TRANSITIONS.

January 24, 2014

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Normally, if I’m a member of an organization, I like to contribute  by attending meetings, taking on a job and helping out. Because of my traveling lifestyle, I make it to two or three meetings a year. I enjoy that Len, a club stalwart, is always there to play music while others chat and visit. He learned to play accordion as a child and transferred that to piano and organ. He played When The Saints Come Marching In for me.

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Club members are a fun bunch and my dinner partner, Earl Randall, worked in Judge Connit’s court, Alameda County,  and knew practically everyone in the Sheriff’s Department that I knew, including having met my husband and his best friend Jack Baugh. It is such a small world. The Elks Club Dinner was Wednesday night.

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Last night, Suzy and Ron Hayes, invited Karen and I to have dinner with them before I leave today. I could not ask for better neighbors and I treasure them.

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Ron and I share similar philosophies of life and we like to rail against our ineffective politicians as in fire them all and start over. I always tease Suzy that I’m going to marry him when she’s done with him.

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Karen and I usually have one dinner together. I try to see all of my friends when I get home. I managed pretty well this time despite unexpected issues to take care of.  Karen often cooks dinner and brings me a plate to share. She took me out for tacos at Sidewinder, but as close as we are, living in the same house, we didn’t manage a sit down dinner together until we got to Suzys.

Today, I leave for Incline Village to have a belated Christmas with my family since not everyone could make it to Calaveras County in December. We’ve rented a condo and almost everyone skis. Ahh! The card games and cooking together, the loud banter, just seeing everyone under one roof is very precious to me.  Then, transitioning to my rambling life with Jim and leaving the busy chaos of home behind for a while. I’m grateful to have such plenteous choices and two distinct lifestyles.

 

NEIGHBORS GATHER.

April 15, 2013

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Neighbors always gather at the party animal’s house. That’s Jan, (a non drinker) whipping up a batch of margaritas. Her own recipe is tequila, vodka, rum and sugar on the glass with limeade for the mix. Basically a let’s clean out the liquor closet margarita.

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She was shocked when the worm actually “jumped” out of the bottle and into a glass. I guess she thought the worm was somehow guaranteed to stay in the bottle. You have to know Jan. It didn’t taste like a margarita, but it was pleasant to drink.

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We snacked on the deck before the main event. Neighbor Brian, a gourmet cook, brought a parmesan tart with tomato and a leaf of fresh basil. Excellent. He is currently playing with mole sauces with chocolate. I’ll miss it since I fly tomorrow.

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Jan’s pond is much bigger than mine and she attracts more large animals looking for water, often cougars and even a bear. I told her about wildlife certification and she agreed to apply.

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Neighbor Atilla and his daughter Kera played pool. I hadn’t seen Kera since she graduated High School. Now, age 30, she was visiting her parents and joined the party.

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Kera’s mother, Patty. Great cooks, all. Maybe that is why we like to party.

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I made a salad niciose, without the green beans. There were none in the market. Like the margarita, it is a clean out the fridge kind of salad with olives, baby spinach, arugula, papaya, red pepper, eggs and marinated red potato slices. Hardly true to the original, but no one cared.

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Jan’s grandson preserved her a turkey wing from his hunt in Montana. Jan spent a year with her daughter from March 2012 to March 2013.

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Before the berry pie, everyone had a turn at pool. Jan and I avoid playing pool together because we can’t take the game seriously enough not to cheat. I never cheat at cards or other games, but I LOVE cheating at pool. Of course, we warn everyone in advance. She reminded me about an obnoxious boyfriend she lived with for a year who was a poker fiend. Her friend Sally brought a second deck, cheated, and took all of his money. At the end of the game, Jan asked, “aren’t you going to tell him?” She smiled and said, “Nope, he deserved to lose.”  Ya’ gotta watch these women.

IOTA TO CHICOT STATE PARK.

February 25, 2013

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We watched the sun set on the small town of Iota but everything was closed up tight on Saturday. Sunday morning, we headed  to Chicot State Park for a five day stay since it is fairly central to Eunice, Iberia and other smaller towns we can visit on day trips.

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After we got settled in, I took a bike ride around the park while Jim napped. (His bike has a flat tire.) Flowers seeded into this puddle and braved the cold.

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The woods have few leaves but plenty of moss.

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The park is huge. It has a boat launch, lake, arboretum, swimming pool, lodges and cabins. And a lot of wood. Many people in camp have or had fires.

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I happened on this gravel road and took it for about  two miles and found three lodges, empty of guests; neatly painted. A nice, quiet place.

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I’ve seen this flower before, but never attached to its stem and leaves. Not only beautiful but fragrant.

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I ran into a couple taking each others picture and offered to take theirs together. They were just cooking gumbo and invited us to join them for dinner. I took a picture of Shawn stirring the pot.

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Huge pieces of chicken and a rich gravy. I could have sworn I took a picture of both Shawn and his wife, but I took three of them with their phone and thought I’d taken one  on my camera. Dang!

They left the gumbo to finish cooking and went kayaking for the afternoon. They wanted to check their yo-yo’s and hopefully find a couple of catfish to bring home.  I had no idea what yo-yo fishing is. Annette explained it as a bobber that is like a yo-yo. You pull the hooked string and it dangles in the water. The yo-yo itself is tied to a nearby tree. When the fish bites, the string zips up to the bobber and hooks the fish.

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At six p.m. I walked over without Jim to bring the California hippy salad I’d promised for dinner. (Jim wasn’t feeling well.) I expressed my regrets but this Italian Cajun cooks a mean gumbo and she insisted I bring some home. “You gotta eat it with potato salad, that is tradition in our family. The potato salad goes right in the gumbo”, she emphasized. Absolutely delicious. We didn’t have a chance to visit long. She is a grammar school teacher. Shawn works testing and xraying welds on the pipe lines. They leave this morning and I didn’t even get their last name. Double dang. Some days you forget to take your brain with you.  The weather is supposed to be wind, rain, hail, possible tornado. We’ll probably stick close to the park.

Terrific friends and neighbors are those who share their secrets with you. Meet Ron and Suzy, conventional people. Both have their own business. We went to visit Suzy’s open house for her Beauty Control  Spa. We sipped wine and nibbled and talked and looked at her stuff. While visiting we discovered the unusual, both Ron and Suzy own a blow-up doll kept  hidden under the bed. Suzy pulled her “friend” Ward out, blew him up.

What do you do with a blow-up doll?

He can’t even sit up by himself on a chair.

One of their goldens  got very upset when she teasingly hugged the doll. The cat was very curious and took a swipe at him.

Suzy received Ward from her girlfriends at a bachelorette party when she and Ron married. Ron recieved his from an uncle when he divorced his first wife many years ago. Now we know what people do with them. Haul them out now and then for a few laughs.

However, Japanese men take their dolls seriously. I blogged them previously if you want to have a look back at the following link:
http://otrwjam.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/girlfriend-dolls-yup/

ONE LAST DAY

October 23, 2011

Yard sales are a regular business for some folks. They gather  stuff  DELIBERATELY and do this!!  It takes fortitude. One nice thing, I met neighbors I haven’t visited  in a long time. Several stopped in for a bit of chit-chat.

The other bright spot is watching my partner, Jimmy the Huckster. If it wasn’t for his salesmanship, half of what we did sell would still be  in the yard.  He has a great philosophy,” If you put it in the sale, you want it gone, unless you like hauling all this stuff back where you got it from.”  Kind of puts a thing in perspective. I’ve had an old rear truck bumper someone left at my house in the garden like an ornament around the plants. Jim hauled that out, we cleaned it off, and several people were interested. It will sell today, I’m sure. If someone even looked interested, he would give a spiel and knock the price down. Help them load it and send them on their way.

Jimmy the parking lot attendant ran out and showed people venturing up my long driveway  where and how to park so no one got jammed up in the yard.

Then, Jimmy the good Samaritan,  helped one woman test her power steering fluid, and helped another with her gas additive. He looked up items on the internet previous to the sale for an idea of what various items were worth.

We had  a steady stream of customers all day. Even so,  people are not parting with their dollars easily. One guy let his dog run around for a while. He said, “Don’t worry, he won’t get lost. We feed him. I call him glue.  Here, Glue! Here, Glue!”

We started this sale with Neighbor Jan across the road and one customer said to me:  “You have one hour to bring that lady across the road a cocktail!”  When I had a break I managed to bounce over with a bloody Mary, and a stick of celery in exchange for a hug and some laughter. One of her customers asked:  “Where’s the  bar!”

Today, it will end. Hospice will pick up what we didn’t sell. The wallet a bit fatter and the good feeling of ridding myself of un-needed items someone else can use. Ahh!   All in a day’s yard sale!   (But, never again!)

 

 

 

 

Becoming a blogger has expanded my experience and knowledge of computer and photography. This shelf of photo albums is two of five shelves filled with pictures that I rarely look into.

However, with digital photography, This box holds all of my pictures  from 2003, which includes  hefty picture-taking trips to China, Alaska, Peru, and Thailand and seven months of meandering across the United States and back last year. They give me so much pleasure. Oh, that it were easy to convert all of my older pictures to digital, I would do it in a flash. Digital photography is a marvelous technology and then…and then… my camera,  for no, discernible reason, quit taking flash pictures.

Hunting for a camera on-line is hard work. I feel fortunate that so many cameras are given very detailed revues by photography magazine editors and professional users as well as hobby photographers.  Hundreds of  models to choose from made me cross-eyed. Features continue to increase as technology advances and you know fully loaded features are just bells and whistles that you’ll never use.  Most of the day was spent on-line but I did get out early with my now limited camera in hand and caught this unusual sight.

I heard the chain saw before I got to this new neighbor’s place. Grateful that my zoom wasn’t gone, I caught this interesting photo.

What I didn’t think to focus on was the three men hanging around watching as she did the cutting.

I  couldn’t see the  tree and why it had to be felled. A dead tree behind a screen of live ones is what I expect  she was removing.  I can use a chain saw, and have, for small cuts; trimming.  But, I have  never felled a tree.  All I can say is Wow!  I must get acquainted with my new neighbor.

ARMED ENCAMPMENT

July 12, 2011

Last night, shots rang out and I knew the feral pig hunters were actively patrolling. The picture above is a skinny pig compared to the pictures my neighbor, Gary Gonzalez  got of five pigs invading his yard July 4th.  Sunday night,  one of my Hanging Tree neighbors in a golf cart-like vehicle, with a powerful strobe light and a cross bow,  was cruising the road flashing the woods looking for pigs.  I’d planned to take a cool evening walk  Monday night and thought better of it. Not only because of the hunters but because Gerry Baumgartner, another Hanging Tree neighbor reported he had been visited by a bear twice in the last two weeks and the neighbor above him has had three visits from two different bears. Both have armed themselves with canned horns.  Its beginning to feel like an armed encampment here.

Bears and pigs are related and their meat tastes similar. I know that for a fact since I once butchered a bear for my brother who hunted and killed a bear in neighboring Tuolumne County when he was only 18 years old.  Bears and feral pigs compete for the same food. Both can be aggressive and can and will attack humans if cornered or threatened, though that rarely happens.  In the 1980′s I encountered feral pigs in Wilseyville and Railroad Flat, the upper, mountainous western part of Calaveras County. I’ve lived in Murphys since 1978 and have never seen a bear within two miles of my place, nor have I seen feral pigs. I find it somewhat disturbing to realize that the bear population and feral pigs are wandering into new territory. It makes me wonder what shift in the environmental balance caused them to hunger out of their range? From past experience, it is usually human activity that upsets the balance. In any case, one neighbor was feeling very sympathetic to the feral pigs being hunted and considered setting out corn for them.  It seemed to be the right time to get educated about feral pigs and the damage they do. I looked at a couple of sources but Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has the most thorough information on feral pigs and I copied my pictures from them:

http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/wildlife/PUBL/wlnotebook/Pig.htm

There are approximately four million feral pigs in the United States. Fact:  more people are killed by pigs than sharks. Domestic pigs were originally brought here from Spain and allowed to propagate in the wilds of California. Russian razorbacks and pigs from Germany were brought to New Hampshire, the Carolinas and California in the early 1900′s. They are ferocious fighters, can produce two or more litters per year and live for 25 years. They’ve become a serious problem in 23 states.

Mountain lions, bobcats and bears will feed on young pigs but the adult pigs are voracious predators. President Roosevelt once watched a pig dismember a jaguar.

” They especially relish acorns as well as hickory and beech nuts in the autumn. At other times of the year they eat forbs, grasses, leaves, berries and other fruits, roots and tubers, corn and other agricultural crops, insects, crayfish, frogs, salamanders, snakes, mice, eggs of ground-nesting birds, young rabbits, fawns and young livestock, such as lambs, calves, kids. They can also kill larger livestock that are weak from illness or injury. When fresh meat is not available, feral pigs will also readily scavenge carrion.”

They destroy wetland habitat, muddying the waters, breaking down the banks of rivers, destroy aquatic plants and have been known to corner larger prey and hunt as a group, breaking  legs and getting an animal on the ground. Their powerful bite can snap a kneecap or crush a peach pit with equal ease. They have been known to gnaw down a small tree and trample bushes in the wild. In domestic gardens and landscaped areas the damage is formidable. So, I say to my neighbor, don’t feel sorry for these invaders and let us support our hunters. In Wisconsin, they can be taken at anytime. In California, hunters need a pig tag, unless you are defending your property or livestock.  I’m told they are  better tasting than what we buy at the store. Luau time.

NEIGHBORS LIKE MINE

April 27, 2010

From Mary’s desk:

My neighborhood has the best people. A friend from Sonora once plaintively told me, “I want to live in YOUR neighborhood.” Another long time friend sold his lovely house within walking distance of the school where he taught and moved to another “friendlier” neighborhood. The quality of the neighbors can make the difference.

Ron Hayes is one of those kind of guys who will lend a hand whenever asked. I’ve asked him to drill holes in the bottoms of pots, clean my chimney and grade my driveway. He always offers help when he sees me struggle with anything.  One time I asked him to accompany me when I showed a rental quite late at night to a strange guy and I was feeling unsure about this guy. He never hesitates to say yes. He’s a champ in my book. I offered to marry him, but, he reminded me he is already married.

Jan and Karen, are always there for me. Karen literally covers my place, my mail, my yard, my cat, when I’m on the road. I couldn’t do it without her. Plus she is a good cook and is forever fixing me dinner when I’m rushed or offering to do errands for me when I’m busy.
Jan is an artist and neighborhood icon. She knows everyone, visits everyone, fields her grand kids through their problems and runs a book club, drum circle and other volunteer endeavors. We call her the “Heart of Gold.”  Her hobby is panning for gold. She’ll do anything within her power for you.

Suzy Hayes is the same way. Generous, helpful. We discovered Suzy had recently celebrated her 60th birthday so we put candles on the cake and thanked our lucky stars for our entertainment. Suzy is 3/4 ers comedienne. She and Ron kept us in stitches all evening. If laughter is healing, we are all healed.

Yes, neighbors really can make a difference in the quality of your life and I thank them.

LIVING POOR NOSTALGIA

October 6, 2009

My background is pretty rustic. My brother is in front of the two room log house we lived in. Behind it, is a clapboard building my father dragged on to the property with horses and a dray to house hunters in the winter. It contained four home-made bunks, a table, and a wood stove. We lived entirely off the land and hunters brought in extra money. We had no indoor plumbing and, at first, no electricity, either.
When I first moved to California, someone invited me to go camping. I wasn’t interested. I LIVED that way. A wood fire holds no romance for one such as me because I disliked stacking wood, the dirt, the chips from my father’s axe that I had to pick up by the wagon load for kindling. Typical kid complaints while we took for granted the whole outdoors and bountiful nature at our feet.
With my recent visit from my old neighbors, I’m reminded of the wonderful things about living poor. I’m grounded, hard working, practical, a conservationist. (That is the word we used before environmentalist became common.) It surprised me that the years could wash away and we could reconnect and feel that we had a lot in common even though Bernice and Marie, each became the wife of farmers, had no higher education, and remained in the same, small community of Hardwood, Mi.
Pat, on the other hand, moved to Indiana and worked in the “big city.” None of us attended college and all of us consider ourselves “successful”, whatever that means. Let us say, we are no longer poor.
I believe we reconnected so easily because we share the same values. Hard work, the importance of family, self sufficiency, and consistency, come to mind. We share attitudes of stick-to-it, never give up, help yourself and above all, be a good neighbor. There was an-I can do anything anyone else can d0-attitude at our house. I feel so fortunate that my folks drilled those values home. As a consequence, we were rich in friends and self satisfaction. I believe I’ve retained those values today and they have held me in good stead.
The biggest difference, as it turns out, is I have good health insurance and have retired. Pat, the city worker, the same. Farmers typically do not have health insurance, and that difference is enormous for Bernice, whose husband died of a long catastrophic illness. She now works, at age 71, in an Indian Casino to pay for her deceased husband’s medical bills that were enormous. Marie, too, a widow, has a low social security income and no medical insurance. She is 78 and typical of the type of salt-of-the-earth, hard working person who needs affordable health insurance. Well, enough said.
I actually meant to blog today about the National Parks, another “camping” venue, but I got carried away with nostalgia. Maybe tomorrow.
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