Tuesday, August 21, 2012

6 months...

So, I did get all As.   I got an A in my summer school class, and now I have a pretty decent GPA of 3.84.    And my dad is dying of cancer.

My dad is dying of cancer.


Even typing it out, it doesn't fully click- well it did months ago when he started getting sick and we found out he had lesions in his lungs,  back in June when he went to the ER with chest pain.  They did some scans, which showed tumors on his lungs and liver.   Once he found out he has lesions on his liver as well, I did some googling and looking at my old medical textbooks and deduced he had stage 4 cancer... and no insurance.  I tried to talk to him, begged him to see a doctor, that he needed treatment ASAP.    He said he was fine.      It was beyond frustrating, without treatment he was as good as dead, and there was nothing I could do about it.    So I cried, I bawled as I tried to fall asleep at night, my performance at work because a struggle, as its hard to smile and give a damn about giving awesome customer service to a bunch of rich, snotty orange county people when in the back of my mind is a constant   " Dad is going to die....he is going to die....he is going to die."       Old men who came to buy plants and chat about their grandkids were the worse, their sweetness and pride in their kids would send me running to the bathroom as soon as I had rung them up to cry into an extra shirt and try to get my wits about me.   I started calling in sick some days, I couldnt get out of bed because I had been up half the night crying, grieving for the dreams of things I would never get to do with my dad, or he with his grandkids.    My mother has been sick for years, and is now in a wheelchair, I knew for years she was on borrowed time.    But my dad was strong, patient, and healthy as a horse- until now.   My dad, who is an awesome grandpa to my two little ones- would not get to see them grow up.   In all likelyhood he wouldnt even see me graduate from college now.    It was a very bitter pill to swallow.     What kinda of a sick joke was the universe playing-  to leave me as the caregiver to my disabled mother who keeps limping along,  when my dad has to lose such a sad battle?     Instead of writing my college application essays like I had planned his summer, I planned a funeral.      I made a draft of a eulogy, made a list of pallbearers,  saved the phone numbers of mortuaries and the cemetary his family is buried in.     The only thing worse then planning a funeral for a parent,   is when no one else knows or believes its necessary but you.   I planned my fall schedule to bookend classes on 3 days a week, so if/when things go downhill I was available.    I quit my job, because as the only child it would all come down to me to settle things and be the support for mom and for dad.    (My last day of work was August 10. )   It still angers me, feeling like I had no choice but to walk away from my dream job, a job that took years of school and experience to get, and I had to leave it because I had to go be the hero and save the day.   Mom and dad were still in denial that dad had cancer, they kept insisting it was just maybe an infection that could be treated with drugs and maybe surgery.

Dad finally got into a program at the hospital for uninsured people, but its taken months to get the appointments and tests...I dont know how things were moving so slowly when they knew it was cancer they were dealing with.      Finally on the day we were supposed to find out his prognosis  (August 15)  they said they couldnt tell him because he hadnt had a biopsy yet, they had dropped the ball and no one had remembered to schedule it.     But dad was in a ton of pain, his stomach hard and bloated, his skin and eyes a sick shade of yellow from his liver failing.     Finally the doc said they were sending him to the ER for more scans since he looked and felt so sick.

ER was a nightmare, long story short he finally got a bed in a hallway 12 hours later.   They kept wanting ot send him home with painkillers to follow up with another doctor who wasnt available till next month.  I yelled at the doctor, the nurses, and the surgeon: I would not take my father home to die, they needed to *do something* and I wasnt leaving until they did.   I threatened to sue, to complain, to call the director of the hospital, but I wouldnt not take no for an answer.   It took another 24 hours to get a bed up in the medical unit, along with more scans and tests.  They found a mass in his colon.    For 5 days I waited with dad, slept in the big pink chair that pulls out to a bed.    To kill time I googled videos of colon cancer and tried to explain it in simple terms but have him understand how serious it was.   I couldnt sugar coat it and say everything was going to be fine, but I couldnt just bluntly say he didnt have much time left.   We took walks around the floor, dad in his gown and yellow hospital issue booties, using the IV pole for support.   My cousin is awesome enough to stay with my mom and keep her calm until he gets home, hopefully by next week.

Yesterday (August 20) after me running out of patience with the various doctors who had no answers and repeated excuses for pushing off a surgery he needs for his colon being obstructed, we got the truth from them:   stage 4 colon cancer.   Its metastasized to his liver, lungs,  and some bone in his ribs and pelvis.    He has a large mass thats almost totally blocking up his colon, and another large mass on his liver thats messing with its functioning.        The prognosis:    up to 6 months,   maybe, just maybe, a year if he responds to chemo and they can remove some of the tumors.   But theres no cure for him.   By the time he felt sick and found out it was in his lungs, it was already too late.

Now I've drawn a blank on what to do.  They are going to insert a stent to keep his colon open and avoid surgery, to try and do some chemo and buy him time.     Everyone keeps telling me how strong I am...but I'm not.   I've just already mourned.   a few night ago I held my dad in my arms while he cried, the first time I've ever seen my dad cry, he said he was sorry for not being a better dad, etc.   I told him what I've wanted to tell him for months:  I love you, I'll miss you, and I unconditionally forgive you.

Now I wait.  I've cried, I've given up all that I could to be there, tried to fight for him to get what help there was, said my goodbyes.   Now I guess I just wait.   Next week the fall semester starts and I still have classes to go to, a little boy who starts kindergarden, a girl starting 3rd grade.   I have college transfer applications to work on.  In between my own family and school I will spend as much time with him as I can and try to help as best as I can.  

That is all I can do at this point.  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Making Progress

2 weeks of school left and I have 4 As and a B that I'm trying to pull up to an A. So far so good. I'm on track to apply to schools next fall, and if I get all As this semester I'll have a 3.83 GPA. I also got the two classes I wanted for summer ( statistics and art history) so I'm planning on acing those and that will bump GPA up a bit. I should be a good position GPA wise when I apply in fall, keeping my fingers crossed! I'm sick in bed again today after my 3rd round of a fever/virus thing. Tristan was sick last week so I thought i got it from him but my professor was sick this weekend too, so maybe its going around? anyhow, I havent forgotten my blog, just been busy with school, I still have a ton of photos to put up and posts on canning to complete and publish. hopefully I'll get caught up this summer!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Citrus Roundup

What I have made so far this year:

Cara Cara Orange Marmalade
Kumquat Marmalade
Key Lime Marmalade
Lime Jam
Tangerine Jelly
Meyer Lemon Jam (no peels, just fruit +juice)
Meyer Lemon Marmalade
Blood Orange Marmalade
Pummelo Marmalade
Sunshine Marmalade ( orange, tangerine, lemon, pummelo)

Candied citrus peels

Candied whole kumquats

Liquers: ( soaking in vodka now)
meyer lemon

Meyer Lemon Curd
Lime Curd
Cara Cara Orange Curd

I love citrus, but now I am ready for some berries and stone fruit. Next coming up is usually Blueberries in May in Temecula, then Cherries (June) in Beaumont and Leaona Valley, Wild Blackberries in July, and Raspberries (July/August) and lots of stone fruits July-September.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Experimenting with Citrus: oberservations so far

*ugh, blood orange marmalade with the whole peel is WAY too bitter, some people may like it but its a bit much for me. It set without pectin very well, but the flavor is not what I wanted. Going to can it and use it to make an asian orange chicken sauce later, oh well. Learn from experience! Next time I'll peel zest off and supreme the fruit before chopping it up.

EDIT: 2nd and 3rd batches turned out way better! theres still a lingering note of bitterness, but its only really noticeable straight from the jar, I don't notice it on toast.

*satsumas make lousy marmalade so far, not enough flavor there after (gently) cooking, and the fruit just stays floating as the little juice sacs, had to mix in some pulp from the murcott tangerines and add some TJs tangerine juice to up the flavor. They are great for eating fresh, but after trying to cut them with a mandoline slicerr the skin separated off instantly ( they are so easy to peel) and there was a whole lot of 'pith' to clean off the fruit before chopping it up and adding it to the thinly sliced peels to simmer.

*Kumquats are a huge pain in the ass to cut up, but they make the most awesome, INTENSE citrus spread, ever! I don't know how a fruit so tiny could have 3-5 seeds in each, makes the food processor or mandoline useless and gives the wrists a ton of exercise cutting them by hand.

*cara caras, limes, and mayer lemons make good "whole fruit" marmalade, whole peel and all (sliced thin with a mandoline) after simmering and leaving to sit overnight so the pectin can dissolve into the juice/water.

EDIT: Huzzah! I realized that letting the fruit/sugar mixture come to a boil for a bit, then let sit overnight (again) seems to fix the floating fruit bits issue.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Citrus marmalade recipe (without added pectin)

I've had alot of people ask me how I make marmalade, so I wanted to write it out. I'll work on adding step by step pictures later. This has worked for me using limes, lemons, kumquats, and cara cara oranges. You could probably also mix any combination of citrus too.

Recipe for (any) citrus marmalade:

Remove zest/peel from fruit with either a vegetable peeler or a citrus tool , scrape away any white pith off the peels, set aside.

Take fruit and using a paring knife cut away any white pith on the outside of the fruit. I then cut the fruit into thin slices that look like wagon wheels. Remove any seeds, set aside ( we can use seeds for pectin later) and remove any tough white core from the center of the segments. Cut wheels into fourths. Cut up enough fruit to give about 4 cups of citrus slices/pieces.

Take reserved zest and slice into thin slices, like little ribbons. You can cut them thicker but I like the peel in thin slices in my marmalade.

In one pan add sliced zest, enough water to cover, and 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, bring to a boil,turn off heat, and let sit for 15 minutes. drain off water, set aside.

To the other pan I add equal parts of the chopped fruit and water. ( about 4c fruit + 4 c water). If you have any seeds from the fruit place tie them up in a piece of cheesecloth or use a muslin teabag to hold them. Add reserved zest slices. Bring all to a low simmer for about 25-30 minutes, or until the fruit segments have fallen apart and the zest slices are soft ( a spoon should cut a piece easily against the side of the pot). Turn off heat, cover, and let sit overnight ( 12-18 hours)

The next day get your jars all clean, hot and ready to fill. Remove bag of fruit seeds ( if using), squeezing hard to get every last bit of pectin out of it. Discard seeds. Stir the fruit, and it should look a bit thickened form the pectin that seeped into the water overnight. You should now have a pot full of about 8c worth of prepared citrus. *Split this into 2 pots* ( I had problems getting it to set when cooked as such a big batch), Measure how much fruit is going into each pot, You should have about 4c in each pot. Add an equal amount of sugar ( 4c) and bring to a boil, and boil until it reaches about 215-220 degrees on a candy thermometer. A test sample on a cold spoon or saucer should firm up, showing you the marmalade is done.

Fill hot jars with marmalade, leaving a 1/4 in head space, add lids and rings, and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.

Variations: strawberry lemonade marmalade: before heating 4c citrus fruit + 4c sugar, add 1c finely chopped strawberries. If it doesn't want to gel add another 1/4 of fresh lemon juice.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A new year, a new life- now with more focus!

After over 2 years of not finding time to blog about the little happenings and learnings of my life, here I am again. I've been very addicted to facebook, but those short snippets just don't let me have fun talking photos, showing step by step of recipes I'm trying and analyzing the results. Plus then I can't go back and find the links I've shared very easily. Farmville was fun too, but than it began to represent a cruel irony to me: wasting time on a virtual farm when I could better use the time practicing skills or researching ways of having a real one.

So here I am.

When I last left you guys I was settled in an apartment dealing with my husbands layoff- looking for a job and pondering what to do next. The last few years have been very busy: I've worked in a natural parenting-esque cloth diaper shop, as an agricultural aid for the CDFA looking the the invasive Asian Citrus Psyllid, I've gone back to school to study horticulture, found my groove as a student and worked my way into the honors program and even into Phi Theta Kappa, a national honors society. This year school is partially funded by 2 scholarships and a grant, and currently I have been working at a Garden Center/Nursery as a sales associate for almost a year now and am training to hopefully be a Color Department Lead( Flowers/Veggies/Herbs) someday. I completed my training as a UCCE Master Gardener, have volunteered in trying to get a community garden up and running in my hometown, gave many a talk on veggie gardening, and have made many wonderful friends and contacts with similar interests as me. My two beautiful children are growing up and getting smarter every day, and I am blessed to say I am more in love with my sexy dork of a husband than ever. Life has never been better for me.

But it hasn't all been sugar and sweet peas, in the last 2 1/2 years we've moved 4 times ( various family members, which I am forever thankful), my husband ended up unemployed for over 2 years, our marriage was strained to almost breaking, I had bouts of depression and so much fear and doubt. Life was restless, unsettled. I didn't know how to pull myself out of it, we needed something, anything to just change for the better. Finally, my husband got a job interview out in Missouri, so we flew out to stay with my recently found birthmom in Tulsa,OK so Chris could drive to the interview. That is when the big Blizzard of 2011 hit superbowl week, and we were basically stranded in the snow in the midwest for a few days. During that week I happened to get an email about an application I had put in at a garden center months prior. Chris' interview was cancelled because of the state of emergency the region was in, and after we got home the phone interview didn't pan out well.

My job interview went better then I could have ever hoped for: they hired me.

I had my first full time, more than minimum wage job with an employee owned company that even offered medical insurance. It was my miracle. We could afford to move out of my parents home and sphere of drama to our own apartment where we live now, for almost a year now. We finally had a sense of independence. I've even bought my first real car, a sweet little baby blue car with lots of happy bumper stickers on it. My husband finally got lucky too, as the economy has ever so slowly picked up he stopped the desperate job hunting and started his own consulting gig, which has slowly been picking up steam.

2012 is a year full of promise for me: we're both gainfully employed, in out own little home we work hard for, raising our beautiful children and full of gratitude for our lives now and the lessens we learned along the way. We're slowly working towards a goal of moving to a more rural-ish area where I can have a yard, a garden, and fruit trees again- and maybe even chickens and a dairy goat someday. UC Davis just started a major in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems- exactly what I love to study but didnt have a term for. I got to visit the campus last year for a transfer student open house and fell *IN LOVE* with the school and the town. My husband loved it too, so if its meant to be I hope they accept my application next Fall.

We've been blessed with wonderful friends along the way who support us emotionally and spiritually. I have awesome professors who have written strong letters of recommendation that helped me land my current job and a few scholarships. I am lucky to be able to still hone my homesteading skills with limited resources by being frugal and bartering canned goods for produce. Whether its saving the green tomatoes off plants being tossed at the nursery, making friend with the farmers market folks for deals on blemished stuff, joining a local CSA, to offering to pick the fruit and prune the trees of neighbors and aquaintences, I find fresh produce to work with.

My best friend has chickens and more eggs than she knows what to do with sometimes, so I buy or trade for eggs from her. A co-worker keeps bees and gave me 2 jars of lovingly raised honey for Christmas. Many generous friends bring me fruit from their trees. I am always giving away stuff I've put up or crafted with my own hands- my mom teases that I can and stockpile food for lean paycheck weeks but give so much of it away I should stop being so generous and save more for myself. That's because the more I give away, the more that comes back to me and my family, and the more I can give to others on tough times too. I've been there, and know how quickly I could end up there again.

We all take care of each other.

2012 is a big year, I'm dropping down from full time work to part time hours to focus on a full class load (19 units) of honors classes, botany, California geography, critical writing and hopefully chemistry. I was elected as an officer of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) so theres events and work to do there, and some conferences to attend. By next summer I should qualify to take the California Certified Nursery Professinal exam, and if I pass earn the nice CCNP title and pay raise. I should complete my Associates Degree in Spring 2013, and may or may not be transferring somewhere the fall after, thats still in the works. I'm gaining more responsibilities and experience volunteering as a Master Gardener, and now the Master Food Preserver (MFP) program has its own classwork and volunteer requirements. There are lots of events and classes with local groups that have so much I want to learn from them.

I am happy, I am focused, I am driven but most of all I am blessed.

Every night as I fall asleep I meditate on my own little Mantra:

"I am Blessed, I am Loved, and I am Thankful."

Blessed Be.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Yes, I have been on a blogging hiatus, but after some very disappointing news came to light I cannot remain silent.



I posted this reply on the FG forums, but I do not know if the post will remain or not so I am posting it here as well. I am well aware it seems to now contain many trademarked terms but whatever....


I am at a loss for words, while the intentions may have started off... sound ( to avoid the phrase being used too loosly, I understand where you are coming from there) - and I can apprciate that- and you do have every right to protect your own published *original* works such as your magazine articles and documentaries- somehow the concept that calling my yard a urban homestead ( something I called it before I ever heard of you guys) on the public internet is now somehow a trademark issue I *have to* turn around and give *you* credit for- just leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

What about old mother earth news articles from way back in the 70's and 80's that talk of urban farms/homesteading? Isnt that what inspired Jules Dervaes in the first place? I loved linking/sharing information from you guys, and its a choice I made because I really liked seeing your yard as an example of what can be done with a regular yard in suburbia can be with hard work and careful planning. As of yet I have not received any such notification of trademark issues ....but I can only imagine how others who did receive that letter might feel- especially if they had never heard of you but do in fact have what is called an urban homestead. I would feel shocked and a bit angry too.


ur·ban (├╗rbn)
1. Of, relating to, or located in a city.
2. Characteristic of the city or city life
home·stead (hmstd)
1. A house, especially a farmhouse, with adjoining buildings and land.
2. Law Property designated by a householder as the householder's home and protected by law from forced sale to meet debts.
3. Land claimed by a settler or squatter, especially under the Homestead Act.
------>4. The place where one's home is.
v. home·stead·ed, home·stead·ing, home·steads

There are as many types/styles of urban homesteads as there are homesteaders/gardeners. Some organic, some mixed, some not....for some its 5 acres, others its a potted tomato plant on their 3rd story apartment balcony. If they wish to blog or speak of their experiences as urban homesteading it is only loosely affiliated with you in that you are both referring to a choice in lifestyle where you are aquiring substinence from your home....but by the strict dictionary definitions it doesnt even involve gardening...or chickens...or goats...or soil or whatever.

My point is, technically if you have a place in the city you call home, you have an urban homestead, no matter what you do with it, or what you or others call it. Its just too broad a concept to narrowly defein as only being able to be what you trademarked it to be.

I also noticed theres a trademark on FREEDOM GARDENS....while I can see that since this is the name of this website and all, at least it was only trademarked in the plural gardenS sense....since my own hometown and many other already have a Freedom Garden (singular) to refer to a rose garden in rememberance of those who died protecting our country's freedom- but what then of articles that speak collectively of these living, botanical memorials to our loved ones? If they speak of the growing movement of freedom gardens ( as in memorial gardens) do they still have to refer to you as well? Where does it end?

*blinks back tears* PLEASE reconsider your stance on some of these terms you are so wanting to call your own, or the very community you so inspired and supported will no longer feel comfortable supporting you.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Transitioning to Fall

This week the weather has been so gorgeous: mild, cool, (60-70 degree) and crisp nights (50ish). I'm trying to enjoy it the best that I can, autumn is a very short season in SoCal, its likely to jump back to 90 degree temps to get cold and drizzly and rather depressing on natures whim. I've heard and read that autumn in SoCal is the equivalent of spring back east; we're finally wandering outside again after the brutal summer sun and heat, and the ground is warm enough for seeds and plants to take off but not too warm as to need to water every hour and hope the plants make it.

I harvested 12 nice sized tomatoes from the 'Bush Champion' plant on the balcony. I haven't called the plant "done" yet because its still producing new flowers on the top, hoping to get a few more tomatoes from it. I finally had to cut down and toss the other 2 'Patio' tomato plants because they were over run with spider mites, and being determinants were looking rather lackluster and not flowering or setting more fruit. I cut down the 'Jaune Flamme' tomatoes after their last batch a few weeks ago because whatever disease the plants had just took over completely. Pole beans look nice, they have stretched all the way to the top of the trellis netting I installed and are flowering like crazy, I even spotted 1 lone bean pod this morning, prob the first flower the vine made was pollinated right away! I also planted some pea plants I got from our community garden fundraising booth. I lightly tied them to the netting with some tomato tape, I hope this cool ( 60-70 degree) ish weather stays for awhile longer to give the plants time to settle in and take off, praying for no more crazy heat waves like the one last year that decimated everyone's cool season gardens.

My pole beans have some sort of issue where the older leaves are turning yellow, dying, and falling off. My first guess would have been nitrogen deficiency since its starting with the oldest leaves and leaving the veins green at first- but this is a legume here, aren't they supposed to MAKE nitrogen? I didn't inoculate the beans first tho, so that may be a reason.

With my limited growing space I have to rotate plants sometimes if it seems some things aren't getting enough sun, or last week when the spider mites were really bad I tried to space things in a certain way so when I blasted the plants with plain water with a tank sprayer I wouldn't get mites onto uninfected plants- turns out they got on everything anyway. I'm pretty sure the constant breeze didn't help me there. It was pretty hot and dusty last month- which spider mites love- so I kept trying to mist them daily with water to try and keep the mite population down. When that didn't work I tried garlic & oil, soap and water, even water and cayenne pepper. Nada, they just kept breeding like rabbits and as fast as I could knock them off with water they rebounded and spun millions of tiny webs all over my plants. This week after seeing how badly they were damaging my new planting of tomatoes I finally gave in and applied a neem oil solution to all my plants. At least its an organic miticide but I still hate spraying something that can harm beneficials as well, so I sprayed it at 11pm at night so for sure no stray bees or hummingbirds would be out and about. Today when I checked on the plants I saw very few live mites, so I hope a few more doses at neem to get whatever hatches out again should help knock the population back down a few notches.

I ran out of potting soil, I need to get some more compost to mix with the vermiculite and coco peat I have in the garage, or I may be lazy and just get some Dr.Earth or Ednas best or something all ready to use. For fall I still want to plant some Swiss chard, baby beets, dwarf bok choy, nasturtiums, lettuce, and of course mesclun. I'm craving some sweet fresh salads again.

Ok, gotta go, I need to finish up that pomegranate jelly :) My dad's tree is packed with fruit this year, so he gave me 2 buldging bags worth ( barely dented whats on the tree) and Chris helped me remove the seeds. Then I ran them thru the blender quickly to puree ( without liquefying the seeds as much as possible), then strained in a colander lined with a clean cotton cloth. I squeezed as much liquid as I could from the 'pulp', then poured the juice into clean quart jars to let any solids settle out. After a couple of hours I have jars full of translucent dark red pomegranate juice with a layer of white seed particles settled at the bottom. I hope by carefully decanting the liquid I can get nice clear juice and some beautiful clear pomegranate jelly! More photos on that to follow shortly.

In the meantime, enjoy my little slide show of how my garden has been faring over the last month or so.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

video of my Toddler's antics in the kitchen

This is why I can't take my eyes off my son for even 5 minutes, espcially when I leave an open bag of flour out on my freshly scrubbed down counters before starting a new batch of dough.

What you can't see in the video was the flour all over the floor as well as the counter, plus as he scooted around on his butt his underwear was like a powder puff, just coated in the stuff. His shrugging shoulders and avoidance of eye contact are Tristan's classic "Uh oh I am in trouble and I know it" routine. My favorite moment in this video is his answer to "Are you going to touch mommy's flour again?"

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Wagons East! ( We're looking to leave California)

Yup, the inevitable has come at least: My husband has been laid off.

I can't say it was a surprise- actually it was a relief after nearly a year of being yo-yoed by his former employer, the bank that owned our house, family members, and the economy- I can finally say we're free.

We don't own a house, we don't have a job, our bankruptcy is almost done with, and we have unemployment benefits, savings ( that we've squirreled away since this hell started a year ago), a full chest freezer and 4 3f by 5 ft pantries crammed to the brimming with canned book and dry staple goods I have been hoarding like an OCD hamster. So overall, I can say we will be OK for right now.

The only things we really buy from the store in a regular basis were eggs, milk, chocolate, sugar, canning jars, and odds n ends, and thankfully the kids qualify for WIC so theres the milk and eggs. Starting next month CA WIC finally changes over to the new healthier program, so they will nwo offer whole grains such as brown rice or whole wheat tortillas, vouchers for fruits and vegetables ( even organic!) and more options for dried or canned beans/lentils instead of peanut butter. Hooray! I get a little bit of money here and there for speaking gigs, friends buying the Jam I make and hopefulyl soon a few odd jobs some friends have offered to my husband. I've gotten quite good at Pinching a penny till Abe Lincoln cries ( thanks for that quote Kathe!). Our grocery bill for a family of 4 is around 300 a month, I think lately its been a little more with buying produce and canning jars in the summer. In California thats quite an achievement to be proud of.

Chris and I have been talking in earnest about possibly moving out of state where its cheaper, quieter, and life is less hectic, but we didnt have a clue where- being we've been in California our entire lives. This summer when we were in Missouri for a wedding we both kinda fell in love with the areas we drove thru: its was green, had trees, land prices were way cheaper, and somehow our blood pressure was considerably lower there even with the drama of a family wedding, our 2 small kids and knowing the clock on Chris job was running. So this week when I kinda just sat down, looked outside at the hot dry brown landscape that is SoCal in the summer and said "Man, why can't we just move somewhere else in the country" Chris actually agreed with me. He's really over California and is curious to live elsewhere and have a different lifestyle.

What a huge weight off my shoulders! I wasnt just a crazy wife wanting to drag my husband away, he seriously looked like he's also had enough of our states stupid budget, the politicians, the celebrities, lack of rainfall, crazy electric prices, even crazyer home prices, and the starbucks on ever frigging corner...the list goes on and on. I love the beautiful view of the San Gabriel mountains from our windows- but now that view is oftentimes obscurred with smog and the blob of urban sprawl keeps climbing up the foothills. Gone are the citrus groves, the vineyards, the windbreaks of eucalytus trees, wandering sheep herds, blooming yucca plants like giant candles in the moonlight. This area no longer feels unique- you can find almost exact copies of the housing tracts and shopping malls all over SoCal.

I tried to look and see how much renting a small home with a little bit of land ( an acre or less) around it was, and even a piece of crap house in a terrible area with an acre of land is renting for 2,000-2,200 a month. No thanks.

We've lost so much in the last year, but in return we've gained something precious: freedom. As weird as it may sound, the world is our oyster for a moment, if we can find a job somewhere else thats stable and meets the cost of living in the area, we're good. Problem is in this economy having a college degree and years of experience isnt the golden ticket to a happy middle class lifestyle like it used to be. So all we can do right now is plan, research, and look for work across the country.

I know some people would think I'm nutts for wanting to leave, I mean this place has everything, a baseball stadium down the street, a NASCAR racetrack in Fontana, a bunch of colleges nearby, 3 malls within a 30 minute drive, 40 minutes to the closest ski area, an hour from the beach, 90 minutes to wine country, an hour to downtown LA and that street scene- but we don't really care! LOL

What do we both want at this point in our lives?

* Peace and quiet. NO big rigs honking, sirens constantly from the freeway and streets, people and their pimped out cars with a subwoofer blaring the base for a mile around them. Car alarms, helicopters, drunk idiots walking home, airport traffic, I'm sick of never having silence not even in the middle of the night.

*Less Traffic- it shouldnt take 2 hours to do 20 miles, but at 5pm on a Friday, thats the minimum drive time. If you need to take the 91 or the 101, double that time. Even to cross the city of Rancho Cucamonga, which is like, 7 miles? Takes me an average of 25 minutes up one street. Yes I've been timing it. With nearly 250,000 people living in a 10 mile radius, theres almost always some traffic, and its worse with all the street expansions and new contruction going on.

*S-P-A-C-E: I hate seeing these new homes so close together you sneeze and your next door neighbor hears you from inside their house. I don't want to hear them arguing, watching TV, or having sex either when all I want is the windows open for some air.

*Privacy: goes hand in hand with space. I want to be able to walk outside, tend a garden, sit and read a book on a porch, or have a BBQ without 20 people being able to see me or hear me outside. I've heard strong fences make good neighbors, but an acre of distance would sure help it as well.

*Seasons: so far here we get wind, fires, floods, and 100+ heat. At any time of the year, and sometimes in the same week. I've had pool parties on my birthday (Jan 3) because it was 95 degrees. I've never watched the leaves turn to shades of red and gold, seen frost make lace on the windows, or looked for the first snowdrops of the spring. Thins other states take for granted. The days blend into each other and don't change much and somehow my body just feels tired and confused. Yes the sunshine is nice, but the sound of rain falling as I sleep is the sweetest therapy ever. As much as I hate cold, I would put up with snow so a hearty hot soup or stew is that much better, and so I'd appreciate spring more. Yes theres blizzards and tornados, but here we get earthquakes and santa ana winds. Its give and take, no place is perfect.

*Land: I don't want a landscaped front lawn, or a backyard or a cul de sac lot, I want land. At least an acre or 2. Room for a well planed intensively planted fruit orchard, a sustainable tree area for firewood, a large compost area, a vegetable garden, a berry patch, Bees, space for a couple of egg laying chickens or ducks and agoat or 2 for milk someday down the road round out my American dream nicely.

to be continued.......