Saturday, September 13, 2014


Sometimes I decide to give Chef Shaman a break and we go out for dinner. Our favorite place is this old roadhouse at the west end of San Timotao Canyon. I love this place, the food is not great but it's good and inexpensive. Things I love about this bar, built around 1935, is no beer on tap, no blenders, barely two TVs and cash only. It's like stepping back in time.

Anyway, to get to the topic of this story, when you leave this fine establishment there is, the drive home through the dark canyon. Besides no shoulder along side the road and the idiot drivers, you have to watch out for the donkeys. Yes donkeys, burros whatever you want to call them.

For some reason a local yokel in the 1950's decided to go north of Death Valley and capture a herd of donkeys and deposit them in this canyon and  the adjoining canyon named Reche, Well, the herd is alive and thriving to this day. I think some of the estimates say there is over a hundred now. 

The donkeys spend most of their time wandering the hills of Reche but when it is hot and dry they come to San Timotao because there is a creek that runs pretty much all year long. 

So after a filling dinner and adult beverages the drive home can be precarious. It seems the donkeys like to move at night and and like deer, can freeze in the coming headlights, So you have to be careful.

There are a few casualties but not has many as you would think, considering the size of the herd. 

I think they are fascinating and always enjoy seeing them, much to the chagrin of some of the canyon residents. The wild donkeys have a great fondness for modern landscape and garden plants.
They will clean out a rose bed faster than a terrorist chicken can take out a vegetable garden. (see last post).

I love our donkeys and happy they are left alone to range free and live a good life.

actual picture of the Reche Canyon donkeys

Friday, September 12, 2014

Oh, Woe Is Me!

Since my last blog, much has happened, most of it not so happy. First I have been suffering from allergies, a sinus infection and tinnitus all at once. This has been just miserable and hard to shake. I haven't felt like doing anything including blogging. I am feeling better.

I have or had one close neighbor. His house is high on a hill with over 70 steps. My neighbor has been in ill health for many years but he loved his 'Eagles nest' and his solitude. I keep an eye on his comings and goings so I know all is well. Well I hadn't seen his car move for a couple of days. Most days this is normal but things had been quiet so I went to check on him...As I got to his porch I detected that smell of death, something you never ever forget if you have experienced it. I didn't even go in I just called 911 and his daughter. A dozen emergency and police vehicles and several hours later he was off to the morgue. He was a recluse and cantankerous but an all right guy. 

He was a few years younger than me, and I was just affected by Robin Williams death, who was my age, My own mortality came to question. When your time is up that's it. 

A couple of weeks ago a few young chickens I raised from eggs escaped and terrorized  my vegetable garden! These 'thugs' about the equivalent age to a human teenager found a way out of the pen and destroyed the tomatoes, peppers, kale and swiss chard. I haven't been feeling well so I didn't get violent with them. I'm not usually a violent person but these little terrorists deserve to have their necks wrung! Too bad they weren't older maybe a large pot of chicken soup would been in order, it might have helped with my sinus problems. But karma being the way it is I might have choked on a chicken bone...

Last weekend I was awakened at sunrise by Chef Shaman about some water in the laundry room. I staggered in to see water all over the floor which looked like it was coming from under the washing machine. Thinking no big deal I shut off the supply behind the washer and made some coffee and tried to wake up. When I went back in the room the water was coming fast and furious where the edge of the slab meets the wall. SHIT!

So I went to the road to shut off the main supply, of course the gate valve would not budge and could not shut down the water. I proceeded to start busting up the slab searching for the leak, of course it was not at that spot. Fifteen feet of broken concrete and mud following the pipe I finally found the source of the leak. 

But I had to get the water shut off so a trip to local hardware store to buy a new gate valve and accessories. Also, I am on a community well and had to shut down eleven other residents' water.This turned out to be a bigger ordeal than the laundry room. I'm sure at this place in this story, you, my dear reader are shouting, YOU NEVER HEARD OF HIRING A PLUMBER, YOU IDIOT!

Not my style. I'm cheap and have had experience fixing many house problems. Plus I'm just stubborn, 'I can handle this!' Well three days later, fixed and cleaning up. Oh, what a miserable weekend.

Well with the death of my neighbor, my illness, the terrorist chickens, the relentless heat and the water line break, I'm glad to see this past month, gone!!!

All in all, with the state of the world as it is I should consider my self fortunate.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Vegetable Gardening In El Casco

Vegetable gardening is a real challenge here in El Casco. Ground squirrels, gophers, rabbits and other critters require much fencing and other devious methods to thwart the beasts!  The fellow I bought the house from was sort of a 'collector' and left many building materials and downright junk for me to sort through. I found these large 'hydroponic' bins, approximately 4 foot wide and 12 foot long. They are made of fiberglass and were in pretty good shape.

So having a flat roof carport attached to the garage it looked like a perfect match. I hauled them from out back elevated them above the carport roof, put in drainage and irrigation and some nice rich composted potting soil.voila, critter proof veggie beds!

Here in Southern California we have two main growing seasons; summer for the warm growing plants; tomatoes, peppers, cukes etc. and winter for lettuces, kale, spinach, Swiss chard etc.

Even though we have plenty of summer left I am now purchasing seeds for winter growing I start them in community pots and when the heat breaks will put them in the beds. When the summer plants have been exhausted I clean out debris and replenish with fresh compost and  ready to go.

Here are some pics from last winters' crop. February I believe.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Garden Tip

Most of us who garden, have a garden in the front, one off the side and something out back etc. I don't always carry tools with me especially if I'm out just observing. A tip I learned years ago and have always utilised  is the discarded mailbox.

I keep my hand clippers(or secateurs, as the British call them), scissors, string or whatever you use most often, in the mailbox. They are weather proof, critter proof and placed in each garden, are very handy. I find them at yard sales, flea markets or from  friends that are ready to discard them when they buy a new one.I have four.

Who Rescued Who?

Coming back from my morning walk I decided I needed to talk about my best friend, Brody. Brody came to live with me about three years ago now. He  was rescued off the streets of a nearby city by a kind friend of mine , Megan. She coaxed this 70 pound intimidating American Bulldog in her car and took him home. He was scared and hungry and certainly looked like someone had dumped him. She cared for him but knew with her lifestyle she just couldn't keep him. So she was looking for a home for this sweet dog she named Brody.

I had been living here in El Casco for about year, getting settled in but finding the single life was not so wonderful. I was lonely borderline depressed, finding I was lacking something. I had everything, retirement, living in the country, growing my own food...still, life was not pleasant for me. Things got very dark.

Megan had been begging me to take Brody. I was hesitate, I didn't know if I could take care of myself much less another mouth to feed., Megan needed to go on a business trip and asked if I could watch Brody at my place, as a trial as well. I was very reluctant but agreed. well the rest is history. He never went back to Megans'.

He is the love of my life. He is sweet, gentle and very obedient. I have had many rescue dogs in my life. They always seem to be very thankful to have a new life. Brody is no exception.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Bit About My Garden

I have gardened in Illinois, Colorado and  Minnesota. Now I am in Southern California in a canyon surrounded by chaparral and enjoying the challenge. Since this climate is more Mediterranean than desert this opens a whole world of exotic, (to me), plants. This Mediterranean climate is very conducive for plants from everywhere.

There are five Mediterranean climates areas in the world; The Mediterranean basin ,of course, Parts of South Africa, Western coastal Australia, Western Chile and most of coastal and inland California. What determines a Mediterranean climate is very basic. Cool moist to wet winters and Hot dry summers. A whole palette of plants thrive in these areas.

I am quite fond of Aloes, Yuccas, Agaves, oh hell, I'm willing to try anything if I have an open piece of dirt! In my vegetable garden almost anything goes. But there are two seasons, winter is for the greens, lettuce, kale, Swiss chard etc. Summer is for tomatoes, peppers corn, melons and such. Gardening year around, couldn't do that in Northern Minnesota

Here is a pic of another angle from my front yard mixed succulent garden a few days ago.  Details later....

You never know....

Yesterday I was coming home from my weekly get together with members of our local garden club, who I affectionately refer to as 'The Garden Girls" even though three of us are men. I was hungry thought I would swing by a local drive through and get a bite to eat before I headed home. The line was long and like everybody else in the world was checking my phone waiting for the line to move. I placed my order and proceeded to the pay window. The worker was leaning out the window smiling holding a receipt. Odd?
When I got to the window she told me the lady in front of me had paid my bill! I was stunned! It was a ten dollar purchase. I didn't recognize the car and didn't get a clear view of the driver. I waved in a feeble attempt to thank her but she drove off into the traffic.

A random act of kindness! All the shit going on in this world, that lady made me feel special for a while.Thank You. The down side? This ole' curmudgeon now has to 'pay it forward'. I have to look for the opportunity to make someone else smile and feel good. I am now, plotting how this is going to happen!