Monday, May 31, 2010

Days 149, 150, 151: Stair Stepping...

And now we train.

After work, I have discovered a lovely. uphill loop. This hospital is built on a side of a mountain. Adventists built wonderful paths up the mountain to where there is a collection of lovely, little cottages that the hospital owns. Back in the 1880's most of the hospital staff rented these houses from the hospital. That is still true today as the hospital still rents these houses out to employees (most of whom still in the Adventist fold).

You gotta hand it to the Adventists for pioneering many healthful innovations. Among them are: vegetarianism, the benefits of exercise, getting proper rest, abstinence from smoking and alcohol, getting outside into the sun and hydro therapy. In many ways, these passionate believers were way ahead of their time. And as a group, the Adventists outlive most everyone.

And I benefit from their hiking paths!

Since the next backpacking trip is some 45 days away, it is time to get ready for it. That means stair climbing. From behind my home away from home, there is a path with 104 stairs in it. Straight uphill. From there I wind around a couple of cottages and then take a meandering, overgrown path back down the hill to the hospital.

I made this circuit five times on Saturday. Seven times on Sunday. Nine times today.

When I return in two weeks, I will bring my pack and start lugging the thing up the hill. It seems silly to spend time on a "stair stepper" in a gym, when you can climb REAL stairs outside. With the benefits of listening to Scrub Jays cackling at me, fresh air and this beautiful hillside to enjoy.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Day 148: Quail Mountain Road

While the rest of the world prepares to take advantage of a holiday weekend, I go to work. To make it worse: it is sunny! Being a hospital Nurse means that you (generally) can kiss every other weekend good bye. And also every other major holiday. While the rest of the world recreates, you won't be; You will be working.

At least the money is good.

So after work I ventured out to take yet another single lane road up into the Mayacama Range. Why do I walk these little single lane roads?

Because if I don't, who will? Yes there are two State Parks in the Napa Valley. I've walked all those trails. So why walk these little lanes?

Because I'm curious. It seems a shame to not have SOMEONE walk on them once and awhile; might as well be me! I feel that when I walk on these forgotten little bits of the Napa Valley, I am actually staking a claim for public access. In these most anti-social of days, I want to do something social. To reclaim our public roads for foot power.

I like adventure. You can't just traipse across private property in the Napa Valley---that is an invitation to visit the County Slammer. You have to get out on those little single lane roads to find out what is there. Private land owners get sneaky though. They put up gates at the entrance of a public road to fake you out. They want to make it seem like you shouldn't be there (even though the public does have the right to pass).

Quail Mountain Road has no wineries, I discovered. It is short (only took me 27 minutes to go to as far as I dared to go). There are a couple of decent sized Redwoods. And the road is skinny with lush vegetation this time of the year. Pretty.

And nobody is on it. That is part of the fun---just to see where it goes on my own two feet. To boldly walk where no one has walked before...

I walked as far as I could go on Quail Mountain Road before I came to a massive steel gate. A high fence makes it so you can't go around and continue on. As I looked at the gate, a Stellar Jay cackled at me from the other side as if to say: "Come join me! There is more adventure ahead!"

Briefly I considered crawling over the gate to join the Stellar Jay. But no. Not today Mr. Stellar Jay. I felt envious of the Jay's freedom. Only birds and animals truly have the right to roam.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day 147: A Conversation with a Lutheran Pastor

Still cold, rainy and cloudy. Angel and I take a walk this morning.

While walking I was reflecting upon a constructive Facebook conversation I had with a college friend of mine. Steve is a Pastor of a Church which is in the process of voting to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).

There is a schism there, after the ELCA leadership decided that it was okay to ordain Homosexual Pastors who are in a longtime, monogamous relationship. Many Congregations don't like that, and Steve wrote a post on Facebook yesterday about his Church's upcoming vote on whether they should leave the ELCA.

I have shed many doctrines in my spiritual walk. I am no longer a Lutheran. I depart with the notion of the "Atoning Sacrifice" of Jesus. Yet, I remain a Christian of sorts. The following is the dialogue between Pastor Steve and me. I put in a couple paragraph breaks for Steve's part of the conversation. I cleaned up a couple of my spelling errors; other mistakes I left in to leave the flavor of the written conversation. I did change some identities of people I write about.

Otherwise, the conversation is verbatim:

Allan Stellar: Pardon me for making a comment Steve. Feel free to erase this if this is none of my business... but....

The Lutheran church I grew up in split apart over the question of slavery in the 1860's. One group opposed to it; the other for slavery (black people aren't part of God's chosen people!). They ended up forming two churches in my little Minnesota town.

From the vantage point of 150 years, which church would you want to have belonged to?

Seems to me the Lutheran church is facing the same question now.

Pastor Steve: Al, if I refer you to an article on the subject, would you be willing to read it?

Allan: Of course... :)

Pastor Steve: Al - look at pages 36 and following in this pdf:

Allan: Made me feel like I was reading the Koran. This isn't my worldview anymore, so it isn't really instructive for me.

I don't buy the premise that homosexuality is a sin. I am much more bothered by deep sea drilling, species extinction, racism, homophobia and the like. These are things the bible doesn't mention, yet are quite evident of humans' disconnection from God.

Why do so many Christians limit morality to, mainly, varieties of sexual expression?

I think God wants us to grow. To think. To love. To nurture. To limit our desires beyond that of sharing the bed with another woman or man.

It'd be better to stay a part of the Church and take all this time and energy into putting solar panels on the roof.

But, as I said, this really isn't any of my business. Thanks!

Pastor Steve: Morality is certainly NOT limited to sex. Some people limit it that way because they do not want to look at the truth--the truth of the prophets Jeremiah, Amos, and the command of God at the beginning to care for the earth. In what way does what Joel writes make you think of the Koran? I don't understand that.

Allan: Why the Koran? Because the document (written by Joel) is no longer a part of my culture. Perhaps the metaphor is wrong, I have just as difficult of time reading the Bhagavad Gita. :)

I'm sure Joel is a fine human being and believes sincerely in his world view (as do you). And I love those prophets mentioned.

But no where in this document did I read about the persecution of gay people. I read a whole lot about why gay people should remain celibate (as if heteros pull that one off). But I don't see any Amos like condemnation of vilifying a valid, loving sexual expression within his discussion. And nothing about homophobia. Nothing about racism in his (weird) discussion of slavery.

Our morality is determined by much more than the Bible. And I would say that the word alone folks have a bit of their own culture infiltrating this discussion.

I think Jesus would accept homosexual relationships. And, as the document tries to say: that is what the Church is about.

Pastor Steve: Allan - I referred you to this document because you were making a comparison, in your original comment, between the church's conflicts over slavery and this issue about sexuality. I would not say everything in the way he does, but he does a good job, on page 37-38, dealing with the slavery issue.

As for the rest of it, when I teach I do not personally focus on the "7 scripture passages" that Joel focuses on. I have a simple thesis as regards the homosexuality issue that you can read at

If you want to read that and respond to that, that would be great.

I know we come from different world views and that makes the conversation difficult--but I wrote my thesis intentionally without reference to the Bible so I could perhaps talk with people who come from a variety of perspectives. As to the question of "sin" - all of us sin every day in every part of our lives, intentionally and not. Our despoiling of the environment--also a part of God's creation--is a HORRIBLE sin that needs to be addressed. I would argue however, that we DO have all the ammunition we need in regard to that in, for example Psalm 8. When we hurt God's creation we sin against God.

Allan: Oh, I went ahead and read the whole thing by Joel.

I don't have any major problems with what you wrote. You leave things sufficiently vague... :)


Pastor Steve: Vague? So you agree that we ought to lift up and honor heterosexual marriage above all other forms of sexual relationships?

Allan: I think we ought to lift up all loving relationships. I'm just happy you didn't call homosexuality a sin.

Pastor Steve: So you do disagree.

And, though I don't use the word "sin" there, the Greek and Hebrew meanings of "sin" - as I understand it, is a simple "missing of the mark" of God's intent. I don't use the word "sin" because it carries such a load of baggage, making some people seem worse than others, which they are not.

If you get a chance, read my note from Monday -

Homosexual relationships, because they miss the mark of God's intent, are sinful. That's why we don't lift them up and honor them. If they were part of God's intent we could honor them.

Even though I try to say things gently, you and I, and so many others, we do disagree. But because, as you say, you're outside the theistic Christian worldview, that won't make sense. For those of us who believe that ANYTHING outside of God's intent is sin, tainting everything I do, it's clear that homosexual relations fall into that category as well. If they did not, we could honor them just like heterosexual marriage.

Like Martin Luther, who was a terrible sinner and responsible for so much evil, I am bound to God's Word. I can do no other. But I WILL NOT hate or despise or try to destroy my homosexual brothers and sisters. We are not different in God's sight. We are ALL sinners in the need of God's grace. But some things we just cannot bless.

Allan: With all due respect Steve (and I fully see your humility in saying that you will not hate or despise your homosexual brothers and sisters). I get that...


This is an example of why I had to leave the church in order to be a Christian. No where does Jesus say that we should not bless, or support, loving relationships.

I would like you to tell the above paragraph to my friends Bill and Jack. Good people. Been in love for years. Kind. One an ER nurse who has saved many lives over the last 20 years. Jack works as a creative therapist. I could never tell them that their relationship "misses the mark" just because one of them doesn't have a vagina.

Or tell that to my college roommate, Chuck, who plays the organ for church and is active within the Gay movement within the Church.

"Being bound to God's word" sometimes leads to becoming an oppressor. Jesus had no problems with discarding law, in order to use his brain and promote love.

The Lutheran Church has been apart of promoting many awful things because of their love for the word alone. From Martin Luther's anti-Semitic remarks (which the Lutheran Church finally apologized for in the early 90's) to the Nazi Holocaust to, now, this schism which in my mind is the result of homophobia.

So I have to politely disagree.

Pastor Steve: Allan, I appreciate the conversation and your politeness. I understand, at least a bit, how offensive what I'm writing is. Because I believe God's purpose for sex is intimately connected with the blessing of new life, this is a key issue for me.

I need to politely disagree with your assessment of Jesus' attitude toward the law. Actually in terms of what we have from Jesus as regards sexual relations (mostly in Mt 19), it seems that he goes back to the "original intent" of Genesis 1 & 2 to build his case for lifelong marriage... I'm sorry you think of this as homophobic. For me, it's just that I can't turn my back on God's revealed Word, which, after all, is what brings to us the grace of Jesus' sacrificial death and resurrection for the sake of the world. But I know that's not where you are either. Thanks for the conversation.

Allan: Thanks Steve... :)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Day 146: Rachel Carson

Chilly. Raining. Sunny at times. Cold. A long walk with Angel.

Yesterday, I heard a radio station say that Rachel Carson lived for awhile in Clear Lake, California. An internet search today couldn't substantiate that. It seems to be untrue.

The Clear Lake reference is that she got the idea to write "Silent Spring" after receiving a letter from a resident of Clear Lake. In reading a bit about Rachel, I came across this quote by her:

“Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.”

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Day 145: It Is Still Raining!!

Welcome Brandi...

Drove to the city last night. Slept on Springer's couch and attended a computer class that started at 7 am and lasted until early afternoon. Seems they just can't create enough computer charting for nurses. Nor do they make it easy. Left click. Right click. Left Click. Write. Check Slash. Repeat three thousand times.

Nurses don't treat patients anymore: they treat charts.

After class I left the awful city of Vallejo and drove home the long way. Drove through Clear Lake, California. Rachel Carson's home. Today is Rachel Carson's birthday. The Spring isn't as silent anymore. But it is wet...

Upon getting home, Angel and I needed a long walk. We walked in the rain. May has been the coldest month on record. The average temperature has been a full twenty degrees below average. And the rain continues; seems like it will never end.

Still, I'll take a walk on the Ridge over spending time in the depressing city of Vallejo any day...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Day 144: A Concow Apology...

More mud work. Done in this very unseasonable, cold, cold weather.

Ed Abbey once wrote: "Very well. If there's anyone still present whom I've failed to insult, I apologize."

Writers can get into trouble sometimes. Especially Writers with a point of view. A phone call this weekend made that apparent to me. It was from a local woman inviting Joni and me to a workshop on natural building. This person said she read my blogs. Then a dead silence ensued.

I sometimes write about the people on the Ridge. All of them fine, fine humans who have that special eccentricity to make them want to live "off the grid". I sometimes write about people different than me in (what I think) are light hearted terms. And so you will find the occasional diatribe about Rednecks, Potheads, Apocalyptic Christians, Adventists, Rastafarians, Weekenders and all the others who live in my corner of the world.

I write from a perspective of affection. I love the diversity that is my home. Even when I'm opposed to having bulldozers on the Ridge. Or neighbors who fence off their entire property.

Many of these neighbors (who differ from me) have been such kind people to us. One neighbor graciously brings us bread and produce from his garden. Others show a bit of fear of us. We try to be neighborly. Joni takes a neighbor's kids to and from school because their car is on the blink right now. But perhaps we could be more neighborly. More kind. More friendly. We try.

I have a point of view. In moving to this place I wanted to try to live up to my values. I wanted to build something that was close to the Earth. Natural. Using mostly human power. I wanted to move here to experiment (and get ideas about) how humans and wildlife can co-exist; which is why we don't fence off our property (in order to let the deer and other critters have their right to roam continue).

This blog isn't widely read. But should someone stumble upon it who might say: "Hey, I know that guy!" Try not to be too offended. Read on. Take it with a grain of salt. I'm just trying to make sense of this new and different world.

And I have some core beliefs which make me a pain in the ass sometimes. Amongst them are:

1. People have the right to roam.

2. Animals have the right to roam.

3. Properties have rights. Yes, I'm for Property Rights! That land you build your homestead on has the right to be treated kindly. Just owning a part of the Earth doesn't give anyone the right to despoil it.

4. All development done on this Ridge should not interfere with its natural, beautiful purpose. All critters (whether bear, mountain lion, rattlesnake or gopher) are our neighbors. We should use only what we need--and not build little castles to ourselves. No personal Fiefdoms. At the very least, half of the property should be left alone. Migration corridors need to be respected. All trash picked up. Livestock should be protected from predators by non-lethal means; they should be protected by reasonable fencing, barns at night, guard dogs and simple shepherding.

5. Religion (with its humanocentric worldview) often gets in the way of actually living peacefully with the Earth and the Earth's other beings.

6. We should be Social with everything: humans, plants, critters, birds, bugs, dirt, rocks--all of God's creation. In simplest form it is called: Ecosocialism.

So if I've offended anyone: I apologize. Stop by and say "Hi" sometime. Let's talk.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day 143: Kylie Meets a Rattler...

I'm mud plastering walls.

Kylie took Angel for a comfort walk today. She came back a bit sooner than expected. "I had to come back because there was a rattlesnake by the road". She then went on to explain that the snake was coiled and that its rattler was buzzing.

Kylie is a pretty good historian, so I put down my hoe and we went out to find it. Not to kill it; we wanted to photograph it. The snake had slithered away.

Kylie is a country girl. She listens to Carrie Underwood (or "Underwear", as I call her). She reports seeing critters with such an understated fashion. She wasn't surprised at all to find a rattler (this is the second one she has found). When Joni, Kylie and Jazzy came across a bear last year, she talked about it like it was no big deal. This is her world.

Sometimes I feel guilty for dragging her out to this "middle of nowhere" world. To make her shower with a bucket. Heat water on the stove in the winter and then use a shower bag in the summer. Computer and TV time greatly limited due to whether the batteries have a charge in them or not ("not now honey, the sun isn't shining"). Hauling water to the cabin. Sleeping in an itsy, bitsy cabin. No Wii, Ipod, Ipad, Xbox or cell phone. She knows not to wander off at dusk (due to the mountain lions).

Doesn't seem to be having too negative of an effect on her. Kylie will skip 5th grade and go into 6th grade next year. Good for her!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day 142: Mud and Rand...

Another day and more mud work. I count this as "human powered activities" because it is strenuous and I do most of it outside (as I wrote yesterday). I'm pleased with the progress of this Hobbit House. See my other blog for more information.

And Rand Paul. Poor guy! I didn't know he was going to get into so much trouble when I wrote that little thing about the Republican Nominee being named after Ayn Rand. Joni tells me that his name was "Randall", but he shortened it to "Rand" in honor of his heroine: Ayn Rand.

Alexander Cockburn has an interesting piece in Counterpunch regarding Rand Paul's antics. From a Left Wing point of view, he sees Rand Paul as being the best choice in Kentucky. He goes on to comment on what Libertarians and Lefties have in common.

I'm not sure I agree with Cockburn; although Rand Paul clearly isn't a racist--his love of human owned property rights certainly (and quickly) leads to those segregated lunch counters. Don't think that could ever happen again in the United States? I have one word for you: Arizona!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Day 141: More Mud...

Human powered activities. Yep. I spent the day making mud plaster for the north wall of our post and beam, stone, straw bale and cob Addition.

Not a walk. But most of the work is done outside. It counts in my book.

Good honest labor. Labor that I can do! Doesn't require a whole lot of brains. Or skill. Just a bit of sweat. If I hired me as a laborer, I'd fire me right away. I don't work hard. I take my time. I enjoy the process. I enjoy the work. I make it fun!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 140: The Ed Abbey Memorial Hike....

Angel and I are back in training. I had to change the date of our next backpacking trip to July 15th. Some friends are visiting the Homestead at the earlier date. Which is just fine because I have a person who wants to do it with me. And a couple others are interested. This is the itinerary I sent out to, what will be, the Edward Abbey Memorial Hike.

Hello everyone,

I thought I'd pass along a little itinerary for this trip. This section is not on anyone's "life list". It is supposed to be ugly, dry, logged over with less impressive views. Hiking books on the Pacific Crest Trail state that you should go fast through this section because it is boring, shade less, somewhat dangerous and dry.

Which is why I want to do it!

I want to do this section because it is the part of the trail that is our backyard. There will be views of Lassen here and there. The trail has some climbs (but not too bad). Here is what I think would work:

We put in at Belden on Highway 70. The altitude will be around 2300 feet. The first day we travel along Chips Creek. The guidebook I'm reading states that there are lots of rattlers here. Be careful! There also is a long shade less climb through a canyon up to where the Sierra (composed mostly of granite) gives way to the more recently volcanic type rocks that compose the Cascade range. We will hike where these two mountain ranges marry! There is water in this section (watch for snakes!). We climb to 3700 feet to a clearing where there is a cabin. The Williams cabin allows users to sleep there. Cook. Use their utensils. The distance is 6.2 miles with only 1,400 feet of elevation gain.

Joni and the girls might join us for this section. We could carry in fresh food and have a decent dinner of fresh steaks and other foods (they have a wood stove) and engage in reverie. But not too much. Here we say goodbye to the women in my life and travel on. We should leave early because...

Day Two climbs a bit more. There are a couple of options for camping: we could camp at Poison Creek (don't know if I like the idea of that?), which would be a 6.8 mile day and climbing to an elevation of 5650 feet. Or we could really book it and go an additional 6.3 miles to Humbug Road (close to Humboldt Summit). This camp area is called Cold Springs (it has water and has a camping area). Cold Springs is at 6,450 feet. So this day would be some 13 miles with a 2,400 foot elevation gain. Much of the trail passes along lumber roads in this section. Close map reading will be necessary! We should drink lots and lots of water here. Get good and hydrated because the tough part comes next. We have gone 19.3 miles so far (if we don't get lost and add more to that total!)

From Cold Springs there isn't any reliable trailside water for 23 1/2 miles! However, at around mile 13 there is a 1/2 mile jaunt down to a creek where we could camp, swim and drink water. We will need to pack lots of water for this section (unless there is still snow melt). At least a gallon per person. And July can be very hot (although we will be at 7,000 feet).

So Day Three will be hard. We will be at higher altitude; we won't have water; we will cross clear cuts; we might have a view of Lassen and Lake Almador (but won't be able to drink out of it). And it is long. The campsite is at the "saddle south of Carter Meadow". There should be water here about 1/2 mile from the campsite (keep your fingers crossed). The altitude is 6,600 feet. The distance is 13 miles...32.3 miles since starting this endeavor.

We move on. Tired. Thirsty. Delusional. Delirious.

Day Four is along the crest to Soldier Creek. There is just one camp site there (and a flowing creek). The ford shouldn't be too difficult in July. The altitude is lower: 5,480 feet; the distance is 10.5 miles. We lick our wounds and curse that we have even thought about hiking this section. But we will have survived, what could be, 23 1/2 miles without reliable water. We will be like camels in this section. Self esteem inflates. Armpits wreak.

Day Five we hike just 3.7 miles to our take out spot at Highway 36 (at 4,990 foot elevation). Hopefully, someone will come pick us up. There is a place called St. Bernard Lodge (fitting for you religiophiles) just 1 1/2 miles from the trail. We could walk there, or hitch a ride to the bar (it better have a bar!) and have our loved ones pick us up.

I was wrong on the total mileage: It is 46.5 miles (if we don't get lost). Most of the hike will be at 5,000 to 7,000 foot elevations. I don't promise good scenery. I have no idea what the trail is like (or how well marked it is). I'm not sure of the views. This could be the most god awful experience through some of the most degraded, logged over, godforsaken terrain that comprises our backyard. Yet it also promises adventure! Survival! Fun! And teamwork.

Reading prerequisites? Desert Solitaire by Ed Abbey. And the essay: "A Walk in the Desert Hills" by Ed Abbey.

It could be the best time you've ever had while feeling incredibly miserable! Feel free to forward this to your wives (or other hiking partners)! Take out more life insurance! Make amends with your Maker.



Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 139: Home to Chicks! and Atlas Shrugged!

A walk with Angel upon return to the Homestead. We have new chickens! Hopefully these will escape the coyotes jaws...

And a thought about Rand Paul (the son of Ron Paul and the upstart Republican nominee for Senator from Kentucky): I wonder why no one has figured out that he was named after Ayn Rand? The Atlas Shrugged Candidate?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 138: Diamond Mountain Road...

I'm always amazed that The New York Times has home delivery in the Napa Valley...a status symbol...

Madonna's former estate?

Hey brother, can you spare me a few million?

Ultra premium wineries..

Oops...loaded this thing twice...

Some stately Redwoods!

A vineyard near the turnaround place...

I was supposed to take a class in Vallejo, California today. I was supposed to spend eight hours, starting at 7:00 am, being tortured to death by a computer seminar. As if we don't spend enough time as nurses in front of computers, we are now being trained to be even more proficient at wasting our time charting that which will never, ever be read again.

We were supposed to take this class at a companion hospital, so I dutifully got up at 5:00 am and drove the one hour drive to Vallejo. I had kind of an idea as to where the hospital is. How hard can it be to find a street that is named after the State that is north of California?

I couldn't find it. I could find Florida Street, Tennessee Street, Carolina Street, Ohio Street, but not the street of the State I was looking for. When it got to me being an hour late, I gave up.

I have a free day! I was tempted to hop the ferry in Vallejo and ride it to San Francisco. I could wile away the day at the bar that Jack Kerouac hung out at (Vesuvius) and go to the great bookstore next door. Or I could go to the Asian Art Museum and admire the 2,000 year old Buddhas they have in their collection.

Instead I opted to call my boss to grovel: "I'm a bit of a neo-luddite. I have no cell phone. No GPS. No lap top with a wireless connection." Nothing was open at 7:00 am in the failed city of Vallejo (this city had to declare bankruptcy and police response to their incredibly high crime rate is in the hours range of response). In short, this is one of the more frightening cities in the Bay Area--close to becoming a failed city.

After making the call, I decided to take a hike. A long hike.

Outside of Calistoga, there is a road that meanders up into the Mayacama mountian range. Diamond Mountain is famous for producing incredibly good wines. In fact, the best wine in the world (for the year 2003 named by some snobby wine magazine) came from this district. Time for me to head up the road.

Small cottages and redwoods flank the narrow one lane road. Not much traffic this morning. It is an uphill walk---which goes for at least three miles up the mountain.

I come to a large villa that is for sale. This might be the place that Madonna lived in. I can see the many patios and the manicured yard, along with a small hobby vineyard. It is listed for sale by Sotheby's International. You will never see my "off grid" dilapidated straw and mud house being listed for sale by such a prestigious realty service.

I stop off to explore two ultra-premium wineries. A Labrador greets me. The hostess of Von Strasser (this winery is by appointment only) is seated outside, drinking wine with a couple of customers.

I am dressed in my new hiking pants. My old hiking boots are covered in mud from Concow. I have my hiking stick (complete with a tired turkey feather attached). Frankly, I don't think many people hike up the mountain to this winery. And frankly, I don't think they don't really need my business. (I don't know if I would serve someone who looked like me!)

The hostess was elegantly dressed and wearing way too much makeup. She was attempting to look somewhat casual, but with a sophisticated Napa Valley Idle Rich Aire to her.

I asked if I could look around and walk to the next winery. I tell her I'll stop for a tasting on my way back. She didn't seem too excited by that prospect.

I dinkered around and attempted to find someone home at Reverie Winery. No one showed up. A sign gave a few hints as to where to look for the wine host. I didn't look.

On my way out I walked past the Von Strasser winery. the hostess looked the other way as I walked past. Must be the mud on the boots and my ridiculous hiking stick which prompts the Trustfunder to ignore me. I decide not to have a tasting and go back to climbing the road.

In this money saturated valley, many of the boutique wineries are run as hobbies by those who like the status of owning such. They already have plenty of money. Recession or no recession, many of these folks have their inherited millions to rely on. They don't need pudgy, weird looking hikers with muddy boots and turkey feathered walking sticks in their business establishments. They'd rather hob nob with the guests in their Jaguars and BMW's.

Can't blame them.

Up the hill we go. Through beautiful redwoods, up to where the road branches off. I take the road lesser travelled (in honor of Robert Frost) and continue to climb higher.

I'm not wearing a watch, but the (new) pedometer says I've gone 6,000 steps. I turn around at a vineyard that must be close to the top of the mountain. Napa Valley has good rules for hillside vineyards. Thanks to strong environmental regulation, new vineyards must be on a flat space on a hill side, to prevent agricultural run-off. The Wineries hated these regulations, but because of them, you can now see steelhead and salmon in the Napa River every once and awhile. Before such rules, the river was dead.

Diamond Mountain Road. A great walk! And when I finally get to the point where I can do some uphill running: This will be a great uphill run!

Make sure you dress appropriately to visit the ultra premium, boutique wineries...

Day 137: Nothing...

Work. Library. A short walk. Bed at 7:00 pm.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Day 136: Recovery...

Up early (out of the sleeping bag--Hunter is gone). Drive to work. Work all day. Fall asleep after work and sleep from 3 pm til 9 pm. Watch the last of the sunset.

Back to bed and sleep til 6 am.

Some barbecues require a recovery time. Sort of like running a gastric marathon...

Day 135: Tye-Dyes and Barbecues...

Saturday. After work.

Springer, Hunter and a couple other suspects gather at Springer's house for our first barbecue of the season. On the agenda:

2 rounds of soft goat cheese and one round of a cow's milk cheese (the Humboldt Fog goat cheese was memorable).

Fresh French bread from the best bakery in Napa (still warm).

Two dozen Oysters plucked from the Pacific Ocean that morning.

Two pounds of shrimp.

Hunter's special shrimp sauce made from all the various leftovers from Springer's refrigerator.

Fresh Asparagus.

Springer's to-die-for mashed potatoes.

Fresh sausages from some hoity toity place.

A Salad with all the fixin's.

Steaks! Six of them (large and well marbled).

And wine. Of course, wine.

I picked up a bottle Fume' Blanc from Ferrari-Carano(the making of this wine was publicized in one of the better books on wine called "It Was A Very Good Year"); I also picked up a bottle of Stelzner wineries "Claret" from 2007. Springer had on hand a couple big bottles of Glen Ellen wine. Swill!

We were going to have a festive evening of a long, slow-food dinner. Hunter was dressed in his tie-dyed Lithuania t-shirt (he said something about Jerry Garcia having sponsored some Olympic team from there...). I wore my Monkey Wrench Gang t-shirt. When Hunter and I gather with our hippy/dippy clothes, well, all niceties dissolve into a psychedelic soup of counter culture ooze. We have fun.

First we devoured the Fume Blanc (and all the bread and cheese). Then we opened the Stelzner "Claret". One sip and we had to have more, so Hunter and I gave each other a sobriety test (he won) and quickly ran out to the wine shop and bought two more bottles. Stelzner Claret is affordable ($18) but tastes like an $80 bottle of the best of Napa Valley Cabernets.

Add it to your dinner menu.

Back from the store, we mowed the shrimp down with Hunter's special spicy sauce (the contents of which will never be repeated--as it was created with zen-like dabbles of old horseradish, mustard, some hot chili sauce, ketchup and lord knows what else). We all agreed it was the best sauce we've ever had.

Then we launched into the Oysters. I'd purchased them at the special "Sustainable Fish" store for an arm and most of a leg. Oysters on the barbecue are one of my most favorite delicacies. Unfortunately, we over cooked them. No matter. Half the fun is waiting for the shells to pop open (and they never did). I used a hammer to break them open. Then we threw the shells at each other.

Time for the main course. Steak. Asparagus on the barbie. Salad. And the mashed potatoes. Drool...

Through out the evening we polished off all four bottles of the wine. Springer made large dents in the Glen Ellen (He doesn't want to spoil his palate with good wine). We resisted the urge to bring out the whiskey. Whiskey always gets us in trouble and Springer and I had to work the next morning. Restraint!

After the four hour meal, Hunter and I threw our sleeping bags down on the grass in Springer's backyard and giggled like twelve year olds. We watched, first the stars, and then the fog roll in from San Pablo Bay.

We fall asleep watching the fog...

Friday, May 14, 2010

Day 134: Old Vine Zin and Elena Kagan...

A walk around a vineyard after work. It is hot today and I'm sweating. I stop to admire what will be this year's old vine Zinfandel. A good day all in all, but my legs are tired from a good, hectic day at work.

My thoughts turn to the oil spill in the Gulf. Of course, it is much worse than expected and Millions of gallons of oil are being dumped into the Gulf everyday. Time to get BP out of the picture and get every pointy headed intellectual/engineer working on stopping this thing. Time to bring in the Navy. Time to demand action.

And all this buzz about Elena Kagan. Yet another East Coast Intellectual appointed to the court. These creatures are all cut from the same cloth. And although Kagan's track record isn't well known, what is known is that she is friendly to genetically modified grain sponsored by Monsanto.

That isn't what I want in a Supreme Court Justice!

What I want in a Supreme Court Justice is someone who doesn't live in a city. Someone who didn't go to an Ivy League School. Someone who isn't affiliated with Harvard in any manner whatsoever.

What I want is a Justice who has visited almost every National Park and Monument in the United States. I want a Justice who has friends that earn less than Twenty Grand a year (and still maintains that friendship). I want a Justice who rides their bike once and awhile. I want a Justice who straps on a backpack and takes a fifty miler to some remote location in the back woods of Wyoming, the Sierra, Colorado. I want a justice who uses Snickers as an energy bar.

I want a Justice who rubs elbows with Doug Peacock, not Monsanto executives. I want a Justice who hasn't gone to Church in thirty years. I want a Justice who has a small clothes closet. I want a Justice who wears flannel shirts and blue jeans to the office. I want a Justice who buys her clothes and knick knacks at garage sales. I want a Justice who has read Muir, Abbey, Leopold and Krutch. I want a justice who has had a rattlesnake shake its tail at her. I want a Justice who cries over a 400 hundred year old tree being cut down. I want a Justice who thinks that property has rights over economic development. I want a Justice who has spent at least one summer living in a cabin and had to haul his/her own water from a spring.

I want a Justice who has actually seen a mountain lion.

That sort of person doesn't get educated at Harvard. They get indoctrinated to the ways of the ruling class at that Institution. To find a real person, who will deliver real Justice---one has to look much farther away. I know such a person doesn't exist at Harvard.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Day 133: The Upcoming Rural Migration...

A morning walk with Angel passed a neighbor's garden with solar panels in the background.

A friend and I are having an e-mail dialogue. My reply starts with the merits of grass fed beef and then branches out to other territory. The ideas are borrowed from Richard Heinberg, Michael Pollan and a couple of others. The synthesis is mine though:

"Grass fed beef? Hell yes it is better for the environment! Bovine were not designed to eat grain. So when we feed them corn (as in finishing them up in those horrible, overcrowded stockyards) they create massive amounts of methane gas. If you've ever driven by one of these monster cattle yards (there is one on Interstate 5 that you can smell for miles and miles) the stench literally wipes you out. Makes your eyes water. Dangerous places. Methane gas is much worse than CO2 for warming the planet...

So the answer is: eat less beef. And when you do eat less beef, eat grass fed beef. Besides, the taste of grass fed beef is so vastly superior to stockyard beef. It is worth the extra cost, in my view.

I'm amazed that the number one red meat eaten in the world is goat!

The upcoming massive migration to rural America? I don't think it will take years. Obama has a new agricultural policy (the projected 2012 farm bill) that is really quite radical. It ends the subsidies for corn and other grains. It proposes a more regional agricultural system. I'm sure it will be a fight in congress with the big Ag Senators..but if it comes to pass (and I think it will), real changes will occur. Of course, I think this is all because Obama has figured out that we are at Peak Oil...and this just means good planning.

I think we are already in the new Food Revolution. Michael Pollan popularized it (have you read Omnivore's Dilemma?). Even Michelle Obama jumped on board with her organic garden. When the Soviet Union collapsed their population had a huge migration back to the rural areas. The result? 75 percent of their fruits and vegetables are now produced by family gardens. This has led to an exploding green revolution there that is much overlooked. Those Dachas have people living in them again---much to Putin's chagrin. There is a "back to the land" movement there that has been really strong since 92. They even have a popular Green spiritual component in a book called "Anastassia" that has sold 10 million copies in Russia. I've read it; it is quite good.

It all goes back to education and empire collapse. The Soviet Union created a very well-educated public. When their empire collapsed they needed to find a way to feed themselves. They didn't have the money to buy cheap grain on the world market. Hence the huge migration to rural areas.

Cuba is another case in point. When the checks stopped coming from Moscow they had to create a new food system. Now they are a world leader in organic gardening. 25 percent of their population left the cities for the farm. They figured out that in order to feed their population vis-a-vie a non-petroleum based agricultural system--they needed to have 25 percent of their population tending the turnips.

With the world recession, China has experienced a return to the rural areas from their cities. As jobs collapsed, people went home to their villages to tend their plots.

So I think this exodus to the rural areas will happen much faster than expected. The Department of Defense (who really controls most of the power in Washington) has stated that we will see oil shortages in 2015. Maybe even 2012. Don't look for them to release their clutches on Iraq. We needed a real client state in the middle east and not an unreliable monarchy like we have in Saudi Arabia.

So as our current food production system starts to collapse from the lack of cheap oil, the move to the country is inevitable.

So what would be a good guess? I'd say 2030. With noticeable trends by 2020 (that will be a very interesting census year, in my opinion).

I'm off to Napa today. Gotta make a living...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Days 131 and 132: That Darned Dog...

Awoke late this morning after staying up and reading Ian's most excellent book last night. The propane people woke me up to fill our tank. They come once a year ($491 to fill it---that provides propane for our fridge, cooking stove and heater). Not bad for a year's worth of fuel.

At some point Angel snuck away.

She is a good dog, but given to sneakiness once and awhile. She is allergic to almost all foods other than lamb and rice (dogs, like people, are almost never allergic to lamb and rice; I think these must have been the first domesticated foods). Dogs don't really understand the lack of variety in their diet. They just look at you and don't understand when you tell them: "If I give this to you, your fur will fall out, you will itch and a scaly smelly corn-flake rash will spread from your toes to your snout". No, they don't understand that.

But a dog does know there are certain delectable delights out there. Dogs (and also bears, skunks, raccoons and other four legged creatures) love garbage. And compost.

Angel has all the garbage heaps and compost piles memorized with her talented snout. Given a chance to make a break for it, she runs off to either play with a variety of neighborhood dogs (who don't suffer the indignity of being on a leash or in a fenced yard) or to roost about in some smelly, stinky compost pile.

And that is what she did to me: she ran off when the front door was ajar and I wasn't paying attention. I spent an hour inspecting all the likely spots. First I check out the Adventists houses, then down the hill to the alpacas, then over to Grady's; up to the Triangle house, back down to the alpacas--all the while whistling, hollering and shouting for the darned dog.

I found her later at one of the first houses I checked, eating green bread from their compost pile. Her expression? "You looking for me? I was here the whole time...."

Darned dog.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Day 130: The Bulldozer...

I was awakened at three a.m. this morning by gunshots. Seems that one of our neighbors with alpaca were doing the "shoot, shovel and shut up" thing and firing at a bear that was interested in their livestock. Last week they tried to kill a mountain lion. One of their children reported the occurrence at school today. Kids never do shut up.

Then on the way to do an errand in Oroville today, I saw a bulldozer driving on the gravel road. It was raining, so the bulldozer chewed up the road.

I met the bulldozer on the little, idyllic bridge that leads to the ridge:

The bridge presides over our swimming hole;

I watched as the bridge groaned under the D6's weight. The bridge literally buckled underneathe it.

And the pavement got all cracked up. Worried about the integrity of the bridge, we called the police.

Back from my errand in Oroville, I followed the bulldozer's tracks up to the place where they are working. I hiked around (nobody there) and took photos. A new homestead is going in.

Time to talk to the neighbors.

I visited one of our neighbors who informed me that you can't get a bulldozer in on a "low boy". The only way to get a bulldozer up here is to drive it in. A pretty common thing; during the fires of 2008 they drove 50 D8's across the bridge (or so I'm told).

I stopped and talked to another neighbor, a contractor, who has lived on the Ridge for thirty years. He got all grumpy with me: "Don't you be sticking your nose in other people's business" he said "or paybacks will get you!".

He went on to tell me that the bridge is fine and that the pavement has been torn up for years. When I showed him photos of the fresh damage, he blew it off.

I told him we don't need bulldozers up here. He said "How are you going to stop it?". I made a stupid reference to sand in the crankcase which made him lose his temper:

"Don't you do anything radical around here---or I'll have you off this Ridge in a heartbeat!". He went on to say that we don't need any government people checking out our lack of building permits. His face turned a bit red and he took another sip of his beer. He meant all of this as a threat.

Laughing, (I am a psychiatric nurse and am used to dealing with people who are irrationally angry), I told him to relax and that, yes, I am a radical but I came to ask his opinion on the matter of bulldozers tearing up our road and our bridge?

So today has not been a good day. It started with the illegal poaching of wildlife; was followed by a bulldozer tearing up the bridge, road and a property on the Ridge; and that led to me being threatened to keep my nose out of other people's business by a neighbor who is concerned about having some "Sahara Clubber" on the Ridge.

Discussing the matter with Joni, it seems that we are with a few Unfriendlies. It didn't help that I spoke out in support of the Migratory Wildlife Overlay in support of the Butte County Thirty Year Plan at a crowded town meeting. Problems started then, as most of our neighbor's support their right to do anything to our public roads and our private space. Bridges and Wildlife be damned!

Allan's Note: I've been notified that the gunshots were meant to frighten the mountain lions away. That is reasonable and a technique often used to discourage mountain lions from discovering a new food source.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Day 129: A New Room...

Mudding what will be the "Master Bedroom". Although, when your house looks like a barn, it is sort of hard to call anything by modern day terms...



Also lots of weed whacking today...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Day 128: A Boy and his Wheelbarrow...

David had his slingshot; a soldier has his rifle; a student has his laptop: I have my wheelbarrow.

This is where I make the mud...

Another day of making mud.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Day 127: Making Mud...

This blog is about to get really boring. Making mud by digging clay, hauling sand, fetching water, using a hoe to mix the mud in the wheelbarrow and then applying the mud to a wall of straw--certainly counts as "Human Powered Activities". And most of it is done outside.

I am working on getting this house made of mud and straw done. I have to mix hundreds of wheelbarrows full of mud to get the exterior walls, interior walls and eight inches of mud floor done. All mixed the way things should be done: by hand.

Oh we will get walks in...and some backpacking trips. There will be some visits to State and National Parks. But, for the most part, I will be working to get this house built...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Day 126: Mountain Lions! Oh my!

My first day back on the Ridge. Delightful! Angel and I took numerous walks today...

The big news is that our neighbors, who have some alpacas, have been visited by mountain lions. It seems that these herd animals (who are the "in" thing right now) are attracting the cougars. They report having seen three of them scoping out the alpacas in the late evening. Three? That would be highly unusual, unless they saw a mom and her cubs. I have also read that juveniles will hunt together for awhile after leaving their mother.

Allan's note: I've been informed that the neighbors used their guns to frighten the mountain lions away. A reasonable thing to do. These folks have a great love for our wildlife. It is always difficult to combine domestic animals with large predators. A tricky thing to do--to live a life that honors both.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Day 125: Neo Nazis and Safety

I drove past this sign in Colusa, California. "Colonel Pete" is the Tea Party Candidate for the Republican nomination for the 2nd district in California. The seat is currently held by Crypto-Republican Wally Herger. Wally is famous for promoting acts of terrorism against the Government last summer. And Wally is also famous for never having met a tree he didn't want to cut down.

I guess that didn't satisfy the Tea Partiers (who couldn't find a more eager, lackey candidate in Wally Herger). The Tea Party Candidates I've seen wrap themselves in the flag. And since they haven't come out against the Arizona laws that are neo-Nazi in approach...I'm guessing this is where the American Fascist Movement is going (by the way, the Arizona law was written by white supremacists according to Rachal Maddow). Colonel Pete (with his goose stepping militarism) is a case in point.

Although I was wrong about the Car Bomb Guy being a Tea Partier (please accept my apologies!). I still think that tortured young man did have a psychotic break though. His bizarre and erratic behavior (and where did the wife go?) seems to warrant such an assessment. Fear of the sun. Quit his job. Seclusion from friends and family. I'm thinking he has a major psychiatric diagnosis.

Angel and I took a walk when I got home. Oh, how good to be home! To listen to the wind blowing through the Ponderosa Pines at sunset. I didn't realize how much pressure I've been under this last week. I feel relaxed. Home!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Days 121, 122, 123: Lazy and In Praise of Obama

Frankly, work has been exhausting the past few days. I've only been able to summon the energy to go and watch a sunset or two. Mostly I slink back to my room and open a bottle of Vino. Watch TV. Read.

A total waste of nearly perfect weather.

I've decided to cut back from six days of work every two weeks to five days of work every two weeks. Gives me nine days off every two weeks for the summer. Can't beat that schedule.

A quick word in praise of Obama. On Sunday, Obama chose to go view the disaster in the Gulf. He probably should have visited the area sooner, but Obama doesn't really strike me as much of a naturalist. I've never even seen him in a flannel shirt. And I don't think Michelle and our President have ever gone camping.

So why praise Obama for going to the Gulf? Because he could have went to New York in order to praise the police officers who alertly cleared out Times Square from a smoking car. I know George Bush would have gone for the "We foiled the Terrorists yet again" rather than viewing the wholesale death of an ecosystem.

Obama chose correctly.

The Gulf is way more important than the ineptly built car bomb (which I think, will probably be traced back to some Tea Partier who has had a bit of a psychotic break). The Tea Partiers finally have their Ted Kozinski! Every fringe group needs their resident, violent crazy Feller.

This disaster in the Gulf will, hopefully, inspire real change to break the oil addiction. A good start would be a total end to off shore drilling.