Autumn makes me feel all dried up!

That “Naked Lady” pink really shines in my dead yard this time of year.

It’s so dry, my tenant’s front yard in Chico is going airborne these days. Cal Water has taken water rates from about 50 cents a ccf to about $1.70 per ccf over the past couple of years, so we decided to let the lawn go in favor of the “middle aged” trees. We’ve lost three huge trees – two 80 year old deodor cedars and a 50 year old doug fir – so we’re depending on the valley oaks that spring up naturally around our yard to fill in the bill.  With more shade we could slowly bring back the grass – it’s been working in the little project area I set up in my yard, I’ll have to post a picture of how that turned out.

When the ground starts to dry out, we throw down mulch, starting around the bases of trees, and moving out slowly into the dead yard. We use either leaves from the deciduous trees in our yard or chips picked up in the back country at various logging operations. Sometimes the loggers leave huge piles of great chips right alongside the road. 

Our orchard really suffered this year – we had a few blow-outs in our old drip lines, and the trees didn’t get as much water as they should have. The blue jays mowed our peaches in one night, so we netted the apple trees. The apples are small this year but here’s what I got out of a two gallon bucket of Fuji’s.

Minus a glass of juice for the taste tester.

The green apples are coming in bigger, not quite ready yet. The green juice tastes fantastic hot with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and orange peel. 

The next thing I need to think about is where I’m going to put my bumper crop of gi-normous aloe vera plants before the cold weather sets in. You won’t believe how huge they got in my little green house over Summer, which is great, cause that sap is about the only remedy for my dried out old skin.  But there’s no heat in the green house in Winter, and they get all sad and moldy as soon as the night time temps go below the 50’s. I think I’m just going to have to sell a few of the bigger ones on Craigslist – better than watching them waste away! I’ll post some pics, you tell me what you think. 

Next time, on This Old Lady, with Juanita!

 

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Time for a change in the weather

September is a dry month. Sacramento got an early morning shower about a week ago, but it vaporized at dawn, and the pavement was dry by 8 am. 

All around our yard in Chico the landscape is fading, except for the brilliant pink amaryllis. Old people call them “Naked Ladies,” they’re soooo pink. In this landscape, they look unreal, springing up out of dead yellow leaves like plastic lawn ornaments.

Just when I think they’re done another little stand pops out. 

It’s tough to do much of anything outside right now – a rake raises more dust than leaves, lawnmower makes a dirt storm. So I wander the yard with loppers and a tarp, collecting dead flowers. 

I want to do some transplanting, spread the love.  But the ground resists my shovel right now,  and I don’t want to break the handle – it’s my grandpa’s shovel, and it’s worn just right for my beat up old hands, the wood smooth as silk from all those years of use.

September is the month of waiting. I’m kind of done with Summer but I’m not  really ready to jump right into Winter. So we have Fall, that’s a good system.

Yesterday I started tearing my tomatoes out of their containers up at our little Summer camp in the hills. I realized the little green globes forming at the ends of every branch were not going to amount to much – that dry autumn wind has turned all the leaves yellow, and daytime highs here have already retreated to the 70’s. I got another half dozen ripe fruit – just big enough for a nice salad – and then I went about tearing off the big wire cages my husband made and throwing the plants into a pile to go back to the composter in Chico. You can’t have a compost pile here, it’s just another fire hazard.

That’s what I’m looking forward to – Burn Season. Up here you are allowed to burn in your dooryard. Right now I’m raking up tree trash into little piles, pitching those into bigger piles, and raking a big clean spot in the middle for the burn pile. My husband is using his chainsaw, cutting out little “trash” trees (trees that are stuck under bigger trees and will not amount to anything but “ladder fuel”), some of which are already standing dead. Those are good to get the pile going, then you chuck on your rotten needles and other trash. 

The other day my husband cut a big dead oak that was standing over our driveway. Those make perfect firewood, they’re all cured already. He cuts into splittable chunks for my son, who takes it back to his little house in Paradise. He’s taught his old woman to split wood – she’s a mountain momma!

So I’m looking forward to Winter, with caution. I know the days are short and the nights are long, the storms will come up the canyon and howl outside the windows. But there will be bonfires. We like to do a lot of cooking outside, whenever the rain lets up.   We like to get some smoked pork chops from Chico Locker and some of those tiny yukon gold potatoes. We wrap them up in a few layers and tin foil and set them in the coals. Since the chops are already cooked they heat up nice. The tiny potatoes are done within 20 minutes. 

I feel like I was robbed of Summer this year, with wildfires in every direction. I’m ready for a change in the weather. 

 

 

 

 

Big Kitty on the prowl!

Happy Saturday to you! 

This morning I got up early to clean out my mailbox, send a few notes. As I was sitting up here in my control tower, staring out my window at Orion, I heard this weird noise outside. A raspy, weird growl.  If you’d watched as much World of Disney and other “nature” shows as me, you’d have recognized it too – Big Kitty!

He/She/It has been coming around about every two weeks for over a month now.  The first time, it sounded like two of them, but lately it’s just one. It starts over to the east side of our property and works it’s way, very quickly, down below our little shack. As it moves, the neighbors’ dogs go off in succession, all the way down the canyon. 

The very first sign was a mauled deer, laying at the end of a neighbor’s driveway about a mile up the road. Ass chewed off – that’s not dogs. As we made our way back to Chico that morning we saw a Butte County Animal Control officer headed up the hill, and when we returned later in the day the carcass was gone.

But we knew something was out there. And sure enough, a few nights later, that weird raspy growling sound, moving quickly around the outside of our puny hogwire fence. 

So of course we started patrolling our property during the day, looking out and around the neighborhood for signs. My gramps showed me a cat foot once at the river, where he used to have a license to mine gravel. We used to wander the river banks while he was loading the truck with his little tractor, until that day he found that cat foot. He came searching for us, in a sweat, showed us the foot print, then told us, dentures chattering,  “Get in the DAMNED TRUCK!” “And STAY THERE!” 

But foot prints are hard to identify, they get messed up. The print my gramps found was in wet sand, along the river.  It’s so dry up here, the dust is at least 4 to 6 inches thick on the trails.  In this neighborhood everybody seems to have a big dog and walks it regularly, so there’s footprints all over the place. What’s easier to distinguish is cat skat, and it’s surprisingly easy to find. They don’t try to hide, they crap right on trails. Sometimes  they even crap on top of another animals crap,  very clearly marking their territory.

So we weren’t surprised when we found a pile right on the road,  right at the end of our elderly neighbors’ driveway, where the deer trails zig zag all along their property line.  It was a big pile of hair, dressed in an outer layer of tarry black poop. To the casual observer, it might look like dog poop, but if you take a good look it’s not. When cat skat dries out, you can see, it’s just a big rope of deer hair, with little bones and teeth littered through. Like house cats, the  big cats swallow a lot of hair, only it’s not their own. They also oftentimes scrape together a pile of leaves and dirt and then pee/poop on it. Dogs don’t do that, not even wild dogs. 

We’ve known fox since we had this property – he eats a lot of manzanita and other berries, and you can see that. He also eats birds, feathers and all. But his turds are small, and they disintegrate within days. That pile of cat skat, bigger than any pile our dogs have laid down, has sat at the end of the neighbor’s driveway almost since we saw that mauled deer. 

Scuse me – TMI? Well, up here, it pays to be an amateur skatologist. And keep a pig sticker on your belt. 

 

 

 

Dog Days: where would we be without our four-legged friends?

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Back to normal – less than a week after the snake bite he was his old insane self again. I pity the fool who tries to touch the sock, Sucka!

Life’s been flying by, I don’t even remember how long ago Badges was bitten by the rattler. Two important points I left out in my last post –

  • we’d had him immunized every year since he was a tiny pup – those rattle snake shots turned out to be worth the money. Less than $100 a year for both dogs. We ended up spending about $1,000 on treatment. When our neighbor’s un-immunized dog was bit last year it ended up running about $6,000 with follow-up. 
  • be careful with painkillers, vet lady likes to dish out the opiods – the vet gave Badges a very powerful Fentanyl patch, and warned us that it would be deadly if he happened to chew it off and ingest it. Dogs don’t like bandaids, we’d been there before.  So we had a couple of sleepless days and nights, freaked out over that patch. Even while the bite was quickly healing, he started to act weird – weirder than usual, attacking Biscuit out of nowhere, snarling at us. So we decided we’d all had enough of that patch and ripped it off. What a wrestling match that was, it was so sticky, it ripped out hair, and he immediately started licking the site. Before we could restrain him and get his foot washed, he’d got himself an overdose of fentanyl. We called the vet, and she told us that if he started having diarrhea or vomiting, bring him in immediately. He was panting, staggering, and acting as though he was having hallucinations, it was a tough hour and a half or so, but eventually he came out of it. If I had it to do over again I would have told them to skip the patch, the oral pills (also opiods) were even a little much. We started cutting those down to half and quarter doses the next day, and he was fine.
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Old lady in waiting – she’s mad about the boy!

Of course Biscuit knew something was wrong, and she moped around the house, watching Badges, even when he was nasty to her. 

So it was about a week of misery, between the smoke and the heat, and the mopey dogs. We decided we needed to break it up a little with a grill party.

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Grill it!

We had one last tri-tip from Cash and Carry in the freezer, so we decided to do it right with corn and potatoes. 

So, you know it’s Dog Days? That’s when dogs and old ladies go crazy.