Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Couple of Pictures from Yesterday

These are pictures from yesterday's house dedication at House #3. That's Robert cutting the ribbon with Mel, our California MDS rep standing by.

The next picture is of me presenting a copy of "The Message" Bible to Robert. Standing by on the right is Ken, our construction foreman from Oregon.

Today we had a Final Inspection of House #2, but the inspector found a few things we needed to change, but he did say they could start moving in! Afterwards, Forry and I went over to House #3 and sure enough, we found things done the same way there. So, we'll spend tomorrow making the little fixes.
I was tired enough this afternoon that I actually snuck in a nap! Sure felt good.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Busy Day, Today

It was a VERY busy day today! It started with a phone call during breakfast from the furnace installers for House #4. They said they were on their way out to the house -- and did we have the 2 sheets of 3/4 inch plywood they needed to place the furnace on in the attic? We thought we had another day or two, so hadn't gotten them yet -- but, oops, they're on their way!

I called the Hardware Store in Jamul -- not only were they open at 7:15, but they carried the plywood we needed. So, off I went (in Forry's brown pickup), down to Jamul, picked up the plywood, back past camp and up Barrett Lake Road to the house. I met Ken and his crew at the driveway, so at least had someone to help unload.

Back to camp to finish getting ready for the Dedication of House #3 scheduled for 10 o'clock. Oops, my pickup is at the shop getting its 45,000 mile checkup, we don't have enough rigs to get the cooks and office staff to the dedication as all of the rigs are out on job sites with crews who were planning to go directly to the dedication. Ah, here comes Mel, our California MDS rep, from San Diego, who says he can take the ladies out with him.

Load up the gifts: the Bible, the wall hanging, the programs, the "Hammer Rings Hope" book, the punch, cookies and Diane's black bottom cupcakes in the brown pickup and head for House #3. Oops, look at all the people! I didn't print near enough programs -- guess we'll just have to ask everyone to share. Program goes well, Robert seems pleased with all the gifts and attention -- he's even put on clean clothes!

Crew from over at House #2 reports they didn't have enough wood chips to finish covering the disturbed ground. Lead I had from yesterday calls back and says she cannot deliver a load. Head into Jamul with Forry to pick up my pickup from shop. Check with local nursery, yep, they got bark. Pick up my white pickup from shop, go back to nursery followed by Forry in brown pickup. Load 25 VERY pricey bags of bark in back of white pickup, head for House #2 while Forry goes back to hardware store for sprinkler parts. Norm's crew unloads and spreads bark --oops, 25 bags is barely enough (besides all of the wood chips we put on yesterday).

Decide to wait for Fire Marshal to arrive for Fire Inspection (fire sprinkler guy arrives and tests the system to make sure it works). Norm finshes spreading the load of DG (decomposed granite -- looks just like dirt to me!) on the driveway that we had had delivered yesterday. Forry and Norm start building the sprinkler system that the inspector insisted on yesterday -- at least he compromised and allowed it didn't have to be installed underground...

Fire Marshal arrives, wants a sign pointing up the hill to the hydrant installed by the water tank up on top. Says she really likes the houses we are building and signs off on the plan. Her signature means we can order a FINAL inspection for tomorrow!

Head back to camp for dinner. Robert comes to share his fire story -- takes home two buckets of watermelon rind for his goats.

Decide after dinner to go over to House #5 and check out the site and see how the pad for the house looks after the soil compaction. This picture is taken from the house pad looking up at the hill behind.

The second picture is looking down from the house pad towards the road:

The homeowner (lady in purple jacket in first picture) formerly had a landscaping business. She has already bought plants for the hillside -- we won't have to worry about planting at this site!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Wild Bird of Paradise!

Thank you, Elsie!
Elsie went online and hunted down the name of our mystery shrub. It's a Wild Bird of Paradise or Red Bird of Paradise or even Mexican Bird of Paradise. It sure is a pretty one!
This was the scene at House #5 where the county is requiring a soil compaction test before we build:

They had to go all the way down to bed rock, then push the soil back in, water it, then compact it. The pictures are of the enginer getting his soil samples.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Just a Short Note...

The short term volunteers from Canada did not get to camp until 1:20 AM last night! I stayed up to greet them, and I could sure tell it this morning. I was lucky to make it over to the dining hall at 7 in time for breakfast.

We've been seeing this shrub start to bloom this last week. I'm going to have to ask Elsie if she knows what it is.

What's so fascinating about it is the red color. When you look closely, the red is the stamens emerging from the bright yellow flowers.

Another one of Dulzura's surprises!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Waiting ...

It's past my bedtime, but I am waiting up for this week's volunteers. They are coming from Canada and they won't arrive in San Diego until 11 PM. So it will be at least midnight when they get to camp! I'd just leave them a note with an arrow pointing in the direction of the dorm, but that wouldn't be very welcoming, now would it?

This morning we went to church in San Diego, then met the rest of the long-termers at Janet's Cafe in Rancho San Diego. It's getting to be kind of a Sunday after church habit, but we all like the variety of food, it's reasonably priced and we seem to do better at brunch then we do going out to dinner in the evening on Friday or Saturday.

After brunch, Forry and I went up to House #2 to measure the driveway so that we knew how much decomposed granite to order tomorrow for the driveway. Then went to House #3 to get a picture of Robert and his new house for the dedication program. On the way back to camp, we did a little birding. We saw both a Says Phoebe and a Black Phoebe.

This picture is of a hill along the road -- it doesn't do justice to the steepness nor to the size of the boulders!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Another Very Good Day

Oh, it felt so good to sleep in this morning! I didn't get up until almost eight, showered, then went to the kitchen trailer to scronge (sp?) some breakfast. Coffee, non fat yogurt, fresh papaya and the granola Diane made for me while she was here! I tried to sit out on the deck in the sun, but there was just enough wind gusts that kept blowing my newspaper away so I came inside.

I finshed up printing the programs for today's house dedication -- the ones in Spanish (THANK YOU, TODD!) and also printed the pictures of the Ontario group that was here this week. I usually print two 8x10 copies, one for them and one to put up on the wall in the dining trailer.

I did a few more piddley things then it was time for lunch (leftover tamales - yum!) and then to get ready to go to House #2 for the dedication.

Here's a picture of the family. Ana Maria will be living in the house with her son Jose, the one on the right. The son in the middle has been staying with them while he recuperates from recent surgery. It's been helpful to have him there as his English is very good.

The lady on the left in the picture above is Edyth -- she's going to be the homeowner of House #5. She's originally from Colombia and is very fluent in Spanish. It was great having her there as she could translate for Senora Ana Maria, who is holding the wall hanging presented by Mennonite Women while her sons hold the quilt made by the Portland Mennonite Women.

There was time for a nap this afternoon after we got back. Then we were off again to House #1 where all of the long-termers had been invited to dinner by Elsie and Steve. They wanted to say good-bye to the folks who had worked on their house who would be leaving Dulzura this week. We not only had a feast, but a lovely evening of fellowship.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Some VERY Good Things

I am VERY glad to see the end of this week! It's been a doozy, with lots of stumbling blocks and detours in our work. But, today Robin (the Chair of the Local Recovery Team) was able to get in contact with a few folks at the county to get them to re-look at what they were asking for. I was also able to talk with a supervisor and get some clarifications. That was a good thing.

Our son-in-law Todd emailed me the Spanish translation for tomorrow's program, so I was able to print a few copies in Spanish so that the new none-English speaking homeowners could follow along. That was a good thing.

We said good-bye very regretfully to Diane and her cousin Jean who had cooked for us this week as they returned to their homes in Washington and Arizona this afternoon. Having them here has been a good thing.

We went to Santee this afternoon to buy Bibles and ribbon for the next two house dedications. We also got four more copies of the blueprints for House #5. Having copies for all of the various contractors (grading, excavation, fire sprinklers, etc.) will make things go much more smoothly. And having one here at camp will make it a whole lot easier to keep track of every detail that is required. That was a good thing.

We saw a beautiful little bottle brush plant at the shopping center:

Seeing it was a good thing.

We've noticed this week that the Dulzura Cafe is now open and supposedly has a new owner. It was closed even when we were here in December. Forry stopped by yesterday to check on the hours. It's open in the morning for breakfast and then again in the afternoon from 3 to 7 PM. We ran down to Jamul Hardware this evening just before closing to pick up a dowel for the wall hanging for the dedication tomorrow. On the way back to camp we stopped at the Cafe to eat. The choices were pretty limited -- hamburgers or tacos asada. The tacos are made from chopped up barbecued beef, served on double corn tortillas with onions, tomato, cilantro and guacamole and salsa on the side along with a wedge of lemon. Were they ever good! We had mango necter to drink. It's the kind of Mexican food you get from the mobile stands. That was a VERY good thing!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

And Thursdays Aren't Any Better!

What a week! Each day seems to come with its own bit of drama and frustration. Today it was the inspector who told us that almost everything we had done in the yard of House #2 was wrong! I had personally invited the county fire rebuild liaison, to go to houses #2 & #3 with me to tell us what we had to do. She told me to buy rainbird style sprinklers and hoses, plant some flower seed or ice plants, cover them with straw and water them. We have so far planted five flats of ice plant which have been faithfully watered.

The inspector today said "No, he wanted a permanent sprinkler installation (mind you, the well at this house only puts out 1/2 gallon of water per hour); big ground cover plants; no straw; and wanted a bonded fiber matrix sprayed on." Plus he wants a berm one foot high and one foot wide around the entire house. Basically, he wants a landscaped yard in the desert.

This morning several of the case workers went out with us from MDS to look at a couple of possible house sites for later this year. These are also fire cases.

Tonight we had a rather raucous post dinner report. This picture looks pretty tame, but the two ladies standing are Diane from my home church and her cousin Jean, who have been cooking for

us this week. We have had in infestation of earwigs (the radio has been talking about the large hatch of them in San Diego County) in the kitchen trailer which they have been battling valiently. They had written a little skit entitled "The Earwig Stomp," which had all of the guys stamping their feet during the chorus. We have fourteen BIG guys from Ontario and the dining trailer will never be quite the same.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Is a Wednesday Better Than a Tuesday?

That's a good question and I am not sure of the answer. I do know it was an interesting day...

I've been working on the program for the House Dedication scheduled for Saturday. The family is Hispanic and neither the son nor the mother are fluent in English, so I'd like to do a few of the programs in Spanish for them. I sent a copy of the English version to our son-in-law Todd to see if he could translate them. I did the program in Microsoft Publisher, which in my new computer is, of course, Microsoft Office 2007. What Todd had was an earlier version. It took a while but I finally figured out a way to save Publisher in the earlier version to send to him.

This afternoon the carpet layers were supposed to install the carpet at House #3. They called this morning to say they would be there after lunch. Then they called after they arrived saying they wanted someone to bring the carpet sample so that they could be sure they had the right one. So Forry headed the sixteen miles to bring it over. After a bit Joel called me and said that they had left... He said they had said something about needing "the lady" to sign the papers..?
So I headed over there. When I arrived the carpet layers were back (I guess they had gone to Protero to get something to drink...) and Forry had signed the necessary paper,

But it was worth the trip to see the difference that a busy group of Canadien volunteers had made in that property! The rest of the fence was up; the wood and logs were all stacked; the trash was piled up to be disposed of; and all of the various and sundry salvaged items were tidily stacked in one pile. There should be no problem with the 100 foot clear area requirement now!

Tonight the family of House #4 came over to have dinner and share their story of the fire. It's pretty awesome to listen to people who have had to evacuate, then come home to devastation and ashes.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Today is Tuesday and -

Today is Tuesday and I vowed I would stay at camp and get some paperwork done AND do some laundry at the same time.

All I can say is it's a good thing that tomorrow is another day and I can try again...

I think I spent most of the morning on the phone trying to solve problems and put out small sparks before they turned into fires. We are a bit stymied on the building at this point. The inspector did not want to sign off on the structure of House #4 because the windows were not yet in (even though he hasn't required that on the first three houses). We can't put the windows in until they arrive... It turns out they are not in stock, they are custom built only when ordered due to the requirement that one pane of the double pane glass has to be tempered glass. So we are waiting -- hopefully Ken can pick them up the middle of next week.

House 2 is done to the point that we are just waiting for the fire sprinkler people to finish their job, the propane to be hooked up, and the water tank filled.

House 3 needs a few finishing touches (medicine cabinet hung, porch light installed, etc.) and the rug will be laid tomorrow afternoon. We discovered today that while the water tanks had been delivered, they had never been hooked up and there is no fire hydrant installed.

The roofing crew at House 4 has been getting up early to put on shingles before it gets too hot. They've only been able to work until about ten AM.

Because of the lack of work on MDS projects, a big part of our crew was out today with San Diego Volunteers, a group that does land clean-up and clearing for elderly and disabled people post the fires. Most of the crew will be out with them again tomorrow.

I did end up going with Forry to deliver under floor insulation to House 3 this afternoon -- a good thing because as we were looking it over thinking ahead to the upcoming needed fire marshal inspection (required before the final), we discovered the water tank and hydrant issue.

Tomorrow WILL be a better day!

Monday, April 20, 2009

What is it about Mondays?

I don't know what it is about Mondays, but they sure seem to come with a whammy! And this one was no different.

I made a quick trip into Jamul this morning to pick up and deliver three flats of ice plants. We had gone over to take the new propane generator over to House #2 yesterday afternoon and realized that the folks who had put in the septic tank and drain field last week had really disturbed the earth near the house. We had a big crew from Ontario, Canada who made quick work of smoothing out the ground, planting the ground cover and strawing it over.

Then I had an early lunch meeting in Rio San Diego with Robin, the Coordinator for the Community Recovery Team. We had a lot to go over with both last minute details for Houses 2 & 3, and for the new build of House 5. Robin is a delight, I really enjoy being with her -- I think we both think alike!

I had just gotten back to camp, planning to work on the program for the two upcoming House Dedications when Forry and Ken convinced me I needed to go back to town with Forry to return some back porch lights and talk with the Home Depot people about some of the invoices we had that had included sales tax (materials for the fire rebuilds are tax-exempt). And we wanted to make copies of the blue prints that Robin had given me over lunch.

It was after dinner that I finally got to work on the programs. Ken took a neat picture last week of the family who will be moving into House #2:

The man on the left is visiting his brother and his mother who will be living in the new house. (They are currently living in a small very old trailer on the hill above the house. The house dedication will be this Saturday at 2 PM.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

All Right, All Ready!

Yeah, I know, I didn't get anything posted yesterday... I could have dug my computer out of my carry-on bag during my four hours of waiting at the airport (two in Rochester and two in Chicago), but I was just too tired. So I mostly just sat, people watched and read. I picked up a copy of the latest Nevada Barr novel, Winter Study, and managed to read it before I got home. Barr's protagonist, Anna Pigeon, is a National Park Service ranger who always manages to stumble upon gruesome murders.

It was 1 AM when we got back to camp after Forry picked me up at the San Diego airport.

It was a delight to get up this morning and greet Diane from our home church, Menno Mennonite in Washington State. It is a real joy to have someone here from home! Di and her cousin Jean from Phoenix will be cooking for us this week.

Late this afternoon, we went to visit the homeowners of House #5 which we hope to start this week. They followed us back to camp where we filled out and signed the Job Card!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Another Day of Meetings --

I had a hard time staying awake today. My roommate went out for a walk about 11 PM after we'd been talking for two hours. She said she'd be gone for about twenty minutes. I read a bit and sort of dozed off. Woke up at 1:30 and there was no Addy in the other bed! I really panicked -- I hadn't thought it was a good idea to go for a walk at that hour, but...

I wasn't sure what to do. I waited about a half hour, still no Addy. I thought maybe I could call the front desk to see if they had heard anything and as I reached for the phone, I thought, "what about her cell phone?!" I didn't have her number! Then realized that it might be in the docket (yes, Shelley gave me a new one to replace the one I left on the plane) as they usually put in an updated contact list. Got out of bed, found the docket, found her cell phone number and dialed. Thank goodness, she answered!

She had been sitting downstairs after her walk (up and down the halls, not outside) talking to her sister! She was chatting with the night clerk and had no idea what time it was when I called...

By the time she came back upstairs and got settled in bed it was LATE!!

It was VERY hard staying awake in meetings today from 8 AM until 8:30 PM.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


A whole day of anti-racism -- one of the priorities of Mennonite Church USA. This morning I met with the Anti-Racism Team which I co-chair. We met with the heads of the Mennonite Publishing House and the Education Agency talking about ways to make curriculum more "in-tune" with racial/ethnic groups as well as inter-city urban churches.

This afternoon we spent in Anti-Racism training. The trainers resurrected a very old game called Ba Fa Fa where you are divided into two groups each of which has its own culture, and you are expected to interact with the other group. I had played it many years ago, but had forgotten how powerful it can be.

Then we processed several case studies -- thinly disguised -- of actual events during the past twelve months within the church.

A pretty intense day!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

One Day Down...

Well, one afternoon of meetings here at the hotel done!

I slept in this morning -- it was so nice -- but tomorrow I have to be in the lobby ready to go by 7:30. We'll be gone from the hotel all day, as the meetings are over at the Rochester Mennonite Fellowship.

Today was the Search Committee meeting. We've been meeting every two weeks with conference calls, but this is the first time we've met in person. It was kind of nice to meet face-to-face a couple of the people I had not known before.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

San Diego to Rochester NY...

So this morning we headed for the airport, I had an 11:18 flight on United. I thought it would be a nicer time to be checking in then the usual 6 AM rush. Boy, was I wrong! The line at United's check-in desk was out the door to outside! Fortunately, I was carrying on my bag and had my boarding pass so I could by-pass that line. But the security line was just as long -- the lady who did my security pat-down (the machine always rings very nicely for my knees...) said that the 10-11 hour was almost busier than the early flights.

It was a four+ hour flight to Chicago than almost another two hours to Rochester plus the three hour time change so it was nine o'clock by the time I got to the hotel. I was really ticked off at myself when I got on the flight to Rochester and realized I had left my meeting docket in the seat pocket on the first flight. I had an aisle seat and the lady in the middle was quite agitated and sure she was going to miss her connection if she didn't get her bag out of the overhead immediately after we landed. In the ruckus, I forgot all about retrieving the docket I had been reading earlier. Of course, then we had an almost 15 minute wait for all the passengers in front of us to disembark. And it turned out that she had almost an hour and a half layover before her next flight...

The nice thing is that my meeting tomorrow doesn't start until 1 PM so I've put the "Do NOT Disturb" sign out on my door.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Strange Monday

Today was a little bit strange. After making a few phone calls and dealing with the morning's email, Forry and I headed for Chula Vista to pick up the appliances for House # 2 at Home Depot. Forry bought a few items -- door shims and hose connectors -- and then we went to the Service Desk. They pulled up the order without a problem; checked to see where the appliances were; found they were still by the loading dock in the back (since they had been delivered on Saturday, they hadn't yet been moved into the "will call" pen); and decided rather than have them loaded up and delivered to the front of the store and then reloaded onto our pickup, it would be much simpler to have us just go back to the loading deck area and have them loaded there. The clerk called back to tell them we were coming and signed off the paperwork (that said the stuff had been paid for).

So we drove to the back far corner and sure enough, all four appliances were sitting there with my name on them. I went inside and handed my clipboard with the order sign-off the the fellow inside. Well, he certainly didn't think it was a good idea! He slammed my clipboard down on his workbench; reached for the phone; called someone -- and evidently didn't like what he heard -- and slammed the phone down. He called someone else, didn't like what he heard there either, ripped off his apron and headed back into the store. About 8-10 minutes later, he came back, handed me my clipboard and said that someone would be coming to help us load.

Well, we went back outside by the appliances and waited and waited and waited. And it was HOT out there today... Finally after almost one-half hour with no sign of anyone, I decided to call the appliance department. The lady who answered said she didn't understand why we were calling from outside instead of being in the "will call" area. So, I told her I needed to talk to her manager, she put me on hold and after a few minutes a man came on the line to ask what the problem was. As I was talking to him on the cell phone, a man came outside also talking on a cell phone -- who turned out to be talking to me.

It was a manager and he proceeded to help us load the washer and dryer and stove and refrigerator. He had one of the guys who running a loader come over and lift the heavier stuff on to the pickup, but he climbed up into the pickup to help Forry manhandle the stuff. He also helped put the straps on to secure the load (which none of the guys ever do -- they usually help you load and then leave). He was quite apologetic and told us how much they appreciated our business. He had evidently checked our account before he came to the phone because he seemed to know how much money we had been spending at Home Depot over the past couple of months.

Anyway, before we left he told us to call in a half hour before we arrived to pick up the next order of appliances on Wednesday and they would be "ready for us."

We stopped at camp for lunch on our way back and then took the load on out to House #2. The crew there -- and the plumber -- helped unload the appliances and move them into the house.

On our way back we stopped off at House #1 to get the Job Card signed off as finished and to give the last set of keys that MDS had to Elsie and Steve. I had also framed a picture I had taken of the two of them on the day of the Final Inspection to give to them. It gave me a chance to see their daughter Tammy again and to meet their grand daughter Rebecca who had driven from the Bay area with her mother. They are having a "Family and Friends Housewarming" this Saturday which I am sorry to miss.

I am leaving in the morning to fly to Rochester, New York for a Search Committee meeting on Wednesday and Mennonite Church USA Executive Board meetings Thursday through Saturday afternoon. I'll be flying back into San Diego late on the 18th. I haven't decided yet whether I want to drag along my computer. If you don't see any notes on the blog for a few days, you'll know I decided not to take it!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter in San Diego!

I was a bit saddened this morning to realize we weren't in Oregon and wouldn't hear the wonderful Easter singing at Zion. We have been worshiping with the Bretheren In Christ/Mennonite Church in San Diego. There are usually 25-30 people present. Today there were over fifty. The service was wonderful, but I still miss the Zion singing. One of the highlights of the service was an ugly nondescript cross covered with chicken wire -- Pastor Sara described it as "sort of yuck." The children came with flowers during one of the hymns and filled all of the wires with them. It ended up flower filled and gorgeous -- I only wish I had taken my camera in.

After the service and the generous snacks, we (Forry and I and Joel, one of the long-termers) headed for Petco Field:

The San Diego Padres were playing the third game of their series with the San Francisco Giants. They won 6-1 today making it a clean sweep 3-0. The Giants don't seem to be nearly as formidable without Barry Bonds.

We had great seats about forty rows back behind the dugout on the first base side, but they were in the shade. There was quite a breeze at times and by the 7th inning we were freezing. We finally got smart and moved down into empty seats in the sun for the final two innings...

Petco Field is interesting in that they renovated and incorporated the 1909 Western Metal Supply Co. Building into left field. The team store is on the first floor and luxury boxes are on the upper ones.

We stopped at TGIFs on the way back to camp for baby back ribs. All of our wandering long-termers were back this evening to welcome our new crew. Compared to the last two weeks, it's a small group of all guys with three from Oregon, two from British Columbia and one other Canadian.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Another Shopping Expedition...

We got up early this morning to see the youth group from Bethany off. They had said they were leaving no later than 7 -- but they weren't even up by then! They had gone to the Padres baseball game last night. There was a 51 minute rain delay, so they hadn't gotten to bed very early.

Soon after they finally got all their luggage loaded and left (at 9:30), Forry and I once more headed for Home Depot. Today I bought two 8 foot closet combination wire shelf and clothes rods, two 6 foot closet combos, two 2 foot combos for the hall closets and two 6 foot wire shelves for the laundries. I bought eight doorknobs, six of them just doorknobs and two of them with locks for the bathrooms plus eight doorstops. I bought 34 handles for cupboard doors; two oak bathroom light bars and eight G-25 globe light bulbs; two double towel racks; two hand towel rings; two toilet paper holders; one grab bar and one shower curtain rod.

The first Home Depot at Chula Vista didn't have the oak light bars in stock -- except for the sample on the wall -- so sent us up to the store in El Cajon to pick them up. They had them waiting for us at the Service Desk. Interestingly enough they gave us a fifty percent discount on the second one for our inconvienience in having to go to a different store. (Sure wish I had known that when I was buying laminated flooring!)

We decided that it would be easiest to do like I did the other day and take them directly to the proper houses rather then having to unload to safely store, sort and reload again on Monday with a new crew. We unloaded stuff at each house putting each knob, shelf and fitting in its appropriate room -- I wonder how long it will take for the crews to get them all mixed up?

Since it was late Saturday afternoon, the owner of House #2 was home from work -- and his brother, who speaks good English was also there. We were able to talk with them about the having a dedication for the house and actually set a date of April 25th.

It was after six when we finally got home and we weren't in the mood for leftovers again. The only other long-termer here had already eaten and didn't want to go along, but we headed back to Chula Vista to Pescados y Mariscos Hector's (Hector's Fish and Shrimp) for a scrumptious Mexican dinner of Crab Machaca (a plate of shredded crab and vegetables). Hector's is an interesting place, almost the entire clientele is Hispanic and the food is very much like what we've eaten in Mexico. It's a long way from the usual Tex-Mex.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Chilly, Rainy Day

It was downright chilly today and damp, too! I know California badly needs rain, but we've gotten spoiled by the sunshine...
We went to Houses 2 & 3 this morning to count doors for knobs and doorstops and kitchen cupboards for handles. We measured closets for clothes rods and shelves and checked out bathrooms for fixtures to match the faucets.
House # 2 is very close to the border. We've seen lots of different flowers blooming in the area, so today we took time on the way back to camp to get some pictures. This plant seems to only bloom in cracks in the rocks:

But you don't see how delicate its flowers are until you stop and take a close look:

This plant has just started showing up the last week or so -- or maybe I didn't notice it until it started to bloom.

Its flowers are pretty gorgeous too. (Even if the wind blew them out of focus a bit...)

Some of the roadsides are just a mass of flowers:

We were going to head on into town to start buying fixtures, but remembered that the crews were quitting at noon today and the cooks had fixed spaghetti. We headed back to camp intending to go right after lunch, but by the time lunch was done, all the vehicles were vaccumed and washed, certificates handed out, etc., it was too late in the day to get it all done in a reasonable time frame.

So, there really wasn't anything better to do on a late rainy afternoon, but to take a nap!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Oh, Happy Day!

This is a happy picture! That's Elmer, San Diego County's Building Inspector, signing off the Final Inspection while smiling homeowner Steve looks on:

We were pretty sure that we had taken care of everything that Elmer had asked for last week (including the six inch high numbers on the house!), so I had hidden a basket of flowers and a bottle of sparkling cider in the pickup. (I'm still not sure what I would have done with them, if he hadn't passed it...)

The volunteers enticed Elsie and Steve around to the front of the house for presents and pictures. (They had been working on leveling in the yard and were waiting to fill in the trench they had jack-hammered yesterday for the electrical conduit.) It was a very merry, happy group of people!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


It's Wednesday and we're halfway through another week. I spent most of the day shopping. Forry and I went to Home Depot in Santee where I purchased all of the lights for Houses 2 and 3: 4 motion detector porch lights; 2 kitchen fluorescent lights; 2 hall lights; 8 fans with lights; 2 bathroom lights with fans; and 4 plain light fixtures for the attics and hot water closets. I think I got everything except for the bathroom light bars 'cause I wasn't sure what had been bought for sink cupboards...

Then I bought 2 washers; 2 dryers -1 gas & 1 electric; 2 refrigerators; 2 stoves -- 1 gas & 1 electric; 2 range hoods; 4 smoke detectors (but I need 2 more); 1 microwave; and eight sets of dimmer switches.

Ken wanted Forry to go with him to pick up the propane generator for House # 2, so he met us at Home Depot and spirited him away. Then I got to get everything (except the appliances which we will go get on Monday since they don't deliver to either Portrero or Tecate) loaded into the pickup and drive back to camp by myself. Once I got here, I decided I might as well deliver the stuff to the houses rather than have it sit in our unsecured parking lot all night (or unload it all and put it into our shed, then reload it all in the morning).

Thank goodness I took one of the short-termers with me as when I got to the second house, our crew had already gone back to camp and she had to help me unload. Luckily I remembered where the key was hidden...!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

If You Want to Find Anything...

If you want to find anything in the area, you just need to ask Dave at Jamul Auto Repair. Friday when we took one of the pickups in for its 100,000 mile service, I asked him about where there might be a good place to take the long-termers for brunch after church and he told us about Janet's Cafe. Scrumptious!

Today I went with Forry to pick up his truck and to drive mine back. I had looked this morning in the Yellow Pages trying to find a jewelry store or watch repair place where I could get my watch battery replaced, but couldn't find anything near here except all the way into San Diego. And I was lost without my watch -- the battery would have to go and die when I am too busy and too far from home to deal with it! On a whim I asked Dave if he knew of anyplace closer. Sure enough, he told me that Jamul Hardware Store had all kinds of batteries "behind the key maker." The hardware store was only a block away; they had watch batteries; the lady loaned Forry a small screwdriver from stock to open the back of the watch; then coached him through putting it in. Who'd of thought to look at a hardware store for watch batteries?

I've again ordered tamales for dinner tomorrow from the tamale lady. She offered yesterday to make Mexican chocolate as a treat for the crew as well as the tamales. Tonight her daughter Crystal called to see if we had some plastic containers for her mother to use (Laura doesn't speak much English -- though I think she understands more than she can speak...) for the chocolate. So after dinner Forry and I took some gallon ice cream containers with lids over to their house which is about a mile away from camp.

Son Roberto was waiting for us at the corner -- and it's a good thing as I'm not sure we would have found the house which was about a quarter mile further in. I'm always impressed by the hospitality of people and this visit was no exception. We had just finished dinner, but nothing would do but we have some freshly made tortillas and butter -- and were they ever good. Crystal made them, but she insisted they weren't as good as her mother's...

The whole family (there are two younger children, Blanca and Eddie) is planning to join us for dinner tomorrow night. I think they will enjoy visiting with our youth group volunteers.

These are pictures Elsie sent me tonight of the youth digging the trench for the electricity at House #1 today. That's the FEMA trailer in the background:

Monday, April 6, 2009

One More Monday

It's always interesting to watch a new group of volunteers adjust to being at an MDS camp. The group this week has only a couple of people that did some MDS work down in Louisiana. For the rest, this is an entirely new experience. There are 15 youth (and 5 adults) all from the same church youth group. For a country girl used to small churches, it's hard to imagine being in a youth group that large -- and I understand that not all of the group came! This is the first group that has brought a guitar with them. We had music for devotions this morning and the fellow has been sitting out on the deck playing most of the evening -- kinda nice.

I feel like I spent the whole day either in meetings or on the telephone. When everyone reports at dinner what they did during the day, I always feel like I don't have much to show for what I accomplished. Forry spent much of his day up at House #1 attending to some of the items on the "punch list" from the inspector. He's having to put dimmer switches on the lights in the bedrooms, hall and bathroom -- saves energy, don't you know?!

I took this picture Sunday afternoon just as the sun was setting over the hills. The yellow flowers just glowed when the sun hit them.

I was pretty excited this afternoon when we got confirmation from the MDS Office in Akron, PA that Diane Gering from our home church is coming down from Washington on the 18th to cook for the camp for a week. It will be great to have someone from home!

This evening we had a nice chat on the telephone with our dear friends, Vic and Phyl. That's the one thing wrong with this roaming, gypsy RV life we've chosen -- we really miss family and friends!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Palm Sunday

Today was Palm Sunday and the service at the Church of the Brethren/San Diego Mennonite Church was very meaningful. It had been a rather hectic and stressful week and I needed the "re-inspiriting" of worship today. The church choir is small, but they are very good.

After church we met the other two long-termers (who had gone to the Jamul Community Church) at Janet's Cafe in Rio San Diego (about 16 miles from camp). The owner of the local automotive place where we take our vehicles for service had recommended it to us yesterday. It's sort of hidden in the back of the shopping center area and we had a bit of trouble finding it. It's a good thing that Joel and Jon had arrived before us so they could guide us in. But it was worth the hunt! This place is only open for breakfast and lunch (6 AM to 2 PM) and it was a real find. We all ate outside on the patio and enjoyed the sunshine. Forry had an avocado and cheese omelet and I had some wonderful french toast. Others had spinach omelets, strawberry waffles, enchiladas, and chicken salad croissants. Jon had an avocado bacon burger that was so tall he could barely get his mouth open far enough.

Forry and Ken went back up to House #3 to check out the doors while I took a nap -- twice in two days! I had decided to join Facebook in order to keep up with one of my friends and after I woke up I spent a couple of hours responding to messages from "friends."

This week's group of volunteers arrived in a timely manner this evening so we actually were finished with orientation by 7:30. We will have 15 teenagers and 5 adults from Fresno for the week.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

My Kind of Day

Today was a good day! I slept in until after 7:30; had fresh sweet California strawberries, yogurt and granola for breakfast; washed a couple loads of jeans -- and hung them on the line; followed Forry down to Jamul Automotive to pick him up after he dropped off the brown pickup for an oil change; had a leftover hamburger patty with avocado slices for lunch; then read for a while and took a nap!

About three o'clock we decided to get a little more ambitious and went to look for birds and flowers. We went up Barrett Smith Road where I have been intrigued by this eucalyptus tree which was so badly damaged by the fire, but just keeps on putting out green leaves:

Many of the burned bushes are the same way. The tops may be burned and dead, but the leaves are coming from the bottom:

It seems as though everytime we are out and about, we see different flowers. Today we saw some datura:

Some lupine:
And this little beauty blooming along the road -- I have no idea what it is:

We drove on over to Otay Lake where we saw snowy egrets, mallard ducks, coots, California gulls, and trees full of double crested comorants:

We were puzzled by the comorants at first, because we had not seen them in breeding plumage before. They now have impressive -- almost an inch long -- white tufts on their black heads.

We went on into Eastlake and had a wonderful Mexican shrimp dinner, complete with a shared piece of flan.

My kind of day!

Friday, April 3, 2009

I'm So Thankful it's Friday!

And our Canadian youth group visitors are returning to Manitoba early in the morning! They drove three days in their bus to get here and now face three days of driving to get back home. They've worked hard while they were here, so they should be able to sleep on the bus. I know that their energy has wore us all out!
The next two pictures are at house #4 where they are putting in the floor and pouring the cement for the porches:

The next one is of the hillside at house #2 where the girls planted "red apple," a type of ice plant:
We had a strange experience early this afternoon. We were driving down Avocado Avenue in El Cajon on our way to a Home Depot and Walmart when we ran into a police traffic stoppage. There were 20-25 policemen there on both sides and in the middle of this busy four lane street; squad cars, motocycles, and unmarked cars -- and of course, TV crews -- parked everywhere. Traffic was backed up for more than a mile on each side. They were questioning everyone to try to find anyone who had driven the same route at about the same time a week ago last Friday and could have been a witness to "a shooting in the area."
When we came back that way a couple of hours later, everything was back to normal and there wasn't a policeman to be seen. I guess we'll never know what they were looking for.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Another Step Closer...

Well, we're another step closer to getting the final inspection ok'd on House #1! The inspector came out today and went over the house with us. We ended up with a short punch list of things yet to do. I'm trying to keep pretty good track of all the issues that come up so that the next house will be easier.

But, the really good news is that the inspector is going to allow the homeowners to start moving in (as long as they don't sleep there!). I took some of the young girls from Manitoba up there this afternoon to close up all of the ditches. Three of them decided they wanted to climb up to the cross on the mountain behind the house. The other one didn't want to take any chances at perhaps even seeing a snake, so she stayed behind and actually helped Elsie move a few things into the house.
Forry took this really neat picture of the new moon last week -- it was just before true dark and you could see the shadow of the entire moon behind it.
These two pictures are of a spine of rock that has fascinated Forrest ever since we got here:

It is interesting to note that the hills that were so green a week or so ago are already beginning to turn brown.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I Guess I'm an Old Softie...

There was a knock on the dining room door while we were eating dinner Monday night. There was a man at the door who said he had helped do the plumbing for the camp back in December. He had been working in north county, but had been laid off. He said he knew we were all volunteers, but wondered and hoped we might have some paid work for him as he and his family were hungry...
I told him we had no work and was going to at least give him twenty dollars or so, when he mentioned that his wife had been selling tamales to try to make a little money. Since we were between cooks, I thought "aha!" and went to the car and asked her if she could make enough for dinner on Tuesday night. She said yes, but seemed a bit hesitent. Then I realized that she probably didn't have enough money to buy the ingredients to make six dozen tamales. I went ahead and paid her for them in advance.
I spent most of the next day wondering if I should perhaps thaw out some hamburgers to barbecue just in case there were no tamales... We went ahead and made a couple of salads and dessert. About fifteen minutes before supper, they drove up with steaming hot tamales. Were they ever good! Our short termers from Manitoba really enjoyed them.
I had asked the couple to bring their children and stay for dinner. But they said it was a school night and the kids had homework to do and they didn't want to leave them home alone with all of the trouble along the border. I think we'll try to have tamales for dinner again some evening!

Yesterday evening the leaders of the youth group from Manitoba wanted to know if we could have dinner a little early tonight so that they could go in their bus to see the Pacific Ocean. I agreed that it would be okay, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought they would barely get a glimpse before it got dark. So this morning I asked if they would like to work this morning and then take off for the coast after lunch. They were very excited about it -- though some of the kids did worry it might be an April Fools joke...

Tomorrow we have inspections scheduled for House #4 (to check the foundation and plumbing so that we can start putting the floor down) and for House #1 (to see how close we can get to a final sign-off!).