Monday, April 24, 2017

A Day Off the Farm


On Friday, the day before Earth Day, a Peace Pole was being dedicated in McMinnville. I had an eye appointment in that town. A horse drawn equipment auction was happening at the fairgrounds there. And friend and Linfield art instructor, Totem Shriver, was holding his annual Art Burn on the Linfield campus. And so off we went, after lunch, for a day away from the farm.

Having left my camera in the car, I did not take photos of the Peace Pole. However photos can be seen on the website of the Peace Pole Project. http://www.peacepoleproject.org/peacepoleproject.html
There are, according to The Peace Pole website, tens of thousands of these poles around the world, sponsored by many different organizations.

Each pole says May Peace Prevail on Earth in different languages on each of its four or six sides.
The pole in McMinnville's Civic Center has English, Chinook Wawa (the trade language of Northwest Native American tribes), Spanish and Hebrew. There will be five more Peace Poles planted in McMinnville ultimately. I was reminded of the song lyrics... "May we have peace on earth... And may it begin with me."

It was a short ceremony, so we had time to spare before my eye appointment. We drove to Airport Park, near my eye doctor's office. Johnny had not been there before. It is a very birdy park... with lots of small airplanes taking off and landing nearby, to Johnny's delight on this rare warm and sunny day.

I asked Johnny to pose inside the concrete mushroom in the wooded park.



Also in the park are many concrete benches. Concrete is a great way to make benches and picnic tables last in our wet climate. They grow green with moss, but don't rot. I foresee some future projects on our farm...


A small creek runs through the park. Two bridges cross it.

We wandered long enough to make me almost late for my appointment. While I had my eyes tested and dilated, Johnny wandered around the Air Museum across the highway. After I came out of the clinic, we still had time before supper at our favorite restaurant... Thai Country, so I  suggested we go back to Airport Park. I could see little because of my dilated eyes but I could listen to the chorus of bird songs. Afterwards, we drove around behind the airport and stopped to take a photo of Mt. Hood in glorious sunshine.


After supper, we again had time before our next adventure, Totem's Art Burn, so I asked to go to the fairgrounds and see if the Horse Drawn Equipment auction was still going on. It was and I was able to walk around and admire the many carriages. It brought back happy memories of the times I had gone to the Small Farmer's Journal auction many years ago... first with Jerry and Jean Easterling when I was writing for the SFJ and when Jerry was the auctioneer... way back in the first years of the auction. Some years later it was moved to Sisters. Dad and I drove over there several times. He had worked with horses as a kid and had a story for every piece of horse drawn equipment that we saw there. One trip we came home with a horse drawn wagon that Dad restored for me... but I only pulled it with my horses one time. It is now a flower bed, planted with spring bulbs.




 Ah, but those beautiful carriages at the fairgrounds!



This one was a wedding coach. I suggested we hire it for our 50th wedding anniversary party. Johnny just laughed.

Several covered and uncovered wagons were in the line up.  I liked the sign on the back of this one. CAUTION!! POWERED BY OATS. DON'T STEP IN THE EXHAUST!


But best of all were the sleighs. Oh what fun it would be to ride in a one-horse open sleigh! However, we seldom get enough snow...


Then we were off to our final event of the evening, the Art Burn in a field near the Linfield campus. This is the 9th year that Totem's class has held this burn. We had not attended for several years and were surprised at the turn-out. In the early years, it was pretty much his class and a bunch of his 1970s era, alternative lifestyle friends (like us). There were some of us oldsters in the crowd this year, but mostly it was Linfield students... lots of them.

Spectators are encouraged to write something they would like to have go up in smoke and put it inside the structure. I have never been sure if this should be something you want to get rid of forever or something you want to have seared into all eternity. This year the structure was painted and decorated more than any has ever been before. It was impressive.



This year's structure, Totem explained to the crowd before the ceremony began, was built by his class in January and had been sitting out in the rain ever since. Lighting it could take some doing. Totem and friends and class come up with different intriguing methods of lighting it each year. My favorite was the flaming arrow. Or arrows. It took about six of them to finally hit the right spot. This year an adjacent tower was built with a pyramid suspended by a string from its top. A piece of yarn hung below the pyramid. When lit, the yarn would burn up to the pyramid which would, in turn, light the string it was hanging from, setting it free to swing by a wire that was attached to the main structure onto the wad of newspapers at the base of the structure, lighting them, and thence the structure. Thanks to the vagaries of wind, it needed a little help from Totem in the toppling.


Lighting tower to the left with a wire and string attaching it to the structure to make sue it falls the right way. The crowd here is gathered to listen to Totem give an explanation.

And here's Totem!

Taiko drummers added a dramatic background to the occasion while Linfield's fire dancers performed around the structure.





The yarn is lit!

I took lots of videos but did not get any stills of the structure going up in flames, so have taken some frame shots to add to this blog.



The lighting tower has been pushed over to light the art structure








You can hear the Taiko drummers and the crowd in the videos I put on youtube:


https://youtu.be/8GnWjJY9QCs

https://youtu.be/Ab0eH0VIgLw

https://youtu.be/vltPvPtW2S4

In the one below I held the camera sideways by mistake for the first part so you have to lie on your side to see it upright. (This is the one where the tower topples as you can see in the photo above that I took off a screen shot... and rotated it 90 degrees.) After awhile I realized what I was doing and put the camera upright, so you can then sit up to watch it. Technology is not my strong point.

 https://youtu.be/GgHj1O7URtU



Wonderful weather, interesting sights, and good friends to connect with... it was a good day.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Dipper Easter


The church goer in our family (Johnny) went to sunrise service this Easter morning. I milked goats, fed horses, and checked on the errant baby barn owl that fell out of the nest yesterday. It seems to be fine.

When Johnny came home we packed lunches and headed up the road for our sometimes-on-Sundays American Dipper survey. This time I hiked in from the road to see if I could find where the missing Rock Wall dippers may have gone. I did see them flying upstream. When I arrived at the spot where they had taken off from, I took photos in case they are thinking of nesting in the stumps here. I think their rock wall is a much better site but... who knows what the Dippers think.



While  I was fighting my way through the underbrush, Johnny was walking in from the other end, the way we usually go to get to the rock wall site. He didn't find Dippers but he did see a coyote.

By the time we rendezvoused and hiked back to the van, we were hungry. So we ate our packed lunches while sitting above The Chutes, an area of roiling water funneled through a narrow chute. One Dipper came feeding and a pair of Common Mergansers flew by.

We drove on to our other nest stops and found Dippers feeding nestlings at several of them. We also saw a bobcat trotting up the road in front of us, then crossing the creek on a big downed log.

But Johnny made the real discovery of the day.

In years past, we have seen fledgling Dippers being fed along one section where we have been unable to find a nest. However, I have heard a Dipper singing near that locale, apparently behind a very high rocky outcropping covered with vegetation. Today I scrambled up that outcropping determined to find the Dipper nest. From on high, I peeked through the branches and found a site above a backwater where I thought the nest must be. There were lots of splats on a log that told me a Dipper sat there often, likely keeping watch over the nest site. 

Meanwhile, Johnny, standing by the roadside, had seen Dippers darting quickly in and out of a fresh lump of moss. He also saw one parent take an empty egg sac out and dump it. I clambered back off the mountain and joined him and we watched the busy parents make many trips feeding nestlings.


 As it turned out, I did get a photo of the nest without realizing it, from the upstream side. It is at the far right corner of the photo I took from up on top of the brushy rock wall.




Here it is centered in a cropped version of the above photo. It sure was easier to pick out from the road!


Farther upstream at the faithful Asinine Bridge location, last year's nest looked dried out and unused. Farther upstream, a Dipper sat motionless, high over the stream, apparently on lookout duty. We left him to his task and will check again later when they might be feeding nestlings and we can find the nest. In the photo below, he is on the very tip of the curvy log jutting out by the big log across the creek. Pretty hard to see.


 Here he is zoomed up.




Back home,  we served ham and sticky rice and sweet potatoes (or yams) and deviled eggs and salad  to our neighbor Irv... and us. Then, as the rains returned after two blissful days of no rain, I dashed outside to take a picture of our yard on Easter Sunday.

Dinosaur egg, maybe?




And now, my day will end as it began, with goat milking and feeding horses. A good Easter.

Friday, April 7, 2017

April Rain Breaks

My usual "It's snowing!" proclamation early on the morning of Saturday, April 1st, did not elicit surprise this year. The way our weather has been, it would be no surprise if it had snowed again. But it had not. In fact, it was dry enough, after several mostly rain-free days, that I finally got the second buck pen cleaned because I could finally drive the EZ Go into the buck paddock without getting it stuck in the mud. Sunday morning, I recleaned the first buck pen as it was a mess again. When bucks stay indoors all the time because of the incessant rain, pens get mucky.

But Sunday afternoon was only marginally misty so we drove up Agency Creek Road to check on the nearby clearcut we can hear happening from our farm... and to survey Dippers, of course. I found a little side trail I had not been on before at one of our Dipper stops. It led to a lovely little waterfall flowing into Agency Creek.



The trail was decorated with wood violets... and sunshine!


Farther on we found a Dipper preening itself on an island in the stream. We found a total of seven Dippers this day.




Back home that evening, we made pizza. It was so colorful I took a photo of it. And pretty tasty, too.


Monday is Qi Gong day for me every week. This week my Qi Gong partners came to our farm to practice outdoors in the rare sunshine. We also threw feathers into the air for the swallows to catch and stuff into their nest boxes. I love playing the "feather game" with the Tree and Violet-green swallows each spring. Neighbor kids like to come and play, too... when it isn't raining. In the dry afternoon, I mowed the lawn and arboretum paths, knowing the rains would return soon.

Tuesday was to be the last dry day for a while, so I drove to the coast to do my first Bob Straub Park beached bird survey. I found no beached birds but did find eagles by the mouth of the bay. If you look closely at the third photo below, you may be able to see the white head and tail on either side of a black body -- an eagle perched in a tree below this huge house on the far side of the bay. You can tell from the first photo that I am a long way from that eagle and the bay.




Here is the eagle closer and very blurry.

Then I saw another eagle flying along the bay and landing in this same tree. The original eagle took off and flew up the bay in the direction the second eagle had come from. It landed in a tree on the hillside and then disappeared into the wooded hill... I suspect to a nest but have no proof. Yet. I'll be back early May (weather permitting) for another beached bird survey and will check again.

Meanwhile, Johnny, for someone retired, has been doing a lot of odd jobs for friends and neighbors. Plus countless repairs on our farm and equipment. And he opened up our long driveway like it has not been in years. I like driving through a tunnel of trees and bushes but it *has* been getting to be a rather narrow tunnel...

And now it is Friday, wet and blowing like crazy outside so I'm inside, working in the greenhouse, writing this blog, and trying to get my Still Life in the Goat Lane book together, the third and last in my Goat Lane series. Brave Johnny drove to town on this rainy, blustery day for various errands. 

The rains have returned, but I have faith there will be more rain breaks in April for outside work and play... and photos.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Walk in the Woods... and Mowing


Yesterday was an unexpected no-rain day, at least until evening. I took the chance to walk through our woods, hoping the rain would stay away, and see what wildflowers were blooming.

There were lots of various species of Cardamine in bloom...


 Quite a few Trillium were blooming, but many looked beat down by rain. This one managed to hide under fern leaves and stay more or less intact.


The Sessile Trilliums with their pretty spotted leaves were in bud, but not yet blooming.



There will be a lot of them open before long...


 Also not yet ready to bloom were the tiger lilies I wait forever and hopefully to see bloom before the slugs and/or deer eat them. This one has another couple of feet to grow upward before making buds.


 The cheery wood violets were plentiful.


And Oregon Forestsnails were happily munching along the forest floor. Rain is fine with them.



 Lots of Indian Plum blooming...


The first skunk cabbage was open in our little creek.



 The big creek, Agency, was a roaring torrent with a newly fallen tree across it.


 On my way back, I sat very still for sometime at our seasonal pond, watching the tiny underwater and on-top-of-the-water creatures. I sat so long, a turkey vulture came to investigate. I guess he wanted to know if I was ready to be eaten yet.



I decided it was time to stand up and walk. When I arrived back by the machine shed, it was still not raining and the grass was, amazingly, dry enough to mow. And very tall... thanks to wet days keeping me from mowing. So I happily climbed onto the one ride-around mower not in the repair shop. It would not start. I connected it to the battery charger, which sits nearby since most of our equipment needs frequent help.. .and called Johnny. He couldn't get it started either.

With one ride-around mower off for repairs and the other needing them, I was relegated to the gasoline push mower. And so I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening pushing it around the too-high grass which we have too much of. But I did get the paths around the flower beds plus the back yard mowed, just before the rain resumed. So the place looks a little more presentable.






Lots of daffodils are blooming, as can be seen in the photo above. Below, the horse wagon I had planted with bulbs is blooming.

I had planted the colorful small hyacinth and tulip bulbs on the side facing the barn and pond as that was the side I would see it from, since there was a fence and shrubbery on the house side. However, I had not considered that when they bloomed, the grass would be growing in front of their wagon bed and I would want to put the llamas in there to eat it. I surely don't need more grass to mow. However, the llamas would likely taste the flowers. So I put up a make-shift fence sure to be replaced by a horrified Johnny. And it was. We now have a lovely high fence on the barn and pond side of the bulb wagon. And I pruned back the shrubbery that was blocking the view from the house side. Plus Johnny moved the wagon, with the tractor, forward so I could see it from my office window.

As a result, the photo above was taken by aiming the camera through a hole in the fence wire. Next year, I'll plant the wee flowers on the other side of the bulb bed. Or maybe on both sides with the taller and later bulbs in the middle. In the photo below, you can see part of the new fence on the left.


 Today we have had a more usual on-again-off-again rain, so I am grateful for an entire day of no rain yesterday. And grateful that the afternoon rain today allowed me to come inside after an exhausting morning of hauling off, with Johnny's help, my enormous heaps of prunings that I have been creating in moments of minimal rain. And it allowed me to put the photos I took yesterday on the computer and add them to this journal of life on our soggy farm.