Thursday, July 30, 2009

Julia and The Bean Stalk

So, I stumbled upon some magic beans a few months ago and planted them. They have not been growing as fast as the bean plants in Jack and The Beanstalk, but I have been patient.

A couple days ago I was staring up my beanstalks deciding which one I could climb to the land in the clouds.

I was thinking the clouds were looking kind of sketchy to be walking around in, but decided I had to go through with the visit. I mean if you find magic beans you have to use them properly.

Choosing this one, I began my assent up the not-so-stout vine stems. I had no idea what I would find up there....probably ogres and the like, maybe gold, well at least I was hoping so.

It was a long struggling climb and I was dreadfully tired at the end, but I made it to the top and found solid ground up in what appeared to be see through clouds. How do they do that???

I started walking around and found some trees that were being water with a garden hose. The giant must have forgot the water on since it was all mushy around the base of the tree. Then I found this frog flooded out of his home.

Seeing how he might be a prince charming who needs rescuing I decided to kiss him and try to break the evil witch's wicked spell. I gave him a "Sssssmack!" Right on the kisser.

Nothing happened.

Oh, yeah... I should have known. He was just a toad. A western toad. Then he told me his name was Bufo Boreas and that he was actually the King of Bug Eating. Well now I can say I've kissed a King. Haa haa.

I looked around for the alleged treasures that are supposed to be up there and stumbled upon these large elliptical fruit. They were gigantic and so I could not feasibly carry them down the beanstalk. Drat!

I was wondering if I would find anything of value up there in the clouds and wandered around for a few minutes more. I certainly did not want to end up the entree for the giant. I was getting the feeling that my time was running out.

Then I heard some screaming and turned and saw this:

Three dwarfs were barreling down on me in their vehicles of destruction. One got pretty close and I could see it's sharp teeth and claws. I started to get scared at that point.

I hear these small dwarfs are fierce fighters and eat humans. I gotta run folks. Wish me luck going down that bean stalk. Too bad there was no treasure today...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Those Things That Wake Me Up At Night

"Hey, what's that," the husband said to his slumbering wife with some urgency. There was no response so he shoved her a little, "What is that sound, Honey?"

The wife sleeps with earplugs. She is a highly sensitive sleeper. Sudden noises awaken her instantly. With her beloved purple earplugs filling her ear canals she is capable of achieving a deep state of happy sleep.

Slowly awakening with leaded eyelids, the wife regains consciousness and listens for the briefest of moments. She is the expert on sounds. She can hear church mice fart. She can hear the faint scratch of a cat's paw on the sliding glass door. She can hear the sound of a child's foot hit the ground down the hallway. Sounds are what she is good at.

Even though not fully awake she knew what he was asking,"It's a raccoon eating the cat food. They are noisy eaters, Dear. They smack. I can't believe that woke you up," the wife replies after her 5 second analysis. The indelicate noise of crunching and munching can be heard through the screen of their open sliding glass door.

The husband sleeps like the living dead. He was given the gift of sleep. Normally, it takes blood curdling sirens to rouse him from his slumber. He sets three alarm clocks to be sure he will wake up for early morning work. This is in spite of his wife's adamant protestation that one alarm will wake her with earplugs, and that she would wake him if the one alarm does not do the job for him. But he will not listen to her irrational prattling. Three alarms are required.

The husband and wife fall back to sleep after this first mystery of the night was solved.

Some time later the wife sits up in bed and whispers loudly, "Holy Crap!! What the fuck is that racket?" She sits for a moment listening intently to the high pitched screaming countered with low based growling that has woken her up. This second awakening is not welcomed by the wife. Meanwhile, the husband snores uninterrupted on his side of the bed. For maybe twenty seconds she carefully triangulates on the unearthly noise. It sounds like the devil has come for a visit to torture the little creatures on earth. Something is being eviscerated, or so it seems. She knows what it is and where they are located.

Walking toward the kitchen the wife takes matters into her own hands. She grabs the yellow handled kitchen broom and opens the front door handle slowly. The ghoulish howling does not cease as she turns on the porch light. The noise is coming from a location approximately 200 feet away in front of the work shop.

Wearing a t-shirt, shorts and crocks, armed with a common kitchen broom, the wife is about to confront the enemy. Walking toward the noise she is amazed that it has not ceased with her approach. The crackling of rocks beneath her feet does nothing to alarm them. They are too preoccupied to notice the towering figure nearing their battle ground.

Then the wife sees them. It is a large ball of gray fur moving curiously on the ground. They are the source of the evil nocturnal symphony. Two 40 lb raccoons were locked in mortal combat and were rolling just slightly as one animal chewed or clawed more aggressively at the other. The quivering mass of fur shook strangely under the moonless night.

With weapon raised over her head, the wife swung hard contacting the mass of teeth and claws with the broom bristles. She is a warrior too. A staunch defender of the sleep zone. She wants no more petty bickering from the critters of the land. The wife lifted the broom again willing it to come smashing down on the black masked vermin.

The raccoons split from each other scrambling furiously to avoid her. One ran into the shop. One ran around the north end of the building dragging it's back end behind it. And the sound of silence once again filled the air with joy. The crickets could be heard chirping their soft and repeating serenade in unison. Ahhhh...

The wife could now go back to bed. Her work was done.

One may ask, where was the husband during this encounter?

Answer: He was safely ensconced under his warm down comforter on his side of the bed.

Go figure.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Of Horses and Girls and Summer

It's summer and summer was always my time for horses as a kid. This rambling essay is a brief glimpse at what my vacations were about in my growing years.

Querencia, this is a Spanish word that lacks an equal in the English language. And some declare the fact that many such words are absent from the most spoke language on the globe make it inferior. I tend to agree. The romance languages are certainly more descriptive and at 17 years of age in my advanced placement composition class I had an assignment to write an essay about this word to try to put it to use in my language. As an English-only speaker, for me, the word querencia is only associated with my horses as a pre-teen and teenager.

Ramos Ranch was likely the only thing that saved me from the evils of being a teenager in the ruthless world of high school. As a fast maturing girl who turned heads quicker than I could think to speak, I found my self shy and uncomfortable with boys and the other more aggressive girls of my age group. Instead of investing time in my peers, I spent ten years, ten summers, at Ramos Ranch which were filled with riding my horse through the never changing and always changing hills.

The borders of the ranch always remained the same since Stanford University leased the lands to John Ramos and developing them was not in the plans. The ranch spanned over 500 acres, divided between the mare's and geldings pastures. Imagine rolling hills dotted with oak trees and grassland, open space untrammeled by modern development. To this day it remains an incredible tract of land that has not been assaulted with development. Even Ronald Regan, when offered a portion of the ranch as a site for his library, declined to develop any of the Ramos Ranch, since as a horseman himself I don’t think he could bear to see the horse pastures scarred with buildings. However, all around the pastures the gigantic homes of millionaires were being constructed at a breakneck pace.

At Ramos Ranch, a little tributary to San Francisco Bay called Deer Creek bisects the 200 acre geldings pasture. Moments of querencia could be found within the creek channel. Narrow single tract paths to access the creek bed were frequented by us all on horseback. There was a pack of us, teen age girls that is. The packs size varied from year to year and from winter to summer. I think at the height of July our numbers would reach into the teens with ages ranging between 10 and 16.

Old John Ramos, who was already in his late 60’s when I met him, would loosely oversee our activities with the horses. John would be sure to yell at each girl at least once. As a 10 year old I was about 5'8" and growing; I towered above John's 5'3" figure, but he could still bring me to tears with ease. He was a Goliath of a man in a tiny body; with snowy white hair, brown leathered skin and fingers atrophied by decades of hard work, John had seen an eternity in his life before I ever knew him. With his half English, half Spanish rants, he'd scare the crap out of me and the rest of the girl-pack regardless of our size. After he established his authority he was kind and generous. Although for the tougher, more daring, girls he would give an extra mean ass chewing when someone got out of line.

John had a lease system where we girls could rent his horses by the month for a minimal fee. His horse fleet consisted of the best mismatch assemblage of Heinz fifty seven's you've ever seen: sugar flaxen manes, gangly chestnuts, blotchy black and white paints, jet black Tennessee walker, morganquarterhorsethoroghbred cross, touches of draft horse, and big eyed arabs with flag-like tails, to name just a few.

When I started leasing a horse in the summer after fifth grade, it cost $35.00. Under his program you were handed a halter with a lead rope and a mechanical hackamore, each spray painted with red somewhere on the metal hardware to denote John’s ownership of it.

The red paint was not quite a scarlet letter but an indelible mark to remind you that the tack was not yours to keep. It did not matter to him that he was defiling perfectly good horse gear. It was known that if John saw you using his red painted tack at a later date with a horse that you owned, he would repossess that which was his. And of course after you accepted your red-tagged gear, you got some type of equine to go beneath it.

Girls, horses, and virtually no adult supervision, are a combination for unlimited innocent happiness, well mostly innocent... Daily excursions in to the rising hills behind the ranch included mini-packs of 4 or 5 girls riding their horses bareback in dolphin shorts and t-shirts tied with a knot on the side, maybe on their way to the town ring, Rossotti's or to sneak into Felt Lake for an illegal swim. Our days were filled with cleaning tack, rounding up the horses, trail riding or drinking sodas in our tack sheds. After 17 or 18 years of age the girls were turning into young ladies and started to drift off to other interests like boys with tans and sun bleached hair, their first cars, or summer jobs, and some were even leaving to go to college.

But the creek, I can’t forget the murky creek. We would ride, singly or a few at a time, down to the water holes and let the horses splash and paw until the surface churned with algae, mud and dead tadpoles (probably tadpoles of the now threatened California red-legged frog (Rana aurora draytonii)). The most popular spot was called “Belly High” since it would touch the bottoms of our horses big, round hay filled barrels. To get to the best spots you had to walk your horse in the creek bed and navigate through the deeply incised earthen walls that formed either channel bank.

Overhead, huge live oak trees formed a complete canopy that shaded the water. Quercus agrifolia, the scientific name for my gnarled friends, grew from the bank top, their branches bridging over the channel to touch and mingle in the middle.

The leathery leaves from last years growth shone darkly while the bright green of the new years leaves reflected the sun more brightly. Then you entered the shadows and everything became muted and subtle beneath the cover of the old trees. The shadowy brown colors of the earthen banks and the layers of leaf debris clinging to these walls through a network of silvery spider webs gave the place an almost subterranean feeling. Fat, exposed tree roots twisted their way down through the earth to reach the moisture from the creek.

I was just like them, seeking water. An occasional gust of wind would blow the tree tops just enough that a sunbeam could strike the black surface for a moment or two reminding you that indeed the sun and sky was hiding just above you.

I would go down to the creek to relax and escape from the smoldering heat of the burning July sun. Sometimes I would lie down across my horses back and doze, other times I would slip off her back and wade in the shallows; whatever I did I felt a sense of comfort in the shady waters. The ancient oaks hung over protectively dropping leaves on to me just to keep me in my place. The majestic old trees were the rulers after all.

I could tell the creek my problems even though I never got any answer, but then that was a kind of support in its self. The lazy river projected its serenity upon all things in and around it. There time stood still and peace filled my mind. The cool waters soothed the cuts, bruises and calluses I had acquired by walking barefooted everywhere all summer long. It healed not only my soul but my body as well.

Sometimes the creek would play games with me, stealing my tread bare shoes, sucking them down to the black shadowy depths. Sometimes it would chill me to the bone with an unexpected splash. But I usually relaxed and enjoyed the calm friendly waters that flowed through my querencia. I always found what I wanted when I ventured down to its level of pure nature.

Reflecting back upon those lazy summer days, I know that the other critical part of the querencia was my horse. Without the horses I would have never got to the creek in the first place. It now makes me sad that I know my daughter could never have the same type of experience as I, since the world is vastly different with our litigious culture and paranoid parenting.

I was left on my own with the other teens for eight hours a day. I know I could not release my child in such an unlimited fashion without my conscious nagging me or some other adult passing judgment or probably calling child protective custody. If I am lucky and my daughter likes the horses as much as me, I will be blessed. She will get a thorough horse experience, but it will just have to be different than mine. And I can't help but think what an amazing experience it was to grow up riding horses like wild Brumby girls at Ramos Ranch.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

When the Random Takes Over

This week has been slightly annoying.

My new fancy computer crashed it's hard drive like a car careening into the k-rail on the interstate. BAM!!! Call 911! Call 911! There's lots of blood. I need to get a tourniquet. I think there are some broken bones too. Ohhhh Noooooooo.....

But at least our computer guy was able to pull out all my files and save them from the black hole and dark abyss of lost data.

I proudly can say that I did manage to pull almost 90 percent of the photo files off my ailing computer in *safe mode* (what the heck are the asterisks suppose to mean instead of quotes?) and make a back up so I am not totally an idiot when it comes to this computer garbage...

Meanwhile, with my warrantied parts flying ever so swan-like toward the west coast, I have been working off "ole Bessie" my 8 year old laptop who I fear will implode if I look at her the wrong way. She does not like the heat and enjoys ice cold sweet tea. I have to be nice to her. And to top it off I am strapped to my home office with Bessie, which is located in a separate building then my primary domicile, and therefore I can not blog as freely as normal.

Remember "Bad Mommy?" Well there'd be a lot more of that if I ventured in to my office for blogging time. Potentially entertaining for you, but possibly disastrous for me. You see, normally I use my wireless router to connect to the internet with the "new" computer in the house cause we're technologically advanced like that even out in red-neck hell.

But I digress.... Work has been busy and with the rush to get out some documents, and thus I have been furiously writing and reading technical reports. I feel a twitch beginning in my left eye. Can you tell?

Meanwhile summer swim lessons in the afternoon continue to plague me like my own personalized level of hell in Dante's Inferno as I daily coerce my son into doing what he is asked of by his swim instructor.

I shall explain.

Swim instructor gives directives.
Wyatt talks at her.
Swim instructor gives directives.
Wyatt talks at her...
Swim instructor gives directives.
Wyatt talks at her...
Two minutes later he complies.

THIS MAKES ME CIRCUS FREAK CRAZY. (no offense to circus freaks...) How do you get kids to just follow directions the first time???


In contrast, Ella loves the pool and is already jumping in while holing my hands and bobbing beneath the water. This same feat is excruciating for Wyatt. He resembles a 400 year-old redwood tree with stiffened arms, legs, and body. It's definitely going to sink.

Then there is the random pulling of corn stalks out of the field by my fearless son Wyatt. I have already banned him from entering the rows and have threatened severe bodily harm if he disobeys. But to no avail. Methinks I need a bigger stick.

And the popping of bike tires by cousins who are ramming each other with bicycles which are not their own sends me in to a tizzy as well.

Well, at least there is Trader Joe's Kettle Corn. Mmmmm good. I think I'll eat me a bag or two.

Oh the joys of the lazy days of summer...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Chicken Taming is Serious Business

In our quest to round out our new glorious flock of chickens I searched Craig's list for "fancy" birds and as luck would have it there was a lady in our town with a mess of five week old chicks!

Suzi (SIL) and I packed all the kids in the truck and ventured out to collect our newest members of the compound.

We were able to procure four baby hens: two silver laced Wyandotte's and two Ameraucana pullets. The Wyandotte's
are going to be show poodle chickens and the Amerucana hens lay pastel eggs!

After returning home we let the kids each hold the chicks since these birds are destined for tamin.' My son, Wyatt here was very happy about holding the chicks and showed me his victim with glee.

Cousin Luke however, must adhere to the paternal side of the family tree and show as little joyful expression as possible. The more serious the better. And if you can get a ounce of pissed off it's worth bonus points. It's just instinct for them...

Cousin Trevor, not to be outdone put on his best sour puss face to show me his chick. This chicken whispering stuff is obviously serious business around here.

Then there is Adam who got blasted by energetic wings flapping a little too close to his face.

But perseverance payed off as he delicately arranged the chick on his arm for a quiet perch.

So four more lady chickens will tally our number to 13. Is that going to work out OK? Is there an unlucky number for owning chickens? Well with the two roosters the total head count is 15. We will be fine I think.

By the way...anybody want barred-rock rooster? We seem to have one too many.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Simply Gorgeous Baby!

What a site for sore eyes!! Our chickens arrived this morning! Can I hear a yeah? Finally, I don't have to cringe every time I go to collect eggs from the chicken coop. Finally, I can be proud of our poultry. Finally, I can enjoy our birds like you are supposed to. Ahhhhh. All the birds with feathers on their rears.

Except for Mr. D. He still has work to do in the tailoring department. But photos are all about angles and this one suits him.

Mr. D was happily occupied getting acquainted with the new hens. So many women, so little time. He wanted them all to himself, but he had two rather large barred-rock roosters with which he battled before he could claim the title of supreme chicken ruler.

Thank goodness, they (the barred-rocks) had nothing to match his ninja martial arts moves. Lightening fast Mr. D subdued the new arrivals convincing everybody he was the top chicken on the block. (Or rather to miss the chopping block...)

And these lovely ladies were his prize. These are the white leghorns...

And the buff Orphingtons...

And here's the fully feathered crew huddled in the corner of their penitentiary. Note: Mr. D is in the middle of the flock. I think he is really happy to have some friends. For about three days after the elimination of the other flock he ran like hell when anybody came near the chicken pen. Can you say flash back..... "No don't catch me. No I'll stop spurring you. Really, I'll be good."

Cousin Luke was happy to see new birds too. He was cradling this hen like his long lost baby. I think the kids will get this group of hens tamed pretty quickly. They are much more docile then the skittish feather eating Danish Leghorns we got rid of.

The replacement crew consists of 2 white leghorns, 2 barred-rock hens, 2 barred-rock roosters, 4 buff Orphington hens, and 1 Rhode Island hen. They are about six months old and are making four eggs a day. In a few months they'll get into full production mode.

And I am going on a secret mission today to get a few more special hens to round out the crew. Photos later...

Then there was something still in one of the carrying crates...

Hmmmm what could it be? Trust Mike to figure out how to remove the newest member of the flock.

Never mind the pink abomination in the background. That's just a girl who thinks ballerinas can be six feet tall.

Come on now. Easy does it. You can make it.


Isn't she just gorgeous!
Now, I am hearing Steve Irwin in my head talking about his beastly looking crocodiles at the Australia zoo. But this is one sexy turkey!

Our hen turkey put on a little display for a few minutes in her new surroundings. She had me thinking she was a he, but apparently female turkeys will strut under stressful conditions when they want intimidate and show they are "big" too.

We are on the hunt for a Tom turkey, so she won't get all chicken brained with the wacky feathered rats scurrying around her feet. After all she needs some appropriate male company too.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Aprons, Aprons Everywhere!

Good Thursday to everyone!!

Today I am following a theme at The Apron Goddesses for Aprons, Aprons Everywhere. Thus, here are some pictures of ME in my apron and MY FAVORITE ROOSTER: Mr. D (or Rooster D as Ella calls him).

Me and my Nemesis...

Yes you all are laughing about now since this is the rooster who spurred me unmercifully a few weeks ago. You see we are having a truce for a few minutes so he can be my prop. See, we can be friends for the sake of a photo shoot!

This apron was a gift from Cynthia at the Cupcake Provocateur! She clued in on the fact we had chickens and thought I would like this particular pattern. The roosters and eggs instantly were appealing to me! She is one smart cookie...or should I say cupcake?

I will keep my disdain for the enemy in check for the moment. You see, I am hiding his rear end since he is bald back there. I am thinking in a few long months he will have a glorious tail to show. Or at least I hope. With no more feather plucking hens he should grow something.

I have some news about our chickens that may come as no surprise. All the foul fowl are in the deep freeze except for Mr. D. If you care for the carnage you can check it out at Suzi's blog HERE. Warning, the graphic details of dead chickens may horrify you.

Mr D. was sparred the ax for some reason or another. Maybe it was the shrieking fits of hysteria from Suzi's middle son, Trevor. Maybe it was my appreciation of this rooster's warrior attitude. Maybe Mr. D is a ninja. Maybe it was just plain guilt... I will feign love for Mr. D right now. He needs it after the trauma of seeing his flock decimated before his very eyes. Oh the horror!

But regardless, Mr. D will live to see the new chickens that will arrive this Saturday. I CAN'T WAIT!!! They have feathers!!!!

Ella, not wanting to be left out, had to get her apron on and join in the fun. Please forgive her bad case of bed head. Sometimes she won't be groomed...

She's just a little miss sassy pants!

To see more pictures of apron wearing folks jump over to The Apron Goddesses and follow the breadcrumbs at Mr. Linky!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Something Strange in the Air

Our part of the country is famous for garlic. In fact, acres and acres and acres of garlic is grown in the region where we live. I like garlic.

But on foggy mornings the pungent aroma drifts effortlessly across the valleys, creeps insidiously over the low lying hills and settles into ones pores and nostrils like an overdose of aftershave.

Maybe this is why there have been strange happenings with my husband of late. There is something intangible in the air that is causing unusual behavior from my dear and loving spouse.

Last night I found him watching a silent movie. You know those old black and white movies with the words printed after someone talks or at the end of an action scene. Mike sat memorized watching the plot and reading the text. This is out of character for my husband because he hates subtitles and does not read anything except instruction manuals, catalogs, and my blog (on occasion when it suits him). But somehow he was like a deer in the headlights watching the olde time movie.

He sat and read the words in this silent western for something like a half hour....

Very odd.

Then this morning I get a phone call from Mike around 10. He says, "I am on the computer right now!!! I'm writing the Governor! I am so pissed off..."

And he proceeded to tell me why he wanted Arnold to know how mad he was. We talked about some wording and he hung up to finish his note. Mike actually sent a letter to Governor Schwarzenegger venting his grievances. Wha??

Is all my writing and attempts at culture in my family finally paying off?? Does this mean the word "ain't" will miraculously disappear from my husband's vocabulary?

Somebody slap me I must be sleeping still. That garlic can't be that strong now can it? I'd better make some garlic bread for dinner tonight. Maybe tomorrow Mike will start listening to Vivaldi and Mozart. Hmmmm.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bad Mommy Part II

From time to time, or rather should I say day to day, there come minutes when my children are unsupervised for brief periods of time. I wish I was super mom capable of x-ray vision or that my children were more easily entertained. However, in these moments of solitude they discover new and better ways to entertain themselves.

Generally, I am awakened in the morning by this.

And this.

Who needs alarms when you have these eager faces peering over the bed at you bright and early at 6 AM. I can't remember the last time I woke up on my own personal internal alarm clock. And 6 in the morning is an improvement...since Ella recently decided it was OK to sleep past 5:30 and join Wyatt in sleep-in club which means they both might sleep until 6:30 on occasion.

So what can children do when the get creative. That's easy.

While I was cooking one evening a few months ago, Ella dashed off to the bathroom since she need to go potty. She was in there for a while and I could hear ruckussing but I figured she was OK. I gave her the benefit of the doubt. BUT then I was hearing water. Oh good I thought, she's washing her hands...

However, something told me that I should go investigate. And here is what I found:

Now that's a great way to wash one's feet and get a drink at the same time. Or that's just plain happiness!

Moving on..

My kitchen window looks out to the "play area" where the kids dig in their sand pile and fight each other. I can see and hear squirmishes in the making so letting them work it out a little sometimes is called for. Other times I need to step in. I was hearing lots of running water and screaming and looked out to see this WTF moment:

Wyatt and his cousin Adam had procured my umbrella (where I have no idea) and were using it as a shield. Why would they need a shield you ask...

Because oldest cousin Luke was spraying them with the hose. I still can not figure out why they were in the black pond liner. There was water inside it and their legs were wet but somehow getting sprayed with water was too much to handle.

It all simply defies adult logic.

Next we have a scene from my office where I store luggage. Ella left alone while I was hanging laundry found this an appropriate way to occupy her time. Apparently someone is going on a trip without me and is strapping themselves in for the ride.

"YES??? What do you want lady? Can't you see I am busy??"

And as I toss the ball back to Wyatt he hits it out of the park with this one. I left the vacuum on the porch to clean up the out door carpet (yes we are hillbillies). Wyatt asked if he could do some vacuuming and I was all "PLEASE DO!!" I mean what man asks to help around this place? So donning the proper hearing protection and cleaning apparel he looked like this:

Then back to Ella who in a moment of embarrassment had to cover her face. It's late June, 90 degrees out and she's in underwear and mittens. Why the need to be buckled into her booster?? I just don't know. It seems to be related to the buckling into the luggage, don't you think?

Uncomfortable with the paparazzi taking her picture she decided to flee the scene.

Proving I AM a good mommy I take the occasional portrait with Ella, letting her have her "passer" outside of the normally scheduled allowance for naps.

The passer and crack are basically the same. The passifier is really just a gateway drug for kids. I caught my two sneaking a Mike's Hard Lemonade last night (while I was making dinner) and nearly called 911. Luckily they spilled half of it on the deck and were sharing. Such great mitigation I KNOW!! The cap was still attached to the bottle and it was leaking from the top, just enough to sip it like a hamster, which they were doing....

And just so you all know I am really a good mom watching out for the best interest of my children I will present the final photo. As Ella and Wyatt thought climbing into the drier was a good idea, I had to stop them even though it looked pretty entertaining to me too. If I were smaller maybe I'd have joined in on the fun.

But alas and alack, as acting umpire I called the "NO GAME!" on this particular activity. Wahhh! Gut wrenching isn't it?

Here you can see Ella here exhibiting her best, "Mommy you are an ass!!!"

As my final word, you all can get your red pencils or rather red permanent markers and draw a huge "L" (for looser) on my forehead for being a bad mommy! After all, those red pencils would leave a nasty gash...

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Last Hurrah...A Fading Botanical Memory

Within the last few weeks, summer has reduced most of the herbaceous plant life in my part of the world to crispy critters, fried-brown leaves, and shriveled stems. Basically, it gets really boring, really fast in the arid west. The shiny green leaves of the live oak trees and other oak woodland inhabitants belies the fact that the earth is popcorn fart dry.

But a few late blooming plants are present and I captured them electronically, properly documenting their moment of brilliance, so their bloom was not in vain. So, I get a little melancholy about the end of blooming season around here. I am a botanist after all. If I did not, they would take away my lifetime membership to plant-a-holics anonymous.

Without further adieu here are some beauties...

This yellow flower is the late blooming yellow Mariposa lily (Calochortus luteus). There was a meadow filled with a few dozen of these not so common bulbs but by the time I finally remembered to bring our camera only this one was remained. The rest were shriveled into brown papery wisps.

Luckily, the fairwell to spring (Clarkia rubicunda) were still in peak condition so their pictures were perfect! As their name implies they signify the end of the blooming season for most species since they flower when the ground is getting really dry.

This outcropping of common deerweed (Lotus scoparius), the yellow pea shaped flowers, and California everlasting (Gnaphalium californica), the white heads, hide the fading season. Both are hearty drought tolerant species which make it look much greener than it really is.

Wyatt sits for a little break about ten minutes up the trail. He normally does not do this. His mutiny makes little impression upon the captain who just screams, "Move it kid! You wanna get eaten by a mountain lion?"

With that statement Wyatt leaps up like a gazelle and runs down the trail then circles round and grabs my hand.

"Are the mountain lions gonna get us?" he asks wearily.

"No, only coyotes are out this time of day. And they're not going to come near us. We're too noisy for them." I respond assuringly. "And you have to let go of my hand. Your little mitts are too sweaty." His grubby, hot hands are sticky and gross. Your typical little boy hands... I let him grapple on my pinky finger instead.

"Mom, but I'm us-skared of the coyotes!" Wyatt looks ahead on the trail with a nervous expression.

"I'm just teasing you, Wyatt. Get going."

While wandering down the trail scaring all the wildlife in a half mile radius from our vicinity, we do manage to see quite a few butterflies including this one. I think it is Wyatt and Ella's mission that I see nothing in the way of small birds. While yelling back and forth to each other, my two kids swath the woodland trail and all forms of wildlife clear out. The birds know the drill by now.

Instead, we practice listening to the scrub jays and I quiz the kids on the raptors flying overhead. "What's that black bird with the point at the front edge of the wings?"

"Turkey vulture, Mom." Wyatt responds with ease. We have so many vultures in our valley they were one of the first big birds the kids learned by sight.

Wyatt can take pictures too. If not, I'd never have any photos of me and Ella together.

Ahhh, the view from the top.
The kids like to take a moment to see as far as their eye can hold.

At which point I usually put Ella down and make her walk. Some times she does not want to hike and I oblige her, thus carrying her heavy weight around the whole trip. But I can use the extra work out. Other times she's a little trooper walking the downhill section of the trail with gusto. Between Ella wanting to run down the hills, walking too close to the edge of cliffs, and meandering too near the poison oak, I do worry just a little bit.

It will be another few months before she can walk the circuit both ways. Wyatt on the other hand could walk the trail with his eyes closed.

This white froth of tiny flowers is born upon the whippy stems of chamise (Adenostomata fasciculaum). A chaparral species which is resinous and highly flammable, it blooms at the middle of June and the sprays of white flowers fade fast with the climbing temperatures. Large patches of the nearly verticle hillsides are washed with the chamise in bloom, but I missed the best sections. Oops.

And finally this is yellow yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum var. confertiflorum). The botany on our favorite loop trail is done. The fireworks are over and we are pretty much flowered out for the season. No more native bloomers until next year. And I bet there may be a collective sigh from those of you tolerating my botanical foibles.

And if you want to see more outdoorsie blog posts go to A Southern Day Dreamer! I know I will be looking too.

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 ...