Friday, January 30, 2009

More on Chicken Coop Construction

After writing about how our chickens thrive in their simple unheated, uninsulated house in the winter, I wanted to write a bit more about how our chicken coop is put together (first part of the story here).

A piece of 4x4 holds their yard gate open in the photo - it also holds the gate closed at night or during the summer. The gate has a wire-covered opening so we can look inside before opening it. The chickens are always looking to get out, and sometimes we don't want that, so it's nice to be able to see if anyone is lurking, waiting to make a run for it. In the winter, I let them out to roam the rest of our lot, but in the summer they'll do too much damage to my plantings so they're confined to their yard. You can see the sun shining through the ventilation gaps between the floor planks at the bottom of the back wall. In front, the unpainted skirting is easily removed when it's time to rake out the droppings pit.

The chickens have their own door, opening out into their yard. The door is hinged at the bottom and when open rests on a couple of cement support blocks. The blocks also support a ramp made from the end of a wooden pallet. Above their door is a rotating block of wood with a cantilevered part that can hold the door closed, but most of the time we use an invention I like even better .

In the photo above, a rope runs from the left side of the door and up through the wall. It's not for support. The rope continues through the building, passing through a support ring, and on out a hole on the other side. There, a big knob on the end stops the rope from falling back through. At night, once I'm sure everybody is back inside (in the summer the guineas are the last to come home to roost - they like it up on the highest roost next to the window, so I'll peer through that window to count little white faces), I close the door by pulling on the rope. Aries affixed a block with a vertical notch to the wall, right where the rope reaches when the door is closed, with a large screw that extends out from the block. A second block, with notch only half-way across, slides on to lock the knob into place, holding the rope tight. It's proved to be raccoon-proof, and I like it because a quick look down from the house lets me confirm that Aries remembered to let the chickens out for the day.

The "people" door to the coop is on the other side, outside the yard. Chickens are very messy creatures. They poop in their sleep, so walking into the chicken house isn't something we want to do on a regular basis. But we wanted the coop tall enough for us to stand up inside. We need to go in when one of the birds dies, to occasionally push droppings off the planks into the pit, at night when I want to catch our flyers to clip wings, or to place a feeder and water dish on the rare occasions the weather is too nasty for them to go out sometime during the day. To the right of our door, two hinged drop-down doors allow access to the four nest boxes. We can collect the eggs without having to go inside.

Chickens like dark little private spaces to lay their eggs, so inside the coop we've faced the nest boxes with some heavy upholstery material sliced into strips. Chickens like laying where others lay, so I use golf balls as nest eggs. I think both having the nest boxes dark, and the hard golf balls inside, helps deter egg-eating.

Part of the fun of having backyard chickens is designing a place for them to stay. I hope this post gives you some ideas you might like to use. I'm thinking about relocating our coop to up by the garage, just past the woodpile. Then I'd only have to shovel snow for only one path in the winter. It would put the coop farther from the garden, which might help save some of my plantings, but then we'd have to haul the droppings farther to get them into the compost. Decisions, decisions - I like playing around with our homestead design.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Chicken Coop in Winter

Our night temperatures lately have been in the teens (-10C), the days barely above freezing. Our coop has no heat or artificial light, but our chickens are doing just fine. After all, they are wearing little down vests underneath those big feathers.

Our chickens don't have a heated coop, even in the dead of winter. If it's really REALLY cold (say, -10F or -24C), with a gale force wind blowing, the breeds with large wattles and combs could get frostbite damage on those tender parts. But our chickens have enough sense to stay out of the wind if it's that bad - no one's ever been frostbit. Our coop isn't insulated either. It's made out of salvaged plywood and 2x4's, with a small, non-opening window (with chicken wire on the inside to keep the birds from pecking at it) on the southern side for light. The roosts are 2x4's ripped into 2x2's - small enough to wrap their toes around, wide enough so they can hunker down over their toes to keep them warm, and sturdy enough to support the lot of them.

As long as their coop is dry inside and they are out of direct drafts, they do just fine. In fact, with both their respiration and their poo giving off moisture, having adequate ventilation is more important. Between wall and roof, the space between the rafters has been left open - with chicken wire screening to keep out predators. The floor is 2x6 planks, set 1.5" apart, a foot above the ground. Wood skirting covers from bottom of the planks to the ground, but the gap between planks is open to the air between wall above and skirting below. More chicken wire covers from wall down over gap and skirting around the three walls outside the pen fence, and is buried six inches deep and then L'ed out another six inches for predator-proofing. The chickens easily step over the gaps in the floor, their poop drops through the gaps (or we push it with the back side of a rake when necessary). It dries out there, doesn't smell, and they can't get into it. The skirting beneath the wall on the pen side has wire attached that L's out over the ground, held down by big rocks. That skirting is easily removed by backing out a few screws, allowing access to rake out underneath three to four times a year (more about our coop design here).

There's no feed or water inside the coop (helps prevent rodents). If we get snow, I shovel out the area around their feed bin and water dishes. The feed bin has a peaked roof over it, hinged on one end so I can lift it up to dump in their laying crumbles. For water dishes, I look for straight-sided stainless steel pots in thrift stores. Aluminum pans bend too easily - the steel ones can stand up to banging them on the frozen ground to break the ice out in the morning. Sometimes we'll have to leave one upside down to let the sun warm it enough to melt it enough to get the ice out, so we alternate between two pans. Aries usually opens up the coop in the mornings, carrying a bucket of water from the house. If it's really cold, I might have to carry more water down later in the day - dumping out the earlier pan now skimmed with ice.

The pen also has a couple of low-roofed long sheds, back-to-back, facing north and south. In the summer, the girls like the north-facing one - a nice place to lounge in the shade. In winter, the south-facing one can be a place to enjoy the weak sun, out of the wind. Here Lacy and LaRue, our two Sex-Links, indulge in a mid-winter dust bath, oblivious to the snow hanging over their heads. When it snows, I shovel paths from house to coop to dog run, so they have plenty of places to get out and about. There's a south-facing shed in the dog run that's also a favorite hangout.

In the winter, the chickens are part of my integrated pest control system. They're given free run over our fenced lot, with things I don't want them getting into fenced or covered with wire laid down. When there's no snow, I'll scatter some cracked corn in a different place every day, especially under the fruit trees, letting the chickens scratch about, ridding the yard of many borers and other garden pests trying to winter over. Underneath the wild bird feeders is also a favorite chicken checkpoint, at least until the guineas come up to bully everyone else away. And everyone comes running when I step outside with the kitchen scraps bucket. The chickens do just fine in winter. They're such a happy bunch.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sitting At My Desk

The drizzly rain of the past couple of days turned to a wet, sloppy snow last night and on into today. When Aries walked down to the store this morning to get me a Sunday paper, he saw that whole roasting chickens were on sale - 58¢/pound, 2 to a bag. He picked up two bags - one for the freezer, one for today. It's just as easy to roast two birds as one, so I've got them both in the oven - roast chicken tonight, chicken enchiladas, pot pie, and soup later in the week. I had a lemon, so each got half stuffed inside, along with a couple big sprigs of fresh sage from out in the herb garden and a few home-grown shallots from the net bag hanging in the pantry, a crusting of dried herbs and lemon pepper rubbed on the skin. It smells sooooo good!

It's too wet, and getting icy, to be outside, so here I am at my desk. I love my desk. It was an old broken-down oak rolltop we got free (can you believe it!). Aries fixed it, cleaned it up, and oiled the wood. I even love the ink spatters staining the desk top. I don't know how old this desk is, or where it's been, but it's obviously been used with an inkwell.

It's heavy too - something I was reminded of all too well yesterday. I just bought a new fax/copier, so tackled the job of installing it yesterday. The desk works nicely for our computer needs, and since this room also doubles as my guest (and sewing) room I like that I can close up the desk if I want. We didn't want to cut holes in the beautiful wood to make it work as a computer desk, so getting to the phone jack and all the computer cables behind it means moving it away from the wall. I'm used to moving furniture around, and since I'm the technology installer in this house, I just dove right in. By taking all the drawers out, I could move the desk enough to get behind it. I got everything put together and working, the cables all tucked back away out of sight. Aries got home from work just in time to help me move the desk back against the wall, and then I got the whole room put back together. It's such a nice place to be, with windows to my right and left to watch the snow coming down.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Shopping the January Cellar

This morning the clouds were hanging low - I could see across the valley, but not the hillsides above. The rain had stopped, but everything was wet and the air had a misty feel to it. I got a fire going in the stove, and mended a couple of socks. By mid-morning I just had to get outside. I took the dog, and we walked a mile up the canyon, just to see if the rain had washed out the dirt road. On my way up, I met a neighbor out with her dog coming down, and we stopped to visit a while. This kind of weather is a bit rare around here - we agreed we both just had to be out in it.

This afternoon, I had some errands to run, and the rain started up again. We don't get pounding-down rain, just spitty-drizzle. We've gotten maybe a quarter-inch in the past 24 hours. But by the time I got home, there was enough run-off that I had to make some little ditches in the sand to channel water away from the front door. Just before dark, I went out for the eggs (three, today), and then "shopping" in the cellar. I couldn't believe how heavy the upper door was, soaking wet. Since the rain is supposed to change to snow by Sunday, I brought up enough produce for the week. Clockwise, from bottom left: a quart of beer (have I ever mentioned that we make our own beer, plus hard cider when we have a bumper crop of apples or pears?), the last of the red Burgermeister onions, plus some yellow Copra onions, Russet potatoes, apples (gleaned from an old tree in the oldest part of town), Yukon Gold potatoes, tomatoes (Early Girls, picked green last fall - our summers are hot and but short; the tomatoes are a bit watery inside and their skins starting to shrivel; they can't compare to those fresh off the vine in August, but certainly beat out the hard baseballs in the supermarket now), and some Kuroda carrots. It was a good night to make pot of stew.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Taste of Spring

Rain. All day. Drizzly, drippy rain. We have a plastic skylight right above my computer chair, and I can hear it pitty-patting down. If we don't get some kind of precipitation, it's really difficult to water my trees in the winter. I have a couple of tanks we fill in the summer, with buried piping running to gravity-fed faucets out by the trees and garden. But we have to drain all that before it freezes, so I'm left with only the house faucet, dragging around a few hundred feet of hose. I'm so happy to get rain!

I'd prefer cold and snow, but will take anything. This is high-desert - we only get six or seven inches of precipitation a year, and that's in the good years. And then, usually as snow December through April, nothing at all June through September. I'm hoping the weather swings back to cold, so the fruit trees don't start to break dormancy. My trees have the highest chill hours I can find, that are still hardy enough to bear here, but every year it's a toss-up as to whether I get anything.

The chickens liked the rain. Six eggs today! Of the young girls, the two Barred Rocks are molting, so nothing from them now, and the four RI Reds are starting to slow down. But the older Amerucana crosses are starting to come back into production - we got one green and two pinkish-brown eggs today. I wonder - will I wake up to rain or snow tomorrow?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Reno-Tahoe in Winter

Joy, from Perth, Australia, wrote that her youngest son and grandson, both in their 20's, were coming this way and asked what there was to do and see. Oh boy - where do I start? First, let me be clear that this the Reno/Tahoe part of Nevada. It's up where the eastern edge of California makes that angled bend. Las Vegas, despite being in the same state, is nowhere near here. Vegas is a good 7-8 hours drive south of here, a completely different climate and environment.

The jewel of the area is Lake Tahoe itself - a natural alpine lake more than 6,000 ft above sea level, completely ringed by mountains rising even higher. The lake is half in California, half in Nevada - the angled bend in the state line, mentioned above, is out in the middle. The lake reflects the sky and, with our annual average of 300 sunny days, is almost always a beautiful blue. More than 1,600 feet deep, it never freezes. Twelve by twenty-two miles, it has more than 70 miles of shoreline. Driving around the lake can make for a wonderful day. It takes about 3 hours to drive it straight through, but allow much more time to stop and gawk. Every turn brings a new vista and there are plenty of spots to pull over to take photos, plenty of interesting places to stop and shop or to grab some lunch or a cup of coffee.

If limited in time, at least try to make it out to Emerald Bay. Said to be one of the most photographed spots in the world, it's well worth the drive, especially if you're staying on the south shore. On top of little Fanette Island are the ruins of a stone teahouse, part of the Vikingsholm estate built in the 1920's. The estate, now owned by California, includes a "castle" at the end of the bay, open for tours in the summer. Check first to make sure the road around Emerald Bay is open - that part is occasionally closed for avalanche control. And take care - the road is narrow and twisty, and shady spots can be icy even when the rest of the road is dry.

If you'd like to see the lake from the water, there are Mississippi paddlewheelers that cruise from South Lake Tahoe, and Zephyr Cove on the east shore, across the lake to Emerald Bay and back. In winter, there are scenic cruises daily, and sunset dinner cruises Wednesdays and Saturdays. On some winter Fridays, the Ski Cruise sounds like a great time - take a ski bus from your South Shore hotel to the Squaw Valley Village to spend the day, and then party on the return trip across the lake on the paddlewheeler.

Of course, the main reason people come to this area in the winter is to play in the snow. Tahoe offers something for everyone, from downhill skiing and boarding, to cross-country and snowshoeing, to ice skating, sledding and tubing (sliding down the hill on an inflated tire innertube). The area has the largest concentration of ski resorts in North America, and they measure snowfall in feet instead of mere inches. Every place has some kind of lesson package, and rental equipment is readily available. At Heavenly Valley, on the south shore, some ski runs face the whites and blues of the Tahoe Basin, others overlook the tans and greys of the high-desert Carson Valley. A few miles west of Tahoe City on the west shore, Squaw Valley was the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics. Both those big resorts offer gondola rides to the top of the mountain for non-skiers, and numerous other activities as well.

A few miles further west of Squaw, you'll come to Truckee, an interesting little old-west railroad town where Amtrak's California Zephyr stills stops daily on its route between Chicago and the San Francisco Bay. Just west of Truckee is a California State Park memorializing the tragic Donner Party pioneer wagon train. The museum is open year-round, and there are winter trails for cross-country skiers and snowshoers.

Reno is 30 minutes drive east of Truckee on I-80. In between, at the bottom of the pass at Boomtown, is a Cabela's sporting goods store. It's worth a visit, not necessarily to buy anything, but just to wander around and look. The store is a natural history museum of sorts, with taxidermy displays and dioramas from around the world and a couple of huge aquariums. I know it's strange to recommend stores as must-see items on a tourist listing, but Scheels on I-80 just east of Reno in Sparks is another amazingly massive sporting goods store experience. Both stores will provide lots of low-cost entertainment, inside out of the cold.

Reno has numerous attractions, aside from casinos, where you can get out of the cold too. The boys might enjoy wandering through the National Auto Museum, watching college basketball at the Lawlor Events Center, or checking out what's happening at the Reno Events Center - all within walking distance downtown. The big casinos, both in Reno and Tahoe's south shore, also offer a variety of shows and nightclubs - pick up a local newspaper to see who and what is playing where.

Of course, boys in their 20's might prefer checking out the coeds and the bars around the University of Nevada, Reno campus, also walking distance from downtown, just north of I-80 off Virginia Street. UNR is Nevada's land-grant institution - the buildings date from 1887 to the present. The Student Union or Main Library could be good places for some downtime and computer access.

The eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range is still seismically active, and contains many natural hot springs - a good way to warm up after a cold day skiing. Many are open to the public, with amenities such as the individual baths at Steamboat south of Reno, an outdoor pool at Carson in Carson City, and the full spa treatments at Walley's just south of Genoa, Nevada's oldest settlement.

Carson City, 25 miles south of Reno, is the capital of Nevada. The silver-domed capitol building is open to the public, with interesting displays on both floors. The State Museum is just down the street in the old US Mint Building, with everything from the original coin press to fossils to a walk-through replica of an underground mine. On the south end of town, there's the Railroad Museum and the local Visitors' Center. I haven't been in there lately, but they used to have a great aerial photograph on the wall, showing Carson City in the foreground, the Carson Range to the west, and beyond that Lake Tahoe - with the water level obviously 1,500 feet above the town.

East of Carson City, just off Highway 50, are some local businesses the Visitors' Center might not mention - the bunny ranches (and I don't mean rabbits). Brothels are legal in the rural counties of Nevada, and the county line is right on top of the hill. A couple of blocks off the highway to the north is the Moonlite Ranch, probably best known as the location for the HBO series, Cathouse; to the south are the Sagebrush, Kit Kat, and Moonlite II (formerly Kitty's). Some of the girls used to stop in at the bar where I worked on their way back to their week on-duty at the "ranches", and told me a bit about their job - they are examined by a doctor and tested for various diseases weekly; the men must always use condoms (per state law); no licensed prostitute in Nevada has ever tested positive for HIV/AIDS; and the girls also get a three-day class on detecting signs of STDs in men before they go into the line-up. Everything else, so I hear, is negotiable.

A couple of miles further east is the turnoff to Virginia City. No matter where my travels have taken me in the world, even places where people don't speak English, I can always get across where I'm from by humming the theme song from Bonanza - everybody knows that music and the burning map! While the Cartwrights never really walked the streets of Virginia City, a young man named Samuel Clemens did. Later, using the pen name Mark Twain, he wrote Roughing It, a great account of his adventures in the area. The gold and silver from the mines of the Comstock Lode helped finance the Union Army in the Civil War, and played a key part in the growth of San Francisco, California. The town is the largest designated Historical District in America, with the main street pretty much the same as it was in the 1860's. You can spend a fun day walking the board sidewalks, checking out the little shops and old saloons, maybe wandering through the old cemeteries on the northeast end of town, or taking in a museum or a tour. You might even want to take a ride on the tourist railroad running on the old Virgina & Truckee (V&T) route - the "crookedest short line in the world". Work is in progress to eventually rebuild the tracks all the way back to Carson City someday. It gets really cold up there once the sun sets in the winter, and the town pretty much rolls up its sidewalks then - time to head back down the mountain.

Of course, there are always the casinos. Nevada bars and casinos never close - they're open 24/7. You must be 21, and if you look young probably will be carded - carry proof-of-age identification. Many of the bigger casinos offer lessons in how to play the various games, and just about all have a Sports Book, where you can place a bet on just about any sports-related event in the country (you can even wager on whether the Super Bowl coin toss will be heads or tails). Oh, by the way, it's not called gambling here - "gambling" represents risk; the casinos prefer the term "gaming" - gaming denotes entertainment and fun. It's just Nevada semantics - decide your monetary limits before you start, and don't let the free drinks cloud your judgement. If you're playing, tipping the cocktail waitress increases the likelihood that she'll come around often, and if you're winning, the dealers appreciate the occasional tip as well. Be forewarned - altitude exaggerates the effects of alcohol.

I'm sure that's plenty of things to think about, if you've read this far. If you're driving across the Sierras, check weather and road conditions before you start. Many of the Sierra crossings farther south close for the winter; winter storms and avalanches can close the ones around here temporarily. Carry tire chains, and be prepared for winter driving conditions. Drink plenty of water to alleviate the headaches and possible nausea the altitude can induce - you should adjust after a couple of days. My email address is over there in the sidebar if you have specific questions and would like to reach me directly. I'll try to do a summer-specific post later in the year. Enjoy your visit!

Friday, January 16, 2009

MLK Day of Service

During the 1950s and '60s, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. recognized the power of service to strengthen communities and achieve common goals.
President-Elect Obama has asked Americans to observe Monday's MLK Holiday by performing some action in the days leading up to the Presidential Inauguration to better your own community. So bright and early this Sunday morning, I'll be out, bundled up against the cold, in my work boots, gloves, and bright orange vest, my Ipod in my pocket, picking up trash along a mile of Nevada Highway 50/395 (the photo is from last summer - that's me on the left, in sunglasses and my goofy straw gardening hat). Aries, meanwhile, will be over at an elderly neighbor's place, bringing down a few widowmakers - trees on her property that are leaning over, threatening to fall. Find events in your community here. What are you going to do?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Linens and Blood and Promises

I have a few items nagging at me. I've had some questions asked and received some emails - I haven't forgotten you. Now that I'm finally through the confusion of the holidays and various organizations' annual start-the-year meetings, I promise, I will put together some long overdue posts.

Joy, from Perth, has a son and grandson heading this way in February, so I want to write about things to do around Reno/Tahoe. I received a new cookbook I want to write about, The Cornbread Gospels, by Crescent Dragonwagon - a fascinating person, writer, and cook. And Nancy M asks about keeping chickens out of the garden. I'm still working on how to do that myself, but I do want to get some poultry-keeping posts out there. Hang in there - those posts are coming. Soon. I promise.

But I'm a bit tired now. I donated blood this afternoon, after my Soroptimists' luncheon. I also got stopped by a policeman, for getting into the left turn lane one car length before I legally could, and then didn't have a current proof-of-insurance card in the car. He could have ticketed me for both offenses, but let me go (whew! but it did get my adrenaline going, just before I had the blood appointment). I don't know why Aries didn't put the card in my glove box - he usually does, every time - so I swung by the insurance office on my way home and got a temporary one. And then made sausage-stuffed squash for dinner. So, I'm just going to post a picture of how cheery the living room looked this morning, with its January red and white decor, and call it a day.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Time to Turn the Compost

It was nice outside today. While I spent the afternoon inside doing the Financial Reports for my Soroptimists' Club, Aries was outside turning the compost pile. It had broken down and compacted since he built it last October (shown then in this photo). It had reduced in size by half and completely cooled off. So he pulled the wire ring off and broke it all apart. In our desert climate, compost can quickly dry out, stopping the decomposition process. It needed to be wet down again (of course, some of the chickens were immediately underfoot - there might be something good in there, you know). Then, everything soaked and stirred, he piled it all back in the wire bin, and covered it to keep any winter snows from leaching too many of the goodies out. We'll check in another day or so to see how high the temperature jumps - the hotter it is, the more that lets us know there was still stuff in there to be broken down. Depending on the weather, he'll probably turn it again in early March, and I'll start working the finished compost into my summer garden beds the end of April.

One 50' bed, the "Early" bed, I prepped last fall with the last of last summer's compost. One-third of that bed was planted then with garlic and shallot bulbs, and seeded with spinach and arugula to overwinter for my earliest Spring salads. They're just now starting to sprout. The rest of that bed is lying there waiting, ready for when I can seed lettuces and peas, and set out onions - probably in early April.

When we get these nice 50º January days, like it's supposed to be the rest of this week, my fingers start itching to get out there and start playing in the dirt. The 20º nights, and the certain knowledge that winter is far from over brings me back to my senses. I'll have to content myself with going through my garden catalogs. The garden of my January imaginings is always so much greener anyway.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Grassroots Volunteering

I belong to Muscle Powered, a small, grassroots, pedestrian and bicycle advocacy group. We had our annual planning meeting/potluck brunch this morning. Reviewing the past year's activities, our small group of volunteers accomplished quite a lot. This year's planned activities include Bike to Work events in May, leading weekly community walks (and maybe bike rides), a Kids' Bicycle Rodeo, a booth at an Earth Day fair, and our on-going efforts towards improving connectivity of access here in town, and more recreational trails in the surrounding open space.

The President of the Carson Valley Trails Association, to the south, brought information on their efforts too. They'll be having their annual meeting next week, and I'm thinking I'll join their group too. They work on a lot bigger scale than we do, so I'm looking forward to learning more about dealing with federal, interstate, and private property trail easements (the California state line angles across Lake Tahoe, and continues southeast, just south of here), and volunteering on their trail-building projects.

Very interesting too, at our meeting today, was the house of our hostess. She has taken a small house in the older part of town, and remodeled it to make it as green and sustainable as possible. This was her chance to show us her work of the past year, giving us a tour before the meeting. Her initial efforts included gutting and reconfiguring the entire place - moving walls (she said one closet door is the only door inside that was still in the same place), moving and replacing all exterior windows and doors, and replacing all flooring with sustainably harvested wood. The gorgeous counters in kitchen and baths are made of recycled glass, and all appliances are energy-efficient. A photo-voltaic array on the roof provides electricity, and the solar water heater, via a heat exchanger and pump system, provides both domestic hot water and heats the house through baseboard radiant heaters (she does have a gas hook-up as a backup for cloudy days, but with our 300+ sunny days annually she hasn't had to use it much). It's a beautiful home, with some technology so new and different for around here, the power and insurance companies haven't quite figured out how to deal with her yet.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Electronic Media Time-out

Alrighty then - time to get back into the blogging rhythm, I guess. I had a nice visit with my sister in the Bay Area. This is one of my favorite sights I pass on my way over the Sierras. There are a couple of statues of big horn sheep flanking a driveway, and then they've added another statue of a mountain lion. But since it's not in the same scale, to me it looks like the sheep are being stalked by a house cat. I smile every time I drive by.

Sweet husband gave me a gift card to Borders book store for Christmas. I got myself some new music (George Harrison's All Things Must Pass), and a box set of Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse paperbacks. We had free HBO for a while last fall, and I got hooked watching True Blood, a series based on the books. So I spent last week devouring all seven books, one right after another (I can get a bit obsessive when I get the chance to read), doing a bit of electronic media detox in the process (best if I do that every once in a while). But now, refreshed, I'm back on the computer and back online. I'll be in touch!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

I'm visiting my sister, in California's San Francisco Bay Area, for a couple of days. I drove out of a blue sky day where our snow is quickly melting, over an icy pass through the snowy Sierras, down through the foothills where some trees are still dropping their fall leaves, and then down into a thick tule (pronounced two-lee, named after the reeds that grow along the river banks) fog where the citrus trees are heavy with fruit. In less than four hours drive, I'm in a completely different world.

So we're eating the last of the Christmas fudge, sharing a bottle of champagne, watching movies, fitting in a couple of trips to the gym (those New Year resolutions, you know), teaching my nephews to play poker (we're only playing for chips - Auntie Sadge had quite a pile raked in last night). I'll be back to write more in a couple of days. If you really need a fix of more Sadgey wisdom before then, I researched and wrote a post about recycling your old electronics over on the Simple Green Frugal Co-op blog. Especially if Santa left a new electronic gadget under your tree, it's something you should read. Check it out - and do the right thing for Mother Earth and our future generations!