Saturday, August 31, 2013

Making Space

While Brett has been busy with all his barn and property projects, I've been busy unpacking the boxes piled in every room and outside on the porch.  Being an obsessively organized control freak, living a midst piles of boxes is not a comfortable thing for me.  I have slowly, but surely, been carving out box free, "finished" rooms.  The guest bathroom was first followed by the computer/TV room.  We've started calling it Brett's Room because if he is in the house, he is in his recliner in "his" room watching golf or football.  He's even spending quite a bit of time on the computer and negotiating Windows 8 quite well.

The downstairs half bathroom was finished last weekend and we eliminated all the boxes from our bedroom, closets and bathroom as well.  We hung pictures which made the rooms feel finished and complete -- even if they aren't.  I unpacked most of the kitchen boxes and fit as much as I could into the cupboards.  The rest went onto the counters and dining room table.  We are planning to have the cupboards re-done so I didn't want to unpack more than the bare essentials but of course there was no box marked "bare essentials."  Everything was jumbled up together: pots, pans, and crystal.

Yesterday, I repacked the non-essential kitchen items.  Some will be stored in the dining room and some were taken by Brett out to the barn store room.  I have been cooking in a very small space, about the size of a notebook, on the counter next to the sink.  Not a happy thing.  I finally have a work space cleared on the counter between the kitchen and the great room.  I have informed Brett that he cannot put mail or paint brushes or screwdrivers in that space.

It's sacred cooking space.  I tried it out last night; salad with cherry tomatoes, ground cherries (they look like tiny tomatillos with a papery skin that reveals small yellow berries, sweet - almost a guava flavor), red onion, cucumber and blue cheese.  (of course, Brett did not have any onion or cucumber on his salad, but he did eat his tomatoes).

Brett grilled rib eye steaks.

I boiled some small potatoes and gave them a thorough bath in butter, salt and pepper.

We feasted.

Friday, August 30, 2013


It's going to take me a week of posts to get you all caught up on all the projects and progress around here.  Brett does not know how to rest, or pace himself, or do a reasonable amount of work.  Last night I was pretty angry with him.  Every night this week I've come home to a husband who, yes, has accomplished a lot.  But also a husband who is in agony -- carpal tunnel flare ups, aching legs, elbows, you name it.  Today, he promised to be a good boy and rest.  Hahahahaha.  I left work early to start the holiday weekend and caught him carrying boxes of books down the stairs.  He looked at me sheepishly when I caught him red handed with the tractor bucket loaded and a stack of book boxes at the base of the stairs.  He was good about taking breaks the rest of the afternoon and is still functional this evening.  Kerri, if you are reading this please call your dad and give him hell.  :)  We want him to last for many more years -- happy, healthy years.

The main project of this week is the front gate.  The existing front gate was a big, wide, heavy thing.  It was hung on the uphill side of the driveway.  To open the gate, you undid the chain and then swung it up and halfway open.  The gate scraped and then stopped halfway open requiring that we lift it up and walk it the rest of the way.  This wasn't too big of a deal in general but definitely a pain in the neck in my corporate work clothes and heels.  Teetering up the driveway, lugging a big awkward gate is not my idea of a fun way to start and end my day.

We found a guy at the farmers market who makes beautiful automatic gates.  He came out, took a look, and offered us a design that we loved.  The first step was to take out the existing main and pedestrian gates.  The pedestrian gate was useless -- it opened onto the edge of the stream and sprinkler valves were smack in front of the opening.  The process of installing the new gate will take almost two weeks and we couldn't have the dogs roaming the neighborhood during that time.  They went back to jail.

Brett took the pedestrian gate and hung it at the entrance to my garden.  There was no existing gate, just a roll of deer fencing that I shoved out of the way to go into the garden.  It was not going to keep two large, motivated dogs inside.  Now, I have a lovely gate; a real garden gate and entrance.  The dogs are not as thrilled. 

Brett even put a brick ribbon into the area cut out of the driveway to put the wire across.  Brett also put sprinkler lines across so he can run them up either side of the driveway.  The existing sprinkler line was hit by the gate guys' jackhammer so he had to cap it off.  No worries.  Brett is the sprinkler king.

I'm not going to describe the new gate to you; I'll show you pictures when its installed.  It's perfect and I think you are going to love it.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Dog Days of August

Did I mention that the dogs are loving life?  I filled a water trough with water and put it by the front lawn so Kersey could have her own pool.  She wasted no time jumping in, diving her head under water, laying down and wiggling and then jumping back out.

And then there is the grass.  Green, heavenly grass.  She loves it.

Sedona thinks this rolling around with abandon behavior is undignified.  Kids these days!

Monday, August 26, 2013


Our home at Aspen Meadows was very large and that was great while the kids were still at home.  But we are empty nesters now and we don't need a humongous house.  The house at Oak Creek Ranch is smaller, cozy, warm and welcoming.  It's also 30 years old so it has issues that our "brand new, built it ourselves" Aspen Meadows did not have.  But I love it.  I love the creaky wood floors, the way the bedrooms upstairs all open onto the landing, and the snug-as-a-bug great room.  The one thing that is difficult is space.  I have a gazillion books; being a literature major and an all around reading fanatic.  Boxes and boxes of books with nowhere to put them.  I'm also a kitchen gadget queen struggling to fit my boxes of spatulas into small shallow drawers.

We've filled quite a few boxes for Goodwill.  And Brett's been working on our store room.

The left hand side of the barn aisle has four stalls with run-outs.  We have four horses.  Perfect.

On the right is a large foaling stall.

We won't ever use it for the horses so Brett had the stall mats hauled out and the floor scrubbed clean.  Today he bought wood and built pallets so our boxes can be stored up off of the ground.  He built all of these pallets...

...and also built these pallets for storing hay.  We've been buying a blend of mostly orchard grass hay with a small percentage of alfalfa.  The horses are loving it.

The goats seem to be enjoying their new digs.  They were hanging out in the corner, chewing their cud, when I went out to top off their water.  They couldn't even be bothered to come over and say hi.  Goat snobs.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Another Day in Paradise

Not too much smoke this morning; cool and breezy with scattered thunder clouds.

We spent the morning unpacking the rest of the boxes for our bedroom, hanging pictures and putting the finishing touches on the half bathroom down stairs.

Brett fed the horses lunch.

I checked on the nectarines in my garden.  Almost there; beautifully red with just the start of give under my thumb.  They crunch a bit still when I take a bite but the flavor is already full of promise.

Brett drove the car down the driveway and out the gate while I kept a hold on the dogs.  Then I walked down, slid through the gate, and climbed in the car.  The dogs stood watching us go from the other side.  Kersey decided to follow us; she laid on her belly and shimmied under the gate.  So, the dogs spent the afternoon in their pen. Back in the car we continued up the road three or four miles to Miraflores winery which was offering a BBQ tri-tip lunch, a car show and (of course) wine tasting.

The setting was gorgeous.

 Brett is partial to classic corvettes.
After lunch on the terrace and some barrel tasting, we drove to Camino where we visited a couple more wineries.  We love living in wine country.  This winery had a beautiful picnic area, decent wine and a great sign:

Back home, we relaxed on the porch before doing chores.  We ended the day sitting under the oak trees watching the evening sunlight reflect off the hills.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Oh, Sedona

There is a huge fire burning in the Yosemite area.  Yesterday, it entered the park.  We have been living under smokey skies for the past few days.  This morning when I woke up, I smelled smoke before I opened my eyes.  We fed in a smoke filled dawn.

Our Saturday morning routine is to feed, have breakfast at the Firehouse Café, and then hit the Farmers Market in Placerville.  Brett fed the horses while I picked manure from the pastures.  At Aspen Meadows, the paddock was dry lot so it was "mucking" -- just swoop and scoop.  I love that our large pastures have grass (even if it is dead), but that means you have to pick the poop up carefully so the tines of the muck rake don't snag and break on the grass.  It's a whole new skill I'm learning. 

When I finished, I called the dogs.  Nothing.  Last I had seen them, they were headed out to the back of the property by the dressage court.  Sedona forgot all about being old and had gone exploring.  Brett and I climbed into the car and went looking up the dirt lane behind our property.  

Brett drove slowly while I scanned the deep grass, the driveways, and under the oak trees.  I spotted them at Marv's house, sniffing around his front yard.  I put their leashes on and walked them home.  On the way, another car came down the lane.  The driver had his elbow hung out the window and a baseball cap over his head.  He sported a ponytail, a workshirt and a friendly smile.  He informed me that the dogs had been on his patio in the middle of the night and had been swimming in his wading pool early this morning.  So, that is why Sedona has been so tired!

While I was worrying about her health, she was spending her nights on the lam.  Brett found the spot where they went under the fence and set up a barrier.  Hopefully, they stay home in the future.

Sure thing, mom.  Sure thing.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Random Thoughts

1. Our computer is dying. For the past year, we've had trouble with it locking up and crashing. Kyle looked at last time he was home and pronounced it old. He's a computer engineering major so if he can't resurrect it, I figure it's not fixable. Unfortunately, the freezing and closing has accelerated. Last time I tried to download pictures from my camera it "corrupted" them. This weekend we will be buying a new computer and learning how to navigate Windows 8. Yipes.

2. The weather is finally cooling off. The cloud cover of the past week, which never did deliver any rain, has moved on and the night time temperatures are back to comfortable. The dogs have been sleeping outside on the green grass where it is cool. I was tempted to sleep on the porch a few nights myself.

3. Sedona is suddenly old. She is eleven and I understand that is old for a large breed dog. But, she has never seemed old before. She isn't unhappy; she just doesn't want to do anything. She sleeps on the porch all day and all night. She doesn't try to get out the front gate; she doesn't join Kersey in chasing deer; and she only eats if I sit next to her and praise her for every bite. Tonight, we ate dinner on the front porch -- once the wasps left. I smeared a piece of bread with soft stinky cheese and gave it to her. She chomped it down and licked the porch clean. Afterwards she sighed, stretched out, and closed her eyes, snoring softly with her lips flapping.

4. Tonight when I pulled up the driveway after work, I noticed Jackson down in the corner with his head over the fence welcoming me home. I closed the gate and walked over to acknowledge the welcome. Winston saw me and made a bee line for Jackson and I. Heaven forbid I give attention to a horse other than Winston.

5. I'm feeling stronger every day since my surgery. Today I made it through a full day of work without wilting. Yesterday, I took a nap in my car at lunch time. Don't tell. I am not allowed to ride for another three weeks. Three weeks!! Every time I look at Winston, I ache to ride him.

6. I love this cozy house. And I love sharing the process of making it our own with you.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I Can't Keep Up

Brett works his tail off while I am sitting in my office in Rancho Cordova.  Every evening I come home to something new, different or improved.  Sometimes all three.  Today, he had Saul (the worker) back with a friend.

Can you see the change in this picture?

Look at the header picture and compare.

I think the oak trees frame the house beautifully -- without that rotton, leaning picket fence in the way.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Hot and Smokey

There is a huge fire burning in the steep terrain of the Sierra Nevada mountains north of us. It isn't close to us (it is closer to Dream Valley Ranch), but it is large and very, very smokey. That, combined with temperatures in the 90s, has kept us inside today. I'm busy unpacking boxes, taking down the mini-blinds hanging half on and half off of the windows, and cleaning. Brett's painting his closet. This morning he hung the guest room curtain rod and then I got to work. The bathtub tile in the bathroom is baby blue and my first reaction was "ghastly." But, I bought a shower curtain that picks up the color and then added towels in deeper blue and sink accessories in yellow. Summery sheer curtains on the window and the guest bathroom is ready. Our first finished room!

The other day I was out by the goats and Winston came over to make sure he wasn't missing out on something interesting.

He hung his head over the fence, disturbing the wire, and wasps buzzed out from under one of the stake covers. Winston jumped backwards and frantically rubbed his head on his front legs.  Next, he took it out on Jackson.

Then he hightailed it over to the water trough and dunked his head. He swished his face around with such force that water was flying everywhere. By the time I got my camera out and down to the trough, he had settled down a bit. Here he is demonstrating the swish.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Barn Project No. 1

A couple of you have been begging for pictures of the barn.  There hasn't been much to show.  Right now, the barn is strictly a storage area for boxes.  The stalls aren't ready for the horses even.  Brett brought the last load of stuff from storage yesterday and crammed it all into the barn with all the other boxes left by the movers.

Outside, between the west side of the barn and the round pen, there were a bunch of pens.  We had no use for so many pens -- seriously, we have enough animals already -- and it looked cluttered.

When Al and Vanessa came to visit the other day, Al gave Brett the name of a guy he uses for general work around his property.  The guy came over this morning to help Brett take out the pens and trim some trees.
It looks so much cleaner.

Do you see the blue door on the west wall of the barn?  It goes directly into the tack room.  Brett is going to install some tie rails and we'll tack up the horses there in the shade of the over-hang.  Brett somehow knew, because I forgot to say anything, to save the butterfly bush that was planted along the fence.  I tried to grow it, without success, at Aspen Meadows so I was pleased to see a happy, healthy specimen here.  It smells divine and it attracts butterflies.

Last week we had mild temperatures, in the mid 80s.  This week has been steadily getting warmer with highs in the 90s.  The dogs love the green grass in front of the house and the shady porch.

The horses were hugging the shade all afternoon.

We've been watering the front grass in the evenings while we sit on the porch with the dogs and a glass of wine.  The sprinklers work like misters, cooling us all down, and the grass is turning nice and green.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Vanessa Pays a Visit

Yesterday, at 5:30 in the evening, our neighbor Al came over to talk to Brett about tree trimming. He brought his daughter, Vanessa, along to see the horses. Vanessa is crazy about dressage and rumor has it that she was very exited to learn that I rode dressage.

Vanessa hopped off the back of the quad where she was perched behind her dad. She stood shyly looking out at the horses in the pasture while Al and Brett talked about trees. I had been napping on the porch (the dr. says it will be a month before my energy returns) and slowly pulled myself out of my chair and walked down to the others.

I asked her name and I thought she said Finessa.

Wow! That's the name of one of our donkeys. Do you want to go meet her?

As we walked over to the donkey pen, she asked me my name. I paused a minute, thinking. I know some eleven year olds are taught to always address adults as Mrs. or Mr. and she is a very polite girl. But, her mom wasn't there to interject and I could also tell she is a kindred spirit so I said, Annette. She smiled at me, a quiet smile that softly lit her eyes.

The donkeys were happy to get attention.

As we walked past the barn to visit the goats she asked me if I knew that there are baby birds born in the barn in the spring. I said that I had seen the nests. She said that this year she rescued two that fell from their nests.

We sat for awhile with the goats. She wanted to know their names, of course. Nobody except me can tell Whiskey and Cowboy apart. Vanessa had it down immediately; I told her once, with no explanation of how I tell them apart, and she never confused the two. Whiskey stood next to her, leaning into the back scratch she was giving him. She marveled at how "social" our animals are; quiet, calm and very friendly. Vanessa fit right in with their energy.


Last, I introduced her to the horses. She wanted to know which was the dressage horse. I pointed to Winston and said He's half Appaloosa; she nodded. I continued, And he's half Hanovarian. The light in her eyes got very bright and she let out a big sigh. Winston walked over to us and she rubbed his face, then ran her hand down his neck, across his side and down his butt. This kid is good around horses.

Flash came over to investigate.
He has TWO blue eyes! 
Yes, I said, its not common to have two or to have them in the bay part of the face. Usually, there is one blue eye and the face is white over the eye. We agreed that blue eyes on a bay background are stunning.

Oh, she said, what happened to his neck? She had noticed the old scar, a dent, on the underside of Flash's neck. We don't know for sure what caused it, but we suspect it came from a rope.

Mufasa was standing between Flash and Winston, watching us. I told her that Mufasa is a bit head shy and we think someone must have hit him. She walked over to him and softly introduced herself. She whispered, He wants me to pet him but he's afraid. I caught my breath. Exactly. That is Mufasa exactly.

I told Vanessa that she can come visit the animals anytime she wants. I hope she does.