December 11, 2021
Petrichor and the bay mare picked their way through the burn. The ground was cool except for a few places where dense layers of dead wood still smoldered in the cold morning air. A light breeze moved the smoke through the trees at dawn. The landscape was reborn...known to the horses, and yet unfamiliar.
It was a controlled burn of piles with some minimal landscape modification. Grace surveyed around the ranch as soon as the sun was up. A good portion of the burn piles had been addressed , particularly near homes and structures and in the most heavily used recreation areas.
The cold air kept the smoke close to the ground overnight, dissipating with dawn's warmth.
The burn opened up the seasonal stream behind the ranch. Grace rode along the burn edge, noting rock formations she had never seen before. This area was open for the first time in memory. It was endlessly rugged, and lovely.
Grace marveled at the precision of the burn.
She also noted that the birds seemed unbothered, even in areas where there was still some smoke.
Grace was already gone when Skye woke up. That was all right. Skye had been wanting to put her ribbon dress back on and practice the steps she saw the other ladies doing. They were graceful and measured. They were reserved and yet somehow they flowed. And always the women stood up tall in their dresses.
Grace watched Skye for a few moments, realizing how little she knew about what the dance was supposed to look like, but It appeared that Skye had watched very carefully. She did recall something about northern and southern styles of dance, but not the nuances that separated them.
"Tomorrow morning let's go for a ride through the burn area" Grace said after watching for some time. Hobo perked up his ears.
"Okay" Skye said. "Let's do it."
They were up before the dawn on December 12, investigating the controlled burn. USFS firefighters had burned carefully around the ranch, the nearby buildings and the creek bed. Grace made sure Skye got to see the way the smoke played with the sunlight in the trees.
They headed for some trees along the creek bed. Grace had been learning what she could from the firefighters when they did their burns.
"The first time I saw the base of a tree with fire at the bottom of it, I freaked out a little" Grace said. "But it turns out a small amount of fire at a tree's base can help harden the tree and make it more resilient."
"So these trees are going to be fine?"
"Maybe" Grace replied. "They were already stressed pretty bad. Remember we thought the big one was going to die before autumn? And then it got a little rain and seemed to rally. If they die it won't be from the burn. It will be because they were already compromised."
Grace pointed out the yucca.
"These will green right back up. Like literally, in a few days we are supposed to get rain and I bet if we go out and look at these after the rain we will see new green."
"This is a rare moment in time" Grace explained. "This burn will never again look exactly as it does this morning. The wind will change it, and we have rain coming, and new growth will push through the soil. Take a good look around, because this will be completely different after the rain." And as she looked around, Grace saw a path through the boulder-strewn landscape.
Beyond the controlled burn and the firebreak, tall stands of manzanita interspersed with coulter pines and yucca glowed dusty green, and the rising sun shone warm through the cold morning air.
A cacophony of sound followed the girls wherever they went. The scrub jays recognized Skye, and they were keen not to let her forget how much they looked forward to being fed.
It was still fairly early in the morning when they returned home, and still fairly chilly inside.
"That was incredible" Skye said. I want to keep going back and seeing how the landscape changes."
December 18, 2021
Skye was awake as the moon was setting, just before dawn. it wasn't too much colder outside than it was inside, except for a gusting wind that made taking a proper picture of the moon pretty much impossible. It was fun to try though.
When the sun got high enough, Grace and Skye took a walkabout to see what they could see. And of course, as soon as they committed to taking a walk instead of riding, the wind stopped and the day warmed. Mojo the cat was with them for their excursion. And Mojo decided to do a rather un-cat-like thing...walking on water. Skye just had to give it a try.
"Hold on to Baron" Grace said from the soft silt of the creek bed, trying hard not to sink boot-deep into the loose soil.
The ice was very slippery, and very clear, and it was melting fast, and the cracking of its surface was alarmingly loud.
The stream bank was slippery too, but thank goodness nobody was looking when Grace lost her battle with it.
Later in the day, as the last light fell upon the meadow below the ranch, Skye noted a stump, and then another...new stumps, she was pretty sure. If memory served her correctly, last she had looked, they were still-standing trees. The landscape seemed to be in a state of constant change, and it seemed accelerated now.
When evening came, silent and windless, Skye tried once again to photograph the moon rise. Her results were much improved. The moon and the trees and the night seemed...particularly magical.
December 19, 2021
Before the day got too busy, the girls took a ride through another portion of the controlled burn. Grace opted to ride one of Skye's favorite mares, Deer Medicine. It was nice, being able to ride through a more open country, and the recent rain had glued the ashes to the soil.
Skye had quite the reputation among the local wildlife, and they followed along expectantly, hoping for bird seed handouts. Even a California Thrasher joined the fray!
The ride was quiet, and pleasant, and uneventful. The day that followed would be full of activity and visitors and work and distractions.
Skye was already asleep that evening when Grace noticed that Baron wasn't in the room, or just outside, or anywhere that she could find him. And that was very strange.
Grace found him...out on the fire break, well past dark. He was calm, and warm despite the night's oncoming cold. Baron was a mixture of happy to see Grace, and nervous...as if he was quite aware being out by himself was not okay. There were a million questions in Grace's mind...how long had he been out wandering alone and when had she seen him last and how could that happen to her heart dog. When she brought him back inside he seemed ever so slightly aloof, or perhaps still a bit nervous...just not quite himself.
Well. Everyone was accounted for now, and Grace was definitely awake. All eyes were upon her, except for Skye, who slept soundly. This would be as good a time as any to get some things in order for Christmas...such as it was. She really didn't have anything that was actually a gift for Skye. But she had planned a little surprise of sorts, if she could pull it off. Not that she felt very confident at the moment.
December 20, 2021
Weather was coming. Grace had wanted to wait at least one more day, to be a little closer to Christmas, but rain was on the way. It was now or never.
She brought Skye out to the big arena just before daybreak...but she'd worked most of the early morning to get Skye's little herd there ahead of time. Everyone was ready. As they walked, she told Skye about losing Baron. At first Skye was distracted. She knew something was happening...the dogs weren't in the house, Grace, normally quiet, was talking up a storm...then her story started to sink in. How scary it would be to lose a dog. Your favorite dog in the world. Skye tried hard to listen.
The tree in the arena was...well, a fake tree, non-edible, which the horses were quick to decipher. But the box was moving. Grace stretched the Baron story as far as she could before losing Skye's attention completely. The box was moving a lot now.
White Dog got brave and looked inside. The box really started moving. There was a sudden burst of commotion, horses and dogs scattering...And re-grouping. The contents of the box revealed itself just as the girls approached, just as the sun crested the ridge. The pups...the pups Grace had seen in November at PetCo, hitherto still not adopted...tumbled out of the box. Bringing the total number of dogs to ten...or twelve, if you counted the shepherd pups that went to live with the ranch owner. Seemed like they might fit right in. And the tree was pretty cool too. Skye watched the animals interacting with the new pups. And the tree. She was fascinated by the artificial tree. She'd never seen anything quite like it.
"Did you make this Grace?"
"Well it's awesome, even if you didn't make it yourself."
Hi, my name is Corina, the official story teller for Grace and Skye. Grace owes her beauty, style and charm to Anne Field, Field of Dolls Studio. Skye does too, for that matter, as Anne fostered her for a while, giving Skye a complete makeover in the process. The horses, dogs, cats, saddles, bridles, furniture and so forth are the work of many artists. I'll do my best to acknowledge them as we go from day to day.
This is the ongoing, unfolding story of grace little, manager of redbird ranch, and her little sister, skye