Thursday, March 27, 2014


we had an interesting experience this evening.  i was getting zane's dinner ready and staal called me over to the woodstove where he was getting ready to build a fire.  there was a little bird huddled in the front corner of the firebox.  she was pretty calm and probably pretty confused. 

female western bluebird avoiding the hot spots in the woodstove

she stayed still and i was able to get her in my hand without any trouble.

zane was hoping for a snack

she's a beautiful little bluebird---and very lucky she didn't get cooked.  she must have found a way in through the chimney---maybe looking for a place to build a nest.  or maybe she's not a bluebird, maybe she's the mythological phoenix reborn in the ashes of our little woodstove.  happy to have met her and i hope she doesn't come back.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

he's amazing

staal's always working hard making this place nicer for us.  he's got a lot of skills and a thoughtful mind (and a lot of energy) that he puts to good use everyday. 

so here's what he's been doing lately:

we got a 2500 gallon water storage tank delivered to us about a week and a half ago.  a storage tank is good insurance when all your water comes from a well.  staal did some shopping and research and got us a good quality tank.  

the tank is behind the garage where it will be near the well and protected from the sun.

tank inspector or too many beers?

the well drilling company that we got the tank from does installations but staal decided it'd be fun to design and plumb (instaal) the system himself---best way to get it exactly how he wants it and get it done well.

plotting and scheming

the last time staal lived in mariposa (20 years ago) he worked as a carpenter/contractor and collected a fair amount of plumbing goodies from various jobs including an assortment of valves and fittings and a booster pump that will be of use in the new system and will save several hundred dollars.

the tanks don't come with any holes in them other than the manhole/access hole at the top which is actually a good thing if you're doing your own custom system.  the tank has nice heavy walls and takes a powerful drill and a bit of muscle to get through.

using my papa's old drill

staal decided to plumb the tank with a drain in the bottom (just in case) and an access point for the fire department (also just in case).

the plumber and his apprentice

he's gotten a lot of work done including some of the electrical wiring for the floats (there are two floats inside the tank that monitor the water level and tell the well pump when to come on and shut off) and booster pump.

once he gets a few more pieces and parts from the local supplier and the rain stops (we're getting a decent rain today) he can finish getting things put together---and start working on my greenhouse.

doesn't seem to be anything the man can't do.  building, fixing, plumbing, electrical, cooking, pottery, art, poetry etc.

he grills a mean steak

i'm grateful for everything he does and grateful to have such a wonderful and loving person to share this life with.  he's amazing.

perspective/purrspective (for jack)

there's no one way about any of it,
everything is really just a matter of perspective,
for example:
i see the raised beds i built in the garden as a place for growing vegetables,
you see them as the biggest, most irresistibly luxurious, litter boxes imaginable,
certain that they must have been constructed especially for you,
i can understand how you might see it that way,
it's not wrong exactly,
it's a difference of perspective,
but i still wish you wouldn't do that in the asparagus

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


there is a colony of honey bees that has been living in the wall of the mill office since at least the time we moved here last year.  kind of neat.  kind of unnerving sometimes.  they've been enjoying the warm weather and the bounty of flowers that are in bloom.

here's a video of them buzzing in and out of the mill office...

Monday, March 24, 2014

thinking of family

just finished sowing cucumber and summer squash seeds and thought i'd take a short break.  the weather is beautiful---sunny, warm, a slight breeze through the wind chime.  i'm lucky.  very.  i don't know how it all happened but i'm grateful.  i live in a beautiful place with an amazing person.  my life is quiet and self-paced.  i have a lot of time to think and reflect and i often think of family (to me family is everyone i care for---related or not).  a big part of why i like to garden is being able to grow good food and feed the people i care about.  i probably think most about the person who's fed me the most in my life and how i'd like to do the same for her now that i can.   i love living where i do---the only thing i don't like about it is not seeing my family very often.  i get to missing them sometimes---and even though i'm grown i especially miss my mama.  

taking a little break in the garden

Friday, March 21, 2014


yesterday was the first day of spring.  it was a busy one for us---we spent much of the day running errands in mariposa but we did take a little walk on our 6 to see what was blooming...



shooting star

indian warrior


lots of rushing around while we were in town but we stopped to relax and had a nice meal at the sugar pine.

 happy spring, everyone.

Monday, March 17, 2014


a few pictures in honor of st. patrick's day...

new zealand white clover
not too likely there are any with four leaves in there but they make a lovely ground cover in the garden.

occasionally it'll put out clovers with red leaves

the clover may not be lucky but this guy was...

i found this little guy (a pacific tree frog---never once have i seen one actually in a tree) hanging out in the end of my watering wand.  he's lucky i found him before i attached it to the hose.  he was kind enough to pose for some photos before exiting the wand.

happy st. patrick's day.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

three days in the delta

three days in the delta,
a three-hour drive from 3,000ft to 3,
we wind down out of the mountains in a rented truck,
leaving our little house in the pines,
leaving the oaks and rust-red road cuts,
and fall in line along the deep slit of 99,
cutting it's way up the valley,
tract homes and malls and industrial parks crowded along its flanks,
the smell of fast food and car exhaust in heavy air,
and the palpable jangle and frenzy as we rush past it all,
somewhere along the way my eyes begin to feel swollen and itchy,
there's a constant tickle in my nose,
and a haze settles over my brain,
after nearly three hours on the road, we pull onto 12 and the scenery shifts again,
orchards and fields,
sloughs and canals full of cattails and flocks of waterfowl bobbing or wading,
the delta smells of mud and decaying vegetation and salt,
a sort of living brine,
distinct and damp and not unpleasant,
we cross bridges, then drive along the river as we near our destination,
i try, but am unable, to clear the haze from my head,
there will be a lot of work to do when we arrive,
at the far away house from a far away life,
but somehow (for me, at least) the drive feels like the most wearying of it all,
i don't mind the packing and lugging and cleaning up,
it's harder on you,
not the physical work,
at nearly 70 you've still got the strength and stamina to put in a full day,
and your son has come to help,
it's the emotional strain,
there's a psychic toll paid when one comes into contact with a past life,
sorting through the belongings of some former self,
the memories evoked by each relic,
the questions,
the decisions,
it wears on you,
i do what i can to help,
packing boxes, cleaning up the house and yard, taking care of meals and dishes,
i don't feel like it's enough,
but i don't know what else i can do,
the house was your home,
where you lived with a love now passed,
and children now grown,
the decisions are not mine to be made,
and so it falls to you,
though i'd gladly bear the burden of it all just to keep that shining smile on your face,
but i suppose we don't get to choose these things,
our trials,
we do what we must,
and the lessons become apparent at some point,
which is something worth the difficulty,
something to be grateful for,
i admire your strength and resilience,
as we rummage through the past,
packing it in boxes and loading it in a truck,
parts of it will merge with the present and our life together,
parts of it will be cast off,
there is some nostalgic spell hanging over it all,
broken by practicality and immediacy,
and so we finish loading the truck,
and get back on the road,
the road to our home,
the road to the present,
we drive through the country for a while to avoid the worst of the traffic,
we pass orchards in bloom,
and little farmhouses,
with little farmhouse porches,
and screen doors that squeak (probably),
like the ones we used to dream about before we got our place,
then back on 99,
nothing but a blur this time,
finally we reach 140,
the scenic two-lane that will take us winding back into the foothills,
back to our little house in the pines,
and as we ascend i feel my head start to clear

Monday, March 10, 2014


staal's 1934 ford flatbed came home today.  he had a guy bring it over from isleton on a truck.  it's  beautiful and it looks like it belongs here.  staal was excited and happy to see it today.

staal took me and zane for a little drive around the property.  it was fun.  zane loved it---he was hanging halfway out the window taking in the sights and smells.

the happy motorist

they look good in there

once it's registered and insured we'll have to cruise into mariposa now and then.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

soil blocks

today i made a bunch of two inch soil blocks so i could give some baby greens and lettuces a bit more room to root and leaf out  before they get planted out in the garden.  the seedlings i shifted were from seeds sown into 3/4" soil blocks last month.  i like planting in soil blocks---the plants develop really nice root systems from being air pruned.  the blocks also make it really easy to transplant and i don't have to deal with a bunch of plastic cell trays or containers that just end up as trash.  the blocks do tend to be a bit on the heavy side since i put actual soil in the mix (along with compost or rotted horse manure and sometimes some organic potting soil).  regular plastic propagation trays don't take that kind of weight very well and will twist and crack when they get moved around.  a couple of years ago i built a bunch of wooden propagation flats with wire mesh bottoms (shown below) so i wouldn't have to keep buying the plastic ones.  they've held up very nicely using them with the soil blocks and i've found they work well for drying fruit and herbs too.

2"soil blocker and flat partially filled with 2" soil blocks

my 2" soil blocker (shown above) is fitted with plugs inside that make 3/4" impressions in the tops of the blocks.

inside of 2" soil blocker showing 3/4" plugs

here's a short video of how it works...

i shifted close to two-hundred seedlings this afternoon.

made a couple of friends while i was at it.

a pill bug i rescued from being encapsulated in a soil block

sneaky cut-worm snoozing between soil blocks

it was a great afternoon.

Monday, March 3, 2014


i was out in the garden and noticed the sage plant was looking a bit rangy so i whacked it back this afternoon.  i've had this plant for a few years and i cut it back pretty hard in early spring each year to rejuvenate it.  sage is an easy herb to grow and has a flavor that goes well with lots of foods.  it's quite aromatic which makes it unpalatable to a lot of critters---haven't ever had any insect problems and the deer don't seem to find it attractive either.


post prune

i brought the prunings into the kitchen and stripped off the leaves.  i left leaves on the tips of some of the straighter stems and kept them for cuttings so i can get some more plants going.

cuttings left, leaves for the kitchen on the right

i ended up with way too many leaves to be able to use them fresh so i spread them out to dry on propagation flats lined with paper towels.

by the time i got done my hands were pretty well seasoned and i smelled quite delicious.