Tag Archives: home life

Pre-Spring Gardening

Yeah, okay, starting this up against might be a New Year’s resolution type thing. Just a little. :D

The last couple months of 2015 really knocked me on my ass. I’ll be posting about it a bit, but I also don’t want to dwell too much. My goal right now is to build up a new routine, for my somewhat-new life, that lets me get back to what I love while also…you know…eating.

At the moment, that means engaging with life as usual at home. With a couple light storms behind us and a big one coming this week, priority one was disking the property. Not my department personally–Mum’s run the tractor around nearly all the areas. The exciting thing about that, though, is it also means the fields will be ready for planting soon.

I planted daffodil bulbs today, but I’ve still got the second half to put in another spot. We’re trying to get up some money to order wildflower seeds for the main field. Last year’s sunflowers were something of a disappointment, so I’m keen to give something else a chance. The small front field is going to get squash and vegetables again. The real challenge: finding more tactics to use against the recurring pest problems. Bloody gophers and ground squirrels, eating my pumpkins!

Though the rain has brought up green everywhere, it’s also been very cold. It’s still solidly winter. My gardening plans are a little bit wishful thinking and a little bit groundwork for later. Being busy feels good, though, after a couple months dominated by anxious waiting.

The Brewer’s and Red-Winged blackbirds have been out in force. As are the two sparrow groups I haven’t identified confidently yet. They all like to pick through the horses’ grain, so the winter scarcity hasn’t deterred them. The collared doves have been less active than usual; I hadn’t noticed at first that they haven’t been wandering around noisily. I’m still waiting for the grackles to return. I’ve seen a few in the past couple months, but no regular presence.

Everything Is Boring, Everything Is Fascinating

Growing up, most children seem to have at least a brief phase when they want a pony. There’s a good market out there for horse-related products aimed at little girls. Have a pink sparkle unicorn school binder, a Breyer collectible, and a coloring book. Because while this passion for horses is some kind of truth of childhood (at least in the US), very few children will ever get that real pony with a ribbon around her neck.

Unless, of course, you grow up on a horse ranch like I did.

(For reference, ponies frequently have appalling personalities and a propensity for bad behavior. They are little balls of fluff and rudeness.) Whatever else can be said about my social life during grade school, this aspect of my life had some serious value to some of my classmates. At least one girl maintained a casual friendship with me for the sole purpose of being invited over to see the horses on a Saturday afternoon.

I, however, couldn’t have been more bored. Horses meant corrals to be cleaned, emergency drives to the equine hospital, and parents occupied with caring for someone else for most of the day. They were the permanent baby siblings I hadn’t exactly signed on for. I saw our horses every day. I liked them, or didn’t, on an individual basis. That baby kicked me and I’m holding a grudge. This one makes a funny face if I tickle his nose right. Horses could be fun, or annoying, or upsetting, or calming. They were never fascinating, though.

(Truth: I did, nonetheless, collect Breyers. Toy horses have significantly fewer annoyances associated with them.)

To this day, I forget. I forget that my lifestyle is special and unusual to other people. I forget that they want to hear about it and understand the secrets I take for granted. I forget that, just as I am weirdly interested in the daily lives of mechanics and painters and trash collectors, other people are interested in the daily life of a rancher. (Or a writer.) Only when something goes wrong do I remember that horses are strange and delicate and complex, harder to fix than I would like, and that life with them is anything but dull.

I forget that everything is boring and everything is fascinating, depending on who is doing the living and who is doing the looking.

Some day in the future, space travel with be an annoying routine. People will complain about the traffic at the space station and the line of ships backed up at the wormhole entrance. They’ll complain that the food synthesizer on board is making everything taste like licorice AGAIN. Exploring new planets will be someone’s daily grind. It has very little to do with the reality and everything to do with our perceptions. Do something enough and it becomes boring. Invisible. Often, catastrophe is the only thing strong enough to shake us up: scare us, and we start to look at our own lives with the eyes of strangers.

Humans will need to remember: anything can be boring, anything can be fascinating. If we forget, life has a way of sending a little mayhem in to remind us.

Birding With Technology

One of the interesting bits about moving a significant distance is that all the wildlife changes. For example, while I like rabbits, I’m not exactly mourning the loss of them and their destruction of the vegetable garden. (Don’t worry; the voles and ground squirrels are picking up the slack.) The most dramatic has been the birds. There are a friggin’ lot of them, okay?

A few mainstays of California are familiar from the old place: we have no shortage of turkey vultures and mourning doves, and egrets pass over us daily. Most of them, though, are a big ???. I have a 1983 copy of Golden’s Birds of North America. Usually, that’s enough. With only a couple drawings of each bird, sorted by scientific family, and a description of less than fifty words, though, it has its limitations. It didn’t give me any help in identifying the midsize, brown and yellow bird making a loud, distinctive warble throughout the day.

This is when I fall in love with modern information technology all over again. I looked through a lot of bird guide sites, local and general. I ended up on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. They have an app–doesn’t everyone? It’s a free bird identification app. I gave it my zip code, plus estimates of the bird’s size, main colors, and the date and area I saw it. It gave me a short list of half a dozen possibilities.

Western MeadowlarkIt’s a Western Meadowlark. It gave me pictures, a description, and a map of its territory. The app even played clips of its distinctive song. It took longer to download the app than it did to identify my bird. Which I can tell it–“Yes, That’s My Bird”–and it sends the information to its database for improved future results.

While I was at it, I discovered what the weird black birds with sideways tails had been over summer. Great-tailed grackles. Do you know what a grackle is? I damn well didn’t. Noisy goofballs, as it turns out. The book says they aren’t this far west, but there they were, and the app agrees. Grackle.

It’s trivial, being able to identify a bird like this. Neither my safety nor my sustenance depends on a familiarity with local wildlife. It’s satisfying, though, in the way all knowledge is. Where there had been an annoying blank space, there is now a name, a picture, maps, data. I could have taken photos to my local Audubon Society, I suppose. Consulted more books at the library. Visited a natural history museum, perhaps. With the internet, though, it’s the matter of an afternoon at home. Identifying birds is as simple and satisfying as any game app I have on my tablet.

Sort of makes me want to sing too.

The Year of the Move, +1

One year ago, I bought my first house. After a lot of changes for the worse, it was my change for the better. To celebrate my house-iversary, I’ve got a little tour to show off what was once a disaster and is now my very own ideal safe place.

(Apologies in advance for the less than pristine video quality. Tablets as video cameras: handy but imperfect.)

The Year of the Move: 1, 2, 3, 4, and bonus.