Where the bees are

I found some working girls in my yard this morning.

These days of downpour have brought good and bad  – flowers and weeds. And bees, humming busily, too busy to bother with us puny humans. 

They like blue flowers.

If you want bees, plant Rosemary, they love this stuff. She was moving so fast I could hardly get her in the shot.

As I pulled sticker grass around our fruit trees I found lots of surprises.

In a shaggy stand of oat grass I came across this Tiger Swallowtail.

He, or She, did not seem to mind being photographed.


And the good news is, Apple-ooza!

Oooo,  think of all the apple juice!

Those red bud trees Whipple gave us have spread PINK! around the yard.

I put some of these tiny blossoms on my printer and covered them with a sheet of blue construction paper and made some ginchee note paper.

And here comes the valerian, more PINK!

Pink broccoli.

The hyacinth flowers along the driveway add the complimentary blue.

Dainty little fairy bells, they push their way through the gravel every year.

I wonder what the April showers have in store for us!



Here we go again!

A little over a year ago, my nine year old Queensland Heeler Biscuit came down with an illness that left her emaciated and weak. She had some infection that attacked her pancreas, liver and kidneys and left her with diabetes.  For over a month we nursed her as if she was our child, sleeping on  the living room floor so we could get up throughout the night to take her out, hoping she wouldn’t barf up the food and medicine we’d plied into her over the course of the day.

She got so skinny her collar and harness just hung on her, she got so weak my husband had to carry her up and down the stairs of our apartment, and set her in the car to go to the vet. We racked up a $1300 vet bill within a few days.

The important thing was, she got well, back to her old self, even a little stronger. The diabetes had  been sneaking up on her for a while, but with the insulin and a strict diet, she really got strong again.  She just had a check up two weeks ago and the doc said she was doing great. They really like her down there, because she likes them. When she goes in the front door she always barks really loud until one of the staff acknowledges her, and her tail swings back and  forth across the magazine stand, wop-wop-wop.

Yeah, everything was just great, until Sunday, when it seemed to be starting all over again. She barfed her breakfast, didn’t want dinner, ate it anyway, and barfed in the middle of the night. Like five times.

I kept telling myself, she ate something weird, she drank creek water – I was secretly angry at my husband, wishing he would stop taking her to Bidwell Park every morning, where I believe(d?) she got laptospirosis, a virus that is prevalent in skank water.

So we waited out a very scary night and we called the vet first thing in the morning. She couldn’t see Biscuit until 11 am – I had been awake since 12 am, when she first cried to be let out, I couldn’t go back to sleep. My husband had slept fitfully, waking with a start at any noise. We both felt like an old plate of crap.

The doc gave her a shot that would help her eat – anti-nausea – and sent home a pack of anti-nausea pills. The shot helped her feel better, but we still had to spoon feed her and hold her mouth shut, rub her throat to get her to eat. It took us two hours to get a cup of food in her, and that meant we could give her a half a dose of insulin. Then she started to feel better. But, we still had to force feed her dinner.

And now, at 6:07 am, I am getting ready to shove that pill down her throat, so I can force feed her some more food. This is the routine that worked a year ago, so I am resolved to do it again.

The vet took some tests to find out the cause of Biscuit’s relapse, but told us, with diabetics, the major organs eventually go. Frankly, Doc didn’t seem to think it was Biscuit’s time to go, and neither do we, so here we go again.

This morning she actually seems stronger, pushing at the gate for a walk, she even nosed the baseball bat.



Camellia Time, Weed Time, Mosquito Time

Camellia time.

This is one of my favorite varieties because it cuts well and keeps a few days in a vase.

This past Winter was colder and wetter than the last five or so years of drought, and I notice a lot of stuff is blooming in my yard that has not bloomed for a long time. An old camellia bush that rests against the southern wall of one of my rentals really came out this year, covered with these perfect red “Winter roses.” I cut them whenever I get the chance – if you catch a bud at the right time, it will open in a glass of water.

I guess you noticed that over the course of the last storms the weeds been growing like crazy. I been trying to catch up with my  weed burner.

I let that patch get too lush.

I let that patch get too lush.

The torch takes out the little weeds – literally vaporizes ’em.  But once the grass gets a few inches long, it gets harder to burn, uses more propane.  So, I try to get out there whenever the rain lets up for a couple of days, spend a half hour or 45 minutes cleaning the gravel pathways before the sticker weeds get any thicker. I leave the mullein flowers – they’re hard to burn, and they do get quite spectacular over the course of Summer.

The other thing we can expect this year is a horde of blood sucking mosquitoes. My husband and I bat them off every evening as we sit on the porch to watch the sunset. They are big and furry this year, and seem very aggressive, but maybe that’s just my paranoid imagination. They don’t just breed in puddles, they like leaf piles and other composty places, so it’s time to clean up the yard, turn stuff over, get rid of those stands of weeds.

We noticed yesterday evening that they congregate around the patio ceiling and the edge of the roof, so today my husband will have to get up on a ladder and blow out the rain gutters with his leaf blower. 

Of course we’ve got our dogs on heart worm medicine – we get a good deal from Mike Seely, Butte County Mobile Vet.  He’s in the big motor home behind the Forest Ranch Store most Thursday afternoons, and up in Yankee Hill on Wednesday afternoons at the Hardware Store.  He’s available the rest of the week by appointment, but if you catch him at Forest Ranch or Yankee Hill it’s cheaper. 

So many things to remember, coming out of the fog of Winter.  Our orchard  is blooming, and the old soda bottles I collected to make bug traps are hanging ready in the greenhouse. By the time the fruit is as big as the end of my pinky-finger, I will have them full of molasses, vinegar and ammonia and strung across the trees.

I think this past cold Winter will produce a bumper crop of peaches this year, and I want as many as I can get.  I’ll have to thin them – last year that was hard, there weren’t very many, but we had to make sure those we got were not too crowded, so sacrificed quite a few. It worked – the peaches we got were spectacular, I just took the last bag of frozen halves out the other day.

Opening that zip lock bag, the smell  of peaches was all over the kitchen.

Things are popping up around here.

Try new things – Juanita goes gluten-free

Did you know, you can make flour out of rice? Am I the last person to find out about this?

I try to avoid food fads, but I’ve heard for years that the gluten found in wheat flour will exacerbate pollen allergies. My husband and son are both extra sensitive to pollen – trees like almond and mulberry have made them really sick. Their eyelids puff up, their faces turn red, and they get instant headaches after being exposed to those type of trees. 

My husband has learned to wear a mask when he has to expose himself, he’s also lost a little of his sensitivity over the years. Meanwhile my son seems to be headed right into the worst of it – he’s still in his 20’s, when your body seems to fielding a new set of hormones.

So he and his girlfriend have decided to avoid gluten. My first thought was – what will you eat? I couldn’t wrap my head around the concept of life without wheat.  For Cripessake – I’ve spent years learning how to make my own bread, pasta, pizza, etc, why would I want to give up wheat?!

I just bought a 25 pound sack of hard red wheat berries. I had a hard time finding a reliable source of wheat berries here in town, so I went online and got a big bag. And of course it was about half the price per pound, so nya nya Raleys!   As you know, I have storage – it sits in jars and zipper bags on the little turnaround shelf under my counter. I’ve already polished off a big jar’s worth. 

But of course I buy rice in bulk too. So, when I noticed, on the box in which I store my wheat mill, it says all the things the mill will grind, including rice.  I read rice is gluten free. 

In fact, my son had sent me this picture of his rice pancakes one morning.


My son wanted to assure me he and his bgf were eating right.

Well, you never learn if you don’t try new things. So I dumped a cup of rice into my mill and it ground up into the nicest flour, a little grainier than wheat flour, but usable. I made a batch of oatmeal cookies with it, having read that oatmeal is also gluten-free. They turned out really well. 

So, my son’s birthday is coming up, and instead of the usual gluten-rich angel food cake, I will make him a cookie tart covered with fruit. I got the idea from Jacque Pepin. He made a sugar cookie one day on his show and covered it with glazed raspberries heated in a frying pan. The other day they had blueberries on sale at Safeway, $3 for a big container. I will also get some peaches out of the freezer – I still have a gallon zipper bag full from last Summer. 

One thing I know is that my son is happy when his parents pay attention to what’s going on in his life. They grow up but they don’t stop being your kids,  thank goodness! 

Take a hike! Humboldt Road still there

While I won’t blame the weather for all my problems, it has been a little onerous being stuck inside during these howling dumpers. It’s kind of fun to watch the trees swaying and the clouds whirling from inside our comfy apartment, for a few hours anyway. But after a couple of days of this stuff, a person is busting to get out.

We had a break in the weather yesterday, the clouds broke up over town, and the sun came beaming in. I’ve been getting a cold, and wanted to stay inside watching tv, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to throw a couple of loads of wash on the clothes line. As soon as I got out into that fresh breeze, I felt a tremendous rush of well-being. Spring took my face in the palms of her icy hands and said, “Hello Sister!”  

My husband was also feeling the tug of Spring.  We decided to take the dogs out somewhere different. We headed east up Hwy 32 to get a look at the big thunderheads that were circling like big black warships. 

Hwy 32 lays along the remnants of the old Humboldt Road, built over a hundred years ago by our town founder John Bidwell and his partners. It was a toll road, and Bidwell made his fortune from the fees paid by eager immigrants, toiling their way toward the gold fields. There is a short section of the original road leading out of Chico, you can take that section for a mile or two out of town and get back on Hwy 32 to take you the rest of the way to Forest Ranch.  That section is very  pretty,  but we decided to go farther.

Stage coaches left Chico a few times a day during the big Rush.  The grade was so severe they were lucky to make it ten miles – as evidenced by the road signs marking the sites of two popular boarding houses of the time – 10 Mile House, and 14 Mile House. Of course there are new subdivisions at both sites – who could resist those vistas?

Whenever I drive Hwy 32, I think of those people grinding along in those stage coaches. The old road was a winding series of switchbacks, and very steep. The new road was cut through in the 1960’s, with modern equipment, they went right through bedrock to make the road straight. That’s how they saved so  much  of the old road. 

Badges inspects an overgrown section of old Humboldt Road.

Badges inspects an overgrown section of old Humboldt Road.

There is a section of the road along the Peregrine Point disc golf course. This land used to be part of a private hunting club, acquired by the  city about 20 years ago, not sure exactly when. The parking lot for the course sits right on the old road. You have to know it was there – no pavement is left, but you can see old ruts in the lava cap, from when it was an unpaved wagon road. 

If you follow that section east, through bushes and over boulders in some places, you will find the section of road Badges is standing on above. In some spots you can still see the white center line. 

As we strolled along the old road, watching cars and trucks whiz by on the new road just below, we came across a section of what people used to call “the Chinese walls”.


This trail doesn't look legal.

This trail leads onto private property, so we turned around.  It’s too bad hikers did not respect the wall here, but I have the feeling it’s been going on since before I was born, when this property was part of a private hunting club.

You will see these rock walls around the eastern end of Chico, into the hills above town along Hwy 32. They were built by workers clearing fields, used as property boundaries. They still make a fine  cattle fence. When I was a little girl, my grandpa told us this was “The Great Wall of China” – he was such a kidder! He believed, as most people believed at that time, that the walls were built mostly by Chinese laborers. Since that time we’ve found out, there were all kinds of laborers involved, including conscripted local natives. But whoever built them, they’re beautiful remnants of our colorful history, I’m glad property owners have maintained them in most places.

The sun was bright but the wind cut right through my sweater as we hiked along the highway. We could not see the mountains through the curtain of storm clouds, but we could see the Sutter Buttes, which look like a big spaceship sitting in the valley. 

We were gone from our house for less than an hour, but came home feeling great.  It’s simple but  true – fresh air and sunshine are good for you. Get out there!



How about a Spring cleaning for my brain?

Punxsutawny Phil said there would  be six more weeks of Winter. Is that an East Coast thing? Cause here in California, Winter has packed her bags, and she’s got one foot out the door. Yesterday the mercury hit 60, the mosquitoes came out of nowhere, and all around my yard little tidbits of color are popping out.

The almond blossoms are sweet, too sweet – as soon as we get close to that tree, our faces begin to twitter – ker-CHEW!

Not that I ain’t been waiting. I actually took a nap in my lawn chair yesterday, the sun felt like an old friend. Where you been Friend? Where’d  I put that hammock? 

I woke up to the screeching of a couple of hawks, a third sitting in a nearby tree. The two males performed outrageously, swooping and circling back, very dramatic. They flew off, the female trailing behind, I have no idea how this love triangle ended.  These birds come every January, like part-time neighbors, they make a loud entrance, pair up, and set up a nest  in somebody’s big tree. Then they become very shy, we have never seen the actual nest, we can only guess they are here somewhere. Every now and then we see them snatch some prey – they’re very shy about eating, if you look at them, they’ll leave. After the way they carry on in Spring, you’d think they want everybody to pay attention to them,  but I guess they’re just happy.

I try to be happy too, but things get to me, I get stuck in the negative rut. I tell myself, “It’s January, you hate January…” But now it’s February, and I’m waiting for that thrill of Spring. It’s just not coming, something’s bothering me, I can’t  tell what. I worry about my husband’s health, I worry about my kids’ progress and happiness, I worry I worry I worry. It’s hard to let things go, that feeling that something bad is going to happen, or that  things are just crappy, keeps washing over me. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a little boat in the ocean, and I can’t see over the waves.

Sometimes I am just terrified of what will happen tomorrow. Usually when I feel this way, I try to think of something positive that is going to happen in the future, some little thread.  But lately, the world around me is very dark – this whole Trump thing is what my dad would call “eating shit and running rabbits…” I know, the Texans talk funny – that means “crazy”

And here in Chico, we just dodged a major disaster – the enormous dam at Oroville almost blew. By the grace of Mother Nature, we were spared a mayor catastrophe – the moonscape left behind would have dwarfed every big fire we’ve ever had, people would not only have died, but our economy would be sent back to the stone age. A whole  community would have been displaced, and the surrounding communities would have been overwhelmed with refugees who might never recover. 

The worst thing about it was how hysterical our “leaders” got – no matter how they denied anything bad would happen. During back-to-back tv interviews, District 1 county supervisor Bill Connelly and US congressman Doug LaMalfa both contradicted the official evacuation  advice, telling people to go in different directions. Connelly seemed completely freaked out  and at one point said he really  wasn’t sure what the sheriff’s department was advising, but he thought people should  “head east”.  LaMalfa also became a little hysterical, unable to name highways, using Cycle Land Speedway as a landmark.  

When they finally convened a press conference with county and state officials, Sheriff Cory Honea seemed more interested in clearing his own reputation than advising the public. When tv news people from Sacramento began questioning his evacuation schedule he got very defensive. They pointed out that over the weekend he was telling people not to panic, the dam would not burst, then suddenly Monday, in the middle of a busy weekday afternoon, it was “Get Out! Get Out Now!” There was pandemonium, nobody knew where to go, there were no recommended routes, just “Go to Chico!” 

Our local news offered very little coverage. We were visiting friends in Forest Ranch, just 15 minutes up the hill from Chico, and we saw better coverage on Ch 3 out of Sacramento. They sent a helicopter, or we wouldn’t know how close O-ville came from being a scratch mark on the hillside. 

Officials have lifted the evacuation order because, despite promises to the contrary, there has been looting. But there’s a “significant” storm moving in tomorrow, what next? 

I don’t know why I feel so much anxiety, Chico is not in danger. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to barf.  When I try to distract myself with the mundane chores, I find myself clumsy, forgetful. I don’t think it’s just this dam thing, I think life is  getting more stressful in general.  So I found this book called “Feeling Good.” It’s full of what I would call “positive thinking” exercises, I’m going to give it a whack. I feel like I’m making myself sick with negativity, time to do a mental cleansing.

I’ll keep you posted! 




When life gives you lemons… and limes…and oranges…

A bowl of lemons on the counter makes the whole apartment smell good.

Lemons bring Summer into the house.

My husband planted a couple of Meyer’s lemon trees alongside our house about 20 years ago, it turned out to be one of our best investments. There’s nothing like a bright, fragrant lemon to chase the Winter blues down the road.

My favorite recipe: squeeze a lemon into a tea cup, add boiling hot water and honey for a cup of strong tea. If you want to put hair on your chest add a crushed clove of garlic and a pinch of salt.  This is a good remedy for sore throat or sinus congestion.

Cut a lemon into sections on a little plate and set it on the counter – every time you get a fresh glass of water add a lemon section, it’s a real pick-me-up.  Makes the kitchen smell nice too.

Speaking of smell nice, spoon some baking soda down your drain, wash it down with the juice of one lemon, then run hot water through the drain.  Doing this regularly will keep your drain smelling fresher.

My next door neighbor likes to have a bowl of lemons handy to drizzle salad.  It makes a great dressing for fruit salad, just add a little honey. 

We also planted a lime tree along with the lemons, but the little fellow didn’t make it through the first hard Winter. Luckily we can go to Cash and Carry and get a good bag of limes for about two and a half bucks.

When we bought this bag, we were afraid we might not be able to use the whole thing - hah!

When we bought this bag, we were afraid we might not be able to use the whole thing – hah!

Once you get them in the house you find plenty of uses, you wonder how you got along without them!  We use the juice all over our food, we put sections in our water glass like lemon, and yesterday I found out you can squeeze and freeze the juice for later, just like lemon.

My mother-in-law gave me this old lemon press, it's one of my favorite things.

My mother-in-law gave me this old lemon press, it’s one of my favorite things.

The pint on top is lime juice. The oranges are Valencias brought over by our friend Wooten who has an enormous old tree in his yard.

The pint on top is lime juice, you can see the faint green color. The oranges laying aside are Valencias brought over by our friend who has an enormous old tree in his yard.

Just when I thought I had enough citrus fruit, our friend stopped over and gave me a box of Valencia oranges he’d gathered from an ancient tree his yard. The skin is so thin, you can squeeze them into a glass with your hand.  I juice those as I go along – I put one in my yogurt smoothie yesterday, and it tasted like Orange Julius.

I found a new recipe – “Liquid Sunshine” – a mix of carrot and orange juice. I’ll give it  a whack and let you know!