Puttering around the house

I put these blueberries in the freezer last Summer when they were cheap.

I put these blueberries in the freezer last Summer when they were cheap.

I had some ripened bananas on the counter, so last night I took a handful of blueberries out of the freezer, set them in a colander to thaw. This morning I dumped them into a batch of banana bread batter. Chopped up some whole almonds in there too, cause I’m just nuts.

I have to pat myself on the back for a job well done.

I call this, “Good Job Juanita!”

My husband and I worked all weekend and most of yesterday so today we’re puttering around the house. On puttering days, I just like to look around and say, “what needs doing?” Any silly task there is usually no time for, that is a putter.  You know, those things that only irritate you when you don’t have time to deal with them. That used to frustrate me, but I started keeping a notebook with a “stuff that bugs me” list. Genius!

Here’s a good one: don’t you hate paying good money for soap and then it dissolves down to this pretty good size piece that isn’t usable anymore? You try to keep using it, perfectly good soap, but it slips out of your hand, breaks, etc. I know that is not just my freak because I’ve been in other women’s bathrooms and found their “soap too small to use but too big to throw away” stash. 

I used to save those pieces for travel, but they weren’t any easier to use in a motel bathroom. I’ve tried squeezing the old small bar onto the new big bar, with not much success.  I know a lot of people are with me on this because I’ve read/heard plenty of tips – use that bar of soap for this or that other household task – it all seemed to be a lot of trouble to go to just to avoid throwing out an old piece of soap.

I was raised by my grandparents, with that mentality that there was always another Great Depression around every corner and you should NEVER throw away anything that was still in any way usable. My grandma had drawers in her kitchen for rags, old containers like tin cans and dairy tins, a sewing drawer full of stuff like jars of old buttons and zippers clipped  off tossed away clothing (which filled the rag drawer). My grandfather saved bits and pieces in very carefully sorted and arranged piles on the floor of his shop – he had a pile of bolts, a pile of nuts, etc, and on the wall he had right gloves hung on the right and left gloves hung on the left. Everybody knew Andy Dillard never drove his truck over 15 mph because he was looking for stuff laying alongside the road.  And yeah, not only did my grandfather use that stuff when he had the need for it, our friends and neighbors knew where to come and look for something they needed, and would very often find it without having to drive all the way to Willows or Princeton or Colusa to a hardware store.

So scuse me for being such a pack rat. I  really try to fight that urge, and I’ve learned that if I can’t use something, I should toss it.  I noticed my finer olive oil based soaps just plain got rancid after a while, so I stopped saving those bars, and eventually quit buying them.  I finally figured out my soap dilemma when I started using this really nice soap – available at most grocery stores – Clearly Natural. It’s made with nothing but vegetable glycerin, which is safe for most people’s skin. I don’t know what they use for fragrance, but I’ve never had any trouble with it. It’s one of the cheaper soaps at the store too. My favorite “flavors”  are Vitamin E and Aloe Vera, which are very lightly scented. And here’s the thing – glycerin melts, and then it solidifies again, just like it was before. 

I put these old pieces of soap into a pyrex bowl and set it in a pan of water on a very low heat.

See, there’s plenty of good soap left here, but these pieces are too small to use. So, I put them into a Pyrex bowl and set it in a pan of water on a very low heat.

Isn't that something!

Isn’t that something! You need to stir it as it goes, but this happened in less than 10 minutes. And it still smells very nice.

Let me tell you, as soon as you turn off the heat, the soap starts to solidify again, you have to move fast.  I also save egg cartons.

There are a lot of things you can do with old egg cartons.

There are a lot of things you can do with old egg cartons.

It seems messy, but remember, it’s just soap. I had enough  for almost five tiny “egg bars.” They set up in less than an hour, and then the egg carton peels off.  The shape is nice, it holds up good to my loofah. 

Here's one of our homegrown loofahs. The egg carton shape is good for rubbing up a lather.

Here’s one of our homegrown loofah. The egg carton soap shape is good for rubbing up a lather. It will last about a week.

Yeah, it will rub down to an unusable nub too, and then I’ll put it in the plastic container until I get enough pieces,  and melt them down again. Life eternal. 

On puttering days I also like to do experiments, things I’ve been wanting to do. Since I’ve been making my own goat milk yogurt, I’ve been looking at a soft cheese recipe in the instruction book, and I’ve been wanting to try it. The yogurt maker even came with a neat-o cheese bag – a cheesecloth with a draw-string to hold it over a pot. So, today when I get my fresh batch of yogurt out of the machine, I’ll have to take out a good size scoop and hang it in the cheese bag, see what I get. Should come out somewhat like cream cheese, from what I hear.

I’ll keep you posted.

40 years later, Super Bowl X still the best, but Super Bowl 50 okay

Yesterday afternoon I actually watched the Super Bowl. I’m not a huge football fan, but there’s something about the Super Bowl.

For one thing, I always enjoy the commercials. I laughed so hard. I can only remember a couple of them now, but as usual, the Snickers commercial was my favorite – Willem Dafoe in drag – not just in drag, but Marilyn Monroe? – I did not see that coming.

A couple of years ago I watched the game because local boy Aaron Rodgers was playing. I sure enjoyed telling my snooty Bay Area relatives that my kids were attending the same college as “Super Bowl winning quarterback Aaron Rodgers.”   They’re all pretty rabid football fans, that got their attention. They all root for different teams, and our family reunions can get a little hot under the collar, dentures flappin’ over whose team will “go all the way”

As a child I was a die hard Steelers fan, Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris were my heroes. In 1976 I had a bad fall at school, and my mom and my doctor insisted I had to stay in traction in the hospital. It was Super Bowl weekend and I was stuck flat on my back in front of a giant tv – okay!

I had a roommate, a 66 year old lady named Estelle. She had been in the hospital for over a week because the doctors could not find out what was giving her dizzy spells. She introduced herself saying, “I’m ready to gnaw my way out of here…”   She was annoyed because she couldn’t get her hair done, she felt ugly. Her husband had bought her a couple of gorgeous gowns, so she didn’t have to wear the paper hospital gowns, but her long gray hair and the dark circles under her eyes made her look completely insane. She was on an IV, with one of those hangers on wheels, and when she felt like it she’d go out into the halls in those flowing white gowns, long gray hair straggling around her shoulders, that IV stand wheeling alongside like a staff – in my memory, she looks like Moses. 

The first couple of days were tough, especially when my friends started to parade in. Whenever a kid is in the hospital, everybody wants to visit, it’s something to do. Kids who hardly talked to me at school came to see me, for the gossip factor. Most were disappointed when I told them my prognosis – sprained back. “A sprained back?” They didn’t get it. I could hardly walk, I had to pee in a bedpan, but they thought it was no big deal.

Estelle was the only one who seemed to get it. She was frustrated with people asking her why she was in the hospital – it was very frustrating for this very active woman. She was used to playing tennis at her trailer park every  day, she said, and worried that her husband would not be exercising her dogs enough. Not seeing her dogs for weeks was getting on her nerves. But, whenever she thought I was getting down, she’d animate herself, telling me one from her bag of stories, 65 years of stories. A woman her age had seen some stuff, and she rolled it by me like a continuous newsreel whenever I started to get sad. 

A lot of those stories were about going to football games with her husband and kids. She had lived around the country, ended up in Sacramento by way of the Bay Area, but she had never left her team behind – Pittsburgh Steelers. 

My third day in the hospital was Super Bowl Sunday. Here I was with two big Steelers fans, Estelle and her husband. She had brushed her hair all morning and put on make-up. She talked about Franco Harris, “a Greek god,” she said. Her husband came in with two grocery sacks of food, just in case my friends showed up. Neither I nor Estelle was allowed to eat anything the nurses didn’t give us.  Well, okay, since you got Moon Pies…

In my memory it was the best Super Bowl ever. Only 10 years old, the Super Bowl was not what it is today. I don’t remember any half time show, and only a few big corporate sponsors made special commercials – Budweiser leading the pack. But, football was huge, the players were larger than life – they may have done the bad stuff that players do now, but they didn’t do it in the public eye.

And the game was bigger, if you ask me. The plays were more daring, the passes were longer, everything just seemed more exciting. When I looked up the game on Wikipedia, it said Super Bowl X was considered the most exciting of the first 10 Super Bowl games, and that’s how I remember it. In my childhood memory, I see Terry Bradshaw with that wild Oakie face of his, looking for an open man, not finding one, just running like Tom the Piper’s son. I see Franco Harris advancing down the field with two guys hanging off his shoulder pads. I see Lynn Swann reaching out and catching a pass that seems to drop out of nowhere.

And then Estelle got really excited, and knocked her IV bottle off her hanger, it crashed to the floor, and blood started spurting out the tube all over the place. The game was suspended for about 20 minutes while the nursing staff mopped it up and set Estelle up with a new IV. 

I have a friend who feels the word “epic” is entirely overused in our culture. He works at a college, so I imagine he hears that word every day about a hundred times in reference to everything from movies to meals to weekend trips. But, at risk of being rebuffed, I will say, Super Bowl 10 was epic.  The Steelers and Terry Bradshaw made a new name for themselves that day. The Cowboys were not too shabby either, which is evidenced in that final score of 21 – 17. 

Yesterday’s game was okay because it came out the way I wanted. I was rooting for Payton because he’s considered an old guy, and I get tired of the ageism in sports. Yesterday we saw The Orange Crush – that famous Denver defense. Payton held his own, but the defense team really won the game. I actually felt bad for Cam Newton, maybe he’ll get another chance next year. 

And Willem Dafoe in granny panties and heels – I’m still laughing.





Spring is coming – I can hear the weeds growing

While the weather outside is dreary, and I’d much rather be kicking it in front of the boob tube, watching The Munsters, Punxsutawney Phil has got in my head with his predictions of Early Spring. That, and I can hear the weeds growing around my house.

I have been busy, covering whole sections of my yard with plastic and cardboard.

I had old sheets of black plastic from a roof job we did, and every time I go to Cash and Carry I grab a box. Yeah, I know - it's ugly.

I had old sheets of black plastic from a roof job we did, and every time I go to Cash and Carry I grab a box. Yeah, I know – it’s ugly.

But it’s better than weeds, especially those GD sticker weeds – I don’t know their names, but I can identify at least four different kinds of nasty pest sticker weeds before they are a half inch in circumference. They get in our pets’ fur, they get in our socks, they stick to the strap on our flipflops – boy, I really get mad when they get in the laundry and come out stuck to the elastic in my underwear. I find them in the rug, they just get everywhere.

A couple of years ago, as the price of water started to skyrocket, I noticed it was hard keeping the grass alive, but the stickers could live – not just live – THRIVE! on hardly any water at all. As soon as the lawn was compromised the stickers moved in with a vengeance. So, I dug this big pile of plastic out of the shed – I had threatened to throw it away about 800 times but my husband kept saying we’d need it for something.  What a guy, he’s so smart – he is The Repurposer.

Sheesh – you want to kill weeds? Kill them dead? Rot them to dust? Evaporate them? Get yourself some black plastic, I never seen anything like it. See the picture below – that mud used to look just like the green section there around the dog house. It did not need to be told twice. 

But, I was amazed how quickly the Summer sun rotted the plastic. Recently I had to get rid of one sheet that was disintegrating into chunks and blowing all over the yard. I just spread the last piece of plastic I had over that spot, and I don’t expect it to last beyond Spring. I have another bare spot I don’t have any more plastic to cover, so I have to get busy.

This is where I think I'll plant some of those trees Whipple gave us last Fall.

This is where I think I’ll plant some of those trees Whipple gave us last Fall.  The ground is clean, but also really hard and compacted from months under black plastic. I need some mulch to keep it clean, soften it up, and protect the young trees from the Mutha Summer we are going to get.

Luckily, my husband also has a compulsive habit of scanning the “Free Stuff” on Craigslist with his coffee almost every morning. Today he found a neighbor only a few blocks away had a tree removed and ground up and was offering a big pile of free redwood chips. The picture showed they were sitting in the public  right of way on a busy street, likely to disappear fast, so he called my son and  they were out the door by 8:45 to score the free chips. They loaded our pick-up full – which is quite a bit of work to keep me busy – and there was still quite a pile left for the next opportunist.

The nicest thing about these chips is they were free. We've paid $20 for a pick-up load like this.

The nicest thing about these chips is they were free. We’ve paid $20 for a pick-up load of shredded almond bark.


It took us almost $60 worth of chips to mulch in this redwood tree.

It took us almost $60 worth of chips to mulch in this redwood tree. Ignore the skid marks where my husband pulled the truck in to dump the new load, those rake out. 


this area

I just spread this sheet, but it won’t last long. I’m not sure what I’ll do here after I get some little trees planted in the bare spot to the upper right.

This is a hot section of yard, right off our front door. If we can get some baby trees to grow, we can change the environment. In my dreams, we will get the grass back. Grass does not take nearly as much water in the shade, go figure.

All this and time to make a pizza, get out! Look how puffy the crust is – I rolled some little strings of mozzarella cheese in there. Then my husband dressed it up with some sauce, proscuitto, canned olives and the rest of the string cheese.

Ooooo - too pretty to eat!

Ooooo – too pretty to eat!


oh yeah just kidding.

oh yeah just kidding.






Really Phil? Early Spring?

Every year I look forward to Groundhog Day, whether I am hoping for Early Spring or Extended Winter, I like the idea of a rodent predicting the weather. 

Groundhog Day apparently stems from German tradition. In America the natives made their predictions based on the behaviors of other rodents, primarily the muskrat. It’s true –  the old people predicted the length and harshness of the coming winter based on the size of their neighboring muskrat “push-ups” – the mud, stick and grass lodges muskrats build along marshes and streams, in which they can spend a frozen winter, even using the mound as food in the late months.  

Creatures who live close to the Earth must know – for one thing, they can feel the temperature and texture of the dirt. For another,  as humans observe them, they observe the insects. Each in turn.

This year I am disappointed with Phil’s prediction – early Spring. I was hoping for at least six more weeks of snow. My husband reminds me, – Spring can bring snow too. I hope so. 

Yesterday we took a day off to hit the slopes at Shasta.  As a child I went with my family to Shasta in the Summertime. We camped, hunted, fished there, and rode the Huff and Puff a couple of times before it was put out of operation in 1971.  But I had never snowboarded Shasta before yesterday.  

Sugar Bowl in Tahoe has more features, oftentimes more snow, earlier and later in the year, and they used to have a very affordable mid-week pass with lots of promotional deals like points to use for free food and other goodies. That all ended with the last couple years of poor snow. Sugar Bowl is under new management, they’ve raised prices, cut the deals, and for a while, they weren’t opening their main lodge during the week, meaning, no bathrooms.   By the time they wised up and re-opened the lodge, we had got disgusted with the mismanagement, and stopped buying our yearly passes after 20 years. 

We find, we had got into a rut. Now we can spend the same amount of money we spent on the pass, and although we can’t make as many trips, we can get out there and try new places, do new things. Last year we had a few good trips all the way down to Mammoth Mountain, in Southern California, and we’ll probably keep that tab open. But, Shasta finally got some snow, so we decided to see what we’d been missing.

I’ll tell you what we hadn’t been missing – Bay Area and LA people. Tahoe stinks of the Bay Area, that was something we’d just gotten used to – rude asshole city people, screaming at their kids, avoiding eye contact as they shoved ahead to grab a cafeteria chair right out of your hand, etc. 

At Mammoth we experienced the LA crowd – different, but still obnoxious. Where Bay Area people are always uptight, the LA crowd is more relaxed, but both are demanding and, wow, just plain GRABBY. They will shove ahead of you in line, they will butt their way onto your chair or your table in the lodge, they will have loud conversations across your face without so much as a “so where you from Hon?”

I had not thought for a long time how annoying those people were until yesterday.   Northern California people are nicer. You can talk to them and they don’t act like you just exposed yourself, that’s something right off the bat.  All day yesterday I was not cut off once, nobody “buzzed” me, not even a skier. 

At Shasta the runs were beautifully groomed – on a Monday, that’s worth noting. At Sugar Bowl they stopped grooming the runs on weekdays because they want to save them for the weekend crowds. At Mammoth they stopped grooming during the day after an inebriated woman ran into one of the groomers and the resulting lawsuit cost the resort a pretty penny. Grooming makes a lot of difference for a person like me who is not that skilled. 

The weather yesterday was almost perfect – sunny slopes and temperatures in the 30’s, no wind. There had been light rainthe previous night, so there was no powder, but the grooming was adequate to keep the deck nice. 

No, I didn’t take my camera, sorry about that. One thing that always strikes me about  Mt Shasta is how WHITE it is, just gleaming like toothpaste. The resort lies below the summit, so you are staring up at that face – it seems alive. 

And, from various points, you can see Mt. Lassen gleaming in the distance. Maybe that’s the next road trip, I’ll have to start wheedling my husband to take me up to Lassen again. 




Watch the skies! And turn over those old buckets, kiddie pools, leaf piles, etc – it’s SKEETO SEASON!

It is so quiet  this morning I can hear the ticking of my kitchen clock – when I woke up in the wee hours the rain was drumming against the eaves. 

Now I see blue sky out the windows, but I guess I’ll wait for the sun to get out from behind my neighbors’ trees before I make any predictions.

Today I’m on mosquito patrol. My husband climbed up on our various roofs on Friday to blow out the gutters. It only takes one leaf to block the gutter and create a fantastic breeding pond for the bloodsuckers. My husband has done this regularly, so it’s a quick morning’s work. This will probably be the last time he has to climb on the roofs, as our trees are bare of all their old leaves.  He sure timed it right –  as soon as he climbed down from the last section of gutter  the rain drops started falling. 

But there are still areas of interest around the yard. The other day when I went to get a shovel out of the shed, I noticed a small cloud of skeeters hanging around the dog’s pool – tipped up on it’s side against the shed, it had fallen back just enough to allow  about a quart of water to collect in the rim, and the baby-mama’s were crowding around. I didn’t see any wigglers when I dumped it out, but I smelled that “pond scum” smell that says the water is just right for laying eggs. I tipped it back against the shed and laid our heavy iron digging bar against it so it would not tip back again. 

I even dumped the  water out of the over-turned plastic planter buckets standing next to the shed, they hold enough water in that tiny rim to breed at least a couple dozen bugs.

Today I have to dump out all my plastic sheets I’ve been using to kill my lawn, move them around, make sure there is no water trapped. They have gotten all blown around by the last few storms, some whole sections have become tangled and twisted, and I know there’s water in there. Wow – water trapped in black plastic in the sun, that will bring the baby-mamas singin’ in!

Our local weatherman Anthony Watts reminded me that mosquitoes live and breed in old, soggy leaf piles. I find he’s so right – just disturb one, and they will attack. So,  this time of year, I turn my mulch piles with a rake or a pitchfork, neaten them up, get them drying out faster – this will also speed their transformation into compost.  

I don’t like using chemicals to deter mosquitoes for a few reasons – for one thing, it’s easy enough to clean up your yard. Chemicals that kill mosquitoes will kill anything else in the proper quantities, you never know how  that stuff might build up in your bloodstream, and your pets are more sensitive. They’re not cheap either – not as cheap as a 15 minute inspection of your yard. 

Finally, try to remember, God made mosquitoes. Yeah, no kidding, I’m going religious on you.  Actually, I attend the Church of Mother Earth,  but I hear she’s in good with The Big Man.

Mosquitoes are part of the chain of life. Eat, AND be eaten, I always say. If you have ever been fishing, I can stop here. But if you are the indoor type, just bear with me. Mosquitoes are eaten in huge quantities by animals that do other things for us, or are eaten by bigger animals. 

I want to keep mosquitoes from swarming my yard, I don’t want any in my house, really, but I’m not on a mission to wipe them from the face of the Earth. 

So, I act early, and I act often, to inspect my yard and my house. If you pay attention now, Summer will be alot more comfortable.





Another weekend inside, better make the best of it

I notice in my blog stats somebody searching for a way to make cauliflower easier to digest.

I've been craving those wintertime vegetables and decided to make a big pot of chicken vegetable soup.

I’ve been craving those wintertime vegetables and decided to make a big pot of chicken vegetable soup.

Vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli not only make you fart, sometimes they give a person very painful gas. One way to get around that – boil the hell out of it in a soup. Sure, there was flatulence, nothing a married couple can’t handle – but no gas pains.

I’ve heard the best way to eliminate the gas associated with these vegetables is pickling them. I’ve had them pickled at a couple of local restaurants, and they’re delicious that way, thrown over a salad or a pizza, or just a snack with crackers. I haven’t figured out how to do it yet, but I’m working on it, I’ll keep you posted.

I love Brussel sprouts, the best way to eat those is grilled. I par boil them for about five minutes, halve them, dress them in olive oil and spices – try to pick bigger ones – and then my husband lays them on the grill as the meat is finishing up.  I don’t have a picture of those but here’s some lovely potatoes – I handle them same way.

These little yukon gold potatoes are also good for grilling - I steam them whole for about 8 minutes, halve them, and bathe them in a little olive oil, sprinkle on some salt and pepper.

These little yukon gold potatoes are also good for grilling – I steam them whole for about 8 minutes, halve them, and bathe them in a little olive oil, sprinkle on some salt and pepper.

Another vegetable I always liked but heard was harsh on my stomach is egg plant. One year we had so many in the  garden I got sick! My homeopath told me eggplant can be hard on your stomach, so I just stopped eating them. I  mean, it was that bad, I thought my stomach was trying to eat it’s way out of my guts.

About a year ago I was watching Lidia Bastianich, and she said it’s the seeds in eggplant that irritate your stomach. Don’t buy the big, mature fruits, and then cut out the seeds you do find, she said. 

So I was at Safeway the other day and I saw the long skinny eggplant,  smallish, and I thought, what the heck, let’s try it again. I love eggplant parmesan, baba ganoush, roasted eggplant on my pizza, eggplant eggplant eggplant. And, it’s a really nice, easy vegetable to grow, very elegant plants with the prettiest purple flowers, very showy. 

I sliced it in half and laid it on a cookie sheet in a 350 oven. I put in a clove of garlic too, cause I wanted some roasted garlic for a batch of baba ganoush. I learned how to make baba ganoush from Ralph Nader’s mother, Rose, who published a cookbook back in the 1990’s. It’s a simple dish from the middle east – roasted, pureed eggplant with ample portions of garlic (roasted is good), tahini (sesame seed) butter, olive oil (I use cheap Euro trash to balance the cost of the tahini), a squirt of lemon, and salt to your taste.

I was shocked how quickly the eggplant roasted – not even 15 minutes. I think the garlic bulb took 20. I let these cool for a few minutes, then cut out the little bunches of seeds with a paring knife and scraped the rest of the eggplant flesh into my bullet blender. You could mash this with a potato masher, but it comes out so beautiful in a blender it’s worth scraping it out.

The garlic is fun because you just squeeze the cloves and the pureed,  roasted garlic comes right out, like a tiny pastry bag. Try some of that on a cracker, learn to live a little.

Yeah, your hands stink like garlic! Oh no! Rub a little behind your ears – keeps the mosquitoes away.

I’m so sorry, I didn’t take a picture. I took my little experiment down to my husband’s shop to engage my husband and son and a friend of ours in a taste test, and I’ll be damned if we didn’t just stand there and eat the whole thing, Badges bobbing up and down in front of us begging for crackers. Oh well, there’s always next time! 

No, I did not get a stomach ache! 

I’ll tell you what’s a good meal for a rainy night – spaghetti.

High tech pasta hanger - prop some wooden spoons under a stack of plates in your cupboard.

High tech pasta hanger – prop some wooden spoons under a stack of plates in your cupboard.

I made a big mistake when I was mixing up my pasta dough yesterday – too much whole wheat flour. I had even written myself a note – now I need to write myself a note to remember to read my notes!  Too much whole wheat flour makes the dough really stiff and hard to work. I was very frustrated at first, trying to knead it and get it into the cutter – I have learned one thing – don’t give up, just keep mashing it together. I finally got out my rolling pin just to flatten the dough enough to get it in the machine, and that worked. As soon as I could get it through the machine a couple of times it got more pliable. 

Then I found out, the up side is, the pasta is dryer and comes out all separated  and ready to go into the water. I hate it when the pasta sticks together and I have to separate the strands before they go in the boiling water. This turned out perfect, even given the wrestling match with the pasta cutter.

I made a big batch, plenty for a spaghetti pie. I usually use box spaghetti for a pie because it’s supposed to be a quick, easy dish, but here I got a bunch of homemade spaghetti to use. Sometimes life just goes my way!

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble - we went to a lot of toil and trouble to grow these tomatoes, and now we're enjoying them.

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble – we went to a lot of toil and trouble to grow these tomatoes, and now we’re enjoying them.

There’s still plenty of sauce in the freezer, but my husband reported, he can now see the bottom of the freezer. It must be time to plant more tomatoes.

A morning well spent on a loaf of sourdough and roasted garlic pays off.

A morning well spent on a loaf of sourdough and roasted garlic pays off.

A salad using more winter vegetables...

A salad using more winter vegetables…

topped off with a batch of croutons made from the last loaf of bread.

topped off with a batch of croutons made from the last loaf of bread.

And it’s a meal.

It’s good to know, the sun has not forsaken us



I ran outside this morning just in time to say Good Morning to the moon before she went to bed.

I ran outside this morning just in time to say Good Morning to the moon before she went to bed.

Sister Moon partied outside my bedroom window all night, Geeshy Sakes, that girl. By the time she went off to bed I was already awake. Looking out the window I watched her drop from the indigo sky and disappear into a moor of cotton candy clouds. 

There was frost on rooftops all around, and the top of the laundry table was slick with ice. Funny how things turn around. Jack Frost rides by night, by day the temperatures get up in the 50’s, almost 60. Ooooo, perfect weed growing weather!  But look, the poppy seeds I planted last Fall are pushing up through the mud. 

Tiny poppy seedlings always remind me of the antlers of a deer.

Tiny poppy seedlings always remind me of the antlers of a deer.

I wish I had planted more. I did a pretty good job of spreading bulbs and rhizomes around the yard.

I put irises on one side of the wire fence and narcissus bulbs on the other side.

I put irises on one side of the wire fence and narcissus bulbs on the other side.

These irises I left laying on the ground next to the spigot have completely overgrown themselves - see the spigot in there, being swallowed up.

These irises I left laying on the ground next to the spigot have completely overgrown themselves – see the spigot in there, being swallowed up. 

Irises make pretty flowers early in Spring, they multiply quickly and choke out weeds. When a patch becomes overgrown and frousy like this, it’s easy enough to thin it out and spread it around elsewhere. I just dig trenches along any fence or driveway, lay the rhizome down and cover it with an inch or two of dirt. They need very little water, they do quite well on whatever rain Winter has to offer. When it rains alot, they blossom more. 

Today I wrestled out a patch of edible artichokes that had become so overgrown, many of them died last year before they could even develop. I dug them out and separated them, then put them in a row in my husband’s garden, where he has drip hoses set up. I found so many slugs – they’d eaten one plant completely, leaving nothing but the ribs of the leaves. I went over each plant, roots and stems, looking for slugs. They can get into the tiniest recesses. They move fast too, as soon as you disturb the plant they want to hide, they can really skedaddle.

As the weeds grow around our ears, the bugs are out and multiplying. Yesterday I heard a commotion in my husband’s shop, crash-boom-bang, bark-bark, CRASH! My husband came upstairs to show me the hairy mosquito that had taken three swats and a stomp to finally extinguish. Even Badges had gotten into the act, jumping and snapping at the tiny buzzard. It must have been an epic comparable to “The Revenant.” 

Looking at this furry little predator in the cup of my husband’s hand, I realized it was time to patrol the property and all the tenants’ yards for mosquito breeding sites. The more I find out about mosquitoes, the more paranoid I get. Having found a dozen or more larvae cavorting in about three inches of water captured in a beer bottle standing next to my recycling bin, I know they are awesome breeders.

Last Summer I read that mosquito pupae can live in mud until they sense comfortable Spring temperatures and metamorphose into an adult mosquitoes over night. When females sense that the water is warm enough for eggs, they will instinctively seek out a blood meal (!), and then look around for those little clouds of milling mosquitoes – males, waiting for a babe to sail by. Males will take chase, and within a few days, we got eggs. 

Now, ain’t that romantic!

You know what lots of mosquitoes mean  – the trout will be jumpin’! I told my husband, I want a fishing license for my birthday this year. I’ve found so many red worms and night crawlers around the yard, I could open my own bait shop.  I keep thinking of that trout, the skin fried crispy in a cast iron skillet, it makes my mouth water.

January starts out so dark, cold – ends so bright, cheerful. Just when I was having a hard time distinguishing one day from the next, fighting to stay awake until bedtime, feeling older and more feeble every day, the sun seems to have turned that corner and is heading her way back.

Like my friend who went away, and now she’s back, it feels good.