Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day 180: Pickett Road and a New Job Offer

Carried my backpack up Pickett Road, just outside of Calistoga.

Breaking news! I was offered a new position in the hospital today. Quite a surprise! I was offered a half time position as a psychiatric evaluation nurse. The hospital has decided to create a new position for a nurse (me!) to wander about the hospital consulting on the psychiatric needs of patients. This means I will roam from the ICU, to the medical floors, to the substance abuse floor, to the ER--consulting with patients regarding their psychiatric, pharmacological and emotional needs.

I won't have a patient load. When I am not busy doing consults, I will be free to do groups on the psychiatric unit and just help out as needed. Give lunch breaks. Help with admissions. I also won't have to get up so early, as my shift will be from 1 pm to 9 pm.

The downside is that I might have to make a couple more trips a month to the Napa Valley. But at least they will be shorter stays. And since I will be able to drive down in the morning, I will actually spend fewer nights away from the Homestead, Joni, the girls, the dogs, the cat, the bunnies and (soon possibly) the goat.

I used to be on a psychiatric evaluation team in Colorado. I loved that job and only left it because that hospital was shutting down their psychiatric program. Turns out I am going to get to do that again.

Good news!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Days 177,178, 179: Outdoor Bars and Howell Mountain

Been busy.

So what have my outdoor activities been? A quiet walk around St. Helena one night. The next night (after work) I parked my car at a friend's house in Calistoga and walked to an outdoor patio/bar/brewery. The outdoor activity was seeing if I could drink a pint each of their six varieties of beer. Only made it through four. Then back to the friend's house where Springer joined me to sleep in the friend's backyard, under the stars, after building a fire and opening a couple more bottles of wine. (Yes, we were both tired the next day at work).

Time to get serious about this next backpacking trip.

So yesterday I took my still grubby backpack (it has Costa Rican Rain Forest mud on it) and filled it with books. Forty pounds worth. I then parked on Meadowwood Lane (next to the fancy resort that "Dubya" stayed at one night back in 2006). I remember that night well, as the skies were patrolled by jet fighters all night. And the Secret Service checked out our ER in order to make sure we had rattlesnake anti-venom on hand in case the mountain biking Bush the Second got bit by a Pacific rattler.

I walked up Howell Mountain Road with my backpack on. I only went 1 1/2 miles up, as it is quite deserted at the top, it was at sunset, I didn't have my walking stick---and I felt like a mountain lion was watching me. Honestly. I got spooked.

Tonight I shall pick another mountain road to walk up. This time I shall bring my hiking stick. It should be good practice, as the temperature is in the triple digits these past two days.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day 176: Wendell Berry and Chicken Coops...

Dusted off my old copy of Wendell Berry's "The Unsettling of America". It seems as powerful now as it did back in 1977. I liked this passage on how we have tried (through labor saving devices and becoming a "specialist" culture) to get out of work:

"But is work something we have a right to escape? And can we escape it with impunity? We are probably the first entire people ever to think so. All the ancient wisdom that has come down to us counsels otherwise. It tells us that work is necessary to us, as much a part of our condition as mortality; that good work is our salvation and our joy; that shoddy or dishonest or self-serving work is our curse and our doom. We have tried to escape the sweat and sorrow promised in Genesis---only to find that, in order to do so, we must forswear love and excellence, health and joy".

In celebration of Berry's quote, Joni and I started work on a chicken coop. Shoddy work? No doubt.

And now off to my "specialist" job.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day 174: I Invite Stanley

Angel and I were up early and took our walk. We wanted to escape the heat.

Then I started the "human powered activity" part of this blog: made more mud plaster. While making mud, poor old McChrystal got fired. Now it seems that Stanley might have a bit of free time. He must be smarting somewhat. I know how he feels, as there have been times that I've been accused of being "insubordinate". I also know what it feels like to open my big mouth and say way, way too much.

So Stanley McChrystal, consider this your invitation to crash at this "off the grid" pad and make mud with me. You can sleep in a tent. We'd feed you. And as a psychiatric nurse, I'd be happy to help you process your feelings regarding the matter. I could use an extra hand making all this mud plaster for the walls and, soon, mud adobe for the floors.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day 173: Mariposas, Brodiaea and McChyrstal

A long summer's walk with Angel. Admiring the Mariposa lilies, the brodiaea (two varieties) and enjoying the day.

I took the day off from building and toiling. I did take the time to read the Rolling Stone article that has everyone so stirred up. Nice to see Hunter Thompson's old stomping grounds pulling off a scoop like this.

Yes, there are some nasty things said in the article. But that misses the point. The intention of the Rolling Stone piece is to look at the controversy about trying to pull off McChrystal's form of counter insurgency. Within the piece, you have soldiers asking for permission to shoot more people. You also get a glimpse into this particular counter insurgency campaign that not only embeds our troops within the Afghan population, but also leads to nation building. This is a long term, expensive and risky policy.

Or as I told Joni, Afghan kids are getting bussed to school---while our local school closed down the bus line that picks up Kylie and Jazzy.

That ain't right.

Poor Obama. The guy calls for more off shore drilling and he gets the worst oil spill in history two weeks later. Mother Jones and Alexander Cockburn raise the possibility that this spill may NEVER be stopped. It could potentially still be leaking oil when Obama runs again in 2012. Obama's presidency hangs by the efforts to stop the spill.

And now this.

Obama goes with McCrystal's counter insurgency policy after stopping for two months to study the issue last fall. Now McChrystal becomes snarky on Obama. Although that isn't surprising: McChrystal is just participating in the group think of Obama hatred prevalent within the military. They don't want anything that, even potentially, upsets the empire.

Obama, too often, backs the wrong horse. I think the universe is telling him to change directions. Pull out of Afghanistan. Stop off shore drilling. Quit listening solely to corporate and military interests. Change direction!

Allan's Note: It is always fun to log on and find a couple new "followers". Welcome!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Days 171 and 172: Guests!

The past couple of days we have been honored to have a couple of Joni's friends drop by. Tom and Kathy (and their son) are on their way (amongst other things) to run the Rogue River. Kathy wrote an excellent, beautiful guide to the wildflowers of the Rocky Mountains. If you happen to be saved while getting stuck on some mountain somewhere, the people who saved you might have done so by reviewing Tom's very successful book.

Good people! Wilderness loving, river running, mountain climbing, rappel roving, high mountain hiking enviro friends.

While here, Tom and Kathy helped us stack some bales. Tom, who is a fire fighter by trade, easily climbed the 18 foot ladder while hauling strawbales. He made it look effortless! Tom is one of those people who can tie any knot, build anything, carry anything. He also helped shore up a wall where we have neglected to put in a sufficient header. His advice is treasured!

And the conversation. Oh the conversation.

Something Kathy said last night, while we watched the stars come out, sticks with me. She feels that, really, after spending a few years in the burbs of a major metropolitan city that there is no hope that people will "get it". We are doomed. For her, hope lies in that after every major extinction event (such as we are in now), bio-diversity comes back bigger and better than before. The Earth is a Phoenix.

It just might take a few million years.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day 170: Only Eight Percent...

A walk with Angel today. Kylie and a friend out walking the dog...

"Sandra Hofferth, a professor of family studies at the University of Maryland, tracked "a long decline in time spent outdoors from 1981 through the present," she noted. About 21 percent of children ages 9 to 12 spent time in outdoor activities, such as hiking, camping or going to the beach, in 1981, compared to 16 percent in 1997. That percentage dropped again by half — to 8 percent — in 2003."

This is from the a Seattle newspaper. In addition (and quite discouraging) Hofferth monitored the outdoor habits of 12 year olds. Turns out they spend, on average, four hours and ten minutes a week outside!

I posted the quote above on Facebook. Robb Kloss (who writes a great blog from New Zealand) wrote:

"Very sad Allan, another solid indicator of our continued and growing disconnection from nature and wilderness. If our children, and the adults whom should be showing them, do not see, appreciate, taste, and feel the earth, how can we expect to save it from oil companies, mining interests, and developers when it is just an abstract thought?

Get those kids outside!"

To which I replied:

"Oh so true Robb.

I think Obama's lackluster response to the oil spill can be traced to his (and his cabinet's) lack of connection to nature and wilderness. Never trust a politician, supreme court justice, congressman or senator that doesn't strap on a backpack and head out into the wilds for a week at least once a year. Let Muir, Leopold, Krutch and Abbey be their guides.

Forget political parties. How much time do they spend outside? (and I'm not talking about woodcutting photo ops that "W" used to do or hunting--sometimes fellow hunters---on private "game" ranches like Cheney)."

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day 169: Climate Change in 1956

Off to Paradise this morning to buy some Topo maps for the next backpacking trip (gotta start training for the bugger soon!). While there I dropped in to visit "The Abbey" and the Abbot there who will be joining me on this next trip.

Then home to more puttering about the property. A nap. And a couple of lazy dog walks.

I've been reading Joseph Wood Krutch lately. Last night I ran across this passage from The Voice of the Desert, written in 1956:

"Workers in several different sciences are becoming more and more convinced that both the north temperate and the arctic climates are growing milder. A minor evidence is the way in which certain animals and birds--notably the possum, the turkey buzzard and the cardinal are extending their range into New England".

So there we have it. In 1956! Krutch was ahead of his time!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Day 166 to 168: Computer Troubles and Electrical...

The computer has been down for the past couple of days.

Outside activities? Weed whacking to get ready for the fire season. And (with an electrician's help) we managed to get the Addition wired. We have electricity in the Addition!

Now I can start working on the floor...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Days 164 and 165: Scrub Jays and Dinner...

This blog is about getting outside. Under human power. Or human powered activities outside. It is done under the simple notion that most of us just don't get outside enough. It is a way for me to get out into the environment where I live. Where I work. Where I play.

So on day 164 I did something different. This hospital has a group of Western Jays (also called Scrub Jays) that flitter about everywhere. I decided to follow them around the campus just to watch them. See what they do. How they play. Where they hang out.

Easier said than done.

They move all over the place. But after awhile, they seemed to enjoy this simple game of "chase". After following one particular Jay around a bush, parking lot, rose garden---always a bit ahead of me, but seemingly enjoying the game and waiting for me to catch up--the Jay led me to a large oak tree. From there he was content to hang out in the tree. I was content to watch. We both had fun.

I've never followed one particular bird at length before. This is something I'm gonna add to my repertoire. Especially a bird like the Scrub Jay---that has the intelligence to "get it". To play along. To enjoy the chase.

Day 165 was a simple walk around Calistoga after meeting a couple Chico friends for dinner at a wonderful restaurant. The wine flowed. Great food with a presentation that made you feel guilty to eat it. California cuisine at its best! I walked around Calistoga afterwards, sobering up after a couple glasses of delicious wine.

Ah life! Such a grand life I have!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Days 162 and 163: Bumper Stickers...

I'm in the Napa Valley--earning my keep.

Stepping on the scale Friday morning at the Monastic Dorm, I discovered I'd dropped five pounds in the last two weeks. I don't have a scale at home, so this is the one I dare step on every once and awhile. Hard work on the house has benefits!

Friday I took a walk outside of Calistoga. The Napa Valley is filled with tourists this weekend. Every square inch seems to be occupied by Yuppies in the BMW's, Jaguars and other implements of opulent consumption.

Saturday it was off to watch Springer's son play Legion baseball in Yountville, I drove past the French Laundry (gotta eat there someday) and I took a walk around the Veteran's hospital's sprawling campus. The ball field is located on the campus.

I had fun admiring the bumper stickers on pick ups and SUV's (I'll load photos of them later). Some of these bumper stickers make me pause; makes me wonder if the Oliver North Junta types within our military establishment might just try and pull off a coup if some President got too much out of line. I wonder if Obama retaining Gates as the Defense Secretary wasn't a strategic decision on Obama's part to placate the Keepers of Empire?

The sheer venom against Obama on one Marine's SUV makes me think that a patriotic coup is more than a possibility.

I used to get forwarded e-mails from a relative of Joni's who was a colonel in our military. You know, the mass produced, disinformation kind of e-mail that circulates amongst retired military people. My hunch is that some of these right wing, patriotic missives originate in a disinformation section deep in the Internet bowels of the Pentagon. I'm sure you've come across a few of these in your Inbox. They flutter about the Internet like viruses.

Walking around the lush Veteran's Home grounds, I come across a mule deer. I watch him for the longest time, and he doesn't run off until I'm only twenty feet away from him. Mule deer care nothing about empire. They don't care about some 700 plus foreign bases in 100 plus countries (China has zero foreign bases). They don't care about one trillion dollars having been spent on Afghanistan and Iraq. Deer don't care about the senseless loss of life and the plunder of treasure.

And for the moment, watching the beauty and grace of the deer, neither did I.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day 161: Chores...

I bought this place in order to have chores to do. Chores are one of those things in life that keep us alive and kicking. Keeps us out of trouble; away from the bars and other potentially negative distractions that perils adulthood.

I've moved everything out of the Addition into convenient piles outside. I've declared it Summer! The dry season.

So I moved the straw bales and insulation outside. I created a large flat surface to house stuff until I can move it all back inside again. The minute I finished, it rained!

Jazzy standing in the Addition..

And another view...

And I created a new bedroom. This will have to serve for quite awhile, as next week we will put the electrical into the Addition. Then I have to level out the floor and start the months long process of putting in an adobe floor...

But that's all for now. Off to Napa!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Days 159 and 160: Meet Abbey!

Doing chores outside the past couple of days. And playing with the new puppy we got this morning. Meet Abbey everyone! A five week old black lab.

Animal count:

One Cat: Rocky...
Two Dogs: Angel and Abbey
Two Rabbits: Shadow and Dutch
Six Chickens: to be named later (if they survive the coyotes).

Up next? A goat or two...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Day 158: I am the Mud Man...(koo koo koo koo koo chuub)

Another great day to make mud...

Today's obligatory Ed Abbey quote:

"If the world of men is as ugly, cruel, trivial, unjust and stinking with fraud as it usually appears, and it is really impossible to make it pleasant and decent, there remains only one alternative for the honest man: stay home, cultivate your own garden, look to the mountains. (Withdraw! Withdraw! Withdraw!)"

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Day 157: Flashing the Peace Sign...

More mud plaster work. I'm mudding the South wall in, what one day will be, our Family Room. I'm really liking the color of the clay walls. I'm beginning to think we will just leave the walls the natural color of the mud.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Day 156: And Then There Were Three..

Angel and I headed out to inspect how the forest is recovering from the fire of 2008. You have to admire the Ponderosa pine in the photo that survived this fire. Charred up. Burned at the bottom, but still alive.

Got word from a couple of friends that they want to join me on the Pacific Crest Trail this July. Good news! I didn't really want to do the thing by myself. Since these guys are twenty years younger than me, I better start pushing myself away from the table and start more vigorous training. Forty five days until we hit the trail.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Day 155: Ginsberg and Snyder...

It rained yesterday afternoon, last night--and again this morning. With clouds in the forecast, there is no "dry season" in sight. Since I have a couple of backpacking trips coming up (the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail), it is time to put in a bit more effort in the walking department. Angel and I took a long, long walk---amazed at the lush, green growth this late in the season.

Thoughts of "Eaarth" by Bill McKibben in this long lasting rainy season. The climate is changing and this June rain is evidence of it. Over the next twenty years, will we continue to have feast or famine when it comes to rainfall? We might be better off here in northern California, as the only glacier in the US that is growing is the one on Mt. Shasta (some 100 miles to the north).

And I finished The Selected Letters of Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder last night. Mostly I was interested in their discussion of "Kitkitdizze"--the property they owned together located around forty to fifty miles south of here in the Sierra Foothills. Gary Snyder gave me the idea to live in the Foothills. At one point, our next Governor Jerry Brown wanted to purchase the property next to Snyder and company. Seems Snyder had a good idea.

It was a long and fruitful relationship for Snyder and Ginsberg. Much of the book discusses "Kitkitdizze" and how to enjoy and make the property work. Eventually, Ginsberg sold his house on the property to Snyder. Ginsberg called his house: Bedrock Mortar.

Writers often give names to their property and houses. Witness Jack London's "Wolf House". Kitkitdizze and Bedrock Mortar follows within that tradition.

Snyder wrote of his relationship to Ginsberg in the introduction: "I made him walk more, and he made me talk more. It was good for both of us."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Day 154: Get Back...

Another day of playing in the mud. Slow progress...

Day 153: Day of Sloth...

Tried to do some mud yesterday. Ended up taking a nap and reading "The Selected Letters of Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder".

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Day 152: Cohesion and Humility

Nice weather! Finally!

Back across the state of California; home to the girls---and a walk with my dog. During my walk, I came across this oak tree which has become interwoven to a Ponderosa pine. Two species co-existing. I'm sure the Ponderosa didn't ask the oak to become part of its existence. Nor did the oak plan to become bound, like a Siamese twin, to the Ponderosa.

Before I got in my car to drive home, I came across a huge, Pick up Truck with this anti-Obama bumper sticker:

Next to the Obama sticker, is this wonderful decal calling for the protection of wildlife and of the land:

Obama just might have a career ending disaster in NOT protecting the environment. He called for more off shore drilling, then when a spill occurred, he responded in a very tardy fashion. In this case, I have a whole lot more in common with the Pickup truck driver (who also displayed a Confederate flag) than I do with Mr. Harvard himself: Obama.

A week ago or so, it was reported to me that someone was shooting at Cougars on the Ridge. I've been told that I was wrong. That (just like the Pickup Truck above) the good people were trying to scare the Cougars away (hence protecting their livestock and family). They believe a Cougar is much too beautiful of an animal to kill.

I was wrong.

And I find myself having more in common with those who may not like my politics or world-view than I ever thought possible. Oaks and Ponderosas can share a Ridge!

Adaptation and Cohesion, evident in nature--also evident in people. Our common denominator? Love of this Ridge. This land. The critters who reside here. The Fauna we share our world with.

I am humbled and encouraged by this...