Franny & Zooey

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I have been thinking of names for our pair of lovebird ravens, predictably a famous couple, and  Franny & Zooey comes to mind.  A fictitious pair of genius siblings who are perfectly worthy of these smart trusting birds, and well, its just that I’m a fan of Salinger.    Here’s Zooey, on the wood pile, right next to our tiny house ….
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He is preening and watching over his shy lady Franny, who walks on the ground at a greater distance in the Charcoal Forest.
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But distance is relative, because I tell you folks, I was 30 feet away at the most, quietly inching forward ever so slowly before Zooey caught on to me, and took flight.

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Beautiful birds, I just can’t get over them.
They have so far snubbed my yarn offerings by the way!

Words from the woodland…

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I have been experimenting with another sock design. Knitting, ripping, knitting, ripping, and knitting again. But I think I’ve finally worked it out (um…hopefully.)   There’s my knitting for the next weeks, exhaustive exploration of the designs’ potential !

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But perhaps the most interesting of things happening right  now are the ravens yet again stealing away with my attention in their nest-making work!  Photographed (a blurry phone photo) through the window in our tiny house yesterday in the dimming evening light, are the male & female which share the wooded habitat “close in”  with us. They are busy tearing up fluff from the packing blanket covering  the bath tub   and apparently are making a nest!  They’ve been at this blanket for about a week now, and I don’t mind,  they can shred it up all they like, and in fact, I’ve just now put a pile of yarn scraps in the middle, as an offering to them. 

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 We watch them pull and tear, and fill their mouths with this fluff, then fly off together to some private place near by, and then they inevitably are back, usually to be found up in the limbs close by.   Five years ago, back  in this post,  I photographed and talked about what I assume to be this pair of ravens, and took some good photos of them in the oak trees next to our house.  Of course, the wildfire brought on huge concern for a while about what would happen to the wildlife, but as you can see, as we didn’t let the loggers go through our woods, we have many trees left to be the habitat left for the wildlife. Some are not the healthiest trees, but many larger ones managed to not get too injured in the wildfire, showing a number of decades left in them.  Did you know that ravens mate monogamously for life,  and can live to be over thirteen years?  I expect they will be around for years to come (… read more info on ravens.)  

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Other news is that we’ve had to cut down the Black Oak which use to shade our original house, and that has been a sad thing indeed. Our original deck was built around it somewhat, and it just seemed a part of the house.  DSC_0217.JPG
We didn’t want to do it, but three-quarters of the bark had been burned off, and was nearly entirely dead.  We should have cut it down before the house started to be rebuilt, but Jeff wanted to see if it might spring back to life, which it didn’t sadly.  Now that the deck is starting to get built, it had to come down ~~~ and it was a huge stress !

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In closing I would like to say that although the rain came late this season, and nearly April it is still raining gobs, and from a fire-ravaged California that desperately needs regrowth of the wild habitat, rain is the new gold.  I am very inspired to plant an undergrowth of woodland species, including more fruit trees in the gardens (to share with the ravens of course), and in general have been ready to focus on planting things as soon as the rain wanes off a bit.  Making lists and garden sketches in the morning light of the window, with delicious mugs of coffee, is my solid unwavering bliss. 

 

Early Light

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Large patches of trees not burned in their crowns, giving a flooding sense of hope.

This morning as I was taking pen into hand to write my morning journal entry,  I noticed a warm orange glow cast from the sunrise, and giving an intense beauty into the forest. Early morning light sure does give me perspective, and so I grabbed my camera and just looked about.

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My life hasn’t felt very photogenic lately,  so capturing these images suddenly lifts me a little.  It seems always less the subject, and nearly all the light, which makes or breaks a photograph.   And as I have been feeling so overwhelmed with being uprooted during this crazy shuffling about, now seven & 1/2 months since the wildfire, this morning’s sunrise brings a delicate understanding of how both expectation & impatience are troubling me.

As I write this a very big and ominously black raven lands just outside the picture window, on the roof of the little shed next to Tiny House, and seems to be inspecting something. I love the ravens, I am so happy they weren’t away long. The wildlife is indeed more scarce since the fire, but seems to be slowly populating this lonely wood. I have felt thrown out of synchronization with the wild for what is half a year before we moved our Tiny House up here, and I realize this morning that I missed out on a full half rotation around the sun, from 10th of October last year to the 1st of May, being away from this place.  That is a long time for a hermit (merely a soft kind word for agoraphobic) .  I must just … b r e a t h e….. now back up on the mountain. Breathe it in!   This month of May has been such work learning to live and operate inside of a small space. A really small space, and still doing without so much that makes the experience more like camping … as though my ‘real life’ is still on hold.

But life is not on hold,  must forget how life once seemed, and open my eyes to the reality of being here, and now, and this could be as good as it gets.  Still , my knitting design which has been seriously ergonomically tampered with,  nothing in a neat orderly space, but in boxes, here and there, is going to hibernate a spell while we go through more harrowing experience with the demands of the county, which in the end may prove an ironic and impossible situation for rebuilding.

I strive to be happy for what I have.   Namely, my charcoal forest, and sense of place…. the ones I love, and this Tiny House.    I guess I just need more time, figuring my way forward, thinking about what matters. Life is so short, and I feel each day which slips by that even the rhythm of work of my knitting design has become distortingly hazy.   I find I am caught in a sort of reflection of life up to the fire, and am wanting to set in motion the way forward, but frozen peering into that reflection.

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Early morning reflection from window of tiny house.

Life is difficult often, but good,  and everything in its place.

 

A Home Trail

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In the woods, caught up in the days, and hypnotized by the pendulum of nature, I feel a swing of weeks upon weeks pushing through seasons, while the light changes angle and leaves come and go on the maples and the oaks, and lay papery on the forest floor.  While the chickadees keep time with their greeting in spring, linger through summer, then go elsewhere it seems, and yet the tiny black-headed junco stays.  Perhaps of all the seasonal signs, the pendulum moves most noticeably through the motionless drying landscape of August, the time when the grasses bleach to blonde and mosses turn almost brown, as it is the dry dormant time,  and all things wild wait desperately yet patiently for the first rains of Autumn. The pair of ravens living among the branches near, are talkative, loudly squawking and chortling,  perhaps expressing their impatience too. One never knows.

And here we are one week into September already, a blink away from Autumn! Emma and I are mellowing out waning ourselves into a bit of a stale state.  We are needing incentive to greet the forthcoming Autumn with some kind of significance.  For a long time I’ve pondered, and for a long time I’ve talked, about the big project of the Knitting Trail, while not really applying myself. (Knitting too much? Perhaps!) Taming the wild woods is a boatload of hard labor to put it simply.  Working a delicate maze of trail in and around the framework of the more established trees while trying to see through the forest of younger trees and shrubs is well, an exhausting event of instincts & decisions followed up by manual labor, as I very lightly etch into the forest a path,  inconspicuous as possible, in some places merely moving aside fallen branches or cutting back poison oak. We will have our home trail from where  we can walk through the seasons.

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Me with my trail-making gear consisting of long-handled pruners, a variety of bow saws, and a shovel, while Emma contributes her subtle but constant encouragement, and of course, her nose for a the traffic of the wildlife, which is very helpful.  In need of a really big goal, and I have thought this morning about how life should, oh but very well must, include a physical regimen of some sort, more than once, twice…or thrice out walking closer in to the house. We are going to craft our Daily Mile (or near mile) of walking trail from the bits of trails already in use that we began years back, and impulsively followed, some discarded, some maintained.  And I am going to share with you the whole process. The real challenge is to make this trail nearly entirely near our house’s door step, on ours and on the neighbor’s woods (a generous person granting permission to roam)… so roam we will.

I share this morning, a real determination to make this trail complete.  Beginning from the three-foot tall trail blaze outside of the front door , a stack of stones gathered from the trail head parking lots and roadside of the High Sierra . . .

we go forth !

Three Days

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One of my weird kitchen concoctions ~~ hot pepper chocolate.

I have been home alone on the mountain with Emma and The Ravens for four days now.  Jeff is returning tonight,  from Mexico where he has been visiting with his daughter in Cancun since the nineteenth, visiting ancient Mayan ruins and enjoying a lovely warm beach.  Here, I’ve been very busy with holding the fort, and working on this lacey thing . . .

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But really what I’ve been working hard on while alone in the house, is my traditional gift of Christmas to Jeff, but I dare not show you a thing until Christmas morning. In the mean time, still serving up my Spiced Chocolate drink if you’d like to stop by ~~I’ll whip one up for you !  If you can’t make it over, I understand, but you’ll have to try this at home ! Here’s how :

 Jen’s Spicy Bittersweet Chocolate 

(For two servings)

With a mortar & pestle, crunch up a couple of cinnamon sticks, and dried chile flakes or a whole small chile pepper  ~~ to taste, what you consider ‘barely hot’ , or ‘really hot’, it is up to you.

(( Optional:  a few cardamom pods, and a  ‘petal’ from a star anise pod, a dash of grey sea salt ))

Simmer in a pan with  about 3 cups of water for about 20 minutes, take off heat and melt into it a few ounces bittersweet chocolate, whisking while it melts.

More chocolate is nice… as much as you feel to balance against the heat of the peppers.  I don’t add more sugar, as the idea is to be bittersweet and spicy hot… which is really delicious. However, nobody is stopping you from sweetening it up :).

Whip up a small bowl of cream, again, barely sweetened.

Strain through sieve into cups and pile on the whipped cream , sprinkle with something… like nutmeg or cinnamon… and enjoy !

Wishing You All and Yours lovely days of these fresh first winter days (or summer) and Happy Christmas sentiments.

Fourteen Days . . .

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I am sharing all that I am ‘making’ through the holidays (and other noteworthy things going on).  Fourteen days left, and three hand-made gifts finished, with several more to go. A scarf much like ‘ribbon candy’ in wintergreen and licorice, made from some old yarn I can’t even remember what it is. Here, a quite roomy felted satchel made of stashed tweed wool o’ the Andes, and which has two thick 5-stitch icord straps.  The very artful steel cut & welded ‘coat’ hanger my brother made. It is a daffodil bulb,  and is mounted right at the doorway.

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Now, the Lovers Of Wildlife out there , you absolutely *must* see this ~~~ the pair of ravens which perch often right near our house, these are photos taken from upstairs bedroom window, literally 30 feet away from where I stood in the house (I zoomed in).  First you see Mr. Raven lone on a branch surveying his domaine, then his mate busying herself ripping some dead bark off of a dead oak branch, then she flew to him and they cuddled a while while they prattled loudly to each other, it was amazing to see such big handsome birds be so affectionate. (click first image in mosaic to go to slideshow).

They didn’t seem to mind me at all standing there photographing & admiring them. I am so grateful & lucky to live here in these woods with the ravens!

A Knitting Trail

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Emma and I have  been working on our home trail in recent weeks.

 It is to be a knitting trail ! ! !

Our trail begins right next to Jeff’s workshop…

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And takes off into the woods, just follow Emma.

It goes upwards very quickly…

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It meanders along old deer-trodden paths ,

which Emma and I  have enhanced with our footsteps.

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It passes by tall firs,

oaks & bays,

madrones & maples…

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You will see my short rows of sticks on occasion,

they are trail markers in sections where the knitting trail goes one way,

while the deer may go another…

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Emma is charged with purpose as she surveys the forest, and the wildlife.

There is at least one mountain lion which lives in the area, sighted many times, and  I often wonder if it is the lion which she smells.  I think I would like to put some places to sit (and knit) along the way.  Just sit, knit,  and listen to the wildlife.

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Some small sections are getting the shovel treatment, like here at the trail-head.

 (Yes, that is our house, and my car, which I try to drive as little as possible)

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So you see, I have been working like an ox lately, for this is the time of year I love most to be outside toiling away, among the falling leaves of Autumn. There’ll be more photos later, as the Knitting Trail is honed to perfection !

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But hey ! Its the last day of October today, and that means it is Halloween!   For the occasion I thought I’d post a photo of something remarkably ominous from the woods!   The raven’s cultural and somewhat spooky  symbolism  is not to be debated, however here they are just a cheerful and welcomed presence, and flock about year round. They make themselves very comfortable, eating the berries in the native trees, and fruit & veggies from our garden, and pick from our compost pile too.  I think they are fascinating birds,  possessing a truly amazing intrigue and even sense of humor (they like to tease Emma every chance they get), and they are the stewards of these woods all the same.  Here is a photo I took last week, zoomed into the branches of an oak while this fellow and his mate were making deep throaty chortling & clucking conversation…
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Happy Halloween everyone !

(( Note:  I am delayed with knitting projects due to interruptions life tends to cause. ))

A Whisper In The Woods

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In the woods, on the mountain where I live, in Northern California, we are sheltered by many species of trees. I suppose the Douglas Fir, and even some Coast Redwoods, are most obvious, towering a couple of hundred feet and create a distinct silhouette of the ridge line.  There are sturdy Black Oaks,  well they are likely the most nostalgic of trees to me, as they have live moss on them covering their trunks and lower branches , and so become vibrant with green in the rains,  then which browns in its dormant dry months. I love the moss, and so in my opinion, the oaks are absolutely essential to my happiness.

But I must say, the most cheery and unique of the trees, and possibly the most populated, is the Madrone.  A Madrone tree covers itself in a veneer of bark of deep terracotta clay color, most of the year, then it dries like parchment, and is shed this time of year as the tree grows, along with its leaves. Leaves like little parchment bits in varying tones of terracotta, from a pinkish color to a rich reddish brown. I do wish I could capture the color range of this with the camera, but I never have been able. I shall with yarn some day.  Bark peels like in the above photo, but usually much smaller, falling on to the forest floor with a faintest of rustling sounds as they land  on the forest floor.

Note: I once gathered bags of the bark, as it is such a beautiful color, to experiment with in dying wool, but I never quite got around to it.

The most amazing thing about the Madrone, is that when the skin of bark peels off , it reveals a very bright grass-green new layer beneath, and as the green quickly browns within days, a very interesting pattern occurs of green-to-brown on the tree’s voluptuous smooth body, as it continues to peel. The papery peels flutter and fall to the ground, painting it terra cotta tones for weeks, and the trees change from terracotta to fresh green. It is a cycle magical to see.

The forest tends to be super quiet where I live. That is, quiet with near constant interruption of raucous jays and ravens, softly screeching red-tail hawks, piercing ‘laughter’ of the variety of woodpeckers as they call,  oh and the grand pileated woodpecker steals the show when it goes to work on the dead trees !!  I suppose even the continual chortle of the chickadees and various finches stops on occasion for a moment.  And when one notices that truly quiet moment up here, it is marked by the fact that you can hear nothing but the Madrones shedding their bark and leaves, rather like the sound of stillness.  I know then how it is quiet.  I can hear the forest’s seasonal whisper!

Meanwhile, the morning light from inside my loft beckons whisperingly, as I am finished with a string of projects, looking ahead to what is next . . .

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Summer Breeze

It’s particularly quiet on the mountain this morning.

In the summer stillness of Northern California, there is usually no weather to report for months on end. Sometimes there is a breeze. Sometimes a little fog which swells up from the valley in the morning. Sometimes a relentless wind which cracks off dried branches from the trees in the forest and whips off tips of new growth, littering the country road.

The wind whistling through the tree tops is the most eerie up in the Rafters O’ Society, above the towns, overlooking ridges which  overlap , one behind another clear into the next county. Because in the breeze one hears a kind of silence which is felt in the restless sound of the trees quivering. The fact that one hears *only* the breeze, I guess is what makes it seem so quiet.

(Two pensive ravens perched in a dead fir tree, photographed with a zoom from my house, yesterday early evening.)

I do like rain, or even a lot of rain ~ in fact, I love rain.  But for now there’s blue sky. Lots and lots of clear, dry, and very blue sky.  This summer season makes me feel rather despondent, clear through September.  I must hunker down in the shadows.  It’s time to make a good strong pint of tea and stir things up.

In the dusty wild west, where things are a few degrees removed from finery, some of us pioneers, well, we devise our own way of doing things.  I do have a couple of small tea pots, but I have gotten into the habit over the years to brew loose-leaf tea in a canning jar,  sometimes a pint sized (to be pour’d into a pint glass) , but more times than not, I make up in a quart-sized jar.  What is left can easily be put into the fridge for cold tea later, which is a treat in the summer heat.

This really isn’t about tea, or the wind, or the ravens.  Its about my changing course,  about drinking in what nature brings to me, and waiting for the wind in my sails again.  Having  had a house full of family for an epic family reunion I am ready for something cheerfully  rejuvenating.   I am going to shake it loose and default to some good ol’ classic knitting ! So time to finish these…

I learn from my mistakes very clumsily,  like using a machete through the bush, I rip back and then knit forward, rip and knit, rip, knit.

Last night I had to rip back the mindless knitting I had apparently done while at a long break during a gig last weekend, I kept decreasing through the heel gussets (two at a time mistake) and ended up with far too few stitches. So, having fixed that, now I am merrily on my way again.