Monday, December 26, 2016

A Colorful December

In my last post, I said winter had arrived. And it has. Snow and ice, then melting, then sleet, snow, ice... oh my.

 But it began to melt...

...down on our farm, but not in the hills above...

Dark clouds over the goat barn promised more "interesting" weather to come...

 ... and here it is. Ice pellets dumped by that dark cloud...

But always, beautiful sunsets.

And then, on Dec. 11, more "colorful" excitement... We spent the afternoon in the emergency room with Johnny's hand dripping blood. Johnny got too close to a friend's chained dog with a chain longer than Johnny realized. The dog ripped the hide back off Johnny's hand, mangling blood vessels and puncturing muscle fascia, among other things. Johnny drove home and came in the house saying, in his usual understated way, "I think I need your help."

We went to urgent care first but the doc there took one look at Johnny's bloody pulp of a hand and sent us to the hospital to have ligaments and muscles checked out. Johnny was in no or little pain, since he has a very high pain threshold. ...Or, as my mother used to say, "Where there's no sense there's no feeling." Thanks to Johnny's answer of 0 or 1 on a pain scale of 10, we went to the end of the triage line in a very busy emergency room. Eventually, we got in to see a nurse but then it was many more delays before the wound finally got thoroughly cleaned out and examined and stitched back together: three internal stitches to repair muscle fascia damage and close off a spurting artery, then ten external stitches to close the flap of skin. Six hours, thirteen stitches, and one tetanus shot after the bite, we were home again.

In spite of Johnny's request, I did not take photos of the bloody mess. The poor nurse who started the cleaning program had to retire when she got woozy, in spite of all Johnny's joking around. I did take a photo two days later, when his hand looked a bit more presentable, although badly swollen.

But you can't keep a good man down. Or... Where there's no feeling, there's no sense. On Dec. 13, two days after the dog bite, Johnny went with me to McPhillips Park for my CoastWatch mile walk.

Here is Johnny walking north, picking up trash off the beach north of Cape Kiwanda... with his uninjured right hand.

I combined my mile walk with a search for Black Oystercatcher juveniles. But all I found were two adults in one of their usual foraging spots on the Cape. Later we found two more adults on the other side of the cape. So I guess neither pair successfully fledged chicks this year.

Haystack Rock and Cape Kiwanda on a chilly December afternoon...

Back home, while the snow lasted, I took photos of tracks for a project for the grandkids (and for me), Those photos are on a new blog I started called "Stories". The first post is "Stories in the Snow".

On the same day, I took a photo of the last wreath I made with all the leftovers after the others were done and delivered. I didn't want to waste any of the greens I had cut.

A few days later, On Dec. 18, we hiked The Thumb for the Lincoln City Christmas Bird Count. It was a cold and icy day with a bitter offshore wind blowing the wave crests backwards.

On the top of the southmost offshore rock where Black Oystercatchers nest, a lone Bald Eagle was perched, facing the wind. Why, I have no idea. It was a very blustery place to be.

 The eagle sat perched like this, braced against the wind, the entire hour or more that we hiked around, counting birds.

On December 21, we did our North Santiam Raptor route, before the next blast of snow was due to arrive. We saw four accipiters on our route. I had trouble identifying the juveniles so took photos of all to blow up on the computer. All three juveniles turned out to be Cooper's Hawks. Here are two of them. We also saw one adult Sharp-shinned Hawk, which I first took to be a Merlin! Thank goodness for my camera.

Although we drove in fog for the first half of our route, it was a clear and beautiful day in the upper reaches. Mt. Jefferson stood white and lovely above the green valley below.

The next day was cold and foggy, but we were warm in the car driving around with friend Marilyn VanDyk looking for birds for the Yamhill Valley Christmas Bird Count in the McMinnville area. The highlight for her that day was an adult Sharp-shinned Hawk. Too bad I didn't take any photos. The highlight for Johnny was lunch at Hillside retirement center as Marilyn's guests after our morning bird count.

Two days later, on the day before Christmas, the weather was again pleasant after more rain and ice and cold. While walking through our farm taking photos again for my tracking project... this time tracks in mud instead of snow... a Hermit Thrush came into view for a photo for the first time on our place. And a little while later, a Gray Jay popped into view! Two more photos for my Bird List blog on "Birds".

Hermit Thrush

Gray Jay
On Christmas Day we drove, as usual, to Tillamook and had lunch at a restaurant with birding friends John and Barbara Woodhouse, then did a bit of car birding afterwards, hoping to see the Hooded Oriole that a friend in Cape Meares Village has had coming to her hummingbird feeder. We did not see the Oriole but did see lots of pretty Anna's Hummingbirds, none of which were kind enough to turn at just the right moment for my camera to catch their stunning pink throats. Instead, I captured what I prefer to think of as "rare black-throated hummingbirds".

Today, the day after Christmas and two weeks after Johnny's dog bite, I snapped a photo of his healing hand while he napped, having just finished bottling eleven gallons of vinegar he made this fall. You can't keep a good man down.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Changing Seasons

On Friday, Dec. 2, I picked the last of the corn from the garden. The next day, we scouted for the Upper Nestucca Christmas Bird Count, scheduled for Dec. 15, weather permitting. It was a nice enough day that we could picnic beside Clarence Creek Falls, while checking out roads in the count circle.

It's hard to tell where this waterfall ends as it tumbles down a rocky stream bed for a very long way...

 We came back via Yoncalla Creek road.

Since we had time before dark, we surveyed our American Dipper areas along Agency Creek. As you can see, Asinine Bridge curves the opposite way that it should... a little engineering mistake that made the road crew blast the side of the mountain to give the log trucks room to turn. A pair of Dippers nests near this bridge every year... they don't care which way the bridge goes.

And here is one. We found Dippers in most of the nest areas that we checked on.

The reflections in the rock quarry pond made it hard to tell where mountain stopped and water began.

I am always intrigued by the wavy lava flows here.

The next day, Sunday the 4th, we hiked around the farm. The weather was pleasant, but the mackerel sky told me that cold precipitation was coming soon...

This day, pretty red fungi were poking up through woodland leaves

But sure enough, on Monday the 5th, we woke to snow...

We had planned to run our Grand Ronde raptor route the next day, Tuesday, Dec. 6, but waited until morning to see what the weather would be. It turned out clear and cold, with snow mostly just at our place on our route and in the hills above.

Johnny spotted a white-looking Red-tailed Hawk in a distant tree in the area where we have seen White Wing, the lovely white-winged redtail, for many years... but not for months now. We are still not sure if this is White Wing or a descendant. My previous photos show him from the back with white wings and a brilliant red tail. These photos are from the front, more or less, magnified greatly.

Two white-tailed kites were huddled together in the area where they often nest. We saw them there last month, too, so we're hoping they nest again.

We also found two lovely Red-shouldered Hawks on our route. One sat for a photo.

We ate our lunch by Willamina's Huddleston Pond, where two Bald Eagles kept watch.

Having started late, we arrived home at sunset. It looked like there was a fire to the west, but it was only the setting sun.

 We spent the next two days running errands and picking up feed, having heard that more snow and ice were on the way. And so they were. It feels good to have feed unloaded and be safely indoors (except when doing chores) while the weather has its way... snow and freezing rain, coating every twig in ice.

Winter has arrived.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Meanwhile, Back on the Farm...

The day after Johnny left for New Zealand, the bucks started fighting and pushed a board off between their pens. I hammered it back into place. The next day they (Gin Rummy, mainly) did it again and broke the board this time. I took a sledge hammer and nailed it back. The third day the board split even more; they broke the latch that holds the gate to Bud's outdoor area open, and I knew I had to separate the bucks. We have had them in those pens for several years and this is the first time they've decided to dismantle them. They must have known Johnny, the fix-it person, was out of the country. I could not even call to ask him what to do since he had forgotten his cell phone, which probably would not have been reachable there anyway. Or it would have cost a fortune to call from the U.S.

Bud the buck

I propped a stout timber to hold the door open so Bud would not get locked indoors. Then I moved the belligerent, board-busting buck, Gin Rummy, into the pig pen and started cleaning pens... two buck pens and a dog pen.  Obviously, I was going to have to separate the bucks with the dog between them. The dog is loose nights but the bucks fight during the day and the dog would not let them fight if he was between them. The pig pen was adequate until it started to get cold and blow rain inside.

Here is Gin Rummy in the pig pen...

Lots of grass and open space so I did not feel sorry for him...

...until the rains came. I finally got all pens cleaned, bucks moved and dog moved between them. (Bucks were moved out of and into pens with the help of a hose. Blubbering bucks do not like to be sprayed, which makes moving them much easier.) Peace was restored.

About then there was a massive earthquake in New Zealand and I waited anxiously for news from Johnny and our kids. Steve skyped to let me know they were all fine. (Ah the wonders of modern technology.) They were on the North Island when the quake hit the South Island and they did not feel it or the aftershocks.

Much relieved, I carried on with endless garden harvesting, which I wrote about in another blog post. We still, as of this writing (last day of November) have corn ripening in the garden. But it has turned cold now so the end is in sight.

I did not work non-stop while Johnny was gone... I tell about some of the more fun times in

I also pruned the grapevines and spent days winding the vines into rounds for Christmas wreaths. I start cutting greens off our farm for the wreaths the week before Thanksgiving so they are not too dried out by the end of the Christmas season. Then it's day after day of wreath making. I forgot to take photos of the entire inside of my workshop (aka stock trailer) lined with finished wreaths. Now 7 have been mailed off and 7 more delivered locally. Several more are due to be delivered soon, with a couple left for us. I took quick photos today before leaving to deliver two more, but they did not come out well. Hopefully, the wreaths in reality look better than their photos.

In the midst of wreath making came Thanksgiving, one week after Johnny's return from New Zealand. Our surrogate grandkids and their friend Michael joined us for the traditional Thanksgiving day hike... although usually not in such damp conditions: it rained and flooded on Thanksgiving Day. But we have lots of rain gear here, so we trundled everyone up in raincoats and boots and off we went.

McCoy, the big white guardian dog, was thrilled to have attention. His dream is to be someone's sofa pet.  Here Kinnera gives him love...

Michael was attacked by a dog as a child and is terrified of them, but McCoy won him over, as he does everyone.

The bucks wanted attention, too, but they are a bit too "ripe" this time of year to be petted. Michael took photos.

Then it was out of the barn and down into the field to visit the horses. Nightingale is always up for attention.

Michael sent me this photo he took of very wet Nightingale and Johnny.

 The photos I took indoors of the Thanksgiving festivities did not come out. I must have been shaking from laughter because they are all blurry. We did have a lot of fun. Friend Barb joined us for the meal, supplying half of it with vegan dishes for Michael and David. I cooked ham for the meat eaters. Kinnera roasted delicata squash slices. Johnny made baked apples for dessert. Mark could not come but sent delicious salads with Barb. With miscellaneous side dishes, we had plenty to eat. And wonderful company to share it all with. Hazel and John, Kinnera and David's parents, had planned to come but were unable to because of John's spinal procedure the day before. We'll have to plan a do-over when he has recovered.

It's nice to have Johnny home (the buck pens are now properly repaired with new boards)... repairing things as they go wrong (the back door refused to open today), bringing in firewood, helping with the normal farm chores, joining me for birding adventures whenever the rain allows...

Ups and downs are both better when shared.