In My Neighborhood X 5
It appears that we'll be experiencing the month of August several times this year. In week
long increments. We had a warm week, then several days of rain, then another warm spell,
and today, as I type this, it's cool. We had a brief shower this morning about 6:30. It lasted
exactly as long as it took us to get up, throw on some outdoor clothing, and put under cover
the items we thought safe to leave out last night. It had quit raining by the time I got back
inside. Of course, whenever it rains here it gets downright chilly.
On the other hand, water makes the plants grow. We've been seeing Columbia Lilies (some
call them Tiger Lilies) all over the place. Makes me want to start planting hybrids again.
On the third hand, the animals depend on the vegetation. About a month ago I saw a deer
checking things out where our driveway splits to the trailer and the house site. There must
have been a tarp flapping, because she sure was skittish. More recently, I was checking out
the lean of a Douglas fir and noticed what looked like a bump on the side of the tree. Closer
inspection revealed a small owl. Barb brought out binoculars and the bird book. Maybe I
should have said this was a tiny owl. All the small owls in Barb's bird book have spots on
the top of their heads. This one didn't; it's head was uniformly grey-brown. However, it's
chest was distinctively marked and we tentatively identified it as a pygmy owl. By a process
of eliminating all the other owls of this size because they would be outside their normal range
or habitat, we finally decided we were looking at a juvenile pygmy owl. It kept a close eye
on us, too.
Within the hour, as we were walking down to fetch the mail, I glanced through a small gap in
some trees screening a driveway leading to some western lots to see a cougar. Unlike the
bobcat, which I had initially thought was someone's housecat, I knew instantly that this was a
mountain lion. Barb was a few feet ahead of me, and I softly called her to come see the
cougar. Before she could return to my vantage point, the cat looked at me and ran up the
clearing it was in. We went to investigate, but all there was to see were a few faint prints in
the dust. We notified all the neighbors - to let them know to be aware of their surroundings.
Later, Barb found a family of brown creepers which had apparently just started flying. Cute,
tiny birds. They apparently didn't like our activity, as we haven't seen them since.
On the fourth hand, plants and animals wouldn't be complete without insects...
___________ of the Humongous Black Ants
Not sure what to put in that blank space: "Denouement", "Banishment", "Eviction", "Rout",
all sprang to mind, but "(temporary) Retreat" is probably most accurate. The mint oil spay
sorta works. Using part of a can to spray all the trailer supports only seems to slow the ants.
Using a whole can of the wasp and hornet version (which has more mint oil and sodium
laurel sulfate) to saturate a post and the soil around it for many feet does persuade them to
abandon that as an entry route. They simply move on to the next post. We were hearing
evidence that they had established a nest in the ceiling of the bedroom. We also found a
heavily used ant highway in the closet. So we broke out the artillery: boric acid. Both
stashes! We dropped it down the trail and blew it into the ceiling cavity. Then we unleashed
the heavy artillery: the vacuum cleaner with the long hose and crevice tool. At this point, we
didn't even bother squashing them first: just slurp em up and look for the next one. Rubber
band a plastic bag over the end of the hose when not in use, then take the cleaner out onto
the porch in the evening before bed. Barb's favorite smushing tool is a serving spoon and it
works just great. Some of the ants fall right out of the bag when it's shaken. Some of the
larger soldier ants cling tenaciously to the inside of the bag, so the finale usually entails
laying the bag flat and running the spoon all over it, like one does with a nearly empty
toothpaste tube. The deck would get so black that we'd have to sweep it several times during
one bag clearing operation. The bodies were so thick on the ground next the deck it was
starting to look like a pool from the La Brea Tar Pits. After a couple of weeks of this, we
noticed a decline in the number of ants in the trailer. Actually, the decline, once it came, was
rather abrupt. It only took two or three days to go from inundation to only one or two stray
ants in the course of a day. Barb looked up her notes from last year, and it looks like we
should expect ant swarming season every year for a couple of weeks in late May, early June.
A week or so after the swarming ended, we noticed that the major body parts had been
removed from their deck side depository. All that was left were legs.
Speaking of legs, ... I'm down to about a dozen trees to fall to clear our solar access. Most
of the trees I've cut have been small - under ten inches diameter at the base. A few were so
un-straight that they went into firewood in their entireties. Anything else under five inches
diameter went onto the mill. Mostly, it's been 4x4s, 2x4s, and 2x6s, with the occasional 1x4.
Our neighbors, Randy and Jane, drove in one evening last week while Barb and I were
finishing dinner. They had four thirteen foot logs in the back of their pickup, and wondered
if I could saw one side flat. They're planning to use them as joists for a storage loft in a
small cabin they are building. They want the logs visible from below, but wanted a flat
surface on which to lay the loft flooring. An easy job. They backed the pickup close to the
mill, we carried the logs over to the mill, put the first one on, discussed the merits and
demerits of this and that, and I slabbed off one side. The time consuming part was moving
logs around (as usual) and even with taking three passes to work slowly into what we wanted
with the log with the most curve, we were done within an hour.
In exchange, they offered to help pull a couple of logs up the house site to the mill. I'd cut
two trees of about one foot diameter, and their logs were ready to come up. I've rigged a
tripod using three poles with two pulleys hung from it. To offset the drag from the logs,
there is a backstay run in the opposite direction from the log source to a large tree. To rig a
log for moving, I run the choker on the end of the logging cable out to the log and set the
choker. The cable runs back, through one of the pulleys on the tripod, then back to the log
where it runs through a third pulley - this pulley hooked to a rope attached to the log using a
timber hitch. Thence, the cable runs back to the tripod and through the second pulley on the
tripod. When doing the job by myself, I just stand under the tripod and pull on the cable
while the log comes up the hill; until it hits a rock. It goes a lot - and I do mean a lot -
faster with two people: one can escort the log over and around all the obstacles while the
other pulls. So, I took Randy and Jane up on their offer.
After we set the rigging for the next log, Randy and Jane volunteered to pull. I drafted a
stave as a lever and we started in. These guys get too excited: they took off with cable in
tow. When a log gets to the tripod, I usually pull the end up as high as I can to move it
along as far as possible then set it down, pushing it to the side so it'll be out of the way of
the next log. We managed the first one ok. When we got the second one up, I grabbed the
loose line that the log pulley was hooked to, prepatory to pulling it over to the side per
standard procedure. Well, my draft team had cable in hand, backs to task, and were under a
full head of steam. I looked up to see the whole contraption toppling in my direction. I was
between the two legs still on the ground, with the suspended end of the log to my left and the
mill to my back. The cable Randy and Jane were pulling was to my right and I didn't fancy
getting caught under it. I could see the third leg of the tripod was rising in the air with the
angles between the legs not changing at this point. But I knew it would soon enough. Not
really having any other viable option, I stepped forward under the tripod thinking to exit stage
right. I could see that third leg starting to fall, and dove to the right, thinking that would get
me out quicker. Wearing gloves, I didn't get any gravel in my palms I've done that before,
and once is enough but I did get bruises on both forearms, and the front of my right thigh.
Then, that third tripod leg caught up with me. It hit me in the back of the right calf, driving
my shin into a log that has been serving skid duty.
To allay your fears and mine! no bones were broken, but I do still have some nasty
bruises. Before I let Randy and Jane 'help' with log pulling again, I'm rigging a forward stay
to a big stump.
Is it time? It must be time. Urge, no, demand that your congress critters pass a new
amendment to the Constitution. It should say something to the effect: "Corporations are not
persons'. Not being persons, corporations are banned from participating in political
activities. Annual renew of corporate charters will be granted, but only upon proof of
corporate good citizenship and that their activities are beneficial to the communities within
which they operate."