Thursday, July 24, 2014

Johnny's Projects and Jeff

Phase Two of the company summer revolved around Johnny's dam and outhouse projects. The supports under our dam had collapsed and needed replacing, which involved a concrete pour. Johnny did not want to mix the concrete himself but it was too small a job to bring in a truck. So he created more projects to use up more concrete... and bring in a truck. The outhouse had not been used for years because it would be dangerous to sit down. He moved the house out of the way and worked at digging out and redoing the throne.

Plus he came up with the idea of having cement platforms for ladders to climb down to below the dam where our irrigation pump resides. That was enough projects to warrant a cement truck but too many projects in too many places for one person and a half (I'm the half), so he invited his nephew Jeff from Illinois to come help. He arranged to do the pour just after the music festival nearby that Jeff likes to attend.

Jeff arrived on Wed., July 16, in the middle of our grandson Ian's visit (previous blog entry). We all went to the coast the next day for the sea star survey at Short Beach and checking on Black Oystercatcher nests there and at Cape Meares. Here Jeff is checking out a sea star.

That evening we invited Irv down for supper cooked by Ian... and, while he was here, would he like to help unload the hay that Johnny and Jeff had put on the hay wagon earlier.  Irv, 84 years young, was delighted to help.

Jeff put the bales on the elevator, Irv ferried them from elevator to Johnny who was stacking in the loft.

Jeff looks like he's having fun!
On Friday, after working all morning on the dam and outhouse preparations, Johnny, Jeff and Ian went to the music festival while I stayed home to catch up on things. The garden is producing and I'm picking and freezing peas and beans, cooking (and giving away) lots of zucchini, plus watering, hoeing, weeding, mowing, etc.

Saturday and Sunday Johnny worked on his own getting ready for the Monday concrete pour while Jeff hung out at the music festival and I took Ian to Devonwood to rejoin his parents (then picked and froze produce, weeded, mowed, etc.) I wish I had taken photos of the big beams Johnny used for supports under the dam, before he covered the top. They are hunks of beams from the old barn... re-purposed for the dam.

Monday morning Johnny worked furiously to get ready for the concrete pour. He decided we were getting more than we had use for so he quickly put together a bunch of forms for concrete stepping stones. Then the truck arrived...

First pour was over the side of the dam. Johnny is down at the bottom, creating concrete pads for ladders to stand on after the cement dries. That's Irv watching... before helping at the outhouse pour. The dam with its rebar grid is in the foreground.

Johnny, with Jeff's help, had dug out the outhouse hole. Johnny created a "pot" from a huge fiberglass tree pot given to us, laid rebar and made forms. The cinder blocks will go around the perimeter later for the old outhouse to rest on.

Since there would be no driving a cement truck across the dam, Jeff ferried loads of cement in the tractor bucket to the outhouse pad.

Irv and I shoveled it in, then Johnny and Irv worked it. (Obviously, I could not take photos while part of the process. I had planned to be the official photographer but... )

Here is the finished dam... I could take no photos of the operation as I was helping there while Johnny finished up at the outhouse pour.

Jeff added this to the dam.

The stepping stones used up what was left of the concrete, after pouring the dam. Jeff decorated them, too. The wood star is what he made for us last trip. He didn't like that it was buried in my flowerbed, I guess, so he elevated it to swing in the breeze.

On Tuesday, Jeff's friend Kathy drove down from Portland to tour the farm with him and take him back with her. She would take him to the airport the next day for his flight home. My last goat of the year to kid did so shortly after Kathy arrived. Johnny, Jeff and Kathy came into the barn in time to see the third kid pop out.

There was other excitement while Jeff was here but he missed it when he was camped out at the music festival over the weekend. A bobcat sat in front of the barn one morning waiting for a vole or gopher or something to pop up out of the ground.

It was disappointed and finally left. Johnny took photos from the milk room where I had called him to come with his camera when I saw the bobcat. I had been milking goats and happened to look out the window.

Always something exciting going on at the farm.

Johnny much appreciated Jeff's help with the concrete projects. Now he has to lay the concrete blocks and move the old outhouse onto its new foundation. No doubt he'll ask Irv to come help.

I'll take photos.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Grandson Ian started out our marathon company summer when he arrived from Seattle with Johnny via Amtrak on Thursday, July 10. Except Ian is not really company. He cooks all the suppers, has his menus prepared and food bought upon arrival, helps with everything we're doing, and is a joy to be around because he's always cheerful, even when I'm cranky. All this at twelve years old, soon to be thirteen. I just wish we could steal him for the whole summer.

The first night of his visit even the heavens were delighted to have him here. They put on this glorious show at sunset.

Johnny's prime objective for Ian's visit was to teach him welding and to weld together a garden gate for Traumhof. They watched instructional videos on youtube, then welded. Here they are in their protective gear. Ian, on the right, is holding the torch.

Ian cut a piece of fencing for their wire gate.

Why I have no photo of the finished product is a mystery.

Nor do I have photos of the dishes Ian prepared. Here he is cooking.

Together we made ice cream with our goat milk and his coconut sugar, topped with the fudge he made.

 And we picked blueberries.

Amazing Graze horse feeders arrived while Ian was here and we tried them out on the horses. I was hoping it would occupy Jessie Anne and keep her from chewing down the fences. Ian and Johnny also put up a chew toy for her and Ian tried to show her how much fun it was but she was not interested. However, the roll-around horse feeders were a hit. Mr. Smith learned immediately that he did not need to chase it all over the paddock. He only had to roll it one way with his nose, eat the hay cube that fell out, then roll it back the other way and another treat would roll out. It did not slow his food consumption down much nor give him much exercise.

Jessie Anne and Nightingale also learned quickly how to minimize expending energy.

On Monday, July 14, we went to Road's End to survey Black Oystercatchers. Johnny and Ian climbed up to The Thumb, while I headed for the North rim to look down on the North Rock BLOY with their chick. For once, they cooperated quickly and I was able to get this photo of the family group.

I also took a photo of The Thumb, with Ian on it, although I could not see him until I zoomed up the camera.

Ian took this photo with Johnny's camera of their view looking north. The North Rock, with its BLOY family, is the little offshore rock that the scope is aimed toward.

I took a photo of this always-lovely view that I can see on my way back.

Alas, I left my fanny pack at my observation post and did not discover it was missing until half way back to the car. I had to retrace my tired steps. We were all ready for lunch at the Thai restaurant when I finally made it to the car. But, since the day was not over, after lunch we drove on to Neskowin and looked for BLOY on Refusal Rock... no hiking involved. Found none but Johnny took this photo of me looking.

On the next day, Ian and I cleared brush along the driveway.

But it was not all work and hikes and cooking for Ian. We also played games, watched movies, and played in the creek.

Ian spent much time with the goats, petting them and just watching them. He loves the goats.

On July 16, Johnny and Ian drove to Portland to pick up Johnny's nephew Jeff at the airport, who was flying in from Illinois to help with some concrete projects of Johnny's and to attend the local music festival. But first, we all went to the coast on Thursday, July 17, to survey sea stars and BLOY at Short Beach.

Ian and I working on the Sea Star Wasting Disease survey

 Although the nesting Oystercatchers are far away and hard to see, non-nesting BLOY bathe in the creek and are close and easy to see. We saw twelve of them that day... and lots of gulls.

We also went to Cape Meares and saw one of the two Peregrine youngsters... at a great distance... and discovered a pair of nesting BLOY. We took the short hike to the Octopus Tree where Jeff wanted the three Fink boys to act like octopi with many arms in front of the Octopus Tree. It's hard to tell that's what they're doing here...

The next day the three Fink boys went to the Wildwood Music Festival while I stayed home to catch up on mowing, watering, weeding, etc. Jeff camped there overnight. Johnny and Ian came home in time to see two of the Night Blooming Cereus (or whatever they are) open in the jungle room... and smell their intoxicating perfume.

These beautiful flowers last only one night. The next day, Saturday, July 19, they were wilted. And I had to take Ian to Devonwood and deliver him to his parents at their Theraplate vendor booth. It was good to see Kevin and Jessica, but I felt a little wilted myself, having to say goodbye for now to Ian. What a wonderful grandson.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Black Oystercatcher Chicks

Although we were unable to see the chicks at Short Beach on July 2nd, our July 8th survey farther south, at Road's End, gave me a good view of the North nest rock chick. The two adults below have their backs to us. The chick is between them. If you look closely (or click on the photo to enlarge), you can see that the chick's bill is beginning to show color.

Here is a cropped version with parent and chick. The base of the chick's bill is starting to lighten.

Johnny could tell the Middle Rock parents at Road's End were feeding a chick but never saw the chick. Maybe next time. (That is our BLOY survey mantra... Maybe next time...)

After our customary lunch at the Jasmine Thai restaurant, we headed south to Boiler Bay with friend Dawn, who monitors four nests there. One had failed earlier, another had chicks that seem to have disappeared, a third had just hatched chicks, and the fourth was a mystery. This day, however, the mystery was solved when a chick came out to get something to eat that a parent brought. Johnny got this photo through the scope. Dawn has better ones. The chick is under the ledge with the adult between chick and camera.

The unusual thing about this nest is that it is not on its own offshore rock, like all the other nests in our area. Rather it is within twenty feet of another pair's nest... and now chick... on what we call Two Tone Rock. Usually pairs will not allow other BLOY within many feet of their nest rock. I'm wondering if these pairs might be offspring of the pair on a nearby rock that have been successful parents every year since I began paying attention to them. Dawn watched them fledge two chicks last year. Perhaps one of each of these two pairs, nesting so close together, are siblings. If only these birds had colorful leg bands or wing tags so we could identify them!

It was another great day at the beach: not too hot, not too cold. I look forward to our next survey.

At the Coast

Although it has been hot on the farm with too much work to do, we take a weekly break, at least, for our bird and sea star surveys on the coast. July 2 was our sea star and Short Beach Black Oystercatcher survey, plus two bonus surprises at Cape Meares.

Up and down both coasts, sea stars are still dying and no one is sure why. Whatever the pathogen, the warmer ocean waters are suspected to be making it reproduce faster than the stars can fight it off. We are asked to survey the same beach every two weeks to follow progress, or regress. There is worry that all the sea stars will die out. We survey at Short Beach on the same day we try to find the Black Oystercatcher chicks there.

After having to catalog and photograph all those sick and dying sea stars, it's good to look up and see that the view is still lovely.

Although we could see that the Black Oystercatchers were flying to their nest ledge with food, we could not see the chicks. On an offshore rock not far from the beach this BLOY gathered food and flew toward the ledge.

But we were at the wrong angle to see what he delivered it to... A little black bird with red bill is in the center of the following photo. The nest area, we learned last time, is around the corner left. We could only view it from up on the road... very far away.

So with the sea star survey completed, we hiked back up to the road. I saw a BLOY fly up, presumably to feed, but whatever he fed was in the shadows and invisible. That tiny black bird with the red bill is even tinier from this distance, right where he was before but at a different angle. He is on the ledge to the right of the dark hole. The chicks are not out in view... at least I can't see them.

We then drove the two miles from Short Beach to Cape Meares to see if we could find the BLOY that had, from all reports, disappeared from their usual nesting areas.

First we checked the distant Peregrine nest ledge and saw... something... within.

Eventually, the something materialized into a big fluffy white Peregrine chick. Then an adult flew in with prey and a second chick appeared! Johnny took these photos with his camera shooting through a scope.

Meanwhile, I was watching, from a lower viewpoint, an Oystercatcher that Johnny had spotted... hoping it would take me to a nest. After a very long time of watching it standing on the side of the cliff doing nothing, I realized that there was a second BLOY nearby... on a nest! Johnny took this photo of the two birds, after one had moved closer to the nesting bird, through the scope. At one point, the setting bird stood and I was able to see an egg. There were probably more but the bird didn't stay up long enough for me to know.

What a great day of discoveries at Cape Meares! It was made even more fun after we picked up a late lunch at the Netarts deli, met our Tillamook friends the Woodhouses and drove to Cape Lookout State Park to eat... and scope the offshore rocks for BLOY. None found but we did see an eagle chick in the eagle nest visible from the road. It was too camouflaged for a photo. Maybe next time...