Under Angel Wings


Sunday, May 31, 2009

Happy Birthday, Candy

This is my good friend Candy, who has her birthday one day after mine. I am exactly one day older than she is! Candy was born in the city of Chicago, but grew up always wanting a horse, and her dream came true at the age of 21. She has raised horses ever since, jumping and showing them!

Candy and her husband, Ray, live in the north Lake Tahoe area, but they keep their horses on a ranch down in Reno. Last week-end we were guests in their home, and Candy and I spent a fun day down on the ranch bathing and exercising the horses. (She did all the work, I just took the pix. I have a very healthy respect for the hugeness of these animals! :D) Candy owns six, and boards several others. She is a very busy person!

This is the new girl, Annie, a six year old chestnut with a 1/2 white face. She is a registered paint American quarter horse, the white color extending over her lips and over the knees. Someone owned her before Candy and she tends to be skittish! She doesn't like having her face washed, but Candy works very gently and patiently with her, speaking quietly while she wipes her face down. I was brave enough to stand next to Annie and hold her lead, as she is not a giant like the stallion and the gelding! :D

Annie has a gorgeous tail with many different colors: blond, brown, red, black and even some purple! Her tail, mane and forelock all need to be combed and combed. What a labor of love!!

                Here is Annie all groomed. Isn't she beautiful? That's Mt. Rose in the background.

             Annie got to strut her stuff in the exercise ring as she followed Candy's commands.

                                                           Here is Annie's official portrait!

Next up to be groomed was the stallion, Yankee, born in the USA. He has a German sire and dam, and is good-sized. Believe it or not, Candy says he is docile and sweet, as well as intelligent! He is almost totally black except for his muzzle, so he must be called brown. Candy
rides Yankee most of the time.

Nevada, the big black gelding, is an awesome, French Selle Francais horse. He is 17.2 hands high!! He is 8 years old, a show horse. When he walks by, he is huge! I give him a lot of room.

                                    Nevada loves to come over and visit with the other horses.

                                    Now that Yankee is groomed he gets to work out in the ring.

There are two lovely ladies in the barn, Fleur and Tess. We had to kind of keep them out of sight of Yankee, who has spring fever big-time, and trouble can kind of spring up quickly if you know what I mean! :D

                Fleur, for Millefleur, Selle Francais and Dutch, born in the millennium year, 2000

                     Tess, for Tahoe Tessie, because she is monster huge; Selle Francais and Dutch

      This beautiful thoroughbred mare is Diane, 25 years old, Candy's first showjumper and the                     grand lady of the pasture.  She has earned the right to do what she wants!         
             Ray and Candy at Lake Tahoe with their Jack Russell terriers, Tennyson and Daisy 

Ray is a marine engineer, retired from the U.S. Merchant Marine. He is now a private builder of homes and offices, and works very hard on the ranch with the horses, and improving the property. My husband, David, and Ray have a lot in common: they are both engineers and can build or fix almost anything. With them, it's all about tools! They definitely speak the same language.

Candy is a realtor in the north Tahoe area. She managed to sell our condo for us, right before the real estate collapse last summer! She told us exactly what to do, and we did it. She and Ray got in there and worked right along with us to get the property ready to sell. What a team!!

                                                  The birthday buddies, Candy and Sylvia

Thank you, Ray and Candy, for a wonderful week-end at your home and at the ranch! I loved meeting all of your animals, and my hubby loved the golf game. Happy birthday, my friend!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Memorial Day

When I was young, Memorial Day was always celebrated on May 30th. Then a few decades into my life, it was changed to be observed on the last Monday of May in order to create a federal holiday on a three-day weekend.

Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. men and women who died while in the military service.

It was first enacted in 1868 to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War (it is celebrated near the day of reunification after the Civil War), and was expanded after World War I to include American casualties of any war or military action.

Memorial Day weekend has come to signify the unofficial beginning of summer, and Labor Day weekend as the unofficial end of the season.

According to Wikipedia, there is a movement afoot to return Memorial Day to May 30th in order to re-emphasize the importance of remembering our fallen heroes. I think this is a fine idea, especially since I was born on this day, and it was always really special having my birthday on a national holiday.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Baby Mockingbirds Have Arrived

Recently I have noticed adult mockingbirds flying in and out of my dwarf pine in the front yard.

When I walked by the tree a couple of weeks ago I took a quick peek inside and saw a nest!

I have tried to not walk by, instead going around out on the front sidewalk, so that the parents won't be alarmed...

Yesterday I walked by, looked inside, and saw three baby birds! They are right at eye level, so they are easy to spot. You can count their beaks where you see the bluish-colored feathers.

The parents have opened up a substantial-sized hole with their comings and goings! The pine is struggling as it is, since it is placed next to what turned out to be a hot driveway.

The matching pine on the right side of the house is flourishing as it only receives morning sun, and is protected from the afternoon sun by a large pistachio tree.

The parents probably picked this pine because the foliage is thinner and easier to get in and out of.

The babies were all curled up together, enjoying a nice warm nap. I hope none of the neighborhood cats strolling through notice them!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Growing Up With Aunt Dorothy

Today I'd like to share with you the important influence that Aunt Dorothy has had on my life, and on the lives of my sister, Jan, a myriad of Jenkins cousins, and even the two boys who grew up on the neighboring farm, John and Tom.

This photo was taken at our church for what could be called the Jenkins Family Christening Day on October 17, 1950. C.W. and Minnie's adult children, Bruce, Raymond and Dorothy, had all of their children baptized on this day. There were many of us!

Here my sister and I are shown posed with our godmothers, myself and Aunt Dorothy on the left, and Jan and Aunt Myola on the right. Our mom made our matching dresses as she usually did. Either she made them or purchased identical skirts, blouses and dresses in different sizes from the Montgomery Ward catalog. I've seen other siblings dressed in identical clothes from that era~ it must have been a fifties thing!

My very first memory as a toddler involves a family trip that we took to Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Ronny's house in San Diego for Christmas. Amidst all the excitement of Christmas and staying in a different home, I got a cough. I remember standing up in a crib and Uncle Ronny bringing me cough medicine in a spoon in the night. It's funny to think way back to see what our first memory is.

As I grew older Aunt Dorothy's annual trips up to the ranch with her sons grew more and more important to me. Each June she would bring Rob, Ron and Rich to spend the entire summer. Jan, John, Tom and I all waited for the excitement of that day: summer it seemed would not really begin until they arrived.

Aunt Dorothy always had lots of fun and exciting things to do. She rented the old farmhouse during the nine months of school, and then the tenants vacated so Aunt Dorothy could come for three months. There was always a long list of repair projects to be done on the old home, and her boys were kept busy working on those. Our home that my parents built was right across the street from Aunt Dorothy's house, which was the old homestead purchased by our grandparents.

I was usually hanging around watching or helping, as I did when it came time to paint the bedrooms. Aunt Dorothy taught us all how to paint, a skill that has come in very handy down through the years. Then she taught me how to take antiques such as an iron bedstead and paint it white with gold highlights. We did the same with Grandpa C.W.'s old trunk with his initials on the top wooden stave. We turned it into a girls' trunk painted on the metal parts outside with the same colors. Then we removed the old and torn paper on the inside and I learned how to apply wallpaper.

Another craft project we did involved gluing sparkly decorations and rick rack on decorative bottles, then filling them with colored water. I put them around my bathroom and they were in my parent's home for over fifty years, still pretty! I couldn't bear to throw them away until it came time to clean out our parent's home.

I still remember the fun of making homemade root beer in Aunt Dorothy's bathtub. We bottled it up and drank it up fast! I still love root beer, and it never fails to take me back to those good old days...

Sometimes we'd go out on an evening bike ride and find ourselves pedaling by some nearby watermelon patch. Somehow a nice big juicy one would make it's way into our basket, I don't know how! :D Aunt Dorothy had a large oval oak table out on the screened porch where we ate and played cards in the summer. Many a night growing up all of us kids would gather around the table and play Hearts. Occasionally my cousin Ron would "shoot the moon" successfully and win the game, to collective groans.

Right down the hall from the dining porch was the sleeping porch, a screened-in area large enough for a double bed. If the night wasn't too hot, and there was a little breeze, it was a fabulous place to look up at the stars and fall asleep. We didn't have to worry about intruders in those days, we grew up "topsy" as our mom used to say, running barefooted around the ranch, climbing trees and wading through the irrigation ditches.

Someone built a platform high up in the oak tree out in front of Aunt Dorothy's, and little wooden bar "steps" were hammered in the trunk so we could climb up. We had a bucket on a rope we'd lower down for treats. There was no rail around the platform, but somehow we didn't fall!

Aunt Dorothy had a collection of her mother's dresses, skirts and blouses that we cousins were allowed to play dress up in. Then there were the antique dolls and doll buggy that we got to push around. We have some really sweet photos of all of us cousins dressed up in Grandminnie's clothes. Minnie didn't want to be called Grandma, so Grandminnie it was. I didn't even realize how unusual that was until I grew up and realized no one else had a name like that!

At different times Aunt Dorothy invited pairs of cousins to travel down to their home in L.A. with her. This was a huge treat, as we were farm kids who had traveled very little in those days. My cousin Holly and I got to go together one summer, and everything in the big city was new and exciting. First she took us clothes shopping and we got to pick out identical (there it is again!) play suits with zippers up the front. I remember especially a visit to Old Town on Olvera St. The sights and smells were so different and exciting to me.

When we were young the farm was planted in young orchards that were not producing yet, so times were lean for our family. My mom and dad would put our gifts in a pillow case for us to save money on gift wrap. There was nothing extra for birthday parties or anything like that, so it was always exciting when Aunt Dorothy's birthday and Christmas gifts would arrive in the mail. I still have the felt Christmas stockings she sewed for mom, dad, Jan and I, each one different. They have become family treasures...

Our farm goes down to the river's edge, and we had many happy picnics with aunts and uncles, cousins and friends on the sand bar over the decades. Everyone would drive down in their pick up or jeep, and put the food out on the tailgates. Then roasting sticks were cut off the bushes and we'd have a weenie roast with S'mores for dessert.

Aunt Dorothy used to take us blackberry pickin' down by the river, along about the middle of July. We'd have to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and go early in the morning before it got too hot. If we were lucky, we'd get enough berries (after liberal tasting, of course) to make up some pies or cobblers. One time Aunt D. came home, made her pie, and set it out on the back stoop to cool. Our dog Joe, a family favorite with all of us, grabbed the pie in his jaws and brought it all the way over to our house and ceremoniously put it down on our step. Unfortunately no one got to eat it!

When we were strong enough swimmers we were allowed to float down the river from up above to our sandbar, using old tractor tire inner tubes to hold on to. We must have grown up with angels on our shoulders as we all thankfully survived these summer escapades!

 Uncle Ronny, myself and Aunt Dorothy dressed up in Hawaiian
hats and leis I brought back from a summer trip in 1968

As I grew older Aunt Dorothy remained a very important person in my life. Through college I always had those summers home to look forward to, and her letters arrived regularly during the school year. Her life became a blueprint for my own, as I married and had children. She stayed home with her children and spent her extra time volunteering with Scouts and school projects as did I.

Then after my children reached a certain age in school I felt it was time to get a full-time teaching position to help prepare for college expenses in the future. I always felt that Aunt Dorothy is a natural born teacher. Instead of teaching in the classroom, she has spent her lifetime teaching all of us!

A formal portrait of Ronny and Dorothy

In 1980 Ronny retired from the Bank of America and they sold their home in San Marino and came north to retire on Jenkins Farms. They demolished the old homestead and built a beautiful new home on the property, continually working to improve the surrounding grounds and gardens.

Their new home has been the setting for countless gatherings of family and friends, all of whom enjoy coming home to the farm.

Aunt Dorothy continues to spend her days writing and researching her many projects, and working in the gardens.

Yesterday when I went to visit her for her 96th birthday she was outside marveling over a new plant that was brought from Raymond Villa in Pasadena, where her parents were married. She had never seen this kind of plant so she's excited about researching its name and learning all about it...

Aunt Dorothy is the consummate family historian. Here she is with Uncle Ronny and my dad, Bruce, in front of the 450 year old blue oak tree just steps from where she was born in the original ranch house.

She has written and published two books, Jenkins Farms, and Under The Blue Oak, about all the peoples who have lived under that tree since it took root.

My dad, Bruce, his sister, Dorothy, and my mom, Mary, in front of my home.

My mom's father, Dr. Higgins, delivered Aunt Dorothy in the house under the big blue oak. When my mom married my dad, she and Aunt Dorothy became as close as sisters.

I've always said that Aunt Dorothy is like a 2nd mother to me, and now you know why.

My mom and dad are gone now, so I'm doubly thankful for her love, all the years of my life.

Thank you Cousin Ron, for the formal portrait.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Happy 96th Birthday, Aunt Dorothy

My father's sister, Dorothy, was born 96 years ago today, May 12, 1913, on Jenkins Farms in northern California. She lives there now, within eyesight of the 450 year old blue oak tree that sheltered the old homestead where she was born.  

My mother's father, Dr. Higgins, delivered her, his first baby case, a fact that he always enjoyed pointing out to people whenever Aunt Dorothy returned home from college, or came back to visit as a married woman.

Dorothy grew up on the farm with her father and mother, C.W. and Minnie, and older brothers Bruce and Raymond. Her father had studied agriculture in college, and both of her parents had taught school, so everything on the farm was made educational and fun.

She learned everything about trees: fruit trees, conifers and deciduous trees, grafting and budding, and how to run a dry yard to process the dried peaches. There were horses and cows, pigs and chickens, and family pets to care for.

Dorothy was encouraged to work and play outside whenever possible, so that she would grow up in the healthy out doors. She and her brothers walked or rode in their pony cart every day to the small country school nearby. The fourth generation of our family, Elizabeth, is now attending the same school!

Every vacation growing up was a camping trip to some area around California. Trees and plants, geology and geography, hiking and studying maps were taught by their parents. One of Dorothy's fondest memories is climbing North Butte in our valley for the first time, when she was about 11 years old. Each spring the family took turns climbing North and South Butte with family and friends. In later years Dorothy climbed both Mt. Lassen and Mt. Whitney with her husband.

As Dorothy grew older, she helped her mother start a candied fruit business where their produce was prepared and packed in special redwood boxes under the Greenwood Tree Ranch label. This operation brought in much needed funds to help send Dorothy to college.

When that time came, a friend encouraged her to apply to the University of California at Berkeley. Her parents put her on the train that runs by the farm, and when she reached the Bay Area, she jumped off in Berkeley and they threw her suitcase down after her. While at Cal she studied Botany and Geography, two life-long interests to this day. She graduated in 1935.

Dorothy met the love of her life, Ronald Ross, when she accepted a blind date for a dance at Bowles Hall. They courted, and married on Sept. 19, 1937 in her family's church, with a reception at home. This was during the time of the Great Depression, when jobs were very scarce. Ronny had a difficult time finding a job, but friends eventually helped him secure a position with Bank of America.

Dorothy in the living room of the old homestead, circa 1930

Dorothy last year at Easter time on Jenkins Farms

Ron was assigned to a bank in San Diego where he worked in financing world-wide transportation such as airlines, steamships and railroads. Ron and Dorothy started their family which consists of three sons: Rob, Ron Jr. and Richard. They raised their sons in much the same way they had been raised~camping and hiking, with family trips all over the U.S.

Twenty years later Ron was transferred to San Marino, in the L.A. area, where he continued his career in B. of A. By this time Ron and
Dorothy were flying to different countries, often connected to Ronny's business trips financing the airlines and other concerns. They visited all over Europe, Egypt, the Holy Land, Russia, China, Indonesia, Central America and Canada. Dorothy often did family genealogy research on these trips where applicable.

Along the way Dorothy was active with her sons in Boy Scouts, taking the boys on nature study trips. She worked with the Huntington Library in San Marino, doing oral family history interviews with people whose families had lived at the San Gabriel Mission. She led bicycle tours of the city and served on many committees.

During the summers Dorothy always brought her sons north to spend the entire vacation on the family farm. There they were kept very busy learning how to work on the old farm house, repairing and doing projects. They also worked in the peaches and the prunes, learning the farming operation from their Uncle Bruce and Uncle Raymond.

In 1980, Ron retired from Bank of America, and Ron and Dorothy moved north to build a beautiful new home where the old farmhouse once stood. They poured their time and energy into creating a showplace of lovely grounds combined with interesting antique farm implements. In the kitchen of their home, mostly for display, is the old wood cook stove that Dorothy's mother, Minnie, once cooked on to feed her family and the ranch hands.  

Over the course of her very active life, Aunt Dorothy has always been a writer. She has written many booklets for the family concerning our genealogy and history. In this last decade she has written and published two books, Jenkins Farms, and Under the Blue Oak, a story of all the peoples who have lived under the historic blue oak where she was born. Both books are sold at the local county museum.

Tomorrow I will share what a wonderful influence Aunt Dorothy has been in my life. Today's posting is but a brief view into an incredible woman's life that has spanned almost a hundred years. Happy 96th birthday, Aunt Dorothy!

Thank you, Cousin Rich, for the photos.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

To All Moms, Everywhere

Today is Mothers' Day, a day when we honor our moms for everything they have done for us. It is impossible to fully and completely express our love and gratitude to our mothers, but Mothers' Day gives us an opportunity once a year to do something wonderful for them.

The experience of becoming a mother ourselves is probably the most thrilling of our lives. Who can ever forget the joy we feel when we first see our children and get to hold them! The love felt is instantaneous and life-long...

Raising our children is probably both the most challenging and rewarding job that we will ever have. I have heard it said that one can best truly appreciate what your own mother has done for you only after having children of your own. In my own experience I can attest to the truthfulness of that statement!

My mom was incredibly supportive, especially when my babies were young and I was learning the ins and outs of childhood illnesses. If one of my little ones was really ill, my mom was right there going to the pediatrician with me as an extra pair of ears. If I was ill myself, my mom would come down in a minute to help me take care of the children and get the meals prepared.

My mother-in-law, Bette, was also a great mother, as was her mother-in-law, Gram Lamon. These two women provided a great example in mothering for me in my younger years. We all had so much fun being a family together...

My Aunt Dorothy, my dad's only sister, has played a very important role in my life, to the point where I have referred to her many times as my 2nd mother. Aunt D. is turning 96 years old on Tuesday, when her life will be honored on this blog. I am so incredibly blessed to have had these awesome women in my life!

This week-end our daughter, Olivia, invited us down to Walnut Creek in the Bay Area for Mothers' Day. We had a fabulous time! We got to see her new office that she set up for the new company that hired her. We went to dinner at Mahalo, a great Hawaiian restaurant on Main Street in Pleasanton. This is a darling, old and new fashioned street of shops and restaurants with lots of people out enjoying themselves. We even ran in to our cousins who live there.

We had brunch with Claudia, my daughter's best friend, and her husband, Rocky, and later went to the new Star Trek movie. It is great! The only thing that could have made it better is if our son, Grady, could have been with us, but he was up in Portland. We'll be planning a trip up there sometime this summer.

To all the mothers of the world, enjoy every minute with your children. Before you know it, they'll be heading off to college, and your role will change. But you will always be needed and loved as a mother.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Backyard Blessings

Today something wonderful happened. Some gorgeous goldfinches arrived in my backyard!

You have to understand how exciting this is for me. I have spent so much time, money and effort over the last few years trying to attract bluebirds to my yard.

We had a Wild Birds Unlimited Store in our town, and I became good friends with the owner, and I'm sure one of her best customers! Unfortunately, bluebirds are not seen very often in town, at least not in my part.  Bluebirds like country life in the orchards. My mom and dad received so much pleasure on our family farm, just sitting outside and watching them courting and raising their young, and I really wanted to attract them to my yard for the same reasons, but so far it has not happened.

Then I saw an ad on TV about Scott's Songbird seed, and I thought, you know, I'd really like to try and attract some bright yellow goldfinches. I studied the information on their web site and decided to give it a try.

So about three weeks ago I made a special trip to the pet store, and I stood there for the longest time in front of the bird feeders and tried to pick out just the right one for goldfinches. With the bag of seed and feeder in hand, I came home and hung up my latest effort on the corner of our shade structure.

Today, just before going to pick up my great-niece from school, I went to close the sliding back door, and lo and behold, the new feeder was covered with goldfinches! Oh my, was I excited...I really could not believe my eyes. :D

When I brought Elizabeth home, we enjoyed sitting and watching their antics as they fluttered in and stopped to feed. Then a big mockingbird would fly in and they'd flutter off. The goldfinches are very colorful~ the males bright yellow and the females more of a gold color, but they are small and dainty and a bit shy from what I have read.

I wondered how my two little doggies would react to the new visitors. Our Papillon, Chloe, is standing under the feeder right now, lapping up the spilled seed. We don't call her "the piglet" for nothing! Max, our Chihuahua/terrier mix, has his eyes on the latest intruders in his domain. Fortunately they are not barking at my beautiful birds, so perhaps they will all be able to co-exist!

I feel so blessed to have gorgeous, colorful songbirds in my yard, at last.