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.
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.
After the fourth day of this I decided to release him.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Mushroom Wedding Arch completed
The sculpture was completed on December 24, 2014 but I finally took down the tarps the day before yesterday so I could photograph it. The weather report was forecasting strong winds and I wanted to get the tarps down before the front moved in.
This was a long project. It took five years from conception
The armature was constructed out of 1/2 inch steel pipe. In the summer of 2013 I decided to modify the armature and insert a parallel pipe construction, which was connected with unions in order to give more strength to the structure.
Most of that time was spent trying to figure out how I was going to sculpt the underside of the arch. I did not want to be lying on my back on a scaffold eight feet in the air trying to apply wet cement above my face.
My solution was to sculpt and cement the top section of the arch separate from the two upright pillars and then convince some very good friends to help install the completed top section back on top of the two pillars.
The summer of 2014 was spent carving the pillars and then shaving down the carving to allow for a 1/2 inch of cement to be applied on top of the Styrofoam.
I began applying the first coat of cement sometime during mid summer of 2014. The next stage was to sculpt the gills on the mushrooms. It was a good day was when I sculpted the gills on six mushrooms. There were a lot of summer days like this out in the heat under the shade of the tarps with NPR screaming on the radio. God I made a lot of mushrooms on this piece. Ahh!
Lorna Sue Sides came by in August and helped out by sculpting the gills on some of the mushrooms.
and yours truly grimacing under pressure.
The construction around the arch still needs to be cleared away. The Wedding Arch needs a larger footing, which will be incorporated into the steps and the wall below the arch sometime next summer.
After all this time of blood and sweat and tears it is finally done. It still needs a christening. After that it belongs to Lake County, to PsiKeep and to all the people who may or may not walk beneath the arch to wed.
Below are details of the arch. Best regards to all.
Just a few words on the construction of the Mushroom Wedding Arch.
Almost all the gills have been sculpted. So I brought in a few leaves for contrast and focus.
I applied the first layer of green cement. Next I will apply a coat of the background color to detail the edge of each leaf so that terms of the cement structure there will be no separation between the leaves and the background.
Interesting that the leaves are the same color as the leaves of the wild tobacco plant on the right side next to the arch.
With the mild weather and prolonged and withered autumn, construction on the Mushroom Wedding Arch has continued.
This portion of the work should be called: “Gilling the Mushrooms”. Days have been spent sculpting the gills of the mushrooms in cement. I have gotten pretty good at throwing that trowel with a slice of cement at exactly the right place to create the next gill. But I must have been crazy carving all these mushrooms on this arch. Just when I think the process of detailing in the gills is over, I find another mushroom I need to work on.
If I ever get done carving these gills, the next stage is detailing the caps of the mushrooms.
Well, back to work. Might get this arch done before winter.
The first coat of cement applied to the uprights of the Mushroom Wedding Arch was completed today.
I used a brown coloring for the first coat of cement so that if there is any chipping it will blend in rather than reveal the white cement underneath. Any cables you see in the images are there for temporary support until the footing has been revised.
Just when I want to collapse on my laurels, I know that the real work is just beginning. The next stage is to detail the mushrooms by sculpting the cement to create the gills and cones using different colors and textures. This portion will have to be done slowly and the expected time of completion will not be until next year.
Continued from: More on the Drought
San Clemente Goat Bellowing
I woke up this morning to the sound of a one of the goats cutting a scream through my dreams.
At first I thought it was the doe with the three new kids, who must have squeezed through a hole in the fence. I jumped into my clothes and ran out only to find the whole herd was loose with the exception of a single doe, who could not figure out how to escape through the hole in the chain-link gate. Standing alone and cut off from the herd she was letting everyone know how frustrated she was. I spent the dawn repairing the gate and coaxing the herd back into the paddock with a can of grain.
By that time the sun had come up and it was time to complete the carving on the Mushroom Wedding Arch in time for Lammas.
Carving the Uprights of the Mushroom Wedding Arch
The carved left and right panels for each upright were temporarily removed so that the foam, when applied, would not drip down on the detailed carved work.
The keystones, the transition between the top section and the uprights were glued in place. The orange foam is just a different foam that was available. It is actually a section of a discarded floating dock.
And, of course, the same complaining goat was standing in the background.
Next the carved left and right panels were permanently attached to each upright. Each keystone was carved to blend in with the top portion of the arch which was cemented last summer. The top portion of the arch is wrapped under the blue tarp to protect it until the arch is completed.
The last part of the carving process was the editing process where the total work was shaved down to allow for the ¼ to ½ inch of cement which would be applied later.
The more I shaved away the better it looked so I just kept whittling down. At last the bell rang in that far distance space within my head that announced that the work was done.
NOTE: I will be Announcing the date and time of the Cement Party and Potluck shortly.
Disturbing signs of life and death in this small portion of paradise.
Remember that lush photo of the elderberry tree with flower and immature fruit.
By mid July the tree is dying and the fruit hangs uneaten and withered on the branch.
On July 5th I took a photo of one of the fawns born this year. Notice the swelling on the side of its cheek.
On July 16 I sighted the fawn again. He/she still had the swollen area on the left cheek. I observed the mother doe licking him prodigiously. They were with another older doe and wandered off into the brush before I could photograph them.
Each afternoon and early evening I see more and more deer coming down for the water behind the chicken coop. They are also coming to glean the remaining food for the three free range hens that have survived the fox and the coyotes. In previous years there was enough forage so that the deer did not come around until sometime in September.
The Water Table and the Orchard
The level of the underground water table seeping down the slope has greatly decreased. The orchard, which relies on that water, is drying out. This summer the trees on the edge of the underground flow have needed to be irrigated more frequently. I almost lost a Santa Rosa plum and several persimmon trees before I realized what was happening.
San Clemente Goats
Last winter, one night in the barn, Jonas, one of the two breeding bucks broke his tether. This resulted in three more doelings born July 9. They will be available in late September. For more information on these little girls check out PsiKeep ranch.
Sculptures at PsiKeep
Cleaning out the shop. I had this one free-standing mushroom sitting in the shop for several years. There was just something stodgy about it so I never set it out or took it to a show. Luck for it. The other mushrooms were stolen at the Mendocino Art Center for the Arts several years ago. This summer I decided to redesign it.
The image below shows the revision in Styrofoam before I covered it in cement.
The carving of the left and right uprights and buttresses for the Mushroom Wedding Arch is proceeding in spite of the heat and lack of vehicles to get supplies. They are almost completed.
The next job will be to create a more stable footing by digging out between the uprights and connecting the armature before pouring the footing in cement.
Griffins and Mandelbrot for the Header Image
Apollo pulls the sun across the heavens with a chariot drawn by griffins.
The griffin is a composite of an eagle and a lion.
It represents the unity of strength and wisdom
Both are needed in this time of change.
I must be the last person to have seen Fractals the Colors of Infinity narrated by Arthur C. Clark in 1994 but it came around again via Brasscheck TV and I got a chance to watch it online on the eve of the Solstice. Yes this is what I have been creating for years, little/big, worlds within worlds. I have been sewing that idea a stitch at a time. The Mandelbrot coat is coming. Look for it around the time of the winter solstice.
The sister website: psikeep.com is up and running
Check out the link for information on the San Clemente goats at PsiKeep Ranch and more detailed information on the PsiKeep Center for the Arts.
The Raven Family
The raven pair has raised a single raven. It is enormous. The three are everywhere calling to each other. The forest is filled with the sound of raven.
The Mushroom Wedding Arch
Work is beginning on the upright sections of the Mushroom Wedding Arch. The left and right inner and outer panels have been carved and now need to be integrated with the front and backsides of the uprights.
A Fox has moved on to PsiKeep
For last two evenings a gray fox has been spotted in the orchard. For several months something has been slowly decimating the chicken population at PsiKeep. Eight new black Australorp chicks were purchased and are being raised in the chicken coop.
This morning a fresh fox scat was found on top of the lid of the trash can near the coop, as if signaling that the fox has staked out his territory. Aside from the obvious insult I did not notice any hair or feathers in it.
One good outcome of the presence of the fox is that it seems to have chased off whatever creature has been raiding the apricots at night. Each morning numerous half-ripe apricots have been found lying on the ground beneath the trees. The fruit is chewed open with the pits are missing. Whatever has been knocking the fruit down from the trees is more interested in the seeds! Huh? But the last two nights the apricots have been undisturbed. The fox is on the prowl.
It has been slightly more than a year since the logo for PsiKeep Venture and the blog was launched. It is time to clarify the mission statement and to update several of the categories.
The mission of this blog is to find people who are interested in both following and participating in the adventure of constructing the PsiKeep Center for the Arts with all the trials and tribulations of building an art center in the wilderness from brush clearance to sculpture garden; from art classes to gift shop.
Currently classes are taught in the main studio. Plans for the buildings to house the workshops and classrooms will be online. Also look for the site plan for the general layout of the future buildings and gardens on the property. Both of these documents should be online sometime this year.
Also the sister website psikeep.com will be online shortly.
Last year the top section of the Mushroom Wedding Arch was installed. The completion of the Mushroom Wedding Arch will hopefully happen by this summer.
The next sculpture project is the revision of the Dragon Head Entrance.
The Dragon Head was constructed in 2010.
The dragon was in the 2010 Lake County Eco-Arts Sculpture show.
Today the Dragon Head sits in the driveway looking very mush like a tarped motorboat.
The sculpture had been skinned with paper mache. The paper mache needs to be stripped away. The wiring for the lights in the eyes and the walk-thru needs to be installed and the sculpture needs to be prepped in order to be permanently coated with cement and ceramic tiles. This summer volunteers are welcome to help with the construction and installation. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
San Clemente Island Goats
The Center is located on a nine-acre goat ranch in Lake County California. PsiKeep ranch breeds and raises San Clemente Island goats. Last year this bog was launched with the lines “This morning I buried to kids”. This year’s kidding season went a lot easier. As of this posting all the kids that were born have survived and are healthy.
San Clemente Island goats are a rare breed of feral goat. They once inhabited the Channel Islands off the coast of California. They were probably introduced to the Islands by Spanish ranchers who eventually abandoned them. The goats survived on their own for about three hundred years until the Navy began using them as target practice in the 1970’s. A rescue mission was set up to save the goats and the goats on PsiKeep ranch are from a long line of descendants of the goats taken from that rescue mission. Today there are approximately 650 San Clemente goats in the world. Twenty-two of them are on PsiKeep ranch.
This year’s kidding season began in December. Twelve kids are currently available for sale. People who are interested in owning and raising heritage goats should contact email@example.com at PsiKeep Ranch.
Wildlife at PsiKeep
The pair of ravens who have claimed PsiKeep as part of their territory are busy refurbishing their nest in the Ponderosa pine tree next to the main house. The pair is working most of the day flying in with twigs and pieces of material to line the nest. There is a lot of commotion, re-establishing the boundaries of their territory and driving off last year’s offspring. Every few minutes a shadow passes overhead as one of the ravens fly past.
As I stepped outside for a break in writing this post they were high in the sky dive bombing a red-tailed hawk.
You might enjoy reviewing the raven diaries from last year and look for more on the ravens in the weeks ahead.
I have not seen any sign of Scruff, the orphan deer with the mange. If he survived he is probably much larger by now. Most of the deer come by at night. Right now this is plenty of water for them and the grasses and bushes are leaving out providing them with fresh vegetation.
Care-taking the Land
The first sign of spring at PsiKeep comes with the blooming of the Red Bud and the unveiling of the Euphorbias, which have been draped in nursery cloth to protect them during the winter.
Last year a number of trees came down. Several trees had to be cut down due to beetle-bark damage or just plain old age. Since PsiKeep is nestled in the forest, falling trees are a big issue. Luckily the property sits in a bowl against the hillside where the ground water tends to converge. But dry days lie ahead with the prolonged drought in California. Hopefully the spring at the bottom of the hill can be dug out and reconnected to the water tanks.
Looks like lots of work ahead for this year. Hope to hear from you all. Comments are always welcome.
Continued from Moving Forward with the Mushroom Wedding Arch
Two days of last-minute preparation left me exhausted before we even began this venture.
On Saturday November 24, I was still setting the eyes in the goat’s head and cleaning grout off of the solar disk. On Sunday morning I was up at dawn clearing the pathway in the shop so we could carry the section out the door.
Would this day be razor blades or champagne?
We started out with three volunteers, Lorna Sides, Tim Williams, Dante de Amicis and myself. We quickly discovered that the plan was not going to work. There just was not enough manpower to lift the section into place. Just as we were looking at option two, which was to move the section on to an outside table and tarp it for the winter, two more volunteers arrived, Terri Larsen of and her husband Peter Shifman. We thought with this many people we might have a chance. It was back to “plan A”. This consisted of carrying the section out of the shop, across the yard, up the steps to the uprights and lifting it into place.
When we discovered that we could not physically lift the section into place without some sort of aid, we moved the old well shed tower between the steps and lifted the section onto the top of the tower before making the final lift on to the uprights.
Surprisingly the last step went easy. For months I worried about lining up the four unions, which were the connection between the uprights and the top section of the arch. I decided to complete the top section first and attach it into place before cementing the uprights so that I could adjust the exposed armature to fit the two together. In the end there was only one connection that needed a little easing. We used a crowbar to line up the union threads between the two structures and screwed them together with a pipe wrench.
Today the goddess gave us a reason for champagne and Lorna presented a surprise birthday cake for me. Ah! 70 years inside this body,which I always thought was a mistake but in spite of that it has served me well.
Later we had a Thanksgiving feast inside the house.
The next steps in constructing the Mushroom Wedding Arch will be to cement in the steps for the footing, reinforce the side panels to eliminate the side-swaying, laminate the carved Styrofoam side panels to the uprights, and cement the uprights. This will probably be accomplished in the spring or early summer of next year. Until then I need to secure this top-heavy sculpture from getting knocked over in a windstorm.