Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Off On A Little Trip

Since I have two days off this week, I've decided to hop on Amtrak and take the train to San Diego to visit MamaMia and her Marine.

I've packed the aran sweater, the green pullover for Kiti, blue yarn for a little scarf, and I'm considering stuffing in the blue cashsoft sweater. I have some mags to share with MamaMia and a book I'm supposed to be reading for a test I have to take in December.

I have my cell phone, charger, camera, laptop, toothbrush. I should pack a change of clothes, too, huh?
The Professor is going to meet me in Los Angeles at Union Station on Saturday so we can attend the marriage celebration of two friends at 3pm in the South Bay.

At least these are the plans, if I survive Halloween in Kindergarten class.

I pulled off the freeway after work to check out the rose bushes. I'm thinking I might wait a bit to get the Iceberg roses. I won't be able to plant anything for at least a month--too many commitments until after Thanksgiving. Can I still plant roses in December or January in Southern California?
The Professor showed me something interesting in the newspaper today. He found a map of the areas burned by the Santa Clarita fire last week. We knew that the street where his family lived in the 1960s lost some houses in the fire. What the map showed was that the neighborhood where we lived for a year in the early 1980s also lost houses--three in the cul-de-sac where we lived and the two houses on the hill behind our house. I wonder who lives there now, and if any of the neighbors we knew still live there.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Next Summer's Garden

One of the interesting things about moving is that you get to look at your 'new' garden, the one that whoever lived here before you did planted. You spend several months, even all four seasons, finding treasures and plants that aren't exactly treasures, but more like, 'what on earth are THOSE?" plants.
Our current jasmine count is three very large and vigorous plants. Camellias=nine. Roses left behind in the back=three very unhealthy runty rosebushes.
One of the local nurseries is advertising roses starting at $6.99. I think I'll stop by one day this week and see what is available.
I'm thinking, maybe, Iceberg.

Yes, an Iceberg rose, with white cosmos planted around it.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Aran Sweater

I finished knitting the back, front, and sleeves of the redesign. I am really happy with the back.

I am not as happy with the neckline on the front. It looks a little unwieldy. I'll put a sample neckline on it and see how it looks then. I don't want to sew the shoulders and sleeves together until I'm sure the front neckline is good to go.

Measuring the width of the sleeves at the shoulder.

When I am not gazing off into space, visualizing the neckline, the sewn in sleeves or thinking about the best way to write up the pattern, I have been doing a little fun knitting. This is the ribbing for a sweater for Kiti. If you look carefully on the left edge, you can see a buttonhole. The sides have five buttons and buttonholes along the ribbing and up about 2 more inches. It is going to be a nice design feature. I found the Cotton Fleece by Brown Sheep Co. at my lys, Anacapa Fine Yarns. It's smooth and soft to work with, but it splits if you're not careful to hold the yarn taut.

One day soon this yarn will be a v-neck, long sleeve, ribbed sweater.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Tea for Two

A couple of weeks ago, I went out to the Gerry Ranch and helped my friend the Blueberry Lady do some cleaning. We enjoyed our time scrubbing, vacuuming and sweeping. Blueberry Lady and I have a long history together, cleaning. We were friends and singers in a women's trio, roommates after college, and we have kept our friendship alive and interesting in various ways during the decades since then.
I asked her to reciprocate in the cleaning last week, so she came over and we scrubbed, vacuumed and swept for awhile.
Then we had tea. I grabbed my camera and took a quick photo before the muffins and scones disappeared.

Blueberry Lady and I are charter members of an exclusive club, CA or Cleaners Anonymous. It's true, we like to clean. We realize that this may be an illness, a chronic sort of disability. When we meet for tea (and cleaning) we start our meetings like this: "I'm Willow and I like to clean."
This afternoon, Blueberry Lady and I took a little walk on the ranch with her sister who is visiting. (We promised we wouldn't clean anything or even talk about cleaning.) The lemon trees are truly gone now, pulled out and chipped up. We did not expect to find any ripe blueberries along the rows and rows of plants, but there were a few, just enough to pick and pop in our mouths as we completed our tour of the fields.
We were fortunate to have time for a circuit of the property during a dry spell. Yes, it's true. It is raining! We are so happy to have some precipitation! It will help so much to control the forest fires.
As I drove home, I thought I had been transported to the Pacific Northwest. It wasn't just the rain, the wet roads, the swish-swish of the windshield wipers, it was also the dry, brown leaves on the ground, filling the gutters, covering the sidewalks. The Santa Ana winds of last week had whipped the trees of their leaves and it looked just like Oregon in October.
By the time I got home, it was too dark to photograph the aran sweater. Photo shoot tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

Years and years ago, just last Saturday, before the inferno blew into Southern California, The Professor and I took a short hike into the Santa Monica Mountains to check out the Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center.
According to the brochure we picked up, "For many years, the Santa Monica Mountains sustained the Chumash and Tongva/Gabrielino cultures. Sycamore Canyon, which cuts through Ranco Sierra Vista/Satwiwa and Point Mugu State Park, was part of a Chumash trade route. Satwiwa, which means 'the bluffs,' was the name of a nearby Chumash village."

The entrance in the Santa Monica Mountains, is just a few miles northeast of Malibu. Rancho Sierra Vista, originally the Rancho El Conejo granted to Jose Polanco and Ignacio Rodriquez by the King of Spain in 1803, is also part of the National Park. This old barn, probably part of the modern ranching operation that used to own the rancho, was just too photogenic to pass up. Notice the dry brush in the background; it makes wonderful tinder.

We walked up the Big Sycamore Canyon Trail that paralleled a dry creek bed.

The visitors center features a Chumash demonstration village. I did not take any photos of it out of respect for the people who were attending a memorial service there.

The culture center features a garden of plants commonly used by Native American Indians.

Skunkbrush looks quite a bit like poison oak.

We returned to our car along the same part of the trail and promised ourselves that we would come back and hike a longer section, even all the way out to the beach at Point Mugu State Park.

It won't be any time soon--the brochure warns us, "Trail closures will be in effect duringand following extreme weather or hazardous conditions, " and "Fire is a constant danger. Open fires are prohibited."

San Diego Fires

This morning it looks like our MamaMia will not have to evacuate. We have not heard yet about their church or their pastor's home. So many other people are displaced. I am so sad for them. San Diego State Univ. is still closed to avoid congesstion at QualCom stadium.

My morning sky is tinged with pink and yellow. There is still smoke in the air and the wind is still blowing. It's probably another rain/smoke/wind stay inside day in kindergarten. Sigh.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Being Prepared

Thank you so much, my dear blog friends, for your prayers and concerns for us and all the people of Southern California. MamaMia and her hubby are packed ready to leave if they get the evacuation order as the voluntary evac line is just a few blocks from their place now. Their best friends and their pastor's family evacuated from Chula Vista last night.

Update at 6:45pm: The evacuation line seems to have moved closer to MamaMia. We are monitoring it online.

Do you have your evacuation plan in place? FlyLady from http://www.flylady.net/ has a good list to plan for an emergency.

1. PEOPLE- food, water and snacks.

2. PETS- carriers, leashes, food.

3. PICTURES- negatives, cds, albums.

4. PAPERS-keep them all in one place. Thanks for the reminder, ArtGirlATL, to get my tax returns into the grey metal box.


6. PURSES- I included location of keys and wallets as well as purses.

7. PROPER CLOTHES AND COMFORT ITEMS- this is where my knitting bag is listed!

8. PLANNER/CALENDER/CONTROL JOURNAL- I have our emergency contacts listed there. I taped Dr, Dentist, Attorney, Insurance cards on a sheet of paper.

9. PERSONAL ITEMS- toothbrush, etc.

10. PHONES AND RADIOS- Last year, The Professor and I invested in a cell phone charger that plugs in to the car's cigarette lighter. Our home owners association published a booklet with the frequencies for area radio stations.

11. PATIENCE- Stay calm!

The wind is blowing HARD and it's HOT, HOT, HOT. We are seeing some blue sky, which means the smoke is moving away from us.
The Professor heard this evening that the neighborhood his family lived in for 3 years in the 1960s burned in the Santa Clarita fire.
At 6:15pm the temperature in our carport was 87 degrees.

Would you like to see some pictures of an archeological dig?

We were invited to accompany Mike on an archeological survey dig. The purpose of the dig was to determine if the new owner of this land on the famous Mulholland Highwy that runs between San Fernando Valley and the Pacific Ocean (yes, the road ends at Pacific Coast Highway just north of Malibu) was ever a major encampment area for the Chumash Indians. The results of the survey determine if the owner may build a home there or not.

Level 1- looking on the surface for artifacts such as arrowheads, spear heads or beads, that would indicate the presence of native peoples on the land. The group found a few items. We did not arrive in time to do Level 1 searching.

Levels 2 and 3- holes are dug and the dirt is examined to see how many years the Chumash Indians had occupied the area.

The dirt is screened and interesting bits of rock, glass, bone, whatever, are collected for review by the leading archeologist.

Nothing of interest was found by our group so we dug in two other areas, one down by the creek. We slid down the bank, under the California Live Oak trees, through the poison oak and brush, to the creek bed.

We dug our hole, screened some very hard dirt and clay and found nothing of archeological interest.

The archeologist must determine if the site needs a more extensive search for artifacts. Fortunately for this owner, the decision was that while this area may have seen habitation by the Chumash it wasn'thabited by very many people or for long periods of time. He can now move forward to build his dream home.

We did discover some interesting non-archeological items.
A very large nest in the upper branches of the oak tree.

A large (3 inches long!) potato bug. He didn't much want to be discovered and headed for the dirt as fast as he could.

Many, many yellow acorns and dried leaves.

There were euchalyptus trees along the creek bed, too. The Professor calls them wild fire torches because in dry weather the bark and branches get so dry and all that wonderful oil is just waiting to burn.

Maybe the Chumash Indians didn't stay around the wild fire areas a long time. They, like us, loved the Southern California coastal mountains and beaches, but they periodically got burned out, too.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Wild Fire and Santa Ana Wind Season

Thank you all for your kind words and thoughts for us here in "Paradise". Now you know what happens when you have sunshine all the time: dry, dry terrain makes fires go wild.

MamaMia called from San Diego to say that they are packing, "just in case". Their best friends have evacuated from their brand new home.

It is a little difficult to settle down to any one activity. As you can imagine, my attention is divided: the sky, the wind, the smoke, the TV news, the activities I should be doing right now.

At this point, Willow's Cottage is not in any fire danger. We are getting lots of wind, smoke and ash. My Bible study class was cancelled for this evening so I am taking some extra time to organize my evacuation/emergency file. I had not updated it since we moved in the summer. I asked The Professor what items I should grab for him if I were home alone and had to evacuate. He replied, "My guitar." OK, check. Got it on the list. What's on my list? The Knitting Guild Association master handknitting Level Three projects, my spinning wheel, my mother's ring.

What would you grab on the way out the door?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Santa Ana Winds

Normally our skies are blue, but today smoke from wild fires fueled by Santa Ana winds (some gusting up to 100 miles per hour) have turned our skies grey and yellow.

We were on our way home along the 101 Freeway after having spent some time with Mike at an archeological dig on Mulholland Hwy (photos of that another day). We noticed smoke to the north and soon we found ourselves in the middle of the smoke cloud being blown along by the winds in front of a wild fire, not the Malibu fire but one closer to home, the Moorpark fire.

If you have looked at any TV news station today, you will have heard about the Malibu fire. A lovely church, Malibu Presbyterian Church, burned to the ground, and several homes are gone as well. "Homes", in Malibu, means multimillion dollar structures.
Willow's Cottage is 30 miles and $30million away from Malibu, but we are experiencing the smoke filled air, the ashes, the grey sky. Most of our smoke is coming from ten miles north of us, in Moorpark .

We are not in any danger from the fires at this point. Winds, embers, downed power lines, and blown over trees are unpredictable, so we will continue to check the news. Fires will happen during this very dry season, so we are prepared. I went outside to water my plants and came back inside smelling like a bonfire. There is ash falling from the sky, leaving a blanket of white on our car and on the leaves of the camellia bushes.
Seedlady, The Professor's sister, lives near us and called to tell us that a large tree in her back garden blew over. It blew AWAY from the house and landed in the middle of the back, evidently taking its roots with it as there is a large hole in the ground now. We and she are certainly thankful that the tree did not fall on her house.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Channel Islands National Park

The Channel Islands National Park in Ventura is less than twenty miles from Willow's Cottage. The Professor and I went to the visitors center to document the distance and to investigate what is there.

We found an islands native plant display just outside the entrance

and an interactive tide pool inside.

We walked across the street to view the entrance to Ventura Harbour.

Since it was late afternoon, the shore birds were gathering to watch the sunset

and grab a quick snack in the sand.

We crossed the street again and strolled along the harbour walkway so we could gawk at the boats, read the names, choose which one we would buy, if we ever bought a boat.

The afternoon sun was still warm, and we enjoyed a gourmet cup of coffee.

It was another perfect day in paradise.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Autumn Pink?

Two years ago I was gifted a bundle of pink mohair yarn. I knitted up a hoodie with a front pocket using the mohair. I like the pattern which is one I copied from an old hoodie MamaMia gave me when she got tired of it. I don't like the mohair so much because it sheds more than a long haired cat. However, I do like the color. I'm definitely a pink girl.

I wore the hoodie to my knitting group this week because even here in Southern California the nights are cool during autumn. But I wondered about wearing a spring/summer color like pink.

All the decorations in the stores, online, at school, in the natural world around me, are showing the warm fall colors, shades of orange, brown, tan, yellow. Is there a place for pink in the autumn palette?

I have discovered PINK on my daily walks!

Pepper Tree Seeds

Leaves in shades of pink--sweet gum and euchalyptus

Pink can be a fall color, too! I will wear my pink sweater, knowing there is a place for pink flowers and leaves among the pumpkins of the seasons.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I baked two pies last Friday. One apple, one peach. We ate and ate pie and ice cream all weekend, but we couldn't eat it all. I shared with my neighbors and the teacher I work with, and finally there was only one piece left.
I let The Professor have it.

Tuesday nights I usually go to the local coffee shop Palmero for a knitting group. We enjoy looking at each other's projects and noting the progress from week to week.
I spent my evening counting stitches so I could increase correctly for cables on the back of the aran sweater.

A very cool and complicated cast on.

An almost finished shawl, warm and cozy.

And here it is: the finished front of the aran sweater!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Today's sky was back looking like this

after yesterday's looked like this.

I found a new detour to my (almost) daily walk. It adds another half mile or more. I followed a sign that said Vista Point Trail and walked to the top of the hill at the far edge of our neighborhood. My house is off in the distance on the far left side of the photo. In fact, I'm not sure my place is actually in the picture.

As I was trekking up the side of the hill, I wondered if this trail is anything like the uphill walk my friend describes taking every summer day in Oxford--to the top of Shotover Hill. I walked several switch-backs until I came out on the top of the hill and I could look all over the valley.

Usually our weather, even in the fall and winter, is sunny, like it was on Saturday when we took Kiti and Mike over to Cal State University, Channel Islands to show them where The Professor is teaching. Ojai Hall is the building his classroom is in.

I went clothes shopping this afternoon. As you know, if you read my post about eight true things about me, I hate shopping, but I really need to add a few school outfits to my wardrobe that are washable and will stand up to glue, paste, and fingerpaint and still look somewhat professional. So, after such a day, I am going to knitting group.

Tomorrow--knitting pictures!