Monday, September 15, 2014

A break from the heat

Last week I dropped my phone face down on the gravel in the parking lot at church and cracked the screen. Okay, it wasn't church, it was the Palms Bar and Restaurant out on Amboy Road in Wonder Valley. It's kind of like church because we go every Sunday, only both the company and the libations are better and no one preaches at you. Well, maybe Frank, but no one else.

I took my phone to get repaired and it worked for a few days, but now the screen is dark so I've got to take it back to the repair shop, only it's too hot to go out. How hot is it? It's so hot I saw the Marlboro man smoking Kool cigarettes.

It's L.A. hot, which means humid. It would be one thing if you were flying down a country road with 2-70 air conditioning (two windows down at 70 miles an hour), but stop and start driving on hot L.A. tarmac with armed and angry drivers (I don't know for sure about the other drivers) is nothing I want to do. Maybe tomorrow.

So no new pictures for the blog, which makes it hard for me to write, but I'll try.

Also, it's hot. Did I mention that? How hot is it? It's so hot I saw the popo hugging Ice T. It has cooled a bit - it was 112 in Wonder Valley on Sunday, down from 120, and 10 degrees cooler on the Copper Mountain Mesa.

August is an interesting month in San Bernardino County. People pick up property at the tax sales. It's cheap enough that you can save up for it. Four of my friends bought cabins - they all need lots of work but are wonderful desert properties.

Ken and I didn't do the tax sales but we did buy another property. It's five acres in Wonder Valley with a house, a detached garage, some sheds, a small dome, a well, a new septic tank (yes! a real toilet), washer dryer, fridge/freezer (ice!), solar and a 6' clawfoot bathtub. The water comes out of the well at 105 degrees and is bona fide mineral water (most people won't drink it). The house also came with a reverse osmosis water filtration unit so we can make potable water. And it has a beautiful grove of athel pines, more commonly known as tamarisk or salt cedar. Nothing will grow under them, though I found a creosote very close to one, and I am thinking of trying a salt bush.

Tamarisk leaches salts from the soil. In the morning salt water drips from the needles. The needles fall, forming a thick spongy mulch chock full of salt. They're a dense, strong wood perfect for hammocks and they provide shade. In many parts of the world, Australia in particular, they are considered a pest, invasive and undesired. People in other parts of the world revere them and they may have been the source of the Biblical manna.

All of this - the house and everything that came with it - cost us MUCH less than, say, a new Escalade. I checked the listings for the area every day for a year and when I saw this property my eyes popped. I couldn't believe it and we moved heaven and earth to scrape together the money to buy it. (We certainly wouldn't have had to have worked so hard to finance an Escalade!) We've stayed there three nights now. We hardly have a stick of furniture but we can make coffee and cold water. Ken fixed the swamp cooler in the dome yesterday with no help from anyone else. I took things off the wall, horrible heavy dark shelves, and we hired a plumber to fix some things. The tub is not properly plumbed and since I don't want to tear out the tile we'll be going for something like this (left).

In the meantime I'm going to nail a sprinkler to a 2x4 and turn it upside down in the trees and take a shower. Our nearest neighbor is gone until the winter and there's really no one else around to see me.

UPDATE: This (to the left) is how it turned out. I need a better shower head and that mint green paint has to go, and I'm not sure what to do with those cabinets, but the plumbing is cool.

We love our cabin on the mesa and will probably "summer" there, but I can't do cottage food there as it's not a proper house, being only 400 square feet, and won't pass the inspection. The new house will be somewhere we can retire and probably lease out, at least short term, when we want to stay elsewhere.

My favorite part about the new property is the darkness. It's way out past the "Last services for 100 miles" sign. At night, when I look to the south I see the Pinto Mountains and NO light -- no light at all. The affect of that kind of darkness on the soul is profound. I feel spun back in time through generations living on the earth. Above is the Milky Way, brighter and nearer than I've ever seen it. I wonder how not having these two visions available affects city people, especially youth, who may never even see stars, with as much light pollution as there is in the city.

One of my neighbors told me they take darkness seriously out here. If your neighbor's exterior lighting casts a shadows on your property you can file a complaint and they'll be ordered to change their lights. Of course I'd never do that, but it's amazing that you can.

So, hopefully (sorry about the inaccurate adverb), I'll have my phone working next weekend and I'll be able to properly illustrate a post. And hopefully it won't be so hot and I'll be more inclined to post. How hot is it, you ask? It's so hot I'm ready to start shopping for a property on Winters Road.