Ten More

A Toast to the Next Ten

The Twenty-Oh's are nearly done.

Tough for many. Good for some.

With -isms, crises and a bit of warming,
the past ten gave us all fair warning:

Make change! Make right! Make peace!
If not, what we know will certainly cease.

The century races fast to be a teen,
Stretching, reaching and somewhat lean.

Teenage years are full of "Remember when?"
So, let's kick them off right in Twenty-Ten!

Happy New Decade!


Duck Parade

Quack! Quack! Quack! It's showtime!

Like clockwork, we have daily shows of the new off-Broadway hit, "Duck Parade." Generally, there are three performances: Early morning, a mid-afternoon matinee and a final show in the late afternoon. (What would the unions say about this schedule?)

Taking cues from their friends at the famous Peabody Hotel in Memphis, our flock of 35+ wild Mallards, treks up the hill from Shadow Lake, usually single-file, to dine on corn and grains left untouched by other bird visitors. The performances play out under Big Mama Cedar, our primary bird feeding station. Even though the tree is like a hotel to many animals, there's no Red Carpet like the one the Peabody ducks waddle over!

While they feed, they remain alert and wary of the presence of others. It's taken them many months to relax enough for us to not regularly frighten them. Whenever they spook, they launch off in one big blast and quickly glide to the safety of Shadow Lake.

Our cast starts assembling in September. Though we may have a few spring hatchlings on the lake already, the primary flock is composed of migratory birds that have learned about the banquet table at Big Mama Cedar. They hang out for several months until it grows too cold and stormy, then they head down to warmer weather in the Valley.

One of their more spectacular and curious reprises occurs near dusk. The birds don't remain on the lake at night and sleep elsewhere. When the light reaches a point of near blurry darkness, with a little glow remaining in the pine tops, the ducks begin to chatter incessantly. All of the sudden there's a unified hush, followed by a lightening fast water launch and they head southeast. There's an occasional late flier worried that they're left behind, but one can easily set their watch to their grand finale.

(Photo: Duck Parade under Big Mama Cedar)


Autumn Exclaims

Three opening exclamations:

How time flies!

What a busy year!

Blogs take time!

Here it is, almost Halloween, and we haven’t posted any entries since early summer (yet another exclamation)! Several loyal readers have nudged and queried about the status of Life at ShadowWoods. They wondered if we were okay. They've asked about the garden, the gang of pets and the never-ending list of projects. However, their leading question is usually around the status of the blog.

First off, we’re fine. After our late spring home consolidation (no longer SF residents...A very BIG exclamation), we’ve had a lively season of rewarding projects, cherished visitors and memorable events.

We finished the guest cottage interior, added a fly cage to the “BirdBarn” and have begun work on a large, walk-in pantry, a much needed addition when living rurally remote.

Our highlight visitor was Aunt Dude from Durango, Colorado. She’s always such a joy and inspiration. Can’t get enough of her!!! (She’s worthy of more than one exclamation point.)

One sad event this summer was the passing of our 17 year-old family member, Shadow. She lived a long, loyal and happy dog life. We think of her daily. And, yes, she’s one of the inspirations for the naming of ShadowWoods.

Our garden was late, but surprisingly productive. As always, we learn new things to better inform the next season. We’ve put in some winter vegetables with the hope of eating fresh in the cold of winter.

With the onset of colder, wet weather comes the gift of more time to contemplate and write. We’ll reflect on the Summer and Autumn of ’09, chock full of successes and challenges, to whip up and write down stories, thoughts and helpful information.

So, hang in there dear readers. There’s more to come soon! (end exclamation point…)

(Photo: Fall color at ShadowWoods)


New Views

As mentioned in the past, wildfire is one of our biggest fears at ShadowWoods. Over the past six years, we’ve cleaned, trimmed, brushed, cut, chipped and burned undergrowth, overgrowth, diseased trees and logging slash. It’s been a constant, never-ending, endeavor.

Early on, the trees and brush were literally upon the house and created huge barriers around the property - The lake couldn’t be seen from the house, let alone accessed easily. Hikes were like running an obstacle course. Lower canopy trees suffered as they competed for a skyward opening. ShadowWoods had too much “shadow” and too much “woods!”

While family members sometimes helped in the clean up effort (Thanks Mike and Gary!), the bulk of the work fell upon us. We sectioned the "Compound," the 10+ acres around the house, into smaller, more manageable areas to be tackled. This helped alleviate the overwhelming aspect of the project, as well as gave us a continuous fresh location to address. Still, the sheer magnitude of the task would see us shake our heads and wonder if we would ever attain a safe, park-like setting around the house.

This month we got some help. We’ve brought in a fantastic “tree guy.” Actually, Noah is a tree specialist and spends much of his time up in the evergreens, hanging and swinging from ropes, while meticulously grooming trees and trimming dead, fire-ready branches. He “elevates” the trees and fells the tricky, sickly ones we’ve hesitated on. His ground crew associate, Cody, guides, winches and stages branches into a hungry chipper. We jump in from time-to-time dragging debris and cutting oak and madrone into firewood.

This first phase focuses on a wide swath of forest between the house and the lake, along with a narrow band near the vegetable garden. It’s roughly 3-4 acres and has a dense lower canopy of dogwoods making the larger tree removal more challenging. It’s taken nearly three weeks to complete.

The result is remarkable: We now see a continuous western horizon, complete with blue sky, clouds and sunsets, through majestic firs and pines. Mornings are brighter as the rising sun illuminates a nearby ridge of the Plumas National Forest previously hidden from our view. Sunlight is reaching the deprived lower canopy. Fire-prone trees are gone and the remaining forest is made safer by the removal of lower branches that can “ladder” a fire into a horrific, canopy wildfire. We’ve got mountains of chips that we’ll return to the forest floor, as well as mulch our plantings and garden.

It’s been an emotional project because we pain at the removal of any growing tree. However, our concerns are softened knowing that we’ve given longer, healthier life to the remaining stand and their offspring. While we’ll never change the name of this special spot, there’s now a little less “shadow” and a more vigorous “woods.”
(Photo: Noah swinging in the trees)


Green Fields

It clumps, quakes and waves. It can easily grow an inch a day. It perfectly hides snakes, birds weave it into their nests and it’s the basic energy source for many ecosystems. It’s mostly green, but under closer examination it’s often yellow, gray, blue, red and purple among other colors. It makes some people headachy and sick, while others are just fine napping in a tall field of it. So, what is “it” and why has “it” kept us too busy to post to our blog more regularly? It is GRASS!

We’re not talking about the lovely, clipped, nitrogen-green, front lawn stuff, but a hodge-podge of heirloom species that shoot up faster than the time-lapsed, green fur on a Chia Pet. It’s lovely when it’s freshly sprouted blades, but before you know it, you can be wading in an ocean of the stuff. Deep grass is a lovely image too, however, this time of year, grass grows abundantly, and after a rare, seven inches of rain in early May, well, it’s growing into an unmanageable jungle.

Armed with power weed-eaters, scythes and heavily gloved hands, we wage war daily with the green monster. We’re on a time critical mission: We must get the green grass down and away from buildings, before the searing summer sun bakes it into a golden, fire-rich kindling. We amass mounds of the stuff and load it into the compost bins. Sometimes, when feasible, we plow it under creating a rich, green compost to improve the soil. Managing grass definitely keeps us busy.

Now, we must be fair, not all of what we cut down and pull is grass. There’s a patchwork of other green lovelies that also crisp up with the daily rising temperature. Thistles, cockleburs and many other assorted weeds add to the battle. However, we just clump it all under the heading of “grass,” quake at how fast it grows and wave it good-bye for this season, knowing too well that it’ll return next year with the same determination, importance and loveliness.
(Photo: Zea species, aka Foxtails)