Discovering the world on $20 per day ......................

Post 332: A Day in the Life ....

The cockerel rises at 6am and that’s still an unholy hour before dawn. He rules the roost and I guess if he’s awake then he believes that everybody else should be up and about their own business too. The cockerel has at least two dozen needy hens to service so I guess that his ‘Business’ is quite self-explanatory and the number of small chicks recently seen running about the garden suggests that he’s really quite good at it. But then again, if all I had to do all day was crap, eat and screw, then I guess I’d love being on top of my game too …. mai pen rai

It seems that by the time I’ve brewed my second pot of strong coffee the cockerel has stopped calling. Everybody’s usually awake by then so I guess he’s just saving his strength and preparing to get busy with his ladies. When it’s light enough to walk outside without treading onto anything that might try to kill me, it’s time to feed the animals. A bale of alfalfa hay for the highland cows and the one long-legged lamb that they seem to have adopted. I hope they’re not attached to the nameless lamb because I honestly can’t see him making it past Thanks Giving, at least not with all of it’s delicious legs in place. We feed the animals and they feed us. Watermelon, the oldest of the cows, it heavily pregnant and should really have given birth to her latest calf a few weeks ago. Each morning I’m supposed to check her vulva for progress. But hell, I’m supposed to do a lot of things that I manage to avoid actually doing and life still seems to go on. Then, it’s two scoops of corn for the hens, half of whom now seem to be smiling, and a bucket of apples and corn for the wild pigs. One, two three. Overnight, none of them seem to have escaped through the hog wire and it’s time for me to head on up along Peachland Road to the building site on Lone Tree Ridge.

The Kawasaki starts at the first press of the button but coughs and splutters for a few minutes before I’m confident that it’s really alive. It’s wheezes like an iron lung on two wheels, but it’s a 1999 model and in human years that makes it well past middle-age. I can’t see the stars and that means that the fog has rolled in from the coast. It’s cold and it’s damp but the rising sun gives a special hue to the light and it’s really quite magical. The mist is like a thick insulating cloak that keeps every sound close to it’s source and I can here every single protest from the aging bike‘s engine. A little way along the road, just past the home with suspiciously high and well maintained fencing, the rich and acrid smell of skunk is overpowering. I’ve noticed exactly the same smell every morning for the past month and unless there‘s one very nervous skunk in the area, the smell is probably from a crop of ‘Mendocino Skunk‘ rather than any unfortunate mammal. Due to an unusually cool and wet Spring, this seasons marijuana harvest is late, but from the smell of things around here supply is about ready to equal demand. The liberal living people of the San Francisco Bay area can probably breath a heavy sigh of relief, help is on it‘s way. A shortage of supply has apparently resulted in higher prices but the stink of skunk suggests that there’s about to be a little fiscal easing for it‘s users. It’s probably not what Obama has in mind when he talks about ’Stimulus Packages’, but each to their own … mai pen rai

Turning away from Highway 128, the cattle grid clatters beneath the knobbly tyres and the tarmac gives way to dirt. The mist has dampened the ground and settled the dust making me look like less of a knob as I let the bike slide and pretend that I’m really in control. London commuters whine about standing up on the journey to work, but here in Mendocino County, I absolutely love it. For five glorious miles, the track snakes, climbs and falls between forests alternating between ancient oaks and even older giant redwoods. Every now and again the growing daylight floods onto the track and the forest gives way to vineyards. Three miles up this magnificent track, sometimes four but occasionally two, the bike breaks free of the cloud and the temperature instantly rises. I take a little time to look back down the steep hills and stare at the thick white blanket of cloud that rests over the people in the Valley. It hugs them like a ten-tog duvet and in company with the tallest redwood trees, I feel privileged to be above it. Beyond the clouds the dawn light is painting the sky the colour of ripened peaches and it seems that the sun is chasing the still perfectly visible moon away from it’s territory. It’s a sight that I never grow bored with but staring time is limited. I’ve got a house to help build and the coolness of the morning is the best and only time to work.

Higher in the hills a flock of turkey vultures is circling above some freshly fallen meal. I can’t see exactly what it is but I suspect that last night the hunters have been up in the hills and killing wild animals for fun. Hunting for food I can understand, but they shouldn’t call it ‘Sport’ until every deer is armed with a rifle and taught how to shoot back at the dudes wearing the big hats. Then you can call it a proper sport and I’d probably pay good money to watch it.

At around 7am, I turn the combination to unlock the gate and ride the final hundred yards up to the building site. It’s already quite warm, the air is still and silent but the serenity is about to change. Because this not just any building site, this is an American building site and all tools are powered not by humans but by electricity and compressed air. I rip the temporary generator into life and for the next eight hours of my day, I get to play with some of the biggest power tools that I’ve ever seen. If Carlsberg made building sites, then this would certainly be one of them ….. mai pen rai

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