Friday, March 30, 2012

It's Friday...

...and I'm happy!  Very!  I merrily skipped my students to the bus this afternoon.  Everyone laughed...but the students and I knew why we were skipping. 

Don't tell, but sometimes I feel closer to nine years old than fifty.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Night Rain

I have always loved the rain.  When I was a child growing up in New Mexico, I equally adored and was terrified by the intense summer thunderstorms that would dump rain and then disappear over the horizon.  I was always disappointed by that first streak of blue sky through the ragged clouds.  It simply couldn't rain enough for me.

So it is quite the irony that I should end up living my life in a climate where rain only falls during the winter months and the summers are dry, dusty bones.  Every few years we have a drought of some sort and then the pond shrinks down, sometimes to nothing, which is very depressing.  On those summers, the water table also draws down and our well can't cope with the demands we put on it.  Watering the garden becomes problematic when one must turn off the hose every thirty minutes in order for the well to have time to recharge.  Three years ago, the people who live beyond us, up on Gopher Ridge, had their well give out enough that they had to call in our county water truck to bring them water throughout the summer.  We had to have our own well drilled deeper.  As we have no other source of water out here, if ever we lose our water table, we'll be calling that water truck ourselves to fill our tank. 

Until this month, this has been the driest winter on record for this area -- we had less than five inches of rain for the entire season.  March, though, came bouncing in with several good-sized storms in a row and tonight it's raining again.  I'm so anxiously happy, that every few minutes I pop my head outside to see if it's still raining... 

Yup, still is!  I'm such a doof, that I point my camera into the rainy dark and snap away.  That little camera has quite the mighty flash. 

I don't suppose that anyone living in a "normal" climate where rain falls at decent intervals can really understand how bitterly I can view yet another sunny day. 

Give me the lovely splash and drip of runnels down the windowpanes. 

And please let springtime hold off for just a little while longer.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Cornelius and his own Dear Auntie Fay

This afternoon, our timing was exactly right.  I arrived home and was out of the car, unlocking the gate just as my elderly neighbor, Fay, and her toy poodle, Muffin, drove by.  She tootled her horn and I waved.  Cornelius, who had started up the pasture towards his pen when he saw my car, stopped, turned and stared after Fay.  After I got back in the car and started up the long drive to the house, I heard the beat of an overweight Percheron's hooves hitting the ground.  I turned to see Corny thundering down the pasture, back towards the road.  Fay had stopped her car and she and Muffin were, in their own, much slower and tottery ways, setting up the road towards Corny.  Fay was holding a bag of carrots. 

I backed the car all the way down the drive and pulled over to where Fay was and got out to speak to her.  This is what I learned: Fay goes to the market for carrots/apples for Corny several times a week.  She tries to stop and feed him in the morning on the way to work, but sometimes doesn't have time and then Corny has to wait until the afternoon.  She's been doing this since before Christmas.  Corny likes apples more than carrots, but she feels that carrots are healthier for his teeth.  So carrots are on the menu more often than apples.  If she isn't able to stop, my boy calls after her and then she feels badly.

By this time, Corny, who had finished his carrots, was looking down at his tiny auntie and her tinier dog with... affection?  I think. It might have been greed, but it was a very polite, good-natured sort of greed. 

Fay is in her 70's and the walk through the tall grass from the road to the pasture fence is full of gopher holes and squishy after the rains.  She dresses quite stylishly and wears spiky-heeled shoes and lots of glittery necklaces.  As she stuck the five carrots, one at a time, through the fence and Corny crunched them up, she mentioned that it might be safer if we cut the grass lower to make a path.  And it would be easier to see if we bordered it with rocks.

I gave her a hug.  Fay will get her path and the rocks by this weekend.

Corny says that it's about time.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Bathing Beauties

Oh, my hens love the dirt! 

When they are let out of the coop, at first they forage and wander about the yard, but then they succumb to digging holes in the garden and planting themselves in them. 

They will nestle down in a depression in the dirt like a cat hunkers down in the center of a fuzzy blanket.

Happy hens!

While I was working...

This is where I usually set up my laptop when home -- on the far end of the dining room table.  I do have a small office/spare bedroom where I can work if need be, but it's lonely in there. 

The view through the window just behind me is of the hills. Below the embankment the house is on, lies the pond with its contingent of ducks, geese, frogs, etc.

Exciting kitchen "action"

From here, I also don't miss a single nuance of the action (such as it is) going on in the kitchen or living room. 

I do so much schoolwork from home, that it's a comfort working in a place where I can remain somewhat connected to my life here. 

Or so I thought.

Yesterday evening I crawled home from school, totally done in and sat in front of the computer for awhile.  I tried to blog, but my brain had gone south and I realized that it was time to call it a day and go to bed.  As I was leaving the room, Bruce said, "Boy, that amaryllis sure is impressive."

Huh???  And then I looked towards the corner where he was looking.

The potted amaryllis that I'd hauled in from the back porch several weeks ago so I could watch it bloom had done exactly what I'd hoped it would do. 

 All of this was occurring in full view, over my right shoulder for an entire week -- and I almost missed it anyway.

There is a lesson here somewhere...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Another Evening of Fine Dining at Frogpond

I attended a very long Parents' Club meeting after school today, so didn't get home until just before sundown. 

I changed and made the evening rounds of feeding everything and anything with its mouth open.  As usual, I started with the ones who were
most annoyingly vocal about getting fed IMMEDIATELY -- first the gauntlet of cats inside, then the four geese marching in front of the barn, beaks pointed heavenward and screaming.  Then it was on to the only slightly less obnoxious ducks and chickens.  By this time Cornelius was banging his hoof against the metal pipe of his pen, so I threw him a flake of hay.  Last in line were the good-natured dogs, doing nothing more than politely wagging their tails (you see where that gets you around here).

And then I was finished.  Or so I thought.
Hey, lady... 

...what about us?

I wandered over to the rose bed that overlooks the lower pasture.  We have an agreement with our former neighbor, Mike, to graze a few cow/calf pairs down there.   They were just loafing around, but when they saw me, they eagerly hurried over to the fence.  I've never fed them before in my life.

 Who told them I was the resident waitress??? 

It certainly wasn't Cornelius -- he left his own identical flake to trot down to see if he could get the one I'd thrown the cows back again. 

Nope, wasn't going to happen. 

He turned to Multipass for a bit of feline sympathy.  That didn't happen either. 

And with that, I left them all to it and went back up to the house and made a pot of  chicken soup.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

First Day of Spring

"Nothing Gold Can Stay"        

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

                Robert Frost (1923)

                 I got sick at school today with a stomach bug and had the secretary call a sub so I could go home early.  So on the first day of spring (and in the middle of the school day!), I got to come home and sleep the afternoon away.  Such great good fortune to be just ill enough that I needed to leave work -- but not so miserable that I couldn't appreciate the luxury of tucking into bed.

Monday, March 19, 2012

My Freckle-Nosed Boy

Max: our burly young peasant of a cat
Who, but a complete worm, would not be smitten by an orange cat with freckles dotting his broad pink nose? 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Broccoli Feast

At the end of yesterday's walk, with the rain pelting down, I stopped and considered the broccoli in the upper garden's raised beds.  The twelve tiny plants that I'd put in sometime last fall are only slightly bigger, but they're bravely putting out miniature heads. Bruce was on his way down to Stockton to bring Mama up to stay the night, so I decided that we would start our dinner with this broccoli.

First, I had to battle my way through the ducks who desperately wanted into the garden. 

Once through the duckish gauntlet, I carefully picked the delicate heads.

I made homemade mayonaise with a whisk and one of our own chicken's egg yolks.  It beat up very quickly. 

Hmmm...I don't suppose that this looks terribly delicious -- but it was. 

There is such a feeling of satisfaction in serving up simple fare that was, in most part, grown right here.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Pond Begins to Fill

Oh, happy, happy day!  Rain.  Rain.  Rain.  And more....rain.  Through the night, and (after a bit of a break) more throughout today.
And it's been a good, steady sort of rain.  The kind that means business.  The kind that fills ponds.

The vernal pond
I took a walk this morning with the dogs to enjoy the glorious wetness.  I suppose that for people that live in places where good amounts of rain are commonplace, my over-the-top joy at this bit of wetness must seem rather incomprehensible.  But if you lived here, you'd understand.  This winter water is vital to keeping this fragile oak woodland ecosystem going.  When it doesn't rain, the hills begin to die.  And everything must wait through an entire summer of intense heat before the hope of rain can even be a possibility.

The lower pond
Hobbit Hole with stream

When I got back to the house, after an hour of revelling in the rain...there was this white soggy chicken on the porch...

...and she was saying, "Enough, already!" 

Sorry, sweet hen -- I'm still doing the rain dance.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Oh, Yes!

Bruce and I with a flashlight and three delighted dogs took that night walk down to the pond to check on things.  The pipe is really and truly flowing now.

Toad in the road

Raindrops on the pond
Frog on the edge of the water (very dark because the flash didn't go off)
The pond on a warmish, rainy night is quite a lively place.  We had to be careful where we put our feet -- lots of amphibians lounging around enjoying the weather.  I'm glad we splashed on down to join them for a little while.

Raining Cats and Dogs

It's Friday - raining outside, fire glowing in the wood stove, with the whole weekend before me.  And I'm totally beat.  Without a doubt it was the most scrutinized sort of week I've had in a long time -- I had visitors coming in to watch me teach every day. 

On Monday, our principal (who, as a matter of course, frequently drops in for short visits) and the vice-superintendent stopped by unexpectedly for about ten minutes and watched the tail-end of a lesson. 

On Tuesday, the principal came in again -- but this time stayed for an hour for my first formal observation in a long time.  He took notes while I did my best to maintain focus on what I was teaching. 
On Wednesday, I got a break by going to the doctor in Sacramento. 

Thursday came, and I taught a hands-on science lesson to my class while two other 4th grade teachers observed how it went.  They're both my friends, so that was actually sort of fun.  How can any lesson that involves a tiny light bulb, a battery and a sheet of tin foil where the directions are to have teams try to get the bulb to light not be a success?  Tiring for the teacher keeping everyone on track, though. 

Then, today, we had our trimester awards assembly where I stood in front of the assembled classes, announced names in the microphone and passed out 4th grade awards.  Most teachers I know don't like doing this, but you do get used to it after awhile.  After recess, while I was giving a dictation test, in walked the principal yet again -- this time with the district superintendent himself. They wandered around for about five minutes, benign and cheerful, looking at the students' paragraphs and then went back out in the rain.  The wind banged the door shut after them and everyone jumped and then laughed.

But right now I'm home.  And the rain is finally, at long last, pelting down exactly how I've wanted it to:
Our home weather station
When the wet stuff's really pouring out of the sky, I love the special message that comes up on the bottom of the screen.  Since I took this picture, the amount of rain has gone up to 0.60".  At this rate, the pipe that goes to the pond should be gushing by morning.  Fingers continued crossed.

I may be going out tonight with a flashlight to take a look...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Doctor Day

View of raindrops at the hospital parking lot. 

Yesterday's visit to the doctor was good.  He's such a kind man -- every time I see him and he tells me that there are no signs of a return of the cancer, he ends by clasping my hands, beaming and telling me how glad he is for me.  It's wonderful having a doctor who seems almost as joyful in how things turned out as I am.  That means a lot.

In Sacramento, the rain was steady and moderate.  When we got back to Frogpond it looked like it had rained here too, but not quite as much.  The hills were finally giving us a trickle of runoff through our pipe to the pond.  It wasn't much, though, and by this afternoon when I checked, the pipe was dry again. 

It's supposed to rain again tonight, but nothing's coming from the clouds...yet. 

I just stuck my nose out the back door and every frog on the place is croaking at the top of its little lungs.  It appears I'm not the only one yelling for more rain.