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Rainy Day Interlude

February 12, 2014

*Picks up Surburbivore, blowing off a year and a half of accumulated dust*

I’ve been a little remiss on updating this blog since the spring of 2012 (the year we were ALL GOING TO DIE OMG because the Mayans needed to go buy a new calendar) as it went on hiatus for a while, as blogs tend to do when either real life intervenes or their writers deal with personal problems. In this case it was a bit of both. I generally try to keep this blog focused more on food, but a long silence like this does need some explanation, so for those who don’t mind a little January post-resolution navel-gazing here’s what was going on in the background.

I don’t talk about my depression much (although a little glimpse can be seen of it here), but that last rainy spring was when I hit my lowest point since I moved back from Southern California. I had recently given up on teaching, my career plan A, since the deep recession had left states unable to support local colleges and adjunct faculty like myself were some of the first cuts they had to make. Plan B, working in the industry, failed to materialize since most of my skills were in hard rock rather than hydrology and soil testing, and I had no prior work experience from back when the economy wasn’t terrible.

I had invested in a plan C, buying some time with additional schooling to broaden my abilities to include Cultural Resource Management and archaeology, both of which tend to be traditionally active in the area due to the large populations that have always lived in this area (there is there is almost nowhere in the Bay Area where you can build anything that you aren’t going to hit human remains or shell mounds). Unfortunately those skills are mostly linked to construction, and construction goes dead when budgets get tight. Plan D, brush up on my microbiology skills via taking additional classes ran, into the same problem as plan B.

So we ended up on plan Z, the “screw it let’s apply for retail” plan, which also managed to go nowhere, probably because everyone was looking at the above list and wondering why I wanted to be there. By this point I’d been living in my parents’ house for four years with no hope of ever leaving.

And so the signal on this end, sporadic as it was, fell silent.

Things have finally started to change slowly over the last year, enough that I’m hoping to get this ball rolling again. A few things have changed in the interim that I should probably mention for context, however:

1. I got married

The idea of doing a full, traditional wedding scares the hell out of me – I don’t like being the center of attention (I realize this makes total sense when I say I used to be a college professor, but seriously) and I’ve watched at least two friends do it and go crazy in the process. It’s largely something you either do because you want to or because your family wants to, and both me and Mark come from families that said to hell with that and went to Vegas. So instead we’re carrying on a sort of family tradition. Both of us had been together for ten years, and we mostly hadn’t gotten married because we were putting it off waiting for a brighter future that never came.

Fittingly enough for this blog, we were married on Thanksgiving Day.


2. We still have four chickens, just not the same four

Pepper, the stray Black Orpington we picked up at our friends’ behest, had to be put down due to chronic pain problems we think had to do with her nonstop laying – while all our other chickens put out an egg every day or three (depending on weather) she never did any less than an egg a day, and the stress had drained the calcium from her bones and her body.We had her gently put down at a local vet and took in a sort-of-rescue, an extra chicken from that same friend that someone hadn’t come by to pick up this year.  Her name is Tiffany, and she’s an extremely fluffy, extremely laid-back, and extremely whiny Light Brahma hen.


3. The animal contingent has shifted

We had our very old ferret put to sleep when her quality of life had degraded to the point where she couldn’t eat and couldn’t play anymore. Rather than leave her with the vet, we brought her body home and buried her in the backyard under a thornless boysenberry bush that has proceeded to go absolutely insane ever since (apparently mustelids make good fertilizer). The two rabbits we were caring for went back to their owners, and we picked up another rescue in the hopes of making friends with the abandoned Easter bunny we had taken in previously. Several failed bonding attempts and two Watership Down-esque fights later, we now have two spoiled bunnies living at opposite ends of the house instead.


This is Buddy, the newcomer. He likes apple tree bark, toast crusts, microwave popcorn, and the oatmeal clinging to my Mom’s breakfast bowl. His dislikes include being crammed in small spaces with Cinnamon to try and get them to bond, and being picked up like this to show off his little grey feeties. He also wags his tail like a dog when he gets excited.

4. I have a job again

I managed to get a seasonal job at a nearby department store during the 2012-2013 holiday season, which gave me enough background to get into other retail jobs in the area. Right now I work at Whole Foods, which means that I spend a lot of my day either helping customers with their food, talking to customers about food, or generally keeping the area clean and maintained for eating and customer service. General observations from work will probably pop up here now and again, but a lot of the rage from earlier posts will probably disappear.

While there’s a lot of injustice in the food system and our cultural construction of food to be angry about, what ended up bleeding over instead was more about unmet cultural expectations of education = job = stability – a social contract which had largely eroded before I even reached adulthood. In my case, understanding why it had ever existed at all and why the present is so different from the past helped me come to terms with it again. This will probably come up again at a later date in another blog post, since a lot of the new by-the-fingernails positions most of us Millenials are left holding are in – surprise surprise! – food service, and there is a lot of cultural baggage surrounding the whole thing that needs some unpacking.

5. The local climate has gone weird

Winter of 2012 was the last year that serious rains fell during the months that we’re supposed to get most of our rainfall. A high-pressure ridge had been parked out over the Pacific Ocean since December of 2013, rerouting storm systems up to the Pacific Northwest to cause wintertime havoc (large chunks of Oregon shut down due to cold and extreme snow) while down south it has remained warmer than normal, and extremely dry. What rain we did have was in July in an area that normally sees no summer rain, and even then it was just enough to set off a massive powdery mildew bomb in the backyard. I’d never had a year with as few tomatoes, and I’ve never seen zucchini plants curl up and die like that before.


I’ve also never seen this little guy outside of my time in Southern California, when they would suddenly be everywhere in the summer. This was taken in my backyard this last year.

As I write this now I sit overlooking a wet backyard finally greening as it should have months ago, due to an atmospheric river dodging the blockage and bringing some much-needed rain to the area. While it isn’t enough to offset a full year of dry conditions, it does help break the ridge and allow some rain to return to an area that will still be hit hard by summer droughts.

It’s a good metaphor for the blog, I suppose; the return of rainfall after a long absence, familiar to California natives as the time when the dusty blonde hills turn green with a burst of new life. With luck this space will again flourish as well, as tangled and resilient as the weeds that follow the winter rains.

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