Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sunday, February 23, 2014


Tomorrow I go back to school after a week of "break" -- this word is in quotations because my "break" was consumed by a to-do list longer than an egret's beak:

* shopping for a mother-of-the-bride dress for daughter Liz's April wedding
* grading 46 writer's notebooks that my students turned in
*diving into report cards
*putting my kitchen back together after painting cabinet frames (will almost certainly be repainting -- don't like how dark the green trim makes the kitchen look).
*pruned orchard, cleaned up berry beds, planted replacement plants for ones the gophers got.
* went to an all-day technology conference on Saturday that turned out to be pretty much of a waste.
* Read several novels that my students will read.
*Went to a concert -- a traditional Irish group called The Chieftains
*planned lessons (sort of)
*Cleaned my classroom (sort of)
*Walked 2-3 miles almost every day (Yay)
*Went shopping for a new stove.  I only like the expensive ones...

Things I didn't do:
*Clean out the chicken coop
* Weave
*Get the car washed
*Practice my German
*Get all students' papers corrected (not even close)
*Replant the 4 roses that have been languishing in wine barrels for the past 5 years
Max loves riding in the new truck with his dad

Oh, another thing I did was spend time with Bruce -- we worked in the garden together, played cribbage, watched a bit of TV and went shopping.  So nice just having some time for "normal" stuff.  I have a boatload of work to do in preparation for tomorrow, but will leave it all and go to bed now.  Tomorrow will be fine, planned or not.

One last wonderful piece of news is that it's supposed to begin raining on Wednesday and carry on through the weekend.  Happy Day!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Mr. Cornelius Turns Rodeo Bronc (for a few minutes)

Yesterday I put Cornelius down in the roundpen for the afternoon for a bit of green grass munching.  There isn't much growing there, but it's more than in his pasture.

I think the change of scenery did him good.  When I went to bring him up, he put on a Corny version of a rodeo bronc; complete with heavy-footed bucking, slow-motion rearing.  He ended his exhibition
by churning into his draft horse gallop and thundering round and round.  The dogs and I were quite impressed.

Finally he was all tuckered out and stood at the gate snorting and blowing and waiting for his Mommy lead him back up to his pen for dinner.  Silly horse.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Liking Lichen

It's been several weeks since I walked up the hill of our property.  When the dogs and I went over there yesterday, we looked out across the little valley and saw....green!  There may not be much yet, but it's cause for much joy to see the grass doing its best to bound upward.

Over on the opposite side of the property another kind of growth is flourishing on the tombstone shale (called this for obvious reasons).  The lichens that call the shale "home" are outdoing themselves in their efforts to decorate every surface with their own colorful selves.

I've read that lichen grows extremely slowly.  The ones on these rocks have been at it for a very long time.

Whenever I make it over to pay them a visit, I feel sort of badly that I do it so infrequently.  They are a treasure.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


The weather (there's that word again) is so wonky.  Today the temperatures reached the low 70's and the manzanita on the hillside is already in bloom.  


Manzanita doesn't look instantly impressive.  It's the sort of shrub that becomes more beautiful as it's studied and admired.

The bark is a smooth, reddish-brown and the branches fan out in a lovely way.

The flowers are understated, but every one of them is a perfect, pale pink urn shape.  The whole shrub looks much too delicate and pretty to be stuck on our rough hillsides.  But they do very well and delight the eye every springtime.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Itty-Bitty Pond

Well, at last we have something resembling a pond again -- it may not be much, but sure beats a dry hole in the ground.

I know that it's asking a lot, but I sure wish weather spread itself out just a little more evenly.  I've been following the reports of the sub-freezing temperatures and massive snowstorms in the East, Midwest and parts of the South.  In contrast to this, there are the rains that won't let up in Great Britain, causing the worst floods in 200 years.

And then there's us in our little section of land in northern California, shaking our fists at the sky and pleading for a little rain.  I'm sick of sunshine and am already dragging my feet against the coming of summer...and it's only February.

The mud in and around the pond is no longer dry, but still shows its cracks.  There's a 40% chance of rain on Saturday...

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Some Rain

What the weather people were calling an atmospheric river, they've now dubbed a "fetch" 

Not to complain or anything, but this rainstorm we've been expecting is proving to be a bit of a disappointment.  The weather reports had me looking forward to a weekend of pounding sheets of water cascading down from laden clouds.  I'm an optimist.  Instead, last night and today we had sedate rainfall.  Much appreciated, but at this rate it will take several years for the pond to fill.  In case anyone's listening, the frogs and I simply don't have that kind of time.  Soon it will be summer.  It will be HOT.  We need a pond.

The picture above is how the pond looked on Friday evening.  Earlier in the week it had been bone dry.  The last rain fully saturated the ground so that it finally was able to form puddles instead of soaking in.

And here is how it looked this morning -- more pondish, to be sure.  One aspect of not having any water in the pond is that there haven't been any reflections from it.  It shouldn't be surprising (but it is) to realize that the glint of light on water gives an area much greater beauty.  I've missed it.

Even as I'm wishing for more rain, I'm very grateful to have even this small amount of water in the pond.  I was afraid that we might head into summer with it completely dry and that was dismal to contemplate.

We might get more rain yet.  It can start any time.   It takes a lot of raining to fill a two-acre pond.

When it does, I'll be ready for it.

Yes, I know.  I'm a dork.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Atmospheric River

I have never heard of this thing the meteorologists call an "atmospheric river", but it sounds like an exquisite phenomenon.  A river of clouds and rain flowing across the sky directly towards us -- what could be more wonderful?  The tiny puddle that the last rain left on the dried mud bottom of the "pond" is just about gone.  Hopefully four days of serious rain will give us back at least the serious beginnings of renewed pondage.

I've been dutifully walking my two mile route every evening.  I'm not really feeling the better for it but am determined to keep it up...at least for now.  My weight and fitness level seems to be stuck at the same level.  I've been told that I need to up my amount of exercise if I'm to lose weight, but I'm reluctant to spend more time on this than I already am.  Two miles has me walking the last bit in the dark as it is.

Tomorrow night is our school's Science Fair.  This year we tried to spread more of the duties around among the staff, but it's still a lot of work.  What really stings is that the 4th grades as a whole didn't make a very strong showing with the judges.  When I look at their projects, I must admit that they didn't deserve to.  I'm wishing I'd put more energy into checking projects and giving help and advice.  This was the year I wanted to skip Science Fair altogether so I could put all of my energy into learning the new Common Core Standards that we've been given.  With Science Fair, I just ran out of steam and hoped that somehow everything would come out alright.  I also had consciously decided that I was willing to accept our scores going down for this.  However, I've now realized that, with the amount of time and effort put into this event (not just by me, but judges, parent volunteers and other teachers), not giving it the attention it was due with my students was a mistake.  Lesson learned. There's always next year...

Anyway, tomorrow the principal arranged for a substitute to watch my class in the morning so I can get all of the ribbons filled out and placed on the projects.  In other years, this is an enjoyable task, but this time, when the majority of the ribbons for my class don't include the reds and blues of first and second place, it's not fun at all.  Tonight is our Science Night and we'll unlock the doors of the multi-purpose room at 5:00 PM to let in the excited throng of parents and students.  The 4th grade ones are going to be seeing a lot of light blue "Participant" ribbons...

Can you tell that I'm tired?  I'm also coming down with a cold and looking forward to a rainy weekend at home --  a fire in the stove, a cat or two on my lap and a good book.  I'll sit at the window, watching that atmospheric river stream by.


3:37 AM : I just woke up to the lovely thump-thump-thump of water drops dripping merrily down the gutter pipe along the bedroom wall.  I believe the river has swept in... Oh, be joyful!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Seven Trees and a Bit of Rain

We planted the last of the trees that have been patiently languishing under the barn overhang for the last two to four months.  Three large oaks in 15 gallon pots, two bareroot apple trees and two small grey pines.  Bruce used the Kubota to auger the holes for most of them.  He only broke the shear pin that connects the auger to the gearbox once when the auger jammed into the shale.  That finished off our planting day on Saturday.  On Sunday he replaced it and we got the rest of the trees tucked in the ground.  It's relief for all of us (humans and, I imagine, trees alike).

The weather seems to have changed and shifted to a wetter, more winter-like patterns.  Praise be.  I don't think that there's any possibility of our getting anything resembling the amounts we get in a normal year, but two weeks ago it was looking like we might not be getting ANY water at all.  So I'm grateful for any drops that come our way.  When I drove to school this morning, I saw a blue sign stuck in someone's yard that said, "Pray for Rain."  That's how it is around here.

The half inch that we got last week actually left a puddle in the center of our dried-out pond.  We're due for another storm this coming weekend and my fingers are crossed that the pond grows with it.  We've never started a summer with an absolutely dry pond -- it's a dismal thought.

Already with the small amount of rain we've had, the grass is shooting up green spears through the dead growth that covers the hills.  Pray for Rain!