Lead me to a hammock, and put an iced lemonade in my hand…

I’m tired, beat, petered, played, worn, and tuckered out.  And it’s only Wednesday!

At this time of year, Summer bearing down hard, my family tries to get our outdoor chores buttoned up. I swear to Gawd, I heard the weather man say “a hundred” yesterday. We’ve been doing all the onerous jobs around our rentals, hoping we won’t have to do them again before the temps start to dip in the Fall. Monday morning, armed with a brand new swiffer head, I went merrily off to work.

Swiffering is not one of my fave jobs, but you know, it’s rewarding. Yeah, I keep repeating that while my arms are going into spasms from repetitive stress syndrome – it’s going to look so nice! It really does, getting rid of all those dirty wads of old spider web and brushing the accumulation of dust off the windows.  

I also remind myself that whenever I raise my hands over my shoulders, I’m getting an extra cardio workout!  I wonder if it’s good for my abs, whatever those are. It must firm up those chicken flaps under my armpits, because they don’t hit me in the face when I’m swinging the swiffer around anymore.

I get myself all wrapped up, masked,  with a ridiculous bill cap on top – EGAD! – you would not believe the shower of bugs and junk that comes off the eaves as I roll the brush along.  An earwig landed  on my shoulder the other day and I did a bionic  jump over a rosemary bush. Every now and then I find a mud dauber or a paper wasp making herself a fine little nest – I feel kind of bad, but I take the butt end of my swiffer and smash it.  I look for damage along the eaves and check the attic vents for holes in the screens, etc. I look for ants’ nests and place little bait stations. Ants and bees are vindictive, that’s for sure, I don’t know how many times I’ve had to strip down and hose off, or run for the safety of the F-150.

There’s also a lot of whacking and cutting – this year the pink valerian at one of our rentals got face high, incredible big flowers. They were beautiful, but by this time they are all gone to seed, the fuzzy heads making the whole garden look frowsy.  So, I put on my boots and overalls and wade in to the herb garden with my little snippers and spend an hour here and an hour there, “dead heading” flowers. I search out all the sprinkler heads and cut away the over growth of peppermint and oregano, all coming to head underneath the blanket of spent valerian. The sprinkler heads get so buried they can’t spray properly, and things were starting to wilt in places. 

At another rental we had an incredible poppy patch that I’ve wheedled along over the years in a spot where the sun is so hot nothing else but weeds will grow. This poppy patch lives off the rains from Winter, we don’t water that side yard except for a row of shrubs along the fence. It is too hot to grow grass, and in past we had a problem with it turning into a weed patch instead. Poppies are the perfect cover for such a hot spot. Every year we gather seeds and throw them in that side yard, and every year the patch has grown. It was so big this year, my husband and I enjoyed it from our upstairs windows, until just recently, the heat turned a little hotter, and the whole patch went to seed and began to turn brown. They have to be yanked  out by hand, they just look ugly as heck if you try to mow them. 

Poppies are a nice weed block because, besides being beautiful and our state flower, they are incredibly drought tolerant. They bloom with no water until it gets too hot for weeds to grow, and then they just yank out of the ground and go to the compost pile. I always pick off the nicest seed pods, I either distribute them in other areas, or I save them in a brown paper bag – it has to be paper so they will dry out and pop open to spill out their million tiny seeds. I was not able to finish that patch before the 9:30 sun was beating my head, but I had a wheel barrel load toppling over and I decided that would do until I could get back over a little earlier in the morning. The end of the load was heavy with poppy seed pods, so I picked off a good sack full. 

Today I went back to dead-heading, and then a little bit of last minute pruning. Our lemon trees are already producing next year’s crop, and I decided I better get in there and thin off all the excess greenery so the remaining fruit has plenty of room to grow. As I crawled  around under that tree, with two inch sharp spines around my face, I thought about the pitcher of lemonade I would make with juice I saved from last November’s harvest. I like to mix it with cherry Kool Aid, or black tea, and pour it over a tall column of ice.

Lemon balm is heading up around my yards. I notice where my husband mows it with the lawnmower it gets thick and full, makes a pretty ground cover. Where it grows long it gets stringy flower heads and begins to look shabby. I like to pinch the new growth and make tea – you just stuff your tea pot full of it and pour in hot water. My aunt gave me a nice tea pot with a little sieve in the spout, I can make fresh peppermint or lemon balm or feverfew tea when I feel like it. The feverfew is blooming in a sea of lemon balm in one tenant’s dooryard, she says it’s a soothing combo. You can run your hands through it, or even walk in it, and it sends up a shower of fragrance. 

I had to quit by 11 o’clock, I was running out of shady spots to hide in. I left my husband standing in a big hedgerow with his gas hedge trimmer, telling him he better quit before the driveway gets hot enough to fry an egg. By the end of this month, we should be ready to go on a low-alert schedule, because it will be so hot, nothing will have the nerve to grow. 

Time to start thinking about Summer Refreshment. 

 

 

Adelante! One month til Summer!

I like sunflowers because they say "Good Morning!"

I like sunflowers because they say “Good Morning!”

My husband has been putting a lot of time into our garden this year, and it’s paid off. We’re already getting flowers and fruit. 

I can't believe we'll be eating fresh tomatoes pretty soon.

I can’t believe we’ll be eating fresh tomatoes pretty soon.

The weather is different every year – I will never forget the summer we didn’t get a ripe tomato until August First. That was the year we got a week straight of rain in June – that’s right, Jooooooooon! That was an interesting year – every year here is an interesting year. This year I predict a long growing season, that’s IF you can afford your Cal Water bills.

Hey, did you notice it rained Friday night? I know cause there’s water in my rain barrel. I will be sure to leave that in place the rest of Summer – I’m telling you people, you never know around here.

We planted a big garden, my husband added some new stuff this year – lots of beans.  He got several varieties from his favorite seed catalog, with exotic colored flowers and fruit.

I never had purple green beans before.

I never had purple green beans before.

He planted them along every fence so they would shade the tomatoes when the sun gets mean in about a month. I like beans because they produce every day, I keep a zipper bag in the fridge and when it’s full we eat beans. They start out slow – takes a couple of days to save up a bag – but within a week we will be picking them every morning and eating them for lunch and dinner. They are great on salads, after a 3 minute boil. 

Can't have beans without squash - this is a long variety of "crook neck" squash.

Can’t have beans without squash – this is a long variety of “crook neck” squash.

Since childhood yellow squash has been one of my favorites. I’ve always eaten it steamed or boiled a few minutes to tender, with salt and pepper and butter and mayonnaise on the side. But a few years back I learned out to make a squash pie that will have you begging for more. It’s done like pumpkin pie, but you can use plain milk, boiled. It’s not for the lactose intolerant – this summer I’ll try it with goat milk. 

I miss having small children, although the big ones have come in quite handy. They been working for us really hard all week, digging out the garden beds, mowing weeds, cleaning up brush. My older son has his own garden, where he and his girlfriend have been practicing “permaculture” with chips and other mulch. The younger one does not care for gardening himself but is happy to spend the day with Dad out in the sun.  Every so many days they walk away from chores and take their mountain bikes up in the hills. 

When the kids were little we did a lot more reading. Two great books about gardening are “Squash Pie” by Glen Rounds, and “Carlos and the Squash Plant (calabacito)” by Jan R. Stevens.   A good long read is “Farmer Boy,” by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  When it gets over 95, it’s nice to have a good book and a shady tree. 

Remember to wash behind your ears!

 

 

A world in a window – succulents do well in little containers with very little fuss

This is my mini-succulent garden, sitting in the east window of my kitchen.

This is my mini-succulent garden, sitting in the east window of my kitchen.

I love our apartment, which my husband built over our garage years ago, knowing we’d need a place to live when our kids grew up and moved out (waaaaaah, wah wah wah!) (sniffle!)

My favorite window is of course the window that sits right over the kitchen sink, where I spend a disproportionate amount of time. That’s okay, it’s an East facing window, looks out onto our old crepe myrtle, our pink powder puff tree, and our neat little yard, lined with flowers right now. The powder puff tree is starting to pop, and the butterflies have been coming around, flitting and fighting over the elaborate flowers. Pretty soon the myrtle will bloom, like a pink island floating over the lawn. 

I like plants inside too. I got this guy when my mom died.

I call this planter, "Cowboy with a pantsful of trouble."  Sometimes he gets little red flowers.

I call this planter, “Cowboy with a pantsful of trouble”.  There’s a nodule on the end of one of the cactus sticking out of his pants that should develop into a very pretty little red flower, we’ll see. 

I saved the Sierra Nevada beer can  to the right because it seemed like a big deal at the time, Sierra Nevada going into cans. I’m not a beer snob, and the can is really cute, so I put this tiny cactus in it. Look how it grew like a mushroom to avoid the sides of the can. 

My mom had this mini strawberry pot but neither of us had found anything that would grow in it until my son gave me this plant for my birthday. It really likes this pot, it's got little baby leaves all over itself.

My mom had this mini strawberry pot but neither of us had found anything that would grow in it until my son gave me this frilly cactus plant for my birthday. It really likes this pot, it’s got little baby leaves all over itself, all covered with tiny spines.

I like a plant called “echeveria” – my mom had pots and pots of it. I put some of it in the  ground, where it does fairly well. I thought I’d try it in this other little strawberry pot she had, and it’s doing great. I spray these with water from a mister bottle, and about once a week I pour a little water in the top.

This plant will suit itself to any rocky little crack, so it does find in a tiny pot.

This plant will suit itself to any rocky little crack, so it does fine in a tiny pot.

I like to collect rocks wherever I go, and junk. This cup my mom got at the Ponderosa when it was still  open is full of toys and junk I’ve found digging around my gardens over the years.  I found the old Christmas light intact after my husband roto-tilled the garden one year.  Everywhere we go  we find children’s toys and other kid off-castings, like the tiny scissors there, and the baby spoon with the Bakelite handle. And bottle openers, boy howdy I got bottle openers.  I am fascinated with tools, I can’t throw away an old hammer head or a rusty wrench.

Morning fellas - Hop Sing! Where's my coffee!

Morning fellas – Hop Sing! Where’s my coffee!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

 

Meanwhile, back at the loofah ranch…

Down to my last loofah - time to plant some more!

Down to my last loofah – time to plant some more!

Last year my husband had good luck with “Chinese Okra” – a squash-like vegetable that grows on a vine, look kinda like big zucchini. We also call these “loofah” – pictured above is the stringy sponge left behind when the skin dries up and peels off. 

I love my loofah, I’ve used all six or eight my husband gave me last year.  At first it was kind of a shock to the skin, but invigorating. They suds up good with a bar of soap, and then rinse out easily and beat dry against the palm of my hand before I set them back in the shower caddy. I smell them from time to time and check for moldy spots – as soon as I spot a little black spot I toss that loofah in the trash and get another one. I’m down to my last one now. 

We watched the tiny fruit form from the exotic flowers, some of them withered before they were an inch long, but if they made it beyond that they were usually good to go. We watched them get really big and swollen, and as soon as they’d turned from green to brown and dried to a rattle, the seeds all loose inside, we pulled them off the vine. I hung them in the  garage until they were really brittle, then we patiently picked and peeled and rubbed the skin off. Each one was filled with black seeds about the size of watermelon seed, most of them plump and viable. I saved all the good ones in a little bag in my seed box.

I knew they’d be good, but I was still happy to see the little sprouts popping up this spring in our greenhouse. I planted about 16 and got a dozen. My husband planted some along the garden fence

we put these along the drip lines...

we put these along the drip lines…

and I tried the others at the base of my clothesline post.

I'll give these a splash when I'm hanging the laundry.

I’ll give these a splash when I’m hanging the laundry.  Seems like an appropriate spot for a fruit also known as “dish rag gourd.” 

So far, so good. I’ll post some pictures as they grow along.

 

 

 

Thank you for giving me the chance to say “Thank You!”

People think I’m just bitchy all the time – am not, am not! This morning I woke up feeling all Teletubbie cheerful. It’s Bread Day – with my son home from college for Summer, I am making a loaf of bread every other day again. It’s a nice routine, helps me keep track of the days, keeps everything else on schedule. 

On Bread Day, I try to get the dough ready by 6:30 or 7am, so I can get it rising and get it baked by 9am. Today I was right on schedule, had the dough rising on the counter, with a chance to get out in the garden while I was waiting to form it into a loaf and pop it in the oven. When it starts getting hot around here, scheduling is everything. 

So, I was standing in my kitchen window dumping out my coffee filter in the compost bucket, when I see my new neighbor come trotting out of her house, followed by her old yellow lab, across my driveway and over to my fence, where she pointed her dog a spot to take a nice fluffy dump. This routine has always annoyed me – this rental has a fenced yard but tenant after tenant has routinely sent their dogs onto my property to go to the bathroom. They act like it’s okay. What do you think? 

And here’s the cherry on top – standing there in a kimono that barely made it over her South Fork, she leaned forward and put her eyeball up to a knothole in my fence, taking a nice look at my private yard and patio. She’s off the road on my private easement – would she do this if she was right out on a public street? 

What do you think of this behavior? Honestly – I can’t believe it. I’d like to hear what she’d say if she saw my eyeball pressed up against the fence along her back yard. What  the hell is with people?

One of my favorite reads is “Oh Rotten Gotham: Sliding into the Behavioral Sink,” by Tom Wolfe. Wolfe chronicles the adventures of proxemics expert Dr. Edward T. Hall as he observed the American species in various public social situations. He told us that people need their space, they need their privacy, and when they don’t get it, they exhibit aberrant behaviors.  I would call “bitchiness” an aberrant behavior because I don’t really want to be a bitch, it’s really not me. I resent being forced to be a bitch.

So, when I get a chance to say something nice, I will. I’m happy to report, I received my Utility Tax rebate from the city of Chico yesterday, less than two weeks after I’d dropped it at the Finance Office. They also mailed back all the utility bills I gave them, postage paid. Of course, they could have paid me when I brought the stuff in, it was less than $100. I only had 12 bills to review, and I’d been careful to highlight the pertinent amounts in pink ink. But, the staffer very nicely told me, they review those on Fridays, and send them out on the next mail day. I didn’t ask him about the mailing schedule, I hate to be a pest to a guy who is just doing his job, and gets paid a dinky fraction compared to the talking heads who make the pencil-pusher rules. So, it was probably reviewed the very next day, and sat in the “OUT” box for the next week or so.

But, I’ll also say, last year it took them about two months. You know I griped about it here, and they don’t like that. Well, I’m sorry, but it’s my right as a beaten down American taxpayer to bitch about public workers who don’t do their jobs. Like my Grandma would  say right now, “If you can’t stand the heat don’t read my blog!”

But, since they got me my rebate in a timely manner this year, I’ll say, “Thank You!” Go ahead and call me a bitch but nobody can say I don’t say “Thank You!” 

 

 

 

Get a plan now – those three digit temps are right around the corner

In past I’ve posted pictures of my beautiful Intex swimming pool. Goddess, I loved that thing. It was my big Blue Lagoon, a refuge from the NorCal heat, a respite from the endless sweaty dusty yard work that comes with being a landlady. And, a good work out  – it was actually big enough to swim in. Here’s the link to Intex pools:

http://www.intexcorp.com/

That’s my old pool, the 16 footer. I had that baby for about 8 years.  My husband and kids would drag it out of the shed, where we kept it in a couple of giant size Keepers, and flop it out on the lawn about the end of May, have it up and full within an hour. It has a filter pump on it, so, if you pay attention, you can keep the water clean without having to dump and refill the thing. In the beginning we would actually empty and refill it a couple of times a summer because we didn’t know how to keep the chemical balance, had trouble keeping out the algae. But, after we figured that out, we were able to keep it nice and fresh all summer, only adding water when it seemed to be getting a little low.  At one point we bought a new filter and motor, the newer one was an improvement and that helped too.

Here’s the funny thing – this pool only holds about two ccf’s of water – that’s less than $5 worth of water. But, we were still careful.

We’d had another, smaller one we’d got at a yard sale for $25. Our kids and their friends played in that for a couple of years. When it got a hole my husband took a Band Aid off his leg and stuck it over the tiny pinpoint – it stayed there until we emptied the pool, believe it or else. The following year we used a piece of gaff tape.

These pools will rot in the sun, that’s for sure. After 8 summers of bliss, we were taking the pool down last Fall when tragedy struck – the inflatable ring that keeps the sides afloat just ripped apart, the sides of the pool started to rip, the whole thing just went to pieces right before my husband’s eyes. I witnessed the horrible aftermath from my kitchen window – the water just rolled out over the sides and flooded our patio.   Too bad we did not have the camera rolling for “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”

I was shocked, but I didn’t cry as I would have expected. It’s true – I was the only one who even used the damn thing anymore. I had to coax my husband to get in, he prefers the hot tub. And, we’d observed, we’d spent two entire Summers without setting foot in a natural body of water – in Chico, that’s blasphemy. Before the Intex, we’d set off in search of swimming holes almost weekly. The pool made it too easy to stay home all the time. 

But, no kidding, that pool had a very practical purpose – when it’s 105 around here, Old Landlady still has to go out in the sun and do yard work. People don’t believe me – I do my yard work in an old pair of my husband’s swim trunks and a hand-me-down  t-shirt, and when I feel that stoke coming on, I get in water. When I worked at my rental here at home, I’d have the option of getting into the pool, which was an instant cure. I could stay outside well into the hardest part of the day using that pool. Now I have to go back to my “be in by 10 am or be dead” schedule. My tenants are going to be seeing my backside in their yard a lot earlier in the morning. 

Sprinklers are a nice cool-off, but you know, with this drought, I will be running my sprinklers in the middle of the night so the granny police won’t catch me. 

I have a plan. Wait til you see, you are going to laugh so hard. 

 

 

 

B.B. lives forever in my house

Wow, today I heard blues legend B.B. King is dead. 

I play my B.B. King record almost every day. It’s called, “The Unexpected Instrumental.” It has a fast side, and a slow side. 

Today I’m playing the fast side, and me and my close friend and constant companion Arthur Itis are “Jumpin’ with B.B.” I hope the neighbors don’t mind. 

If music is a religion, then I will be in church every day.