musings, thoughts, and writings of Barbara W. Klaser

February 24, 2009

Watch the skies for Comet Lulin

It’s a hazy, cloudy day here today, so I don’t hold out much hope, but in some places tonight will be the best night to see the comet Lulin.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 2:56 pm PST, 02/24/09

November 27, 2008

Thankful for rain, I think

Yet another weather blog. That seems to be all I have to write about recently, for which I apologize.

There’s an old saying about rain in California, that it doesn’t rain but it pours. Last night and this morning are a perfect example of that, here in my vicinity, and a day or two earlier with the evacuations of burned areas north of here for fear of mudslides.

After Election Day — the results of which pleased me extremely on the presidential front — we settled into another hot, dry spell with high temperatures in the 90s for too many days to count. I’m trying to put them out of my mind now, but I think this was the first year I ever used the air conditioner here as late as the third week of November. October is supposed to begin our rainy season.

Now the rain. No, now the RAIN. Last night it was so loud it woke me three different times, and once scared the cat so she wailed something about whether the sky might be falling and needed to be reassured. I gave her a hug. (I needed a little reassurance myself.) It wasn’t windy. The noise was just rain. Lots of it.

This morning it’s still raining, but it’s a less frenzied kind of rain. There seems to be less rush to dump all the moisture in the sky on us at once. My estimate is that we might have gotten two inches last night. But I don’t have a rain gauge, so I’ll have to verify that. It sounded like two inches!

And yes, I meant what I said in that last post. Now Tara is nearly 8 months old (Saturday the 29th), and this is her second rain. It’s her first really big rain, since that Election Day rain turned out to be merely a wimpy drizzle after all. And now our fire season is officially over — until the next long dry spell, which hopefully won’t begin until July. The reservoirs are low, so we could use quite a lot of rain this year in Southern California, as well as a nice thick snow pack in the Sierras. Besides, our amazing, intrepid firefighters need a vacation.

In spite of this being a much bigger rain than I hoped for, I’m grateful. The sun is peeking out between clouds now, and I’m wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.

Wherever you are and whoever you’re with, have a wonderful day!

— Barbara @ rudimentary 11:06 am PST, 11/27/08

November 4, 2008

Wishes granted

I have lots of wishes for this Election Day, but the wish that was granted as soon as I woke up has nothing to do with elections. I wakened to the sound of gentle, steady rain on the roof, and this being our first big rain event of the season, it also signals the end of wildfire danger, for now. Hurray! It seems to have settled in for the day. That should wet everything down nicely.

Tara has never seen rain. She’s watching water drip off the roof onto the ground outside her favorite window, and it rivals birds and butterflies for novelty.

We’ll see how the rest of today goes, especially election results, but it’s off to a good start for me. Now where’s that umbrella? I need to go vote!

— Barbara @ rudimentary 9:44 am PST, 11/04/08

October 27, 2008

Have we been teleported to Phoenix?

It’s still hot here, 92 degrees Fahrenheit today. I haven’t lived in Phoenix since I was five years old, and then only for a couple of months. But I’ve visited there a few times since, and right now I’m starting to wonder if we’ve switched to a similar climate. We had heat in the 90s here in March and April this year, and now all through October. Sounds like Phoenix or Palm Springs weather to me.

I feel as if I’m right in the thick of global warming, at the moment, and I don’t like it! McCain and Palin seem to want to “drill baby drill” their way to even more warming. I shudder to think what the world will be like in 2018 if they’re elected.

Right now I’d love to hear some rain baby rain on the roof baby roof!

— Barbara @ rudimentary 2:08 pm PST, 10/27/08

October 16, 2008

Dry weather musings

It’s dry here, desert dry, with humidity in the teens. When it’s hot and dry like this, black widow spiders come out to catch droplets of water from the hose, as the sprinkles shift strands of their webs in the rock wall in the lower back yard.

The other night, a few miles away, people were evacuated because of a brush fire threatening homes, an untimely reminder of last October and our four-day evacuation. I slept lightly, when I slept at all that night, worried we’d get a reverse 911 call, should the Santa Ana winds shift. Now that fire is well contained, and the sky is blue. Yesterday some high, wispy clouds stretched thin feathers across it, so high up we didn’t feel any moisture from them. At least they were pretty to look at.

The cat keeps getting charged up with static electricity when she plays. Then she touches me, gets a shock, and thinks I’m being unreasonable. But she’s a forgiving soul. As soon as the air conditioner chills her, she decides some lap time might be in order. Tara’s coat, which has fluffed out again after a few months in which we thought she’d grow up to be a shorter haired cat, now suffers from static cling, crackling close to her body as I stroke it. Her glorious, bushy tail picks up everything. It’s better than a feather duster.

Last night she cozied up to Barack Obama during the debate. I had the little desktop TV on, and she sat right in front of him, blocking my view, gently patting his face now and then. She completely ignored John McCain. I think Tara has cast her vote.

I’m still inner focused and in reading mode, sometimes online, sometimes in books. As soon as I post this, I’m off to read some more. Someone let me know when autumn starts for real around here. In my experience that’s around Halloween, so maybe my “autumn’s here” notice will be a knock on the door by little goblins.

I would be envious of people like Marion who are expecting snow soon, if I didn’t realize how many months of it she’s in for, away up there in Canada. Extreme weather for months and months — or just weather that’s too extreme, period — isn’t fun, at either end of the spectrum. I wish us all longer, gentler autumns and longer, gentler springs.

Kitten pictures follow. (Click on thumbnails to view larger images.)

The first two are from 3 months ago, when Tara was 3-1/2 months old and Indi was still with us — um, training her? Apparently they didn’t find anything good in the trash that time. In the second one, that was my clothing Miss Bigfoot was digging her claws into with the look on her face that said, “Gotcha!” She’s usually gentle with her claws when playing now, though she has yet to completely understand about not biting. Maybe when she’s finished teething in another month and a half. She’s gradually getting gentler altogether when we play, because she knows if she gets too rough, playtime ends, and she would prefer that it never, ever end.

Anything good in there?

The next two are from yesterday, at 6-1/2 months. I caught Tara in a quiet moment lounging on an office chair that she’s not really supposed to be on, but I’m just happy if she doesn’t claw it. The first shows a glimpse of her fluffy tail.

Bushy tail What again with the camera?

She’s starting to settle down, except for her desire to climb every mountain, which involves knocking things off high shelves. I have most of my breakables put away safely now, so if she doesn’t kill herself dragging a heavy, blunt object onto her own head, we’re all safe.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 3:22 pm PST, 10/16/08

October 6, 2008

Summer drags on

We’re still in summer here, though we had a couple of days of delicious fall weather, and even a few drops of rain. But tomorrow is expected to hit the mid 90s again, and I’m tired of summer. Anyone need some warm air? Can I ship it to you by overnight express?

Oh well. Provided we don’t have wildfires like last October, I’ll be happy and relieved to just need to wear shorts a little longer.

I’m not sure what’s going on with my not blogging more. I hope you keep checking back in case I have a burst of inspiration. There just hasn’t been anything to post that seemed as if it would interest anyone else. Heck, some of it didn’t interest me.

I have been reading a lot that interests me, mostly nonfiction, and most of it of little general interest. I’m a bit eccentric in my tastes, I think. A few weeks ago I enjoyed an excellent book of slightly more general interest titled, Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth by Jungian analyst Robert A. Johnson, on dream work and active imagination.

I’m sure I’ll get gabby again one of these days… Until then, take care.

Gone fishing reading.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 4:15 pm PST, 10/06/08

September 13, 2008

Shelob is dead, but Ike rages on

Yesterday I killed the largest black widow spider I’ve ever seen. She was beautiful, but … she had to go.

Sorry to write such a Halloweenish blog so early. But the weather has been cool and cloudy here the past three days, making it possible for me to do a little gardening again, which makes me happy. I’m afraid in the hottest weeks of summer I don’t venture out much (or blog much, apparently), except to throw a little water on things to keep them from dying. Unfortunately weeds don’t seem to need much water to keep them from dying.

I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those people with a perfectly manicured and landscaped yard. But maybe this suits my personality better — you know, finding huge creepy spiders, growing a forest of weeds as prolifically as anything else, trying to figure out what to do with monster sized zucchini after zucchini, wishing a certain gopher would move elsewhere and that the neighborhood outdoor cats would stop killing my lizards and pooping in my flower bed. Story of my life. But it makes for more drama, perhaps, than a perfect yard.

Tara is growing up fast. She got spayed last week, which set her play time back some, a setback which had to be forced on her because she can’t seem to sit still for more than five minutes. People are such wusses after surgery, compared to pets. It makes one wonder why we’re the dominant species on the planet.

Now Tara’s making up for lost time!

My thoughts and prayers go out to those in Texas, where Hurricane Ike seems to be acting up much worse than my little terror of a kitten could dream of doing. I hope Ike doesn’t give her any fresh ideas.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 10:38 am PST, 09/13/08

July 8, 2008

Catching up

Our summer weather has set in, likely until mid to late October, so I have to wake up early to get all my outdoor work done. I’m amazed how fast things can grow in the warm weather and get away from me — mostly things I don’t want to grow, like weeds.

My usual care to wear gloves when working in the yard had lapsed recently, but working outside earlier than usual this morning meant that I happened across two black widow spiders. One, on the lower rock wall, was attempting to kill a big iridescent green June Beetle, or what we call a June Beetle here, aka Fig Eater Beetle. The beetle was 10 to 15 times the spider’s size. Their struggle mesmerized me for a moment as I wondered who would win, the beetle snapping spider silk as quickly as it wrapped around it. It was the noise he made that drew my attention in the first place. I would’ve intervened, if I’d had something handy to kill the spider with, but the next time I walked past, the spider — hiding from me, no doubt — was nowhere to be seen and the beetle was bumbling away. I’ll be more careful to wear gloves and not work in flip-flops anymore, unless I’m only watering. Black widows usually hide from people, but I don’t want to surprise one.

My little friend Tara is growing fast. A kitten in the house means lots of interruptions to play, or to stop misbehavior in its tracks, or just to cuddle. I’ll try to post an updated photo later, but it might be a blur unless I catch her when she slows down to nap, bask in a sunny window, or watch TV. She’s now more than three times the size she was when I took these pictures, and darker since her kitten fluff has been replaced by a true dark tabby coat. She’s a Siamese mix, but you wouldn’t know that to look at her.

Tara watched Mikhail Baryshnikov dance, in an older video on the arts channel last night, and I think she decided he’s the most cat-like human she’s seen. I hope she doesn’t expect us to move like that! But maybe it’s good that she knows some humans are capable of it, just to help us keep the upper hand. Sometimes we call her Rocket Cat, and one day recently, as the dog and I watched in glazed over amazement while she raced around and up and down a room, I commented to him, “You know, cats can almost fly.” Indi seemed to agree.

I’m not really sure what all else keeps me busy, but there’s a lot of it, whatever it is. I don’t work in the garden enough to excuse not blogging, but I do spend some time finding things to do with the excess produce.

We’ve had loads of squash from just four plants, so far, some of it now in the freezer and some given away. We may need a bigger freezer if I keep gardening. One way that we like zucchini is simply sautéed in a little olive oil with basil, oregano, salt, and pepper. We’ve had some cucumbers, which I personally think would make a good breakfast food, because just one bite seems to wake me up with its fresh, clean crispness. The tomatoes got a late start (from seed), so we haven’t had any to eat yet, but they’re blooming and setting fruit, growing like mad in the heat. There’s a San Marzano Roma about the size of the end of my thumb that I predict will be the first to the table, unless that little cluster of marble sized cherry tomatoes beats it to perfect redness. With the salmonella scare still pretty much a mystery I’m looking forward, even more than I expected when I planted them, to fresh homegrown tomatoes.

Yesterday we discovered how well extra garden produce can pay off, when we gave a large zucchini to a neighbor boy to take home, and later his mom sent over four of the most perfect little quesadillas I’ve ever tasted. Oh. My. God. These were not the quesadillas you find in Mexican restaurants, or the floppy things we usually concoct with flour tortillas and cheddar cheese, in a skillet. Every part of hers was homemade, including flaky six-inch corn flour shells folded in half and crisped. They were filled with chicken, some kind of white cheese, possibly one of the Mexican cheeses described here, and fresh cabbage, and they came with a magical homemade chili sauce to pour over them. I am positive we got the better end of that exchange. You can’t get food like that in any restaurant, and I’m in heaven just remembering them. It’s odd how a really good hot sauce can actually cool you. As my mouth heated up, my body seemed to cool right off. Must’ve been all my pores and sinuses opening. It was positively delicious. Mmmmh!

— Barbara @ rudimentary 12:49 pm PST, 07/08/08

May 30, 2008

Gardening habit or gardening revolution?

Mystery author Eric Mayer* mentioned in a recent blog post that his blog journaling hasn’t been very habitual of late. He went on to write about habits, and that got me to thinking about my habits, and how they’ve changed in the past year or so. Obviously, for me, blogging has taken a back seat to other things. So has my fiction writing, other than attempting to sell my latest finished manuscript, a mystery about a tarot reader whose awakening ability as a medium gets her involved in a murder investigation. (Interested agents or publishers are welcome to inquire here.)

Habits can be good or bad, and I’m sure everyone has some bad ones they’d like to unload. But one new habit I’m happy to have taken on this year is gardening.


Gardening is indeed a habit, one that gets into your blood in a way I didn’t anticipate when I started out this year. I’d done a tiny bit of gardening as a kid, when I remember planting one rose bush of my own but mostly helping my grandmother with her strawberries and vegetables on the embankment behind my parents’ house. Later, in my first apartment, I nurtured a few houseplants, and throughout my work life I’ve usually kept a potted plant on my desk. I kept African Violets in a north facing window in the last house we rented, until a cat took over that window sill. Still, my husband did most of the outdoor gardening, with a little weeding here and there on my part, until March of this year.

It started this spring with tending a few vegetable and flower seeds until they sprouted, and then the seedlings until they went into the ground. From there I progressed to caring for plants in the ground and preparing the soil for more of them. It’s rapidly expanding to a succession of all of these things, in the hopes of keeping some fresh produce in our salad and veggie bowls through this summer, as well as brightening a corner of the front yard, where my ultimate goal is to keep flowers blooming in a little cottage style bed year round. I’m a ways from that goal yet.

I’m still new at this, and I got a late start this year, but I get help and advice from various sources, and gardening is now a firm habit that I won’t easily give up. It’s one of the first things I think about in the morning and one of the last I think about before the sun goes down.

The plants seem happy about my gardening habit, when they can figure out what season it is. Our weather this spring switched back and forth for a couple of months from one extreme to the other, first dry Santa Anas with temperatures in the 90s, and then thick cloud cover and a shifting Jet Stream chilled the air to the 50s. This went back and forth for weeks, with little pleasant weather in between, and it kept our plants confused. In the past two weeks the weather has leveled off, and the plants are loving it.

They say beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and I’ve recently realized there’s little more beautiful to me than a tiny plant bursting out of its seed container. Call me crazy, but I think baby plants can be almost as cute as a kitten, and they, like the kitten, draw out my mothering tendencies.


(I’ll bet you expected a photo of a seedling, but I couldn’t help the obligatory kitten shot.)

To some this pleasure might seem like taking joy in watching paint dry, but to me it’s more like watching a sunset at the end of a heat wave.


We celebrated our first avocado blooms a few months ago.


Now some fruit has set, which we hope will grow to maturity.


Avocados, according to my resident expert Ken who’s read something like 200 online agricultural reports about them, tend to drop a good portion of their fruit early, which can be disappointing to home gardeners. It will be disappointing to me, if it happens, because Reeds are my absolute favorite avocado variety.

Two days ago I celebrated my first squash blossom.


Zucchini may seem an ordinary thing to seasoned gardeners. It’s one of the easiest things to grow and the butt of gardening jokes, usually in reference to an overabundance of it. But I like zucchini, I love my resplendent squash plants with their huge green leaves, and those yellow-orange blossoms are gold to me.


I’m learning more about the various weeds that grow in the garden, some of which are edible. For instance, purslane and dandelion make delicious salad greens. Note, if you decide to try eating weeds from your garden, be careful that you know what you’re eating. Ensure that the plants haven’t been subjected to herbicides or pesticides and that they aren’t in fact toxic weeds.


Even some semi-edible weeds, like the sour grass we all discovered as kids, can be a problem if eaten in quantity, I’m told, and purslane looks very similar to a toxic type of spurge that often grows right alongside it. Have an expert show you how to identify edible weeds, and examine carefully whatever you pick to eat. This point was driven home to me when I found spurge, with its milky sap, growing in my own little purslane patch.

Yesterday Ken pointed me to a Los Angeles Times article about Guerrilla Gardeners, which linked to a slide show on how to make “seed bombs” as well as two blogs, here and here, about guerrilla gardening.

Gardening has not only revolutionized my daily routine. It’s apparently a revolution that’s spreading once again, as Victory Gardens did in the last century, with people today gardening to save money on local food and working on a clandestine volunteer basis to re-green the land.

_ _ _

* In case you aren’t aware, Eric Mayer and Mary Reed’s latest John the Eunuch Byzantine mystery, Seven For A Secret, was released in April by Poisoned Pen Press. If you haven’t kept up with their historical mystery series, it’s not too late to start. The earlier books in the series are still in print, and some are now available as Kindle editions.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 3:27 pm PST, 05/30/08

April 18, 2008

Spring swelter

No, I did not mis-spell “sweater” in the title. We’re having a summery spring, with hot, dry Santa Ana conditions interspersed with normal spring weather, and it’s confusing our poor little seedlings.

I’m actually doing a tiny bit of gardening. Though I’m a plant — especially flower — lover, and I’ve hankered for some fresh garden produce for a long time, I’m shamefully lazy at doing anything about it. Any yard we’ve had that looked good in the past was entirely my spouse’s doing, except for a little weeding here and there on my part, and even now with my surge of interest in finally getting a real garden started here, I’m quite a bit lazier than he is. I’m much better at mental or creative, sedentary work than physical labor. But I’ve had my bursts of productive activity too, and I’ve gotten a little spring cleaning done indoors as well. Not enough to suit me just yet. There’s a lot of catching up to do around here. Thus my long absence, which has been partly rest periods due to the early lapses into summer. Hot weather tends to make me just want to lie down in a dark room with an icy drink of something and whine about the heat. When the thermometer rises above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, my brain even seems to go on vacation. Hopefully that helps explain the long absence from blogs — mine and yours.

How’s your spring going so far?

Had any summer yet?

Want some of mine?

— Barbara @ rudimentary 4:00 pm PST, 04/18/08

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