Saturday, January 13, 2018

January Colors

On a sunny day on the farm, between rainy, foggy days...

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year!

On the last day of 2017, we drove up Agency Creek Road to look for American Dippers. Johnny drove; I took photos with my Nikon. It was a lovely, if cold, day with Agency Creek running high from our recent torrential rains. We had a hard time finding Dippers. Maybe because the creek was populated with Bald Eagles. Our guess is that the Grand Ronde tribe has done it's annual fish fling recently... when they deposit milked-out salmon from hatcheries into the creek to replenish the nutrients needed by baby salmon.  Eagles love salmon... carcasses or live, makes no difference.

Our first stop, though, was the gravel quarry with its ever-changing colors and bizarre lava flows.

Along the creek, nobody was visible except the eagles... adults and subadults, perched high in tree tops.

 "The Chutes" was a wild stretch of rushing water and beauty... no Dippers in sight.

 The gate to the railroad bridge was open... the first time we've seen it so. 

The view looking downstream from the bridge... nothing but water and mist and bare trees.

The view from another bridge was equally lovely... but no Dippers.

We could not even find a Dipper near where the Yoncalla (pictured below) flows into Agency Creek. A pair nests near here every year.

We stopped by a cascading waterfall where Dippers sometimes feed so I could take a photo of the falls. I saw no Dipper until I put the camera down... and realized one was on a rock in the middle of the stream! I quickly raised the camera to zoom in on the Dipper, but it disappeared. I waited many minutes but never saw it again. Perhaps it went down the waterfall and out of my sight. Dippers were certainly keeping a low profile this day.

However, when I put the photo of the falls on the computer and zoomed in, there was the Dipper! The tiny dot on a rock in the center of the above photo is the Dipper. I zoomed it in below but now it just looks like a tiny dark smudge above the rock. Believe me, it's a Dipper! That's exactly where I saw it.

 Farther along, the scenery was lovely but Dippers not in sight.

 However in an area of many dead trees where we often find woodpeckers, there was a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers scolding and flying about. Johnny spotted Gray Jays working through the area, too. And we found one very conspicuous and busy Pileated Woodpecker, that finally posed for a photo.

Back home, our lone guinea hen greeted us, as always. She seems to think the vehicles belong to her and escorts them back into the shop/garage, where she apparently thinks they ought to stay.

The next day, New Year's Day, dawned sunny and clear. I needed some photos for my monthly humor column in United Caprine News, so I took my Panasonic  (not as heavy as the Nikon) out with me. The goats were enjoying the sunshine after the frost was off the grass.

Most lay in family groups.

Dam and daughter Ginseng and Gin & Tonic

Dam and daughter Cindy Lou and Cleopatra standing, dam/daughter/granddaughter Felicity, Happy Day and Golden Day reclining

Also out enjoying the sunshine was llama Lindoro with his dog, Shirley

Happy New Year from the Fink Family Farm!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

December... and the Trials Continue

Johnny's fall back in November seems to have disrupted more than his knee. Once it started feeling better, he realized how much his feet hurt, both of them. And his legs. In fact, he could barely hobble around with two canes (ski poles). So a friend brought him a loaner wheelchair from church and that has made Johnny's life much easier. A trip to the doctor (a month after the fall) and x-rays showed that his feet had internal as well as external swelling and some arthritis, cause uncertain. He is doing all sorts of exercises and treatments and has hopes of being "normal" again. In January, he will go to a foot and ankle clinic in hopes they can figure out what's going on. Meanwhile, he can drive the car and, for short periods, the van, so is doing all our usual birding events as vehicle-bound chaperone. You can't keep a good man down.

To add to the excitement, our car developed a flat tire. Well, I suppose it developed it because I ran over something that poked it but I didn't know that until two different friends mentioned that the car in Johnny's shop had a flat tire. So Johnny in his wheelchair and I in my cap (it was cold out) went out to change the tire. With his excellent instructions and my brawn, the tire was changed... but not without incident of course. The incident being that Johnny forgot to set the brake on his wheelchair before reaching over to help push the tire onto the little pokey things that the lug nuts have to fit over. Chair went zooming backwards and Johnny landed on his butt. Fortunately, he did no further damage to his legs. After the fact, he took a photo of me, and I took one of him, giving directions.

Bad things come in threes, they say, and the third was the worst. One of our two llamas came down with what, in retrospect, I thought was tetanus. So we now have only one llama, Lindoro, who is 18 going on 19. His son was 16, going on 17. I thought they were youngsters in llama years but the internet tells me the average lifespan of a llama in captivity is 15-20 years.   I have now given vaccines to all the goats and gone to a clinic to get a vaccine myself, since it had been 20 years since my last one... The vet came out the next day to give shots to the llama and the horses and said it didn't sound like tetanus to him but all the animals should have tetanus shots anyway because horses carry tetanus in their intestines.

Christmas Day offered a respite from the stress. We traveled, as usual, to Tillamook to have Christmas dinner at the Shiloh Inn with friends and fellow birders, John and Barbara Woodhouse. The meal was wonderful... and none of us had to cook or clean up a kitchen afterwards! And then we went car birding. I had taken my Nikon P900 camera along and John stopped frequently to let me indulge my mania for photos. The meadowlarks were a surprise at the end of Bay Ocean Spit road. One of them looked grumpy.

The rocks off Cape Meares are visible from this road. A Northern Harrier flew across as I snapped the photo...

An unlikely pair, cormorant and heron, shared a log in the lake alongside the road.

They were quite content together, even grooming themselves...

What a difference one day -- with good friends, good birds and good scenery -- can make.

That evening, Steve called to set up video conferencing so we could see and talk to all of them. Such magic!  And the kids sent us a fantastic Christmas video they made for us of Kestrel on guitar and singing, Cedrus on keyboard and singing. They are amazingly talented. What a wonderful gift.

And what a great note to end a not-so-great year on... Happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

November Trials and Tribulations

It's been an interesting November so far. I spent the first two weeks with a bad cold. I managed to do morning and evening chores, my beached bird survey... with help from Johnny this month, and our two raptor surveys, again with Johnny. And I cut greens for wreaths and started making them.

The beached bird survey provides lots of dead bird photos that aren't too attractive so I'll leave them out. But Johnny noticed a live bird in our driveway one day, a Ruffed Grouse. I saw it the next day, too, and got a blurry photo of the well camouflaged bird.

 Our North Santiam raptor route gave us lovely views of snow-clad mountains: Mt. Hood...

and Mt. Jefferson...

 I was still sick then, so did not take many other photos.

A few days after I was done with my cold, Johnny came down with it. And then, to add interest, he slipped in the mud and landed with his left knee twisted under him. No chores and nothing much but bed for him for the next week. This week he is hobbling around without a cane and seems to feel better. 

With Johnny under the weather, it was my turn to drive to town for animal feed. I took my camera with me and stopped to take a photo of the smiley face that graces a mountainside near us. Hampton Lumber planted larch trees some years ago to make this face when the larches turn color in the fall. The eyes and mouth are doug fir. It is a cheerful sight that makes all of us in the area smile whenever we drive that highway. 

The last couple weeks have been mostly wreath-making time for me. I enjoy cutting greens off our own place to make the wreaths. This year I used prunings from the dwarf pines in the rose bed, redwood branches and modoc cypress branches from the arboretum, and holly from the tree in our front yard. I had made the grapevine rounds that I use as a base some weeks ago. But I had cut the vines from our grapes several weeks before making the rounds so the vines were a bit dried out and hard to work with. I threw them in the creek for a day or two and that helped some. Next year I'll make the rounds as soon as I cut the vines. Hopefully.

Making wreaths is sometimes fun and sometimes frustrating. But they are done now with the ones that get mailed either shipped or ready for shipping. I took a photo of some of the wreaths hanging in my workshop (otherwise known as the stock trailer). The other side of the trailer has an equal number of wreaths hanging along it. My workbench is at the front of the stock trailer, with a window looking out on the arena. I love my workshop.

With Johnny's knee healing and the wreaths finished, we are preparing for a quiet Thanksgiving with just a few friends. It promises to be a rainy holiday weekend, but whenever the clouds allow, we are graced with lovely November sunrises.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 30, 2017

A Cidering Birthday Weekend

 Our Seattle area kids arrived late Friday night for a weekend on the farm. Jessica spent Saturday morning cooking lots of fabulous food, even though she was feeling lousy.  She is a determined lady. The rest of us spent the afternoon gathering apples and making cider for them to take home.

It's been a lousy apple year but the bears had left us some at the very top of a tree by the swamp at the far southern edge of our property. Kevin climbed up while Ian operated a long pole to knock apples down... and hopefully not Kevin. Johnny took photos.

 I gathered the apples on the tarp spread below... and hoped not to get hit on the head.

Bears had left plenty of sign of their apple eating activity, both on the ground...

And in the tree: Kevin said scratch marks from a bear's attempt to reach those top apples went nearly all the way to the apples...

The only tree in our orchard still with apples this late in this very odd year is very old and thick with branches. Too thick and with apples too high for poles from the ground to work, so Kevin climbed and threw apples down at us. Well, it sometimes seemed like he was throwing them at us. Johnny attempted to get a photo of Kevin hidden in the upper branches.

 Easier were the trees around our house, although they did not have many apples, either. Here Ian did the tree climbing honors. Kevin handed him a fruit picking pole so he could reach the apples high above.


With apples finally gathered, we set up the cider pressing operation. I washed apples while Kevin cut the rotten parts out.

Johnny and Ian took turns dropping the apples into the apple shredder. Well, Ian "dropped" his from a distance.

 Below Johnny presses the apples into the grinder with an apple pusher (my name... don't have a clue what it's really called.)

  The shredded apples dropped into a bucket and then were dumped into the press.

I did not get a photo of Kevin or Ian or Johnny twisting the press handles, squeezing the juice out, but they did and here it comes...

The juice was then poured through a strainer to get out the apple parts that had escaped through the press slats.

After each pressing, the mostly-dried-out apple pieces were cleaned out of the press and dumped into a wheelbarrow.

After all the apples were pressed, the leavings went to the goats. Happy goats!

 That evening we sat down for a wonderful supper of pulled pork and potato salad (at Johnny's request) and green salad and more... with a pumpkin cheesecake (at my request) for dessert, complete with candles to celebrate my Halloween birthday. (Brownies, too. Jessica makes delicious brownies.)

That evening, before goat-milking chores, we watched two episodes of the Big Bang Theory, Season 8.  K and J and Ian had given us the previous seasons in the past. Now we won't have to keep watching Seasons 1 through 7 over and over! (Every evening that we aren't too tired, Johnny and I watch 2 episodes of this comedy. We love it. No matter how many times we watch it.)

Kevin, Jessica and Ian left for their long drive home at Sunday noon. It was cool and misty then, after an incredibly warm and dry Saturday for our fun birthday and cider celebration.

Johnny and I ate well again Sunday night... and watched two more Big Bang Theory episodes from Season 8. Jessica made enough food to last us several more happy, delicious days.