Midnight Oil

P91027The electricity is still on here at 8:20 p.m.. I just turned the lights off to get the cool picture above. The outages in this region were scheduled to begin twenty minutes ago, so the electricity could be disconnected here at any moment. I may not finish writing and scheduling this to post later at midnight before that happens. So, if you are not reading this presently, you know why.

Before you waste another second thinking about that, I will tell you now that it makes no sense.

Scheduled electrical outages are now one of the consequences of living in this excellent place. We live with trees. Some of these trees are the biggest in the World. Some are very combustible. Regardless of the diligence of those who prune trees to maintain clearance from utility cables, big trees are likely to drop limbs onto cables, causing sparks that can ignite combustible trees.

The electricity just went out at 8:40 p.m..

As I was saying, we also live with weather. It happens to be excellent weather. It is pleasantly warm through summer, with minimal humidity and an almost constant cooling breeze. When the weather gets a bit too warm, it compensates with lower humidity and increased breeze. Unfortunately, this combination of weather is precisely what accelerates the worst of forest fires.

Scheduled electrical outages are intended to coincide with forecasts of weather conditions that are dangerously conducive to the initiation and perpetuation of forest fires. As inconvenient as they are, such outages are a sensible precaution.

The smoke that made such a colorful sunset earlier is from a fire in nearby forests, on the southern coast of San Mateo County.

Now, I will go to town to see if I can find someplace to get online to schedule this for midnight.

Electrical Outage

P91012KWarnings were broadcast in local news for a few days prior. Because of the extreme potential for catastrophic forest fires, electrical service was to be disabled to our region, and large areas of California. Weather was predicted to be warm, windy and dry (with minimal humidity). Such conditions are exactly what cause fires to spread so explosively through the overgrown forests.

The potential for sparks from electrical cables, especially as debris gets blown onto to them, was why the electricity needed to be disabled. Supposedly, it is more likely for fires to be started by sparks from utility cables than by sparks from the many generators and barbecues that compensate for a lack of electricity. These considerations are taken very seriously in this region.

There are many reasons why the local forests are more combustible than they would naturally be. The less combustible redwood forests were clear cut harvested about a century ago, which stimulated a proliferation of more combustible vegetation. Containment of fires since then has allowed an accumulation of combustible vegetation, but inhibited growth of fresher vegetation.

Regardless, many of us had our doubts about the necessity of the outages, which were actually delayed as the forecast weather was slow to develop. Tuesday happened to be one of the most humid days of summer, and might have been the most humid. It was not particularly warm, and was actually relatively cool. Wind was strangely lacking. The weather was really quite bland.

When this picture was taken early Wednesday morning, the street lamp was still on. Dew condensed on the parked car below as the weather cooled overnight. There was no breeze to dry it. The planned outage was delayed for a while, but eventually happened at about 10:30 that night, and stayed out for most of Thursday. It got a bit warmer and drier, but not like predicted.

Most of us accepted it as part of living in such a forested region. A few were annoyed by the associated inconveniences, particularly since it all seemed to be unnecessary. However, what few of us at lower elevations and in town were aware of was that there really were somewhat powerful winds at higher elevations near the summit, and that humidity had dropped significantly.

After electrical service was restored, we could see news coverage of the Saddleridge Fire in Los Angeles County. Unfortunately, fire is a part of nature here. The forests and ecosystems are designed for it. This was the first planned electrical outage here, but will not likely be the last. Those who appreciate living here, and know how the ecosystem works, will be willing to adapt.

Horridculture – Opposite Poles

P90904This is not about North and South. It is about a utility pole and a pole that remained from a redwood tree that was too close to it. One is there to support a variety of cables and a streetlamp. The other just wanted to grow into a redwood tree to join the rest of the forest. One has been deceased for many years or decades. The other was alive just recently, but is now only a stump.

The picture above shows how many cables the utility pole supports, as well as the streetlamp. When I did my internship in 1988, the arborists whom I worked with knew what each of the various cables were for; high voltage, lower voltage, cable television, telephone and whatever else was up there. Fiber optic cables have since simplified the telephone and television cables.

The picture above also shows how the unfortunate redwood tree needed to be cut back for clearance from the electrical cables. I was mortified to see this so prominently visible on the edge of a main road, because I should have noticed the problem earlier and just cut the tree down. Not too long ago I was pruning many other redwood trees for clearance from other streetlamps.

Those who pruned it instead, along with any other trees that were encroaching into the electrical cables, were very efficient with establishing clearance, but not so proficient with aesthetics. Obviously, I could not leave this tree like this on the side of the road. Even if I did not care what it looked like, I did not want it to regenerate and immediately encroach back into the cables.

The picture below shows my corrective pruning. The stump is certainly not dead, and will try to regenerate, but will be easier to keep down. If kept down long enough, it may eventually die.

The second picture below shows the stripped trunk in two sections that are nearly eight feet long, and a short bottom section that is a bit more than two feet long. The two long sections are straight enough for gate posts (although there is another plan for them). It is a sad demise for the formerly healthy and sound redwood tree, but became necessary to keep the electricity on.P90904+P90904++

Squirrel!

P80408Wildlife and domestic animals seem to follow me everywhere I go. When Brent and I lived in the dorms at Cal Poly, our room was known as the Jungle Room, not only because of all the greenery, but also because every little bird that got knocked out while trying to fly through the big windows at the dining room was brought to our room to recuperate. A baby squirrel that weaseled into my jacket while I was out collecting insects for an entomology class lived with us for a while. There were two baby ducks that need a bit more explaining.

When I moved south of town, where my roommates boarded horses, the horses worked diligently to open their gate to come to the house to eat my rare plants. The neighbor’s cattle sometimes did the same! When it rained, creepy crawdads came out of the ditch at the railroad tracks and up to my porch.

When I moved to Los Gatos, it seemed that every stray dog in town eventually arrived at my home. In fact, my home was ransacked by the FBI just because their bloodhound who was supposed to be pursuing a suspect of a crime wanted to come by! Again, that takes a bit more explaining. Birds flew through freely. A pair of some sort of small bird nested in my shower, and before I realized it, started to raise a family . . . and finished. Pigeons tried to nest repeatedly in the same spot on top of the refrigerator, but got evicted. A squirrel moved into the guest room, and refused to leave. It sometimes tried to join me for breakfast.

Then, at my second home, there was Timmy the baby deer, two feral cats, skunks, coons, squirrels and more neighborhood dogs than I can remember, as well as Bill the little terrier who actually lived there. I could go on. https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2018/03/14/timmy-in-the-garden/

Squirrels are a common denominator. They are everywhere.

My home in town was in the Live Oak Manor district, which, as you can guess, was dominated by huge old coast live oaks as well as comparable valley oaks. The valley oak next door was supposedly the largest in the Santa Clara Valley. Squirrels were everywhere and very well fed!

The east facing window over my desk would have had a good view of Mount Hamilton if the view had not been so cluttered with utility cables. The wildlife that used the cables could get annoying at times. Crows made their annoying noise. Pigeons just stared at me stupidly. Squirrels scurried by with bits of fruits and vegetables that they stole from the garden, and sometimes stopped to cuss at me. I sometimes cussed back, but also reminded them to be careful as they jumped from the high voltage cables into the tops of the neighbor’s hedged redwood trees below. The redwoods sometimes grew dangerously close to the high voltage cables between clearance pruning.

As you can imagine, the unimaginable but obviously predictable happened. I do not know if he was coming or going, but I would guess that he was jumping from the tree to the cable. I only heard a loud ‘ZAP’ and subsequent ‘FIZZLE’. By the time I looked out, the unfortunate squirrel was a swinging charred carcass with a death grip on the cable he was reaching for. The death grip was impressive. He stayed there for a long time, swinging in the breeze. Silent sparks could sometimes be seen at night, where his tail brushed against the tip of the redwood shoot. I do not know if a crow finally got him, or if he just fell into the neighbor’s yard. Either way, he did not get a proper burial.