Outdoor solutions right under your nose!

Cheap, effective and already on hand: Problem-solvers don’t get any better than these. Add some creativity, and you’ve got winners for outdoor life.

Watering can even has a lovely string for hanging when not in use.

Watering can even has a lovely string for hanging when not in use.

Cat litter jug watering can

I looked around one day and realized that I had amassed a ridiculous number of plastic cat litter jugs. Surely they have more than one life.

Aha! A watering can! To transform the jug, I screwed on the cap, then drilled 3/8-inch holes through it with my trusty old Black & Decker electric hand drill. All the holes were placed on the outside half of the cap, the portion where water would hit first when the jug was tipped.

The new watering can didn’t need decoration, but I jazzed it up with patterned duct tape. On trial runs using gray water from the shower, it worked so much better than hitting a plant with a big ol’ glug out of an uncapped jug. (Confession: I made a bunch of these, decorated them with duct tape and tried selling them for $1 each at a flea market. A lot of people looked, but nobody bought. The darned thing is so simple, anybody could make one and use that $1 to buy herself something pretty!)

Is that a skirt or a sun shade?

Imagine you are crossing the searing sand, no trees in sight, your skin stinging under the sun. It’s easy to picture when you’re at the beach – and the beach is the perfect spot for assembling one of the simplest yet most romantic ways More

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The quiet before the fireworks

We’re girding for the Fourth of July. On Independence Day, the town gets hemmed in by so many tourists that it’s hard to see the forest for the people.Fireworkds

This weekend gives us our last chance to be small for a while. I took the camera out today to give you a glimpse at my everyday California. The scene of many movies and TV shows, it never plays itself, so you may have seen it without realizing it. Its credits include “The Parent Trap” with Lindsay Lohan, in which a camp played a camp, and “Next” with Nicholas Cage and Julianne Moore, in which a restaurant played a motel.

Today, sad to say, two teens selling lemonade for 50 cents were disassembling their stand as I passed, taking apart their photo opp. Something has become of the thermometer that for several months has tallied donations to the Fourth of July fireworks fund – the more money donated, the longer the fireworks show over the lake. Last year, the fireworks committee collected enough More

How we scare mountain newbies

Big cone

Giant pine cones under construction. Look before you park! (Holly Ocasio Rizzo)

It’s not that mountain people want to frighten sweet, innocent newcomers, exactly. We simply want them to be prepared.

We want them to be ready especially for two minor dangers: those that want to eat us and those that can squash us flat.

We take in stride the creatures that want to eat us, hustling online to post mountain lion sightings and photos of bears on the patio. Full-time residents rarely call the sheriff to report lions and bears, because we know what often comes next when an animal with teeth and claws shows up in the flatlands, where deputies are trained. Cue Chopin’s Funeral March.

We also sleep right through skunks and raccoons rustling around noisily at night. Beware of letting your cat roam outdoors; when a cat doesn’t come home, the natural conclusion is that it fed a bobcat or a coyote. As far as your head goes, don’t worry – the bald eagles won’t attack like eagles do in other places.

Some things, however, might squash you flat. We love to tell stories about people squashed flat by rocks falling on their cars. In the stories, the victims are always flatlanders, never locals, as if falling boulders had radar More

Where there’s smoke …

Slurry bomber for blog

Firefighting plane drops retardant on Panorama fire/Waterman Canyon, Calif.; 2012. (c. Holly Ocasio Rizzo)

At 4 a.m., someone fired up a barbecue. Or at least it smelled like one – minus the aroma of grilled chicken or hot dogs.

The wind had shifted during the night, carrying smoke from a wildfire more than 10 miles away as the buzzard flies.

Lights snapped on in the neighborhood. Nobody sleeps when there’s smoke. They worry.

We still see the scars of the massive 2003 arson-caused wildfire that scorched a path to our road and took out seven houses a couple of roads away – more than 1,000 houses in all. People still talk about the two-week evacuation, More

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