Epic year for mosquitoes, get your Deet!

Dogs don’t care about the days of the week. It’s Saturday morning, Dad wants to sleep in, but Biscuit is restless to go for a walk. Badges persistently nudges the bed, where my husband has made a little fort out of pillows around his head.

They like to hit the trails, and by 9 or 10 am the sun starts to get a little testy. But if you go too early, the mosquitoes come at you like a pack of Saturday night B-girls  – “Hello Sailor!”

So I  give them some breakfast and leave them outside long enough to relieve their bladders and then hustle them in, brushing off the bloodsuckers as they squeeze through the door.

When the sun breaches my husband’s pillow fort, he surrenders the bed and we spray ourselves down with Deet and hit the road. I don’t like Deet, especially after a news piece I watched the other day – they were very clear and repeated a few times, SHOWER well after you use it. THAT’S  not going to make me paranoid!

The skeeters are worse than I remember this year. I grew up in riceland, with a rice field right alongside our house, and I’m saying, they’re really bad this year. In Chico it’s easy to clean up the yard, clear rain gutters, mow back weeds, that really helps. But here in the woods we’re surrounded with brush and tree litter, stumps and hollow trees that trap waher where we can’t get to it, the perfect breeding ground.

The mosquito district is useless – several years ago they passes an assessment on property owners, but they only spray out in the ricefields. If we want service up here, we have to bring them onto our property, just to spray our property. They don’t spray the public roads or any of the ponds standing within sight of the road. The $85,000 (plus benefits) /year staffer who answered the phone told me they can’t spray anything without permission. When I  asked her how I could appeal the assessment they put on my property she laughed, a real belly laugh.

So much for the Butte County Mosquito and Vector District, which has over a million dollar pension deficit for a staff of 5 fulltime employees, all office workers. The director makes over $100,000/year, plus about a $30,000 toward his benefits, but only pays 3 % of his benefits.

I don’t feel too comfortable with them anyway, when they do spray, they seem to be indiscriminate. A vectors employee reported finding dead deer and birds in the spray sites, and they fired her, but not until she made quite a stink. So now, rather than taking the proactive approach (send crews in the winter to help clear brush and standing water, like the fire safety agencies), they just don’t do anything.

We work on clearing our own property – that’s when they really attack, when you disturb their resting places. I use Deet in the morning and evening, or when I’m raking the trails, but the rest of the time I find a solution of lemon eucalyptus oil in water makes a nice spray repellant. It actually feels good, you can spray it right on your face. It smells like lemon candy, which apparently throws the little bitches off scent.

The previous owners of the property planted ivy as ground cover – some counties recommend that for fire safety? I really don’t get that, it traps pine needles and other trash, a total fire hazard. And, it is a wonderful place for momma mosquitoes to rest. That’s our first task in clearing our yard, get rid of the ivy.

And now I’m off to feed the skeeters.


Change of lifestyle brings new opportunities

We have been camped out at our shack in the woods for exactly two months. We’ve sublet about half of our apartment in town. The hubbub of moving has settled down a little, we’re figuring things out. We don’t have to drive to town every day.

Our revenues are up a little, some of our expenses are down. Money is still tighter than a new pair of shoes, but we are feeling better about the move every day.

One challenge is meal planning. My family lived in the sticks of Glenn County when I was a kid, we had to drive for everything.  My grandma had to “make do” oftentimes,  despite the best planning.

Things just came up. Like the time I fell off my trike and split open the back of my head. It was about 4:30 and Gram had a bunch of drumsticks in the electric fryer. Gramps was out hauling prunes. When I appeared in the kitchen door with blood streaming down my neck she got a positively annoyed expression on her face – “Oh! TEETA!” she said, shaking her head.

But she put down her fork and led me into the back bathroom to wash my head. She wrapped my head in a towel, called the other kids and hauled us all the way to Willows to Doc Fleming’s  office. I was sitting on the exam table when I realized Gram was wearing her apron and a dress and shoes that normally never left the property. And no lipstick!

Then there was the time we really needed groceries, but she couldn’t find the car keys. She used to call that, “dab dinner” – clean out the fridge and have a little of everything.

I try to remember those lessons about living away from town. We try to plan meals at least two days ahead, but food storage is tough up here. We make do with a counter top fridge, plugged in at the pump house, and a really big ice chest. We don’t have a conventional stove/oven, we use our camp stove, an electric frying pan, bbq and Dutch ovens.

We thought we would have to give up bulk shopping, but we found out – food doesn’t spoil as fast as we’d believed.  Produce stays nice in the ice chest. We found cheap block ice at Food Maxx, that actually lasts three or four days.

The mini fridge can actually hold frozen meat. The freezer door had broken off years ago so we replaced it with foil-covered cardboard.

Now we make a game of how long we can avoid going to town. My son needs a big lunch every day for his job, so we grill a giant boneless chicken breast and there’s almost a week of lunchmeat for all three of us.

When we grill meat, we bake something in the Dutch ovens – usually sourdough bread, but sometimes biscuits or cookies. My son is getting pretty proficient at making brownies in the little pot. Last night we made oatmeal bars.

It’s tough moving out of your familiar routine, sometimes I feel disoriented.  I can’t just hop on my bike and go Downtown to Mau Mau the flak catchers like I used to.

So I will have to get back to writing letters to the paper. Tee hee hee.

And we have a new supervisor over in O’ville – Tami Ritter. I’m sure this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Tee hee hee.

Monday. Again?

Today, after these last busy weeks, I’m staying home to do nothing in particular.

Take that, Monday!

It’s good to take a day once in a while to sit back and reconnoiter.  Whenever I complete a task that has taken all my attention for a long time,  I have to stop and think about what’s next. We been so busy turning rentals over the last year or so, I can’t stop thinking about it.

Luckily, we pulled over at some point and planted tomatoes, can’t imagine a Summer without a garden. Our orchard looks good, we took time to straighten out the drip lines, hang some bug traps, and weed around the trees. We had to thin the apples pretty aggressively. Now that little bit of attention seems to be paying off, there’s a lot of fruit. Tomorrow we’ll cover the trees with shade cloth to keep the apples from getting sunburn.

There, that was something  – I been searching my head for a “normal” thought, something besides “clean the…”

I hope the jays haven’t already got our blueberries – last time I  checked, they were loaded with little green balls, but I forgot about them in the rush to get a tenant moved in.

The dogs keep us down to earth. They need a bath today, Biscuit woke me up scratching her ears, jingling the tags on her collar. They had their rattlesnake shots last week,  and as usual she’s got a big sore lump at the injection site, makes her seem very, very old. But, when we’re making our way around the trails it is nice to be ready. Our neighbor’s dog has been bit twice in the face. The first bite was almost deadly, and the vet bill almost killed the owner. The second bite was not nearly as bad, just a visit to the vet instead of a week. So we get the shots.

We have human children too, but they’re not half the trouble. My younger son is with us for a couple more weeks before he has to go back to school. He and his brother just went up the coast for the weekend. They are working together for a local landscaper. It’s reassuring to know our adult children like each other.

So it’s Monday, and I should really motivate. After another cup of coffee.



Oh yeah, Biscuit is still kicking buttsky!

We took my dog Biscuit for a check up last week,  and the doc expressed some surprise at how well she is doing.  Two years ago February she got so sick we thought she was a goner, but she gave Death the 5 Finger Death Back at You Punch and here we are today.

She got pancreatitis, I’m guessing, from drinking skanky puddle water at Bidwell Park. I read online that leptospirosis is prevalent in “natural” areas where dogs can be exposed by sharing water holes with wild animals. Bidwell Park is full of feral cats, unvaccinated, and cats, as well as rats, can carry the disease.

So now we have to watch her diet and give her two shots of insulin a day. Yeah that’s expensive. We manage the cost by ordering the syringes and insulin online, from Valley Vet Medical in Kansas.

If we had to buy it from our vet we couldn’t afford to do it. They were a little weird about that at first – when VVM tried to get them to authorize the purchase, the office manager just ignored their calls and my husband would have to argue her into it. I stayed out of it because I don’t have his charm – I would have demanded a written prescription,  required by law, even of vets – but it was fun to watch my husband flirt her into doing it. It still took days, every time, but as soon as she okayed the shipment, it was here within 48 hours,  packed in ice. After the first year, we convinced her to file the prescription with VVM and it’s done.

Giving the shot still isn’t easy – some mornings my arthritis makes my hands almost unusable. Sometime she winces and even yelps – this always sends me into a fit of shivvers and gags, and I have to ask my husband to help. We split the task between breakfast and dinner.

She’s lost a couple of pounds lately,  and she’s getting cataracts, but she’s still frisky and still can’t be trusted not to vault off after a pack of deer. We don’t take her to Bidwell Bum Park anymore but she gets a good walk every day, maybe even chase her boy on his mountain bike.

And she’s got her little partner Badges to keep her on her toes – he throws down his toy – lately a plastic Recharge bottle – and barks his ear-splitting bark until she gets up. They bark and bark.

That’s the Australin Cattle Dog’s secret weapon – well, maybe not so secret. I think Biscuit could break a glass.

The worst thing, but also the best thing is, we have to take them everywhere now, we can’t take a chance leaving them for more than a few hours.  So this Summer we’ll have some good road trips, which I’ll be sure to post here,  on “This Old Dog,  with Biscuit!”





Simple pleasures of gardening – try some succulents and cactus!

The tomatoes are happy in their containers, we’re getting tiny fruit now.


The other day I noticed about a dozen new tomatoes on our container plants.

Cactus and succulents also make a wonderful container garden.  This Summer we plan to spend more time at our little shack in the woods, so we loaded a bunch of our cactus pots and took them along. Of course they can survive without much attention, but look what happens when you throw a little water their way now and then.


My patio is lit up with these tiny red blossoms.

I found this old gas heater in a house we bought. It looked great but our PG&E man told me it was not up to modern standards.  With the top grate intact, it made a good coffee table. When I found these adorable terra cotta pots in somebody’s FREE pile, I took out the grate and made it into a plant stand.


The little furry nodules appear like warts and then one day they open into these fabulous little blossoms.

This is an old cream separator my gramps picked up from who knows where. Made by the Excelsior Separator Company!


Forever functional.

He liked old machines, this might have been from my cousin’s big dairy in Glenn County. It sat next to our tank house and we kids played on it for years – it had all these moving parts, now rusted pretty solid. We pretended it was a car, a spaceship, a stove for baking mud pies, etc.  Now it makes a great plant stand.


I never get tired of these delicate pink blossoms, growing off of a grouchy old cactus.

I began collecting succulents and cactus when my mom died and left me with her hoard of pots. Let me tell you, they reproduce like crazy, and I  try to pot every one. Every now and then, as if to say, “Thanks!”, they explode with flowers.