Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Night Before The Long Journey

It's a good thing we're not superstitious, or we might have taken the 571 lightning strikes in the neighboring Tahoe National Forest as an ominous sign. Just as we turned out the lights for sleep last Sunday night, I noticed a flash of light in the sky. I mentioned it to Roger, and we just dismissed it. Then, there was another flash, and then another. Without exaggeration, the sky lit up with lightning flashes ALL NIGHT LONG. It was unbelievable. Some of the lightning lit the room so brightly, we could see the flash through our closed eyes. I got out of bed and looked out through our slider and saw that the sky above us was clear and filled with stars. I couldn't believe it, but it was true. The thunderstorms were south and east of us, but still we could see the endless flashes of light. It was only in the very early morning that the clouds moved in close enough to actually rain a bit, and we could hear thunder.
Because we're not superstitious, we did hit the road Monday morning, and the sky was mostly blue with a few clouds here and there. None of them ominous at all. Of course that didn't stop whatever bit of rain was left to come down on us as we began the journey. It was a surprising start to the 450 mile trip south to see my mom in her new home.
The road south is long and boring. The speed limit is 70 mph, but everyone goes MUCH faster than that. If you're going 70, you're impeding the flow of traffic. We were behind a few of those drivers, and they're always the ones who are also afraid to pass the big trucks. It's quite a scene out there in the middle of the state, in the middle of nowhere. The aggressive drivers make it just as difficult and dangerous as the timid ones. It always occurs to me when we're out there on long trips that we're all hurtling past each other at speeds that would kill us all in a flash. We really have to rely on everyone's driving skills and attention to keep us from crashing. I'm not particularly fond of relying on other drivers to be safe and aware. And yet, they mostly are, and for that I am always grateful. When Roger is driving I like to watch the scenery. Sometimes it really is quite beautiful, if you can tune out the chaos of such speed. Those golden rolling hills of California are pretty awesome this time of the year.

We arrived at my mom's at 4:00. Seven hours on the road, 450 miles later. We drove fast, averaging 75 mph. Not bad. Jangled, exhausted, and alive! My mom loves her new home. It's in an assisted living facility in Thousand Oaks. She has wonderful new friends already, and she's happy and content. Worth the trip to see her smile!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Our Ratso Rizzo Trail

We often think of this scene from Midnight Cowboy when we're walking on the summer trails here. The blackberry vines grab us everywhere, and while we disentangle ourselves, we have been known to shout, "Hey, I'm walkin' here. I'm walkin' here."
The berry vines are merciless. We have stopped wearing our comfy hiking sandals and always put on our socks and sneakers for every walk. I wear long pants because I can't stand all the burs and stickers that wind up in my socks and annoy me for the rest of the hike. Mountain hiking has its prickly hazards. We keep a backpack by the front door. It's there to remind us to pick it up and take it on the hikes with us. We put our garden clippers in it, so Roger can snip away all the stickery, thorny things that make the trail a mess. But, as I have mentioned in previous posts, our memory ain't what it used to be, so even the pack by the door doesn't always provide enough of a reminder to grab it. We zip right past it, camera in hand and a bounce in our steps. Funny thing, though, I always remember that we have forgotten the pack on the exact same spot on the trail. We have a good laugh about that, and then wend our way through the vines that stick and scratch us, cussin' like Ratso Rizzo.
The other day, though, we did remember to grab that pack. While we hiked, Roger clipped and clipped all along the way. It slows us way down, but we love the ease of hiking the next time we hit the trail.

Take that, you thorny vines, we're walkin' here!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wednesday's Words: Oakland in Focus

We drove to Oakland Monday. It was part of a bigger plan, but that plan got detoured by smoke and hazy air. So this is as far as we could go, before we turned around to head back home. We spent the night with our astonishingly beautiful and precocious grand-daughter and her equally spectacular parents. There are some people on the planet who actually give hope for the future, and lucky for us, we spent Monday night with them. When we came home on Tuesday, the gusty winds we had driven through on Monday had dispersed the smoke and haze. We didn't know what to expect, those winds could have blown the smoke anywhere. But it was clear here. And, even better, the temperatures had dropped 20 degrees. All good. While we were in Oakland, we took a hike through some beautiful redwoods and found ourselves looking out across the foggy bay to San Francisco. I set the camera to focus on Oakland, and that's the pic I got.

We also heard the trees squeaking in the wind. Here's a bit of what it sounded like. Turn your sound way up:

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Robbers Fire

I went out on to the deck last Wednesday afternoon to take a look at what might be wilting in the garden during our 98+ degree heatwave. The leaves were drooping everywhere, but this is what caught my eye:
That's not a big billowy cloud. It's a plume of smoke. I called Roger to come take a look, and I grabbed the camera. This is the Robbers Fire. It had started just a few minutes before I clicked the photo. We've been keeping an eye on the fire since then.
By Thursday there was a steady drift of white smoke across the southeastern sky. The fire had grown to 700 acres. We learned that it's burning in a very steep canyon along the American River about twelve miles southeast of us.
By Friday, the fire was 1300 acres and moving steadily northeast, out of our direction. However, we started smelling the smoke that morning, and the haze became quite persistent. On Saturday, the fire was 1900 acres and only 20% contained.
This is our hazy backyard, Sunday morning. That sky should be as blue as the top photo, but as you can see the haze has definitely taken over. By 11:00 AM, the fire had grown to 2250 acres. There are 2000 firefighters on the scene. The governor called in five National Guard units as well.
There's nothing we can do but wait and see what happens. All day and night the tankers and helicopters fly overhead. They are working non-stop. There's something about waking in the night and hearing the planes, knowing they are out there in the dark working so hard while we've been sleeping. Gratitude hardly touches it.
Late Sunday afternoon update: We read in the online news that CalFire called in the DC10. We wondered what that meant. We walked out on the deck to the look at the sky and saw this huge plane. Here's what it can do: The DC-10 Airtanker is able drop as much as 12,000 gallons of retardant in as little as eight seconds. The aircraft uses a computerized gravity-feed water dump system that is essentially a modified and scaled-up version of the system used by Erickson Air-Crane on its S64 helicopter. The drop rate, controlled from the cockpit, is governed by the opening of the tank doors.

To see it flying over our yard was a crazy big surprise.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: I See You Seeing Me

For several days this juvenile Red-Shouldered Hawk called incessantly. It wanted someone to bring him some food. PLEASE!

Sunday, July 08, 2012


The heatwave snapped something in me; and Roger and I weren't even remotely a part of it. We watched it unfold from 3000 miles away. A few hours before the derecho hit on Friday June 29th, I grabbed this map from the NOAA's website and posted it on Facebook. I wrote that it freaked me out, that I could have a panic attack just looking at it.
Family and friends took a direct hit from that storm, and some were without power for more than a week. Being without power during a heatwave like this produces a misery that cannot go unnoticed. I know many of us are wondering and asking the same questions, "Is this the beginning of global warming?" Or if you hate the words "global warming" like I do, then, "Is this the beginning of climate change" from which ultimately there will be no turning back? Of course, you could just shrug your shoulders and say, "It's just Mother Nature." Or, "Does it matter how we got here?" I don't think it does anymore. We're here. It's only going to get worse, at least according to the computer models. Is it too late to do anything about it. I'm afraid that the answer to that is, "Yes."

Since Jan. 1, the United States has set more than 40,000 hot temperature records, but fewer than 6,000 cold temperature records, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Through most of last century, the U.S. used to set cold and hot records evenly, but in the first decade of this century America set two hot records for every cold one, said Jerry Meehl, a climate extreme expert at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. This year the ratio is about 7 hot to 1 cold. Some computer models say that ratio will hit 20-to-1 by mid-century, Meehl said.
When I was young, we had air-raid drills, and in our classrooms we did "duck and cover." People built fallout shelters in their backyards. We all thought that the doom of the future would come in the form of a mushroom cloud. That was the beast that had to be tamed. And yet here we are, facing a scenario that is as scary and fraught with as much peril, and we as a people cannot even agree that it is actually a problem, or what if anything we should do about it.
So all of this makes me wonder, do you have a plan? Is this something you think about? Okay, I'll be honest, I'm starting to obsess about it. I'm glad I'm 60 years old and won't be around when the record heat out paces record cold 20:1. I just fear for the rest of the planet and the young who will inherit this ruthless scenario.

Monday, July 02, 2012


we've been enjoying the evenings after dinner sitting out on our deck overlooking the garden. it occurred to me to list all the varieties we have growing. i was amazed.
garlic soft neck
garlic hard neck
melon cantaloupe
melon water
pole beans
red bell peppers
summer squash straight neck yellow
summer squash zucchini
tomato brandywine
tomato roma
tomato purple cherokee
tomato cherry
wax beans
winter squash butternut
winter squash acorn

the garlic has been harvested and is drying. we had a dozen each of cauliflower and broccoli too but they don't do well in hot weather. we ate broccoli with 3 meals and cauliflower with none as it was bolting. so we removed both.

garlic was here. the other bed has chives, lettuce, onions and flowers.

tomato cages, beans, potatoes, peas, summer squash

bawk bawk bawk

we have a chicken project going on too. fencing and a coop. i do a little better than brassicas in hot weather but even so i start at 7 or 7:30 and knock off by 10:30 when the sun gets high and hot enough to bake bread.