In the Company of Friends

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In repose.  On the gravel.  In the sun.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

We are lucky. We have friends. Specifically, we have made friends here in the desert, in the middle of nowhere. This is our fifth season here, so I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise to me, but it always is. As folks arrive at this park, they are greeted like rock stars. There are big smiles and hugs, and our entrance was no exception. It is a wonderful feeling and I am humbled to be remembered and thrilled to have people around to say Hi! to and chat about life. I’m probably flattering myself as we are an odd group with a boisterous one, a quiet one, an exasperated one, and a lovely sweet tempered Doberman. We might be memorable for all the wrong reasons. Not unlike the “Griswolds” of movie fame, we move in, spread out, and get to business. I’m sure in our own hapless way, we provide endless entertainment for those around us.

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Sweet and VERY active Joey.  He likes everyone.

Of course, Stella has made friends here, although most of them have been more of the 2-legged variety and consist of the people belonging to the 4-legged folk. Joey the Standard Poodle is back, as are Bobby, who probably doesn’t consider any of us his friend, and Scarlet across the street, who isn’t a fan of the big dogs, either.

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Stella and Bobby.  He’s not really that excited to see Stella.

It’s impolite to have “favorites,” but our beloved Axle, the Doberman, is back. Stella gave him a polite, but cool reception; we gave him many pats and loves. He is a dear, sweet, long-legged boy, but Stella is not one to be easily impressed.

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Stella and Axel. Stella is more interested in the little dog in Mary’s arms. He’s not interested in her.

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And…..a close up of the little dog in Mary’s arms, who is definitely not a Stella fan.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dog develop such an instant or impressive “mohawk.”  I think this doggie was able to make every hair on its body stand at attention.  He was/is NOT a member of the Stella fan club.

We have taken up a new activity that combines the best of both the two and four-legged variety of folks. Our friends Dick, Helen, and Barb walk their respective dogs Dakota, Bentley, and Molly at 7:00 every night and Craig, Stella, and I have been joining them. We take a casual stroll through the park, chatting and allowing the dogs to take care of their “business.” (FYI: Unlike many of our fellow campers, we all pick-up after our dogs.) It is a great evening nightcap and makes sleep come almost immediately upon head hitting the pillow. As for Stella, she is EXHAUSTED after this adventure. It increases her workload exponentially, having to take responsibility for another three adults AND their dogs. Upon arrival back at the Hag, she drinks copious amounts of water, lies down in her comfy bed, and falls dead asleep. Immediately. All of our Dobies have had difficulties taking an evening walk, so this was not surprising to us. Wiley was fretful when we took him out at night, but dear departed Jack was definitely in a class of his own. He was on patrol, and I say this in the most militaristic of terms. He was out for blood. It wasn’t pleasant for any of us, and being quick learners, we let go of that exercise almost immediately, before carnage could become our next major problem.

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Evening walk.  That’s the bocce ball court to the right.  They like to play this at night.  (and during the day)

We have always felt that poor night vision coupled with the need to protect simply kills the joy this activity should bring. It is said that the neuro-typical brain needs 10-12 repetitions to cement a task as a learned behavior, so we figure that in another week this nightly walk will become easier. And just in case you were wondering, the non neuro-typical brain takes 100-110 repetitions to become a learned behavior. Just a little something to ponder as you go about your day.

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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

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Feet on the ground

Note: This is a “Troll-Free Zone,” and here is what I mean by that: Some may view this post as being political in nature, and if this seems like it may be offensive to you, then please don’t read any further. This is my personal blog, these are my personal views, and I ask that you respect this.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Ghandi

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Yes, I am currently residing in the desert in the middle of nowhere, but this weekend I left our little exiled paradise and went to Portland, Oregon to be with my daughter and my son. It was a journey of a thousand miles, and the single step that started it all occurred sometime back in December, with the advent of the Women’s March on Washington DC. My daughter and I very briefly discussed attending, but quickly abandoned that idea, as the logistics seemed somewhat insurmountable for both of us. Portland was one of the earlier cities to join forces with a sister march, and the dye was cast. I bought my ticket home. We would march together, my daughter and I. Sadly, my son had to work and wasn’t able to physically join us. He was with us in spirit.

The Portland Women’s March was expected to draw 30,000 people, which in and of itself is quite a remarkable feat. We were, in fact, 100,000 strong. ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND people joined together in a peaceful, unanimous voice. And, in case you missed the news, this march was one of hundreds of such events around the globe. It is estimated that well over TWO MILLION people participated.

 

It was the experience of a lifetime. People lined the bridges with signs, flags, and cheers. They hung out of parking garages. They lined the streets. To be surrounded and supported and to know I wasn’t alone, nor was my daughter alone, was perhaps the most humbling, empowering, and uplifting experience of my life. We chanted, we sang, we laughed, we cried.

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We marched with our friends, Debra and her daughter Sarah

There were so many families who brought their children; it was impossible to look into those young eyes and not be moved.

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There were women older than me, some in wheelchairs, walkers, or scooters that traveled the march route. The resolve, conviction, and POWER in the shear numbers was overwhelming. We were on that day, and on every day that follows, one voice that cannot be silenced. Because we are love, and love conquers hate.

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This day marked the beginning of our uphill battle to save the things we hold dear. These “things” were quite evident by the variety of signs. Women’s reproductive rights were certainly in the forefront, as were the issues surrounding the environment, kindness, water, black lives, health care, and LGBTQ rights. What is important in the days ahead is not necessarily the selective focus on one issue, but the ability for us to divvy up the tasks and focus on the area that best suits our strengths and abilities. We can do this. We have fought these battles before.   Let’s vow to make this the last time. It is the gift I wish to leave for my daughter and son, and all those who come after me.

 

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It Has Rained Like Hell in Northern California

Friday, January 13, 2017

In case you were wondering, it is almost unimaginable how much rain has fallen in poor drought ridden California. As we made our way down I-5 towards Bakersfield there was standing water on either side of the highway. Fields that were previously bone dry were under 3+ feet of water. So much water, and it’s everywhere. Our hope is that the snow pack and rain will ease the drought cycle. California feeds us all and they need water to do it. Perhaps the flooding is a bit much for as we all know; water where it’s not wanted is never a good thing.

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We spent the night at the Orange Grove RV Park and the oranges were as wonderful as always. Dad and I picked a couple of bags of the juicy delights and made it back inside the Hag before the rain started. We ate some for dinner because that’s what you do when presented with the world’s best oranges fresh from the tree. And we dined on them again the next morning with our complimentary donuts. The Orange Grove is really one of the highlights of the trip. We can’t get enough of those wonderful oranges.

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Orange picker

As we set sail for our final destination, (the dear Fountain of Youth RV Park) once again the weather was the suspected crisis of the day. Snow was predicted on the Tehachapi’s, the final mountain pass of the trip. It didn’t actually snow as we went through, but it was cold, and then we had rain. It started raining in San Bernardino and continued for the entire days journey.

Perhaps the most “interesting” event was the drive on Highway 111. Rain had come to the desert on New Year’s Eve in the form of a storm that dumped 2” in 2 hours. (The stories vary on this point, but it was at least an inch of rain in an hour’s time.) The ground on either side of the highway was marked with opportunistic creeks and rivulets that occurred with this monsoon. Water had crossed the highway in multiple spots.

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Water.  It’s running across the highway.  And, “there’s a train.”

This highway follows the lay of the land, which would be up and down, not like hills and valleys, but more like something my dear civil engineer Father would have avoided AT ALL COSTS. Since half of the road lies in Riverside County and the other half in Imperial County, maybe the powers that be couldn’t agree on what to do. Or, maybe because it leads to the end of the world, they just didn’t care. In the best of weather, it makes for a challenging experience, but on this day it happened to be raining. Not necessarily a downpour, but more of a heavy steady rain. Every little “valley” on the road was filled with water. As luck would have it, we ended up right behind a semi truck, moving at top speed through these water filled troughs. The Hag and its driver were happy to follow behind. The thought was that, “If he could make it through then so could we.”

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Here we are, in the Hag, driving through the water.  The semi we were following is far ahead of us.

Even though the water appeared to be in the range of about 3”-6” in depth, it made quite a sound as we made our way through at 50 mph. Stella did not enjoy this and hunkered down on the floor and shook. I sat on the floor next to her, rubbing her ears in an attempt to assure her that all would eventually be fine. To comply with honesty in reporting, which I try to do, I’m pretty sure these calming techniques are as much for me as they are for her. It’s a job for both of us, and we understand and appreciate the significance of this task.

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It’s blurry, but you get the idea.

Having successfully skirted disaster once again, we reached FOY around 2:00 in the afternoon. The dear Hag saw us safely here, and will now take her respite in the sun. She wears her badge of courage in the form of a thin layer of dusty mud that coats her sides. Another bout of rain is predicted in the upcoming week, so maybe this will all take care of itself, as it should.

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The sun sets on another day here in the middle of nowhere.

 

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Inclement Weather and Other Things That Cause Angst

 

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

With the holidays over and the dismal days of January upon us, our thoughts have turned to a sojourn to warmer parts. With this idea in mind, so begins year FIVE of this annual journey to the end of the world. Originally, we planned to leave on January 2, but we had a snow and ice storm that arrived on New Year’s Eve, coupled with news delivered a few days prior that one set of Dad’s renters would be moving out ON New Year’s Eve. This unfortunate turn of events dropped weather-related things down a couple of places on the list of worries, and we occupied our “free time” dealing with things related to the rental. There is nothing like cleaning and scrubbing to take your mind off everything else, and by “everything else” I mean things like putting away the holiday stuff and packing.

As we cleaned the aforementioned rental, we watched the weather reports. Actually, we became obsessed with the weather; specifically what was happening on all mountain passes on I-5 heading south. As a side note, some years ago I crossed the Siskiyou Pass at night, in a blinding snowstorm, with my head hanging out the window attempting to locate the edge of the road while the driver merrily barreled down the highway. I was younger then, and so was the driver, and we were in a car, not a motor home towing a car. This event was as wild as it sounds and is not a scenario I wish to repeat. Ever. With age, the will to survive exceeds the need for adventure, or something like that. So, decent weather on our trip south is somewhat of a high priority for me.

But, to our dismay, as one storm passed another one moved right in behind it. We had reports from family members of snow and ice in southern Oregon and northern California. There were “Severe Winter Weather Advisories,” and “Wind Warnings,” and “Flood Watches.” It was a becoming a weather apocalypse.

There were some in my little group that just wanted to GO, and thought we could “wait out the storm” in an RV park down the road. This wasn’t an idea I was in favor of, but after a week of more casual packing than serious preparations for a 2-month exile, it seemed like something needed to happen. This coincided with my discovery that I was “half-packed,” the most dangerous of all situations to be in. After two weeks of “casual packing” I was not so sure what I had packed and what hadn’t yet jumped aboard the dear old Hag. Sometimes this leads to leaving things behind; this time I do believe it may have contributed to a little over-packing. So. Much. Stuff. And, it’s everywhere. Not to worry, I am prepared for any sewing or crafting adventure that may (or may not) come my way. I haven’t totally lost my direction.

And so we began our little dance of “Yes, we’ll leave today,” followed by “No, not today, it’s snowing on the Siskiyou Pass.” After several days of going back and forth we seized a brief window between storms and made our exit. We left the farm Tuesday morning with little patches of snow on the ground, and headed into rain. Lots of rain. Night #1 was spent at Seven Feathers RV Park where good fortune occurred in the form of “Taco Tuesday” and not much else. Good luck did not extend to the casino activites.

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Not too much snow left on the ground on the day we left the farm.

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Stella in her traveling sweater.  It gets cold in the Hag, so I made a little something to keep her warm as we motor along.

The following day was the “day of big worry” for the Daisie group, as the next leg of the trip involved crossing the mountain passes. It is with a huge sigh of relief that I report: I-5 was wet, but not icy. Snow was on the side of the road, occasional snow fell, but this was not a big concern.

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The Siskiyou Pass.  It was beautiful, probably because it was clear and the temperature was above freezing.

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It just doesn’t get more beautiful than this.

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Lake Siskiyou almost full!

We arrived safely at our next stop on the “casino tour” and spent the night at Rolling Hills Casino RV Park. Again, our good luck only extended as far as the drive was concerned and the fact that the following day was half-price senior discount at the buffet. That is good enough for me.

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Taking a walk at the RV Park

It seems that our departure unleashed a snow event back home that some are referring to as “Snowlandia.” My dear daughter, Kailin, called me to say that the snow began falling Tuesday night and by Thursday morning 12-15 inches of snow blanketed the Portland area. For us Oregonians, who don’t salt the roads or have to have much driving experience in this sort of weather, our lives simply shut down. We go inside and drink, (mostly hot chocolate, but there’s a possibility I’m not quite up to date on these sorts of things) we binge watch trash TV, and marvel at the beauty, the silence, and the wonder of life brought to a standstill by the magnificent power of Mother Nature. This is not a bad thing. I strongly advocated for this departure from the norm as my kids were growing up, and I am happy to see that they have come to embrace this. They enjoyed their winter wonderland and sent me photos.

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My very own snow angel!  Kailin in Portland enjoying the snow.        True bliss!

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Riley, the dog who owns Justin, surveying the scene.

So, to you and yours in this weather filled season, I wish you peace and solace as we await the next storm. Whatever that may be.

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Thankful

Saturday, November 26, 2016

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Butter, in the shape of a turkey.  Thank you, WinCo Foods.

Thanksgiving came to the farm in the midst of a torrential rainstorm, or more specifically, in a set of several massive storms that dropped inches of rain. We don’t see rain as anything out of the ordinary, so life went on in the usual fashion, with the exception of the dogs who for the task of doing their business, were escorted outside with the covering of a giant umbrella. No one likes to get that wet. Truly, we received about two inches of rain in 24-hours, and then it slowed down to a little less than that.

Our gathering was small: dear daughter, dear son and his dear girlfriend and her dog that refers to Justin as HER boyfriend, and who I refer to as my dog-in-law, and Craig, Dad, Stella, and myself. Six adults, two dogs, and a turkey breast instead of the whole bird, was just about the perfect number of everything.

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The Daisies, minus Craig, the picture taker.

So, you may ask…..what does a Daisie Thanksgiving look like? We cook food. We eat way too much. We nap, and we watch TV in the form of the Macy’s Parade, and sportsball.

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There was a lot of worrying going on.

One member of the family does laundry, and one member works on projects. I’m guessing it looks very similar to everyone else’s holiday gathering. Political conversation was banned, and my phone gave me serious warnings throughout the day regarding “Areal Flooding.” We sit on the side of a small hill, so we are immune to any flooding that may occur, so this, thankfully, becomes interesting information for us. We watched the rain, I tended the turkey, the side dishes, and the fire, and I reveled in the sound of the voices of my family, and the joy of having them all in the same room gathered around the table.

I am a big fan of these types of events. I could easily do it every week, but that’s not the way life works. How does the song go; “Children get older and I’m getting older, too.” We live in different cities and have our own lives, but these times together renew my spirit and remind me of the things I am so thankful for.

Again, the message here: Live in each moment as it happens. Look deeply into the eyes of those surrounding you during these magical moments. Savor the time together and the gentle thread that binds you securely to your loved ones.

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And, who’s not thankful for a holiday that demands cooking with alcohol?  (fyi: sherry in the mushrooms, whisky in the pumpkin pie, and orange liquor in the cranberries.  Had I actually made the Derby Pie, spiced rum would have made the photo……maybe for Christmas?)

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Bringing in the Sheaves

 

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Raspberries, and Dad the berry picker

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

There is a little known fact about myself that I will share. I’m certain it will come as a surprise, and I probably shouldn’t tell tales so shocking in nature. Here it is: I don’t like to harvest things. I’m not thrilled with picking raspberries, especially EVERY 3 DAYS without fail as is the custom here at the farm. I don’t like to pick strawberries, apples, blueberries, cherries, etc.

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Cherry picking.  It can be death-defying.  And yes, this tree has seen better days.  No worries, though.  We’ve planted another one to eventually take it’s place.  We should never be without pie cherries.

This comes from my early years. As a child, I, along with every other child living in the Willamette Valley in the 1960’s, was sent to the fields by our parents, to pick berries and beans for the local farmers. There was a cry from the farmers for labor, and the parents of the 60’s obliged. Rest assured, this is not a thing anymore, but when I was growing up, all of us kids were involved in this form of “child labor.” There were buses that picked us up and took us home. If the bus didn’t run in your area, there were parents who carpooled kids out to the farm. It was a good reason to dread the summer months. I suppose it did provide a source of income for some, but the small pittance I earned, didn’t quite make me the millionaire I had my sights set on. For the farmer I am, this activity didn’t grab my soul, and somehow, this feeling of impending doom hasn’t ever really left.

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Some of the potato crop.  Believe it or not, these are volunteers.  The original potato that started this crop, probably came from the compost that is spread under the raspberries.  They have overtaken the last row of the berries.  We encourage this volunteerism here at the farm.  It’s a good thing.

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Cucumbers

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Pears, picked and ripening in the shed.  (They are “lifted” when green and allowed to ripen off the tree.)

Please don’t misunderstand. I do pick things. I’m an adult. I do it because I have to. I might have mentioned my distaste of crop harvest to my dear Dad. I am quite certain it was both a shock and heartbreak, but he is a smart man. As he played out the summer scenario I do believe he understood the next part of the story:

I like to preserve things. I love to can. I like making “concoctions.” Our freezer is full of bags of ice cube sized things like roasted red peppers, tomatillo sauce, pesto’s of various origins, as well as bags and BAGS of raspberries and freezer jams. On the shelves, are my stores of canned applesauce, pears, pickles, relish, jams, jellies…….and the list goes on and on.

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Canned.  Pears.

We have reached détente. Fruit, and possibly produce, appear and I deal with it. There are times when the timing of my side of the bargain is not, shall we say, convenient.   But at this point in time, the harvest related activities are mostly over, so I’ll allow myself the grace to forget some of the more stressful situations that may or may not have occurred. (And, I will assure you, they did occur with an alarming frequency.)

And so, another season comes to a close. We all survived the harvest, perhaps not unscathed, but a nice spoonful of blackberry jam on that piece of toast while sitting by the fire, might just make it all worthwhile.

Peace to you as you watch the leaves drift to the ground.

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Figs.  They’re my personal favorite.  I pick these myself.

 

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What Comes Next?

 

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Saturday, November 12, 2016

It has been a difficult week. I’m not saying this to be cliché. I am broken to the depths of my soul, and I would be remiss to pass over the events of the past week with drivel about the plumbing, yard work, etc.

This country is wrecked. People are scared, emotionally charged, and hurting. If you don’t believe me, check your Facebook feed, watch the news, read the paper. Change is coming and it’s not going to be pretty or comfortable, or even safe. This is not a political blog, and it won’t move in that direction.   But, I’m not going to tiptoe around my beliefs. I am a feminist, a humanist, and a generally compassionate person, and I am afraid. We elected the school bully to our highest office, and his stated agenda paints a terrifying picture of life to come. For all of us.

I am not alone in my fear. My daughter, her women friends, my women friends, and my LGBTQ friends are afraid. I am worried about the state of my friends with disabilities, my friends whose skin color isn’t “lily white,” and those whose families came from another country. I am worried about the environment. I am worried about the future.

My life on this earth won’t last forever, but the choices made in my name and yours, will follow us like a python stalking it’s prey. This isn’t about “my candidate” loosing the election. I have suffered the disappointment of defeat before. This is about this person’s well-documented plan as to how he will alter the course of history. It will be more than a “bumpy ride” for the next four years. We are in for trouble.

In the hope of solidarity, strength, and safety from persecution, I wish us all the resolve we need to move forward.

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