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.