Sunday, December 27, 2009


So the fa-la-las are done....the tree still stands but she bears no gifts at her feet (well, one until an errant boyfriend stops by), the thank yous are being written (yes, Glo, I know yours are done) and I'm just happy to be burning all the ribbon and tissue paper and have the mess cleaned up. It wasn't a bad Christmas but it was somehow lacking.

I'm not sure where the problem was. On Christmas Day, there was a nice gathering of family and a few orphans that stopped by to share the joy (maybe a cookie and cocktail). The gifts were nice and everyone seemed pleased. But, tomorrow I will return to work happy just to have had a week off. The greetings of "how was your Christmas" will be met with "fine, and yours?" but that's about it. Now that the girls are grown and two of three are out of the house, I think the pre-Christmas prep to will need some tweaking.

After our fast and furious drive to southern Washington for Thanksgiving, we returned to a lack of leftovers and no family hike with which to start the annual slide show. And it never really did get off to a start. Mark got the lights up when we got back and the house looks nice but, the cheap lights that are being made, didn't make it through even one year of storage which left him frustrated with bad bulbs. The weekend following Thanksgiving, the family went together to hunt for a Christmas Tree and took home two - one for our house as well as Hope's first tree for her apartment. Mark worked on the lights, (which is the worst part of decorating the tree, I think) then left it to us to finish. The hanging of the garland and such has always been a fun precursor to the hanging of the ornaments but, with just three of us at home, it was done with the television on rather than Christmas carols. After it sat for a few days without ornaments, I busted out the boxes and hung our special decorations on my own. Even the ceremonial placement of Angie on the "highest bough" lost it's sparkle. Her triumphant location at the top of a completely decorated tree has always been special, alternating each year between the girls with the dates written on the box top to remind us whose turn it would be. With only one child left in the house, there was no interest on Gloria's part to teeter on the ladder and shove the tree up Angie's skirt - until I did it in her absence. *sigh* I can't win. I think that next year we will decorate the tree again "as a family, DAMMIT" while Sunday dinner cooks, so we can all take part, perhaps with a glass of wine to liven up the procedure.

The whole "Jesus is the reason for the season" was also a big issue for me this year. My Catholic roots still miss going to mass but, every time we go, it seems we are met with a priest who feels compelled to welcome "those of you who we don't see very often". Yeah, Catholic guilt..... way to make me feel good about being here three hours past my bedtime, Father. So we've stopped walking the few blocks to St. Bernard's for Midnight Mass and I think we all miss it, even the agnostics in the bunch enjoy the singing and praying and smell of incense as well as the chilly walk through town. Maybe next year, we'll drive to a different service. Maybe "Our Lady of Perpetual Talk" which, I'm told, can be found across town.

There are the people who feel compelled to wish you a MERRY CHRISTMAS with such force and anger, it takes the warmth and sincerity from the greeting, people. "It's OK to say Merry Christmas". You're right and I do. But I also wish the Jews and Pagans a Happy Holiday.... just because they don't celebrate Christmas, doesn't mean they don't celebrate. As for the atheists, too bad, so sad. Your choice. Dealing with God not your cup of tea? Do you need to be so pissy about it that those who DO believe in a higher being, a divinity of any sort must be so defensive? No need to be angry if someone greets you happily during the season. Did anyone else on Facebook receive the Christian challenges? Friends and relations dared me to claim Christ as my Savior while taunting me that 93% of people don't have the guts. Pssh....makes me ALL warm. I found myself wishing people a Merry Christmas but bracing for the attack that might follow. It seemed as if I was somehow being defiant. Christmas shouldn't be that way. And next year it won't be.

Even without Midnight Mass, we had our traditional Christmas Eve clam chowder by candlelight, using the good silver. This year also brought us a few extra bodies that passed through on Christmas Day and that was just fine. We had turkey to nosh and cookies out the wazoo. We stocked the liquor cabinet. We had an elderly friend of Nana's who was without family for the first time so she joined us. A few of Monica's friends whose families are elsewhere came by. I liked it and think next year we will formally issue an OPEN HOUSE invitation. We'll bump us some Christmas carols including Dar Williams doing "The Christians and the Pagans" and hit the hot toddies with a double shot of brandy. Until I have grandbabies' eyes to twinkle, we will adjust our holidays to fit what we have to work with.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

Wasn't it just last week I was hanging up my harvest garland and placing pumpkins, real and faux, around my house? Wreaths and mantel were decorated with leaves of gold and bronze...and crows. I just wrapped my banister in autumn garland and now it's time to transition the fall into winter. Down will come the ears of dried corn to be replaced with sprigs of pine and rosemary. The warm earthy brown and rust candles will be replaced with pillars of white and silver (very Martha, no?)

The fall went so fast. Our Indian Summer was so brief and frantic - I've not been out for a paddle in ages. I'm not fond of cold anyway but it seems like the days I've had free time, my water time has been spent spectating at the crashing waves. It's a favorite pastime but does not translate to paddling conditions for me.

Maybe because we went out of town for Thanksgiving which left us without our traditional family hike, family photo and frig full of leftovers, the season hasn't transitioned correctly. I'm determined to remedy that this weekend. I will get down the Christmas bins and fill the air with the sounds of Christmas and the smells of the holidays. I will wrap up gifts so they can be shipped on time. By Sunday, my house, and with it my mind, will evolve into a holiday spirit that I hope will carry me through the season, blissfully ignoring the materialistic hubbub, angry Christian rhetoric and inflatable lawn Santas. I am a lapsed Catholic but not so lapsed that I don't equate Christmas with a kind and benevolent God. I also appreciate the solstice celebrations and the joy and peace that comes with them.

No matter my beliefs or yours, I hope we all get through this season with love and peace and that feeling of wonder we all felt as we prepared for Santa. And, as always, Gloria can enjoy hearing Josh Groban singing her name in long, expansive notes....and she will smile.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


You don't have to know me well to know that a "high surf advisory" or a call to stay off the beach is just taunting me. Hey, I'm careful. And I DON'T go on the jetty when the seas are up....I'm crazy but I'm not stupid.

I took a couple mental-health days this week....they weather was so calm and sunny early in the week I had hoped to get in a few paddles. By the end of the week, however, a storm was brewing so the kayak stayed in dry dock but I still took the opportunity for some beach time.

I drove to Camel Rock when the surf was whomping the rocks from all directions. The sky was blue but the water was churning, wrapping itself around the rocks in torrents. Tide had been high at Moonstone but left no treasures except for evidence of apparently a LOT of little naked crabs running around somewhere. At Power Poles, the foam chased me up the dunes so I chose not to walk far up the beach. Very awesome storm. I won't even mind going back to work tomorrow.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


1995 - the Topping Trailer Trash years. Actually just two months but it felt like years. After spending eleven years in Minden, Nevada, enduring the heat and the cold and the wind and the dirt and the....cranky Californians who brought their cranky asses with them to screw up life in a whole NEW place....we packed up our lives and returned to the coast. It was fourteen years ago today.

The move started in August with the travel trailer and the rental of a space at the KOA . We came back the next weekend, towing my old Volvo on a trailer surrounded with boxes of thing we thought we might need but had to be left in a mini-storage. Mark leveled the trailer, hooked up the propane and poop pipe and returned to Nevada to pack up the house and close up his business. Monica and Hope were to start school on Monday and the next two months would be the stuff memories (and nightmares) are made of.

The alarm would sound, I'd grab the "shower bag" containing soap, shampoo and conditioner, along with a towel and flashlight and head out into the dark morning. Making my way up the tree-lined road (there were still trees at the KOA at that point), flashlight darting left and right to illuminate skunks and raccoons scavenging through park trash cans, I was generally the first inside the cold shower house. I'd turn on the lights and get the heater running and wait for the warm water to run through the pipes. Wash, dry... brrrrr, I'd scuff back to the trailer and wake Monica and Hope. They would, in turn, take the bag and grab their towels and venture in my footsteps back to the showers where, hopefully no one had left the door open and it was a bit warmer.

While they showered, I would fold up Monica's bed which doubled as the dining room. I'd wake Glo, who was just three at the time, and get her moving so as not to be in the way when her sisters returned. The tiny trailer bathroom held the mirror so timing was everything to get everyone dressed for school. An ill-timed opening of the refrigerator would block an exit from the bathroom....bickering and impatience and we're off to school. Hope had come from a year-round school so already had a month of second grade under her belt when I dropped her at Marshall that first day but Monica was starting Eureka High as a sophomore - that's a tale for her to tell. We had a few extra minutes that first day and drove by the house we were buying - 'our house'. We would do that regularly, cruising slowly past, nervous until that "SOLD" sign was hung over the realtor's picket.

Some days, Glo and I would head back to the park where I would keep track of her by the squeaky tricycle she peddled around the park. We would pick berries and bake cobblers and cookies in our tiny little trailer oven. A couple days a week, we would kill time waiting for stores to open, sometimes at the Del Norte pier watching jellyfish and otters wind their ways up the channel. Then we'd go about discovering Food Mart and the Fresh Guys, finding Winco and doing a wee bit of shopping which was all we had room for in our trailer house. Late afternoon, we'd hop in the car to collect the girls from school. Sometimes we'd eat and relax in the park hot tub.... nothing like tubbing with strangers for childhood memories.

The initial plan was for Mark to drive over on the weekends and bring loads of our stuff with each trip but it took only a couple of those long drives before the novelty of THAT wore off. It was decided he could get more done if he just stayed there and packed. He rounded up a friend to help ("do you know how many f#*king serving dishes you have?!") while I was a single-mom in the trailer park for the entire month of September.

Mark was scheduled to start work at Harper's at the start of October so he came that weekend, towing a box trailer containing our world which Harvey allowed him to park out back of the dealership. He also brought our dog and one old cat. For the next month, the body count in that 18-1/2 foot trailer was two adults, three kids, a cranky old cat and a hundred-pound dog. We added dad to the morning shower ritual as well as a walk for Grizz and set about trying to enjoy autumn under the trees. We bought a jack o'lantern and a box of apples without consideration of our storage situation so put them on the table outside. The racoons found them all to be quite delicious, taking a bite of virtually every apple, littering our site with the remains. Arrrgh!

The end of the month held light at the end of that long, trailer-lined tunnel. We would occasionally make treks to the mini-storage to retrieve warmer clothes and, as Halloween loomed, we dug out the costumes. As the girls tried to decide on their costumes for the year, Hope's decision was made for her when she contracted chicken pox.... She was no longer contagious when she returned to school with a black pointy hat and realistic witchy complexion, complete with bumps.

Finally, the papers were signed and on the first Friday in November, Glo and I dropped the girls at school, picked up a bucket of chicken and had lunch on the floor of our new, old living room. Over the weekend, we emptied the box trailer of our dusty Nevada boxes into our musty old home.

For fourteen years, we've been here in this rickely old beast and I still love it. I always wanted a house with "character" and, as Mark tells me, "well, you got it!". I spent a little time in county records tracking the history and age of our new abode. A two-story house built by Anthony Gray early in the last century (records are sketchy due to a fire of county records) who ran a rug-cleaning business out of the garage and added a second half to the house sometime before 1920, as a home for his son and wife. Around 1953, the two units were joined, creating odd rooms and two sets of stairs leading to the same floor. We have found eleven layers of paint and wallpaper when we did the guest room and 12" planks of redwood that ran the full width of the upstairs when we replaced flooring. The odd angles and square nails are still fascinating. We finally gave up on the project list, choosing to do projects as they come, and some even get finished. But what I really want to do is move this wall........

Saturday, October 31, 2009

You Were a Vampire and Baby I'm a Walking Dead

It's Halloween and, with all the scary stuff on TV, nothing scares me more than that trailer for "The Perfect Storm". Actually, the movie would have me peeing myself IF, and only if, I actually sat down and watched it. I love the ocean but big ass waves that guys on a fishing boat have to look UP to see the crest? Ho..lee..crap! I've done scary movies. Hell, I read Hitchcock and Rod Serling as a pre-teen. I was probably just nine or ten in Santa Cruz when my sister, Carol, took me to the Del Mar Theater to see Psycho...."Oh God Mother...BLOOD!" comes to mind when I'm rinsing hair color out of my hair and the red-brown is swirling around the drain.. and I would never go in the fruit cellar.... I remember watching the Exorcist through my fingers at the Rio..*shiver*. Oh yeah, Willard... and Ben gave me the rat willies (but I think it may have been that smarmy MJ song - blech)....You won't see me at Saw sinco or jonesin to see Freddy Krueger and when I think about Dracula, I leave my window OPEN! I am fascinated with cemeteries and spent a couple hours waiting for the full moon earlier this month to get some pictures. These are not the things that keep me up at night (well, except for that Dracula guy).
My nightmares were always made of BIG things...big rocks falling from the sky...big dumptrucks full of petunia-colored paint (after a particularly stressful childhood bathroom remodel)...and really big fish; the groupers at Marineworld made me squeemish with their awkward size and rubbery lips. I'm thinking that's why that wave in The Perfect Storm makes me shudder - that wave is just ENORMOUS beyond the scope of comprehension for me.

Different strokes for different folks. I know one person who is TOTALLY creeped out by used bandaids (dirty tape with dirt and hair, too) but I love her and I accept her as she is. I saw a lady being interviewed the other day that is horrified by BUTTERFLIES. Soft, gentle butterflies.

So, I've spent the day carving my jack-o-lanterns into benevolent hobgoblins and scattering friendly, PG garland around. I will not be responsible for a child's sleepless night although, for me, one of those award-winning pumpkins carved into a half-ton jack-o-lantern would be the SCARIEST! Oh, and I made the coolest spiders out of styrofoam balls and glow-sticks....thank you Martha. They are good things.

Happy Haunting people. What gives you the willies? What about vampires before they were in?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens

It wasn't so long ago, I brought them home, fresh from the incubator. I think back to when my babies were brand new and fuzzy, they made me smile with every little glance. Those sweet little girl eyes. The sweet "peeps" they made as they nibbled at grass I threw in their pen. So tiny, I could hold them in my hand. I didn't even mind when they pooped on me - well, maybe a little. The time passes like a whirlwind as they grew from tiny little creatures to adults. And then....they lay an egg! Actually, this one is looking a bit like a fella with the fancy big comb and enormous waddle. He/she also greets me eagerly at the gate which seemed aggressive till I realized it was trying to get to the weeds growing outside the gate. No sweeping sickle feathers have appeared at the tail and, when touched, she squats down into the submissive pose the girls seem to save for roosters. So we'll see if Ginger has become Genghis....or, as we like to call them, "Stew".
I've found one egg a couple days this week but I got two eggs today - small brown beauties - so it appears I have at least a couple of my feathered children growing into adulthood. Perhaps it was Julia (above). I could be scientific about it and hang `em upside down and take a peek at the vent (that's what they call a hen's naughty place) to see if it's "in use"..... yeah, I'm not that interested at this point.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Before the Breathing Air is Gone....

Weather: The daily atmospheric conditions upon which we base our shoe and sweater wardrobe Climate: The state of the air our grandchildren will breathe.

I'm no scientist. I struggled through a meteorology class with Dr. Jon Pedicino at CR because I really WANTED to understand why some days are sunny and others are good for surfing and still others are best spent indoors baking bread and making soup. I came out of the class with a B and still don't understand it all but I did learn that the perforated layer of ozone is trying to protect us from the suns scorching rays. That's science, not politics.

We have become a disposable society and it's bad for the budget and for the earth. We buy cheap shoes and toss them out when they start to show wear. We wear bargain clothes not worth the thread to repair a torn seam. We eat fast food wrapped in paper, put in boxes, stuffed in bags with a drink topped with a plastic lid and a plastic straw. And we eat it with a plastic utensil finishing off by wiping our mouth on a paper napkin....all of which goes in the garbage. Our trash cans aren't big enough for all the waste we create. Our landfills are filled then covered over and used as a base for the next new development.

Our budgets, as well as our world, will suffer unless we change our evil ways. When a gallon of gas was approaching the $5 mark, we found alternatives. We carpooled. We walked. We bussed. We biked. Now that the cost of gas has dropped a bit, we've gone back to our high consumption habits. Some of us will reduce, reuse and recycle until they compost our bodies but others have to be hit where it hurts - in the cheesy, vinyl pocketbook.

Even if you're dubious about overfilling landfills or the talk radio host you listen to raptly assures you that global warming is the fantasy of a madman, can it REALLY hurt to create less garbage? Can it hurt to pack a lunch in reusable containers and take a real metal fork and paper napkin? Buy a good, sturdy pair of shoes that will be worth fixing. If the pesticides you spray on your lush lawn causes you to cough, is it such a stretch to think it might be better for the earth to find a less-toxic alternative?

This week we've sent a rocket to the moon to blast a hole to determine if the environment is welcoming. Most of us won't be alive when we colonize that new world so we really should take care of what we have. We have just one planet and she isn't disposable. Remember, once upon a time SHE was an inviting place to live, too.

Monday, October 5, 2009


I have arthritis in my back that causes me to occasionally feel (and walk) much older than my years. I also carry around a few extra pounds. When Big Sid, our handsome tabby, began having trouble negotiating the steps a few weeks ago, empathy was not difficult - he's more than a bit heavy plus that step was at eye level.

In past weeks, the Big Man started sleeping in the middle of the back lawn at night. Not sure where he normally sleeps but I’m guessing it was somewhere that involved a jump or a climb. In the midst of our recent flea infestation, he also started napping in the covered cat box, stinky but quiet. Between the fragrance of cat poo and the fact that that chubby Sid has not been able to get to his back half for a number of years, we hauled him to the sink for a good wash before hitting him and his feline step-siblings with the Advantage.

The bath was sorely needed and I figured he would feel better with the flea crumbs removed but, instead, he developed wobbly-cat disease – as if he’d had a stroke, his ample stern was not quite following his bow. In hindsight, I’m thinking that bath was the beginning of the end and for that, I feel horrible beyond words. Last Wednesday, I carried his ampleness to the vet where he purred contentedly but would not walk across the room to display his lack of grace for the doctor. Because he is eleven years old, he got a “senior screen”, full blood test that might uncover diabetes or other condition that might afflict the obese elderly. They gave him a shot for pain to see if that would help. By Thursday, his test results showed “normal” but his legs were more wobbly. He still wasn’t showing any indication of discomfort except for his total inability to climb stairs and physical inability to mow everyone down on the way to the food bowl.

Friday morning he was a seal, dragging his big ol’ butt to the food bowl, rear legs not functioning at all. But he ate – he cleaned his plate and the leftovers from the other two plates. Then he crawled back to his towel and plopped the rest of his body down. Back to the vet that afternoon for x-rays and a cortisone shot…pills for home. Sid spent the weekend dragging himself around, front legs powering around his enormous lower body. He slept in the sun’s rays, actually dragging himself out to the back porch once -- I could see he was considering a trip down the steps to the driveway when I carried him back in for fear of him going for a “drag” down the street.
It broke my heart to see him. He was lacking control of his bladder. His feet were cold to the touch….he tail stopped twitching. His front half was still a cuddly teddy bear and he even played a bit with Hope’s hamster as Rambo rolled past him in the ball. By this morning, we knew things didn’t look good for Sid.

Mark’s shop is closed on Mondays so he was elected to take Bubba back to the docs. They consulted. They concurred that his butt-nerve was pinched badly by the arthritis and would not get better. Even surgery was not an option that would help. So Mark held Sid in his arms while they sent him off to take on his next life, where maybe he’d do a little yoga, eat smaller helpings and stay a little more limber for more of his years. Hopefully, we’ll get him back in one of his other lives. I miss that big ol’ ottoman already.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


I really didn't fall in but had to keep reminding myself where I was which was on a beautiful stretch of beach at Mad River. Others who had been there were enjoying the beach by the warmth of a bonfire. Many of the bonfires were built from pallets. Pallets have nails...LOTS of nails.
Along with other members of the Surfrider Foundation - Humboldt County Chapter, I spent my bit of the annual Coastal Cleanup with a rake, a magnet and a bucket. There were plenty of others out and about, bags in hand, picking up after those who don't. Like them, we collected plenty of cigarette butts and beverage containers but our focus was in and around the fire pits. From one fire to the next we'd carry our tools then plop down to rake out the coals, drag the magnet through, clear off the magnet and do it again. And again. And again. Five buckets of nails were removed and we didn't make a dent. Personally, I consider this a bit of a penance since I know our girls have been involved in many a beach bonfire fueled by pallets and, truthfully, until a Ranger brought it to their attention, I never even thought about it. After that, we sent them with proper wood to start the fire. Mad River is a party beach, fueled by awesome sunsets and a "ya gotta know where you're going" location. Ironically, partiers enjoy the ambiance without even thinking of what they were leaving behind. We all knew we had been guilty of the same in our youth but we're hoping the kids out there now will be more aware of the environment. As someone who has stepped on my share of nails and has 28 stitches in one foot, courtesy of a beer bottle that cut through to my tendon, I really hate to think of the children running on these beaches , their tender little feet encountering sharp shards of beach trash. So, here's hoping everyone will reconsider using pallets as beach fire fuel. Pack your trash and mark your calender to join us next September on the third Saturday for another Coastal Cleanup either by yourself or with a group. Remember where you live. Listen to your Mother.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Reelin' in the Years

Did you love middle school? Wouldn't you love to go back and relive those years? Yeah, me too. I'd sooner slide buckass nekkid down a splintered board into a pit of pythons....OK, too graphic but you get my point. Middle school sucked for me. If it didn't for you, you were likely slim and or pretty. I was neither. In sixth grade, I was not the looker I am today. Several of the girls I thought were friends, turned out to be not. By eighth grade, though, I was growing into my weight. I tossed away the spectacles and started getting some notice from the boys. Often not the boys I wanted to notice me but boys nonetheless. I did have (not in the Biblical sense) a rather famous surfer that had several girls in the know very frustrated. I had mad crushes on several boys that most of the girls hadn't even noticed. Maybe I had a thing for freckles. Or maybe it was the quiet silliness that the pubescent boys have at that age. Not the jocks (their girlfriends were bullies) or the screw-ups (although I'd love to know where John Prieto is....he was smart but spent a lot of time sitting outside the classroom) but Mike Watson had my attention. As I recall, Walter Wilson had my friend, Jeri's eye. There was no dating. No "hookin' up". Not even any makin out. I recall sitting on the sidewalk in front of someone's house, the four of us just talking. Good times.
Reunions of any sort are exciting but, for most of us, also very scary. Probably those of you that hung with a big group in school look forward to them. Out of a large social pool, odds are you have retained something in common with at least a few. When you hang with just one or two people, however, moving apart leaves you without those links to the past. A few of my friends really weren't. The lives of the others moved in totally different directions. from mine. In my case, I got married right out of high school and Mark has been my "friend" for 35 years and I haven't been more than "Christmas Card" friends with much of anyone.
The one advantage to the oft disparaged social networks is finding some of those people. But once you find them, what do you do with them? Through the miracle that is facebook (FB to the cool kids), I "ran into" Jeri, a friend from middle school. Through the comments and "likes" on our FB walls, we realized we had much in common and began asking why we had lost touch. Since she now lives in Seattle and was planning a trip to Brookings, we made plans to meet.We would meet over coffee. Would we have fun? Would we have philosophical differences that we can't get past? I couldn't wait to find out. We spent a few hours over a sandwich and beer then headed to the beach - a place she doesn't see enough and I can't get enough. For another hour or more, we walked along Harris Beach talking our way through the years, about family and how we've spent the past 35 .... wait, it's close to 40....years. as well as the verboten subjects - religion, politics, gay marriage - amazed how similar we really are. No deal-breakers.
Eventually, I had to head south, to avoid driving in the dark. She headed back to the B & B weekend she was spending with her man. We still have so much to talk about. We never had a chance to talk about Mr. Shagren's class. The boys. The girls. The drawing she did for our Donner Party report....quite gruesome and cool. We didn't talk about music....but there's time. We're making plans to visit again so we can talk about the past. In the meantime will stay FB "friends" in the present.

Friday, September 4, 2009


Like the wild icons of the west they were, the mustangs would appear in our neighborhood in Nevada and most of us were moved by the romance of it all... "The herd is over on Vickie".... "Hey, did you see? We have two foals this year". After a day or two of grazing and nibbling the forbidden fruit of the non-native species planted by city-folk, they would disappear back into the foothills of the Pinenuts to our east.

In the eleven years we spent in the high desert, we saw four or five herds come and go, the victim of civilization. In general, they were not unattractive horses, almost entirely sorrels, with white blazes and/or socks. We did have one severely sway-backed mare at one point but we also had a gorgeous buckskin (picture Ben Cartwright's steed-tan with black mane, tail and stripe up the back). The buckskin was rumored to have been a renegade domestic with stories varying from a voluntary release by an owner unable to care for it to a 'hot-to-trot' party girl that jumped the fence when the gypsy herd passed by like a teenager climbing out the window to meet her leather-clad boyfriend.

We lived in Johnson Lane, an area seven miles south of Carson City, an unobstructed view of the Sierra Nevadas from our front window. Roughly fifteen hundred homes, mostly on one-acre plots though a few ten and fifteen acre parcels remained. Most of us had livestock of some sort. I had my chickens and we would raise a couple pigs each year. Neighbors had horses, mules, turkeys....Then came the developers, make that Developers, capital 'D'....They wanted to tweak the general plan that required one house per acre so that they could build, say, five hundred houses on five hundred acres but on quarter-acre plots with a golf-course. And we shall name our development "Wild Horse Meadows" or some such. Lets just say that the people moving in to these homes didn't have horses, chickens or turkeys. In fact, they didn't like the smell or horses or the sound of chickens, never mind the peacock. And those mustangs walked all over their pretty lawns and nibbled their petunias. The nerve!

Eventually, the copters would come - the BLM called to duty by a complaint that demanded they "manage" the herd. Those helicopters had the same affect on our neighborhood as CAMP does in SoHum....we knew what was coming and we all hoped the quarry would evade capture. They wouldn't because the helicopter cowboys have big scary machines to chase the frightened creatures. Soon, the trailers filled with nervous mustangs experiencing their first taste of captivity would drive out of our neighborhood. They would head north on Highway 395 to Palomino Valley where they would be stored and fed at taxpayer expense. A few would be adopted, the others euthanized.
Months would pass and, sure enough, another herd would be spotted wandering through an open parcel, nibbling on sagebrush shoots and spring wildflowers. Likely led by a young stud, having lured a few fillies away from another stallion, they would settle into the void left by the previous herd. And, like their predecessors, they would venture into civilization looking for food, babies in tow. Then, neighbors in another pristine little corner of our dusty chunk of sand would forget why they moved to the "country"and place a call to BLM....and bring back the helicowboys.

BLM is in the news this week, rounding up similar herds on the Montana/Wyoming border in the name of 'management'. There are protesters but not the "save the horsies" kind of animal lovers. These people want the horses left alone to survive (or not), on their own. Instead, dozens of horses will be stored and miserable, and fed (on our dime).

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Save It For a Rainy Day

The summer is at it's peak here in Eureka and it seems as if my life is revolving around food - fruit, vegetables, herbs, canning, drying, in it's freshest forms. Our farm share boxes are full these days - each week's box load packed with something old and something new but everything much fresher than what I've been getting at Winco. I swore I would post pictures of each and every box to encourage more people to consider supporting the local farms but I've been so busy with saving my stuff, I lose track of time. If I don't want anything to go to waste, I have to be diligent about sorting through and making plans. The purple beans have been lovely but we can only eat so many but trimming and tossing in the freezer means we'll have some for later in the year. I'm not a fan of [roly poly] peas but shelling them into a tub for the freezer will force me to eat something I normally avoid by throwing a handful into pots of pasta e fromage or tuna and noodles. I've had my dehydrator running pretty much constantly for the past few weeks with trimmings from my rosemary, oregano, sage and parsley, alternating with the bountiful herbs from the farm box. Little nosegays of basil one week, a huge bunch the next - most of which went into the freezer but a tray or two were dried for the spice rack. This week, we're back to just a few stalks of basil but enough dill to consider another attempt at pickles. Potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini have been constant and this week, the beets are back. Mark's mom will benefit from the extras.

A week or so ago, Glo and I headed up to Wolfsen's to pick blueberries. The little buggers are pricey but good. As of yet, I haven't been privey to anyone's wild blueberry stash so, if we want to pick, we pay. We were a little more careful and only picked about five pounds to avoid the sticker shock of last year's ten pound berry orgy. Back home to rinse and trim and lay them out on trays to be frozen then stored in a tub to use for muffins and pancakes or added to pies and jam when blackberries are ripe.
On Sunday, we bought our first albacore of the season off a boat at Woodley Island. Paying the boat hands to clean it is worth any price they ask so I take home only a bag of dressed out fish including the red meat to be canned for the cats...I hadn't intended to can yet but after taking out enough for dinner from a 12 pound fish, the rest was loaded into jars so the canner was put to work for the first time this season.

I've managed my first load of blackberry jam for the season and hope to do a few more batches before the season ends. I'm way too lazy to be this productive. I would NEVER have made it out on a Little House On The Prairie.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Life in the Fast Lane

The sun came out this afternoon so I took the opportunity to run some outgoing up to the mailroom and take the long way back to the office. Walking behind the field house towards the stadium, I spotted this guy in the path, all appendages tucked away, covered with the dried remains of pond plants, only the tiniest hint of a snout and claws held a clue that this was no rock. The hare was nowhere to be seen.

Less-than-average rainfall this winter left my pond walks around campus lacking treasures; the spots where last year I spotted hundreds of pollywogs are all but dry, the water starting far beyond my reach. I'm sure Speedy was bored and left for wetter pastures and, angry though he may have been, I took it upon myself to transport him to a more appropriate environment. Naturally, I wore a skirt today so I was less than demure as I climbed through the brambles and snags to find a clear bank but I found him some bog nonetheless. I startled a frog or two with my crashing about so I figure it must be friendlier territory for amphibians than the warm asphalt of the gym parking lot.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ch Ch Ch Changes

Like a lot of people, I find myself constantly fighting the battle of environment vs. economy. In an effort to support conscious production of my food as well as the local economy, I make the tough decision to buy, for example, $2/pound organic zucchini at the Farmer's Market rather than the much more economical standard squash at the grocery store. I have to admit that I am not as concerned about the eating as much as the process of organics. After all, we survived our childhoods fraught with copious amounts of lead and lawn sprays, not to mention the lack of seatbelts and bicycle helmets. It's more the process of genetically modifying crops to suit our schedules and spraying chemicals over the farm crews as if they were dispensable that disturbs me. That said, I wanted to share this week's farm box and hopefully, each week's bounty in order to encourage more of you to support local farms - pricey but I think it will save us much in the long run. This week, another kohlrabi (that's the funny purple spaceship), a bit of lettuce and a small chunk of broccoli. those went into a pasta pot into which I added some home-canned tuna and scads of garlic. The garlic was in there, too, along with some new potatoes, a few onions, summer squash (which, in hindsight, would have been better with the tuna), some basil and parsley, both of which also added to the dinner. It's still only our second box so the pickin's are slim but really very nice. The box will get fuller as the weeks go by. The letter enclosed assures us that tomatoes are on their way. My most recent adjustment has been my milk purchases. As pleased as I've been with a gallon of milk finally costing less than two bucks at Winco, neither of the brands they carry are California produced....what about our Happy Cows? They do carry Humboldt Creamery milk in half gallons but it's much more expensive. What's a girl to do when, as a Surfrider member, she supports the Rise Above Plastics but the gallon jugs of milk are SO much less expensive. Argh! have discovered Walgreen's carries Humboldt Creamery milk, often just a bit above the $2 mark so I've been making a stop there to buy my milk and decided this week to spend more (about 75¢/gallon) to switch to half-gallon cartons that I can burn. When you buy three or four gallons of milk a week, it can add up but it's a price I'm willing to pay to keep money local and avoid the use of plastic. It has totally changed the look of my frig, though.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

You Can't Always Get What You Want

So Mark and I planned to head up to Big Lagoon today, to celebrate 34 years of wedded adventure. Mark's never been out on the kayak but decided it might be a nice way to spend our anniversary. Unfortunately, our buddies at the Weather Channel had little flashing clouds all over the north coast and we just didn't think it was good to be out on the water in a thunderstorm. Since same Weather buddies showed the clouds completely bypassing the Mendocino coast, we headed south to Fort Bragg to check out Glass Beach. The area had been a bottle dump in the early part of the (last) century which left all the glass to tumble around in the waves, polishing and softening the shards. They stopped dumping there in the 60's and, at some point, the State took over to protect and prevent the remaining glass from being collected. It's really fascinating. Normally, just to find a single piece of beach glass is exciting anymore. I mean, it's great that trash is no longer dumped in the sea but I really miss finding the glass. I've even taken to running loads of broken glass through my rock tumbler to make a reasonable facsimile.
I knew it would be difficult to walk around all the beach glass and obey the State Park regulations to not collect but I thought my camera would satisfy by beachcombing urges. That was the hardest thing ever. All those sparkling pieces of wet glass, the very thing I search for earnestly when I walk the sand....and I can't HAVE them. Then, as we're walking back up the trail, there are people sitting in the sand filling buckets with glass. WTF?

So, I'm going to have to find out if there are REALLY restrictions on collecting or if all the websites just say that so the tourists will leave the glass for the locals. There are actually no signs noting State Park designation nor rules against collecting. I hate to think I was trifled with. If I was, I'm going back with a bucket.

UPDATE: I checked with the Mendocino District office of State Parks and confirmed that Glass Beach is considered part of MacKerricher State Beach and collecting the glass from the beach is prohibited. When I mentioned the lack of signage, she responded "yeah, I guess we really should post it...". Yep, they really should.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Good Luck Movin' Up cuz I'm Movin' Out

Mark did some serious Dad time this weekend, replacing the timing belt in Monica's car ("so I don't have to tow her home from Seattle....") then with the help of Hope's man, moved the last huge piece of furniture from Hope's room to her new apartment, her huge three-piece desk beast. It's been awhile since Monica moved out at a quarter-past eighteen so the evacuation of another offspring has caught us a wee bit off kilter. Well, unless you count Mark's mom who moved in, moved out and then returned to live in an apartment house across the street but that was more drama than transition....I digress.

When Hope first starting thinking about the possibility of a place of her own, we tried to talk her out of it for a number of reasons not the least of which was the potential for saving money on her part but she having none of it. We just wanted her to be sure about this big step. Rent means obligations but it also means independence. Not that I don't understand the need to be an adult ..... in just a month or two, even my baby will be the age I was when I got married and left home and that is a very sobering thought. We do not have a revolving door at our house. Barring abuse or some other viable reason, once you're out, you're out. The transition from parent to landlord, let alone roommate is virtually impossible. Once a child has been on their own, expecting them to go back to being a child is like shoving them back in the womb....NOT goin'!

I'm excited for Hope in her new place. She planned. She shopped. It was like a bridal shower but without the hassle of a wedding! While I mulled over Gottschalk's leftovers for a bargain on yet another serving platter, she saw bowls and utensils and small appliances to fill her future cupboards. Her 21st birthday came with perfect gifts for the new housekeeper....margarita pitcher and shot glasses. It was exciting for me when she unpacked an item and asked me where it should go. "It should go where YOU want it to go". Huh? After 21 years of doing things in a kitchen that mom set up, she has the chance to consider these things. The perfect drawer for silverware. Shelf paper. A leopard-print broom! And then there's " do I hard-boil eggs?". She's asking for recipes because she's actually cooking for herself....YEAH!

But I will miss her. Her recent busy schedule of school and work has kept her gone more than she was home anyway but we knew she was coming home.....eventually. But now I have less laundry and fewer dishes. Sounds good but it takes longer to accumulate enough to run the load. Ditto the dishwasher. What I won't miss is the sound of the morning bicker of two teenagers argue over bathroom schedules in the morning.

And her sister will miss the company. But then, Hope's room was the bigger of the two and Glo has plans. She has raspberry-colored paint chips and, now that the desk is out, she has plans for a mural and pink and.....a whole new world. And I get a dedicated craft room. But, I will have to wait for Sunday dinners to get my dwindling family together to be silly and laugh at inappropriate jokes, shocking the occasional guest. And maybe Mark and I will be able to walk naked through the house on occasion....THERE! THAT should keep the girls from stopping by unannounced!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Hey There Mr. Blue, We're So Pleased To Be With You

Friday's REALLY low tide was tempting but, alas, there was work so, left to my own devices, I headed out on Saturday to take advantage of a negative tide and check out the rocks that are normally underwater. Low tides also often uncover better shells and such at the waters edge but that was not to be. At Trinidad, I climbed and scoured the rocks below the lighthouse then headed over to poke around below the pier. There was a grand collection of trash that I was unable to pickup due to the fact that it had been there for a lonnnnnggg time. There was this old can that had apparently been there a while. I was crush and stuck fast.

Not sure about this thing. I thought it was a watch and it may have been but it wasn't budging enough to find out.
I thought this was a flounder when I saw it but...just a sole. I walked over to the State Beach side of Trinidad and was able to get far to the north end. Rocks were exposed on the beach that are usually homes to sea stars and enormous mussels (and me without a license to gather). My stomach began to beckon so I grabbed a sandwich at Murphy's Market and headed up to Houda Point to see how the surf looked. Good for lunchtime viewing but apparently not for riding. It does reminded me, lest I forget, why it is I live here.

One wouldn't think the day could get better but I went home to deal with abalone Mark was given by a customer. I've never actually COOKED abalone and was afraid to ruin it so I utilized the Google-machine for directions. I wasn't wanting to go the bread and fry route so tracked down some grilling directions. I unwrapped what Mark expected would be a few small pieces and found one big abalone. I sliced it in half, pounded it (because most all recipes said I HAD to), marinated it a bit and tossed it on the grill with some veggies. Oh! My! Gawd! A little brown rice and we were good to go. Tender? Like buttah! Thank you Mr. Blue Sky for a beautiful Humboldt Day.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Let's Spend The Night Together

So, ya know those moments? The ones when you realize just that fraction of a second too late that you've screwed up and screwed up royal?! Today I found myself home in the early afternoon, after attending a meeting in town. It was sunny for the first time in days and I thought it was time to get the peeps out doors for a little Vitamin D. Mark nearly has their new digs ready so I carried them outside in a bucket and checked out the surroundings before letting them loose. There will be a nesting box with outside-access which is, at this point, still a big hole in the wall. I nailed a piece of leftover lattice over the opening to keep out the cats. Check! The other walls are covered with wire. Check! The door is covered with wire. Check! The latch is installed to keep the door closed. Check! I scout the dirt floor for chickie-dangers and close the door..... Just as the latch clicks.....shit! No latch for the inside. So there I stand, peeps in the bucket and me in the chicken pen. And no one around to call for help. I check my pocket. Nope, no cell phone. Would I even call the kids? What, so they can stand outside the pen and laugh? Maybe take pictures? Monica would Twitter this for SURE!

It was a brief moment of panic. Just long enough to think I'd be spending more time than intended with my new feathered friends. Take a big breath and begin to investigate. I was grateful Mark had run out of staples when he was installing the fencing and hadn't come back to thoroughly capture every tiny edge of wire with a heavy-duty, industrial staple . I managed to wiggle one staple free and reach my arm towards the latch. It was farther than I thought and the chicken wire was grabbing at my shirt and skin, foiling my escape. Eventually I contorted enough to reach the latch and set myself free. Thank God!

I dug through my craft drawer for some floral wire to attach to the latch until Mark rigs up something more attractive. I sat with the girls for a while longer, amazed at their tiny versions of dirt baths - chicken hygiene accomplished by rolling around in a hollow in the dirt, fluffing their wings in the dust -- really adorable when done by a three-week-old chick. It didn't take them long to start scratching around, looking for bugs. Before long, they'll be spending the night out here but tonight, they're back in the washtub, stinking up the laundry room.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Walkin'....Yes Indeed....Walkin'

I think Glo is FINALLY done graduating. After two weeks out of CR classes as well as finishing up with Academy of the Redwoods, she walked with Fortuna High on Friday and it was with mixed emotions. It's been almost a month since walking at CR but, since AR is officially part of the Fortuna Union High School district, it is FUHS District that would issue their diplomas. The administration there was smart enough to realize that the first ever graduating class from AR was a huge deal, with most of them completing their two-year college degree concurrently with high school requirements. . The superintendent asked our kids to stand and be recognized at Friday's ceremony, at least appreciating the dollars in seat-time these kids brought to Fortuna.

The administration at Fortuna High seem to appreciate AR but, somewhere, the Husky students learned to treat them like outcasts, never really welcoming them at FUHS events. From scowls and outright hostility at the proms to having cash and belongings stolen at dances, the AR kids agreed to walk only because the AR administration thought it would show them to be the bigger people. As a carrot, they were offered the ability to participate in the Safe and Sober event after graduation. If that was an incentive, someone should have told the Fortuna High kids. If Glo had a buck for every time she heard the term "those stupid AR kids" between the early Friday morning Senior breakfast they were expected to attend, through the grad practice and the three a.m end to Safe and Sober, she could have bought her own damn car. I guess someone forget to tell these kids they live in the "Friendly City".

At least that obligation is complete and she's finally done with high school. Now, to find a job and figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. One more time, congratulations Glo.

If You'll Be My Dixie Chicken

New to the household this spring are these little girls - my flock of six little peeps. Although Glo and Hope have each given one a rapper name, I'm fighting them with my own ideas. There are two Buff Orpingtons who will retain their honey-gold coloring. - I'm thinking Ginger and Honey West. There are two New Hampshire Reds that will probably look exactly like Rhode Island Reds because, after all, Rhode Island is small enough that some trampy poultry could have snuck out up to New Hampshire and started a new brood. I'm toying with Scarlet and Ruby for them. Then there is one Delaware that will be white with black wing tips and one Austrolorp which will be a gorgeous black hen with dark eyes (I've had those before). I'm toying with Julia and Mabel respectively. As Mark is building their new dwelling, they are living in their washtub, eatin' and poopin'. What a difference a fortnight makes ... from fluffy little Easter treats, they've turned into gawky little birds and the girls aren't as fond of them. "They're feet are bumpy and weird."Aw, lookit that face. I'm hoping for some sunnier weather so they can be moved out to their new digs without a huge adjustment - they ain't smellin' like roses these days. In the meantime, the old hens are in the old pen, keeping us in green eggs until it's time for them to go "on holiday"... that was a Chicken Run reference, for those who aren't familiar. Unless Mommazilla over at Cheaper Than Therapy wants to let them run at her place.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Nobody on the Road, Nobody on the Beach

I have the week off work but still had to make a trip to campus for a meeting. Afterwards, I decided to head out Hookton Road for a walk. The sand is finally warm again yet I had the beach entirely to myself. The low tide offered up a handful of goodies to please the beachcomber in me and I was intrigued by fragments of what were surely huge sand dollars that were too fragile to survive the tumble to shore. I would love to find one of those gems intact.
It turned out to be a perfect day for beach house hunting. I spied a couple real possibilities. First, this cozy little number - the perfect little hideway to cuddle up with your (really small) sweetie for an evening mai tai (or maybe Sex on the Beach?) The architect is unknown though obviously there was some Native American influence. Faced to appreciate the gentle southern breezes, this little number will be the perfect spot to enjoy the Humboldt sunsets.
This second diamond-in-the-rough is more spacious - perfect for the growing family. Taking its cue from Mother Nature, this little cottage takes full advantage of the flotsam and jetsam of the area, using both rope and chip bags for gingerbread. An outdoor fire pit makes it a natural for entertaining. Although faced due west, sand carried on the strong winds from that direction do add to the coastal decor of the room living area.

I will present these options to Mark and we'll check the budget for a vacation home. If not available for purchase, perhaps we'll just visit and share the sunset with the residents.