Saturday, February 27, 2010


The tsunami warnings might be enough cause to stay out of the water. And mostly the beach was empty, except for some desperate tourists, determined to make the most of their vacation, and these guys...

This sport depends on big waves and wind action, so before, during, and after storms is when they are most likely to be seen in the surf.

The tsunami warning certainly made me extra cautious, but what really kept me out of the water is urban runoff.


Some spots are worse than others, but as a general rule, I avoid most So Cal beaches before and immediately after storms, when the worst of the polluting offenses are at their most concentrated.

Maria and I watched from the comfort and safety of Geoff's car. There were four guys riding waves, flying around. There were also three people jumping waves, romping in the surf. In swimsuits. Think they're form out of town? Uh-huh.

I guess sixty degree water temperature is warm by comparison (hey, it's only thirty five degrees Fahrenheit at Woods Hole, MA), but with the fifty nine degree air temperature, and the chilling wind, I cannot say I was tempted.

Storm surge and rip tides make it rough. Tsunami currents make it even more unpredictable.

Fortunately, the worst of the threat to Hawaii seems to have passed uneventfully. It was interesting watching the live webcams of Hilo Bay, the reef appearing to rise above the water, the changing color.

I am just relieved that the CNN reporter couldn't squeeze any more drama or trauma out of the evacuated vacationer she had on the phone.
Good for you Wisconsin Man on vacay. No worries bra.
He was totally low-key and matter-of-fact.
Warnings worked.
People went mauka.
No madness or hysteria. But poor Miss CNN kept asking about "emotions" and "fears" and "biggest worries."
Wisconsin man said he was in to his third cocktail.

Surfing I have tried. Being pulled by a giant parachute while on a board? Not so much.

The sun broke through as I was taking these pictures. That was about two hours ago. Now it is raining again.

I was already out in the South Side to warn Betty about the high surf.
She can't swim.
No, we are not that close to the beach, but there are a lot of deep puddles and the gutters were still flowing after the first rain. She needs Wellies.

Seeing the ripple effects of Chile's earthquake brings their disaster much closer. It's a small planet. I feel their pain, and hope that we can respond to their needs, give them comfort. And I am reminded that we need to revisit our personal plans for earthquake safety, and post quake calm.

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Without A Point

Some days it is so quiet, there is so little traffic in my cyber world, that I feel as though I am alone. Unseen. And then I feel as though I am at liberty to say or do whatever I please.

Quick. No one is looking. Say what you really think.

Then I think of other things, like chickens, and raised garden beds, the leaking roof, cleaning.

Before the rain, the days were like spring. There was a warmer sun. We were weeding this week, and pruning roses. We have nine roses, and now, thanks to Karen, they are all pruned and fed and ready for the real spring.

Anyway, before the rain, I was stretched out on the lawn and watching Betty have a dust bath. And I had my camera with me.

She looked left. She looked right. She looked right at me and she did not seem to mind that I was close and admiring. She did not seem to mind my big, black camera.

Oh Betty. I love you Betty.

You should see the pictures I took of Max. He's even better looking than Betty, but he won't let me show those pictures.

Geoff and Max are going to Parker's birthday party. Two years old already? Maria and I are sniffling a bit too much for public interaction. I hope people are grateful for our polite sacrifice, as we are very sad to miss the fun. *sigh* Alex is off to robotics, and maybe William is under the weather too, because he did not sleep well.

Why do we say under the weather? Are we ever above it? I wonder what it could mean if we said "I am in the weather."

Utterly pointless, which is my prerogative, and it is also my special right to include links to the dictionary, when a word strikes a chord.

I can almost suppose why we use the expression strikes a chord, but I am not sure it is a good expression; not for me. I do not play.

However I am feeling about the world, or my life, or the day, when I see Betty run, when she comes to my call, I feel happy. Truly happy. And the happiness lifts me, or heals me, or simply makes me laugh in spite of anything else hanging around my heart. And for my own gratification I would like to write this down: I love you Betty. I am so glad you live here, and that you eat grubs, take dust baths, give eggs, run around the yard, and clean my kitchen floor. You are simple, yet lovely. You are messy and silly. You are something inexplicable, which is good. I like a little mystery.

I may go for a walk. I am meaning to put things away. Kitchen things and backyard-camping things, laundry (clean and dirty), toys, papers, shoes and mud seem to have gathered, converged, and spread all over our home. Not even Betty can help me with this. I may walk, then put things away. I may skip the walk, and watch something on television. I may change the subject, because even I am getting bored with the pointlessness of this...

Isn't she fortunate? I cannot escape my deep thoughts and other musings, but she can. And she does. Run, Betty. Run!

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Another Six Weeks of Glorious Winter

(image borrowed from the World Wide Interwebs)

In the timeless spirit of making a big deal out of nothing, we are commencing a family tradition of celebrating the fairly unremarkable calendar event known as: Groundhog Day. It is our intention to break up the monotony of a "long" winter, with frivolity, randomness, song and hoopla.

For many years the boys have inquired about this second day of February and the rumored observation of the behaviors of a certain Marmota monax, aka Punxsutawney Phil. Ironically we have consistently marked the occasion by realizing on the third day of February that we had forgotten to tune in and join in the celebration-observance-calendar event. The realization is generally followed by a discussion about the injustice of this not being a real holiday, and school break.

No more. We are taking charge and from this day forward Groundhog Day is real. It will mark the time when we look to the ground and think of the whistle-pig, the tree climbing, able swimmer, burrowing sciurid. We intend to write songs and sing them aloud, preferably around a campfire on Groundhog Eve. We will develop decorations and finalize what will henceforth be traditional Groundhog Day foods.

Ground hog has been suggested as a tasty, if somewhat insensitive, offering. We did have a vegetarian option this morning: Groundcakes: Groundhog shaped pancakes. While they did tend to resemble gophers, cats, bears and rats, we are certain that over time the form and flavor of Groundcakes will become distinctly Groundhoglicious.

I thought I might have to resort to Groundhog initials if my Groundcakes were going to look like bears.

This won't work.

Holidays don't just happen. It takes thought and effort.

So, while I was whipping up a steaming, golden platter of Groundcakes, the boys were waking up in the tent. They spent the night camping in the backyard, a few feet away from where we spent the evening before gathered around a campfire. Smiley and Junie were over for a visit and joined us roasting marshmallows and counting stars.

Real campers, winter campers, deserve Groundcakes for breakfast. And I think this groundhog profile really captures the tasty beauty of the whistle-pig.

A herd?
Flock, covey, posse?
What do they call a pack of groundhogs?
"The collective name for groundhogs is "repetition". The easiest way to remember that is to think of the movie Groundhog Day :)" This came from Jill of "Because the Alternative is Unthinkable."
Awesome, Jill. Thank you.

Yes, we have a lot to learn, a lot to work out in terms of our theme and purpose.

Or do we?

Seriously. I think we are going to accept Groundhog Day as our very own sanctioned yet uniquely personalized unserious calendar event. We have six more weeks of winter, so there may be rain in our future and there may be mornings when we cannot sit on the lawn eating our breakfast. We will bear this as best we can. Do not pity us, please. And we have a whole year ahead of us in which to anticipate the next observation of Groundhog Day... we are very excited about this. Will there be costumes, a band? Maybe just top hats... Should we always pitch a tent, no matter what, and be super obsessive and formal? Is prognostication and weather lore the emphasis, or are we all about enjoying any weather, any season? The possibilities are limitless and so is our humor. I foresee a bright and absurd calendar-event future for us to enjoy.

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Feeling Low
How low? How about -1.9? That is a very low tide. This afternoon the tide will slip away almost as much as it did yesterday. And if you can slip away, you should... down to the beach and the rocky places where the ocean is leaving a world to discover.

Uplifted by comments left on Chickenblog (thank you: Jennifer, Zan, Star, TCavanaugh, Andylynne, and Judy) and sporting a new pair of earrings from my mother's airlift emergency package, I mustered the gumption to get my feet wet.

Some days it is all about resolve and inertia, pushing through, just to get things done. But other times, or most times, luck is involved. We got lucky yesterday. Lucky the tide was low. Lucky the weather was fine. Lucky we are healthy. Lucky that for the first time all year, everyone was released from schools early.


We shared a picnic lunch and watched the tide, an entire ocean of water, move gradually to the south and west. It made room for exploring and finding shells and for dancing. It made room for renewed energy and a sense of wonder.

Last year we were not so lucky. Every low tide came after dark or when we were immersed in other obligations... something always managed to keep us from exploring. As we taught Maria how to navigate the slippery rocks, to be aware of the anemones and scratchy barnacles, I realized it had been a very long time since Maria was in a tide pool.

Max loves the beach.

Alex loves the beach.

Maria loves the beach.

William loves the beach. We missed William.

Yes, it is January, our winter. Yes, we are really lucky. I love this picture for all it recalls, for the happiness, and I appreciate that mostly it will make people ask: What was the water temperature?! I believe it was about 59 degrees Fahrenheit, and the air temperature was roughly the same. We were cold-ish.

I love the beach. I love low tide and the things we are privileged to see when the sea is away. The wavy rocks.

Sea stars, orange and bumpy, hiding beneath a ledge, waiting.

Sand and water, discovery, freedom, even the cold... it's so invigorating and good.

We walked to the edge of the world, looking in to pools, finding crabs and fish, stones, shells, and life. Then we came back to our spot on the beach.

Alex and Maria brought out their pencils and paper.

And Max followed the tide.

I think he could use a wetsuit. His rash guard and shorts are fine in Hawaii, but 59 degrees is cold.

Beneath the clouds and sun, in the breakers, Max is floating and splashing and begging to stay out a few more minutes.

Freedom and Joy

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Friday, January 22, 2010

The Chicken's Court and Extreme Makeover :: Barn Edition

So. Last we saw our feathered friend, she was hanging out at the kitchen door, eye-balling Maria's boots and making a heartbreaking appeal to be let in out of the storm. She wanted me to be sympathetic and kindly, willing to bring her indoors, and pour her some tea, offer her the recliner, let her hold the remote. She refused to get back in her coop and I refused to open the kitchen door, so she braved the 80 mph wind gusts and weird weather almost all on her own.

I figured she was safer at the back of the house as any place and I wasn't going to worry about her or Joe, too much, but then came the alarming upgrade... the news that the storm was packing not 60 mph gusts, but 80 mph wind gusts and then I didn't feel like a hard-nosed farmer any more. Even though I had been monitoring the situation closely and regularly securing their "shelter," knocking barrels of water from the nylon covering, propping it up, it was obvious that my perspective has become a bit skewed. In fact she was probably much safer at the kitchen door than in her coop, because her coop has become a horrible, shameful, sorry sham of a shanty town.

Exhibit A :: The horrible, shameful, sorry sham of a shanty town-chicken coop and rabbit hut: West facing.

Prosecution: People, this is an outrage. This is not fit for a chicken, let alone a Lady. We can hardly make heads or tails of this cattywampus conflagration. Is it a shelter, or a scrap heap?

Defense: Hey. Hey. Settle down there. Our client has been working diligently and under tremendous duress, and she has made terrific allowances for Lady Betty Orpington. The family table was volunteered for a coop. They even brought Betty along on the Emergency road trip to Oregon. And what about the swift action taken to protect Lady Betty from those two freaky fowl who tormented her?

Exhibit B :: The horrible, shameful, sorry sham of a shanty town-chicken coop and rabbit hut: East facing.

Defense:Oh, gee whiz. We motion for a recess.

Prosecution: Willful and blatant podunk farming methods. This is a travesty. This hurts the eyes, and gives new meaning to embarrassing.

Defense: Bad weather. The weather beat the tar out of the shade, which was put up in consideration of the pets. This unfortunate image was taken after two storms that came in succession and in the midst of a third storm. While it may appear as though the farmer has been thoughtless and less than skillful in her barn raising, please do note that she made every effort to beautify and enhance the environ. Her resources, both monetary and skill-wise are, obviously, limited. But her intentions have been noble.

Exhibit C :: The horrible, shameful, sorry sham of a shanty town-chicken coop and rabbit hut: South side.

Defense: Alright already with the parade of ugly. She will make amends. Honest. On the first clear day, when she isn't sitting at robotics or folding socks, or loading the dishwasher while trying to figure out Kanji characters and detangle her daughter's hair, or making enchiladas for thirty people... on that day, she will make all of this beautiful. And safe. And lovely to behold. And until amends are made and the Suburban Farm Guild is satisfied, Betty is more than welcome to stay at the kitchen door with impunity, coddled even, and of course adored.

Agreed. Maria and I even put Joe in our mini hut and set him next to Betty. Out of the wind and rain, together and content, for now. The winds are howling and the "shelter" gets uglier with every blast.

What was I thinking? Honestly, it looked better before the bad weather, but clearly we are in need of an extreme barn makeover. At least I know my heart is in the right place, and once upon a time I did make them a respectable home.

Don't worry Lady Betty. We love you.

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Update: At approximately 10:57 PM, Thursday, January 21, 2010, amateur farmer, Natalie, left her bed and covers to rescue one rabbit, Joe E. Bunny, and a Lady Betty Orpington, from gale force winds, driving rain, hail, lightning and thunder. Assisting with flashlight duty was William, kind and tenderhearted son. Her husband, amateur farmer Geoff, stood in the kitchen thinking supportive thoughts. Betty and Joe slept in the bathroom. Betty is reported to be asking for a canopy bed.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Not One Bit of Progress
I hate to admit it. I hate for it to be true.
I have made not one bit of progress since my minor pity party post from yesterday.
It's sad.
It's true.
It's pitiful.

Maybe it's a bit harsh... maybe I have made some headway.
For one thing I took pictures around the house.
And I have been in the yard several times, checking drains and raising the roof. Not our roof. Over Joe and Betty's homes is a "protective" shelter and it has become more like a suspended pond as water fills up in the slack nylon. I get up under the shelter and push it from beneath, which causes a tsunami cascade of water to pour over the sides.

Yes, it's been raining.
Yes, there is mud and there are downed trees.
And yes, the rest of the nation must shake their heads and wonder why a little rain and wind can cause such a fuss. Why So Cal must be in the news at all just because of some precipitation.

Well, it's all relative. Consider our dry-droughty rain fall total last year was in the 5 inch range. Five inches es muy poco for a whole year. This week alone parts of our county have seen 2 inches of rain. That is a torrent in relative terms. And the wind has even kicked up a couple of tornados, and wind gusts of 60 mph. 80mph!! So, while this may be typical for some places, it is the atypical nature of these conditions that make it a rough ride, for us weather sheltered folks.

And the falling trees. Always a bit hairy, and, unfortunately, sometimes fatal. Once upon a time, a long time ago, some enterprising citizens thought they could cash in on a rail opportunity by growing timber for the railroad ties. Their tree of choice? Eucalyptus. It grows fast, tall too. So, they planted eucalyptus all over the county, which if you have ever driven around San Diego, you will remember seeing eucalyptus trees all over. Frankly, they grow like weeds. But they do not grow like railroad ties... meaning the lumber was not good for making those ties. So, no quick cash for the entrepreneurs, but lots and lots, of fast growing, quick spreading, good smelling, but local plant obliterating trees... trees that have an extremely shallow root system and tip over in water logged soil, especially in the wind. Also the branches snap like... like eucalyptus limbs. The end.

I have just one more flora trivia... I remember reading that humidity levels could be read by the look of pine cones. Tightly closed pine cones signified high humidity, and the open pines were dry and indicated low humidity. Like the eucalyptus story, I stored this tidbit away... maybe for a rainy day?

So, guess what?
It's true. It's visibly, amusedly true. And I realized it when I stepped out the front door and noticed my pine cone collection not looking like my pine cone collection...

One week ago I snapped a picture of my pine cones. At the time I was thinking of how much I wished it were still Christmas. How I still did not want to sweep away poinsettias, wreaths, pine fragrance, and snowmen dolls, peace on Earth and carols. It was a dry day and the pine cones looked just as I am accustomed to seeing them... open and almost parched in a grey dusted way.

Not today. Just where I left them, with one blown to the ground, they have shut themselves up. They are saturated with water. Just like our yard. Fascinating.

Is she still there?
Betty. Go home. Take shelter woman. Shoo.

I see.
Betty wants boots.
Dear Betty. Those boots are not your size, and think the pink would clash with your golden hue. Go home. I don't have time to coddle you. I have laundry to ignore, and other things to attend to... things left undone since yesterday and last year.

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