Coronavirus vs. Fire Evacuation

Last October, we were under mandatory evacuation orders due to the Kincade Fire.  Despite this, we decided to stay put as the fire was (and remained) miles away.

The current Coronavirus “shelter in place” order again has us “hunkering down.”  In many ways, it feels similar – life is suspended, things are definitely not normal and it feels like we’re all sitting around, waiting for something to happen.

However, at the moment, I can tell you that I far prefer this “stay put” order over hunkering down because of a raging fire.  Here’s why:

1. We have electricity.  At our house, since we’re on a well, that means we also have water.  Or, conversely, no electricity means no water.  Let me tell you, when you’re cooped up at home with your family, hot water and showers, or really. . . just water at all, means a whole lot.

2. The horses are at home.  While we chose to not evacuate during the Kincade Fire, we did, out of an abundance of caution, evacuate the horses to the fairgrounds. IMG_20191028_184504_199

The above picture is the herd, safe at the fairgrounds.  Having them at home gives us something to do and lends some structure to the day (they have to be fed twice a day, turned out, etc.).  The barn gives me a place to “escape” to and spending time with the horses gives my 14 year old daughter something to do.

3.  We can leave the property, even if it is just for “essentials”.  During the Kincade Fire, there were manned police barricades everywhere.  We were slightly concerned that if we left home, we wouldn’t be allowed back.  So, we didn’t leave our property.

4.  During the Kincade Fire, not only did we not leave the property, we didn’t really go outside.  Why?  Because the sky looked like this. 20191027_154541

So no walking the dog, no enjoying lunch outside . . . we were really stuck inside the house, again, without electricity or water.  So. Much. Fun.

5.  We’re not packed to leave at a moment’s notice.  During the Kincade Fire, everything we deemed “important” was packed into three of our cars (our 17 year old drives – 3 drivers; 3 cars).  Every night we’d get our suitcases out of the car, unpack our toothbrushes, etc.  Every morning, we’d zip those up and put them back in the car.  Kind of exhausting and a daily reminder that we might have to leave.  And that leaving might be for good.

6.  Coronavirus is an emergency but not quite in the same way.  We aren’t huddled around the scanner, listening to the police and fire traffic.  My husband and I aren’t up every two hours (the first night of the Kincade Fire we didn’t really sleep at all), listening to the wind, going outside to see if anything changed, monitoring our local radio station.  Fire has a whole different level of stress.

Our Shelter in Place order was issued on March 18.  So, we’re 13 days in.  I’m not sure there’s an end in sight.  That’s another difference . . . we knew the fire was eventually going to be put out; it wasn’t going to drag on for months and months.  When this ends is anyone’s guess.

I’m grateful that our lives have not been upended as much as some.  My husband’s work is considered “essential” so he’s still working, although it has slowed down a bit.  I am concerned about our long term financial picture but I’m not concerned about how we’re going to put food on the table.  And, again, there’s a whole lot to be said for electricity and water!

Shelter In Place, Day 1

I’m sure a ton of people are writing these posts as the country shuts down, but I thought I’d might as well join in.

Here in Sonoma County, our “shelter in place” order took effect at midnight.  They put out a list of “essential services” that can remain open.  Of course, banks, grocery stores, doctors’ offices and vets can all stay open.  So can therapists – mental health is apparently essential.  That’s good.

Restaurants and coffee places can remain open for take-out only.  That makes sense.

But some of the businesses listed as “essential” struck me as a little ridiculous, particularly dry cleaners.  Is it really essential that you pick up or drop off your dry cleaning?  Laundromats can stay open.  So can hardware stores (I guess in case you  need a part for an emergency plumbing repair or something?) and auto repair shops / auto parts stores.

The one that really gets me is day cares.  Schools are closed but day cares can remain open.  What???

And I got a text from my Pilates lady this morning (we’re friends) . . . she’s pissed because she had to close (exercise facilities / gyms are on the “must close” list) but the smoke shop next door to her is open.  I suggested that if she took in people’s laundry, and just taught some Pilates on the side, maybe she could stay open then too.

I don’t mean to make light of this.  I know its serious.  And I understand taking precautions.  I just wish I felt like the rules made sense and that they were the same everywhere.

We’re also being encouraged to go outside, walk the dog, go on a bike ride!

So, here in my house, things haven’t changed a whole lot.  The kids are on spring break so they’d be home anyways.  I don’t really work so I’m usually home anyway.  We’re well set to hang out at home for the next few weeks.  Most importantly, we bought a 5 gallon tub of ice cream.


And, in the spirit of “Be Prepared” (I am a Scoutmaster, after all), I did fill my barn with hay, grain and other horse / chicken / bunny / duck  necessities.20200316_175559           20200316_175612

I made sure I have enough anti-seizure meds for Sam the dog and Cushing’s meds for Stormy the old horse.

We did not buy cases of toilet paper, water, or top ramen.

I won’t lie . . . I’m a little concerned about how this is all going to turn out.  I worry about the devastating effects on the economy.  I worry about all the small businesses (and am super glad I didn’t buy an ice cream store a few months ago).

My kids are supposed to start virtual school in a week.  I’ve got no idea how that’s going to turn out!  A Facebook meme noted “All these common core students are ’bout to learn ‘carry the one’.”  Totally true!  Gov. Newsome warned that school may be out for the rest of the year!  Really??  That’s worrisome.  What does that do to summer vacation plans?

So much is unknown.  I think that’s the real struggle.  So, I’m going to try not to worry.  Don’t worry.  Be prepared.  And try to not eat too many cookies.  That’s my motto on Day 1.

Virus Whining

Hi and sorry, I have to virus complain for a minute.  Or, maybe its just complaining and not necessarily virus-related.  Its kinda hard to tell these days, right?

The past couple of weeks have had a few disappointments come my way.  When I started posting again, I promised myself I wasn’t going to whine and I haven’t.  I’m proud of that. So let’s just leave it at the fact that the last week or so has been tough.

And now, Corona-geddon (stole from a friend).  Our county is waiting to hear if we’re going to be put under shelter in place orders.  Unfortunately, our county health officer seems to be only able to issue vague and confusing statements.  So, like many, many others, we’re just hanging out in limbo.

For me, for some reason, limbo today has made it hard to accomplish much of anything.  Really all I want to do is sit around and eat junk food.

We’re definitely ready (without hoarding) to hunker down for a few weeks.  I wasn’t really worried about the whole thing until I read this CNN article:  It says that something like 1 million people in the US could die.  Really?  1 million??  That’s a lot.  That makes it seem much more likely that someone I know will succumb to coronavirus.  Huh.  That kind of puts it in perspective.

O.k., but I still just want to eat junk food.

Shelter in place won’t change our life much – kids are on spring  break and I don’t work.  But I’d sure better put some sort of schedule or something in place for my life so I don’t gain 20 pounds.

I’ll do that tomorrow.  At the moment, I think there’s still some peanut brittle.  Enough whining.

The Reluctant Scoutmaster Survived Backpacking

I survived backpacking.

When we got home Sunday, I felt like I had been gone a week.  I still felt like that after my very long, very hot shower.  In reality, we were gone just under 48 hours.

I have to say that this trip was far, far better than my first backpacking experience, aka, “The Death March to the Snakes”.  However, it honestly did nothing to inspire me to undertake a third backpacking trip.

We went to the Snow Mountain Wilderness area in the Mendocino National Forest, specifically, to the Bloody Rock Trailhead.  (The name “Bloody Rock” does not inspire a non-backpacker, just sayin’.)  It was sort of pretty.  A fire went through the area about 18 months ago so most of the trees were burned.  The remaining manzanita and shrubby bushes were black and sooty, which meant that any time you brushed against one (which was ALL the time, you got black and sooty too).

The hike itself wasn’t too bad.  Although it certainly wasn’t “mostly flat” as advertised.  We hiked in to camp in the dark Friday night, which means I didn’t really comprehend how much downhill we were actually going.  Which, in turn, meant how much uphill Sunday’s hike out would be.

We camped right along the Eel River.


I did like listening to the river in my tent at night.  On Saturday, we went for a hike along the river.  I thoroughly enjoyed sitting on a rock in the middle of the river for some time while other folks hiked farther.

But I still honestly don’t understand the allure of backpacking.  I don’t mind dirt and bugs, etc. don’t freak me out (just snakes).  I don’t mind spending the day on a day hike or just hanging out in camp, chatting or reading a book.

What gets me is that the activities of daily living – making coffee, cooking, brushing your teeth, staying warm, etc. – are all so freakin’ difficult!  To get water, you have to filter it out of the river.  To cook anything, you have to set up your flimsy stove.  Or, even worse, you have to build a campfire to cook over.  You have to wait forever for water to boil or food to cook (unless you have one of those fancy Jet Boil things).  O.k., the cooking probably doesn’t actually take any longer than it would at home but it seems so much longer because you’re starving from being outside, hiking or just trying to live during the day, and you’re cold sitting there trying to balance in your flimsy backpacking chair.  And there’s nothing to do except sit there and wait.  Once food is finally ready, you have to balance your dinner, while still trying to not tumble over in your chair.  As for the whole, “food tastes better cooked over a campfire” thing?  No.  No it doesn’t.  Because its nearly instantly cold because you’re eating outside.

We were in bear country so once we were all done eating, we had to pack everything back into bear canisters and trek them 300 feet or whatever away from camp, hang stuff from trees, etc.  You can’t even have snacks in your tent!  And finally, deciding when you can finally get cozy in your sleeping bag and likely won’t have to get back up to go pee in the freezing cold, is a fine balance.

However, given all of that, I made it.  I survived the nearly 48 hours (several of which were driving).  I was extremely pleased when I mentioned that I don’t like backpacking, or even car camping for that matter, and one of the dads on the trip responded, “Really?  I would have never thought that if you hadn’t said it aloud.”  Well, good.  At least I put on a good show of it.

The picture below shows our campsite down in the meadow.  Note how high we are above it.  This was taken on the hike out . . . definitely not a flat hike!  I’m hoping I don’t have to ever backpack again.  While I didn’t stick to my declaration of “I don’t backpack and I don’t snow camp” when I agreed to be Scoutmaster, the snow camping is still a definite, hard, NO!


The Reluctant Scoutmaster Goes Backpacking

I think some of you may know that I’m Scoutmaster to a troop of girls participating in Boy Scouts.  I am, however, a rather reluctant Scoutmaster as I have very few outdoor skills and truly don’t like to camp.

So, what am I doing this weekend?  Going backpacking.  For me, this is a very unfortunate turn of events.

I tolerate car camping only because I can bring a ton of stuff with me, like my own pillow, my giant stadium chair, my insulated coffee mug, and lots of snacks, specifically those pink and white frosted animal cookies.

Let me be clear about this next statement:  I HATE backpacking.

I have gone backpacking once before.  My son had just joined his Boy Scout troop and a few of us new moms went along on the backpacking trip, which I believe was over Mother’s Day for some unknown reason.  To this day, I refer to the trip as “The Death March to the Snakes.”

We hiked Mt. Wittenburg.  I neglected to realize that the “Mt.” before “Wittenburg” meant “mountain”, as in, all uphill.  I was miserable.  I could barely keep up with the troop.  It might have occurred to me to not throw “Gone With the Wind” in my pack, but, well, it didn’t.

If you’ve ever hiked Wittenburg, you’ll know that there’s no view from the top.  Actually, the only way you know you’re at the top is if you happen to notice the geological marker thing in the ground.  The lack of a view made all that uphill hiking super disappointing.

When we finally got to camp and set up, I crashed inside my tent, cozied up with Gone With the Wind.  Then, I heard one of the other moms scream.  And I thought, “That’s a snake.”  I know a snake scream when I hear one.

Yep, there were snakes.  IN CAMP.  I am terrified of snakes.  When I finally came out of my tent, I ran to the nearest picnic table, sat on top of it and wouldn’t come off.  Snakes can’t climb up picnic tables, right?

Eventually, we had to make dinner, which meant boiling water for our dehydrated backpacking food.  I had borrowed a backpacking stove from a friend but was a little fuzzy on its use.

I managed to light the picnic table on fire.  Apparently, I didn’t need quite that much fuel.

O.k., o.k., in my defense, it wasn’t a big fire.  The Scoutmaster ran over and put it out.  (I won’t lie, in the back of my mind, there might have been some master plan to get banned from the next backpacking trip.)

Finally, I managed to boil water.  The next morning, the nice Senior Patrol Leader (kid in charge) came over and sweetly asked if I’d like him to make breakfast for me.  “That would be fantastic,” I said.

So, here I am, faced with going backpacking again in nine hours.  Why??  (I’ve been asking myself that a lot lately.)

Because I made a commitment to my group of girls.  I desperately tried to find another mom to go instead of me.  When the girls go anywhere, Boy Scout rules say they have to have a registered (with the troop) adult female along.  Everyone had some reason they couldn’t go.  So what was I going to do?  Tell my girls they can’t go just because their reluctant, wimpy Scoutmaster doesn’t backpack?

When I agreed to be Scoutmaster, I made it clear that I do not backpack and do not camp in the snow.  (The troop does an annual snow camping trip.)  But . . . here I am, going backpacking.

I should clarify how my girl troop “works”.  We’re a separate troop on paper, as required by the Boy Scouts.  But, we’ve “partnered” with a troop of boys and basically run a co-ed troop.  So, the girls do everything the boys do.  There are several requirements that must be done on a backpacking trip so its not like we can just opt out of backpacking.

My distress grew at troop meeting on Wednesday night when I learned that this is “real” backpacking.  As in, no toilets.  Not even a pit toilet!  What??  We were advised “bring your own toilet paper!”

You’ve got to be kidding me.

This led to my googling yesterday, “How to pee in the woods if you’re a girl.”  In my opinion, no one should ever have to google that.  But, apparently a lot of people do because there were several articles on the subject.  Thanks to REI, Self Magazine and a few blogs, I now know that if I can see my shoelaces, I’ve achieved a perfect squat.  And, that its helpful to find a tree to hold onto.

Armed with that knowledge, I’d better get back to packing.  I’ve already determined that I should leave my string of cute little miniature Coleman lantern lights at home.  Normally, I put them on my tent so I can find it in the dark.  And, this time, I’ll find a smaller book to bring.


Wish me luck and no snakes!


What Have I Done Today??

Its almost 10:00 in the morning here in Northern California.  I have a lot of things that need to get done today . . . clean the kids’ bathrooms, laundry, sweep and mop floors, go to the grocery store, etc.

I’ve been up since 6:30 and none of those things have been started.  So, I’m wondering, “just what exactly have I done so far today?”

Without the structure of working, I seem to be struggling to get “enough” accomplished.  “Enough” is in quotes because “enough” is a concept that exists only in my head.  And, my friends frequently point out that I’m far too hard on myself.

So, what have I done?

Got kids to school (which really doesn’t mean much since they’re teenagers now and my son drives both of them.)

Went on a half-hour walk with husband and dog.

Ate breakfast and read the paper.

Checked email, Facebook.  Commented on a few Facebook posts, messaged with a couple of people, one of which was necessary because I need a new horse-sitter and this was a follow-up to that problem.

Sent texts to my daily text friends.

Looked for a job on Craigslist and Indeed.  No new job leads.

Turned ponies out, made horse dinner, brought in trash cans from the street.

Changed the laundry.

So, some of those are “necessary”; some are “necessary” for my mental health, like communicating with friends.  I think that’s a valid way to spend time.

Funny, how we decide what’s a good use of time and what’s not, right?  My husband puts very little value on time with friends; he sees far more value in cleaning the kids’ bathrooms.

I keep thinking I need some sort of schedule.  Like, Mondays are Mopping Mondays where all the floors get mopped.  Tuesday could be a different housecleaning task.  I keep thinking that but I haven’t quite been able to implement that yet.  A schedule for working horses, exercise and lots of other things would probably be useful as well.

This is hard.  Not having a job is hard.  Keeping up one’s self-esteem is hard.

I’d better go clean bathrooms.  Wait, no, first I’d better see if there are bills that need to be paid.  And, need to decide if I have to go to the grocery store today or if that can wait until tomorrow.  And, what am I going to make for dinner . . . . ugh . . .

Fine, I’ll Ride My Own Darn Horse

I’ve started putting Slewy, my loveable, dorky, slightly nutty, rather large, off-the-track-Thoroughbred back to work.  Which leads to me contemplating actually getting back on him.  Hmmm . . .

So I came up with what I thought was a good idea.  I asked the trainer who my daughter rides with (and I’ve ridden with a bit) if she would get on him a couple of times before I did.

Besides being slightly daunted at the thought of climbing back aboard, I thought she could give me some insight about how best to work with him under saddle.  (Ok, that’s what I told myself . . . really its because I’m a wee bit concerned about riding my spooky, 17 hand, horse.)

She said, “NO!”

I was like, “What?”

“He’s crazy.  No.”

I tried to talk her into it, noting that he has never offered to buck, he just gets a “little” strong, and promising to lunge him for another week or so before she comes out.




I was surprised.  And then a little miffed.

First of all, he’s not “that” crazy.  He practices his airs above the ground and he’s wiggly in the cross-ties but he’s never once offered to buck.  Sometimes he forgets he’s not a race horse any more (which is funny because he sucked at racing) but you can tell he’s trying really, really hard to be good.

Second, isn’t that her job . . . to ride horses??  (I know I might get some flak for this one.)  Doesn’t she train horses?  Isn’t she the professional who rides all the time and has the skills to deal with young and green horses?  She does train green horses besides giving lessons to kids.  I completely understand not wanting to get hurt but, back to point number one, Slewy’s not that crazy and I definitely wouldn’t call him dangerous by any stretch of the imagination.  Like I said, he tries hard to be good.

But, ok.  Sigh.  Kind of like Ella and Ghost, I want to prove that Slewy can be good.  So, I guess I’ll ride my own darn horse.  Look how cute he is!!!