Friday, December 31, 2010

Day 365: The Year 2010

Still bitterly cold here. I enjoy this whole business of going out to the woodpile and transporting in a few logs for our new stove. We huddle around the fire and watch the friendly flames. We feel the warmth. What's missing? Maybe a cup of hot chocolate. Or a dram of single malt during the evening.

Thinking about this last year, I'm happy with it. A new job (albeit much too far away from home). Three backpacking trips last year provided memories and enough adventure to wet my taste for more. The Addition makes progress--and someday might even be finished. The girls are doing well in school and seem happy with their frontier lifestyle and their friends who spend much of their time outside.

We've had a few special visitors this year. I like it when friends and family show up, spending a week or more with us. Ben Franklin was wrong about visitors, fish and three days (that both stink).

I spend time with the girls watching all those "pre-teen" and "teen" shows. Not much exposure to the natural world there. The only thing that happens outside in any of these shows are the segments of Hannah Montana (shot on an indoor set) at the beach. iCarly is urban and mostly hi tech. The Wizards of Waverly Place is urban. Not much exposure to nature on kid's television. Kids who spend time outside are becoming extinct; extirpated to the mall, Taco Bell (Taco Smell?) only to grow up, live in the burbs and maybe make a dash to Starbucks (if you are rich). Nature (for many American children) is having a deck with a smallish backyard that is fenced off from other neighbors much like a calf waiting to become veal.

So I'm thankful for the everyday contact with the wild within this "off the grid" home. Nothing excites me more than to see a bald eagle fly overhead or to run across a bit of bear scat thirty yards from our home. No monetary value can be assessed to such experiences, yet, in Mastercard terms, they are priceless.

And I have free time. Working part-time (and being able to support a family by doing this) is unusual and a blessing. It makes me feel like I'm "earning to live"--rather than-- "living to earn" (to borrow from Ed Abbey). That's a good idea. Guys like me need lots of leisure time to read a book or just enjoy a beverage, observing the goings on of the forest.

Frankly, I had a successful year. I got outside. I spent several weeks on the trail. I read many books. I wrote some. I got to spend time with loved ones. I learned much. We also spent much of the year being incredibly broke. That too, has its own blessings.

Tomorrow we shall plop out some goals for the next year. Join me?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Day 364: Warmth...

We had a hard freeze last night. Inside our Addition, the temperature was 40 degrees Fahrenheit this morning. Kylie took me outside to admire all the ice. We made sure all the water lines weren't frozen. Outside, the temperature got into the lower 20's. Too cold for this ex-Minnesotan.

So when the kindly Wood Stove installers showed up this morning (as promised), I was more than happy to greet them with a big smile and a check. A couple hours of work and we now have a fully functioning Wood Stove. A Lennox. It has space shuttle technology within; low emissions and we get a $1,500 tax write-off for installing it.

We are burning some oak from a fallen tree even as I type this in this newly toasty warm house. Oh modernity!

And the rain has stopped for a day. The dogs and I took a walk, watching the small bit of smoke arising form the shiny new stove pipe from the top of the house. Last night Joni and I had mortared in place the Three Rivers Slate that (I have to admit) Joni has been gathering when she takes the dogs for a walk. I wish I could load a photo or two, but the Gateway is still broken. We'll have photos when our computer dilemma is solved. Trust me, the Wood Stove and the Slate looks great.

And it is warm inside. We are getting downright civilized here in this house made of mud and straw.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Days 362 and 363: A Wii and a Wood Stove

Another winter storm marooned me in the Napa Valley last night. More rain. Of course. We are at 62 percent of normal rain fall for the rainy season---and the traditional rainy months are January and February. At this rate, we could see well over 100 inches of rain for the season.

So, in order to retain some semblance of sanity during these rainy months, we have two large Christmas presents: A Wii for the girls and a wood stove for all of us.

I'm not too happy about this Wii sell out. Worthless electronic contraption. Yet, Jazzy and Kylie really wanted one---and they are happily playing with the thing right now; their sibling rivalry war at a truce for the moment.

The wood stove should be installed tomorrow, just in time to take advantage of a $1,500 tax credit for this low emission, high BTU more worthwhile contraption. Joni (after having had very little heat for two and a half years) states she is going to stoke up the stove and wear nothing but a bikini for a month. Good bye wool hat and socks. Hello constant summer.

Ah, civilization...

Monday, December 27, 2010

Days 358 to 361: Working on Christmas...

Christmas was spent at work. Today it is slightly sunny, after days and days of rain. A walk this morning through a vineyard. The mustard is blooming---get a few more sunny days and it will be even more beautiful.

I hope your Christmas was merry----and that you took sometime to get outside...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Days 356-357: Merry Christmas

Back home for a couple of days before returning to Napa for five. A couple long walks with the dogs. Abbey, the new puppy, samples water from every puddle we come across (as it has been raining for what seems like years). Dogs don't need potable water. Hell, dogs can eat and drink most anything. Joni thinks this near love affair with puddle water is a natural way to get minerals into the doggy diet.

The girls are gone for a week, so Joni and I have the place to ourselves. My how quiet this place is without the wrangling, skirmishes, and general may-hem which constitutes sibling rivalry.

I may not have a chance to plunk away at a keyboard over the next few days---so Merry Christmas! I will be at the hospital doing the Nursey thing...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Days 352-355: The Deluge

Lots and lots of rain. I'm here in the Napa Valley--doing the work thing. Called Joni last night who said that we had had 6 1/2 inches of rain over the last day and a half.

The Sierra has had up to THIRTEEN FEET of snow in places. Rainfall totals from this current series of storms could be around 18 inches of rain.

I've been reading a History of Butte County. Volume One encompasses from the 1840's up to 1920 or so. A line caught my attention, talking about some floods in the 1870's: " A storm dropped six inches of rain". This was seen as an abnormally high 24 hour total.

This is routine at our household today. This year we've already had one storm that dropped ten inches of rain; this current storm should match that. And every year, over the last three that we've lived up at the Ridge, we have seen storms that drop ten inches or more of rain.

Evidence of climate change? I think so. For our part of the Foothills, the models predict stronger and wetter storms. We've certainly seen that. Generational climate change lulls one into a slumber that believes things have always been a certain way. We lose track of trends. You have to read an obscure history book, or talk to someone who is 90 years old, to see that, perhaps, things are a bit different now.

So I will drive home tonight. Through more rain. Dodging the trees that inevitably fall because they were burned from the "freak" lightening storm that burned up thousands of acres of Butte County. A freak storm (because of the thousands of lightening strikes) that is yet another argument for climate change.

The backlash against climate science is in full regalia in America. My own 3rd district Assemblyman is a climate change denier. Dan Logue led the efforts to dismantle California's carbon emission laws through Prop. 23. He lost. Does the guy ever go outside?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Day 351: Frugality

More rain again. Cold. We bundle up and head out in the rain to enjoy these short, short days. Congress is upset about possibly having to work over the Christmas holiday. I will be working 9 of the next 11 days. Yeah, I know--most folks work a whole lot more than I do. I'm lucky to be able to support a family on a part time job.

I finished Scott Nearing's autobiography last night: "The Making of a Radical". Talk about being frugal. His approach to money was blessed by the frugality apparent within my own Grandparents' generation. Nearing was smart enough to save money when young, so that he could do his Homestead thing when he got to be my age (of course he also was unable to work or get published due to his socialism).

I wish I had read this book when I was a twenty something. It is a primer on how to live an independent intellectual life.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Days 349 and 350: Public Safety

The old Gateway seems to have met a near certain death. So I'm typing this on an even older laptop that has the annoying habit of deciding to put text where ever it damned well pleases. No photos for a bit too, until we decide either to buy a new computer, or get the old Geezer resurrected one more time.

I'm back in Concow. I took a long, long walk with the dogs. Thoughts of the events of yesterday weighing on my mind. You see, I had to testify in court yesterday. I can write in a closeted fashion about it, because now that I've been in court, well, things are public.

The day after that gun crazed man took on a school board in Florida, I was in criminal court testifying in a case in order to prevent such an event from occurring. Unusual to be in such a position. The Defense Attorney was quite rough on me. Even the Judge was a bit rough on me (told me that I needed to have "thicker skin"). I held my own. In the end, Public Safety won the day.

A victory for the safety of Nurses.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Days 347 and 348: Duck Hunters

I drove across the Sacramento Valley yesterday. Duck hunters everywhere. They dress in camouflage, and to save them from a walk, many had matching camouflaged ATV's with dog kennels riding on a back platform.

We owe a debt to these duck hunters. It was through a coalition of duck hunters and ranchers that has preserved a small bit of the Sacramento Valley. Before deep ecology came on the scene, as far back as the 20's, ranchers and duck hunters fought the agriculturalists to preserve some semblance of wetlands in the Sacramento Valley. Not near enough land was saved; enough to preserve some habitat for the Pacific Flyway.

In a couple of the tiny towns along the way, the duck plucker businesses were open. Family ventures that earn a little cash from suburban duck hunters who don't want to take the time to pluck their own ducks.

And my foot? Not broken. Dropped into the ER before work yesterday to have the kindly doctor take a look at it. We took an X-ray; not broken. However, there was evidence of "mild degenerative disease" on the the large bone on the bottom of my right foot. What does that mean? It means I'm turning fifty. It also means buying better shoes, getting some inserts and taking along Ibuprofen on twenty mile hikes.

The foot is swollen and bruised. Painful. No extra walks for a bit: doing 10,000 steps at work is enough to leave the foot engorged, black and blue and throbbing this morning.

Note to self: Get lots of hikes in this decade; the writing is on the wall.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Day 346: Plywood...

A nice day. I decided to do some work around the house. Then I dropped a large sheet of plywood on my right foot. Big old scary, swollen welt across my foot (I'll spare you the photos!). I hope it ain't broken. Time for ice and rest. Maybe an x-ray tomorrow if things aren't any better.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Day 345: Oh Christmas Tree...

We sauntered off into the woods to find this year's Christmas Tree. Jazzy is standing next to it with Angel looking on--giving her approval.

The Christmas Tree selection is always an item of controversy. We have rules: 1. the tree needs to be in a place where it is crowded out by others (thinning); 2. I prefer if the tree is half dead (Joni nixed the tall one I wanted to cut because it had too many dead needles); 3. We all need to agree on the tree. This is a process that takes hours, has multiple arguments and a few shed tears.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Days 343 and 344:Where is the Sun?

This is getting awful. Clouds and light rain yesterday. Rain all last night and today. I can't remember the last time I saw the sun.

Some years the rainy season doesn't start until Christmas. This year we've had rain for what seems like an entire month now. The past two days I've taken the dogs out for a long tramp along the ridge. The dogs come home tired and wet. I dry them off. And then they nap.

All work on the house has been suspended because it is cold and raining. No, we hunker down in sleeping bags and pull out books to read. We run the generator and watch TV. It'd be cozier with a woodstove; we are actively pricing them now and hope to have the thing installed within a month. At least then we can watch the glow of fire (and be warmer) as we listen to the steady rain on the tin roof.

Four more months of this? Rain. Since the rains began early, I'm hoping Spring will do the same.

Cocooned in a sleeping bag, or walking through the wetness, it is hard not to dream of next year. This past year has been one full of hikes and adventures. A week in Costa Rica with Ian; a week on the Pacific Crest Trail; a week on the Appalachian Trail: I'm happy with it.

So how about next year? What plans are going through my silly little head?

Stay tuned. And thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Days 341 and 342: Oroville Brewery...

During this unusually long, early rainy spell, our generator's rip cord died. Had to go to Oroville to the Honda dealer to get it fixed. Which, of course, meant a five hour wait.

So I walked around this town which has hints of greatness to it. "Never marry a potential" a wise person once told me (I did it anyway---yet another personal disaster!). Oroville is much like that: full of potential. If I had enough money, I'd buy the entire downtown and wait for Bioregionalism and New Urbanism to win the day.

Walking around the town, I enjoyed the wonderful turn-of-the-last-century architecture that just calls out for restoration. Instead the buildings either sit empty or have tattoo parlors in them. Such a waste!

Time for a beer.

The new brewery sits in the old depot building that was built in 1910. Unfortunately, it was turned into a restaurant in 1979---meaning that the restoration of this building was done during a time when American architecture was starting to go into its dark period (and still hasn't emerged). Stucco on the outside. The inside has hints of greatness--but the restoration 70's style does its very best to hide it.

The beer is uncannily good. Much better than Chico's famous Sierra Nevada, which is much too hoppy for my tastes. I had an adequate sandwich and sat next to the railroad tracks and watched a freight train ramble through. Ten feet from the tracks with a beer in hand is a good way to watch a freight train.

Passenger service to Oroville stopped in the early 70's. I look forward to the day this starts again. You could catch a train through the Feather River canyon and the Sierra, all the way to Salt Lake City. It will happen again.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Day 340: Scott Nearing, Chickens and Bobcats...

Cold in the Napa Valley yet again. Still raining. I'm already sick of this wet and cold weather. Time for a bit of sunshine. Please?

A few events have cheered me up: While looking for a book by Murry Bookchin in the PUC library, I stumbled upon a book that I've been trying to find for years: Scott Nearing's "The Making of a Radical". His autobiography. I look forward to curling up with it tonight.

And the other day I saw my first bobcat. Like most Americans, I saw this creature from within my car. He loped in front of me as I approached Clear Lake, California. My what big feet they have!

And the day before I left for the Napa Valley, our chicken (whose name is Pot Pie) laid her first egg! Photos to follow.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Days 336 to 339: Napa Valley Rain and Books

This year the rains seem to have begun early. I'm here in the Napa Valley working and sitting at this computer in wet clothes and soggy shoes. I'm not smart enough to bring rain gear and an umbrella with me to work. So I suffer. And I sit here wet, at the library at Pacific Union College.

College libraries, at least this one, are quite different than my time spent in them in the early eighties. First off the students look like mere babes. As in children. As in really, really young people. The other night when I checked out around five books on various subjects (from Ecoterrorism to a biography of Emerson) the young college age checkout person asked: "Are you really gonna read these?"

"Yup", I replied.

Kids don't seem to check out many books. Mostly they sit around with their lap tops and talk much too loudly for what I consider to be hallowed ground. And I mean loud. And their content doesn't seem to be too scholastically minded. Looking around right now, I see the boys (and I do mean boys) wearing hoodies and baseball caps.

It is winter and unseasonably wet. I get out here and there; for the most part I read. For the last couple weeks I've been devouring books. I don't have them with me, so I can't quote their titles. I read two books on energy policy. One of them has the premise that renewables are decades away and the best way to prevent global warming is to make more efficient use of burning fossil fuels. The author makes the assertion that we only get 20% efficiency out of the current use of fossil fuels; he'd like to see that get up to 60%. Combining factories with multiple uses (as in using spare steam to make electricity) would be a greener way to reduce carbon emissions.

I don't buy the premise (that there isn't political will to bring about a rapid change to the use of renewables). I think the public support is there; what is in the way are the biggest and largest and richest corporations in the world with their army of servants and scads of cash.

I also read a book on Ecoterrorism which is a history of the radical and more direct action oriented environmental movement. From the Unabomber, GreenPeace, Seas Shepherd, Earth First! to the Earth Liberation Front. What surprised me was the shere number of actions that ELF and ALF (Animal LIberation Front) have pulled off in early 2000's (when the book was published). There must be a cell of such Activists in Chico, California---as there have been quite a few actions taken against fast food restaurants there.

Am I sympathetic to such juvenile actions? On a mass scale (like Redwood summer and the current mountain top removal operations in Appalachia) the answer is yes. When it comes to spray painting local McDonald's restaurants I'm more inclined to say no. With exceptions. Always exceptions. Removing a ribbon on a mature Ponderosa pine that is slated to being axed is an act of divine mercy, in my opinion.

According to the author, the FBI designates the brave Paul Watson as the first ecoterrorist in the US. How ironic, as he is the guy with the very sympathetic and important television show: Whale Wars. The author also designates between the Romantics and the Social Ecologists. Earth First and Ed Abbey fit into the former category; Murray Bookchin and other social minded Anarchists and Lefties fit into the latter category. Abbey versus Bookchin. Too simple of a summary, but one worth considering.

I also read a book from 1976 on Gary Snyder. A snoozer of a book---I'm not much into poetry. And books about poetry are even more boring.

Right now I'm reading a fantastic account on Bioregionalism. It is written by a professor from UC Davis and is written about the northern Sacramento Valley. A fantastic read that I will write more about later.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Days 334 and 335: A Walk With Joni...

Rolled back in to the Homestead around 1 am last night. Glad to get out of there alive...

Joni and I took a peaceful, hour-long stroll this morning. We let the dogs run. Appreciative of the time. And also appreciative of a totally unexpected, anonymous financial gift of a few hundred bucks that came just at the right time. I didn't have to buy gas with dimes (I used our spare quarters to get me to work). Check out clerks look at you in an annoyed fashion when you spread out twenty bucks worth of dimes on the check out stand. Not to mention the people who are waiting behind you with their sodas and chips, thinking thoughts of malice as you stack the dimes.

Note to self: remember to pay it forward.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Days 331 to 333: Psych. Nurse Solidarity

Friday, after observing that our checking account has fewer dollars in it than years I have lived, I called work to see if I could get a few extra shifts.

"Can you be here by 3 pm?" The House Supervisor said.

"Nope, but I can be there by four".

So I hurriedly packed a few things and drove to the Napa Valley. I managed to get three extra shifts--helping out the old Christmas fund. The unit has been a rather nasty place; filled with some people who come out of mean existences and are trying to impose that meanness on others. Our hospital has a policy about what you can write about on the internet. And I hesitate to write about these sorts of things at length. Someday I will. Someday soon.

Yesterday, a psychiatric nurse was killed in Napa. This is the third area psychiatric nurse to die violently in the last month. Another psychiatric nurse was killed just across the bay in Martinez two weeks ago. A mental health prisoner smashed her head in with a lamp. Another psychiatric nurse was killed in Napa while she took a break at work. A patient pushed her into a courtyard and strangled her to death. Three psych nurses dead within a month. Two were killed by patients. The last psychiatric nurse was killed while on leave for work related PTSD and was shot by the Napa Police while he was in a suicidal crises.

So that is three members of my profession killed within 60 miles of where I sit. Where is the outrage? Where are the half mast flags? Where are the processions of nurses from around the State to be in solidarity with those who have fallen? When police officers are killed we rightly pause to thank them for their service. We should do the same for psych. nurses.

The past three days I have had my life threatened at work. Not to be dramatic, but such threats should not be ignored. The situation was handled in a decent fashion. It was handled in a way that protects psych nurses. About time.

So what does this have to do with being outside? Nothing. It has been cold. Both cold outside and cold on the unit. I await some warmth.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Day 329: Waiting for Dinner...

I managed to talk a certain ten year old to break away from her computer game of Obama saving the world from Space Aliens in order to take a walk with me.

Talk. Talk. Talk. Chatter. Chatter. Chatter. Ten year olds talk a lot.

Thanksgiving 2010. The free range, all natural turkey is in the oven behind me. The stuffing is in the bird. The pumpkin pie is made. The cranberry sauce is done. The first load of dishes are washed. And we are a couple hours away from sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner. The aroma makes my stomach growl.

I think of all those Thanksgivings that have gone before. Two of them have been spent at death beds. Others have been spent in various places: Calistoga, Las Vegas, Reno, Grand Junction, Rushford, Newburg, Truckee, Minneapolis, Rochester, Duluth, Winona, Mesa and other places that escape my memory (and probably should remain forgotten). Some of these Thanksgivings have been spent working in hospitals.

The world seems meaner now than in years past. It is harder to summon optimism that things are going to be okay. Beyond family and tribe, conflict and polarization is winning the day. "Good will to all" stops at most people's front doors. And despite the cold temperatures outside, the glaciers keep melting. Oh well, the feast will still be eaten with gusto. Leftovers will still taste good tomorrow and the next day.

Thanksgiving. Giving Thanks. Two words that, in these meanest of days, don't have the impact that they used to.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Day 328: Home...

It is so very, very cold. Down to 25 degrees last night. A lazy day at the Homestead. Good to be home.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day 327: Holiday Blues...

Quite cold here in the Napa Valley this morning. Took a brisk walk in my tweed jacket. I await going to work and then home afterward. I am feeling more than a little homesick. It is hard to be away from home during this pregnant pre-holiday time.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Day 326: Cold...

Cold as can be in the Napa Valley today. And this is supposed to continue for a bit. We could see snow up at the cabin.

I headed out this morning sans hat or mittens. The wetness of the coldness making it a rather unpleasant experience. Winter sneaks up on you sometimes. Catches you unprepared. The old expression: "There is no bad weather---just bad clothes" is meant for people who haven't moved to a sunnier and warmer climate. When I left Minnesota years and years ago, it was with the hope of never, ever being cold again.

So I dream of creating a life where I can live in the warm, desert southwest for these rain-soaked, cold months. And then home to the cabin for spring, summer and fall. Ten years from now, that is what I hope to be doing.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Days 324 and 325: The Chicken Question

Cold and raining in the Napa Valley. A brisk walk this morning in my tweed jacket (trying to look more professorial).

And the answer to the chicken question? What is our chicken's name?

Pot Pie, as in "Chicken Pot Pie". A certain ten year old gave her this name. And if she doesn't get around to producing an egg sometime, she just might end up as such.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Day 323: Down the Canyon with Collier

The dogs and I again headed out this morning. Hoping to beat the rain (which we did). We were gone a couple of hours just doting along. How nice to take the time just to enjoy a walk with the dogs. I bring along rice cakes to use as bribery. My way of coaxing the dogs back on the leash or away from trying to dig up a gopher.

Collier's book? Read three fourths of it last night. Alas, the guy is just too much of a humanist for my tastes. He fully admits that he sees nature as being made for human benefit. And then he quotes scripture to back it up. He fully admits our dominance over the planet. Consider this awful, but honest, quote:

"Biodiversity is a good thing, but within the context of our survival, not as an end in itself. We are not here to serve nature; nature is here to serve us".

Although the book does give some interesting possibilities--leaving room for other species, conservation and all those good goals are not something he wants to push. It is like he can't think of any other way of living. And I appreciate his concern for the Bottom Billion. But I cannot fathom why such concern cannot also be transferred to other species and bio systems.

Humans First! is Collier's cry. Manage Nature. Sorry Mr. Collier--Nature Always Bats Last.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Day 322: Plundered Planet and Collier

One of us takes a long walk with the dogs everyday. Today I took the dogs out for their morning romp. They get a leash free time to go off and run, play and stick their noses in other critter's pooh. The dogs love it. We love it. A cross-species time of enjoyment for all.

Last night I started reading Paul Collier's The Plundered Planet. The book has a particularly awful sub-title (and why do all these books always have sub-titles?): Why We Must--and How We Can---Manage Nature for Global Prosperity. Why is the sub-title awful? Who manages Nature? It gives the impression that humans are superior to Nature and that Nature can even be managed. Seems to be Nature can be destroyed, enjoyed, worked with, obliterated and conserved: but Nature cannot be managed. It is arrogant to think otherwise. Nature isn't a business. Nature is our world.

But Paul Collier is a Oxford scholar connected to The Economist. An economics professor. As such he should be immediately suspect. But hey, at least the guy writes about climate change and shows concern for the Bottom Billion of humans who live in abject poverty.

I almost stopped reading after the first couple of pages. When it comes to environmentalism, Collier sets up a dichotomy regarding planet plunder of "the romantics" and "the ostriches". Of course, Collier would see me as a "romantic".

He writes:

"Both the romantics and the ostriches will take us to oblivion, albeit by different routes. Run by the romantics, the world would starve; run by the ostriches, it would burn."

From these two perspectives, Collier goes on to find a middle way. A capitalist liberal vision. He continues:

"In short, The Plundered Planet is written for people who are neither filled with a saintly self loathing of modernity nor are ethically blocks of stone: people who have, perhaps, grown a little impatient with the profusion of homilies about our duty to sustain the natural world in the condition to which it has become accustomed, but who nonetheless recognize that a cheery disregard for nature would be whistling in the dark."

He wants his cake and he wants to eat it too. Should be interesting.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Day 321: AARP

Got home last night around 1:00 am. Took it easy today and just enjoyed the warmth. Tomorrow it is supposed to cool off.

And I got my first contact from AARP. Oh the times, they are a changing. When you hold your first invitation to join AARP--well--that has become a new marker passed on the road of life. More disturbing than looking in the mirror only to find that your beard is more gray (really white) than brown.

A friend of mine told me that she and her husband go to all the AARP events. I'm told that lots of fun is had there and that they have star studded rock bands composed of some pretty influential artists from years gone by. She told me that she was amazed when some loud rock band was playing--only to find a ballroom filled with wrinkled and gray-haired folk dancing.

I'm not ready for that. No way.

However, I do think that nursing homes will be very different places in years to come. No more hymns. No, the Rolling Stones, Jackson Browne and the Beatles will serenade us into the sunset. And the volume will be loud; none of us can hear anymore anyway.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Day 320: Roughing It?

Slept in the Monastic Dorm; up early and out for coffee and a walk through a vineyard. Warm. Beautiful. I can't take a picture, as Kylie is spending the week doing an outdoors/wilderness experience with her sixth grade class. She has the camera for the week.

Of course, Kylie will have more amenities in her wilderness experience than she has at home. She will have a real bed. She will have hot water that comes out of a faucet. She won't have to heat water on the stove to do dishes or take a bath. She will have unlimited electricity. She will have a heating system in her cabin.

Roughing it is a relative term.

Or as Thoreau said: "Man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to leave alone".

Monday, November 15, 2010

Day 319: Name That Chicken...

On a warm sunny day, when absolutely nobody should have to be in a car, I drove to the Napa Valley to earn some money. This was a record breaking day of heat for northern California. The year 2010 that is (so far) the hottest in the last 137 years world-wide. This despite an actual decrease in solar energy from the sun.

Every once and awhile I put up one of those poll things. Mostly they are ignored by folks; I find them kind of fun. I don't think I've ever written about our last remaining chicken's name.

This chicken is quite the survivor--as five of his peers became coyote chow. The last chicken almost became lunch for a coyote, but at the last minute I chased God's canine away. I got within about ten feet of the coyote before he turned away---just a few elusive feet away from the chicken. Our chicken let out a god-awful squawk which got my attention in the first place.

So indulge me and take a guess at the chicken's name. I'll give the answer in a few days.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Day 318: A Walk With Abbey...

Our new dog, Abbey, and I took a long ramble today. We left Angel at home because she was more interested in hanging out with the girls than wander off with me. Angel is good that way: she knows that it is her job to watch over the girls.

If one of the girls wander down to a neighbor's place, Angel will sit on the deck, eyes peeled for her return. She won't move from her perch. She just stares off into the woods.

Abbey is still very much the puppy--without all those responsibilities that first owned dogs have. Abbey has a sweet, sweet personality. She obeys better than her more impish elder dog. And Abbey is still enough of a puppy that she stays close at hand; she knows her place in the pack. She seems to know that danger lurks out there. Best to stay close.

We took off on this fine November day. Warm, with just a subtle suggestion of a chill in the air. It is getting green again. New shoots of grasses everywhere. The leaves have all changed color. This is my third November up here already (time flies!). All the months have their own charm. November is good because of the change of color to vibrant green.

I'm still not much of a fan of the winter rains though. November is bittersweet that way. Take advantage of this!, she seems to cry. It is much like eating the last chocolate chip cookie--knowing that the goodness is gone.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Day 317: Emerson and Thoreau...

Another day of sifting, mixing and plastering. All done outside. By myself.


Mostly thinking: "what the hell was I thinking trying to build this thing? This is a project for a gaggle of twenty something hippies--not for gordito nearly fifty somethings". Which led me to thinking about Renaissance men (and women). How I am definitely not one. I've met a few folks who might quality for that title: Ian Woofenden comes to mind. He is quite the capable fella--good with a tool and as good with a pen. Building this Hobbit House is my way of trying to achieve that sort of status.

Failing at it. Miserably.

But I can do grunt work. In fact, I rather enjoy it. Sifting clay through a metal screen for four hours gets a person to thinking. Thinking about NOT being a Renaissance Man. And thinking that Thoreau certainly was one. Which leads me to Thoreau's landlord and mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I think secretly, Ralph Waldo wanted to be like Thoreau. But, like me, he lacked the coordination, talent and tenacity to be like him. Unlike me, Emerson had an inheritance that took care of him for the rest of his life (he married up---the wife died---Emerson went on to a life of leisure and learning). Emerson could certainly talk the talk; his book Nature could be argued as the very beginning of the American Environmental Movement. Emerson was still too soft and academic to actually live a Walden type life. No four hour walks for Ralph--he'd rather take the train.

Nearly every night for the last year I've been reading Thoreau. He has become much like a devotional to me. Such a brilliant arrogant man! Good with his hands; good with the pen. My hero!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Days 312-316: Earthcrete..

Been busy lately. I worked an extra day at work (the money is tight right now). And I've been making a plaster mix of clay, straw, sand and cement mix. Trying to mud the house with a water impermeable layer. It seems to be working well.

But there is always a problem with this damned clay. During the summer you need a pick axe to dig it out of the ground. Now that we've had 8 inches of rain over the last couple of weeks, the clay digs up nicely. The hard part is sifting it through some fine mesh to make it workable for plaster. Always a problem; always something to slow you down.

Yet I am lucky to spend these grand warmish November days outside. I saw a family of raccoons the other night. Today I watched a pair of Stellar jays as I mixed the mud. These gorgeous, loud, boisterous birds that mate for life and have a sense of humor (I wonder if the latter is a prerequisite for the former?). I love them.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Days 309 to 312: A Lucky Man

I'm in the Napa Valley---doing what I do here. I take a daily walk with the people I serve. I've also been spending time in the gym with these folks.

I've always been lucky with finding interesting work. My Manager told me today that they decided to fund my new position for the next year. Seems they are happy with my performance. I am extremely lucky to have this job. Doing consults, taking walks with clients, doing a group or two in the evening, farting around with a Wii (have you ever tried to teach a schizophrenic to use a Wii?)---all this, lets me use my strengths and experience. I use my humor. My charisma. I no longer have a patient load---I don't spend hours charting meaningless information. I feel more like a consultant than anything.

I'm a lucky man

Friday, November 5, 2010

Days 308 and 309: Manzanita Walks...And I Ponder a Run for the Assembly in 2012

On my walks yesterday and today, you can tell the Manzanita berries are in season. The seeds are found in scat all over the place. Being an Omnivore myself, I ate some. Not much berry to it. And the seeds are like pebbles when chewed. Difficult for my fractured and aging neglected teeth to chew. Not much taste to the berry either---which probably means the berries are good for you.

Of course the weather is totally awesome. Been sunny and near eighty degrees all week.

And I've been in an e-mail discussion with a prominent Lefty journalist in the area. I wrote him telling him that from looking at the Butte County election data, Dan Logue is vulnerable. Dan Logue is the guy who wrote Proposition 23. He is a nasty Climate Change Denier (and because of those convictions) who admittedly wrote the Prop because he believes Climate Change is a hoax. Prop 23 was turned down overwhelmingly by California voters. Dan Logue got 52 percent of the vote in Butte County. Proposition 23's "No" vote came in at 56 percent.

The Democrats ran a perennial non-candidate against Dan Logue. A sacrificial lamb. This candidate didn't pursue any campaign against Dan Logue: he didn't meet with editorial boards; no signs; no speeches; a campaign consisting of just having a name on the ballot.

Given that the "No" vote got such a high percentage in this very conservative district, I think a Dem/Green candidate might do well. My Journalist friend suggested that I run against Dan Logue as an Enviro candidate. I'm thinking of doing just that. There are, by far, other people who would be a better candidate than I am, but thus far, they just haven't come out of the Greenwork.

Time to attend some local Democratic meetings, I think.

Take a look at this video of Dan Logue, and you will see why this guy must have a real Green Candidate run against him.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Day 307: Green Sprouts

Things are turning green here in the Foothills. And not just my yard. I pondered the election while walking through the woods with the dogs.

Yesterday, Californians overwhelmingly voted down Prop 23 (the measure that attempted to discontinue our global warming initiative). Not only was it voted down, but the "NO" vote got the second highest amount of votes of any ballot measure. And only 0.2 percent more of the vote would have made it the most popular vote.

Good news!

Other good news from California---at this time it looks like the Republicans didn't pick up any House seats! Barbara Boxer handily won re-election. Jerry Brown won. In fact, it doesn't look like ANY Republicans won a State wide race (at this point). California bucked the trend--despite an unemployment rate of 12.5 percent.

My favorite ballot measure lost--prop 21 (the State Park Initiative). But it at least got 40 percent of the vote. Californians don't want anything to make their blessed cars be more expensive.

Locally, the vote in Butte County went 56 percent against Prop. 23. This in one of the most conservative districts in the State.

So why did California do so well? When the rest of the country is slithering down the slope and electing Climate Change Deniers---why is California, again, on the cutting edge? Will the rest of the country catch up?

I thinks so. The best thing the Democrats could do is to educate the public on energy. On climate change. To move towards transforming our economy in the Green direction. California has been working on evolving her economy (albeit slowly) steadily over the last ten years. A winning strategy would adopt California's methods and work towards a Greener tomorrow.

So keep on going to those Farmers' Markets. Put up those Solar Panels. Buy local. Eat better. Join the Slow Food Movement. Take a walk in the Outdoors. This strategy is working in California. The rest of the country will catch up soon.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Day 306: Election Day and Being Outside

So this blog, despite its diversions and meanderings, is supposed to be about getting outside and doing things. On election day (and despite my multiple unpopular and misguided opinions) perhaps it is best to think about how our votes, and which votes, influence our ability to enjoy the out-of-doors. An Allan voting guide of what I've found important.

So let's think about California first:

1. Prop 21--the State Parks Initiative: If this passes, anyone with a California license plate can get free access to any State Park. This is the most important ballot measure that directly influences the ability of all to enjoy nature.

2. Prop. 23: This measure attempts to stop California's meek efforts to reduce carbon pollution. Millions of trees that are being eaten by bark beetles care about this measure. I hope it is defeated. Vote in order to save the trees!

3. Barbara Boxer. She has been a friend to environmental groups and has been tagged as being too friendly to radical environmentalists.

4. Green Party candidates---it will be interesting to see how they do at the local and lesser state wide race levels. I'm hoping they poll three percent in these races.


1. Many of the Tea Party Folk tend to be climate change deniers. Especially Sharon Angle in Nevada and O'Donnell in Delaware. Climate change legislation ends with this election. Goodbye cap and trade. Goodbye fuel efficiencies. So long to Renewables. Forget all hope of having a Marshall Plan for Clean Energy. If a candidate is against getting off of fossil fuels and/or denies climate change--that candidate is not friendly to getting outside.

2. There is a Green Senate candidate in Arkansas (can't remember his name right now) who is quite interesting. I'm hoping he gets a few votes.

3. The Green Party on a national basis. Will they poll one percent anywhere?

4. Russ Feingold in Wisconsin. If he loses we should abandon all hope and go live in a cardboard box.

By the way, it is a beautiful day in Napa and I had a nice walk through a vineyard.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Day 305: Take Karl Marx Trick or Treating...

Joni's back has been giving her a bit of pain lately, so it was up to me to take the girls out trick or treating last night. To annoy Kylie and her ten year old sensibilities, I put on my farmer's overalls and wore a bandanna on my head.

"I have a reputation to uphold you know", Kylie pleading with me NOT to look like a Geek. Undeterred we headed out; letting my Geek Flag Fly!

Down to Oroville. We were accompanied by a couple of Jazzy and Kylie's friends. I've never been trick or treating in Oroville before. We spied a neighborhood consisting of those McMansions. You know, those absolutely huge ugly monster houses with a wooden front door, a small bit of yard and two or three garage doors that stare at the street and three or four thousand square feet to do your (totally) inside living. A cul de sac of the obnoxious domiciles.

Ding dong. No answer. Next house.

Ding dong. No answer. On to the next house.

Ding dong. No answer. On to the next house.

Evidently, this group of McMansions doesn't participate in giving candy to "off the grid" kids (or any kids for that matter).

And so we moved on down the hill to a neighborhood of simple, cottage type houses. And not nice cottages--but the kind that look more like fancy trailers. Shabby construction. The houses had, at most, 1,200 square feet.

But the neighborhood was alive!

Many of the residents sat in their garage-less driveways (most just had a roof over their cars with no walls)---having a fire in a fire pit or just sitting there shooting the crap with neighbors as they gave candy to hundreds (and I mean hundreds) of children. Some had turned their houses into makeshift "haunted houses" adults taking great delight in walking around with fake blood on their faces and knives sticking out of their backs; handing out candy that took money from them that might better have been spent on food for their own families.

This was an event! A time of sharing! A time of caring!

Juxtapose this barely lower middle-class neighborhood with the dead folks at the top of the hill and you can see just how much the class war of the last thirty years has left the rich vacuous, lifeless and soul-less. No wonder they argue so vehemently to not have the Government raise taxes on them by a mere three percent. Shame on them!

And so I drove to work thinking about this Marxian experience. And thinking about the election tomorrow. I took a walk with the clients today. Most poor; living on the handouts of SSI and living in drab board and cares that hand out peanut butter sandwiches for lunch while walking away with the majority of the client's social security checks.

If all goes as expected, the House of Representatives will be a Republican stronghold tomorrow. We will see an influx of Congressmen and women who think that climate change is a hoax. And most of this because Obama decided to attempt to get health insurance for the 15 percent who do not have such. That was the straw that broke the Middle Classes back: spending money on others less fortunate than them. Never mind that there wasn't any anger about spending trillions of dollars on war. No! We need the oil! We need the revenge! Money well spent.

No--it was spending money on the poor that pissed off the middle class and the upper classes to the point that (like those McMansions) they decided that the social contract does not include help for the poor, the depressed, the less fortunate, the mentally ill, those in despair, the ragged people, the immigrants, the uneducated, the drug addicted. Let them die. Lazy scum--they deserve their poverty. We can't even tell them to get a job anymore because the jobs have all been shipped overseas.

The poorest people I know are those who have all the money.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day 304: Family Walk with Dogs...

A family walk this morning. Kylie (being 10 years of age going on 21) didn't want to go. With a bit of persuasion, she consented. I offered a reward to the first child who found a deer track.

With all the rain lately, things are turning green. That is the best part about starting the rainy season in the Foothills: Everything turns green. When Mark was here, he commented over and over about the shades of brown and tan. Midwesterners get accustomed to green in the summer and black and white in the winter. The colors here are Tan in the summer and green in the winter.

The dogs like to romp...I drink my coffee...

Is there anything more joyful than a dog at full gallop?

48 degrees Fahrenheit this morning outside. Without a heat source, the Addition was 60 degrees. Quite tolerable...

Friday, October 29, 2010

Days 301 and 302: Books and the Addition

The dogs sleeping in our warm Addition...

The past couple of days I've had some dog walks. And the grass is starting to turn green. But mostly I'm excited to be fully using our new Addition. After a couple years of not having much extra space, being in the new part of the house (and being comfortable) is a pleasure beyond pleasures.

I've moved all the books for the umpteenth thousandth time. It is hard to part with a book. I've winnowed them down many times before. Like when I moved to Grand Junction, Colorado. Or when I moved to Nevada. I still have a few thousand in my Dad's house in Minnesota.

Is it selfish to hang on to a book? Would it be best to pass them on? Donate them to a library? Send them to the recycling center? I appreciate the work that went into writing a book--even a bad one. Somehow it just seems nasty to toss out a book.

And then there are all the books I wanted to read but just couldn't get through them. Do I hang onto them? Leaves of Grass comes to mind: never could read that. And Gore Vidal's fiction---I try and try to no avail. Should I hang on to them? Will I grow into them? Will I be smarter in the future?

The best arrangement is to have someone come over and "borrow" them---never to bring them back. So come on over. Peruse my bookshelf. Most are available for an indefinite loan. Just don't ask for my Ed Abbey books...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Day 301: Tightened Up....

A work day today. I used scads of insulation and tightened up our Addition. This is the first evening that I've had in the new Addition where there wasn't any wind blowing through the thing. Nice! Joni has been keeping track of the morning temperatures inside the cabin, in the new addition and outside. It has been fun to watch the temps climb in the Addition as I get more and more of it insulated.

Of course, after I'd plugged the last hole, a bat came out of the ceiling. Disoriented, he flew in circles---looking for his exit point. He'll find his way out one way or another.

Also did my normal dog walks today...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Days 298 to 300: A Week With Mark...

The finished wall...
Mark and I putting up a tin wall...

Just got done spending the week with my old college roomie. Mark was kind enough to forego a late season backpacking trip in order to help me put up some tin on the inside of our Addition.

We also spent four days in the Napa Valley together: Mark out tasting wine while I worked. A fun time was had by all...

Thanks to Mark for being such a trooper!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Days 295-297: With a Friend...

Mark and I are hanging out in the Napa Valley. While I work, Mark (who makes his own wine in Minnesota) is out tasting and exploring. During the day, I show him around and give him the history and gossip of the area. I'm the tour guide.

This is fun!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Days 291-294: My College Roomie...

My old college roomie is here: Mark. And as usually happens when we have visitors that are more talented than yours truly (easily done) , we are working on the house. Nice to have him here for a week.

Mark and I have had many adventures in our twenties together. He was a great friend to experience those silly things that immature young men do together. These experiences create a bond that sticks with you for life.

So despite our very infrequent visits over the last twenty five years, our visits are always a celebration. And I admire his kindness, gentleness, generosity, positive attitude. It reminds me the luck I have had when it comes to friends. Much of it undeserved.

So we shall catch up with these adventures a bit later. For now, we have work to do. Wine to drink. Life to catch up on. And maybe a couple more rascally and immature adventures to be had.

Photos to be added when our computer gets out of the shop.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Day 291: Rush and the Nanny Corporation

Drove to work across California this morning. Along the way I listened to His Heftiness: Rush Limbaugh. Of course he is gloating about some recent polls that put the Republicans way, way ahead. Jabba da Rush fully expects that the Republicans will get 75 to 80 seats in the House of Representatives.

Several callers also commented on Michelle Obama's weight gain. Now I've only seen snippets of Michelle lately; she always looks quite beautiful! We should be proud to have such a classy First Lady. And she did put in that garden at the White House.

Well, several women callers (sounding catty) commented that Michelle has become quite fat. They then went on to state that Michelle shouldn't call for an end to child obesity until Michelle takes off her recent weight gain. The just of the matter is that We-don't-want-Government-to-tell-us-how-to-live. They hate the Nanny State.

Of course this is all plain and simple bullcrap. Part of Government's function under the preamble of the Constitution is to "promote the general welfare". Public information campaigns, health campaigns and the like, work. We get plenty of unhealthy campaigns from corporate advertising (but nobody on the Right Side of the Aisle complains about the Nanny Corporation). Where are the healthy campaigns going to come from if not from Government? And since we pay for healthcare for millions of Americans (Medicare and Medicaid), the Government does have a vested interest in promoting healthy lifestyles.

Rush's hatred of Obama borders on being pathological. He really believes that Obama has some secret Socialist agenda. He states that after the election Obama won't move to the center. Rush feels Obama is too ideological for that. Let's hope so.

Took a walk with the patients today. A beautiful day in the Napa Valley. Daily walks are a central component of our program greatly appreciated by the Clients. Usually we walk out an old wagon road to take a look at a creek (which is dried up right now).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Day 290: Rain...

Raining today---just a one day event. Puts us on notice that we are headed into another rainy season unprepared. We had a reminder of rain in the middle of September, but this is the first real rain we've had since the first week of June. We've begun that unavoidable slide into winter. I'm tempted to hop in the car and live in a tent outside of Tuscon.

I've been puttering around the yard. Joni has been doing some clay slip work. We have a herd of girls visiting. Spending the weekend. Good girls who love to be outside working on a variety of "forts" around the property.

I walked the dogs. Puttered in the yard. Tomorrow the rain should clear out all the dust and dirt in the air so that when I drive to work, I just might catch a glimpse of Mt Shasta. For sure I will see Mt. Lassen. Onward!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Days 288 and 289: Ecotopia...

I'm writing this on Joni's old Laptop. Kylie decided to take a gander at downloading some music (unbeknownst to me) and managed to crash our old Gateway with a virus. A really nasty bug that made it so that our internet program would automatically open (even while doing other stuff) and the next thing you know, you have been whooshed off to a site not very appropriate for a ten year old. And then you couldn't leave the site!

So the computer is in the shop. I'm typing this on a Lap Top that likes to put the words in randomly. Look away from the screen and I find myself typing words into the last paragraph. Quite frustrating!

I've been living by the Four Hour Rule these last couple of days. The weather is near perfect. I saw a new bird (some sort of Flicker) that flies in a swooping sort of fashion. Beautiful!

And I finally read Ecotopia by Callenbach. What an amazing novel! Published in 1975, it was so far ahead of its time. Reading this grand book, I couldn't help think that Joni and I are living the values that Callenbach so wonderfully expressed back in the age of Ford (the President).

Forget the Tea Party, which gets all the attention---if you really want to see a real Grassroots movement, head down to your Farmers' Market. These are the true American Patriots!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Days 286 and 287: Four Hours a Day...

One of my work colleagues put up this poster at work. The photo didn't really turn out. The caption says: "Allan Stellar meets John Muir on the Appalachian Trail. Where's the action?"

Work places in my line of business are healthiest when there is a sense of humor present...

Okay. New goal. Drove home yesterday, traipsing in the door at 1:30 am. Since I'm finally feeling well, I decided it is time to get some work done around here.

Scott and Helen Nearing lived very segmented, disciplined lives. Of course they wrote the bible when it comes to hippy dippy "back to the land" types when they authored The Good Life. They broke the day into four hour segments: one of the four hour segments consisted of doing work on their homestead. Six days a week they lived by that rule; they took one day off as a day of rest.

Since I can wile away a day easily by watching clouds or contemplating my navel, it would be good for me to adopt such a rule.

So here it is.

When I am home and don't have any guests or an illness, I will work four hours a day on improving this bit of planet that I live on. Most of the work will be done outside.

So that is what I did today. I'm getting one of our tiers ready to be transformed into a garden. And also since my friend Mark is coming next week (he is a very talented gardener), I'm trying to get this place looking a bit better in the hopes that he won't turn around and catch the next flight back to Minnesota.

I spent four hours today weed whacking and hauling old crusty, moldy straw into a compost pile.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Days 282 t0 284: New Schedule...

I'm in the Napa Valley.

One of the things I admire about my fellow health care practitioners is their ability to adapt (and function) with new schedules. Most folks go through life working their normal 9 to 5 lives of quiet desperation. Weekends are weekends for these people. Bedtime is always the same. Make one little change outside of the urbanus rattus schedule and chaos ensues: most don't deviate at all. I remember when we had to stay up all night with my Mom who was in the hospital, nobody could take the night shift. I had to do it. Staying awake all night was just too painful for my siblings.

As an RN, I've worked all the schedules. I've had the cushy 9 to 5 job working with the State of Nevada. I've done the 12 hour night thing (never again!). I've worked swing shifts. I've worked days. There isn't an hour of any day that I haven't been awake and working during it. I don't think many professions can say they've endured through that.

So now I'm in a new shock to the body. Working from 1pm to 9:30 pm. I've fallen into a pattern of taking some semblance of a walk in the morning. Or sometimes in the evening. My goal is to start jogging/running during the morning. Soon. Very soon.

But right now I just have to let this body get used to a new schedule. For me, I find that it takes about six months to make the adjustment.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Days 279-281: Voting and Being Outside

Got my ballot in the mail, filled it out, put a stamp on it and will mail it today. California has "vote by mail" which is quite an excellent thing. Half of all voters vote this way. Hopefully this easy access will prevent the more regressive elements in our society from carrying the day in California. Maybe?

I went conventional and voted for the Dems in the big elections: Barbara Boxer for Senate; Jerry Brown for Governor. I voted Yes on the State Parks initiative. Voted against Prop 23 that seeks to overturn California's Global Warming law.

But when it comes to the small State wide offices, I always vote Green. Gotta encourage them somehow (for being on the cutting edge of history). Gotta reward them for asking the right questions and having the right values.

As for being outside? Just some dog walks, as Joni has been ill.

I swiped the Green thing above from Albert Bates. Albert has the world view of the Green Apocalypse--much in evidence in his most recent blog post.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Day 278: Time Flies

I'm in the Napa Valley for a couple of days. Getting used to my new job and a new schedule. Took a walk last night after work. Took another short one this morning, just to stretch my legs and enjoy the cold, brisk morning.

The seasons just seem to fly on by the older you get. Time flies. From a 10 year old's perspective, a couple of months might as well be a couple of years; from a 50 year old's perspective, a couple of years might as well be a couple of months.

I hope reincarnation is a reality. "One life at a time", Ed Abbey and Thoreau used to say. True. But one life ain't enough. I'd rather be stuck on the Hindu "wheel of 84" than head on up to some astral realm. I'm sure that realm is great (if it exists), but if that is the case, why bother with having this material existence? The New Agers state we are here to learn lessons; to have our souls learn something. So they focus on returning to a realm that they don't know exists but forget to learn to know the flowers. Or much of anything else.

Give me flowers over eternity. Give me good hard earth under my feet. Give me the discomfort of an upper respiratory infection. Give me conflict, loss, failure, betrayal. These things are all good. Why? Cause at least you know you are alive and kicking for another day.

Take a walk today. Learn a flower. Identify a new tree. Breathe in this sacred air. Love!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Day 276 and 277: Back to Work...

Drove down to the Napa Valley yesterday. Chilly here. Fall. Cold. Met Springer for a beer and watched the Giants clinch their division. I'm pulling for a Giants vs. Twins World Series.

A walk this morning around the college town of Angwin. Discovered the college library (why didn't I think of using this place sooner?). One of the great things about a decent religion is their usual commitment to both education and health. I work at a hospital affiliated with a religion. This same religion has a college up the road with a decent library.

When is the last time you saw an Atheist found a hospital? Or a college? Or open a library to the public?

Off to work...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Day 275: Antler Hangers

Finally felt good enough to putter about the property today. A glorious day here in the Foothills. I set up a "family room", moved our bed and hung up my Sierra Club backpack and the dog leashes on our Antler Hangers.

Okay, this is silly, but I can't tell you what joy I get from these Antlers that Joni lodged into the Cob. No Deer was injured in the process: Joni found the Antlers in the woods back in Colorado. She used to use them in sweat lodge ceremonies. Now they adorn our home.

I love them! Just another aspect of our custom dirt home...

Friday, October 1, 2010

Day 274: Yes on 21; Money For State Parks...

There is much more to politics than just voting. What you do for a living, how you live your life, where and what products you buy---all are political acts. Yet, voting can be helpful.

California's State Parks are always hopelessly underfunded. Last year they were even threatened to be closed. Closed! In response to that comes Proposition 21, which, for a mere eighteen dollars per car registered in California, the State Parks would be fully funded. And better than that: they would become FREE for Californians!

Isn't that how it should be?

We take up tons of space for our cars. Cars are the sacred cows of California. Vast parking lots; roads everywhere; drive thru pharmacies, burgers. So why not take a bit of the price of operating a car, and use that money where people can safely get out of the Toyotas and walk?

Yes on Proposition 21! Now there is a reason to vote!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Day 272 and 273: Dan Logue's Errors

Managed to take Angel for a walk today. Other than that, it's been rest and reading and watching endless amounts of nerdy TV. Still fighting the mother of all respiratory infections here in the Foothills.

Note to self: bring vitamins on my next backpacking trip.

From all this reading and watching Cspan, what has become clear to me is just how much "push back" there is in the Tea Party against any sort of Climate Change science. Voting for these populist pipsqueaks is essentially a vote against science, Darwin, James Hansen and rationality. And here in California, Prop 23 is an attempt to extinguish our State's timid climate legislation (which attempts to roll back carbon to 1990 levels by 2020). Even that small amount of cutback is seen as a "jobs killer". The main funders of this Initiative are oil companies and it was written by our very own State Assemblyman: Dan Logue.

So I re-read McKibben's "Eaarth" last night. Not a cheery read.

Frankly, I don't think anybody on the Climate Denier Side has stepped out their front doors in the last twenty years. Nor have they noticed that things just ain't normal when it comes to weather patterns or flowering flora (last year I saw my first Mustard plant in November--two to three months ahead of schedule). Nor do they notice that grain production peaked in the 1980's. They haven't noticed all the bugs that are chewing up our forests because winter doesn't kill the little critters off anymore (the latest disaster is a new beetle from Asia that now threatens the Bristlecone Pine--the oldest trees in the world). Nor do they notice that the Midwest has extensive floods nearly every year now (and in August and September!). Almost all the glaciers are gone in Glacier National Park and you can sail your way through the Northwest Passage in Canada during the summer (the first time in 2006 and every year since then). Walrus are starving on islands in Alaska at this very moment. Black Abalone on California's coast are now on the Endangered Species List because the ocean has become too acidic for their shells. The acid is created from the absorption of CO2, lowering the Ocean's PH level and endangering coral reefs and shell fish. Pakistan has 20 percent of their land under water. River flow in almost all the world's rivers has diminished as glacier melt water has diminished. The list is endless.

Climate has become much more dangerous. Storms are stronger. Disasters are bigger and will continue to be very expensive. None of these costs are in anyone's budgets. Washed out roads, destroyed and flooded houses costs lots and lots of money. And it is becoming much more frequent.

Yet our own Dan Logue does his own little Paleo Republican Schtick that lowering CO2 is just too expensive. If he thinks this is expensive, just wait until the first grain harvest fails because of drought. To not act is the expensive part.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Day 271: Yet Again!

The phone rings. I answer.

"Hi Allan, this is Mark". Mark and I were college roommates back in the early 80's. Life-long friends. Mark owns an organic flower and vegetable farm back in Minnesota.

"Hi Mark", I say.

"You know, I've been reading your blog and articles and I think we should take a backpacking trip when I come out in a few weeks. Just a few days. Have another adventure. You pick where we go".

"Gosh Mark, I was kind of hoping not to saddle up that backpack again this year. But, well, okay, I'll tell Joni".

Here we go again; I haven't really recovered from the last trip yet.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 270: 33 Points...

I'm too sick to work, but not too sick to e-mail a friend.

This friend asked me to pass on a utopian vision of an ecological society. Practical things we can do right now to arrest our over-development. Here are my 33 points:

1. Vast increases in wild space and animal migratory corridors. Especially in places where humans have taken over. (The Sacramento Valley floor for starters---there ain't anything wild in that valley from Redding to Bakersfield).

2. Solar panels on every roof that has decent exposure. Same goes for small and medium wind projects. Put all those unemployed folks back to work installing solar systems that you can get on loan from the government just like the student loan program (no means test).

3. An end to consumerism--how many shirts does a person really need? Bring back thrift.

4. An end to coal.

5. Labor intensive organic agriculture. Put humans back to work on the farm. Right now we mostly eat oil (10 calories of oil to make 1 calorie of food).

6. No more "always on" appliances.

7. Real conservation.

8. Take out the damned Dams and bring back the salmon.

9. The socialization of benefits (health care, social security etc.)

10. A 20 hour work week.

11. National Forests that put wildlife first. If you log on it, it must be sustainable without terrible run off into trout streams. More labor intensive. Use horses!

12. A change in consciousness so that humans don't think they are the most important species on the planet.

13. Tax the snot out of houses over 1,200 square feet. Have a goal of having 300 square feet of living space per human.

14. Permaculture.

15. No more yards; up with gardens!

16. A speed limit of 40 mph on country roads (at night) would reduce deer and critter assassination.

17. No more fences, with the exception of garden spaces and some animal husbandry. We need wildlife to be able to migrate.

18. A moratorium on all new land development.

19. Vegetarianism, or at the very least, greatly reduced meat consumption (an end to grain fed beef and factory farms).

20. Only one child for every other woman to reduce the human population down to 1 billion within 80 years.

21. Communities you can walk in.

22. More walks!

23. Home canning!

24, An end to Global Trade (with the exception of coffee!).

25. A tax on goods that are shipped more than 500 miles.

26. Protectionism and Tariffs.

27. An end to militarism (nothing can happen until we end the empire).

28. A consciousness that understands that an item need not be mined, milled, dug, eaten or killed in order to have value.

29. A zero waste society. Have the cost of recycling a product built into the product on the front end.

30. Co-housing.

31. Trains!

32. Localvores.

33. Local economies...

Oh, the Green agenda goes on and on...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Days 268-269: Farms...

Still sick here.

My friend Mark (who is coming out to visit us for a week in October) sent me some photos of him completing an item on his "bucket list". A tandem skydive.

What struck me about the photo is just how fully domesticated the Midwest is. Fly across Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and this is what you see; miles and miles of farms. No space for anything wild. Nothing wild left.

Give me the wild, wild West. I want to live in a space that still has some wildness left to it. It is getting harder and harder to find such spots on the planet. All the usable space is being mined by humans for our own little dramas. We have crowded out all other relations...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 267:Nyquil and Network News..

I've been feverishly overdosing on Network News and cold medicine. Taking Nyquil and MSNBC in large doses leads to amusing changes in consciousness. For instance, France is taking to the streets protesting a change in the retirement age from 60 to 62! Almost everyone says the Dems are going to lose the House, and maybe the Senate. I watched the American delegation walk out of the UN when Iran's President quoted three conspiracy theories about 9/11.

The only outdoors time I've had was listening to the coyotes with Joni the other night. The coyotes were having quite a skirmish over something. Joni (with her acute hearing) could distinguish six distinct yelps. Perhaps they were celebrating, as we are down to one lonely chicken; the rest snatched by the coyotes. We still haven't solved this problem yet (much to the coyotes joy!).

So being sick with a fever is not a way to enjoy American politics. The antics of the Tea Party is hard to handle from a decongestant-induced feverish fog. All these Tea Partiers just seem to be fiddling while Rome burns. Angry White backlash; mischanneled anger. Angry with providing health insurance to the poor and not being angry at attacking oil fields for the rich. The field of debate is so very, very narrow on all these news channels. MSNBC being the best of them--but still coming up short.

Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! often gets it right. An island of sanity amongst the talking heads of media. But who watches her? You have to be pretty invested in the news to suffer through her pedantic program. And you have to have a high tolerance for tweed jackets and professorial opinion.

So go out on a limb Allan. Is this 1994 all over again? Or is it worse than that? How should Greens feel about this election cycle? Our issues have been shut out. I think it is important to get out and vote for the Dems because they, at least, don't deny climate change. Vote for the Dems and hope that Obama takes a populist green turn for the second two years of his term. It's the lesser of two evils once again. But this time, the evil is eviler than they have ever, ever been (and I never thought that could possibly happen).

In the meantime, and no matter who wins the election, I need to build a better chicken pen.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Day 266: Outdated...

Still fighting a bug here. Taking massive amounts of Nyquil, sleeping and resting.

Started me thinking about what we don't have that others would consider essential. We have no blackberry, I phone, cell phone, I pad nor Lap Top. We have no hot water; no running water to the kitchen (we carry it in buckets). We have no Wii, Sega, no PlayStation of any number. We don't take kindly to Kindles. We have no GPS. I don't know what 3G is---guess it follows that 4G is also a mystery to me.

We do have a ten year old Sony television, the type that is big and boxy and hard to carry. We do have a six year old computer that runs ever so slowly (I have a hard time getting the Word Processing program to mail stuff). We have a small CD player. We do have a DVD player that I can't run. The thing also plays VCR tapes that I have never used.

We do have Satellite TV (although we are thinking about giving that up). We do have a Satellite Internet that I consider essential to contact the outside world.

We have no air conditioning. Essentially, we are outdated and mostly useless when it comes to civilized culture. I like it that way. If I had my way, we would remain living without these other pesky conveniences forever.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Days 264 and 265: Writing From Others

I'm a bit under the weather. Sore throat. Gooey. Feeling terrible. Lethargic.

So I thought I would let others handle the writing for a bit. Jason (the Therapist) was kind enough to go on the PCT hike. He wrote about it here. Jason has links in this piece to his first two entries.

And my son also blogged about the Appy Hike. You can read his (painful) experience here. Just scroll down to read his entertaining writing...

Happy reading!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 263: Wolves and our National Forests

The Abbot sent me a disgusting article about wolves, asking my opinion. This is what I wrote to him (and a few friends):

Okay...I read the article...

Actually, the guy quoted "Michael Robinson" of the Center for Biological Diversity is a friend of Joni's. They hung out in Boulder together. He had the Teepee next to hers.

Notice that the wolves allegedly killed the cattle on national forest land. These welfare cattlemen use the public lands at a very cheap lease rate from the state. Then when a cow dies, they raise holy hell. In Minnesota (where I'm from) wolves are respected and revered. We are proud of them. And there has virtually been no predation of livestock. Why? Because livestock are fenced and put into barns. They aren't roaming wild in public lands that should be a haven for wolves, deer, elk, etc.

Frankly, we don't need cattle and sheep on public lands. Only about 3 percent of our beef comes from such a welfare farmer cattle industry. It is more a tradition in the west than an economic necessity.

There are farmers in this area who are trying to live with the mountain lion. They use a breed of guard dog to deter the lion from taking their goats, sheep, cattle. It works.

Wolves have a right to live. My argument would be that National Forest land belongs first to the wild species, then the domesticated ones. If a wolf kills a cow on such land...too bad!

Wolves are good at regulating their numbers. Only the alpha pair in a pack breed. They control their hormones better than humans.

Ranchers in Idaho and Montana etc. go apoplectic over this issue. They spread terrible lies about wolf predations. They do the same for every wild predator. Frankly, I'm tired of them running their livestock on OUR PUBLIC LAND!

Time to bring back real livestock management. Use shepherds. Dogs. Let the wolves control their own population: they will do a better job of it than we horny humans....

Give the wolves a chance man! They've suffered enough from our sin!

Of course, this article doesn't get to the heart of the issue: What is the purpose of having wild public land?


And a followup e-mail:

Sorry about the sermon...

I just think it all comes back to (and I harp on this all the time) how we conceive humans to be within the realm of creation. Ecocentric versus Humanocentric. Christianity, and almost all religion, is mostly about our own species. Humans as the crown of creation. Everything is God's gift to humans. To the point that we deny souls to those that we don't value: it used to be women (as in the Muslim tradition). The idea that all species have a right to freedom to roam, procreate and live their lives in balance and happiness, even if they aren't human, goes counter to almost every dogma that religion has taught (with a few notable exceptions: St. Francis of Assisi being one).

We just blindly follow the faith of our fathers, no matter how destructive to the earth, large predators etc etc...

Will this change? I doubt it. There are some glimmers of hope out there. The 30 year Butte County plan actually acknowledges that our black tailed and mule deer population has migratory rights. This has been fought vehemently by my Concow neighbors. There is a movement to create a wild space in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming which has some support in Congress. The mountain lion initiative passed back in the 90's is another case in point. But how far will we go in re-wilding our lands?

And the radical enviros are developing their own variety of dark green religion, as exemplified by Bron Taylor's decent book of the same name. But it is time to move beyond "blessed are the poor" (because they know how to live simply and will inherit the Earth?) to "blessed are the poor and all wild creatures".

Questions around large predators (mountain lion, wolves, grizzlies) lazer the question into a sharp focus. Can we humans share? Doubtful.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Up to Day 262: Simplicity...

Yes, I've been taking it easy since getting home. For one thing, my tummy took a few days to work out that rust colored water we drank. Secondly, I'm tired: simple as that...

So it has been simple short dog walks. Is there anything more simple, or more fun, than that? We make life way too complicated. Life is really quite simple. Life is NOT complicated. People who want life to be more complicated are just addicted to drama and are probably really bored. Drama Kings and Queens. Enough of that!

In fact, simplicity should be the guiding factor in all our lives: relationships, economics, exercise, home building, politics, cuisine, reading, environmentalism. Make something complicated and nine times out of ten you are on the wrong path.

What is the simple answer? Ask this, and you will get the right answer.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Appy Trail Day Six: Damascus!

Taran finishing the hike. He lost 27 pounds on this trip..

Awake the last day, feeling nauseated, we head out for the last eleven miles. Downhill. We hiked down to the Virginia Creeper trail, which is an old railroad bed turned into a trail, and took that into town. We skipped the last hill.

Yes, we were exhausted. We feasted on milkshakes at an ice cream store. Taran drank Gatorade. I drank sodas. We called for our ride---and took a blessed shower back at Taran's lovely house. Taran weighed himself: he had lost 27 pounds in 6 days! The poor kid suffered, yet, he wants to join me on the Pacific Crest Trail next year. His words: "Next year I'm gonna train for it!"


Miles: 11. Total miles: 54--plus side trips for water...

Appy Trail Day Five: To Saunder's Shelter...

Vulture Head...
These white blazers mark the entire 2,100 miles of the Appy Trail. It is nearly impossible to get lost.

Taran near the top of Whitetop Mountain...


We had lunch at Lost Mountain Shelter...

There are signs along the way. Many of them nearly unreadable...

And Saunder's Shelter. Photo taken the next morning because we got there as darkness descended...

Coffee in the morning, oatmeal and off for a long, long day. We started out without water (yet again). And, as seems to be the case on the Appy Trail, we began by climbing a mountain. This was going to be around a fourteen mile day.

Taran's feet were battered. More moleskin. Blazers mark the way (see the photo above). Frankly, it would be really, really hard to get lost during the daytime on the Appy Trail. The way is so well marked with white paint blazers. The way to water, or alternative trails, is marked with blue blazers. This eighty year old trail is well maintained and highly developed, which is part of its charm and also part of its non-charmfulness.

Yes, the trail is difficult. Mountain trails are like that because mostly you either go up. Or down. Level stretches are few and far between (at least on this section). The age of the trail makes you think of all those other folks who have hiked it through the years. Tradition. History. The path more traveled.

Back to suffering. I was feeling pretty good, but the child of mine was hurting real bad. He slowed down. Needed lots of water (which we didn't have). Needed rest. We drank some water on Whitecap that came right out of some rocks. We didn't feel a need to filter it. (mistake!).

When we got to Lost Mountain Shelter for lunch (Ramen anyone?), the water there was, once again, in a foul, leaf littered, one inch deep murky puddle. I filtered the water thinking that the best filter in the world couldn't make such water safe.

Six more miles to our destination at Saunders Shelter. And a mountain ridge to climb. Taran's blisters had blisters on them---with more blisters on top of that. He suffered miserably. I encouraged him to "dig deep" and "it's more in you mind than anything". These are awful words of advice I have heard while deeply suffering on the trail from more in shape companions. These words rung hollow with me then--and I'm sure they rang hollow with Taran.

But he made it to Saunders Shelter just as the sun set. We skipped dinner. Both of our tummies were hurting. Taran fell asleep fast. Snoring!

Later I awoke to the sound of wretching. The poor kid was vomiting up the last bit of almonds he had eaten from the trail mix. The emesis passed and he made it through the night.

Mileage 14. Total Miles: 43.