Saturday, March 14, 2015

Loaded for Bear

Caretaker’s Log, Wednesday, March 11, 2015

It's a cloudy morning.

The batteries are down to 60%.

After the fire is built and I’ve had some coffee and done a crossword puzzle, I handle some busy work. I check my bank account and balance the books. I pay a bill over the phone. I post a blog. I download some software and try to sync and update the inReach DeLORME device that Karen has left here for emergencies. I always take it along with me when I go out to adventure. It's a satellite device that can send SOS messages and do other things like track locations and post to online social media websites. I keep it on hand in case I meet a bear.

I feel like I'm getting so much done so early in the day until I hit a technology wall. The device won't sync and I think at first that it must be because my computer needs to be restarted to activate the new software. So I shut off my computer and of course Windows has 25 updates to install. It gets stuck on update number 10 and I give up, let it run on its own sweet, slow time, and go outside to chop wood.

I chop three sledfuls of wood. It's all I feel like doing. Then I sit a moment with the cat. Put everything away. Go in and take a bath. Wash my hair.

I call my grandmother.

Even after all the updates are installed and the computer restarted, the device won't sync. I don't know if I have to add the device to my computer somehow or what needs to be done. I'll worry about it another day. I've had enough of this.

Michaela calls. It's Wednesday. She says it's hot in Mexico. I tell her it's hot here at 46 degrees Fahrenheit.

I eat half a head of cauliflower doused with olive oil, spices, agave, and nutritional yeast.

Something, not moose, crossed the yard. But at what time I don't know. I noticed a set of tracks when I was lugging wood about, but now staring out the window I see another set heading out from the snow measuring rod. Maybe wolf?

I write.

I record the weather. Do my evening walk around and the cat comes along. An owl hoots from the trees. "Who who?" it asks.

I make a Socca bread and smear it with refried beans and cheese. Garnish it with a guacasalsa I find in the freezer.

I write. Watch a show. Drink a shot of rum. Eat some BBQ chips. Go upstairs and read in bed for a few pages. Then it’s lights out.

Caretaker’s Log, Thursday, March 12, 2015

I dream about people on snowmobiles showing up to visit.

There's a thin layer of snow on the skylights. It's a relief. The pressure, the low-grade pain I've had the last couple days makes sense now.

I’ve slept better and I wake up feeling more normal than I have for the past week.

I run the water in the bathroom and kitchen to keep the pipes clear. It's been so warm these last few days it's probably not necessary, but I do it anyway.

I put on my boots, put on my coat, take water to the cat. I go start the generator to recharge the batteries. The charge has been lasting approximately 42 hours.

A very gentle snow is falling.
I make coffee. Start the fire. I work my crossword by quadrants. Symmetrically. I've never done it this way before.

I feel peaceful again. Happier. Content to watch the snow come down. Amazing what a good night’s sleep will do for the soul.

There’s a moose far off in the red willows.

The snow still falls.

Make that two moose.

After breakfast—leftover Mexican pizza from last night—I write. I write all afternoon. My character learns some alarming news, quits his job, and runs for his life. I've written 190 pages, 62,000 words so far. If not yet a book, it's at least shaping up to be book length.

At three o'clock I turn the generator off. 100% full on the batteries starting now.

I need to get out and move, but I don't want a long, far away adventure. I decide to ski up to Industrial Park and then I'll go up the road to the first fence. I do that. I also come back down the road. Then I go ski across the field. I'm active for a good hour. I see a beaver down in the river. As I zoom in to take a picture my camera’s battery says it's exhausted and shuts off.

I spend some time with the cat and then go inside.

Loring calls to tell me how to drain the Tame Hydro’s intake pond. He says it should be fairly simple. I’ll go up and do that tomorrow.

I make a kale salad for dinner, use one of the avocados. I always forget until I'm eating one just how good kale salads are. I’ve got two heads of kale left and four avocados. The trick is to eat everything before it goes bad, the trick is to stretch the fresh stuff out for as long as possible.

At seven o'clock I go out and look at the weather things, step inside the generator shed and mark down the numbers from the battery meter.

The sun, even after this morning’s snow, coupled with the high temperatures has melted away two inches of ground accumulation. I'm down to 27 inches of snow. It's really looking a lot like spring. It seems at least a month earlier than last year's seasonal shift.

The sunset is amazing, differing blends of pink and orange and purple and blue. My camera is still charging so I don't capture it anywhere but in my memory.

Caretaker’s Log, Friday, March 13, 2015

The mice wake me up at 4:30 AM squealing and running in the ceiling. Simmer down, you guys.

I get up at 8:30.

The sun is shining bright.

I see one moose in the distant northern willows. I see another dark shape at the base of the northern slope. I take a picture of it and my zoom gives it away as a bald eagle. At least that's what I think. Those far off zooms don't always come out without a blur. I need a telephoto lens.

I open the 19th can of coconut milk to put in my coffee. I think I'll have enough to last me until I leave. If I ration it correctly.

I have bananas with tahini for breakfast.

As I'm getting set to go up to the dam to empty the intake pond at the Tame Hydro I see a wolf crossing the field. He goes right past a sitting moose. Neither pays the other any mind. The wolf blends in among the red willows and I lose him for a moment and then when he moves I see him again. Louis L'Amour always said that it's the movement that catches the eye and gives away position. He spoke the truth. The wolf makes its way along and then up the slope.

I add an extra can of bear spray to my pack. All kinds of creatures are coming out and moving around. Now I'm really loaded for bear.

As I cross the field in snowshoes I hear the honking sound of geese. The first I've heard this season. It really feels like spring

I get up the hill and to the dam. The snowpack is thick. I can't find the ladder and I’ve forgotten a shovel so I inch out belly first across the snow. In the summertime there's five feet of water between the bank and the metal installation I need to reach. I think the snow is thick enough to hold me, I think the water underneath is frozen. I guess I'll find out in a moment.

I don't fall into any water. The snowpack holds. I stand on the installation as I've been instructed to do and try to turn the red valve wheel. It turns a little and then it won't go any further. No amount of straining, pulling, exhorting, pushing, or swearing helps me turn it. Either I'm not strong enough or it's frozen shut. And seeing how there’s still three feet of snow on the ground and the bottom of the metal installation is packed with snow, I'm thinking it's probably frozen shut. Nevertheless, I try to get it turned for an hour. It's no good.

I crawl back over the snow, using my snowshoes like ramps, collect my things, and go on down the hill.

At the lodge, I change into my ski boots and go back up to Industrial Park to position the rubber basin underneath the gas spigot. Yesterday I had noticed some pink snow where drops of gas must have fallen. The rubber basin will catch any potential leaks and prevent an environmental disaster.

That done, I ski back to the ranch.

I call my mom while I fix up a late lunch. Then I call Karen to give her an update on my day. She gives me the number for Laura who is the summer wizard ranchhand and knows the systems inside and out. She'll be able to tell me if I just need to put some elbow grease into the valve wheel turn or not.

After I eat my lunch I leave her a message.

It's five o'clock when I start today's fire. It was warm this morning and then I was gone all afternoon.

I go up and take a bath and put on fresh clothes.

The cat and I do the evening weather walk around. Another inch of snow has melted away in the 40° weather.

I have an apple, an avocado, and cheese for dinner.

I write.

A glass of wine, a snack, a show, another evening by the fire.

It’s not until I’m brushing my teeth that I notice my face has gotten a red touch of sun. It may be winter still but that doesn’t mean I should skip the sunscreen.

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