Thursday, June 25, 2009

290 million miles away... the constellation Pegasus (colloquially known as California), there's a tiny planet called "Pescadero".
It's so easy to get lost in the day-to-day concerns of city life, forgetting that there's a world beyond our daily commutes and hectic schedules.

Does a simpler life feels like it's a million (or 290 million) miles away? Well, it's much closer than you think.

Do you feel like a real vacation is something you just don't have time for? Well, we have good news for you!

It's just a short drive to the coast from almost anywhere in the Bay Area. In an hour or less you could be standing on the edge of the continent - your eyes fixed on the horizon and your feet planted firmly in the sand.

Pescadero is the perfect place to escape for a walk on the beach…or a scenic drive on roads less traveled…or a casual stroll around town, with no particular place to go.

You could travel the world-or the universe-and you wouldn't find a sweeter place -- and we're right here in your very own back yard.

Imagine that!

your fellow Earthlings...Lisa & Mauro

Friday, April 24, 2009

"Whac-A-Mole" - Not!

Okay, so gophers are not the only creatures who wreak havoc on the rural idyll we call our "backyard"--the bucolic garden of Pescadero's McCormick House Inn....
As I said in my last blog entry, my husband does not love gophers, or whatever it is that's digging up our yard (Moles or Gophers or both?) and eating the roots of his beloved broccoli plants (Not Moles-see "Mole Facts #4 & #7" below). Today, he decided to take mallots--I mean, matters (oh, dear, that was bad--forgive me)--into his own hands.

No animals were injured in the making of the following film.)
While my husband was, happily, unsuccessful in killing anything--amazingly, he did succeed, a few minutes later, in digging up and catching the large, very cranky, velvet-brown mole, who's trying to wriggle its way out of the picture, above.

In my most plaintive, high-pitched whine, I pled for its life--citing the official "McCormick House Trap, Film & Release" injunction to be applied to all "incorrigible, non-rehabilitative garden pests". 

After trying to hold this mole for the following 30 second video (not an easy thing to do, since it really did not want to be held), we walked down the road to a lovely open field (above Pescadero's "New Hope" Cemetery) and set it free, never to return (or so we thought-see "Mole Fact #5).
Please, don't try this at home....or, if you do, make sure you're wearing a pear of leather working gloves from "Woman's Work" (a bargain at $34--they're thorn, gopher and mole-proof!).

Lisa (& Mauro)

p.s. "Mole facts": The "bad news"...
1. Moles are digging machines. Their bodies are streamlined, and they have powerful forelimbs for moving soil. They even have large lungs and special blood to help them survive the oxygen-poor conditions underground.*2
2. With short, powerful front feet and large digging claws, moles can dig at the rate of 12 to 15 feet per hour.*3
3. A single mole can build many mounds: one Oregon mole built over 300 mounds in 11 weeks.*1
4. Moles eat 70 to 80 percent of their weight every day. They eat earthworms, grubs, and various insects.*4
5. Moles return home if they're moved; moles have crossed canals, paved roads, and even a river in order to get home. *2
"Mole facts": The "good news"...
6. Moles are not harmful to humans. *4
7. Moles do not eat roots, flower bulbs or other vegetation. *5
8. Moles are an important part of the soil ecosystem.*4
9. Moles are beneficial to gardeners due to the fact that aerate the soil and eat harmful insects that live in the soil. *4
1 Verts, B.J. and Leslie N. Carraway. 1998. Land mammals of Oregon. Berkeley : University of California Press. Pp. 68-72. 2 Hartman, G.D. and T.L. Yates. 2003. Moles: Talpidae. In Wild mammals of North America: Biology, management, and conservation. 2nd edition. G.A. Feldhammer, B.C. Thompson, and J.A. Chapman. (eds.) Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Pp. 30-55. 3 Tom Clothier's Garden Walk and Talk: When Mole Hills Become Mountains. 4 Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides: Moles 5 April Sanders: How to Get Rid of Moles

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Gopher's tale....

Gophers. The rodentia we love to hate.

Okay, there are other rodents we humans dislike, but this is a gopher tail...I mean "tale"...ahem.

When I first moved to Pescadero and noticed the tiny piles of earth pushed up all around my garden, I was amused. What industrious little creatures I thought. And, when I planted my kitchen garden and some of the lettuces I planted, alongside the herbs, began to disappear, I thought "no worries, I've enough to share".

One sunny afternoon I was weeding around an oregano when I noticed one of my newly bolted lettuces swaying as if a small earthquake was rocking the earth beneath it. When at last the stalk keeled over, a small brown head breached the surface of the opening where the lettuce had been. It grabbed the end of the stalk with its teeth and began pulling it, as if wishing to get it, and itself, back down the hole and undercover. It seemed to take no notice of me, although I was just inches from the hole. I wondered if, as I'd heard, that gophers were mostly blind and, since he seemed either unaware or uninterested in my presence, I moved closer.

I pulled off a piece of the lettuce nearer the top of the stalk and proffered it to my new friend. He ate it. I fed him another piece. Amazingly, he seemed perfectly content to eat from my hand - or perhaps, being mostly blind, he couldn't actually see my hand, though he seemed to be staring right at me. We continued like that, my gopher and I, for some time, until he grew full or I grew weary...or having adjusted to the blinding light of the top-side world we humans inhabit, he, not being visually impaired after all, finally caught sight of me and my hand. Curious.

I like gophers. I like to think they like me too. We have an arrangement. They eat my lettuces and whatever else tickles their palate and, in exchange, they leave me lovely little piles of gopher-sifted dirt all about the garden - which, if you haven't tried it, makes gosh-darn-great potting soil.

My husband doesn't love gophers. He doesn't like the mounds of dirt strewn about the garden, but he's a soft touch, and has never thrown a smoke-bomb down their holes or tried to poison one. He cheers when our cat, Mr. O. E. White, who watches gopher holes for hours, finally catches and eats one, but he could never bring himself to harm them. Once you've come face to face with one, you're hooked -- those beady little eyes, those prodigious ivories (that can bite right through a heavy leather glove), those stubby little hairless rat-like tails -- they are irresistibly cute. On occasion, when we manage to catch one, or we decide to rescue one from the cat, we "relocate" our gophers to "another garden" (fields and forests) down the road.

Yesterday, I heard a soft rustling in the leaves beneath our eucalyptus tree and moved closer to investigate. It was a big one. He seemed a little lost, as if he couldn't find the hole he'd come out of. Thinking quickly, I pulled off my sweater, folded it three times to protect my un-gloved hands and every bit as quickly as O.E., faced with a similar opportunity
would have done, I pounced. What to do with a gopher when you've got him is another matter altogether. I scooped him up and called for reinforcements. I yelled across the creek to my best friend and neighbor, Petrea, that I was on my way to reassign my gopher (who was by now desperately trying to chew through my sweater) to the fields by the old cemetery up the road. She agreed to be my accomplice, and I grabbed the first rodent claw and tooth-proof container I could find - my kitchen trash can (with lid) - and stuffed my sweatered catch into it. I grabbed my thickest pair of gloves and off I/we went.

We set him free and he scurried for cover beneath a tangle of leaves and brush under another eucalyptus tree. Maybe he won't know the difference. Hopefully our wee pest has avoided capture by the hawks and owls that fly above the fields...found new gopher holes and new gopher friends...and will live a long and happy life!

I'll spare you another thousand words in exchange for one final picture....

Lisa (& Mauro)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Weeeeee ones fly away....

This has been a swell Spring, with much life in and about the garden.

This past week we had the sweet, good fortune of watching these wee-est additions to our garden community venture beyond their very wee nest.

We first discovered the nest in the elderberry bush beside the tank house, just after mama hummingbird had laid her two tiny eggs.

The babies hatched and within a couple of weeks had filled the nest to near capacity. They were quite funny looking, all pin feathers and beak. By week three they were getting a bit restless.

The first of the babies to fledge, simply hopped up on the side of the nest, gave his wings a try and was gone.

The second fledging stayed for another 24 hours and, after several false starts and much fluttering of wings, managed to fly about 2 inches up and back down to a branch beside the nest. It stayed there for an hour or so, then tried again - this time he successfully flew to a nearby walnut tree, perched for a minute or two, and then flew back to the nest.

Sweet to see that even among sibling hummingbirds, some of us bloom a bit later than others. This little late-bloomer flew back and forth, from tree to nest, until it felt secure enough to explore the amazingly, endless infinity of our little piece of a perfect world - the McCormick House garden.

Happy Spring.....
Lisa & Mauro

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Pescadero's "La Taqueria"

Chasing the Perfect Taco Up the California Coast

"I’ve never met a taco I didn’t like. Weaned on Taco Bell and my Lebanese mother’s Old El Paso tacos, I’m not terrifically choosy. High-end, low-end, commercial, authentic — even a bad taco is better than no taco.

But things change. Deep, obsessive love begets connoisseurship, and a more refined understanding is sought. The plan? A trip along Highway 1, between Los Angeles and San Francisco — among the most beautiful stretches of road in the country, and possibly the hottest taco crawl outside of Mexico. My boyfriend, Taylor Umlauf, will take the wheel and help sample the goods — generous spirit that he is — with hours between to soak in the scenery. The hum and buzz of 380 miles of winding open road await — heady visions of rustic farm towns unfolding into sun-bleached fishing villages, the sun, the salt, the fresh California air. This will be our storied and scenic backdrop. But our raison d’ĂȘtre? Five days, 28 taquerias, 49 tacos."

"Halfway between Santa Cruz and San Francisco, we turn off into the rolling green hills of Pescadero, a tiny little blip of a town with a handful of general stores, a single bar and one gas station. I have been tipped off that there is a taqueria holed up somewhere in town, and that the ingredients are straight off the farm. I ask around. “There is no sign in the window,” a local offers, “but there is a taqueria in the gas station.”

Inside the gas station, it’s lunchtime and bustling at Taqueria y Mercado de Amigos. Mexican workers squeeze into booths, sipping hibiscus sodas and chatting over the sizzle of the grill and the rhythmic cha-ching of the register. Two cooks work quickly — grilling the shrimp just till the edges blacken, searing the al pastor and drizzling it with hot sauce.

Outside, the quiet of Pescadero is breathtaking. We head up Stage Road to the old cemetery and take the dirt road to the top of the hill. Sitting on the trunk of the car, tacos warming our laps, we find the most beautiful spot yet — the Kelly green pastures rolling and folding straight into the Western sky, the sun beaming down on all that open land. And just when it couldn’t get any better, we realize something else — we’re holding two of the best tacos this side of Mexico."

Monday, January 21, 2008

Things that go bump in the night...

I'm tending the "home fires" at our beloved "McCormick House", while my husband is home visiting family in Argentina...just me and the cat...and the host of critters inhabiting our garden after dark...

Last night I went outside to gather wood to make a fire and heard a noise behind me as I stood at the woodpile. I'm never particularly alarmed when I hear things "go bump in the night" in my rather wild backyard - this is Pescadero, afterall, as peaceful a rural idyll as they come. Generally, I'm just curious to see what creature I've disturbed.

A couple of times over the years, while foraging for kindling by moonlight, I've startled a skunk or two - and that is a bit unnerving, it's true - each time I turned tail and ran! I've come across foxes and bobcats and the occasional coyote, but those sightings were during the day, and they were more scared of me than the other way around.

Tonight there was just a slip of a moon, and I could barely make out the silhouette and faint mask of a racoon in the walnut tree behind me. By the time I got back with my camera, he was on his way down, but paused to consider his options, long enough for me to take a photo or two, before he headed for the shelter of the woods by the creek.

I awoke today to a steady rain, which I find particularly beautiful here on the coast...and now the skies have cleared and the sun is shining. It's going to be a glorious day, so hopefully folks, who find themselves free on this lovely holiday Monday in remembrance of Martin Luther King, will head for the beach and Pescadero.

Meanwhile, since, for some inexplicable reason, I've been playing "fast and loose" with laying in sufficient wood for the fire (and brrrrr it's a little chilly this morning), I'll be digging through the woodpile looking for the drier of the now rain-drenched firewood. I think most of the local Pescaderans still rely on their wood stoves for heat, which I find rather charming. I ran into a neighbor at the post office who had just received a heater she purchased from "QVC"...we talked about the joys and woes of wood stoves (which is also her primary source of heat) and agreed that having some kind of "back-up" on the days you've got soggy wood and want to be warm, a very good thing.

For those of you wishing to stay here in Pescadero at the McCormick House Inn, not to worry - we use the wood stove in our residence only - your rooms are heated with lovely and efficient convection-air units we purchased from Canada...I'm jealous!

Be warm...