Chicken Blog by Natalie

The Feathered Exterminators - Wed, 10/07/2015 - 06:44
This is a chica. We have fourteen of these feathered friends, and they do marvelous things. Our chicas look pretty, walk funnily, run hysterically, and they cackle, like they're passing around a good joke.

Our chicas lay eggs... beautiful, healthy, colored eggs. They are not fertile, because we have no rooster. And despite being mint colored, and mocha colored, even pale pink, they all taste like delicious farm fresh eggs. Finding eggs is a delight.

Finding spiders? Finding spiders can be less than delightful. We appreciate the orb spiders that arrive in October, and weave massive webs across walkways, in trees. They do good deeds with the mosquitos and peskier flies. We admire garden spiders, and any spider that respects our personal space is alright by us. But when black widows and brown widows, even camel spiders {which aren't actually spiders at all, but yeesh!}... when we find those sorts of creepers and crawlers, with fangs, and venom, we get the heebie jeebies.

And when we get the heebie jeebies because our Viking tent ropes are full of creepers and crawlers, we call in the feathered exterminators, our chicas! The bundles of rope turned into spider condos, and we needed a fast and safe wait to evict all of the residents.

Step 1. Bait the rope with rolled oats.

Step 2. Call the hens... chchchcook chchchcook chchchcook chchchcook! Here chicas!

Step 3. Watch the hens come from across the garden, running like beautiful fat clock work masterpieces.

Step 4. Add a last sprinkle of oats, so they see that good things come to those who run.

Once the feast begins, the ropes are quickly, efficiently and safely ridded of pests. We saw black widows swallowed whole. The more the hens pecked, the easier it was to pull the ropes open, exposing more surface, and snacks.

In no time at all our ropes were cleaned up and ready for use, thanks to our fine feathered exterminators.

Five GREAT Things From The Greatest Show & Tell On Earth - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 10:20
This is one of those times when I am so revved with joy, with exhaustion, with new ideas for next time, and with a wild desire to share every last drop of an amazing event... that I don't know where to begin, that I stall, and feel incapable of doing it justice. All my feels are on hyperdrive, you guys!

We worked and prepped, and drilled, and packed, planned, plotted and played, to get ready for San Diego Maker Faire. Just preparing was getting so intense and challenging, I was wondering how we would get through the actual event. But, we were like wild, mad thundering nerds, with passion in our veins, metal shavings on our seats, and a Viking tent tied to the roof of our van... we were unstoppable!

Two vehicles were solidly packed with robots, tools, chairs, a table, supplies, people, that Viking tent, food. Everything.

Maria, Maddie, Emma, and William.

Day 1: We were outside, and this was possibly one of the more quiet moments of the first day. It was a non-stop flow of visitors to Maker Faire, with William, Alex, Max, Maria, Paul, Janece, Amira, and Bambi, Geoff and I setting up, taking down, and demonstrating all. day. long.

Natalie, the Chickenblogger with Dale Dougherty, and me as awestruck as the first time we met.

Maria can tell you all you need to know about how Da Vinci works, from the Z axis, to vector illustrating. Here she is explaining the works to her teacher, June.

Day 2: We were rained out... or in? Luckily, we were welcomed into The Hall of Champions, where Dan Hendricks graciously, and enthusiastically, made all the accommodations we needed to bring in Da Vinci, our drawing robot, and also to operate the Giant Robotic Tentacle, Mech-Cthulu! On this day we were, again, blessed with the tireless company and contributions from Paul and Janece. James, Celine, Ruth and Holly were great help, too. This is nothing that can be done with out kind help, and we feel so thankful to everyone who pitched in.

This post is a drop in an ocean of all I want to say about our club, about Maker Faire, about our plans. Look for more, at BOoM, soon, and I promise a goat-chicken post, too, asap.

Great Things...

1. Every friend, new and old, that came by, hung out, played, cheered, hauled, packed, and fed us. Of all the things that went on at Maker Faire, we were most thrilled with sharing the joy of this event with great people.

2. The look on someone's face when you hand them the controller to a 9' tall, 40lb Giant Robotic Tentacle with 36 pneumatic cylinders!

3. Already finding social media shares... {BOoM's Viking tent is at the beginning and check out Mech-Cthulu 3 minutes in! Thanks, Jennylou!}

4. Being so engrossed in doing what I love that I am not disappointed about basically missing an entire Maker Faire! {That's a bit of paradox, there!}

5. My family, and the friends who are like family.

FlashBack Friday... Totes My Goats and Save My Ride - Fri, 10/02/2015 - 11:25

Ada and Tasha Goat, October 2013.

I've asked Geoff to make a sensor for my van, one that detects large objects approaching, a warning system. My poor Jet Puff has been rear-ended three times in three years, and I can't take it anymore! I'd like any driver that moves into my personal driving space, to hear this alarm:

A Little Bit Of Viking In Each Of Us - Tue, 09/29/2015 - 08:11
Last year, when some of us went to a Viking Festival, we became convinced that there's a little bit of Viking in each of us, and so we were delighted to return with more friends, more family, more enthusiasm. We had a wonderful time.

We met highly skilled trades people and craftsmen, and even discovered we were meeting some long admired talents.

This lovely woman shared helpful tips and insights about sewing aprons, and dresses. I have a Pinterest board full of inspiration and helpful links, but her insights were a wonderful boon to my confidence.

Everyone we met was eager to share something about their trade, history.

She's weaving from top and bottom, to the center, in a technique that predates knitting. The weave is very stretchy.

It's called spranging.

Maria and I are ready to jump into all of it... cooking outdoors, weaving, hand spinning, kirdles and aprons, cross bows, and tents. We love making. We love learning. She carried the staff Alex carved for her, and wore the flower wreath we made.

And I spun! {Sort of.} It's both harder and easier than it looks, and for no rational or useful reason, I am already certain this is a skill I want to dabble in some more. {Are there small sheep breeds?}

Wool is such a lovely material to work with. It feels good.

Happy birthday, Celine, you gorgeous, golden sunshine Viking~

One Viking we met was literally making coins hand over fist.

Metal, engraving, forging, banging tools, and making?

Captivating and inspiring.

Alex, winning his first game of hnefatafl. I pronounce that like this: Viking chess!

Here's the tent that Geoff is inspired to build.

A new pilgrim's token for Maria.

And what would a Viking Festival be without some battling, swords and shields?

They make a convincing display...

But here is the feat of strengths that we love the most: Sven?
And Sven replies, Ya?

Are you touching my chest?

Sven replies, again, Ya, and swiftly dives out of the way of his opponent's boffer, he hopes!

Grant, Alex, and Bambi, Elio and friend.

The game is hilarious. Something I liken to a blindfolded tag, Marco Polo with a hint of piñata antics. Both players take turns calling the other, and they must always keep a hand on the chest.

{Naturally, we set up a game straight way, when we got home. It's as fun to play as it is to watch.}

The pillow cases are stuffed with soft rags. Not a blood sport.

Kris came with Elio, and we don't know if he's played before, but he did well today!

Bambi, Alex, James and Celine~

Next year... you know it's been worthwhile when everyone leaves talking about next year!

This year's Viking Festival was a blast... being joined by Geoff and William, Janece, Paul and Amira, James and Celine, seeing Grant, Elio, Kris, the dance where you stand music, the cucumber salad, the delicious baked goods, and, of course, everything from our last visit that inspired us to play, make, and celebrate the little bit of Viking in each of us.

To Market and Home Again - Sat, 09/26/2015 - 12:31

Not only is the market air-conditioned,
but it's the time of year when life feels even more bountiful than usual.
The market is an inspiring, and deliciously cool place to be.
Now, at home, I am daydreaming of a break in this heat, of rainy days and fall baking.
Hydrangea stem in a milk glass vase.

I'll heat the tomatoes in water, just until their skins break, then toss those (not the water) in a blender with a clove of garlic.
I will roast the Anaheim pepper, 'til it's black, crackling, then wrap it in a damp paper towel until it's cool enough to peel, toss the stem and seeds, the rest goes into the blender.
I have some jalapeños... starting with half of one, I will mince it and add it to the tomatoes in the blender, sprinkling in black pepper and salt, too.
Puree the whole lot, taste for spiciness... maybe more jalapeño?
The cilantro is rinsed, patted dry and finely chopped, and I'll dice the white onion, add to the bowl of pureed tomatoes and peppers.
Quantities and ratios are to taste, and aesthetic pleasure.
Chill the salsa.
Grab some chips.
A squeeze of lime juice is always welcome.
Do you have a good playlist going?
It's good to dance while cooking.

~This Moment~ - Fri, 09/25/2015 - 08:59
~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.
This week's moment was thirty-three years in the making, and one we, unfortunately, were not able to enjoy in person. When I saw the pictures and heard the news that Phil Van Valkenberg was being recognized and honored as a founder, organizer, and spirited supporter of the Chequamegon, Fat Tire Festival, I was deeply moved and very proud of my father-in-law. He lives with purpose and pure intent for the sport and pleasure of cycling. He has worked tirelessly, practically all his life to promote, and secure the future of cycling... founding events, writing books, making maps, advocating for bike safety and trail access, and by demonstrating in his own life a pure love of pedaling. I have had the pleasure of cycling with him, in Wisconsin, and have enjoyed the thrill of the start line (as a bystander!) at Chequamegon (1990 & 1991). His work is inspiring, his passion admirable, and it's wonderful that he is being honored. He really is a living legend!
Gary Crandall and Phil Van Valkenberg (Photo by Tom Kelly)

"Never met anyone as knowledgable and passionate about bike racing than Phil Van Valkenberg.
Great to see him honored for his role in the start of the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival 33 years go.
Thanks PVV, you still inspire us!"
~Tom Kelly
Jacque Lindskoog and Phil Van Valkenberg (Photo by Darlene Prois)

Saved The Day - Thu, 09/24/2015 - 12:17

Our plans hit a bit of a snag this morning. Early this morning. And while it was disappointing, we were determined not to be utterly derailed. A Plan B began to formulate and it was all about breakfast. I was very pleased with myself for remembering a really yummy cafe, and so we made a bee line for Cafe 976. Good choice. Nice to have many good vegetarian offerings, as well as traditional brekkie temptations. Bonus: They have good crayons. {Is that an odd restaurant critique?? How are the Crayolas? Not the cheap, second-rate kind that don't color brightly, I hope.} We sat in dappled light, and made light of our situation... our news segment for Maker Faire was bumped for live coverage of the Pope's address to Congress. We said, "We've been Pope-ed." Our breakfasts were delicious, and reviving, and even the drive home was scenic and good.

Geoff and I are proud of Alex and Maria... they weren't too sure about being in a television studio, for a live broadcast, but they prepared, studied, and made new additions and preparations for our Da Vinci Robot's Maker Faire San Diego appearance. Alex is almost finished sculpting Da Vinci 3.0, and Maria is making new images for our robot to draw. Ruth suggested it was perhaps Divine intervention. That may be... we got a call back, by the way, and an apology; the news station really wants us to return with Da Vinci, Alex, and Maria. I wonder if we'd have time to squeeze in another breakfast?

Bird House & Barn - Wed, 09/23/2015 - 07:19
It's time for a Farm Report!
7:19 am...

Hang on! Ada's here to say Good morning, and as soon as I get the morning rolling, I'll be right back here at the computer, with a cup of tea {I hope}. Then I can show you chickens, and goats, and talk about the shade plants where the hens dustbath, and tell you about how much goats love to get their chins scratched. I am looking forward to this... back soon.

8:43 am...

Part one of errands and duties accomplished, now happily stationed at my desk, and editing photographs. It feels like a long while since I share the latest news from the barn. I wonder if you could tell the spring chicks from the old guard. Our newest girls are full fledged hens, and we've even got an egg to prove it!

The goats are well. Of course they don't read the news, so they aren't fretting over the dire warnings of record rainfall forecasted to come in about a month. We welcome the rain, but Tasha and Ada are going to be forlorn and dismayed, come rainy season. If I wasn't sure they'd chew them to bits, I'd get them rain slickers and galoshes. If Ada has a single unsettling thought in her goat head, she only needs to be scratched on her hairy chin to be assured that all is well in the world... her world, anyway!

In Emma Thompson's world, though, things are quite ruffled and flustered. It's a terrible case of broodiness. She thinks the eggs she hoards will hatch, if only the farmer would stop stealing them from under her. Poor Ms Thompson chose the goats' hay trough for her labors of love, and she won't get off the nest. The goats, gingerly, eat around her, taking care not to get their noses pecked. And even during this heat wave, with the nest in full sun, Ms Thompson pants her way through the day, in a metal box. No rooster, no chicks, I assure her. But she'll have none of it, and sits in broodiness and discomfort.

Kamen, older and wiser, knows that while the sun shines, life is better enjoyed free-ranging, scratching, pecking, and dust bathing. Chicken facts, tried and true.

And if it's evening time, and everyone is on the loose, the joy is quite evident. Oppressive temperatures have waned, a breeze is up, the brightest rays of the sun are dropping below the trees, and everyone (except poor Ms Thompson) is out for a stroll and romp. I love this time of day, too. Dinner made and served, homework wrapping up, the boys are usually strolling, too. Geoff and William in the shop, seeing to a dragon head.

Solanum crispum. I've grown rather fond of this plant. I never would have planted one myself, because they're poisonous. My planting policy is make it edible, or terribly beautiful, but never poisonous. The goats, fortunately, are clever enough to leave the potato vine off their menu, and the chickens only peck at the flowers, which doesn't seem to do them any harm. The plant has become an enormous shrub, and the shady refuge of all the hens.

Here you see Ada in front of the vigorous vine. Branches just hang in long arches, making an open canopy beneath, where all the hens rush when they're let out of their run. Beneath are their dug out dust bathing tubs, and loosed feathers.

One of the spring chicks, an Ameracauna. The new chickens love to get up onto the roof of the run, and if I don't coax them down before sunset it's a major undertaking getting them down!

Have you guessed? I love the Wyandottes. I love all the chickens, but these girls... oh my! They're gorgeous, and pretty, and attractive. They posses an air of sophistication, and I guess I've been trying to break into their clique... you know, be one of the girls. It's not happening. You can see they're poised, confident. They have that thing. That self possessed, confidence thing. When I feel like they're too much, I just look at their feet, the funny turn of them, and it makes me feel less humbled by their beauty.

Tasha is stunningly beautiful, too, but she's a girlfriend, she hangs out and keeps it real. Ada, too. Ada gets a little too real. She always has a little belch for me. She nuzzles real close to my face, then erppp-p! She's adorable.

Thompson? Thomson? Tamsyn? This might be Liberty. Only the Opringtons and Kamen cannot get over the 6' high fence. Orpingtons are a bit heavy, and Kamen is a bit small, and old. You'll always find a Thomson or two cruising the garden beyond their own yard, and Mako, too.

The lovely thing about Mako... she loves to be friends, and will come in for a snuggle. Last night I taught her about selfies.

Selfies, I explained to Mako, are 'a kind of self-expression, a chance to reflect on what you project to the world, show a little You. Too many selfies and you may get labeled something bad, and too few and people might wonder what you're hiding from. Something in between is nice. I like seeing my friends play, travel, express their selves, and sometimes we have to take these matters into our own hands.' And she nodded, amenable to giving it a go.

Mako's selfie. I told her about duck lips, but she thought that was ridiculous.

Chicken lips, everyone. Chicken lips are the new duck lips.

Creating Our Own Affirmations - Mon, 09/21/2015 - 11:19

I love words. I love colors, and images, too. And I remember a few years ago seeing message art, the homey looking signs with uplifting messages about life and love and laughter, etc. Those seemed unique, at the time, even quaint in their gentle way of setting a positive tone. Now, a visit to any big box store, a casual Pinterest session, and I am overwhelmed by a tidal wave of what I call bossy art. Pithy, lengthy, saccharinely sweet, bossy art. "Today Is A Good Day For A Good Day," boldly plastered to a living room wall. Good grief, more like. It's just so... so, shallow, so trite. Banal. Stale. It's become proof positive that you can have too much of a good thing. And it isn't even that any one of the messages is overdone, it's just the sheer quantity of all those signs, pillows, tattoos, adhesive wall clings, coffee mugs, toothbrushes, bumper-stickers, beach towels and yoga mats is too much. Has it reached our t.p., yet? Seems to me, I have seen paper towels with lines of cheery pronouncements deftly stamped in petroleum ink. The long ones are hard to navigate, and instead of feeling uplifted or encouraged, I want to reach for an ibuprofen. The ones I am most weary of have ten different fonts, enough to possibly induce seizures, and every conceivable aspiration, whimsical twirl and flourish ever dreamt of, an exhaustive laundry list of good living assertions. Some make too many demands, I feel chastised, like if I brought that pillow into my home it would censure and lecture me every waking moment: Dream Big, But Play Fair, Be wild, and Dance Like Today is The First Day of The Rest of Your Tomorrows. And Floss. Did You Finish Your Taxes? Love is Good. It's like a beating to the soul! An export factory country across the ocean is churning out millions of these, to reprove and improve us, and I can't take it any more!

When I wanted to buy a carry case for crafting projects, I was dismayed by the choices. Every one of them had something to tell me... how to live, how to love, what to do at the Eiffel Tower, where to keep my dreams and virtues, on and on. Exhausting, intrusive, calligraphied bossy art. I chose the size, and shape case I liked and closed my eyes to the litany stamped on every square inch of it. If bossy art is a cliche, I decided to hit back with another artsy cliche: Decoupage! I have a box full of catalog images I like, snippets I collected years ago, before Maria was born. I brought the box out, and a few other catalogs, and started laying down the Mod Podge! The more I covered, the better I felt. Scissors and sticky fingers, clipping out textures and forms. Soon, I was seeing places I like, colors, shapes, ideas, sentiments, that I chose. I wasn't obsessing, I wasn't trying to make it a signature statement about me and my beliefs... I was enjoying the casual assumption that some pretty images were gathered together for the sole purpose of making this case my own. That was fun. I love the sheep, and the turkey standing by the sled. I love that pretty pictures I've cut and hoarded away for all these years are out of the box, and being carried around, purposefully, for me to enjoy.

Here is my own wordy message, to me: Make your own affirmations, find them in the chard from the garden, in the rainstorm, in beautiful colors, favorite cups and bowls, meaningful moments of the day. I want to remember to let the words and feelings and ideas that inspire me come from within, from being still, from thinking for myself. Yes, I take inspiration in your art, in other ideas, and phrases, but it's a good idea to make room for an inner voice, and new messages. I want to take care that I don't impose a style, or a mandate, on our points of view and emotions. Life cannot always live by an agenda hanging on the wall, we should enjoy the change of phrase, the new season, different expressions. When I am tired of pommes and poires, I will lay down a new affirmation to enjoy~

~This Moment~ - Fri, 09/18/2015 - 07:02
~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.Dear Foo, giving me loving snuggles and purrs, at the end of a long day. Sometimes, it feels like our pets know when we need something extra.

Historic Treasure Map Discovered in Aftermath of Massive Storm* - Thu, 09/17/2015 - 10:06
*Forgive me, but there's some evidence this click bait business may be working.

When I first considered installing a Little Free Library of our own, I imagined that we would be giving something to our community, that I would need to procure new books, often, that I might even need to visit second hand shops and library sales to keep the inventory fresh. I thought about not wanting the Little Free Library to run empty, get dull. It was daydreaming about this, about happy neighbors, and being a good steward that really sparked my interest in going through it, putting up a Little Free Library. It's been wonderful. It's been fun, easy, and a source of happiness for all of us. It's also been surprising. Nothing horrible has happened. We haven't run out of books, or been run out of town. Thank goodness, no... the surprise has been how much enjoyment I am receiving. I meant this to be a gift, but I feel like I am getting the gift. We have new books, almost daily... certainly more than I can read, before new ones arrive. We meet new people, and their dogs! And then there are the treasure maps, the mysteries, odd collections, the fascinating connections. Our Little Free Library and the neighbors who share in the exchange have enriched our lives.

Geoff and Maria discovered a collection of works by Don Blanding. I happened to open a volume to a poem about leis... Hawaiian leis. It was a lovely bit, sentimental, because of our love of Hawaii. Geoff turned to the Internet for more insight into this poet and discovered "the poet laureate of Hawaii," a man who lived an interesting life, with many ties to Hawaii. It was he that suggested and founded Lei Day, back in 1927.

In other volumes we found old letters, poems, and holiday greetings exchanged between two women. A third woman's name is written inside the poetry books. We haven't deciphered the connection, if there is any, between the owner of the books and the two women exchanging cards and poems. One of the poems was poignant. There are stories, and lives touched, everywhere... of course, and yet it can be a somewhat startling to glimpse into a life, to take notice of something probably forgotten, perhaps lost in time.

Don Blanding wrote poetry, and was an artist, too.

This tiny label intrigues me.

This book is probably a bit too abused to be kept, but I don't want to part with it. Pages are stuck together, and it's moldy, warped, weathered. But the contents are amazing... it's an old fashioned crafter's Instructables, with every thing from patterns for making a pewter pitcher, to lanyard making, to illustration and design. It's not a huge book, but it's dense, full of plans, and advice for making, and tinkering. And in this same book, out fell the treasure map. I wouldn't bet these stores exist any more... and I still mean to do a Google search. Does anyone who lived in Los Angeles recall seeing hobby stores called Jiggs and Robbies Hobbies, or U-Mak-It Hobbies? I think the people on this thread would enjoy seeing the treasure map we found.

{The Internet is amazing. Mysteries solved, discoveries made... in a few strokes of the keypad.}

"The Craftsman's Creed"
All of the fine traditions and the skill...
Are mine to use to raise my craft's renown,
And mine to teach again with reverent will...
Thus do I love to serve,
With fingers that are masters of the tool."

It's fascinating what can be discovered, even in a very little library... real treasures, for certain.

Local Library Barely Survives Massive Storm - Wed, 09/16/2015 - 09:57

No flooding, not even any dampness, and so our Little Free Library has survived, what I hope will be, the first of many rainy days this new season.

Honestly, I think I would have used another title for this post... perhaps:
The Good Rain or New In The Library, even Rainy Days and Old Books. But, data suggests that the poor reception of Chickenblog, the dwindling readership, may be a result of uninspired headlines, and a sad lack of tawdry confessions. We need click bait! Geoff's read some articles on the subject and he says the key to blog success is confession. Something shocking, but not too shocking. I should reveal a humbling or embarrassing anecdote or personal belief that attracts attention, brings in the crowds, but not so disgusting that it scares away the half dozen or so regular readers.

What do you think? Do we need more bling, more zing?

I just wanted to capture the rain. To find it in pictures, to see it up close, and hold it near. The rain has been a perfect expression of my relief, a cleansing of my thoughts, my fears, my grief. It restores my hope for the work of firefighters, for the places in peril, it cooled our long and taxing heat wave, and it marked the day when Geoff came home. When Geoff's doctor came to tell me everything went very well, I was surprised to begin to feel the release of fear and worry, surprised to realize what a tight grip it's had on me. This is a New Year, a fresh start, and in time we will know for certain if Geoff's new heart rhythm will stay steady, regular. We drove home in a quenching, cleansing downpour, and it suits the occasion beautifully, this new beginning, with a new rhythm to move to. I wanted to go into the rain and feel the hope it symbolizes, to observe it, and absorb it, and believe in it.

Friends have been sending messages, offering help, prayers, insightful humor. It's tremendously comforting to feel connected, to know that there is a safety net. And there were some who gave me even more support and security, covering for me and keeping our family on course. Thank you, Carol, Diana, Janece, Paul, and Amira. Maybe the highest expression of my gratitude and appreciation is saying, I wasn't worried, didn't have to second guess, because I knew I could count on you.

Here's a zinger, even something of a cliffhanger: Maria and I drank milk that was ten days expired. That's right. You read correctly... my incompetence with homemaking has reached a new low, and there may be dire consequences. I could {and am tempted to try to} write a long essay about how challenging life can be, how it can "look" okay on the surface, how we "manage," but standards slip, things slide, and not so very far below the surface you can see there is room for improvement. So, yes... I am eager to begin again, to... how do I describe this? I am thankful and happy, and we are cautiously optimistic, so why do I feel like I might burst into tears, collapse from relief? It's almost as though my cells are so accustomed to this tension of fear and worry, that I am exhausted as we enter this new phase when things are getting good. Apparently, I need to get my act together and go buy fresh milk. Because, in the middle of Massive Storms, health crisis, and heat waves, we must carry on, and believe.

Five Good Things... an exercise in hope and faith - Mon, 09/14/2015 - 06:00
There is a gorgeous fountain in the business center where Maria has a class, and have I mentioned we are in a heat wave??
1. I am proud of myself for not sitting in the fountain.
2. There aren't any No Swimming in our gorgeous fountain signs posted, but oops there are No Photography signs posted.

Janece and I went on a walk, and on the way out it felt good and invigorating, and we saw lovely sights and were pleased, but on the return we were pitiful and bedraggled and other adjectives.
It was simply too hot. Much too hot.

So, yes, our FB feeds are full of witty, and desperate, posts about heat, misery, sleepless nights, sweat buckets etc.
Scientists have discovered that open whining, grousing, moaning, and sighing loudly reduces your risk of heat stroke and/or criminal behavior.
I invite all of my friends to lay it on thick! It helps!

But. We have much to look forward to, and even good things now. Last night I was scurrying through the market, buying up easy meals, cold things, and other staples. And lo! The pumpkins are here! It's happening. I took pictures, because... come on! You know me by now. I took pictures, because it's what I do, and the thought in my head needed a visual reminder: Good things are coming, you'll see.

If you could, please say a prayer, think good thoughts, smile at the sky, whatever works for you, just do this with Geoff in mind, please. Because, today he is going through something, all over again, that we hope will restore his health, and bring his heart into a happier, healthier rhythm. The second time around makes me realize that ignorance was bliss, so now we know what's ahead, well... it's harder.

Good things...

1. Good doctors, great facilities, caring people, our helpful and compassionate children, friends on hand that make a comforting safety net.

2. Our Maker Faire application has been accepted. "Officially," this time.

3. Love. Hope. Faith, and convenience foods, like those breakfast muffins from Trader Joes that the children love so much, because love, faith and hope can't run on an empty stomach.

4. They Might Be Giants singing Put A Little Birdhouse in Your Soul."

5. Talking to Geoff about all the things we will do, might do, want to do, dream of doing.

~This Moment~ - Fri, 09/11/2015 - 09:29
~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.
Some moments are the culmination of little moments spread over days, or longer. Recently, a series of events led to the moment when I was, once again, connected to my friend, even from afar.

{It may dismay publishers to read this, but I've practically stopped buying magazines. Some magazines keep printing the same stories, the same pictures; I've kept the back issues, and thanks to my weakening memory and being easily amused, I find that they are all but brand new when I re-read them. Sometimes a particularly alluring cover of a magazine tempts me, but then I am dismayed by the pages and pages of ads, only to find flimsy and insubstantial articles. And so on... too many ads, too much to invest for so little return. The sad part is, I do love the feel of a magazine, the large print, the glossy images, being swept up in an essay, inspired by a project, and the bliss of holding the words and images in my hands, while curled up in a comforting spot... it is a lovely escape.}
Wouldn't this be wonderful? That was the emotional sensation that swept over me when I saw this publication at the market. I was tempted to bring it home, to savor its temptations, to enjoy the pages, while imagining my own kitchen filling with good aromas and beautiful dishes.

I resisted. Pinterest, and countless cookbooks, plenty of back issues of like magazines... all of these are back home, already, I reasoned. But, I took a picture. Something made me want to be reminded of it.

And, a week later, in the same market, I found I could not resist. Bringing Sift home made me feel giddy. Made me feel a deeply contented sense of pleasure, anticipation, and gratitude. By the time the day was winding down, I set the publication down on the bed... then glanced over my shoulder, I saw another picture. I wanted to keep the moment... my nightgown, the quilt I made, the shawl, the soft light and the anticipation of rest, of peace. I wanted something to be reminded of all of this.

Whether I bake anything from this magazine, or ever visit the neighborhood cafes of New York City, I will have had this memory, a sensation, of traveling, of browsing, of learning little tips, and new methods, of sighing audibly, because interesting people do beautiful things, and their stories were there for me to enjoy, to skim, and reflect on. And I was deeply satisfied, drowsy, content. And I felt as though this was sweet and ideal, and a worthwhile thing... that the moment was complete, but. There was more in store for me. And the next day...

Three thousand miles away, my dear friend shared a post about something she, too, found worthwhile. And I replied...

And being of like mind with Jennifer, made the moment complete.

{Thank you, King Arthur Flour, for showcasing bakers, artisans, cooks, photographers, writers, entrepreneurs,
for letting real people showcase their talents, and good works.
You publish something beautiful, and worthwhile.}

A Very Good Place - Thu, 09/10/2015 - 06:00
We are in a good place. I'm talking about our home, and the time we spend together, here. Our home is on a wonderful street, in a comfortable neighborhood. It's pretty here, convenient, too. I am thinking of our community, our resources, that it's possible, even likely, that I will see a friend in the market, at the park, that I will recognize that kid skate boarding home. We have good schools, and good places to enjoy our free time, and we have good ideals, which is important, because things can be better. We should want things to be better, for everyone. I love Southern California, all of California, really. And never mind my grousing about the weather, that's just therapeutic, blowing off steam. I do wish it would rain, and I do love the idea of a White Christmas, of falling leaves, and a brisk Wisconsin kind of autumn, but there is more than enough to make me happy, to keep me happy here, and besides, I think I enjoy the feeling of longing for other places, of having something just out of reach, beautiful to daydream about.

Maria and I sat at the playground, waiting for the long stream of cars leaving school to wind down, watching the thunderheads build and collapse, fill the sky with their summer show. Maria glanced over her shoulder to where her garden teacher was pulling a wagon up to the school kitchen. "I'd like an excuse to go say 'hello' to everyone in the kitchen," she confided. "Let's go," I replied. "Come on, then. We can say 'hello,' or thank them for the green goddess dressing recipe you made in class." She didn't need too much encouragement. Ms. Snaake was getting help from Adrian, unloading a fresh harvest from the school garden. Everything was going into basins and bowls, getting double rinsed, then sorted. A few apples, passion fruit, some strawberry guavas, and pineapple guavas. A lot of pineapple guavas, actually. Also zucchini and squash, even tiny cucumbers that look like watermelons. The eggplants are still producing, but the shiny fruit is getting smaller as the season wanes. Maria asked if she could stay and help. Adrian and Maria worked side by side, in the slimmest stretch of shade outside the kitchen. I think the spray from the industrial sink must have felt delicious. They worked diligently, no horsing around. Bowl after bowl of fresh produce was cleaned and readied for snacks and cooking lessons. Every class in the school works in the garden, and kitchen. Soon, after-school cooking classes will start up again, and the Junior Master Gardeners will be meeting. Maria is looking forward to both of these. Adrian spent an evening every week of his summer helping in the garden. When this job was done, Ms Snaake and Ms S invited Maria and Adrain into the kitchen and they were offered bags to fill with thank you produce.

The Stitch-Hot Glue-Metal Welding-Art-Coding Get Together - Wed, 09/09/2015 - 11:51

We did it. In spite of my doubts and insecurities, we flung our doors wide open and invited people in. It was good. It was timely, and inspiring, and good. Here is some of what we enjoyed...

1. Priscilla's school has been invited to hold a booth at San Diego Maker Faire, which is a brand new experience for them. She asked for some suggestions for her 5th through middle school students... what could they do at the Faire, for the Maker Faire? We played with ideas that leaned toward technical, and ideas that leaned toward crafty. Our first test idea was the the copper dancer; a Homopolar motor. It's simple... sort of. Bending wire into just the right shape to make contact with magnets at the bottom of a AA battery takes some patience. It was fun to see the wire figure twirl, and we found the secret is in very carefully denting the positive end of the battery, so the dancer's foot can more easily balance. The downside: it's a short show. The battery drained in less than two minutes, and even when we considered using rechargeable batteries, we decided this was amusing, but wasteful. Not too bad for a one time experiment and example of a simple motor, but hardly ideal for repeating all day at a two day fair.

Priscilla offered that crafty might be a better direction, and after some consideration, I thought of the Thousand Origami Cranes. I think it offers a lot that will make their Maker Faire experience interesting, engaging and worthwhile, while being an easy introduction for their first visit. The students will learn the historic and cultural significances of folding the cranes, and making 1,000 of them will be an admirable challenge. They can choose someone to receive the gift, and further their community outreach by teaching Faire visitors how to do origami, while sharing their goal and intentions with everyone. From an academic perspective, we were thinking of many ways it would support school curriculum, including: history, math and geometry, language arts, and practical art.

The real point of all of this, for me, is that Maker Faire is not only impressive, it is supportive, inclusive, meant to inspire by being receptive to everyone, at all levels. So, wherever you are in a learning process, you are welcome to share, and encouraged to learn. The learning is what is celebrated, the sharing and engagement are what matter. No one should give up, or fail to start, because they are intimidated by bigger-fancier things, or feel inadequate to an experiment, an idea, a desire to learn. Do it. Make it. Play. Break it. Take it apart. Try again. Fail. Ask for help. Offer suggestions. Support. Encourage. Tinker. Dabble. Do it, again. Even if you feel like you don't know what you are doing, when you try, when you step forward, you are already inspiring someone else to play, too.

2. Geoff brought out motors, batteries, cables, and wheels, and Maria got a quick refresher in circuitry and rudimentary car making. She eagerly shared her interest with Emma M. and Amira.

3. Anna B brought out her handmade patchwork pillow, and made some updates for repurposing it. It's made up of memories, of treasured pieces, and she even added a new square, something from her travels to Iceland. We all watched YouTube videos about beautiful Sashiko stitching. Inspiring, for sure, and also requiring tremendous patience. I am all for trying new things, as well as knowing when to simply appreciate someone else's skills and dedication!

4. Bambi is working on her Halloween costume. Definitely a DIY project, from the design up! She's developing her own patterns for her original design, and sewing a lot of ruffles! We brought out other dress patterns, and special rulers, which we hope will be helpful. William worked on cutting his custom pattern for another pair of breeches. Priscilla decided she'd bring her sewing machine to our next gathering... jumping into new ventures can be much easier to imagine when you are surrounded by friends.

5. Maria is making a drawing tutorial. She acknowledged that drawing while documenting every step, including photographing the progress, is a lot of work. But she persisted. I should also add that, this is the very weekend that she demonstrated her new found skill: H@cking. She's into the interface, locally modifying code in her browser. Making changes. H@cking for good. We are so proud.

6. Speaking of persistence... I followed a tutorial for making granny squares, and I really loved this pattern that has fewer holes and gaps than many granny squares. But my persistence got a bit carried away, and I made it really huge, and then it got very wonky, and not a bit square. So, sadly, I had to frog the whole thing. I am a bit discouraged, but I strongly suspect that when this heat wave passes, I will be in a shop, choosing colors for a new crocheted blanket.

7. The big attraction of the day, literally, was the tentacle arm. It's coming closer and closer to completion, thanks to Geoff's effective and diligent persistence. He was glad for the assistance of William and Paul, and for the awe felt cheers and admiration from the rest of us, when he got the arm properly wired and dancing! It's a sight, and a sound! Pneumatic pistons firing and aluminum rings collapsing and rising at his command. We mean to top it with something thematic, and bring it to the Faire.

{One more thing... because it's just too sweet to leave unmentioned: The next morning, after a full day, and late night of working, playing, making, tinkering, eating, laughing, and sharing, Maria was up very early, and when we found her at the kitchen sink, she'd already cleaned the entire kitchen. My heart. Our girl. She's an inspiration.}

{While I hesitate to, once again, implicate myself as a failure in the art of domesticity, I would like to acknowledge something I think is okay, even, perhaps good: People first. Our floors were dusty, and I have laundry in every state, probably in every room, but we opened our doors, anyway. I am never on top of things, or have dust-free everything, but I cannot put scrubbing and scouring ahead of creating and engaging. I cannot value shiny surfaces over laughing with friends. There is room for improvement, in very many aspects of my life, and I can't pretend my messes don't mortify me, but... well, people first. It's a balancing act, yes? Yes, for me, anyway. I can get a bee in my bonnet, and whip things into shape, but if a friend in need calls, if someone asks about making something, I hope I can put down the vacuum and meet them, welcome them. Travel, books, beach walks, digging garden beds, building forts, baking pies, chasing goats, soldering metal, designing ruffled skirts, volunteering in a kitchen, at a school... I can't suppress my interest, I cannot deny my curiosity, and I like life better when my busyness revolves around people and engagement, and not how things appear, not a dutiful obsession with brooms and dustpans. It's me.}

Good Intentions - Tue, 09/08/2015 - 12:05
This post is indulgent. It is lethargic, slow moving. Summer's best days are behind us, and yet we are still with summer. The heat. Dry, or humid, it's heavy, oppressive. It impedes sleep, it hinders play, it hangs around, insistently meddlesome like fruit flies, or a rash. Things feel tacky, too bright, deflated. There's worse weather, and better ways to pass the time, but my office has an overhead fan, and so I am going to sit here, and indulge in a bit of a whine, petty reflections on these dregs of a season that should be packing to leave. It may be the ideal climate for carping, grousing, and other silly indulgences.

It wasn't my intention to complain. I had planned to share some of the good we enjoyed this weekend, or to recount a dear story about friends, 3,000 miles apart, who are kindred spirits, and always crossing paths, one way or another. Then I went looking through the photographs, and found bright, natural light streaming into still rooms, eyes squinting in the sun, overexposure, inaction, and lassitude. And so, the appeal of immersing myself in the realities and possible significances of life, in September, in Southern California, took over, and I began to reflect on all of it.

Reality... the heat makes us a bit cranky, more easily annoyed. We cannot always hide an expression of irritability, disappointment.

Reality... the nights feel a bit tortured, and long, definitely restless. Naps are not optional. Suddenly we are slumped, daydreaming, unconscious. It's involuntary. Late morning heat will lay you flat. A technical knock out.

Reality... this could be the tropics! No one's complaining about plumeria, or sunsets at the beach, and we love watching the massive clouds climb and rise over the foothills and eastern peaks. I suppose if I were not naively and eagerly awaiting a fall like they have in Wisconsin, or Maine, if I didn't pine for fall color, fall sweaters, fall brisk and crisp and cool, then what we have wouldn't seem so bad. Maybe I only need muumuus, shave ice, and to play ukulele music on the porch lanai. Maybe I should plant more guava trees, a mango tree, and make that lilikoi butter.

Some of you love the warmth, the light, summer heat. I know. Your reality is a dread of the dwindling light, of deep snow, ice, windchill, or even just poor surf, and gray clouds. Sorry. I cannot deny that I am not well prepared for the rainy season, for sad goats, and a muddy chicken run. I don't relish shivering on school days, forcing myself out of a cozy bed. I realize that late in January, I will think fondly of summer, a kind of mythical season of flower beds, sunny skies, and the heady fragrance of Coppertone in the salty air. But the real summer, that is here now, is too much for me. I do not bare this well.

I need shade.

I need cool sheets, cool drinks, and the dream that soon, very soon, summer will dismiss itself and make way for a new season, new weather, new ideas, and some relief. My good intentions are intact, and though I may be slow to act, I do hope to make the best of things. Thank you for indulging me this cuppa' whine.

Mixed Feelings - Sat, 09/05/2015 - 09:21
We have two applications sent in for the San Diego Maker Faire, and we are in talks to bring even more of our Make Club flavor for the two day event. Now, all we have to do is get ready... and do, please read that with the uncertainty, mild stress, and bewilderment befitting us facing a new, big, and elaborate undertaking. I think the picture of my sewing and needle case beautifully illustrates how frayed and tangled I can be, any typical day of the week, so when facing extra challenges... well, I am feeling a bit doubtful, overwhelmed, excited. Sure, I admit it, there's a bit of a thrill in the chaos and uncertainty.

And since the house is in a state (the usual state, really) and we have projects to complete, projects to start, and projects to propose, I went ahead and invited friends over for a casual Stitch-n-Bitch-Hot Glue-Metal Welding-Wool Felting-Snack Nomming get together.

Honestly, my reclusive introvert side never knows what to make of my wild for STEAM side. Inside my head, it sounds something like this...

Reclusive Introvert: We should close the doors, draw the curtains, finish the Tentacle, make a list of supplies, and organize our embroidery floss.

Wild For STEAM: Sure, sounds fine, but let's invite everyone who likes to code, likes wood, metal, threads, wool, glue, glitter, food, and robots, and see if they'd like to help set up a Viking tent and a 6' tall pneumatic tentacle in Balboa Park, and we can grill burgers, or make it a potluck! This will be awesome.

Reclusive Introvert: But. But. But. What if they actually want to come??

Wild For STEAM: This is going to be great. We can eat noms, and make crafts, and chat, and people will learn about Maker Faire, and we can get help from our Young Makers, and everyone will share ideas!

Reclusive Introvert: We have to nap, before they come... and... and...

Wild For STEAM: Trust me.

Reclusive Introvert: OhmyGod.

~This Moment~ - Fri, 09/04/2015 - 05:30
~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.