Monday, October 31, 2011

Poppy Planting

Bruce and I had a short (but fabulous) trip up to Big Trees State Park yesterday.  More on that later. 

On the way out, I did something that I want to do every autumn -- I planted wild California poppy seed at the foot of the foot of the sign to our subdivision. 

It's just a question of scattering the seed and lightly raking it in.  We'll see what happens -- I plant these things everywhere on our property and sometimes they grow successfully and sometimes they don't. 

This sign area looks like a place where poppies would do well.  Come spring, we'll know.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Another Sign

Here it is; the top contender for Calaveras County's most bizarre sign.

It's on a ranch gate right on Hwy 4 between Copperopolis and Angels Camp.  There's a fair amount of traffic on this road, and I can only imagine what the passing tourists must think as they drive by.  For locals like us, who see it on a regular basis, it no longer merits even a second glance.  Unless, of course, that local is me. 

This afternoon I got Bruce to pull over as we were returning from grocery shopping.  I took this pic from the safety of the car, but the sign sang its siren song and I had to get a closer shot.  So, intrepid photographer that I am, I got out and walked over to the gate with my camera.  Click.  Then I hightailed it back to the car.  I don't think it would do to loiter in front of this sign; passing motorists might get the wrong idea.

We also passed this huge flock of turkeys on the road by our house.  We hadn't seen this bunch for a few weeks and I worried that something had happened to them.  I'm happy to see them all happy and healthy.  But Thanksgiving's coming up, and they'd do well to be a little less conspicuous.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Lettuce Eaters

Is frenetic a word?  I think it is...rushed; hurried; overly active.  In a word: me.  End of the trimester; benchmark tests; report cards; parent conferences; Harvest Festival; Red Ribbon Week; Halloween; science lesson study; curriculum council.  I come home with stacks of schoolwork and spend time in the evening answering emails.  Even when I sleep, most nights I dream about school.  School follows me home each night like never before.

Autumn floats in to Frogpond; languid; ready to slow down the year; making preparations to settle in for a long winter nap.  I'm really making an effort this year to take the time to participate in the day-to-day changing of the season.  I deliberately set school aside.

This evening I went out (glass of wine in hand) and fed lettuce to the African Geese.  It used to be just them that enthusiastically wolfed down their greens.  The ducks, Chinese Geese and chickens sort of milled around wondering what all the fuss was about.  They occasionally half-heartedly pecked at a leaf, but that was about it.  Then, one day, they decided that lettuce actually was edible.

This is what it looks like now when I throw lettuce out to the African Geese.  They are right there, the first ones chowing away, while the other birds watch and ponder on if lettuce is really food. 

One or two of the brighter bulbs will remember that they like lettuce, and decide to give the green stuff a try. 

Everyone else takes note.  And thus commences yet another feeding frenzy.   

Entertainment: Frogpond style!

At this point it's time for me to come clean and admit that one of our ducks is setting on a nest of eggs in stall number 3 in the barn (the same stall that Arlo and Seal sleep in at night).  We didn't discover this until she'd been brooding for several weeks, so we let her be.  This afternoon Mama Duck was off the nest, so I was able to count the eggs.  Nineteen.  Heaven help us.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Season Ambiguity

Right now, October 25, in Copperopolis, CA we're not quite sure if it's summer or autumn.  I love this "betwixt and between" time, when the old season's still hanging on for dear life and the next season hasn't quite yet committed to jumping in with both feet. 

The nights are getting cool (in the 40's), but the days are still heating up to the high 70's and low 80's. The horses are growing their fuzzy winter coats, but are sweating under their fur suits by the end of the day.  Cosmos and zinnias are still bravely sending out new blooms, but the tupelo trees are turning up the volume with leaves turning bright crimson, orange and magenta shades.  A mama duck is sitting on eggs, waiting patiently for the miracle of new life, while the whooping cranes fly overhead in their "v" formations, whistling that summer is over - call it a day.  On Sunday I had to change into shorts because I got so hot while outside planting wildflowers.  Today I wore a jacket to school because it was nippy out when I opened the door in the morning.  Season ambiguity -- I do like it.

Aurora Borealis:
photograph by Jonathan Stone; Alabama


This evening on the way home I heard a report on NPR about a rare and magnificent display of Northern Lights that just occurred and was visible as far south as Georgia.  The sky shimmered red and green for over 20 minutes, much to the delight of the local astronomers.  

Now I wish that our season included such glories.  I want Northern Lights here, right along with our pomegranates and late sunflowers!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Little Bear's Off to Maryland

At last we got James' Yosemite bear squared away for his trip to Maryland (OK, I was in charge of tying the ribbon around his neck and Bruce did everything else).  I know that the little guy looks serious in this picture, but he's really excited about belonging to his own boy.  He's up for the challenge! 

Here's my own sweet childhood bear, Bearlie.  I got him in Austria when I was three years old and we traveled across the Atlantic Ocean together when we came back to this country.  Bearlie's been with me for the majority of my life -- he never said much, but always was my steadfast companion.  He saw me through my rough teen years (which was no mean feat) and the sorrow that came when I divorced. Nowadays, he's taken up residence with the other stuffed animals on the center shelf of our walk-in bedroom closet.  I like seeing him sitting up there every morning as I start my day.
It's hard to explain, and is something that isn't much understood in our culture, but this bear still means a lot to me.  A friend is a friend.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


So I had this incredible technicolor, high definition dream last night.  I was wandering through the old streets of Rome, gazing down all the mysterious sidestreets, gawking at the ruined temples, the statues looming out of the dark, and the fountains in ancient courtyards.  I was having a fabulous time.  And then my dream-self suddenly stopped and thought, "I need to be taking pictures of all of this so I can post it on my blog." Naturally, the next part of my dream involved fruitlessly backtracking in my efforts to find where I'd left my camera.  Finally, my frustration grew so great that it woke me up.

I lay there, half asleep, in the darkness of the very early morning for a few minutes thinking about this incredibly vivid dream.  I thought it amusing that I'd hoped to get pictures of a dream with a dream camera.  That was silly.  What I needed to do was get pictures of my dream with my real camera -- the one that was in the cabinet in the dining room.  I went out and fetched it, got back into bed and, miracle of miracles, was able to fall asleep again and find myself back in Rome.  This time,  with my real camera in hand.  I took picture after picture of monuments, buildings, and a fabulous, rolling purple ocean.  All for this blog.  For you, gentle reader.

And then I really woke up.  My first thought was an exultant, "Yeah!  I got the pictures!!!!"  Then there was a bit of a pause while my brain slowly came up to speed with reality.

My next thought was an exasperated (but affectionate), "You're such an idiot." 

However, when I set my mind to do something, I do my best to rise to the challenge.  So I sat down at my laptop and Googled "Rome" images.  Here you go:


*But, just for the record, the pictures I took in my dream were much better than these ones that I lifted off the Internet.  Just saying.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Boy

I lost my beloved and very elderly Siamese, Phred, four years ago.  We don't lack for cats around here, but I really missed the Siamese presence.  So during my cancer year when I was home and undergoing chemo, I had lots of time to surf the net, searching for a cat to fill Phred's place. 

I must have scrolled through hundreds of cats (many of whom tugged at my heartstrings, and all who deserved loving homes), when one day I saw Arby on the Happy Tails Cat Rescue site in Sacramento.  I instantly knew that he was the cat.  He was 12 years old, his owner had died and he'd been thrown out of the house by the owner's daughter.  The neighbors called Happy Tails and he was picked up.  Older cats aren't in great demand, so he'd remained a resident at the shelter for a year.

I emailed the contact person and all systems were go for me to adopt him.  Bruce and I drove up to Sacramento, where I met Arby, fell in love and was all set to take him home.  And then...I was asked to sign a form where I agreed that Arby would be strictly an indoor cat and would never be allowed to go outdoors.  We live out in the country, have a cat door, and all of our cats are indoor/outdoor cats.  I couldn't sign the form.  So Bruce and I sadly left Arby there and went back home.  That evening, I got an email from the contact person saying that she was certain we were the perfect home for Arby and they would waive the requirement that he be an indoor-only cat.  She would even drive Arby to Stockton for us so we wouldn't have to go all the way back to Sacramento to pick him up.

And the rest is history.  Arby came to us and almost immediately took on the responsibilities of Chemo-Cat:  he was my constant companion and comfort during my year of chemotherapy (Bruce was too, but he isn't a cat).  He took on the role of companion and comforter and was always by my side.  He would faithfully follow me from room to room throughout the day and was always nearby.  He took his job very seriously.

Now that I'm better, he still is my little cuddle-bug when I'm home.  Such a good cat!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Wawona is an area in the south of Yosemite Park where they've hauled old cabins and other buildings to be displayed in one central location.  We visited last Saturday because I was curious to learn if this might be the place to take my 4th graders next year on our field trip.  Once there, I learned that  Yosemite Valley simply can't be beat (plus Wawona is 30 minutes farther).

That said, I very much enjoyed wandering among the old buildings that had been collected together. 

I'm not sure how to explain myself, but I loved how real these structures were: sold logs, panes of thick, wavy glass, heavy cedar shingles and massive stone chimneys. You could see at a glance what all the natural components were that had been used in constructing them. 

Me with my camera, peering in a cabin window

But what captivated me even more, was gazing through the windows into the rooms.  None of the cabins were open to the public, so the only way to see inside was to stand on strategically placed stumps, cup your hands around your eyes and wait for your eyes to adjust to the dimness of the rooms.  Most people didn't have the patience to do this, but I'm a born voyeur, so this came naturally to me!

This view was through a large chink in the boards that made the door.  I'm thinking that the winter winds must have been chilly, blowing through a crack of this size.  And look at the light coming in through the pitched roof.  Perhaps this place was only used in the summer.

This is the view from the window on the opposite side of the cabin.  I love how the afternoon sun is streaming through the crack in the bottom of the door.

These interiors mesmerized me.  The gaps in the walls were so wide that I could breath in the smell of "oldness" that still clung to the rooms.  Everything was dusty, drear and muted.  And I was aching to walk through those doors to sweep, dust and bring a woman's touch to these bare spaces.  A vase of flowers, a multi-hued rag rug by the bed, a quilt or two on the beds... These cabins call out to be cared for and loved by me!  

Ironically, when we got home to Frogpond again, I was not moved to sweep, dust or make pretty our own little rooms... Funny how that works.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Bear for James

Yes, we went back to Yosemite again this weekend -- this makes three times in three weeks!  This time we visited an area called Wawona where there is an old hotel, a small history museum, and a collection of old cabins and other buildings hauled in from other parts of the park.  I thought that maybe I'd like to take my 4th graders there next year, but it's a bit too far and also simply can't compete with the breathtaking wonder of Yosemite Valley.  However, I really enjoyed poking around the old buildings; peering through wavy-glassed panes of glass into dimly-lit interiors.  I love that kind of stuff.

Bruce has been keeping his eye out for a special teddy bear to get grandbaby James.  Being a bear of sorts himself, Bruce apparently had quite the long mental checklist of qualities that the right bear for James had to possess.  Until yesterday, no bear has been able to meet all of his exacting qualifications.  And then {trumpet fanfare!} he saw a promising prospect in a bin with other bears in the museum gift shop.  While I was over in the book section (pretending not to know him), Bruce thoroughly interviewed the bear.  He must have liked what he heard, because the bear made it to...

... the all-important sandwich test.  The bear passed with flying colors! 

The bear was immediately paid for and we triumphantly set off for an official photo shoot in front of Half Dome.

Mr. Bear Sends Greetings to James

While we were posing the bear on the wall and taking pictures, a tour bus pulled over and a stream of tourists trooped out.  Not one of them gave us more than a passing glance as they filed by.  Either the beauty of the view so completely captivated them that they never even noticed that two adults were taking pictures of a stuffed bear (entirely likely), or else they'd been in California long enough to accept this as business-as-usual for these parts (also entirely likely). 

The bear will be boxed up and shipped off with love to Maryland next week.  We hope you like him, James!

Friday, October 14, 2011


Such a week.  Such a week.  Such a week.  I'm still dazed by the rapidity of it -- I hardly sat down.  I hardly slept.  Always running, running, running.  This is such a crazy pace -- such a crazy way to live.  School has been squarely center stage.  I eat my lunch on the run; always moving, moving moving.  I bring my work home with me every night and feel guilty for walking around the pond instead of grading spelling tests.  I also went to the dentist on Wednesday and had my permanent crown put in.  I've been on drugs for pain ever since.  It's been an intense, hectic week.  However...

...I taught my students how to write haiku poetry and introduced them to the great Japanese poet, Basho.  The assignment was to write haiku about impressions of Yosemite.  Today we wrote our final drafts in pen and then painted watercolor illustrations.  As a refresher; haiku are three-line poems of 5, 7 and 5 syllables.  They are usually about nature, invoke a season and an emotion.  Here are some of my 4th graders' poems:

Yosemite Falls
Sound of mom shushing baby
It makes me feel calm.

I hear the trees move
Some people can hear nature
I am one who can.

Trees whisper to me
Over in Yosemite
They speak so softly.

Yosemite cliffs
There are rocks that are huge
Their name is granite.

Black crow as dark as
Black bear on a summer day
But not dark inside.

Like a skyscraper
Watching Yosemite's Valley
These giants are boss!

Glistening in the sun
The fresh snow looks like sugar
Now deer's tracks I seek. 

Ancient silent grass
Quicksilver rabbit running
Whish! Silence again.

How happy I am
The trees are so colorful
a fall wonderland.

Waterfall crashing
On and on the waterfalls
Amazing to me!

I do love the trees
That grow near the river blue
So cold and clear too.

Mounds of leaves from trees
Brown, red, yellow  -- none the same
Winter air is near.

OK, sometimes I'm so incredibly pleased and proud to be a teacher that I could dance across the room with joy.  Some of these poems were written by children who would be pegged as the absolute least poetic candidates on the planet.  And I get to look them in the eye and say, "Oh my goodness, sweetheart, you have the soul of a poet!"  Then I have the supreme pleasure of seeing the look of mixed happiness and confusion on the faces of these young people who had no idea that they had the words and voice to move mountains.  That's pretty cool. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Full Moon over Frogpond

This evening Bruce and I were surprised by the full moon sailing grandly up through the trees when we took an evening walk around the pond.  It was glorious and huge...but, obviously, not anything near as large as the moon in this picture.  The wonder of Photoshop!  Bruce had fun playing with images of the moon he took that evening by enlarging it and then overlaying it onto a daytime picture of the house and pond.  Wouldn't it be great if the moon rose up one evening and really was this size?  Imagine how bright the night would be. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Our So-Called Front Yard

This was the view through the front door this weekend.  The ducks have inexplicably taken to lolling around the front step for the greater part of the day.  The two African geese (now named Pyramus and Thisbe) no longer need to be kenneled up and are free to roam about the place.  They go down to the pond (which is where they sleep), but still seem more comfortable hanging out up here by the house.

And then there are the "wild" turkeys.  There are several large bands of them living around us in the dry grass and brush -- hens and their almost-adult broods.  They mince in to stuff themselves at the grain pan we daily fill with cracked corn.  If we come outside when they're there, they'll quickly melt away into the undergrowth -- but not with any sort of panic or great fear.  The ducks, geese and chickens accept them as part of the Frogpond fowl.

The reality is that we don't actually have a front yard:  instead, our door opens up to an expansive bird buffet, with our satisfied diners contentedly relaxing, strolling about (this aids the digestion), and quacking, gobbling and honking amongst themselves.

And that {long-suffering sigh} is as it should be.  It's the Frogpond way.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Field Trip Day

I think that the week has finally caught up to me -- I've come down with a head cold that has me moving in dreamy and congested slow motion.  Yesterday wasn't too bad, but by today I've lost any ambition to do much of anything (that stack of papers that needs correcting is just sort of sitting there).

Here are some more pictures of our field trip to Yosemite, although I can't include any with my students in them.

Bruce went on ahead and took this one of the valley just after the first tunnel.  It's absolute iconic Yosemite...  No matter how many times I've seen this, the view never fails to have me catch my breath.


Our bus arrives.

The other 4th grade teacher and myself leaving the gift shop (note the big blue bag that I'm carrying.  I do my bit to jump start our economy)

   We saw these incredibly tame deer in Yosemite Meadow.  They completely ignored us as they grazed by the wooden boardwalk we were on.  This fawn was adorable.

Amazingly,  last week's rain got Yosemite Falls flowing again.  I never expected to see water coming down in October.

Bruce and I intend to go back to another part of the park called Wawona in the next few weeks.  Yosemite is so fantastic -- how is it that we don't come more often???

Friday, October 7, 2011

We're Back!

Made it there and made it back -- whoo!  All went well.  The weather was chilly in the morning, but warmed up and the children were ecstatic to see the dusting of snow alongside the road and on the mountain crests.  A few of the chaperons got a bit lost for a time (note to self: next time actually pass out the stack of  maps), but not too badly.  Deer strolled and squirrels scampered around the students, much to their delight.  The students dutifully brought their Writer's Notebooks and spent time writing journal entries about their impressions. The museum was a hit, as was the Miwok village.  Everyone (including myself) spent money in the gift shop.  Naturally, the mountains stretching up to the sky amazed and awed everyone.  I was pleased that the children were able to name so many of the features and topics we'd studied: Half Dome, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, the Merced River, John Muir, glaciers, and on and on.  And, much to my relief, although a few children turned a little green during the worst of the winding roads, no one threw up.  A good day.

I'll post some of Bruce's pix tomorrow. 

And now it's off to a hot shower and then to bed.  It's been a long day. 

Hi Ho, Hi Ho -- Off to Yosemite!

Today's the day.  In two hours I'll be on a yellow school bus with forty 4th graders, the other teacher, and one very patient bus driver.  We'll be followed by 20 chaperones following in cars.  We're prepared with boxes of snacks (in case the bus breaks down along the way), an assortment of zip-lock plastic bags (in case anyone gets carsick), and maps, directions, park rules, phone numbers, pencils, cameras, lunches, first aid kits, and on and on and on.  We may as well be packed for an expedition to outer space.

And yet, I still don't feel prepared.  Bruce will meet us up there and be the official photographer.  I'm relieved.  In case it isn't apparent (!), I'm just the tiniest bit wound up.

It's supposed to get up to the mid-50's today at Yosemite (last weekend it reached the high 70's!).  Yesterday it snowed a bit, so the children are hoping some of it remains for them today (some have never seen snow).

OK, unless I want to go up to Yosemite in my red bathrobe and fuzzy slippers, I'd best get myself dressed and off to school. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

First Rain

Hallelujah!  We had the first real rain of the season last night.  This is very early for us -- usually we don't see the first rain until after Thanksgiving.  I woke up during the night to the drip-drip-drip of water.  Such a wonderful sound!  I lay in bed and listened and my heart was happy.  This morning the scent of new-washed leaves was glorious and everything glowed now that the many layers of dust had been removed.  Green! 

Bruce was working from home today, so he was able to take pictures of the clouds blooming across the sky.

When I got home the sprinkles were starting up again.  Not surprisingly, our new African geese decided that this was the evening that they would finally trek down to the pond to check it out.  So, in the rain, we had to go down to convince them to come back up to the safety of the dog kennel where they've been living. 

We got them herded up fairly easily. They were dithering on the shore, afraid to actually get into the pond.  They've never actually swum in their lives.  I think that they were relieved to have us come down to bring them back up.

On a sad note, our ancient and beloved rooster, Sir Didimous, died.  I found him dead in the coop last evening.  I believe that he was 12 years old -- ancient for a chicken.  We're going to miss him.  He was always so gentle and protective with his hens.  As Bruce said, it's the end of a dynasty.

Monday, October 3, 2011


When gawking at the splendors of Yosemite last Saturday, I took my eyes away from the mountains for an instant and found this sign to add to my collection:

I'm assuming that quite a few tourists must concientiously dispose of their trash in this large metal box that looks a lot like a bear-proof dumpster.  I would think that if this was a problem, someone might think to put a big sign on it that said something like "ICE!" -- maybe with a discrete graphic of an ice cube for good measure (a lot of the park's visitors speak foreign languages).

Instead, it was obviously up to some long-suffering park employee who'd had it up to here cleaning out picnic leftovers from the ice chute to do something about the situation.  So he or she printed out this plea on their computer and taped it above the opening where the ice comes out.  The three exclamation marks following "Please" speak volumes.  Here's a close-up so you can see the smaller writing underneath.  One senses the implied "you moron" that they longed to add at the end.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Saturday at Yosemite

Yosemite Meadow
This was me all day long; looking, looking, looking.  Up!  Yosemite was, as always, stunningly, serenely, and achingly beautiful.  The weather was perfect -- warm, but with enough of a breeze to keep things fresh and interesting.  It was a Saturday, so there were a lot of people, but it wasn't too bad.  I enjoyed catching snatches of French, German, Swedish and other languages that I couldn't place.  People come from all over the planet to experience this amazing place. 

The Merced River

Yosemite Falls (what's left of them by late summer)

North Dome

We ate our little picnic, visited the museum and then took the shuttle bus up to the end of the valley.

The morning was clear as a bell, but by afternoon the first clouds of the cold front were sailing in.  They moved quickly across the sky, carried forward by very high winds.

By the time we left, puffy clouds were strewn across the sky.  On the the winding road home, the sun had set and they had turned orange, pink and yellow and glowed like stained glass.  This sunset was so stunning that it caused a bit of a traffic hazard.  We had to slow way down because of multiple cars suddenly veering across the oncoming lane of traffic in order to pull over in the turnouts.   People were wandering across and even in the road, oblivious to the traffic as they gazed at the colors streaming across the sky. 

We didn't stop, but this is a quick snap (through a dirty windshield and with a traffic sign in the way) of what caused everyone to take a second look. I was strangely proud to see that so many humans were mesmerized by the beauty of the sky.