Update: Monday, July 27th, 2015

Whenever I add the date to a post, I have to look at my computer to see what the date is ... that's retirement for you (if you're lucky)!

The Lowell fire in Nevada County is still burning; they're hoping for Aug 1st containment.  I'll put a link to Yubanet here, so you can see the latest fire info for yourselves.  Yubanet has posted some awesome and frightening pictures of the fire, as well as an operations map that, twice enlarged, shows the rugged topography of what the firefighters have on their hands!  Cal-fire and the Forest Service have thrown a super abundance of ground and air personnel at this dangerous blaze, for which we are all truly grateful.  I think the fire is located approx seven miles due east of our place.

We are not threatened by the fire, but a choking smoke layer descends each night, engulfing western Nevada County in a hazy, stinky stew.  Last night I forgot to close one window (oh no!), and  my nose let me know about it at 3am, but by then the burnt smell of fire had filtrated all over the house.  When the sun rises and streams thru our tall trees, it's as if we're in a fog, and I guess we are in a way.  As I look east on our road from the top of our driveway, I can see the white balloon of smoke.  We continue to hear Cal-fire planes flying in and out of our little airport.  One good thing is our friends are all right, thank heavens.

Meanwhile life goes on.  This past week ...

Thursday the 23rd was our first day in the pool at Pioneer Park.  First of many, I hope.  Between 10:30 and 11:30 Mon-Thur, the pool is open for adults only (and swim lessons for a few wee ones), exercise and laps.  Wonderful, Olympic-size pool.  Anybody spot Jimmy in the pool?

Friday was a cooking day for me, as it was cool enough to heat up the oven.  Sweet.  Among other things, I made a large batch of granola and a tray of seed brittle (right), and both went into the freezer in baggies.  Good to have on hikes and this stuff always goes with us on the road.

After Matt carried our inflatable tandem kayak up a long hill at the American River take-out point last week, Jimmy looked up kayak carriers online and found this little gem.  Ordered on Amazon Prime, it was delivered on Saturday.  Seems like it will work for us, if and when we need it.  Wheeling has to be better than hauling.  It folds up flat for storage, too.

Just about my only spot of color in the drought-stricken entire yard!

We're pretty sure a bear visited our yard last Tuesday night, climbing over and flattening the back fence. Nothing was taken or disturbed, and Jimmy straightened out the fence again ...

... but I don't think it was our neighbor's bear!

Smoky conditions early Sunday morning weren't too bad, especially on the other (western) side of Nevada City, so we thought we'd try picking raspberries at Riverhill Farm.  You can see a slight haze in the pictures, but we wouldn't have stuck around if the air was bad.  We managed to pick over three pounds of ripe, red raspberries, most of which went into the freezer.  Raspberry canes are on the other side of the strawberry rows.  

Only $11.00 for over three pounds.

Sunday night was Pioneer Park Picnic and Pops Concert #2, with the Nevada County Concert Band, celebrating a Centennial Jubilee, and we were there.  It was nip and tuck whether we'd go because of smoke.  Downslope winds make the smoke at our place terrible in the mornings, but when the afternoon breeze kicks in, it blows the smoke away from us and the air clears.  So, we packed our picnic and carried our chairs, parked ourselves in front of the stage and enjoyed the cool evening listening to toe-tapping tunes such as Colonel Bogey on Parade, a Salute to American Jazz, The Footlifter and so on.  I know the man below isn't from 1915, but the car might be.

The Centennial Jubilee Concert by the Nevada County Concert Band doesn’t necessarily celebrate their 100th year. Officially, that would have taken place in 1961, a century after The Grass Valley Brass Band formed and unified various local bands that existed at mines, clubs, schools and service organizations. But 100 years ago they were playing the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. And one of the numbers they played that day – The 1915 March, written by one of their clarinet players – will be on the program this time around as well. “We’ll tie it all together,” said conductor Cheryl Woldseth. “We’ll play some of the music from that year as well as things that have happened since. Frank Sinatra was born in 1915. A World War I-era Irving Berlin song. ‘As Time Goes By’ is an old favorite. A little history of jazz, from ragtime – which was really big in 1915 – to modern jazz.” Even the theme from “Back to the Future II,” which took place – believe it or not – in 2015. Officially dubbed the Nevada County Concert Band in 1971, they have been playing the Picnic Pops concerts since the beginning. “It’s our 44th season,” said Woldseth, who has been their conductor for 14 years. “In the park, it’s a time when we go to the band shell and everyone sits on the grass and enjoys a moment with their family. It’s very free and open. Ice cream, vendors, hot dog vendors, people love it. It’s a throwback to days of old.” Like say, 100 years ago.
 *from the Nevada and Placer County Entertainer.

Tomorrow is Jimmy's knee checkup at Sutter in Sacramento.  Hopefully he'll get the green light to take off and live life to the fullest.  Too bad for those of us who melt in the heat -- the temp in Sac is predicted to be 104° - yikes!

Finally, on Thursday, I have a colonoscopy.  The End.


Summer is Hell. Saturday, July 25th

I sit here this evening listening to Cal-fire planes fly in and out of our little Nevada City/Grass Valley airport, refueling before heading back into the inferno.  One after the other; they're busy.  We like hearing them, knowing they're fighting a fire that's way too close for comfort.  We're not in danger at our house.  Repeat, not in danger, and hopefully that situation won't change.  But others are, and this is a dangerous wildfire.

Our day began with our usual morning visit to Nevada City's farmer's market.  We bought familiar goodies, plus maybe one or two extras, and we also chatted with our friend, Marlene, at her mushroom booth.  She invited us to come out to the farm this afternoon so we could see their new bee hive.  After a short afternoon walk on the canal trail, we drove up the mountain.

Through a gap in the tall trees, off to the southeast and in a canyon, I spotted a plume of smoke and my heart sank.  "Uh-oh," I said to Jimmy ..."fire."  

In the few minutes it took us to drive the rural road to their farm, the smoke column had doubled in size.   We walked out to the garden where Marlene and her daughter were picking peaches. We mentioned the fire. Neither had seen it yet, and were shocked when they turned around and saw the smoke.  The bees and peaches were forgotten as we trooped up to the house.  Cliff was moving cars to enact a quick getaway should it be needed. Power was out, all over Nevada City (including our house), so no water pumps were usable. (double thumbs down)  We got on Yubanet's site to see what we could learn.  The fire was being called the Lowell fire.  Smoke seemed to be drifting away from their place, but huge clouds of smoke billowed into the sky.

Cal-fire is on top of it -- spotter planes, tanker drops, and helicopters carrying ground crew.  Later on we learned that a VLAT (Very Large Air Tanker) had been called in from nearby McClellan AFB.  We saw it flying almost overhead on its way; the dang thing is huge.  Hooray!  Another VLAT is flying in from Washington State.

Some were less concerned than others.  Sweet Sam.

We sat in lawn chairs and then we got up and walked back and forth, trying to ascertain if the fire was coming closer.  It was decided that if we saw flames, we'd leave.  Certainly Jimmy and I would.  Marlene's daughter and grandkids left.  The wind blew in our faces and then backed away.  Great dark clouds of smoke would suddenly flare and we'd wonder. Jimmy and I stayed till after 5, riveted to the scene, fascinated in a terrifying sort of way. The fire seemed to be blowing up a canyon, not toward the farm, but still ....  When it seemed "safe" for us to take off, that we wouldn't be needed, we made our way back down the hill, home.  Our power was back on.

Just plain scary.

My last photo of the smoke drifting over their home, over their farm.  The top (header) photo I took as we made our way down the hill on our road.  The last update from Yubanet is that this fire has grown to 4,000 acres and is 0% contained.  I wish I could tell you it was knocked down, but no can do yet.  Yubanet says that "air operations are winding down for the night, but ground resources will work throughout the night, both to build lines and to provide structure protection."  An air quality health advisory has been issued for our area.  I'll close windows before going to bed.

We are still in no danger, thank goodness, but mandatory evacuations have been issued for further up our mountain.  I bid you all goodnight, and will update on the fire tomorrow.  Hopefully I'll be able to say the fire is contained and everyone is safe.


We've kept up with them Joneses! Tuesday, July 21st

I think the entire Hansen Bros crew from yesterday showed up around 7 this morning, but we may have been one guy short ... I didn't count.  Again, coffee cups in hand, Jimmy and I were ready.  In five hours yesterday, they finished repairing and replacing and filling cracks.  Today would be asphalt sealing, and this only took approx one hour.  Sealing protects from weather-related damage.  From start to finish, we liked the work these guys did -- professional, courteous, and hard workers.  Day One is directly below this post, or click here.

Day Two:

I didn't know that sealant wasn't applied to concrete, like the pad directly in front of our garage.  The fellow above is taping between asphalt and concrete, kind of like taping the ceiling when you don't want paint on it. Similarly, he used a brush to apply asphalt sealant to the areas abutting the tape.

Gotta clean near the edges!  Jimmy thinks he needs one of these power brush cleaners.  I don't think so!

Power brushing, taping, and blowing debris off the driveway ... lots involved.

Here comes the "black gunk."

I asked if this was a petroleum-based product.  The worker I asked didn't know exactly what was in this thick, gooey gunk, tho sand was one ingredient.  He did say petroleum is no longer used in asphalt sealant, at least not in California.  Thank goodness.  I wouldn't want to step in it, not one bit ... bet those shoes aren't allowed in the house!  Stuff looks like what washes up on beaches in an "oil spill."

The stuff didn't smell too bad, altho after a while, I decided it didn't smell too good, either.

You know, there is an art to everything.  He took great care with his work.

Quite a difference between before and after.

Oh my gosh, a man is trapped on an island!  Pretty, isn't it, in an asphalt sort of way?

Right up to the road, and straight as a razor.

The job is complete, right up to yellow caution tape across the driveway entrance (don't tread on me).  We can drive on it in 24 hours.  So, we'll be ready if/when rains begin.  El NiƱo is forecast to rule our weather this winter, meaning wet months, which will help stick a sock in the West's ongoing, destructive drought.  Our rain diverter isn't easy to spot anymore, now that our drive is all one color. I'm still wishing for a fluorescent pink or green or yellow stripe across the top of it.  IF that happens, I'll be sure to post a photo, but don't hold your breath!


Keeping up with the Joneses? Monday, July 20th

Our house and driveway are situated on a slope, with the road higher than the house.  That means any rain (what's rain?) or snow that falls washes down the driveway toward the house.  Drains that the previous owner put in years ago no longer worked, in spite of our efforts to update.  A rain diverter at the top of the driveway would keep water that's sheeting down the street from rolling down our driveway.  We looked into doing it ourselves and couldn't find what we wanted.  A neighboring house has a diagonal asphalt strip from one side of the drive to another (like a speed bump).  We thought that would work for us.  Also, one of our BIG Cedar trees sent an equally BIG root out and up, up, up thru the existing asphalt ... directing rain toward our garage instead of toward the grass.   And drainage right in front of the house?  It didn't.  In short, we needed help.

Earlier this year, we contacted several paving companies and one responded.  In April, we signed with Hansen Bros to repair several areas, followed by re-coating.  They said they were booked till July (Wow!). It's July! Monday morning about 7:30, whole crew of workers and machines showed up, ready to rock 'n roll.

Day One:

Oh, good, I closed all the windows.  The little saw (below) blew "dust" everywhere.

Amazing how much noise this saw makes.

Digging out old asphalt in front of the house and beginning to cut asphalt where the root is (guy on left)

Lots of huge pieces of root came out and rock fill is going in.

Out with the old.  Jimmy checks the drawing.

Another root that the Cat had to break and pull out.

It was decided at the last minute to cut out and replace this section (where it's broken).

It didn't smell as bad as I thought it would.

Spreading asphalt.  They knew what they were doing!

Carefully packing the new drain.  3° grade.

Yeah, it's loud ... scared me half to death when he fired it up.  He's fixin' to roll where the tree root was.

Tree root - done; drain by house - done.  Next - add asphalt to this small section to widen drive.

I want them to come back and paint this diagonal rain diverter fluorescent pink or yellow.  Yes?

Tomorrow:  Day Two.


Regular stuff ... July 10th - July 18th, 2015

I picked up this humongous 22-pound, double-decker box of June Ripe Peaches at Beirwagen's Donner Trail Fruit on Tuesday, with the intention of canning them on Wednesday.  They weren't quite ready by Wednesday.  So, Thursday they'd be perfect to put-up.  Heck, Thursday was our kayaking day  . Maybe when I got home ....

If you read my previous post, you know I didn't have enough energy left to lift my little finger when we got home from kayaking, so the peaches would have to wait till Friday.  Jimmy helped peel them (it seemed like they'd multiplied overnight!), and while we had a little waste due to playing the day before, it wasn't too bad.  Net:  Ten pints in jars and two pints in the freezer.  Nice haul!  (Plus, a few didn't make into jars!)  We'll enjoy the fruits of our labors come winter.

Saturday, the 18th, we arrived at Nevada City's farmer's market when it opened at 8:30, early for us.  Jimmy left his walker at home and navigated the streets and sidewalks just fine, albeit carefully.  We beat the crowd and got to visit with friends, Marlene and Cliff (below), before all their mushrooms sold out.  After filling our bag with eggs, zucchini, a melon, kale, eggplant, and lettuce, we made our way to Three Forks Bakery for a cuppa and a sweet breakfast treat.

Our friend, Terry, joined us for coffee at Three Forks and we had a nice, long visit.

A week ago, on the 10th, we stopped by Wheyward Girl Creamery (next to Three Forks) to welcome them to Nevada City.  They'd opened two days before.  We bought two of their lunch bags (local Point Reyes cheese, dried cherries from Michigan, specially prepared almonds and a dark chocolate goodie) and walked to the Pelton wheel "square" for a picnic of sorts.  We like supporting our local businesses.  Soon, the ladies will be making their own cheeses.  Yum, we love cheese!

Nice lunch!  I ate my chocolate first!