Saturday, August 25, 2012

Stocking Up for Winter... and More

My garden likes hot weather. I have barely been keeping up with zucchini, cucumbers and snow peas. We have enough snow peas and zucchini slices frozen to last several years. And also enough bread and butter pickles and dill pickles canned. However, the cucumbers are not quitting. Nor is the zucchini. So we eat lots of zucchini and cucumbers and give away plenty to obliging friends. Fortunately, I love zucchini/snow peas/onions (we have lots of onions, too) stir fried in olive oil with a little Otis Cafe Seasoning Salt on top.

I can say all that calmly and pleasantly today although on my most recent day of pickle making I was not so calm and pleasant. For one thing, I ran out of mustard seed for the bread and butters so Johnny went to the store and bought a teeny tiny bottle of mustard seed for over $5. It contained a total of 6 tablespoons, enough for only two recipes. I usually buy my spices in bulk and online from A *pound* of mustard seed from herbalcom costs $3.

Then I made the mistake of working on both types of pickles at the same time. Those precious mustard seeds were in the vinegar mixture for the b&b pickles, but somehow in my hurry I poured that mixture over the unsliced cucumbers with grape leaf, dill flower head and garlic cloves (all grown here on the farm, thank goodness) destined to be dill pickles instead of combining the mixture with the sliced cucumbers that had been sitting in their salt and ice water patiently waiting to be drained and made into b&b pickles. I caught my mistake too late. Quickly I poured the very hot and sticky mix back out of the jars but many of the mustard seeds, those expensive mustard seeds, adhered to the grape leaves and cucumbers and etc. AARGH!!

Well, there was nothing to be done but scream and rant and rage, which I could not very well do since someone had come in right then wanting to buy milk. To say I was not in a good mood is an understatement of the grossest kind.

And then there are, or were, the beets. Lots of delicious beets. Alas, the gophers thought they were good, too, and my beets starting disappearing under the ground with just their wilted leaves left on top. So I pulled all the remaining beets, cooked, sliced or diced and froze them. We'll have beets all winter.

The day after the pickle disaster, birder friends, the Woodhouses from Tillamook, came over and rescued me from my labors. We drove to Baskett Slough to look for shorebirds and attempt to identify them. We found some, identified some, but mostly I just had a good time being with friends. And not canning or freezing produce.

Shorebirds would be easier to identify, I think, if they'd keep their heads out of the water.

This Great Blue Heron that we saw near Sheridan on our way home was a more obliging photo subject. It worked hard at positioning a large fish so it could be swallowed. It finally succeeded.

Back home, when not fighting with garden produce, I've been watering the garden and newish arboretum trees or fighting back the ever-encroaching shrubbery or mowing more fields. The horses have been coming in with tarweed seeds on their faces and in their manes again, in spite of my mowing of their horse pasture, so I mowed the lower field by the well house this week. That took two days of dusty, noisy, riding around on the little garden tractor. I didn't use the Kubota that I used on the horse pasture because there are too many obstacles to be gone around with that big rig and it scares me on side hills, which the lower field has. No problem zipping up and down them on the little John Deere. Plus I have to get off frequently to move fallen branches out of the way and that's an ordeal on the much higher (and noisier) Kubota.

However, the horses respect the Kubota and stay out of my way. Not so much with the garden tractor. Well, Jessie Anne and Nightingale move when I head their way but Mr. Smith likes to play chicken. He waits until the last possible moment before I reach him to whirl and move, but only just barely out of the way. And on my next round he does it again. I refuse to slow down because that will just encourage him to hesitate longer. But it is nerve-wracking to wonder if he's going to move in time. He seems to enjoy the game as he insists on eating right at the margin of my mowing.

Today, however, my second and last day of mowing that field, the horses were in the lane when I started and I managed to get past them before Mr. Smith could saunter in front of me. I continued on to the field and they didn't join me until I was mowing an area that had little feed for them so Mr. Smith couldn't come up with an excuse to taunt me. Here they are in that field looking like innocent angels on a pre-mowing day when I had a camera instead of a tractor.

Instead of horses to contend with today, I had bees. My mower enraged three different hives, one of yellow jackets and two of bald-faced hornets. Fortunately, bees can never seem to figure out that the creature traipsing loudly and roughly over their door is my tractor. However, once antagonized, it is not safe for man or beast to walk near them in the future, so I will put them gently to sleep in the wee hours of tomorrow morning, having marked their holes today. I'm sure there are plenty more hives on our property to do whatever it is that yellow jackets and bald-faced hornets do that is important for the ecosystem.

On the same day I took the horse pictures, I took a photo of these two orange butterflies that I thought were moths. They were in what we call the lake pasture (unmowed, fenced away from our livestock, and, currently, quite dry). Thanks to, I now know these are Woodland Skippers.

On the same hike, I found a juvenile American Dipper feeding in our section of Agency Creek. I hope it decides to stay and nest here. And, as usual, many Cedar Waxwings were flycatching over the water. This one sat on the rocky shore for some time, watching for low-flying bugs. I had not noticed the pretty red marking on waxwings' backs before. This bird is just beautiful no matter the angle of view.

The reason for the trek through our property that day was to gather trail camera cards and find what walks past when we're not watching. What I found was the first bear of the year, on August 15, at 10:42 in the morning, walking past the trail camera in the lake pasture. That was just about the same time of day as I was walking that same path, gathering the camera cards, four days later... and the first time the camera has caught a bear during daylight hours.

I have not seen a bear in person yet this year, but I think I came close a few nights ago on my way to the horse barn. Our big white guardian dog was barking fiercely so I let him out to go with me and chase away any bear that might be lurking under the apple trees. About the time I got to the big apple tree, McCoy tore around behind the outhouse that's hidden behind trees and brush... and came tearing back just as fast and sat down on my foot. A crashing in the brush told me McCoy had met a bear and decided to exit as quickly as the bear was exiting in the opposite direction. So much for my dog as a protector. Well, I guess he was protecting my foot.

Nights are turning very cool now, 40 degrees the last several, with days in the 80s. The tomatoes and corn are not yet ripe. We need another couple months of summer. But the bears seem to be fattening up for winter already. We have an enormous apple crop this year. It's about time to pick pears and start canning them as they ripen. And, as soon as my order of mustard seed arrives from, I will be making more bread and butter pickles. It's that time of year.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Escaping the Heat

Although Johnny, native mid-westerner that he is, loves hot weather, I do not. I wilt. So I escape. Tuesday I went to the coast for my last attempt to figure out where the Black Oystercatchers nesting on Haystack Rock at Cape Kiwanda disappeared to. I did not succeed, but did connect with a birder friend who fishes out of Cape Kiwanda and will check the far side of the Rock for me. Ah, networking...

The "other pair" of BLOY on Cape Kiwanda, the lazy ones that are always hanging out on a cliff side, were hanging out on a cliff side... with a third adult that has appeared with them lately. Makes me suspicious that one of the nesting pair is babysitting a fledgling on the Rock while the other hangs out with the cliff dwellers. Maybe fisherman/birder friend Dave will find out.

On Wednesday, it was even hotter (98), but we spent most of the day in the air-conditioned pickup I inherited from Dad, delivering my brother Bob's elk head and Dad's bear hide to friends Jay and Cindy in Gates, or hanging out in their cool house. They are the good friends and neighbors of Dad's who bought his Timber Knoll ranch and had agreed to give the much-traveled elk head and bear rug a permanent home. Dad's house is rented out but the new renter is a hunter and agreed to hang the elk head back on the wall where it started. Well, it started on an elk that my brother Bob shot on Dad's ranch. He had the head mounted and Dad hung it on his living room wall. After Dad's death, Bob took the head to southern California with him... along with the bear hide Dad was so proud of. Now Bob and Elladine have moved to Colorado and have no room for elk or bear, so Johnny brought the creatures back up to Oregon this spring where they've been residing in our walk-in cooler ever since.

Cindy sent me this photo yesterday of the elk head restored to its rightful place on Dad's wall. It does look right at home there.

The bear rug is from Dad's bear hunt in Kodiak, Alaska, many, many years ago. He wrote a story about that hunt that will be incorporated into his memoirs, should I ever get them together. It's a tale of excitement that Jay can relate to, since he also bagged a Kodiak brown bear in Alaska some years ago.

Dad very rarely took his bear rug out of its plastic wrapping to look at and never hung it up, but he was very, very proud of that Kodiak bear. When we left Jay and Cindy's, it was spread out on their living room floor and may stay right there. Jay's bear hide is upstairs in their house. His trophy heads are on their living room wall. It's a good home for Dad's bear.

Johnny bravely hammed it up with the big boar bear but my photo is out of focus.

What a magnificent animal! (The bear, though Johnny's not bad either.)

Dad was a hunter, but also a conservationist. As he says at the end of his story, "The Brown Bear: May his species live forever."

Yesterday, we headed west to the ocean to visit birder friends in Tillamook, to check on the Black Oystercatchers and Peregrines that they monitor at Cape Meares and, in my case at least, to escape valley heat. Their two BLOY pair did not successfully raise chicks this year, but both pairs were on territory. The peregrines fledged three chicks but we saw only the adult male flying about. It was a beautiful day on the ocean, although downright chilly when the fog rolled in later.

On the way home, we stopped at Munson Creek Falls, which still has plenty of water flowing over. At 266 feet, it is the highest waterfall in the Coast Range. Unfortunately, the upper trail is closed due to landslides, and the lower trail no longer goes to the base of the falls, but it is still a pretty view.

On the way to our last stop, a point near the road where I can get a view of an offshore rock at Cape Lookout that potentially could have nesting BLOY... although I've yet to actually find any there (hope springs eternal), we met a coyote who took his rodent or rabbit or something prey into the middle of the road, stopped, and gulped it down right there. I wasn't quick enough with the camera to catch him in the act of eating. When finished with his meal, he stared at us until an oncoming truck chased him off the road. I took this picture through the windshield.

Today, the last day of ridiculous heat (I'm hoping), is for catching up on inside tasks, like mailing all those Black Oystercatcher reports I've accumulated since May to the USGS person in charge. And making ice cream. Lots and lots of ice cream.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Life After Grandkids Leave

Without help from the grandkids, who have all returned home, we're having to do our own work, mostly mowing fields and gardening and watering for me, sorting junk in the shop for Johnny. (He has finally begun his long awaited project of getting his shop under control.)

The hot weather that arrived with August has made the garden happy... and me spend a lot of time watering, weeding and harvesting. Here is yesterday's harvest of zucchini squash. I get that much every other day. (I overplanted, as usual.) And, yes, I do haul it inside in my sweatshirt, which I start the day wearing at 6:30 a.m. but quickly shed. Mornings begin (after milking and feeding chores) with picking and freezing either zucchini or peas. Soon cucumbers will be ready for pickling.

I overplanted a lot of things, like cabbage. Johnny will be making lots of sauerkraut this year. It's amazing how fast my neat and tidy rows turned into overgrown blankets of plants. I took these photos yesterday morning. By tomorrow the bare dirt will likely be covered in greenery.

Melon and squash and pumpkin vines just will not stay where they belong.

The horse field had to be mowed because all those lovely wild flowers (pictured in "And Life Goes On" here: ) became sticky tarweed and dried out daisies, Queen Anne's lace, etc.... a potential firetrap. The fields look better mowed than full of tall dead things, and the horses no longer come in at night with tarweed seeds on their faces and stuck in their manes and tails.

My once or twice a week Black Oystercatcher monitoring has come to a close. One chick fledged successfully from a nest I just found this year near Hart's Cove. It was a long hike each week to check on the little family but a lovely view when I arrived.

I became quite attached to Fred and Mary and Junior, as I named them, and applauded when Junior successfully took flight on August 9th. The nest rock was pretty far for getting photos of small black birds, but here is Junior with a parent above him. This was taken 6 days before Junior fledged. His bill is shorter than the adult bills, and not completely red yet. Nor does he have their red-outlined eye. He'll hang out with mom and dad until next spring.

And here are Junior's parents with their bright red bills on display. Junior's bill will not be completely red until next summer.

Black Oystercatchers were not the only wildlife in the area. Once this eagle kept an eye on us, and every trip I saw... and heard... sea lions basking on rocks and frolicking in the sea... and barking, always barking. For a short video to see and hear them, go here: (Rejoice! I have finally... just now... learned how to edit my videos.)

We have our own wildlife at home, some of it more welcome than others. Voles are in good supply this year, so good they're girdling the baby nut trees in my arboretum. I mowed the nut orchard to help the Barn Owls find the little devils. The owls are on their second clutch of eggs: six this time. I hope they hatch soon and produce very hungry-for-voles owlets.

Deer with fawns are still appearing in our trail cameras. Here is Split Ear with her fawn, growing up. We've been watching them since soon after the fawn was born... via the trail camera since our guardian dogs keep them away from the house with its roses and blueberries and raspberries, thank goodness. The doe with twins still appears in the camera, too.


Full and busy, that's life on the farm in August.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Grandkid Summer Part III: Kestrel and Cedrus

On Sunday evening, July 29, Kestrel, 5, and Cedrus, 3, and their parents arrived from California, joining Kinnera (who had arrived the day before, see and filling our little house with the happy sounds of small, excited children. Steve and Munazza brought food and cooked nearly every meal. Such wonderful guests we have!

Kestrel and Cedrus helped Johnny make popcorn waffles, a tradition when the grandkids come. Here is Kestrel in his skeleton pajamas, supervising.

The boys were eager to help with everything. One job was picking… and eating… raspberries. Kestrel did not want to eat a single raspberry until all were picked. The rest of us had no trouble tasting our way along the row.

All kids got to help split firewood and feed hay to the goats, among the many chores on the farm.

Kestrel tried his hand at milking a goat.

He and his brother fed fruit peels to the llamas.

Munazza said she missed weeding in her garden. So she weeded in mine. It was a challenge with rock hard dirt.

And, of course, we all hiked to Agency Creek. I tried to get them interested in the Cedar Waxwings that were flycatching all around us. Only Cedrus tried to spy them (or something) through his binoculars. I took a photo of one to show the kids how beautiful they are.

The kids threw rocks into the water and also waded in it. Kestrel tried to take giant steps on the rocks but they were too far apart.

With help from their dad, the kids made it to a big rock. Kinnera and I learned that walking on bare feet on the sharp rocks under water hurt. The kids thought it pretty funny when I yelled "Ouch!"

As always, we ate watermelon that we had cooled in the creek. I think Cedrus has had enough.

Kestrel’s favorite activity on the farm was his chasing-Grandpa-through-the-new-goat-barn game. So many things to climb on in there.

Cedrus, as always, liked sitting on the tractors and pretend driving. Pretend driving the EZ Go was popular, too.

One evening we were entertained with stories told by friend Monica. All three kids were enthralled. Kestrel then told a story of his own, inspired by Monica’s. Kestrel loves stories. Amazingly, this one did not have a train in it! I believe Monica had an influence on him.

The beach is always fun. The boys liked their sand cars with steering wheels. Kinnera dug in the sand near them. Cedrus liked his car so well it was hard to convince him to go play in the waves. No such problem with Kestrel. He loved dashing in and out. His dad didn't seem quite so thrilled with the icy water.

Ultimately Munazza convinced Cedrus to test the waves and he was all smiles. Everyone (except the smart person with the camera who was sheltered from wind and cold water by a log high up the beach) got into the action.

But perhaps most fun for Kestrel during the week was climbing the rocks at Niagara Falls (Oregon version). After a long one mile hike down to the falls (two falls, actually, Pheasant Falls and Niagara Falls), the kids had plenty of energy for scaling rocks below the cascading water. Kestrel, with help from his dad, climbed all the way up behind the falls. Amazingly, both kids climbed out that long trail with nary a word of complaint… Kestrel even jogged part of the way. Cedrus kept up a steady line of chatter as he marched uphill. I puffed and panted in the rear, trying to keep pace with a 3-year-old. The only time he stopped was to study a couple of millipedes on the path.

After the hike we had dinner at The Wildwood Cafe in Willamina, owned by two young women who went to school with Kevin and Steve.

Kestrel, that master of delayed gratification, divided up the fireworks Ian had provided (see so we could have some each night they were here. They left one night earlier than he anticipated, though, so some fireworks will be waiting for their Thanksgiving visit. As will we.