Category Archives: Sculptures
Sculptures at PsiKeep
Note: Today I am finally forced to sit down and post the second part of the Valley Fire saga. Last night I traded several San Clemente kids for three Soay sheep and shipped off the last group of does born this year to other breeders on the East coast. In the hassle of loading the kids and unloading the sheep I got between two bucks vying for the same doe. Nothing good can come of that. I was able to get out with only a large bruise on my shin so I am laid up for a day.
Refugees from the Valley Fire: September 13 – 15
We rescued the animals, my neighbor Brenda’s goats and chickens, and my herd of San Clemente does and kids. I had to leave four of the bucks behind because there was not enough room in the trailer.
Just as we got back to the farm a friend of the Schmitz’s came by. He was distressed because the Highway Patrol would not let him into the fire zone to rescue his horse. He had tried every story from needing diabetic medication to his mother’s cat was trapped inside the house. Nothing was working. I told him I had success with the Highway Patrol and that I wanted to check on the goats I had to leave behind. I offered to go with him and talk with the deputies at the blockade.
The intersection of Hwy 53 and 29 outside of Lower Lake was blockaded going to south to Middletown and west to Kelseyville. On the corner there was a crowd of desperate people trying to talk their way into the fire area to rescue their animals or just get back to their homes. It was a crazy scene. People were pleading or arguing with the deputy in charge. I walked up to her and said “I have a truck and I need to get back in to hitch up the horse trailer and get my horse out. Can you help me?” She told me to hold on while she walked off to talk with the other deputies. After a few minutes she told me I could through. I turned to the crowd and said if anyone needs to get into Hidden Valley, to come with me. One man came with me and we walked back to the truck. Here we were strangers brought together by a common goal to rescue our animals.
At PsiKeep the house looked haunted. It even smelled different. Of course it smelled of smoke and ash which hung in the air. But it also smelled of something else, desolation. After all, I had pulled out, left everything behind, walked away. In turn the house was rejecting me. Or maybe it was the scent of curious neighbors wandering through my place.
I set out food and water for the bucks I had to leave behind. Our next stop was inside Hidden Valley where we rescued two white bull dogs. We dropped down to Hwy 29 and drove north to Hofacker Lane to get the horse. We could see why Hwy 29 was closed. All along the highway firemen were setting back fires on the west side of the road in attempt to keep the fire from jumping the highway. There were several places where the fire had jumped but it looked like the firemen had been able to put it out even though it had run up the slopes to the top of the ridge on the east side.
The fire had not reached Eric’s place. He hitched up the horse trailer and his wife was able to catch the horse and we headed home back through the smoke. When we got back to Corky’s farm I discovered that while the horse trailer had double wheels on each side, the tire on one of the wheels on the right side was missing. If that horse had shifted his weight or we had turned too fast the rim of the exposed wheel would had hit the pavement sending up a blast of sparks.
September 14, 2015 An escort into the fire zone
The next day my neighbor Brenda was able to get back into Lake County. She had been on the south end of Middletown when the fire rolled through and was forced to evacuate out Hwy 29 to into Napa.
I do not know if it was frustration or adrenaline from fleeing the fire but we felt we had to do something useful and keep moving. For two days we were able to talk our way into the fire zone. We brought gasoline and supplies to those neighbors who decided to stay and fight the fire if it swept down into Jerusalem Grade. Some people just did not want to leave because they were afraid they would not be allowed back in. Others had people hiked back in. I told them that the story about needing to rescue their horse story seemed to work.
“I’m not gonna lie I need to water my ganja said one neighbor.
By September 15 my story of needing to get into the fire area to rescue livestock was getting thin or perhaps there were too many lootings in Hidden Valley. Regardless, Cal Fire and the CHP closed the road to everyone. They set up an escort system where you had to sign up to receive a number. When your number came up you were escorted into the fire zone and allowed on your property for 15 minutes. Our number was 422 (It is an ominous number according to Brenda who was an ex-cop. It is a threat of murder in the California Penal Code Section 422). At the end of day one they were on number 75 so it looked like we had a long wait. What was even more annoying was that you had to be at the Lower Lake High School gym to wait your number and if your number was called and you were not there you forfeited your turn to be escorted.
It had rained that night and some of us thought that the rain would be putting out the fire. But by morning the Valley Fire had grown by 2,000 more acres. We took the chance and came back to the gym the next afternoon. Lucky for us they were on 385 so we decide to forget the tanks of gasoline and water we were going to bring into Jerusalem Grade and waited our turn in the gymnasium. We found two more people who lived out at the Grade and doubled up so that there were four of us in Brenda’s truck to be escorted.
Sure enough when our number was called and we showed our ID’s through several check stations we were escorted back into the fire zone.
I had made of list of things I wanted to check and get but when we arrived at PsiKeep I was shocked how unfamiliar the place had become. In my last moments here I had walked out the door tearing away everything behind me knowing I may never see this home again. That last step out across the threshold was both terrifying and liberating. In an evacuation once the animals are safe everything was just memories and the things I took with me to hold on to those memories. The things in the back of the car that I took become a burden as I shuffled through those things looking for some clean underwear.
I had tried to be so organized with my list for my 15 minutes of grace but I was stunned how haunted the house had become. I ran downstairs and outside and was shocked to see that someone had thrown four bales of hay into the pen with the goats. All I could think of was a hundred bucks lying out in the rain. Then I realized it was not my hay. I had bought alfalfa and this was orchard grass in the pen. Someone must have come out here to feed and water the goats. Foolish me. I forgot that when I signed up to be escorted I had also signed up to have someone come out and feed the goats which I had to leave behind. Now I felt guilty but I had five minutes to feed the cat, grab my rain hat, a jacket and my pajamas before I had to get back into the truck.
September 18, 2015 Journey to Berryessa
In the scramble at the south of Middletown Brenda had ended up with the medications for a man named Blue, who was one of the evacuees. After several days of trying to get the Red Cross to get the medications out to where he was staying at a place called R Ranch, we decided to make the journey ourselves.
We packed a chain saw, oil, gasoline, water and a tow chain in the back of the pickup. We set off down Morgan Valley Road, the back way to Lake Berryessa, because it would take 4 hours off of the driving time. Maybe it was overkill but we were traveling through the area burnt from the Rocky Fire and we did not want to have to double back if a tree had fallen across the road.
Nothing to the east and nothing to the west. Nothing left that is not burned away.
Our first view of the lake. How far the edge of the lake has retreated due to the drought.
We arrived at R Ranch with the medications for Blue. If you had to evacuate this was the place to be. R. Ranch is time-share vacation site with cabins, swimming pool, horseback riding and a lodge, which supplied meals for the guests. The main room was filled with donations of clothing, pet supplies and shoes. I was finally able to get another pair of shoes to wear instead of the red bowling shoes I had been wearing when I evacuated.
We snacked on some fruit and energy bars at the lodge and set out on the long drive back to Lower Lake.
Doldrums while the hills are burning
I spent almost 10 days at the Schmitz’ farm. During that time I had little knowledge of what was happening with the fire. I had no Internet access and the news was sketchy at best. It was reported that four people had died in this fire and at one point a fifth mortality was reported in a shoot out in Hidden Valley but that proved to be untrue.
In desperation to find out what was happening Brenda and I drove to a meeting at Kelseyville High School on September 17.
The cafeteria was filled with evacuees who were staying at the high school, which had been converted to an evacuation center. The journey was a disappointment. We learned nothing new about the fire. But I did manage to snag out of the trash a current copy of the fire map.
What was disturbing was that an area of the fire, which was still uncontained, was progressing slowly up the other side of the ridge behind my place. When it was finally contained it was only a half mile from PsiKeep.
During this time Brenda and I made ourselves useful by helping around the farm.
We also made forays into the fire area to bring supplies to the neighbors. The road was still closed but we shuttled supplies across the barricade.
At last the Highway patrol opened the road and we were able to return home. But what awaited us was the unbelievable extent of this disaster.
To Be Continued:
Mushroom Wedding Arch completed
The sculpture was completed on December 24, 2014 but I finally took down the tarps the day before yesterday so I could photograph it. The weather report was forecasting strong winds and I wanted to get the tarps down before the front moved in.
This was a long project. It took five years from conception
The armature was constructed out of 1/2 inch steel pipe. In the summer of 2013 I decided to modify the armature and insert a parallel pipe construction, which was connected with unions in order to give more strength to the structure.
Most of that time was spent trying to figure out how I was going to sculpt the underside of the arch. I did not want to be lying on my back on a scaffold eight feet in the air trying to apply wet cement above my face.
My solution was to sculpt and cement the top section of the arch separate from the two upright pillars and then convince some very good friends to help install the completed top section back on top of the two pillars.
The summer of 2014 was spent carving the pillars and then shaving down the carving to allow for a 1/2 inch of cement to be applied on top of the Styrofoam.
I began applying the first coat of cement sometime during mid summer of 2014. The next stage was to sculpt the gills on the mushrooms. It was a good day was when I sculpted the gills on six mushrooms. There were a lot of summer days like this out in the heat under the shade of the tarps with NPR screaming on the radio. God I made a lot of mushrooms on this piece. Ahh!
Lorna Sue Sides came by in August and helped out by sculpting the gills on some of the mushrooms.
and yours truly grimacing under pressure.
The construction around the arch still needs to be cleared away. The Wedding Arch needs a larger footing, which will be incorporated into the steps and the wall below the arch sometime next summer.
After all this time of blood and sweat and tears it is finally done. It still needs a christening. After that it belongs to Lake County, to PsiKeep and to all the people who may or may not walk beneath the arch to wed.
Below are details of the arch. Best regards to all.
Just a few words on the construction of the Mushroom Wedding Arch.
Almost all the gills have been sculpted. So I brought in a few leaves for contrast and focus.
I applied the first layer of green cement. Next I will apply a coat of the background color to detail the edge of each leaf so that terms of the cement structure there will be no separation between the leaves and the background.
Interesting that the leaves are the same color as the leaves of the wild tobacco plant on the right side next to the arch.
With the mild weather and prolonged and withered autumn, construction on the Mushroom Wedding Arch has continued.
This portion of the work should be called: “Gilling the Mushrooms”. Days have been spent sculpting the gills of the mushrooms in cement. I have gotten pretty good at throwing that trowel with a slice of cement at exactly the right place to create the next gill. But I must have been crazy carving all these mushrooms on this arch. Just when I think the process of detailing in the gills is over, I find another mushroom I need to work on.
If I ever get done carving these gills, the next stage is detailing the caps of the mushrooms.
Well, back to work. Might get this arch done before winter.
The first coat of cement applied to the uprights of the Mushroom Wedding Arch was completed today.
I used a brown coloring for the first coat of cement so that if there is any chipping it will blend in rather than reveal the white cement underneath. Any cables you see in the images are there for temporary support until the footing has been revised.
Just when I want to collapse on my laurels, I know that the real work is just beginning. The next stage is to detail the mushrooms by sculpting the cement to create the gills and cones using different colors and textures. This portion will have to be done slowly and the expected time of completion will not be until next year.
Continued from: More on the Drought
San Clemente Goat Bellowing
I woke up this morning to the sound of a one of the goats cutting a scream through my dreams.
At first I thought it was the doe with the three new kids, who must have squeezed through a hole in the fence. I jumped into my clothes and ran out only to find the whole herd was loose with the exception of a single doe, who could not figure out how to escape through the hole in the chain-link gate. Standing alone and cut off from the herd she was letting everyone know how frustrated she was. I spent the dawn repairing the gate and coaxing the herd back into the paddock with a can of grain.
By that time the sun had come up and it was time to complete the carving on the Mushroom Wedding Arch in time for Lammas.
Carving the Uprights of the Mushroom Wedding Arch
The carved left and right panels for each upright were temporarily removed so that the foam, when applied, would not drip down on the detailed carved work.
The keystones, the transition between the top section and the uprights were glued in place. The orange foam is just a different foam that was available. It is actually a section of a discarded floating dock.
And, of course, the same complaining goat was standing in the background.
Next the carved left and right panels were permanently attached to each upright. Each keystone was carved to blend in with the top portion of the arch which was cemented last summer. The top portion of the arch is wrapped under the blue tarp to protect it until the arch is completed.
The last part of the carving process was the editing process where the total work was shaved down to allow for the ¼ to ½ inch of cement which would be applied later.
The more I shaved away the better it looked so I just kept whittling down. At last the bell rang in that far distance space within my head that announced that the work was done.
NOTE: I will be Announcing the date and time of the Cement Party and Potluck shortly.
Disturbing signs of life and death in this small portion of paradise.
Remember that lush photo of the elderberry tree with flower and immature fruit.
By mid July the tree is dying and the fruit hangs uneaten and withered on the branch.
On July 5th I took a photo of one of the fawns born this year. Notice the swelling on the side of its cheek.
On July 16 I sighted the fawn again. He/she still had the swollen area on the left cheek. I observed the mother doe licking him prodigiously. They were with another older doe and wandered off into the brush before I could photograph them.
Each afternoon and early evening I see more and more deer coming down for the water behind the chicken coop. They are also coming to glean the remaining food for the three free range hens that have survived the fox and the coyotes. In previous years there was enough forage so that the deer did not come around until sometime in September.
The Water Table and the Orchard
The level of the underground water table seeping down the slope has greatly decreased. The orchard, which relies on that water, is drying out. This summer the trees on the edge of the underground flow have needed to be irrigated more frequently. I almost lost a Santa Rosa plum and several persimmon trees before I realized what was happening.
San Clemente Goats
Last winter, one night in the barn, Jonas, one of the two breeding bucks broke his tether. This resulted in three more doelings born July 9. They will be available in late September. For more information on these little girls check out PsiKeep ranch.
Sculptures at PsiKeep
Cleaning out the shop. I had this one free-standing mushroom sitting in the shop for several years. There was just something stodgy about it so I never set it out or took it to a show. Luck for it. The other mushrooms were stolen at the Mendocino Art Center for the Arts several years ago. This summer I decided to redesign it.
The image below shows the revision in Styrofoam before I covered it in cement.
The carving of the left and right uprights and buttresses for the Mushroom Wedding Arch is proceeding in spite of the heat and lack of vehicles to get supplies. They are almost completed.
The next job will be to create a more stable footing by digging out between the uprights and connecting the armature before pouring the footing in cement.
Griffins and Mandelbrot for the Header Image
Apollo pulls the sun across the heavens with a chariot drawn by griffins.
The griffin is a composite of an eagle and a lion.
It represents the unity of strength and wisdom
Both are needed in this time of change.
I must be the last person to have seen Fractals the Colors of Infinity narrated by Arthur C. Clark in 1994 but it came around again via Brasscheck TV and I got a chance to watch it online on the eve of the Solstice. Yes this is what I have been creating for years, little/big, worlds within worlds. I have been sewing that idea a stitch at a time. The Mandelbrot coat is coming. Look for it around the time of the winter solstice.
The sister website: psikeep.com is up and running
Check out the link for information on the San Clemente goats at PsiKeep Ranch and more detailed information on the PsiKeep Center for the Arts.
The Raven Family
The raven pair has raised a single raven. It is enormous. The three are everywhere calling to each other. The forest is filled with the sound of raven.
The Mushroom Wedding Arch
Work is beginning on the upright sections of the Mushroom Wedding Arch. The left and right inner and outer panels have been carved and now need to be integrated with the front and backsides of the uprights.
A Fox has moved on to PsiKeep
For last two evenings a gray fox has been spotted in the orchard. For several months something has been slowly decimating the chicken population at PsiKeep. Eight new black Australorp chicks were purchased and are being raised in the chicken coop.
This morning a fresh fox scat was found on top of the lid of the trash can near the coop, as if signaling that the fox has staked out his territory. Aside from the obvious insult I did not notice any hair or feathers in it.
One good outcome of the presence of the fox is that it seems to have chased off whatever creature has been raiding the apricots at night. Each morning numerous half-ripe apricots have been found lying on the ground beneath the trees. The fruit is chewed open with the pits are missing. Whatever has been knocking the fruit down from the trees is more interested in the seeds! Huh? But the last two nights the apricots have been undisturbed. The fox is on the prowl.
It has been slightly more than a year since the logo for PsiKeep Venture and the blog was launched. It is time to clarify the mission statement and to update several of the categories.
The mission of this blog is to find people who are interested in both following and participating in the adventure of constructing the PsiKeep Center for the Arts with all the trials and tribulations of building an art center in the wilderness from brush clearance to sculpture garden; from art classes to gift shop.
Currently classes are taught in the main studio. Plans for the buildings to house the workshops and classrooms will be online. Also look for the site plan for the general layout of the future buildings and gardens on the property. Both of these documents should be online sometime this year.
Also the sister website psikeep.com will be online shortly.
Last year the top section of the Mushroom Wedding Arch was installed. The completion of the Mushroom Wedding Arch will hopefully happen by this summer.
The next sculpture project is the revision of the Dragon Head Entrance.
The Dragon Head was constructed in 2010.
The dragon was in the 2010 Lake County Eco-Arts Sculpture show.
Today the Dragon Head sits in the driveway looking very mush like a tarped motorboat.
The sculpture had been skinned with paper mache. The paper mache needs to be stripped away. The wiring for the lights in the eyes and the walk-thru needs to be installed and the sculpture needs to be prepped in order to be permanently coated with cement and ceramic tiles. This summer volunteers are welcome to help with the construction and installation. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
San Clemente Island Goats
The Center is located on a nine-acre goat ranch in Lake County California. PsiKeep ranch breeds and raises San Clemente Island goats. Last year this bog was launched with the lines “This morning I buried to kids”. This year’s kidding season went a lot easier. As of this posting all the kids that were born have survived and are healthy.
San Clemente Island goats are a rare breed of feral goat. They once inhabited the Channel Islands off the coast of California. They were probably introduced to the Islands by Spanish ranchers who eventually abandoned them. The goats survived on their own for about three hundred years until the Navy began using them as target practice in the 1970’s. A rescue mission was set up to save the goats and the goats on PsiKeep ranch are from a long line of descendants of the goats taken from that rescue mission. Today there are approximately 650 San Clemente goats in the world. Twenty-two of them are on PsiKeep ranch.
This year’s kidding season began in December. Twelve kids are currently available for sale. People who are interested in owning and raising heritage goats should contact email@example.com at PsiKeep Ranch.
Wildlife at PsiKeep
The pair of ravens who have claimed PsiKeep as part of their territory are busy refurbishing their nest in the Ponderosa pine tree next to the main house. The pair is working most of the day flying in with twigs and pieces of material to line the nest. There is a lot of commotion, re-establishing the boundaries of their territory and driving off last year’s offspring. Every few minutes a shadow passes overhead as one of the ravens fly past.
As I stepped outside for a break in writing this post they were high in the sky dive bombing a red-tailed hawk.
You might enjoy reviewing the raven diaries from last year and look for more on the ravens in the weeks ahead.
I have not seen any sign of Scruff, the orphan deer with the mange. If he survived he is probably much larger by now. Most of the deer come by at night. Right now this is plenty of water for them and the grasses and bushes are leaving out providing them with fresh vegetation.
Care-taking the Land
The first sign of spring at PsiKeep comes with the blooming of the Red Bud and the unveiling of the Euphorbias, which have been draped in nursery cloth to protect them during the winter.
Last year a number of trees came down. Several trees had to be cut down due to beetle-bark damage or just plain old age. Since PsiKeep is nestled in the forest, falling trees are a big issue. Luckily the property sits in a bowl against the hillside where the ground water tends to converge. But dry days lie ahead with the prolonged drought in California. Hopefully the spring at the bottom of the hill can be dug out and reconnected to the water tanks.
Looks like lots of work ahead for this year. Hope to hear from you all. Comments are always welcome.
Continued from Moving Forward with the Mushroom Wedding Arch
Two days of last-minute preparation left me exhausted before we even began this venture.
On Saturday November 24, I was still setting the eyes in the goat’s head and cleaning grout off of the solar disk. On Sunday morning I was up at dawn clearing the pathway in the shop so we could carry the section out the door.
Would this day be razor blades or champagne?
We started out with three volunteers, Lorna Sides, Tim Williams, Dante de Amicis and myself. We quickly discovered that the plan was not going to work. There just was not enough manpower to lift the section into place. Just as we were looking at option two, which was to move the section on to an outside table and tarp it for the winter, two more volunteers arrived, Terri Larsen of and her husband Peter Shifman. We thought with this many people we might have a chance. It was back to “plan A”. This consisted of carrying the section out of the shop, across the yard, up the steps to the uprights and lifting it into place.
When we discovered that we could not physically lift the section into place without some sort of aid, we moved the old well shed tower between the steps and lifted the section onto the top of the tower before making the final lift on to the uprights.
Surprisingly the last step went easy. For months I worried about lining up the four unions, which were the connection between the uprights and the top section of the arch. I decided to complete the top section first and attach it into place before cementing the uprights so that I could adjust the exposed armature to fit the two together. In the end there was only one connection that needed a little easing. We used a crowbar to line up the union threads between the two structures and screwed them together with a pipe wrench.
Today the goddess gave us a reason for champagne and Lorna presented a surprise birthday cake for me. Ah! 70 years inside this body,which I always thought was a mistake but in spite of that it has served me well.
Later we had a Thanksgiving feast inside the house.
The next steps in constructing the Mushroom Wedding Arch will be to cement in the steps for the footing, reinforce the side panels to eliminate the side-swaying, laminate the carved Styrofoam side panels to the uprights, and cement the uprights. This will probably be accomplished in the spring or early summer of next year. Until then I need to secure this top-heavy sculpture from getting knocked over in a windstorm.