Monday, June 30, 2008

Fire On The Mountain

The devil's gone down to Georgia California and the fire's on the mountain (with apologies to Charlie Daniels).

Sunday we took a little drive up Caliente Creek Road mainly because my husband was getting a touch of cabin fever. We stopped along the way at this little cafe/convenience store for a snack and we saw smoke starting to billow over the mountain tops. It was still quite a ways away though, so we were in no danger. This is the Piute Fire.
And in the parking lot were all these fire trucks, so we knew we really were safe!

As we drove further along we got a bit closer and the fire seemed to be getting bigger.

We stopped at this portion of the road. This was about as close as we could (or wanted to) get. Just prior to taking this picture we saw flames at the top of the ridge. We waited a while but it didn't happen again.
If you look really closely you can see an airplane, probably some sort of fire fighting plane, near the top of the bottom third on the right hand side of the smoke column. (Did that make sense???)
Here is that same shot blown up. Now you should be able to see the plane. De plane! De plane!

On our way out of the valley we passed these fire helicopter guys in a big field. There were actually about four helicopters on the ground at the time.

This was at the far end of the valley, as we were leaving.

Hopefully this and all the other fires will be under containment very soon. It's always struck me how odd it is that on one side of the country we are in drought conditions and fires are burning out of control while the other side of the country is half under water.

I hope where ever you are everything is as it should be.

Friday, June 27, 2008

I'm Feeling Bipolar (Or: Don't Read This If You Don't Need Any Drama)

What a week of ups and downs, highs and lows! If that's how people with bipolar disorder are, then I don't want to play anymore.

Starting with late last week, of course as you all know my family was in town. That was a definate high. Another high was the IRS notice that our stimulus check would soon be arriving. Another definite high. But just to put a little downer on it was the notice that we would not be getting $1500 as we thought, but just $1200 because our son was born before December 31, 1990. HUH? As far as I know he's still a minor dependent and a full time student living at home and we are the ones paying for all his needs. Ah well, $1200 is better than nothing. (Remember that...)

Eventually most of the gang had to go back home. My sister in law and her girls are still here but are visiting her sister at the coast for a few days. Then they'll be back here with us again until the middle of next week. A bit of a downer, but nothing I can't handle.

I got a call late afternoon last Sunday in regards to the bull calf. Some people from south of Los Angeles were driving through town, stopped at the Tractor Supply Company where I had one of my "for sale" flyers, and asked to see him. They came on by and gave me a down payment. They should be picking him up some time today. That was a happy occasion for me.

Tuesday evening when I went out to feed I noticed Ladysmith, the cow, was extremely fat. It wasn't a natural kind of fat either because it happened way too fast. I had never seen it before but had heard of it. It was a case of bloat. The only thing I could think about was I'd have to stab her in the side to release the gasses that were building up. I knew I didn't want to do that. In a panic I called my dairyman friend, Franz. He graciously offered to come over and take a look.

He said although she looked bad it wasn't as bad as I thought, mainly because she wasn't having trouble breathing. He stuck a long piece of cut garden hose down her throat but the gas wasn't expelled. Lacking any specific medications we did the next best thing. We mixed up a potion of baking soda and water and poured it into a funnel that we stuck into the end of a small piece of hose which Franz pushed to the back of Ladysmith's throat. We watched and waited and soon she began coughing up the culprit. It was corn. We left her alone that night to see how she would be in the morning.

See, I had been thinking Ladysmith looked a little on the thin side, so I wanted to put some weight on her. I started giving her rolled corn. Only instead of giving her a pound or two per day I was filling up a little bucket, about 4-5 pounds, for each feeding, so 8-10 pounds a day! She loved it. But I was killing her with kindness. Her system couldn't handle it and she bloated.

The next day she still looked really large and seemed to be getting uncomfortable again. I felt really bad about calling Franz out the previous night so I called my vet. He was out of town for the week. I then called Franz's vet and was told by the answering service they "don't handle small farms." I didn't mention names (which I was told later I should have) and I explained that my dairy friend used this vet and had talked to him last night about my cow (which he did). Eventually I was put in contact with the vet's partner who said they were too busy to come out until later that afternoon. He suggested I get a product called Ruminex and administer it. If the cow didn't look better by after 2 I was to call again and they would see if one of them could come out.

I called all the veterinarian supply stores and the feed stores. Nobody carried that product. Finally I got a little smarter and the last feed store I called I asked if they had that product or anything else to combat active bloat in cattle. No, they didn't have Ruminex, but yes, they carried something called Therabloat.

I hopped in my car and picked it up. My husband was home and between the two of us we managed to mix up the medicine and pour it down Ladysmith's throat. About three hours later the cow looked normal again!

See how round she is here, especially the upper left side.
Here she is much better. This is a slightly different angle but you can see how the extreme roundness has gone away. This is several hours after administering the Therabloat.

As if that wasn't enough the next day I had to get the brand inspection papers for the calf. The state law here says basically that anytime an animal (livestock) is sold it is supposed to get inspected and a paper is issued prior to transport. It doesn't matter if it has a brand or not, that's just what they call it.

So trying to be the good law abiding citizen I knew that was something that had to be done. I know there is an auction every Thursday and the brand inspector is supposed to be there. I hooked up the trailer to the truck and managed to drag the calf out and load him up. (Yes, I slacked off on his leading lessons.) All this with the baby in the Baby Bjorn!

I got to the auction yard but was told the brand inspector had not arrived and probably wouldn't for a few more hours. Great! I drove back home and unloaded the calf. It was about 11:30 then. I waited until 12:30 and called the auction yard. The inspector wasn't there yet. It would be one of two and they didn't know exactly which was coming out. They knew she would be there eventually but would be leaving by 2:00. I called and left messages on each of the two inspector's phones asking them to please call me. I mentioned I had been out to the auction yard already to have the calf inspected but they weren't there yet and I was really hoping I wouldn't have to drive out there again (it's on the other side of town). Please call me so I could figure out what to do.

I checked the mail and saw an envelope from the IRS. I thought maybe it was our stimulus check. I could sure use it about now. I opened it to find a notice that they were disallowing the deductions for our child. (Remember the one who is still under 18, a full time student, etc?) So now we owed an additional (we had to pay because of a county accounting error) $1100. Plus an $11 late interest fee. I almost screamed out loud. I did throw the letter at my husband and told him to call our tax preparer. Then I got in the car to pick up my son from summer school and cried on the way. I managed to get myself together before I picked him up though.

When we got home I still hadn't received any return calls and figured I was going to have to drive back out. My son and I loaded the calf again and off we all went, calf, son, granddaughter, and myself. We got there about 2 minutes until 2. I didn't see the inspector's truck. I ran to the lady checking animals in and she said "You just missed her! She just left!"


I went to the office and bogarted my way to the front of the line and asked if they had the phone number for the inspector. "She said you had her number." Yeah, I had it at home! But they did say she was going to the feed lot directly across the street and to wait there and maybe I could catch her coming out.

I ran back out to the truck and sped over to the feed lot. There was a big gate that was locked. I parked the truck, left everybody there at the side of the road and hopped the fence. I was not about to "wait". I found a guy that was getting out of truck and walking to another truck. I asked him if the brand inspector was there. I didn't even know if he understood me, but he waved vaguely towards the back of a building. I started walking over that way and all of a sudden the brand inspector came careening down the road. I started running after her (what a sight!) and she must have seen me because she stopped. I trotted over to the driver's side and waited while she was talking on her phone. Hmmm. So she did know how to use it.

She finished her conversation and I explained what I needed. She mentioned something about in my phone message I had said I didn't want to come back out and that's why she hadn't waited. I didn't want to piss her off so I said no, she must have misunderstood, I didn't want to come back out if I didn't have to, but since nobody bothered to call me back I was taking another chance by driving back out again. She just countered with "Well, it's just been a very hectic day today." No kidding.

Five minutes later, the calf was inspected and we were on our way home. Once home I noticed the paperwork said it expired at midnight on that day. It was supposed to be good through the weekend since at that time I didn't know exactly when he would be picked up. Screw it. It'll have to do.

I was in no mood to go to our weekly visit with Gus so I cancelled for that day. Later in the evening the calf's new owner called and said they would definately pick him up on Friday (today) but they just didn't know the exact time. I decided I needed a nice bath and used a "bath tea" bag (something I got for my birthday). You are supposed to let it steep for ten minutes. I don't know if I should have used two bath tea bags or let it steep longer but I didn't notice anything different with the water so I gave the back a couple of squeezes. Of course it burst open and little bits of lavender and other lovely herbs are now all over the tub.

I have no baby to watch today so I'll be spending the day cleaning and vegging. Maybe just vegging.

And how was YOUR week?

(PS-Still waiting to hear from our tax guy.)

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Gang's All Here

The gang's all here, or at least they were yesterday. That was the day we went to the Wind Wolves Preserve for our lunch. It was a very hot day but we found a great shady spot with picnic tables by the little waterfall. There were my two sisters and my brother and their families.

We had a caravan of five vehicles. This is at the entrance where you are supposed to sign in at the little kiosk.

We played bocce, cards, hiked, and took pictures. Not to mention having a great lunch and just stitting around talking. Speaking for myself at least, it was a really great afternoon.

There were some great spots for portraits. Here's one of my favorite subjects, my daughter and grandbaby.

On our hike we saw some real wildlife. That is besides the usual lizards and the crazy kids! I think they were mule deer (notice the large ears).

Sadly, today 1/2 of the gang have returned to their respective homes. My brother and his family are still here for a few more days so I'm going to make the most of it with them until they have to go back to their lives.

So until then it's visit, eat, drink, and play. Tonight it's brisket and badminton!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Birthday Mosaics

Today is my birthday and this is the first time in at least 10 years that my side of the family has been all together. That in itself is a great gift for me. I did see my AZ sister last year in September and again this year in May when we went to my MIL's 80th birthday. We also visited my brother and his family in IL a couple of years ago. But today we are all TOGETHER! The only ones missing now are my AZ's two daughters who will be coming in tomorrow. On Sunday is when the whole gang will be going to the Wind Wolves Reserve for a picnic and some good old family fun.

I know traditionally it's the birthday person that is the receiver of gifts, large or small. I wanted to kind of turn the tables a little and be the one to give a few gifts. So for the last two months whenever I had some extra time I worked on making my sisters and my brother and his wife a mosaic.

As you may know I like making mosaics with a heart motif because I'm not very creative as far as thinking of anything else to make. I started out with the one pictured below. It was supposed to be a checker board with intermeshed hearts, and wherever the hearts intersected was supposed to be the opposite color. When I was done with this one I was really disappointed because it was very difficult to see what I had intended. On paper it looked great, but the reality was not working.

So I set that one aside for the time being and started working on the next one. This one was a simpler design, again with the interlocking hearts. This time I used a solid background and all the hearts were the same color. Then where the hearts came together I used a metallic copper color, which unfortunately doesn't show up too well in the photo, but you get the idea.

Then I got brave and decided to try something totally different. I made the house numbers for one of the sisters. I had to find an interesting font and try to transfer it to my cement board. Originally this was to have the numbers and the streeet address but I quickly figured out the street name was waaaaay to long for me to incorporate. I ended up cutting the board almost in half and the following is the final result.

And lastly I was still not happy with the first checkerboard hearts and quickly set about to make a replacement. I used a couple of different techniques on this one and was pleased with the results.

Tonight we're going for sushi, tomorrow is Basque food and then we're going to listen to a friend of my s.i.l. play in a band at another restaurant/bar, and Sunday we're going to Wind Wolves for a lunch picnic. A full weekend of adventures is planned. I hope this old decrepid body can hold out! ;-)

Hope you all have a great weekend too! See you on Monday. Maybe.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Nancy's Chocolate Cake & Custard Gelato

Every once in a while I get a craving for a particular taste of something. The craving may be for pizza, or spaghetti and meatballs, or sushi, or my fabulous frozen margaritas. Last weekend it was chocolate.

And I had the perfect excuse to make a chocolate cake: Father's Day!

I looked through all my fancy cookbooks and couldn't find anything that sounded right to me. Then I remembered Our Family Favorites. This was a collection of recipes put together by one of my sisters-in-law originally in 1991. She asked everyone for a few favorite and family recipes and then took the time and effort and expense to type everything out and bind them all together in a booklet. Then she gave each family one for Christmas. Fourteen years later she did the same thing with the help of her daughter and the result was an expanded edition with at least two or three times the recipes of the original version. This time I put all the pages in those plastic sleeves to better protect them and then put them in a binder. In that book I found "Nancy's Chocolate Cake". It sounded like what I was looking for.

First edition on the left, second and current edition on the right.

Before I continue I would like to make one thing clear. I'm not a good cake maker. Oh, my cakes come out okay. They usually taste pretty good, but they don't usually look very pretty!

Nancy's Chocolate Cake

3/4 C butter; 1 3/4 C sugar; 2 eggs; 1 t vanilla; 2 C flour; 3/4 C Hershey's cocoa; 1 1/4 t baking soda; 1/2 t salt; 1 1/3 C water

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat at medium speed for one minute. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a bowl; add alternating with the water to the creamed mixture. Pour batter into 2 greased and floured 8" cake pans, bake at 350 degrees for 35 - 40 minutes. Cool and frost.

Chocolate Frosting

3/4 C cocoa; 4 C powdered sugar; 1/2 C butter; 1 t vanilla; 1/2 C evaporated milk

Mix cocoa and sugar. Cream part of mixture with butter, blend in vanilla and half of the milk. Add remaining cocoa mixture and blend; add remaining milk and beat. Frost when cake is cool.

(I added chopped pecans pressed into the side of the cake. I would say it's for the texture factor but the truth is I was trying to hide the extreme crookedness. It didn't help.)

Everybody knows you have to have ice cream with cake, right? So in trying to make a "healthier" version of ice cream I checked the internet for gelato recipes and found this simple Custard Gelato. In case you didn't know, gelato is Italian ice cream and has more whole milk, less cream, and usually less sugar than regular ice cream.

Once it's sliced and on a plate you can't tell that the cake is crooked!

So much for all the good my 2 mile walk did for me on Sunday!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Day Trip

Yesterday we took another quick drive out to the Wind Wolves Preserve. Our intention was to scout for possible locations for a family picnic for next Sunday when all my side of the family was going to be here to help celebrate my birthday.

It was quite a contrast to the first time we visited, in mid-March, when everything was nice and green, and a few wildflowers were out. This time everything was dry and brown, except along the little creek that runs through the canyon.

Here is my husband and son along one of the paths. Notice how dry and brown it is. The creek is where you can see the trees.
As we took off up the path I was horrified and embarrassed to realize how terribly out of shape I've become since last summer. We'd barely gone 100 yards and I was huffing and puffing. But I kept going, all the while cursing my breakfast burrito I'd made for breakfast.

Eventually we took a trail that went to the little stream that runs through the canyon. Along that path it was very shady from the tall trees growing along and it was definitely more pleasant. There was more to see too.
Some poison oak. I'm glad my husband knows what it looks like. I wouldn't have had a clue!
Looking up another trail that goes away from the stream.
An old Indian grinding rock. The hole is about 4 inches across and 4-5 inches deep.
I was surprised to see how much wild grapes were growing along the stream. Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised though because they weren't uncommon way back in the day. It's one reason why a portion of the I-5 is called the Grapevine, and Wind Wolves Preserve is not that far away.Here the stream looks like it's coming out of the roots of the tree.

A refreshing little waterfall.
We had a fun few hours exploring all the little picnic areas along the stream path. It felt like we walked for miles and miles and in reality it turned out to only be one mile up and one mile back.

Our walk proved that I need to get back on track like I was last year. I'll take care of that after the chocolate cake is gone. More on that tomorrow!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday The Thirteenth

I don't really believe in the notion of "bad luck" as in Friday the thirteenth, or black cats, or walking under ladders and such. To a certain extent I do believe in Karma, as in "what goes around, comes around". And obviously that doesn't always hold true either. We've all known people we could say was "the nicest person you'd ever want to meet" and they end up with some horrible disease, or die in an auto accident. Although upon further reflection, that may not be as bad as it sounds. Only if they die.

Allow me to explain. Obviously it wouldn't be so great to be in a lot of pain prior to passing away, but once you are dead, I believe you go to heaven. All pain and troubles are gone. We are once again with our loved ones that left prior to us. Then our life on earth seems like a drop in the ocean.

Okay, enough of the Friday the Thirteenth stuff.

Here are day two pictures of Jamie's babies. One is definately taller than the other, and they have different types of coats too. The tall one has her mom's legs and her dad's fluffy hair. The smaller one has her dad's legs and her mom's tighter coat type. It will be interesting to see how they develop as they grow older.

Even though one is a little in the foreground here you can see the heighth difference.

The taller one...

...and the shorter one. Again, this time the shorter one is in the foreground but you can still see the heighth difference.

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Eight Is Enough

The Lambing Season is done for the year at Wilamar Farm. Remember yesterday I noticed Jamie's udder was filling a little? And I said who knows, it may still be a couple of weeks?

It's a good thing I'm not a professional shepherdess. I was wrong again!

This morning her udder looked just a little more full than it did last night, but she still joined the other ewes for breakfast. The sheep were making a bunch of noise this afternoon so I went out to check just before I left with Gus to make our first visit of the day. Jamie was in the barn with Baby's babies!

I thought that was a little odd, so I put all the sheep but Jamie in the front half of the sheep pen and closed it off. Then I caught Ellen and Portia and returned them to their mother. I left the stall door open so Jamie had the barn and other half of the pen to herself. Then I left with Gus to make our visit.

When Gus and I got back I strolled out to the sheep pen. The first thing I saw was Jamie standing in a corner with some afterbirth dangling. Then I saw the little ones.
I scooted everyone into the stall and checked them over. Two more girls!
I remembered to iodine the navels this time. I still had another visit with Gus so I had to be careful not to get all dirty.
If all goes according to the plan in my head, then next year instead of eight lambs we'll have ten.

The next baby should be the cow in November. But then again, maybe it will be in December. Or October...

Final Lamb Count: 3 boys; 5 girls

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

White Wooly Worms

Just joking! It's not a big white wooly worm. Another lamb has lost its tail and I couldn't resist posting the picture because someone specifically told me not to! Ha ha!

This time the tail came off lamb #1. In my mind I've been calling him Big Boy, since he is the biggest lamb so far, and not because he was the first. He's the biggest because his mom is bigger than the other moms, with the exception of Jamie, who has yet to lamb. And Jamie is 3of4's mom, who is the mom of Big Boy. Are you following?

Anyhow, I did notice Jamie's udder seems to be a tad fuller than the last time I looked, so something is finally happening with her. Of course it could still be a couple of weeks...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

How I'm Feeling Now

This is how I'm feeling about right now.

This is how I will be once the baby gets picked up (in a little bit longer) and I get my glass(es) of vino.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Meet The Gang

Yesterday was the first day out for the latest two, Ellen and Portia. They weren't too sure about coming out of the barn without their mom. She kept checking back inside the stall to make sure some goodies didn't magically appear.

Ellen is the bolder of the two.

I let them all out of the pen. The ewes immediately went to munching while the lambs had to check out the newbies.

They were being a little shy so the others went to see what their moms were doing. Clyde wants to play.

Baby has always been a bit of a loner and tends to keep to herself. Here her babies are getting the hang of having some room to roam. Look in the background at the upper right corner, by the pipe sprinkler.

I don't know which one this is, but he's a leaper!

And look here. Gracie has already lost her tail! Probably from those rough housing boys.

Ellen, meet Gracie.

After an afternoon of running and leaping and gamboling, it's time for rest.