Saturday, December 31, 2011

Be It Resolved

I write this in my room in the Monastic Dorm here in the Napa Valley. I've finished a shift; afterwards I went down to the Safeway and bought a bottle of Chandon Champagne Blanc De Noirs (not bad) and am celebrating the beginning of 2012---the last year on the Mayan Calendar.

Not that I believe that this is the last year for this big beautiful creation.

I am alone in this here room. Just me and the bottle of champagne. And my lap top. Two glasses down. A half hour until 2012 starts.

Time to work on resolutions. In 2012, I resolve to:

1. Get outside everyday and spend at least 1/2 hour doing something active.
2. Figure out a way to lower my carbon footprint (not drive so darned much).
3. Slow down while driving.
4. Write a book review on Amazon for every book I read.
5. Attempt to see a California Condor.
6. Go camping more.
7. Spend 21 days on the Pacific Crest Trail.
8. Learn more of the history of this splendid part of the world I live in.
9. Read 100 books.
10. Write more.
11. Work hard to un-elect Dan Logue and Wally Herger.
12. Finish this house.
13. Get a physical.
14. Get blood work done for a lipid panel and an A1C.
15. Take my vitamins.
16. Plant Fruit Trees.
17. Plant a real garden.
18. Build a coyote proof chicken coop.
19. Eat better.
20. Not eat at a Fast Food Restaurant (except to get a hot chocolate at McDonald's in order to use their free WiFi).
21. Work to live rather than live to work (I think I've got this one down).
22. Go to the ocean at least three times.
23. Visit more State Parks.
24. Build a fish pond.
25. Enjoy the year--even the things I don't like.
26. Depending upon the blood work listed in item number 14--work to reduce those numbers (cause I know they are gonna suck).
27. Add new goals as the year progresses.
28. Eat only organic and happy meat (nothing from a factory farm).
29. Be curious.
30. Learn to identify more trees, birds and flowers.
31. Build a small, private fenced area for the dogs, chickens and humans to hang out in.
32. Not be greedy.
33. Work for a Green Revolution that will promote wild space, egalitarian values, lower CO2, increase renewable energy, promote real conservative values and make sure that all non-human species also have an opportunity to pursue happiness (that includes the coyotes that share this ridge).

I think that's about enough for now. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Response to Dr. Weil...

A review of Dr. Andrew Weil's: Spontaneous Happiness

I always enjoy Dr. Weil. I've heard him speak and have had some contact with the Integrative Program that seems to be his legacy. All of this is real, compassionate and makes sense. I also am a Registered Nurse and have been working in the Mental Health field for twenty years.

I found his chapter on the prevalence (and causes of) depression within our society interesting. I especially resonate with his descriptions of the lack of connection to good old fashioned "hard work" and being outside. Bravo! His discussion of alternatives is good. Especially his advocacy of the use of Fish Oil, Vitamin D and the B vitamins. Common sense!

There are a few things that bother me about Dr. Weil. I write these things as a fan of the man. A person who respects him and the work he does.

1. I'm not too enamored with the cult of personality surrounding the guy. Yes, I know that branding helps sell books. But does he really have to display his cherubic, monster bearded face on every book he writes? And must he really have a corporation attached to his name and his ideology?

2. Footnotes please! Yes, he states you can go on-line to get more information. And there is a short end note section. The bibliography is quite deficient for further reading. The book is written for a lay audience, but that doesn't mean that we can't have a bit more intellectual rigor attached to his claims.

3. Culturally, this book comes from the White, Enviro, Suburban, BMW driving class. The book is written from, and for, the upper ends of the socio-economic ladder. Poverty is the number one predictor and cause of mental illness. There is no discussion of that in this book, with the exception to maybe glorify the hard life we used to have when we all farmed.

4. He relies too much on anecdotal evidence. I found all the letters to him tireseome. And it seemed like these letters were written from the same sorts of people that I talked about in my critique above.

5. Where are the nurses? Dr. Weil doesn't mention one nurse as an expert through out his entire book. The fact is that nursing has been way ahead of even Dr. Weil in their advocacy of the reforms he mentions. In fact, nurses have been quicker to adopt such reforms than the AMA. The Wholistic Nurses Association has been around for 35 years. Nurses have re-invented the therapeutic touch movement---with no mention of that from Dr. Weil. Dr. Weil quotes pharmacists, MD's, LCSW's, psychologists, psychiatrists---but never does he mention a nurse who is an expert. He does cite one nurse who had retired to Sweden. This letter was written not as an expert, but as a client. In short, there is a hierarchical chauvinism present in Dr. Weil's writing that discounts the talents and skills of nurses. This is a systemic problem within the health care establishment. My rule of thumb is, if you really want to know what is going on with your patient, ask an experienced nurse who is taking care of the client. You'll get better and more useful information.

6. Dr. Weil's view of anti-depressants is contradictory. He cites a study that states that SSRI's are junk; later in the book he cites evidence that people should not go off of anti-depressants. He seems to think that anti-depressants should only be used for severe depression. My view is that anti-depressants are helpful, but should be used in tandem with all the things he talks about---and even more.

But my number one critique would be that he never mentions that poverty is the number one predictor and cause of mental illness.

In short, this book is a good first attempt at reforming our mental health system. Ending poverty would do more to reduce severe mental illness in our society. Also ending the stigma of mental illness to the point where it has less unappealing stereotypes to it. If Schizophrenia was seen the same way that Grave's Disease is, then we would have made progress.Ending poverty; ending stigma: accomplish those items and then we could go along with these more natural reforms that are intended for a more narrow, less severe dysthymic disorders.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Team Albert

Got home late last night. A brief visit as I'll return to work tomorrow.

I'm sitting here in a McDonald's in Chico, sipping a vanilla shake, trying to kill time. I'm waiting for Kylie and her friend (who are dressed up in full EMO attire) while they enjoy a flick.

They, being twelve and all, weren't all that keen on me attending a Twilight Movie Number Five Thousand (or whatever it is) with them. Not that I was too keen on seeing this movie; having watched one Twilight film in the past, well, that's enough of Team Jacob or Team Albert or Team Phil to last me a lifetime.

I don't really understand what all the commotion is about teenage vampires and werewolves. Nor do I understand quite what the fascination with Bellah is. Such a wooden, humorless, drab character. And all this obsession and drama! These emotions are best left to young people; they have the energy for all that rot.

No, I don't have any desire to see another werewolf movie. An American Werewolf in London was the best werewolf movie ever made. Cheesy, funny, hokey. And also about backpacking!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Work Extra...

I got asked to stay an extra day in the Napa Valley. And so I crashed in the Monastic Dorm last night---fell asleep quickly and even slept through the constant stream of health professionals who do their very best every morning to make sure that I don't get the needed rest. Foiled them again! This time.

And so a nice leisurely walk on this hillside. The photo above is the view from the helicopter port. Beauty!

I stopped by the pharmacy and bought the supplements that Andrew Weil states are so essential: Fish Oil, B complex and some Red Rice Yeast.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


"In order for man to succeed in life, god provided him with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these two means, men can attain perfection." Plato

I read this in Andrew Weil's Spontaneous Happiness last night. And this prompts me to get out of bed after a night of very interrupted sleep and go for a walk.

People state they don't get much sleep in a hospital; the same is true for this hotel for hospital guests. My room is across the hall from the elevator---and all sorts of hospital professionals use the elevator as a short cut from the upper parking lots down to the hospital. Since the elevator was built a long, long time ago---it is clanky and loud. The cacophony starts about 6 am, and is a constant parade of health professionals from then until after 9am. Of course, all the employees and family members staying in the hotel are also stirring in those hours. The result is interrupted sleep.

I'm about half way through this new book of Weil's. I like him. I had the chance to hear him talk a few years ago when I lived in Colorado.

There does seem to be a cult of personality around him though. Anybody who has to have a picture of himself on every single book he writes must have an ego the size of New Jersey. And being a typical MD, there isn't a reference to any mental health professional who is an RN. He gathers information from other MD's, psychologists, pharmacists, LCSW's, run of the mill therapists---but nurses are no where to be seen.

We shall give the book a better look later.

Monday, December 26, 2011


Drove down to the Napa Valley last night. This morning I did something I haven't done in quite sometime: I got up out of bed and went for a walk.

I went to one of my regular haunts. The Mustard, for which the Napa Valley is famous, is already in full bloom. Caistoga, a town that I lived in for five years, has its "Mustard Festival" in March; that used to be when the height of the Mustard season was. This hardy little plant just keeps blooming earlier and earlier.

Some call it "climate change".

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Water

Christmas Day and it is nice enough to hang out clothes to dry.

After the obligatory Oyster Stew and Dungeness Crab last night, we awoke to the usual activities: starting the fire, making the coffee, feeding the dogs and bunnies and chickens. And then presents!

The girls made a haul: snowboards and parkas and snowpants and boots and knick knacks and more clothes and a Monopoly game and all  the other implements of a consumerist Christmas. Openings done. Off we go for a Christmas Walk.

This winter has been dry thus far. The Sierra have had no snow. Daytime temperatures have been in the sixties. In California, people start getting nervous when the rains don't arrive on time. Feeding and watering nearly 38 million people requires a whole lot of water. Agriculture is the number one use of water. As such, every river except one has a whole series of water storage dams which have enabled the human population to get so large. The salmon are the ones who have paid the price of all this over-development. Since the creation of all the dams beginning in the 30's, the once abundant, unique four-times-a-year salmon runs can now be numbered in the low thousands. Once they were millions. Human population growth always has a cost.

North of here, the Klamath River might just get the distinction of becoming the first free flowing river reclaimed from the dams. Of course, this will cost several million dollars and most of the residents of North Eastern California are opposed to it. I think the salmon should be allowed at least one more free flowing river. Idealistically, at least half the rivers of California should be free flowing to the sea. That's only fair.

The future? There are opportunities to remove some dams on some of the tributaries of the Sacramento River. Mostly this remains an environmentalist's dream---but maybe someday, somehow, the people will place the salmon's needs equal to other creature's. Probably this is a pipe dream; the farmer's are opposed to losing any water storage.

But one thing that could really help the salmon population is to decrease the water flow to Southern California during drought years. Getting those pumps to stop pummeling salmon fry into paste is a huge political problem though. The regulatory agencies are always besmirched by those who need the water for crops and swimming pools. And the salmon always lose.

Our water comes from a well that provides (thus far) clear, cold and tasty water.

Thoughts while walking.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve Walk with Frank Capra

Off for an early morning ramble on Christmas Eve. I pretty much finished Bill Bryson's "At Home" last night. Bryson is a good read. In this book he pretty much gives modern history as seen through the architecture of his home in England. It is hard not to read this book and not be impressed with how much we've learned over the last couple hundred years. Bryson turns the book into almost a stream of consciousness. It is fun just to sit back and watch him end up where he ends up. The section on all the critters that inhabit our homes is best not read in bed---for reasons that are obvious if you read the book.

We will be home for Christmas Eve. It's a Wonderful Life is on network television tonight (due to budget cuts in our home, we canceled our super duper cable subscription). We now have pretty much the same selection of channels that I had growing up. We will watch Frank Capra's classic. We will have Oyster Stew (and, as usual, I will be the only one to eat it).

Back in 1981, I  had the honor of meeting Frank Capra. He came to a class I was taking at the time. I was too young and stupid to fully appreciate whose hand I was shaking when I met him. I'd seen a couple of Capra's movies---but hadn't seen "Wonderful Life" yet. I do remember it was January of 1981. Ronald Reagan had just been inaugurated. Reagan's values and Capra's values were so juxtaposed. Reagan's values of greed; Capra's everyday populism and decency. Vive Capra!

With the Occupy protests, Capra's movie seems even more poignant today as it was in 1948.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas At Home...

I'll be home for Christmas...

Good to be home. I took a walk with the dogs today on our usual route. Angel is getting older now and minds much better. Abbey has turned out to be one of those dogs that just can't stand the thought of having you out of sight (or even more than a few steps away) for more than a minute or two. So Abbey always stays close by. The only exception is when Abbey flushes out a covey of quail. She is quite proud of herself when she bounds off to flush them out. Always at the same point of the walk. She runs back to me with the doggy version of an ear to ear smile.

Goals. Joni has given me permission to spend a month on the Pacific Crest Trail next summer. And so we begin to train for that. We shall get serious about this after Christmas...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

We Start Again...

I'm back.  And I'm ready to start again.

I've missed this little blog. It helps me. It reminds me to get outside everyday. It helps me get off my backside and onto the trail. It helps me process what I'm reading. It enhances my life.

And so I've decided to start this little thing back up again. What's changed in the last five months? Well, I found a doctor. This doctor wants me to do all those things that Fifty Year Old Males need to do: get the usual blood work done (A1C, Lipid Profile); have a physical (I've never had one); and get that probe thing that sticks up that part of you that you'd rather not talk about.

What else has changed? Our house is much more livable. The girls are older. The dogs are still with us. We have five chickens left of the original twelve. Our water pump is leaking. We got our propane tank filled. Pretty mundane stuff.

And all that mundane stuff will be right here. In full view. Because I'm back. Maybe not daily; but close to it.

Off we go! Angel, Abbey and I had a nice little walk in the woods.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thoreau and Cell Phones...

“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.” So wrote the rebellious wunderkind, Henri David Thoreau while he occupied his elder mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson’s property; building his much vaunted cabin there back in the 1840’s.
Or to paraphrase Thoreau—we are only as rich as the things we can live without.

Perhaps you remember reading Thoreau’s Walden back in college-- before acquiring that mortgage, car, second car, second mortgage and that LED television that takes up a wall of your two-thousand square foot house that sucks enough energy to power a small village in Latin America? Thoreau lived at the dawn of the industrial age; some 150 years before the Information age. I’ve often wondered what would good Henri David have to say about this Information age---specifically cell phones?  What would he think about 3G, 4G, texting, sexting, internet capable, photo and video publishing-to-Facebook, cell phones? Would Henri own one in order to inform Ralph Waldo that he’d be over for dinner after he was done hoeing his beans and writing that last chapter on Economy?
For myself, I don’t own one (a cell phone). Don’t need one. Don’t want one. I don’t need that extra bill.  Nor do I want the capability to spend ten minutes looking at a tiny screen, eyes straining, non-agile fingers inevitably fumbling the wrong miniscule button while trying to type out some meaningless text message about the status of my desires.  Am I old fashioned to think that a text message should have some text to it? More than 140 characters? Vowels intact?

I don’t use text speak; I see it as a fart upon the English language. I prefer my sentences to be mostly complete.  And I don’t mind if I get a message from someone that actually uses a noun, verb, direct object and some of the other finer implements of language. Hell, I even like complete words. Dnt U?
We get along just fine without the little Star Trekian communication devices. (Beam me up, Scotty!) But then again, we aren’t your normal family. We live “off the grid” dependent upon a generator and a few solar panels for electricity. We recently went three years without a hot water system, and probably would still be using a water bag lying in the sun for showers to this day, if it wasn’t for the complaints of some soon-to-be teen-aged girls who inhabit our home. One winter we had to haul water thirty yards from the well to the house when the water line froze.  It took us two years to get the money together to get a proper wood stove (our only source of heat). Not that we don’t have our luxuries: we had satellite TV and Internet years before we got our shower to work. Priorities.

Which brings me back to Henri Thoreau.  “Simplify, Simplify, Simplify”—he wrote.  Thoreau claimed he could live on six weeks of income for an entire year.  Easy to do when you squat on your friend’s property and show up for dinner at Mom’s every day. Yet, he was right about the simplify statement. And he was correct to say that we are as rich as we are capable of living without things and implements of luxuriant modernity.
The current recession/depression has forced many of us to simplify. Tighten our belts and do without. Poverty sucks when it isn’t voluntary. I wonder how bad things need to get before we part with our cell phones? Have they become one of Mazlow’s needs yet? Are Cell phones as important as food, water, shelter, sex? Have they become such a necessity that we will do anything--live on beans, hawk the wedding ring, sell plasma, give up a meal a day---in order to have one? I wonder…

Friday, October 21, 2011

Mount Harkness

From a hike up to where most of Desert Solitaire was published. After my absence from blogger, I'm having a difficult time getting something to post. This is a test.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Well, I've been writing on this thing for 2 1/2 years. Time for a break. It seems that not being able to post pictures (the USB is broken) stymies my enthusiasm to write on this thing. So, I'm going to take a sabbatical from it until either my enthusiasm returns or I get a new computer or I get this computer fixed.

Be back later.

Cheers! everyone.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Goal: SawMill Peak Lookout

A sure sign of summer: making mud plaster. I made a few batches today. Dig the clay; sift the clay; mix the clay with 1/2 part sand; cut up 1 part of straw; add one shovel full of cement; mix with water in a wheelbarrow using my favorite hoe; apply to the house.

Joni always asks me why I wait until the hot part of the day to begin work. It's simple: I like to work then. Working in hot weather might be dangerous, but I like to use that as part of my training. After all, if I'm going to be taking a 140 mile solo hike in August in the Sierra---I better be ready for hot weather.

But the hot weather training today began with my run. I tried to coax the dogs to come with me: they wouldn't budge. A doggy mutiny. They looked at me (as did Joni) like I was nuts to be venturing out into the hot afternoon sun.

Not only that, but I decided to start my assault on SawMill Peak.

SawMill Peak is about six, seven, eight miles away--straight up hill--2,400 feet above the elevation of our Homestead. At the top of SawMill Peak, there is a fire lookout. Still staffed by humans. If you continue on past the lookout, you can take Jordan Hill road down the canyon, across an idyllic bridge on the Feather River, up the other canyon, eventually leading you to the town of Magalia. There is some talk by the county to turn Jordan Hill Road into a paved evacuation route for the 30,000 people who live on the other side of the canyon from us. May that never happen! You build roads and the next thing you know, that uncivil world of civilization (7/11, McDonald's, Subway) will be opening up where once there was just a pot farmer and some mountain lion scat. Not my idea of progress.

I ran down to Jordan Hill Road and then began the ascent. Past the end of the "county maintained" road. On to the four wheel drive Jeep road. Past the first set of dilapidated trailers. My plan is to turn around at the first pot farm.

No dogs running with me, sans walking stick---a fella feels kind of exposed in this wilderness. You never know when a pot farmer's guard dog (usually a wolf mix breed or a pit bull) will greet you with barred teeth. Then there are the mountain lion: lots of them around here. And bear. One of our neighbors this morning told Joni that he's been watching a mother and cubs behind his trailer just a mile down the road from us. Momma bear with cubs makes me nervous.

I mentioned to Joni before leaving that I like to bring the dogs along as protection from mountain lion. She just rolled her eyes and sardonically said that "you are much too big for a mountain lion to kill; he wouldn't be able to drag you off the road".

Joni is so reassuring sometimes.

Not a cloud in the sky. I trundle along at a painfully slow pace up the hill. The sweat evaporates before I can see it glisten on my skin. My pores are huge---but no sweat is present. Single handedly, I am trying to increase the humidity of the Foothills. Hell, I might even trigger a thunderstorm.

After getting to the pot farm without a whole lot of mishap (and no guard dogs), I turn around. Run down the hill. And then back up the very steep hill that is our Ridge. Two neighbors drive by as I'm panting up the hill. Windows down on their cars, they want to talk. I don't. "It's steeper than it looks", I tell them. They drive off quickly, probably hoping that they won't have to stop and do CPR on me.

It took me 44 minutes and 43 seconds to complete this run.

Someday. Somehow. I'm going to run all the way to the top of SawMill Peak. A person needs to have a goal in life (or multiple goals). That's one of mine. Forget all that rot about having one and a half million dollars saved for retirement. Or forget about moving into a 5,000 square foot McMansion in a gated community---where you can socialize with lots of other anti-social rich folks. Those goals are for swine. I just want to run to the top of SawMill Peak. Say "Hi" to the Lookout Watcher. And then run home.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Running: Day Two

Shall we change the name of this blog to 365 Runs?

To the FENCE and back. 27 minutes and 4 seconds. All done during the high heat of the day (around 93 degrees). I'm dripping sweat as I write this. We have no air conditioning. The house, with its strawbale/cobb design---remains quite cool during the day. A tolerable 83 degrees or so.

And Joni and I began work on earnest on this house. We made Clay Slip all morning and have begun working on tightening up the walls. No photos. The computer still has a dead USB port so I can't download photos.

But we have decided to buy a new washer and a new laptop. Photos might return fairly soon (along with clean clothes). Lots of human comforts acquired this year: A new Wood Stove, Hot Water and soon an energy efficient washer and a new lap top. Stepping into the modern era, we are.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


At long last, I've finally done it. Time to start running again. Or at this age, weight, level of fitness: waddling.

Angel and Abbey came along. Angel on the leash. Angel instantly recognized that this is a new activity. She didn't try to stop and sniff as she normally does. She just trotted along beside me--only asking to stop twice in order to take care of some bodily functions. Abbey was a bit more confused. I run too fast for her to trot, but too slow for her to run. She criss crossed my path, creating a doggy hazard. We only collided twice.

And so my time to the FENCE was 27 minutes and 53 seconds. Painfully slow.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Ranked 2,921,408

Back from four days of work in the Napa Valley. Hot as can be here. And quiet (the girls are gone visiting).

Since I write a whole lot about books I've read, I decided to post some of the items on Amazon. My book review ranking has climbed by 2 million spots over the last week. That doesn't take much: only two people have liked my reviews. One person didn't. (Giving me a much below average of 66 percent.)

So there are almost three million people out there who are more popular in writing reviews than I am. You can find the book reviews here.

Over the next week I hope to dig out more reviews and post them on Amazon. My goal: to break the One Million mark on the reviewer list! Oh, vanity.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Scenario...

A short walk in the woods today with the dogs. Did the small loop. Along the way, we came across a dead mouse on the trail. How did the mouse die? Why didn't something eat it? Ants were devouring the fairly fresh corpse.

In my mind's eye, I constructed a scenario: The mouse was bit by a rattler. Before the rattler could eat the mouse, a hawk snatched the rattler. Diner became dinner. The mouse then died on the trail--only to be discovered by the ants. Oh the good fortune of those ants!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Nineteen Minutes Forty-Five Seconds...

Gosh, I miss the pictures. The USB port on this early 2000's model computer is not working. I blame the Eleven year old in this household for the problem.

Down the Canyon with the dogs today. We went half the way down to the oak tree. The temperature has turned a bit warmer. Poor Abbey, wearing her black fur coat, is getting a bit tired (and hot) with these Canyon jaunts. She just runs from shade tree to shade tree, quickly digs into the cooler dirt, lies down. Panting.

My new thing is to not stop while I hike up the steep Canyon. We hike down. Rest for five minutes. And then we climb to the "Fence" (the fence that inspired the Mother Earth News bit). No stopping allowed during the climb. I timed myself today: 19 minutes and 45 seconds to climb half the Canyon.

Of course I am in no shape to spend 12 days on the PCT next month. Looks like we shall get into shape on the trail. Lately, I've been considering taking Angel with me.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Chicken McNuggets

Back in Concow.

Did my normal hike down the canyon to the big oak tree. The dogs in tow. Saw a coyote. The coyotes have been quite active lately. Yipping and hollering at dusk---I think they celebrate when they catch dinner. Speaking of which, they managed to get another chicken: down to nine now. Chicken McNuggets for God's Canine. Coyote fastfood.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fire Season by Philip Connors

Raining today. Not a day for fire. I'm spending a soggy day in the Napa Valley, waiting at the library, before heading into work.

For the first time in my life that I'm aware of, the Internet got me to purchase something through a pop up ad. Fire Season intrigued I ordered it from Amazon and had a look at it.

The New York Times loved the book. I ripped through the thing in two nights. I found much in common with the author Philip Connors. He was raised in Minnesota. He went to work for a couple years at the Wall Street Journal. He gave all that up to marry a girl and move to New Mexico to become a Fire Lookout. Idyllic.

I couldn't help but like the writer. Although I wasn't as impressed with his sense of "voice" as the New York Times review, and I wished the book was a bit more detailed regarding the ecology of fire in the west (although many think the book is too tedious on these points)---I found the book to be highly readable. Entertaining. Inspiring.

Almost all nature books since Thoreau organize themselves by a time-line. From Krutch's "The Desert Year" to Abbey's "Desert Solitaire" to Muir's "First Summer in the Sierra Nevada" to Jack Turner's "Teewinot". A well worn tradition, easily mined; makes sense. Fire Season does the same.

However, there is too much hype around this book. The list of writers on the back cover who praise it make me wonder if they actually read it. But perhaps that is too harsh. Fact is, we need more books like this. More books that encourage people to get outside; live a dream; say good bye to city life in order to experience the extraordinary ordinariness of a season outside the city limits.

The writer borrows frequently from Abbey. From Thoreau. From Leopold. From Muir. From the environmental commons---and I do not fault the writer for that. We all should borrow from these guys because they teach us HOW to live. They don't report: they experience!

And so I give the book a solid endorsement, not so much because the book is exemplary in its style or writing (nobody could make text sing like Abbey). I endorse the book in what it does: brings the reader into the wilderness if only for a season.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bears and Sleeping Bags...

Visitors here the past few days. One of my favorite things to do when we have guests is to trudge down to the bottom of our canyon. Yesterday, we did that. Along the way, I was happy to see a couple piles of bear dung. Those bruins aren't extirpated yet! Despite hostilities from a couple of neighbors (a bear was shot a couple months ago by a family on a different ridge), the bear are still here.

Which leads me to that rascal dog Abbey.

I've been cleaning out our Addition, getting ready to put in a floor. While doing that, Abbey found some garden supplies that I had put within her reach. She investigated and found a bottle that must have delighted her nose. Without me seeing her, she took the bottle as her prize.

So, of course, the place to take this mystery bottle is onto our bed. Because of guests, we are using my favorite sleeping bag for a cover. Abbey plopped herself down on this sleeping bag and managed to chew the cap off the bottle.

Out came the contents: a thick sludge of the most vile, disgusting goo imaginable. This spread across the sleeping bag in a large puddle reminiscent of the Love Canal.

What was in the mystery bottle, you might ask?

Concentrated Fish Emulsion for the garden.

What is the one thing you wouldn't want to have spilled on your favorite sleeping bag in bear country? I had to think long and hard about this---and frankly---I can't think of anything else that would be worse to have spilled on your bag. I don't think I can ever sleep in the backcountry in this sleeping bag ever again. Despite washing the bag, I will never trust that the Fish Emulsion truly washed out. Bears have incredible olfactory systems: my sleeping bag is now bait.

And I'm the Kracker Jack surprise...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

AWOL and Kylie's Plea...

Okay, so I've been AWOL for a bit. A sabbatical.

I brought my bike with me to the Napa Valley. Got a fancy new bike carrier. Now, in the morning, I can take a bike ride. The only problem is that I'm tempted to stop at wineries for a taste or two---but I can't do that: I have to work in the afternoon. Damned Discipline!

So besides a few bike rides, I got a room here at the Monastic Dorm in which the television was on the blink. This contributed to me reading Barry Lopez excellent: "Of Wolves and Men". This is the updated classic from 1979. A wonderful read! I also re-read "Desert Solitaire". I've been studying this book in order to make a visit to the fire tower in Lassen National Park where Abbey claims to have written 75% of the book. I also took another gander at Leopold's "Sand County Almanac".

On top of that I wrote a first draft of a piece on Climate Change, the 2008 Concow Fire and Assemblyman Dan Logue. I like it so far; if the rascal reads okay (and if Joni approves), I think I will shop it around a bit.

And I just got this e-mail from Kylie regarding a BB Gun:

Can i getta bb gun pppplllllllllzzzzzzzzz?!? Im not gna shoot anybody or anything exept targets and everybody watching will have 2 be behind me while im shooting and i wont get the gun out when im mad and it will just be 4 target practice and i rly rly rly want 1 and ill be rly rly rly rly rly careful with it and PPPPLLLLLLZZZZZ?!?!?!?!?! Ill make sure that noboy ever gets hurt with it and u can take it back if sum1 duz so plz and nobody will be around me while im using it and i rly rly rly rly rly rly rly rly rly rly rly rly rly want 1 so plzzzz and u can make any rules about it u want and i rly rly rly rly rly rly rly rly rly rly rly rly rly rly rly rly rly rly want 1 and if i get 1 i wont ask 4 anything 4 a long long long time and ill be happy and ill be nice 2 jaz and pppppllllllzzzzz?!??!?!??!?!?!? PPPPPLLLLLLZZZZZZ?!?... Btw plz means please and rly means really and btw means by the way
Text speak---the ruination of the English language. So, do you think I should get her a BB Gun?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Thoreau and Passing the Torch

Last night while doing an assessment on the cardiovascular unit, I looked around at a gaggle of nurses. It was the traditional chaos time known as "change of shift". Nurses giving reports to the oncoming night shift RN's.

It struck me then: I'm the oldest one on the unit!

I looked around at this new generation of competent nurses. All of them under 30 years of age or so. All of them looking fresh and clean and full of idealism.

Passing the torch. Watching them preparing to work hard to provide care to patients who are more my age than theirs, well, it was a little humbling. Not only that: It was exciting! Thoreau didn't have much good to say about his elders (which always made me wonder how Emerson felt about that?). I wonder if these youthful nurses have the same ideology towards me?

The world has changed for them. They all have their Smart Phones; they can whiz through a totally incomprehensible computer program they make us use---without any difficulties. They can stay up later, get less sleep, push harder than I can. Ah, youth!

And they are friendly. Frankly, I don't think they do have cynicism towards the older nurse. What they do have is a love of technology. A literacy in the computer age that is theirs. And not so much mine.

Passing torches. These kids may have more electronic gadgets; what they don't have is space. Wilderness. Or a love of the same. They miss out on much. Yet, not all hope is lost. They seem willing to learn. To explore. They are open to new ideas.

As we pass the torch to a new generation, perhaps we should be doing this on the hiking trail? We outdoor advocates need to take the younger ones outside. Have them leave the damned electronics at home and get on the trail with these enthusiastic kids. They will listen. They aren't as obtuse about wisdom like we were when we were thirty. They crave experience. All they need is someone to present the idea to them.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


A walk with the dogs this morning. Swimming with the girls this afternoon. We went to a place on the middle fork of the Feather River--fifteen minutes away---along the canyon but still under the influence of the giant reservoir. Of course, it is a travesty that they flooded this canyon in order to provide water to southern California. Yet, it is there; might as well enjoy it.

Joni and I have lucked into settling in an undiscovered, little-known treasure of a very natural segment of California. The beauty is amazing.

Plans for some form of double occupancy floatation device (canoe, raft?) so that Joni and I can spend twenty years exploring the canyon.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


A work day today. Still trying to get the chicken coop ready to go. No photos though---as something is either wrong with my computer, or my camera.

Do any of you share a computer with a Nine year old? An Eleven year old? I do. This is an exercise in frustration the likes of which can only be likened to a Tea Partier and a Wellstonian Liberal trying to hammer out tax policy. Children's gaming sites are great places to catch a cold (a virus). And now, with a certain Eleven year old's brand new cell phone and Mplayer, or whatever you call them, all sorts of mysterious things occur on this computer. Downloads and Youtubes and games and "cool" stuff. A new "Nook" also competes for attention. USB ports all aflutter.

And, of course, now my stuff doesn't work. I think I'll buy a laptop. That way I won't blame the youngsters of this household when their stuff works and my stuff doesn't.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Cleaning Goat Compost and Moving Stuff

Oh those chickens. We had an idea to turn part of our shed (which is a ramshackle building) into a chicken coop. The problem? One of the prior owners had kept a goat in there. Hasn't been cleaned out for years. Plus my pile of wood, excess building supplies, old satellite dish, pipes, steel rods, tin and lord knows what else, is in the way of where we want to the chickens to happily wander within an enclosed fence.

So I moved the pile--winnowing it down, while Joni heroically cleaned out the goat compost. Of course, we didn't get the thing built. Soon.

Properties that get over-run with piles of stuff annoy me. So many properties have seven cars in various forms of disrepair lying around. Piles here. Piles there. Time for me to clean up my property.

Now that the weather has turned warm, we are enjoying getting to work on creating this little piece of heaven that has been entrusted to us.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hot Water!!

After 1,080 days without running water to the kitchen, nor hot water to anything, nor a shower that operated---we replumbed the house and installed a propane hot water system. Yes, sort of a sell-out to not use solar. One project at a time. And yes, I hired a couple of plumbers to put in the system. I mostly watched, grabbed tools and tried to not get in the way. Everything works! Jazzy has dibs on the first shower.

The weather has turned, finally, to a decent temperature. Time to get some work done around here! It is absolutely glorious to be outside now after the longest rainy season I have ever endured.

And the coyotes got Big Bird. Big Bird wasn't really an endearing chicken. She must have been one of those industrial chickens because she grew so very fast and her body was so big she could hardly walk. A good meal for the coyotes and their pups.

The coyotes got another one of our red chickens. We are down to ten. The project for tomorrow is to build a Fukoshima style chicken pen.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Friday, June 3, 2011

Edwin Way Teale

While waiting for new tires for my car, I dropped into a used bookstore that is going out of business. Twenty-five cents a book!

And so I picked up a bunch of enviro classics: an old book by Paul Hawken where Paul looks like a very young Preppy from the early 80's; A couple copies of A Sand County Almanac; some old Sierra Club books on wilderness (from those halcyon days of the early 70's) written by David Brower. And the book above on taking a daily walk by a naturalist I've never heard of before. This is a guy who wrote about taking a daily walk in 1978.

I guess I'm not original. Different generations strike the same themes all over again. Ed Abbey borrows from Joseph Wood Krutch who borrowed from Thoreau. In a sense, there is nothing wrong with that. The classics need to be updated for ever newer generations.

Waiting for the car to be fixed, I opened A Sand County Almanac and read how Aldo Leopold despised consumerism. In 1948. Geese, give me the problems of 1948 instead of the ones of 2011. What would Aldo think now?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Coyote Counting Coup?

With some 64 days left before I begin a 140 mile Pacific Crest Trail Adventure (probably done solo this year), I took the dogs down the canyon for my training walk. Teddy, the neighbor's dog (not pictured above), usually waits in his yard for us to pass by. Then, he joins us. Today was no exception.

When we got to the turnoff to go down the Canyon, a coyote crossed my path about twenty feet in front of me. Our eyes locked and I was reminded of that famous "green fire" passage from Aldo Leopold's famous encounter with a Mexican wolf. This coyote was huge. The fur was quite thick with a grayish, reddish appearance. Just then I looked to my right: Teddy and Angel were chasing another coyote. This time Teddy managed to jump on the coyote's back before the triad ran off into the woods.

Oh, oh.

Abbey didn't run off after them as she was busy rolling in something stinky right next to me. I called Angel--and thankfully, she came running back. Eyes happy. Tongue hanging out of her mouth. Adventure!

We continued down the Canyon. Two coyotes getting that close to a man and three dogs seemed strange. I walked down to my customary this-stage-of-training-and-it-is-cold-and-raining turnaround spot. Back up the Canyon.

When we got around 75 yards from the top of the Canyon, where the coyote encounter was, I was wondering if we might see the coyotes again. The dogs were just off to my side, sniffing something, when we were charged by a coyote!

Yes, charged by a coyote!

The coyote bounded out of the woods just a few feet away and ran smack into Teddy. No biting. No snarling. Just an ambush. All three dogs were together just a few feet apart. The coyote barraged into Teddy, shocking all of them, and then turned around and ran off. Counting coup?

This time Teddy, Angel and Abbey tore after the brave coyote. I called out to them, worried that Angel and Abbey are no match for a canine that actually has to kill things in order to live.

Abbey came back first--followed by Angel just a few seconds later. Relief.

I'm thinking that the coyotes have a den near this spot--hence their efforts at luring the dogs away from the area. Coyotes, like wolves, have litters dependent upon the food supply of the area. Given the large size of the coyote that tried to lure me into the woods, I'm thinking there might be a good sized litter close by.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Rain and Jesus Radicals

Back across California last night. A walk in the rain with the dogs today. It is cold. Wet. When will this summer start?

One of the guys who went on the PCT with me last year had a piece printed on a website dedicated to "Jesus Radicals". Jason is a good guy. I appreciate his views. You can read his piece here.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Abbey's Glasses

Doing my whirlwind visit to the Napa Valley. A walk this morning in the rain. Yes, rain! Again!

And that rascal pup! Last Saturday night, our newest black lab, Abbey, decided to chew up my refurbished, ultra-expensive, five hundred dollar, wire rim glasses. I brought them into the eye doctor today to have them pieced back together one more time. Under warranty. This time Abbey was resourceful: she snuck into my slightly open night drawer next to the bed and pulled the glasses out. At least she didn't do the same to my wallet.

This is the second time in a month that Abbey has decided to chew up my glasses. She is a chewer. Shoes are her favorite---but, at least, she has the good sense to chew up the girl's shoes and leaves my shoes alone. Teaches the girls planning; it is tough to outsmart a dog.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Eiger Dreams

A day of chores: laundry, shopping and now grilling a leg of lamb. The lamb will be accompanied by a 2008 Charles Krug Cabernet. Plus corn on the cob and mashed potatoes. Heaven!

Finished Krakauer's Eiger Dreams last night. Mountaineering folk tend to be a little too adrenalinish for me. However, Krakauer is always a good read. This older work by him, although more immature in its scope, doesn't disappoint. Especially memorable are his chapters on being trapped in a tent and also his solo climb of the "devil's thumb" in Alaska.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Unknown Flower

Down the canyon with the dogs. Another cold and rainy day.

Third Graders are fun. The other day Jazmine came home to say that she had to do a report on a famous person. She was given a list of names by her teacher. She chose John Muir. Atta girl!

But not even Joni could identify the flower above. Can someone save me the effort of looking through these gosh darned flower books to identify it?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Democrat Petting Zoo

Down to Chico today to sit at the Butte County Democratic Party's booth at the fair. I sat across from a guy giving a cooking demonstration (the indoor grill). Across the way, a couple were selling hats. Since it is unusually cold and I had the first shift, I wasn't too busy. Just a few polite people dropped by to buy bottled water (which I really wasn't too happy about selling--but then again, this is the Democratic Party and not the Green Party).

The information was appropriately lefty enough for me to feel comfortable sitting there. "Medicare for All" and" Bring the Troops Home" signs. We also had some information on the State Bill which advocates a single payer system in California (it has a good chance of becoming law).

What we didn't have was a sign up list. No e-mail list. No flyers for our monthly meetings. No upcoming actions. No information on the Neanderthal Congressman Wally Herger or the Climate Denier State Assemblyman Dan Logue. Nothing to get the people fired up; nothing to get people connected to the party in this most Republican of Districts.

In short, I felt like an exhibit in a museum. "And here is a living, breathing Democrat--an endangered species around here. Note the pony tail." Joni called the booth a "Democrat Petting Zoo". Only they didn't feed the animal.

Next year we will do a better job.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Beer for the Tillerman...

Spent the afternoon with my new Tiller. Stage one in getting that garden ready to go. Thinking about Aldo Leopold and these words of his that Larry sent to me today:

"We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bullock's Oriole

Back from work. Looks like we have some new guests on our property. Both a male and a female Bullock's Oriole have been spending time at our bird feeder. Since these birds nest in the summer, I'm hoping they have decided to move in for the season. Bullock Orioles are considered common, but their numbers have been declining in recent years. This is a colorful bird. Beautiful. They winter in the south part of Mexico and also some Central American countries. No visas required for these avian guests.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Guest Room

Finally finished the weed whacking today. Now we are ready for the fire season. What you are looking at above is a space I cleared for a guest room. A place to throw your tent! I even cleared out all the poison oak. Nothing but the best for those who visit Concow!

I took the dogs down the canyon today. I'm getting into more summer conditioning: it was easier to climb out of the gorge. Noticeably easier.

And now, after owning this place for nearly four years (and living here for three years), we have a hot water heater on order. We decided to go with conventional propane--plans are to tie a solar hot water heater into it later. This is a "pay as you go" process. The girls, who have been taking bucket baths for three years, asked that the next project we get done was to have a luxurious shower. Joni looked at me the other day, eyes pleading, and said that it had been 1 1/2 years since she has taken a shower. She wants to go someplace and just stand in a shower and drain the hot water system.

Next week she should be able to do that.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Calistoga Commons...

After a night of "guerrilla sleeping"---which meant I didn't get a room at the hospital and had to throw my sleeping bag down, clandestine style, in a place not to be mentioned, I took a walk in downtown Calistoga, enjoying the "commons" of a quaint downtown. And then off to the library commons on this rainy day.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Cedar, State Parks and Peak Oil

Today I noticed this Cedar that survived the 2008 fire. I looked everywhere for another Cedar, but couldn't find one. The tree is burned about thirty feet up its rather large trunk. It survived.

Some bad news and some good news: California is set to close about 70 State Parks in September. 70 out of 250. State Parks are essential for outdoor recreation and outdoor education. My Mom and Dad used to load up the trailer to drag me off camping to a couple of State Parks back in Minnesota. I didn't mind; not too much anyway. Mom and Dad bribed me with soda (all I could drink) and there were other kids to hang out with and hiking trails to explore. And the beauty of the Driftless area. It made me fall in love with State Parks.

Now other kids won't get that chance to be bored at their families behest. A shame. Another blow to the Commons (I'll write about that on another post).

And now the good news: Richard Heinberg stated in a commencement speech that oil production has been flat since 2006, despite record oil prices. He sees this as an indication that oil has peaked and we will soon begin the downward slope. Good news!

You can read his speech here. He was the alternative speaker to the President of Exxon (who gave the regular commencement address at this college). It is a good read.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Climate Change: Hard Sell...

The girls made me a chocolate chip cookie, complete with strawberry/cookie dough eyes and ears.

Been walking the dogs the past couple of days. Thinking about my reading. Within the last few weeks I've read Mark Hertsgaard's book: Hot and Paul Gilding's book: The Great Disruption. I've been boning up on climate change mainly because of the backlash against it by the Republican Party.

Paul Gilding is a former Greenpeace International President turned business consultant and now professor. Essentially, his story is one of an activist who got tired of sleeping on people's couches---who found a way to make a living being a "green" consultant. He is a bit maligned in Radical Enviro circles because of his jump from Greenpeace to Du Pont. Enviros have revolving doors too.

Hertsgaard is a veteran journalist whose best book is on the Beatles. In "Hot" he takes the family angle: wondering what the world will be like for his young daughter in the year 2060?

The problem with climate change is that it is so nebulous that denial is easy. How can one get upset about sea level rise, when thus far, it has only been 2 to 3 millimeters a year? So far, we haven't paid the price of a warming climate in North America, hence, it isn't a problem. People like Gilding, Hertsgaard and McKibben are seen as Chicken Little.

Gilding's answer is that the world will move on the issue when the first major catastrophe happens. This will be more than likely an extended drought in America's bread basket. He predicts this will happen in the next ten years. He expects that a billion people will die. Cheerful.

As I write this, the Mississippi is in flood. New Orleans is threatened again. The weather is cold; we might have snow tonight. Unheard of. A swarm of F4 and F5 tornadoes ravaged the south in April while Texas is in extreme drought and had record setting fires. The bark beetle has taken out millions of acres of coniferous forest in the west.

But Gilding is right: it doesn't look like we will summon the political will to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere until the first major calamity happens. All the rallies and educational projects mean nothing until we are affected directly. That means food supply. Seeing as climate change is projected to mostly impact agriculture and forestry--that might happen sooner rather than later.

The reality is that climate change will not be seen as a problem until it is a problem. Until then, expect more of an anti-enviro backlash from those who believe that the engine of growth and the carbon economy bring the greatest amount of prosperity.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Lost Post

Blogger seems to have lost my last post about the Evening Grosbeaks...weird.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Evening Grosbeaks...

After four adventure filled days working, I drove home late last night. The last two weeks we've had a flock of Evening Grosbeaks at our bird feeder. This beautiful bird has a voracious appetite: Joni and I have to fill the feeder daily with sunflower seeds to keep these marvelous birds happy. I don't mind. I like sharing our "commons" with the birds and critters. I'm happy to work a bit to feed these lovely companions.

The Evening Grosbeak lives mostly in coniferous forests through out the United States. The only place you won't find them is the deep South (for which, we have to admire these fine birds). They've extended their range lately to many parts of the Eastern United States because of reforestation there. Whereas they've done well as a species and are considered not endangered, hardcore birders report that their numbers have been down over the last ten years. Nobody knows why or to what extent this is a problem.

The dogs and I took a reunion walk today down the canyon. Ah, home!

Friday, May 6, 2011


Down the canyon with the dogs today. Time to start training for my big hike in August. I've decided to do a 140 mile segment of the Pacific Crest Trail from Donner Pass to Belden. This is a lesser traveled part of the PCT. The good thing is that there are opportunities (two of them) for burgers and beer along the way (without too much trouble). Plus the take out place at Belden has a bar and food.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Swimming Hole

Joni and I hiked down to the swimming hole today. We let the dogs swim and then bushwhacked our way back up the ridge to our home. Got a little bloodied through the bramble...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The End is Near...

Slept on a couch at the hospital last night. Couldn't get a room. A class this morning and then back to Concow. I've been driving by this sign for months (in Oroville). I finally stopped to take a photo.

It is our first 90 degree Fahrenheit day. Hot.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Morning in America

Hanging out at Springer's, having a barbecue, Springer's son poked his head into the backyard to let us know Osama was dead. We moved the barbecue inside to monitor the events and watch Obama deliver the news.

Good. Bin Laden had it coming.

Took me full circle the last ten years of my life. I watched the planes slam into the WTC in Grand Junction, Colorado. It was my first night in that city---as I'd just moved there from Reno, Nevada. Since I had some time off, I hopped in the car the next day and took a week to do a big circuit of the Southwest. When I got to the Hoover Dam, they wouldn't let me drive across it. Those first few days after the attack on the WTC, it felt like the world had changed forever.

Now it has changed again; that's how it felt watching Obama with my colleagues. Perhaps now we can end the wars and go back to having a "peace dividend". Perhaps now we can go about the business of constructing a Green society. Perhaps now we can enjoy a new morning in America

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Work Season Begins...

The work season has begun! Today's task: weed whacking. Been awhile since I've actually done physical labor. The last time we've actually done any work around here was when we put in our wood stove the end of December. So, after a day of making the house safe for the fire season, my muscles are sore.

Best to think of Wendell Berry while doing this sort of work. How sacred it is. How wonderful to be outside, enjoying the land...

Friday, April 29, 2011

Off The Grid...

Took my normal walks with the dogs the past couple of days. Walking along this "off grid" community and all the characters that inhabit this place. The past couple of days I've also read Nick Rosen's "off the grid" with the long subtitle of: Inside The Movement For More Space, Less Government And True Independence In Modern America.

The book is readable; mostly it is a travelogue of Rosen's travels across America, visiting "off grid" people. Rosen also was looking for a place to settle down himself. A place to live "off the grid".

In many ways, the book isn't very satisfying. Some of the folks he writes about don't live off the grid. Some of the characters are downright weird. Many "off griders" didn't allow him to write about them (seems to be an inherent paranoia amongst off griders).

Rosen states 500,000 Americans live off the grid for various reasons. Rosen attributes much "off grid" living to the marijuana industry. The growing and cultivating cannabis in remote locations led to the movement (in his eyes). And Rosen is quick to share a joint with those he visits.

But how does his experience compare to my own? Frankly, he is pretty right on. In this neighborhood we have the pot growers, religious zealots and Rush Limbaugh lovers. People do want to be left alone and government is something to be hated, despised, feared. This ridge is no community of Eco-Socialists. No.

From my experience, Rosen's visits with the pot growers, religious fanatics, rednecks and Birther/Truther Paranoids is right on. Something I didn't expect when we bought this cabin in the woods.

Two chapters stand out and are worth reading. His chapter on the development of the Grid is noteworthy. His last chapter where he gives a defense of "off griders" also is worth reading. Although Rosen does amble into the climate change denier club for a bit within the last chapter, his defense of rural, off grid living is both eloquent and poignant.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Doggy ESP....

A long walk down the Canyon today. Happy dogs escorting me.

I drove home last night. Joni decided to have an experiment with the dogs. Normally, she tells them when I'm coming home. Angel, when she does this, waits up for me, sitting by the window--watching the driveway.

Last night Joni didn't tell the dogs. She went outside the script. Around midnight Angel got restless and woke Joni up. Angel has a low pitched growl that she gives when she wants something. Joni was asleep and resisted Angel's pleas. Angel would have nothing of it. "Get up!", Angel growled. This all happened about a half hour before I got home.

So Joni dutifully got up and took Angel outside---just in time for me to pull into the driveway.

"I swear Angel knows when you are coming home" , Joni told me. I agree. How does Angel know these things? Does Joni put out some pheromone when I get close? Does she hear the Yaris some twenty miles away? A mystery.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter and Spring...

Doing the work thing. Rain over the last few days with finally some sun this morning. I announced to my colleagues yesterday that I am declaring today as the end of the rainy season. No more. Time to have it over!

But are you getting outside, Allan? Yes. Daily walks with clients. What a job! Off into the woods to look at a babbling creek. They pay me for this?

I got a guidebook for the John Muir Trail (which I plan to do the summer of 2012). Waiting for me at home is a guidebook to the northern California section of the Pacific Crest Trail. I had a copy before, but seem to have misplaced it. The replacement waits for me at home.

With warmer weather finally here, it is time to plan and scheme the next few trips into the wild.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day 2011

Teddy, the neighbor's dog (in the photo above), joined us on our two hour walk this afternoon. Down the canyon----thinking about Earth Day.

The Earth was alive with life today: vultures overhead, wild turkey in the brush (Abbey tried to follow them, but panicked and trotted back), deer print everywhere, new flowers in bloom. "Learn the flowers", I hear John Muir say. Wish I could. Every year I look at the new blossoms, take a photo of them and head back home where Joni tells me what they are. She rolls her eyes at me, not believing that I could forget the same flower she taught me the year before. I'm terrible learning languages and even more terrible at learning the flowers.

Earth Day is a day worth celebrating. A good day to take stock of the Earth, write a check to your favorite environmental organisation and dig out that new guide book.

So how to honor the Earth for the next year? Give more money away, live more simply, take a daily walk outside, learn a new flower, drive less, buy less. Live more.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Time flies. Another work stint done and now I'm home. The oaks are leafing out (two to three weeks behind the Napa Valley). Hiked halfways down the canyon again today. Temperatures are still cool and the rain has been intermittent.

Since I've lost my favorite Pacific Crest Trail book, I ordered another one from Amazon. I've also received several books that I'm in the process of devouring right now. The current book I'm reading is Nick Rosen's study of living "Off the Grid". It makes me look at my own motivations for having adopted this lifestyle. Makes me think.

And my Assemblyman (and my favorite Climate Change Denier), Dan Logue is in the news again. This time he led a delegation to Texas in order to study their business climate. Of course, while he was there, massive wildfires broke out in a fashion never seen before. The real climate overtook Dan Logue's exploration of the business climate. Texas has been experiencing a drought while just a few states away, record numbers of tornadoes crushed the deep South. Not to mention all those floods in the Midwest. Seems ironic that Texas would experience this wrath of nature while the Proposition 23 writer and lead Republican Climate Change Denier, Dan Logue was leading lawmakers to the Mecca of Texas.

I couldn't help myself but point out the irony on Dan Logue's Facebook page. Speak truth to power.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Poppies and Taxes (that are too low)

This is our neighbor's dog--who came along for a hike down the canyon this morning. I found a few California poppies in bloom. The spring flowers are all starting to show up. Beautiful!

As if to substantiate my post yesterday about the cell phone becoming the new dog, I watched a NERD TV show yesterday (on CSPAN's Book TV) that had a guy who stated the same thing in a recent book. Essentially, we used to be connected with biology but now it is technology. Nice to have some confirmation.

And Joni and I struggled through our taxes this afternoon. I know that a person probably shouldn't write about taxes. A person, especially, shouldn't write that they aren't paying enough in taxes. But, alas, that is the circumstance for Joni and me.

On $63,000 of income last year, we paid $1,500 to the Federal Government and $500 to the State of California. We were helped out by a tax credit for our new woodstove. We also write off all my travel expenses for my job (a per diem rate for food for the Napa Valley and also my lodging). Turns out that our household paid only 3.17 percent total, for both State and Federal taxes.

Moral quagmire: should I redo the taxes to pay more?

Yes, I would if our taxes actually provided universal health care for all. And I would if so danged much money didn't go to the military. We actually could have made our tax return such that we wouldn't pay any taxes (I didn't claim my mileage). Technically, I could do that. I didn't. It's called sharing.

Commments? Discussion? Derision? Hoots and Hollers of disgust?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Through the Nose

Joni brought home a book the other day: Inside Of A Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know by Alexandra Horowitz. I read half of it last night. I took a walk with the dogs this morning with a new found respect for these canine companions of mine.

I went slow and let the dogs use their noses to enjoy the forest. You see, dogs mainly experience the world through their noses. It is their way of seeing the world. A dog's nose is how they confirm that you are you: they need to smell you. They also can tell, by their noses, when you are sick. Or lonely. Or anxious.

Horowitz believes that dogs have been living with humans much longer than the generally accepted 12,000 to 14,000 years. Her evidence is found in mitochondria, whereby the first split from wolves occurred around 140,000 years ago.

Horowitz doesn't say this, but I will: This beneficial relationship between dogs and humans allowed both species to thrive. We are meant to live with dogs. In fact, to not have a dog is not human. Think of dogs in the past as the way people view cell phones today. Cell phones have replaced dogs as our constant companions. Cell phones are the new dogs.

I'd rather have a dog.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Last Season...

The dogs and I headed out for a slow, longish walk today. Another day of a rainy mist. Cloudy and cool. This Spring has been wet and cold. The Scotch Broom is blooming. That's the yellow flowered bush on the left side of the photo above. Scotch Broom is an invasive that is taking over California. An awful, piggish plant; we pull it up in order to keep it off our property.
I finished reading Eric Blehm's "The Last Season" last night. This book chronicles the life of Randy Morgenson, who spent 28 seasons in the high Sierra as a backcountry seasonal ranger.

When it comes to books, the life experience of the reader is as important as the book's content. Since this book, unnecessarily, tries to set up a conflict of whether the ranger's death was a suicide or not, well, to me this hook cheapens the book. And cheapens the value of Randy Morgenson's life.

Morgenson disappeared in the summer of 96 when he was starting his 28th season. He was in a low point of his life, having had an affair in the summer of 94 which destroyed his marriage and led to divorce papers. Much of the book reads like a morality play regarding this event in the park ranger's life. Take care that if you are going to disappear on the trail that your life is sunny at the time, and not in one of those inevitable challenging episodes. If you are in a challenging time, the book written about you might not celebrate all the good you've done. No. The book will try to psychoanalyze you as to whether your unfortunate, mortal slip on a rock was a suicide.

Yes, people do have more accidents when depressed. I agree. But to wander through 400 pages of Randy Morgenson's life with the main question being: "Was it a suicide?" bothers me. This guy was a hero. Seasonal rangers don't come back for 28 years because this is a job that has no future. You don't get benefits. No retirement. Low pay. And damned hard on any relationship to be away for six months of the year.

Do we celebrate the fact that Randy's marriage lasted 25 years with this sort of half time relationship? No. But I write this as a psychiatric nurse. As someone who doesn't think that a person's life should be narrowed down to what the last crises has wrought in a person's psyche. People have a hard time handling change. True. All are vulnerable. But I find much more interest in Randy Morgenson from the life he lived, and not by what his relationship status was when he died.

Randy Morgenson was a friend of Ansel Adams. A friend of Wallace Stegner. He was the expert on the backcountry along the John Muir Trail. He lived his life out of love for the wilderness. Nice to get to know the guy through this book. I just quibble with the cheap sensationalism of the circumstances of Morgenson's death.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Missed a few days here. Worked my four days in the Napa Valley, and then home. Been busy (and lazy). How can a person be busy and lazy at the same time? Trust me, I can pull this one off.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Big Bird and Planned Parenthood

Taking a walk always makes me feel better. This morning, disgusted by the news that funding of Planned Parenthood might make the Government shut down, I headed out with Angel and Abbey.

Much bad news for those of us who like unions, women, the environment, wolves, the mentally ill, the social contract, children, poor people, the middle class, PBS, NPR, science, the Holocene, students, culture, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, science, some semblance of egalitarianism.

Good news out there if you are in the top 1 percent of asset holders. Or if you hate unions, women, the environment, wolves, the mentally ill, the social contract, children, poor people, the middle class, PBS, NPR, science, the Holocene, students, culture, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, science and some semblance of egalitarianism.

Which side are you on?

A neighbor brought us a new chicken the other day. Kylie named her: "Big Bird". Seems fitting with all the budget cuts to PBS.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Happiness is at $60,000 a Year...

A short walk in the sun. Got home from work late last night and couldn't sleep. So I'm trying to turn my schedule around by surviving on three hours of sleep.

Been reading a book which I will write about later. More and more I've been running across the figure of $60,000 a year as the amount of money to earn which garners the most amount of happiness. People who make more than this are rarely happier than people who earn 60 grand.

Poor people are unhappy. Period. Happiness isn't to be found in the upper middle class: it is to be found in the middle to lower middle class. At this income you still use public services (public schools and libraries). At this income your house will be modest. At this income, you will be secure, but not affluent.

The book I read last night suggested that a family should earn around $15,000 per household member to, statistically, earn the proper amount of money for happiness. I agree. Do you?

No castles. Great cottages. All happy.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

In Honor of Peck

Tough day yesterday. First off, I fell asleep on the couch, flung my glasses ($500 silhouettes) on the back of the couch and snored the night away. I awoke to find that Abbey had decided the glasses were a chew toy. Ruined.

So we went to Chico late yesterday afternoon (to get new glasses). We forgot to close up the coop for Peck our chicken. This morning Peck was gone. Just a tell tale clump of coyote fur present where we think she did her best in battle against God's canine.

Joni used the last of Peck's eggs to make a fine quiche tonight. We sat around and told Peck stories as we devoured the yummy quiche.

We loved Peck. Her eggs were delicious. She was a sociable bird that always accompanied us around the yard. She liked to climb on us when we were sitting in chairs. She'd follow us to the garden. She "coo'd" when we fed her. During the winter rains, she would stand outside our front door, pecking at the door, asking to come in; we didn't let her in.

Being outside in the yard is noticeably lonelier without this gregarious chicken. We thought she was invincible. She survived where five of her siblings didn't. We attributed that to her brains. She always put herself to bed at night. She kept the bug population down around the house. She never ventured off too far. But now she is making her way down some coyote's G.I. System, where she will do another duty by becoming nourishment for some newborn coyote pups.

God bless Peck.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Right to Roam

The rains have finally ended. California's drought was officially declared as being over. The reservoirs are full and the snow pack in the Sierra is 165% above normal. Took a couple of walks with the dogs yesterday and today. My normal three mile loop.

Except today I had a bit of an encounter. A pickup truck stopped and the occupants asked me what I was doing?

"Taking a walk", I said.

"You know you are on private property" the youngish skinny tattoo wearing kid told me. I said I was aware that this is a road with a private easement which enabled him to drive through my property to get to whatever property he owned. I went on to tell him I've been walking this road for three years. Told him I visit some friends up the road once and awhile and that the owner of the last property is a friend of mine.

"Don't walk any further", the kid said.

I told him that I have every right to walk the road. Time to throw in a little charm.

Smiling, I responded by telling him that I don't give a rip about what sort of dope he is growing. All I want to do is take a walk and that I meant him no harm. The kid then relented, shook my hand and told me to enjoy my day.

Taking a walk nowadays is considered suspicious activity. It's as if we are to be cloistered on our own three acres, fenced off to everyone. Paranoid of others. Anti-social. I want the right to roam. To have the same rights as a deer, raccoon, skunk or coyote.

And my favorite Assemblyman, Dan Logue, is in the news. He was upset the other day on the Assembly floor with a bill which provides for some environmental regulation and also some renewable energy requirements. Having a temper tantrum over the bill's cost, he threw the 800 page bill on to the floor. Did he stop to pick up the paper? I don't know.

He did get rebuked by the Assembly for his ridiculous behavior. On Dan Logue's Facebook page, he bragged about his tirade.

I keep an eye out on this page because I am a member of his District. I like to see what Dan is up to and what ideas he finds interesting. I usually keep quiet, but this time I couldn't resist chiming in. You can read the dialogue here. How'd I do?

This led to a heated discussion about renewable energy and environmentalism with about 3,000 card carrying Tea Party Republicans potentially in attendance. Being a respectful contrarian, I ended up with some courteous comments regarding environmentalism (even though most of these folks are in the Green energy is too expensive and Climate Change is a Myth Camp). I wonder if Dan Logue was watching?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Joe Bageant

The rain finally ended yesterday. Yippee!

A nice little walk this morning, enjoying the sunshine. I decided to work some extra hours over the weekend. On Saturday I wore my little "step counter" to work and was surprised that I had walked over 15,000 steps while working a 14 hour shift.

And sad news: the excellent writer, Joe Bageant died recently. Only 64. Joe wrote "Deer Hunting with Jesus". It is only in the last few years that Joe's popularity caught on (because of the Deer Hunting book). I had the pleasure of sharing a few e-mails with him a year or two ago. Lord that guy could write! I wish I could find a few of those e-mails because they were so pleasurable to read. Joe's subject matter was the working class. Some called him a modern day Woody Guthrie.

We lost one of the good guys.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bad Clothes...

Another cold storm blew in this morning. The winds are raging. Snow level is supposed to drop to 1,500 feet (we live at around 2,000 feet). Took the dogs out into the howling wind and rain. Cold. I wore my nylon hiking pants (couldn't find the long underwear to warm up the ensemble a bit). The result was a cold, wet, awful, hypothermic walk.

Last night I trundled off to Paradise to attend the Paradise Ridge Democratic Club. Around 12 people were there: they were glad to see a "youngster" at the meeting. I was, by far, the youngest in the crowd. When asked why I came, I said: "Cause I'm sick of Dan Logue".

Dan Logue is our California Assemblyman. He is part of the new breed of Republican: anti-science, pro-business, anti-any-taxes, anti-collective bargaining, denies climate change. In his first term as Assemblyman he wrote Proposition 23 which tried to undue California's climate protection legislation. He also is against solar energy. Dan Logue takes Koch brothers money (they are the ones who helped him write Prop 23). The Wall Street Journal looks to Logue for quotes weekly. Logue has ascended to Minority Whip status (amazing given his inexperience in the California Assembly); they are grooming him for Wally Herger's seat in Congress. As if that wasn't horrid enough, he is trying to reduce the amount that California pays SSI recipients. Take money from the disabled and give it to (what he calls) the "productive sector".

Logue is leading a group of California legislators to Texas as an attempt to bring Texas style legislation to California to make it more "business friendly". Why not go all the way and take his legislative crew to some barbaric third world state where there is absolutely no concern for the poor or the environment? Texas is an awful model. Poor schools. Poor, poor people. Mountain Lion are considered "varmints" in Texas: they can be shot on sight without penalty.

This guy needs to be stopped.