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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hen Party in the Hills, Day II

Saturday morning the Hens took their sweet time getting out of the roost - bed - the sun was very nearly up by the time we gathered in the kitchen for our country breakfast (that would be bagels and cream cheese).

Morning Hens in their 'jammies'

Ingrid's incredible blood orange/tangerine juice

For us Hens, breakfast is not a lightly taken meal, but a lavish feast during which the coffee flows, the baked goods and fresh fruits collide, the baked eggs (my new speciality) crack, or some such, and the air is rent with goo-gobbers of gossip. We're Hens, what else would one expect?

It was near onto noon we were finally all dressed and ready for an obligatory Slug Hike into town. I stalled, but succumbed to the exercise at the last minute, figuring it was either go along and enjoy the fresh air, or else allow my behind to permanently fuse with the couch fabric. I'm glad I went, it was lovely, cool, with plenty of snow & picturesque cabins & scenery for gawking at.

The flock setting out on its hike
Stopping mid-village to pose with Mr. Potbelly Stove, a warm hearted local

Visiting an antique shop in the heart of Shaver Lake Village

We stopped by a couple of antique shops and one art gallery. I lollygagged behind the flock. Then my cell phone rang, followed by Nancy racing up to me, to drag me off to see this Rorschach's test of an artistic dress dummy in an antique shop.

A lovely exhibit of frail cameos or a painfully pinned display of horror?

Nancy shows off her refined crayoning skills

All in all it really was a perfectly lovely Slug Hike (I won the race, in the SLUG category of course). Loads of pretty things and sights to look at.

As the day waned we decided it was time to celebrate Ingrid's birthday. For the occasion, Robbie baked a cheeky little chocolate cake. I say the cake was 'cheeky' because it looked so totally flat and unassuming, right up until it hit your tongue, at which point your noggin exploded and your brain thought it won a ticket to Chocolate Land. The best we could get out of Robbie was the cake contained like 2 spoonfuls of flour, the rest of the ingredients being chocolate and finely ground almonds or other nuts. Well, I never! And apparently I ought to more often.

Robbie lights her chocolate confection

Ingrid blows out the birthday match after
which our taste buds demanded satisfaction
Finally it arrived - our last day at Shaver Lake. We opted for a quick breakfast of leftovers (saving me the hassle of waffle fixing)The weather had warmed up a bit so the snow pack was a tad soft, and I, 'she-of-mass-gravity' kept sinking knee deep into the snow. Blast!
Anyway, I drove us off for a quick pilgrimage to the Village's true namesake - Shaver Lake.

The flock posed with Shaver Lake in the background

I must end this saying that we had all expected Fran to be with us for the weekend, but though she'll always be a much loved hen, she is no longer with us. Thoughtfully, early on in our weekend, Nancy placed photos of Fran and the rest of us in happier times around the cabin. I found I couldn't look at the photos without feeling distraught - avoidance seems to be my primary coping method; it's no wonder I relate so well to chickens.
So though not present in body, Fran was present in spirit. The merry making rang tad flat without Fran's witty comments and laughter. Gawdamnit, but we missed her.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Hen Party in the Hills

It was Hen Party time this weekend, and it was different from any of the others. First off, there were only five hens; Rhonda, Ingrid, Nancy, Robbie and myself.

For another thing, the party was not at one of our houses because Ingrid found us a beautiful little cabin to rent for 2 nights - way up in the hills behind Fresno.

But real difference between this and any other Hen Party is that one of our hens, who has never missed a party was not present, and forever more remain missing. Fran was on our minds all weekend and we toasted her so many times I was a little surprised she didn't put in an appearance in my dreams . Oh well, who would want to enter into the clutter in my noggin anyway?

I drove down from Sacramento with Nancy and we had a good time. The backroads leading from Madera east to the foothills was tricky but that gave me a go at my iPhone's GPS. While Nancy phoned 911 (called Rick, her hubby) to ask him to alert the media, I watched the blue bead on my phone that guided us to Shaver Lake.

I bought snow chains for the trip, and thank heavens had no need to use them. OK, but for the bother, I might have used them for the last ten feet of the journey. The cabin driveway was layered with ice.

Ingrid shows the mound of snow at the threshold

Nancy taking the 'hike' to get in or out the cabin

Chains would have helped on that final lunge up the driveway

Have a peek at the snow just outside the window

The cabin was fun - a nice big stone fireplace that held a little black stove. There were two bedrooms off the main room & I had this one.

A room for her Majesty - that would be 'moi'

Ingrid and Nancy pose by the dining room

The cabin's second floor was a trip! There were 'bunks' or as I like to call them, 'cubby holes', each with a mattress, a shelf and a reading lamp & a second cubby underneath for linens and such. Oh, and cute little ladder for ascending up into your nest.

Nancy all comfy in one of the cupboards

Way-up-there cubby den

End cupboard with its own window

That I chose the downstairs room was only because I didn't want to be disturbed if I snored. I mean, when have I ever chosen a real bed over a nook-in-the-wall? That would be a clear dereliction of Claire Bear duty!

The purpose of our Hen parties is to catch up on every one's life - or in my case, the lack thereof. However somehow we spent more time preparing and eating meals than we spent doing anything else save for yakking!

Rhonda and Ingrid tucking in to din-din

Rhonda checks out the cheese while Ingrid breaks brea

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Roar of the Frick'n Crows

A war rages at my downtown office building. In the morning and evening twilight calls of a hunting Peregrine Falcon and the screams of a crow being... violated are broadcast. The sound is meant to put the fear of God into the flock of a b'jillion crows that enjoy nesting - and making messes- in the trees that surround the CalEPA building. Well, guess what?

Yep, crows are some wicked slick birdies. Although the use of the birdie alert broadcast blares every twilight and dusk at the building, the crows quit being afraid of it after only a few weeks. Now they openly ignore it.

This morning on my way into the office at 6:30 AM, the roar of the crows was so loud it was a surreal experience, as if there were lions roaring on either side of my head. Danged but those birdies can CAW up a storm!

Monday, February 23, 2009

I'm Thinking Mushrooms, Caterpillars and Alice Here....

Just before Christmas I bought a Big Box O' Oyster Mushrooms at my local farmer's market. Pretty cool - a box, not to be opened until after its stamped date, after which you pull out the plastic bag and the matured fungi spits out mushrooms.

Shortly after Christmas I opened my box and it took a few weeks before the mushrooms sprouted. I was so excited. I carried on about my beautiful mushrooms at work, and gave some away. Then, of course, right after I lavishly promised to be She-the Giver-of-Free-Big-Arse Mushrooms the damned things promptly shriveled up.


So, a failed shroom farmer, I stuffed the bag in my garage and forgot about it. That was over a month ago. A couple of days ago I noticed the bag has sprung back to life.

Here's the bag - the mycellium, the main plant (fungi) is on the inside of the bag. The Oyster mushrooms are actually fruit, not the main plant.

The black plastic bag o' fungi. The Oyster mushrooms
pop out all over the bag, through slits in the plastic

I'm thinking that my over-attention mixed with the warmer temperature in the house is what put production off. But once ignored, and in a nice cold place, the fungi started spitting out mushrooms again. I think I will pay it scant attention which should keep the thing sprouting mushrooms right through until Spring when things warm up. The directions said it likes temps up to 70 and cool temps won't last much past April, what with me living in California's central valley of HELL.

This isn't my first experiment with mushrooms. Some years ago I had an oyster mushroom bag that hung in the kitchen doorway, but it died before producing the fixings for as much as one good mushroom omelet. I threw it out, BIG mistake. The thing probably just needed me to leave-it-the-hell-alone.

I love the soft fawn color of the 'srooms - yum...

Yesterday morning I had a nice Oyster Mushroom omelet for breakfast. Tonight for din-din I had Oyster Mushrooms, pencil-thin fresh asparagus and fresh garlic, stir fried with thin slices of lamb. Yummy.

[Update: In the Sacto Bee newspaper today there was an article on Mushroom varieties in the marketplace. Oyster mushrooms were featured among the Beech, King Trumpet, Chantrelles, etc. Oysters took the top spot as the most expensive mushrooms at $28.99/lb. Gak - Such a deal!]

Monday, February 16, 2009

I Lost a Great Friend Today

May be this is a bit maudlin, but putting this mini-movie together during the day helped me sort myself out and begin to deal with my grief. Our buddy Fran clung to every day she got and lived the hell out of what days she was granted. She had a great life and the only thing more she would have wanted in her life would have been more of it. I really need to think on that.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Little Bad, a Little Good

So... on the rare occasion I get a raise it's on the order of 2, maybe 3%.

But, when there's a pay cut, it's 10%; double digits.

There is a pain between my ears.

On a lighter note, I still have a job. Of lesser note - my Amarylis is kicking on all cylinders.

I buy Amaryllis bulbs just after Christmas when the prices plummet. This one cost $5 for bulb, pot, soil; the works. I bought two but the second one, a Red Lion, isn't doing a thing. I think it wants to wait until the Apple Blossom does it's thing - you know, so as not to have to share the spotlight. It'll be interesting to see how long the Red Lion, which has barely begun to send up a few leaves, takes to bloom.

The Apple Blossom flowers are each 7 inches across