Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Holiday Letter 2014

The living Christmas tree in front of our house. I managed to string lights this year without falling off the ladder.

For years, we sent out an annual "State of our Union" letter to friends and family somewhere around our February wedding anniversary. Also for years, we sent Christmas cards. But for an unremembered number of years now, we have done neither, or at most sent, in response to holiday cards from our friends and relations, whatever cards various organizations insisted on giving us to guilt us into donating to them. I should make cards, like some of you clever people do, but considering the wreath fiasco...

The wreath sent to the east coast arrived without rosehips, the wreaths sent to Colorado were delayed in the mail and arrived all dried out. This wreath I hung on the goat barn with plastic goat collars. At least it's colorful.

This year, after reading the newsy letters from friends around the country printed on colorful Christmas stationery with photos of their families, I thought I would do that. Except my computer and I don't know how to insert photos into documents. And I'm not organized enough anyway to figure out to whom I should send letters. Hence this post... to be sent out into cyberspace and read by anyone who knows my blog address and cares to check in to see what we've been up to... or read by whomever happens to stumble upon it.

Now that that's out of the way, what to say about our year? Unlike many of our friends, as reported in their letters, we did not go on any cruises or tour any foreign countries or otherwise leave the farm... together... for more than the time between morning and evening goat milkings. But we had fun. Something I read somewhere said to live your life so that you don't need a vacation. Or something like that. And that's what we do. Every day is a new adventure. Possibly because we can't remember what we did the day before. That memory thing, in fact, is why I write this blog. So we can look back and see what the heck we did last week. If you are interested, browse my blog. I think you'll find photos of grandkids and flowers and farm life, tales of my trips to Shakespeare plays, to visit kids and their families, and lots of "citizen science" bird surveys.

Some farm life: Jessie Anne, Nightingale, and Mr. Smith

Here we are on our latest bird survey: the Upper Nestucca Christmas Bird Count on Dec. 22.

And you'll find photos and stories of Johnny's many projects on the farm and trips to visit the kids. I like that we have to visit the grandkids separately, while the other stays home to tend the farm, because that way I get their full attention. They are all nuts over their crazy Grandpa who makes them popcorn waffles when they visit and lets them tear around the farm in our electric EZ Go golf carts.

For those of you who know (and remember) our kids, they're fine. Kevin and Jessica, with 13-year-old son Ian, have a big dressage training facility in Washington. (Dressage, for you non-horse-people, involves horses.) Kevin works at something to do with computers. Jessica runs the barn business (and several other related enterprises). Ian does gymnastics and stuff with computers. I think he has his own web page development business. Good grief.

Steve and Munazza and Kestrel (about to turn 8) and Cedrus (about to turn 6) live in California. Steve and Munazza both do something involving computers. Cedrus plays keyboard (amazingly well) and Kestrel guitar (amazingly well). Both boys do hip hop dance (amazingly well).

Other kids we call our grandkids but really are not (because their parents are our friends not our offspring) are David, 25 (how is that possible?) and his sister Kinnera, about to turn 15 (how is that possible?). David does not do something with computers. David works for a coffee company and is writing a novel. Kinnera sings (beautifully) and is learning the piano.

All of our grandkids (like all grandkids in holiday letters) are amazing and, of course, brilliant. Photos of all of them are probably somewhere on my blog. If you're interested, try searching for their names. Or look for "A Visit from the Washington Family" and "A Visit from the California Family".

Of course, not everything is always wonderful in our lives. My only sibling died on Easter Sunday after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. Even though we lived far apart and seldom saw each other, Bob and I were very close and I miss him.

Live your lives so you don't need a vacation. Hug each other. And laugh often.

The front entrance to our house, otherwise known as The Jungle Room

My Christmas village, looking out into The Jungle Room

Here's to a colorful, joyful 2015 from the Fink Family Farmers... Linda and Johnny

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Non-raptor Highlights on our Raptor Routes

There are more things than birds to make our raptor routes fun. On December's Grand Ronde route, we came upon our friend Susan driving her handsome team of draft horses.

On another private sector that we drive through, Mt. Jefferson loomed majestically in front of us.

Coming and going, this face can be seen on a hillside south of Highways 18/22 between Willamina and Fort Hill. We have been told that it was created (planted) at the same time the clearcut was replanted. The orange face is larch trees, a deciduous conifer. When the needles fall, the face will disappear. But right now, it is quite visible and fun to see. Just don't wreck your car looking. I pulled off the highway to take these photos from the west-bound lane.

A few days later (on Dec. 6), we did our North Santiam route for the month. It was a gray and drizzly day but I took some photos anyway of waterfowl and a noisy Kingfisher at John Neal Park in Lyons where we stop to eat our lunches. I love the woodsy ponds and so do the birds.

Gadwalls, clothed in soft gray to match the weather

Ring-necked Duck, handsome even through drizzle

Fluffed up Kingfisher, standing noisy guard over his ponds

I walked on farther with hordes of juncos, a Bewick's Wren and this Downy Woodpecker paying me no attention.

My goal, as always when I hike in John Neal Park, was to hopefully find the pair of Red-shouldered Hawks we discovered there a couple years ago. They were not to be seen on our November run. But this day, fate smiled on me. The pair of impossibly beautiful Red-shouldered Hawks sat for photos. How could any raptor be this colorful?

Raptors are, indeed, the point of our raptor surveys, but there are many non-raptor bonuses, too, including lovely scenery, a smiley face on the mountain, and, at least once, a team of gorgeous horses.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Thanks Giving

Although it was an ordeal getting this dirty, messy house civilized enough for company and figuring out what to feed everyone for four or five days, the minute those two adorable grandchildren walked through the door on Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, it was all worth while.

First on their list of what they wanted to do on the farm was ride and drive the EZ Go. Cedrus loves to drive. Fast. Kestrel seems to like the thrill of surviving these speed trips. Johnny took these two photos.

Kestrel and Cedrus also love games. Here they get all twisted up in Twister with Grandpa.

On Wednesday, more friends arrived for cider making and a potluck, allowing for more thanks giving.

Neighbor Irv, Johnny, Steve, and Linda Leavitt washing apples. Love Linda's hair! Barb and Mark Millikan also helped but didn't get in the photos.

Linda Leavitt's brother Randy did most of the apple chopping, with a little help from Cedrus and Kestrel

All the kids took turns squeezing the apples.

Jessie, Dillon, Kestrel and Cedrus

Dillon, Steve, Cedrus, Kestrel and Dave Leavitt. Love Dave's beard!

Look at all that cider Kestrel is squeezing out!

Kestrel helped his dad bottle the cider.

In the evening, Cedrus (5) and Kestrel (7) performed. Cedrus played the piano; Kestrel the guitar. Cedrus also danced. Wow! I did not take photos because I was too engrossed in listening and watching my incredibly talented grandchildren to think about taking pictures. Alas, Johnny didn't take photos either. If Munazza or Steve did, I'll add photos to this blog whenever they send them to me.

On Thursday, the traditional turkey day for most people (but not us), Hazel and John and Kinnera Inman arrived. Cedrus and Kestrel renewed their adoration of now-teenaged Kinnera. I think the feeling is mutual. I tried to get photos of everyone on a hike to the creek but they were a tough group to organize.

I think this one is where Grandpa Johnny volunteers to hold anyone's clothes who wants to go swimming and Kestrel says, "Too cold!!"

Later that day, Kinnera's brother David and his friend Josh arrived. That evening we had more performances. This time Kinnera and David shared the limelight with C&K. Kinnera sang, beautifully, for us and David juggled. It was like having a private variety show. Such talented children!

Friday people finally got to eat a turkey dinner. And hike, of course. In our house it's traditional to hike after the mid-day Thanskgiving meal. Josh and David and Kinnera spent time communing with the goats and the big white dog. I should have taken a photo of McCoy bouncing from one person to the next, throwing himself against David for petting, then leaping up and bouncing to Josh for more petting, then to Kinnera, almost knocking her over. He was a very happy dog. They were very dirty children. (Yes, David and Josh are still children to me even though they're all grown up.)

I took this photo of Cedrus next to his namesake tree, Cedrus deodora, in my arboretum on one of our many hikes. Right now, Cedrus the person is slightly taller than Cedrus the tree. We'll see how long that lasts.

Kestrel and Cedrus organized evening and rainy day games. One was a kids' version of charades. One person acts out the word on a card while the others guess what in the world the actor is or is doing. But the kids' most favorite game was "Vacation". One person says where they're going on vacation, then hides his/her eyes while the others strike poses that they might take on that vacation. The vacationer then opens his/her eyes and tells what the scene represents and which of the actors he/she is. It's quite hilarious.

I have no idea where this vacation was but the kids certainly enjoyed it.

I remember this one. It was to a chocolate factory where everyone ate too many samples.

And here Josh got in the act as an airplane while everyone else got blown away on the wings. Some vacation!

Kestrel and Cedrus brought their tower building game, the name of which I always forget. Here Grandpa and Kestrel are trying to beat the record 37 stories that Munazza says we made when I was down at their house. I only remember the terror of knocking it over. I think this tower reached 33 or 35 stories... or some number.

Friday night, more friends stopped by and we had another performance with song, dance, piano, guitar and juggling. This time I tried to get a photo of David juggling but the oranges (we didn't have balls) would not hold still in mid-air. It's a nice photo of Monica and J.P., though, enjoying David's show.

You can almost see the 3 oranges here

At some point one evening or another (things have sort of run together in my over-stimulated mind), we gathered Inmans and Finks together for a group photo. Steve figured out how to set the timer on my camera. I didn't even know it had a timer.

On the floor: Grandpa Johnny with Kestrel, Dad Steve with Cedrus, John. In the back, Josh, David, me (Grandma Linda), Kinnera, Hazel, and Munazza

Then there was a call for a funny face photo.

Everyone, I think, had a good time here which is what it's all about. On Saturday, they all left for their respective homes, leaving Johnny and me tired but full of thanks giving for a wonderful group of friends and family.

Would I do it again? Ask me in another few weeks, when I've recovered. Johnny, the quintessential extrovert, is ready now.