Chicken Blog by Natalie

Let's Ride! - Sat, 09/19/2020 - 11:37


If I could, I would pack a truck with essential things, like a map, cups, and plates, a cooler, and blankets, boots, and swimsuits, a box of paints, paper, brushes, the good binoculars, all of my travel pillows. Pre-dawn, I'd rouse everyone, "Let's ride!" Cats, too. And away we would go, to anywhere. Anywhere with oak trees, and farmstands, anywhere with mailboxes lining dirt roads, and cows. The places where you find a general store, bakery, the remains of a harvested cornfield, pumpkins stacked on stoops, and new sights around the next bend in the road. We would make lunch from the apple orchard, where they're selling goat cheese, and loaves of bread, jars of local honey. We would stop at the river, skip stones, and wade in up to our knees. That's where we would pitch our tent, at dusk float on our backs, count bats, then fall asleep to owl calls. If I could, I would walk the cats on leashes and let them roll in the redwood duff, then wake everyone with flour tortillas cooked over the fire. We would drink pinole with cinnamon and chocolate. Then we would spend a day doing nothing, or anything, like painting, birdwatching, reading, napping, digging holes, collecting ideas, sorting through memories.

Nice Blogs - Fri, 09/18/2020 - 08:10
September 11 September 13
Spider webs, and dew, foggy mornings, cats that want to snuggle, lingering in bed on cool mornings... I am not taking any of this bliss for granted. I promise, I was as selective as I could be, and I could have shared three times as many pictures of water droplets on gossamer threads.

We have been insulated, sheltered, from all but smoke haze. Each day of cooler weather, of fog, brings forth a sigh of relief, and mindful concern for all of the rest of the West. I don't assume that our reprieve from heat and wind, is because Fall is coming. We are as much in wildfire season as ever, and the real answers lie in adressing climate change head on.

Going all the way back to March, we spend more and more of our outdoor time in our front yard. Periodically, we hosted gatherings out there, and our Little Free Library has been out front for long while. But since the Stay at Home Season began, we do more and more in the front yard than ever before, from movie nights in the driveway, fireside chats, safe-distance breakfasts, and our own family meals, we are drawn to the shade of the Torrey Pines, the open space of our wide driveway, and the chance of seeing friends out for a stroll.
September 14
Classes and studies continue to go well for Maria. She baked banana bread last week, and this week she begins the section on pastas. It's not hard to add up all the things missing, but she manages very well focusing on what is working, adding other activities to fill in gaps. With Alex and Bambi, Maria has been practicing weight training, yoga, and ballet, and she's keeping up the D&D. Maria and William share lengthy discussions on language, etymology, literature, and culture. Max is waiting in the wings, eager to be her math tutor.

Geoff is programming from home, and continues to fill every waking moment with all sorts of activities, including a huge dive into laundry conquering, preparing for the arrival of a highly anticipated laser cutter, working with Alex on making a forge, cycling, and making designs for new front yard features. I am not sure when he rests, so I try to compensate for him. William is diligently managing several design projects, including a future house addition, the new front yard feature, and a giant cat. I wonder which we will see first, the new front yard feature, or the giant cat? Maybe both at once, and soon! He is also doing more contract work, 3D printing products. Alex, is working on making the small forge, he helped install a punching bag, and he's making art, as well as managing the narrative, and gaming for D&D. Bambi is taking online courses, keeping up her personal art projects, and interning, plus she is a phenom in the areas of organizing and motivating. If we had a larger room, I would definitely enroll in her ballet class! Max finished two actuarial math courses, and now his degree is clear and complete. I love when he leans close to me and whispers, "It's Tuesday. And. I have no school." He smiles, thankfully. He reorganized his desk, and settled into a project that he's visited off and on over the years. He is developing an entire deck of Adventure Time themed card for Magic The Gathering. He's also organizing MTG games, which means engagement and activity with local friends, at our large table, with plexiglass dividers, for safety.

I dabble, like always. I've probably spent most of my time sitting with goats and chickens, as well as cooking, and stargazing. I managed to crochet a couple of things, and then it got very hot, and I got, sorry to say, bored. That's ok. I usually switch crafts and projects, from embroidery to crochet to sewing, then printmaking. The one activity I have most missed, though, is sketching and painting. I don't know what has been my block, why I havent been able to do the thing I was loving so much. But. Maybe the block has cleared. Geoff and I were out riding, and came upon an old truck. I do love old trucks, but I couldn't have guessed how much I am inspired to paint them. On the same ride, I saw a pretty bunny. He was standing, alert, backlit by the setting sun, and then I wanted very much to get home and sketch, paint. I am anxious for it to turn out the way it's pictured in my head. I should know better, but the tension is absorbing, and a welcome distraction from news, and news, and news. Oh, and I am definitely heavily involved in designing, advising, and planning the new front yard features, and that is an excellent occupation!
September 15
Are you curious? About the the new front yard features? I've already hinted and described parts of it on Instagram. For a long time we've wanted to make a transition space between the street and our home, where we could extend the intention and mood of our Little Free Library, and Maker Events. We also have wanted to make a retaining wall for the slope that faces our house, and support the two, large trees. So! With help from Mike The Builder, we are widening the driveway with a retainting wall, and building a deck adjacent to the Little Library. Social isolation and COVID mean this project won't have quite the same purpose as we originally intended, but we are thinking forward. If we build it... progress, justice, and gathering will come!

Oh! And the zucchinis, onions, and sundried tomatoes, in the pan? Just so I don't forget the meal William and I collaborated on, because everyone loved it! We have loads of giant zucchinis coming out of the garden. I froze some, shared some, and we are eating lots! William cooks Tuesday dinners, and he's developed a yummy pasta dish with creamy (vegan) sauce, and steamed broccoli. This time he thought we should try something with squash, and I came up with sauteing onions with zucchini in oil from a jar of Trader Joes sundried tomatoes, thyme, salt and pepper, then adding the tomatoes, too. Now I think of it, I should cube and freeze more zucchini!
September 16
Sharing may be one of my most favorite things to do. And I have been very fortunate to experience some lovely, treasured, occasions of giving, and receiving.

Kim, the mail was slow, and we know what that's all about, but it sure was worth the wait. She sent me this hand made card, and inside was a fairy, with wings, and lace, and a gentle face. It's hard to describe my reaction, but I feel delighted, and loved, and inspired, and good. Thank you, Kim, for the warm glowing pleasure of being one of your friends.

Someone was "sorry" to have visited Chickenblog, and let me know about that in a comment on my last post. There was also mention of "nicer blogs," and that got me thinking about nice blogs and IG accounts, so I thought I would share just a few I enjoy. And if you are ever sad, or lost, or angry, silly, happy, creative, weird, bored, tired, confused, weary, hurt, healing, loud, quiet... you don't have to hide your feelings, or be something, someone, other than yourself. We are, you are, I am, complex, unique, individual, worthwhile, and good, in all of our moods, with all of our feelings.

Here are some Nice Blogs...

oonaballoona, by Marcy Harriell, is something I only just discovered yesterday. She has these Reels on Instagram, where she shows dresses she sews. I found myself thinking, "Now, why have I forgotten to twirl, to spin in a full skirt, with all of the colors and smiles, and love, like I did as a child?" She hasn't forgotten, and her effusive joy is infectious!

I have this frequent wish, that bloggers would come back to the Internet. Not influencers, not corporate spokespeople. I am talking old school, friends, neighbors, like No Ordinary Moment! She's back, and writing, sharing, reflecting. And I think we need more of this, more voices, and points of view, more original content, and ideas.

Speaking of original Calamity Kim is the original. I have said it before, and I will say it again and again: Kim is the hardest working and most generous artist, crafter, creative out there!

I admit it, I have become a plant lady, an indoor plant enthusiast. I have a ways to go before I am knowledable, skilled, worthy of being a real Plant Lady. And so, I depend on the kindness, enthusiasm and good tips of people like Garden Marcus, and the Plantkween, Christopher.

This mention is all about a voice, and supporting this young woman, Samara Joy McLendon, singer, student, and soon to be recording artist. She is very close to reaching a big goal, and I hope we will all be enjoying more of her music, soon.

Over and over again, Alexis Nikole, Blackforager, has me saying, "I did not know that." And then smiling, with her, when she comes across something growing, something edible, something good, where she is foraging, cooking. She's excited about the world around her, and it's very nice to explore with her, through her posts.

Witch Friday - Fri, 09/11/2020 - 13:25

Introducing, Maria, the new Instagram account manager for Witch Thursday, the high school activity and mood, that was started for diversity and inclusion, freedom of expression, creativity, and tall, pointy hats, in other words... for fun!. Maria has been an enthused and devoted Witch Thursday participant since her freshman year, and she's eager, even when school is happening remotely, to keep the tradition and spirit alive. On the surface, it's a day to wear witch hats to school, but what she holds dear is the message that everyone should feel safe and welcome at school, in the world, to be their true selves, to be comfortable dressing as, expressing, and celebrating, who they are, and the best attention it can draw is for acceptance and respect for everyone. It began with students, continues with students, and the hat is passed along, when students graduate. At the end of 2022, Maria will find a new Witch to inspire and celebrate expression, and Witchness.

That jar of jelly is from Carol and Grace, some of the friends that we shared passionfruit with. They made it, and it's like a jar of sweet-tart gold. I love how they only added a little sugar. It tastes like they've jarred summer in the garden, fresh and flavorful, bright, special. I am going to check on the vine, as soon as I finish this post. Hopefully, we still have lots of fruit, because I'd love to send them another bagful, if they'd like. We made some juice, and some passionfruit butter. And I froze some. Now, I think of it, maybe I will toast bread and have a snack, before I go out to harvest more fruit. It's so yummy.

Not the moon, not a trick of the lens, the sun was already high, yet hardly recognizable through the filter of smoke. It's really hard to know whether it is actually cloudy, or just polluted. Thankfully, the smoke, around here, has been much higher in our atmosphere... we don't smell it. North, all the way to Canada, I guess, and south of here, are orange skies, falling ash, and hazardous pollution levels. We are relatively spared. I read the news, and despair. I follow friends' accounts of what is happening in San Francisco, around Sacramento, across Oregon, in Seattle, and in our own County, San Diego. It's stressful. We still have months of seasonal, heat, wind, and anxious watching, ahead of us.

The artist Mary Englebreit, is best known for her bright illustrations of Scottie dogs, cherry bowls, and cheery cottages, but if you think she's only sugar and nice, you might appreciate knowing that she has no tolerance for fools. Her messages give me hope, and appreciation. I love that, like me, she's done with seeing, respecting, "both sides" and sitting quietly by. Here's something she posted recently, and I love her for drawing a clear line, "If you still support trump after everything everybody knows now, get off my page. My art is not for you. My pictures of my family, my home, and my life are not for you. I don’t care about losing you as customers—- as for followers, I’m after quality, not quantity. I’m not taking comments on this post because I know most of you agree, and I don’t have time to block all the bots and trolls who show up only on my political posts. No point in trying to reason with people who support their bat-shit crazy cult leader no matter what, and no point in arguing with people who can’t see a difference between Biden and the anti-Christ. This will be the last trump post from me before the election, unless he drops dead, resigns, or is driven from office. No point in beating a dead horse— you’re either a moral, sane, intelligent person or you’ve sold your soul to the devil. Vote BLUE in numbers they can’t manipulate!!

Yes. That sums it up very nicely. I feel a little hoarse and drained from trying to speak my mind, and so it's nice to borrow from someone who makes a good, clear message. When political views result in suffering of another human being, they are no longer political views... they are moral choices.

Between Moons - Tue, 09/08/2020 - 14:18
September 3
Distance learning, with spirit! Whether online, or in line to pick up text books, Maria is keeping to classic school club actitivies and themes, like Witch Thursday, the day created to remind everyone to dress as you feel. We love this school. We love the integrity and intelligence, the spirit of the students who are there, who have come through there.
September 4
First cooking assignment for Culinary Arts: Scones. And Maria chose to bake cranberry-orange scones. I think it's all about quick breads, because biscuits and pancakes, then banana bread, are coming up. May I, briefly, wax poetic? Maria's scones came out pretty, appealingly pretty. By the time I got to sit down and enjoy my serving, I decided to make it a mindful, special moment. I made coffee, I brought out a pretty plate, I sat at the dining table. I am so glad I was intentional, because her baking was transportive. Each bite made me recall the pleasure of cafes, of going out, of being at a bakery, some place you find at the end of the day, on a tree-lined street. My thoughts wandered. I thought of novels, heroines, linen aprons, garden kitchens, the waning light of a softening summer, the painstaking saving of fruits, nuts, spices, in preparation of holidays, Winter. Maria's baking made me feel hopeful, thankful, sated. That's a lot to derive from a scone, but it was a very pretty scone, and delicious, too, and I am reminded of all the good that comes of slowing down, being mindful. It's a gift to take notice, to enjoy all the layers.
We are between moons. September 2, when the moon was full, it was the Full Corn Moon. And here is our corn, nearly ready to be picked. This month there is no Harvest Moon, that comes October 1st, this year. And then a Blue Moon on the last night of October. The Harvest Moon is not associated with a month, but with the autumnal equinox. On September 22, Fall begins in the Northern Hemisphere, and the nearest full moon will be the Harvest Moon. September 6
Fond as I am of the phases of the moon, tracking Venus and Mars, finding Vega and Arcturus in the night sky, and all things Fall, we don't get much of that classic autumnal, seasonal stuff. In fact, the only waning light is from smoke blotting out the sun. The world is murky, hazed, like we are walking through an Instagram filter. And hot. I resolve to complain as little as possible about heat, but when it's record breaking, when we hover around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, all bets are off: It felt otherworldly, still, and foreboding, like the sun would refuse to leave the sky, and hold us, fevered, and dry, without pity. Yeah, that hot.

And, count us safe from the Valley Fire, which is burning south and east of here. But my brother and sister-in-law are in the evacuation warning area, and have been packed to go since Sunday. I was deteremined to write one post without getting "political," but. Can we please please please look into climate change, consider the possibility that these record breaking events are not normal? And if they are not normal, if disasters, and pandemics, and global unrest are making everyone uncomfortable, wouldn't it make simple sense to be concerned, to want to make changes, to intervene? The heat, the damages... they are too real to be "fake news."
Throughout the day, when the sun glared red through the smoke, I checked on the hens and goats. I brought them chilled, grated zucchini, and hosed off the bushes where they stayed for shade... the evaporative cooling, and mist helps. I let the hens free range all day, so they could follow their instincts and find their best ways of being comfortable. They liked digging into the watered soil, getting down to the cooler earth, and resting there. The light was so strange, it made my old hens think of sundown, and they went to roost, but even after the sun was finally down, it was as hot as noon. September 7
The very next day, when temperatures dropped to the 80s, we were so relieved! Even 80s would be considered hot, here, but I felt so cooled, I baked quiches! And Maria baked the biscuits she was assigned. And about those biscuits... those were poetry worthy, too. We ate them with butter and honey, and that was dinner. I love how they came out, baked on our comal, and we thanked Nicki Salcedo for the inspiration, and biscuit tips. And someone else that's inspired me, again, Kristina Gill. In her stories she links to fabulous food posts, and I am struck by how beautiful food is, how artful we can make it. Being mindful of the scarcity of food for many people, I tend to hold back with food posts (I mean, compared with how I could go!) Recognizing hunger, and advocating for solutions, matters, of course. And appreciating matters, paying attention to our food, on many levels, lends another layer to the experience of eating. Kristina Gill has reminded me to take notice of how we can lend all of our senses to the experience of getting fed, so it's not only nutritious, and filling, but makes us smile, brings us connection to the earth, to traditions, and our culture, others' cultures. In making food beautiful, we slow down and make a celebration of the gifts we are about to receive, and that is nourishing to the soul. By making even simple fair special, we are reminding ourselves of the goodness we have to enjoy. Beautiful food, slow food, growing food, preparing food, sharing food... these are gifts.

Back in April, we were low on some foods, and concerened about when and how we would replenish our supplies. I planted onion scraps, and potatoes, we started more garden beds, and added new chicks to our flock, and I thought of later. Later, when we might harvest onions, when we would have enough chard, more eggs, some fruit, for us, for our neighbors, for sharing. We weren't desperate or without options, but we were mindful, we were thankful, and we wanted to feel more secure, more capable. I recalled all of these feelings and ideas, and the work we did, as I made the quiches... I sliced the onions that were grown from sprouting ends, we still have chard, the zucchini is plentiful, the pullets are laying, as the old girls slip into their golden years, retire. Thankfully, with a sense of relief, I made our lunch, and I sighed. I'd like everyone to have fresh produce, and a cutting board, a good pan, cooking oil, and time to make a pretty meal, to sit down, eat slowly. Good things are better shared. I love recognizing how healthful and soul-lifting it is to see beautiful food, to put as much care and love into what we make as we possibly can, and share as much as we possibly can, too.

This morning, another gift... Dew! Almost rain. I can scarcely believe my senses, but it smells like rain, like the dry earth is taking a sip. The ground is damp. It's almost rain, and better than a mere mist. More would be wonderful. More rain, mist, dampness, all up and down the western coast, please.

Take Care - Thu, 09/03/2020 - 12:21

When Thistle laid her first egg, I was fortunate enough to be checking in. I wrote all about that. You guys, the days blend and blur, and so do my thoughts and memory. Also, I just feel fascinated, even riveted, by all of it... chickens and eggs, and sitting with birds, talking to goats.

On FB a friend is asking for examples of boring fact about yourself. I joked, I thought of so many boring facts about myself, that I dozed off. Only, to be honest, it's not a joke.

Where was I? Oh, yes... Thistle lays blue eggs! And, Lucia is laying sage green eggs, and the large, pale green egg is from Trillian. Some boring facts about me, I am naming hens, and keeping tabs of the eggs they lay, colors, and sizes. More boring facts about me, I blog all about my chickens, their names, their eggs, their star signs, and pastimes.

Another boring fact about me, I used to think it was funny to tease and joke about people's hobbies and tastes. Being cynical, mocking, is easy, but it's not creatve, and often not kind. It's rarely even actually funny. Good satire takes some tact, intellect. I wish I'd understood, much sooner, how that kind of humor is less imaginative, caring, and a poorer reflection on me, than on what I was criticizing. That was super judgey, and I'm not proud of that. I think it came from examples around me, from practicing defense through offense, and my own lack of self-worth. I still struggle around being comfortable liking what I like, because what will other people think? That's not healthy, and the practice of denouncing or supressing myself, or others, is boring. I won't pretend to share equal interest in what everyone is in to, but I've learned to respect and appreciate that there are countless hobbies, styles, amusements, tastes, and their worth is not for me to decide. For sure, if someone is racist, misognistic, or anything unkind, I will judge hard, critically. But you do you, is good enough for me.

There has been enough food coming out of the garden to supplement our groceries, and to share. I've enjoyed packing up produce, to give to friends. And then, look! Carol came over with these, from her wonderful garden! And she brought me bulbs, too. I am working on a special spot in the front yard, where I hope the bulbs will be very happy. Carol's gifts were just the inspiration I needed to keep me inside, cleaning. I made some great headway organizing and clearing up in the kitchen, including getting those hundreds of bottle caps safely stowed away. I almost have three different subjects in this paragraph, but it all ties together, because gardens yield all sorts of happiness, including food, beauty, community, and inspiration.

Bottle cap collection: Definitely, not boring.

Yesterday, there was at least one news headline that so appalled me, I burst into ugly tears, and dissolved into a sense of absolute dismay. I could refrain from saying anything about this, but I won't. I think 45 is literally, figuratively, sensationally, openly, deceptively, criminally, destryoing this country, and inciting a basketful of deplorables to execute his mission. Take care. I wish more people would speak out, speak up, take notice, care. I wish "undedcided" people would set aside partisanship, and realize that this has gone way beyond mere political views. Everyone should be genuinely alarmed. Our rights, our democracy, even our freedom to disagree is not guaranteed, and we are at risk of losing more than can be easily recovered.

Periodically, I reflect on the significance of social media, on our use of it, as producers, as consumers. I wonder how it is changing our views, our culture and practices. I think about my own blog, my Instagram account. Who am I reaching? Do my ideas matter? I strive for sincerity, to be genuine, to check facts, to be kind, to listen, and to be willing to learn and change. One belief I have is that I am not influential. Statistically, this is proven... not many people visit this blog, follow me on IG. This is not to say that I don't recognize and appreciate the readers I know about, the friendships I've made, the benefits I enjoy. But, I also stare at the ceiling and ask, Why do I bother? Why do I support BLM in posts, link to other creatives, makers, artists, writers, activists? Why am I sharing my worst fears, greatest hopes, chicken selfies, embarrassments, struggles, points of view? Before social media, I would have kept all of this in a scrap book, a journal. Before social media I would not have known how many people still think that "racism is a thing of the past," or that "all doctors are conspiring to make us sick, because they don't care," that there's "no difference between Joe Biden and 45." Frankly, it really is rather soul crushing to read the over addled ramblings of conspiracists, and fear mongers, of people who imagine that extreme skepticism is an equivalent of critical thinking and rational thought, that we are all experts. News flash... there are experts, educated and caring people, and they are not interchangeable with self-ascribed prophets and Qheads. Of all times, in 18 years of observing and participating in socia media, I see this as a crossroads, as a highly significant and critical point, when we may be subject to the worst possible effects and consequences of misonformation, of hate, of conspiracy, of lies, of corruption, and all of it is spreading at the push of a button.

I don't know what to do. I don't know that it matters... in a way that can help.

I Just left my desk to go and check the hens, again, and I found three brown eggs. The smallest is from Maya, the medium is from Ventura, and the large, darker one is from Emma Thompson. Should I share a picture?

Last Days of August - Mon, 08/31/2020 - 22:00

It is hard to believe we are here, at the last days of August. I know. I always have these moments. There is always a month or season or event that sneaks up on me, then I exclaim, most incredulously, How is this possible? Well, as cliche, or typical as it sounds, how long we have been living in this new age, this Stay at Home Season, boggles my mind.

What do you think of Thistle standing on Tasha? Chickens don't ride astride, so I guess there's no point in getting a saddle for the goats, but I think about it. I think of hens in boots, herding rabbits. Goats riding the range, and everyone around a campfire when the sun goes down.

SweetPea, Heidi, Dolly, Willow, and Thistle, our Happy Campers. It looks peaceful, but these five have to stick together, and neither the Chiclets, nor the Chicas, are welcoming. It's disappointing. I try not to conflate bird-brained societies and behaviors with people, with the world at large, but it's hard not to draw parallels.

Here are Ventura and Lucia grappling for nest space. In the movies, in idyllic farm scenes and romantic depictions, a farm has long rows of nests boxes, or cute little hay strewn cubbies, and every hen takes her spot. Someone in a pristine apron, and cute shoes, passes through with a basket, and gathers eggs at the appointed hour, probably just after sun-up, while coffee is percolating.


It ain't like that. Not for us.

Our chickens lay eggs in inconvenient places, with no particular rhyme or reason, at no particular time of day. When a new hot spot is discovered, all hens will want to lay there. The overturned bucket, with the rusted out bottom, lost favor to the goats' hay rack. I gave this old crate a low wall, and now it's the favored nest. There are four spots suitable for laying eggs, and only one is good enough for these two.

Geoff and I are debating about a freezer. We don't debate each other. We just can't decide if it's a really very good idea, or a very much unnecessary addition. Sometimes it seems like an obvious choice to have more space so we can preserve garden food, store more, and make fewer treks to the market. We have two refrigerators, already. I find this an embarrassing admission. Consumption and material heaps make me feel apologetic. And I do have some good size heaps. Sorry.

This is sort of a non-sequitur, but our toaster is dying. It has four slots, and only two are working. One of our refrigerators doesn't defrost anymore, so about every four months we have to (urgently) pack everything into coolers, and into the garage fridge, and repair/defrost the kitchen fridge... it's an event. Anyway, about two months into this Stay at Home Season, I observed that everything is going to be so busy with our use, that the life expectancy of appliances, and materials, will seem to have shortened, because we are using them at a far greater frequency. I want someone to make a calculation of the rate of wear and tear on our homes, our furnishings, and appliances, our faucets, and floors, and everything, when seven of us are here everyday, for every meal, all the time. How would that compare to when people left the house, when we ate out, or vacationed, when some of us were gone for days, or weeks at a time? It makes me think of dog years, how they're counted on a different scale to make them equivalent with a human life span. In COVID years, I feel like our kitchen has aged faster. It's 16 years old, strictly chronologically, but... I'd say the last six months move it to an equivalent of three years, dating the age of our kitchen at 19 years old. Yeah, so I think we need a new toaster. But I still don't know if it makes sense to get a freezer. Also, I have started fantasizing about painting the cabinets, because I have been looking at them for 19 years, even though we've only lived here 11 years, and I am beginning to be not happy with them. Math is complicated, but trust me, this all adds up.

Hello, SweetPea. This is what some of the hens do to escape the Mean Girls.

Come to think of it... my hair, in COVID time, is aging faster, too. Could be the stress.

Heidi is an inflated pigeon. Have I already said? She is as wide eyed and innocent as she looks here. She minds her business, and makes no fuss for anyone. She is a sweet girl. Naturally, she gets pecked and chased, and she always looks surprised about it, as though it makes no sense to her. And why should it? Poor Heidi.

Ta-da! Maya, the compact Black Australorp, is officially a hen, a layer. And this is her compact, and beautiful, wee brown egg. The shell is very smooth, as though it were lightly polished. I don't know if she will grow. I don't know if her eggs will get bigger. Hopefully those will correlate. I only want bigger eggs if she gets bigger, too.

There was some hesitation, a mild lack of consensus about this pullet's name. I gave it some time, some thought. She is another mild and shy girl. She makes no fuss, and she is polite. She is also very pretty, with vivid, jewel-like ear lobes, which is why we tried the name Tiffany on her. But when she sits with Thistle and SweetPea, that name feels a little trite, a little flat. She is a natural beauty, an American beauty, and so we settled on Willow.

I noticed Thistle checking out the nest box, a few days ago. She, and the Happy Campers, are a month younger than the Chiclets, who have only just begun to lay. But her instincts were correct, and I had the good fortune of being there when she laid her very first egg, and what a beauty! It's the most blue we've seen, and it came out hard, nicely formed. What a lucky and good hen.

Ventura is laying, like Maya. Both of these hens will sit on my lap and fall asleep. We haven't noticed, yet, if Puanani is laying. She's aloof, and honestly... not very bright (Imagine I am whispering this, out of her earshot. We hate to label her, or lower our expectations, but the girl is pretty daft. I can't deny it.)

Pretty Willow. This name suits her.

I finally removed the towering stack of casually collected bottle caps from a cabinet. It was threatening to topple, and I would have been utterly confounded at my choice of amassing these so haphazardly, if it came to all 400+ pieces crashing across the kitchen. This represents a lot of parties, over 11 years, and like I said a casual collection. We kind of regret that we weren't more diligent about keeping all of them, because now we are planning an art piece. Brown, is the rarest color, then purple, and blue. I can't believe there are so few purples, given my love of grape soda. I don't drink it often, but I only see three purple caps. The brown one is for a root beer. Actually, there are even fewer green caps, than blue.

Every now and then we talk about a restaurant, or meal we miss. It hasn't been too traumatic, or disappointing to eat at home all the time. But one time Max and I remembered Rueben sandwiches, and it made our minds and bellies ache! That conversation happened at least two months ago, and this week I finally thought of it while I was in a store and could do something about our craving. All I could think of us was corned beef, rye bread and sauerkraut, and I had to settle for pastrami, and didn't think of the Swiss cheese, nor the Thousand Island dressing... I had no idea a Rueben has Thousand Island dressing. I did think of fries, though! I wanted to recreate sitting in a restaurant and ordering something indulgent, yummy.

Thanks to Trader Joes, and some quick searches about making Thousand Island dressing, and order of assembly, using a sharp cheddar instead of Swiss, we pulled this off... it's a lot like a grilled cheese! I had no idea. Alex made a vegan dressing, and cooked up pea protein patties, also from Trader Joes. I loved the camaraderie, all of us rallying and collaborating around this meal, and they turned out super yummy! We all want to do this again. This is why we need two refrigerators, apparently, so we can have more sauerkraut on hand!

The last day of August. The days slip by. Happily, we are together, still making plans, still keeping hope.

Mid-Week - Thu, 08/27/2020 - 08:55

August 25

This is the first day of Maria's junior year of high school. It's not at all what we anticipated. At least, not until four or five months ago, but it still feels unexpected, and disappointing. Maybe that's why we didn't set things up until the last minute, because we have been in denial. Here we are, and we are fortunate, we have resources, like time, space, pencils and a sharpener. Geoff upgraded the wifi, so that his work, Bambi, Max, and Maria's online learning, and regular Internet use, will be more reliable. Maria and I rotated her furniture, packed away things she's outgrown, and made a desk area with a blank background for video chats. William brought up Feynman's chair from downstairs. We have other ideas and improvements we want to make, but this space is ready for AP Japanese, Ap English, and AP Art, plus a fourth class that she is still working out (there was a mix-up.) We will see what the world holds for us when her next semester begins, and she has History, Culinary Arts II, Math, and Creative Writing. For now, we are all focused, with Maria, on making the best of everything.

This is Bambi's first day, too, and last semester, with Fullerton, and she's interning with a very talented web designer and artist. Max has only one week left of Actuary Math II, then his diploma is clear. After that, he is going to make architectural plans and blue prints for a room addition we have been plotting! William is finishing making very thorough measurements of the entire house, so he can make a 3D model that Max can use for the new design, and Alex is going to be doing artist renderings and supporting Max for engineering. Let's see... Geoff is doing everything, as usual. He is programming, preparing the attic space for wiring up the solar panels to the grid (a task he's tackling himself,) getting ready to install a laser cutter (he already named her, Phoebe the Fire Princess!) He did the wifi, which naturally was more complicated and time consuming than reasonable. I can't list all the things Geoff accomplishes, has planned, manages. It's a lot. I fix at least one meal a day, take pictures, and act as a sort of Chicken and goat ombudsman... it's very technical, essential work.

Here I am, doing my part. Very technical. Super complicated. Totally essential.

And of course, we cannot leave out the cats. They too are essential, and keep us amused, bemused, and confused. That is the ABCs of cat work.

Here is a favorite part of my essential work. Ventura is often the last hen to hit the roost. Before she settles in for the night, she seeks me out, and we meditate together. Tasha came over for a closer look.

A Whole Bunch of Chickens and Some Goats - Tue, 08/25/2020 - 11:51
Tasha? Would you like to explain what's going on here, at the Bird House?

I could let the goats tell all, but their perspective on recent events might be a little melodramatic, and even though it's been a little crazy, things are actually going quite well, all in all.

If the Chicas, or even the Chiclets, were to blog about this, it would definitely be biased reporting. The old hens, evidently, have no room in their heads, nor hearts, for change, for accommodation, for compassion. The Chiclets, newly introduced to a flock and still smarting from the pecks and abuses of their elder hens, ought to be sympathetic, but no. No. Chickens are, on the whole, testy, short sighted, dim, petty, jealous, territorial, feather brained dinosaurs. Mostly.

Sometimes, they surprise us, though. Sometimes there are exceptions. Some hens are exceptionally nicer.

And some hens are downright darling. I will explain what is going on here. I'm sure I have biases, too, but I will try to give a fair account of everything, without too much favoritism, or lack of empathy. But it won't be easy.

Joy! Chicken joy!

What's Going On: Someone found themselves in a bit of a bind, and with five beloved pullets that need a home. Queries were made, precautions were taken, and we decided to take the leap, and bring in more chickens. Faith, is their mom, and in a matter of minutes it was plain that her darlings are not only very pretty, they are very sweet, and charming, and super friendly. Like, really, totally, super friendly!

Say hello to SweetPea, she's aptly named. All five of the new ladies, pullets that hatched in April, are Ameraucanas. There are two blondes, and three silver feathered. Our original flock are the Chicas, and the pullets that came in March are the Chiclets, and these new girls are our Happy Campers, and they may be here for keeps, but if Faith's circumstances change, I couldn't blame her if she wanted to take them back.

I am not going to sugar coat this: The Chicas, and even the Chiclets, have been horrible. And, another update: Pippi, the Silver-Laced Wyandotte that ruled the roost with her sister, Pepper... she died last week, very suddenly. Pepper has been a bit turned around without her partner in crime, and the pecking order has been turned all around. I never could have guessed who would come out fighting, and ruling the roost now. It's Trillian! I named her for a character in a novel that left Earth to travel the Galaxy. Trillian, was at the bottom of the pecking order, together with Liberty, and she was always staying away, avoiding the flock, trying to fly under their radar. Without a moment's hesitation, she rose to the top, and is running around pecking everyone, especially the Happy Campers, into place. She is a terror!

Now, here are loads and loads of chicken pictures, with their names, and general descriptions.

Naturally, I assume everyone in the world is as riveted as I am about their lives, and backstories, about their narratives, names, and endearments. But, I promise not to quiz you when next we meet. Just, please, nod politely, when I gush about their sweetness, and don't point out the inconsistency of my affection when I bemoan their abject horribleness. I love chickens, but they are smelly, messy, mean, funny, precious, and feather brained.

Ventura, Black Australorp. She, or Maya, or Puanani laid an egg this week. A tiny, pale, café au lait egg. It's adorable.

The goats would like two things... for the heat wave to be over, and for the chickens to settle their squabbles, once and for all, amen.

The Happy Campers are... Dolly, Thistle, and in the back, SweetPea, Heidi, and Tiffany (a name that might change.)

Dolly is a big blonde girl. She does a good job minding her business, and isn't easily ruffled. Thistle hops on my shoulder at any sight of Trillian, which is smart, and sweet.

And... after Trillian has had her fill of chasing and pecking, the Chicas, and the Chiclets, all, congregate at the east end of the run. They huff and conspire, like bunch of old hens. It's a tight knit club, and not at all welcoming.

Hello, Dolly.

Hello, Heidi. She is so mellow, and she looks like an inflated pigeon, all of which is purely wholesome and endearing. Sweet Heidi. Also, she does this funny yodeling sound when she turns her head down to preen. It's a bubbly little gurgling sound. She doesn't know it, but she's funny, and easy to love.

Here comes another that's easy to love... and we are still talking about her name. We thought it was Tiffany, but somehow it feels like that could change. She is beautiful, a jewel. And she doesn't make a fuss about anything.

Without a doubt, this is SweetPea. If we sent some DNA to 23 And Me, it would come back: 2% Snowy Owl, I think. SweetPea cuddles, and she fixes my hair. If she were a girl, she would have a sticker collection, drink pink milk, and wear tutus everywhere. I love SweetPea. Everyone loves SweetPea.

Oh, Thistle. I love you, too. Everyone loves Thistle.

Hello, Heidi.

SweetPea and _________.

Faith, you did such a loving good job of raising your first flock. They are healthy, and beautiful, and lots of fun to be around.

Oh. Hello, Trillian. Wow, girl, you kept your Rule The Roost Agenda well hidden. Seriously. Was this always your plan?

Hello, Dolly.

Lucia has already laid four eggs.

And they are beautiful.

Pepper on the nest, and watching Heidi and ______.

Thistle and Dolly cruise by. Thistle peeks in at Pepper.

The rest of the Chicas, and Chiclets, are shut out of the run, enjoying the garden, and giving the Happy Campers a chance to relax.

Thistle decided to have a closer look, and Pepper is so flummoxed she couldn't even think what to do.

The Happy Campers have never met goats before.

They'll get along. But SweetPea is not sure what to make of Ada's sneeze, except to step back six feet!

Well, Tasha, how did I do? Did I leave anything out? Should we have a quiz, all about chickens and goats?

At Home in California - Sat, 08/22/2020 - 12:02
Once you've been through one fire evacuation, or more, the apprehension stays with you... the smell of smoke, of chaparral burning, the sight of billowing smoke, a line of flames on the horizon, the filtered light that dulls everything in ominous hues of heat and haze. The darkest smoke means the fire is new, or well fueled, and not contained. We watch for the air tankers, dropping water, or bursts of red retardant, then pale smoke plumes, that signal steam, a successful drop...

Not now. Not us. It's so familiar, so vivid in memory.

We are safe! Friends have asked, and thankfully, we are safe. Northern California is getting hammered, our friends are on alert, packing, evacuating. Here, in Southern California, at the "start" of Fire Season, we have been spared. I am sorry to say, it's only mid-August, and heat, Santa Ana Winds, low humidity, lightning strikes are of concern, all over the West, at least through November.

No one is imagining this: Fire Season is longer, the fires are bigger, more frequent. This year alone, there are more than 500 fires, in California, so far. The incidences are not only changing the landscape, but changing our language! Fire whirls, eddies that can contract a tornado-like vortex that sucks in debris and combustible gases have been developing into an even worse phenomenon, known as firenados, "where a fire has such intensity that it generates an actual tornado."

Clearly, I can get myself very worked up and anxious about all of this, and not just because it's scary, or because I am preoccupied with cataclysm and disasters. I am not inclined to dwell on cataclysms and disasters. I'd like to watch a sunrise, and not sniff the air for smoke, check for flames on the horizon. "Fire Season" should not be a thing. Wildfires, here, and like what Australia suffered, are massive, fast moving, deadly, and a very real, very concerning consequence of climate change. There have always been fires, arsonists, mishaps, even prescribed burns, but on this hotter, drier planet, with all of its climate variability, and detrimental human activities, we are facing a crisis, worthy of tremendous concern, action. At the very least, we can vote for an administration, for mayors, governors, judges, and representatives, that know climate change is real. The President of the United States, and all of the people that make policy, and oversee government and justice must demonstrate an understanding of what is at stake, and act to protect our planet. This is not up for debate, because we are at a crossroads that represents life or death, destruction, or hope. Please, vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Let's elect representatives and leaders that care, that will be held accountable.

"Time to remember the best voting advice I have heard: Voting isn't marriage. It's public transport. You are not waiting for 'the one' who is absolutely perfect. You are getting on the bus. And if there isn't one going exactly to your destination, you don't stay home and sulk. You take the bus going closest to where you want to be."

All of these are pictures from my phone, from my sheltered days, at home, minding my business. The house is a mess, and I'm in the middle of a new chapter with the drunkladydriver case, and on and on. Life is so 2020, surreal, disappointing, then sprinkled with unexpected beauty. I freely admit to staring at cats, to napping, rescuing grasshoppers, stargazing, imagining attic rooms, collecting seeds, making wishes, taking pictures. The beautiful things are achingly beautiful. Isn't it a gift, a relief, to hear a cat purr, watch it stretch then coil, and be utterly at bliss in a stream of sunlight? The veins on massive, green leaves, a corn's pale, translucent tassels and dusty pollen, black beans that push through earth, sprout with spread wings, they are wonders, unfathomable, exquisite beauty. I seek it, I take in all I can, hold it close, share it. I thought this would be one of those simple posts, with some moments from the week, an anecdote, or memory, a few descriptions.

I thought I would escape into beauty, relish the corn stalks, and growing pullets, recite poetry.

Then I saw a headline appear on my monitor, about a place I love. Love.
"Big Basin, Home To Majestic Coast Redwoods, Is 'Gone.'"

"When Covid is over, where would you go? Anywhere in the world." My answer is always the same, The Redwoods. When I want to celebrate, when I am sad, when I am daydreaming, when I am imagining the ideal vacation or road trip, when I get lost in thought, or need to meditate: My answer is always the same, The Redwoods.

August 22, 5% contained, 60,000 acres. One fire, of hundreds, burning in California. CZU Lightning Complex Fire. I couldn't not write about this. All of the fires, all of the disasters, the systemic racism, the injustice, the corruption, and willful destruction, malice of conspirators and traitors... all of it drums on my heart, all of it is appalling, sick, and heartbreaking. There is so much cause for outrage, so many causes of outrage, and too often I am resigned to face that there is not a lot we can do, that solutions are slow to realize. I know this though, nothing will get better, nothing will be kind, nor intelligent, nor caring, if we do not get a good President, faithful representatives, new leaders, progressive government. I wasn't going to think about the news today, because I needed a break, but democracy is on fire, and we can't stay home.

“Imagine a time when the whole peninsula from San Francisco to San Jose shall become one great city; then picture, at its very doorstep, this magnificent domain of redwood forests and running streams, the breathing place of millions of cramped and crowded denizens of the city.”
– Carrie Stevens Walter, Sempervirens Club, 1901

Established in 1902, Big Basin Redwoods is California’s oldest state park. In the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains, its biggest attractions—literally—are its ancient coast redwoods. Some of these giants are more than 50 feet around and as tall as the Statue of Liberty. At 1,000 to 1,800 years old, some may predate the Roman Empire. The park also offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, lush waterfalls, and a fascinating natural and cultural history. "

There is beauty in the world, stunning beauty. I see it all around me. And see the bad, too. But, please, let's do all we can to foster our innate goodness, our caring, our impulses to help, to grow flowers, to make lemonade, and to share, because good things are better shared, and we can make a difference, even with small acts of kindness.

The Starry Nights - Wed, 08/19/2020 - 10:14

Thank you for the stars and planets, for moons, nebula,
the Perseids, and August nights.
Thank you for fog, rolling clouds, thunderheads,
refraction, resonance.
Thank you for letting me be 14 years old,
then 22, 38, 53,
and for all the experiences and memories,
the stars set in motion
that brought me here.

August 12

It's all gardens and chickens, goats, and cats. It's all staying home, following the news, then banishing the news, then going back and checking, one more time. And then there is the night, and I am consumed with the stars at night, tracking the planets, searching for hours on end for the Perseids, squealing with the thrill of discovery when I see one. It's no wonder stories of fairies were made up, repeated. Sleepless, yet dreamy nights have been my summer's pleasure. My children have been roused on several occasions, dragged out into the garden. Geoff bought me real binoculars. I keep my GoSkyWatch app open, and busy. I take poor quality pictures, and they thrill me. I wince just once, then try again, because even though I could visit the best quality images and captures of the Moon, of the Orion Nebula, and Venus, the rings of Saturn... I still delight in what I see with my own eyes, snap with my own phone.

In August, even the day sky is something thrilling. I love the thunderheads that fill the eastern horizon. Every year. I feel so lucky to see these, every year.

The Dog Days of Summer - Tue, 08/18/2020 - 22:00

Is it a coincidence that I chose this print for mending Alex's pants? Perhaps not. The pants were purple, and have faded, and frayed, and Alex likes purple. And I can't stop skywatching, for planets, constellations, the moon, the meteors, and satellites. Besides, "coincidences" are not as fun as signs, serendipity, destiny, magic, flights of fancy. This is Sirius, the Dog Star, the brightest star, the one that follows Orion into the sky, giving way to the dawn.

I don't wonder that people have told stories, sought answers to the inexplicable, followed stars, created their creators, put purpose into events, then elaborated, entwined, divined. Meaning is such a comfort. If we can't make sense of something, then at least we want to believe in a design, in reason. We take the vastness of time and space, label it, chart it, define it. With celebration, traditions, ceremony, with candles and song, gathering, we light the dark of winter. The impulses are beautiful, natural, and dangerous. If I want to make-believe that fairies bring frost to the fields, or write stories about a bird and rat that make a home in an oak tree and send letters in the post, that's fine for play, for amusement. But I am wary of the stories that connect suspicion, ignorance, malice, and apply those to an agenda that serves manipulation, greed, untempered power. I am circumspect of false narratives strung together, for the purpose of inspiring fear, to conspire against reason, against truth. I believe we are good, that most of us want to be kind, to help, to relieve suffering, to connect. Acts of intervention, patience, guidance, rehabilitation, empathy, justice, are the notions I celebrate, and want to practice, elaborate. I believe in hope, in kindness, in love, in compassion, in sharing. I believe in the stories that shine light, and seek reason.

August 4

Progress. Slow, and steady roof progress.

August 6

This pandemic, and 45 government, the madness of 2020, is so far out of hand, and destructive. I can muster courage, resolve, and I can count my blessings, share my apples, and recipes, and I will vote, and be mindful, and listen... but I cannot say this hasn't been hard, that I haven't lost confidence, been scared, sad, weary, confused, appalled, all in the span of any given five minutes. I could scream. I could dive deep into some rage, and fall apart. Sometimes I want to believe that being a good example to my children means always being strong, always staying composed, having mindful, level responses. Then again, my children are not toddlers, not unaware of news, and events, and hiding how I feel, suppressing my struggles is dishonest. We are all doing our best to stay well, in mind and body, and we are all facing unique challenges, and obstacles, as well as shared difficulties, the universal upsets, and I think it's best to hold space for honesty, for raspberries, and bemoaning the struggles. Honest expression is not melodramatic, nor wallowing. Pain and fear actually seem to dissolve and dissipate more readily with openness, when we speak our truth, describe feelings, share thoughts... when we are heard, respected. So, what I want to practice is showing that being strong comes from asking for help, knowing my limits, balancing, and resting. Coming to mindful responses, can be a process, when it helps to say what I feel, speak up, speak out, express, and not feel shut down, shamed into silence. Tasha knows. Some moments are not great, and when I can admit that, it's easier to move forward, and hopefully it helps someone else feel safe to open up, too.

Emma Thompson, Cuckoo Maran... hatched July, 2013

August 8
Liberty, Cuckoo Maran... hatched July, 2013

Speaking of honest expression, I have something to say about chickens. They have, in all honesty, been making me crazy with how mean they are. And daft. Chickens are so mean, so daft! Pretty sure I've written about this before, but trust me, it bears repeating. Well, lately I have been dismayed and fed up with the henpecking and pettiness. Like, when there is plenty of food, but Pippi and Pepper rove around pecking the Chiclets on the head, chasing them off. Whichever hen is top of the order, she tends to terrorize and torment everyone else. I can never get passed this. I always envision a harmonious, pastoral, romantic farm life, where the hens cluck contentedly, merry hens in camaraderie. In fact I did have this experience, with my first flock. The three Chicas, Grace, Luna, and Rosie were ideal, truly. They were never cross, they always did everything together, and were even engaging and fun with us. So, it can be lovely with hens, but it doesn't seem to be the default experience. Some hens are naturally sweet, mild, funny. Some hens are cranky, indifferent, bossy, awful, or
churlish. I've kept them long enough to know all this, but I still always hold out for the sweet ones, for some common sense and peace.

William is industriously using this time to transform his room with paint, molding, new hardware. He's inspiring all of us, too. I am thinking of painting the kitchen. And Maria's room. And my room. I am thinking of all sorts of things.

The MVPs, our Black Australorps: Maya, Ventura, and Puanani... hatched March, 2020

Dear Chiclets, I'm sorry you are henpecked, and tormented. I am sorry you cannot always walk freely around the yard without fear of being pecked, kicked, bossed around, maltreated. You deserve better. I will always feed you something extra, away from the Old Ladies. I will always find time to let you walk around without the company of mean hens. I hope you will grow up to be sweet, mild, funny hens.

The dog days of summer... "The phrase is actually a reference to the fact that, during this time, the Sun occupies the same region of the sky as Sirius, the brightest star visible from any part of Earth and part of the constellation Canis Major, the Greater Dog." This year those days are from July 3, and ending August 11, when the Dog Star, Sirius, appears at sunrise.

Chica, Bambi, and Pippi

Bambi's dogs are sweet. We all enjoy their visits, even the cats. Sort of. Cairo takes the entire span of the dog visit slowly, crouching and wary, coming closer and closer, but always cautiously. He starts upstairs, from my bedroom window. Feynman checks them out, peering from the screened porch, and then he goes on about his business. But, Sakamoto! Sakamoto wants to be friends. Up close, outside friends, and he stays on the porch watching all of the activity, sometimes meowing to join the fun. Chica stands beneath Sakamoto's window, and they almost touch noses throughout the screen.

Bambi gives them the full treatment... baths and towel drying, then nails clipped.

August 9

I was so excited that this would be the Year of the Rat.


August 10

Cat Days... any season, any day, is for cats.

It's Hard to Keep Track - Mon, 08/17/2020 - 12:47
Days are as long as a month, and months fly by like an hour. We can't tell one week from another, and we are genuinely surprised to see it's already August. I really love to have blog posts in order, especially chronological order. And as I get these photos edited, and organized, it occurs to me: This post should be dated as August third, or fourth, not August 17th. Everything is getting all mixed up. I was thinking of backblogging... changing dates, so they all line up, but never mind. There will be a few posts this month that appear as I wrote them, but not in the order that the events happened. In years to come if this is awkward, confusing, frustrating, strange, then good, because that will serve to convey some of the way it feels to live isolated-at home-quaranting-washing groceries for 6 months. It's all weird, and it's hard to keep track. Accurate AF.

This fretting and overthinking reminds me of another concern-obsession I struggle with. When Floyd George was murdered, and a new Civil Rights Movement launched, when "everyone" took to social media in protest, in support, posting black squares, sharing memes and links to articles, quoting John Lewis, Maya Angelou, when dozens of metaphors were developed to explain, over and over again, why Black Lives Matter, because some people really need those dots connected for them... I listened. I read, and learned, I shared, and adjusted my attitudes, changed beliefs, redoubled my resolve, and I got very, very concerned about doing enough. I am still trying to do enough, still reading, still engaging, still listening. Ok, if I list any more, I will feel like I'm seeking affirmations, gold stars, and probably, in that very human kind of way, I do want to be seen as an ally, as sincere. But this is the part that I realize, and am amusedly chagrined about... it really doesn't matter what I am saying and doing, how deeply I care, how much I want to do better, and how strongly I recognize my own experiences with prejudice, being a victim of systemic racism, because I pretty consistently fly under the radar in social media. Ok. It matters some, and I like to think someone will appreciate things I share, or be helped by my efforts, but mostly I should just be me. Be me, without worrying about blog posts appearing out of order. Be me, without questioning my own determination, doubting my worthiness as an ally, my sincerity and desire to effect change. Be me, because I am happy to learn, to change, to help, to engage, to share, to be better, and none of that is related to Likes, Hearts, Followers, gold stars. I have cared about racism, and been affected by prejudice, all of my life; these issues, and the cause are not trendy, not a phase. And I am typing all of this out for my own good... because the sentiments and struggles, my imposter-worries are thoughts in my head, concerns I review in my reasoning, go over and over, when really, I should take a deep breath, and do what I do. It's just me, internalized values, caring, over-thinking, stumbling, messy me.

Social media is so weird.

I wonder, if this was pre-Internet times, would I have turned to journalism, had a newspaper column? I used to write lots of personal letters, and I have kept journals. But, clearly I have an irresistible sharing impulse. I've tried to quit, have felt useless, overexposed... but clearly not enough to finally walk away for good. So weird. I can't say I understand it.

I have another question. Does everyone feel a constant need to justify their ideas, their interests, the space they occupy? Asking for a friend.

Still roofing. It took seven days. I can say that, now, because technically it's mostly done, but these pictures are from when it was only three days in, and four to go. And check out the attic! In an alternate universe, I turn this into a secluded room, with wood floors, and odd corners, where we paint the ceiling with stars and clouds, and it smells like pine and cedar. There are several, very comfy beds, chests full of dress up clothes, windows west and east, so the breezes come through. The only hint that the room exists, is the faint sound of laughter that carries through the house.

These look like scenes from an alternate universe, but it's a night walk, down our street, two nights before the full moon. The Sturgeon moon. Did you know there will 13 full moons this year? Still to come: Harvest moon, September 2, Hunter's moon, October 1, and October 31 is a Blue moon, then Beaver moon on November 30, and Cold moon December 29.

Paul M, queried "When is the indie band putting out an album?" I saw it, too, how some of these look like incidental album cover art. I called their band Wizards of the Coast, and their genre is Celtic Native Alternative Art Hop.

August 1

Speaking of Wizards of The Coast, Maria still imagines she'd enjoy making D&D art for them. I say, They'd be lucky to have her. This is one of her Dungeons and Dragons characters, Clio. Not a Tiefling, like Lyra. Maria has been drawing Clio for a while. Clio is a human.

August 2

When did we order fire wood? We've used so much already! Our first order of a half cord lasted about 7 or 8 years. This order came in May, and we have used half of it already! So worth it. We can hang out with friends, in the welcome glow of campfires. Remind me to order more. I foresee more lockdown and isolation, and we will need light and company to make it through.

August 3

There's the spot... the rotting section that was causing the leak into the garage.

Too soon? I didn't mean to decorate for Fall. But the Hügelkultur garden bed was successful, and our Pie Pumpkin saga came full circle. I should write down the rest of the tale... but remember, it began like so:

A Pie Pumpkin, brought home last October, escaped notice all through the holidays. Somehow, it slipped quietly away from the entry display for Halloween. It sat, small, unnoticed through Thanksgiving. Sometime between Christmas and Ground Hog Day it moved under the guest bed, and fell sound asleep. Then came Spring, and all the stirrings to freshen home and garden... boxes to the attic, rubbish to the bin, raking, sweeping, and sorting, and that's when we spied Pie Pumpkin, again. At last, the little orange orb, still firm and bright, would fulfill a marvelous destiny. Pie Pumpkin is coming full circle, and the garden is full of her descendants; bright, firm orbs that are just beginning to speckle orange.
So, there we have it. The first few days of August, described in mid August, and looking like October. Ah, 2020, you do mystify.

The Last of July - Thu, 08/13/2020 - 10:25
July 24
Pretty much after getting the news about my Abuela dying. A text. Then a call from my brother. Pretty much I fell apart for the rest of July. And yeah, the first week of August. I can't pretend I've come around this week, either, but. No, yeah, it still guts me.

If you need an affirmation, or just confirmation that you are Ok, it's on the Internet. That's something I've learned. Unconditional love, and words of encouragement, empathy, validation, reassurance? There's a meme for that. I've been collecting, gathering to my bosom, armfuls of mental health balms about self-worth, as-I-am beauty, resilience. I've been reading about systemic racism, about oppression, gaslighting, and toxic relationship behaviors. I have been learning about learning, about unlearning. I hope it sticks. I hope I am internalizing strength, courage, self-esteem, and self-care, grace. And all this learning, and yearning to be well, to care for myself, is hard. And all of the doubt, cynicism, the false narratives, mean habits, bad lessons... they are hard, and persistent. So, even now, I am reminding myself: Speak your mind, and be yourself, and no one else has to validate you, or allow you to feel, to be. Stop living to accommodate, to be loved, to be worthy, to not offend, or disappoint. Shit. Can't believe I need to learn all this. Can't believe how rooted some things get, like weeds.

I didn't plan on sharing all of that. I haven't planned much of anything. There may be more I'll share, or I might just make this a photo-dump, the last days of July, the memes, and moments of a month that already feels like a long time ago, indistinct, elusive.

Let us imagine that I've written a worthy and insightful essay about how logographs like hieroglyphics, cryptograms, and text symbols are seamlessly integrating into our spoken and written language, and we are gaining an almost universal language. Have you read Understanding Comics, by Scott McCloud? It's a great read, insightful. I have to ask, Has he written an update? Is he enthralled, like me, by how much visual iconography has taken a hold in our everyday, in the mainstream? I shared this panel from Worry_lines, with Janece, and nothing else had to be said. Between us, it's a conversation about our shared immersion into becoming Plant Ladies, our focus, and journey, how we are nurturing and nurtured. She replied with the heart-eyes emoticon. I remember it all like a meaningful, lengthy sharing of concepts, emotions, our lives. Yeah, that was a good talk.

Happy Birthday, Ruth. Maria, Geoff and I went to Holly and Rich's backyard, social distanced get together. We wore masks. I appreciate when people post, or text, about some place they went, people they met, and they add: "We wore masks, we washed our hands, we stood six feet apart." I say it to reassure, to put you at ease. If, as some say, We are all in this together then I wore a mask is an expression of love, of care.

For us, this is dining out. We dine out a few times a week.

July 26

If you've wondered... Cairo still rat dances. But his beloved Black Ratty disappeared. I've searched and searched for it. I am afraid it got mixed up in something and tossed out, which is really unfortunate. Ikea stopped making these ratty-rats, and that is very, very unfortunate. Oh, this is one of those keeping it real pictures, where you see the unmade bed, the mess of yarns, and fall garland that slipped my notice and is staying up, forever, it seems. As this is about keeping it real: Five months socially isolated at home, has made it abundantly clear... I am not tidy, organized, motivated, ambitious, nor disciplined. Furthermore, with ample time and opportunity to change, improve, step up, grow, evidently, I am not ever going to be tidy, organized, ambitious, nor disciplined. I am still caring, empathetic, hospitable, and actively engaged in many activities, projects, and supporting others in their interests and pursuits. Probably, I need not ever mention any of this, again. Fait accompli.

July 28
It's terrible what I am conditioned to do... to think and feel. For example, when a friend sees my work and says, "You are amazing!" and my head fills with criticism and shame, that's not good. Why is my immediate response "No, I'm not"? I can't be "amazing" for making a blanket, because, and then I list all of the ways I have failed, dropped the ball, the unfinished chores, the incomplete jobs, and neglected things. I don't need to be proud of my messes, but I am tired of instinctively thinking of what I do wrong, whenever someone tries to appreciate something nice I've managed. How do we take what we've learned and internalize it? Because, I know all sorts of good things, things I easily apply to others, like patience, compassion, respect, admiration, but it dissolves when it comes to me, when I need recognition or appreciation, care, some kindness. I probably won't ever be able to handle needlepoint pillows with uplifting pronouncements, but if I could accept a compliment, share success stories, mention achievements, wear sleeveless dresses, live out-loud... that would be good.

I was this years old when I learned that... dot dot dot are "ellipses," and people don't like them. I saw a meme about it, and people were merciless in their criticism and loathing of the type of woman that uses ellipses. I didn't discern exactly why, except it implies a laziness, or suggests that the writer is a "bitch." What? "An ellipses doesn't make what you said seem more interesting. It just makes you sound like a bitch." I read that. On the Internet. I use dot dot dot a lot. You've probably noticed. Can anyone explain how this makes someone "sound like a bitch?" Also, I never thought to use ellipses to seem interesting. I use them, because I write from the thoughts in my head, and conversationally the ellipses... feel like a long pause, where I am putting my thoughts in order. Well, as many funny, silly, helpful, insightful, or useful memes as I have found, there is certainly plenty of rubbish on the Internet, as well.

July 29
Points of view can be fascinating. I've seen a lot of ideas and norms change from when I was a child. And even though some of my ideas have been challenged, I am glad to see things in a new way, to understand how many ideas and practices aren't "normal" or "natural" but simply so long ingrained into our language and culture that we forget to question them, to dismantle them. It might surprise younger people to know how awkward, taboo, inappropriate, it used to be to say "condom." Seriously. When the AIDS crisis was full blown, I remember counselors, and PSAs coming at us in high school and college (about 1985) with open talk about rubbers, and it was a sudden and complete about-face from everything we were used to. Instead of discreetly whispering condom, we were offered free rubbers, by the bowlful... and thank God. They're lifesavers. I just read that a Tampax commercial was banned for demonstrating how to correctly insert a tampon. It seems a lot of women people aren't sure how to do that. So, here we are, again, when we are being challenged to question a norm of being embarrassed, or silent about a bodily function, about a human experience. People menstruate. And there are products that help them cope with this blood that regularly leaves their body, and this healthy, bodily function is still a taboo subject. If we are uneasy about this subject, it isn't because it's actually "inappropriate" or "bad," it's because we've allowed our culture to subjugate us, to normalize shame, to dictate how we react to, and address menstruation.

From our visit to JPL, to planting our potato bed, we have been eagerly anticipating the launch of Perseverance!

Over the years a lot of money has been taken away from agencies and programs meant to protect and serve our communities, reducing the effectiveness of schools, counseling, mental health programs. These safety nets, programs that help feed citizens, guide people through rough patches, intervene when families are in a crisis, support veterans, care for the elderly, keep children healthy and safe, foster extracurricular activities, make safe and beautiful public spaces... they strengthen communities, give hope, restore pride and confidence, and unify people. They don't cost more money; the money is being spent in other ways. What if we helped people, instead of punishing them? What if we actually protected and served our citizens with care, intervention, opportunity, respect, instead of addressing them punitively, harshly, fatally? And "them" is us. We are paying for armored cars, weapons, and tools of escalating violence, to be used against us, and it is costing us billions of dollars and too many lives.

Probably for as long as we have lived here, we've known we need a new roof. And today, July 30, it's coming! Cairo watched the trucks and supplies roll in on Thursday morning, including the conveyor belt that extends up to the house top, loading asphalt shingles. No more leaks! Happy dance, here. It's not as exciting as a vacation, or a room addition, but we feel fortunate to be getting this done, and for a bonus we are adding solar panels, and this feels super exciting. Sun Power! Clean Energy! This is so very good.

It's fun to recognize yourself in a meme. If that butter tub is in our refrigerator, it definitely has black beans in it.

I am voting for Joe Biden, and Kamala Harris. I am voting for progress, for reason, for respectability, for lawfulness, for integrity, for democracy, for human rights, for hope, and for the interests of education, healthcare, jobs, and civil rights justice. It's a clear choice, and no argument.

July 30
Breonna Taylor should be alive, and countless other men, women, and children, like her, have been not only brutalized and murdered by the police, by policies that foster and promote racism, but little has been done to serve justice. We are in a Civil Rights Movement, and this fight ain't over.

Time has become an amorphous river, swiftly hurtling to some unseen horizon, a point we all hope is not a waterfall. Only five or ten roofers crashing and hammering, ripping and scraping on our house, over our heads, made time grind to halt. We were captive to every boot fall, and power tool. Ideally, getting a new roof is the kind of luxury enjoyed from a distance, like at a lakeside cabin, or while we runaway to our friends' home for the day. No such options during a pandemic. For me the sudden bangs and unexpected thuds were difficult (yes, "expected," but we didn't know when and where a violent, house jolting reign of thunder would happen, so it kept me tensed and anxious for seven days.) I think Geoff may have suffered the most. He understands construction, he and I both have done roofing, and he did years of meticulous research on replacing this roof, and adding solar. So. Overseeing the job, like being in the attic when we saw them drop trash from holes in the roof into our home, it was hellish. He didn't let things slide, and he worked hard at getting the quality of work he knows is in order, and for his effort and the strain, he deserves a week at a lakeside cabin.

July 31
It seems vacations, and getaways are not in the cards for us, not this summer. But we are still never bored. We are still making fun, making messes, making plans, helping each other, looking out for each other, and managing to connect with friends. Wearing masks. Washing our hands. Staying six or more feet apart. We care. Paul and Janece gave us a clever device for sharing pictures, like the one in this picture. Janece sent me this memory from her NixPlay... when was this? I know it's from our first time meeting in person! Isn't that wild? Blogger friends, in different states, meet after six years of online friendship! I think this picture might be ten years old. Amira and Maria, so small. Paul, so obliging! Pictures, like this one, make me thankful for every chance we took, to meet friends, to gather, celebrate, travel, share our time and ideas, do stuff. Of course, I want to do more stuff, but I am filled with great memories, and revisiting those happy events, places, people, and experiences, has been a tremendous pleasure. I'm glad that taking pictures has always been a favorite souvenir, and that I've got this blog, with at least some of our stories and memories recorded. This river ride, rough patches and all, will slow down, and we will come to a good, safe place, again. I need to continue learning, and connecting with the world however I can, and I want to believe that if I trust that I can live out-loud, take my pictures, speak up, vote, try again, share... more of us can get there, to a safer, more just place, together.

Something New - Tue, 08/11/2020 - 17:06

This is Kristina Gill. She is a cookbook author, and a food and travel photographer, she lives in Italy, and for the last month I have been riveted by her Instagram stories! She posts good stuff. I'm talking about potatoes, pasta, desserts, platters of food that make you want to get on a plane and go! It's a bit of a torture, but I keep coming back for more. I've taken to thinking of her posts as my bedtime story, and I settle in for the recipes, inspiration, the cute dogs, the mindful activism, the french fries. She tucks me in, and puts nice thoughts in my head, with all of her sharing.

When I learned Kristina Gill was doing an Instagram Live interview, with Black Food Folks, I had to tune in, and get to know her better. And somewhere in the middle of her talking with Clay Williams, she said something about artichokes, something about doing things in new ways, "In the United States people are always breaking off leaves and scraping them with their teeth." I felt seen: I was in middle school when I tasted my first artichoke, and since then I've only ever steamed them, then gnawed on every leaf. I commented, I have artichokes, please, what should I do with them that's "different?" And Kristina Gill replied! She DM'd me with a recipe, and encouragement! And how nice is that? It's as nice as Kristina Gill, that's how nice. She shares, generously promoting fellow cooks and photographers, engaging with them effusively, kindly. I like her easy manners, what, and how, she shares posts on Instagram, her modesty, even her smile... it's all disarming, warm. I saw that on IG, and watching the interview, it was a pleasure to see more of this gracious woman.

Though I did not have all of the ingredients on hand, and I soon discovered my artichokes were not super fresh, I decided to do what I could to try something new with artichokes. I began with soaking them in cold water with lemon juice, which I think helped to freshen them up a bit. Now, if you want the recipe, you should buy her book, Tasting Rome. And I will add... please try to buy it from an independent, Black owned book seller, and please please read about what a raw deal Black, Indigenous, and People of Color get in the food, and publishing world.

Peeling leaves from the stem and base, then revealing the dent... all new to me! And the dent is the spot to slice off the leaves, and expose the choke in the middle. I scooped all of that out, then quartered the heart.

I did have garden mint, garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil, and I added those to the quartered hearts in a hot pan, with a squeeze of lemon juice. Sadly, I did not have Pecorino Romano nor a crusty loaf of fresh baked bread. But the artichokes started steaming and bubbling under the lid, and smelling amazing. I texted her again, about not having good bread on hand, confessing I would probably serve the dish with crackers, and she totally put me at ease, again, replying "Trader Joe's ritz knockoffs ARE GOOD." Yeah, I like this woman. And I really like this new way of preparing artichokes.

My cookbook arrived. I am looking forward to making more new somethings.

Mr Williams, don't hesitate, don't be intimidated! Kristina Gill can walk you through cooking a worthwhile artichoke dish!

Obscurity, Change, Grief, and Memory - Wed, 08/05/2020 - 11:21

There are nearly 33,000 photos on my phone, and recently the subjects are about 92% flowers, cats, and food, 6% political memes, and 2% family and friends. This is troubling to me. I notice how few pictures I have of my sons, of Geoff, and even fewer of friends. If Chickenblog is representative of our days, of what we are doing, what I am thinking about, then I suppose it's accurate, in a way, that there are no recent pictures of my Mom, or cousins, or aunts... not now, during a pandemic, while we are isolating. Then I question myself, What about the people living here, or even the friends that mask up and hang out? Where are those pictures?

I am certain that these days are changing us, altering our culture, our behavior. We move and act to cope, to manage living in the same space, for days, weeks, months on end. We compromise, and accommodate, we coordinate, cooperate, and negotiate. For all of the challenges, and self-regulating concessions we accept and practice, I believe we are doing well. We share the same values, and concerns, and we get along. So. That helps. Really, I can't imagine how it would feel to go through this if we didn't agree about wearing masks, or if one of us insisted on going places, taking more risks than necessary. Culture and behavior are not fixed, immovable, but it does take extreme measures, big shifts, to change how we act, what we do, collectively. I think the pandemic and social isolation have been significant enough events to change our behavior, our culture... not only in our home, but in the world. This likely, in part, accounts for the social revolution, the protest, the discomforts, and the insights and inspirations, we are witnessing, sharing, resisting. We are growing, or at least being challenged to grow, change, evolve, to adjust our thinking. We are in this together, literally, figuratively. It seems that this proximity, makes us aware of things that are wrong, things that are intimate, unfair, need attention, need care. For some, this imposes ideas that disrupt intrinsic, deep seated beliefs, and even forces us to examen what we know and compare and contrast it with truth, with what other people have experienced, or have been dealt.

Anyway, there will be lifetimes of study and reflection on the changes we are seeing, on the intersection of progressivism, politics, climate change, and pandemics, and how they marked this time, this era, and touched everything, everyone. In other words, it's a lot to think about, to express, to figure out.

I tend to recognize large issues, complex concepts and events, and distill them, simplify them... relate them to what I see close at hand. And I think I am not taking as many photographs of us, of my sons, and husband, of Bambi, and friends that come by, of Maria, because we are so close. I detect the intimacy and proximity of us, of seven people living together, working, studying, playing, everyday, for an indeterminate time. Blogging has always been a balancing act for sharing, and being personal, but not over-sharing, not being too personal. I'm sure I have erred in both directions. Indeed, I have been admonished, both, for over-sharing, and for being obtuse. However unsuccessful I am, or am not, I am sensitive to the issue, and want to be respectful, without actually giving up on writing, on being a blogger.

My brain plods on... how, when we are all here, together, am I taking fewer pictures of people? It seemed odd to me, a strange kind of omission. Sometimes, I recognize having few pictures of someone I love, and I worry that I have neglected to demonstrate my attention, my care of them, for them, when I don't have pictures of them. To me, it feels as if I have not been seeing them, and it makes me uncomfortable, sad. Have you ever been left out of a yearbook, a collage of family pictures, noticed when you aren't in someone's collection of photographs? I find it hurtful, and I take great care and worry a lot about not overlooking people when I make slideshows, or post images. I feel that who is missing from pictures can be as meaningful as who is included. Some patterns have simple explanations that make sense and don't represent a sad narrative. There can be, however, very truthful and revealing narratives in photographs. I think about this a lot, and I care very much about who is in my pictures, who is not, and why, and how they are represented. Initially, I was not aware of the change, or more precisely, why I changed... but I have considered this at length and I have realized that I am being distant because of our proximity. We are close, all of the time, and we cannot get away, so there is this gracious shift we have made, mostly unconsciously, to give each other room, to not notice even what is in plain sight. As a photographer, I am already aware of some people's discomfort about being photographed, and I want to be sensitive and respectful of those feelings. Now we are so much in each others' company, and have little choice about being seen, all of the time, I am more than ever taking care not to be invasive, not to ask too much of people. Candid shots are a delicate matter, a trust act, and I don't want to press. And posed pictures, asking people to smile, look at the camera, feels like asking too much.

I could be projecting. I know I don't feel the same, familiar to my own self. The world is strange, and I feel strange in it. And it's all so muddled! There is probably too much closeness and proximity between all of us living in this house, and then when we see friends, or neighbors walking by, we keep a safe distance, we hide our mouths, our noses, our expressions. What do the sociologists, and palm readers, make of all this? Who are we, when we live in this new way, with these new norms, and customs? I've started taking more selfies, even shared a selfie video... inexplicable choices, for me. I know these five months have been some of the most introspective of my life, and I have been jolted by thoughts of being very uncomfortable living with me. So, how have I become ok with sharing pictures I take of me? "Ok," but not good, not easy.
July 24, 2020

I was dabbling with all those deep thoughts when my cousin texted me, telling me about our Abuela. Along with a 1,000 other feelings and thoughts, I formed the impression that everything I had been trying to express here was senseless. I nearly deleted it, and wouldn't even read it. I suppose this is why they say don't make big decisions when you are mourning, and the other pearl of wisdom, don't make a permanent change because of a temporary feeling. I suppose this should have been taken into stronger consideration before I cut off my hair in four whacks. Sadly, the hair mess is the temporary situation, and the loss of all of my Grandmothers is permanent.

Saturn and Jupiter, my binoculars... very poorly captured with my phone. I don't mind "bad" pictures. Not when they recall good moments, when they can evoke the memory and wonder of an event, like seeing the moons left and right of Jupiter, of the cool July night when we hosted friends for a movie night and campfires, heard the owls, and saw bats.

When I was 14 years old, and staying with my Abuelos in Tacupeto, I saw something beautiful in the night sky. There was a star, or so I thought, that was lingering so near the crescent moon, it looked almost affixed to the tip of the moon, like a set jewel. A Kodak camera couldn't capture it, I had no binoculars, or even the notion that we can see both stars and planets. I doubt I even realized how ideal the circumstances were for stargazing, where we were, far from city lights, pollution. I've longed to see that again... to understand what I was seeing, to share the beauty of it with others. It would have been summer, July or August... it could have been Venus, not a star. And on this August 15th, before sunrise, I am going to watch for the crescent moon with Venus shining nearby.
Is it funny-strange, or ironic, meaningful, or plain coincidence, that I was thinking so much about pictures, taking them, what they tell us, what we miss, what we hope to capture... when I learned that my Abuela died? I am in that frame of mind, looking for signs and connection, feeling adrift, and wanting to find meaning, not merely coincidence. I don't have very many photographs from my childhood, of me with family, of places we were. And as many pictures as I took, when I was 14, and 37, of Tacupeto and Abuela, of her kitchen, and the places we hiked to, I am heartbroken for not having more.

I wish I had more pictures. I wish I could put the words to the heartache and longing, and make some sense of all this hurt. It's too terrible to comprehend that so much goodness is gone, and gone forever.

Pura Fe - Fri, 07/31/2020 - 10:01
Fortunately, I have written about her before, because, for now, I am not ready to say much more. My Abuela has gone to heaven. She was pura fe, pure faith. I want to add thoughts and impressions: I couldn't do her justice, because I'm too raw, too sad. I've been reading lovely tributes, and heartfelt accounts of her faith, her cooking, her ceaseless prayers, and I am so thankful for those recollections and reflections from the family... it's nice to see her from all those points of view, to be reminded how far and wide her love reached. There are seemingly countless good things to say about her, to cherish about her. She blessed us. What a gift she has been.

Up to now, I have had living Abuelas, Grandmothers... truly beautiful, loving, inspiring women. I am so thankful that I knew them and loved them, that Eunice, Nancy, and Antonia lived long, interesting, generous lives. That should be enough, or more than enough, but it's a terrible, sad thing to be in the world without them.

Thinking of You - Wed, 07/22/2020 - 10:16

My Aunt Liz shared a post on FB, about dementia and "ambiguous loss." Ambiguous loss is loss without closure, without clear understanding, and it can happen in many ways, including through dementia, Alzheimer's, infertility, depression, disappearance of a loved one, and I think a failure of justice, extreme disruption of "normal," like in a pandemic, or because of systemic racism. I imagine, a lot of us are experiencing some degree of ambiguous loss these days. I think about friends and family who are isolated, who have suffered trauma, who are anxious, and when I expand these thoughts to the world, to all of us... well, it's too much! I think of our needs, for compassion, for support, for aid, and relief, for justice, for simple kindness. I think of how thin we are spread, each of us in our own ways. These are not easy times, and I think that even when we do get real leadership, and some respite from violence, division, this pandemic, and tyranny, we will need even more healing and good will than ever.

The world feels fragile, and problems are too many, too big. I've had conversations with friends where inevitably one of us apologizes, aware that our troubles might be a burden on the other, because everyone is struggling, everyone is having a hard time, and it might feel selfish, or asking too much to share what we are feeling, our worries. I feel so fortunate, because whether I am expressing my unrest, frustration, or someone is sharing theirs, we have taken turns, listening, reassuring, comforting, supporting each other. And that, simply listening, acknowledging one another, makes all the difference. I wish there were a bigger solution, a bolder insight, but this will have to do, for now... it helps to be heard, to be seen, and it helps to listen, to acknowledge. We cannot fix everything, and we can't manage everything... I remind myself, sigh, and resolve to keep it simple, listen, make small differences, do what I can, as best as I can. I think of love, and kindness, and resolve to make my choices and actions motivated by those.

I am thinking of you, friends, and strangers. I am wishing you well, and I am looking forward to gatherings, to an ease of tension, and a restoration of the good pastimes and traditions we have shared, and a rebuilding of things that should have been made fair, just, and good for all, in the first place.

Cilantro Life - Thu, 07/16/2020 - 11:29

Even though I love having lots of fresh cilantro from the garden, I don't despair when the hot weather makes it bolt. Sooner or later cilantro wants to fulfill its destiny and make seeds. You'll know this is happening because the stems lengthen and thicken, and the new leaves stop growing flat and wide; they become narrow, feathery. Then come the flowers, sprays of tiny, white blossoms. Enjoy the flowers, and enjoy the bees that will come, too. They love cilantro flowers. All parts of the plant are edible, and you don't want to miss out on what comes next! These are coriander seeds, and they came from my cilantro plants. In cooking, the dried fruit we know as coriander is the seed of the cilantro plant, and it's a wonderful and popular flavor in many dishes, including garam masala, albondigas, sausages, and pickling. I keep mine whole, until I am ready to cook with it. Toasting it will heighten the intensity of the citrus-spicy flavor. I crush and grind the dry seeds in my molcajete, a traditional Mexican mortar and pestle. When cilantro has bolted, the plant gets surprisingly tall, and I love seeing it in the garden, white flowers floating in the breeze. The flavor of the leaves intensifies, though there are fewer to collect. That's ok, I am looking forward to seeing the seeds form. Each tiny white flower, with help from the bees, will make fruit, the coriander. I want them to stay on the plant as long as possible, so they have time to mature, ripen, get round, and full. And as this happens, the plant will look pretty scraggly, acabado. Don't be too hasty to pull it up! I let my cilantro hold the seeds for as long as possible, and about when the plant keels over, I pull it up from the roots, and find a place to hang it, so the seeds can dry and harden a bit more. I pulled mine out on July 5th, and by the 8th, I saw they were turning from bright green to a pale green, almost golden color. Also, they were attracting birds! Time to save the seeds! I snipped off the umbels... the stalks of short stems. The seeds are still holding on and this is, along with the hint of green, a sign that they should dry a bit longer. They will dry and harden in this old pan. This pan has been sitting in my kitchen for seven days. Most of the seeds are golden to toasted brown, and you may notice the distinct ridged texture of the globular fruit... it is a schizocarp. It's time to collect the seeds, a favorite activity of mine. I simply roll or pop the seeds from the stems. They are dry and ready to come off easily. Tiny bits of dried flower parts come off, too, and those can be seperated with a metal strainer. I'm not too concerned about it.

If I am lucky, some of the seeds stayed in the garden bed, and the cilantro will reseed itself. But just in case, I will be planting seeds in a cooler part of the garden, since hot summer days are coming. And I will have plenty of coriander left for cooking with, as well.

Crochet and Frogging - Wed, 07/15/2020 - 11:36

Something new! Am I a Vlogger?

Oh, Just Ugh - Tue, 07/14/2020 - 17:50
1. I am sad. I started to list the reasons why, and... ok. yeah. nevermind. Or is it never mind? 2. Even though I committed to crocheting a blanket using the yarn I have on hand, I have already broken with my virtuous scheme, and ordered a few more skeins of yarn. I mean, please, it's no good using all the colors on hand, if they're going to clash. It's bad enough I use cheap acrylic yarn, I don't want to make a green, lavender, blue, yellow, teal, burgundy, and grey blanket. I was progressing at a happy rate, then realized that I don't want to get much further, before introducing the colors that I ordered, because I am still going for "harmonious, scrappy, pleasing, random, organic, unassuming, yet very pretty." Good grief, that sounds like a trope... the young woman in the movie that wears glasses, and scrappy shoes, has no idea she's beautiful. She's plucky and resourceful, a misunderstood outsider on the verge of greatness, brilliant, yet humble, poor, yet not weary enough to look down-trodden. Yeah, that's the blanket I am shooting for! 3. Here's something I wanted to share on Instagram. In Stories. Stories is a nice place to test something out, because it can be deleted, and it disappears after 24 hours. But it turned out longer than expected and I can't get the whole thing to load. I want a tech wand. A wave of my wand and I would understand why one time I had a very long video, and an IG window popped up and asked, "Would you like this long video to upload?" No pop up window option, this time. I'll post it here, instead. No. Nevermind. Never mind. No spellcheck. No autocorrect. No paragraph breaks. And no videos over five minutes. Back to point 1: I am sad.