musings, thoughts, and writings of Barbara W. Klaser

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

February 15, 2008

Still winter

It turns out that this Snow on Mt. Palomar, back on December 9, 2007, was nothin’.

But you couldn’t have told me that three days ago, when our high temperature was about 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and I was certain spring had sprung with a summery vengeance. I almost tucked away my warm clothes and pulled out my summer shorts.

There was no more snow on Mt. Palomar. It had all melted since around Feb 5th, when the mountain didn’t boast nearly as much snow as in early December. I did get a nice view of the entire mountain with snow on it, from our polling place on the 5th. But I didn’t have my camera with me, so this view was from our yard. As you can see, it wasn’t as much as in December.

Mt. Palomar 02-05-2008 melting

And like I said, by three days ago that was gone, melted. History.

But I’m glad I never got around to putting away my sweaters, because yesterday I don’t think the outside temperature ever rose above 50 degrees, and although the forecast had called for a light drizzle overnight, instead we got dark, threatening skies, cold wind, and steady rain for several hours yesterday.

I was sure that once the clouds parted there would be a fresh layer of snow on the mountains. But when they did, I couldn’t believe what I saw. Here’s our view just as the clouds lifted yesterday afternoon.

Clouds lifting 01 02-14-2008

Clouds lifting 02 02-14-2008

Below shows our view from our side yard at just around sunset yesterday, when the snow reflected the setting sun.

Sunset 02-14-2008

We can only see the lower, southern peak from our side yard, and that’s possible only in the past few months since we removed some obstacles. Below is a view of the entire mountain, from the vacant lot two houses down the hill, this morning. I’ve circled the portion visible from our yard in the second view below.

Entire Mtn 02-15-2008

Entire Mtn South Peak Circled

I don’t mind a little warm weather, and I don’t mind a little cold or rain. We can always use more rain around here, and snow is beautiful from a distance, but this snow looks more like Washington, Idaho, or Sierra snow than Southern California snow. Okay, maybe it’s like Big Bear snow. But it’s not normal San Diego County snow. We had roads close near Campo yesterday, which is near the Mexican border! Is it possible the entire region shifted north and we didn’t know it? It’s confusing, and I guess it’s time to dress in layers for a few weeks.

What the news people have to say:

A wintry surprise for area: Snow, sleet, hail, rain turn nice weather upside down

‘Slider’ brings rain around county, snow in moutains.

See what happens around here when it snows? People get stranded, roads close. Just a little snow can set us upside down and sideways. It’s not supposed to snow here.

But it sure looks pretty.

More 01 02-14-2008

More 02 02-14-2008

— Barbara @ rudimentary 12:18 pm PST, 02/15/08

February 2, 2008

Groundhog Day

Some of our holidays have quite a lot of history behind them, and Groundhog Day is one of my favorites in this regard. I probed the pagan history of Yule a few years ago, so now I think it’s only fair to peer briefly into the past of Groundhog Day, earlier known as Candlemas or St. Brigid’s Day, and before that as Imbolc, which comes to us from the ancient Celts. The name Brigid has its roots in Celtic paganism, with the Goddess Brigid, also known as Bride. As a goddess she had three faces, each having to do with fire, according to the web page, Brigid: Goddess or Saint?

  • Brigid, the ‘Fire of the Hearth’, was the goddess of fertility, family, childbirth and healing.
  • Brigid, the ‘”Fire of the Forge’, was like the Greek goddess Athena, a patroness of the crafts (especially weaving, embroidery, and metalsmithing), and a goddess who was concerned with justice and law and order.
  • Brigid, the ‘Fire of Inspiration’, was the muse of poetry, song history and the protector of all cultural learning.

(read more at Brigid: Goddess or Saint?)

According to Wikipedia, Imbolc:

“is traditionally a time of weather prognostication, and the old tradition of watching to see if serpents or badgers came from their winter dens is perhaps a precursor to the North American Groundhog Day. A Scottish Gaelic proverb about the day is:

Thig an nathair as an toll
La donn Bride,
Ged robh tri traighean dh’ an t-sneachd
Air leachd an lair.

“The serpent will come from the hole
On the brown Day of Bride,
Though there should be three feet of snow
On the flat surface of the ground.”

“Fire and purification are an important aspect of this festival.”
(read Wikipedia article)

The verse quoted above, and in the Wikipedia article, is from Carmina Gadelica: Hymns and Incantations, Ortha Nan Gaidheal, Volume I by Alexander Carmichael (1900), and can be found on line at Sacred Texts Archive, where you can read even more about Bride.

Then there’s the perfect non-religious Groundhog Day celebration for our times, which is simply to enjoy the Bill Murray comedy by that title. That’s how I like to celebrate it.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 10:30 am PST, 02/02/08

January 16, 2008

Early spring, or not? And what is this vine?

In a couple of weeks, groundhogs will make their yearly predictions, though I’m not sure a prairie dweller afraid of its own shadow is a very reliable sign of the turning seasons. I’ve begun to wonder if we’ll have an early spring, though. The weather has turned sunny and warm, and we haven’t needed an extra blanket for the past few nights.

Weeds have cropped up all over our yard, making everything green, even if it isn’t the commonly acceptable form of green. When the weeds first sprouted they were beautiful, and in some open, flat parts of the yard, from a distance you would almost think we had a lawn. We don’t, and now that they’re larger, from a distance they just look like a bunch of weeds.

We found something new and interesting under the pine trees. It was a strange vine, not anything I recognized, but vaguely reminiscent of a Cucumber, or maybe some variety of Passionflower. (Click photos for larger views.)

Unknown Vine 01 2008 Unknown Vine 02 2008

It had grown a lot by the time we noticed it, and was on its way to spreading all over that section of the yard, sending out long, tightly curled tendrils that took hold of whatever was in their reach.

Unknown Vine 04 2008 Unknown Vine 05 2008

It had already started up one pine tree.

Unknown Vine 03 2008

I looked it up on the internet and didn’t find anything conclusive, at least not at first. Nope, not a garden-variety Cucumber, and thank goodness it doesn’t appear to be a Kudzu Vine. It wasn’t a Mandrake, which sort of disappointed me, as a fan of Harry Potter movies, though I don’t particularly want a plant that will scream at me.

Possibilities came and went as I searched for vines with multiple-lobed leaves, even the possibility that it was some kind of wild grape, which it wasn’t. One type of vine that seemed to come close was the Bitter Melon, also known as Balsam Apple or Balsam Pear. That narrowed my search to various forms of gourd or Cucurbitaceae, such as Hodgsonia, or Luffa, or the much more likely Chayote, which is sold in our local markets. But the leaves weren’t right for Chayote. The strongest possibility I’ve come up with so far is some variety of Coyote Melon or Coyote Gourd, which grows wild in our region.

If you know for certain what this vine is, please let me know.

How it got there is the easy part of this mystery, and would be even if I’d never seen a house finch scatter seeds. Our local scrub jay friends are always hiding things in the needles that collect under our pine trees. It’s a favorite place to store their seeds, nuts, magic beans, and whatever else they hoard for later, usually scrub oak acorns, or peanuts people have fed them. Last summer, while we trimmed the pine trees and cleared out a thick mulch of pine needles, one scrub jay kept fussing over our activity, and every now and then he darted in to rescue some of his treasures. In some years we’ve had volunteer sunflowers sprout there and grow to full height.

NOTE: The pictures that follow are from past summers, not this winter. Even here, we don’t ever see sunflowers blooming in January.

Sunflower 01 2003 Sunflower 02 2003

Out front, we have an entire patch of some kind of creeping yellow daisy that came up there one year, probably also carried in by birds. We water it now and then, so although it dies back each winter, it returns to open a bright patch of yellow flowers every summer, next to our old pickup.

Yellow Daisies 01 2004 Yellow Daisies 02 2004

In any case, the strange vine has been eradicated, so we won’t have any cries of “Feed me, Seymour!” coming from under the pine trees, and it won’t grow so large as to strangle a pine tree. Jack won’t have to climb up the beanstalk and see if there’s a giant living up there. Good thing, too, because no one named Jack lives here, so we’d have to pay Jack to do that. Still, I hope we didn’t kill something we would’ve liked. Sometimes the birds bring us weeds, and sometimes they bring us gifts that we enjoy for years.

Maybe we will have an early spring, maybe not. I’m in no hurry. I certainly don’t look forward to the hottest part of summer. But a long spring would be nice.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 6:20 pm PST, 01/16/08

January 7, 2008

It’s dark out there

We’ve had a few more days of rain, enough to soak the ground, and this storm came before the ground dried out from the last rain, which is good — and unfortunately unusual for us in our past few drought years. So I really shouldn’t complain about the weather, but . . . it’s awfully dark out there.

I balk at turning on lights in the middle of the day, but that’s what I’ve had to do the past two days in order to get any work done. I’m sorting through files, which is a bit scary, especially in the dark. I’ve also hibernated through these dark days to some extent because I’ve been under the weather. We both had the flu over the Solstice and Christmas, and though we’ve recovered, it tried to come back on me a few days ago, sending me once again in search of my vitamin bottles and throat lozenges, and whining about an earache.

It’s a good, wet winter, good for staying indoors and drinking hot beverages, celebrating the fact that we’re actually having winter, even if it is most people’s idea of spring or fall. The more wet winters we have, the less likely we are to have such horrible fire seasons.

Meanwhile, because I’ve decided to keep politics mostly off this blog, whenever I get the urge to wax political I post my views at my other blog, Spirit Blooms. I am putting my political blogging efforts into support of Dennis Kucinich for President.

Don’t worry, I haven’t given up this blog, and I don’t intend to. I’m still somewhat of a mystery to me, and I intend to keep writing, even if not mystery novels. I’m also still opinionated and have lots to say about writing, books, and lots of other stuff you might find interesting. Mystery of a Shrinking Violet will live on until the bitter end of my blogging adventure, whenever that is, sometime in the far future. I’ll be back in a day or two, hopefully with more to write about than the weather — or politics, which I honestly hate but can’t avoid in good conscience these days.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 11:21 am PST, 01/07/08

December 9, 2007


We got quite a bit of much-needed rain last weekend. This week’s storm didn’t bring as much where I live. I think the storm dumped most of its moisture on Oregon long before its tail end reached us. But yesterday afternoon, clouds moved in from the west again.

Clouds Sat pm

I was sure this one meant business. (more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 1:58 pm PST, 12/09/07

October 26, 2007

Home safe and sound

We’re fine, our home is fine, and all our nearest neighbors are fine, as is most of downtown. We got home today and found everything just as we left it four days ago. In the meantime we stayed with my sister, her husband, and her two dogs, who kindly took us in along with our dog, and made us feel very secure and cared for. Thank you, all of you who contacted us and expressed your concern.

I’d never been evacuated before. It’s a surreal experience, especially early on when you don’t know whether you’ll have a home to return to. All I can say is that the more information local governments can provide evacuees the better, whether it’s positive or negative news. Information makes people feel less helpless and forgotten and tells them what they need to do, how to begin as soon as possible to get back to normal and to find a thread connecting them to their future. Sitting and waiting without much information doesn’t work for most of us. I learned in the past four days that it definitely doesn’t work for me, and I usually think of myself as a fairly patient person. (more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 4:13 pm PST, 10/26/07

October 22, 2007

San Diego County is burning . . . again

Yesterday felt like a rerun of my birthday four years ago when I spent the day worrying about a fire at nearby Camp Pendleton. That year the wind changed to a Santa Ana, carrying that fire away from us. But a few days later the Cedar Fire started, and burned 280,278 acres, 2,820 buildings (including 2,232 homes), and killed 15 people. About a year and a half before that was the Gavilan Fire, which came within 1/2 mile of my home.

When I was a kid I thought Santa Ana winds were sort of exciting, though even then I didn’t like the heat that came with them, or the dry air that made my hair crackle and my skin feel like paper. But now, after so many fires and worries, I’d rather be out of town when this weather kicks in. The humidity was in the single digits all day yesterday, and it’s every bit as dry today. I slept very little last night, spending most of it listening to the wind tear around the house, creaking the walls and whipping things around outside, and wondering whether all of Ramona (36,000 population) and all of Potrero got evacuated, and how far the fires would spread during the night and all that wind.

This morning I woke to a phone call from my sister, who’d heard on the news that there was a fire in Rainbow, about 5 to 10 miles from me. So today is a fire watch day, hoping the wind will settle down, hoping the air will moisten, and hoping our firefighters aren’t stretched too thin.

I turned 51 yesterday. I think I’m getting too old for this.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 10:14 am PST, 10/22/07

October 9, 2007

Yearning for fall

I’m in one of those quiet times when I think about things to write, and sometimes even write them, but I don’t post. So the blog is quiet. This is not an apology. I’ve decided that irregular blogging doesn’t require apology. It usually means we’re living more outside the blog or the Internet, and that is often for the best.

We’re getting our typical early fall weather, which isn’t really fall at all, but an evaporated extension of summer. A few cool, rainy days fooled us into thinking this autumn might turn out otherwise, but not so. Now we’re getting the really dry weather that saps the moisture out of every living thing, including me. My skin doesn’t like it, my hair doesn’t like it, and neither does the rest of me. Every contact with a metal object results in a little blue spark, making me cautious and twitchy. Maybe that caution extends to writing and is what keeps me from posting.

This is the time of year that I envy those who live where fall turns spectacular colors. Here we get drab yellowing, and maybe a little dull orange if the leaves don’t dry up and blow away in a Santa Ana wind before they have a chance to turn. I love fall colors, so I gravitate toward pictures of true autumn, and I’m grateful to all the bloggers in other places who share their photos of fall. Fall is my favorite season, and I crave as much as I can get.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 2:02 pm PST, 10/09/07

July 27, 2007

Going with the flow

My “Quickie” horoscope on Yahoo! this morning said,

“If you wake up feeling weird, just go with it!”

Hmm, okay, but I wake up feeling weird every morning, especially since I began working at home. I’m finally teaching myself to go with the flow, to let my days be unstructured and still get important things done. But now summer is here, the time of year when I wish I could hibernate and have someone rouse my half-baked body when it’s over.

I haven’t been posting as much because I’m in the midst of my yearly hot weather adaptation phase. That’s the excuse I’m going with. My dread of hot weather and my seeming inability to adapt make global warming and menopause at the same time feel like a horrid revelation that hell does exist, and I am going there. Go with the flow? I’m swimming upstream from the heat as fast as I can. This weather makes me miss the job at the office where someone else paid for the air conditioning, and paid me to be there in it. How cool was that?

I’m a slug this time of year. But last night, before I went to sleep, I thought it would be nice to wake up early and enjoy the cool of the morning. Apparently that set my mental alarm clock, and I wakened at dawn. This has happened a lot recently, deciding on a time to wake up, and waking at that time, without the alarm clock. It’s like a new super-power.

This morning was lovely, with the kinds of clouds I’ve heard called buttermilk skies, and a soft, cool breeze. I should use my super-power more often.

How do you go with the flow?

— Barbara @ rudimentary 9:31 am PST, 07/27/07

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