Gone camping

It is true - coffee tastes better outside.

It is true – coffee tastes better outside.

I must say, sometimes Chico just gets up my ass.  I gotta get out of here now and then.

I wouldn’t have said that 10 years ago, but I remember starting to think this way about six or so years ago. Chico has changed dramatically since my youth, I’ve watched it grow from a beautiful familiar community to an anonymous string of subdivisions. They’ve killed our Downtown and replaced it with a propped up corpse.  Our government has gone from concerned locals to self-serving trough dwellers, here today, gone tomorrow, off to the next town to loot and pillage.

I hate feeling that way – everything I own is here.  My husband and I have invested our entire lives here, where we grew up, and now we’re watching the Jolly Roger come alongside our boat and the pirates are swarming over the sides. We can’t fight them all off. At some point we’re going to have to load our valuables into a dinky boat and get the hell out. Screw the rats, they can swim.  Or I can load them on a little spit and roast them over my dinky BBQ.

Every man/woman for themselves. I learned that from Tom Lando. Sure, he tries to bolster up the community spirit he destroyed – like Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland – “C’mon Everybody! Let’s pitch in to clean up this mess I made. I get a huge pension, and the rest of you get to be my servants!” He’s like the owner of a southern plantation, trying to rally his former slaves before Sherman marches into town. 

Our Sherman, of course, will be bankruptcy. I don’t plan to be waiting here when he marches into town.

I plan to be having a nice cup of coffee in the woods somewhere, feet propped up on a stump to watch the sun rise. 

The sun, moon, stars, birds, fox, raccoon, squirrel, ornery bear and many trees are my only neighbors here.

The sun, moon, stars, birds, fox, raccoon, squirrel, ornery bear and many trees are my only neighbors here.  

There’s plenty of work to do – cleaning up brush and debris off the forest floor to prevent forest fires. In winter you can call burning pine needles and other “tree trash”  a day’s work, standing around with a pitchfork and a rake, waiting for the coals to get hot enough to roast yourself a frankfurter. 

Housework = make the bed and put away the breakfast dishes. 

No PG&E, no Cal Water, no Chico Silly Council, no chickens. When a gal down the road here tried to keep chickens, Bear ripped the side off the coop and had a giant pillow fight.

Quick trips to town to check the mail, do some laundry, buy some groceries, rake leaves, clean gutters, back to the camp site. 

We woke up the other night to a storm, rain prattling off the tin roof of our camp shack. We went back to sleep. When we woke up a few hours later, Venus was blaring in our window, like a mini-sun, time to get up and watch the day get started. 

I always wondered, what could make people leave the place they’ve lived all their lives and take up something new. But what my husband and I are doing now seems more like a return to what we knew better, life in Chico is starting to seem like a bad dream, getting farther and farther away with every trip up the hill. 

Night-time television.

Night-time television.


Fall has fell – here’s how you can keep some Summer in your freezer

Here we are, Summer making a lingering retreat – still hot enough to swim for about an hour in the middle of the afternoon, but just nippy enough for a long sleeve shirt after sunset. This would be a nice time of year if the air didn’t smell like a day old campfire.

I’ve been picking the last apples from our orchard – small, but there are a lot of them, and they’re sweet and crisp.

These are sweet little apples, just enough for a quick snack.

These are sweet little apples, just enough for a quick snack.

So many, I made a batch of juice this morning, and I still have more on the tree. I also have some Fuji’s and Granny’s from earlier in the bottom bin of my refrigerator. They will sure be nice in November.

Sheesh, I know why they call it “Fall,” I know you do too. There are so many oak leaves on the ground, I can’t hardly see the path in front of me. The drought brought fall on early, my trees have been shedding since early August, and the compost piles have been building up along our fence line.

I rake them off the driveway and load them onto an old tarp, then drag them to one or another mulch area. I mulch them around young trees, and along the old honeysuckle vine on our fence. The piles are huge now, but by Spring they will have rotted down to nothing. I make sure not to pile them against trees or fences, to avoid damage.

When we bought this place, there were knee-high weeds everywhere around the yard, and a pile of rotting leaves had eaten the siding about four feet up one side of the house. The sycamore trees that had dropped all those leaves were in decline because they been taken over with English Ivy.  

My husband went after the ivy with a chain saw, cutting out dead wood from the trees, and now you’d never know they had  been so sick.  I had to shovel the dirt out, feet of it, and all the siding on that side had to be replaced.  Then I went after the weeds along all the fences and  around the perimeter of the house – it really does take hand pulling and stubborn cleaning, for a few years.  I’ve got rid of most of the trouble areas by pulling them by hand and then covering the ground with at least six inches of leaf mulch. It has really paid off. We put gravel down under the sycamore trees, and we keep them clean during Leaf Management Season. 

Our black walnuts are dropping old rotten limbs, and we see the beginnings of mistletoe infestation. We will have to fork over a couple of thousand dollars the next year or so for tree work at our home and our rentals. If you don’t keep up on it, you could lose a tree – and then pay big bucks to have it safely removed. All around us, our neighbors are losing trees to the drought. They don’t realize, you need to water big trees during drought periods. I’ve kept mine alive simply by putting a sprinkler around the base for an hour or two, a couple of times a month. I find  it’s not really that much water, and I can see the difference. 

But nothing keeps Fall  and Winter away, no matter how we try. I found a little good-bye message from Summer in our haggard old garden this morning.

Surprise! I found these sweet cherry tomatoes and more coming on the vine in a part of the garden we turned off weeks ago.

Surprise! I found these sweet cherry tomatoes and more coming on the vine in a part of the garden we turned off weeks ago.

I can't remember what these melons are called, but my husband found this last one hidden in a pile of dead vines.

I can’t remember what these melons are called, but my husband found this last one hidden in a pile of dead vines.

Ta ta for now Summer, I will miss you every day!


Monday, Monday – how many times we gonna do this?

I can’t get a picture of the stars with my little digi-cam, but this morning the sky is absolutely gorgeous. The moon is busy elsewhere, so there are a million shiny stars glistening out there.

It’s Monday – again, I know. Happens every week, you’d think we’d have figured out a way to get rid of it by now. Three day weekends? Four day weekends? Two day work week?

Who drank my coffee?

I find myself in this chair, wondering, how did I get out of bed, and why? Actually, I sleep with my friend Arthur Itis, and he can’t make it more than about six hours in the sack. He drags me out here about 5, 5:30 in the morning, sets me in front of the computer and fetches me a hot cup of coffee. I love that guy, I don’t know what I’d do without him.

Arthur, more java!

Me and Arthur hadn’t been getting along – I was getting sick of him following me everywhere, and told him as much.  I finally took him to a doctor, and the doc said, he’s here to stay, get used to him. He offered us some drugs, but Arthur likes to get his drink on now and then, so he is leery of pills.  Not to mention, that stuff will eat your stomach and blow through your kidneys and liver in about a year! We thanked the doc and hit the road.

So here we are, a regular Hope and Crosby, getting laughs in grocery store aisles up and down the town. We like to drop stuff on the floor and then argue over who is going to pick it up – we just about killed each other over a pencil one time, I bent over to get it and Arthur just kicked me right in the ass. I never know what that guy is up to, he’s got a mind of his own. 

But he’s quick on that java, I’ll say.

Gives me somebody to complain to until my husband wakes up.



Chico air unbreatheable, but PG&E ready to stick it to you if you use that air conditioner – Gruendl and Sorensen standing by to collect your inflated Utility Tax!

My husband and I noticed our throats and sinuses were stinging when we woke up yesterday. We took a drive up Hwy 32 and this is what we saw on the way home yesterday evening.


Oh no! Close your nose!

Oh no! Close your nose!

That’s Chico under that old blanket. A blanket made up of a combination of forest fires and harvest dirt and just everyday car exhaust. 

Yeah, welcome to really bad air quality.

Welcome to really bad air quality.  Yeah, TJ, this is worse than the worst day with wood stoves.


We kept our windows closed last night, I’ve opened them for a few minutes this morning, but I’ll shut them again when I see the sun poking over my neighbor’s house. Luckily the heat has let up, doesn’t cook the house all day, we can get along without the air conditioner this time. That last bad spell of fires had us trapped inside under three digit heat, air conditioners in my neighborhood were running 24-7. We kept our PG&E bill down to a dull roar by setting the thermostat at 82 and leaving during the day, but it was still our highest bill of the year. 

PG&E is pushing their “time of use” program, through which a customer gets discounted power between 7pm and 10 am, but pays “market rates” (whatever electricity is going for on the market, by the hour) between 10 am and 7 pm. I don’t understand how this could be good for anybody but a single person who is not home very much. For a family with kids at home, particularly a for a family  like mine who works out of our home, this is impossible. 

And, I keep asking but nobody will answer – what about my refrigerator? TJ suggested I turn it down during the hottest part of the day – does he think this is okay for my food? No, TJ, your milk will go bad in a day, you can’t keep produce in a big hot box with no refrigeration  either. Why do they try to make us feel as if we’re spoiled because we want a refrigerator to store our food? Do they expect us to mill around at the street corners and wait for the Soylent Green trucks? 

Going to the store every day is not sustainable, duh.  Buying in bulk is far more sustainable than going to the store every afternoon to pick up one piece of chicken wrapped in styrofoam and plastic film. No, you buy a pack of chicken, at a cheaper price too, and you freeze it in your freezer so it will not be rotten in a couple of days. 

We have an ice-box in our old family home. It’s no better than an ice chest. For one thing, you have to have a store near by that sells ice, and you have to pick it up every day.  Even  the blocks melt within a day or so. As I recall, dry ice doesn’t work that great, you have to have a lot of it, and it’s expensive.  I  don’t know where to get it anymore.

There is no reason we need to be so stingy with electricity – conservation is one thing, depriving yourself of a happy, healthy lifestyle is another. Electricity can be generated out of the thin air, using a variety of cost-effective means. California generates enough electricity for export – and that right there is the problem. Same with water. When they can broker it to outsiders, who cannot make or get their own, at a higher price than we are willing to pay, we’re in trouble.

We need a law that says power and water stay  within a certain distance of where they are generated.  And we need more cities to emminnent domain entities like Cal Water and PG&E and set up their own power and water companies.

Think big people, and think for yourselves for a change. 

I’m trying to set up a meeting at the library to get ready  for the PG&E rate increase hearing at Holiday Inn October 9. So far I’ve only heard back from Maureen Kirk,  Bill Connelly, and candidate Rodney Willis. I’d hoped to get some of our “leaders” to help  us out here, but I’m guessing we won’t hear from Gruendl or Sorensen because they know – higher PG&E and water bills  mean MORE UTILITY TAX for the city. Same for the rest, none of them have taken a strong stance for taxpayer relief, they all want MORE TAXES. Oh well, we’ll see if we can get a unified stand against this rate hike.

I’ll  keep you posted. 








The “crime wave” hits my hood

Yeah, something’s out there in my neighborhood, and it doesn’t wait for the cover of dark. At about 5:30 last night, a car parked at my neighbor’s house, just east of the Evangelistic Free Church on Filbert Ave, was broken into and her purse stolen.   

Now, I know – don’t leave your damned purse on the front seat, how many times do we have to tell you girls! And you men need to stop leaving your Ipods and cell phones. It isn’t uncommon for these items to be stolen out of parked cars in Upper Park or later at night in the college neighborhoods.  But, this is a first for my neighborhood. I can’t help but  wonder if the culprit (s) is already watching me and my neighbors, casing the joint! 

 It was still very light outside, the neighbor across the street saw the whole thing – but said later she didn’t see him break in, she just thought he was retrieving something out of his own car. How would she know, it was a strange car too. Several days a week, the church, despite their enormous and underused parking lot, floods our neighborhood with cars. I guess I better tell somebody down at the church – their parishioners might just be sitting ducks. 

When my neighbor called Chico PD they refused to come. They said they needed a witness. Wow, she called minutes after it happened, they could have got the guy wandering down the street. A few minutes later, she talked to the other neighbor who had seen it, and called the cops again. They came out, but my husband and I saw the way the cops sped up our street, well past the 25 mph limit. He wasn’t sticking around to check out the neighborhood, he was mad that he even had to come.

My neighbor was good to get out in the street and let us all know what happened. My husband and I had literally just missed it – we’d gone out on our bike for about 30 minutes, and she was just sweeping up the broken glass and the cop leadfooting it away when we came home. I think today I’ll type up a little note with the facts and put it in mailboxes for a block or two around the neighborhood. I hate to think – we’re all sitting ducks with a police department that is too lazy to do their job.  

So, just when you think your neighborhood is immune, you need to look for an older, poorly dressed gentleman with a “bowl cut”. 

Something in the night

Even at a fraction of itself, this is a bright moon. It's easier to get a picture at this reduced size, especially with these nice reflective clouds.

Even at a fraction of itself, this is a bright moon. It’s easier to get a picture at this reduced size, especially with these nice reflective clouds.

The moon has made the animals more active at night, my dogs are so frisky when I get up in the morning I can hardly stay out of their way.  

One evening a couple of weeks ago my husband and I were bicycling home through lower Bidwell Park, when we saw a brown streak in that meadow off Bryant Ave. My husband remarked that it was the same color as deer but lower to the ground and ran different. He opined cougar, I agreed. Something has had my hair standing on end in the park lately, I felt it. And, my grandpa told me, wherever you see deer you have to be aware of cougar. His family had come from “Missourah,” so he called it, “puma.” 

When we were little, my grandfather had a permit to haul gravel out of the Sacramento River at Princeton, which he would deliver by the truckload to people for their driveways. He kept a little tractor down in the woods behind the levee at Princeton, and we’d go down there with him when he had an order to fill. He’d always be on pins and needles, there’s so much trouble for children to get into down at the river. If we wandered out of his sight he’d jump off that tractor and come and cuss at us – “You got-damn kids, get back to the got-damn truck!” We knew he wasn’t mad, but we didn’t understand why he’d get so upset. Until one day, he came after us, white faced, out of breath, and took us back to a spot near the truck – “puma!” he shouted, in his funny high pitched voice, as he pointed at the big dog-looking tracks. Then he showed us – no toe nails. Dogs don’t get that big, he said, and they leave toe nails. He took us back and made us get into the truck, and I don’t remember if we ever went with him again down there.

Sure, cougar is beautiful, a symbol of the free west – but he’ll eat your six-year-old just as soon as he’d eat your poodle or your tabby. I’m glad I don’t have small children anymore, but I worry about my kids cycling through the park – I still remember that cat down south who made off with two mountain bikers before he was killed. He’d cached a full-grown man in the bushes, and was observed taking a woman off her bike. Another woman pursued and was able to rescue the first woman, but the cat had mauled her head, I don’t know what ever happened to her.  A cat in Placer County killed and cached a woman jogger, leaving her mauled body partially buried along a popular running trail. The authorities thought she was the victim of a crazed human killer, until they brought in a forensic expert who identified teeth and claw marks. 

As usual, I think the authorities are ignoring a serious situation – wow, Ann Schwab was all over the bag ban. Now she’s admittedly heard a cougar growling in lower park – is she going to wait until it attacks somebody’s six year old kid in broad daylight before she does anything about it? At the very least, the city should have huge signs, with big block letters, telling outsiders or people who have not heard, there’s a big kitty in the park, they need to be aware of their surroundings and who or what is in them at all times. The Sheriff’s and Police Departments should be making a bigger presence – ought to give them the opportunity to roust some illegal camps as well. More loud human activity, including trained dogs, in the park would make it a less attractive hunting ground for the big kitty.

No, I don’t particularly want a hunting, but a team of cops, fire and volunteers could phalanx the creek one evening and try to drive the cat out of Lower Park, with Fish and Game (or whatever they’re calling themselves these days) manning the roads directly around the park. I don’t see that happening, given the sour relations between our police and fire. I’ve never seen either agency put forth any kind of community effort either. 

One bright note – maybe the big kitty will get my neighbor’s chickens. I can dream. 

Oh shut up Girls, I’m only joking!






Problem solved – maybe…for now…we’ll see

Well, I think we solved the fly problem without a nuclear meltdown, for now anyway.  We went out and bought new flyswatters – the old ones being pretty beat to death – and we also bought half dozen of those bag fly traps. They smell like a dead animal, and wow, the flies come buzzin’.  We hung one on the fence between our yard and the chicken coop, just out of the dogs’ reach. The effects were immediate. 

I had no idea how bad this infestation really was until we went out the next morning and checked the fly trap.  A literal cloud of flies was hanging around the trap, and there were quite a few already dead or still buzzing around inside, trying to escape. No, surprisingly enough, I felt no pity. 

What I like about these traps, they only trap flies. The more expensive but stink-free pheromone sticky strips bring in everything but over flying planes – even butterflies are attracted to the smell of SEX! That was too creepy for me, we went back to the stink traps. Yeah, they stink, but wow, do they ever work. 

It was getting so bad on the porch, we started to notice another infestation – black widows were popping up in potted plants, beneath the dog bed, and up in the eaves of the porch. We went out late the other night, and one gal was perched in a messy web right over my yard boots. I love black widows, but not in my living space. We killed about eight when we swept the porch next day. Flies bring widows like sailors bring hookers.

Yesterday, like some kind of miracle – only one fly spotted on the porch, and NONE in the house!  God bless Black Flag.  I’ll include the punk band on that.