Saturday, September 17, 2016


Not a weed (in my opinon).

This is a little sage plant that I found in the pasture after Big Ag had gone down to fix yet another drip system failure in our orchard. Right now these little plants are in season and blooming everywhere around here. I'd say we have over a hundred, at least, all over our place, and the hills all around town are covered in them as well.

Look at the pretty purple flowers. If I were describing this plant the way I'd describe wine, I'd say it has a strong sage bouquet, but also with a lot of mint and lavender notes. It actually has an extremely strong scent, but only if you brush up against it.

So back to the conversation in the pasture. It went something like this:

"Why did you pull this up?" I demanded.

"Because it's a weed," he answered.

See? One man's weed is his wife's aromatic, lovely flower. We play this game a lot around here. If it smells or looks nice I generally will keep something around, even if it's considered a weed. But Big Ag hates all things aromatic, unless they are artificial, chemically-created scents that are put into things like Bounce fabric sheets, Gain laundry detergent and smelly soaps. Then he absolutely loooooves it. And so, I've accepted that I'm married to a guy who will pull sage out of the ground because it's smelly while at the same time reeking of Irish Spring himself. Human beings are such conundrums.

I told him in no uncertain terms to leave MY smelly hillside favorites alone, and he reluctantly agreed. Marriage is built on compromise, after all. I get smelly plants in the pasture, and once in awhile throw my husband a bone in the form of a fabric sheet tossed in the dryer when I do his shirts. 

But if he pulls out any more of my lovely, smelly sage, guess what I'm going to put into the dryer instead? Maybe Mr. FancySmellyPants needs to go to work smelling like real, natural sage, lavender and mint. Maybe he needs little tufts of plant matter and flowers poking out of his shirt pockets. 

It could happen.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Millennials -- 9/11's children

Out of the ashes...

So today is the anniversary of the attacks of 9/11, fifteen years on. Can't quite believe that. 

Big Ag and I were watching a special last night about that horrible day (although we're both old enough to remember it well) but looking at the interviews taken on the street in New York and across the nation, I realized that enough time has gone by that things look different now. 

Footage from 9/11 now really does look like something from out of the past rather than yesterday or last week. Fashions, hairstyles, cars, etc. all are now far enough behind the times that they can be identified as something that would look out of place in the here and now. 

One thing in particular I noticed was that there were no lumberjack/hipster beards, no man-buns and no organic, flannel or flow-y modes of dress among the younger, 20-somethings. People looked upscale and ambitious, rather than homespun, folksy and like they'd just emerged from Whole Foods with some kale and a bottle of kombucha.

rose a new generation!

I thought about that and here is my theory: The attacks of 9/11 and the wars that followed were so awful, so hard to look at and process that it kick-started into high gear the local, homegrown movement, at least among those up and coming kids who came of age after they saw the world change forever and for the worse. 

It's not a bad thing. There's been a resurgence in folk music, growing your own food, canning, natural clothing, letting your hair grow out and thinking, acting and being local. The cool kids are more likely to want to play the banjo or fiddle than dress up in glitter and play electric guitar. The young people I know don't watch the horror show that the national news has become. They shop at the farmer's market, and they go out to see favorite bluegrass bands at the local micro-brewery and trade produce from their gardens with each other.

If they travel, they travel small too. You're more likely to hear a 20-something plan on renting a room in Split, Croatia or backpacking through Vietnam than going to Milan or Monte Carlo.

And they're not moving to New York City and Los Angeles for careers, either. They're moving to Bend, Oregon and Austin, Texas because they like the vibe. Or growing produce in the vacant lots and crumbling shadows of vacated former empires like Detroit . They're embracing small-town life with the same gusto the generation before them embraced the bright lights and big cities, even if they happen to still live in a city.

Thinking local.

People complain that Millennials value personal time much more than money, insist on good self-care and don't want to conform to a corporate work ethic -- and they are therefore labeled as unambitious and lazy by their elders. But I think I understand where they are coming from. When confronted with the horrors that the world is capable of producing, they turned back towards a simpler life -- farming, sleeping under the stars rather than among the skyscrapers, and running a start-up business rather than living in the city and dreaming of "making it big." They understand that happiness is made in the here and now, and that this is all any of us are guaranteed -- a present tense to live in and make the best it can be.

The Millennials are the first true, post-9/11 generation. They are the little children's faces that saw the disillusionment, despair and disappointment of that God-awful Tuesday morning and as they grew up, deliberately turned their adult ones towards a smaller, more tangible and more predictable future. In the face of terrorism, war, the collapse of the housing market and climate change, they are living for today and living consciously. That's not lazy. That's smart.

So God bless them for that, and may they make things work on their own terms -- perhaps better than my generation did. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

But I have Flowers!

I am happy to report that once again, I kicked a cold virus in the ass due to my willingness to sacrifice all and take a day off to sit on the sofa and nap. This proves, once again, that laziness does in fact sometimes have an undeniable evolutionary advantage.

So today I thought I got under-paid on my timesheet and contacted the gal at work who takes care of such things. She, in turn, contacted the lady who actually cuts the checks. They looked everything over and decided....I was in error. Pay stub was correct. Which, once I looked closely enough at my pay stub, I totally saw, too. Oops.

I'm pretty hard on myself for such human mistakes. I hate that I put my friend and coworker out for nothing and sent her on a wild goose chase. But here's the thing....I have flowers. Lots and lots of flowers. Mason jars, too.


So tomorrow I will take my kind and patient coworker these, as a humble request to forgive this lady who doesn't see well without her glasses anymore and never should have been looking at her pay stub without them.

I also currently have dried figs, cucumbers, apple pie filling and preserved relish to get me back into people's good graces if flowers don't work.

For all my bitching about how hard it is to maintain this place, there is no denying that sometimes it pays to live here, especially when you need to make nice to someone because you were a ditz.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

How to Cure a Head Cold

Well, I think I may be coming down with a head cold. The first fall cold virus seems to always start making its way around town about the same time as school gets started. I am not sure why it works that way, but it's true. In September, the summer colds depart for warmer climes, and the real-McCoy colds set in.

But I haven't had a really full-on cold for three years. Yes, three full years! And the reason I haven't been sick for that long is because I basically take care of myself in the opposite way from how I grew up.

When I was younger the true dysfunctionality of my family was never more apparent than when someone was sick. If you were moderately sick, you were told you were fine, to "stop over-dramatizing," and that it was OK to go to school or work. So of course you did that, and you got sicker. Now, once you got sicker, you were told that you were still fine and so you kept going, until you could not breathe, had a 103 degree fever, and had to go to the emergency room. At this point it was considered OK to declare yourself "a little under the weather."

Side note: My father actually walked around with lung cancer for a couple of years before getting seen at the doc, at which point he was terminal and it was too late to do anything for him. He kept telling himself it was "just a little cough." 

Anyway, as I matured (a questionable claim, I know) I decided I was going to do things differently. Isn't that just the best thing about growing up -- that we can decide to change the rules and make better choices for ourselves? So my rules for being sick are somewhat the opposite than what my family and/or society advocates.

As a note, I am not a doctor, but I am a 55 year-old woman who taught classrooms full of sick children (because their parents did not want or were not able to stay home from work with them) and once saw my family through a documented bout with H1N1 yet did NOT catch it myself. So that kind of makes me an expert, right? Here are my anti-virus rules:

1.  If you think you are getting sick, stay home the first day you feel it. Sometimes your body is fighting something and it just needs a little more rest in order to rally its defenses. You could get up tomorrow and actually be fine. So yes, stay home, even though you are not officially dying. We Americans hail from a lot of Puritan stock, and the Puritans did not indulge themselves in this way (which is probably why half of them died their first winter in Plymouth). Take naps, watch TV or read, and stay hydrated. No exercising, no cooking, no yardwork, no career-work. At this point you're probably contagious anyway, so why spread things around? (Unless you want to show up before business hours, head for that annoying coworker's desk and wipe your hands all over their their stapler, phone, mouse and keyboard. That is OK.)

2.  Place your toothbrushes in near-boiling water or put them in hydrogen peroxide every time you brush. Use a clean brush every time you brush your teeth while you think you are sick. I keep about three toothbrushes handy so I only have to sterilize them once a day. I saw a study once that said this alone can cut a cold's time in half -- from nine days to about three, and I can personally testify to the truth that. Why put all that virus load back into your mouth via a dirty toothbrush two or more times a day? It just makes no sense if you think about it.

3. I know there are many studies that say echinacea is not effective, but my vote is that it is -- as long as you have it handy so you can start dosing yourself at the first sign of illness. Once a cold has taken hold, it's pretty useless. But right at the start....yes. It works.

4. Know that even though you may knock out 90 percent of the virus within a day or so, it will lurk in your system for up to a month, ready to jump back into activation if you go through a prolonged period of stress, alcohol consumption or lack of sleep. So everything in moderation for awhile. It's worth it.

5. This next bullet is about prevention. I am the Howard Hughes of the winery -- germaphobic to a tee. When someone is ill and I find out about it, I spray door handles, telephones, and even the ill person themselves with Lysol. Year-round, I use hand sanitizer on such a regular basis I should buy stock in whatever company makes Purell.  Most of us encounter sick people every day we're out in public and never know it. (The same people who send their kids to school sick also go to work sick, which is another reason why western civilization is doomed.) I use hand sanitizer after leaving each store I visit, especially if I've touched doors or money, and always after handling things like restaurant touch the menu, then pick up some fries with your fingers and voila! Instant contamination. I also sanitize after shaking hands with people. Just be discreet or you will offend when they see you squirt Purell all over yourself after touching their grubby mitts.

Oh, and I never touch my eyes, nose or mouth with my hands either. I'll scratch my face with the arms of my sunglasses or my sleeve before I'll use my hands. 

Anyway, today is a "do illness differently than your parents did," kind of day so I'm back to the sofa now and will post more later, once this virus abates. Stay safe out there and watch out for cold viruses as well as all the non hand washers of the world. They're both out there, I'm telling ya.

At least I do have some nice spots to indulge my malaise in.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Homestead Rescue and Hollywood Reality

So I came home early from work the other day and while I was sitting and having a late lunch, I flipped on the TV to see what was on. I stumbled upon the reality television show, "Homestead Rescue." 

Now at the outset I have to say that growing up in Los Angeles, surrounded by friends' parents who were in various behind-the-scenes aspects of showbiz, I already knew that most of what I was seeing was crafted by off-camera script supervisors. Nothing that comes out of Hollywood is real, including so-called "reality television." Real-looking breasts on TV and in the movies are probably not real. 80 year-old women don't look 80; they look like some nebulous age between 45 and 90, depending on the skill of their cosmetic surgeon.

Martha Stewart does not really tend her own garden and can her own vegetables, no matter what she appears to do on her show. Perhaps she did at one time, but she's an empire manager at this point.

Anyway, while I'm sure a lot of "Homestead Rescue" was scripted in advance, as most reality shows are, what did impress me and resonate within me was how hard Mother Nature appeared to be working to foil the plans of the aspiring off-gridders in the show, in weather situations no reality show series could script. Ice is real. Storms are real. Mother Nature cannot be commanded, coached or scripted. She just shows up and does her thing.

And I found I could relate to the show, not because we are off-gridders, but because we've already learned some of what the Raney family (the hosts) teaches each guest family on the show. The other half of the time, I related out of sympathy, such as when one family's greenhouse vegetables got completely destroyed by mice, or when putting up a new fence on the property resulted in two smashed fingers and muscles so sore that chopping more firewood seemed like too much to ask, but it was 4 pm and freezing, so chop they did. 

There are days when this place discourages me -- so much so that I want to pack it up and move into town. If it's not the wind, it's the wildlife eating our food. Or the insects. Or the broiling heat that decomposes irrigation hoses, destroys electrical wire, and blanches and rots wood. We are currently in line for replacing all the irrigation hosing in our pasture (which springs a leak in a new place that must be fixed every single time I run it. Every. Single.Time.). We're also getting a new irrigation timer with new wiring, and looking into how to create a wind break so that our fruit trees stay erect and don't grow sideways. That's this month. Next month it'll be something else, I promise you.

And as I watched the homesteaders in the series attempt to surmount even more daunting challenges, I sympathized, while simultaneously realizing that we don't have it nearly as bad as we could. But the first time anyone gets country property, no matter how many YouTube videos you've watched or books you've read, the land is still gonna hand you your ass on a regular basis -- even if you're just keeping a few chickens and growing some food. (Usually there is a honeymoon period of a few months to a year, just to make sure your guard is down when fate finally comes calling.)

And it's gonna hurt, because you love those chickens and those vegetables and those fruit trees. 

I think that's why most homesteading blogs disappear or morph into something else after a few years...because people finally realize it's just easier to order a pizza and sit inside listening to Pandora.  There is a reason roughly 80 percent of all 1800s homesteads ended in failure, and it's the same reason the newer ones will as well: Mother Nature has no mercy and will challenge you at every turn, continually. There's a learning curve, but as soon as you master one challenge another presents itself.

But for the sake of knowing the reality of homestead life, "Homestead Rescue" is a show I can recommend. Because for all Hollywood's fakery and slight-of-hand script treatments, I know that some of what you see on that show is real, and for that reason alone, it's a pretty decent entertainment/life lesson show. 

As for us and this place, we're putting Mother Nature on notice that we're not going away. Because while sitting inside listing to Pandora or wandering around some suburban lot in town might sometimes look attractive, what challenge is that? Strive on, I say, whether you're on 1 acre or 2000. Just prepare -- not only for starry nights and birdsong mornings -- which is nature's way -- but also for smashed fingers, sore muscles and expensive equipment getting broken, damaged or just disintegrating over time. Because that is also nature's way.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Hello September

Hey, even most cubicle dwellers get two weeks of vacation a year, right? That's about the amount of time I've been gone from the blog. Sometimes when you don't have anything new or fresh to say, it's best to say nothing. The entire latter half of August was filled with The Chimney Fire. We had smoke so thick it seemed to lower the summer temperatures -- kind of a relief until you realized why. There were also many days of long, strange noontimes and twilights when you honestly couldn't even tell where the sun was, or even what time of day it was for that matter. 

It was a couple of weeks for inside activities and pursuits. I chose to get lost in some good books and close the blinds so as not to see the world burning up in front of me. At no time were we in any danger from the fire, but I'd say it is safe to say it lowered the spirits of the entire community.

BUT...that's over now. The fire is mostly contained and we can see the hills in the distance again (and they aren't on fire). The sky is blue again, too. It's funny, generally September is my least favorite month due to the seemingly endless heat. But after only seeing the sun filtering -- barely -- through the smoke for two weeks, I find September feels just fine, thanks.

I may have some big news to share soon as soon as some paperwork is signed, so stay tuned. In the meantime, here is a pic of the first of the Adirondack chairs I finished. I'm thrilled with how it came out and am almost done with the second one. It was actually kind of fun to pull a chair indoors, lay down a generous amount of tarps and paint away in the cool house.