Monday, April 4, 2011

Moving from Oakland

Most stressful thing I have done in decades. Maybe more stressful because it has been so many decades in the same wonderful house, and involved decades-worth of stuff to sort through. Also there was a stunning amount of paperwork, phone calling, hiring of help, check writing, and general office work involved. That part made packing seem easy, but it wasn't. The hardest part was we had a lot of splainin' to do. Leaving grandchildren was a painful, tearful, wrenching ordeal.  It is difficult to grok the grandparent/grandchild relationship. 

But now we are townies of a different hue. Port Townsend, Washington is called Paradise by the locals, and now by us as well. Nevermind it snowed a lot our first winter, and Spring is crouching somewhere ready to jump out as soon as the rain stops for a day or two.  Nevermind the pulp mill nearby makes the air smell like a cat box occasionally, or that the limited local shopping is geared toward tourism. The Food Co-op really rocks, but is kinda pricey. It's like a baby Whole Foods, without the clothing line.
The sea is beautiful and inviting, but there is no moorage to be had within 50 miles. There are many boats here, as Port Townsend is the Wooden Boat capital of the world. Views of water and islands are everywhere, and yes, we can see Russia I mean Canada from here.
Our little house in the woods is small and cozy, and does not accommodate our furniture gracefully.
The garden is mature already, and more formal than really necessary. There is no room for growing veggies, and anyway the deer make it very exasperating to try. Most serious vegetable beds here are surrounded by eight foot fences with deer gazing in, wistfully.
It is very, very quiet here. A pileated woodpecker lives nearby and his woodpeckering can be heard echoing through the trees. A bald eagle stops in a tall pine tree every day on his daily errands, watching things. Owls and coyotes can be heard at night. We have hours of un-interrupted violin practice time.
 But best of all, Coco gets to run at the fairgrounds every day with his new dog friends.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Reasons to Eat Cake

1. It was Coco's birthday a week ago
2. Julian really wanted cake
3. We don't want the bakery to go out of business*
4. We thought they put real whipped cream on top (but we were disappointed.)
6. I forget why we ate cake.

* The Merritt Bakery in Oakland is getting subsidized by the city to the tune of 150k so they won't go under. The reason? It's an Oakland landmark.  Never mind they don't serve good meals, never mind they put some kind of plastic gobbledegook on the cake in the place of whipped cream, never mind Oakland is laying off police officers and cannot support our schools because we're broke.  Bailing out the Merritt Bakery is akin to Getting the Raiders Back, which didn't make sense to me either. There is a much better use of the little money we have in the Oakland city coffers.
Just my opinion.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Kitchen Help

A birthday celebration for two family members, one a vegetarian and the other a macrobiotic enthusiast required some hours in the kitchen. Preparations were made festive by the antics of the help. A swing! and a miss!
The menu was- what's that word? Ambitious. The recent weather and a wander through Diana Shaw's Essential Vegetarian Cookbook suggested soup. Cream of Cauliflower (page 176) sounded good, as a main dish. Many ingredients were already at hand, which was encouraging.
The sides got a little complicated: Quinoa, Corn and Tomatillo salad, Lemon-spiked Lentil salad, Shrimp and Dill salad, (the vegetarian's really a fish-a-tarian,) Scalloped Potatoes made with soy milk, Hummus, and D'Affinoise Cheese with sliced baguette and carrots for dipping.
The birthday cake was pie! Tofu cheesecake with blueberry topping is not only delicious but macrobiotic. Pumpkin pie was necessary because of the rain, and sweet potato pie was necessary because the extra pastry dough. A guest brought a macrobiotic tart made with figs from her garden.
Real whipped cream topped the desserts so that a certain family member who equates health food to "rocks and sticks" wouldn't be sad.
This meal was a joy to prepare, looked beautiful on the table, and tasted good. The kitchen boy who made the wooden spoon potentially dangerous would not eat a bite of anything. He wanted pasta.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Hens Declare Solvency

After a night long closed-coop meeting the hens of Oaktown Flock have announced they are now able to pay their rent and food bills. Spokeschicken Duerhea B. Orpington said the group is happy that in spite of having lost two members to neighborhood predation in past years, egg production is up and broodiness has sunk to a record low of under 20%.

The flock, who are members of the Egg Layers Union, Local 5, ELU-CIO have no plans to re-open negotiations with Oaktown Farm at this time, even though their 4-year contract has expired. The current price of one premium fresh organic chicken egg at Whole Foods is approximately 60 cents, and the group of five produces an average of three eggs per day.  Their total gross earnings during the second quarter was a whopping $54 per month, while monthly feed costs are $12 per month for the same period. The hens attribute this upturn to improved kitchen scraps which have included bacon this summer, a favorite food.
In a side note D.B. Orpinton pointed out the benefits package they deliver to the farm includes manure for the compost and free bug extermination upon request. While it is difficult to assign a monetary value to these services, they contribute to the overall success of the farm venture.
The group would like to have more free roaming time on their schedule, and possibly a resident rooster and improved coop-cleaning services, but are making no demands at this time. Oaktown Farm had no comment, as they were eating breakfast.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Delta Trip

Michael and I took the boat to the Delta last Thursday. We put all provisions aboard on Tuesday and Wednesday, spent the night aboard on Wednesday so we could leave at 6 on Thursday morning and "sail up on the incoming tide" as our friend Clark advised us to do. It was a perfectly beautiful day, but no wind. We motored all the way, crossing  under the bay bridge, the San Rafael bridge, the Carquinez bridge, the Benicia bridge (which has a lift span to let us under), and the Antioch bridge. It was a pretty ride, but not sailing, and took 8 hours just to get to Antioch, half way to the Delta. We phoned and got a guest slip at Antioch marina. That evening was fun. We lit our little bbq on the stern railing, and cooked our dinner. We listened to music and enjoyed being on the boat.
    At 4 Friday morning I woke up with a bladder infection. After an hour and a half of trying to get a cab, we finally called Michael's sister in Concord. She got out of bed to come get us and take us to Kaiser in Antioch. I got treated in record time there, as the emergency room was empty. (You're not in Oakland anymore, Dorothy!) Then Michael figured out the bus system there, and we were able to get back to the boat in an hour. I felt better almost immediately, so we continued our cruise. A small glitch.

    We motored by all the interesting marine busy-ness along the way up the San Joaquin river, and finally found Potato Slough, a place we had visited aboard a friend's boat years ago. We recalled being anchored near some trees or low-growing shrubby things, but saw nothing like this. It was beautiful, but unrelentingly bare. We puttered up the slough, finding no good place to put the anchor down, then continued up Little Potato slough. Coming around a bend I saw two pieces of styrofoam floating on the water, and said to Michael "I wonder what those are?"

They were there to warn boaters of a shoal. We came to a scrunchy halt there, listing. It was high tide, so no hope of the tide lifting us off. We had heard advice from several friends about running aground: Sharon: "You'll run aground" (laughing) Michael G: "Don't run aground at high tide" and Clark: "If you run aground you'll just kedge off."
We panicked.

Just as we were trying to figure out how to kedge off, (memory is the first thing to go when your mouth is so dry you can't swallow and your heart is trying to jump out of your chest) a speed boat came along and we flagged him down. The line we gave him ended up all over the place instead of in a nice neat coil like it should have been, and one end got wedged under the keel. We got successfully pulled of the shoal but when we tried to start the motor, immediately realized the line was tangled in the prop. So we're drifting up river heading for the levee, which is piles of rocks. We got the anchor down quickly to avoid that lee shore. Michael gets into his swim suit to dive down there and cut the line off the prop. He was able to detangle it without cutting it, but getting back aboard was difficult. Those steps are hard to get to from the water. I tied a loop in the line we just freed, and he held onto it while I winched him up where he could grab the stair. Coming back aboard he said "Okay, now start praying." because last time we had a line in the prop we lost the transmission. I prayed, hard.
The motor started right up, we had forward and backward motion, and soon we were laughing again and saying whew.
It was getting late so we started looking for a place to anchor, now with a healthy fear of running aground. But while investigating a site, we got too shallow again, and ran aground again. Some very bad cuss words were said. Very bad.

This time we were determined to kedge off ourselves, and were preparing to do so when another boater came by and we flagged him down for help. He was able to easily pull on our bow line to free us. We were thankful for being afloat but by no means jovial. By the time we finally put the anchor down and convinced ourselves it was holding, it was sunset. A strong ebb threatened our sense of security through dinner, but we eventually went to bed. Michael set an alarm so he could wake up to check on things at around midnight, and fell soundly asleep.
I could not sleep. The anchor chain was occasionally rubbing on the bobstay, making a horrible sound. Each time this happened I would pop my head out of the hatch and check that we weren't drifting. Things looked okay each time so I tried to sleep. The wind came up some and the final time I looked out, we had definitely dragged the anchor and were dangerously close to the levee. I woke Michael up and we got dressed very quickly and started the motor. This is about 11 p.m. and remember, it's still Friday and we have been up since 4 a.m..

When I pulled up the anchor it was draped with a medusa head of growing things, about the size of a buffalo. I guess those reeds aren't strong enough to hold a 22,500 lb. boat at anchor...

So it's dark, the wind is blowing, Michael is mostly still asleep, but we're motoring and thinking whether to try to anchor again, or just get the hell out of Potato slough. We decided to leave, to do an all-nighter and just go home. We'd had enough. With the chart, the gps, a flashlight to see the depth finder (which sort of works,)  and field glasses to watch the levee, we found our way out of the slough in the dark. The moon was just about full, so that helped. When we got to the San Joaquin we were able to follow the channel markers. It was still dicey because it was difficult to remember which marker we had just passed, find the number on the chart, and look for the next one. Plus, the markers aren't always visible when they should be, and judging distances is difficult on the water and especially difficult at night.
Around 2 a.m. we put on our foulies because we were pretty cold. I made coffee and snacks when it seemed safe to go below.

The sun came up when we were almost to Benicia, where the railroad bridge is. The chart says that at high water with the lift down, this bridge is maybe a foot higher than our mast. When coming up river we had gone under when it was open for a big ship, so the height wasn't a concern then. But at 7:30 on Saturday morning there was no ship traffic, and we just couldn't make ourselves chance going under the lowered span with such tight clearance, no matter where the tide was.  We hailed the bridge keeper on channel 9 but couldn't get anyone to answer. We tried channel 16, no answer. We asked local fishermen to help us check if our radio was working. It was fine. For 45 minutes we circled and hailed, circled and hailed, to no avail. Finally we saw a ship coming down river, heard the span go up, and skirted under. I have no idea why the bridge person didn't respond to us. After that, breakfast of eggs with cheese tasted mighty good.

The rest of the journey was just afterglow. There was some wind after we went under the San Rafael bridge, but we didn't have the energy to raise sail, going on 36 hours without sleep.
Yo ho, yo ho, as the sailors say-- we say the delta is no place for a sailboat.