Sunday, September 30, 2012

Love Triangle

Just when I thought things were really peaceful on the ranch again...

Everyone and everything seemed to be settling in nicely after the big ranch resident turnover this summer. K and P were in their groove, K's furry pal Jackson was transitioning smoothly from a sweet little terrier into a coyote-chasing, burr-covered, rough and tumble beast and even P's adoptee Enzo seemed to be getting over his trouble-making puppy days. This black lab was known as Devil Dog for a while, crashing wedding parties held at the event space at a neighboring ranch, eating the lunches of all the nursery workers next door. (They had to start hanging them on trees and even then, the first time, they didn't hang them high enough. "I'm surprised they didn't hang Enzo!" I thought.) Finally, P decided Enzo couldn't be left alone unsupervised and closed off the orchard next to their house.

The H Brothers at the back of the ranch were having fun shooting guns (oh, no!), building tree platforms, kennels... And their Maddie, , a gentle blue-nosed pitbull, was often left in the front orchard with Enzo. It made me smile to see the two of them lying side by side on Enzo's bed.

Kody and Bingo, K's two horses, were keeping the pastures nice and tidy, too!

The average age of the ranch residents had been lowered drastically, bringing with it a youthful energy. All was good.

Then, a week or so ago, Maggie shows up.

"Kody and Maggie were together all the time at Kody's last boarding place," explained K.
"Yeah, they're real attached to each other," added her friend M, Maggie's "person."
"I'm afraid that if I put Bingo in the same pasture, Kody will try to kill him!"
Kody and Maggie (right) together again.
Maggie and Kody went up to the front pasture, while Bingo was left in the back. He was NOT a happy camper. Why do horses get such separation anxiety? And why are they so vocal about it?
Bingo places himself at the far end of the pasture to be closer to the others.
Last week, some tree trimmers were here, cutting limbs near power lines and they needed to get into the front pasture so Maggie and Kody moved to the back with Bingo for a while. And what do you know, before long, Bingo has taken Kody's place right next to Maggie.
Maggie nuzzling up to Bingo.
That's Kody, by himself on the right.
"You're a wuss, Kody," I whispered to him.

Bingo, on the other hand, is now determined to keep Maggie for himself.

After the tree trimmers were done, Kody and Maggie moved back to the front. Things seemed to be back to normal and Kody had Maggie all to himself again. But it was not to be that way for long.

"Hey, what's Bingo doing up here?"
Coming back from town yesterday, we see Bingo up near the front of the property. He's outside the horse fence, just munching some grass growing along the sides of the dirt road.
"Maybe K's out here, doing something and we just don't see her," suggested Big Dog.
When we see Enzo outside the orchard, we decide that that is what's happening.

Later, I'm watering our newly transplanted irises and looking out...oh, no! Now Bingo's all the way up to the public road! What if he gets spooked and runs off? Or worse, hit by a vehicle? I rush out there, pockets bulging with apples.

Trying to lure Bingo down to the gate didn't work at all.
"Nope. I ain't moving away from the girl!"
I work on Maggie and she eventually follows me down to the gate, with both Kody (on the inside of the fence) and Bingo (on the outside) close behind her. Bingo does not hesitate when I open the gate, but Kody is less than thrilled and makes it vocally and physically clear. Oh well. At least they are all safe in the pasture. I hope.

When I return to the back, I see that Bingo has just busted through the electric fence. What's a little shock when there's love in the air?

The H Brothers have been wanting a second dog for a while and I just gave H the Younger the green light. But now I am having second thoughts. Enzo and Maddie were getting along so well. Do we really need ANOTHER love triangle?

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

All Quiet on the Western Front

I shouldn't have worried about our gluten-intolerant guests. After all, they are from Humboldt.

Hutch, his lovely lady Jane and their tweenage son Ry turned out to be ideal guests: they knew what they wanted to do while in our area and were out and about most of the day, looked after themselves and when we did socialize, were fun, intelligent and inquisitive. Which is saying a LOT for an 8th grade boy!

Plus, the food challenge became not very challenging. Jane even brought their own bowls for fruit salad in the morning! (Which was probably a good thing since I don't have bowls that size.)

But now they are back up north and it is quiet again at the ranch. I say "quiet" but I really mean "unpeopled" because it is a madhouse of activity. Big Dog suddenly got the interior decorator bug up his behind and has been pulling out artwork, curios, etc. from boxes that have not been opened since we packed them up for shipping across the Pacific. One corner of the office is my one-woman sweatshop with pieces of fabric piled up around the ancient sewing machine. (Finally resurrected the machine I discovered in a barn at the ranch when we first got here. Best $75 I've ever spent!) The other corner is the framing workshop where I cut matte and make little museum signs for Big Dog.

I really don't have time for any of this. It's harvest season and I am busy picking, drying, canning, fermenting and otherwise dealing with the produce. If I look at the list of what I need to do before the end of the season, I'll go crazy, so it is hidden away under the ever increasing mountain of paperwork, books, manuals, notes, wish lists. I also need to start thinking about next season and what seeds to order.

My "To Do" list grows faster than I can tick things off, but producing film and video has taught me how to stay focused on the project at hand and not feel too overwhelmed. Besides, even if I don't get around to drying all my herbs, or framing all of Big Dog's photos, or dyeing my organic cotton fabric red (beets! Hopi Red Dye amaranth!) and green (artichokes!) and brown (leaves!) there will be no angry client at the other end.

The sky is a deeper shade of blue, the sun a more golden yellow. Life is sweet.

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Sunday, September 02, 2012

Food Challenges

"Can you find out if Chieko has any food preferences?"
Back in early July, that was a common email question coming into my inbox. Anti-nuke groups in California were getting ready for Fukushima survivor and anti-nuke activist Chieko Shiina's California Tour. A typical grassroots event, it seemed to have materialized with no budget. Volunteers were asked for air miles, accommodations, rides, etc. but that's the cool thing about grassroots: everyone is so generous with everything they have.

I had language and as one of the hosts along the way, other hosts directed this Very Important Question to me.

Things got a bit chaotic when the main organizer suddenly had visa problems and we never did get an answer to the food preference question, but they needn't have worried. Most Japanese are game for all kinds of foods and I rarely meet people with food-related issues. It's such that although so much of Japanese food is vegetarian and vegan, if you go into a restaurant, no one will be able to tell you if something has a meat products, wheat, eggs, whatever. Maybe things have changed in the decade I've lived outside of Japan now, but back then, at least, if you had food restrictions, better be able to look after yourself.

Imagine Chieko's surprise when our local translator (Japanese) ordered a special (vegan) meal at our Dinner Event. (I must say, though, I was very happy that Chieko was not shy about stating her breakfast preference to me when I asked later that night and we were able to share a lovely Japanese-Italian brunch with all the yumminess of our early summer garden. I was sorry I didn't have any natto for her, though, and have since learned to make my own!)

Americans are not at all shy about stating food preferences to their hosts. I learned this early on when I asked the DogFather why he had so many kinds of carbonated beverages in his closet even though he only drank the occasional Diet Coke.

"Oh, D only drinks Diet Pepsi, and H only drinks regular Coke, and......" He was stocked with a dozen different brands to suit all his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
"Wow. In Japan, people just eat and drink whatever's offered. And gratefully," I said.

And every time I cooked for Big Dog's niece, I learned of new things she did not eat!

Being away from the ranch for a good part of the summer, we are just starting into our Season of Visitors and our next one has presented me with a small Food Challenge: Gluten Intolerance. It still surprises me when guests are able to so casually mention something like this. Maybe it's because so many Americans are used to dealing with convenience in cuisine and don't understand that I make everything from scratch.

I've seen a lot of packaged foods that claim to be gluten-free and I know there are many baking items that are such, but why should I start buying factory-made food now?

In preparation for 4 days of gluten-free cooking, I have been trying to find information ("Okay, wheat is out. But rice is alright? Hmm. But rice is glutinous. Does that matter?") and ideas ("Desserts are going to be tricky but I can do stuff like chocolate mousse...") I still have too many questions. "What do they eat for breakfast?" "Will they be able to do a Real Japanese Breakfast?" ("Are you kidding me?" says Big Dog.) "Can they eat oat?" "Can I make a pizza dough with only rice flour?" I guess I will find out more after they arrive.

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