Saturday, August 30, 2014

Escaping the Heat

Today, Saturday, we finally had a little rain... and a lot cooler weather. Hallelujah! I am not a lover of sun. Clouds are beautiful. But before we had rain or clouds or cooler weather, I escaped for a day (Wednesday) to the coast to enjoy the lovely, damp and cool fog, which came and went. When the sun came out, the temperature may have climbed to 70 degrees, but that was at least 20 degrees cooler than at home.

After picking up my friend and tour guide for the day, Dawn, at her home in Nelscott (part of Lincoln City now), we headed for Boiler Bay where we had a picnic lunch. Below us was the boiler, partly uncovered.

Beyond, we caught a glimpse of a whale heading south. After our picnic, we headed south, too. All along the way we saw whales when we stopped. And sometimes Black Oystercatchers since we always stopped where there were offshore rocks, like this spot near Seal Rock.

Here five BLOY were visible through the fog.

At the historic lighthouse at Cape Foulweather, we spotted two whales and I managed to click the shutter at the right time to catch one spouting, and then curling its back in a dive. The interpreter there said these are resident whales that we're seeing now off the coast. Oregon has at least 200 resident Gray Whales.

Looking south toward Otter Rock, fog bathed the coastline here and there.

South of Waldport we drove inland to Eckman Lake, where we found a jillion (rough estimate) Yellowlegs and Dowitchers and possibly other shorebirds... too far away for photographs.

The Great Egret was closer.

We finished a lovely, wonderfully cool day with ice cream at BJ's in Waldport. Thank goodness our farm is only 45 minutes from heat relief at the coast.

Johnny had a different way of cooling off. Grandson Ian nominated him for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that has been going around facebook. One has to to dump a bucket of ice water over one's head... and donate to the ALS Association. Johnny accepted on Thursday. Irv helped.

I'll stick to cooling off at the coast.

Is It Work or Play?

Johnny has strange ideas of fun. Between the California kids and Suue's visit, he butchered one of our hogs. He likes butchering. I've never dared ask him why. He then smoked the hams and bacon. I'm glad he likes doing that because I love eating them.

Between visits and after, Johnny spent much time building a foundation under the old outhouse. The decrepit (or "rustic" as Johnny prefers) building now has a lovely new split-face concrete block underpinning.

Once the foundation was finished, he had to move the outhouse back onto it. Neighbor Irv had helped pour the concrete and could not imagine how Johnny was going to get the outhouse back on top of this new, higher, foundation. Irv got to help it happen... with lots of jacks, levers, a come-along, and muscle power.

Success! Irv was impressed.

In the process of cutting the bottom off to get it to fit under a huge poplar limb on its higher foundation, plus the trauma of moving, some shingles fell off the corners. Johnny is in the process of replacing those.

When Johnny finished the outhouse project (other than a few details like setting up the wash stand),  he started taking down the cracked blocks around the chimney on our house and replacing them with new. He worked at this day after day... in 90 degree plus weather. On a hot tin roof. And loved it.

At last the chimney was completed and mortared, so he took down the platform he had constructed to hold the blocks before putting them up.

And now we have a lovely new, uncracked, chimney.

My idea of fun is saner. At least to me. I enjoy cleaning the horse paddock every morning and taking my load of manure in the EZ Go out to the arboretum and putting it around my trees. But now that the trees are all well-manured, I'm spreading it on the fields. That's fun, too. I like throwing it out with the pitchfork until it makes an arc of finely spread manure balls.

Maybe the heat has got to both of us.

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Visit from Suue

My since-high-school friend Suue (I pronounce it suey but she is known to most others as Sue) left Thursday morning to return home to Maryland. It has been a wonderful few days (she arrived Monday). But, alas, she didn't get to see the night-blooming cactus. I never took her out into the jungle room because it was a mess: I had not had time to clean it up. After she left, I did clean it... and saw, hanging high above, several spent blooms of my night-blooming cactus... and several about to open. If I had only looked the day before, Suue would have seen and smelled those gorgeous, fragrant flowers that only last one night. I counted 7 blooms in one stage or another... either having bloomed within the last night or two (while she was here), blooming now, or about to open.

But Suue had a good time anyway and so did we. After bringing her home from the airport on Monday, we gave her an EZ Go tour of the arboretum. I love having company who appear interested in all my trees. Then we hiked her to the creek, which was more walking than she should have done on her bad ankles.

The next day, we went to the coast to show her my beloved Black Oystercatchers and her beloved ocean. (She had lived at Seaside years ago.) Our first stop was Fishing Rock, where I was pretty sure we would find my birds. And we did.

Along with a beautiful butterfly...

And Surfbirds...

Our next stop was North Depoe Bay where we saw lots of basking Harbor Seals...

And one preening Black Oystercatcher (BLOY)...

We continued on to Depoe Bay and the whale watching station where we saw several whales but did not manage to click the camera at the right time to catch them in view. We also saw Black Turnstones, more Surfbirds, and, of course, BLOY...

We ate at the Thai restaurant, as usual, and, as usual, had plenty of yummy left-overs to take home.

But that was the end of the fun and games. We had work to do and Suue helped. First we needed help treating our dog Shirley's ears for fungus. It is a three person job as Shirley hates having that stuff put into her ears. She almost escaped from the three of us but Johnny got her in a bear hug, I put the medicine in and Suue took the picture. Shirley did not want much to do with any of us for the rest of the day.

Other projects were less traumatic for everyone... harvesting garlic and picking and sorting pears...

 Lots of pears to ripen slowly and be canned as they ripen...

Best of all was the grape vine harvest. I pruned back the vines... again... to give sunshine to the many grape clusters forming.

And mentioned to Suue that I ought to make my Christmas wreath forms out of my own grape vines but did not really know how and it would take a long time and it was easier to buy metal forms. Suue said, "Well, let's try and see what happens." So she sat on the ground and stripped leaves from grapes as I cut the vines and piled them in front of her. 

When she whittled her pile down, I gave her more.

 Then "Do It Now" Suue started curving the vines into a circle and weaving them together. It looked like her wreath forms might work! So I sat down and made wreath forms out of vines, too. We ended up with enough for all the Christmas wreaths we send to the relatives... plus Suue who, of course, will get one this year. I'll have to use florist wire to tie the greens to the grape vines, but that will be the only part of the wreath that is not from the Fink Family Farm. Pretty cool! ... If it works.

Here they are hanging to dry inside my "workshop" (the stock trailer). Last year was the first year I made wreaths instead of buying them from friend Jim. See story here:

"Do It Now" Suue, a dog person, had noticed early on that Shirley's toenails were very long and one dew claw was poking into her foot. Suue said she would trim them. I have a doggie toenail clipper but have been afraid to do it for fear of hitting the sensitive area. That's my excuse, but really I avoid doing anything that entails restraining Shirley as she flips out. And now, after the ear treatment, Shirley wasn't coming near me. But McCoy was captive in his pen and submissive so Suue did his toenails instead. This time, Johnny took the photos.

McCoy was a much better patient than Shirley. Anything resembling attention is fine with him. Good thing because he is twice as big as Shirley and there's no way we could hold him if he didn't want to be held.

But it was Shirley's toes that Suue really wanted to work on. And Shirley was not getting near us. On Thursday morning, just before Suue was to leave for the airport with Johnny, Shirley came up to the house. Suue was in her traveling clothes but changed quickly back into her farm clothes and came out to pet Shirley. Johnny and I grabbed the poor dog and held her for Suue's toenail clipping. Shirley was having none of it and almost escaped. This time I landed on my back with a bear hug around the struggling dog while Johnny tried to stabilize each paw as Suue clipped. Rather fortunately, I think, there was no one to take photos.

Suue says we should do it again in two weeks because she didn't clip them very short thanks to all the wiggling. Hah! Not unless she flies back from Maryland to do it.

All the while we were tormenting the dogs and grape vines, picking pears, etc., we were talking and laughing. There is something wonderful about having such a long history with someone... over 50 years with Suue... high school friends, college roommates... she even lived with us for a time after college... a forever friend. Hopefully she will visit again. If so, I'll clean the jungle room first in case the night-blooming cactus are in bud.

Maybe if we promise her more days at the coast next time... and less work...

Monday, August 11, 2014

The California Kids

For the first time ever, grandsons Kestrel (7) and Cedrus (5) stayed with us without their parents for a couple days before their parents joined them. The kids did great. Their mom had separation anxiety. But she and Steve finally got to spend a little time together without the kids. It was good for them both. And fun for the rest of us!

The kids had a great time entertaining Grandma and Grandpa. They danced to Michael Jackson songs, played the guitar (Kestrel) and piano (Cedrus), drove the EZ Go, ate more home-made goat milk ice cream and drank more home-made apple cider than their parents would probably have allowed.

Here the kids rate Grandma's mint chocolate chip ice cream. It rated two thumbs up plus toes!

Before they arrived at our farm, however, they had flown from their home in California to Seattle, where they spent time with friends and with cousin Ian and his parents, then ridden the train to Portland, where they spent a couple days doing city things. Grandpa drove to Portland to meet them on Thursday, July 31, and spent a few hours playing before bringing them back to the farm on Amtrak, leaving the car for Steve and Munazza. Grandpa rode the sky train (called a tram, I'm told) with them in Portland, adding to the number of different means of travel the kids experienced this trip.

Munazza packed lots of food for the train trip to Salem. Here is Cedrus on Grandpa's lap on the train.

And Kestrel, enjoying his mom's berry torte!

 At last they arrived in Salem, where Grandma was waiting.

Then into yet another conveyance... Grandpa's big van.

Always the first morning, the kids and Grandpa make popcorn waffles. Later, they made watermelon lemonade and other variations that they dreamed up.

With a sheet over the window to provide appropriate darkness for a performance, Kestrel and Cedrus danced... and danced... and danced. Where do they get all that energy?

 Kestrel played guitar and Cedrus played the piano. Impressive!

And, of course, they drove the EZ Go. At first, the steering was a bit unsteady, but after practicing in the horse pasture (while Grandma picked yarrow flowers to dry for Christmas wreaths), they grew to be quite competent drivers.

One chore Grandma had for them was breaking a new trail. Grandpa had put two logs across the little creek as the beginning of a foot bridge, but they led into nothing but deep brush! We clipped out a trail.

We got lost in the woods a few times before we had the trail going where we wanted it to go. Then Kestrel and Cedrus showed Grandpa the new trail.

On Saturday afternoon, the parents arrived, just in time to go to an outdoor performance of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Grandma told them the story beforehand. The kids loved it. (I figure it's never too young to start kids appreciating Shakespeare. We took Ian to one of these outdoor plays when he was younger, too.) We sat on blankets with our friends J.P. and Monica and ate a picnic supper before the play began. At intermission, we hiked around the vineyard where the play took place.

Also at intermission, Kestrel and Cedrus were selected to draw a ticket out of the raffle jar to see who won a bottle of vintage wine. So they were "on stage", too!

On Sunday, the kids showed off their EZ Go driving skills for their parents and took them on the new trail they had helped create. Of course, there was berry picking, bean picking and watching water striders and newts in the pond.

Then we all spent the hot afternoon in the cool house, watching a DVD of a hip hop dance recital that both boys had been in. Lots of cool moves!

On Monday, Munazza and I went off to do Qi Gong with friends. Hopefully, it will help Munazza's neck problems. In the afternoon, we all cooled off by playing in the creek. Steve caught crawdads.

Cedrus "made dirt" while the rest of us skipped (or tried to skip) rocks.

That evening we had a picnic on the cement slab in front of the shop... in a barbecue rather than on a campfire because of the high fire danger with all the hot, dry weather. It was still fun and tasty.

On Tuesday, we all canoed across the Salmon River to a beach where Johnny and I did the beached bird survey and the others played in the sand. It is a very long beach but the kids had no problem hiking it. Here they are way off in the distance coming toward me, where I waited, across from Three Rocks, after finishing the return leg of my survey.

The canoe trip back to Knight Park was easy. We held our paddles up to catch the wind and sailed our way along, as Munazza is doing here.

After supper, as usual at the Thai restaurant in Lincoln City, we headed home. The next day the kids said goodbye to all the animals (plus ate popsicles they made with Grandpa out of  apple cider, blackberry juice and popcorn. Yes, popcorn.).

Shirley loved the kids and was sad when they climbed into the van and left.

At the airport, Cedrus looked a little sad, too.

So long, kids, until next time!