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What I Mostly Do

Chickenblog.com - Sat, 03/17/2018 - 14:03

March 11~

The last of the siding went up on the south side of the carport. As I type this, I imagine I hear the roar of a crowd, cheering heartily, and I watch confetti falling from above. It is momentous. As for the north side... that's coming.

I leave my painting table to smell sweet-peas, see construction progress, and feed the farm. That's it. Mostly.

March 12~

Sometimes I cook, fold laundry, drive around in circles where I pick up food, drop off students, and repeat. I've been known to take selfies with my cat. I replace empty toilet paper rolls. I go on walks. I crochet. I post to Instagram. ("A lot.") But mostly I sketch, and paint.

Y después pondré unas flores en la mesa~ And then later I'll put flowers on the table~

I oversee Maria's lessons, which is easier and more fun than you might expect. We are supplementing her online language studies with something extra we do together... translating lyrics to music we enjoy, like Natalia Lafourcade's Casa. Step by step we go through the words, Maria writing down the ones she already knows, then we look up the rest, listen to the song, and sing along. The last part is for her to illustrate the song. This one she did using her digital pen. Ay, mi'ja, me encanta tu arte.

After I upload pictures from my phone, I think, Hmmmm... what I mostly do is take pictures.

I take a lot of pictures. And I only share a few of them here, or at Instagram.

March 13~

Taking pictures makes me really, very happy. And knowing the names of flowers, recognizing birds, and reading maps makes me very happy, too. I like washing dishes, and cleaning the kitchen the morning after a good party. And I love autumn, planning trips, and looking back on trips, then planning the next one...

I love it when Geoff is home and we can hear our children laughing, which is mostly what happens when they are together. And then I imagine a picture of us, all together in our Bird House, laughing, and doing what we love, and this makes me happy, too.

All Sorts of Views and News

Chickenblog.com - Mon, 03/12/2018 - 12:09

March 3~

The chicas, our herd of matronly hens, are laying like spry, young hens. It's surprising, given their ages... five and four years old. Lots of eggs, when there's also lots of chard in the garden, means quiche! I made four, with leeks and the chard, and my very rustic looking crust, which is the frozen one from Trader Joe's.

One view, above, is of my failure to thin. I can never bear to pull up tiny seedlings. It's for the good of the garden to give plants space, but alas... I am too greedy, too sympathetic to do what is right, and now the sweet peas are lush, plentiful and over-crowded, which I am pretty sure is the reason these are not flowering. I pretend to be satisfied having lovely green vines, but the truth is I so wish I had been a wise and dutiful gardener, and not so greedy.

March 4~

I was trying to remember whether I've mentioned we are enclosing our carport... I have. While it's been a project that goes in fits and starts, in the last week, or so, we've made a lot of progress. And yes, technically, I am entitled to say "we." I've held boards, procured goggles, or said "good job," with genuine enthusiasm, all of which makes me a part of the crew. William has really put his heart into this project. Ever since Geoff and William built our barn, William has demonstrated sweet construction skills and industry... it makes me wish we could just keep adding little barns and forts and cottages all over the land! Sooner or later, everyone lends a hand, takes a shift. James has been here, Paul, Max, Alex, and Ido came by (dressed for Purim) and I think that counts, too.

I've been obsessing over India ink and gouache painting. I follow #augustwren, the artist Jennifer Orkin Lewis, on Instagram. She's shared some live videos on her page, and she demonstrates how she creates some of her art with dip pens and nibs, and India ink. She answers all of the viewer's questions, and her lessons have been so informative, so generous, I feel like I've found my very own art teacher. I dove in! I think what I am loving the most is how much it has relaxed me. I get so frustrated and disappointed with how far I feel from achieving what I wish I was accomplishing. Ironically, I decided to practice with the ink, to improve my confidence, and skills, to discipline myself to be consistent, precise. But! Instead, I have relaxed my expectations of what's "good," and let go of the outcome. The ink forces me to slow down, which is a good discipline and practice for me, but it's also liberated me from being too controlling. It's fun, almost meditative, and I cannot understand or explain why, but it makes me feel more forgiving and accepting of my results. And then something nice happens... here is my handy illustration:


It's occurring to me that the more I accept the flaws and blobs, the smudges, and things that don't turn out as I wish, the more I enjoy the process, and continue to practice, and gradually, I figure things out, feel more confident. Oh, goofy me. I think it's so hilarious when I am ruminating on some deep thoughts, then write it down, and it stares back at me, not as a profound insight or discovery, but as a simple truth. lol.

Woman Discovers Practice Improves Her Results.
And Acceptance Makes Her Journey More Pleasant.

March 5~

I have been practicing, a lot. First, India ink, then gouache paint. I wish you could come over and play with me. If not drawing and painting, then crocheting.

March 6~

Another good practice? Leaving the house... going out to see the sunset, play with beach stones, walking through town, or up and down the beach. We've been enjoying regular outings, and I think those are improving results, and making our journey more pleasant.

March 9~

Max's art orientation class made an assignment of visiting the Timken Museum, and we made a morning of it. It's not only a beautiful museum, with a very nice collection of fine art, but it's also free. After Max finished his observations, we walked around the park, before getting Max back to campus, and his next class.

March 9~

Such a long post. All sorts of views, and some news. Maybe this is a good practice, too... choosing happy moments, picking the best views that capture events in our week, then gathering them here, in a post, and reflecting on highlights. It's not everything that we have going on. It's certainly not the messes, the let downs, the grotty bits that would embarrass me, that make me feel far-off from what what I wish I were accomplishing, but there's something quite comforting, and encouraging in seeing the good, emphasizing the pretty parts. Sometimes we make smudges and blobs, but if we quit when things go wrong, then we'll miss the sunsets, and blossoms, the chickens running across the lawn, and children growing, the masterpieces. More deep thoughts and other musings, to remind myself.


Keep moving forward.

It's Nice Here

Chickenblog.com - Mon, 03/05/2018 - 10:18
It's nice here... it really is. Not just here, at home, but in our neighborhood, across town, in the city, along the coast, points east, all over. Most days, when I am out driving my errands, I find myself shaken, in a happy, thankful way, and I see the views, the charm, the grandeur, or the opportunities of these places we frequent, know, discover. I love coming home, and turning onto our street, that pause when I feel it again... it's nice here.

Low tide, and all the pleasures of a wide open beach, pools to explore, and sweet company on a long walk. The last day of February, between storms. Even when it's cold, or we've had some grey days, Southern California can still deliver classically beautiful views.

Ikea has a simple doll house that I couldn't resist. Fortunately, Geoff reminded me to get one for Maria, if I was going to have a hard time sharing. Funny, but true... so we have two doll houses from Ikea. And, truth be told, I am eying hers, already. What I've discovered is that it makes a darling art gallery, and if one is a gallery, then we need the other so the mice have a place to go home to after their outing.

Happy Birthday, William~

We always say, We should come here more often. And we should. And I love that there are loads and loads of gorgeous zoo images to see and admire... I follow them on Instagram, subscribe to their magazine, but when I am at the zoo, I still have to take my own pictures, even with just the camera on my phone. Even when I know they'll be grainy, too far away, out of focus from shooting through smudgy plate glass, or a mesh barrier. Brilliant photographs of the pandas, and bears, and panthers, and baboons, and hippos, are abundant, but I still love-love-love my zoo photography, my brush with success, when I hope to capture the best panda moment. My own panda moment. That tickles me.

Back at home, I awoke to that I am being watched sensation. And practically nose to nose, I opened my eyes to Chango. And only I have the unique opportunity to capture our own black panther, in his natural habitat, with own peculiar habits and characteristics, and so I reach for my phone...

Hello, Chango.

I probably took as many pictures of our darling, old man cat, as I did at the zoo. And I took pictures of Cairo, too.

It's nice here. I feel thankful, and fortunate.

Moon Rising, Sun Setting

Chickenblog.com - Wed, 02/28/2018 - 09:32

We were treated to some beautiful scenes, last night, on our walk. It's not a word in the dictionary, but you would have agreed, it was majestical.

Rockets, Cats, and Ratty-Rats

Chickenblog.com - Sun, 02/25/2018 - 12:25

We were really eager to see signs of the SpaceX launch of Falcon 9, Paz Mission. There was a slight marine layer Thursday morning, but we were up in time and looking northward, and... yeah, we saw nuthin'. We enjoyed the live feed, though.

In other news: It is still winter. We've had enough consecutive days of cold weather, that I have learned how to wear a coat, and bring it with me when I leave the house. I am wearing a fingerless glove. We make big pots of vegetable soup, and eat it with other hot, roasted, and hearty foods. We snuggle. The cats snuggle. The cats snuggle a lot. More rain is in our forecast, and I feel blissful about our winter days, which have come better late than never. And I try to reason with myself and not envy everyone in darling Portland, Oregon, where they've had lovely, fluffy heaps of snow! There is a distinct possibility I am not living in my ideal climate zone.

My pictures, straight from my phone, show definite Cairo, and flowers biases. It's only that he is so obliging and adorable, and the flowers are so abundant and fetching. The cat, and the garden are irresistible.

If I didn't allude to it enough last week, I can confirm, unequivocally, I am emotionally taxed. Is it the nature of the season, Geoff being gone 7 days a week, 16 hours a day? Is it the news? Oh, the news, and the trolls, the divisive, greedy, selfish, under-handed stuff that is tweeted, streamed, meme-d, and demeaning. I am loath to bring it all up, again. But, the truth is... I found (another) bottom, last night. I've been remarkably even-keeled, steady, moving things forward, and managing with some small amount of grace under pressure, but I lost all cool and composure at the end of the day, and was reduced to sobbing. Ironically, it was on the first night Geoff was home before 9pm, in weeks. And all I could do was cry, and mutter a random litany of frustrations and disappointments about the world, politics, fleas, paper-work, and dry skin. It's all related, I am sure. Oh, and the "fleas" are not from the cats. And yes, this sucks.

Gosh. So many pretty pictures, and so much in my life to feel deeply thankful for. Well, I am thankful, and I do see all the beauty, all the good, the many blessings, but oh geez did I need that cry, and probably another.

I wrote an entire paragraph of self-deprecating insight, humorously told, to convey my humility, while touching on the genuine insecurity that is the foundation of my wit and sarcasm... but I am making a bold attempt to be nicer to me, to see my good, and my still evolving self, in a warmer light. It's a shame, though, because I have a real gift for self-deprecating humor. I also compose and perform songs, on the spot, and have been told they're quite good.

Please, find beauty and enjoy winter, or summer, and be safe, and well, and cry, if that helps. I like to believe that we are all going to be ok.

This Week: Winter

Chickenblog.com - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 17:20

Whenever I think of posting about "weather" and "winter," then including the actual temperatures, our highs and lows, I get embarrassed. I think of my friends in Massachusetts, or up in Oregon, in Norway, or England. I think, now, they know what cold is! They are going to think our "winter" is nothing at all. And they'd be correct. Our "winter" has been nothing at all. We have had 90s, 80s, and regular days of 70 degrees fahrenheit. Local friends post pictures of their children in the surf, or swimming in a pool. Most nights I've slept with an open window. It really has been more like a late spring, unseasonably warm, and terribly dry.

Well. This week it decided to be winter, with some rain, even. And for us, it feels really cold.



We had a high today of 55 degrees. Wimpy, right? I know. But we forget to wear sweaters, we never unpacked our beanies. I am too lazy to put on lace-up shoes, and go out in flip-flops. I am acclimated to 74 degrees, from just 2 days ago, and now we are getting frost advisories, but by the time I remember how to put on a sweater, and wear socks, we will be in another heatwave.

Ah, geez. I know. None of this can sound too terrible to anyone still shoveling snow, or facing more dark gray skies. In truth, I love this week of winter! I really want it to last long enough for me to get it together to bake some bread, wear one of the twenty-five shawls I've crocheted. We love the rain! We love the cats piling up on our feet, roasting butternut squash, putting on gloves, watching clouds, in the big, wintery blue sky. Gosh, it's cold, we sure hope it sticks around! Now, I am going into the kitchen to finish steaming potatoes, and red-cabbage. We are fixing a hearty dinner, to brace ourselves for this week of winter.

Little Lights, and Other Means

Chickenblog.com - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 20:07
Light, and hope, signs of intelligence, or at least true compassion, any means of saving our hearts and minds... that's what I look out for, and want to kindle, fan. These days, though. Oh. Truly. Just too much. National news, tragedies, bad weather, and bad governing... any of it is more than enough to keep us on edge, unnerved. I don't say much.. I don't want to add to anyone's plate, or take away anyone's peace of mind, so I paint, or crochet, or watch my hens. I listen to my children laugh, or read aloud.

I make my bed.
I floss.
Yes, flossing, and bed-making.
And yoga, too.

In the midst of some of the most trying events, and longest days, when there is a great deal I am struggling to manage, I have turned my priorities around, and am clinging diligently to little things, simple details, the very minor things I have tended to leave for last (meaning: completely abandon.) I am embarrassed to admit that, at long last, I am devotedly doing very, very basic tasks, and feeling accomplished about it. Anyway, it's what I am doing... a routine of personal undertakings that give me even a teeny sense of having done a good thing, and then I move on to whatever other pressing things I can manage. Strangely, I haven't seemed to be any less "behind" on all of those bigger, daunting tasks... I wish I could say I am getting ahead, but. Yeah. No. I am not getting ahead, but my bed is made.

This week got harder, though. Some pressing paper work came in the mail, a call reminding me about dental procedures that need completing, we are waiting to hear from the school Max applied to, and Maria was just visiting her high school of choice and there is plenty to manage and consider with that, and, and, and, and, and I am leaving plenty out, because I don't want to add to anyone's plate, which is why I don't say much. But... I'm feeling it. All of it. And if anyone wants to commiserate, or share their most best tips for how they live fabulously, adulting, coping, soaring, even getting ahead, please, feel free to share.

Confession... if I'd used the time I've spent reading Top Ten Tips to A Cleaner Home on Pinterest boards, to actually take out the garbage and shred the junk mail, I might be one step closer to being a fabulous adult. Happily, at least one good tip I read, somewhere, has made a practical impression on my cotton-headed noggin: Breaks. Housework bores me silly, and the tougher assignments, like figuring out pressing paper work that arrives in the mail, or cleaning my desk, drain my brain and soul. But the tip I read, suggests taking things one at a time, and enjoying breaks. Wash the dishes, then read an article. Sort the mail and feed the farm, then cut some flowers, plant some seeds. Fold two tons of laundry, then paint, or crochet. Instead of feeling like cleaning will mean a long day of drudgery, that everything on the list is an equal priority... I take it in small bites.

Oh my gosh. I have not suddenly seen the light and am earning a gold star for domestic competence. I would be so mortified if someone could make an algorithm to display every Chickenblog post, in the last 16 years, when I have had an epiphany or lightbulb moment about how to do things better, start over, try harder.

Breaks. That's it. That is my latest scheme and method for facing dirty dishes, another junk drawer disaster, or epic bureaucratic paper work chore. I just resign myself to going at whatever is most pressing, doing it as best I can, then enjoying an Instagram spree, or second cup of tea, or painting another ratty-rat. In fact, writing this post is my break/reward for clearing out an entire garage closet, cleaning the kitchen, and finding the thing that made the fridge stink.

Recent events make me want to reach out, to ask, Ça va? Are you okay?

Ça va, Chango?

And when the news got to be too much, I painted more...

Ça va, ratty-rats? So many rats.

So many good moments, and little lights, to hearten us, and those breaks to recharge our minds and souls.

Ça va, friends? I know I could use some encouragement. How about you?

I am looking for light, but these two... I think they'd appreciate it if, after making their bed, I would remember to close the curtains.

For Days

Chickenblog.com - Mon, 02/12/2018 - 19:00

The camellias were growing next to the kitchen window when we moved here. Actually, they were struggling to grow... they had too little sun, and too much standing water, so we moved the tall shrub, and crossed our fingers. Happily, the shrub has rallied, and now, eight years later, we are enjoying a really bountiful season of bright pink, lightly fragrant, multi-petaled blossoms. I affixed a flower in Maria's braid, for the Pink Martini concert.

All of the garden is in bloom, and over and over, again, I gaze, in awe, and wish I could sing, or write the poem, or paint the picture, that could express my joy and wonder, my humility in the face of such beauty and fortune. For days, I have been smitten, and speechless, yet pensive, over beauty and kindness. For days, I've been sad, too, because the world feels less familiar, less kind, and it's a constant push against the dead weight of hostility, a culture of divisiveness, enmity. Even the idea of feeling sad can seem to me like an indulgence, for my part. But that, too, is part of the weight, the stress of trying to be good, and do good, and remain hopeful, and carry on resiliently, effectively.

Saturday, at the start of a long drive, I noticed a panel on the side of my Odyssey was flapping. I pulled over and we all got out to investigate. Alex pulled it back a bit, and a part dropped out, and rolled under my poor car. Sigh. Shockingly, we did not have a roll of duct tape with us... this is so unlike us. We were going to be late to meet Bambi, and we were debating whether we should just pop the panel all the way off, saving it from sheering off along the interstate. Then I realized we were nearby our friends' home.Come on, we're going to Robin and Sean's. They'll have duct tape, or something better we haven't thought of. And they did. They had hugs, and breakfast offers, and laughs, and three colors of duct tape. We got to see James, and just touch base a bit. I even got a custom made, fitted lid for our hanging chicken feeder... I've been trying to devise one for years. I don't think any of this happened to teach me a lesson, and yet... there it is, a bit of bad luck and a whole lot more good luck, kindness, friendship, support, beauty. I am humbled, in awe.

Friends, flowers, dear pets, an invitation to dance, to play percussion, to sing in Arabic, or Japanese, multi-colored duct tapes, an extra ticket to share, a gesture of kindness, an offer of support... I am so thankful to see these, to have resources, to enjoy moments with this side of life. I wish I could sing, or write a poem about sadness and hope, about seeing grace and beauty in spite of grief, sorrow, to raise our thoughts when things get heavy, to project real happiness... I would be so pleased to spread it everywhere, to everyone, for days.

Here and Mars

Chickenblog.com - Tue, 02/06/2018 - 17:21
We watched SpaceX's launch of Falcon Heavy, live, including the brilliant parallel landings of the side cores. Nothing else in news, or Tweets, can touch me. I hear David Bowie. I hear the cheers of scientists, engineers, makers celebrating greatness, I feel the reach of visionaries, and artists, dreamers, and I am uplifted, inspired, revived.

When making, and invention, are the achievements of science and imagination, I am thrilled. When cooperation and the confluence of our knowledge and experience bring us to new heights, daring, exploration, conflict resolve, healing, and art, I feel indescribable exhilaration, joy, awe, and hope. This is our greatest... the pursuit of knowledge, the consideration to work together, to see beyond strife and petty impulses; this is what brings me to champion STEM and Art education, to protect net neutrality, to believe in the improbable.

I believe in science. And dreamers. I believe in the place where art and engineering meet, a balance of our humanity and empirical data... and there is art, again, and music, poetry, discovery, love, and rockets.

Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what's a heaven for?

Robert Browning

Life, here, feels pretty ordinary, in comparison with trips to Mars, and that's alright. I am enjoying a happy sense that what we cherish and uphold is good, worthwhile. I feel renewed in my impulses to make, to create, to celebrate tinkering, trying, asking, sharing, failing, trying again. The garden, the blank pages of books and the marks we make, our ideas, and plans, our curiosity and queries are that reach, that stream in the confluence of knowledge, achievement.

We are studying. Max is back to formal studies... biological anthropology, world history, and art history, philosophy. Alex is enrolled in chemistry, more art. Maria is studying world history, too, and Spanish, math, illustration, yoga, science. She's been creating biographies of her Dungeons and Dragons characters, with illustrations, inventories, backstories. William has more props in the works. History, design, and manufacturing come together in the pieces he makes. I'm sticking with my resolution to be an art student... frequently entreating myself to keep drawing and painting, no matter how I feel about the results. Geoff has his busy time of year, finishing the game for PS4, and he joins us, tinkering, dreaming up new ideas, and sharing, whenever he can. We always have the next project to look forward to.

The hens are laying, again! It's been an egg a day for a few days now. Then, this morning, the hens were making such a fuss, I admonished, There'd better be a lot more than one egg, ladies, when I went out to feed them. And lo! Three beauties.

Carl Sagan called this place, our home planet, a pale blue dot. The wonders, complexities, and challenges of this dot take my breath away. I love our Earthly home, the gardens, and markets, the cozy places, in libraries, on a boat, beneath quilts, among friends, meeting strangers, in a comforting embrace.

And I love the impulse to exceed our grasp, to imagine new strategies, to build rocket ships, to map a plan for the good of all. It's those "risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things," that President Barack Obama described in his 2009 Inaugural Address, that I love, that I find great...

"In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted – for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things – some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

My feet, and heart, and imagination are pretty firmly fixed on this pale blue dot, but the stars stir my soul, and witnessing the achievements of SpaceX, the convergence of disciplines, ideas, calculations, over many years, through many people, is a great and inspiring thrill.

"Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam...

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

"For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act – not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do."
Barack Obama, Inaugural Address, 2009

Making a Holiday Jolly

Chickenblog.com - Fri, 02/02/2018 - 10:16
Some years it is celebrated subtly, almost indiscernibly, and some years we go all out. Groundhog Day is our holiday, our make-it-what-we-will nonevent celebration of the nonsensical. With gaiety and peasant glee, we set aside rationalism, empiricism, and turn our thoughts to the whistlepig, cheeky Marmota monax, and ask Hey, little fellow, how are you? What do you see? By checking in with our fellow North American mammalian, we are attesting to our place in nature, and observing the cycles, patterns, well-being of our world, and being peculiar specimens ourselves, we naturally add favors, gifts, activities, special baked-goods, fancy dress, and song. (We are still compiling the particular songs that will comprise the official songbook of the day.)

Groundhog Day is observed either quietly, seemingly as though overlooked, or with tremendous exuberance and merriment, but it never incurs stress, demands over-exertion, debt, or undue pressure. Groundhog Day is best observed with time out of doors, it is a fitting day to make home improvements, and dig holes, it is a good day to seek, and create, poetry and art, to meditate on the beauty that inspires us, and though we hardly know what a real winter looks like, we do appreciate seasons, and our place in nature, and so we look to this day as a pause in our busy lives, when we can make merry, be light, and recognize the long and fascinating history of people relating to the natural world, our imaginations, and the traditions that come and grow, evolve and blend, and make our lives interesting, meaningful.

Happy Groundhog Day, friends. We send you best wishes for laughter, natural beauty, reflection, comfort, creative expression, and a chance to break from routine and feel wonderful about this moment, and the seasons ahead.

Super Rare Blue Blood Moon Situation

Chickenblog.com - Wed, 01/31/2018 - 11:34

Here's the situation... I was going to make a quick post about the blue moon, about dried roses, pretty gifts, playing with gouache paints and how hard it is to be a bumbling art novice. It was going to be simple, brief, and technically routine. Nothing challenging in putting together a blog post, because I do them all the time, have been for nearly 16 years. But, once in a blue moon, I hit a technical glitch. Today's glitch... a pop-up that tells me I don't have permission to preview my own photographs. I Google the issue, find what seems like a plausible description and solution, and an hour later, and loads of aggravation, and I am still locked out of previewing my own photographs. Seems like this blue moon always rises when Geoff is locked away at work, in the depths of crunch mode.

(Excuse me a moment while I kick the ground, and find something to smash, while crying futile tears of frustration, then try to recover my dignity and accept that I am both an art novice, and a tech novice. The struggle is not so rare, unfortunately.)




Life goes on.

I forgot what I was going to say.

Did you see the super rare blue blood moon?

I made everyone come outside to see it with me... totally worth it.

Taking Cover

Chickenblog.com - Mon, 01/29/2018 - 11:08
January 26
Anne and Fred and I had a belated holiday, celebrating Thanksgiving and Chanukah, birthdays, and new plans, new destinations. They made dinner, and I came with dessert, and though we were sorry Geoff couldn't join us, we did enjoy our evening together.

(A hen-cake! It's been so long, but I still got it!)

January 27

Saturday was my designated "Really Really Get The House Clean; Company's Coming" day, and so of course that was the first day of the heatwave. I reasoned that watering the garden would be imperative, because of the forecast for high temperatures, and dry winds. (Yes, the Santa Anas are back, and so is the Fire Weather Warning.) Anyways, I would just like to state, as a reminder to myself, that my "Really Really Get The House Clean; Company's Coming" day was a lot more enjoyable when I rewarded my efforts with small, regular breaks. Dishes Done... visit the sweet peas. Another load of laundry spinning... read an interesting article. Cleared off the porch table... watch something funny on the Internet. And so on. I was flitting from one disaster area to the next, all day, even past my bedtime, and a lot was accomplished without me feeling utterly beat.

Another nice thing to appreciate is how readily and willingly any of the four WAMMO will pitch in, and take initiative. Maria and I were bringing things to her room, and realizing that some changes were in order. She was happy to clear out things she's ready to let go of, and when I pointed out to her that her shelves are adjustable, she took over figuring that out, choosing a new configuration, getting tools, and making the changes herself. And while she diligently tackled that task, I kept her plushies and books company, and may have dozed off for just a few minutes. The nap was my reward for letting Maria be self-reliant, and not intervening. Good mom.

Saturday's clean up, was in anticipation of our Sunday Work Day, when we wanted to get through more steps for enclosing the carport. What it mostly evolved into was a day long open house, catching up with family and friends, celebrating Geoff's birthday, and mine, too, a little bit, actually, and also making carport progress. (I'm calling it #boomnerdspace2018, for our BoomNerds Instagram.) Fred and Anne came by, and we were looking forward to birding, especially seeing hummingbirds, but the wind, dry and hot, was really coming in, and so no birds. Instead we talked about some of our Making endeavors, and art. I did not resist intervening, this time, and begged William to please share his models of flintlock pistols and swords. His first pistol was hand sculpted. Now, he's working on a new piece, and he's able to 3-d print parts that that he can add to the pistol as removable furnishings, instead of parts that are glued into place.

Geoff and Alex made a run to the hardware store, for lumber. Paul, Janece, Amira, and Rae came. Ruth arrived, with carrot cake! And salad. And gifts. Holly was over. And Leo, too.

I decided to bring out my gouache paints. I wanted Janece, Paul, and Rae to share in my new-found love of playing with gouache. Rae, who painted Kiki, has used these paints before.

Confession: I did not need to "bring out" the paints, because they were in the heap of stuff covering our dining table, because when one "flits" from disaster area to disaster area, cleaning while taking regular breaks, there's a strong likelihood that even a very obvious mess will somehow get overlooked.

Admission: I seem to be increasingly immune to mortification, and was surprisingly unfazed by my shockingly cluttered table.

Conclusion: The paints, and other supplies, were on hand and we were able to play!

Addendum: Did anyone notice, I wonder, that I wiped down the front door, and matched about 400 pair of socks?

For me, one of the most dreaded tasks in #boomnerdspace2018 project was moving the five hundred pound metal cabinet. It's seriously too much of a beast to be easily moved, and if it tipped and fell... I shudder at the possible results.

Let's get to the good part, where I breathed a huge sigh of relief: It's done! They used a hand operated ratchet, a "come-along", and with William, Paul, Geoff, and Alex working and overseeing, the job was done, and without blood loss. Win. Win.

At the very end of the day, I brought my chamomile flowers, and birthday bud vase, (Magnolia Market) from Ruth, upstairs. I lit candles, and did just the briefest bit of bedtime yoga, then crawled into bed. It couldn't have been nicer.
January 28

Oh, this morning's sun. And the wind. And the "fire weather warning." Even Cairo couldn't bring himself to face this forecast.

I left the drapes closed, and just inhaled the chamomile.

For today... I will be flitting from this to that, then rewarding myself with small, regular breaks... like blogging, and taking cover from wind, heat, and other disasters.

Happy Monday, friends. Do what you can, and when you need to, take cover!

We Are Still Painting Our House

Chickenblog.com - Sat, 01/27/2018 - 10:10
As noted, four years ago, our house needs painting. It was rather desperate four years ago, so I am not sure how to describe it now. Urgent? Yes. Critical? No, not really.

We're getting to it.

When we enclosed our porch, we added the first coats of new paint to our exterior walls. Now we are enclosing our carport. Carport is a misnomer. It is a ToolPort, a workshop. It's the home of Frankenrouter, and other mechanical wonders, and it needs walls, so we have begun the work of enclosing it, adding doors. So far, we have machinery moved around, plants cleared out of the way, and siding ordered, delivered, and painted.

So, see? We are getting to it. (It's me I am trying to assure.)

January 19

Here is Cairo with his ratty. I have mentioned these plush rats, before. They're from Ikea. Cairo loves his rattys. They have become his obsession. #ikearat

The other obsession is our new bed. Change and Cairo don't say it in so many words, but if hours logged snoozing on our bed are any indication, they would like us to know that they Love Love Love their new bed. And please turn out the lights when you leave. Meow.

This picture serves to remind me that we have had bright sunny days, that are very cold. And I can only think of one day when it rained.

Ada knew it would be a cold winter. Her wooly undercoat is thick and insulating.

January 22

Still sketching. Still wondering how, when I am sad or frustrated, when the news is galling, my expressions come out so danged whimsical. I almost called them "silly," but they're not trivial, or insincere. They are wishful, a beseeching expression for kindness, an entreaty for gentle gestures, and grace.

Here it is... Arrowhead Lake. Our Bird House Blue. Sometimes it feels like too much to ask... time to paint our beautiful home, room to play, freedom to see our hopes and dreams flourish, and the wish that everyone could have a chance for the same, for some of their dreams to come true, to be safe, and to enjoy the trust and confidence that most of us, most of the time will do good, give respect, appreciate love.

January 23

I thought Tasha looked as though she were confirming with me, "That chicken is at my food dish, isn't she?" She knows, without even looking, the feathered interloper is in her chow, again. Sorry, Tasha. That's life with chickens.

January 24

Goo-wash..." or gouache... I got a set of these paints for Christmas, and last week I broke into them and started playing. And you know what? It was play. I cannot remember the last time I felt so light and merry just goofing around with some art supplies, like these. I filled several pages with swirls, and stripes, with splashes, and meandering paint trails. They layer interestingly, spread smoothly, dry quickly. They can be layered... without using too much water, it's easy to gently blend two colors, without actually mixing them together entirely. I don't know if I am doing them justice in my account... let's just say they are between acrylic and watercolors, sharing properties of both those mediums, but still different. But maybe the most important description I can make about painting with gouache is: It is fun to paint with gouache! And, one more admission... they're frustrating. At least, now, while I am still figuring them out, I start to wish the paint would behave more like acrylic, because that's the medium I am used to. I think this only means that I have more playing to do, more learning by doing.

{If through my art I am making an entreaty for gentleness and grace, then I should practice on myself.}

January 25

Some Kind of a Farm

Chickenblog.com - Sat, 01/20/2018 - 13:08
In a humble, modest tone, I have been known to say "our farm," and to use a hashtag "little farm"

But are we? Or, do we? Is this a farm?

We keep chickens, and have goats. The goats are more like vegetarian dogs, than draught animals, and they don't give milk. I've never slaughtered a hen. I have been tempted to pummel a rooster, or two. The garden does produce vegetables, and we have fruit trees, but our regular produce comes in a Trader Joes bag. Our best home-grown tomatoes have been whatever volunteers pop up. We might subsist if we could live on rosemary, lemons, lilikoi and lavender, with loads of apples in June. It concerns me that much of what we get in abundance is produce that is best served baked, sweetened... pies, breads, cakes, preserves, anything with eggs, butter, and sugar. And eggs have been scarce since about last October, because our hens are old.


1. an area of land and its buildings used for growing crops and rearing animals
synonyms: ranch, farmstead, plantation, estate, hobby farm

1. make one's living by growing crops or keeping livestock.

Well. I think it's safe to say we are not the verb. No one here is making a living at this. We have a noun farm. We grow crops, we have land and buildings that we have put to the purpose of growing food, and rearing animals (however coddled and useless they may be.)

And maybe "useless" is mean. The goats don't give milk only because I won't breed them. But they make us laugh, make us happy, keep us amused, and engaged, and moving. The chickens have laid dozens and dozens and dozens of eggs, and every time I see a hen run across the lawn to greet me, I feel light, encouraged, humble. Those are almost intangible gains, I know, but they are not useless. I think I am just exploring these thoughts and feelings, because sometimes keeping nine old hens, and building up flower beds, again, seems frivolous, and makes me feel sheepish.

I admit, I am loathe to say hobby farm. It sounds like I am Marie Antoinette playing at living a provincial life, and... I may as well add, I don't want to be be Marie Antoinette, playing at a provincial life, because I am more inclined to fancy myself Elizabeth Bennet, at Longbourn... geese in the courtyard, white linens flapping in a breeze and dappled sunlight. Hardships aside, I cannot help fancying the cottage, in Devonshire, where Elinor and Marianne wove reed hats, and set off on long walks, read poetry, did needlework. True, they could not afford to keep horses, or eat meat regularly, but they did have Betsy, the maid and cook, and Thomas, the handyman.

There is a meme I added to my "This is Me" Pinterest Board... Princess Aurora, looking gorgeous, but fraught, declares "Sheesh... after talking to the birds all morning, all I want to do is go home, do a little sewing, and take a nap!"

It's true... I am not a busy bee.

For the longest time, especially when the children were smaller, younger, I would have those same Jane Austen scenarios playing in my head, and I would despair at how far removed I was from the romantic pictures, the pastoral scenes with women in long gowns and clean aprons, hand-sewing, while reciting French poetry, and a nicely laid table for dinner. Even their chickens looked productive, yet well-rested, never molting, of course. It wasn't until recently, when I popped in the Pride and Prejudice disc to play while folding heaps of laundry, that a very obvious detail became clear to me... maids, cooks, gardeners, butlers, field hands! We are lucky enough to get some help with jobs around here, and that's lovely, for sure. But all those years when I felt small and incompetent for not having three meals cooked, and a garden tended, hand-sewn clothes on the children, knitting on needles, a pie cooling in the window, white linens flapping in a breeze and dappled sunlight, it turns out I was not incompetent... I was understaffed!

Starting this post, it wasn't my intention to confess that I harbor romantic ideals about housekeeping and farming, and yet am quite disinclined to labor tirelessly. Our goats are silly, and so am I. Our hens may not lay another egg, and neither... oh, never mind.

There is a heap of clean laundry obscuring the sofa. I'm about to play a Jane Austen movie, and delight in the wit and beauty of an idealized time and place, while my chickens scratch and peck around our little farm, and then I may get to the bottom of that laundry. This is not a hard life. It is complicated, and has its challenges, but it has an abundance of goodness, too... choices, views, opportunities, birds we can talk to, and time for naps.

Cat Portraiture in 23 Steps

Chickenblog.com - Fri, 01/19/2018 - 10:01

Step One: Find a cat...

Step Two

Step Three

Step Four

Step Five

Step Six

Step Seven

Step Eight

Step Nine

Step Ten

Step 11

Step 12

Step 13

Step 14

Step 15

Step 16

Step 17

Step 18

Step 19

Step 20

Step 21

Step 22

Step 23
And voilà!

Quoting a Physicist...

Chickenblog.com - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 18:42

January 2

Coming up with a title for this post was almost as hard as deciding to blog at all. Then I remembered a favorite quote, actually, it's a book title, from Richard Feynman, the physicist. He wrote "What Do You Care What Other People Think?" I recommend the book, and I would like to embrace the sentiment... because I really should care less what other people think. Far too much of my blog slow-down is a result of being concerned about criticism from certain people over what I write, don't write, overshare, and take interest in.

There it is.

I have grappled with remarks and accusations that directly admonish, accuse, ridicule, and criticize me and my social media presence. And it has just about shut me down completely... here, on FB, emotionally, physically. It's made a hard year (or three) even harder; quite crap, in fact. I have been introspective, and confounded, self-critical, embarrassed, and apologetic. And I have been miserable. And the thing is... as concerned and inward-looking as I have been, as much as I've worked to assess my values, efforts, narrative, presence, it occurs to me that the critics aren't here. The critics don't hang out with me, or know me... they aren't involved in our daily lives, and I am not calling on them to bail me out, or asking them to 'like' my posts, fight my battles, sing my praises. I've been waiting... waiting to see what shutting-up could yield, waiting to see if those critics would like me better, find me more worth their time and interest, if I just backed-off, sat back, made myself smaller. I can't deny it... I want to be liked and likable, I want to be successful, admirable, especially to the people I have liked and admired all of my life. But, it's no good trying to be someone else, hoping to be the kind of whatever that makes me appealing to them. It's no good not being me, however objectionable, loud, messy, weird, liberal, or sensitive people see me as being. Either I am the embodiment of my body, mind and soul, my interests, skills, and ambitions, or I am nothing. I have cared a great deal too much what other people think, and it's made me small and despondent, meager... my soul feels gaunt.

And the critics? They're just people with their own bodies and souls, agendas, and ideals, and they're carrying on, living, believing what they do, and I am not stopping them. But I want to take back my will, and a sense of self-worth that is not so dependent on what other people think. In the time that I have been quieter, smaller, I have noticed that the people who do care, who are here, who can accept my good and bad parts, they see me. They aren't showing up out of obligation, or begrudgingly. They aren't asking me to be anyone else, act like someone else, be less than my own self. I used to still worry about what I could lose by showing my dance, singing my songs, being myself. I pay too much attention to the ones who don't like me... demonstrative, over-sharing, objectionable, loud, messy, weird, liberal, sensitive, clumsy, uncool me, and I want this to change. Time is running out, and I don't want to waste any more of it worrying what other people think...

January 3

Our winter break has been sweet. And bittersweet. I miss so much of what, whom, we lost. I miss my Grandmother, terribly. "Terribly" is that adjective that we use, a figure of speech. But now, I think I know it better. The missing, the longing and sadness and deep grief I feel is dire and unspeakable, awful, and grave... it is terrible to feel so emotional, to have such a longing for what cannot be, can never be. I won't speak of it, cannot speak of it, but the truth is: I am inconsolable. And it's not much better with Mister Washburn Foo. And so, you see... our holidays, and liberties, company, the lights on the tree, the carols, and old movies, the spirit of Christmas has been sweet, but always with the unspeakable terribleness that I cannot seem to cope with.

My Instagram page is all cats and sketchbooks, flowers in the garden, and an almost insatiable yearning to see beauty, to hold it, and feel it, and make any of it that I possibly can.

January 4

January 5

January 6

He's a junior! Being more emotional than rational, I cannot understand how this is possible, already. I am sure if I would look at a calendar, add units, and count months, it would all make sense. But just going by my feelings, it seems so soon. He'll be starting a last semester of classes to pass the time, while he waits to hear from the school he hopes to transfer to, then he can be a math major, like he always wanted.

January 7

The day after Christmas we set off a chain reaction that is, to do this day, sending shock waves through the Bird House...

*Chango cannot retract his old man claws, and he made a tear in our bed sheet.
*The tear grew, and made the sheet a total loss.
*I decided to wash the mattress pad cover, while the sheets were off... and realized the foam pad was awful. Gross. etc
*After 23 years, we decided that buying another foam pad was a waste, if we were only covering a horrible mattress.
*We were reminded that our king bed is "eastern" and Costco only sells "western" and so we had to go to Ikea.
*I fell deeply, spinally, horizontally in love with a mattress, and all of my economical and rational inhibitions were dashed!
*Ikea promised next day delivery!
*We had to race home and clean our room.
*I got the harebrained notion to finally arrange our furniture the way I had been dreaming and imagining and plotting to do for seven years... and that entailed huge, huge, huge upheaval and lugging, which Geoff could only observe, because he's still in recovery from surgery.
*Things and parts and stuff shifted from our room, out of the hall, down the stairs, and throughout the house, in preparation for removal of the old mattress, and the arrival of the really big, new one.
*I chased dust bunnies from here to the curb, for what felt like days.
*The new mattress (even without a real boxspring) is so ginormous, that we can hardly see the headboard or the footboard, and I was afraid of falling from the bed... but I love it. I love it. I love it. I think I am even getting stronger abs from launching myself up to get into it.
*I love it. I love it. I love it.
*There has been sleep. You guys, I am tearing up a little. Actual sleep.

This was the little family meeting we were having about a very special visit, and Alex and Max having their wisdom teeth pulled. I got another harebrained idea, and each of them were about to have four wisdom teeth removed, because I thought it would be easier to get all done at once.

Sorry, boys.

The Very Special Visit! Max, Tamsyn, Maria, William, Alex, and Bambi. Tamsyn! From Virginia, no from Edinburgh, wait, no, from Paris, by way of India! It's been way too long since we last saw her. She's in graduate school, in Paris, and while on break, she came to California, and this moment... seeing these children together, it made my heart overflow, and feel so thankful and joyful. (Pinching myself, and gently reminding me, too, that I have been very fortunate.)

January 8

This is my submission for whatever photo contest calls for "The Epitome of Ungulate Love and Adorableness." I will win that contest with this entry.

No pictures of Alex and Max, home from the oral surgeon. No video, either. It was rough, and they were dear, sweet patients, that would have loved to spend a better quality of time with Tamsyn, while on their school break.

January 10

Do you do this? Accommodate a pampered fluff nugget when he won't get off the bed, so you make the bed around his fluffy butt? Apparently, it's what I do. And then I take a picture and share it on Instagram. It's who I am, it's what I do.

Maria was inspired by the birthday card Belinda gave me... from when I turned fifty. The original photograph was taken in Venice, 1952, by Georges Dambier, of Francoise Dambier. Maria's drawing... well, it just keeps getting better and better. And I guess it's not a surprise, considering how much she practices and studies. And the best part is... she enjoys it.

Tamysn was such an easy going guest. And really, more like one of the family than a visitor. It was so nice to have the kind of visit where ordinary pastimes and relaxed time together was the order of each day.

And she made us dinner! A fabulous Indian dinner. How good? So good that we had her make everything, again, the next night, so William could learn the recipes. (Still recovering, Alex opted to be out of the picture. But he did love the soft, vegetarian meal.)

I miss her singing. So much. When we were neighbors, when she was like one of my own, we had the regular enjoyment of her singing. I think Chango remembered her, just at this moment. He is very hard of hearing, but if you could see how he watched her, and moved closer and closer, peering into her face... I know he was remembering her.

And. I kept thinking, Mister Foo is going to walk over here, any minute. He loves music, and singing. And I kept waiting, thinking, Where is that Foo? It was only later, I recalled, he's gone.

January 11

Tamsyn, and Mister Foo, and old blog posts... this is why I had to come back here, and post, again, so I would have more stories to look back on, more memories to revisit, plans to recall, moments to share. Years from now, I don't want to find that I was too shy to write something down, too conservative to discuss an idea, or self-conscious to post a photograph. I could do this in a paper journal, and leave it on a shelf, I know. But Tamsyn is in Paris, and so is Grant. And my Mom is in Oregon, and other family is in Wisconsin, and I have a friend in Massachusetts, others in Australia, one in England, another in Spain, and it's nice to stay in touch, to hear from them, and let them have some glimpses of how we are getting on. It was really dear finding old pictures, and details from ordinary days when we lived next door to Tamsyn, when we tried new things together, and shared adventures, even from other times when we had to say farewell.

January 14

Maybe, Chickenblog will just become a Cat Blog, with loads of expressive cat photos.

Maybe, I'll post artsy photographs of chamomile tea, the damp texture like a watercolor painting, and I'll add a few lines of obtuse poetry about dappled sunlight on winter mornings. Or I could write long essays about the nature of art, and ratastic expressionism in the modern era.

Something. I think I will keep doing something, here.

January 15

Cairo had it coming.

Now I need to take care of laundry. It's okay if you didn't read all of this post, if you only skimmed through the pictures. It's okay if you think blogging is weird or obsessive, or pointless, but... please, no need to mention that to me. I am just trying to do good, where I can, to think about things, deeply, or just scratch the surface.

The first sweet peas. I'm pinching myself.
January 16

Once More

Chickenblog.com - Tue, 01/02/2018 - 11:26

Calm. We have had cheer and celebration, abundance and rejoicing, food, food, food, and sparkle and all of it has been lovely. I cannot wait for next year, to anticipate and prepare and enjoy all of the holiday gaiety, again. In the meantime, I am reveling in the post-holiday effect, when I clear surfaces, rearrange furniture, try (once more, once more, once more) to put things in order, to redouble all effort and resolve to be a neat and tidy woman, with neat and tidy spaces.

I thought a lot about this space, the blog. Thank you, by the way, for those comments. They were reassuring and kind. For two or three days, I was very sad, then only a little sad. Then someone mentioned that 'blogging is seeing a resurgence in usage and purpose, because the large and very corporate social-media sites have become too monopolistic and controlling,' and I felt a surge of giddiness. And this interest and flickering hope seems a sign that I am not through, here, that I still want to play, and see this through, a bit further. I am going to think about this.

Stepping Away

Chickenblog.com - Mon, 12/18/2017 - 14:29
Looking around me, assessing what’s left undone or long neglected, I conclude: It’s time to to step away from this space. It’s time to reconsider what brought me here in the first place... what makes me hang on, clinging, almost. But never mind any lengthy introspection, for now. I will say I cannot help writing, and I love taking pictures, and I’d have loved to be an artist, a “success.” Maybe something of that is possible... but I am going to take some time to look for my path elsewhere.

Thank you... I’ve made some dear friends, here, and have many, many happy recollections of connecting. So much so, that I won’t say “the end” or even “goodbye,” but just, “hold on a sec.”

Do you Have a Minute?

Chickenblog.com - Tue, 12/12/2017 - 10:56
Maybe a few minutes, actually. I have a story to share, and it's a long one, with lots of pictures, and best of all... for one family, a happy ending.

This story begins with hot, dry days, with a wind blowing off of the dessert, through mountain passes, to the Pacific Ocean. This is the kind of wind that plays with fire, making embers and sparks jump and leap, sending up new flames, with billowing smoke, and all of it moves as fast as the wind itself. We were all watching reports of such wind, and fires, blowing and burning in Ventura, then Los Angeles. And then, much closer to home, we saw a dark plume of wind-driven smoke traveling from the east, moving toward the ocean. Fire. When I confirmed that it was near a friend's home, I started texting them. I wanted to be sure they'd seen reports, knew what was going on. Even a fire that is "far away," if it's east of your location when the Santa Ana winds are blowing, then it is too close for comfort. The more I thought about their situation, the more anxious I became, and in my messages I offered, We could house your critters if you have to evacuate.

The Lilac Fire started small, but it grew fast, and vicious. And our friends, their pets, their home were in its path. Having been in their situation, I knew the fear, and the logistical load of getting everyone safe, especially scared pets, or big livestock. This offer to help them, felt like an easy choice to make... and while they suffered the angst and worry of what was coming for their home, we spent some days lending a hand, and enjoying some sweet, funny, dear pets. It's real nice to tell this story from today, because in the beginning it was sad, and scary, but spoiler alert... now we know everything turned out well for our friends, their home, and their little farm.

Thursday night Bobbie came to the Bird House with Mabel, and Sammy the bunny, and two hens, Oink and Dot. We kept Mabel and Oink in their respective crates, and moved Dot into my old portable chicken cage, and we even had a bunny cage for Sammy. The wind was blowing fiercely. With flashlights in hand, and determined resolve, we made sure all of the animals were safe and secure that first night.

It was a relief to greet our guests the next day.

Here she is! Mabel, the mini-pig.

Sammy lived on our porch, and he stayed about as calm and cool as any bunny could.

Oink the chicken... she discovered our spoon tomatoes, and I think that made all the difference.

Pretty Dot... we hope she remembers this adventure as a few odd days at camp.

Cairo. Now, Cairo was just stunned. There's no other way to describe his bewildered expressions, and skittish antics. He watched Sammy bunny warily, and kept a wide space between himself and the flopsy fur boop.

Also in shock... all of our chickens and both goats. Evidently, none of our critters can tell the difference between a little pig and a big bad wolf, and so they huddled in corners, with raised hackles and mournful expressions. (Are hackles only a dog thing? Our goats express both glee, and terror, with a ridge of raised hairs along the tops of their necks.)

Meanwhile, Mabel cruised the entire yard, merrily, with all of the confidence and self-possessed equanimity of an Instagram celebrity (mae-mae_minipig).

Friend was unfazed, and came around to see the new campers.

I was just getting my head around making salads for Mabel, and keeping an eye on the sky and horizon for signs of new fires, when Maria brought me the Advent book, day 8. She's 100% flexible and understanding, and looking around at all we were managing, said brightly, "I had no idea we'd be doing this, now. We can do pie any time." I smiled, gratefully, and asked her to bring a pie crust out of our freezer. We might not ever get to it, but we stood a better chance of baking a pie if the crust were ready.

Nothing much else, besides the usual laundry and school studies, were on our calendar, so these guests of ours had our full attention. We wanted them to feel welcome and happy. And we wanted our friends to have at least one part of their lives to give them some peace of mind... and to that end, I enjoyed sending them new pictures, so they could see all was well for Oink, Dot, Sammy, and Mabel.

Evacuating is terribly stressful... you leave your home behind, taking as much with you as necessary or even possible, and still you have to go to work, and manage your affairs, while your home, and memories, stand in peril. Bobbie and Jesse had Leo and Bosco, their dogs, with them, and jobs to go to, and their son had his finals to complete. Everything we were doing felt easy, in comparison with what our friends were coping with. Bobbie took a break and came to see her pets, and to finally meet those goats!

And would you believe? We baked a pie!

The next day our Advent book had another lovely suggestion, and the calming winds put everyone in easier moods. And... word was getting out, about a certain little, pink, celebrity pig in our midst. We were getting calls and texts... Can we meet Mabel??

Mabel is so well socialized and smart. She knows some commands, like turn and reverse and stop. She'll do just about anything for a Cheerio... almost anything. Like any smart animal, she also has a mind of her own.

When she discovered this back section of the yard, she never wanted to leave. Can you see our scaredy goats and nervous hens? They're all cowering from the little, pink pig rooting through the leaf pile. It took a lot of Cheerios to coax her out of there!

Alex's friend, Max, and his mom, came in the morning to meet Mabel. Then Max and Alex went to check on horses, and to lend a hand there with other volunteers, and the many hundreds of evacuated horses and livestock.

Alex and Max returned with two more visitors.

Paul, Janece and Amira were over. Paul knew just the spot to get Mabel's hair happily raised.

Amira and Mabel saw eye-to-eye, too.

And just in time for dinner, Bex, Spencer and Simon came to meet Mabel, Oink, Dot, and Sammy.

I really wish I had started a guest book for Mabel... a happy keepsake of all the new friends she's made.

Maria has had uncanny timing. By day ten, I was ready for this... for lights, especially. Geoff was taking the day off, and with William, Alex, Max, and Maria, outdoor lights were hung all around our home, even Totoro got festive.

Bobbie would send me texts, thanking me, and making helpful suggestions. The best one was about adding canned pumpkin to Mabel's meals. There may not be much that is as hilarious as Mabel eating her chow, with a bowl of water, and when I added the pumpkin it got ridiculous! There are videos on Instagram (chickenblogger). I recorded every meal for my own amusement, forever.

And this is where we are getting to the happy ending, which is also a little sad, strangely. The only thing we could ask for was for the fire to be put down, for lives and homes to be spared. The losses were real and horrific, and we despaired over every report. But we were feeling connected and delighted with our guests, and it wasn't going to be easy to part with them. We rejoiced for our friends, when we learned the evacuation orders were lifted, that the Lilac Fire was contained, and we took longer, even more dear visits with our furry and feathered and hoofed visitors.

Maria confided, "Mabel is fun, but, Mama, I love Sammy. I don't want Sammy to go."

Can you guess what she's been asking for?

Dear Santa...
She's in love.

Friend returned, again. Our blue bird of happiness seemed to appreciate we needed a little support. Thank you, Friend.

I use the hashtag #littlefarm. Now that we've had an actual pig in our barn, I feel totes legit.

Chickenblogger, and farmer.

In the last decade we have come to know fire season... late summer into October, then November, now December. Any wildfire is bad, but California with its Santa Ana winds, and history of droughts, with it's canyons, and mixed topography is susceptible to fast moving fires with loads of fuel to keep it going, difficult terrain to manage, and for firefighters to cover. We all learn that when there is a Red Flag Warning any spark could become an inferno, and any wild fire will move, jumping across highways, traveling like a raging river up canyons, over ridges, pushed by wind gusts that can be as fast as 50 miles an hour. It means a small fire, in the far distance, can be forcing evacuations with only minutes to prepare. Red Flag Warnings mean the humidity is low, and the Santa Ana winds are blowing dry air from east to west, and any fire that is east of where you are could easily be dangerously close in no time at all.

A Red Flag warning is serious, a Purple Flag warning... well, I'd never heard of such a thing, until last Thursday. It is the highest danger level, it meant single digit humidity and wind blowing at 80-100 miles per hour, with sustained winds of 20-45 miles per hour along the coast, and ninety mph wind gusts.

During "fire season," which has practically become year-round, we take safety steps, and during Red Flag Warnings, we take extra precautions, like not mowing, or grilling. There are things we can do, and there is more we will learn to do, but it's not always in our power to control. Individually, we cannot manage every acre of dry brush, accidents, or any irresponsible acts. We can consider the bigger picture... our environment, changes in climate, how we want to care for our planet and resources with long term conservation and management in mind.

There were some terrible losses in the Lilac Fire, as well as the Ventura and Los Angeles fires. We happened to get lucky, this time, and we will try to do more, to be better prepared for next time. I want to add some thoughts in reaction to negative comments I read regarding the deaths of horses in Bonsal, California. The deaths of those horses was awful, and will hopefully lead to improvements in how livestock and farms are set up, going forward, but if anyone thinks that people were 'indifferent' or in some way 'slacking'... well, those critics are ignorant, and cruel in their remarks. Ranch hands and jockeys had to remove over 500 horses from a wild fire that began and spread in less than an hour's span... that is an impossible thing to accomplish. With wind driven smoke, soot, embers, and flames coming at them, and very limited resources, the people on hand did all they could. Period. We all have a lot to do to keep tragedies like this from playing over, again, and again. Our planet is changing. I hope anyone that is criticizing or pointing fingers, will stop and consider that we are all capable of helping, of taking less, and giving more. I am deeply touched by the kindnesses offered, the bravery displayed, and the generosity shared by Californians during these tragic events.

This Is Making All The Difference...

Chickenblog.com - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 11:41
Maria made something that has been pure holiday magic. Her gift has been giving me a daily smile and inspiration, as we countdown the days until Christmas.

In her secret workshop, Maria created this little book, A Little Pocket Advent Calendar. I love it. I love each handmade page, the glitter, the thought and effort, the ideas, and suggestions. I have been waking up with a bit of that Christmas wonder I remember feeling when I was her age... excited, eager, full of hope, ready to see something special in the day.

We ordered Mexican hot chocolate when we met our friends for breakfast.

She's not insistent on doing exactly what the book suggests. We made cranberry bars, and shared them with friends. We'd still love to host a cookie exchange.

Her beautiful origami! This reminds me of the beautiful ornaments my mother made from Christmas cards. I bet Maria would love to recreate those.

Now this one we really went for! We invited a few friends to come and make flowers with us. Carol and Leo were down for an impromptu playdate, and we made some tissue and napkin blossoms.

These lyrics, "Oh, the weather outside is frightful," are ringing true, but we have nothing at all like snow in California! We are under a Purple Flag Warning in our county, and further north, things are far more dire. We've had our fill of wildfires and evacuations in our lives, and so at the end of the day a little make-believe and home comforts were very much welcome. As real winds blew, we slipped into our pajamas and watched It's A Wonderful Life.

Yes, more home comforts, and simple pleasures. I am looking forward to this evening, and all the days ahead. This time of year can be hectic, and full of urgent demands, but Maria's gift is making a nice difference, every day, and sweetly reminding me that it's a wonderful life.