Are we losing the junk mail war?

WordPress tells me the biggest single search that brings people to this blog is opt out information – for every kind of junk mail. It used to be specifically Market Value Place, Geico, and once in a while, Chase Bank. Now there’s so much junk mail coming from every direction, especially from credit card companies, most of which I’ve never heard of.

These bother me particularly because they contain personal information that can be used to fraud my family. Last week I caught a transient rifling through my recycling bin at 2:00 in the afternoon, within five yards of my mailbox. 

These mailers never seem to give opt-out information, unless it’s the usual advice to contact Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.  These companies require your social security number to remove you from the mailing lists, which I find absurd. 

Of course, you’ve heard the latest about Equifax:

Why do I need my SSN to get off mailing lists? Isn’t my name and address enough? These junk mailers can get my information from these “consumer reporting” companies, but I can’t access my own personal information or control it without giving up my SSN? To a company that flings it into the “dark web”? 

For now I’ve been shredding this junk into my food composter, but I don’t know if that’s good for my grubs. It’s frustrating that we have laws that are not enforced – they are supposed to put an “opt out” contact on the mailer, but now they get away with sending you to the credit reporting agencies. Agencies that report your personal information to any Tom, Dick or Sally that comes along. 

But local junk advertisers are easier to reach. Whenever I get a piece of junk from a local mailer I call the business(es) listed on the mailer and tell them I don’t do business with junk mailers. The other day I got a postcard from a local realtor – I called the guy and politely told him, my husband and I have bought and sold a few houses here in Chico, and we have a few more deals ahead of us, and we don’t get our realtors off junk mail.   We get them off realty signs that say “SOLD!” I told him he’d lost my business before he even had a chance to get it, because he put garbage in my mailbox.  I don’t forget names. 

I was very nice, and he thanked me, but I don’t know if I got  to him. Well, I’ll tell you what, Blake, if I get another post card from you, I’m going to call you again, and here’s some advice – don’t answer your cell phone when you’re driving.

That’s all I’ve got for you right now folks. If I ever get the nerve to send my SSN to Equifax, I’ll let you know. Until then I feed it to the grubs. 





Mulch really helps


A couple of  months ago my husband and I were driving along a mountain road looking for a good spot to walk our dogs, when we came across a pile of wood chips laying at a clear cut. This section of woods was cut a couple of years ago, we had heard the screaming of the machines and seen the dirt plume from our shack.

We’d watched the trucks take out the logs, and then we saw the chips trucks come and go. This pile was left behind, was well weathered and washed by rain, and lays right in the public right-of-way along a county road. So we’ve been taking the F-150 up there once a week or so and helping ourselves.

Chips have become expensive since that drought – remember the drought? – made “zeroscaping” the In Thing.  I’ve been using leaves from our yard to mulch my medium size trees when they looked as though they were dying, and it really helped. But leaves are messy, I don’t like piling them too close to the front door. I’ve been looking for a cheap deal on bark or chips for my little dooryard “shade garden.”


I killed this section of lawn with black plastic a few years ago and  planted red bud and crepe myrtle trees and some flowers in it’s place. This is the hottest part of my yard, and it took daily watering to keep this patch through one of the hottest summers in my memory.

That picture was taken earlier this summer. The feverfew flowers got frowsy and I’ve whacked them back, and I’ve started to fill in between the trees with chips. I’ve already noticed – I don’t have to water the patch every day anymore.


Hummer’s favorite color.   As I was taking pictures he buzzed me a couple of times.

The blue sage has begun to bloom like crazy, and new echinacea plants have volunteered and bloomed.  Everything is greener and the whole patch is looking lush.

Unfortunately the crab grass has moved in on the garden, looking for water, and I have to dig it out before I put down any more chips. I knew I should have torched it good during the heat, but it seems like this wind has been dogging me for a month now. I’ll get it when the weather changes.

I believe this patch of trees will change the climate in my front yard, I’ll keep you posted.




When the cold winds blow!

I am having a cup of coffee and a sit down.  I’ve been so busy this morning, I feel like I need to think for a minute. And the North Wind is blowing – nothing rattles my brains like the North Wind. 

My grandma hated the North Wind – she said so – and we could tell, from the miserable look on her face as she wandered around the house in circles with a drip at the end of her nose. Her eyes reddened up and her hair stood out like a fright wig, she seemed to have half-used tissues stuffed in every pocket, in her watch band, and in her bra, which she used like a second purse. Already an old lady when we got her, she seemed to age dramatically under the influence of the North Wind. 

One October morning she announced we needed to go to town and pick up some groceries. We went about changing into our “town clothes”. Gram never went off the property without putting on a clean dress, fresh stockings and good shoes, running a comb  through her hair, and then adding that dab of lipstick.  As she was going through her purse, she noticed the car keys were not in it.

We sat in the living room trying to stay clean while she scoured the entire house for those keys. Normally a very pulled together woman with a good sense of humor, she started to get pretty pissed off. After about an hour of looking, and some pretty imaginative cursing, she gave up the ghost and went to change her dress. We kids did same and then found something to do outside, where we could still hear her slamming doors and cabinets. We knew we hadn’t done anything with her keys, and she hadn’t accused us – but she was damned mad, and we didn’t want to be under her feet.

When Gramps came in she was waiting for him  – “what did you do with my car keys?!”   I’ll tell you what – my grandparents fought like cats and dogs. They used language, “you damned old fool” and “you old sunnovabich” being their pet names for each other. We kids just thought that’s the way married people talked to each other. 

We’d seen worse – my dad used to come home from the pipeline, drunker than a skunk, and try to wipe up the floor with my mother, who could give it right back. My grandmother had him arrested out of the front seat of his stock car at the Silver Dollar Speedway. My family is just point blank fucking mean.

So we kids reared around on the sofa just in time to catch the “oh what now” look on my grandfather’s face, and his answer, “I didn’t do anything with your goddam keys!” 

My grandfather was not a liar. He was never afraid to tell the truth. Gram was flummoxed – what else could have happened to those keys? 

Dinner went on in silence, Gram flummoxed and Gramps still pissed off about being accused of rifling a woman’s purse – only a louse or a deadbeat went through his wife’s purse.

But as soon as the dishes were picked up we noticed Gramps started picking around the house. He was determined to solve this mystery.  He was too old and stiff to do the work at hand, so rounded us kids up and we went room by room – “look under there, maybe she dropped them in there… shake all the clothes in the closet, listen for keys… Erm, when was the last time you used your old purse… ”  No lead left un-turned.

But we got nothing. We looked and looked – suddenly we realized we’d missed all our tv shows and it was half hour past our bedtime. We were all sick and tired of keys. 

Outside the North Wind was howling around the eaves. My grandma looked very beaten. 

So we kids went about getting ready for bed. Grandma was too distracted to ask us if we’d all hit the toilet before we got under the covers. We felt pretty beaten too, we didn’t like to see anything get the better of our grandma, unless it was grandpa, who was always pulling some sort of prank on her. But this time it wasn’t one of his pranks –  he seemed a little beaten too.

The lights went out all around the house, as Gramps settled into bed and Gram made her usual rounds of all the doors and windows before she got ready for bed. When she was still teaching school, she might sit up until 11 or later grading papers, or she’d write letters or read something she’d been meaning to read. She usually came to bed at least an hour after the rest of us.  

We kids sat bolt upright when we heard the noise of keys hitting the floor. It was my grandmother, getting undressed for bed. Gramps woke up too. He laughed so hard he had a coughing fit as he chided her about that “old bottomless pit” – her “second purse,” the Jane Russell 18 hour bra. All the while the keys had been hidden in there with about a half a pack of Kleenex and her stamps money that she’d forgotten to put in the mailbox.

We were happy to hear my grandparents’ laughing – their fights were sudden and loud but never lasted long.   

I learned two things that night – family is a good thing to have when the wind is blowing around the eaves, and don’t use your bra like a purse.









Gotta keep those good vibrations happenin’ babeee!

Those old sayings, always so true – “Time flies…” 

I spent the weekend with my husband and our friend, working on our new “outhouse”.  Having a second person who knows what they’re doing is incredible – things happen fast! It took my husband a couple of weeks to lay the foundation. First he built retaining walls to keep the dirt solid underneath, then set the cement piers in the ground.  Now all the sudden there’s a 10 x 12 shack standing on top of them.

The old outhouse is only about 8 x 5, if that,  and it’s too far from the septic tank, the pipe freezes quick when the temps drop. And, there’s a rocky, bumpy stretch of path between our sleeping shack and the old outhouse, pretty sketchy when you have to make that trip (ha, ha, “trip”) in the wee dark hours of the morning. 

The new outhouse will also have room for our kitchen stuff, so we won’t have to rearrange the furniture every time we want to make a meal inside. We’ll be able to have some food storage – right now, our pantry is an 18″ shelf. 

So I watched in fascination as my “retirement” plans unfolded before my eyes. We might really do this! 

I shouldn’t be so surprised, when my husband says he’s going to do something, he’s going to do it.

I’ve known all along, I’m going to have to simplify and downsize, and that means getting rid of, okay, I’ll say it – JUNK!  Turning in my chair my eyes fall upon my “zoological” collection – about a dozen old canning jars full of dead insects, dried flowers, acorns, bits of bird’s nests, paper wasp nests, even a mud dauber nest. I have what I call “vacations in jars” – sea shells and other beach trash from our long-ago trips to Fort Bragg with the kids. 

And then there’s my rock collection, which starts fist-size in window sills around the house and ends up all over the yard with gutbusters as big as a small tv.

I tried to move one of my big rocks the other day, with a furniture dolly, and I just about threw out my back. 

And, OMG! The garage, and an entire shelf unit in my husband’s shop, are filled with “heirlooms” from two families. From fancy dishes to prune boxes, we got it all.

My son and his girlfriend moved out of our rental when we sold it, and only had about a week to move their entire hoard out of the old shop.  They started early by moving a lot of their stuff here. It’s funny how you forget stuff when it’s not right in front of you – now when they come over and look at that pile, they feel overwhelmed. They pick at it here and there – they’ve taken all of their garden stuff out of the driveway, thank goodness – but my son’s comic book collection? His childhood art projects and toys?  That kind of stuff sits in an improvised shelf unit in the middle of my garage, keeping me from being able to open my car door completely. 

I started realizing we need to get rid of stuff a couple of years ago, I’ve tried to make it a priority, but it’s been hit and miss. I actually sold an old trunk on Craigslist, and I was happy with that. I learned a trick from Pawn Stars – ask more than you want, then people feel like they got a deal. I thought $85 was a good price so I asked $100. I tried not to smile when the man asked, “will you take $85?” 

We had an old fireplace insert we’d received in lieu of rent from one of our tenants. We thought we had use for it, but the old fireplace chimney wasn’t safe, so the insert sat in our shop for about 15 years, until we recently sold that house. We’d forgotten about it, really. It had never been used, and the newer models are selling for over $2500, so I dusted it off and hauled out the paperwork and took some pictures. I posted it on Craigslist in last July or early August, and I reposted it and reposted it for over a month. 

Never give up.

As soon as the temperatures dipped a couple of weeks ago, we got three responses in one morning. The first man wanted to drive down from Quincy that day, and had no problem with the price of $350.  He and his wife were in our driveway by noon, and off they went with the insert. I couldn’t believe it – staring at the empty space it left in our garage was very gratifying, and we needed the dough to pay our kid’s rent at college. 

Every little bit, ya know what I mean? So today I’ll be poking around in my garage, looking for some old crap to put on Craigslist.  One bright point is I found the record player my kids bought me and my husband hooked it up down there so I can listen to my Beach Boys records while I’m digging.







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!

It’s the little things, really, that make life good

I am so tired. My husband and I finally decided to gravel a problem area in our tenant’s side yard. I’ve complained about it – so hot nothing will grow but sticker weeds, I have to clean it every Spring, and I usually lose a pair of gloves and sometimes a good pair of socks to the stickers.

So earlier this Summer I took a big piece of black sheet plastic left over from a construction job we did, and I folded it into four layers, and I stretched it over the spot, about 6 x 10 feet. Just hauling the plastic up there in my wheelbarrow was a job – I always think of that milk commercial, where the old man picks up the handles of his wheelbarrow and his arms fall off.

Nothing kills a piece of ground to the dirt like a few layers of black plastic left in the sun, oh yeah! But last week when we were up there sweeping the house, we noticed the sun was starting to eat the plastic, it was breaking into little pieces, which we realized would soon be floating all over the yard.

We looked into gravel at various places – cheapest deal was Focal Point, which has two yards in South Chico. The first location is at the intersection 20th and Fair, and the other yard is just down Fair near the Work Training Center. 

You know, right out by the FAIR grounds…

A yard of road base is about $22. We had to make two trips, cause we can only haul half a yard in the old F-150. But it was well worth it – we had a tiny bit left over to fix a muddy spot in the driveway where I almost fall on my ass every Winter. 

Sheesh – $22! All those years I put up with those weeds! At least 10 pair of socks and gloves! 

Isn’t it just the littlest, dumbest things to make an old woman happy. I got new shoes too – I always wait for the same pair of “Itasca” to go on sale at Big 5 – $17.50! It’s like getting a new pair of feet – the old ones were worn down to the nub, I could feel every piece of that road base coming right up through the soles! 

Oh yeah, life is good, for today – we’ll see what she throws at us tomorrow!


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?