Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Last Day of January

Today was yet another cold, foggy day, and the sun only made a brief appearance towards afternoon.  I managed to get home before dark, but the fog had already descended again and everything was muted and grey again when the dogs and I took our walk on the serpentine trail.
But there were two cool things that happened.  The first was that the early darkness called out the resident Great Horned Owl.  These owls have the most hauntingly beautiful cry.  It's a low, melodic "Hoo...Hoo...Hooooo..."  Very dignified.  Very restrained.  Ancient and sorrowful.  As the sound weaves through the dark oak trees, I'm transported back to all the dark fairy tales of my childhood -- especially "Hansel and Gretel".  Great Horned Owl hoots were made for fairy tales!  I love them for that.

The second cool thing was that as I was finishing up the serpentine trail, the setting sun briefly shone through the fog and turned the entire western sky crimson.  Those five minutes of brilliant color after a day of grey were amazing and very much appreciated.

To be blunt, I've been in a severe funk these past few days.  OK, more than a funk.  I've been feeling downright gloomy.  Angry.  Pessimistic.  Pissed off at the world in general.  Did I say angry?  I can't really put my finger on why.  But today I'm finally managing to get past it.  This afternoon I was tutoring a small group of students after school and the power very briefly went out.  No lights.  The eight students instantly turned anxious eyes to look at me in the dimness of the classroom.  I laughed and said, "Why are you looking at me?  Do you think that I'm God and can turn the lights on again?"  They relaxed and laughed too and, suddenly, I felt better than I have in days.  I don't really know why this would be so, other than I've been trying so hard (and failing) to be in control of things. 

Today I was finally able to just accept that I'm not in charge.  What a relief.  Right after that, the lights came on again. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Max Gets a Reality Check

Well, the other shoe has hit the floor with a thud.  Saturday was such a good one as far as Max settling in to life inside the house.  So good, in fact, that he didn't want to go out and we let him sleep on the mat by the front door where he'd curled up. 

At around eleven that night, as I was tucked in bed doing the NYT crossword puzzle on my iPad and gradually falling asleep,  I was catapulted awake by a cat fight taking place under my very nose.  Dear Max, deciding that he wanted to sleep on the bed, had nonchalantly hopped up.  Unfortunately, Mulligan and Arby were already ensconced and they, as already stated, do not share well.  Arby, bless his round furry head never knew what was happening, but Mulligan, who was at the foot of the bed and was almost leaped upon by the completely ignorant Max, went into full-out banshee mode.  She lit into Max, spiky claws flying, like the little six-pound she-devil she is.  Max never knew what hit him and completely freaked out -- the next moment he was flying across the room with a furious Mully hot on his tail, both of them yowling up a blue streak. 

No fool, Max hurriedly left the house and spent the night in the garage.  Within the house, things gradually quieted down.  It took awhile for Mully and Arby to decide climb back into bed.  I was asleep before either one of them came back.  But, by morning, Arby had claimed my pillow, between my head and the headboard, as his own.  I think that he felt safer with my face between himself and any danger.  Meanwhile, Mully was sprawled out, as long as she could make her small body go, over as much bed real estate as she could manage.  Staking her claim.

I'm glad to say that Max appears to have quickly recovered from all of this.  He came inside this morning for breakfast and a bowl of milk.  He appears to be resigned to the fact that becoming an inside cat may take a bit longer than originally anticipated.  He's willing to wait.  Everything will come up right in the end!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Max Moving In

This week has been one of stunning achievements for Max -- he's rapidly inching his way into being an inside cat.  What started as a few tentative forays into the house...

...has developed into into his very gradually easing his way into being the 5th Frogpond cat.

Arby and the other cats haven't been especially enthusiastic (to put it mildly) about this turn of events, but seem to have become resigned to the fact that Max is here to stay.  Max is so mellow and unflappable that this attitude has definitely helped in this process.

This morning, Max decided to give the bed a try.  I don't know where this cat has come from, but he definitely was a house cat at some point in his life.  He's so at ease and comfortable.  I wish that I knew his story.

Arby and Zelda checking
things out while Max is on the bed

Happy Boy

Zelda,Arby, Multipass and Mulligan are doing their feline best to accept the newcomer into the inner circle.  Sharing doesn't come easily for cats.  But we're getting there.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


A view of the rut from the top of the drive that was carved into our driveway from Sunday's rain.  For my little Honda Fit, it's like crossing the Grand Canyon - the steep sides perfectly cradling its dinky tires.  Getting back out is a scramble as we send gravel flying.

If I was a kid, this new gorge down the drive would be too tempting to pass up.  I'd be out there with a hose, creating plunging mini-rapids, with maybe a dam or two to keep things interesting.

Instead, we've contracted the guys at the local rock and gravel place to come and spread several tons of gravel.  They should be here within the next few weeks and it will cost several thousand dollars .  Until then, the Honda and I will continue to gracefully lurch across our rut.
Speaking of ruts...
at the bottom of our drive, the dogs and I turned right, walked down the road about 1/8 mile, climbed over our lower gate and passed on to the neighbor's serpentine path for our normal walk. 

Same walk; same woods; same rosy winter sunset; same dark-barked lichen covered oaks.  I'm wondering if perhaps this is beginning to sound like a rut.

 For no particular reason that I can think of (OK, there's one angry parent at school who springs to mind), lately I've been feeling tired and disheartened with the whole teaching profession.  This happens to me periodically throughout the year, so I don't get too wound up when this hits.  I know that this feeling will pass and my equilibrium will return.  But when I'm in this dark place, even mustering up the energy to put on my boots and set off for an evening walk is just about at my limit. 

I'm glad I went.  The light in the sky was amazing -- I didn't think that my little camera would capture it, but it did.

Tonight as we walked, a great horned owl called down to us from the treetops.  These owls have the classic melodic, low-toned hoots that sound like, "Whoo-who-who-whoo!  Whoo-who-who-whooo!"  A sad sort of song that matched my mood, yet made me feel better.  Owls will do that.

At the end of our walk, there were the llamas hanging around the path (I think they were waiting for us).  Whenever we come up, they always gaze at us with such startled goofy looks, yet seem to enjoy the interaction. 

OK, so I ask you -- just how much of a rut can you be in if you get to pass this on your nightly walk???

Monday, January 23, 2012

After the Storms

Sunday, while not rainy, the skies were gloomy and gray -- perfect stay-indoors-and-correct-papers sort of weather.  Which is what I did.  I kept at it until the entire massive stack had been taken care of.  It's always such a weight off of me when I've managed to get caught up with my grading.  Every time I complete a correcting marathon, I vow that I'll keep up with the paperwork forever, so help me God.  We'll see how it goes this time.

I took a break from schoolwork and took the dogs for a walk in the late afternoon.  There was just the smallest dribble of water coming from the pipe that collects the watershed water from our hill and funnels it into the pond. Not the sort of deluge that will fill the pond, I'll admit, but we'll take what we can get. 

On our walk we came across several oak trees that were toppled in Friday night's storm.  This was a surprise, as it didn't seem like the wind was all that strong. 

These two trees were on our neighbor's property with the serpentine path.  We also lost one on the slope behind our garage. 

It's in the natural order of things for every tree to eventually give it up and lie down.  But it's always a bit of a shock to walk about after a storm and come across this sort of destruction -- that must have been some fierce wind coming through.

Today I had to go back to work.  There were several strong rain showers throughout the day and the rain gauge measured 1.08" of rain when I got home. But I didn't need to look at the gauge to know that we'd had a downpour or two while I was away -- coming up the drive, the car's left tires slid into a brand-new rut that was so deep that for a moment I feared we might not scramble out.  That's one impressive chasm, newly carved down our driveway.  I'll take a picture tomorrow.

It's supposed to warm up and dry out for the next week or so.  I'm already scanning the horizon for clouds, looking forward to our next bout of wet weather.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Real Rain at Last

It rained gently, but steadily, for most of the night and our weather station rain gauge reads at 0.9". That's pretty good for here.  I'd wake up periodically and kneel on my pillows to look and listen at the high window that's above our bed.  I can't think of a sweeter sound than the pattering of raindrops. By this morning, the sun was off-and-on peeking through the clouds, but we have a good chance for another storm tomorrow.

Today I was required to attend a series of science workshops at our County Office of Education.  I did a pretty good job (I think) of maintaining a good attitude about having to go to school on a Saturday, but I sure didn't want to climb into the car to drive down to Stockton on my day off.  Especially since all I really wanted to do was wander about the pond, hills and garden, admiring all the new lovely mud and puddles.  Instead, I sat inside a mostly windowless building for the entire day, listening to speakers talk about the wonders of the natural world.  Life does have its little ironies.

By the time I got home again, it was almost four o'clock.  As I drove up the drive, I was welcomed by a magnificent mass of clouds over Gopher Ridge, with the sun streaming from behind them.  I ran inside and grabbed my camera and the clouds were kind enough to maintain most of their glory until after I'd clicked their portraits. 

Bruce had a big pot of beef-barley soup on the stove and the house smelled delicious.  So, after the clouds, that was my second big welcome home.

Out in the laundryroom, the four cats were meowing and milling around their food dishes, impatiently waiting to be fed.  Welcome number three.

                                                  Frogpond -- it's wonderful to be home.

Friday, January 20, 2012


A quarter of an inch.  I'll take it!  The rain has just sort of half-heartedly spattered all day.  Towards evening, the drops turned into real rain. 

It's dark outside now.  When I go outside, I hear the sound of rain falling.  The most beautiful sound in the world.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

More, please?

Well.  The word that best describes this first so-called rainstorm is:  anemic. It took the entire day for the clouds to eventually cover the sky.  When, by late afternoon, they finally did, the rain squeezed out of them was barely a drizzle.  They've had snow up in the mountains and a goodly amount of rain about 70 miles north of us -- I'm glad of that.  And hopefully the next band of moisture, slated to stream through Friday night, will drop a bit farther south and finally dump on us too.

For now, I must content myself by leaning over the porch rail and sniffing the tantalizing dampness.  Even with just this spattering, the night air smells delightfully of mushrooms.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Waiting for the Rain

That long-awaited winter storm is getting closer and closer.  There's a 90% chance of rain by tomorrow morning after ten.  Another, much larger, storm is lined up to come in on Friday and more (smaller) storms predicted through next Wednesday.  I take nothing for granted -- I know that a 90% chance of rain means that there's a 10% chance that it won't rain...

This evening the dogs and I took our long walk on the winding trail next door.  Our feet kicked up little clouds of dust with every step, which is a depressing thing to see in January.  A few, high clouds have streamed across the sky and we had a soft, cherry-colored sunset.  Fingers crossed that tomorrow the skies are grey, the rains pour down and turn all that dust into lovely, sloppy mud.                   

Max on his table, with covered wicker basket and heater
Out in the garage, our Max (who I think will be moving into the house very soon) is ready for whatever storms may come.  

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Cold Night -- At Last!

Today was a busy sort of day for a day off.  Our school's principal and his family stopped by for a visit in the morning.  They pass our place on the way to their family cabin about once a month and we had  invited them to come and see the place as they passed -- and today was the day.  Naturally this meant a general cleaning of the house and yard.   Even though the ducks managed to poop on the front stoop at the last minute, the visit was a success.  The dogs adored having the children throw the ball into the water for them to fetch and Arby graciously allowed them to pet him.  And Corny was ecstatic to have more little people feed him apples. 

Hallelujah!  We are at long last getting a change in the dry, warm weather pattern that's been with us since September.  The hills are dry and brown from lack of rain and the days have been unnaturally warm.  But today a cold air mass finally moved in from Canada and today's high was only in the low 40's.  Tonight it's supposed to dip down to 27 degrees, which is positively frigid.  By Thursday we're supposed to receive the first of several rain storms.  Yay! 

Bruce and I spent the afternoon cleaning out the roof gutters of the barn and wrapping the pipes down at the well.  In the garage where Max sleeps, Bruce plugged in a radiant heater so our boy stays warm.

After 4 months of stagnant, unusually warm weather, I'm ready for the wind to blow, the rain to dash down and the mercury to drop.  Bring it on! 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Max Helps

Yesterday I finally tackled the long put-off chore of cleaning out the dead growth in the pots on our deck. 

I thought that I was all on my own for this job, but I was wrong:  Max ambled over from the garage, rolled up his furry shirtsleeves (metaphorically speaking) and offered his services.

He started out by bolstering my self-confidence with an onslaught of love and kisses.  This guy is quite the passionate little soul.

He wound up in my arms, a happily purring boy.  Not a whole lot of work was getting done.

Then we got busy.  Max takes his work seriously.  His duties appear to have been to pack down the potting soil in the pots with his hefty butt.  He did a good job of it.

He moved from pot to pot with the confidence of one who knows exactly what to do and how to do it.

Eventually we were finished, and Max was able to rest from his mighty labors. 

First, a bath...

Then, stretching out for a well deserved nap. 

Good Max!

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Safe Little Space

The end of a massively tiring week and, hardly surprisingly, I'm feeling massively tired.  I stayed at school later than I'd planned because I'd forgotten that I have a new student coming next week.  When a new child walks through the door for the first time, I like to have their desk ready with books, name tag, journal, and pencil (mechanical, because they're the classroom faves) -- it's their own safe little space that's been created for them alone.  I do think it helps.

When I got home, my old rolling crate was so heavy with books and papers, that when Bruce lifted it from the trunk,  the bottom finally dropped right out.  Everything spilled in a jumbled mountain onto the carport and what little organization had been in that crate was gone in an instant.  A Christmas candy cane and 2 red M&M's fell out from the papers.  Their presence (I remembered them from well before the holidays), along with the remains of my busted-apart crate,  has given an unequivocal mandate for me to catch up with my paperwork.  I will do this.  Tomorrow.  I'm feeling just a trifle unbounced right now.

The good news is that Monday is a holiday, so I have three days to allow myself to de-stress and get my equilibrium back.  So I was sitting here reading the reviews for the just-released movie "Warhorse" and found myself choking up and sniffling over it.  Now, that's the sort of movie that I admit I could never bring myself to see, but choosing now to get teary over it made me realize that it's time to take myself by the hand, lead myself away from the computer, take a nice hot shower, put on my jammies and get into bed with the New York Time's crossword puzzle. 

So, toodle-oo and off I go.  I do love Friday evenings when I'm back in my own safe little space -- my Frogpond.
I think I'll be spending some time with my own baby warhorse tomorrow

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Week

This week I feel like I never quite got my momentum up to where it needed to be to break even -- I was a day late and a dollar short across the board.  It didn't help that my alarm clock appears to be broken.  I think.  Most mornings it's failed to go off, but some mornings it surprised me and did.  On the mornings that it didn't ring, I arrived at school in a dash, ten minutes before the first bell.  On the mornings that it did ring, I still was late because I couldn't seem to get out the door.  It was like that.  And then this morning, when I actually managed to make it in only a little later than I should have, a substitute teacher walked in and I discovered that I was due to attend a Curriculum Council meeting at the district office in ten minutes.  Luckily, I have a very competent sub who was able to make sense out of my hasty, last minute lesson plan.  In the end, everything worked out just fine, but I don't like this flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants way I've gotten through the week.

On the positive side, I've had a brisk walk up and down hills with the dogs every evening after I got home.  I've decided that getting my body back in shape must be my personal prime directive.  Nonetheless, most evenings when I get home, my first thoughts are intense inner conversations on how to get out of walking, and why I shouldn't walk, and why that's OK.  Then I grit my teeth, change, put on my walking shoes and head on out the door.  In the last seven days, I've logged a little over eight miles.  This may not be much, but for me it's quite an accomplishment.  Some evenings I've gotten home so late that I had to walk by moonlight.  Last night the moon had not yet risen, so the stars lit my way.  I'll admit that I really don't like this whole walking thing -- I'm bored and tired and have actually gained weight (what's with that?) since I started.  But...with each passing day I'm gradually feeling so much more alive and limber that I'm determined to keep it up.  My friends tell me that I'm doing great and not to expect anything like weight loss yet.  I decided that even if I don't end up losing any weight at all, I'd rather be plump and fit than thin and weak.

All things being equal, though, I'd rather be thin and fit and looking like a very slightly more mature Scarlett Johansson.  Just saying. And it could happen -- because this is, after all, my birthday season.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Birthday Rock

I've been fostering an extremely self-serving "tradition" these past few years called "The Birthday Season."  This is what I now get instead of a mere 24 hour birthday...it's an extended stretch of time (as loooooong as I can make it!) in which presents and indulgences are given and granted to me in honor of the wonderous day of my birth.  I must be a superb bamboozler, because last year I eked out my birthday season until Mother's Day!  Bruce's birthday day (he gets just a single day), on the 13th of April, cuts into my season, but it ends after 24 hours and my season starts up again.  I, greedy soul that I am, love this!

So this afternoon, three days after my official birthday, I got my next present.  It was from Bruce and Max the Cat and delivered via Kubota tractor from our other property.  Here it is:

It's an absolutely exquisite 200 pound piece of quartz, decoratively festooned with moss and lichens.  Please note the tiny black bow, upper right corner. 

I'm a sucker for rocks -- especially big ones.  They have souls.  I'm already pondering on where I would like this one to live.  It's absolutely gorgeous. 

I looooooove birthday seasons!!!!!!

Monday, January 9, 2012

My Birthday

Today is my birthday.  The day is almost over, and I must say that this has been the best birthday I've had in a long time.  Somehow, some way, something has changed within myself and I'm enjoying being alive again.  I've finally come to understand that my cancer year took a long time for me to get over -- and not just in a physical way.  Perhaps it doesn't need to be analyzed too much -- I'm just feeling strong, happy and extremely grateful to love and be loved.  Fifty-seven as an age is working very well for me!

This afternoon I came home to find this drawing that my brother, Michael, in Austria sent to me (along with an absolutely charming drawing from my niece).  Mama had given it to him at one time and he thought that she had drawn it, but actually it was a picture that I drew when I was a child.  He'd been trying to find the perfect card to send me for my birthday and wound up unwittingly sending me a picture I myself had drawn!  Michael has always been able to do things like this...

What pleases me as much as anything else about this is realizing how very little my loves have changed over the span of half a century (!).  Even way back then, that skinny, little girl with crooked pigtails was busily creating a Frogpond Acres sort of place with her stick pen dipped in ink.
Even then, I knew! 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Planting Bulbs

This is me set for planting bulbs with everything needed for the job:

cat, bulbs, gardening gloves, trowel, planting guide and a cold beer (not necessarily ranked in that order). 

I was soon joined by two more cats, a dog and a white chicken (not in picture).  It can never be said that I lack adequate supervision. 

While these photos would give one reason to assume I didn't get much done in the bulb-planting department, amazingly I got most of them in the ground. 

   50 Species Tulips & 3 Foxtail Lilies

100 Mixed Green Tulips

30 Brodiaea and 50 Calochortus

For the trees by the pond, Bruce brought down a scoop of our very best compost, wriggling with worms and a rich, black color.  If these bulbs don't thrive, it won't be for want of trying.  I'd hoped to get all of the bulbs planted today, but ran out of energy as the sun began to go down.  I still have 3 peonies and 15 lilies to go -- still, that's pretty good progress. 
I watered each bed thoroughly before moving on to the next.  This took quite a while because the earth is so very dry.  The weather forecast shows no sign of any wet weather in the coming week.  The pond continues to shrink and I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that we get a deluge or two before long.  Time to get out there and do a rain dance.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


It was very much a school-dominated week and, after teaching all day, I've had to bring home lots of work that needed doing every night. As usual, I was determined to get caught up with everything before I left for home on Friday, but (also as usual) this didn't happen. So it all came home with me in my rolling crate and here it sits beside the dining room table, patiently waiting. I woke up at five this morning, trundled out and got both classes' spelling tests graded and recorded. With that done, I'm putting all school aside until tomorrow. Don't get me wrong; teaching for me is both a passion and an honor...but sometimes I wish I had the kind of job I could leave behind when I left work. I have so many other things around here that need doing...

Which brings me to what's on my jobs-to-do ticket for tomorrow: In a fit of the gardening madness that strikes me every autumn, I ordered bulbs. I waited until the end-of-the-season clearance sale came up with my wholesale company of choice, Van Engelen. And then, with the prices so low, I went just a teeny-tiny bit nuts and ordered -- here it comes -- 251 bulbs. I'm hoping that it's only me who thinks that this might be just a little excessive. Sigh... OK, so every year I fall in love with all the pretty pictures in the bulb catalogues. I read the swoony, over-the-top descriptions and I must have all these lovelies for my own. Forgetting that I live in the midst of a landscape where you need a pick and dynamite to blast through the earth to plant a single seed. None of that matters -- at least not until, one day, many weeks later, the UPS truck pulls up to the house and tosses out a hefty box of bulbs. And I'm all happy for about 20 seconds. Until I realize that someone is going to have to plant all of these fat, cosseted bulbs. And that person is me.

So tomorrow the person that is me has cajoled the long-suffering person that is Bruce to help me get all of these guys into the ground. Peonies, lilies, green tulips, brodeaea, calochortus and something called eremurus (I couldn't even remember what this was and had to look it up. I fell in love all over again when I saw their picture).

It is very late to plant bulbs. But this is a very atypical year -- we had a few good rains very early in the autumn and then a high pressure system moved in and we've had nothing since. Two months of no moisture and the ground is dry and when the wind kicks up, dust swirls in the air. Amazingly for January, the fire danger is once again high and no outdoor burning is permitted. Last weekend we began watering our young trees again because we don't want to lose them and the pond continues to shrink. We are hoping like crazy that this weather pattern will change and good soaking rains will come our way. I think that the bulbs will all think that they were planted in the autumn, with this wonky weather. If they're watered, they should do fine.

My greatest wish is that the heavens dump down on us soon, soon, soon!