Wednesday after the weekend’s heavy rains I went  to our back yard to look at our garden. Overnight the daffodil bulbs had pushed up out of the ground and some were opening, defying the stiff breezed trying to bend them over. A carpet of green covered the formerly bare earth where we had pulled up dead ground cover the week before, the the violets a riot of purple.

In our raised beds the broccoli and Brussels sprouts seedlings planted in October finally showed signs of developing into mature vegetables, although  seedlings labeled “broccoli” at the garden center  now suspiciously looked like cauliflower. Aren’t broccoli florets green instead of white plates?

Across the street our neighbors magnolia is magnificent with pink and white flowers, while in the park the pear trees are snow white.

What a little rain can do!

The rain gauge showed 3,75″, and though we, along with other Chicoans, rejoiced to finally get the long-awaited precipitation, we wished for more to break the drought. The seemingly big rainfall is but a blip in the drought officially announced by the governor in January, and we are reminded to diligently conserve water.

Ironically, however, I recall in 1995 our state was inundated with heavy rains caught in a weather cycle called “El Nino.”  Rivers rose above flood stage, mudslides ruined many houses, and some foolhardy who rode rafts on the usually dry Los Angeles River were found weeks later at its mouth at the harbor.

I remember in early January, the exact date forgotten, it began to rain steadily in the morning as I drove to work, continuing what had begun falling during the night.

I was inside my school library that had windows high above the shelves on the walls and could not see out but could hear the steady beating of raindrops on the roof. During lunch I merely dashed across the hall to the faculty lunch room and didn’t  go outside to notice the rain was heavier than usual.  When the dismissal bell rang, and the thundering noise of kids leaving classrooms faded away,   the hall and library were eerily quiet. Usually kids hung out at the library to  browse or wait for a ride till nearly closing time at 4 p.m. It was cold and damp when I went to close the doors before packing up my things to go home.

There was a lull in the rainfall when I walked to my car parked at curbside a few yards from the school buildings.  I noticed, however, the water was up to the curb and near the level of my car’s door, so I gingerly got in and began driving.  My usual route home was to drive to the end of the street, turn left to the underpass of the 405 freeway, but when I got there, the water was high and not a car was coming down, indicating a flooded street. So I turned right at took another road toward home ad saw a police car stuck in the middle of the intersection!

Not taking a chance of being similarly stuck, I noticed a church on higher ground with a parking lot in front so drove there and parked my car, intending to retrieve it after the storm had passed.

There was a real estate office with its lights on so surmising it was open and had a phone, I walked there after taking off my shoes and socks, throwing  them into my book bag, and  rolling up my pants. I had on my rarely needed raincoat to keep me warm .

The real estate office kindly invited me and others who wanted to use their phone, and my intention was to call my husband who was retired and home. In fact, I’d promised him I’d bake a pie if he’d peel and slice the apples. .

But the line to use the phone, antedating the now ubiquitous cell phones , was long, and already close to sunset I decided to walk to the next street where there’s a mini-mall,  hoping to either catch the bus or use the drugstore’s phone.

The mall was closed, and the street in front flooded as well,   I concluded there wouldn’t be a bus and so continued walking home, sometimes wading  hip deep in water filled with debris and obviously very dirty.  During the two-mile walk home, I sang to keep my spirits up, and finally arriving  about 45 minutes later to the entry of our tract where I met my husband come driving in his min-van, wondering what had happened to me, and scolded, “why didn’t you call me?” I explained the situation but glad I couldn’t call because otherwise his car’s engine would have been flooded as many others did that day.

I suffered no ill effects other than a dirty raincoat and wet pants up to my hips. And after I cleaned up, I went into the kitchen and baked him the promised apple pie as he had already prepared the fruits as promised.

Wouldn’t an El Nino be welcome  now to break our drought?



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While the Chinese observe their new year according to the lunar calendar, the Japanese follow the Western that begins on January first.

This lunar year, when  the Chinese Year of the Horse began on January 31st,  the Japanese’s had already begun on New Year’s Day.  Their zodiac animals are similar, however.

I am of Japanese descent and my mother noted I was born in the year of the Rat. The Rat is the first of the twelve animals in the Asian zodiac. Rat is followed in order by the OX, TIGER,RABBIT,DRAGON, SNAKE, HORSE,SHEEP, MONKEY,ROOSTER, DOG and BOAR.

There are folktales and fables about how the twelve animals got included while others such as the cat, the fox and the wolf are not.  One story I read states when Buddha died the animals decided to attend  his funeral but only the first twelve who got there would have a place in the zodiac.

The Rat, who is deemed most intense and curious, jumped on the back of the slow but powerful ox’s back and when they got to the funeral, jumped off Ox and got to be first in line.

Boar, however, ate along the way and managed to be last of the twelve who arrived in time.

There is thus a cycle of twelve years and each person’s zodiac year comes up accordingly. That means a baby born this year and others born during the twelve- year intervals prior,will have HORSE year occur again in 2026.

Using that knowledge, I know the Japanese,who are always interested to know the age of anyone they meet but won’t outright ask it, will instead say, “What’s your zodiac?” and will immediately know by looking at a person correctly guess the new acquaintance’s age!

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The current lack of rainfall bodes an impending drought for us Californians. For me that recalls the drought of the  mid 1970s when we were living in southern Califronia. We were ignorant of what transpired in northern California so write only of our experiences in Los Angeles County.

Water officials urged us to follow suggestions on how to contribute to the conservation effort:

1. Put a brick into the tank of the toilet, later leading to low flush toilets.

2. flush toilets less often, and perhaps only when solid wastes needed to be disposed.

3. take short showers and with a spouse or significant other. Low flow shower heads were given in some areas to encourage residents to conserve.

4. wash cars using a bucket of water.

5. water lawns sparingly, and on alternate days.

6. Forgo the practice of cleaning lawn cuttings with blasts of water  from a hose. That probably led to the invention of the noisy, ear-drum-busting leaf lowers.

7.Run dishwashers only with full loads.

8. Do laundry with cold water.

9.  Brush teeth using  a glass of water to rinse one’s mouth.

l0. Catch cold water in a container while waiting for the hot water  to come through when shaving or showering.

Santa Barbara reportedly had not joined the state’s water system and did not have adequate water for residents to water their lawns so some dyed the dry grass green.

Inexplicably, after months of excessively dry conditions, it began to rain the week Elvis Presley died!

Now that the threat of drought is back, I think it’s wise to practice the measures listed above. I also add this suggestion of cleaning off food wastes on plates  with a paper napkin instead of running water from the kitchen faucet. That keeps from running the disposal to rid the scrapings, and also the necessity of frequent scrubbing of the sink, especially from spaghetti and other tomato stains that are instead transferred to the used napkin.




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Last winter, a friend gave us two dozen persimmons.They were of the Hachiya(globular and good when soft)variety that is often used for baking cookies and breads. The other kind also abundant in this area is the Fuyu that is good eaten raw and crunchy like an apple.
I had never seen nor tasted persimmons until we moved to Chico, but had known of them because my mother used to read us Japanese folk tales with persimmons as a focus such as one where a monkey fights a crab for the fruit.
Although a beautiful fruit with shiny orange skins, we didn’t care for the acerbic flavor of fresh Hachiyas so tried making jam, but it also was not appealing as other fruit jams.
What to do with the generous gift besides giving most to Asian friends who relished them? I was determined to find a way to enjoy them.
To the rescue was a feature on hoshigaki(ho-she-ga-kee) by the late Huell Howser on one of his CALIFORNIA GOLD programs. Hoshigaki is sun-dried persimmons and a Sacramento farmer/family made them to ship to Japan where it’s a prized delicacy.
I decided to imitate doing so with several of the fruits.
To dry them, each persimmon needs to be tied by its stem, but only about a third given to us had stems so we were limited in our experiment.
Following the procedure shown, we washed the fruits, peeled them, and tied each to a drying rack, then set them outside in the sun to dry. Using plastic gloves, I squeezed each gently each day to allow moisture to be removed. However, it was a cold, somewhat rainy winter last year, and it took more weeks than the Sacramento farmers’ usual six, but luckily, none got moldy.
Each persimmon turned dark with a whitish surface that is the sugar released as it dried.
When completely dried, they resembled Medjool dates and tasted as sweet!

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Today, December 7, 2013, marks he 72nd anniversary of the fateful attack on Pearl Harbor that began the official entry of the United States into WWII.
Today is also thirty-seven years since my father died at age eighty-eight. He was a young twelve-year old immigrant from Okinawa to Hawaii when it was still a U.S. territory, and labored in the sugar plantations of Paia, Maui, later in Waialua and Kahuku on Oahu, before deciding to become an independent truck farmer in Kahaluu, Oahu. Ironically, his little known province of Japan was the focus of a major battle, the Battle of Okinawa, and now that island is an important American base.
Two weeks ago on Nov, 22nd, the fiftieth commemoration of the assassination of President John F Kennedy was observed and older adults who were then children reminisced of the day when the tragedy occurred.
That had me recalling the death of President Franklin D. Rosevelt in April, l945, when I was in the third grade at Waiahole School. FDR is the president who declared, “a Day of Infamy” of the December 7th attack. The principal came into our classroom at mid-morning and tearfully announced, “The President died today and you may all go home.”
In that era when few rural homes had telephones, nor were parents informed of anything such as that news as they now are, nor the bus company called, we all packed up our books and began walking home, a distance of three miles for me and my siblings. The narrow, two-lane highway hugged the coastline and there were no sidewalks but only a narrow shoulder on one side where we could walk. There were several dangerous curves, and army trucks and jeeps rumbled by often as they drove toward training grounds at the North Shore.
The December 7th attack resulted in martial law declared for the entire territory, a requirement to carry gas masks, register for ID cards with finger prints, get typhoid immunizations, war bond assembles, black out curtains in homes, military patrols at night, rationing and other restrictions we youngsters did not know or were blase about.
We of Japanese descent had FBI searches of our homes, and some of our classmates were children of Japanese men interned in unknown locations as suspects possibly disloyal to the United State merely because of their employment as professionals who had been educated in Japan, or Buddhist priests or fishermen. One we knew personally was the Japanese language teacher whose family lived in our community and were loyal to the United States as anyone else. And we only heard whispers of Pacific Coast Japanese relocated into camps in the deserts and swamps of the interior states. It was not until I was an adult that we learned anything about the ten “relocation camps” nor knew anyone who had experienced it.
It was many years later before they were given token amounts of money to compensate for the years lost, and a formal apology from the government for summarily having had their civil rights taken away. Yet, most of those persons we have personally become friends with are not bitter and have overcome their ordeal and led successful lives after the war.

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For more years than I can recall, or at least five, I have made the soup for our church women’s bazaar luncheon. Soup has been a traditional mainstay on the luncheon menu, and the soup maker has the privilege of deciding the kind of soup to cook.
At first it was a worrisome challenge for a novice who had never made soup for a crowd, but feeling I couldn’t bypass a new learning experience, accepted the request to do it. If the chairman thought I could do it, by golly I would try!
I perused cookbooks and the internet for ideas about making soup for a crowd, and of course there were only two choices: meat or meatless.
I made hamburger based soups with lots of vegetables the first time, and anticipating a large number of customers cooked four large vats that held about 3 gallons of soup(I may be overestimating the size) apiece. Included were ten pounds of potatoes, five pounds of baby carrots, two pounds of frozen green beans, a gallon each of cut tomatoes and kidney beans, half gallon of tomato sauce, and a bunch of celery, eight cans of chicken broth and a big onion for each pot. To call it “minestrone” I added a pound of pasta to each pot as well. The result was soup that was thick and more stew-like than soupy. But there were compliments the soup was “really good,” boosting my ego that I had succeeded in a new venture. So I agreed to continue again.
The next year there was a request I cook both meat and vegetarian soups, but to make both kinds was not feasible nor profitable as meat prices rose, so hamburger was eliminated.
Prepping the vegetables by myself took long and to make the soup less thick, I eliminated the potatoes, reduced the amount celery and pasta, but added some minced parsley to add to the flavor, and added water as well as chicken broth.
However, during the last two years, three men donated crock pots of chili and the vegetarian soup could not compete with it. Last year three pots were made and only one and one half sold; the rest were sold at reduced prices for customers to take home in quart jars. They said they were “delighted to enjoy homemade soup” without putting in the time to make it.
I suggested soup be eliminated from the menu, but luncheon committee members urged me to continue making some, so made two pots this year and only sold one, the leftovers again sold as before.
I am thinking next year soup be entirely eliminated if chili is again offered, or cook only a half pot of it as it is foolhardy to make it at a loss or just to break even.
Traditions die hard,but the marketplace rules and soup making has perhaps outlived its place in our luncheon plans.

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We were among the lucky 250 ticket holders to this year’s annual Farm City bus tour that takes participants to visit five different farms in and around the county.
Held on the third Wednesday of November by the county’s farm bureau for 33 years, it’s the event we most look forward to attending each year since moving to Chico.
Each has been informative and enjoyable, the expert agribusiness guides and farm hosts pumping us with facts we had not known about the wonderful farms in the county both large and small.
This year it was organized so we were assigned to a bus when we checked in, instead of in pat years where we had to scramble to find open seats on one of the five buses hired for the occasion. That happened to us last year while we had dawdled having coffee and donuts and those “in the know” saved choice seats for the friends. We had ended up next to the restroom! With assigned buses, we found seats toward the front,and to my surprise, two women recognized me as one of the North State Voices columnists in 2012, quite flattering for a nonentity like me.
Our route took us to the hilly farms in Oroville, beginning with the five-acre Morse mandarin orange farm. There the owners told us each fruit was hand picked using clippers to prevent damage to the fragile skin during their November to January harvest. We were delighted to be given samples, told we could throw the peels on the ground so they could later be composted, and had opportunity to taste and buy marmalade and other products they sold.
The bus driver skillfully maneuvered the big bus on the narrow dirt or gavel roads at each farm, while the riders listened to the guides give statistics, trivia facts and entertained us with farm-related stories. WE were informed it’s a common misconception most American farms are run by corporations but in fact, there are still 85,000 family-owned farms, though 20,000 acres are lost to urban development each year. It was also interesting to be informed California is #1 in milk production, not Wisconsin! California must indeed have “happy cows.”
Next for our group was the ten-acre Quillici Vineyards run by its owners with the help of seasonal employees. They make varietal and other wines sold after aging for two years in oak barrels, as well as selling juice to home brewers.
With the rapid rise in the use of olive oil, our visit to the Lodestar olive oil producer had us tasting extra virgin olive oil, and oils mixed with lemon, garlic and balsamic vinegar. We learned it takes fifty pounds of olives to yield a gallon of extra virgin oil oil.
Driving off Hwy. 149, the bus drove on an overpass bridge to the big 3500-acre cattle Table Mountain Ranch owned and operated by the Brown family. It’s been theirs for six generations, and our hostess was their vivacious daughter Megan, who helps her parents run the huge operation scientifically. An interesting fact unknown to most of us was that the ranch was a target practice range during WWII. The famous Chuck Yeager was among the the test pilots. The cattle were still feeding in Plumas county so the range was empty, but besides giving us facts about their ranch, she showed off her pet tea-cup pig that performed tricks like a smart dog.
Finally, our last stop was the Chaffin Family Orchards that produce many different fruits, olives, sheep for wool, grass fed cattle and egg laying chickens, while continuing to carry on their philosophy of helping their workers be educated and sustained economically.
And of course by the end of the tour we were all happily tired and hungry from breathing in the fresh air and standing around listening to the speakers, and bouncing along the bumpy roads, and our rea rd was the delicious grilled halves of chicken sered with rice and salad. The brochure informed us our former neighbor Bill headed the volunteer lunch cooks, and they again did a marvelous job of cooking the chickens to a delectable turn.
The Farm Tour is definitely worth getting up early to enjoy visiting the many agribusinesses in the county.

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Pomegranates, a fruit that has been in use since ancient times, is now popular as jelly and in other foods on the discovery of its positive health values.
That being said, a church member donated three gallons of juice to jelly for our church ladies upcoming Christmas bazaar.
A call was made to help cook the jelly on a recent Thursday, and since I had already made jam all summer, was asked to participate.
Just the thought of cooking a large quantity of jelly seemed like a daunting task, but others before us had done it so I agreed to help.
Three of us showed up to jelly, later joined by the juice donor, and starting at mid-morning, we donned aprons to protect our clothing from the bright red juice that could permanently stain them.
The chairman had already divided the juice into twelve quart jars, measured sugar into baggies, while the other person brought the boxes of pectin and lemon juice for the needed acidity.
I took my electric pot so we could each make a batch at the same time because jellies and jams can’t be multiplied like cookies or soups if they are to turn out well, especially since the kitchen had only one burner available for jellying. The other burners were needed for sterilizing the jars, the canner and heating the lids. Otherwise, we might have had to stay longer hours taking turns cooking only at a time.
For each batch, the pomegranate and lemon juices and pectin were put into the pot, cooked till it boiled for a minute. Then the sugar was poured in and stirred nearly continuously until it came to a second rolling boil.
Using a jar lifter, each jar was lifted out of the hot water, and the boiling hot jelly ladled out through a funnel, filling up to a half inch of the top. A new, heated lid was laid atop the filled jar, each rim wiped clean of drips with a wet paper towel, and a ring screwed securely over the lid.
Again with the jar lifter, each jar was plopped into the canner of hot water, more water added so all the jars were at least an inch under it.
After processing the batch for ten minutes, they were lifted out onto a tray covered with a towel and taken to a table to cool. The loud CLICK each jar made was music to our ears because it proved the jar was sealed and we did not need to fear spoilage. They could safely be sold and the customer could keep it unopened for a year if wished.
At the end of five hours, we happily counted 80 jars of beautiful, ruby red jelly, more than originally expected, and if past years were a guide, would be best sellers at the bazaar’s country store booth.. Our feet were tired, but our cooperative effort resulted in safely cooking good jelly for our fundraiser.

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A fun dining experience is eating grilled Japanese food at the hibachi(he-ba-chee)restaurant. Hibachi is a small charcoal grill used in Japanese households to heat rooms and grilling tidbits of skewered foods.
But since the end of WWII, an enterprising Japanese restauranteur introduced the concept of dining stting at U-shaped counters around a large grill where a chef cooks individual orders in an entertaining fashion.
Now many cities have hibachi restaurants and there is one in Chico, too. It’s an enjoyable way to share a table with seven others if you don’t mind having strangers sitting across from you. Or you can take a large group and won’t have to wait long for a table.
The menu is limited to grilling beef, chicken and sea foods, along with stir fried vegetables.Each diner gets a bowl of miso soup, rice and a salad with sesame flavored dressing. One can order appetizers of edamame(soy beans)and sushi while waiting for the chef to arrive and begin cooking the entrees the waitress has written down.
When the chef arrives, and he may not be Asian but expert in Japanese cookery, he flips his spatula nd meat fork and catches them like a circus clown. I have witnessed some chefs flip a piece of vegetable up into his chef’s hat. This sets the st age for fun dining. Then me mixes dipping sauces into individual dishes for each customer.
When the cooking begins, he first cooks fried rice for any who’ve ordered it. He cracks and egg after passing it behind his back, scrambles it on the grill, adds a small amount of onion and shredded vegetables, then liberally sprinkles with salt before adding a bowl of rice to the mix. After the mixture has fried, he sprinkles soy sauce and adds some butter before scooping the finished rice into bowls to pass to customers whose appetites are whetted by his action.
Next the chef grills appetizers of shrimp and mushroom. Both are sliced with hs sharp knife, quickly sauteed and flipped over to each diner’s plate.
While diners grind away, he sets p the entrees, starting first with chicken breasts that require longest cooking. Each boneless breast is sliced into strips, grilled and seasoned with soy sauce and butter, then pushed aside to cook further while he cooks the steaks and other seafood that have been ordered.Those are also sliced thinly to be easily eaten with chopsticks(or forks for the inept who can’t manage chopsticks), and similarly sauced with soy and butter and perhaps sesame seeds, and served to the respective plates.
Meanwhile, the last of the foods, the stir fried mixed vegetables, are cooked: slices of zucchini, carrots and mushroom and a pile of bean sprouts. But before he stir-fries the mixed veggies, he stacks onion slices into a cone, spritzes them with alcohol,flames it with a lighter, and WHOOSH, a volcano!
Back to the vegetable mound, he shapes a SMILEY face or a HEART, giving a nod to the women or young couples,before he finishes stir frying them with more soy sauce and butter. Each customer gets a portion, and while they are busily finishing eating, he cleans the grill for the next group of customers.
But he is not finished. He’s saved a few morsels of meat and asks anyone who dares, to OPEN YOUR MOUTH, and with surprising accuracy flips one into each gaping hole!
The price for each entree is comparable to that at a steak restaurant, and the accompaniments that are often ala carte at those are included, making it a rather reasonable, nutritionally balanced meal, albeit high in sodium and cholesterol. But for an occasional evening out, a fun way to dine and be entertained by the skillful work of the chef.

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“Oh, we need maple syrup and rotisserie chicken. Let’s go the the membership store and get them, ” I suggest to my hubby.
We go near noon as it’s open to members just an hour before, but if on a weekend, there are more samples than ever so a good time to enjoy lunch just trying them all.
When we get there, there’s already a crowd, each customer pushing a big shopping cart, and some coming out with flat bed carts loaded with goods. The later are those with business cards who get in an hour earlier than regular members.
Stopping at each demo table, w are lured into trying organic chocolate covered berries with dietary values, cheeseburgers larger than quarter pounders at the fast foods and much cheaper discounted for a box of eight, tho as retirees we actually don’t need large quantities; also yogurts, chili, cookies and hot sweet tea. We soon find our cart filling up with items we didn’t plan to buy.
And then a huge display of jeans and sweatshirts with famous brand names attract our attention. It’s hard to know if the sizings are the same as the department stores’, but there is no fitting room so I take two in different sizes to try at home with plans to return the one that doesn’t fit.
On toward the deli and meat departments and they’re pushing cheese and ham in quarters of sandwiches to sample. The cheese, too, is “discounted for a limited time only” by a couple dollars so in goes another bargain too good to pass up.
At the checkout we have our syrup and roasted chicken, but also items we had not planned to buy. In front of us is a customer with a cart loaded with frozen foods, meats, sundries and liquor, and we wonder how many were on his/her shopping list, or like us, bought randomly? Their bill adds up to several hundred dollars while ours, with a purchase of their $l.50 hot dog and drink, is under $40 and the checker looks at us with askance, “Is that all you’re buying today?”

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