Summer is winding down – you’re going to miss her when she’s gone! So put some Summer in your freezer while you can

I sit here at the computer trying to wake up. At 4:30 my body climbed out of bed and down the stairs to take a look at the stars – blotted almost completely out by a low, bright moon. The dogs would not follow, so I went back in the house to see if Arthur Itis had turned on the coffee pot. Arthur had climbed into bed with the dogs, that old fart.

I baked last night on a whim. My husband wants to get an early start on the outside work today, so I didn’t want to have to mess around with the bread. I took it out of the oven about quarter to 10, we sat down to watch the 10 o’clock news and went to bed. I set the stove alarm to wake me up an hour later to wrap it.

And voila!

It's a wrap Babeeee!

It’s a wrap Babeeee!

That’s French for, “aren’t you glad to have that out of the way!”

Cause it’s already a little warm this morning. I would say this is the warmest morning all Summer.  I’m sitting at my desk at 5:39 am, hardly exerting a whimper, and there’s already a fresh sweat across my shoulders. Yecccchhhh!

Time to get back to the garden, eh? Our melons are coming in fast.

Here's a cutaway of one of those Prescott melons - it got caught in the wire cage around the melon bed, and I had to cut it to get it out.

Here’s a cutaway of one of those Prescott melons – it got caught in the wire cage around the melon bed, and I had to cut it to get it out.

Here's the biggest Prescott we've had so far - about he size of a child's head.

Here’s the biggest Prescott we’ve had so far – about he size of a child’s head.

A couple of smaller Prescotts. They all started coming ripe at once.

A couple of smaller Prescotts. They all started coming ripe at once.

What to do with all this Plenty! We eat it at almost every meal, put it in salads, smoothies, but right now we are still outpaced by the vines.  But in a week or so, I predict it will all be dead – this heat is just frying our garden.

Freeze it! This winter when I ran out of my own frozen fruit I started picking up the frozen fruit mix at Raley’s – very cheap, even cheaper than Walmart. It included bite size pieces of melon, and they were delicious, so I’ll do same with my melons this year. 

Yeah there’s still peaches, my gawd! I’ve filled the freezer, but I still have a pile of peaches on the counter top. I know – Juanita and her champagne problems!

My son solved the problem – he asked me to make a peach cobbler – a no brainer. But, hardly a cold dish for summer, I know. Oh well, in this weather, the air conditioner has been running almost constantly – what’s the difference if I turn on the oven? We’ll see – I’ll keep you posted. The boy promised to provide ice cream!

It’s Dog Days! Be careful with your dogs in the triple digits

Biscuit woke me before my alarm this morning, with her “woo-woo-woo” bark – somebody is in the yard.  I could hear Badges intermittent “rat-a-tat” right behind her. And from over the fence, the neighbor’s old dog joined in. Somebody was prowling around out there.

My husband went to the windows to give a whistle – that will do it if it’s just a neighbor getting into a car or shutting a door. But they were oblivious, too interested in whatever they were scenting. That usually means raccoon snooping around the compost hole, or a rat in the shed. 

They have an entirely different bark for a cat in a tree, that’s a happy bark. Raccoon, rats, opossum – those animals are creepy in the dark, with red eyes, the dogs get uneasy and the bark is nervous and tense. 

I was already awake, had my empty stomach ache, stiff bones, so I got up to see what the commotion was about. The intruder didn’t wait for me to pull on my sweats, grab clean socks, scoot down stairs into my yard shoes. He was gone by the time I got to the patio, but the dogs were over by my clothesline, all a-titter. That’s Raccoon – he is persistently after my in-ground worm bin composter.

Tough shit Buddy, I put a good lid on there this time, you ain’t going to figure it out, you little interloper.  And it’s going to take a lot more digging in that hard ground too. You might as well go back to tipping over garbage cans and snooping into cat doors, you little trespasser!

And stop shitting on the tree in my front yard!  I know it’s you!

Neighbors!

So, there I was, standing out in the back yard at 4:45 am, wide awake! I went back into the apartment to find I’d already turned on the coffee pot – I just love that about myself, always thinking about Me! I took my cuppa java back downstairs, and stood in the yard for a minute trying to focus on the  stars. It’s funny how it looks like there’s none at first, but as I stand there making a bead with my old eyeballs, they appear slowly. 

And there was Taurus the Bull, his red eye staring down at us, as if to catch our attention. Behind him on the horizon came Orion the Hunter. Before I could make out his shield he had faded in the morning sun. 

That means, Orion and his dogs will walk by day, and you know what that means – Dog Days. 

I don’t mind being ignorant and superstitious about some things – makes life more interesting. In my rational, educated mind, I know Dog Days is just a segment of the Earth’s movement around the sun.  But as I get older, and I see more things,  I believe more and more – Dog Days make people and dogs go crazy.  You just watch, you’ll get what I’m saying.

Yesterday my husband and I made a trip over to the post office, bank, Safeway – usual errands. At Safeway we encountered former head of the California Democratic Party, husband of our 30 year county supervisor, friend and confidant of such Democratic luminaries as Tom Hayden, Chico’s own Bob Mulhullond. I know, he’s old, and the old bod is getting kind of loose and shaky, but there’s something about the way that man carries himself that comes off as nutty behavior.  He moves like a Quentin Blake caricature.  The BFD?  He stalks around the store, sometimes carrying an empty shopping basket, and always a piece of paper that looks like a shopping list. Yesterday he just had the slip of paper. He looked at it as he wandered the store, stopping here and there to scrutinize. He walks right into your body space without seeming to notice you are alive.  One day we encountered him stretched out on the floor in an aisle, staring into a shelf of cans. He was taking a can out now and then and lining them up on the floor. He seemed to be in a real study. Then all the sudden he got up, grabbed his empty shopping basket, and leaving the cans lined up on the floor, jaunted off around the corner. 

Yesterday, my husband theorized, Mulhullond was price shopping.  Really? Okay, I’ll buy that. But it looks crazy.  Maybe it’s just me, or maybe it’s Dog Days, hard to figure.

We’ll see how wild it gets as the temps boost this week – ready for more 105 + ?

Seriously, I’ll remind you to keep an eye on your dogs in this heat, don’t take them out after about 9am, leave them at home with a shady tree and a baby pool full of cool water. People don’t seem to realize how hot the ground gets, and that dogs get overheated quicker than humans. 

 

Road Trip: Reno is still the “Biggest Little City in the World”

Some things never change.

I don’t get out much, but when I do, I try to make it big. We even got to enjoy a big whopper of a storm. Everything’s big in Reno. 

Yep, went to Reno last week. Hadn’t been for at least 30 years. Still there, still weird. And now, the capitol of absolute whatever you want sprawl.

It’s just that they don’t seem to have any kind of planning. They just kind of tack it on here, tack it on there. What was considered chic 25, 30 years ago is now gaudy and cheesy, but you know nostalgia – it’s all so historic, they don’t tear it down. They just tack on the new stuff, which will look equally gaudy and cheesy in another 25, 30 years.

Not that I have anything against gaudy and cheesy. I’m the woman who owns this:

People who own stuff like this should never talk about other people's choices.

People who own stuff like this should never talk about other people’s choices.

So who am I to poke fun?

My husband refused  to stop at the Pawn Shop T-shirt store to buy me a souvenir.

Now here’s an example of planning with a purpose – get yourself a t-shirt while you are waiting for “Most $ Loans” to be approved. 

This is a town with something for everybody.

Of course this is appropriate because you will need to have your spouse's name tatoo'd on your arm when you get out of the chapel. Or vice versa, it all depends on your priorities.

Of course this is appropriate because you will need to have your spouse’s name tatoo’d on your arm when you get out of the chapel. Or vice versa, it all depends on your priorities.

But I won’t make too much fun, because my family is probably going to be spending a lot more time in Nevada. No, not just because Chico is planning a sales tax increase – my kid thinks he’d like to attend University of Nevada, so we went to check it out. We were impressed.

This is the gateway to the college section of Reno. It's neat, you can walk in there across the busy boulevard below.

This is the gateway to the college section of Reno. It’s neat, you can walk in there across the busy boulevard below. 

What a beautiful campus. It’s huge, with old brick buildings, as well as examples of architecture from every period since. They were building a huge new wing when we got there. It looks like they put a lot of money into this college.

Having just fell off the turnip truck, we had a lot of trouble finding parking. We finally found 30 minute parking at the Admissions Office and left our car to take a quick walking tour of the  campus. 

I don't know what they are doing with this lot, but you can see the grand buildings in the background, just one section of the campus.

I don’t know what they are doing with this lot, but you can see the grand buildings in the background, just one section of the campus.

The rolling campus features a stadium, observatory, theaters, lots of dining opportunities. There seems to be a lot of interaction with the public, including a public health clinic. Posters heralded all kinds of activities open to the public.

Nice library building, open to the public.

Nice library building, open to the public.

The landscaping is beautiful.

There were a pair of swans here, and lots of ducks.

There were a pair of swans here, and lots of ducks.

Open space is plentiful here. You can see the thunder storm moving in there.

Open space is plentiful here. You can see the thunder storm moving in there.

They have lots of edifices. Old buildings.

DSC09584

DSC09592

And new buildings.

DSC09593

And then the storm hit, with - you guessed it - BIG rain drops.

And then the storm hit, with – you guessed it – BIG rain drops.

As the storm broke, we realized our 30 minutes were up anyway, and  scampered back to the car. The neighborhood along that side of the college was reminiscent of the college neighborhood here in Chico.

A once neat little neighborhood, probably built to house professors and other staff, has been towered in by the college. Most of the houses had turned into frat or party houses, with too many cars parked in a cement front lawn, lots of trash, old couches. Just like Chico!

A once neat little neighborhood, probably built to house professors and other staff, has been towered in by the college. Like Chico, some were well-kept, others had cemented the front yard in favor of parking and dumpsters, old couches piled on the front porch.

The next item on the itinerary was lunch. Reno is a restaurant town, great steakhouses and brew pubs all over the place. I’ll get back to that another time. 

Summer is a hot bitch, and we love her!

I know it's ugly, but I love it.

This is a Prescott melon.  I know it’s ugly, but I love it.

I love watermelon, and we’ve grown it in our garden a few times, but we found out it takes a lot of water. The fruit we got was very sweet, but we didn’t get many, and they were only a little bigger than a softball. 

So, last year my husband found a seed company – Baker Creek Heirloon Seeds –  that carries varieties of fruits and vegetables suitable for growing in our crazy Northern California summers.

http://www.rareseeds.com/

Come on – what kind of weather is this? I had to get a blanket last night! Right after I listened to Kris Kuyper warning us of another  streak of 105+.  We realized, we can’t just grow anything in our garden, we have to look for varieties that are suited to the weird growing season we have here.

The Prescott is orange inside, firm and fresh tasting, but not outrageously sweet. I’ll try to get a picture of the inside before we eat the next one. The Kalihari melons are soft, “mush melons,” and a little sweeter.

This Kalihari melon had fallen off the vine when we found it - "dead ripe".

This Kalihari melon had fallen off the vine when we found it – “dead ripe”.

These are what my grandpa called "mush melons" because the flesh is really soft.

These are what my grandpa called “mush melons” because the flesh is really soft. 

I’m thrilled to say we get a melon from one vine or the other every few days. I slice them and leave them on a plate on the counter, my family disappears them. And, I put a few chunks in my smoothie every morning. Live while you can, that’s what I always say.

My husband looks forward to making his Baker Creek order every Christmas. We’re thinking about making an order for a fall garden this year, since Summer was kind of a bitch. 

A hot bitch, and we love her! 

 

 

 

When that back yard orchard starts pumping out the fruit, it’s good to have a juicer

After picking all these grapes off the stem by hand, it was fun dumping them through  the juicer.

After picking all these grapes off the stem by hand, it was fun dumping them through the juicer.

Yes the drought is good for grapes. Sitting watching movies and ballgames on tv, I finally got the bunch I had picked stripped off the stems and ready for the juicer. I had a couple of gallon size Ziplock bags full of them. After all that work picking and stripping, it took only a few minutes to run the whole batch through my Breville juicer. 

I got three pints of sweet tasty juice to put in the freezer. This stuff is going to be nice to have in November.

I got three pints of sweet tasty juice to put in the freezer. This stuff is going to be nice to have in November.

I got my juicer as a gift years ago, and it intimidated me. I’m always afraid I’ll break stuff like that, and that fear kept me from using it at first. Then I started getting fruit fast and furious off the trees and vines my husband planted, and we just started running stuff through to see what we’d get. Apples are fantastic, grapes are outrageous, peaches make the nectar of the gods.

Yeah, you have to take the whole thing apart as soon as you’re done with it and clean it, that’s a no brainer. That also used to intimidate me until I got used to it. I learned to pay attention so I don’t get stuff all over the kitchen, don’t lose parts, etc. I always keep stuff like this in the box it came in, and I keep my kitchen organized so I can get stuff out and put it away without a lot of fuss. My juicer holds down the corner of the counter, a stretch I don’t use for anything but juicing stuff a few times a year.

I don’t use the pulp for anything. It’s flavorless and dry. I’ve tried apple pulp in cookies and muffins – makes them taste dry and mushy. I don’t worry about the pulp too much anymore – except with grapes. I put grape pulp in a strainer and smash it with a spoon – in just a few minutes I got another whole pint of juice doing this. The juicer is great, but it still takes some work if you want to maximize your gain.

When you have fruit growing in your yard, it’s coming at you so fast at times, you are going to have waste. I minimize waste with my juicer.  I try to save some whole fruit, but there’s only so much space in the freezer. The pint containers take up less space, they stack real neat in there. 

And I just can’t tell you how delightful it was, last February or so, finding a pint of grape juice in the freezer. A little bit of Summer, stowed away for the most depressing time of year. 

And now, believe it or not, there’s even more grapes left on the vines and I will do the whole thing again!

 

Tomates muy bonitas para salsa

Here's a couple of varieties of

Here’s a couple of varieties of “cherry” tomatoes my husband got from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.

I have always liked small size “cherry” variety tomatoes, but I never knew how many different ones were out there until my husband started ordering seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.

http://www.rareseeds.com/

The “blueberries” are my favorite – the purple color around the stem makes them very pretty, and they’re just the right size to pop into your mouth. They make a salad look very fancy.

I can’t remember the name of the striped ones, but they are very juicy and meaty. I call them “personal tomatoes” because one, sliced, will cover a nice serving of green salad.

My husband likes to put them on a stick and grill them a little – they taste sweet and smoky.

But when they start coming in fast, the best way to use them is in salsa. You can make a pretty good sized batch and keep it in pint containers in the fridge for a week or so. You can use it every day, not only on chips, but in just about everything.

This morning my husband and I had a spoonful of salsa in our scrambled eggs, makes them moist and fluffy. For lunch I like to boil up some twisty noodles, then add olive oil and a spoonful or two of salsa. You can add it to just about everything, even Top Ramen.  Try it with your fried potatoes.

The basic ingredients in our salsa are chopped tomatoes, salt, apple cider vinegar, cilantro, onion, garlic, celery, lime juice, chili and cumin.

Don’t forget any of that stuff, it’s all important, starting with the salt and vinegar. I make about two pints at a time, that’s at least two teaspoons of vinegar and a teaspoon of salt. Go from there. You only need about a quarter teaspoon of chili and cumin, each, but I don’t know, maybe you want more.

That’s what I like about salsa – every batch has it’s own signature.

Now, here’s another important ingredient – you need the music too. Really. Shake a tail feather People, it’s good for you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fmj6HH1PPec

The drought is good for grapes, but it’s been better for Cal Water!

I've been watering these old grape vines for months now.

I’ve been watering these old grape vines for months now.

Today I got a nice surprise – I got down on my hands and knees and crawled into our old grape vines, and what do you know – they were heavy with sweet little fruits.

It didn't look like much of a haul from outside the vines.

It didn’t look like much of a haul from outside the vines.

I’ve been waiting and watching for enough of them to get ripe to start running them through my juicer. They’re small and tough, but the juice is just fabulous. I got about five pints of juice last year. I misplaced one deep in the freezer under some meat, and what a treat that was in February.

Yesterday I decided to go for it, I’d seen enough nice purple ones, they felt soft and juicy, and were in imminent danger of being snatched by blue jays or squirrels. I made my move, I couldn’t get over what I saw when I crawled in there.

Well, I must say, this drought has been good for me.

Well, I must say, this drought has been good for me.

I saw a piece on the Ch 7 news that reported the drought is good for grapes. They said it makes them sweeter. I agree. And for some reason, it makes them grow like nobody’s business.

They weren’t all ripe, and I didn’t think I could handle all of them anyway.  I have to wash and pull them all off the stem before I can juice them, so I wanted a manageable amount. I tried to pick the very ripest ones, and I’ll lay them on the kitchen counter in a bowl for a day or so before I juice them – seems to make them more cooperative.

I sit on a stool at my kitchen counter and watch Rockford Files while I pick grapes off the stem for my juicer.

I sit on a stool at my kitchen counter and watch Rockford Files while I pick grapes off the stem for my juicer.

I’ve been picking peaches the same way – I drag my little red wagon full of empty boxes out to the orchard, climb into the bird netting my husband and I fastened around the trees, and pinch and twist the fruit that looks right, see if it’s ready to fall off.  I hate to leave them too long for the jays, but the net has really been helping.

Unfortunately, our apple tree that we didn’t wrap was just about wiped out, I had to strip what was left yesterday.

We didn't wrap our little Fuji apples with netting and this what the blue jays left us. They're wonderful sweet little apples, I'll put them in the fridge and juice them when I want.

This what the blue jays left us. They’re wonderful sweet little apples, I’ll put them in the fridge and juice them when I want.

Summer is like Ice Cream Man. He comes when he comes, and he moves right along the street. You better keep your change on the table by the door, cause while your routing through your sock drawer he’ll be off and around the corner. 

Summer comes on strong, wearing that sweet perfume, carrying a horn of Plenty. If I don’t keep up with Her, she will leave my freezer empty.

So I try to hit  the ground running every morning. My kitchen counter is covered with various fruits, the floor is sticky, the sink is often piled with  strainers and cutting  boards, the stove a mess of pots. Sometimes I have to do more than one thing with the same pot, and there’s cussing. I take up the whole kitchen, I’m like a dog in a manger – who left dirty dishes in my pile of dirty dishes!?!, etc. 

I’m tired of standing, grinding, pouring, stirring, running up and down the stairs with a wash tub full of pint containers. I’m even tired of thinking, making decisions, trying to remember stuff, etc. Yesterday I had too many things on the timer, and I had to use Post It notes.  

Today is Friday, and a lot of public workers are out of their office. I finally got a note back from Claudia Portillo, the gal at the California Public Utilities Commission Advisor’s office.

She says, “I’m sorry you had to try so many different departments within the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) before reaching the Public Advisor’s Office (PAO). I know that can be frustrating but we did receive your email on July 8 and the prior phone calls.  I wanted to clear up a few things before I get to your specific questions. Annie, who answered your phone call in PAO, was not denying the General Rate Case (GRC) or that it had been filed. The fact is at the time you had called California Water (Cal Water) had not yet filed their rate case. I also did not deny anything in regards to Cal Water’s application. I can understand why you might have been confused given the information in the article. I cannot say for certain where or when the information in the article was provided because the CPUC had no part in the article’s contents, but it appears it was working off slightly old information. Cal Water was planning on filing their GRC at the beginning of July but for reasons known only to Cal Water they delayed their filing a few days. Cal Water filed their GRC Application on July 9, 2015, from the looks of it, a few days after the article was published. At the time you contacted the PAO we did not know when Cal Water would actually file their application, only that it was delayed.

 “I cannot comment for certain on Cal Water’s website but my guess is it did not have any additional information on the application when you checked because again, it hadn’t been filed yet. Now that it has been filed it is public information and I will answer your questions as best as I can.”

I don’t know what she’s talking about because right after I got off the phone with her co-worker my friend from Marysville sent me the rate case information. It was posted on the Cal Water website, as of July 6, just like I told her.  She sounds awfully defensive, but at least I did get the information I had asked her for.

“Customers should receive a notice informing them of Cal Water’s GRC Application in their next bill. Depending on the type of bill cycle Cal Water has they must inform their customers within 45-75 days of filing their application. The notice must also be posted in a local paper of general circulation within 20 days of filing the notice. I don’t know what newspaper that would be in your area.

The process for the application at this point will be that it will be assigned to an Administrative Law Judge (Judge) and a Commissioner. The Judge will schedule a Prehearing Conference (PHC). At the PHC the scope, schedule, and other substantive proceeding matters will be scheduled. The schedule includes possible evidentiary hearings as well as possible public hearings so there is no information about that until later on in the proceeding process. If or when public hearings are scheduled Cal Water will post a notice in the local paper as well as send customer notices.

“A copy of the application is available on the CPUC website as well as from Cal Water. The notice you will receive will have more information about the application and how to obtain copies of it and any exhibits that were submitted with the application.

” If you would like to continue to be informed and follow this proceeding you may do so by using the CPUC’s free subscription service. I’ve provided the link below.

 http://subscribecpuc.cpuc.ca.gov/

 You must provide your email and other information including the proceeding number which is A.15-07-015. When documents are added to the proceedings record you will be notified via email and provided a link to the documents.”

When I responded to thank her for the information I received  an automated notice that she would be out of her office both Thursday and Friday.