Monday, May 31, 2010

The Dead

Why would anyone move out to the country, get five acres of beautiful land, and then spray the foundation of their house every month with pesticides for seven years? That's exactly what happened to the house we bought. So, even though it's been two months since the spraying stopped, beautiful bugs, spiders, monstrous mosquito hawks, milliipedes, hover flies, and bees fly around the house and die everyday. We find their lifeless bodies everywhere. Sometimes, I try to rescue the ones that are crawling around in a fog of poison and take them far from the house, hoping somehow they will be rejuvenated by good air. I suspect that they die anyway, that the pesticide probably destroys their nervous system, but I do it anyway.

Take this beetle for instance. I found it in front of the house on the cement. I took it to another part of the yard and told it to stay away for its own good. Weirdly though, it showed up again, fluttering its wings and lying on its back on the cement. I don't know why they don't listen to me. I'm usually very persuasive.
I suppose the thing that really bugged me the most though was this: a dead caterpillar. Somehow that seemed worst of all. Not even a chance to become the thing it was to become.

Why go live in the country if you're afraid of bugs? It makes no sense and the cost to critters is truly unconscionable. We have no idea how long the pesticide stays active. It seems obvious that it lasts longer than one month. We know that insects die everyday, but this wreck of bodies definitely seems out of the ordinary.

About the previous owners of our house: Some people are really jerks.


I wrote this Memorial Day piece five years ago. My father survived the wars, but he carried the scars with him the rest of his days.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sunday, May 23, 2010

This New World

How do we know if the weather we are experiencing is anomalous? What is average anymore, anyway? All we know is the weather is completely unreliable in ways that are surprising the locals. That says something. We had frost both Saturday and Sunday morning. Our potted tomatoes and red peppers did not appreciate that in the least. We heard from some folks who have been living here for many years that this is the coldest spring on record in the past 40 years. First time that the temps haven't hit 80 here in the hills, nor 90 in Sacramento valley by now. We'd be happy if the temps went above 60. It's that cold, and it's been wet. The hummingbirds have been behaving even more territorially, if that's possible. One male will literally take over an entire feeder for himself on the coldest days, and not let anyone else feed at all. Life is rough in the era of climate change for everyone. There are very few flowers for the butterflies, who fly low over the overly green fields, hoping for a spot of color.
So, I've been putting out more food for the birds. We are feeding so many grosbeaks, goldfinches, juncoes, mourning doves, spotted towhees, steller's jays, house finches, nuthatches, song sparrows, and our much adored quail. Roger was watching all the activity at the feeders and asked, "What did they do before we fed them?" Then he answered his own question, "Oh right, they had the whole world."
The trees came down last week The crew was incredibly efficient and hardworking. We now have reduced our fire danger and opened the yard to more sunlight. Next year at this time, we will have a fenced space, raised beds, flowers for the hummingbirds and butterflies, more of everything for everyone. That's the plan. We'll proceed as if the temps and rainfall will be normal next year, whatever that means.

I hope you can see from the before and after photos, that we are still surrounded by forests. The birds are still singing. We're all adjusting to this new world.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Catching Up To Now

We've socialized with more people in the past ten days than we've had in any ten day period in the past several years. Lots of good food and wonderful conversation. Time with family, and with old friends whom we haven't seen in more than 20 years. We didn't realize how far away we've been, during the years we were in Port Townsend, until we came home and became within easy reach of loved ones.

My mom and sister came up to explore the area, and both have plans to move here eventually. My mom is seriously thinking about moving in with us. Our new house is really well laid out for such a thing. She loved her very spacious and very private master suite. It's got a beautiful western view and a lovely flowering dogwood to entice her. We celebrated my 58th birthday together on Thursday the 13th. It's a very special treat to be with my sister and mom on my birthday. We don't get to do it very often, but I do remember quite fondly the funny time we had in 2007.

We took them back to the airport on Saturday. The house was especially quiet Sunday. I took the camera down to the pond and looked for dragon- and damsel-flies. It was humming with activity down there. Always good for the spirit to be immersed in the natural world. Roger went out back to mark the trees we're having taken down next week. Yup, you read that correctly. We're taking some trees down in our backyard.

They are close to the house, which makes them an extreme fire danger (in the summer dry sierra foothills, that's a very serious consideration), and they block morning sun from the very place we plan to put the garden. I've been watching these trees for a month. The birds don't spend much time in them, and from the dearth of activity and much scrutiny, we can tell there are no nests. In the mornings, all the bird song comes from the northwest side of the house where the oaks and madrones are, or from further east where the other oaks and madrones are. There really is not much going on in the tall pines. What activity there is comes mostly from the hummingbirds flying into the cedar when they are chased off the feeder. There are forests of trees all around, no one will be deprived or not have a safe space for hiding.

But even after all this consideration, I still feel so damned guilty. It's not necessary to leave us any comments that will beat us up any more than we are already doing ourselves.

Monday, May 10, 2010

we're cooking with gas!

sixty feet and too many joints later (pipe joints. what did you think i meant?) of plumbing black steel gas pipe from where the propane supply feeds the gas log in the fireplace, across the outside wall of the living room under the rather nice ariel window, up into the attic (slab floor, no crawl space. a mixed blessing) and then back down behind the refrigerator and across behind a cabinet and along the laboriously chiseled channels in the brick to the stove space, we are cooking with gas. i am embarrassed to admit that there were leaks. plural. it's been a while since i did this stuff. for myself or professionally. many soap suds and undoing and refitting later the thing held 30 psi for a whole day. good enough for plumbing that will carry gas at 1/2 psi.
in style decor news; the new stove is white. tres retro!

an all black glass top electric stove came with the house. we "overcooked" several dishes, not quite getting the sloooow response of the electric "burners." Robin sez, "Cooking on electric stoves is just not real cooking (apologies to electric stove afficionados). I wrote our good friend Tara and said that electric cooking is sissy cooking. You can't bang your pots and pans around. No shaking or tossing with heavy cast iron. Come on. That's not cooking, that's polite pretension about food. And that black glass and stainless steel... don't get me started!"

in weather news: spring is faltering a bit in our part of the sierra foothills. we had heavy rain, sleet, and a bit of snow today. temps down to 36 F. good thing we didn't rush to set out the flowers and tomato and pepper starts that we bought saturday.

in social news; robin's mom and sis arrive tuesday for a visit. so. no uptick in blog posts yet.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Life Here and Now

We had over nine inches of rain in April. That's 2 1/2 times the average. It's a lot of rain for one month anywhere, but here it was quite a deluge. No wonder the skies felt cloudy all the time. They were. Then, the storms blew through and the skies cleared. We could see for miles, and it sure is pretty around here. It's as green as I've ever seen anywhere. Verdant and lush, soaked down to the bone, and ready for seeds and starts. So we have obliged with kale, chard, and lettuce starts; and planted lots of carrot and beet seeds. Soon we will do containers filled with tomatoes, peppers, and basil on the sunny deck. Life is good.
Well, unless you read the headlines out of the gulf states. How do we balance the quiet joy of our new life here with the environmental disaster looming a couple of thousand miles away? I find it unbearable to contemplate the habitat destruction for wildlife there. Humans can figure out how to get out of the way or put their broken lives back together, but sea turtles and shorebirds don't have anyplace else to go. I don't even want to think about the absurdity of pumping oil from under the sea. I'd rather bang my head against the wall. No, not really, I'd really rather bang someone else's head against the wall, someone who thinks drilling for oil is the way to go. You guys wreck everything EVERY TIME. Of course the price of oil will rise, and some other fossil fuel-brained business will make a great big fortune. And ain't capitalism grand because someone can get rich...that's what our life and goals are supposed to about. Whoops, I'm banging my head against the wall. I will stop.
Because, really, it's so beautiful here and now. We've seen nuthatches and our first tufted titmouse. The birds are eating like crazy, and the squirrels have become a huge nuisance. We're contemplating how to effectively deal with them, knowing that there really isn't much to do. They've been chasing the mourning doves and quail from under the feeder. There's no place they won't go to find a little seed or nut. Their initial cuteness has completely worn off, and now we just see them as the furry little rodents they are. Although, you've got to admit when they lay their bodies flat like this to rest, they are pretty damned cute.

This is life as we're living it now. Temps in the 70s and skies as blue as robin's eggs. The neighbor's emu (or ostrich, or 10 ft tall goose) has a weird, raucous call that we're beginning to like it. So it goes.