1st anniversary of the firestorm

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“Karl the Fog” sneaks over Taylor Mountain on 10/9/18

This week is the anniversary of the night the big fires in Sonoma and Napa County started (and I think some started Lake and maybe even Mendocino, but I could be wrong). Folks in the Bay Area in general have been pretty on-edge these last few days as we had hot, dry days with high winds (worse in the hills, ugh) coming from the North and Northeast – much like last year. Thankfully, those particular winds and the red flag warnings have ended.

Today KQED Radio’s “Forum” show was a live event in Santa Rosa with updates from officials from city, county, and state departments related to the fires, future altering about emergencies, coordination with other fire agencies, fire prevention, housing construction, and fire recovery in general. I am guessing that this is part 1 and this is part 2.

KQED news and the California Report have been doing some good reporting in the last year about how the fires started, the cleanup, and rebuilding. In our house, we are radio and web people- we don’t subscribe to the Press Democrat newspaper or watch TV news, so I don’t have a good sense of other coverage. Oh, this weekend there were updates about the red flag warning and the just-in-case stationing of fire trucks in the East Bay hills to prevent a disaster like the fires that happened in the past. I’ve also recently found a radio show (segment, realy) called the North Bay Report,  that has some coverage, although it’s mostly of other issues.

I’m glad that this anniversary is mostly behind us. Really glad.

 

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One year since the fires started

KQED radio is airing some coverage of the anniversary of last year’s fires (today’s the anniversary). Here’s a California Report piece that I just heard: https://www.kqed.org/science/1932387/should-californians-be-rebuilding-homes-in-a-fire-zone and there are some other pieces at https://www.kqed.org/news/

I wish I had the time to write a longer thing about new housing that I see going up around the city and its outskirts (often displacing homeless people who camped in beautiful empty lots), and about how upset survivors are about disaster tourism (Especially when people walk around their properties! ugh), and how there are a lot of different art projects that are exhibiting right around now. I met an 8ish year-old girl last week who was a very angry and bitter fire victim. Can you imagine how hard it is to come home to live in a trailer where her family’s house once stood?

If I had a podcast, one of the people I would interview is one of our local farmers whose whole property burned down, and some who lost only small parts of their properties, and learn how the fire affected their operations, their land, their customer base… Sigh. Back to breakfast. Have to pick strawberries.

Many of us have been on edge this weekend because of the hot, dry north wind that creates the perfect condition for fire to spread…

More post-fire changes

Wow, it looks like Harmony Farm Supply (I noticed last time I was there that it’s now Harmony Farm Supply and Nursery) has taken over Cameron & Cameron, which is at River Road and Fulton in northern Santa Rosa. It’s on the way to Shone Farm, which is Santa Rosa Junior College’s farm. I took classes there for two years, so I drove by this place pretty often. They were one of 2 places in the county that had organic straw bales (rice has never worked well for my compost, btw). I guess that this lot and the one next door both burned.

Yesterday was my first trip up to that area since the fires in October. The fire came through this area the first night and day (Oct 7-8, iirc). A friend of mine was driving home from Fort Bragg that day and was on the phone with me for quite a while as they had to take side streets through the fire zone and smoke. This time we were going to a birthday party, and we stopped for a brief hike in the redwoods – my first time visiting Armstrong Woods. Hopefully I will post photos to flickr soon.

An example of a “dumpster fire”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary now defines the term “dumpster fire” as

“USinformal
an utterly calamitous or mismanaged situation or occurrence disaster” 
Here’s an example. I ordered compost and wood chips and wanted them delivered last week before the rain came. Their regular driver was on vacation, but they could use a contractor. I asked if the contractor used (North Bay) fire debris trucks, because I really don’t want to get any (more) ash from fire sites on my property if I can help it. (To the truckers who are driving remains of the Pressley Fire down my street: slow down!) Well, I got one of those delivering my stuff today. See the sticker on the left side? There’s another on the right that has the license number or whatever on it. I sure hope it was cleaned well after its last job! I recently did see an ad on FB craigslist from a company that cleans out trucks such as this one.
He dropped off the first load, which was wood chips instead of compost (and the wrong amount) and drove out to get the transfer (is that what you call the 2nd load? it was pretty cool to see how the truck transfers the container with the 2nd load into the truck bed) with the compost in it (supposed to be 15 yards but it was 12). I looked at where he’d driven and asked if he wanted to drive on those sunken tracks, or to make new ones. He tried to come in at a different angle to avoid those ruts, and, well, he got stuck. And I should have just said that our tractor (somewhere between 32 and 35 horsepower) was too weak to try to pull a huge truck out, especially since the 4-wheel-drive doesn’t work. The rest, as you can imagine and see in the photo below, is history.
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delivery truck and tractor both stuck in the mud. note the fact that the front wheel is only half-visible because the rest is below ground-level

That’s what I call a “dumpster fire.” (well, that’s different than the ones from protests I used to attend)

The driver was really hard to communicate with — for one thing, his boss was literally in a meeting all afternoon, and by the time the tow truck drivers showed up, he refused to even talk to them. And they went thru some things to be able to get up our driveway past the guy’s trailer! (and to let me out so I could get T at school) I don’t know what happened to my photos from when the two tow trucks got there, but I don’t have them. Fortunately, they were quickly able to pull the driver out and he somehow got his truck and the trailer out of there in one piece (I was gone by then).

What a disaster. The soil is so messed-up. Inside the gate where I put a lot of woodchips to heal the ground after the wood chips were delivered in late December, the ground has hardly any tracks visible. So the wood chips HAVE helped! Yay. Now I need a lot of free ones so we can help make the soil outside the garden more resilient.

I forgot to mention that someone “tagged” the truck (with graffiti). He thought it might have been while he was parked at the building across the street. The guys across the street said they didn’t see it (and they have security cameras). When I talked to the guy at the compost business, he said “beyond the one” tag? In other words, he had already seen that the truck had been spraypainted on. The driver was able to clean it off (diesel), but he was really stressed about it. 😦

And one more thing: the compost isn’t even fully mature! I would like to move it into the garden, but hauling 12 yards by wagon just to store it in a different place is not in my near future.

I guess our “farm” has been “baptized” or whatever by our having finally gotten the tractor stuck in mud.

 

Busy day before the rain

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View of Taylor Mountain on this cloudy and misty day

We’re expecting an inch or two of rain in the next few days — we’ll see what happens!

Today I did some mowing in the garden in preparation for my imaginary pea and fava bean plantings. Maybe I can just sneak them in without a drip tape guide if it doesn’t rain too hard tomorrow(?). Then I mowed a path to the back gate. The wildlife path is super-hard and sunken, so hopefully getting some cut grass and rain on it will loosen that soil back up. I always fantasize that we’ll put woodchips on it. In very rainy winters the low spots get puddling.

This is not a very rainy winter. We have had 48% of normal for this point in the rain year, and 25% as much as we had gotten at this point last year! We’d had like 145% of normal rainfall by this point. Scary.

I’ve been trying to get more woodchips and some compost while the ground was dry (the delivery gate is at the back corner that’s visible in the above photo). I called back the company in Marin County that had flaked on returning my call “tomorrow” 5 days earlier yesterday.  They’re having trouble finding a truck with a transfer (so it can carry 2×15 yards of material) that is available because they are all busy doing fire debris removal. I don’t want my compost to come in a debris removal truck!!! But I guess it’s part of us all sharing the burden of the legacy of the fires(?). I don’t want to get compost from the place that’s like 3.5 miles away from us because it has a terrible reputation amongst gardeners (funny because they have a respected local small farmer writing their blog-type articles). I don’t want to risk having plants that seem to be suffering from herbicide damage (speaking of which, I found a wild brassica that looked like that today – maybe from the 32-degree nights?). Our trash company changed and now our green waste seems to be going to Vacaville, which is an hour or so away. I called out of curiosity to find out how much delivery of compost would be. Guess how much? $600. It’s around $255 from West Marin (CA DFA organic), and it was around that much when Waste Management was making its OMRI-listed compost in Novato. Argh!

This afternoon I got back out to the garden and collected my soil sample. There were places where the compost that I’d put on the surface had infiltrated 6 inches below the surface! Overall the soil was a bit too cold and wet for sampling with a shovel. It was hard to get a slice of soil and it was hard to break up the clods (peds) so I could take a small amount out. I’ll just have to bring in what I have when I’ve got the time. The place we send it thru is close to Z’s job in Sebastopol, but he’s so busy that I don’t think I’ll ask him to do it on a weekday.

Then I dealt with putting soil back on a low spot next to the driveway. By the end I could hardly move! So tired…

Had a big windstorm earlier this week

Seeking plans for (12-foot) hoophouse made with EMT (electrical conduit = metal pipe)

Z has/had been trying to resurrect our little greenhouse from last year – the one that blew over end to end a few times in the first night of the North Bay Fires. Well, it was really windy whichever night that was this week (Monday?). Z woke me up and said there were high winds and that the greenhouse had blown over. I told him he was dreaming and to go back to sleep. He had opened the door and felt warm air swirling around from all directions. We’ve been having low-to-mid 30’s temperatures at night, which makes this unpredicted windstorm extra weird! Ok, extra-extra weird when you consider that not everyone got this windstorm- out of Z’s coworkers, only one, who lives like 8 miles away from us, had had it!

So we need to build a very wind-proof greenhouse. We have no time or energy, so this is a real challenge. I have been thinking it would be a hoophouse. Most of the plans that I see are for PVC, but we don’t think plastic pipes would be strong enough. Z is tempted to buy a poly pre-built greenhouse used online. I dunno about that…