Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tree down follow-up

You may remember a previous post in which a tree fell and no one heard it. (It did, nevertheless, happen)
It had heart-rot, which, according to my arborist, Jerry, starts in the root and follows the root up the trunk into the heartwood.
As this tree fell, it clung to its roots, pulling the ground open on the loose soil of its hillside. It created a vulnerability to the coming rains of winter and the erosion of the hillside, leading to unpredictable consequences. (Any metaphors you may wish to draw from the preceeding outline are free for the taking. Apply at your own risk.)
Because this hillside is just a few yards below a state highway, it seemed prudent to detach the fallen bulk of the tree, which was hanging at a 60 degree angle downhill from its roots. Gravity comes into play in such a scenario, and as water flows down hill, so do heavy things. I figured if I could simply detach the tree from the root/stump, I could eliminate the added gravitational pull and also mitigate any surface water entry into the open earth-wound.
Further complicating the equation was the proximity of said highway, the location of a large photo-op turnout on the highway overlooking our tree, the notoriety of the estate we are on and the scrutiny it entails, plus the fact that road work is already ongoing on the stretch in question, which could involve some jurisdictional oversight, blah, blah, blah! Ergo: I decided to apply for a "tree removal permit" before allowing any work to be done on the tree.
Of course, once any piece of the tree falls down over the precipice into the "ocean", other jurisdictions come into play. Ever hear of the "Coastal Commission"? Let's not go there. And please don't force me to delete this post and all references to it, based on what is to follow.
My application for a tree removal permit was granted, after numerous pestering phone calls on my part, based on my repeatedly e-mailed photos and faxed documents, granting me permission to take care of my own stewardship based on certain stipulated conditions that stretch out over the next year or so and the previous umpteen years involving the entire documented history of the assessor's parcel number on record with the county and all of the outstanding tree removal permits, the conditions of which were never satisfied, involving planting new trees, etc. etc. etc.
But only for the ONE tree, not the other tree that was also taken out by the unwitnessed falling that allegedly took place on the night in question.

Witness the additional personnel and extra ropes and safety gear...

- to be continued -

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Seals in paradise

I took a potted white bird of paradise outside today from its usual place inside the house to wash off a soft scale infestation. The mist setting on the water pistol works really good for this, gentle, but effective and non-toxic. I set the pot on a lower step, under a stone arch, wrapped a plastic bag around the base of the plant, covering the soil and the top of the pot, and leaned the pot at a 45 degree angle so I could wash the leaves without flooding the pot, or dumping out the soil.
As I worked, I looked out across the cove and noticed how low a tide it was. Something else caught my eye. I went to get the binoculars and took a closer look:
Yeah, I thought it was a seal. I worried at first that this 'beached' seal was dead or in distress.
Then I noticed another whitish blob:
As I put the camera up to the binocular lens, I saw them each nudge around
to find a more comfortable fit on their seaweed perches,
 and the second one had a smug grin on its face.
They were still there two hours later when I returned from other errands to bring the plant back inside.
The sea was calm today and the sunset was gorgeous.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

box of worms

Lest I leave the impression that the lack of blog posts are due to the possibility that I have gone fishing, allow me to show you 'behind the curtain', so to speak ( ;-) ) ...what I have been up to. I have been fishin' for a troublesome electrical problem that volunteered to show up some months ago. A certain light fixture that is situated at the bottom of a dark flight of stairs leading to 'the facilities' decided to go on the blink, literally, and then completely went dark, also literally. Having witnessed the erratic circuit-popping behavior of the electrons passing through this portal, I know there is something amiss within.

When guests occupy these quarters, and nature calls at 3 a.m. there is no (appropriate) alternative but to descend into these catacombs. Without a sentinel light along the path, it can be, I would imagine, disconcerting in unfamiliar territory, if you can't throw a switch and shed some light before heading down a curving staircase in the night. I have my own path memorized, so I can do without electricity in the middle of the night, but if I was in unfamiliar surroundings, I'd probably need to commit to waking up a bit more, grabbing a flashlight or using the Braille method.

A switch is located at the top of the stairs, which is where the box pictured above is located, as well as at the bottom of those stairs. Such a switching arrangement (a switch in two locations) is called a '3-way' switch.  Not sure why. Maybe because of the 4 wires that connect to it. A light or series of lights controlled by switches in three locations is called a '4-way switch', of course. In the box pictured above there are three 3-way switches and one 4-way switch. There are also other wires, lots of other wires,  just passing through, going who knows where! This looks COMPLICATED!

I initially just called the electrician who did the original wiring 10 years ago and asked him to come 'fix it'. After a couple of hours scratching his head he left with a cheerful promise to return with notes and drawings and get things working. He must've gotten busy with easier or harder projects, becasue I haven't seen 'r heard from him since. I'm still waiting for him to return my call.

Not liking the feeling of being in the dark, I've finally decided to take matters into my own hands.
I am proceeding on the theory that careful, step-by-step progression of disassembly, labelling and identification of conductors at their origin and destination and trying different stuff will eventually lead me to the cause and solution of the problem, as well as give me a better comprehension of the layout of the wiring in the building.

After the first day of puzzling and head-scratching I made my first breakthrough, and have begun to track the course of each conductor that enters this box and where and why those conductors enter and leave the several other boxes scattered throughout the building.

Things worked properly at one time. Then, trouble cropped up, unbidden. (It does do that, doesn't it, though!?) The bafflement is discomforting, and I struggle with a stubborn resistance to tackling it. But the solution is there, isn't it? If the problem exists, its removal is just a matter of perception and interdiction. The bafflement slowly gives way to persistence and applied problem-solving. Slowly, the pieces of the puzzle begin to coalesce into a comprehensible big picture. The nascent apprehension of this fact has, from past experience, taught me to trust in the process of TRYING. Often, resistance to taking action is the most time-consuming phase of problem-solving. As progress begins to build, so does my enthusiasm and faith in the ultimate satisfaction of conquering the unknown.

I'm still fishing, but I've got some nibbles on my line, so I know the fish are biting. Eventually, I will get a strike, and when I do, I will reel it in, close up my box of worms and head back to shore to enjoy my catch.