Early Autumn

The air has cleared up quite a bit in the first part of October.

The light has that golden slant, where even a pile of hillbilly rusted washing machines and a couple of old highway wrecked mobile homes scattered across a hillside have a magic and a beauty in the late afternoon sun.

Luckily, that is not here and it is just awesome and majestic and wonderful in every way.

Now that the temperatures have cooled down to something decent folk can tolerate, it’s easier to get work done like clearing brush to burn in the winter and gather and cut firewood.

firewood1 I like to use laundry baskets to store the firewood indoors. The baskets keep all the bark and sawdust in one place and are easy to stack against the wall in such a way to avoid scuffing the paint.

This year, there is more seasoned oak, which burns slower than pine. This laundry basket has maybe 12 hours of firewood in it. I am always way behind when it comes to gathering and cutting firewood.

firewood2

This stack of pine will last maybe 5 or 6 hours.

In addition to firewood, I’ve been cutting down young manzanita brush. Clearing established manzanita is a long game. Manzanita reproduces by dropping berries on the ground. When a mature manzanita bush is cut down, the berries in the soil underneath figure that out and start to sprout after a year or two. The trick is to break the berry cycle, and cut down that second growth before it matures enough to drop berries of its own.

It’s taken about 5 calendar years to clear and eradicate the manzanita from the top of the hill around the cabin. Now, the work is concentrated around the hill below the cabin where the second growth of manzanita from the original bulldozer clearing.

The second growth is between 18 and 36 inches high, fairly easy to cut with long handled heavy duty tree pruning clippers. It grows densely packed together, and it’s back breaking work to bend down to clip the bush as close to the ground as possible.  There can be up to three or four separate manzanita bushes per square foot. At the end of two days, I’ve cleared about 1500 square feet and cut down maybe a couple thousand bushes. Then, I went and picked them up and stacked them next to a burn pile for burning this winter.

There is a deep personal satisfaction to clearing brush, but it is also deeply private and not possible to communicate to others who have not seen the same area covered with brush. You see the beautiful hillside, not the manzanita, in the same way you see the statue of David and not the original hunk of marble from which it was carved.

I’m okay with that. A lot of different parts of my body ache right now. But when I sat on the just cleared hillside and watched the autumn sun caressing each blade of grass in the dancing, crisp breeze, while popping open a cold beer, I had zero complaints.

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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.

New Camera on a Hill

I keep a Nikon D3100 up here on the hill because the place and the local critters are all so photogenic. The D3100 is a great DSLR and I’ve owned it for many years, and wasn’t really looking for an upgrade. That is, until we got a Nikon Coolpix P900 for work.

The Coolpix is roughly the same form factor as the D3100, albeit a little bulkier.  But oh what a difference a lens system makes. I have a standard 18mm – 70mm zoom lens on the D3100. The Coolpix P900 comes with an integrated 4.2mm – 357mm zoom lens delivering a whopping 83X magnification. The onboard image stabilization makes for some seriously crazy closeups.

coolpix2So, I knew I had to get one for the cabin.

Here it is with the zoom fully extended.

Because it is about the same size and bulk as the D3100, it easily fits in the same camera bag as my old D3100.

I can’t wait to use it for some critter shots.

 

What a pile

pile2Well, that took all day.

I started at 8AM (pictured above) and by 3PM had about 3/4 of the pile burned.

Tired. Very tired. In bed by 7:30. Much advil.

It’s going to take a while to work through all the debris left in the wake of all the tree cutting done in the last several months up here.

About 45 large cedar and pines have been cut down. The cedars were mostly hauled away. But the 10 or so that PG&E dropped last month are stretched out where they fell.

It’s supposed to rain today. Good, it will douse the ashes of yesterday’s burn, clean the air, and maybe give the creek a nudge.

There are about 5 or 6 more equally huge burn piles to go.

Oy.

Darned Hot

hvacIt’s July in the Sierra foothills. It is hot. It is darned hot. Knowing it was going to be darned hot during my visit, I brought up a secret weapon to help keep me alive during the burning times.

Behold, my new best friend.

I can endure up to about 100 degrees with windows open and ceiling fans, but today is just too darned hot so we’re taking the Honeywell out for a test drive.

The unit came with all the fixings to vent it out a window and plugs into a standard household wall outlet.

Normally I try to stomp with as light a carbon footprint as I can up here. But when it gets this hot,  my moral compass starts to point in a more energy intensive direction.

Like right now.

The unit reports the indoor temperature now at a more comfortable 75 degrees, down from the previous 90 degrees.

Time for a nap!

 

Water System,Revisited

 

Yeah, so the 3,000 gallons of water were delivered and the holding tank was filled.

 

A conversation I’d had with the delivery truck driver, Becky, stimulated a notion, and as soon as the truck was down the driveway and lumbering back up the road, I ambled over to the well pump house.

The submersible pump in the well brings water up and then under the driveway in a pipe to the 3,000 gallon holding tank. From there, another pump moves the water from the holding tank up the hill to the cabin.

Last week, when the holding tank ran dry and there was no more water coming out of the faucets in the cabin, the problem was traced back to the well pump not pumping water into the big holding tank. I found a dead mouse in the main fuse box, removed it and replaced the fuses but still no water coming up from the well.

I ordered the water delivery as a hedge against not being able to solve the problem, and calls to our well/pump/plumber guy went unanswered.

So the water was just delivered. I walked over to the pump house, opened the breaker box on the back, killed all the circuit breakers, opened up the pump house, and squatted down in the hot sun and put on my glasses and opened the plastic cover off the well pump switch and, of course, saw a bunch of little dead shapes tangled up in the relay contacts: ants.

A pine needle was employed to delicately brush them out of the works, and the relay unset and reset using the manual switch, the cover replaced, and the circuit breakers flipped back, lighting up the whole works.

The low hum of vibration of the pump 200 feet below sending water through the pipes over to the holding tank caused me to flash back over the previous several days of preparing for the water delivery, the hauling and filtering of water in the meantime. Ah yes.

So anyway, there is laundry going and toilets flushing and clear sparkling water coming out of the faucets, and next time a mouse or bat or wild boar or something crawls into the fuse box and explodes and the ants which come to devour the blasted carcass foul the pump relay contacts, well I’ll know what to do.

Updated: the hissing noise coming from the pressure tank next to the holding tank and the water covering the 4 foot by 4 foot pad of the holding tank pump house.. Just.. Does.. Not.. Bode.. Well…

I filled every single possible water storage unit and await the future with clenched fists and  several toilet flushes in reserve.

Bring it on.

 

 

 

Oh Yeah

 

I went to the store this morning and freshened up the supplies and bought 4 gallons of drinking water, a gallon of milk and a gallon of orange juice. This is hydration city.

Well okay, what about the toilets which need 2 gallons per flush, and what about my daily shower?

The failed water supply was discovered on a Saturday, calls were placed, it is a weekend, now it is Sunday, and so we need to make due. And oh yeahhhhhh, there’s the other water system across the road which is solar powered and hasn’t been used in about 5 years and who knows if it works.

It turns out it does work, and now toilets are flushing and all is well in the land of Oz until such time as the local well, water system and pump guy returns my calls.

Update: Monday 7/18/2016 called the good folks at Sonora Water Delivery for a delivery of 2,000 gallons of drinking water and it will be here in a few days. The cost is basically $110 per hour for the truck and $20 for the water. Wow! A couple hundred bucks and water delivered through the faucet while the pump is being debugged. And then, if the well and/or pump is protracted, new best friends at Sonora Water Delivery!