Category Archives: Wildfires

The Dragon ‘s On the Loose

RiverRanch-Fire_Panorama1

Days of gray and days of darkness

days of shuttered smoke.

the skies are sceaming ash.

Fire is in the mountains and the

valleys are roaring like a

a thousand freight trains tear my soul

Cinders fall as twisted scales

from the dragon shaking free.

Run for the shelter

run for the river

the Dragon ‘s on the loose.

© copyright  Christalene Loren 2018. All rights reserved.

The River/Ranch or Mendocino Complex Fire started around noon on July 27, 2018. As of today the fire has consumed 255,482 acres  and is 48% contained. It has been declared as the largest fire in the history of California. The fire has destroyed  119 residences and 110 other building.  Most of the cities west and north of Clearlake had been evacuated.

Channel 6 KPIX video of  the Fire.

 

Just to get an idea on the size of this fire

size-of-river-ranchfire

The size of the fire overlaid on top of Bay area in San Francisco.

 

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A comparison on August 01, 2018  of size of he fires in the county since 2015.

 

Today Lakeport and the surrounding cities on the north shore are slowly being repopulated.  while most of the fire is burning out of control  in the Mendocino National Forest and east of the Indian Valley reservoir.

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Map of Mendocino Complex showing both the River (lower) and Ranch Fires Taken fromGISsurfer Wildland Fire constructed by Joseph Elfelt. August 09, 2018.

 

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Map of Mendocino Complex showing a portion of the River (lower) and Ranch Fires. Created by Created by: Paul J. Doherty from his ArcGIS Online Account.  August 09, 2018

 

The fire is north of PsiKeep

The mornings at PsiLKeep begin with a blood sun rising and is quickly obliterated by the smoke.

smoke-sunrise

Many days I do not see the sunrise. Just smoke turning the day a lighter gray. The hills other side of the valley just two miles away are smoked in.  It is like looking out into the abyss. Of course all of this is minor compared to most of the population in the west and north ends of the county where the fires raged.

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The face of the Dragon  from down the road taken on August 5, 2018

 

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Wheat and the fire storm This image was taken on August 5, 2018  from down the road.

 

The smoke and the heat has been pretty debilitating It has become difficult to keep up with the daily maintenance of the ranch. I just go out and feed and medicate the animals and retreat to the computer to keep up on the latest fire information.

On August 7, 2018 the afternoon wind blew most of the smoke from the fire to the north and to the east. The sun dipped below the smoke and there was a brief moment of sunlight on the hills across the valley.

split-in-smoke)

Everything  is hungry this time of year. Both the fire and deer have got to eat. Each year when the poison oak has turned, I start setting out the sweepings from the hay shed. The deer come down to eat and drink from the water containers under the oak trees.  This doe look pretty well fed.

deer-feeding

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Under the Foot of the Dragon

This summer began in smoke and fury as two big wild fires raged nearby. The Pawnee fire was burning in the north.  And a couple of days later the County fire erupted in the south east. It raged through 90,288 acres of beautiful wilderness east of the shores of Lake Berryessa.

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Map of County Fire on July 2, 2018

While the Pawnee fire burned 15,185 acres and 22 structures were destroyed, I was not close enough to think of evacuating but I had my eye on the computer maps, wind charts and audio feed from the fire fighters just to make sure.

The days are clear now, hot and dry. Everyone is holding their breath waiting for the next big fire, and hoping it will pass us by this year.

Since 2015 progress slowed at PsiKeep. The reality that all could go up in flames at any time put a damper on turning this wilderness into an art center. My emphasis shifted from development to defense. And last year I was sick most of the summer with a lingering bronchitis which got kind of serious during the winter. I am better now and with that the dream has returned. There will always be the shadow of the fire and the reality that it could swallow everything.

There are no dog days of summer when you live under the foot of the dragon.

So on this hot, July night I sit with a quart of Dryers’ Double Fudge Brownie already ¾ eaten and begin this blog entry. Of all the addictions I have dodged, only to be done in by ice cream.  I can’t help myself.  The cold, sweet chocolate in my mouth with that never-ending bliss…yum.

An Army of Cats

This summer has been an army of three new rescue cats and cat boxes and cat litter and cleanup and cages. And another cage with new chicks in the kitchen growing up and getting use to the dog and the cats and dander and dust. I finally got the chicks, who grew into pullets, moved into a coop in the barn and the last cat, Cosmos got released today. It looks like all the cats have gotten use to each other and their new home. It is time to begin the war on the mice and rodents.

Two of the rescue cats which were unadoptable because they were not cuddly cats were very close to each other. They had lived together in a cage at the cat rescue station for about 8 months hissing and snarling at anyone who came by. I adopted the little pale tortie female and then decided to get her companion the large black male. The little tortie I named Ajuna was in a cage in my living room for about 10 days during the County Fire.  Since I only had one cage I released her when the threat of the fire was over. I could see her here and there for about a week. I made sure she had food and water on the porch.

I brought home, her companion, the black cat, Cosmos, and kept him in the living room for about a week. It did not take long for little Ajuna to find Cosmos in the cage.  Cosmos would make guttural cat calls to her and she would come inside and lay by his cage.

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Little Ajuna waiting by the cage holding her companion

After the fourth day of this I decided to release him.

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Cosmos with the cage door open

I figured she would show him the ropes around the place. I have seen Cosmos a couple of times since he was released and Ajuna comes in to feed under the butcher block table and continues to sleep on my chair.  I will see what happens to Cosmos in the next few days.

The third cat is a little black female named Kylie. I know I am going to have problems recognizing these two black cats in the days to come. But more on Kylie in a later posting.

Field Hospital at PsiKeep

This summer I seem to be running a field hospital for all the injured animals on the ranch.

medicine-tray

A tray of medicines going out with me every morning.

Shetland, one of my two breeding bucks developed a wound on his horn about 8 inches out from the skull. He was in a pen with a yearling buck and the two goats didn’t seem to have any serious issues.  One day I saw some blood on his horn. At first I thought he injured the younger buck, but I could not find any wound. A couple of days later I noticed blood on his horn again. I took him out of the pen and put him in a stall in the barn. I could see the wound and it was being aggravated by the buck rubbing his horn on the wire fencing. So I kept him confined in the stall. But the wound would not heal.   I finally had to call the vet to come out. Wounds that bleed on a horn can be serious since the vessels connect with the sinuses and the brain. The vet gave me Uniprim and told me to keep it wrapped until she could talk with a furrier about how to get the keratin sheeting to grow back over the wound.

Next patient. One day I noticed that the Soay ram who broke two legs while he was a lamb was not running with the herd. I found him out in the lower pasture and it looked like he was limping but he was moving too fast for me to catch him. Three days later I was able to corner him in the sheep shed and drag him up to the barn. He is definitely not putting any weight on the right hind leg. I confined him to another stall and I have been treating him with Uniprim and aspirin. He is eating and moving around slowly. Lots of turning of his head which looks like the residual effects of the listeriosis he had as a lamb. As the days progressed he seemed to get stronger. I began feeding him vitamin B12 and E.

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Soay ram with lame  back right leg.

Then yesterday evening I got careless with the gate and to my surprise he escaped. Last night I left the gate to the orchard open so he could get in during the night. This morning I found him in the lower pasture but he was not with the herd. I worried all day about how I was going to recapture him. And this evening I made an attempt. I herded him back up into the orchard and closed the gate. He was limping but moving pretty fast and pushing with both his hind legs. Although I could see he was favoring the left over the other. I decided to let him alone for now and just make sure that he got enough food and water.

Next patient. One of my does developed mastitis which I am trying to cure with the last dregs of my penicillin supply. Just so you know there is a shortage of Penicillin and I can’t get any more until September. See the issue about Penicillin at the following link. https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/05/world-suffering-penicillin-shortage-170517075902840.html

It has beena week of injecting her with 3 cc of Penicillin per day. Today I got her teat to soften enough so that I could milk out some of the fluid/ puss.  But I am having troubles getting the local antibiotic up into her teat. Dry-Clox which is a long-term antibiotic designed for this sort of issue has also been unavailable. I got another product from the vet which contains Dry-Clox but it came with syringes with a short nose so I am unable to get the medicine high up into the udder.

Cement Dolmen

All in all, the distribution of meds and special care is taking up a good part of my day.  But I did make time to work on the cement Dolmen.

I began this piece a couple of years ago. It was going to be the keystone to my Launch Pad sculpture which is sitting incomplete out in the forest. I just could never get the funds together to buy the crystal for the Dolmen.  So I decided to give it to my sister since she has help me so much with surviving out here. But without the crystal I just could not get behind the piece for a couple of years. This spring I began a sketch for how I wanted to modify it to my liking.

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Sketch of the Dolmen sculpture

It has been a week since I completed the first side of the Dolmen in cement I will have to let is set for several more weeks before I get a crew to help me turn it over. Working in cement in this hot, dry and windy weather has been a chore. The cement begins hardening so fast that I have had to mix small batches in order to work in the details.

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One side of the cement Dolmen sculpture

Angry Poetry on the America

I have also been putting my anger and frustration into writing poems about the state of America since the Trump election and do not mean to say the election of Donald Trump. We have been overthrown. Period.  This is a terrifying time for this country. Below is a recent poem I wrote titled “The Battle Will Be Won”  because we have to win. We have to triumph against the rise of fascism in America.

The Battle Will Be Won

The battle will not be fought with blows of violence

The battle will not be fought with words and phrases to deceive the mind.

The battle will be won by strong of heart.

The battle will be won by determination and the indomitable will of creative energy,

by loneliness turned into conviction

by courage forged in the darkest hour.

It will be won by using the forces of suppression against itself

by opposing hatred with the power of laughter

by opposing brutality with the power of love

by opposing death with the power of life.

It will be won by an eye-sharp focus on the final end of despair.

The battle will be won by being small and agile

by being everywhere and nowhere

by boycott and sit-in and protest march

through imprisonment and defiance

and by all the people who come before and after to draw a line in the sand

to say to those who choose to walk in darkness and destruction  

Enough!

This battle will be won

It will be won.

At last I close with the following image. Sometimes a glory is a glory and sometimes it is just dust from the road.

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Two sculptures in the afternoon sunlight

 

Spring and Early Summer Update at PsiKeep

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.

stillborn-lamb

I lost the first ewe before I could figure out what happened. Neither ewe could not expel the placenta after birth.

Dead ewe

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.

"Warrior Angel Crouching" work in progress.

 

There was naked Justice getting repaired for the MAC show in Middletown.

naked_justice

 

There was hooded Justice waiting out the late rains.

hooded_justice

 

And finally there was re-dressed “Justice Corrupted” ready to be trucked to  the show.

redressed_justice

 

Street Adventures

I did marched for Bernie for President at the Lower Lake Memorial parade. We even got the dragon in the show.

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dragon

 

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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.

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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.

The Mother of All Dragons, the Valley Fire Flashback: Part III

Valley Fire coming down Cobb mountain.

Valley Fire coming down Cobb mountain.

Lake County Sheriff dash cam video Published on Oct 28, 2015

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.

 

The Mother of All Dragons: The Valley Fire Part II

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.

Three Soay sheep on their first day at PsiKeep
Three Soay sheep on their first day at PsiKeep

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 blockade at the intersection of Hwy 53 and 29.

The blockade at the intersection of Hwy 53 and 29

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.

Inside the gym at Lower Lake High School where we signed up to be escorted into the fire zone.

Inside the gym at Lower Lake High School where we signed up to be escorted into the fire zone.

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.

Highway Patrol officer escorting us back into the fire zone

Highway Patrol officer escorting us 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.

Burned area along Morgan Valley road from the Rocky fir

Burned area along Morgan Valley road from the Rocky Fire

Charred manzanita

Charred manzanita

Charred landscape from the Rocky Fire
There is a beauty in the mauve and gray and burnt umber colorations of this  desolate and charred landscape.

The back road to Lake Berryessa

The road to Lake Berryessa

Lake Berrryessa

Lake Berrryessa

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.

Tired dog in the back seat of the truck.

Tired dog in the back seat of the truck.

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.

Meeting at Kelseyville High School

Meeting at Kelseyville High School

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.

Lake County fire map

Fire map

During this time Brenda and I made ourselves useful by helping around the farm.

Canning in Corky's outdoor kitchen

Canning in Corky’s outdoor kitchen

Sharon Schmitz in the kitchen preparing the spices for the tomato juice

Sharon Schmitz in the kitchen preparing the spices for the tomato juice

Bottling tomato juice in the outdoor kitchen

Bottling tomato juice in the outdoor kitchen

Capping the bottles of tomato juice

Capping the bottles of tomato juice

Corky and a neighbor butchering a deer for winter.

Corky and a neighbor butchering a deer for winter.

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.

Shuttling supplies across the road barricade

Shuttling supplies across the road 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:

The Mother of All Dragons: Part I

Once again another fire and evacuation story. This time the  fourth fire, the Valley Fire

First image of the Valley Fire

View from the top of the driveway.

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

The Valley Fire from Spruce Grove Road.

The Valley Fire from Spruce Grove Road.

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 Valley Fire from the lookout point on Spruce Grove Road.

The Valley Fire from the lookout point on Spruce Grove Road.

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.

The north end of the Valley Fire

The north end of the Valley Fire

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.

The Valley Fire seen from a medow on Spruce Grove road between the north and south entrance.

The Valley Fire seen from a meadow on Spruce Grove road between the north and south entrance.

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.

Samples of two cinders and a charred leaf found in the driveway after the fire had passed.

Samples of two cinders and a charred leaf found in the driveway after the fire had passed.

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…

Lake County Soliloquy

A Soliloquy for Lake County

After all the fires we have been though from the Rocky Fire to the Grade…

Image of the first night of the Rocky Fire.

Rocky fire on July 29

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.

Disaster Blanket

Image of a Disaster Blanket from the Red Cross

Disaster blanket drying on the banister.

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.

View of fire from my driveway

View from my driveway.

 

Image of another new wild fire.

A new wild 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.

Image of the fire crew and helicopter dropping water.

The fire crew and helicopter dropping water.

I worry about the people and animals in the hill to the north and west of me.

Image of Advisory Evacuation notice.

Advisory Evacuation Notice

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.

Aftermath

 

Image of smokey sunrise.

Early sunrise through the smoke

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
sleeps
in
the
dust
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.

Image of euphorbias in bloom.

Euphorbias in bloom.

The apples are hanging like clusters of grapes on the branches of the apple trees.

Apples on the tree

Red Delicious apples on the tree.

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.

More on the Jerusalem Fire and the Dragon Who Will Not Lay Down to Sleep

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.

Image of driveway of the Schmidt farm

The driveway of the Schmidt farm

The dogs and I  are living out of the back of the car for the next five days.

Image of the back of the author's vehicle.

Living out of the back of the car.

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.

Corky butchering some roosters for winter.

Corky butchering some roosters for winter.

Plucking the feathers from the chickens.

The author plucking the feathers from the chickens with Corky.

Later that morning Brenda and I set off to evacuate her chickens and remaining belongings she wanted to remove from her place.

Image of view of the the fire at the Wal-mart parking lot.

View of the fire at the Wal-Mart parking lot.

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.

Image of Voice,the dog.

Last photo of Voice.

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.

A hasty grave for Voice.

A hasty grave for Voice.

To be Continued…

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