I sat down at the dining room table the other day (my current high-geek location, since that's where the laptop lives) after breakfast.
And I noticed a sweet smell. What the hell is that?
Duh. It's the narcissus bulbs I forced, blooming their little hearts out on a diet of just water. It makes me appreciate how much of a plant is actually just water, with some nice rigid cellulose-containing cell walls to lend shape. And looking beyond the narcissus pot, it reminds me how the high-water-use trees on this land, like the poplars, Just Don't Fit. I see them like a torch of water, standing as if frozen in the line they form, running down my hill.
They need to come down, as does the dead willow. (Another high-water-use tree -- who the hell plants these things in an arid oak savannah? The people who built my house, that's who.)
The cedars and the birch died in the first two summers of the new no-watering policy I imposed when I moved in. (The previous owners watered the entire landscape by hand. I don't have that much time. Still don't.) They have been converted to neat stacks of logs. The oaks, for the most part, grow happily, although a couple are dead. I don't want to take them down -- they belong in this ecosystem, and even dead trees have a role to play. Also, they aren't too close to the house.
When I moved into this house, it had a truly ridiculous number of different heating options. There is a wood stove in what is now the cattery, and a huge stone fireplace in the living room. There were electric wall panels in the living room and cattery. There were baseboard electric heaters in the bedrooms. (Talk about how to burn money -- electric heaters are definitely it. I never use them, and the baseboard heaters were taken out when I repainted those rooms.) There was also a propane-fired central heater (which also does electric AC in the summer.) That, I use.
But I've been in this house for three years now (coming up on four, in May) and I've never built a fire in that fireplace, because I'd not had it inspected/swept. Well, I have now. A very pleasant gentleman drove down from Lodi with his truck and trailer full of equipment, snickered politely at the wood stove (mail order, he said, and the pipe that is its chimney is set upside down. I won't use it, I said), cleaned out the main chimney, warned me that the steel firebox was beginning to rust from lack of a chimney cap/spark arrestor, and installed one.
Now, all I need is a grate (to put the logs on), and I'll be able to indulge in the occasional romantic fire without worrying about burning the neighborhood down. (Did I mention, it gets dry out here? It gets dry out here. Even though right now we're socked in with fog, like the Golden Gate bridge on a typical afternoon.)