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.