Jan 28, 2013

Welcome guests and unwanted pests

Jana and I have a favorite Japanese noodle restaurant in L.A. called Daikokuya. We’ve been going there for about three-and-a-half years. These noodles are so delicious that we are willing to stand outside in any weather for up to an hour.  When we show up hungry we will go get imagawayaki from another restaurant to snack on while we wait for our name to be called. There has always been this one guy that works there that has really stood out to us. Aside from being a stylish looking charismatic dude even while wearing the Daikokuya T-shirt uniform, he’s extra friendly, and cordial to everyone, and he does his best to make his job fun. Something he does that cracks me up is that he calls your name to be seated in a very deep humorous Japanese to English subtitle kind of voice. It reminded me of my travels in Japan where some of the folks I talked with would exaggerate American English that they learned from television or movies.

On our last visit for noodles before the big move we finally got to meet him. Isn’t that how it always works? He noticed Jana’s turquoise necklace and from that we found out that he loves to travel to Northern AZ and has many similar interests about spirituality and a deep love of the land and nature here. We told him where we were moving and that he should come visit. He did! Chihiro was on a “soul trip” as he calls it driving around the Southwest deciding where he’s going as he goes, connecting with nature, shooting video, taking photos, and collecting objects for a 3-d journal.

The day he came to visit we contacted each other through email and bad cell reception and finally managed to meet him at the highway so he could follow us on the long dirt road to the ranch. We had coffee outside and chatted for a while. It felt really comfortable and easy. It was as if all three of us had known each other for a long time. After coffee we took him on the tour of all the wacky structures around here and then for a nice long hike to some of the prehistoric sites on the property. After sunset we ate dinner watched some of his urban “hip-hop/jazz” dance videos that he dances in and edits himself.  

Chihiro is one talented guy. Besides dancing and video editing he makes beautiful jewelry using leather and gems, but doesn’t really try to sell them. As a true artist he wants to be able to make jewelry and not worry so much about its marketable value. He gave Jana and I a few gems from his trip to Quartzsite and each a hand made necklace. He had planned to see the Grand Canyon at sunrise so shortly after a delicious and spicy dinner that Jana made he headed back to Flagstaff so he could save time getting there in the morning. The visit was short but memorable, and when he left Jana and I both looked at each other in amazement and agreed about how beautifully absurd the world can be sometimes.

Chihiro doing his thing while I admire the colors of the painted desert at sunset.  Photo ©Jana Davis.

The Temple of Life

As you can imagine it’s not all fun and games around here. On Friday before our guests arrived for the temple building work party I took a shot at unclogging one of the toilets using a drum auger. Our toilets are like the kind that you find on boats with a foot pedal that allows you to choose the amount of water you want in the bowl before you flush. Jana and I have perfected the art of minimal toilet paper use, so it is really odd that we are getting the tell-tale “bloop” of water out of the bowl hole before the water goes down after you flush. The way this auger thing works is that you manually feed a snake down the bowl through the pipes and use the handle to crank the snake so it spins around inside the pipes and loosens the unwanted material. As usual, I am in constant multi-tasking mode around here so I started boiling water to flush the pipes after I snaked and figured that while that was boiling I would have time to shave and then take a shower immediately after doing the dirty work. After my shave I hand fed the snake as far as it would go, whipped it a round, (TWSS) and then reeled it back in cranking the crank as it came up. Somehow the snake got bound up wrong inside the drum and sprung out of the top whipping human shit across my bare chest, all over the walls and most noticeably onto my upper lip. I must be learning patience because instead of getting mad or even grossed out my first thought was, “Ooh, this could make good reading in the blog.”

The malevolent  drum auger with the snake popped out of the top.

How can I be upset when 14 or so wonderful people will be arriving to help build a temple in our yard? The Temple of Life will be a non-denominational art encrusted temple designed by Mr. God (aka Royce aka Zebulon) that is currently getting built during work parties that we schedule whenever we have time and the weather permits. Once the structure of the temple is finished we will invite anyone that that is interested to create art on their own designated sized panels. The panels will then get attached to all of the inner and outer walls. Other neat bits of art and cool looking trash will be added to accentuate the temple as we go.

The temple of life as it stands now after the work party. There will be another level added with a skylight that you can walk on and a fire cauldron hanging from the ceiling. Does your temple have a fire cauldron?

It rained parts of the night Friday and it was sketchy as to whether we would get to work on it in the morning, but despite the cold rain and slippery wood we all went for it anyway. There was a bit of a sense of urgency to get the second floor finished and sheeted because we get winds up to 80-100 mph up here and they have already blown down a weekends worth of work on the temple before. Because of the winds we have to build the structure to withstand a hurricane. We spare no expense on nails, it’s anchored to the ground with deep blocks of concrete, reinforced with steel plates, and the framing is solid. Our last mistake was that we didn’t sheet the framing before the wind arrived so this time we had to get the framing sheeted with plywood since it may be a while before the next work party. Thank Mr. God we did it.

Building a temple in the rain. Did you know that God is a middle aged guy that lives in Walnut Creek and wears a white cowboy hat. 
Saint Mo.

We got the plywood nailed in every 6 inches around all the sides yesterday before the wind picked up and started knocking over my extension ladder before I could climb up it. Right now as I type the winds are really blowing. Our wind turbine is screaming like an F-16 taking off. I’m wondering if it’s about to spin apart and slice though the house!

Lawnmower rats?

There is a greenhouse attached to the South side of the house that is full of plants. It is Jana’s intention to refurbish it and start growing edibles as well as her impressive collection of plant children that she brought here from LA. She even has a baby Redwood. Right now the greenhouse is full to the gills with spider plants and San Pedro cactus. It’s positioned to heat up the house so we open doors on each side every morning to let the heat from the plants and the barrels of water heated from the sun in to the main rooms.

One morning I heard, “That little fucker got my succulents!” coming from the direction of the sunroom. The sunroom is where Jana had her personal plants staged before she could move them into the greenhouse. We knew we had cute little mice. One was trapped in the dog food bag and crawled up my arm all the way to my shoulder after I reached in to scoop up some food. I sort of swatted it back into the bag and then captured it and took it outside. It was cold out there and it just nuzzled next to my boot so I gave it a little pet between its shoulder blades before leaving him to fend for himself.

Another night Jana and I had a total Chevy Chase experience trying to trap a little mouse that we saw run under the pantry door. Jana was standing in the back of the closet on top of water bottles as she flushed him towards the doorway where I was poised and ready with Patrick the turtle’s fish tank net. I dove as it effortlessly hopped over the box I was using to block his way. I missed him by a hair as he flung himself under the cupboard and I landed on my side.

We think that besides the little mice we have a bigger problem. We have heard stories of a rat so fierce in these parts that they call them… Lawnmower rats. Most attempts previous residents have made gardening outside were thwarted by what might actually be pack rats or wood rats but because of the level of destruction they cause they are now branded lawnmower rats for obvious reasons.

The lawnmower rat ate several of Jana’s succulents down to nubs so she spent a few whole days moving spider plants out of the greenhouse so she could move her babies out of danger. Or so she thought. Now the “little fucker” is eating San Pedro and ate a chunk out of her Lithops or “living stone” succulent. We have set several live traps in the house. Wish us luck.

Well if you're going to name something a succulent of course its going to get eaten. 
I wonder if lawnmower rats can have entheogenic experiences.

I saw this painting in the "Art Corner" of the gas station half way into town. This is what I imagine it looks like inside Jana's head. Shouldn't every gas station have an art corner?

Even the cows have become an issue. Lately James Turrell’s cows have gotten fearless and have come right up to the house to eat the dried up Datura and tumble weeds. We hear that selling tumble weeds can be a very lucrative business. The dogs can usually scare off the cows but there are just too many around to chase all of the time. Apparently ranchers can shoot our dogs even on our own property if they think they are disturbing the cows. The owner mentioned that sometimes they even take the dogs from the ranch to their house during the calf season because there have been rumors of dogs taking out calves and eating them. Years ago one of their previous dogs was shot and died several days after it came home with its guts hanging out. I don’t know what I would do if I saw Daisy or Duke come home like that.

From inside the temple you can see a giant herd of pests meandering back to their stable to get water.

One night while working late in the art studio I heard an eerie wail like a crying old woman and realized I was hearing a coyote. The dogs started barking and freaking out and the wailing became more intense. I walked outside with an axe to protect my pooches from ravenous packs of coyotes. Duke and Daisy ran up to me all happy to see me, but when the wailing started again they both took off like little guided missiles toward the sound. I figured that they have lived this long out there messing with wild animals and that they obviously didn’t seem to need my help. So I went inside and listened to the concert of critters go on for hours into the night.

The next morning when I went to feed the dogs they came up to the porch to say hi but didn’t even touch their food. I have found dog like skulls in their “lost and found” area and thought that they may have dug up the bones of previous ranch dogs. Now I think those skulls are coyote and that these lovable pups are tougher than I thought.

…And so are we. We’re making this ranch thing happen slowly but surely. We’re hosting events and making art while battling the elements as well as learning to live with them. There are some intense moments, but I’m taking a tip from Chihiro and I’m gradually learning to roll with things, have as much fun as I can, and to make the most of whatever situation I’m in.

Daisy and Duke. Two of the happiest most free little doggies I've ever had the pleasure to meet.

This is what happens to criminals around here... We talk baby talk to them, give them some dog food, and release them miles away from our house.

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