Monday, November 30, 2009

A Tour of The Pioneer Yosemite History Center at Wawona Part 1

On Saturday the whole family (all 11 of us) packed up in two cars and headed up to Yosemite National Park to check out the History Center at Wawona.

"The Pioneer Yosemite History Center consists of historic structures from different eras of Yosemite history.  Originally constructed in different locations in Yosemite, they were moved to Wawona in the late 1950's and early 1960's.  As you walk among them, it is important to remember that the area does not represent a village.  Instead, each building represents a different chapter in the Yosemite story."  --from Pioneer Yosemite History Center Online

Up until about 1955, the historic preservation of structures was considered a low priority for the National Park Service while the preservation of natural scenery was paramount.   During this time many important historical structures met an untimely end at the hands of the Park Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)--among these were John Muir's cabin and the oldest building in the park, Cedar Cottage which was built in 1859.  Thankfully in the late 1950's, in large part because of the extensive efforts of Park Naturalist Douglass H. Hubbard, this way of thinking began to change and several historical buildings and structures were restored and saved for the benefit of future generations.

The Covered Bridge

The first of these structures that we would encounter on our tour was to be a very old, very nostalgic wooden covered bridge that has spanned the South Fork of the Merced River at Wawona for over 152 years.  All Yosemite bound traffic through this area--whether on foot, on horseback, by stage, or by car--would pass over this bridge until 1931 when a new modern concrete bridge on the new Wawona road would replace it.

When it was first built in 1857 by settler Galen Clark, it was a "simple, open structure" (as seen below). Mr. Clark established a tourist facility here known as Clark's Station and was one of the area's first conservationists and innkeepers.

In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation that created the Yosemite Grant to protect the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.  Galen Clark was appointed the Guardian of the Grant.

In 1875, two brothers from Vermont purchased Clark's land along the river and opened the road from Wawona to the Yosemite Valley.  It would be these two gentlemen  who would go on to cover the bridge in 1879.  It was far easier to re shingle the roof of a covered bridge than to replace the large wood truss beams and other major supporting structures that might be damaged from sun and weather.

This was an amazing structure to walk through.  The history of the place is staggering.  It is almost as if you can hear the clop of the horses hooves and the squeak of the wagon wheels moving along with you.  When you look overhead at the hand-hewn beams you marvel at the craftsmen who used only ax and adze to shape these huge logs.  It is almost as if you leave one time zone as you enter into this bridge and come out into another time--very long ago--when you come out on the other side.

 A granddaughter of one of the brothers claims that it was not only for practical reasons that the bridge was covered but also because the Washburn brothers were a little bit homesick for New England.

The bridge was almost destroyed by a flood in 1955.   It's authentic and painstaking restoration by master craftsman and builder, Glenn Gordo, in 1957 was the first step in the creation of the Pioneer Yosemite History Center.

Belated Thanksgiving Wishes

Yes, I know....I am waaayyyy late with my Thanksgiving well wishes.  I had totally planned to send my post thru on Wednesday before we left for the ranch but it turns out that getting my family roused and dressed and packed and the animals all fed and watered and cared for before we left town took waaaayyyy longer than I had anticipated.  We were actually two hours late getting out of town as it was.  And then to top it off, the internet at the ranch is dial up and sparse at best and I just did not get an extra 7 hours or longer that it would have taken to try to upload anything of value to my blog.  So, I apologize for the lateness but please know that I sincerely hope that everyone had a wonderful, delicious, and safe Thanksgiving of our time at the ranch coming soon.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Scary Moments Because My Hubby is Crazy!

Christmas is my hubby's favorite holiday of the year.  I mean, I enjoy it, too, but he is a little bit fanatical.  One of his ways of displaying this fanaticism is by trying to duplicate Chevy Chase's exterior illumination technique in the movie National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.  Let me put it this way...I am usually quite terrified to open December's electric bill--and for good reason.  But, this is not the worst part.

Our home is a two story, Swiss chalet looking behemoth with a VERY high, VERY slanted roof.  This is a picture of it from the road out front:

You see the top of the roof line, above those three triangular windows?  Well, my hubby likes to illuminate that roof line.  And, since a bad knee makes it difficult for him to accomplish this task himself, he has taken to bribing my stepsons to do the job.  The bribes usually include me cooking them dinner and a few greenbacks exchanging hands.  Hey, they are starving college students.  So this is the site that I came home to the other day:

Normally, I stay in the house while all this is going on because I simply do not have the nerves required to watch.  Let me tell you, I almost had a heart attack!!  The pictures are not the best as hubby took them himself but they do portray the hair raising aspects in good order.

So, what did I do?  I said a quick prayer to whatever higher forces happened to be listening, then I went inside to start dinner and pour myself a little liquid courage in the form of some Southern Comfort and Coke.  All better...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Little Bit of A Review

So, we saw the movie, The Fourth Kind, on Friday night.  I had actually called the theater on Thursday to make sure of the show time as my sister was driving in to town on Friday afternoon.  What the recording did not tell me was that the movie was leaving on Friday.  So, we walked right up to the booth to buy our tickets and the little gal behind the glass looked at us kind of funny and said, "ya, that movie isn't playing anymore."

And, it wasn't playing anywhere within an hours drive from us.  So we did what any crazy people with limited gas buying resources would do.  We drove an hour all the way to Santa Maria to see this movie playing at 10:10 pm.  It was crazy, but it was also fun.  My little sister and I had time to really talk and laugh without anyone else around (kiddos or husband) and it was really great.  We didn't get home till around 1 a.m.  She is a pretty swell gal, my sister.  I really, really enjoy spending time with her and wish that we lived closer to each other.

The movie was actually pretty good--a good story and scary.  And if it was just being marketed as a simple work of fiction it would have both my thumbs up.  But, I did not like how Hollywood is trying to make people believe that this movie is a true story--that some of the footage in the movie is actually real footage taken by Dr. Abigail Tylor during the regressions of some of her patients.  It is my belief--and many others that this movie is nothing more than a big fat farce in the fashion of The Blair Witch Project.

I am not sure why, but for some reason this really bothers me.  I mean, I don't have any idea  if the human race is alone or not.  I have never seen an alien--well, that I know about--and I have never seen a UFO, but I try to keep an open mind.  After all, this is a wild and amazing world we live in.

I just know that there are going to be a whole lot of people who are going to take this movie at face value   and the aliens in this movie are depicted as something approaching demons or evil incarnate--even speaking in an ancient language in very scary voices and stealing our children away from us while all we can do is look on in terror.  I just did not care for the message depicted in this movie.

It's weird, I know, why the heck did this movie affect me this way?  I can't answer that.  I just know that it did.  It actually made me angry.  Weird...that's all I can say.  It's just the way I feel.

What did you think of it?

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Fourth Kind

My daughter and my sister are dragging me to see this movie in an hour or so...I say dragging me, but I really do want to see it...I'm just...well...I'm scared...okay?  LOL.  I'll let you know what I think of it tomorrow.  Hope everyone has a safe and happy evening and although I adore owls there better not be any looking in my windows tonight...just saying.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How I Yearn For This Place & The People Who Live Here

I love this place.  The land, the trees, the rocks...they sing to me and embrace my spirit when I visit here.  It is always very hard for me to leave.  My mother, her significant other, my sister & my niece, and my grandmother and her significant other all make their home here.  I miss them all very much and I hope that one day in the not so distant future, I will be able to call this place home as well. 

This ranch is located about a half hour to a 45 minute drive from the southern entrance to Yosemite National Park.  The sites and scenery are just breathtaking.

My son and my niece found a place to cool off on one of our hikes this last summer.

There are abandoned gold mines all throughout this area and gold can still be found today if you know what you are looking for.  We also regularly find small quartz crystals.

One of my mother's horses having a nice leisurely graze

This is the main ranch house where my mom lives.  My grandmother's house is a bit to the left and my sisters mobile home is to the right.

This is the natural spring that runs down in the gorge below the houses.  There are many grinding bowls ground into the surrounded rock by the Indians who used to call this place home and back in the center of this photo is a cave that runs back  a ways.  I promise to get better pictures one of these days.

Some more of the surrounding area.

We will be leaving on Wednesday of next week to go and spend several days at the ranch over Thanksgiving.  I can hardly wait.   What are your plans for the upcoming holiday?  I hope you are spending it with someone or many someones that you love.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Whys And What Fors of Food Storage and a Giveaway

A couple of years ago, I began to go through something a little weird--or at least I thought it was weird at the time. Since then, I have discovered that maybe it's not so weird after all and that I was in no way alone.

I started to feel this need, this overwhelming compulsion to start gathering together supplies of food and water. I had absolutely no idea where these feelings were coming from. Okay, I mean, yes, I watch the news and sometimes read the paper. I know about the natural--and unnatural disasters that have and are happening all around the world. Ya, I get that. But, our world has always been thus and never before have I been swept away in this current of almost primal feelings and instincts. I mean, yes, I have a small pantry that I keep some extra food in, but there is no way that I would be able to feed my family for much more than a few days if the need ever arose. And yet, the feeling continued (and still does) and I had absolutely no idea how to even go about what my wacked out (or so I thought) instincts were pushing me to do.

Then a few months ago I stumbled upon a website called Food Storage Made Easy, and I was blown away. This website was started by a couple of sisters-in-law, Jodi and Julie, and it is just awesome. So many of my questions were answered. I finally learned the Whys and What Fors of Food Storage. I was given a direction and a plan of action. There is an amazing Baby Steps Checklist email newsletter that will just rock your socks and show you how to get started steps. There are recipes and emergency preparedness information right at a click of your mouse. I just can't say enough about it.

And...and...and, right now they are having a giveaway for a free WonderMill Grain Mill. In case you don't know what this is, here is some info:

WonderMill Grain Mill

The WonderMill Electric mill has the capacity to perform big jobs. You can grind over 100 pounds of flour in an hour. You don’t have to worry about overloading the WonderMill because of it’s large 1 3/4 hp motor. The WonderMill will not only grind wheat, rice and other small grains, but will also grind legumes and beans as large as garbanzos. (for detailed information click here)

Is that cool or what! But the giveaway ends soon, like on the 19th I think, so get your tushy on over there and check it out!

Now, getting back to the issue at hand, is my pantry everything I want it to be? Do I have a years worth of food storage put by? Honestly no, not yet. But, I will get there. And now I know how to do it. And no, I am in no way affiliated with this website. I just know a good thing when I see it and so I just have to share it.

Food Storage BabySteps

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Founder's Day & Wiener Washers...Oh My!

Today my husband, my son & I took a little walk into town to check out Templeton's Annual Founder's Day celebration.

Founder's Day commemorates the anniversary of the arrival of the first passengers off the train in November of 1886--exactly 123 years ago. Templeton was the end of the line for train passengers coming from Northern California. Thru travelers had to stop and transfer to stagecoaches heading south to San Luis Obispo. From what I hear, those travelers were not always the most savory of sorts. Templeton is said to have gained a bit of a reputation for it's saloon brawls and it's wild and rough streets. You would never guess it these days, believe me.

I have read that a huge fire destroyed much of the town in 1897, and that it was never rebuilt to it's former glory, but I think that what remains is very quaint and full of character--much more so than the surrounding cities and communities.

We got there towards the end of things but we actually had a really good time. There were free slices of pie (or cake), live entertainment, vintage car and tractor displays, displays of art created by the elementary school students, a face painting booth a hit-n-miss engine display, and a wonderful street fair featuring handmade items by some of the local crafters.

We were completely broke but still managed to come away with some towering ice cream cones, some goats milk soap, and um... a uh....(if you are easily offended, please stop reading here)....

a Dirty Old Man Wiener Washer. Yes, you read that right....a Wiener Washer, LOL.

This little old lady came walking up to me as I was perusing the Victorian beads and baubles in the booth next to hers and leaned in and asked me if I had ever seen a Wiener Washer. I looked at her for a moment--not quite sure what she was asking me. Then she crooked her arthritic finger back towards her own booth wanting me to follow her. I looked helplessly at my husband, who had of course chosen that moment to spot a long lost friend across the street that he just had to go and say hi to, so I was on my own.

The little old lady led me over to her booth where she showed me her stash of Wiener Washers. And well, being me, I just had to have one. And, anyway, I was scared of her...

This is what the attached tag says:

Dirty Old Man Wiener Washer
"Hey, hey, hey" said Louie..."Look What I have for you."
A washer for your wiener,
so it can feel brand new.
Harriet made it special--
she knew you'd wear it well.
Cause where you've had that wiener
no one can really tell...
So next time that you take a bath,
be sure to wash it cleaner...
Cause there's nothing more disgusting
than a dirty, grimy wiener!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cookbooks and Culinary Aspirations

I have only been cooking for a couple of years--becoming serious about getting back to the basics and learning to cook healthier meals for my family only in about the last year. When I was growing up, my mother--who by the way was a very good cook but, who hated doing it--never really wanted any of us kids underfoot while she was preparing meals. She worked full time outside the home at a very stressful job and by the time she walked in the door in the evenings she just didn't have any patience left to teach me or my siblings how to cook. And heck, we were happy being outside riding horses and running wild so we never really complained either.

I have gotten better but when I first started cooking--or attempting to cook-- I was terrified. I mean, all that boiling water and popping oil. And don't get me started on trying to learn how to time everything out so that the vegetables are ready at the same time as the main entree instead of either cooked to mush or still hard enough to crack tooth. Luckily for me, I got my hands on some great cookbooks and found the world of blogs and stumbled upon youtube which have been my saviors--literally. Practice has helped a lot and I am actually pretty darn comfortable in the kitchen these days.

A couple cookbooks that I always have within easy reach are pictured above, namely: The Taste of Home Cookbook--I love the magazine, too, and The Better Homes And Gardens New Cookbook. I do have some others but these are my favorites.

And I have to mention a website that has been absolutely a godsend to me and my limited culinary abilities. It is called Chickens in the Road and the author of this amazing blog is Suzanne McMinn. Because of this awesome gal I am now making my son homemade pepperoni pizza completely from scratch. And baking bread from scratch. And cooking beans...yes, from scratch. And the list goes on. But, Chickens in the Road is not just a cooking blog. It is so much more than that, too. It is all about her and her family, and the scary dirt road she has to drive on to get to her beautiful Stringtown Farm in which she has to ford two sometimes flooded rivers. It is about her adorable farm animals--oh, you have to meet Clover the Goat. She is just so down to earth and friendly. Trust me, if you have not had the pleasure of visiting Suzanne's blog you are in for a treat.

So, are there any other culinarily limited women out there? Am I the only one? Do you have a favorite cooking blog or recipe blog that you would like to share? How about cookbooks? I'd love some new ideas.

That's My Boy!

This boy loves him some soccer!

He and his friends play at recess and lunch break every day at school. Going to practice twice a week with his team and playing in the games on the weekends is like his favorite thing.

But, ah oh, today were the playoffs and the soccer season has officially come to an end.
To say he was bummed out is an understatement.

What could possibly make this boy smile again?

Why the team party, of course...

And a little pizza and cupcakes and video games don't hurt either.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Belated Introduction

I had wanted chickens for years but didn't really think I had the right set up for them. After all, I live in town--a very small town, but in town all the same. I love the old house we rent but the plot of ground it sits on is not very big and not much of it is level.

At the start of this year, I began to look at an area below the back gardens in a new light. It was a pretty good size and would provide enough space for a coop, a nice sized run, and even an area that I could close off so that I could let the chickens out to free range during the day. A plan was hatched...pun intended, LOL.

I began to research hatcheries online, first looking at The McMurray Hatchery. I even placed an order for 15 baby chicks--which is the minimum order that they will allow. This was going to be quite a large flock for my little suburban wannabe farm but if I wanted chickens I didn't know what else I was going to do. Then one day, in a homesteading group I belonged to someone there happened to mention a website: My Pet where you could place orders for as little as 3 chicks at a time. So, I clicked right over there and checked it out and liked what I saw so, after canceling my order with McMurray (who were very understanding, by the way) I placed another order with My Pet Chicken. Once I got started, I went overboard, of course, and ended up ordering 10 chicks instead of the 5 that I thought would be just perfect. I started reading about all the wonderful breeds and just couldn't help myself.

I ordered two each of these breeds--because you know, I didn't want them to be all by themselves:

Golden Laced Wyandotte

Rhode Island Red

Barred Plymouth Rock

Black Austrolorp

Buff Orpington

My chicks were born on June 28 and arrived at my post office on July 1st. I have to say that My Pet Chicken packaged them very safely and when they arrived all 10 were bright eyed healthy and bushy tailed--quite literally. I apologize for not having any pics of this exciting time. I had lost my camera right before they arrived and only just found it again--I know, I am totally bummed that I did not get to document everything but I am thrilled to have my camera back.

Anyway, better late than never, here are some pics of my girls all grown up:

In the 2nd picture above you can see Toughy whose beak began to twist almost from the time she arrived. I make sure to give her a deep bowl of wet food daily that she can eat more easily but other than that I have not had to do much different. I know she may not live as long a life as they others but she has a fighting spirit and I am happy to have her in my flock for as long as she can stay.

I have so enjoyed the girls. They each have very different personalities and their antics keep me laughing daily. And now that the egg laying has begun it is just so exciting, LOL! For anyone who has been thinking about adding a backyard flock of their own--I heartily give chickens two thumbs up!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I am EGGstatic!!

So, I go out to do chores this afternoon like I always do. You know... pick up after the dogs, feed and water Stewart and Little Bit (the resident pet rabbits), clean up the chicken house, feed and water the chickens. It was a day like any other day really. Just going about my business as usual.

I had absolutely no preconceived notions. I was not expecting anything out of the ordinary.

And then...and then...

My eyes caught sight of something. I looked a little bit closer. Then I rubbed my eyes to make sure I wasn't seeing things. It was a small brown colored object nestled quite carefully in the straw of the middle nesting box. It was kind of...well kind of EGG shaped to tell you the truth!

And that was when I am sure my neighbors all came running to their windows to behold the crazy chicken lady who was whooping and dancing a little jig.

What is a jig, you ask? Well, I don't know, but I was dancing one, let me tell you!

My babies have grown up. And we have EGGS!!!!

Well, okay, we have one EGG. But has there ever been a fairer egg in all the land, I ask you?

Nope, I am sure of it.

A Good Kind of Sacrifice

It's cold and blustery out today and soccer practice has been canceled. My youngest is kind of bummed as playing soccer with his friends is pretty much the highest thing on his list these days. I am trying to be as diplomatic as possible, but to be honest, sitting out in a cold wind is something I can do without, especially just getting over a bout with the flu--not THAT flu but still not very fun.

Luckily I had just made up a batch of elderberry syrup so even though my son, myself and my hubs all came down with fever, body aches, stuffy nose, cough and congestion--it only lasted 2 to 3 days before we could all tell that we were definitely over the hump and improving.

So, I think for today, after the rabbits and chickens are all bedded down in some soft shavings and straw...


and the dogs and cats are all let inside to get out of the chill, the afternoon will be much better spent in some nice warm pj's near a crackling fire.

Sometimes you just have to make sacrifices, you know?

Hope your evening finds you warm and snuggly as well.