The trials of Motherhood


My neighbor, Mrs. Mantis, with her new family.

When my husband and I arrived at our mountain shack early yesterday  morning, I found my little neighbor Mrs. Mantis standing over a new egg case.  It was white and foamy, and she seemed very weak.

I wasn’t surprised – when we left her the other day, she had left her station on the patio railing  and was trying to climb up the side of the shack. The cement board we sided the shack with seemed to be too slippery, so I again violated the prime directive – I hoisted her up on the top of the door frame, hoping she’d lay her eggs on the eaves of the shack.

As a child I enjoyed Nature, with my grandmother’s encouragement, we kids explored the world around us. Praying mantises always fascinated me. As soon as I found out what an egg case was, I started collecting them and keeping them in jars to watch them hatch. I found out – you have to be sure they have a lid with holes, and you have to watch them every day – when they hatch, they need to have food immediately.

I’ll never forget the day I came along just in time to watch them devouring each other, by the time I got the lid off the jar, about half of them were gone! They’re very fragile and weak when they hatch, and the first hatchlings fell upon the latecomers like piranhas.

But I’d never seen a mother lay her eggs. When I found Mrs. Mantis, the last bit of foamy casing was still stuck to the end of her abdomen. She hovered over the case, at one point, she fell onto the threshold of the door, but quickly righted herself and climbed back over the case. I realized, she was protecting it, at least until the foam hardened.

I assumed she would die within a few hours, and that made me sad – she’s been a very good neighbor, keeping the meat bees down to a dull roar. I wanted to know more about her, so I sat down at the computer and looked on wikipedia.

Mrs. Mantis is apparently a member of the “ground” or “bark” family of mantids.  There are many kinds of mantids – this variety sticks around to guard it’s egg case, eating any erstwhile predators.

Of course as soon as my husband saw her on the bottom of our door, he asked her why she would place her family in such a high traffic area. It was his suggestion she might like to build her case under the eaves, where we’ve found a lot of cases in past. I think she must have fallen, unfortunately, her bottom so big, and was too tired to make it more than a couple of inches off the doorstep.

She is very sensitive to movement, even though she was comfortable with me when she was hanging around my water spigot. She seemed alarmed yesterday as we came and went through the door. It was windy, and my sinuses started to ache, so me and the dogs set up in the cabin to watch tv while my husband and a friend of ours worked on the new outhouse.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Mantis took up a post on the underside of the door trim, with her head directly beneath the case.


Sorry for the grainy picture, but there is her egg case, and there she is, staring at the camera from under the door frame.

According to wikipedia, the case can be attacked by ants or parasitic wasps – and human mothers think they have a hard time!  Luckily, Mother Mantis is an awesome and hungry predator. Can you imagine, having to eat somebody to protect your child? I remember being a mom – I think I could have done it.

I wonder how long the eggs will take to hatch? It’s getting cold – I don’t imagine they’d hatch now. How long will she be able to hold her post? Maybe she won’t need to hold it that long, maybe just until all the other bugs go into hibernation.

We’ll just have to wait and see!


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.


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. 


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.


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.


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.


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!

Get ready for Winter – and Election 2018!

When my husband took our propane tank to the gas station for a fill-up the other day, the attendant refused to fill it – we had got it second-hand, and it was looking pretty beat-up. Good call – we decided to get a new one, and The Tractor Store is having quite a sale. Saved $20 on the new tank and got me a new pair of “barn” boots for about $5 off.

I love my barn boots, I wear them all Winter, and the old ones had sprouted holes in the heels – that’s a deal breaker.  As broke as we’ve been, I was afraid to ask for a new pair, sure the price had gone up – nope, only $25, which works out to about .001 cents a day over their lifespan.  

I noticed Summer had taken a powder the other morning, when I went onto my front porch here in Chico and found the KIST! thermometer at 59.  Whoa, that’s a new one – a week previous I had a hard time catching it below 70.  

So are you ready for Winter? I’m almost afraid to find out what kind of Winter we have ahead. I guess I’ll hope for rain, and hope it doesn’t come down too hard or too fast.

I’d also like some snow at the appropriate elevations, and I’d like it to stick, unlike last year, when Spring rains brought it melting down into the valley – almost lost O-ville, for Heaven’s Sake!

Of course it’s still so dry now you can hear the ground crunching under your feet, so while we’re making the rounds of the gutters and siding we have to keep the water running on the landscaping.  Everything is covered with dust and spiderwebs, and the leaves are turning – our yard looks like a widow at a funeral.  I would like to spray things down, including the siding on the house, but given our last water bill, I don’t dare. 

That’s right, I was going to write a letter to the editor about Cal Water rates again – our bills show that while we’ve cut usage drastically, we still spend more.  I’ll keep you posted on that.

I’ve got my feet firmly planted in two worlds right now – the future and the past. My husband and I are trying to change our lifestyle to suit the times, but we have to move carefully, not cut ourselves off. I want to get out of Chico, but the fact remains, we’ll have  rentals here, we have to deal with issues like utility bills, property tax bonds, and local ordinances. So, Landlady has to stay alert, stay awake, keep both feet awake.

We’ve already heard candidates announcing campaigns for 2018 – which starts in June, where some races will actually be determined. So, while you get your house ready for Winter, you might want to be thinking about arming your town for the pension apocalypse.

That, by the way, is the name of my neighbor’s kid’s band – wow, I see they are doing pretty good, I’m just glad they don’t live at home anymore!






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.


Neighbors – a bear might crap in your driveway, but he won’t steal your weed whacker


We actually have quite a few neighbors near our shack in the woods – including Bear.

I hope that answers the question, “what did Davy Crocket step on in the woods?”


We’ve been seeing Bear’s “sign” around the neighborhood. We’ve caught him/her on the game camera, lumbering up our long driveway. He/she seems to spend a lot of time at our neighbor Steve’s place – where we took this picture. 

We don’t go out of the yard on foot at night – not just Bear, but Cougar prowls the woods here. We keep the dogs very close, our dooryard is very small. We have a lot of sensor lights placed here and there, mostly so we can get to the outhouse at night, but also to let us know when somebody is lurking.

Fox likes to come around. A family of foxes pops up in the storm drain that crosses our driveway every couple of years. Fox crap is so common I wouldn’t stop to take a picture, but when I see a pile of bear crap that big, right in the middle of somebody’s driveway, it’s an event.

Back in Chico my neighbor Michelle texted us that her weed whacker was stolen from her back yard shed. I don’t think she knows when, but I’ll guess it was right in the middle of the day. She leaves her side gate unlocked, which is probably not a good idea.  Her shed lies directly along my driveway, and that makes me uncomfortable – somebody can waltz in her side gate, right past my locked gate, and then hop over into our driveway. 

Of course, they will find locked doors, locked gates, locked, locked, locked. We even lock the upstairs windows. 

But I think a lot of robberies here are happening right under people’s noses – people leave garage doors open and side gates unlocked all over town. They think that’s their right, that they should not have to worry about crime affecting them – “that’s the cops’ job!” Oh yeah? You better tell the cops!

Here in Chico, the police department only has a 9-11 number, and you better be serious. For these “quality of life” crimes, they have a website, you have to log-in and go through an onerous process, to report the theft of a $100 weed whacker? Our county DA will not prosecute anything less than $950. 

My windows look right down on Michelle’s shed. While I can’t be staring down every minute, I can’t remember seeing the door shut, much less locked. Too bad – it’s a very solid built shed, I watched the previous neighbor build it, and if Michelle locked it she’d have no problem. But she leaves the door propped open, tools all over the ground, right within view of an unsecured gate that leads to the street. 

I’m sorry to be so mean, but really, people need to wake up. 







Neighbor from another world


Two fisted eater


Whenever we stay at our little shack in the woods, we get bugs.  The mosquitoes are small but vicious. There are deer flies, who have a sharp, mean bite. And there are the meat bees, who swarm around every time I feed the dogs. They swat away easily, Badges likes to snap at them, but it’s alarming when there are more than 5 or 6. 

So I was glad to find this little predator under the deck one day, a big momma praying mantis. Above she has not one but two meat bees. 

She lives under the water spigot, where the meat bees drink from the end of the tap. They can live off the tiny drop of water that is caught in the end of the faucet. They provide an endless source of food for Mrs. Mantis. 

When I feed the dogs early in the morning, before the sun has risen above the pines, they come out of … somewhere… and begin swarming around the dogs. There were so many this morning I put the dishes and dogs in the shack and shut the door.

They go nuts for the peas I put in the dog food – green peas, soaked with chicken fat. They get so excited they try to carry them away, wrestling the peas around the edge of the patio railing, while Mrs. Mantis sways back and forth below, waiting for some chicken fat crazed bee to swing around her way.

And then SNATCH!  She’s got a bee in her big pincer claw, and wastes no time in gobbling it down. 

Often times the other bees come swarming mad around her, as if they know she’s made a meal of one of their sisters. I’ve read these bees usually nest together, taking turns building their paper nests, and then feeding their bird-like babies. I had a wasp nest in my window once, the baby comes out just like a little bird, and the mommie bee feeds it a little scrap of whatever it’s foraged from some bbq grill or garbage pail.

So they come at Mrs. Mantis, two or three at a time. One even seemed to give her a nip on her Kardashian size bottom. She remains so peaceful and calm, munching away – when the bee nipped her behind, she stepped forward a couple of paces, without missing a bite. I was pretty surprised when I saw her whip out the other pincer and grab a second bee right out of the air.

So vicious, she is an elegant lady, her green-purple coat ruffling at the ends. Each bite is Marie Antoinette dainty, and after every meal she cleans herself carefully, even as more bees buzz and charge around her head.  She holds herself still and erect, very regal, moving only her head, watching everything with her big bulbous eyes. She seems to look right at me sometimes, and I’m very glad I’m not a bug.

There’s been a big change in the weather here – 100 degrees on Labor Day, Tuesday clouds and rain, thunder and lightening, today temperatures staying in the 90’s. Fall is moving in on Summer, like “hey, give somebody else a chance in there!”

So Mrs. Mantis will lay her eggs soon, in her big foamy egg case. My husband hopes she will attach it somewhere that we can get it and place it here in the garden. That would be swell.