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.

 

 

Thanks to whomever left that potted agave laying along Vallombrosa!

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Pobrecito!

About a year ago I noticed something weird laying alongside Vallombrosa as my husband and I were out with the dogs, but I couldn’t get a good look at it. I kept noticing it laying there – an old potted plant, looked like it had been tossed out of a car. I know people abandon pets in Bidwell Park but I never seen an abandoned plant. I finally asked my husband to pull over so I could take a look at it.

It was an old mother agave, crammed into about an 18 inch pot, full of babies, some of which were hanging by their umbilical cord over the side of the pot. All dried out and mummified looking.

I always wanted an agave, but they intimidate me a little. See those needles? My grandpa showed me one once – you can take that needle at the tip of the leaf and pull it down along the leaf – for geeshy sakes be careful! – and you will  have a needle and thread suitable for stitching soft leather.

The spines along the edge of the leaf will cut you like a saw.

I would call this plant, “Mother-in-law’s tongue,” but I think there’s already a plant with that nickname.  My mom and my mother-in-law both had tongues that could cut you.

So you know I wanted one real bad. Finder’s keepers, right? It had been sitting there for  weeks that I knew of, everybody had their whack. So, I took a holt on that pot, and I tugged, and my husband found himself a holt and he tugged, but that thing was so heavy there was no way we would get it in the truck.

We had to come back with a shovel.  So the next day while doing landscaping work at our various rentals, we went over to see if the pot was still there – as if!  There she was, laying on her side where we’d left her.  I went at the pot with my hand snippers – good luck! The baby plants hanging over the side of the pot had tough roots attaching them, I had to hack them off with the blade of my shovel. The big plant was really stuck in there, the roots were so impacted, it was like breaking a lump of cement. By and by I whacked loose two medium size plants, including the once pictured above, and I felt that sense of accomplishment, plus, I was afraid I was pushing my luck with  those needles.

We left the pot laying alongside the road. Within a couple of  weeks it disappeared – good for whoever took it, I had my chance. I hate to see a nice thing go to waste.

It took me a while to decide where to plant them, in the meantime, I laid them in an empty planter pot and dumped some dirt over the roots. There they sat for weeks while I tried to make a decision. These pig stickers get very big. There’s one across the road from the new records building in O-ville that’s as big as the family van parked next to it.

They multiply by little shoots like crabgrass, can you imagine a thing like this that grows like crabgrass?

So, we must be careful where we place things. I put the first one in my cactus patch, and  I’m already wondering if it’s too crowded.

I put the tiny babies in one pot – now they are busting to get out!

The last plant sat with very little dirt in a medium size pot, I kept meaning to plant it, but it ended up sitting there all through Winter. I couldn’t ignore something that wanted to live so bad.

We have a big yard in front of our tenant’s house, she never even uses it, telling me how nice it is to have so much space between her house and the street. We’ve left a big lawn in the middle, right in the bright sun, where past tenants have put a volley ball net, a picnic table, and one of those climbing things with the net, but our current tenant placed her table on the patio so she could sit back and watch the butterflies fluttering over the flowers.

When we bought this house there was a well-established butterfly  garden, with big yucca plants, flowering artichokes, and these neat little plants my grandma called “Devil’s Poker” for their scissor leaves and their spear shaped red flowers.   I  figured the agave would fit right in. Weatherman said rain this weekend, perfect time to transplant, so I loaded the bigger plant into my wheelbarrow and lugged it up front. I picked a spot where there were a lot of annoying little weeds growing.

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Wow, looks happier already!

We’ll see how it looks after this storm!

 

Mt Lassen – I haven’t been able to get up there yet this year, but here’s some pix from old trips

Someone has been searching posts about Mount Lassen so I searched a couple of my faves. 

Here’s one from June 2012 – we went snowboarding at Diamond Peak – it was  the last good snow before the drought. 

https://worldofjuanita.com/2012/06/11/camp-lassen/

Here’s a road trip from June 2015 – the snow was not good enough to board, but we had a fantastic day. 

https://worldofjuanita.com/2015/06/02/waganupa-the-center-of-the-world/

We can see the mountain from a spot on Hwy 32, and it’s covered with snow right now. 

Enjoy!

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.

I did it! Gluten-free birthday cake!

Thanks fellow bloggers for your support – I made the gluten-free birthday cake! 

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Well, giant cookie, really.

I got the recipe from my grandma.

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You can tell from the grease stains, this is one of my fave recipes.

Because my son is trying to cut gluten from his diet, I made some substitutions. 

 

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Here’s the usual suspects – oatmeal, Rice Krispies, and good old white sugar – I’ll work on a different sweetener next time, but Basil Rene is right – the world of sugar substitutes is fraught with peril. I used half and half brown and white like Gram says.

In lieu of a sugar substitute, I just cut the amount of sugar down to 2/3’s  cup. 

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Here’s the brown basmati I buy at Cash and Carry in 10 pound sacks, and here’s some coconut oil I found at Walmart for less than $4.

I wasn’t sure about buying the coconut oil at Walmart, but it was the cheapest. My son told me the more expensive oils are “refined” so that you can use them at higher temperatures, for stuff like sautes and stir-fries. I like it for baking – it’s very light, without any odor.

As for amount, I thought I better check, so I googled cookie recipes using coconut oil. I found one that matched my recipe – half a cup of liquid coconut oil for a half a cup butter.  

When I added the oil to the sugar, it didn’t seem right, too wet. But the egg mixed in well, and when I added the rice flour, oats and Krispies, it looked just like the dough I got using butter and wheat flour. It’s always kind of crumbly, when I make cookies, I mash it into spoonful-size balls and set them on the sheet, where they melt into thin, crispy wafers, just like  Gram used to make.  Or I just mash the whole pile of dough into a pan and make “cookie bars.” 

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I wanted a cake so I mashed it into a cake pan.

Baking time was the variable – for my usual size pan I bake them 20 – 25 minutes at 350, waiting for the top to turn brown. This pan was smaller and deeper so I had to bake it closer to 35 minutes. This made it more like a cake than a cookie, but the edges were still  crunchy.

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Here’s the topping – looks like a mess!

I got an idea for a “cookie tart” from Chef Pepin, it just didn’t turn out exactly the way he did it – we just dumped a couple of pints of blueberries and a cut pear into a sauce pan, without sugar or anything, and stirred it into this mess. It was delicious, the tart fruit made the perfect compliment for the sweet cookie-cake. 

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We sent most of the cake home with the birthday boy, but I saved a piece for my husband to eat for breakfast.

Like Chef Pepin would say – et voila! There it is, a gluten free birthday cake. 

 

 

 

Waiting out Winter

As if to remind us, it’s only February, Jack Frost rode into town last night.

Back to Winter

Back to Winter

Clear skies mean lower temperatures. As eager as we were to get out in the sun yesterday, we found ourselves running back inside with numb hands, poking at the thermostat, hovering around the kitchen. After a morning of storm clean-up, I spent yesterday afternoon cooking,  made a big batch of tortillas and a pot of rice.

One pan wonder.

One pan wonder.

My husband got a steak out of the freezer and cut two thin steaks with his filet knife, then threw them into a pan with the rice. Before I knew it we were eating burritos.

I love it when a good plan comes together.

I love it when a good plan comes together.

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.

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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!