The house that I live in is now thirty-five years old. It was constructed largely from the lumber produced out of a single redwood that had toppled to the ground a century before. Though the property is a product of nineteenth century acquisitions by my father's parents, this particular abode stems from my mother's imagination and willpower. For years after it was built my father grumbled about, “Your mother's damn mansion.” After dinner in the "redwood mansion," often as not, he retreated down the hill to the log house my parents, with help from uncles, constructed by hand. When I say by hand, I mean that they cut down trees themselves, hewed the logs, cut the notches for the logs to fit together, and everything else required to build your own two bedroom log house. That home, which included a large living room, kitchen, sun porch, and covered back porch, always sloped ever so slightly toward the southwest. So much for the perfection of do-it-yourself construction.
The Albion River runs slightly southwest as well. That is, it takes nearly ninety degree turns every mile or so in the lower Albion, eventually arriving at its ocean mouth a tad farther southwest than the route of its main river source in the environs of Comptche.
That last paragraph presupposes that the Albion River runs, which it does not. For the last three years the Albion has ceased flowing from fresh water to tidewater in mid-summer. Last year this occurred as early as the Fourth of July. Here on the Macdonald Ranch there are multiple locations where you can walk right across the river bottom without muddying your shoes or boots.
McKay Gulch, which runs north to south through the western portion of the Macdonald Ranch, is dry. The headwaters for that same gulch was the original water source for my Macdonald ancestors in the 19th century. They constructed a wooden flume that ran the better part of a mile to their house just above the river's flood plain.
A third of a mile to the west, an unnamed gulch stream is bone dry. In my childhood my sisters and I used to carry fresh water for our log house when the underground galvanized water pipes from a spring and tank up the hill (above even this house) froze solid. This seemed to happen every winter a half century and more ago. My older sisters would put on thick socks and rubber boots and pretend to skate on the frozen ponds in the bottom lands. In the present day, those two gulches to the west have been dry for months, not just due to the drought, but also because people living on the south side of the Littleriver Airport Road are using all the water from the underground springs which used to flow into those gulches.
Along the same lines of scorched earth, a long time local alerted me to the fact that virtually nothing has been done to repair the track behind Fort Bragg's Company Store, where the Skunk Train derailed months ago while backing up. This past week the same citizen pointed out that an invasive weed is growing in the area adjacent to the damaged line. The local called it "goathead," though the weed goes by passel full of euphemisms: devil's thorn, devil's weed, tackweed, cat's head, puncture vine and many more. Puncture vine might the most descriptive because this weed spreads like a vine, but amongst its green leaflets grows a bubbling head, or nut, that at this time of year bursts into thorns powerful enough to puncture a bicycle tire. Puncture vine, or "goathead," is invasive to North America. It is native to the warmer climates of Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. It has been spotted in Southern California for years as well as the Central Valley, but this may be the first sighting in coastal Mendocino County.
It will be interesting to see what is done about the weed in Fort Bragg. It's located in something of a no man's land between the G-P mill site, the Skunk Train depot and the Company Store. Puncture vine can be eradicated by herbicides such as glyphosate, but it is better yanked up by its roots to prevent further spread.