I took these shots at a local cannabis garden, thanks to some pretty nice (and brave) local gardeners. Thanks, local gardeners! I like these photos because they show cannabis grown in a kitchen-style garden like the herb it is. Most of us have seen the dramatized documentaries about cannabis grown in spiffy space-aged rooms or in houses blown out with mylar and lights and tubes. Lots of people don’t realize, though, that plenty of cannabis is grown in intercropped patches like this - outside in the sunshine alongside flowers and butterflies and squash and cucumbers and bees and tomatoes and hummingbirds. You know, like real plants. Nothing troubling about that. Nor is there anything troubling about sick people who need this plant to help them treat their illness. It is troubling when their fellow citizens stand by silently as the feds prosecute them for it, though. Just sayin.
A twenty mile drive uphill through hairpin turns, switchbacks, and terrifying drops takes you out to The Chateau, which was built and opened around 1934 as a job-creating endeavor for the local community of Cave Junction. Many of the employees have worked for The Chateau or The Oregon Caves for generations, and these establishments provide much-needed income for not only those in the service industry, but also for the local merchants, farmers, and winemakers who supply the cafe and shops on the site.
The fact that this place is so far off the beaten track means that it is in almost pristine original condition. It is a great example of the rustic style that was really big in the 20’s and 30’s, and all local materials were used in its construction. The gigantic beam and stair supports all came from the same tree, and everything from top to bottom is finished out in original local stone and wood - right down to the bark shingles outside.
And did I mention the ghost? Ah,
As the story goes,
As luck would have it, I was in room 301, directly across the hall from
Talk about sobering up in an instant. Man. I love a good ghost story as much as the next girl, but this was a little much. I tried to be logical about it. I did, really. My first thought was that there must be pipes in the wall, or perhaps the wall was next to the stairs and someone was rumbling up and down in a hurry and shaking things up on my side. But no. There were no pipes in the wall. The pipes are all exposed due to the construction style, remember? Nor were there stairs on the other side, either. Or lovers having a swing at romance. Or three swings, as the case may be. I’ll tell you what WAS on the other side of that wall, though. A closet. A third-floor closet.
And did I mention the dripping? The caves are formed by millions of years of the constant drip, drip, drip of water. Good for the caves. Bad for my camera.
Low ceilings, too. I still have a knot on my head from whacking it against a stalactite. Or is it stalagmite? Either way it hurt, and I got scolded by the tweenage docent because the contact of my skull against the precious formations of the cave could hinder their growth and development for centuries to come. As far as I’m concerned, that’s what the cave gets for knocking me in the head. Stupid cave.
Sometimes nature is easy to figure out. Take these mushrooms, for example. Red means run, son.
Ever wonder how early humans determined which foods were poisonous and which ones were edible? I have. I was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Amazon basin, and the tribe I worked with there ate a very particular kind of cassava root. I mean, they ate some form of this root with everything. They ate cassava bread spread with cassava poi, they ate fried cassava bits with salt like popcorn, they processed cassava into a kind of granola to have with fruit for breakfast... They even had a pretty appalling method by which they fermented the stuff to make an alcoholic beverage which, while foul-tasting and disgusting, will send you for quite a loop, I have to admit.
My point is this: While there are lots of varieties of "sweet" cassava that are non-toxic, this particular sort of cassava that I'm talking about is what's called a "bitter" cassava - which means that it's highly poisonous in its raw state. Like, touch-the-raw-root-lick-your-fingers-and-die poisonous. However, there is a very long and complicated process by which the root can be cured that renders it edible. This process involves submerging the root under water for a few weeks, boiling it over a fire for a certain amount of time, drying it out for several days, mashing it up with a mortar and pestle, etc. etc. The method is exacting and specific, and if at any time in the process someone decides to cut a corner or two, the consequences could be deadly.
So what I’m wondering is, how did these tribesmen ever figure out how to process this root to begin with? I mean, how did that go, exactly?
Tribesman #1: Joe ate some of that root over there last month. Killed him pretty dead.
Tribesman #2: Really? Dead, huh? Well, maybe he should have tried to soak it in the river for a week before he ate it. I doubt it would have killed him if he’d have done that.
T1: No, Tim tried that a couple of weeks ago. He wound up just as dead as Joe.
T2: Really? Huh. That is so hard to believe... Oh, you know what? He should have soaked it for a week, then boiled it for sixteen hours. That’s where he went wrong.
T1: No, no... Remember Alan? He tried soaking first, then boiling. I thought it was a sure thing, too, but...
T2: Alan tried soaking then boiling, and he still croaked? Wow. That’s a head-scratcher... I mean, what comes after soaking then boiling? I don’t know... Maybe... maybe...
T1: I’ve got it!
T1: We’ll mash it.
T2: We’ll mash it! Yes! Of course! Genius! Soak, boil, then mash! That’s bound to work, don’t you think?
T1: I don’t know, but it’s worth a try.
This is a somewhat macabre post. I know, I know. Hard to believe that Emo McGothy over here has a dark side. My point is, if you’re sensitive to things like animal predatory behavior, then maybe you should skip this one. Me? I guess that sometimes I like to start my week on the sick side. There are some nice photos of birds, though, so if you think you can stomach it, it might be worth your while. Still, consider yourself warned.
Of course, I thought this behavior was hilarious, but it also made me really curious as to what had these ravens so uptight about my peanut offerings. One day, I mentioned the odd peanut dance to one of my neighbors and she started laughing. She told me that outdoor cannabis growers set rat traps around their weed patches and bait them with peanuts. Ravens have learned to strike at the traps in order to spring them and steal the peanuts.
See? Smart birds, right? And charming. Yeah, well, stick with me...
I’m not sure who the victims were in this tragedy. It could have been any of the forest sparrows or robins or finches who nest in the redwoods around my house. All I know is, this morning when I woke up, it sounded like Bird Armageddon out there. I walked outside just in time to see one of the ravens swoop right over my head with a baby chick in its beak - legs kicking, desperately cheeping away the last moments of its life. The other raven was still raiding the nest and cawing out in delight. Meanwhile, all of the other species of birds within a quarter-mile of my place were having a collective bird meltdown. Very grim. Especially considering that there’s some perfectly good peanuts on that stump over there.
I’ve been reading a lot lately about how birds and dinosaurs are related, which puts their grisly behavior in perspective. I mean, the similarities are striking - especially so now that scientists have concluded that some dinosaurs had feathers.
When all the while they’re plotting against you with that T-Rex brain of theirs. It makes me wonder what it would have been like when gigantic, winged creatures dominated the skies, flying from tree to tree raiding the nests of other prehistoric creatures. Maybe even prehistoric monkey creatures.
Yet I don’t think nature is cruel. Rather, I think nature is indifferent. For example, most of the time I wander through life completely unaware of the havoc and destruction I visit upon the heads of not only smaller creatures, but perhaps even upon the heads of entire universes to which I am the greater (and completely oblivious) host. Is this havoc intentional? Malicious? No. How can it be malicious if I’m destroying existences I cannot possibly be conscious of? Yet there it is, happening every second of every day. And if I proceed through my days completely indifferent to the tragedies I cause, it’s not that hard for me to imagine that whosoever serves as a host to my own itty, bitty universe proceeds through his or her life completely indifferent to me and my tragedies.