Sunday, February 26, 2017

Kestrel is 10!

Four days after I returned from the Washington kids and Ian's school play performances, Johnny left for California to celebrate Kestrel's 10th birthday... and to do projects, of course.

Happy birthday, Kestrel!

Johnny took photos of the kids helping in the kitchen... and eating yummy birthday food...

 But, of course, there were projects...

Kestrel has been designing and working on a model of the Golden Gate Bridge. He loves that bridge. Johnny helped direct and supervise.

Cedrus helped, too.

 Steve sent a photo of  current progress...

Pretty cool!

Since the week after Kestrel's birthday was spring vacation for the kids (known as "Ski Week" there), they all drove to Napa, California to tour a castle, a geyser and a petrified forest.

Castello di Amorosa is an authentically-built 13th century Tuscan castle and winery.

One room has equipment knights would have used and worn, like this crossbow.

That's a chain mail suit in the background.

It also had a torture chamber with this very uncomfortable looking chair...

Much of the castle is used for wine storage, of course, since this is a winery.

From there, they went to the Old Faithful Geyser of California in Calistoga, said to be one of only three old faithful geysers in the world. It erupted every five minutes while they were there.

They also went to a petrified forest. Johnny took no photos there, but I found this youtube video of it:  Pretty amazing to see trees that were toppled by a volcano and turned to stone over thousands of years.

Somewhere, not sure where... maybe in a museum at the geyser park, they found this volkswagon with an airplane engine attached!

After two days of sightseeing fun, they went home to more projects. The kids wanted to add to their parkour course, with Grandpa's help, of course. So they did. Pipes to walk on upped the difficulty quite a lot! 

And the boys continued with projects, learning lots of tool-handling skills with Grandpa's help.

Here Cedrus works on a project...

And here is Kestrel...

Johnny returned by train a week after he had left.

Meanwhile, back on the farm, I had been dealing with a sick horse and a sick sheep. The horse recovered. The sheep did not. Such is life on the farm.

But I also had a seed order arrive and had the fun of planting seeds in the greenhouse. I love planting things. Besides vegetable seeds, I planted tree seeds. There is an ancient Greek saying that "a society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in."  Or when old women do. This old woman planted tree seeds that may take several years to sprout, much less grow into trees. I don't know how great that is but it sure is optimistic.

Johnny and I are done with our running north and south for awhile and I'm glad. Fun as it is to visit the kids and grandkids, to celebrate their birthdays and their activities... for this old woman, there really is no place like home.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Valentine's Day and 200K

The day after our Golden Anniversary was Valentine's Day... and the only day without rain when we would both be in the state (rather than traveling north or south for grandkid events) to do our North Santiam raptor route. So that's what we did. The weather was lovely. Mt. Jefferson appeared ahead of us, snow-covered and beautiful.

Raptors were sparse but halfway through the route we found a new place to pick up lunches since our usual Chinese restaurant was closed. The food was very good! Eating out is Johnny's favorite part of our birding adventures. The little cafe is right at the corner where we turn to go to our lunch spot... Lyons City Park and John Neal Park. As we sat in the car eating our take-out meals at the edge of the park ponds, the raptors came to us... A Red-tailed Hawk chased a Red-shouldered Hawk out from a tree where we had not seen it until it flew.

In the afternoon, we stopped to scope out a big nest in a grove of deciduous trees off the road. I was hoping for what would look like a cat's head appearing out of it... and there it was! A well-camouflaged Great Horned Owl was in the nest, peering out. I took a photo with my long lensed Nikon camera... First of the distant grove with big nest...

Then zoomed in on the nest...  the "cat's" head and ears are just left of the big trunk, on top of the tangled twigs of the nest...

...Up closer, you can see the owl's face and ears...

As exciting as the owl find was, even more exciting was what happened after our route was over and we were on our way home. We had noticed that the speedometer on my Hondo Civic Hybrid was nearing the 200,000 mark. In our family, actually watching as the speedometer turns over to an even number is a good luck omen... so watching it turn to 200K is a spectacular happening! About six miles from home, we watched (hopefully Johnny, the driver, was just glancing now and then) as it turned over from 199,998 to 199,999, and then... to the big 200,000! Naturally, I took photos. (It's what I do.)

Back home, Johnny researched when we acquired this car (it was a joint surprise for me from my dad, son Steve, and Johnny) and how many miles it had on it then. Johnny says it is a 2003 model, bought in 2006, with 30,307 miles on it.

A few months after it arrived, the huge battery that makes it a hybrid gave out. Happily it was still under warranty and we got a new one for nothing. That one is still testing perfectly fine after ten years... and nearly 170,000 miles. And I'm still averaging over 45 miles to the gallon.

I've hauled feed in this car, driven it up and down mountains... and scratched it up more than it deserves. I even hauled a buck goat in it all the way to California. (Yes, my big animal carrier fits in the back seat. The door opens wide and I can put most anything in there.) It also has a spacious trunk.

...So many trips north to the Washington kids and south to the California kids, loaded with stuff to give them. So many trips to the coast for bird surveys and fun...

I love this car.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Our Golden Anniversary

Johnny and I have been married 50 years as of Feb. 13. This year, appropriately, the 13th fell on a Monday as it did back in 1967. The reason we were married the day *before* Valentine's Day is explained in last year's anniversary post: It has caused much confusion among friends and family... and Johnny, who can never remember which day we were married.

The reason we don't try to do something special on our anniversaries was explained in my Wedding Anniversary #44 blog post. Here is the pertinent part:

"For our 25th, we spent a night at the wonderful Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon. Each room is decorated for a different author. We had the Herman Melville room, complete with ocean decor and a slanted floor. This proved to be a mistake.

On the way to our romantic getaway at the ocean, we stopped for lunch. Johnny had potato salad. Johnny spent the night of our 25th anniversary trying to negotiate the slanted floor between bed and bathroom over and over as he disgorged his apparently poison potato salad. He did not feel well enough by morning to eat the delicious breakfast that was part of the room price.

Since then, we've stuck to butchering chickens or hogs on our anniversary. It's safer."

But the 50th is a big deal so we are celebrating it this summer during the total solar eclipse, which occurs in a narrow band across the U.S. that happens to be right over our farm. We'll celebrate the union of sun and moon plus the union of Johnny and Linda (50 1/2 years previous) on Aug. 21.

However, I thought we should do *something* special on the actual day. I suggested a waterfall hike or a trip to the coast or... climb Spirit Mountain. We used to climb it every New Year's Day, but after Johnny's back problems and subsequent surgery, we quit. His back is better and he said he misses the hike, so we climbed the mountain. Since I have had knee problems in the past, but not for some years, I insisted that we walk up very slowly. For some reason, the men in this family always liked to race up the mountain to see if they could beat their time from the previous hike. I think that is the dumbest thing in the world. We walked slowly. It was a beautiful, sunny day.

When you walk slowly, you can see birds. I could have seen them better if I'd brought binoculars. Mine are a little heavy and I didn't want to carry them all the way. I brought just my camera and tried to bring the wee birds up closer with it. Next time, I'll take binocs. But I did get one little bird in my viewfinder and took a couple of photos. I thought it was a Hutton's Vireo, although they look so much like Ruby-crowned Kinglets, I couldn't be sure. Believe it or not, these two photos prove, I think, that I was right.
 This photo does not show the wingbars or anything else helpful... except the legs. Hutton's Vireos have bluish-gray legs and feet. Kinglets have impossibly thin black legs... and pink feet. I am not kidding. Zoomed in, you can see the bluish gray legs and feet on this bird.

The eye-ring, lores and bill on this bird are also more Vireo-like than Kinglet-like, but the feet are the clincher for me in this photo. You would have to zoom it in to see the feet well  enough to tell they are gray, not pink.

 Johnny tried hard to match my slowness as I stopped for every bird sound, but he had to wait occasionally to let me catch up.

Two and a half hours after leaving home, we reached the top. Johnny says it usually takes us two hours. I say, so what?

 We ate our lunch in warm sunshine and no wind. I don't remember having a nicer day on top of the mountain. I thought we should have a 50th anniversary photo, so I attempted a selfie... so bad I deleted it from this post. Please imagine us handsome and beautiful and smiling. (The smiling part is true.)

 As is Johnny's custom ever since our sons left home and quit climbing the mountain with us, he called Steve and told him where we were and asked if he was on his way up and should we wait for him. He calls Steve because Steve was the one who gave us (or me, anyway) heart failure many years ago when he raced to the top and was not up here when we arrived. We had no cell phones back then and did not know what had happened to him. It turned out he got tired of waiting for us and hiked back home.

The boys missed a good day up there this time. From the top we could see Mt. Jefferson just barely...

Although we hike up on roads and trails, we hike down the face, the side we see from our farm. From the face we could see the Three Sisters to the southeast.

A little farther down, we could see just the tip of Mt. Jefferson at the far left of the photo below, with the Three Sisters at the right edge of the photo.

 Looking toward Grand Ronde, we could see the clearcut that is visible in part from our farm, including that lone fir tree at the top of it.

Here's Johnny, standing on the face looking toward Grand Ronde.

 And here am I, taking a photo, of course.

 We used to be able to see our entire farm from the face, but trees have grown up and now we can see only the machine shed and new goat barn. The two canoes stored on the side of the machine shed are visible here.

The photo above was taken through the tiny crack in the trees at the very right side of the photo below.

After drinking in the view, we headed straight down the mountain as we usually do. It is very steep and brushy this way with nothing but deer and elk trails to help us out. As we started down, I realized that my left knee had been stretched too far on the way up, in spite of how slowly I'd walked. Johnny had brought my knee supports, which I should have put on going up but they are hot and my knees have been behaving for many years so I did not.  (Of course, I haven't climbed Spirit Mountain for many years.) I put one on for the descent. My knee hurt anyway.

Johnny stopped to wait for me and took my photo while I took his.

After we reached the road,  Johnny went ahead at his own speed while I minced my way downward. And I made it! My knee has recovered... but I think I'll start wearing my knee supports for long hikes.

Johnny says we'll hike Spirit again for our 75th and 100th anniversaries.  Gotta love an optimist.