Time for Fruhlingputz

 

Well, no howling wind, just that steady drip-drip. Tonight the howling is supposed to take up again – whatever, I’ve lost  track of the days. Weatherman  says we have a dry spell coming next week, I’m looking forward to it. 

For now we still follow our dam-ned routine – clean, bake, scrub, take the dogs for a walk. When the rain let up yesterday we went out and picked up storm debris – another sycamore branch  came crashing down on the fence yesterday – at least this time, no fence boards were lost! We loaded up two wheel barrows full of sticks and junk and got back to the house just in time, as heavy rain drops starting peppering the black plastic sheets across my lawn.

This is  the time of year for Fruhlingputz – that’s German for “Spring Cleaning.” We do it inside and out, depending on the weather.

Inside, I like to start in one corner of my house and work my way  around in some sort of organized fashion. The smallest room in my house is the bathroom. I always think I keep my bathroom clean until I turn on it with my Landlady eye, and decide I would charge myself a handsome chunk of dough to make that pigpen suitable for rental.

Sheesh that Landlady is a Bitch!  But I love her, cause she keeps me on my toes! 

The first thing I noticed with my Landlady eye was a huge spiderweb stretched across the ceiling of the shower. Spider had abandoned ship, leaving nothing but dust. I realize, I’m not really awake in there,  and when I do finally wake up, I’m freezing cold and I’m out of there so fast – when does anybody really  take a good look  at the ceiling in their shower? 

Time to wash the bathroom  ceiling.  I use one of those flat floor mops with the sponge head and removable dust cover. The  dust cover is a good scrubber but replacements are kind of expensive so for most jobs I cover the head of the mop with one of those microfiber rags. I get those really cheap by the bag  at Home Depot or wherever. 

This is a simple job, but Arthur hates it – you have to look up, hold your arms up – this morning I’ll admit I’m real stiff, but that ceiling looks very nice. The proof was in the wash water, which had started  out clear and smelling like lemons  and ended up brown and brackish.

Of course I didn’t stop at the ceiling, it’s just a tiny room, so I washed down the walls, Arthur begging for mercy. Bathroom walls get, what’s the word…yechhhy… Another wash tub of brackish water, and the whole room begins to shine.

Arthur had to admit, sometimes you have to suffer to have a beautiful bathroom.

 So we moved into the shower, where we have a ginchee window, and I scrubbed the hell out of that window while Arthur cursed at the storm. Window tracts get moldy this time of year, from dust that builds up naturally, and moisture that is being pounded in by one storm after another. My husband showed me how to clear out the “weep” holes that let out the rain, keep it from coming in the house. One little piece of dead bug or stick or leaf and that water backs up, causes problems. I tried to clean them with a toothpick, but that was tedious and non-productive. So, I took a spray bottle with a weak mixture of bleach and water and sprayed those holes until clear water came out the other side and ran off the window sill into the storm.  

My husband  did that shower in big tiles, it’s easy to take a plastic scrub  brush and a mixture of Murphy’s Oil  soap or dish soap and baking soda.  The soap and soda makes a paste that sticks to the walls, soaks up all that soap scum, breaks it down quicker than Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt. 

 

Sorry for that aside, but every time I use the word “breakdown” or “foggy” or “mountain” I think of Scruggs and Flatt, it’s in my DNA somewhere.

Once the soap scum was gone, I noticed the tiles had taken on a new color, looked shinier, and I realized I need to get in there more often. Oh well, that’s what I always say.  I guess it’s better to let things get a little frowsy,  so you can really appreciate them when they are clean! 

With that room under my belt, I will work my way around the rest of the apartment through the course of the next storm, howling in tonight. By the time the storm is over, I’ll have the windows all washed from the inside anyway,  and Spring will  look a little closer!

 

 

Des colores se visten los campos en la Primavera…

A lady wrote a letter to the paper the other day, complaining that the editor had complained about the rain. She pointed out, we just had what – five years of drought? She was offended that the editor would complain about  the rain now that we’re finally getting some.

You can tell people have been cooped up in the house too long when they get in a fight over complaining about the rain. Classic cabin fever.

At first it seems all warm and cozy inside, it’s easy to fall into hibernation. I put on my wool socks and fuzzy slippers, wrap up in a shawl, watch some tv. The chores pile up, and about noon, I feel like I’m getting a hangover without ever having had the pleasure of having gone on a drunk. My body stiffens up, my butt gets numb, I need to stay busy.

So I bake stuff, cause that keeps the house warm. Makes your ass as big as a barn door though.

So we put on our garbage bag rain coats every couple of hours and head out the door. Sometimes the rain is coming down so hard I find myself watching the ground directly in front of my feet. Which is a good idea, cause the ground is slicker than (in Texas they say ‘shit’) . 

When the rain stopped Sunday and the fog rolled in, my husband and I packed up our gear and the dogs and went camping 20 minutes above town. It’s amazing how different the weather is there when it’s not raining. While Chico slept in a dense 35 degree fog we enjoyed brilliant sun and nearly 60 degree afternoons. We chainsaw and stack brush for the chipper crew and rake up tree trash for the burn piles to keep our neighborhood safe. We enjoy long walks in the woods with the dogs, tracking the little harem of does that live nearby with their fawns. One day we saw the buck – he was so magnificent, I thought he was a well made decoy, until he turned his regal head, and sprang off into the woods. Bounce, bounce, bounce – just like in the cartoons! The dogs were so shocked they just stared.

The dogs spent a lot of their time trying to rout a mouse from the wood pile. I watched her scamper out the back of the pile while they worked from the front. But they still dug relentlessly at that pile of wood for hours. 

The fun washes out with rain, so when the clouds started to bunch up, we packed  our gear and headed home. This storm’s been a whopper, more than a steady drip on the eaves, a real dumper. The wind howls around the roof, the big trees wave back and forth. So today we’re inside again, working around the shop and the garage. Taking the dogs for a walk.

But now I’m starting to notice something different – those bulbs I scattered around my yard last Summer are starting to poke through the dirt. They are pushing up the gravel along my driveway.  Fat purple buds are forming on my irises. 

La primavera esta a vuelta a la esquina – spring is just around the corner! 

 

Same old friend

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As the moon sailed up over the treetops last night, she was overtaken by pirates.

I never get tired of looking at the sky. The moon is really full  and bright these past few nights.

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There was a brief struggle, and I was afraid the pirates would steal away with her.

It was nice to have a break in the storm yesterday, and a fabulous evening.

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Just when I thought she was lost, her face appeared above the dark mast.

We were able to get some chicken on the grill, used that new salt stone again.

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Here’s what the salt stone looks like after one or two uses. It’s stained, but feels clean to the touch.

As we huddled around the bbq, we kept an eye out for Sister Moon.

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And there she was, rising above the fracas.

She popped out of the clouds like a new blossom emerging from the mud.

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Same old friend.

Hello Moon.

Try something new – the Himalayan salt block we got for Christmas is a new twist on grilling

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These are two steaks my husband cut from a boneless rib roast we bought at Cash and Carry, sizzling away on the Himalayan salt cooking block my son got us for Christmas.  The fingerling potatoes are also from Cash and  Carry.

Wow, this weather has had us on our toes. Every morning I look out into the darkness to see if any tree branches have fallen, our sycamore trees have had a whopping from that wind. I’m on edge for a power outage – just the other side of the park, a whole neighborhood was dark and cold for hours yesterday when a tree took down a power line. We’re ready, our nerves are tingling, and our hackles are up. 

What we’re really watching for is a break in the storm, so we can fire up the grill, and get some meat going. Standing around the bbq with that fresh cold wind in our hair seems like an adventure after being stuck in the muck all day.

Our kids were very nice to us this Christmas – they know us, and they know what we like, even if we haven’t tried it before. The older one is always coming up with something new.  He grew up imitating Dad, now he seems to be taking the lead. This Christmas he gave us a cooking stone made of pink salt. The first thing I said was, “it’s too pretty to use!” Silly, silly Mom!

Salt and food have gone together since man first licked his salty finger. I think it was an instant addiction, but wonder how long it took people to figure out about curing food. I know it was important from very early on – there is a “salt trail” in Glenn County that leads all the way to Oregon. Archaeologists and the local people claim it was trekked for a thousand years, great wars took place along that trail – over salt. There are salt licks all around the foothills on the west side of the valley, people dug it out, and fought for it. It was like gold to them.

So I guess it was a natural feeling I had, holding that heavy block of pure salt in my hands – I wanted to wrap it up and hide it. 

But my son insisted, if we handled it correctly, it would get a nice patina like my pizza stone, and we would have it for many years. The most important things are don’t get it too wet and don’t heat it too fast. 

My husband took care of heating it – he put it on the grill  as soon as he got the charcoals going. As it heated up, he was afraid he hadn’t added enough charcoal, that the coals would be out before the meat was on the stone. That was not a problem – once that stone gets hot it’s like a frying pan. The meat sizzled away.

We got a boneless rib roast at Cash and Carry for about $100.  This was our second attempt at cutting it – this time we got 19 steaks, a bag of stir-fry meat we trimmed out of the fat, and a neat little roast to put in our smoker.  We wrap the steaks in plastic film wrap and stack them into zip-lock freezer bags. We wrapped a half dozen for each of our kids – it’s comforting knowing they have meat in their freezers. 

We threw the last two steaks on the salt stone. We’d found a nice bag of fingerling potatoes at Cash and  Carry – I steam those whole for 10 minutes and then toss them with olive oil, salt and garlic powder. They roast really well whole on the bbq.  

The steak was done to perfection before the coals were gone. I had to force myself to slow down eating it, I tried to chew each bite slowly, it was hard. Those meals seem to go too fast, given the anticipation that goes into it.

And then were left with that greasy stone. My husband  put it on a little baking rack in his shop to cool, and we forgot it overnight. He brought it in the next morning and I had the sudden compulsion to toss it out, but remembered what my son said. I got a hand-size piece of green scrubber, ran it under hot tap water, and then went about scrubbing off the baked on grease. It essentially washed right off, leaving a light stain. I held it over the sink and just scrubbed the grease. The whole stone got damp, but not wet.  I patted it dry with paper towels and set it on the baking rack. It was dry and smooth within an hour. It cleaned up a lot like my pizza stone – you could see stains, but it feels clean to the touch. 

We used it again, this time for boneless chicken breasts.  At first they looked weird without grill marks, but wow, they melted in our mouths, they were so juicy and tender. 

So, I will give the salt block two thumbs up. We keep it stored in it’s box in my husband’s shop, where it is relatively dry and close to the grill. Next time we’re going to throw some shrimp on there. 

I’ll keep you posted.

Back to Blah!

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Biscuit likes to take a drink out of this rain bucket, so we always keep one of my son’s old hockey sticks nearby to bust out the ice.

Yesterday was COLD. I didn’t linger by the Kist Thermometer long enough to get a read, but my faithful computer monitor told me 27 degrees at 8am. By 3 o’clock, it had barely hit 50.  

Cold enough to freeze over all our rain buckets and even the dog’s continuous feed water dish.

She likes the rain bucket the best so we always bust it out for her. When my husband broke the ice yesterday he splashed some water on the concrete. When I came out a half hour later the spilled water was frozen solid. 

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Here’s the ice lid off the water bucket we keep next to our front door, on our covered porch. This was still sitting unmelted yesterday evening, even after sitting on the black plastic in the sun.

I suppose it’s good and melted now, it’s been dumping rain since the wee hours. 

Yesterday we spent getting my son packed and on the road again for school. He could have stayed another day or two, but yesterday was the golden weather window through the Sierra passes.

 It’s been a swell three weeks, but I could tell he missed his girlfriend and his normal routine. That empty nest thing kind of creeps up on me, it’s hard to get him out of the driveway without a scene. But, I can tell he’s not that eager to go, he stands there looking at us after we hug and say goodbye, and my husband starts talking again about which route he will take. We go round like this for 15 or 20 minutes before we all begin to feel awkward and he climbs into his big truck. He never refuses another hug, and he doesn’t let go right away.

He seems confused, I’m confused too – this is his home.   I try never to refer to his apartment in Nevada, no matter how neat-o and ergonomic it is, as “home”. I try to keep his room the way he left it, although we both agreed,  my desk and some funny posters I put up are a good addition.  

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I found Alfred E. Neuman in an old stack of comic books.

Al reminds me, don’t take any of this stuff too seriously.  Including the maze of his face, which has no solution.

Listening to the pouring rain, I realize, I am pretty well stuck inside today. We’ll see what we can come up with. 

Want to do something big that will influence the future? Plant trees.

I keep a “day book”. Maybe that makes me a control freak,  but I like to plan my life a few days ahead, even a few weeks, write down important stuff I need to do, check it off when it’s done. Gives me a sense of productivity. Knowing I can’t stop time, I would at least like to have a proper accounting of how time was spent.

Sometimes, you know – best plans of mice and moms often go awry. Sometimes I don’t accomplish ANYTHING on my dam-ned “to do” list. So, at the end of the day, I think back, write down what I did, check it off. 

Sometimes I run a line through an item – “I changed my mind, screw that…”  I guess a “to do” list does give me some sense of control over my life. 

Something I started doing a year or so ago, during The Drought (ha ha, remember The Drought?) is keep a rain diary. We had started to lose trees because we weren’t accustomed to having to water in Winter. At first it was young fruit  trees, two cherries we’d just planted a  couple of years previous. Our older cherry died. Our peach trees started looking down in the mouth.

Then we noticed bigger trees around the property were in trouble.  By the end of last Winter, our 80 year old deodor cedar was dead, and our 35 year old Doug Fir was on it’s last legs. We know how old they were because we counted the rings after PG&E came in a took them down this past Fall.

I read an article that said big trees needed to be “irrigated” every two weeks during Winter drought – in other words, if it hasn’t rained for two weeks, it’s time to set up the sprinkler. Last year I recorded rainy days in my rain diary, and whenever it didn’t rain for two weeks I went around the yard dragging hoses and sprinklers. It was too late for those two old trees, both of which had other problems – too close to roads, too close to power lines, butchered many times by PG&E crews. But we have younger trees, I was anxious to make sure they didn’t follow.

I also read my native oaks don’t need any help, in fact, they suffer from over watering. When we bought this place we planted evergreens – the neighbor had planted a bunch of redwoods on his property, and they were doing great! We have a flag lot, with three neighbors’ driveway running right along our yard, so we planted a row of redwoods on that side of our yard to keep the dust down to a dull roar.

Our other neighbor’s redwoods were about 25 years old, and doing very well, when suddenly two Summers ago, the trio standing next to our house turned brown, like in weeks. He hadn’t set them up on water, and the new owner wasn’t watering that part of the yard at all.  Those trees turned brown even faster than our trees, and they were standing right alongside our house. We were glad to come home from a weekend trip and see the neighbor had removed them, but it sure changed the dynamics of their yard. Suddenly they had a big, brown dead patch that turned to dust in Summer and mud in Winter. We started looking around our yard with a new panic.

The tops of our redwoods were turning brown. We started watering on the two week schedule, wishing and hoping for more Winter rain, but you know – it didn’t come. 

Realizing we were probably going to lose more evergreens around the yard, we started looking for native trees to plant in their place. In stepped our friend Whipple.

Whip-whip-whip! That’s what I call him, cause like a little bird, he appears out of nowhere.

Everything Whipple plants grows. He had been potting little trees that were coming up in inconvenient parts of the yard, and brought us a set of red buds, with a crepe myrtle he had propagated as an experiment. One of the red buds had been in it’s little pot so long a foot long root hung from the bottom. 

I always fuss over where to plant stuff. My husband gave me a general idea of where he’d like to see them, but it was a really hot spot, I wasn’t sure. He assured me that we’d water them and water them and eventually they’d grow big enough to turn that hot spot into a shady spot. Sheesh, he’s good at talking me into stuff.

It wasn’t a good spot for sprinklers, too far from a spigot. You know what you get with sprinklers anyway? Weeds. So, when I have little plants to take care of, I fill my watering can and walk around, parceling out the water, being careful not to wash away the roots.

My good friend and constant companion, Arthur Itis, walks along with me, cursing to beat the band.

So I watered my little trees all Summer. I planted little herbs like feverfew and selvia to hold the ground. I started to put down chips but I ran out of funding. Every now and then I would forget, or we’d take a trip somewhere, and pay back would be instantaneous – the tops of my  little red buds would burn, leaves would fall off, and I’d curse myself for being a slacker.

Now they sit leafless in the mud. But, I’ve taken a good look – there are buds on the naked little branches, fat with life. 

The dead looking sticks are the red bud tree, the green stuff is feverfew. If you look really close you can see little reddish buds along the stems of the tree.

The dead looking sticks are the red bud tree, the green stuff is feverfew. If you look really close you can see little reddish buds along the stems of the tree.

Oh yeah – the crepe myrtle looks dead, but you know, crepe myrtles always look dead this time of year. It’ll come back. 

This crepe myrtle looked dead in the pot when we got it, but came right back to life as soon as I planted it. It grew about  three times it's original size and got pink flowers all over it.

This crepe myrtle looked dead in the pot when we got it, but came right back to life as soon as I planted it. It grew about three times it’s original size and got pink flowers all over it.

So Whipple, seeing we’d made good, brought us a set of oak trees – two blue oaks, two cork oaks, and a valley oak. They’re still sitting in the pots. The good news is, my rain diary is starting to fill up, looks like a good year for baby trees. 

This is one of the cork oaks.

This is one of the cork oaks.

I’ll keep you posted on the oaks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We smoked a duck to ring in the New Year – I think 2017 is going to be a good year!

Golden, juicy and delicious - and only $2.99 a pound at Safeway.

Golden, juicy and delicious – and only $2.99 a pound at Safeway.

My husband and I have taken to buying much of our meat in bulk. We go so far as to buy our boneless chicken in 40 pound blocks at the local restaurant supply store, Cash and Carry, at about half the price of buying out of the cold case at the grocery store.  We keep an eye on their website for deals.

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We still look for deals at Safeway – we buy whole chickens whenever they are marked down. We’ve looked around, and Safeway consistently has the lowest sale price on whole chickens, sometimes as cheap as 79 cents a pound.  

When my father-in-law butchers a steer, we get a big package of meat from him, but he’s  getting pretty old, and he’s keeping fewer steers, selling some of them to his neighbors to offset the cost of feed and other expenses. When we ran out of meat last year and he didn’t have a steer on schedule, we went to Cash and Carry and bought a boneless rib roast for less than $100.  My husband cut that into about 15 steaks in his first attempt at meat cutting. Next time he thinks he can get at least five more, some of these were too thick.  We wrapped each steak in plastic wrap, and put them in zip-lock freezer bags, stowed away in our little chest freezer.  We can now have a steak dinner at about half the price of grocery store meat.

We are always on the look-out for good deals at Safeway, like the Cornish game hens we bought for Thanksgiving. Regularly $1.99 a pound, they were marked down to $1.69. We fed six adults on four birds, finger licking good. 

So we look in that cold case alot. One day we saw they had whole duck for $2.99 a pound, so we picked up a 5 pound bird at just less than $15.  I grew up on wild game, and duck was tough, but we liked it. This was a domestic bird, raised all kind and friendly by Amish people. We were curious  to see how it would smoke up.

Do you think I overuse the expression “OMG!” ? Let me know about that, and send me some synonyms. This bird was so delicious, I think there’s going to be trouble later when I take the remaining leg out of the fridge.