Megan’s Birthday

Megan is so special and her birthday is so special that we celebrated it twice – last week, and on her real birthday, this past Saturday.

In the interim between the two barbecues, my brother had not been idle. He made a Waltons sized picnic table:

I mentioned that seeing him working on the table reminded me of Dad, and he said that this was the kind of carpentry Dad really enjoyed: making something useful and practical. He built bookshelves in every house we ever lived in, and Megan still has – and uses – the coffee table he made when she was a baby.

My brother wasn’t idle on Megan’s birthday, either. A woman fell about 55 feet from a cliff and Jonathan and his fellow firefighters rushed to the rescue. The woman had multiple fractures but was otherwise in pretty decent shape. Jonathan got to package her up and see her helicoptered away, and then got to be helicoptered up himself “at the end of a string”, as he put it, but really in harnesses and other safety gear:

He loves this and says it’s a good day when helicopters are involved.

Megan was busy rescuing me, unbeknownst to me. She came over to my house to pick up barbecue supplies while I was at the jobette, and discovered Clyde with an undead rabbit in the living room. The rabbit clearly wasn’t going to survive, so she dispatched it (I didn’t ask how and I still don’t want to know), putting the poor thing out of its misery and me out of the misery of finding rabbit bits all over the house.

I know it’s their nature, but I can’t help being horrified when the cats show up with birds and bunnies. I find it hard to reconcile the cuddly Clyde I love with the murderous beast he appears to be outside, though perhaps that’s what you get for naming your cat after one of America’s most (in)famous desperadoes.

Meanwhile, back at the birthday BBQ, Jonathan surprised Megan with a Swiss Army knife – equally useful to gardeners in the rugged environs of Hooterville as in the Alps (do the Swiss actually have an army?) and by replanting her grandiflora magnolia tree onto the family property:

Lichen the professional landscape gardener supervised the transplant, and the tree looks pretty happy there.

I gave Megan a dog DNA kit so she can finally find out what Schatzi is, before it’s too late. The Schatz is over 15 years old now, and some days her legs look pretty draggy, but on the whole she is hanging in there in her stoic Schatzi manner.

Erica and Jessica were there, and our friend Carrie from Oakland, as well as couple of Jonathan’s friends from the fire department, and it was so fun to eat at the big picnic table, talking about old memories and making new ones.

Hot Tub Time Machine

Faithful readers know that the decaying and useless hot tub has been a bĂȘte noire for me since I first moved into my little house in the pygmy woods nearly four years ago. The rest of the garden looks pretty nice after years of work, but then you have this eyesore in the middle:

The boys deemed it unfixable, which is saying something, and showed me the somewhat alarming Jamesification that heated the water (open gas flame inside a wooden structure, anyone?). I talked to Mark about it before he left for his year on the East Coast, but there were a lot more pressing problems to deal with. But one day I came home and found that the hot tub had (mostly) been removed.

The motor is still left, since Mark’s envoy wasn’t sure if it was hard wired or otherwise too dangerous to yank out. Someone is supposed to come and look at it sometime and take it away, at which point I will put the glass table with its umbrella and chairs there. Hopefully I can convince the long-suffering Rob to get rid of the post and I can get rid of the path to nowhere. I might have get a little more gravel, but on the whole, it’s less of a mess:

You can tell the cats are thinking, “Where’s our couch?” and “I’m pretty sure there used to be something here to jump onto.” Here you can see Clyde visibly wondering what the hell:

Surprisingly, they are able to jump to the ground or into one of the chairs from the (slippery) glass rooflet on the back porch.

Cats are amazing.

In other hot tub news, my brother went all the way to Willits to acquire a second hand and reasonably-priced Japanese wood-fired hot tub called a Chofu. Like tofu, only not gross. Since space is at a premium in Japan, the unit which holds the logs is very small, but well insulated and efficient. The tub is big enough to hold four people and overlooks the palatial garden. As you can imagine, it’s a favored place to hang out and relax after hours of working on said garden.

Delightful Dinner


I just adore a harbor view!

I had the best time on Monday night!

I met my friend Janice and her daughter Julie for dinner. Julie lives in the next county to the north of us, so they stopped off to see Me on their way. Julie also inspired me to start the project of writing down something that delighted or amused me every day, which you can find here.

We had dinner at the bistro near the jobette. The food was delicious, but the company was outstanding. Janice and Julie are both so smart and funny and have led such interesting lives (example: Janice spent two years as a paralegal researching the Ted Bundy case and met him several times. He sent her Christmas cards! Oh, and she called up Claus Von Bulow and actually got him to answer questions about his case over the phone).

A friend of Julie’s stopped by the table, and when I introduced myself, he asked me if I was related to Dad. Turns out that he himself also worked on getting DDT banned back in the 1970s along with my father, and is an expert on the snowy plover. As if that weren’t enough, he also knows Bob R., a family friend I have known since I was a child and another scientist. I had just had an email from him a few days earlier, and my brother stayed with him when he first moved to California. Small world!

Before I knew it, more than three hours had passed and it was dark outside.

I was sorry to say goodbye to these lovely ladies, but I know we will meet again when Janice next visits, or maybe even sooner since Julie lives in the same town as Jarrett and Megan and I have been talking about going up there this summer.

I was glad that I’d booked a room at a hotel in town so I didn’t have to drive all the way back to Hooterville. In the morning, I was greeted by the lovely view above from my balcony, where I had coffee after sleeping in, since I could get to the jobette in about two minutes instead of forty. It was like a mini-vacation!

Better Early Than Never


America’s Next Top Model

The week may have started out on a sour note, but it ended on a sweet one.

Megan’s birthday is next Saturday, but we celebrated her birthday yesterday. Our friends Rik and Lu, who are both EMS workers, are so busy that it’s hard to find a day when they are both available, especially once summer starts and they start being the medics on hand at festivals and events all over Northern California. They also spent a month in Honduras this spring, helping out as volunteers at clinics in remote areas.

Since they were available on Friday, Friday it was. Monica and her husband Joe (he’s in the background of the picture of Jessica) came, as well as Erica, Jessica, Lichen and Phoebe, and we all had a wonderful time.

Lu and Rik had raised a couple of pigs which were slaughtered a few weeks ago, so they brought ribs and pork burgers. I usually don’t eat pigs due to humane reasons and environmental ones – and living half a block from an overly active abbatoir for a few years, especially in the summer, didn’t help matters – but I found myself unable to resist. Everything smelled and looked delicious, and I knew they had been raised kindly and without pesticides and antibiotics, so I indulged. I don’t know what Rik spiced the burgers with, but they were the best burgers I have ever had.

Besides the porkapalooza, we had barbecued shrimp for which I made charmoula sauce, and Megan made grill bread. Lu brought her famous salad of quinoa, spinach, red onions, almonds, mint, cilantro and lemon dressing, and Monica brought a lovely caprese salad with heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil and mozzarella.

You’d think that would be enough, but Jonathan* made a pie from the strawberries he picked from the garden that very day:

Erica brought graham crackers which she made from scratch that day – only Erica would actually make graham crackers – and marshmallows, which she made with chocolate nibs embedded inside them. Again, only Erica. We toasted the marshmallows over the fire and spread them on the graham crackers for instant s’mores.

We sat around the fire laughing and talking as the dogs romped around the garden and the sun set behind the trees. It couldn’t have been a more perfect evening.

*He was wearing a t-shirt that read “You can’t trust atoms. They make up everything”.

13th of Never

Well, yesterday wasn’t Friday the 13th, but it was Monday the 13th. And we all know Mondays are worse than Fridays!

Things were crazy at the jobette. We sent out ballots for Board nominations last week, and this week people started calling to complain about not getting theirs, or not getting enough, or something. Anything. In all cases, they were wrong and we were right, but this is not much consolation after being called “incompetent” and other lovely adjectives. I mean, I am, just not in this particular case.

A woman also called to complain about a fortune teller in the Village. She and her husband were visiting for his 70th birthday and decided to stop in and see a psychic. According to this visitor, the seer was “verbally abusive” and told them they should get divorced immediately. The visitor said that she and her husband have been married for 44 years and took exception to this suggestion. “I mean, I didn’t expect her to sugar coat it, but this was insulting!” I ended up giving her the contact information for the county entity which issues business licenses (do psychics have licenses?) and the Better Business Bureau. I wasn’t clairvoyant (or competent) enough to think of anything else.

A guy drifted in saying that he had been released from the jail in the county seat that day and hitchhiked here. He was looking for a private investigator and a lawyer to help him with the restraining order which had been issued against him. I suggested that he check with the police station and the court clerk, conveniently located in the same building. He said that he had to check in with the police anyway, so I guess that worked out. I am a little uncomfortable with my growing familiarity with restraining orders and other depressing legal proceedings. My neighbor is in the midst of dealing with such problems, and we as a family are trying to help her to the best of our ability, but there’s no doubt that it’s upsetting. I definitely think ignorance really is bliss.

I had a few work-related errands to do on the way home, and when I finally got there, the Leafs were ahead of the Boston Bruins by 4 goals to 1 in Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs. The Leafs haven’t won Lord Stanley’s coveted Cup since 1967, thus achieving the longest drought by any championship team in the NHL while simultaneously being the most valuable, earning more than $1 billion last year. They haven’t even made the playoffs in 8 years, so the fact that they were still in there fighting and had actually forced a game 7 against the Cup winners of 2010 was huge and inspiring. By the time I had taken off my make-up, gotten changed, fed the kitties, started dinner, and, more importantly, poured myself an adult beverage, Boston tied the game in the last 90 seconds of the third period. Boston went on to win in heart-breaking overtime, and I’m still stunned.

The imperfect end to an imperfect day.

Working on a Dream

“I’m working on a dream
Though sometimes it feels so far away
I’m working on a dream
And I know it will be mine someday”
— Bruce Springsteen, “Working on a Dream”

You’d think that last year’s garden building extravaganza would have tuckered my siblings out, and that all they’d want to do this year is hang out in the palatial 6,400 square foot garden with an adult beverage or two. Instead, they decided to build an orchard next to the garden.

You remember the drill, right? Your machinery-wielding friend comes and digs up the unyielding soil:

Then you remove all the root balls by hand and import truckloads of real dirt and dig holes for the new trees:

I “helped” by digging the last two holes. One was way too deep and other wasn’t wide enough.

Megan and Rob moved two of their apple trees over to the new orchard. Here you see the boys working on the problem of getting the trees from the truck into their new homes:

And here’s one of the trees after replanting. You can see that it’s covered in a lichen called “Old Man’s Beard”, a relative of the famous Spanish Moss one sees on trees in the South. This particular lichen is extremely sensitive to air pollution, so you can see that the air in Hooterville is pretty clean:

After that, it was time to spread hay all over and seed it with vetch to keep the dirt from blowing away in the dry summer months:

They also installed a drip system, since hand watering 19 trees is too onerous a task, even for them.

Yes, 19 trees, including various apples, Asian pears, regular pears, cherries, plums, and peaches. The trees started flowering in February, to the delight of the bees on the property:

It’s been deer- and rabbit-fenced, but it will have to be electrified at some point to discourage marauding bears from raiding the fruit.

Whenever I hear Bruce Springsteen sing “Working on a Dream”, I think of my hard-working siblings and the dream they are making into reality.

Drinks & Death


Evening at the historic Little River Inn

I’ve been so busy with one thing and another that I totally forgot my own blog’s 12th birthday on April 20. Not to mention Star’s 5th birthday on Cinco de Mayo (5/5). Happy belated birthday to both of us!

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On Friday, Monica texted me to suggest that Megan and I meet her for a drink that evening at Little River Inn. I checked with Megan and she was free, so we went to town and ran some errands and then headed to Little River.

Miss Star had come along for the ride, so we took her for a walk in the cemetery before we met Monica. We waved at our brother, who passed us as we were getting Star out of the car. I think it’s a very pretty place:

It’s not very big, but it’s peaceful and dotted with very old stones. You can walk all the way to the ocean if you know where to go. On this occasion, we just wandered around closer to the road since we didn’t have a lot of time before meeting Monica.

This stone commemorates someone with the remarkable name Dreeme Life Ball:

He or she died in 1917, so it’s not (as you might think) a hippie name. The stone bears the lovely inscription “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” Tied for coolest name in the graveyard is Haskett Severance. I like the wheat sheaf:

Sadly, this lovely rose-carved stone commemorates Haskett’s only daughter, Mary Ella, who was only 16:

At the bottom of her stone, it touchingly reads “Though lost to sight, to memory dear.”

The Bretts, whose tomb is quite magnificent, lost all five of their children in the 1800s:

It must have been pretty hard up here in pioneer days. Sometimes I think about how it must have been for families back then. It’s still a relatively isolated area.

It was time to meet Monica, so we loaded Star back in the car and headed to the historic Inn. We perched at the bar and ordered drinks: a mojito for Megan and a Margarita for me. Monica soon joined us, and it was great to catch up on each other’s news and spend some time together.

As we headed home in the fading evening sun, I thought about how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place, and to have such good friends- one of which is my sister,

A Hot Time in the Big Town

Well, the heat wavelet turned out to be wishful thinking. We’ve been blasted by temperatures in the high 80s for the past four days, which is about four days too long.

True, we don’t have the bone-crushing humidity they have back East, and unlike that side of the country, it actually cools down at night to about 45 or 50 degrees. This should be good for sleeping, but when you live in a house shaped like an upside down rowboat, the heat congregates up in the pointy part, which is where I (try) to sleep. It throws a pretty smokin’ party up there and tends to multiply. You know how some parties can be.

Though thankful for the screen door Rob installed (and not a moment too soon) and having a fan up there, it’s been pretty hard to sleep for the past three nights. I’ve gone through a three pound bag of ice in as many days.

It’s nearly impossible to get an accurate weather forecast, partly because of the many microclimates and partly because we live in such an obscure corner of the world, but it appears that the heat is going to be moving on tomorrow, though it may just be more wishful thinking on my part.

On Thursday, Megan, Rob and I sweated our way to the Big Town for the open house at the fine woodworking school. You may recall how impressed I was by the show in February, and I was excited about sharing it with them.

We were warmly greeted by the students, and Rob, a former carpenter and wood worker himself, had some good conversations. I was pleased to meet the creator of my favorite piece from the earlier show, the delightfully named Sarah Marriage, and tell her how much I love her roll top desk:

I was completely enchanted by these lamps:

They would look perfect on my curved walls, don’t you think?

I was charmed by this curvaceous chair:

This spectacular table was made of madrone, a local wood, and jarrah, a member of the eucalyptus family, which was new to me:

The cutting board on the table has a note explaining that it was made of “wood found in the firebox”. Nice use of scraps:

Behind the school were the mock ups, or drafts, of the beautiful finished work. It was fun to see them:

We also admired the view:

There’s a stream and in the distance you can almost see the trestle the historic Skunk Train passes over. It’s a beautiful setting for a building full of beautiful things.

Megan and Rob enjoyed the show as much as I did, and we had a lot to talk about as we headed to the local brewery’s Tap Room & Grill for dinner. We discovered that the menu had changed quite a bit, but I enjoyed my Carolina BBQ and Rob his fish and chips. Megan was a little less enthused with her pizza, but we had a good time together and enjoyed the cool of the restaurant and the iced tea.

After dinner, we got some handmade local ice cream. Of course, we didn’t forget Miss Star, who enjoyed her little scoop of vanilla hugely:

After that, we headed home in the setting sun, replete with a good dinner and a happy evening together.

Heat Wavelet


Shadows

It was hot’n’heinous yesterday and slated to be the same today. This is an unusual (I hope) phenomenon here on the Coast.

It was 85 degrees when I got home around 6:00 last night, just in time to witness the Leafs lose their first playoff game in 8 years in a spectacular fashion. Good thing I stopped at the store for a bag of ice (and Otter Pops) on my way home, so I could put ice in my drink. It melted almost as quickly as I did.

I was very thankful for the screen door Rob installed for me. It still needs a doorknob and a real fastener, but I got a hook and eye and screwed them in. So far it’s keeping the door closed at night. I may be jinxing myself here, but the cats have pretty much ignored it so far, which I find sort of astonishing. I had expected Audrey to be crawling up it and clawing at it immediately. Last night she slept on top of the armoire, which is door (and breeze) adjacent, the clever girl.

It had been a fun day at the jobette. I chatted with a woman who had been a real, live Pan Am stewardess! I told her how much I loved the wonderful, glamorous, far too short-lived show, and she said that the reality was actually much more glamorous. How awesome is that? She said they stayed in the best hotels and had the best of everything, even though they weren’t paid that much.

The political intrigue and drama on the show was accurate, too. She was boarding a flight in Teheran (the friend who got her started as a stewardess was the personal flight attendant for the Shah) when the guy behind the desk took her passport and told her she couldn’t leave the country. She noticed that a Swissair flight was boarding, so she went to their desk and explained the situation. The Swissair guy told her to get on the flight to Geneva and he would get her passport to her. She did so, and just before the door closed, a hand appeared with her passport, which was given to the head flight attendant.

Talking to people and learning their stories is probably my favorite part of the jobette. And I continue to be amazed by how many exceptional people are attracted to this little corner of the world.