Would you survive this?

Here's a finger in your ear.
Here’s a finger in your ear.

Many of us have elder care on the agenda. Near or far our parents may need a helping hand every day or only occasionally.  My dad is a free range elder. At 76 he has complete control of his faculties and makes all decisions. I just check in and sometimes socialize with him. Now that he’s in Mexico we see each other more frequently but it’s easy. Burt’s dad, too, is pretty much an out of sight out of mind kind of dad. Well, never out of mind but not requiring of management. Here today we are helping with house chores and feeding but Jack is 100% self sufficient. He’s 89 1/2. It’s a pleasure to lend him a hand with a leaky roof or a bad faucet.

I have a friend with a mom in a nursing home. This mom has required all kinds of long distance assistance with life management. The mom has been living in assisted living or under nursing care for over a decade. The mom cannot get out of bed without two assistants. I admire this mom’s tenacity. Since she is under the care of a facility and cannot get out on her own she has very specific shopping needs. Here is a recent list items she requested my friend buy and ship to her.

Double stuff Oreos
Golden Oreos
Oreo candy bars (6 pk)
Pecan sandies
Strawberry jelly in a non-breakable container. Not preserves or jam.
Crackers, anything but ritz like (NO RITZ? I love Ritz!)
3- Red ball point pens, not cheap Bic type
A Watch
A kaleidoscope
A set of 3 lb hand weights in a pretty paisley like color
Some sort of nut, cheese and cranberry snack pack
Butter

As this list was relayed mom ordered dinner and the following was overheard:

Tuna casserole
No soup or spinach
2 slices lemon meringue pie

Part of me is all judgey and appalled. Then I sigh. Maybe I’m just jealous. I’d be dead in a week on a diet of that stuff. But this mom has lived her life on this kind of food. My friend once bribed her mom with a box of Dunkin’ Doughnuts. It takes years of training to achieve this kind of dietary tolerance. If you’re stuck in a nursing home, stuck in a bed in a nursing home, maybe a double stuffed Oreo is your only source of joy. I don’t know. I’ll tell you if I ever last that long.

Meanwhile Mimi is living on hand fed boiled chicken and temptations (the lemon meringue pie of her world).

 

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New Recipe

Styrofoam box soup
Styrofoam box soup

The great feeder is a very efficient user of food stuffs. Mittelstadt family history is full of soup geniuses and Burt inherited the skills. While most of his soups contain run of the mill ingredients and resemble familiar recipes some are daring experiments in texture and flavor. Just this morning I was handed a bowl of steaming liquid and I caught a distinct whiff of potato salad. Immediately I knew I was expected to eat soup made from a leftover roadside stall chicken, macaroni salad, taco toppings and a side of our friend Lorna’s homemade potato salad. The broth was reconstituted from that gelatinous bouillon stuff Costco sells. Everything but the bouillon had been stored for two days in a styrofoam take away box in the fridge. My bleary eyes took in the pickled red onions floating in the mayonnaise scented broth. It did not look promising. I am pleased to report it was good. Not just better than it sounds but good, as in worthy of an intentional attempt to reproduce the recipe.

Here are your instructions:

1. Look for carnitas. Oops, the carnita stand is closed so find a chicken stand and buy a whole dried out barbecued chicken. Collect all the sides offered: cabbage, pickled onions, corn tortillas, salsas.

2. Play bridge for two hours while chicken rests in the box in the microwave (to keep it ‘safe’). Sides go in the fridge.

3. After Bridge (win if you can), share chicken tacos and potato salad with friends. Drink wine, if you like. Play more Bridge while all food stuffs sit on counter for another half hour.

4. Finish the card game and gather up leftovers. Take the offered left over potato salad. Take a lot, because you both really like potato salad. Drive half an hour home and finally refrigerate the dried out chicken and her sides.

5. Wait two days. Wife assumes you ate the leftovers when she was somewhere else. Wife never looks in fridge unsupervised. Wake up early because cat screamed in your ear. Think: Cripes! I have to make breakfast again! Why me?! Because you created a monster in your totally co-dependent non-cooking wife.

6. Open the fridge and see leftovers. The Mittelstadt soup genius gene awakens. The Soup genius says: That looks like a perfect soup and it’s kind of cold. I think I’ll throw it all in a pot of broth instead of making chicken tacos with a side of potato salad.

7. Throw it all in a pot. Simmer. Beat back the cat. Grate cheese. Cheese is the mighty soup savior. Nearly any mediocre soup can be saved if you throw in enough cheese. Beat back the cat eating the grated cheese. The 19 year old cat is very persistent. She’s as codependent as the wife.

8. Wife wakes and demands her brekky. Hand her a warm bowl of mayonnaise and potatoes and floating bits of chicken and red onions and stale corn tortillas. She likes it. At least she’s easy to please.

Moral of this story: Make more soup with those leftovers. Even lasagna thrown into broth is really yummy. In 13 years of soup with Burt there’s only been a couple bad ones and that was simply because I don’t like beef and some fish.

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Panaderas

Jalapeño cheddar rolls (r) and plain rolls (l).
Jalapeño cheddar rolls (r) and plain rolls (l).

Food is at the foundation of our needs triangle. Water, shelter, are impossible to live without, too. Other stuff like love, kindness, or fulfillment, that’s all up higher. We can survive a lot if we have sustenance. I guess that’s how food wound up in all of my photos this week. Food follows us all the way up to self-actualization. Here’s a version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for your consideration. Image result

Our group of kids are mostly making it to the bottom three. They have some serious belonging and safety issues in their day to day lives. If the only place you belong is the same place that beats you, where does that leave you? I think there’s more convolutions in life than this triangle allows but it’s good for the basic idea. Burt and I are trying to build them up towards esteem but we do a lot of feeding and providing safety, too.

A few weeks a go my friend Donna had the Bridge ladies over to her house to make bread. We all had our own mini-loaf pan and a bag of dough. Everyone was free to add ingredients to her bread to make the bread her own. I went for pure rosemary. I like rosemary bread. Other people used lemon peel or sage or garlic. There were many things to chose from. The bread was a kind of symbol for this needs hierarchy. We all had to have wheat, water, oil, and yeast. We had to have the right amount, too. Too much yeast and your bread will be full of hot air and lack structure. Water not warm enough? Your yeast wont rise and you’ll have a loaf too tough to eat. Donna guided us through the process from beginning to end. There were some corny angel readings that some of us rolled our eyes about but it helped pass the time and got me thinking about who are our real angels.

I posted the bread pictures on Facebook and Mayra saw them and decided she wanted to make bread, too. I sent her the recipe and we made plans to get together and bake. Today Mayra and Priscilla and I made the bread. Each person’s bread was as different as we are but all were perfect. First we changed the recipe to half whole wheat and half white flour. Then we decided to make rolls because they are easier to share and store. We stood at the table and made three batches of dough. To mine I added cheddar cheese and jalapeños. Mayra added parmesan and Priscilla went with nothing. We formed our rolls and loaded the trays. I sprinkled the tops with Trader Joe’s everything but the bagel spice. While the rolls rose we chatted, played with our phones, and sat quietly. The language barrier was a little high today. We could have used an angel card reading.

After the 20 minute rest we backed the rolls for twenty minutes. They came out overstounding. Really. This recipe is so simple and quick and you can do whatever you want. My jalapeño cheese bread was as close to the defunct Sweetgrass Bakery’s bread as anything I have ever tasted. Mayra’s was a lovely parmesan roll and Priscilla’s were perfectly dignified and ready for as much butter as you had on hand. Like a well developed person this dough can handle whatever you have in mind. It’s flexible but well formed. Uncomplicated but interesting. I wish life was this easy.

Here’s the recipe for plain rolls. Use your imagination to make it your own:

TOTAL TIME: 1:20
PREP: 0:20
LEVEL: EASY
YIELD: 2 MINI LOAVES
INGREDIENTS
• Cooking spray, for mini loaf pans
• 3 c. all-purpose flour, divided
• 1/4 c. sugar
• 1 .25-package active dry yeast
• 1 c. warm water
• 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 tsp. kosher salt
DIRECTIONS
• Preheat oven to 375º and spray mini loaf pans with cooking spray. In a resealable plastic bag, place 1 cup flour, sugar, and yeast and add warm water.
• Seal bag and squish together with your hands to mix. Let rest 10 minutes at room temperature. (Yeast should activate.) Add 1 cup flour, oil, and salt to the bag, then seal and squish together.
• Add remaining cup of flour and mix until combined. Remove from bag and knead 5 minutes until smooth. Halve dough and place in two loaf pans. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise 30 minutes.
• Brush top of bread with olive oil or melted butter and bake until golden, about 30 minutes.
You can make one loaf instead of mini-loaves or you can hand form rolls. I omit the bag and use a bowl. I use half whole wheat and half white flour.

Rolls
Rolls en el horno.
Our kids eating beans.
Our kids eating beans Burt cooked in our solar cooker.
Here's Ivonne digging out some ant salt for our enjoyment.
Here’s Ivonne digging out some ant salt for our enjoyment. The question was had we eaten insects? Ivonne had some on hand. Ant salt would be good on top of your rolls.
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On the brink of the Galapagos, Again

San Jacinto arroyo
San Jacinto arroyo

The guests are gone and we’re back to our regularly scheduled week here in Pescadero. Until Friday. Friday upheaval awaits. Mimi is off to Dad and SG’s house. Olive and Elvis will join a pack where the human leader is named Pickle. Burt and I will board an overnight flight to Ecuador. The neighborhood kids will have to run amok without us.

I cut Burt’s hair today. A few too short shaves with the electric clipper and now he always asks for a scissor cut. Annoying. I like the shaver but I gave him a good clip despite wishing I had the magic buzzer. Afterwards Burt held Olive and I hand trimmed her face and secret spots. Olive is growing her hair out and sincerely hopes it is never cut again. Like a mother of a kid with long hair I tell her she has to do a better job managing it but she likes it matted and riddled with stickers. How she gets on with a woowoo full of spines I do not understand. This spot cleanup was a kind of winter detente. When we get back from Ecuador she’s going in to see the professional trimmer at Doctor David’s house of anxiety.

In other news we had a special guest teacher in yoga these last three days and today I can barely muster the energy to get out of bed. It started out easily enough on Monday that I hardly noticed we were doing more and deeper work. Yesterday I thought well that was a nice pushy workout. Today I thought why am I here? It was like boiling a lobster slowly. By the time I realized what was happening I was already dead. In short: excellent yoga week.

My dad is still here hanging with his girlfriend SG. I generally will refrain from reporting on this fun love affair. It’s there’s to blog about. But here’s a brief story of caution. Two weeks ago SG swallowed a fish bone. It felt like it was caught in her throat so the day after the meal she visited an ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor). The ENT did not see a bone but noticed a small cut. He thought the bone might have cut her esophagus on the way down. He advised her to take it easy. About 4 days later SG noticed a swelling. Right away she got in to another doctor and this new doctor sent her to the hospital in San Jose del Cabo. The hospital is an hour away. Long story short here: the next day SG had surgery to remove an abscess from her esophagus. She was in the hospital for 5 days. The surgery was 2 1/2 hours long and left an 8″ scar. My grandma was right. Swallowing a fish bone can kill you. The surgeon thinks the bone punctured her esophagus and left behind some bacteria. The puncture closed up and an abscess of ucky stuff developed. I’ve had some cats with these types of infections. SG was wearing a drain just like my brawling kitties. Mimi used to regularly give and get nasty infections. She was quite a pugilistic feline when she was younger.

Today SG got a clean bill of health. We are all relieved to hear the good news. The love birds can get back to their regular activities. Yay, SG.

 

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Tripping off to Mexico Mañana

Me on Bob's fiddle
Me on Bob’s fiddle. Mom always said to clean behind your ears. I see why now.

Today is Laura and Barry’s wedding day. We’ve been hanging around Portal waiting for this day since the bridge was finished. An event well worth waiting for but, my, there’s not much going on when we’re not working or super hiking. I practiced some of my new Irish tunes this week. I read a book. Burt and I visited centenarian Bob again. A bear attacked the gNash. I saw a couple more tarantulas. We took a hike. A mouse landed on my shoulder.

Yesterday Mimi was dropped off at Dodie’s for her extended kitty B&B stay. I left Dodie with Mimi’s bed, food, snacks, bowls, litter box, litter, blankie, and more food. Mimi’s luggage weighs more than mine. We also left Dodie with our minds at ease because we know she won’t mind having an elderly stink ball as a companion. Mimi isn’t so sure what to do with all the floor space. When I left she was completing her 53rd circumnavigation of the living area. The gNash is soulless without our feline companion.

Two nights ago was the incident of the bear under the gNash. Just after 11:00 I was woken by two quick Olive barks. Olive has a sophisticated system of barks. These two barks were ‘I hear something’ and ‘GoAwayBear!’ I woke up and, with Ollie ears in tune new we were under assault. Olive was quiet and there was a dragging/grating sound emanating from just outside the window on Burt’s side of the bed. I leaned over and peered out blindly but thought I saw a very large and dark hump moving. I said, “There’s a bear” as I shook Burt. Like all husbands roused from sleep he yelled, “There is NO bear.” Insert murderer, robber, thief, rapist for bear and you have all men waking up to wife saying: There’s a …. Is this in their DNA or are they taught by their fathers or is it learned after millions of false alarms?

Clearly Burt hadn’t fully assessed the situation. Nor was he awake. Still I thought, maybe he’s right. It’s probably a mouse. Suddenly more dragging noises and I hit Burt again and I said, “There’s a bear.” This time he bolted straight up and yelled, “There’s A bear.” This was the first time in history that I feel Burt actually met or exceeded my level of concern for our physical safety. Wide awake he knew instantly what I did not. Burt knew the bear had found a stash of food under our trailer (Hellooo, Hell, no…) and now the bear knew our trailer was a flimsy tin can of filled with delightful food. Burt closed his window and the window over the dinette. I left mine open. Menopause, bear or no bear. Our noise making scared the bear enough so that noises stopped and we couldn’t see it. Not much sleep was had as we both envisioned the bear ripping off our grey water tank or stretching a paw in to find the dog food. The next morning the bear was still on the pile of dry beans (my zombie apocalypse supply) when Burt went out to check the damages. He chased bruno away. Our storage cooler had sustained minor bite damages and the rice and beans were spread all around. I presume that bear got a mean tummy ache from eating dry beans. Burt cleaned up the mess as best he could. We seal up the windows whenever we leave now but if a bear wants into a trailer it can make it happen. Today we are moving to a new location. Hopefully the bear doesn’t follow.

Also this week we played music for Bob. It was a kind of practice session. Whiel visiting Burt asked Bob if he had any of his instruments still. Bob still had his fiddle which he had inherited from his father. He showed it to us. I got it in tune and played some tunes on it that Bob’s dad might have played. Bob practically seized the thing from me and gave it a go himself. Despite his torn rotator cuff, deafness, long finger nails, and lack of practice the phrase of a tune came out. Bob commented that he liked my bow. You can see the video on Facebook. This private session was further rewarded when Bob left his house and came to our concert the next day. He doesn’t get around like he used to. He and his gal friend Gloria were all the audience we needed to make our day special. We made plans to have another jam session between our Mexico and Galapagos trips.

Another recent wildlife encounter happened when I decided to clean out a bird nesting box on the old adobe stage building where we are parked. I lifted the front of the box and it was packed full of bedding. Fearing biting bugs and the mites I’ve found in other nests I grabbed a stick to clean the place out. As I dug in a very alarmed mouse jumped out and landed on my shoulder. I screamed. She screamed. Then she ran down my chest, jumped to my knee, and then the ground. I stopped cleaning for fear of finding babies. The birds will have to battle it out come spring.

Bob on Bob's fiddle. Originally his father's fiddle.
Bob on Bob’s fiddle. Originally his father’s fiddle.
Barfoot view
Barfoot view
View of Barfoot lookout.
View of Barfoot lookout.
Bear destroys but does not eat dried beans.
Bear destroys but does not eat dried beans.
We had almost an inch of rain in under an hour. Bear tracks in the mud.
We had almost an inch of rain in under an hour. Bear tracks in the mud.
Bob and Gloria made it to our show among many notable Portal residents.
Bob and Gloria (front, far left) made it to our show among many notable Portal residents.
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Galapagos Training

Annual Selfie. These filters hide all the decay.
Annual Selfie. These filters hide most of the decay.

Floods and fire everywhere we know. The Gypsy Carpenters world is burning down or underwater. Today we are at the edge of the continent looking westward and still the smoke blocks the view. Ocean winds are no match for the 140,000 acre blaze nearby. Last week we left the Willamette valley a day ahead of the over 100 degree heat. It was the second monstrous heat wave of the summer for an area that is normally very temperate. The same news in Montana, California, New Mexico, Washington. The west is on fire. It brings back the early 2000s when I first sunk into clinical depression during Helena’s summer of smoke. Friends there aer suffering again this year. I’m lucky to be mobile. We have found less intense smoke and lower temperatures. That’s enough. And friends.

Meanwhile there’s Houston but you all know about Houston. The news for us was our part of Baja was hit by Tropical storm Lidia. Lidia left nearly 30″ of rain in a day. That hasn’t happened in over 100 years. Cabo San Lucas looks like two feet of mud covered everything. Bridges are gone, landslides over roads, a friend’s house washed away. Only 4 people are known dead but 13 are missing. News from our town of Pescadero is that everyone is okay but roads are a mess. A nice reality check that this place we’ve chosen will always be interesting. Maybe development will take a breather.

As mother nature was reminding everyone who’s in charge we have been dallying on the Oregon coast. Our next job in in Templeton, Ca. It was 110 there yesterday. Hence the foot dragging. Rosemary and Ed hosted us for three night at Washburn State park and then we headed south to Bandon to our Mexican Bridge director’s home for a few more days. The living is good. Food, friends, animated discourse. While in Washburn we were able to visit Kate and Pat. Pat and Burt met keeping bees in the 70s. Kate’s just written a novel about the post-apocalypse. I hope it’s published soon. We may need the guidebook.

Daily activities during this stretch include what I call Galapagos training. Here’s a summary:

Squats while brushing teeth. To help with leg strength for embarking and disembarking of boats and climbing volcanoes.

Cold water swimming to hopefully cut down on the lengthy time it usually takes me to get in cold water. I’m hoping to develop an ability to suck it up and plunge. So far there’s improvement but still a lot of wasted mental effort and time.

Beach walking. Sand legs take a while to develop mentally and physically. Short steps.

Bird watching. Duh. Birds here are different but spotting and getting the binoculars in focus improves with practice.

No snacks. Food (snacks) are not allowed on excursions to unpopulated islands. This news has taken me by complete surprise. I must, again, prepare mentally and physically to be without snacks. Burt and I are building up slowly. I took an hour walk yesterday with only water.

Many thanks to Ed, Rosemary, Pat, Kate, Lorna and Meryl for providing companionship and places to park. Today we have bridge. Tomorrow California.

Feet on beach
Feet on beach. Preparing.
RR and Ed and pups
RR and Ed and pups. Where are the snacks?
Slug
Slug
Pretty purple flowers
Pretty purple flowers
Raft with legs
Raft with legs
The mini-me on the mighty Beaver River.
The mini-me on the mighty Beaver River.
worked rock
worked rock
The log at Lorna's place.
The log at Lorna’s place.
Burt really likes the log.
Burt really likes the log.
Bridge guru gets guitar lesson.
Bridge guru gets guitar lesson.
IMG_8879
Burt and his salmon.
IMG_8883
Random art at Sisters Rocks on the Oregon Coast
IMG_8884
Starfish at Sisters Rocks.
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Sea Cave at Sisters Rocks.
IMG_8893
Sunset on the New River. The red dot is a smoke shrouded sun.
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Post-eclipse withdrawl

Olinve, Bowman, and Elvis hang out.
Olive, Bowman, and Elvis hang out.

Helena friends, Rosemary and Ed, took a day off from their campground hosting duties and Carl Washburn State Park to visit us on the sunny side of the mountains. Ed alternately blames us and credits us for inspiring their semi-nomadic lifestyle. He and Rosemary spend a few months spring and fall back in Helena, Montana and the rest of the time they are volunteering in Death Valley of other parks or they are simply wandering the world. They visited Baja this past winter and are joining us in the Galapagos soon. Take it from them, it’s fun to travel with the GCs. Food is plentiful and tasty and the dogs play. Sometimes there’s songs to sing. If you’re really lucky Rosemary will dance. Our visit was a good treatment for the eclipse hangover I’m suffering.

Everybody has vacated our current site and we are (or Burt is) back at work.  It’s very quiet around here. We played some Bridge and some music and have done on-line shopping to prepare for our next season of wandering. Both of us need new footwear for the Galapagos.  Yesterday another wandering duo, Rolf and Bonnie of Portal, AZ, stopped by. Rolf and Bonnie had just visited the Galapagos so they had useful ideas on what to think about as we try to get ready. They even offered us the use of a rolling duffle bag that can be carried backpack style. Our trip to Europe showed us we have left duffle bag days behind and yet the gNash has no room for real luggage. We hardly ever have to pack and this year we are taking three international trips. One person in our party, and I know you’re thinking it was me but it wasn’t, over packed and over shopped for Europe. Some items purchased remain unused. But he is ready for a nice night out. I am pleased he has some stylish pants and shoes for the next time somebody invites us someplace stylish. The islands on the equator are not that place.

Still room to join us.

Recycled wood wood shed
Recycled wood wood shed
Rotten subfloor
Rotten subfloor
New floor
New floor
Glue
Glue. You can see the jack and the lifted post here. Lifting the post was important to get the rotten flooring out.
Vinyl patch
Vinyl patch
Eclipse art. Perfect cure for the eclipse hangover.
Eclipse art. Perfect cure for the eclipse hangover.
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Birdies flocking together

Cara-caras in Elias Calles
Cara-caras in Elias Calles

We drove down here with a 5 pound bag of bird food. Burt was feeling tolerant of my whims. Usually he says, “Too much. Buy it there.” I only bought it because I was afraid I would forget to buy some here. As soon as we were situated I put out some seed. It was a cheap bag of food and nobody came. I tried a couple of locations. Nothing. All the other bird features were busy but sugar water only attracts a subset of feeder birds and I wanted to see more varieties. I despaired. Maybe my food was spoiled or just not to their tastes?

Last week our friend Bobbi asked us to come to her place and help her identify her birds. It was on our way to her house that we spotted the pair of cara-caras sitting in the dead palm. As we sat there on her porch and watched a veritable flock of birds dining ten feet away I realized my mistake. It wasn’t the food. It was the location and type of feeder. The bowls were too exposed and the table was too close to our trailer. I made one small change. I placed the food in a piece of driftwood and hung the driftwood on the fence. The feeding station is two feet further away from our trailer and higher off the ground. The next day there was a seed eater on it. A very shy cardinal flitted in and out taking a seed at a time. The day after that four new species of birds were in the yard: Black headed grosbeak, house finch, phainopepla, pyrrhuloxia.  Yippee skippy!

Moral of this story, same as all the rest: Don’t give up.

Cara-caras in Elias Calles
Female Cardinal
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Cardinal at take-off
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Cardinal and black headed grosbeak
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House finch and orange crowned warbler taking a bath together. I wonder what the missus will say?
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House finch, hooded oriole, and orange crowned warbler. The bath is very popular.
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Pyrrhuloxia
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Northern mockingbird and a hooded oriole squabble over who’s turn.
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Scott’s oriole, hooded oriole, house finch in line.
New feeder with cardinal
New feeder with cardinal

 

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Gobble, Gobble, Gobbled

Pavos
Pavos or turkeys

Yesterday our friend and guide Esteban took us up to his sister’s ranch. The rustic farm is about an hour from El Pescadero and located on the edge of an arroyo. This trip materialized the way so many things happen here. Esteban stopped by to say hi. Burt said let’s take a trip to the mountains. We think Esteban said, “Do you want to see my sister’s ranch?” I think we said yes. We are not entirely sure if he asked or if we asked or how we wound up agreeing. Turkeys were mentioned. We made a date for an excursion.

Yesterday we arrived at Esteban’s house a few minutes late. He was surprised. We were very punctual according to him. This was after we called to say we would arrive an hour late and we arrived an hour and ten minutes later than originally agreed. Oops. We try so hard not to be prompt and we always fail. We are continuously arriving before our hosts expect us all over the world. This fashionably late thing is beyond our skill set. We couldn’t even start our show fifteen minutes late as all musicians are expected to do.

The journey to the rancho was full of words for trees and birds we happened to pass. Esteban used to be the forest ranger in the Sierra de la Laguna Biosphere Reserve. He knows all the local beings. What we could not understand was where we were going. Eventually we wound up at a very nice, brand new country getaway. There were two workers watering the plants. The yard was nicely landscaped. I pondered how a walk in the woods brought us to some rich person’s cabin in the mountains. I have no idea what transpired but the conclusion was that we were free to visit this spot and camp anytime we liked. I conclude Esteban was introducing us to the locals. I could be wrong. It was a very nice spot. Elvis peed on everything. When I said is Spanish that he had to mark everywhere we go the men all laughed. We piled back into the Exploder and headed back out to the highway. WTF. Are we going home already? Was that our trip? During all our visits Esteban and Burt and I have a three way dialogue that meanders and is very amorphous. I am never certain if we are going or coming, leaving or staying. His manner of guiding is similar. He takes us to a trail and says, “I’ll see you later.” We walk away wondering where we are going. We always get there, turn around and walk back. Esteban is where he left us. Everybody is happy.

At the highway we headed away from town and took another ranch road towards the mountains. At the end of this road we arrived at a ranch filled with animals. Cows, sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys…The local lady of the house was working her butt of making cheese and doing laundry. The men were sitting and talking. I headed to the kitchen and chatted with another visiting female while we watched Lupita do her chores. Burt hung with us. There were wild birds in cages singing in the kitchen. I could hardly stand to look at the starling, grosbeak, sparrow and orioles but they are well loved by this quiet woman with few visitors. The woman was Esteban’s sister. She is also very comfortable in the wilderness and trapped all the birds herself. Now I know the whole family shares our love of birds.

Eventually Esteban takes us to a trail and say, “I’ll see you later. There’s water up there.” Burt and I and the Olvis walked until we found water. It was 4:00 PM. I could have spent the night there on the sandy bank with palm trees swaying and water trickling by. There were heaps of birds but we forgot our binoculars. Both of us. We returned to the ranch. There was Esteban waiting. I asked if we could buy a turkey. How much? $400 pesos. Muy caro, I thought but worth it to reward Lupita for all her hard work, so we agreed. They asked if we want it alive or dead. I envisioned carrying a live turkey back to town with Elvis and Olive and decided dead is best. One of the men caught the turkey while Esteban filled an enormous pot with water to boil. The unlucky dinner is caught, its feet bound, and it is hung upside down. Burt cut its throat. The bird was then plunged into boiling water and plucked and gutted. Both Burt and I have done this many times but it made us nervous doing it with a cross cultural audience but some things are the same no matter what language you use. Lupita gave me some much less expensive eggs. Finally we headed home.

Zalate or fig tree
Zalate or fig tree
Presa or dam
Presa or dam
Borregos or sheep
Borregos or sheep
Wild birds in cages. Que triste.
Wild birds in cages. Que triste.
Haciendo queso. Lupita is making cow's milk cheese.
Haciendo queso. Lupita is making cow’s milk cheese.
Pavo sin suerte. The unlucky turkey.
Pavo sin suerte. The unlucky turkey.
Insertion into boiling water loosens the feathers.
Insertion into boiling water loosens the feathers.
Hanging fowl upside down calms them.
Hanging fowl upside down calms them.
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Thanksgiving 2016

 

I cleaned these piñones for 20 minutes. My hand cramped.
I cleaned these piñones for 20 minutes. My hand cramped because I was using my middle finger instead of my index finger.

I’ve been neglecting my duties as bloggess of Gypsycarpenters.com. Last week I snagged my index finger on the cut edge of a can of cat food. It was a darn painful and jagged injury.  The cut was just on the part that hits the keyboard keys. The same part I use to run the phone. It was pretty inconvenient and required frequent bandage changes.  There are two new boxes of band-aids in our truck and trailer. Since the accident I haven’t played music or done dishes. Well, I rarely do dishes but it’s nice to have an excuse. I did cook and continue working. Shopping at Home Depot is an index free chore.

Thanksgiving turned out to be just a grand day. First off Burt and I visited a patch of wilderness ten minutes from here. Huntley Meadows Park is a swamp bordered by hardwood trees. I’d seen the park on my mapping app and it looked like a very large patch of green worth exploring so I looked it up and decided to visit. The park features an excellent boardwalk used by both human visitors and the animal residents. Everyone appreciates a good walking path. So Burt and I left the dogs in the car (no dogs on the boardwalk) and did some birding. We saw the rusty blackbird, apparently a rarity, thanks to other birders we met on the walk. We also spotted some lovely blue-winged teals and the red-bellied woodpecker.

From the calm, grounding bird walk we headed to brother Christian’s home for the day. Christian and Kernan and my nephew Parker and niece Izzy were no where to be found when we arrived despite a text 5 minutes earlier saying they were ready for us. Welcome to the Zazzalis! Turned out Christian was out back using an industrial leaf blower and Kernan and Izzy were dressing. Parker, as is usual for teenagers, was sleeping and would not be seen for hours. Eventually we all gathered around the cheeseboard and gorged. Ahhh it’s good to be amongst the family and have no dietary restrictions on the scene. Boy do we love cheese. To prepare space for the non-traditional feast we were planning we headed out for another walk.

Bacon Ridge is a new section of trails squeezed onto an undeveloped plot of land between a defunct madhouse and an interstate. Back in the colonial era this land was cleared and farmed. Remnants of the farm’s fencing and tools and vehicles could be found among the serpentine paths through second growth forest. There was also distinct erosion gulleys formed when the land was originally cleared. There’s a certain common feature of small spaces where we try to maximize trail length: The trails are convoluted and full of figure-8s. This particular area had no defining landmarks. Leafless trees and leaf filled gulleys all looked the same to us. We got lost. Not lost as in where are we, but lost as in how do we ever get out of here? Kernan took charge and used her iPhone to find the car and we headed cross country using our keen wilderness skills. All we had to do was keep the roar of the interstate to our left and we would eventually find the car. And this worked but not without me stepping into quick sand and all of us losing sight of each other in the deep gullies. The leaves were twice as high as Olive’s head and she had a time of it in the bottom of the trenches, too. So dinner was a little late.

Back at the house Parker had not gotten dinner started but did rouse from his bed. We arrived back home and set in to make risotto, chicken cutlets, and brussel sprouts. Nobody wanted turkey so we did the family favorite. It was madcap. The house is large but the kitchen work area is cramped. Everybody played a revolving roll at the stove. Dishes were washed as soon as they were dirtied by Lalaura a family friend. Nobody got hurt. The patriarch of the family was called and we took turns touring him around by Facetime. Christian shucked oysters and Parker ate them. I forgot to mention that Parker had an ear ache. I hope oyster eating cures ear aches.

Over dinner Christian and I shared the different details we remembered from watching our grandmother and/or uncle cook the same meal in an even tighter space. It was a lovely family time remembering that those people long gone gave us the desire to still eat this food.

I made this but we ate it before Thanksgiving.
I made this but we ate it before Thanksgiving.
Beaver tracks?
Beaver tracks?
Beaver tail track
Beaver tail track
Huntley Meadows Park
Huntley Meadows Park
Thanksgiving leftovers
Thanksgiving leftovers at Huntley Meadow
Cheese board
Cheese board
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