The Crud

Today we are feeling a mite sick, of the sore-throat, snarfling, crud-hacking, lethargic variety. Outside, the temperature is dropping and seeds still need sowing, and the apple tree wants transplanting. Cleaning & child-rearing, my constant companions, also beckon. About all I want to do is drink tea, read, (currently Jan Karon's Mitford novels, one of my ultimate comfort reads), and Christmas shop on Etsy. But the soot sprites and dust bunnies are having sock-hops on every surface in our house, and I can't find my laundry basket to fold all my clean clothes-I think it's under the pile of coats that need to be hung up in the moth aviary we're calling our closet. Clearly, I need to suck it up, or G will be raised by the cast of Sesame Street, and I will end up like some sort of Dickensian Miss Havesham, with cobwebs stretching from bookcase to bookcase, bent over a dim laptop, feeble fingers pecking at the dust-strewn keyboard. Up! Up!
Here I go.



I bathe my face in water fresh,
As the sun his nine rays doth spread,
As Mary washed her Son's fair flesh,
In the generous milk white-shed.

May mercy be my lips' attire,
May kindness to my face be lent,
May chasteness be on my desire,
And wisdom be in mine intent.

Love Mary laid her one Son on
May all the world give unto me;
Love Jesus-giv'n to Baptist John
Grant I give to each one I see.

Son of God, be at the outset,
Son of God, be surety, friend;
Son of God, make straight my way yet,
Son of God at my seeking's end.

-(from G.R.D. Maclean's translations of traditional Gaelic poems; 'Poems of the Western Highlands'.)


Autumn in the Garden

There are two words that, when said together, conjure up the taste of nectarines and dry-farmed tomatoes. And the dusty scent of redwood groves and hot wet blacktop. These two words are, of course: Indian summer.
The synesthete in me sees the colours of Indian summer as I write, for Autumn is about very definite hues: when everything seems to luxuriate in these months of warmth and ripening and colour. The chlorophyll is pulled back into the trees, leaving all those glorious anthocyanins and xanthophylls (reds and yellows) to blaze forth. The liquidambars and dogwoods down the road have been at it all day, clamoring for attention; and the yellow maple across the street doesn't seem to know the meaning of the word 'decorum'. Living here in Northern California, in the land of evergreen trees (redwoods, oaks, laurels, madrones, Ponderosa pines), things can get a bit......monochromatic. That's why when the deciduous trees get going, I'm sitting up and clapping my flippers together like a seal at the circus.
Autumn in the garden is such an interesting time: all about clean-up, and stragglers, leaf piles, mulch and bulbs. And then there's all the Mary Poppins gardening, when I'm putting everything to sleep, drawing up the mulch like blankets on the perennial beds. A real 'Let's Tidy Up the Nursery' sort of feel. When I gardened at the Seamill Centre, this was almost my favourite season, mainly because we got to haul tons (but there it was tonnes) of dead branches and other garden detritus to the fire pit for huge bonfires. We had quite a blaze on Guy Fawkes night, complete with fireworks and effigies........Here I'll have to make do with dancing around my Waste Management Green Waste recycling can, roasting weenies on the Hibachi.

To Do

*Transplant-apple tree, cotinus, lemon verbena, phlomis fruticosa, leonotis leonorus
*Sow seeds: (direct sow) ammi magus, breadseed poppies, eschscholtzia californica (white)
*Clean out coldframe
*Lawn: one last mow, rake thatch, aeriate soil
*Prune: Most perennials, esp. salvias, hydrangeas
*Set up Vermicomposting
*Need: Compost, Mulch, worms (call the Worm Doctor for worm suppliers. No, really, that's how she styles herself. And now I've got They Might Be Giants "They call me Dr. Worm....I'm not a real doctor but I am a real worm..." in my head.) Great.



Bricks in the Cave::by Susan Harwood, A Review

The Bricks in the Cave is a juvenile fiction adventure story that was brought to my attention by the author, Susan Harwood a few months ago and I'm finally reviewing it. It's been hard to sit down and write about it, mainly because I liked it so well, and wanted to do it justice. Here is my attempt. I hope you can get a moment to read the story, find it on the author's blog here. Read it and tell a friend.

The Bricks in the Cave is set in coastal England. (So right away I'm charmed.) The hero of the story, Charlie is being pursued by Ed (the neighborhood bully) along the cliffs above the ocean. He slips and falls off the cliff edge, and ends up in a large cave. In the cave, inexplicably, are stacks of boxes. Pirate's booty? Smuggler's cargo? Charlie opens the boxes and discovers.......large plastic bricks. He builds a staircase and escapes through a hole in the roof of the cave. But who put the bricks in the cave? And why is Charlie and his friend, Simon, being followed? Are they in danger? Will they get even with Ed? It's these questions that move this story along, as well as Susan Harwood's fast-paced, yet detailed writing. The story flows with a nice rhythm, and the resolution is great: an epic scene complete with a neighborhood conspiracy, business tycoons, reporters, glow in the dark monsters and a moonlit cliff. On the whole, I'd say that TBITC is exciting, interesting, funny and thoughtful. And in need of a publisher! Indeed, my only problem with TBITC is that I wanted to carry it around as a battered paperback to read in all my favorite spots, but I was forced to huddle in our damp concrete back office on our desktop, as B was doing some important work on the laptop (I think it was Weird Al videos on You Tube........okay, it was the script for the Christmas play at church. All very virtuous and above board.)

Okay, so here's what I loved, and I hope there's no spoilers.

1. I loved the descriptions of Charlie's neighborhood, and the nearby coast. Especially the gorse bushes, which Charlie and Simon use as a fort. The descriptions of the coastline, the cliff face and the beach really paint the picture well.

2. Pretty early into the story you are given the answer to most of the above questions, and just when you think you understand all that is happening, there's a twist, and you read on, trying to discover just what Charlie and Simon are working on. It really drew me in.

3. Later in the story, the neighborhood children band together to fight for a common purpose, and I really resonated with this. When I was young, I wanted nothing more than to be a part of a group that was fighting crime, or solving mysteries. I wanted a gang, and a clubhouse, and a secret code with which to correspond. At the time I was reading The Three Investigators, Nancy Drew, and The Bobbsey Twins. They all worked together to reach their goal, using team work, skill and a healthy dose of thinkums. I think this appealed to me because I was desperate to belong, and to contribute. And I did have some thinkums, but zero coordination. School sports could never fulfill this longing, on the contrary, it made me feel even more alone; though I was a part of a group, I was a major liability. I was always picked last for teams, and therefore humiliated. Daily. Anyway. Where was I?

4. I really liked what ended up happening with Ed, the bully. I can't say anymore, or I'll give it away. But I think it was excellent, and unexpected. Unexpected mercy and grace.

5. Chapter 22 'Anthony James Needs the Loo' and Chapter 23 'Under the Hedge' are just brilliant and poetic and funny. A good snapshot into the lives of some of the children who live in the neighborhood. I can picture them so well, I can't wait for this to be a movie.

In all, this book needs publishing. I hope it does, and soon, so that G can have a great chapter book to read, she's almost 3, so you haven't got long!

Thank you so much, Susan, for letting me read your marvelous story. Let me know when you are published so we can queue up for our copy!


Tide Pools

Today we trundled off to Point Lobos, at the beginning of the coastline that is known as Big Sur to see the sea. There we engaged in one of my favourite voyeuristic past-times: tide-pooling. For those poor land-locked souls, this is going to the ocean's edge and nosing around in the little pools and crevices of the rocks, slipping desperately on sea lettuce, poking one's finger into the center of anemones and squealing as their frothy tendrils close on said digit; all the while remembering not to turn one's back to the sea, lest it carry you off into the blue Pacific, to sleep with the fishes in an oil-slick.
Competitive Tide Pooling
I love this sort of sport. It requires so little coordination, and there is zero competition. I don't have to worry about dropping balls, or throwing things really far, or being a team player. And everyone looks equally silly, bent over with our bottoms waggling in the air.

I also love living next to the ocean, as well as all the past times it affords that don't include actually swimming around in it very much. The following can be yours for the taking, in our little part of the world: walking beside the sea, surfing, sailing, boating, playing volleyball (an evil sport) next to it, visiting the near-by Boardwalk, which consists of riding roller coasters, eating horrible crap food (dip n dots, funnel cake, deep-fried Twinkies) and then being sick all over strangers. And let's not leave out the ubiquitous girl on roller blades wearing a bikini, and the stoner drum circle, and hippie twirl dancing. This is essential, esp. if you are trying to become one with the cosmos.
Visitor from Brobdignag
There is something so calming about peering into the tide pools-small puddles of salt water that sustain so much life, and I can feel myself slow down and try to focus in on everything that is happening in each microcosm. Hermit crabs scuttles under a piece of rough and textured seaweed. Red leather anemones, orange and purple starfish, chitons and blennys hog the show, along with the brilliance and vivacity of rock and plant, in which the overcast sky, suffused with afternoon light, causes hidden tints of reds, purples and greens to shine forth. Today I was completely engrossed in the rings of grey that graced the stones about us, and found myself remembering the childhood love for small things, things contained and cosy in a tiny world. I used to adore diorama projects at school for this same reason, and puddles on walks with my papa.
I was going to add some of my photos from today, but I am truly an abysmal photographer, and my camera's clunkiness doesn't help matters. Instead, pop over to Jon Assink's blog, and check out his photos from the day. It definitely helps to hang out with great photographers! (Ahem, Dave S.!)


My Dratted Bible Study

So there's been some objection about my last post, in which I refer to "my dratted bible study." The feeling (I gather) is that I shouldn't be using the word 'dratted' to refer to something like studying the Holy Bible. Honestly, I'm trying to find something nice to say about this study. Probably the best that can be said from it is that in a desperate attempt to get out of it, I managed to memorize the order of the books of the Old Testament, organize my spice rack, clean my kitchen, re-read Madeline L'Engle's 'Wind in the Door', write ranting blog posts and watch way too much You Tube with B.
"S, S, What Begins With S?"
What's the big deal, you ask? I'd have to point to the gross liberalities the writer of this study tends to take with the Bible. She ends up doing that thing I hate to come across in children's literature-when the author decides everything needs to rhyme, so they end up using terribly awkward verse and archaic words that are totally unsuitable for children. The study writer really painted herself into a corner. Everything needs to be about the early life of Samuel, and it needs to start with the letter S. So when the Scripture doesn't match up with her lesson, when it starts to deviate from the formula-does she change the formula? NO! She changes the Scripture, giving it a spin that might have had ole' Samuel spinning himself.

Now, the last thing I want to be is all snarky and nit-picky, but it's because it's important! I dragged myself out of the house to hang out with a bunch of women (which already sounds hard-I imagined it to be all dried flower arrangements and insipid sentiments. And I was wrong! The women there are really the saving grace of these 6 weeks) because I thought the Bible was important, and I wanted to hear what it said, not just someone's teachings that pull in Scripture here and there. So there it is. My dratted bible study.

Now because God seems to like the hard cases, somehow, He is managing to speak to me through all this. Maybe that is the benefit: I feel like I am panning for gold, hunched down beside the creek, sifting through the silt, pebbles and fool's gold; searching for the real thing, hoping to strike it rich


Holy Trinity?

This morning I was sitting on my bed trying to do my dratted bible study when G came in my room, hands tightly clutched together. "These are my babies," she told me, depositing handfuls of air into my lap. "How many babies do you have here?" I asked. "Three," she told me, "and their names are Jesus, Baby Jesus, and God-Jesus."


Mission Park Elementary School Cake Walk Champion 2007

I married a man who wins cakes, relentlessly. Raffles, cakewalks, school carnivals, town festivals, if the prize was cake-related, he was the Man. The Cake Man. When he was 16 he rocked a cake walk in the town of West, Texas (which is in west Texas, believe it or not. Have you noticed that Texans are somewhat....less than sibilant with their town names? Sheesh.) It was a 4th of July Town Festival and he just started winning cakes. By this time he was riding high on three years worth of victorious cakes. The Eagle Scouts cake raffle, the school carnival cake walks, he was the Pied Piper of cakes, a cake magnet. I think by the time of the Texas cake walk he was entering cake walks for the thrill involved; I think he planned on throwing them back. He bought his ticket, stood on the starting number in the circle and the music began. I imagine polka music at first, followed by some country western ("we have both kinds!") and then, scrraatch! *SFX: Sound of record needle scratching against record, just believe me, all you who've never heard that.* The music stopped. He won a cake. And another. And another. He said that after the 5th cake people were starting to revolt. Rumors started flying, the cake walk was fixed, that damned furriner was taking all their cakes; the California Cake Walk Kid was robbing them blind. I can just imagine them, starting to feel for their .44's, eyes narrowing. He started giving cakes away. He won more. Finally after NINE CAKES IN A ROW, he lost & you could almost hear the guns slide back into holsters. He never walked another cake walk, figuring he better quit while he was still alive. They take their cakes walks seriously in the Lone Star State. Beware.
So I bring this up because today B and I went to Salinas to pick up G from a 2 night stint with Grandma (woohoo!). We met them at the little school carnival around the corner. When G first saw us she started to run towards us on the lawn with her arms open wide, her red hair glinting against the green grass, blue eyes flashing. "Hi! Hi!" she yelled. It was a moment.
Grandma followed behind, slowed by some bulky parcels in her arms. "Guess who won her first cake?" she said. Yes, our Amazing Miss G cleaned up at the school carnival cake walk. Dark chocolate with rainbow sprinkles.

Cake Walk Gene vs. Hobbit Feet Gene
Apparently there's a Cake Walk Champion gene, and my daughter has inherited it. I'm glad B passed on this trait, I'd much rather have cake winners in the family, rather that than say, some of the other possible family traits like myopia (both of us), lateness (me) or the hairy, hobbit feet gene which is definitely from his side of the family.....
I always wanted to have an all day concert with local punk bands that had a cake walk in between bands because then you could bill it as a 'Punk Rock Cake Walk', words that sound really great together.
I haven't been around the local punk scene since high school (just a couple of semesters ago, really *cough cough*) so I've settled for a 'Root Beer Float Blanket Fort Party' which is also really hard to say. But very fun to do. Maybe we need to have another........

And a word to Susan, author of 'The Bricks in the Cave' -I love your story! I'm trying to write a book review to do it justice, which is hard. I've blog rolled your site, meanwhile, and hope to have a review soon! Thanks for checking back!

Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.