Thursday, October 29, 2015

We will rebuild!

Sitting here with my morning coffee and just got hit with a small earthquake. Scared me a little, scared the dog. For me it was because we still have not attached the earthquake straps to this heavy library furniture, thereby securing it to the wall so it doesn't crash down on us if the shaking gets serious. We went outside to the safety of the back yard for awhile. 

Hopefully not a foreshock of something bigger, and just a little reminder that Mother Nature is still large and in charge around here -- well, everywhere, really.


That's what I made in cash tips yesterday at the winery (there will be at least this much in credit card tips, which will show up on my paycheck in a week or so). When I factor this into my hourly rate at the winery, I can often make more than I was making as a fully credentialed primary school teacher at Step 10 on the salary schedule.

Kind of amazing how little we pay teachers, most of whom practically have masters' degrees and years of professional development and study pertaining to how best instruct children. We entrust them with our most important assets -- our children, a.k.a. our FUTURE -- yet pay them so poorly few stay in the profession for a lifetime, thereby wasting a lifetime's worth of job experience.

Turns out, you can make more money waiting tables or pouring wine, both of which take no formal education whatsoever and which have the benefit of shorter shifts and adult company all day long (mostly).

In other news, I got a sterling performance review and a small raise at the end of my shift yesterday as well.  As a teacher, your raises are mandates on the salary schedule, are "one size fits all" and are no surprise. Getting a performance-based raise was a very pleasant one and definitely makes me feel valued at my workplace.

Go me.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Why pressure canners scare me

Back when I was young and had gone skydiving, someone asked me why in the world I'd jump out of a perfectly good airplane. My answer was, "because there's no such thing as a perfectly good airplane."

Pressure canning...kind of the same thing. My son posted this to my Facebook page. It's a pressure canner. So why don't I use pressure canners? Because there's no such thing as a perfectly good pressure canner, and even if there was, there's no such thing as a perfectly good pressure canner operator. Shit happens. Like this. 

If you are an adept pressure canner operator, I bow to your expertise and courage. I'm just not there yet.  Sheesh, I almost burned the kitchen down six months ago hard-boiling eggs in a simple pot on the stove, for heaven's sake. 

I hope no one blames me for exercising caution. I know how to jump out of an imperfect airplane and I know to leave pressure canners to more task-focused individuals than myself.

Signs you are overbooked

As the tourist season has slowed down here and therefore my work schedule at the winery has as well, I've been thinking about being overbooked -- chores stacked up like planes waiting to land at O'Hare, circling, circling, with me in the middle trying to prioritize and manage all the "air traffic" and feeling more and more overwhelmed. 

My chores can easily take a half-day in summer -- every day, 7 days a week, with no exceptions due to the heat. This is mainly because we grow so much of our food. but add to those half-days full shifts of outside work, plus other things like my family, people coming to visit and the things we want to do (concerts, beach, parties) it's easy to start feeling overbooked.

My Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) resolution was not to let this happen again next year. I'm not in the phase of my life for that anymore, and I certainly don't want to miss out on things I want to do because I'm squashed under a mountain of responsibility. If my kids come up here, I want to be able to visit with them. If my husband gets a couple of days off before grape harvest starts, it would be nice to spend them together.

So in thinking about it, here are (for me, anyway) the Top Ten Signs you are overbooked: 

1. Family coming to visit feels like one more chore to add to the chore list. And squiring them around town feels like a few hours that will cause you to fall even more behind on Life's Chore List than you are already. When you resent having to go wine tasting and out to lunch, there's a problem.

2. You start to dread the concert, party or event you have had on the calendar for awhile (and were at one time looking forward to attending) because you'd just rather stay home and catch up on your rest or your chores.

3.  Things you formerly loved doing around the house now feel like time-wasting manual labor.

4.  You start to forget things; your brain's memory files are so filled with deadlines and commitments that other things begin dropping out, like paying bills on time, remembering to clean the litter box, etc. (apologies to Kitty)

5.  You see good friends on your Caller ID and let it go to voicemail. No time for aimless chatting.

6. You set time limits on everything -- "I'm going to the party, but need to leave by 9 pm so I can get to bed and get enough rest for work tomorrow because it's going to be SO busy." And you hold yourself to them, because rest at that point has become more important than fun.

7.  You stop reading anything longer than a standard news article on the internet, and you even skim that. Your focus and attention are in too much demand elsewhere.

8.  Pets feel like customers -- just one more entity with needs you must fill. (apologies to Kitty x 2)

9.  Spouses become coworkers you rely on to keep things running, meaning the only romance you have time for is kind where he does the dishes for you while you're squeezing in a trip to the supermarket at 9 pm on a Sunday night. Nothing says romance like sitting with a gallon of milk and tortillas in the Express Lane knowing your husband is at home putting away all the clean pots and pans away in unusual places.

10. You have a whole list of things in your life that go into the category of "I don't have time to deal with that right now. I'll get to it after all this chaos clears out." Projects, things that need decisions made, long-term planning -- even routine medical care all get put into this category.

I'd say if you felt an affirmative nod to three or more of these things, it's time to make some changes. You are overbooked.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Vlogging vloggers and their followers

Vlogging has been on my mind a lot recently. A rather infamous blogger, whose blog I no longer follow, apparently announced (I heard this through the grapevine, but through a reputable source) she was going to begin a daily vlog, following in the footsteps of a lot of other folks who are doing the same thing, and supposedly making money at it.

I read in the paper this morning about about two Christian vloggers who document their daily family life on YouTube as their new profession, speaking on everything from their faith to their pregnancies to their marital issues.  (Here's a link:

It seems strange to me that in a society where most of us barely have time to keep up with our extended family and friends that for some of us, we still find enough time to watch -- or worse, record -- a daily vlog which reaches out to total strangers about the daily minutiae of  ordinary life, be it rural or urban. 

If Malala had a vlog I'd probably watch that, but she's obviously got more perspective than to think talking into a video camera about herself every day is a productive way to be in the world. She's too busy trying to change it for the better.

As for homesteading and having a daily vlog, it seems to me that if you're really walking the walk, how in the world would you have time for this? After all, vlogging is a lot more complex than just blogging, which is a lot like journaling. In blogging, you sit down and take a quiet moment to share news or write about something that's been on your mind. That's a quiet time of reflection, thinking and, in a sense, authoring and writing. And if you happen to be a writer, it's a good way to keep your hand in the game. 

But setting up your phone or a camera to record yourself and talking to it, or worse, setting it up to record yourself doing some task or other seems like a HUGE time waster if you're homesteading and at the time of year when the days are getting shorter, like right now. Less daylight for the same tasks. Tick tock goes the clock. 

Or maybe you just plan on having nightly fireside chats with your viewers and talking about all the stuff you did. Would people watch it? Who knows?

You know, if someone wants to make a living doing stuff like this, and other people 1) have enough free time or 2) lack the brain space to figure out they could be doing something better than watching someone else live their lives, then I guess I don't really have a dog in this fight and should just leave well enough alone.

It just seems strange. First, reality TV and now, reality TV via YouTube. Because, obviously, we just can't get enough of the Kardashians, Real Housewives and Braxtons and need even more content, with people just living. Or staging what they want us to think their lives are like, anyway.

Of course the financial pragmatist in me would love to ask these YouTube fame-seekers how their retirement accounts are doing, or whether they are satisfied with their health care, or whether they've thought about the 10 - 20 year prospects of this new job of theirs. Like any other career in show business, the odds of long-term fame are almost nil, unless you really hit the jackpot. But at least, even for the waiter who occasionally finds work in TV or movies, he does get compensated at union wages, and if he finds roles often enough, will eventually be eligible for SAG/AFTRA union retirement, health care, etc. YouTubers get no such benefits.

But of course, these practical things like figuring out a way to live when you are 70 pale in comparison to achieving a minor status of fame and having followers right now. 

But here's a lovely little irony: In other news, I read another article that said that by the end of this century, certain geographic regions of the Middle East/North Africa will no longer be able to sustain human habitation, due to temperatures rising to new summer highs of 165 - 170 degrees, or the equivalent of an oven hot enough to cook a chicken nicely.

The vlogging vloggers and their band of  blind followers somehow never seem to tackle topics like this, instead preferring to bombard us us with day-in-the-life type posts -- every day -- featuring their freshly made-up faces front and center and banal stories of "what I did today." Which may explain why a certain segment of the population prefers them to the actual reality of their lives and their planet. It's an uncomfortable reality we're facing more and more. 

Maybe the YouTube vlogging phenomenon is an unconscious attempt to distract attention from the elephant, who at this point is roasting, in the room. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Three days of my life back

When we moved here, the lady who lived here before us decided to remove all the touch-up paint cans she had in the garage. There were some hard feelings about the ultimate sales price of our place versus what it appraised for, so I'm thinking this was a (brilliant) little way of getting some passive-aggressive revenge on us.

After all, her new place was NOT painted the same color, so by taking all the paint, she denied us 1) the ability to touch anything up, ever, because....2) we now lacked the information to determine exactly what the paint color was. After all, you can't exactly scrape off a piece of wall and take it into Home Depot to get it matched.

And so for the last few years, some of the rooms have been looking more and more beat up.  Our son Groceries' room especially took a beating -- as all teenaged boys' rooms do -- but we also had a significant roof leak that left stains on another bedroom wall and ceiling after it was all repaired and dry again.

It was already on my schedule to paint those two bedrooms this winter, and since I was also having to paint the ceiling of one, I figured it would take about three days....three days of my life that I'd never get back.

Then, on a lark one day, I decided to call the home builder to see if they had any information on what color they'd painted the interior of the house when they were building it. It was a shot in the dark -- a home built over a decade ago by a builder who really has no stake in keeping the small details like paint color on record, being expected to have the information right at their fingertips.

Yet that is exactly what happened. The gal at the builder's office got on her computer, and within one minute flat told me the color:  "Stunning" by Frazee Paints. All I had to do was go down there and order a quart, and as long as the sun had not faded it too much, it should be a good match.

Long story short, I did, the paint matched perfectly, and in about a half-hour I fixed what would have taken me three days to fix if I'd had to choose a whole new color to paint the rooms. And there are a lot of other dings and nicks which are now fixed in other rooms as well.

So I got three days of my life back....wonder what fun thing I should do with them? Maybe nothing, but it sure does feel great to have them!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Please just stop talking now (or, tales from Wine Country, episode #7765)

Occasionally at my job I run into a person who I wish I could tap on the shoulder and say, "please just stop talking now" to.

Yesterday was a busy day at the winery, and I spent a pleasant few moments getting to know a party of four well-dressed, cultured, slightly European-looking men having a "guy's day out," while their wives had a Ladies Day. They were relatives to each other, one local and the others visiting from out of state.

There was a lady across the aisle at another table, who I was also serving, and who was one of those people who liked to be thought of as "in the know." After several numerous attempts to impress me with her knowledge of wine lingo, she turned to the four men sitting at the table across from her.

"You know, we just went to (name of a new, swanky restaurant in San Francisco) Have you been there yet?"

The men looked a little confused, and then one of them responded by saying that if they were ever in the Bay Area, they'd try it out.

"Oh, I figured you were from San Francisco! You mean you're not from San Francisco? I just assumed you were from San Francisco!" she said.

From this exchange you can read two things:

1. She (wrongly) assumed the four men having lunch together must be two gay couples because to her, they looked gay. (Straight people's gay-dar should generally not be relied on.)

2.  She (wrongly) assumed all gay people in California live in San Francisco, therefore since they were obviously gay they MUST be from San Francisco and would therefore be impressed by the swanky restaurant her and her husband had just dined at. 

Because as you know, it's mandated (ooo, a pun!) that all gays live in San Francisco, and all gays know the hip places to be seen at. Oh, and it's also a rule that all even-numbered groups of well-dressed men hanging around together must be gay couples.

I always feel sorry for these kinds of people, those who expend so much energy to project an image to the outside world, but that sympathy is also usually tempered with the strong urge to tap them on the shoulder and say, "please just stop talking now." Or hit them with something heavy, depending on how stressful my day has been.

 Instead I just came inside and died of a combination of laughter and extreme embarassment for all involved. Some days behind the bar in wine country are like that. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Star Wars revisited, the cradle of mankind and the importance of potatoes

I got my tickets to the premiere of "Star Wars" this morning. I actually got a little teary when I saw the third trailer, which went online last night.

Why "Star Wars?" 

It's the movie that made me an astrophysics major for three years of college (I later switched to journalism). It's the reason I love astronomy. It's why I wanted to become an astronaut. It's why I worked in a public observatory for eight years, and why I worked a a research assistant on a couple of NASA projects during college. It's why I own a telescope even now, and sit outside observing the heavens and watching meteor showers from our back yard.

It was "Star Wars" that pulled me from nights dancing at disco clubs to nights sitting in cold observatory domes comparing still images of the sky and taking notes. To say it took my life in a 180-degree course change is accurate. It changed my goals, the things I wanted to learn about, and how I saw the world. Suddenly the Disco Queen became a Science Nerd. It happens.

Perhaps it's even why I love this piece of land I live on, always conscious that it's just a speck on a little, blue planet, hurtling through space at thousands of miles per hour. The fact that it's my home planet means something to me, probably because in "Star Wars," the characters seemed to think the planet you came from was important -- no matter where you traveled throughout the galaxy, it was the place you were from.

But while this planet has been humanity's cradle, no one should remain in the cradle forever. Those other planets are out there, beckoning us through the night sky. Part of the reason "Star Wars" was important was that it made the stars above us inviting, accessible and exciting. Unlike previous movies like "2001 -- A Space Odyssey," space was not cold and forbidding. Instead it brimmed forth with possibilities of life, of stories and of adventure. When I'm out amidst the night sky, I don't feel like I'm alone in the dark -- I'm among friends: bright Sirius, Mighty Orion, and the misty Milky Way running through everything.

But although "Star Wars" inspired my life, it's true that I never became an astronaut. Instead, I worked  in public relations in the aerospace industry, then taught science, then did some newspaper writing and now, a bit of farming. 

But you know, Matt Damon is now growing potatoes on Mars, so perhaps farming is still a valuable skill set if we ever do get to the stars. I know I won't. I'm too old now. But you can bet come December 17, I will be seated front and center at the movie theater with a big tub of popcorn and a heart laden with emotion.

Because "Star Wars" made me who I am. And maybe it will inspire the next generation to get out into that vast, warm, friendly universe and have some new adventures. I hope so, anyway. I just hope they remember, those new steely-eyed star sojourners, how important it is to know how to grow potatoes, wherever you are.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

After the harvest and the Shemittah year

Today, under a brilliant blue sky and cool temperatures, we pulled the last of the tomato plants out, disengaged the old cucumber vines and even managed to find a few stray onions buried underground, in perfect eating condition. It's a little bit early to clean out the garden here, but with the El Nino bringing more humidity, more warmth and therefore more insect pressure, I thought it was wise to plow it all down and throw some chicken manure on top of it all before leaving it for winter, a gift to the earthworms and other bugs who live under the soil.

I also decided that I'm going to practice my own modified version of what's called the Shemitttah year in the Torah. It's an agricultural mandate to let the land rest in the seventh year of production. As it's stated in the Book of Leviticus,

"God spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai, telling him to speak to the Israelites and say to them: When you come to the land that I am giving you, the land must be given a rest period, a sabbath to God. For six years you may plant your fields, prune your vineyards, and harvest your crops, but the seventh year is a sabbath of sabbaths for the land."

I've expounded on the virtues of the idea of Sabbath -- for both religious and secular reasons -- on this blog before, and I'm sure you realize (if you've been reading this blog awhile) we've technically only been on this land for three summers. It's not a Shemittah year in any way....except of course, for the farmer. That would be me.  I have been growing a good portion of our food since around 2008, when I planted our first raised beds in our garden back at the old house. And I've been canning our produce each fall and winter since that time as well. 

I'm actually overdue for a good Shemittah by a couple of years now.

 During that time, a lot has changed, including me working more outside the home during summer and fall, (prime growing and canning time, but also busy season at the winery) and our kids going off to college, changing our food storage needs considerably. This last summer was crazy, trying to keep up the garden and my job, and I still have 40 pounds of tomatoes in the freezer to can as proof of that. I'll get to it before the end of the year, hopefully once the summer is gone for good and a boiling water-bath canner heating up the kitchen is seen as a friend, not an enemy.

And so my version of this Shemittah year will mean leaning out from the vegetable garden from this fall to next, and reassessing exactly what our needs are now that we have only two of us at home on a regular basis, and now that we also live in a place where we eat elsewhere a fair portion of the time. 

Normally right now, for instance, I'd be planting my carrot crop in earnest. But as of this writing, I still have a freezer full of carrots from last year which we haven't even started eating yet. So clearly I don't need carrots. Carrots in 2016 will be a Shemittah crop for us, then. I won't be growing them.

I will be growing a little lettuce and some onions, both super easy crops to maintain (meaning zero maintenance). I will be pruning and caring for our berry vines, our grapes and our fruit trees in spring because they need it, and if we get an abundant harvest I will gladly take it, because we got almost nothing last year (guess the berries took their own Shemittah year in 2015). Come spring, I will be planting something in the raised beds as well, it just won't be nearly to the extent I have in years past. I may have one raised bed's worth of produce. Probably an eggplant or two, one squash, three get the picture. Farming Light. 

It's time for this farmer to take a break and have her Sabbath from the vegetable garden. Time for the land to exhale and rest, too. And in another three years, it may be time for a true Shemittah year where both the land and I take a good rest, but this time it's not so much for the land itself as much as the farmer. 

There will still be plenty of homesteading stuff (and blogging) going on around here -- soap making, cooking from scratch, eating abundantly from the over-storage we've managed to accumulate in the last few years, and finding new ways to continue turning our space from a zone of consumption into a zone of production. 

But everything needs a rest; even God rested on the "7th Day."  I am looking forward to my 2016 "Petite Shemittah," a sabbath for this farmer but not a dogmatic one as much as an acknowledgment that everything, including ourselves, needs a rest sometimes. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The rest of the library

Bookcase #1, which I almost did not bid on but am glad I did!
So the guys from the auction house delivered the rest of the furniture today...a bookcase, office center, and a writing desk. I am so happy to have these beautiful items in my home, and so lucky to have found them at auction prices.

Hutch/Office center and writing desk.

I did also get some details on how they ended up on the auction block. Turns out they were part of a divorce; when the movers went to the home there were tags for what was "his," what was "hers," and what was labeled "auction." It was a prominent person in the county, who lived in a gorgeous wine country mansion. Much more of the home's goods were also auctioned off to other lucky buyers. 

It's sad that the couple gave up so many wonderful pieces to be sold at a fraction of their original cost, but if they had a sad story at least there's a happy ending -- all these things (at least the stuff we bought) will have a place in a very peaceful and loving home from now on. They will be cared for and treasured.

Close up detail of writing desk inlay. So pretty!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Steal #1

This was one of the items I bid on last weekend, and the only one small enough to get a car ride home from the auction house today when I when in to pay for everything. The rest will be delivered on Wednesday. This table cost $70, which was obviously a steal. The wood is absolutely gorgeous, it's extremely heavy and definitely a quality piece. I don't know where it's ultimately going to sit, but for now it's in the dining room.

My problem is that now the rest of what's in the house looks a little like an ugly stepsister next to it. I sit next to it and feel a little underdressed, kind of like being at a pajama pizza party and having Zsa Zsa Gabor suddenly come in in a formal, dripping with jewels and calling everyone "Dahhhling."

So maybe I need a new house, built around this one glorious, elegant end table. Problem solved.

The auction

So last night I participated in my first-ever online auction, sponsored by a local auction house in the next town over. I've been trolling these auctions for a few months now, hanging out both online as well as in the actual shadows of the in-person one, watching how things go down and seeing what kind of deals were available. In other words; learning. I'm one of those people who needs to know what they're doing before actually doing it, especially where any money is involved. 

There is a time and a place for spontaneity, but for me it's usually not when I'm holding my checkbook. And just like at the casino, an auction is a great place to lose a lot of money quickly if you're not careful. 

(Disclaimer: Sigh. Okay. I'll tell you right now that my spontaneity comment above is basically bullshit, because in the end, while I held to the spirit of my rule, I didn't hold to the law of it. Funny how that happens. I initially set my high-end limit at a couple hundred bucks. And realized about halfway through the auction that I hadn't budgeted nearly enough. I just wasn't realistic. So I raised my limit again to double the initial budget, and came in handsomely on the mark.) 

In the end I got several pieces, which together will comprise an actual library in our house. You see, when we moved to this property, we inherited a large room in the front of the house that was probably supposed to be a formal living room. But as we had no use for that, and no furniture to turn it into one, instead we called it our library. Our file cabinets, bookcases, reading chair and desk are all in here. But all those things once resided in different rooms of our previous house, so nothing matches. So for a long time I I was also fond of calling it "the un-loved room," because that's how it looks. Then I saw the items I needed on the auction block and decided to go for it.

In the end I spent more than I wanted, but still got a good deal. By the end of today or tomorrow we will actually have library furniture to go with the idea of that room being our library now. I also get the good feeling of knowing I am re-using estate furniture instead of buying new. Anytime you can do this and still get what you want, it's a good thing. New furniture isn't the most eco-friendly option for things, although with things like beds, chairs and sofas, I get why new is best. So I can give myself some eco-brownie points, although honestly budget was as much a concern as anything else. I was just very lucky to happen to have gotten an extra large check from work last week and so the money was already there, and luckily, not earmarked for anything else.

So before actually starting the bidding process, I did a little homework. In online bidding, it turns, out, there are apparently two types of bidders. One is the squatter, who lands on the piece she wants and quickly outbids anyone who ventures into her territory. And there is the sniper, who waits until the last minute and then tries to unseat the up-until-now winning bidder.

There's a lot of different opinions about who ultimately saves more money, the squatter or the sniper. But at this point I'd tend to say the latter. And last night I did a little of both. Without boring you with a whole play-by-play of the process, there were a couple of items I squatted on and won easily, and one item where I feigned disinterest until the last minute of the auction and then became a sniper and snatched it up quickly. And of course there was one other item -- the one I needed most, sadly, where I faced a bidding war. So that jumped in price, although it was still bought at roughly 10 percent of what I'd have paid for it new (and it is in mint condition).

And so now it's all done except the pick-up. Sometime today and tomorrow, we'll get the front room ready (now really, almost a real library room!) and pick up our winning bid items. I'm excited to see how it all looks when its done, and will post some pics soon.

And now I have a new Moniker: Hot Flash Homestead -- Auction Sniper and occasional Steely-eyed Squatter.

Lettuce and late summer

I keep an informal crop notebook where, each month or so, I give a brief synopsis of what I've done in the raised beds and down in the pasture, where the orchard, vines and berries are. It can be helpful to see exactly what month you put in your lettuce or tomatoes last year, how it fared, as well as when you fertilized and what kind of bug pressure you faced. Notes are a good thing, and a good way to assess how things are going compared to years past on your property.

I consider it a gift to myself in the future, this written documentation of all my successes and failures, and it's all penned with an eye towards hopefully learning from my mistakes as I go along.

Notes to myself.

It's been helpful for every crop except my late summer/fall lettuce. This is my trickiest crop, because if you plant it too soon and it turns hot again, it bolts or turns sour quickly. Since it's much too hot to grow lettuce here in summer, I confess to being a bit anxious to have summer-type salads after a few months before the weather gets cold. So I plant early. Sometimes it works out. But the last couple of years it has not.

And because of this I find myself, for the third month running, attempting to plant lettuce that will last more than three weeks in the ground before bolting. The other issue with warm-weather lettuce is that it needs watering often -- sometimes three times a day when it's above 90 degrees, which its been most days for the last few weeks.  And about this time of year, I'm honestly kind of done with standing around outside in the heat of the day with the hose. I'm wanting Mother Nature to take over at that point with some much-needed rain. Hasn't happened yet, but you know Hope, like star thistle and other weeds, springs eternal.

Out with the old, in with the new.

So I have another set of transplants sitting out on the patio right now and all I can do is hope that the 90 degree temperatures will finally be forecasters are saying by the end of the week.

It can't come soon enough, I'm tellin' ya.

Friday, October 9, 2015


In the Old Testament, there are a couple of sections which feature genealogies; they usually go something like, "And Joseph begat Simon, and Simon begat Benjamin," and so on. Homesteading chores are like the Bible in that way. Everything you do begats something else.

At the winery, to give you an example of the opposite principle, when I empty the glass sterilizer at the end of the evening and drain it, that chore is done. I won't see the glass sterilizer again until I next work. The act of draining it, setting the glass-holder up on the bar and turning the switches off is all that's needed to accomplish this chore. I won't be the one to turn it on the next morning, most likely. So my chores there do not begat anything in my world.

Now think of something like, say, tomatoes. When I plant some tomatoes, tomato planting will inevitably begat harvesting the fruits from the plant, once it's time for that. Once I harvest the fruit, that then begats some kind of preservation method or a lot of cooking. When I save the seeds from a few plants, that begats the next  round of planting in the spring, when the whole thing will start again. 

And the thing about begats is, if you leave one item in this task list undone, the whole system comes to a grinding halt.  Because the begats basically give birth to the next generation of tasks that succeed the last one, just like the old kings of the Bible succeeded their fathers.

It's also a truism around the household even if you're not a homesteader. When we finished the patio landscaping, that begat sealing the stone, something I did yesterday. Now that it's done and looks gorgeous, I see the dead grass next to it and realize I need to get moving on finishing the planting portion of the remodel, so that can then begat laying down some gravel and bark. I'm sure once that's done, I'll want to add something else to the area. You see how it works? Nothing with begats ever seems to end.

Dusting begats....more dusting.

Around the house, chores may get finished, but they inevitably begat other chores and improvements that keep your property in a continual state of improvement -- a good thing, but a time and labor consuming one. Let's be honest here: the moment after you dust, the new dust particles begin dropping down from the ether, onto the tabletop to form the base of what you'll be dusting next time. As soon as you replace your worn out sofa with a pretty new one, you notice that the worn out armchair in the corner looks terrible next to the brand new sofa....old dusting begats new dusting, new sofa begats new armchair, new carpet and new coffee table. 

At least that's how it usually goes in my household. I'm finally learning that, around the homestead anyway, the begats are as inevitable as the dust motes dropping onto the table one nanosecond after I finish dusting. The begats always win in the end, because they have the power to dictate not just what you're doing now, but also what you'll be doing next week or next month. 

It makes me think that if I want a real vacation, I need to start by heading to a place where there are no begats.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Backyard progress

Patio is almost done.

As you can see, we are making progress on the backyard landscape. I'm really pleased with my choice in flagstones, and the fire pit (with safety grate -- no brush fires here!) will be a very nice addition to the entertaining space. Today they are adding the border and sand to fill in the joists, plus bordering the fire pit (we will be bringing in the gravel ourselves in order to save some money).

We have dreamed of doing this since we moved in three years ago, but there were other priorities for the house that took precedence. And then of course,we had to save up some bucks, so we could pay cash for this and not incur any debt. (Maybe I should just have done a kickstarter campaign instead lol)

Future fire pit.

The next steps will be waiting until the rainy season and using a sod-buster to level some areas where there is dead turf so we can add bark without making it higher than the patio or fire pit. So we have a bit of a reprieve until the rainy season really gets going in earnest. 

One thing the landscaper told us is that the type of soil we have is almost impossible to grow a healthy turf on. From looking at the grass he had to remove, he said the roots were very shallow and the grass was just generally unhealthy. One more reason to stick with native plantings.

But we're well over halfway done at this point, and it's easy to see how its all going to look once its finished. And with only cosmetic stuff plus some planting going on, the bulk of the hard labor is over, too.

Good luck omen over the site?

Thursday, October 1, 2015


These last few nights have been filled with the so-called Supermoon, which, to me is not so much noticeably bigger (or, for that matter, more super in any way) as much as much, much brighter than normal. On Saturday night there was an eclipse of the full moon, but since we were clouded up we didn't see much. 

However, once the eclipse was over, the full, brighter-than-normal moon lit up the clouds to a point where I could easily have read a newspaper outside. It honestly looked like a kind of crazy dawn stretching from horizon to horizon from midnight until the real dawn actually broke through several hours later.

And for as many nights as we've had the "supermoon," we've also had a bird that's decided to spend her evenings in the tree outside our bedroom window. And it's been so bright she sings -- beautiful, long, eloquent songs at different points throughout the night. She's a fairly common species of bird we see around our property a lot. During the day, she makes noises I can only describe as a "smooching" sound. That's all her and her other bird friends do all day long -- talk to each other from tree to tree..."Smooch! Smooch!" 

But at night....she perches alone and sings a lunar opera of her own design and composing.

Too many of us sing our best song only when we're alone and we think no one is awake or listening. In the harsh light of day we make the same noises as all the fellow travelers in our life's orbit, but during the small hours, we think, dream, and maybe even sing our true colors.

I think the world would be a better place if we all sang our deepest song in the clear light of day, for everyone to hear, instead of just making the noises we think are expected of us, which are usually not particularly inspired or beautiful. Why do we keep our deepest and most inspired selves locked away safely until we think no one else is listening?

Why  pretend you are just another smoochy-bird when you are actually, in your deepest soul, a composer of nocturnes and a singer of moonlight librettos, performed under a moon as bright as the dawn?