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.
I lost the first ewe before I could figure out what happened. Neither ewe could not expel the placenta after birth.
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.
There was naked Justice getting repaired for the MAC show in Middletown.
There was hooded Justice waiting out the late rains.
And finally there was re-dressed “Justice Corrupted” ready to be trucked to the show.
I did marched for Bernie for President at the Lower Lake Memorial parade. We even got the dragon in the show.
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.
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.
Once again another fire and evacuation story. This time the fourth fire, the Valley Fire
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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…
August 9th, 2015
A day of Yurga begins like any other day but on the day come the ending and the re-beginning of the world.
The Rocky fire had burned 69,636 acres and was 70% contained.
It was a clear day out here. I decided to work on some of the rune circles I am building to put on the side of the house and the out buildings.
I could hear the helicopters flying overhead and heady equipment still coming down the road above me. I did not think very much about that. Funny how we can get use to almost everything including the sounds of a distant battle being waged.
But the call I got from my neighbor changed everything. He called to say there was a fire down in the canyon below the drop off at the east end of the valley. I went out on the porch to look and saw a tiny wisp of smoke in the east.
Within ten minutes the smoke had turned into this.
And within less than an hour into this.
This was a monster roiling out of the canyon.
Once again I started packing. I called the chickens into the kennel with some food and caught them one by one, stuffing them into the cage in the back of the car. I caught Little Hitler, the cat and got her into a carryall. I grabbed the same stuff: sketches, the book project, hard drives and computers, the altar icons. I even re-packed the raven feathers.
I kept calling for help to transport the goats. But no one was responding. The fire was sweeping up the slope of the hills at the east end of the valley about two miles away. At dusk they came to tell me to get out. I told the sheriff I was packed and ready to go but waiting for help with the goats. It was getting dark and no one was coming.
Finally I grabbed Jonas, the older buck, and tethered him to the side mirror of the car. I managed to grab one of the kids and threw her on top of the dogs in the car. I turned the other goats free and set off up the driveway. Some of the goats ran after me for a short way but then turned back. Slowly I made my way up the driveway leading Jonas while the kid and dogs were scrambling across my belongings in the back of the car.
Suddenly I could see Jonas was not following behind. I stopped the car afraid he was collapsing. But what I discovered was worse. He had caught his horn in the wheel well. I got out and tried to get the tip of his horn free. But the curve of his horn was just the right shape and size of that space for the wheel.
At last I was able to work the tip of his horn free and we set off once again with the fire raging at our backs.
I got to the top of the drive way just as help arrived.
To be continued…
August 6 Day 9
Note: Please note that this entry of the past three days was under construction when the Jerusalem Fire broke out. I have entered them now to keep the events in this story in chronological order.
The satellite fire map indicates hot spots in the south The fire has moved to the south which is now closer to me if the winds blow back toward the north.
I have no startling images to share. I am too close to the belly of the beast and the fire is too spread out. There is nothing but smoke in the sky in the south east.
The fire is now as large as San Francisco.
Jon Stewart is leaving the Daily Show and all day NPR has been playing interviews of Jon Stewart. It is an end of another era.
I am keeping a close eye on the south where I am unable to see anything. The hot spots are still too far away. I think I will go down and open up an abysses on one of the goats. I am too exhausted to cut back more brush. Most of it has been cut away but this place has a lot of trees. There is not much more I can do but be vigilant and ready to move out if need be.
August 7 Day 10
I gave the older buck, Jonas, another bath and scrubbed away more dead skin and hair. He is looking a lot better. The new hair is growing back. And the wounds where the other bucks had attacked him are almost healed.
I have been giving him zinc and coconut oil in his feed and I am waiting for the supplements to arrive by UPS. But they will not come out here until Monday due to the fire. The little buckling with the abysses is also improving. The wound is drying up and have been giving him 2 cc of penicillin a day.
The day ended in that darkness that comes without the power.
I was watering the goats when the water stopped flowing. First I looked for kinks in the hose. None. I ran around looking to see if I left a hose bib on. There were no hose bibs draining out the water. Panic. Is my well pumping dry? The gauge says zero. No flow; no pressure Then I noticed that the light in the shop was out. I went inside and sure enough I had no power. As it turned out there was another fire in Sigler Canyon and a transformer blew up. One rumor had it that the transformer was hit with retardant. That night I read by headlamp until the power came on around 10:00p.m. I shut down the place hit the bed.
August 8 Day 11
I spent the day cleaning the house and unpacking the stuff I had grabbed to evacuate. Most of the space in the car had been taken up with a cage for the chickens, two carry cages for the cats and room of for the dogs. I had filled the rest of the space with things I thought were important. The hard drives and the computers made a lot of sense. The bag with the boots was probably practical as was the cash. The icons on the altar were for comfort. But the raven feathers? What was I thinking? Maybe they were to tie me to the earth. Soul food.
I use to have this all down. In Topanga I evacuated a number of times. I knew exactly what to grab after the animals were packed in the car. It was always the latest art project and irreplaceable things. But this time the car was too small and I am in between art projects. So I was stumped. This experience has taught me that I need to better organize my possessions and get focused on an art project.
At the end of the day I checked the satellite map again and noticed same seven little circles of hot spots in the south. Seven yellow dots may make a big difference on how this day plays out.
July 29, 2015. I looked up from my writing to see a mushroom cloud through the trees outside my window. This was beginning of the Rock fire.
I walked up the drive and saw that there were two fires burning in the north. One was a spot fire that must have developed quickly because it was almost the size of the original fire by the time I took this image.
By nightfall another dragon was born.
Before dark I began to set up evacuation plans. I used Facebook to try to find someone who would take the goats. While I was waiting for a response I began prepping the place as best I could. I dropped the tarps and swept out the rain gutters and the roofs of the main house and the outbuildings, climbing around in the dark while the dragon rolled and churned through the wilderness in the north.
Using a lamp strapped to my head I caught one cat and got her into a cage. I made room in the back of my broken down Subaru for two cat cages and a cage for the chickens. I began packing and loading the car with hard drives, the alter, the latest project, irreplaceable items, a pair of boots, notes and printed versions of the book. The things one takes when looting your life in the face of a fire.
By the time I got several responses for places to put the goats I was exhausted. I was beyond exhausted. My heart was pounding in my chest and my knees were turning into jello and the first flames were spilling over the crest of the ridge.
On the road above I could hear the neighbors driving out with their horse trailers. The night was strangely quite. I felt like I was one of the left behind. Spot fires were burning on the ridge in the north.
I have to thank the couple who came to my rescue, although it did not end well. They managed to back their 20 foot horse trailer down the drive. We worked until 5:00 a.m. getting all the San Clemente goats into that trailer.
I managed to get an hour of sleep before the sun came up.
Morning brought a clear sky on Day 2.
The person who took the goats could not keep them so I spent the day finding another place for them to stay. By the time I got home it was armageddon all over again. The dragon was loose on the world.
The fire fighters put up a brave fight with the aerial bombing of fire-retardant. By dark all was quiet.
Sunrise Day 3.
The day was so clear I thought I could see if I could find someone with a truck to bring the goats home. But by the time I finished feeding the evacuated goats out where they were staying the smoke had returned.
I am back at PsiKeep writing this blog. The road is closed. The fire is running to the north by northwest. I am going to stop now to see if I can get out to feed the goats at the end of the day. I will probably load the car again with all the stuff I have chosen to evacuate and take the animals with me. If I can get back in I will to try to stay here as long as I safely can.
Final day; final harvest
of the last of the persimmons.
Cutting wood and bringing it under cover.
The goats restless with the smell of autumn rain
a broken tide of clouds darkens at day’s end.
On Hallows Eve they came as silent as ghosts.
but for the whisper of their hoofs swashing the leaves.
They came following the does.
Drunk on pheromone and lust
Tossing the weight of their antlers in empty threats
At the broken moon.
The redwoods were too much for them
The scent of pine oil lathering the air.
They were don quixotes swinging at windmills
as they plowed the redwood saplings to the ground.
In the morning nothing left but broken branches.
The bark rubbed clean from the cambium.
Girdled, the young trees will weaken
and eventually die.
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.
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.
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.
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.