Sunday, March 31, 2013

Two new trees, too new trees

Promising to be very careful (because bad things happen to him on holidays) Ernst got the front trees planted today. Planting a tree is not the production it used to be. In the old days (all of five years ago) putting a tree in the ground involved digging a huge hole with a special trench around the bottom. Now the thinking is just plant the little guys in a simple hole - don't give them any special treatment, no amended soil, no trench, and they will fight their roots through and get themselves established.

With the trident maples in, our Kill the Lawn project is creeping along. We have 3 trees and 3 bushes. Unfortunately 3 trees and 3 bushes do not a garden plan make, but it's a start and now there's the promise of future shade. That is assuming this new tough love planting technique works out. It's grow or die - hopefully the former rather than the latter.

Ernst decided to jump in the pool after we got the trees in. With his history of holidays and ER visits, that was not a good idea. The dog jumped in after him and whacked him in the face with her paw and claw. There was blood and a scratch from forehead to lip, but thankfully no trip to the emergency room. Our friends say he shouldn't get out of bed on national holidays. That's no fun, but maybe a holiday helmet would be wise?

One tree down, two to go.

All this for two dinky trees?

No injuries, but the day was young.

Nowhere to go but up.

Do they make Beware of Dog in Pool signs?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Quack quack, the ducks are back

We thought the coming of the ducks was due to the storm last week. But in talking to our neighbor and the friends who were in the house before, the pair is here to...ahem...make baby ducks. Glad to know our pool is considered a place for hot dates in the world of waterfowl, but duck poop in the pool for how long? Apparently they do the actual duckling hatching somewhere else, so all we get is the...ahem...initial making of the baby ducks. Should we close the blinds?

"Ahem, some privacy please?"

Molly watching the ducks while chewing on her goose toy.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Our personal dog park

It is not a park and there are no other dogs, but that's what makes it the perfect dog park for us. It's a big swath of land that was slated for a townhouse development. The sidewalks and streets were installed, some landscaping planted and a big fence was built around the whole place. Then the economy tanked and it has sat empty ever since. So much promise for owners of a dog with energy to burn but with serious anger issues towards all living beings except humans. There was just a slight problem - no way to get in.

That was until someone crashed their car into the fence and opened up a nice gap for sneaking walking in. It wasn't us, I promise.

Wag more, Bark more
Back in the old days, a walk with the family dogs Ralph and Holly involved this: walk out the front door with the dogs. No leashes, no worries, just a stroll around the block as the dogs ran around having a blast. Our cat Brooklyn would actually come along and prance around the block too. A trip to the American River Parkway was the same, just without the cat. We had to round up the dog leashes only when we took them to the vet.

Our arsenal of dog paraphernalia for Molly continues to grow. We have several leashes and two harnesses. We tried a prong collar. We tried a combo choke collar. The Gentle Leader is the only thing that works, but getting her into requires walking her around like a Thoroughbred and then whisking it on while she blinks. It is like a miracle, but she still can be a little stinker on a walk.

It's ours, all ours!
Seeing her run like a real dog in this wide open space is a joy. With nothing to cramp her style, she is in pure half-shepherd heaven. If we could rent a few sheep with bite-proof vests on them, it just might click in her head what she was bred to do. But sheep or no sheep, we have found the Molls her romping fields. We're so happy someone put that little hole in the fence, but seriously, it wasn't us.

Freedom feels so good!

They should hide their car keys better.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Any port in a storm

It rained cats and dogs last night. And ducks!

After listening to the pounding rain all night, the morning seemed a bit quieter. Until Ernst said, "Hey, come look at what's in the pool!" Some ducks must have decided in the dark that the thing resembling a pond would be a good place to ride out the storm. They only hung around for a while and were gone before the coffee brewed.

Like ducks to water
The white one is the chlorine dispenser. Fooled by a decoy!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Can't see the forest or the trees

What do these cities have in common?

They are considered the top ten cities in the US for urban forests. That is urban, as in Downtown, not suburban. Out here in the 'burbs, you'd better bring your sun hat. 

Of course we have the shady neighborhoods here and there - those that when entering in summer, even with the AC cranked on high, bring on an Ahhhhh moment. Arden Park, where my parents bought their first home, is making quite the comeback after years of tree neglect. Many of the mistletoe choked Modesto Ash trees have been replaced with healthier, more colorful varieties. Don't know if it'll ever be a place where the trees meet over the street to tickle each other, but it's a vast improvement.

We don't live in Arden Park, where there are crews that will actually come and dig your tree holes for you. Nope, we are on our own here in the Land of Squinting and Sweating. So it was with great anticipation that we awaited our three trees from the Sacramento Tree Foundation. After driving through Arden Park last fall, we had decided on two Trident Maples and one Crape Myrtle. Our urban forester Pamela came and spray painted the spots where they will go. And then we waited.

On our driveway last week were the trees, otherwise known as the Little Saplings. I tried not to laugh because it's not polite to look a gift tree in the trunk. It's hard imagining these tiny things ever shading more than a svelte earthworm. But we will plant them, water them, talk to them - whatever it takes to get some shade and personality in the front yard. Suburban forest, here we come.

We are trees, we really are.
My tail is taller than these things.

Let's hope for that fast growth.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


Could this be the reason our pool keeps losing water?
The first few swims of the year bring out the skunk smells, but that has all faded now. Molly has finally figured out where the steps are, and that swimming doesn't mean a frantic thrashing of the paws. The Golden Retriever is coming through more than the Australian Shepherd, at least in the water.

(This was not a silent movie when I uploaded it. Hum some beach tunes, please.)

Why the pool is losing water from Jessica Schneidereit on Vimeo.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Bermuda Triangle of plant death

When I was a child pretending to help my Dad dig a hole in the yard, he would always say if we dug down deep enough we would reach China. I knew the earth was really big and round. Rather than know he was joking, I came to the conclusion that China was inside the earth. I thought if you dug down deep enough, you would reach a big hollow part of the earth, and that is where all the Chinese people lived. I felt sorry that they had to live in the dark. Having a very active imagination and assuming I knew everything, I also believed that getting sued meant being killed by a jack-hammer and that hell was under the Watt Avenue bridge. Yes, hell fire and damnation right there in the old hop fields.

What really happens if you dig down deep enough in the yard? I now know that there is a giant ball of Bermuda grass inside the earth and all gardeners are tugging at it at once, including Chinese people. And what doesn't kill Bermuda grass only makes it stronger. I have come to detest the stuff. It gives me headaches, blisters and an aching back. And it just keeps getting stronger.

Maybe instead of fighting Bermuda grass, we should celebrate it. There could be clubs, such as the Bermuda Grass Society of Northern California.  "My, what long strands yours have, what are you feeding it? Nothing at all? This happens with no help from you whatsoever? What an amazing brown thumb you must have."

If the Bermuda Grass Society of Northern California needs a photo for their website, the area off our back steps is no longer an option. We put down cardboard and smothered this section of our yard in about 6 inches of shredded bark. Whether it works or not remains to be seen - it certainly makes the dying camellia bush look snazzier. The Bird of Paradise is asking for a Hawaiian vacation, but for now it will be staying put. If the weeds dare to come back we have a special place for them under the Watt Avenue bridge.

Bark on the right, Bermuda on the left
Bird of Paradise? Poor bird.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Ch-ch-ch-chia Pu-pu-pu-pudding!

This easy pudding recipe will make you sing. Not because it is drool-worthy delicious, but because that stupid Chia Pet song will get in your head for days. The Big E is a real pudding guy - he loves the stuff. But the fact that pudding is made from eggs and milk makes it a little tough to veganize. There are some great tofu recipes that make more of a mousse-like dessert, but true vegan puddings are more elusive.

Now good ol' Trader Joe's sells Chia Seeds. They are so good sprinkled on oatmeal. The flavor is mild and nutty. Right on the back of the bag is this recipe for Chia Pudding:

1/4 cup chia seeds
1 cup coconut milk (or Rice Dream or Almond Breeze, or I guess you could even use mi-mi-milk)
1/4 cup (or less) honey or agave syrup (I used maple syrup)
flavor with vanilla or almond extract or even chocolate syrup

Mix together and stir every few minutes to keep the seeds from clu-clu-clu-clumping. Refrigerate for several hours. There you have it - a slightly weird colored yet nutty tasting no-cook pudding with fiber, protein and Omega-3s. Just don't add lime juice, because your pu-pu-pu-pudding won't ge-ge-ge-gel and you'll end up with a sm-sm-sm-smoothie.