Friday, May 16, 2014

Bird House & Barn

...a Farm Report

You may have heard we are having some fires in San Diego County, most of them in North County, our neck of the woods. Everything started Wednesday morning, and sadly we didn't have much doubt that the "optimal" conditions would attract abhorrent behavior, like arson. For a couple of days we have had record high temperatures, and compounding the danger: high winds... the Santa Ana winds that blow in powerful gusts, from east to west. They are hot and dry, and can fan even a small spark into a Firestorm. Our area is susceptible, but the fire season opening in May, instead of October... this is unprecedented, and distressing. We may be in for an awful summer and fall.

We do what we can to stay safe, and comfortable. Children, the elderly, and our pets are big concerns. Schools are closed. The air quality is lousy, the heat is dangerous, some schools are evacuation centers, we need the roads to stay clear for emergency vehicles. We are advised to stay indoors, to keep windows closed. Air conditioning? Not as common here, where we usually don't have much need for it. A friend posted on FB that her home was a toasty 87 degrees Fahrenheit. The smell of smoke is strong, even miles from the fire... I was woken by such a strong smell of smoke, I jumped out of bed, thinking our own yard must be on fire. Stress! I've seen worse, but it's eerie seeing everything coated in a fine dusting of ash, sooty.

And what can we do for our animals? Some schools, shelters, and even stores, like Petco, have been opening their doors to animals that have been evacuated. It's a challenge to accommodate the larger animals, and many parts of our county are home to horses, and livestock, so in fires, there is always need for help with this issue. Where people are sheltering in place, or just waiting things out, like us, it's really important to take our own precautions, and extra precautions for our pets, especially the kind that live outdoors.

This was the view, looking north-east from our yard. It was around midday, and the Cocos Fire was flaring up again, as afternoon winds began kicking up. The darkest smoke indicates new burn. At this point the fire was being fanned by wind gusts, and also creating its own wind, so it had become wildly unpredictable... a real hardship for our firefighters.

And seeing flames, in the bright daylight? Not a good thing. Those are huge walls of fire, and in these moments, it was plain to see they were pushing our way.

Though we are miles away from the Cocos Fire, the concern is embers blowing, these fires can jump from point to point, travel the canyons and open spaces. It's not too alarmist to recognize the potential of these fires quickly moving into new areas.

This column of smoke is north and east of us, and being blown west.

96 degrees, and dry, dry, dry. These are some h0t chicks.

And this is a h0t bun. Poor Malcolm. Poor chickens. Poor goats!

Ada and Tasha, in the shade. I asked them to look pitiful for the camera.

Tasha rolled back her eyes, and looked at me with a woeful nod.

Ada, not to be outdone, flopped her head over, and belched.

Poor goaters. We kept their water cooled down with ice, and brought them cool cabbage, and crisp apples. They have shade, and we let them free-range in their larger enclosure, so they could choose new spots to lounge in.

For the chickens and the rabbits... I add ice to the hutch, and they sit beneath the wire mesh and shake and shiver under the melting ice. Then I turn our hose bib on, only a bit... it kind of has an ideal malfunction: the water sprays horizontally, with a spritzing effect. This mist spreads out across their enclosure, and makes the heat a lot more bearable.

Malcolm Rabbit, getting his cooling spritz.

One moment everyone is listless, panting, and weary, and seconds later they perk up.

Emma Thompson, standing in the cool mist, returns to scratching, and pecking, and feeling like a cool chick, again.

Even Malcolm Rabbit came out of his stupor, ate some cabbage, and parked his face into the spray.

Orange, again, but not flames, this time. Maybe you can make out a teeny white speck to the right and above the fire retardant? Seeing the helicopters and Supertankers drop as much as 12,000 gallons of water and fire retardant is an amazing sight.

Another drop. The air support for putting out the fires has been a huge boon.

And there's no way we can forget the work and dedication of the men and women working on the ground. Firefighters from all over California are here to help with the many fires burning in San Diego County, and local volunteers are saving homes, too... special shout-out to George S, in his first season with the Elfin Forest crew! We feel profound gratitude for all of these efforts and support.

The sky is so deep and blue, and there's not a cloud to be seen. But, we would love some clouds, a deep thick marine layer, some fog! Bring it on May Gray!

And here at the Bird House, who suffers most of all?? Oh, darling Foo! He has succumbed to the heat, the smoke, the short supply of tuna! Poor, poor kitty. Poor polka spotted Dalmatian kitty.


Sara at Come Away With Me said...

Poor hot animals! We are all waiting for the marine layer . . . just looked out to the west and there's a breeze coming in now, it's a tad cooler than the temperature. There is haze on the horizon over the ocean but I don't know if it is smoke or clouds. A bit too early to tell. Praying the fire does not get too close to you.

judy in ky said...

Foo looks very melodramatic! Seriously, I am thinking of you and your family and your animals. It's so scary seeing that so close to you.

Alison said...

Natalie, it's somewhat terrifying to think of you seeing walls of flame from your backyard. You've been in my thoughts, and I appreciate your posting an update. I hope you and the fire crews get some relief soon!

Anonymous said...

Great photos, great commentary, Natalie.


warren said...

That's fairly amazing in a bad way. The pics that you and other people have taken are just stunning...

Anonymous said...

Only now am I seeing your pictures, and feeling the scariness. I'm still worried about the whole state - the whole West! - this summer. I'm glad you and your animals (evidently) stayed safe. God help us!