Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Of Frankenberries and Strawberry Fields

 Bruce brought home several boxes of strawberries to serve as a snack at a meeting I had in my classroom yesterday afternoon.  They were a scary, misshapen mound on the plate.  The teachers politely eyed them, but I didn't actually see anyone eat any of them.  I finally decided to give one a try and picked out one of smaller berries.  It was the size and weight of a golf ball.  I won't say that it tasted like a golf ball, because it tasted like a strawberry.  A mealy, insipid, slightly under ripe strawberry.  I only ate one.  I brought them home again and this evening Bruce fed them to the chickens.
The frankenberries (with a T-Rex for scale)

Here are our strawberries.  My friend Dorothea gave us a box of plants last summer that were going to be discarded.  I planted them in one of our raised beds. Many of them withered away or were eaten by the chickens, but some of them hung on.  I kept watering the survivors and earlier this spring they got a drink of fish emulsion.  They liked that.

And now - tah-dah! - we have fruit.

We've only had a few handfuls of the small, thimble-sized berries, but what they lack in size, they make up for by shouting STRAWBERRY!!!  to our taste buds in a very sprightly way when we bite down on them.  Not to brag or anything, but just one of our tiny berries has more flavor in it than a whole box of the gargantuan store-bought ones.

Oh, all right -- I am bragging.

Monday, April 28, 2014

After the Ball

So I went to Liz and Kiichi's wedding wearing the most beautiful dress I've ever owned (also the most expensive, but we won't go there).  I mean that. Flowy, crinkled champagne and smoke fabric swirling as a walked.  More beautiful than any prom dress I ever owned, because I never owned a prom dress (not having ever gone to a prom might have something to do with this).  More beautiful than either one of my rather Bohemian wedding dresses, which were pretty but not exceptional.  More beautiful than any of those by a thousand fold.  A million fold.  Such a beautiful dress, I might add, that two (two!) people stopped me as I was walking back to the truck to tell me that they thought I was wearing a very beautiful dress.  Humbly, I had to agree.  Beautiful is beautiful.

So what does this most beautiful of dresses look like?  I cannot post a pic of me wearing my most exquisitely beautiful of dresses because of the one million pictures I took, I never thought to aim the camera at myself.  Bruce didn't either.   I'm sure that eventually I'll have one of the group pictures that were taken and then I will share the beautiful dress with the entire world.  Unless, of course, it turns out that it doesn't look quite as beautiful as I imagine it does.  In that case, all mention of the dress will ebb away as if it never existed.

But this won't happen because it really is the most beautiful dress in the entire universe.  Srsly!

So instead, here is a picture of bleary-eyed me the morning after the wedding, wearing my tatty bathrobe and holding my tatty cat.  Bruce, who had every opportunity to take my picture in all my finery yesterday, didn't see fit to snap a pic until I was back to Frogpond normal.

Yeah well, normal is good...

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Wedding Day

The Big Day for daughter Liz finally arrived -- and it didn't rain.  The afternoon, at the rehearsal, we stood on the deck of the Delta King under umbrellas as the rain pattered down upon us.  Nice ambience, but not desired at an outdoor wedding (unless you are a frog like I am).   Saturday was dry.                                                                                                                                                                      

There will be hundreds (actually, more like thousands) of "perfect" photos of the wedding celebration.  These are a few I snapped on the fly and in the moment.

Liz looked absolutely radiant as I pointed the camera in the general direction of us and clicked.   Instead of a blurry image of grey cobbles or possibly some sky, I actually got portions of all our heads with Liz squarely in the center of it all.

Oma of the Bride!

I will be the first to admit that I am not what you would call "a wedding person".  I've never been able to fully get into orchestrated special moments (unless it involves a classroom of nine-year-olds).  It therefore follows that I would never be much good at helping with the planning of any sort of wedding other than one which involved something like the bride, groom and guests standing on the dirt under a large pine tree.  Like my own wedding to Bruce.

Liz understands this about me and it is fortunate that the women on Kiichi's side of the family were more than happy to put together all the pomp and circumstance of a more traditional wedding.  Liz allowed me to step into the role of Moral Support to the Bride when it was needed.  I'm good at moral support and grateful that I was able to contribute in a way that fitted my own rather specialized talents.  Oh, I also delivered a pretty good toast at the reception dinner.  So I did something!

I'll admit that I had to hold off melancholy as I was surrounded by so many family members from my past life with Geof.  They are all such very nice people and there is no hint of anything between us other than affection and our joined memories of times past.   As a young woman, I don't think that I really understood the workings of marriage and family ties.  Lizzy, on the other hand,  has seen throughout her growing-up years the solidarity of a strong, multi-generational family unit.  We started from two very different places...she's going to do fine!

  Liz and Kiichi in the first seconds of their married life.

                                                            Blessings to them both!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cap'n Max, Pirate Kat

A moment of "Yo ho ho!" before going back to zzzzzzzz

This is Max's new favorite sleeping place.  The kayak has taken up residence on the carport until we figure out where to keep it for real.  It wasn't tempting as a place to nap until I shook out the dog bed and left it, along with an old flannel sheet on top of the kayak.  Max has now claimed it all as his.  The guy had his furry butt planted on it the entire day.

And Murphy, once again, has his stuff taken away -- a bird takes his kibble and now the cat steals his bed.  It isn't easy being a dog around this place.

Guest Blog Post by Bruce: Planting Dog Food Trees

Frogpond is a lovely place in the morning.  I love the light and I love to listen to the birds singing as they get on with their day.

 Les had told me that the apples were blooming, so on this particular Friday, I was in the orchard with the 300 mm lens.

One of my photography mentors, John H. Wright, advises one to turn around when shooting as there may be something of interest behind that you would otherwise miss.  Turning around at the orchard gate, I was rewarded by the sight of a local Scrub Jay sitting on the fence.

Yes, that's dog food in his beak.  Two chunks in fact.  Suddenly it became clear why I was going through so much dog food: not only was I feeding the dogs, but also every jay in Calaveras County.

Standing still, I watched as the jay flew into the flowering buck brush.  A few moments later, the jay returned with only one piece of dog food.

As I watched, the jay hopped around looking for the best place to hide his ill-gotten gains.  He quickly decided on the perfect spot and after making sure no one was watching him, he buried his prize.

The process was soon repeated for the second piece of dog food.

After a quick check to ensure his secret was safe, the jay flew off in the general direction of the dog food dish for the second setting.

  While watching this, I was laughing to myself and thinking I would have to avoid mowing over the dog food trees that were just planted.

Murphy, on the other hand, apparently didn't see the humor in the situation.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


This morning, before leaving for a day of errands, I thought of poetry.  A few minutes later I was back in the bathroom putting on my makeup while reading Rilke and Billy Collins.  I'll admit that this was not such an easy thing to do, but if people can text and drive, I figure I can put on eyeliner with one hand and hold a book with the other.  I didn't poke myself in the eye once and rediscovered a poem by Billy Collins called "Schoolsville" that begins like this:

Glancing over my shoulder at the past,
I realize the number of students I have taught 
is enough to populate a small town.
                           (from Sailing Alone Around the Room)

When I read this for the first time ten years ago, I liked it.  When I read it now, I like it even more because I can now apply the sentiment to myself.

I arrived at school about an hour later (with eyeliner only the tiniest bit crooked) and surveyed my classroom.  It's so very quiet in there during break.  My reason for coming was I'd forgotten to grab the sticky notes that the 4th graders had placed on the chart titled "Book Recommendations".  

This year, I started something called Literature Circles where the students pick their own novels to read from a varied assortment I lay out.   There are multiple copies of each book and they join up to form a group with 2 or 3 other students who have also  selected the same book.  Each group makes up its own reading schedule and they meet three times a week to just sit around on the floor and in beanbag chairs to talk about what they read.  In other words, they form their own book clubs.  

It took some coaching and practicing before many of the children were ready to listen to what others said, contribute their views on the characters, ask questions, and share opinions about what might happen next in the story.  But it's all miraculously come together.  Now, the best part of every week is just standing in the center of the room and listening to the chatter and laughter and even the arguments the children are having about the books they are reading.  It's what reading is supposed to be like.

Last Friday the students ended their 5th cycle of Lit. Circles and turned in their books.  On Monday when school is once again in session, everyone gets to choose new books.  I make a point of adding several new sets of books to the mix with every cycle just to keep things fresh.  With the last cycle, I'd asked them for recommendations of books they'd like to see as choices for our 6th cycle of books.  The children had stuck 25 stickies on the chart.

I'm so glad I came back for them.  Their reading tastes have expanded and deepened more then I ever dreamed they would.  We've got titles like The Chronicles of Narnia, Catwings, Matilda, A Dog's Life and A Wrinkle in Time.  The hard part is going to be not ordering everything they asked for.  

The Amazon book department loves me.

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Penelope and Humpty Dumpty Sort of Day

 This project has languished, half strung, on my loom since December.  Yes, they are last year's Christmas gifts, just a teeny-tiny bit late.  I'd started threading it through the heddles my second week of winter break and was fine until school started again.  Then everything stopped.  For three months.

Easter break has commenced and I blew the dust from the loom.  The warp, a long one that is enough for three scarves, has a threading in a simple enough twill pattern -- at least, so you'd think.  First I had to replace a thread that I broke when winding on the warp and then discovered a misthreaded heddle.  And then another one.  I gritted my teeth and fixed every mistake, one by one.  I felt virtuous.

I began weaving and all went well for about the first six inches.  Then I discovered a treadling error.  It was almost imperceptible, but I couldn't let it stay.  Can you see it?  It's just above the straight pin -- I slipped up and treadled in the wrong direction one time.  So I took out all of the weaving until I reached the pin.  Then I wove it up again...and discovered another mistake.

I took a nap.  Then I unwove the section a second time and wove it up again.  And found yet another mistake.  It's too late in the evening to take another nap, so I'll just let it rest until tomorrow.

I'm feeling like Penelope, weaving and unweaving Laertes' shroud.  But less patient.

To round out the day, when I collected eggs this evening I was pleased that all of them were clean; no washing required.  I walked in the front door with eight plump beauties nestled in a grain scoop, when something made me lose my focus (probably thoughts of unweaving more mistakes).  The scoop dipped downwards and six lovely eggs tumbled onto the floor with resounding cracks.  "Oooh, nooo!" I said to the cat.  With those words, my scoop dipped down once again and the last two also slid to their demise.

Some days are just like that.

The Easter Party

Easter morning was a gloriously beautiful day for picking flowers.  I started out on the dam along the pond where years ago Bruce scattered a handful of bush lupin seeds that he'd collected along the roadway.  They've now grown into a wild, rambling hedge and the walls of purple mingled with the orange of California poppies on each side of the path is stunning.  Amazing what the right seeds in the right place can turn into -- and without any help from us whatsoever (other than the original efforts of Bruce who took the trouble to get them in the ground).

I was picking flowers for an Easter bouquet for Mama down in Stockton.  Ian has been laid up with a bruised hip and she hasn't been able to come up to Frogpond for almost a month.  Since she isn't able to come here, we decided to bring her a bit of Frogpond springtime prettiness in a vase.

So I walked to the dam and picked the wildflowers first:  lupines with a few popcorn flowers and bachelor buttons.  When I got back to the gardens by the house, I added Dutch iris (yellow and blue), sweet peas and a few sprays of mock orange.  I think that the flowers arranged themselves particularly well!

Mama had mentioned that she missed the long-ago days when we used to dye eggs together and I realized that I missed all of that too.  Another easy (and fun) thing to remedy:  along with the flowers,  we brought hard boiled eggs (donated by our hardworking hens) and the stuff needed to dye them.

With surprising forethought, we also brought a bottle of wine.

When we arrived, we discovered that Mama was fixing lunch for us and the table was set and waiting.  Without any advance planning at all, we were having an Easter party.  I think a spontaneous party like this is the best kind of all -- it's all the delight of what is in the present and none of the worries that come with putting on "an event".

The egg dying part of the party was a hit.  Even though the wind knocked over the cup holding the yellow dye, we somehow made do with the remaining colors.

Mama sets such a pretty table -- look at all that springtime in a small dining room.

Mama's cheese quiche was a triumphant success -- it rose, it puffed, it browned.  In short, it did everything a good little quiche was supposed to do.  It also tasted delicious (how can one go wrong with a Julia Child recipe that contains cheese, whipping cream and three eggs?).  She rounded things out with her potato salad and a green salad.

I'm so glad we brought the wine as we had all sorts of blessings to toast!

Happy, happy Easter!

Friday, April 18, 2014


...looks better from...

...the back of a horse.  Especially, the back of a humungo big draft horse cross named Cornelius.

Today Raleigh the horseshoer came and filed down Corny's hooves.  Then he got groomed, saddled up and lunged, then ridden in the arena.  Finally he and I rode out onto our trail.

Such a good boy!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Wicked Pretty

The Eglantine rose is wicked pretty.  The buds are a brilliant pink and look quite sweet until you notice the sharp prickles that crowd around its base.

The open flower is like tissue paper surrounded by leaves that exude an aroma of green apples.  It's easy not to notice the thorny canes until it's too late and they've snagged you.

I suppose that even the thorns are lovely -- in their own way.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Path

Brilliant white quartz is a common mineral around here and one of the cool things about it is that it glows in the dark.  I discovered this on  dark evenings when taking my walk by moonlight.  Chunks of quartz littered the trails that neighbor Bob has created on his 20 acres next door.  Ever the tidy one (hah!), I would reach down and neatly line them up on one side or the other.  Sometimes I just kicked them with my foot.

Over time,  these stones accumulated and eventually they made their sporadic appearance all along the entire mile-long path.  It became a game.  Occasionally I'd get ambitious and add larger rocks that I carried up from the creek.  Now on dark nights my way was now lit like a subdued airport runway.  I wondered if Bob noticed my augmentations.  

He did.

I know this because one recent morning the dogs and I went for an early morning walk and when I reached Bob's trails, something seemed different.  It took a moment to figure out.  There were tree branches laid out on either side of the path at the entrance from our property to his. 

I walked on and started laughing -- he'd lined the path in many places with more branches and, closer to the creek, with rocks.  

Walking along, between these sticks laid out on either side of the path, I felt strangely, ridiculously, wonderfully important...sort of like royalty.  Really.  Under the right conditions, sometimes that's all it takes.  

Thank you, Bob!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Bird, A Bit of a Heart Attack, and a Birthday

This robin glowing in the center of the picture has been serenading me every morning as I get in my car for the mad dash down the hill to school.  I'm always magnificently late getting out the door, but the little guy's tootle-fluting up in the tree persuades me to pause anyway.  It's a good way to start the day -- and anyway, I always get to school several minutes before the first bell.

In the afternoon when I get home again, I look hopefully up to see if he's there, now that I have the time to listen properly.  But he never is -- no doubt off getting the last meal of the day for his Little Missus before tucking her in for the night.

However, I did have something greeting me from the carport when I arrived home this past Friday afternoon.

At first glance, I thought it was alive -- some sort of very large, toothy lizard on the rim of the pot next to the back door.  The fearsome thing was on its hind legs, looking like a very small dinosaur poised to kill something.  I truly believed it was alive and with this thought came a rush of adrenaline that I didn't think I had the energy to produce.

A second later I realized that I was staring goggle-eyed at a small plastic T-Rex that my darling husband had placed there.

As part of a running joke among some of his photographer friends, Bruce had ordered it as a gag-prop to place in some of his photographs.  I had even seen it when he opened the package and I laughed and commented on how lifelike it looked.  So lifelike, it turns out, that when confronted by it at the door at the end of a long week, my heart lurched and there was an instant when thoughts of how to catch or kill it raced through my mind.

Those thoughts quickly shifted from Rexy as the target to Bruce when I realized what it actually was that had scared the bejeebers out of me.   At that moment, the man in question came around the corner of the house...

Today is Bruce's birthday.  I'm happy to report that, surprising though it may seem, he was allowed to survive despite his appalling sense of what is and is not funny.  The reason for my magnanimity?

The guy can bake an awesome lemon meringue pie.  And do up the dishes afterwards.

Happy birthday, Beloved Bear!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

It must be spring when...

...the geese get all hormonal and the gander grabs an unsuspecting hen and kills it.  They are now locked in their pen until they regain their sanity.

...the neighbor's cows in our lower pasture become bored and decide to play with the water spigot down there -- I discover two cows and their calves standing in the gush of water spraying from the pipe.  They looked happy.  Me -- not so much.

...I get my first sunburn of the season while weeding in the driveway.  A narrow band across my lower back is a brilliant red -- the part of my skin exposed when crouching down for several hours.

...Speaking of weeds; as they do every spring at this time, they are zealously bent on overtaking our small section of the planet.  I'm in my normal desperate race to pull them up before they go to seed.  It's a race that I always lose.

...we barbecue our first salmon steaks spiked with sprigs of rosemary.  The smell of fish wafting through the evening air mingles with the scent of lilacs.   A strange but delightful mix.

...the first houseflies appear, revving up their little engines.  I did not miss them while they were away.

...tiny pine trees popping up in all the wrong places -- under utility wires, next to telephone poles, in the flower beds.  I'm going around with a shovel and digging up and replanting as many of them as I can find.

It is a such a pretty time of year, but our sorry little rainy season (such as it was) is almost over.  The pond has the least amount of water it's ever had by this time of year.  It's going to be an interesting summer...