Saturday, July 31, 2010


I am soooo happy and excited to see these green tomatoes.  This bush is one of my two Burbank slicer tomatoes.  I am also watching the purple tomatillos and cherry tomatoes blossom out nicely.  There are tiny cherry tomatoes starting, but it looks like something might be eating them because some of the little branches are empty.  I'll have to keep an eye on the garden and see if netting might be in order.  I'm so looking forward to these!

Let's Go Rodeo

One thing I like to do every year is to be sure to hit the rodeo at the Sonoma County Fair in the summertime.  Summer = Rodeo and has for many, many years.  My daughters and I used to hit almost every local rodeo in the area, sometimes with a posse of gay cowboys (a long story, and one of the best bunch of guys to hang out with. Ever.) or with my girlfriends.  There was the year that I worked security at the Russian River Rodeo - what a fun time that was.  Little did I know then, but one of my closest friends ever was working the same rodeo (before we met), though she was in the chutes with the stock, twistin' tails.  I lost touch with the Posse and many of my rodeo girlfriends moved away, so I drifted into our rodeo days being more limited.  We really make an effort to see it at the fair every summer, though, and I think we've only missed it once in the last 15 years.

This summer, money is tight.  I knew that we would make it to the fair, but didn't know about being able to hit the grandstand to watch the action in the dirt.  The law firm I work for has a tradition that we look forward to every year - they give each of us employees a ticket to the fair and an afternoon off work to enjoy it.  What a treat!  Becca's price of admission is low, so I knew that we would make it to at least wander around, see the sights, eat some junk food, and have a good time.

We listen to Froggy 92.9 country radio every morning, and Becca has become a real wiz at winning things.  She entered a drawing contest and won me a brand new refrigerator for Mother's Day.  Woo-hoo!  The same day we won the fridge, she won tickets to the races, too, but I had to have her decline them when I found out, 'cause there's a 30 day waiting period between winning prizes.  We've been trying to win tickets to see Miranda Lambert, who's playing at the fair on Monday, but haven't been successful.  Then the other night, because I'm a registered listener with the station, I received an e-mail telling me that if I reply with my phone number, I had a chance of winning tix to see Miranda, the Zac Brown Band, or rodeo.  You can bet I replied right away!!

The following day (Thursday), I was checking in with my co-worker, KP, when my cell phone went off.  I glanced at the number and muttered, "I don't know you," and declined the call.  As soon as I hit the button, I thought, "Oh, no!!"  I explained to KP that I had entered the contest and was suddenly afraid that that might have been the call telling me I won!  Shortly thereafter I checked voice mail, and sure enough - it was Dano telling me that I had won rodeo tickets!!  Yee Haw!  I was so thankful that I could call back, but it had to be quick, or he was going to go down his list.  I was able to reach him and make arrangements to pick up the tickets, which I did same day, on my lunch hour.  Two tickets to the rodeo, plus fair admission.  We were set.

Friday was killer at work.  Tons of work to push out before I could leave, and I didn't get out as early as planned.  Still, I was on the road, picked up Becca, and made it to the fairgrounds well before I would have normally gotten off of work.  The first thing, of course, is to get something to eat.  I'd forgotten breakfast until we were at the end of the driveway (about a mile from the house) and had skipped lunch.  Famished!  We went to Ibleto's stand, where we always get a plate of pasta with garlic bread to split, and sat down to have some food.  Then, it was off to the carny.  Becca's favorite part of the fair is rides.   There was a great deal going where for $20 you could get a wristband for unlimited rides.  Given that tickets are $1 each and the good rides are 5-6 tickets each, this was a considerable savings for a Ride Maniac.  I had told Bex before we went to the fair that I wouldn't be paying for rides.  Our budget for food and entertainment inside the fair was a strict $20 (I am amazed, but we stuck to it!).  She brought some of her allowance she's been saving for a game system, and purchased her own wristband.  We proceeded around the carnival, laughing and running from ride to ride.

I watched from the sidelines, taking pictures, people watching, smiling and waving at her while she had fun whizzing through the air.  There were a couple of rides at the fair with signs indicating that they had previously been located at Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch.  We enjoyed listening to the stream of MJ's music throughout the carny.  Whatever struggles he had in his personal life, he was a musical genius, and his music always makes me happy (much more so than Lady Gag-Gag, which was playing at one of the rides).

We went all the way around the carnival area, and Becca got on every ride she wanted to.  The lines were amazingly short, there was rarely much of a wait, if any.  Once we'd made the rounds, we headed over to get a funnel cake to share and big cup of lemonade.  We unfortunately got the food and drink before remembering that we couldn't go into the Hall of Flowers with them, so we missed that this year.  We walked through the Sustainable Sonoma area, looking at solar panels, rainwater collection info, and windmills.  Of course, there was a Zap car there, and this small solar powered vehicle that I'd never seen before.  Way cool.

The funnel cake was too hard to manage while walking, so we sat and listened to some music and people-watched for a bit while we finished it, then headed off to see the critters.  We both enjoyed seeing piglets, a couple of Nubian goat kids, and Border Collie puppies (I want one!), in addition to the draft horses, cows and other farm animals.  We also got to see a chick starting to break through its egg, on its way out into the world for the first time. 

We were coming up on time for the rodeo to start, so we headed back to allow Becca to go on rides a couple more times, then headed to the arena.  Our seats were really good, but man it was getting COLD!  We have had an unusually mild summer, and it is crazy how it feels like Fall at the end of July.  We sat in the grandstands for a while, and then decided there was no way we were going to make it through the rodeo without getting jackets and blankets from the car.  I hated missing the opening of the show, but we started walking out quickly to make it back as soon as we could.  On our way out of the grandstands, someone called out to me, and I was happy to see my old neighbor, Lisa C., who's the daughter of my previous landlord.  She'd lived next door to my place on the ranch for a long time, and I really like and miss the family.  Last time we were at the rodeo she was barrel racing, but I guess not this year.

We hustled hard to get to the car and back to the arena, bundled up and ready now.  Luckily, we hadn't missed too much, and we enjoyed the rest of the show.  It was nice to see the higher caliber contestants this year.  It had not been as good of a show the last time we came, because the economy was hitting people so hard that very few of the good cowboys were able to travel to as many rodeos.  Regardless of the lame joke made by the MC about the failure of the stimulus package, it was evident that things are better than they were a couple years ago.  We're not back on our feet yet, but we're starting to get up and find our way - though I have a feeling we'll need to be finding a new way.  Lacking this year was the big intermission show I'm used to, but the goat show with the rodeo clown was entertaining. 

After some really good bull riding, we headed out with the crowd as it spilled back into the fair.  We had our own critters at home waiting for us to tuck them in for the night, so we resisted the urge to hang out at the fair and let Becca ride the rides a little more.  I did say it was okay for her to go down the slide again on our way out.  When we got home, Salsa and her kids were hollering at us, but they're always the ones to greet us when we are coming home, or even just when we go outside.  After we tucked in the last goat, Becca and I did our "high five" routine at the barn door, and then she gave me a big hug and I hugged her back.  She said, "I love your hugs.  They are the best."  Aaaawwwww...  With the ups and downs we go through as she moves into her teenage years, these moments of reconnection and shared happy moments are priceless.  What a great day.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Captivating Cajeta

I usually make cajeta every other weekend, to keep us stocked for our weekday morning caramel mochas.  I forgot to make it last weekend, and we ran out this week.  Because this is a treat I really look forward to, I decided the other night to “whip some up” after work.

I was up until after 11:00 p.m.

It’s not like cajeta is complicated.  It’s really not.  However, cajeta does take some time, and after evening chores and milking, even starting cajeta at dinnertime means a late night.  When I make cajeta early on a Saturday morning, I don’t pay a lot of attention to time.  I know it takes a couple of hours, at least, but for me, apparently, it’s more like three.  I cook it a little slower than the recipe calls for, because I do not want to burn it.  There is nothing more heartbreaking than being soooo close to having golden cajeta ready to pour into a jar and then burning it.  Believe me, I know.  That’s what I did on my very first attempt.  Nowadays, as I am stirring this luscious concoction, I repeat in my head, “Low and slow.  Low and slow.”  This is what my friend Jeff E. commented to me on Facebook when I posted about my heartbreak.

By now you might be wondering, “What the heck is cajeta?”  Cajeta is a sweet, sticky Mexican caramel sauce with a hint of cinnamon traditionally made with goat’s milk.  It is Heaven in a Jar.  We like to add a spoonful to a steaming hot cafĂ© mocha, or drizzle it pour it over freshly homemade, hand cranked goat’s milk ice cream.  I am sure that there are many, many other uses for this deliciousness that we will work on discovering in the future.  Especially as apple harvest time comes close, I am imagining apple pie a la mode with vanilla ice cream and a touch of caramel.  I guess I better start thinking about eDiets again.

I discovered this recipe at a blog called Dishing It Out.  The author notes that cajeta can be purchased in some shops, and in Sonoma County it might be more available in the little Mexcian grocery stores.  Having made it, I can’t imagine settling for a store-bought version.  It is really worth the time!

You can make cajeta with any kind of milk, though I (of course) prefer goat’s milk.  You can find goat’s milk at Whole Foods and probably other local markets in Sonoma County.  I make my cajeta from raw milk, but pasteurized will do just as well.  Remember that whatever milk you use, it must be whole milk.

There is something magical about watching the transformation from milk and sugar with a touch of baking soda into this creamy, dreamy sauce.  I guarantee that you will lick the pot and spoon, so as not to let one tiny morsel go to waste.

The recipe from “Dishing It Out” is below.  Enjoy, and remember - “Slow and low!”

Cajeta, or goat’s milk caramel sauce
Adapted from Mexico, One Plate at a Time by Rick Bayless

Makes about 3 cups

Note: This recipe can easily be halved.

2 quarts goat’s milk or a combination of goat’s milk and cow’s milk, or all cow’s milk (use whole milk in all cases)
2 cups sugar
a 2-inch piece of cinnamon stick, preferably Mexican canela
1/2 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

In a medium-large pot (preferably a Dutch oven), combine the milk, sugar and cinnamon stick and set over medium heat. Stir regularly until the milk comes to a simmer and the sugar is dissolved. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the dissolved baking soda. It will foam up a bit. When the bubbles subside, return the pot to the heat.

Adjust the heat to maintain the mixture at a brisk simmer. Cook, stirring regularly (you don’t have to hover over the pot - give it a stir about once every two or three minutes), until the mixture turns pale golden, about an hour. Now, begin to stir frequently as the mixture turns caramel-brown and thickens to the consistency of maple syrup. The caramel will start to bubble, and the bubbles will become bigger and glassier. Sitr regularly so nothing sticks to the bottom. Test a couple of drops on a cold plate. When cool, the cajeta should be the consistency of a medium-thick caramel sauce. If the cooled cajeta is thicker, stir in a tablespoon of water and remove from the heat. If it’s too runny, keep cooking.

Pour the cajeta into a wide-mouth glass jar or bowl through a mesh strainer. Cool, cover and refrigerate.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Floating, Kicking, Swimming, Success

Becca had her last swimming lesson of the 8-class session tonight.  It is hard to describe the feeling of watching her and reflecting on the progress that she has made these last couple of weeks.

The sessions started out a little bit rocky and frustrating.  I am a careful parent when it comes to signing my child up for classes, lessons, camps, whatever.  As with any class that you might sign up for, there are prerequisites, skills that you should already have before beginning.  Becca met all the criteria perfectly for her Crocodile group.

“Child must be able to enter and go underwater easily, be able to understand the concept of kicking and scooping, attempt to kick and scoop, and jump to the instructor from the deck.  Basic swimming strokes will be taught.”

One of the other children in Becca’s class could not even put her face in the water easily.  I could tell there was no way she would jump to the instructor.  Becca knew the basic front and back float, and learned how to kick and crawl.  She practiced what she learned in our small pool at home that night, and the next day, her instructor was impressed with her progress and had her move to the next class up.  For this class, the criteria is:

“Child should be ready to move onto the larger pool and be able to enter the water feet first from the deck and swim front crawl for about half the distance of the pool (approximately 12 meters).  Stroke development and water safety skills are the focus of these classes.”

This was close.  She hadn’t been taught how to breathe while doing the crawl yet, but I knew that she would learn quickly.  However, it was apparent that the kids in this class weren’t ready for the basic prerequisites, either.  At the end of this session, they told her that they were going to move her up to the Dolphins because she was more advanced than her classmates in this new class.

We went home, and I reviewed the prerequisites for the Dolphins:

“Child must be able to swim the whole length of the pool (25 meters) from crawl and backstroke without assistance, complete half the length of the pool breaststroke, and must have passed the Marlin class.”

Well, no way in hell did she meet those requirements.  Before the next class, I chatted with her new instructor and explained that 1) she didn’t meet the prerequisites, 2) she had never had a lesson before starting this session, 3) she had learned the crawl two days prior, but not how to breathe, and 4) had never been in the deep end of the pool.  He looked a little surprised and said he would bear that all in mind.  She learned a little bit how to tread water, but looked scared doing it, and was struggling with the breaststroke.  While class was in session I reviewed our options, and discovered that for a little bit more money private lessons might be an option.  It wasn’t something I had considered when I signed her up, but this was like having made a down payment on private lessons and being able to pony up a small amount more to complete the fee.  After the classes, I asked if it would be possible to upgrade her to private lessons for the balance of the session.  Yes, that was possible, and her first instructor was available to teach her.  We were set, and on day 4, she started private lessons.

She took off.  Before I knew it, she was treading water, discovered she has a killer backstroke, learned how to breathe while doing the crawl, was diving for rings, jumping off the side of the pool, diving off the side of the pool, and swimming all the way across the pool.  She struggled with the breaststroke, but has learned enough to keep practicing.

She is so much more comfortable in the water, and she loves it.  I think she loves it that I have relaxed a little bit.  I went from eyes glued to her in the pool, to being able to read a sentence or two in my book, or sometimes a paragraph, before glancing up to see what she and Kelson were up to.

Tonight was the last class and they had a bit of fun at the end of class.  She got to go off the diving board.  The first was a cannonball, the second a jump in, feet first, and the third her very first attempt to dive head first from the board.  Her legs weren’t pretty, but she did it.  And what happened next is what will stick with me forever.

After coming up from her dive, she treaded water casually in the middle of the pool and chatted briefly with her instructor before swimming to the end of the pool and getting out.  The lesson was over.  What a memory.  When she came to get her towel, I told her about that moment.  I said, “Wow, that was so neat, Becca.  After you came up from that last dive, you just treaded water and chatted with Kelson like you’d been doing it forever, before you swam to the edge of the pool.”  She said, with genuine surprise, “I did?”  Then, “I guess I did.  I didn’t even notice.”  It is becoming second nature to her.  She didn’t have to think about what to do with her body to make it stay up in 13 feet of water.

At the end of the lesson, Kelson gave Becca an Otter Pop and her report card with a BlowPop tucked inside of it.  Kelson told me that he was going to give us a swimming pass so Becca could come to an open swim session to practice for free.  As we were walking to go get that, I thanked him, and said, “I want you to know how much this means to me, for her to be strong and competent in the water.  Twenty years ago yesterday, my brother drowned at age 26.  This means the world to me.”

Tim knew how to swim, having taken lessons as a child with the rest of us, but was never really comfortable in the water.  I know that there were other factors that day that contributed to his death - not the least the shock of cold water on a 100 degree plus day, all alone, and the fear that I am sure caused everything to fly out of his head he had ever known about swimming.  He didn’t have the confidence in the water that I want Becca to have, and that her big sisters have.  Becca looooves the water, and I want her to be safe and strong.  Thanks, Tim, for helping press me on to get this done.

I have a feeling I will be spending a lot more time pool side.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Sometimes, there's just nothing nice to say.

My mother taught me well.  "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

I am pretty sure that's verbatim.

I was not ready to give up my StayCation.  Next time, I think two months two weeks will work better.  I was just getting into the groove.  "You threw off my groove!"

Four more days.  Let's try to make the best of it.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The End of Stay-Cation

It’s a Sunday, so I suppose it’s not technically a vacation day, yet this is the last day of my “vacation” from my regular job. It’s bittersweet. There’s a part of me that looks forward to more routine in my day, but I am really going to miss this time with Becca.

We both slept in this morning, me until an ungodly 8:00 a.m. Salsa is giving so much milk now that I am going to have to go to the bigger bucket. She filled the 2 quart plus bucket this morning, and had plenty more to give. I decided to let her bucklings finish, rather than go inside and get another container. I never thought I would get so attached to goats, but I really enjoy my time with all of them.

Mom is worried still about rattlers, especially since she told me this week that a man was bitten and is in ICU at Kaiser Santa Rosa. I am super cautious when out and make sure there is nothing lurking that might surprise me - or me it. I realized that even when I’m doing morning chores by myself, there is an animal with me most of the time, and I pay attention to what they are doing and looking at. They are all so aware. While I get the grain and alfalfa set up and feed the chickens, our tomcat, Star, follows me every step of the way. He wraps himself around my ankles, and walks in front of me, stopping often so I have to step around or over him. I pay attention to what he’s looking at and where he is going.

After that, I have the goats with me, and boy are they in tune with what’s going on. They are all eyes and ears as they walk to their pens, snorting and stopping if something unusual is about. Usually it’s Star that has them fixated, though they are starting to finally get used to him.

We did things around the house and started laundry to prepare for the work week, until receiving the call from Jessica that they were on their way to the new house in Windsor with their first major load of furniture. Moving day! Even though we moved relatively quickly (for having a 12-year-old who has to “get ready”), they beat us to the house and had already unloaded the trucks and trailer and were waiting for pizza lunch. We shared lunch with the crew and then headed to Sebastopol for another load. Becca and I stopped for gas in Windsor before leaving town, and saw this beauty.

We helped pile more things into truck, trailer and cars. It seemed so strange to see the place so empty. Popeye, their dog, was wandering around, watching everyone, wondering what the heck is going on. Jessica had to catch their cat, Savage, to get her into the carrier for the move over, and she was on edge, as well.

We girls left before the guys and had the cars unloaded and were relaxing a bit when the guys arrived with the big stuff and animals. We got the critters settled and then started unloading. A little time situating things and visiting and relaxing, and then it was time to go. Jessica is highly organized, and knows that she wants things just so, so it didn’t make sense to help unpack boxes. I reluctantly let her take that on, though I think they were going to just get the bedroom and bath essentials unpacked, shower and hit the sack. There is still a little more to pick up from Sebastopol, and some clean-up and repair that we can help with next weekend.

We’ve done chores for the night and I was so excited to see that the chickens actually left these for me!

I have really been struggling to figure out why one of our hens decided to start eating the eggs.  Some days I can catch them before she gets to them, and others I can't.  There's nothing worse that opening the coop in the evening and finding empty shells.  And there's a special feeling of excitement when you open it and are able to reach in and grab two perfect eggs like this from your own chickens.  Roxie will be separated eventually from the others, if she continues this bad habit, but until I can set up another coop, we will do the best we can and try to figure out how to work through it.

Becca got some swimming in after we got home. She was cold, so she has hot chocolate while I write this, and I have a cup of tea. Speaking of cup - still no sign of my favorite coffee mug. I e-mailed the retreat center caretaker next door this morning, and he and his staff will keep an eye out for it. The majority of our driveway is along an easement over the retreat center’s property, and visitors and staff alike often hike in that area. I also let my landlords know, in case they come across it.

Time to fold laundry, hit the showers, and get some sleep before the new week. I’m sad to see stay-cation end, but am happy for the time that we had, and all that we accomplished.

Ups and Downs on Saturday

I let Becca sleep in too late today and lost track of time, so we missed out on the farmer’s market and the beach.  I was able to get some things done around the house, so all was not lost.  We also broke in the “new” hand crank ice cream machine.  OMG.  The. Best. Ice. Cream. Ever.

The electric has nothing on this baby.  Hand cranking actually took less time than the electric, delivered twice as much deliciousness, was firmer in texture, and was more fun to make.  Becca and I took turns, and cranked our way to a wonderful new tradition.  Can you tell she loves it?

We headed out to to meet up with Jessica and Cory at their house in Sebastopol that they are moving from.  As usual, I grabbed my favorite coffee cup, that goes everywhere with me.  It was a gift from my parents about 10 years ago, and is a large, squat commuter mug made of stainless steel with a lid.  It goes with me everywhere.  Becca has decorated it over the years with stickers and handmade friendship bracelets.  The handle is worn to my hand, and it traveled from California to Indiana once, and made three or four trips to Southern California with me.  I put it on top of the truck while I moved items between vehicles, and hopped in.  I reached for it as we started to come into the town of Sebastopol, and was surprised it wasn’t there.  Then remembered...  I reached out the window to see if it might, by some miracle, still be there, but the top of the truck was empty.  I cried, because it probably rolled down a hill at my house and is going to be lonely and unused except as a home for crickets or frogs.

We picked up sandwiches along the way for us all and visited with Jessica for a while until Cory came home from work.  Cory loaded up the freezer and a few items for their move into the back of the pickup, and we headed out to Windsor.  After unloading and resting for a little bit (Cory and Jessica are EXHAUSTED, having been working like crazy for months), we both took different routes to my house to see who got there sooner.  I had to stop for gas, but even so, Jessica said that we weren’t far behind them.  We all looked for my coffee cup on the way up, but it was nowhere to be seen.

We showed Cory and Jessica the new additions to the house, and then they unloaded the freezer, moved the old fridge back into its spot, and moved the new to another location in the house pending further relocation.  Now I need to clean out the old fridge and get the “real food” moved in there, reserving the new one for dairy, cheese, and ice making.

We did chores as it got dark, and another toad surprised me, this time by the water spigot near Salsa’s pen.  I imagine the blue eyes are from the flash ‘cause I’ve never heard of a frog with blue eyes before.

We finished off the leftover ice cream while playing cards and went to bed late.  We’ll be helping Corsica get things moved into their new house on Sunday.  Looking forward to it!

Friday, July 9, 2010

I Can't Believe It's Friday Already

Well, no big adventures today, just a small, wonderful, fun day with my girl.

For some reason, Becca got up before I did this morning, and apparently, before the alarm even went off. I snoozed it until it stopped, and she woke me about an hour after. After morning milking, she fell asleep on the couch.

Ivory, one of the bucklings, is cracking me up these days. Quite often, when I go to get the boys out of the barn in the morning, I have already milked Salsa, and that means that there has usually been milk accidentally squirted on the leg of my jeans. Ivory always sniffs that, and has started butting my rear-end, as if he thinks that just because it’s an ample, soft area, there’s gotta be milk in there. It’s become his routine now every time I put their leashes on, to nuzzle and bump my butt. I keep telling him, just because it’s BIG doesn’t mean there’s milk in it! This morning, when I leaned over to put Ebony's leash on, Ivory decided to try bumping my boob to see if there was anything there for him. Ahem. No.

There was a lot of activity on the ranch this morning. The landlords came down with the glass man to replace the two broken doors in the studio next door, and filled me in on the status of the hunters at that time. So far they had bagged two wild pigs and were cutting up trees that had fallen over the trails at the far end of the property. No coyote sightings, though I did hear the fox last night. THAT was an eerie call.

We went to the game store late in the morning, to see if they had a used DsiXL that Becca might be able to buy with her saved allowance. They did have one, but the price was ridiculous and over her reach. She was disappointed, but overall took it in stride and will keep saving. Then a quick trip to Home Depot to pick up some pipe for under the kitchen sink.

Pipe for under the kitchen sink, you might ask? Didn’t you just unclog said sink? Why do you need pipe? Apparently I was rather heavy-handed with the unclogging, and broke the pipe at the top where it meets the sink. I had to put a bucket under there to catch spillage until I got the new piece to replace it. One good thing about being a woman wandering around Home Depot looking lost? Men help you. Customers, even, when associates aren’t about, even if you don’t ask. Home Depot employees are also always happy to help hapless me with a little cutting job. I needed the plastic pipe cut to the same size as the old that I’d brought with me, and didn’t want to scrounge around at home looking for my hacksaw. “Happy to oblige, ma’am.” We got home, and it was a five-minute job to put that sucker on, and I did it right! Yay me! Watertight, baby.

I unpacked some boxes in the laundry room while Becca spent more time in the pool. After an early dinner, so that she didn’t eat just before her lesson tonight, we headed to town for her first private swimming lesson.

When Becca asked me last night how long the lesson would be, and I told her 25 minutes, she was unhappy that it was “so short.” I explained that she would be swimming that whole time, and it would be much different than the 10 minutes max she got to swim during the group lesson. After tonight, she really understood what I meant! That girl was POOPED. And beaming. Kelson is a great teacher for her, and she swam 3/4 of the way across the pool “to the deep end, Mommy!” At one point, I looked over and she was staring off in the distance while Kelson was next to her, and I wondered what they were doing, because there was no interaction. Then I noticed that she was treading water! She later told me she was focusing on something so she could concentrate, and he was timing her. He asked her to do it for 15 seconds, longer if she wanted to, and she did it for 25 seconds.

We headed down to Windsor to bring Jessica her cat carrier so they can move Savage when they move into their new house this weekend. It was great to see the place looking so spiffy, painted, carpet cleaned, and ready to move in. The new stove looks *awesome*. We helped them move some boxes from Cory’s car, made plans for tomorrow, and headed home.

I had hoped to break in the new ice cream maker tonight, but it’s too late, so we’ll have to see if we can get it started tomorrow afternoon. We plan to go to the farmer’s market in the morning, then check out Memorial Beach at the river, before heading up to Sebastopol to pick up the freezer and take boxes to Jessi and Cory’s place. A full day ahead!

Toad in the Hole

I almost forgot to mention the huge toad that popped up out of a hole while we were filling water buckets last night. It was sooo big that when it hopped out of the hole, we were tempted to back away!

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Today we decided to see a movie. Everyone has been talking about Toy Story 3. I don’t think we’ve ever seen any of the Toy Story movies in the theater, but this was one of a few that Becca and I could agree on. I’ve heard so many people say that they cried during this movie, and couldn’t figure out why. About halfway through, I was thinking to myself, “There’s no way I can cry at this movie.” I was wrong. I won’t give away any part of the movie, but if you’ve seen it, you know where the tears started to sting. I fought them back. And then, at *that* moment, I couldn’t hold them back anymore. I sat there trying to surreptitiously dry my tears so no one would notice, wondering why the heck I got all teary at that part. Harrumph. Maybe there’s a soft spot still in this guarded heart.

After the movie, we had a little bit of extra time before Becca’s swim lesson, so we drove North on Healdsburg Avenue to see what was down there. I found the back way to the dump. I haven’t found the Salvation Army store/compound yet, but think that it’s in that direction.

Before Becca’s lesson, I talked to the instructor and told him that she didn’t meet the criteria for the class he was teaching, and even though other instructors said that she could be in it, I wanted him to know exactly what her level was. She did fine for the class, but he started teaching the breast stroke during the second half, and I recognized that she didn’t have the foundation necessary to build on for this class. I looked at all the other classes in the pool and also recognized that she didn’t really fit into any of them, either. She is in between the levels that are being taught.

Looking at the schedule, I saw that private lessons were an option for a slightly higher fee. I’d already paid for the group lessons, and the difference in price wasn’t much at all after getting that out of the way. I asked after class if it would be possible to shift to private lessons for the remainder of the session, and it is. So starting tomorrow, Becca gets private lessons that will really help her. The lessons start a half hour later, but that actually will be easier for us to get to once I’m back to work next week. I am feeling much better about this, and I think Becca will enjoy the one-on-one attention, rather than having to wait her turn while 2-5 other kids are taking turns getting individual instruction.

We stopped by the grocery store for a couple things, then headed home. At the second and last gate on the property, we saw the vultures again. What actually caught my attention first, though, was the dark grey coyote trotting off and away from the sheep pasture. Then I spotted the vultures sitting on the posts at the gate, intently watching where the coyote had left.

My landlords have lost another sheep. This time, in broad daylight. They are planning now to move the last remaining sheep and the llama with her into the pen with their horses and goats. The fence around Salsa and her bucklings is tall and strong, and the locals say that the coyotes won’t mess with an electric fence, including my PermaNet fencing, so I hope that my goats will be okay once the sheep snacks are moved. Hunters are coming onto the property tomorrow, and may take care of part of the problem. The deer population is down this year, and the predators are simply looking for their food, but it is hard to lose livestock.

The source of the water leak on the property has been narrowed to between my landlords’ house and the tanks, so we hope they’ll be able to figure it out before too long.

Friday might be warm enough to go to the river with a picnic lunch. We will have to see how it goes. Saturday morning will be the farmer’s market, and late that afternoon and Sunday we’ll help Jessica and Cory move to their new house. I can’t believe the week is almost over.

Lazy Wednesday

We took it slow today and got a later start than expected, so didn’t get to do all that we wanted on our list.

The fly predators were put out, and hopefully this is the beginning of the end of the numerous flies that have showed up at IBTC Farm. Unfortunately, some were eaten by the birds, but hopefully enough are left to hatch so they can do their work.

Foggy the Rooster seems to have suffered no serious injury after his mishap with the feeder. I have left it on the ground and am keeping an eye out for something to hang it with that won’t cause problems in the future. Maybe an old wire hanger could be bent to hang it up safely and easily. The eggs are still being eaten, though I am out there often to check for them, they are apparently eating them quickly. I ran out of the good food that seemed to help stop the problem, so will pick some more of that up and work on getting them real nesting boxes. I am determined to find a way to stop this without losing Roxie. I am pretty sure she is the only culprit, but she lays my favorite eggs. I just need to figure out how to keep them. (And I refuse to clip her beak, as some online sources have suggested.)

After a trip to the feed store to pick up some grain (I forgot to bring the truck, so we’ll be picking up alfalfa today), we headed back to Healdsburg. Unfortunately, because we left so late, we weren’t able to go to a couple places I’d hoped to see. We settled for a trip to Garrett’s ACE Hardware. I know, a hardware store? But this hardware store advertises that they have rare hens for sale, and I wanted to see a place that would have things like that. The store is in an area of Healdsburg we haven’t explored yet, and we were happy to see a Round Table Pizza across the street. Mental note for future reference. The store is homey and feels like the small town gathering place that it is. They have a beautiful garden area with fountains and benches, gazebos and arches, it was a delight to wander through and get ideas. There weren’t many chickens available, but we were happy to look at the doves, (including some babies), parakeets, cockatiels, and a few interesting looking chickens. We spied another building with a sign over the door that read Country Store, that looked intriguing. Housewares! A wonderful shop filled with kitchen and household items, shelves, soaps, every gadget you can think of, and so fun to wander around. I have often wanted a bagel cutter, because those things are so hard to cut straight and I always worry about cutting myself, and found one there. Becca used it last night and hugged it, saying, “MY bagel cutter! I love it!”

After we reluctantly left the store, we headed down to pick up some ... bagels, of course, then on to Becca’s swimming lessons. She is picking things up so quickly that they moved her to another class last night, and at the end of the lesson, introduced her to her new teacher for Thursday, who teaches a class three levels up from where I enrolled her. According to the class description, this is far too advanced for her, so I’ll have a chat with the instructor before class starts to make sure he understands that she’s a fast study, but really, she only learned how to do the crawl on Tuesday!

I barbecued pineapple sausages for dinner (yum!!) while Becca got into the pool to practice more, and we had the sausages with Cesar salad before watching So You Think You Can Dance and our hometown fella, Guy Fieri, on Minute to Win It. Becca stayed in the pool too long and was shivering and really cold the rest of the evening. It took a while to get her feet warmed up. I’d say that I need to keep an eye on the temperature and make sure she’s out before that happens again, but as miserable as she was, I don’t think Becca will push the temperature again like that.

Looking forward to what Thursday has in store!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Farm and Field

This afternoon we packed a picnic lunch and headed to Dragonfly Farm, about 5 miles up our “street,” to check it out. The signs at the road say that they have fresh cut flowers, a farm stand, and picnic area. The place is lovely and rustic.

We wander toward the sign that invites us in, and tells us that dogs must be on leash, and a long-necked duck waddles across our path. There are dozens of them. I spot a chicken run and have to check it out.

Lots of Rhode Island Reds, White Leghorns, and Plymouth Rock chickens, and one beautiful golden chicken on which each of its feathers is outlined in brown. I must find out what type of chicken this is!

We wander around more, admiring the acres of roses...

... and spy a gift shop. I vaguely notice the sign showing their hours of operation as we open the door. A kind-faced woman asks if she can help us, and I explain that we are exploring Healdsburg. She says that they are closed today, but we are welcome to look around. After apologies, I explain that we brought lunch with us, and ask if it would be okay to eat at one of the picnic tables outside. She says we are welcome to. We find a table and open up our small lunch, enjoying it, laughing and taking pictures, while looking at the surrounding rose gardens.

It’s a lovely place, and we plan to come back when they’re open to explore it some more.

Next stop, the high school football field, to try out the boomerang. We’d looked online the night before to see how to throw it, and have a pretty good idea of what to do. Becca threw first, and it just plopped into the grass. My first try had it making a turn and starting to come back. We were excited! We played with it, finding the wind, getting all excited as it started to make that turn, but being disappointed that it didn’t really come back to us, determined to keep trying. There was a man on the other side of the field driving golf balls, and he asked if we had ever thrown a boomerang before. We explained we hadn’t, and were operating off of online instructions. He looked at our little wooden boomerang and showed us how it was made, where the wood was cut away to give it the lift and turn, and gave us some really helpful tips on throwing it. Our last few throws were really good, still not what we wanted, but much closer. We had so much fun, lots of laughter and good times.

It was time to get to the pool, next to the school, for Becca’s first swimming lesson. She was nervous about being stuck in a group of much younger children, since she hasn’t had swim lessons yet and she’s 12. There were three kids in her group, and she was the oldest, but it wasn’t too bad. I could see the confidence in her build, and she paid attention and then practiced kicking and floating in our pool at home - even though it was really cold!! Eight more classes, and I’m hoping for more confidence for *both* of us when she’s in the water. She’s a fast study.

We couldn’t resist going back to El Sombrero for dinner before going home. There was a concert in the park, so finding a parking spot was a challenge, but we worked it out. I wish I’d gotten the burrito again, as the nachos were a disappointment. Still, good times with Bex, watching the people in the store, from the girl knitting at the table with her big sister, to the high school students walking in and then out, to the group of 8 French tourists chatting away and looking at their iPhones.

When we went to the chicken coop to feed and tuck in the chickens, I was horrified to see Foghorn Leghorn, our rooster, lying in an awkward position at the end of the coop. Upon closer observation we could see that one of his talons had gotten snagged in the baling twine I used to hang the feeder so they wouldn’t kick dirt and shavings into their food. We quickly untied the twine and Becca held the top open while I reached in to see how it was caught on his foot. He is normally a feisty little bird, but he must have known I was there to help him, and he was really calm, allowing me to take his foot in my hand and ease the twine off of his claw. He walked away slowly with a limp. Poor thing, I am sure that he is sore and his foot was probably going to sleep. I hope that he hadn’t been stuck like that for long, and that he feels better by morning. He’s a good boy, and I love listening to him crow.

Bex went into the pool, of course, for as long as she could. We played cards and watched Hells’ Kitchen (I know, but at least they bleep the words) before hitting the sack. I am really enjoying this time with Bex. There are a few options to discuss with Becca about where we go on Wednesday. Looking forward to it!!

P.S. Foggy the Rooster is fine this morning!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


I have a WHOLE WEEK off work and so far it has been just what I needed. We are doing a “stay-cation” this year, not going anywhere, but relaxing at home. We are going to try to see one local sight or do one local event each day, and get to know our hometown and Sonoma County a little better.

Saturday was spent mostly taking the car down to the mechanic. Mom and Dad came up so they could follow me down in case something went awry. Then to In-n-Out for drive-through lunch, and fight the traffic home. I needed to get some feed for the animals that wouldn’t fit in my parents’ van, so we went home long enough to get the truck and go down to the feed store. Bex and I picked up some human groceries while we were there, too. Becca spent most of the rest of the day when we were home in the new pool, while I worked on finishing my sprinkler project.

Later that evening, while settling in for some guacamole and chips while watching a television program, Becca suddenly paused the TV and said, “Did you hear that?” I heard a thump, and said that it was probably the goats messing around in the barn. She said no, that it was coming from a different direction. I listened again, and it was rhythmic - thump ... thump ... thump. I said I thought it was probably gunshots, but wondered why they would be practicing at night. Suddenly, she shouted, “Fireworks!” and we went running outside. Sure enough, the town of Windsor had started their fireworks show, and we had a PERFECT view between the hills right in front of the house. I grabbed a couple of chairs so we could sit together in the dark and watch.

Sunday - 4th of July!

I think Becca spent most of the day in the pool while I did things around the house and reviewed records while sitting on the deck keeping an eye on her. We decided to check out the fireworks show in our new hometown, and left in plenty of time so we could be an hour to 1 ½ hours early and get a good spot to sit. By the time we turned the corner toward Healdsburg High School, I could see the streets were already packed with parked cars and people were walking toward the school with blankets and chairs. We found a good spot to park about 2 ½ blocks from the school, and trekked over. Before we got to the field, we spotted a good area in a no parking zone next to the field where a few people had set up, and decided it looked good. The wind picked up and it was getting chilly fast. After such a hot afternoon, Becca was dressed in a tank top, light cotton shirt, skirt and flip-flops. My t-shirt, jeans and flip-flops weren’t much better, and I was really grateful that she’d brought her blanket. We snuggled up together and waited, listening to the conversations around us, exclaiming with the rest of our neighbors about the illegal fireworks going off, and enjoying what seemed to be a countdown of one firework being shot off at about 5 minute intervals starting about 15 minutes prior to showtime. It was a fabulous show, and just as I thought they had finished the finale, a guy next to us said, “It’s not over yet,” and I was amazed when it continued. The wind was picking up some of the flaming bits and bringing them a little too close to us, so Becca started to get nervous. When the finale came, it was fantastic - the best ending to the best fireworks show I’d ever seen, but tiny bits of debris hit my face and Becca’s foot, so we pulled the blanket up under our eyes and watched carefully until the show was over.

Everyone was happy and cordial as they left. We had the perfect parking spot and a clean shot out of the area and on home. A quick round of chores to get the animals all tucked in for the night, and we settled in to get some sleep. A day of walking, work, swimming, fresh air, and fun had really tuckered us out.

Monday the 5th - a holiday! First, I got a great call from my mechanic, who told me that there is nothing wrong with my car. It was probably the battery all along, which I ended up replacing last week (under warranty, thank-yew-very-much). I made arrangements for my folks to pick us up and take us down to RP to get the car. Drove home as thrilled by driving that 200,000+ mile car as if it were brand new - so nice to be in it again instead of the truck. We found a parking spot near the middle of town and started on our walk around downtown Healdsburg.

What a fun place to WINDOW shop. Most places, Becca spent her time with her jaw on the ground at the prices. We did pick up some goodies from Powell’s candy shop and some on sale paperbacks from Copperfield’s Books, plus get some great ideas for future gift-giving. Before we left downtown, we stopped into one of those fabulous little hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurants, this one called El Sombrero, for a couple of burritos.

I relented and allowed us to have one soda each. While we were sitting at the table, I picked up one of the glass bottles, curious to see if the recipe for Coca-Cola made in Mexico is any different, and was pleasantly surprised to see there is NO HFCS in these! Just pure cane sugar! Viva Mexico! Now we know where to get sodas when we really want to have that treat.

One more stop before heading home - the antique store! We have an electric ice cream maker that uses a canister that is put into the freezer, but I have had a hankering for a long time for a hand crank maker. For one, the old ones are much bigger, and I remember the ice cream freezing better. Secondly, I am always on the lookout now for tools and items that do not require electricity. We were wandering around the store, exclaiming and showing each other things, then I heard Becca say, “I think I found your ice cream maker, Mom.” We were about 2/3 through the store, and I thought that we weren’t going to find one. Sure enough, there it was, buried under some card games and odds and ends. Not only hand crank, but it has the original booklet with it, and a WOODEN barrel! Way cool! For less than $25 we walked out not only with the ice cream maker, but a way cool wooden boomerang. We hope to find a good park this week to try it out.

The “Service Engine Soon” light went on in the Taurus when we got into the driveway at home, so I’ll have to bring it back to Vinnie the Excellent Mechanic again for him to take another look.

July 6th, and I woke up late. I hit the snooze button until the alarm stopped, and then woke up when the phone rang. I’d slipped in a spill at the local grocery store the day before and slightly wrenched my back. I stayed to guard the spill so no one would get hurt, and the manager happened to be there when Bex reported it for me. He came over and took my information, and said he’d call the next day to see how I’m doing. I told him I’d be fine, and I am. It’s nice the he is following up, though I’m sure it’s damage control on his part. I still find it hard to believe that someone would sue a store for something that wasn’t their fault. These folks were *all over* that spill as soon as they knew about it. What’s disappointing to me is that the person that caused it didn’t report it. Instead, they walked all over the store, dripping down the aisles.

Salsa escaped from the barn this morning. This is my “flying goat,” because when she was young she discovered that she could jump the 4 foot fence, and that it was fun. She would jump out, and then go to the back door calling for us, as if to say, “Hey! Look what I did! Isn’t that cool?” A couple more feet of fencing around the top stopped her from escaping, but not from trying, and for a few weeks more she would run and jump and *almost* get over. I knew when we got this barn that the handle would be something she’d figure out quickly. We have a bar that goes over the door (“Katie, bar the door!” is what I often think when putting it on) to prevent her from jumping on the handle and turning it. Since she’s had her kids, Salsa hasn’t willingly left them, so in the mornings I haven’t secured the door completely when taking the other goats out and milking Imbri. I was putting Imbri in the pen after milking this morning, when I heard Salsa’s bucklings calling out like they do when I take her out of the barn. I wondered ... and sure enough, as I walked toward the house, Salsa was jumping onto the milk stand. Good girl! Because she walks so easily to her pen after milking, I didn’t bother to go get the leash from the barn, just put her food in the bucket and started milking. Now I know that I need to secure the door when she’s in there again.

That’s it for now. I’ll update the blog as we continue our vacation adventure week!