Wanted: Roustabouts!

This photo does not really capture the threatening nature of the sky - "Go ahead lady, hand your laundry! I'll show you what I can do to a load of laundry!"

I am sitting in my house trying to decide if today is a good day to hang a load of wash.  I see Hummer sitting in one of his fave spots in our crepe myrtle tree, he looks like he’s thinking about the weather too.

Look hard at that little dot at the end of the branch, toward the top of the photo, above the power lines. That's Hummer. You've been warned.

Look hard at that little dot at the end of  one of the bare branches, toward the center-top of the photo, just above the power lines. That’s Hummer. He’ll come out of that tree like a shot, right across the top of your head. You’ve been warned.

It’s been pretty busy here at the ranch, but I’ve also been trying to keep up my duties as head roustabout for the Chico Taxpayer’s Association. I reserve the room, pick up the key, and am in charge of making sure everything is turned off and locked up when we are done. I try to make up an agenda, with items I find interesting and want to share with the group, or items that others have brought up for discussion. Sometimes our meetings go all over town, sometimes they stick pretty precisely to the agenda. I try to take notes – although, I find it weird, writing down what people say, like some kind of spy. Mostly, I write down interesting tidbits of information to check out later, or things I want to remember to check out and bring back a report to the group next time. My notebook is pretty messy, but I must say, it’s good to have notes.

We had a new person come down today, a very nice lady named Alice. She had her own concerns, and she was curious about our group. I think I might have detected disappointment that we are not a more “pulled together” group, but I hope she will come back. She asked questions we were able to answer for her, and others we found interesting.

That’s what this group is about folks – we share our ignorance, and we share whatever  information we are able to scratch up. We’re not a PAC, we don’t have a lawyer, we don’t even have anybody particularly in charge.  We just try to get together regularly and share what we know, what we’ve found out, and what we want to know.

But yeah, piss us off good, we can raise money, and we can put out yard signs. So there!

At this point, we are not the kind of political machine that can take on big entities with lawsuits, or raise a bunch of money to float a measure or get a candidate into office.  We’re really here to try to awake the Sleeping Giant – The Public. That’s what “grass roots” politics are all about. That’s the kind of action that made America a country – people power. As far as I’m concerned, we need to stop depending on politicians to do our work for us, and just step up to the plate. We don’t need money, we need people of like minds, ready to attend meetings, read documents, write letters and follow up.

Well, after a pep talk like that, I guess I better just hang that wash.


It’s my birthday, and my BMI is IDEAL!

Yes people, today is my birthday. Actually, I’m instituting “Birthday Week,” I don’t think a day will do it. 

For one thing, it’s Thursday. What kind of birthday can you have on a Thursday? So, we’ll start the festivities today.

Off to Wittmeier for a lube job.  God that’s important!  I wish they could do something for me too, but at least they keep my little car in shape. 

And then WalMart is right across that empty lot, the perfect place to get a birthday rolling off to a good start.  I need some eggs and butter to make me a strawberry shortcake, and some dairy products to make some ice cream to go on it. And don’t forget the spray whip cream!  

In fact, I’m going to make several cakes – I can’t really decide which one I want the most, so every day I’m going to make a cake, until I get sick of making cake.  St. Paddy’s falls on Sunday – GREEN CAKE! 

I can do this, I already did my homework. All the math, sheesh, almost broke my brain. See, if you want to know your “ideal” weight, you must figure your height and weight into meters and square it and then divide it all up and get your “Body Mass Index.” Yes, I did all that hilarious math and then I found this calculator online:


I was happy to find out, my weight puts me right in the “Ideal” range. Ooooo! Stop it! 53 years old, and “Ideal!” 

I’ll post pictures of my cakes.  No, I ain’t using candles, you smart asses! I’d have to take the batteries out of all my smoke alarms! 


Got a cold, stuck inside – window watching

I have had this cold that’s been going around exactly one week. I watched Stephanie Taber go through it, and I waited my turn, and here it is. I get a good cold about once a year, and as ready as I think I am for it, it usually makes a jackass of me. This cold took a turn for the worse the other day, when I  blew my nose too hard and the gunk just went right into my ears. 


Here’s what I always forget – you have to stay in the house when you have a cold. The cold air and wind irritates your passageways, and you get inflamed and infected. My eustachian tubes are really pissed off right now.  As many times as we’ve been through this, I can’t seem to find a way to placate them. So, today, I ain’t going outside, at all. Period. Not even to take out the compost. I’m serious! 

Suddenly my apartment seems to be closing in on me.

I like my apartment, it’s cozy. It’s upstairs, with trees outside all the windows, so I can watch the birds. The black walnuts outside my living room windows attract flickers and other woodpeckers, including a Downy who crawls along the branches investigating the cracks in the bark with his long tongue.   The old, twisted crepe myrtle out my kitchen window is a favorite perch of our resident blue jays. Right now a couple of mockingbirds have come around, to nest I guess, and they are having the annual tug of war with the blue jays over the rights to our front yard. They’ll end up sharing.  Blue jay and hummer lord over our yard, and they act like cops whenever somebody else comes around, snoop, snoop, nag, nag. Towhee has moved into our enormous brush pile out back, along with a bunch of finches and juncos. My neighbor has set up feeders just the other side of the fence, and I get a kick out of watching them flock all over her little side yard. When her cat struts out, they fly over the fence in a wave, back into the brush pile. 

We have a couple of wrens around our yard, they make all kinds of funny noises.  I have read, you can tell the male from the female wren by the position of their tail – Mrs. Wren holds her tail up, Mr. Wren’s tail goes between his legs because he is always singing and needs the ballast. I watch him singing, and I can see him straining to hit those notes, his whole body tenses up. He sits on top of the brush pile and warns the rest of the community when Cat comes around. I can see Cat climbing over the fence from my kitchen window, and I can have my dogs out there in about two seconds, all it takes is a whistle and a point. It is always funny to watch that big fat asshole fly over that fence from those dogs. 

I love most cats, don’t get me wrong. We had a lady cat who showed us her intense devotion by laying something dead at our feet almost every day – song birds, lizards, big bugs. Her brother, a 16 pounder with inch long claws, was one heck of a mouser, but our darling Mimi preferred the innocent creatures, which really  bothered me. It just made her so happy to kill stuff, it was unsettling.  After 15 years of dead stuff brought to the foot of our beds, we have not had cats again. 

One of my favorite birds, if I could say I have a favorite, is especially vulnerable to cats – the Phoebe bird. These birds sit on low perches – a lawn chair, a spigot, a small shrub on your lawn – and zip out to catch bugs in mid-air. I had a lawn chair in my back yard that was constantly covered with Phoebe poop, her fave perch. They are incredible little buggers, you can hear the SNAP of their beak as they snatch anything from a mosquito to a butterfly out of mid-air. Now, isn’t that ironic – they eat butterflies, which bothers me almost as much as cats who eat birds. Isn’t Nature a bitch? I once watched a Phoebe bird at a river park over in Glenn County snatch several butterflies out of the air. It took her a minute to eat them, then spit out the wings, which were bigger than her head. Then out and SNAP! Another one, and another one. 

Lately, a couple of Phoebes have been working off the phone line over my fence, I can hear their little chirp-chirp SNAP from my open window when the air is nice and warm.

 So, today, I will sit inside and do chores, drink hot drinks, run a hair dryer over my ears periodically, and watch birds out my windows. Let me know what you’re up to. 


I didn’t vote for Morgan, Coolidge and Evans, I voted AGAINST Stone, Ritter and Rudisill

All stamped and ready to go – although this election has hardly been anything to “Celebrate!”

It‘s been a long, rough election people. Yesterday my husband and I went out to do some sign maintenance – those big signs are getting had in this weather. 

It’s kind of funny – the Schindelbeck signs are holding up the best, while the Evans and Coolidge signs are becoming litter, and a huge Morgan sign I saw yesterday was folded up like a dinner napkin, flapping in the mud over on East Avenue.

But, like my Grandma always said, you “make do” with what you’ve got. This morning I realized, I better get my ballot in the mail, or I’d be stuck going to the polling station on Election Day, being treated badly by a dwindling number of harpies who haven’t realized their time has come. Vote by mail is really the way to go. It saves a lot of money, and it gives the voter a lot more time to ponder the issues. I swear, this is a fact – most people don’t really think about an election until they are holding that ballot and pen in their hand, and Election Day is too late to be thinking about this stuff for the first time.

I put a lot of time and thought into my votes, and it was agonizing – the city council race looks like something you’d find at the Mexicali dog tracks. I finally realized, at the prodding of my son – we just need to fill the seats the best we can. Yes, I can stomach Evans, Morgan and Coolidge before I could put up with four years of that smarmy bitch Randall Stone, Mr. Helpmyself, sitting on the dais. I’ll tell you what, electing Stone is going to lead to a recall, maybe even a criminal investigation – can we afford that? 

No. So I held my nose and voted Evans, Morgan and Coolidge. No, I’m not happy about it. The upside is, if they win, they have to put up with me for four years too. 

Try this! The “Orange Juanita”

I remember having my first Orange Julius – they had a huge stand at the State Fair. That taste was just, magical. And, it was made with orange juice, so my gramma would let us have them without any questions. We had peaches and plums and persimmons and figs and pomegranates at home, but we didn’t have oranges, so she’d let us drink those things until we puked. 

When I went to college, they made me take a nutrition class, and that’s when I found out how much sugar is added to the Orange Julius, and I quit them on the spot.  I had not had one for years when my husband took us to the State Fair, and there was the Orange Julius stand. It still tasted magical, like freshly battered  corn dogs and cotton candy right off the spinner instead of that pre-made stuff that sits in bags for gawdknowshowlong. 

Of course the true ingredients of the Orange Julius are held like a state secret by current owners Dairy Queen. But, stubborn me, I finally figured out something close enough, and probably healthier – I like to call it, “the Orange Juanita.” 

See, you start with yogurt – there’s a no-brainer.   I’m always looking for a new way to eat yogurt, keeps those little monsters in my lower intestine happy. To this I add a good whollop of (okay I’ll admit it) sugar-sweetened juice. I like that Mexican juice, Jumex, that comes in the aseptic cartons at Raleys. You’ll find it in the “Mexican food section.” My favorite is the pureed banana and strawberry, cause yeah, I’ve tried juicing bananas, and I just felt really stupid as I scraped that crap out of my juicer filter.  I don’t know how the folks at Jumex do it, but they do, and it’s great. Unfortunately, they also add sugar, but not half as much as you’ll find in the average breakfast cereal or pre-sweetened yogurt. I use unsweetened yogurt and unsweetened orange juice, so a little sugar, if you don’t mind my saying, makes the medicine go down. A cup and a half smoothie keeps me happy til lunchtime. 

I actually found a recipe online, a guy who adds powdered sugar!  This man is obviously not in it for his health, but more power to him. Life’s too short to bitch yourself crazy, I always say. Bitch at your public leaders instead, they’re a mess. 

Hope everybody is having a great weekend!

I have been so busy this week, I can’t even remember what I did.  Between chores and visitors and unexpected illnesses, I’ve been trying to order some signs for the “No on Measure J” campaign. Whew-ieeee, what a week I’ve had.  I won’t bore you with the details, cause I know you’ve all had a three-ring circus or two run across your living room rug.

I hope to have some signs pretty soon. The folks at the print shop have been really wonderful, I’ve seen their work around town, and I think we will get some very nice signs.

I’m also trying to plan a Taxpayer’s Association meeting, and hoping to get the signs before then. I will keep everybody posted here and at chicotaxpayers@wordpress.com.

Well, this may be the last nice weekend to hang out in the yard and soak up the sun around the old Intex pool, so I’m headed outside. There’s a fundraiser for Butte Humane Society over at One Mile, and while passing by, I saw some tricks I must show Biscuit!  I  hope you are all having a lovely weekend!   Bark Bark!

When something’s worth fighting for.

Charlie’s apples – a gift that keeps on giving.


We had this wonderful neighbor once, an old codger named Charlie. He lived with his nice wife Suzy up in the hills, next to a little place my family owned. He was an old veteran, moved up to Northern California after living most of his life in Los Angeles. He remembered LA when it was “just a regular town.”  He had led an interesting life, fought in a war, come home without any job skills and ended up running several successful businesses, married a nice lady, raised some kids. But all he ever really wanted to talk about was his life here, in a single wide trailer with his wife and dogs, his truck garden, and his fruit trees.

I was shocked  the amount of gardening Charlie did in that poor soil. He had a corn patch, which I had always assumed required valley  bottom and lots of good water from the Sac. But Charlie always had corn to spare. And his tomato bushes were almost as big as ours,  he was always taking bags of tomatoes to folks. But the prize was his little orchard of different kinds of apples. Charlie had been in the fruit selling business in LA, he’d always wanted to grow the stuff, and boy, did he.

The problem with gardening in the hills is, first of all, you have to have a clear, sunny spot. Second, you have to bring in good dirt, that red stuff won’t grow anything but trees. Third, you have to have a reliable well, and lots of the wells in the high country go dry toward the end of the year if you over run them. Fourth, you must build a very high fence to keep out your natural neighbors, especially the deer, who will certainly lay waste to a corn patch in the span of minutes.   Charlie had conquered all those problems with diligence and patience – a 70-something year old man, he cleared the overgrown brush next to his house and made a big sunny space, then brought in dirt, then carefully laid out drip lines. Did all this work himself – his children all lived far away in LA.  Finally, using huge heavy sections of wrought iron, he fenced the whole yard, and for good measure, strung  chicken wire all around his truck garden.

That certainly took care of the deer. But we have a certain character up in our neighborhood – we just call him, Bear! He’s a pretty carefree brute – at 300 pounds, I guess I’d feel some confidence about myself too. We have never laid eyes on him, but we often see the remains of his raids on the neighbors scattered across our place – shredded garbage bags, surrounded by bits and pieces of food wrappers and other junk. And, a big hollow spot on the ground where he slept off his adventures.

Bear is a determined pillager. When I went up to the town where my folks used to live recently, I noticed the bears had just come in to raid the fruit trees – bear plop, full of half-digested fruit, lay in the middle of the street, on front stoops, and even on a picnic table over at the river park.  The trees are really old – nobody grows fruit there anymore, it’s a tourist trap. People have pruned the trees up to show off their old houses, so the fruit grows so far off the ground, the people don’t even bother with it. There are apple trees, pear trees, plum trees. There ‘s a pear tree in the yard at my family’s house, and I think my aunt is trying to kill it. But it still puts off a few dozen pears every year, and there come the bears to climb up and get it.  A relative of mine once woke up in the middle of the night to see an enormous bear sagging from a branch in her yard. “I went back to bed, and in the morning, I found he’d broken off whole branches, and there was plop all over the driveway.”

One year Bear let himself in to Grandma Costa’s back porch. He was trashing her refrigerator full of groceries when she wandered downstairs at about 5am. She had a shotgun, but knew better, and went back to bed. When she woke up later the porch looked like  a wreck, but at least he didn’t break the refrigerator door – Bear is so smart, he just opened it right up with his people fingers.   Grandma Costa also noticed, he didn’t break any jam jars, he just helped himself to the easy-open items.  She cleaned up the mess and started shutting her back door at night.

When Bear came for Charlies’ orchard, it was like two strike-anywhere matches bumping heads in a dark room. You know how territorial old people get, and they don’t like you messing with their stuff. Charlie wasn’t just annoyed with Bear, he was OFFENDED. Who did this animal think he was, messing up Charlie’s beautiful corn, tearing out those perfectly straight drip lines, STEALING A MAN’S APPLES!

Of course, Charlie could have laid in wait with his .50, and nobody would have been the wiser, including Bear. Charlie had been with the military, and he knew his firearms. But that seemed “chickenshit” – he had a peer feeling for Bear, a big old curmudgeon like himself. So, he decided to scare or annoy the beast away – show that guy a thing or two.   He set a trap, a convoluted mess of car batteries and wiring. Bear liked to announce himself by coming onto Charlie’s stoop, where his dogs were penned just inside the door. Charlie’s dogs were no match for a bear, old and crazy, so he locked the dogs up and wired that porch. Then he warned us and all the other neighbors – don’t come over to my house after dark without calling.

Weeks went by, no sign of Bear. Then one day we came over and Charlie came immediately out of his place to call to my husband – we don’t have a phone, so he would just holler from his stoop. Bear had finally come, just about the time Charlie had almost forgot to turn on his trap. Oh, sure, it worked alright! Bear came right up on that porch and  “ka-POWIE!”  He got himself a shock alright, and stood on the porch howling and dancing around for a minute before he busted himself loose. “Boy he was mad,” Charlie reported. “You could hear him ki-yiying all the way down the canyon!”

That was about five years ago. Not long after, Charlie started to have health problems. His wife was even more fragile than he was – and fearful of the woods all that time. She kept to herself inside, and traveled a lot to see friends. So, when it looked like Charlie was not up to taking care of the place, his kids came and loaded them up and drove them to their house at Lake Almanor. Charlie called us once after that, to tell us he was moving back to LA. That was a loss as far as I’m concerned, I felt a big hole in my life after that, and I didn’t like any of the new people that came to live on the place. They came and went – it’s a tough lifestyle.

Then this new fellow came along. He has family but lives in Charlie’s place alone. He likes it, a great place to retire he says. He had cleaned the place all up again, and has a nice garden. The other day he brought us a bag of apples from one of Charlie’s trees. They smell so good, they freshened up our whole apartment.

And Bear? Oh yeah, he’s still around. We were biking up and down the roads and we found a place where he had left a few plops and scratched off one side of a pine tree.  On trash day you can see where he has helped himself to the food-storage containers known as “flip top garbage cans.” But, he’s a smart enough bear to stay away from Charlie’s place, he knows when he’s met a bigger, meaner bear.