Thursday, August 28, 2014

Backyard Food, Flowers and Fun...Pluck the Day

In the last week of August,  the pears on the tree sing "carpe diem."  I have read that a more literal  translation of  "carpe" than the imperative  "to seize" is "to pluck."  
"Pluck the day"... it is ripe.

Our very old pear tree is still putting forth

Early Girl lived up to her name

Tomatoes ripening on the vine is something I had nearly forgotten about the last seven summers on the coast.  We had a few red tomatoes in time for Christmas in Carmel but Sebastopol sunshine has brought forth an abundance.

The strawberries have been providing
 a daily treasure hunt opportunity.  

The Golden Delicious tree was cut in half last year by a neighbor's falling  Incense Cedar tree.  The clean up crew phoned us down in Carmel and wanted to cut the  remaining half apple tree down.  I'm so glad I didn't take their advice.  Our half-a-tree is bearing beautiful apples who sing a saucier song...and sometimes call for pie.

 and flowers...the roses are still blooming...

And all that broken pottery I saved in Mark's shop...we hauled out the box and we've begun to fix a bird bath that was broken in our absence.  This is a very experimental repair and as it's for the birds I'm hoping they they won't mind if it's more goofy than artistic.   

May we pluck the day and give thanks, while it still yet August.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Story Quilt

Sometimes I have to make quite a mess to get the creative juices flowing.  Phoebe the cat wanted to be right in the middle of it all.  She is usually more help than not, except for when she wants to get right on top of projects to see if she really likes them. She thinks all little blankets must be for her, right?  Not this one, Phoebe.  So first I cut a pile of little squares, each centered on a picture.

I played around with various arrangements of the pictures I'd  cut out, and then I photographed them to use as a map for putting them together.

This is truly a scrap quilt, other people's scraps. I  bought the fabrics at a store that supports the local senior center by selling donated craft items.  You never know what or how much  you'll find. There were several times I wished I had just one more little piece of  this or that color or pattern but scraps force one to improvise.

One click makes these photos bigger then the back button returns you to the text.

Perhaps there is another name for this type of patchwork, but I call this a story quilt.  I hope the pictures of trees and whales and teddy bears, villages, churches, lighthouses and ducks, strawberries and polka dots inspire the imagination of the two little guys at the home where this quilt now flops around.  See the yellow squares that each depict a raccoon on either side of the watery blue?

I know that real raccoons aren't pink.  The same week in June that I  was stitching these fabric pictures together I met some real baby raccoons who were born in a box in a crawl space under my brother's house.  We were cleaning and packing for his upcoming move  when one of the boxes wiggled a bit... Hello! 

Patchwork top ready for the next step...that's when I slow down.
I think it might help me to dive into the messy process more often if I  keep a little log of the things I make.  I like the idea part of the process a lot.  I have fun pushing the elements into different patterns and then at a certain part of the actual construction I start to lose it.  It is a good thing babies are small and  that they aren't likely to complain that their blanket mixes pretend pinkish raccoons with giant strawberries and whales leaping in the waves.  

All freshened up and ready to mail...

I might have taken a better picture of it but I was just so happy it was now filled with 100 % cotton and machine quilted, stitched in the ditched style.  It was ready to go so I popped it in the mail.

My favorite picture of this quilt is actually the one I got back with a certain young fellow making use of it.

So that's the story of the little bears who one day visited the ocean but there's no need to stick to it.. we can make up a new one for nap time tomorrow.

Did you ever see that old 1948 movie "The Naked City"?  It ended with the line,  "There are eight million stories in the naked city, this has been one of them."  I suspect my little story quilt won't have quite that generative effect, but I do hope it will inspire some fun and wonder and maybe help me remember how much I enjoy ( most aspects of ) a sewing project.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Looking for the Real Thing? Stay Close to the Source

West of Highway 80 in Northern California there are still valleys where farm after ranch seems to be keeping it real.

                  I was glad to see this farmer wasn't wrapping his hay bales in white plastic as some of the Sonoma county farmers have begun doing. It isn't pretty to look at, it might leach into the hay and where will the plastic go when the bale is unwrapped?

Across the golden field a plume of dust alerted us to the baler on his green John Deere tractor.

These longhorns were not the least bit friendly.  Not one ambled to the fence, nor even looked up from their grazing. They like their grass green and plenty of it.

 Just around the corner the grape lines march up the hill. The grapes are so purple they almost look black.  The other side of the road is hedged thick with fig trees that dangle their fruit over the lane.
We found a ranch selling peaches and bought a box of tree ripened beauties.

                  The passenger  who sat in the back seat with the his momma could sit in front... started singing about bales of cotton and "if it had'na been for Cotton-eyed Joe I'd a been married a long time ago..."

And then we saw a crop we weren't sure what it certainly didn't look edible.

Such a rich color...we plucked a sample and sure enough, we'd found a field of cotton.

Just the day before I'd been searching for a nightgown that was not part but 100 % cotton.  Label after label disappointed me.   Cream is cream, butter is butter and cotton is cotton. Am I fussy or old fashioned?  I must be both, for synthetics and substitutes just don't cut it...

"You got a jump down, turn around
Pick a bale a cotton
Got a jump down, turn around
Pick a bale a day..."  

  Bucktown Lane  was a sweet road to of the farms near the end sells honey and eggs on the honor system.  The creek is edged with a tangle of roses with round red hips and blackberry bushes and we passed goats and donkeys and horses and the chickens wander wither they will.  And Grandma who had asked us to take her for a ride enjoyed it all, even though she couldn't remember why on earth we had wandered out there in the first place. Farm girl that she once was, it was she who made us figure out what that prickly looking crop was...soft lovely stuff is sometimes hidden behind  sharp and spiked exteriors, and that is certainly true of cotton.

When you are looking for something real... it helps to stay close to the source...

Hope  you have a real good day! 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Acorn Woodpeckers to Volcanoes ... Roll along on our Northern Cal to Reno Loop

While we do live definitely in Northern California, we don't live far enough north or east to see Mount Shasta until we mount up on our wheels and ride. And on June 17th we did just that. 
I don't remember what I was trying to capture at freeway speeds, but I caught this yellow truck.  It is a road trip...
Everything is green and gold as the road rolls north until suddenly from various vantage points, a white peak looms into view.
John Muir called her " ...a noble landmark...for all within a radius of 100 miles."
As you approach it's like peek-a-boo...
and I felt happy as a child waiting for the next sudden glimpse around a bend.
It is actually 4 overlapping volcanic cones  rising 14,179 feet
  Black Butte is a lava dome satellite cone of Mount Shasta and has already lost any frosting she may have had this last winter and spring.
Looking north east at the Butte's 6334 feet

We were treated to some very unexpected super gracious hospitality by dear family friends who live right close to Black Butte.  The family tour guide, already a near expert and not yet five years old, also had much to share.
Beyond Shasta, traveling north on old highway 99...the valley was quiet.

We kept stopping to look back at Mt. Shasta and Black Butte .

I took 191 photographs Tuesday and Wednesday...lots had to just be deleted.  None of my photos are great...but the subjects themselves keep me trying. At the ranch, the home of one of my brothers and
 his dear happy-to-have-her-new-horse wife, I watched birds flock to a second-story-balcony-isolated-from the-cat  bird feeding station.  I saw a lot of sharing, birds of different feathers fed together.  In an hour's time I saw 4 acorn woodpeckers, a pair of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, several Rufus sided Towhees, a lone Nuthatch, a very large woodpecker that I think was a female Red-shafted Flicker, several Quail, Black Birds, Red-winged Blackbirds, Blue Jays, Banded Doves and at the adjacent feeder, Honeybees and Hummingbirds. Alas, the bird photos were  taken through the window glass.

Acorn Woodpeckers
Remember you can click on the photos to see them enlarged.  

The pastures of the ranch and the Marble Mountains

The pond outside the guesthouse.

Water Iris in the pond.

View past the chicken house on the left and greenhouse on the right from the guest house.

Well...we better keep moving....yes there are horses and goats, one sheep, two dogs, one cat  and beaver in the creeks and osprey diving into the ponds to snack on fish...but we had also promised to visit some extended family in Reno.  So, after pancakes on the ranch, we got on the road, turned back toward Mount Shasta and then east toward the historic timber and railroad town of McCloud.
Generations of hard workers have lived in this town.
We had checked with Uncle Google and learned that the road was open through Lassen Park; and you know, volcanoes have their draw.  The Ranger pamphlets say that Lassen Volcanic National Park is "a valuable laboratory of volcanic events and hydrothermal features."   I think that rather euphemistic language.  Only 100 years ago this peak blew a huge cloud of ash over 30,000 feet into the air; hot stuff, these volcanoes. Hat Creek travels that neighborhood too.  Hat Creek looks quiet now, but ...

Hat Creek not as high as it might be,
 but still a lovely sight

Hat Creek 

"On the  night of May 19, 1915, the few people homesteading outside of Old Station along Hat Creek near the foot of Lassen Peak, a volcano in northern California, went to bed expecting a peaceful night’s sleep. By now they had become accustomed to the sounds of small steam explosions coming from the volcano, which had been intermittently active during the past year. Around midnight, Elmer Sorahan

 was awakened by his dog barking furiously and pawing him. Dressing quickly, Elmer went outside, expecting a bear or other animal. Instead, he dimly saw a 12-foot-high wall of muddy water and logs rumbling down Hat Creek. After running more than a mile to warn his downstream neighbors, the Halls, he burst through their front door exhausted and shouting “Get out! get out! there’s a flood coming.” Mrs. Hall quickly spread the alarm downstream by telephone, and then the family scrambled uphill just before the house was swept off its foundation.
The next morning residents of the area saw that a wide swath of the northeast slope of Lassen Peak had been devastated by a huge avalanche and mudflow triggered by a powerful explosion at the volcano’s summit. Fortunately, because of the warnings, no one was killed, but several houses along the creek were destroyed. When Lassen Peak erupted again on May 22nd, the area was further devastated by a high-speed flow of hot volcanic ash and gas (called a “pyroclastic flow”), and the incorporation of snow into this flow generated new mudflows. Ash from the eruption rose high into the air and wind blew it eastward. Fine ash fell at least as far as 200 miles from the volcano. Because of the eruptive activity, which continued through 1917, and the area’s stark volcanic beauty, Lassen Peak and the area surrounding it were declared a National Park in 1916."  ( from the .S. Geologic Survey

Lassen is one of the world's largest plug dome volcanoes
Yikes, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill to set aside Yosemite Valley to the state of California to be held for public recreation..."inalienable for all time," because of its  unique beauty....but  Congress declared the entire Lassen area a national park because it is a bit of a hot spot!  Park brochures use words like "stark beauty" rather frequently and there are areas in the park with signs that read "Devasted Area."

But it is indeed a beautiful area...and perhaps some day we can visit longer...but we were on a mission and though we stopped here and there we were just passing through.

Just outside of Reno where the traffic really flies...I stuck my camera outside the window ( the passenger window of course, I wasn't driving at this point)  and aimed it westward .... we were entering the desert and  the last stop before we turned back toward home.  

And thus ends my roll along, hope you've enjoyed the trip. I did.
best wishes!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Book Review: What I Saw in California by Edwin Bryant 1848

I am near the end of  reading  What I Saw in California   by Edwin Bryant, pub.1848.  

His journey begins  when he leaves his home in Louisville Kentucky on the 18th of April, 1846  and his journal begins when he reaches the town of Independence, Missouri where he will buy a yoke of oxen and  yoke himself up with other travelers set to leave for the west on May 1st, 1846. 

It is a real log, as he says, "My design is to give a truthful  and not an exaggerated and fanciful account of the occurrences of the journey, and of the scenery, capabilities and general features of the  countries through which we shall pass, with incidental sketches of the leading characteristics of their populations."(p. 18) 

 I have enjoyed his documentation greatly.  Without my having to more than imagine the incredible toil,  he took me, with his words, across plains and over mountains, through wet nights on cold ground. He shared the taste of limpid waters, cold springs joyfully found, the comfort of bird song in lonely corridors, the relief of finding grasses rich with nourishment for their animals, and the heft and potential of soils he described as argillaceous ( Yes, I had to look this word up!).   

    It is June 22nd, 2014 as I write my post.  By the third week of  June in 1846, Bryant's party had already changed out oxen for mules and horses and reached the Platte River in Nebraska where they camp, the night of  summer solstice,  on the river banks  about three miles from a 300 to 500 foot high and mile wide rock formation known as "Chimney Rock"  that has been in their sight all day.  Mr. Bryant thought it looked much like architectural ruins and although he describes it rather well, as he does all the environs, he writes this the following day.

"June 22- The rain poured down in torrents about one o'clock this morning. and the storm continued to rage with much violence for several hours...
If I could I would endeavor to describe to the reader by the use of language, a picture presented this morning at sunrise, just as we were leaving our encampment, among these colossal ruins of nature.  But the essay would be in vain.  No language, except that which is addressed directly to the eye, by the pencil and brush of the artist, can portray even a faint outline of its almost terrific sublimity.  A line of pale and wintry light behind the stupendous ruins, ( as they appeared to the eye,) served to define their innumerable shapes, their colossal grandeur, and their gloomy and mouldering magnificence. Over us and resting upon the summits of these, were the black masses of vapor, whose impending weight appeared ready to fall and crush every thing beneath them...." ( p.103)

I was encouraged by this book as to the value of simple daily writing.  I was reminded of the great efforts many made to come to a land that is so often taken for granted and despoiled rather than appreciated and stewarded as it should be.  And when Edwin Bryant ends his daily scribbling with an estimate of the miles traveled " Distance 10 miles." I  hardly know what to feel.  I am one who can traverse so many miles so quickly and not even feel the wind or weather in my air conditioned car...amazing...and yet...

Black Butte a 6334 ft lava dome in the Cascade Range of California  

I intend to next post photographs of a trip we recently made in that car to visit Grandma Beth  then some friends, on to my brother and his wife on their  ranch  near the Oregon border and then, by way of  Mount Lassen Park, east to Reno, Nevada to some aunties. Imagine how many words Edwin Bryant might have dispensed with if he had downloadable pixels at his disposable.  Maybe I will let the wordy Mr. Bryant influence me, and I'll web-log away as the slide show unfolds.  But this review, meant to entice you to a good read, is all for this morn. (Distance...oh, so many miles) 

with best wishes,

Page references to paper back ( ISBN 0-8032-6070-9) Complete work  also available for free on line at

Sunday, May 11, 2014

May the Roses Keep Blooming


                                               and foxglove and strawberries....

These are a few of the roses in my garden .  Roses are blooming all over town and up and down the country roads.  You can click on any of these photos for a larger view...

In the neighboring town of Petaluma, I saw a tree that had such lovely flowers that it distracted me from

looking at its leaves which would have told me instantly it was a  buckeye tree.  The clue of five palmate leaves finally broke through to me. However, in my defense, this is not the native California buckeye that I  have known all my life, but a bright multi-colored showy flowering cultivar.  Once these bright flowers  had my attention I began seeing these trees all over Petaluma.   It might just have been me a having a "frequency illusion" or it may be that once someone sees these trees blooming they have to plant one too.

                                                                     Later that day a quieter smaller flower got my attention...hey look down here at your where you are walking.   A friend had thrown open her new rental house to celebrate earning her teaching credential. The landlord mows the grasses, but it isn't exactly a lawn and there they were. Several people asked me if I knew what they were.     Brodiaea came to my mind but not quite to my tongue. The flowers were so close to the ground I wasn't sure.  So I  snapped their picture and later scoured through my wildflower books...and I think that is indeed what they are..a form of Brodiaea, little wild lilies...that can vary  from a few inches in height to sixteen inches depending on conditions.  They tend to bloom as the grasses begin drying...and you know that is what will happen next...the green grasses are going to dry.  Here in California we have had an early fast spring, very little rain, and now  lots of roses and  soon the green rolling hills of the Redwood Empire will turn golden.
There  once was a wild flower of a woman, a local musician named Kate Wolf, who sang sweetly of the golden hills of California; if you like, you could take a listen here:   the Golden Rollin' Hills of California

May the roses keep blooming...