Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Frog on a Blog

So. Yesterday, May and Irene were playing in the backyard and eating frozen goodies. Irene got the bright idea that the empty wrappers and wooden sticks should be dropped into a window well (yes, our wells are uncovered - we live dangerously around here). May, The Policeman, came running inside to report the offense to Mom (Chief of Police). I told Irene that she needed to fish the trash out of the window well, and that Daddy would help. :-)

While they were down there, they discovered a small frog. Chris (Daddy) rescued it out of the window well and May then took charge of it. She was DELIGHTED! An empty peanutbutter jar was fetched and a small amount of water was added to it. Plop! The frog was added to the jar.

The girls brought the frog to me in my office and I fell in love (not the first time I have fallen for a Frog, mind you). He was just so ... cute!

I asked Chris if we might keep him. The girls added, in chorus ... "Please, Daddy, PLEASE!!"

He said yes, and they all hugged him! It was a picture that will live in my memory for a long time.

I asked them what te frog's name was. (I was thinking something like Kermit or Keroppi). They agreed on Michael. OK. Michael, it is. (You know, it kind of suits him.)

May and I went to Wal-Mart and got a cheap and basic 10-gallon aquarium glass for Michael's new home. We gathered a long log from the woods near our home. I taught her how to select a good log that was not dry-rotted or eaten through by bugs. We brought our treasures home, and Chris added the rocks in the bottom, made two reasonably sized logs from our long one, added a small container of water and an overturned bowl for a hidding place, and fashioned a cover (complete with a light from his fish supplies). WAH-LA! A new home for Michael.

Chris encouraged Michael to leave his happy home in the peanutbutter jar and try out his new home. He liked it!

May and Irene ran outside and gathered a bunch of (what I call grasshoppers, but I am told they may include crickets - how do you tell the difference??) for Michael to eat.

It was FUN to watch him snap them up and eat them! He seemed very happy.

Throughout the evening, Michael enjoyed his peaceful new home, and many visits were made by May, Jane and Irene (as well as Chris and myself, and the occasional cat) to peek in on Michael.

This morning, May got him out "to pet him" and he peed on her hand. LOL! She placed him in his water pond and went to wash her hands with soap (as is the rule after any of the girls touch him).

He is just so danged CUTE. The pictures don't do him justice.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thank You

Do not ask to have your life's load lightened,
But for Courage to endure.

Do not ask for fulfillment in all your life,
But for patience to accept frustration.

Do not ask for perfection in all you do,
But for the wisdom not to repeat mistakes.

And finally, do not ask for more,
Before saying "Thank You"
For what you have already received.
-- Brenda Short

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My Hoya Plants

In 1989, I moved back to Colorado from northern California. I stashed all my houseplants in the moving truck. It was November. As you might imagine, nearly all the plants froze to death.

I have two hoya plants now, that either survived that freezing move, or my Mother gave them to me when I got settled into my new home in Colorado. I cannot remember now, (Years later, when I moved to Tokyo, I gave away all my houseplants to friends. My bonsai tree lived at my oldest sister's house for a year. She did a great job with it! My tiny Redwood trees lived at my younger sister's home. She did a great job with them! I got the bonsai, the Redwoods, and a few other plants back when we moved back to Colorado.)

One of the hoyas has never bloomed. It sits on the same plant shelf unit as the blooming one, but it is on a lower shelf and it does not have a basket handle to climb. I think they love to climb.

The one on the top shelf, inside the big basket THRIVES. I rarely water it. I mean maybe once a month, The less I water it, the more it blooms. The flowers are really interesting. They start out looking like a dried up part you might want to pick off because it is ugly. Then tiny pink star buds appear. They grow in size until they BURST from the center of each one into a waxy star flower. The flowers hang in clusters. The smell is so sweet and powerful! Especially in the late evening, for some reason. Each flower then drips nectar. Then, the blooms wilt, the petal edges curl up, and begin turning brown and drying up. Once fully brown, the cluster of spent flowers falls one-by-one to the floor.

I wish I could describe this lovely plant to you in a way that you could truly understand. It is the most interesting plant! The smell is heady ... intoxicating ... if you are of a mind. Annoyingly strong ... if you are not of a mind.

Here are some photos I took yesterday, to show the flowering process:

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Chris update

Chris is coming home tomorrow for at least two days! YIPPEEEE!!! I say tomorrow, but it is actually today late this afternoon. It is always tomorrow if you have not been to sleep yet, right?

The team he has been serving has asked him to join them! As I mentioned previously, the official fire season in California (which May mistakenly refers to as Canada. Need to review a map with that girl! LOL!) lasts another 4 months. I heard Gov. Schwartsenager (I know I mangled that spelling and I do not care - you know who I mean) say the fire season in CA really goes all year 'round these days. Ugh. :-(

Nighty night.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bug Wranglers

Irene and May ... Bug Wranglers. In this case, it is about 7 small grasshoppers. They have caught all sorts of bugs this summer. With their bare hands. Very cool.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Chris update

Chris is still able to call me one or two times a day. He says things are jumpin' there from 5:30am to 10:30pm. Busy busy. This morning, he called me and asked me if I got a reverse 911 call about a lion (yes, an African lion and not our normal mountain lions) that was on the loose not too far from our house. No, I didn't. When I looked into it more, it is actually more like 7-10 miles from our house. So, we are too far away to get the 911 call warning us to stay inside and keep our kids and animals inside.

There is a wild cat sanctuary out there that has over 100 wild cats. They say they are not missing any lions, but where else could it have come from?? The zoo is FAR FAR away and they are not missing a lion. I would not put it past any of the more independent thinking folks out here in the country to have a lion. But, who knows? At any rate, it was fun to listen to the scanner and hear all the county sheriff and state wildlife people chasing around trying to find the lion. They had two separate calls from people who had seen the lion.

What a great natural habitat we have to offer to this lion! Expansive grasslands. Small ponds. Plenty of antelope (we see them EVERY time we go anywhere around our home. There used to be 4 living in a field about a 5 minute walk from our house. But, lately I only see one.

Maybe the lion had gotten closer than we think? hahahahahaha

I heard on the scanner that a "professional archer" was coming in from Raton, New Mexico. Very interesting. I wonder if THAT will make the print/TV news media??

As to the fires in California, where Chris is serving, here is the latest update:

Canyon Complex Fire

Acres burned: 30,812
Percent contained: 60
Personnel: 1,538
Structures Lost: 1

Pacific Northwest National Incident Management Team 3 assumed the management of the Canyon Complex at 6 a.m. Thursday, July 10, 2008.

Below are details on selected individual fires in the Canyon Complex:

Priority fires have been established in the following order:
Friend-Darnell-3,842 acres and 60% contained;
South-Frey-11,591 acres and 55%;
Scotch-4,645 acres and 5%;
Belden-478 acres;
Little-897 acres and 30% contained.

The Canyon Complex is now reporting a total of 41 fires; the Butte Complex is reporting acreage for the Belden Fire. Fires contained-22, of which 3 are staffed and the remaining are air patrolled;

Uncontained- 8, of which 7 are staffed; UTL-11.

Yesterday's Activities:
Friend-Darnell Fire: Good progress was achieved over the last 24 hours. Less active fire behavior was observed; as a result, evacuees were able to return home in Milsap Bar, Berry and Brush Creek. Despite moderating weather patterns fire danger remains extreme.
South-Frey Fire: In slight contrast, active fire spread was occurring late in the day due to heavy fuel loadings, steep slopes, and fuel moistures typical of late August. Line construction was completed on the southeastern end of the fire.
Scotch Fire: Firefighters concentrated their efforts on locating fireline and continuing construction. This effort was difficult due to steep terrain, limited accessibility and resources.
Little, Bear and Fox Fires: These wildfires continue to burn, however, fire growth slowed today on account of less severe weather. Firefighters patrolled existing containment lines. On the Little Fire, crews worked to locate placement of fire line on roads above Little North Fork and Feather River.
Belden Fire: Crews monitored existing line and continued to mop up in the areas along Chips Creek.
Cold Fire: Successful patrol and mop-up operations occurred. This fire remains 95% contained.

Weather and Fire Behavior: Very warm and very dry conditions will continue throughout the week resulting from high pressure. During morning hours fire spread will be reduced. As temperatures warm and relative humidity decreases during the afternoon and evening hours, fire behavior and spread will increase. Fire activity will be slightly reduced due to smoke coverage which results in the inability for the sun to directly preheat fuels.

Today's Planned Actions:
Friend-Darnell Fire: Mop-up operations and securing unburned islands of fuel will be the focus of today's work shift. Crews will be working to suppress any hot spots located in close proximity to the line. During afternoon hours, increased fire behavior and rapid spread are possible due to warmer temperatures.
South-Frey Fire: Firefighters will continue to concentrate their efforts on the southeast corner, continuing to hold fire north of Frey Creek. New fireline will be constructed starting at Frey Creek working south and west to Feather River.
Burnout operations may occur along existing lines on the east side if conditions are favorable. On the southern portion line will be patrolled and mopped up with crews working to suppress hot spots adjacent to the line.
Belden Fire: Mop up will occur along Chips Creek. Air resources will be utilized if needed to keep the fire between Indian Creek and Chips Creek. If visibility is low, aircraft may not be utilized to minimize risks to pilots and firefighters.
Little and Scotch Fires: Firefighters will be constructing fireline and holding existing containment lines using existing road systems. On the Little Fire line will be placed above Little North Fork of Feather River. Crews will work to hold the Scotch Fire north of the 94 road and place fireline on the west side.
French/Bear, Four Mile, Rock, and Chico Fires will be patrolled and little fire spread is expected. On the French Bear, firefighters will work to construct line by connecting existing roads in order to increase containment.

Restrictions: Highway 70 is open to through traffic and will be escorted by a pilot car. From Grandview to Pulga Maintenance Station traffic is restricted to one way travel. Big Bend Road and Highways 89 and 70 at the Greenville "Y" are now open. As a reminder follow all traffic escorts and law enforcement directions as firefighter will be working to remove hazardous trees. For road formation call CalTrans at 1-800-427-7623 or visit . Residents with identification may access their homes in Milsap Bar, Brush and Berry Creek. Private businesses and resorts in forest communities, including facilities around Bucks Lake, are open. Forest closures remain in effect to protect visitors in areas of active fire.
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is closed from the Plumas National Forest northern boundary to the LaPorte-Quincy Highway (to the northeast of Little Grass Valley Reservoir). For additional information please visit
Forest Road 22N94 is closed at its intersections with 22N27 (west of Little Grass Valley Reservoir). This area closure covers public land, including trails, bounded by (1) the North and Middle Forks of the Feather River toward the PCT, the Bucks Lake Wilderness; and (2) areas surrounding the Cold Fire in eastern Plumas County. Specific campground closures include: Milsap Bar, Little North Fork, Rogers Cow Camp, Feather Falls and Hartman Bar. Wood cutting and fire restrictions are still in place across the entire Plumas National Forest.

This Fire Update was produced by the Canyon Complex Information Center staffed by PNW Team 3 Incident Management Team.

End of update.

I think it is amazing that there are 41 fires in this complex and only 7 are being staffed. I think the coordination of this must be a thing of wonder! I am proud of Chris for being an important part of it!

Back to taming my three little lions.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Wildland fire fighters

I was just looking through some news photos on the California wildfires this season. Many of the ones from the Big Sur fire are simply stunning. There are crews there from Colorado and their pale green hard hats stand out in contrast in front of the charred and burning timber. The photos are truly amazing.

I came upon this one, and it brought tears to my eyes. In 1989, I lived in northern California (just north of Klamath and south of Crescent City). I spent countless hours walking through the huge redwood trees. Deep into lush forests. Fog and mist surrounding me. Gentle giants above and around me. I had redwoods in my backyard. I have stood inside many, many redwood trees that suffered burns similar to this one. It may very well survive this burn and continue growing! I know how strong and resiliant redwoods are. And, still ... it makes my heart physically hurt to see this tree burning.

And, I have to say that I love these two men in this picture. I know nothing of them. But, I know their hearts. They are heroes.

Chris has much of the very same gear as these two have. Same pants. Same shirts. Same packs. Same picks.
Same heart.
Can you imagine how hot this gear is in weather in the upper 90's? How heavy the gear and equipment? How thick the air? How frustrating the work?
God, keep all these firefighters safe and let their work be true and swift.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wildfire update

Chris has his Blackberry with him and is able to make limited/short cell phone calls and communicate via SHORT emails. The girls do MUCH better when he calls them before they go to bed and they each get some Daddy Time. Very cool.

He says things are going well at the fires and a new crew comes in today. He helped yesterday with the comunications regarding medical evacuation of a Hotshot who sliced his toe nearly off. Ouch. He also said that there had to be some evacuations of homes dues to a new fire.

Here is an update from this morning:

Last updated: Thu, 7/10/08 10:15AM

Acres: 25,019 acres
Resources: 1,231 personnel
Containment: 57%
Resources: 28 crews
5 helicopters
67 engines
13 dozers
18 water tenders

Pacific Northwest National Incident Management Team 3 assumed the management of the Canyon Complex at 6 a.m. Thursday, July 10, 2008.

Yesterday's Activities: Firefighters made significant progress constructing containment lines around the Friend-Darnell Fire northeast of Lake Oroville. A spot fire was contained on the north side of the 2,877 acre blaze. It is 0 percent contained. The Belden Fire, northwest of Bucks Lake Wilderness, was held between Indian and Chips Creeks. It is 459 acres and 50 percent contained. Precautionary and advisory evacuations for the community of Belden remain in effect. Crews on the Frey Fire contained two spot fires on the southwest corner. It is 2,912 acres and 43 percent contained. Yesterday, extreme fire behavior on the Scotch Fire produced a large smoke column. The Little, Scotch, Bear and Fox fires are being patrolled due to limited resources. Lines continue to hold on the Cold Fire, which is 95 percent contained.

Weather and Fire Behavior: A red flag warning for dangerous fire activity remains in effect through Friday morning. The Friend-Darnel, South and Frey fires retain potential for significant fire spread. Winds will continue from the west, with temperatures above 96 degrees and humidity around 17 percent. For local air quality conditions, visit or, for Butte County,

Today's Planned Actions: Line construction and structure protection continue on the north and south perimeters of the Friend-Darnell Fire. Frey Fire crews continue strengthening fire lines on the north side by burning them out while patrolling line on the south side. Patrol and mop-up will take place on the South Fire. The Scotch, Little, Bear and Belden Fires will be patrolled while awaiting more resources.

Restrictions: Highway 70 remains closed to the public from Highway 70/89 Greenville Y to Yankee Hill Road, but is open to residents from the junction of Greenville Y to the Indian Creek Junction west of Belden. Call CalTrans for road information at 1-800-427-7623.

Private businesses and resorts in forest communities, including facilities around Bucks Lake, are open. Forest closures remain in effect to protect visitors in areas of active fire.

The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is closed from the Plumas National Forest northern boundary to the LaPorte-Quincy Highway (to the northeast of Little Grass Valley Reservoir). For additional information please visit

Also closed is Forest Road 22N94 at its intersections with 22N27 (west of Little Grass Valley Reservoir). This area closure covers public land, including trails, bounded by (1) the North and Middle Forks of the Feather River toward the PCT, the Bucks Lake Wilderness; and (2) areas surrounding the Cold Fire in eastern Plumas County. Specific campground closures include: Milsap Bar, Little North Fork, Rogers Cow Camp, Feather Falls and Hartman Bar. The forest website – has additional information. Wood cutting and fire restrictions are still in place across the entire Plumas National Forest.
End of official update, and back to Holly yacking. I just have to say again ... Rogers Cow Camp. Sounds like a Farside comic. LOL! Remember the one where the (was it a deer or a cow?) stood up next to his buddy and the buddy said "Bummer of a birthmark" when he saw a big target on the other (deer's? cow's?) belly? LOL!

There is a GREAT website that gives a comprehensive overview of the wildfires in California:

The area where Chris is serving is called the Canyon Complex:

He is specifically located just northwest of the little city of Quincy, CA.

Whoever runs the Yubanet site is doing a great job!

More as I know more.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Chris does Wildland Fire Fighting at this time of year. Most of what he has been doing locally this year has been on a volunteer and short-term basis. He did do a three day (two night) duty at the Nash Ranch fire near Gurney, CO about a week ago. But, yesterday he got called up to go National (paid). He flew out just after noon yesterday to Reno for a fire that is in California, two hours west of Reno. The name of the fire is Canyon Complex and he is specifically in the Feather River area. He will head up the Communications. This is a task very familiar to him! The order to fill this “Critical Need” came specifically in his name! We theorize it may be from the time he spent at the BIG Hayman Fire in Colorado a few years back.

He will be gone for two weeks. They told him that the fire season in California will probably last the next 4 months, and he could work it if he is available.

HE IS VERY SAFE! He called late last night and said he is all set up at the area where they are operating the Communications. It is a small agricultural college called Feather River College. He says it is a great set up, and he has 7 or 8 guys working under him. They are quite a ways from the fire and have 6 or so repeaters set up. The Comm Center is set up in the Preschool area of the college. I said “PREschool??” I thought, ”Those crazy Aggies are nutty everywhere you go!” (apologies to any Aggies out there.) This must be the place:

We thought it was very interesting that the ticket person at the airline never checked his ID, and changed his ticket name (misspelled) without question, and he got his checked bag through without issue, even though it was a few pounds over weight! Maybe having a ticket issued to you for fire fighting gives special security privileges?

Daybefore yesterday, the fire was 15,000 acres and 60% contained.

The incident report is here:
They need to do an update.

There is more info (including maps) here:

May was really quiet early last evening, and when I went to find her, I found her sitting on the couch crying her little eyes out. She misses her Daddy SOOOOOOoooooooo much. She had a hard time getting to sleep, which is very unlike her. She finally fell asleep a little after ten. Poor baby. The 3 girls and I made a paper chain with one link for each day Daddy will be away, and a special final link for them to tear off WITH him the day he comes home. This is really a good tool for helping children get a feel for the passage of time when waiting for something important. They tear away one link each day and watch it get shorter till Daddy is home.

This made me think back to when May was little and Chris just started fighting wildfires. That picture at the top of this post is her when she was 2 years old, wearing her Daddy's new fire boots.

Here are some shots of Irene and May playing with some of his gear when May had "dress like a hero" day at school in the fall of 2007:

Longhorn Cattle Drive

Every year at this time, there are several local rodeos. One of them kicks off the celebration by driving a herd of longhorn cattle down a street downtown! IT IS TOO FUN! We have gone the last 5 years. They normally do not advertise it, and it surprises the people who happen to be nearby. Very fun! This year, they made it a little better known, and there were a lot more people there to see it.

It is hard to describe a cattle drive to a daughter who has only heard English for 11 months! LOL! She has seen some crazy things since joining our family! I told her it was a parade with cattle. hee!

Here are some of the things worth seeing from the day. We took Grandma with us. She seems to be feeling good these days! There was a little vehicle that was supposed to be a toaster with giant bread on top. Cute! I love the picture with the steer in the center who appears to be turned toward my camera with a smile on it's face. LOL! :-) There were soooooo many young calves this time. And, it was THE shortest cattle drive ever! One time when I was showing country acreage properties to Buyers in Elizabeth, Colorado, we were passed by a real cattle drive. There were TONS of cattle in that and it took them about 15 minutes to pass us. I loved it! The cattle drive downtown was over in moments. I tried not to blink, for fear of missing it! Still ... FUN!!