North wind blows in Autumn, brings scratchy, itchy skin

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When I went outside this morning the clouds were trying to swallow the moon.

The first day of  Fall is dramatically cooler than a week ago, but still tinder dry. It would be nice if those clouds would bust out a few drops – yesterday I watched the wind  pick up the empty lot next door and shake dirt all over my house.

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It was a very bright moon, but the clouds swaddled it in a bundle of mist.

Everything is coated with grit, sometimes I can taste the air. It’s so dry, every night I water and in the morning the ground is parched and cracked again.  One day I noticed the bottom half of my face was doing same – two lines appeared at the corners of my mouth, running down to my chin – I looked like Howdie Doodie.

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There it is.

My husband also noticed, his skin was dry too – we both found ourselves laying awake at night, trying to resist the urge to scratch all  over. We could hear own bodies, grating on the bed sheets as we rolled over. My heels were starting to leave a worn spot at the bottom of the sheet.

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Peek-a-boo, I see you.

Sometimes I just forget to take care of myself. This time of year, over-showering is bad, especially in hot water. But, a quick cool shower and a rub down with good body oil will help with that dry, itchy, end-of-Summer skin.

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Not quite full, but very enthusiastic.

I make body oil with cheap “Euro trash” olive oil I find at Walmart. It smells and tastes fine to me. I add, in thirds, sweet almond oil and apricot kernel oil from NOW foods – I get those through Lucky Vitamin.

That is sufficient, but I get rose hip and vitamin E oil from Lucky Vitamin too, and add about 10 drops of each to a cup of oil. Then I add some scented essential oil – orange, grapefruit, rosemary, and lately my favorite has been pure lime oil. These don’t last all day like perfume, but they’re really pleasant after a shower, and I do notice, the scent hangs around the bathroom because the bottle is in the shower. It’s very invigorating.

I rub in a handful of oil as soon as I turn off the water. Then I dab off any remaining water with a towel. My skin feels oily at first – and very nice! But the oil soaks in  pretty quickly, it doesn’t stain my clothes.

My husband likes a generous portion on his neck and back.  Since he showers at night, this leaves a light stain on our bedsheets, but it washes out.

I can hear a gust of wind working itself up, the leaves are scratching across the dead dirt outside my door, swirling around my patio in drifts.

Fall has fell.

 

You haven’t been anywhere til you’ve visited the compost dump

My husband and I just spent the past week cutting an out-of-control hedgerow. Sheesh! You turn your back on a privet hedge and it will grow right up to your front door. It’s wonderful to have the shelter and privacy, the birds and butterflies love it, but it can grow three or four feet into the driveway over the span of a couple of months, even in dry weather.

With due respect to Fenway Park, we call it “The Big Green Monster.” And then there’s the profanities.

It seems to grow all year, taking time off during the coldest,  darkest months of Winter. This year it really took off after those perfectly timed Spring showers we had.  There was no stopping it after that. It shelters it’s own roots so completely, Summer never really penetrates the BGM. The ground underneath stays damp and cool.

We made some limp-wristed attempts at trimming it over Summer, out there where the asphalt gets up to about a trillion degrees by 10 am. It just seemed to laugh at us, we’d come back a week later and it seemed to have grown beyond the cutting. We gave up over the three-digit spells, watching it advance across the driveway, tenants’ cars clustering closer and closer to the doorstep (NEWSFLASH: nobody uses a garage for cars anymore…)

A couple of weeks ago, we realized, it was beyond trimming, time to get in there with the chain saw.  There were limbs as big around as my arm stretching out across the asphalt, shooting up branches that reached  over my head. I’ve been going at it the past month or so with loppers, trying to pick it up off the driveway so my husband could get after the front with his gas hedge trimmer, but one after another I encountered stuff that would break my loppers, or maybe my arm!

So Wednesday we geared up and went in there about 8:30 in the morning with the chain saw. Right away we discovered the neighbors’ ivy had bolted into the hedge, headed for the sky. Some of the ivy was starting to root in the privet trunks, as thick as rope. I went after that stuff with my loppers and started dragging it out in 20 foot lengths. Man that stuff moves fast. As I hacked at the ivy, my husband started at the other end  with the chain saw and the hedge trimmer.

You know, it’s one of those jobs, once you start, you’re committed. I think we should be committed to an insane asylum for letting that thing go beyond knee high, is what I think. Three days later and umpteem trips to the compost facility, and we only made it about two thirds way down the danged thing. And it looks ugly as hell, all butchered, you know, just like the guy on This Old House told us not to do it. There’s at least a truck  load of compost, sticks, leaves, and gum wrappers in there to be shoveled  out from under it, probably all full of cat caca. And, we need to cut the last third before the other two thirds starts growing again! Sheeeee-eeesh!

Don’t you love Nature? This job was somewhat interesting, it always is. We usually find a bird’s nest that we have to cut around. This time was one of the first times we didn’t have a pair of jays screaming at us, trying to tell us their little family was in there. A basket of oversized heads, buggy eyes, staring at my husband with his buggy-eyed protective goggles. My husband loves Nature too, he doesn’t care if the hedge looks funky, he works around nests.

Years ago we found a passion fruit vine growing in there. Here’s what passion fruit flowers look like, with some fruit.

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The base has gotten very developed, like a  small tree trunk.  It is buried deep inside the hedge, but the flowering vines drape themselves across the outside of the hedge in Spring.  Later the fruit hangs like a string of decorative lights. There’s not much to eat in there, but it’s delicious. This year we found some incredibly orange butterflies in the hedge, and later we came across their frilly little larvae crawling along the passion fruit vines. So we trimmed around that section too.  My son collected some of the dried fruits, and will plant the tiny seeds in some pots, see if he can propagate some new vines.

We cut and cut. We had to crawl into the hedge alot, wrestling with the convoluted branches, some of them had gotten so tangled they’d actually grown together. The ivy was laced all through, we had to crawl in and cut it as deep as possible.  By noon each day we were filthy and had cuts all over us, so once we had a truck load we’d head for the compost facility and  call  it a day.

Hey, have you ever been to the compost facility out east of town?

My family has always composted food and garden waste in our back yard, but when we get brush, we take it to the compost facility, located out along Cohasset Road near the airport. The city owns it, Waste Management runs it. The guy at the gate looks at your load and determines a charge somewhere between six and eight bucks and then you follow the orange cones and the Granny Clampett style signs to a spot where they want you to dump it.

We had left a large pile of cuttings here, but by the time we came back with more this loader had scraped it all up into a machine that shreds it all up.

We had left a large pile of cuttings here, but by the time we came back with more, this loader had scraped it all up into a machine that shreds it to bits.

All around us, giant machines roared away, taking in yard waste and spewing out dirt. Chunks of tree junk and fence board flew through the air like so much flotsam.

This machine works similar to the compost tumbler I bought my son for Christmas, on a much larger scale. It takes the bits and pieces from the shredder and rolls them around and around in a screened bin, turning most of it into a fine hummus.

This machine works similar to the compost tumbler I bought my son for Christmas, on a much larger scale. It takes the bits and pieces from the shredder and rolls them around and around in a screened bin, turning most of it into dirt.

You can see the nice,  fluffy piles  of finished product, which can  be bought by the truckload, I’m not sure of the pricing. It never escapes me – we pay to bring our yard waste in, and we pay to take the compost out. But, I guess it’s a good service and I’m glad to have it paying for itself.

The pile to the right is the stuff that wouldn’t compost. They also have a huge pile of giant tree trunks, whole sections of fencing, pallets, and other stuff, I don’t know what they do with that – Wheelabrator?  

This dump is heavily used by local landscape contractors. I think they pay the same price as all of us but get a key to the gate so they can come in when the facility is closed (Sunday, Monday).  They bring the stuff they rake up out of their customers’  yards, and that includes whatever kind of animal crap that might be laying on the ground. So, yes, the air is thick with flies. I keep the pick-up truck rolled up tight out there,  I can see them beating themselves against the windows.

One day I noticed, the air is also full of dragon  flies. I realized, dragon  flies are huge predators among insects, they eat any flying thing smaller than themselves. As larvae in streams, they eat baby  fish!  At the compost facility they hang in the air like a squadron, making sudden dives and flips as they gorge themselves on  flies. Yum yum.

A shower never felt so good as after a day like this. 

Get out there and try something new – 395 vacation in a bag!

You can pick up a variety of baked goods at Erick Schat's bakery, or you can pick up a bag of bread mix and make your own.

You can pick up a variety of baked goods at Erick Schat’s bakery, or you can pick up a bag of bread mix and make your own.

It’s good to meet new people and try new  things. When my husband and  I moved our son into college housing, we met his girlfriends’ parents.  They live in Southern California.  You meet the nicest people through your kids.

What we have in common besides our kids is, we both enjoy a quick “395” vacation. Hwy 395 cuts across the “back” of California, hitting some of the most incredible natural wonders in the state.  No matter how many trips we make, we always find something new.  We look at the map and old tour books, and sometimes we just wander. We find stuff that has been lost down old roads, forgotten. We follow signs that sound interesting, like “Punch Bowl” (an abandoned open pit pumice mine) and “Obsidian Dome” (one in a chain of “modern” volcanic eruptions).  Once we pulled over to have lunch and found ourselves in an old dump – six Ford Model T’s stood in a row, their chassis rusting into the ground. 

Tracy and Jim like the fishing. Hwy 395 boasts some great fishing holes, right along the road. They also like to try something new every time they drive up, so they pulled over in Bishop  and checked out Schat’s Bakery. The menu is hard to resist. Besides sandwiches, they have a very nice selection of cookies and other baked goods. They sell mixes too.  Having heard I liked to make my own bread, Tracy picked me up a bag of Schat’s special sheepherder’s mix.  

I get into a rut sometimes. I been making my bread a specific way, having a routine that starts the day before with grinding wheat berries and feeding the starter. I try to bake a fresh loaf  about every three days – when my son was home, it  was every other day.  With the heat of Summer, I have been getting up about 5am to get the bread done by 9am – it has to sit for about an  hour and a half. Oftentimes I wake up with my hands in the dough, wondering if I did everything right. It always turns out okay, but some loaves turn out so much better than others I can’t help but wonder.

So this mix just seemed too good to be true – just add water?

I could not believe this would work, it just seemed too easy.

I could not believe this would work, it just seemed too easy.

But I trusted Schat, so I went for it. You will never get anywhere if you don’t try something new once in a while. The recipe was different in several ways, starting with, pour the warm water in the bowl and  then dump in the mix.  Usually I start with my wet starter “sponge”, adding flour and water in portions.  But I try to follow instructions the first time I do something. So, I took it slow, stirring in the flour – luckily the instructions said it would be a dry dough, it was really  hard to knead at first. “variable” is an important word – when I didn’t think I could get the dough together I started wetting my hands with warm water until it got sticky enough to stay together. It was a dry ball, but I could feel it was alive and rubbery, starting to fight back as I struggled to push it together. Within five minutes of kneading my arms were done and I laid it out for half an hour with a plastic bag over the top of the bowl.

It didn’t rise like my dough, but I could see it was pushing itself into a little dome. After half hour I formed it into a round loaf and set it aside again for an hour and a half. This time it pushed itself up into a little peak, raring to get into the oven. It was fun watching it take shape – it was definitely alive.

And here it is, a very authentic looking loaf of sheepherders bread!

And here it is, a very authentic looking loaf of sheepherders bread!

The outside was very hard, and the loaf was very heavy. That kind of worried me, but it looked  and smelled fantastic.  All we could do was let it cool and see what we got.

And here's what I got - look at this beautiful bread!

And here’s what we got – look at this beautiful bread!

The crust was chewy and delicious, the inside soft and rubbery, full of tiny holes. Perfect! I usually use some whole wheat in my bread, so this was different – I couldn’t wait to try peanut butter and jelly! It toasted perfect, the crust very crispy. We ate it down to the last heal, and today I’ll make croutons out of that.

And then I’ll feed my starter and get ready to do another loaf of my own bread. It’s nice to have a  routine, but it’s nice to bust out of it once in a while. 

 

 

 

 

 

Just try to stop me!

Whenever I set my mind to do something, it just seems that all of Nature conspires against me. When I heard the school district was going to float a $152,000,000 bond, I felt I had to do something about it.  I decided to write an “Argument Against” for the ballot pamphlet.

And then life around my house started going, as my dad would put it, “completely ape-shit.”

I always hesitate to commit myself to anything involving a time schedule, because I know the ape will insert himself and try to prevent me from fulfilling my obligation, or at least make it very, very hard.  So, I try to keep my life simple, unscheduled, try not to make any promises what-so-ever.  But when I see something on the horizon that spells trouble ahead, I look for something I can do. Did you know, any individual who is eligible to vote in the election is allowed to submit an “Argument Against” for consideration in the voter’s pamphlet?

The school district has been talking loudly about needing to make repairs at various schools, whining about playground equipment in disrepair, leaky roofs, peeling paint – but quietly, they were talking about increasing pension costs and declining enrollment. I won’t blame the district entirely – this information is in the agendas and the minutes, but it seems neither the media nor the public at large is interested enough to look at it.  All I had to do was ask for the budget, which told me everything I needed to know – like CARD, the school district has “deferred maintenance” of their facilities – actually, our facilities, which we have put in their care – in  favor of spending 10’s of millions on their own pensions and benefits. I couldn’t walk away from that.

The deadline to submit measures for the ballot was sometime earlier this summer, so I watched the county clerk’s website. Finally “Measure K” popped up.  The clerk gave me a deadline to submit my “Argument Against” – August 19, 5pm. The instruction booklet is on the clerk’s website –  300 word limit, no cussing, no spitting, no lying, and leave two inches at the top for the clerk’s stamp.

Given the number of 250 word letters to the editor I’ve written over the last 20 or so years, this was a piece of cake. I  just argued against the claims made in the measure, adding that district taxpayers were already being hit with utility increases. I made my Argument Against, learned some new stuff about Microsoft Word and my printer, and turned it in with almost a week to spare.

The clerk  told me I’d receive the “Argument For” on Friday afternoon, after the deadline passed.  At this point the Ape stepped in – I began  to have “service interruptions” on my computer. I received an e-mail from the clerk  that she had tried to send me an  attachment but it had  come back  on her. I decided I would have to go back to Oroville to pick it up on Monday, but over the weekend, the attachment magically popped up in my e-mail box, and I was off and running on the rebuttal.

But here’s where the Ape really got his foot in the door – my dog Badges started to act sick. Sheesh, have you people heard enough about my dogs yet?

Badges is normally a pint-size energy pack and has an appetite to match.  Suddenly he didn’t want to play or eat. And, we noticed,  he was having a terrible time going to the bathroom, really constipated. We worried he’d eaten a piece of baseball skin, or a stick that got stuck, so we watched and watched, wondering when we should try to get him into the vet.  Trying to keep up with my chores and the little ditty I wanted to write for the clerk,  I watched him from my kitchen window, I followed him around the yard, or he trailed at my husband’s heel, and my husband watched him. All the sudden he went out onto the lawn and took a messy dump – you know I was all  over it.

I’ll spare you the real details,  but we were happy, frankly, to find a big chunk of plastic from some sort of lid – he must have been in the garage when my husband was sorting recycling.

His behavior changed immediately, he wanted food alright. We put a little rice in his chicken to help get rid of the diarrhea, and he ate it all up, wanted more. We decided to watch him longer before we obliged. That evening he was himself again, really playful, wanted petting, wanted to go for a ride in the car, etc.

So, we went to bed, trying to tell ourselves everything was alright. I’m still jumpy after all that diabetes stuff with Biscuit. And, they still sleep in the house at night since we found we have a serial skunk.

I woke up the next morning with more than enough  time to work on and turn in my rebuttal, I  was feeling pretty confident. I’d read the district’s Argument For a few times and had some good information from the budget.   I felt pretty good.

And  then my husband rolled over and said, “What’s that smell? Did you leave the stove burner on or something?” At almost exactly that moment I was turning on the living room light. I was worried that maybe the gas was running, but as soon as the lights went on I could see the source of the smell – “oh my  Goddddddd! Badges crapped all over the living room!” 

Poor Badges, I think it had just happened, he was running around in circles as though something had him by the ass. He wanted out alright, so I let him – I swear, at this point, I was more worried about him than the rug, my husband’s a flooring installer and one of our best friends is a flooring salesman.

I was so afraid Badges was really sick. I wandered out into the 4:30 am darkness and there he was, running up to me for pets, as if nothing had happened. He seemed relieved  again, like before – this wasn’t any comfort, I thought, there’s more plastic stuff in there, it’s moving around tearing up his little guts!

My husband was already out of bed, surveying the damage. The first thing we had to do was get it cleaned up, just so we could move around the apartment. Having cleaned up after Biscuit when she was sick, we had all the stuff we needed – a box of vinyl  gloves, a bundle of store-bought rags, a couple of bottles of enzyme cleaner, stain remover and smell remover.  This stuff is pretty good, it worked quickly on the smaller spots. But a big spot over in the corner had soaked all the way through, and nothing was going to get rid of it. My husband had at first thought he could cut the spots out and replace them – we have a very common “apartment grade” carpet, easy to patch. But no, the entire rug was a disaster site, had to gooooo.

So much for my plans to tilt at windmills. I spent the rest of the day moving furniture and helping my husband  and son get the carpet out of the living room. We shop-vac’d the sub-floor for what seemed like hours  and then I sprayed it with bleach. We went to bed like the walking dead.

The dogs slept outside, and didn’t even question it.

Probably the most productive thing I did was clean off my desk, route through old meeting minutes and notes, which I sorted out and set in files in my filing cabinet.  I usually put these things in one of those plastic file caddies on my  desk, just shove them in there, and then dig through when I want something – some things get forgotten. I just happened to find the old survey that CARD sent out in, what, 2012? Not sure, I’ll have to look at it again.  That survey asked people to put a hundred or so dollars on their homes to fund CARD, and it came back “negative,” according to the consultant, who got $25,000.

So, good thing my dog shit all over my living room, or who knows when I would have gone through the paperwork on my desk. My desk all cleared, my husband set our computer up in the bedroom for me, so I could work on the argument while he and my son went about replacing our living room floor.

Of course I couldn’t forget Badges, although, his behavior was perfectly  normal, the diarrhea sure wasn’t. So I kept the dogs next to my desk chair and took them out at regular intervals, following Badges around the yard as he looked at me over his shoulder like some Peeping Tom.

Pay Day  came later that afternoon when he produced a very nice  pile of well-shaped and good-colored turds. Excuse me  – at least I didn’t take a picture. Since that day,  I am still fixated with watching him poop, looking for the slightest irregularity.

It was Tuesday and I needed to get the rebuttal to O-ville by Thursday. We had a bunch of stuff to do that week, and we wanted to make a Friday trip to Reno to take supplies to our kid. He’s enrolled at UNR, and living in a very nice student housing complex near the campus. He had forgot some odds and ends when he moved a couple of weeks ago, and we were also anxious to go down and see how he’d settled in. First we had to get the rebuttal to O-ville, and then we had an appointment at the vet Thursday to get Biscuit’s glucose checked.

Well, that is where the ape managed to assert himself again – Biscuit’s glucose reading was 100 points above normal. I don’t know what that means because our vet isn’t exactly a bubbling fountain of information. It seems as soon as we started ordering Biscuit’s insulin online instead of paying the vet twice as much per bottle, we were put on the “we see you but we don’t acknowledge you” list. I’ve had to talk to the vet, even when she’s standing right in front of me, by way of her receptionist, Doc won’t even look at me. For the glucose test we get one or another intern. They are nice, but one of them walked into S&S Market one afternoon and told a friend of mine who checks there that she hadn’t been to bed for over 24 hours.  So, I’m supposed to trust this gal to take a blood test on my dog? It was very upsetting. We were told, very cheerfully, to come back in next week for another test. In the meantime, she upped the insulin, which is a concern to me – I’m still not convinced she did the test right.

So, yeah, we have gone out and bought a human glucose tester and we’ve been trying to learn how to use it on our dog. We’ll probably order a pet tester to use for calibrating the human tester, but the pet test strips are about 4 times as much as the human ones, as you’d expect. Seems the veterinary world is out to make money, so much for “All About Pets”.

What’s really frustrating is, Biscuit was acting perfectly healthy and happy before we took her to the vet.

So, guess who came to our rescue – Walmart. Not only to they have everything you need for human diabetes at the store here in town, we can order the pet tester and supplies for a reasonable price through their online store.

And yes, I got my rebuttal off to O-ville, the clerk counted it and checked it and stamped it. When I went to the website I found my Argument Against has been posted, they should be posting the rebuttal tomorrow.  You can also read the Argument For and, when it’s posted, the rebuttal to my Argument Against.

The ape still hangs around my door. We’ll see what he has in store for me today. 

 

 

 

 

It’s just that time of year for poor air quality, bad smells, flies, and other pests – and I’m not even talking about the election!

This morning as we were opening windows around the apartment, my close friend and constant companion Arthur Itis complained we’d just be shutting them in a couple of hours, why bother?

He’s probably right. The air quality index is laying somewhere  between zero and negative seven. There are wildfires burning all over California, a couple in Nevada.  And then there’s car pollution – Chico is a traffic mess, especially now that school is back in session.

But the apartment gets soooo stuffy, and there’s a couple of hours in the early morning, before the sun comes up, when the air is sweet and cool, gets the garbage-and-farts smell out of the house.

I don’t remember any Summer my dogs have been in the house so much. As soon as the red stuff hits about 99, we bring them in. I don’t remember the last Summer we’ve had so many days over 100, with lows in the high 60’s. Biscuit is a pretty tough old dog, but if we’re in here under the vents, why should she be out there in the heat? Besides, if we don’t bring her in, she hits the door real hard with her paw, she’s scratched the paint off in that corner. At the turn of the latch she noses that door in and flops down in the corner right behind it. She’ll lay there for hours, playing dead if anybody wants to come in or out, but perking up quickly at the mention of “ball” or “kibble”.

Badges is a wheedler. He comes in and lays down in the doorway, but within minutes you hear that tag jingling as he sneaks his way up the stairs, one by one. If he hears me approaching he immediately lays down on a stair, lays his chin on folded paws and pretends to be asleep. A couple of minutes later he’s nudging at my elbow for petting. “Go lay down, hair bomb.  What have you been rolling in, there’s stickers in your collar!” I have to wash my hands after patting him on the head, he’s so dirty. About every other day I run the vacuum around the house and dump out enough hair to make another little dog.

Yesterday I sprinkled baking soda on the stairs carpet and worked it in a little with a dry scrub brush. I let it sit for about 20 minutes, and then I went after the stairs with the shop vac. That is Arthur’s favorite job, he uses language from another planet. But, even  Arthur had to admit, the stairs smelled a lot better. So  then we put a big dollop of soda in some warm water and washed the vinyl entry way, door, walls, etc. Had to employ the elbow grease just inside the door where Biscuit rubs against the wall coming in, making a big brown dirt streak.  It all smelled better, and the walls are positively shiny.

We got some new neighbors, and as friendly as they are, they have brought chickens on the property again. It’s been the same as before, when the previous neighbor had chickens.  About a week after the girls’ first appearance, the flies started to pick up.  Michelle, a nice but stupid lady, does not clean the coop, she just throws down straw every now and then, creating a perfect incubator for flies, all that urine soaked straw and poop. Keeps the ground a perfect temperature to hatch out the little eggs and then there’s all that food for the maggots.

Like our previous neighbor, Richard, Michelle got really offended when we tried to talk to her about natural pest control – we got a pamphlet from our vet and gave it to her.  “We don’t have flies,” she insisted. We didn’t want to waste anymore time trying to reason with her, so just went out and got fly traps. These are cellophane bags with a plastic neck that allows flies in but not out. They are loaded with a smelly powder – just add water and they stink like a dead horse. We hang them just out of our own radius, and they attract Michelle’s flies away from our living area. We get them for about $3.50 at Lowe’s, they last about a month before they are so full of dead flies they don’t work anymore. It’s worth the money, frankly, to keep the swarms off the dogs and to not have to deal with idiot neighbors. 

Of course, garbage cans can work like big fly traps.  If you don’t wrap your trash well, you could actually be breeding flies. According to Orkin, a fly egg develops into an adult fly within six days – well within the weekly trash pick-up schedule. Furthermore, maggots can attach themselves to a surface, such as the inside of a garbage can, while they develop into adult flies. These are brown and blend in easily to a dirty surface.

Excuse me for knowing so much about flies, but living next to back yard chicken farmers has forced me to become somewhat of an expert because these people never seem to be very knowledgeable or cooperative. Trying to be a considerate neighbor myself, I’ve always wrapped the heck out of our household trash, especially meat scraps.  We also save really messy meat scraps or containers of grease in our freezer until trash day, so they aren’t sitting out there stinking all week. And, every few weeks, as soon as they start to stink at all, I take the trash and recycling cans in on collection day and give them a good going over with Comet scrubbing powder and an old scrubber brush, inside and out. 

And here’s a trick we learned from friends who live in bear country – tape a dryer softener sheet to the underside of the can lid.  I don’t care for those myself, I can see where flies and other pests- let’s not forget the meat bees! – would steer clear of them. I tried making my own repellent from essential oils but nothing is quite as obnoxious as those dryer softener sheets.

Something I’m always on my tenants about is overloading garbage cans, leaving that lid propped open. That’s an invitation to not only flies and bees but rats and other varmints.  Ever stare down an adult raccoon in your driveway in the wee hours of the night?  They make their rounds, they seem to know when the trash cans are out in various neighborhoods.  Even a pile of old cardboard boxes will attract these type of pests, who carry diseases that you or your pets can catch.  If your household can’t fit your weekly refuse into a 96 gal trash can, you might want to take a good hard look at your lifestyle, something might need to give. You may just have to pay for another can. 

Now’s the time to look for everybody’s favorite house guests – ants. After they raided us good a  few years ago, we learned to keep a good margin of space clean around our house, keep leaves from piling up, etc. Every now and then I move the container plants on the patio to look for ants’ nests. I read online that they like to nest under stuff like that, so I went right outside that minute and moved a big container next to our front gate to find a very lively nest. The little bee-atches were moving right up the plumbing in the corner of the house, to my kitchen upstairs. As soon as I sprayed that nest, they were gone and I haven’t had a problem inside the house again. 

The trees are shedding and leaves are piling up all around our house. Once we found a nest in our tenant’s rain gutter, they were doing a fast conga across the carport roof and into the wall. She was going nuts cleaning her apartment, but they just kept coming.  As soon as we cleaned the leaves out of the rain gutter and sprayed the nest, they were gone and she never had a problem again.

This is the time of year for smells and flies and ants. Pretty soon the wind will change and we’ll get some relief.

 

 

 

 

 

Fledging the biddies

One more weekend with my younger son, then off to school Monday, Spit Spot!

I been through this Empty Nest business, I don’t want to get into that pit again, but I’ll say, enjoy your parenthood while you can. I do not want to hear you complaining about doing their laundry or the food bills or their friends hanging around.  I like being a mom, it’s what I’ve been doing for 25 years, and I’m probably going to keep doing it until I circle into the grave, like an old dog looking for a bed.

 

My kids have their problems, and it always feels good when they call me or my husband to talk about it. It also feels good when they call – or better yet, send a funny picture via cell phone – to say things are going good, ask us what we are doing. Sometimes I can tell, they just miss us.

Warms the cockles of my frozen old heart, yes it does.

One thing I worry about is do they eat right.  I hate to be a nag, you know me. Luckily my older son and his girlfriend put a lot of energy into gardening and eating fresh foods, and they even get their meat from local producers. They send us pictures of meals, and we send them pictures of meals – it’s the next best thing to eating with your kids or friends, share pictures of some wonderful meal you’ve come up with, and then another of yourselves shoveling it in at the table.  

The younger one is learning to cook for himself, but admits, when he has money, he finds it very tempting to eat out. He likes the sit-down restaurants, the family style joints, but still remembers being up all night with his girlfriend when she got sick after a meal at a restaurant. Sometimes, it’s not a matter of e-coli or salmonella, it’s just a matter of badly made –  maybe too much of some rich ingredient, like creme or some spice.  Of course that made them think more about cooking for themselves – nothing gets your attention like fear of food poisoning, you know, RIGHT NOW! 

You can’t teach your kids everything – I love those public service ads about brushing your teeth for two minutes – in comparison, parents try to tell their kid every important lesson of life in two minutes. I got it – we all brush our teeth for two minutes now, but I can’t train them for every situation that comes around the pike.

Oftentimes I’m relieved how well they handle a situation on their own – wing it, like baby birds.  The other day my older son casually told me about a problem he was having with a neighbor, but didn’t know how to approach the person. When he told me what it was, I realized – I would have got mad if my neighbor did that too.  We talked for a long time about what’s okay to put up with, when a neighbor or friend is worth a little more trouble, etc.  I was impressed that my son was putting himself in other people’s shoes, he tried to see the neighbor’s point of view, and decided – if it’s that bad, move away, otherwise, mitigate, learn to live with it.

Last year my younger son was “dorm cop” at his school living facility. They call it “community advisor.”  You never know what to expect out of a new job, I tried to put aside irrational fears. But the stuff that happened was beyond anything I could imagine – one boy taking hallucinogenic drugs and going on a tirade in the middle of the night, breaking light fixtures off the walls in the dorm, screaming and yelling and being combative with friends.  My son and other students called the police, then my son went out into the hallways and followed the boy and his friends from a safe distance, watching the police arrive and take the boy, who was subdued at the sight of the cop cars, off to a local hospital. My son had to go to the police station, as a representative of the school, to file a report about the incident.

Another time, he and a couple of other students had to go to the police station to report that one of the dorm residents had simply disappeared, they hadn’t heard from him, and were worried. The police handled them nicely, but they were kept waiting at the cop shop for hours. They boy was found to have got drunk and been arrested  another town over, too embarrassed to call his folks, he was still  cooling his heels in a jail cell. 

I felt bad  for the parents of these kids, but we’ve had horrible tragedies in Chico, I hate to recount the stuff that’s happened just over the past few years. I just feel lucky, my kids keep close, they talk to us.

One day I watched a brood of phoebe birds fledging in my back yard, it pricked at my heart, it was such a human scene. The bird parents fed the babies at first, but suddenly they started flying away when the biddies approached, refusing their desperate little pleas. They still sat by, always close, sometimes leading the babies to their favorite perches, showing them how. Slowly the babies caught on, the air was full of SNAP-ing beaks. But one little tyke, bless its heart, still screeched along after the parents, begging and begging. The parents refused it again and again.  Its little wings seemed so inadequate for the squatty fluffy body.

At one point, it landed in the windowsill where I sat at my desk, and began to pick bugs from a spider’s web. I was impressed with the ingenuity, just when its energy was flagging, the little wings seemed to be giving  out.  After that quick meal, it seemed renewed, the tone of its little screech was different. Little phoebe flittered out into the herb garden, and grabbed a yellow butterfly.   Then, still a clumsy little fledge, it floundered onto a valerian branch  and sat with the yellow wings sticking out the corners of its mouth. After a moment or two the wings dropped away, the rest of the bug was swallowed,  and the last I saw of the little bird was a flurry of fluff. 

I don’t want my sons to flitter away. I like them to go out in the world and come back home to roost a little. 

 

 

 

 

Star gazing, eating apples, squeezing melons, and mau-mauing the flakcatchers – Juanita’s been busy

When I went outside this morning I saw Orion finally pulling himself up over my neighbor’s trees, like a giant peering into my windows. Betelgeuse was bright red and blinking. The Sisters were sparkling like a little tiara, and Taurus’ red eye glowered down on Orion. A crowd of celebrities tinkled all around them, the moon having business elsewhere.

The last couple of nights have been tough – Arthur’s been sleeping over with us, Arthur Itis.  He’s literally a pain in the neck. When he can’t sleep, he sits next to my bed and whines and complains until I get up to keep him company. He actually makes a pretty good cuppa java, I’ll give him that.

I been working on the usual things – I write myself a note – “pick _______ today.” The tomatoes are coming around again, and we have green apples getting ripe now too. This is the time of year I have a hard time deciding, should I work inside or outside today? The temperatures have been so nice, we’ve been outside almost all day lately, coming in to lay under the fans when we need a break, eating chips and salsa, watching “A-Team” on the boob tube.

At this time of year, we have given up weeding, and the garden is a mystery patch. 

Look what we found in the crabgrass that has overtaken the melon beds.

Look what we found in the crabgrass that has overtaken the melon beds. Welcome to the Melon Nation.

 

Look what was hiding in the crabgrass that has overtaken the melon beds.

So ripe and sweet – I’m sorry I don’t have “Smellaround” on the camera.

Yesterday my husband brought in a payload of melons. We ate one, put another in the fridge, and then I cut the others into pieces and put them in a ziplock bag in the freezer.

I always try to shove these waaaay back in the freezer, forget about them, give myself a little surprise in January.

I always try to shove these waaaay back in the freezer, forget about them, give myself a little surprise in January.

We stripped our tiny Fuji apple tree, a good enough crop of sweet little apples.

Here's some nice Fuji's - I have about the same amount stowed away in the refrigerator drawer.

Here’s some nice Fuji’s – I have about the same amount stowed away in the refrigerator drawer.

Those will get eaten pretty fast, but I couldn’t resist throwing a few in the juicer.

I juiced  some Fuji's with a some "baby carrots".

I juiced some Fuji’s with  some “baby carrots”.

I found a 2 lb bag of “baby carrots” (which my husband reminds me are just big carrots put through a peeling machine) at Cash and Carry for the same price Safeway sells the 1 lb bag, so took a chance and bought them. It seemed like an awfully big bag, I was afraid they would go bad before I could use them.  Nope, we polished off the whole bag without any losses. They’re just too damned convenient!  We ate them on salads, juiced them, and chopped them up for the dogs’ food, so the bag went fast. I’ll have to pick up another bag next time, carrot juice is the nectar of the gods.

So, I told you I was going to get out there and do something different – yesterday I went up to O-ville and turned in an “argument against” a bond the school district has put on the ballot. I know, people think I’m nuts to consider that kind of stuff fun and interesting, but I’ll have to tell you all about it over at Chico Taxpayers.