Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Firemen's Muster

Backpack Sprayer Relay, that's Drew on the Left

The Petrolia Team Cuts a Fire Line Down to Mineral Soil

Firefighter Papa

The Petrolia Team Puts out a "Wildland" Fire in the Hose Lay

Petrolia Team Captain Chris Gilda and Engine 6632

Every year at the Roll on the Mattole, a music festival fundraiser for Honeydew Volunteer Fire Company, there is a firemen's muster. In other words, the departments all put together a team, and have firefighter games, work to win a trophy prize, and furthermore, demonstrate how awesomely prepared they are for the possibility of wildland firefighting.

There are 3 competitions: a backpack sprayer relay, a fire line competition, and a hose lay. They need to demonstrate teamwork and technical skill, and they are judged by CDF firefighters. It's a heckuvalot of fun to watch. And it helps the folks keep their chops up, too.

This year, there was an additional cool-factor, which was that the Honeydew team was all women. As a woman, I feel a little swell of pride for these ladies, it isn't easy work being firefighters. Although I live in Petrolia, I was secretly rooting for the Honeydew team! Woman first, village second! But Whale Gulch Volunteer Company won, instead.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Topless Party

Drew really wanted to have a topless party for his birthday, as in, a party in our topless house, once the walls were done. But the walls weren't done in time for his birthday, so we had to have the party last weekend. We furnished the house with our meager and humble furniture options, and set up "counters" in the kitchen, and an air bed in our bedroom, and dragged out a bunch of toys for the kids, and played groovy music all evening. We watched the waxing crescent moon set over Moore Hill, and waited until the stars emerged from the darkness to go back inside to bed. After most of the guests left, Drew, Ella, Ryan, and I sat on our couch in our future living room, area rug underfoot, all tucked under my grandmother's afghan. It was such an extraordinary sensation of fulfillment. It was also so nice to have the house full of people we love, sharing food and enjoyment. Even without walls, windows, and doors, the design worked very well. I think we're going to love living in it, and I'm looking forward to having lots more gatherings with our lovely community packed inside.

Can't wait for the full completion!

Redwood Vacation

Once the walls were finished, it was time for a vacation already, sheesh! So as fast as we could muster, we threw together our backpacks and gear for a short-distance trip to Redwood National Park, about an hour north of Arcata. Our first night, we went out for sushi, and tried to camp at Patrick's Point State Park, but they were full, so we (oh darn) spent the night at the Lost Whale Inn, a fabulous B&B in Trinidad. Took a hot tub. Slept on soft sheets. Ate their phenomenal breakfast, mmmmmm. It was truly the breakfast that swayed us.

After all that gorging and relaxing, we drove up to the park, collected our permit and bear canister, and drove 10 miles or so out of Orick, to a locked gate, and then another 6 miles down a dirt road to the trailhead to the "Tall Trees Grove". More organizing, and then finally we were ready to disappear into the backcountry for three days, and headed down the trail with heavy packs. Ella carried her pink Kung Fu Panda pack full of her own clothes, and she ran ahead of us on the trail, so excited about the adventure. The hike to the nearest camping is about 1.75 miles, which was just far enough for this not-so-recently-gone-backpacking gal. We set up our camp on the banks of Redwood Creek, on a soft, sandy bar, beside a lazy, glassy, quietly murmuring stream, which was packed full of fresh-water snails, cutthroat trout, and perfect skipping rocks.

We proceeded to relax for the next little while, taking small walks as we felt, swimming in crystal-clear, cerulean pools, tracking the otters, elk, and other wildlife, listening to birds, and taking in the breathtaking grandeur of mature redwood trees with very large diameters. We heard marbled murrelets calling at dusk and dawn, and sank into another universe for a short little while. Ahhhhhh. Ella loved it, though her tantrum rate went up while we were there.

We watched cliff swallows gathering insects for their babies, diving in and out of a tiny hole in a cut bank. We saw osprey fly far overhead, calling out midday. We saw what we think was a mink, hopping and leaping along the bank, after taking a swim across the creek. We heard the pileated woodpecker drumming in the deep forest. We experienced ourselves as small little people, while trying to travel off trail through the forest, crossing downed logs that were 7 feet high, tumbled across other 7 foot high logs, requiring balancing travel along tree highways. We heard a fox bark in the early morning. It is truly magical to feel the old-growth forest, in its undisturbed state, it really does have a different sensation, a deeper pulse. Please go and find out what it feels like for yourselves.

We all emerged deeply calmed and rejuvenated. Ready for more construction, time to move on to the roof!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Finished Walls

The Entire House! From the Southeast

The Whole Thing, from Due South

West Wall from the Outside

Looking East Through the Entire House, on the Lower Level

Looking East on the Upper Level

Looking West Through the Entire House

The North Wall as Viewed from the Living Room

Three solid days of pushing endlessly, even a few sunup to sundown marathons, but today we completed the exterior walls of our house. We can now see the shape and slope of the roofs and the clerestory, and grok how tall the north wall really is. We can see what it will look like from the outside, and begin to have a feeling for the interior spaces. It is spectacular! Not only what we've accomplished, but watching this vision, one that we have nurtured along for several years now, emerging into the flesh. I can hardly believe this is my life!

Now, we take a little needed vacation to go play in the redwoods, and then we get into setting the ridge beams and the rest of the roof. The main visible beam is going to be a gigantic recycled redwood bridge timber, and the posts that will hold them up are tree sections that Drew harvested last week from the Petrolia School, the land where we met (thank you, Dr. Dick!). It's going to be so beautiful, I can hardly wait to see the boldness of the feeling of the beam.

The Silence of the Birds

Each summer, the day when the birds stop singing comes too quickly for my taste. It's not that they stop entirely. I am still hearing the swallows at this moment, amid the roar of the concrete trucks (pouring our walls), and I did hear a spotted towhee yesterday morning. It's just that I feel a little sad when the luxurious and rich orchestra of morning bird dawn chorus becomes a lonely, quiet solo.

I guess it is truly the turning of the seasons. It means the singers have found their mates and have hunkered down to hatch some eggs. They're now in a lovely family way. I suppose I should feel happy for them. And now we can try to hear the juveniles drive their bird parents crazy with constant requests for feeding, like their human, teenaged counterparts. It means we are moving closer to tomato harvest time, and this year, closer to a roof being on our new house. But wistful I remain, over the loss of beauty in the early morning. I look forward to it each year, and it always seems to fly by too fast. Especially the end of the merry, melodic black-headed grosbeak soliloquies. *sigh*

To tomatoes!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Mill Creek Forest

It's a funny phenomenon, that you don't necessarily do the interesting things there are to do around your home until out-of-town guests come to visit. A few days ago, we decided on a walk into Mill Creek Forest, thinking it would be a short walk, and do-able for Ella. But when you take a hike with the Lillie-Schneider clan, I forgot that you must be prepared for anything. We began climbing up out of the creek, up the near vertical slopes, up into the old-growth Douglas-fir forest. It really is spectacular. There is so little forest that looks like it, large, well-spaced trees, with the fern and spindly tan oak understory.

It was a satisfying hike, in that I got to nerd out on taking photos, with another fellow photo nerd, my dear friend Kira, who is a rock star fashion photographer in Paris. She had lenses that would fit my camera, and I got to play with a true macro lens for the first time. Meanwhile, Ella was barging ahead with Kai and Karl, leading our whole entourage. None of us could believe how far she walked, nor how enthusiastically she was doing it. Who needs a nap?

All was well, until the end of the day when Kira walked through a yellow jacket nest, and she got stung several times. Once she was done with that, a wasp decided she needed to be stung too! Insult to injury! The burning and stinging led to a mandatory stop at the Drury swimming hole, for an end of hike dip. Ahhhhhh. Hope you enjoy the photos.

Supplemental Wall Blocks

Yesterday, a full-sized semi arrived with his roll up sided trailer with ten additional pallets of wall block. The trucker looked a little green, and described, while shaking his head, his harrowing journey over the wildcat. He seemed in good humor about it all, but definitely said he'd never driven a road quite like that, and wasn't sure he was going to make it on several occasions.

But the worst part is that he decided to try to leave the valley over Bull Creek, since he had deliveries farther south. We investigated the bridge clearance in Honeydew, which was ok, and cautioned him about the trip through the redwoods, but offered our opinion that we thought he could do it. But. We forgot one minor detail. About a single lane bridge with a right angle turn just before it, right next to the place we got married. We got a little more worried after his boss called to check in on him twice, asking us to call him on his cell after hours. And then today, we found out he got stuck trying to cross said bridge, and somehow had to get the trailer pulled back, and I don't know how he managed to do it, but he had to turn that truck around and leave the way he came, through Ferndale. We are hoping he's alright. I guess his boss hadn't heard from him, as of this morning.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Keepin' On Keepin' On

The Western Wall of the House

Master Bedroom

Full House, as Viewed from the Southeast

House as Viewed from the East

View out the West Wall of the Master Bedroom: Moore Hill

Karl Threads a Block over Rebar

View Looking South through what will be a Hall, Closet, Bathroom, and Master Bedroom

Work continues on. We fly for a little, then we crawl, then we fly, and walk, and crawl. Such is construction! After the first wall pour, we stacked pretty quickly up to the tops of the window and door bucks, although now the crew has to thread each and every block over varying-height, tall pieces of rebar. And once we got the the course above the plethora of windows on the south side, we needed extra rebar reinforcement, to make sure the eventual concrete lintels will be strong enough to hold everything up, and so each block needed to be customized to allow extra reinforcement. At that point, we were hoping for wall pour # 2 sometime this week, but then we ran out of block, and tried to get it shipped, but couldn't get it until Thursday of this week. So the pour will be next week.

So now we find ourselves having a little bit of a break. Drew is outside today trying to get his new (used) baler running. As I sat here typing, I heard the motor fire up for the first time. Our neighbor had it in his barn but hadn't used it in many years. But it looks like we can bale up some straw from our incredible stand of the dry, waving grass for use in the garden this winter.

Also, dear friends are coming to visit tomorrow, and they're staying through the weekend, while one is visiting right now! What a full life, and what fullness summer brings.