Megan’s Birthday

If it’s Memorial Day weekend (and it is), I must be back at the jobette and it must be Megan’s birthday.

I started working Saturdays again yesterday. The many people who have worked there since I (more or less) left have changed things around a lot, so it looks very different while still being familiar. My old desk has been relocated to what used to be the conference room, so I sat at a different one so the visitors could find me. It was really nice to talk to them and hear how magical they find it here.

I did not find the holiday traffic magical, however. The sides of the highway were a parking lot and zombie-like abalone divers were meandering across the road in droves. Fortunately for them we were driving around 40 mph. I could drive faster on the Ridge than I could on the highway for the most part. I have never ever seen Van Damme beach so packed with cars.

Stopping at the Gro on my way home, I ran into Dave and Jennifer, my siblings’ land partners. Dave was going fishing and Jennifer was dropping him off. It’s been a while since I’ve seen them due to their having family situations to deal with, so it was great to catch up and part ways with a hug and a kiss.

Arriving at the property, the birthday girl took me for a tour of the garden. Peas, onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, and tomatillos are flourishing. As for the orchard, I’m sorry to say that the late rains, besides depressing the pants off us and flooding everything, knocked off a lot of the apple blossoms, so it’s not looking like a great apple year.

On the other hand, the peaches are peaching nicely:

and the pears are on their way:

The strawberries have both flowers and fruit on them:

The netting is almost done over the cherry tree. It is in the corner since cherry trees do not play well with others. It too has fruit appearing on it. The elaborate netting dome is to let the birds know it’s not an all you can eat buffet:

Also flourishing is Jessica, whose hat was made just for her by her ever-creative mother:

She was very nice about letting her aged auntie take her picture, especially after I told her how fun it is to look back to posts when she was just a little kid. We are plotting sleepovers and movies for the summer. Under consideration are “Auntie Mame”, “Desk Set”, and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”. I’m also thinking “Desperately Seeking Susan” and “Practical Magic”.

I forgot to take a picture of the amazing dessert Erica made. It was a napoleon with puff pastry made from scratch, strawberries, and home-made caramel drizzle. It was outstanding. It vanished too quickly for me to get a photo, though. We all sang happy birthday despite the lack of candles.

At the end of the evening, Jessica asked to “escort fair Suzy to her car” and took my arm. I do love this tradition. She enhanced the experience by curtseying at the end of it. I sure love that kid. And my family and family of friends.

A YEAR AGO: My, what an industrious day I had!

FIVE YEARS AGO: I was heading to San Francisco, and Rob was coming home after losing his Mother.

Whether

“I’m the Whether Man, not the Weather Man, for after all it’s more important to know whether there will be weather than what the weather will be.” — The Whether Man, “The Phantom Tollbooth”

Well, our whether has varied widely over the past week.

Last weekend, it hailed up a storm – about half a dozen of them on the same day. Inside the house, the light had that eerie whiteness I associate with snowfalls back east, and I had the heater on all day (despite the horror of the $355 bill to fill the propane tank just days before). The cats were fascinated by the sound of it against the roof/walls, and I was fascinated by the look of it against the glass ceiling of the back “porch”:

dusting the scenic path to the compost pile:

and piled up in the potted plants by the side of the house:

It was almost as exciting as when it snowed a few years ago. When I went to bed that night, it was still piled up in the terra cotta pot.

Whereas this weekend, I have all the doors open in my little house and the sun is shining. The cats are scarce. I did a cursory inspection of the garden, and both the orchids and the tulips are budding, but not in bloom. Once again my tulip efforts can be rated a fail. I promise myself that I will plant them again in November to get flowers in February. Usually the orchids start blooming in February, so I have no idea why they are such slackers. Same goes for the camellias, which have steadfastly refused to bloom at all.

I will enjoy the sunshine and the break from the seemingly endless rain and try not to think about the horror of the time change. It was nice driving to work in the light while it lasted.

A YEAR AGO: A delightful bee-themed event at my friend Monica’s delightful shop.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A delightful visit from my friend and neighbor, Jim.

Muddy

I finally got around to clearing up the worst of the storm damage around my house.

Several good-sized limbs had been removed from trees, and a couple of smallish trees were uprooted. I dragged the corpses out of the way and into the remaining woods. I didn’t rake up all the smaller fallen pieces, though, because we all know that there are more storms and more mess to come.

Speaking of mess, the clean up process was rendered messier and more challenging by Mark’s latest project. For reasons unknown to me, but presumably known to Mark, he decided to dig trenches to bury the electrical lines:

in the rainiest part of the year. This does not seem like a great idea to me, but then my knowledge of both trench digging and electrical systems is limited at best.

Burying the electrical wires that festoon our houses and surrounding trees does seem like a good idea, though, since they a) look terrible and 2) are more likely to come down in a storm, leading to further power outages. So I am willing to put up with the extra muddiness:

for now. Hopefully the mud will be graveled over when the project is finished.

While I was out there, I took a peek at the rest of the garden. The daffodils are beginning to poke through the soil:

as are the tulips:

I think I planted the tulips too late again – I should have done it around Thanksgiving instead of Christmas. I always want them to bloom in February along with the daffodils, but they really show up around March. Though March is the secret winter month no-one ever talks about.

The camellias still don’t have flower buds. They have never bloomed. I must be doing something wrong here. The main point of having them is to have flowers in the winter. I should ask Lichen about this. On the bright side, though, both of the orchids have flower spikes:

so they should be blooming pretty soon.

All in all, the garden came through the storms pretty well. Hopefully the rest of the winter won’t be too bad.

A YEAR AGO: A couple of coincidences.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Gorgeous shoes to covet.

Hand Made

I saw a dream come true.

Years ago, my siblings scratched and clawed an epic 80 foot by 80 garden out of the pygmy and the scrub. The next year, they added an orchard, bringing the whole thing up to a palatial 13,000 square feet.

The orchard includes peaches, which is how you make the world’s most expensive peach pie, plums, cherries, Asian pears, and many different kinds of apples, which is how you make the world’s most expensive cider.

After years of pruning and care, the trees finally produced enough apples to be ciderized. There was some debate about when to pick them. Too early, and there wouldn’t be enough sugar. Too late, and they’d be falling off the trees and/or breaking branches because of the weight of the fruit. Eventually, the day came, and crates and crates were picked by hand.

Then our good friend Clayton came up with his trusty, theft-proofed van, which was loaded up with freshly-picked apples:

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and driven over to Rio’s new estate, which she could not have bought at a better time. Not only did it provide mountain lion free lodging for Clayton, it also provided the perfect venue for cider making.

We took over the studio building with the car port, setting up tables with cutting boards and knives off to the side, and the press itself in the place of honor in the middle.

We had a tub of water just outside. First you wash the apples in the water, then put them in buckets to bring them to the chopping block:

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It was sort of gourmet apple filling!

There the apples were chopped in half and put in bowls:

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eventually being tipped into the wooden hopper of the cider press and milled by hand:

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As a storm gathered its strength and started howling outside the carport, Jonathan observed that even if the power went out, no electricity was required, since every step of the process was done by hand, even wheeling the pomace to the compost pile:

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After the bucket was full of crushed apple, a wooden lid was fitted into it and it was pressed down to extract the rest of the juice:

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It took all day, but we pressed nearly 40 gallons. It was nice to think that we were doing it the same way it had been done for hundreds of years.

Jonathan saw it as a tribute to our English ancestry, since cider is such a tradition in our father’s homeland. I often used to drink cider with him at the pub with his old dog Jesse sleeping peacefully at our feet.

When we planted the orchard, we hoped that one day we would be able to make our own cider from our own apples, and that dream came true on a stormy Saturday, with all of us together, celebrating the past, the present, and the future, all together.

A YEAR AGO: Our good friend Paul was here. And I got up close and personal with my buddy, the Moon.

The Inconstant Gardener

hello
The Garden Says Hello
With the luxury of an extra (unpaid) day off, I decided to do a couple of things in the neglected garden.

Fortunately, it’s done pretty well without much attention other than watering, and probably not enough of that. The rust garden, for example, looks just fine:

rust
I snipped a couple of dead fans off the palms:

palm
I also cut back the hostas, so they will bloom again in the spring. I am still promising myself that I will put the special fertilizer on the camellias so they will bloom this winter.

In the meantime, the Egyptian lilies:

egyptian

and the geraniums are picking up their slack:

geramiums

The Japanese maples are still providing a splash of color:

maple

though I noticed the big green one is changing color and will soon be shedding its leaves. It’s hard to believe that winter is coming when it’s 90 degrees in your house, but when it get here, the 90 degrees will seem equally unreal.

A YEAR AGO: The times were a-changin’.

Garden Girls

dogsgarden
Enjoying the View

Saturday was a postcard day, one to gladden the hearts of tourists from anywhere – and they are from anywhere and everywhere. On my way to work that day, I saw plates from Alaska, Utah, Texas, Maine and Wisconsin, as well as the usual Oregon, Washington, and Nevada. There was even a lumbering RV from Ontario, which, my (un)usually polite Canadian friends, I’m sorry to tell you failed to pull over.

Megan picked me up from the jobette, and together we locked up the shop and then jumped into her little red car, where I was instantly swarmed by Star and Stella. Stella never gets too excited about anything, except food, glorious food, but she has seen Star go crazy over me so many times that she has decided that she should, too. There must be a reason for it if Star does it*. Just like if Star smells something carefully, Stella must also investigate it. And since no one is ever as happy to see me as Star is, there was a lot of wagging and petting and trying to climb into the front seat before we could set off to the beautiful Botanical Gardens.

I happened to have two free tickets, so we went right in and headed for the café, where they very kindly give canine visitors a spoonful of locally made ice cream. This policy was greeted with an enthusiastic two paws up from both dogs. When they had finished their ice cream – it’s always treats first in my world – we started down the path, admiring the dahlias:

dahlia

And the gate that Rob would love:

gate

We crossed a little stream:

stream

which wends past my late friend Joel’s memorial bench. Among his many talents, Joel was a Master Gardener and spent a lot of time in these Gardens. I helped his widower Jim choose the site for the bench after Joel’s sudden death, and I intended to take a picture of it, but we found that an older couple was resting on it with their dog at their feet, so I didn’t. But this is exactly what Jim and I hoped would happen, and I am looking forward to telling him about it when I see him next.

We meandered through the woods:

woods

and arrived at the ocean, which was looking its best that day:

ocean

At the jobette, I was always told that our Gardens were one of two in the entire country that had ocean access. I don’t know what the other one is, but I am glad this one is here. One of the nice things about the jobette is that the visitors remind me of what a beautiful and magical place I live in. Why, it even has a dragon:

There's even a dragon.

Though you aren’t allowed to sit on the dragon, you can pet him:

sign

As we made our way back to the car, we promised each other that we would visit again soon. The dogs agreed.

A YEAR AGO: Sigh.

*I was charmed to see that at one point when Stella was sniffing something, she lifted her right paw daintily and held it there, just like Schatzi used to. Star copied Schatzi and Stella copied her, and it’s nice to see that Schatzi still lives on in that way, at least.

Unexpected Beauty

This morning, as I emerged from the dark woods on the Ridge for my first view of the Pacific, there was a lone fishing boat with all its lights on, alone on the wide ocean in the early morning greyness, looking like a fallen star. There can be unexpected beauty in the world.

I planted the tulips too late last year, around Christmas (or maybe even New Year’s) instead of before Thanksgiving, so they bloomed in March instead of February, and bloomed long after lilacs, daffodils and magnolias, which just seemed wrong. And when they started to poke their green shoots up in their containers, I felt that I had planted them wrong, because one of the containers housed a single bloom:

tulips

But when it flowered, it was so beautiful that I realized it was perfect, just as it was, all on its own:

tulip

And speaking of perfect, Rob has done it again, creating a companion piece to his original shelves:

shelves

The cornices at the top match the original piece, as do the beveled edges of the shelves. I love how he used the speckly pieces of wood for the center of the sliding doors in the cabinet at the bottom. The whole thing has been sanded to a silky finish and waxed by hand. It may be the nicest thing in the house after the 250 year old grandfather clock.

I would stack up Rob’s work against any of the artists at the fine woodworking show we attended a couple of months ago (and which may have inspired him). He is a true artist.

I may be the world’s leading collector of his work. On my desk at work is a little ceramic purple box he made, which holds paperclips, and the dish in which I put my car keys and iPod when I come home from work is also a Rob original, as is the lovely fluted tray in the bathroom which holds the lotions and potions a girl needs to put her best face forward. Come to think of it, the entire bathroom, from its black and white tiled floor to its copper shower curtain is a Rob original, too.

A YEAR AGO A peek into Hooterville’s past.

Early Morning Rain

Hi! It’s 4:30 am! Want to take one guess why I’m up at this ridiculous hour?

You’re right. Of course it’s Audrey.

I tried to ignore her relentless pounding at the balcony door and the scritch of her claws against the glass of the sliding doors downstairs, but eventually, as she knew I would, I got up, put the outside lights on (go away, monsters!) and let her out in the storm that’s been battering the house since yesterday*, hoping that her stripy, featherweight body wouldn’t blow away. Possibly the wind wouldn’t dare to mess with her, though.

As I turned on the coffeemaker and the heater, I was thankful for the power still being on, a bet I would have lost. The winds were furious and the rain was slashing yesterday afternoon and into the evening. My friend and neighbor Jim said that one of his inside doors had slammed shut because of wind blasting through a dog door. Yikes.

So I went to bed resigned to waking up in the cold and dark, which I did, but not in the way I expected.

Um…thanks for the extra-long Sunday, Audrey?

There’s still a chance of a power outage as another storm is set to rage through here today, but I hope not. March has come in like a lion!

ocean
Stormy Ocean

My house has sprung a couple of new leaks, which I will have to tell Mark about. One upstairs, and one downstairs. The exact location of leaks can be complicated by the curved walls/roof.

Outside, the orchid has begun to bloom:

orchids

We are a little concerned about the orchard over at the family estate, though. There are blossoms on all the trees, so if the rain and wind blow them off, there will be a lot less fruit this summer. Hopefully our bees have been busy pollinating.

*Just emptied four inches of rain out of the gauge!

A YEAR AGO: March madness, in the hated form of Daylight Savings Time. Maybe all my complaining is finally paying off, because a San Jose assemblyman is planning to introduce a bill to Congress to end the madness. As the Beach Boys would say, wouldn’t it be nice?

Spring Preview

You guys! It was 70 degrees in Hooterville today!

It was warm enough to have the doors open(!), and the cats went out to play. In keeping with Clyde’s New Deal, he didn’t venture that far from the house, preferring to bask in the sun on the balcony or just outside the kitchen door, which suited his paranoid Staff just fine.

I took the opportunity to clear way some storm debris (I recently had to stop my car on the muddy driveway in the rainy darkness to clear a fallen tree so I could get to work) and fallen pine needles, and to look around and see what was going on. Usually, it’s dark when I leave for work and dark when I get home, so I don’t have a lot of opportunity to observe. On the other hand, this makes for some nice surprises.

The daffodils in the jasmine plant are blooming:

daffodils

It’s nice that they just keep coming back each year without me having to do anything, just like the rhododendrons.

The orchids have new flower spikes, in addition to the buds they already have:

orchid

Every year, I mean to take them out of the pots they have clearly outgrown, pull them apart, and discard the dead parts, but I never do, and they seem to bloom more every year and thrive on benign neglect, like the daffodils and the geraniums:

geraniums

The jasmine outside the kitchen door is beginning to leaf out, too. On a day like this, it’s easy to believe that spring is just around the corner. And since the groundhog didn’t see his shadow* this year, winter’s days (or weeks) are numbered.

* Love the outfits, especially the hats.

A YEAR AGO: The weather was a lot different. Stormageddon rolled through town, leaving a giant mess and powerlessness in its wake.

Silly Rabbit

Megan stopped by my house, saying, “Rob sent you a bunny,” which is not something you hear every day. I came downstairs to find a wonderful ceramic rabbit made in 1955 (the date is etched on the base):

rabbit1

He got it for $2 at a thrift store, knowing that it would both delight me and look perfect with the kitschy vintage animal planters on my balcony, and so it does:

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Rob and I share a certain aesthetic appreciation. 🙂

I didn’t plan it, but somehow I ended up with all these cute old planters up there:

planter

The top one is a little squirrel in a log, and underneath is another log with a saw, perfect for this area where logging is one of the biggest (legal) industries.

Here’s a look at the rest of the balcony:

balcony

It’s the perfect place to read and drink wine.

In addition to the rabbit, Megan also brought a plant called an anthurium. Lu bought it for my office, and said the heart-shaped flowers are to remind me that I’m loved. I wasted no time in bringing it to work, where it looks perfect with my filing cabinet garden:

plants

I bought the sea urchin planter when Megan and I took that Saturday off together a couple of weeks ago. I love it! I brought the old vase on the right from home. I like my office garden. I have a real garden outside my window, where the courtyard is beautifully landscaped and Fred the hummingbird visits me every day.

A YEAR AGO: Things were pretty much the same, with me working all the time and Megan at Reggae on the River.

Miscellaneous

More sweepings from the corners of my life…

On my way to the “gym*” today, I was startled to see Audrey sitting with Mark’s cat Coco on the driveway. They were about six inches apart, both sitting like companionable loaves of bread with all four paws tucked under. As soon as Audrey saw me, she took off in horror, like I’d busted her with a bong or something. It made me wonder about the secret lives of cats. Maybe she is so anxious to get out of the house in the morning because she has a play date with Coco. Or maybe it’s just her Audreyness. It would be fun to put little cameras on all three of the cats and see what they do all day.

comment: Edited by Paul Sherman for WPClipart, Public Domain

The drugstore is next to the tire store, so while Wednesday’s balding tires were being inflated and my wallet deflated, I stopped in to pick up some sundries. The UPS guy who delivers to the jobette was ahead of me in line, buying an outdoor couch**. I offered to help him load it into his truck, and we did just that. After all, he helped me to unload countless boxes during the good old jobette days. He says they miss me and it’s just not the same without me.

comment: Edited by Paul Sherman for WPClipart, Public Domain

Someone came by looking for Rose the other day. After nearly six years in her former home, I thought I was finished giving people the sad news, but apparently not. The visitor was as shocked and saddened as you’d expect. We chatted for a little while, and it turned out that he was from Wimbledon, where my father lived. He had lived here on the coast for a few years and returned to his native land due to family obligations. He said he’d love to move back here to this magical place.

comment: Edited by Paul Sherman for WPClipart, Public Domain

It’s been cloudy for what seems like weeks now, but not a drop of rain. It’s like Narnia when the White Witch was in charge: always winter, but never Christmas. Always grey, but no rain. Given the seemingly endless drought, I stopped by the nursery and picked up some succulents, in shades of red and purple, to brighten up the garden without depleting the water supply. The nursery owner told me that he had just done the very same thing at his home the day before. I think they will look nice when they spread out a bit.

*The “gym” being a place Mark built to be his office, but was taken over by his daughters as a hang out space. The treadmill and TV are there, too. Lately, I’ve been watching “Bewitched” while I’m on the treadmill and Lupe has a nap.

**People who live in other places might be surprised to learn that you can buy lawn furniture, cheap shoes, booze, and cigarettes in drugstores here. I was equally surprised to learn that you can’t in Michigan, where I had to walk several blocks in the stifling heat to buy some much-needed booze in Detroit.

A YEAR AGO: A lot of sadness.

Random Updates

You will be glad to hear that my back is back to its old and now much more appreciated self. I am still trying to remember to be nice to it to keep it in a good mood. A grumpy back is actually more fearsome than a grumpy Suzy. Imagine!

In addition to the temporary couch coma*, here’s what’s been going on around here:

  • So far, I have managed not to kill the new (to me) Japanese maple. I’ve been watering it every day for about three weeks, and so far, so good. It’s not showing any signs of trauma from being dug up, dragged here, and moved into a bag. I’m trying not to think about how sad it and the neighboring red Japanese maple will look in a couple of months when all the leaves fall off.
  • I had the bright idea of putting the cats’ dishes away when I went to the jobette or was otherwise out of the house all day. I’m sure this new policy was not popular with food fan Clyde, but I’m hoping it will be equally, or even more, unpopular with Yellow Cat. I figure if he slinks in there and finds it food free, he might cross us off his route. I think this evil plan has been somewhat successful, since on non jobette days over the past week, I’ve seen him only once, and he fled when he saw me. I kind of feel like a jerk, but I have a zero tolerance policy for bullying my kitties.
  • Wednesday had a vacation in Santa Rosa. The fix it lights came on yet again, and the car doctors here on the Coast judged the problem to be beyond their abilities. They recommended a place in Santa Rosa, where the mechanics not only figured out what was wrong with the car, but that the fix it was under warranty by Ford. So Wednesday got a whole new transmission on the house, saving me between $3-5,000 (not to mention $500 worth of rental car while Wednesday was in the shop). Apparently the problem is unusual so we should be good to go.

    Having said that though, today was the first time I had driven Wednesday around here since she got home from the Santa Rosa spa, and while enjoying the lack of lights on the dashboard and the ability to go around curves and uphill simultaneously without the engine jerk I had been suffering before the plastic surgery, I heard a loud BEEP and the low tire pressure notice and light came on.

    Sigh.

    I stopped in at the tire place on my way to work, and couldn’t get the key out of the ignition. The tire guy came over and I got out of the car and explained what was wrong. He reached in and took the key out. I asked him what he did, and he said that sometimes even when the car is in park, you have to push the gearshift forward a bit or the key is locked in the ignition. Apparently it’s a safety feature.

    Maybe I am as dumb as I am….

*While marooned on the couch, it occurred to me that I often wish I could just sit around on the couch all day when I have to go work and do other faux adult activities, and now when I could, all I wanted to do was…not. I guess part of it is my general perversity, and part of it is wanting to lounge when not drugged and damaged. Having wishes come true often seems to be more “Monkey’s Paw” than not.

Treed

I am marooned on my couch, hanging out with the lower back pain that showed up like an uninvited guest around dinner time yesterday and has refused to leave ever since. I have texted my boss at the jobette to let her know that I am not coming to work, and Megan to let her know that I have somehow damaged Self and could use some first aid after she caffeinates.

I’m not sure how I managed to do this, unless it was my unwise attempt to carry the outdoor table upstairs and onto the balcony. The plan was foiled by physics, since the curviness of the roof means that neither the glass door nor the screen door can be pushed back far enough to inveigle the table through the balcony door.

I puzzled ’til my puzzler was sore and Rob showed up. He assessed the situation and opined that making a pulley out of ropes and hauling it up that way was the way to go. Then he took the problematic table back downstairs.

He had not come over to solve my furniture problems or even work on the bathroom, but rather to bring me a tree.

Yes, a tree.

Ever since I moved up here, Rob and Megan have been planning to give me some trees in preparation for moving over to the family property. The trees are planted in giant containers owing to the poor quality of the soil around here, making them hard to move, especially if their roots have grown through the container.

But when there’s a Rob, there’s a way, and now there is a big green Japanese maple (complete with mini helicopters and Clyde on the right):

right near my medium red Japanese maple:

Rob says that the tree will be traumatized, since he had to cut some of the roots to move it, and that I should water it carefully. I hope it survives its transplant and will be happy here.

I haven’t done anything in the garden this year because of the drought. The beds by the shed in the front of the house are empty, and other than replacing the geraniums which were killed in the frost in December, I’ve just been trying to maintain what I have and try not to feel guilty about watering once or twice a week. So far so good as far as the well goes – let’s hope it keeps going well!

Field Trip

No sooner had last week’s heat wave finally abated than Megan and I chased it to Wilits, where the heat usually lives. Megan was questing for pepper plants and other things not readily available on the generally cool and breezy Coast. It’s a beautiful drive on highway 20:

This is looking west toward the coast from the 3,000 foot summit, where it sometimes snows in winter, as Megan can tell you from first hand experience, having driven a patient through blinding snow on that icy road in the deep country darkness back in the good old (bad old?) ambulance days. Even longer ago, it was a wagon route for the first settlers in this part of California.

Arriving in Willits, we made our way to the garden center, accompanied by Miss Stella. I was surprised and pleased by how much positive attention Stella received while we were in Willits. A guy on his way back to work at City Hall stopped to pet her, and she was welcomed at the garden center, where she relaxed in the greenhouse:

Many fellow shoppers took the opportunity to pet her, and Stella soaked up the attention as she always does. She loves town, and she loves attention. She also enjoyed the shade:

in a beautiful little tree-lined park in the historic downtown:

You wouldn’t be surprised to see Wally and the Beav chasing each other around in that park. It was like being in the past (one of my favorite places).

Megan was dissatisfied by the pepper plant selection at the first garden center, so we followed a local’s suggestion and visited a second nursery:

where Megan bought every pepper plant in sight and I amused myself by taking pictures of the quaint garden gate:

Megan didn’t really buy all the pepper plants, but she bought enough that they had to make extra beds for them and borrow all my leftover soil from last year to house them. I think there are 20 plants. We will be in pepper heaven this summer!

Eleven


Take that, 11!

Something about working on Saturday always makes me feel like I’m being punished. It’s like detention. No one else has to work but you! No wonder I love The Breakfast Club so much. Though it does beg the question of whether we really ever get out of high school.

Even though Friday’s fun factor has decreased precipitously now that work looms on Saturday, last Friday was a good one indeed – we celebrated Jessica’s 11th birthday three days after the actual event.

We all gathered at the family property, where I caught up on what was happening in the garden. The peach trees are covered in little peachlets, fuzzy little signs of pies to come:

Strawberries are beginning to blush from their beds at the foot of the fruit trees:

Our state flower, the California poppy, blazed in the afternoon sun:

Scout, Jonathan’s epically skittish mini-cat (she’s still about the size of a nine month old kitten), was brave enough to join the festivities:

You can only pet her inside Jonathan’s place, but actually hanging around the people was a pretty big step forward for her. We also got to watch her (unsuccessfully) stalking a quail, which was amusing for us, if not for Scout. She got a pulled pork consolation prize, though.

Lichen joined us for a delicious dinner ordered by the birthday girl: pulled pork with grilled onions and peppers, home-made salsa, black beans, and tortillas, followed by German chocolate cupcakes made by Erica and served in little pink fairy cups:

She caramelized the coconut in some kind of Indian sugar, as well as using chunks of pecans. it was amazing, like everything Erica makes – including Jessica. Erica collapsed in laughter when I said that Jessica was the logical outcome of Erica’s love of extreme crafting: “I’m going to make an entire human being! And she’s going to be awesome!” We all agreed that she is.

Jessica was delighted with her gifts: a chemistry set, the sequel to the Miss Peregrine book we gave her at Christmas, but best of all, the next book in Rick Riordan’s Olympus series, which doesn’t come out until October. Still, she is clearly enjoying the anticipation:

It seems that the BBQ season is officially open around here. We have Megan’s birthday coming up over Memorial Day weekend, and we will also have a June-a-palooza at some point since my birthday, Erica’s, Lu’s and Monica’s are all in that merry month. Lots to look forward to!

Volunteers

The other day, I spent a lot of time on the phone. More than I was expecting, though I did get a lot done.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t sit still when I’m on the phone. I’m always pacing around, and the lengthy phone time gave me a chance to discover a few things in the garden. Care to come along?

I was really surprised to see this stealth orchid in bloom. It has never bloomed before, and it managed to escape the frost death meted out to the orchid which usually blooms every year.

This sneaky plant sent its flower spike between a pipe and the wall of the house, coming into bloom right under the electric meter. When it finishes blooming – months from now – I will move it out so I can see it better next year. And make sure to bring both orchids in during cold snaps.

Directly under the stealth orchid is this plant with purple flowers. It may be an African daisy. You’d think I hadn’t been introduced to my garden, since I know so few of the plants’ names! Maybe I should ask Lichen to get us reacquainted. Name tags may be required.

There are a couple of volunteer plants who have moved in. I have no idea how they got there, but I’m glad they did. There is a hyacinth under the Japanese maple:

It smells intoxicating and I love the color.

Some shy violets have moved in with a mystery plant that looks like some kind of succulent. They also smell wonderful and have a beautiful color:

The camellias are in bloom now:

I’m glad I got different colors, and can’t wait until they are big bushes like the one I had in Oakland. It will be great to have some color in the winter.

Camellias were Coco Chanel’s favorite flower, and a motif that often appeared in her designs. The house of Chanel has kept up the tradition, and I love the rain boots:

They’d be sort of practical for muddy, rainy Hooterville winters, right?

The dual time zone watch on the other hand…

Definitely not.

Signs of Hope

We did get a little more rain – a peek at the rain gauge shows about an inch, and a peek at the weekly paper shows about 13 inches for the season, which is half of what we had at the same time last year. The so called heavy rain predicted for yesterday never did come true.

I woke up to a chilly house this morning, which I knew meant it would be clear today, with the duvet of clouds removed, and so it is. The frogs are singing joyfully in their appreciation of the rain, which I love to hear.

I swept up a passel of feathers which had mysteriously appeared under the stairs, though there was no sign of their (former?) owner. How did that happen? When I went out to toss the feathers into the woods, I noticed that there are some signs of hope in the garden, despite the destruction of the frost and the drought.

The honeysuckle by the kitchen door is beginning to sprout little green leaves, sparkling with rain:

I cut back the Red Dragon plant outside the “front” door only to discover new leaves growing deep inside:

I cleared away the fallen pine needles, pine cones, and other debris to encourage the little leaves. The state of my usually cheerful geraniums was particularly depressing – black, rotted leaves and spongy stems – but apparently if the roots are healthy, they will come back in the spring. I hope so.

On my way back into the house, I noticed that the camellia bush is budding and should be flowering soon:

Here’s hoping for more rain, and more flowers!

Rain at Last


It’s raining petals

We got about six inches of rain since I last checked in with you. It was wonderful to hear the rain pattering against the roof/walls in my little house. You could practically hear the garden saying “Aaahhh….”, even though it still looks pretty terrible*. The power even stayed on!

The kitties were less delighted than I was, coming home soaked to the skin with their fur all spiky, except, of course, for Audrey, who has the ability to come in out of the pouring rain with magically dry fur. Roscoe got bored with the rain and napped, whereas Clyde perched on the porch and watched the weather for a while before giving up and joining his brother in a rainy day snooze.

The dogs hated the rain even more than the cats. And Stella finds the rain even more objectionable than Star does, which I didn’t think was possible. Megan literally had to drag them outside. As far as they were concerned, the call of nature could stay on hold or go straight to voicemail. I still remember how Schatzi actually pretended to pee once when I was taking care of her one stormy winter night in San Francisco so that she could go back inside.

Unlike the cats, the dogs were bored out of their minds, while refusing to go outside and play. Megan took advantage of breaks in the downpour to take them out, but another storm is slated to move in tonight or tomorrow and last for a few days. I don’t think Star and Stella will greet the next downpour with the same enthusiasm as their Staff.

*Basically whatever the bitter cold snap didn’t ruin, the drought did. When the County is asking everyone to cut back on water usage by 20%, you can’t really justify watering your garden, no matter how sad it looks. I was planning to do more in the garden this year, but it looks like that will have to be on hold unless the weather changes dramatically.

2013

I’m ending the year the same way I started it – in my beloved San Francisco. This was a banner year for trips to the City: 9, an all-time high since moving to Hooterville four years ago. There was a lot more travel this year, some less fun (Atlanta) than others (LA).

This was a year full of endings and beginnings. I finally got divorced after almost a decade of being separated. While it was good to get the formalities out of the way after a long separation, it was still sad to put “The End” on our story. I am grateful that John and I are still friends and have many happy memories of our many years together. I did not manage to stay out of court, though on an unrelated matter. Summertime subpoenas have to stop! New year’s resolution: a subpoena- and court-free year.

The loss of our beloved Schatzi cast a shadow over the latter part of the year, a loss that resonates through every day, though I am thankful she was in our lives as long as she was. She was an unforgettable gift.

A new dog found her way into our lives (temporarily) at the Christmas season, when we were least looking for one, in the form of Stella the foster dog. There is no better way to honor our Schatzi than by rescuing another dog.

I said goodbye to my battered old car Miss Scarlett and said hello to a newer, fancier one, which took some getting used to.

I started my moments. This was inspired by a friend who writes down something funny or beautiful or delightful that happens to her each day on a slip of paper and then puts it in a jar. At the end of the year she reads all the slips of paper and remembers all the great things that happened.

This was fun to do for a year and a good exercise in much needed-discipline. It really made me appreciate the small moments every day: cuddling with the cats; the sun setting over the Pacific; a spider web jeweled with dew.

Favorite books of the year: Ann Leary’s The Good House, a great portrait of small town life; and the utterly poetic Ordinary Grace. I also read two outstanding books about Detroit, a place near and dear to my heart – Detroit: An American Autopsy and Detroit City Is the Place to Be. The charasmatic Charlie LeDuff, the author of “Autopsy”, also showed the equally charasmatic Anthony Bourdain around Detroit on an episode of “Parts Unknown”, which is well worth watching.

I only read 83 books this year, a significant drop from last year’s 103, a continuing decline which I attribute to the more work, less fun aspect of the new (though not improved) economy.

Rainfall for the season: 5.14 inches. Last year at this time: 24.20. The drought is getting alarming. January and February of 2013 were the driest in recorded history in California. People in the Village are having water delivered!

No power outages so far this season. None! There were 6 at this time last year.

Here’s what happened to our heroine this year:

January:

Started the year off right by heading to San Francisco. Got a new look for my old car and a new iPhone (which has yet to ruin and/or take over my life, possibly due to the lack of cell service here). Wednesday was also Weirdsday. However, Friday was Funday. Yet another trip to San Francisco, this time for (mostly) professional reasons. Royal Treasures of the Louvre at the Legion of Honor. An epic day to get my photo taken for my work website. Spoiler alert: I hated the finished product, although my hair looked awesome.

February:

The cats react to a visiting chicken. An update on Archi, The World’s Cutest Puppy. Beautiful woodworking. Scout’s vet adventure. My intrepid brother takes a Polar Plunge.

March:

Schatzi gets a check-up. Little did we know it would be her last one and that we only had five months left with our beloved girl. Divorce and taxes. Why not? Dad’s birthday. First day of spring. Working on the endless divorce paperwork. A lovely trip to the South Coast.

April:

A late season storm. Haiku. Jessica turns ten! In San Francisco. Breakfast at Swan Oyster Depot. There isn’t a better start to the day. My welcome home included a screen door on the sleeping loft balcony, which has made life about 1,000% better. Thank you, Rob! Jessica’s birthday BBQ. More divorce paperwork, with moral support from my sister. An evening at the theatah.

My blog also turned twelve on April 20, though I failed to note the fact. Sorry, little blog!

May:

Amazing woodworking show. A walk with Star and drinks with Monica in Little River. Birth of an orchard. An early birthday celebration for Megan. A delightful dinner with delightful friends. The end (almost) of the decayed old hot tub. Needless to say, the motor is still there. Megan’s actual birthday, complete with a hand-made picnic table and a daring cliff rescue, both courtesy of our intrepid brother.

June:

Birthday baseball in beautiful San Francisco. Impressionists on the Water at the Legion of Honor. Back home for my birthday BBQ. Monica’s birthday party.

July:

A cavalcade of health problems: Megan’s flu; Jessica’s broken leg; Clyde’s mystery illness. Everyone on the mend. Thinking about summers past. The truth about Schatzi. Wedding plans and peaches.

August:

A lovely stroll with Star and my sister. A frantic Friday. Clyde meets the mysterious Slobber Monster. Megan takes care of the patient. The devastating loss of our much loved Schatzi. A day at the beach with Star. The twelfth anniversary of our adored father’s sudden death. I will never stop missing him until I catch up with him. How to make a really expensive peach pie. A beautiful, joyous wedding. A surprise in the mail – and at the door.

September:

Celebrating our incredible brother’s birthday. A long drive to Reno. Enjoying the spa. Back home in the fresh air! Megan’s last gift to her beloved girl. The County fair. The wonder of a south coast safari. A look around a delightfully eccentric local town.

October:

Last minute car repair before heading to San Francisco. My divorce becomes final as I drive across the Golden Gate Bridge. A soirée in the Village. Audrey does not enjoy her visit to the vet. A local landmark reopens. An epic journey to Los Angeles. The delights of Santa Monica. The glamor of Hollywood. A fascinating tour of downtown LA. A virtual walk with Megan and Star at Big River.

November:

A happy Halloween. A quick trip to Atlanta. The delights of Hockney and Bulgari at the De Young – not to mention the view from the top. A late season barbecue with family and friends. The beginning of the end of Miss Scarlett. Thanksgiving preparations.

December:

Thanksgiving recap. A conference starring my boss. So proud! A long and busy day. The end of the road for Miss Scarlett. ~sob~ Of frozen pipes and Christmas trees. Puppies! And meeting Stella. A surprise dinner and a play for our nephew, Jarrett. A brand new (well, to me) car! Working hard – or hardly working? A merry Christmas.

Thanks for coming along with me on another year of adventures, great and small. I wish you all a joyful and healthy new year!

‘Tis the Season


Inland snow

The record-breaking cold snap is finally beginning to lose its grip, though it’s still a lot colder than it should be. It’s beginning to feel like the White Witch is running things around here – always freezing, no rain. At least it’s stayed above freezing the past couple of nights and the pipes have stayed unfrozen, which is the way I like them.

Yesterday I took a walk around the garden and I must say it was dispiriting. Anything that wasn’t zapped by the extended deep freeze had been eaten by Mark’s rabbit. I’m finding it a lot less cute right about now. At least the indoor paper whites are beginning to bloom.

As for the Christmas tree, every morning I collect the ornaments from the floor and put them back on again. Maybe the woodland theme was an especially bad idea. Today I found all of the acorns on the floor, and most of the snowflakes had fallen, not as pretty a sight as the picture above, taken in the county seat last Friday.

It seems that I forget every year about the cats’ propensity for playing with ornaments and attempting to take down the tree until it’s too late. Then it’s a six week battle until I put the tree and ornaments back in the box, swearing never to do this again. And just plain swearing.