Monday, January 26, 2015

Two llamas, four hives of honey bees, and four . . .

It has been the crazy season. Not just the holidays and all the attendant things-to-do, but other little trips, getting out the Holiday Letter, worrying about Christmas shopping, cat care. I never completely unpack my suitcase.


I sit down to blog and don't know where to begin and how to remember it all.

I'm not sure when, but I recently got a new mobile phone that takes decent pictures. I have other devices that take pictures, too, but not as easily as the phone and my regular camera. This has not simplified my life in photos because now I have to remember whether I used the phone camera or the camera camera for a particular photo.

The upshot is that I moved a  bunch of photos from both sources into my computer (a memory refresher of what has been going on), and told my photo software to sort by time taken. The photos here give only soupçon of all those activities.

I did a couple of blogs about Quilt Camp in late November. On my way home, I stopped at Stage 3 for a performance of "Greetings," It was not the Greetings I think I saw in the past. This was a excellent play set at Christmas time and full of turns and twists. The first act ended with the everyone -- characters and spectators -- in an uproar. I wasn't at all sure I was liking it. After intermission, it took a shocking turn. Since the performance I attended was the last performance of the run, I won't pitch the plot, but it ended with a standing ovation.

I came out of the theatre just before sunset and passed so many spectacular vistas on the way home where I wasn't able to pull over. Finally, for a moment, catching the sun's last rays.


I stopped, too, as I passed the big lake at the bottom of the hill. Even with the rain that fell while we were at quilt camp, the "bathtub rings" rise very high. I don't think the lake level has been any lower in the 25 years I've lived in the mountains, although this is not the first drought.

The bath tub ring

Brother-in-Law, Sister and I go to the Community Hall in Our Little Town for Thanksgiving dinner. It takes about five minutes from ordering to eating, with gracious service by community members. It's also prepared by other community members as well . . . turkey, ham, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, beverages of our choice and pie of our choice with whipped cream or ice cream. Did I leave anything out?


A few days later, we finally have rain, a good solid rain. Driving back home from the post office, I spot awesome clouds, and swing into the parking lot at our lake to see what the rain had done for it. Not much, it seems. Spectacular clouds reflect in the lake but the private docks of the lakeside properties slump down on wide sandy beaches.


Boats were taken out of the water a month earlier than normal back in the fall as the water level dropped, leaving the boat launch ramp high and dry as well. The boat slips are motionless in the empty marina. I think I see a couple of people out on the breakwater beyond the marina, but they're far away and we don't make any contact.

Empty docks

Back home, it's almost time to start packing again. Sister and I are going to Yosemite for three nights. We got a deal too sweet to pass up at Yosemite Lodge.  We'll be there in the run up to the Bracebridge Dinner (see here and here), and although we aren't attending it, there are extra things to see in its preparation. Jean-Luc knows what packing means. He lies morosely in his kitty nest, pointedly not watching what I am doing.

Depressed kitty

But I have another task to do: finish writing, print, address and mail my holiday letter. I plan to finish it before we leave, but I don't get to the "print" part until the day before our planned departure. Plan B becomes taking all the components (letters, labels, envelopes, stamps) to Yosemite with us, and mailing them from Yosemite. I'd planned ahead and ordered extra ink and started the printing, with a print-run target of 80 for my regular list. I get both sides of 20 done and the first side of five more when the printer stops short, with a mystery error message. Things are going nowhere in Printsville. While I'm agonizing over possibilities, Sister arrives at her Mountain House and -- good fortune of good fortunes -- she has lots of ink and a good printer there and offers to finish the printing. Crisis averted.

Rain and snow days precede the trip, alternating with sunshine. We've watched weather forecasts diligently. If the projected big storm comes on the day we're going in, we'll choose to reroute to Hwy 140, which enters the Park at a lower elevation, The day before departure, Sister hears forecasts of sunshine. We wake up on the day to clouds, and forecasts of snow above 5,000' elevation. My Ford Escape is a champ in snow. We'll chance it on our main route in.

We must go to 6,200' at the summit on the way in. The roads have been plowed but we still watch for ice and slush on corners, or other little surprises. My champ of a car is steady all the way in.

Here's the obligatory stop for the first view of Half Dome. It's a bit under 5,000' at the top, so there's a dusting of snow on it. We have a lunch reservation at the Ahwahnee Hotel so we move along.

 Half Dome with snow

Sister puts labels on my envelopes while I put personal notes and my greetings on the holiday letters. We have them almost ready to mail for the next morning. I look in my supply folder. I forgot the Christmas stamps. I go stamp shopping once again.

I am prepared, stamp-wise, for next Christmas.

Although we stay at Yosemite Lodge, we spend a lot of time at the Ahwahnee, discovering that its breakfast and lunch menus aren't much more costly than other venues that are open this winter. Our stay is detailed here.

On our way home, we have more opportunity to stop for pictures of the forest burned in the Rim Fire. Salvage logging is being done in the forest. We passed several crews working at it on our way in. Its start was fairly recent, as all kinds of permits and reviews were required. By no means will all of the salvageable burned wood be coming out, as the competing interests must be weighed of those who simply want to leave the forest to regenerate itself, those who would remove all salvageable material (which must be done fairly quickly before the wood becomes unusable) to those who would selectively thin, from natural regeneration to replanting. In a truly natural forest, fire is not suppressed, so nature does its own thinning. Human habitation in the area now precludes this, so how much human intervention produces the healthiest forest?

Living on the edge of the forest, it matters to me.

Burned forest

We stop at the overlook along the highway. We're surrounded on every side by burn. For many months after the fire, this was the only place where motorists were allowed to stop to view the devastation. 257,314 acres burned over 2+ months.

Mixed forest burn

Uphill burn

Christmas is upon us. This year the family celebrates the occasion at Sister and Brother-in-Law's house in the city. Sister's son and his wife, my daughter with one son and one daughter, my son with his Bride-to-Be, his son and son's girlfriend attend. Missing are Daughter's youngest son (in Japan) and oldest daughter somewhere on a year-long trip around the world, and son's daughter, who had to work. (Got that? There'll be a test!)

Xmas breakfast

Croissants, plain and chocolate, hot from the oven

The opening of the presents:

Son and his Bride-to-Be

Daughter's Oldest Son and Youngest Daughter


Nephew and another Grandson (Son's Son)
(It's a gift. The hat's a gift!)

The Christmas meal:

Prime rib

Xmas salad
Sister fed us Christmas Eve dinner, breakfast for those of us who stayed at her home, Christmas dinner, and was feeding another bunch at the time I left for home on the day after Christmas to reunite with my kitties. She meticulously plans her daily meals, a habit which stands her in good stead for entertaining. I don't have the entertainment gene and I barely cook for myself any more. (I'm clearly of the eat-to-live approach to food.)

Here's one of the kitties, sitting in the spot on the deck rail where the morning sun first hits. He's getting big. I'm assuming it's a "he," as there were two striped male cats included on the bill from the vet for neutering.

Ear warming

Little M turns her back to the strong wind whipping her hair around. She doesn't even turn to face me when I tap on the window.

Wind whipped

I bought an official cold weather cat house. This cat used it first. I don't know whether anyone else has joined him, as they all dash to the back door of the house when I come out to feed them from who knows where.

New cold weather kitty house

I head to the lake again, looking for examples of "yellow" for my Photo A Day group. There's never just one photo taken, This is a selfie. That's me in the photo..


I took this pic of the canoes piled on the dock for the yellow one, but I had more vividly yellow photos I used for photo a day. I still like this one, so there you have it.

Yellow canoe

Oh, and I bought two llamas, four hives of honey bees, and four flocks of chicks from Heifer for donation to families in impoverished areas of the world, on behalf of my family members for Christmas.

I wrestle with the Christmas gift thing. Sister has terrific gift-buying skills, along with the cooking thing. It gave me a big smile when I figured out about the animals.

If I can stir myself out of a certain lethargy, I may see you soon.