Thursday, August 31, 2017

Let The Games Begin

It's all about winning.  I may have mentioned my family is competitive.  It's in our DNA, passed down through my parents' genes, more from my mother, but my dad had his moments, too.  It could have been something as simple as finding a new word and challenging the other to spell it.  Mother beat Daddy with asaphoetida, and never let him forget it.  Most of their friends were poker players, while the aunts and uncles on my dad's side played dominoes; in particular, a game called Forty-Two.  Through the magic of the internet, I just found out that the game originated in Texas (Daddy's birthplace), and how to play.  I may have to look into that.  In the evenings at home, we played a lot of board games, Parcheesi being the favorite.  One time my mother and I were playing Tiddlywinks.  It wasn't going well for her and she kept losing.  I was just a little girl, but she wouldn't let me go to bed until she won a game and that wasn't until well after midnight!  We also played a lot of jacks.

Mother played a lot of fast and furious double-solitaire, probably the first card game I learned.  There was no quarter given.  My sister was pretty good at it, too.  Pat had seven children, and as they got old enough, Mother would teach them the game and play with them until they got good enough to beat her, then she'd take on the next oldest.  With Mother, it was always about winning.

My Kids could never avoid competition.  Their dad was an inveterate card player; poker, of course, but also pinochle.  My mother and his didn't speak for years until we invited them both to our house to play pinochle, and they overcame their differences for a monthly game.

This may explain why, when the Kids get together, the cards and chips come out and the table is cleared.  Let the games begin!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Bad To Worse

"Too Darn Hot" (Cole Porter song written for "Kiss Me, Kate") was the theme of the day.  I hadn't planned on doing much anyhow, but yesterday was the hottest yet and baked out any ambition I might have had.  My heart went out to my daughter who messaged me in the morning, saying that the air conditioner had quit in her office building and the windows could not be opened.  Aaargh!  About the time I thought it couldn't get any worse here (105 outside, 95 in), a high cloud cover put a lid on the sky, trapping the heat.  Then, oh no!, there were smatterings of rain to add humidity to the mix.  To get some relief, I soaked Bess and and then stood under the mist myself.  I was dry by the time I'd walked back into the house.  They're predicting another full week of these conditions.  That sends me right past sigh to sob.

Life goes on.  Cam has no ground squirrels down at her place, but she knows what a problem they are for me.  I'd been putting used cat litter down their holes, but she told me a friend of hers had good success with used coffee grounds.  It was worth a try so I put some into a couple of the burrows going under the porch and amazingly, it works.  I don't delude myself into thinking the little boogers have left.  They'll pop up somewhere else, but maybe it will keep the house from sinking like the Titanic someday.

I hated to do it, bringing the guys out in this heat, but I had to order another ten bales of alfalfa for the girls.  I make sure to take cold water to whomever is bucking the alfalfa to keep them hydrated.  It's hard work in any weather.

It doesn't cool off at night.  I don't even have a blanket on the bed, and a sheet is too much cover.  Thankfully, my bed mates feel the same way and don't snuggle up and we're all grateful for the ceiling fan that at least moves the air around.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Cold Soup

Holy Toledo, it was hot again.  I turned on the sprinkler in the herb garden in the morning, hoping to keep the struggling plants alive.  Little birds splashed in the birdbath and turkeys paraded slowly through the spray, trying to look like they weren't enjoying themselves.  I invented reasons why I needed to go outside just to get a sprinkle, too.

Pete and Jake were coming up and I made the supreme sacrifice and dusted, then faced my dilemma.  What in the world was I going to feed the guys?  Something healthy and not take a long time in the kitchen.  Something I could make with what I had on hand.  Hmmm.  Aha!  White gazpacho!  I had one cucumber and fortunately Cam filled in with the others on the condition I'd save her a bowl.  The soup was fully chilled by the time the boys arrived.  I was afraid that Jake would give me the same look Pete had the first time I offered cold soup, but he was up for it and, really, anything cold was welcome yesterday.

After lunch, Pete asked me to walk Jake though my spice cupboards.  My sister-in-law had done me the same favor when I was a new, young bride and couldn't boil water.  She explained flavors and what went with what for spices and herbs I'd never heard of.  Jake is just learning how to cook and was a willing student.  His eyes opened slightly when I showed him the first door, racks packed with bottles and jars.  Ha!  Those were just for cooking.  Then we went over to the door with baking spices, cinnamon, cardamom, and the like.  Some are interchangeable, of course.

We went into the living room to talk and the fellows stayed hydrated with water chilled with whole, frozen strawberries instead of ice cubes.  The afternoon passed too quickly, and I know Pete feels the same about the few days he has with Jake before his son goes overseas.  I'm so happy he was willing to share an afternoon with me.

Cam came up after the guys left to claim her fee for the loan of the cucumbers.  I'd made this batch with Greek yogurt instead of the sour cream I'd used in the past.  We couldn't tell much difference.

It was a good day.

Monday, August 28, 2017


Heat rolled in waves off the barn and the latches were hot enough to sear skin.  The gate to the playpen and the back stalls is chain link.  I don't understand why, when the goats rub against it as they do, they don't come away with diamond-shaped brands on their shoulders.  There wasn't a puff of air, and we didn't spend any more time in the room than necessary.  Thank goodness the truck had A/C for the drive to Pete's.

Caught up in the moment, I usually forget to get a photo, but remembered this time.  Pete and Jake are in front, and Craig, Deb, and Dave are standing.  A motley crew, but mine own.

Jake was a shy young boy, and he has matured into a confident young man.  Changes are very apparent to me as I see him so seldom.  Even so, it's hard to think of him going so very far away, and I'm sure it is the same for his father.  I believe Jake is more excited about the next stage of his adventure.  His uncle Dave and his dad had been in the Navy and there was some good-natured ribbing about "squids" and "fly-boys."

Pete served probably the best gumbo I've ever eaten, loaded with andouille sausage and packed with flavor.  My opinion was shared because there was little to no chatter as we scraped our bowls, silence being the best compliment any cook can receive.

All too soon it was time to head home.  The celebration isn't over for me, however, as Pete and Jake are coming up today.  Woohoo!  I'm sorry to have to invite them in to the oven (Pete's house has air conditioning).  I wonder if they're too old to play in the sprinkler.

As the blazing sun shows, the day ended as it had

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Water, Water

"Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink."  (The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner,  Samuel Taylor Coleridge.)

We're in another extended heat wave and I spend a lot of time watering:  the animals, the herb garden, and the deck and houseplants.  The plants are doing a lot of calisthenics as they droop and stand.  Timing is important as watering in the middle of the day outside would (1) boil the plants and (2) standing out in the sun would fry me.  The house is stifling and only the spray bottle by my chair keeps me going.  As often as possible, I take Bessie out and soak her to the skin.  Other areas in the country are flooding.  There is such a thing as too much water, but here I worry about running the well dry.  Water gives life, but it also takes it; the wild-thing pot claimed two more rats yesterday.

Animals will tell you their name.  I was wrong when I called one of the baby squirrels Ronnie yesterday.  His name, he said, is Raymond.  I stand corrected.  This place is almost deserted during peak heat.  All the squirrels go deep in their bunkers, only coming out after the sun begins to drop.

My grandson Jake has finished his basic and specialty training in the Air Force and will be deployed to Saudi Arabia.  He's coming in today to spend a few days with Pete before leaving, and the family is gathering this afternoon to say hi and goodbye, a bittersweet reunion.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Seeing Red

"Someone's been swimming in my pool and here he is."  I interrupted this little frog's bath in the water pot yesterday because it was half empty and needed filling.  Turned out he wasn't swimming alone, but the small rat at the bottom wasn't swimming anymore.  I don't like to find dead things, but can't say I'm sorry the rat population is down by one.

Rain or shine, hell or high water, it was salsa day.  All those beautiful tomatoes couldn't go to waste.  I started dicing.  And dicing.  And dicing.  The biggest ones, over a pound each, took forever and I was good for maybe four before I had to sit down.  It's a good thing I grew up with radio because I could listen to a TV program and not have to see it.  After several hours of seeing red, I took a nap.  A couple more hours of trimming, coring, and cutting and I was little more than halfway done.  I called Camille, "If I never see another tomato, it will be too soon!"

A short while later she was dusting cobwebs from under her patio cover and hit a wasp nest.  A quick getaway was in order so she brought a knife and came to help.  Finally the deed was done and the last tiny red cube went into the bowl(my two biggest mixing bowls were brimming).  The kitchen is the hottest room in the house and we were more than ready to go out on the deck and try to catch a breeze.

Stump is either a she or a single father, as there were little twins, Rhonda and Ronnie, lying in the shade by her side.  Stump went up under the oak to get a snack and Rhonda and Ronnie started playing tag and boxing and having a high old time.  Stump is a pretty strict parent because all that roughhousing came to a halt when she (I'm opting for female) came back.  Who needs TV.

Back to the kitchen again for more dicing.  Cucumbers, jalapenos, onion and garlic were added to one of the bowls for pico de gallo, and that was divided in two; one without cilantro for Cam and one with.  The other bowl of plain tomatoes was bagged up for future use and put in the freezer.

I'm definitely glad not to see red today.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Not Enough

It's not enough that this place is pockmarked and booby-trapped by squirrel burrows, there are more than a few ant holes (not hills).  This one is in the driveway and is at least four inches across.  I know nothing about the lives of ants, but I find it interesting that this particular hole shows up in the same spot every year.  Does the colony hibernate when the rains of winter fill in the hole with loose dirt and then re-emerge in spring?  How long does an ant live, anyhow?  Fortunately for these guys, they are not red ants whose bite burns like fire; those get boiling water poured into their hole.

I'm still plagued by tiny black ants in the kitchen, although not as many as before.  At least they've stopped going after the cat and dog food and they no longer travel in a long black train, but I've had enough of them.

There was enough gas in the tank to get to town (yes, again) and back yesterday, but that would have left less than a quarter full.  Never knowing when an emergency arise, it's so important to keep enough gas in the truck, so my first stop was in Mt. Aukum; in the opposite direction from P'ville, of course.  Of little interest, I did hose off the truck before leaving.

Ralph must feel he can't do enough to please Celeste, especially in the litter box.  She doesn't like the way he covers his scat and will do it "right," to the point where he may still be doing his business and she'll reach under and start the job.  Some days he just can't win.

That tray of tomatoes still sits on the counter.  The last couple of days there just hasn't been enough time to start and finish the salsa.  Camille and I evidently have different visions of salsa, in that she asked me if I had enough canning jars.  I make more of a pico de gallo, which can be bagged and frozen.  I haven't canned in years; it's too much work.  Regardless, today's the day.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Another Day

Stump changed his routine yesterday.  I was surprised to see him at his lookout station on the ground in the morning (his timing was off) and tried to get a photo, but wasn't successful.  Given the distance and the fact that his coloring blended perfectly with the dirt and weeds, even I couldn't find him in the picture.  In the afternoon, his usual shift, he had moved up to sit on a t-post.  I can't imagine that is a very comfortable seat, but there he was, intently watching for who knows what.

Paying bills is an onerous task at best, and yesterday turned into a nightmare with computer and website glitches left and right.  It took several hour-long phone calls to resolve the problems (none of which, by the way, were my computer's doing).  Aarrgh!  I'd just finished when Cam called and said she was dropping by and I was ever so happy to turn off the danged machine and go sit on the deck and chill out.  That was the only chill of the day, as we're back up in the 90s and predicted to go up from there.

It might be cheating, because these two sunset photos are from the night before.  This was taken on the way down to the barn.

The girls are always ready to go to bed, so tucking them in is just a matter of opening their stalls, putting a little snack in their bowls, and shutting the gates.  It doesn't take five minutes.

In that short time, the sky had changed this much.  I took this one on the way back to the house.

All in all, it was just another day.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


This is my view in the mornings as I walk down to the barn these days.  There had been more vultures in the tree, but some had flown at my approach.  I have to admit, a gathering of these funereal birds in a dead tree looks like something out of an Edgar Allen Poe story.

I'm used to the irritating yip from Shaddup, but this was something different and even closer and much louder.  It went on and on until finally I went to look.  A squirrel was in the wagon on the front porch just yelling cuss words at nothing I could see.  It saw me, but didn't stop and didn't run.  What the heck?  Worried that there might be a snake in the wood pile, I opened the screen door.  Squirrel didn't leave, but jumped onto a log, looked at me, ripped off a piece of bark, and kept cussing with its mouth full.  "Go home!"  It finally zipped around the corner and down into its burrow under the house.  I'd had it with these noisy neighbors.  I went in, got the cats' litter box and dumped it into the hole; the ultimate revenge.

Cam stopped by in early afternoon with this bounty of tomatoes from Beau's garden.  I said I saw marinara sauce in our future and Cam said she'd hoped for salsa.  Okay, I can do salsa.  I know what I'll be doing today.

Later, Arden came for a visit.  We've been trying to get together for weeks.  Sitting out on the deck, I pointed out the squirrel who is on duty every afternoon in the same spot down toward the woods.  This one doesn't say anything.  It stands upright and, like the guards at Buckingham Palace, doesn't move.  It's been there nearly every day for maybe a month or more.  Its shift is over toward sundown and it goes home.  Since it could be mistaken for a small tree branch, its name is Stump.

There was a changing of the guard in the house as Arden left and soon thereafter Camille, through with her chores for the day, came back.  She'd hoped to catch Arden here for a chat.

Feathered, furred, and friends, it was my day for guests.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

What Is That?

Nature pulled a couple of neat tricks out of her bag yesterday, starting with the eclipse.  Without the necessary special glasses, I stayed in the house and watched it grow dark outside.  It wasn't hard to imagine how the ancients must have been in fear and awe during such an event.  What I appreciated was the drop in temperature for that short while.

 Bobby helped himself to a late morning snack.

Cam and Honey came in the afternoon and we took our plates of gyoza and sauce out on the deck.  The day had stayed fairly temperate and there was a nice breeze blowing.  Sadly, we were both disappointed in the purchased chicken dumplings.  Homemade pork ones are ever so much better.  We ended up eating the wrappers and feeding the chicken to the dogs, who said it was okay, but nothing to write home about.

As we sat and chatted, and Camille was telling me how she had gone first to a local observatory and then to watch the eclipse with a group at Poor Red's, she suddenly said, "What is that sound?"  We'd been hearing thunder, but at some distance over the hills to the east.  What she'd heard was, get ready for it...rain drops pattering on the deck!  Woohoo!!  It didn't rain hard and was pretty hit and miss, but it was so very welcome.  (Remind me of this later when I'm whining about sloshing through puddles and slipping in mud.)  On a quick trip to get more goat chow earlier, I'd noticed that my truck was so dusty and dirty that it was getting hard to see out of the windshield.  It rained just enough to make a pretty pattern of polka-dots in the dust.  Note to self:  wash the truck.

It was a pretty eventful day.

Monday, August 21, 2017

A Good Word

It's time I had a good word about something and Tessie is the pick of the day.  Tess is the most well-behaved girl in the diminished herd, especially now that I bring her to the stand from her stall so she can't go walkabout in the pen (who trains whom around here?).  She seems so aware of her one horn and that amazes me since she's never seen a mirror.  Tess will head butt with the others at times, but always turns away enough not to skewer her mates.  When on the stand, her sense of proprioception allows her to put her head between the stanchions and under the crossbar and never touch either with her unicorn.  While she's been known to tip her cereal bowl on the ground occasionally (I think she was bribed by Percy), she's usually a neat-and-tidy eater, cleaning up every last dropped bit on the stand before leaving the room (while I wait).  Tessie doesn't stamp her feet while I'm milking.  To my recollection, she's only put a foot in the bucket twice in all these years, something I certainly can't say about Sheila.

If there were anything to complain about, it would be the orifices in her teats, and that is not her fault.  I know from the very first squeeze if it is going to be a good day or not.  Some days there is a fairly good stream, on others it is just a pitiful phffft.  Those are the days when I really have to work at my job.  It can add as much as a hundred or more squeezes to the usual three hundred to get the same amount of milk.  In comparison, Sheila takes about a hundred-fifty, maybe two hundred, and the amount is the same.  However long it takes, Tessie stands quietly until I'm finished.  She's not particularly needy or affectionate, doesn't want a butt rub and doesn't need to walk beside or push on me.  She's her own girl.

A little too warm for my liking, otherwise it was a good day.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Not Seen, Not Gone

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Going On

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 18, 2017


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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Mea Culpa

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

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

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

It was not a good day.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

One Day And Holding

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

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

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

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

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

It was a good day.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Day Off

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

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

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

It was a good day.

Monday, August 14, 2017


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

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

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

It was a good day.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Hard To Beat

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

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

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

As days go, yesterday was hard to beat.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Close Encounters

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 11, 2017

Oh Dear

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

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

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

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Heh Heh Heh!

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

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

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

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

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

It was a sad ending to a good day.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Lightening The Load

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

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

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

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

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

And so ended a rather eventful day.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

In The Beginning

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

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

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

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

It was a good day.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Heigh Ho!

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Break Dance

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 5, 2017

I Can't Win

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 4, 2017


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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Well Done

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Road Trip

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Who Are You?

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

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

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

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