Monday, April 30, 2012

'Nuff Said

A picture says a thousand words.  I'll write some anyway though.

I took this on Friday while skiing my last day of the season (ski areas closed April 29).  It was a gorgeous day and the snow was surprisingly good for very late April.  I left the yurt in the mid morning to run an errand in town.  Just in case I ended up being so moved, I threw my skis, boots, poles, and helmet in the car.  No one else really felt like coming along except Rosie, so off she and I went.  The errand went quickly and brought me 15 minutes closer to Sugar Bowl.  Despite rocking jean shorts for my errand, I decided to drive the remaining 45 minutes in the fuel-sipping Prius to get some runs in.

As the picture depicts, I was happy about my choice.  I plugged into the music on my hand-me-down iPhone (which I really appreciate--thanks, Ben!  How cool to have phone, camera, email, music, research device, maps, note pad, calculator all in my pocket!  I know I am supposed to be a mountain man living off the land, but I can't deny what a cool piece of technology it is.  Gladly, I am not addicted to it.  I just like it.  I could stop any time.)  And then I just made a bunch of laps down great runs.  I smiled and went fast on the way down.  On the way up, when not joined by another single, I contemplated:
Brilliant sun and perfect temperature,
Soft snow, but not too slushy,
Burn in the thighs and working lungs from a good run down,
Skiing makes me happy.
How amazing to run a quick errand, make this an add-on, and still hardly be missed at home.
I could live here permanently.
These are the moments.
Thank you for this time.


The Train Museum

On Tuesday, Grace, Mama, Eli and I went to the Railroad Museum in Sacramento.  While there, we had a lot of excitement.

The first thing we did was go to the gift shop in the museum (we got there early).  Mama, Grace, and I rushed to the train station as soon as we were told it was about to leave, assuming Eli was already on with his friends.  While we boarded the train, we asked where Eli was.  They said he was not there.  Grace and I went on while Mama searched.  When we got off, Mama had Eli.

After lunch we finally took a tour of the museum.  We got to go into a remake of a dining and sleeping train.  I was tempted to lie down and go to sleep in the sleeping train.

At the end of our visit, we watched a movie about trains.  It was about  making the trail.

As I told you, on Tuesday Grace, Mama, Eli, and I wen to the train museum in Sacramento.  We learned about traits of a train, about the development of trains, and not to leave Eli in a gift shop while we are catching a train.  All of this was exciting.



A couple of days ago, we saw Titanic.  This movie was really realistic.

First, Titanic was realistic because everyone thought it couldn't be sunk.  In the movie it showed how the captain was over-confident.  He sped the Titanic to 22 knots in dangerous waters.

Next, Titanic was realistic because the boat and clothes looked like the real things.  The boat had a spiral staircase and crystal chandeliers.  The people had corsets and top hats.

Lastly, Titanic was realistic because it was terrible.  I think everyone would agree that this story was really sad.  In the movie it showed dead women holding dead newborns.

As you can see, Titanic was a realistic movie.  I thought that this was a great movie, but in the end it was awful.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Tea House of the August Moon

              The other day we saw a play called Tea House of the August Moon. It was about American soldiers in Japan trying to teach the people about American values. The main character was a unsuccessful soldier who had been thrown out of every military institution.  He is assigned to a town where his job is to set a democratic system, build a pentagon shaped school house and make it so the town has income. The islanders are very kind and respectful and seem to try their best but end up changing him instead of the other way around.
              The first thing he does is give a speech about democracy, but no one would listen until he accepted their gifts. One of his gifts is a geisha girl who he thinks is a prostitute. She tries to help him get dressed and he freaks out. Later  he realizes a geisha girl is actually is a person who tries to make people feel better about themselves by playing music and stuff. He then feels bad and lets her dress him in Japanese clothes which he decides are very comfortable.
            Later, the democracy decides that instead of a school, they want a tea house which eventually he agrees to. At this point, the guy's boss is very concerned about him and sends in someone to inspect him. The inspector is also changed by the town and begins wearing kimonos and wood sandals. Then the people go to market to sell their crafts but no one wants to buy them.  It turns out the town makes great brandy which was a huge hit with the soldiers.
             At this  point, the boss is furious and orders the tea house destroyed and the distilleries smashed, but the town people get the assistant drunk and none of the orders were carried out.  Just then, the boss gets a call from Congress congratulating him on the town's success. The captain then revokes the order so none of the orders were carried out. The people were changed very little by the experience while the Americans were.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Lattice and Life

Yesterday and today I finished my garden construction work.  The greenhouse is complete, I built two sets of stairs up to the deck, repaired the the old deck, and put up lattice along where the deck was chopped off from the house that once was here.   I don't think I've ever told the story on the blog, so for those of you who don't know, we bought our land in foreclosure three years ago.  The previous owner had given the land over to an "investor" who took everything off the land he could (house, barn, well and spring pumps, etc.) and stopped making mortgage payments.  The deck was one of the few things still left here when we bought it.  The lattice along the deck creates a bit of closure; it patches up a wound.  It is also fulfilling to see the garden green growing up from what was once bare, sterile dirt in the old foundation site. 

This evening, Juliana and I sat on the newly-patched deck and watched the sunset as we surveyed the land.  It was a beautiful day.  While we were enjoying the view, Sophia and Grace let the ducks forage in the garden for a bit as well.  Grace posed with one of the ducks in the sun's last light.

Juliana and the girls made cheese with our goat milk this afternoon.  The milk is so good, we seldom want to use it for anything but drinking.  But the cheese is pretty good, too.  They used rennet and citric acid to make a mozzarella.  The stuff in Grace's spoon is curd and the liquid left behind is whey.

Sorry that the picture below is out of focus. I had to get it quick because the cheese was getting eaten so fast. 

Tomorrow, I'm taking Eli and his friend, John, to play in their first ever ultimate tournament with Coach Mark Pletcher's Marin "High Fliers".  A historic day!

Looking back, it was a busy week of school events, 4H, outings, skiing, music lessons, play rehearsal, ultimate practice, building, an Earth Day fair, community service, sleep overs, a play in Nevada City, and post-Bar Mitzvah wrap-up.  A major highlight was a visit from Uncle Bob and Aunt Jo.  Grace made them biscuits and they sampled some scrambled duck and chicken eggs with goat milk.  After walking the StewZ Loop, Bob encouraged me to fully utilize our land's natural resources and go into the firewood and spring water business.  As business is not my forte, I suggested he come live in Juliana's future gypsy caravan/ guest house and get us up and running.

While I got my ramble on, I have another thought to share.  About a month ago, Juliana and I went on a date and saw a movie with Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston.  I tend to avoid Anitson movies, but I think Paul Rudd is hilarious so there was no stopping me.  The movie was pretty decent, but the biggest impression I came away with from watching Aniston is that she felt like a friend!  She was there in the 90's, living with her other twenty-something "Friends" (like I was doing back then).  I've followed her relationship ups and downs over the years (albeit, not particularly closely) and here she was again on the big screen, a fairly down-to-earth forty-something (like lots of my friends).  It was a bit bizarre to feel a connection with someone I don't even know personally, but I did.   For a Hollywood star, at least she does seem to be fairly genuine.  I guess it means I'm getting old that I feel connections with celebrities (see my Whitney Houston blog from a couple months ago).  I thought about writing Aniston a letter to tell her she sort of has a friend, but I didn't.  While I suppose it would be nice to make a real connection, I didn't want to come across like a weird fan.

Last thought of the day: this has been a really, really cool year.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

At work

Today was a work day around the Stewyurt.  I attempted some poison oak eradication.  I covered all my skin with clothing while at it, then washed clothes and body immediately after completion.  But I'm still worried about how swollen and itchy I'll be tomorrow and for the next two weeks.  I got in a bunch of weed wacking too; chased some cool looking snakes and a mouse in the process.  Fortunately for the mouse, they went in different directions.

Here is what some of the other workers were doing today:

The bees were busy.  The swarm Juliana picked up a couple of weeks ago is becoming a hive and appears to be happy.  Every flower in the garden seems to have one of the new bees on it.

 Juliana was working out in her new greenhouse.

The goats were working on chewing up the lower pasture (AKA ultimate field).  I like seeing that.  Saves on weed wacking and goat feed costs.

Eli working on...hey!...that isn't work! He's actually playing his favorite game, Minecraft, after (mostly) finishing his work.  For those of you unfamiliar with Minecraft, think virtual Legos.

And then they rested.


Bee loving

My mom helped me split our San Rafael hive last week.
The bees had drawn out all but 2 of the top bars with gorgeous comb and seemed more than a little crowded. We transferred half the bars to the empty hive adjacent so the girls could expand. The new box will have to raise up a queen from some of the existing brood. I hope it all goes just right for them. Lots of flowers in our old neighborhood. Bee paradise! We also placed an empty box with pheromone lure in hopes of collecting a local swarm for my mama's empty hive. I'm hopeful. And delighted that the bees seem to be thriving so far. May it continue. 


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ski Day #25/26

2 guys, 12 runs, 50 degrees, $20 off lunch, 48+ mpg, 1 history lesson, 1 math lesson, 1 physical education lesson, 2 new ski passes for 2012-13

to Eli, 4/14/12

Eli, everyone is here today for you.  We love you.  You are special. 

We, as a community are embracing you. We have high hopes for your growing involvement as a positively participating member of this community.

This is, in fact, what you have already become. You, Eli: son, brother, grandson, nephew, friend.  You, who are curious about the world and ask such good questions.  You, who when you know the answer, teach with patience and generosity.  You, who read the prayers with such feeling you brought a tear to the Rabbi’s eye.  You who laugh hard at what is funny, catch the subtleties, and can recite it all back verbatim. You, Eli, who have worked hard to master the ski slopes, endured a 5-day bike ride through driving rain, backpack with vigor, stayed up all night to observe egg-laying leatherback turtles, crossed the equator to study bizarre critters in the Galapagos, learned your prayers, love your dog, do your math.  You are earnest and smart.  You have a good heart. 

Eli, I cherish who you are and your friendship and companionship.  Thank you for sharing with me, with us.  I see the world’s small wonders with a greater awareness thanks to your perspective and thoughtfulness.

Mazel tov! Happy Bar Mitzvah.  I welcome you again to your community.  You make us better and you have my blessing as we make our way.  

--Papa Joey Stewart

Courage to make your life a blessing

Eli, the day you were born, almost 13 years ago, I became a mother. The challenges and joys of loving you the best I can have shaped me in important ways. I think I might finally be an adult!

But it took me a long time to feel truly grown. I think you have more time too.

Maybe becoming fully formed is a process. And in approaching challenges with curiosity and open heartedness you create yourself, and your life.

You’ve had a great start with that this year, with your 5 Bar Mitzvah challenges.

I’ve seen you do hard things. And I think you’ve found value in that. Remember the value of doing what is worthwhile even when it is hard.

Take the confidence you gained in riding your bike 200 miles, and try something new, even if you might fail.

Failure is not the worst thing. It can be a teacher and a motivator. Failure can be embarrassing, but also funny. Some of my best stories come from recounting epic failures. We survive them. Often they make us better.

Eli, you have a strong spirit of adventure.
I hope that will lead you new places. And may it lead you to experience life deeply, with enthusiasm, and delight. A sense of adventure might take you inside a beehive, or to a bat caveThailand, or to live in a round cabin with your family in the woods.

Both sets of your grandparents--sea gypsies and world travelers-- embody the spirit of adventure. They embrace life fully. Ask them to invite you along

Eli, you are brave and strong. You ski down ravines and cracks that would make me cry. And you do it fast. You confront your fears and do not allow them to paralyze you in pursuing what you love. I encourage you to use that courage to also be yourself, to risk looking foolish sometimes. To act silly. To wear purple.

Use that courage to hold your true friends close to you.
And to make the right choices, even if they aren’t ‘cool.’
It can take a lot of courage to resist the way of the pack.
But Eli, you can, when you should, because you are brave.

Eli, you have a good brain, and wonderful ideas.

Albert Einstein, who also had a good brain, said this: “There are only 2 ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Your worldview can be positive. Positive outlook can be a choice, a personal philosophy. I bet Einstein also laughed in his sleep. I love that you do that.

Perhaps you will involve yourself in making the world better. I have seen you do good work in your community this year with the hungry and unsheltered, and for the animals. I hope you will continue finding the courage to make your life a blessing.

I realize that I do a lot of telling and instructing, and I have done that here too. I know that can be a drag. I won’t promise to stop. You still have some growing to do, and I hope to be involved for a long time.

But want to tell you this Eli. I am proud of you. I believe you’ll do well. I’m not worried.

To use a little garden analogy, your roots are in great shape, and the new growth is looking lush and healthy.

I think you are smart now, and that you will become wise.
I believe you’ll have adventures, and do good and hard things, and love the people around you well. I believe when you fail, you’ll learn something from it, and keep going.

Eli, your Bar Mitzvah is almost done. That will be a relief I’m sure.

But take this opportunity to look around.
Remember this moment.
Remember these people, who are your people, who love you and want all that is good and sweet for you.

When you fail,
when something devastating happens, when you are broken hearted,
this memory will sustain you.
We will be there then.

And we will be here in your joys as well.

Mazel Tov

Monday, April 16, 2012

Goat Pair for Sale

As some of you know, about 7 months ago, 8 baby goats were born. We are selling them and have 2 left. They are $100 for the pair. They have both had their vaccinations, have been part of our 4H goat project, and are tame. Comment if you are interested.

One of these babies is Bolt. He is a fixed (castrated) male. He is very sweet and loves people. Since he is a boy, he can not eat alfalfa hay. If he does eat alfalfa, he will get kidney stones. Bolt is half Nigerian dwarf, half pygmy. Bolt and Jubilee (brother and sister) will be sold together.  Pictures below.
Description by Grace

Jubilee is the youngest of her brothers and sisters: Bolt, Bambi, Naomi, and herself. We are looking for a home for her and her brother, Bolt (together) with familiar goat keepers. We also would like to visit them sometimes. Juju (Jubilee) is a cuddly, shy, pretty goat. She loves to munch on pine needles, Cheerios, and fruit. One thing about her is that her elders are a little naughty. Hopefully she won't be. She was born September, 16, 2011. She is half Nigerian/Pygmy. Opal, her mother, is a good milker. Pictures below.
Description by Sophia

Bar Mitzvah Reflections

On Saturday I had my Bar Mitzvah. The whole thing felt really special.

Most of my prayers and speeches went well and other people's speeches were very nice and thoughtful.

Everyone had advice for me.  My mom said I should always be myself.  My dad said I have a great community and I should use their support.  My grampa on my dad's side said I was like a plant, I have a good root system and healthy new growth.  My grandma recited poetry that had good wisdom.  My other grampa said I should steer true in terms of my dreams and values.
It was really great having everyone saying how great I was instead of saying what I am doing wrong. Afterwards we ate and played and then went to the beach. It was pretty fun most of the time.

I also got quite a bit of birthday money.  I got enough to be able to buy a laptop without dipping into my savings that much.  I am also exited about all the other gifts I got.  Thank you!

A special thanks to Rabbi Greenbaum, Rabbi Barenbaum and Harriet Kroot for helping me prepare even though they couldn't come.

When you were Bar Mitzvahed a long time ago it meant you were a man.  But I do not think I am going to be a man for at least 1 or 2 years. :)


(Editor's note: Thanks to Uncle Allen for the great pictures above.  Photo booth pictures by Moses Ceaser/ Fotomio -- -- can be viewed and downloaded here: )

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

More signs of Spring-- bee swarms

Eli and I installed some San Rafael caught honeybee swarms last Spring that did not stay.
Yesterday we got lucky-- 3 swarm calls!

It WAS a beautiful day, and I'd called local pest control companies in the last week to get on their beekeepers to call list.

We collected a HUGE swarm in Marysville. 

The 2 boxes I scraped them into were heavy with bees.
The family's sons watched the whole thing. They were pretty excited. They had been worried the bees might be "killer" Africanized bees, which so far, have not migrated this far north.
These seemed like moderately docile European honeybees to me.
I'm so grateful to have them.
And no stings. Yet.
Though we did lose a few bees in the transfer.

One got out of the box in our car and made the hour drive home exciting.
Joey kindly accompanied me, and his presence is calming when bees are all around, sounding angry.  This morning, with the bees installed in the new (old) wooden boxes, I feel rich.

I hope they will choose to stay.


Monday, April 9, 2012

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Spring is a time of transformation and rebirth.  In the midst of Easter, Passover, a Bar Mitzvah, budding flowers, and warmer days, our thoughts begin to shift in the direction of our other home.  We are finding new homes for the goats, planning summer activities, pondering Fall work schedules.  It will be an interesting transition.  I hope the reentry will be smooth and that the connection here will remain strong.

We had fun, busy last week.  Some of what we did that has not already been mentioned by the kids:

 We got "Dr. Edge" (Baba) back for another round of skiing.  Looking good Doc!

Did a moonlight hike to the top of Sugar Bowl.  On the left, that's Patrick, who brought me along, just after sunset.  On the right is a poor iPhone shot of the moonrise. 

 Patrick took these photos with a better camera.  It was good backcountry and resort skiing.  Quiet and beautiful on the climb up, freshly groomed snow (under moonlight sky) on the way down.  Rosie came along and had a blast running up and down the snowpacked hills. 

Juliana and the girls recovered the seats on grandmas' old chairs.

Juliana's greenhouse continues to take shape.

No pictures were ever posted of the girls' 10th birthday party from a couple of weeks ago.  They really enjoyed bringing together friends from both of their homes and sharing the Stewyurt and surrounds.

This week the kids will take their spring break (and Eli's Bar Mitzvah is coming up!), so you will not likely hear from them until next week.  Enjoy your week!


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Auburn Oaks

Yesterday morning at approximately 10:00, Grace, Eli, Papa, Naomi (the goat kid), and I went to Auburn Oaks (the nursing home) to entertain them with our 4H animals. There were 2 guinea pigs in a Tupperware (alive), 2 chickens, 1 Sizzle chick, and 1 goat: Naomi. From how they acted, I'm guessing either Naomi or the guinea pigs were their favorite. One lady even tried to get out of her seat to go see Naomi.

By Sophia


I will tell you how to use a compass.

First, to get a general idea, you find the first letter to the direction you want (N, E, S, W). Then, look for the arrow that is on the part you can't turn. Next, turn the dial to the degree (direction) you want so it's directly in line with the arrow.

Then, balance the red arrow into the red outline and the white arrow into the black outline. Keep both the arrows in their outline (keep "the horse in the stable") and go in the direction of the arrow that can't move.

We used this to do a treasure hunt. First Papa went out and wrote clues for where he wanted us to go. Then, we would take the clues and do what it said. Finally we got to the treasure. The treasure was Mentos and Coke. We are going to do an experiment using these.


Mentos and Coke

We are going to do an experiment with Diet Coke and Mentos so I did some research on Wikipedia.

This is what I learned:
  1. The geyser is a result of lots of bubbles being released.
  2. The greatest reaction comes from Diet Coke and Mentos.
  3. Bubbles cling to solid objects like Mentos and the side of the bottle this causes a little fizzing.
  4. The potassium, benzout, aspartame, and CO2 in the coke reacting to gum arabic and gelatin cause an explosive amount of foam being released.