Monday, August 30, 2010

We Even Had A Thunderstorm!

The temperatures dropped 40 degrees from one day to the next. We had been sweltering at 98 degrees and then we were freezing at 58. Fifty-eight for a high temperature on an August afternoon is just plain wrong, but we didn't mind in the least. For the two days of cool temps we worked on the fence, raked the yard, got a space ready for the two raised beds for winter, swept the long driveway (made a mental note: Get a snow blower before winter!). We worked and worked in a way that just can't be done in the stifling heat of summer. It felt great.

We noticed that the cooler temperatures and gray skies brought out a lot of hungry birds. The hummingbirds were really in fine form. We have seating for 14 at our feeders, but twice that number showed up. It was truly a mob scene. I had to shoot this little video of it.

The cooler temps got us out on the trails too. We got to see some new wildlife,
like this newt

and this American Rubyspot damselfly (not sure about the ID, bugguide is working on it).

And you know how we always love a very nice pile of fresh bear scat. This one was remarkable for its size. Sure wouldn't mind seeing (from a safe distance, of course) the bear that left this.

Life is happening fast and furious these days. We've got plans in the works to build the sauna before winter, and then some time later to build the chicken house. Our big chore though was to get the raised beds ready for our winter garden before Roger starts chemotherapy on September 7th. Much to do, but we always try to make time for a good walk and a post on the blog.

How are you guys?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

two kubotas, no waiting -- with update

our neighbor larry has 2 kubotas. different tractors for various jobs. one has a nice powered augur for digging post holes, but it has no way to exert the downward force required to drill into very dry soil. so i am piloting the other kubota and using the front bucket to press down on the augur on the other machine.

success!! all holes drilled and only a few mistakes on my part. fortunately these are very robust machines.


i suppose i should have mentioned the garden fence project. about 300 feet of field fence to enclose an ambitiously large garden space. well we don't have to fill it all right away.

these tractors go forward when a foot pedal is depressed. backward when a different pedal is depressed. the forward-going pedal is close to the brake pedal. not a problem when stepping on the brake in error. a bit of a collision when stepping on the go pedal at the wrong time. thus my appreciation for their robustness.

i have put up a fair amount of fence. this is the first time the post hole digging has been mechanized.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Neighborliness of Tall Grasses

Three of our very nice neighbors have asked us on separate occasions over the past month if we are planning to cut the grass. It's an interesting question. The answer is no. But what makes it interesting is what it means to say no to them. It makes us wonder if we have become the bad new neighbors who are lowering property values with the unsightly mass of five-foot tall grasses scattering their seed hither and yon. What does it say about us to let these grasses grow?
We tell our neighbors that we actually prefer to let the grasses go to seed. The diversity of plants is quite beautiful, and they all become elegant in their dotage. The goldfinches sing an even higher praise. And not only that, the quail family scurries and hides among them at the first sign of trouble. These two acres down by the pond are not lawn. They are habitat. We want it be as wild and natural as these overly ravaged lands can be anymore.
Does that make us bad neighbors? We don't think so. We are good neighbors to the wildlife that also make their home here. We don't spray poisons (like the previous owners). We have plans for flowers, a vegetable garden, fruit trees next spring; and a fence going up this week. We are good stewards of the land, trying to maintain the local flora as best we can.

The interesting thing, in writing this post, is trying to determine which grasses are native here. I've discovered it's much easier to identify a bird than it is to figure out what kind of grass we're actually seeing. A whole new world has opened up, and it's going to take some time to see what should be encouraged and what should be yanked. We'll definitely keep you posted on this project.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

wordless wednesday

himself in the amazing quilt that arrived tuesday. thanks to the awesome kathywithcats who organized this and sewed together bits from many friends. i am already crying and will be comforted by the love sewn together to ease my way thru chemotherapy.

ok. almost wordless

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Looking Up and Looking Down

If I were a painter, I would have to paint a canvas of Roger and me sleeping out on the deck under a snug down comforter with meteor showers and planets twirling over us. There is something about waking and looking up at a star-filled sky and seeing meteor after meteor shooting across. It is a deep and satisfying reminder that we really are on a planet whirling in a galaxy, among a billion galaxies. From the time I was young, I have wished we could see stars and planets during the day. I wanted the fact of our speck of dust existence to be omnipresent. A balance to our insane homo sapien sense of exceptionalism.

Some of the meteors we saw were mere hints of moving light, but others took our breaths away and made us giddy, like kids. "Oh wow, did you see that?" "Whoa, look over there." Whoosh. Gone. Neither of us can remember when we first started loving August for the chance to see the Perseid showers, but it's from very early on in our relationship. We've been out under the stars everywhere we've lived, but have not seen showers like these before.

The night here is very dark. We could see the dustiness of the Milky Way directly overhead. A single planet shone in the southern sky. I was reminded of the different skies I've seen over the years. How a mere handful of stars dots the skies of southern California on the clearest nights, or how the millions of stars in a prairie sky shine with such depth and multi-dimensionality you can get disoriented and feel the planet actually spin beneath your feet. Here there are plenty of stars, but less of that awesome depth. The lights of Sacramento 60 miles away must leak into our darkness.

We stare up for as long as we can (it's 4:00 in the morning!), saying we'll go back to sleep right after the next one, and then the one after that. Pretty soon we really are sleeping, and the meteors go on flying over us, even when we're not looking. That's what I would paint, if I could.

Roger continues to heal quite well. We've managed to do some good hiking and even took a short trip to the Yuba River. There, it is just as much fun to stare down into the clear and sparkling waters and see the light glint brightly off the river stones and the shiny scales of very friendly fish, as it is to stare up into the Perseid night skies of August.

1. Top pic taken off the internet without permission. I could never get a shot like this.

2. Roger stood in the Yuba River to get this shot. There were so many of these 12 inch fishes, and they were curious about him and fearless.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Friday, August 06, 2010

the right place

shortly after we moved into our newly purchased house fedex delivered a large package clearly addressed to us with only a return address of home depot. we opened the package and found a very nice unassembled teak garden bench. following the well done directions i soon had a fine bench sitting in the garage. we did get a message from a dear friend in santa cruz admitting that it was she who sent us such a fine housewarming present. we didn't yet have the garden where we wanted to put the bench so it sat in the garage for 2 months while we were distracted by clearing some trees and then cancer.

we had moved a backless bench down to the pond to sit on and contemplate bugs and fishes. then we realized that the teak bench would be much more comfortable. daughter indigo carried it down for us on my birthday.

the closest house to us is a family vacation house. the generation in their fifties has been coming here since they were teenagers. two of the brothers come here more often than others. they were here last weekend. they picked blackberries and made us a pie.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Life At The Moment

We have been out taking walks. Not very long ones, but still plenty long enough to get a good look around at mid summer and see what's flying, blooming, fading, or gone to seed. This is our first full summer here, and surprise of all surprises, it's been mild. Well, mild for this part of the country, with temps in the high 80s during the day and mid 50s at night. We did have a few 90+ days, but not so many that it was unbearable, just enough to make us glad that we have air conditioning. We use it sparingly, and it really does take that crazy hot edge off the day.
Roger is recuperating quite well and making great progress. We've been to see the oncologist, and there is a plan in the works for him to start chemo. It's going to be some time this month, we're just not sure of the exact date yet. There a few things that need to be hammered out, like if he should have it administered at the hospital or at the doctor's office. It's a once every two weeks session (for the next six months!) that takes SIX HOURS. There is a pre-chemo visit the day before to check his blood, and a post chemo visit to the doctor for the third drug to be administered through the port.
We know you know how happy it makes us to be out and about watching the butterflies and dragonflies. We love these reminders that no matter what's going on in our personal lives, the bigger wild world goes on. The fox leaves its scat next to the bird feeder. (Our neighbors told us that the mama and her three kits live under their deck. Nice to know they're going to be around for a while longer.) We've seen a skunk prowling under the feeder in the almost dark night. The hawks have found that all the little birds gather to eat here, and so scare them out of sight a couple of times a day. The quail family comes everyday now to scratch through the wood chips looking for the scattered seed. The hummingbirds have gone through 45 pounds of sugar, and I've mixed all of it into nectar, two quarts a day.
This is all there is.

1. Top pic, an Acmon Blue (Piebejus acmon). I have always wanted to photograph a Blue like this, with those great orange spots. There were a lot flying around, but not many landing. It took a while to get this shot.

2. A Sulphur (of some sort). I have always wanted to photograph a yellow butterfly. We don't see very many Sulphurs, so this was quite an exciting find.

3. A Skipper (of some sort). I love the eyes on these butterflies. So very big for such a small thing.

4. A Blue-tailed Dragonfly. Always a thing of beauty. (UPDATE: THIS IS A WIDOW SKIMMER! THANKS TO JIM MCCULLOCH FOR THE INFO)

5. Roger's 68th birthday is this Tuesday, August 3rd. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, honey!!


thanks to you all. i have been sustained and heartened through surgery and recuperation by such wonderful messages of support.

happy birthday to you sylvia. thanks for showing the way.