Sept 5

The sun doesn’t rise at dawn anymore. By 8 o’clock you can glance up to the southwest and see a perfect tangerine circle through the smoke. It looks not much different than the pink moon last night. It could be evening for all I know. Sounds of distant choppers are unsettling. The haze is suffocating. Each morning smells so strongly of burnt veg that I wonder if this’ll be the day we evacuate. The birds are silent, the air still, eyes raw. I read Wendell Berry and wait for the birds to come.



Aug 12

Feeling sore and lovely and sun-smacked silly. There I was at 430pm, in the heat of the day, walking across this barren floodplain in what must have been 115 degrees. Parched lips, burning skin, squinting eyes… bee-lining it back to Steve’s truck, in what felt like slow motion, to where my warm, warm water awaited. BUT we saw 60 species there at Blacks Creek, it was magical.

July 28: day 15 on the mountain

I’ve skipped many days but it doesn’t matter because it’s in the past.

I took my first shower in 5 days. It’s been 90 degrees on the mountain. Except for two days ago when rain came unexpectedly. We went off to check the nets just as drops started coming down. We figured it would quit soon. As I untangled a MacGillivray’s Warbler it began to downpour and the bird became wet and matted and quite unenthused about it all. So did I.

There’s a Creature that crashes through the dry grass on the ridge above our tents each night. A week ago I laid awake with wide eyes, straining to hear if it was coming closer, heart pounding. Now the sound gives me a sense of comfort and familiarity. Two nights ago Creature was breathing heavy, I fear that he’s sick.

Nighthawks meep at dusk while the tree trunks glow pink. I am tickled by the flowers and sunrises. Trevor and I got rear-ended in town yesterday. Uninjured and undamaged, we went on to the river and listened to the Canyon Wrens yodel in the hot afternoon. We met the rest of the crew downtown and I drank nice beer from a glass as if I can afford to live in a civilized manner. The pretending is denting my wallet and anyway, I prefer to sweat and listen to Chats call from the shrubs instead.

There are fruit flies inside my cooler. And I’ve been drinking milk that’s been lukewarm for days. It would take a lot for my stomach to be upset. Ice doesn’t stay frozen for long in this heat. I think there are still stinkbugs under my tent but my new sleeping pad is so nice and thick that I don’t hear them. They won’t hurt you anyway.

Did I mention the rattlesnakes? There have been 16 sightings now, in just 2 weeks. Steve is still ecstatic. But even Trevor is becoming less amused. I’ve rehearsed in my mind what to do if someone gets bitten, but it’s hard to actually imagine it happening. A forest fire might be more likely. There was heavy helicopter traffic yesterday, so Katie hiked up the hill to look for smoke. It was fine. This time. A helicopter landed on the mountain last week, just to give us all a rush and make us think the nearby fire was gaining on us. It wasn’t. This time.

May 30

This morning we were harvesting lettuce and I heard a raven croak and I looked up to see a red-shouldered hawk soar low over the lettuce with a raven on his tail. Later this evening a jay was squawking at a red-shouldered – probably the same guy. While we set up the drip line I heard some movement in the tree tops and looked up to see a handful of doves flying away and a small accipiter just behind them. Yesterday while watering the tomatoes we heard a funny sound coming from beyond that I wasn’t even sure was a bird. And then we watched as a falcon, followed by another, cried and soared high overhead and then dove together. I think peregrine! Food carry by jay today. Overcast and humid – the chat was not entertained. He hardly spoke! On the river today I saw a downy low in the willows as I have a few times before. And he was on a plant amidst the rushing floodplains. On Sunday I found a killdeer nest! I checked on it today and it still had 4 eggs, arranged perfectly. Speckled like the rocks, absolutely camouflaged right out in the open. She was nowhere to be seen though, I hope she didn’t abandon. I’m concerned about this nest.


May 24: birthday

Lazuli buntings and yellow-breasted chats shout from either side of the river. A wrentit sings upstream, a hummingbird buzzes between the boulders. There are swallowtails dancing in the shade of the willows. Yellow warbler chips above them. I was awoken before dawn by the flycatcher outside my window. I went on a run and met all the neighborhood dogs. I think we’re gonna be friends. I saw the neighborhood horses but they were busy grazing a front lawn, so we did not properly meet. An osprey greeted me when I got back in the neighborhood and so did the nameless dog who I’ll call Sheeba. Red-shouldered hawk call from upland. Yellowjacket tickles my arm with the wind from his wings. I intended to go to the Trinity & Klamath River confluence this morning but it turns out the road is closed today until noon! It’s great to be in a place so small and sleepy where that can happen… closing the only highway with no warning and no signs. So I’ll have to settle for just one river today, sigh.


I turn 25 today.

IMG_0171[This is my third day on Green Fire Farm & Winery in northern California.]

May 18

There were things I was gonna say, but I forgot. Prob trying to catch up from the days that I missed, but we can’t make up lost time. The tanager sings every evening now, mountain quail not as much. I’ve seen deer around, a coyote last week, might of just heard a fox.

I packed my stuff today and I felt sad because I’m tired of my clothes being wrinkled. I’m tired of being confined to plastic Walmart bins. I got a pang of sadness looking out at the pasture and thinking of how much I enjoy these goats. I can’t get over how CUTE Hatch and Eske are. And Rita and Rocket. And Liana, and Elaina. Grandeur is beautiful and hilarious. And Rose is so funny. I can see that I am going to want animals in my life. I really enjoy chickens.

Today while Westi was out I ran around doing laundry, making rosemary tea, filtering milk, sewing my tote bag. When she came home I was sewing my pencil case and she put a box on the table and said it was a surprise. I put my ear next to it and could hear peeping! 4 chicks were inside! So cute and frumpy.


May 12

It is raining in half the yard and the other half is sunny. There is a rainbow out to the east backed by charcoal clouds. Strong winds make it chilly on the nose. This morning Westi had to be in town so I was on my own with the animals! Everyone was super antsy today. Liane and Rose upset about their babies being gone (sold yesterday). Elaina tired of being stuck inside with the kids. Grandeur worried and confused because, well, she always is. They were eager to get out and knocked the alfalfa from my arms when I tried to enter the pen! Milking went fine though. Well, as fine as expected. And they all entered the pasture easily. Except for Grandeur. She expressed concern about everyone leaving her behind, but she didn’t want to join them. I was dancing around trying to inspire her to come outside when I noticed one of the ducklings had escaped. So I left Grandeur where she was because clearly she wasn’t going anywhere, and I chased the dang duck back and forth along the fence until it surrendered out of fear, and I put it back where it came from!

I just made organic hot chocolate with goat’s milk – omg. I’m so spoiled and fat and happy.


May 9

It’s been cold at night lately, below freezing, leaving the valley dusted with frost. Mountain quail call in the evening now. The moon is nearly full.

May 7

Exhausted. These days have been exhausting. Rocket (#2 – the sad little face-down-in-the-hay goat) recovered well, he’s suckling now. Still has droopy ears, which makes him about the cutest thing in the world. However, his brother, Olay, who was the first-born, became weak yesterday. Like how Rocket was on the first night. Olay wasn’t eating and he was cold. Westi tube fed him and we held him under the heat lamp in a blanket and a sweater. When that didn’t help she realized he hadn’t pooped yet, so she did something to try to solve that. When that didn’t help, she realized his stomach was full still; he wasn’t digesting his food because his body temperature was too low. She brought him inside the house and put him on a heating pad and got his temperature up to normal. And he died shortly after. “He starved to death with a full stomach.” These attempts to help Olay took place over the entire day, and so his passing was an unfortunate relief. That’s how it goes.

May 5 – goat birth

Made two batches of jam this morning and a batch of granola! It rained through the afternoon so I made envelopes and drew with pastels. We went out in the drizzle to put the moms back inside. Elaina, who is usually pretty agreeable, did not want to come. She was being vocal and I heard her teeth grinding, which is a sign of discomfort in a pregnant lady, a sign that things are accelerating. Same with change in personality. Westi came up the hill behind her and pointed out a small drip of clear goop coming out of her. That certainly means baby is coming! Like, today or the next.

We got everybody inside and closed off a separate section for Elaina to be in. With Grandeur. Elaina couldn’t care less about Grandeur’s company but G would go nuts if a fence separated her and Elaina. While West made dinner I sat on goat watch. This entails sitting in the pen in a lawn chair with a beer and a goat book, taking note of any notable behavior. Elaina laid down a few times and each time I thought, ‘omg, is it time!?!?!?’ but each time she was just resting and looked at me exasperated for disturbing her with my nervous excitement.

I went inside for dinner and Westi came back out with me afterward for the usual milking time. The kids did not drink from mamas today, so there were full utters all around, woohoo! Just as Liane and I were off to a great start (for once), Elaina let out a holler and Westi exclaimed, “she’s pushing!” After only a short while – minutes – a body appeared at the opening of Elaina’s uterus. She was pushing and groaning, yelling like crazy with her tongue sticking out. What was coming out was a tail, which is not good (I just read this in the book). When this happens, you need to intervene and make sure a leg exits first. So Westi reached a hand inside of Elaina to find a back leg to pull. But in order to extend a leg, she had to push the body back inside… while Elaina was trying to push it out. It was very dramatic and intense for a few minutes while Westi struggled with her hand inside the screaming goat. I felt like crying for a moment! Mike came in while that was happening, and Grace too. Westi finally got a leg extended and the baby came out slimy and matted, with incredibly long legs! It looked just like Elaina!

Grace cautiously inched closer to see the new baby; she was nervous and didn’t want to get too close. She neared Elaina’s back end and was bothered by the sight of the placenta (understandably), and as she stood there, another baby shot out without any warning! Same deal with the slime and matted fur. And after another few minutes, Elaina started pushing again, and a THIRD squirted out! Literally, these two came sliding right out. She went to licking all the babies and it wasn’t too long before they looked like tiny goats. They weren’t drinking from the utter right away like they’re supposed to so Westi milked Elaina some and squirted it in the kids’ mouth. The milk stuff is special for newborns – thick and yellow! Like eggnog.

They all accepted the nectar and soon 2 of them started acting like goats – walking around and searching for the utter. But one laid face down in the hay. We rubbed him and gave him coffee for stimulation. Put a Chihuahua sweater on him to make him look like a dweeb I mean for warmth. Tube fed him. Eventually he held his head up some but his front legs just hung lifelessly and half backward. I felt bad for him, wondering if he was in pain or confused or scared.

The other two are hilarious and adorable. The girl (#3) refuses to sit down; she will stand motionless for lengths of time until she loses balance and falls to the side. And she’s fiery already, like Cora. We left the little sad goat (#2) in a sweater in the box with the others. Westi will check on him through the night. I hope he’s alive in the morning.

Sounds like we were lucky with this birth being fast and convenient. Westi has stayed up the entire night with a goat in labor before! Still, I am exhausted. But this needed to be documented in full before time passed. And now I sleep.