Sunday, December 28, 2014

Joni Saves a Bear...

On Friday Joni was out raking leaves when she heard a commotion. A pickup truck with an enthusiastic Redneck driver, was chasing a bear up our road. More than likely, he was trying to run it over. The harassed bear chose to climb about 75 feet up into a Ponderosa tree on the edge of our property. This was not a small bear: he was a good sized adult.

Joni went over to the man who was staring up at the bear. He wanted to kill it.

"Is this bear hurting your livestock?" he asked. Joni said no, we don't have any livestock.

"Is this bear eating your garden?" he asked. By garden he meant pot garden. Many of the pot gardeners, of which there are around 5,000 in Butte County, shoot anything that comes near their gardens, worried that the deer or bear will eat their precious and pricey plants. Fish and Wildlife Officers tell me that there has been about a 50% reduction in the numbers of wildlife in the past five years because of this poaching.

Joni told the man we don't have a garden.

In order to defuse the situation, Joni mentioned how cute the bear was. The man wanted to kill the bear in order to put him in his freezer. Joni explained to the man that the bear was more than welcome on our property; they were here first. In the end, the guy figured out that Joni wasn't going to approve of the bear being killed. The man left.

Joni returned later with binoculars and watched the bear for awhile. She then left. He was gone the next morning.

Of course, we are infuriated by the Redneck's behavior, chasing a bear with his truck. Trying to run it over and then wanting to kill it for no good reason. Looking for any reason he could find to kill the bear as a nuisance.

Does this bear know that Joni saved its life? I think so. He will remember her going to bat for him. She made another friend that day.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

On Poverty and the Change Jar

Have you ever had a Scarlet O'Hara moment? Scarlet's last line just before the Intermission in Gone with the Wind is (from memory): "As God as my witness, I will never be poor again!"

Poverty sucks. And for those who are into the voluntary poverty movement, as I was for a time, it seems to me that voluntary poverty has the danger of just becoming outright poverty. There is nothing glamorous about poverty. St. Francis might have been able to give away his clothes in the public square and, therefore, renounce the riches of his Father (adolescent rebellion?) and have a good life, but, for most, poverty is a mind numbing, belly hurting, chaos creating, crime producing, drug use inducing awful way of life that should be eliminated from the planet. And for those who listen to Jesus and think we must always have poor people, as when he said there will always be poor people---I say Shame! Perhaps Jesus was talking about the poor in Norway? I'd rather be poor in Scandinavia rather than Chad. Life for the poor in the US is becoming ever more desperate.

There is nothing good about poverty. Being poor is the number one predictor of mental illness. Poor people are less happy than people who have enough money (usually seen as an income around $60,000 a year in the US). Poor people get worse services, poorer health care and die younger than do middle class or rich people. If you are poor in the US, you'd be better off to go have your babies in Cuba because they have a lower infant mortality rate than poor people do in the US.

I have had times in my life when I was very poor. The poorest time was just after finishing nursing school and there were no jobs for RN's in Minnesota. This happens in nursing with ebbs and flows of jobs available, dependent upon economic conditions. Well, it was a poor time and I couldn't find a job. One day I managed to find a job opening in Las Vegas with interviews being conducted in Omaha, Nebraska. The problem was my girlfriend at the time and I had no money. All our credit cards were maxed out. Texaco sent me a letter requesting that I stop using their credit card at gas stations; I was using that card to buy food.

My girlfriend and I managed to secure an interview in Omaha. The problem was getting there. I managed to sell a story to the Fillmore County Journal for $25 bucks (gas money) and we found a can of peas and a can of tuna fish to eat on the journey. The $25 was just enough to get us to Omaha and back. We cleaned up in a Rest Area previous to the interview. We got the jobs and we were given a sign on bonus to get us to Las Vegas.

I vowed after that to never be poor again.

Of course, there have been times with little money since then. Just after Joni had to stop working because of her back, we were having a tough time making ends meet. I was picking up as many hours as possible, but with the responsibilities of home and  hearth and kids, it wasn't quite enough. It was then that the Change Jar tradition started.

During this poor episode, I had a Change Jar. As many people do, I take my spare change and throw it into a gallon sized pickle jar. This was my emergency gas fund to be used when funds were low in the checking account. I used to carry it in the trunk of my car for awhile, after one unfortunate incident in a gas station in Clear Lake when I was out of gas and our checking account didn't have sufficient funds to get more gas. Stranded in Clear Lake with 120 miles ahead to get home, I was able to find enough change in the car in order to eek out just enough gas to get me home. Thank heavens for 40 mile per gallon cars.

As we eased ourselves out of dire poverty, the Change Jar evolved into being a Christmas Fund. Every year, around Christmas time, I bring the jar into Safeway and put the change into one of those change machines they have there. Forget the name, but they take a cut of the money, which seems fair to me as banks don't do change counting anymore.

This weekend I will take the Change Jar (pictured above) into Safeway. I'm thinking there is $150 in that jar. And then, I will start anew, hoping that the Change Jar remains a Christmas Fund and not Gas Money.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas 2014

Well, that was quite a year. It began with me on disability, followed by a cancer scare, followed by a miserable post procedure infection that made me ill for a couple months. There was a time during the first half of the year, when I wondered if I would ever feel well again.

It took over a year to recover from getting hurt by a patient. And I still have to take pain medication for periscapular myofascial pain syndrome. Because of this injury, I decided to hang up my inpatient spurs and to move on to a new job. After 11 years at St. Helena Hospital, I took a home health psychiatric nurse job which has been a good fit for me. I drive way too much (which isn't good for my back) and I work way too many hours but at least I don't have to worry about being pummeled by a patient anymore. The pay is substantially less than what I am used to and the benefits suck. The plus side is I get to go home every night.

But mostly I'm happy that I don't have to wrestle with patients. When I think back on my inpatient career and try to count the number of times we had to put "hands on" a patient because of dangerous behavior, I would estimate that I have been involved in probably 500 "take downs". As the years have gone by, it took longer and longer to recover from the broken ribs and the bruises from these violent events. The last one was the last straw. Psychiatric nurses, like police officers, should be able to retire with a pension at age 50.

It was a good Christmas here. All the gifts were practical and needed. It was a relaxed time and we all pretty much just enjoyed each other's company.

And the year ahead? There is so much I want to do. Time to start scratching a few of those bucket list items off the list.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Constitional Right to Kill?

I had the Guest Comment in the CNR today. Go have a look at it here.

I struggle whether to allow Anonymous comments on this blog. This thing serves as a place for me to kind of informally wrestle with a few ideas or concepts. A place to write and keep the thoughts flowing. When I have written about a few controversial items in the past, the Anonymous posters sometimes can be unkind. I love debate, in fact, I encourage it. But the nastiness of a Pothead who thinks he is about to lose access to his Precious, as has happened with a few posts--well, that caused me to do away with the Anonymous posts until after the election.

And then there was the post that I wrote about The Demise of Backpacking. The lightweight backpacking crowd got a hold of it and weren't too pleased with that opinion.

After the election, I decided to keep the Anonymous feature, but to moderate the responses. A happy medium.

On a couple of posts about the end of coyote killing contests, an Anonymous poster writes in (go ahead and read the posts) twice to proclaim how hunters are going to have the hunt in Adin anyway and that interest is high in the event. He (and only a he would be so belligerent) insinuates that more coyotes will be killed now more than ever. Just so you don't have to go read the posts, here they are:

Here they are:

This year's coyote "event" will be larger and more successful than in years past.
The only difference is that there will be no prizes awarded, as per recently enacted California regulations.

It was a big mistake to try to ban this event, all you accomplished was to bring hunters together in solidarity.

There are already more interested participants than in last years event.


And the other one:

The hunt has not stopped, only the prizes.It is no longer a "contest" it's a constitutionally protected right to assemble.
It's gathering even more momentum than in years past as a show of solidarity amongst hunters.
Happy trails... ; )

So these hunters think they have a Constitutional  Right to kill as many coyotes as possible. What they don't get is that California is having a reappraisal of the role of predators in the environment. As such, we can probably expect more reforms, including a hunting season and probable bag and possession limits. Or perhaps a ban altogether, just like we have with the mountain lion.

Note that this gentleman gives an argument that is not based on wildlife science. This is more of a lifestyle argument. An appeal to baser instincts, as hunters come together to kill as many creatures as possible. I doubt that real hunters care for killing contests. The guy who wrote the lines above displays the attitude that killed off the bison and the passenger pigeon. It is despicable and reminds me just how awful some people are.

So does the Anonymous poster have some inside knowledge of the Adin Hunt? Or is he just yanking my chain? I don't know. I do know that he seems a bit unstable and hateful. And I'm not too happy to have this person focused on me.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Kim Jong Un and The Satanic Verses

What a day. I heard the news this morning that Obama is normalizing relations with Cuba. It is about time! Joni immediately gave me permission to go to Cuba and see what is going on there. Perhaps I will.

And SONY decided to not release a movie called "The Interview" that is supposedly a comedy about killing the North Korean child dictator. Often called The Hermit Kingdom, North Korea is a terrible place. And the leaders have even larger egos than usual. The new kid leader, Kim Jong Un, who carries on the tradition he inherited from his father and grandfather, didn't take too kindly to an American movie that supposedly lampoons his assassination. So he put his security apparatus up to the task of hacking SONY and also to deliver threats against American movie goers. Somehow they pulled off the hacking part, which, we shouldn't be too surprised because they also have been successful in building a nuclear weapon. Yes, they may not be able to feed their people, but they do seem to have a knack to build stuff and even hack into SONY. We shouldn't underestimate them.

So with all the threats, SONY bowed to the pressure and decided to cancel the release of the movie. It was supposed to be a Christmas Day release. And I had planned to go to it then. Screw Kim Jong Un.

Compare this to when The Satanic Verses came out. In case you don't remember, Salman Rushdie wrote a novel about Mohammed that was none too flattering. Conservative Muslim Clerics didn't care for it and threatened the author and also threatened those who sold the book. I was working at a bookstore at the time. We had threats, but we stocked the book. We didn't put it in the front window; you had to ask for it and we would retrieve a copy for you. Everyone thought there might be violence over that book. Salman Rushdie went into hiding, from which, he hasn't emerged yet. In the end, nothing happened and we considered it our patriotic duty to sell it, even though I only made the minimum wage at the time. We risked our lives for peanuts and we were proud of it.

I guess booksellers are braver than cinema owners.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Coyotes Win!

Every evening, the local coyotes that inhabit my off grid neighborhood break into song. I like to think they are singing about something, sharing stories, letting the world know of their joy. Listening to the coyotes sing----their yip, yipping---is comforting to me. An exhilarating comforting experience, a simple pleasure, much like listening to the pitter of rain on my tin roof or watching the flames (and feeling the heat) from my woodstove.
I sometimes capture one or two of them on my trail camera that I set up on this ridge. Handsome critters, always caught during the night. They are incredibly smart animals. Once on a hike, a coyote ran in front of me and my dogs, taunting us, making the dogs give chase. While chasing after the dogs (and the coyote), I looked over my shoulder, only to see another coyote slouching away, protecting their den and pups. We were too close to their home so a diversion had to be created. It worked.

As long as we don’t raise chickens, the coyotes mostly leave us alone, content to do their job of keeping the rodent population down in this semi-wild community. An important task, what with the hanta virus and bubonic plague making a comeback. They are welcome neighbors. Beneficial.

A neighbor raises goats. She has guard dogs that protect the herd. She hasn’t lost any goats to the resident coyotes. There is a gentle balance of wild and domestic here in these woods. Co-existence.
It is hard to believe that anyone would kill coyotes for the sport of it. For pleasure. That “killing contests” would still exist in this modern age. It is hard to believe that contests that gave extra points for killing pregnant female coyotes would be an acceptable part of our culture.  Nor would anybody believe that a killing contest would be a reasonable management tool for ranchers. I wrote a story once about such a contest. I traveled to Adin, California where hunters hid their mass kill from my prying eyes.

Last week the California Fish and Game Commission voted 4 to 1 to end such killing contests. Once again, just like the mountain lion hunting ban that passed by citizen initiative back in 1990, California is leading the nation. We are rethinking our relationship to predators. And we are a better state for doing so.

When the coyotes in my neighborhood sang for me that night after the ban was established, I like to think they did so in celebration of the Game Commission’s ban. And to share that joy, I howl with them.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Missing My Hikes....

For the last six months I have worked full-time. More than full time. I get up much too early, drive Kylie 45 minutes to her school, then spend the rest of the day driving around the better part of four counties. I leave at 7 am; I get home, generally, between 6 and 7 pm. Then I have to chart the day's activities.

I feel like a long haul truck driver who sees psychiatric patients.

The job is fulfilling but the sitting in the car, followed by sitting with clients, is killing me. And the pay is certainly less than what I am used to.

The worst part is that I miss my walks with my dogs. Without that grounding exercise, I feel like I am quietly losing a part of who/what I am. I miss the daily romp in my woods. I miss seeing my incense cedar tree, that poor exile tree that should be living a few thousand feet higher. And I miss the trek down to the bottom of the canyon.

And I miss my time to read. How does a person go through life without reading two or three books a week?

I took this job because I was sick of traveling and not being home at night. I fixed one problem (not being home at night) but the other problem remains not fixed. I travel much more now.

Little by little, this job is sucking the life out of me. I feel less creative. Ungrounded. Stale.

It will get better when daylight lasts a little longer and I can take the dogs out for our hikes in the evening. It is depressing to note just how long it will be until that is possible. Probably March. Three more months of being Natureless is unacceptable.

I have to figure out how to change this or I will go insane. I can't spend this much time seeing the world from behind a windshield.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The End of Coyote Killing Contests in California...

A couple years ago I ran across a photo of the coyote hunt up in Adin. The photo showed around 50 dead coyotes, laid out in the middle of the town of Adin. Dozens of hunters posed with the dead coyotes in the picture. The photo was on a website advertising a coyote killing contest. The photos appalled me and I immediately made plans to go write about that hunt. I missed the hunt that year: 2012. But in 2013 I made it there. In the meantime, I sent out the link to the hunt to everyone I knew. I wrote to the Center for Biological Diversity and several other enviro groups in an effort to get the attention of people regarding this barbaric hunt.

A couple weeks before that 2013 hunt, one of the links I sent out caught the attention of Camilla Fox at Project Coyote and several other wildlife organizations. They hurriedly launched a petition drive to end the hunt. They were unsuccessful; the hunt went on.

I had already planned on being there. I got the gig from the CNR and, foolishly, brought Kylie with me to cover the event. It was a tense place to be and Kylie and I nearly got arrested.

Today the California Fish and Game Commission voted 4 to 1 to end Coyote Killing Contests in California. In fact, they ended almost all wildlife killing contests. I am proud to have played a small role in ending these barbaric hunts.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Going Ornish...

Two days of eating low fat, delicious, mostly vegetarian food created by Joni and all is well. We call it "Going Ornish" after the program and diet advocated by the Low Fat Guru: Dr. Dean Ornish. He also advocates exercise and meditation in addition to the diet. My job and the demands of life get in the way of exercise. I sit for a living. Today from 7 am until bedtime. Tonight I had the quiet meditation of rain drops falling on our tin roof.

But we have begun making the change.