Be a good neighbor this year, keep your “safe and sane” down to a dull roar

As a dog person I am so conflicted about July 4th. Yeah Baby, I love America, I love Independence, I love shooting a gun and blowing shit up – but my dog hates those noises.   I end up babysitting her, not just for a few hours, but for days leading up to and a day or so after the 4th. 

One pop and she’s smashing on that front door, budging past me and up the apartment stairs so fast you’re asking, “what was that black streak?”  She crawls under the dining table and don’t go under there after her or you will be greeted with a set of shiny white teeth.  That’s why they call a female dog a bitch, are you getting that?

At least she doesn’t bark without end, like our old boxer Venus. Venus really got upset over fireworks. I found, she would sit for patriotic music, so we’d go into the bedroom with all the windows shut and the air conditioner running full-tilt-boogie and watch Robert Conrad and the Marine Orchestra for a couple of hours. 

Biscuit even recognizes those shipping bubbles, she hates them – pop-pop-pop!  We used to enjoy those but now I take them out of her sight and cut them open with scissors before I throw them in the can. 

In years past we’ve had some “Safe and Sane” fireworks anyway. I usually sit inside with Biscuit tucked securely under the dining table while my husband and our kids and a gaggle of friends go out to our back lot, where we dumped some cement “slobbers” during the pouring of our foundation, and set off a few Picolo Pete’s or whatever, burn a few sparklers. But we’re not doing that this year, it’s not safe or sane during this kind of weather. The trees around our house are incredibly dry, our neighbor has let a row of young redwoods die standing, so it’s too dangerous to be fun.  It’s way more fun for New Years, with the ground wet. We have got in the habit of saving our fireworks to blow up the gingerbread house we make for Christmas, it’s fun as heck!

http://worldofjuanita.com/2014/01/01/out-with-2013-in-with-2014/

Try to be a good neighbor this year Folks.  

 

 

 

Be cool Baby, think ahead to beat that Northern California heat

I was surprised to see our PG&E bill was not so bad this month, despite night after night with windows closed and air conditioner running into the wee hours. “Not so bad” compared to my neighbors and friends who have been reporting bills as high as $800.  I don’t know what their habits are, but conservation pays. Right now, it’s 5:46 am, and I can hear air conditioners on all over my neighborhood. 

There’s a sweet breeze sliding in through my windows right now.  I can also hear the dam-ned freeway – people seem to be getting out earlier, trying to beat those triple digits. Somewhere I can hear the back-up dinger on a big truck or bulldozer or something – sure, I know, these people have to work outside in this heat, so they get out early.  Me too. But, I’ll tell you what – sometimes I wish I knew where their bedroom window was, so I could come over and annoy the hell out of them for an hour or so in the wee hours. I mean, I get up early, but I try to keep down the obnoxious behaviors until at least 7:05.

The other day I stayed in all day and cooked. I figured, if the air conditioner is going to start running at 10am, I might as well be in there doing something hot. But I kept it to a minimum. First I put a couple of boneless chicken breasts in a frying pan with a lid and simmered them on low, about 10 minutes per side. When they feel done to the touch I turn them off and let them sit in the pan to finish up and then cool off. 

Then I dice up a Fuji apple and a stick of celery, throw in a mashed clove of garlic.  To this I add about a cup of mayonnaise/yogurt, about two tablespoons of honey, two teaspoons of curry, and some salt and pepper, stir that all up in a big salad bowl. Then I dice up and add the chicken. I make sure all the chicken is good and covered, add more dressing if necessary, put it in a dish with a tight cover and into the fridge.

I wanted to have plenty of cold stuff to snack on during this hot streak, so I made another simple dish – black bean dip. I use canned black beans, so it’s easy as heck. One thing – you need lime juice, it’s just a must. I got a bag of limes for cheap at Safeway, they’re nice to have for a lot of dishes, or just to add a section to a glass of water. I also like to have some roasted garlic with this recipe, so I bought a bag of garlic pretty cheap too. I didn’t have time to grow garlic this year, just forgot, but it’s so cheap at the store who cares.

I buy my canned black beans already cooked because I’ve had the worst time trying to learn how to cook black beans. I just dump them out of the can into a big wide bowl and mash them with a potato masher. I add at least two tablespoons of lime juice, a few cloves of roasted garlic, salt and pepper, and a little onion powder, and Boy Howdy, there it is. 

It’s been so hot, I have to get up in the wee hours to make a loaf of bread, so some days I just make a couple of flat breads, they’re quicker, 10 minutes cooking as opposed to 40 minutes. Sometimes I drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle on some parmesan cheese – this makes a very flat crispy bread. The other bread I just stretch and put on the pizza stone – this one turns out bready and rubbery, and can be loaded with tasty items and put back into the oven long enough to bake a topping. 

All this work certainly paid off.

Put it all together, and you have a nice cold treat waiting for dinner.

Put it all together, and you have a nice cold treat waiting for dinner, or just an afternoon sampler. That’s a real, vine ripened tomato there. 

Cold food is so good right now. We had that salad and bean dip for a couple of days, now I’ll have to think of something else. It will involve tomatoes for sure.

Even now I can imagine these tomatoes with a drizzle of homemade Ranch dressing.

Even now I can imagine these tomatoes with a drizzle of homemade Ranch dressing.

I like to make a dressing with yogurt/mayonnaise, buttermilk, parmesan cheese, garlic, lemon juice, and a squirt of “wooster” sauce – I call it buttermilk Ranch. Don’t be afraid to use alot of parmesan – for a cup of mayonnaise/yogurt I use a half cup finely grated cheese. And the lemon juice and fresh garlic are important, but be careful with that garlic!

Roasted garlic is way more mellow – just rub a whole bulb with olive oil and wrap it in foil, put it in the oven with something else you’re cooking maybe – it’s done in about 20 minutes at 350, when you can squeeze it between your fingers it’s done.  I would roast a couple at a time, keep them in the fridge for recipes, or spread on crackers or bread. My kids even like roasted garlic, it’s not so sharp.

When I get really hot, I don’t think so straight.  I have to think ahead, while that sweet breeze is blowing across my shoulders. 

 

 

What will tomorrow bring?

The day begins.

The day begins.

This is funny weather, isn’t it? I went out early this morning to find clouds rolling in on a sweet, cool breeze. All the sudden the sky darkened and things started looking serious.

Uh-oh!

Uh-oh!

Of course everything could use a nice washing off, but I was worried about an “extreme weather event” that might damage my peaches and other edibles around the yard.

The netting has proven effective in keeping the blue jays from molesting the peaches, but it won't stop hail or high wind from ruining some of the fruit.

The netting has proven effective in keeping the blue jays from molesting the peaches, but it won’t stop hail or high wind from ruining some of the fruit.

Up until now we’ve only worried about the heat and bright sun. My husband built a little teepee out of freeze/shade cloth to protect our little squashes, which were getting burnt off before they could even form completely. 

When we started getting day after day in the triple digits, and the sun moved right up over the garden, the fruit just started melting off this squash vine before it was three inches long. As soon as my husband built this little tent, we started getting very nice squash again.

When we started getting day after day in the triple digits, and the sun moved right up over the garden, the fruit just started melting off this squash vine before it was three inches long. As soon as my husband built this little tent, we started getting very nice squash again.

Another little problem we been having is Mr. Squirrel. I can completely identify with Donald Duck – the gophers and squirrels can make a fool of the home gardener. Every year we watch them take our nicest sunflower heads before the seeds are completely mature. We watched this big head, and no kidding, the night we had talked about cutting it, the little so-and-so got it.

Drat you cursed little thief! There was a plate size sunflower head on this now gnawed off stalk.

Drat you cursed little thief! There was a plate size sunflower head on this now gnawed off stalk. 

I’ll hand it to him/her/them – he/she/they really had to work for this meal.

What a feast - just one squirrel, or a family, I don't know.

What a feast – just one squirrel, or a family, I don’t know.

As we were touring the garden, I began to feel something on my back – raindrops! Tiny and cool. They picked up as we headed toward the house for some breakfast.

The black plastic I spread to  clear sections of lawn shows the heavy drops that fell briefly this morning.

The rain started slow, but it picked up pretty good as we were heading in the house.

I thought we were really in for it.

I thought we were really in for it.

It made for a nice dip in the temperatures this morning, although, it warmed up quick as soon as the sun nudged the clouds aside, about 11 am.

The plastic had been covered with puddles, but they dried up like spit on a griddle as the sun came out.

The plastic had been covered with puddles, but they dried up like spit on a griddle as the sun came out.

Everything just seemed perkier.

Everything just seemed perkier.

Look at their smiling little faces.

Look at their smiling little faces.

I knew the sun would bust out hot, so I took advantage of the cool off this morning to empty and scrub out the old Think Tank.  That intense heat made the water kinda skanky.  Of course the succulents in my sun garden think of that as “nutrient rich.” 

The Think Tank is ready to go.

The Think Tank is ready to go.

Another day in Northern California – what will tomorrow bring? 

 

A new twist on an old saying; time to build yourself a “relaxation station”

Red sky at morning, air quality warning.

Red sky at night, close those windows up tight!

Driving home from Forest Ranch the other day, we could see the valley is full of junk. This morning the sunrise over Chico was a brilliant pink. Yes, it was absolutely gorgeous. Years ago, my college chemistry teacher, Mr. Killjoy, told us, that’s the reflection from all the chemical and particulate pollutants hanging in the air. 

I live next to the freeway. At 5:20 this morning, I heard it “switch on”. I mean, one minute it is so quiet you can hear one car coming in from Gridley. And  then, as if a switch has been flipped, the noise begins to pick up. Within minutes it’s like the rolling roar of the ocean, getting a little louder here and there as a big rig careens through town, trying to achieve enough speed for his mandatory fuel burning device to work, without getting so hot it catches fire.

Where’s Arthur with that coffee pot?  Arthur!

We slept with the windows shut last night, cause it was too hot to open them at bed time, and we were too tired to wake ourselves up at midnight to do it. So, at 5am, I bounced up and ran around opening windows. There she was, scratching to get in – Miss Delta Breeze.  Delta Breeze is like a hooker – she’s pleasant and sweet but you never know where she’s been or what’s she’s picked up.  A lot of this air gunk we’re suffering right now has hitch hiked up here from Stockton and Sacramento, riding the Delta Breeze – sounds like an excursion train!  When she’s wrapping herself around your shoulders after a 100+ day, you don’t care where she’s been or who she’s been hanging around with.

I don’t have anything on my “to-do” list for today, which isn’t saying I don’t have plenty to do, it just means I got too busy yesterday to make a list for today.  That’s a break-down in my get-along, cause there’s so much stuff to do around here, I need the list just to get organized. You know, when you have chores in every direction, it’s hard to move one way or the other.  I really want to move in the direction of my hammock. No matter how bad the air quality or the heat gets, I have to get outside.

I bought this hammock last year.  I was feeling like I needed to get off my feet more often, and get my husband off his feet more often.   So I took all the change out of my husband’s dresser tray, ran it through the Coin Star machine at Safeway, and got an Amazon.com gift certificate. I found a lot of great hammocks on line.

I got the idea from my nephew Asa, who has a really nice Columbia canvas hammock that folds into a backpack to be carried everywhere. He likes to post pictures of himself, lounging around here and there, including a nice spot way up in Upper Park. I realized, this child had a genius idea.

I got the yard model, but it unhooks, and you can take it from one spot to the next, just not as easy to carry as Asa’s canvas model. It’s pretty, makes an attractive addition to my white-trashy yard.  And, OMG, it’s absolutely fabulous. 

I was talking to Dave over at Safeway about it. He was on the same page – he and his wife are building a “relaxation station” in their back yard, the main component being a hammock. I have found, guys named “Dave” always seem to be so pulled together. 

But, like me, Dave admits, he finds it hard to make time to use his relaxation station. Me too – I think I’ve actually laid in my hammock three times since my husband strung it up last week.  Unfortunately, laying in the hammock, I can see right into our little shed that needs a serious cleaning. Hmmm. 

So, here’s my plan. When I’m laying in the hammock, I’ll be plotting my next move on that shed. 

Is that Type A behavior? 

Well, Arthur seems to have vanished, I guess I will have to make my own coffee.

 

 

 

How ya hangin’ in there?

A perfect welcome for the first day of Summer.

A perfect welcome for the first day of Summer.

We picked our first tomato Sunday, a wonderful Father’s Day gift for my husband. I just happened to have a nice fresh loaf of bread

This one turned out a little lumpy but none the less for taste.

This one turned out a little lumpy but none the less for taste.

so we made bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches for dinner. It was magical.

These last few days have been so pleasant, it’s easy to forget the triple digits. Yesterday was splendid, but today I can already feel that steady climb. By the end of the week we will be getting a good roasting. 

I took advantage of the nice weather to get some outside work done – I got a few buckets of chips from our friends in the hills the other morning, and spread them around my garden beds. 

These pretty chips are a mix of oak, manzanita and pine. When they get warm in the early morning sun, they smell like camping.

These pretty chips are a mix of oak, manzanita and pine. When they get warm in the early morning sun, they smell like camping.

I get plants from friends, I find them here and there. A friend gave us this plant, which he calls “elephant ears.”

I got  this plant from a friend with almost no information.

I got this plant from a friend with almost no information.

The leaves are huge, bigger than a dinner plate, more like a turkey platter. I got it in a tiny pot, where it lived under a dripping spigot for a year while I tried to find a place to put it. I tried to keep it in a larger pot on the patio, but it hated being confined. Finally, about to five up, I planted it in the shade under some oak trees. It died for Winter, but one day I found the little leaves pushing up out of the ground. It starts with one leaf, then each new leaf emerges from the stem of the last, each one even bigger than the last.

I found out, from Belmont Rooster (thanks!), it’s one of a million varieties of a group called “alocasia.”  It’s a tough plant, and it put up with a lot of moving around and experimentation. Now it seems happy, as long as it gets a drink from my gallon can every day. It can go a while without water, but it looks droopy and sad. It can stand up to an hour or two of morning sun, and then it sits in the shade the rest of the day. Right now it’s having babies, you can see the first one just at the foot of the bigger plant. It’s had two so far.

I like native plants, they’re usually easy to figure out. Whipple gave me a couple of red bud trees in a pot, and I’ve been amazed the amount of abuse they’ll put up with. 

This red bud tree came in a pot with another, tiny and crowded, and now here it is. It actually bloomed this spring.

This red bud tree came in a pot with another, tiny and crowded, and now here it is. It actually bloomed this spring.

I think the chips will be good for this little shade garden, help keep the moisture in the ground longer. My son has been using a lot of chips to improve the dirt in his back yard, so we’re planning to spend more time stacking brush for our friends so we’ll get a good load of chips again next year.

As Summer moves in I expect to start getting alot of tomatoes. I’ll be spending a lot of time in the kitchen with my tomato press, making sauce. We still have a few pints in the freezer from last year, but they go fast. 

Right now we’re enjoying a lot of beans and squash – these “asparagus beans” have been my favorite so far.

These long skinny asparagus beans are really filling, they go good with the long neck squash.

These long skinny asparagus beans are really filling, they go good with the long neck squash. The purple beans are about played out, and it’s too hot in the garden to plant any more.

It’s funny to think, Summer is just starting. I predict a long dry hot one. 

 

 

Happy Father’s Day!

I want to get up earlier these days so my husband bought me a new electric alarm clock. When I wake  up in the middle of the night it looks like Satan is staring at me from the bedside table. The good  news is, the buzzer is so annoying, after only three or four days, I am waking up exactly five minutes ahead so I can turn it off.

And they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

I was using the stove timer, but had got so used to jumping up in my half-sleep, turning it off, and smashing my hip on the kitchen counter as I made my way back to bed, I decided I needed to outwit myself and get a new alarm.  I’m always trying to outwit myself and then figuring me out, it’s a regular merry-go-round of deception here.

In summertime, as you have heard, it gets so raging hot around here, we have to do some things in the wee hours. Baking is something you do before 9am. 

Who dat? Who say who dat? Who dat who say who say who dat?

Who dat? Who say who dat? Who dat who say who say who dat?

I got a bowl of dough rising on the counter, I took the dogs for the usual daybreak hike around the back 40, now I’m nursing my first cup of coffee, feeling my sinuses crack open like breaking ice. Ahhhhh, First Day of Summer. There’s a smell to it. Yeah, manure. They’re fertilizing the orchards out west of town. 

My husband and I have been work-work-working. Today he is sleeping “late” – I have instructions  to get him up by 7:00 so we can get in our truck and head for the hills. The Butte County Fire Safety Council made one more sweep through Forest Ranch with their chipper crew. Residents made a record effort this year, and the Fire Safe Council won an award. Now there are piles of chips up there, and we have friends who thank us for taking them. I load them into empty garbage cans and planter buckets and bring them back down here to use as a weed block around my yard.  They look and smell very nice.  With little attention – pull weeds in spring – they will last for several years before they start to compost into the soil. 

 Well, time to get that bread in.

 

 

 

Let’s take a walk in the garden

Our first ripe tomato - I think this baby will be done today or tomorrow. I bought a pack of bacon as soon as it started to orange up.

Our first ripening tomato, a couple of days ago – I think this baby will be done today or tomorrow. I bought a pack of bacon as soon as it started to orange up.

Can you believe, Summer hasn’t even started yet? Spring in Northern California, whoa Babee!  

Through this last hot spell, my husband has been minding our garden carefully, checking sprinkler heads, giving some plants an extra drink in the late afternoon. I have   one section of old sprinkler heads, they have to be checked almost every day, the pressure makes them spray funky sometimes. We lost a timer, just blew, so we have to go out and turn that section on ourselves every day. Drip irrigation is a helper, but you still have to do a lot of the work yourself.

This "all neck" squash plant has been producing great.

This “all neck” squash plant has been producing great, but we have to watch it to make sure the sprinklers are spraying the base of the plant, or the baby fruit can get burned off in a day.

The garden sure loves this heat as long as it gets a drink every day. It really doesn’t take a lot of water, just have to be consistent.

This tiny bell pepper plant has got four little fruit already. I think I'll pick the center one just to open up some space.

This tiny bell pepper plant has got four little fruit already. I think I’ll pick the center one just to open up some space.

I’m looking forward to having a lot of bell peppers this year so I can make “refrigerator pickles.” First I wash and cut at least four good-sized peppers into strips, then pour a tablespoon of salt over them, mix it around a little, let it sit for an hour. I boil a cup of vinegar and put in a quarter cup of sugar. After the peppers sit for an hour in their salt,  I put them in little jars and pour the cooled vinegar and sugar mixture over them. This is a recipe you make for yourself, taste and try. Sometimes you will use too much salt, or not enough! You’ll get it. They will keep two or three weeks in the  fridge like this. I add them to salads, they’re cold and crisp.

This is a new melon my husband is trying. He says it will be bright orange when it's done. There are about half dozen tiny bulbs hanging off this vine, we'll see how many we get.

This is a new melon my husband is trying. He says it will be bright orange when it’s done. There are about half dozen tiny bulbs hanging off this vine, we’ll see how many we get.

We gave up on watermelons when we found several varieties of more drought tolerant melons last year. This year we tried a new one and it’s doing even better than the ones we got last year. I’m sorry I don’t know the name, I’ll keep you posted.

Well, it’s time to get outside, this is the best part of the day. I’ll be busy getting ready for my girlfriend, Summer, she’ll be here in a couple of days. She’s kind of a slob, lays around while everybody else works, tends to overstay her welcome, but isn’t that just like a friend?

Welcome Friend!