I love an early morning, a fresh cup of coffee and day wide open to meander around the house with no plans. Opening the door, I can see the fog hanging low around the houses, the sun peeking over the tufts of trees and the cold air kissing my face. This isn’t the same scene at 2PM. No, this is only a view your treated with if you happen to be an early riser.
I am not one to get bored at home. I don’t need plans to enjoy a day. No, quite the contrary. A day where the plan is to not have a plan. There is always a long list of different projects I can get my hands in. Whether it’s braising some meat throughout the day in the Dutch oven, fixing some steps, organizing tools, researching the next campsite or run.
This morning was devoted to getting some seeds planted. All cold weather veggies, flowers, and herbs. Although it’s the middle of January, I can get them started in the house and transplant outside. We’ve been getting kissed with light frosts but nothing that would kill the seedlings. They may grow slow during these months but sometimes I’m surprised the growth that will occur. In California we seem to have warm stretches scattered through the winter and we happen to be in one now. Days in the high 60s, even low 70s. Bad for drought, bad for fire season but great for plants that get to take as a stage of all the early season rain.
You can’t beat taking care of a task and drinking that first cup of coffee only to look up at the clock and realize it’s only 8am. These are the days that I cherish. I’m so blessed to have the life I have, to live around such beauty and to be surrounded by people (and dogs) that I love dearly. The regular ol’ day is a great day.
Moles have been wrecking havoc and creating mounds throughout our small lawn. They turn up the soil and create mounds that will inevitably get sucked into our electric mower as it dulls the blade and creates a bare chunk of grass. The moles like to dine on what’s living underneath the soil such as worms and our soil has a lot of worms! Being in the flood zone along the Russian River, each flood deposits rich soil on our property, long before a house was built on this land.
We decided early on to live with the moles instead of trying to trap them, exterminate them, or buy one of those beeping deterrents off Amazon (they don’t work, for moles or gophers!). Also, because we grow our lawn organically and let the clippings compost, this soil is prime which gave me the idea to grab my shovel. I noticed the soil in these mole mounds was nicely turned, rich, soft and dark. I started to take a shovel to these mounds and deposit these pilings into a large container.
I then built a small sieve out of some leftover 1/4″ hardware cloth and some reclaimed 2x4s. Sifting this soil and adding some vermiculite made for the perfect potting soil and seed starting mix.
You can not buy this quality of soil through a bag at a store. Meanwhile, once the mound is leveled, I reseed the area and wait for the grass to grow back. It seems the moles in our area are more active in the winter. In the summer, when the lawn is used most, we don’t see many if any mole mounds being created.
So, a problem turned into a solution. We now have great potting soil without leaving the house. Often the approach is to get rid of rodents, insects, like the cabbage moth eggs underneath the kale but when we do this, we are not seeing the bigger picture. I can let a few kale leaves have holes to have my other plants have a few extra pollinators (those eggs turn into butterflies). I can let some bad insects live without spraying because I know the predatory insects will begin to show up without the use of pesticides. I can live with moles because we don’t need a perfect lawn and now they’ve become our little soil farmers.
Note: If you want sterilized seed starting mix, try checking out this article on SFgate with some tips. It involves using an oven, steam or a microwave.
Note 2: If you don’t have Moles in your yard turning up your soil, you can use compost you made or soil you know is not contaminated. Sift the soil, add vermiculite and boom!
As most of my friends would attest to, I’m a morning person. Even in my party days, I’d be the first one up and about the next day. There’s something special about the mornings and a new day, a blank slate.
Have you ever been on one of those road trips that required you to wake up before dawn? Seeing the sun peak over the horizon as you drive to a fun destination. Often that’s a fishing or backpacking trip for me. A good early morning doesn’t always need a road trip. It can involve a nice cup of coffee, some good reading, a nice meditation, or a glowing fire.
I love those days where you feel like you’ve had a whole day of experiences before the clock hits noon. Of course, these days can require you to go to bed early to still get a full night’s rest but that’s not an issue for me typically. Night owl I am not. Maybe I’m the morning chickadee, the hummingbird thirsty to start the day.
I can remember when I moved into a straw bale constructed house and I was without power for two weeks as we set it up. Without lights, I found it hard to stay up an hour past sunset. I was more in line with rising and falling of the sun. There was something special about that. Something I enjoyed greatly and it just felt right.
This mantra I’m about to share is one I try to say each morning. I’ve probably shared this before but that’s only because I find it so valuable. It’s from the late Thich Nhat Hanh who recently passed away a few days ago. A great teacher who championed important causes like alongside Martin Luther King and beyond. A Buddhist monk who helped bring mindfulness to America and teach many to focus on the present and our breath. To be grateful, to enjoy each day, to not judge our emotions, and many other simple but profound ideas that just make sense to me.
“Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh
Even if I do no meditation, that gives me a short pause before my thoughts rush to fill my newly awaken brain. Here’s to a new day!
Keep on seeding. Keep on planting. Think ahead. A lot of seed packets will have days to maturity. That’s not always accurate in less than ideal conditions (I.e. too much shade, cold, poor soil). So, we need to plan ahead. Maybe it’s starting seeds inside for faster germination then transplanting for a jump start.
I may have enough lettuce today but what happens when the lettuce turns bitter or goes to seed? I need to wait another three weeks before greens. That’s why it’s important to sow successively (sowing seeds every few weeks). Learn your soil, your conditions/seasons, your taste preferences to help guide you in staying stocked with seeds and having vegetables to eat when you want.
One biggest piece of advice is to plant what you eat or learn to cook with the veggies you’re growing. If you don’t do this, you’ll end up with piles of veggies that take up space and aren’t utilized.
There are some places that are filled with beauty everywhere you look. Despite recent fires in the area, Shasta-Trinity area is one of these places. Alpine lakes, cold streams, single track trails, and secret swimming holes. In July we chose to load up the van and take a 5 day trip to explore the area that for me is filled with familiar and still unfamiliar places. We made our way along dirt and gravel roads in the old Toyota. It held up just fine and it was nice knowing that we can stop anywhere, sleep, make lunch and have everything one would need.
We made our way around up I-5 through Redding and past Whiskeytown Lake which was burned recently. I’ve never stopped at this lake before but it’s nice view driving by. I believe I’ve seen some sailboats in this lake too which would be a lot of fun. Sometime after Whiskeytown Lake you take a right and meander over and around Trinity Lake and the KOA campground. Somewhere after the KOA campground, we took a left and drove down a paved road that eventually turned to gravel and has many trailheads for overnight backpacking trips. You’ll pass waterfalls even in the middle of summer. It was late at night and the new LED headlights lit up the road well. I knew where the waterfall is alongside the road and made a special stop. We could hear the sound of the waterfall and with a quick flip of the switch, the side spotlight lit up this beautiful waterfall. The best use of the side spotlight so far. We eventually made it into camp and were grateful that it wasn’t occupied.
An advantage of the van is that no bed needs to be made. We popped open the back of the van, made some tea, danced and watched the stars late into the night. We then decided it was time to go to bed but not before admiring the Milky Way and watching the bats dance above our heads. There’s nothing like falling asleep to the sound of a rushing creek except for the sound of waking up to rushing creek.
I set up my tenkara rod and tossed a few dry flies into the nearby creek, pulling out a couple small rainbows before deciding to take a cold dip. We stripped our clothes and took a dip into the icy cold water. We made breakfast, then made our way to a close trailhead where we packed our bags for a short hike. Not but one mile in we came across the small bear who also thought it was good idea to be on the trail today. What a magical animal to come across. Humans (including me at times) tend to walk around with fear of certain animals like sharks and bears but often they want nothing to do with us. This bear was no exception when it quickly ran off. We bathed again along the creek and green vegetation before heading back to the van.
The next day we head North through the town of Etna for a hike at Taylor Lake. We didn’t drive through Etna without stopping as the heat required an ice cream stop at the local cafe. We got back on the road and got to the trailhead where we met with a fire crew that just got done fighting a lighting fire. There was some smoke in the air but if you live on the West Coast, it was nothing like what we’ve faced in recent weeks. A friendly crew that was quite lively, dirty, and grateful for the ability to work outside. We thanked them for the work they do before we answered a few questions about the van and headed towards Taylor Lake. Smith Lake requires you to reach hike to Taylor Lake (1 mile) then head straight up a slope which is quite intense, especially in the sun. We made it to the top where it meets the PCT and tried to find a route down to Smith Lake but it was pretty gnarly so we decided to head back to Taylor Lake. If we spent more time route finding we could have made our way down but at that point we were low on water and wanted to take a swim which Taylor Lake was the perfect place for that. Taylor Lake is pretty popular so heading down to Smith Lake will get you away from the crowds.
At this point, it was time to find a place to sleep for the night and get prepared for our next hike which was going to be to Statue Lake. Halfway up the road to Statue Lake, we found a spot to pull over next to a creek and it was nice place to lay our heads, do some bird watching and cook dinner.
The next day we woke up slowly, watched the birds, deer came to visit and they were curious about what we were doing. We made our way to the trailhead and began our hike. A lot of the area up to the top is burned but there were some nice wildflowers blooming along the trail. Statue Lake had visitors when we arrived but we were glad we made the stop. Jumping off the rock on the far side of the Lake, laying in the sun and enjoying being far away from cell service.
The last night was spent along the N. Fork of Salmon Creek where we found a spot all to ourselves. The fishing wasn’t great but the creek was ride and Mallory found a spot to take a cold plunge. We danced until the stars came out and the full moon showed itself. We were feeling the fullness of the moon and the trip as we counted down our last hours.