Chicken Blog by Natalie

Chirp.

Chickenblog.com - Wed, 07/01/2020 - 11:46




Like a bird that chirps, I can't seem to stop trying to sort my thoughts and write all about it, here, on Instagram, in messages, as I fall asleep... chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp. These days, my thoughts are racing, so is my heart. There is so much going on in the world, and some of it hurts, deeply. Not directly, not so that I am in danger or daily reminded in my personal life... but I cannot read the news without shuddering, without feeling genuinely appalled. And, truthfully, some accounts do feel direct and personal, deeply concerning. Maybe I shouldn't censor myself... sometimes telling my story makes me feel uncomfortable, vulnerable, and I worry about getting it wrong, being misunderstood. I even worry, "What will ___ think of me?" Here's a funny thing... I've been very aware of the BLM movement, and I've been listening, reading, reflecting, and growing, and I've been deeply concerned about not being a superficial-trendy ally, and my concerns, my empathy, my own experience with bigotry and intersectional issues, inform my genuine interest and activist beliefs and actions, and I've been so preoccupied with doing the right thing, making a beneficial difference, especially in social media, because I am there, Instagram and FB, and here, a lot, BUT! But, I am not a successful social media voice... and that's the funny part for me: How earnest and eager I have been to make a difference, to contribute, but really, I am possibly the single most ineffective, least influential social media person there is, relative to how much effort I give it. (A terribly embarrassing admission.) I am this little Brown bird, standing on a low perch and chirping away, so solemn and wholehearted, likely off-key, certainly incessant, and I... I'll say it: I am not interesting enough to be of interest to the other art-mommy-crafting-gardening bloggers I've courted forever, and I am not worthy of a follow-back from Makers and the Maker movement that I've promoted, and contributed to for a decade, and certainly Black women, the activist and artists I admire, do not need me clogging up their channels (They've got this!)

So. Well. Honestly, this might be ideal. My under the radar anonymity gives me space to have my say, to chirp away! I'm not going to be in anyone's way.

For courage, I think of Richard Feynman, a favorite physicist, and his ideas on living, being, "What do you care what other people think?"

There. I've said all that, and really, I could have just chirped, I have been really sad, possibly depressed, because the racism in this country is disgusting. And people are being such fucking knuckle heads about the most basic, humane gestures, like wearing a friggin' mask, that I wonder if we can ever be decent enough to let Love be Love, to stop hurting Black people, give everyone access to quality, affordable education and healthcare, and secure justice and equality for all.

It is truly depressing to see some people too selfish and unkind to share, to make room, too bound to symbols, and reactionary conventions, to regard the value of human lives, of peace, of love, of compassion, respect, decency. Why should this fight for Human Rights still be raging? Isn't it simple enough to say, we are living, and connected, let's be kind and fair? With that settled, with justice served, and everyone having at least the chance at a fair shake, imagine what we could achieve for all of the other, actually, pressing issues? I don't want to debate whether police can arrive unannounced, kick in the door and shoot someone in their bed. I do not want to wait a year for a district attorney to consider whether it was wrong of police to kill a young man for walking home. I wish everyone would put on face masks when they are in public. I wish everyone would vote in November for the candidates, flawed but caring, who want to restore some common decency. I wish the men armed and paid by our taxes, trained to protect and serve us, that killed Breonna Taylor, and Elijah McClain, were arrested and tried for the crimes they ought to be formally accused of.






I get so sad, I feel useless, heavy, floundering. Which, to be honest, is a luxury. I am home, and have more than I need, and I am surrounded by beauty. Even the tattered roses, and dead things in the garden, the unfolded laundry, and dirty dishes, are all portions of my blessings, my favor. Here is a spiral... sad-->guilty-->apologetic-->embarrassed-->sadder-->guiltier. I want to delete this, and even more I would like to not feel sad, then apologetic, and I am not going to delete it, because maybe someone else feels this way, too. Maybe someone wishes they weren't alone in their feelings. I do care what other people think, and need to be reminded, Don't let what other people might think, stop you from saying what you feel, from being yourself, from changing, from growing. And really, is it so surprising to feel sad? These are not easy times, whether for me, personally, or because I care what others are experiencing.






Roasted tomatoes... apparently I've made them with salt, and without salt. I think without salt works well. I think roasting tomatoes is wonderful.


Baking bread... it's easy, it's versatile. I think this bread is wonderful.





I had been thinking about sharing a whole history of this lunch, from planting apple trees, to tomatoes that volunteered in the yard, and reflecting on all kinds of metaphors and recipes, deep thoughts, other musings. Chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp...

We Must Do Better

Chickenblog.com - Fri, 06/26/2020 - 15:06
Nature grounds me, lifts my spirits, calms my racing thoughts. It isn't even a conscious experience, which actually makes it even more effective... I simply breath slower, deeper, and am soothed, restored, by the sight of flowers, of closed buds, and fading petals, of resilience and frailty, of the balance of forces, the bonds we share. My garden shows me, literally and figuratively, how we are connected, how a garden bed can be representative of our greater world, for better or worse.

To grow, sometimes it’s necessary to dig deep, and tear things down, start again. Pull up hate and racism by the roots. Tear out broken systems. Clear a path for justice, for better ways. Don’t let old growth and bad seeds choke the life out of the garden. It takes work, it takes a bold vision, and learning better methods, it takes maintenance, nurturing, listening, observing, to help a garden grow. First, I pulled out the things the goats and chickens could safely consume, and shared that with them. Then I pulled out the bits that would be good for the compost, like nitrogen rich pea shoots, vines, the dry calendula. Lastly, I pulled toxic and nuisance weeds and those went straight to yard waste... those will come back, again and again, so we will just keep tearing them out. Then we added new soil... time to plant, again. It was easier when I asked for help.

When my boys were in Montessori, I loved the method of teaching that began with self, then grew, expanding outwards, encompassing more and more of the world. It works in so many ways to remind me how I can learn, how I can expand my growth, my caring, my intentions, outward, in wider and wider circles. When I begin in my heart, in my own garden, then reach to my family, friends, and community... my best efforts ripple out further and further, connecting me to the world, and the world back to me, so that I can see the whole world in my heart, in our garden.

From this point of view, knowing we are connected, I want the world, all people, protected, respected, nurtured, healthy. We all contribute, we all work, we all have our gifts and voices to lend, and if we are educated, if we can expect equity, justice, opportunity, then we return those, and more. Healthy, we can work more efficiently, we can create, and relax, we can participate in making life better for all. Without fear, without insecurity, we are better neighbors, able citizens, and we can enhance our own lives, and the lives of everyone around us. I am not naive... I know there are cheats, and bad players, I know some people will have advantages, and others will take advantage. Every pretty garden has weeds, slugs, leaking pipes, decay. Every society, like every garden, needs care, maintenance, attention.

Well, I think I've made my point here. The world is a garden. Let's weed, and water and plant seeds. And if all of this was sufficient, then I wouldn't have a lot more on my mind, grieving my heart...

I don't know where to begin...

When I was in fifth and sixth grade, I was bussed to school. I was a token minority in a mostly white neighborhood school, at a school that was really nice. And by the time our class was ready to move to junior high, our school district wanted the same, mostly white children, to bus to an inner city school. It was newly built, and supposed to be "good, diverse, integrated." We rode our school bus, to see the new school, where we were told we could continue our education with our friends, on a campus "designed" for the future. The bus left our pretty school, with the trees, and open campus, and drove into San Diego, through old neighborhoods, passed gang tags, liquor stores, right up to a tall block structure, with metal gates, no windows. It was hard, cold, barren. It looked fortified, and a whisper traveled between us, "Ooh, this must be the prison." Imagine the cognitive dissonance we experienced when tall, steel gates opened and the bus pulled into an asphalt yard, and we were invited out. We honestly thought this was a mistake, that we'd been taken to an actual prison. We stood in our rows, and administrators came out of the building to welcome us, to encourage us to choose this school. We were eleven and twelve years old, and we were not impressed, not comfortable. We were walked into the building, shown classrooms, taken around the whole place and back out to the yard, "Does anyone have any questions?" asked the principal. Well, we'd seen "big kids," and we saw no more playgrounds, no more windows and trees, and being small, and young, I was certainly thinking it: Bullying, trouble. I was so glad someone dared to ask, "Does your school have, like, bullies, or gang stuff?" We stood, almost huddled, in the shadow of this menacing edifice, and the principal sucked in his breath and blurted, too insistently, "No. Absolutely not. We have no issues, because this is a safe place, and we care about your safety..." And behind him, maybe 100' away, the gates opened and three police cars rushed in, halting urgently, and six officers jumped out of the patrol cars, running into the building. No sirens, but lights on the cars flashed brightly in the noonday light. We were loaded back onto the bus, and as we pulled away, our faces were pressed to windows. Armed men were loading handcuffed big kids, but really just kids, like us, the Black and Mexican kids in this class of mostly white children... loading those children in the backs of squad cars. I decided then and there, No way.

Even at 12 years old, I could see that this place was designed and built for a hopeless future, for a system that determined to raise, not expectations, but fear, hostility, isolation, and division. I wasn't keen to face bullies, but I was far more chilled by the thought of being locked up at school, guarded from the outside by people who assumed we belonged in walled yards. It was like a decorative rock-bed garden, with cinder blocks, concrete, where all growing things, outside of the prescribed squares, are sprayed with herbicide. It looks orderly, and clean, but only the pretty specimens have a chance, and everything else is suspect, poisoned, hidden. Conform, or be removed, know your place, or be pulled out, be quiet or be crushed. It's what the district designed and built, what society, White society and culture expected, a solution...when I read about the School to Prison Pipeline, I don't doubt it, or refute it, because I saw it firsthand.

"American Uprising," painting by Kadir Nelson.

This experience, and many other instances of being racially profiled (or ethnically profiled, because there is still confusion about the words we use to describe prejudice, bigotry), having been bullied, harassed, and streamed/tracked (automatically being turned away from college prep and honors courses, even being forced to take "easy classes." "Low-track classes tend to be primarily composed of low-income students, usually minorities, while upper-track classes are usually dominated by students from socioeconomically successful groups. In 1987, Jeannie Oakes theorized that the disproportionate placement of poor and minority students into low tracks does not reflect their actual learning abilities. Rather, she argues that the ethnocentric claims of social Darwinists and the Anglo-Saxon-driven Americanization movement at the turn of the century combined to produce a strong push for "industrial" schooling, ultimately relegating the poorer minority students to vocational programs and a differentiated curriculum which she considered a lingering pattern in 20th century schools." Tracking is basically segregation in "integrated" schools.) All of this... all of these informed me, and shaped me, and stay with me. And still, I meet people that tell me, "I don't see color." "It's better now." "You don't look Mexican." "But, you are white." "Pocha." "Guerra." "Gringa." "What are you?" "We always had groups at school, like the surfers, the nerds, the beaners. It was all cool. It was no big deal." "He doesn't have to fix the mess he made, because he's a Mexican. Free ride." "You people." "Drop dead, wet-back!" Still.

I try not to write for my children, about their personal experiences. I try, at least, to keep personal information and opinions, points of view, my own. I don't want to speak for them. But, I want to speak about my concerns for them, about them. I want to address the issues I face as a mother of children, now young men, and a daughter, that are not seen as White, that are a shade darker, a bit ethnic, "quirky, different, aloof, dress "interestingly," have long hair, are tall for their age, look older than they are, are precocious, don't make eye-contact, flinch, pace, stim, don't read facial expressions well, shy away from confrontation." I am talking about Intersectionality.




My children are ethnically "different," and they are behaviorally "different." They are on the Autism spectrum, and that's something some people are not aware of, or have even dismissed because they perceive "how normal they seem." But others notice, and comment, and eye them suspiciously. Being Hispanic, Latinx, being Autistic, this makes them vulnerable, targets. Even in this lovely community, this "liberal" town, we have friends, also intersectional, ethnically "different," behaviorally "different," that have been targeted, singled out, harassed, and abused by local law enforcement. Report it? Know that from inside of law enforcement, those friends were cautioned against making formal complaints, because "There would be retaliation." Autism spectrum issues are hard. We don't want a "cure," we have figured things out, and we are doing fine... until we leave home, and then the world finds ways of reminding us they are not the same, of challenging us to fit in, to assimilate, adjust, to overcome, to conform, or be removed, know your place, or be pulled out, be quiet or be crushed. And I fear for them. Not openly, not wringing my hands and wailing, because that would crush them, too. Besides needing to give them the warning that BIPOC parents give their children, about being extra polite, extra proper, extra careful, extra submissive, and to know that law enforcement is not likely to be there to protect and serve them, because of Autism, we have to also not overwhelm them with concerns about their instinctive sensitivities to sounds, touch, to change, to confusion, to anything irrational, or unreasonable.

Ok... here's the thing... Police are trained to say, "Stop resisting! And laws protect police when they shout this at anyone being detained, so if you flinch, or recoil, if you cry, or turn in pain, fear, confusion, the police can escalate their force, increase the pain, the confusion, and act like you are resisting, treat you like a bad guy. Our police and sheriffs are heavily armed, they look hostile, they assume individuals they are confronting are hostile... it's all set up, in place for looking for and anticipating "bad behavior," and reacting with violence. I'm not a journalist, and I'm not going to cite all of my statements. That's not me being lazy, it's me saying, there is evidence, there are statistics, this is truth: Law enforcement profiles, White citizens discriminate and call 911 for any little thing that upsets them, police have bad eggs, and a code of protecting each other, and my children, Black men and women, and boys, and girls, Gays, Bi, Trans, disabled, all of the Others, the intersectional, the poor, the homeless... all of them are being treated badly, poorly, unfairly, cruelly, inhumanely, unjustly. It's in our culture, it's in our laws, it's in redlining, tracking, it's policy, and law, it's our history. How long have we been cutting school budgets, and defunding education? How many nurses or counselors are on campus vs police or security? How much training does a person go through before they are set out, armed, to Protect and Serve? Why do we pay taxes, and billions of dollars are directed to armored cars, body armor, weapons, chemical weapons, that are being turned on us, on Black women, on Black men, on boys, girls, journalists, homeless people in wheel chairs, people at home, asleep... At a young man that was walking home, and looked suspicious to someone?

Have you read about Elijah McClain? He was detained on his way home from picking up an iced tea for his brother. He's dead. He's the whole reason I am trying to say something, the reason I'm telling you my experience, my worries, the things I know, and the things I am learning. He is the reason I am in terrible grief, and mourning, and scared for my children, and why I want to pull up hate by the roots, and tear out the system that is broken, unjust. It makes me angry that we even have to analyze the details, question his actions, his tone, what he was wearing. I've seen the bullshit responses from people about George Floyd, that he had a record, he was criminal, he did this, that, all to dehumanize him, all to dismiss the outcry, and the fury. He was too human to be a hero? He was flawed, so settle down? Forget that! He was a human being, and should have had equal protection under the law. Period. Breonna Taylor should be alive. Atatiana Jefferson should be alive. Aura Rosser should be alive. Stephon Clark should be alive. Botham Jean should be alive. Philando Castille should be alive. Elijah McClain should be alive.

We give our police billions of dollars to do one job: Protect and Serve. And now I have lived to see military police helicopters flown tactically above peaceful protesters, marchers attacked by poisonous gas, corralled and herded, shot, beaten, run over, and we pay for this protection, this service. We say we can't afford to pay for college educations, to reduce tuition, to erase college debt. We say we can't afford to give people healthcare, to even keep a system of giving people a chance to pay for affordable health insurance. We say prisons can be private and can earn a profit. We say we can't pay for school nurses, or to house the homeless. We say we can't treat mental illness, or drug addiction. We can't keep voting polls open, plentiful. We can't pay a living wage. We can't give equal pay, or equal rights. We are building a cold, hard garden, poisoned, broken, bigoted, and mean, neglectful, abusive, prejudiced. Are social services and safety nets really radicle? Are they actually extreme left wing idealism? Where would we put "Human decency? Justice?"

Last summer Elijah was walking home and someone thought he looked suspicious, called 911. Elijah was listening to music, moving his arms, minding his business, like my boys do. He was confused, unsettled, by the police that approached him, grabbed him, like my boys would be. He objected, was scared, like my children would be, like I would be. The police, three armed men, took him to the ground, restrained him, and his last words were, "I can't breath. I have my ID right here. My name is Elijah McClain. That's my house. I was just going home. I am an introvert. I'm just different. That's all. I'm so sorry. I have no gun. I don't do that stuff. I don't do any fighting. Why are you attacking me? I don't even kill flies! I don't eat meat. But I don't judge people, I don't judge people who eat meat. Forgive me. All I was trying to do was become better. I will do it. You all are phenomenal. You are beautiful. And I love you. Try to forgive me. I am a mood gemini. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Ow, that really hurt. You all are very strong. Team work makes the dream work... (crying) Oh, I'm sorry. I wasn't trying to do that. I just can't breath correctly."

Every move he made, every flinch or recoil, in the dark, under the weight of three armed men, was treated as an act of resistance, because someone thought he "looked, "suspicious."
How do I teach my children to not look quirky, or to not react to being grabbed, pushed, sat on, beaten, called names, spit at, kicked, profiled, stalked? How do I comfortably watch them leave the house, and not think of Elijah McClain? For justice, it should not matter that he wasn't "on something," that he was really sweet, that he was young, a gentle soul. He should have lived, he should have been respected, protected, no matter his history, his look, his confusion, or resistance. But to this mother, to me... it matters, and I think of him, like my own children, and I want him to have his whole life before him, to be making music, and dancing his way home, free from fear, safe from hate. It matters to me that I see him, recognize his being "just different," like my children, and I can't stop feeling horrified. We simply must defund the police, stop spending billions to escalate fear and suspicion, we must tear out this broken system and hold ourselves to higher expectations, better goals, we must clear the way for justice, so we can have peace. I need this to be a better world, for all of us, and that can't be asking too much.


We Have Got to Do Better

Chickenblog.com - Fri, 06/26/2020 - 11:46
Nature grounds me, lifts my spirits, calms my racing thoughts. It isn't even a conscious experience, which actually makes it even more effective... I simply breath slower, deeper, and am soothed, restored, by the sight of flowers, of closed buds, and fading petals, of resilience and frailty, of the balance of forces, the bonds we share. My garden shows me, literally and figuratively, how we are connected, how a garden bed can be representative of our greater world, for better or worse.

To grow, sometimes it’s necessary to dig deep, and tear things down, start again. Pull up hate and racism by the roots. Tear out broken systems. Clear a path for justice, for better ways. Don’t let old growth and bad seeds choke the life out of the garden. It takes work, it takes a bold vision, and learning better methods, it takes maintenance, nurturing, listening, observing, to help a garden grow. First, I pulled out the things the goats and chickens could safely consume, and shared that with them. Then I pulled out the bits that would be good for the compost, like nitrogen rich pea shoots, vines, the dry calendula. Lastly, I pulled toxic and nuisance weeds and those went straight to yard waste... those will come back, again and again, so we will just keep tearing them out. Then we added new soil... time to plant, again. It was easier when I asked for help.

When my boys were in Montessori, I loved the method of teaching that began with self, then grew, expanding outwards, encompassing more and more of the world. It works in so many ways to remind me how I can learn, how I can expand my growth, my caring, my intentions, outward, in wider and wider circles. When I begin in my heart, in my own garden, then reach to my family, friends, and community... my best efforts ripple out further and further, connecting me to the world, and the world back to me, so that I can see the whole world in my heart, in our garden.

From this point of view, knowing we are connected, I want the world, all people, protected, respected, nurtured, healthy. We all contribute, we all work, we all have our gifts and voices to lend, and if we are educated, if we can expect equity, justice, opportunity, then we return those, and more. Healthy, we can work more efficiently, we can create, and relax, we can participate in making life better for all. Without fear, without insecurity, we are better neighbors, able citizens, and we can enhance our own lives, and the lives of everyone around us. I am not naive... I know there are cheats, and bad players, I know some people will have advantages, and others will take advantage. Every pretty garden has weeds, slugs, leaking pipes, decay. Every society, like every garden, needs care, maintenance, attention.

Well, I think I've made my point here. The world is a garden. Let's weed, and water and plant seeds. And if all of this was sufficient, then I wouldn't have a lot more on my mind, grieving my heart...

I don't know where to begin...

When I was in fifth and sixth grade, I was bussed to school. I was a token minority in a mostly white neighborhood school, at a school that was really nice. And by the time our class was ready to move to junior high, our school district wanted the same, mostly white children, to bus to an inner city school. It was newly built, and supposed to be "good, diverse, integrated." We rode our school bus, to see the new school, where we were told we could continue our education with our friends, on a campus "designed" for the future. The bus left our pretty school, with the trees, and open campus, and drove into San Diego, through old neighborhoods, passed gang tags, liquor stores, right up to a tall block structure, with metal gates, no windows. It was hard, cold, barren. It looked fortified, and a whisper traveled between us, "Ooh, this must be the prison." Imagine the cognitive dissonance we experienced when tall, steel gates opened and the bus pulled into an asphalt yard, and we were invited out. We honestly thought this was a mistake, that we'd been taken to an actual prison. We stood in our rows, and administrators came out of the building to welcome us, to encourage us to choose this school. We were eleven and twelve years old, and we were not impressed, not comfortable. We were walked into the building, shown classrooms, taken around the whole place and back out to the yard, "Does anyone have any questions?" asked the principal. Well, we'd seen "big kids," and we saw no more playgrounds, no more windows and trees, and being small, and young, I was certainly thinking it: Bullying, trouble. I was so glad someone dared to ask, "Does your school have, like, bullies, or gang stuff?" We stood, almost huddled, in the shadow of this menacing edifice, and the principal sucked in his breath and blurted, too insistently, "No. Absolutely not. We have no issues, because this is a safe place, and we care about your safety..." And behind him, maybe 100' away, the gates opened and three police cars rushed in, halting urgently, and six officers jumped out of the patrol cars, running into the building. No sirens, but lights on the cars flashed brightly in the noonday light. We were loaded back onto the bus, and as we pulled away, our faces were pressed to windows. Armed men were loading handcuffed big kids, but really just kids, like us, the Black and Mexican kids in this class of mostly white children... loading those children in the backs of squad cars. I decided then and there, No way.

Even at 12 years old, I could see that this place was designed and built for a hopeless future, for a system that determined to raise, not expectations, but fear, hostility, isolation, and division. I wasn't keen to face bullies, but I was far more chilled by the thought of being locked up at school, guarded from the outside by people who assumed we belonged in walled yards. It was like a decorative rock-bed garden, with cinder blocks, concrete, where all growing things, outside of the prescribed squares, are sprayed with herbicide. It looks orderly, and clean, but only the pretty specimens have a chance, and everything else is suspect, poisoned, hidden. Conform, or be removed, know your place, or be pulled out, be quiet or be crushed. It's what the district designed and built, what society, White society and culture expected, a solution...when I read about the School to Prison Pipeline, I don't doubt it, or refute it, because I saw it firsthand.

"American Uprising," painting by Kadir Nelson.

This experience, and many other instances of being racially profiled (or ethnically profiled, because there is still confusion about the words we use to describe prejudice, bigotry), having been bullied, harassed, and streamed/tracked (automatically being turned away from college prep and honors courses, even being forced to take "easy classes." "Low-track classes tend to be primarily composed of low-income students, usually minorities, while upper-track classes are usually dominated by students from socioeconomically successful groups. In 1987, Jeannie Oakes theorized that the disproportionate placement of poor and minority students into low tracks does not reflect their actual learning abilities. Rather, she argues that the ethnocentric claims of social Darwinists and the Anglo-Saxon-driven Americanization movement at the turn of the century combined to produce a strong push for "industrial" schooling, ultimately relegating the poorer minority students to vocational programs and a differentiated curriculum which she considered a lingering pattern in 20th century schools." Tracking is basically segregation in "integrated" schools.) All of this... all of these informed me, and shaped me, and stay with me. And still, I meet people that tell me, "I don't see color." "It's better now." "You don't look Mexican." "But, you are white." "Pocha." "Guerra." "Gringa." "What are you?" "We always had groups at school, like the surfers, the nerds, the beaners. It was all cool. It was no big deal." "He doesn't have to fix the mess he made, because he's a Mexican. Free ride." "You people." "Drop dead, wet-back!" Still.

I try not to write for my children, about their personal experiences. I try, at least, to keep personal information and opinions, points of view, my own. I don't want to speak for them. But, I want to speak about my concerns for them, about them. I want to address the issues I face as a mother of children, now young men, and a daughter, that are not seen as White, that are a shade darker, a bit ethnic, "quirky, different, aloof, dress "interestingly," have long hair, are tall for their age, look older than they are, are precocious, don't make eye-contact, flinch, pace, stim, don't read facial expressions well, shy away from confrontation." I am talking about Intersectionality.




My children are ethnically "different," and they are behaviorally "different." They are on the Autism spectrum, and that's something some people are not aware of, or have even dismissed because they perceive "how normal they seem." But others notice, and comment, and eye them suspiciously. Being Hispanic, Latinx, being Autistic, this makes them vulnerable, targets. Even in this lovely community, this "liberal" town, we have friends, also intersectional, ethnically "different," behaviorally "different," that have been targeted, singled out, harassed, and abused by local law enforcement. Report it? Know that from inside of law enforcement, those friends were cautioned against making formal complaints, because "There would be retaliation." Autism spectrum issues are hard. We don't want a "cure," we have figured things out, and we are doing fine... until we leave home, and then the world finds ways of reminding us they are not the same, of challenging us to fit in, to assimilate, adjust, to overcome, to conform, or be removed, know your place, or be pulled out, be quiet or be crushed. And I fear for them. Not openly, not wringing my hands and wailing, because that would crush them, too. Besides needing to give them the warning that BIPOC parents give their children, about being extra polite, extra proper, extra careful, extra submissive, and to know that law enforcement is not likely to be there to protect and serve them, because of Autism, we have to also not overwhelm them with concerns about their instinctive sensitivities to sounds, touch, to change, to confusion, to anything irrational, or unreasonable.

Ok... here's the thing... Police are trained to say, "Stop resisting! And laws protect police when they shout this at anyone being detained, so if you flinch, or recoil, if you cry, or turn in pain, fear, confusion, the police can escalate their force, increase the pain, the confusion, and act like you are resisting, treat you like a bad guy. Our police and sheriffs are heavily armed, they look hostile, they assume individuals they are confronting are hostile... it's all set up, in place for looking for and anticipating "bad behavior," and reacting with violence. I'm not a journalist, and I'm not going to cite all of my statements. That's not me being lazy, it's me saying, there is evidence, there are statistics, this is truth: Law enforcement profiles, White citizens discriminate and call 911 for any little thing that upsets them, police have bad eggs, and a code of protecting each other, and my children, Black men and women, and boys, and girls, Gays, Bi, Trans, disabled, all of the Others, the intersectional, the poor, the homeless... all of them are being treated badly, poorly, unfairly, cruelly, inhumanely, unjustly. It's in our culture, it's in our laws, it's in redlining, tracking, it's policy, and law, it's our history. How long have we been cutting school budgets, and defunding education? How many nurses or counselors are on campus vs police or security? How much training does a person go through before they are set out, armed, to Protect and Serve? Why do we pay taxes, and billions of dollars are directed to armored cars, body armor, weapons, chemical weapons, that are being turned on us, on Black women, on Black men, on boys, girls, journalists, homeless people in wheel chairs, people at home, asleep... At a young man that was walking home, and looked suspicious to someone?

Have you read about Elijah McClain? He was detained on his way home from picking up an iced tea for his brother. He's dead. He's the whole reason I am trying to say something, the reason I'm telling you my experience, my worries, the things I know, and the things I am learning. He is the reason I am in terrible grief, and mourning, and scared for my children, and why I want to pull up hate by the roots, and tear out the system that is broken, unjust. It makes me angry that we even have to analyze the details, question his actions, his tone, what he was wearing. I've seen the bullshit responses from people about George Floyd, that he had a record, he was criminal, he did this, that, all to dehumanize him, all to dismiss the outcry, and the fury. He was too human to be a hero? He was flawed, so settle down? Forget that! He was a human being, and should have had equal protection under the law. Period. Breonna Taylor should be alive. Atatiana Jefferson should be alive. Aura Rosser should be alive. Stephon Clark should be alive. Botham Jean should be alive. Philando Castille should be alive. Elijah McClain should be alive.

We give our police billions of dollars to do one job: Protect and Serve. And now I have lived to see military police helicopters flown tactically above peaceful protesters, marchers attacked by poisonous gas, corralled and herded, shot, beaten, run over, and we pay for this protection, this service. We say we can't afford to pay for college educations, to reduce tuition, to erase college debt. We say we can't afford to give people healthcare, to even keep a system of giving people a chance to pay for affordable health insurance. We say prisons can be private and can earn a profit. We say we can't pay for school nurses, or to house the homeless. We say we can't treat mental illness, or drug addiction. We can't keep voting polls open, plentiful. We can't pay a living wage. We can't give equal pay, or equal rights. We are building a cold, hard garden, poisoned, broken, bigoted, and mean, neglectful, abusive, prejudiced. Are social services and safety nets really radicle? Are they actually extreme left wing idealism? Where would we put "Human decency? Justice?"

Last summer Elijah was walking home and someone thought he looked suspicious, called 911. Elijah was listening to music, moving his arms, minding his business, like my boys do. He was confused, unsettled, by the police that approached him, grabbed him, like my boys would be. He objected, was scared, like my children would be, like I would be. The police, three armed men, took him to the ground, restrained him, and his last words were, "I can't breath. I have my ID right here. My name is Elijah McClain. That's my house. I was just going home. I am an introvert. I'm just different. That's all. I'm so sorry. I have no gun. I don't do that stuff. I don't do any fighting. Why are you attacking me? I don't even kill flies! I don't eat meat. But I don't judge people, I don't judge people who eat meat. Forgive me. All I was trying to do was become better. I will do it. You all are phenomenal. You are beautiful. And I love you. Try to forgive me. I am a mood gemini. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Ow, that really hurt. You all are very strong. Team work makes the dream work... (crying) Oh, I'm sorry. I wasn't trying to do that. I just can't breath correctly."

Every move he made, every flinch or recoil, in the dark, under the weight of three armed men, was treated as an act of resistance, because someone thought he "looked, "suspicious."
How do I teach my children to not look quirky, or to not react to being grabbed, pushed, sat on, beaten, called names, spit at, kicked, profiled, stalked? How do I comfortably watch them leave the house, and not think of Elijah McClain? For justice, it should not matter that he wasn't "on something," that he was really sweet, that he was young, a gentle soul. He should have lived, he should have been respected, protected, no matter his history, his look, his confusion, or resistance. But to this mother, to me... it matters, and I think of him, like my own children, and I want him to have his whole life before him, to be making music, and dancing his way home, free from fear, safe from hate. It matters to me that I see him, recognize his being "just different," like my children, and I can't stop feeling horrified. We simply must defund the police, stop spending billions to escalate fear and suspicion, we must tear out this broken system and hold ourselves to higher expectations, better goals, we must clear the way for justice, so we can have peace. I need this to be a better world, for all of us, and that can't be asking too much.

Soothing Greens and Daydreams

Chickenblog.com - Wed, 06/24/2020 - 13:05
Except for the neighbors incessant jack-hammering, and regular running of his Bobcat, it's absolutely soothing and green outdoors.

I'm sorry for mentioning the jack-hammer. But it's hard to dismiss.

I haven't made a vodka tincture of the mimosa. I wish I could remember what made me think of buying vodka at all. It was definitely for some kind of a homemade tincture, but the inspiration escapes me. And I don't think I even like vodka. It makes me think I am sipping a cool glass of medical lab work.

Sorry about that. Not a pleasant image, and maybe you like vodka. Sorry.

What the heck kind of mood am I in, anyway?


Now! Here is something. Green. Okay, but not necessarily "soothing." I was going to share these a few days ago, and ask the collective minds of the Internet, "Why is my potato growing tomatoes?" At least I knew to be wary of them. They grew from distinctly, and large, nightshade blossoms, and that makes them toxic. Last night I was visiting a new to me Instagram account, and lo! She's got potato tomatoes, too! Honestly, this is a favorite experience for me... finding answers organically, by chance, so this was great. She found an article that describes the phenomenon being as rare as a two headed calf. Wikipedia has more to say about these true fruits of the potato plant.

Okay. Enough with the toxic plants, two headed calves, and jack-hammers.



The soothing green of pumpkins on vines, beneath the shade of broad green leaves, and a true story...

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.



Maria baked a cake for her Dad, her "Cool, and really smart" Dad. I should remind her to add notes to the Vanilla Cake Pan recipe, which also happens to be vegan. She made some small substitutions, like using lemon extract, and adding strawberry lemonade and fresh strawberries to the frosting. It had such a bright, Spring flavor.

This tiny rose was a gift from Ruth, a few years ago. It would be so happy planted in the ground. I want to create something sturdy and tall for it to grow up. I am imagining a bower, loaded with these rosy, strawberry lemonade blossoms, and decorating Maria's cake with the flowers.




Ruth brought us a beautiful little orchid when she came to celebrate Max's commencement. I took it upstairs, thinking it would be happy with the other three plants that, miraculously, are living, even thriving! I kill house plants. I kill outside plants, too, but it's not as traumatizing, somehow. I am a go-with-the-flow gardener. Flowers go to seed, tomatoes pop up! The lawn is mostly well mowed weeds. I love hardy specimens, native plants, things we can eat, or fall in love with. Nothing too precious. Nothing manicured, or needy. My dear friend, Anna Banana, gave me the anthuriums. They're from a nursery we love, Barrels & Branches. I can't believe it still looks well. From the same nursery, I brought home African violets, which, given our family history, feels inevitable. African violets are what Velascos grow. When I see them, I see my tias, my Abuela, my tios, my primos, and their primos. Sooner or later, I was going to have them en casa, tambien. I am pleased, and greatly relieved that they are not only alive, but have actually grown.

I could grow. I could become an indoor plant lady, but I can't deny my nature, my easily distracted, forgetful tendencies, the terrible track record I have. But. I could try harder, I suppose. If I weren't so prone to lapses in effort, absent-minded spells when everyone had better know how to fend for themselves, lawn and fruit trees included, then I would be in a lush greenhouse home. Soothing, flourishing, with maybe an indoor fountain, something tiled, and trickling gently, surrounded by verdant specimens, trailing leaves, maybe birds, too. I satisfy these daydreams by following real Gardeners, capital G Gardeners, like Black Girls Gardening, and Gardeners that bother with things like soil ph, fertilizing, pruning, like Hilton Carter, creator of green interiors. I meditate on the pictures of greenhouse specimens from Barrels & Branches.

God. I hope I don't kill this little orchid.

I have a success story to share... I was seeing different adaptations for businesses to meet with clients, bring in customers, and still keep people safe from spreading viruses. I remembered that Geoff has made clear acrylic devices before, and I posed the question: Could we make some kind of sneeze guard, like a clear, table top voting booth set up? Then we could have close-up social distancing. Alex and Max talked about designs and configurations, and Geoff placed an order for acrylic sheets, then he and Alex heated, and shaped the clear plastic. It works! Max and Alex made a couple more, and then Max had his friend, Lucas, over. Table top gaming has returned to the Bird House! We have table top personal protective equipment, and its a game changer!







It's apple time, again. It's our tenth Apple Anniversary, actually. Last year we opened the gates, and invited everyone over for apple picking. I miss that. We will still share, but there won't be a potluck, or a garden full of friends. Summer adventures will be closer to home... much closer, like just at home. I'm so fortunate, so thankful... we have plenty, we have each other, and soothing green gardens, and cats, and memories, and all the stuff to make new memories. Picture this... next year, all of us under a bower of strawberry lemonade roses, and about to slice into Maria's pink frosted cake. It's a picnic, and everyone is invited. We are running around the garden, laughing, and making marvelous plans for summer. There is room for everyone, and plenty to share. Stay the night. We'll light campfires and watch a movie, then listen to the owls.

Posies

Chickenblog.com - Mon, 06/22/2020 - 15:05



















A posy is small bunches of flowers, a tiny bouquet. I thought it was just a pretty way of saying flower. I am thinking of when I was a little girl, and the happy way I felt about sweet alyssum. I loved that they were plentiful, and how people didn't seem to pay them much mind. I could not go around picking someone's roses, cutting dahlias or gladiolas at will, but alyssum is abundant, it grows freely, here and there. Each stem is a posy, with dozens of teeny flowers, and as fragrant as a perfume, warm honey. They made me feel abundant, like even with a handful, I was filling all of my senses with as many posies as I pleased.

Our wildflower garden is full of posies! Well, maybe not full, exactly. We sowed the mixed seeds in poor ground, and counted on the rain and sun to do the rest. There are not many, but enough to fill my senses. Some flowers are blooming singularly, others in clusters, looking just like true posies of blossoms. I am tempted to cut them, to press some, keep some in vases. But there are so few, and what if it's their end? I want them to last all summer. Most flowers give more when they are cut, deadheaded. Besides, I can't always be outside to enjoy them. A few to bring inside would be so nice. I will definitely let them go to seed, and add mulch to the ground, then wait, expectantly, for next year's posies.


Bring Forth Happiness

Chickenblog.com - Thu, 06/18/2020 - 14:13


Lisianthus with white peonies.

You know your friends know you, know you well, and care very much, when they bring you groceries, and think to add cheese, and extra tortillas, and when they include fresh cut flowers, particularly the ones you would have hoped to bring home yourself. Janece and Paul are such friends. I am reluctant to say anything about this, because I feel spoiled, indulged. They pick up our food, and deliver it to our home. If the circumstances were turned, I know I would do the same, and gladly. They know that we have health conditions in our family that make us high risk, vulnerable. I am so much more than thankful for their help. I am humbled, and I am something that I cannot find the word for... awe, gratitude, perspective, aware, moved by: I feel this sense of awe and gratitude and point of view about how generous, supportive, and good our community is, how each of us can give and receive and be stronger, better for it. What we give cannot always match what we receive, and I've come to believe that when it comes to sharing it's a waste to look for equity, to keep tabs. What I appreciate, and want to build on is, each of us doing what we can, to contribute to the betterment of each other, our neighborhood, the community, our town, the state, the nation, our planet. Let our best actions be like a ripple that moves outward and grows, so that everyone rises, everyone gives, and receives.

It's not only our concern about getting sick, but a question of being able to recover. Sometimes I forget, or I feel apologetic and want to downplay it, but objectively, rationally, our family should not take chances. There is a lot we do already to take precautions, to protect ourselves, and these habits are our personal responsibilities, that we manage. Now, in this pandemic, we are more guarded, and we are surprised, yes, but also disappointed, at how many people are flouting the courtesy and personal responsibility of wearing face masks. It's not alarmist, I am not hiding in a bunker, but the pandemic hasn't been called off. The virus is still taking lives, the risks are real, and numbers are rising. Whether we test, or not, COVID 19 is a healthcare crisis that could be better managed, and that is everyone's responsibility to slow down. Even now, I feel apologetic. Like I parked my feet on a soapbox, and am lecturing. But then I pop over to FB and see these debates... people calling the pandemic "fake!" And other conspiracy garbage, and I can't believe that it's come to this. So, be sure, this is true... Climate change is real. Black lives matter. Love is love. Keep families together. Be kind. Be kind. Be kind. And wear a mask when you go out, because it's an easy thing to do that could save a life.



We love that both of the kittens expose their bellies. Not only that, but they do not retaliate when you give them scritches! Here we have Feynman, taking his nap, in one of his chairs, and he's so content, so certain of his place in the universe, he lays on his back, carefree, and at peace. Seeing him this way always makes me wish this same confidence and sense of worth for everyone. Freedom from fear. Beloved.


Harvests! The gardening we began in March is yielding fruit! Grow potatoes. I tell you, they are so easy, it's ridiculous. These are from our Perseverance bed, that we planted with sprouted potatoes we found in a drawer. There are probably correct times of year to plant, to harvest, and other details that would make us better potato farmers, but our success with growing these should be encouragement for anyone: It is not hard to get delicious spuds, from old duds.





I hadn't counted in a while, but the chiclets came home March 20th, so that means they are three months old. I think I have already stated, but I am darn sure they are, after all, pullets. No roosters. Yeah, I still have just a hint of reservation in my voice. I still cross my fingers. Without any hesitation I will say, they are sweet Chiclets, sociable, and pretty.










Another thing we did last March was rake the rain softened ground and sprinkle some bags of wildflower seeds. In retrospect, I realize they could have done better in a spot with irrigation, and amended soil. That they are "native" flower seeds may be the only chance they had of ever popping out of the ground at all. It's only hard and dry in this end of the yard. And yet! Some success, little beauties. Really, little. I adore them. I see lupine leaves, and the sunflowers are obvious. Marigolds, yes. The frilly magenta ones, though, and those blue clusters, the pale-pale pinks... those are new to me. Do you know any of these? We got borage, too. I am glad we have tomatoes, and I will devour the potatoes, but it's the flowers. The flowers will always get me. I am ordering mulch. And I am going to find more native wildflower seeds, fairy garden seeds, butterfly garden seeds, and next year, I hope we will see something like a meadow, a billowing lea of little blossoms. Next year, there is something pretty.




Did I say? Something about mimosa? I love that there are still surprises in the world, in my own backyard. This tree is so drab, so nondescript, until June, and then it bursts with these pink feather flowers. Poofs of pink. And one time, I learned it's a mimosa tree, and promptly forgot that it's a mimosa tree. And then I was reminded... reminded in the sort of way that will stay with me, and make me smile. I follow High Hog Farm on Instagram... they do so much! On their Instagram, I saw a familiar flower on a post about making "mimosa tincture." At first I confused "tincture" with what I am doing with the calendula flowers. I have calendula flowers in olive oil, for an infusion. The tincture she's making is with the fresh flowers of the mimosa tree and vodka. Should I? Even before this lesson from High Hog Farm, I was reading about vodka tinctures and I bought a bottle of the alcohol. I don't even know why. Except, I guess sometimes I manage to devise my own surprises. I'm not much of a drinker, but evidently I am destined to make a tincture, and it might be a mimosa tincture... Keisha says "... it's supposed to help bring forth happiness."







I like that.... to help bring forth happiness. Cairo takes his naps, and his rattys, to bring forth his happiness. Flowers, taking pictures, reading maps, sharing, those bring forth my happiness. Yesterday, Maria and I poured over a book with thousands of beautiful images, pages and pages, and then we fell asleep, Cairo at our feet, and a cool breeze floating in, and that was a healing, soothing joy. Sometimes I am reluctant to say anything about happiness, and joy, because I feel spoiled, indulged, because I have been called naive, sensitive, a buttercup. I am sensitive and optimistic, idealistic, I do love pretty, and gentle, and even wildly imaginative.

Hello, I am a Buttercup. I want everyone to enjoy comfort and happiness, to have opportunity, justice. Good things are better shared. I am tired of suppressing my nature, my wild imaginings, my hope for my neighbors, our community, your family, our world.

I want to live in a world where we don't need to explain why Black Lives Matter, and it's not necessary to fight for civil rights, insist on access to healthcare, quality, affordable education. I want to live in a world where safety nets are dependable and accessible for anyone, for everyone, where basic, essential rights and freedoms are embraced, protected, maintained, taught, instilled. Imagine all of the growth and creativity, the well being, and learning we will achieve, when we enjoy true freedom, and liberty for all. Imagine if we all give what we can to help bring forth happiness.

Celebrations

Chickenblog.com - Wed, 06/17/2020 - 14:41
Four years ago, we celebrated the high school graduates, Max, and classmate, Bella. I know I felt a whole spectrum of emotions, including pride, and joy. I also felt a pang, a twinge, because the four years of high school went by quickly. Very quickly. It wasn't easy, it wasn't simple, yet the foremost reaction I felt, was that was fast, and the next four years could be even faster. It was harder, it was vastly more complicated, but these four college years did pass swiftly, and now we are celebrating, again, because Max is within two classes of completing his bachelor of science degree, as an applied mathematics major. He was approved to participate in commencement for Warren College, class of 2020. (I hope this link will stay active forever.)

Last month, I cried watching the clip of Bella, her dad recording and walking beside her, in the rain, as they crossed the field, alone, at Cal State Humboldt. Michael hummed Pomp and Circumstance. Bella's commencement was about as remote as they come. I felt pride and joy for Bella, and I felt a pang, this time for how bittersweet our celebrations are, when we cannot come together as we have before. Everything is happening swiftly, and we scramble to devise new ways of doing everything, making the best of it, appreciating all the goodness, though we are confronted with real disappointments, losses. I took the time to consider how to celebrate Max's commencement, Alex's birthday, and all of the traditions, and events on the horizon. I was reminded to celebrate, to make something of the occasions before us. Life is not predictable, and opportunities come and go, are earned, and can be taken away... don't waste the chance to enjoy special moments, to make moments special, I remind myself.




This was the last day on campus, as a sophomore, and Maria's first time back on campus since March. Nothing like last year, when we lingered around school, watched seniors in caps and gowns, hugged friends, visited classrooms for last peeks, and even though she was eager for summer, she was also anticipating the next year, returning. Maria has described the difficulty of remote learning, how seeing familiar faces on a screen, doesn't feel like connection. It feels like a reminder of all that is missing, everything that is wrong. Distance learning, online classes, highlights the disconnect. We drove to school to return books, a drive-through transaction. "I feel ok at home. I'm not bored or lonely. I don't think about what I am missing, but when we drive around, and see familiar places, and I know we can't stop, can't get out, then I miss everything, the way it was."


Max's cap and tassel came a few weeks later than they said they would. I am pretty sure it didn't make a difference to Max, but I was getting anxious about the robe we ordered. Like ordering official announcements, the robe was an extra effort to try and create a traditional commencement experience. Some day, this will all feel minor, and it is minor compared with bigger issues, but maybe the bigger issues that affect us, that make us sad, distress us... maybe those are why we need celebrations, caps and tassels, birthday cakes, pride, and pomp, and circumstance.








Happy Birthday, Alex! He found a way to be with friends, and share his birthday. And his experiment with bringing the television outside, assured us that sharing commencement would be feasible, too.

Geoff welded a frame to hold a school banner. (For the record, I also ordered chocolate bars wrapped in prints with the school insignia, and a school pennant that looked much bigger on the website.)



Ruth arrived in time for the virtual commencement, which we screened beneath a canopy, out in our driveway. She also baked pies, and brought a quiche from Holly. We shared in all of it... the speeches, the music and ceremony, the awkwardness of withholding hugs, but feeling connected.




Aunt Holly and Uncle Rich's card put it well, it was Kind of a big dill.

Max had been up, the night before to complete a final project, due at 2 am. He turned it in at 1:20 am, then the ceremony began at 8:30 am.

The speeches, the ceremony... they were genuinely good, poignant, timely, thoughtful. I want to watch them over again, see his picture, his name, and be stirred by the power of the messages shared. It will take more tissue, that's for sure.



An hour later, a conversation started about what's next, about Max's final project, and making.

Seven hours after commencement, his robe arrived.



And just after sunset we lit fires in the driveway, and some of Max's friends came to sit together, a safe distance apart, and we wasted no time enjoying this special moment.

The last four years have not been easy, nor simple, but they certainly went fast.

"So-called mild autism doesn't mean one experiences autism mildly; it means you experience their autism mildly. You may not know how hard they've had to work to get to the level they are." Adam Walton.

What Can I Say

Chickenblog.com - Sun, 06/07/2020 - 12:55



Sometime in March, early in this whole Stay at Home Season, Geoff shared an essay by an Italian woman. She was weeks and weeks ahead of us living in isolation, because of COVID 19, and she talked about seeing us, in the United States, as some states began to go into social distancing, quarantine. And she empathetically, succinctly laid it all out... each of the phases we would go through, like baking, then cleaning everything, and 24 hour social media binges, watching every movie. I can't find it. But it was accurate, it was even amusing. I took her words to heart, and nodded resolutely, this is what is, we can do this.

Where is she now? What's ahead, I'd like to know. We are months beyond where she spoke to us from, and there are little or no guide lines, no warnings from the future. I like lists. I could make a list of the Top Five Hard Things About Quarantine, and it would definitely always include Not Knowing What to Expect. Other hardships come and go, fall and rise in ranking, but the uncertainty is always there, always difficult. I get it, life has always been uncertain, but hey! Come on, this is on an exceptional scale, wouldn't you agree?






I like the way the chickens look at me. They see me. Even Tasha will stand back and gaze at me, discerningly. I think they know I do not have Geoff's tremendous resolve, nor half his energy. This week, in tears, I declared, I can take staying at home, I'm good with all of you, but I am so tired of me. I can't stand being with myself, confronted with all of the things I am not good at, and not being able to look away. And I felt the anguish of seeing myself. Knowing myself. Knowing that I won't be able to pack the car and drive to Oregon, make an escape to any new space, another environment, where I can reboot, recharge, be my better self. The chickens look at me and they size me up. They know me. And maybe it's because in their steely gaze, I cannot evade, or guard myself, I feel safe. They look at me, and accept me, then go about their lives, with me in their company. In words, this is terribly muddled and full of gaps. I probably shouldn't publish any of this, because I am not saying it well. I wish the chickens could write something on my behalf. Something like, Well, she's trying. She is what she is, imperfect, a bit scared, sensitive, but she's trying, and we are fine with that. Then one of the big ones would peck me, hard, on the toe, and the rest would demand that I feed them, rousing me from my stupor.


Maria's school year is drawing to a close. I think of her, and her friends, her schoolmates, the neighbor boy who finished grade school, and Simon, and Izzy, all done with middle school, Bella graduated, and Dean, Katalina. We ask them to be resilient, to have stamina and resolve, to flow. A cousin shared beautiful portraits of her children, drowsily propped up at the breakfast table. Candid shots of them, lost in their thoughts, and she wrote, "I wanted to capture the moment before breakfast and online school of just the look of “I miss back when...” a moment they don’t even realize." I am not sharing her pictures, so you can't see... trust me, they are poignant, and telling, iconic. I think of those images just now, because I've seen that look on my children's faces, a bit stunned, weary, trying to grapple. I've said it before, and I'll say it again... homeschool is nothing like this, nothing like online learning during a pandemic.

I am glad school is drawing to a close. Summer is always welcome, but now it feels like a particularly necessary opportunity to recover. I've seen a post going around, a list of 'all the life skills kids should be taught, because they aren't at school and their free time should be filled with lessons, drills, and reminders that our generation did more, better, and they will be plucky and amenable if they can master these tasks necessary to function in 1982.' Ok, I'm being critical. The list has some good suggestions, and of course children can learn all sorts of skills, and good manners. But that list, coupled with the stress and anxiety of a pandemic, zoom classes, online lessons, missing friends, losing rites of passage, and usual activities, hobbies, clubs, and countless other good ideas begging for their attention... the list could be put down, for a bit. I was going to say "burned." But, everyone has different needs, different issues.

For us... I see this summer as decompression time. Maria's school did their best in extraordinary circumstances, but it was tenuous, stressful, technically challenged, it couldn't help but magnify the literal disconnect between student and teacher, peers, discourse. And it was hard not to think back to how it used to be, and not evoke those feelings of "I miss back when..." So, even though we cannot do all the things we might usually do over summer, I think it will help to do as much, or as little, as we like that is just normal. Our normal. Summer and reading books, drawing, sketching, doodling. Summer and star gazing, campfires, gardening, building something, taking something apart. Summer and cooking outdoors, cooking something new, or weird, and eating some place new, like beside a tree, beneath a bedsheet tent. Summer and choosing an online class, or camp, for fun, without penalty, just because. Summer and walking, biking, yoga, climbing, tumbling, dancing, stretching, tag, darts, headstands, skateboarding, shooting hoops. Summer and listening... us listening to them, hearing their questions, following their interests, supporting their needs, reading their lists. I'm not worried that Maria won't learn enough, or that she will fall behind. Learning is forever, and the old lists won't always apply to the new ways of doing things. These young people, sooner than ever, are tasked with living in their future, paving the way for unforeseen, and unprecedented ways of looking at and being in the world. Summer could be our time to see what matters most, and play with that, learn from that, stay curious, and be.



Paddle Out To Honor Death of George Floyd.

Learning is forever, and it can happen anywhere. Black Lives Matter. Voting matters. Communities and safety nets matter. Protest, and being anti-racist matters. Giving back to our community, volunteering, mentoring, sharing, these matter. Frankly, these lessons are far more pressing, urgent, than common core, and test scores. We cannot fail Black people, immigrants, the disabled, anyone labeled other. We are failing ourselves if we don't learn that injustice, systemic racism, and inequality cannot be part of our future, and to change we must actively seek better, new ways of seeing each other, and being in the world. We are tasked with living in the better future, now.




Maria is making art. She likes creating digital art with ArtRage.



Max put on shoes for the first time since his last day at school, mid-March. Perhaps this is one of the messages the woman from the future might describe for us... that after months of isolation, a period of adjustment and learning how to do common things in uncommon ways, we would find solutions, means of connecting. Driveway movies, fireside chats, six or more feet apart, are not ideal, but after all this time, and while still in a pandemic, we cherish these moments, these opportunities to reconnect. I am thankful that in times of uncertainty, we are so fortunate to have friends, and the time and space to meet with them.




What can I say? There is so much on my mind, and I am glad I have this space where I can try to sort these things out.

My Privilege

Chickenblog.com - Mon, 06/01/2020 - 14:13












My privilege is here... home. I can retreat. I can pull weeds, wash dishes, go to bed, plan a graduation, turn off my phone. My privilege is passing for white, the protection of my husband, the advantage of living in a mostly liberal community, my education, knowing when to keep quiet, who not to offend, when not to speak, where not to go. My privilege is being born into a system that I have learned to play...

I hide.

I am not marching. I am not disowning my advantages, or flying a liberal flag in my front yard.

I am staying low, because I don't want to lose my security, my freedom. I don't want to invite the notice of white supremacists, bullies, MAGA, of "nice" people that do and say mean, thoughtless shit. I have been kicked, and harassed, hissed at, sneered at, called a "Jap, Chink, dirty Mexican, beaner, wetback, dirty Indian, buttercup, snowflake." I have been streamed in school, profiled, denied access, snubbed, harassed. I have seen it, felt it, fought it, dreaded it, been humiliated and hurt by it all of my life. I have had the talk with my boys... shave your beard, cut your hair, keep your hands visible, don't stay out late, don't fight back, don't, just. don't, and I try to think of all the ways a bad cop, a rowdy bunch of "fine people" might react to my mixed-race sons and daughter. And now... though I am safe, and staying home, I am struggling anyways, because I see my privilege is all the ways I avoid being in the midst of the violence, the pain, the little digs, the snickers, jokes, the prejudice, and bias, the stereotypes, assumptions. I have nice things, and hopes, and I don't want to lose them, and my privilege is this bubble, where I can hide and cower, and physically escape almost any consequence.

Shit.

It is not enough to say, "I am not racist, and I do not hate." It's not enough to post a Black Lives Matter sticker on FB, or quote Martin Luther King. This won't be over if we can get a President that doesn't call black men "Sons of bitches" or grabs women by "the pussy." The system is working as it was meant to... it is corrupt, it is racist, it is hurting people of color, and we cannot hide from this any more. It is very uncomfortable. It is ongoing, and will be ongoing until everyone is heard, until Black men and women are heard and respected, counted, and seen. This is more than politics, more than "them" or other cities, other anything... I am antiracist and uncomfortable, and I am listening, and acting, and I am scared.

Still Home

Chickenblog.com - Tue, 05/26/2020 - 14:44








May 19

There are good days and better days, and then there are quarantine days, and these are full of fits and starts, ups and downs. Even when things are going well, and they usually are, there is still an underlying buzzing, a ringing in the back of my mind, reminding me that these are strange days. Ten weeks. 70 days. We, somewhat, have a routine, and essentially know what to do, but as we settle into the new normal, I cannot deny, this isn't always easy. I mean... taking pictures of bunnies, and bees, is easy. Getting my favorite brand of dishwasher tablets? Not so much. And I didn't even know I had a favorite. That was a silly example, but it's the problem of even very minor things being upended, that makes everything harder, stranger, surreal. We are being relatively stringent in our practice, and I can keep it up, but seeing the rules relax, and people out and about like it's January, or it's all a hoax... these sights and reports are an added bit of fodder for the cognitive dissonance. Even though what I do know is reasonable, the sudden disruption, and novelty of how we go about our daily lives now, makes for some challenging moments, strange dreams. I don't need a haircut, and I certainly don't need permission, nor blowhard campaigning, to get me into a church. Neither pandemic, nor politics, has anything to do with my prayers.

Things are going well, usually. But...

You know, I am going to continue to rinse beans, talk to friends in the driveway, watch chicks, cats, bees, bunnies, favorite movies, help make PPE, and stay home.

Coping, as best I can.

Cairo seemed to enjoy the day I put fresh flowers in a vase, swept and tidied the nest... Again and again, I feel tremendous relief and appreciation for all the improvements and repairs that were accomplished last year. Cairo followed me from room to room. It was nice to have his company, to imagine he was admiring my fit of domesticity.

May 20




There are quite a few things we happened to get done, BC... and I enjoy the moments when I notice them and feel relief, or satisfaction. Like, having fresh sheets for spring, for summer, for a field of blue flowers. Picnic tables. The screened balcony, repaired pipes, stopped leaks, insulated attic, new windows, the little metal cart I carried home from a curb, and the stock tank, too, and our travels, gatherings, hobbies, and interests... it all feels like skills, and preparations, for these days, differences that make life more manageable, encouraging. I look back on visits to Oregon, Wisconsin, Disneyland, or nights when friends filled our home, and those prepared us, as well. I can replay happy days, and those are treasures stored.

Back in March, I started noticing this guy. Same cafe, every morning. He takes coffee with honey, and milk. He reads the news. I try flirting with him.


May 22

It's done! I've made Calendula oil! I cannot decide if the days are flying by, or plodding along. Hmmm... I think it's that minutes, periods of time can feel heavy and plodding, otherwise, I feel like this is the swiftest spring I can ever recall. I waited for the infusion to complete... it took four weeks and I thought that would feel interminable, but here we are. Four weeks have come and gone. Now what? The next step... ointment. Something new to learn, another skill to acquire, and the gratification of having a bed full of flowers that happened to reseed, happened to grow abundantly, happened to be beneficial.

I think that my best gardening moments tend to be by chance. Calendula and sweet peas are growing like mad, all of their own accord. But none of my planted, tended, hoped for and beloved carrots are succeeding. The first ones are only fat and stubby, and bland, and the next sowing is being carried away by rats. Those carrots must be sweet and delicious, if the leftovers are any indication. The potatoes are looking very good, and that makes me anxious. All the lettuce has bolted... very sad. Overall, I need to reignite my gardening focus. It comes and goes, in fits and starts. Ups and downs.

These are for Max. Announcements for his graduation. And I shared these on Instagram, with some questions about how to do these correctly, they have inner envelopes, and they're fancy. Now I worry that it looked like humble bragging, and truly, I really am on new ground here. You guys, Max has been through so much to get to this point... we all have. It's not something I will deny... Autism has always made his path thorny, and atypical. It's been this way since always, but it's not any easier... all of the "fun" and typically appealing, easy, aspects of school are the hardest for him. I realize, I am not saying anything new... college has its challenges for any of us, but after these four years, we decided to make an extra effort to celebrate commencement, his achievements. And now things have become stranger than ever, and there won't be extra family visiting, friends over, and gone are the traditions and rites we envisioned, so we chose to go a direction that's not usual for us... announcements, and inner envelopes! I was literally Googling "how to" for getting it all done properly. And now I am contending with, who wants one?? The seal is so pretty, and all of the printed words, his name, and the date... it's real. I've only addressed three of these, because I start crying, thinking of what this means to us, and what I wish could be, what I am thankful for. I wasn't going to get announcements, I delayed on ordering him a cap and gown... and I am so glad Geoff intervened, "Get all of it," he wisely insisted. This isn't humble bragging, this is celebrating, and wishing we could fill our home with family and friends to join us.

With Staying Home Season, we have new rites of passage. The internet is full of memes and cautionary tales about haircuts at home. Geoff was the first to crack. He announced that he was going to "Buzz it all." And I panicked. I love this man, but the buzz it all cut is too awful. I can't even. I took matters into my own hands and gave him a haircut. And! It came out good. What a relief. Maria came to me, next. She needed A change. She and I poured over Pinterest pictures, pixies, bobs, undercuts... and before I could lose my nerve, I just did it! She kept wavering on the bangs, but was sure she didn't want the cut choppy or very layered. The whole time I was thinking what terrible thing it would be for me to mess this up... 15, and stuck at home with a hideous haircut, would be a sad memento of already challenging days.

She loves her cut! I am so relieved. I think she takes after her Dad, who always seems energized, a bit brighter, and sparked, after a haircut. Good days, and better days, and haircut days. We are still making happy days. We are home, and safe, and thankful.

May 24

Still laughing, and playing.

Still getting along, and getting things done. Still stumbling, too, and confronting those heavy, plodding moments, still coping in these strange days.

A Very Small Fox... A Story Unfolds

Chickenblog.com - Fri, 05/22/2020 - 11:12
Last week we came upon an almost forgotten corner of the garden... we settled in for a closer look and began to notice some small wonders.
















Outside Mostly

Chickenblog.com - Tue, 05/19/2020 - 15:03
The ceanothus bloomed at least a month ago... no, longer than that. It was such a gift to see those familiar flowers of our California foothills. I miss long drives to the mountains, or just to the feed-store, and seeing the hills and roadsides blue with countless blossoms. I felt fortunate to have a personal sample of the rite of spring. And now? Now a second wave of flowers! I had no idea that this could happens and it's making me so cheered.

Geoff and I cannot recall when we ordered a half cord of fire wood. It could have been seven years ago. Half a cord is a lot, and it has lasted us a very long time. We enjoy making fires outside, gathering with friends, keeping mosquitos at bay. Now, with our outdoor screen in the driveway, we host social distance movie nights, and we make two fires. Alex calculated we had about two more Drive Way Theater nights of wood left. So, Geoff called the company we ordered from so long ago... fortunately, they still had us on file, and we must be the only people ordering firewood, because they delivered within the hour!



Oak and piñon. It smells so good, especially the piñon. William, Maria, Bambi, Alex and I stacked it all... no small feat! We swept up the smaller pieces and dropped those in a bucket for kindling. Will this last seven years? Maybe. I remember when we got our first order, I imagined all of the good times in store for us, when we would share warmth and laughter with our friends. Now, we have more to look forward to, and that is a comforting vision.

We grew radish. We have added radish to salads. I am glad it's mild, because its peppery flavor has never been a favorite for me. Can you guess who thinks all of the radish, spiny stems, coarse leaves, and peppery root, is delicious? All the radish tops go to Tasha and Ada.


Now that I know how to load video, it's going be a Goat and Chicken Channel, here!

I've been trying to recall the name of this flower. It's blooming so abundantly. It glows! Seriously, when it's dusk, the light is fading, the flowers in the barrel are luminous and bright. I started to think, I'll just call them "sunflowers" then I laughed at how original my idea was. Well, it turns out they are sunflowers! They are a Coreopsis, and in the language of flowers, Coreopsis means to be always cheerful. I would love to send you an armful.

May 15, and here are the Chiclets. They are nine weeks old! In the back is Puanani, and the two Australorps in front are Maya and Ventura. The copper, is Penelope, and the calico is Lucia, both Ameraucana. There was a time when I was strongly concerned that Maya and Ventura could be roosters, but... I take it back. Lucia, though, she has a pretty fancy tail. Still, nothing definitive enough, and I think we may have got lucky. We just might have five little pullets.

She has an up-do.

Four years ago, we planted Spoon Tomatoes, the tomatoes so tiny you can fit a mouthful on a spoon, and I haven't always been pleased about them. For one thing, they spread all over our yard. And they are a hassle to harvest, so we will never see the end of these tiny fruit on rambling vines. But, now, when we count on deliveries for groceries and forage the yard for fresh produce, the spoon tomatoes have been a welcome treat to add to guacamole, sprinkle over pasta, put in omelettes. However much trouble it is to pick them, they are very much appreciated. And! They finally found a good spot to reseed... they are growing up the bamboo. It's as though we have a tomato tree, and I don't have to stoop to harvest them, they stay cleaner, don't get crushed, or gobbled by bunnies, hens.

The potatoes are blooming, another nightshade.

The cilantro is flowering, too. I look forward to those reseeding and growing all over the yard... that will be wonderful. And I'll collect seeds for cooking.

The big bed is a rambling garden, I can see the spring growing season is beginning to wane. I will be sorry to part with carrot flowers and sweet peas.




Why did I get only one blueberry bush? Those little blue treats have been wonderful, and I wish we had more. Next year. I will be sure to make room for 3, 4, or 6.

Like the ceanothus, I noticed the blueberry is blooming, again. Is this typical, or are these the next season's berries, and they're slow to grow, mature? I began to imagine how great it would be if blueberries were in season all year. What if the blueberries bloom and fruit and ripen all year long, and it rains once a week through summer? What if we plant stones and by late fall, a stone wall grows around the garden. By next spring it would be mossy, and home to some frogs, a toad, and weaver beetles. What if we build an airship, for seven, paint it blue and gold? We could take it up the coast, and through river valleys, dropping off bundles of blueberries to all of our friends.

Tasha likes my musings.

Ada, too.




Flowers, and berries, stones, seeds, feathers, pressed leaves and petals, clouds, moss covered walls, and acorns... they stir my imagination.












Seems like we are mostly outside. It's very nice.

And then we come inside, and that's very nice, too.


Growth Experiment... Loading Video

Chickenblog.com - Tue, 05/19/2020 - 10:11


Well! Looks like I learned something new... I am going to glow all day from this achievement. Straight from my iPhoto to the blog, with no fuss. It's something I've wanted to do, for years! I will try not to abuse this, but there will be more videos, coming soon!

In Forgotten Places, Where Stories Unfold

Chickenblog.com - Mon, 05/18/2020 - 13:26
In every good garden there is a corner that is forgotten. It may be behind an old shed, or down a path. Some of these places are under porches, beneath an old apricot tree, or way out back where broken pottery, and worn out wheel barrows gather. There you can find bent tomato cages, rusted cans, a tea pot that's missing its lid, empty seed packets, a length of string, and all of these things, leftover for a long while, become invisible. Perhaps the things were stored on a shelf that's been battered by rain, then sun, and someone meant to come back and tidy it all up. A cup tumbles, a raccoon rummages, looking for a midnight snack, and soon this corner of the garden is grown over, disheveled, a bit hidden, and people stop seeing it.

Our busy lives take us away to school and on errands, or to offices, where we stay all through long days. When at last we come home from school, or jobs, from long drives and band practice, vacation, the market, then we have other places to go, and things to do, and there is less time... less time to see that the pots and broken cups, and bits of string have shifted around, that flowers have popped up, and old, tired things have become something new, something enchanted. This is the place, in every good garden, where small wonders happen, and they beckon us to notice, to stop awhile and play.

Late last Winter, on a day that was hinting at Spring, I noticed it. I walked the long way around the house, looking for something lost. Where could it be, I wondered aloud. It has to be around somewhere, our bucket or garden spade, or some such thing. I was home, all day, and with no where to go, no school, no errands, no rushing here or there, and I was looking for something that I believed to be a very important thing, when the corner of the garden we had left alone, suddenly appeared to me, looking peculiar, seemingly new.

On first glance, it was old dirty stuff, and I thought Oh, someone should clean that up. And I was about to rush away, feeling urged to be busy. I looked again, at the ground. I saw more. I saw the bird house, a gift from friends that had moved far away. But when did it fall off the wall? Why hadn't any one picked it up, dusted it off? Crouching down low, I saw the sweet alyssum, tiny white flowers that grow like miniature bouquets. They smell like honey. I sat down. The ground was cool, soft from rain, but not too damp. I took a deep breath, and peered into the green grass, at blossoms, bugs, stones, moss.


Behind the birdhouse, I saw the cup I'd painted, a shell, a clay tea pot, more flowers, tiny meadows, a wooden fence, a foot path, a paved road through a small woodland. The trees were bare, with hints of new growth to come. The longer I stayed, the more appeared. I saw things that were dear, that brought back memories. I saw hints and glimpses of picnics, celebrations, fairy lights, cookouts, family reunions. I could see gardens tended, and cobwebs swept away. I recalled beach outings and long walks along the shore, collecting seashells, watching crabs, touching sea anemone. I imagined we could be in the redwoods, hiking a fern lined path over jutting roots, along a cold creek that bubbled and dashed to the sea. And off the path, a little ways, an opening where we could sit and watch mushrooms grow, hear tree frogs sing, and feel streams of sunlight falling between towering trees to cast shadows, and make the trillium bloom.


With a little time to slow down, I saw the forgotten places in the gardens, where small wonders happen. These are the corners where I could be still, take notice.




Every good garden has a corner that beckons us to come out and play.




Late last winter, I found such a place, and saw enchantment there, and as I lingered, stories began to unfold.

Pieces of Our Days

Chickenblog.com - Sun, 05/17/2020 - 13:04









Yesterday I saw a post from a friend, her son graduated... she shared a photograph of his cap and gown, the Boston University announcement. Courage she concluded. And I stared at it, cried, then tried to express the good feelings, the pride and happiness for his hard work and accomplishment. Later I saw video of Bella, crossing the empty field at Humboldt State, just as rain began to fall... her dad hummed and crooned a Pomp and Circumstance tune as he walked along side her. They drove almost 1600 miles to move her out of student housing, up then back, keeping it brief, safe. Bella and Max were classmates in high school. We were all together for that commencement. I can picture Max and Dean together, too, playing. So many graduations, and gestures of celebration and even national addresses from our President (I am saving it for later.) Why do I pretend to be stoic, resist the truth, which is... I cry all the time? Hey, everyone, I cry all. the. time.

I was never going to be in Boston to celebrate Dean's graduation, but I know his family would have had some very special plans, that he would have been embraced by friends, and in the midst of tremendous joy and relief, and gladness. I know they still made it special, I suspect he still feels joy, relief, and gladness. It's hard... a twisted paradox, because we are missing out, and yet there is something, not nothing. We are still celebrating, and recognizing, and doing what we can to keep things special. But it's hard. It's different, and different on a whole other level. I wish Carol could have gone to Humboldt, too, and Grace and Leo, Andy. I wish we could go by the house and give them all hugs, and dote on Bella for her big accomplishment.

Our dear friend Bex turned 10, and we sang to her, distantly, in the driveway and we hosted a driveway Hamilton sing-along, in her honor. In some ways these gestures and events, the national attention, and star-studded tributes, may be even more "special" than if things were normal, yet... yet, it only seems to highlight how special normal is. I wish things were normal. I am thankful for the good, but I just really loved normal.

This week, I helped Max navigate virtual commencement. He had to register. They'll send him the hat, the tassel, the diploma, and there will be some kind of broadcast. His graduation is still a month off, and he has two summer math courses to complete to make it official official. Oh, and he just got an email that the second math class has been closed... and what the heck can he do now? And, well, as long as I am being open, I am not sure what to expect a month from now... will there be any more star-studded speeches, will there still be reserves of joy and gladness? These stressful days seem to wear us down a little more each day, and it makes me sad to think all the enthusiasm and goodwill could be deflated by mid-June. I'm not naive. He would always have been happy to do something quiet, personal, with chile rellenos, chilled Señoriales, and some friends over for Magic The Gathering. I am not too proud to admit... Geoff and I needed this commencement! I wanted to fill the house with friends and family and chile rellenos, and be in the midst of tremendous joy and relief and gladness.

Another event cancelled: The Annual Student Art Exhibit: The Reveal They added an online exhibit, though, and two of my paintings were accepted into the showcase, under Painting I: Watercolor, and Painting II: Watercolor. Truth...I would have liked to go to the opening, holding my breath, hoping for a ribbon, seeing all of the works and artists crowded into that tiny community college gallery.

Yeah.

So.

There is so much noise online, so many virtual events, and people doing live videos, shows streaming, YouTubers tubing, and I know, from my own online experience, it's easy to get overwhelmed as a viewer, and lost as a content creator. The world is new, and we have some marvelous ways of connecting, but I miss old normal.

Ten years ago we went to our first Maker Faire, and anyone that knows us has seen how much that impacted our lives, and all we do. More truth... I have kind of been busting my butt to be a part of the movement, on the blog, at Instagram, at Maker Faire, and other community events. Despite, or because of, my efforts sharing our works and promoting, exhibiting, sharing, we have never quite been welcomed into the fold. So, ironically, Make Magazine invited us to exhibit in the Virtual Maker Faire. And. And we are doing some of the most significant and consuming making of our lives... literally all over the house, and occupying every day, all hours... so when in the heck am I supposed to find the time to create a 30 minute video extolling our work and sharing how we make PPE, why we make PPE, and having a virtual presentation ready to host in less than a week?
I'm not sulky and petulant. No. Yes... but making Personal Protective Equipment, face shields, and ear guards, by the hundreds, for donation has me tired (it's never ending) and disillusioned (colossal government failure, much?) My hands are a mess from de-burring. I'm so cranky about the timing, at last being recognized, but... dang it! Why couldn't they have seen us when we were making robots, and teaching needle felting??

These. These are only some pieces of our days, and I am sorry if I leaned toward sad, or maudlin. I do see the good, and appreciate all the ways we can still make things special... but don't you miss old normal, too?

Jennifer, you are so right: Courage, with heart.

This Bread Recipe is Everything

Chickenblog.com - Sat, 05/16/2020 - 11:59

No-Knead Dutch Oven Bread

Ingredients
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1-1/2 cups warm water, warm bath warm... not hot, but almost hot
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting. You may use white, whole wheat or a combination of the two.
1-1/2 tsp salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran for dusting, or use olive oil

Directions
1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Add the flour and salt, stirring until blended. The dough will be shaggy and sticky.
You can cover the dough with a damp cloth, and place it some place warm.Let the dough rest at least 8 hours, preferably 12 to 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees. (At this point I've made herb bread... adding a heaping tablespoon of dried onion bits, poppy seeds, and dried dill with the flour, and mixing it all in. I am sure any favorite seasonings could work.)

2. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it. Sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Let it rest for about 15 minutes.

3.Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or to your fingers, gently shape it into a ball... or a baguette, or a traditional slicing loaf, or divide it into several smaller balls. It can bake round, or oblong on a baking sheet, or in a loaf pan, or you can let it rise and then flatten it out as a focaccia, or use as pizza dough.
I've baked it on flour or cornmeal, and it does nicely baked on a pan coated in oil. So, decide which you method you want to use, and let your dough have its final, two hour rise, on cornmeal, or flour, or olive oil.
Put the seam side of the dough down on the pan (something with a rim, if you are using olive oil, or in the oiled bread loaf, or on a cookie sheet dusted with flour or cornmeal.)
Cover with another towel and let rise for about 1 to 2 hours. When it’s ready, the dough will have doubled in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least 20 minutes before the dough is ready, heat oven to 475 degrees. (I do not have a Dutch oven... I have used a soup pot, but it was a hassle, so I only bake in a dough pan, or on a rimmed cookie sheet, and I do not pre-heat those.

5. Bake for 30-40 minutes (check it! baking times and over temperatures vary) until the loaf is beautifully browned. Remove the bread from the pan and let it cool on a rack for at least 1 hour before slicing.
Yield: One 1-1/2-pound loaf.

This is how I do it... and the link above is to the original recipe that got me going in the first place. I never did bake it in an actual Dutch oven, and other steps I've altered as well. So, what you see posted on the blog is what I've been doing for the last eight years. I love this recipe, the dough, the breads. It's forgiving and versatile. I've posted about it many times, and since then, I've seen the memes about bloggers that hide recipes at the bottom of ten page narratives. Guilty. So, in the interest of expediency, I opened with the recipe and directions, and you can take that and run off to get baking! Enjoy!

Now, for my ten page narrative! Alex and Bambi planned to make pizzas for Friday's dinner, so I offered to prepare dough. I went with this recipe, because I know it. I started the dough at 9pm, Thursday. The next day, 12 hours later, I should have followed step 2, but I was distracted, thinking about Max's graduation, and what to do about virtual commencement. By the time I remembered I had three bowls of dough rising, it was 1pm, Friday. I jumped directly to step 3., but because we were not going to bake bread, and we would be starting dinner much later, I divided the dough into softball sized rounds, and place them in an oiled baking dish, then covered it with plastic wrap and put all of it in the refrigerator. Last night, about 8pm, we heated the oven, and with our hands, simply smashed the dough into round-ish pies on either olive oiled cookie sheets, or floured cookie sheets... both methods were easy and yielded good results. Everyone topped their own pizzas and dinner was delicious. And! We had five leftover balls of dough. I covered them, and put them back in the refrigerator, hoping they'd be ok to bake the next day.

This morning I warmed up the oven to 450, brought out the cold dough and put it in an oiled pie dish, and let it rise while the oven heated. Then I got busy preparing breakfast, pulling weeds, juicing oranges and lemons... the dough was rising for about an hour. I drizzled a little olive oil over it and sprinkled salt and Italian seasoning, then baked it. We devoured it with our coffee, and juice, some scrambled eggs with chard and peppers. It was so good, with a crunchy crust, and soft inside... it was like we were waking up in a Tuscan villa. And this happy pleasure from leftover dough that I neglect, alter, and misuse. I am so delighted with this one easy recipe that can yield all of these good results.

I love this bread! And the following are links for ideas and tips for making No-Knead bread...

The first time I made No-Knead Dutch Oven Bread.

Dutch bread makes excellent French Toast.

Same recipe, that makes sandwich bread, or a baguette, can be used for a focaccia, pizza dough. It's so versatile!

One time I had MNO friends over and everyone took home the dough from step one, so I posted a tutorial to show them steps 2-5.

This is Real

Chickenblog.com - Thu, 05/14/2020 - 12:10
A Surrealist Shit Show, but it's real.

I am not in a "good" mood. Perhaps this is nothing to do with mood, perhaps what I am feeling and thinking, trying to comprehend, can exist in parallel with good moods, with hope, optimism, idealism. Also, I am scared to say anything. I am uncomfortable with standing out, being labeled, being laughed at, dismissed. I am afraid of hate and denial, of trolls, of armed men, and racist terrorists, of offending a neighbor or disappointing a friend. My state of being is frustration and an achey-ness of the brain. Even more so than back in February, when we began discussing what was coming, a pandemic, a shut down of familiar, daily life, I feel my brain, now, debating with itself, about the inordinate unrealness of reality. In the briefest bursts of synapses firing, I go from incredulity, doubt that we have lost 65,000 people to COVID-19, that we don't have enough tests to track the virus in the general population, that armed citizens can march and confront law enforcement, without penalty, because they want haircuts, happy hours, but a jogger is hunted down and murdered, a woman is killed in her own bed by police officers... from doubt to the sickening awareness that it's true, real. How can this be? How could we have dismantled so much of our infrastructure and safety nets that basic services are failing? Why are we debasing intelligence, education, research, the integrity of our sons and daughters, bothers and sister, who are learned and tested, and listening to a troll, radio personalities, the highest bidders? Our own money, paid in taxes, is being handed out to corporations, to line shareholder pockets, and here at home we are trying to make and supply hospitals and clinics with essential protective equipment... unreal. One football player, to protest injustice, kneeled during the anthem, and people lost their shit over his "audacity" but now we live with open terrorism, white men threatening and raging, even killing because they object to wearing a mask, and the outcry, the indignation over their audacity? The silence is ringing in our ears, but I think we are worn thin, over-exposed to a daily shit show, endorsed and promoted by the so-called "conservative" government, by the President of the United States, by elected officials, appointed, anointed men and women who have no moral compass, no sense of decency. Everyone is losing.

After the 2016 election, people I know told me "he was elected, respect the office, he's not that bad, he has some pretty good ideas, he's a Christian, buck up buttercup, you libtards have it coming, I had to suffer Obama, and now you get what's coming to you." Is this it? Is this what they, those conservative friends, die-hard republicans, never Hilary voters were after? I wouldn't know, because they've gone quiet. Sure, some of them fume, "Well, I didn't vote for him!" But they still post rants upholding the party line, the memes and conspiratorial garbage, they still make divisive remarks, and lol over "libtards." There are plenty of democrats, libertarians that dismay me, too. I am far less concerned with left and right, than the fundamental destruction of our society, a country that was flawed, but capable, imperfect but functioning, and with the potential to progress. Progress, operating in practical, serviceable ways, is daily eroding on a scale that could be irrevocable, and not just for libtards, and buttercups. Now, instead of working to make better systems of healthcare coverage, to feed, educate and support children, to improve roads, bridges, and infrastructure, to shine lights on injustice and raise standards of living for all... now we are just trying to get through this, and we are all losing.

This isn't the new normal, this is a fall, a crashing collapse. We aren't going to be saved by corporations swooping in with ventilators, or by Betsy DeVos making up new protections for sexual predators. The federal government, our government, is withholding personal protective equipment from the states, picking and choosing who can have favor, and protection, supplies and funding... by rights, by law, by reason? No, by who has not hurt the President's feelings, been contrary, had a different opinion. When our governor asks me to wear a mask, because it's been shown, empirically, to reduce the spread of viruses, I do not feel my civil rights imposed; I feel a civic duty to be kind to my neighbors, to reduce the number of patients in Intensive Care Units, dying at home, suffering. The oppression I see, the alarming concerns I have are when the President shuts down discourse, stifles journalists, scientists, nurses, experts, dissenters, citizens. We are living in his television program, and when he's not happy with the ratings, or the cast, or the gaffers and lighting crew, he fires them, he throws a tantrum, shuts the mic, changes the script. One minute he's a "very stable genius" addressing the nation, but if that speech doesn't get him the results his precious ego lusts for, then he tweets, "Plot twist! I was joking, kidding, being sarcastic. You are liars, fakes." Pardon the guilty, cage children, exchange love letters with dictators, cheat, mock, hoard, crave, defile, and keep twisting the truth, distorting reality... it's all he does, and we are all suffering for it. Why? Why are we tolerating this? Why is this the New Normal?

Please vote in November. Heck, I hope we can vote in November. Please see that there is a difference between the candidates... not that one is flawless, or blameless, but that one is not deliberately mean, purposely destructive, greedy, stupid, vain, a liar. An actual liar... this isn't okay. We can try for better, for imperfect yet earnest. I can live with that. I can live with a candidate that means to surround themselves with intelligent people, caring people, capable people. Vote for a candidate that at least would like to try to make the world better, work with constructive purpose, listen, reason, engage.

Sentimental and Silly

Chickenblog.com - Wed, 05/13/2020 - 10:48













We have reached a milestone in SIP (Stay In Place. Another tag for this thing we are trying to accomplish in the time of COVID19. Stay home, and stay safe.)... you see, all of this time at home combined with a necessary preoccupation with procuring food, means that I visit the chickens, often, frequently, a whole hecking lot. Eggs, ladies? I pip, as nonchalantly as I can manage, every hour. You see, they're laying, which is really fortunate, but one of these egg-heads has a nasty habit of breaking eggs... ok, yeah, and she eats them. Gross. I know. And frustrating. Well, with all my visits, casual as I try to keep them, the milestone is... they're not all that interested in seeing me. Funny thing, in the eight years we've had our goats, I have never seen them asleep, because they would always be alert to the sound of my approach. Goats would greet me, chickens would purr and come curiously, even run, to meet me. Not any more. Tasha will sleep straight through any of my visits. The hens stop mid-sentence, look at me sideways, then circle closer, turn away from me. Like I can't tell they were talking about me? Like they wonder how long these drop in visits will go on for. Even the goats have settled down, and will glance indifferently in my direction when I come around, say good morning, pat their heads.

*sigh* The perils of SIP... familiarity.

Sunday morning, I stumbled on something that made me a little more interesting to the goats than I have been in recent months. I was a bit startled by the wide-eyed and fixed gazes from Tasha and especially Ada. I almost blushed, and flattered myself, They do love me. Ahhh... Then it dawned on me that their focus was about three inches above my eyes, and on the crown of flowers I was wearing. I was not the beloved mother and caretaker, I was simply a peculiar vessel for food. Their adoring eyes were fixed on me, but those looks and affection were for tasty snacks. They came closer, looking like fond children, alas, not to dote on their mom, but with peckish notions.

When I was a girl the women in our family received corsages on special occasions. I remember all of the extra attentions my mother paid when it was Easter or Mother's day, when we were going to visit family, meet at church, or celebrate with aunts, grandparents. It meant having my hair brushed and plaited, finding nice shoes for my brothers or their best shirts, possibly there would be pies loaded in the back of the car, and always happy anticipation of the specialness in store for us, like visiting cousins, getting treats, seeing decorations. I remember feelings akin to pride, admiration when my Mom would wear a prettier dress, or arrange her hair a new way. She stood at the bureau mirror, with the top drawer open, where she kept her lipsticks, tiny, white tubes... Avon samples. I loved to watch her apply her make-up, fix her hair, get ready. And many times, en route, we would stop at a market, and she would pick corsages. They came in clear, clamshell boxes. Most were orchids, and all of them had florist ribbon, maybe some greenery or a spray of baby's breath. Sometimes she would ask my opinion about colors, or flower types. If we were seeing all the aunts, and grandmother, she'd have to pick many, and I admit, I would hold my breath, hope... maybe she'd get one extra, maybe it was my turn to wear a corsage, too. The ones for Christmas! They were so extra! with tinsel, and glitter, maybe small ornaments, extra ribbon. Women wore them with long pins struck through their dresses, over their heart, beneath their shoulder. In an era, the 1970s, when formality and old traditions were falling away, when I was more often in jeans and a Hang Ten T than party dresses, that kind of refinement and glamour was rare. It was so uncommon, in fact, that for me it became both distinctly and secretly appealing, and something to resolutely eschew. There was never an accidental extra corsage, and I was never old enough for my own. I wore a wrist corsage, when Geoff took me to prom, and I still have the dried roses, and crumbling baby's breath in a box somewhere. But, I can't deny, I would love to be in a room with familiar women, pinning large orchid corsages, on each other, putting out platters on a side table, tying on aprons, steaming tamales in a small and crowded kitchen.

I think of corsages, and aunts in nice dresses, every Mother's Day, and how beautiful my mother is, and was, how much care she gave to make occasions special, and the many ways she would honor traditions, add extraordinary measures to holidays, and family gatherings. Her means and resources were limited. We counted pennies together, and did a lot to make do. Still, she would show us that it mattered... it mattered to dress our best, to iron a skirt, or bake pies, to shake hands, hold doors open, put flowers on the table, make presents pretty with bows and neatly folded wrapping. She gave us a romantic glimpse of her own childhood, when even tablecloths were pressed, and women had cooking aprons and serving aprons. I have the lace mantilla she wore to church, and I would so love to see her and my Grandmother dress for a family gathering, matching earrings to dresses, purses to shoes, applying lipstick with that practiced gesture that looked simply instinctive. I woke up with these instincts and recollections, and I longed to go back, to connect to those ways and traditions, so I made a flower crown to match a favorite dress. I made space for picking flowers and gathering supplies to make the day special, to look my best. I can't say that it was entirely successful, I mean besides the admiration of my goats. It was not easy to be away from Moms and Aunts, cousins, and Grandmothers, from old traditions, and romantic memories. Maybe I have spent too much time eschewing lipsticks and new hairdos, and I am not comfortable with my reflection. Maybe, during a quarantine, feeling sentimental and wistful sets a course toward more bitter than sweet nostalgia. We may Stay in Place, but my heart wanders.

When I showed Maria the pictures of our goats, and their yearning expressions, she laughed with me, then we agreed the goats would look darling in wreaths of their own. It would be a shame to deny them the pleasure, though we knew full well what would become of flower crowns made for goats. Just for fun, I made a sturdy ring of lemon geranium branches, and filled it with sprigs of lavender and two red roses. And we presented this to the goats. First, we tried to crown Tasha, and that was impossible. She twisted and butted and couldn't stand still. Ada was pushing and shoving, too, and we tried to put the crown on her, and that was not successful, either. The flowers were bursting apart, the goats wild eyed, and champing eagerly. I picked up the largest rose, and Maria declared, "It's such a pretty flower," just at the moment that Tasha inhaled it with satisfaction. We had hoped for just one adorable picture of a goat in a pretty crown of flowers, but I am glad I got a picture of my beautiful daughter laughing at the spectacle of us feeling sentimental, and trying to be be glamorous with silly goats.

Garden & Kitchen

Chickenblog.com - Tue, 05/12/2020 - 11:55
Butterfly Bush...Buddleja.


Brown onion, flowering... Allium.

I think the recipe for Dutch Oven Bread may be the most versatile in the world. Or, it's that Dutch Oven/No-Knead is the only recipe I am familiar with and I have no clue that most bread recipes are versatile. I've baked this bread in a stoneware pan, on a cookie sheet, round, loaf, baguette, in multiple mini rounds, and as a flat bread. The current favorite is the flat bread with crushed garlic, Italian seasonings, salt, and olive oil. It's ridiculously delicious. How does that happen, from flour and salt, a scant bit of yeast, and time, to something that brings seven people to the kitchen, where we eat lunch standing next to the oven? Bread is miraculous. Kitchens are essential, and gardens... gardens are a whole wide world of wonder, and possibility.


Penelope, 7 weeks old Ameraucana.



Flowering cilantro... Coriander.




Neo Cairo Nepenthes and RP Feynman


A special guest to the garden! Mr Wright came to meet the goats, and see what we've done to shelter Ada and Tasha. We shared tips and suggestions for caring for the pair of wethers they'll be adopting. We are so excited for this family and the fun they will be having, when a pair of kids come to their wonderful home. Mr Wright is one of the great teachers at the high school... Suki had him, Alex knows him, Bambi is still in touch with him, Max was a tech-wheel student, and he's Maria's art teacher now. In fact, I should say he's my art teacher, too, because it's thanks to him that I am making mosaics. He even brought me a box of art supplies, and great, practical advice for the next step ahead: Grouting. Which reminds me, I need to get my hands on some charcoal gray grout.


Imagine coming downstairs, and walking into the kitchen to this! Not only was Bambi cleaning the counters, and watching pasta dough rise, but she'd already baked a peach cobbler, as well. After one bite, I added "jarred peaches" to our grocery list. Bambi reminded me, "We still have two jars in the pantry, though." I know! That's not enough!


Here is the set up for the Chiclets as they grow accustomed to life in the big run. They have their familiar and cozy cage to retreat to, and at night I can secure it and cover them. Besides assuring they have places to take cover, and their own chick starter to eat, we haven't had to make any other accommodations. They are wary of the big hens, and there's room for the two flocks, young and old, to separate. But some of the little ones are already choosing to roost with the big Chicas. Integration continues to go as well as I could have hoped... it's a relief.

I planted these gold flowers last year, and I cannot remember what they are called, nor the pink ones. Do you see the tiny lavender spikes? I thought that plant perished. If I dared to go to the nursery, I would bring home the strawflowers they keep sharing on IG. And more blueberry bushes, squash, sage, thyme...

Look! Look! Treasure from Mr Wright's stash. This was such a generous and eagerly anticipated offer. The bin is chock full of great odds and ends. I keep turning it over, and pulling out the best bits, and then another, and another. I'm going to grout the first wall before I reward myself with the next project. And also, I need to find the right spot. It might be a table top. More than ever, I am glad to enjoy anticipation.



From the start of quarantine, social isolation, social distancing... whatever we want to call this, I had my intentions, and ideals and they were good and lofty, ambitious, noble. Two months later, and I am coming to terms with some truths, and self-knowledge. Simply put... The world is changed, but I am the same person. I keep things, I am scattered, I am a starter. I am older, slower, injured, recovering, coping with anxiety and leftover bits of post-collision trauma. I struggle to maintain order, and have little experience with staying in one place for long. It's almost 11 years we are here, happily, and by the patterns I am familiar and practiced with, we should have moved twice by now. Moving is a good opportunity to start again, purge, a do-over, fresh start. When the roof leaks, or a room succumbs to entropy, my instincts kick in and I think ah, well, time to pack and head out! No one is packing or heading out these days, not even for a road trip, or to the movies. Daily, I am face to face with Me. Me and my messes, me and my fears, me and my absolute failure with routine, or disciplined habits.

Fortunately, I have advantages... my humor, for one. Fortunately, there is more to Me than shortcomings, and I shouldn't discount that there is more than me, here at the Bird House. Am I a hoarder? Or have I simply come into quarantine prepared, well supplied? Am I messy, disorganized, or have I a highly developed coping mechanism for living with chaos? When home is doubling as a manufacturing center for the production of Personal Protective Equipment, a tolerance for disorder, other order, is good, even necessary. My decorating skills, are euphemistically "ecclectic," which fits nicely with having a dining table covered in medical face shields, and hosting twice-weekly Dungeons and Dragons events, remotely, from three separate rooms. It's hectic, here. Lots going on. The seven of us are keeping this together, more harmoniously than not. I see where I am going with this... two months ago, I had a vision for what needed to be done, and how it could be done, and it included high ideals and good intentions, and now it's time to adjust my sails. And why would it be any different than it's ever been? The world is different, and we are, paradoxically, the same and different, too. Fine. We keep moving forward. And yes, I have a lot of random stuff, but it's coming in oh so handy... I thought I was erring, but it turns out I was preparing.





Grandmother's flowers... Geranium... Pelargonium.

The red ones are Eunice's flowers. And the little blue, would-be- usurpers? Can anyone tell me what they are? They're pretty, but I cannot will not let anything take over my Grandmother's flowers.


Yes, I see... my gardening is as haphazard as my housekeeping. Yet, it provides... joy, comfort, sustenance, something to share, plenty to engage, amusement.



And in the kitchen... lunch is being prepared. It smells so good!






All day, I go between the kitchen and garden, to check on the chickens, to sit with the goats. I take pictures. I am looking for beauty, for comfort. I am communicating with my ideals, with my hopes. All day long I try to make sense of the new way we are in the world. I cannot always make sense of it, and I am struggling to feel comfortable... yet, there is beauty, we have what is essential, and our sense of wonder.

Bambi is joined by Alex and Maria, to cook, and for lunch we are being served okonomiyaki, Hiroshima style, with layered ingredients. The ramen is perfection, and I love the grilled cabbage, the fruit sauce topping.

I Found My Puzzle

Chickenblog.com - Fri, 05/08/2020 - 11:05
Puzzles! So many people are doing puzzles, there were reports of shops being sold out. I've seen lots of friends posting pictures of open boxes, pieces spread across dining tables, even several posts of nearly completed puzzles, but with one! missing piece. A lot of suspect cats, too. We have at least two boxes upstairs, and I've been imagining playing with them since Christmas, but I can't seem to make it happen. I finish another day, and wonder... will I ever make time and space for that?

At the same time, I've been fascinated with the idea of learning how to make mosaics. When we moved here, we inherited a utility closet with dusty boxes of tiles... bathroom and kitchen tiles, pool tiles, all from previous owners. Supplies! I spent the last ten years feeling very curious, very inspired, and too intimidated to act. I wanted to get lessons from my friend Carol, who has made gorgeous mosaics... her children, too have created masterpieces. That's not quite possible now, but lucky me... online learning has paved the way. Maria's drawing and design teacher has been posting great IG stories (@jermwright). Seeing his home, and the excellent mosaics there, I asked him if he'd give me tips to dive into making mosaics. Guys! He did me a righteous favor and made video tutorials... so complete, practical, and approachable, I dared to jump!




The tutorials, his teaching style... are so spot on for me. I can forget about feeling intimidated by complicated instructions or elaborate tools and processes. I have a hammer. I have tile adhesive. I have a blank section of foundation, where I can mess things up or create a masterpiece, and it's good either way. Suddenly, I was crushing tiles, and sticking them to the wall. Maria brought me goggles, thankfully, and after that I was gone! Happily in the deep end of assembling a free-style puzzle.

With mostly blue and beige to work with, I saw a beach, water, sky, and I saw that in one afternoon I was moving fast, and would soon be out of inspiration from my limited options. And, how many dishes could I reasonably sacrifice to my obsession? I went online, and ordered two boxes of broken tile. BC... I totally would have hit second hand shops, and other sources, but my mania needed immediate gratification!

Delivery was prompt! Colors arrived, and I saw my puzzle possibilities explode!


It's a long narrow surface, the face of the foundation of our porch. I work crouched, or laying down. It's going to be not fun to grout... I am guessing. And I learn by doing, so there is some weirdness to it, some bits that work better than others. I like the ship, but the fish is not too well defined. Maybe, I shouldn't say "fish." Maybe I should leave it to the viewer. Maybe we are in quarantine, and I am the viewer, and the whole thing has me totally engrossed and happy.





Still tending the garden, still minding the chicks. Still cooking beans, staring at laundry, making PPE.









Now I've come to the end of the wall, I am looking at table tops, other walls, blank slates. I am looking at shapes and colors. Puzzles, everywhere! And gardens to tend, goats to feed, dinners to cook, laundry to fold, PPE to deliver. We keep moving forward... and as Mr Wright says, "Remember, stay strong. Make something. And we'll get through this."

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