Tag Archives: California

Dear Tom, it’s been a helluva ride!

No, not leaving yet, but I’m about to close up shop temporarily.

We’re moving to Montana! I’ve dreamed of this for five years. Oscar saw the light… at last! As his job has become more and more untenable/onerous and California has become an increasingly challenging place to live.

All I can say is~ yes.

About damn time.

We recently returned from a ten day visit to the ranch. We babysat the cows, horses and dogs. Split and stacked two years worth of wood for our daughter and son-in-law, and met with a real estate agent in Bozeman. We put in an offer on a house and lo and behold… it was accepted right off! (Although my husband pulled a Chip Gaines and tried to fool me into thinking the offer had been rejected! Shiplap ho!)

Thus begins the hard work. I have to get our house on the market. Fingers crossed, it will sell ASAP. We had the hardwood floors refinished while we were away. Lookin’ good, I tells ya!

Yes, I do have two twenty-ish kids here, one of whom is pretty flummoxed at the idea of her parents moving. We are leaving the only home she’s ever known. Even though she doesn’t live with us, the idea of us gives her roots. I get it. My kids are the sole reason I’ve stayed.

But, all things must change. Seems like everyone I know is transitioning in one way or another. We wish us all the best!

In the meantime, enjoy the view from my new backyard! I know Jake will!


The Bridgers from our new backyard!

XOXO! Julia



Dear Tom, the misadventures of Jake and his bestie.

I wish I had photos but these days life is too busy for photos.

Jake and I went for a hike along the river. I chose a trail he loves. It’s a grassy trail that meanders through a flood plane. One one side is a slough, on the other side is the river. There are no roads. He can’t get killed chasing cars. There are no bicycles. There are only birds, the occasional fox, coyote, river otter, beaver and mountain lion. All good.

Oh, farther down the river, actually farther north along the river, is a place I’ve cristened Rabbitzville. Cuz there are like a million rabbits. But Jake and I headed south. There are fewer rabbits. Perhaps only a thousand rabbits as opposed to a million rabbits.

Jake and I crossed the slough via a makeshift bridge of boards and driftwood. Jake ran right through the water, while I picked my way across. When we reached the trail I let him off leash. I mean, c’mon, it was just us. There was nobody there but Jake, Julia and ducks.

We had a great time. He romped up and down and around, running in big circles like a puppy. It was a terrific hike. But then Jake scared up a rabbit. He scared up a jack rabbit by stepping right on him. The rabbit flew across the meadow, Jake in pursuit, because if there’s one creature he can’t resist, it’s a rabbit.

He chased that sucker for at least half a mile and then the rabbit dove into the slough, right into a huge patch of xanthium strumarium. Jake froze. When I saw him freeze I knew what had happened.


OMG. Those horrible horrible awful terrible cockleburs. They are the stuff of nightmares if you are a long-haired dog. He made his way back to me, walking like he was in absolute misery. Egg-shaped sharp stickers were matted into his hair, everywhere. His armpits, his belly, his chest, his legs, his tail.

We had a two mile hike back to the car. Once we got home I cut out as many of the stickers as I could. But I couldn’t shave his armpits or his belly. The stickers were matted right up against the skin.

He had to spend the entire day at the vet’s, sedated. They removed the remainder of the stickers, or so we thought. I’ve since found four more, had to cut them off his thighs. Yikes!

The same day his bestie, Hastur, was sprayed by a skunk right outside her front door.

Oh, California. Where the wild things are.

XOXO! Peace out. Julia


Dear Tom, my son promised he wouldn’t weaponize the ghost peppers.

Ghost Peppers or Red Naga: Where the Ghost Pepper is From and Why It’s so Hot.


The (dreaded) Red Naga.

My son made me grow them. He has plans. I did warn him there would be no weaponizing of the Ghost Peppers. Merely harvesting them was scary enough. For the time being they are safely ensconced in my freezer. Along with these chilies- bought the seedlings from a corner vendor:


Chilies Diablo.

All he could say was~ “Chilies Diablo. Muy caliente.” So far I’ve harvested two quart bags and I’ve got at least another couple quarts still ripening on the plants. I too have plans!

Sambal Oelek!

I’ve very excited about this! Chrismukkah presents for all!

I’ve had a little time on my hands and a little produce left over from last year. Finally got around to dealing with it.

I added this year’s quince harvest to last year’s harvest (freezer) and made two pints of quince jam. The stuff is like gold! A gallon of quinces made a measly two pints.


Quince Jam.

I also dried my drunken figs. Yes, drunken. They’ve been soaking in rum for a year, I’ll have you know! I dried them with my new food dehydrator.


Dried Drunken Figs.

These are killer, man. Each one is like a shot of rum.

I thought I’d give a shout out to Jake- He treed a mountain lion last week. Dang! The thing was yowling at him like a kazoo! Jake went insane chasing the lion across the yard. It managed to scramble up into one of our redwoods. Seriously, the yowling sounded like a kazoo. My son said, “Mom, I don’t think there are any wild kazoos marauding around Napa.” Took me a long time to get the dog back in so the lion could be on his/her merry way. Hey, I don’t care about mountain lions. They snag the vicious marauding raccoons, so… (And yeah, it’s always me who has to go out and retrieve the dog. Oscar can sleep through an earthquake.)

Speaking of raccoons– Another shout out to my goldfish. Our little pond is a good example of survival of the fittest. This tough guy is two years old! He’s outlasted twelve other goldfish, all of whom have been eaten by raccoons and egrets. He’s super smart. Has a good hiding place. Only comes out for me even though I’ve never fed him. Occasionally I pull out some of the algae, otherwise the pond is a nice little ecosystem. Provides him with all the food he requires.


The Goldfish.

His name is Fishy-Fishy. If anyone has a better suggestion I’m sure he won’t mind.

Still recovering. More on that at a later time.

That’s about it for now. Peace out.



About that drought…

Let’s be clear– This is the third major drought we’ve experienced in twenty-five years. The issues are as follows – an increase in population and water usage without any commensurate preparation on the part of our state government and our municipalities whatsoever. Because, yeah, right, the state figured we’d never have another drought. Idiots. And that’s all I’ll say. There are reasons for that lack of preparedness but I’ll just say– Idiots.

We’re better off in Napa. We are not going to run out of water. The seasonal streams will dry up quick, but we don’t depend upon them for water or irrigation. (Will impact the newly resurgent salmon population.)

We moved to California in 1990. California, at that time, was in the midst of a serious drought. It lasted five long years. We couldn’t water our lawn. In order to keep our shrubs and vegetable garden alive (barely) we did the following:

1. Kept a bucket in the shower to catch the water, soap and all, for watering plants.

2. Washed dishes in a bucket so we could strain the water and pour it on shrubs.

3. Bathed the three little kids together and used the water for the vegetable garden.

In addition we:

1. rarely flushed toilets. (Use your imagination.)

2. only washed super full loads of laundry.

3. only washed super full loads of dishes.

4. stopped washing cars.

5. kept showers to under five minutes.

6. bought bottled drinking water.

7. let the lawn die, front and back.

At the time we couldn’t afford to modernize our plumbing or redo our landscaping. We’d just moved from Utah, where the cost of living is low, to California, where the cost of living is high. We had three little kids, a HUGE mortgage, and my husband didn’t make much more money than he’d been making in Utah.

Remember, most of California is a desert. Always has been. It may be a fertile desert, but it’s still a desert. The Central Valley can grow pretty much anything and everything if there is water for irrigation. In all seriousness, even though the soil smells disgusting it’s amazingly fertile. A single tomato seedling stuck in my garden grows up to be the tomato plant that takes over the world.

Much of the nation depends upon California agriculture so this isn’t just a California-specific problem.

But take heart! This is a temporary situation. After the first drought we experienced, we survived five solid years of flooding– flooding so severe we were FEMA’d. We, personally, lost our retaining wall, were forced to re-landscape the entire backyard and add French drains. Our county has spent a number of years completing a flood control project which not only saves water, provides wetlands for birds and fish, but also keeps our town from flooding in wet winters. Basically it’s feast or famine around here. Now it’s famine. A few years ago it was feast.

Thus this isn’t a forever drought, it’s a for now drought. But just like our local governments prepare for wet years, they should prepare for dry years.

So far we haven’t been given any water restrictions. But it’s not like I ever wash my car…

Last year we replaced the grass in our backyard with Heavenly Greens. Two years ago we pulled most of our sprayers and replaced them with drip. Doesn’t work as well but it does save water. I deep water the un-dripped shrubs once a week, we water our small patch of grass in the front twice a week, and I water my garden three times a week. We’re back to not always flushing toilets and I save all extra water in big tubs to give my flowers an extra drink. (Plus we have water-saving appliances and low-flush toilets.)

Wish us well, but don’t worry too much. We’ve been through this before and we’ll go through this again. Like I said, California is a desert. Sometimes a wet desert but a desert nonetheless.

Take away message – When the Midwest and the East Coast are wet, we tend to be dry. Weather patterns. Ocean currents. No big surprises hereabouts.