Dirt plumes and smoke – it’s August in NorCal!

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Chico is laying under a blanket of guck.

My husband and I took the dogs for a walk up Hwy 32 yesterday. The air is cooler just 15 minutes above town, and the dogs like a change of scenery. Me too.

Coming back into town, we saw the valley is covered with a thick layer of dirt and smoke.   We’ve had fires burning in every direction for the last couple of months – the Minerva fire near Quincy was only announced contained yesterday.  Now we are in harvest season.  If you look hard in the upper left corner of the picture you can see the dirt plumes – somebody is sweeping their orchard, getting ready to shake their nuts. Prune harvest is already in full swing, next nuts, then rice. 

Remember that old kids’ song –  Thank you dirt, thank you a bunch, cause Dirt, you made my lunch…

I know it’s cooler lately, but seeing that picture, I’m almost afraid to open the windows at night. We open them up after 9pm, and slam them shut again by 7am.

The air is still clear enough to enjoy the rise of The Giant, about 5 am. Right now Betelgeuese is burning red above my neighbor’s trees.

It’s still to hot to bake – again we’ve fallen onto store bread. I miss things like pizza and bread, so I’ve been experimenting around with my son’s old toaster oven. We bought it for him when he went to college but now his roommate has a better one, so he left his old cheapie with us. I realized, I could plug it in on the patio table and bake outside instead of heating up the house.  It worked like gang busters! I made three tiny pizzas the other day and yesterday I made three tiny loaves of bread.

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It looks like a big hot dog bun, which reminds me – I could wrap some dough around a frankfurter from the meat locker and have a giant pig in a blanket! Next time!

Yes, they were so cute, we ate the first one before it was even cool. We loaded it full of leftover chicken and a nice tomato from the garden and that was the end of it. That’s a problem around here, trying to keep a fresh loaf of bread for more than a day. 

We did something new the other day – we made a trip over to Food Maxx. We don’t shop there very often, but saw an ad for whole chickens, two in the bag for 79 cents a pound. Can’t beat that. They also had 12 packs of Scott tissue for $3-something a pack, that’s crazy cheap. So we indulged in hoarding, it was like a run on an Argentinian super market.

I harvested my grapes last week – as usual I was surprised how many there were and how long it took me to process them.

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This was the first basket, all picked off the stems and ready for the juicer.

Again we had a hard time keeping our hands off these. We ate a lot of the grapes while we were picking them and then we drank the pint of juice we got for breakfast. Luckily there were more left.

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More and more.

I pick them off the stems while watching tv. Luckily there was a good Charles Bronson picture on the movies channel – Break Out! – and I was able to do the whole wad in one day.  I got three pints of juice!  I froze it and will be glad to see it in January.

I actually still have a nice bag of grapes in the fridge, they are wonderful in my morning smoothie, and I put them out on the counter in the morning so my husband will eat a mouthful.

The sun is just starting to light up the sky, time to go outside!

 

Bad air quality makes for pretty sunrise

We have a lot of fires burning in the North State, and you know, bad air quality makes for a magnificent sunrise.

Red sky at morning, everybody take warning.

We’ve been leaving the windows shut at night, with “lows” in the 70’s, it’s not worth taking in the crud too. 

In late Winter or early Spring I noticed some strange plants coming up along my driveway. They’re interesting looking, not the typical “weed”.

It grows a little every time I water the shrubs along the driveway.

I’ve asked my gardening guru, Belmont Rooster, to take a look, maybe he can tell me what these are.

Hey, we got another tomato!

No blossom rot!

We were so excited we rode our bikes to the store in 104 degrees to get a pack of bacon. We picked up an ear of corn for the side. 

Tried a different kind of bacon, this stuff is leaner than the old standard. And it fits the bread really good!

Nothing says Summertime! like a BLT.  

It’s 6:55 am and I already got sweaty eyebrows. It pays to get up early to beat more than the heat. Yesterday morning I went out to get some aloe vera for my smoothie and the GD squirrels had torn up several of my pots, looking for somewhere to hide their GD nuts! I had to act quick, they’ve been in them before, and they work fast – they throw the little plants and expensive potting soil everywhere.  My husband had some old 2×4’s, extra fencing and netting left over from the garden, so we went to work.

Look at this ginchee cage my husband built for my aloe vera plantation.

 

The net skirt folds up so I can get in there.

 

I pinch off a big leaf with my thumb nail.

 

I put two of these in my fruit smoothie every morning.

 

Quality, “hand filleted” organic aloe vera!

 

I use these plants not only for a dietary supplement but for dry skin, rashes, burns, etc. A couple of weeks ago, I was weeding my tenant’s yard and my gloves got so full of wild parsley stickers, I had to throw them away. A couple of hours later, my right hand, which of course is the chief weed puller, swelled up and turned red and itchy – I started putting aloe on immediately, but my hand continued to swell up so much my knuckles cracked and bled. This happens to me a lot – one day I was doing some scrubbing with baking soda and vinegar, and forgot to wear kitchen gloves, same result. Aloe vera is the only thing that soothes the pain and itching, I have to rub it on constantly. It soothes on contact, but with a rash like that, you have to put it on every time the rash starts to dry out, about every half an hour.  It helps if you can stop doing anything with your hand, let it rest – oh yeah, sure! Try to live without your dominant hand – my left hand was like “What?!”

It took over a week of constantly rubbing on aloe vera to get the swelling down enough to bend my fingers. I also took aspirin, but too much aspirin has it’s own consequences! The last huge crack on my index finger is just starting to scab over. When I saw the damage the squirrel did to my pots, I started wondering what squirrel meat tastes like.

But my husband saved the day, I can enjoy the squirrels running through the trees outside my windows without worrying what they’re up to.  

Peace Out! Juanita!

 

 

 

Go Outside! Venus very bright, Aldebaran chasing the Seven Sisters, Orion on the rise – it’s DOG DAYS!

At 4:47 this morning I woke up to the sounds of my new neighbor getting into her car and leaving. She’s an early bird. At that hour I can hear the crunch of her feet on the gravel driveway.  It’s actually better than waking to the sound of my stove timer – BEEP BEEP BEEP! 

After I pressed the button on the coffee pot I stumbled outside into the dark – there in the East I saw the Seven Sisters. This is the first constellation I remember identifying as a child.   I thought it was the Little Dipper, but my uncle Boo took me aside and told me the story of Atlas, forced to hold up the sky,  and his daughters, who all had various jobs. He took his finger and led my eyes down to the bright red star –  Aldebaran, the bull’s fiery eye.  He spread out his index and middle finger to show me the shape of the bull’s horns. He told me that in mythology the bull was alternately protecting the sisters and chasing them. 

According to Deborah Byrd of “EarthSky”,   “The star [Aldebaran] is so huge that, were it in our sun’s place, its surface would extend almost to the orbit of Mercury.”

When I was a kid in Glenn County the sky looked bigger.  You could see the entire sky from my grandparents’ big turnaround driveway. The Milky Way stretched out across our yard like a giant superhighway lit up for miles. 

This morning Venus looks like a preliminary sun. When I checked 5 minutes ago, she was shining so bright it threw a little halo around herself, like a Queen’s tiara. 

I watched for the giant Orion and his dogs, but they were behind the sun. Of course you realize, it’s Dog Days, and that’s when old ladies and dogs go crazy. 

5:33 and the sky is brightening outside, Venus is the only thing visible, very bright – you can see the sun shining on her round bottom!

Time to get to work!

 

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

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.