Salmon snagging season opened up today. In the fall mature landlocked kokanee salmon swim out of their lakes upstream into small gravelly streams to spawn and die. For a short window we humans are allowed to snag them from the shallow water. By snag, they mean literally. The snagger drgas a heavy treble hook through the water and attempts to hook the flank of a fish. Sounds crazy. I’m gonna give it a go with some people I know soon. We’ll see what happens.
If you’ve been following this page since its inception you might recall our first holiday season was spent on the west coast. We had our first urban bloat fest while visiting Portland, OR. We had just left the limited culinary landscape of Helena and landed smack into an eaters dream world. During that sojourn we went to a holiday party. The party was hosted by the cousin of Dan Roberts (the maker of Burt’s Minstrel guitar), Suzanne Lauber. Dan and Suzanne wanted us to come by and show off the first Roberts guitar. I have not seen Suzanne since but with the wonders of the internet we’ve stayed in touch. You can read that post about our meeting HERE. Suzanne has had many a kind and encouraging word for us over these past 9 years. There’s a lot to dislike about social media but I feel like it has given us penpals all over the world. These penpals have opened doors and offered us a real community as we move from place to place. Last week we received about a hundred pounds of school supplies from Suzanne for us to take to our kids in Mexico. Pencils, crayons, erasers, easy readers, notebooks, pencil sharpeners. All brand new. I am thrilled and the kids will be delighted. Thanks you, Suzanne. Thanks also to my cousin Cara for sending a pile of fun stuff as well.
Burt likes to complain about the weight of all these things we accumulate. I told him to look on the bright side. We aren’t toting cat litter, cat food, or feminine hygiene products anymore.
The title refers to the fact that this sight is constantly barraged by Russian spam. They don’t even try to hide it. They write in Russian. The top categories this month are cash for clunkers, sex on-line, and Russians. Only the cash for clunkers has a chance of a response.
And this just in: It’s a new school year in Pescadero. Here’s the neighbors in their spiffy new uniforms. Burt and I miss them so much. It’s not the same without our gang of minions. We’ve been mostly working and playing some music. The last two weekends we camped out with musician friends and got some hiking and fishing in with the tunes.
My mind is moving towards Mexico. I’m wondering what type of things to bring back for the kids. I’ll have to hit the back to school sales here and collect some fun supplies. Anything pink will be popular.
Burt and I mean to leave this place pretty quickly. Too bad we’re both so sick that we haven’t packed. End of season social obligations have sucked all the energy out of us. Here’s what we’ve done instead of secured our property and stowed our gear.
Thursday we took my dad and SaraGay and 11 other kids and five more adults to the San Jacinto waterfall. It was a mob scene. Nobody died. Everyone is home. If you weren’t sick before the waterfall you probably are now or will be soon. Three people slipped and fell. One dead fox was found. A lot of fruit and veggies were eaten.
The next day I accompanied my fried Lorna to the cardiologist in La Paz. La Paz is an easy hour drive from here but 79 year old Lorna had a stress test scheduled and the Bridge ladies decided she shouldn’t go alone. I went. I needed to meet the cardiologist anyway and there’s good birding in La Paz and I adore Lorna, but everybody does so that’s not special. I have also had two stress tests and I knew exactly how it would go. She’d be fine and get pushed to the point of puking or she wouldn’t be fine and would have bad news for the ride home. Neither situation a good one to be alone. It turned out to be the later. That’s Lorna’s story so I’ll end it here. Lorna and I moved on and got her new meds and went to lunch and visited the wastewater treatment plant. I spotted two new birds. One was the black bellied whistling duck, a very funny looking creature. The other was an avocet. I’d seen the avocet many times but never in Mexico.
By that evening it’s obvious I’ve finally caught Burt’s cold. I don’t have time for this. I woke up at 4 AM and puzzled out how to get everything done until it was time to get up. After breakfast I ran chairs and blankets over to Mayra’s yoga studio. Our first birding class was scheduled for Saturday evening. We needed blankets to cover the windows and chairs for all our (hopefully) guests. Then we went to Bridge. Lorna and I played together and we kicked butt. It was a 66% game for us. Hence the we-fie above.
After Bridge Burt headed to round up the kids and I finished setting up the room and projector for Joaquin’s presentation. We’d planned an introduction to birding for children. Joaquin hit a homerun. He was personable and made quick and entertaining work of the subject for our audience. Everyone seemed enthused. Afterwards we went to dinner with dad, SaraGay, Joaquin, and Selene. We were home by 8:30. Joaquin and Selene stayed in the rumpus room.
This morning we were up and birding by 7:30. Burt and I wanted to go to bed but we aso wanted to share our bird spots with our guests. So we hit three places and walked several miles by 11:30. My recent spottings of the endangered Belding’s Yellowthroat at odd locations around town were confirmed by Joaquin. Yay, me. This means these birds are desperately clinging to life in tiny patches of water wherever they can find it. Hopefully we can use the information to build a network of small wetlands that will bridge the larger habitats.
Now I am in bed. While Burt and I were running around a neighbor was in the yard repairing our trailer’s suspension. We’d hoped to be closing things today and pulling out Tuesday. It looks like we might be a day later.
People are down on Facebook these days. I get it. They used our data and let people manipulate us. It’s bad. It’s also pretty easy to control things and limit who sees what. I have everything public but I also restrict who and what posts in my feed. No meme generators. No extreme partisan groups. I block or delete racists, sexists, hateful people. I use Facebook to find my people. It works pretty well. Last week I met a group of young birders just learning the feathers of our winged friends in Cabo San Lucas. College kids studying eco-tourism or ornithology were just a few clicks away and Facebook hooked us up. This week we went out twice together. I hope for many more trips.
Our first gathering was an urban park in downtown Cabo. I found the announcement of the trip on my Facebook feed. It was just an easy 40 minute drive from our house. Burt and I arrived and we met the students and tehir professor. We split up and practiced a scientific census of birds in a restricted area during a limited time. Everyone seemed pleased that a pair of gringos showed up to help. Afterwards we went out for beers and ceviche. Over beer we made plans for a more intensive trip. We pay for gas and food and the profe would take us out.
This Sunday, the professor, Emer Garcia, took us to one of his favorite Baja California Sur bird spots. Over the course of a few miles and a few hours we found forty species of birds, three of them lifers for us and several more were new for Baja. It was a big day. But more importantly we made like-minded friends that care about this place. Emer’s student Joaquin was great fun and will be a wonderful guide for anyone interested in the area. Juan, a local land owner was also easy to pass the time with and curious to learn about what we were doing. I’m optimistic we can help bring more people here and protect our environment. Stay tuned.
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.
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
YIELD: 2 MINI LOAVES
• 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
• 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.
Sunday morning walk with our neighborhood acrophobic was nearly cut short. Burt and I had forgotten our friend was afraid of high, cliffy spaces and nearly ruined his day. Burt and he turned around for a safe beach walk and I went up the hill with Olive. The TuVus came to say hello to us. Olive reeks of fetid mud so maybe they wanted to make sure we weren’t dead.I’m still a few checklists away from 15 with photos so I grabbed these shots for the eBird competition.
I think the birds are starting to talk to me. Yesterday a roadrunner met me in the exact same spot he met me last week. Yesterady, as I walked along the edge of a dry playa I pish pish pished to see who was in scrub. Pishing causes some birds to move about and lets you see where they are. A roadrunner leapt up and landed on a solitary cardon cactus and sang to me. There was a roardrunner on this very same cactus a week ago. I’d never heard a roadrunner speak before yesterday. Immediately I knew why the roadrunner is in the cuckoo family. We made a date for next Saturday.
Today is the International Day of the Woman. In Mexico it’s a real day. I’d never heard of the day of the woman before coming here but I like it. A big shout out to all you women trying to make the world a better place.
Yesterday Burt and I took a handful of our kids and Vikki to see a locally made documentary called Patrimonio. All the world over the love of money is destroying culture and the environment. The gap between the haves and have nots is widening. This story is as old as history. Sometimes the Davids of the world fight back. Sometimes they win. I’ll be first in line to say it’s not always easy to tell who is on the good side. Here in Baja California Sur there is a fight between a fisherman’s cooperative and real estate developers. Some claim nobody is good in this story. I’ll grant it’s complicated but I believe it’s obvious what is good and what is evil.
This story has a cast of characters that includes the governor of Colorado, CSU, yoga teachers, artists (and that’s the bad guys) and a lawyer, fishermen, local residents. The Tres Santos development was conceived as a holistic, natural down to earth, farm to table kinda woowoo goodness place to live. The company hired a bunch of hippies to sell their green washing life of harmony BS and then proceeded to bribe, bulldoze and intimidate their way across the beach. They stole water from the municipality and held sales meetings in NJ to convince people they were building a nirvana in the desert. For a year our so I vowed to not have an opinion. This isn’t my land. Mexicans should decide for themselves what to protect and what to develop. Then the Tres Santos people started selling this idea of living in touch with nature while destroying one of the few tracts of mangroves on this side of the southern peninsula. They destroyed the fishermen’s launching area and plowed up one of the few homes of Belding’s Yellowthroat, an endangered bird. I started developing an opinion. Tres Santos had plenty of space to build in an environmentally sensitive manner. They chose not to in direct violation of Mexican law and prudence.
The fishermen and their lawyer tried to negotiate. They hired a lawyer. When requests for meetings and negotiations were ignored they blockaded the road to the site. This was a peaceful blockade. Other supporters started working social media. There were parades. There were protests at government offices. It was all met with stonewalling or intimidation. People were threatened with arrest. Others were beaten. Still the fishermen and their community supporters resisted. Meanwhile it was all being filmed. In real time the fight was documented. I started developing more opinions.
Last year in a desperate act of intimidation the resistance’s lawyer and a client were arrested under false pretenses. They were held without bail for over three months. This did not play out well for Tres Santos. I think they made a gross miscalculation. My opinions about whether or not this company had anyone’s best interests at heart were long since gone but now I knew they would stop at nothing to get what they wanted.
It’s all in this movie called Patrimonio. The older kids from our English class were mesmerized watching their neighbors stand up to armed federales and incompetent government officials. Afterwards they asked me to introduce them to the star of the film, John Moreno. I don’t know Mr. Moreno but on their behalf I asked him to come meet my kids and he was happy to do it. At dinner afterward the kids quoted Mr. Moreno: The law is my sword and my rights are my shield. I am so pleased I took them to see this film. I hope someday you can see it too. Someday one of these kids might remember that line when they need to stand up and fight.
Last week 17 kids showed up to our neighborhood kid collective. SEVENTEEN. For the love if Pete, what are we supposed to do with 17 kids aged 3 to 16? Coincidentally this was the same day my Spanish teacher and friend Ivonne came out to help. She brought books and crayons and experience. Ivonne quickly split the group into two groups by age. I had the oldest kids. We read Green Eggs and Ham by Doctor Seuss. Another coincidence was we had just been working on the phrase I am… when Sam, I am showed up. So we did it in a boat and with a goat and we ate Green Eggs and Ham. Another tidbit of weirdness, Green Eggs and Ham was the first book I recall given to me as a gift. My kindergarten teacher gave it to me as a going away present the day we moved.
That night I had a bit of a panic attack. We don’t have enough chairs. I don’t know how to teach English. There are too many kids eager for something to do. I calmed down. Then yesterday only seven kids showed up. And those seven came at two different times. Getting these kids here on time is a real challenge. Nobody is sending them. They just wander up when they realize it’s Tuesday afternoon. So one group was 45 minutes early and another group was 10 minutes late. They didn’t even over lap. I was still in the shower when the first group arrived. Burt played some songs while I dried and dressed. We played Concentration with a deck of cards after a few minutes of I ams….
This weekend we played our usual Bridge and birded saturday. On Sunday we were docents on the annual Palapa Society Historic Home Tour. Burt and I spent the morning hosting visitors into a home on the tour. We had a few facts but mostly it was a lot of I don’t knows. Our assigned house wasn’t even a home. It currently serves as a partially restored place for special events. It’s for sale. The home property originally occupied an entire city block but that was all subdivided a long time ago. When, you ask? Nobody knows. Nobody even knows when the house was originally built by Don Dominguez, sugar baron. Records are scarce. Todos Santos was a Spanish mission town. The missions were abandoned after the Mexican War for Independence. Records disappeared with them. Then there was a resurgence of people in the area with the sugar business in the late 1800s. Then came the Revolution and records went to pieces again. Then the sugar industry collapsed when the aquifer dried up. Todos Santos was a ghost town again. Records were lost. Again. It looks like we haven’t learned from the first water crisis. Todos Santos is having its fourth big boom and there’s still not much water. I wonder if farmers or big developers will prevail or if it will all blow away one more time.
It’s been non-stop action around here until this morning. All was going well for my cousin and her hubby on their first vacation to Baja. Hikes, food, music, sightseeing, whale sharks, whales. And then a sneaky organism found its way into Burt’s digestive tract. Super-host Burt was struck down by a microbe. I’ve never heard him in such agony. I’ll spare you the details. Today we are sleeping it off. Tennis and Bridge canceled.
Cara and Bobby arrived on Tuesday. Since then they saw a packed Gypsy Carpenter show, gone to yoga, hiked, boated and snorkeled with the whale sharks, and eaten a lot of fine food. The weather has been the usual 78 and sunny. Cara’s blog link is on the left. You can see her pictures and read her impressions there soon. I’m happy she and the big guy are here and having a great time. Until today.
When Cara and Bobby arranged their trip they asked if they could see whale sharks. Cara said it was on her ‘bucket list’. My previous experience with the whale sharks was less than interesting. It was a small, loud boat with loud companions. There weren’t many whale sharks and I only spent a quick moment in the water. After seeing actual whales I was underwhelmed by the vacant stare of the plankton eating mega-fish. And I was seasick. But since I love my Cara-pooh I tried to be upbeat and I made arrangements to see the world’s largest fish. I am glad I did. This second trip was far more interesting and exciting than the first visit to the Bay of La Paz.
Neza and Zorro were our guides. We met up with them at 9:00 AM in front of the Burger King on the Malecon in La Paz. It took some firm evasive maneuvers to actually find Neza. We had a date with Neza but several other boat guides tried to poach us as we walked the twenty yards from our car to our meeting place. These other guides all said there was no guy named Neza. Neza? Neza who? Then Neza showed up and they were all like, “ohhhh, Neza. Yeah, we know him.” All’s fair in love and the eco-tourism industry. Despite having an appointment with Neza we didn’t actually have a slot to visit the whale sharks. There was some explaining about the restrictions on the number of boats and swimmers. Neza offered to take us on a longer tour and we could explore more areas (for more money of course). We said, nah, we’re good. We just want to see the whale sharks. I had no problem with this idea but I hate motor boats and all day in an open boat is sun and salt blasted and tiring. No biggy, we’d just go out and wait our turn.
It’s a form of kidnapping. A pleasant kidnapping where you wind up loving your kidnapper. Stockholm syndrome. The guides don’t want to loose a client when they don’t actually have a slot for their visit so they get you on the boat and have you in the bank so to speak while they wait for a slot to open. Since we had to wait over an hour for a space for our tour we just wandered around and looked at things. I think if you didn’t speak Spanish you might not even notice the guide negotiating over the radio to try and get in. It would be easy to think everything was moving along as planned. A pod of dolphins swam by so we followed them from a respectful distance. We saw a few magnificent frigates and brown pelicans. We enjoyed a lecture on all the names of the whale shark from around the world. Whale shark is a really extreme misnomer. This fish is neither whale nor shark. It’s its own thing. It needs a new name. Ginormo. Mr. Mouth. Godfisha. I learned that the fish are all in a database and can be identified by their unique spot patterns. The same technology on a smart phone that identifies constellations of stars can identify the whale sharks in photos.
After about two hours of wandering we finally were cleared to enter the whale shark area. It was a hoot. We immediately found some fishes and jumped in and swam with them. Quite literally. They swim and feed and you swim along side. It’s a terrific workout. Kicking like mad and breathing through a small tube while a 25′ fish with a mouth as large as a refrigerator cruises along. We were able to follow several and really see them in action. They were much more entertaining this time around. Cara has her own personal story that I’ll let you read from her blog. I’ll just say Zorro earned a large tip for his superb work.
In summary, I highly recommend visiting the whale sharks with Neza and Zorro. They kept us entertained and safe and we saw what we wanted to see.
Who inspire me? Who is my hero? Important questions that I could not easily answer. I was hung up on the hero as a larger than life example that is doing great deeds for humankind. I was thinking the notorious RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsberg). Or Oprah. Or Eleanor Roosevelt. I went down that road for a while but I realized I never think about these people. I never look to them for inspiration. Of course I admire them and all they have accomplished but I don’t want to be like them. Frankly it’s my everyday peeps that keep me motivated. Burt, Abril, Ivonne, Peg. Business owners, teachers, mothers, caretakers. People making the best life they can with what they have. The kids I work with motivate me but really, deeply, the person I feel most inspired by is Vikki. Vikki is an example we can all look to for inspiration.
I’v eknown Vikki five years. Here is what I know of the facts of her life: Vikki is 26 years old. She’s married to German and has a 5 year old daughter Germani. German works 6 days a week. Vikki is a mother but also works. She manages our yard and she caretakes for other people. Vikki cleans houses. She takes care of Germani. Their home blew away in hurricane Odile 3 years ago. They move in and out with family here in Pescadero and house sit for people. They have a trailer on their rancho but it is inconvenient for school and work. They have had the same 30 year old Forerunner as long as I have known them. Her mother and father used to live nearby, too, but they returned to the mainland to take care of her grandmother. She has brothers in the US.
Vikki is always eager to work. She is always ready with a smile. She is never embarrassed to take the bags of clothes I bring every year. She spreads the stuff I collect among family and friends. I trust her to get the shoes, purses, and clothing to whomever can use it.
What most impresses me though is not her smile or work ethic or generosity. It’s her leadership. She comes to all our classes and gets down to work. If we are painting she paints. If we dance she dances. If we make hula hoops she makes hula hoops. She leads the girls by example. Vikki is all in. She is 100% committed. If there’s a disruption she helps me settle down the kids. She is unafraid of the unknown. Any idea is a good idea. Want to run a 5k? Sure? Want to learn ‘The Wheels on the Bus?” Yes. Want to sing in public. Yes. Want to learn English. Want to learn guitar. Yes. Yes. Yes. I’m not sure if I’m teaching English for the girls or because I know Vikki wants to learn. She is hungry for the chance to grow and learn. I want to show her everything I know how to do. That’s inspiring. I wish I could speak better Spanish and know her better as a friend. She is always calm and ready. She is my motivation. She is my inspiration.