Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Earthquake Weather

This evening The National Weather Service had the depressing statistic that only twelve times since 1849 has no rain fallen in Sacramento in the month of May.  I think that when June rolls around, that number will have increased to thirteen.  The weather has been unseasonably hot and dry with winds gusting up every afternoon.  The hills are already turning their summer brown -- spring rolled through so fast that the flowers scarcely know what to do.  The petals turn brown at the edges even as the buds are opening.

This afternoon, coming home, the sky was strangely hazy.  It was almost as though smoke was blowing in from a nearby fire.  But there was no smell of burning, so I assume that it was just dust kicked up by the wind.  Still, it felt very strange.  We used to describe days like this as "earthquake weather".  Of course I always knew that weather has no connection to earthquakes, but these eerie yellow days put me of a mind that something very big and brooding is waiting to happen. You heard it here first.

Every evening I'm going out to do some weeding.  I'm trying to get as many of them up before they go to seed;  it's a losing battle, but I'm filling the blue cart every evening before going in.  I feel a bit like the little ant trying to move a mountain, but I'm making steady (although slow) progress.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

My Day in an Insane Asylum

Last week was a rather bumpy one for 4th grade in general.  The students were marvelous in all respects...until I blinked or turned my back on them.  When I'd talk to them about their poor choices, eyes would fill with tears (both theirs and mine) and sincere promises would be made about immediate reformation.  And they were true to their word.  Until the next time I blinked or turned my back.  Friday ended with an elegant weapon discovered on a student's desk -- a tiny little spear constructed out of a push pin and a straightened out paper clip.  As I led my motley crew to the busses that afternoon my head hurt and I was about ready for the loony bin.

And, voila, the next day there I was, in the old Stockton Insane Asylum attending a teacher workshop.  The institution was constructed in the 1850's to deal with the large number of gold miners who developed mental problems associated with not finding the riches they expected.  It was very modern and forward-thinking for its day, but in the 1960's it was closed.  And there all these buildings sat, empty and waiting until a few years ago a university bought them.  

Which is why on Saturday, I was wandering down the long hallway of the Stockton Insane Asylum, looking for the Ladies Room before checking into my writing workshop.  And thinking, as a shuffled along the linoleum, that I fit in just fine here... 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Spring Sunset

Last week we had some amazing sunsets.  It feels like summer already, so very warm. The spring flowers are already on their way out.

Question: if it's this hot in April, what lies in store for us in August?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

First Roses

Yes, they're a bit windblown.  And they have their share of aphids and even a bit of powdery mildew.

Oh, but aren't they glorious?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Weeds and Other Weeds

Fillari, foxtail, stick-tight and crabgrass.  Pineapple weed, dock, mallow, and thistle.  I've been introduced to many more, but can't remember their names.   Most of the weekend weeding.  There are acres and acres of them stretching up and out and doing their best to take over Frogpond.   I'm doing my best to pull as many of them up before they flower and set seed.  Even though I only tackle the ones closest to the house and in the gardens, it is a hopeless task.

 These pictures of the orchard garden show a different kind of weed:  the poppies, coreopsis, cornflowers, Keys of Heaven and a magenta wildflower that I forgot the name of have all kindly reseeded throughout the orchard garden.  Unfortunately, they are at their stunning best in the middle of all the paths.  Navigating up and down them has become a bit of nightmare, but pulling them up when they look so beautiful is almost impossible for me to do.  Real weeds are so much easier to deal with...

Friday, April 19, 2013

School Daze and A Certain Bear's Never Ending Birthday Season

I'm at a low ebb where school is concerned.

Logic and past experience tell me that this is the result of the usual frenzy of activity at the end of the school year when the entire staff realizes that they have only a few short weeks to jam in the three months of stuff that still needs doing.  Meanwhile, even as the adults kick it into high gear, the students have decided that it's springtime and their done with school (except for the fun stuff like movies and pizza parties).  I can sympathize with their point of view, but this attitude shift comes about just as we're in the midst of prepping for the all-important (sigh) State Testing.  Right now, I can definitively state that my students could care less about the difference between a simile and a metaphor, how to correctly punctuate an introductory phrase, or what makes a fable a fable.  And as their interest in school wanes, classroom and playground behavior takes a steep nosedive into the first stages of chaos and anarchy.

I comfort myself by repeatedly reminding myself that this happens every year at this time and that this year isn't really any worse than any other year (every year always feels like the very worst it's ever been).  Other than that, I just do my best to keep smiling and maintain a positive attitude - I can't very well ask my students to do this if I won't at least try to do it myself.  Still...I'm mighty relieved that today is Friday...

...Meanwhile, back at the pond, Bruce's birthday season continues at full-tilt.
Bunny ears courtesy of Mama

The soufflé  

Bruce has been into learning how to make soufflés lately.  He got a copper soufflé bowl for beating egg whites from Mama at Christmas and a soufflé dish from his mom for his birthday.  Last Sunday morning he whipped up the second soufflé of his life for our breakfast.  It was, in a word, sublime.

I think that the bear on the apron should be wearing an apron with a picture of Bruce  on it

Yesterday I picked up not one, but two packages for Bruce from the post office.  From daughter Chelsea, he got an apron with an amazing likeness of himself on the front and from an old high school chum, a hilarious tote made out of a recycled hen-scratch bag.  He also beat me into the dust in not one, but two games of Mancala.  Will this Birthday Season never end?????

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Cabin

As we were coming down from the hills on Bruce's birthday drive-photoshoot, we passed by an old, falling-apart cabin.  The front half was perched up near the road, while the back was hanging off the side of a cliff.  That's all I saw before we'd left it behind in a turn of the road.  It is a testament to the good nature of certain Bears that when I told him (rather wistfully) that I'd like to take a closer look at it, that he stopped, put the car in reverse, and backed about an eighth of a mile to where  my the cabin waited for me.

Trespassing makes me nervous, but this strange, forlorn shack with a tree seeming to grow out of each end called me over.  I was tentative but determined.

The front door was open - I really wanted to go inside, but the floorboards looked like they'd be happy to send me down the hillside.  So I contented myself by leaning through a side window and taking pictures from there.

The rooms were empty except for a bit of junk tossed around.  Some of the walls had been busted up, the windows were broken and even the doorknob was gone.  The tin roof was in good shape though.

I noticed all  of these details as though I were looking to move in.  Truly, I felt more drawn to this tiny, unloved place than to many places I have had to live in -- places with running water, inside toilets and floors.  Not to mention doorknobs.

There was flowering rosemary and a grapevine leafing out in what had been the front garden.  A rusted bed frame rested behind the bushes.

The trees screened most of the valley below, but I could catch glimpses of the distant hills on the other side.

I don't remember hearing birds or wind or sound of any kind -- just the sound of my own voice as I'd occasionally call out to Bruce what I was finding.  Everything was so still.

I've been thinking about this little cabin a lot.  It obviously has seen happy times (unhappy people don't plant rosemary), but now sits abandoned. It appears to be waiting for something or someone.

Bruce won't be too happy moving because I'm assuming it has no Internet.  The cats will love it though.  True, it does need a lot of work, but the roof is sound.

A person can dream...

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Birthday Day

Yesterday, for his birthday, Bruce wanted to go for a drive to take pictures of wildflowers and such. So Bruce and I (along with bird id books, The Natural History of the Sierra Nevadas, cameras, and Murphy in the backseat) set off for this long and winding gravel road that snakes through the higher foothills.  Bruce had rediscovered it last week and wanted to go back (I'd been there about ten years ago, but had no recollection of it at all).

Murphy was in charge of all the junk in the backseat
We passed through the tiny town of Sheep Ranch (pop. 82) and then Bruce made a few rights and lefts (I was utterly lost), each time the road getting narrower and more remote.  Finally we came to the magic stretch of road that  Bruce wanted to photograph.  We pulled over and parked whenever the spirit moved us to walk or take pictures.  Not a single other car went by in the several hours we were there.

The Birthday Bear

Bush Lupine

Indian Paintbrush

Wildflowers of orange, yellow, purple and blue lined the top of and draped and spilled down the road cuts.

Ceanothus (California Wild Lilac)

The day was warm, the breezes light and fragrant, and no worries followed us.  It was the kind of day that stays in memory forever (in other words, this time I won't forget that I've been here!)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Mirror, Mirror...

I'll say it again: there's not much cuter than a gosling.   

One of their favorite activities is to nestle right in front of the side of the trough and commence to gazing at their own reflections.  Their little bills tap repeatedly against the metal as they try to preen their own beautiful mirror-selves.

Right now their main living quarters is a large metal water trough that we set up in stall #3 of the barn.  It's still big enough for them, but they'll have outgrown it by the end of next week. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Grandpa Methuselah

Methuselah has always been like one of those bosomy ladies who loves nothing more than cuddling a wee baby -- he just loves those young-uns.  This afternoon, when Bruce carried out the two new goslings so they could get some sun and nibble on the grass, Methuselah heard them calling and came to the rescue.  He positioned himself squarely in front of them, got all snake-necked and hissy and dared any of us to get by him.  We all stayed at a respectful distance.  The goslings seemed quite impressed and not at all afraid of their fierce Grandpa.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Birthday of a Gourmet, Tractor Driving, Animal Lover

Bruce has been having a grand time, gearing up for his upcoming birthday.  Here are his new birthday soufflé dishes that we got last week at the kitchen store.  On Sunday he made his first soufflé -- a cheddar cheese recipe that was about as delicious a breakfast as one could ever hope to eat.  It was THAT good.  Really!

Lest one think that Bruce is all about gourmet cooking, today he picked up another birthday present for himself:  a brand-new tractor seat to replace the scrunched and ripped one that's been slowly disintegrating on the Kubota.  

Finally, here is the last thing he was hankering for (besides the mega-moolah bucks worth of camera equipment he didn't get): our newest Frogpond inmates, the goslings.

Soufflés!  Tractor seats!  Goslings!

This is quite the multi-faceted Bear I married.

Saturday, April 6, 2013


The past three days have been...interesting.  On Thursday, during a routine exam at my optometrist, my doctor got very quiet while examining my right eye.  I knew something was up.  He saw a white spot in the eleven o'clock position of my retina where no white spot should be.  It looked like I might have the beginnings of a tear in my retina.  He was concerned enough that he set up an appointment with a ophthalmologist colleague of his for the following day.  On Thursday the colleague looked, and he too was concerned by what he saw.  As he wasn't on my Kaiser Insurance, he wrote up his diagnosis and we called our own advice nurse when we got home.  We were told to get me to the Stockton clinic that evening so that one of their own ophthalmologists could examine me.  He did and then went on to schedule me to see a retinologist for this morning.  The retinologist took a good long look and decided that bit of laser surgery was in order to seal things off, just in case.  So this was done.  And now it's all over and all, hopefully, is well.

I'm truly grateful to have so much medical expertise on my side in this.  But.  Every time I went in, my eyes would get drops in it them get the pupils good and dilated.  And I'd be, essentially, blind for the rest of the day.  This translates to three days of my break where I couldn't do anything because I couldn't see.  Three days!  Just like that, all the weeding, weaving and cleaning I'd had planned went out the window.  I just have to let it go...

On the way home from the surgery I wore Darth Vader-type goggles to keep the brightness from my eyes.  It was quite a fashion-forward sort of look...I sincerely hope.  Bruce had read that the Oakdale feedstore had an order of Toulouse goslings in, so we decided to take a detour in order to pick up a couple of them.  So now we have two new Frogpond babies.

They are cute as only baby geese can be.  I offered them lettuce and they quickly figured out that leafy greens are delicious.  Clever little birds!

Tomorrow is my last day of break.  I will weed, finish cleaning my kitchen shelves, warp my weaving project, finish correcting student tests, write up lesson plans and tidy the house...Hah!!!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Birthday Goodies for Two

I have come to realize that it's almost inevitable that whenever one of my much-awaited school breaks comes along, I'll get a cold.  It's become such a tradition and I wait for them to hit.  This time the sniffles and headache began on Tuesday.  I was almost relieved to have the cold finally show up so I could just deal with it already and get on with my long list of things to do (hmmm...could there be a correlation here?).  My delight is immense to find that this break's cold is a wimpy sort and by today I'm able to pretty much ignore it (as long as there's a box of Kleenix nearby).

Next week is Bruce's birthday and when I asked him what he wanted, he said, "Cooking stuff."  This answer brought a smile to my face because it's so much cheaper than if he'd said, "Camera stuff."  Plus shopping for it is more fun (for me).  So off we went to our favorite kitchen store, Home and Farm Supply, up in the pretty little town of Jackson.  We drove there through green hills with poppies spilling down the slopes and cows grazing in the sunshine.

My "birthday" goodies

We arrived at the store and then proceeded to buy everything on the shelves.  We emptied the place.  OK, well, maybe we left just a little for later shoppers, but we made quite a dent in their inventory.

What I'd forgotten was that I, too, become an uncontrollable consumer when it comes to kitchen gadgets.  So, while the camera store might be more expensive for one, the kitchen store bill must be multiplied by two.

Bruce's birthday goodies

          I just love birthdays!                                                                          

Monday, April 1, 2013


OK, so I have just a bit of weeding to do.  A couple of weeks ago I looked at this area by the birdbath in the orchard garden and thought, "It's not too bad.  It'll wait."  It didn't.

As is my custom, I chose a week when I'm off from school to come down with a cold.  I'm not terribly sick -- just under the weather enough to slow me down dampen my enthusiasm for doing much of anything.  Today I lazed around -- read a chapter in a book for my book study and responded to it on our Wikki, began a weaving project for a scarf and did just a bit of weeding at the end of the day.  That was pretty much it.  Hopefully I'll have my energy back by tomorrow.