Thursday, January 30, 2014

Bouncing Baby Storm has Arrived!

I couldn't fall asleep until after midnight last night and got up several times to step through the sliding glass doors to check for rain.  Only the barest misty drizzle touched my arms as I held them hopefully up.  I cracked the window above the bed open in order to hear the rain that surely was on its way. This morning I woke up at 5:30 and strained my ears to hear raindrops -- nothing.  I never woke up during the night, so assumed that it had never rained.  Imagine my delight when I checked our rain gauge and discovered that it had rained over half an inch.  It finally rained and I slept right through it.

Never mind.  It rained!  The weather website has added that this is a very slow moving storm -- a good thing.  Let the clouds linger and offer every last drop of water to our dry earth.

I wish I could stay home today...

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Here, in the light of day, is the baby oak tree I planted by flashlight two nights ago.  It doesn't look like it weighs two million pounds, does it?  And it certainly is hard to believe that the hole I dug had to go four miles down.

Last night I planted a baby pine tree along the drive and a climbing rose in the orchard.  Both of these were much smaller then the monster oak, so got tucked in much more quickly.  No flashlight required.

All this frantic planting is, of course, because I want to get as much in the ground as possible before the predicted rain arrives to soak everything in.

There was a 30% chance of rain today, but not a drop fell.  Lovely, grey clouds, though, and the air smells heavy and moist.

An 80% chance of rain is predicted tonight after ten o'clock.  It is now 10:38 and I just stepped out on the porch to check things out.  Still nothing.  What's wrong with the sky?  The rain is 38 minutes late and I'm impatiently tapping my little foot.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Be Still My Heart!

Yes, its true -- California's 52 day massive high-pressure system is about to get it's butt kicked by a storm that's marching towards us from Hawaii.  The likelihood of rain by Thursday started out at 20% last week and has since crept up to 40% and now is at a solid 70%.  It's not quite a slam dunk yet, but it's looking like the storm door might be opening before our "rainy" season is over for the year.  Last week, our governor officially declared that we have a drought in California and water officials have been scrambling to conserve as much water as possible.  The talk was getting more serious about what might be the consequences if it didn't rain at all this spring.  This hasn't happened ever in our state's recorded history, so the full impact could only be guessed at.  On a personal level, I pretty certain that one impact would be that our well may very likely run dry.  But now things are cautiously looking up.

By way of celebrating, I rushed outside to plant one of the larger oaks when I got home from school yesterday.  The sun was already just behind Gopher Ridge when I trundled the 15 gallon potted tree down the driveway in a handcart.  15 gallons of tree doesn't sound all that heavy, but I could barely wrestle it into the cart.  As I wheeled it down the sloped drive, there was one exciting moment when it appeared that the tree in the driver's seat was going to send the cart careening off without me.  I was very much in the moment as I slowed down the runaway tree by steering the cart diagonally across the drive.  But eventually the tree, cart, one shovel, two dogs and a cat arrived at one of the holes that Bruce had augered out the day before.

And soon after that, I discovered that the hole wasn't deep enough.  And that there was a sturdy layer of quartz and shale at the bottom of it.  As I'd had to cut the pot down the sides in order to pull the tree out, I couldn't change my mind about planting it right then.  So I trudged back up the hill in the fading light to turn on the hose so I could put water in the hole in hopes that it might soften up the surrounding dirt a bit.  I worked on it for a bit longer, then went back up the house -- this time for a pick ax and a flashlight.

I have never used a pick ax in the dark before and this is what I discovered: when you whack it against stone, sparks shower out.  There was a veritable 4th of July thing going on down there with every clang of the pick.  Being surrounded by acres of dry grass, it occurred to me how surreal it was to be worrying about fire danger while digging a hole in January.  But there it was.

However, I was determined to get that tree in the ground.  Actually, to be honest, I kept looking out towards the highway as I worked, hoping that one of those sets of car headlights zooming down from Vista Point belonged to Bruce's car.  I very much wished that he was the guy wielding the pick and then I could be the person helpfully holding the flashlight so he could see.  But this didn't appear to be anything that would happen in the near future.  So I balanced the flashlight on the edge of the cart, and kept hacking away at the hole and scooping out dirt and rock chips with my hands.  From time to time I'd lower the tree into the hole to see if it was deep enough.  The first three times, the root ball was above the ground level but the fourth time I didn't have to haul it back out again.  By now Seal and Max the cat had gone back up to the house and only Murphy was left.  He lay close by and watched with an interested expression as I shoveled in the dirt around the roots and then tamped and watered everything in.  And then I loaded up the tools back into the cart and Murphy and I made our final trip back up to the house.

I closed the chickens up in the coop and had just herded the geese back into their stall for the night when headlights came up the drive.  And there was Bruce.  When I asked him if he'd seen the tree as he drove up the drive, he said, "No."  But he came with fresh cracked crab from the store, so I forgave him.

When it rains, it will fall on my newly planted trees -- a nice thought, to be sure.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Rain on the Horizon?

The first part of our kitchen project is done: Today we painted the last coats of green paint on the last shelves for the last time.  The cabinets are still empty and the boxes and bags and stacks of kitchen things will need to find their way back to their rightful places.  But that will wait.

I absolutely had to get outside to work in the gardens.

By midmorning I was able change from my painting pants to my gardening pants.  And so I commenced planting trees -- we have 6 bareroot fruit trees, 4 oaks and 2 cedars in pots, 3 bareroot grapevines, and one bareroot climbing rose.  Plus 3 roses that need to be moved from planters and put in the ground.  Nineteen plants.  That's a lot of planting.

 After decades of hacking innumerable holes through shale, quartz and clay using a pick, shovel and trowel, it's pure bliss to stand back and watch Bruce position the auger and get a neat hole dug in less than 5 minutes.  What seemed like an impulsive and perhaps foolish purchase when we bought it last autumn, was definitely money well-spent.

The grass should be thick and green

This afternoon's total of tree's planted was a modest five -- three bareroot fruit trees and two cedars.  However, Bruce augered several more holes and I'll work to fill them after school tomorrow.  I'm extremely motivated to get as many trees in the ground as possible by this coming Wednesday because on Thursday (trumpet fanfare) there is a 40% chance of rain.   Today is our 50th straight day without rain, which is a record for our rainy (hah!) season.  The soil right now is dry as dust.  How nice it would be to wake up to the pattering of raindrops soaking in the earth around my baby trees.  It could happen.  Miracles sometimes do.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Well, sort of.  The painting part of The Great Kitchen Project is almost behind us -- we've got the second coat of green on just about everything.  The shelf front inserts still need a couple of coats, the window trim needs a bit of touch-up and we decided to paint the floor of the cabinet under the sink.  

That's it for the painting, but Hugh won't be able to come to install the cabinet doors until the second week of February.  From now until then, we'll clean up the project clutter in the kitchen and then return all of the kitchen stuff back into the cabinets.  There it will patiently wait until Hugh gets the doors back on.  Even without the doors, it will be good to get the kitchen moved back into the kitchen -- this wandering about the house, looking for the can opener or a teaspoon is getting old.

In the meantime, we're looking into getting a new range hood to fit into the space where the now defunct microwave used to be above the stove, see about maybe replacing the stove itself, and order knobs and pulls for the cabinets.  January always seems to be a very expensive month.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Kitchen Saga Continueth

The Painting-of-the-Kitchen continues.  Was there ever a time before this project began?  A time when forks were in a drawer and one could light a stove burner without first having to lift up a sheet of plastic?  A time before every room in the house was filled with Kitchen?

Last night we stayed up until we'd gotten primer on every cabinet.

This morning, the kitchen looked very messy, very empty (amazingly, it is possible for a room to be simultaneously messy and empty) and very white.

So we began painting everything sage green.

We got the first coat on.  The primer still peeks through in streaks, so we'll have to give it all another go-round -- maybe even one after that.

It does seem like rather an endless task right now.  I'd unrealistically hoped to have all of this done by the end of today.  That's so not happening.  However, I'm very happy with the color.  There are little drips and globs and steaks all over the place.  The house is a shambles.  But the color on the cabinets is such a pretty shade of green and eventually all of this will be done.

I'm thinking...by next Sunday.

The Project

 The kitchen is no longer in the kitchen.

Instead, part of it is on the bed in my office.

Another part is in the closet .                                              

 Boxes of food from the cabinets are stacked up by the front door.                                                                                                  

Our dishes have taken over the dining area.


And our cups are nestled in amongst the house plants.

The only part of our kitchen still in the 
kitchen are the stove, fridge, sink and 
cabinet frames.  Hugh is making us new 
doors for the cabinets and our one 
tiny job has been to paint the frames.  

It didn't seem like it would be that big
a task.  I was wrong.  I began to get a 
clue when I realized that the contents
of this one room had filled up every other 
room in the house.  

Then Bruce removed the cabinet doors and 
we washed the frames, sanded the frames
wiped down the frames, and painted the 
frames with primer.  


The contents of our kitchen have even spilled out onto our porch.

It is now one in the morning.  I just finished painting the last cabinet with primer.  I'll take pix in the real morning.  I was just congratulating myself that at least I was done with the primer, when I realized that I'd forgotten to do the window frame.  It'll wait.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Red Flag

It is with a sinking heart that I read this message from the National Weather Service when I clicked on their link.  January is supposed to be our rainiest month - a time of cold, green, mossy wet.  We've had no measurable rain since the first half of November.  The grass that started to sprout from our nice little deluge just before Thanksgiving is now beginning to die and the ground has turned powdery and dry.  There is a high pressure system that has locked over our entire state that just won't let up and no storms can sweep in from the north.

I'm trying to remain optimistic, but I'm beginning to run through the scenarios of what the summer will be like if no rains come.  Our well was so low at the end of the summer that I'm fearful of what is in store for us if the water table isn't recharged.  The "pond" is completely and utterly bone dry -- not a drop of water.  No frogs.  No turtles.  Just an expanse of dried mud.  Can the oak trees hang on if there is another dry year?  I suppose that I shouldn't even try to plant a vegetable garden... I have to work to keep from panicking.

I tell myself that the winter isn't over yet.  The high pressure system may move out next week and storm after storm may dump much needed rain.  All may be well.  However, just in case,  if there's anyone out there who has a special little rain dance that may send precipitation this way, please dance away!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Two years ago I bought three amaryllis bulbs.  They have delighted and surprised me two times.  Amaryllis are humble and rather unimpressive for most of the year -- but when they decide to flower, they sing!

Sunday, January 12, 2014


                                                          ...if you like goose eggs.

Girl goose laid a second gargantuan egg and Bruce decided that they looked like breakfast to him.  He cracked them onto the griddle and they sizzled away -- just like chicken eggs.  But really big.  Then, like Fred and Wilma Flintstone, we sat down to a game of cribbage and a breakfast of  dinosaur  goose eggs.  Delicious.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Butt Buster Hill

I've been doing pretty well with keeping going with the daily walks.  Most days I get in my two miles and I've lost four pounds since Christmas -- another six and I'll be back to my fighting weight.  And most of my pants will again fit.

Yesterday I decided to skip my walk on the neighbor's trails and instead marched up Gopher Ridge with the two dogs.  A long time back, one of my neighbors christened it "Butt Buster Hill."  A good name sticks and we all call it that now.

Walking at a brisk pace on a road that climbs 500 feet in the space of a mile is quite dramatic -- for me, at any rate.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Goose Egg and A Day Off

Yesterday was my birthday and our young Embden goose gave me a present.  This was lying in the straw of the stall where they sleep at night -- her first effort.

This morning we were discussing The Egg and Bruce asked, "I wonder why they call nothing a 'goose egg'?"  He laughed when I called him over and he saw this picture.  Looks like zero to me!

The Egg alongside a hen's more humble offering (actually, the chicken egg is a very large one).

Today I'm staying home from school.  I'm not sick or busy or anything like that.  We're fortunate in our district that we have three "No Tell" days that we are given each year where we can use sick days to use as we will.  I've never used one of these "No Tell" days but today I just wanted a day at home -- I'm tired.  So earlier in the week I filled out the required paperwork and got approval from all the higher ups.  And then yesterday afternoon I stayed in my classroom and worked on substitute plans until dark.  Being gone for a day is a lot of work.  But this morning, as I sit in my bathrobe and contemplate having a day stolen back from work, I'm feeling pretty smug.  

Tomorrow (Saturday) I'll be putting on my work clothes and driving off to the college to deliver my first-ever full morning teacher workshop.  I'm feeling fairly confident (the workshop will be on using Writer's Notebooks in the classroom), but will be very relieved when I've navigated through this.  And I'm very happy to have a day to myself today.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

In a Boat without a Paddle

I never shared Bruce's Christmas present to me.  Several times over the summer,  I mentioned that it would be fun to tool around the various lakes around here in a kayak.  Then I  forgot all about it.  Guess what Santa brought?

I was very surprised, touched and pleased.  Also a bit perplexed, as I haven't the time to devote to my various activities as it is -- walking, riding the Cornelius, gardening, weaving and writing.  Add kayaking to the mix and it made me a bit anxious.

But I decided why worry about it?  Just go with the flow (hah -- a pun!) and enjoy.  So that's what I'm doing.

So far, the Christmas kayak sits in the carport.  We have no water in the pond, so I can't try it out there.  Even if there was water, I haven't got the paddles yet (we're getting them this weekend).

However, who needs paddles or water when one has a perfectly good lab/border collie cross dog to enjoy the boating experience with?  Murphy LOVES the kayak.  So do I.

And we haven't even touched water yet!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Back to School

Winter Break is well and truly over.  It's ironic that this time that I thought would be rejuvenating and a good time to catch up on things around here got so derailed.  The death of a student will do that.

The funeral was last Saturday.  Monday morning, our 4th grade classes were back at school and careful plans had been set in place to deal with the students reactions.  Two counselors were standing by in each room, should they be needed.  As it turned out, the students reaction was pretty subdued since their parents had already talked with them about what had happened.  The children were given paper hearts of pink and purple on which to write messages to or about Mariah and then they made cards for her parents.  I put on some soft music and we had a peaceful morning of it.

This morning we started back on more of a routine in class.  I think that this came as a relief to both the students and myself.  They picked out new literature books to read and then we got silly and acted out the meanings of our spelling words.  I began to feel almost normal again.

In the afternoon, Sue and I attended Mariah's burial. That was sad.

When I got home this afternoon, the dogs and I took a two-mile walk up and down the hills.  That helped settle my emotions.  This evening I spent working on my presentation for Saturdays workshop that I'll be giving on Writer's Notebooks.  This will be the first actual workshop I'll be facilitating (I did a demo one last summer, but Saturday's will be the actual thing).  I'm sort of nervous, but I've got enough other things on my mind to deflect any great worries about it.

And now I'm off to bed.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

More Planting

 It took until early afternoon, but all my students' Writer's Notebooks have been read, commented upon and the grades duly recorded.  Never, never, never will I let three months of student writing pile up like that again.

As soon as I could, I got back to my bulb planting.  This time, it involved setting a ring of rocks around a small oak tree along the drive.  Inside the ring is fresh compost in which I planted about 25 daffodils and a scattering of California poppy seeds.

Farther up the drive, Bruce had augered a hole in a place I thought would be be a good spot for a tree.  He also constructed a wire cage to protect the baby tree's roots from the many gophers that tunnel and ravage everything they can sink their yellow little teeth in.  I do not like gophers.

I know that this sounds ridiculously self-evident, but planting very small trees is infinitely easier then planting larger ones.

We have about nine more trees and some roses to get in the ground very soon. I really need another week of "break."

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The First Day of the New Year

 Today I stayed home and busied myself around here.  I finally got the poor shivering tulips out of the fridge in the garage and planted them in the center bed.  This is what a bed of 200 newly planted tulip bulbs looks like.

I still have about 100 daffodil and 50 or so Dutch iris left to go.  We'll get those in tomorrow.

All the Christmas decorations have been taken down and boxed away in the garage for another year.  The house looks rather plain after several weeks of being festooned with holiday finery.

I also made myself begin grading writer's notebooks.  I waited much too long to collect them and am now faced with 43 notebooks with 40 entries apiece for me to read.  That's a lot of reading...

But with strong cups of tea and Arby's help, this will get finished tomorrow too.

Looks like tomorrow's going to be a busy day.