July 27, 2010

Prince Edward Island

Driving onto the ferry to cross over Northumberland Strait.

Esperando and I spent this past weekend visiting The Storyteller, an old friend, who lives on Prince Edward Island in the Canadian Maritimes (that includes Nova Scotia and New Brunswick as well). We journeyed from San Francisco to JFK Airport changing planes to Halifax, Nova Scotia and arriving late. We spent the night in Halifax and traveled several hours to the car ferry crossing the Northumberland Strait.

Mystery sandwich with pink filling finally revealed to be lobster. Yum!

While standing in line at the little cafeteria on board the ferry I tried to decide what my lunch would be and settled on one of those simple pre-made white bread sandwiches in a clear plastic container that you are bound to find in that kind of place. Looking at the condensated bin door I tried to visually decifer what my sandwich choices were since the sign listing menu items was posted in such a way that the line of hungry diners was blocking it from view. I could see egg salad and chicken, but a third option with a pink filling didn’t register. Finally I realized that option was lobster, oh my, oh my! I had to have lobster and every bite was delicious.

Gourmet Magazine pick, the Queen Street Meat Market in the capital Charlottetown. Here is the local butcher with a pretty big lobster.

Prince Edward Island (PEI) is known for the fictional heroine Anne of Green Gables created by the author Lucy Maud Montgomery who wrote about her and the Green Gables house, a real house that the novelist placed her in and built 16 novels around her life there. Although most tourists come for Anne of Green Gables, we didn’t spend much time on her as we were busy touring and investigating other well known island phenomenon such as the fabulous lobsters, Malpeque oysters, scallops and mussels—as well as PEI potatoes in various forms. If you go to McDonalds here you can get a McLobster sandwich and not to be outdone, the local Subway Sandwich store also features a lobster sandwich too. Only in PEI can you live and breathe lobster at a reasonable price. Yes, I had arrived in lobster land where the roads are lined with lobster traps and the lobster sells for $8/pound. Esperando and I struggled to down several dozen oysters and wondered if we’d died and gone to heaven. I was ready to move.

Tidy countryside and carefully manicured small farms. This is the Storyteller's 1888 home from across the vale.

The island dates back to earliest occupation by the French in 1605 when it was known as Acadia. It remained in French hands until 1755 when the British drove the French out to New Orleans at the culmination of the French and Indian wars with the Peace of Utrecht. These days PEI is a rolling hilly country richly patchworked with fields of potatoes, alfalfa and waterways. It is littered with lovely old farmhouses set in tidy gardens with expansive mowed green lawns,scenic fishermen’s huts flaunting fishing boats and lobster traps with a nautical New England air, and old clapboard churches with graveyards and one room schoolhouses.

Row of early colonial homes in historic Charlottetown

July 16, 2010

Rules for the dog

1. The dog is not allowed in the house.

2. Ok, the dog is allowed in the house, but only in certain parts.

3. Ok, the dog is allowed in all rooms, but has to stay off the furniture.

4. Ok, the dog can get on the old furniture only.

5. Fine, the dog allowed on all the furniture, but is not allowed to sleep with the humans on the bed.

6. Ok, the dog is allowed on the bed but at the foot of the bed only, and only when invited.

7. The dog can sleep on the bed whenever he wants, but not under the covers.

8. The dog can sleep under the covers by invitation only.

9. The dog can sleep under the covers every night.

10. Humans must ask permission to sleep under the covers with the dog.

Yes, this is what we have come to in our house. We have a king size bed but Lupita takes up more of it than the rest of us do. We are pushed to the edges of the bed. Lupita is a very small dog but when she sleeps she expands to her full length which is 2 feet. We are lucky there is any bed left for the rest of us to use. This is what dogs do best.

July 10, 2010

Things That Prickle and Bite

Esperando and I are in Denver for the next few days for various appointments and we can’t overlook the necessary tidying of the yard. In addition to all the trimming back and replacing of plants that froze to death this past winter, we have serious weed patrol. Unfortunately we seem to have our share of daytime and nighttime mosquitos which made a meal out of me while I was trimming our rose bushes.

It also seems our yard has been overwhelmed by these giant horrid prickly thistles trying to take over the lawn and the garden. They are worse each time we come back; it is obvious that they are putting out runners, because they cluster together and grow like aspen trees in a grove.

Nasty thorns and indominitable growth habits

Our neighborhood rag, Front Porch recently ran an article on them, “Canada Thistle Requires a Weed War on All Fronts” which is pretty discouraging for people who live here year round, let alone folks like Esperando and I that are here so infrequently. Apparently they reproduce by runner and seed. Once established they put down 15 foot roots! Just a ¼ -inch piece of root is enough to get them started. If you start pulling them out and chopping up the roots that just stimulates more plants to develop. They recommend a combination of stressing them by mowing them and applying 2,4-D combination herbicides. Then in 2 years they may go away. Yeah good luck, last time I was here I carefully squirted a spot where they were coming up in the lawn with Roundup because I was tired of bending over and pulling them out and by the time I was back to California the lawn service was calling me up to ask if I had sprayed something on the lawn as I had killed a large patch of grass. Yip, that would be me, lawn killer par excellence. The thistles just thumbed their collective noses at me and grew taller.

Denver is rife with hornets in the summer. My mother called them buzzy-whizzies as a child.

Talk about not giving up--in addition to hardy thistles we have obstinate hornets. I noticed hornets flying in and out of my antique watering can’s nozzle. I decided they must be building a nest and figured if I opened the closed hatch on the top of the watering can maybe they would abandon hive to move somewhere else like a bird might. The can was right next to some lawn chairs we were wanting to sit on. I opened up the watering can, but added daylight didn’t seem to bother them any. Finally from a distance I used the hose to start pouring water in to the can. Seven or eight hornets came roaring out of the can and hovered by the stream of water coming from the hose. They were unhappy with the water entering the can but fortunately didn’t seem to realize that I was the one directing the flow. Once the can was filled they kept hovering over it wanting to rescue the infantile hive.

I figured after 20 minutes they would get discouraged and go away, but oh, no, they were hard-wired. I never saw such righteous mothers. Finally I went into the house and returned armed with a can of Raid and sprayed them. The fumes were scented and I inhaled a lot of them. It didn’t seem to have much effect on the hornets, but I am sure I poisoned myself. When I directed the spray at them they would fly away, then came right back again. About 5 pm they began to settle on the lip of a nearby flowerpot to spend the night so they could take up their vigil the following day. Then I really nailed them with the Raid. A couple escaped but didn’t return again. I felt like the General George Armstrong Custer of wasp killers, except I was still standing. I had drowned their nest and murdered all the moms except a couple who escaped with their scalps. And you wondered if the Wild West still exists? I tell you here in Denver it really does. We have lots of things that prickle, sting and bite.

General Custer--he bought his lunch at the Battle of Little Bighorn

July 5, 2010

Scenic Highway 1 to Big Sur

View from 17-mile drive near Pebble Beach

This past weekend Esperando and I set our sights for Paso Robles and a little wine tasting adventure in a region with which we were not familiar. We drove down Highway 1 with a diversion through 17 Mile Drive at Carmel, and then on south down Highway 1 to Big Sur where we had never been before, stopping for a delightful lunch on the deck overlooking the river at Big Sur River Inn.

Hotel guests enjoying the lawn chairs set into the cool stream.

After eating Esperando trotted over to the Valero gas station to see if they sold diesel fuel, but they did not. On the way out of town he checked at a different gas station and same story. They thought the nearest diesel fuel was about 40 miles down the road at Gordo, or maybe Ragged Point. Thinking we had enough to get that far we traveled on enjoying the breathtaking views of California’s rugged south coast. Looking at the craggy coastline and steep mountains reminded me of the Kingston Trio song, South Coast:


South Coast, the wild coast, is lonely. You may win at the game at Jolon,
But the lion still rules the barranca, and a man there is always alone.
My name is Juan Hano de Castro. My father was a Spanish grandee,
But I won my wife in a card game, when a man lost his daughter to me.
I picked up the ace. I had won her! My heart, which was down at my feet
Jumped up to my throat in a hurry- Like a warm summers' day, she was sweet.


Her arms had to tighten around me as we rode up the hills from the South.
Not a word did I hear from her that day- or a kiss from her pretty red mouth.
We came to my cabin at twilight. The stars twinkled out on the coast.
She soon loved the valley- the orchard- but I knew that she loved me the most.


Then I got hurt in a landslide with crushed hip and twice-broken bone.
She saddled our pony like lightning- rode off in the night, all alone.
The lion screamed in the barranca; the pony fell back on the slide.
My young wife lay dead in the moonlight. My heart died that night with my bride.

Romantic, sad, life in another time but the place is still the same. Although artists and tourists flock to Big Sur and the breathtaking views along Highway 1, it is still a very isolated place and doesn't change. There is no room for new construction between the sheer cliffs and tiny slices of valley. It is so amazing that a stream can even find a place to run along parallel to the highway and then create a spectacular waterfall that drops thousands of feet into the ocean for a brief glimpse as you barrel along the road.

Beautiful Highway 1 out in the middle of nowhere.

At Gordo we pulled over, but no fuel; same story at Ragged Point. Esperando continued on down the highway, me snapping pictures nonchalantly. Ahead of us a road grader was working on the side of the road and Esperando rapidly pulled off the highway in front of him. Out he bounced from the car and approached the driver. In the secret language of men he managed to buy enough fuel for us to continue on down the road to Cambria where we would be able to fill the tank.

Now just why might you want to name this 'Ragged Point'?

What an amazing drive, but you better have your camera pointed and ready at all times because you won’t have the opportunity for that second shot. And if your vehicle uses diesel fuel, make sure your tank is full before you start the journey.