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!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Hipster Farmers' Almanac

A few weeks ago, Mr. W and I spent two days laying down our "big" summer garden in the lower, wild part of our backyard. Creating a functioning garden in the middle of a weed field requires just a smidge of elbow grease. So, naturally, we started with a call to our neighbor asking if he could roll his tractor over to plow our plot for us.

I assumed that our neighbor's tractor pass would to make our jobs exponentially easier, but that was before I knew all the details of Mr. W's very intricate garden construction plan. Dig-and-plant is for amateurs. Instead, we dug three 6-inch-deep, 25-foot-long trenches into which we placed chicken wire as protection against gophers. (The one thing we planted outside of the "grid" recently disappeared into a tunnel in the ground. Thank goodness Mr. W knew we needed to lay down the wire...)

Now, I'm pretty sure that I've told Mr. W about twelve times that I will no longer dig ditches for him. I'm happy to help with other chores, but I when it comes to digging—the ultimate grunt work—I'm out. Yet, somehow, there I was with my shovel, breaking my back alongside him for hours.

Thankfully, Mr. W had a blue tooth speaker pumping out 80s music from Spotify. So as we covered our gopher barrier with a mix of compost and regular dirt, Adam Ant and Robert Smith serenaded us.

"How many farmers do you think listen to the Cure while they work?" I asked Mr. W.

"Only the hipster ones," he answered.

Were we hipster farmers?! 

I felt like I needed to run out and buy some high-waisted pants and vegan sandals. But when I told my 22-year-old niece the story, she quickly informed me that we were NOWHERE NEAR hipsterhood.

So, I guess we're just farmers who listen to 80s music.

In spite of all the sweat and dirt and body aches our project entailed, we're pretty psyched about the new garden. Hopefully sooner than later, our kitchen will be overflowing with tomatoes, tomatillos, bell peppers, jalapeños, zucchini, pumpkins, cantaloupe, corn, and some edible flowers.

A wee baby pumpkin

Until then, we'll distract ourselves with the other latest addition to our farm: Santa Barbara (Barb) and Santa Ynez (Agnes) the pullets. We picked them up last weekend and we're in love.


If having really cute chickens doesn't add to our hip-ness, we're hoping our other latest project will help: cafe lights on the pergola. Summer al fresco dining, here we come.

Hip that.

Monday, April 24, 2017

More Usable Space and a Whole Lotta Redwood

When I first moved in with Mr. W 6 1/2 years ago, I remember being mildly horrified by the lack of storage space in his house. Where would I put my wrapping paper supplies and Rubbermaid tubs filled with old photo albums and collection of board games? Of course, I made everything fit by forcing Mr. W to rearrange and purge his belongings. {Sneaky brilliance}

In 2013 when we moved into our Santa Ynez house, we were both delighted by how much space we were gaining. We'd be able to fit every last Halloween costume, piece of scrap wood, and superfluous blanket and bedpillow. We never dreamed we'd fill it all, but fast forward 3 years and we were starting to burst at the seams. Between Mr. W's supply of RC helicopters, my mass of hoarded wine bottles for Etsy projects, every power tool known to man, and the real elephant in the room—an airplane Mr. W is building from scratch—we needed more room.

The most logical place to expand was to make over the one part of the house we pretty much never used: the breezeway.

Though it had a cute set of furniture on it like a little kitchen-adjacent lounge in which to drink martinis and read the evening post, we never, ever spent time out there. It was really just a dumping ground for garden tools, chicken feed bags, paint cans, or whatever else we didn't feel like putting away in its proper spot.

So up went a removable wall, and in went Mr. W's makeshift workshop space (allowing me to finally start parking in the garage again...) We're still working on the curb appeal here—we're midway through stripping and staining the beams by the front door so they tie into the new more modern panelling. And I'm sure there will be some further tweaking after that.

We bought a new garage door, too, which we both really dig.

I think once we get the kinks figured out, it'll all look really nice (except the hideous driveway...). And it's great that Mr. W has spillover space for his aeronautics endeavors now.

RIP Carrie Birdshaw :( :(

So now you may be wondering where the cute set of patio furniture went. Behold my friends, the recently added crown jewel of our backyard: Prince Pergola.

We knew we wanted to erect some sort of sun shade feature in the backyard and after seeing this beauty on Fixer Upper one night, Mr. W concocted a perfect design for it. We brought in some pros and it was up and casting shadows in about a week.

Fixer Upper inspiration pulled from Instagram

I swear it has changed the entire house. It feels like an extension of the living and dining room, which is exactly what we wanted. At least 3 times a week, I'm outside on my laptop working from the "outdoor office" soaking up some vitamin D. It's truly fantastic.

These guys like it too. But only from afar.

Looking forward to having some nice red Sangria under those gorgeous red beams this summer. Cheers!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

It's All Just Happening Too Fast

In less than two weeks, I'll be turning 41. It's been a whirlwind of a first year in this new decade, and I find myself wondering lately if anyone else gets the sense that the world is spinning faster than it used to. As we get older, does everything start to come flying at you at more and more of a breakneck pace? Like a hailstorm in a tilt-o-whirl? Or the scene from I Love Lucy where she's working in the candy factory, trying so desperately to "process" all the chocolate until she finally just has to start stuffing it all in her mouth to keep up?

I knew this past week was going to be busy because my boss was on vacation. And I was having oral/sinus surgery. I didn't know I was also going to have unexpected houseguests for a night, witness the highs (and some drama) of watching an important project launch after months of hard work, plus spend several days caring for a sick, beloved pet chicken who ended up dying. 

Tilt-o-whirl hailstorm.

I think sometimes I forget that life is always a rollercoaster. It's like two weeks of calm give me amnesia and I suddenly don't remember that I've had two cats die and two new cats arrive in the span of 8 months. Or that I got a new car but also may have to get new foundation supports because part of our house might be sinking into our hillside. I keep going blind to the fact that the crazy candy conveyor belt is the norm.

Last month, my dentist pulled a tooth that had been hanging out in my mouth for about 38 years. It was a baby tooth, and although I'm 40, it was still attached with nothing above it to take its place. Mr. W teased me after my dental extraction and asked if this meant I was finally going to become a grown-up.

I don't think I'm ready.

Because if this planet really does start to spin faster and faster the older you get, I'd rather hang on to my youth and my immaturity and all of my baby teeth.

All this new and old and birth and death and planning and unexpected. It's kind of exhausting.

I'm grateful to be alive and to be lucky enough to be experiencing the full range of human emotions— but MAN I am tired. And I've got like 50-60 more years of this.

Someone, please tell me it'll slow down a little.

In the meantime, I think I'll have to just continue to mentally medicate myself with stuff like cat pictures...

Babies Powell Guinness and Oliver Montrose

Arms out, tail out

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Goodnight to My Sweet Zee Zee Girl

When we had to let go of our dear boy Monty last May, I never would have thought that we'd be doing the same with Zoe eight months later. Throughout the bulk of her life, Zoe was the epitome of health and energy. People often mistook her for a youngster even in her golden years. Being thirteen - fourteen - fifteen didn't stop her from pouncing all over the couch or taking running leaps from the step between our dining and living room during her hyperactive races through the house.

I first met the spazzy little ring-tailed lemur when I was 24. She came from the family of some friends who happened to have 3 pregnant cats at once. I can remember visiting after the litters arrived and it was like a kitten amusement park. There were stumbly fluffballs everywhere. Zoe stood out from the pack because every time I picked her up, she instantly started to purr. When she was 6 months old, I asked to bring her home to my little studio apartment and lonely cat, Monty.

From day one, she was a sweetheart. And a saint for putting up with Monty, who was about twice her size (probably three-times at his height) and hell-bent on asserting his dominance over her (read: beating her up). The bully at her bedside didn't ever stop her from being upbeat and ready to snuggle at any time.

Her signature move was to get so over-sensitized when she was rubbing her head all over your pantlegs, that she'd blow up like a bottle brush. It was like her joy overwhelmed her hair follicles and made them all stand on end.

She also had this knack for sneaking into chairs where you were sitting. "I'm so tiny, you'll barely notice I'm here."

She was always consistent. Highly predictable. Filled with nothing but love and affection.

Because I adopted her a little later in her kitten life, she also had a sense for adventure that Monty never seemed to share. On more than one occasion, Zoe snuck out the kitchen door here and went on safari through the yard. Once she got out when we were in Santa Barbara for several hours—we came home to find her obediently sitting on the porch. Apparently she'd covered all the ground she needed to cover and was ready to get back to her cozy couch. I think she slept for five hours straight when we let her back inside. 

In spite of the fact that her big brother was a bully, she really seemed to take a turn after his death. She was more anxious without him and small health issues seemed to quickly balloon once he was gone. In September, we found out Zoe had a mass on her bladder and because of her relatively advanced age we decided not to put her through any sort of surgery or treatment for it.

Giving her a kitten during her final time here may not have been a fulfillment of her long-held dreams, but she seemed to at least somewhat enjoy the company of another feline during the last couple months. She and Ollie spent many afternoons curled up on the couch near each other.

Even though she'd been in less than great shape for awhile, it feels strange in our house without her. It feels like, at any moment, she could race out of the hallway door at top speed and launch herself off the dining room step to greet us with head rubs and her bottle brush tail.

I hope she's on safari in cat heaven right now. She deserves and eternity of adventure and joy after all the joy she brought to us. We'll miss our little Zee Zee so very much.