Visitors

Crystal and Peter came up Friday, bringing steak and sausage and Jameson. We ate, we drank, we played and sang. We went to bed.

Saturday morning, everybody was up, and coffee’d and lightly breakfasted we headed off to Yosemite Valley.

It was pretty darned crowded.

Ah well, Peter parked a little ways from the Bridalveil Falls parking lot, and we headed up the side of the road towards Wawona for .3 miles past the parking lot, looking for the old Wawona stage coach road. We found it!

It’s still in good enough shape to hike on, so up we hiked. The old road is built pretty close to the valley wall in places, on top of the rubble which has peeled off and fallen from above. Since it’s been such a good rain year, there are streams and waterfalls flowing everywhere. Several streams of snowmelt crossed the old stage road in several places, until our way was finally blocked about a mile up, by a waterfall crossing and flowing off the side of the old road.

Alas, we had to turn back.

No problem, we hiked the Valley Loop trail over to the Swinging Bridge, then had lunch at Yosemite Lodge. The shuttle dropped us off at the El Capitan Bridge, from which we trudged back to the car and drove, weary and content, back to the cabin.

Everyone slept very well indeed after hiking 10 miles on a fine spring day.

The Living Firebreak

We were contacted several months ago by the local fire protection district, which was seeking grant money to fund a fuel reduction project. Our property runs for about 2500 feet along highway 132, and the fire protection district was proposing to create a “living firebreak” 100 feet deep, on both sids of the highway, all the way from the county line to where highway 132 meets with highway 120, a mile or so up from our place.

Hell yeah, we said, and filled out and returned the form they sent us allowing them to clean up 250,000 square feet of highway frontage on our property, at no cost to us.

A “living firebreak” in this case means that every tree under 10 inches in diameter is cut down, the remaining trees are “laddered” (lower branches from the ground to about head high are cut off, to prevent making a “ladder” allowing a grass fire to get into the tree crown), and all dead trees are cut down, all fallen trees are chopped up, and all of it is thrown into a chipper and the resulting wood chips broadcast onto the ground.

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Okay, so wow. They spent a day last week cutting down little trees and piling them up in a strip from one edge of our driveway, along the highway which is the western boundary of our property, to the neighbors’ road which meets the highway and is the southern boundary of our property.  So a swath 100 feet wide by about 700 feet long.

Then this morning, starting at 6AM, they were back with a couple of guys on chainsaws, a guy running a big chipper, a couple guys hauling cut stuff from the piles to the chipper, a CalFire truck, and 2 flagmen directing traffic.

Holy cow! And it will take them another 3 or 4 days just to grind their way along the whole 2500 feet of our property!

Thank you fire protection district!

Spring = Sprung

Our featured image today is of a jack rabbit from 200 yards with my awesome new camera. I was struck by the hypo-toad intensity of this rabbit’s baleful stare.

Rabbits are the theme of this visit, because they are scampering off everywhere as I hike around the property. I guess the coyotes I saw earlier this year are elsewhere…

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Lupines would be the other theme of this visit. Stupifying vistas of green grass carpeted with purple lupines, like being in a French impressionist painting.

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And birds. Lots of birds. Bluebirds always look so stern and cranky. “You lookin’ at me!?”

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Whereas woodpeckers look sort of affable, but blank, as if they’d taken too many head shots. Delivered, um, by their beak, um, to their skull.

It rained for a few hours a couple days ago. The creek is running, and this year has all the hallmarks of a hellacious mosquito year.

But right now, today, this evening, as the sun is going down and the mornings and evenings are still cool, everything… is… perfect.

Turkey for breakfast, hail for tea.

It’s been getting warmer for the last few days, and all around the hill, a few of the more daring oaks have started sprouting buds and getting ready to unfurl this years leaves.

Around breakfast time, the turkey troop came up onto the hill pecking at the ground. The kitchen window afforded an excellent front row seat, so I sat with my coffee and admired the show.

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Though the toms are more flamboyant, the hens also possess iridescent feathers, and break out in unexpected patches of colors sometimes when they move and the light is just so.

The day started getting cloudy, then breaking out into light scattered rain. In between showers, the local birds carried on making a living.

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Birds love perching on the kindling and logs around the fire pit in the front of the house when they sweep by to peck around for food.

This is a black phoebe.

 

 

The true sign of spring, a robin sitting among the buds of an oak.

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Then a thunderstorm blew in, with near constant lightning, and hail suddenly started to fall hard, loud rapping on the metal roof overhead, for about half an hour. Some of the hail was an inch or so in size. Glad I was inside!

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Okay, what a day.

Zero complaints.

Wild Life

Wow. This has been a pretty great critter day, additionally so because I have the new crazy amazing Nikon Coolpix P900 camera up here.

I managed to capture a blue jay during the dawn patrol shift of feeding birds which visit the hilltop here in view of the kitchen windows.

After working all day hauling dirt to make a nice flat spot, I was sitting out under a large oak coppice when the late afternoon patrol of feeding birds flew in to catch some dinner in the trees surrounding the oak.

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Maybe a female Yellow-Rumped Warbler?

 

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A male Western Bluebird. This feller looks a little aggravated about something.

 

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A Yellow-Rumped Warbler.

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A red-breasted nuthatch.

 

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Being still for a few minutes on a plot of land with no dogs is great. Stuff happens, like this squirrel who came over to some pine trees about 40 feet away from where I was sitting  quietly. It went under a pine tree, grabbed a pine cone, put it in its mouth, then climbed the pine tree, where it safely ate the pine nuts out of the cone, then tossed it to the ground and then scrabbled down to the ground and repeated with another pine cone until I stood up and it scampered down the hill. A little later, I saw it at the bottom of the hill, a slash of gray, about 300 feet away and snapped the picture above. Have I mentioned what a cool frikken’ camera this is??

 

Turkey Invasion

I heard the gobble-gobble the day I got up here, so knew there were turkeys somewhere nearby. A couple days later I was walking around with the new awesome camera when I was surprised to see a little squad of 6 turkey hens wandering a couple hundred feet away, pecking at the ground for breakfast.

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Later, when I was making lunch in the cabin, I was surprised to see the hens, joined by 2 toms, wandering around the hilltop.

The toms came first to the back door, and then to the front, gobbling fiercely and pumping themselves up to make sure I didn’t get any ideas about messing with the hens.

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Not a problem, guys.

 

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When the tom puffs up their feathers, there is a sound like the wind drumming on stretched canvas. Their feathers are multicolored in the sun, depending on the angle of view.

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There is no getting around the fact that though beautiful, wild tom turkeys are creepy looking bad-ass mother fuckers.