Category Archives: Caretaking the Forest
sustainable forest management
Out from the long shed we step into sunlight. Too bright for a life of darkness
and the small lights swinging high above the steel crates where we were born.
We grunt and startle at the feel of earth under our hoofs
But before we can remember plowing earth with our broken teeth
we are herded with shocker sticks up a long wooden ramp into a steel walled truck.
The walls are punctured with holes barely large enough to see the sunlight.
And there I find a faint trace of the scent of pigs I once knew.
We are packed so tight that we can hardly breathe
Some of us are foaming at the mouth as the floor begins to rumble under our hoofs
Our bodies slide and plow against each other with crushing weight at each bump and turn.
Hot air is filled with billowing exhaust burning our throats. So thirsty now.
At last the rumbling stops. And we are standing in our own feces.
Some of us have slipped and fallen on top of the broken bodies
of those who can no longer withstand the sweltering heat.
We wait and wait our stillness broken by an occasional choking groan
at the smell of our own terror roiling across our flanks.
Then the door swings open and the men with shocker sticks
shout and prod us out of the truck and up a long ramp to a steel door.
Now we hear the screams of those who have walked up the ramp before us.
No way to turn back down in the press of bodies coming up the ramp
We try to climb the walls slippery with urine
ignoring the pain of the shocker sticks and the shouting men
as each one of us disappears through that terrifying door.
Until I am alone before the door, the door that yawns open
and I am thrust into that steel mouth.
Something hard grabs me by the throat and holds me by the head
The last thing I see is the hammer slamming down
My knees buckle; the floor opens under me
I am sliding down a long chute slippery with blood.
A hook grabs the tendon in my hind leg
I am hoisted into the air
My muscles thrashing
as the knife finds my throat
and life slips away forever.
What can I say? It has been a long time coming home to this blog. Discovering Facebook did not help. It was easier to drop a comment than compose an essay. And I did get more responses. But the real truth is that the fires devastated me in invisible ways so that I really did not know how much I had changed. My losses from the fires was minimal; compared to people who lost everything. I did lose Voice, my little black dog. But what I really lost was confidence in this place, its magic and power to survive.
Yet PsiKeep has endured. And there were some blessings. Last spring the little Soay ewe finally had a lamb that survived. It is a ram and this year he is full-grown.
A very large Blue pine grew a limb the size of a tree above the trailer and cabin containing many of my paintings. I tried to get a tree person to some out and cut down the tree but everyone was too busy up on Cobb Mountain cutting down the timber from the Valley Fire. I was helpless. I knew if that limb came down it would crush both the cabin and the trailer. Much to my dismay I could see that the limb was separating from the main trunk of the tree. And one windy night it finally came down. But somehow it rotated 90º and slid down the trunk of the tree missing both the trailer and the cabin.
I was sick most of the summer of 2017. I had planned to use the time to work on cementing the Dragon Head Entrance Way or finish sculpting the Angle Crouching sculpture but I just could not get the energy to do anything after I fed the animals in the morning. I was afraid that I was just getting too old for all of this but it turned out I had pneumonia again. I spent a day in the hospital getting antibiotics intravenously and drove myself home. I did not have too much time to recover because the rains came early this year and I had to get the barns ready for the goats. I seemed to have more energy after I recovered so I was able to stay up for two nights working to complete the applique tapestry titled The First Thirty Days in time for the 2nd Woman’s March.
I had completed the tapestry in the summer of 2017. But I still had to design and finish the backside which contains my sigil. The tapestry had gotten pretty heavy with all the layers of felt and naga and fabric. I was concerned about the stress and weight pulling the felt backing apart. I decide to use leather as the material to suspend the piece. And I also wanted to distribute the weight along the leather so I came up with the following design.
I guess time will tell if the leather was a good solution to the problem of the distribution of the weight of the tapestry. It was an interesting piece of leather but what a bitch it was to sew. I had to punch through with the needle to make each stitch. I stayed up for two night’s straight to complete the back side. In the end my friend, Lorna came by the last day to help sew and build the frame to carry the tapestry in the parade.
I was so exhausted during the parade that I was hallucinating. I saw what I thought were two dogs lying in an empty parking lot as we marched by. It turned out they were concrete parking curbs. Of course it did not help that they were painted brown. After the parade we were dismantling the frame and packing the tapestry into the car when I noticed in the window of the pawn shop we were parked and what I thought was Halloween pumpkin surrounded by skeletons and ghosts. I told Lorna I wanted to check it out. It turned out to be a leaf blower with an orange motor and white housing.
When I finally got home I collapsed. I think the tapestry is still rolled up and lying on the chest in the living room but you can see the full details of Trump’s First Thirty Days at the Tenabrae Cafe.
It was a hard spring at PsiKeep. I held off working on the blog while I was putting together poems and photo essays on the fires of last summer. But things continued to press on with miracles and disasters wrapped together in the web of life.
Sad Sheep Story
Both Soay ewes had stillborn lambs.
I lost the first ewe before I could figure out what happened. Neither ewe could not expel the placenta after birth.
I was able to save the second ewe with a lot of painstaking effort to slowly and carefully get her to drop her placenta over a period of several days. But the little ram… I do not know what to do with him. It seems with all the careful effort keeping him in the stall while the first fracture mended, he broke another leg.
Sculptures in Progress
First there was “Warrior Angle Crouching” in the beginning work-in-progress stage.
There was naked Justice getting repaired for the MAC show in Middletown.
There was hooded Justice waiting out the late rains.
And finally there was re-dressed “Justice Corrupted” ready to be trucked to the show.
I did marched for Bernie for President at the Lower Lake Memorial parade. We even got the dragon in the show.
The Ravens at PsiKeep
Yesterday as I was putting this post together I heard a commotion from the ravens outside. Every year they build their nest in the ponderosa tree above my front door. By their raucous screaming I knew what had happened. It did not take me long to find their single offspring on the ground at the bottom of the tree. I gently picked up the little guy. This was his big day, his first flight out of the nest. I set him on the banister so he could get a good start but he jumped down on to the porch instead.
So I carried him down to the orchard and set him in one of the fruit trees. Later I saw him making a low flight into the forest. I hope he made it. Although, this morning, I have not seen him up in the tall trees with the parents.
Last of all there are days of cutting brush under the ghost of last year’s catastrophic fires. More on the result of those fires is yet come in the form of art and poetry. Because what else can you do but produce creative energy in the face of all that destruction.
I am posting this September 12, 2015 dash-cam recording of two Lake County deputies. The 54 minute video is significant for several reasons. The first reason is it shows the magnitude of the fire along the seven mile stretch between Hartman Road near Hidden Valley Lake in the north and Butts Canyon, outside of Middletown in the south on Lake County Hwy 29. The second reason is the bravery of these two deputies. However you feel about the police these days, these two deputies found themselves in a situation they were totally unprepared for but they stayed with their job to check the abandoned vehicles and rescue evacuees along the highway. For this they must be commended.
At 36:15, in the middle of this heart of darkness, the deputies come across an individual working for the state of California Office of the Governor attempting to do an assessment of the damages. He is promising that firefighting units are coming up from San Diego. What he is doing assessing the damages in the middle of a maelstrom is beyond me.
While watching this video I realized that this was the last time I would see the trees and vegetation along this portion of Hwy 29.
Once again another fire and evacuation story. This time the fourth fire, the Valley Fire
September 12, 2015
It was a warm mid-day and I was getting bored waiting for the varnish to dry on the rune circles I was creating to hang on the outbuildings here at PsiKeep. I was casually browsing Facebook when the first posting of a 20 acre fire off of Bottle Rock Road on came up on the screen. I did not think too much about it. It was a small fire and at that time another small fire closer to Kelseyville was also reported. But when I checked back a few minutes later the first fire was at 400 acres. I called several people up on Cobb Mountain. Neither party answered so I left messages about the fire and went to take a nap. When I woke a couple of hours later the sky in the west was a wall of black and a blood-red sun was throwing a deep orange light across the land.
I loaded my dog, jumped in the car and raced up the long drive. At the top of the drive I took my first photo of the mother of all dragons raging out of the west. I drove out to the lookout point on Spruce Grove Road overlooking Hidden Valley Lake to the east and Cobb Mountain to the west
What I saw was horrifying. The sky was filled with towering clouds of black smoke blistering and buckling against the sky and that monster of a fire was racing down the mountain like a juggernaut. Nothing man-made would stop this thing. It leaped from ridge to ridge belching fire storm after fire storm as houses, out buildings, Ponderosa pines and dry chaparral exploded in the heat of its breath.
The fire was running to the south-east and my greatest worry was the edge of the fire in the north-west. With the wind up it was aimed right toward Jerusalem Grade.
I jumped in my car and drove down to 29 and headed north hoping to find out more information as to where that wing of the fire was headed.
I made with run up 29 to Spruce Grove Road north without being able to determine anything. The fire was just too big.
So I headed back home and began packing to evacuate. Once again you grab the things that mean the most, the dog, the one cat I could catch, the remaining chickens, (Another story to be told later.) hard drives, book projects, the icons from the shrine, computers, my Red Cross bag of toiletries from the Jerusalem Fire evacuation and a few clothes.
And then it is that heart wrenching finality of walking out the door knowing you have given up everything behind you. You’ve let it go hoping for the best and knowing that there was a high certainty that all could be lost.
It was dark by the time I had finished packing the car. The sky to the south was on fire. I set the goats free hoping they would make it as best they could since I had no way of getting them out. I caught the old buck, Jonas, he was still under medication, and tied him to the side mirror of the car. Once again I turned my back on my home and everything I had built and started up the drive leading the goat behind.
At the top of the drive I expected to see fire engines and emergency personnel. The gate at the cinder-block towers was also a fire road leading directly into the ridge behind Hidden Valley Lake but there was no one around. The road was deserted. I parked the car, deciding what to do next when a vehicle came down the road. I flagged it down. Inside the vehicle were a couple of growers and they said that there were no mandatory evacuations for Jerusalem Grade. So I dragged that poor goat back down the drive. I caught the rest of the goats and put them back into the pens. I sat in the car for a long while watching the orange glowing sky in the south while ash and cinders falling thick as silver snow rained down around me.
After a long while I decided to go back into the house and watch the glowing sky from there. Inside I felt like I was living that scene in “War of the Worlds” where the main character is trapped and hiding in the cellar of a house where one of the invading Martian space ships has crashed into structure. The power was gone. I was able to drain some water from the pipes. I wandered around my house with a head lamp while outside danger trampled the land.
The next morning I was still able to use the phone and I called Corky and Sharon Schmitz, where I had stayed during the Jerusalem Grade Fire evacuation. I asked him if I could bring over some chickens. He told me to bring everything over and he would help me transport the goats to his farm.
The intersection at 29 and 53 was closed by the time we had the trailer hitched to Corky’s truck and were ready to rescue the animals. I was able to talk our way back in by saying we were going in to rescue our livestock and they let us pass. Once inside the fire area it was like driving into the heart of darkness. We drove down the road as the smoke thick as fog enveloped us only it fog was hot and choking. We past no one coming either way. The land was empty. Everything was still as death while ahead the horrors burned.
To be continued…
A Soliloquy for Lake County
After all the fires we have been though from the Rocky Fire to the Grade…
To pack or not to pack
that is the question
Whether ‘tis nobler in stature
to relinquish one’s home and holdings
or to take arms against a sea of embers
And by opposing,
dump a crap load of fire-retardant
to end them.
I had found this blanket in the trash at the Red cross Center and used it for the dogs to sleep on in the car for the five days we all evacuated. I had just washed it and hung it on the banister to dry when I heard a tanker flying overhead. I walked around the corner of the house and I could see the beginnings of another fire burning.
This fire is just down the road from PsiKeep. It is burning north by west. I am not concerned at the moment because the wind is blowing away from me. But in the afternoon the wind does shift in the opposite direction.
I worry about the people and animals in the hill to the north and west of me.
I am located a short distance outside the advisory evacuation area. But it is deja vu all over again. I had just cleaned my house. Again. I was unpacking the items I had evacuated from the last fire, again, when this fire began.
It looks like this one is under control for the time being.
Cal Fire just reported that the forward progress of the fire has been stopped and they have opened the road to residents only.
From my study, where I am composing this post, the roar of the air tankers has diminished and I can no longer see the smoke through the trees.
The San Clemente goats are calm. All seems well. I am waiting to see what develops when the wind shifts.
The hills are burning in the valley of Jericho
the bones of the deer are mixed with ash
a carpet of silver haunting the hilltops
wind blows across barren lava flows
exposing a cycle of ancient ruin
which has come round at last
And a seed of the first blade of grass
waiting for the rain to come.
The dragon is still churning through the smoldering wasteland in the east.
25,118 acres have burned and today it is 98% contained.
One dog is in the ground and the other is hiding in the shadows under my desk. The boxes with my precious, irreplaceable things are stacked unpacked on the porch. I should feel very thankful that I still have a porch to come back to. I think of the people who lost their homes counted and uncounted in the final tally. But in the end I am exhausted. I am in denial about the loss of Voice and I am not taking it very well.
But oblivious to my sorrow, paradise is raging all around me. The euphorbias in the Garden of Unearthly Delights are blooming. Some have actually never bloomed before.
The apples are hanging like clusters of grapes on the branches of the apple trees.
The raven pair are feeding on the crab apples in the orchard and the local herd of deer have come down to nibble at the chicken food again . All is well at PsiKeep but the caretaker.
The night of August 9, 2015
That night we put Jonas and the little kid in one of the trailers and I walked back down the driveway to collect the remaining goats while friends and neighbors slowly backed the stock trailer down the drive behind me. The goats were frantic but they recognized me and I was able to lead them into the enclosed yard on the cement slab. I tethered the bucks and one by one we loaded them into the stock trailer. We made a chute out of the cattle panels in the driveway and herded the does and kids into the trailer.
The goats were taken to the Schmitz farm in the next town. After the animals had been unloaded and fed and watered I drove to the Red Cross Center set up at the high school where I work as a substitute. The chickens, the cat and both dogs were put into large cages and fed and watered.
The Red Cross Center was almost deserted and I was treated like royalty by the team, which had little to do especially at 12:00a.m. I was fed chocolate cake and sandwiches and I was starving.
Later as I lay on a cot in that vast dark gym with the smell of the freshly waxed floor I prayed and hoped that the fire did not spread into the valley below PsiKeep and that everyone’s home out there was safe.
August 10, 2015
The Red Cross was very accommodating but the rooster was crowing and my white German Shepherd was barking at everyone who entered the Red Cross center. So I thought it best that we move on. I was able to connect with Brenda and James who helped me with the goats the night before and we were invited to stay out the evacuation at the Schmidt farm in Lower Lake.
The dogs and I are living out of the back of the car for the next five days.
We set up a pen for the dogs and put my chickens into a coop out back. I fed and watered the goats and put the cat into a larger cage under the trees.
The first morning I helped Corky Schnidt butcher some chickens.
Later that morning Brenda and I set off to evacuate her chickens and remaining belongings she wanted to remove from her place.
We spent the day getting animal feed and supplies for the three of us so we would not be a burden on Sharon and Corky Schmidt.
When we returned later that afternoon we discovered that Voice, my little black dog had broken out of the pen and was last seen running down the street.
We drove off looking for her. We back-tracked down 29 to Spruce Grove where Day’s Plumbing use to be. We drove out Morgan Valley Road about two and half miles where I finally said “I don’t think she could have gone this far. She is over ten years old and does not get around a lot at PsiKeep.” But that was my mistake. We should have gone further. If we had only gone further up the road.
Two days later on August 12 we got our first lead from the Animal Emergency Center at Spruce Grove Road. The woman said that a report had come in about a dog fitting the description was sighted on Morgan Valley Road and Reif Road, out where the fire was still burning and the road was closed to through traffic. Brenda and I drove out there through miles of blistered hills black and burned out desolation as far as the eye could see.
When we reached the fire crew they told us they had seen the dog but someone had hit her and dragged the body to the shoulder of the road about two miles back.
We found her body about four miles out of Lower Lake. She must have traveled that far before getting hit. She was alone, terrified and struck down probably in the dark when a driver could not see a black dog traveling along the road.
We brought her back to PsiKeep that day and buried her in a hasty grave by the bones of her old buddy Jaffa who died four years before. I will come back when this is over and do the marker right. Now it is just a chain link kennel panel lying on the ground to keep the animals from digging her back up.
To be Continued…
August 9th, 2015
A day of Yurga begins like any other day but on the day come the ending and the re-beginning of the world.
The Rocky fire had burned 69,636 acres and was 70% contained.
It was a clear day out here. I decided to work on some of the rune circles I am building to put on the side of the house and the out buildings.
I could hear the helicopters flying overhead and heady equipment still coming down the road above me. I did not think very much about that. Funny how we can get use to almost everything including the sounds of a distant battle being waged.
But the call I got from my neighbor changed everything. He called to say there was a fire down in the canyon below the drop off at the east end of the valley. I went out on the porch to look and saw a tiny wisp of smoke in the east.
Within ten minutes the smoke had turned into this.
And within less than an hour into this.
This was a monster roiling out of the canyon.
Once again I started packing. I called the chickens into the kennel with some food and caught them one by one, stuffing them into the cage in the back of the car. I caught Little Hitler, the cat and got her into a carryall. I grabbed the same stuff: sketches, the book project, hard drives and computers, the altar icons. I even re-packed the raven feathers.
I kept calling for help to transport the goats. But no one was responding. The fire was sweeping up the slope of the hills at the east end of the valley about two miles away. At dusk they came to tell me to get out. I told the sheriff I was packed and ready to go but waiting for help with the goats. It was getting dark and no one was coming.
Finally I grabbed Jonas, the older buck, and tethered him to the side mirror of the car. I managed to grab one of the kids and threw her on top of the dogs in the car. I turned the other goats free and set off up the driveway. Some of the goats ran after me for a short way but then turned back. Slowly I made my way up the driveway leading Jonas while the kid and dogs were scrambling across my belongings in the back of the car.
Suddenly I could see Jonas was not following behind. I stopped the car afraid he was collapsing. But what I discovered was worse. He had caught his horn in the wheel well. I got out and tried to get the tip of his horn free. But the curve of his horn was just the right shape and size of that space for the wheel.
At last I was able to work the tip of his horn free and we set off once again with the fire raging at our backs.
I got to the top of the drive way just as help arrived.
To be continued…