Noah's Fins.

We began swim lessons this month and this video documents the 4th class of the series thoughtfully filmed by our friends, Bianca and Bryce--proud parents of little Oona Fish--at Mama Kim's pool.

Noah was chosen as the underwater demonstrator for the first class and though he had never gone under water, except for the occasional accidental tub head dunk, he did exceptionally well. Now that he knows what's coming, however, he doesn't cry as much as he "fusses" or "protests" beforehand. The kiddo crying "mommy" in the background is Oona, not Noah--though Noey has been know to occasionally whine a little "I don't want to" of his own from time-to-time.

Nevertheless, he is quite a little fishy at 18 months and we can't wait to see what a few more lessons do for his apparent naturally fantastic fins.

Viva la summer!


Rattler Ranch.

(Noah in awe of a very old and very big oak tree at the Leonis Adobe in Calabasas this week)

All things have been quiet here on Milagro Ranch as of late. We seem to have nipped the earwig infestation in the bud, encouraged the spiders to set up shop elsewhere, weatherproofed and weatherstripped the centipedes and beetles out and willed away the scorpion sightings (*we hope*). Other than the rats taking up residence under the hood of our white Volkswagen golf (which requires diligent old fashion nightly rat trap settings by Dean and lots and lots of peppermint oil), we have been living virtually *spotted* pest-free within the confines of our cozy little canyon cottage and it has been glorious.

Then comes yesterday . . . *da, da, da, dum*.

We had been enjoying the kind of day that brought us to Malibu in the first place--an early afternoon beach birthday BBQ just yards from the ocean surf followed by another birthday bash, poolside, at the glorious shore-side home of Dean's boss. Clad with a fabulously authentic looking "real live" Snow White, Jack Sparrow and a bouncy house large (and pest free) enough for Dean, myself and Noah to rent a room inside of, the party was fabulously fabulous. We partied away our Saturday in true Malibu style.

We arrived home mid-evening. Dean was retrieving our tuckered out tot from the car while I unloaded the mountainous load of gear that we had been schlepping along from shindig to soiree. When at the front door, out of the corner of my left eye, did I spy, a dark, long, rattle snake sunning against the rock wall of our brick patio. Here's how things progressed from there:
  • Noah and I ran quickly inside via the backdoor
  • We called Suzanne, the land owner who lives just up the mountain
  • She called the Fire Dept.
  • Dean remained on the patio at a safe distance to keep a watchful eye on the rattler's whereabouts
  • Noah and I watched things unfold from the safety of the bathroom window
  • Suzanne appeared, and chatted with Dean about the reptile's remarkably dark color, long length (4 feet!) and large rattler
  • The Fire Dept. arrived within 10 minutes--with three strapping firemen and a huge shiny red fire engine they managed to squeeze and maneuver down our rough, long and rural mile long driveway
  • With a long pincher pole, one of the firemen grabbed the snake just behind its head
  • The snake, incredibly loudly, hissed and rattled while thrashing its angry body violently from side to side
  • After the first fireman wrestled the snake to the ground, a second chopped off its head with a shovel
  • The third fireman took the head and placed it in a safe location on the firetruck and gave us the still moving body to dispose of
  • After the firemen gave Noah a brief light show and firetruck tour, the heroes of the day backed down the long mile-drive with the venomous head of our unwelcome visitor in tow
  • Suzanne convinced Dean to remove the rattler from the snake's body before carrying it down to the trash
  • Removing the rattler from the tail of the still thrashing snake gave all of us quite a scare
  • Noah and Dean carried the snake body wrapped up in a grocery bag, to the safe confines of the trash can at the end of the mile drive
The rattler now sits on our kitchen counter (and soon, in Dean's studio to be used as a percussion instrument) as a reminder--a reminder that we can never let our guard down here on Milargo Ranch. Though we may not be seeing as many critters and creepers and crawlers, they're always here, around somewhere. And, that's just the price we pay for living among the beauty of nature--it's rural, raw and wild--very, very wild.


Two Buns In The Buff.

Life on Milagro Ranch has its ups and downs. Sure, there are 8 inch centipedes, scorpions, rattlesnakes, vultures, tarantulas, rats, and well, I could go on and on. But, heck, this is country living, right?

It has it's perks too. Today was one of those rare days that Noah and I hung ranch-side from sun up to sun down and it was as lovely as the last. Dean blew up Noah's new inflatable pool just before he skipped off to work. Nestled on the sunny brick patio amidst climbing vines, succulents and cacti, the pool provided a day's worth of fascination and fun. Noah broke from bare-bummed swimming only long enough to nap. He even dined, eating both lunch and dinner, from the confines of his new watery playspace.

Best of all, with not a human in eye or ear shot, I gardened in the buff while Noey slumbered. Enjoying both breeze and sun in places that needed respite from a long city cloaking, I am counting the days until we plant the vegetable garden . . .

P.S. Did I mention that we have had to recently take desperate measures to prevent rats from nesting beneath our car hood at night? Well, perhaps more about that in a down post soon. Today it's all ups.

(Image courtesy of Phil Wrigglesworth, an amazing illustrator--I simply love his work.)


Daddiness Day.

Blackberry, peach, banana & walnut pancakes--a hand-painted mug masterpiece--frolicking around Peter Strauss Ranch bare-bottomed (Noah only, of course), followed by lunch prepared over a wood burning stove--hammock time--baby to bed early--garlic popcorn and frosty micro brews--night two in an attempt to make it through the "Maltese Falcon" in it's entirety.

Really, does it get much better than this? I think Papa enjoyed his day.


All In A Good Day's Play: The Underwood Family Farm Edition.

I could gush about this amazing Southern California family farm for hours. It was absolutely amazing. But as the midnight hour is drawing near, I find myself with heavy lids and weary fingers. Here are some collages of our beautiful day. Words are soon to follow about this and more.


A Work in Progress.

Our cottage of love nestled deep within the canyons of Malibu is a real DIY (do it yourself) kind of find. And that's what really drew me to it in the first place. If I am good at anything, it's seeing the potential of what a physical space can be after I've had some time with it. The road of search and selection may sometimes be long, hard and bumpy, but once I'm there, it's a damn good feeling.

The thing is with this place, though, it's truly a roll up your sleeves and get your hands nice and dirty kind of habitat and after all, we are just renting--so there are boundaries to what is considered a reasonable renovation. So far, we've filled terracotta pots on the patio--desperate to find vegetation varieties that won't be ravaged by bunnies, ground squirrels and whatever the hell else bare branch my plants by sunrise--built our own clothesline pole and painted it a cheery "egg yolk" yellow, painted the bathroom green, glazed the unfinished clay tile floors in the bathroom and kitchen and hung a hammock between two generously fragrant eucalyptus trees. But, we still have much to do. I aim to still:
  • paint the bedroom
  • paint the living room
  • paint the kitchen
  • hang our own ceiling fan in the bedroom
  • buy and hang a new ceiling fan in the living room
  • paint the front doors
  • paint our computer desk
  • paint the unfinished door of the hot water heater closet
  • buy and hang new bathroom towel racks
  • paint the outside of the clawfoot bathtub
  • stain the bathroom and kitchen cabinets
  • build and hang bookshelves in the living room
  • build garden beds
  • plant our garden
  • find/build a chicken coop
  • find/buy chickens
  • convert the back guest house to Dean's studio
  • buy a grill
And, I am pretty sure that I have left something(s) off. The thing is, it takes time and money to do all of these things and we are often short on both. Living on a single salary means budgeting wisely. And, raising a toddler means constantly running on a time deficit. So when and how will this all get done? I just can't say. Is it silly to be investing so much time and money into a rental? Perhaps, but I just couldn't have it any other way. Home must be a comfortable refuge--a place without to-do lists lurking around in my noggin.

Aside from all of the critter drama, we really do love it here and already know that we will miss it dearly when it's time to leave. It has been several days now since we've seen any dead mammals or insects with claws, tails or 100 legs. Geeze, give me another few days and I may even forget all about the quarter-sized bug that fell from the light above onto me while I showered.

The fact of the matter is that, today, Noah and I had one of the most magical days that we have had together on this ranch so far. It has been a while since it's been just the two of us home alone all day. We napped and hiked and fed the horses and jumped in the hay and nursed in the hammock and kicked a ball and picked wild flowers and tickled in the bed--with freshly cleaned diapers drying on the line, it felt like home . . . finally. . . and I hope, that as I whittle away at the to-do list above that feeling only grows and grows.

But, we'll see. Ask me again tomorrow. Nighttime around here crawls with all of the things that could make me change my mind really quick.

Nighty, night.


Centipedes, Dead Bunnies And Scorpions, Oh My.

Honey, this ain't Kansas no more. Has the Malibu honeymoon worn off yet, no, not yet. Have I stood on the desk chair with hands clasped to a gaping mouth for five minutes or even more at the 8 inch long centipede sighting on the sofa? Yes. Have I sat in the middle of the coffee table with all of the lights on not moving a muscle until Dean came home at midnight from work after spying a scorpion snacking on an earwig in the corner? Yes. Have I nearly hurled my morning coffee after Noah and I witnessed the landowner's dog corner and maul a baby bunny--not leaving a hare to spare? Yes. Yes. And, Yes.

My devoted family, friends and readers, this is it. This is the post that you have been waiting for. No more happy, smiley collages of life on the ranch or frolics on the beach. This is our life, so far on Milagro Ranch, revealed, raw and uncut for the very first time.

In summation, life for the last two months here has been hard. It's been sprinkled with moments of enjoyment--the stunning scenery, the fabulous flora and fauna, the solitude, the quiet, the star-lit night sky, the sandy rocky shore just 5 miles down a beautiful canyon road. Sure, we've even played with Julia Robert's kids down at the local playground (that's kind of cool, right?). But the rest of the time--it's been downright difficult. I have shed a tear or two of frustration, terror and exhaustion. City life is not missed at all, but sometimes the conveniences are. City life, we have determined, is easy. Sure you have to move your car by 8 a.m. on street cleaning days twice a week. Sure the sounds of helicopters and sirens at 2 a.m. wake you from your slumber and the dumpster diggers startle the baby awake daily. But it's easy dammit. Compared to this.

It took over a month to get the washer and drying properly hooked up--converting a gas dryer to run on propane, installing a hot water line, setting up the waste water pipe to properly run off into the garden down the hill, building, from scratch, a clothesline pole--painted a cheerful yellow. We finally have clean, dry clothes.

A brief but terrifying earwig infestation was thankfully nipped in the bud by an organic solution of various essential oils.

Sightings of the kinds of spiders only for science fiction comic books and the size of small dogs have been fewer and fewer--thanks to diligent weather stripping of doors and windows.

This past Saturday evening at dusk, an unwitting Dean left the screen door open while he and Noah went to hang something on the line. A few minutes later while eating dinner, it was discovered that a tiny field mouse has gained entrance. After a sometimes humorous and terrifying chase ensued, Dean successfully trapped the live but battered mouse (thanks to our worthless cats) in a mason jar and released it back into the wild night after allowing Noah a peek or two.

Snakes sunning on dusty painted steps, lizards lurking on sun-warmed rocks, gigantic vultures playfully picking at fresh roadkill, crows carrying off chipmunks for snacking and owls blocking our way on the windy narrow mountain pass at night . . .

This is the other side of the desert country coin--the side I haven't managed to capture in picture collages. Perhaps it is these time that I am too terrified to cross the room to retrieve the camera or just plain frozen with fear.

We will survive here. I know we will. And we will have grand stories to tell when we are older. Noah will have an adventurous early-life narrative. It's just the getting through the now part that's trying, as we adapt from life in Los Angeles to life on a ranch in the middle of nowhere Malibu.


Noah Finn: 17.5 Months.

I've been rotten at being a blogging, ranching mama. I admit it, I've been absent--I haven't been around, I have to be honest. Keeping up with all of the changes (and struggles--oh, that post is going to be a long one) that living in the middle of nowhere in Malibu have brought along with struggling to maintain the momentum that Feeding Little Foodies had been gaining prior to the move has kept me whirling from sunrise to sunset. And, wait, I didn't even add my toddling toddler into this to-do list equation.

Nevertheless, I am aiming to regain my prior posting glory once more and have faith that it isn't too far off into the future.

In the meantime, I am going to make a list that I have been meaning to sit down and put together for a very long time now. So that 5, 10, 20 years from now, I can look back on this gloriously busy time and remember all of those beautiful little things that I am sure to forget otherwise. The thing is that this list has been changing in my head as time passes with it unwritten--it changes as I strive to keep up with a very quickly growing little boy.

Documenting Noah Finn at 17.5 months:
  • He learned how to kiss with a pucker and sound effects two days ago--and he smooches us on the cheek every chance he gets
  • Everything is "Daddy"--from the little Hispanic boy in his book to the sand sifter on the beach, it's all just "Daddy"
  • Favorite words that come to mind: bottle, Miles, bye, hi, go, bubble, ball, shoes, magnet, mommy, daddy, vroom, mole, more, beach, bees, cherry, book, shhhhh, boo boo, poo poo, pee pee, dog, cheese, teeth, three
  • He loves splashing, screaming, running and laughing in the surf with Dean
  • His favorite foods are fresh mango, dried blueberries and nori
  • He dislikes milk but he will drink it if he has to
  • He isn't crazy about cookies or other sweets
  • He loves saying bubble and pointing to the bubble bottle but is less than enthusiastic at the act of blowing them or watching someone else do so
  • He is absolutely o b s e s s e d with beer bottles--full or empty
  • He loves to throw things in the trash can (if it has a lid on it, even better)--especially rocks
  • He loves to hold one stem of wildflowers (or rocks) in each hand for a very long time
  • He doesn't care too much for swinging, but loves to slide and teeter totter
  • He likes to give others raspberries (bellies or backs are preferred targets)
  • Jumping on the bed naked after bath time is by far his favorite time of the day
  • His favorite color is red
  • He collects rocks (to later throw away, perhaps?)
  • His favorite toy is Henry's plastic sand shovel
  • He breaks out in spontaneous singing bursts of e-i-e-i-o all. day. long.


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