Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

Here's a few pictures of my favorite close-up subject, the spider. They aren't really my favorite subject because I find them to be very creepy. I've always hated spiders and when I was a kid I had a real phobia about them. I've since learned to control my abnormal aversion. Now when I see one I just give a little shriek instead of screaming hysterically and jumping up and down while flapping my hands real close to my chest. (You can just picture that, can't you?) If someone had told me when I was ten that later in life I'd be voluntarily taking pictures of spiders from two inches away I would have shrieked with horror and dismay and I'd probably be living in a mental ward.

Anyway, here's the photos.

Oh, and I learned a new thing about my camera. Remember back some time ago I mentioned I would have to buy some photo storage space because I was running out of room so fast? Well, I figured out that my camera has three settings for photo size. Obviously they are small, medium, and large. I thought bigger was better so I had it on the large setting. Apparently that uses up a lot of pixels or something so when I transferred the pictures to Blogger it used up a lot of space. I did a little experiment and switched to the small setting and suddenly I was using much less space when uploading the photos, even though on the blog they look the same, regardless of what size my camera setting is on.

Now you may also remember that I use the "trim" feature a lot, which is where I can take a picture and blow it up and create a new picture. I noticed when the camera setting is on small it won't enlarge as much as when it's on the large picture setting. So if I know I'm going to want to try and get closer to something I'll put it on the large picture setting, otherwise I normally keep it on the small setting now.

All this is fascinating, I know! But discovering new things like that keeps this simple mind happy.

Have a safe holiday.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Today's news is all about yesterday's big storm. Big storms with flashing lightning, booming thunder, heavy rain, and great balls of hail are an uncommon occurrence around here, so when they do happen it's almost guaranteed to be the talk of the town.

In the morning when I woke up it was very dark and gloomy, but when I went out to feed I was surprised at how warm it was. The clouds kind of cleared a little and we had mostly sunny skies for the rest of the day. That is, until around 4 pm. Then the skies became totally overcast again.

Just before 5 pm a National Weather Service warning came over the television. It advised of a thunderstorm with hail approaching Bakersfield from Taft. It looked like we were right in the path. I noticed the wind had really picked up by then, so I went out to make sure the hay was well covered.

Right about then my husband came home and we went to the far back area by the garden to watch the storm come in. By this time the temperature had dropped by about 10 degrees and there were occasional flashes deep inside the clouds and a continuous rumbling from the thunder. I tried to take a picture of the lightning but I didn't know what I was doing so it didn't work.

Pretty soon the big raindrops started falling so we retreated to the house. Standing between the metal fence and the big metal water truck probably wasn't a great idea anyway. It was none too soon, for the hail started coming down with a vengeance. Next door neighbor Dean called and invited us to watch with him on his porch. (I told you a big storm around here was an event!) I found a couple of umbrellas and we ran over to Dean's. By the way, you'll notice he likes to go all out on his holiday decorations.

Eventually the hail eased up and we headed back home. We had to practically ford the gutter on our way back.

We made it back safe and sound and I heard a pitiful mewing at the front door. It was Kneadermeier. She was soaked and just wanted to get into the garage.

Around 8 pm another piece of the storm passed over and it poured huge drops. I was surprised to hear later that it was only about .6". I would have sworn we got at least 1.5". In fact, maybe we did in our little corner of Bakersfield. I called Carli and asked if she saw the hail. She said it was windy at her place but barely any rain. She lives about 2 1/2 miles from us.

This morning there were reports of power outages and even a school closure. Fortunately we didn't suffer any damage here. As long as that is the case it's okay. I really feel for the folks back east that have the horrible storms with bad damage. For now, we could really use the rain.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Therapy Dog

Back when we had our Seafood Extravaganza our friend Marylee, who works at Hoffman Hospice, was commenting on how wonderful Gus was and suggested he might be a good Therapy Dog. She invited us to go to the Responsible Dog Ownership Day at Yokuts Park that Saturday and visit their booth where I could pick up more information. I did that and also got Gus blessed by the Catholic priest who was there. I met Kim, the volunteer coordinator. The next week I talked to her over the phone and she mailed me the packet with more information and lots of paperwork to fill out.

Things moved a little slowly because Hoffman Hospice has moved to a new location. If you've ever picked up and moved you know what a headache it can be sometimes. But finally Kim called and let me know she had made arrangements for Gus to be temperament tested. That was last Friday. While Gus was in another room with the trainer I went to Kim's office for my interview. I was a little nervous, I must admit. I knew Gus would do fine. I wasn't so sure if they'd want me though!

You've heard it said "timing is everything"? It just so happened that the newly formed Junior Handlers of Kern County (Dog Club) were having a fun match on Sunday. Barbara, the trainer who was temperament testing Gus, would also be there to judge a handling class as well as the test for the AKC CGC (Canine Good Citizen) test and to certify dogs for Therapy Dogs International. Gus would have to pass the testing for the TDI before he could go to work.

Well now things were rolling along. Obviously Gus passed his temperament testing and I apparently passed mine, so now we were headed for Liberty Park on Sunday. Only one other person signed up for the TDI certification which helped my nerves a little. We took turns going through the 15 requirements. Both dogs did really well. Of course, Gus did just a little better, if I say so myself!! I was given another handful of paperwork to fill out and we were done.

What's left now is that Gus needs to get a physical examination from the vet, I'll take a head shot photo of Gus and mail some papers in. He'll get his own i.d. card. I start my volunteer training on Thursday which will last several weeks. We're hoping we can do our first visit during December or January.

Guess what the kicker is on this whole story? I asked Barbara how many other therapy dogs and handlers Hoffman Hospice has. She looked at me matter of factly and said, "You're it. You'll be the first." I feel humbled to making history! (The pressure!!!!)

Gus will be fine. I may be a nervous wreck though. We'll keep you posted.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Say What?

Look closely at this ad. Actually the second and third ads for firewood. It sounds mighty expensive to me.

My husband cuts our firewood and if he can sell it for $280 a quart then I think we just might have a lucrative side business to delve into!!!

And is ucalitus some sort of new tree species I've not heard of yet?

Does the Bakersfield Californian need a better editor? Maybe the telephone ad taker needs to go back to school?

If not, then I'll undercut these people just a little.

Hey, how much is a quart of wood anyway? I'm guessing about 4" X 4" X 8". More or less.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Tree Trimmers

Once a year PG&E contracts with a company to check and make sure no trees are growing too close their power lines. A couple of months ago a young lady came by and decided one of the eucalyptus trees was getting too close to the wire. It got the "to be trimmed" mark.

Here's the "before the trimming" shot. Yeah, I guess it's getting a little close. That's about a four to five foot distance between the tree and the power line.
Yesterday was tree trimming day. First they asked me to move the cow and bull out of their pen and make sure I locked their gate so they couldn't go back in. I think they were a little afraid of the bull, even though they didn't need to be. But it was a good idea to keep them out of the pen anyway, since the cuttings fell straight into their pen.

The guy manuevered the lift bucket between the higher power lines and the lower cable tv line. Then he got to work with his chain saw.

It took just a few minutes and then they started cleaning up. That chipper thing scares me. I think I've seen too many bad movies.

And now there's an acceptable distance between the tree and the wires.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Life And Death

I was witness to a life and death struggle yesterday afternoon. And it wasn't on the television, it was occurring right in my driveway! I watched, mesmerized, as the combatants rolled around in their private war, each trying to get in the death blow. Then I snapped out of it and thought "Blog Material!!!" I ran inside to get my camera, even taking the time to change lenses to the macro. After all, it looked like they were going to be there for a while.

A few neighbors drove by and I can only imagine what they might have been thinking as I lay prone on the driveway with my camera, twisting this way and that.

The fight was intense and fierce. It was a little scary for me to be so close to them. I was a little nervous that the warriers would turn their aggression towards me.

They were two wasps and a green caterpillar. The caterpillar didn't stand a chance. I'm not even sure it was still alive at that point. The more they all tumbled and rolled, the more confused I became. Were the wasps acting in unison against the caterpillar? Were they in reality fighting each other over the juicy tidbit? It was really hard to tell.

Finally I'd had enough of the senseless violence. So, I'm afraid to say, I contributed to the melee.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Baby Shower

A couple of months ago my daughter informed me that I would be hosting her baby shower. Okay... Isn't that normally something one of her friends would do? No matter, we have plenty of room here and I really didn't mind. I thought it might even be kind of fun.

Fortunately for me she was a very hands on participant and actually did quite a bit of the work herself. One thing I didn't even think about were favor bags for the guests that showed up. She bought the bags, we split the candies, and I bought the cute little pink magnet poodles that were attached to the outside.

The favor bags.

Another thing I didn't want to think about were the games. I remember going to baby showers and that was the one thing I pretty much dreaded the most. My philosophy about showers was open the gifts, eat cake, and leave. I never claimed to be a social butterfly, after all.

And speaking of cake, Carli brought me a picture of a cake she thought she might like for her shower. I took the picture and went to the bakery that made my wedding cake almost 28 years ago. I was a little too late. They had closed just the week before I got there. So I looked in the phone book and picked out a nice bakery not too far away. When I showed the girl the picture she said they couldn't make cakes like that (they didn't make layered cakes or work with fondant). But one of the girls that worked there might, as she made cakes as a side business, not related to the bakery. She was called to the front, I showed her the picture, and she said she could make it.

The picture of the cake off the internet...
The cake the cake girl made for us (she did a great job!).
I filled out all the invitations by hand, but managed to figure out how to do the addresses onto labels with the computer. That saved me a bit of work and was more fun for me than doing it all by hand.

We figured out a menu, since it was to be held at lunch time. We tend to go a little overboard when it comes to food in this family. When I was one week away from the party date I made a daily "to do" list. I quickly figured out that it would be easier and much less stressful for me if I bought most of the food.

The cake table with the main door prize (guess how many jelly beans in the bottle--160).

One thing that was beyond my control was the weather. We had planned to use the backyard, but the weather reports were not promising. All week long it was beautiful and sunny, with temperatures in the upper 70's. Saturday was forecast to be 68 degrees, with a 30% chance of showers. Sunday's forecast was back to the upper 70's, etc. Great. Our plan was to set the rented tables and chairs up on the lawn and if it started to rain we'd move everything to under the patio cover. It would be a bit cramped, but it could work. We kept our fingers crossed.

The yard and tables are decorated.

Saturday morning was very dark and overcast but we dressed the yard and tables anyway. The party was supposed to start at 12:30, and with just an hour to go, the clouds started breaking up and the sun started peaking through. The angels had heard my pleas!!

I made two trips to pick up food. While I was gone on one trip the cake was delivered. Everything was turning out perfect. The guests started trickling in and the gift table started overflowing. That's a good kind of overflowing.

The food (cevapcici, swedish meatballs, orange chicken, pasta salad, white bean salad, croissant sandwiches, fruit kabobs, relish trays, veggie trays, deviled eggs, remoulade, cookies. I didn't put the green salad out for obvious reasons...) I told you we get carried away.

We only had about six people and it was 20 minutes after the starting time, so I told everybody to start eating. After a bit we started on the games. More people started showing up and eventually everyone was there. We had four games where they had to actually do something. The first two prizes were $10 gift certificates and people seemed to be restless, like I remember feeling when I'd gone to showers and they played games. But when I announced the next prize was a $25 VISA card, and the prizes got better, everyone seemed to perk up. After that it was a $30 Target card. The grand prize was a $50 gift card to the Outback Steakhouse. Then we drew names to win the four little plants that decorated the tables. With the favor bags we made sure everybody got a little something.

One of the best parts for me was seeing my AZ sister who came along with her beautiful daughter who lives in "the OC", and her daughter whom I met for the first time. It's been many, many years since we've all been together. Also, Carli's GaGa was able to make it and we had a nice visit.

The dogs in the side yard (notice they are decorated too).

Don't get me wrong here... I was happy to do it all, but by the time it was over I was tired and broke. I was so tired I forgot to get a picture of the gift table (!). Though I did get Carli a few little things, like the blankies and some store bought miscellaneous stuff (including Boudreaux's Butt Paste-ha ha!) I let her know her main gift from us was her health insurance until she graduates and gets a Dental Assistant job!

Now I have to wrangle the tables and chairs into the truck to return them to the rental facility, and then it's back to normal, whatever that is!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Playing With The Dogs

Our dogs aren't exactly poseable like William Wegman's Weimeraners but every now and then we have a little fun with them.

Chester is especially good with having his ears folded in different positions. Here they are folded around so they stick out, reminiscent of Sister Bertrille, aka The Flying Nun (Sally Field).
And here they are folded straight back, so he looks kind of like a La Mancha goat.
He tolerates it because he loves us and he knows we love him.

Gus is a little better about being "clothed". Here he is with an "ear pony tail".
And here he is, all studious. He really is smart!
And here he is, all "bad ass". He has his San Francisco Giants ball cap on, of course. Don't mess with the Giants!

He tolerates it because he loves us and he knows we love him.

Or is it for the dog biscuits they get?

Monday, October 15, 2007


I got a bit of a late start this morning. I wanted to finish a book I started over the weekend. It's called "Merle's Door: Lessons From A Free Thinking Dog" by Ted Kerasote. I had to finish it while I was alone, before anyone was home from school or work, because the ending, of course, made me blubber horribly. I knew that would happen because it happened when I read John Grogan's "Marley & Me".

I went for a walk this afternoon. I started at the end of the bike path at Enos Lane. As soon as I started out I thought I should have brought my camera with me today. I was right.

I went to the three mile mark and turned around. As I approached the two mile mark I heard a crashing in the brush even through the music in my headphones. I turned to look and about ten yards away stood a beautifully healthy reddish-brown coyote.

He grinned at me nervously, and turned and bound away towards the river. Right before he disappeared into some more brush he turned and looked at me again as if embarrassed. "Sorry, you caught me unawares," he seemed to say, "I'm not usually so careless."

I continued on my way. I saw a couple of roadrunners, of which I already have a few good photos. I suppose a few more wouldn't hurt. Then when I had a half mile left to go I saw a ground squirrel, his cheeks fat with something yummy I'm sure, sprint across the canal bridge.

I've been unable to catch the gopher that's been plaguing the garden. But in my defense, I sprinkled a generous amount of the gopher repellent all throughout the garden in hopes of, well, repelling any gophers from the garden.

The interesting thing to note here is, fresh potties were left at the opening to the gopher hole where the trap has been (by the red cabbage). I'm sure they are from the elusive kit fox. We will be unable to borrow the trap as our neighbor had to leave this week for a funeral in another state. Perhaps another time...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Nocturnal Visitors

For the past couple of nights we've had a curious occurrence. Small holes have been dug, first in the poop pile, then inside the goat pen, then outside the gate of the cows, and today inside the cow pen.

Holes in the goat pen (near) and the cow pen (other side of the fence).

At first we thought it was a skunk, but there was no lingering odor. And then we saw the small footprint. I think it might be a kit fox digging for grubs. A few years ago neighbor Dean had caught a kit fox in a trap that had been terrorizing his chicken coop. After he released it we haven't seen it since... until possibly now. Or this could be offspring or even totally unrelated.

Hole dug outside the cow gate.

Dean loaned his trap out but he's going to get it back so we can try and capture whatever this mysterious hole digger is and solve the mystery once and for all.

On another note, we are still having problems with gophers. I found a red cabbage that fell victim to one of those irritating creatures. I've set a trap for it, and hopefully tomorrow morning the gopher will be the hapless victim.

Note the third cabbage from the bottom on the left.

The hole right by the middle of the cabbage. It was a big hole, too!
Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The New Patio

The out-back patio is done! I just have a few minor things to do, like "pretty up" the edges with a little thin set to even it all out and then a coat of grey concrete paint. But for all intents and purposes it is finished.

It took a little longer than I had hoped, for various reasons. But I suppose that is to be expected. Just like any construction job the projected time of being done should probably have 1/3 the estimated time added! Did I say that right? Anyway, you know what I mean...

So here's a quick recap start to finish:

The old patio, miscellaneous tiles and bricks over a dirt pad.

Pouring the concrete for the new pad.

The roofing paper over the concrete.
1/3 of the tiles layed.

Stone sealer applied.Grout applied. Done!
Now I need to get a can of black stove spray paint to redo the chimenea.

A woman's work is never done!