Saturday, August 1, 2020

Never, ever thought we'd still be living like this in: July 2020

Another 31 days spent under the VIRUS cloud. Life is not as confined as it was in March, but there are still restrictions and, of course, the ever present worry about the VIRUS. Despite the worries, we are breaking through some of the barriers. 

For my July birthday, Dan planned to take me to Mulvaney's B&L Restaurant in Sacramento. That afternoon, Mulvaney's called to say that because Governor Newsom had just that day prohibited indoor dining in higher risk counties like Sacramento, our seating would be outside. It was July hot, and we were seated in the dirt space between the sidewalk and the roadway, but it was shady and the food, as always, so fabulous. Social distancing was enforced with table placement and a one-way path into the restaurant to use the toilets and out again. Waitstaff were well masked.

El Dorado County was hit with indoor dining restrictions mid July. Since then restaurants have scurried to comply with the no indoor dining directive. All Placerville restaurants are either to-go only or have used wooden pallets to convert the parking spaces in front of the doorways into outdoor dining spaces.

Despite eased restrictions to help these main street businesses survive, several haven't. Some like the jeweler and a long-time clothier closed just before the VIRUS hit. Those buildings remain empty, and the vacant spaces have been joined by other shops and a restaurant. 

"Let's Poke" no more

We went hiking in the Sierra twice this month. The first was Woods Lake-Winnemucca Lake-Round Top Lake loop hike with loads of wildflowers. The distance was about 6 miles with an elevation in excess of 9,000 feet, but we made it tired but happy we did it.

Looking back at Winnemucca Lake

 The desert-like trail between Winnemucca Lake and Round Top Lake

Round Top Lake

The second hike was on the Lake Margaret Trail. This in and out hike is a little lower in elevation and doesn't involve much of an elevation gain/loss. It was a crowded Sunday but everyone either wore some kind of face covering or kept their distance. The 5-mile round trip trail traverses granite slabs, forest, meadows, and crosses three streams spanned by huge tree trunks. Lupines and paintbrush were in high bloom while leopard lilies were just beginning to bloom in some of the shadier areas.

Lake Margaret is a jewel of a natural, glacier remains lake.

Heading back after lunch and a short break, the sky began to darken and thunder rumbled above us. We quickened our steps so we didn't finish our hike among trees and exposed granite slabs with a thunderstorm above. 

It didn't rain there or at our next stop just five miles away. We had arranged just a few days prior to overnight at Kit Carson Lodge on Silver Lake. They had one room for one night perfectly suited to stand in for a short vacation. The lake is less than 1-1/2 hours from our house, but it was delightful to get away. We had an early dinner at the lodge on the outside deck, of course. Clouds blanketed the landscape surrounding Silver Lake so we didn't have any kind of a sunset that night. 

The next morning was beautifully clear and calm. After breakfast we rented a canoe for more canoeing practice. The destination was Treasure Island sitting in the middle of Silver Lake.

View of Silver Lake from Kit Carson Lodge

Treasure Island is mostly fractured granite

After a walk on the island, we canoed back to the launching beach. Along the way we were lucky enough to see a wood duck mom and her many babies and a bald eagle soaring the air currents above us. 

Another barrier was crossed when our friends, Bob and Sharon, who live in our neighborhood invited us to socially distant swim dates. Those shaded afternoon swims are delightful during these hot, hot afternoons. I've truly missed Sharon and our in-person chats. 

We began making plans for our September driving trip to Ely, Minnesota, for a week of canoeing on the Boundary Waters. So far, we have lodging reservations to get there with stays along the way in Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming) and Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota) before our arrival in Minnesota. We hope to have some brief, distant visits with family (maybe just a wave) in Ohio and Arkansas on our way back home. 

Our tomatoes have been producing overtime. We had so many at once that I made gazpacho for an elegant no-cooking dinner one night. Our landscape, except the garden, is in its mid-summer dormant stage of dryness. Gladioli, dahlias, butterfly bushes, and lion's tale bloomed this month giving us a bit of color in our otherwise sleeping landscape.

Syd and Pandora still insist on thrice daily walks even when it is so hot that after a few minutes they are both panting. Somehow I lost Pandora's leash so for a few days I had a long rope hooked with a carabiniere to her jacket. Syd thoroughly enjoyed the new leash. 

Most of my photos are of Pandora because she is an imperious little creature and refuses to be trained. When it's time to come in, she sometimes becomes the Tasmanian She-Devil growling and hissing at me. Most days female turkeys bring their adolescent charges to our yard. It's easy pickings around the compost bin and under the bird feeder. Pandora finds them fascinating and chase worthy. Dan walks Syd because he's trainable and uses the great outdoors as his toilet. Male bonding!

What else? I still make sourdough bread with uncertain, unrepeatable results but nevertheless I persist. The mother doe shows up periodically but she hasn't yet introduced us to her little one. At the beginning of July we reserved a time (reservation only now) to pick blueberries at a nearby u-pick farm. We picked 15 pounds and on one of our cooler days, we made two batches of jam. Numerous desserts have also been made and consumed. We still have several pounds in our freezer waiting for a break in the weather for another jam marathon. Also waiting in the freezer for a weather break are 24 pounds of plums from our 30-year old plum tree that is in the last months of its life.

And, the Covid-19 VIRUS. On July 20, El Dorado County logged the first death due to the VIRUS. The person was male and a resident of South Lake Tahoe. He was over 65. The county's Covid dashboard was updated to make it interactive and bilingual. June ended with 184 confirmed positive cases; July has 637. The increase of positive cases is stunning. Community acquired cases which means they have no idea how the person was exposed are at 52%.  Still, El Dorado County is one of the less risky counties in California.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Relief: June 4 - 30, 2020

June 4 Dan was discharged from the hospital with a prescription for Doxycycline. That seems to have cured him, fingers crossed. All bloodwork was negative so it’s very much a mystery why his fever kept coming back. For now, an unsolved mystery, but Dan is feelin' fine.

First meal after hospital food - BLT and Diet Coke

This week felt like a return to normal with eye doc, dentist, car service appts. Knowing what day of the week it was for something other than trash day was wonderful. While we were free, we enjoyed lunches out in Sacramento. Less traffic and fewer people in these places, but it was nice to be out getting something accomplished. Mask wearing appears to be taken much more seriously in Sacramento than El Dorado County.

Mid month we walked the 8.8 miles around Jenkinson Lake which took us 5 hours. Our miles/hour are always slow around that lake, but this time we must have been crawling. We made it but our bodies definitely aren’t used to that amount of exercise. We both need to build up our endurance.

Since the park/lake had recently opened, it was packed with people like it was a holiday weekend. The trail was bustling and camping and day use sites were full. Way before we arrived at the waterfall, we could hear children's shouts and loud voices. I have never before seen so many people here.

We’re hoping to take a road trip in September with the goal of canoeing on the barrier lakes with Dan’s cousin Gary and his wife. Because I’ve never canoed we returned to Jenkinson Lake several days later to rent a canoe and try it out. I have kayaked several times and except for the method of paddling, canoeing didn't seem too different. It was so hot and a great day to be on the lake.

Seeing the shoreline from the waterside was so different from hiking the trail around the lake. We saw so many water birds--the usual like mallards and Canada Geese, but also a female Wood Duck and her babies sunning themselves on a log. Wood Ducks are not normally found here. Sadly, my photo of the family was taken with my cell phone which doesn't hold highlights very well. Next time ...,
Wood Duck Mom and Babies

We celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary at the end of June with a fabulous dinner out at one of our favorite restaurants in Sacramento. It felt safe and comfortable to eat there knowing that whatever precautions needed to happen did happen.

The visiting pregnant doe gave birth to a fawn somewhere beyond our cleared woods. One day when we were walking our cats, Pandora began doing a low-predator crawl down the hill while I held on to her leash. I stopped her when I saw the doe and her almost newborn fawn just inside the wooded area quietly moving away. The fawn was so new that it couldn't straighten its legs. A few days later we were walking our cats in the cleared area but trying not to get too close to where I'd seen the mom and baby. But somehow, we were too close and suddenly the cat-sized fawn began running around in a panic sometimes falling down as its legs gave out. Pandora was straining at the leash while I wondered if she wanted to play with the fawn or chase it down like a cheetah and feast on its little legs. The fawn disappeared into the woods. Since that time, we've had no fawn sightings but we've seen mother deer when she visits our apple trees.

Dan is still clearing/thinning our woods. Pandora and Syd find a lot to interest them in the piles of brush waiting to be chipped. 

Our garden, so far, is a success. The three tomato plants have ripening tomatoes. I've already harvested a handful of Sungold cherry tomatoes, basil, and a little arugula. The larger tomatoes will be ready very soon. I'm still working on sourdough bread with occasional success and have added pan pizza to my repertoire.

With June came the lovely gardenia fragrance scenting warm mornings and evenings. While most of our blooming plants are finished by the end of May, June brought flowers from the chaste tree, butterfly bushes, more rose blooms, and the deep blueness of hydrangea flowers. 

Subsequent to the killing of Mr. George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, rumors of violence were flying around the internet even landing in small town Placerville. Many merchants boarded up their windows and doors just in case. When we drove through Placerville headed to the hospital on June 2, the shops were still boarded up. By the time Dan was discharged on June 4, the boards had begun to come down. All protests in Placerville were nonviolent.

In prior journals I've mentioned the hanging man dummy as a remnant of the Gold Rush era. In 1848 at the start of the 1849 Gold Rush the town, now known as Placerville, was a mining camp called Dry Diggins. In 1849 after being found guilty by a jury, three white men were hanged together for murder, robbery, etc and the town became known as Hangtown perhaps as a warning to would-be thieves and murderers. By 1854, the city was the 3rd largest city in California and since residents had been lobbying for a name change since at least 1850, it was given the more presentable name of Placerville. Many mining camps that became towns had quirky names. The city of Ione was once called Bed Bug, until the miners realized they'd never get a woman to come to a town called Bed Bug.

The hanging man dummy, which is private property, may have seen its last days. Unfortunately, a noose is part of the city seal and also shows up on several downtown businesses. It is time for those symbols to go. Even the 1854 residents weren't happy about the Hangtown reputation. 

The Placerville Farmers' Market opened on June 6. It was a month late in opening due to the pandemic. Most shoppers and vendors wore face coverings of some kind. So glad it's back.

So, how did El Dorado County's Covid numbers do in June? The number of positive cases doubled from May, and there were increases in all age groups. Mask wearing seems to be a rare event in Placerville amongst both merchants, restaurants, and visitors.

I took the below photo on June 4, the day Dan got out of the hospital, the day we had to pick up his prescription from the pharmacy on Main St. There was not one mask on any of the people shown here and no social distancing. They are all in the fastest growing demographic of rising Covid-19 cases.