Carbibbean Jerk Marinade Sauce and “All The Things That Live in Our Yard”

It was Saturday, and I was innocently watching Password Plus in the bedroom, not a care in the world, when Michael came in from the yard and said, “Okay, I don’t want you to panic, but…”

Let’s stop there for a moment.

I recognized the look in his face, the all too earnest composure I knew I shouldn’t trust.  And the way he had his arms out in front of him, palms up like a re-assuring crossing guard who was determined to make certain I stayed right where I was or get snapped in half by a Cadillac.  There was danger in the air and this is what I knew for sure: Michael had just found something outside.  It was alive.  It was poisonous.  It was coming to get me.

And, back to scene.

“….there’s a rattlesnake in the backyard.”

I don’t really miss Hollywood apartment life, but the only wild animals we ever ran into there were the occasional rats smashed to rice paper in the middle of Franklin Avenue.  And that was just fine with me.  But ever since we’ve been living in the GreenBerry TreeHouse, I’ve had to confront all kinds of creatures I probably could have gone my whole life without getting to know.  Some are cute and furry.  Some are small and spindly.  Some of the more predatory ones have left piles of blood, feathers and unidentifiable body organs under the bird bath.  All of them, Michael tells me, are more afraid of me than I am of them. He knows that’s not true, but since I’ve stopped drinking alcohol he hasn’t come up with a better method for keeping me subdued.

Hey, why don’t we have a quick roll call of some of the new friends I’ve had up close and personal encounters with since we’ve come to the wildlife preserve known as the San Fernando Valley!  Let’s see, there’s been…


Orb Weaver:

Baby hummingbirds:

Black widow:

House Centipede, also known as “Fucking Hairy Pickle with Legs.”

Scrub Jay:

Mourning Doves:


Red-tailed Hawk:

And now this mother fucker under the wood pile:
After observing the markings and bringing them up on line, it turns out this was in fact not a rattlesnake, but a harmless gopher snake. Nevertheless, I demanded Michael give it a good poke with a long stick, which he did, and away it slithered. You should always have a big, long stick and heavy gloves when working in the yard near a forested area. And someone brave like Michael. You never know what animal kingdom asshole is gonna try to set up a new home in your yard while your boyfriend stands on top the patio table in his shorts and J. Crew sandals screaming, “Kill it! Kill it!”

We also used to have this little white guy come to the back doors and piss off MysteryCat. We dubbed him Hans the Ghost Kitty. One day we saw Hans in the yard and the white furry skin around his throat had been torn off, the red flesh and muscle underneath exposed. We tried to corner him but he got away, and we’ve never seen him again. We hope someone in the neighborhood managed to catch him and get him patched up at the vet and give him a safe home, a deep pillow, a bowl with jitter-bugging blue and pink kitties parading around it. That’s what we would want for Hans, always handsome and dignified as he padded his short cut across our backyard mulch, instead of thinking he ended up as an evening snack for the coyotes that run our streets in the hours after midnight. Sure, it’s Studio City, where driveways are protected by automatic gates and house fronts boast their security system decals. But if you’re making your home on the wrong side of the studs and insulation, you better keep your eyes open. Who knows what’s lurking in the eucalyptus.

Click here for the Caribbean Jerk Sauce Recipe

GreenBerry TreeHouse Cookies

As it has been pouring rain outside for the last two days (the first real storm to hit Los Angeles since we moved into the treehouse), I decided to commemorate the event and the explosion of green we’re nearly instantaneously getting in the yard as the plants and flowers drink to their health and present us with a pre-spring preview bloom.

This is pretty much a standard cooking with a little food coloring added for some Saturday jazz.  I happened to have on hand walnuts, pecans, white and dark chocolate chips, so in they all went.

Michael and I have barricaded ourselves into the TreeHouse and we’re not coming out until the rain stops pounding or Monday morning rolls around.  So if you want a cookie, slip into your swimsuit, throw on your water wings and dog paddle your way up the river of mud and rocks that has become our street. We’ll leave you some in the mailbox.


Dispatch from the GreenBerry TreeHouse: Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

It was only a matter of time before the skink living in the yard and featured in a previous post was finally captured on camera. As I was measuring out the peanut butter and the sugar, Michael came into the kitchen from the yard, tip-toeing like Elmer Fudd through the middle of the Looney Toons forest and whispered, “Put on yuh swippers and fowwow me! Huh-huh-huh-huh-huh!”

Cut to the backyard where he was pointing into the middle of our hillside of ivy and saying, “Can you see it?”
“Right there.”
“Okay, lean down a little.  Now… see that one leaf that’s kind of brown and tilted to the side, just in front of all the green leaves and that little open patch of dirt.”
“Well, that’s where it was, but it’s not there anymore.” GET THE RECIPE / SEE THE PICS –>

Dispatch from the GreenBerry Tree House: Blueberry Almond Muffins


Michael bulleted in from the backyard to report the good news. “I just saw a rainbow skink!”

“Wow!” I said as I turned down the volume on Rhoda. Michael’s eyes were wide as quarters and his mouth was hanging open like a man stung with bright, new enthusiasm, or the comic strip character Cathy when she finds surprise chocolate in her house.

“It’s beautiful!” Michael said. “Have you ever seen a skink?” He of course already knew the answer, so he didn’t bother waiting for me to provide it. “It looks like a long snake and it moves really fast! I saw it just dart under the woodpile!”

My “boyfriend instincts” told me, “Be excited!”  So I was.  But my “Orange County city-boy” instincts were throwing up red flags. They spelled out their concerns in a memo and delivered the talking points to my brain.

Attention Gary Green:

Point A: A “skink” sounds like the marriage of the words “stink” and skank,” neither of which you should be around.
Point B: Anything that can be described as having a body of a snake, yet not be a snake either needs to be in a Sinbad movie or stomped out with a boot heel.
Point C: It “darted.” Things that dart do so because they want to kill you.
Point D: It lives under a woodpile. That’s the brown fort-like structure in the corner you pretend doesn’t exist because you’re afraid of splinters and knee dirt.
Point E: We, your Orange County city-boy instincts have never steered you wrong. We’ve kept you away from things you should have no part of, like overnight camping, rock-climbing, bungee jumping, Burning Man, corn mazes, and peeing inside an Andy Gump portable restroom. So trust us when we say… there is no missing piece in the puzzle of your life that reads “Get to Know a Skink!” GET THE RECIPE / SEE THE PICS –>