December 8, 2008

Spectacular winter sunset.

Posted in blogging, photography tagged , , , , at 8:14 pm by czygyny

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Most people love sunsets. There is just something awe inspiring about watching the procession of colors, contrasts and textures as the day slowly fades. When everything comes together, cloud, sky and sun, the results can be dramatic. Thus it was so Sunday, December 7,  2008.

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I love a good show of altostratus undulatus any time of day. Fall and spring seem to bring the best displays. Now, most of you wouldn’t know your altostratus from cirrus uncius, and most of you probably don’t try to categorize the colors into a painter’s pallet, or stalk around your property with a bulky camera in hand, but I bet you do stand in awe as the show begins its crescendo, exploding across the skies like a giant fireworks, then darken and pale. The cool blues and greys and tans flowed into hot, firey orange in sharply stippled patterns, then muted to a darkening red-coal smolder and on into a frosty, star-glittered night.

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May this holiday season be a comfort inasmuch as we are in an uncomfortable time and uncertain future. This is always a tough time of year-cold, dark winter. Be thankful for your modern blessings; lights in abundance, heat at the touch of a switch, fresh healthful foods,  ease of communication. Having read  of how folks lived generations ago I have come to the realization that winter used to be a very difficult time to endure. We have blunted its scouring force with many wonderful things. Being the ever-anxious conspiracy nut, I wonder if this winter might be one to be very thankful for, the one to measure against in the times ahead, one in which to reminisce.  Maybe it is just the darkness and cold creeping into the mind and aging bones.

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August 25, 2008

Summer endings

Posted in blogging, photography tagged , , , , , , , , , at 4:20 pm by czygyny

 

The sweetest of Springs has now past, a smokey Summer of freedom is passing away. Some blue-oak leaves are beginning to show drought-induced senescence, and the Canadian geese are starting to practice their migration flights, strengthening the wings of this year’s offspring to complete the long journey ahead.

The evenings are sneaking up earlier, and the nights are spangled with stars that have been veiled all summer. The symphony of crickets still fills the night air making me I wish I had access to a top notch recording setup to bottle up their song for silent, dark winter nights.

The garden has matured, looking a bit haggard by the insect invasion that attacks every leaf and stem. Pumpkins, melons and winter squash peek out from the broad leaves and the tiny winter veggie seedlings begin their little green lives under cover of row cloth to keep the melting sun at bay.

The luxury of sleeping in has passed, school comes around again, and its up at a dark 5:30 in the morning now, instead of 7 or 8. It is just as well, the days are still so hot it is better to be outside working in the early morning than to wait until it hits 90° or more.

I haven’t completed my list of things to do: I haven’t had my big yard sale, yet. My sheep haven’t been sold, no firewood provisions made, nor do I have hay in the barn. Where did the time go?

It’s been a great time of being home, life’s busy-making has filled in every niche and opening of time. But, money is getting tight enough to need to look ahead in a few months. Hopefully with the coming cold, dark and wet season, life will slow down to allow me to pick up the job search again.

But, lately I have let my worries get a hold of me when I look at the state of the world, today. We seem on the brink of disaster, our way of life has never seemed so tenuous. My thoughts turn to survival, not business-as-usual. The world’s weather seems to have become a foreign force, floods, fire, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes in various places and in ever larger magnitudes. Unrest in nations, the financial health of banks are suffering, the rock-solid investment in real estate has proven a foundation of sand.

I have a feeling that the next few years will be a testing time for all of us.

But, for now, the year turns on the downhill slide. Soon, blessed rain will fall, trees will bare their branches, birds will depart for warmer climes. The winter coats and mufflers will come out of storage, and the summer of abundance will pass its torch to the cleansing time of winter, with the brief and colorful interlude of fall as a prize to enjoy before darkness falls.

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“Yeah, but what about the photographs?”

Well of course, I have been taking pictures!

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Is this a bee, a wasp or a fly?

It is a wasp-mimic fly, as the large compound eyes that touch one another proves. Cute little guy.

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Now this is the real deal! This red ground-hunter wasp has the most unique smokey, irridescent wings that reflect the blue of the sky. She looks potent and I believe it! I fished her out of the pool, so I had the opportunity to take a series of images of her before she gathered enough strength to fly away.

A relative of hers, a larger, black and irridescent green ground-hunter proves too elusive to get a good picture. She recognizes me, too, unlike the other species who ignore me. When I draw close she hovers in front of my face menacingly, all 2 1/2 inches of black venom! Maybe I can share her later. I hear they really pack a whallop in the sting business.

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I don’t see these formations very often, lines and lines of cumulus undulatus. I more frequently see higher, smoother undulating clouds.

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This is a close up of one of my Astrophytus cacti. This star cactus has a wonderful shape and is covered with tiny dots of white. Close up makes for a good abstract image.

Thanks for dropping by!

June 27, 2008

The Firestorm of ’08

Posted in blogging, photography tagged , , , , , , , at 7:42 pm by czygyny

Saturday, June 21, 2008. The year of the firestorm, the year that California burned mightily.

The day started out in a strange way, an early morning thunderstorm, dark, menacing clouds to the west, its skirts a roiling mass of odd updrafts, pokes and pulls of clouds like cotton batting pulled in puckers from above. The grumbling of thunder was echoing in the hills. We were all of uneasy anticipation, knowing that this could end up being a very bad thing.

With desiccated mountains, tinder dry hills and scorching temperatures, summer lightning is a bad omen, indeed. The promise of trouble was not left unfulfilled, trouble visited us and the whole state on that day.

I took a few pictures of the clouds, and then went to my Sabbath fellowship in town. While we sat in worship, the booming came closer, the flashes more intense. Rain and hail began to fall abundantly, the lights flickered. When it came time to leave the storm was overhead. As I made my way home, I drove around chunks of cedar, debarked and laying all over the road, a tree disintegrated by a direct hit!

Looking out over the bruised sky, I could see strike after strike, large, thick, bright bolts, sometimes striking three, four or five times around the same spot. Bolts of lightning came through the outskirts of the clouds, emanating from higher up in the main thunderheads and striking out of seemingly harmless thin clouds.

The storm pounded our area all day, the line of cumulonimbus never moving from their position. Now this was quite odd, because our thunderstorms usually are smaller and on the move, this garrison stood its ground and beat us with a fury.

I finally made it home, fearing the worst. All I could think of was the threat of hail. Hail does quick work of gardens and fruit trees, I’ve watched it in person, a thick dark wall approaches, the first white rocks of plant death bouncing like popcorn, growing in intensity until the roar of it fills the ears and strains the heart as it pummels hours of hard work to a pulp.

Hail! Sure enough it was on the move towards me, lightning striking closer and closer, the countdown going from nine, seven, three-second counts to instantaneous flash and crash. “Please, please let the hail and lightning pass me over!”I prayed, fervently. “Spare my hard work, my beautiful gardens!”
It was so! The hail stopped, the lightning withholding itself until it all passed over to the northeast. I was spared!

But, the fun had just begun. As the clouds passed on, and the evening approached, you could see fires dotted all over the hills and mountains. Rough, rugged, steep terrain, with the grey plumes of smoke rising in the reddening sunset, the evil just beginning. The next day, the fires had spread exponentially, and the news telling us that the state all over was burning.

The smoke has smothered us all week, thick, acrid smoke of a thousand bushes and trees. Ash began falling on the cars and lawn, delicate, intricate ghosts of perfect manzanita leaves that turned to powder at a touch. How could something so ephemeral float some twenty miles away in entirety? The north wind came up yesterday, just enough to reveal the ever encroaching line of fire, and allowing the air tankers the green light to begin casting red Firetrol on the front lines of defense.

At night we can see the fires burning, torches that seemingly float in the night sky, revealing the slope of the mountains, here and there a tree flares up, glowing orange and uplighting the smoke reaching away from the fireline. It is fascinating and frightening all at the same time, a sober reminder of what lies just over the hills.

So far, few homes have been lost, but all it will take is a turn in the wind, a careless cigarette, an inattentive driver to make it all worse. Resources are stretched thin, air attacks can’t be made in zero visibility, people wait in anticipation and anxiety for the evacuation calls.

Let us pray that weather and wind will be a blessing, that homes will be spared, that lives will not be lost and that the firestorm of 2008 becomes a quick if not enduring memory on the collective minds of our communities.

April 21, 2008

Y’all don’t see this coming up the pike, too often…

Posted in blogging, photography tagged , , , , , , , at 7:59 am by czygyny

 I am blessed to live across the road from one of the few working ranches left in the area. Many a day and night I have enjoyed the lush green pastures, the emerald sea setting the stage for the mountain views to the north, listening to the staccato sounds of the impact sprinklers stretched out on long aluminum pipes, borne on big wheels. I watch as they swath hay, smelling the sweet fragrance of drying grasses that drift over my home, and the machines that deftly cruise by and load the finished bales aboard. I watch the newborn calves jump and run at the simple joy of being alive, I lie awake fearfully at night when the coyotes shriek in triumph and cows bellow, and wonder if a young life has been taken.

A few times every year, the folks that own Lassen Canyon Nursery, the Elwoods, run their cows from one pasture to another, and take it right down my dirt road. Coming on horseback with their red and white border collie helpers, they move the unwilling beasts down the road as they try and stop to take a mouthful of new grass here and there, or perhaps even try to make a break for it and run, but they never get far.

My biggest wether lamb was standing out ahead of everyone else to investigate these behemoths lumbering past his home. The rest were too afraid to step up and check it out.

I love the faces on some of the cattle, they have Angus/Hereford cross cows that end up with the most interesting patterns. They have some of the biggest and best looking cattle and bulls I have ever seen. Their bulls reside up the road from me. They sing their bovine love songs at night, an eerie, bugling sound that has an amazing range of timbre. I’ve heard some neighbors complain about the noise, but I think it is a wonderful sound to hear on a warm night.

 

 

   When one of the cows gets an idea to bug out, those amazing stock dogs are right there to take on a thousand pounds of hoof and attitude. It is obvious the cows don’t like the dogs, and just as obvious that the dogs love their work. I can see that they make the cowpoke’s job a lot easier.

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So, at the end of my experience with this short cattle drive, they ride off into the sunset, (well, not quite late enough for a sunset-but it was into the west) but actually just a bit more down the road. I imagine they will be taking the half grown calves away to the auction and making ready for the new crop of youngsters to drop, and the cycle completes itself, once again.

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I grieve for the day when the last cattle are sold off, and the open expanse of fertile bottomland is covered over with strip malls, asphalt, houses stacked side by side, manicured lawns, street lights, the inevitable litter, noise and loss of another beautiful stretch of nature. The Northern harriers, the western meadowlarks, the savannah sparrows, the red-wing blackbirds and owls, even the coyotes will have lost another home, the skies so obscured by light that the stars, the comets and occasional aurora borealis are obliterated from our view, and the field crickets chatter will be drowned out by car noise.

I miss the patriarch, Kenny Sr., who died a few years ago. He would drive by in his big pickup, always with a smile and a wave. I am glad to see his children still hard at it. Lets hope the Elwood family find ranching to be a profitable venture for many years to come. I will hate to see this scene, shown below, to be marred and ruined forever.

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April 5, 2008

A day in the life of my oak trees

Posted in blogging, photography, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , at 8:38 pm by czygyny

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Quercus lobata. One of the largest species of deciduous trees in California. Known as Valley Oak, California White Oak, or even Swamp Oak, this tree can get 70′ tall. 

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One of ours is very old, rumored to be in an oak registry somewhere. We call her ‘Grandmother Tree’, the other three are somewhat younger, with a smaller diameter trunks, although one is even taller than the ‘Grandmother’. You can tell that she’s lost some whopping big branches over the years.

 

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I love looking up into the trees, their thick, sinuous branches are heavily furrowed and textured, and adorned with moss on the prerequisite north side.

 

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Here, above, is ‘Grandmother Tree’ with Bear Mountain and some of my sheep in a pastoral evening setting.

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This tree, above, is a tall, skinny oak that had to compete with 300 eucalyptus trees around it, so it put all its effort into standing tall. It makes a good frame for a lovely sunset.

These trees are very special to enjoy. There are so many bird species that live and nest here; House finch, American goldfinch, Acorn woodpecker, Hairy woodpecker, Downy woodpecker, Lewis’ woodpecker, White-breasted nuthatch, Orioles, Western kingbird, Red-shouldered hawk, Yellow-billed magpie, Brewer’s blackbird, Black and Say’s phoebe, White-crowned, Golden-crowned and Song sparrow, various warblers, and those nasty Starlings. Great-horned and Screech owls visit, too.

The downside to living underneath these silent giants is their pesky habit of shedding very large limbs, on occasion. They are just as likely to drop them in the summer as in winter, and we have had some close calls with the barn and house. As well, is the constant leaf and twig litter, and in a good year, acorns are dropped so thick that walking on them is much like walking on ball bearings.

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This tree, above,  was the least healthy of the four. Years ago, someone built up a driveway to get to the barn and covered the trunk of this tree about 3 to 4 feet deep. This is a death sentence for such majestic trees. It had already begun to die back when we moved in, so we excavated the soil around the base and built up a dry well with discarded concrete pieces.

The experiment was a success, and even provided a bit of flood control, as you can see. The rain soaked in quickly and left the flare of the trunk open to the air and slowly the tree has regained its health.

I am so pleased to be a steward to such fine trees. Such richness of local wildlife, picturesque modeling and darned good shade in the summer!

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