Simple pleasures of gardening – try some succulents and cactus!

The tomatoes are happy in their containers, we’re getting tiny fruit now.

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The other day I noticed about a dozen new tomatoes on our container plants.

Cactus and succulents also make a wonderful container garden.  This Summer we plan to spend more time at our little shack in the woods, so we loaded a bunch of our cactus pots and took them along. Of course they can survive without much attention, but look what happens when you throw a little water their way now and then.

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My patio is lit up with these tiny red blossoms.

I found this old gas heater in a house we bought. It looked great but our PG&E man told me it was not up to modern standards.  With the top grate intact, it made a good coffee table. When I found these adorable terra cotta pots in somebody’s FREE pile, I took out the grate and made it into a plant stand.

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The little furry nodules appear like warts and then one day they open into these fabulous little blossoms.

This is an old cream separator my gramps picked up from who knows where. Made by the Excelsior Separator Company!

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Forever functional.

He liked old machines, this might have been from my cousin’s big dairy in Glenn County. It sat next to our tank house and we kids played on it for years – it had all these moving parts, now rusted pretty solid. We pretended it was a car, a spaceship, a stove for baking mud pies, etc.  Now it makes a great plant stand.

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I never get tired of these delicate pink blossoms, growing off of a grouchy old cactus.

I began collecting succulents and cactus when my mom died and left me with her hoard of pots. Let me tell you, they reproduce like crazy, and I  try to pot every one. Every now and then, as if to say, “Thanks!”, they explode with flowers. 

 

 

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Small comforts

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Hello Sun

This morning I woke up to shirt-sleeve weather.  I wandered out to the deck to catch the sun rising over Oroville, Sawmill Peak bathed in red.

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The long knee shaped ridge in the middle is Sawmill Peak

You know what I’ve said about the weather here – a drop in temps and a rainstorm prompted me to get out our Winter underwear and put flannels on the bed. But this past week we’ve had a streak in the low 90’s.

How soon we forget – Weatherman has been complaining about the heat! Shut Up!

Busy, busy, busy – we have to get things “buttoned up ” here for Winter. My husband and our friend worked hard to get the new shack sided and roofed, windows and doors installed, to keep out the weather.  Now my husband and I, with the help of our kids, are left to paint the outside, and then plumb, wire and wall the inside. That shouldn’t be too hard, it’s only 10 x 12.

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It looks huge from this angle.

But it’s a palace compared to the old outhouse, which is only about 5 x 8, and so far from the septic tank the pipe freezes whenever the temps go below 30.

For now we sleep, cook, and eat in our old 10 x 12, which was always fine for me until I realized – when the weather gets really hopping up here – you know, sideways rain – I can sleep in the same shack as my toilet. The new shack will be big enough to have a separate room for a kitchen, with enough space for our old fold-out bed. I have to admit, that sounds pretty exciting, since I’ve become accustomed to picking my way across the yard in the middle of the night.

I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

Gotta keep those good vibrations happenin’ babeee!

Those old sayings, always so true – “Time flies…” 

I spent the weekend with my husband and our friend, working on our new “outhouse”.  Having a second person who knows what they’re doing is incredible – things happen fast! It took my husband a couple of weeks to lay the foundation. First he built retaining walls to keep the dirt solid underneath, then set the cement piers in the ground.  Now all the sudden there’s a 10 x 12 shack standing on top of them.

The old outhouse is only about 8 x 5, if that,  and it’s too far from the septic tank, the pipe freezes quick when the temps drop. And, there’s a rocky, bumpy stretch of path between our sleeping shack and the old outhouse, pretty sketchy when you have to make that trip (ha, ha, “trip”) in the wee dark hours of the morning. 

The new outhouse will also have room for our kitchen stuff, so we won’t have to rearrange the furniture every time we want to make a meal inside. We’ll be able to have some food storage – right now, our pantry is an 18″ shelf. 

So I watched in fascination as my “retirement” plans unfolded before my eyes. We might really do this! 

I shouldn’t be so surprised, when my husband says he’s going to do something, he’s going to do it.

I’ve known all along, I’m going to have to simplify and downsize, and that means getting rid of, okay, I’ll say it – JUNK!  Turning in my chair my eyes fall upon my “zoological” collection – about a dozen old canning jars full of dead insects, dried flowers, acorns, bits of bird’s nests, paper wasp nests, even a mud dauber nest. I have what I call “vacations in jars” – sea shells and other beach trash from our long-ago trips to Fort Bragg with the kids. 

And then there’s my rock collection, which starts fist-size in window sills around the house and ends up all over the yard with gutbusters as big as a small tv.

I tried to move one of my big rocks the other day, with a furniture dolly, and I just about threw out my back. 

And, OMG! The garage, and an entire shelf unit in my husband’s shop, are filled with “heirlooms” from two families. From fancy dishes to prune boxes, we got it all.

My son and his girlfriend moved out of our rental when we sold it, and only had about a week to move their entire hoard out of the old shop.  They started early by moving a lot of their stuff here. It’s funny how you forget stuff when it’s not right in front of you – now when they come over and look at that pile, they feel overwhelmed. They pick at it here and there – they’ve taken all of their garden stuff out of the driveway, thank goodness – but my son’s comic book collection? His childhood art projects and toys?  That kind of stuff sits in an improvised shelf unit in the middle of my garage, keeping me from being able to open my car door completely. 

I started realizing we need to get rid of stuff a couple of years ago, I’ve tried to make it a priority, but it’s been hit and miss. I actually sold an old trunk on Craigslist, and I was happy with that. I learned a trick from Pawn Stars – ask more than you want, then people feel like they got a deal. I thought $85 was a good price so I asked $100. I tried not to smile when the man asked, “will you take $85?” 

We had an old fireplace insert we’d received in lieu of rent from one of our tenants. We thought we had use for it, but the old fireplace chimney wasn’t safe, so the insert sat in our shop for about 15 years, until we recently sold that house. We’d forgotten about it, really. It had never been used, and the newer models are selling for over $2500, so I dusted it off and hauled out the paperwork and took some pictures. I posted it on Craigslist in last July or early August, and I reposted it and reposted it for over a month. 

Never give up.

As soon as the temperatures dipped a couple of weeks ago, we got three responses in one morning. The first man wanted to drive down from Quincy that day, and had no problem with the price of $350.  He and his wife were in our driveway by noon, and off they went with the insert. I couldn’t believe it – staring at the empty space it left in our garage was very gratifying, and we needed the dough to pay our kid’s rent at college. 

Every little bit, ya know what I mean? So today I’ll be poking around in my garage, looking for some old crap to put on Craigslist.  One bright point is I found the record player my kids bought me and my husband hooked it up down there so I can listen to my Beach Boys records while I’m digging.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Way up here, they got a name, for rain and wind, and FIRE!

Ha ha – what a woos I am!  “Rain puts a kink in outdoor living…”

How about FIRE!

The other day we were headed up the hill, car loaded full of cement and dogs, when we spotted a little whippet of black smoke on the horizon.

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My husband has a good sense of direction and distance – I thought this fire was closer to Mount Lassen!

My husband drove Hwy 32 for his job, for years, he knows the country better than I do. He knew the fire was along the road somewhere, and we started to worry about our place.  We have friends who were burned out of Concow, their places left like moonscapes. 

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Just above the Peregrine Point disc golf course we could see the fire was right along the highway.

At this point we felt safe the fire was not on our side of the road, but thought it must have caught the little housing subdivision above Fourteen Mile House, the smoke was so black.

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As we got closer we wondered if the road would be passable.

At this point we had not seen any emergency vehicles, and wondered if we might make it through before they had to shut down the road for a staging area.

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I wondered if these people were worried about their home, or just gawkers.

Traffic ahead of us kept moving, so we followed along. Then we came to the road block.

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Up ahead, we see a couple of fire trucks have arrived. At least it’s not the subdivision, but the smoke told us the fire was trying to get across the road.

We thought we’d made it when we passed the firetrucks, but around the corner we were turned back by a very annoyed CHP officer, along with about half dozen other folks.  

I thought we’d done all that packing up for nothing, but my husband was unperturbed – back in Chico, we swung around on Skyway and took a sweet tour of Paradise, before we headed back down Powellton, up Doe Mill, across Butte Creek and up Garner, which catches Hwy 32 up past the store.  It took about 45 minutes from the road block, and we got some pretty damn good tacos at the truck there on Skyway. 

This was another wake-up call. What if we were at the shack and fire came up that canyon? 

What puts a kink in outdoor living? Rain!

We were tucked into our snuggy loft bed this morning, when my husband jolted up – Rain! The patio chairs! The hammock! We just hung the hammock in a new spot, and I was really enjoying it.

The clock showed 4 am, and outside we could hear the patter picking up. We jumped out of the bed and down the ladder and out we went to gather up.  

I usually have to hit the outhouse by that time, anyway, but I have to admit – as much as I’ve reminded myself, wet weather is coming, I wasn’t ready for a run to the outhouse in the rain, right through the construction site.

My husband is building a new outhouse, and of course, the ground is torn up, and now muddy, where he’s been digging for the piers.

So, this changes things. In past, we stayed away during wet weather because, well, there’s nowhere to go except our tiny shack or our outhouse. When we have the patio furniture shoved in, we have to move stuff just to make our way from the table to the door. It’s cozy, but we’re not old enough to sit all day yet. 

We had to tear down the outhouse that came with the place, it was 30 years old, a tree branch had set it a little askew, and the rats and squirrels would not be kept out. We had another sturdier shed, so we just ran the plumbing over and fixed up a toilet and sink and that’s had to suffice for the last few years. It’s too far from the tank, and the line isn’t deep enough, so it has  frozen on occasion – a late freeze last Spring actually broke the toilet.  We’ve been wanting to set the whole operation back in place but haven’t had the extra money until now.

So, we’re building another 10 x 10 for a new bathroom, with space for a kitchen, since all the plumbing is there at the septic tank already. Right now I carry the dirty dishes all the way across the yard, to what I’ve been calling, “the interim bathroom”, and accidents happen.

Accidents can also happen when you’re hop-skip-jumping through a muddy mess in the dark, too! 

And thank goodness for the Enterprise Record Sunday edition somebody lobbed into our driveway last week – we lay those on the floor to catch muddy foot prints.  We always pick up a few copies of the News and Review when they flop a new edition.

I knew Winter was going to be a challenge to our plans to move up here, we’ll have to see how the next few weeks pan out. I’ll keep you posted!

Missing Summer already…

Well, the a/c is officially OFF at our house, we haven’t used it for at least a week. While September can produce 100 degrees, it’s not the same 100 degrees you get in August – for one thing, it doesn’t last as long.

A month ago, I was busting it out the door at 5 am, trying to catch a glimpse of the Giant, now he dances across my yard until almost 6:30, dogs yapping at his heels.

There’s still a hint of wet smoke in the air, but it’s not suffocating like before.

My husband and I are in a panic to get out of Chico by next Spring. Hah – get out of Chico! Yeah, we still have to buy groceries and gas, and we’ll still have to have our PG&E hook-up, but I’ll steal a line from Sugar Bowl ski resort – “It’s different up here.”

For one thing, there’s no freeway two blocks away, no constant screech of fire trucks following ambulances – in Chico, the constant din only lets up long enough, at some point in the wee morning, to make a person realize just how noisy the town is the rest of the day.

You can only really “hear” two things in Chico – the train, and only in the morning, and the race track, usually only on Friday or Saturday night. Oh yeah, two other things – a few times a year, you can hear the fireworks displays from the Chico Heat games or the racetrack. The rest of the time, it’s just a blur of noise.

Up in the hills you can hear one car crawling up out of the canyon at 9am, or 3pm, no matter. In the wee hours, you can hear the wind roaring up out of the canyon. Or you can hear a fox calling, or an owl. You can hear a neighbor a half mile away open their car  door and start their engine.

Sometimes voices drift over – a good sound, not intrusive.  We know when our neighbor Jerry comes out his front door almost every morning because his horse whinnies.

He says he can hear me tearing it up in our yard with the dogs – he put his hands together imitating my “clap clap clap”. I always clap to get them excited.

I try to use my campground voice here, I talk kind of loud usually. I like to whoop and holler and sing songs like “Honey let me be your salty dog!” like June Carter Cash. But here I try to keep my jubilance to myself.

Yesterday we switched to flannel sheets and got the comforter out. It’s already 10 degrees cooler up here, with highs in the 70’s. It’s 60 in the shack right now, I had to dig out my fleece shirt.

Oh sheesh, I think I’m already missing Summer.