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Wednesday, September 16, 2015


OK, there have been a hellish number of huge wildfires this summer in Lake County, but in the unburned sections life carries on...

Coyote at the foot of the Hopland Grade.

From the September garden.

California quail cock.

In a squash blossom.

Gideon Jacques Denny's 1876 painting " The City of Lakeport, Clearlake, CA"


The hills are alive with the sound of incendiary music. 

In August, the Rocky Fire tore through 69,438 acres and the Jerusalem Fire scorched 25,146 acres (which was the count at the 85 percent containment point. I could not locate the final figure). The Elk Fire near Upper Lake burned 673 acres. 

The Rocky Fire swept through 100 percent of the Cache Creek Wilderness, refuge for California's largest herd of Tule Elk occupying native range. (The larger Owens Valley elk herd, east of the Sierra, is on non-native range). Strangely, only one week earlier the whole complex of wild lands stretching over a hundred miles through Eastern Napa County through Northern Lake County had been officially designated as the Berryessa-Snow Mountain National Monument, the result of long effort by local people concerned with preserving unspoiled land. Four major fires, the Rocky, the Jerusalem, the Elk, and, in Napa County, the Wragg fires wrought destruction within the new National Monument. UC Davis' Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve took a heavy hit in the Wragg fire within the southern limits of the Monument. 

Three years earlier, the Wye Fire and the Walker Ridge Fire burned 7,934 acres, the Mill Valley Campground Fire consumed 29,502 acres, the Sites Complex Fire claimed 4,000 acres, and the Sixteen Complex Fire took 17,944 acres, a combined total of 59,380 acres, much of which was within the proposed Monument.

So far, the still surging and most destructive of all the conflagrations, the Valley Fire, has wiped out over 70,000 acres along with almost 600 houses in Middletown, Anderson Springs, Harbin Springs and Cobb. Currently raging in a southeasterly direction, having started on Cobb Mountain, it took out a large part the Boggs Mountain Demonstration State Forest.  

Oak savannah just north of Highway 20 barely escaped the Rocky Fire.

Lands and endemic gray pines scorched by the Rocky Fire along the south side of Highway 20.

A blackened mountain.

Charred trunk of a Valley Oak.

Smoke from the Rocky Fire over Mount Konocti as seen from the ranch.

Heavy smoke from the Rocky Fire backdrops the pear harvest.

Route 20 divides the territories burnt by the Wye  Fire in 2012 on the right form that burnt by the Rocky Fire in 2015.

Smoke from the Valley Fire on the afternoon of 9/12/15 created eery lighting similar to that seen during an eclipse.

 As the sun disappeared, the smoke of the Valley Fire glowed ominously. Middletown was burning.

Monday, July 13, 2015


Pollinators in Big Valley include a big variety of native bees, flies, and butterflies in various guises - ornate, metallic and minuscule.

A species of syrphid fly on a California poppy at the ranch.

A species of carpenter bee.

Honey bees on the comb.

Enter Dow and Monsanto, intent on helping lazy, industrial scale, corporate farming to produce uniformly flawless produce. You know the story. It's been told for years: monarch butterflies, bumble bees, honey bees, and all the other less showy pollinators are crashing.

Home Depot has folded to the pressure from the top. They are doing the evil bidding of the chemical companies. All of their flowering plants are impregnated with the highly toxic NEONICOTINOIDS fatal to all insects and the birds which feed on the insects, which come into contact with the poisoned plants. The seeds themselves are coated with the poison, which then, on a cellular level, is transmitted through the tissues of the plant, toxifying everything from root to pollen.

Just check the little plastic labels which are stuck in the containers with every plant at Home Depot.
Approved by the EPA? And to whom is the EPA listening? Pollinators and birds?

Ace Hardware, on the other hand, along with other companies, is trying to do the right thing by banning the sale of neonicotinoid-contaminated plant stock.

A bluebird day in the hammock, because I needed to rehabilitate for a moment after the preceding bad news.

Now for more horrifying news:

The gorgeous valley to our immediate West at the foot of the Hopland Grade is in imminent danger of being taken over by a "development" corporation based in New Zealand. The plan is for an entirely new town of at least ten thousand people, which would make it the second largest population center in Mendocino County after Ukiah. 
This project has green-wash painted all over it. But local farmers see through the ploy and are fighting hard to preserve our rural open space.
In several ways, the project is the opposite of green. The town would be completely car-dependent since services such as medical, automotive, etc, and employment opportunities are at least twenty miles to the north or south in Cloverdale and Ukiah.

Views from the Hopland Grade of the beautiful McDowell Valley.

Poppy meadow in Big Valley.

A native penstemon

Red shouldered hawk feather. This year they are nesting in the valley oak canopy eighty feet straight up from the kitchen sink.

A scrub jay fledgling was run over by a car the minute it hopped into the road.

A badger, having evolved for millions of years to be the special being that it is, met a tragic end on Highway 20 in the Central Valley just East of Lake County.

Sunflower heads.

Our wood piles, comprised of the big limbs which fall from the Valley Oaks.

Walnuts swelling at Summer Solstice.

Walnut orchard.

Evening light in late June.

Friday, October 3, 2014


At the Kelseyville Pear Festival, the Idol of the Golden Pear was, if not venerated, at least prominently displayed. There is a nostalgic feeling to the festival as it looks back fondly on the time, a few decades ago, when Kelseyville claimed, with justification, to be the Pear Capital Of the World. That was before diesel costs rose and global competition kicked in. The time of the hand-reared and paper-wrapped Lake County Mountain Bartlett has dimmed in an era of mass commodification. There are still many hundreds of local acres of pear orchards, but a pear is now just a pear.

A Norwegian pony.

A super sleek and clean, magnificent percheron draft horse decked out in black leather and silver.

The engraving on the masthead of the now defunct Kelseyville Sun, circa 1927.

The art of commercial lithography, which adorned the pear crates of the early and mid Twentieth Century, is the nearest we've come to distinguished visual expression since the Golden Era of Pomo Basketry. 

Coyotes feasted on figs, plums and ground squirrels by the looks of the fecal evidence.

Bumper mast from the Valley Oaks this year.

Scorched Earth Style Agriculture sadly typifies the vineyard industry, in which habitat is thoroughly slashed and burned, even when there is no reason for it.
This brand new vineyard development desecrated a rich swale of Valley oaks, cattails slough, cottonwoods and blackberry thicket which ran along its northern boundary on Loasa Road.
The habitat there had been a breeding refugia for California quail, bluebirds, red winged blackbirds, and, most significantly, for a threatened species, the California endemic tri-colored blackbird.
Like the prairie pothole ponds of the Great Plains, which are known as the duck factories of North America, and the venerable hedgerows of the British Isles, this habitat was completely wiped out in the interest of maximized short-term and short-sighted profit. It is a benighted and discredited economic model which puts short-term growth above long-term sustainable wealth. 

Valley oak corpses litter the former swale. The formerly rich habitat here would have in no way interfered with the development of the new vineyard. 

The northern anchor of a rainbow, which bracketed Mount Konocti.

The Summer Palace of the Valley Quail.

The southern anchor of the rainbow.

A walk back from town.

Heavy heads.