Tuesday, September 30, 2014

creature feature: alligator lizard

thanks to the cats i've seen several examples of the california alligator lizard, Elgaria multicarinata multicarinata.  unfortunately most of the specimens they've shared with me were sans tail---though usually otherwise unharmed.  

the colors and patterns of the scales are quite lovely.

i don't mind picking up the smaller ones barehanded but the larger ones give me the willies a little bit and sometimes i have to put on a glove to handle them.  and the only time i handle any at all is to rescue them from the cats.  the tails come off pretty easily so they shouldn't be handled unless it's really necessary.  they can also voluntarily detach the tail if they feel threatened.  the other reason i'm sometimes reluctant to pick them up ungloved when they're upset is the other defense mechanism they often use---emptying their bowels ( cloaca technically) and smearing the very foul smelling goo onto whatever critter is hassling them---yes, it's happened to me and i'd like not to repeat the experience.

the guy pictured above was pretty big but i once saw one at least twice the size at the friedland ranch---that one was a little scary.  apparently they can grow up to a foot long and get quite broad-bodied.  i think more than anything it's the triangular shaped head that triggers a primal fear mechanism in me---slithery things with triangular heads are often deadly dangerous and i've had enough encounters with rattlesnakes to make me a bit wary of any creature with a similar appearance.
i'm happy to see the alligator lizards here (always good to have lizards in the garden) and i hope enough of them avoid the cats and keep the local population humming along.

you can learn more about the california alligator lizard, Elgaria multicarinata multicarinata
here:  http://www.californiaherps.com/lizards/pages/e.m.multicarinata.html

Monday, September 29, 2014

cats in the garden

for the most part i'm not a big fan of cats in the garden.  they can be pretty destructive.  napping on seedlings, using garden beds as a toilet, chewing plant stems.  but sometimes they make good critter control, catching gophers and grasshoppers.  and sometimes they're just good company.

billy occasionally joins me in the garden but jack has made it part of his daily routine.  this morning i was squatted checking out some of the recently transplanted greens and jack jumped up and perched on my shoulders---once there he proceeded to groom/style my hair for me.

satisfied with his work he then gave himself a quick bath.

i think it's a good look for me

relaxed on my shoulder for a minute.

then wound his way down and snuggled himself around my leg.

holding me captive with his horrid little hooks.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


we had some steady rain overnight ( 0.7") and we just had a really good downpour. 

we use trash cans to collect rainwater from the roof.  unfortunately they only hold about 33 gallons and a good rain will easily fill a can in under 10 minutes.

diverting to can number 2

coming down nice and steady now.  lovely.

now they have six

caleb sent me a picture of my new niece...


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Monday, September 22, 2014


staal has started teaching me pottery.  he taught pottery at a junior college many years ago.  he's a good teacher (and a good potter), he's giving me examples and guidance and plenty of room to make lots of mistakes.  mistakes are important.   i always thought about taking a pottery class at merced college when i was studying there but never got around to it---kind of happy i didn't now, i think learning from staal is going to be a lot more fun (it's already been lots of fun) and i think i can learn a lot more from him than i could in a class.  learning at home with constant access to my teacher  means i can take it slowly and really get a good feel for it all.  
*i have such a crush on my instructor.

mr. staal, my pottery teacher
right now i'm trying to get the basics down as well as i can.  i'm wedging and centering and starting to practice throwing cylinders.  it's messy and challenging---two things i enjoy.

wedging works the air bubbles out of the clay, makes it more consistent, and helps align the particles.


centering is pretty much like it sounds---getting the clay centered on the wheel so it can be thrown.  sounds simple and looks really easy when staal does it but it takes a lot of practice to actually be able to do it---i still have much work to do on this one.

getting a feel for center

i'm really good at making these...

slippery gob of goo

the little wheel pictured above is the one i'm working with.  it has an electric motor with a little foot pedal (like a sowing machine pedal) to control the speed.  staal has been building himself a kick wheel like one he built and used years ago.  i find it a bit intimidating and i'm quite happy learning on the not-so-scary portable wheel.

staal's wheel has an electric motor he scavenged out of an abandoned swamp cooler that was sitting out behind the mill office---he rigged up belts and pulleys and a foot pedal to control the speed.

view of the underside

i can't wait to see the things he makes with his new wheel.  it was fun watching him demonstrate on the little wheel i'm using---he makes it look so easy.

beautiful to watch

staal got us some glazes to try out and ordered some clay which should be here by the end of the month.  we lucked out and got a good deal on a barely-used electric kiln at a yard sale.

staal testing the kiln after wiring it into the electrical panel

i made staal a chop for marking his pots...

chop carved in stone

it's kind of a hybrid between staal's demon potworks from his gilroy days...

and the staal double a/melina m, that he used when he made some plates and cups for me back in our courtship---a symbol that has sort of become our "brand" as a couple...

bottom of my favorite plate

looks like we're in pretty good shape to start making some pottery in the near future.  i'm excited to be learning something new.   think it's going to be a lot of fun.  thank you, staal, for being my teacher.