Life is full of surprises

My husband wandered into the garden with a cup of coffee this morning and came back with a cup of tomatoes.

My husband wandered into the garden with a cup of coffee this morning and came back with a cup of tomatoes.

Just when we had stopped looking, the garden provided us with a sweet surprise.  These little maters will be delicious in a salad or on some tacos this week. 

It’s good to take a stroll out about 6:50 am, the sky puts on an incredible color and light exhibition. I can’t really catch that with my digi-cam, it moves so fast – like a river of melted crayons. 

The sun comes up quickly in the morning, moving across the sky and starting to sink by early afternoon. I feel the days getting shorter – it’s like a friend is getting ready to go on a long trip.  By 6 o’clock I’ve lit my candles around the camp stove, my husband has lit the bbq, and we sit watching the flames. The dogs draw so close up to the stove I have to constantly pull one tail or another out of the ashes.

When it’s raining and we’re stuck in the apartment, I really miss that stove. I try to cook more, get the house warmed up and get food.  Sometimes I make a good meal, other times I give in to whimsy. 

My sister had a boyfriend named Roy who worked at a restaurant called Ricky’s Rib Cage.  It was  very popular, not just for Ricky’s ribs, but for Roy’s sweet potato pie. One night we had dinner at their house and Roy made the pie – I never forgot it.  It wasn’t the standard sweet potato pie, which is really  a pumpkin pie filled with sweet potato. No, it was different – more of a cake in a pie pan.  

Roy was pretty tight with his recipes,  being in the restaurant business, so my sister waited until he left the room to hiss the secret into my ear – “number 7 yellow cake mix and a can of 7-Up…” That was all she had time to tell me because Roy came back into the room. Boy did he look suspicious. I never told, and I never figured  out how to make the pie either. I was afraid to ask Roy for help cause he’d know my  sister gave him up.

They broke up over a dog – Roy’s rottweiler turned on him one day and let him know he was not allowed in my sister’s house anymore.  A sad ending to a gourmet relationship, but I have to admit – my sister was getting way too fat living with that guy.

30 years later, I was still thinking about that damned pie, but until recently, I just didn’t have the confidence to try it. This Thanksgiving something came over me and I picked up an average size sweet potato, a box of yellow cake mix (they don’t number them anymore) and a bottle of 7-Up –

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Hecho en Mexico?

my husband convinced me that can  or bottle wouldn’t matter, even though my sister insisted that it did. Some people are real superstitious about cooking.

The dough boy looks so coquettish.

The dough boy looks so coquettish, this just has to be fun!

So, I just guessed – prepare the cake as instructed on the box,  then add the pureed sweet potato and 7-Up.  See what happens. Holidays  are good for experiments, there’s always the store if you screw up.

Ever cook a sweet potato? Takes for-ev-er.  I thought steaming would be quicker, so I cut it into pieces and put it in the pot. It took almost an hour, and I kept having to add water to the steam pan, but I got it.

Sweet potato is really good, very mild taste, creamy texture. I almost feel guilt for what I'm about to do to it.

Sweet potato is really good, very mild taste, creamy texture. I almost feel guilt for what I’m about to do to it.

Mash the crap out of it, then mash it some more.

Mash the crap out of it, then mash it some more.

And then dump it into a bowl of yellow cake batter. I’m sorry – probably a great way to hand diabetes down through the family! Be sure to add that bottle of 7-Up nice and easy – it’s like NITRO! 

I couldn’t get pictures, too much action, only so many hands.

Then you put it in a pie pan and bake it according to the cake mix instructions - 350 for about 40 minutes.

Then you put it in a pie pan and bake it according to the cake mix instructions – 350 for about 40 minutes.

Something that didn’t occur to me is a batch of yellow cake mix is a two-layer cake, or 24 cupcakes, and that translated into two sweet potato pies. Luckily it was very good, and my husband and  I sat down immediately to eat a quarter of a pie each. We work hard, we get hungry. A friend who stopped by polished off another quarter and took a slice for his bgf.  I told him he should just staple it to her ass, cause that’s where it was going to end up. He said he liked a little sweet potato pie on his woman’s bones!

Who cares, I’m old, if I want to eat stuff like this, I will do it. But yeah, not every day, that’s for sure. Don’t forget the whip cream. 

Thanks Roy-Boy, wherever you are.

 

 

 

Smoke ’em if you got ’em! Our new smoker made cooking for the family a breeze!

The family gathered around the smoker this year.

The family gathered around the smoker this year.

Years ago my husband and I gave up trying to cook whole turkey for Thanksgiving, it was just too much trouble and not that tasty.  We switched to whole chickens, which are cheap and easy to prepare.  We don’t try to cook that kind of meat in the house, either, we have always grilled over indirect heat. But when a friend of ours picked up a barrel smoker at a yard sale, and started telling us about all the great meals he was getting out of it, my husband had a sudden inspiration for taking the usual doldrums out of Thanksgiving.

My husband did some research online and found the Southern Country charcoal barrel smoker at Lowe’s for a very reasonable price – $79.  He had it put together and ready to go the same day. It had to be seasoned, so he fired it up – it was ready for meat within an hour.  He wanted to give it a  test  run, so we used a simple salt rub on some bone-in thighs we’d just bought at Safeway for 99 cents a pound, pinned the skin together with a couple of toothpicks,  and loaded them into the smoker.

How many times can you say, “OMG!” in one lifetime? This smoker promises plenty of “OMG!” moments. I’m sorry, but I think our Lord would like to hear about this, I don’t think I’m taking anybody’s name in vain  here.

Four hours later we hauled out eight perfectly cooked chicken thighs. They were juicy, tender and delicious. The best thing was, we were able to cook  a large quantity. 

Nothing like leftovers!

Nothing like leftovers!

I’ve seen two articles in the past week regarding Americans’ eating habits as a nation. Apparently people are spending more and more money eating out, less at the grocery store.  That’s too rich for me, every time we eat at a restaurant I can’t help making a mental list of the groceries I could have bought on the same tab. My husband and I might spend $50 on a meal out – for about $65, we get a forty pound box of huge chicken breasts at Cash and Carry. Thighs are usually less than $50 for a 40 pound box. 

 I know it seems onerous to come home from work and prepare a nice meal, but all it takes is planning.  The first plan to make is how and where to buy food in practical quantities that achieve a discount. The second plan is storage and management.  The third plan is how to make a meal that lasts at least two nights. 

I’m not saying we’re perfect, but the more time we put into planning the less hassle we find in making the actual meal.  An old contractor around here, Howard Slater, used to say, “for every dollar you spend on planning your project, you save seven in building it…” I don’t know if the numbers are still good, but I’d say that’s a pretty good analogy for meal planning. 

It’s also nice to have staple meals that you do well.

The meat came right off the bone and into the skillet.

The meat came right off the bone and into the skillet.

I usually have cooked rice around the house because it is a component of my homemade dog food. The dogs get half the pot and then we have a nice bowl of rice in the fridge for whatever quick meal. Tacos are just too easy to make, we eat them a lot.

Tacos are an easy staple meal - even homemade tortillas.

Tacos are an easy staple meal – even homemade tortillas. There’s the last tomato from our garden.  

I just picked up a 10 lb bag of brown Basmati rice at Cash and Carry for about $8.50.  You might think 10 pounds of rice is a lot but all you need is a couple of big jars or plastic bins and a space under your counter.  I go through 10 pounds in a little over a month.

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Here’s a 10 pound bag of rice – contained in a plastic sealed bag inside this ornate burlap bag. I store it in two big jars under my counter. The bag, which has handles and a real zipper,  makes a nice shopping sack, or you can stuff it and use it for a pillow on your patio.

 

Something else we have been eye-balling at Cash and Carry are the Cornish game hens. My mom liked these when I was little and baked them in the oven like a regular size chicken. She marinated  them with cheap white wine and called them drunken chickens. She treated them like the food of kings, so I always assumed they were expensive. Not so – Cash and Carry usually  has them for $1.99/lb, and this week Safeway priced them down to $1.69/lb.  The regular price on a whole chicken is $1.89 a pound, so we will probably be eating more of these little birds. 

We bought four for Thanksgiving, for a party of six.  They were frozen  hard enough to bust the windshield out of a ’66 Peterbilt, so we had to set them in the fridge for a couple of days. When we had them thawed out, we divided them up between dry rub and wet brine and set them in  separate zip lock  bags all morning. By noon my husband had them in the smoker, and by 4 pm, they were done to a positively perfect turn.

My husband served up a plentiful meal out of the smoker, adding some salmon we also got on sale at Safeway, and some boneless chicken thighs, also divided between wet and dry brine.  I added potatoes, beans and carrots and a green salad – pretty typical meal around here. 

It was a long day, but planning made it come off without a hitch.  We ate early, went for a family stroll into the evening darkness, looking for signs of life among our neighbors.  Then we came home and sat around the old camp stove. I was shocked how long the kids were willing to sit there with us, they seemed happy to be together. All last week I worried about keeping them entertained – all it took was a meal and a fire.

Sourdough Bob rides again

I am trying to  think only good thoughts, cause I want to have a nice holiday with my kids.

I start my day by putting out some frozen fruit for my smoothie.

I start my day by putting out some frozen fruit for my smoothie.  I picked up a lot of watermelon and bananas at Cash and Carry this summer, heaped them into my freezer.

I’ve been trying to teach my kids how to eat right. It seems so simple, but it’s easy to forget how important it is to eat well. My son explained it – being hungry makes you stupid. And cranky. And depressed!

I like to eat, so I had to learn how to cook. One of the best things I ever learned was how to make sourdough bread.

I like to start the day with Sourdough Bob.

I like to start the day with Sourdough Bob.

I really enjoy making my own bread. I make it about every three days – I try to time it so we don’t run out.  It starts out the night before when I feed the starter I keep in the refrigerator and take out a cup for the next loaf.  I feed this portion again,  cover it and set it on the counter over night.  When I wake up the next morning the smell of bread  fills the apartment.

It's true - it's good to "proof" yeast, let it sit for a good five minutes, before you add it to your bread starter.

It’s true – it’s good to “proof” yeast, let it sit for a good five minutes, before you add it to your bread starter.

As I’ve made bread again and again, I’ve learned a few things. First, it’s good to make it often so it’s a routine. When it’s a routine you are more likely  to do it, it’s not some special event that causes a circus in your kitchen. You have your tools all figured out and your ingredients ready, it’s a lot less fuss, and that means you will like doing it.  It also means you use the ingredients up and keep them fresh. I can get the stuff together in 15 minutes before bedtime and then get up the next day and have a fresh loaf of bread by 8:30 or 9 am. I do it earlier in Summer when the 3-digits set in.

Second, I find proofing the yeast really makes a difference. I used to just stir the granules into warm water and dump them into the sourdough batter. One day I had to deal with the dogs and left it setting on the counter. It seemed to double in bulk and get really lively. That loaf seemed bigger and puffier,  so ever since, I have proofed my yeast.

This ball of dough is destined to be a great loaf of bread.

This ball of dough is destined for Greatness. Albeit, short-lived.

The other thing I learned is, I don’t need to knead it as long as previously advised – the original recipe said 20 minutes. Whoa.  After 20 minutes of flopping that dough I felt like I’d gone 10 rounds with Jake LaMotta.  I got different advice from tv chefs – 8 minutes. That works fine, no need for over-kneading. I put the bread back in the oiled bowl and cover it for an hour.

An hour later it's double in size.

An hour later it’s double in size.

For my original investment of about four cups of flour and a few teaspoons of yeast, I get a pretty good pay-off. I stretch it into a rectangular shape, and then I roll it into a loaf and set it on a bed of corn meal to keep it from sticking to the board. The cornmeal will form a little crust that also helps it keep from sticking to the baking pan, which I have already set in the warming oven.

This is where the phrase "loafing around"comes from.

This is where the phrase “loafing around”comes from.

It sits on the counter and fattens up pretty plump.  Getting it into the oven is sketchy – it gets so big and lively I can hardly support it with my hands.  I told my family, I would like a bread peel for Christmas.

20 minutes in the oven - I give it a squirt of water from a spray bottle a few times over the first 20 minutes, I've heard this keeps the crust moist and tender.

20 minutes in the oven – I give it a squirt of water from a spray bottle a few times over the first 20 minutes, I’ve heard this keeps the crust moist and tender.

The house is warm by this time, and smelling great. 

Sometimes there's a "blow-out" - this doesn't seem to affect the quality of the bread, and gives Bob some personality.

Sometimes there’s a “blow-out” – this doesn’t seem to affect the quality of the bread, and gives Sourdough Bob some personality.  Looks like he’s laughing.

Routine is nice when Winter circles in.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes you have to grab life by the seat of the pants and say “Slow Down!”

Nature's palette.

Nature’s palette.

I had a busy day yesterday, I spent a lot of time on my feet. The 5 o’clock whistle never sounded so good. I made myself a steaming cup of coffee and headed outside to torch our camp stove. As the sun slid into the west, I noticed an outrageous display of color over my nopalito bed.

Who was that guy who kept painting the train station? I never get tired of taking pictures of an oak tree at sunset.

Who was that guy who kept painting the train station? I never get tired of taking pictures of an oak tree at sunset.

Lately I feel life is moving way too fast. I have to grab it by the seat of the pants and make it slow down.

Whoa Nelly!

Whoa Nelly!

It’s like eating – ever notice you are bolting your food, you can’t even taste it? Time to slow down.

Old Stove says, "come on over and take a load off..."

Old Stove says, “come on over and take a load off…”

I put my knees right up to the door, my close friend and constant companion Arthur Itis likes to stand with his butt right up against the box. I try to keep the dogs away but they want some too – Biscuit actually had her tail in the ashes the other night!

Suddenly the sun was gone, the wind took on a cold chill, and I lit my little candle to wait for Super Moon to make her appearance.

Suddenly the sun was gone, the wind took on a cold chill, and I lit my little candle to wait for Super Moon to make her appearance.

But we had another visitor last night. 

The biggest owl we have ever seen so close, this fellow sat atop the utility pole looking down on our yard for about 20 minutes.

The biggest owl we have ever seen so close, this fellow sat atop the utility pole looking down on our yard for about 20 minutes.

He didn’t seem to mind us pointing a flashlight at him to get a few snapshots.

Here he is scratching himself like a cat.

Here he is scratching himself like a cat.

It made me kind of nervous the way he kept looking down at Badges, like a quick meal. We were relieved when he suddenly disappeared. I mean, one second he was there, and the next he was gone.  I felt very lucky not to be a little mouse or a bat.

I had cooked all day, so my husband decided we should get some take out for dinner. We sat by the fire and ate our meal out of paper containers and hit the sack early. 

As the skies darken, keep reminding yourself – la primavera esta a la vuelta a la esquina!

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Super Moon was at my window this morning.

Last night my husband and I built a fire in our camp stove and sat out under the Super Moon for a few hours. It was an enchanting evening, the nopalitos glowing around the stove, Screech Owl calling as he and his mate feasted on  bats over our back acre.

This morning I am not too surprised to find Super Moon still brightening all the windows and setting an eerie light over the yard.  Clouds have moved in to form a Super Rainbow.

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And Super Moon sinks into the Western sky.

Whipple gave me some celery starts – a  couple of his celery plants had gone to seed and he dutifully dug the little plants up and set them in an old container. I wasn’t too enthusiastic about a winter garden – I’d rather wait out the drought. Last Winter I had to water everything, and I still lost plants, so you know, I hate to make the emotional investment.  But these little celery plants were so vibrant in that old pot, they would wilt every now and then, but a splash  of water would bring them back singing, so I finally set them out in my lined wooden boxes a couple of weeks ago. They just wanted to live so bad.   And yeah, I like celery  – it’s a “Super Food”, full of vitamins and minerals, complex carbohydrates that don’t irritate my system, and it’s the King of Fiber.

These little celery plants look so delicate but are actually pretty tough.

These little celery plants look so delicate but are actually pretty tough.

You know that old saying – “the best laid plans of mice and moms…” I set my little plants out and I watered them and they seemed to be taking off well.  Within a week the blue jays moved in to cause trouble – they just love that soft dirt to hide their nuts, those little bastards.  I went out one morning to find they’d dug holes all over my celery bed.  They didn’t seem to have upset any of the plants, just scooted the dirt around, so I raked it out again and put some water on it. They did it again, and I fixed it again, and the plants are actually growing.

When I was cleaning the beds I found some garlic from last year that had sprouted into new cloves, so I separated those and planted them in neat rows in the other half of the garden box.

If I can get the jays to leave these alone, I should get some Super Foods.dfs

If I can get the jays to leave these alone, I should get some Super Foods.

I don’t like to put a lot of effort into Winter gardening, and garlic is one of those things that doesn’t take much  effort, just a clean bed and regular watering.  The biggest trick is keeping the crab grass from getting it.

I know – celery and garlic are two of  the cheapest vegetables at the store. It’s just this compulsion I have to garden, just for that confidence you get when you grow your own food.

Another plant I’ve learned to grow is aloe vera – I started with a couple of pots and now I have so many I can’t find room for all of them. Some of them are suffering

This aloe pot had become so crowded the plants were withering.

This aloe pot had become so crowded the plants were withering.

while others are growing big, fat leaves, which I pick every morning to get sap for my smoothie. I also rub the sap on my skin, and my psoriasis and eczema are on the run.

The other day I was cleaning an empty rental, and I stuck my hand  way back in an old cabinet to wash it out. Suddenly I felt something ripping my fingers – my index and middle finger were slashed and bloody. It was a staple that had worked it’s way out of the wood, and it was sharp as heck. My husband reached in and fixed it, saying, “Don’t worry, those things are coated with zinc, that’s a clean wound.”  I trust my husband on these matters, he’s had a million injuries like this, but it still hurt like the dickens. My fingers swelled up,  throbbed all night, and the next day, I  couldn’t do anything with that hand, it drove me nuts. But all day, I smeared aloe vera on it, the miracle cure – by the next day the middle finger was healing. The index finger has taken a little bit longer, but today it feels good again.

So I hoard my little army of aloe vera pots, giving one away once in a while to a true believer.  I planted some in one of my box beds to see how they grow outside – I saw a picture of an aloe vera farm in Mexico,  and I figured, what the heck. I’ll  have to cover them from frost, they will probably not survive a real freeze, but let’s see what happens.

They look a little sad now, but I think it's just the shock of transplanting. There's already new growth.

They look a little sad now, but I think it’s just the shock of transplanting. There’s already new growth.

Gardening gives a person Hope. Hope is essential to a person’s mental health. As Winter darkens the skies, we all fight with SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is natural to want to slow down when it’s cold and dark,  but our modern lifestyles are contrary to Nature, so we have this conflict. It’s good to stay positive, have activities that help you look forward, don’t spend too much time dwelling over bad things – like Election 2016! Time to look forward, not backward. Get a project that will actually amount to something without draining too much of your energy.

And remember, always, la primavera esta a la vuelta a la esquina…Spring is right around the corner!

Rough beast slouches in

My husband woke me up at about midnight on Election Night – “you won’t believe this – Hillary has conceded!”

And of course, Measure K had already received 68 percent approval, that was not surprising.  The last bond measure passed with almost the same percentage. 

But Hillary conceded when the popular vote was split at 48 percent? That was a shocker. My husband  tries to explain the electoral  college to me,  I don’t want to hear about it. I don’t get it, I don’t understand why we don’t use the popular vote. What I do get, is how divided our country is, and what a pile of creeps we have running it.

My husband and I don’t like Hillary, we think the Clintons really screwed up the country with stuff like NAFTA and public employee entitlement. Hillary is the Queen of Entitlement, a connoisseur at the art of reciprocal back scratching. 

But we’re not even sure what to make of The Donald. 

The solution? I’m sorry – I didn’t vote for either of them.  Having lived in California all my life, I’m used to the idea that by the time our precincts close, the race is already over. I don’t remember when I’ve voted for anybody but Ralph Nader, even  before he started any formal campaign. I remember the first time I scratched in Nader’s name on my ballot –  Bill  Clinton’s first campaign. During a televised debate, he told candidate Jerry Brown to “chill out” on the topic of Hillary’s questionable business dealings, including the “Whitewater scandal” that later took up years of Bill Clinton’s presidency. How soon we forget – Clinton’s presidency was one scandal after another, ending in impeachment on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. Over an affair he had with a White House aide, a girl of 18 who lit his cigars with her vagina and gave him blow jobs while he spoke on the phone with heads of state.  It wasn’t just Monica, it was how Clinton felt entitled to use his position to fulfill his base desires. What didn’t we find out about?

Oh yeah,  how soon we forget.  I’m sorry to make you remember that stuff.

What really disgusts  me is the young people who are being fooled by Hillary because they aren’t old  enough to remember.

So, here we are with The Donald. I don’t know what to expect. I used to think it’s better to go with the bad thing you know – and that would have been Clinton.  But this time, I couldn’t do it, I just couldn’t vote for that woman. I can’t believe others did vote for her, knowing how she led the DNC to disenfranchise Sanders’ supporters. 

So we have people throwing temper tantrums over the outcome of the election. What are they protesting – Democracy? 

Hey, I didn’t like Barack Obama, and I really didn’t like his re-election, but you didn’t see me throwing a temper tantrum in the street.  I’m really disappointed in the passage of the school bond,  Measure K, but you don’t see me egging the district office. 

I’ll tell you where you will see me – I hope you’ll be there – I’ll be attending more Chico Unified school board meetings and Chico Area Rec  District board meetings.  It works good for my schedule because they are held a day apart, around the 15th of the month – school board meets Wednesday night and CARD meets Thursday. 

The CARD meetings aren’t bad, usually over within an hour and a half. The school board meetings, from the looks of the agendas, are a little more onerous.  But see, that’s what they’re counting on – you won’t come.  Surprise them – it’s worth seeing the look on their faces.

You have to take the medicine folks, or the recovery will never happen. I do get tired of people who throw more money because they are just too lazy to get involved. 

 

Fall back! And try something new – Walkin’ the Dog

 

I like to get up early.  No matter how many times I watch the sun rise, it never gets old. This time of year there’s lots of pink.

It's hard to get all the colors with my little digi-cam, but this morning the sky looked like a blue tiger with pink stripes.

It’s hard to get all the colors with my little digi-cam, but yesterday morning the sky looked like a blue tiger with pink stripes.

But I forgot about “Fall Back,” got up at 4:30 by mistake. Today will be interesting.

Fall pushed us back inside for a while, the chilling  temperatures were kind of a shock after that 3-digit Summer.  But we started lighting our camp stove outside almost every day, using the wood we got from our dead trees. So, I like to make my coffee before I feed the dogs, then go out and set some sticks burning in the stove. By the time we get the dogs fed and our coffee and a couple of chairs from the shop, the iron is hot and steaming. That heat sinks into our hands and knees, makes us feel young again, ready to work.

Biscuit’s diabetes has us up early because we need to keep her on a regular feeding and shot schedule. We’ve also bought a glucose test kit – we bought the human kit because it’s so cheap compared to the dog test kit. Our vet told us we just need to add another 20 percent to get an accurate idea of the dog’s reading. Then we take her in every few months and get a reading from the vet to see how she’s doing.

It was very frustrating at first. We’ve been feeding her the same stuff every day at the same times, we gave her the insulin shot just like we were told, and her readings were all over the place. Some days very high, some days very low, some days in the middle, but never the same more than two days in a row.  I wondered, was I handling the test strips too much, were we getting enough blood, etc.

The high readings started to worry us – there are many side-effects, like blindness.  Low is bad too, they can die.  Her behavior seemed okay most of the time, but we worry, worry, worry.  The smiling vet assistant acted same no matter what readings – once over 400! Their only suggestion is we get her back on their expensive crap food – white sugar,  corn meal, brewer’s rice, chicken fat, etc. I couldn’t do that, so tried tweaking my homemade food. That didn’t help, her readings were still all over the place.

We knew exercise was important, but what we were reading was very confusing. Sometimes exercise lowers blood sugar, sometimes it makes it go up? The information was all for humans, who can tell you how they feel.  We were on our own.

We had to use common sense – we know she likes exercise, and it makes her perky and happy, so that must be good. We thought we were giving her enough exercise – we live on a big place, we walk all over and she follows at our heels, we play ball with her every couple of hours, and she’s got her little pal Badges for spontaneous squirrel chasing and tug-o-war.

A toy is always better when it is fought over.

A toy is always better when it is fought over.

Still, that didn’t seem like enough. We noticed her readings were better when we took her for a morning walk. And it needed to be more than just a stroll up and down the street in front of our house, she and Badges both seem happier with a ride in the car and a good hike. And they  seem to enjoy a change of scenery, instead of going to the same old place again and again. We do too.

We live within walking distance of lower Bidwell Park,  but the traffic between our house and the park is usually too busy. On weekends it seems everybody in town walks their dogs past our house, which is stressful, because you never know how dogs will react to each other. So it’s nice to get in the car and drive somewhere else.

One place we like to visit is Verbena Fields, located along East First Avenue and Lindo Channel. For many years it was a gravel quarry, and the channel was cleared regularly with a bulldozer to keep the flood waters from backing up.  As housing moved in, there was pressure for the city to stop the gravel mining operation and allow the channel to “go back to Nature.” The location sat unused, essentially a dog park for neighbors by day and a worsening bum camp by night, so various groups worked with the city to clean this little spot up, plant native plants, and put in a trail system, most of it paved with gravel. There are even signs that describe the history of the area and identify the various plants.

Lindo Channel itself, a flood channel under the management of the Department of Water Resources, is a wonderful place to walk your dog or your kids. The trails wind up and down the banks on both sides. In Summer the water dries up allowing for BMX trails and jumps. At this time of year there’s fresh water, the dogs like to get their feet wet.

A new place we’ve checked out is Comanche Creek Park, which is still in the works. There’s a nice but short trail, then the money ran out I guess, and the trail deteriorates into Bumville – a tangle of invasive, non-native plants full of garbage and poop. I hope they keep working on that park, the trail is a nice commute route for people living in the Southwest end of town.  But, as is, I wouldn’t go there after dark, or too early in the morning.

 

It is finally 6am – I had to feed Biscuit and give her the shot by the old time, slowly wheedle her an hour later. Today I’ll say goodbye to Orion as he is sinking more quickly into the west and now I will be getting up an hour later. For a little while I will have to hustle out to greet the sun, but within a couple of weeks she’ll get pretty lazy and I’ll have plenty of time to loll around under that pink sky.