Thursday, August 17, 2017


These days, as I blog, I find myself wondering at why I'm making the effort to notice the minutia of life here at Frogpond when it appears that the entire planet seems to be launched into a dreadful downward spiral.  I write about voles, kittens, weaving and cleaning out the barn against a backdrop of such awful national and world news that I can't help but feel ridiculous.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I used to consult the Tarot for insight into my existence.  Those days are long over, but the detailed illustrations on certain of the cards became a part of my thought process.   These cards come to mind, unbidden, when events match their meanings (my hippy roots run deep).  Here's the one that has come burbling to the surface:

What I like about Tarot illustrations is that they're self-explanatory -- it's a relief not having to construct a long-winded essay.  Definitely a case of a picture being worth a thousand words.    

With that out of the way, I'll add that I also believe that when things appear to be devolving into chaos,  observing and celebrating minutia takes on increased importance and relevance  (earlier this week I was rereading parts of Ann Frank's diary and this realization jumped out at me).  So....

                                                   Some Minutia:  Update on the Rodent Wars
As we'd hoped, the natural predators of rodents have discovered that Frogpond is a wonderful place to come for an easy dinner.  An assortment of various hawks, snakes, owls and coyotes (thankfully these last have stayed away from the house stayed in the surrounding hillsides) have descended upon us and the vole, gopher and mouse populations have dramatically decreased.  

The bird in this blurry photo, taken from the kitchen window, is a Swainson's Hawk.   It's been concentrating on hunting the voles that took up residence in holes all around the house and decimated my flower and vegetable gardens.  It's gorging on the easy pickings and I'm seeing fewer and fewer voles scurrying around when I go outside.  

Perhaps the most surprising help has come from the kittens.  I never expected that TimTom and Hecuba would turn into such efficient hunters so quickly.  Between the two of them, they catch two to three rodents a day.  Little kittens to the rescue!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Barn Cleaning

The resident rodents, a lot of junk and layers of filth are being evicted from the barn.  I'd like to say that the process is complete, but it's a work in progress.  We're at the stage where, at first (and second) glance, things actually look worse than they did before we started because of the pile of stuff that's been lugged out and is now in plain sight all over the drive.  I'm fighting an impulse to just dump it all in the trailer so we can haul it all off to the landfill.  But that would be wrong, lazy, wasteful and self-defeating.  So, instead, we got busy with brooms, pitchforks, rags, buckets of water, cleaner and the hose.  Oh, and two kittens.

I'll be the first to admit that we spent way too much time watching them play.

Their job was to catch the mice that ran as we forked out hay and hauled out junk, but they were too busy hunting each other and taking naps.

Feed Room (minus hay and mice)

Middle Stall (minus junk)

Despite the lack of effort on their part, we got the feed room and one stall completely cleaned out and hosed down and a good start on the tack room.  The stall where the geese sleep needs washing down and the mats removed, but is junk free (thanks to the movie shoot of several weeks ago).  The third stall -- stuffed with a filthy assortment of troughs, a bicycle, cat carriers, cages, bird houses, garden tools, fertilizer, heat lamps, chick feeders, etc --  still awaits its turn.  I also believe that all of the voles and mice have migrated over to that one as there's nowhere left to hide.

This is what the drive looks like when the barn's nice and empty.

Evidence of feline supervision

Once that last stall's been cleared out, we'll order a load of decomposed granite to replace what's left of the layer we put in years ago.  After we've compacted it, we'll return the rubber mats and get everything put away.  At least, that's the plan.  I'm determined not to lose momentum on this -- projects (especially the ones involving cleaning) have a habit of stopping somewhere around the halfway mark.

Actually, getting the barn in shape is only a prelude to the REAL cleaning project that awaits:  the garage.

God give us strength.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Sampler

The sampler's been woven, taken off the loom, ends knotted and trimmed, then washed and ironed.  I've got to admit that this is one very busy piece of weaving -- all that pattern going on and so many color changes!  It's rather dizzying to the eye and perhaps I should have limited the number of variations I tried.  But it was irresistible playing with the treadling patterns and seeing what the ten colors in various combinations looked like.  So there we are.

About the colors: I gravitate to the same colors and color combinations from project to project and am working to break free of this.  At one of the Weaver's Guild meetings this summer, a member shared a runner she'd woven  and showed a photograph of the desert landscape that guided her color choices.  I was intrigued by this way of working with color.

This will be my first attempt using her method  These are some of the pictures borrowed from the internet that guided me.

To my surprise, I already had all of these colors, so I didn't have to buy anything (that's a first, I believe):  two greens -- one darker and the other a bright chartreuse, brown, and off-white. There also is a touch a touch of russet red.

This treadling is called undulating twill

Undulating Twill and Rosepath


These stripes are very bold compared to the more subdued colors of the photographs.  Too much bright green!  Too much russet!

I'll admit that I'm delighted with all of these color combinations.  Settling on only a few is going to be a challenge because there is a part of me that loves the over-abundance of color and pattern.  Only touches of the bright green and russet...I'll edit and simplify and do my best to stay true to the original inspiration.  We'll see how that goes.

Sunday, August 6, 2017


This is the summer where all my roads seem to lead to the little town of Knight's Ferry.  Yesterday we celebrated/observed a double anniversary: our marriage of 17 years and the second year since the suicide of our daughter, Becky.  Knight's Ferry was there, waiting for us.

We started at the cemetery on the hill above town.  I showed Bruce the tombstone of Mary Dennis, the Englishwoman who had died in 1866 and whose epitaph had so struck me.  This time, I remembered to get a picture of the poem at the bottom of her stone.

I don't believe that Mary Dennis would have minded if I extended the sentiment of this verse to my own Rebecca.

Rebecca Kim Dong 1984 - 2015

"From cares & pains may all be free
   Surround the whole with joy,
 Sublimity alone can mould
   And elevate the Soul.
 Begone vain joys, begone vain doubts
   Arise with minds set free.
 And learn the language of the soul
   That you may learn to see."

Afterwards, we drove the half mile down the winding road to have lunch at The River's Edge. 

 Our first toast was to our 17 year partnership and the love we share, and the second was to the memory of our dear Becky.  We then had a memorable lunch as the river flowed through the soft, cool day.  And we were happy.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Heatwave, Voles and Placemats (Cont.)

For now, the heatwave that we've been stuck in appears to be over -- temperatures over the next week are forecast to be in the mid to upper 90's.  Amazing how just five degrees can make such a difference.

The marshy area below the dam
The voles, mice and gopher numbers continue their slow decline, but we're not letting up on hunting them.  On Wednesday I saw a vole scamper under a small, moveable deck we have behind the house.  I had a strong suspicion that this was the one chewing down the stalks of my potted lilies.  When Bruce got home, he got the pellet gun and we worked together to lift the deck to expose the vole that hopefully was still underneath.  The vole was there, all right -- but only as a bulge in the middle of the rattlesnake that had killed it for us.  The dear thing was preoccupied with digesting its hearty meal, so lay still and never so much as rattled.  In a quick change of plan, I ran for the snake tongs and a covered lard bucket while Bruce kept watch.  With the tongs, Bruce gently lifted the snake into the lard bucket, put on the lid and off we went to release it.  Usually we take rattlers to a place several miles away where there is a source of water but very few people.  However, we decided that this snake had earned the right to stay at Frogpond.  We carried it down to the wild blackberry bramble that sprawls in the marshy area below the dam and let it out.  There are plenty of voles there and they should keep him/her well fed.

The weaving goes well.  To my pleased surprise, there appear to be no flaws in my threading (this is a bit of a miracle, considering my tangled mess of warp).  I'm about halfway through weaving the color sampler -- I've got stripes of the various colors I'm considering plus am treadling them in two different ways (rosepath and undulating twill).  I like many of the color combinations and the hard part is going to be settling on only one or two.  A pleasant sort of problem!

 I'm learning a lot about the design process with this piece.  In my desire to break free from the "stuck" place I was in, I chose to not plan out my design on graph paper.  The placement of the stripes is counted out and regular, but the individual threads do not pick up the patterns in perfect symmetry.

It's not easy to explain, so here are closeups of the four orange stripes:
First Stripe

Second Stripe
Third Stripe 

Fourth Stripe

Each of the stripes is composed of four orange threads that are following the same threading pattern.  But because I didn't plan on them landing in exactly the same place in the pattern, the stripes look different.  I  greatly prefer the look of the first stripe and don't really like the messiness of the third and fourth ones at all.  However, I'm also drawn to the element of randomness this gives the overall look.  The variations give it a naturalness and interest that absolute symmetry cannot.

Either way, I'm enjoying the process of watching the weaving reveal itself to me as I throw the shuttle and step on the treadles.  It's a kind of magic.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Heatwave, Voles and Placemats

This seemingly endless heatwave continues.  Every day is very hot, but yesterday was exceptionally so -- 108 degrees by late afternoon.  I turn on the misters in the chicken coop and behind the house to provide some relief to the birds.  The chickens very quickly learned where to stand to get the maximum amount of spray.  Out back, the wild birds -- scrub jays, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, titmice,  finches -- come and go all day long to cool off.  They flit about the mister strung through the trees and shake their feathers and preen the droplets drifting onto their feathers.

The battle against the voles continues.  I read in our local newspaper that this rodent explosion that we are suffering from is going on all throughout the county.  The article (front page) corroborated what I'd heard that this is a direct result of our exceptionally wet winter that produced a super abundance of grass.  The irony isn't lost on me -- what a price to pay for finally getting relief from our drought.  These days it does seem like we are being hit by extremes of everything:  deluge of rain in the winter, unrelenting heat in the summer, huge populations of voles and gophers and the perfect conditions for catastrophic fires on a regular basis.  Is this what climate change looks like in our little spot on the planet?

In between occasionally killing voles with a shovel and running outside at regular intervals to move the hose from one surviving shrub or tree to the other, I've been working on a weaving project.  Actually, it's taken me over a month to get to the point of actually getting the project on the loom.  I was a mass of paralyzing indecision at every step along the way:  what I wanted to make (a shawl?  a throw?  A runner?  I finally settled on placemats); the colors; the type of yarn; the pattern... Even after I'd decided on something, I'd go back later, undecide it and then have to plan everything all over again.  It was an endless loop.

In the end, what "unstuck" me was attending my first meeting with a small group of weavers I'd been invited to join.  After a potluck by the river, each of us brought out a piece of work or finished product that we wanted to share.  I brought my patterns, a basket of yarn possibilities, and a ruler wrapped with the sequence of stripes I was planning on using (or not using).  The ladies gave me the exact kind of support I needed and my fixation on achieving perfection dropped away. Such a relief.  My marching orders were to be ready to bring what I'd made to next month's meeting.  Somehow, through them, I've regained my ability to accept shortcomings and mistakes.

The planning stage: after endless calculations, I still got the width wrong and had to remove two stripes.

The kittens sleeping below the loom
I think my two "helpers" were busy

Hecuba holding things down

Two days later: Despite a tangled warp (how on earth did it get that way?), incorrect yarn calculations, a broken warp thread, and a skipped heddle, everything was sorted out.

Today I start to weave.  This is the part of the process that always has me biting my fingernails -- all flaws will be revealed.

I'll start with a sampler to check for threading errors.  After I've fixed what needs fixing, I'll go on to experimenting with the color(s) to weave as my weft.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Saturday Morning at Frogpond

With another hectic workweek behind him, Bruce relaxed outside.  
Coffee -- check  
Cat companion -- check
Picnic table with shade  -- check
Llama munching hay and supervising -- check
Pellet gun for murdering voles -- check
Wife dancing around with glee every time she hears the gun go "Crack!" -- check

More and more,  I wonder if maybe we've lived out in the country too long.  I can hear the banjos twanging.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Hecuba Zonked

What can I say?  This little kitty knows how to abandon herself to sleep.

The two kittens joining our family has definitely made life around here more complicated.  Logically speaking, adding two cats to the four we already have is so going in the wrong direction. That said, they have brought such joy and spark into our lives that I can't imagine not having them. We are smitten by kittens.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Discovering the Compost Playground

Hecuba and her Magical Lightning Bolt

We've been letting the kittens go outside for about two weeks now.  I would have preferred keeping them inside until they were full-size cats.  However, living in a small house with a cat door and four other cats, this grew more and more difficult as they grew older and more active.  I keep them under my eye as much as possible when they're outdoors and soon they'll be at a size where they won't be snack-sized for a hungry owl or hawk.  They do seem to have an innate sense to stay near cover and are aware and vigilant.  Perhaps this comes from having a feral or semi-feral mama.

 The compost heap exerted its charms on a new generation of Frogpondians.

 Both the hens and the kittens ogled each other  for a short time, no doubt each wondering if the creature they were looking at might be edible.  "Too big," seems to have been the joint conclusion.

The hens have accepted the kittens as part of their universe and now everyone mostly ignores each other as they forage.  There's more than enough compost heap to go around.