Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Garages, boats, trees and sailing

We may actually have a garage before the snow flies!

Camp Connell, CA - It's been a busy week here at Camp Connell, our home town.

The weather -- always a topic of talk down at the general store -- has ranged from scorching hot (90s in the mountains is NOT acceptable) to downright chilly (high 30s this morning).
As we like to point out, it is always much worse down the hill. Hotter (0ver 100) and colder (somewhere north), and windier too.

The never-ending garage construction project hit a milestone, hopefully not a plateau, as the trusses for the roof arrived Monday and were completely installed by Wednesday. Brad the contractor has been working alone because his helper/son ran off to the Bay Area to be near his girl friend.
It was highly entertaining and edifying to watch Brad balance on a two-by-four and juggle the large and heavy trusses into place. It's too complicated to describe with accuracy, but he used leverage, a piece of climbing rope, a level and chalk line, and ingenuity to get everything nailed solidly into place.
Brad at work on the roof

You may recall the project was caught last Fall by early and heavy snow, and was buried for five months.
Next step: finish the siding.

Fire-safing the property around the house is a never-ending job, particularly as we move into the hottest and driest part of the summer. We do live in a wilderness interface, a fancy term that means we are definitely in the woods.
This week I hired a local company to come in and "high limb" 12 large trees close to the house. That means that Arturo, my amigo who works for my poker-playing friend Dave, showed up this morning with a very large dump truck, the longest pole saw I have ever seen, and other assorted tools. My job, to keep the cost down, was to be the safety spotter, hold the ladder, and yell "LOOK OUT!" when a large limb started to fall on a head. Problem for Arturo: my Spanish is not great and so while I am trying to figure out how to say "DUCK!" in Spanish, the limbs have already bounced off the nearest hard surface.
Holding a three-section pole saw above your head for hours was a back-breaking job, but he has a cheerful disposition and strong arms, helped along by the fact he heads home this week for his daughter's quinciniera celebration. Mucho dinero is required, he told me with a father's accepting smile.
Arturo at the end of a long day

We both made it through the day safely. I managed to cut down several small trees, stack some future firewood, and break my chain saw for the umpteenth time.
For those friends who might worry about my tree-hugger credentials when I mention cutting down trees, be aware that our property is not a natural forest. It has become an overgrown thicket ever since the natives were chased out 150 years ago by gold seekers, and the hope is to restore it to its natural and safer condition.
Instead of letting natural fires burn, which remains a no-no near houses, we mechanically remove the excess trees and brush. The trees go to firewood for next winter, and the brush to the local yard waste collection station (just up the hill) where it is turned into high-priced mulch for city dwellers.
That's what sustainable culture is about up here at altitude.

Educational efforts continue for Pat and me at Calaveras Big Trees State Park, where we are volunteers. Pat spent part of today with a group of rangers and resource experts learning how to teach sixth-graders how to manage forest resources. Since the forest in parts of the park has not been allowed to burn for generations, the rangers now teach kids how to manage the forest back into a natural state. Yes, they do what we call "prescribed burns" but the controls are so tight for safety and air pollution reasons other steps are still required.
Most of today was fun stuff: learning how to core, plotting sections, measuring trees using a compass and geometry, and nipping off some little brushy stuff. Tomorrow Pat will be trained in "Creek Critters" and I will do a trail Patrol in the Sequoia grove.

Recreational moments exist also. This past weekend we took our sailboat Good News across San Francisco Bay, berthed at the South Beach Marina, and went to watch the San Francisco Giants lose another baseball game. We joined a group of members from the Oakland Yacht Club for the weekend, had a little wine, ate well, met some interesting people, and froze to death at AT&T Stadium, formerly known as PacBell Stadium, not to be confused with the stadium known as Candlestick, which is even colder.
We enjoyed two days of good sailing (wind 15-20 knots), didn't break anything, and got home safe.
A good time was had by all.
Our next-door boat on the San Francisco outing was party central. We heard a loud splash in the middle of the night, and learned later one of our wine-filled sailor friends took an unexpected swim in the 45 degree water. He got out very quickly, and had a good story to tell.

1 comment:

The woodsy curmudgeon said...

Life's a series of little compromises and tradeoffs.

Hate to be the one to tell ya, old friend, since I know it'll rupture your tree-hugging heart, but the only way to truly fireproof that lovely mountain abode is to whack down virtually every tree around it in a radius of 75 yards minimum — 100 yards even better.

Or at least a radius the length of the height of three of the tallest trees laid end to end.

Then saw and split them into fireplace logs.

Anything less will be pissing in the wind — or in your case, on the fire.

Hope and prayer may offer mental comfort, but little efficacy when a lightning bolt touches off that tinderbox.

Break out the bucks for an 18-inch Stihl 029 Farm Boss (or whatever the hell Stihl's calling that model now) and you won't be breaking chainsaws all the time.