Saturday, April 30, 2011

Johnny's Dipper Nests

For the previous Dipper surveys, Johnny has been relegated mostly to sitting in a folding chair by the car, since hiking has not been agreeable with his sciatica. That has made him feel, to use his word, "useless". Of course, he is definitely not useless because he drives from one point to the other to pick me up after I've beat the bushes in between. But I know what he means. Yesterday, all that changed.

First, he was able to do a little hiking. On one such he spotted a Dipper carrying moss to a presumed nest under a bridge... where we were unaware of a Dipper nesting in any previous year. This may be the elusive Milepost 3 pair's nest beginnings... although it is closer to Milepost 2.5 than 3. Here's the bird with a mouthful of moss it is trying to take to its nest. Turns out we were too close for comfort so we left.

Johnny's other nest find was truly amazing. We had stopped at a campground where I thought two Dipper territories collide (how wrong I must have been). I looked downstream from the campground while Johnny looked upstream. He almost immediately saw a Dipper on a rock. Soon it was joined by a second Dipper. One carried food to a spot in the bank out of site from the campground. This pair already had nestlings! I hiked up the road to where I could look back and see the nest site. Never would I have guessed a Dipper to nest there... so close to an area people frequent and without steep rocky banks or high banks of any sort. But apparently, the bank is high enough and the tree roots provide a mossy cavity. Here is the sentinel, keeping an eye on us as his mate carts food to the nestlings.

Whether this is a pair previously unknown to us or the pair just upstream, I don't know. The upstream pair had a nest that has been used in past years and was in use on our first trek this April. Alas, we have been unable to detect any activity at that nest on our last two trips... yet there is always a Dipper feeding upstream. Might they have moved their housekeeping downstream while still foraging above their previous nest?

"The literature" states that Dippers nest in about the middle of their 1/2 to 3/4 mile territories. I hope to figure out, eventually, if this holds true for the Dippers of Agency Creek. It would seem that territory size might vary greatly according to the quality of feeding areas on a stream as well as suitability of nesting sites. Although, judging from the campground nesters, some Dippers have lower standards for nesting sites than do others.

Besides finding two Dipper nests, Johnny's eagle eyes found a white eggshell at the entrance to the Asinine Bridge pair's nest. This is the nest we can watch from inside our car. While we did so, one bird carried off the egg shell while a second parent brought food immediately after. My photo is blurry of the eggshell, but trust me, that's what it is.

In one exciting (if you're an American Dipper surveyor) afternoon, Johnny dispelled any notion of his perceived "uselessness".

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Blog Book

Friend Hazel encouraged me to turn my blog into a book. I laughed at the thought... it would cost too much money and only be of interest to me. But I have been worried about losing this journal/blog if I could no longer get on the web. I don't, after all, trust technology. And how would I remember what I did last week without these ramblings?

Then one day when I logged on here, a pop-up window appeared saying "Turn your blog into a book!" or something like that. I clicked and was taken to a place that turns blog posts into books... just like Hazel said. It didn't seem terribly expensive. I signed on. Unfortunately, I never could download the program I was supposed to use to edit the book so just gave the go ahead to print the thing.

Ramblings from Fink Family Farm, from the beginning in October 2009 to the end of 2010, arrived a few weeks ago. I love it. But I should have edited it. Words are broken in strange ways and photos are not where they should be. One page may have "f" while the next page has "or". Put them together and you have "for". It's sort of like a puzzle. When my text says "the photo on the right", the photo is almost certainly not on the right in the book. But it's there. Somewhere. On that page or the next. Or the one before.

If I make a book of my 2011 ramblings, I'll try to figure out how to download that editing program.

Nevertheless I'm having a wonderful time rereading what happened around here a year ago. I had completely forgotten about most of the incidents I write about in this blog. Yesterday, I read about making butter walnut ice cream last May. Johnny was laid up with his back then, too, and I had cajoled him into cracking walnuts for me to make the ice cream. Today, although his back is considerably better than it was last May, Johnny cracked walnuts after I reminded him about the ice cream. This afternoon, we had butter walnut ice cream. Delicious! Without my blog book, I might never have remembered to make it again.

I look forward to finding out what else we did last year... in stolen moments with my blog book... when I'm not out creating new things to write about and taking new photos to include in a blog post. I love having my photos in a book instead of just buried somewhere on the computer that I don't trust to always cooperate.

There are some things I can't get from the book, though, like videos. When told to click on a link to view a video of an otter or grandchildren or a coyote, I cannot. I wonder if I could with a Kindle? But there's that technology again that I'm quite sure will, when it feels like it, quit working. A book is something I trust. As long as I can open the pages, it will be there for me to read and reminisce... 252 pages of memories.

Thank you, Hazel, for a great idea.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Mixed Emotions

It's been a week of mixed emotions. Mostly good weather has allowed for outdoor projects, which usually makes me happy ( although usually also tired). But some of those projects this week brought sadness.

Years ago, Dad and I bought an old buckboard at the Small Farmer's Journal horse-drawn equipment auction that takes place each spring in Redmond, Oregon. We camped in the back of Dad's pickup and spent the days walking around the fairgrounds taking in the sights of old time farming equipment. Dad worked with horses as a kid, putting up hay. The horse equipment brought back memories and stories. We had a good time together and came home with a buckboard that he and Johnny restored for me.

I managed to hook it only once to my "team" of horses, Mr. Smith and Polly. Polly does not like to pull and was, even then, pretty old for work. She is 32 now and the younger mares are still not trained to pull. I likely will never use that buckboard. So... Johnny pulled it out of the carriage house and set it in front of the barn last Sunday to be used as a raised bed for planting peas and other food crops that I'd like to get into the ground soon. Our garden is way too wet for tilling and planting and likely will be for months. Last year, I didn't plant until July because of the wet weather. But a raised box on wheels drains nicely and stays warmer. Plus I needed room in the carriage house for the buggies I do and will use, so it made sense to convert the buckboard into something useful. But it made me sad, too. It felt like the end of a dream... my dream of farming with horses.

On Tuesday we drove to Gates for several errands near Dad's old place, Timber Knoll Ranch. It was sad driving out there, remembering all the trips we've made over the years to visit Mom and Dad, then just Dad, then to empty Dad's house and buildings after his passing. But Jay and Cindy, Dad's good friends and neighbors who bought the place, are taking wonderful care of Timber Knoll Ranch and Dad's dog, Tickle. I felt much better after seeing a fit and happy Tickle and all the work Jay has done to convert Dad's shop/garage, better known as "The Building" into an apartment. He made the beautiful cabinets in the former laundry room, now kitchen, with wood he milled on the portable sawmill that had been jointly owned by Dad and Jay. The transformation of the dusty attic full of "stuff" into a bedroom was equally dramatic.

Times change; life goes on. Mom and Dad would be pleased that someone cherishes the ranch they loved so much.

Wednesday was my eye appointment in McMinnville. But morning chores found one of the two remaining baby barn owls in our loft on the floor of the loft, instead of in the nest box. I retrieved it and climbed the ladder to the nest box, putting the baby back inside. It seemed very lethargic. I phoned around until I found a rehab center that would take it... but that meant driving into Salem, which I did not have time to do before my eye appointment. So the owl came with me.

It was a busy day for my doctor and I waited a long time... worrying about the owl in a box in the pickup. (I took the pickup instead of car so I could buy horse feed on my way home.) Eventually owl and I were united with the rehabber, feed was bought, and I returned home. The next morning I learned that our little owl was blind and that may be why it was kicked out of the nest. Seven eggs had been laid originally and at least six hatched, but one by one they diappeared... likely weakened from lack of food and then devoured by bigger siblings better able to compete for what mice the parent owls could find in our cold, wet weather. Now there is only one.

Monday and Friday were good days spent surveying for American Dippers up Agency Creek. Tromping around in the out-of-doors, concentrating on looking for birds, always makes for a good day for me. Thursday I wore myself out working outside unloading feed, deadheading daffodils, and trying to pulverize that wagon compost that didn't pulverize well until Johnny rigged up a screen and helped on Saturday (yesterday). Although I was glad to have a place for my peas, it still made me sad to give up on a dream. But times change and life goes on. Dad would understand.

Also yesterday I rode Mr. Smith and groomed all four horses who are trying to lose their winter coats. Working with the horses always makes me happy... but also tired. I am keeping the horses out of the horse pasture outside the white electric fence because a Killdeer is nesting out there. Why her nest has not been trampled so far is a mystery. It is well disguised from eyes but not hooves. It took me a week to locate it even after seeing the Killdeer on it (from about a quarter mile away.) Standing at the horse barn, I use binoculars to spot the tiny bird on the ground beyond the end of the white fence, almost to the woods. Dried up horse manure helps camouflage the eggs.

Finding the Killdeer eggs, finally, yesterday, was exciting. But also a little sad as I realized that no grandkids are coming to hunt Easter eggs today on our farm. All live too far away now and have their own lives to lead. Times change.

Rain has returned and is predicted to remain for the next week. But there are always moments of clearing... in the weather and in our lives. I'll plant peas this afternoon during a weather clearing, dig some weeds from the muddy garden (and likely get overtired). I will also try to remember to cherish the good times as they happen and have faith there will always be good times ahead.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Mystery at Milepost 3 Solved! ...Sort Of

Monday and Friday (today) of this week I surveyed, with Johnny's help, the known and suspected nesting sites for American Dippers on Agency Creek. That sounds so official. Actually, I clambered over downfalls, pushed my way through stickery flowering currants, sloshed through mud, was tripped by berry vines, and got lost a few times. But I did find two more suspected nests and determined that there really is a pair near Milepost 3 between two other known nesting pairs.

However, the Milepost 3 pair are, near as I can tell, not nesting. At least, I followed them upstream from one end of their territory to what must be nearly the other end without them showing the least sign of going to a nest, protecting a nest area, or having any desire to fly back past me downstream. But I'm getting ahead of my story.

On Monday I scouted downstream from The Chutes (the local name for an area where the water goes through a narrow channel... in the drier season, at least. This time of year it flows over the rocks on either side of the channel.) Two Dippers were feeding near The Chutes, then flying downstream to where, I felt certain, was their nest. The only possible nesting area I could locate was in view only when I stood at the foot of a tall dead fir at creekside and looked downstream. Sure enough, today I found the birds feeding unseen nestlings in that very location. Here are the photos I took on Monday looking toward the area I believed the birds might be nesting and zoomed in on the only vertical rock wall that looked suitable. Notice the fallen log across the bottom of the photo right.

Here are the photos I took today from that same location after I watched a Dipper feeding in a crevice in that moss and fern-covered rock wall. How's that for good guessing! In all honesty, I did not find the nest from that spot at the foot of the dead fir today. Rather, I tortured myself by crawling through the worst underbrush and fallen logjam of my survey thus far to land just downstream. Look closely in the photo on the left and you will see a log sticking out in the water behind and right of the nest area. That's where I plunked myself to wait for the Dippers, that were feeding in the stream in front of me, to go to their nest. One finally did, but it flew into the bank around the corner from where I could see. So up and over I went, through all those blessed downed trees and underbrush, to the base of the dead fir upstream, where I saw a Dipper carry food to a crevice in the bank shown in the two photos taken five days apart that look nearly identical. Score One!

This is one of the Dippers I was watching.
It took not just one bug but a whole mouthful each trip to the nest.

Next I hiked another long way chasing the Milepost 3 Mystery Dippers. They foraged and dipped and preened and screamed when I came too close, but as far as I could tell, never went to a nest. And I did not find a suitable area for a nest along their portion of the stream. But I'll try another day and see if they've found a place to take up housekeeping. One of the pair is on the far left of this (lousy) picture and one on the far right, near the bottom.

The biggest thrill today was finding the Asinine Bridge pair's nest. (Have I explained Asinine Bridge before? It is so named because the blue print got inverted by mistake and the bridge when built curved the wrong direction.) This nest is in a new place from where it has been in the past. And this nest takes no bushwhacking to view. Drive up, pull over, take photos out your window.

Of course, I didn't find it that way but that's how I'll view it from now on because the birds were quite agitated when I stood on the bank right across from their nest before I knew it was there. The photo above is of both parents chewing me out. I moved upstream which quieted them down. That's when one, after singing and singing, grabbed a bug and flew up to the mossy nest on the vertical cliff above. Woohoo! Score Two! These photos were taken after I walked back to the car and we drove to the nest site and parked. I took the pictures out our car window.

Although Monday's scouting was not as dramatic as today's, it set the stage for today's discoveries plus had some of the most beautiful wildflowers I've seen this spring. And my first butterfly of the year. Flowers pictured are Pink Fawn Lily and Giant Trillium.

My survey is nearly complete. I know of five nesting pairs plus one pair that apparently isn't... yet... in the 6 1/2 miles of Agency Creek that I cover. With time and luck I'll learn the nesting success of these pairs, plus make sure I haven't missed anyone. And, who knows, maybe the Milepost 3 vicinity pair will show me a nest before the season ends. Today they just ran me ragged. After hiking along the far side of the creek for the length of their territory, I gave up and crawled across a log to the road side where Johnny patiently waited. Here he is at the end of my creek-crossing log, searching for those mysterious Milepost 3 Dippers.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Good Weather for Ducks

We've had good weather for ducks and quite a few have been hanging out on our pond, from Mallards to Canada Geese to these colorful Wood Ducks. This male arrived on our pond the morning of April 10 with his mate and, curiously enough, a female Hooded Merganser. Usually, a pair of Hoodies visit.

Not long after the three of them flew off for who knows where, two pair of Common Mergansers arrived. We often see Common Mergansers on Agency Creek but not often on our pond. They seemed to be in high spirits, splashing and running across the water.

One female, however, did not always play friendly.

It was nice to have a bit of colorful bird distraction a few days before Johnny's spinal injection. We're hoping the injection will ease his sciatica pain. Johnny is very tired of not being able to do what he wants to do. The injection was a simple outpatient procedure, but nervous-making nonetheless. We may not know how much good it did for a couple of weeks.

Whether from the doctor-ordered inactivity of the first couple days after the injection or from the injection itself, his pain is less so far. Here's hoping. Johnny would love to hike with me on my Black Oystercatcher surveys and troop through the woods on my Dipper Surveys. Well, okay, so maybe he'd most like to build things as he's done all his life. The goat barn project and many other projects are waiting for his back to improve. Here he is doing what he likes best... roofing. He earned his spinal stenosis and bulging disks from all those years of roofing and building things.

But, as I write this, the sun is coming out and the weatherman is predicting sunshine for the next five days. Johnny is just in from bustling around with less pain than he's had in months. Spring may have finally arrived... both outside and in Johnny's step.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Spirit of the Japanese

I've long admired the spirit of the Japanese people. Thirty years after losing 10 million people in World War II, they had rebuilt and become one of the strongest economies in the world. Now they are faced with a huge disaster that is ongoing thanks to the aftershocks and nuclear dilemma. Yet the spirit that brought them out of World War II is alive and well.

My Japanese sister Yoko wrote that the latest 7.1 aftershock happened while she was on the phone with her daughter Maki. Yoko could hear Maki's children shrieking with laughter in the background while the earth was shaking. Maki explained: "We have 'seismographs' that you gave us. Three marionettes hang from the window frame and dance on the window every time a quake hits. And the children begin to dance with them. Thanks to the marionettes, the kids are not scared of quakes. The marionettes are very useful tools for earthquakes."

Yoko had bought the marionettes for each of her grandchildren. Little did she know how valuable they would be.

All of us with ties to Japan have been searching for worthwhile ways to help. The local Japanese school in Sheridan, Oregon, was planning an Earth Science program when the 9.0 quake and tsunami hit. One of their teachers has ties to a school in the devastated area, so they are having a fundraiser for that school tomorrow night (Friday, April 15) from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. as they showcase their Earth Science projects. The Sheridan Japanese School is at 430 Southwest Monroe Street.

Danielle Castro, a student at the University of Portland with family and friends in Japan came up with the idea of creating a t-shirt design honoring the spirit of Japan and selling the t-shirts to raise money for the Red Cross and its disaster relief. They can be purchased online at

Danielle describes her shirt design: Rays of sunlight from a Japanese sunrise come over the father and his child, revealing shadows of a Samurai spirit. This design acknowledges the history of Japan and what Samurai embody: Honor, Endurance, Tradition, and Hope. In the sun, you’ll see the seismograph drawing of the 9.0 earthquake to acknowledge the tragedy, but the father and son walk on.

And that's what the Japanese have learned to do over the centuries no matter the tribulations... walk on. Or, sometimes, dance on with the marionettes.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Brent Hicks Clinic

For the first time, I rode in a clinic instead of auditing it. Brent Hicks from California clinics at a barn near me a few times a year. I've been impressed with the progress trainer friend Jaime makes with his tutoring... and they needed more riders this time... so I signed up.

My first impression after the clinic on Sunday was that Brent loaded me up with TMI: too much information. I could not absorb it fast enough. We started out with walk/halt. His method of halting seemed somehow different than what I normally do but I couldn't think fast enough to figure out what was different or why Mr. Smith moved out of the halt at this clinic before asked.

Today I rode and puzzled it out. I realized that I don't release with my legs when Mr. Smith halts if my brain is busy figuring out what I'm doing. Brent told me to put my shoulder blades together and sit down. After concentrating on what I normally do, I figured out that I stop my core muscles, which is pretty much the same thing: I've just never analyzed the pieces. If I think about what I'm doing my legs forget to relax when Mr. Smith halts and so he moves off, as he did over and over again at the clinic.

The second impression I had after my ride Sunday was: Why am I not tired? Usually when I get off Mr. Smith, even after a half hour ride, I'm wiped out. Sunday I rode for much longer with extended periods of trot and canter, yet I was fine. Today I figured that out, too. Normally, I work too hard keeping Mr. Smith ahead of my leg. Brent kept telling me not to use my leg, no spur (he finally took my spurs off), but I didn't think I *was* using my legs or spurs. Then he said the magic words: toes up.

I've always had trouble keeping my heels down. I tense my legs and everything sucks up. I've tried thinking knees down instead of heels down: it made no difference. But, for whatever reason, "toes up" did it. And once my toes stayed up, my legs could no longer tense against Mr. Smith and I quit irritating him with my leg... and wearing myself out. Magic.

Another huge problem of mine is stiff arms. When I concentrate on one thing, my arms freeze in position. Although Brent and Jaime, my Friday teacher, both frequently reminded me to relax my arms, I kept returning to stiff arms when concentrating on something else. I still need a magic solution like "toes up" for my arms. Perhaps if I tied my elbows to my sides as Shannon Peters did to one rider at a clinic I watched, I would not be able to straighten and stiffen my arms.

My goal for the clinic was to learn how to adjust my position to convince Mr. Smith to accept the bit and get his hind legs under him to save his once-foundered-always-compromised front legs. Plus for jumping I need him to use his back end to take off and land properly... and save his front legs. At the clinic, I thought Brent was working on a lot of stuff I wasn't interested in, because I have no intention of showing dressage (or anything else). But now I realize there were nuggets of information that could make a huge difference.

However, no one knows their own horse as well as the rider and I knew that some of what I had been told at both the Friday lesson and Sunday clinic were not working for Mr. Smith. He will do whatever is asked of him if he understands what is wanted. But I realize now that my annoying legs and stiff arms were ticking him off and making him resistant. Brent thought Mr. Smith was just "playing games" with me but I'm quite sure my horse was simply fed up. Various instructors have told me various strategies: "keep a firm hold until he gives in", "let go so he has nothing to pull against", "correct him sharply when he dives his nose and pulls". None of those things have worked consistently. So today I worked hard on keeping my arms soft and my toes up, to remove the irritations that have created the problem.

Then I remembered a clinic I watched years ago when Bettina Drummond, Nuno Oliviera's stepdaughter, rode a horse at a trot for a very long time doing, apparently, nothing but letting the horse trot. She said not a word, just trotted around and around. We auditors were talking among ourselves, having lost interest in the seemingly pointless trot work. After at least twenty minutes, we noticed that the horse had softened, raised its back, and was looking very different than when it began. Bettina later reminded us that there is no time limit in dressage training. It takes as long as it takes.

So today I tried that with Mr. Smith. I stopped worrying about where his head and neck were and just concentrated on toes up, arms relaxed, looking ahead where we were going and not at his head. It was relaxing, just like at the clinic, instead of tiring as my riding usually is, since I was not continually trying to push him ahead of my leg. Gradually, I needed to shorten my reins as his mouth was coming closer to my hands with no effort or asking on my part. And then again, a little closer still. I switched to sitting trot and felt lift and swing in his trot. This time, he did not bounce back and forth with his head as he usually does... giving for only short periods. This time, the giving was his idea, not mine. Eureka!

We then worked on canter, which has been pretty chaotic. I did the same thing: just sat there, arms relaxed, toes up, keeping a constant contact no matter where he put his head and just enjoyed the ride. Again without any effort on my part, his back came up and his head came closer to my hands. I'll bet he was thinking "It's about time she figured this out! She's been driving me crazy!"

Not all horses are like Mr. Smith. But trying to convince him to do something is pretty much useless. I have to figure out what I need to do to make him want to do it. With help from clinicians and instructors who I may not understand at first, I now believe we will get where I want to go. However long it takes.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dipper Survey Phase 2 and A Mystery at Milepost 3

Saturday was the second rainless day in a row so we headed up Agency Creek Road to see if our Dipper pairs had begun nesting. Johnny dropped me off about 1/4 mile up the road so I could hike in to the first suspected nest site. Sure enough, a Dipper was standing on a midstream log, singing his unending song near the rock wall that looked like a good nest site to me back in January. The female and the nest, I figured, must be close. The bird's singing seemed more agitated as I drew near, so I skirted around upstream to where I could view the rock wall and the Dipper, who had flown to a rock farther downstream. I assumed the nest was in the vicinity of the distant Dipper and I would not be a bother, yet could still see if the female appeared from a nest site.

Soon another Dipper appeared, but I didn't see from where. The two chased one another upstream... landing on a ledge of the rock wall directly across from where I was leaning against a tree at stream side. Within a few seconds, one flew up and dove into a hidden cavity beneath ferns hanging over the cliff. If they saw me, they didn't seem to care. Dumb luck had put me right across the stream from the nest. The bird's partner kept vigil on a ledge below, perfectly camouflaged against the rocks.

The next potential nest site I had identified in January was at The Chutes, the local name for a narrow channel through the rocks. As I climbed down the steep rocky bank from the road and pulled myself over a large boulder next to the creek, a Dipper screamed indignantly from what sounded like right under me. Perhaps it had been because when finally spotted, it was taking a bath in water next to The Chutes. After a few minutes, it flew downstream and was joined by another Dipper. They then both disappeared somewhere without, as near as I could tell, flying to get there. I will go back and check that spot on a later day, when they might be feeding babies and traveling to and from the nest frequently.

And then came Milepost 3, where we have almost always found Dippers. Milepost 3 is about a mile upstream from The Chutes and 1 1/2 miles downstream from a known nest site. The Dippers we see at Milepost 3 could be one of those pairs... or not. This time of year, pairs are sticking close to their nest areas with one on the nest and the other standing guard. I climbed down the bank hopeful of finding a Dipper hanging out somewhere near a rock wall or other suitable nesting place. Alas, I could not find a really suitable nest area, nor a Dipper. After ten minutes or more, when I was about to try a new spot, a Dipper appeared way upstream from where I was perched. Whether it had been there all along or not, I have no idea. As I watched through my binoculars, it flew directly toward me. I assumed it would fly past me to wherever its nest might be. I lost it in the binoculars and when I tried to see where it had gone, it wasn't anywhere. After another five or ten minutes, I gave up and stood to climb to the road. A Dipper flew out from somewhere just in front and across the creek from me, disappearing upstream. In the fifteen additional minutes I waited, no Dipper reappeared. The mystery of Milepost 3 would have to wait to be solved... hopefully... another day.

The nest upstream from Milepost 3 that we've known about for several years had its resident pair of Dippers on duty and one kindly, as I watched, flew into the same nest spot it has used in the past. The other stood on a rock in plain view. I love cooperative birds.

A few miles upstream, the pair that nests near Asinine Bridge were nowhere to be found that day. I thought I heard singing but never saw the singer. We'll have to wait until they might be feeding nestlings and hope for better luck. This picture shows the stretch of creek where the Dippers should have been with Johnny's van parked near the bridge. It is a wild and lovely stretch of water and conveniently close to the road. However, the steep bank does not allow access so birds can sit out of view on the rocks at the road side of the creek... and sing unseen.

The final known nest at the end of my self-created route did not fail. We had seen a Dipper carry moss to the nest earlier in the week with our friends from Tillamook, so it was no surprise to see one Dipper on its favorite rock, keeping a watchful eye on me.

Agency Creek and the wild flowers that line its banks are beautiful. American Dippers... and rainless spring days... are a bonus.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Sunny Day!!

Western Oregon winters and springs are usually wet, but not this wet. Today was the first all dry, sunny day in months. And what a glorious day it was! After morning chores, I had a riding lesson at the barn where I bought Mr. Smith (Rogue Hill's Skybird) fifteen years ago. This was the first time his breeder, Jean Sauer, had seen him since he left as a 5 month old weanling. Here is the truck and trailer ready to head out... for Sunday, actually, when I have a clinic at the same barn... I took this after we returned. Perhaps I'll remember to take Mr. Smith's photo on Sunday.

Back home I was happy to have an email from Yoko assuring me she was fine after the 7.1 aftershock yesterday in Japan. She had gone to bed early because she was tired from her hike in the mountains to see wildflowers. The strong quake woke her up. Yoko was glad she was home and not on the mountain when the quake hit. Her photos of flowers she had seen on her hike inspired me to walk through our yard, arboretum and woods looking at flowers in the sun... something I've seldom been able to do this year.

The red flowering currants I planted years ago were in full colorful bloom in the arboretum.

Shirley accompanied me, as always, on my hike. You can tell how seldom we see shadows on the ground or bare tree branches outlined against the sky by the photos I took. Seeing Spirit Mountain without a halo of clouds obscuring the top has also been uncommon of late.

In the woods, the flowers looked rather bedraggled from all the rain. Trillium were fading, spring beauties carpeted the ground in places, and bleeding hearts were just beginning to open. A few yellow wood violets peeked out here and there.

Agency Creek was full and sparkling in the late afternoon sun.

Back up at the house, daffodils, though pounded by rain and hail, seem to pick themselves up and keep on blooming. Even the woodshed is framed with them. The front walk is daffodil-lined, as is the path from house to shop (with a little help from the faithful primroses). In all the beds, daffodils dominate, although the Hellebores (Christmas Rose) are also still in full bloom (maybe because the weather is still Christmas-time weather although it's nearly Easter.)

Cold, wet weather may not be done with us yet. Yesterday, after a brief sun break when I rode Mr. Smith and then mowed the arboretum paths, the skies opened up and dumped a ton of hail on us. Here is the path from house to barn before and after the hailstorm.

But what a glorious sunny day we had today!