A few shots to Share

Just a sharing a few shots this week.

Praying Mantis – the magical aphid eater.

Can you find him?

Camouflage master – this one was hanging out on the dry leaves.

Woo Hoo – we had rain one day. Living on a dusty dirt road, it was so great to have everything get washed off. The rain also brought some lovely clouds.

Love that this town was so determined to have a library that they fundraised and community volunteers built their own in 1994.  Murphys Volunteer Library is now a full service branch of the Calaveras County Library system. Local volunteers assist day-to-day library activities and the non-profit Murphys Volunteer Library  Inc continues to fundraise to expand and improve its available services. It’s a wonderful little library.

I’ve mentioned Mark Twain and the jumping frogs of Calaveras County – the library’s frog.

A well tended memorial garden on the library grounds.

Don’t forget – if you can get out to Murphys (about an hour and 15 minutes from Stockton), our Dia de los Muertos is Nov 3rd and 4th – you can like the Facebook page here.

This post is participating in Sundays in My City.



Murphys Penn Fire was much too close for comfort. Returning from Sonora Wednesday, I wasn’t certain I’d be allowed back to my home (residents only were) – or that it was even a good idea to go there. Immediately started packing the car (kitty items first), found out which local motels take pets (had an appointment Thursday here I didn’t want to miss, so although many friends offered, I wanted to stay close) and touched base with the neighbors. Then there was nothing else to do but wait – so I grabbed the camera. A bit shaky, not my best shots or editing.

View over my pump house.

Thursday’s reports had the fire at 200 acres although it’s been reassessed to 134 acres burned. As I write this, it is 90% contained, with full containment expected later today. The report shows Total Fire Personnel of 330, with 317 CAL FIRE. Thank you also to the supporting agencies:  California Highway Patrol, US Forest Service, National Park Service, Murphys Fire Department, Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department, Altaville Melones Fire, Ebbetts Pass Fire, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Pacific Gas and Electric and Northern California Power Agency.

Our heroes (taken from my front or back porch, thus one side clear, one smokey). So many more than the air crew were involved – Thank you again to all of our heroes.


This post is participating in UnknownMami’s Sundays in My City; the Gallery of Favorites, hosted by April at The21st Century Housewife and Alea of Premeditated Leftovers .

Abundance of Anna’s

The last time I mentioned Anna’s hummingbirds, I was lamenting the end of March snowstorm and their disappearance.

Well, there is a profusion of them swarming the feeders and exuberantly gobbling up sugar at the rate of five pounds plus  per week.

Thought you might enjoy seeing their return.


The mobs of luminous little birds speeding from feeder to feeder, flaring their tails and clicking to one another are mesmerizing.

Californians (or folks looking to travel) book your calendar – Murphys’ Dia de los Muertos is on for Nov 3 & 4 this year. See last year’s photos if you’re curious.

This post is participating in UnknownMami’s Sundays in My City.

Jubilant Success

A surprise Flanders Poppy coming up in one of the veggie beds – was a windy day and a tad difficult to keep in focus.


There are a few things I’ve not had success with here in my little mountain home.  For one, I’d like decent photos of the various birds that come by. But, most are pretty skittish and take off at the whisper of sound or hint of movement. Today, I get to check another off my list.

I hadn’t really anchored the row cover on my veggies as well as I should (1 inch binder clips work, but they’re not to be had locally and I haven’t taken the 40 minute shopping drive just for them). So, I check it in the mornings and realign the bricks holding it down. I’m told my deer fence you see in progress will be finished Monday (fingers crossed).

Spotted a California Quail behind the compost bins, held my breath and ran for the camera. They shuttled off into the shrubs, unseen through the lense, while I went immobile and, quietly, shallowly breathed until they ventured out. Even raising the camera was an exercise in slow motion.

Mr. Quail stays out in the open, watching, while Mrs. Quail hides and dines in more protected areas.

My brain was screaming the command – “Get away from the hose!”  (it’s kinda ugly in a shot, you have to admit) but he simply ignored me.

 Aren’t they a cute couple? (I’d better put up some “No Hunting / No Trapping” signs).

This post is participating in Sundays in My City over at Unknown Mami.

Gardening Best Buds

My garden friends aren’t all good looking, but anything that gobbles down bugs is a-ok by me.

Caught this guy enjoying a morning in the sun while I was out filling the hummingbird feeders. He’s actually about twice the size of the ones I normally see.

Some of my daffodils are still in bloom. (This is Pheasants eye).

As are the petunias that overwintered.

This post is participating in Sundays in My City at Unknownmami. Pop on over to see what things are like in other parts of this small world of ours.

Sing a song of sixpence; of birds and pies

Kinda a “here’s looking at you kid” glance (perfect shot for a bit of anthropomorphic captioning). While not what I would consider “frame-able” quality (egads that light), I’m happy to finally capture a few shots of the local chubby Western bluebird – a rather skittish gent who takes off at the slightest whisper of sound.

The sweet tooth has been demanding attention lately. Antidote? Easy as 1 2 3.

One: Crème fraîche.

Easily make your own Crème fraîche from buttermilk and heavy cream. To 1 cup heavy cream add one tablespoon buttermilk and allow to sit out for 24 hours. I like to cover the bowl with a damp piece of muslin for the overnight; then wrap it tightly with plastic. If you don’t use plastic – expect a very thick skin on top.

Once it’s as thick as you like, place it in the refrigerator – it will continue to thicken a tad. Some folks make it with yogurt, although buttermilk will deliver a more authentic crème fraîche flavor. I’ve seen recommendations that ultra pasteurized heavy cream takes longer to make. Ultra pasteurized is all that’s available in my local market without a special health food store excursion.

Mine do seem to stay thin for quite a while before gelling (but I do keep the house pretty cool overnight, which is when I usually make it). You can leave it out for an additional 8 to 24 hours if needed. The nifty bacteria in the buttermilk are what keeps it from going bad. Some recipes have you warm the cream first – this isn’t necessary unless you’re in a rush. You can also whip it if, once done, you’d like it a tad lighter.

Two: Place a pie crust in your baking dish. Mix a pack of frozen peaches (16 oz) with 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 tablespoon of flour, and an optional dash of cinnamon. Place in crust, fold back pie crust edges and sprinkle a little white sugar over the top. I generally let the peaches defrost about half way. The resulting tart has a very fresh peach flavor with still firm peaches in its filling.

Three: Bake about 45 minutes (start checking at 40) at 375 degrees.

This post is participating in Sunday’s in my city. C’mon by and see what others around the globe are doing.

Wiki: Song of Sixpence

The Birds Are Coming!

Awhile back I was walking with someone who wanted to get some pictures of kitsch. What better place to select than Murphys Diggins, our “ 5-Star Adult Mobilehome Community”. Now this is important as neither of us had a clue what was happening as we noticed the sky around us becoming more and more laced with birds. But not just any birds, Turkey vultures, carrion eater’s. weee ohhhhh weeeeeee  (think Dark Shadows Theme – my mom found it when it was in reruns and became addicted, hmn wonder if I’d bought the music- I’d have more easily dropped into homework mode in later years …).

Here you can see a couple of the roofs of the double-wides and all those little black specks that you can make out are vultures. It was creepy. Very creepy. Scary creepy. Their wingspan is about 6 feet – these are large birds. My walking companion confessed that at first she thought they were following us. Every time she turned around, there would be a bunch and their numbers continued to increase as our walk wore on. Then, we started to conjecture that some member of the senior home park was deceased, but yet undiscovered. We aren’t birders and truly didn’t have a clue (uninformed would be the word). Living in the mountains you do see turkey vultures in the area if someone has hit a deer, squirrel, raccoon or whatever. You see three, maybe five max.

Being ever the curious type, I Googled turkey vultures when I returned. Turns out, turkey vultures migrate (ooohhhh). Kern River Preserve (down south, near Bakersfield California) even has a Turkey Vulture Migration Festival in September – Saturday, September 24, 2011 – so grab your cameras and join the fun! J (Hey, what can I say, it’s Bakersfield folks). They report an average of 25,000 have been counted flying over a single point of their observation path from Sept to 3rd week in October. The birds “begin to gather in large flocks in August”; large? How about monstrous? I don’t know if they were more inland than usual, as folks who’ve lived here a lot longer than I were coming out of their homes and staring up at the sky totally dumbfounded. If you find this fascinating, they start heading south by September, with their numbers reaching a crescendo at the end of September.

It resembles a hawk in the air although Kern River tells us Turkey Vultures are more closely related to storks than true vultures.

The shots from underneath showing the silver on the wingspan always remind me of the Native American Thunderbird myths. These birds, with their 6 foot wingspan, are puny compared to the reputed size of the Thunderbirds.

Appears they like to spend the night in Murphys. Perhaps we should start our own turkey vulture migration festival. I can just picture it. You see, folks like to dress up for festivals and events here: Murphys Irish Days, Mystery Dinners, Pirate themed Wine Parties, Grape Stomp.. and on the list goes. 

The antennae shot is more the “ugly” look most of us think of when we think turkey vulture – gorgeous in the air, but not even close when on the ground.

This post is participating Sundays in my City  plus the parties linked below. Click here to read a few of Thunderbird myths.