Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Sad and Lonely Horse

So I occasionally browse a website comprised of people from our neighborhood who post inquiries, complaints and comments on a kind of message board, and someone posted this a few days ago.




The guy who coined the phrase "the road to hell is paved with good intentions," was not too far off. It turns out the person who wrote this post just moved here from the city, and knows nothing about horses. He admitted as much in the comments section a little further down the page, once people started questioning whether or not he should be urging people to stop and handle/feed someone else's animal, who clearly was not hungry or neglected in any way whatsoever.

For the record, I'm a big fan of kindness, especially towards animals. But ascribing human emotions to animals is not generally a good thing, unless you are an expert in that particular animal or species, enough to know how they emote their moods.

I drive past this horse myself several times a week and can tell you that this big gelding is not sad, but rather....zen. He's chilling in his favorite corner, lazing in the sun, and meditating on nothing in particular. Or who knows, perhaps he's planning final details regarding the destruction of western civilization/mankind in a very slow and methodical way.  We won't know until it's too late.

He's well fed, in great condition, and just doing what horses do in the heat of summer, which is stand in one place for several hours, pondering, studying...zoning out. All horses do this. But I'm guessing he's not sad.

What really gets me is the guy floating the idea that everyone start feeding the "sad and lonely horse" carrots. Can you imagine the amount of carrots this horse would be ingesting if 75 people stopped to feed him every day? It kind of boggles the mind and could actually be damaging to the horse, since carrots are pretty high in sugar and are supposed to be a treat, not a staple. 

Some people move here to our area for the option to keep livestock, and others move here for the wine. And as long as the livestock people don't start trying to tell the wine people what makes a good Cabernet and the wine people don't start trying to cheer up the livestock people's animals who are pastured near common roads, life can be good here. It's all about mutual respect.

What we all need to focus on is the passive aggressive and insecure goats on the next street over, anyway. Now they need some serious help, I'm telling you. Perhaps we can find them a good therapist.



Monday, July 17, 2017

Summer colors

I wish I knew exactly where the "equinox" of summer occurs for us. By that I mean the exact day when we are halfway through the summer and can safely and confidently celebrate that fact. I have a feeling it's somewhere around today, at least for this area, although we can stay hot all the way from May through September. (and 100 degree October days are not unheard of, either.)

Summers are brutal here, but at least we are not without an escape hatch, which is our extremely close proximity to the beach. The strangest thing about our area is that you can drive a mere 30 minutes west or so to the shore and be in a completely different climate -- 30 to 40 degrees cooler, often foggy, sometimes downright chilly. When the heat begins to get to us here on the homestead, we generally head to the beach town of Cambria, uncrowded and quiet on Sunday evenings, since most of the tourists have returned home by then. We have dinner at an outdoor cafe (sometimes wearing jackets) and spend some "toes in the sand time" while we cool off for a few hours. It helps, no question, psychologically as much as anything else. See the cool, be the cool.


But as a more permanent solution I hope someday, maybe someday soon, to live in a climate with a more gentle summer. As I grow older, my heat tolerance diminishes (as it seems to with almost every other middle-aged woman I know) and so it would make sense to spend the last third of my hopefully long life in a climate more suited for me. Of course it will probably not be close to the ocean, but a mountain vista can surely heal your soul as much as an ocean vista can. At least that's what I'm hoping.


It's ironic, but most of the people I meet here who claim to "love" our summers are  transplants from places with snow. Evidently for them, they are happy making the trade of winter snow for summer heat. 

But for some of us, "Winter is coming" is not a veiled threat or foreshadowing of disaster, torn from a television show script. It's a promise to look forward to...a time when you are free to go outside again and not burn up -- to enjoy and to savor the afternoon breeze, even if you do need a jacket sometimes. A time when it's temperate right outside your back door. It's coming. We just have to be patient. And while I'd take snow in a heartbeat if it showed up on my doorstep, I may have to chase it down since it's not likely to come here. "Winter is coming?" Indeed. And maybe I'm coming for winter.


But in the meantime, I am here, as are you, at the height of summer. And so I bring you a couple of shots of seasonal color. 



Our new hens are laying and one is producing the most gorgeous copper-colored eggs!

Pink potatoes, fresh out of the ground, on an old vintage Welsh dish towel the neighbors bought me while on vacation there.

Monday, July 10, 2017

This and That

It's been a couple of months since the last post, and in that time we've had abundant harvests of carrots, potatoes, olallieberries and apricots, the lettuce has gone away with the heat, and we've faced smoke from several close-but-not-too-close brush fires.

So why the void in communication? Nothing earth-shattering. I noticed the comments dwindling on each blog post and so more and more it felt like I was shouting into the void, the same issue I had when writing my weekly newspaper column. People rarely write in to tell you when they enjoy a newspaper column or have a thought about it. Letters to the editor pretty much come in after you've said something that's gotten readers riled up, and so it's probably the same thing with blogging. 

Spring is also the busiest time of year around here. It's not only around the homestead, it's socially, financially, and work-wise as well. And so writing about living tends to take a back seat to just living. Someday I will find a way to manage the period from about April 15 to May 31 but this year, it once again became a time of trying to find time for things.

In the meantime, here are some pics of what we've been up to.


It was an abundant spring.


Mother Nature graced us with her beauty.

Planting, harvesting and preserving.
As usual, too many one one crop. Luckily my friends like carrots.


The row covers worked out nicely, kept a lot of insect and wind problems at bay.

Now we have smoky sunrises.....

and sunsets.



Saturday, May 6, 2017

The View From Here



Was I dreaming?
It's been a long spell since my last post; something that generally happens when there are either things I can't talk about or don't want to. In this case it's both. The ground may be shifting under our feet soon on a personal level -- or not -- and writing from that limbo state of "maybe" is very difficult. It would be bad to put any of it in writing, since it effects other stakeholders (how's that for obtuse?). It's nothing negative for us, though, so no worries there. If it happens it will be a huge and very positive thing. Just a potential big change.

I think the other half of my silence is still being dumbstruck at the time travel back to 1964 our current administration seems committed to doing, environmtenally speaking. I catch the Current Occupant of the While House on television giving himself and his cronies high-fives at press conferences and feel a stab of unbelief that this is all real...that those rollbacks of environmental regulations, clean energy mandates, health care protections, climate change acknowledgement, and animal welfare safeguards is all actually happening.

Sometimes we want someone to pinch us to assure us that we're awake. If only someone could pinch us and we could "come to" and find it's still 11:30 pm on the night of November 7, and that we just dropped off for a little nap when the blue and red board behind the news anchors shifted and changed. "Whew! I had the strangest dream, guys....."

And yet, like any loss, I've processed my five stages of grief, mostly, and have come to that state of acceptance. It doesn't mean some days I'm not back to Stage One (denial) or Stage Three (depression), but I do bounce back. Maybe someday I'll be able to put my finger on what died last November, on a national basis.




On a personal level, things around the homestead are good. There's plenty of spinach, potatoes, carrots. lettuce, asparagus, onions and herbs in the ground and since we had a great water year, everything is growing quite happily. All the trees in the pasture are loaded with fruit, green now but ripening into the shape of a bountiful summer.



Our two new chickens Daisy and Delilah will be integrated into the flock this weekend, which means lots of temporary drama. And we're planning another trip to WA State this summer, because through the good and the bad, life goes on, and heading to cooler climes in July feels like a good idea no matter what the political climate is.



Hope you're well and happy on your own pieces of ground, and living the sweet reality of hands in your garden dirt in this seeming age of magical, crazy thinking everywhere else. Sometimes all you can count on are those you love, the sun rising at roughly the same time each day, and music on the radio. And your land and what it produces for you. 

Not bad things to have in this Very Strange Age.




Monday, April 10, 2017

Life and Lifestyle



The great thing about a blog is that you can write about anything you want. In the town we used to live in, I wrote a opinion/local talk newspaper column for nine years, and thankfully was granted that same privilege -- within limits. I got into trouble once for writing a negative column on the city turning our local farmers' market into "Thursday Night Marketplace," complete with drinking, loud music and flea market style booths.

That piece, I took flak for. Not from my editors, but from the readers and the organization who had come up with or agreed to the concept of a Farmers Market where you could get drunk, urinate on the side streets and get arrested for disorderly conduct on the asphalt, all when it's 115 degrees on Main Street in July.

To each his own, I guess.  The Thursday Night Marketplace still exists, I'd bet, but we're here, in the midst of a better life. Yet we won't be retiring here. And what I'm about to say could provoke the ire of people in this town the way my Farmers' Market piece once did in the old town, if I published it in the paper. It's the dirty little secret about living here no one talks about.

We are going to retire elsewhere because of the exorbitant, ridiculous cost of living here. If you're making this town a weekend destination -- a treat for you and your significant person -- it's a great place to come. There are exciting restaurants to be dined in, a couple of hundred tasting rooms, boutiques, and everything else you'd want to fulfill your "weekend destination lifestyle."

But pay attention to what I just said. It's perfect for lifestyle. And a lifestyle is very different than a life. 

Lifestyle towns are the places you go to on vacation and dream of living in someday ... Catalina Island. Banff. Provence. Key West. You see yourself in some imaginary future, meandering through scenic vistas to your favorite quaint little breakfast place each morning, where they know your name and where you'll linger over coffee as the colorful storefronts open up to sell their wares. In the evenings, you will sit out on your patio with a night sky full of stars and a glass of wine in your hand as gentle breezes caress you. 

After having these  visions, you will pick up the real estate section, and begin your quest for what you think will be a better life than the one you're living. And yes, all those lovely images will happen for you if you move here. They really will. But they come at a price. Literally.

Everything costs more -- a lot more -- when you live in a destination versus just a place.  Whether it's groceries, the services of a plumber, a contractor, or a nanny, you're going to pay a huge premium.

Shopping for cute, touristy gifts is a breeze here, but staples are often hard to come by. And don't even start on medical care. The best doctor in town is a boutique doc who charges $1,800/year for his services, on top of your regular co-pay. The other choices are frankly, frightening, and I've heard more than one story of bad medical care that borders on malpractice from other, nameless docs around. I am guessing this is because doctors don't move here to publish, do research, or advance their names in the medical industry. They move here for the same reasons most do...to go wine tasting and maybe buy a boat or something.

But the saddest thing is that for native residents, they can no longer offer their children a place in the city's future, because their kids will probably never be able to afford a home or even rent a place on their own here.  

So it comes down to two things: Are you awake enough to see this, or have you willed yourself into a sort of dream consciousness, where you accept the gouging, the inflation and the growth as the cost of living here -- the necessary price for the scenic vistas, quaint breakfast place and night sky full of stars? 

I will be honest with you. We moved here for a life -- cleaner air, lower unemployment, better weather -- but instead have found lifestyle, which we always thought was just a small part of living here as a resident. It turns out Lifestyle has taken the wheel and is driving this town towards whatever its ultimate destination is.

With less water to go around, more development going in at every turn, and the weekend visitors believing this is the place to be more than ever, I'm guessing that destination is a dead end. For us, anyway. 

Turns out, all we wanted was a life. Which sounds easy enough, until you have to contend with the fact that a life is a very different thing than a lifestyle.

You know what they say about lifestyle destinations: a nice place to visit, but...

Friday, April 7, 2017

The birds

How I used to feel in my spring garden.

This spring has been different in one very substantive way...I have not had to fight either the wind, the birds, or the insects in my garden. Right now there are potatoes, carrots, lots of lettuce and some spinach growing, which will mean a bountiful harvest until about June I would guess.


It's been so lovely to pass by the lettuce section of the produce department every time I visit the grocery store without needing to purchase any, after a couple of years of frustration in trying to grow it.


This year, it's different.

The trick, it turns out, is shade cloth. I will fully admit stealing my inspiration for this new addition from my friend Beth, who showed me her garden last year nestled under its white canopy of shade cloth. Seemingly free of insects and certainly not damaged by wind or birds, all her crops looked beautiful and I got a serious case of crop envy.


And so this year, I installed the row cover supports and put everything except the potatoes and onions under wraps. And it worked. 


Munched! A lapse of judgement -- no shade cloth -- quickly rectified.

I know all this made a difference because this morning, with a rainstorm coming in, I put in some spinach transplants, and figured a couple of hours without a cloth cover wouldn't make much difference in bad weather. The birds wouldn't be out and about, right? I was wrong. When I went back out the winged criminals were fleeing the scene, after picking apart one spinach transplant completely, and probably getting ready to move onto the others. And so, in the middle of the rain, I covered the rest of the spinach and left the birds to find forage in our pasture.


It may have taken me five years to figure out, but I think I finally understand the rules to growing here: grow it under wraps.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Spring project

Experimenting with color.

So even on a budget, there are some things that still need to happen around here. Like building a sturdy outdoor table. We've had glass/metal ones in the past, and it always seems like they start looking terrible in a very short time. 


But the fact is, we entertain a fair amount and would like to be able to dine outside, especially in spring and summer. A couple of years ago, I re-purposed 12 folding chairs from an events company in town, but what's a bunch of chairs without a table?

So this time around I decided to DIY a table that we could use with our chairs. A few months ago when I was working at the winery, a piece of equipment for the barrel room was shipped to us on a wood pallet, with four legs at each corner. I walked out to where my coworker was taking it apart, and not knowing what it was, said, "great idea for a table!" It actually turned out that there was no intention for a table going on, the manufacturers had just affixed four two-by-four "legs" to the pallet to give it more stability.  But it gave me an idea.

So I went home and asked Big Ag to be on the lookout over in his vineyard's workshop for a new-ish pallet in great shape, and sure enough, last month he found one that was eight feet long and in mint condition -- definitely ample enough length for a nice dining table!

Today we went to the lumber place and bought a bunch of beautiful (and very inexpensive) Douglas Fir slats. I am going to be using a combination of staining and painting, hopefully to get this finished result, which I stole from Pinterest.

The general idea of the project.

The slat in the first picture that I posted is the one I've used as a practice board, trying different methods of staining and painting. The one I like best so far is drib-drabbing paint onto the board, smearing the paint, and then going over it with the stain, several coats' worth.

I've just started working on the tabletop part of the project, but I'll be posting pics as I go along.  If you look at the first photo above, the white Adirondack patio set which the slat is resting on will be my next project. They were saved from the trash at a friend's house, and will complete our sitting area on our back patio.

With spring comes projects, always, but at least these will be fun to work on and finish, before the heat sets in, which won't be much longer now.