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.

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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.

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.

Living Firebreak, Again

Wow. Since the last visit, the crews have visited again and just about completed the living firebreak on our place. The local fire protection district acquired funding to cut a stripe 100 feet wide on both sides of the county road. The road borders our place for about 2500 feet, so a large crew of people went through with chainsaws and woodchippers cutting down and chipping all the manzanita understory and all the dead trees and all the trees under 10 inches in diameter.

Driving up from Coulterville, the road is lined with miles of piles of firewood sized logs, courtesy of the fire protection district. Definitely going to be warm and cozy for many winters to come, just need to bring up a truck to collect it all and haul it up to the cabin on the hill.

As the name implies, the firebreak is designed to limit a forest fire to one side of the road as well as provide a safe evacuation route for visitors.

firebreak1

Here’s a view south through the firebreak from our driveway up the hill to the neighbor’s road bordering our property.

firebreak2

Here’s the view south from our driveway 100 feet over from the firebreak. Pretty thick, and if it dries out in there and a fire comes though, look out. (We definitely need to thin the trees there, it is a pretty unhealthy part of our forest.)

So, thanks again, local fire protection district!

Vultures!

We were wondering why so many vultures were swooping so low over the side of the hill, close to the cabin.

One of the great things about the hill upon which our cabin perches is that it is pretty steep and tall, looming over the nearby meadow and the canopy of the forest around the foot of the hill. Birds passing through the area, flying 20 feet above the trees, fly right over the cabin at rooftop level. So we are used to raptors and vultures wheeling overhead, but not like this.  Again and again the vultures would swoop down the hillside a few feet above the ground.

Peggy solved the problem when she noticed eggshells midway down the hill. On a visit earlier in the month I had “composted” the remainder of a carton of eggs by lobbing them down the hill. The poor vultures thought there might be something dead down there, and were looking in vain for a corpse.

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Sorry, guys. My bad.