On to Ramsey Canyon

We drove to Phoenix, about an eight hour journey in our rental, and after a few days there, collected the kid (she’s twenty four so that is a little bad of me, but she is forgiving,) and headed to our Ramsey Canyon weekend, theoretically four hours away. It was an easier trip than expected and we drove in earlier than anticipated.

A rushing stream between high sided rock walls was the first and most important note. We had been too long in drought struck Southern California, and the sight and sound of clear water generously racing along its way was riveting. One had to cross the bridge over the stream to reach our rooms, a main room with a couch bed and kitchen and a bedroom with bath.


We settled in and took a quick hike up the canyon, which required our passage through the friendly hands and hallway of the Nature Conservancy’s building. The Conservancy monitors  the upper part of the canyon and all visitors must be out by five o’clock to give the true residents, the animals, a break. After our brief walk and a delighted plunder of the Nature Conservancy bookstore, we went back to the Inn and had pie– warm cherry pie, before sitting and reading our books.


As dusk fell, Bruce put our chicken sausages on the outside grill already set up for our convenience. While he cooked, I looked up at a movement and squeaked with glee. There walked a hog-nosed skunk across our bridge! I am one of those children who grew up on the little nature guides edited by Herbert Zim and I knew I had seen this creature in the pages of his book on Mammals. A new mammal for my life list. This is not an every day occurrence. My family had to endure many squeaks and chortles of glee from me for the rest of the evening.


Filed under blog, experiences

An Extra Note: Compostables and Not

Warning– this is a post that includes cleaning, garbage, purity, diapers and a rant. It’s not about Ramsey Canyon and what we saw… I will get to that after the clean up.

We hosted our Earth Sciences Department party yesterday and about seventy people attended. We prepared and cooked racks of ribs, slabs of salmon, fresh breads and vegetarian beans while our guests provided all kinds of vegetable and salad dishes, plus plenty of drinkables. I baked nine pies– apples from our orchard, grapes from our vines for the grape pies, boysenberries from the neighbor’s baked into a pie, and one huge four layer boysenberry filled cake with a cream cheese frosting. I probably should not tell how many packages of cream cheese I peeled for that job!

On such occasions we try to do our bit for sustainability, with designated bins for recyclables, and bins lined with the right type of compostable bag to take the compostable plates and utensils plus food waste, which we will later deliver to the processing center. A separate batch of bins stand ready for the non-compostables– paper napkins and waxed paper goods or whatever plastics people wrapped their contributions in.

So, this is a group of people who have spent their lives being students. Yet despite clear labeling on these bins, every year, the morning after finds me in my much-reused latex gloves sorting the garbage because somehow people can’t read those labels. But this year brought an even more disturbing variant.

I met single-serving squeezable plastic/foil baby food units. All “pure”, “organic” food in plasticized squeeze containers, one serving each. To be precise, plastic-covered foil pouches none of which is recyclable. The plastic lids are very large, and recyclable. I found two of these with their lids deep in our bin labeled ‘Compostables’. If you detect a hint of offense in my tone, you are so correct. I am worried about the parent who chooses to buy pure organic food for his or her baby in such a package. That you might absentmindedly throw it in exactly the wrong container is one of those things that can easily happen by mistake. But you do not choose single serving disposable aluminum and plastic pouches without shelling out a good bit of cash and having some time to select and think. So you want organic purity for your baby? Great. But what’s the impact of this choice? How could this company not have thought further in producing these expensive and wasteful items? Pure, organic and plastic present me with a serious disconnect.

I went to the website for this product and they claim that their containers have recyclable lids– well that’s just great! Indeed, they made the lids bigger in order to make them recyclable! Next, they say the production of one of their containers has a smaller environmental footprint than that of a glass bottle– but you often have the option to choose multiple serving sized glass bottles, which could change that equation. More, I am not sure if they are saying that only the original processing to produce a glass jar is more costly and if they have calculated the incalculable recycling in the lifetime of the glass jar? Or do they mean that the environmental cost of recycling the glass is greater than the environmental cost of production for each of their one-use pouches? With foil involved? This, I doubt. I also note that a glass bottle is composed of the third most common element on our planet — silica makes up ~15% of Earth. If the glass ends up back in the soil, it changes none of the chemistry of that soil. Plastics are manufactured materials that do not readily decompose, and have consequences in their smaller particulate form after years of disaggregation, for all animals, including us.

Yes, I understand that caring for a baby is a lot of work. I did it too, cloth diapers (and a diaper service as much as possible because at the end of the equation – sterilizing and washing all your own is more costly to the environment than using a diaper service.) I made baby food at home, except for times we travelled and I had to use bottled baby food. But the bottles and lids of what I bought were all recyclable. The glass meant a stable container with no risk of container molecules separating into the food, even acidic food.

I know a majority of my audience here is not having babies right now, but this isn’t just about baby food. It’s about thinking. I think that what I want to ask is that we try not to have that single serving plastic disposable choice be every day’s choice. No one likes a sermon much, especially when it asks for something, so I’ll return to my soggy gloves and my garbage sort.

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Filed under blog, experiences, science, social and anti

Listen, and you may hear


Do I have a tale to tell? Yes I do. But I will vex you with being slow in telling, a quilt pattern rather than a cogent solid story. Teasers, rather than complete essays.

My husband and I picked up the kid in Phoenix where she is in grad school and headed to our first vacation in over twenty years– Ramsey Canyon. I here post a couple of photos, but bear with me… there is more to tell. I have a dinner to cook for October 1 (between 70 and 100 guests and yeah, yet again, I don’t hire caterers.) So be patient, there’s more to come.



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Filed under education, experiences, social and anti

Several images, same place, slightly altered viewpoints

Late Summer HIlls 1993.JPG

1320 The Repeating Hills.jpg


hills #177 copy.JPG

425 late sumer hills.JPG

Hills Hills Hills 2011 2.jpg

Every time, I see it differently. Every time I fancy that the painting might be too much the same, too like a predecessor. But here’s the fun– I even seem to change the number of hills! How they lie, how they feel depends upon something far more subjective than the physics of how light can strike a slope. This scene by the way is North of King City CA on one of the county roads. The painting immediately above this text would show you the outlines of the Pinnacles if I had turned a few degrees to my right. And yes, before you ask, I have more paintings of this area still, though all of the above have sold. Maybe some day I shall share the full suite on this blog. I wonder what happened to the very first one I did back about 1990. It was a small painting, something like ten by fourteen inches before I became emboldened about my long formats. Maybe some day I will see that one again and assess the full course. Maybe, however, I shall never cease from pursuing these hills!


Filed under painting

A little time with pencils and paper


So here is our Daft Wee Willie Wilberforce in pencil. I was talking with a visiting friend, discussing sketches. When I stepped out into our passageway I saw that another friend who recently lost her artistically gifted and active husband, had kindly dropped off a bundle of his pencils in case I might be able to use them. Here are a few results.


Watson’s stripes.


Watson before he moved on to make some mischief.


Filed under cat pictures, cats, Drawings

Haste to the Wedding Cake



…and don’t forget the mushrooms. Here is my first draft, at approximately one third or one quarter size, of the ‘woodsy’ wedding cake I will make for two friends who will marry this January. Raspberry filling, golden wedding cake recipe from Rose Berenbaum’s Cake Bible, a sour cream and milk chocolate ganache to frost and then hold on the black chocolate bark elements, and a cream cheese white frosting dribbled for the cut trunk surfaces. I made some fast punted white chocolate mushrooms, but will do better next time. I scraped a little white chocolate over the bark to brighten the details then dusted the mushrooms and ‘wood’surfaces with cocoa powder, then the bark with confectioner’s sugar. Now my friends will arrive in a few minutes and get to taste. We will discuss what we want to change. I have a LOT of ideas on that…. But it’s a first draft after all!


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Filed under blog, food, recipies

Now that school has begun once more

As a parent I got so angry about ‘make-work’ repetitive homework problems and the kind of assignments that clearly were purposed to shape youngsters into obedient sameness suitable for future repetitive uncaring jobs focused solely on ‘getting it done’. Obedience should not be the focus of an education.

To have institutionalized teaching of obedience leak into the home and violate the refuge for a tired kid back from a day of frenetic input, bullying and goose-stepping is simply wrong. Teaching needs to happen in school. Practice likewise. Homework should be for the assignments that were reasonably timed within a school day that a student did not manage to complete. It should not be added on top of full, demanding days. How I hated my child’s homework. It spoiled time we would have better shared reading books– and by the way the fact that I was supposed to count the pages my kid read and report it to the school was insulting. It made the creative act of reading a ‘check in a box’ activity. I ended up reporting the books the kid read, not the pages.

Then let us speak of both the school and teachers’ punitive attitudes towards the noncompliant parent, and then the punishment through the school and teachers’ attitudes and restrictions for the kid who didn’t jump through all the hoops while in the sanctuary of the home. Or worse yet, for the kid whose parents didn’t jump through the hoops. The kids were held hostage for our parental ‘good’ behavior.

My solution? The homework group. A mixed batch of kids of different ranges of abilities working together to get the pages and pages of repetitive exercises done, with homemade brownies or cake, and discussions about science and history that enlivened as much as possible of this tedious obedience training. Lots of reading aloud to illustrate human history and what the international news brought to our door. Maps, and stories from epidemiology and novels, sometimes animal tales laced with natural history.  It wasn’t perfect but it made the process of cookie-cuttering our children something I at least had a hand in.

Guess I should draft a blog on this….Short, incomplete, here it is, but better than nothing.




Filed under blog, education, homework, school,