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 350.org 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