Friday, May 30, 2014

Catch and Release

Caretaker’s Log, Tuesday, May 27, 2014

It’s already 60 degrees outside at 9:00 AM.

The bald eagle flies by.

My arms have turned a bit pink from the sun yesterday. I’ll have to be careful how long I sit out here.

There’s a woodpecker out in the woods making a lot of noise.

Other birds are fussing in the trees.

I just saw the hummingbird.

The wind is howling. 

I clean the living room and the music room. Then I Windex some of the windows.

Talk to my mom.

The river has turned brown. The creek has had its time, now it’s the river’s turn to flood.

I take a bath. Wash some clothes.

Quinoa is on the menu for dinner.

One beaver is out on the riverbank. I spy on it with the binoculars. The river is full, filling up to the brim, spilling over the formerly seen rocks, sliding over new grass, flooding.

Caretaker’s Log, Wednesday, May 28, 2014

I get up. Wash a pair of jeans and hang them over the balcony in the sun to dry.

The osprey is out this morning, hunting low over Kinky Creek. Once she dives, splashing hard into the water, emerging with feathers glimmering with drops, but without a fish. She shakes out her feathers and starts the search again.

I read for a bit.

Then I wash the outside windows. This involves a ladder, a bucket, two squeegees, paper towels, and etc…. One and a half hours later I’m finished. Just in time for a thunderstorm to roll in. It doesn’t rain but a few drops.

There is a mighty wind.

I have lunch. While eating at the table, looking out the front clean windows I see a deer walk by. Hello, deer.

The osprey comes out for an afternoon jaunt.

There’s a little dead bird by the woodpile. I think it smacked headfirst into the window. I’d cleaned off a tiny brush of feathers earlier. Crime scene evidence. Sorry, little bird. I take the little dead bird to what has become the bird “burial” grounds and set it next to the bird of prey I’d found the other day. It’s still there, though off its funerary bark. No predators around at the moment, I guess. 

Another storm rolls over. This one has more impressive thunder.

A third storm finally brings rain. Though not enough to measure.

There are two flies in the living room. I’m too lazy to catch them and put them outside.

If all goes according to current plans, I only have seven more days to myself.

Using an empty pineapple can and a laminated map, I catch one of the flies and take it outside.

I catch the second fly and take it outside.

Turns out there are three flies in the living room.

This may be a long fly catching night.

The third fly is caught and released.

And a fourth.

It’s dusk and the birds are out eating bugs.

8 weeks today.

Caretaker’s Log, Thursday, May 29, 2014

It’s an overcast morning. I answer emails until it’s time to go make sure the lights in the generator shed are showing the correct system function.

I eat granola for breakfast.

After breakfast I gear up and trek up to check the dam. I haven’t been up there since Monday. It’s clear. It’s fine. Bored with the usual trail, I follow the creek to get back down. All the time I’m singing in my head a song from Peter Pan that I rework to fit my situation. I sing, “Following the river, the river, the river. Following the river wherever it may go. Tee dum, tee dee. A teedle ee oo tee dum.” Only it’s the creek I’m following.

On impulse, since I’m out and about, I decide to climb up the far north ridge. I’ve been meaning to do that since I got here. Karen had emailed me a few days ago to say, “The winding down days are hard, aren’t they? You start to think about all the things you haven’t done yet, places to hike, pictures to take, books to write.”

The winding down days are hard. And I have been thinking about the things I haven’t done. Trying to make sure I don’t miss out on an opportunity. I like to plan ahead to avoid regret.

So many places to hike.

I’ve been up to the dam what seems like a million times. I’ve done much of the same. Funny how easy it is to just stay within certain limits, a one hour distance from the Lodge, within the property fence line, within view of what I know. Today I’m branching out.

I cross the field. Clamber over the bridge, looking down to watch the muddy, risen water rush by. I follow the path made over the years, I presume. There are elk and deer, possibly moose tracks all along the way. I follow those. I also make my own path through the scrub and around trees.

The ducks fly away at the sight—or the sound?—of me. As I gain height, I stop to gaze down and see an elk looking up, white-faced, at me. She’s in the red reeds by the water, watching, waiting. But wait! What’s this? She has a baby! A little brown fawn. If elk babies are called fawns. I stand and watch them for a while. They stand and watch me too.

Then I’m at the top. It’s high. I slink as close to the edges as I dare. I play it on the safe side. It’s a little on the top of the vertiginous scale. Wow. What a view. When I’ve gone as far up as I plan to, I sit on a rock and drink some of the water I’ve packed along with me. I sit and look down.

All I need is a hang glider.

The red tailed hawks cry. The pair is hunting above me. Circling, calling, catching the sunlight between their wings. They fly together.

On the way down the scent of pine, earth-rich loam, the forest make a spring time perfume.

I pass a track. A very large something. A bear? A wolf? I’ll have to check the AFalcon Guide Scat and Tracks of the Rocky Mountains when I get back to the Lodge.

The sun has burned off the overcast. It’s a glorious day. My face is probably getting sunburned.

Back at the ranch, I head inside the fence and start towards the generator shed when I see a dark shape moving in the west field. The moose! I want to get closer. For a moment, I glance down to mark my path, and when I look up the moose is gone. A hallucination? I go sit up on the top log of the horse corral and wait. My patience is rewarded. I see the moose again. He moves briskly back the way he’d come. I think I see the elk mama too. Perhaps they startled each other.

The three hour jaunt has done me good.

I check my email. Kathy, the owner, asks me to measure a cabinet and the space around it. I measure and email her the numbers.

Then I eat lunch, some black rice thing I made last night and leftover green beans. Now to finish my morning coffee with the sun warming me through my clothes.

I make a final batch of granola (and here I’d thought the last batch would be the last. Must be like Elisha’s miracle with the pot of oil). I water out the last dregs of honey from the bottles, use up the last of the agave. It should hold me for breakfasts until people arrive next week. I’m starting to wonder what kind of food Karen and Kathy will bring when they come.

I talk with Michaela.

I talk with my grandmother.

I take a bath. Now I’m warm and refreshed. Time to cozy in for the evening.

On my way upstairs, I glance out the backroom windows. I grab the binoculars. An elk, two elk. Three elk. How many elk does it take to make a herd, I wonder. Six elk! Looks like they’re heading up the same path I took earlier today. I watch them for a long time. Straining my eyes against the gathering darkness. If there are any little ones with the elk it’s too dark, too far to see. I trace their motion. Maybe there are seven moving creatures working their way up, away, together.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Team America: World Police

Caretaker’s Log, Saturday, May 24, 2014

Naturally I’m tired. That’s what I get for staying up so late reading. Feeling lazy. But I’ve got stuff to do.

I post a blog.

After the 10:00 generator shed check, I go up to the dam and clear off the minor debris. As I make my way across the field back to the ranch, I hear a loud splash as if someone has chucked a rock into the creek. This has got my whole attention. I stop dead in my tracks. I wait. 

Triumphantly, an osprey with a fish in its talons emerges from the water. It flies off to somewhere when all of a sudden, the bald eagle tries to steal the osprey’s elevensies. There is a long, involved sky battle between the two birds. The osprey is, rightly, pissed off. It dives again and again at the eagle. I have no idea what happens to the fish.

I clear off some of the debris in the culvert nearer the Lodge. I have to step into the water to reach it. My rain boot fills up and my sock gets soaked. It’s a squishy walk back to the house.

I clean up. Wash my hair. Send an email to Karen locking myself into cleaning the kitchen and washing the windows for pay. That done, I go sit outside. There might be a storm coming in. My hands seem to think so. And those are some mighty dark clouds.

Two of the ground squirrels really go at it. Spinning, tumbling, rolling over each other and across the yard. It’s intense. A third ground squirrel comes bolting over and the fighters split. A peacemaking ground squirrel?

There’s the bald eagle again. Oh, and with a protesting keening cry, there’s the osprey. The earlier spat has not been forgotten or forgiven. The osprey wants the eagle out of here. It feels like there’s a political statement to be made in light of all this. A natural object lesson. Didn’t Teddy Roosevelt want the grizzly as the American emblem in place of the eagle? Didn’t he call the eagle “nothing more than a dandified vulture”? At least in the film The Wind and the Lion he did.

The afternoon thunderstorm starts at 2:35 PM.

At 3:37 it’s still raining.

I talk to Phinehas.

I talk to Michaela.

0.16 inches of rain later, the storm is past. The sun comes out, the sky blues up just in time for sunset.

Everything looks greener. Much greener. 

Caretaker’s Log, Sunday, May 25, 2014

The sun is out. The clouds are chased away. It smells greener outside, like growth, like after-rain. There are three pairs of geese in the east field.

I use the last of the good coffee to make my daily brew.

The cat is in a feisty mood.

I spend the morning and early afternoon on the front porch in the sun, wondering if Porgy will show up. Karen had said he was planning to stop by sometime this weekend to test out the roads. I have seen neither hide nor hair of him. I sit in the sun and wonder if I can get away with not checking the dam today.

The red tailed hawk is out and soaring, searching.

I water the plants.

The majority of my day is spent outside reading. The cat sits in the chair next to me.

What sounds really good right now is chocolate cake.

Thus the day goes by. No visit from anyone—not even someone named Porgy.

I read right into the night.

Caretaker’s Log, Monday, May 26, 2014

I don’t get out of bed until 9:00. I have my breakfast and coffee. Read the tail end of The Girl Who Played With Fire out in the sun on the porch. The cat is nowhere to be seen.

After the 10:00 system check, I go up to the dam. The grate is basically clear. I wipe the tendrils of weeds and grass off for good measure. I guess that means the spring flooding dam worry is past.

I pick up the stuffed bear, a can of adhesive, and a tennis ball on my way across the yard. I add them to my collection on the side porch of things that were revealed after the snow melted. It’s time to start preparing to leave, preparing for summer guests.

As I go to the generator shed for the 12:00 check, I see a dead bird next to the house. At first I think it’s an owl. But it’s not. The osprey is dead. Looks like in the end it lost. I roll it onto a piece of bark and take it away from the Lodge. “I’m sorry,” I tell it. “Rest in peace, friend.”

I throw away three potato husks that have been on the ground since Karen was here, maybe even longer. I toss them in the incinerator to burn up later.

I bring in some kindling from the wood chopping area.

Back inside, I consult The Sibley Field Guide To Birds. I’m not sure that dead bird was an osprey after all. And if it was, it was a baby, not the shrieking warrior of the day before.

I heat up the last couple of inches of coffee and finish reading the remaining eight pages of my book. It’s nice out in the sun.

With a determined sigh, I decide there’s no time like the present to get things done. I put on some music and start the thorough cleaning of the kitchen. Michaela calls. I clean some more. Phinehas calls. I’ve gotten the kitchen in disarray. I’ve started the impossible task of getting the grease off the stove and the stove hood. The internet has no helpful hints like: spin twice to your left and blink, to help me clean more effectively. I just need to use soap, water, and as much elbow grease as I can muster. The things I do for money.

I clean for four and a half hours. The stove is done. That’s the worst part.

Then I heat up some dinner, have a glass of wine, and watch an episode of Castle before heading up to bed.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Swan Lake

Caretaker’s Log, Wednesday, May 21, 2014

7 weeks today.

I slept so well last night. I feel like a better person, a refreshed soul, or just more rested.

There’s a spider in the bathtub. I’ve left it there for now.

The sun is out!

The birds are out.

The ground squirrels are out.

I bring my coffee outside. The cat comes loping over from the direction of the tool shed.

I’ll head up to the dam sometime after the 10:00 generator shed system check. It feels so nice just to sit here. As if I have nothing in the world to do. Or at least as if I can put off what I have to do until just a little bit later.

The creek is still full. 
I relocate the bathtub spider to the outside upstairs balcony.

The dam grate is fine, clear. I clean off what little debris is there more as a formality than anything else.

I head down the hill. There are two bright, white spots down in the valley lake.


I go a different way, so as to get a closer view. Through the lens of the binoculars I watch them float. Then it’s bottoms up as they search for a meal. That makes me laugh out loud.

A gaggle of geese in the east field protest the swans.

When I’m back at the Lodge, I glance over at the north mountains and see an elk. It’s staring at me, I presume, frozen in time for a still moment. Then it moves off into the trees.

I sunbathe.

I eat a can of pineapples (4.5 servings it says on the can. How about one serving? I need all the calories I can get) and some tahini for a lunch-snack.

I talk with my grandmother.

With tenacity more than anything else, I finish the jigsaw puzzle. It was a hard one. Not as fun as some of the others.

I talk to Michaela.

The red tailed hawk is soaring over the front yard. The ground squirrels don’t even seem to care.

I cut into my last lemon.

I use the last of the honey for another, final batch of granola.

At 7:00 I record the weather, check the things outside, bring in some wood, feed and give fresh water to the cat.

I have quinoa for dinner. It’s nice outside. I was going to eat my dinner on the front porch until I saw the mosquitoes.

The beavers are out again.

I didn’t light the fire tonight. There was no need.
Before I get in bed I stand on the balcony and look up into the sky. Wow. Just wow. I stare up at the rising constellations. I’m not so familiar with the southern sky. Just out of sight to my left is the Big Dipper. Just out of sight to my right is Orion. A satellite moves north to south. I watch it trace through the night, through the twinkling stars.

Caretaker’s Log, Thursday, May 22, 2014

I do some little clean up chores first thing. The pots and pans that have been under the formerly leaking doorframe for weeks now I finally pick up and take to the kitchen to clean. I put the books I’ve finished reading back in their places on the shelves.

I spend some time sitting on the front porch in the sun.

At 11:09 I go up to the dam. There’s some debris to clear off this time. I clear it off. I’m back at the Lodge by 12:03.

The elk is on the north ridge again.

It’s a 60+ degree day. 

A day filled with doing little chores.

I wash some clothes. I try the printer again, this time hooking it up to the ancient machine that lives here at the ranch, to no avail. My ticket to ride will have to be printed elsewhere. I put the printer back in Willow cabin from where I’d taken it. I prop the ladder that had fallen when the snow melted back against the roof. I put back the ladder I’d moved to get in the attic crawl space when the door had leaked back over the pipe that holds it in place.

The bald eagle flies overhead.

I wash the pots and pans.

Hang the clean(er) clothes out to dry in the sun and wind.

Refill the diesel dust buckets.

Burn the burnable trash out in the incinerator shed.

Take out the recycling.

The wind has blown the tack room door open and I go to close it. I reach to shut it and catch a whiff of leather and horse. I’m taken back to all the days I rode, all the days I spent loving all things equestrian. I shut the door.

I disturb a lot of ducks in the river. They take off from the water indignant, upset at being forced to move.

I vacuum.

Sweep the front porch.

Put the worked puzzles away.

Read a little.

For dinner I make up rice pasta with the last jar of artichoke hearts and two cans of mushrooms. It turns out okay.

I open up my last box of wine. A Cabernet Sauvignon. 

The creek is flooding again… more?

The sky turns pink as the sun goes down. The water turns pink with the sky.

An attempt to Skype with my friend Pontus fails. I shoot him an apologetic email.

I call it an early night.

Caretaker’s Log, Friday, May 23, 2014

The world has turned green as if overnight. It’s alive. Breathtaking.

I call my niece Shea to wish her a happy third birthday. I leave a singing message on the voicemail. A bit later, my sister-in-law returns the call. I sing to Shea. She laughs. I talk with Marie for a while.

There’s more debris on the dam grate. I clear it off. For now it’s a bright, glorious sunshiny day. A helicopter flies overhead. The clouds come in.

The swans are back on the lake.

With my chore done for the day I plan to start my “holiday” weekend off right. I take my book to the front porch and settle in with the ground squirrels for company and a cup of coffee for refreshment.

A hummingbird, the kind I’d met last summer in the Colorado mountains, flies, chirping, right by me!

The hours pass.

Michaela calls. Her holiday weekend has started as well.  

The red tailed hawk and the bald eagle are soaring circles around each other over the east field. 

It feels like it might rain.

The clouds are darkening.

The wind is picking up.

Storm coming in?

I read another chapter.

There’s the thunder! 

There’s the rain.

Sitting outside in a rain storm with the porch overhang to keep me dry, counting seconds between the lightning and thunder. One second for that one. Nine seconds for that one. Peals of thick, heavy, satisfying thunder. The rain pelts down throwing in a bit of tiny hail and then eases.

There’s an eight degree drop in temperature in about ten minutes. It was 65.1 not too long ago. Now it’s 49.6.

The rain blows in sideways.

The storm blows over and the clouds break up, run away.

At seven I go out to collect the precipitation bucket. I get an up close and personal with the beavers. Close enough to watch the big one groom himself. Close enough to hear the sound the smaller one makes as she gnaws on a stick. Trying to be slow and quiet, I move closer and the big one growls at me. He slips into the water, slapping his tail hard on the surface to scare me away. The smaller beaver takes his spot. Again I get too close. 

This time she slips into the water, slapping the surface with her tail. But she swims by me, swims by close, as if to see who I am, what I am. Then a second tail slap and she’s gone as well.

It’s been a really nice day.

I start up a fire and cozy in on the couch with a book. I stay up past midnight reading.