Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Deviled Eggs and Drippy Weather

I can't believe I forgot the Deviled Eggs. 44 of them! No, I didn't forget to serve them: I forgot to mention them in my Thanksgiving blog where I bragged about all the food grown on our farm that we served for the big feast. I made 44 deviled eggs from the many dozens of eggs our chickens are producing. Half were eaten before dinner was served and all were devoured soon after. This is good because our chickens are seriously overproducing. These are the chickens that neighbor Irv raised from day-old chicks for me. They produce beautiful eggs of many colors... lots of them.

I have not written a chicken update since the chicks were new, but the weather is too drippy for good photos today. Those will have to wait for a future entry, when the chickens are outdoors instead of keeping dry inside the chicken house. However, I did take a photo, in wind and rain, of a Bald Eagle atop our tall snag today. He is a handsome beast in any weather.

Between showers over the last several days, I have managed to photograph some of the beauty that even rainy days, with the occasional gray break, can provide. That's what we have mostly in Western Oregon during the winter months: gray breaks rather than sun breaks. Occasionally we do have sun breaks. We had one a couple days ago that produced a spectacular full sky rainbow. Naturally, I did not have my camera with me at the time. But here are a few photos taken during recent gray breaks.

A bright male Wilson's Warbler was flycatching in front of the barn during an almost sunny spell. He should have been in Mexico by now, but I was happy to see his cheery self. Wilson's Warblers nest here in the spring but have usually flown south long before October ends, let alone November. This yellow fellow may have been on his way from farther north, just stopping here for a bite to eat before resuming his journey.

Our resident Red-tailed Hawk was preening on the Kestrel nest box snag, showing off his namesake tail, one recent foggy day. A Varied Thrush peeked out of lichen-draped Ash trees in our Ash tree swamp, while rain drops made patterns in the water below. Varied Thrushes migrate downslope when snow arrives in the hills above us, as snow most definitely has.

There is a harvest of beauty (as well as eggs), to be found in any weather on our farm... although I confess to mostly working indoors in the rain, dashing outside to tend animals... and take photos... when it stops for a minute. The eagle photo I took while standing outside the back door, under the eaves: my camera and I are not as weather-proof as an eagle.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving on the Farm

In the past, I've wondered why Thanksgiving, a harvest festival, is held a month or two after the garden has frozen and there's not much fresh food to be had, other than the turkey. This year was different. With a late start, the garden was not in full production until September. Our usual mid-September frost did not happen and the weather stayed pleasant until shortly before Thanksgiving. Thus we had for our harvest meal: carrot raisin salad with carrots freshly dug (although I had to pour warm water on the soil to thaw it before digging the carrots), potatoes unearthed shortly before the ground froze, squash and pumpkin pie from Hubbard Squash newly harvested, dressing made with herbs picked fresh that morning from the garden (parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme).

Friends Barb and Mark brought more pies and salads... and a dragon, Barb's latest creation for Portland's Christmas Revels. Steve and Munazza brought our grandsons Kestrel and Cedrus (not to eat, just to enjoy). 3 1/2 year old Kestrel was not amused, although the rest of us were, when his father appeared to nearly become food for the dragon.

Johnny believes you have to work off all that Thanksgiving dinner, so he put the wee boys to work. Never too young to haul in firewood, Johnny says.

That was fun for awhile, but more fun was climbing the ladder to the loft of the new goat barn under construction...

And feeding comfrey leaves to goats, gathering eggs, and throwing seed out for the birds. The California Quail were very appreciative.

Hikes are mandatory on our farm so, besides the usual Fink Family Farm arboretum tour, we took a short drive to the newly reopened Yoncalla Falls trail. At 1 1/2 years old, Cedrus could only take so much of this exhaustive farm life: he went on strike. Steve had come prepared with a stroller. This was not a trail designed for strollers, but it worked. (So did Steve.) Kestrel was a trooper and hiked the whole trail up and back: he loves bushwhacking. The waterfall at the end of the hike made all that work worthwhile. (Well, only if Mom was holding him, as far as Cedrus was concerned.)

Kids... and parents... and grandparents (whew!) need to sleep after all that activity.

What could be cuter than Kestrel in his skeleton jammies and Cedrus in his snowman jammies?

Thanksgiving 2010 was a harvest of garden goodies and happy memories. And now to rest up...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Sunday it seemed as though everyone except us was getting snow. We could see it in the hills above us, but all we had was cold rain and wind. Ugh. So we drove up into the hills to enjoy the first snowfall of the season. We didn't have to go far.... but we went a little too far for our truck with no traction devices and had to back down the slippery mountain road.

Back a bit lower in the no-snow zone, we found that the trail to Yoncalla Falls was open again after having been thoroughly blocked by downed trees for the last two years. Hooray for the hardy souls who cleared it.. no doubt a work crew from the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, who are gradually making a trail all the way from Grand Ronde to the coast. We did not hike across Yoncalla Creek to the upper falls on Boulder Creek, but we could see it from the road now that the leaves are gone.

On Monday the higher elevations and higher latitudes (like Seattle) were having blizzard conditions. We were having cold rain and wind. But before I went out to do evening chores, the rain had turned to snow. Hooray!

I was not so thrilled when I went outside. It was snowing horizontally... very wet and very cold. Soon the snow turned to snow pellets travelling sideways about 40 mph... painful as they peppered my face. This was not what I had in mind when I was wishing for snow.

By Tuesday morning (today) the brutal snow pellets had changed to lovely snowflakes drifting slowly down as snowflakes should. Only about an inch of snow was on the ground but that was enough to make things pretty. Much of the snow melted today in the areas not shaded, although light snow showers continued off and on. The shady woods were still lovely this afternoon, though, with nature's artworks everywhere.

Agency Creek was a deep chilly blue and running full. But not as full as it will be in the spring, after the snow above us melts.

The dogs accompanied me on my woodland walk of course. This moss and fern covered stump looked like a howling dog to me, but Shirley and McCoy didn't think so.

We usually wonder if we'll have a white Christmas. This year I wonder if we'll have a white Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Company Boxes and Dad's Life Story

Whenever company is expected, I "clean" the table by stuffing all the assorted mail and papers and whatever-else-I've-stashed-on-the-table into a big cardboard box which I then hide in Johnny's study, to be sorted later. Someday. Hopefully before the next round of company. I am currently two boxes behind. But now that's it's raining daily, I have time to sort.

So, naturally, I've found something else to do: compile my father's life story. Dad died over two years ago. For about the last eight years of his life, he and I each tried to write down his stories. I now have all those notes and writings and what not on a table in my office, along with photos from his house that I have not yet gone through. It was too sad to deal with these memories in the first year after his death. Or the second. Now I'm able to do it without too many tears.

Dad mostly wrote about his military career of which he was rightfully proud. I tried to get other stories out of him... about his childhood and about his courtship of Mom. I am so glad I did. Now I'm working on my brother, who is 5 years older than I, to tell me stories of our childhood that I don't remember. I remember little of those years. Heck, I remember little that happened yesterday, how could I remember 60 years ago? Bob does better. His memories tend to revolve around boat racing and fishing and hunting, interests he shared with Dad. My memories revolve around horses. Dad was a good horseman and supported my horse craziness.

Once I get all the stories together, my brother and I will add photos. Here's one I found awhile ago and scanned into the computer. Dad is a young airman in the Army Air Corps here, before it became the U.S. Air Force. This photo was probably taken sometime in the 1940's. Dad was born in 1918 and entered the service when he was 18.

This project promises to be a lot more fun than sorting "company boxes".

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Catching Up

Today was supposed to be my catching up day... catching my breath after a busy several days. Friday I drove 6 hours to the Washington kids' place to attend and help with another fabulous Shannon Peters clinic over the weekend. And to play with grandson Ian who has a cool new game for his WII, "Just Dance". Here he is during a clinic lunch break, following the WII dancer's moves.

Ian didn't have much time to spend dancing, though. He manned the concession booth at the clinic both days, selling hot coffee and muffins and a multitude of other things. Between customers, he played games on his portable computer. Ian is a high tech kid. But he knows how to make change in his head... no calculator needed.

The whole trip, not just the dancing, was fun but exhausting. I could get tired just watching Shannon working with horses and riders from the ground. At times with long lines, at times with longe whip and/or bamboo pole, she helps create the "inner fire" and instant response so necessary for dressage. She gives the horses (and the riders) positive reinforcement when they make the right responses and both horses and riders try hard to please her.

I drove home Sunday afternoon, before the clinic was over, so I could go to my Monday jump lesson. This was at a different barn than usual but with the same wonderful instructor. One of these times I'll have to coax Johnny into coming with me and taking photos. Mr. Smith and I had great fun learning to bounce. No, not the kind of bouncing on horseback I do without instruction. This kind of bouncing is jumping several jumps in a row with no strides in between. We did four jumps in a line, bouncing in and out. Very fun but, again, exhausting.

Today was supposed to be a restful day after all this excitement. But my animals, as usual, thought otherwise. Animals seem to be tuned into my moods and as soon as I'm tired and need rest, they do something to make sure I don't get it. This morning I discovered that Jessie Anne had, sometime before I arrived on the scene, managed to get herself on the wrong side of the electric fence, tearing it down in the process. I spent the first part of my restful day repairing fence.

Then I fed the horses their breakfasts. As I was doing so, I noticed Shirley Puppy headed through the bushes for the woven wire fence separating us from our neighbor. Mister McCoy (more commonly known as The Big White Dog) was right behind her. Those delinquents oozed through a widened space in the woven wire and disappeared eastward, toward the road. I screamed at them. McCoy reappeared, joyfully wagging his tail, and squeezed back through the fence. Shirley followed reluctantly. Once the dogs were on the proper side of the fence, I praised them for coming home but told them they must not go outside our boundaries.

Knowing I would be ignored, I shoved a spare white electric fence post into the ground, fastening the wires to it in hopes of blocking their escape route. Of course, the dogs are perfectly capable of creating other widened places so I wove branches through wires in other likely escape spots. I do not want McCoy roaming the neighborhood.

Finally, I headed for the goat barn to do morning chores, only to realize that I first needed to unload the feed I'd picked up at the feed store on my way home from my jump lesson yesterday. Eventually, the 10 sacks of goat feed were unloaded, goats milked and fed, barn cleaned. Johnny, who spent the day working on the new goat barn, helped unload the 10 sacks of horse feed. By now my catching up on rest day was half over with nary a sign of resting.

But in the afternoon bills were paid, appointments made, and too many hours spent on this computer trying to find lost information needed to make those appointments and pay those bills. I guess that's a kind of resting, just not very relaxing. So I elected to relax by catching up in this blog... instead of doing something useful, like unpacking the car... and my suitcase... from the weekend.

And now, before I get on with the evening's work and apropos of nothing, here are some recent images...

Elk and a Cedar Waxwing at Finley National Wildlife Refuge;

the big white dog where he's supposed to be, with goats in the goat barn;

and Johnny on top of the new goat barn, working late one evening.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Birding at Finley National Wildlife Refuge

Finley is one of the three Willamette Valley refuges strung in a line from Eugene to Salem that were created as safe wintering grounds for the Dusky Canada Goose, a bird that winters nowhere else. Other birds have benefited from the protection, making these refuges a birder's paradise. Baskett Slough, just west of Salem, is close to where I live and the only one of the three I regularly bird... on my way to and from the feed store in Dallas. That is, it was the only one... until friend Toni was kind enough to move to Albany, not far from Finley, and give me an excuse to pick her up and go birding and hiking at the Corvallis area refuge.

Our first jaunt this fall was in October. The second was yesterday. Both times we hit glorious autumn days with sun and dramatic clouds, colorful leaves and fields greened by rains. This photo of the refuge was taken by Toni yesterday.

On both trips we were able to tour charming country roads we had not intended to tour... because neither of us has any sense of direction and kept getting lost. It's fun to have a birding partner who considers every wrong turn a chance for new adventures.

In October, we saw White-fronted Geese (like the one above), along with Duskies and other forms of Canada and Cackling Geese (presumably, although I can only identify Duskies because they are, well, dusky). On both trips, we walked this wonderful Homer Campbell boardwalk through the lichen-dripping forest to Cabell Marsh.

On yesterday's trip we found all our target birds: Tundra Swan, Western Meadowlark, and Red-shouldered Hawk. (We targeted these because someone else had reported seeing them there recently.) We also saw many other birds, especially geese. Geese in the water, on land, in the air... noisy geese everywhere. I did not manage to get good photos of our target birds, but you can see a couple white swans way in the background on Cabell Marsh, behind hordes of ducks and geese.

Another white bird was closer, as we first entered the refuge. Great Egrets are not shy.

At the refuge headquarters, many Acorn Woodpeckers and Western Bluebirds were flitting about. This bluebird seemed to be mocking my photo taking attempts.

An American Kestrel was more cooperative, perching in plain sight on one of the refuge interpretive signs. But I had to lean way out of the window to take his portrait without flushing him. Toni captured my contortions.

Although the sun was setting, we hated to leave this bird paradise. As Western Meadowlarks sang and a Red-shouldered Hawk sat in the dimming light... too far for a photo but close enough to be identified through the scope... we headed home in a glowing sunset.

Toni and I are both looking forward to our next trip to Finley... likely by yet another unexpected route on some unforeseen, but no doubt charming, country road.