Thursday, May 30, 2013

First fruits

First squash of summer!

Summer's first fruits are finally showing up here at the homestead, while the last of the fall crops are harvested.  The last of the carrots came out of the ground yesterday, along with some of the onions and radishes I planted in October, if you can believe that. The cool nights here really help keep things in the ground for a long time, which is great when you want an extended harvest -- picking a few here, and a few there, as needed. The carrots will be blanched and frozen today, along with some more mustard greens.  The rest will be eaten now, or in the case of the onions, hung up to dry and cure for use later on.

Big Ag is bringing home 20 pounds of apricots for me tonight, for canning and making preserves with this weekend.  And my first cucumbers and squash plants are on the vine outside as we speak.  I even found three or four raspberries and a couple of ollalieberries off my first-year vines yesterday, which I ate promptly, before the birds could find them.

Last summer at this time we were busy with two high school graduations plus packing and moving, so we weren't doing much homesteading, and it's funny how easily I forgot just how busy the regular routine of picking and canning keeps me, most days.  It's hard work, but it's rewarding work.  I've said many times that there's no sound better than that of a canning lid snapping into place after it comes out of the canner.  It sounds like satisfaction from a job well done and the promise of good things to come, all at the same time.

I'm working this Saturday at the winery -- hopefully indoors, because it's expected to be 103 degrees outside -- but after this I will be cutting back to working outside the home just one or two days a month (whenever the winery needs help most, if they do) and using the rest of my time to begin putting up our winter stores.

Good work, done in pleasant surroundings -- anywhere that happens, you really can't ask for anything more.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Today we remember them all

Will Work for Wine

Saturday and Sunday were two of the busiest days I've ever spent working anywhere, which is ironic, because I spent them at the winery where we normally go to hang out, kick back and spend a lazy afternoon under the oak trees, glass in hand.

It was good work however, with great company, found in the tasting room staff I helped and those I poured wine for.  And isn't that what work is all about -- keeping busy, doing something meaningful to you, with people you enjoy being around? So I count these last two days a success, and can't wait to go back and work there again.

And did I mention that for my two days worth of labor I received 7 bottles of fantastic wine?  Ya, there's that.

Wineries are interesting places because they run on making people happy.  If you work there, whatever you do, this is an integral part of your job.  If you're making the wine, bottling it or serving it, the pleasure of those who drink your product is always your goal.  That's a nice goal to have, I think.  Make people happy.  Simple, huh?

Well, not quite as simple as you might think, if you, like me, had no more acquaintance with the wine business than having spent so many happy hours  with a glass of something red in my hand.  Wine tasting rooms exist  to 1) sell wine, and 2) promote that particular brand of wine through providing for a memorable and unique tasting experience -- but those things only happen when some extremely hard work goes on behind the scenes.

This weekend, I did pour wine for folks, but along with that fun task comes the responsibility of remembering exactly where each customer is on that six-wine tasting list.  Did they already have the red grenache´or were they up to the cabernet already?  Did they order a cheese plate, so they could taste a little course with each pour?  If so, where is it? 

And what happens on the front lines of the tasting room is nothing compared with what happens underneath that smooth veneer of lovely people walking around with a bottle in hand, dispensing liquid happiness with each 1.5 ounce taste.  The sweaty, difficult work is all done behind the scenes, out of sight of everyone else. There's making sure everyone doesn't run out of glassware, plates and silverware by getting dirties inside and into the dishwasher pronto (while still serving a half dozen people or so wine, remembering what they get next, and making it all look laid back and easy).  There's the sweat and hard work in the kitchen, fixing up lunches for customers who order them -- which most customers do. (The food is to die for at this winery, BTW.  It's absolutely delicious, and is therefore very popular.)

And lastly, there's your feet, which are barking like a pair of dogs after six hours of standing and walking.  And while I found that, after one day, I truly craved a nice glass of wine when I came home, on the second day, what I really wanted was ... a cold beer.  I'd been around wine all day.  Busman's holiday and all that.

I did a little bit of everything this weekend.  I poured wine. I chatted with visitors. I washed plates.  I folded napkins.  I polished glasses in the cool, softly lit wine library.  And as with most work, each task held within itself a certain pleasure.  There was, truly, nothing I did which I could say I didn't like.  Even spraying dirty dishes before they go into the dishwasher is kind of fun (as long as you're only doing it for 15 minutes or so).

But you know, my working weekend at the winery was worth it, just to meet so many interesting people and get to walk around with a bottle in my hand, chatting with fellow wine-lovers.  Wine has been about many things throughout the centuries, but mostly, it really has been about enjoyment, and it felt good to help so many people have a wonderful long weekend in our area.

And it gave me a new appreciation for those who work on the front lines of the wine business, who spend all day on their feet yet still manage to make it seem like they are kicking back and rolling with things so easily, but who are actually working their tails off, never letting it show.

I don't know if I'd want to do it full time, but once in awhile, I'm glad I'm going to get the opportunity to join those folks and help out behind the scenes as well as out front.  Will work for wine.  Yup, that's me.

Friday, May 24, 2013


It is now clear to me why the words "brooding" and "broody" sound so much's because they describe the same set of moody and touchy symptoms.  Portia, one of our Buff Orpington hens, went broody about a week ago and I watched as her disposition went from gentle and sanguine to paranoid, antisocial and hostile. 

And as this is the first year we've been able to keep hens, I was at a loss about what, if anything, to do about it.  For the first few days I coddled her, letting her sit on a golf ball so she wouldn't freak out when I took her eggs.  In hindsight, that was a mistake, as it just enabled the bad behavior to continue.

So why is being broody a bad thing, you ask?  Well, its not, if you are a hen sitting on a fertile clutch of eggs and caring for them until they hatch.  But with nary a rooster in sight, Portia's territorial and occasionally aggressive behavior was having an impact on the rest of the flock.  No one was able to sit on a nesting box in her vicinity without her chasing them out.  She would randomly attack hens who got too close to her when I placed her outside to free range with the others.  She was not eating.  It clearly was having an impact on the entire flock, and that was what ultimately led to my decision to break her of the brooding urge.

The internet has a wide variety of suggestions on breaking a broody hen of her bad habits, and some of those suggestions are helpful, some not.  We did not, for instance, get her a fertile clutch of eggs to sit on so she could "be a mommy," because that would only have reinforced the behavior.  We needed her behavior to change, as quickly as possible, for the sake of her and peace in the rest of the flock.

Ultimately, two things helped.  One was removing her from the chicken run and nest box area and placing her in a separate area, in a large wire cage, with food and water, but no place to brood.  Brooding is prolonged by elevated chest temperature in the hen, and with a wire cage there was always cool air circulating around her.
Portia in solitary confinement

The other thing I did was bath her, from about the chest down, in cool water.  As I've had to give her baths before to clean her bum, she is not afraid of the water and did not mind this at all.  I left her in the cage and gave baths for two days before putting her back with the flock this morning, and so far, she looks like she's back to her old self.

Whether we women like to admit it or not, hormones do play a role in our behavior while we're of breeding age, whether we have Homo Sapiens or chicken DNA.  I can think back on times when my children were small and my behavior was, indeed, something approaching "broody."  I was protective, moody, inwardly focused and didn't want to be disturbed.  All creation, whether we're making another life, a painting, or a piece of writing, requires a brooding period. But probably not if you're a chicken laying infertile eggs.  Then its just an inconvenience.

It's for that reason that I won't be culling any of my hens once they age past the laying stage.  After living at the whim of their hormones for the first half of their lives, I figure its only fair to let them enjoy what's on the other eggs to lay, and no brooding moods to manage.  

I know it's a time in my life I'm personally enjoying, so why shouldn't they get the same chance?

Kicking off summer

Everything around the homestead is growing well now that we're rolling past spring and into early summer.  The insect problems of March and April are now pretty much gone thanks to some liberal and regular applications of diatomaceous earth, and the plants which were damaged have rallied and are flowering.

This is when gardening becomes a pleasure and a profit; when you can design your evening meals around what's ripe for the picking outside.  Soon I will be able to have fried squash blossoms and farmer's market sandwiches (eggplant, squash, tomato, onions, basil, and feta cheese on homemade bread which is then basted/doused in olive oil and grilled like a panini, in a cast iron pan), two of my favorite summer meals.  

It will also be time soon to begin canning tomatoes.  If my kitchen is inoperable at this time due to the remodel, this may prove challenging, luckily for us tomato season lasts until about November, so eventually my excuse will no longer be valid and I'll have to get to work!

Herb garden is ready for picking

Tomatoes are getting bigger

Eggplant blossoms are so pretty

Soon-to-be monster squash

Monday, May 20, 2013

What Big Ag and I do when we're not homesteading

A job, or something like it

"Be careful what you ask for," was what the winery owner said to me Saturday night, at the end of a wonderful wine dinner we'd attended.  There had been fantastic food, dancing, and great company. In fact, it was so much fun that after most of the crowd had cleared out, purely out of habit I picked up a bar towel and began helping dry wine glasses as they came out of the industrial dishwasher behind the tasting room bar.  I guess you never stop being a Mom.  When the party is over and all the kids go home, you hang around to help clean up, even if it wasn't your party.  It's what we do.

And that was somewhere during that time that mentioned I really thought it would be fun to work at the winery, pouring for the guests and helping out with events, and that was when the owner told me to be careful what I asked for, saying he could pencil me in on the staffing schedule if I really wanted to work there.

But it had been a crazy night with much wine, and so I honestly was not sure if he was serious or not, until we went back today for brunch and the topic came up again ... the opportunity to work there, in exchange for wine, and help them out when they expected a busy day.  And if I enjoyed it, to eventually be put on a regular salary.

I jumped at the chance, and so next weekend I will spend Saturday and Sunday getting educated about the wines and learning the art of pouring.  I'm thrilled beyond words to finally be able to try my hand at this, to share my love for great wine with visitors from near and far and hear their stories, or answer their questions.

I'd be lying if I told you I'm not nervous about this new endeavor; it's nothing close to what I've done before, although I tend to believe my first career as a public relations person, my second as a teacher and my third as a journalist will stand me in good stead as far as meeting new people and remembering talking points about each wine, but time will tell.

Until then, I'm excited to check something off my bucket list that I've had on it since moving here.  When people asked if I was going to continue writing when I moved here, I told them no, I was going to work in a beautiful winery and make people happy all day long by pouring them wonderful wines.

Soon there will be a check in the box next to that goal!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

I Got Tickets!

Ticket purchasing has come a long way since I was young.  When I was young, you found out the date the concert tickets you wanted went on sale, and stood in line, rain or shine, until the Ticketron office opened and you could get yours.

Yesterday I waited in line for concert tickets right here at my computer.  A half-hour before the box office opened, I was admitted to a virtual "waiting room," where I stood in a virtual line to buy my tickets.  When the box office opened at 10 a.m. sharp, I reached the front of the line quickly, hit a few buttons on my keyboard and got some awesome seats.

This is a little taste of what I'll be seeing on October 8.  I can't wait!

Even cooler is that we will be seeing it at the beautiful, brand new Vina Robles ampitheatre -- imagine, a winery and entertainment venue all in the same place!  Should make for some heavenly evenings.

Vina Robles Ampitheatre - a work in progress

Friday, May 17, 2013


Sun Oven with impossibly cute dog in background

I normally enjoy cooking, but must say that I have not really enjoyed it since moving here.  I think part of the reason is that my former kitchen was a cook's kitchen, meaning practical, and designed ergonomically for cooking -- and this kitchen is not.  Plus we have some fabulous restaurants here, featuring locally grown and raised food, which is a sore temptation any night of the week. 

Since we're remodeling our kitchen over the summer, it will be interesting to see if I fall back in love with cooking once my utensils and ingredients are in places that make sense, and once I have storage space and organization, once again.  I hope so.

Until then, I will be able to fall back in love with cooking, just a little, by using my favorite summer appliance, my solar oven.  It saves me turning on the range when it's warm outside, and cooks many things better than a conventional oven does, due to the fact that there are no fans to dry out what's being cooked.  Everything from chicken to chocolate cake comes out moist and tasty, done to perfection.

I'm also thinking it will come in mighty handy once the kitchen is ripped apart and the whole place is non-functional -- for however long that takes (I don't even want to think about how we'll function with no sink).  

We can't eat out every night, after all.

Or.....can we?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Hen Spa

The last 24 hours has been all about hens, because I happen to own three chickens that could each star in their own reality TV show.

Portia, for example, has gone very broody since I went on my trip, and her normally sunny disposition has turned positively pre-menstrual.  She's being aggressive with the other chickens, nest protective, and less than sociable with me.  At first I thought she might be egg-bound or stressed from the changing temperatures (it skyrocketed to 102 on Monday, only to plummet into the high 60's by Tuesday, and the nights were downright cold).  So I brought her inside, kept her warm, and gave her some electrolytes.  She had a spa day, in other words. Today, she seems fine.  Still broody, but fine.  Back out into the run she goes.

Ellen, Portia's sister, needed a bath today, continuing our spa treatment of our hens.  She is also Buff Orpington, and has a thick, fluffy behind (Hey! Just like me!). But, unlike me, she tends to get messy back in her hinterlands, and if I don't want eggs with fecal smears on them, she needs cleaning up occasionally.  Which means she goes to the Hen Spa, a.k.a. our bathroom, for a little TLC.

Show and tell (or it is show and tail?) section!!

Here you see Ellen getting her feathers wet for the sake of hygiene.  I don't know why her vent feathers hang onto dung the way they do, but I happen to like my eggs dung-free. 

Embarrassment?  Remorse?  Exasperation?  Name the emotion of that towel-wrapped chicken!

The avian Brazilian Butt BlowOut

Red is the Nicky Minaj of the trio.  Bossy, brassy and almost always unpleasant.  She will launch a rooster-style attack on you if you turn your back on her, and you can never, ever enter the chicken coop wearing flip flops or shoes with no socks, unless you want some permanent ankle or toe tattoos in the shape of a large hole, roughly the size of a chicken beak.  I don't know why she is this way, feeling a rage that puts her in an almost rigor-mortis state of anger, 24 hours a day.  She awakens angry and she retires at night angry.  But if she had any underworld connections, I'd be in cement shoes somewhere off San Luis Pier by now, I am certain.  No spa for Red.  I can't afford the loss of blood that would come from pampering her.

She would just as soon kill you as look at you.

Now that the chickens are tended to, I am going into town for some interaction with beings who don't have feathers.  Gotta be easier than this.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Few Days Away

On Saturday I boarded an Amtrak for Los Angeles to visit my son for Mother's Day.  It was a nice mini-vacation away from the homestead and its chores.  My son is in college and therefore does not have any animals and his one farming endeavor consists of a single tomato plant in his backyard.  So there were leisurely days of waking up and simply having coffee, and heading off to bed without checking livestock or watering crops.  Nice. We had an amazing brunch on Sunday at a place called The Sagebrush Cantina, complete not only with the usual champagne and massive breakfast and lunch fare, but also an oyster bar and a guy serving fruit-infused vodka shooters (I had strawberry and it was amazing).  Happy Mother's Day, indeed!

Nonetheless, despite all that fun, I was still glad to be home and out of the city.  Los Angeles is a vibrant, exciting city with plenty to do, but it's not home.  I missed Big Ag, missed our property, and missed the quiet of the area.  But a break from the routine is almost always a good thing, because it makes you appreciate what you have, and of course it is always wonderful to see my son.  

And now, back to my life's regularly scheduled programming

Friday, May 10, 2013

Why I don't own horses

Long before the area we live in was known as Wine Country, it was known as Horse Country.  The Central Coast of California has long been a place where horses have been kept, bred and shown.  If you drive through the area, you can still find horse ranches, breeding facilities, and even several race tracks, where thoroughbreds are raised up and trained, now nestled in between multi-million dollar wineries and tasting rooms.

But I don't own horses, and have no plans to get one.  At this point in my life, I'm living the wine country dream, not the horse country dream.  The horse country dream I've already done.

I was 30 before I owned a horse, and I've only owned one in my life:  FlyGirl.  FlyGirl was a Morab (half-Morgan, half-Arab) and was one of the great loves of my life.  But our relationship was not without bumps -- literally.  One afternoon on a leisurely trail ride, for example, FlyGirl spooked when someone on a nearby road threw the daily newspaper onto the driveway of a ranch, and the next thing I knew, I was waking up on the side of the trail looking at nothing but blue sky and a big horse face looking down to see if I was OK.  

A long time ago, on a horse far, far away

That in itself says volumes about our relationship, because as most riders will tell you, being thrown from a horse is not only traumatic for you, it's traumatic for the horse as well, and most of them will high-tail it back to home as soon as it happens.  But not FlyGirl.  She didn't budge from my side while I lay unconscious on the side of the road.

And while I recovered from my fall with just a small bleed on the back of my brain and a whopper of a concussion, it was not an injury I took lightly.  Because there are two types of riders in the world -- the ones that have been injured in a fall, and the ones who it just hasn't happened to yet.

FlyGirl lived many years after that, and we shared many more trail rides together.  And when she developed equine Cushing's disease, I didn't think twice about spending $400 a month on medication for her, even though I was barely making it on a beginning teacher's salary.  And to this day, I still light a candle for her on the day I had to have her put down.  I still cry.  And while many people I know look forward to seeing grandparents, children, or other relatives when they finally die and cross over to the other side, I am most looking forward to seeing FlyGirl again.  I have no doubt she's there, and if she's not, then I'm not sure I want to go.

So, bottom line, horses are expensive -- emotionally, physically and financially, although not without rewards.  I started thinking about all this last week when our mail lady had an accident on her horse and broke her back in three different places. A good friend was thrown off her horse a few years ago and hit an arena railing, breaking three ribs and her collarbone.  Expensive injuries, in many ways.

And so I look at all these things, as well as my own experiences, and it makes me realize I'm just not up to horses anymore.  We may buy a little donkey for our pasture to help carry harvest and be a pasture pal to the goats and sheep we'll be getting, but that will be as close to horse ownership as I will probably get.

Yet I love horses dearly.  It's funny though, there are things you may love but don't want in your life as you grow older.  Certain men, some types of friends, a tequila buzz and, yes, horses, all fall into that category for me.  They all represent things I've been through and experiences I've had, and loved, but no longer wish to repeat.

I think this qualifies as a type of wisdom.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Year One Clean-Out

Moving is a great time to clean things out and downsize, but it's also a very stressful time and therefore not always conducive to fine-detail organizing, like sorting through paperwork, tchotchkes, and other miscellaneous items left in drawers and file cabinets.  Most of the time we just pile it all into moving boxes and figure we'll sort everything out once we've moved and dumped it into our new drawers and closets.  A sofa?  Pretty easy to decide if you're taking it or not.  The eight butane lighters in your kitchen drawer?  Not so easy, for some reason.


So the season of year-end tossing time has come, here at the homestead.  I've been sorting through file cabinets and kitchen drawers, and shredding or getting rid of what's no longer needed, what is duplicated, or what is too old to matter anymore (like duplicate 1099 tax forms for escrow interest on a house bought 20 years ago, and 3 year-old receipts from Lowe's for drip system emitters.  Why do I keep this stuff?  Why?  Why?).

Since we're going to be remodeling the kitchen soon, I thought this would be a good time to organize and de-clutter the kitchen drawers, something we didn't even do before moving out of the old place.  While I was at it, I also got into the file cabinets in the library as well.  It felt good to organize and get rid of stuff, and since we've been here almost a year, it's time to make good on the promises we made when we left the old place -- telling ourselves if we still hadn't used something after living a year in this place, we'd chuck it.  Chucking is occurring as we speak.

I did the same thing in my clothes closet, using what I think is a good technique.  I told myself if I hadn't worn it in awhile, and did not think I would be wearing it again, I'd put it into a box and, if it remained there by the time a year had gone by, I'd have the courage to pass it onto Goodwill, where hopefully someone who likes it can give it a new lease on life.  That italicized phrase allows you a loophole for keeping some specialty items of clothing, like evening wear or heavy coats, understanding that you may only need those once every few years.  But the usual shirts, slacks and blouses that always seem to get passed over when you peruse your closet all go into the box to wait out their year.  

Some items I did, in fact, go looking for, and I was happy I hadn't thrown them out.The rest of the box, filled with things, I haven't missed, will go away now.

What's left after a year -- bound for Goodwill

De-cluttering is one of those tasks you may not like doing, but will make you extremely happy with the results.  We all accumulate far too much stuff in this life, and lightening the load always feels freeing.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


A peaceful but still productive day followed by a gorgeous sunset over the Coast Range.  Doesn't get any better.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Back to work

I've been working on a somewhat reduced schedule here on the homestead due to my mom visiting from London.  She went home today, and so it's back to work and the regular routine for me, Big Ag and the family.  

Funny how those little breaks from the routine are.  We enjoy the fun things we're doing, but also feel a little guilty about not doing the usual chores.  Today I'll be hilling my potatoes, trimming crabapple bushes, planting berries and grapes, and just tending to things in general around here.  It feels good to get back to the routine.  My mother's routine in London is filled with theatre, lunches and charity events, so this week I tried to squire her around town and show her the best of the California's central coast

But here's something funny, too:  My mother has the habit of wandering around behind me, watching whatever I do.  Perhaps this is because she only sees me once a year and feels like she has to work in a year's worth of looking over several days, but it does sometimes become disconcerting.  As long as we keep moving through a variety of activities in town all day long, it's fine, but when we have downtime, I often feel as if I'm being watched, whether I'm crossing the room, grating carrots, weeding, or reading.

So when she goes home, I often find I have mixed feelings about it.  Sure, I am sad to see her go, but on the other hand, it's actually quite relieving not to have that feeling of being watched all the time.

She is 80 years old, so I know I cannot cure her of this little oddity, I just make sure I never stare at my own kids too long and make them uncomfortable!  Sometimes we learn how to do things from our elders, but sometimes we also learn what not to do from them.  And it all serves to make us better parents and people in general, I suppose.  

Either way, the only eyes on me now belong to a bunch of chickens and a couple of cats and dogs, and that's only because I am the Food Lady and it's lunchtime.  And that, I can deal with.

Friday, May 3, 2013

It takes a village, or at least a family

This morning it was driven home to me just how important family and community are in rural life.  My mother is visiting us this week and I needed to take her to the emergency room, quite suddenly, for a potentially serious stomach issue.  But while I was waiting in the ER, I realized I hadn't had the chance to check water on the chickens and the dogs, and the temperature was supposed to hit 99 degrees.  So I texted my son Groceries, who luckily was coming home from class and was able to make a stop at home before heading to work for the afternoon.

My mom is back here now and resting, and will be on broth and toast for a day or two, both of which I'm thankful to have on hand, in abundance.  So today also made me realize that it's not just people we need in our personal "village," it's also supplies.  

Preppers always talk about stocking up for the zombie apocalypse, war, or major disaster, but the fact is, your next disaster could just be a bad case of the flu, when there's no one around to run to the store for you for potentially several hours or, if you live alone, a day or two.  Having canned soup or frozen broth around can be a lifesaver, along with juice or Gatorade (I realize it's not homestead chic to laud the antifreeze green liquid known as Gatorade, but it's saved my life on several occasions when I've taken ill suddenly and couldn't hold any food down).  

No one ever regrets having a stocked pantry and someone around we can call to check on our livestock, that's just a fact.  Because you never know what tomorrow may bring.  It may bring the zombie apocalypse, but more than likely, your next disaster will probably just affect just you or just your own family.  

All the more reason to be stocked up and ready.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Jury Duty and the Homesteader

The court system is such a caricature

So even though I've lived here less than a year, the ever-generous county of San Luis Obispo has chosen to call me for jury duty later this month.  Crap.

Jury duty is, in my opinion, one of those things where a super-bureaucratic government extends its outstretched hand a little too close to my face and leaves it there, saying "Does this bother you?  Huh?  Huh?  I'm not touching you.  Does this bother you?" like an annoying classroom bully.  The idea of a jury of our peers is a good one, of course.  It's how the government goes about getting it that bugs me.

This is not going to turn into an anti-government rant, I promise you.

I just think there are people out there who can not afford to spend a day, or several days, not at their jobs.  People like hairdressers, writers, waitstaff and folks working the night shift. And I'd add homesteaders to that list.

See, I need to be here every day to watch what's going on.  I have chickens, and have invested a lot of money on crops which will not only feed us, but in the case of the tree crops, might eventually make us a small profit at the farmer's market if we sell our surplus.  The work around the house doesn't stop just because I'm gone, either.  If I want bread, I need to bake it.  If I want soap, I need to haul out the lye and oil and get to work.

But the handmade life takes time, and it takes a presence.  It won't happen if I'm not here.

And so it bothers me that I have to change my entire lifestyle in order to accommodate a bunch of bureaucrats who like working 8 - 5.  After all, what's to stop having night or weekend court, where people like me who can't do the 8 - 5 thing could still serve?  How about a morning or afternoon court, where short cases could be tried without taking people off their jobs all day long?

No, the courts run the way they do because most people who work there don't need to be home from 8 - 5.  They are not people who value self-employment, hourly work, or stay-at-home parenting.  They want to put in their 8 hours, pick up some take-out food on the way home and then sit on the sofa and watching "Wipeout" while surfing the internet and eating Cheese Doodles.

And while I will be inconvenienced having to drive a full hour, each way, to the courthouse if called to serve, it is nothing compared to the folks who work part-time and will lose income that could be paying the rent or putting food on the table if they are chosen.

Just one of those ways that sometimes makes it difficult to be different.  Maybe we should have professional jurors the way we have professional judges.  That way the people who want to hang out with lawyers, civil servants and criminals all day could do so, and the rest of us could stay home and make soap, or whatever.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Hog Coming

My sister-in-law had one of her hogs butchered a few weeks ago and our half is finally ready for pick-up!  Mmm, chops and bacon and sausage and roast.  This will get us through the summer BBQ season nicely.

Learning Curve

We're still underneath the mountain of information we've gathered in preparing to make our attic more energy efficient.  This has been a 20-hour crash course in knowledge, often conflicting, sometimes disappointing.  But in the spirit of education, I will share it here, in case you ever need it and would like a truncated course in what we've learned. Here's what we know so far:

1.  Our home has an incredibly under-ventilated attic, which is kind of a crime considering the climate zone we live in. Yes, a construction crime.  I think a badly wired electric chair should be in order for that, but that's just me.

Anyway, in general any house needs about one square foot of net-free ventilation per 300 square feet of home.  That means, for a well-ventilated attic, we would need about 7 feet of ventilation, since our house is about 2100 square feet.  We're way behind the curve there: currently have about 2 feet.

2.  Fire safety has to be taken into account.  The less well-ventilated your attic is, the greater your fire risk from degraded electrical wiring (Duh. Wiring will degrade faster in a 160 degree attic than a 120 degree one).  But in a wildfire area such as ours, you have to be very careful to install ventilation that will not allow embers to enter the attic, in the event of a wildfire.

3.  Most contractors do not believe power fans in the attic, solar or otherwise, are a good idea, except in two story homes.  In a one story home, all they do is draw cool air up from the house, into the attic.  In a two story home, they draw cool air from the ground floor up to the second story (then into the attic), so they are of some help.

As you can see, a simple wish to install an attic fan and whole house fan has turned into a doctoral thesis on ventilation, but at least we are more educated now.  I suppose I should be grateful, as a lot of people would probably have just installed the fans and then wondered why it didn't make much of a difference on their electric bill.

The attic fan is now off the table, for the reasons listed above, and we need more ventilation in our attic before we can make a whole house fan work for us.  Next week we are planning on having a roofer come out and see if we can install some fire-safe ventilation, which may, just by itself, lower the temperature in the attic.  Then, we will move on to the whole house fan.  So we are getting there.  But as Murphy's Law of Life teaches, whatever it is you want to do, build or grow will probably take twice as long as you think and cost twice as much. 

I'm exhausted from the learning curve now and just want to go do some manual labor, or have a drink, whichever comes first.  Or maybe do both at the some time, which could provide some interesting results.

Speaking of which, has anyone been watching the YouTube series of "My Drunk Kitchen?"  Absolutely hilarious.