So, Enough With The Snakes Already!

I took the wheelbarrow down the hill to a big pile of wood chips, to bring back a load to spread up by the cabin. A couple hundred feet down the road – yikes! – oh, only another snake skin.

Okay, whew, heh, okay. Back down the road with the wheelbarrow and – yikes! shit! heh, just another snake skin. Okay, tactical sensors are cranked up to 11.

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I push the wheelbarrow full of wood chips up the hill under the sultry and sullen smoke-filled sky. By the time the wood chips are spread, I’m soaked in sweat and cherry red and a tad jumpy.

I head into the relative cool of the cabin, turn on the shower, shed my soaked and grimy clothes, and step under the refreshing stream of tepid water.

And nearly pass out when a little green frog wriggles out of a hole in the shower drain one fifth its body size and stares balefully up at me.

This drain here.

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Fire!

Early this morning when I was walking around, I noticed a sparse sprinkling of fine white ash on one of the picnic tables. It was deposited overnight by the wind from the Detwiler fire which is burning about 18 miles to the south.

The Detwiler fire started Sunday and went to 300 acres, then up to 7,000 acres on Monday and today has spread to about 15,000 acres. Smoke is coming up over the ridge of Smith Peak with the fire lookout tower a mile or so to the east, and is starting to cover the sky like a more benign cloud overcast, the mountains to the north are fading into a hazy murk.

The air smells of smoke and feels harsh in the mouth and nose.

Snakes!

It’s hot up here. Really, really hot. And dry.

I was walking around the hill a couple of days ago when I first got up for a visit. It was about 6:30 AM, a nice and cool 72 degrees. As I was walking through the grass my reflexes kicked in and I jumped back because I’d seen something in my peripheral vision.

A snake skin, shed by a snake about 4 feet long, skinny. Not a problem, it’s a friendly snake because the tapering tail is without rattles.

Which is all I care about when up here from May through November, out walking in the tall grass of the meadow or through the manzanita or wherever. Rattlesnakes. Ugh. It lends an extra layer of tactical stress to what should be a simple walk around the property.  This is one reason winter is my favorite season up here. No rattlesnakes. They’re hibernating.

But then yesterday, while following the driveway which circles around the house, again the reflexes, and again a shed snakeskin in a drainage ditch on the side of the driveway about 20 yards from the cabin.

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Only about 2 feet of skin, but much fatter around. Hey, what’s that pattern on the skin?

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Diamonds. What joy. A big fat diamondback rattlesnake moved in.

There goes the neighborhood.

Wasps!

Brr. There’s a cold front visiting from Alaska, and the sky is thunderstorm cloudy and it’s cold. It’s been a somewhat cool June so far, but the thermometer dropped from 42 down to 40 degrees in the half hour I was walking around nuking wasp nests and suspected wasp nests.

We don’t usually countenance chemical weapons up here on the hill, but make an exception for wasp spray.

I try to take a live and let live stance up here, but when I come right up to a nest crawling with adults and grubs right out of a freaking nightmare, why, I just aim the nozzle and press the button and the bad dream goes away.

Nothing ruins your day like being stung by a wasp.

More Rocks

rocks3Yeah, so I spent yesterday digging up more big rocks, using a hand truck to pull them up out of the gully to the wheelbarrow, and then loading them into the wheel barrow and pushing them a quarter mile to the driveway, where they were heaved into the trunk of the car and driven up the hill to the house.

These steps better be the most awesome, best steps ever.

Not Enough Rocks

Over time, we’ve been hauling materials from lower on the property up to the top of the hill. The idea is that once enough material has been gathered, it can then be put to use in a land improvement or art project.

After clearing the area where the new steps are going to go, and having laid out the resources for the project, I have sadly concluded: not enough rocks.

So, for the next couple of days, gonna go full on Sisyphus, and find and roll rocks up the hill.

What joy.

Spring is almost over, but not just yet.

A light rain for a couple hours early yesterday morning.  It has been a wet winter and spring, and it is good to see an extra splash or two before the hard light of a hot summer hits.

After so many years of drought, the trees are really responding to the good rains. The pines and oaks have a “leggy” look to them, as they race to grow as tall as fast as possible. They are not only shooting out new tips and leaves, but the main branches themselves are growing in between the places where other branches have forked off.

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The picture above is a good illustration. The tree on the left is shooting out new growth up and out from the trunk at a furious rate, giving it a more stretched out look. It’s sibling to the right is more compact, not expending as much energy to grow out and taller.

Speaking of which, I’ve been reading a new book called “The Hidden Life of Trees” by a German forester named Peter Wohlleben. Quick review: Broken into small, easily digestible chapters, this book discusses how trees exist together as a community in forests and live alone in urban centers as street foliage or in parks. It’s a good book, folks who spend time outdoors under the canopies of trees would do well to read it. It’s been a real eye opener, I’ve been totally rethinking how to coexist with the forest which surrounds the cabin on the hill, as well as seeing the forest and the trees with new eyes.

An example is demonstrated by the picture above. The two trees are cooperating in a mutual growth strategy. The tree on the left is the one which is utilizing the local common water and nutrient resources to sustain a burst of growth while its sibling to the right is content to grow at a more conservative rate. It is in fact likely that the tree on the right is contributing the sugars produced by its leaves through the underground root and fungus network to the tree on the right to “help” it grow.

Mind. Blowing.

I love this place.