Going Retro on 2015 by Janine Donoho

Happy New YearAs a singular flow in the space-time continuum, 2015 crested, then mired in unpredictable ways. The year began by launching Intrepid Guy to Japan for another stint just as I published yet another novel, Soundings, Water Elemental—this time through Booktrope. That vast ocean of social media became a marathon swim. Still I virtually encountered booklovers along the way who I’d have gladly met for a delightful cuppa and conversation.Soundings Cover Upgraded 1-23-2015

Then in March, I packed and brushed off my language skills for a month in Japan that ended when I picked Intrepid Guy up at the Penticton airport before driving him to a hospital in Wenatchee. This time his immune system attacked vital organs, requiring six-months of heavy immunosuppression followed by another half year of lighter drug therapy.

Pup & Man Dome

Pup & Man Dome

As a bubble boy, what bothered Intrepid Guy most was the loss of his rafting season, especially one that included another run down the Grand Canyon. To compensate him for his loss, we adopted—wait for it—yes, a whippet puppy, Bodhilicious. Bodhi’s puppy shots coincided with Intrepid Guy’s first drug regime. And yes, we went there and shaved his head. He turns out to have a very nicely shaped dome, but you be the judge.

Home on wheels

Home on wheels

Both burst back into the world during a shakedown voyage for our 16’ Lance travel trailer as we made the rounds from home to Spokane to Wenatchee and back again. The trailer balanced beautifully with our Ram 1500 Eco diesel, so Intrepid Guy did a happy dance. We also began socializing Bodhi and the AKC show in Chelan helped. We met very cool dog people plus gorgeous Bodhi took both Best in Class and Best in Show for puppies. Since this was a beauty contest, it’ll be his last. His big brain really needs a job and with his propensity for running through culverts—gasp!—agility training might do the trick.

Bodhi Wins Big at AKC 2015

Bodhi Wins Big at AKC 2015

Our year of wildfires proved utterly predictable. Canadian fire plumes began in April and our rugged landscapes can be problematic for firefighters. We bugged out during Level 3 evacuations as the 9 Mile Wildfire roared into being. Friends and neighbors lost outbuildings and homes to the inferno even as staunch firefighters stopped the blaze ¼ mile from our home. Air quality remained hazardous throughout summer and into fall. Recovery continues while winter snow and melt cycles cause slides along burn areas.

Valiant firefighters

Valiant firefighters

Soundings at Beach Books

Soundings at Beach Books

Yes, I’m furious with Volkswagen’s intentional lies about our Golf TDI’s environmental impact. Yes, the polluting machinery sits in our garage as we lean into a buyout. Nothing less should be allowed. Still I drove the beast to Oregon this October for our Seaside writers’ retreat and book signing at the hospitable and brilliantly arranged Beach Books. As always, joy prevailed as I embraced the chance to hang with writers and make new friends.

Anj & I at Seaside signing

Anj & I at Seaside signing

Please allow me to wish you all the most joyous of new years. May health and happiness infuse your lives. With our home-on-wheels, who knows? We may find ourselves in your neck of the woods during this coming year.

Happy pack

Travel rig

Hot wheels

Choices We Make before the Fire by Janine Donoho

Harbinger from Canada

Harbinger from Canada

As the western part of the United States enters into desiccated autumn, we’re told that the official fire season has begun. In fact, fire season now begins nearly as soon as our shrunken snowpack melts. Once the native and invasive species of plants dries, we’re vulnerable to lightning strikes. Yet lightning causes only 10-20% of our wildfires. The other 80-90%? Human caused.

Slide Mountain near Washoe Valley

Slide Mountain near Washoe Valley

In the high Sierra Nevada Mountain range, where I spent my formative years, snowpack has declined for decades—more precipitously as we blow past the latest tipping points. That means wildfires in winter and early spring—the new normal. This aspect of climate change affects the western side of our continent from Alaska to Bolivia, excluding only the more tropical regions. For Okanogan County in Washington State, our wildfires began in late May this year with smoke plumes as harbingers.

Wildland wildfire in Nevada

Wildland wildfire in Nevada

Over a decade ago when we first moved here, Intrepid Guy, who grew up in Spokane, Washington, and I committed to fire proofing our home and property. We wanted no soft-bodied firefighter to stand between an inferno and our house. Our house perches where sagebrush steppe meets Ponderosa pine communities, landscapes that normally thrive with periodic fires. However, lowering water tables, beetle infestations, and fire suppression have reduced these communities’ resistance to wildfire damage. Here are the choices we made:

  • Fire-resistant fiber-cement siding (Hardy Board);
  • Metal roofing;
  • Lava rock mulch out 10 feet plus from the foundation;
  • Rock based circular driveway;
  • Islands of native and drought-resistant plantings with rock mulch and drip system hydration;
  • Native grasses and brush cut back at least 40 feet;
  • Lower branches of our Ponderosas and Douglas fir removed;
  • Predominantly metal structures versus wooden within 50 feet of the house; and,
  • Buried 1,750 gallon tank, topped off and better than spitting on a fire.
Firewise living

Firewise living

When the first wildfire threatened our home on July 4th seven years ago, it started within a quarter mile—bordering the steep slope leading to our home. Not good. Fire devours landscape uphill in its quest for oxygen.

Exemplary Department of Natural Resources (DNR) crews along with local volunteer departments aided by water and fire-retardant air drops limited this human caused wildfire to nine acres of non-fireproofed landscape. Trees crowned, wildlife fled or died, and I baked muffins, although not well, while brewing iced tea for the crews. The DNR incident manager designated our home as a safe house for sheltering firefighters. When we were told to evacuate, we did. We pay hefty fire insurance fees, keep important papers in a safe deposit box, and again, don’t choose to have a person stand between us and fire.

Flames through the trees

Flames through the trees

With this season’s injuries and deaths of Forest Service firefighters, the loss of 7 million acres—and counting—in the western United States, we all need to assess our part in these disasters. Beyond addressing human caused climate change, what else can we do to minimize the destructive force of wildfire?

When the fire bear comes over the mountain

When the fire bear comes over the mountain

When wildfire eats toward us, we take what’s most important: the living critters we’re responsible for and each other. The house and landscape? That’s just stuff.

What matters

What matters most

Soundings, Water Elemental

LaunchFebruary 27th, 2015
The big day is here.

Newsletter signup

Join in and receive a FREE short story as my gift to you. Exclusive promos, book deals and contests available only to subscribers.

%d bloggers like this: