Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Life in the country

Our good friends, Dan and Lorraine Olsen, just headed home to California after a week with us country folk.

Getting to re-experience this place through their eyes was a reminder of just how close we live to nature, here and in Mexico.

It's definitely the Fitzfox version of summer camp.

Most mornings Arnold the Wonder Dog and I head out for a walk around 'the block' --- a two mile trek down the road that follows the lake, up the stop-your-heart switchbacks, past the old cemetery, over the creek and back down the vineyards to home.

We're usually spotting for whatever wild critters might be out, Arnold to chase them, me to look for deer, a fox, a wild turkey, whatever shows up. We have to be out pretty early to see anything interesting.

Then we head down to the lake for our morning swim/bath, often discovering the remains of whatever our local coyote or other predator has left on our path to the dock --- chicken feathers, the head of a fawn, other unidentifiable feathered or furry critters on last night's dinner menu.

And then there's the unusual occurance: The night before last I was sound asleep by 11, exhausted by too much fun, when some stupid skunk decided to spray right below the window of our upstairs bedroom. Woke me up, cleared us right out of the room, eyes burning. Good thing Arnold was back with Brad for the night. Could have been a much worse story, including a lot of peroxide/baking soda and Dawn detergent baths in the night.

On our way to yoga Tuesday morning, Lorraine and I spotted an injured fox , back legs paralyzed and dragging itself across the road, probably having just been hit by a car. We flagged a neighbor driving down the hill who got out his rifle to put the poor fox out of its misery.

But not before I got Lorraine out of there, explaining that she was a vegetarian from the city and definitely not ready for this particular country experience.

In Sacramento or elsewhere, we'd just call some animal agency to 'deal with it.'

In the country, you deal with it.

That's pretty much true for all home maintenance too. People expect you know how to fix pretty much anything and everything around your own home. If you don't, you call a brother, a cousin, or a friend to help you out. While there is hired help around, it's really for the big jobs --- putting in a new septic system, maybe a remodel.

The rest is on you.

One of the bright spots this summer -- literally -- is an unusual number of bright red cardinals. From the porch we've been watching one female who been spending an inordinate amount of time checking herself out in the passenger-side mirror of our Lexus SUV.

She's not so much interested in using the mirrors of the 1996 Mercury.

I understand. I like the Lexus more too.

Most nights we stay home and cook because it's too dang far to consider driving into town for dinner, plus we have a better view than almost anywhere else we would go.

Despite the inconvenience of cooking at home -- really, it's the clean up that's the problem --- we have access to spectacular fruits and veggies (sweet corn! huge slicer tomatoes! apricots! peaches! squash!) from stands set up in front of the homes of local farmers, some asking us to stick the money into a locked box on the honor system.

Don't see much of the honor system in Sacramento or other cities.
Last fall at a Sacramento farmer's market I saw some guy steal money from a farmer's cash box , leaping over the counter like a gymnast and then racing through city streets like a jack rabbit.


The biggest downside to country living, for me, is getting shackled to my car, as lovely as it is. If you have an actual destination, whether it's a grocery store, doctor's appointment, an evening of music, you have to drive (or go by boat) a pretty long ways.
It's a minimum of 15 miles to the grocery store, usually twice that to any other destination, and a whole lot of time out of my day.

I love the convenience of the city when we can walk, bike, take public transportation.

But what I would give up is the quiet roar of the cicadas at night, the bird choir that greets us about 5 o'clock in the morning, watching a storm roar across the lake while we wait to hear the cracking of large limbs or trees around the house.

And we'd miss the privacy of a couple of acres and a 40-mile lake to buffer us from the rest of civilization.

We're sometimes surprised mornings to hear the crunch of someone's feet on the gravel road in front of our house as they take an early morning loop around the block for exercise. And heaven help someone who drives up to our place and isn't looking for us.

Right now another storm is ready to give us a good wallop of thunder and lightening and hopefully some rain. We're heading outside to make sure everything is sufficiently battened down so we won't find the adirondack chairs flung over the cliff, or the buckets up in the bushes.

Then we'll sit and watch the light show as it comes across the lake, right before it hits us and we have to move inside for the night.

We have less than four weeks before we head back to what many of us consider civilization. I'm going to savor this while I can before I head back to the city and start walking over to Trader Joe's to get our nightly already-prepared dinner.

No clean up required.

See ya'll soon!