When it’s 105º… or not

105°_Squirrel_With_Smoke 2
What’s a squirrel to do when it’s hot and smokey for weeks?  Some thoughtful soul provided the ice block with fruit, nuts and pinecones — as well as the tiny mask in front of the nose.

Summer life in the middle of the Golden State

For over a month Weather Underground greeted my inbox daily with the message:  “Warmer than yesterday”,  Ummm, yesterday was 103º, how different can warmer feel?  …. More like a loaf of bread being pushed into an oven?  And a smokey oven, at that.

California’s catastrophic wildfires, a couple of which are chewing at the Sierra Madres by Yosemite, are close enough to fill this part of the Central Valley with roiling, smokey air.  Air quality varies from “Moderate” to “Unhealthy”.  Because the valley is a bowl between mountain ranges the stuff sticks around for long periods of time.

It tends to be Unhealthy in the latter afternoon, which it is as I write.  “There is a strong chance for respiratory distress for those with respiratory sensitivities.”  All the same chubby older ladies perched on their walker seats are a common site along the sidewalks when we take Elf and Opus for their walks.

Okay, doing my best not to pick up any such sensitivity.  Older individuals such as myself are said to be at greater risk, as are children.  Harrumph!

One goes out the door for a dog walk feeling happy and reasonably vigorous…  Returns coughing, sneezing, headache-y and thickly brain fogged.  Drinks strong tea and is revived.

When one ventures out banking, shopping or whatnot, traveling along high parts of a highway there is a fog like veil of grey over everything, for miles and miles and….

It is said by scientific types that this will be the new normal in California, probably.  Hotter than historically.  What with the region’s frequent droughts that have long occurred  even without the benefit of human caused global warming, the abundance of fresh vegetation that follows the historic (also global warming-ly induced) floods such as we had the winter of 2016-17, and how that vegetation soon dries out, welcome giant wildfires!

It seems when I move to a new state things get crazy for a while.  The first time I moved to California Jerry Brown was in his first round of terms as governor, and a bitter drought ended as we settled in.  The first time I moved to New Mexico we got two feet of snow — in early October, which was how I learned that in the mountains nothing got plowed.  You were supposed to put on your chains and make your own way.  Not long after I moved to New Mexico the second time a terrible, years-long drought overtook much of the place.  By the time I left, 22 years later, enormous wildfires were growing more common.  In between we’d had a record breaking snowstorm or two, and plenty of flash flooding in arroyos.  Another drought was pressing down on the desert.

So….  I got to wondering how the squirrel army around heavily treed Huntington Boulevard, where we live right now, was getting by in the heat and bad air.  They have been rather less visible the past many weeks.  Meaning, really, that none of them have been dropping pinecone parts onto me as I move through the garden apartment complex.  Nor have they been clinging tauntingly upside down on tree trunks, perilously close to Elf and Opus.  Who are lunging at them from their bungee leashes.

Google suggested that squirrels take refuge in “cool, leafy nests high in trees”, that the main threat would be should there be no water around.  There are a great many

Peruvian Pepper Tree
Two of many mature Peruvian Pepper Trees along Huntington Boulevard in Fresno. These trees have wonderful twisted, corky trunks, like giant bonsai. I regret this photographer was unable to capture the trunk clearly. They produce pink peppercorns every spring — a great favorite with Cedar Waxwings, Scrub Jays, Mockingbirds and maybe even squirrels.  Oh — people eat them too.  Do not ask me how to process them…

gorgeous, densely leaved Peruvian pepper trees in the median strip in front of my apartment complex.  Perhaps that is where the rodents shelter?

Maybe each of the dozen or more pepper trees serves as squirrel condos?

Suppose a kindly soul with a good, large freezer were to fill a square-ish plastic container with water, dropping in plenty of fruit, nuts and even pinecones as it froze solid?  And then transported this amazing treat to a spot known to be favored by squirrels.  What if they also supplied a tiny, rodent sized mask?

Perhaps what is shown in the image above is what would happen.


A while earlier in the year, when it was still pleasantly cooler (like only 90º or so) I found there was a sort of Kitchen Voyeur on the roof next door.  Big Black Cat liked to sit up there, gazing regally over my small doings down below.

Black_Cat_In_Purpleness 4
This fellow liked to sit on the roof across the path and stare into my kitchen. Or maybe it was just the hummingbird feeder on the patio?  Better watch out, the bluebirds… scrub jays … of heaven have their eye on you!

The apartments are home grounds to an ever changing troop of feral cats, all of whom seem young.  It saddens me that feral cats have such short, uneasy lives.  Some people like to put out food and water, some are not so kind in their offerings.  Big Black here lived like a prince for a season.  Until he didn’t.  I found his sleek body lying behind bushes in front of this building.  While I hadn’t fed or tried to tame him, I miss him and so made this memorial sketch.

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