Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Gone Farmin'

Where the fun never ends.
My season of unrestrained urban-beach-y fun has come to a seasonal close as I trade in my lipstick for chapstick, flip-flops for work boots and gritty smog for deep black soil. Time to change hats, hit the road and return to the farm.

My NM family
I type this from my 'home' in Albuquerque, where I park myself for several days each year to visit with my sister-friend, Laurianna, and bond with her two lovely boys, Wyatt (14) and Jack (6), my godson. (Also, Molly and Tess, their two Labs who sleep next to me in the living room. Tess is a snoring expert.) I am grateful for this beautiful spot in the desert where I can recharge for a few days and prepare my body and mind for the time zone changes.

Every winter, I fall more in love with my beautiful hometown of Long Beach and all the magic of Southern California. Sure, there are way too many people there (10M+ in LA County) but there's a reason for that, it is spectacularly beautiful and blessed place with plenty of freeways to explore.

And the culture? Exciting, innovative, nonstop. The talent pool here is relentlessly mind-bending - I bump into creative geniuses all the time. I joined a friendly, helpful writer's group in Belmont Shore and a bluegrass jam group in Recreation Park because I'm here, I'm greedy and I can. 

Music in the park - amateurs welcome
Culinary choices? Anything and everything - fresh, local, amazing and every ethnic cuisine you could possibly imagine. Whatever your indulgence - fish tacos on the beach, sushi in the desert, Indian food at 7200 ft. - can be had in one day. Oh, how I will miss the delicious mosaic of this LA bounty!

Oh, sushi, how I love thee!
And don't forget outdoor recreation. Of course, I ran, ran, ran but I also went paddleboarding with my buddy, Deb, rode my bike along the beach path and even joined a gang of very lively seniors for pool volleyball. It was awesome and hilarious - like re-living "Cocooon" every week. Never a dull

Paddleboarding with Debbie
Of course, everything has a flip side and seductive variety means quadruple the hassle. The biggest readjustments I always have switching my city-to-country gears is issues of community trust and car-related anxieties. Did I lock it? Where-o-where am I going to park it? Holy Moses, how much is it per hour? Wait, is tomorrow street sweeping? Is this a neighborhood where junkies are going to mess with my stuff? 

Reminders at my Lakewood YMCA
There is an entire layer of Parking/Crime Anxiety that dissolves the moment I cross the North Dakota border and I so cherish that feeling. To quote a NoDak friend: "House key? I haven't seen my house key in six years."

(Side tangent: About a month ago, I messed up and left my car in line for the street sweeping meter maid. That familiar mechanical swissssssh woke me with a terrible start - I FORGOT! I raced outside in my PJs and saw the 'maid' - a dude, actually - already writing me up. I knocked furiously on his window, which he generously drew down and I sputtered a monologue of sheer desperation straight at his face: "...but I've been so good...three years without a ticket!....and this ONE TIME...and I, a farmer of modest means .... and oh, PLEASE!" Or something like that. He sat silent for a moment, then handed me a blank envelope, looked around to see if anyone saw and said quietly, "Just take this and don't say anything. DO NOT HUG ME. Just take the envelope and let me drive away." I did exactly as instructed but I was so grateful, I had to do something so I saluted him. He rolled up his window, looked at me, laughed, shook his head and drove away. Whew! That was a close one.)

Scientologists have done nothing to address crime or the drought - just sayin'
This season, the drought weighed heavily on the Californian mind, a concept foreign to flood-weary NoDak. As a result, I noted a number of xeriscaped lawns. To address the water shortage, Long Beach will pay a homeowner $5 for every square foot of useless lawn that is ripped up and replaced with a drought-resistant landscape. Lawns have never made sense to me - you put all this money and effort into growing something that you never walk on or use, only to cut it down the moment it grows. Waste. Of. Water.

Also, I see a renewed interest in home vegetable gardens among friends and acquaintances. I think folks are really catching on to the health and economic benefits plus that liberating, self-reliant aspect which is a big turn-on for many of us.

A few times this season, I volunteered my knowledge, labor and enthusiasm to garden causes. I was a consultant to the Dominguez Rancho in their plans for a Children's Garden. Though I had to leave before they broke ground, I spent several afternoons at this oasis of green surrounded by the industrial greys of shipping, trucking and railroads. Heavenly.

Site of the new Childrens Garden at the Rancho
I also put some time in at LA Green Grounds, a wonderful non-profit that tackles the urban food deserts of the inner city by planting gardens at schools, empty lots and front yards. Recently, we planted a front yard garden for a couple in South Central who wanted to set an example for the neighborhood. Brilliant ideas - like seeds - start small and grow quickly in fertile soil.

I hope to get some planting done around Memorial Day Weekend but we'll just see what Mama Nature has planned. She's the boss of me now... the Queen will have to wait.

Queen Mary and her devoted subject
To be continued on my other blog, Second Chance Ranch.