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December 31, 2004
A passing of seasons

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The building site... in July and November

It is the end of another season -- and another year -- at our vacation property.  And despite our frustrations and delays with getting house construction started, we have no regrets at all about having invested in the property.

When we are getting overwhelmed by the work, congestion, and other stresses of Silicon Valley, we only have to think about our "escape route" to feel more relaxed.  And when we are up on our mountain top, it's like being in a completely different world, on vacation far away.

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Yet another stunning sunset

During the clear weather seasons, we have come up to visit at least once a month.  At the same time that we have become more efficient, we have accumulated more of an infrastructure; it now takes us about three hours to set things up when we arrive, and three hours to put things away when we leave.

We have tents, tables, chairs, a camping stove and grill, and several hammocks.  We have tools for maintaining the grounds: shovels, rakes, and mattocks.  Even so, we have decided to keep the property as low-maintenance as possible.  We figure that all of the flora and fauna have survived just fine for the last several hundred years, without us; we hope that it will continue to do the same.  Our main grounds keeping tasks include cutting the high weeds and eradicating the poison oak.

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Cameron gathers firewood

We are currently on our third gazebo.  The first one, which we used last Summer, was too difficult to assemble and take down every trip.  Our second was ridiculously easy to put together, but we seldom use it anymore.  This is because this year's Summer brought a huge contingent of yellow jackets, and we had to purchase a gazebo with screened-in walls.  We have decided to keep it erected permanently, but we recently moved it from the upper knoll (building site) to the northern knoll in anticipation of building.

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A succession of gazebos

We have a swing, a zip line, a trampoline, and two tree swings.  Cameron and Joss have identified several groves for possible tree house building.  We were also thrilled to discover a new trail that we had never known about before.

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Joss on his tree swing, amid the wildflowers

We have begun naming different parts of the property, a process that cannot be forced, but must simply happen naturally.  Russell's analytical mind has come up with the northern knoll, the western knoll, the southern knoll, and the northwest trail.  Gail, Cameron, and Joss have come up with much more imaginative names like the woodpecker tree and bunny flats.

We have seen deer, rabbits, lizards, hawks, turkey vultures, and countless bugs.  Ants are pervasive.  Dragonflies abound.  We found a black widow spider in the shed.  We have heard woodpeckers and owls.  Gail saw a coyote running along the road one day.  Although we haven't seen them, we have seen the tracks left by bobcats.  To residents of Silicon Valley, where the last of the old orchards have been decimated to make way for yet more apartments, the return to nature is immensely satisfying.

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A mule deer

Every time we come up here, we become a little bit more familiar with the property, and it becomes a little bit more like home.  We can now navigate our way around in the nighttime darkness without lights.

We have been able to watch the changes of the seasons, from the lush green grasses and wildflowers of Spring to the foggy blankets and windy rains of Winter.  We look forward to the day that we can sit inside a house and watch it rain outside.  (We also look forward to the day that we can drive up and turn a key in the front door, without having to set up tents for several hours.)

It is disappointing that we have another year to go before we can make progress on our house construction.  But if there's one thing that the quiet stillness of this place teaches us, it's patience.

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Two young men on a mountain top -- growing up much, much too fast


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