Epic year for mosquitoes, get your Deet!

Dogs don’t care about the days of the week. It’s Saturday morning, Dad wants to sleep in, but Biscuit is restless to go for a walk. Badges persistently nudges the bed, where my husband has made a little fort out of pillows around his head.

They like to hit the trails, and by 9 or 10 am the sun starts to get a little testy. But if you go too early, the mosquitoes come at you like a pack of Saturday night B-girls  – “Hello Sailor!”

So I  give them some breakfast and leave them outside long enough to relieve their bladders and then hustle them in, brushing off the bloodsuckers as they squeeze through the door.

When the sun breaches my husband’s pillow fort, he surrenders the bed and we spray ourselves down with Deet and hit the road. I don’t like Deet, especially after a news piece I watched the other day – they were very clear and repeated a few times, SHOWER well after you use it. THAT’S  not going to make me paranoid!

The skeeters are worse than I remember this year. I grew up in riceland, with a rice field right alongside our house, and I’m saying, they’re really bad this year. In Chico it’s easy to clean up the yard, clear rain gutters, mow back weeds, that really helps. But here in the woods we’re surrounded with brush and tree litter, stumps and hollow trees that trap waher where we can’t get to it, the perfect breeding ground.

The mosquito district is useless – several years ago they passes an assessment on property owners, but they only spray out in the ricefields. If we want service up here, we have to bring them onto our property, just to spray our property. They don’t spray the public roads or any of the ponds standing within sight of the road. The $85,000 (plus benefits) /year staffer who answered the phone told me they can’t spray anything without permission. When I  asked her how I could appeal the assessment they put on my property she laughed, a real belly laugh.

So much for the Butte County Mosquito and Vector District, which has over a million dollar pension deficit for a staff of 5 fulltime employees, all office workers. The director makes over $100,000/year, plus about a $30,000 toward his benefits, but only pays 3 % of his benefits.

I don’t feel too comfortable with them anyway, when they do spray, they seem to be indiscriminate. A vectors employee reported finding dead deer and birds in the spray sites, and they fired her, but not until she made quite a stink. So now, rather than taking the proactive approach (send crews in the winter to help clear brush and standing water, like the fire safety agencies), they just don’t do anything.

We work on clearing our own property – that’s when they really attack, when you disturb their resting places. I use Deet in the morning and evening, or when I’m raking the trails, but the rest of the time I find a solution of lemon eucalyptus oil in water makes a nice spray repellant. It actually feels good, you can spray it right on your face. It smells like lemon candy, which apparently throws the little bitches off scent.

The previous owners of the property planted ivy as ground cover – some counties recommend that for fire safety? I really don’t get that, it traps pine needles and other trash, a total fire hazard. And, it is a wonderful place for momma mosquitoes to rest. That’s our first task in clearing our yard, get rid of the ivy.

And now I’m off to feed the skeeters.

 

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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. 

 

 

A year that starts with a Super Moon can’t be all bad

I went outside this morning just as Super Moon was sliding into the Northwest – it was huge!  The clouds are moving in – chances of rain are looking good.

My husband made me a nifty table for my Dutch oven out of some old junk.

My husband and son were working outside yesterday, so I decided to take my baking outside.  I loaded my old camp stove full of tree trash and got it going hot, then set my Dutch oven on top to  get good and warm while I went inside to knead the bread.

We’ve been cleaning out our garage and shop, thinning out old junk, and my husband came across an old metal frame and a metal tray he’d found in the shop at our old property. We have no idea what they were originally used for, but he set them up to make a great table for my Dutch oven. It’s not junk anymore if you find a good use for it!  It’s the perfect height, no more stooping.

Looks like Super Moon!

The bread cooks fast in the Dutch oven, and it gets a really nice crispy crust.

Perfect!

An hour on the kitchen counter, cooled off just in time for lunch. 

Sourdough Bob – he’s a popular guy, people just want to eat him up.

 

I noticed a few people had read last year’s post about the Himalayan salt stone my older son got us last Christmas – we haven’t used it for a couple of months, thanks for reminding me! 

My husband just scrapes the stone with a spatula each time he uses it, it’s got a nice smooth “patina”.

We sliced a whole boneless chicken breast as thin as possible – that’s dinner and a couple of days of sandwiches. We don’t spice them at all.  They cook very quickly on the stone, and come off juicy and tender, with just the right amount of salt. Now that my younger son has got a chance to use it we’ll probably get him one for his next birthday. 

Wow Christmas went fast, and now it’s 2018.  I haven’t thought much about resolutions, but here’s one – more outdoor cooking!

By the light of the Super Moon

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Greetings, Earthlings.

This month the moon will come unusually close to the Earth, not once, but twice.

Should we be worried?  Is this what happened to the dinosaurs? Is the moon trying to change lanes on the intergalatic freeway? 

It’s worth taking a look – we were out on the bike just before sunset Friday evening and Super Moon floated up over the eastern horizon like a giant smiling pinata. That’s the best time to see it, it’s biggest right at sunset. You might start looking at about 4:30. 

So we’ve got plans to cook outside the next few nights, be sure to get a good look at it.

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The potatoes are steamed ahead for about 10 minutes, whole, and then I cut them in half. Everything gets olive oil, salt and pepper, and my husband likes a little paprika on the potatoes.

We got our younger son a neat little gas grill  for Christmas, one of those units you can pack up like a suitcase. It has a little tray for crumbs and grease, and the grill is really easy to clean. 

He already learned one lesson about grilling:

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But he’d never actually used a grill, just watched Dad. Dad is all about charcoal, and lately, wood, but we used to have a  gas grill, so my husband fell right back into it.  I think he wants to go back to gas now! It’s so fast – no charcoal chimney, no guessing how many charcoals, no greasy ashes to deal with later.  And perfect grill marks!

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So pretty!

 I don’t want to go entirely back to gas, but this little unit is great for taking on the road. I may have to buy one for my husband’s birthday later this year. 

Don’t forget to get out there at sunset and see Super Moon for yourselves! And remember, it’s supposed to appear again at the end of January. 

Even the most wonderful stories can have a sad ending

I’ve always loved watching bugs, ever since I was a kid. One day in third grade, while my  teacher was going on at length about contractions, I was watching a new butterfly break it’s way out of a chrysalis on the outside sill of the classroom window. 

So I was pretty excited when I met my insect neighbor, Mrs. Mantis, and she didn’t seem to have any problem with my presence, even crawling up onto the water spigot while I was using it, waving her little forearm as if in greeting. I watched her gorge herself on meat bees that would otherwise have been mobbing my dogs, and I enjoyed watching as she daintily cleaned her face and hands after every meal. 

I worried as I watched her struggle to lay her eggs, the weather turned mean almost overnight, and she couldn’t crawl up the slippery cement siding on our shack. So she laid her eggs at the bottom of the door. I’d seen them in stranger places, and I was glad she didn’t set her case in the door frame where it would get squashed.

And every time I approached our little shack, I’d look for that egg case. 

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And one morning it was gone.

Life is full of trials and tribulations, it’s funny which ones will set you off. This made me very sad. 

And as I was wondering what might have happened, I noticed a little pile of mouse turds and some ground up junk.

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All that remained of Mrs. Mantis’ little family.

Mice are something we’ve had to deal with ever since we bought this place. The trailer that was set up on the property seemed full of them, we’d clean it out and next time we’d come they’d be in it again. They loved the oven, which they stuffed with fiberglass insulation from the walls, a big pink nest.

Finally we sold that little trailer to an aficionado who tore it apart and restored it. We bought a newer trailer that had been properly maintained. The mice worked furiously to get in that trailer too, and when I found turds in the kitchen cabinets we realized – trailers are a sitting duck for mice.

So we sold that trailer and began work on our our shacks – the first was a tiny shed for the toilet, then a 10 x 12 for sleeping and cooking. It’s been easier to keep the mice out, but they’re always there, waiting. Whenever we aren’t there for more than a few days, somebody sets up housekeeping on the threshold of the cabin door, I always find a pile of turds there. 

So I shouldn’t have been shocked – nature is so violent! Mice have to eat. I don’t know why I don’t feel the same empathy for the mice or the meat bees – maybe because they’ve been a nuisance.  We’ve trapped mice and thrown them in the garbage without  a whimper, and I have stood over the dog dishes with a flyswatter and racked up meat bees like trophies. 

 

But sometimes you meet a bug or an animal or a human that seems to look right into your mind and touch something familiar. I’ll keep looking for that. 

 

Grill it!

Here’s a meal for two under $10.

Safeway has asparagus for $2.99 a pound – the skinny kind I like, instead of the big fat ones. You can grill the skinny ones. My husband wraps them with a piece of bacon to keep them from falling through the slats. Three or four spears grill well together, wrapped up and held tight with a toothpick. 

You can pick up a six-pack of big, juicy bell peppers at Cash and Carry for $2.99. Those grill very nicely, getting tender and mellow, also good cold the next day on a sandwich. 

And we’re still eating that boneless rib roast we bought and cut into steaks. That worked out to less than $6 a steak. One of these babies is big enough for the two of us, and we usually have a little chunk left over for breakfast. 

Shop ahead and these meals just fall together.  I got two big bunches of that asparagus and that lasted almost a week. We ate it almost every night and chopped up any leftovers and for our scrambled eggs – wow! 

The word for the day is “mmmmmmm!” 

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.