Friday, November 29, 2013

The Day Before Thanksgiving

Murphys, CA -- our favorite bakery

It's been a delight having Uncle Mike stay with us this Thanksgiving.  So much a delight, in fact, that I haven't sat down to blog about it.  At least not until this very moment -- the evening before Mike leaves for Arizona again.

Next week the nights are supposed to finally get down to the mid-twenties -- winter will be here.  I'm so glad that Mike was here in the last true week of autumn.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Uncle Mike at Frogpond

Max at his Royal Leisure

It is the second day of Thanksgiving break and life is good.  I'm not taking things anywhere near as easy as Max is, but he's one splendid example of how I plan to spend this lovely week doing a whole lot of things that I want to do.  My list includes weaving, gardening, reading, practicing German and blogging.  It also includes more mundane things like cleaning out a kitchen cabinet or two, getting my hair done (at last), and maybe even working a bit on the interior of our filthy garage.  Overlayering all of this, is the pleasure of the Thanksgiving festivities which this year includes the addition Uncle Mike, visiting from Arizona.

He arrived on Saturday.  Unfortunately, we were an hour late picking him up at the Sacramento Airport because we hadn't factored in the one hour time difference between Arizona and California.  No matter -- what might have been a terrible start to a visit wound up being not even a blip on the radar because all of us were happy.  I love that.  

Not at all surprisingly, one thing that specifically wants to do while visiting is to work outside.  Hah -- genetics is a wondrous thing!
The rest of the workcrew

I took Mike on a tour of the various Frogpond gardens to show him the choices he had for any work that he wanted to do -- the orchard garden, the lower garden, the driveway area, the back garden, the raised beds and the pond wildflower garden.  All of them are looking bedraggled and in need of a lot of tidying up (to put it mildly).

In the end, he chose the pond wildflower garden.  I sort of thought (and hoped) that this would be his choice.  Yesterday we spent several hours clearing out the dead plant growth and it already looks much better.

Today we hope to make it to a local native oak nursery to buy some trees to add to the five we've already got there.  After that, we've got about 300 daffodil bulbs to put in plus a scattering of wildflowers.  Fun times.  :)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Parent/Teacher Conference Week (accompanied by a little rain)

The first two days of parent/teacher conferences are behind me.  Both afternoons, Sue and I met with parents for 15 minute intervals from 1:15 until 5:00 with scarcely a break between conferences.  By the time we've seen our last parent to the door and said goodnight, the sun has set and it's almost dark.    When I finally get home, I need my flashlight as I gather eggs, feed Corny and herd the geese into the barn.  Not surprisingly, last night I was in bed and asleep by nine o'clock.  One more long stretch of conferences this afternoon.  Tomorrow's meetings "only" go through 4:30  and then this marathon's over.

I'm typing this from bed in the wee-early hours of Wednesday morning.  The window above my head is cracked open and through it comes the long-awaited, much-anticipated, joyful music of rain.  At last.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Weekend of Playing Hooky

Tonight I sit at the big dining room table and look at the three tall stacks of schoolwork I never got to.  I just finished up my lesson plans and have a relatively clear idea about what I'll be doing tomorrow.  If I get up early enough, I'll correct some papers.  If I don't...oh, well.  I've been so consumed by school (in a bad, driven sort of way), that I firmly turned away from it this weekend.  This was a difficult thing for me to do, but tonight I'm feeling much better about things.

Today Bruce and I cleaned up the barn area.  I also planted violas and pansies in a back flower bed and then we sat outside and ate stew for dinner while watching the sun set.  Nice.  We have a 50% chance of rain slated for Tuesday/Wednesday.  Yay!

Friday, November 15, 2013


Ahh...weekend.  The week was at school was, remarkably, even more intense than usual.  This is especially amazing because I was out of the classroom for three of the five days:  Monday was a holiday, Tuesday I was at a language arts meeting and Friday I was in a math workshop.   Despite (or perhaps because of) my absence, all sorts of uncomfortable drama sent depressing fireworks all over the place.  Some of it (at least partly) was my fault.  Never mind.

It's now the beginning of the weekend and I'm safe at home.  Tomorrow there is a cold front moving in and by nightfall we're due to get our first frost.  Time to get busy planting daffodils and moving the tender plants into the house and barn.  I already have 20 lily bulbs planted in big pots on the back deck.

It's going to be a good weekend.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


 I've been swamped with schoolwork -- up to my neck in it as I've worked to get our first trimester report cards completed.  I whittled away at them this past weekend, continued on with them yesterday evening and finally got the last boxes checked a few hours ago.  It's a relief to get that done.

Despite being up to my neck in report cards, we also managed to get the olives we picked at the Ericksons cured, freshened, and packed in jars with a brine solution.

Buttery and mild, they taste like no store-bought olive I've ever eaten.  This is quite a miracle for a fruit that starts out so hard and terribly bitter.


We now have 19 quarts of them tucked away in the fridge in the garage.  They'll keep for a couple of months, so we'll be in olives through Christmas.  We also have a bowl of them in the kitchen fridge that I've been visiting regularly while working on report cards.  The pile of pits in the compost bucket gives testimony to how often I stopped to reward myself as I worked.  The power of olives is a wondrous thing!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Another Mouse

Yow.  It's been a week...and it's not over yet.  School has been tough.  I have a slow leak in one of the tires of my car.  Day light savings time changed, so it's almost dark when I get home.  The internet went out at the house again.  I have to do report cards.  I lost an earring.  I burned broccoli in a pan this evening and the house stinks.

OK, so maybe I'm whining.  Just a little.

However, a funny thing did happen on Tuesday.  I had a substitute take my class for the day as the 5th grade teacher and I were spending the day planning language arts curriculum.  My sub, a stalwart, middle-aged lady named Ms. K, was in my room when I checked at noon to see how things were going.  Ms. K. assured me that the morning had run smoothly and then after a brief pause said, "There is one thing though.  What's that high-pitched buzzing sound coming from the thing you have plugged into your wall?  The sound's been driving me crazy."  I looked, and saw that she was pointing to the contraption I bought to keep rodents away by emitting a noise that they hate.  I can't hear it unless I put my ear right next to it.  I told her what it was, paused, and then kindly noted that she must be a mouse.  Ms. K. didn't say anything, but silently unplugged the thing.

I'm thinking that she may not be returning.  Mice are touchy like that.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

An Olive Afternoon

This afternoon we finally got over to Gloria and Gilbert's ranch to pick olives.  We arrived with our lard bucket not a moment too soon -- another few days and all the olives on the trees would have become dark and soft.  I don't know how it works, but green olives that are picked after they darken turn soft and bitter when processed while black olives are fine once they turn black.  Anyway, we were able to almost fill our bucket with plump, green olives.

Olives are one of the easiest fruits to pick.  You just reach in, grab a handful, pull them off and drop them in the bucket.  No clippers, no gloves, no squirting juices, and they don't bruise easily.  The trees aren't too tall and the branches have no thorns or stickers.  The hardest part about picking olives is knowing when to stop -- it's so easy to do that it's hard to stop.  Gilbert spurred on my picking frenzy by standing by my elbow with a bowl of his own recently cured olives.  I'd reach over from time to time and sample one -- tender, buttery and mildly salty.  Divine.

They recently got two puppies and first they played while we picked and later sprawled out and slept as we continued picking.  About the only thing that could add to the pleasure of picking olives would be the addition of two adorable puppies to the picture.

That and the wine, cheese and more olives that we sat down and ate afterwards.  Gloria retired from teaching this year.  After working with her for so many years, I miss her.   The woman I see now, though, is happy and relaxed now that she's taken off the work harness -- I'm suddenly aware that I too have reached a point in my life where being engrossed with something other than the classroom is looking mighty appealing.

I went off to pick fruit at Gloria's and came home with two things:  a bucket full of olives and an altered mindset on my personal timeline.

Oops -- sideways, but you get the idea

Olives are rather amazing.