Friday, November 28, 2008

The Aftermath

Welcome to the Post Game Wrap Up Show. Now that all the turkey has digested I will provide some play by play details of the gala. My apologizes in advance: This is a long one...

The day of gorging on turkey began as usual with my alarm clock children waking us around 6 am. I soon realized however that my husband was like a flea on crack. His drug being sleep, too much of it makes him jitter like a moth on a hot light bulb. At breakfast Thanksgiving morning while gobbling his eggs, he sidled up to me on our dining bench. His body was quivering and shaking with excitement and he resembled a Labrador retriever or other such shivery dog with the kind of tail that whacks you so hard it gives you a bruise.

He says,"Honey, I just want to be close to you,"as his leg vibrated uncontrollably against the outside of my thy.

Realizing this was the first test to my new found inner calm, I remained passive. The reality was that in my head I was screaming, "Aggghhhh!" Kind of like Peppermint Patty in a rage. But no yelling at the husband on Thanksgiving. I promised my self I would remain peaceful-like today. After all, I could not let the good thoughts from the meditative hippie be in vain, right?

"It's party time." Mike's statement went unanswered due to my slow, deep breathing which was controlling my urge to throttle him or at least throw a hard hockey style elbow.

My carefully metered reply was, "Can you tone it down just a little today? Like maybe get down to about 100 decibels or so?"

Mike's giddy smile followed, accompanied by some goofy faces. My request was of no use. He remained a gigantic puppy with floppy ears and no facial hair. A little drool and the picture would be complete. At this point I am making Note to self No. 1: Stay clear of hyper active husband today. I would just have to keep my distance where possible.

Next The Food:

I attempted to tackle a complexity of cuisine never before seen from my kitchen at Thanksgiving, with a level of difficulty at about 7. With my play book straight out of Sunset Magazine I made a game plan to launch me to culinary victory. My assignments for our fabulous feast were: stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce and the rolls. Suzi tackled the bird, sautéed mushrooms, green beans, hoerderves (holy crap I spelled it right on the first try), and Mother-in-law Darlene made the desserts and gravy. Yes, it was a real team effort here.

My Dish No. 1: Overnight Soft Herb Rolls. First, I must say Thank You to Sunset magazine. Because of your inspirational photography, I decided to go extra fancy this year with home made bread rolls that require about 15 minutes of kneading. However, editors of Sunset please note: The directions should say: "Knead dough until carpel tunnel syndrome flairs and your wrists are searing." Since I made two batches of 12 rolls, I now know why the European baking goddesses have shoulders like linebackers and baseball mitts for hands.

My Dish No. 2: Meyer Lemon Cranberry Sauce. Directions say use one 12 oz bag of cranberries and add two Meyer lemons. I was in trouble at the onset since the store only had plain lemons. Am I allowed to make such substitution? What happens if you don't have Meyers? Well I have lived to tell the tale: nothing happens. I made the sauce with regular old lemons and amazingly the sky did not fall from the heavens.

My Dish No. 3: Artichoke Parmesan Sourdough Stuffing. This extra special stuffing was chosen due to the King men's love of artichokes and the wifes love for mushrooms. I figured everyone gets something they like out of it even though my father-in-law, Greg, says, "Eatin' mushrooms is like chewin' on a rubber tire." But we were not competing in NASCAR now were we. What could possibly go wrong here?

First instructions were to "brown the vegetables in a 12 inch pan." This would have been nice if all the produce would have fit in a 12 inch frying pan. Dear Sunset, please edit recipe to say,"brown vegetables in horse trough sized container." Then about the so called "browning." All the cooking vegetables made a lovely brown broth at the bottom of the pan. So now I was making soup. I figured I had to remove the broth...a task for which I was not prepared. How to get the broth out without dumping the vat of veggies was illusive. Spooning it out was not working so well. Then the power play kicked in and I found my kids hot pink colored easy dose dropper. You know those sucky bulb things you use to medicate your kids with Tylenol and Ibuprofen. So there I am suctioning one teaspoon of vegetable broth at a time with a fuchsia colored baby baster. Lovely. I must have made Martha proud at that point.

While the mirepoix was cooking, Mike came in to investigate. Then the hysterics broke out. The bellow explodes, "You're cooking onions....." According to my husband onions are toxic vegetables who's only purpose is to inflict agonizing blindness on people like him. Note to self No. 2: Cook onions to get Mike out of house.

With my brief window of opportunity I showed Mike the large quantities of ingredients and explained my cooking pot and bowl size problems. He surmized, "You could have just halved the recipe." How can I argue with logic... But that being said my last note to Sunset Magazine is: The recipe should be revised to say, "use small satellite dish to mix vegetables, bread cubes, artichokes and cheese."

Lastly, the stuffing recipe from Satin calls for a final ingredient. Mix in one one solitary scrambled egg. At this point I thinking... huh?? WTF!! Then a whinny brings me back from the abyss. I have forgotten to feed my horses their lunch. Big oops. Then worse I remember they still have their blankets on. Oh crap. The poor horses are out in the barn sweating under their blankets since it warmed up to like 65 degrees. Sorry horses, I am coming.

Things get a little fuzzy about here. The arrival of the relief pitcher containing beerritas occurred somewhere after this. Suzi to the half time rescue. Coincidentally, that brought us up to naps for the kids. Except as I am half snookered as well I have to lay down for a few minutes too. Note to self No. 3: Drinking on an empty stomach is stupid and for amateurs.

After my recovery period in time out, I was blessed by my baby Ella reentering the game but looking a bit injured. She came walking out from her room holding her butt. "What is it?" I asked.

"Owie, owie, pocket, owie pocket owie..." she babbled. I reached down to check her back pocket and extracted a two inch long yellow brontosaurus from her buttt. OK who did this to her? And she slept on it too. Poor baby.

And then finally, My Dish No. 4. Instant mashed potatoes with cheese and bacon. Picture a lady cooking bacon with white bed sheet wrapped around her midriff to protect her good crappy cords. This is me. At this point, necessity being the mother of invention, Suzi and I conspired to get each other designer aprons in the hour before dinner was ready. After all, we should be looking matronly hot when cooking slaving for the family. Jessie Steele Hostess aprons are quite flattering and hip. Suzi chose to receive this little number from her Secret Santa, aka me.

And mommy Julia chose the following subtle leopard print apron with pink trim to be delivered by her Secret Santa, aka Suzi:

The MEAL itself went off nicely with all the dishes being eaten by the majority of our family. Since the eating part usually spans no longer than 20 minutes at best, there was not much to report. However, the topping of the evening was the statement by brother-in-law, Jeff, who said at the very end of the meal, "I really don't like Thanksgiving food. The food is just not what I want to eat."

And my somewhat prompt and aggressive reply was, "Why don't we just cancel Thanksgiving then."

Then there was a stunned silence for the next few seconds in the dinning room. A few people looked at Jeff and then looked to me. Tension was mounting greater with every second that ticked away. I really do know how to shut down the conversation at a family gathering. It's a special talent that I have acquired over the years especially when interacting with my brother-in-law. But it was not to last too long.

The backtracking Jeff came back with, "Well, I would rather have lobster or ribs or something..." and at that point I just walked away.

Since no one complained we were eating "swamp grass" or said "this food is full of weeds" Suzi and I deemed it a successful Thanksgiving meal. Dessert was somewhere in the distant horizon but I was too full to look for it. At this point in the evening, I was not even thinking about what to do for next year. We have 364 more days to worry about that anyhow.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Thanksgiving Wish for Grocery Store Peace and Harmony

After reading several excellent grocery store Blogs within the last week I am amazed that this interesting story fell into my lap. The grocery store can bring out the best or the worst in humanity and here is a bit of both.

I went to the grocery store on Monday to avoid the onslaught of shoppers, who like a starving swarm of locusts, will denude the isle ways in the next few days. Since my sister-in-law, Suzi, and I split the responsibilities for dinner, the meal is more manageable and I don't get neurotic and frenzied about everything. My daughter, Ella, and I took our list and checked it twice while shopping for the items I needed to prepare my dishes for Thanksgiving.

As my baby side kick and I were making our final pass through the produce section, chatting back and forth about the onions and apples, I noticed a tall thin man walking slowly around as well. Since it was early in the morning not many shoppers were out yet. He was inspecting the vegetables and carried only a plastic package containing fresh herbs in his hand. He was a "hippie" type complete with long hair in a pony tail at the base of his neck, a course fibered poncho, a "Mao" hat, and easy to wear shoes. I went to collage at U.C. Davis, in California and was well familiarized with the essential wardrobe for the more earthy people who lived at the "Domes." This gentleman was notably different from the cast during my collage days due to his extreme cleanliness, total lack of Patchouli scent, and a very carefully trimmed beard which ended at the base of his jaw. He was not carrying a shopping basket, nor did he have a cart.

I finished shopping with Ella after checking my list for a third and final time and headed to the check out counters. We purchased our goods and the cheerful bagging clerk helped us unload our booty into the back of the truck. As I was putting Ella in her car seat I remembered I needed to get some cash. So we went back into the store. I got some decaf coffee, added my dash 1/4 cup of cream and 1 packet 3 packets of raw sugar, and went to the checkout once again.

As we approached the checkout I observed the hippie gentleman standing at the front of the displays at the end of an aisle. He was holding his herbs and had put his hands in some type of meditative position in front of his stomach, facing the checkout lanes. Standing motionless with a serene look on his face I could not help but notice him. His display of inactivity and interior focus was drawing my attention as much as if he was shouting like a mad man, but I do not think he was insane. In fact, I thought he was likely thinking good holiday thoughts and Happy Thanksgiving to all the shoppers. At least that's what I felt. But not so to the employees in the store. As I neared the checker I could hear her saying to the bagger in a worried voice, "Look over there." Then she got on the phone to the manager saying, "Ralph, come up front please," with a tightly controlled urgency.

I looked back at our peaceful friend. His hand position had changed and they were lower but still poised looking something like yoga. He was not in the least bit threatening to me. Meanwhile, the checkers were still buzzing quitely back and forth in code like there was a terrorist in the store.

All I could think as I glanced back and forth between the silent man and the agitated employees was, "Leave him alone." The guy was not hurting anyone and for all I could tell he was not likely too. As I made my purchase and got my cash, I looked back one last time, and he was still just emitting calmness. No one from the store had confronted him yet.

Not knowing what happened next I like to think they left him alone, but most likely he was asked to leave and/or escorted out of the store. This in exchange for the good Karma I think he was sending all us shoppers. At least that's what I think he was sending. And I am going to try to keep his good and peaceful thoughts through this holiday.

These essential Thanksgiving items were not on my check list.
But I still managed to bring them home.

You never know what you may pick up from the grocery store do you?

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Ground Squirrels Wars

Along with the shortening days there coincides a dramatic decrease in the number of active ground squirrels (Spermophillus beechii) on our property. This is a very good thing. Biological clocks being what they are, about this time of year the ground squirrels snuggle down in their subterranean burrows for a winter hibernation period. However, as I rode Gemma, my four year old Dutch horse today, I heard their chirping calls cascading back and forth across the southern fence line. I am guessing all their shouting was related to a last ditch foraging expedition to gather food tidbits. They were probably saying, "Over here, seeds over here, NO dumb ass, don't go that way, seeds over here..."

My neighbors let the ground squirrels run rampant on their side of the fence. Occasionally, I see a grand daddy ground squirrel who looks like he could take out one of my cats or chew off my foot, take your pick. These rodents have a hidden fortress beneath a brush pile the size of a large military tank which provides them almost unlimited protection from predators. Bin Laden may be in there too for all we know. There are back doors, front doors, sideways escape shoots and probably elevators in their compound beneath the sticks. They probably get better dish reception than me. In other words they are thriving. BUT, the dirty truth be told, on our property we trap and exterminate about 50 ground squirrels a year to control their population. Sounds harsh, I know, but if there was a better balance between the number of predators and prey, we would not have to do this. The few we euthanize hardly puts a damper on their population; it just keeps them from making Swiss cheese of my pastures.

In my relationship with ground squirrels I am like a paranoid schizophrenic serial killer on Ecstasy. I really love you but must kill you. You are extremely cute but must die. There are times when I coo and admire their big dark, liquid eyes and adorable little faces, their dainty little paws, and the way they stand up on their haunches doing reconnaissance around their domain. I have been known to make cute and fuzzy noises in seeing their little family units working together when spreading out in the grasslands. All these quaint qualities are appreciated by yours truly when they are on the NEIGHBORS property, not on mine.

When I see them scurry along the railroad ties bordering my arena in route to their favorite digging spots, I mumble low cursings, which should be basically inaudible to my children, "Little no good bastards, little bleepity, bleep, bleeping, bleepers, etc...." But then Wyatt, hearing only those things that he wants to, will ask me what I am saying. Then I have to make up something so that he doesn't think mommy is crazy-talking to voices in her head. So, I gently explain that the ground squirrels are very, very naughty because they dig so many holes, and we will have to start trapping them even though I like them so much.

Every summer new litters of babies come exploring at our house and attempt to set up colonies within our property boundary. I simply can not let this happen. When the juveniles come and dig like a CAT excavator at the base of my walnut tree, I start to freak out and know it is time for some heads to roll. That is when the steel cage trap is baited for a non refundable boarding pass to vulture snack time. After the ground squirrels enter the trap they are shot by my sister-in-law, Suzi,who has become quite proficient with a 22. Yes, I have avoided the dirty work here... Thank you Suzi for your pioneer-like pragmatism. Then the carcasses are placed on our west property line where the beautiful, magnificent turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) sniff them out for a fine dining experience. FYI: If you did not know, turkey vultures primarily smell their food rotting while gliding on the thermals above. Then they circle it and come down for a feast. I marvel that there have been times when as many as 13 birds were lined up for the buffet.

Photo Credit: Ron Wolf. Photo Credit: Joyce Gross

Now everyone don't start "hatin" on me over this and attack me like a frenzied pit bull. What we do is totally legal and we use a humane method for extermination. No painful poisons or vice-like traps which result in slow tedious deaths. The way we trap and dispatch is about as nice as it can be done. I rationalize this under the following defense:

1. By definition, ground squirrels are fossorial and dig hundreds of holes in the ground where they live. They can not be stopped from digging. These holes are a one way ticket to a broken leg for my not so inexpensive equine friends.

2. Secondly, they destroy the foundation of my riding arena. Again hole in arena base equals glue factory for my horse.

3. Lastly, they make a huge mess with their tailings, and I have enough trouble maintaining what little landscape aesthetics we have on our property. Thus, this dirty deed must be done.

My ambivalent feelings about the ground squirrels are complex since these rodents play a critical role in annual grassland habitats across the western U.S. In addition to their attractive physical attributes, they are a feed source for predator species such as coyotes, numerous raptors, and reptiles (snakes in particular). They dig holes in the ground providing refuge sites for insects, amphibians (toads, salamanders, and frogs), reptiles, and burrowing owls (this includes several Federally listed species such as the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense). And as thus, they are an integral part of the natural ecosystems. It is just too bad that I can not let nature run its course and we have to "manage" our situation. We all leave a footprint in some way on environment and this is one of my unfortunate and not so guilt free paw prints.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Chicken Whisperer

Preface: For all you folk that know about this already, bare with me; I am still a learning all this farm-type stuff. You still might enjoy the story even if you have seen it all before.

They say you learn something new every day, but what I saw with the chickens this week rates up there on my "Holy S#*!" list. We were all in the chickens pen feeding and admiring the new feather growth on the fowl when husband Mike casually asks me if I ever saw a chicken put to sleep. I think I gave a brief scowl of disbelief with a dash of contempt since I figured it was one more whopper on his Top Ten list of ridiculous statements. But alas, how wrong I was; and I am not embarrassed to admit it, for the spectacle that I beheld was almost as unbelievable as flying pigs, reindeer with glowing red noses, and bunnies that lay chocolate eggs, but wait, those aren't real. Well anyhow, putting a chicken to sleep was real and the only fitting description for what I saw is "Chicken Whispering."

So Mike proceeded to wrangle a chicken and grab it carefully in his strong mandibles. Then he knelt using one knee to hold the chicken while placing its head firmly on the ground. Next Mike petted the chicken softly on its head and neck for about 20 or 30 seconds and quietly removed his restraints from the birds back. And as he moved away from the bird it remained laying stiffly on the ground and stayed frozen there for about a minute. Was it taking a nap or in a trance? I was not sure. Is this a hillbilly initiation ceremony or what?? This chicken whispering is new territory for me. The chickens seem to bring out the country bumpkin in everybody, but this must be what separates the true rednecks from the wannabes. At this point I was all amazement, and with wide eyed shock I asked why the chickens do this. "I duh know," was Mikes immediate reply. I could not settle for his meagre answer, so upon my quizzing him further he came up with something about the hens going into a frozen state when the roosters mount them for breeding and such. It sounded like he was pulling this out of his a** at that point so I gave up.

I would have to go to a higher authority for the answers to my question. Obviously this was the vast and expansive resource known as the Internet. There I was enlightened by so called experts on the subject. And by experts I really mean idiots... During my research, I found numerous video clips of chicken whispering since people have figured out many techniques to torture chickens in this manner. In fact, there is a whole section on YouTube where morons from all walks of life show their unique and special talent in chicken hypnotism. Some advise folding the head under the wing, holding the chicken tightly and spinning it in circles, others demonstrate a spiral hand movement over the chickens head while pressing its body on the ground, and another drew lines in the dirt in front the chicken's beady eye. Then there are the warnings like "Do not use a rooster," and my only reaction was "DUH!!!" That's attempted suicide in our chicken society. Our glorious Mr.D would scratch and peck your eyes out in 2.87 seconds. I could instantly figure that roosters are immune to chicken whispering. From my personal observations, roosters would not submit to hypnosis, they're too damned busy trying to rake the sh** out of someone with their spurs.

There is actually an entry in Wickipedia, that gives historical references for the use of the chicken-in-a-trance like state which is scientifically identified as "tonic immobility." Remember, one must say "tonic immobility" in the geeky voice to counteract all of the hillbilly in everything preceding it. In fact, these techniques were developed by farmers who needed to kill a chicken alone. They could subdue it with the hypnosis then chop-chop without cutting off their hand in the process.

There was some slight irony that on one site with videos it had "How to put a chicken to sleep" right next to "How to make beer can chicken." At least it made me laugh. I can just imagine all these dumb ass people just like us chasing their hens around and doing sleep experiments on them. Poor ladies. The one thing of note that I did discover is that Mike's technique for tonic immobility was unique to him as I could not find any others using his same method. The only reason "why" the chickens go into the hypnotic state was explained as their attempt at feigning dead, aka, playin' possum, in reaction to their torture. This is not such a successful strategy at my house. Those animals that lay around get abused loved and carried by the kids the most.

So not being able to convince my dear and loving husband to demonstrate his chicken whispering techniques for all the world to see I had to make the effort and thus complete this portion of my hillbilly training:

Saturday, November 15, 2008

How to Hatch a Tree

For the most part, I like three of the four seasons in my part of the planet. Winter is awesome with regenerating rainfall and cold weather which makes me happy. Spring is great with wildflower blooms so I can practice plant identification and retain my botany skills. Summer is miserable for me since it is too bleeping hot, thus it's the one season I like NOT at all. And fall brings with it the gathering of harvests and more importantly it is when thousands of acorns drop from the oaks.

I am always inspired and feel a certain reverence when I walk beneath a 300-year old valley oak tree (Quercus lobata), and I remember that it began from a two inch long acorn, century's ago. What did the landscape look like back then? Those are oaken memories that can never be answered exactly. And if you could not tell already, oaks are my favorite trees. Here is a valley oak near where I live. We are lucky there are some ancient specimens that I can take the kids to see. This one has a trunk that is approaching fifteen feet in circumference. It's a grand tree and makes acorns I call "lunkers" because they are so big and heavy.

Acorns consist of high energy packed in a tough but smooth shell, pointy on one end and rounded on the other. It feels great to hold a few acorns in your hand and roll them around against each other. Acorns are gorgeous in their simplicity and can withstanding the fall from as high as 50 or 60 feet without breaking. And all the animals want them: squirrels, birds, deer, pigs and even humans.

OK, so here is the important part: The fun my kids had collecting acorns today was priceless and FREE. The basic recipe for hatching an oak tree as is follows:

1. Assemble children in vehicle and drive to nearby oak groves in your area. You may have to do some homework first to know where to go before dragging kids on wild goose chase for acorns.

2. Arm children with baggies and walk them under said oak trees and show them the acorns. They will instinctively want to gather these. Point out rotten ones or ones with holes as bad. Do not collect these ones.

3. Bring acorns home. Count with children for fun and practice. Using tougher freezer type zip lock baggy, empty acorns and some wood shavings together with a light dousing of water. ONLY LIGHTLY moisten the shavings. A small bag of rodent bedding from local pet store works fine (OK. This project is almost free). DO NOT SOAK. To much water will rot the acorns and shavings. Do not totally close seal on bag. Air exchange must be able to occur. As I plan to plant several hundred oaks this winter these are the gallon size bags. Whatever the size baggy or number of acorns, it should look kind of like this:

4. Place baggy in bottom of refrigerator. The cold stratification speeds up germination. Check bag every few weeks with kids so they can see the emergence of a long white root. When roots are about one to two inches long, transplant into small pot to plant later or directly into ground (better choice of two) with your children.

5. To prepare ground: Dig one foot wide by two feet deep hole to loosen soils. Back fill hole without packing dirt. Make a shallow basin or bowl piling extra dirt around edges. Carefully place acorn with root down, into soil about 1/2 inch. Gently push acorn into soils packing lightly so acorn is firmly in the earth. Acorn should just be visible. If varmints are a problem protect using wire caging below and/or above ground. Option: plant two or three acorns in your hole. If all grow well then cull two of three. **Choose location for planting carefully since these trees will be here decades if not centuries after we are gone.**

6. By early spring you should have a shoot and leaves growing from your acorn. Have kids monitor growth, maybe measure weekly and do leaf counts. Watering of tree will depend upon your specific area. When planted as acorns many oak do not require water, so use common sense judgment. I always water at initial planting and every two to three weeks depending upon rainfall.

I have in some years donated the acorns I germinated to local restoration groups to be planted in preserves. I bet schools would also be happy for sapling tree donations. Additionally, a great resource on oaks in my state is Oaks of California, Pavlik et. all. It provides a description with pictures of all the species in our state, life history, Native American use of oaks and much more. I am certain there are many state specific books to help identify species and biology in other regions of the county.

I hope this inspires someone. Good luck and go hatch an oak tree this fall.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Howling at the Moon

My son, Wyatt, said to me the other day, "Mom, I think a lady with long hair is on the moon."

I replied, "Yeah, I think your right." Then after mulling about it for a few seconds, I told him, "Some people think there's a man on the moon."

Then Wyatt returned with a certain child-like confidence "No, I think it's a lady." Sometimes he can be wise beyond his four short years. Who am I to tell him it's supposed to be a man, a rabbit or anything else for that matter; if he can see a lady, bless his heart, I am thrilled for his imagination.

We often enjoy looking at the full moon and wonder at the shimmery light it projects on the land at night. When we go to feed the horses after dark and there is a yellow halo surrounding a blazing full moon, we like to see how the hills are illuminated and the oak trees stand out individually like an gnarled army in waiting. Since in the winter we are always outside after the sun is gone, I have noticed that neither of my kids has any fear of being "in the dark." Our treks out back to put away the horses and throw on their blanket has numbed my kids to the boogie man or other scary night time things. It does not even occur to them to be afraid of the dark.

It fills my heart with not so little pride, that on occasion when I'm not expecting it, Wyatt will say excitedly, "Mom, come here. Look at the moon, it's beautiful tonight." My greatest hope is that I instill a sense awe and wonder at nature and our universe. As much as I can, I encourage my son to look at all the amazing thing in the wild places we see. If I can successfully give him love for simple organic things I think I will have done my job.

Me and Wyatt were teaching Ella about sun shadows earlier in the day, and since the moon light was bright enough we showed her the moon shadows too. She really did not get the whole concept seeing as though she is 22 months old, but after she repeated the word "shadow" a couple times while pointing in the right direction, I was well satisfied we were on track. She too will always look for the moon when we go out at night and if its not up repeats her questioning, "Moon? Moon?"

Last night after dinner when the full moon had reached about 45 degrees in the sky, we had a primitive gathering for my kids and the cousins who live next door. We assembled to do some howling. An enthusiastic four of five were thrilled to participate, but oldest cousin Luke said, "This is too boring." I was a little sad that at 7 he is already becoming to cool to join in. The younger kids thought it was fabulous since all Suzi and I do inside the house is tell them repeatedly to stop making so much noise.

I experimented with the video camera's night time capabilities and here is what I got. And yes I have no idea how to edit anything on the video yet. I feel the video stuff will be a long and arduous process so be patient with me and kind in critique.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

I do NOT Like Daylight Savings

Now that the earth has tilted on it's wobbly axis and we rotate away from the sun more quickly upon this screw ball planet, I am forced to accept my manic children's behavior in my house, instead of OUTSIDE where they should be. Darkens descends upon us at 5:30 like a black plague or creeping moldy scourge and I look to heaven for guidance when ushering the kids inside. The voice in side my head repeats like a bad ear worm, " not hurt kids, do not hurt kids, do not hurt kids...."

Things have been rapidly disintegrating when my little angels, Wyatt and Ella transform into frantic demon dwarfs leaping off the furniture and squeezing behind the couch. They like to party like rock stars. Hence, my impending commitment to the asylum may prevent further blog entries.

Some of their favorite indoor activities include:

1. Dumping approximately 20 stuffed animals and all the blankets from Wyatt's bed into Ella's crib then climbing in to the zoo,
2. Tearing all the cushions off the couch to make a fort, then jump on top of fort,
3. Terrorizing the cats until unearthly and dangerous growls can be heard from felines, and
4. Playing two Hullabaloo speaker units at once so there are two different sets of directions given simultaneously.

I am certain further creative developments will provide entertainment for them as they tire of their current indoor curriculum.

Here is a glimpse of what I must monitor in my office/laundry room so they don't fall off of the "guest" bed and crack their heads open. Little do the visitors know that there's all kinds of baby slobber and cat hair on the quilt, oops...

It starts off mostly with some controlled jumping to dance music.

Then it escalates to getting air time with more energetic leaping and random pillow tossing.

Then their antics somewhat resemble a mosh pit.

And finally, as Ellas legs start to give way she turns to yodeling and Wyatt is thinking about how to climb in the pillow case.

After all their wild flailing is finished the two can move on to more quiet and studious craft type activities requiring concentration.

The trolls climb on to my desk where they squat on top and do whatever they find most interesting at that moment. I put up with a lot to get a few minutes of computer time, but I feel I teeter precariously on the edge of loosing my Internet connection or power with a potential snip from the scissors Wyatt wields with deadly precision. But mostly instead, Wyatt finds cutting paper into millions of pieces of confetti an adequate foil. Ella ever looking for something to color is thankfully using the paper instead of my washing machine and drier for her canvas. To date she has never met a vertical surface she doesn't like and on which she would not hesitate to decorate with her Technicolor scribbles.

With my two-baby wrecking crew finding new and improved ways to upend my 800 square foot house, bed time never seems near enough. I find myself counting down until the shortest day of the year passes in December; and then I comfort myself that in a few months I can release the beasts outside after dinner once again.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Random Thoughts

So today brings forth a couple unrelated issues from the past week or so.

Since it has begun to rain in earnest, the attire de jour for my children consists of shorts and rubber boots. It seems the mud at our house attacks you as you step out the door so rubberized footing is a mandatory necessity to avoid destroying anything below your knees. It is cute seeing the kids running around with their white knees peeking out between the top of their rain boots and the lowest part of their shorts. We have a ritual that when coming inside; almost everything gets stripped before entry into the house is permitted. We probably go through three or four sets of clothes per day. Yeah, I know, that's a lot of laundry. PG&E loves us in then winter. Not only do I have to use the drier for the clothes (I line dry all summer), but I do more loads cumulatively.

On to the next topic, Max, one of our horses, was "re-homed" last weekend. Max has been with me for about four years and here is his long story as short as possible. In 2003, one of my friends called me and said I should go look at this "colt" at her friends house since she had too many horses and needed to downsize. Sucker that I was I went to inspect him and decided to give it a try; and I rescued Max as long yearling from a quagmire of mud and manure. Max had a bastards family history of which to be proud. His dam, a retired 23 year old thoroughbred, got knocked up by a rouge-escaped Arabian stallion when out in a pasture. Romanced by the exotic foreigner and left as a single mom in her old age after a one night stand, the mare produced Max, who was unwanted by his moms, owners. But since I was not so discriminating and thought I could make something of him I adopted this misfit and supported him through his adolescence.

Max turned out to be something of an Einstein horse, since he could open his stall door, his stable mates stall doors, and even gates. If not locked in Max would let himself and his stable mates out and party. I guess this is how his father got to his mom... I broke him to riding when he was almost 3 and found him fabulously trainable, although I looked like an giraffe riding a thimble, since he only grew to about 14.3 hands. My six foot body just did not look aesthetically pleasing riding Max. But size aside Max turned out to be a super smart horse who wanted to DO something. My problem was three horses, two kids, no time. And the other horses got priority since they were my size...

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine in Sacramento said she would take him on lease and keep him if they hit it off so I will keep my fingers crossed. I must feel kind of like a parent sending their pesky teenager off to collage. I am thankful he is out of my hair but hoping he behaves himself so he is not expelled.

Then on to Halloween. Going into town for tricker treating was a total bust. There were lines to get candy and the mobs of people just made us claustrophobic. We brought the crew home after 20 minutes of exposure to the mauling crowd seeking high fructose corn syrup treats. Then all the boys activated their glow sticks and played for about 30 minutes making light designs by swinging the florescent green and orange colors in circles and waves around their bodies. I asked them what they liked best about Halloween and I got a rousting cheer for the glow stick fun. We all agreed that next year we would not go trick or treating, but instead I would buy a big pack of the glow sticks and we would all play at home. That was easy... And NO the kid on the right (cousin Trevor) is not flipping you off. He is pretending to have guns. God help us when he learns the finger.

Last thing, we ordered and received a camcorder for video fun so now I can actually make little movies of our simple life escapades. Stephen Spielberg, Quentin Terantino, or the Farrelly Brothers, I am not sure which genre will emerge from our cast. Probably more like pathetic amateur with a shaking video camera. We shall see.

The Day the Swallows Came Home

The tree swallows are here already.  They arrived January 30 much to my dismay.  Swooping and calling and chirping their merry song over my ...