Roughing It, conveniently

 I am sitting in our shack in the woods listening to a really persistent cricket. 

We came up here to stay a few nights because we found it is just above the smoke. The valley is socked in with fires burning in every direction.

The challenge to staying up here is, no air conditioning. We have electricity but not enough wiring to install any big appliances.  Of course, that has not been much of a concern until this summer,  the temperatures have been unusually high all over California – 100 in Hayfork? That’s friggin’ hot people.

Here, just 15 or 20 minutes above town, it’s oftentimes 10 or 15 degrees cooler than the valley, making an awesome  getaway. 

Not this summer – Monday it was 100 degrees up here.  There’s a good swimming hole nearby – packed to the rafters for Labor Day. We have a plastic horse trough that we fill with water to use for a dip, but the inside of the shack was almost 90. We had to cool it off, and opening the windows wasn’t an option. 

We pondered – better to sweat it out here, or go home and sit in the house all day?

Luckily our late friend Mark left us the most wonderful gift – his almost new portable air conditioner.  Actually, he had told his son, if he died, to give us the contents of his shed. He was a smart man – he knew that shed was full of junk, it would have been overwhelming for his son to clean it all out. But, Mark knew that shed was also full of stuff my husband would use – like the roof shingles we used to patch the roof at the house we just sold. Mark had those left over from his own roof repair, and they were just enough to do our job. See how your friends watch out for you?

What a miracle this little a/c unit is – it has a collapsible vent that will pull out to almost six feet, you the open end in a partially open window to let out the hot air. You don’t have to add water or anything, just turn it on, and within minutes the air is degrees cooler. 

We were afraid it would blow out a fuse at the old shack. Last winter we had a small heater in the outhouse, on a timer so it would warm the room up in the morning, and when I got up and turned on the coffee maker, the fuse blew out. My husband reminded me, as he put on his boots to hike out in the snow and flip the switch, I have to go to the outhouse and turn off the heater before I make a cup of coffee, simple enough. And boy it’s nice to have that heater in the outhouse when it’s 35 outside.

So we ran the little ac all by itself for about 45 minutes, and what do you know – we got the inside of the shack down to about 80, which is cooler than we usually keep our apartment at home.

By bedtime, the Delta Breeze was hooting her way up the canyon, and we slept with the windows open.  

 Here’s the funny thing – we were ready for another hot day, but it didn’t come. The sky clouded over about mid-day, and the temperatures stalled in the 80’s. We drove back to Chico to run some errands – the smoke was still thick around town, and the air was hot too. So we picked up some ice and a few odds and ends and headed back to the shack.

At about 4 pm, the sky got really dark and the breeze turned into a wind. Thunder rolled in the distance.  

We keep our cooking stuff on the deck outside – one of those wheeled racks is great for holding the camp stove and the electric skillet, and an old metal filing cabinet on wheels holds the toaster oven. We dragged those into the shack, along with the dog beds and the patio chairs, and sat cozy watching the storm come in.

It was short but sweet – a nice gentle shower, only lasted about 10 minutes. But the air was remarkably different.

Now I can see out across the canyon below – smoke blots out the valley beyond the next ridge, where I can usually see the highway interchange and Table Mountain far away in the background. But up here the air is clear, it smells good. 

I always thought the biggest challenge to living up here would be the occasional week of snow.  Now I realize how spoiled I’ve become with modern convenience. Electric coffee maker, toaster oven, computer, tv!  Air conditioning!?

Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town.

 

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July 28, and we’ve just got our first tomato

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At this point we’ll take anything.

As I told you previously, the only red tomatoes we’ve seen in the garden this year have had blossom rot. My husband applied some calcium to the soil and we’ve been waiting and watching.  This one grew out of the rot, pretty much, so we brought it in and cut it. The end was rotten, but most of the mater was still good!

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When I opened the container this morning, it smelled like SUMMER!

We cut off a thick slice and diced it over our salad. Today I will have a tomato sandwich. I wish I could say I had my own bread to eat it on, but it’s been too hot to take Bob out of the bucket, we’ve been subsisting on Alvarado Bread.

This weekend I am enjoying a “Staycation”.   I have finally got my husband to take some time and just sit around and enjoy.  We set up our tiny Intex pool on the patio, and put our old tv on the patio table, the antenna strung up on the umbrella.  

I can mix work with relaxation. This morning I watched “King of the Hill” while I mowed the lawn, when my eyebrows were heavy with sweat, I jumped in the pool! 

The other day they played the episode in which Mega lo Mart moves to town and forces Strickland Propane, where Hank works, out of business. Hank has  to go to work at Mega lo Mart. One day he’s trying to tell his co-worker, Buckley, to be more careful with the propane cans, when Buckley drops a can and blows up the entire store. Hank escapes but his niece Luann’s longtime annoying boyfriend Buckley is killed. 

At the funeral, Hank’s neighbor Kahn tells about his strange friendship with Buckley, explaining that Buckley taught him to “live in the moment” – a nice way of saying Buckley was completely careless and irresponsible, without any consideration for the future or those around him. 

Kahn tells a story to illustrate – a story about a man who is hunting a tiger, when the tiger charges and knocks him off a cliff. As he grasps at a root, pondering his fate, the hunter notices a strawberry growing along the cliff’s edge. Instead of being hysterical, he reaches up and picks the strawberry, eats it, and declares, as he falls to his death, that it was the best strawberry he’d ever eaten. 

So, whenever I see a strawberry, I pick it and eat it. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, I’ll admit it – the heat is starting to get to me! I’m having crazy ideas!

Yesterday afternoon as local weatherman Kris Kuyper was announcing Chico’s high at 108, I stepped out onto the patio to snap this pic of my KIST thermometer.

 

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Eeeee–eee–yew! 

 

Not that I don’t have the utmost respect for Kris, I’m sure it was 108 somewhere in town at that time, but on my patio, it was 112.

I tried to beat the heat the other day – literally – I got up at 4 am to get my bread going, get it in the oven by 6am. Sounded like a good idea. I love the morning, the temperature is cool and the breeze is friendly. But neither Sourdough Bob nor I were quite awake all the way. We wrestled around the bread board, Bob almost taking a dive off the counter at one point, desperately clinging to my arm. I threw him back in the pot to rise, went out to do some chores, and when I came in, he had “fallen.” That’s not good! As I put him in the oven, he spread out like a mother of 10.

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Sourdough Bob is not at his best at 4 am, but still quite a guy.

He huffed and puffed in the hot oven, his middle pushing itself up, trying to take on a proper shape, but he just couldn’t do it. I blame the heat – I think he rose up so fast, he just collapsed. I’ll have to watch that next time, get him in the oven a little sooner.

As you can see, he still turned out okay, just flat. Sourdough has a taste that improves as the days go by, we will eat him to the heel. Tonight we’ll roast a few cloves of garlic on the bbq, toast some thin slices of bread, good and crispy, and spread that garlic nice and thick. 

And here’s my other crazy idea – we’re going to sleep outside. It’s the funniest thing – we live upstairs, and it seems to get extra hot upstairs. The air starts to cool fast outside after the sun goes down, it feels great to relax and watch our old tv by our little inflatable swimming pool. We even burn rosemary in our old camp stove, it’s like camping out. 

But inside the apartment the air sits, even with windows open and fan running. The air inside our bedroom stays at 81, 82 degrees, which is very uncomfortable to sleep at. I can’t even stand that kind of heat in the Winter! It’s kind of suffocating.  So, we’ve been sleeping with the windows shut and the air conditioner on 81. It runs about once an hour, all night, for 10 or 20 minutes, just to stay at 81. 

I’ve tried setting our alarm for midnight – as soon as I opened the windows, I could feel warm air coming in. 

So, when the lows are only going down to high 60’s or low 70’s, we don’t open the windows until we get up at 5 am – or 4 am, whatever. Then we slam them shut again by 7 am, as the sun hits our eastern windows, the thermostat on our a/c is already at 79. 

So I’ve got this old cast iron day  bed. It sat in my grandparents’ room when we were little as a “sick bed”. It’s very plain, from the turn of the century, when “fevers” ran rampant, and people started to realize furniture needed to be sanitized – no more wood or upholstered beds for kids. It’s about 26 inches wide folded up, and when it’s folded out it’s about the same size as a double bed. 

My grandparents always kept it folded up, they only had a twin mattress for it.  It was moved to the enclosed front porch when my grandmother rearranged the bedroom. We used it like a couch when we watched the old tv, and my grandfather used to nap on it regularly, cause he didn’t have to take off his shoes to lay on it. My grandmother would just cluck her tongue and slide newspapers under his dirty boots.  

There the tiny mattress was got into by mice. We could never keep mice off that back porch. My mom and uncle finally realized the old mattress was a breeding sanctuary, and loaded it off to the dump. The bed frame went into the tank house where it sat for years.

It weighs like 100 tons, ‘scuse my rampant exaggeration. But that’s why I got it, cause my husband and a couple of our best friends were  willing to load it into our truck. I’m sure some of the other kids in my family wanted it, but yeah, they didn’t have my husband or his penchant for talking his friends into helping us move stuff. And then I guess they realized, what would they do with it?  I mean, after they hosed out all the owl shit? 

We cleaned it up and we’ve used it.  We’ve used it for our kids’ bed, we’ve used it as a couch. For a long time, we had it on our covered patio with a piece of plywood over the springs. We put carpeting and dog beds on it, and the dogs slept on it until Biscuit was too old and stiff to jump up and we had to make her a shorter bed.  

Now I am trying to convince my husband that we need to get it out of the garage and place it next to the old camp stove, in the shadows of my cactus garden. Folded out, it will fit our inflatable mattress, all we have to do is cover the springs with plywood and a moving blanket. 

I think he’s convinced. Today he helped me unload all these old boxes of stuff we had stacked on it. We just have to figure out how to get it out there, it may take some help from our kids. 

I’ll keep you posted!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

America was born and lives at the family table

 

 

Yes the heat wave went away, leaving us with a new appreciation for temperatures under 110. Isn’t it funny how we learn to get used to stuff – now 100 is almost comfortable!

The heat dried things out pretty good. The sycamores are shedding like it’s September. But the crepe myrtle is blooming prettier than ever.  

We had out-of-town relatives who came a long way to see us, we tried to show them some California hospitality. We’ve  been on a tight budget because we’ve had to spend some money selling a rental while getting no rent from same.  So we had to be on our toes and plan ahead.

We’ve learned to watch Safeway online and take advantage of sales.  A couple of times a month they usually put whole chickens on sale, sometimes as cheap as 89 cents a pound. When our cousins first told us their plans, we started checking the website almost every day until we found Safeway had the birds marked down to 99 cents a pound – you can get a big 6 pound bird for less than 6 bucks, that’s pretty darned nice!

The day before our family was to arrive, my husband set up our smoker and Badges took his post alongside – we call him, Grill Dawg.   Andy put the chickens in about noon, the weather was nice enough to be outside and do some chores while we enjoyed the aroma.  I could hear the men on the construction site next door commenting on it.

Later that afternoon I took up watch on the smoker and my husband went to Chico Locker to pick up a tri-tip – my favorite, the Yukon Gold. A two pound tri-tip will run about $22, but you get a lot of meat.

The tri-tip went on the grill the next morning, with our guests expected somewhere around 2pm, we were well ahead of the game. As soon as the roast came off the grill we went to Cash and Carry to pick up a couple of watermelons – about $2 per melon, what a deal, they are crisp and sweet. One was enough for the afternoon, and then I have the other for the rest of the week. We also got a huge pack of strawberries for about $5.  I buy a lot of these melons and berries, cutting what we don’t eat right away into bite size chunks and putting them in ziplock bags in the freezer.

My son had come home from college for the visit, so I wanted to make him some corn tortillas. It’s so easy, I can make 20 tortillas within an hour, and set them on a plate between two paper towels, under a pot lid. 

Our cousins arrived exactly on time. They were coming from a three-day visit to the Bay Area, and had already remarked about the cold and rain in San Francisco. Their pictures showed heavy fog. Imagine stepping from that into 100 degrees! Luckily we had kept them well-informed about the previous stretch of 110, so they were grateful to get out onto the pavement without their shoes sticking to the street.

We hustled them into our apartment, where we’d kept the thermostat at 79 all day. We don’t have much furniture, but we have a big dining table with an extra leaf,  so we were able to sit everybody around the table – 9 altogether, like The Waltons. We’d had to scramble for chairs, borrowed one folding chair from our son, but we were left with plenty of elbow room. 

I always feel good when my guests get up to help themselves to seconds, the kids took thirds. My husband was proud as a peach, he really likes to grill and smoke, and have a big crowd at the table. My corn tortillas flew off the plate.

I’m sitting here now, we haven’t taken the leaf out of the table, we’re still missing our guests. We won’t see them again for many years, their kids will visit us with the grandchildren probably. 

We were watching the news last night and Debbie Cobb read a pick-up story about entertaining for the holidays. They do these every year, for those summer picnic holidays, it’s just a push piece for people to go out and SPEND!  She said a meal of burgers and hot dogs for 10 people  should cost about $55 a person, averaging about $550.  I had to laugh – she got that wrong, I looked it up.  Articles I found online said it was $5.50 a person, not $55 a person. Debbie, it’s time to retire!  We spent less than $100 on our meal, including sodas. We fed 9 people, and we’re still eating the left-overs. 

So I hope the rest of you will enjoy this holiday, chow down with your special relatives and friends, and remember, the cornerstone of America is the family table. 

 

 

 

 

 

Delta Breeze slides in to save us from the heat wave

Just as this heat wave was getting to me, it seems to be slipping away. A little. At noon it was only 96 degrees on the old KIST! thermometer, when it’s been at least a hundred by that time for the last, what, six days? 

Are we counting?

I told my husband this morning, “I ain’t working outside today, ain’t, ain’t, ain’t!” Answer: “snnnnoooooorrrr.…” as he turned his backside to me and took his pillow in a love embrace. We’re both tired, we feel like we’ve been 10 hard rounds with Mother Nature, she’s walloped us pretty good.

But of course we wandered outside and one thing led to another and the next thing we knew we were dusting the backside of the house, cleaning the air conditioner unit, and then we wandered out to the street to prop up our saggy old mailbox. Putter, putter, putter. Sometimes I’m afraid to stop moving.

I suddenly realized, it wasn’t quite onerous outside.  

And then, like a dream, that old Delta Breeze came swinging through.  I had my nose in the air like Badges when he smells BBQ. My husband immediately paused in his chores and held his arms out from his sides to get some of that sweet air. I could feel it slithering around my feet and ankles like little fish. 

 

We’ve been under alot of stress in my family lately, with the selling of the old rental, worrying about finances, worrying about the weather has been just another bb on the stack. That old Delta Breeze, she’s telling me, it’s going to be better sooner than later. 

 

Next stop 120!

 

Hmm, AccuWeather reports it’s 97 in Chico right now.

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Oooo-la-la!

 

The KIST thermometer has my money – 111. It was 98 degrees on my patio at 10 this morning, I knew we were in for a whopper.

The weather is a serious subject around here, that’s not just an old farmer joke. This kind of weather, well – it sure gets your attention, doesn’t it? 

The nicest part of the day is about 5 am. I like to  go outside and see what I can get done before the sun hits my yard.

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More than two days of triple digits and stuff just starts dying around the yard.

 

Yesterday I filled a wheelbarrow with dead and dying feverfew flowers.  They were beautiful as long as we kept getting those rain showers, grew waist high, covered with those dainty white flowers. Within a couple of days of this heat, they turned to straw flowers. 

It is helpful when you have outside work in this heat to stay close to water. We have one of those wading pools, the dogs like to stand in it while they drink, and we like to stand in it to cool down and un-scatter our thoughts. I call it, “The Think Tank”. 

The other day I was cleaning a patch of dead flowers out of my tenant’s yard, I was determined to get rid of it before it became the neighborhood eyesore. Like everything else, they came in like gangbusters, some of them grew up over my head. When they were in full bloom, the iridescent purple flowers were enough to slow down traffic. As they went to seed, the big puffy white heads were also very attractive. Then the rains stopped and they turned dead and brown – instant ugly! 

So I put on a pair of men’s swim trunks and tank top over my oldest crapped-out bikini, and I dived in there. Of course the beautiful flowers had been hiding a tangled mess of every kind of sticker weed we got around here. I laid a tarp out on the ground next to the patch and started yanking them out by the roots and tossing them into a neat pile, all end to end, how nice. That way I can drag that tarp through the gate and out to the compost pile.

Ever find yourself in a giant weed patch in the beating sun? Just when I thought I would have to call Butte County Search and Rescue, I burrowed my way out of there. I turned around to admire my work – only I could appreciate the scene, cause I knew how bad it looked before I started. All those dead flowers gone, nice clean ground left behind, and no more rain to bring weeds. I will not have to touch that patch again for months and months. 

I wrapped up my weed burrito and headed for the garden compost pile. It was after 9am, and the sweat was trickling through my eyebrows – you know how, when your hands are full and all dirty, you always think there’s bugs in your hair? I couldn’t get over the notion I had spiders all over me, and I had to stop a couple of times to run my fingers through my hair, jiggle my clothes, jump up and down like an old jackass.

I had so many stickers in my socks, I just stripped them off and tossed them into the pile behind the tarp load. 

Me and the dogs went to stand in the Think Tank.  I reached up to scratch my head and found a bunch of wild parsley seeds stuck to my scalp – they have a velcro cover, and they’re a bitch to get out of your pets’ fur, not much easier to pull out of your own hair! 

It’s too hot to work outside by 10am. My husband also does his chores early. Then we go inside. Our apartment, with the thermostat set at 81, is a pleasant refuge. We also find my husband’s shop, on the shady side of the house, with a tile on concrete floor, stays relatively cool all day. The dogs plod along behind us, Badges dropping himself like a bag of sticks.

There’s nothing much to do in the worst part of the afternoon but lay down for a nap, wait it out, stay fresh for later.  I putter in the house too, plenty of inside chores. Today I cleaned my kitchen cabinets, even put some lemon oil on the doors. Good to rifle through your cabinets once in a while, clean that freezer too!

We cook a lot of meals on the bbq outside, and we try to cook enough meat so we don’t have to cook for another day or two. I’ll tell you what else – I make a big batch of rice every few days, it’s good reheated or cold, on salad. One of my favorite bedtime snacks is a bowl of brown rice, brown sugar and milk. 

It’s fun to go outside at 8:30 or so at night, light a candlelaria, sit and watch the sun go down. It’s still hot outside, but it’s getting cooler, which is way different than getting hotter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The heat brings out the colors

Not even the first day of Summer yet and my yard is looking pretty dry.

 

My geeshy sakes, didn’t I tell you the weather around here is weird.  As of yesterday I still had more than half a rain barrel left from that last rain storm we had, as the mercury edged it’s way up to 102.  Weatherman says we are looking at a solid  week of 105-plus.

And here’s the kicker – lows in the 70’s...

That’s just nasty. I guess 70 degrees feels good on a Spring day, but on a Summer night it feels like, “you’ve got to be kidding! This is my low?!”

So I busted it out in the morning to do some yard work, and I heard air conditioners kicking on all over my neighborhood. One was mine, so I shinnied up the stairs and turned it up to 82. I had it on 80, and there it was, kicking on at 8am. Eeeee-yew, it’s going to be a corker!

So we live outside in the early morning, and the late evening. We try to nap during the day, either inside under the air vents or in our ginchee hammock, hung between two young oaks, over a section of green lawn where I can run the sprinkler for a few minutes to cool the air. We also have a little plastic swimming pool to dunk in when we are working outside, really refreshing.

We’ve been using the grill to cook our meals – Safeway has the chicken “picnic pack” on sale for 99 cents a pound – that’s about 6 drumsticks and 6 – 8 thighs.  We bought two and my husband threw the dozen drumsticks on the grill – that’s almost six meals for two old people, we didn’t have to cook for a couple of days. Drumsticks are nice cold – always nice to have cold food waiting on a a 100-plus day.

The thighs went into the freezer for another time.

Last night we had a steak – it’s true, steak makes me feel wealthy, even when times are tough. We buy a boneless rib roast at Cash and Carry and cut our own steaks. They’re delicious, and we can cut them as thin or thick as we like. Right now, in this economy, we’re cutting them so thin you can see the charcoals underneath – they cook quicker too!

By evening we’re pretty tired, nap or no nap, and we usually make our way out to the patio to watch the sun go down. You know I never get tired of taking pictures of sunrise and sunset. Last night, sunset was incredible, almost like some sort of aurora borealis. It started out slow.

 

That’s what it looked like on my digi-cam, as if the pink was liquid, pouring down.

Here’s a picture my husband took with his cell phone.

Wow!

Red sky at night, sailor’s delight!