Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Springing Back

I know California has the wackiest seasons -- summer days in the middle of winter, freeze-outs in the summer, hail at any time of year -- but this is nuts. After the storm, our valley thinks it's spring again.

Irises are blooming, daffodils are trying to come up, and the hills are turning neon green again. At the same time, the leaves are changing color, the farms are orange with pumpkins and our maple tree is ablaze. It's spring AND autumn at the same time! It's so crazy, I would have loved to have spent the next several weeks here.

Not Big Dog. He's been moaning about the shorter days ever since the end of September and now he's moaning about the end of daylight-saving time.

"Don't we need to save it more, now that we have less?"

This is traditionally our time to head south, but this year there are family matters delaying our departure. So while we leave the ranch today, we will not be gone too long. Wonder what season it will be when we return.

These photos were taken in the winter, up in the hills above (and a little beyond) our ranch. During the summer and fall, the hills turn gold, but right now, it's a medley of gold and green.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Toni, the Bobcat

2 days after the storm, our little valley was experiencing a major heatwave.

"Come here, quick!" Big Dog whispered.

I put down my paintbrush and went to the kitchen to look out the window. There's the most gorgeous giant cat I have ever seen. She's not very big -- more like a house cat on steroids -- but obviously she is not your average kitty.

We follow her from inside the house, window to window, trying to snap a photo. I think she sees us but she doesn't seem too concerned, so we step outside. She's a mere feet away from the house.

"Uh-oh. She's eyeballing the chickens..."

Big Dog gets a long broom handle and we tiptoe closer. This time, she walks away. Back around the house, the way she came, slithering under the deer fence and back into the hills.

I laugh at Big Dog's broomstick.
"Were you going to protect me with that thing?"
"Look at you! You're barefoot! Now that wasn't very smart, was it."

He's right. Toni (as I have been calling her) was deceptively cute. She looked like a big, overgrown cat that I could "hey, kitty-kitty-kitty" and pet. Of course I resisted the urge, but I have to admit, the urge was certainly there.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

After the Storm

What was I thinking? I have to laugh when I read my last entry. "Enjoy a different kind of music?" Ha ha ha ha ha!!!

I ought to know better. Nature's got a mighty twisted sense of humor.

Instead of curling up in front of a nice fire, listening to the raging storm, we soon found ourselves becoming the punch line to Nature's Big Joke.

"What's that?"

The sound of falling H2O sounded too close...like it was coming from...oh, my god, is that water on the INSIDE of the windows? There was a waterfall coursing down the giant cathedral windows on the east side of the main room. We quickly laid all the towels we could find and put little containers all along the sill, but we had to find a real solution quick.

"Go online and see if you can find a caulk or something we can use underwater," Big Dog yelled as I ran up to the "office" to log on. There's not much you can find out when you are on a 28800 baud rate dial-up. The local hardware store didn't know of anything (except tar) either, so putting on our raincoats, we drove to Home Depot to see if we could pick out something. Anything.

The wind that usually blows from west to east down Los Osos Valley, was howling from the other direction. Maybe the trees were happy.
"They're getting their kinks out. Sort of like going to a chiropractor," I mused.

There really wasn't anything at Home Depot either (except tar!) but we picked out the one caulk that didn't tell you to make sure the surfaces were completely dry and went back to the ranch.

"Watch out! There's a tree!"

During the brief time we were in town, a tree had fallen and had turned our local road into a one-laner. Rocks had tumbled from above and provided further obstacles.

"Peligro! Derrumbes!" I shouted. I've become quite fluent in Road Sign Spanish.

Well, I don't know how we did it, but we managed to seal the window casing with the strange goop we picked up. The goop didn't really stick to anything, but from the very top of our rickety ladder, I was able to push enough of it into the hairline cracks. Encouraged, we sealed the window casing to the bedroom window which was also starting to leak.

"I'm so glad we were here for this. Imagine if we were away!" We kept telling ourselves how fortunate we were, despite being drenched from head to toe. Big Dog had lit a fire, so once inside the house, it really wasn't so bad. Until we came across another leak, that is.

"Okay, I'm going out again!" I put on my cheap plastic raincoat (second of the plastic raincoats I bought at a particularly stormy Fuji Rock Festival -- Ryan Adams drew a cute picture on my first plastic raincoat) and went out, caulk gun swinging. This time, the goop didn't work and the rain kept coming inside. We had to rig a plastic sheet onto the top of the door so that the rain could come down it and into a bucket.

"4 inches already!" Big Dog kept his eye on the rain gauge and would announce the rainfall every few hours.

By the evening, the rain gauge was completely full, so I know we got more than 5 and a half inches of rain. Maybe we got 6. Maybe 7. Seems like we got an entire year's worth of rain in one 24 hour period.

And just when we thought the day was finally over, the phone rang.

"It's J here. Sorry to wake you but we just got back home and the drain outside JD's place is clogged or something. Water's rising up and nearly to his door!"

We got them a wide broom to try to push the water away from the door. It was around midnight, too dark to see anything and still raining like crazy. You'd think that with all the excitement, insomniacs like us would stay awake for hours, but maybe we were too exhausted. The water music lulled me right to sleep.

About 6 hours later, another phone call woke me up. It was our neighbor, D., letting us know that a car was blocking the easement road. Apparently it was the McC's car, abandoned on one side of the creek. It looked like the car had made it across the creek and stalled on the other side.

The dead car is now gone. So are some trees and lots of limbs. The creek is still roaring ("Like, I'm a river, man!") and it's still drizzling (how can there be so much moisture up there?) but it's calm and windless again. The storm has passed.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

First Storm

The sound of a toilet being flushed woke me up this morning. I peered over my shoulder but Big Dog was still in bed, motionless for a change.
The gurgling sound was not from any indoor plumbing, but rain, lots of hard and heavy rain, coursing down from the roof. And howling winds from the northeast.

It's our first storm of the season.

"Aren't you glad I picked everything up?" Big Dog gloated over coffee. He had been spending the last several days "winterizing." I thought it was premature since we are right in the middle of a beautiful harvest, but I'm glad the wind chimes got put away before this storm.

My chrysanthemums have already been blown over and I am wondering how many apples and pears will survive the gusts, how many will lose a few branches. Will my tomatoes still be on the vine tomorrow? How much damage will our ranch sustain? How much cleaning up will I have to do?

But for now, I am enjoying a different kind of ranch music. Concerto in wind and water, accompanied by the oaks.

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Saturday, October 03, 2009

Harvest Moon

"Fall's coming," Big Dog announced the other afternoon. There was a new kind of wind blowing through our tiny valley. Crisper.
We both frowned. We don't like the cold, but we like short days even less.
"So what was T talking about when he said October was the hottest month of the year in Los Osos?"

The next day, the heat was back, but even the hotter days don't feel much like summer anymore. Down the bigger Los Osos Valley, the farms are all orange polka dots from curing pumpkins, fields of sugar peas, peppers and squash. Our vegetable plots are full of massive juicy tomatoes, leafy green things. J&R have more pumpkins and gianormous spaghetti squash than they could possibly use but maybe they have other ways to use them that I don't know about.

Ants are everywhere, bees are as busy as can beeeee. A fox came and took one of our chickens (the shyest one who was at the bottom of the pecking order) and I see deer everywhere now. We're all enjoying the harvests of the season at The Ranch and tonight's soundtrack will be Neil Young.

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