Saturday, April 13, 2013

Driveway Moment

On a full-moon night,  the moon rises at the same time the sun sets.
Half our world is sky. At least when you are in the country and have a 360-degree view and there are clouds to remind you of that huge volume of space above your head. Or stars, sunsets, moon rises, and sometimes comets. The driveway to the Dipper ranch house is a road that shows up on a US Geological Survey topographic map from the late 1800's whereas none of the other modern day country roads existed then. Other people must have walked, ridden or driven down this road and gazed upwards. Some of them must have come through the gate, around the corner and gasped to see the full moon rise just as I did the other night.

Spring has arrived and it brings the changing of the herpetofauna guard.  The lizards are coming out and bowing to the sun and the amphibians are finishing their aquatic breeding and returning to the dark, damp earth.

Western fence lizard sunning on a bright skull.
So far only a small gopher snake has showed up at the Dipper Ranch, sunning itself on the driveway. I don't expect to see any rattlesnakes until we have three consecutive hot days. I don't think it is so much the exact temperature during any one day that brings the snakes out, but the continuous warmth that keeps the nights from getting too cold.

Little coast range newt finds a newt-sized cave in a pile of rocks.
At night and cloudy days, the California newts are leaving their breeding ponds and streams. I see them heading uphill and finding places to hide underground for the dry season.

An adult coast range newt wedged into the cracks between rocks.
It's been another dry spring, so I've been checking the cattle's water supply across the property, and coming across old bones that stand out when the grass is short and bright green.  Mostly cattle bones but sometimes deer.

Hip sled discovered while checking out the excellent stand of  beardless wild rye (Leymus triticoides), a native bunchgrass in the background.
If we frequently saw human bones lying about as we went about out daily duties, would we take better care of ourselves and each other? Would we have a longer sense of time?

California hedgenettle (Stachys bullata) sprouting in a bone nest at a long forgotten fenceline.
A few weeks ago when I was following a game trail, I found an old road on the property that I didn't know about and that doesn't show up on any of our maps. The road has slid into creeks and is covered with fallen trees, but still you can see its backbone connecting the deep woods above Peters Creek with the upper pastures and barns. It's humbling to think you know a property well and to get a surprise like that. I should know better because every few months I get a new reminder that people have been here over one hundred years.

Old cow skull wedged in a creek along the old road. How long does it take for these skulls to break down?
Somedays, it seems like cow ghosts are everywhere in the dark forest.
We've been seeing mountain lion sign on the ranch, especially on an abandoned stage coach road, and now we are wondering if the lion uses Peter's Creek as a way to move long distances through the Santa Cruz Mountains.

A big pile of leaves and freshly uprooted grass seedlings behind a double track of bare dirt with toe marks - possibly where a mountain lion scraped the ground with its hind feet to cover scat or a urine scent marking.
The Roper and gang showed me what a lion scrape looks like, and now I almost always see a new scrape when I go down there.  You just never know what you might see coming around a corner on these old roads, might be something that has been there all along.

Just another moon cresting the Santa Cruz Mountains in the fog.


  1. Three hours after posting this, I got that tingly feeling and walked over to a sunny corner of the barn and sure enough, there was a rattlesnake sticking its head out the barn door. That rattler has now been relocated about a mile away. So begins the reptilian season.

  2. That first photo is amazing. Moonrise/sunset in the same shot. Exquisite.


Comments let me know to keep on sharing what's happening at the Dipper Ranch. You can either use an existing account or choose "Anonymous" by clicking the arrow after the "Comment As" box. Your comment will appear after a delay to allow screening of spam.