Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hike into a Snow Globe

Today (1/28/10) I clambered up the ridge behind our house to look at a stand of Red Pine our logger has proposed to cut. He is an eager enterprising fellow. He keeps wandering around our place looking for more work for himself. He doesn't get, or doesn't want to get, that we have a pretty well thought out plan for our forest's harvest and enhancement. This plan doesn't really include him cutting everything he can make money on right now!

The stand of pine is perched on a very thin soiled ledgy slope three or four hundred feet directly above Burnt Mill Brook and directly across the valley of that brook from where the logger is working now. As I walk, spits of snow flurries enliven an otherwise grey day. A chill penetrates even though the temperature is around 30F. I'm walking on hardened granular snow smudged grey with flakes of moss, lichens, twigs and dried up leaves stripped from rocks and trees by a recent unseasonable rainstorm. The blush of redness on the surface of the bark that gives the Red Pine it's name does not relieve the deeply shadowed green canopy of the pines.

I decided, as long as I was up on the ridge, I would wander over to a familiar open ledge with a view of the mountains and valleys to the Southwest. I might as well give myself a present. The trek up the side of the mountain has at least given me some energy and confidence.

From the ledge, the view is foreshortened as if someone had draped a veil over a dome with me standing a little up on one side. The distant mountain ranges are gently gauzed by clouds and snow. This creates, in the near valley under my perch, a condensed contained world with the team of loggers working busily below. The opposite hillside tosses up the big diesel throbs of the caterpillar and skidder, as they prowl the woods, freshly cutting rich brown skidding roads - the most distinct lines in the landscape. The cracking, crashing, splintering of branches mixed with the whining chainsaw and thud of falling trees keeps me fixed for several long moments on the ledge. From this height and under this veil the whole operation looks like an animated diorama. The swirling snowflakes only add to the drama. Missing is the soft musk of the freshly broken earth and the spicy sweetness of newly cut sawdust. I realized that the winter woods I had just walked through set the stage much as a hushed museum room sets the stage for an art presentation.

The stand of Red Pines will not be cut by this logger.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Some winter scenes

While out taking a winter walk, I took a photo that shows off Moose Mountain pretty nicely. Moose is the mountain that we see everyday from our yard, garden, and most everyplace. It is always there and can be taken for granted.

I also took just a fun picture!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Logging Redux

This winter we are finishing up the logging job that we started last year. It has all been an interesting process. This new logger has a bulldozer as well as the usual skidder. He had to do a stream crossing and the bulldozer made it a little easier for him to do some of the ground work for laying down the bridge. The bulldozer does make more of a track in the woods than the skidder which results in cleaner, less obstructed, trail when the job is done but it does create more of an impact on the woods in terms of disturbance of the soil along the track.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fox Den!

The last few years we have had foxes in our valley. We often see a mother alone or with her cubs in the Spring and Summer. Last year one of our summer renters saw the mother fox take a goose on the lawn in front of Eve's Cabin. The fox also spent considerable time skulking around our chicken pens. Yesterday, I stumbled across a fox den on our property while out looking at a stand of timber with our forester. Later, Naomi and I went out and looked more closely at the den site and took some pictures. I figure that the fox has no compunction about hanging around my house and would even take my hens, if she/he could, so, I decided that a little poking around his/her 'house' is fair game. Here are some photos.

The first photo, above, is of the entrance to the den. Notice it is located under a metal fence post and fence wires. It is also along a little bluff over an intermittent stream and amongst some downed logs and branches in some pretty thick brush. This seems a pretty good setting for staying out of sight and defending against predators.

The photo to the left shows the general setting with the entrance being just at the base of those two trees in the center of the picture.

The photo below is just in front of the den and shows a hollowed out bowl like dip in the snow. Evidently the fox has curled up in this place often probably in a combination of sunning, resting, and keeping watch over the surroundings.

The photo below, also taken in front of the den, shows a tuft of fox fur.

This photo, below, shows a typical string of fox tracks. The fox was traveling toward the camera. Fox tracks are typically in a single line that looks a little like one of those 'follow the dot' drawing exercises you would see in a child's activity book. This particular set is leading away from the den site.

This photo shows a spot of fox urine. Again, it was not more than ten yards from the den entrance.

This final photo is taken from the vicinity of the den and shows a little more what the countryside looks like around the den. Foxes like a mix of fields, brush lines, woods, wet lands offering a variety of foods to sustain them through the season.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Family pictures from Santa Cruz

Last night was family picture taking time in Santa Cruz.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Shabbot in Santa Cruz with Esther

Last Friday evening we had Esther over for Shabbot dinner at our apartment and went to services at a Reform Synagogue in Aptos - Temple Beth El. This was all in partial preparation for Esther's Bat Mitzvah next June 5th! Naomi and I also used the opportunity to continue checking out Jewish life in the Santa Cruz area. As of Saturday morning, when we also attended services with Rabbi Eli's community - Chadash Yemeinu, we had four consecutive days when we spent significant time with Esther working on preparing for her Bat Mitzvah. She is working hard and seems quite dedicated to the effort. Naomi and I have now davened with three different communities in Santa Cruz in our search for a home. It turns out that there is much more of a Jewish community in the area than we thought over the years we have been coming to Santa Cruz.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Recovery of our Wetlands

In the early 1980s we stopped pasturing livestock in our fields along Paradox Creek. In the last 30 years there has been a dramatic recovery of the accompanying wetlands.

Wetland Recovery

When the Cows were all sold off:

The beaver came
Flooded the lowlands
First time in hundreds of years
New open spaces

The ducks Came
Wood Ducks
Even Coots
clucking, quacking, and kuk, kuk, kuk

The Herons came
Green and blue

Yellow lily pads grew
Pondweed and
Bladderwort too

The deer wade out at night
Wet muzzles dangling plant leaves and stems
Eyes incandescent
Tossing back headlights

Now we can canoe
Up and down the stream for miles
Open water perfectly laughing the
blue of the sky

White noise of water
Over beaver dams
Frogs and toads with music
Inspire a symphony

The Otters came

In Winter:
Muskrat houses like little
One almost expects to see
Smoke trailing from their peaks

Otter slides with fishy smelling scat
Coyote tracks

Oh! I forgot
Maybe on purpose?
Yard long black snakes
Wrist-thick in stunning repose
Bequeathing shakes!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Ano Nuevo

As a Chanukah present, Naomi and I took the whole family to Ano Nuevo north of Santa Cruz to see the Elephant Seals. Seeing these huge (up to 6000 lbs.) animals looking for all the world like 'Jabba the Hut' as they lurch-wiggle across the beaches and sand dunes is a little like being in some sci-fi flic. Below is a young male. You can see a little of the proboscis which, along with the immense size, gives the name Elephant Seal to the species. They were not very active when we were there - mating has not really gotten into full swing yet. Most of my pictures are of slug like creatures that look rather like mounds of earth and can be surprisingly well hidden among the dunes and brush of the beach. It is quite something to suddenly find yourself very close to a two and a half to three ton animal that could crush you in a very short period of time. They are faster than you would think!

This gives an idea of how you come upon one as you are walking through the dunes. If they feel threatened they will move quickly. They are always alert - they literally never sleep.

Below is a short video of a beach area with a number of Elephant Seals. As you can see, they aren't moving much.

And, finally, a picture of the family at a late lunch after the trip!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Some Pictures from in and around Santa Cruz

I've got a few pictures from our time here in Santa Cruz that I thought I'd put up. This first picture is on West Cliff Drive taken with my cell phone while we're talking with Jenna and sent to her to provide a little immediacy to our conversation. The picture turned out pretty good.

Naomi is in the right hand lower corner of this picture of her favorite shopping store in Santa Cruz.

This is Naomi at our lunch table on Christmas day. Pretty nice to be able to eat outdoors on the first few days of winter!

There is plenty of street music in Santa Cruz. Mostly you don't even notice, but this was sooo romantic and she was a pretty good musician. I gave her a couple of dollars and asked to take her picture.