A: A cordwood writer's shack! (Some assembly required.)
|John S. Farnsworth, Ph.D.||
Q: What do you get when you buck up a Douglas-fir into 5" rounds?
A: A cordwood writer's shack! (Some assembly required.)
Today is my final full day as a Whiteley Scholar, and I was able to complete my manuscript for the new book, BEYOND SOLITUDE, this morning, a few hours ahead of schedule.
Many thanks to the staff of the Whiteley Center at Friday Harbor Laboratories of the University of Washington for allowing me to take advantage of their wonderful facility. Here is a shot of the study I was assigned. What you can't see is the fireplace behind me as I took this shot. Nor can you see the fireplace in my cottage, a two-minute walk from the study. The cottage is actually closer to the water than the study, and there was a bald eagle in the tree above my back deck when I went home for lunch today.
Let's hope the inspiration was sufficient!
I went out for a walk this afternoon to clear my head after a day of revision and editing. I hadn't journeyed further than our front path, however, when I discovered something truly macabre. There, lying in the sawdust where I've been bucking up a tree we felled last week, was a raven's bill. The lower mandable was located about a meter west of the upper, and there was nothing else of the carcass to be found. Not a single feather!
How does one explain that? The only mammals we've seen on the property so far are squirrels and deer, and I understand that the largest mammalian preditors we've got here are raccoons. We've seen birds of prey, but most of them are bald eagles and osprey, which tend to be piscivores. (Yes, I realize that bald eagles are opportunistic feeders and will sometimes scavenge.) Otherwise, I've seen Coopers Hawks, Northern Goshawks and a Great Horned Owl here on the island.
It’s been a quiet, foggy morning, although for the past week it’s been difficult to tell where the fog ends and the smoke from the British Columbia forest fires takes over. No wind. I was up in the loft writing when I heard a snap, and was quick enough looking out the front window to see my favorite snag crash into a neighboring tree.
This snag had been a Douglas-fir with a twelve-inch diameter at breast height, which means it was probably only 60 years old when it died. Its top half was missing and had been hauled away long before we purchased this lot.
At least half a dozen nest cavities had been drilled into this snag, and it was actively used by breeding nuthatches this past spring. I was careful, when felling trees growing too close to our cabin, to aim them away from the snag so as to preserve it for future generations of nuthatches. Those efforts now prove to have been in vain.
My first job was to get the snag to the ground so that it wouldn’t crash onto someone coming up the front path. It seemed too risky to rig a rope, so I pulled our aluminum flagpole out of its mount, flipped it upside down and used this 30’ tool to push the snag off the tree it was resting on. Former snag crashed over the path and broke into two large logs and a zillion smaller pieces. The wood was thoroughly rotten, far beyond what could be converted into firewood. It took half an hour to cart the smaller pieces out to the community burn pile. The biggest log remains in the yard, honorably.
I liked having a snag with active nests on the lot. It stood out like the memento mori in landscape paintings by the Hudson River School. New life coming from death. And it served its purpose; the more we understand of forest ecology, the more we understand the roles played by logs and snags. In the Cascade Mountains, 39 species of birds build their nests in snags. Nowadays timber companies who log our national forests are required to leave a certain number of snags behind for the benefit of those critters.
There are still two snags standing in the front part of our lot, but that hardly seems sufficient at the moment.
There's been a young buck in velvet sleeping outside the window below our loft the last few nights. I woke up this morning thinking I should check on it, but then remembered that we'd returned to campus. Sigh. Here's a day-old photo.
...about the greatest show on earth being the bird feeder on the south end of our deck. Last night we had cocktails on the north end so as not to disturb the feeder birds, and a female Anna's Hummingbird hovered nearby, scoping us out, and then vanished. Turns out that she's nesting there, perhaps three meters west of our grill. Wondering what construction materials she used for the nest? Lichen.
Yesterday afternoon, after we got everything unpacked, I installed a bird feeder we brought up from California. It’s a screened ball, black, designed to dispense sunflower seeds. The plan was to start simple because I haven’t had a bird feeder since we sold our previous house in 1998 and moved aboard a sailboat.
It was windy yesterday afternoon and the birds never discovered the feeder. This morning, however, a few hours after daybreak, the first Chestnut-backed Chickadee showed up, somewhat tentatively. Knowing that songbirds tend forage visually, I’d lined up sunflower seeds on the rail of our deck, my way of inviting the neighbors for breakfast. It worked.
For the first hour or so the chickadees would approach furtively, snatch the nearest seed off the rail and then streak away in near panic, flying a good thirty meters into the forest before landing to eat. Red-chested Nuthatches would perch on nearby trees, watching to determine whether the chickadees would suffer negative consequences for stealing seed. They didn’t join in until the seeds on the deck were all consumed and the seeds on the ball were finally being purloined.
By noon, at any moment there would be half a dozen birds within a couple meters of the feeder, taking their turns one at a time extracting seeds. The flock, if I can call them that, was equally distributed between chickadees and nuthatches; a Brown Creeper landed on the nerest Douglas-fir, but didn't help itself to seeds. Same with a Black-headed Grosbeak. I'm expecting him to return any moment now.
I was supposed to do two things today: install the screens and write a book. The screens went up slowly, but they were in by lunchtime. By then, the first Dark-eyed Junco showed up. It seemed disappointed that only sunflower seed were being offered, and didn’t stick around long.
We decided early on not to equip the cabin with television—after all I have a book to write this summer. But now I’m worried that an ever greater distraction has made its way into our world.
(By the way, the blurred blue in the background of the photo above is Lopez Sound, as viewed from my bedroom. It's what the real-estate adds call a "filtered view," the filter in this case being a couple hundred evergreens between the cabin and the water. )
If you were surprised by the president's decision to renege on the Paris climate accords, you haven't been paying attention.
Last month, the Secretary of the Interior cancelled all meetings being held by such agencies as the US Park Service. This included scheduled meetings of more than 200 boards and committees until at least September. The rationale was that this would provide the opportunity to restore trust in the department's decision-making process.
One of the groups whose meeting was cancelled was the California Landscape Conservation Collaborative. Like all the groups whose agendas were frozen, they've been asked to report on why they were meeting and what they were meeting about. Their report will no doubt mention an important project to model sea level rise in the salt marshes of coastal California.
Wanna bet that they'll never meet again during this presidency?
This blog was specifically requested by a customer service agent of the New York Times. Really.
I called the Times this morning to cancel my subscription as part of a boycott that resulted from the Times adding climate-denier Bret Stephens to its editorial staff. This boycott seems to have gained considerable traction over the weekend, as was attested to by the 29 minutes I was on hold before I could talk to a customer services agent. (One can’t cancel a subscription online, strangely enough, although it’s possible to subscribe online.)
When asked for the reason for my cancellation, I said that I was cancelling because the NYT could not longer be considered a reliable news source if it was hiring journalists who don’t believe in climate change. The I was asked specifically whether this was in regard to “the Bret Stephens situation.”
What happened next surprised and delighted me: when I answered yes, that this was indeed in regard to “the Bret Stephens situation,” I was told, “If you blog, we are encouraging you to blog about why you are cancelling your subscription.”
Wow. One has to appreciate a bit of subterfuge. Even if the editor-in-chief of the NYT has lost his bearings, the rank and file working for the venerable paper seem determined to resist the insanity.
The final question, ironically, was whether there was anything the customer services agent could do to retain me as a loyal subscriber. I told her simply, “Get rid of Bret Stephens.”
Of course, she had already taken measures to accomplish this.