A few Christmases ago, Peggy gave me a trail cam which I have set up from time to time around the place to see what kind of critter action occurs.
Mostly, the cam captures video of the wind blowing branches or deer. The most interesting thing I’ve seen so far is a bob cat stepping around at the base of the hill below the cabin.
Last visit, I set the camera up to keep an eye on the driveway while I was gone.
When I got back up here a few days ago, I retrieved the camera and downloaded the videos, expecting to see a bunch of nothing, or a bunch of deer.
Instead, I was surprised to see I’d had a visitor while I was gone. The video showed a white pickup go up the driveway, then come back down three minutes later.
It was probably someone from PG&E checking out the power lines crossing the property, but still: brr!
Gates and padlocks on the driveways just went up to number 1 on the old priority list.
It’s the last day of the visit, so brother Nick went down the hill smoking his cig to retrieve the shovel from his burn down there. After all the rain yesterday and last night, the ashes and embers from the burns of the last week are cold and dead.
As he was coming hurriedly back up the hill, I looked out the window and saw he was making antic gestures. I went outside to see what he was about and saw the new family on the side of the hill in the (formerly) foaming pines.
A four pointer and his bride were contentedly and boldly strolling around munching on the verge.
A sad fact of the work we are doing up here to clear out brush and fallen dead wood and what not to make the place more fire-ready, is that fuel reduction is habitat destruction.
It’s nice to see that the local deer at least are not severely discommoded.
It’s also just plain nice to see the local deer.
When I first arrived up here a few hours before the others, I took the opportunity to wander around to check up on the place after an extended absence.
Down towards the end of the driveway, I was angling through a little copse of young oaks and pines when I saw the remains of a fawn.
The four little legs were separated by a few yards as if the fawn had exploded, flinging arms and legs to the compass points, leaving nothing else but half a lower jaw and a couple other nondescript bone shards.
On almost every visit, I encounter tufts of lamb’s wool and cracked bones with traces of marrow, the torn apart pieces of a bird killed and consumed in mid flight, piles of downy feathers at the base of a raptor’s tree, and this poor little fawn.
A gentle reminder that while I clear brush and grill burgers, the other local carnivores are busy making their living as well.
Our four legged and two winged friends play for keeps.
Last night I got up, turned on the light and rummaged around in the bedroom closet for the down coverlet, laid it down on the bed and hunkered down for a good sound sleep.
This morning, the sun crested the ridge at around 7:45AM and it was below 50 degrees.
And so the seasons turn.
Every morning at coffee time, the birds come around. Because I mowed the grass and started organizing burn piles this visit, the birds zoomed in to feed on new seeds on the ground and to perch on new prominences.
As I was cutting secondary growth manzanita on a hillside, actually, when I was sitting in the shade sweating and gasping for breath during a break from cutting brush, a large grey presence swooped among the tree canopies along the bottom of the hill before settling in on a power pole next to the well, to regally survey the lunch buffet spread out below and around it.
Our resident Cooper’s Hawk certainly looks well fed.
And then just like that, clouds form in the sky and start collecting and the wind starts blowing and the temperature drops and it gets cold and the light gets special and you know things are turning oh you know.
Now it’s almost dark, I found the electric heater and plugged it in and turned it on for the first time in months and months.
It feels good.
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.
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.
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.
Only about 2 feet of skin, but much fatter around. Hey, what’s that pattern on the skin?
Diamonds. What joy. A big fat diamondback rattlesnake moved in.
There goes the neighborhood.
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.