Chicken Blog by Natalie

Flowers and Paints

Chickenblog.com - Thu, 05/13/2021 - 13:42

Hmmmm... as soon as I formatted these two images, it dawned on me that today's post won't look much different from yesterday's post, which does beg the question: Why am I posting at all? I take photographs, and I write posts for this blog, because I can't not do those things. Besides, the pictures I shared yesterday are not so wholly like today's pictures, not really. I made some progress on a watercolor painting. It's from a portrait of my Grandmother. No. I should say it is a watercolor painting of Eunice Velasco Solis, because this was before. Before she was a mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother, or a world traveler, before she lived by the ocean, or went to college, before she taught me how to sew, before she had read a million, or more, books. I am not sharing my painting because I think it's very good, but because I am glad I tried to make it good, and I may try again. I feel a mix of frustration and amusement that no matter how mindfully I sketch, no matter the care I take with painting, when I step back and look at it, after it's too late to do anything about it... that's when the errors and questionable choices are visible, glaring even! I marvel at those perspective flaws, and the way shapes lost meaning, when I was so intent on deliberately getting it right. "Getting it right," means reflecting exactly how beautiful she is, even evoking how I adore her, and how the photograph makes me long to travel to Mexico City, with her, to wear huipiles, and faldas, and walk through mercados with aisles of flowers, then pottery, then toys and housewares, to sit in a Tía's kitchen and listen to todos los cuentos. What is perspective and proper anatomy to all of that... those dreams and wishes that I will never be able to fulfill?

And then there is the chamomile, still lifting me up, still being a favorite. And even with it growing in my very own garden, I couldn't help bringing this bouquet home from Trader Joes. They smell like someone put the kettle on, and is about to offer us cut sandwiches, and small cakes, with tea. Even thinking of them soothes my thoughts, and I breath a little deeper, easier. Do you know, something I find brilliant? If I search "chamomile" in the small box on the left side of this page, all of the posts when I have typed c h a m o m i l e will appear? There's a lot wrong in the world, and the Internet can be such a mess, but I find satisfaction in this tiny bit of order, and instant gratification. It really is a kind of miracle.

Last week I attended a virtual gallery exhibit and cocktail party, hosted Live, by my friend, Lola Argemí. My cóctel was delicioso! Over ice, I poured sparkling mineral water (Topo Chico is our new favorite) and then I added a splash of Pear-Cranberry balsamic (Something I learned from Baker & Olive.) The balsamic gives a hint of sweet, with a zing, and the Topo Chico is satisfyingly bubbly! I watched and listened as Lola and her friend, who makes jewelry, shared their art and creations. We aren't even in the same time zone, and all I could do was observe, and of course drink my cóctel, but I enjoyed the hour. I love Lola's art, the lessons she shares, and I especially love the time when we were Zooming, and I could hear vendors calling from the street where she lives, or just watching her paint, listening to her whistle. Now I think of it, my cóctel needs a name, y claro que tiene que ser Lola, refrescante, ducle, y burbujeante. I am naming my cocktail Lola, refreshing, sweet, and bubbly, like my friend.

For a moment, I believed I would share other accounts, other people I follow, admire. I think I will save those for another time. I might go back into my corner, and sketch, or maybe I'll fold some laundry. Have I mentioned? Lately, I have been calling myself the luckiest woman in the world. It's just a thing I say to myself, and it's nothing to do with anything like perfection, or feeling flawless, or having everything my heart desires. I am simply astonished at how many good things I have access to, how much better my life is than what I imagined it could be, what it was when I was younger, and trying to picture what a good life could be. Also, I am very likely superstitious, or just have survival notions about how to protect myself, so I am guarded, and saying aloud, even thinking I am fortunate feels reckless, like an invitation for fate to take away comforts and blessings. I'd rather be daring, or I would like to be daring, to really feel confident and assured... say, My life is lovely, and I have a comfortable home, and I love my children, I love Geoff, and flowers, popcorn, my dresses, floss, paints, and cats, and not look over my shoulder, or glance sideways, fearful of what might take it all away. Nina Simone, she was so right... "I'll tell you what freedom is to me. No fear."

Wishful Thinking

Chickenblog.com - Wed, 05/12/2021 - 12:49
Alicia is getting an electric bike. She posted about how eager she is to ride, and described a trail she is looking forward to, how she will be riding "all over it..." It's funny that my reaction is one of feeling familiar with her yearning anticipation, as though I can totally relate. The truth is, I love my e-bike now... now that I am over the sense of anxious dread that first gripped me when Geoff announced that we were "getting bicycles," that we were "going out, into the world, and riding those bicycles," that it would "be fun," and "good" for me. My first response was fear, which in my case triggers resistence and mild displays of petulance. And that fear took riding miles and miles to somewhat dissipate. I am closing in on 3,000 miles ridden since we first got our bicycles, and I am happy to say that I have enjoyed some wonderful moments when I felt excitement riding, and even eagerness to ride. My favorite rides include the times when the rain chased us home, or night rides in summer, when stars and owls, bats, and thrills accompany us. The best rain ride caught us half way through a regular route, and there was thunder, lightning, and hail, too, and I laughed, and screamed all the way home. We were soaked through. And, of course, I have written about all of this before... Geoff's love, my fears, the progress, and even some of my more wild fantasies and make-believe schemes. When we were waiting for our electric bikes to arrive, I could not have imagined a future when I would be recommending E-bikes to friends, when I would study maps and trails, and day-dream about long rides, overnight adventures. I am partial to Rad-Power Bikes based on Geoff's extensive research, and my own familiarity with the only electric bike I have ever ridden. But if you could see how the number of Rad-Power bikes, in our city alone, has as good as exploded, you might be impressed, like me. There are so many you'd be convinced they're dependable, and reasonably priced, too. Oh, and I this isn't a paid endoresment, by the way. I just happen to like my bike.
Geoff and I are still riding back and forth, in front of the house, practically. I am still nervous. We ride the same neighborhood route, most everyday, sticking to quieter streets, and loops. Usually we pedal 5 miles out, and 5 miles back. The nice thing about pedal assist is that I don't have to get off the bike and walk it up hills. It's never a free ride, because the heavy bike always needs some pedaling, and as I've gotten stronger, I use less assist, even on the steep coastal hills. Now, like Alicia, I think about trails. I need to find some near to home, some that aren't shared with cars. The trails I am thinking of more and more often are in Wisconsin. In Wisconsin my father-in-law, Phil, has spent a lifetime developing and advocating for bike trails, orgainzing rides, leading tours, and writing, writing and writing about all things cycling. He is a cycling legend, honestly. For a long time I have wanted to ride one of his trails, like the "first of its kind" rail-to-trail Elroy Sparta State Trail. Riding that seems like something I could handle, and would pobably be more my pace than his wilder Fat Tire Tours, Chequamagon, or Milwaukee! Something very special happened recently, and Geoff and I are seriously looking forward to riding this very special trail being developed, and named in honor of Phil.

It makes me happy seeing more and more people out riding their bicycles, all ages, and abilities. I even joined a committee advocating and planning for cycling safety in the schools corridors of our community. We don't have a particularly safe, cyclist-respectful culture in San Diego County, and that needs to improve, a lot. It makes me happy thinking how much pleasure Alicia will take when she is out there, riding all over! I'd love to ride around Portland, Oregon, too. And if you are like me, hesitant, nervous, I hope you find something new, slightly thrilling, that you can try, and challenge yourself with, and then get more and more comfortable with, maybe even start to love. I am still working on the love part, myself. If I were a philanthropist, a benevolent queen of dreams, I would send bicycles to friends, and to their friends, and to you, and you. We could all be pedaling, sometimes assisted. We could be on tandems, or riding bikes that accomodate our needs, and everywhere there would be movements for more trails, more consideration and mindfulness about people on bikes, out there, pedaling all over... I would like this very much.

A Friend to Many

Chickenblog.com - Fri, 05/07/2021 - 11:34

This morning I learned something very sad... sudden and sad. Teresa Kasner passed away, just yesterday. It was unexpected, and I cannot imagine the shock and grief her family, and friends must be in. Her dear friend, Betsy, reached out to Teresa's blogging friends, on Dayle's behalf. Dayle was Teresa's husband of 51 years. Teresa called him Chef Dayle, when sharing the many dishes he fixed, the breakfasts, lunches and dinners, and Teresa always made them look and sound amazing, even a sandwich was appreciated and extolled in her posts. I am going to miss reading about those meals, because through something "everyday," she reminded me of the love and care we receive in even simple things, and to take notice, celebrate those gestures and moments. Teresa could make anything a noteworthy thing, and celebrated each day, and every person, all occasions, with grateful, admiring intent. She was a new friend to me, and I am already changed and inspired by her life, by her bright perspective, her many talents, and how she seemed to possess endless energy for raising people up, seeing the best in a flower, a view, a jadeite vase. Not only did she comment on my blog, leaving me her signature ((hugs)), sharing a bit of herself, and engaging with me, she would also email me, to go in depth on subjects, like goats, and crochet, offering encouragement, and practical support. Did I mention the endless energy? She posted regularly, often, and it was always something fresh, something full of her interest and enthusiasm, whether she was rearranging her beloved jadeite pieces, making another holiday display, or celebrating a grandchild, a new flower blooming, on an adventure with her husband, she put her whole heart and convictions into her blog, into her life. She was an artist, in many mediums, and an active, enthused member of her community, and I am heartbroken as I think on all of the ways she will be missed... on how much I will miss her.

It's customary to annotate our relationship to someone, how we know them, like a qualifier, as though we are ranking our position, or implying the relationship is conditional. I would have said, "My blogging friend," until now. But, now I think of it, I don't feel like just a blogging friend, and I as I think of all of my blogging friends, I feel keenly that so many of those friendships are too dear, too meaningful to qualify, to make smaller than they feel to me. Teresa was a generous friend, an inspiring friend. Even the distance between our homes, her in Oregon, along the Columbia River Gorge, and me in Southern California, didn't feel so great. When I discovered that Teresa had a role in Vista House, just one of the beautiful and treasured experiences I have enjoyed in Oregon, I felt the distance shrink. I took her invitation to heart, and was looking forward to her offer of a personal tour of Vista House... I wouldn't have hesitated to accept any chance to know her better, to spend more time with her. I imagine all of her many friends, and especially her family, are wishing for more time in her sweet company. I hope her husband, and family, find comfort in knowing that her memory is dear to many, that so many of us celebrate and honor her memory, and are grieved to lose her. She is remembered, admired, appreciated, loved.
When I see jadeite, or an especially lovingly arranged collection on a dining table, holiday decorations, I will think of Teresa. I will think of Dayle finding her a good deal on more pieces, and the two of them bringing home something new. I will miss her regular posts, news, updates, her uplifting spirit. I will miss the anticipation of someday meeting Teresa in person, of seeing her newest crochet project... and more, but just now, I am feeling another wave of shock and disbelief.Her last posts... her birthday, and being sick, made me concerned and sympathetic, but I could not imagine she would not rally. Even being in the hospital hadn't dampened her spirit, and I took heart from her typical cheery focus, and mindful advise to us all about the risks of Nsaids ("Apparently my use of Nsaids such as Alleve is what did it. So, be careful and try not to use them.") When a few days passed, and there wasn't a new post, I thought, She's wise to take it easy, and recover. And yesterday, I noticed that it had been 6 days since her last post, and that really struck me, and I did not want to think it could be anything bad, not really bad. So, I imagined her and Dayle driving to the coast, and her taking photographs of the shore, and pretty things, like the ones I remember when I was first getting to know her. I don't want to remove her name from the list of bloggers that I visit, but it will be a painful reminder to see more and more days pass, and no news from lovely Teresa Kasner. And. It will be hard to know that I won't hear from her, won't have another of her thoughtful comments, a ((hug)), some of her uplifting words, and kindness. So many friends will be missing her comments, her good spirit. Teresa, thank you. I never shared this with you, but I have a small jadeite piece, a gift from a friend. Today I brought it out and picked sweetpeas from my garden, for you. And I wish I told you this, but I'll say it now... you made me want to be a better person, and I think you are lovely, and your way of celebrating everything, and connecting to so many people with so much kindness, with your whole heart, has to be about the finest of way of living I can think of. You are a friend to many. Thank you, for being a friend to me, too.

Musing

Chickenblog.com - Thu, 05/06/2021 - 11:38
Blogging helps give me perspective, and I am not stating this with conviction, like something I am always mindful of. No, I thought of it just now... maybe not for the first time, but it feels like something I need to pay more attention to. The particular perspective is to do with what kind of week this has been. My spirits took a deep dive, when another chapter of the Never Ending Drunkladydriver Drama was laid before my feet, two weeks after I was encouraged, to "put it all behind you, now!" It's absurd, ridiculous, frustrating... all of those descriptions of aggravation mixed with trauma, and it's really pulled me into a mix of disfunction and dark thoughts. So, perspective? Well, I begin blogging by taking photos from my phone and formatting them for a post, and that's when I saw that a week I would have called bad, and hard, wasn't all bad, as evidenced by flowers, cats, reminders of a pizza night with friends, seeing Saturn in the pre-dawn sky... not that I have a photograhph of Saturn in the pre-dawn sky. One good moment, a picture of my daughter sharing an art day with me, or the first blooms of rockrose, leads to reflection, to recall, and suddenly, like when fog evaporates, I see things more clearly, more fully, and more good memories come to mind.
Tasha is on the verge of forgiving me for the whole incident with the baby goat. And about the baby goat, that's become, how to describe it... a sad mess. The feedstore returned her to the breeder, and the feedstore won't call me, or take my calls, or when I do reach them, they insist it's out of their hands. So. All of my good intentions about working with them, and doing whatever was best for the goat, have been totally disrespected, dismissed, and my favorite feedstore of 21 years is treating me like an invisible nobody. It has been suggested that I fight this, but I honestly don't have much fight in me, not after the thrashing I've taken from aforementioned Never Ending DLDD. And what can I possibly gain? They refunded the payment. And they don't have the goat. It really comes down to me asking them to care about my feelings, to acknowledge that I wanted to have the goat, and get her good care. I can't force a business to like me, or to honor an agreement that was made in trust, in hope. I believe the breeder is doing, or did? the best for the goat, and I console myself with the belief that being cute and sweet, she will live a good life, somewhere. But it hurts... I wanted her to be ours, and I was doing all the things that I trusted and hoped were best. At the very least, I thought they would be decent enough to let me know how Grace is doing, if she is recovering. Ha! I was thinking this could turn into a happy post, all about how good things outweigh bad, and gratitude, but I needed to not let Grace Hoppper's story hang in the air, untold, ghosted. It seems she wasn't meant to be our forever goat, and I hope that she is well.

A bird built a nest on the header of the Smithy shop overhang. I couldn't see into the nest. But some bird sure made her nest pretty, with alyssum, woven in the grass and twigs.
So. What was that, again? Perspective. Right. Whether it's my issues, or sad news from family, or friends, or God, just reading the news... it gets to me. All of the struggles, and challenges, the losses, and injustice, and I should stop listing these things, because it's endless. I make a determined effort to practice gratitude, to be mindful of the good news, to take slow, deep breaths, but. I guess, sometimes even happy thoughts, affirmations, tea and candles, can't keep the weight of the world from bringing me down. These last few days got really weighty, so I would have readily declared it all a bad week. But, like I said, my photographs reminded me that it hasn't all been bad. I think Saturday was actually really lovely. We had a long overdue socially distanced get together in the driveway, around campfires. The owls were calling, and I even saw a couple of bats flit overhead. Maria has been sharing more digital art lessons with me, and I have even had some painting success. A whole day with cats being adorable, and cuddly is a world of good, so are bird nests, flowers, and meaningful talks. I am thankful to have found some relief from a strong round of frustration, depression, anguish. Seeing good things, acknowledging the blessings... it's like coming up for air, and realizing that I can breath, and even stand, with my head above the water. I confess, though, that I have another idea that has been sort of pestering me. It is this, if I can explain it well... maybe I need a break from tea cups and happy thoughts, maybe I need a raw scream, loud crashing rage. It's possible all of my attempts to heal through happiness, to stay bright and cheery, to feel only gratitude and humility, is keeping me from confronting the real pain and fear I feel now, and have felt on impact, or at any time in my life when something traumatic tested my confidence, hurt me, frightened me. Somewhere I learned to be small, to keep pain quiet, to not fuss, or ask for more than my due, which is always less than I might want, otherwise it's greedy, needy, vain. My compulsions to obey, to cooperate, to be kind, and supportive, to consider everyone, and anyone, before me, might not be... healthful? Fair? Sometimes, I talk to Geoff about my deep thoughts and other musings, but mostly, they stay in my head, or maybe pop up here, where, for some reason, I feel anonymous, unseen. I imagine it's ok to say things on the blog, because if someones does hear me, they are free to walk away, and I am not asking anything of anyone. I haven't figured this new idea out. I am still turning it around and considering it, but I thought I'd try to begin to put it to words, and I am increasingly comfortable with the idea that I could really enjoy pumelling something, breaking and shattering stuff, that it might feel like a release, a manifestation of letting pain, for which I have no words, be expressed and pushed out... out and away from where I have been holding them in, where they have been clinging, and gnawing at me. I would love to scream. There is beauty all around me, and I hold it dear. I think I could hold the beauty dear, and closer, if I weren't wrapped in, and holding on to, so much pain and fear, like a thick armor. This armor is familiar, and I have been mistaking it for a kind of protection, but it's not working. This isn't how its meant to be. Do you know what, and I am addressing myself, I guess... it's very hard to let go of familiar things, even when you realize they are harmful. I see, something needs to change. How to do it?

May Garden

Chickenblog.com - Sat, 05/01/2021 - 11:06

Did you notice? I am growing chamomile! I cannot be sure when my crush began, but in recent years I have been utterly smitten with these darling blossoms, with their fragrance, with the varities of petals, and button centers, with drying them, and making a cup of tea, even sketching and painting them. The only thing I hadn't managed to do was grow them... a frustrating fact. I was particularly keen on growing them from seed. Well, this year, with seeds from Renee's Garden, (not a sponser... I just love their pretty illustrated seed packets.) I have at least two plants succeeding. And then, when I made a visit to a favorite nursery, I found potted chamomile, and I could not resist. They were already sturdy sprouts, very leafy, but without flowers, yet! Well, now they are blooming, and... LOOK AT THEM! sorry for shouting. What's a good way for expressing when something makes you tingle with excitement, so the vibrations bubble to the surface, raising your voice, your energy, your spirits? I feel on full volume about those little flowers.

Being as lucky as ever in my garden, I admit that I have been record-breaking low-key about all of it. Sure, I planted some seeds, and added seedlings, but I stuck to sure bets, like peas, and spinach, beets. I let lots of things just reseed and pop back up from last year. Our climate is so mild, some annuals act like perennials. It's nice to grow whatever is happiest without me fussing, and leave the rest of our produce needs to the dedicated farmers. We will probably be seeing the spoon tomatoes come back strong, and all of the fruit trees, except Old Apricot, are full of good starts. And I love that the garden is full of ladybugs, some dandy grasshoppers, bluebirds, hummers, and owls, the bees, and lots of bunnies. It is a May Garden, and these are days to take notice of all the goodness.

Venturing

Chickenblog.com - Wed, 04/28/2021 - 11:05
Maria painted a dream... a dream she had about a year ago. She referred to notes she took, and using elements from the dream, she created this compelling scene, a self portrait. I love it... I love the colors and the light, the way things are slightly askew, and surreal, as happens in dreams. I love the details, the textures. Since she was making so much digital art on her laptop, and preparing a porfolio for the Studio Art class she had last semester, Geoff and I got her an iPad for Christmas. In February she switched from a free app called ArtRage, to Procreate, and it didn't take her long to get a handle on the new software. She's been sharing her progress on her Instagram page.So. I am aware that plenty of people have been going about their business, masked up, and out there... working, shopping, running errands, socializing, adulting. I have not. Or, I have done as little as possible, bare minimum adulting. Instead, I have been dutifully, devotedly, one could even say zealously, staying home, and refraining from anything "risky." At times, during this pandemic, I believe, it was responsible, and appropriate, to participate in bringing down the curve, by not participating. But. Also, it was a not-so secret, fond desire of mine to stay home, avoid crowds, shelter from vehicles, loud noises, sudden intrusions, and all sensory input, except birds, flowers, and rising dough. I have been living my PTSD fantasy, with impunity! And maybe this has been a healing time. For certain, it has been a luxury, and I don't have any regrets, except to admit that I am no braver, no more comfortable or eager for back to normal, which strongly suggests that avoidance is no cure for what ails me. Ugh. By necessity, or compulsion, I have been venturing out. I don't want to be congratulated, because I have not been particularly noble or gracious about it. I feel embarrassed, frankly. Then again, feeling the world is askew, and surreal, still grappling with symptoms I have yet to subdue or govern... well, if a friend described all of this, I would feel encouraging and gentle with them, so I'd like to be at least that understanding with myself. That never comes easy, though. With others, for others, yes. For me, not so much. In my mind, I accomplished monumental things, and I was going to list, them, but just now I hear the list of errands, and minor expeditions, and it's plain that they were not such a big deal. The car is smogged! Whoo-hoo! And I walked downtown! This one actually is fantastic, though it was accomplished as a team effort... everyone in our Bird House has been vaccinated at least once, and all of us will be fully covered before the end of May! Here is something funny... I have been posting pictures of flowers, flowers, cats, chickens, and flowers, here, for the last year, and not a lot else! So, I was curious to see what new things would grab my attention, as I venture out into the world. I saw a beautiful Chevy, that would be fun to paint, and I bought a taco, on my downtown walk. The taco was not as great as imagining how it would be, but, well, I guess it was adventurous-ish. And now to the funny part, I have lots and lots of picture of flowers to post! In the middle of adulting and checking things off a (very long) list of things that need to be accomplished, I introduced Bambi to Franco's, the flower wholesaler I love to visit. Alex, William, Bambi, and I made a quick visit, kind of taking inventory of all the flowers found in April. What a happy, random, and satisfying pastime... to be venturing, in person, seeing new and beautiful sights, and thinking of the days ahead, as the world and possibilities open up to us. As usual, but with a twist! Lots of flowers, and a cat.

Around Here Somewhere

Chickenblog.com - Sun, 04/25/2021 - 10:58
The expression I looked everywhere is a good example of hyperbole, but it is also the complete and utter truth, practically, about my effort to find my glasses. This morning I looked everywhere for a pair of glasses. Everywhere. For just one pair, of 6 possible vision correcting glasses. I had the teal and brown pair which disappeared a year ago, then there are the twin pair of teal framed glasses that darken in the sunlight. I bought one, and when I went back to add a second pair, I unwittingly chose the same frames, which proves I really like those frames. I have a pair that are metal frames, with little laser cut shapes. I can't think when I last saw those, but they couldn't have gone far. We don't go anywhere! The last two are the serioiusly desperate pairs, including 20 year old pink, wire frames that are so wonky they make me look like a disreputable Dickens' character, and those are the prefered ones, because my last pair are broken broken. They are missing a temple, and so I rigged a lanyard to the working temple and to the hinge on the other side, and then I cinch the glasses to my head. I looked in every vehicle, under every bed, beneath chair cushions, behind that thing where I know stuff gravitates, but is dark and embarrassing so I avoid it. I searched all counters, drawers, shelves, and baskets. I searched coat pockets. I questioned the cats. Incidentally, the cats lie, and they withold evidence. I found the furniture pads that we were surprised to be "out of." We weren't out of furniture pads. Someone put them in the entry desk. Probably me. I found the chocolates I bought for Easter, and a package of those small cereal boxes, that people buy when they go camping or move to a new house. Maria's never tried Apple Jacks. I found my favorite crocheted beanie. It's soft wool, and I love to wear it in winter when I go to bed, even though it eventually slips off, which explains why it worked its way down to the floor, beneath our headboard, where it lived with an errant sock, a wayward tissue box, a missing earring, a lone hair tie, and a herd of dust buffalo. I found the bite guard my orthodontist made for me after he removed my braces before I was married... so that would be June 1989. I found my courage... just kidding. Then, at last, I found a pair of glasses... they were wedged beneath and behind the sofa, and the end table, and maybe a dark sock. This pair is one I didn't even think of, neither old, nor broken, but actually intact, functional, not bad looking. Somewhere in this house, are six other pair of glasses, and possibly my courage, which may be in the company of my sanity, and a wild herd of dust buffalo. I blame the cats. Tomorrow I am making an appointment with an optometrist, and then I am going to order new glasses. Geoff is ordering me a lanyard, and he says he is going to add a thing finding device to it, and so I suggested he go ahead and order me the I've fallen and I can't Get Up alarm to add to the lanyard.

"Nature is Everywhere"

Chickenblog.com - Thu, 04/22/2021 - 12:58
When I was ten years old, we lived in aparment two, Alvarado Road. It was a large complex, near a university, on a freeway frontage road. Next to the apartments was a vacant field, and a gas station. As often as possible our Mom took us to beaches, or to the local mountains, a county park. Today, those places are like going home. I think it's fair to say my brothers are as nostalgic about Julian, Dos Picos, the Bay, and Cove, as I am. The roads are familiar, the destinations dear. We loved being out in nature, exploring, paddling in the water, or scrambling over boulders, making trails. Back home,our two bedroom apartment had a very small enclosed patio, lots of winding sidewalks, a "rec" room, where Bill became incredibly adept at playing pool, for a 7 year old. We could also use the swimming pool, which was easily a favorite part of living there. Between buildings, along the sidewalks, was landscaping... carrotwood trees, agapanthus, asparagus fern (hideous stuff). Some of the apartment entries were planted with Schefflera, and I felt sorry for those Australian transplants, stuck growing in cramped quarters, where they had to stoop and bend beneath the over-hanging roofs of the second stories, with Heavenly Bamboo ("Highly popular in the landscape, one of the toughest and most adaptable plants,") encircling their trunks. To this day, I cringe when I see landscaping of nandina, Schefflera, and especially asparagus fern. It took me a long time to appreciate agapanthus, to not feel begrudging, and the same with butterfly irises, and bird of paradise. In California all of those plants were ubiquitous with apartments, rentals, and tough gardens kept by tough landlords. Before Apt 2, we lived in a rental house in Oceanside, and before that we lived at three different houses in Ramona. Ramona is where our Mom gardened. Where I watched my mother blossom, growing rhubarb, squashes, strawberries, keeping chickens, raising calves, feeding everyone, and always impressing me because she knew the names of flowers. Ramona is where I awoke to nature. Nature. In the small house, where I walked to kindergarten, and to Woodward's, the feed and tack store. The house where we had bunnies, who had bunnies, where I made mud pies and baked them in a scrapped oven, planted sunflowers, bought Chick-o-sticks and candy cigarettes at the ReXall on Main and 7th Street. When we moved to the house off Highway 67, there was room for chickens, and those calves, and exploring out back, up into scrub, oaks, and granite boulders. There was room to run with a kite, to chase a dog, and get dirty, to eat from the garden, and stalk rabbits, to ride the Big Wheel down the rain rutted trail that dropped down, at a wild grade, for small, adventurous, daring children. We moved from this home to the red house with the big trees, a basement, room for a pony, and cats, where we could coax the toads to climb out of their holes, find horny toads, and trap-door spiders, where bats got into an attic crawl space, and even the grown-ups wanted to sit on the swings... the same swings that inspired me to ask for a big swing of our own, here at our Bird House. Next to my bed was a window that popped open, and had no screen, and within reach were the branches of a large shrub that grew all the way up to that second floor. I nibbled on the berries, whatever they were, that grew on the bush. They were garnet red, crisp on the outside and sort of spongy and pale inside. They were only slightly sweet. (Wow. The Internet is amazing. I only had to do a few rounds of searching to discover what I was eating. No one else ate them, and I was almost secretive about them, and never sure what they were. If only I'd known, because I think they were lilly pilly berries, and how absoultely magical is the name "lilly pilly"?) I don't think we lived there even two years, yet my mind is brimming with memories, like something that could fill chapters of a novel. Maybe it's because those were what they call "formative years," when I was six, when we had a full house, when I was impressionable, and aware, when both good moments, and disturbing events, were vivid. When we had to move, I was devastated.
The house in Oceanside, and the time there, was maybe the furthest I ever felt from nature, from beauty. My Mom worked in Escondido, and in Barrio Logan... commutes that I can hardly fathom, now. It was not an easy time, and some very traumatic things happened while we lived there, when I walked home from school through a SWAT event, and my friends were held hostage, and my next-door neighbor had bullet holes through her house, and an injured dog, when the home and family we shared a chain link fence with held a backyard memorial for their murdered son. This was when our father re-married, and didn't tell us, didn't invite us to the wedding. The best of those days were when we would visit cousins in Alhambra, or friends in Julian, or when the library truck would stop across the street.

Earth Day. I sat down to write about Earth Day, and I fixed on the idea that Nature is not a separate place from us. I have been seeing posts about going out into Nature, and getting away to Nature. I understand the expressions, and I know there's a difference between a greenspace or a garden strip planted up in a parking lot, and a National Park, or a truly wild space, where nothing is paved, or managed. But I have lived much of my life in spaces where nature is sectioned off, divided, minimal, and I like to think that I have learned to recognize nature in those small spaces, outside of preserves, and parks, to glean a connection and appreciation for Nature as everywhere, around us, even in us. Forests and deserts, protected spaces, where native plants and wildlife have room and habitual cycles, are wonderful, invaluable. But I know that we won't all have the chance to hike, and camp, to explore, and retreat to sacred places, where deer cross meadows, or no cars pass, and so I like to both protect large spaces, and care for small nature, too. And I think I learned this, or was at least influenced in this way, by my Mom, my Abuelas, by Handsome Eddie and Eileen, and by Genie.

When we moved from Oceanside to San Diego, to Apartment 2, I might have lost even more "natural space," but our Mom kept bringing us to the beaches, to tide pools, and beach-combing, to ocean swims, and exploring remote parts of the bay, where we could find sea urchins, and octipi. I remember times when we would count all of the coins we could find, for gas money, so we could get to the local mountains, so we could picnic in Dos Picos Park, fish at the pond, scramble around the trails, gather acorns, or visit Julian, and those wild spaces, with creeks, and trees, and good memories. She did all she could to give us wild spaces and freedom to move in them.

Behind Apartment 2, outside the gate of our little patio, was the patio of our neighbor, Genie. She was older. I can't say how much older, since I was only 8 or 9, maybe 10, and didn't have much perspective about such things. But she noticed me, or I noticed her. I don't remember. I do remember that she had white hair, and often wore shorts, and looked confident, like a person busy enjoying herself and happy about it. And at some point, I was invited in, and it's even possible I invited myself in, but I found myself in her apartment and seeing her paint easel, and petting her small white dog. I didn't know any women, her age that wore shorts, that painted at an easel, during the day, that was busy enjoying herself, and made time to talk about it, with me. And something else, she was gardening on that small patio, and I was astonished at it. The property manager had chased me off and scolded me, more than a few times, for picking flowers, for playing in the weight room, or hanging around where I didn't belong, for trying to climb a tree, and once for digging. So, I questioned Genie, incredulously, How can you garden here? I had this idea that there was no literal or figurative room to garden in an apartment, on a patio, no room, or permission, to dig. Plainly, and assuredly, she replied, "You can garden anywhere. Nature is everywhere, and you can have part in it, care for it." She introduced me to her plants, to her pots, and to moss rose. I most clearly remember the moss rose, and her explaining what a simple and gratifying plant it was.

She painted her flowers, too. And I was awestruck by the way she was engaged with beauty, seeing it, caring for it, even reproducing it in her art. I thought she was brilliant, and I felt akin to serenity, to calm, purposeful living, when I was around her. I wanted to observe more of this, and be in her influence. When I found out she was moving, I was almost as heartbroken as I felt leaving Weekend Villa Road for Oceanside. I would sit outside, on her patio and watch her pack. She gave me her painting of a geranium in a glass. A masterpiece, to my mind. I watched all of her things go into boxes, and felt so low, so aware of my limitations. How far is to Barstow? How would I ever see her again? How do you tell someone that you need them, that they are too significant to lose? I couldn't find the words. I asked her about Barstow, and she wrote her new address on a slip of paper. She was looking forward to the sun and warmth, to retirement, and new gardens. And that's when I realized that her patio garden was staying behind, and it shook me. How could she leave her garden? It felt doubly hard; it wasn't just me getting left behind, but the geraniums, and moss rose, too! I asked her, almost accusingly, What about your garden? How can you just leave it behind? The manager might throw it all away! She was always so composed, assured, and she replied, "They'll be fine. Don't worry. Nature finds a way." She was sure, but I had doubts. I was worried. I looked out my bedroom window, over her patio fence, and into her empty apartment, and I fixed on a plan.
Before new tenants moved in, before the apartment manager went over and could take anything out, I would take Genie's garden. I determined to save all I could of her plants, and care for them myself. It happened that we were moving, too. This time to house-sit for people with a big home and a backyard that had almost nothing growing in it. On the look out for any grown-ups, as stealthily as I could, I slipped into Genie's patio, and I dug up the moss rose, careful of the roots, mindful of not getting caught. I kept the small plants in a box, sprinkling water on them, and fretting about how long they'd last before they had to be stuck back into some dirt. And would anyone mind, if I took a bit of space in the backyard of a house that wasn't ours? I did get to transplant the moss rose, and I recognized when they went to seed, and I planted those, and some grass seed I found in the garage. I became a moss rose expert, over a few months, while we were house-sitting. I don't think my part of the yard was even more than two square feet, but I took so much pride in it. I felt like a Gardener, like a person attune with nature. I would have said "naturalist," if I knew the word. And today, on Earth Day, I remember and cherish, every small and great experience of nature, whether in the Redwoods, or on a piece of firewood that is sprung back to life with moss. We need to save the planet, and do big things for our climate, but we can do it in small ways, in small spaces, too. We can share seeds, we can share ideas and opportunities... ideas that may inspire feelings akin to serenity and feeling that connection that we have to nature, because Naure is all around us, in us.

Deep Thoughts and Other Musings

Chickenblog.com - Wed, 04/21/2021 - 11:40

"te lo dije," by Lola Argemí.

Lola Argemí is an artist and designer I follow on Instagram. But more than that... we are new friends, and we've even Zoomed. Zoomiar. Zoomimos. Zoomiamos? I love her art, and watching her make art. She posts captivating videos on her account. And other posts she shares make me nostalgic for México, DF. It's been a long time. Seriously, muchisimo tiempo desde que estuve en El Ciudad. 1979, when Grandma Jones came with us, and we flew the red-eye. I hardly remember the landing, but we somehow got to my tios' home, and I woke up into a dream, with Grandma by my side, in Tia Thalia's jewel blue bedroom with painted flowers on the walls, and her philodendrons climbing into the room from downstairs. Frida Khalo must have lived down the calle. Mexico City has the effect of keeping its past and present entwined, old and new comingle and dine together. We could hear the clatter of cooking in the kitchen, the sounds of the neighborhood like an old phonograph playing in the next room. Without stirring, I let everything seep into my head, and never felt so faraway, then Grandmother and I looked at each other, and silently we agreed that we were home. It's a mean trick of life that we can have these poignant and lasting memories, ideas and sensory experiences so vivid, they are ingrained in our cells, and yet they cannot be touched, not fully accessed. I want to go back. I would trace the lines of the flowers, learn the names of the streets we walked along, hold my Abuela's hand more often, for longer. I would try to hold everything more often, longer. Lola reminds me of times and moments, long ago, and I am tempted to imagine there is a way back. Tio Hugo and Tia Thalia were artists, so was my Grandmother... I am just thinking of this, now. I am so glad I ordered Lola's print, that she packed it up with two more little prints, that I love, that it came from Mexico City. I even loved anticipating the package, and imagining that it would contain fragments of the dream, of a faraway place with ancient voices, and sights, that felt strange, yet like home.

Te lo dije, I told you, a phrase I know, have heard from my Mommy, from other Mamás, and abuelas, and it's a mean trick of life that whatever wisdom and insight they were trying to impart barely took root when I heard them as a child. Now, recalling the best of moments long gone, I understand, too late, that they knew, they knew and tried to impart... that the strange places, and long trips, the stories, the lessons and moments that were hard to focus on, mattered. The memories are precious now, urgent, prized. Prized, but elusive and fragmented. Oh bittersweet. Hmm. My thoughts are interlaced with overpowering emotions, nostalgia, and I wish I could succinctly, precisely put into words how it feels to remember such distinct instances, and yet be so cut off from them, too. And grappling with the idea that I could have paid closer attention (perhaps?) and remembering that adults tried to caution me, to pay attention, to appreciate, how time will pass too quickly. It's so frustrating that these lessons are nearly impossible to internalize, to accept without time for perspective, without experience, and the understanding comes too late for the years that have already slipped by. I am struggling to say it all, and it's like trying to grasp a writhing, slippery thing, so I am making a mess of it. But maybe something of this will make sense to you, too. And maybe I should, at least, apply this to here and now, so that going forward, I can have fewer regrets, greater appreciation.

My goodness, what a lot of deep thoughts and other musings, can surface when looking on art, when reflecting on all the threads that are woven in our lives, from past and present, near and far. And now that I have opened up about just a few reactions I have had, looking at Lola's painting, I want to ask her, ?En que pensabas, pintando el cuadro, "te lo dije"?
Another Stay at Home haircut, and I like this one. It's better than the one before, when Geoff gave up on my approach and took matters into his own hands. He took everything down with the clipper on the 3 setting! Geoff and Alex have been keeping up with haircuts. I cut my hair off, in four whacks, last July, but now I am leaving it to grow, so is Maria. William and Max both have long, and growing hair. I gave Bambi a trim a few months ago. I think about getting dye and covering my gray, which is funny, because it seems "silver" and "gray" are trending! As long as I am in a nostalgic mood anyway, I'll say, I really miss having long braids, that I could pull over my head and pin into a crown, like I did when I was much younger. Would you look at these beautiful embroidery hoops? And so many, too! Susie was clearing space, and making donations when she saw all the sewing I've been doing, that's when she messaged me, asking if I could use more hoops? Her gift is what got me thinking, again, of how much I miss exhibiting at Maker Faires, sharing what we make, and teaching crafts, and STEM skills. I would love to bring all of these hoops to an event and share embroidery, teach someone how to make French knots, and create a stitched copy of a drawing. I miss the enthusiasm and eagerness people bring to a Maker Faire, connecting with someone that has always wanted to learn how to do that___! Susie and I met at a Maker Faire, and I miss making connections like that, building new friendships, like the ones with Nedda, and Enchanted Leaves, and Stephania, and Gever Tulley. In fact, some of those friendships, began through truly random Make connections...like a family reading our Making Blog, Benevolent Order of Makers, then, coincidentaly, moving from New York, and becoming our neighbors in California, and dear friends... Hello, Ido, Leslie, Simon, Bex and Spencer! Ah, more threads and connections. It's so nice to have these good thoughts, and ties, streaming through my head. We have been busy busy busy, and before I spend more than half the day posting to the blog, I want to get back to some of what we have been up to... like moving furniture, painting, cleaning, purging, re-purposing, and refreshing! I even bought everyone new pillows, and some sheets (which Cairo deeply appreciates.) It's good... distraction, improvements, things changing around and new appreciation for seeing things in another light. Ahem... I would like to reflect on this a little more, but I will resist. I think I have indulged in enough deep thoughts and other musings for one morning.

Good Things and Courage

Chickenblog.com - Sat, 04/17/2021 - 15:19
Crying does not indicate that you are weak. Since birth, it has always been a sign that you are alive. ~Charlotte Bronte dysania (n.) the state of finding it hard to get out of bed. The temptation is to curl up with these two, which is fine, for awhile. Since the impulse is stronger, like I could stay there for days, I have decided to instead look at pretty pictures of good things and remind myself of good words, and other acts of courage. Maria just finished up the third quarter of junior year, and as she put it, she has "only five quarters of high school left." I knew it would go by fast, but this is ridiculous! She is still happy, learning at home. It's fortunate that she is comfortable, doing well. We are aware that it's not been as easy for others. The other day she came down after school, exclaiming that she was super hungry, that she'd missed lunch. Maria, I asked her, How in the heck do you miss lunch, when you are just upstairs from the kitchen? She laughed, Cairo sat on my lap during second period and he never got up! Everyone knows a sleeping pet must never be disturbed, ever! Geoff has begun the down-shift from crunchmode crazy hours at work, and he's turning his time and energy to more local issues, like spring cleaning, and house projects. He's got me moving and shaking, too. Actually, everyone has been moving, purging, re-thinking, re-organizing. William started painting Maria's room, and the cool changes he started in his own room are almost finished. I think he could charge admission to his museum worthy, artifact curated abode. Alex and Bambi are reconfiguring everything in their room, and Max keeps making improvements on his space. Why a picture of yarn? you might be wondering. Well, I found six skeins of this lovely stuff, when I tidied our bedroom, and I want the record to show that I kept on tidying, even though I wanted to drop everything and crochet a nice, long wrap. I have just the pattern in mind. I require gentle applause and recognition for sticking to the spring cleaning plan.
Oh. Do you know what I did? I got real serious about cleaning the entire oven-stove-hood, and I was putting all of my elbow grease and grit into my mission! Scrub! Scour! Scrub, and don't tell anyone, but I cleaned some of the labels clear off! It's not good. I know. What can I do? Black lettering on stainless steal, and whatever it said, is clean gone. Don't you agree that lettering on a steel appliance ought to adhere well enough to take some deep cleaning? oh dear.

"A friend is one who overlooks your broken fence and admires the flowers in your garden." I have this saved on my phone, but I don't know who wrote it.

I, myself, am entirely made of flaws, stitched together with good intentions. ~Augusten Burroughs

There is no beauty without some strangeness. ~Edgar Allen Poe

We need beauty because it makes us ache to be worthy of it. ~Mary Oliver

I want to think again of dangerous and noble things. I want to be light and frolicsome. I want to be improbable, beautiful, and afraid of nothing, as though I had wings. ~Mary Oliver

Letting Go, Holding On

Chickenblog.com - Sat, 04/17/2021 - 11:44


Nearly there, dare I say? I signed a waiver yesterday, and reconfirmed with a D.A., I am not compelled to testify, in any more hearings, against the drunkladydriver. When my attorney, I hear her smiling, even over the phone, says "Now you can put this behind you," and other platitudes, I wince, I want to scream. I thought so, too... that there would be a day when the papers would all be signed, when my head, thoughts, words, and voice would be clear, accessible, when nighmares and panic would be something that used to happen, or that they would be infrequent enough to feel incidental. I imagined that determination, will, and effort would heal me, and put me in control of pain, of fear, of limitations. That, at the very least, I would feel a release, that it would all feel behind me. Nearly there? So many people tried to assure me that it will be over, soon, that restitution will help, told me that I am lucky to be alive, that I don't look injured... I want to be strong and brave, to heal well, and get over it, to be vindicated (Vindicated from what? The last two years and all of the subpeonas, hearings, reporting, even defending myself has played tricks on me, it's like a multi-faceted gas-lighting, so that now, it's as though I am responsible, it's my choice to make it stop, if only I would surrender, sign away any say, quit standing up for myself. Get over it!) It was always going to come down to me to move forward, to be well, but the system... insurance companies, lawyers, courts, the sheriff, the billing companies, they have a system, and they dangle a carrot and call it "Justice & Restitution," then they compel a person to participate, to figure it all out as they go, to be subjected to scrutiny and inspection, to meet law enforcement at the door, be followed home by the defense lawyer, to be cross-examined, to being manipulated, misled, and it becomes clear, little by little, that the only way out, is to let go. Let go of the outcome, let go of ideas about what justice and healing and compensation and recovery could have been or should have been, and then figure out what the new normal is going to be.

Life was never going to leave me unscathed, and something particularly awful happened, and the journey to the end of it was prolonged, protracted, and possibly as traumatic as the collision that started it all, but there's nothing that will make it right, or fair, or undo any of it. So. Perhaps on Monday, or some day in May, I will feel there, a little more over it than today, and I will not think of what happened, or why I cannot turn my head as I used to, maybe I won't want to stay home, stay quiet. Maybe I will go through my day, enjoying my blessings, and not attribute them to being "lucky to be alive" after a drunk drove into me, but to my own choices, efforts, ideas, loved ones, so that I feel my life is my own, and not entangled with someone else's actions. It's frustrating to know what would be ideal and good, yet constantly struggling to live in that knowledge, to act on those ideals. I can say this, though, when I stop getting calls, and emails, when I can be assured that no one will ask me testify, nor promise me "compensation," but withdraw it, add stipulations, deny the offer ever was, it will come down to me, and I will finally have a chance to get over it, as best I can, however I can.

Ok. That's done. I didn't want to have post after post about the collision, then skip the part where it all gets wrapped up. Almost there, I think. And in its own way, crummy as it has been there is good in this.

Sorry. One more thing, and this is... hard. Grace Hopper is back with the feed store, because she is ill, and was even when I brought her home. I was assured that she only needed a little time and a specific regimen, which I followed faithfully, happily, to get her on course. Caring for her was a welcome distraction from thinking about the disappointing, and drawn out collision garbage. When she got worse I asked them for help and they asked me to bring her in, then apologized, because the person that let me buy her should not have done that, and they needed to take her back, get the breeder to look at her, "policy, sorry, it's for her sake, how it should have been done." I was emotional and concerned and did whatever was asked, and to make a short story long... she is with the feedstore, being cared for, and it's a waiting game. They say I will be notified and have her returned if it's possible, but no promises, no assurances, nothing is guaranteed. Boy, don't I know it? Yeah, it's been a crummy, sad, hard week. Please give best thoughts for Grace Hopper. Please say a prayer with me that she will be back here, making us laugh, being her sweet sweet self, again.

One Morning in April

Chickenblog.com - Wed, 04/14/2021 - 10:14

It's day 5 with our Grace Hopper, and I am feeling like we have a routine. If baby goats are anything like my baby-babies were, then I am sure the entire idea of having a routine will be dismantled by the end of the day, simply because I imagine I am getting a handle on all of this! Even though I've become a morning sloth since the start of lockdown, moving as slowly as slothly possible to start my day, I have been getting to Grace with a warm bottle everyone morning at 6:30 am. Okay, today it was more like 6:50. She loves her bottle and leans into me, eagerly draining her breakfast. The chickens look on curiously, Ada and Tasha watch from the furthest distance possible, aghast. I wipe the foamy remnants from her pink lips (I thought, We could name her "Starbuck," because she's like a barista, expertly whipping up milk into a froth!") Then, she and I head out of the enclosure, and explore all of our yard, front and back, 'round and 'round. We hop, jump, run, explore and make discoveries. I water, pull weeds, put things away, talk to her, watch her, and take pictures. Keeping up with a baby goat, even encouraging her to run around by my example, is invigorating, and stimulating, and all of those positive expressions around activity, and it's tiring, too. I am going to bed ready to recover! The first morning session goes for about an hour, and then I do it again around 10 am, then noon, we have another visit and playtime about 3, then 5, and a last romp and bottle around 7:30!

Yesterday it rained. That's news. We are so far behind for decent rainfall, and the light showers, though not forecast, were very welcome. Even today, it seems like it could rain, again. I took lots of pictures, and I want to share them... almost all of them. It's been a good morning, an April morning, and I want to remember this day.
This little flower... it's one in a million! I scattered and tended a huge container of wildflower seeds, and so far this is all we have to show for it! If anyone can identify it, I'd be thankful. It's very pretty. Our scrappy deciduous tree, the one that looked uncharacteristically beautiful last October, is leafing out, and I am reminded of the poem... Nothing Gold Can Stay, by Robert Frost: "Nature's first green is gold."One Torrey Pine, white sage, and the rising sun casting a warm glow on everything. I love our old apricot tree, the lichen, even the hope, that is usually dashed, that we will get one more big harvest of delicious apricots. Every year but one, I tell her, It's ok. You've done your best. She really is a good tree. Purple, violet, indigo, lavender... I am delighted to find all of these shades of lilac and plum, and all of the synonyms for purple! And now, a visit with the honeybees, for GretchenJoanna, whose borage is starting to bloom. She is waiting for the honeybees to arrive, and asked if we've seen bees, yet. Our climate, near the coast, in Southern California, is about as mild as can be, and we are fortunate to have honeybees year-round. I didn't notice, until I saw the pictures on my computer, how tattered this one bee's wings are. Poor fellow. Still, he seemed capable and busy, and, I hope, happy in the borage and nasturtium. If these links work for you, GretchenJoanna, you can watch the bees visiting our borage. And a few weeks ago, I revived a weary little bee that was resting on a window screen, with a drop of honey water. Good morning, friends. I am sending wishes your way for invigorating activities, good rest, honeybees, and time to enjoy all that you love.

Some Happiness

Chickenblog.com - Tue, 04/13/2021 - 09:10
The flower, I admit, is a ruse to lure you in, before I fill this post with pictures of Grace Hopper, our Chapulín! I might have some pictures of a cat, probably more garden pictures, but the rest will be goat, goat, goat! I am a goatherd, an idealized or romanticized rustic maiden in pastoral literature... I could not resist that definition when I looked up "shepherdess." It fits me to a tittle... I am a shepherdess, and not a lonely goatherd. Seeing her in the ivy, I caught an earworm and sang under my breath, all day... Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey. A kiddley divey too, wouldn't you?
Speaking of romanticized and pastoral, Janece noted that our backyard is a vision of spring. A mama bird built her sparrow nest over the door to the backyard, and the mama bunny that lives by the garden bed is as busy as ever, but she always stops to visit. The bluebirds are finely feathered, and flirting. The quail are calling, so are the owls. An ideal, true spring!

My Mommy sent me a gift this week. This patchwork quilt, which has been a dear favorite of mine for many years, and is in my mother's memory since her childhood, when they lived on East First Street, in Los Angeles. She's pretty sure the women of the church made it, using collected scraps. It makes me think of my Grandmother, Eunice, and of a lifetime of hearing my Mom's stories about East LA, Roosevelt High School, the LA River, and trains, the fountain on Olvera Street, Nena, her friend downstairs, walking to the library, the dishes Uncle Steve brought home from Korea. It makes me feel in touch with so much that is sentimental, and I get lost in the prints, imagining was this a dress, a man's shirt? Cairo sensed something good, too, and was immediately drawn to the soft spot. He's hardly left it since I opened it on my bed. It's a perfect light weight for spring, not that he's sharing.

Mother Nature is making it abundantly clear: If I ever want to be a commercial farmer, oregano should be my crop, and Rosemary. Rosemary and oregano thrive here, with very little effort on my part. The calendula came back, but it's not as widespread as it was last year. No rain is to blame for fewer nasturium, and spoon-tomatoes, as well. The borage is thriving, so I assume it's a little more drought tolerant, which is why I am glad I decided to add more native plants to our front yard. The sages, manzanita, and ceanothus are doing well.

If you are wondering, neither Ada, nor Tasha, have budged on their stubborn refusal to accept Grace. Old goats! They couldn't be more cliché! And I, I suppose, could not have been more naive. I didn't think they'd bond immediately, but, yeah... I vividly imagined romanticized and pastoral scenes with Tasha and Ada frolicking merrily with the little one, bringing Grace into the fold, nuzzling her affectionately, and the three of them curled up, beneath a starry night, sleeping soundly, like loving sisters. Well, at least I can enjoy the whimsy and the sweet temperment of our Grasshopper, our funny Chapulín! We weeded, and planted. We dead-headed flowers, watered. We hopped up steps, and leapt from rocks. We walked all around the garden, front to back, and back, again. We tidied spots, and did some rearranging. She's good company, I think.
Grandma Eunice's shepherdess, gazing at me from the sweetpeas, and our peach tree in bloom. I have a new found appreciation for this month of April. Has April always been a pretty month? I cannot say, but this time, this year... it's lovely, and I am glad to be taking notice, and enjoying it. Baby goats, flowerbeds, and heirloom quilts are gifts, real treasures that I appreciate tremendously. I cannot always be in a romantic frame of mind though, and I want to say that the trial in Minneapolis of the murderous police officer, the murder of Daunte Wright, attacks on the Asian communities, the daily evidence that racism, gun violence, hate, cruelty, and indifference, are truly woven into the fabric of this country... these truths devestate me. I turn to my garden, to making and sharing, to celebrating any joy and beauty I can find, in hopes of spreading love, inspiring compassion, and keeping my own fears and grief in check. Good things are better shared, and this must include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, for all people.

In Answer to A Question

Chickenblog.com - Mon, 04/12/2021 - 08:38
There's been a question that, over nine years, has increasingly troubled me. What would we do if one of our goats dies before the other, and the one left behind had no companion? It's a rather inevitable thing, sadly. One day, we will find ourselves with a single, lonely goat, and lately this question felt too urgent to ignore, so Geoff and I did some research, and I even consulted Teresa Kasner, blogging friend and former dairy goat farmer. The consensus... add young goats to the herd. And we could see that this would be an ideal year to do just that, since even in early February it was obvious the Stay Home Season would be going on for at least another six months. From the time we determined to get at least one bottle baby, small breed girl goat, I began making regular calls to the feed store... Hello, it's me again, have any bottle babies come in? Finally, we heard a promising reply, We have a mini-Toggenburg. She's a bottle baby. William joined me for an early drive to the feedstore, to meet this baby. She is a Nigerian dwarf and Toggenburg mix, born February 20th. The hope is she will be a similiar height to Ada and Tasha, and that they will be the best of friends, a goat trio! And yes, I was probably overly, naively, optimistic about goat relations! And if you are thinking... won't they have a similar issue in a few years, when possibly two goats have passed on, and they still get stuck with one lonely goat? Answer: I will think about that tomorrow. Now, can we talk about how cute she is?? She is very cute, we all think so. Unfortunately, her intended roommates do not agree, and have literally no interest, nor mild curiosity, in this usurper! The looks, the body language, the expressions of almost revulsion, from both of our ladies has been tragic, and hilarious. I made a Reel, to announce our new kid on the farm, and the real story is the clear disappointment on Ada and Tasha's faces. In the meantime, and I mean for two days, and this morning, we have been loving this new baby. And doing our level best to give Tasha and Ada all the time and space they need to adjust themselves and come around! She falls asleep in our arms! It's the sweetest thing! I laugh imagining the habits I am forming, and what this will mean when she weighs 70 pounds! Her crate is all set up in the goat pen. I wish she weren't alone, but the nights are not cold, and I like to think the time near the other animals will help with everyone getting comfortable around each other. She's very easy going about her time in there, even overnight. And she was very excited about her 6:30 am bottle the next day. When I shared the pictures of Ada and Tasha, someone had a perfect caption, "Can you believe this... ?" Which is exactly the question Ada must be asking Tasha, as they following the new kid's every move. And the new kid? She seems mostly oblivious to the stir she is causing. Even the chickens are a bit flummoxed. Seeing her alongside the hens gives us a better idea of her size, which obviously is small.Introducing the new kid, Grace Hopper. Aka Grasshopper. She's already had visitors... happily, it's not hard to host an outdoor, socially distant, goat visit! Paul was living with us when the first kids arrived, 9 years ago, and Janece and Amira only got to enjoy it over Skype. This is way more fun to share with everyone. I was looking through some old posts... so much has changed since we first brought home goats! One thing I do remember, it goes fast, and all of this baby goat fun is fleeting. I am going to enjoy this time for all it's worth! The routine is bottle, nap, frolic, repeat. It's a good life, and last night, to my astonishment and relief, we had a tiny breakthrough... tiny, and promising. While Maria fed Grace, Tasha made her first approach and came closer than ever before, even looking kindly on the new kid.

This Week

Chickenblog.com - Fri, 04/09/2021 - 11:45

This flowerbed makes me extremely happy. Everything has been growing well in there, and it's in a welcoming spot, where I can see them daily, and raised enough to bring them even more to my attention, and the colors, and the variety... so much about them has been exceptional. I don't know what else, but something. Something is happening here, that makes me extra appreciative and admiring. I am glad we designed this space and could have it built. I am glad we live near nurseries, where it's practically like spring year-round. I am glad my Mother, and hers', passed along their love of flowers, of growing them, and cherishing them.

I am not surprised that it is Friday. All day yesterday I was thinking it was Friday. I am surprised that I haven't posted since Saturday, though. It makes me wonder what I have been up to this week. The worst, no doubt, was enduring more chapters of A Drunk Drove Into Your Life, the nauseatingly long saga, with unreal plot twists, a cast of dubious characters, and too many villians, a victim desperate to be cut from the whole production, and tedious details that maddingly never seem to move the story forward.

Ok. Moving forward... as best I can. Flowers. Goat walks. Making plans. Making dinners. Making messes. Cleaning messes. Embroidery. Riding my bicycle. Sketching. Coutning chickens. Staring blankly into the middle distance. Geez, I think this is may be the same week I had last week! How about you?
Maria was standing beside me, and what I saw in her pocket made me think of Jeff Goldblum, and his Knot Store...


Max and I were the cooks on Easter. And later we built some fires and friends came over to visit in the driveway. You know, I was looking forward to writing this post, but I am keenly aware that I am loosing orbit here. Yesterday I got my second vaccination against COVID. As I have documented so much of this strange year, it's only fitting to share this happy chapter. Geoff is out getting his shot, now. Anyway, it's just possible that this relaxing activity of blogging might be something to tackle later. My arm is sore, for sure, but I am also starting to feel heavy, drowsy, like a nap could be even more relaxing than sitting comfortably at my desk tapping out deep thoughts and other musings. I am just going to put up a few more pictures, because that seems sensible, even though I am aware that I am almost tipsy with nap readiness, and it's doubtful I know what "sensible" is.

No. No, on second thought: Sleep is winning...

Good Memories & Other Welcome Company

Chickenblog.com - Sat, 04/03/2021 - 10:59
My post from yesterday was written in haste, and finished abruptly. Paul and Janece arrived. I could hear them from my office, which faces the front of the house. When the first lockdown, and our own concerns, relaxed, we added something we call Brekkie Club to our social calendar. Paul picks up burritos, and we hang out in the driveway, sharing breakfast, chatting. We've done this, maybe, once a month. A visit can go for hours, because the company is so nice. It gets so the chance to enjoy laughing and sharing becomes vital. Sometimes we build a fire, because it's almost too cold to be outside, and some mornings we move our chairs around, to get out of the sun and glare. Mostly though, I just feel thankful for our moderate weather, which makes social distancing possible at all. We haven't felt as stuck as people living alone, or in an apartment building, we haven't been vexed by weather, or limited space. Between Brekkie Club, movie nights, and our own in-house social group, the year has been far better than it might have been. Now so many are getting vaccinated, and we have new things to sort about engaging, traveling, being social, and I feel almost as uncertain, concerned, hesitant, as I was a year ago. I am comfortable being patient about all of it, especially if we can count on Brekkie Club, or having company around fire rings, laughing and talking, a movie, or games. As I was looking through my phone, wondering if there's anything worth sharing, I thought about how almost everything I've shared from the last year has been around our house. There have been lots of chickens, cats, goats, flowers, meals, and whatever craft I am immersed in. Right now, it's drawing cats, and adding embroidery to my apron. Out of curiosity I decided to look back... one year, then to 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016. What have we been up to, in one glimpse, at this time of year? April 4, 2020. These are the daffodils, Carol shared from her garden. At this point the novelty of lockdown was wearing thin, and the isolation was leaving a surreal mark on me. I remember her gift was thrilling, and really opened my heart and actions around spring, Easter, making our home ready for a holiday. Bambi was finishing her quarantine in our RV, and we began making happy plans to celebrate bringing her into our home. And we had the new chicks! So much was unknown, and strange, and everything good felt poignant, treasured. April 6, 2019. This was a busy and exciting spring, when Mike came and made all sorts of necessary, and fun, improvements on our home. I even got to make the odd little balcony a favorite new spot in our home, by painting the walls and ceiling, and adding things, like drift wood climbing branches for the cats. Chango loved the sunny space, and with the added screens we had no worries about cats getting out, nor mosquitos getting in. I've really moved in, since then! Now I have a spare bed in there, and it's where I go to work on painting, sketching, and star-gazing. It's as much a favorite spot as ever. March 31, 2018. The BIG Banana Adventure, before Grant moved to Japan! I took a picture of Grant, Paul, Geoff and William, before they embarked, but I never posted about what happened, what they saw, and enjoyed. It definitely included the International Banana Museum, and other desert wonders. April 3, 2017. Here is a memory that feels like a long long time ago, when Maria and I shared another train adventure, and brought Geoff along with us! We went all the way to Portland, Oregon. And on the way back we stopped and saw family in Albany. I have such a crush on Portland. I can't even write anything, because I am daydreaming about walking all day, about amazing flower gardens in every yard, and feeling eager to go out everyday and take in all the sights we could manage. I always feel like every moment is full, vivid, when I am in that city, and sharing it only improves the experience. One more! March 27, 2016. The Young Folks. "Take joy, I wrote 5 years ago, "there is so much of it at hand." What a fine reminder. These young folks, our friends, our family, our opportunities, our ideas, plans, hopes, are wonderful sources of joy. I am so happy to find myself in good, and welcome company.

Ribbons & Flowers

Chickenblog.com - Fri, 04/02/2021 - 08:53
It's taking all of my will (which evidently is insufficient) to not open this post with: Wow! It's already Friday and April! Some days it feels like it could still be March... March 2020. But things are not all together unchanged. I see Maria's hair is longer, again, since I cut it last May. Long enough to play with, trying the tutorial where she uses ribbon to make two braids wrap together. No hair ties or rubber bands! She did the first try all on her own, with a narrow ribbon, then I tried with this wider, grosgrain ribbon. If her hair grows this much in less than a year, I think this pretty style will be even more successful by mid-summer. By the way, to day is her last day of school before she has a week of spring break. Not much is planned, I am sorry to say, but William is going to help her paint her room. And they might trade beds. There has been a lot of shuffling and rearranging, lately. I remarked about the house looking like five families are moving out, and five other families are moving in, all at once... and why? Because I am "cleaning!" Incidentally, I am not going to bother with paragraphs. This post is coming in fast and random, chaotic... like my thoughts! Now, let's talk about rununculus, before I head outside to meet Paul and Janece for a driveway visit: The rununculus I brought home are making me very happy, and Feynman cat is fascinated by them, too. There are flower fields in our part of the county where they grow, and I think I'd begun to take them for granted, hadn't bought any in many years. Well! What I was missing! They are an excellent warm up for peony season, I think. All of those sumptuous petals, the vibrancy of the colors, the daily evolvement as they open. Hold up! I think we have company!

A Little More Prettiness

Chickenblog.com - Tue, 03/30/2021 - 10:34
When I started posting yesterday, there were all kinds of prettiness I wanted to share, but I ran out of time, before I was needed elsewhere. So, I am just popping in, again, to share a little more, and then, don't let me forget to make a to-do list. In the morning light, I can feel almost capable, and level headed about all the things that need doing, but in the wee hours I wake up in a panic! Objectively, rationally, I know that I have too much to do, owing mostly to the fact that under pressure, in trauma, I close my eyes and withdraw... and there's been a lot of that in the last, oh, say four years? Geoff thinks we might open our home again, have company, someday, soon, and the implication is that we might want to tidy up, or we could leave our home, go places, and that would require planning and organizing, too. Either way, it's becoming clear, that some people think that staying home forever, eyes closed, is not an option. It's rather a shame, because I have become very very comfortable in this cocoon. (Well... look at that. I note that I used "cocoon" for my metaphor, and it's staring at me, like a firm friend, as if to say, It is time for your metamorphosis. I am aware, my cocoon is not entirely figurative, you see, but is teetering on literal. I feel myself wriggling, uncomfortably confronting hard truths, growth, resistance.) Just now, anxiously, I'd like to see more of those pretty things, or close my eyes. Ruth spent an afternoon visiting us. The weather was just right for driveway company. It was warm, but not too warm. Cool, but not too cool. We practiced all of the social distancing protocol that is routine by now. It's odd what we are accustomed to, that seemed like a hardship a year ago. Even sitting far apart, not hugging, a driveway visit is far better than a Zoom call, and we even shared lunch. I had a gift I have been waiting to share with Ruth, a little ratty brooch. Geoff had some down time from work, and was free to join the company, the young folks came out. For a time I did a little more stitching on the apron. We talked about travel, about places we might like to visit. We talked about farm houses in Wisconsin, how they tempt us. We talked about tea towels, house projects, school progress, termites, and fences. We moved into the shade, then back into the sun. Look at what I found! After blogging about daffodils, about spring and bulbs, about never planning... and always feeling unprepared, I went to Trader Joes and right in the entrance were potted daffodils, the small ones, like I saw on our bike ride! I felt so lucky, like fate had a gift for me, and I could be part of the spring celebration, after all. And I grabbed some rununculus, too, because why not? If I had been at the market before Ruth's visit, I would have bought her bunches of flowers, probably the tulips I saw. The tulips were tightly shut, which is how I like them, so I can enjoy the whole ride, as they open up. Thinking on this, I'd love to go around all day delivering flowers to everyone I love. It would take a very long day... to get all over California, up to Oregon, over to Wisconsin, then Massachusetts, I'd stop in Georgia, pop down to Florida, then see everyone in Mexico. I'd think of everyone's favorites, and celebrate spring with them. Ruth never comes empty-handed. She had a birthday gift for William, and a spring dish towel for our Bird House... it's covered in darling beetles. Ruth and I are in a Tea Towel Club, and so is Jennifer... you can be in our club, if you love tea towels. Ruth also brought me something special. It's from a shop in Kealakekua. It is precious! For one thing, she's kept it all these years, and thought of me, wants me to have it now. And it reminds me of flowers my Grandmother Eunice embroidered! And the print, with the cottage, and those blues and greens, the old fabric... all so lovely. Is it linen? Was this a kit? Who might know something about these? I have embroidered over fabric I painted. I painted acrylic on muslin. It's an effect I like very much. But I've never seen a sample like this. I noticed there are printed words on the frayed edge. I have to look at the back of embroidered pieces! I have to. I love it almost as much, sometimes more, than the part we are meant to see. It's the rest of the story, the how it was made part, and it gives you a glimpse of the work, of the time and thought, even the struggles, or sometimes the remarkable grace. I love it. The printed words... I can make out The ____ House. The middle word looks like it could begin with an S. Summer, or Spring? What do you think?

Some Prettiness

Chickenblog.com - Mon, 03/29/2021 - 09:45

Yesterday, on our bike ride, I saw a small patch of daffodils, growing in the nearly wild spot, my bit of forest. They are the small flower head kind that make me think of the French name, jonquille, with deep yellow saucers and yolk-orange cups. It's always in the middle of spring that I remember that I do like spring. Fall is my favorite season, and spring always comes last in mind, but that's a pity. It's a pity that in the Fall, when I am in love with crunching leaves beneath my boots, and bringing home too many pumpkins, I cannot be bothered with planting bulbs for spring. I don't want to imagine there will ever be any season but the home season, the brisk weather, and calm evenings season, with warm colors, and softening light. When I saw those few jonquilles, I felt a sharp pang of regret. It's spring now, and I wish I had planted daffodils and grape hyacinth, freesia, ranunculus. I wish we had wisteria coming into bloom, and a trellis for my Cécile Brünner roses. I even admit that I regret buying too many pumpkins... no, maybe not that. Maybe, because I have confessed my contrition, next Spring little daffodils and some grape hyacinth will pop up in our garden, because this Fall I will have saved some room in my Autumn dazzled head for Spring, and will plant those bulbs.

And now for a Liberty report! And another admission, from me: Around October I noticed our dear old hen was doing poorly, and by December I was practically composing her eulogy in my head. She limped, walked in circles, her comb was pale, she even lost her balance and rolled over. I am one of those weak kneed farmers that has never actually culled a chicken, which I know can be a merciful thing. I spared Kamen, after the bobcat shredded her, which, thankfully, turned out to be the right choice. I gave Liberty affection, private space to eat, and extra helpings of treats. I lifted her to the roost, and I brought her in the house during inclement weather. And I kind of held my breath, knowing it could be any day. But, I was wrong, or maybe the doting helped. Because it's late March and she's walking fine, roosting, again, and practically spry for an ol' girl! The other night when all the hens came for evening treats, I saw Liberty already roosting, and knowing what an effort it takes for her to get up there, I decided to pamper her, some more, and I brought her snacks to her. She is, and always has been a favorite hen. Gosh, it's hard loving pets, and caring for them, knowing that sooner or later, we will lose them... and so, it's one of the delights of being a farmer to dote, and comfort, when I can.

About that bee... he, too, was looking sapped and poorly, when Cairo and I found him clinging to the balcony screen. I brushed some honey water where he could drink it, and the little guy lapped it all up, then rallied. And I got to make another Reel for Instagram, which I enjoy doing.

There is lots more to share, like a visit with Ruth, and progress with embroidery. I'll save for those another post, because we are out of milk and bread and cheese, and clean socks. Happy as I am to sit here and revel in all the prettiness, I suppose I should rally! Happy Monday, friends.

Today Is Friday

Chickenblog.com - Fri, 03/26/2021 - 11:18
Before I launch into the paperwork-computer sorts of things I need to manage, I wanted to treat myself to a little blogging. I uploaded pictures from my phone, and started formatting some favorites. A small voice in my head casually, yet pointedly, noted, "Another picture of a nesting hen. Oh, and some eggs. Yes, well, you do that often." I am glad I am not feeling too self-critical. I am glad I am in a mood to note... it is called ChickenBlog, afterall! I don't suppose anyone could be surprised that there are a lot of posts about hens, with pictures of eggs, and chcickens doing chicken things. (Somewhere in my archives I even have a post or two about how I almost always have to fix the way I type the word C-h-i-c-k-e-n, because this is a blog that spans the spectrum of all things chicken, fascintating, pointless, and otherwise.) I am, obviously, infatuated with chickens, with their eggs, their behaviors, their feathers, and lives, and it makes me happy that I ever got to see for myself what having my own hens would be like in the first place, that I have been able to observe them, share them, enjoy them for all these years. And I was reasoning all of this, as I settled on including yet another picture of fresh eggs, when I went to format the next photograph... and would'nt you know it, I have another eggs picture to share! Look at those freckles! I couldn't not take a picture of this very pretty, speckled egg. I've been sharing a lot of eggs in real life, too. I love to share our eggs, about as much as I love taking pictures of them. It makes me happy to give gifts, to pass along my enthusiasm for the egg colors, and having backyard chickens. What hadn't occured to me is how much more I get back... not just the pleasure of giving, but receiving! My friends keep surprising me with their thanks and kindness, with fresh baked goods, treats, produce from their gardens! It's hard to describe, and I feel silly that it always catches me off-guard, but I feel happy and lucky to share what I can, and I feel like it's a complete and satisfying act to simply deliver those eggs, so when a friend bring over warm cookies, or a head of lettuce, it feel like my good fortune grows ten-fold!
Today is Friday. The reminder helps. Blogging helps. It's not as easy to keep events and moments in order, when so many days sort of blend into each other. It is easy to lose track of the day of the week, the things that happened either last summer, or was it the summer before that? I was already struggling with memory issues, even total amnesia, before the lockdowns, and stay at home season(s), and with the added wibbly-wobbliness of days and days and days staying home, time is even fuzzier.

Maria does a good job of staying on track. She's up for school, always on time. She definitely knows when it's Saturday. Saturday is the day when she, Alex, Bambi, Lucas, and Tori play Dungeons and Dragons. She's been diligently, regularly, building her portfolio ahead of the AP exams in May. She has been adding to her skills, and finished works, by mastering Procreate on her iPad. And I am happy for her that she is starting to add after school clubs into her days, again. I think those were a struggle for her to relate to, as she continues to participate remotely. And, for the record, I have loved all of the days with her at home... I know it's not ideal, that there have been losses, setbacks, but I can't change those, and focusing on whatever is good, I am happy to enjoy seeing her, having more hours in her company. Geoff is still in crunchmode, which has meant 16 hour days, 7 days a week. The good news: They are progressing, and the hardwork and expectations are transitioning. I am always happy when this shift happens, because even though they are still working hard, they can enjoy some relief, knowing that tasks are accomplished, behind them. I like to imagine that it provides some relief. Max and Geoff share a room, where Max sleeps, and has his things, and Geoff works. Increasingly, Max is working, too, as he gets ready to begin his internship. He wants to be prepared, to learn as much as he can ahead of the start date. He's feeling the pressure. Yesterday, I masked up, went on a mission, and came back with something we haven't enjoyed in well over a year... fresh sushi! Sushi is one of Max's favorites, Bambi's, too. It was a lot of fun to plate everything up, and call everyone to the livingroom picnic. For us all to have a treat, a novelty, and think of good things we look forward to, and hard things we have made it through, to laugh, to enjoy something different. A break! That's what it's called. Right. It's funny how some ideas kind of lose their meaning... we are almost always home, which implies we are always on a sort of break, but without actual vacations, without going new places, or getting away from routines, it can be easy to forget that we need real breaks, changes, a refresh. It rained yesterday. With Max and Bambi, I folded, aproximately, one ton of laundry. I did a lot of cleaning, actually. And some cooking. It was a gratifying kind of day. And by the time I was ready to head up to bed, I was tired, but in a pleasant way. Then I remembered that the floss I ordered had been delivered. I popped back downstairs, grabbed the baggy, and relished the prospect of getting into bed with the cat, and a cozy shawl, and unwinding the new skeins onto little card organizers. I thought I would only get to a few before I would be too sleepy. I turned my phone to a movie, something I could follow, like an audio book, while winding thread. Listening to the entire movie Juliet Naked, I organized all but three skeins, because I ran out of the little cards. I like Nick Hornby books, and movies. I love floss, the skeins, and seeing them wrapped around organizers. I have my #729, that pretty gold, restocked and now I can add more to my wunderschürze. Plus, I have cat drawings to practice, and there's cardio parties, on Fridays and Wednesdays. Here I am, to remind myself that some structure is good... I appreciate these insights and bits of wisdom that come to light for me. And my, what a kind of random post this has turned about to be... something, I admit, as frequently recurring as egg pictures. Happy Friday, friends. I hope you find some change, or relief, some happy random pleasures, anything to make you feel fortunate.

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