Next stop 120!

 

Hmm, AccuWeather reports it’s 97 in Chico right now.

DSC00008

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.

DSC00003

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The heat brings out the colors

Not even the first day of Summer yet and my yard is looking pretty dry.

 

My geeshy sakes, didn’t I tell you the weather around here is weird.  As of yesterday I still had more than half a rain barrel left from that last rain storm we had, as the mercury edged it’s way up to 102.  Weatherman says we are looking at a solid  week of 105-plus.

And here’s the kicker – lows in the 70’s...

That’s just nasty. I guess 70 degrees feels good on a Spring day, but on a Summer night it feels like, “you’ve got to be kidding! This is my low?!”

So I busted it out in the morning to do some yard work, and I heard air conditioners kicking on all over my neighborhood. One was mine, so I shinnied up the stairs and turned it up to 82. I had it on 80, and there it was, kicking on at 8am. Eeeee-yew, it’s going to be a corker!

So we live outside in the early morning, and the late evening. We try to nap during the day, either inside under the air vents or in our ginchee hammock, hung between two young oaks, over a section of green lawn where I can run the sprinkler for a few minutes to cool the air. We also have a little plastic swimming pool to dunk in when we are working outside, really refreshing.

We’ve been using the grill to cook our meals – Safeway has the chicken “picnic pack” on sale for 99 cents a pound – that’s about 6 drumsticks and 6 – 8 thighs.  We bought two and my husband threw the dozen drumsticks on the grill – that’s almost six meals for two old people, we didn’t have to cook for a couple of days. Drumsticks are nice cold – always nice to have cold food waiting on a a 100-plus day.

The thighs went into the freezer for another time.

Last night we had a steak – it’s true, steak makes me feel wealthy, even when times are tough. We buy a boneless rib roast at Cash and Carry and cut our own steaks. They’re delicious, and we can cut them as thin or thick as we like. Right now, in this economy, we’re cutting them so thin you can see the charcoals underneath – they cook quicker too!

By evening we’re pretty tired, nap or no nap, and we usually make our way out to the patio to watch the sun go down. You know I never get tired of taking pictures of sunrise and sunset. Last night, sunset was incredible, almost like some sort of aurora borealis. It started out slow.

 

That’s what it looked like on my digi-cam, as if the pink was liquid, pouring down.

Here’s a picture my husband took with his cell phone.

Wow!

Red sky at night, sailor’s delight!

This break in the temps gives us some good time to do some outdoor cookin’!

Thursday we had our first June rainstorm. The wind picked up about midnight,  and by 4 am it was pouring. When we went out to walk the dogs about 7 am it was what I would  call a hard sprinkle. There were small tree limbs scattered in the driveway and sycamore bark everywhere. Sycamore sheds this time of year, the papery bark looks like sections of a jigsaw puzzle.

 

 

All the flowers are so happy.

DSC00033

These echinacea seem to be reaching for the sun.  You can see I been harvesting tree litter for my old wood stove.

 

DSC00039

Hummer’s favorite stuff.

DSC00035

Even old mother cactus, overwhelmed by her horde, managed to put out a blossom.

I’ve been collecting all those downed branches and sticks and piling them up on a shelf next to my grandpa’s old camp stove. As long as it doesn’t sit in the mud and get rotten, downed wood is great for a fire, it’s already seasoned and ready to go. It’s nice to sit around the fire at night, even in Summer. 

And I’ve been practicing with my dutch ovens.

DSC00018

This is a perfect set-up for a Dutch oven, heat on the bottom, heat on the top.

I’ve had smaller pots for a long time, I’ve made muffins in a tiny tin, cornbread, even brownies in the Dutch oven. But I wanted to see if I could turn out a good loaf of everyday bread. So, I stoked up the stove, then threw in about 25 charcoals. When those got hot, I arranged them on the lid of the Dutch oven and let them sit for about 10 minutes. Then I threw more charcoals in the wood stove.

Yeah, it was hot in front of that thing, I watched it from the shade of my patio.

When the pot was almost ready (the coals were white and I held my hand about 5 inches over the pot to see that it was good and hot) I had to go and get my dough, which was rising on my breadboard in the kitchen upstairs. That’s when it got tricky. I have to learn to do this by myself, my husband can’t always be there to open the door or raise the pot lid for me. I have to remember to run downstairs and open the door, field two excited dogs, and I have to have a place to set the board down where Badges can’t get it while I raise the lid on the pot.  

So I put an old gas can we had next to the stove (!) and used it as a side table. 

The dough felt good, it went into the pot with a little “sssss!”  

I kept a watch on the coals, and every so many minutes I lifted the lid and gave the bread a little squirt from my mister bottle. Within 15 minutes it was getting pretty brown on top, so I moved the coals to the edge of the lid. 

DSC00017

I started with the coals placed in the middle but moved them to the outside of the lid.

DSC00040

The top was getting brown but it wasn’t done yet so we added 4 charcoals underneath the pot.

This loaf took about 45 minutes, only 5 minutes longer than the conventional oven. It was almost perfect, but could have been a little browner on the bottom. 

The pot is smaller than my oven, so I had to divide the dough. The second loaf turned out even better – browner on the bottom.

DSC00041

This one turned out a little different – but like my children, I love them both.

It’s always good to learn something new. 

If you don’t like the weather…

Here we are, last day of May, and I woke at 4 am to a dumping downpour. Welcome to Northern California. Here, if you don’t like the weather, come back next week. Or leave, cause it’s not going to suit you.

A little over two weeks ago, we had flannel sheets and heavy comforters on the beds. My younger son came home from University of Reno to report there was still a snow blanket on Mt. Rose. A few days after he arrived, temps shot up to over 100 for two days, the old Kist thermometer registering 102 at one point. The air conditioners buzzed all around our house, and we wondered what kind of jump our PG&E bill would take.

This week it’s been in the low 90’s, not quite hot enough to stick more than a toe in the snow melt. It’s been uncomfortable to work in the direct sun at noon, but very nice the rest of the day, windows open most of the time.

My son drove back to Reno Sunday and spent Monday boarding Mt. Rose. He said “It didn’t suck,” which is his way of saying it was pretty good.

And now this dumper, which just started to get heavier as I’ve been typing. Haven’t I told you 100 times about that June we had a week straight of dumping rain? Our neighbor’s huge old oak tree was so overburdened with ivy and the roots so rotten, we actually watched it do a slow-motion tilt right onto our house, it took the entire week. 

Another year the temperatures were so mild and we had so many cloudy days, right into Summer, that we didn’t get our first ripe tomato until August.

Pobept had real tornadoes back in OK the other day –

https://survivalfarm.wordpress.com/2017/05/19/rain-storms-in-oklahoma/

Here we have little whips that come down from the sky to take chimneys and treetops. Now and then they “explode” an old barn, barn wood  scattering for miles.  Some years they’ve ripped out entire orchards – about 10 years ago there was so much orchard damage that  ranchers were selling downed trees for $5 each, come and cut your own firewood. Almond wood is the best, my husband and his friends brought in three big trailer loads of fuel for our wood stove.

Just a couple of years ago a Glenn County rancher lost an entire pistachio orchard! Noooooooo, not the pistachios!

We’re kinda nuts around here.  I don’t know what this “late” rain will do to the nuts, or the prunes. We like prunes around here too – although, some snobs like to call them “dried plums.” Hopefully this storm will just save the ranchers on their irrigation bill.

I know my yard is going to be very happy, I’m pretty stingy with water. If I’d known, I wouldn’t have watered Monday, but oh well.  My grapes are looking good this year, so burdened down, we had to take some wire and tie the branches up off the ground. The fruit is smaller than a pea right now, but growing fast. I’m not getting any “eating” grapes – I don’t know what’s the deal with  that old vine – but I am looking forward to plenty of juice to put in the freezer for next winter. My juice grapes have always been very generous.

Still dumping! I’m so glad my husband went out to take in our old patio chair. It’s not really an outdoor chair. It’s a “score” – we were going to the dump, and offered to take some of our neighbor’s stuff. She toted out this oak rocker – I envy this woman’s farm girl strength. It’s one of those new kind that works on tracks with a big heavy base, so you don’t squash your dog’s foot all the time. She said her “monkey boys” had it over, and it was all falling apart. My husband asked her if she’d like him to take a look at it, probably fix it. She said no, it caused too much trouble. So we headed right back down our driveway and left it.  

Later, my husband  put two screws in it, and it was good as new – except the cushion was pretty trashed. So it sat in the garage a while – it is too heavy to tote up the stairs into our apartment, where there’s very little room, anyway.  It sat in the garage, I waited until the Fall sale at Lowes and picked up a new cushion for about $9 – reverse-able! Get the hell out! New chair! We leave it in the garage during Winter and as soon as the weather dries out in Spring we put it on the front porch. We don’t fight over it as we immediately adapted to a take-turns system.

Still dumping. I’ve sat here for about 40 minutes. Thanks for keeping me company.  Things have been chaotic around my house, I’ve been so stressed out – new weight loss plan Girls! Worry! I’ve lost six pounds, and my hair line is headed due North, but I think I see a light at the end  of the tunnel. 

I’ll keep you posted!

 

 

 

 

 

Tempers flare in the garden

Every day I watch a hummingbird and a bumblebee go a few rounds over my flower patch.

DSC00007

Bumblebee is crazy for these yellow mullein flowers.

Both of these tiny creatures are very protective of their favorite dining spots. Bumblebee will give you a fierce buzzing if you get too close to the mullein, the holly hocks or the honeysuckle. She looks ungainly pulling her big furry butt up to these dainty blossoms, and the stalk bends forwards as she tugs on the petals with her impractical looking legs, but she comes faithfully every day. She quickly cleans the centers of these mullein flowers, moving through a patch within a few seconds, then off she goes! 

I’ve never seen Hummer pay attention to these flowers unless Bumblebee was busy working them. He seems to have it in for Bumblebee, whizzing around her butt as she tries to scrape all the pollen off the bright pink centers. She responds with her ferocious buzzing, like an old school teacher rattling her ruler, but she’s no match for his speed. He whizzes away, waits for her to get busy again, and zooms in.  Eventually she seems to get so flustered, she heads for her little nest, somewhere behind our house.  She is always heavily laden with pollen, I don’t know how she can achieve flight with those teeny wings.

Hummingbird does same when Bee is working the honeysuckle along the driveway. These are too small to approach from the open end, so she inserts her sharp tongue at the base of the flower and you can see her sucking out the sugary nectar. Such a pastoral scene, a campesino working her orchard. And then here comes Hummer – WHOOSH! – and she spins in fury, taking up a quick chase as he disappears around the corner of the garage. Flustered she resumes her work, only to find him at her rear a few minutes later. I’ve never seen Hummer eating from the honeysuckle vines either, he only seems to appear when Bumblebee is at her task.

But  today two of Hummer’s favorite flowers opened. 

DSC00005

Hummer is crazy for these pink powder puff flowers.

The pink powder puff tree hangs over the flower garden.  Yesterday a single blossom was visible and today about a third of the tree is covered with the fluffy flowers. This tree drives Hummer nuts, he acts like that crazy guy at the end of the bar – Are you looking at me!?!  Forget Bumblebee, he starts fighting with butterflies, who also come around in droves for this tree.  In years past he’s chased away many competitors of his own species, it seems no powder puff tree is big enough for everybody.

Down below, among the fever few and mullein flowers, is another of Hummer’s favorite treats.

DSC00006

These blue sage flowers are ultraviolet and especially visible to Hummer’s beady little eyeballs.

Whipple gave me the blue sage – selvia – and it’s really taking off in the hot sun.  It lives well within the fever few, which seems to shelter and shade the roots. The stalks came popping up a week or so ago, and now the flowers are forming and opening, that incredible blue really sticks out on the landscape.

Whipple said he quit planting these in his yard because he noticed a neighbor’s cat had taken up a post in his flower bed, and had killed a few hummers before he realized what was going on. The tiny birds are so crazy for these flowers, they don’t seem to have any sense.

Sheesh, Nature is so violent! 

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling Good!

Lunchtime I got Carlos Montoya on the youtube. Youtube is a-may-zing!

I first heard Montoya getting my haircut in my girlfriend’s little studio. She was an artist, to be sure, but it was kind of nerve wracking – every little once in a while she’d “SNAP!” those scissors a little close to the tip of my ear.

Today I been – you guessed it! – pulling weeds! And picking up piles of weeds with my wheelbarrow and pitchfork, trucking them out to our weed pile, which is a big mound behind our garden. It used to be a pond, apparently, the former resident had dug it with those intentions. My kids incorporated it into their bike track  for a while.   They had  dug out a pretty impressive track, with jumps and dips big enough to break an old lady’s legs if she stumbled into them in the weed storm. They made sections of the yard unmowable.  So, now that  the “kids” are too big and more interested in the mountain trails, we’ve slowly been filling in the bumps and jumps with discarded dirt and weeds. 

When I’m using the wheelbarrow you know I always think about that milk commercial where the old man’s arms break off. 

 

We’re waiting for an offer on the rental we’ve put up for sale. Of course you worry that you let the agent price it too high, but you have to sit there like a stone and wait. Everybody in my family sweats bullets as the money goes out the door and no money comes in. 

Wow, I’ll tell you what – I turned in my Utility Tax Rebate application  – eighty two bucks and some change!   And we’re supposed to get a refund from the IRS – it’s funny when you got the IRS on the line, telling you, “swear to Gawd Lady, that check is in the mail!” 

How about a little Gershwin?

 

I wish I had stuck with those piano lessons.

Well, I have sat in here long enough to re-hydrate and re-think the rest of my day  – this cool weather has been great for transplanting and cleaning the yard, but my husband needs to hit the tomato beds one more time with the tiller before I can mix in some new dirt. He tills and I rake, he tills again, I rake again, we put in some good stuff from Worm Farm out at Durham. You need to recharge every now and then with some good manure, that’s the way it goes. Our dogs love that stuff, we have to lock them out of the garden until we till it in. Biscuit sneaks in all lovable and then tries to sneak out with a big horse turd, she’s just baaaaad. 

And I probably should go out and throw her a few baseballs, give Badges a good run. 

I love this part of Rhapsody in Blue, it’s the hopeful part, I like the idea that you wake up tomorrow and something good might happen. I look back at my morning and I see I survived another morning of dread and worry by looking around me at the positive things in life. It feels good. 

 

 

Motherhood is a good gig!

DSC00016

Here’s Old Mother Cactus and her children and grandchildren.   Those furry nodules to the upper right will hopefully bust into striking pink flowers before too long.

My succulents took a beating this past Winter, but my spiny flowering cactus seem to be happier than ever. They are reproducing so fast I can’t find pots for all their offspring, and most of them have two or more flower buds swelling with promise.

DSC00017

This is a variety of aloe vera known as “Alligator” – I get it! Not only do the leaves remind me of snapping jaws but the flower spears resemble baby gators.

I’ve got sap from these alligator aloe before, they’re just not as juicy as their cousin. They are more hardy, taking to the bright open sun. I’ve been spreading these along my rock walls, in out of the way spots – they make a good ground cover, treated with the proper respect.

Speaking of the garden.

DSC00018

Here’s our tomato nursery – the bigger plants are from the box store. I’ve transplanted them from their original sixpack containers and they are ready to go in the ground now. I planted the smaller ones from seeds we got from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and I’ve started to put them into the sixpack containers left from the box store plants.

Last year my kids got me this cute little plastic tray with teeny tiny cups for planting seeds. It sits in another tray, and came with a lid, which I did not need.  It was supposed to be disposable, but I’m careful with it and I will  use it again next year. 

Baker Creek is a very reliable source of seeds – almost every one I planted sprouted.  Of course we love the Best Boys and Early Girls we get a Home Depot – they produce a lot, all Summer. Some of the heirloom varieties – like the beautiful Indigo Apple – produce a lot of fruit. Others produce small quantities of really good, big fruit.

https://worldofjuanita.com/2016/07/17/think-i-can-fill-my-empty-nest-with-tomatoes/

The Hungarian Heart  and the Carbon produced big, sweet, meaty tomatoes, weighing in at over a pound each. I don’t know if I got a dozen fruit between the two of them, so this year I’ve made sure to plant about a dozen seeds each, and the little plants are growing really well. 

Of course our tractor is on the fritz – we bought a used Kuboda tractor, a tiny backyard model, from a friend of ours about 10 years ago. It’s been great, but the last couple of Springs we’ve held our breath as my husband has jimmied the ignition switch. This year it won’t start, so we’re digging beds by hand and waiting to borrow our friend Wooton’s little rototiller. 

Luckily we still have about a dozen pints of tomato sauce in the freezer. Last night my younger son came home from college and we sat down to homemade pasta, meatballs, and sauce from last year’s garden. 

It’s good to be a mother.