A Worrier Justified

Bidwell Mansion, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

 M. and I had a fantastic time away while our children learned the value of having an unpaid slave about the house who does 90% of the house work without being asked… yeah it feels great to have your 16 year old admit she is so glad your back because being Mom is not as easy as it looks!

I would like to say that my worrying was totally justified!  I am not kidding that I got 2 out of 5… almost:  First of all a man DID break down and knock at our door while we were away… fortunately he wasn’t a psychopath… he just wanted to call AAA… unfortunately K. E. and J. didn’t do the things we had prearranged in case a random stranger showed up at the door.  SIGH.

And second: one of our chickens was taken.  We don’t know when but we suspect it was at night as one of the Delaware hens was particularly stupid (for a chicken): she would sit on the roosting bar all day and then get stuck outside the hutch when the automatic door closed at night.  The girls forgot to check and didn’t do a count in the evening… anyhow we found a mess of feather’s outside the hutch door and a path to where the varmint dug under the enclosure leaving some of it’s fur behind on the barbed wire.  So one stupid hen down and one coyote/fox/raccoon/bobcat well fed.

On the bright side we came home to find the baby rabbits had opened their eyes  and are so adorable!

New Zealand Rabbit kit, 14 days old @ Sweet Little Wood

They are starting to get out of their nest which makes Champagne a very grumpy Mamma Rabbit!

New Zealand Rabbit kits, 14 days old @ Sweet Little Wood

Sleepy Bunnies. So sweet!

M. and I went to Chico.  Its a beautiful town (in the middle) and a bog standard San Joaquin town on the outskirts.  M. and I were pretty happy to enjoy the time we had and explore some of the green (and sometimes not green) spaces.

Bidwell Park, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

Lower Bidwell Park. Bidwell is the largest municipal park in CA.

Bidwell Park, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

The only proof I have that I was even there!

 

Bidwell Park, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

A potentially grungy Highway 99 underpass painted to look like a forest was unexpectedly charming.

Bidwell Park, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

Little Owl. x

Sadly Bidwell Mansion was not open when I was there but I enjoyed looking around the grounds none the less.

Bidwell Mansion, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

Bidwell Mansion, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

Bidwell Mansion, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

Afterwards we drove out to Oroville and visited the lake and dam.  The situation in Lake Oroville is pretty horrifying: so little water! So take note LA county… your water supply is low… stop watering those darn lawns!

Lake Oroville, California

Look at the huge swathe of dry bank… at the end of winter with a 6% snow pack in the Sierras!!

IMG_6108

En-route home we stopped of at an awesome little flea-market where I picked up a collection of  Spode Fairy Dell china:  $20.  I am so thrilled!

Spode, Copeland, Fairy Dell chin

Spode, Copeland, Fairy Dell chin

I was happy to be home and in my own bed but I do miss being away  just a little:  the hotel room had the most enormous bath in the main bedroom suite without any children knocking to use the restroom, and I didn’t have to think about feeding anyone for awhile.  Oh well, back to being the unpaid house slave.

xx Joanna

Wild Mushroom Hunting at Emerald Earth

Most of these photos are not of edible mushrooms- my hands were too full of mushrooms when we were picking the edible kinds to be bothered with my camera-  and PLEASE do not rely on my photos for identification of mushrooms in the field.   There are a few edible ones in here: like the Black Chanterelles  and the one that looks like a white beard.  We collected another five edibles that I didn’t get distinctive enough photos of because we were hiking on the north facing side of a mountain in dying winter light.  Quite a few of those I did photograph are very inedible.

Mushroom hunting at Emerald Earth @ Sweet Little Wood

Mushroom hunting at Emerald Earth @ Sweet Little Wood

Fly Agaric (or Amanita Moscaria): Not edible!

As a family we have always loved finding wild food.  K. was 8 when she became obsessed with a book by Ray Mears which had a large section on finding wild edibles.  She started by making refreshing spearmint pine-needle tea, progressed to battered dandelion greens and eventually lead to snacking on bulrush roots.

Mushroom hunting at Emerald Earth @ Sweet Little Wood

Setting out at Emerald Earth for a mushroom hike.

Mushroom hunting at Emerald Earth @ Sweet Little Wood

Coral Mushrooms- but not the edible kind.

Meanwhile M. and I began to become familiar with the mushrooms found around where we lived in England.  Our first wild mushroom was a Giant Puff Ball the size of M.’s head.  We were camping in a Featherdown Farm Tent at the time so the mushroom was cooked over a fire in copious amounts of oil with onions and organic free range eggs picked three minutes earlier from under the farmer’s hens.  It took us three days to finish that whole mushroom! We graduated onto other mushrooms but our crowning success was an untapped field of Parasol Mushrooms which provided us with several years of free delicious food before we moved to California.

Mushroom hunting at Emerald Earth @ Sweet Little Wood

Edible: Black Chanterelles. Little black trumpets near invisible against the terrain.

Mushroom hunting at Emerald Earth @ Sweet Little Wood

Some lessons in identifying features.

Since we landed here we have looked for mushrooms but seen nothing. Or at least nothing that we could definitively recognize as edible (besides one lonely bunch of Chicken of the Woods).  So months before M.’s birthday I started thinking about possibly going on a guided workshop for his gift to find out about California’s edible mushrooms and last July at the annual Boonville 4th of July Festival I met Tom Shaver.  Tom lives and works on a local sanctuary called Emerald Earth.  Its a lovely communal style place where the residents are the owners/managers and a regular source of information for the whole community about sustainable living.

Mushroom hunting at Emerald Earth @ Sweet Little Wood

Tom showing us common features of poisonous mushrooms.

Mushroom hunting at Emerald Earth @ Sweet Little Wood

Polypores Polypores everywhere but not a fungi to eat.

 Tom runs a mushroom foraging course every December.  This year it conveniently landed the day after M.’s birthday but was not possible because M’s parents were over for the week: they are very fit for their age but the landscape (steep muddy hillside) and nature of the hiking (several hours on steep muddy hillsides) would have been totally unsuitable.  Tom was so gracious he asked if we could fit in at the last minute some time when the weather, mushrooms and his schedule would allow it.  We were able to go as a family and slip and stumble our way around the hills behind the totally unruffled Tom and glean an amazing number of mushrooms.  So many mushrooms that we have only just (two weeks later) finished off the last of them.  Best gift ever and a really amazing thing to get to do as a family!

Mushroom hunting at Emerald Earth @ Sweet Little Wood

The Comb Tooth (Hericium Coralloides) which looks weird but was absolutely delicious!

Mushroom hunting at Emerald Earth @ Sweet Little Wood

This is an awful photo but it gives you an idea of the size of the thing!

Genuinely: if you are ever up for a great day and some amazing food find a local guided mushrooming tour and learn something new!  Our girls who are pretty much “I will eat it if I don’t see it” mushroom haters were happily tasting (and helping to prepare) strangely beardy looking mushrooms fried in garlic batter (taste and texture of chicken nuggets), and an amazing seafood smelling  fungus that when sliced into wedges and battered could easily have passed for fried prawns!  We have eaten eggs and mountains of Black Chantrells which were M’s personal favorite as well as an delicious Oyster mushroom omelette.  Not to mention almost two entire meals prepared from the highly prized and delicately aromatic (supposedly aphrodisiac) Matsutake!

Mushroom hunting at Emerald Earth @ Sweet Little Wood

One of our baskets of gleanings and a little sneak preview at one of my knitted WIP…

Mushroom hunting at Emerald Earth @ Sweet Little Wood

Later when we were experimenting with our gleanings.

 Tom at Emerald Earth usually runs one session a year in December and spaces are always filled and no I haven’t been paid or remunerated for this post in any way shape or form… but if a few mushrooms showed up on my door step at some point… well… lets just say they wouldn’t go to waste!

xx Joanna

Like Magic

Rain on Vineyard Leaves 1 @ Sweet Little Wood

 

Rain clouds like roving 1 @ Sweet Little Wood

Rain soaked sunshine @ Sweet Little Wood

Rain on autumn leaves @ Sweet Little Wood

Rain clouds at Sunset @ Sweet Little Wood

Rain clouds like roving 5 @ Sweet Little Wood

Rain on moss @ Sweet Little Wood

All this week we have had copious amounts of rain (for California).  Sadly it doesn’t come anywhere near ending our drought but it has been so wonderful all the same.  Today was dryer but I finally got the chance to go through the photos I’ve been taking, edit out all the blurred and boring ones (!!! so many!!!) and pick out my favorites.

Something happens in the Pacific Northwest when it rains that rarely (or never) happens where I grew up in the mountains or in England.  The low clouds settle into valleys and gorges creating layers of mountains and cotton-candy in the shifting light;  and then among the tops of the pines you see rising tufts of cloud clinging to the tree tops like roving on a carding brush. At first I thought it was a fantastical and rare moment I was seeing but literally every time it rains the countryside is magically transformed by mists and  light!

Joanna

xx

 

A Day at The Sea

I spent 15  years in the UK  trying and failing to make people understand how diverse California is.  Northern California- and especially in the mountains- is a totally different sort of climate to Southern CA which most non natives associate with all of CA.  M.’s brother lives in Southern CA and they have had some “cold” weather into the 65 F range which made M. and I laugh as we built a fire this morning and scraped thick ice off our cars!  No kidding…  we could see our breath in the bathroom this morning.

A Day at Small Creek, Northern California @ Sweet Little WoodThe beaches in So Cal and Nor Cal couldn’t be more different from each-other.  For the most part our Northern California beaches aren’t that swim-able as we have some seriously deadly rip tides and rogue waves regularly take folks. More often than not its very misty on the coast.  But all the locals know that in spring and fall the mists lift and the Mendocino coast becomes a wonderful place of light, sun, sand and blue seas.  So sometimes we like to get sand in our shoes and enjoy the smell of salt air.  It makes M. a little homesick as swimming at the beach whenever possible is probably his family’s only real tradition.

Seaweed & A Day at Small Creek, Northern California @ Sweet Little Wood

seaweed & stones

A Day at Small Creek, Northern California @ Sweet Little Wood

Do you see the heart in the cliff face between K. and E.?

Driftwood. A Day at Small Creek, Northern California @ Sweet Little Wood

Driftwood log that is a remarkably good bench.

A Day at Small Creek, Northern California @ Sweet Little Wood

Such a typical picture. M. and J. heads together playing some game with E. in her own world but nearby.

A Day at Small Creek, Northern California @ Sweet Little Wood

M.’s stone named Mr. Bob. See… he has a little smile! Mr Bob won the “sea trials” where sadly Pink Punk and New Pink Punk were lost to the waves…

Sand in Toes. A Day at Small Creek, Northern California @ Sweet Little Wood

Black sandy toes.

Knitting & A Day at Small Creek, Northern California @ Sweet Little Wood

My day at the beach…

A Day at Small Creek, Northern California @ Sweet Little Wood

Sausages cooked on our old secondhand camp cooker.

A Day at Small Creek, Northern California @ Sweet Little Wood

A misty but bright day

Seaweed & A Day at Small Creek, Northern California @ Sweet Little Wood

more seaweed & stones

May your mists burn away and leave all your day with light and sun!

xx Jo

Giants in Autumn

Hibernation started early in the Sweet Little Wood!  We saw our chance for a long weekend and grasped it with two hands.  It was so glorious we are still floating in the bliss of a relaxing family and fun filled time.

We got out into nature which is pretty spectacular this time of year, so because not a scrap of crafting was done I will leave you with this view of our adventures: Hendy Woods in autumn: our local redwood grove.

Hendy Woods in Autumn

The Redwoods in Autumn are just coming to life.

Hendy Woods in Autumn

And evidence of summer’s abundance remains

Hendy Woods in Autumn

The heat of summer has gone and moist cool air encourages the little green flourishes to arise.

Hendy Woods in Autumn

But the evidence of past lives remain.

Hendy Woods in Autumn

And the wood cycle flourishes

Hendy Woods in Autumn

There are bridges to magical kingdoms.

Hendy Woods in Autumn

And places where the fey stalk the living.

Hendy Woods in Autumn

But take care when crossing bridges

Hendy Woods in Autumn

for the trolls are looking for lunch.

Hendy Woods in Autumn

Wonder at how the tiniest cones produce the biggest trees.

Hendy Woods in Autumn

And imagine the baby bird that found its way out of an egg the size of a small acorn.

Hendy Woods in Autumn

Its a place to sit and wonder,

Hendy Woods in Autumn

at the magnificence of creation.

Hendy Woods in Autumn

Where trees can look like lions…

Hendy Woods in Autumn

… ahem… and other things.

Hendy Woods in Autumn

Its worth remembering that bees live in old tree stumps…  for when you put your foot in a bee’s nest.

Hendy Woods in Autumn

Savor it all and enjoy the ride.

xx Jo

All-Hallows-Eve in a Ghost Town

Photos of Ghostly Town Remenants @ Sweet Little Wood

It is probably the most baffling thing to my high school best friend  that we don’t celebrate Halloween.  It is absolutely his favorite holiday.  And he has been happily peppering Facebook with freaky clown pictures for the last couple of weeks.

Photos of Ghostly Town Remenants @ Sweet Little Wood

We don’t have very strong religious feelings about it other than knowing that it is an incorporated pagan festival but we decided that  we were celebrating it and not to God.  So along with the other pagan festivals that Christianity adopted (Christmas, Easter, Valentines Day etc) we got rid of it.  We don’t really miss it.  We don’t really avoid it. We just don’t do it.

Photos of Ghostly Town Remenants @ Sweet Little Wood

That is not to say that we don’t enjoy a good scare (Six Flags has a really fun Fright Fest this time of year) we just don’t celebrate Halloween with it’s costumes and pumpkins and tricks or treats.  So it is a good thing we are going away this weekend to visit my niece because we live in a genuine ghost town:  on All-Hallows-Eve there will be no door bell ringers, no tricks or treats here… just the empty shells and ghostly remnants of lives past.  Besides our house the town is long gone and only the memory of where it was among a few tumbling remnants exists.

A huge rock that used to sit next to the Post Office:

Photos of Ghostly Town Remenants @ Sweet Little Wood

  The old school house which some history buff has been trying to keep standing is rotting in its corrugated skin :

Photos of Ghostly Town Remenants @ Sweet Little Wood

Driving further up the valley toward the salt and sea, leaving our ghost town behind,  you wonder how many more  towns have died on this twisting stretch of highway.   The fallen barns and ramshackle remains  appear tucked back into the folds of the hills partially obscured by trees.

 The tumbled remains of a home:

Photos of Ghostly Town Remenants @ Sweet Little Wood

Lives passed and forgotten:

Photos of Ghostly Town Remenants @ Sweet Little Wood

Photos of Ghostly Town Remenants @ Sweet Little Wood

 xx Joanna