Friday, June 29, 2007

Just Wondering

In all this talk about immigration -- legal and illegal -- why aren't the Native Americans standing up and shouting, "OUT! All of you! OUT!"

They should.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Garden of Eden Season

The summer solstice came and went with not much ado. Unlike last year's. The Big Thing was the drive back up to The Ranch.

It's quiet here now. Horse Girl is in Iceland where her father and his family live, her mom is just hopping with adult activities, and JD is busy meeting new women he's found online. I am impressed with his optimism. He's gone through 3 or 4 marriages and has just in the last month or so, officially split up with the last wife. They're not even legally divorced yet, but the Eternal Optimist is out searching for Number Five. (I must add, however, that he keeps swearing that there will be no more matrimony, that he is only on a mission to find a girlfriend. We'll see. He's definitely a marryin' man.)

Now that Red and his wife are no longer going to move into the apartment JD had during the winter, he's moving back in. Which means…..more space for me! Wheeee! I get my office/studio back!

Of course, now that Red is no longer moving in, I had to tell Big Dog that I'd go along with the Ranch Sale.

"You're right. This place will tie us down and the whole point of selling our company was to get untied," I told him soon after we returned to the ranch.
"I'm glad you feel that way," he said. Then.

In the days that followed, I sensed a change. Big Dog looks happier this week. He's settling into the groove. It's summer and the place is exploding with color, scents and flavors. The berries we pick turn into scrumptious pies while the strainer full of cherries get eaten before they become anything else, the wild artichokes from the front pasture are nutty and tasty (even if they are covered in ants when you pick them) and everyone's veggie garden is starting to grow, grow, grow. It's the Garden of Eden Season!

After hearing how screwed up our summer plans got, a friend in Tokyo commented that it must be God's way of allowing me to enjoy this land for a few months longer, before we have to sell it, but Big Dog seems to be enjoying it more now. Perhaps this Summer of Love will change the tide. There is hope!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Where am I?

Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and feel completely disoriented? It happens to me a lot. Last night, I resisted the temptation to really wake up and find out -- for about 10 seconds.

"Ranch? Hawaii? Dogfather's? LA? Humboldt? Tokyo? Paris? Where the heck am I?"

And then I opened my eyes and looked around. LA. Oh yeah. I came here for a doctor's appointment. I remember now. The drive via Lancaster (Sunday was Father's Day so we stopped by the DogFather's) and then Monday's sci-fi moment where they had my left breast in a vise, under a hole in a table. It was a freaky, nightmarish experience. Sort of like being abducted, I guess. (If any of you have ever been abducted by aliens, you can tell me if this is the case or not.)

"I'm Youlanda," the assistant kept saying to me. I thought it was Yolanda until I saw her name tag. YOUlanda. She told me her name several times. Later on, I realized that I was supposed to say, "Hi Youlanda. My name's…" but I didn't feel the need to tell her my first name. My legal names, which no one ever uses (including me,) were on the charts if she needed my name and I didn't feel the need to fake a relationship with strangers, but as I lay awake, remembering the pain in my left breast came from that needle biopsy and not a heartache, I thought, "Maybe I should have. Maybe she was being extra mean to me for NOT being friendlier. Maybe if I had told her my first name right off, the whole thing might have been less painful…"

These thoughts kept me up forever.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Goin' Batty

A week ago, I installed mesh netting along the fascia that forms a little triangle at the skylight above our kitchen. That's where the bats had made their roost.

A few days ago, looking up at the kitchen ceiling. Big Dog says ominously, "They're still here."

I go up onto the roof and find several bats caught in the chicken wire. One is dead so I cut away the wire and remove it. I am also able to cut enough wire away to release one of the live guys. He flies away in total disgust. I don't blame him. There's another one caught in wire but it's caught in such a way that it's harder to release. I start snipping away but it screams at me, barring its sharp little teeth. I drop my scissors with a girly "eeek!" but am eventually able to cut away enough wire that it can crawl back behind the fascia.

Maybe if I leave the netting open, more bats can come out, I think, and remove some of the netting while I hose down the roof. The stench is horrible. Noticing more guano near our solar water heater panels, I begin hosing under them. To our surprise, a dozen bats fly out!

"I knew they were living there!" Big Dog gives me an "a-ha!" look from down in the garden.

I am blasting away, hoping to get as many bats out of there as possible before I begin netting the solar panels, too. When I come down from the roof, Big Dog asks, "So, how do you build this bathouse thing?" I was online last summer when we first fought the bats and one bat conservation site had a "how to" on building a simple bathouse, but back then, Big Dog wasn't at all interested in building one. Now, he's studying the diagram.

We gather old plywood and other materials for the bathouse, argue a bunch about how it's built until Big Dog finally walks away, leaving me to finish it alone. I spray paint a silhouette of a bat on the box, put a little "vacancy" sign below it, and stick it up on a post near the south side of the Kinu Orchard. It's totally cute. What bat wouldn't want to go in there?!

Later in the afternoon, as I'm watering the garden, I look up at the kitchen skylight. There are bats hanging on the OUTSIDE of the fascia! Sheesh. I crawl back up to the roof. Oh, no, they are baby bats. Every bat site I went to tells me that you can't "transplant" bats into a bathouse and that you should never handle bats, but I just can't leave baby bats hanging on our fascia! It's not easy, but with a bit of perseverance, I have managed to gently get the babies into a brown paper bag and take them to the bathouse. That's when Ranger Lady arrives.

"Oh! You've made a bathouse! I love bats!" she squeals.
"Yeah and I've got some babies here that I'm trying to get to move in…"
"Oooooh, let me see?" She peers into the paper bag. The bats are all bunched up. "Awwww, they're trying to suckle each other."

But then she brings up the possibility that they might be Townshend's Big Eared Bats, an endangered species (I find out later that these are just common pallid bats) and that bats don't like arid areas. I've put the bathouse up in an area that normally doesn't get any water. Guess I'll have to water that zone now.

"R, look! Bad Dog's got some baby bats!" she calls out to R, the Glass Guy's girlfriend who recently moved in with him. She's tending her vegetable plot in the Kinu Orchard, but comes over in a while to look.

"I think bats are disgusting," she says and peers up into the bathouse. I've finally managed to coax the babies in. "Eeeeeeew."

Well, it's two days since we've put up the bathouse. It doesn't really look like they are moving in, but I keep hoping…

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Quakes, Tornedos, Hand Grenades

Fate was shaking the cosmic nitroglycerin the last few days for sure.

10 June 9am
JD, who returned from Colorado late last night, his friend Shakes who drove out here with him, Big Dog and I are sitting on the deck having coffee. BD and I had just rehabilitated an old picnic table and benches and this we admired the restoration work. Too bad the wood's a little rotty and it won't last long. Last week's winds have calmed down, it's warm and sunny, wildflowers are blooming and there's a faint scent of honeysuckle in the air.

Red comes over walking his little terrier, Tracy. He's in the same Korea Veteran cap that he was wearing when I last saw him in January.

"We have a problem," Red starts. BD and I look at each other. What could it be?

He tells us about having to go back up to Portland for medical appointments. He and his wife are elderly, the wife has been in a wheelchair for many years now, and Red's also had hip surgery and now needs eye surgery. We understand how these things go.

"I don't want to put you out by having to leave for weeks, maybe months at a time," he says apologetically.
"Hey, it's not a problem. We'll work out our schedules so that you can be away to deal with your medical needs," Big Dog tells him.

We all decide that Red and his wife will live in their giant trailer that they drove down from Oregon and JD, who was going to move into house, would move back into his old unit. Problem solved, I go back to internet to see about booking our summer in Europe.

11 June 8:30am
"'Morning, sir!" JD opens the kitchen door. Red's at our door with Tracy. I had just fixed a giant pot of coffee for JD and us.
"Coffee?" I hand Red a mug.

"We have a problem," Red says. Again. Hmmm. I'm not liking this. Before I can hear the rest of the story, however, I am called away to the bedroom by the little beep-beep-beep of my cell phone losing power. When I return to the kitchen, he's telling Big Dog and JD about his panic attack/claustrophobia/argument with his son. Not sure what the real problem is, but the upshot is that Red needs to go stay with his son.

"An emergency situation has come up and we have to cancel our summer plans for Europe…" I am on a email-a-thon with various parties in France, Italy and the Netherlands, canceling reservations. I hate to do this to people, but am glad I hadn't booked our flights yet.

"I still need to leave the States, even if it's for a few days. Maybe I'll just go to Japan," I tell BD.
"Yeah, contact Chan and see if he can get you a decent priced ticket."
Red and Grace pull out of our ranch. I go back on my computer.

12 June 9am
"Hey! I'm coming back to Japan at the end of the month!" I emailed my friends.

"I'll be there at the end of the month. Will call or text when I have details," I text my mother.

12 June 8am
A reply from Chan tells me they can no longer sell us the tickets we've known and loved for decades. The super discounted, wholesale priced tickets. I go back online but I can't find anything under $1000 to Tokyo. When I tell this to Big Dog, all he has to say is "then don't go." Maybe we'll drive up to Canada instead. I'm back to emailing everyone that, no, I won't be there after all.

"Sorry about yesterday. Won't be going to Japan yet. Maybe in the fall," I text my mother.

So, for now, it looks like we will be here for the summer. But I should know better than to make any real commitments -- emotional or otherwise -- because you never really know how things will go. The blackberries, raspberries and lolliberries are coming into season and there will be a pie or two for tomorrow's Ranch Family BBQ (it was supposed to be a Welcome Back, Red & Grace BBQ but now there is no Red or Grace to welcome back) and soon there will be peaches and nectarines! But better not to get my heart too set on anything because YOU NEVER KNOW. And my head is too full of other things. Like Bat Problems.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Peaceful Anonymity

It's been a spectacularly sunny Saturday. We've had some pretty windy days and they haven't completely let up but the hills around us are protecting our little valley today.

Yesterday, I got some screen mesh to build a one-way "doggie door" for the bats. Hopefully they can get out and NOT get back in! And I spent waaaaay too much time on the internet trying to book apartments and cottages in rural France, Paris and Amsterdam for our summer stay. More on that in another entry. It got me a little depressed, sitting in front of my PowerBook (which now closes, thanks to some gentle pounding -- is that an oxymoron?) instead of being outside on such a breathtaking day. By the time I just huffed away from the screen and went outside, I was already feeling vaguely unhappy.

But we are not pressed with ranch work right now, "Red" the original caretaker of this ranch who is moving back with his wife called from Paso Robles saying they'd be here in an hour, and Big Dog has gotten out his guitar. It ALWAYS makes me happy to hear him play and sing. Every time he can feel relaxed enough to play his guitar these days is a good day! iIt's what made me fall in love with him…a quarter century ago has it been that long? (you have to read that in one breath) He's moved onto a melancholy version of American Pie but when I started this, he was into Like A Rolling Stone. Funny how that song is like my theme song. It really describes the way I feel! And strangely enough, I felt like that all my life. Even when I was stuck in Tokyo in a high octane life, in the public eye, a minor celebrity of sorts. Maybe that was why I was so unhappy then. My inner life and outer life were so at odds with each other. Now, I live in peaceful anonymity…like a rolling stone…so alone…no direction home………………

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Batman VS Ninja Woman

We have a bat problem. We had bats living inside the kitchen rafters last year and we (successfully?) evicted them, but they have returned!

It's a problem because:
- it's too late in the season. To humanely evict bats, you should do so in the spring. By June, they may be nursing their young who cannot fly away with the parents.
- I happen to like bats. They keep the insect population down and our ranch has been relatively bug-free, so I have the frogs, lizards and bats to thank.
- Big Dog doesn't care to have them living in our house. And neither do I. Bat pee ranks up there with some of the worst smelling animal pee. I want to say 100 times worse than cat pee, but I think cat pee is pretty bad, so I'd say 10 times worse. Last summer, even after the eviction, I could smell bat pee in the air upstairs when it got warm.

It's a problem because we didn't anticipate them coming back. If I had, I would have prepared a swanky bat house for them. Now, I have to just chase them out.

First, Big Dog went to check, two nights ago, after I saw them flying out. It was dark and he didn't have a good flashlight, so I'm not sure what kind of checking out he was able to do, but he went up on the roof with some chicken wire fencing.

"You think it's mesh-y enough? All the web sites say bats can get into holes a quarter-inch in diameter," I look suspiciously at the chicken wire. The mesh is about…three quarters of an inch big? "I guess if you wad it up enough, though…"

He comes back moments later.

"Ugh. A bat got caught in the chicken wire while I was trying to stuff it into the cracks. That's it! I'm done for the day!"
"Just as well. It's dark, you're up on the roof and there's a desperate bat? Let's deal with it in the morning."

The next morning, I was all ready to battle the Bat Men (and Women. Hopefully no Bat Babies!) I wished I had a Cat Woman outfit but that day I was in my long-sleeve black freebie shirt (courtesy of Prince's Emancipation album.) Maybe here in the US, a skinny Asian woman in a black shirt could pass as Ninja Woman? Same thing, anyway. We both creep along roofs and walls.

I still haven't completely evicted them. There's still life up there in the rafters. However, I did remove the very dead bat that was caught in the chicken wire (double ugh), caulk potential entry points and re-secure the eaves. Big Dog thought that by leaving the fencing off earlier in the evening, it would allow the bats to leave at night and then we could fill the gaps while they were out feeding. I don't think that's working. The websites tell you to use a mesh one-way "doggie door" to let the bats out. Big Dog's finally convinced that it may be the only way.


I can hear them up there right now as I type this entry. They're frantically trying to get out. Or get in. Or get to their babies, Or get out with their babies. I don't know. My imagination is running amok. I feel like the cruelest, most horrible person in the world. A heartless landlord. This will definitely be a stain on my karma. Just when I was considering going vegan again. Maybe there's no point now. I'm pulling the ribs out of the freezer to defrost.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


…of sorts. It's been a whole year since I began this blog! I'm still trying to figure what it's all about. A travel-blog through geographical and psychological space? Reading other blogs, I realize that the most engaging are the ones that are most honest. They're not the Very Useful Blogs with Tons of Useful Information (boooooring!) but the ones that move you with their truths.

I have a hard time being very open in a public arena. I've spent my life guarding my privacy and what's in my mind is the most private of all. But I think I'm rounding a corner here. Stay tuned!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Back to Paradise

Antelope Valley to the I-5 to the 166 to the 101 to LOVR… That's Los Osos Valley Road, but I like to call it Lover. SVM had given me some clippings from her succulents collection so the ones that I did not give to the DogFather were in our truck bed along with my "babies," a used lawn mower, some old garden hoses, Big Dog's tool chest. Having only one set of tools and no home, he travels everywhere with his tools now, like I travel with a kitchen knife and cooking chopsticks.

As we turned onto our road, though, I could see that The Ranch wasn't the way we left it. She's disheveled and unkempt. I am shocked to see the downward slide. And how can some plants be dying of dehydration while others (weeds!) try to take over? Roses have chlorosis, the wild grasses are knee high, many of the newly sprouted seedlings are just plain gone. Boy, am I glad I hedged my bets and dragged some of them all over Central-Southern California. I can see we'll have our hands full over the next few days. I'm kind of looking forward to it, but Big Dog is already fuming.