Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ominous economy

I saw the committee assembled, the gathering of the members of the board…

The chairman of the board was discussing the reason for their meeting...

The morning tide had brought a bounty for these feathered feasters, and they patiently took turns. The crows and gulls were interested, but kept a respectful distance, if also a disrespectful banter of complaint. My guess is this was an elephant seal, based on the size and what I recognized as two large "flippers" at one end. But I probably won't be getting a closer look than this:

Buzzards gathered for a carrion meal are sometimes called a wake. We haven’t seen their like here-abouts before today. Vast flocks of them are known to have gathered over the battlefields of the past.

Vultures are amazing creatures. These are “turkey vultures”. Their heads are bald, helping to keep them clean while feeding, their stomach acid highly corrosive to help digest putrid carcasses infected with botulism, cholera and anthrax. And don’t get too close because they use their reeking, corrosive vomit as a defensive projectile when threatened.

It’s a vast ocean that surges up against our front yard. You never know what the tide will bring in, but it's a remarkably efficient economy from a certain perspective.


Today's harvest of fresh berries. We had some heavy cream in the fridge that was threatening to go bad, so, after whipping it, we took care of both this evening.

Time to lay up the firewood.

Driving through a local neighborhood after making a score at a garage sale recently, I noticed a yard with huge piles of neatly stacked firewood all over. I had been on the lookout for a new and local source since our pile was slowly shrinking, and I've experienced that if one doesn't act in a timely way in regards to these things, the availability of well-seasoned firewood can be limited when the weather takes a serious turn for the wet, windy and cold.

So, I stopped the truck, got out, went to the front door and knocked. As I walked past the open garage, I was impressed with how tidy and uncluttered everything looked. I could see through the garage to the open man-door and to the backyard where stacks of firewood ran along the back fence in both directions out of sight. After a brief wait, the door opened, and a large elderly man wearing a baseball cap appeared. I introduced myself and asked if he sold firewood. "No, I just split it for exercise," came the straight-faced reply.

He told me his name (D.B.)and said, "I'm 85 and I just like splitting wood for exercise, but I've just had some minor surgery on my foot so I have to be careful getting around." He came out with his cane to show me the wood and offered that I should take a few pieces.

Well, would you consider selling some to me? I asked.

"Okay, it's $385 a cord," he answered. This is a very reasonable price for seasoned wood in this area.

After looking carefully at his split and stacked firewood, I asked him if I could return later in the week to purchase a cord. He was agreeable and as he shook my hand it felt like a vise was crushing me.

Today, Angel and I returned and DB made us a great deal on the 3/4 cord of the cleanest, nicest-split eucalyptus and madrone I've ever seen. When we arrived at about 10 a.m. I could see DB sleeping in his rocking chair through the open living room window curtain. I knocked gently a few times, and soon he came to and was at the door. He remembered me and we quickly arrived at an agreement on which wood I would buy. I backed the truck up and we started loading.

DB is a retired heating and sheetmetal contractor who has lived in the same house since before I was born. He told me he installed the furnaces in all the houses in his neighborhood. From some comments he made about the unsplit cypress rounds in the driveway, I got the distinct impression that he distributes firewood to people for whom it would be a hardship to either procure for themselves or do without. ("There's a lady over on Maple who likes it fine and wouldn't have any other wood...")

He knew of our place, too, when I answered his question about where this wood would be going. Said he'd done work down here years ago. He spoke fluent Spanish with Angel, making wisecracks and friendly conversation with both of us as we loaded the truck, even lending a hand. After our second load was ready to go, he told me to stop by again sometime and let him know how things were working out. What a great guy.