Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

Oh oh, that doesn't look good!

Oh oh, that doesn’t look good!


I know we’ve been flirting with showers, but if you really want a good dousing you must hang out your laundry.

As soon as I got the last towel on the line I noticed raindrops on my little laundry table.

As soon as I got the last towel on the line I noticed raindrops on my little laundry table.

I’ve done my part to end this drought, now get busy people. We can beat this thing!

Every little bit helps.

Every little bit helps.


The girls were all milling around in the garden, looking their best in this little spritzer.


I can almost hear them, whispering, "think it's going to rain?"

I can almost hear them, whispering, “think it’s going to rain?” 


This last week of pleasantly cool and even moist weather has given the garden a little bounce in it’s step.

This tomato is ripe and red inside. I just love all these colorful varieties. They're meaty too.

This tomato is ripe and red inside. I just love all these colorful varieties. They’re meaty too.

The tomatoes are doing great.

I can't use these yellow cherries fast enough. They're fantastic in salsa, and I also add them to sauce. They are good to eat for a snack too.

I can’t use these yellow cherries fast enough. They’re fantastic in salsa, and I also add them to sauce. They are good to eat for a snack too.

Now, this is a sunflower.

Now, this is a sunflower.

This pumpkin hanging from the fence got so heavy my husband fixed it up with a little sling.

This pumpkin hanging from the fence got so heavy my husband fixed it up with a little sling.

Gray skies are gonna clear up, put on a happy face!

Gray skies are gonna clear up, put on a happy face!


While I love the hot days and the swimming pool, it’s been nice to have a break.

Another day around the old swimming hole.

Another day around the old swimming hole.


This old peanut butter jar is just the right size for my hand.

An old peanut butter jar finds new life as a drinking glass – there’s always hope.

Friday again already! Time flies when you’re having fun. 

This week has been a blur for me.  Working on the rentals, getting the big house turned over for new tenants, taking care of the landscaping and the garden, getting the produce onto the table and into the freezer,  and trying to get a letter off to my relatives.  On an average day I get up about 5am, because I want to be able to enjoy some peace and quiet before the rubber hits the road.

I also like to get the bread done before the day gets hot. I make a loaf of bread every other day – if I get the sponge on by 6 am, knead it by 7, I can have it out of the oven by 9. I never get tired of that first piece of bread, and I always save the heel for my husband. I like to put peanut butter and jelly on mine. Usually a loaf will last two days – we know it has to, I don’t think I could make bread every day. 

While I’m doing the bread I try to get any laundry rounded up and in the machine. After I take the bread out, I take out the wash, and then try to spend an hour or so outside, fussing over and watering stuff in and around the garden. This nice break in the heat has allowed my lawns to green up again, in the shady spots. The grass only grows in the shade, which saves mowing, that’s nice. I have to be sure to water my container plants every day, they really suffer if they don’t get some water. Not very much – just every day. 

I have different stuff I do during this time for every day of the week. I have stuff to take care of in my tenant’s yards – today I had to water some stuff I haven’t been able to get on drip, and clean up dead flowers. The flowering artichokes that were so spectacular a couple of weeks ago have turned into ugly dead torches. The flowers of early spring are brown and frowzy, and somebody needs to gather them up and put them in the compost pile. By the time my wheelbarrow is full I have sweated through my clothes and I’m ready to take a dip in the old Intex pool. 

In the middle of the day, I’m in the house, maybe watching some pots of sauce on the stove, or making a batch of pasta dough. I like to take in a movie if there’s anything good on broadcast tv. Today  I’m watching an old fave – Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn in “Foul Play.” I like to watch movies I’ve already seen at least 20 times when I’m working, I know when to watch. Right now is the chase scene – “Kojak!” I also try to catch the scene where Burgess Meredith and Rachel Roberts have a karate fight and destroy all this expensive furniture. Love it. And, there’s just not enough Dudley Moore in that movie, am I right? 

I also like to watch the international news on PBS – Newsline from Asia and Journal from Germany. You hear a lot of stories that don’t show up on the American news. Like the story about Australia dumping their carbon tax. I can only dream that California will dump this onerous tax, but when will Sacramento ever have enough money? This is the kind of issue that makes me feel frustrated, ready to listen to advocates of state separation. Like Tony Abbott said, these laws hurt people without fixing the problem. It’s just a revenue grab. 

Mark argues that people cause climate change. I don’t know if he is ignorant or just stubborn. He seems to ignore millions of years of continuous climate change previous to human habitation of the Earth. He seems to believe that the Earth would continue unchanged if people were not present. I think this is a completely ludicrous assertion. People pollute their own environment, sure, but it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in the course of Earth’s evolution. 

Mark, get some sunscreen and a good pair of UV specs – you are being sucked into the sun as we speak, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.  Oh, well, maybe there is – move to Mars. 

I, meanwhile, will do my part – hey, I repurposed that peanut butter jar didn’t I? How much Earth do you figure I saved there? 









Who opened a can of Monday?

Went to sleep too early, didn’t eat enough – woke up at 4:30 with a grinding stomach ache. So, I got up, make a cup of java, and sat arguing with TJ over on Chico Politics. I think I gave TJ my stomach ache, it’s gone!

I don’t know why, but coffee is the only thing that kicks one of those stomach aches. Gets my system boiling up, makes me feel awake enough to go for a walk-and-fart. Let me tell you, I’ve kind of woke up in my back yard, in the wee light, having stepped into a gopher hole or stubbed my toe on a rock, or there’s a little dog stuck to the back of my pant-leg (I had to dig those baby teeth out of my sweat pants). I try to get a little caffeine before I ambulate, I live upstairs you know.

My eyes still feel funny, as though they did not get enough darkness. My stove alarm says I still  have a half hour in the sack. I’ll tell you another thing – I hate that alarm so much, my body sets it’s own alarm, so I can get up and turn the alarm off before I have to hear it. Neat-O!

Something I’ve noticed lately – and I warned you about this! – the sun comes up just that much later these days. Already! Well, we are halfway through July. But, I think Summer has set itself in, and  it’s not going away for another few months. It seems as though our tomato plants are just now kicking in.

Are you getting sick of tomatoes? I'm not getting sick of tomatoes.

Are you getting sick of tomatoes? I’m not getting sick of tomatoes.


We have a lot of interesting varieties, the yellow cherries being the most prolific. There’s even one that ripens green – I just realized, they stay green even when they’re juicy ripe and red inside. They’re all great saucers – the yellows are watery and tart, but the reds are all very fleshy and smooth tasting. It works out in the mix. 

I saved these last beautiful peaches to eat fresh, but you can only eat so many peaches (I know, just not fair). These will go into the freezer today.

I saved these last beautiful peaches to eat fresh, but you can only eat so many peaches (I know, just not fair). These will go into the freezer today, before they get too soft and start turning brown.

I’ve been saucing the tomatoes, and freezing the peaches. Of course we eat them too, but you better watch that. I remember many a late-night, sitting on the kitchen counter while my grandpa mixed me up a glass of water and baking soda after a day of standing under my grandma’s peach  trees, helping myself. 

A good afternoon's work. I set them in my little freezer overnight and then store them in my little chest freezer.

A good afternoon’s work. I set them in my little freezer overnight and then store them in my little chest freezer.


Our chest freezer was looking a little down in the mouth – I’ve only got about 6 pints of lemon juice left, and then there’s what’s left of my father-in-law’s pig – a roast, which is Winter meat.  Over the past week or so, Mr. Pig has been buried in peaches and tomato sauce. In fact, I’ll have to do some re-arranging if I’m going to get anymore sauce in there. 

Nothing makes me feel as wealthy as having a lot of food put up from my own garden. 




Get that rainbow wig out of the closet and come out to support a true grass roots organization


North Valley Hockey and Sports Complex is run by the parents and kids that own it. They needed a big building to house the roller rink donated by a UC Davis hockey club, and neither the city of Chico nor CARD would work with them because they said it would compete with Cal Skate. I don’t know how the owner of Cal Skate is connected, but I know there was something totally fishy about the way the city and CARD handled this group.

So, they were offered a warehouse in Hamilton City by an owner who actually gave them free rent for over a year while they worked with the county of Glenn to make the building compliant for public use. They didn’t go to the taxpayers with a bond measure, they borrowed money and now our kids actually pay for practice time in their own rink to pay that loan off. My husband worked with the other dads, most of them licensed contractors, doing work they would have gotten paid a lot of money for anywhere else. We even put out our own money for supplies. Of course, after they started sending our kid a bill for rink time, we started handing in the receipts for the materials, asking to be re-compensated. At one point, they worked out a deal to pay our kids in rink time for work like, cleaning the rink floor and the restrooms. 

This facility is used by other groups, including activities for “at risk” kids. Meaning, kids who don’t have anything better to do than shoot at street lights and stop signs with their bb guns. I grew up just outside of Princeton, I can really relate. Yes, my grandmother would have loaded us into the old Impala to take us to Hamilton City for a roller rink – we used to drive to Maxwell to swim in a real swimming pool, and Chico to go to a real “park.” When they opened the first Mickey D’s over in Yuba City, that became a regular Sunday jaunt. It was better than worrying where we were and exactly what we were doing on a 20 acre rice farm with a rice dryer right across the road and trucks flying past the driveway every five minutes. It’s tough on kids living in the sticks. Hamilton City is a “town,” by definition – they don’t roll up the sidewalks at night, cause there ain’t any. Kids that bored will learn bad habits. 

My kid has aged out of the kids’ programs, but he still plays adult hockey with guys who range in age from 16 to 60. I’m being nice on that latter figure, I think there are some pretty old geezers out there, including this guy named Ken who is a regular hockey shark. I love watching the adult hockey – they play hard, and it’s way more exciting than watching the hormone cases on tv. And there’s always some soap opera – these grown men will actually bust into tears over this stuff. My son’s team mate has become the head referee for the adult league, and he’s had to break up fights between guys old enough to be his dad – in one case, his coach! One of the worst is Charley – he’s an elementary teacher for gawdsake, the nicest man you will ever meet – out of gear. I’ve seen that guy board the children on the rink, and then tell them it was for their own good! It’s all fun, even  when they are swinging on each other. If they ever get anybody who is a real problem, they have a way of making the rink so cold the offender just kind of disappears.

The skates for Family Skate Night were donated by the Sonora hockey league, who also gave us (gave!) some very nice seats. They had upgraded, and offered us the old stuff, still plenty good, but in need of some TLC. My son and a couple of the other boys worked on those skates for a couple of weeks, I was amazed, my kid is a mechanic. He and his friends have also run the Family Skate Night, taking time to help the kids find skates to fit, teaching them how to put the skates on, running them around the rink until they were confident, or at least having fun. It’s fun to listen to him talk about working with these kids – I hate to admit it, but when he was about 2 – 4, he was a horrible, nasty little brat, running up to total strangers at the store and punching them right in the crotch. I can’t believe what a nice kid he’s turned out.

I hope you adventurous sorts will head over to Ham City – nice town, once you get to know it. I won’t recommend El Patio  - it’s seen better days, that’s for sure. But, I will recommend Family Skate Night. Get out and try something new, and support a good cause while you’re at it.

Frankly, I don’t know if there’s disco music, but they do have a sound system, so it’s do-able. 




Holy Peach Fest Batmom!

I think this qualifies as "oodles".

I think this qualifies as “oodles”.


Due to that dry winter we had, I was disappointed with the peach crop we got this year. Last year was just a hard year to follow. I had so many last year, I resorted to juicing them when I ran out of space in the freezer. The pint containers stack real nice and take up less space. The juice turned out to be a real windfall, I used it for my morning smoothies for a couple of months before it ran out. 

Many of the peaches I have on my counter are still green, but I’ve had to be aggressive in stripping the trees because of an extra big family of blue jays this year.

This white peach wasn't ripe yet, so I left it, and came out this morning to find some jay had spoiled it. It's still good - after a day it will be ripe and I cut off the spoiled side and throw the rest in the blender.

This white peach wasn’t ripe yet, so I left it, and came out this morning to find some jay had taken a whack at it. It’s still good – after a day it will be ripe and I cut off the spoiled side and throw the rest in the blender.

I used to hate jays and gray squirrels, but I’ve found, they are impossible to get rid of without resorting to really ugly means. Sure, gray squirrels completely strip a mature walnut and an almond we have, but try to stop them. A friend of ours mounted a bb gun campaign in an effort to get more out of his walnut trees, but after he’d killed some 97 squirrels, he realized, they just keep coming. Blue jays are the same – as soon as you get rid of your resident mob, a new bunch will move right in. I’ve learned to live with them. They’re actually gregarious, even friendly if you are kind to them, and there’s measures we take to prevent them from robbing us blind. 

I don't mind sharing with my friends, but I try to move fast so I get some too.

I don’t mind sharing with my friends, but I try to move fast so I get some too.

The Christmas tinsel we put in the trees actually seemed to help. Whereas I used to wake up in the morning to the screeching and squawking of a jay party in my orchard, I notice they are not so bold anymore. We also hung netting – my husband buys this in big rolls at Home Depot.  We use it not only to keep birds out, but we wrap it around our tomatoes and vining plants for support.  It really seems to discourage the jays, they didn’t get as many of the nice  big ones as they’ve got in the past. 

As for the squirrels, I just caught one in the apple tree this morning, I will have to get on the stick and get out there more often. That’s really the trick – you have to spend more time in your orchard as the fruit gets ripe. My grandparents were smart – they planted their fruit trees right alongside the house, just outside my grandma’s kitchen window. She always had a stick handy, whether to shoo the birds out of the trees or whip some errant child. And, every day, she’d be out there, several times, pinching for ripe peaches and loading her apron full. As soon as they would come off the tree easily, she’d take them in and line them up along the window sills. She ate them whole, a lot. She cut them up and put them in a pretty dish for every meal, and she ladled them onto our plates. My grandfather ate sliced peaches and tomatoes off the same plate, covering everything on his plate, from bread to meat to vegetables and fruit, with a generous sprinkling of sugar. And, at least once a week, Gram would put up canned peaches. The pantry walls would be lined with them. They would go to all the relatives and close friends. At least half a dozen would end up on the prize table at Grange bingo night. And, we’d eat them all winter until we couldn’t stand the sight of them. 

You have to check them regularly to see which ones are getting ripe. And then, you got to use them or lose them folks. My son eats the yellow ones off the tree, and my husband eats the white ones  for a morning tonic.  I use at least one every morning in a smoothie, and I freeze a couple of big bags a day. I wash them, trim the bad spots, cut them in half to get the pit out, and lay them in freezer bags in layers. As I finish a layer I spray it with lemon juice I got from my lemons last Winter. That keeps the color nice, and it helps to keep them from sticking together. When I want them later, the skin will come off almost in one piece. They are good for baking, or you can eat them kind of frozen if you like. As they thaw, they get kind of brown and mushy, so use them fast in a smoothie, cut up on cereal, or make a cobbler.  My older son likes to put them in the blender frozen with some milk or cream, even just a little fruit juice – fruit sorbet. 

Fruit trees and gardening are not for looks. They are a lifestyle. 


Oh beautiful, for spacious skies…

Oh oh, this doesn't look good.

Oh oh, looks like we might get a gully washer. 


The last time my family went camping over a holiday – 4th of July – we got caught on our favorite little lake in a thunder storm. The fourth had fallen on a Wednesday that year, we never would have attempted camping on a holiday weekend. It was a wonderful trip – we went with our best friends, who had kids the same age as ours. On the morning of the fourth, my friend Christine and her daughter Indra greeted the sunrise by playing America the Beautiful on their flutes. 

Oh beautiful, for spacious skies…

We had a lovely morning, breakfast around the old campfire, cowboy coffee, and burnt toast. We were already packing to get out before the weekend crowd, but my husband and the boys decided to take the inflatable raft out on the water one more time. It’s really an incredible place, with a marsh and all kinds of creatures. There were some sandhill cranes literally whooping it up across the lake and the boys wanted to see how close they could get. 

And then those spacious skies started to cloud up on us. Amazing how fast these big clouds just moved in, like the alien ships in Independence Day.  I looked out to the lake – the little raft looked like a spec to me. They were almost across the lake already, and seemed to be in no hurry to come back. And then the sky opened up, and hail poured down on top of the tent as I was folding up the sleeping bags, and I started to wonder, what would I tell the rangers? Yes, I let my husband and young sons get into a dinky inflatable raft with patches all over it, right ahead of a thunder storm. What kind of mom does that?!

Oh sure, the lightening flashed, the thunder sounded, and there they were, in that dam-ned raft. Boy I was so mad at my husband I wanted to spit, but I tried to keep it cool in front of our friends. Then Christine mentioned casually, “should they be out there in that raft right now?”   Friends never want to criticize. 

I ran to the beach and started doing what my kids refer to as The Chicken Dance. I flung out a string of cusswords and demands, and I postured and gestured my alarm. They couldn’t see me, but our friends got a pretty big kick out of it. 

Storm started to blow over, the little raft came bobbing up to the shore. “Boy was that great! Wow Mom! Exclamation Exclamation Exclamation!” 

I couldn’t get mad. I swear, if it weren’t for my husband, I would have wrapped my kids up in cotton batting and kept them in a box all these years. Thank goodness for husbands. 


Keepin’ it cool

From my upstairs window this crepe myrtle looks like a pink island.

From my upstairs window this crepe myrtle looks like a pink island.


Oh man, the heat is on!   I like a burst of 105 now and then, but I like a stretch of 90′s in between. Lately we’ve had hot stretches and cool bursts – that can pile up on a person.  There’s been too many nights we were afraid to open the windows. I get up about 4am, open them up, then by 7, they’re shut tight again, mini-blinds twisted shut, draperies pulled over some windows, even brown paper smoothed over the panes.

The striped tomatoes are always interesting shapes.

The striped tomatoes are always interesting shapes.


Of course this heat is great for the tomatoes as long as they get water. In this weather, we have to keep an eye out for blow-outs on the sprinkler lines. I had one set on some container plants by my front gate, and when it blew out of the t-joint one morning, it dug a freakin’ hole in the ground before I caught it. 


Adorable, despite the scars.


Had a pretty boring Fourth. This holiday centers around fireworks for me, and when it’s this tinder dry, we don’t feel comfortable with that. We sit at home with our hose nozzles at hand, watching our neighbors whoop it up along our fence line. God bless George Washington, and all that, but that’s my sentiment 365 days a year, I don’t need no Hallmark holiday. 

My kids won't let me post pictures of them, so you get tomatoes.

My kids won’t let me post pictures of them, so you get tomatoes.


We’ve been staying inside during the mid-day with the ac on. On these real sizzlers, over 101, we try something I learned from old Buster 202 – I turn the ac down to 78 at about 9am, run it for a couple of hours like that, then turn it up to 80 and try for GAWDSAKE not to open the front door for the rest of the day. The dogs take their posts on the little linoleum entry floors, Badges downstairs, Biscuit upstairs, and we spend the afternoon watching old movies on tv or Primewire. My husband works in his little shop, located under the back corner of the house, shaded by big trees, it stays nice in there most of the day. He and my son fix their bikes, fix lawn mowers, other broken stuff.

Yesterday we ground out tomato sauce while watching Pooty Tang. If you don’t know what that is,  you’ll have to sine your pitty on the runny kine.