Along for the ride:

Monday, October 6, 2014


It's hard to believe we're several days into October. Although the days have shortened, whilst the sun is up we've been wilting through an ongoing heat wave. It's 99 degrees Fahrenheit at four in the afternoon, in my shady covered patio that serves as home office, entertaining space and general happy place.

This is how it looked before we move in, in July. We liked the house and its potential but wondered at the absence of birds and squirrels, that we're so used to having around.

A couple of months later and our jungle is softening the hard edges already. The cat and I just got a very rude talking to from a squirrel who was headed in to feast on the grains that fall from the bird feeder. Slinkie left her lounging post on the table, where she makes the most of the breeze, and took a step or two towards Mr. Squirrel. He found himself taking refuge in a tree that can't have been to his liking and was very clear about sharing his opinion.

I wish I could share the perfume of the Hawaiian Ginger with you. The flowers unfurl discreetly. I always discover a new blossoming by head-turning scent at first. They sometimes continue flowering into January, if we don't get a cold snap. The trellis behind the Ginger supports a Persian Jasmine, which has doubled in size since we've been here.
Although only a dozen, or so miles away from our last home, we've left the proximity to the coastal range, where Nature's air conditioner, Fog, rolls inland in the evenings and where clouds catch and break open in normal rainy seasons.
The heat is much more challenging when there's no respite as dark falls. Fans are our new found friends. If the air is moving, you can fool yourself into pretending it's cool.
We've christened our space with a get together of twenty two friends and family members. That maxed out the space. We'll have to set the tables on the lawn, if we increase our guest numbers next time.
I took TAO's daughter, who was visiting from France, on a trail ride in the tree shaded hills around the barn where I usually ride in the arena. She'd never met a Palomino horse before. It's a very Western Movie kind of thing. On the way back, galloping up to the top of the big pasture, there was a Bald Eagle flying low enough for us to clearly see his white head and enormous dark wingspan. I'm still in awe.
I'm putting my drafting skills to work to capture a design for a fireplace, for a designer/friend I met with yesterday. She's purchased a coastal getaway home in Cambria. I drove three and a half hours each way yesterday. We had planned to spend the weekend relaxing and sight seeing but TAO had eaten something that didn't agree with him and didn't feel he was safe to leave the house. "The Trots" was a term my Father used to use, and has nothing to do with equitation. Poor TAO!
I swooped along in freewheeling solitary pleasure. Much appreciated after all the carpooling we've been doing since we moved. Radio and air-conditioning set to my preferences and beautiful effects of sideways sun-shortening shadows, making the creases and canyons disappear from the landscape, as the day got up. It was a reverse-commute direction, both going and coming. (Thanks be to Heaven!). The one small slowdown was due to trucks having to navigate around an S model Tesla, limping along with it's hazard warning lights on. Someone must have miscalculated their battery life or forgot to charge up before heading out into the boonies. Maybe they thought there were charging stations scattered between here and Los Angeles. Same planet, different worlds. There were only old Spanish Missions, National Guard gun ranges and the slow nod of the wellheads, competing to suck the earth dry of crude oil.
South of Paso Robles, the road out to the Pacific winds past a multitude of wineries, each named and designed for a different fantasy. It was still early and the only vehicle in sight was an old pick-up truck, in my rear view mirror. Suddenly, the pastoral view gave way to a sweeping Ocean-scape and twenty minutes later I was at my appointment. It was fun to catch up with their goings on. We haven't seen one another for a while. We fit easily into our professional groove and it wasn't hard to pin down what they wanted and see how to make it happen. 
My clients took me to lunch at Indego Moon in Cambria. I had a leek and crusted goat cheese tart with a salad and a glass of white wine. Leeks are the secret weapon of flavoring. It was just right, crunchy over soft and tasty as can be. I then went off to show my face (and ID and credit card) at the little motel where we had reservations. It was too last minute to cancel our reservation and I'd called a friend who needed a break, knowing it was her favorite destination. She and her husband said "Yes" immediately and would be there to make use of the room, which I had to pay for anyway. I'd much rather see someone get some pleasure out of it than have it go to waste.
Back home by dinner time, I cooked rice and hard boiled eggs to get TAO back on track. I'd cancelled my riding for the weekend, thinking we'd be gone, and so have had some time on my hands today. I started the morning topping up the seeds for the finches and renewing the sugar water mix for the Humming birds. I've not had a Humming bird feeder before. I chose a deep red antique glass bottle design as I know they like red flowers. I measured out the powdered sucrose mix and used warm water this time to melt it together more easily. As soon as I hung it back up, there was the buzzing of wings and the flash of green-glinting neck plumage. A short aerial battle ensued as Hummers are quite territorial. One gained priority but the other wasn't far away and hovered until he had supped his share.

Monday, September 15, 2014


This is the feel-good part of animal rescue!
Ruly has a family and he knows it.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

(Un)-Ruly and a Rescue the Size of Texas

I have a card that says "Someone please stop me from volunteering again". The new clown dog, who has taken up temporary residence with us, is Ruly.
Our Collie Rescue Group doesn't take on mixes, except when they do:) Ruly was out of time at the shelter and is obviously part smooth collie. The rest of his DNA probably involved some hound, but it's anybody's guess.
Ruly was called Max, as are half the dogs in this world, and he went to join the 9 collies at our area coordinator's farm. A couple are hers, the rest are returning guests as she dog-sits for prior rescues. Max/Ruly was described as exhausting; wearing out the patience of the older dogs with his relentless rough play and lack of manners.
I stayed quiet on the sidelines of the email-group discussion about him, keeping my twitchy trigger-finger away from the buttons that would draw attention to me. We still have a lot going on after our move, not to mention having a business to run.
The gal who originally signed me up to foster, many Dog-Moons ago, is no fool. She innocently wrote to Ruly's beleaguered temporary guardian: "Doesn't so-and-so specialize in The Unruly?". Sideways compliment or baited trap? I jumped in and said that I'd take him on for a few weeks, if I could have naming rights and give him the aspirational name of Ruly.
Ruly is in his third week with us. He's learned to walk on the leash, improve his meet and greet skills with other dogs and make the most of relaxing in front of  the office fan. He relaxes a lot, as my biggest and best rule of dog-training is to keep them as tired as possible.
Ruly's good with cats and kids and a great companion in the car. He's been deemed adoptable and his picture is on Facebook and on the rescue website. Unfortunately, he's being eclipsed by a story from Texas. A woman there had a history of hoarding; breeding collies but never relinquishing them to homes. The initial count of undernourished dogs seized from backyard cages was over ninety. Two pregnant bitches have whelped thirteen and ten pups respectively, over the weekend. Four frightened dogs who've been hiding in the back of their igloos were finally spotted and counted, bringing the total to 120.
There was a hearing earlier today and a judge signed them all over to be cared for and adopted out by Houston Collie Rescue, which is great news. Sometimes dogs can be in legal limbo for months or years before they get a chance at a normal life in a loving home.
At the hearing, it came to light that there are an additional three dozen collies that were hidden at the hoarder's father's house, then transferred back to her since. Concerned neighbors had called in to say that they could still hear dogs barking at her home.
For once an animal abuser was taken away in handcuffs. She had done this before in 2007. Fifty five dogs were taken from her at that time. The current numbers were produced from the ten dogs she hid and kept back then.
Many rescue organizations have reached out to share this load. The financial outlay so far is close to $50,000. The Collie Club of America has donated $10,000 and some pet-food companies have sent supplies. Pilots for Paws are waiting to schedule flights, as needed, to transport dogs across the country. Vets are vaccinating, evaluating and treating all the dogs. Every one has been bathed, micro-chipped and given a name.
We don't yet know how many of these dogs will be allocated to California. If they do come, I've signed up to take two.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Collie Colored Interior

TThe car shenanigans have continued with a broken down rental car, that took Hertz four hours to retrieve, and a "roadside assistance phone operator" who told me it was too early in the day and I'd have to call around myself to find a replacement vehicle.
After a wasted morning, I had a friend drive me forty miles to get a car. I must say that the real humans at the rental offiice tried hard to make up for the inconvenience, offering me peaches from their parking lot tree and giving me a 2015 model car, so new it still has the bar-coded delivery stickers on it.

This enormous project, is the kind of thing that occupies me, when I'm not dealing with every day problems. 
When it all comes together, this is what this back yard fountain will look like. These spillways will lead to a vertical drop. The sheet of water will surge and sparkle over custom blue glass mosaic tiles and enhance the view from the basement levels and from the master bedroom balconies.
The design criteria are that this walk the fine line between modern and traditional, to appeal to the target buyer, the 35 to 45 year old techie, multi-millionaire.
The on-site photo shows safety railings that were installed last week, immediately after a young roofing contractor plummeted off a two storey roof, onto hard dirt. He is going to make it. He had surgery on his broken leg. It could have been so much worse. 
I was meeting with the home owner and we rounded a corner of his substantial construction project, to see three guys standing, conversing with a fourth, who was stretched full length on the ground. It looked like it was break time and one was resting, until we saw the blood that had run down from his head wound. When he fell, his hammer followed and bashed him on the way down. 
The buddies were calling their boss and wanted to load him in their car, to drive to the hospital, to avoid ambulance fees and accident reports, surely. We nixed that idea and the homeowner called 911 while I wiped the blood out of the victims eyes and repeatedly insisted that he stay still, fearing for spinal injuries etc. Their story was that he had slipped off the lower, balcony section, not the two storey roof. Relative to where he was lying, the young man must have taken quite a flying jump to make the tale true. 
The next day on the jobsite was all hard hats and safety harnesses. Nothing is ever learned for free but it was really the best outcome for the situation.
My new (to me) car is a Ford Escape. It only has 27,000 miles on it. That's a hundred thousand less than the car that went to the scrap heap in the sky. 

The thing that sold me on this vehicle, other than being a nice, lively drive, is the Collie colored interior. No more black seats covered alternately with white stone dust and beige dog hair. Yes!
It is a great shame that it's not halloween. I might have won prizes for the most gross eye. I was in front of a mirror yesterday afternoon, to pull my hair into a poneytail before riding. This is what I noticed. I couldn't make this stuff up, if I tried. 
My head did not explode. I can still see and I had a nice ride, although it was104 degrees. My eye got worse over night so I did call my health care provider. The advice nurse asked a lot of questions and thinks I'll live, although it's still going to be ugly for a week or two. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Laughing all the way to the Riverbank

Remember the last post, about disasters? The theme continues, from sublime ( were we ever sublime?) to ridiculous.
If you're going to get rear-ended on the Fourth of July weekend, it might as well be by Balloonatics, right?
No injuries. We hardly felt a thing, but my car is considered totaled. There's more damage than the car is worth and the insurance company proposed a settlement that I thing is very generous. It's almost twice what I was expecting. They probably have a quick settlement policy so people don't decide they'll suddenly say they have back pain and sue. 
We left our troubles behind this weekend and drove north, to Chico, to attend a friend's Art Show opening. We chose back roads through peach and walnut orchards, with the occasional shocking green rice field dotted with bright white egrets.
I did buy this amazing fired clay casserole dish, which was the work of another Artist in the Show and very reasonable. I love the flavors of covered-pot cooking and I have some other, similar pieces.
We slowed for lunch at the kind of secret place that doesn't make it into the Michelin Guide but has atmosphere and flavor in every sense of the words.
An impressive outboard motor collection, for ambience, and a VW bus with the usual paint job, but sliced in half and installed on either side of a tree.
So, here I'll leave you, with a shared view of my blogging-station, in the deep shade of the riverbank trees, buffetted by a warm breeze, with the taste of my Hawaiian burger still on my lips and Margaritaville playing softly in the background.
Life can be tough:)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Disaster Magnets?

It's been a week now, since we first collapsed to sleep, surrounded by cardboard boxes, in our new home. So far, two houses have burned to the ground and two dead bodies have been found in a nearby park. There's a high likelihood that idiots playing with fireworks, on a hot and windy afternoon, ignited the long dry buffalo grass on the hillside and that wildfire devoured the houses. There were loud explosions when the propane tanks went up and news photos showed blackened rubble and barely recognizable skeletons of family cars that never had a chance to leave their garages. Sirens, firetrucks and helicopter rotter-blades provided the sound track to which danced the pillars of black and, later, white smoke. Prelude to the Fourth of July.
The bodies appear to have been a murder-suicide. It seems callous to feel relief, but as sad and difficult as that must be for all concerned. It is a self-contained crime. There are no retaliations or repercussions that might affect us. There is no unidentified murderer on the loose.
Our house is a "Fifties-Modern" box with windows. It's all on one level and has mature trees shading the front, creating a cool privacy set-back from our cul-de-sac. Children play in the street in the afternoons, fighting for turns on their scooters and making up imaginary games, for which there is, as yet, no "App" or "i".
my desiccated bird of paradise flowers stand scarecrow sentinel, waiting their chance to flourish now that someone will be watering them again.
This house comes with a secret treasure, barely mentioned in the advertisement. There is an enormous workshop on the property that will allow The Artistic One to organize his hoard and play two-fingered torture on his piano without driving me crazy. It also means that the double garage is mine, for laundry,  garden tools and dog supplies. There will be shelves around the perimeter and a table or two that can be for ongoing projects of my own. Imagine that!

I had a very sad task on early on Sunday morning. Abby-Rose's adoptive Mom, Barbara, called from Hawaii where she was on vacation with her adult children and their families. Her dog-sitter, Valerie, had told her that Abbey wasn't doing well and she was going to see the emergency vet. Barbara asked me to accompany them and see if I thought Abby could make it through another two days until Barbara could get home to be with her.
I got in my car and drove to meet Valerie and Abby at the vet's, leaving a u-haul truck, our muscle team and a stupefied husband in my rear view mirror. As I headed out, I put out Mayday! calls to two good girlfriends. At 8am on a Sunday morning they dropped everything, left their homes and families and came to take over the helm of The Move-Boat for me.
Abby-Rose needed to be given The Final Rescue. She was not a young dog when she was pulled from the shelter, at the eleventh hour, and she spent almost a year with me in training, before going to live with Barbara. She had three really good years and found and gave a lot of love during that time.
After a long phone consultation with the vet, pet-sitter and myself, Barbara knew that she must let Abby go. I thanked her for adopting Abby, for loving Abby and for releasing Abby from all discomfort. 
I cried my way back home to hugs from my champion girlfriends and sympathy from my employees who knew Abby, as she always came to work with me. I was glad of the distraction of boxes and moving in need of my attention. Little did I know...

For now, the garage is crammed with paintings and boxes that our employees unloaded randomly when we left them alone to take TAO to the hospital during the move. TAO had fallen full length on Friday and, seemingly, escaped major injury. That Sunday, two days later, when I returned from saying farewell to Abby-Rose, he was sitting pathetically in a chair, with an elbow swollen like a cantaloupe. He didn't want to leave our crew without supervision, until the truck was packed to exploding point and we'd made it to the new place to show them what came next. By then, it was mid afternoon on a Sunday and we were lucky to be able to get a Doctor's appointment at the last minute. The doctor sent us to X-Ray, with a follow-up referral to orthopedics for the next day.
Monday morning dawned with TAO's wrist now as swollen as his elbow. The orthopedic department called to try to schedule us a day later, as they were slammed after the weekend. It was a case that couldn't wait, due to TAO's age, past reconstruction surgeries to restore that arm and hand, after a severe crushing trauma long ago, and regular prescription of blood-thinners. The medical assistant heard me out and put us on hold to go confer with someone who could write up an appointment where she had no time slots and no authority to bend the rules. We were asked to come in right away and told that they would somehow fit us in, leaving a red-flag at reception to get another x-ray as soon as we arrived.
The Technology in Ortho. had a Monday morning moment in reaction to us arriving, and we were shuttled to the main hospital radiology department in a small electric vehicle with a parking security officer as make-it-work chauffeur. We boarded the more official shuttle bus for the return trip back to the consult.
As strange as it may sound, we were happy and relieved with a diagnosis of internal bleeding as the cause for the swelling. The fall had caused movement in joints that had long been fused by arthritis. The seepage had nowhere to go and wrist and elbow expanded painfully. TAO cannot take any anti-inflammatory meds, so his fall-back treatment is ice and elevation, with some gentle exercise to keep things circulating. It's a slow process but much better news than we had feared. Surgery of any kind would be a nightmare.
Since then, our first painting has been hung and we've carved pathways through the boxes, between kitchen appliances.
We've managed some pleasant meals on the covered patio. It's so much easier when everything is on one level.
The cat has adapted well. She's located a spot where she gets a cooling breeze, out of sight of the aggressive mocking birds that are entirely focused on dive-bombing her and squawking loud warnings that there is a feline in "their" territory. 
We're exploring a bit, trying new trajectories to see if we can duck traffic jams on our increased commute. We've been carpooling, although we don't agree on temperature control or radio stations. Air-conditioning on for me, window open for TAO etc. 
We shot home early today to meet the cable guy and receive delivery of the last pieces of furniture that were in storage since the flood.
I'll be hitting the road in the opposite direction soon to drive another hour to my regular Friday ride, then drive back home once again. Little bits of the new plan are shaping up, but it's still far from perfect. We'll work it out, I'm sure.
As they say here: "It's not our first Rodeo".....Did I mention we now live on Palomino Drive?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Reverse Gardening

The weather has been truly idyllic lately. Warm temperatures mitigated by breezes. The trees bounce and swirl their bright fresh-leaved branches and there's a small ripple stealing moisture across the surface of the pool.
I was at the barn on Sunday morning, an hour early for my ten o'clock ride. The school horses have a fifty-five acre pasture now, with a rolling topography that hosts well-spaced oak trees, a coyote den and several rather territorial deer. It can be quite a hike to gather up one's horse and bring him back to civilization. My ride was already in, so I was able to sit in the shade and be a spectator for a while. There's always something to observe and learn.
Boots was the horse listed next to my name on the board. I'd never ridden him before. He had some unexplained discomfort in his mouth on Friday and they've been working him in a bit-less bridle, to let him get over whatever it is. He's a visibly forward ride at the best of times so I didn't know quite what I was in for.
Transitioning to a new horse is always interesting. There's the initial comparison of how much horse you have underneath you. Is his neck longer or shorter than the horse you're used to? It's a bit weird to have less in front of you than you're used to but it only takes a few minutes to get past that disorientation. The roundness of a horses body affects the position of your legs. Again, as soon as you start working to apply your aids your muscles adapt and you find yourself on a familiar planet.
There's a short test period, learning how sensitive a horse is and how much leg or hand are likely to get the desired results. Having no bit, on a horse who usually had both bit and martingale, I was somewhat tentative about our first trot and canter. I was not sure I'd have the option of slowing down again once we started going faster. I asked for trot and worked on returning to walk just by slowing my body rhythm down, no rein contact at all. We achieved that a few times and I started to relax. 
Riding is ideally a mind-body experience. We look inward to achieve "The Zone" of harmony and communication with another, much stronger and larger species. Sometimes, if we "think" what we want a horse to do, we can make it happen with subtle muscle movements and shifts of weight, to which the horse responds. That is the Nirvana of riding.
The opposite end of the spectrum is when a horse anticipates or does something we weren't quite meaning to happen. I've been known to pretend that that was what I wanted, just so that (in my mind) the horse, and others around me, would still think I was in charge.
The lesson went well. We didn't disgrace ourselves riding a course of trotting poles and then canter work with simple change transitions and a few small jumps. We finished before the day heated up too much, washed down our sweaty horses, applied fly spray and released them back into the pasture. We always watch as they canter gently away up the hill, in search of the rest of the herd.
Back at home, after my shower, I had a peaceful lunch and then forced myself to pack a few boxes. Our move is looming. We will have to step it up a bit once TAO comes back from France.
The sunshine was calling me outside and I felt I had earned a respite. The birds have flown from the nests on our balcony so I didn't feel guilty about taking my book and lounging on the chaise for a while. It was quickly too hot and I have no desire to be a lobster red example of sun-stupidity. I went down to the pool, at the bottom of the garden, for a very quick first dip of the year and a significant cool-down. As I luxuriated in the relatively chilly water lapping around my shoulders, a family of Orioles perched on the phone wires above me, looking questioningly at me as if wondering why i was bathing in their pond. It's rare to see these dressy gold and black birds. I'd never seen one in my life before moving here and I've never seen more than one at a time. I don't know if our new neighborhood is Oriole territory. This visit made my day.
When I move, I have a lot of plants in pots so I have an instant garden that comes with me. I'm surrounded by familiar faces, although in a new setting. Landlords and realtors forget that the sumptuous floral surroundings are mine, and portable. They are left with the clean, but naked seeming, architecture that was there when I arrived. Not all is taken. There are some specimens that have grown large and been planted in the ground. I do leave more garden than was there before. There's a Rhododendron near the front door, and an azalea in the back garden, that was first given to me as a hostess gift, to put on the dining table. It had already expanded into my largest pot at our last home. it is a permanent resident here now and will stay behind when we leave.
There's a Cecil Bruner climbing rose that I planted last year. I had one that accompanied us from house to house for a long time. From 4" pot given to us on Lovely Daughter's first birthday, by my best friend's mother, to the rambling climber in a half barrel that embraced the chimney stack and made the front page of a local newspaper for an article on curb-appeal. We stayed ten years in the last house and the roots grew through the bottom of the barrel and anchored that rose to the ground. I trained the branches along the wooden fence and it spread out on either side. It would have been cruel to move it but it was hard to leave it behind. Both our daughter (then in her early twenties) and the Mother of my best friend were sad that the relationship had ended. I drove by that house yesterday. It's being demolished. They're down to the foundations and the garden is a wasteland. My current Cecil Bruner is being transplanted and will change neighborhoods with us. My other rescues will be my Hawaiian Ginger plants. I already have some in pots but will cull half of those that have spread to embellish the slope above the pool. I'll divide out some flag iris as well. I have a variety of unique colors that I enjoy too much to abandon.
The rest will be decided by time and energy. I have some native plants, such as Mallows, but they're easily replaced and grow quickly so I'll probably not reverse-garden those.