Sunday, September 9, 2018

5 Years on the Other Side


I was picking tomatillos in my garden yesterday when I looked down and saw a spider hanging out on the bare part of my flip flop-clad foot. I flailed and cursed for a minute, but quickly went back to my important business. Five years of country living has hardened me against such terrors.

Yep, five years.

August 17th was the fifth anniversary of my arrival here in Santa Ynez. I say "my" because Mr. W didn't officially join me for about 8 more months. Life in the entertainment industry. Sigh.

I'm amazed by how quickly the years have passed. In our time here, we've managed to extensively demo, remodel, landscape, and add on to our house (an almost up-to-date before and after tour here), plant two different gardens that have yielded hundreds of fruits and veggies, say goodbye to two beloved cats, hello to two more that we adore, and raise a flock of six chickens (minus one dearly departed Miss Carrie Birdshaw). I think I've produced more sweat working in our yard here than I did in my entire 37 years in So Cal. But the perspiration, determination, and even frustration have all been worth it.

We really do feel like we did it. We had a dream and we made it come true.

We're living the life we imagined when sat on our patio in Hollywood drafting our plans to move to wine country. It's far from perfect. It's hard to balance the draws of LA—family, friends, work—with our new life here. Mr. W has even been commuting back and forth for a film project since late spring of 2017. We still haven't finished remodeling one of our bathrooms. We had to replant our garden 3 times this summer before figuring out how to fend off the earwigs. A deer broke our young persimmon tree. I break out in a rash every time I make contact with the zucchini plant or certain grasses in our back forty. And Trader Joe's and Target still require a 35-minute drive.

But all of the prickles and inconveniences are no match for the upsides of life here. The strangers who wave from their cars when we pass them on our street. The way that we seem to bump into someone we know every time we go out to dinner. The fact that we can spend an afternoon wine tasting without driving more than 7 minutes from our garage. The beautiful hawks and foxes and quail we get to see wandering through our yard.

The very best part, by far, though is the people we've come to call friends.

Before we moved, my biggest fear and greatest hope centered around making friends. I was so scared we wouldn't find our people. Not having children and working from home, our chances seemed like they might be slim. I'll never forget going to my first yoga class here and scanning the room like a predator looking for potential friend prey.

I still attend the same yoga class, though it's now filled with sassy seniors who take part in women's marches and worry about water conservation and world events. I adore these ladies so incredibly much. They're like my tribe of elders and I love listening to everything they have to say. And, they're not the only extraordinary friends I've made in town.

Mr. W and I had the great fortune of falling into a crowd of a dozen or two couples that all know each other through the community and get together regularly for BBQs and beer nights at the local brewery and holiday parties. We never had a crew like this in LA. We had great friends who were couples, but never a sprawling collection that has come to feel more like family than just friends.

It's all been such an unexpected gift. I had hoped to make a few close friends and it feels like there are at least 20 people I could call now for help or a girls' night out or a shoulder to cry on. I'm amazed by our luck.

And the idea that those friendships and our memories will only deepen over the next five years and the five after that completely warms my heart. We planted a new life and get to watch it grow.

I hope continues to yield delicious and copious amounts of goodness.

Just like my beloved tomatillo plant.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Every Penny Counts

Mr. W snapped this on his way home from LA
Wednesday afternoon, somewhere near the Thomas fire.
Ash is raining down at my house today, as smoke from the Thomas fire in Ventura County blows north. I don't know exactly how many structures and homes have been lost, but I know it's in the hundreds, and I cannot even imagine what people who lived in the fire's path are going through.

Tomorrow, Mr. W. and I are heading to Walmart to buy a whole bunch of stuff to donate to the victims (if you want to contribute, Venmo me tonight!). It may not end up being much when you consider the magnitude of everything lost, but hopefully it'll help.

I really believe every little bit helps.

At the beginning of this year, I was feeling really uncertain about what would happen to many of the causes I care about. Certain organizations and initiatives seemed to be in jeopardy—so I set a crazy goal to donate $100 a month to different charities. Now, for some people, that's peanuts. But it was more than I'd ever coughed up to nonprofits in my life.

I'm excited to say I exceeded my goal by about 40%.

It got me thinking about how much easier it is to give than I thought it was. Sure, I could have used that money to pad my savings account or take a nice trip. But receiving thank you letters from teachers in need and nonprofits that do such important work for wounded veterans or the environment or LGBT rights—it made every last cent count so much more.

Did you know that if every one of my Facebook friends donated just $5 a month to charity, there'd be more than $40,000 a year going to good causes? From just FIVE bucks a month. Almost everyone can afford that.

So I'd like to poke you in the rib and ask you to donate to something you believe in. Or send some money to a great org like Direct Relief or the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Or drive yourself to Walmart tomorrow and pick up some stuff to send to Californians who have lost their homes. They need it, and I have a feeling it'll make your holiday season feel a little more meaningful.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Warning: Chicken Panic Is Contagious

Whoever wrote the story of Chicken Little and his famous "the sky is falling" catchphrase must have been a hen owner. Anyone who has spent even a small amount of time in the company of poultry can tell you that the feathered girls are usually high anxiety. The intensity of their panic is somewhere in the realm of fainting '50s Beatles fans or, if we were measuring it in abs, maybe like 8 Ryan Goslings.

Our new chicks, Agnes and Barb, are especially uppity—I think because we didn't get them until they were about 6 weeks old. The ladies in our first brood have been handled by us since the day they were born, so their neuroses are slightly less (maybe around a factor of 6 Gos abs).

Barbie and Agnes currently live in a sectioned off portion of the big girls' run. And yes, their coup is a souped up cardboard box...

Anywhoo, it occurred to me last week that chicken anxiety might be like the avian flu. Catching. And I'm infected. Mr. W has been away for work (which always depletes any reserves of calm I have) so I've been on chicken duty all by myself and was pretty much flapping around the house squawking like a featherbrain Wednesday when I thought our little Samantha was eggbound. (Teaching moment: Chickens can get eggs stuck between their uterus and ....exit hole....and it they stay that way, they can die).

Sammy hadn't produced any eggs in a few days (or she may have laid in the yard and hidden them from me) so I was keeping a close eye on her. When she finally went into the nesting box, I checked on her about 3 times and when I opened it to find her standing with her beak wedged in the corner, painting and straining, I freaked out.


I raced through the yard like a crazy person, looking for some sort of bathtub so I could throw her into an Epsom salt soak. I couldn't find my normal tubs, so naturally I began to blame Mr. W for losing the hen spa box. Finally, I grabbed a mini ice chest, ran into the house to heat water in the microwave and frantically searched for the bag of salt.

Then I realized that I've never actually witnessed one of our girls laying an egg. Maybe Sammy was just doing that. Maybe she wasn't eggbound, but eggbirthing.

I zipped back to the chicken coop and sure enough her pretty blue egg was waiting in the nesting box.

The sky was still intact hovering above my head.

Apparently chicken labor involves standing in a corner, straining and panting. Duly noted.

Though I feel much calmer about the situation, I'm fully prepared to have the avian panic flu strike me again. If only I could get these little ladies to chill out before it hits.

In other farm news, our garden is going crazy. In the last two weeks, I've given zucchini away to I believe 6 different people and I still have more than I know what to do with.

As a result of the overly abundant harvest, the dehydrator has become my new BFF.

I've dried about 7 zucchinis, a dozen or two apricots and a few plums.
Oh my gosh and - happy day - our almond tree is ready to be harvested for the first time! Super excited to roast some nuts. 10 Gos abs on the excitement scale for that!