have given them a couple of squirts and asked them to come back in November.  Water in Bess's pool was too hot to bathe her in, so both she and I got soaked with the mist nozzle.  Even then, we'd waited until the hose had been in shade long enough.  Years ago, when I had the pot-belly pig, Louie, he loved to get rinsed down and cooled off in summer.  Until the time I mistakenly squirted him with hot water from a hose that had lain in the sun, that is, and he never forgot getting hurt.

Temperatures in the mid-to-high 90s and into 100s are predicted for the next ten days or so, and it's not even August.  Sigh.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Up To Here

I've just about had it up to here with the pint-sized gangstas and thugs around here.  Percy and his cohorts keep trying to steal the mice's feed, somewhat more cautiously, but they've not given up yet.  The stick has had some effect because now they just have to see me reach for it and they duck away.

Thing continues to vandalize the feed room, tearing open bags, throwing stuff (make that everything) off the shelves, and making a mess in general.  Now he's been joined by rats.  I know they are rats because I caught one in the scratch barrel a couple of night ago and used a plastic tub to scoop it out.  I like mice, but don't feel the same about rats.  It wasn't so long ago that I had to replace the barrel because of a chewed hole in the bottom.  That was money wasted because I bought another plastic one, much stronger, to be sure, but didn't want to lay out twice the funds for a metal can.  Duh.  Yesterday there was not only a hole in the lid, they'd chewed a hole almost halfway up the side.  I guess that is for the ratlets that are too short to climb to the top.  Guess who will be buying a new trash can for the feed, preferably one with a combination lock.  The worst thing is that I can't poison them or the multitudinous ground squirrels that have potholed the yards because that poison would get into vultures, coyotes, or other wild things that feed on carrion.  Cam is having the same problem in her barn and, being Cam, she somehow traps them and takes them for a drive to some unpopulated area in the woods and sets them free.

I'd left a large bag of wild bird seed in the back of the truck   When I went to take it out yesterday, it had been torn open and the contents spread in the truck bed.  I don't think it was done by wild birds.

It's the time of year for the annual home invasion by the teeny-tiny black ants, what we call the sugar ants.  They show up everywhere:  in the bathroom, on kitchen counters, and they flow in rivers across the kitchen floor.  Bess has learned to empty her food dish as soon as I put it down or end up with ant-flavored dinner.  They come by the thousands.  Again, I can't use ant spray because the house critters would get it on their paws and be poisoned.  I've found that 409 cleaner seems to destroy the scent trail and, if it doesn't stop them, it at least diverts them.

I'm pretty much a live-and-let-live sort of person, but I have my limits.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Not A Creature Was Stirring

It has happened before, but not often and it's startling every time.  In summer, I wait until the deck is in shadow before going out to water lest I wilt like the poor plants so Bessie and I went out in the late afternoon yesterday.  Even before I turned on the faucet it struck me:  there were no sounds, none of the normal noise of the mountain going on about its business.  No bird chatter, no truck engines sometimes heard over on Mt. Aukum, no weed-whackers or chainsaws, no voices or music from neighbors, and the light breeze wasn't enough to rustle the leaves.  Shaddup wasn't yelping;  in fact no ground squirrels raced through the yard, period.  Helper Dude wasn't roaring up the road on his dirt bike or quad.  Even the chickens were quiet.  No planes flew overhead.  It was as if some apocalyptic event had occurred and Bess and I (and my animals) were left standing.  It was downright eerie and it lasted for a long time.  The spell was finally broken when a plane flew over and a few vultures began to circle on the thermals.  We weren't alone.

The only other signs of life were not welcome.  A hose reel is attached to the house and I noticed a few wasps hovering near it as I went on down the line of pots.  When I was finished with the plants, there were even more of those evil little insects.  Well, this won't do.  Turning the nozzle to 'jet,' I squirted the reel and wasps started falling out.  Without mercy, I stomped on them like I was doing a tarantella.  Slowly and cautiously, I turned the reel until I found the mud nest inside and completely destroyed it.  Wasps are not welcome here.

I like living in the peace and quiet here, but there is a thing as too much quiet.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Sleepy Time Gal

(Song written by Glenn Miller, 1937)
I know I'm starting out behind the eight-ball if it's light out when I wake up and I'm going to end up in the corner pocket today.  Sigh.

Pete came up early yesterday and we did a do-over on hot dogs to celebrate the Fourth of July for real this time. (It made me think of a New Year's Eve party Steve and I threw years ago.  It fell in the middle of the week and all the partygoers had worked during the day and everyone was tired by 10 o'clock.  What the heck, if we can change dates to suit our needs, why not time?  I set the kitchen timer, we did the obligatory countdown to 'midnight,' yelled "Happy New Year," gave kisses all around, and celebrated with glasses of champagne.  It was so much fun we did it twice!)  It was well into the 90s yesterday, but thankfully the deltas had kicked in and it was comfortable out on the deck.  The look on Pete's face when a hummer did a fly-by less than four inches above his head was priceless.  How nice it is to have grown Kids with whom to discuss books, movies, politics, whatever.

Pete has become my techno-guru and I learn something new every time he visits.  He has cleared up problems with the WiFi and taught me new stuff on my cellphone (it seems it is a mini-computer and not just to talk and text with).  Don't laugh, but he kept referring to the 'home' button.  And what is the 'home' button?  Turns out it was what I thought of as the on-off button.  I didn't know it had a name.  It's a good thing he'd showed me because with one change or another, the phone asked me to hit 'home' to unlock and I'd have been in deep doodah without instruction.  Pete is of the opinion I should put a camera down in the barn.  He wants to see Percy getting squirted with milk and meet the mice tribes.  Yesterday he showed me how to get YouTube on the phone and see what films others had posted.  Who knew?

After Pete took off, Bess and I took the trash down to the big road and made a quick trip to Mt. Aukum for feed.  It cooled off in the evening and I took my before-bedtime nap, woke up and went to bed, and slept late this morning.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017


I don't know about the "speak softly" part, but "carry a big stick" seems to be working.  At least it was partially successful yesterday in keeping Percy and his band of thugs at bay.  I'll give the little boogers E for effort; they're determined, but so am I.  Poking the stick into the tunnel, I actually made contact a couple of times and I think they finally decided, "Oh crum, she's serious."  Further forays were fewer and farther between.  It had the desired effect.  Mice that had been scared off by the bullies started coming out for their cereal and a slurp of milk.  It was nice to see my little friends again, and it was definitely more pleasant and faster to get through the milking.

No fireworks are permitted in El Dorado county, which is a good thing because of the fire danger, but I do miss the ooh and ahh of that wonderful display in the sky on the Fourth of July.  Down in West Sac years ago, Steve and I would climb up on the roof and watch fireworks from towns in all directions.  We couldn't have bought any better tickets to watch the show, and there was the bonus of families setting off the home-style stuff in the streets below.  Deb sent photos of the festive red, white, and blue decorations she and Craig put up in their backyard in preparation for a party they're hosting today; made me want to stand up and salute.  Me?  The best I can do will be to fly the flag from the pole out on the deck.  Hopefully that will be enough.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Swinging Door

This was a busy place yesterday with lots of comings and goings.  I knew it was going to be hot and with no particular plans for the day, after barn chores I picked up a book and settled in.  The phone rang.  My milk-and-egg customer usually comes on Mondays and was checking on times.  He said he had a crazy week ahead so I told him that if it was more convenient he could pick up then.  He arrived within the hour.  He'd no more than left when Cam called and said she was going to swing by if I wasn't busy.  As we chatted, the phone rang.  Pete said he was "in the area" and would come up for a visit if that was okay.  Of course it was okay!  Cam left and Pete arrive shortly after.  We'd discussed plans for getting together for the Fourth and having hot dogs (a rare treat for either of us) and I'd picked up supplies.

As it is in my family, the date of celebrating any holiday is never as important as the company, so when Pete walked in I asked him if it was the Fourth already.  He said if I had the hot dogs, it could be the Fourth, and if I had enough, we could have the Fourth on the fourth, too.  Hey, that works for me!  I don't have a barbecue anymore; too big and too much trouble for one hot dog or hamburger, but I do have a grill pan that leaves the obligatory hatch marks and a nice char on meat.  I grilled the hot dogs and buns, already had chopped onions and condiments at the ready, and we took late lunch/early dinner out on the deck.  Happy Fourth...and we may do it again tomorrow!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Battle Of Wills

All-out war has been declared at Farview Farm between Percy and his gang and myself and battles are staged daily.  I am outnumbered and the opposition is sneaky.  As in so many cases, it is the innocent bystanders who become the victims.  The routine first thing is this:  I fill the cereal bowl for the goat of the moment, put down helpings in three places for the mice, and then go around and bring Inga in for breakfast.  That used to work.  Now the enemy comes in and food for the mice is gone before I can get back.  The worst is that the squirrels pick out the good stuff and leave the pellets which nobody likes.  Okay, second helpings because I can't bear to see the disappointment on the little faces of the mice as they paw through the leftovers.  Since Inga is no longer a milker, she's a quick in-and-out and I go get Sheila.  Settling in to the work at hand, I am on constant lookout for an invasion.  The squirrels employ guerrilla tactics, sneaking in from the rear, popping up from tunnels under the wall, and raiding on the far side of the room, sometimes one at a time and sometimes all at once.  I'm so busy swatting, stomping, and squirting that I can't pay much attention to my job and one of these days there will be a foot in the bucket.  The squirrels are smart.  I can only squirt to my right (my legs are in the way to the left) and they've learned that if they wait to make a strike on the right-side food pile, I'll be nearly out of milkunition.  Sheila is my weapon of choice, she's got better range, but she's a quick milker and it doesn't take long to finish her.  Tessie doesn't have the oomph to make a direct hit.  With my attention to the right, two or three squirrels are filling their faces on the left.  To add insult to injury, they take their booty and lie just on the other side of the wall and I have to listen to them chomping.  Yesterday I pulled out a new weapon, a short length of broomstick, which allows me to give a poke down into one of the entrance holes.  It's more effective than a stomp on the ground, which they know won't hurt them and doesn't even scare them anymore.  I have to be careful though.  How could I take an injured squirrel to Animal Rescue and explain how and why I concussed it.

Each side of this battle is determined to win and the fight goes on.  I have no idea of the outcome.  (Yes, I do, and I fear it won't be me.)

Saturday, July 1, 2017

All Clear

The view from Farview Farm is changing.  How I miss the symmetry of that old, old oak.  One can only hope what is left stays standing.  Beau came later in the morning and pretty much finished scraping weeds, moving the smaller leafy branches over into the south pasture to be burned next year, and piling the rounds of trunk that will need splitting for firewood.  That portion of the yard was all clear by afternoon.

The shadow falls in the wrong place to show the big section of fence that was broken out.  Fortunately, I don't need that pasture for animals so can take my time deciding whether to replace the fence, leave it as is, or take it down completely.

Did I not say yesterday that I need a handyman?  I certainly didn't expect an immediate answer to my wish, but it may just be granted.  Steve's old Ford tractor and implements have been sitting out in the yard for years.  To me, it's become part of the landscape, but it is such a waste for it to just sit there and die a slow death.  Beau asked yesterday if we might make a trade, bartering any work needed (not counting the tree) for the tractor.  Hmmm, sounds like a deal to me.

The sky was clear last evening, and that's not all.  There was a letter in the box informing me that my mammogram was benign, clear of all cancer.

It was a good day.