Chicken Blog by Natalie

~This Moment~ - 6 hours 8 min ago
~This Moment is a Friday tradition, capturing a special moment from the week~

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your moment in the comments, for all to see.William made dinner. Taking pictures of food has become a blogging cliche, but I won't stop. This picture recalls a hot day, when my son took the initiative to feed us. I enjoy not having to figure out what to make for dinner... I like it when either I can honor a special request, or someone else is taking care of the meal. William makes his own pesto, and ranch dressing, croutons, too. I love the strawberries in the salad. As with many families, especially with young adults in the house, we are finding dinners together to be a rare event. Geoff usually works late. Alex has night classes. During school, Max and Maria need early dinners. This night we were together, at the table, enjoying each others company, William's cooking and thoughtfulness, and all the blessings of home and plenty.

Sorting Beans and Other Deep Thoughts - Tue, 09/01/2015 - 09:27

This morning I had a brilliant idea: Pretend it's Friday. And I thought... I should recruit all of my friends, sort of band us together for a greater purpose. My plan was to take it to social media, rallying the troops around my Friday plan, because if we all agreed that today is Friday, then it would have to be so. Power of the people, etc. But then, I got out of bed, and got dressed, and one thing led to another, and real life took over, and my brilliant plan sort of dissolved. But, maybe next week. Next week we can all conspire to alter reality and have a little fun with time and space and stuff.

In other news... we have a rooster.

Let that sink in.

No. Not Pip O'Pep, whose gender is in question. This is a certifiable cock-a-Doodle-do roo!

I'm not kidding.

What else...

1. It's September! {Obviously, I am stating the obvious, but for my purposes it's helpful to state simple facts, reinforcing them in my thoughts, hopefully aiding my ability to relate and reason.}

2. Next month is October. {Also, a simple fact, but in this case I agree... I am getting ahead of things, and no one needs that kind of pressure.}

3. Maria and I have been taking our morning cup of chai to the freezer, and enjoying a very iced tea in the afternoon.

4. The roster's name is Doodle.

5. As soon as the weather turns, I will start making rice puddings, fulfilling the second half of my New Year's Resolution.

6. When Kamen met Doodle, she dropped her wings, puffed herself up and shuffled menacingly at him. Like. a. rooster. Our hen, Kamen, is a cocky little hen.

7. We have a big pot of beans on the stove.

8. Beans are a gateway food. Now, we need cheese, and tortillas de harina, for starters.

9. I bought flannel. Fabric. Plush, warm, cozy, snuggle-worthy cotton flannel. For pajama pants, and scarves. {This single act may doom any chance of having a seasonably cool fall. Forever. I'm sorry.}

10. I don't miss cable television... except when I want to watch old movies.

11. Some people have been leaving very nice, generous and thoughtful, comments here at Chcikenblog ChickenBlog. Those gestures really touch my heart. Thank you.

Some Feathered Friends - Mon, 08/31/2015 - 10:01
Our weekend was for the birds... in a good way.

The run got a tidy-up. Knocked down cob webs, raked everything, and put down new bedding... we're giving rice hulls a go, on a suggestion from Robin and Sean. We like it, so far. The chickens like it, too, and were happy to help spread it around, and sort through it. Good chicas.

Here's Pippi.



I've started calling Pippi and Pepper Pip O'Pep, because like the Cuckoos, Thomson, Thompson, and Tamsyn, we cannot tell the two Wyandottes apart.


Hold on...

Oh dear. I'm just noticing those tail feathers, and the ones cascading at her wing tip. Those look very rooster-ish.


Just... no.

Pip O'Pep? Hello? Are you a fellow?

Oh my... the steely gaze of Gallus gallus domesticus.

All five of the newest chicas... one Ameracauna sitting below. We still haven't named them all. I don't know why. They stick together, and roost in the oddest places. I've lost count of the number of times they've settled in for the night outside, on the roof of the run! Among five chickens I wish there was enough collective sense to figure out they're choosing the worst spot possible. William has to climb up, gingerly navigating the framing of the run... he slides a broom under each one, then extends them over to the edge so Geoff can grab them. One by one. It's quite a rescue operation.

Are you ready for my hypothesis? This really is based on limited evidence, but I am in love with my supposition! It goes like this... Friend was visiting all day, taking a record number of peanuts, and being as handsome and endearing as ever, because he knows something about El Niño. Geoff fed Friend. Alex fed him. William, Maria, and I fed him. Andy fed him. Leo fed him. Jesse and Jarett fed him. And we put down more peanuts for Friend's shyer companions. And I believe that this epic day of peanut stashing is because Friend, our wise prognosticator, Aphelocoma californica, knows winter is coming, and he knows it will be particularly wet, and wintery, and cold, and wintery, and drought dampening, and wonderful.

Clever Friend.

Handome Friend.

Prudent and wise, discerning and diligent, Friend.

We love our feathered friends.

We love introducing our feathered friends to other friends. I loved seeing Andy's expression. Unfortunately, I didn't have my phone on me when Jesse and Jarett met Friend, but I can still hear the awe and delight Jarett uttered when he fed him. The sound of joy is... well, I guess it's indescribable, and good.

Leo, meet Friend.

Warning: Connecting with Nature may cause spontaneous euphoria

Goats, Chickens and Summer Heat - Sun, 08/30/2015 - 05:00

Not that I want to to talk about the heat, but it's hard to ignore. We are in the midst of our summer's high temperatures, and humidity, if I am not mistaken. I have melted so many times today... never mind. It's too hot to take account, or complain. Let's not talk about the weather.

Let's talk about darling goats, and their orchard grass, the peanuts I brought them for treats, the way they look as though they are grinning when I take their pictures at breakfast. Nom nom nom, and those funny teeth show between their hairy lips. I think they have the dearest faces. Silly, and dear.

In the afternoon everyone is released from lock up, and they all, goats and chickens, make for the shrubs and trees, for favorite dust bathing spots, and shade. I filled bowls with ice and ran a mister for a time... little things like this are welcome. I should clarify... the chickens like the mist from the spigot, the goats stay clear. Goats are well and fine with this heat, but water? No, thank you!

Our Silver Laced Wyandottes are so transformed from their black and downy chick days. I have been captivated and impressed observing their black feathers changing into white, black trimmed feathers. All the new birds are still a bit smaller than the big fat hens. We aren't getting eggs from the little sisters, yet. And there's probably some molting going on, so that slows down the regular layers. Unfortunately we are also in the middle of a stick flea war. I know a lot of backyard chicken bloggers love sand for ground cover, but apparently sand is also a favorite nesting material of these horrible little biting parasites. More diatomaceous earth! More Vaseline! More patience and vigilance! {If your backyard chicken book says "Easy" in the title... Beware! There's more to keeping chickens than fresh eggs, and dust baths!}

Today, before the heat makes it too loathsome, I will be cleaning out the coops and run, freshening things up. And I will be thinking about our rainy season, which is expected to begin about October... and is also forecasted to be exceptionally wet. El Niño. We need to resolve drainage/mud issues, and think about keeping goats dry and happy, and chickens from washing away in the storms! Rain... now, that's something lovely to contemplate.

~This Moment~ - Fri, 08/28/2015 - 11:13
~This Moment is a Friday tradition, capturing a special moment from the week~

If you're inspired to do the same, please leave a link to your moment in the comments, for all to see.Our Friend, the jay, couldn't wait for me to leave the car. Fortunately, I had a peanut handy.

~This Moment~ - Fri, 08/21/2015 - 09:11
~This Moment is a Friday tradition, capturing a special moment from the week~
If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your moment in the comments, for all to see.
An after school special... lime popsicle~

Handmade Onigiri - Thu, 08/20/2015 - 15:00
It was nice of enough of Lani to invite me out, but she raised the bar when she brought me a gift from her trip to San Diego. I wish I could have joined her when she ran an errand to Ikea, then stopped for bento. Do you know bento? It's both lunch and art in Japan... and it can get downright adorable. Lani and I texted back and forth... I asked her to please ask me again, next time she goes, and mentioned my craving for onigiri! Do you know onigiri, or musubi? They're white rice formed into shapes, like triangles, or cylinders, and wrapped in nori. I lovelovelove onigiri with pickled plum, and furikake! Lani brought me a mold for making onigiri! That was so sweet of her!

Maria and I were looking over the package and noticed the little anthropomorphic onigiri character on the label. It's very kawaii. Do you know kawaii? Think adorable, cute, lovable. There is a lot of kawaii out there! This little Onigiri Guy gave me an idea...

Handmade onigiri! Made with French knots rice, and satin-chain stitched nori!

The hardest part was deciding where to put him when he was done. Since he's a tasty snack, I decided to add him to a snack bag. These bags are fun to make. I made this one lined. Also, I enjoyed trying my hand at some sashiko stitching.

It's a good thing I was dressed in a pretty skirt yesterday...
I couldn't possibly do housework in a pretty skirt.
Obviously, I had to sew, instead!
{Maria wants a whole bento box of handmade embroidered kawaii treats... what have I started??}

Still Summer - Wed, 08/19/2015 - 11:33

{This is not a casual connection: I was sad because of the consistent, and persistently mounting, evidence that I am not destined to leave the hallowed halls of Blogging Anonymity, a private pity party I host for me, and my ego, and I decided not to post again until there was at least one new comment, because the universe always responds kindly to ultimatums from suburban housewives in pretty skirts, but being a compulsive blogger and glutton for humiliation, I formatted new pictures, and began composing something in my head, something about "balance" and "nature" and "restoring my soul" and "the life affirming power of stepping where waves are washing the sand," and I was debating whether or not to bother starting to make a new post from the photos and deep thoughts I had laid out, when a very dear friend, a kindred spirit, shared these thoughts:

"My theory is that summer lasts longer than school vacation and therefore, it is still summer; summer in a different way, through different schedules and experiences to be sure, but still summer."

And it was everything that I needed, everything I could say about our two evenings, after school, after dinner, after homework, before sleep... walking in the dusk, following the waves, and holding onto the goodness of our summer. It is still summer. And I am thankful to be reminded of this, and to have just enough gumption to go out and enjoy it. Thank you, Jennifer, for commenting, for connecting, for knowing just what to say.}

Good Things - Mon, 08/17/2015 - 13:38
La Jolla, California... The Shores, The Cove, seen from Birch Aquarium~

Scripps Pier, Scripps Institute of Oceanography~

Good timing... dive time and talk in the big Kelp Tank~

Lunch with a view, UCSD glider port~

Scotland update... Bambi and the Highland cows~

Geoff, Andy, and Alvaro with the prancing Pony sign~

La Chalupa~

Maria with Tioga and Curry

Alex and Bambi, keeping us posted from Scotland~

Fresh news from Edinburgh and The Edinburgh Festival: Fringe~

Fifth grade. 5th GRADE. Grade five. Quinto grado.

No matter how I say it, it's still hard to believe~

Emma and Maria, ready to start their new year~

Back to school means back to in car crafting~

Well. I tried. I tried to squeeze in as much fun, as much summer into our summer as possible. And it's been good. It's been busy, and laid back, structured, and wildly boundless. But, no matter how hard we played, no matter how earnestly we stalled, the days slipped by, and somehow or another, we are here, at the first day of the first week of school. It begins. Ready or not. We are ready... Maria is ready. None of us wants to give up our easy schedule, the unplanned jaunts, the drop in visits from new friends, and old friends, and dog friends. School is all well and fine, but it can get inconvenient at times, and can tend to interfere with learning, play, making, discovering, exploring, and sleeping in. Alright, one look at Maria's expression, and I think you can see she's on good terms with going back, with new subjects, new pencils, packed lunches, and the egg drop... especially the egg drop!

While Max took care of his course schedule and registration, I waited in the car, and so begins a new season of things I can do while waiting in parking lots! Right now, the mania is for embroidery, but I've added a new element: acrylic paint! The pieces I am sewing are small, playing card size. I started experimenting with adding paint for more color, to fill space without thread. El Pajaro and La Chalupa are traditional Lotería game cards, but I made my own La Gallina card... no surprise, here. I am having fun. Using thread and paint together feels more playful, more creative, and I can see why Grandma Nancy enjoys mixing things up for her quilts.

We even had one last Summer Movie Night {which makes it sound like the end of Movie Nights, but is actually just the beginning of Fall Movie Nights!} It was a last minute thing, but don't you love when those work out? Andy's home from Boston, and he came with his friend Alvaro. Celine and James were here, Emma, and Leo, Carol and Michael... and we all but forgot the movie because we were having such a good visit. Finally, Emma, Leo, and Maria took the giant popcorn bowl to the living room and watched Fantastic Mister Fox, and the rest of us carried on in slightly more hushed tones.

Whatever else is happening, laundry or good conversation, finishing breakfast, or being deep in REM sleep, when my phone chimes I know it's Alex and Bambi and all my attention turns toward Scotland and the travelers. Every text, every message, every photograph floors me, thrills me, brings happy tears... it's true. My emotions are plainly worn on my sleeve. I love their adventures, the tidbits they share, the updates, and glimpses. I want to be there, of course, but this new thing, this next step of seeing my son making his own story, taking his own path... it's amazing. It's bittersweet, and gratifying. Like first steps, first words, and first days of school... seeing Alex happy, on his own, fulfilling his dreams, it's this mother's dream come true. Of course, it helps to know they'll be home again, soon. I think they're returning... he's really happy there...

Good Things...

1. The sign for the Prancing Pony is done. 99% done, and it is stunningly beautiful. No reveals until Alex and Bambi are here to see it in person.

2. Today is much cooler than yesterday. Enough said.

3. Max endured bureaucracy and long lines to tweak his school schedule. Painting and cooking are out, chemistry and AP Calculus III are in.

4. It's almost time to pick up Maria. Gosh, I type slow.

5. A shout out for the Internet and its power for bringing us together... this week I have been in touch with my son from half way around the world, been connected with family of family who need prayers for a young man named Archer, and found answers to questions, reasons to laugh and sigh, and hope.

Thank you. Blogging is weird, but I like it, and I like that you share this with me. I am wishing everyone good things, and happy first day experiences.

~This Moment~ - Fri, 08/14/2015 - 07:34
~This Moment is a Friday tradition, capturing a special moment from the week~
If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your moment in the comments, for all to see.
Alex and Bambi, the Highlands of Scotland

This moment, for me, was about Alex and Bambi sharing their first pictures from their travels, and feeling connected, relieved, thrilled for their adventures. I implored them, Take loads and and loads of pictures. Selfies, too. Selfies especially, even though those are maligned, because I want to see Scotland, but mostly I want to see you in Scotland! I love every picture, every moment they are sharing.

A Happy Summer - Thu, 08/13/2015 - 11:58
Bill, and Hans, my brothers, and cousin Gil next to cousin Julie. Me and Debbie in the water, and our cousin Jack, hanging back. About 1976, I think.

My mom sent out an email, to me, my brothers, some cousins. "Happy Summer," read the subject, and I thought she was sending something from Grandmother's birthday, or the Oregon family moving day. But it was this blast from the past! Hans and I searched Google Earth in hopes of tracking down the exact Whittier house, where Grandma and Grandpa had the polar-cold pool, the cat named Rufus, and those two nippy pups, Chiquitin and Major. Our Los Angeles summers were happy, in Whittier, and Alhambra, at Olvera Street. Happy family summers... don't be fooled by Hans' expression... (insert sister laugh, here.)

The house is still there. The long driveway, and the cul-de-sac where we rode the giant tricycle, and lit hoards of fireworks, stinky ground charring snakes and dazzling ground bloom flowers. Inside, Grandmother kept the house comfortable, tidy, their nice things were familiar, somehow reassuring. Her owls, and African violets, the many neat stacks of books... I cannot see any of these without sighing wistfully, and missing her. She had the softest towels, and always good aromas happening in the kitchen. I think she could make a delicious caldito, stew or soup, from anything, and with a toasted tortilla, well, that would be heaven to have right now. Hot summers in Los Angeles smelled of gardenias, mowed lawns, and the congestion and pace of a sprawling city... if that is a smell. If there wasn't an invitation to a friend's pool, like Blanca Arellano's, then at least we had sprinklers to run around in. Then Grandma and Grandpa moved into the Whittier house, with the pool and slide and diving board. The pool was unheated, and was always shockingly cold. The best times were when the day was hot enough for even Grandfather to cannonball in, and to find Grandmother, too, holding the ledge, joining us in the water.

When my own children were growing up I realized that cousins make excellent playmates and friends. Not perfect, or trouble free, but like having a batch of fresh siblings to play with, to quarrel with, to enjoy secrets and giggles, to share in the joys, and some minor woes, of days together. The house, on the map, on my computer screen, has changed very little, but it took a while to find, because I had to scan and sort through all the freeways, and malls, the industrial parks, even time itself to find it. The world is so much bigger, now. We are not so insulated, as we were then, in that place. We live further apart, see each other far less often. Thank goodness for this picture of a happy summer, and all of the funny, irritating, clear, faint, and dear memories this brings to mind.

Five Good Things - Mon, 08/10/2015 - 10:32

It's all good. It's all random, and messy, and mixed-up. We've faced kitchen flooding, bad smells, repairs, and cat barfs, and still: It's all good. Let's not pretend I grin and twirl through every mishap and crisis, but it helps to laugh and dance, whenever possible. And it's prescribed, suggested, encouraged and highly recommended to seek goodness, make good, share good, do good, and love the good. We went to the beach, and even though it was closer to bedtime than beach time, we enjoyed the last of the sunlight, the campfires, speculating on plans and notions, being in that place where the edge of the world is lapped by the sea. Walking back to our car from a shop in North Park, I looked up into a beautiful wispy pine tree where the homeowner had hung all sorts of blue lanterns and ornaments. It was beautiful. Back at home, Geoff and William have been diligently working with Frankenrouter, our sexy beast of DIY CNC milling. It's milling wood! The graphic is one William created on the computer, inspired by Lord of The Rings. More on this, soon.

What a skimpy, brief post this is... but you guys! This is the last Monday of Maria's summer break! This is the last Monday at home before Alex and Bambi leave for the Highlands of Scotland! This is the last Monday when I will have any chance to do all of the forty-two things I so sure we would get done when it was June, and summer was new and full of promise!

Good Things...

1. Sitting with Geoff, having breakfast out, talking, not talking. Burritos.

2. Bitternut squash, the fellow who appeared at the dining table this week.

3. The restoration of our kitchen sink, dishwasher, and garbage disposal, because Geoff. Oh, sweet conveniences of modern living, and lovely man to make it all run smoothly!

4. Grant. The man. The legend. The friend who rides in on his white horse and brings news of things funny, fair, and fabulous. {I just had to steal this picture from his FB page.}

5. My beautiful graceful, Godly, and beloved Grandmother Eunice, who turned 93 years old this week. She is a blessing to us all. She is more than good.

Skimpy and brief! We need breakfast, and there are bank errands, and all kinds of running around, like chickens and goats, but with clothes on. Be well. Find good things!

El Pajaro Bordado - Sun, 08/09/2015 - 11:03

Some friends were asking for embroidery lessons, so I gathered supplies, extra needles, fabric scraps for practicing, and then I decided to make a small project for myself, so I could show by example, and have fun, too. I took inspiration from a box of loteria cards. And to be sure I had a purpose for my little embroidered bird, I fit my sketch into a triangle so I could start a new party bunting-penant decoration. I never know what to call those, but I love making them, having them around for festive occasions. Unfortunately, the embroidery lesson was postponed, but lucky me... I had two-and-a half hours to myself to work on my pajaro while Maria was in her dance class.

As for my last embroidery venture... I haven't abandoned it, but I set it aside until I can decide whether or not to start over. I think small breaks can help me from making rash decisions.

There are so many fun themes in a loteria game, and I'd love to stitch up some more. And of course, it would be fun to create my own. A Foo card, maybe?

An Upcycle Sewing Lesson - Sat, 08/08/2015 - 10:39
A few times a year we show up at a favorite resale shop for their Huge Frocking Sale... it's an event, a happening, a great place to build a stylin' wardrobe, and save cash. This time we went with the idea of fulfilling some back-to-school needs, hoping to score a vest, and travel bag. But I don't suggest visiting resale shops with too specific an agenda, because you never know what might capture your heart and imagination. No vest for Max... bummer. No travel bag for Alex... we have a back-up plan. But we did score a sewing lesson and design opportunity for Maria!

Meet Marty, of Marty-O custom clothing. She had her booth and sewing table all set up, under the big top, in the midst of the Huge Frocking Sale, and she generously invited Maria to join her for an introduction to machine sewing and to also design an up-cycled utility apron... buttons, lace, trim, belt loops, ruffles, and fringe all artfully added to an old mini-skirt... this is DIY fashion meets function!

Maria embroiders, so she has some sewing experience, but she was thrilled to step up to the next level, because Marty is such a patient and enthusiastic instructor. With gentle guidance, and sound advice, Maria added the red ruffle to the camo print-mini skirt. I was especially happy to pick up the tip about raising the back of the sewing foot, when approaching a thick section of fabric... such an obvious, yet ingenious, trick for making a smooth transition between fabric weights!

What is upcycling? Before you toss it, before you donate it, or recycle it... see if you can't reuse pieces to make something new, better, unique, your own. See Marty's website for examples, and I keep thinking of the fabulous upcycling we love from Calamity Kim!

I've been collecting vintage handkerchiefs to make a scarf, or to appliqué onto a quilt, but this light and lacy jacket, refashioned with a coat tail of hankies, has me rethinking my options... Upcycling makes old things new, and fashion fun. A sewing machine makes it all faster, and easier, a Serger would be great, too, but there is plenty that can done with just a needle pulling thread. Maria asked if we could try this at home, please I think the wool skirt we found at the sale, maybe the gauze dress from Marty's dollar bin, will make excellent foundations for some upcycled creations.

Haute couture, anyone? Marty and her client were designing a fabulous and frou frou tutu tulle coat... a little ensemble for the Playa.

When you upcycle you save resources, enjoy creativity, express your own style... so put a bird on it, add a gear, turn it upside down, give it a new life and make it your own.

~This Moment~ - Fri, 08/07/2015 - 05:00
~This Moment is a Friday tradition, capturing a special moment from the week~
If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your moment in the comments, for all to see.
El Capitan, Central Coast, California... morning time, waking in a tent. This moment makes me want to stop time, at least slow everything down, because this thing we call childhood and family time... it's whirring passed at a pace that cannot be comprehended. It's all been so beautiful, and rough, and sublime, and soul stirring, and good. Can't we just stay here a little bit longer, more streams to cross, more laughs to share, more stories to read, and adventures to enjoy, as a family... ?

Into The Woods :: Into The Farm - Tue, 08/04/2015 - 10:45

Have I mentioned how much I love staying new places with Airbnb? It's not like they're a sponsor, or give me a coupon when I type their name... trust me, this is genuine appreciation. When I was looking for a place to stay near UCSC, something to make us feel like we did something special over our summer vacation, something affordable, and unique, I was delighted to find a cabin in the woods, on a horse farm. And not just horses, but cats and dogs, goats and chickens! Redwoods. Cabin. Twinkle lights, farm fresh eggs, comfy beds, and friendly hosts? Yes, yes, yes! The real bonus is that we were only minutes away from my brother and sister-in-law, and the cousins! I cannot credit Airbnb with that, but it was certainly extra sweet that they were welcome to come by and meet the animals, hang out with us.

Danza was the first horse we met, and Princess was getting all the adoration she deserved... such a mild and good horse. The farm is a co-op, and the members share in the duties of caring for the animals, making it lighter work for all. Now, I wish I could say I remember all the animals' names, but maybe this means I need to go back until I can get them all straight. In the barn was Gigi the cat, and she was thoroughly and wholly affectionate. Maria and Marissa were utterly smitten. The new baby goats are Anna and Elsa... I did not get the reference until we were already driving home, which was very amusing to Maria. Up in the tree is Sandy, a compact love of a cat, who, unfortunately, hunts the birdies... oh kitty! We thought Sandy using the oak tree as her personal scratching post was endlessly entertaining, so you can see why spending the night here was our idea of awesome. We were into the woods. We were into the farm!

Maria and I were up early, after a cozy night's sleep, and Cyndi welcomed our help getting everyone fed. Chickens, then kitties, Mama goat, then horses, then all four goats get hay. The novelty, and good company made it a pleasure, but that's a lot of mouths to feed, and I felt certain that feeding our two goats and chickens would feel a whole lot less like lots to do!

The rest of the day was dedicated to visiting another school, and we got to see Dominic, Marissa and Bill, again... meet their new kitties, too. We even managed to visit our favorite bakery, where there was still some Ollalieberry pie. Our six days of road tripping were good, successful for our purposes, while still feeling like we made special summer memories... the cabin in the woods-on-the-farm made that especially possible.

California Gardens... - Tue, 08/04/2015 - 05:00
At the Mission, San Luis Obispo~

Hollyhocks, like last year, in Cambria~

Flora and finds, North Main Street, Soquel~

Chooks and succulents up Soquel San Jose Road, at Casalegno's Store~

3 Laurel Glen Road, Soquel... growing atop a parking lot pole~

Redwoods, and lavander, Soquel~

Plumbago, Soquel~

Oak, Soquel~

Cape Mallow, El Capitan Canyon~

In spite of this four year drought we are enduring in California, there are still beautiful gardens to discover and enjoy, wonderful natural places, and old trees. We are adapting to using less water. The benefits is, we are appreciating native species, and recognizing the beauty in the less thirsty plants, like succulents, yarrow, salvias, ceanothus, rock rose, the lupines, and rosemaries. There are even roses that take less water, like my longtime favorite, Cécile Brünner. The hardships are real, like the loss of mature trees in our forests, dying for lack of water. The fires are harrowing. We are holding out hope for a turn around with this El Niño winter coming (not without its risks,) but I hope the good habits we are adapting will stay. Water catchment, drip irrigation, veggies over lawns, and foregoing acres of lush tropical gardens, when we are living in a dryer, hotter climate... none of this feels unreasonable, or too trying to accept.

Even more than last summer, as made our drive up the California coast, we were struck by the devastation of this drought, and also by something else... litter! It's incomprehensible, actually, to see mile after mile of roadside garbage... plastic bottles, and bags, junk, refuse, paper, wrappers. No place is untouched. And I wonder, with a heavy heart, when did this happen? When did our society let go, and stop caring? It's too extensive, too rampant, to be chance, to be a case of absentminded neglect. I am loath to point fingers, or accept this label, but it's got be said: We have become careless, slovenly, lazy citizens.


We collect garbage off the beach, when we visit. Garbage. It's left there, by people who... what? Think it doesn't matter? Don't think? I am crushed, and mystified. I want to start a conversation, wake up a movement, re-engage our concern about what we are doing, what's happening when we don't put trash in a receptacle, recycle, clean-up. I feel sheepish, too, because there have always been some places that were littered, and there's a tolerance for it... in empty city lots that are neglected, where medians look like ashtrays for smokers at traffic lights, but we are seeing trash in nice parks, on the beach, school yards, after concerts, or festivals, and none of it is right, none of it should be tolerable.


I am buying one of those trash grabbers. It's going to be my small gesture, my righteous fist of indignation raised in defiance. And I am going to clean-up. The world is full of causes and crises, we can hardly make a difference, it would seem. But I am going to do a little, and hope it helps.

All those gardens, all those spaces filled up with growing things, and pretty things, the huge oak trees, the shade beneath redwoods, the cool ferns in deep coastal canyons, and roadside blossoms were wonderful to see, inspiring. I was happy to come home to our own blooms... Calamity Kim's seeds took hold, and now we have more flowers for the bees!

Borage! Marvelous little wonder~

The cilantro, or coriander, has gone to seed. I can smell the pungent herb on my hands. It's one of those fragrances that recalls my mother in her garden, her cooking, her garden lessons.

Zinnias, with white coriander blossoms. I am looking forward to collecting the seeds.

Like firework bursts, the dill.

The cosmos! Happy flowers, all. Whether topping a steel tube in a parking lot, filling an old barrel or tub, I love how gardens, of any size, can give so much pleasure.

The Good and The Odd - Mon, 08/03/2015 - 10:08
Have you noticed? Things have gotten pretty homogenized... miles and miles of country, and every town with a big box store, the same fast food, the same flavor malls, the same T-shirts, and mugs. On the very best road trips we leave the highways, skip the strip malls, and keep our eyes peeled for oddities. Local color, off-beat, unexpected, Mom-n-Pop, independent, unexpected, odd! Sometimes an oddity can be so iconic and longstanding it might seem cliche, or too kitsch, {I'm looking at you Madonna Inn!} but those places are the very thing of interest that merit a drop-in. I love finding a place like no other, where someone poured their vision into their creation, no holds barred. I like homemade. I like meeting the proprietor, supporting local business and entrepreneurs. Give me a break from the stick family, and show me something new, and hopefully a little odd!

Original marketing? Yes, please. And, by the way, if you don't know it, those Rolla Roasters are pretty great.

Tom's Toys, San Luis Obispo... two stories of independently owned toy awesomeness. We've been stopping here for twenty years.

We really enjoy all the local artisan attractions we find in Cambria.

Airbnb makes travel fun. When you need a place to lay your head and want to experience something brand new, or individual, consider Airbnb. We loved our night in the redwoods, waking up on a horse farm, making new friends, helping with chores... all for fun. Even when I am only imagining a trip I love Airbnb... where I can use their website to plan my stay in a castle, a treehouse, a yurt, a teepee, a barge in Amsterdam!

In Monterey, I had to pull over when we saw this DIY Tardis trailer! Are you kidding me?

We glamped one night, in El Capitan Canyon. Glamping = Glamorous + Camping. We slept in a canvas tent, on real beds, and Maria swam in the their pool for two hours! It's not rough or rugged, but it was a lot more fun than a Chain-Inn. Thanks to their market and kitchen, we could eat outdoors, without having to haul charcoals and camp stoves, and pots. And! We were visited by Starface, the camp-cat, who was both dear and odd!

Way to represent, California! Thanks for showing us an odd time!

Good Things...

1. Happy Birthday, Max!

2. The house is messy... guess we've been having a lot of fun. That's good.

3. We still have 12 days to squeeze in summer fun!

4. Frankenrouter cut its first layer of wood!

5. Coming home... always happy to take a road trip, and always happy to come home.

What do you do when you want to see something odd, try a new flavor? What's good?

Where The River Meets the Sea - Sun, 08/02/2015 - 05:00

Many years ago, William explained to me the true meaning of nostalgic, and it didn't seem right when he explained that it's not just happy memories, sentimental thoughts, but an anxiety, an ache, pain. I recalled, this academic summary, the clinical description of deep homesickness, sitting on the bank of this little river, the dappled light streaming through clouds and redwood trees, I felt it, and knew better than ever before what nostalgia is. Extinguished campfires still smoked lightly, and I could smell my abuela's kitchen the smoke and tortillas, wood burning, flour with lard and water, cool tile floors, earthen walls, sunlight in the lime tree... it's a fragrance that caught my breath. What is that smell of home doing in this canyon, in this place where the river meets the sea? And why does it make my heart ache to think of places and sensations that I cannot access at will, may never return to, or know as I knew them before? And how can a very favorite place, a place that restores me, lifts me, make me feel deeply sad, long for intangible moments? Nostalgia. Just how William explained it to me. It must be true... we are stardust, or how else can we feel connected to places and moments seemingly detached?

Moonstones and Beanstones and Nursery Cats - Sat, 08/01/2015 - 09:08

While William and Geoff took care of the Bird House & Barn, Max, Maria, Alex and I went places north and west. It was part vacation, part academic. We visited schools... viewing, assessing, rating, and ranking by our own precise and unique criteria. But let's talk about moonstones, and other gems. We spent lovely hours on the beach, reading books, walking, talking, and sifting through sand and pebbles in search of luminous, pale, smooth and round moonstones. The risk, I suspect, of naming a beach for a singular treasure is that the poor beach will be pillaged and robbed of its treasure. Nonetheless, we enjoyed the search, and came upon our own treasure: Beanstones. If you ever find yourself combing the shores in Cambria, California, do stop and look down; there are beautiful beanstones, everywhere. We found pinto beans, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, lentils and split peas, black beans, adzuki, and all sorts and sizes of Scarlet runners. Little caches and piles of these stone beans made a pretty sound tumbling in our hands, and pockets.

The beach was cold, windy, bitey. We were not well-prepared for this kind of weather, which was fun in its own way. It made it all the nicer when we hunkered together, or dashed back to our room and sat by the fire. We explored the town, too, which is quaint and charming, and winds through a valley, and up the sides of high sea bluffs... making for enjoyable explores, fun discoveries, like finding Cambria Nursery and Florist. We followed paths, came upon a tea party, made friends with the nursery cats, and declared it a very good nursery. I could have filled the van with salvia and blue hibiscus, cape mallow, and rock rose, too.

The sardines? Naturally, that's a long story. Last summer, when we were in Wisconsin, we celebrated Paul's birthday. Geoff's brother took us out on his boat, then back to his lovely home for a cookout. A friend brought appetizers, including a can of sardines. The sardines that changed my mind about tiny fish in tins. And I cannot be entirely certain they were sardines. Could they have been anchovies? She opened the can and introduced them as having particular qualities making them delicious and above all other tiny fish in tins, but I was foolish, reckless, unheeding, because, after all, I do not like tiny fish in tins... or so I believed, and I did not pay close enough attention. The brand, the ingredients, the specifics? I know not. To be polite, I took a small, timid sample, on a big cracker. The small, timid sample changed my beliefs about these things. All year I have had happy recollections of this particular delicacy, and have held firmly to the hope that it could not be so difficult to find the same delicious tiny fish in a tin can. I didn't realize it, but Max had tried the fish, too. And on this trip, perusing the aisles of the Cookie Crock, searching out our supper, Max asked if we could try canned fish, sardines, or anchovies, or something. Whatever it was we had at uncle Paul's birthday party, last summer.

Round One: Cento, Skinless and Boneless Sardines in Pure Olive Oil: No. Not bad. But not the ones we enjoyed at Paul's birthday party.

We will not give up. We will not surrender.