Friday, May 30, 2014

Crazy Owl Eyes Goes to Yosemite

My new nickname is "Crazy Owl Eyes" and I'll tell you why.

Yesterday, Sue, I, 47 fourth graders and an assortment of chaperones boarded the yellow school bus climbed the winding road to Yosemite.  It was a good trip up -- no one barfed (we were happy not to have the use the plastic bags we'd brought along just in case).

Ranger Chris met with us and gave the children an excellent presentation on the animals in the Valley as we sat and ate our lunches.  I like Ranger Chris.  She and I have gotten to know each other over the years I've been coming up.  For me, it's an honor having conversations with a Yosemite Park ranger.

After our big group separated into smaller groups to go exploring, Sue and I did a bit of walking and gawking ourselves.  I was surprised to see so much water cascading down Yosemite Falls.  Sue, who absolutely adores all the falls, was delighted by the sound, spray and movement of all that water.

We also visited the old cemetery and then the Ansel Adam's Art Gallery.  It was at this last place that I did my bit to keep the economy going.  I spotted and quickly fell in love with a series of vases.  I decided to buy the one with the fish, but it had a friend -- the one encircled by butterflies.  Then Sue gave her opinion that I really should add in the frog one to make it a group of three.  So, after three seconds of careful consideration,  I put prudence in the backseat, took out my credit card and bought them all.

A little later, as Sue and I were walking down the path, something very strange happened.  I blinked, and when I opened my eyes, my vision was clouded by an immense cloud of floaters swarming around in my right eye.  Making things worse, an immense spidery shape, repeatedly drifted across my line of sight.  To say I was distracted and concerned would be a vast understatement.

I called Bruce on my cell and he contacted Kaiser.  I soon was in a surreal three-way conference call with a doctor as I sat on a bench staring at Half Dome.  It shone magnificently through the cloud of floaters.

 I was scheduled to go in to see an ophthalmologist this afternoon.  Once in the office, the nurse dilated my eyes with three sets of drops and soon the ophthalmologist was peering in at my right eye with a bright light.  I was startled when she suddenly sprang up and told me not to worry, but there was blood in my right eye and she was going to go get the retina specialist before he left for the day.  When someone tells you not to worry with news like this and then quickly leaves the room, it is cause to worry in earnest.  Which I did.

However, I needn't have because the specialist was calm, reassuring and very competent at locating what needed fixing.  My right eye was dilated even more with additional drops and then he lasered the area where the bleeding was coming from.  It hurt (last time it didn't), but he was careful to zap all around the affected area to make sure everything was down nice and tight.

Afterwards, I donned cool blackout shades and Bruce and I went out for sushi.  Difficult times demand good food and there was nothing wrong with my appetite.

Now I'm home, and as I sit here, my eyes are still sore and blurry, but I should be fine by tomorrow.  Right now my eyes look like a crazy owl's.

Note the difference in the size of my pupils.  Crazy.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Aquarium

A three-day weekend was much appreciated by this teacher.  The last few weeks of the school year are inevitably exhausting -- I'm assuming more so for me than my students, but maybe it's a draw.  All I know is that it was a joy when Friday afternoon rolled around -- and now I'm girding my loins for tomorrow.

Saturday was a total day off for us.  We took a trip to The Monterey Bay Aquarium with Mama for a belated Mother's Day outing.  On an ordinary Saturday in May the place was packed to the gills (Ha -unintended pun!) with crowds of people -- I can't imagine it more crowded than it was when we were there, but Mother's Day must have been worse.  Despite the overabundance of humanity, we enjoyed ourselves.  There is a new exhibit of octopi, cuttlefish, nautilus and squid that we spent a lot of time in.  One thing I love about this place is that all of the animals seem so comfortable and at ease with their lives behind glass.  Birds, fish, invertebrates, and mammals all are at their ease as they tune out the throng of humanity pressed on the other side of their worlds.

The otters were in rare form.  I've never seen them this playful.  They swooped around their tank with toys in their mouths that they would gleefully bang on the glass from time to time.  They played like aquatic puppies crossed with aquatic kittens.  Happy, happy, happy as they lumbered up onto their rock shelves to plop themselves down onto piles of crushed ice.  Then  off they'd go again to throw themselves back into
the water again.  Rather manic little beasties!

As we approached the noon hour, the crush of humanity continued to increase until finally we had to make our escape.  A short walk from the Aquarium was the Fishhopper, the restaurant we always eat at when we visit Monterey.

As all the people in the universe were stuffed into the Aquarium at that time, we were easily able to get a table with a perfect view of the bay.

Bruce looking gleeful because...

...my meal came with a bib.  It's difficult for most people to look sophisticated while wearing a plastic bib with a giant crustacean on it.  I can tell from Bruce's grin that I was failing miserably at my attempt.  Never mind.  The crab was worth it.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Arlo's Ashes

The trip to the optometrist went well and I was assured that my vision was fine.  Just to be on the safe side, though, he scheduled for me to return for another checkup next month.  I'm fine with that.  I left his office with blurry vision and wearing dark shades to protect my enormously dilated pupils.  When I got home I went and lay down for a few hours.  All that worry drained me!

Later in the afternoon and got busy with chores that I'd been putting off.  One was scattering the ashes of dear Arlo who we had put to sleep last October.  Bruce and I each had a beer with us as we walked around the pond with the bag of ashes.  We toasted the fine dog that Arlo had been -- I think we gave him a good sendoff.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


In the midst of a much-too hectic week at school, with the classroom going at full tilt as we try to get through everything that I'd planned to do before the end of the school year and the afternoons stretching on with meeting after meeting, I suddenly stop and let go of everything.  I have developed two very large "floaters" in my right eye -- so large, that the constantly drifting shadows across my line of sight is distracting.  Especially in the bright light when I'm driving.  All of this could be the precursor to my retina detaching -- scary prospect for a two-eyed person, but doubly so for a cyclops such as myself, with vision in only one eye.  The one with the floaters.

So I phoned the optometrist's office this afternoon and scheduled an appointment for tomorrow morning.  I canceled my last meeting of the day, called Bruce, arranged for a sub and wrote up plans for them for tomorrow.  Then I drove very carefully home.

We'll see what tomorrow brings.  This happened once before and a quick laser surgery took care of things.  I didn't have floaters then, though.  I hope that I can get rid of them.  But for now, I'm making the effort to appreciate this unexpected opportunity to step away from the racetrack that is school three weeks before summer.


The last time I planted carrots in my garden was last spring.  I never ate many of them because, frankly, they weren't very good -- tough, cracked and fissured, and with an excessively "carroty" flavor.  They were, however, quite picturesque from the root up, with their bright green, feathery foliage.  So the awful-tasting, beautiful-looking carrots stayed on.

This spring they took off with even greater energy and many of them are set to flower.  I pulled several up to check if maybe they had become more delicious with the passage of time.   No, they hadn't.

Cornelius, though, begged to differ. My equine epicure not only enjoyed eating them, but also had fun playing by swinging them around as he crunched them down.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Mother's Day

Today we celebrated Mother's Day with Mama -- last weekend didn't work for any of us, so we agreed to move the festivities up a week.  

Bruce made his world-famous cheese souffle, and I picked a bouquet for the table and got the cards signed and gifts ready.  Mama did her bit by driving up with a hearty appetite.  It was a lovely lunch.  

Afterwards, Bruce loaded up the trailer with trash and weeds and headed off for the landfill while Mama and I set to work weeding the area behind the house.  I have no before picture (just imagine the same scene, but loaded with noxious weeds), but here is the after one:  

I must say that I have a mom in a million -- after eating the lunch in her honor, she was happy to join me outside for an afternoon of weeding.  We both had a good time.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Ocean Breezes and Poop on the Porch

Our overnight field trip to Monterey with our 4th graders was a success -- we left with 47 children and returned with all of them.  No one got hurt or sick or lost (at least not for too long).  As always, it was a trip watching them experience everything.  About a fourth of them had never been to the ocean, and many had never roasted marshmallows over a fire or visited an aquarium.

This is Point Lobos State Park.  We took a two mile hike along the cliffs and I was struck by how much fitter I've become since regularly walking at home.  No huffing or puffing and my legs never felt the steep stairs and I was able to leap across rocks on the beach with confidence.  That felt great.

The weather reports had forecast strong, blustery winds for Thursday, but the day turned out mildly breezy and mild.  Perfect hiking weather.

My one disappointment was that we saw no whales spouting in the distance this time.  Lots of harbor seals with pups and otters bobbing in the kelp beds though.

I have over 300 pictures of my own that I took of the trip, plus many hundreds from the parent chaperones (I'm careful about what I share on this blog because I have concerns about putting my students up for public view).  I spent much of today going through them in order to put together a slide show of our entire trip.  It's a slow, frustrating process getting the pictures selected and in order and synced to the correct music.  On a certain level, though, I enjoy creating this presentation and have done it for the past three years.

OK, so enough about that.  We will now go on to what awaited me when I returned to Frogpond, weary from two days of keeping 47 children safe from the terrors of the sea.  I was met in the driveway by a horse who had apparently grown bored with his pasture.
His mouth was full of grass and he could scarcely be bothered to move out of the way so I could continue up the drive to park the car.  Normally I'm very happy to see Cornelius, but having to deal with his Houdini ways on the tail end of a two-day field trip seemed extremely unfair.  But I got the halter and lead rope and walked down the driveway to where he was still happily grazing.  He was very sweet when I haltered him and I think he was smiling.

As I walked him up to his pen, I looked around at the things he'd gotten into -- garbage cans knocked over, poultry grain in the pans eaten, hoof tracks all over the gravel of the area in front of the house.  Nothing too bad.  I gave my dear boy a kiss and put him away.

And then I saw his "Welcome Home" present waiting for me on the front porch.  Backing up a bit, one of my favorite series of books when I was a child was the Pippi Longstocking ones.  I had them all and had read them so often that I had most of the adventures of Pippilotta Delecatesa Windowshade Mackrelmint Longstocking committed to memory.

The idea of a horse on one's front porch was enchanting...

...until I fully realized what a horse on the porch truly means.

It means this:  The "Welcome" mat sideways and all our shoes scattered about.  It also means a giant horse turd deposited on our ice chest that has artistically draped itself all over the sides and down the steps.  My brain went numb.  I went in through the back door and lay down for an hour before I could even contemplate cleaning the mess up.  Would you believe me if I told you that the smell crept in through the closed front door?

The questions:  Corny is not a small horse -- so how did he manage to position his big butt so that his poop would land squarely on the ice chest?  And, other than Pippi's, whose horse makes a beeline for the front porch when they get out of their pasture?  Last of all, what did he look like standing up there, looking through the window and playing with our shoes?  Oh, he must have looked cute as hell.

I miss all the good stuff.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Clouds and Sunlight

 On Sunday in the late afternoon I sent Bruce off to take pictures.  I wanted to go with him, but decided that I needed to stay home and keep going with my weeding.  I should have pulled off my gloves and gotten in the truck with him.  Not because it was a gorgeous afternoon with perfect light, but because when he got home he hurried to do some of the chores he'd put off doing so he could take off in the truck with his camera and dog.
It was getting dark, when he put in the t-posts with the line driver to make a temporary enclosure for the geese.  The last post bounced out of the line driver and gashed his left cheek.  We got back from the Modesto ER at midnight.  Bruce now has ten stitches along a horribly jagged wound, glasses with a gouge straight up one lens (thank God he was wearing them) and a purple bruise under his eye.  He was lucky it hadn't ended worse than it did.  We were stupid to work in the dark pounding stakes into shale.

A fine old windmill

The patchwork road
Bruce stayed home today but I went to school. With every mile I drove down the road,  I felt worse and worse about leaving him.  By the time I reached school, I was near tears and my teaching partner told me I needed to go home to be with my husband.  The secretary agreed and by eleven o'clock the sub walked in and took over,  and I drove back up into the hills to Frogpond.

Bruce was doing fine on his own but he was as happy to see me as I was to be back with him.  He then took a very long nap and I did stuff around the house.

Towards evening I asked him if he was up for another photography jaunt -- this time with me along.  He's always ready to take pictures and Murphy's always ready for a ride in the truck, so off we went.

Curious ranch horses coming over to say hi

These pictures are the ones I took this afternoon with my little Canon camera.  Bruce took his with his much fancier one.

The sky was stunning, with billowy grey clouds trying to hold back streams of sunlight.  It was a tug-o-war between the two.

Abandoned mine

This area is called Salt Springs and is just north of our house -- actually only one valley away.  Yet it feels so much more remote and distant.  Time seems to have stood still at Salt Springs.  As we drove, Bruce became more animated and relaxed.  Even with the frightful gash on his cheek, he was smiling and happy.  So was I.

I'm grateful that I took the trip with him today that I'd put off the day before.
Murphy leading the way

Down through the trees stretches the Great Central Valley and the Coast Range

Tomorrow he'll be going to work again and so will I.  It was good to have this stolen afternoon together.  Of course, I wish with all my heart that his poor cheek hadn't had to be lacerated to have this come about.

Life can't be all chores.  Sometimes you just have to put them all aside and head off towards sunlight and clouds.  I do believe I've grown a little wiser.  I hope it sticks!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Good Weed - Bad Weed or Right Plant - Wrong Place

It's weed season at Frogpond.  Even in a dry spring (there's an oxymoron for you) after an almost rainless winter, the weeds still come.  This virulent ocean of growth, as always, is aggressively taking over every pathway, all the gardens, the sides of the drive, and the hillsides around the house.  They even poke up through the cracks of the deck.  

And, by and large, they aren't "nice" weeds, but a nasty villainous lot, eager to take over the planet.  There are the ones with leaves that sting (nettles),  scratch (thistle),  stink (stinkweed, vinegar weed) or spread goo on you if you touch them (tarweed, poison oak).  Then there are the ones with seeds that grab hold of your socks and get stuck in the animals fur (sticktights, filleree, and foxtail).  Rounding the pack of worst offenders are the ones that are more benign than the ones already mentioned, but which grow so large and rampantly that they smother out everything else in their vicinity and become increasingly harder to remove as they gain in size (milkweed, dock, mallow).  It's always a losing race against time as we try to remove as many as possible before they set seed.

Weeding all of this consumes our spring every single year.  Even, as it turns out, in ones without rain.  
Bruce is in charge of mowing down the farther-out crop with his Kubota, while I work on the ones closer to the house by hand.  It's slow work, made more difficult this year by ground that's already dry and hard.

The complication:   What slows us down to a crawl in our mowing/ripping out of weeds is that they are joined by an unruly host of other plants that we like.  Like so much, in fact, that we go to great lengths to not remove them along with the ones we're happy to murder.  So Bruce will carefully mow around as many wildflowers as possible, making paths that zig-zag all over the place as he swerves around clumps of lupins, California poppies and the like.  The mown trails always look like they were made by someone in the tractor seat who'd swilled several caseloads of beer.

My problem is similar to Bruce's, except it's my hands rather than the tractor blade that must avoid taking out what we want to have stay.  I have all the wildflowers to look out for, but they are joined by enthusiastic garden escapees that sprout in all the wrong places.  I dig up and replant what I can, but haven't the time nor energy to get them all.  Actually, I haven't the garden space for them either.  So I try to weed around most of them rather than rip them up with everything else.  
Lamb's Ears
Field Poppy
Here's a sampling of what I'm working around just in the area on two sides of the house.

Purple Poppy and Hollyhock


Perennial Sweet Peas and CA Poppies

Keys of Heaven


Mexican Poppies


The question:  Why do these plants (smothered by weeds, occasionally stepped on and generally mistreated) thrive as well as their brethren safely in the fold of the garden?  It's a mystery.

Actually, I think it's a jolly plot to drive me nuts.  It's working.

Dill with good friend French Marigold