The Life of Di, or Fall At My House

“And here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into!”

I like to be involved with many projects at once.  I picture my life as an opal, my birthstone, full of swirled colors and hues.  I have several books going at once, projects chipped away at around the house, volunteer responsibilities strewn across my week, and far too many animals and acres to care for.  When I’m exhausted I can spend a day on the couch reading with no trouble at all being the picture of laziness.  Prior to Thanksgiving I underwent a skin cancer preventative treatment on my face and hands, which required applying a topical cream twice a day that brings suspicious cells to the surface and burns them off.  By the end of the second week I was quite a mess, and then took another week to heal enough to be seen in public without alerting the zombie hunters.  The treatment, needless to say, kept me from being in sunlight, therefore housebound.  Always loving a clean, organized house but never actually completely cleaning or organizing, I figured I’d get some work done.  I tried sorting about 15 boxes of photo albums left by my mother and grandmother… and got through one box before I had to stop.  I wanted to bake bread, and I wanted to find something to do with the small amount of hops we harvested, so I experimented with a recipe that had a starter, sponge and rising that altogether took five days.  The Turnipseed Sisters’ White Bread from the classic Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads .

Turnipseed Sisters’ White Loaf starter made with hops.

The starter really smelled like beer. Not in a pleasant way, either.  However the bread was good, and baking was fun.

Good sandwich and toast bread.

Just the extra carbs I needed for sitting on my butt for two weeks, right?  Then I wanted to thin, clean and alphabetize the fiction section in my living room.

Books piled alphabetically… a little later there was a small avalanche.

Yes, I have enough books in my house that they are in sections.  Former school librarian and bookstore worker here.  I haven’t done the non-fiction section as yet, which extends to most of the other rooms in the house.  Maybe next year?  I did a little writing, a lot of reading, surrounded by my elderly dog Sophie

Sophie enjoying good sleeps.

who keeps returning from the brink of death to sleep about 23 hours a day, and one of my hens, Viola, who suddenly went lame in one leg.

Viola on a healing vacation.

All advice was to cull her, but I thought that she pulled a muscle and hadn’t broken her leg, and being vegetarian I don’t eat my pets.  Viola has been recuperating in a cage in the dining room, gaining strength in that leg, laying regular eggs, having full rein of the front yard, and crooning wonderfully. As I count wild birds for Cornell University’s Project Feederwatch, I keep an eye on the hen.  The cats ignore her, thank goodness.  I’ve quite enjoyed having a chicken in the house.  Yep, I’m starting to be one of those kinds of aging ladies.

In between I’d spend time crawling under bushes to push and shove my 100-pound African spur thigh tortoise out of his hiding spot and into the heatlamp-warmed Rubbermaid house he shuns so that he wouldn’t catch cold in the chill damp nights.  I always come out victorious, with him angry and begrudgingly warm, and with me wet, muddy, hair full of sticks and hands full of scratches.  Does anyone have a life like this?

“I’m performing advanced trigonometry in my head, don’t bother me, Woman!”

Finally my skin healed enough so that I was able to venture outdoors.

Garlic and seed sprouts guarded from birds by a rubber snake.

I planted seeds of winter crops: collards, kale, garlic, onions, carrots, Brussels sprouts and broccoli rabe, and prepared raised beds for more.

Yellow perfection tomatoes still ripening, as are the green zebra.

I ordered organic pea, lupine and sweet pea seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds , all nitrogen-fixers to plant around the plant guilds.

Pepperoncini still producing.

On Thanksgiving I hiked 1200 feet up Monserate Mountain in a record slow time; all that sitting and all that bread causing me to often stop and watch the slow holiday traffic on Hwy. 15, and be very glad that I was on a hike instead.

The neighbors had their annual tree butchering, paying exorbitant sums to have the same so-called landscapers come in and top their trees (shudder!) and thin others… for what reason I have no idea.  Because being retired Orange County professionals they believe that trees need to be hacked back, contorted, and ruined?  Possibly.

Please, please, please, friends don’t let friends top trees!  Find an arborist who trims trees with an eye to their health and long-term growth and immediate beauty.  A well-pruned tree is lovely, even just after pruning.  A topped tree is brutal and ugly.

A topped coral tree. Ugh!

Anyway, the upside is that I claimed all the chips, giving new life to the ravaged trees as mulch for my pathways.  Two truckloads were delivered.  I think I have enough for the whole property.

“The bear went over the mountain to see what he could see. He saw another mountain…”

How to spread it?  Yep, one wheelbarrow full at a time.

One wheelbarrow at a time.

I can now condition myself for more hiking and weight lifting without leaving the property.  The heaps have a lot of pine in them (they thinned the pine trees!???) so there is a pleasant Christmassy smell emanating from the heaps.

Hot steamy mulch.

They are also very high nitrogen and were hot in the center on the second day and this morning were steaming right after our brief rain shower.  Mulch piles can catch fire; when I worked for San Diego County Parks we rangers would joke about who had been called out by the fire department when their newly delivered mulch pile had caught fire in the  night.

Steam from the mulch mountains. I stood on it just now and steam went up my pant legs and warmed me up!

I also received a gift of seven 15-gallon nursery containers of llama poo!

The wealth of llama poo.

Hot diggity!  Early Christmas: My diamonds are round and brown, thank-you.  I layered them in the compost heap and am ready for more.

I also wholeheartedly participated in Small Business Saturday, finding happy locals and crossing paths with friends and aquaintences at several stores.  I received my first Merry Christmas from a man at Myrtle Creek Nursery’s parking lot as he waited for his son’s family to pick out a Christmas tree.  I do love this town.

Sweet potatoes ready to harvest for Christmas dinner.

That catches me up.  Lots of projects, lots of volunteering, lots of cleaning up to do before my daughter comes home for the holidays and despairs at my bachelorette living.  Lots of mulch to move. Lots of really great friends.  Lots of sunscreen to wear.  Lots to be thankful for.

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