Thursday, April 29, 2010

April in Oregon and Excitement in California

Tomorrow will be another day of rushing up to check scores on the computer. My grand-horses (Jessica's horses), Lily and Rudi, are at the big Del Mar National horse show near San Diego. They competed in open classes today and did well, with Lily getting 4th out of 10 horses in Grand Prix with a score above what she earned at the Golden State Dressage show 3 weeks ago, (the one I attended.) Rudi was 2nd in his 2nd level class, also bettering his scores from Golden State.

Tomorrow Rudi has a first level class and Lily has another Grand Prix, this time a CDI class, which means international competition. At this particular show, all the top riders in the U.S. are competing, so it will be mega scary for Nicki... but great experience. There's no way for a horse and rider to become accustomed to the pressure of international competition other than by competing in it. So tomorrow I will again haunt the Fox Village site for scores until those classes are completed. Or until I have to leave for the Linfield Chamber Orchestra concert tomorrow night. A hard life I lead, eh?

Between computer checks, I worked in the greenhouse today. No matter how nasty it is outdoors, I can always clean up, water, transplant, fuss, whatever... and breathe in all that oxygen. There is always something blooming. Soon the orchid cacti (Epiphylum) will be in full flower. They make May a colorful month in the greenhouse. Right now, just one red one is beginning to bloom. Plus these little floriferous pink jobs, whatever they are. And Tiny Jewels (Delicate Jewels?), the pink one that blooms off and on most of the year. The name comes from the fruiting bodies, which are not only jewel-like, but also very tasty. I'm told that these epi fruits are considered gourmet items in Mexican markets.
It's also amaryllis blooming time. One red one is open with many more in bud. I should pass them out to the many people who have given me their bloomed-out bulbs to bring back into flower. I let amaryllis bloom when they want to, in the spring, rather than forcing them for Christmas blooms. I'd happily give them back to people if only I remembered who the people were. If I owe you an amaryllis, come get it!

Between rain showers, I dashed outside to try to capture the incredible color of this crabapple. I just could not figure out how to get a photo that looked like the tree, which is covered in blooms, many yet to open.

As the clouds again began to roll in, I snapped a couple photos of them before diving into the house out of the rain. It's amazing how fast the sky can go from blue to gray, from sunny to pouring rain. It's April in Oregon!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

An Apology and Excuses...

First, for those of you who read this blog by email, my apologies... What you get is a first draft. I can sometimes hear son Steve gnashing his teeth in anguish over the awkward constructions. Now for the excuses...

Blogspot sends my blog entries to the email recipients just as soon as I click on "publish", which I do as soon as I write the first draft. The reasons I send it so prematurely are twofold: first, I can't tell how the words are going to be broken or where the pictures are going to end up until I actually publish it. So I do and then change things around to make them end up in the right places. Secondly, I'm impatient. Since this blog is supposed to be fun (from my point of view), I don't want to take the time I take with the articles and columns I sell to magazines. Those I sit on for a day or two before revising. I do revise the blog after it's published, usually several times, but immediately, not days later. My advice to email recipients is go to the web when my blog appears in your email and read it there,, preferably hours after it arrives. If it still makes you gnash your teeth, well, try again in a week. Maybe I'll eventually clean it up.

As for my ric rac cactus's excuse, I'm not sure. The second flower opened after I went to bed last night (at 10:30) instead of at dusk, like it's supposed to. Perhaps our days are so gray that it can't tell when dusk is. The first picture shows how it looked all day yesterday. The second was taken this morning. Here's hoping it stays open all day.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Horses, Birders and Barkdust

The week started with a group of birder friends from Tillamook meandering through our farm looking at birds and wildflowers. Well, they would not have called it meandering. I took them on a path through the woods that has not been cleared since the winter's downfalls. It was a pretty strenuous trek for those unused to our rugged way of life. They said they had fun and they look like they are, don't they? We'll see if they ever come back...

The week ended with a potluck at neighbors' who have been hosting a graduate student in ornithology and his wife for a couple of days. Our neighbor feeds birds and has a corner on the Evening Grosbeak market. They swarm over her place. More than 30 of them, thanks to this graduate project, now have bands. It was fun talking birds for an evening plus seeing an assortment of neighbor friends we seldom make the time to visit. Maybe we'll start having regular potlucks at one home or another.

The week between birding events is a bit of a blur. I write what I do of a day in an "engagement calendar". If I miss a day, it's lost forever. Friday is blank. I asked Johnny what we did that day. All I could remember was that I boiled eggs for deviled eggs for Saturday's potluck. He remembered that I peeled ten of them and he peeled two. "Give me credit for peeling two eggs!" he insisted. What else either of us did that day neither of us could remember.

I do remember Saturday (yesterday). That began with a runaway horse, not an auspicious start to my jump lesson day. I always ride Mr. Smith bareback, with halter and rope, from the horse barn to the arena where the truck and trailer await. But this time, he decided, half way there, that he'd rather go the other way... fast... leaping over the trench Johnny just dug for water and electric lines to the new barn-to-be. [Aha! That's what Johnny did Friday. He dug trenches. And peeled two eggs.] I could not stop Mr. Smith with just the halter. When he reached the gate where the other horses waited, he came to a screeching halt. I slipped off, wrapped the lead rope around his nose, and walked him to the arena. His wild and wacky attitude did not bode well for my jump lesson.

However, Mr. Smith loaded fine, as usual, into the trailer and our lesson went okay. Mr. Smith was a bit hyper at first, but the other rider was on a Clydesdale/Quarter Horse cross. Mac is about as laid back as a horse can get and helped calm Mr. Smith, I'm sure. The big horse ambled around the jump course, barely clearing, and sometimes knocking down, the jumps. He didn't figure it was anything to get excited about. Mr. Smith, on the other hand, cleared the jumps with plenty of room to spare and with more enthusiasm than is really necessary. Twice when I became disorganized after one of his too-high leaps, he ran around, instead of over, the next jump. Bad horsie. (Bad rider.)

After the lesson, friend Nancy and I practiced our pas de deux again. We've decided to make it a Prix Caprilli de Deux... that is, we're including jumps in our pas de deux. We had cantered side by side on our Wed. practice (poles and pas de deux were on Wednesday of this week... I seem to always remember the horse-filled days) and had done better than we expected. Why not add jumps?

But not every day can be a play day. Today the weather man said was the last nice one before the rains return. (Also the first nice one since the rains stopped. This is a wet spring.) So I mowed the lawn and arboretum paths, then spread barkdust on the path from house to barn and house to shop. The path has been turning into a trench... and a creek when it rains, which is most of the time. Now, our paths are pretty again. It helps to have visual evidence of what I accomplish in a day... so I remember...

Too bad I didn't take any pictures on Friday... Surely I did more than boil eggs.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Wearin' o' the Green

Okay, so St. Patrick's Day was last month. Usually I'm green for St. Patrick's Day, and so are my baby goats. But I freshened does late this year, hence we're green in April. In years past, when I registered all my kids, they needed tattoos for registration identification. Now, it's just so I can figure out who is who. Since they have dark ears, I use green tattoo ink, which shows up better than black. Somehow, I manage to get green ink all over me as well as the goats' ears... and they smear it from their ears onto whatever their ears touch. As soon as it dries, it is quite permanent. It dries quickly. Now, two days after tattooing the last two kids to be born, I still have one green fingernail edge.

In other green news, the Ric Rac cactus (Epiphyllum anguliger) in my greenhouse, the one that crawls all over the fish netting on the ceiling, finally managed to keep buds on long enough to bloom. Usually they turn black, perhaps because my greenhouse/jungle room is too cold for them. The first one ever to bloom opened Tuesday night. It was lovely and extremely fragrant. Two more buds are preparing to open. The first photo was taken Tuesday evening, when it first opened. The second photo is from the next morning, when it was fully open and about to fade. They only last one night... It's a good thing their leaves are handsome.

In other colors, the pink orchid I bought in bud at the Salem Orchid show and sale has opened and is brightening up the kitchen window ledge. Outdoors, the yellow Leopard's Bane has taken over for the bloomed-out daffodils in the path from house to shop. Leopard's Bane must be quite effective at keeping leopards away as we've seen nary a one.

It's a green and growing time of year on the Fink Family Farm.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Polly and the Saddle Mystery

Day before yesterday, Sunday, Johnny and I rode out the driveway to head up our favorite trail across the road. Or Mr. Smith and I headed out. Polly got part way up the drive and flat refused to go. On our last ride, she had turned her head around toward her side as though something was bothering her. We had adjusted the girth and that seemed to satisfy her. This time there was no satisfying.

I wondered if she was just being stubborn. (You'd think I'd know better by now, but I'm human and not always too bright.) By putting Mr. Smith behind Polly, we managed to push her up to the wooded trail away from what little traffic we have on our road. But something was definitely bothering her. We adjusted more straps that could be pinching her on that western saddle that we have ridden her in for many years. Nothing seemed to help. We switched horses for a bit and she was better with me but there was still something wrong. Johnny got back on and turned to let her go home. She would not move even in that direction. Finally Johnny dismounted and walked her toward home. With no one on board, Polly walked willingly. Johnny mentioned, as I turned to go on up the trail alone, that we ought to try a different saddle sometime.

As I rode on, it suddenly occurred to me that we had a different saddle right here and could try it now, so I trotted back to where they were trudging home. We unsaddled the two horses and put Mr. Smith's Wintec Pro Dressage saddle on Polly, the western saddle on Mr. Smith. Johnny climbed aboard and presto! Polly was her normal cooperative self. We continued our trail ride together with no more complaints. I'll bet Polly thinks her people are the dumbest creatures on the planet. She was trying to tell us the saddle hurt and we just didn't get it.

Polly is 31 years young and has changed shape in the last year more than ever previously... she is thinner and has more prominent withers. The saddle she has worn since we bought her at age 18 obviously no longer fits her. (Doh! I can hear her saying.) Johnny will have to get used to riding in a dressage saddle. He seemed to do okay on Sunday. I may turn him into an English rider yet, thanks to Polly.
This is the photo I took of our Morgan mare, Renwood Pollianne, better known as Polly, ungroomed and unposed, when I returned from California last week. Not bad for 31. I figure my Morgans age about 2 1/2 years for every one human year, making Polly 77 1/2 in people years. I hope I look that good, and am as agile, at 77.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

California! Part 3 - Homeward Bound!

Wednesday morning I left for home, arriving 12 hours later. As always, I stopped at my favorite rest areas (the ones on rivers and with lots of birds). In Northern California, Ring-billed Gulls haunt the rest areas hoping for hand outs. In a rest area along the Rogue River of Oregon, an Acorn Woodpecker was gathering, naturally, acorns. Some day I may compile a Fauna and Flora of Interstate 5 Rest Areas Online Guide. I am, after all, quite familiar with I-5 rest areas from Seattle to Sacramento.

As much as I loved seeing both sons and their families, something I've never been able to do before in one trip since they live in opposite directions from us, it was great to come home. The tulips were in full bloom, the birds, like this White-throated Sparrow and the Savannah Sparrow atop our manure pile, were dressed in their colorful breeding plumage.

It was great to see my horses but I must admit they looked nothing like the show horses I'd seen so recently. In the photo Jessie Anne is demonstrating how she got so filthy: find the muddiest place you can and roll over and over.

Being gone for a week made me realize, once again, how much I love this farm and all its inhabitants. The peacock displayed his amazing train. Chipmunks joined the flock of sparrows and quail for the seed I threw out. Even the weather turned sunny and warm. And there was hot water again thanks to Johnny, who I was also very glad to see. (He said he was glad to see me, too, especially, I suspect, because he could now be relieved of morning and night milking and feeding chores.)

Life is good.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

California! Part 2 - The San Carlos Kids

After leaving Ruth's house Sunday about noon, I drove through ferocious rain and wind to San Carlos and Steve and Munazza's just-purchased and just-moved-into house. This one, unlike their last house, has a big yard for the kids to play in and sidewalks! We took several walks around the neighborhood (during breaks in the rain). Kestrel (3) and Cedrus (1) liked watching the dogs that were walking their people. Cedrus loved watching cars and trucks go by (Uk! Uk!)

We played games and with Kestrel's beloved trains and read books in their new playroom with the colorful rubber-block floor -- the only room in the house completely remodeled to date. The pantry is in the garage, the new kitchen cabinets not yet ordered, paint on the walls but needing touch up, new front door on order and most of the furniture (and everything else) waiting in the garage for the remodeling to be done. Cedrus and Kestrel don't mind, but their parents are a little frenzied. Pictured are Munazza
reading books in the play room with the boys and Auntie Fudge
reading to Cedrus in the living room.

The yard is wonderful with a lemon and orange tree hedge in the front, new sod and a fun-to-play-beneath camellia-filled corner in the back (that's Kestrel in Camellia Corner), plus this magnificent wisteria climbing up a huge gnarled cedar. There's a big covered patio all along the back of the house so the kids have a place to play outdoors even if it rains. We ordered a play structure while I was there for another corner of the yard. What a great place for kids! (And this outdoor-loving grandma.)

Meanwhile, back home on the farm, Johnny spent three days getting a new hot water heater installed and working... with his own set of problems doing so. Because our hot water is preheated through the wood stove, he could not build a fire until the water was turned on again so he (and my house plants) endured a couple of cold days. I am so glad I was in Folsom and San Carlos with their functioning hot water heaters and showers.

Next time... homeward bound!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

California! Part One - The Horse Show

Too excited to sleep the night before my big trip south, I gave up, got up, and left at 2 Thursday morning, arriving in Sacramento 12 hours later in time for Lily's first class. Here she is in the warm-up arena with Nicki riding.
Thus commenced a learning experience for all of us. For me: learning the route between Ruth's house in Folsom, where I was staying, the hotel in Sacramento where Kevin and Jessica and Ian were staying, and the Rancho Murietta show grounds where Jessica's horses were staying. (Wandering around lost one late evening, before I learned the route well enough, my little Honda Civic Hybrid was hit, fortunately gently, by a big Ford Explorer. My car now has a dented side.)

K and J learned the routes to Emergency Rooms as one health crisis after another befell their family. They now know where to go and not to go for ER treatment in the Sacramento area. J turned out to have a painful allergic reaction "like hives in the eye" said the doc, and Ian likely a 24 hour flu bug -- although they never had a diagnosis or any help from that ER - definitely the one *not* to go to. Fortunately (at least from my point of view), I had two fun afternoons with Ian before his bug caught him. Here he is hamming it up at the show with Doug, Nicki's mascot rubber ducky.

The show itself was a five ring circus -- literally: there were five show rings. Huge water trucks and tractors groomed one ring while horses performed their dressage tests in a neighboring ring. Dogs of every breed on leashes accompanied owners everywhere: I hadn't seen some of those breeds since the last Westminster Dog Show I watched on television. Only one of the five arenas was indoors and that one had five judges' stands blocking the view and two hard metal bleachers, making the show not terribly spectator friendly. Thank goodness the weather was good the days we were there: I cannot imagine riding in one of those outdoor arenas in the driving rain and ferocious wind that hit on the last day of the show... thankfully after our horses and people had left. This show was about serious competition, not about coddling riders or spectators.

Jessica's horses performed well considering their lack of big show experience. This was only Rudi's second show anywhere and Lily's first CDI (international dressage competition). Lily performed her freestyle for the very first time at this show. They will soon have more experience as they and Nicki left on Sunday for San Diego to train with Steffen Peters (!) before the even bigger Del Mar show at the end of April. (For those who don't know, Steffen is about the biggest name there is right now in dressage.)

Pictured is Rudi, just after finishing his 2nd level test and Lily, leaving the arena with her first ribbon earned in international competition. She's on her way now!

Back at K&J&I's home, Traumhof, in Washington, Jessica's mare Wirago foaled the day they arrived in Sacramento. At first the baby was fine, but then had a bit of a set back and was taken, at Jessica's direction, to a vet hospital. Thankfully, the foal was soon well again and was back home at Traumhof before K&J&I arrived on Sunday evening.

The worries about the foal added to J & I's health crises and the show commotion made for a stressful few days for all of us. I was glad to retreat in the evenings to friend Ruth's quiet home nestled in the woods close to the Sacramento river. Two mornings we walked along the trail that runs for miles through the state park that borders the river on both sides. Birds were everywhere. The Red-shouldered Hawks were again nesting in the same tree, same nest, where I saw them last year when I visited Ruth. And a Black Phoebe was flycatching in the same area of the riverside. A White-tailed Kite flew over as we walked. Many warblers were singing, along with other identified and unidentified birds. I had my first view of what I presume must be a Nuttall's Woodpecker... too bad it didn't stick around long enough for me to get a photo.

The drive from Ruth's house in Folsom to the Rancho Murietta show grounds was through miles of oak savannah pastures, green this time of year, dotted with granite outcroppings, the air filled with the liquid song of Western Meadowlarks. It was a lovely drive with little traffic.

Sunday mid-day, I left Ruth's house for the second leg of my trip... San Carlos and son Steve and family. That story I'll tell next time.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Heaven is a Hot Shower

Our water heater is still not working. It died five days ago and I hadn't had a shower since. I could have heated water on the wood stove and taken a sponge bath, but I could not bring myself to do it. We lived in Laos for a year with no running water, much less running hot water, so I'm perfectly capable of taking a sponge bath. But it was warm in Laos. It's cold here except right next to the wood stove and I didn't feel like standing in the living room stark naked. And, face it, I've become spoiled.

The handyman who will replace the water heater just returned from California yesterday and informed me he could not replace it before I left, in my turn, for California tomorrow. Desperate for a hot shower, I called friend Velta who said, "Sure. I won't be home but come on in and make yourself at home." Velta doesn't live super close to me but I see her more often than my other closer friends and I felt odd calling one of them and saying, "Gee, I haven't seen you in quite awhile. Mind if I come over this afternoon? And, by the way, may I use your shower?"

Another possibility was leaving for California this afternoon instead of tomorrow morning and stopping at friends in Ashland for the night... and a hot shower. But the last time I showered at their house, I twisted their shower head right off the wall (I'm not good with modern fixtures), then brought the towel bar crashing down when I tried to hang my towel up. I never did get a shower.

So I drove to Velta's. She had laid out a lovely fluffy towel, hand made soap, and a washcloth in the bathroom that has a shower stall. After greeting her two house dogs, I happily closed myself in the bathroom, stripped, and turned on the water to let it warm up. It didn't. Her shower has one of those new faucet thingies with just one handle. I'm used to the old-fashioned two handled jobs. But one side of the back thing was red and the other blue so I turned the handle to the left toward the red thing. I always turn faucets left for hot water. It was cold. I let it run awhile. Still cold. Then I turned it the other way in case it was hooked up backwards. Still cold. I tried the water in the sink. Immediately hot. So much for my hot shower.

All was not lost as Velta has a bathroom with a tub across the living room off the hall. So I gathered up my dirty clothes, clean towel, washcloth, bar of soap, and the shampoo that I'd brought from home, and traipsed across her living room to the other bathroom. The tub had the same sort of faucet. I turned it left. Cold. Then, it slowly occurred to me that maybe the bottom of the handle needed to point to the red portion. So I turned it the other way and waited. It gradually but definitely warmed up. Aha!

I gathered all my stuff again and walked back across the living room to the shower bathroom. On this trip I looked out her huge windows to make sure no one was looking in. Fortunately, Velta lives without close neighbors and the only beings outside her living room windows were her llamas, and they were paying no attention to the naked human marching back and forth through the house. Velta's two dogs were watching me quizzically, however.

Once again in the shower bathroom, I turned the handle the other way and, although, it took a little longer than the tub had, it did warm up. I had not waited long enough the first time. Duh. Shower fixtures are not my strong point. But now I was going to have a hot shower at last! Except I realized I'd left the wash cloth in the other bathroom. So back I went again, grabbed the washcloth, and made trip number four across the floor, (this time detouring through the kitchen to look at a pretty orchid I'd noticed in bloom on one of my treks. By now I was quite comfortable walking around naked in Velta's house.)

I had left the lovely hand made soap in the other bathroom but there was a bar of quite satisfactory soap in the shower stall and I wasn't about to make another foray across the living room. I should probably pay for Velta's water bill this month as I took a long time washing my hair and enjoying a good long shower, a wonderful shower, a cleansing and relaxing shower, a heavenly shower. Not to mention all the water I ran down the drain waiting fruitlessly for cold water to turn hot.

Tomorrow I'm off for California and my friend Ruth's house... and shower. I've been there before and she did have to come in and show me how to turn on the faucet. But maybe I'll remember this time...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

Yesterday, as per plan, Irv and I went to the feed store and picked up our pre-ordered chicks. We put them on Irv's back porch where he had his home-made brooder all ready for them. The photos were taken when they first arrived before they started venturing a bit away from the warm infrared lamps.

Today, Easter Sunday, my last goat to kid until June went into labor as I was doing chores in the morning. After chores, she was still messing around, so I wandered around the yard taking photos of some of the daffodil types blooming right now.

And some of the first tulips to open.
Finally, when Rebecca seemed to be getting nowhere, I went in to help. Soon she had two healthy doe kids by her side. Momma and babies are doing well. A happy Easter, indeed.