Friday, August 30, 2013

The New Truck Comes to Frogpond

Today was the day that the Jeep was traded in and the new truck came home.  Although it was evident that the Jeep was clearly on its last gasp, it had been our steady-eddy workhorse for so many years that it was bittersweet to see it go.  But it was time.

Bruce is in love with our brand new Ford truck.  He and our nice car salesman hit it off and talked all sorts of incomprehensible truck-talk together.  I nodded, smiled and looked interested.

But what I loved were the comfy seats, the cool bronzy-adobe color and the fact that we have Sirius and got to listen to Mozart on really nice speakers on the way home.

The best part, however, is that the animals immediately warmed up to the new Frogpond vehicle.

Welcome home, truck!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Fire Continues

Yesterday morning, the sun looked like this as I set for work at seven. If it weren't that the glow is caused by smoke, it would look like a haiku.  Maybe it looks like a haiku anyway.

Upwind of the fire, to the north-east, the cities and communities have ash sifting down and the air is so smoke-filled that people are being told to stay indoors.

Here, although we're only 40 miles away, the fire is moving away from us, so (physically, at any rate) we're only minimally affected.  The smoke is layered overhead, but it's high and diffuse.

Heading down Highway 4, the contrast between the sunlit valley below and the blanket of grey above would have been beautiful if it were clouds or fog...but not smoke.

This afternoon, towards evening,  Bruce and I had a bit of an adrenaline rush.  We were working in the orchard when he noticed a spotter plane buzzing back and forth above the hills behind us.  We couldn't see any smoke, but we (with Murphy in the backseat) drove off to see if there was another nearby fire.  There wasn't. I have no idea why the plane was circling, but am just glad that it was a false alarm.

Before heading home, we drove up to Gopher Ridge to take a look at the Rim Fire from there.  Bruce took some better pictures with his big camera, but here is what I snapped.

Words continue to fail me every time I see how incredibly big it is.  And how devastating.  News reports say that it's probable that the flames won't be completely out for at least two months.

Many years ago I wrote a poem about the view of the Sierras from this very spot.  I don't remember much of it, but one line described the mountains waltzing across the expanse that separated us. I know this was a rather clich├ęd image, but that doesn't matter -- I always loved my mental image of the Sierras dancing off into the distance.

This is going to be a sorrow for a very long time.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The View of the Rim Fire from Copperopolis

After posting yesterday's picture of the smudge of smoke on the horizon, I was startled this afternoon when this sight greeted me as I drove home from school and climbed the little rise just before turning down our road.  The big fluffy thing rising up that looks like a cloud is sunlit smoke -- and if you look closely, you can see the veils of smoke drifting up from the mountains.  The fire is still as far away as before, but when I took yesterday's picture I was pointing my camera a little too much to the south plus our nearby hills and trees blocked most of the action.  From this vantage point, one can get a sense of where the fire is and its size.  It's big -- I've never seen anything like this before.

The latest report on the local news is that it's 15% contained.  That's a good thing, but there's still such a long ways to go.  I no longer search images for pictures of the fire -- it's too sad.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Rim Fire

The view towards the Sierras from our house

The Rim Fire is a monster.  So far it's consumed almost 134, 000 acres, is being fought by over 2,850 firefighters and is only 7% contained eight days after the lightning that started it struck.  Yosemite is about 70 miles away from our house if you take the corkscrew road that winds there, but actually only 40 miles away as the crow flies.  It's close but far.  Copperopolis is well out of the fire's reach, and from our house the only indication of the fire is the smudge of smoke that hangs along the horizon and an occasional whiff of smoke when the wind shifts.  Yet I can think of nothing but the destruction that is racing up and down the mountains.  Bruce showed me a webcam taken from the cockpit of a DC-10.  The smoke loomed ever larger and the flames licked  skywards like they they were well on their way to taking over the entire world.  "That's unreal," the pilot quietly said.

And that about says it all.

Below is a page lifted from the Sierra Sun Times.  I'm assuming that posting it is OK as long as credit is given.

Sunday, August 25, 2013
Mariposa 5:16 PM*

Rim Fire Near Yosemite National Park Modis Map and Fire Photos for Thursday, August 22, 2013

Rim Fire Near Yosemite National Park Modis Map and Fire Photos for Thursday, August 22, 2013

Updated: 8:33 A.M. 12:50 P.M  1:51 P.M.  5:45 P.M.
Looking North East at the Rim Fire from Mariposa County
Thanks Ruth for this set of pictures!
Photo credit: Ruth Catalan
Photo credit: Ruth Catalan
Photo credit: Ruth Catalan

A view of  the Rim Fire from Lake Don Pedro at 1:00 P.M.


Looking South-West from the Crane Flat Helibase 11:56 A.M.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Back home, on the farm...

I've made it to mid-week in the first week of school.  I'm getting back in the groove, but I still need to build up my stamina -- I'm beat by the end of the day.  No time to rest though.

When I get home in the late afternoon, my Frogpond public awaits:  cats, dogs, horses, and cows all demand to be fed immediately.  Plus there are the gardens to water, eggs to collect, geese and chickens to let out and tomatoes and squash to pick.  I'm outside as the sun sets and then the full moon rises.  Last night I finished my weeding by moonlight.  Not a bad way to end the day.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Summer Clouds

The past couple of evenings have been glorious ones for clouds.  It's strange (and sort of sad) how easy it is to completely ignore them.

They are so common that it's easy to become jaded to the amazing light show that's taking place overhead on a daily basis.

This bunch was over-the-top spectacular.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Another mouth to feed

Despite feeling more than a bit foolish for caving in and feeding the neighbor's cows twice a day, we caved yet again when faced with yet another animal with a hungry eye stomach.

This morning when Bruce threw in the morning flake of hay, there was a decidedly uncowlike critter standing cautiously in back of the usual herd.

Harry Llama came over to join the others for Sunday breakfast.  Who cold resist such a goofy face?

Harry has a brother somewhere on the neighbor's property.  I expect he'll be joining the other diners very soon.

Tomorrow is the first day of school.  I worked in my classroom until almost ten on Friday and have steadily put together my first week's lesson plans for the past few days.  Name tags are made, a new gradebook's been created, charts have been made and even my clothes are ironed.  I'm as ready as I'll ever be.  Bring on the children!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Then there were three...

 As promised -- pictures of Auntie Em and her brand new twin calves.  They are both little bulls and cute as buttons.  Auntie Em looks a lot more comfortable now that she's not carrying a double load of calves in her belly.  Emmet and Emil may be small, but they are both enthusiastic at the milk bar.  Poor Antie Em appears to realize that her world just got a lot more complicated.

Big cousin Florrie isn't too sure of these infants who suddenly appeared, but the twins eagerly wobble over to her to say hi.

Look at that little face!  Not sure if this is Emmet or Emil.
Auntie Em is an attentive mother and croons to her babies with long, low "moos."

The cows all now expect their daily ration of hay from us.  We're happy to oblige.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


The first tithonia are just coming into bloom -- they are always the last flowers of the summer season.  They are stuck in being small for many weeks after they've sprouted, and then suddenly they are filling up the space as they stretch up and out.  Both the hummingbirds and myself love the intense orange.

I'm completely taken over with back-to-school preparations right now.  Every day I'm going in and working away at getting my classroom ready for the new students who will arrive all bright and shiny on Monday morning.

Twins were born in our lower pasture two days ago and I haven't had time to write about it yet -- I took pictures though.  I'll post them tomorrow -- cute babies!

I'm falling asleep as I type.  Off to bed.....

Monday, August 12, 2013

The August Perseids

This picture's from the internet

I woke up this morning before dawn to the sound of Arby gacking up a fur ball.  I got him hustled off the bed and then couldn't go back to sleep.  I was too grogyy to want to get up to do some schoolwork so I just lay in bed and thought about it.  After a bit, Bruce came in from outside where, unknown to me, he'd been watching the Perseid meteor showers.  He talked me into going outside with to watch the sky with him.

I wasn't all that enthusiastic, to tell the truth -- lacked the motivation and energy to even stand in the drive and look up.  But this has become an August ritual of ours, so I hauled my bones out of bed anyway and found myself gazing upwards with Bruce, looking for the streak of meteors.  As usual, the few meteors appeared to toy with us, cruelly flashing by just barely at the edge of our field of vision.  But, also as usual, we had an enjoyable time sharing the experience of almost seeing meteors together.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Mystery Bloom

What a lovely surprise!  I have an old flatbed garden cart placed in front of the house loaded with pots of geraniums.  Quite obviously, there is also a pot of something other than geraniums but I don't know what it is or any of the circumstances of planting it.  I've noticed the healthy, straplike leaves reaching out of the pot for over a month.  And then this week, this is what greeted me in the very late afternoon when I was watering.

I think that it must be some kind of lily, but it is totally unfamiliar to me.  Such a delicate, sweet smelling flower -- very unlike anything else blooming here in August.  I just wish I could remember what it is..

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

And Yet Another Snake

I've been full-on working on getting my classroom ready for the start of school.  Next Thursday is our Back to School Night, so the pressure's on.  I'm still not at all sure how or what I'll be teaching this coming year -- but I did get my desk cleaned out!

Bruce and I are still chipping away at cleaning things up the area around the house -- I'm beginning to think that what we need is a crew of three strong workers to put in three hours a day.  For the rest of their/our lives.  No matter how much we rake, haul, prune, shovel, water, weed and wack there's always so much more.  Well, onward ho!

While cleaning out the kennel we used for last year's meat chickens, I lifted up a plywood board that had fallen.  Underneath was curled an annoyed little rattlesnake.  We glared at each other for a moment and then I gently laid down the board again.  This made for the fourth snake of the season, so dealing with it has become routine.  I went over to where Bruce was leaf blowing in front of the chicken coop and tapped him on the shoulder.  He turned off the blower, I said "Snake" and he had the little guy caught with the snake tongs and dropped in a lard bucket within 5 minutes.

Bruce and the snake left for the rock wall down the road where we released the other three snakes and was back home again ten minutes later with the empty bucket.

Then he went back to leaf blowing and I finished cleaning out that kennel.  

I'm hoping that this is the last of the clutch that I assume hatched out here.  I will say, though, that we have a lot fewer mice in the barn this summer...

Sunday, August 4, 2013

More Hillside Fun and the Geese Come A-Visiting

Another day spent clearing the hillside below our house of dried grass and dead leaves.  I also went to work on severely pruning the lower branches and clearing out the jumbled growth in the center of the olive and cedar trees.  The trees now have a lighter, airier look to them which opens up the views a bit -- I hope that they like their haircuts.

The weather's been in the low to mid 90's which is a blessing in August, plus today most of our time was spent in the shade under the trees.  The hill on this side of the house is on more of a gradient, so is easier for me to navigate, thank God.  It's the little things.  Bruce (with Murphy riding shotgun) took two trailer loads to the landfill. I think that we've made it to the halfway mark of this project.  We're just taking one section at a time and I don't allow myself to dwell too much on all that still needs doing.  I have now worn out the fingers on two pairs of leather gloves.

I let the geese out of their pen in the afternoon before we came in for lunch.  They trundled up onto the porch and summoned us from the kitchen by tapping on the glass front door with their bills.  There they stood, craning their heads every which way as they gazed wistfully inside.  They so badly want to be invited in for a visit.

I'm crazy, but one of these times I'd like to open the door, step back and see what they do.  But not on the day after the floors were mopped.

And yes, later when I went outside I forgot the geese had been standing on the doormat and stepped (barefoot) on their hefty-sized calling cards.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Nesting Eggs

It's back to eggs.  To the left is our latest giganto-enormous one and to the right is a regular egg.  I assumed that the big guy would be a double-yolker and I was sort of right about that.
When I cracked it open into a bowl, one yolk was the normal orangey-yellow color, but the other was a creepy green.

Bruce was working from home yesterday, so I went running to his office to show him.  He quickly figured out that the green sphere wasn't a yolk, but rather a tiny, complete egg within the larger egg.  The green color came from its fragile shell (obviously from one of our Americana chickens).

Naturally I had to take the bowl back into the kitchen to see what was inside the tiny egg.  I cracked it open and found that there was no yolk, just some pale matter in its center surrounded by the clear white.

On another note, here is baby Floyd, Mama and Auntie cows.  They were hopefully waiting at the pasture gate for some of that fancy Corny hay yesterday evening.  Ever the sucker for sad cow eyes,  I couldn't disappoint.