Sorry for this brief post after such a long silence but most of the adventure has been trying to get PsiKeep ready for the fire season.
Today we plowed the road. Brush cutting to the horizon in the shoulder tall grass.
This looks like a match stick 90 feet up in the air. But these Blue Pines are so large due to the water table flowing down the bowl shape of this property, even in this drought. When is falls it will be a very loud crash. We can do nothing but wait the inevitable.
The dragon is coming. Looking for a crew to move it into place in order to begin the final installation.
I normally do not do this but because this is such a historic day I have to post this image.
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.
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.
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 Notes on an Orphan Fawn
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.
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.
The raven fledglings left the nest on May 23, 2013.
In the next couple of days there was a lot of commotion up in the trees. The wind was up again and the little birds swung precariously from whatever branch they had caught in their first fumbled leap into the sky. High in the blue pines the fledglings were shuttering their wings, the act of vibrating their wings in a half folded position that most young birds do when calling to their parents. They were also making a curious arrrling sound. It is almost like a growl but with “ar” sound. In raven speech this seems to say “I’m up here. Looking for help. Got food! The parents were busy flying from bird to bird offering encouragement by demonstrating small leaps to the next tree and bringing the fledglings food soaked in water from the water troughs below.
Meanwhile I have problems of my own.
The forest has spoken again: “We are getting too big and changes are coming.”
The wind brought down large branch from the massive blue pine at the lower corner of the drive. The branch crashed into the upper goat pen but never broke free. It splintered at the trunk of the tree creating an arch to the ground. This was probably a good thing since the goats were in the pen when it came down. If it had broken free, it might have crushed any one of the animals. The branch filled most of the pen and I was so preoccupied with my own concerns that I did not see that the branch had fallen. (This happened right outside my window where I was working and you think I would have heard something.) Entering the goat pen to feed the goats I did not notice that there was something wrong with this picture, until I set the food box down to open the gate.
So how am I going to clean up this broken tree?
The limb is hanging forty to fifty feet up in the air. At first I was pretty depressed at the magnitude of the toppled branch. Eventually it is going to come down and someone has to climb up the tree to cut it free.
But then I began to see this big “lemon” of a problem as my answer to a summer goat shelter. On one side the snags were driven into the ground bracing the broken limb. With some more bracing on the upper side and some trimming out of the snags hanging loose and a covering (plastic tarp at first then maybe cement when I have time)… Wow! I would have an armature for a structure that would provide protection from the wind and rain. Later I could find someone to drop the rest of the wood from the tree…
I have posted several articles on the forest at PsiKeep but a third of the property is meadow land. The meadow at PsiKeep is a tangle of vegetation thrusting up through the dried stock of the previous year’s growth. Emerging out of this cycle of thrust and die is a triumphant player, star thistle.
Over the years I have watched the star thistle slowly creeping up the slope. For the last few years I have found it growing in the orchard. This is a tough little plant worthy of some respect. Unchallenged it is growing everywhere. At the end of May what little green you see along the side of the road is star thistle, which has not yet dried out. Unfortunately a lot of people are choosing to use Roundup weed killer in a war against the thistle. This is not an option here and soon it will not be an option anywhere else. We have to find a use for this tenacious little plant because it is taking over.
There have been some attempts to find a use for star thistle. I did purchase some thistle honey once and I found that it was quite tasty. Several crafts people are claiming to have made paper from the fiber. Unfortunately livestock, including goats, will not eat the mature plants.
I came across this interesting video which presents an entirely different approach to managing grasslands
Fire and Ice at PsiKeep
The fire season has started this year.
Winter played out early with nothing but dry dust and wind running across the tops of the blue pines, the edge of insipid storms arching north eastward without rain.
The dead tree is down and cut up waiting to be split and hauled to the house for next winter. But another blue pine broke off about halfway up and crashed down on the back end of the outer goat pen. I do not know what to do with it. It is too late in the season to burn the snags and too far away from the drive to cut it up for the chipping crew I will probably buck it up a bit and wait out the summer.
It is moments like this when I have to step back and remember what the forest is all about. It is an ocean twisting and thrusting toward the factory of the sun. Fierce competition rages in those quiet spaces. Driving upward to leaf with the ravens and crashing down to become the food of mushrooms.
I have been tending this forest for thirty some years. I have protected the saplings from the goats and cut away the deadfall and it is still a wild thing out of my control. Yet it has kept us warm through the winter and shaded us during the heat of summer. It has filled the air to breathe and whispered the familiar sound of home across the tree tops.
But more on this later…
It was late in the afternoon as I watched a young doe who has been hanging close to the house. I watched as she pawed the ground about 30 feet up the slope behind the wood stack. She lay down and was very still. I was deciding to get my camera when saw Sammy crashing into the vegetable garden. I went down to retrieve him. As he was riding back to the porch on my arm, I saw that the doe was standing on her feet and nursing two newborn fawns. I fed Sammy and by that time the doe was leading the fawns into the brush.