Saturday, September 10, 2011

Good News Update

Things are looking good at the moment. No flames licking up over that ridge to the northeast. The fire on the opposite side of the valley over the western ridge is still going, but it doesn't appear to have grown and the best part of all is that some of that early darkness was about rain clouds—I hadn't dared to hope. The wind, still coming from the SE, has picked up; but, it is pushing a slight sprinkle of rain. The wind is expected to shift a couple of times during the night. Who knows how many directions it may come from before it is over. 

It was lightning that set all this off, now we can hope that rain will help to tamp it down. I am pulling for enough rain to douse these things. The poor members of the Kern County Fire Department had just proclaimed the Canyon fire (the first one) 90% contained yesterday and they are back at it. They barely had time to catch their breath before starting on this round. For this many fires, they will have help coming from surrounding counties.

Galen has been jumpy all day. I knew something had changed a few minutes ago when he suddenly became agitated and let me know that I had to follow him.  I assumed he was ready for another opportunity to "tend to business", and I couldn't move quickly enough for him. He urged me to pick up the pace and was in full emergency mode by the time we hit the door. I thought I had come close to waiting too late. It turned out he must have smelled and sensed the change. We had to go outside and verify the rain. It was coming down harder—not just the sprinkles we had earlier. That calmed him down. No need for "business" after all. The rain lifted my spirits, too.

Here We Go Again

I fear that I will become known as the "drama queen", but as we shifted into gear this morning, we discovered another reminder that fire season has begun and with a vengeance, this year. Last night, we had thunderstorms with lightning strikes galore. At 6:30 AM, I took Galen out and admired the beautiful clouds and drank in some of that sweet mountain air. Within less than an hour this is what we discovered. This fire is, unfortunately northeast of us and the howling wind is coming from directly behind that fire. It turns out that we have forty, yes, you read that correctly 4 and 0 fires now burning in Kern County. What appears in the photo to be one fire (that is what we thought) is, by now, four fires, all moving west right for our valley. Thank goodness the winds are supposed to shift tonight. Forgive me for sounding shamefully selfish. I want the fire to be turned back on itself not on someone else.

By the time I am finishing this post—it has been a strange disjointed day—the smoke fills the valley. In spite of our tight windows it has seeped into the house. No more of that delicious and fresh mountain air. The Husband is mowing as fast as he can. He was checking the tractor manual a while ago. Maybe checking to see how long he can run it without wrecking the engine? I have no idea. I said a fond farewell to what was left of the daisies this morning. It was a small price to pay for a smidgen more peace of mind. It is eerily dark for 5:00 PM and not still. The wind blows and the those beautiful early autumn clouds are barely visible. The canopy that was full of promise this morning is smudged with a dirty gray.

The drama queen comment is heartfelt. It is odd that we have for long led such a humdrum existence—quiet little lives and certinly not of desperation. Then, suddenly, almost literally all hell breaks loose. I talk about these things because they are, after all, what is now and I ask you to please know that I am not whining, "poor me". We are not in any imminent danger, only alert. We are perfectly safe and sound. We have been extremely fortunate and relished a handsome share of good fortune. There are so many truly suffering today. But to some degree my blog is reporting on life in our little mountain valley—telling stories about what I see here. Therefore, this post isn't completely personal then, just reporting what I see and what little I know.  Sometimes we are swept along by currents we didn't prepare for. It keeps life interesting, but may I order some boredom, please? And another order to go, if you don't mind.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Something Silly This Way Comes

I started at least three posts, but finally faced the facts. I could only manage something silly. A snapshot that makes me smile.

Of course, it has been easier to smile since The Husband was returned safely to me late yesterday. He is making only croaking noises due to bruising of vocal cords; otherwise, he is doing rather well. The surgery was the result of a parathyroid gland. I know. I didn't know we had any either. Turns out we have four, located near the thyroid gland and sometimes one runs amuck. When that happens, that one will begin to overproduce all sorts of things not good for the rest of the body. The gland that began the size of a grain of rice starts growing and needs to come out. He now has one less parathyroid gland (that had become the size of a large grape) and for the moment is quite hoarse. By next week he should as good as new—well, okay, a lot better than he was.

I was guilt-ridden because I couldn't be there to take care of him; but, frankly, he had said that if I was the one to take him there and back he would be burdened with the anxiety over my well-being. I had to admit he made strong points. I know that my anxiety over three friends who are dealing with devastating news tears at me. So his assessment was not what I wanted to hear, but factual.

This is a learning experience I hadn't planned on. Denial can be a wonderful tool, can't it? Besides, some things we just don't imagine ever having to deal with and that is healthy, I think. It truly is a blessing that most young people can't comprehend what lies ahead of them. Egads! If at twenty-five you could fully imagine what your body could be going through in later decades, you might not want to face it. You likely would, at least, be really ticked off. I am being flippant, at the moment, but I do believe that it is just as well that we have those early years of living in blissful ignorance. If there is nothing we can do to avoid what is in store, why spend time dreading it? I am thrust fully into my "education". During this schooling, I fully expect to drag out that old denial technique periodically. I suspect it will come in handy.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Update to the Update

My slowness to respond to all the deeply appreciated expressions of concern and good thoughts is due to my back issues, rather than personal safety concerns. First, the fire is far enough from us to be comforting. Second, the prevailing winds here come from the west, occasionally north, and the fire is southeast of us. Still, I won't deny that the fire is distracting. (It doesn't help that The Husband's surgery happens this week. He is in LA today for a consult with the surgeon.) The Bakersfield radio and TV stations have begun to cover the blaze and it is difficult to put it completely out of one's my mind.

Even though this doesn't begin to compare in scale to the devastation in central Texas, it remains a concern for the community. Over 13,000 acres have now been consumed, a dozen homes have been destroyed, and 650 homes are threatened. Over a thousand firefighters are on the job now and the latest report says they have it only 10% under control. Not very encouraging. We are constantly being reminded in one way or another how little control we have over our environment and when it is even this close, it does tend to get one's attention.

Paul Lester asked about causes. There are dozens, but mostly it comes down to the conditions in which the fires start. The major factors are thousands of miles of kindling in the form of dry underbrush, extremely low humidity, and fierce winds. It is a recipe for disaster. As I mentioned a couple of days ago the winter and spring rains produced the kindling. Then, on the day the fire started, the humidity was a scant 25%. (You may remember I have mentioned that the Tehachapi Mountains sit at the edge of the Mojave Desert). As for the winds, they are a constant.

Steve Skinner would know far more about this than I, but the conditions are daunting for the firefighters. Steep, rocky terrain; erratic winds; low humidity; high temperatures; a seemingly endless supply of fuel; near impossible access. Steve could certainly add more that I have overlooked.

The fires are begun in almost any way you can imagine: lightning strikes; sparks from vehicles or tools; carelessness in hay-filled barns; stoves, lanterns and candles; campfires; plane crashes; and, of course in some cases, arson. Once again, Steve could point out how incomplete my list is. But the most important factor is conditions that are "ideal" for an out of control blaze.

My sincere thanks to all who left kind comments wishing us the best. I appreciate the concern and good thoughts. I have hopes of being able to work at the desktop this afternoon so I can soon publish a "proper" post with a photograph. For the moment, however, forget the pajama blogger business—I am president of the "rocking chair brigade".

Monday, September 5, 2011

Wild Fire Update

Before answering individual comments and questions, I want to thank everyone for thoughtful replies while assuring all that we are fine. It appears that the firefighters have this one pretty much under control. While the red glow on the horizon that persisted throughout the night was not comforting, there is much less smoke this morning and we are far more relaxed in the bright light of a September morning.

We still don't have much information. This one was started by a plane crash in the Tehachapi Mountains, the pilot and co-pilot are dead (no passengers), and late evening the fire had burned about 300 acres. That is the sum of the news we have. I have previously alluded to how small our nearest town is. Here is another fact to put it in perspective: There is no Tehachapi radio station. The nearest station is in Bakersfield which is close in miles, but in another climate zone and the only news they consistently cover up here is big scandals. We will learn more when it is all over.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

California Wild Fires—'Tis the Season

The sight strikes fear in the heart. While this fire is far enough from us to eliminate any need for panicked packing, it is a grim reminder that fire season is upon us. The rains last winter and spring produced a bumper crop of underbrush and there is ample fodder to turn one of these blazes into an inferno that could quickly consume thousands of acres. We are grateful for some routes that serve as emergency exits out of the valley, but pray we never have to try one—especially while hauling a horse trailer.  There are a number of planes in the air working on this, in addition to the manpower on the ground. We remain, as they say, "cautiously optimistic".