Thursday, February 28, 2013


Bruce is doing well.  He's got his own room (tiny, but it's got four walls!), really nice hospital staff keeping him in line and his iPad.  He's scheduled for surgery this afternoon at 4:00.  Fingers crossed.

They say that during trying times, it helps to stay focused on the moment.  I had lots of practice with this yesterday as I tried to find the correct freeway onramp so I could get out of Sacramento.  However, even with my very best focusing, I became hopelessly confused and had to finally pull over on a side street and do what I always do when stumped by life's little challenges.  I called Bruce.  From his hospital bed no less, he patiently (oooh -- a pun!) gave me the simple directions that got me pointed the right way and onto the freeway and out of the Big City.  Such a good Bear!

Once home, the sun was already sinking behind Gopher Ridge, but I did what I'd been needing to do all day: I finished digging the hole and planted the second olive tree.  We won't even go to the place where I talk about the guilt that Bruce was digging holes for trees all last weekend with a back ready to give out... Anyway, I needed to get out and do some work under the open sky of Frogpond.

I used a pick ax to break through the shale and got the little tree planted and watered in just before it was dark.  I went down this morning in my bathrobe to take a picture and was pleased to see that it was still upright.  It's the little things!

Manzanillo Olive

The neighbor's cows inspecting things from their side of the fence

As I study the picture, I'm just noticing that I set the tree in at a bit of a tilt.  I suppose that's what comes of planting in half-light.  Never mind -- a lot of us at Frogpond have varying degrees of tilt.  The tree fits right in.

I'm off to the hospital again in a little while.  I'm feeling a bit tilted myself, but (like the tree) doing well anyway.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bruce and his Aching Back

It seemed like a normally hectic Tuesday at school.  Then the phone rang during language arts class and it was Bruce telling me that he was on his way to the hospital in Sacramento.  He'd had an MRI yesterday to see if they could find any reason for his awful back pain.  It appears nothing's going on there... except a herniated disc in his vertebrae.  Sheesh.  So his doctor called him and told him that he'll be needing surgery.  Soon.  Like tomorrow.

So I wrote up substitute plans for my class and will be driving up to Sacramento tomorrow.  I'm still amazed that all of this happened so fast -- especially since Bruce's back has been hurting for such a long time.

Tonight I'm home with the critters.  We all miss Bruce, but we're being very brave.  The three dogs and five cats and myself are all going to bed now.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The List

Our Garden Help: The Orange Boys (Bruce took this pic)

 My February break is now a thing of the past.  Since last Friday, I made a final push to get done some of the things that had been on the List (the one that has no beginning and no end, but always keeps growing).  I went to my classroom on Friday morning and did some cleaning up, fed the fish and brought home a load of journals to grade.

In the afternoon, Bruce and I took a drive to a nursery in a small town about an hour away and had a lovely time buying 3 bare root walnut trees, a bare root apricot tree, two potted olive trees and two blackberry bushes.  On Saturday we planted the 3 walnut trees in the area outside the orchard garden.  We'll see how they do.  I also planted the two blackberry plants and tied up all to the blackberry canes to the guide wires.  On Sunday we planted the apricot tree.  I also corrected all my student journals  plus all the other papers that had stacked up.

This afternoon we got the first of the olive trees in the ground.

It's a simple little blanket, but as soft as a kitten

Best of all, the baby blanket I've been working on for way too long was finally completed, cut from the loom and finished off.  That was a great feeling.  Bruce sent it off to daughter Chelsea today.

Spring is in the air.  For this week, I must plant the second olive tree, get the 30 pounds of seed potatoes planted (where am I putting them again?), complete all my report cards and prepare a 12 minute talk that I'll be presenting to the entire teaching staff of our district in 10 days.  No pressure there.

I'm slightly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work I've put in front of myself, but am busy, happy and pleased by all the things I can put a "done" check next too.  Even though the list keeps getting longer, I'm like a fish flashing down a very swift stream: as long as I don't fight it or start to stress, things just go rolling along.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Blanket Statement

I finally got the blanket for grandbaby Logan woven and off the loom.  It was a fun little project to weave. although its very simplicity caused all imperfections to be magnified.  The yarn was super soft and stretchy, so all the places where I wasn't consistent with the tension have left little dips along the selvages.  Well, it definitely looks handmade.

I laid the blanket out on the dining room table to tie the fringe and left to get my scissors.  When I came back, Multipass had happily settled her fuzzy butt smack in the center of it.  She was so cute, that I let her stay for a bit.
It passed the cat test with flying colors.  With a bit of luck, Logan will like it too!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Tale of Poom's Poodle Tail

As the whole universe is well-aware, Poom sports the most gorgeous and fluffiest of tails.  Alas, it has been temporarily modified.

Last Friday, something got hold of Poom by the tail.  There was some Poom fur by the garage and he carried his tail down, but there was no blood that we could see (a problem with super-fluffy tails is that it's hard to see past the fur).  My hypothesis was that a goose might have charged up behind him and grabbed and given our boy a shaking.  It didn't seem serious, so we watched, waited and hoped for the best.  On Monday night I had the opportunity to examine his tail again while he was on my lap.  This time I saw a puncture wound -- definitely teeth.

Bruce was able to get him in to the vet's on Tuesday morning (before it snowed).  The vet's prognosis was that Poom's tail had been bitten several good chomps by another cat.  We suspect it may have been our bipolar kitty, Zelda.  Poom likes to annoy her (actually he likes to annoy all the cats) and she may have finally had enough.  No major damage -- the vet said it was already starting to heal.

It was a humbled Poom who came home again -injected with antibiotics, treated for fleas (again) and sporting a jaunty poodle puff-ball on the end of his tail.

He was upset about all of this for about three minutes.  Then, Poom being Poom, he got back to being Poom.

In short order, he got the kitchen rugs whipped back into shape...

...admired his handsome mug in the door's reflection...

...and then ended off the day by taking over the entire bed, as only a large, contented Poom can.

Which reminds me: when Poom went in to the vet's for the first time last July, he was an emaciated 7 pounds.  He's almost doubled in size since then -- we now have 13.5 pounds of Poom.  Now that's a hefty boy!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Snow Day!

 Yesterday was a good day for not being at work.  My cold was in high gear and I wasn't feeling well at all, but decided to keep my appointment to get my hair cut down in Stockton -- rescheduling would mean having to do this next week after school and the week looks to be crazy-busy enough as it is.  However, I did cancel the lunch date with daughter Liz.  Her birthday was last week, but she was very sweet about postponing our little celebration for a while longer.  She knows the best little restaurants in Stockton, so (on an admittedly selfish level), I'm relieved to wait until I have more of an appetite).

I got my hair cut and was headed back home around one o'clock when it began to rain.  Big, splappy, lacy drops hit the windshield as I crossed Gopher Ridge to home.

When I arrived home, I excitedly told Bruce that it was almost, almost, almost snowing outside!

And then, a few minutes later, I looked out the window and it was no longer almost, almost, almost snowing -- it was SNOWING, SNOWING, SNOWING!  Yeah, I reacted like a little kid.

We get very little snow here -- usually just a light dusting ever few years.  But this storm was different.  The flakes fell thickly like messy white confetti dumped out of the clouds. They were melting even as they fell, so everything pretty much turned to water when it hit the ground.

Der Schneesturm am Froschteich! (Did I say this right???)

The flakes really tried to turn into a blizzard, but the temperature was a bit too warm (36 degrees).  It was impressive anyway.

It's such a delight when something different like this happens -- I love seeing Frogpond in new ways. This freak snowstorm was perfect.

And, remarkably, amazingly and wonderfully, I was home to see it!

After the storm, a group of ducks trundled up to the house and spent several minutes quietly standing around, curiously contemplating the whiteness on Gopher Ridge.  Perhaps they were composing snow haiku together.  Or hatching a plan to order a duck-sized toboggan from Amazon so they could shoosh down the slope together.  Gotta love them duckies!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Loping along

I am sick...or, as we say in German, Ich bin krank.  (Yes, I've finally learned another German phrase applicable to something in my real life!) However, it's just a cold and I think it will slow me down only a little.

Yesterday was a riding day.  Mary hauled her horse, Jaime, over and we had a lesson in the arena.  No pictures of this, but Cornelius and I spent a lot of time loping ("cantering" when riding English).  Years ago, a horse took to violent bucking as I went into a lope and I was slammed into the sand. I've been afraid to go fast on a horse ever since.  Fears like this have a horrible power.  I worked on getting over this for two years while doing the dressage thing on Corny, but never felt secure perched on that tiny English saddle.  I could do it, but rarely was able to relax into it so that it was easy and the horse was happy.  I constantly fought the desire to crouch forward on his neck like a terrified monkey and pull on the reins.

Even when we got into the lope and were cruising around, Corny could feel  my desire to slow down and, lazy boy that he is, was more than ready to comply.  Our progress around the arena would be trot, lurch up to a reluctant lope, slow to a trot, shove back into the lope, slow to a trot, shove back into the lope....like that.  Exhausting and frustrating for me, but Corny would just get whiny and pissed.  Can't say I blamed him.  Through it all, Mary never gave up that I could get over this.  She's the stern but patient sort -- perfect for a teacher.

Switching back to the security of a Western saddle has helped.  It's more than that, though.  I've been reading about how a person's mindset can influence what they do.  Visualizing cantering easily and confidently before actually asking Corny to do it has worked wonders. I lean back, cue him gently with my inside rein and outside leg and off we go.  Just like that.  We still fall back into the trot, canter, trot mode on a regular basis, but we're getting it more and more often.  When he gets pissy over having to keep loping, I now get after him with a jab from the spurs or a spank on the butt with the end of my rein.  He was a little startled to learn that I will not be bossed around by a grumpy horse anymore.  Looks like Corny's mindset is changing too.

Afterwards, we went for our first walk down the road together.  We saw the pig (who ignored us), two tiny donkeys (who made both Jaime and Corny a bit suspicious), several dogs (who, thankfully, stayed in their yards), and were passed by several cars (no reaction from either horse).  The clip-clop of the horses' feet on the road, the warm day and riding together with a friend was all I could ask for.

It was a warm weekend and Bruce and I had a good time together. Busy, but not too busy.

I'd planned to prune the roses in the orchard garden, but never got to it.  Tonight and tomorrow it's supposed to rain.

Today looks like a good pruning day.  This is my sort of Monday!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Chicken Prison

The wonderful thing about coming down with a head cold on the Sunday evening before a week-long school break is that I don't have to write out lesson plans for a substitute.  I'm getting as much enjoyment as possible from being sick without any distractions, but this is not as fun as one might think.  Sigh.

Yesterday was a good day.  I pruned about half of our roses while Bruce raised the fence around the chicken coop, which is now looking more like a chicken prison.  That's OK with me.

Captain Jack contemplating freedom
Our younger birds have learned how to escape the coop with ease: some by hopping onto the branches of the pine tree and, from there, sailing over the fence; some by getting a running start on the hill and launching over a low spot in the fence; some, like Houdini, get out by some sort of chicken magic.

If they just wandered around the yard and ate bugs, there would be no problem.  But hens love nothing more than scratching for grubs in loose dirt.  Like in my garden.  They've learned how to easily get over all the small fences that Bruce put up around my various beds.  What those chicken feet can do to tiny bulbs, sprouting tubers and seedlings would make any gardener cry.

Looking innocent, as only a hen can

Hen up to no good

The hens look pleasantly picturesque as they putter around the place.  Oh, but those chicken feet, tipped with sharp chicken talons can do a lot of damage in a short amount of time.  And they always seem to find my prettiest and most delicate plants. Weeds, they leave alone.

So now our plump little hens are incarcerated behind a nine foot high fence and not liking it one bit.

Today only two of them managed to escape.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


I made it through last week in one piece.

School science fair was a success other than a bit more of the  adult and child angst about the color of the ribbons awarded.  {This is very much why so many schools don't do science fairs anymore -- if it isn't a blue hanging from the board, the whole endeavor is deemed a failure}  I gave all the 4th and 5th grade students whose projects are going on to the county level info packets on ways to beef up their projects over the break.  Now all I have to do is register those 20 projects online.

I also went through two classroom observations in good enough style.  The first observation was from a 4th grade teacher who I'd invited in to watch my time management as I taught through my language arts block.  I never seem to get through all of the material on my lesson plan in a given time period and was hoping for pointers on how I might tighten things.  She was a sweetheart to do this for me, although, in the end, she had no suggestions.  It seems that my time-flow works pretty well for my style of teaching.  I'm still not sure how to get through all the lesson content I have to teach, but we'll leave that for another day.  She did make me feel good with the positive comments she gave -- that means a lot, coming from a fellow teacher.

The other observation was on Wednesday.  This one was fraught with more anxiety on my part because the group of observers included our district's assistant superintendent along with 6 or 7 administrators from different school districts.  Naturally, I put on myself the pressure that I was not only representing myself, but also our school (this pressure was completely manufactured by myself, by the way).  So I was pleased and relieved when that went off well too.

Confession time:  I'm a pretty good teacher (30 years practice does help), but always feel a bit of a fraud when I get compliments for my teaching after I've prepared in advance for an observation.  Human nature being what it is, I always try harder when I know that people with little notebooks and laptops are scheduled to come in and scrutinize what I'm doing.  I have off and on lessons throughout the week that are of high quality, but I haven't the energy or the will to put that much effort into doing this 100%, all the time.  Not yet, at any rate.

Here I sit on the first morning of my February break from school, and my head is spilling over with thoughts of the classroom -- not all positive.  It doesn't help that yesterday was not such a good day.  I was tired and had a headache and the children were boisterous and eager to tattle on each other, kick under the desks, and sail the occasional paper airplane across the room.  Like that.

In a judgement lapse of monumental proportions, I set a plant in the sink and turned the tap on gently so that it could thoroughly get watered while I continued giving a spelling test.  Then I forgot about it.  Ten minutes later, a student asked me why water was running down the cabinets.  I looked and saw the water was funneled by the leaves of the plant directly onto the counter.  The water formed a river that flowed through all my stacks of tests and other papers and from there divided and spilled down onto the carpet in twin waterfalls.  How a little trickle of water from the faucet could turn into a flood of such proportions is a mystery.

If any observers had been present at this time, they would have been able to document how the classroom erupted into complete pandemonium as one pissed off teacher and 23 delighted students sprang towards the disaster.

"We'll help you!"  they shouted.

"Sit down IMMEDIATELY!!!" I roared back. And they did.

But they didn't mind too much because they got to watch their teacher frantically moving stacks of dripping papers and books and then sweeping cascades of water back towards the sink with a sopping rag.  Fun times.  The water had gone all the way around my fish tank and I looked up to see the fish eying me with a kind of detached amusement from their own watery world.

Eventually, the worst of the water was sopped up, and the spelling test was completed.  Then it was recess.

And now it is break.  Thank God.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Day Before February Break

Once again, such a week, such a week, such a week.  I'm utterly and completely consumed by school.

Last night was our school's science fair, which I was in charge of.  It went well -- the projects were better than last years, lots of people came and it felt like a big, happy celebration.  But I was so tired that I could hardly wait to come home and go to bed.  When I did, I was asleep by 8:30.

I felt much better when I woke up this morning, but am very much looking forward to our break next week.  Coming up, I must prepare to speak to the entire teacher staff of our district at a meeting on March 7.  I'm nervous, but ready to take on this challenge.  I also have an interview next week for acceptance into a program that teaches teachers how to teach writing more effectively.  We'll see how that goes.  I have crossed fingers that I'm accepted -- I need this training!

However, at Frogpond, there are roses to prune, potatoes to plant, a horse to ride, a blanket to weave, a new book to read, German language to practice, curtains to sew and cats to cuddle.  I'll be having a very busy week -- in a good way!

Monday, February 11, 2013

In Praise of Eggs -- Yet Again!

Ja, ja -- more eggs!  I promise that after today I will stop posting about them...at least for awhile.  This evening, in the dark, I collected 20 of them from underneath the drowsy hens.  I've never been able to get over just how wondrous a simple egg can be.  Good hens!

We have one as-yet unknown hen who's an overachiever.  None of our flock is particularly large, but one of them lays GIGANTIC eggs; easily twice the size of an ordinary egg.  How she manages to squeeze the thing out is beyond me.  So far we've gotten two of them.

On Sunday, Bruce cracked one of them in order to make scrambled eggs.  I was delighted to find that it was a double-yolker  -- and both yolks were huge.

With them, plus a few smaller, single-yolkers, Bruce was able to scramble up a lovely breakfast of eggs, along with sides of tomato and avocado.  The joy of being married to man who likes to cook!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Egg Cups

Right now the egg yolks are at their deepest, richest orange
When visiting Anke and Wolfgang in Germany last summer, I fell in love with the breakfast eggcups that Anke set out several mornings.  They had the cutest little chicken feet (who thinks up this stuff???).

After raving about them to anyone who would listen for the next six months, it's hardly surprising that I got eggcups from both Mama and Bruce for Christmas.  Mama's are a classic white molded hen shape -- perfect for smaller eggs.  Bruce 's are the kind with feet.  They are different than the ones Anke had, but the idea is the same.  They are larger than the white ones, so hold the super-large springtime eggs that the hens are laying right now.  Both sets came with delicate porcelain egg spoons, of a size to fit perfectly inside an egg to scoop out every last, delicious bit.

Eating soft-boiled eggs has now become almost an artistic ritual.  Hard to believe that until now, we would simply set the eggs in small glass shot glasses and cram in regular teaspoons.  That worked OK, but eating eggs is now much more elegant and fun.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Die Eier (The Eggs)

Ahhh...it's that eggy time of the year when the hens finally begin laying again after the dark days of winter.  Although it's only February, these several weeks of warm weather have gotten the hens back into production again in a big way.  We're averaging 10-14 eggs a day, which means that we're looking at about seven dozen eggs per week.  This bounty is offered to anyone who comes to our house for any reason at all.   In the past,  people such as the meter reader, a UPS driver and the guy who fixed our stove have all left with cartons of eggs to take home with them.  Not for the first time, I wish that I could mail our eggs to all of our far-away friends and family.

These first eggs of the season are always the biggest and most colorful.  A well-rested hen does good work!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Corny the Working Horse

Max sunbathing on top of the car
This afternoon I had a doctor's appointment in Sacramento, so I had a wonderful Monday morning home from work.  The sun shone, the air was soft and warm and the animals relaxed in their after-breakfast trances...

...all except for Cornelius, who found himself once again being saddled up for yet more work in the arena. Life just isn't fair.  He did get the itchy places behind his ears scratched, which helped his mood.  A bit.

Doesn't he look happy with his sorry lot in life?

He actually does enjoy the attention -- really!  It doesn't help that he's having to trot and canter in the arena while wearing his heavy winter coat -- poor guy was sweating almost immediately.  I promised Mary I would ride, though, and sweaty or not, we had to get the job done.

The arena work went well.  I'm gaining confidence every time we canter and am no longer trying to stop him even as I'm telling him to go.  Now we just GO.  It's also becoming evident that Corny's stamina is improving, and it takes longer for him to start huffing and blowing.  Best of all, Mary finally told us that my boy is no longer fat -- he just needs more muscling up.

After we were done in the arena, we just rode around the lower pasture.  The fun thing about Corny is that he's interested in everything.  He spent several minutes just looking over the fence at the empty road.  I guess when you normally see everything only from the vantage point of your pasture, even 500 yards down the fence must seem new and exciting.

Back to the barn again.  The tiny boy was tired -- I had to hold his head up for him.

After the ride, he got cooled off with a hose-down (so did I -- I always seem to get as wet as the horse).

Then he got tucked into his paddock with a small flake of hay and a large carrot.

And then I left him to eat, roll, nap and continue with all the other horsey pleasures that I'd interrupted.

All I can say is he'd better rest up and enjoy his leisure while he can -- for tomorrow his Auntie Mary will be coming up the drive.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Day Outside

Today was a gloriously sunny February day.  We spent most of it outside, in the company of all the animals (who were also enjoying the warmth).

Here is Poom, doing what he does best: making a mess of something.  In this case, digging a hole in the midst of my bulb bed.  Can't imagine why the little guy would dig a hole nor what he intends to put in it...

And here is Max, doing what he does best: checking things out.  He loves the inside of our cars (unless he's going to the vet).  Here, he's inspecting the bags of feed that Bruce brought home from the feed store.  There's a large bag of cat food in the pile, so I'm fairly certain that he gave the lot his OK.

Corny and I also had a lesson with Mary.  She's very pleased with our progress -- Corny is toning up and I'm feeling stronger in the saddle.  Today we worked on cantering.  I have a fear of going fast and Mary decided that it was time to tackle it head on by my pushing Corny to run as hard as he could on the long sides of the arena.  Never mind that my big boy at his speediest is somewhat slower than a bulldog -- for me, it was heart-thumpingly fast.  We did well and I'm slowly getting over the fear that I'm going to slam into the sand.  We haven't quite gotten to the point where this cantering stuff is fun, but I'm sensing that this will happen some day soon.  Praise be!

To end off the day, I dug up one of the raised beds and planted four rows of beets.  I also some temporary string "fencing" to try to foil the chickens, at least temporarily.  Over half of them have been getting out of the coop every day and they're destroying my plantings.  Bruce is working on adding wire to the top the fence around the coop.  Chickens are very hard on gardens and right now they strut around, scratching up my beds like they own the place.  So it's back to chicken prison with them.

For all of the pleasure we're getting from this lovely weather, I'm really wishing for lots more grey clouds rolling in and dumping rain.  We need it.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

End of a Long Week

I don't like the week's that are so busy that I can't find the energy to catch my breath and write here.  It feels like I'm ignoring my child.  Funny how that is.

School continues to dominate my life right now -- right now the focus is on our first school-wide science fair.  I held our first science fair three years ago for just 4th and 5th grades.  Last year the fair was even bigger and on our science fair night, the multi-purpose room was packed with people.  After that success, our principal decided that he wanted all grade levels to participate.  So next week we'll have projects from kindergarten on up.  This is really a good thing for the students and the community in general and I believe in it with my whole heart.  But I'm ready to hand off organizing it to someone else now that it's gotten so big.  I have another teacher in mind to take over next year -- she's much better than I am at paying attention to details.  Fingers crossed that she wants the job.

Cornelius continues to be ridden by Mary twice during the week.  She's taking him out on the road, where he has to deal with all sorts of scary stuff like flapping flags, dogs, and cars.  On Thursday she rode him up the steep road that goes up Gopher Ridge.  He was sort of snorty and excited the whole way.  On the way down the hill, he and Mary got into a bit of an argument -- he wanted to let gravity help him along and would speed up to a trot instead of walking like Mary wanted.  When he would do this, Mary would turn him around and ask him to canter back up the road.  This happened several times before Corny figured out that walking carefully down the hill was the thing to do.  By this time he was a very hot and sweaty horse.  Mary always wins when there's an argument with the horse she's riding.

When I drove up the drive in the late afternoon, he only looked up at the car for the merest instant, and then turned his back and began grazing again.   I think he'd had enough of people for the time being.

Tomorrow morning, Mary comes to give us both a lesson.  I haven't told Corny about this.

I do have a picture!  Last month's Cook's Magazine had a decadent looking recipe for roast shrimp and tonight we gave it try.  Heaven!