Friday, January 23, 2015

Cedrus is Six!

My how fast grandkids grow up, much faster than our own kids did. The earth must be spinning around the sun faster. Cedrus is our youngest grandson. His brother, Kestrel, will soon be eight years old. I flew to California on Jan. 16 to celebrate Cedrus' 6th birthday on Jan. 17th. I did not take my camera so all the photos on this post are from Munazza's phone. I asked her to take this photo of the incredible Brugmansia in the corner of their front yard.

Since I had an apparent reaction to one of the eye drops I take for glaucoma (or took: I quit when my pulse rate sky-rocketed), my energy level was quite low and I spent most of my time doing things that took little energy, like reading books to Cedrus.

Here Cedrus massages my head with a cool gizmo with plastic "fingers". It felt wonderful.

Cedrus had strung popcorn and cranberries on their Christmas tree and waited until I arrived to "help" put it out for the birds. Kestrel did most of the hanging.

One of the things I like best is hearing these boys play their musical instruments. Here is Cedrus at the keyboard with his Dad supervising... or something.

Kestrel plays guitar and is writing his own songs now. Amazing.

We drove/rode/skated to the nearby school with a huge asphalt area for riding bikes and skating. Here Cedrus on "Berg" gives his dad, on in-line skates, a lift. They are about to go down a fairly steep grade. I'm happy to report that everyone survived.

 Next Kestrel was ready to head down the same grade, with the training wheels off his inline skates for the first time! He did super.

I borrowed Cedrus's Berg while he demonstrated his hula hooping skills. He is good!

Finally, it was birthday time. Steve took photos of various places in house and yard, then printed them off in one inch squares and hid them around the house. Here Cedrus is looking for a clue. The picture on it will be where the next clue is hidden. One of his beloved Beanie Kitties is in each picture, staring at the clue photo.

Sometimes, a gift is with the clue photo.

Some clues were outdoors: this one in a fountain!

Another in the orange tree!

One was hiding in one of their huge and beautiful artichoke plants.

One of the clues held a present from Kestrel to Cedrus... another one of those adored Beanie Kitties. Kestrel ordered it with his mom's help and paid for it with his own money.

Cedrus was thrilled. He threw his arms around his brother and hugged him.

Of course, we had birthday snacks: ice cream bars! Cedrus reacts to Kestrel's chocolatey face.

Time for another present...

This one was a big hit: a quadcopter that was very difficult to fly. Only Steve managed to learn the skill  necessary to keep it from crashing constantly. (It was, after all, for kids 16 and up and none of the rest of us are that old.) Cedrus and Kestrel loved watching him fly it.

 Then we played with another gift: a board game.

 Although their Auntie Fudge couldn't be there, she had birthday balloons delivered. Lots of them!

The next day, Sunday, we went to a kite-flying area with a lovely kite that Cedrus received for his birthday the previous year. They had only flown it once, without much success. We finally realized it needs a strong wind and there was only a little breeze here... now and then.

Steve got lots of exercise running to try to get the kite off the ground. The rest of us had fun laughing.

Sometimes a gust would take it up. But Steve had to keep running...

 They had brought other kites with them and the kids were able to fly some of the smaller ones. Here Cedrus finds he can fly Winnie the Pooh by just standing still.

Or sitting on a rock...

That big flat area also had a lot of Canada Geese on it so we went to Steve's office nearby, Mozilla, to wash off the goose poop. Steve works from home so he seldom goes there. The kids found the billiard table

And snacks and a little rest.

Back home, we played another game called Labyrinth. It was fun! Although Kestrel had to help me figure out how to move.

On Monday, Martin Luther King Day (and so no school), we went to a beach near Half Moon Bay. The scrub land on the longish walk to the beach looked like a perfect place to fly the big butterfly kite. And there was plenty of wind! The kite took off immediately in the strong breeze so Steve held on tight. It flew beautifully and served as a beacon for the friends that were joining us: Cedrus' friend Megan and her dad. They could see it from way off at the parking area. Everyone got to fly the kite... while I lay on my back enjoying the view of kite, blue sky, and ocean beyond.

Isn't it beautiful?

There was a steep cliff down to the beach but Steve found a trail that we could slide/scramble down. The tide had just started going down from its highest point when we hit the beach. A big shallow pool of water was a great place for the kids to sail boats and splash around in... and provide the water for making sand castles. But by the time we left, the tide had gone out and taken all the pond water with it. It was a great way for the kids to learn about tides.

Of course, Steve made a giant maze as is the Fink family tradition.

 After snacks, it was time to head back up the cliff.

Megan and her dad knew of climbing trees a bit farther along so we took a detour to find them. Here's a  photo of kids and Steve in the reclining trees. Apparently, earlier rains had loosened the soil and the trees blew over in the strong winds that followed.

Back home the kids wanted to fly the quadcopter outdoors, with its camera running. It's like a drone with a camera attached to the bottom. They loved watching the videos afterwards... of the copter crashing into the slide and careening down it, nearly hitting the big cedar tree, bouncing off the roof... and chasing them around the yard.

I enjoyed slouching in a lawn chair and watching while Steve tried to control the copter.

Most nights I went to bed before the kids, but when I did stay up long enough to tell them goodnight, I got wonderful hugs. And in the morning, they came in when they woke. On my last day, they woke after I was dressed and we cuddled on my bed...

And then called Grandpa, as I did each morning. Kestrel is telling Grandpa all about our beach adventure of the day before. (He is talking into my primitive cell phone.)

Munazza wanted a family photo in the same place with us all in the same positions as last year. I don't know how much longer Kestrel, Cedrus and I will fit in the same chair! This is the only photo of Munazza since she was holding the camera. Next time, I'll bring mine.

It was a great time with a great family. On the last morning before my plane left, I went to the kids' school and saw each of their rooms briefly. Then Steve, Munazza and I hiked up to the park at the end of their road and climbed the trail. I was feeling a bit more energetic by my last day there. But it sure was nice to be pampered while Johnny stayed home and did all my farm chores.

Cedrus is having a birthday party with kids a week after his actual birthday. Munazza said he wanted the party with his friends a week later so he could spend more time with Grandma. I'd say that is a very smart kid to figure out how to get two birthday weekends!

Here is that smart (and cute) birthday boy on Berg with the amazing Brugmansia behind him.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Johnny's Kitty

Our dogs don't like cats. They chase every one off that has the nerve to try to hunt on our farm. But one apparently feral cat learned how to hunt our fields in spite of the dogs. It was very dog smart and very wild. This fall, three kittens appeared, meowing constantly. They looked very much like the feral cat. At first the kittens appeared chasing after the adult, apparent mother. She soon eluded them, although stayed not far off. We didn't know if all of them had been dumped and managed to make their way here. Usually the dumped cats end up at neighbors' who live closer to the road and don't have cat-hating dogs. But these kittens stuck around here for several days. Johnny took these photos on November 7.

I took this one of the alleged mother, taking a nap in the bushes. She was unafraid of me... at a distance... and simply ignored me... and the kittens, two of which soon disappeared.

One kitten hung out in the machine shed and seemed to want to be friendly. It later moved to Johnny's shop and meowed but would not allow anyone to pick it up. Johnny started feeding it scraps. Our house guests for Thanksgiving were worried it would starve if we did not feed it or take it to an animal shelter. They need not have worried. Johnny adopted the kitten and it quickly became super friendly... and amazingly adept at hiding from our dogs. 

These photos I took of the field-hunting cat on December 12. It looks very much like Johnny's Kitty.

And here is Johnny's Kitty with Johnny in his shop on January 7. She lives in the shop but comes out to rub against us and purr.. and get under our feet when we climb the shop stairs.

Today Johnny's Kitty kept me company while I cut down blackberry vines. She is a very sweet kitty who has never offered to scratch or bite. She has tiny tufts on the end of her ears that seem to be disappearing as she grows and a rather short tail. Isn't she adorable?

Our dogs hate her. But the big white dog is only out at night, when Johnny's Kitty is safely in the shop. And the black dog is not fast enough or determined enough to bother her much. She is very aware of where they are at all times and where her hiding places are: in the shop, garden shed, and under the house. I think Johnny's Kitty is here to stay.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Last Week of 2014

It was a cold but mostly clear end to 2014. Christmas Day we drove to Tillamook to have dinner out with birding friends, as we have done the last several Christmas Days. Since it had rained heavily the previous weekend, we stopped on our way at two waterfalls to see them at their fullest. Gunaldo Falls is along the road but virtually invisible most of the year, hidden behind deciduous trees. Now, with the leaves off the trees and the water at its fullest, I finally was able to get a photo from the road.

Munson Creek Falls is a County Park along Hwy 101. We have been there many times. But this time it had more water than ever, thanks to the heavy rains. At 266 feet, it is the highest falls in the coast range.

After dinner at a restaurant with our friends, we went birding (of course) along Netarts Bay, where I took this photo of a Red-breasted Merganser, a bird we don't see inland much.

And a pair of Common Goldeneyes.

At a pile of oyster shells, we found many, many Black Turnstones, along with a few gulls. The little black and white birds were hard to pick out from the shells. There are 8 of them in this view, believe it or not.

They are only slightly easier to see here with a gull for size comparison.

The next day proved to be a "repair the floor to keep the rodents out" day. That meant sorting junk that was in the way and made me realize how much junk we have. My end of the year resolution was to get rid of "stuff". Happily, the rodent-proofing seems to have worked. So far. The bratty chipmunk, though, can still get into the greenhouse somehow and sits at the door chattering at me to let him in. Cheeky fellow.

On Sunday the 28th we enjoyed talking with friends we see once a year at friend Monica's Borscht and Brew gathering. Then we toured friend Susan's straw-bale house construction. And bought organic chicken feed from her that she mostly raises herself using her team of Suffolk Punch horses (pictured in an earlier blog of non-bird highlights on our raptor run).

On very cold but sunny Tuesday, Dec. 30, we participated in my 3rd, Johnny's 2nd, Christmas Bird Count of the season. I had done the Lincoln County count in mid-month while Johnny was up at Traumhof helping son Kevin replace ballasts on many of the arena lights way at the top of their huge horse arena. It was a two man and very long ladder job. Of course, Johnny found other projects to help with as well that weekend. Then both of us did our Upper Nestucca CBC on Dec. 22. That story with photos is on my Birds Blog, along with the story and photos of the Lincoln county count.

The Dec. 30th Yamhill Valley count had lovely snow-covered mountain views in our Sheridan area sector. I took photos of scenery instead of birds. Scenery holds still better.

And then it was the last day of the month. December 31st dawned very cold but with a spectacular sunrise. The year was going out in a blaze of color.

A little later, the pink clouds turned white and the snow on the south hills became visible.

The birds I feed each morning came out in droves this cold last day of the year.

The Quail and sparrows were puffed up like little balls to keep warm on the frosty morning.

But the yellow winter-flowering shrub behind the house promises that spring will come again... in spite of the icicles adorning it now.

                                                         Happy New Year!