Big Thoughts for the New Year

acorns

IMG_6823It’s the end of the year and the beginning of the new one.  Time for reflection and planning.  It has been warmish and young shoots have come up through the leaves.  The acorns (from which mighty oak trees grow) have sent out roots, looking for homes.  Then came the freezing fog, hoar frost with which to make great photos, heck, even the nasty teasel weed looks great all frosted over.

I’m trying to think big thoughts – what happened in the last year, how does that inform the new year, what are the important things to be done.  But then, alas, the dogs run into a stinky skunk and much of the day is spent in washing the smell off the dogs, cleaning their bedding, and then cleaning the bathroom – it’s just too cold to wash them outside.

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But there really are big thoughts to think.  And there are folks who think them and relate them so very well.  One of my favorite thinker/relaters is Rebecca Solnit.  In a recent article, she talks about climate change and what we will need to do to start to set things right.  She is so inspiring and pretty much right on – here are some quotes that really sang to me and I hope they will affect you too.  Then please go on to read the entire article – it’s on TomDispatch, a really great site in itself. You can see her complete article here.

“As this wild year comes to an end, we return to the season of gifts. Here’s the gift you’re not going to get soon: any conventional version of Paradise. You know, the place where nothing much happens and nothing is demanded of you.”

“For millions of years, this world has been a great gift to nearly everything living on it, a planet whose atmosphere, temperature, air, water, seasons, and weather were precisely calibrated to allow us — the big us, including forests and oceans, species large and small — to flourish. (Or rather, it was we who were calibrated to its generous, even bounteous, terms.) And that gift is now being destroyed for the benefit of a few members of a single species.”

“The reasons for acting may be somber, but the fight is a gift and an honor. What it will give you in return is meaning, purpose, hope, your best self, some really good company, and the satisfaction of being part of victories also to come.”

Read the full article by Rebecca Solnit.  It is very inspiring.

And now we need some time to think and to ponder and to find a good path in the new year.  Consult your oracles, toss your coins, throw your cards – this is going to take some mighty envisioning.

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holy daze

It was a mighty foggy morning the day before christmas.  Everything wrapped in a wet soft blanket of sorts.  Being a fog city girl, I kind of liked it – familiar and mysterious.

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We took a walk to visit the creek, check on the water level, make sure it’s staying within its banks.  There has been some recent creek restoration work and the work is holding up nicely.  So far so good.

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Highway 162 washed out on Friday.  See the post and photos. By Christmas eve morning the road was repaired well enough for travel.  The crew must have worked around the clock to set the culvert and fill in the hole.  It’s a one lane road, likely to stay that way until summer repair.  That works for me – let us drive out and go off to the festivities…

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Holidays, holidaze, holy days, holey moley.  A bit of wretched excess, a bit of nostalgic tradition, a bit of fun, time with family, time to see the little cousins and the big cousins and catch up on gossip and all.  Eat and talk and talk and eat and talk and the day goes by.  Not too bad at all.

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The grand babies got a bop bag clown.  Way too fun.

The city visit is over and we are back at home.  The fire’s burning, the dogs are glad to be inside the house. The days are getting longer, the ground is getting colder – the wheel is turning and turning.

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Stuck in the Valley

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The big news yesterday was that the main road into town had washed out.  Yes indeed, Highway 162 is impassable, as the semi truck discovered.  The big rig was crossing a soft spot when the road gave way and the back axle and wheels were lost down the sink hole.  Fortunately the truck made it safely across.  These photos are from the Willits News, full story here.

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There was a lot of talk about being cut off from the “rest of civilization.”   How long would the food last in the super market, how much gas was in the gas station tanks, how would medical emergencies be handled, what were the alternative routes and was it right that there were locked gates on some of the roads?   But there was a lot of excitement and anticipation too.  Kind of like getting snowed in and having to deal with various challenges.  We all enjoyed the break in the routine.

There are a few other ways into town, some more circuitous than others.  I was on one of those roads just the other day, taking dogs to the vet 25 miles away.  Rabies shots and toenail clipping were on the agenda.  These dogs are prone to motion sickness and so they never go anywhere.  Or maybe they get motion sick because they never go anywhere.  I wasn’t willing to clean up any dog barf – it took a few training sessions to get them to load up in the back of the pickup. Half a box of treats later, they were loadable and off we went.  After seeing the vet in Laytonville  we espied a catering truck selling crepes, of all things.  The Ultra Crepe Truck.  And the crepes were too yummy, both the savory and the sweet – we had to try both, of course.  We did not share any with the motion-sick dogs.  So we took the back road home – now I guess it’s the new main road home.  It has been recently maintained and I’m hoping it will still be good when we head out of here on Christmas Eve to join in the family festivities.

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Winter Solstice

Today is the solstice.  A good time for new beginnings.  I think I’ll give the blog another whirl.  Refocus and see where we can go.  Woo hoo.

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Our friend came to visit today with a big bag of persimmons.  Looks like some drying and persimmon bread is in order.

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Finally refilled the bird feeders.  The first time in a long time.  We didn’t feed the birds last winter – we went to Africa instead,  (check our travel blog).  But the birds are looking hungry and cold so we invested in a big bag of bird seed.  Hope they like it.

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It’s been awhile since last I posted on this blog – awhile being over a year.  And much has happened.   A new grandson was born!  The happy family is pictured above. There was a good apple crop and a terrible honey crop.  The chestnut trees made their first real crop. The swing set went up.  Our family camped in Lassen. We went hiking in the Warner wilderness.  I went to New Orleans with my daughter to a pediatrics convention.  Big fun and more.

jim-and-dogs-in-snow-12-12Snow has already fallen this year, making things so very holiday like.  The wood is up, the leaves are blown off the roof, the netflicks que is over 20 movies long – I guess we are ready for the winter.

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A Little Protest

In honor of the upcoming holiday…

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I don’t know who made this poster, but I thought to share it anyway.  If you know the attribution, let me know.

Oh, I found where I got this.  It was on facebook here.

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Tree Trimming, Not Xmas

We have trees.  I mean we really have trees.  Fruit trees, landscape trees, conifers, valley oaks, madrones and black walnuts.  There are some big old trees around the house and some of them had dead wood that looked like it might come down on the roof.

At first my theory was to keep the insurance paid up and just make do.  But a few big limbs made so much noise when they landed, that I quickly changed my tune.

fortunately, we have a tree trimmer in the family and he has a high climbing partner and they came to work one day. I spent most of the day watching them work.

They took out the dead limbs, took down the grape-vine, lightened up the branches, trimmed up a tree or two, took down the dead trunk that was leaning over the roof, and regaled us with stories.

I learned a reason you don’t want ivy or grapes or other vines up in a tree.  The tree and the vine have a symbiotic relationship – the tree provides support for the vine and the vine gives strength to the tree.  But the tree doesn’t develop its strength and when the vine is cut out of the tree, the tree is weak and the limbs can fail.

I learned that if you want to get the branches of a redwood up off the ground, you should try lightening the bottom branches, not cut them off.   If you cut off the bottom branches, the branches above will lower themselves right on down and then you’ll have the same problem all over again.

I gained a perspective on tree trimming.  Trees don’t really need trimming (kinda like how dogs don’t need a bath).  It’s people who need to trim the trees (or give the dog a bath).  People need trees trimmed to avoid falling branches, to improve the view, to improve the look of a tree, for fruit production, etc.

So I guess that the trees aren’t thanking me for our efforts, but we think it looks a lot better around here – lighter, safer, neater.  And now we have some more black walnut for benches! (or here)

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And we will also have a few day’s worth of work hauling all the limbs to the burn pile.

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Sticky Work

We keep bees.  Or maybe the bees keep us – there being so many more of them than there are of us.  There are 12 hives out in the yard this month, and maybe each hive has 35,000 bees, give or take  10,000.  That’s over 400,000 bees!!!  We try to have an equitable relationship, or at least some give and take.

This month it was mostly take when the landlord came to call.  We collected some of the extra honey.  Fortunately, our good human friends came up for a few days and helped us spin the honey out.

We are lucky these days by having an electric centrifuge to spin the honey out of the combs.  The last time our friends were here, we had a hand crank spinner sitting in the kitchen and one of us had to sit on the extractor while the other turned the handle.

Now we have a honey house – really just a honey room – to work in.  The honey house is a place where the bees can’t get in (and reclaim the honey).  One year, in a different spot, there was a small hole, just big enough for one bee to get through.  We’d kill 3 bees and then turn around and there would be 3 more bees.  We’d kill those 3 bees and then a minute later there would be 3 more.  We stepped outside and the air was a buzz with bees.  They were lining up to get in the small hole.  Now our honey house is a tight little room, inside a bigger shed.  So far, so good.

It’s hot work!  A nice warm room keeps the honey flowing which helps to shorten the work time.  Louise became a qualified comb cutter opener and Gene manned the extractor.  Gene is a diabetic and we thought we should send a photo of his work for the cover of the Diabetics Magazine.  Well, we thought it was funny.

The honey poured out of the extractor.

And the honey poured into jars.

While we worked, the food cooked in the solar oven.  What a fun invention.  Kind of like a sun driven crock pot.  We like it because the house stays cool and the food gets hot.

After all the hard work, we ate and relaxed.

It was a really nice day, with good work and good friends.  Another for the memory book.

The next day we took all the equipment out for the bees to clean up.  It seemed like every bee within a mile came for the feasting – zooming in from every direction.  By nightfall everything was all clean, the bees took the honey and the equipment was no longer sticky.  Jim prepared the honey supers for the winter and swamped out the honey house.  Ah, how sweet it is.

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In The Garden are Some Earthly Delights

A wonderful aspect about living here in the “country” is the dirt and the water and the space to have a garden.  It doesn’t hurt to be in Northern California with a moderate climate and long growing season. And it’s an “as ye sow, so shall ye reap” activity.  The effort put in really effects the amount of vegetables to harvest.  To help maximize the effort, Ruby and I co-gardened this year.  And we have been pretty successful.

We rottotilled some ground, a plot about 50′ by 50′.

This year we used string lines and the beds are oh so tidy looking.

I mostly use started plants at this farm.   If you’re not careful about how you water (and I’m not), the ground can form a hard crust, and the seeds have a hard time breaking through the soil.  Then there are the birds, especially those pesky quail, who like to eat the sweet new shoots.  The bird depredation can be devastating on the plants.  So we mostly grow by planting starts instead of seeds.

 

Aside from a bounty of tomatoes, tomatillos, eggplant and peppers we grew some fine flowers. They certainly make the garden sparkle and gladden our hearts.

My grandfather was a truck farmer for much of his life.  I can remember trailing behind him, putting 3 cucumber seeds in a hole, and on down the row. With 3-year-old hands and coordination, I could handle the big cucumber seeds.  So maybe it’s an ancestral  thing or just a human thing, but few pursuits bring me more pleasure than gardening.

Here’s Ruby with a basket of tomatillos.  They were roasted whole and then packed away frozen to add to dinners later in the year.

Then of course we had dinner, prepared mostly from the garden or from nearby farms and gardens (tho not the tortillas, silly).  The star of the show was the Jimmy Nardello Peppers, oh so yummy, pan-fried with garlic. It was the first time any of us had eaten them and we were pleasantly surprised.  They are highly recommended.

It is so very satisfying to eat what you grow – like laying in the grass, or hanging around a waterfall .  We are ever so lucky and a bit self-satisfied, here in Northern California, eating so well.  I almost feel guilty.

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Apple A Day Apple A Day

Fall came early.  Or else we were a little more on top of things.  But here we are, the first day of September and we are pressing apples!  A combination of things brings us to this early juice – the weather, a large apple crop, and Daniel being steady at it by picking apples each day.

Michael brought over a truckload of apples.  We washed them, ground them up, loaded the press and presto magico – apple juice comes running out.

Here’s the first taste of the season – gravensteins, pippins, geneva cider, some type of beauty, and a mystery apple.  Juicy apples that taste pretty good for early apples.

It’s a hard days work making craft cider, juice and vinegar.  This day we pressed over 50 gallons of fresh juice.  Some went to friends, some into the fridge, and 5 carboys are set to ferment.  Umm hum.

We love this part – the apples, juice and fermenting.  I like the combination of slow food and chemistry and artisanal  work, not to mention the smell and taste of the apples and juice.  And having good work to do.  What a pleasure.

I learned my cider craft from Peter Mitchel’s class up in Mt. Vernon – at the Washington State College Extension program.  And by a few years of experience.  And I learn a lot from the cider list serve.  If you are interested in hard apple cider, check it out.

I do so love the sound of the fermentation – blub, blub blup, blub, blub blup blub, blub.  Maybe I can attach the sound clip.  Hmmm.

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Yee Haw! Poetry and Cowboys!!

Here in California, and else where I suspect, local libraries are in trouble, struggling for monetary support.  Hours are reduced, staffing is cut to the bone.  The next step will cut the libraries all together.  OH NO.  Here in Mendocino County there is a proposition on the November ballot to fund the libraries.  Check it out – YES ON LIBRARIES campaign.  And let’s hope for the best.

On the upside of this struggle, folks get together to raise funds for their libraries.  Local Friends of the Library organizations are the main support.  The Willit’s branch is lucky to have Tamara Adams as a supporter.  She has Emandal, a wonderful farm on a river cum summer family camp.  This was the venue for a Cowboy Poetry event.

It was mostly music, which is poetry, I reckon.  It was lovely – the location and the performances.  There was home made ice cream and an apple pie contest.  A most lovely day.  And we had a yummy dinner with lots of food from the garden.

Emandal is on the Eel River up a ways out of town.  You can swim, wander in the beautiful gardens, look at the animals.  They even have a couple of ostriches, not to mention cows and goats and pigs and all.

We were glad we went and glad to support our sister library.  Yee haw, let’s do it again next year!

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