Author Archives: Ellys Phox
Though our February has been fairly mild, January was quite stormy and frigid (see photos below). Total rainfall in January (per our official rain gage) amounted to 7.25 inches. The creek that runs through the ranch down from us, on Hanks exchange, turned into a raging mini-river and the culvert on our road had to be repaired.
All the rain keeps the homestead a beautiful emerald green, but of course, that means, come summer, a lot of weed whacking will be needed. You all feel free to come on by and we’ll put you to work! ( Morgan remembers doing that at the cabin, right, Mo?) What with the weed eaters we had, plus a couple from the cabin and the three or four left here by the previous owners, we have plenty of tools! Lynnie has already had to weed eat the garden area twice, just to work on getting it ready for spring planting, which is just around the corner.
We have had several more burn days–working at clearing the down and dead ‘tinder’ (dry branches and leaves)–to make the property safer from wild fire. This is an ongoing task.
The homestead’s latest work tool is a UTV named Green. (Pictures to follow) It’s a wonderful little vehicle that allows us to access much more of the property, move heavy stuff from place to place and winch branches to the burn areas.
Lynnie finally broke down and got a bigger hummingbird feeder. She was needing to refill this small one about every 8-10 hours! The new one lasts for nearly two days! We have often had as many as ten birds feeding at once.
Frightened all the goldfinches and chickadees away!
We are so loving the Homestead—having the kids here, having the property to enjoy together, the friendly community and great restaurants to explore! We comment to each other, nearly every day, how grateful we are for it all.
P.S. The photos below are from a series taken after a freezing rain and strong wind left these amazing designs on the sunroom windows! Magical! No? (Click on them to view them bigger.)
Winter Holidays at the Homestead
The Homestead crew, plus Kim’s brother and sister-in-law, Matt and Chelsea, celebrated the Winter Holiday on Christmas Eve with a dinner of the most delicious roasted, grass-fed, beef tenderloin wrapped in bacon (from Costco) along with other yummy offerings.
Later, we exchanged our Secret Santa gifts, drank eggnog and played games late into the night. Oh, and we laughed a lot!
It is so delightful having JD and Kim, as well as mom Robin sharing the Homestead with us! We are more than grateful!
Christmas Day was spent with our Sacramento Family, where Debra hosted a wonderful day of good company, good food and good fun!
Happy FIRST Christmas June Bug!!
The Homestead crew loaded into the minivan and headed out to Apple Hill on Saturday to find the perfect Yule tree.
The day was crisp but sunny.
After hiking through the forest of trees, Lynnie found the perfect tree, already cut, near the gate.
We had so much fun! Ended our day at on of our favorite restaurants: Bones Road House, in Pleasant Valley.
We highly recommend this fun and funky place.
The week before Thanksgiving, the extended weather forecast called for heavy rain AND snow for the day before and during the Holiday. For many of the 17 family and friends, planning to celebrate with us, this would be their first visit to the Homestead and as previously mentioned, our road becomes quite dicey when inundated by weather! What if they got stuck, or worse yet, slid off the road!
It was clear that if the predicted weather materialized, we would have to call off the gathering. However, given the changeability of the weather around here, we decided to wait for a day or two, hoping wunderground.com might reconsider. Sure enough, by Monday, the forecast had shifted to predicting a sunny Thanksgiving and thankfully, they were right. Thanksgiving morning presented itself dressed in sunshine and wonder.
The day was lovely and everyone arrived without mishap. Counting the Homestead members, we had 22 family and friends here to celebrate! (It was wonderful to have you all here!)
Lynnie made the 20 pound turkey and everyone brought amazing offerings, including delicious appetizers, wine, copious amounts of the most scrumptious mashed potatoes (my favorite), homemade dressing, vegis, salads, pies.
OMG, it was a feast; what wonderful company and all in all a delightful day.
OXOXOXOXO to all!
It had been raining all day and just as we thought it was clearing, a front of black clouds roiled up the ravine and the rumblings of thunder grew louder and louder.
“Jeez, it’s pouring out there,” I said to Lynnie and went over to the window. “Wait a minute. That’s not rain!”
Raleigh and Reba ran out, sliding and sniffing, quite fascinated, having never seen the white stuff.
The back deck, too, was covered with white and stayed that way till the sun came out the next day.
If life is a game, this is the one we have been ‘playing’ for the past 8-9 months! Throughout this process, tiles have needed to shift, and then slid back again. Nothing has happened in a linear manner. From prepping to sell the place in Santa Rosa, having it on market and the heartbreak of failed offers, to finally selling, then buying the Homestead and moving to Benicia before we could finally move in for real—then moving and fixing and moving more, to say nothing of the repairing, building and cleaning, weed eating and brush scrubbing and continual unpacking.
Every time, at least two or three tiles had to shift for any one of these steps to be completed. It has been so disconcerting, frustrating and often confusing. As with this game, many of the tiles couldn’t be slid into a final place—but still had to move for the next step to be made– then moved back and then again…on and on.
Right now the biggest tile that needs to move is the pile of boxes in our downstairs project room so we can turn it into a slumber party room for Thanksgiving! But before I can unpack the art supplies in the boxes I have to put up the tall wooden shelf unit (one my dad build years ago) and it is a bit too tall to fit under the high utility shelves. So, an inch needs to be cut off the base in order for it to fit…but there are boxes sitting on the shelves and, right now, there is no place to put them…You get the picture?
And we continue, headed toward the goal of being ALL unpacked and somewhat settled! And more and more it is happening, one tile at a time!
In the three hours of the ‘storm from hell’, over two and a half inches of rain fell! A really cool, copper rain gage came with the property, so we don’t have to guess, or take the word of the local weather channel.
The short part of our road that is dirt and gravel, punctuated by larger rocks, turned into a river and the soft low place became a treacherous muddy slip and slide.
Given this was our first storm experience since moving here, we were relieved to hear from the locals that this was NOT a typical downpour.
Then again, with the whole El Niño predictions for this winter, it might become the norm!
And, yes—the storm did, indeed pass. The sun returned to warm our bones and dry the mud.
Within a few days, the pasture and the hillsides turned an emerald green. All those little seeds, fried in the 106-degree summer heat, wasted no time bursting out of their dried shells.
And the song concludes: Blue days, all of them gone. Nothin’ but blue skies from now on.
I would like to say the rest of the song exemplifies our on-going experience at the homestead, but as we all know, ‘nothing but blue skies’ is unrealistic and frankly boring.
As unsettling as the storm can be, clouds are bound to gather, which is far more interesting than the clear, single hum of cerulean!
I say, enjoy the sky, however it presents itself!
PS: I just discovered how to make the photos bigger. Very excited. (I know–lame, right? But, hey, I’m easy. 🙂
storm10 (click here–wait for it–turn the sound up–wait for it!)
The flash that woke me at 3:20 this morning was followed by the booming of thunder–some of the loudest thunder, I have ever heard.
Actually, as much as I have always loved thunder and lightening, I have never experienced such an intense and LONG storm. The video clip (click on ‘storm10’ above) is from before it heated up and when it did, the thunder shook the whole house!
For three hours, a full minute did not pass without lightening flashing and at times it was more like a fireworks display! The thunder was nearly continuous, echoing in the distant, rumbling across the far ridge or crashing directly overhead.
Needless to say, I’ve been up since 3:20 this morning–YAWN! –so I’ll probably hit the sack early!
Still in that place of hyper caution–you know, what with all the dangerous wild life in the area– I crept onto the deck outside our bedroom. I have heard that mountain lions often sound like screaming and—and—that they often hunt at dawn. I shivered, grateful the deck has no stairs to the ground.
Peering over the railing, I breathed relief at the sight of two peafowl strutting below, calling to each other. One was dark, with the typical iridescent green and black on the neck and tail feathers. The other was almost entirely white, with only bits of darker feathers. Both had the characteristic top knot on their heads.
“Hey look, Lynnie,” I called with great relief, “we have peacocks or hens or whatever they are…”
Of course, with all my commotion, by the time she got through the slider and onto the deck, the two had vanished around the corner.
“See that blue plastic bin there?” She pointed to the middle level of the deck. “There’s chicken scratch in there. I’ll bet the previous owner fed the peacocks.”
I opened the container and threw out several handfuls of feed, hoping the birds would come back around the corner. They didn’t. At least not then. But, every day for the next several weeks, their squawking announced the return of the two pea fowl.
Then one morning, they didn’t come. The next day, only the dark one showed and that afternoon we found a pile of large white feathers below the deck. We were all upset, but concluded this is what we have to expect– living on country property.
For days the dark one, who JD named Kelly (an androgynous name since we still aren’t sure if it’s a hen or a young cock) moped around, calling and calling. Then it stopped coming around at all. I kept throwing scratch out, but he didn’t show. We figured he’d gone the way of the wild, as well.
Then, just the other day, we woke up to the sound of familiar squawking. I ran to the window and, sure enough, the peafowl–both of them–were strutting up the drive, as big as life!
We concluded that the white one, after a narrow escape from becoming that midnight meal, flew away and hunkered down, until it recovered.
JD, appropriately dubbed it, Ghost. We are all thrilled she found her way back!
Though the two don’t come by every day, they are still regular visitors to the Homestead!!