Tuesday, July 24, 2012


It happens every year at about this time...tomatoes ripen and need to be canned for the winter months, when they'll be used in chili and stews.  This year, we moved at a time when I normally would have been putting in the summer garden, so I have nothing growing to put up (except a few quarts of nectarines from the tree we inherited from the former owners).  But my husband was able to procure, through a farming friend, all these lovely organic Roma tomatoes, and so canning will begin in earnest tomorrow.   I'm also going to finally put the solar food dehydrator I got last year to use, and hopefully cut up and dry some of these so we can have sun-dried tomatoes for our pizzas. Feels good to be doing this, and to know that it won't be long now until fall comes, when I will be able to put in a garden and get back to the homesteading business, as usual. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Wave Brigade

One thing I've noticed about where we live is that people do not wave to each other as much as they did in the old town.  Even in our new neighborhood, where there are few cars and therefore more chance to acknowledge those who pass you on the other side of the road, I've seen plenty of people drive by me, stone-faced, pretending they do not see me give a little wave or nod to them as we passed on a quiet country road.  

I'm not exactly sure why this is, but it may have something to do with the fact that many residents here are ex-pat Los Angelenos.  In Los Angeles, nobody waves as anyone.  Matter of fact, you can consider yourself lucky if no one shoots at you.  And lest you think I'm slamming LA with no real knowledge of it, that's not the case.  I lived there for the first 30 years of my life.

But here's the thing.  The people here are people who managed to somehow get out of the city and relocate to paradise.  I mean it.  And they must KNOW it, right?  That's why they left.  You'd think such an abundant blessing in their life would make them so grateful they'd want to blow kisses to their friends and neighbors ... even the ones they haven't met yet.  Instead, they seem like they took the blessing of being relocated north, into the seventh realm of Heaven, and simply brought their LA manners along with them.  "I'm here -- but who gives a shit if you are?" is what it says.

In case you're wondering if it's just on the road we see this, it's not.  People routinely jostle us out of the way in the grocery aisles, walking down the street, or in department stores.  They're either totally bullheaded or totally unconscious. It's almost as if they're in a dream where they are the only real person and everyone around them are shadows.  

So my husband and I have started the Wave Brigade.  Regardless of whether they wave back, we will smile and wave at our neighbors.  We will be polite in the shopping aisles, and we will let people turn in front of us if we can do so safely.  

It's gotta start somewhere.  Why not with a wave?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lungfuls and shovelfuls

The air is clean here and I find myself standing outside, breathing in lungfuls of it the way a thirsty person drinks water.  When the wind comes up, it's not filled with dust but rather the smell of the sea, and I indulge in healthy lungfuls of that as well.  I have noticed there is not nearly as much dust as where I used to live, and what dust does settle on the furniture is softer, more like lint particles and less like dirt particulates.

The actual dirt or soil, on the other hand, is much poorer than where we came from.  It's rocky.  We live on a hilltop, and you can tell the builders literally scraped a flat spot on the hill in order to build this house and yard.  The dirt at the bottom of the hill, which is still our property, is much better. Of course it is. It's filled up with the sediment of all the topsoil that washed down the hill over the last 20 years.

So we're going to have to plant species of plants  around the property which don't mind poor soil -- things like grapes and lavender.  And the soil in our raised vegetable beds will have to be imported from someplace else and kept enriched with healthy additions of compost, once our animal operation gets going.  This is not the kind of yard where you can go out, plant a broccoli or snap pea and expect it to thrive.  It's always a trade off, but I'm thinking that while you can enrich your soil or plant in raised beds, if your air is bad it's hopeless.

So it will be awhile before we start seeing food from this ground we live on.  But until then, I'm going to dine on the fresh air, and be thankful for that.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

City or country?

Not everyone who lives in the country should be living in the country.  Some people are just more comfortable with the appearance and amenities of city life.  For example, the lady who lived in our house before us landscaped her yard area in much the same way a person in the suburbs would.  There is a vast expanse of lawn -- a half-acre by our estimation -- a few shrubs around for contrast and some trees here and there.  Only one serves any purpose, it's a nectarine tree and produces tons of delicious fruit. The others just exist, producing oxygen I suppose, but not much else.

As the shrubs are of the drought-tolerant variety, they will stay, but as we settle in here, we're actively plotting the demise of the BIG lawn.  The lawn in the front yard serves absolutely no purpose and will be the first to go.  In fact, my husband and I just re-set the sprinkler timer to skip the zones that water the front lawn entirely, so within a week or two it will be dead.  In the place of grass, we will be planting drought tolerant trees and shrubs, and adding some ground cover.  That's how almost all our neighbors have landscaped and it makes sense.  We live in an area where water is a precious resource, and dumping it all onto an expanse of pleasure green is simply not practical.  And I'm reminded of that every time the sprinklers run ...  I hear the pump turn on and realize we are running up the electric bill in order to bring water up 400 feet to the surface, just to keep a lawn green.  What a waste of water and energy.

There's a large side yard which will be eliminated as well.  That's where our chicken house and raised vegetable beds will be going, which will also use much less water than a lawn does.  

Outside our back door there's another medium-sized lawn, and this lawn will be staying.  It will be where our dogs, and maybe someday, our grandkids will play.  It's a nice place for grownups to hang out, too. Because this lawn is a reasonable size and shape, we will continue watering it, but by eliminating the other two lawns, we will reduce our water usage by two-thirds, at least.  Not bad.

Let the lawn-killing commence.