Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Stinky Brothers Are on the Road

I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own two eyes - and participated in the transfer, as well.  Ebony and Ivory are on their way to their new home.  In the back of a Ford Explorer.  Seriously! 

It was pouring rain when the mom and sister of their new owner (she had to work this weekend) arrived after a two-hour drive to pick up the bucklings.  They oohed and aahed over how cute they are, and what beautiful bucks they are going to grow into.  We went into the house to get out of the downpour and go over the paperwork together.  Paper and green bills exchanged hands.  I really didn't expect to be able to sell these guys, and even though there was quite a wait for it and I got 25% of what I'd hoped for, I am quite pleased.  Our first goat babies are going to a fabulous home with people who are going to care for and love them and know exactly how to make them happy and productive bucks.

On this rainy Saturday, with the smell of freshly baking focaccia in the air and my clothes and hair still drying after getting drenched outside, I am remembering that fresh April evening when I got the call that Salsa had delivered her first kid on April Fool's Day.  By the time we got home, there were two little fuzzballs, wobbling around and trying to leap.

They are always playful and friendly, eager to explore and get lots of lovin'.

Then there was that fateful day when I knew that they were going into rut and we had to separate them from their mama.  Despite that ever growing smell, they never lost their cuteness or affectionate personalities.  Much as I hated them rubbing their heads all over my legs, it was part of who they are.

So today, they are on their way to their new home in Arbuckle, a good 2+ hour drive from here.  It wasn't a 4Runner that showed up to pick them up, but a Ford Explorer, even smaller.  Good thing is, from talking with them it was apparent these folks have done this before, and knew exactly what they were doing.  The back was completely encased in a tarp, so any errant spray wasn't going to get in the wrong places.  The boys were reluctant to get in, but once inside, settled in nicely.  I'm sure they were confused about what was going on - they've only been off the property in a vehicle twice.

I wish I could have gotten pictures, but in the pouring rain that just wasn't going to be possible.  I am happy for the reduced feed expense and half hour plus of time regained each day, but am going to miss the Stinky Brothers.

Bye-bye, boys.  We'll miss you.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Finding a Home for the Bucklings

I revamped and updated my craigslist posting for the bucklings.  I added the words "can be registered" and actually used the word "goat" (duh) in the title.  I promptly got two responses, and one more followed a day later.  That's the largest response for these guys.  Ever.

I'm now down to two people.  The gal I've been communicating with the most and who is first in line seems like she has a good set-up and support.  I like that she treats her goats like family, has a night time shelter for them, and has experience raising and showing goats.  However, I am beginning to wonder how much experience she really *does* have at dealing with bucks.

I advertised these are bucks ready to "work," meaning BREED and "make beautiful goat kids."  To the experienced buck owner, this means they are in "rut."

When I sent her pictures, she said her 3 and 6 year old nieces who live on the property were excited because they are so cute!  Yes, these guys are cute...

They are also SUPER SMELLY.  I responded to her with some comments about how the girls would learn quickly that they can't really play with these guys - they are too smelly - but that if she breeds them to her does, her nieces will have a blast in the spring.  I told her how I wear old clothes and gloves to handle them, how they rub their smelly heads on my legs, and if I'm not careful, how they might spray urine on me.  Seriously!

So we are talking about her making arrangements to pick up the brothers this weekend.  I ask her how she's going to transport them, and she says her parents will bring them home in a 4Runner, which is what they use to transport all their animals.

A 4Runner.

This is a 4Runner.

It's an SUV.  It's a very expensive SUV.  There is no separation between the two front seats and the back.

She said they would put the seats down and put a tarp over them and some hay for the boys so they'll be comfy.

She lives 2 hours 18 minutes from Healdsburg, according to MapQuest.  That means closer to 3 hours driving time.  One way.

When we brought Bug home last year, he was in the back of a full sized pickup truck with a camper shell over it.  Becca and I spent most of that 1 1/2 to 2 hour ride with our heads practically hanging out of the windows because of the smell.  I cannot imagine the two bucklings inside the same vehicle with me.  They will rub all over you.  They will spray urine all over the place like two 3 year olds with super soakers.

I've written back to her about my concerns, and will see what she comes back with.  I'm beginning to wonder at her level of expertise with bucks ...  I hope they find a pick-up truck, or decide this isn't the right move for them.  Then I can move on to the next potential owner.

I'll keep you posted!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Short Work Week

Just another week in paradise.  How lucky are we to be able to live in Sonoma County's wine country?  This is the time of year when the grapevines begin to turn, spectacular colors beginning to appear, as they prepare to lose their leaves and add to the Fall glamour of bare vines and trees waiting for the warmth of Spring.  The air as we drive down Westside Road is fragrant with the smells of harvest and crush.  Grapes freshly harvested have a spicy smell that makes me want to start baking, and I don't mind as much being behind a large truck filled with the fruit, or a slow tractor making its way to the next vineyard.  The crushed grapes tantalize with a hint of the wines to come, and I wish that I had the time to stop at one of the many wineries just to taste and bring a bottle home.

Sunday afternoon we got aaaaall dressed up for a wedding, our first since CorSica (Cory and Jessica) were married in May.  Guess what?  I can wear my mother-of-the-bride dress again!  It's too beautiful to keep in a closet forever, and I was so happy to be able to put it on again.  This time I wore some sassy shoes, though after about 5 hours, Becca grabbed my boots from the car and I got my feet into something more comfortable for dancing.  Becca was going to wear her bridesmaid dress from CorSica's wedding, but decided to change into a cute little blue print dress that she looked really sweet in.  This was the wedding of the mother of one of Becca's best friends.  Diane has been through a lot the last several years, heartbreak that was just too public (in the newspaper) and helping her kids to pick up the pieces while she did the same for herself.  She and Reuben met in a divorce group and started out as friends.  Their friendship grew into a beautiful loving relationship, and they celebrated their wedding and new blended family on 10-10-10.

The wedding was hosted by a family from their church, who provides a beautiful setting on Mark West Springs Road AND catering and decorations to boot, as part of their ministry.  Diane and Reuben didn't have the means for a fancy wedding, and Diane's expectations of something very simple were blown away by the gift of this fabulous setting for their wedding.  The oak trees were filled with paper lanterns and accented by tiny white lights that sprang to life after the sun went down.  It was a perfect day, still warm even as guests started dancing to fun music.  I hope for a lifetime of happiness together for these generous, loving people.

Monday was a day off of work for me, but not for Becca.  Columbus Day is a "charged holiday" in this household, you could say.  The partners at the law firm I work at select the court holidays that we'll get off at the first of each year, and they normally would have chosen Cesar Chavez Day, but the mid-week holidays are more difficult, and definitely not as fun, so we had off the day commemorating the person who supposedly "discovered" North America, and who decimated and enslaved native populations wherever he traveled.  At our house, this is Indigenous Peoples Day.  Take that, Columbus.  This has happened before, where I have a day off work, but Becca still needs to go to school.  A few years ago, the first time this happened, I made the assumption that Becca was off school, too.  Imagine my surprise when I got the phone call from the school that she was absent!  Whoops!  I am always careful to check now.

What to do with myself?  I had a whole day to myself.  I made it productive and fun, too.  After bringing Becca to school, I took a trip to the feed store (of course) and headed home.  Lots of laundry to catch up on, and some major reorganization needed in the living room, meant that I could do both AND catch up on some of the television programs I'd recorded on the DVR.  I started some focaccia in the bread machine, and got busy.  I needed to leave about 12:30 to meet Dr. S and pick up a tape to transcribe, otherwise, I was on a roll at home.  For lunch, I decided to use all these wonderful things I had from home.  I grabbed the chevre I'd made the previous weekend, and some of the pesto I've been making and freezing from farmer's market basil.  I mixed them together, and spread it on the freshly baked focaccia.  Good food like this is even more special when everything has been made by you from the freshest ingredients possible.  A lovely interlude!  (I used the bread, cheese and pesto as lunch for most of the rest of the work week, adding fresh tomato slices from our garden!)

I picked up Becca early and we headed back home.  She is getting really good about using her time after school to work on homework, so that it is much less stressful for her in the evening at home.  She had all of her homework assignments completed - yay!  We pulled up to the gate on Westside and Becca got out to open the gate so I could drive the car through.  She hopped back in, and we started the car, looking up the driveway to see a deer grazing by the road, just past the orchard.  We don't get to see deer very often lately, so it's always a treat.  Then it raised its head, and Becca and I both said, "Buck!"  He was a beautiful young boy, probably four points, and he started to move up the driveway as I slowly approached in the car.  We followed him for quite some time, as Becca and I laughed joyfully at how his jumps and hops reminded us of Mooney, our wether goat, who boings just like this deer was.  When the buck found a break on the side of the driveway, he leapt down the hill and was quickly out of sight behind the trees.  We never know what we will find on our .8 mile drive from Westside to the house, and love seeing the wildlife.  We were too transfixed, and he was moving too quickly, to get a picture.

Tuesday evening, I handed Becca the filled grain scoops and she headed off toward the milk stand while I gathered the alfalfa for evening feeding.  I heard her call to me, cautiously.  I popped my head out and asked what was up, and she said, "Snake," very quietly.  "Where??"  "In the grass there," pointing.  As she was walking by an area behind the house that I let get a little overgrown, she said she heard it slither, and saw the tail end of a brown snake go into the grass.  She didn't see or hear a rattle, but we never know, so we took it easy and avoided that area for the night.

The next morning, I heard water running and realized that I'd forgotten to turn off the sprinklers for my potted garden.  I turned off the faucet and went back to investigate where the sound was coming from, because it shouldn't have sounded like a water fountain.  Something had dug into the arugula, lettuce and two of the four blueberry bush pots the night before.  The lettuce was almost completely destroyed, because the soil in that pot had turned to sludge, and they'd been buried and floating in water, which had filled the pot because the sprinkler had been pulled up and unhooked.  I quickly transplanted what could be salvaged into another pot, and fixed some of the mussed dirt in the other pots.  It wasn't the cat, because he likes to use leaves and there was no evidence that he'd left anything in there.  It's a puzzle that I'm still trying to figure out, because whatever it was dug into the arugula again last night.  No evidence of raccoons, because nothing is eating Star's cat food.

We headed off to school, and as we were driving along Westside, I saw a coyote dash down the hillside to the side of the road.  She grabbed a newspaper, of all things, and ran back up the hill a short ways, standing there with the newspaper in her mouth as we drove by.  We wondered if she was making a nest for the winter, or what it might be for.  We often despair at the garbage and items left dumped by the roadside, but if the animals can make some use out of some of it, good for them.  Despite signs along some of the roadways warning of the illegality of dumping and camera surveillance, we see cartons of beer cans, mattresses, old appliances, even car seats - and I don't mean the kind you strap children into - full-on car seats from a vehicle.  We stop and pick up the items that we can when they are in a safe place for us to get them, but sometimes we have to complain to each other for months about something left that we can't get to.

The rescue of the miners in Chile started on Wednesday.  I had heard about the collapse when it happened,  the discovery of the surviving men and the start of the long process to retrieve them.  When I heard about the size of the capsule that was going to bring them 2000 feet up to the surface, I started to feel claustrophobic just thinking about it.  I recognize that I'm not suited to be a miner underground that far in the first place, so I'm sure that they were more okay with it than I would be - and the impetus to get out of there had to have been great after 69 days.  I was really surprised, however, when I got to work and asked someone if they'd heard about the rescue starting, and she ... didn't know what I was talking about.  She hadn't heard about the accident, about the discovery of them alive, about the preparations to get them out, or even the rescue that started that morning and was on all of the radio stations and the front of the local newspaper in our lobby.  I know I have a lot going on in my life, and I do get hyper-focused sometimes on my day-to-day living, but how can one be so out of touch with what is happening in the world to miss this story - completely?

Thursday morning, drive to school.  Only two more work days left until the weekend!  We listen to country radio on Froggy 92.9 in the morning.  A song came on the radio that we didn't recognize, and that always causes Becca and I turn up the volume and listen to it.  Wow, was this a good song.  Brett Eldredge, an artist I hadn't heard of before, singing "Raymond."  It is such as sweet song, about a man who works in a nursing home and one of the residents who has taken to him.  He brings her coffee every morning, and listens to her talk.  She calls him Raymond, and thinks that he is her son.  Such a tender song, sad to think of all the lost souls alone and without family, but such hope recognizing those who give of themselves to love and care for them.  Don't miss it if you can listen to it or watch the video here.

And then, that same afternoon, I learned that one of the sweetest, smartest, strongest ladies I've had the pleasure to know in my life, passed away at 92 1/2 after suffering the attack on her body by cancer.  I knew Ruth from R Ranch at the Lake.  She loved the place and had been a member there even before R Ranch was started, when it was a Napa Valley Horseman's Club.  Her daughter, Nancy, has had the struggle of helplessly watching her mother suffer in pain and trying so hard to make her at ease, knowing she was going to lose her.  My heart goes out to all of them.  I'll miss Ruth, but will always carry her and her example of quiet and loving and happy strength in my heart, to remember and learn from.

And this is what the beautiful sky looked like on the day that we lost Ruth.  A fitting tribute to her ...

The bucklings were trying to bust out of their crate last night, so this weekend I'll look for their mother's paperwork, see if I can get the boys registered, and see if that will help me find new homes for them.  I was able to get up early enough this morning to start a batch of yogurt and some honey wheat bread. Soon Becca will be up, and we'll get ready to head to Santa Rosa and meet up with Jessica, Amanda, and Amanda's future mother-in-law Marie, for an afternoon at the wedding expo.  This will be the first I've ever been to, so it should be interesting.  I know that it will definitely be fun to spend time with all my girls and Marie.  I hope all of you have a fabulous weekend, too!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

New Beginnings

There has been a huge gap in my blog postings, which I really didn't expect to happen.  I suppose it's a combination of things.  One is that the speed of life has been so dizzying, there hasn't been a lot of time for contemplation before a keyboard.  The wee hours of weekend mornings that I love to use to write have often been consumed by oversleeping because I'm transcribing too late at night, transcription because I'm trying to keep up with a big onslaught of work at home, or a pre-teen who surprises me by getting up early.

There's also this thing that has happened over the last couple of blog postings.  I like what I've written, and an audience began to develop.  I saw people checking the blog regularly to see if something new was posted.  That made me feel great.  I also allowed it to make me feel as if I had to do something more than just be me.  I set expectations for blog posts higher than I'd had when I started this mission.  I started believing that I needed to have a "wow factor" in order to post something.  It had to be entertaining, funny, insightful, educational, or ... something more than my everyday life.  What happens when I set goals too high is that I start feeling that I can't reach them, and just sit and stare at them for a while.  Uh-oh, I got stuck.

The way to get unstuck is to just start moving again.  Or as Dorey in "Finding Nemo" says, "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming," paraphrased of course - this is from memory.

Moments over the last month?  Here they are, and I hope you enjoy.  I know I have, for the most part.

Cooking!  Baking!  I've been spending a lot of time in the kitchen.  Part of it is that I'm trying to do weekday prep on the weekends, so we have food that's easy to prepare and healthy to eat during the week.  Another goal is to use as much milk as I possibly can, so it doesn't go to waste.  I've been making a crockpot yogurt every weekend with mixed results.  I love the flavor, and Becca uses it with fruit to make a smoothie to down before we head out to school - often drinking it in the car.  The downside is that I've had a hard time with the texture.  It's been like a slightly thickened milk.  That's fine for smoothies, but not much else, and I don't like drinking my yogurt all the time.  I used a different starter yogurt culture last time that worked better, and picked up a tip that using a little tapioca flour might help.  I'll try that and let you know how it works.

Cajeta is a fixture every weekend, and more and more people are trying and loving it.  I've been told it will be okay to sell some at the school Christmas craft fair, so that is on deck.  I've been trying to figure out how to provide samples.  I started off thinking of buying tiny spoons, but don't like the idea of so much waste.  Next, small cookies?  Maybe.  After the apple/pear/cheese tasting last weekend, I decided that apple slices are the *perfect* way to showcase the deliciousness of cajeta, in addition to providing an idea for its use in a real fashion.

I discovered a fabulous honey wheat bread recipe that I modified and have been making every weekend.  When Becca doesn't want yogurt, we toast slices of this bread and smear homemade apple butter on it for an easy start to the day.  Yum!  I'll post the recipe below.

In addition to the apple butter, which is fabulous and also made in the crockpot, I've been making focaccia.  Dropping ingredients into the bread machine and using the dough setting makes prep easy.  After that, shaping the dough on a cookie sheet and brushing with olive oil before baking is all that is needed to finish it.  I discovered a lovely Meyer Lemon Olive Oil at the farmers market a couple weeks ago, and it is *perfect* brushed on top of the focaccia.

I make both the bread and focaccia using whey instead of water, which imparts more nutrients and lovely flavor and texture to the breads.  It also allows me to use the whey so it doesn't go to waste after making cheese.  I am still trying to perfect cheesemaking, and currently have a Camembert attempt started in the fridge.

Those goats are still keeping us on our toes!  They have been well behaved the last few weeks, but a couple days ago we made a mistake and ended up on a trek in the dark looking for an errant goat.  Typically, we put leashes on the big girls (Lily and Salsa) and Imbri, letting the youngest Nigerian goats trot off to the barn themselves, as they are most likely to do.  Imbri has a habit of going to the barn instead of waiting at the milk stand, but Salsa is good about hopping right up for her food.  Lily likes to wander about and nibble on interesting plants, so she needs firm guidance to get to the barn.

It was Friday night, and dark when we got home after dinner at my parents' in Novato.  Salsa was loudly telling everyone that morning that she was in heat, and she greeted us with a yell (and another and another) when we drove up.  When we put leashes on the goats and let them out, Becca and I both forgot that when Salsa is in heat, she doesn't behave properly.  As soon as she was out of the pen, she walked the opposite direction, and we both realized that we were going to have to chase her down.  We decided to get all the rest of the goats into the barn first, so we didn't have to run around after FIVE instead of just one.

We walked in the dark, with only the light from the flashlight gizmo mounted on my cap (I LOVE THIS HANDS-FREE FLASHLIGHT), stars flickering in the sky, but no moon.  The motion-detected light at the front of the house was on, so we could see Salsa standing near the gate to her pen, in addition to hearing her bleat loudly.  She started to walk away from us, so Becca headed down behind her, while I walked the upper driveway in an attempt to head her off at the pass.  Too slow.  I was 2/3 of the way there, when Salsa popped out of the path between the bushes and started walking away from me.  I called her gently, and she started to trot with intention.  She was on a mission to find bucks.

Becca joined me, and we held hands as we got to the end of our driveway and turned left, up the hill toward my landlady's house and animals.  It was so dark that we couldn't see anything but the circle of light from my flashlight on the driveway in front of us.  This made me a little nervous, and I suggested that we go get the car, but Becca was fine.  I angled the light up a little, we saw a faint glint of white up the drivway, and kept on walking.  Salsa had quit yelling, so it was hard to tell exactly where she was, but as we neared the gate to my landlady's goats, we saw her white coat glowing on the right side of the driveway.  She had her nose pressed against the fence, and one of my landlady's bucks was on the other side of the fence, nuzzling her nose and making blubbering noises.  She didn't want to leave him, so Salsa didn't try to run away when Becca grabbed her leash.

We turned and headed back down the dark driveway, and she was fine until the buck quit following along on the other side of the fence.  Then she started to pull back and yell again.  I had to grab Becca's arm a couple of times on our way to the milk stand, so that she didn't get pulled over by Salsa trying to go the other direction.  She is a LaMancha/Saanan full sized goat, and outweighs Becca.

The rest of the evening was uneventful, but it was a lesson that we didn't forget the next night we got the goats out of the pen.  Salsa is in heat for 2-3 days, and should be over it by tonight, but we'll still hold onto that leash at least for another couple nights to be sure she doesn't run off.

We had a good day yesterday, meeting Amanda, Jessica, and Marie for Amanda's first foray into wedding dress shopping.  What an endeavor!  The selections are so overwheming, and so beautiful.  We had a ball looking around and helping Amanda select dresses to try on, and then watching her model each of the selections for us.  The first one she tried on blew us all away.  It was absolutely perfect on her, and there was nothing else after it that gave us the same impact.  She tried it on one more time at the end, and we all concluded that this is probably *the* dress.  There are two wedding shows next weekend, however, and Mandi wants to see if she can win a gown before committing, so she will wait.  I think this is the winner, though.  If you are looking for a wedding gown, check out Wine Country Bride in Santa Rosa.  They have a fabulous selection of reasonably priced gowns, and the service is SUPERB.

One of our favorite restaurants, Las Guitarras in Cotati, is closing.  We are so bummed about it.  It is hard for me to make it there since we've moved, but that has always been one of my favorite restaurants.  We made it a point to meet up with my parents for lunch there after wedding dress shopping, and had good food, times, in good company.

We will be getting ready to attend the wedding today, 10-10-10, of the mother of one of Becca's best friends.  It's the perfect day for it!

You might wonder about the title - New Beginnings?  Where?  Well, it's me starting to blog regularly, even if I'm worried about what my "audience" might think.  It's wedding dress shopping for Amanda's new and renewed commitment with Anthony next year.  It's a farewell to a good restaurant, after losing a good man that managed it, and a new beginning for that building, while Las Guitarras Novato continues on strong.  Finally, a new beginning for Diane and Reuben - may they have a lifetime of happy years together.

Honey Wheat Bread - Bread Machine Recipe

This recipe is modified from the Mabon Marigold Honey Wheat Bread posted by girlichecf on You can find her original recipe posted here.  The link also contains the recipe for the AWESOME Apple Butter I've been making with local, in season Gravensteins.

1 cup warm water (or warm whey)
1/3 cup honey
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast

Place ingredients into the bread machine in the order listed, making a dent in the side of the flour to place the yeast in.  Select the wheat setting, choose the crust color and loaf size, and start.  My bread machine bakes this in about 3 1/2 hours.  No fuss, wonderful aroma in the house, great treat!