Category Archives: Wildlife

Wildlife at PsiKeep

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…

Rutting time at PsiKeep

I saw the first buck this morning.  It seems early this year but the rut has begun. This is the time of year when the male deer are pursuing the females who are in heat.

buck_does

The bucks are more shy than the does and I only see them once a year during the rut. This one came for the girls and stayed for the chicken food. He caught me sighting him with the lens of my camera.

Young buck

Young buck

Chicken Attack

Yesterday was a long, bad day of disappointing endeavors, from being unable to get the truck in the driveway up and running to crashing the computer. My evening ended with the blue screen of death. I had been meaning to back up for years! Just happened to do it that day while I was trying to install the software program, InDesign, for a class I was planning to take before the computer died. I guess I am out of the class.

So when I went to bed last night I must not have been sleeping too soundly because I heard the attack from the upstairs bedroom. I jumped out of sleep into a pair of moccasins. I grabbed a flashlight and ran butt naked out into the warm night.

Ah! I had forgotten to close doors to the coops. I checked the hen-house and sure enough one of my three older hens was gone.

I ran into the forest sprinting over fallen branches, whistling for my dog and calling out hoping to startle the predator into dropping its prey. Sometimes that will work if you can get on the scene early enough. But this time there was nothing. The night was silent except for the barking of a distant dog.

When I got back to the house I saw the feathers on the path where the predator and the hen must have struggled.

Chicken feathers on the path to the goat pens

Chicken feathers on the path to the goat pens

I checked the hutch where I am keeping six pullets and a young rooster and I had forgotten to close the door to that hutch also! Too depressed and angry with myself for forgetting to close the chickens up for the night, I could not bear to make a count to see who was missing.

Later that night I hear the chickens again. It sounded like another assault. But this time I did not get out of bed. I was too depressed and besides I had already closed up the coops. There was nothing more I could do but chew on my losses in the morning.

This morning I did not want to wake up. But I finally had to face the day and feed the livestock. As I stepped off the porch I was greeted by one of my older hens. Wait a minute. How did this one get out of the coop? When I opened the door the other two hens ran out.  I looked more closely at the first hen then I saw that she was missing her tail feathers.  She must have escaped from whatever had grabbed her.

When I went to fill up the water bowls, which I keep for the chickens and the deer, I saw the muddy water, which is a good sign of raccoons.

Muddy water in a bowl is a sign of raccoons.

Muddy water in a bowl is a sign of raccoons.

 

It must have been a raccoon that had grabbed her. While I was running naked through the forest a frustrated raccoon may have hiding in a tree above my head watching this crazy human go by.

The chickens at PsiKeep eatiing beneath a bronze sculpture titled "Bad Day in Scythia"

The chickens at PsiKeep eating beneath a bronze sculpture titled “Bad Day in Scythia”

More on the Drought

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.

Elderberry

Elderberry blooming and berries setting

By mid July the tree is dying and the fruit hangs uneaten and  withered on the branch.

image of dying elderberry with health manzanita in the foreground

Elderberry and healthy Manzanita tree in foreground

Elderberry fruit withered and uneaten.

Elderberry fruit withered and uneaten.

Deer

On July 5th I took a photo of one of the fawns born this year. Notice the swelling on the side of its cheek.

image of swelling on left cheek of fawn

A fawn with swelling on left cheek.

Another view of the fawn with the swelling on the left cheek.

Another view of the fawn. Note the swelling just behind the left eye.

 

Mother doe with fawn with swelling on left cheek.

Mother doe with fawn with swelling on left 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.

Another mother doe with  fawn and yearling

Another mother doe with fawn and yearling.

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.

Persimmon tree wilting from low water table.

Persimmon tree wilting from low water table.

 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.

Three San Clemente doe kids born July 9

Three San Clemente doe kids born July 9

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.

Mushroom redesigned with Stryofoam before the cement was applied.

Mushroom redesigned with Styrofoam before the cement was applied.

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.

Left upright in carved Styrofoam

Left upright in carved Styrofoam

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.

View of outside studio and drawings for the uprights.

View of outside studio and the original drawings for the uprights.

Wild Fire

The sky has darkened and the dragon is loose on the land.

cloud_road

The wildfire coming west of Lake Berryessa ran north by east smoking up the corridor where on a clear day from the porch at PsiKeep you can see the sun flashing off of the waters of Lake Berryessa. sky-and-euphrob

Tacking on the wind the fire grew from 30 acres at about noon on July 1 to 2,500 acres by 6:00p.m. By July 3 it was 4,300 acres jump-sparking as it roiled toward us. Each evening and morning there would be some containment by the fire crews but by the afternoon when the wind came up it was out of control, wild and ferocious.

valley-view

On July 3 we went to DEFCON IV. We started the vehicles to make sure they had gas and were functioning. We parked them facing outward so they were easy to load and we would not have to turn them around the last minute.

On July 4 a sister fire broke out south east of Lake Berryessa.

Lucky for us the wind changed and the first fire tacked to the east before finally smoldering out. But no one ever completely puts down wild fire. Simpering beneath the earth ,”Feed me, feed me.” you could almost hear it say as it waits for just the right combination of heat and ignition to leap up once again.

We held the course at DEFCON IV and we did not have to go any further with preparations but the other stages are always in the back of your mind.

DEFCON III: Assemble the halters and cages and lead ropes. Pull the computers. Put the cats and dogs in the house so they can be loaded in the vehicles if the time comes. Cage the chickens. Start packing valuables in to boxes.

DEFCON II: (This is the stage when you can sight distant flames). Start putting the boxes containing the hard drives, molds, current projects, and valuables in the back of the vehicles. Halter the goats and tie each animal to the fence inside the paddocks ready to lead into the truck.

DEFCON I: Evacuate. Load the animals in the vehicles and drive out.

Evacuating is like looting your own things.
I come from a long line of self-looting from the experience of many fires in Topanga Canyon. It is a fast and choreographed dance ripping out and loading the vehicle with the most valuable and irreplaceable of things. It is a cleansing of oneself. What do you choose? You can never take it all so you take what you can rebuild within a few moments or hours’ depending on how close is the first sighting of the flames.

The keyword is “rebuild” putting your life back together as fast as possible when it is all over. Because the real strength, the real coordinates, the real things are within yourself. The other stuff is to just help make it happen as easily as possible.

Grab what you can but in an organized way. Know beforehand what you want to take and where everything is located. For me it is always the animals’ first then the computer hard drives and projects. Never waste space on clothes and personal items. They can always be replaced.

There is nothing good about a wild fire. A wild fire is transformation fast and complete but at what cost? Today the current dogma in a conversation about wild fires is the “controlled burn”. The guys who call for a controlled burn are the same guys who want to poison the lake to stop the “evasive” fish or shoot and trap the wolves so that hunters can get their prize elk

Life is complex and a “koyaanisqatsi” answer is no answer.

There are too many fires started by arsonists and nature to add more to the burning count. The few plants that have adapted to a high heat to release their seeds do not balance the destruction and suffering of a wild fire.

I have seen the result of a wild fire so hot it has melted machinery, burned parking lots, jumped freeways. In a wild fire there is something more terrifying than the expanding flames. A heat wave precedes the fire about 50 feet ahead like an invisible wall of destruction. Any vegetation two feet or less does not burst into flame but falls into ash as if disintegrated by a force field. Anyone accidentally stepping into that invisible wall will have their clothes burst into flames.

I have seen the remains of a herd of deer trapped in a box canyon. Their charred bodies are a testimony to the confusion that must have occurred in the smoke. After a fire there are tiny creatures such as snakes, mice, ground squirrels other rodents who mistakenly sought refuge in the ground as the fire rolled over them. Those that do not suffocate in the ground crawl out of their burrows with their fur smoldering as they die by the thousands on the road.

But what do you do with the elements that feed a fire? At PsiKeep I am feeding all the  cut brush to the goats. I am burning the dead trees for fuel in the winter or burning brush fires in the rain. But it is a small dent on just nine acres of timber and chaparral.

As I glean through the forest at Psikeep what I see is the forest-past choking the forest- present and the forest-future in the form of dead fall. While there are organism that breakdown the dead wood such as mycelium and termites in years of drought the dead fall lies un-decayed forming a crushing umbrella, which bends the young saplings under its weight. A dry tinderbox, fuel for the dragon just out of reach waiting to burn free.

What we need is to find is a use for all that dead fall on the hundreds of thousands of acres of wild land.

Summer Begins at Psikeep

Sun slipping below the hillside unravels
a timid breeze skidding down the slope to cool
a hot, stale afternoon.
On the rooftop of the barn
a raven tears out the heart of a ground squirrel
the story of my life unfolding…

This post is as rambling as a summer day and dedicated to the small things we step on, as we thoughtlessly plow our way toward those goals we consider of greater importance to us.

The long construction of the sister website, psikeep.com, set everything back at the Center for the Arts and Ranch. There were San Clemente goats to sell and brush to cut and all this before any artwork could take place.

Most of us regard wildflowers as a pretty thing along the roadside. We pass by quickly or surreptitiously stop and snatch a few flowers before the next car driving by catches us picking a bouquet that will never last. We try to grab the moment of all that splendor and end up with some withered stalks.

Monkey flower

Monkey flower

But, a battle rages in that field of flowers. For the flower is the end of life for that plant or that part of the plant. It is the culmination of a fierce race to propagate before it dies. The drought in California only intensifies this race. Each plant is throwing all it has into quick growth, flower and seed before the earth dries, cracks open yawing out a long summer of dust.

Elderberry

Elderberry blooming and berries setting

There were so many flowers blooming this spring in the race against time that one morning I had stop coding, take out my camera and collect some pictures of the flowers just outside the door and along the way to the orchard. At one point I was down on my knees, crawling through the under-brush so engrossed in photographing a tiny flower from the right angle that I tripped over a newborn fawn hiding there. Staring eye to eye for a fraction of moment we were both equally surprised. Then the fawn leaped up and ran to its mother before I had a chance to take a picture.

This year I was a little late with the weed eater. By the time I got to the orchard, it was overgrown with a waist-high plant that smelled faintly like anise.

weeds in the orchard

Weeds in the orchard between the apple trees

The seeds must have come in with the orchard grass and alfalfa, which I fed to the goats last winter. It got a good start with the manure and barn bedding I set out in the orchard. Rather than evasive it was a gift. It was easy to pull out and for a week I fed the goats on it. By the time I got in with the weed eater it was just beginning to flower.

unknown plant in the orchard.

A fennel like plant growing in the orchard

No, it was not wild fennel although I wish it had been. I use fennel in a lot of my cooking but this plant had a more wispy smell of anise. The leaf structure was different and it never produced the compound umbel flowers characteristic of wild fennel. If anyone can identify this plant, let me know.

So I found myself slaughtering thousands of little lives as I mowed down the waist-high brush to make ready for the fire season. I had to stop for a moment and reflect from the plants’ point of view just exactly what I was doing by cutting down the plants before the seed was formed. All that wasted growth broken and lying on the ground behind me while I walked away thinking how nice and clean the orchard looked.

It is all a matter of perspective and sometimes what link you are standing on in the food chain.

Year End Review and Vision of Things to Come in 2014

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.

Mission Statement

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.

footer-page-logo

Art Center

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. 

Sculpture Projects

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.

Image of Dragon Head sculpture under construction in the snow

Dragon Head sculpture under construction in the snow

The dragon was  in the 2010 Lake County Eco-Arts Sculpture show.

Image of the Dragon Head sculpture at the EcoArts 2010 Sculpture Walk

The Dragon Head was displayed as the Tree Dragon in the 2010 Eco Arts Sculpture walk in Middletown, California.

Today the Dragon Head sits in the driveway looking very mush like a tarped motorboat.

Image of tarpped Dragon Head sculpture

Dragon Head stored under a tarp

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 lorenwolf@gmail.com

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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.

Image of mother doe and kids

Time for a snack and a yawn

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 lorenwolf@gmail.com  at PsiKeep Ranch.

Image of a San Clemente adult buck close up

Jonas, one of the two breeding bucks at PsiKeep

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Wildlife at PsiKeep

Image of the ravens pair at PsiKeepThe 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.

Image of the shadow of a raven  flying overhead

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.  

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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.

Image of euphorbia draped in nursery cloth

Euphorbia wrapped in nursery cloth to protect from frost.

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.

Best regards.

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More on Scruff, the Orphan Fawn

Continued from Notes on an Orphan Fawn

Image of Scruff, a white tailed fawn, is eating from the goat food.

Scruff, a white tailed fawn, is eating from the goat food.

Scruff is back. I see him every few days. Several times I have surprised him coming around the corner of the house as he is eating the chicken or the goat food.

He has lost his spots and he is traveling alone.  The wound on the back of his head between his ears has healed but the hair has not yet grown back. You can see that area on the neck  just below his ears.

Image of Scruff with view of area of hair loss on back of neck

Hair loss is still visible on the back of the neck

Since I have been observing the deer at PsiKeep, especially after discovering Scruff, I have noticed another smaller fawn with hair loss in the same area on the back of its head. This hair loss is in roughly a circular area about the size of a silver dollar. The fawn is traveling with its mother and another larger fawn.

I am wondering if there is a mange infection that is appearing in the local herds of deer. I checked online and there seems to be a mange infection on the East Coast but no reports of it in California. If I see another deer with the same condition I think I will contact Fish and Game to see if this is something spreading in the deer population in this area.

Notes on an Orphan Fawn

It has been slow at Psikeep. I am not sure I can get the Mushroom Wedding Arch finished before winter.  I am still without a vehicle and trying to get as many hours of work as I can in order to get the ranch truck up and running.

I saw the orphan fawn for the first time on September 19.

Several nights before I heard the neighbors poaching. I awoke as the first shot cracked into the night and a few moments later I heard the kill shot. The neighbor must have shot the mother while the fawn bolted away into the dark.

I provide water for the wild life and this time of year when there is little for the deer to eat I set out the alfalfa dust which  gathers at the bottom of the goat feeders. The goats are too spoiled to eat it.

I saw Scruff for the first time when he still had his spots. It was obvious that he was the orphan fawn from the poaching. He was alone and trying to follow another doe with her two fawns.  The doe would have none of it and kept trying to drive him off.  It did not look good for him. The best I could do was to try to leave him some food in the hope that he would get it before the other deer.

In the fall the deer are traveling in small herds consisting of a mother doe, her fawn or two that were born this year and yearling or two from the previous year. Sometimes a yearling buck is trailing behind the group at the start of the rutting season. 

Things got worse for Scruff. Several days later I saw that there was a wound on the back of his neck. I took this picture as he was eating from the chicken food set out below the porch.

Image of the orphan fawn with a wound on the back of the neck.

View from the porch at Scruff below eating from the chicken food.

It looked like he had gotten into some bobbed wire or had some sort of skin outbreak like a mange on the back of his neck. You can see that the skin is red and there is some bleeding. There is a puncture wound but nothing is torn open.

Detail of  the wound on the back of the orphan fawn

Detail of the wound on the back of the orphan fawn

I thought of capturing him and trying to get him to a veterinarian. But deer, especially fawns, have a built-in system of dying of shock when they are too stressed. I have tried to help injured fawns in past and they usually die  before I can get help for them.  It is part of the evolution of deer since fawns are the prime food for predators. They are dealt a hand of mercy that they die before they are eaten alive.

I did not expect to see Scruff again. But two weeks later he was sighted eating the acorns under the oak trees. He had lost his spots and the wound was drying up. He was alone and somehow surviving.

Several days later I saw him  trailing a herd of deer. It looks like the little guy might make it.

Note: October 8, 2013
This morning I saw Scruff running with the same herd I saw him with a week ago. It looks like he has been taken in. The herd consists of an older female with two fawns born this year, two yearling females from last year, and a yearling buck attracted by the scent of the older female. 

Continued at More on Scruff.

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