Tree Mortality

If it’s big enough it shakes the ground with the sound of tearing and crunching.   Then comes the thump.  The bigger ones may bounce once before coming to a full rest.  It’s a site to see these once living giants fall, seemingly in slow motion, finally hitting the ground sending a dust cloud into the surrounding air.

Earlier this year 33 dead trees were removed from The Golden K.   It’s a sad reality of living in the mountains after five years of drought and the dreaded Bark Beetles who take advantage of the water starved pines.  The beetles bore into the trees and the trees are unable to generate the necessary sap to push them out.  The beetles reproduce in the inner bark of the tree and this eventually kills the tree from the inside out.

The Golden K is not worse off for losing that many trees.  There are still 110 pine trees, dozens of majestic Oaks, and a plethora of Cedars and Manzanita.  In the long run the thinning of the pines will be better for the surviving trees.

So over a period of five days we watched our 33 dead soldiers fall and hit the ground.  It was interesting to say the least as we watched the expert crew plan and prepare for each tree falling leading up to the chain saw cuts that send the tree to the ground.

Our 33 pines are only a blip on the map of the tens of millions of trees that have died and must be taken down.  It’s a sad situation for those of us who are connected with the beauty of the mountains.  Only time will tell what the impact will be to that mountain landscape.

Thankfully, the landscape of The Golden K is much the same.  The thrash (all the limbs and branches) was all taken away but we were left with all the “wood” which was stacked up in “decks”.  We’ll need to do something with them eventually but for now they remain as a symbol of the fragile balance of life and death and as a reminder of my romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet.

Holly balancing life on one of the tree decks

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The Golden K is Back!

As many followers of The Golden K know from blogs of their own writing is not a science and neither is the organization of ones thoughts.  The lines between my other blog site called Golden Kali and this one, called The Golden K, often blur.  Golden Kali is about my two Golden Retrievers who live with my wife and I at the Golden K located in the Sierra Nevada Foothills of Northern California.  The Golden K is about my romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet.  Part of that romance is my two dogs, my wife and I living our dream in the mountains.

Because of the blur, a couple of months ago I decided to merge the two blog sites.  I thought by doing so I would be able to post more often, be more concise, entertaining, and able to leverage the combined beauty of my Golden Kali and her baby sister Kloe with the beauty of the Golden K.  I was wrong.  I ended up posting less and struggling with capturing the two main themes of my life within a single blog.

So, The Golden K is back with a promise to posts one to two times a week.  If you began following Golden Kali during the failed merge I hope you will also continue to check in there to see what she and her sister Kloe are up to, which often times is shenanigans.

You can find us all here:

You can also follow us on Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/thegoldenkali/

Warm regards from the Golden K.

39

Solitude

I’ve never been very good at giving the one word answer or the ‘in a single sentence describe the..”  I tend to be a little wordy.  Holly will laugh when she reads the last sentence and think to herself (or say out loud), “A little?!?”.  Often when I’m asked an important or provocative question, rather than take a thoughtful pause, I usually start talking to fill the space while my mind is thinking and formulating the right answer.  The succinct and meaningful answer.  The answer I wish I had  given after a moment or two of silence while I thought it out rather than vamping on gibberish until I “got there”.

And so it was last weekend at a friends house.  After a wonderful meal the six of us were enjoying after dinner banter and Jenny, our host, asked a great question.  A provocative question.  One of “those” questions.  Jenny and her husband Greg have lived in the mountains for many years; Greg his entire life.  Holly and I moved to the Golden K, thanks in a big way to Jenny, less than a year ago.  Jenny was lock step with us the entire way helping us to navigate the life changing journey from Suburbia to the Sierra Nevada Foothills.  And she’s still there for us and interested in “how we’re doing”.

“So what do you like most about living in the mountains?”

There it was.  Jenny asked one of those questions.  My brain started going where I make lists, prioritize the list, organize it into categories, rationalize the motivation for the items on the list, and then put it all into a spreadsheet for the beginning of an executional plan.  Yikes – I was doing it.  But this was a great question.  It meant a lot to me that Jenny asked and then I could almost hear the ringside announcer saying, “Let the rambling begin….”.

I went on to describe the people, the slower pace of life, the laid back vibe, the blah blah blabadee blah blah blah.

I woke up the next morning thinking about this question and the answer was perfectly clear:  solitude.  That’s what I like most about living in the mountains.  Not solitude as defined in the dictionary (the state of being alone) but the solitude of being in the middle of a piece of our planet that Mother Nature has shown great favor to.  A  habitat shared (mostly) peacefully by man, beast, and plants.  The solitude of the fresh air.  The solitude of the sound of the wind blown pine trees.  The walks with dogs in the middle of a dirt or gravel road.  The silence of night.  The sunlight filtered through the pines and oaks sneaking into my bedroom at first light.  The solitude of a sustained stare with a five point buck outside my kitchen patio.  The solitude of waking up to a frozen world after a night of snow.  The solitude of walking out on a cold morning, closing my eyes, and taking a deep breath.  The solitude of sitting under the summer stars with my bride of 34 years and our two Golden Retrievers, all three whom I love desperately.

So yeah, solitude.  That’s what I like most about living in the mountains.  It’s solitude that fortifies my romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet.

The solitude of waking up to a frozen world after a night of snow.

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A few days of sunshine…

We interrupt this weather system to bring you a few days of sunshine….

The Golden K is thawing out.   It’s a relief that our reservoirs are finally filling up and the snow pack is at or above average both after five plus years of drought.   But I’m looking forward to thawing and drying out for the next few days before the next storm system arrives in a few days.

We have no choice but to take what Mother Nature gives us.  Here at the Golden K we’re ok with that as she continues to fuel my  romantic perspective of life at 31oo feet.

This was Monday.  The Golden K frozen in time.

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This was Saturday.  The pines look happier and healthier already!

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This is Kloe burning off a little energy while sister Kali watches from the deck.

The Golden K Dressed In White

I imagine that snow and ice is especially unwelcome when one has to dig out, drive to work, and cover every inch of their body including their face as a regular part of their daily routine.  I can only imagine because I have never lived in such a place.  Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and having lived their all my life until earlier this year, I didn’t experience any extreme weather elements.  The temperature was rarely below freezing, there was no real humidity to speak of, and never snow.

I realize that much of this country and others in the Northern Hemisphere get plenty to a lot of snow and that it’s not always a welcome element.   I’ve seen pictures of Syracuse, NY in the winter.  I’ve heard about Duluth MN in January.  Mother Nature is probably not any kinder in Grand Rapids MI and Quebec City in Canada during the winter months.  I would probably perish after a winter week in any of these cities.

So when the Golden K gets an inch or two of snow and it all melts by mid-afternoon can I really say, with a  straight face, to anyone who lives or has lived where snowfall is 60 or 70 inches per year, that it “snowed”?

We’ve had three days of snow this year which I understand is about average for our area up to this point in the season.  I feel very blessed to be living at the Golden K in the middle of a forest covered by pines, oaks, and cedar trees.  With each change of season so far (Summer, Fall, and now Winter) I appreciate a different type of beauty on display that I once only dreamed of waking up to each day.  This morning after several days of rain and one day of snow the sky is blue, the air is crisp, and leaves and pine needles are shimmering.

The snow day we had this past Thursday was magical to wake up to.  I didn’t have to dig out.  I didn’t have to bundle up. And I didn’t have to drive anywhere because I work mostly from home.  I know I am blessed because instead of digging out I was free to take a walk (OK I did bundle up a bit…) about the Golden K and explore the beauty with a romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet.

Mother Nature was very kind to us on this morning!

 

Just a dusting

Over the years we’ve vacationed in the snow many times.  I have fond memories of spending long winter weekends in Lake Tahoe with friends who had small children like our’s were at the time.  Three families comprised of six adults and nine children.  The first year of what became an annual event for ten years the youngest child  was an infant and the oldest, one of my sons, was nine.  No snow parks needed for this band of suburban families. There was a fantastic area right outside the house to build our sled run.  There was always plenty of snow and fun to go around.

There were plenty of other times and events in the snow.  One scary and memorable event was a drive to Lake Tahoe with our daughter in what turned out to be a white out.  On top of almost zero visibility from the snow storm and darkness of night our car’s windsheild wipers were badly worn which negated any help from the defroster.  I couldn’t see any road; only white. Thankfully we didn’t fall off the edge of a cliff and we made it over the pass and into the Lake Tahoe Basin area safely and had a wonderful time snowmobiling and sight seeing.

At 3,100 feet elevation The Golden K is just the lower edge of the snow line for normal years in the Sierras.  But with the drought and evolving climate change who knows what normal is anymore. Still, we hoped we would get some dustings from time to time and yesterday was one of those times.  I had driven down to the Bay Area in the morning and was heading back home around 3:00 pm when Holly text me to say it was snowing.  As I got up the hill closer to the GK the rain turned to flurries and I felt my lips spontaneously turn to a smile.  For a moment I felt like a little kid experiencing something special for the first time. Maybe like my daughter felt when she fist saw snow during that first annual trip with our friends.  But I’ve been in the snow plenty of times.  Heck I drove through that white out with nothing but snow all around us. So why do a few snow flurries make me feel happy?   But then at that moment I realized that experiencing something familiar can still feel new when the context changes.

This new context is the Golden K.

By the time I arrived home the flurries had turned to rain and there wasn’t much evidence of snow on the ground or trees because it melted as soon as it landed.  So much to my delight when I woke up this morning to see new evidence of a light snowfall from over night.  I felt my lips smile again as I looked through the windows to see patches of snow on the ground and traces of snow on tree branches.   I quickly fed the dogs and took a brief walk around the house’s immediate surroundings to enjoy the sights.

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I realize that it’s easy for me to selfishly want it to snow for the pure beauty and experience of it in this new context.  And I realize that at the end of the storm (s0 to speak) I don’t have to deal with it.  I’m sure anyone reading this who lives or has lived where real snowfall is a real part of life throughout the winter and has to shovel it, drive in it, work in it, and clean up after it will chuckle and say, “Be careful what you wish for Mike – a winter living in the snow is not all sled runs and hot cocoa Hot Totties by the fire”.

It was only a dusting and that’s fine.  Because when your lips spontaneously turn up into a smile, you feel like a three year old seeing something for the first time, and you are for that moment in time at total peace, you just might be at The Golden K experiencing a romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet.

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Golden Blessings

The Golden K has been truly golden this past week.  The change in seasons is increasingly evident in the cool mornings and evenings, the early setting sun, and strikingly in the color of the leaves.  Especially those leaves from the Black Oaks that periodically rain yellow and orange leaves from the sky and onto, well, onto everything.

Each season this first year at the GK is new for us.  Summer was wonderful, and now Autumn is simply beautiful.  The warm temps in the mid seventies this past week is to some degree guilt free since we’ve had a considerable amount of rain – much higher than normal – at this point in the season.  We continue to pray for a very wet winter but meanwhile are truly loving the goldeness of the Golden K.

During an early afternoon walk around the property I was taken back by the beauty of this day and season and stopped to take a few photos while feeling truly grateful for the golden blessings we have up here on the hill.