Monday, February 29, 2016

North to Traumhof

Fifteen-year-old grandson Ian played Demetrius in Mid-summer Night's Dream this past week. And he was good! The play ran for three nights in his Chrysalis High School, giving me an excuse to leave the farm and head north for four days. The drama teacher at his school is amazing. How she managed to get all those teenagers, and some younger students, to learn all those lines in Shakespeare's English is amazing. Plus throw themselves into their parts. I don't think I've ever laughed harder at the Pyramus and Thisby silliness within the play. The kid playing The Wall may have been the best Wall I've ever seen.

I took a photo of Ian and his family after the first night's performance. Ian has slouched down here. He actually towers over Sarah and is taller than his mom. Won't be long before he passes his dad.

Of course, horses are also a big draw at Traumhof. I watched trainer Nicki ride the lovely Elfenlady, Jessica's spectacular young mare. Nicki will be showing Elf in third level dressage this year.

Elf has an incredible talent for lateral movements. Half passes are easy for her.

Although Jessica has spinal issues that her doctors say mean she should stay off a horse, Jessica thinks riding at the walk and canter, for short periods of time, is good therapy... and tried out a posting trot as well. I think taking Jessica off a horse would be cruel and unusual punishment. Here she is on her schoolmaster Elisienne (Lily), retired Grand Prix horse and queen of the barn.

I got to help a little with the horses this time, since one of the Traumhof employees was ill and could not come to work one day. I led a few horses from their paddocks to their stalls, plus fed hay and mash to others. It is nice for me to be able to work a little around their horses and to work a little with the plants in their pool room. It is hard for me to go cold turkey from what I do on our farm every day.

It was also fun to have a little alone time with each Ian, Kevin and Jessica. Ian can go from intellectual wizard one minute to hysterically funny kid the next. He taught me how to make an origami Japanese crane, but I don't think I'll make 1000 of them, like he is doing.We did lateral thinking puzzles, played Exploding Kittens and pick-up sticks and laughed a lot. The food there is always wonderful. It is painful for Jessica to stand because of her back problems but she still managed to prepare things enough for Kevin to take over.

Jessica has become quite fond of birds and has bird feeders constantly covered in purple finches, chickadees, juncos, Evening Grosbeaks and more. Plus Anna's hummingbirds frequented her hummingbird feeder. I heard many other birds early each morning. She and Ian pointed out *their* pair of Bald Eagles that they see daily on their way to Ian's school and to town. It is fun for me to have family members who are interested in birds!

A pair of crows are not so welcome... they spend all their time sitting on the arena railing pecking at or admiring themselves in the mirror that covers one end of the arena... making a mess of the mirror.

I enjoyed hearing a bit about Kevin's interests in technology fields as he drove their horse trailer to friend Joan Ranquet's place to load her horses and take them to Traumhof for a few days before the shipper picks them up to take them to Joan's new home in California. I don't understand a great deal of what Kevin tells me but I like to hear his enthusiasm and excitement.

Sunday morning I left early to drive into Seattle and visit our wonderful friends Woody and Martha. They have a lovely secluded and rustic hideaway in the middle of a residential area along the bike path to the U of Wash. campus. They have a big garden, four chickens, and a dog. Here they are with their happy, well-fed and pampered chickens and their equally pampered dog, Cocoa.

Woody, 92, still plays the hammer dulcimer in a band and was on his way to a gig on Sunday afternoon. They both love music. Martha, 85, no longer plays fiddle in an ethnic band but does play her violin in a classical group once a week.

And here they were when I first arrived, in their cozy kitchen... I cannot imagine two more wonderful friends. They are an inspiration on how to age gracefully and maintain enthusiasm for life. They can no longer hike or kayak but they enjoy their music and their little spot of heaven, their children and grandchildren and many friends. They provided me with a warm and happy finale to my trip.

Then it was a long drive home with just Einstein to keep me company... or rather the Teaching Company course on Einstein on a series of CDs. The professor was very good but he still had a tough time keeping me awake.

Johnny was glad, I think, to have me home taking over milking and feeding chores again. And I am glad to be here, but also glad for the memories from this rare extended weekend away from the farm.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


By 49ers I'm not talking about the San Francisco football team, nor the gold miners who rushed to California in 1849 after gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill the year before. I'm talking about Johnny and me. As of February 13, 2016, we have been married 49 years, incredible as that seems considering I started backwards at age 50 making me 30 now. It is remarkable to be married 19 years before one is born. Talk about an arranged marriage...

But, actually,  our marriage was not arranged at all... in fact, it was rather suddenly planned. Johnny's USFS boss at the time told him at his Friday, Feb. 10, performance review that everything was great except... it was not acceptable to be living with a woman without being married to her. Remember this was 49 years ago... So we opted to get married the following Monday, when a courthouse would be open...  we assumed.

We did not, however, realize that Monday, Feb. 13, was a holiday, being "President's Day", or, back then, before all the presidents' birthdays got lumped together, the Monday that Lincoln's birthday (Feb. 12) was celebrated. We drove off with our three witnesses, Ma and Pa Perkins and their daughter Marie, friends from Cokeville, Wyoming, where Johnny worked, to the nearest courthouse: in Kemmerer, Wyoming. It was closed.

So we drove on to Logan, Utah. That courthouse was closed, too.

This was in the days before cell phones or the internet so we found a pay phone and called the next closest state: Idaho. Idaho, I guess, did not recognize that day as a holiday because the courthouse in Paris, Idaho, was open. We drove there and were "married in Paris", as we tell everyone. Ma and Pa Perkins had been married in the Mormon temple in Montpelier, Idaho, and asked us to have our wedding photo taken on the steps of that church, so we drove to Montpelier, which was on our way back to Cokeville, and did. No, we were not and are not Mormon but it made them happy.  Since they had spent all day driving through three states with us trying to find an open courthouse, it was the least we could do.

Forty-nine years later, we still tend to do things on the spur of the moment. On our 49th anniversary, we went waterfall hunting. Why not?

Actually, we had already hiked a couple waterfalls the day before and taken photos. I have started a new blog, called Waterfalls
where I plan to document our waterfall hikes with photos and measurements. We started out on Feb. 12 with the ones closest to us that we visit often: Yoncalla Falls and its smaller relative on the west fork of Yoncalla Creek.

Below is the West Fork Falls, both upper and lower tiers, which are separated by a 5' wide pool... and a lot of logs.

Upper tier West Fork Yoncalla Falls
I then bushwhacked to the top of the much taller Yoncalla Falls and dropped the end of a tape measure down to measure the height. Johnny was stationed on the bank opposite and could see when the end of the tape hit the creek at the bottom of the falls. I could also tell when it did because the water suddenly took it strongly downstream. I reeled it back in and let the tape out to just where the water began to take it away. Then I crossed the creek and bushwhacked my way down to the bottom so I could get a photo.

Johnny took a couple photos of me bushwhacking and finally reaching the foot of Yoncalla Falls, which is not visible in its entirety from anywhere else. 

zoomed up... I'm way down at the bottom of the canyon on a log over the creek

 Here is my prize after doing all that bushwhacking... the only place you can see this from is the bottom of the steep and brushy canyon...

After I clambered back up to the road, we drove Agency Creek surveying Dippers. Many cooperated. This one kept diving into the water and swimming downstream, then popping up again.

Our waterfall adventure was so much fun we decided to spend the next day, our anniversary day, hiking the Niagara Falls trail and then looking for "unconfirmed" falls within striking distance.

Our trip started out with a good omen, as Johnny spotted a Red-shouldered Hawk right at the outskirts of Willamina as we drove through.

See the bird just below and right of the sign?

zoomed up, it becomes a beautiful adult Red-shouldered Hawk
It took an hour to reach the Niagara Trail trailhead. The well-maintained trail is quite civilized compared to the bushwhacking of the day before.

The trail winds, often steeply downhill, to two waterfalls, actually... Niagara Falls, which is not the more spectacular of the two but which you can get very close to... under if you don't mind getting wet... and the much higher-looking (although officially only 2 feet higher) and more impressive Pheasant Creek Falls. The first glimpse along the trail of Pheasant Creek Falls is tantalizing.

A few bends farther on, the trail leads to the base of Niagara Falls, (which is not on Niagara Creek but rather named for being close to Niagara Point, whatever that is). I tried to take our photos in front of the falls so we could say we had our anniversary photo taken at Niagara Falls (much like we were married in Paris). But my camera is not a cell phone and all I got was Johnny plus a part of the falls and a few wild hairs of mine.

Here is what Niagara Falls, Oregon variety, actually looks like.

 Walking onward, Pheasant Creek Falls appears in all its 124 foot glory.

At the point where I took the above photo is a picnic table on which Johnny and I once slept while surveying for Black Swifts that nest behind waterfalls... but not this one, apparently, as we found none.

At every bend of the trail coming back up, more memories returned... of hiking the trail with our children and grandchildren and various friends. As I lagged behind, I took a photo of Johnny dwarfed by the tall trees. 

 And he took one of me... trailing behind.

That's as close as we could come to anniversary photos of both of us.

From there we drove onward to the Nestucca River Rd. and tried to find the elusive Nenamusa Falls. We hiked along the river at the alleged spot finding nothing but rapids. Then we hiked along the river at other spots finding Dippers but no falls. So we drove on to Alder Glen Campground where we knew there was a falls.

Alder Glen Falls is across the Nestucca River from the campground.

It is hard to tell where the falls begins
Another falls we would like to find another time is on Bible Creek. We drove that road back to Willamina and keyed out the spot where we think it might be... at the bottom of a much deeper canyon than our Yoncalla Falls is in. It will be a strenuous hike... perhaps for our 50th anniversary next year. Or whenever the weather allows... and the mood strikes us.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Changing Seasons

For several days near the end of January it was warm and balmy. The daffodils were budded out, the yellow shrub by the back door in full bloom. It felt like spring.

On Saturday afternoon, Jan. 30, we took a drive up into the hills above us. It was such a nice day and we were tired of working... the pleasant weather had allowed us to do a lot of outdoor clean up work. We decided to drive to South Lake, about 16 miles from our farm. We were surprised to see snow along the side of the road as we started upwards. When we reached South Lake, it was snowing. So much for spring.

The snow had just started, but there was enough for Johnny to make a tiny snow person.

We drove on the few miles to North Lake. More snow. And sunshine on snowy trees.

Johnny made another snow person, slightly bigger.

We started to drive up to Mt. Hebo but we did not have snow tires and there was more and more snow. So we turned around and headed back down the 14 road to the 2283, where we had found a massive landslide and tree blockage on our Upper Nestucca Christmas Bird Count. We hiked in the .3 miles to see if the road was still blocked. It was.

We did the rest of our touring inside the warm van. I wanted to see the area of the East Creek fire so we drove up that way. We found lots of blackened trunks and dead trees.

As we drove home, we could see the hills to the south of our farm that had been bare and balmy when we left... now covered with snow. In a few short hours, an early spring had turned back into winter.