Right after the Conifer guys fixed the Internet and left, it started to flurry snow off and on. It’s really cold up here the last couple of weeks or so, and rain and snow were promised in the weather forecast.
As soon as it started to snow enough to keep the forest from burning down, I got down to the business of burning brush. No matter how cold it is, it’s warm when one is throwing brush into a blaze, and even something of a pleasure in a snow storm.
The snow fell off and on all night, and when I woke up the world looked like this.
Brr. It was really really cold in the morning.
The snow started to melt pretty quickly in the sun, as it always does, though it was only 20 degrees.
Two guys from Conifer Communications showed up around 2:00PM in a big pickup truck, spent about 40 minutes diagnosing my Internet connection problems, clipped a corroded 6-year old plug and crimped a new plug on, then swapped radios and dishes, and then deftly upgraded me to a faster and more expensive connection.
And lo, there is faster Internet and it is good.
There is barely cell phone service up here, so Internet is a lifeline. Whew.
Okay, now back to cutting brush and burning it.
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.
It started raining last night in the wee hours and kept up through a grey wet dawn.
Brother Nick put on his almost dry gloves and trudged down to the bottom of the hill to a nice little meadow where we’d spent the previous day cutting brush, pruning low tree branches and dragging it all into a burn pile for the expected rain.
Soon, the white smoke of his attempts to induce wet wood to burn rose over the glade and was dispersed north by the wind.
I dragged a handful of dry paper and cardboard down to my burn pile and managed to get it going and spent several hours feeding it while getting rained on.
When the stacked piles of dead manzanita disappeared, I started picking up the loose stuff on the ground and walked amidst some pines when I noticed that most of them were foaming.
Foaming as if with soap bubbles. In the case of a couple of trees, foaming a lot, with the foam puddling at the base of the tree.
In all the years of visiting this place, I’ve never seen pine trees do this.
So I asked the smartest person I know what was going on. I asked Google.
Pine sap has fatty molecules like soap that lather up in a heavy rain.
Particulate matter adheres to the pine bark during the dry times, and during a rain, alters the surface tension of water dripping down, air gets in which creates bubbles, the bubbles collect at the base of the tree and look like foam.
The pines all have slime flux.
Against the backdrop of the recent mega fires in California, I’m dedicating a lot of time this winter and spring towards reducing the risk of our place being wiped out in a future forest fire.
On this visit, the goal was to clear out all the small manzanita around the water system, thin the pines, and prune the lower limbs from all the remaining trees.
With the help of brother Nick, this was done in a record few days, and thanks to the well timed rain, the brush and slash was quickly and safely burned.
Eldest Daughter gave me solar recharging glowing bird lights for Christmas and they are awesome.
Now that word is out I like solar powered outdoor lights for up here, every Christmas and birthday is a garden of solar powered LED delights.