Saturday, April 11, 2020


Before we moved to this house, I frequently posted about how badly I wanted to live in a home of our own. I was desperate for a garden, for space to make things, for walls we could paint, or not paint, for the freedom to have pets. I would daydream about how extra special it would be to live in a home with plenty of room for guests, to invite all of our friends over to play, to hang out. As a family we would regularly describe the things we would build, or what we could do, if we didn't have to ask permission, apologize, or compromise with a landlord.

Now, more than ever, I am so glad to be home. We are fortunate, and I know it, I feel it, daily. We painted our house the blue I love. And we can plant food, or flowers, or collect heaps of found objects, and build stuff like Viking tents and geodesic domes! We have chickens and vegetarian dogs. We fix our leaks, and repair the roof, we could add a trapdoor, build robots on the dining table, let the cats climb the walls! We have room... we have been able to say, Yes, you can stay here. For a day, a week, some months, a year. People like to tell me "Your house, it's big. Really big." I turn my head and gaze at it, thinking of the people in the rooms, and dishes on the shelves, the dirty clothes, the books and projects, and shoes dropped at the doors, the spots that leak, the pantry full of food, the cats napping on the tattered chairs, and I reply, Yes, thankfully, it is big. Big enough.

Thank goodness for our big enough house, and huzzah! for our plans to make it bigger. This year we have been married for 31 years, have blogged for 18, and lived in our Bird House for 11 years. I like this. Brand new to me, still something that catches me off guard, and makes me wonder at how marvelous it is... being a part of a community. We know our neighbors, and their neighbors, and the clerks in the shops, and the vice principal at the school, and our friend on the school board, and our children have played together with their friends since early childhood... so many connections, and safety nets, and happy revelations, and memories. I had no idea what that could be like. It's brilliant.

I don't know where I am going with this.. with my rambling reflections. These are the ideas and notions that occur to me, looking at pictures of our house, and thinking about how thankful, relieved, I am to be home, to have a home, to have plans, to be eager for more and happy with what I have, at the same time.

It's always been something of a joke that our dining table is rarely a place we can sit down for a meal. We have soldered, programmed, painted, constructed, demolished, sewn, glued, hammered, and gathered at our table, and now we are eating dinner at our dining table, because it's in the living room, and in the dining room we have moved a work table and set it up for manufacturing PPE. We are making Personal Protective Equipment to donate to healthcare workers in three states, at hospitals, and healthcare facilities, including the Navajo Nation. We are networked with friends at San Diego 3D Printing For a Cause. It takes more space than our dining room... the work goes on in the garage, the worksop, and on our porch, and the hours are constant. 3D printing goes through the night, and hands for de-burring are always in demand. William has been indispensable... he has a lot of experience and expertise in 3D design, 3D printing, and mold making. The experience helps, but it's the determination that is making the difference, because we have faced a lot of failures, setbacks, missteps. Making face shields is, naturally, all new to us, and we are trying to develop ways of doing the work on a faster, more efficient scale. We have had entire 24 hour work days that end in disaster, and then... success, progress, PPE.

So. Yeah... now we have a dining table, like civilized families.

April 8
Home life is good. We are comfortable, and finding what we need, or making do, doing without. We feel the strength and love of our friends, and family, our community. We are happy, and we are determined to do what we can to help others be happy, safe, comfortable.

Maria has been revisiting digital art. Here is one of her Dungeons and Dragons characters, Lyra, a Tiefling.

William squeezed in some 3D printing that is purely for fun, which is a good thing to do. This little egg-sized gem is from Thingiverse. It reminds me of old movies, The Thief of Bagdad. For being so small, it holds a lot of wonder, and I can imagine walking through it, quarantining there with all of our friends. It's bigger than it looks, and there's a pool, gardens, wells, a spot where you can dip into the ocean, and sit on the beach. I'd sleep on a terrace and explore the caves with a lantern and a picnic lunch.

April 9

It's been raining. Winter was dry, and that was concerning, but then came spring, and lo! Almost half our annual rainfall came down in a day! This was after a week of regular rainfall. Our own town had the highest rainfall in the county, and more than one friend had a flooded home. It was too much. Think what that must mean, for me to say it was "too much rain," is saying a lot. Our workshop was splashing, the backyard was a shallow pond. There was a river in the sky and it moved east, as our storms always do, and then it turned around and hit us again. We stopped laundry, showers, any heavy water use, because we couldn't test the septic any more than it was being tested. Alex and I covered the garden beds, to not flood our sprouts and seedlings.

April 10
Outside was a mess of water and mud, and inside we hunkered down and kept doing what had to be done... school, cooking, making protective face shields, and keeping cozy.

The next day, we saw blue sky, sunlight, and messes to clean. Poor Bambi, cooped up in the RV, that was going through its own floods and shakes, could finally come out and feel some relief. We were all counting down the last days of her isolation and thinking of Easter.

While Maria was inside, fixing dinner, her friend, Max V5 drove by. I happened to be out, having FenceTime with Leslie and Simon, and Max tossed something onto our driveway... "I'm doing "Ding Dong Ditch! That's for Maria!" He has a bright, effusive smile. I was sorry Maria wasn't outside to see him, to laugh with him over this clever gesture. And I am sorry Max couldn't come inside and see Maria's reaction, how she was surprised, and amused and a bit confused, and asked, "But what is it?" Even after I explained, and told her, "A Ding Dong is baked treat. It's a play on words and a kind of prank," she went a Googled "Ding Dong." For sure, she will never forget her first Hostess Ding Dong! She split it with her brother, Max V2. (Note: It's already a common habit, but isn't it the oddest thing to receive gifts that you immediately wash in hot soapy water?)

April 11
We are home. And we are safe, and we are making, and sharing, and getting by. We have our pets, our messes, our own paint colors, and plans. It's everything I hoped for and more, a lot more.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Chicks and... Mostly Chicks

April 1
Dandelions and calendula, a salad, not for goats, but for our dinner. Even if we were shopping, would we eat fresh produce that we wash in hot soapy water? These are the questions that are debated... in our minds, in our home, on social media, by the "experts." So. We forage and improvise, and make do. And happily, no one is complaining.

Our days are blending, kind of like on a good vacation when you can't tell Monday from Friday. But on a good vacation you begin to count to the end of the fun, and sigh because it will soon be over. Quarantine isn't like that. The "experts" say "April 13." The University cancelled June commencement. Our own inclinations are to lay low until there is regular, frequent testing, a vaccine. In the meantime, we hardly keep track of our our Fridays from our Mondays, but it's no vacation.

Our habits and routines are both predictable and wildly scattered. Everyday, we cook, we clean, we stare at our phones (both from necessity, and for hardly any good reason at all... to be fair, both are legitimate.) Everyday we count the days until Bambi's separate isolation will be over. Since she was at her school apartment, we are taking the 14 day precaution. It's so much nicer having her close, where we can get her food, take her temperature, share 6 feet apart talks and laughter. Everyday we watch our garden, watch our chiclets, gather eggs, or fret when there are no eggs... have the ol' girls finally quit? we ask. Everyday we prototype, tinker, test, discuss, and try again, to develop and produce Personal Protective Equipment. Everyday try to address whatever pressing task pops up... work, school, leaking water pumps, the dead pool, the apps and programs that we require in The Time of COVID, finding our ice trays. Didn't we have ice trays?

April 2
When I look down, when Geoff can't take another 3D print fail, or sitting at his desk, he asks, "Should we go for a ride?" He did this often enough BC, that I'd learned to enjoy it, to find relief in it. And now, it's another kind of relief... to be outside, moving, distracted. But, suddenly our quiet street is fuller, almost like a traffic jam of joggers, walkers, even families playing in the street, so when we ride, trying to keep to the 6 feet apart rule, it's a bit dicey. "Wear masks" is the latest suggestion, and like the produce washing issue, it's debated, but Geoff and I agree, that mask wearing is likely for the best.

On our first ride out, we saw no one else in masks. We got long looks, or people wouldn't look at all, and both reactions were uncomfortable. The dishcloth I tied around my face felt like a wall... blocking smiles, and social niceties, blocking deep breaths, and free thoughts. Instead of feeling relaxed, like I was pedaling away from worries, I had the worries wrapped around my face. My glasses steamed up, the towel would slip, and my mind filled up with stifling, angry, frustrating reminders that we are living through a pandemic, and our government failed, and was actively making things worse... yeah, that first ride ended abruptly, in tears. I wasn't sure I would ever want to ride again.

Back to chicks, and watching sprouts grow, back to trying to address any, one, new pressing task. Focus. Clean the fish tank. Cut fabric into squares, because we are out of paper towels. Add a school zone in the living room, so Max can finish his degree. Stare at my phone. And back to chicks, mostly.

Introducing... Penelope! She is an Ameraucana, the kind that lay blue or green eggs, the kind that look a bit like baby quail, or hawks. The kind that I have always enjoyed because they are mild, sociable hens.

The chiclets and I sat quietly, so as not to interrupt Japanese IV instruction.

Right there, in the center, is Maya. She is a Black Australorp, which someone told me is partly an Orpington. Maya has the blackest beak, and that's how I tell her apart from her Australorp sisters.

This is another Ameraucana chick, and her name is Lucia. She's the most aloof, the most evasive, the most likely to raise a riot when it's time to round everyone up. These are the sort of distinctions that make me think about roosters. Who's acting cocky? Who's growing spurs? Are there any fancy tail feathers? Please, please, please let us have five hens.

On my way downstairs I stopped to stare at the roses. The roses I've kept since... February? When they first began to wilt, I thought I'll save them for a dried floral arrangement. Then life got complicated, and days went by, and I thought Soon. I can take them out, soon, and save the flowers. Then the whole world became even more complicated, and I didn't see them at all. I saw toilet paper hoarding memes, and projected death toll graphs, and make your own face mask tutorials. I took a picture, a keeping it real sample of life in The Time of COVID, and I thought about how fortunate I've been, to have weekly flowers from Trader Joes, to enjoy chamomile or roses, irises. I thought about missing the daffodils in Julian, how my heart had been set on seeing them again, like last year. Then I put it out of my mind, because... what can be done? We keep moving forward.

Later, the same day, came a message from Carol, "Good morning Natalie! Michael is making a delivery to your gate."

From their own garden... Daffodils. Jonquil. Maidenhair ferns, a bright yellow ribbon tied in a generous bow. We may lose track of the days, or stare at meaningless things on our phones, but moments like this mark the day, enliven the room, change the light. All of my life I hope to keep the joy and thanks these flowers brought, close in mind, and directing my actions. They made me that happy. And then, the kit kats, too... I wish you could have watched them with us. The kitties were so in love with the bouquet, and mindful too. They seemed to know that something new and wonderful had arrived.

Let's try, again. I could write an essay about not sewing masks, about all the times people have sent me mask sewing tutorials. Our sewing machine(s) are all in need of tune-ups. And. And... I just cannot bring myself to do it. Why?

I sew. I hand sew, and machine sew. I make patterns, have fabric. But, ugh. Not masks. I don't know why.

Steamed up glasses, frustration. Life in the time of COVID, a mixed bag, for sure.
April 4

Penelope, Lucia, Maya, and Ventura. Ventura is the second Australorp. I named her for the highway, the song, my longing to travel north, and the good fortune, the buena ventura of getting chicks, when they have sold out all over the country.

And here, in front, comes our Puanani. She is a beautiful flower, and named for the beautiful woman in Portland that sent me her Let's Camp painting, who every week cooks nourishing and beautiful dinners for the homeless in her neighborhood, whose posts on IG make me smile, and make me long to return to Alberta Arts. Aloha nui loa, Puanani, and mahalo, for your gifts.

April 5

April 6
Every day it's chicks, cooking, phone time, and gardening, deep sighs and consternation, more chicks, mostly chicks, and also naps. Lots of naps. Cat naps, people naps. Comforting, restful naps, and also chicks.