Sunday, July 31, 2011


Splitter, splatter, drip, drip, splunk.

We awoke to rain this morning.  It wasn't much.  Just enough to dampen the dust, cool the air, and make the horses frisky.

When we opened the goat shed, they all ran out as usual.  Then they felt the rain and ran back, jumping and twisting and doing their best to avoid the rain drops.  Cowboy did a few laps around the shed, cutting across the porch, yelling "ma, ma, maaaa" and jumping like a cat before joining the others inside.

I love the way raindrops cling to leaves, flowers and fruit.

I picked some tomatoes from the garden and harvested enough Friendship rhubarb to make a pie.

Important Stuff

For all my horsey friends and followers, please read Nina's post

It's important. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Backlogged Again

Somebody please shoot me.

Last night as we were headed to bed, Brett noticed a funny sound in the mud room bathroom.  He tried to flush the toilet.  No go.  He checked the cleanouts and they were all full of water again.

So, it was back to the barn for toilet use and back in the pool for a shower.  Needless to say, neither of us slept. 

We were down at the barn for morning chores (and toilet use) by 6 am.  We took advantage of the early cool morning air and rode the horses around the ranch on the bridle paths before breakfast.  Jackson was happy to be out and made it the whole way without coming up lame or picking up a stone.  Success!  I hosed him off so he would be clean for Liz who came to do his acupressure and muscle work at 9:30.

I called the plumber who came up two days ago, but he didn't return our call.  Maybe he doesn't work on Saturdays.  Maybe he didn't want to deal with our wierd plumbing.  Fortunately, Brett found a different plumber who came up this afternoon.

The guys that came up this afternoon were goooooood.  They cleared the lines in half the time, or less, than its taken anyone else.

Then they ran a camera through the line to see where the hang up was. If you've ever had a horse scoped for ulcers, you can easily picture this.  There was a camera on the end of a long line, connected to a video screen.

After verifying that the camera was working, he fed it down into the line and we watched it's progress on the screen.

Everything went smoothly until the camera got about four feet from the septic tank.  The pipe was full of water there and not draining. 

Four feet from the septic tank is right under the brick pathway through my vegetable garden.  Fortunately, it is not under any of the raised planters.  It will be relatively easy and not excessively disruptive to dig under the pathway (the bricks are just set in the dirt, no cement), fix the pipe, install a two-way cleanout, install risers on the septic tanks, and close it all back up. 

They will be back on Monday to do the job. 

It's only money, right?  (cough, hack, sputter)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Cooking Dinner and Muggy Weather

We have monsoon-ish weather moving in again.  77% humidity tonight.  All the ceiling fans are going but I'm sweating with every keystroke on the computer. 

I'm not sure what on earth possessed me to cook dinner.  But cook I did despite feeling like I was going to pass out in the kitchen and sweating in a very un-ladylike way at the dinner table. 

I roasted beets from the garden.  A hot oven on a hot day -- what was I thinking?!

I had two big bunches of red chard that I needed to use.  They came in my CSA basket and I wanted to do something different than just sauteeing them with butter.  I made a chard gratin. 

I washed and chopped the leaves.

I chopped the stems and sauteed them in butter with some onion.  Shhh, don't tell Brett.  He thinks he doesn't like onions.

 I added the leaves and cooked them until they were wilted.


Meanwhile, I chopped up some dill (also from my CSA basket) and mixed it with breadcrumbs, which I browned in more butter.

I made a white sauce with MORE butter and cream, mixed it with the chard, and added some shredded swiss cheese. 

Popped it in the oven (more heat - AHHHH - I'm melting... melting), for 20 minutes.

It was yummy - all that butter and cream and cheese didn't help with the calorie count but it sure tasted good.

I rounded out the meal with a loaf of crusty bread, some blue cheese drizzled with honey (try it, it is awesome) and wine. 

I imagine we'll go to bed at some point tonight but right now its just too hot and muggy.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Septic Celebration

What is the proper way to celebrate getting your septic system working again?  Champagne?  Cartwheels?  Dancing? 

After a week, yes, a WEEK of using the barn toilet and jumping in the pool instead of the shower, we are finally able to use the house toilets.  No more laying awake at 2 am trying to decide just how badly I need to go, if I can wait till morning, or if I need to hike down to the barn. 

It wasn't easy.  As you may recall (or maybe conveniently forgot which would be my choice), last Thursday we woke in the middle of the night to water gushing out of the shower and covering the bathroom floor.  Friday morning Brett tried to find the septic tank.  We were sure it was full and backing up into the house.  He couldn't find it before leaving to visit his daughter in Colorado for three days.

I spent the weekend in the barn.

Monday he resumed digging around, trying to find the tank.  No luck.  I had carpet cleaners come in the afternoon.  Our bedroom carpet was shampooed and deodorized.   Fortunately, we had been able to stop the flow of water with the bathroom area rug so we didn't have to replace the bedroom carpet.  Cleaning did the trick.  The bathroom area rug went into the dumpster -- all 6x9 soggy feet of it.

Tuesday, the septic company didn't show.  Brett called and they said they had been tied up on another job and would be up by noon on Wednesday.

Wednesday noon: no septic truck.  1pm, 2pm, --nothing.  Brett called and the company informed him that they had decided they didn't want to drive up the mountain.  Thanks for telling us.  Brett called another company.  They arrived a few hours later.

It took them awhile to find the tank, but they finally did.

Part of it was under the gravel.  Part of it was under the walkway.  Brett broke out that part of the orchard walkway.  He got his exercise swinging a sledge hammer.

And, voila!  There was the tank.  They took off the lid (smelled wonderful as you can imagine) and pumped it out.

But, it didn't fix the problem.  Oh, great.  The septic pumping guys had a snake so they tried to find the clog.  Their snake went in about 15 feet and wouldn't go any further.  They said it felt like the pipe turned 90 degrees and the snake couldn't make the bend.  They said they would come up this morning and try jetting it out. 

They came up.  Jetting didn't work.  They suggested we call a plumber.

We didn't want to call the plumber that put the pipes in when the house was built because we have had constant issues with his work.  Every time we have something fixed, we get comments about the shoddy way the plumbing was done initially.  I got a referral to someone from a neighbor and he came up this afternoon. 

After two hours, he fixed it.  Broke the clog loose.  I could hear the water rushing into the septic tank (which is thankfully closed again).  I could have hugged him.  Instead I took him to the barn and got him a soda of his choice (Cactus Cooler).  Heck, he could have taken a case! 

I am giddy with happiness.  And, seriously, we might have champagne tonight.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Adventures of Bella

After feeding this morning, Brett headed back to the barn to ride.  Bella jumped out and followed.

...from the garden, past the chickens, and down to the arena...

...into the barn where she met Flash...

She couldn't quite figure out the bunnies:

So, she went back to the barn to visit Jackson...

Brett got Flash out of his stall and started grooming.  Bella watched for awhile and then went back to the goat pen.

I guess that was enough excitement for one morning.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fingers Crossed

This morning I worked Jackson early before heading to work.  We started by warming up with a forward walk, on the buckle, up and down the bridle path.  Then we worked hard in the arena for 20 minutes on his trot.  I insisted that he work in a forward trot but at the same time reach for the bit and stay off his forehand.  We did some leg yield and 10m circles to help with the concept of reaching under.  He tried hard and I felt like we had a successful ride. 


When we were done and back at the tie rail, I checked his feet.  HUGE stone in the hind, wedged between the ends of the shoe by his heel.  The stone was rectangular, 1.5 inches by 2 inches and it was wedged in tight.  I couldn't do more than get a bit of wiggle with the hoof pick.  I had to use one of Brett's wrenches to get a good grip and twist it out.  I'm hoping it was flat enough and far enough back that it didn't bruise his sole.

He never took a bad step despite the fact that it couldn't have been comfortable.  I'm sure he picked it up on the bridle path since I cleaned his feet before we went out and there is gravel and stones scattered everywhere.  Our ground is naturally full of rock and there is a lot of gravel around the places where driveways cross the path. 


When I got home from work and we turned the horses out, Jackson wasn't off but he was bobbing his head when he walked so I'm sure his heel is sore.   It was warm again today so after chores, we took the dogs back to their yard through the pool area so Kersey could swim.

Then we BBQ-ed hamburgers on the viewing stand while the horses munched on their hay.  Tomorrow is a rest and recover day for Jackson.  Hopefully, the stone didn't hurt too much.  Thankfully, it was flat so, while the pressure I'm sure hurt, at least he wasn't getting jabbed with a pointy spot.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fire Season

Late summer and fall are fire season here in Southern California.  With all the rain we had last winter, the weeds got really high.  So now we have lots of high dead grass for wildfire fuel.  Last week there was a fire east of us.  Today driving home from work I passed a fire about 15 miles north of us.  The fire came right up to the freeway and then retreated.  When I passed, there were fire trucks, fire planes, and helicopters aggressively trying to keep the fire from crossing Temescal Canyon Road and burning Tom's Farms.  Tom's Farms is a landmark.  It was just a fruit stand off the highway when I was a kid, then they started selling burgers, and now they have expanded to include an antique store.  It would have been a loss.  They were able to get the fire contained and Tom's Farms is safe. 

The fire season lasts until November when the weather cools.  Rains start at the end of November or December.  October is the most dangerous fire month due to strong, hot winds ("Santa Ana winds") that fan the flames. 

I took these pictures with my Blackberry as I was driving on the freeway past the fire:

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hot and Humid (for California anyway)

The warm, dry weather and endless blue sky have left.  There is a monsoon somewhere nearby so we have hot, humid, cloudy weather.  Ugh.  Temperatures reached the low 90s with 40% humidity. That may not seem like much to some of my followers, but here in Southern California we are used to more like 10% humidity -- think hot and dry, bleaching bones in the desert.

I decided to stay in the house and work in the kitchen.  I started some pickles.  I'm using a fermentation method rather than vinegar and pressure canning.  I got a recipe with my CSA basket (which included pickling cukes) and noticed a few other bloggers doing the same.  I'll let you know how it works out.

I baked a nice loaf of crusty bread. go with the aubergine parmigiana I'm making for dinner.  My blogger friend over at A Mouse in France made it the other day and posted her recipe.  It's one of my favorites but Brett won't touch eggplant so I thought I'd make it while he is in Colorado.  He will be home later tonight but after dinner for sure.

I started by sweating some onions and garlic. 

Then I added tomatoes from the garden, some herbs, a touch of sugar, and a splash of wine.

I let it simmer for an hour and, voila!, tomato sauce.

Rose came up in the late afternoon to take a lesson on Jackson.  When she and her mother arrived, Bella jumped over the fence and joined us.  Bella walked with me down to the barn, leaning into my leg when we went past the chickens and into the barn aisle.  When we walked Jackson out to the arena, Bella followed.  Fortunately, Jackson was bored by her presence and after awhile Bella took herself back to the goat area.

Rose did very well in her lesson and I was very proud of Jackson.  This was his first time as a lesson horse and he rose to the occasion as I knew he would.  I had Rose ride bareback so she could get a balanced seat.  While she rode with her arms out like airplane wings and did big arm circles, Jackson quietly marched along.  The only thing he messed up on was the emergency dismount I asked Rose to try.  He felt Rose leaving and immediately stopped.  So, her dismount ended up being from a halt and not a walk.

I put dinner in the oven and hopped in the pool while it baked.  Brett arrived home just in time.