Red Girls, Snow, and The Golden K

Snow has been falling off and on at The Golden K for a week now.   I’m amazed at how alive dogs become in the snow.   Impervious to the cold – seemingly energized by it – with the speed of a gazelle and endurance of a marathoner they run, roll, jump and chase only stopping occasionally to catch their breath.  And I believe, as they stop and look around, that they realize their world is different for the moment and they appreciates the beautiful playground that Mother Nature has created for them.   Then all at once they are off again…

Kloe and Koda – The red girls as I call them – have had a lot fun with snow play this past week.  Although The Golden K is located in the Sierra Nevada Foothills we’re just about at the snow line at 3100 feet elevation and don’t receive a lot of snow each year.   As inconvenient as it has been this past week in some ways it has also been special.  The red girls have taken advantage of the velvety layer of cold white powder sitting on top of what is usually a hard and muddy landscape this time of year.

For the past week the red girls have alternated between this:

 

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Kloe and Koda stopping to catch their breath and appreciate their velvety playground

 And this…

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Koda” “Dad you’re embarrassing me.   I’m not cold and I already shook off the snow.”                 Kloe: “It makes him feel better.  If it was mud we’d both be up in the bath right now.”

 

Our Traditional First Snow Walk

Earlier in the week we took our traditional first snow walk with the girls to the top of The Golden K.  It was a little melancholy for me because as we headed out of the immediate area of the house and headed up the hill Kali was struggling.   Kali, now almost ten with bad hips struggled in the deep snow making it too difficult for her to follow along.  She tried but as she labored to make gains up the hill to follow me I could see in her eyes that it was too much for her.   As much as I wanted her with us and as much as I know she wanted to be by my side I took her back to the house while Holly and the red girls waited at the trail head.

 

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Holly”  “If only the red girls were attached to a sled they could power me up the hill… Mush!”

Kali last year on our traditional snow walk to the top of The Golden K

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Kali:  “My hips are frozen – this feels great!”

And so it goes during winter at The Golden K.   Rain follows this snow storm and then more snow, and then more rain.  Hopefully we’ll have a few days to dry out in between all of that.  I’m convinced the earth is spinning faster with the way time flies by.  Before the girls know it they’ll be running on the hard clay ground in sunshine, sitting patiently by the BBQ for a little “sumpin’-sumpin'” and looking for shade to cool down in.  But for now we take what Mother Nature has to give and enjoy the beauty of the Golden K all dressed in white.

The red girls running, rolling, jumping and chasing. How great is it to be them!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Trees At The Golden K

This will be our third Christmas at The Golden K., our mountain home in the Sierra Nevada Foothills.   When living in suburbia with our now grown children Holly and I  bought high priced Christmas Trees, usually Noble Pines, from various lots or drove miles to cut them down ourselves.  Later we invested in artificial trees that looked great until the lights started to go out after being wrapped back up and stored for a couple of years.

While packing up Suburbia three years ago we threw out the last artificial tree.   When Christmas rolled around several months later, and now living in the mountains we went to a local nursery to see about buying a live tree.   While looking at what was available we had a “duh” moment realizing that we have five acres full of trees.  Why would we spend money on a Christmas tree when we have hundreds of trees of our own to choose from.   Our pine trees are a hundred feet tall and we don’t live in altitude high enough for firs.  But we do have a lot of cedars so choosing a small cedar for our Christmas tree each year from our own property has become our new tradition.

While cedars are not ideal for hanging ornaments it hasn’t mattered to us.   This new tradition has become important to us as a symbol of our transition out of Suburbia and our new way of life in the mountains.

So today we headed out with the girls and a chain saw in tow to hunt for a tree.

After about 20 minutes of surveying our options we chose a tree on the edge of our property.   After giving the tree a sniff and once over the girls approved of our selection.  Good thing because it was already cut!

After some trimming of branches and securing the tree stand we were ready to trim the tree.

The girls were not to interested in helping with the trimming and almost immediately went into power nap mode.  Kloe woke up briefly to “snoopervise” (thanks for the term Monika!) but it didn’t last too long.

After a couple of hours of trimming the tree was done.  The girls seemed to approve as they leaned into to get on their Christmas cheer.

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*Editors Note:  The girls would have had on their Christmas scarves for this photo but that is just not possible with a six month old puppy who would rip her sister’s scarves to pieces as well as her own….. 

California Burns

I’ve been trying to post all week and each time I’ve attempted to I find myself for a loss of words.   Well, at least a loss of significant words.

Many thriving communities have been devastated by the numerous wildfires throughout California.  Musing about Kali’s latest adventure or Kloe’s enthusiastic antics are insignificant when compared to the total devastation of  once thriving communities.   Posting  a cute picture of my pups romping around the homestead or cuddling before bed feels like an inappropriate action to take while the news in the background reports stories of people who lost their home or worse, their life.

The Golden K is over a hundred and fifty miles away from the fires raging in Sonoma and Napa counties so we are quite safe, at least from these fires.  I have many friends and colleagues that have been affected in these beautiful wine country towns and cities scattered throughout those counties.  Many evacuated early in the week and the fate of their homes is still in question. Some already know that their home is gone.

The winds have died down in Sonoma and Napa and finally there is some containment in these fires that have scorched over 150,000 acres which translates into 234 square miles.  To put that in perspective the area burned in those counties is greater than the size of San Jose, Denver, and New Orleans or Chicago (to pick just a few major cities).

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So I sit here and write with Kali safely asleep and my heart breaks thinking about the lost, confused, and scared pets and live stock who are affected.  Surely many have died as a result of the fires.   My closest friend and family who live a few miles away from Santa Rosa were able to return to their home today.  They are out of danger.  For that I am very thankful. But am keenly aware of the fact that thousands upon thousands of others have no home to return to and worse, some lost their lives trying to escape danger in a fateful early morning of Monday October 9.

This week many of us in the Golden State, especially those who are directly affected, are reminded of what we already knew:  most possessions, even a home, can be replaced.  But a life cannot.

Our heartfelt prayers to all of California from Kali, Kloe, Holly, and Michael.  Alive,  safe, and grateful for our blessings at The Golden K.

 

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!

 

The Year Of The K

I don’t typically partake in reflection of the past year as the new year approaches but this year has been like no other. It has been the year of the K.

Packing up 34 years of suburbia and moving to a rural area was a truly life changing event for Holly and I. This journey started in September of 2015 when “just for fun” I began looking on the internet at homes for sale in the foothills.  One of the first I saw  was a five acre property in Tuolumne CA.  It seemed to call to me and Holly agreed that it looked wonderful but she was not keen on moving; at least not for several years.

A few weeks later we drove up to see the property “just for fun”.  Over the following weeks and countless discussions about the possibility and rationale for moving  the “just for fun” became serious and we decided to look at more properties.  We saw several that we liked but none met the beauty, charm, and rustic elegance of what was to become The Golden K. We made an offer in November and closed escrow in December, just over a year ago.

Wow! What in September were only musings about one day moving to a simpler life in the mountains became reality just four months later in.  It’s one example of many over the past 34 years of Holly and I aligning on a goal and making it a reality.

The sellers rented back from us through April which gave us time to sell our home in Livermore and for Holly to finish her school year as a teacher.  In early May while still living in Livermore we brought a nine week old Golden Retriever home that we named Kloe, with a K or course like her big step sister Kali with a K.

That was all the inspiration I needed. I then knew we were moving “home” to The Golden K.  We moved in full time over Memorial weekend and we never looked back.

So here we the four of us: a guy and a gal still desperately in love after 34 years of marriage, two beautiful and loving Golden Retrievers, and one shared romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet.

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They're Cutting Down Trees

It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
I wish I had a river I could skate away on

 – © 1970; Joni Mitchell

Last weekend Holly and I went to  a local nursery looking for a live Christmas tree.  What was available was scrawny and very expensive.  Then Holly and I came to our senses and remembered that we live on five acres full of trees.  We laughed just a little at ourselves.

By the time we arrived back home at the Golden K it was pouring down rain but we were determined to establish a new tradition of cutting down a Christmas tree from our own property.  So we put on the best rainproof-cutting-down-Chistmas Tree-gear that we had and headed up the hill to the back side of the Golden K.  Back in the days before we went artificial and when we still put up “real”  trees we always had pines.  It wasn’t likely that we would find a pine small enough so we were hunting for a Cedar.

It didn’t take us too long to find a tree that was suitable.  It was a very nicely shaped Cedar about 12 feet high.  We carried it to the shop, cut it down to about seven feet and carried it back to the house.

It felt a little bit like when your kids are little and they cook a meal for themselves.  They eat the meal as if it was the best food they ever tasted because of the gratification of having cooked it themselves.  As we looked at our tree we both felt as though it was the most beautiful tree we have ever had in our 34 years of marriage.  I guess because we “cooked it” ourselves…

So like Joni sang, “they’re cutting down trees” at the Golden K and they are in love and they are grateful.  And if that’s not a romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet I don’t know what is.

First Christmas at the Golden K

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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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Winter Freeze

We finally got our first real cold day at The Golden K.  When we woke up yesterday morning it was in the low thirties.   I know for many of you that’s not cold but for us suburban transplants it is.  Mostly because it never really warmed up.

Kali and I went out for our morning walk after me bundling up with about three layers and a scarf – which I never wear.  Kali, being a Golden Retriever, has built in double coats so she was fine.  The crisp air felt great as we walked along our normal route going down to the main road, picking up our newspaper, and then heading up our property the long way around and finally back home.

I’ve been looking forward to winter up here on the hill where it will be cold with an occasional dusting of snow.  Not enough to have to shovel but enough to just hunker down and enjoy the season with a good wood fire, some smooth brandy, and a football game or two on Sundays.  But in reality I’m sure there will be some things that grow old quickly like a chapped face from that early morning walk, broken water pipes, and dealing with a puppy who just wants to be outside no matter what the temperature or precipitation.

But it’s all good when you have a romantic perspective at 3100 feet.  For that we are blessed.

The girls did their best to keep warm (like it was hard to do with a wood fire, a propane stove, and each other to stay warm!).

 

The freezing temps are good because it kills bark beetles; freezes those little bastards balls off  🙂 but what we need is more of this.

Here’s to a wet, wet winter!  Pray for rain.

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.