Dear Baron Rousemüncher,

Today was a beautiful day with sunny skies and a mild breeze. The weather people said that we may have had a record — 73 degrees — and it’s still technically winter for a few more weeks! The Mamas don’t mind at all (and neither do we), although they both got sick from this change in weather.

Last week Mama L. came down with a two or three day flu. She was riding her bicycle home when she actually felt the bad winds entering her body, between the shoulder blades. She told Amy Lee this story and Amy said that she is living testament to ancient Chinese beliefs that bad winds enter one’s body through either side of T-2. Or the ankles. Mama told us that back when she was very young, her Grandma would do the coining to get rid of the bad wind. In Vietnamese it is called “cạo giὀ”, or literally, “scratch the wind”.

Now Mama M. is sick too. She has bronchitis, so completely different from what Mama L. had. But it is still wind-related. She had to go to urgent care tonight to get some medicine because she wouldn’t stop coughing. That was because Mama M. went to some gala event over the weekend and stayed out too late. And she wasn’t dressed adequately against the wind. Then she missed hiking with all of us the next day and Auntie Juni is still mad at her. We had a great time hiking though — this place might even be better than Redwood Regional Park because it is so wide open. Mama L. doesn’t know what it’s called, but it’s up in the hills overlooking San Leandro.

With the weather getting nicer, Mama L. has been wanting to spend more and more time outside. We don’t mind at all, because we get to keep her company and help out with the gardening even though she usually protests with our choice of activity. She’s been doing a lot of reading and research on small spaces, and has decided that this is the year that she is going to grow everything. And she’s going to grow them all in containers, not in the ground. She even decided that she would plant them according to favorable moon phases.

We thought Mama L. had gone off the deep end, when she exclaimed that you would have been proud to see this bountiful harvest as she carried a big armful of chard into the house! She had grown three varieties of Rainbow Chard from little seedlings. She had also grown some beets in the same planter, and the leaves are nearly as big as the chard. The picture shows a mixture of all the pretty greens. The chard just seems to keep producing greens, as long as she keeps harvesting the leaves every so often. And they seem to get bigger too! She had thought they were supposed to be replanted every season, but so far it has lasted through two.

This season, Mama L. gave up the idea of building more wooden planters out of the extra wood we had in the garage. That would have required too much work, she said, and she was getting antsy to get started. So Mama L. purchased several small galvanized tubs and punched holes in them for drainage. Then she lined the bottom of each tub with an inch of drain rock. Then came several layers of rich soil and coconut coir fiber. She read somewhere that this is actually even better than peat moss, rockwool, vermiculite, perlite or pumice. And it’s ecologically good as well. It is made from compressed coconut fiber, and has a very good balance of wetting and aeration and a resistance to bacteria and fungus growth. It holds 8-9 times its weight of water and has a high nutrient-absorption capacity. After she brought a huge bale of it home, she went crazy and started adding loosened chunks of it to all the containers. She said it’s probably the best admendment she’s ever added to the clayey soil we have. From the look of things, we will have lots of yummy veggies to eat soon.

Last weekend she planted cauliflower and broccoli and red cabbage and collard greens and peas and bunching onions. This past weekend, she planted have several varieties of lettuce, three different kinds of carrots with really great names (“Cosmic Purple”, “Chatenay”, “Solar Yellow”), two types of radishes including a “Japanese Long Scarlet”, and some more beets. Except for the lettuce, the carrots and the radishes were seed-sown. She’s a little nervous about those, because she’s not had much success with starting things from seeds. Maybe the coco coir fiber will help.

Here is a picture of the birds commenting on Mama’s gardening techniques.

 

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Utah, Part 1

Part 1, because I’m not sure I can finish this tonight. Michelle just made me a hot toddy, well, two, actually, because I have caught a cold and don’t know how far I will get before they kick in. I am all congested, and it feels more like a head cold than anything else. And a little bit of an achy back which makes me a little suspicious of it being the flu. Anyways…

At 8,000 feet, breathing is difficult if you’re not used to the elevation. The air is so thin that it’s difficult to even do “normal” activities, like walking. When we first got to the resort, we traipsed a short distance uphill — maybe a hundred yards or so — and we were completely winded and had to stop to breathe. Of course, it was also after my one shot of tequila and Michelle’s two (but it was also her birthday, so she was entitled — Grand Centenario Plata, FYI.) Afterwards, we read the resort’s welcoming guide, which mentioned abstaining from alcohol for a couple of days. Oh well. It took us a couple of days to get adjusted to this climate. Added to this lack of oxygen was also the lack of humidity. Everything was bone-dry. We probably used twice the usual amount of lotion, and our skin still felt “itchy”. I had a bloody nose pretty much everyday we were there. I also developed this weird pin-prick sensation to anything cold. It felt like somebody was sticking ice splinters in my skin. Michelle had a weird skin rash that looked like tiny water bubbles (which is finally subsiding after several days back in California). Fortunately, the resort also provided a humidifier in every room. It might have helped a little — we had it on every night on full blast.

BTW, cooking also takes twice as long at this altitude. Water took a ridiculously long time to boil.

We had arrived at Snowbird late on a Friday afternoon, and stayed at the Cliff Lodge resort. The resort is a beautiful place — well thought out, well constructed. Engineeringly speaking, it was a work of art. Because it is known mostly as a ski resort, there was NOBODY there except for a small handful of folks. Saturday was our “recovery” day, that is, getting acclimated. We didn’t do much of anything except for shopping. But, it was also Oktoberfest, and suddenly the place was crawling with people. There were zip rides and alpine slides and trampolines — all were targeted towards families with kids. We had a lot of fun people-watching, but after a couple mugs and a few bratwursts, it was time to retire to our room. Yay, hot tub on the balcony!

We finally ventured out on Sunday (when we were finally able to breathe normally) and took the chair lift up to the mountain peak. It’s difficult to explain what vertigo feels like unless you are susceptible to it. It’s not a “fear of heights” as much as it is a chemical or biological response. It is a visceral feeling, and the only way to deal with it is to fight it  with a lot of intellectual reasoning and a lot of breathing to calm the nerves. Michelle finally felt that same sensation when she looked over the 9th floor banister down at the lobby — her palms immediately got sweaty. Anyway, after an 18-minute ride on the chairlift to the peak at Mount Baldy (11,000+ feet), we hiked all the way back down to the resort. It took us a little more than two hours, and I have blisters to prove it. Our calves were aching by the end of the hike. Thank goodness for the hot tub! (And thank goodness we decided to hike down instead of up.)

Whatever possessed us to do the hike again on Monday, I cannot say…but we did. This time a little longer (we took a different route), and by then my blisters were bleeding and I had to put on bandaids. I’ll need new hiking boots. I also have one mysteriously bruised toenail. Our calves were now screaming. But, we saw a couple of moose (mooses? meese? moosen?) and a bunch of other interesting wildlife. There were marmots, for example, which I think might be a relative of the prairie dog? Anyway, there were signs on the resort grounds not to feed the “potguts”.

If you are an avid hiker, or climber, Snowbird is a good place to be in the summertime. It’s only a half-hour’s drive from Salt Lake City. The mountains are spectacular, much more grand than anything I have seen in a long time. But aside from that, and maybe just spending some alone time, there’s not much else to do here. If your calves are screaming from the hikes, and you get twitchy because you don’t have other things to do…well, this is probably just a long weekend kind of place. Even the concierge person that Michelle spoke to, said that we would be ready to leave by Tuesday….and how right she was.

But I will save that for Part 2. Maybe tomorrow. The hot toddies have kicked in and  I need to go put my head down on a pillow now….