The Art Challenge, Day Five … Story Books


It’s day five! I was tagged to do the 3 pieces of art a day for 5 days, Art Challenge, by Mark Mitchell. This is the last post. The theme for today is “Story Books”, that I’ve illustrated  I put up illustrations from three different books.

I would love to give everyone a break, so I’m not tagging anybody for the Art Challenge. If you want to do it, then tell me and I’ll tag you!

The books:

Buddy, The Wayward Wolverine

Firestorm in the Forest

Buddy and the Magic Chicken Tree

Forestry Friday … Fire From The Sky!

In this year of drought, our forests are a tinder box waiting for a spark. That spark came from the sky on the last day of July. It reached 108 F in the valley. A major lightning storm rolled across the North State and left numerous forest fires in its wake.

wildfire, Forest fire

Looking east toward Burney. On the right is smoke from the Day Fire and on the right is the Bald Mountain Fire.

Bald Mountain Fire

Bald Mountain.

A huge thundercloud forms about The Bald Mountain Fire.

A huge thundercloud forms above the Bald Mountain Fire. Burney Mountain on the right, has a fire lookout on its peak.

The cloud above the fire continued to grow all day.

The cloud above the fire continued to grow all day as the fire exploded in size. These clouds create erratic winds that cause the fire to spot.

The air tankers bombed the fire throughout the daylight hours.

The air tankers bombed the fires throughout the daylight hours. This S2 is on its way to the Coffee Fire.

To the west another group of fires was burning.

More fires were burning to the west. This column was from the Coffee Creek Fire.

Eiler Fire

A new fire called the Eiler Fire took off on the second day. It’s was close to the Bald Mountain Fire. The two fires were threatening the town of Burney. From the valley in Anderson, we could see at least six major smoke columns in all directions.

The beginning of the week brought us a rare and very wet cold front. The rain helped the firefighter get a handle on many of the fires.

The beginning of the week brought us a rare and very wet cold front. The rain helped the firefighters get a handle on many of the fires. The same storm created flash floods and mud slides in Southern California.

Wildfire Sunsets are a silver lining.

Wildfire sunsets are a silver lining.

Most of the east side fires are under control now, but several fires in the Klamath Mountains are still burning. We still have a long way to go to reach the end of fire season.

Wildfire Weekend

wildfire, forest fire

A wildfire broke out west of town Friday afternoon.

Last Friday I posted Storm Clouds Brewing and talked about lightning and wildfire. Then Friday afternoon an aggressive wildfire broke out west of town. However, this fire wasn’t caused by lightning, it was caused because of an illegal marijuana grow.

wildfire, forest fire, lighting

It formed a huge column and began building it’s own thunder cloud.

air tanker, fire fighting, wildfire, forest fire

The fire crews were scrambled and the air-tankers took to the air.

The thing is, Mary and I were planning a weekend away camping in our trailer at our favorite spot. The problem was, the fire was less then five miles from our camp where we had already staged our trailer. We made the decision to retrieve our trail while the fire was relatively small, only 300 acres.

wildfire, forest fire

As we approached camp the sky became angrier.

wildfire, forest fire

After reaching camp, we packed everything, hooked up the trailer and pulled out. The smoke made it very dark.

wildfire, forest fire

Looking to the sky from camp.

wildfire, forest fire

The fire was two ridges away when we hauled out.

We got the trailer safely home and by the time we went to bed the fire had grown to 2,800 acres.

Saturday was a new day and the fire had not advance too much over night. It was reported at 2,930 acres. We decided to head back up to camp to pick the last of our equipment. Sailor and Kinta came with us this time.

golden retrievers

Sailor and Kinta are ready for an adventure.


It was still very smoky up near camp.

It was still very smoky up near camp. An inversion had settled the smoke into the canyons.

By the time we finished the truck was covered in ash.

By the time we finished the truck was covered in ash. Clearly the fire was still actively burning.

Sailor and Kinta find this whole adventure thing quite exhausting.

Sailor and Kinta found this whole adventure thing quite exhausting.

By the time we returned home the fire was still at 2,930 acres. Unfortunately, high winds hit Saturday night/Sunday morning and by Sunday morning it was up to 3,700 acres. The terrain is very steep and it is extremely brushy. Spot fires have been tormenting the firefighters. Just when they seem to getting a handle on it, another slop over occurs. It is now Tuesday night and the fire is reported at 8,100 acres. Today was overcast and calm. Hopefully, they made good progress containing it. The fire is now 1 3/4 miles from camp. We shall see what tomorrow brings.


Forestry Friday… Storm Clouds Brewing

thunderstorm, lightning, wildfire, forestry

A late afternoon thunderstorm builds over the Trinity Alps.

Billowing thunderclouds built up over the Trinity Alps last Wednesday. It was an ominous teaser of desperately needed rain. Our summer thunderstorms are the double-edged sword of rain and lightning. What will it be, soothing rain for parched earth or forest fires? These storms usually cause more grief than relief. I think we’re caught between a rock and a hard place. It’s not as if we get to choose what we get anyway.

Today the monsoonal moisture has returned. We’re already hearing thunder to the south. It could be an interesting day today.

Forestry Friday … The Rim Fire

This Op-Ed ran in the San Francisco Chronicle. It is by Bill Keye, a friend and fellow Registered Professional Forester. It’s about the Rim Fire rehabilitation. The Rim Fire was the enormous fire that burned into Yosemite National Park last year. I’ve been thinking about posting on this topic for a while, but when Bill published this piece, I decide to use it, because it is so well written. National forests begin new era of cooperation after Rim Fire


National forests begin new era of cooperation after Rim Fire

Updated 1:14 pm, Saturday, May 24, 2014
  • The 2013 Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park has brought together timber industry representatives and environmentalists in a new era of cooperation. Photo: Jae C. Hong, Associated Press
    The 2013 Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park has brought together timber industry representatives and environmentalists in a new era of cooperation. Photo: Jae C. Hong, Associated Press

Disaster sometimes comes with a silver lining. Last summer’s 257,000-acre Rim Fire torched more than trees. The enormous blaze, which incinerated a large swath of the Stanislaus National Forest near Yosemite National Park, knocked out power transmission and threatened San Francisco’s water supply. It also cleared away some of the toxic social underbrush that has stymied federal forest management efforts for many years. This could lead to more fire-adapted, resilient and carbon-rich public forests across vast stretches of Northern California.

A Tuolumne County group, which includes both timber industry and environmental representatives, had been meeting prior to the Rim Fire, searching for – and finding – common ground on previously deadlocked issues of forest management. Formed under the auspices of a 2009 law promoting ecological restoration, the Yosemite-Stanislaus Solutions collaborative is at the forefront of a new approach that is bringing people together to heal broken landscapes. The old “spotted owl versus logger” polarities have given way to fresh consensus, with fire ecology at its core.

Collaborative participants agreed on a mission “to restore and maintain healthy forests and watersheds, fire-safe communities and sustainable local economies using a science-based approach.” Since the Rim Fire, the collaborative has been aggressively pushing recovery efforts, which will include clearing dead trees from roadsides and replanting some of the most damaged sites. These restoration treatments begin with salvage logging, and this is where the story gets interesting.

Environmental members of the collaborative are sending a message to fellow conservationists that the days of routinely demonizing timber harvest on public lands may be coming to an end. An April letter from the group to Regional Forester Randy Moore, who oversees all the national forests in California, explained, “While individual members in YSS may prefer one or another of the possible salvage treatment alternatives, we all agree that prompt implementation of the hazard tree and salvage logging projects is essential to move the restoration process forward. Once salvage plans are completed, reforestation, watershed restoration, fuel reduction, and habitat enhancement plans can be given priority attention.”

This kind of consensus has been a long time coming, but it reflects growing concerns about the sustainability of our national forests in a time of climate change and increasingly destructive wildfires. California’s national forests are racking up ever-greater acreages of what the U.S. Forest Service terms “deforested conditions” following extreme wildfires such as the Rim Fire. These are situations where most, if not all, of the existing trees have been killed. Without replanting with trees, many of these burned acres will become choked with brush species, which store much less carbon than healthy timber stands.

The trend is now so firmly established that the Forest Service projects that by mid-century, our national forests will emit more greenhouse gases than they absorb. In other words, federal lands set aside for broad conservation purposes are on track to becoming major carbon polluters.

Yet this outcome is entirely avoidable.

Besides tree planting, forest restoration work requires an increased use of tools proven to reduce wildfire risks; thinning, chipping and prescribed fire. In some cases, selective timber harvest may be ecologically desirable, especially to improve site-growing conditions for long-lived and drought-tolerant Sierra Nevada pine species.

In addition to wildfire concerns, there is renewed focus on watershed health. This is especially important in California where most of our fresh water supply originates in our mountainous national forests.

Some organizations will continue to fight the old timber wars from the 1990s, raising alarms, fundraising and litigating to maintain their prestige and power over public land policies. Others, like the Yosemite collaborative members Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center and Tuolumne Group of the Sierra Club, are helping to move the forest management debate forward. Similar collaboratives have formed throughout the West to begin the process of revitalizing depressed rural economies.

Environmentalists who support forest restoration and ecosystem resilience are leading the way. Those clinging to past misgivings and ideological purity are being moved toward the exits.

Will some interest groups litigate to try to put a stop to the Forest Service’s recovery plans? Probably, but I hope not.

Even if the federal government, with the support of the collaborative, authorizes salvage logging, there will be plenty of dead trees left to decay naturally. The state’s wood-processing industry isn’t what it used to be. Even if the Forest Service wanted to clear all the dead trees – which it doesn’t – California sawmills couldn’t possibly absorb that much timber before it decays and loses commercial value.

There is something for everybody in the Rim Fire’s aftermath, most particularly the prospect of a healing, and not just for the land, but for the people who dearly want to see that land nurtured and sustained.

William Wade Keye is a registered professional forester and a past chair of the Northern California Society of American Foresters. To comment, submit your letter to the editor via our online form at

Forestry Friday … Masticator

What’s a masticator? Think of it as a big mobile wood chipper, or a mower on steroids. You may have seen these machines grinding up brush on the side of the road. They’re also used in forestry applications.

I came across a brush clearing operation on the neighbor’s property. Our neighbors happen to be a large government agency. They were shut down because a much needed rain storm made the woods too wet for operating. They were thinning a thirty plus year old Ponderosa pine plantation and removing competing brush with masticators. The thinned trees weren’t big enough to harvest for sawlogs. Masticating an area is expensive, but it makes the plantation more fire resistant and spaces out the residual trees for better growth.

Farther down the road, they used masticators to create a fuelbreak. This provides a break in heavy fuels giving firefighters a defensible line to make a stand against an oncoming wildfire. Shredded and crushed wood from the masticated brush is left on the ground. This woody debris still burns, but the flame lengths and rate of spread of a fire are reduced, thus making it manageable for a fire crew. It’s also a location that a fire crew can use for backfire operations. Over time, this material will decompose, further lessening the fire risk.

The current fuelbreak was originally cleared as a firebreak during the Finley Fire in 1990. A fuelbreak is a change from a heavy fuel type, such as brush, to a lighter fuel type like grass. A firebreak is the removal of all fuel down to bare dirt.  After the fire, we replanted our section of the same fireline in 1992. Our trees are now twenty-two years old. As these trees grow larger, they’ll be developed into a shaded fuelbreak. A shaded fuelbreak utilizes the shade of trees to suppress the growth of underbrush. This keeps fuels on the forest floor light. Pruning trees creates a break in the vertical fuel ladder reducing the chance that a ground fire becomes a crown fire.

The neighbors didn’t replant trees in the firebreak immediately after the fire. While our section of the fireline grew trees, their section grew brush. Our stand of trees is twenty years along the process of becoming a shaded fuelbreak. The neighbors must continue to retreat the brush to maintain their section of the fuelbreak.

Forestry is a process with a long planning horizon. I commend the neighbors for creating the fuelbreak. This treatment also benefits our property. However, by making the investment in planting trees early, we saved money on brush removal, while accelerating forest restoration at this site.

Click on the image for a larger view.

Forestry Friday … Of Trees and Dogs

When I was a reforestation forester, the district I worked on had about 2,600 acres burn in the Gun II Fire. The fire burned over 60,000 acres in total. It was my responsibility to implement the reforestation on our 2,600 acres.

Tree planting, wildfire, fire restoration

Planting trees in the Gun II Burn.

As an artist, I paint on a small canvas. As a forester, I paint on a big one. After a large wildfire, the landscape canvas can be huge. Reforestation on this scale is a lot of work.  It’s very gratifying knowing I had a hand in starting this new forest. Each year when I return, the trees are a little bigger. I picked up and carried every box of trees, hundreds of thousands of trees.

Below are four photo point pictures showing how this canvas has changed over time. I had a few of my friends help demonstrate how big the trees have grown over the last 12 years. It’s a running joke around here, that you must have a dog if you’re a forester.

Fire restoration, forestry, seedlings, golden retrievers

May 5, 2001  Immediately after planting.  Hunter and Blaze pose for me.

Fire restoration, forestry, seedlings, golden retrievers

February 19, 2006   That’s Hunter and Blaze peeking through the trees.

Fire restoration, forestry, seedlings, golden retrievers

July 7, 2010  The trees have been thinned.  Blitz and Hawk pose.

Fire restoration, forestry, seedlings, golden retrievers

October 23, 2013  The trees are over twenty feet tall.  Now it’s just Blitz.

A farmer grows his crop over the course of a year, but our crop takes decades.  Counting each year that passes is an occupational reality of being a forester. Seeing my dogs in these pictures also reminds me of time marching on.  Now, there are new generations of both dogs and trees. To me, their lives are intertwined with the forest. This forest is full of our stories.

FIRE At The Mill!

We weren’t expecting to have a fire threaten the mill.  The photos below tell the story.

pencil, sketch, drawing

Firefighters in pencil.

I added this sketch of the firefighters after “Z” at Zeebra Designs called for folks to draw in her post Time Out For Art – YOU CAN DO THIS.  Here you go Z!

The rain has been replaced by wind and dry conditions once again.  Fire returned, only this time instead of in the woods, it was at the mill.  With winds blowing 25 to 30 mph a fire broke out at the mill next door and was being blown right at our site.

fire, mill, photography, wildfire, firefighters

The fire started next door.

It was all hands on deck.  The crew poured in from all over the plant site to fight the fire.

fire, mill, photography, wildfire, firefighters

fire, mill, photography, wildfire, firefighters

Everybody pitch in.

Hoses were laid and water was flowing onto the fire.  Soon, the regular fire crews arrived on scene.

fire, mill, photography, wildfire, firefighters

This firefighter is patrolling for spot fires.

We were afraid the fire would spread into the pole stacks, or God forbid, the chip pile.

fire, mill, photography, wildfire, firefighters, fireline

Clearing fireline.

Our dozer was building a fireline in case the fire tried to jump the canal.

fire, mill, photography, wildfire, firefighters, logging truck

The logging trucks had to stop while the fire was being fought.

The air tanker arrived ready to drop fire retardant.

fire, mill, photography, wildfire, firefighters, logging truck, air tanker, fire bomber

Air tanker

The effort continued on the ground and we held the fire at the edge of our mill site.

fire, mill, photography, wildfire, firefighters, logging truck

Eating smoke.

Then the Helicopter arrived with the Bambi Bucket.

Air support.

Air support.

The helicopter was scooping water from the Sacramento River to dump onto the fire.

fire, mill, photography, wildfire, firefighters, logging truck, helipoter

Making the drop.

With the spread of the fire was stopped, mop up operations began.

fire, mill, photography, wildfire, firefighters, logging truck

Mop up operations.

fire, mill, photography, wildfire, firefighters, logging truck, fire engine, mop up

Mopping up is putting out all the smoldering embers.

Our crew moved fast to get water on the fire and the fire department responded quickly.  Together we were able to stop the fire before it could get into our yard.  As a result of everyone’s quick action this wasn’t a big problem for us.  I’m not certain how the neighbors fared, but I think they did okay also.

fire, mill, photography, wildfire, firefighters, logging truck

The crew at the other mill were busy battling the fire in their chip pile.

This is just another reminder that we are in for a long fire season this year.

Sun, Smoke and Oak

Sun, Sunset, fire, wildfire, smoke, photography

The sun through the smoke.  Yes, that is the sun and not the moon.

The first big wildfires of the season broke out here yesterday.  The Panther and Cedar fires were burn a ways to the South and just a few miles apart.  With a strong dry North wind they made a good run.  A huge column of smoke stretched over the valley and the sun was obscurred last night when I took these pictures.  Hopefully the firefighters made good progress last night when the winds died down.

Sun, Sunset, fire, wildfire, smoke, photography

Sun through the smoke and oaks.

May first and we are already seeing forest fires.  Dry down is well underway here.  This doesn’t bode well for this Summer’s fire season.  Here we go again.

Black Bird Fly

black bird, pen and ink, photo, photography, logs, salvage, forestry, timber

Black birds feast.

The black birds hop from log to log. All the while, tilting their heads to and fro.  Then after a brief pause they reach into the bark, and with surgical precision, pluck out a squirming grub.  Then with heads thrown back they swallow the grub with the ease of an Olympic gymnast dismounting from a balance beam.

black birds, logs, logging, grubs, photo, photography

Hunting grubs on the burned logs.

This goes on all day in our log yard.  As the logs from the fire salvage operations pour into the yard, so do the black birds.  The swarm the logs for this feast of opportunity.  Sometimes they engage in black bird battles for dominion over some particularly grub infested log.  I think these birds get fatter every day.  Soon they may not be able to fly.

logs, salvage logs, fire salvage, burned, photo, photography

Burned logs delivered to the log yard.

Salvage logging continues at break neck speed.  The beetles invading the logs are an indicator of the oncoming decay.  Next will be stain, splitting and then rot.  Time and decay are our enemies.  The black birds are a constant reminder of the ticking clock.

fire salvage, burned timber, timber, forest, golden retriever

Ponderosa burn fire salvage. Where have all the squirrels gone?