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A New Look and Road Tips

September 9, 2010

Beginning today, my blog posts that are about family and friends will be password protected. Blog posts about exploring, whether Eastern Oregon, or elsewhere, will be visible to the public. These will still have personal anecdotes, but will focus mainly on the roads and views along the way.  Friends and family may email me and I will give them the password to the personal posts.

It was a fruitful year for exploration here in our part of the world. Eastern Oregon is one of the most beautiful, remote and interesting parts of Oregon. It is also often invisible. I have lost count of the times folks from other states and countries as well as Oregonians refer to Oregon in terms of the Willamette Valley and the Oregon Coast. Indeed, these areas of Oregon are stunningly green and beautiful. However, over half of the state falls outside of that description and that is the part of Oregon that I will typically focus on. But, before I begin to post stories about different highways and byways, I would like to share some tips that I have learned from the locals and from trial and error. Some may very well  elicit a “well duh!” response. Too bad. I’d rather share these common sense tips with the hope that folks who have no experience traveling in remote areas will be prepared for whatever adventure occurs.

So, let’s get started with the car. If you have a new car that you do not want to get dirty, don’t go. Low slung cars will require you to seriously consider whether you wish to take any gravel or dirt roads. If you are concerned, don’t take the road. I drive a Honda CRV. There are times that I will turn back as well. There is no loss of pride in being careful of your vehicle. It is your first safety concern to be able to get out of what you get into. Make sure your car is ready for rough roads and extreme temperatures. Check your tires, oil and other fluids. Make sure your vehicle is ready before you start out. Carry a spare and jack. I am unable to change a tire due to back issues, so, I carry fix a flat as well.  Most people have cell phones and expect them to work anywhere. That is not the case over here. Verizon gives the best coverage, but even they do not reach everywhere in these parts. No insult intended to AT&T, but they are not the best cell providers out here. Your AT&T cell will catch a bar sometimes on the tops of passes, but usually not elsewhere. I know, I had AT&T and got out of the contract for this very reason. I have Verizon now, but am planning on getting a CB radio as even my cell doesn’t reach out in many places. Channel 9 is America’s universal emergency channel on CB. I also carry basic tools and something to lay on if I have to roll under the car to check on the undercarriage.

Before you leave: know where you are going and when you will be back and let someone else know. If you break down, or hit a large animal, that person may be the person who rescues you. If you change plans mid trip, let your contact know. My family does this for every trip, whether we are off the highway or not. Check in with TripCheck for any extreme weather and/or fire warnings. Know that it does snow in the summer sometimes up here in the mountains. And, it gets cold at night, so be prepared! If you are exploring, enjoy your Onstar or GPS device, but don’t trust it as your only guide in the back country. We have people stuck in snowbanks and other tight spots all of the time because they blindly followed those directions. Buy a compass and learn how to use it. It’s easy. Get Forest Service maps of all forests that you will be exploring. This will require some forethought on your part as the Forest Service is open only during regular business hours.

Pack your car carefully. I use plastic tubs and secure them with bungies to handholds and hooks, so if I do roll the car, I won’t get buried in my own stuff. It pays to pack in such a way that you can reach maps,  food, water and other essentials easily. It’s no fun to explore if you are constantly frustrated by your own packing job, so take a few minutes to do it well, or you will find yourself out by the side of the road repacking! I know! I’ve done it a couple of times! :-)Carry emergency triangles rather than flares, (not allowed most of year due to fire danger), something to break your window, if you have electric windows,  a good first aid kit, blankets and/or space blankets, warm clothes, basic tools and a fire extinguisher in addition to plenty of food and water and any outdoor “toys” you are taking. Don’t forget a flashlight with fresh batteries, matches and a couple of emergency candles and your camera!!!!

Now, let’s talk some safety. Need I tell you to always wear your seatbelt, even on gravel or dirt? I hope not!  If you or your car has an issue that requires assistance, try to pull off the road, turn on your emergency flashers and raise your hood. When pulling off the road, be aware that the shoulders over here are often soft. Try not to pull off under rock cliffs or walls (rockfall).If you don’t raise your hood, folks might think that you are taking a “rest stop.” If, for some reason, you can’t get off the road, get those emergency triangles out and set up. Try to call out. Sometimes, 911 gets out, but don’t call 911, unless you are faced with a real emergency.  If you have a windshield shade that has “Get Help” or some such thing on one side, put it up.  Now, about those road signs warning about corners or wildlife. I love to drive fast, but I learned quickly that when the sign says 30 mile corner, it means just that. Perhaps you can take your sweet little zippy cars around that corner at 60, but can you stop in time to not hit the rockfall, wildlife or herd of cattle just around the bend? Think about it. Most of the roads that I will take you along have all of those very real possibilities. Drive a speed that will allow you to stop safely. If you are on a motorcycle, be extra vigilant watching for rocks. They fall all of the time, but more often after a dry spell, then rain or winter. And, everyone,  those wildlife warning signs? No kidding! There are more deer, elk, antelope and cattle over here than cars. They don’t watch for you. You watch for them. The locals told me that the best rule of thumb to avoid wildlife is “don’t drive after dark.” It is good advice. I’ve lost count of the herds of deer and elk that I’ve come across after dusk/dark in the past two years. If you must drive after dark, watch for the blue flash in deers’ eyes along the road. Don’t expect the same warning from Elk. You are more likely to see the shadowy bulk of their bodies. They don’t seem to look up like the deer do. Also, a lot of the roads that I’ve traveled have fairly deep banks. I have seen whole herds jump right out of seeming nowhere up those banks. They can also sail over a guardrail faster than a blink. When you are driving on gravel, do not drive at high speeds. Gravel is unpredictable and will slide right under your tires. My rule of thumb is no faster than 40 on the straights, 20-30 on most corners. You must be vigilant for other cars coming around corners on the wrong side and wildlife and cattle. It takes much longer to stop on gravel, so if you are beginner, drive slowly and even if you know how to drive gravel, don’t get cocky. Cocky can mean dead.

Less than pleasant topics: human waste and garbage. Pack a folding shovel, garbage bags, doggie waste bags, hand sanitizer and toilet paper. You can find rest stops in some places, but it is rare. Look for campgrounds and parks: they usually have basic pit toilets, but sometimes, especially during peak off season use, they do not have toilet paper. Just take yours with you and that way, you will not be unpleasantly surprised. If you are in an area with no campgrounds or parks, you will have to make roadside stops. Be cautious when letting dogs, kids or yourself go off the shoulder to “do business,” or explore. Rattlesnakes, red ants, and other creatures live over here. Toss a stick or pebble into bushes or around rocks to startle off snakes. Look at the ground for stinging ant or other insect nests and steer clear of them. If you dog does not obey commands, keep it on lease until you feel the area is secure from snakes! If you must have a bowel movement, take your handy folding shovel and bury your waste and paper. If you are in a wilderness area, do not do this. You must pack out all waste and I will not address this, as I typically explore by car. If you are just urinating, put any waste paper in a doggie waste bag, tie it and place in another garbage bag. Don’t throw dirty disposable diapers by the roadside. Do the same thing with them. I do not police dog waste along the roadside, since my dogs are trained to go away from the road to eliminate. However, I do pick up human garbage left by Cretins, and put it in a garbage bag to dispose of at the next available garbage can. Once you are done, use that hand sanitizer and go on your way knowing you did not leave ugliness in this beautiful country. smokers, do not flick your ashes or butts out the window. Why? Because this region is extremely dry a good part of the year and you could very well cause a fire. I saw two such fires this summer. If you do not like using your ashtray, use an empty pop or other metal can with a bit of water in the bottom. That way the smoke is out and you can throw the nasty thing away in the first available garbage can. Remember, if you cause a fire due to throwing burning materials out your window, you will be fined. Just don’t do it.

And now, the local wave. Over here, you will often meet oncoming cars and see four fingers upraised and moving in a languid wave. To accomplish this wave safely, place one hand at about twelve to one o clock on the wheel. Place the other hand at nine or three o clock. When waving, keep you thumb firmly gripped and raise the four fingers, waving them as you see fit. :-)   Now we’re going to have some fun!

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Hog Heaven At M & M Hogs

February 28, 2010

About ten miles west out of Long Creek lives one of the most interesting people that I’ve met in in these parts. Tammy Manning and her husband Mark, own the Painted Manning Ranch, but M&M Hogs? Well the hogs are Tammy’s babies. About a month ago, right before farrowing season (that’s birthing for hogs, ya’ll) her barn burnt down. You can see some of those pictures here. Now that is where all of the farrowing rooms were, so Tammy had to scramble to create farrowing pens for her sows. Now, visiting the farm is quite an experience because you just don’t know where you will see Sows ready to farrow, Sows who’ve just farrowed and little piglets everywhere!

I got to take some pictures recently while Tammy showed a group of 4H kids around and talked hog with them.

Personally, you say hog to me and I turn and run. No doubt this is a deeply embedded fear of hogs due to childhood trauma, but besides that, these animals are huge and they have lots of sharp teeth. If you want to see bravery in action, just go to a hog show at the fair and watch the kids show their hogs. Tammy’s hogs are nice to the point that the sows just let the 4H kids look at their piglets without menacing or biting them. They were really sweet. As was Tammy’s boar (That’s poppa, ya’ll).

Tammy explained to the kids how the farrow, or group of piglets, needs to stay really warm the first few weeks of life and showed them how she keeps heat lamps and such safe while keeping everyone happy. After tramping all over the farm, everyone kicked off their boots and went inside to see how detailed record keeping makes for happy hogs and happy 4H kids. She actually planned her farrowing dates so that the pigs optimum weight would coincide with each county fair over on the east side. She then gave a serious lecture on feeding, exercise and showing.  I drove home smelling like hogs, but thanks to Tammy, it smelled pretty sweet! You can see the whole show on my flickr page.

Poppa Boar looks through the bars of his pen

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Beautiful Places Just Up the Road!

September 28, 2009

DSCF3300Gene and I have been exploring the Forests and BLM land north of Long Creek in the Blue Mountains and the Elkhorn Mountains. Although at this time of year, there is a lot of dust and forest fire smoke, the area is still stunning. First, there is Olive Lake, a true glacial lake rather than man-made and one of the very few natural lakes in the Blue Mountains. Olive Lake was named after a woman who was the wife of either a dam keeper or miner in the area whose hospitality was superlative.

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It sits just below the North John Day Wilderness Area and between highway 395 and Granite, Oregon. In 1907, local miners/entrepreneurs ran a pipeline constructed of wood and steel to the newly constructed Fremont Powerhouse. The power house generated electricity for local mining towns and households until it was decommissioned in 1967 and presented to the Umatilla Forest Service District as a historically significant building. Sadly, it fell into disrepair and if not for Sgt. Joe Batty, a teacher and reservist in the Army Corp of Engineers who talked that group into adopting the powerhouse as a project. The care taker who gave me a tour of the building told me a great ghost story about Joe and the Powerhouse. It seems that he was the one who found Joe Batty lying outside of his cabin dead of a heart attack with his arms full of wood and his favorite red and black wool cap still on his head. A few months later, another caretaker went up to do some work and had to shovel snow away from the great entrance doors before going in to build a fire to warm himself during the day. At the end of the day, he banked the fire, swept the entry of snow again and left. When he came back early the next morning a cap was lying right in front of the door. The caretaker who found Joe Batty confirmed that it was the cap that he died in. The cap now hangs above the powerhouse office because all of the caretakers know that Joe Battery loved the place so much, that is where he is to this day. Lots of pictures below of Olive Lake and the Powerhouse. Note the granite backing the big electric switches and dials. It is from Italy and is a natural ground that stops electricity from traveling.

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See all the photos at my Google Albums

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Adventuring and Opining

September 2, 2009

DSCF3222Today Mom and I went fishing. Mom, who has only fished for catfish as a child and when we were little, informed me this year that she wants me to take her fishing. So, for her birthday, we got her a pole in her favorite color, a license and off we went. She, of course put a lot of prep time in beforehand by purchasing and reading “Fishing for Dummies” and practicing casting with some lovely purple string. I, on the other hand, just loaded my favorite pole and tackle box which was given to me by Mother Russell. It was her equipment and I keep her last license right there in the box because it reminds me of her. But I am getting a bit ahead of the story. As we were driving out to Haystack Reservoir, we came across a family of Vultures soaking up the sun along the road. I sure do love the east side of the Cascades. I stopped the car, turned around and parked in the middle of the road to get some great shots while they obligingly struck poses. DSCF3220

Then, we went to the east side of the res, but only caught lots of mosquitoes. so, we piled back in and went to the dam. They had a nice fishing dock that was empty of folks, but not garbage. I picked up the garbage and then we commenced wetting our lines. Well, mom caught a nice little Bluegill and I caught nothing. Should have read the book I guess. DSCF3221When we got bored, we decided to head up the road to see where it went. It turned into gravel, but we were not deterred and continued on our merry way. That is, until I heard the ominous sound of splitting rubber and escaping air. I have always prided myself on keeping my tires and car road worthy, but I guess with moving and driving back and forth from Long Creek to Corvallis so many times, combined with neglecting to rotate tires that whole year caused me considerable embarrassment. The front tires were bald. Thankfully, Dave’s Towing, from Prineville, came right out and changed that tire. interestingly, another vehicle came down with a flat about a hundred yards up the road as we were leaving, so Dave’s made double on that run. We headed right to Les Schwab in Prineville and went shopping. Three hours later, with new “shoes” for the car on top of an alignment, we decided we didn’t want to fish anymore, so we went up to Madras to see a new sculpture honoring a local (Madras) young man who died in Iraq. Private Thomas L. Tucker. I think that the pictures speak for themselves. But I will speak for myself. It is about damn time the politicians in Washington went and fought their own dirty little wars and left our children out of it. Having said that, I have no idea how this young man’s mother must feel. I imagine she is proud of her boy, as I would be. It is obvious this young man truly cared about the people in Iraq and he gave his life for them. I wept as I took these photos. I wept for his mother and for all of the mothers of sons and daughters who will never see their children again. And I wept for all of humankind who believe that killing otDSCF3229DSCF3230her people is the answer. It is not.DSCF3228

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The Neighbors

August 26, 2009

DSCF3162Every day, at least twice a day, the Turkey family walks down the creek between the the Deacon’s and the Mayor’s houses, then across the street, through several more yards, visiting different folks along the way. I know people over in the valley get mad at turkey poop around, but here, it seems that our feathered neighbors are welcome by all.

Naturally, many Long Creekians look forward to Thanksgiving Dinner featuring one of the family, if they get caught outside of town. But until then, folks are happy to see all of the “young-uns.”  The other day, Gene and I stopped and took pictures as they loitered. The adults are very watchful of the the young.You will notice that the babies are different ages. This is apparently quite common.

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In a Nutshell

August 26, 2009

Hope you weren’t holding your breath for the end of the hormone story. Truth is, my doctor in Corvallis refused to consider bio-identical hormones and I found someone in John Day who is completely behind them. Further, the pharmacist in John Day at Len’s Drugs is a compounding pharmicist and he has trained the medical community about bio-identicals and so, end of story. Here’s what’s going on in a nutshell.

Peter flies in early to surprise Arwen and surprises “mommo” too, with a proposal to my beloved daughter. Guess I will have to get over flying. I won’t bore you with the details of grieving for myself while being estatic for my daughter.🙂

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Meanwhile, in Long Creek, the owner of the house informed us that he is not selling to us and continues on into the fourth month of construction and washing clothes outside, then hanging them to dry. Yes, I am saving energy, but thank goodness I have the time to do this. It takes much longer.

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Fortunately, the school is installing a manufactured home next door for us to rent. It has closets, people. Do you know what it is like to live without any closets at all? It has a little pantry to.🙂 I cried when I heard I get closets. Course, I had to move and sell goats. The three fiber producers are up at the school and the two cuties are in Corvallis at a new home.DSCF3171

Other than that, not too much happening. Spent almost a week down at Grant Co. Fair with 4-H group in goats that I lead. The young women showing swept the awards. Next year, we’ll show Pygoras too.

And last, but not least, yesterday, Pax  lived through getting hit by a car. He is a very lucky dog. Bruised and shaken, but no broken bones, internal injuries or stitches. Just road rash and bruised ribs, and right front leg.

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Snow and Sun

March 1, 2009
Dogs Playing Hard

Dogs Playing Hard

The biggest surprise about Long Creek has been the frequent high winds this winter. I don’t know yet about summer, but this winter, they’ve been busy pushing another pile of clouds over Long Creek Mountain, across the valley floor and down through Monument or up over Ritter Pass and on through the high mountains highway 395 snakes through.  The sainted Geno is on day four of a field trip with all of the high school students. He’s driving a 12 passenger bus, no less. I talked mother into coming over the Ochocos from Bend to help me stay focused on my many tasks. I’ll tell you, mom is a strong, energetic taskmistress. I am exhausted! But, we got a lot done and still had time to do a bit of shopping and play a few games of Scrabble. My family has a long standing and aggressive competition in Scrabble.  This time, mom put me in my place with a really tough game almost completely on the right side of the board. You gotta watch mom. She

The victorious matriarch gloats just slightly

makes these brilliant little boxes of three letter words that net her huge benefits.This time, it was zap/mop that garnered her a big 37. She beat me 265 to 220. What a game.  Mother left this morning, so, now I sit in a lull between her departure and Gene’s arrival. The weather is typical late winter into spring for Eastern Oregon. That is freezing, snow, wind, ice to brilliant sunshine, snow melting like a dream, and water dripping. And that’s what I’ve seen just this afternoon.

Dogs love snow.

Dogs love snow.

Kismet stays comfy on the dog bed inside.

Kismet stays comfy on the dog bed inside.

The next morning: Long Creek Mountain glistens in the sunshine

The next morning: Long Creek Mountain glistens in the sunshine

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East and West

February 22, 2009
Vivid Color on the west ascent of the Ochocos-Highway 26

Vivid Color on the west ascent of the Ochocos-Highway 26

I recall, as a young woman, cresting the Cascade Mt. Range at the Willamette Pass and descending into a veritable paradise of lush green everywhere. I truly felt as if L. Frank Baum, may have patterned his OZ after the green of that corridor down to Eugene, as much a magical place to a kid from Klamath Falls as OZ was to Dorothy. I later found lush greenness everywhere to be too true as I battled the often present mold and slugs. In the Klamath Falls and the family ranch outside of Alturus, our big problems were dust and sowbugs. I grew to hate both. When I graduated from high school, I was over the mountain and working in Springfield before I turned 19. I married several times and raised my children west of the Cascades. But, through all of my years in the valley, I brought home juniper and sagebrush each time I went to visit my mother in Bend.

Looking north from Ritter Butte, on 395 just north of Long Creek

Looking north from Ritter Butte, on 395 just north of Long Creek

Now, in another lifetime, I find myself willingly settled in one of the most remote places in the lower 48 states, or so someone told me.  Some might call it going home again. I don’t know. There is much that is different and a lot that is the same. But this is what I do know. Once a person drives through Prineville, traffic decreases by the mile until it slows to a rare car passing by  then dwindles to nothing.Each time I crest the Ochocos and my eyes fall on those endless, bareboned hills, I breath a sigh of relief.   The descent into Eastern Oregon is sudden on all levels.

Descent east side of Ochocos

Descent east side of Ochocos

The road descends sharply through rock shedding cuts on the north and a stunning ranch running along on the valley floor below. The ranch road meets the highway at the bottom of the descent, framing a neatly kept orchard. The radio sputters itself to death. And I ride in silence through another kind of beauty: endless, strong under a sky that is often as lush in blue as the green of OZ. Truly, if a modern day Saul were to have a conversation with God, this highway would be the place to do it. I love every mile. Sometimes, I will vear off at Mitchell on 206 to 19, east and off on 402 up through Monument, to Long Creek. Truly, this is a wondrous drive if you can stomach the road that hairpins down along Service Creek and across the North Fork of the John Day where the two join.

view on 206 above Mitchell and east of the Painted Hills

view on 206 above Mitchell and east of the Painted Hills

Usually, though, I continue my drive down 26 until it joins 19 at the entrance to picture canyon and the John Day National Monument, Sheep Rock Unit.  I like to stop at the overlook and see what kind of sky there is. The last shot of this blog is one I took upon returning from Bend and trying to recover from the shock of Becca’s death and the worry for my daughter Arwen, down in Melbourne while wildfires raged all around. Always, when I stop at this overlook, I recieve ample reward.

Sunset as seen from Overlook of Picture Canyon and Geological formations

Sunset as seen from Overlook of Picture Canyon and Geological formations

No human, nor any living thing, survives long under the eternal sky. The most beautiful women, the most learned men, even Mohammed, who heard Allah’s own voice, all did wither and die. All is temporary. The sky outlives everyting. Even suffering.*

*Bowa Johar, Balti poet, and grandfather of Mouzafer Ali
as quoted in Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
New York: Peguin Books 2006

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Sorry. I am Back.

February 9, 2009

Sorry folks, I’ve been ill, then my family lost one of our young: Becca Varco, my 23 year old niece, died quite unexpectedly at the age of 23, they think, due to Long QT Syndrome. It is devastating to her parents and to the rest of us as well.  And to top it off, our dear Arwen is smack dab in the middle of the wildfires in Australia. I’ve talked with her. She is okay and safe. She will not be going out in the field during this crisis. I apologize. I am still trying to pull my wits about me. I will post ad naseum soon. meanwhile, here’s some random pictures of the little farm.

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Learning to Eat

January 20, 2009
Long Creek Looking west up main street.

Long Creek Looking west up main street.

The frosty coldness continues for the fourth day here in Long Creek. This morning, I went over to the school shop to paint the sign for the Long Creek Booster Club “Kans for Kids” fund drive. I walked on up Main across 395 to West Main to see if Silver had some  paint and small brushes. Beautiful. Very cold, but beautiful.

Long Creek Park

Long Creek Park

The kids started trying out real food today. Since the rumen is what keeps them warm, it makes sense that they would start right off. Both seem to be nursing well and as you can see, they are picking up chewing on hay pretty well. Today Gene and I also made an 8 slot nesting box and put up a chicken wire yard for the kids to play in. They also need to play and develop their muscles, so this is pretty important. It won’t be too long before they are integreted into the herd and I can take that yard down. Chicken wire really has no redeaming qualities. But the last people here left it and it was what we had. I am guessing it will hold them for about a week. Gene made a pretty good gate out of crappy scrap wood too. At any rate, they’ll have some room to run and Butter Brickle can get out a bit. In a few days, we’ll start introducing the kids to the “aunties.” That ought to be interesting. The sooner the herd is back together, the better, as far as I am concerned. At any rate, here’s some cuties for today.

It's warm under mamma

It's warm under mamma

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Learning to eat.

Learning to eat.

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Sunday Morning

January 18, 2009
Frosty Sunday Morning

Frosty Sunday Morning

It got pretty cold and the entire valley is covered with a thick coat of frost this morning. It was about 3 above 0 Farenheit this morning at 7:30. If you read the comments, you’ll see that Elizabeth back there in New York, is pretty cold too. We had a marvelous bonfire last night. Sorry, I did not take pictures, but I was just having too much fun. But here’s Gene running the magnet over the whole area to prevent injuries to animals.

Gene denails the burnpile

Gene denails the burnpile

The kids are doing great. They’re active, happy, eating well and full of curiosity.  They will be going to the veterinarian on Tuesday afternoon to get dis budded and, alas, castration for the buckling. Tuesday, we will announce a naming contest at the school. The little children will be coming over to see them and so, this day, I’ll be working on tidying up and creating an outside place for the kids to play and get more exercise. I’ve neglected the chickens shamefully and promise to give you a photo of the Wyandottes and other ladies very soon. I have to make more nesting boxes too. Enough of that. Here’s some of the latest photos of those precious babies. By the way, their eyes are not actually blue, they’re a golden color. (Still struggling with a different camera. )

Doeling on the left, Buckling, front, right.

Doeling on the left, Buckling, front, right.

Little Buckling checks me out

Little Buckling checks me out

Peek-A-Boo

Peek-A-Boo

Little Cutie-Doeling

Little Cutie-Doeling

Pretty Little Girl

Pretty Little Girl

Get more cuteness at their album.

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All is Well

January 15, 2009
Hiding under momma

Hiding under momma

So far, so good with the kids. They weigh about 5 lbs, (I am using a not so good scale) are active and just about as cute as can be. I gave them their BOSE (Vit E Selenium) shots last night-what agony. I had no idea that their skin would not have folds like the older goat kids and it was truly a struggle. Naturally, they yelled at the top of their lungs too-evil human. I plan to wait a couple more days to inject their other important shot. And, I plan on getting a thinner needle, a piece of advice that I had forgotten. The school kids are making their way over in bunches. Yesterday, the animal science class saw them and Gene and I brought over the three little boys we have in wood shop. Today, the biology class came over. Nice young people there. Several of them expressed interest in helping me show this summer: Yay! These kids (goats are kids) will be dis-budded at the vets and the buckling will also be castrated there. I do not have the intestinal fortitude or the equipment and knowledge to feel comfortable doing these tasks at this point. Shots are bad enough, but I feel I must give the shots or I can’t really call myself a good herdswoman. As to their names, I am going to hold a contest at the school and let the children come up with their names.🙂

An update on the feral cats: I hear there is another batch of kittens over by the school, but am hesitant to start feeding over there because of attitudes. (Just shoot them.) I am going to go over today and see what I can see. Perhaps we can capture these with their momma and get them someplace else until they are all ready to be fixed. Sounds like there is a low-cost spay and neuter clinic coming up, so now that the kids are born, I need to get back to work. Nancy and I’s mommas and kittens are doing very well and we look forward to getting the moms of this group spayed and neutered. Sorry I can’t take telephotos with this camera, so I can’t show you updated pictures. Perhaps in a week or two. I’ll leave you with a family shot of Butter B and kids. If you are a goat freak, see more in my album.

Happy family, twenty hours old

Happy family, twenty hours old

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Kids are Born

January 14, 2009
First doeling of herd

First doeling of herd

Okay, I’ll admit that my daughter, Arwen had a point this morning when she pointed out that so far, I’d been wrong about Butter Brickle going into labor…but this time, I was right! Yes, folks, we have kids. Two to be exact. One doeling and one buckling. Mom and kids are doing well at this point and we will think positively that this trend will continue. The funny thing is, I checked on her all day, taking time reluctantly to go help Gene with the little boys in shop and then to the board meeting. Butter B was, as I put it, either constipated or in labor and considering that I’d seen her shit today, I figured it was labor. But darned if that girl didn’t wait until I came in to chat with Arwen to pop those little ones right out. I was only at the computer for 20-30 minutes. Go figure. You’d think she wanted her privacy or something.🙂 So, I just got to help her dry them off a bit, cut the umbilical cords, dip them in iodine and then find some yummy teat. They look well, but keep good thoughts coming their way. And, here’s some pictures. No names yet…except YAY! They are the first under my flock name: Little Prock Pygoras! And a doeling! I am so excited.

Less than an hour old

Little doeling, less than an hour old bucking is eating under mamma

Buckling on left (soon to be wether) doeling on right

Buckling on left (soon to be wether) doeling on right

Doeling two hours old

Doeling two hours old

Little Buckling two hours old

Little Buckling two hours old

so cute...the first Little Prock Pygora doeling

so cute...the first Little Prock Pygora doeling

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Camera at Shop: Butter Brickle Getting Closer

January 10, 2009

Well, I’ve sent the poor ole S7000 off to the shop. Butter Brickle appears to be getting ready. I’ll be making chicken noodle soup for 40 basketball players tomorrow night and I haven’t got the hang of using my Nikon Cool Pix again, so this shot of Butter Brickle is pretty nasty, but you get the idea. Her hips have “dropped” meaning the weight has moved down. The kids are moving towards the exit. Still, she doesn’t show obvious signs in her vulva yet. The Ag Ed class is saying the 11. Gene is saying maybe tomorrow morning. I’m thinking 2:00 am. Of course, we could all be wrong and she could go until January 17. But I don’t think so. I thought that we lost the black kitten and the grey kitten, but they reappeared after two full days absence. Who knows where they were. But, I also saw a tom out there howling around so I am thinking we’d better get the momma trapped and spayed. She’s probably in heat. More later. Don’t forget to let your people in Washington know what you think. I called my senators today.

Butter Brickle trying to rest

Butter Brickle trying to rest

30 pm

Funky picture of Butter Brickle 1-9-09 9:30 pm

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Camera Ruined: Devastation

January 7, 2009

Folks, I won’t be posting a for while. I just got my new telephoto with cleaning kit and when I went to clean the lens on my imperfect, but beloved Fuji S7000, the top came off the cleaning fluid and it all ran into my camera. I’m just too heartbroken to think right now.

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Still Waiting

January 7, 2009

Butter Brickle is doing as well as can be expected when one is “broad as a barn.” She is quite fleet of foot, considering, jumping up and over the new wooden grooming platform that Gene built for me to avoid me. The stanchion is two feet tall and almost as wide, so that’s no little feat. Speaking of feet, I helped Gene teach three little first graders how to measure inches and 1/2 inches today. What a riot…almost literally. Did you know that you could play air guitar on a ruler?  My stars! What energy. Finally, a shout out to Barb of AnimalResources who found my post and sent me not only the link to her awesome blog, but others as well. Check it out and get involved in your community. This is one thing we can do…all of us can help in some way.  I don’t think that you have to like cats to want to manage the numbers involved. Go check out Barb’s Blog. Course, I love my Kismet. She rocks.

Kismet aka "Kissie-Poo"

Kismet aka "Kissie-Poo," ex-street girlie

But she can’t reach my feeders. They’re out of reach of even deer. (Pulleys rock too!)

Evening Grosbeaks at the South Feeder

Evening Grosbeaks at the South Feeder

So, time to go check on the girl one more time this evening and get some shuteye. Tomorrow’s a new day and life is good.  However,

Don’t forget what the wise tee shirt says:

“It’s all fun and games. Until the flying monkeys attack!”🙂

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January 6, 2009
Butter Brickle December 19

Butter Brickle December 19

Well folks, it could be any time for our big girl. According to my projections, she could deliver anytime between January 8 and January 15. Gene thought, back at Christmas, that she would deliver today. I suppose that could still happen, but I am not expecting it. This is my first kidding, but not Butter Brickle’s. I imagine that I am driving her nuts popping in several times every night to make sure she’s okay. As a matter of fact, I just went out there to take a few more pictures because frankly, I can’t tell if she’s getting bigger or I’m just imagining it.

00 pm

Butter Brickle January 5 at 10:00 pm

As you can see, she’s not real thrilled to be disturbed. Me, I’m disturbed constantly. I’ve checked and double checked the birth wagon. That’s the rolling full size ice chest I’ve filled with all kinds of stuff, including puddle pads, towels, iodine, scissors, shoulder length OB gloves and lube in case I have to go in and turn a kid. I’ve watch videos, read books and talked to the vet.  I am beginning to be tired of looking at her vulva, which is out there for God and the whole world to see since I shaved her, to see if she’s showing signs of kidding. I feel like a damn voyeur or something. Meanwhile, she is the epitome of patience, usually. But she does look like she’s pretty tired of being pregnant. So people, keep your fingers crossed, or whatever you do, that the kidding goes smoothly and that it goes pretty soon.🙂 We’re all tired.

Resting as comfortably as possible

Resting as comfortably as possible

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Zorro: RIP

January 3, 2009
Gone, but not forgotten

Zorro: Gone, but not forgotten

The picture above is of a little feral kitten that Kismet, my own cat adopted. (Before those of you on the west side of the cascades whom might get all sanctimonious about the east side not being smart enough to spay and neuter, Kismet came from Corvallis, that bastion of intelligence and perfection, and she was a very sick, very tiny feral kitten that I rescued from the middle of rush hour traffic. Sorry, but I’m kind of pissed about attitudes.) I put out food and tried to keep an eye out for this little one, whom I named Zorro due to its little black eye mask. This kitty appeared out of nowhere, apparently, dumped. In the picture above, it was eating bird food. Yesterday, this little one died: alone, cold and brutally mauled by a roaming dog,  on the porch of the “cat house” next door. Poor Kismet was inconsolable and looked everywhere for it. By way of explanation, and, as many of you know, our house used to be inhabited by a woman so abused (in my opinion), she was incapable of caring for herself, let alone her children and animals. (Her abuser was shot down in the front yard after blowing the face off of one deputy sheriff and wounding another in the chest.) When she left, she left just about everything, including three un-spayed cats and a bunch of foul-tempered peacocks. Local ranchers took the peacocks, so they are long gone, but the cats were left to their own defenses. So, the Victorian house next door is now the home ( under the house and in the shed) of the offspring of these cats…in fact, a fairly large feral cat population.  My closest human neighbor, Nancy, has tried, over the years to keep these cats fed and look after the kittens, capturing them and giving them to other people. She has not, however, been able to capture the females who are quite prolific. Nancy figures in the past three years, without her intervention, the population would be over 7,000.Nancy, by the way, is who found poor little Zorro and buried the body. She also saw Kismet looking everywhere for the little one.  Now, I join her in compassionate care of this population.

A momma feral cat. This one has brilliant green eyes and quite a nasty wound on her back from, I think, a great horned owl.

A momma feral cat blends in. This one has brilliant green eyes and quite a nasty wound on her back from, I think, a great horned owl.

Two of momma's current litter

Two of momma's current litter

So, here it is, January and averaging about 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Now, ya’ll who know me know that I am perfectly willing to butcher chickens, to have goats butchered rather than “put to sleep” and am pretty practical generally speaking. Having said that, I challenge anyone who cares about these creatures humans have domesticated to carry on with dry eyes when one of these tiny kittens dies. It is heartbreaking. If you are not convinced yet, take a look at some more pictures:

feral Kittens on the cat house porch

feral Kittens on the cat house porch watching for momma

Drinking water from snowmelt

Drinking water from snowmelt

almost like Kismet

Little Black Kitten: almost like Kismet

Family Portrait. You can just momma's white bib and green eyes in the back, left

Family Portrait. You can just momma's white bib and green eyes in the back, left

See more in my photo gallery

Yesterday, I went to look for resources to help us in our quest to capture, neuter and release these cats; the best of practices in compassionate care of feral cat colonies. I found a lot of information and I found out a few other things. The primary and important piece of information is that Grant County has no humane society, no feral cat project and no resources that I’ve found yet to assist in this project. The secondary and infuriating thing that I found was the utterly sanctimonious, snotty, and holier than thou comments from people west of the cascades responding to a piece of garbage The Oregonian printed. (They never print anything positive that I’ve noticed. Let me know if they do, so I can celebrate.) To be fair, there were also some very thoughtful and kind people commenting as well: thank you to them.Today, little Zorro kitten is dead and I am pissed and sad. So, here I go folks. I am going to start something here and I hope to God I have the strength to do it. It is unconscionable to allow this to go on. So, first, come payday, I’ll be starting a savings account just for the feral cat project. I’ll be keeping you posted. Meanwhile, if anyone wants to help, let me know. I need live traps and food and of course, money for spay/neuter. I also need to cry for little Zorro. Hope this little one is at peace now. I’m not.

PS: Yes, I know Israel is pounding the hell out of Gaza and the whole world has problems. I’ve written to my representatives in Congress and House, now I am focusing on here and now. We all have a responsibility to take care of our part of the world.

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Happy New Year!

January 2, 2009

Even if it, and for that matter, time in general, is a human construct.🙂 We had a great holiday with my mother and siblings. I was surprised and delighted when my sister and brother in law (the good Dr.) were able to join us the day after Christmas and it was good to see niece Rachel and her hub, Chris. The snow was absolutely beautiful and everyone managed to travel between storms. I, of course, had to take a zillion photos, including a stop at the Painted Hills on the way over Christmas Eve day. The snow was beautiful everywhere we looked.

The Painted Hills blanketed with snow.

The Painted Hills blanketed with snow.

Ochoco Scene

Ochocos Scene

Mom's House on Christmas Eve

Mom's House on Christmas Eve

Gene is the best snow driver, so I got to sight-see. We enjoyed our side trip to the Painted Hills and of course, the place was absolutely deserted, so we let the dogs work off some energy. The dogs went absolutely nuts. They chased each other around, rolled in the snow, ate the snow and generally, acted like pups. By the time we got to Mom’s it was afternoon and snowing hard. We had a leisurely afternoon and evening. Gene and I did go to Trader Joe’s to get Mom’s dark chocolate for her stocking and that was really not fun, but once we got settled at Mom’s, we had a nice warm fire, lots of goodies and I was able to make my famous stuffing and prep the turkey quickly. I tried to take on the cooking, but of course, Mom was right there helping out.

Mom in her kitchen

Mom in her kitchen

Gene wears his Christmas gear.

Gene wears his Christmas gear.

I must confess, although it was nice to have a really relaxing morning, I missed Twinkle, Randy, Dana and little princess Rhiannon. Stockings just were not the same without them. Still, after I took the dogs out and snapped a photo of Mom’s lights, we had a nice time with our stockings, a wonderful breakfast and dinner going with a minimum of fuss. It was amazing. Then we let the dogs out to romp in the two feet of fresh snow.

Christmas Morning

Christmas Morning

Buck feels his oats.

Buck feels his oats.

Pax and Quinn playing hard

Pax and Quinn playing hard

I must say, Mom is an absolute saint to put up with my three dogs, plus Jill’s little Bootsie. Bootsie is a long hair chihauhau who displayed the best manners. She never barked or caused any problems at all. And she certainly stood up to the big dogs. Of course, we watched them all very closely and Bootsie had lots of escape routes. I quite fell in love with her, she was so close to perfect. Naturally, Pax felt left out, so he tried to make himself small too! I could not believe he fit into Bootsie’s bed, but I have proof! We gave him lots of love after this photo and Jill just adores him!

Pax makes himself tiny.

Pax makes himself tiny in Bootsie's bed.

Bruce, Jill and Ben showed up just in time for dinner, then we had presents. Can you believe I waited patiently until 5 PM to open presents? Yes. it is true.🙂 The turkey was amazing. It got done about an hour too early, so instead of drying it out, we pulled it, carved it and put it in a warming tray with juice drizzled over. Then we finished everything up and it was delicious! Yum. I managed to make my Mom cry by writing a silly story to give her a trip in May that will include a trip to Malheur Refuge with Birder extraordinaire, Trent Bray of Avitours. Then, we are going to do some other exploring. Anyway, I made her cry and Jill almost beat me up before mom could tell her why she was crying.🙂 It was festive! Gene got me a vintage Resistol Cowboy hat, so I was really excited as well. I wore it all evening.

Jill and Bootsie

Jill and Bootsie

I love my cowboy hat. Photo by Bruce Prock

I love my cowboy hat. Photo by Bruce Prock

Rachel and Chris arrived next and we were all thankful that they left their big dog at home. It was a sacrifice, I’m sure, but much appreciated. Then, the next morning, it was a party all over again because Janice, my sis, and hubby Ray (Dr. Ray) arrived bright and early and the fun began. we really had a blast. Janice looks great and is as sharp as a tack. She trounced us all by about a hundred points in Scrabble. She was hot!

Janice whopping up on us at Scrabble.

Janice whopping up on us at Scrabble.

Bruce, Jill, Ben and I went sledding. I got a great picture of  Bruce and Ben and they got a not so great one of me. We had such a good time and it was over way to quick. Somewhere in the day, Mom managed to make arrangements to get to K Falls so that she could ride back down to S. California with Janice.

Bruce and Ben go for it.

Bruce and Ben go for it.

Ace sledding

Ace sledding

It was amazing how much we all packed into the day. But the best was taking a photo of Mom with us three birth children and then with our spouses as well. It was a crackup with both Bruce and I setting timers and trying to get past two tripods with cameras in Mom’s living room. But we managed just fine.

Our family photo

Our family photo

All of us

All of us

So, there you have it. Another holiday gone by.  The dogs were exhausted. Next day, we were off towards home after cleaning up for Mom and stopping at the feed store. Yet another breathtaking trip, although the semi-frozen slush is something we’d rather not run into often!

It's hard work being a dog.

It's hard work being a dog.

view east from Ochoco Pass.

view east from Ochoco Pass.

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Happy Holidays One and All

December 24, 2008

We are thinking this holiday season especially of our family and friends: so close and so far away. As we join our beloved Matriarch, Joan Marie, at her home in Bend, my siblings and I, our spouses, Nephew Benjamin Charles and Niece Rachel and her husband, Chris will come together to love each other in person for just a day. How we love this time to be together! Ah, but how bittersweet, when we think of the many children and loved ones unable to join us in person. Randy and Dana and our little princess, Rhiannon; James and Becky and our other little princess, Sadie. Timothy Robert. Gabe. Kevin and Lisa and the princes, Aaron, Adam and Eric…and so many others, but last and not at all the least, our Twinkle, down under having a great time in the Australian spring Christmas vacation. Yes. We miss her like the dickens, but we don’t begrudge her this marvelous opportunity.   Meanwhile, here on the farm, I weigh, until we leave tomorrow morning, whether Butter Brickle is going to kid early or wait until at least the new year.

1/08/2009

Butter Brickle with Kids. Due date: 1/08/2009

We’ve read the books, watched the video, assembled the birthing kit, assembled the worst case scenario kit, trained our young hired man, and I, generally, have worried this one like a dog worries a bone. I’m thinking triplets, but I don’t know. Stay tuned. We are all in agreement that she won’t kid for at least a week. But, I digress. I’ll leave a few photos from the last few days for you to enjoy and if I can’t get online in Bend, I’ll update ya’ll on our return. Think Twins! Please!🙂

Meanwhile, to all of you whom we know and love: family far away, friends close and far: Peace to you all everyday of the year. But especially in this time of the darkest of winter and the fondest wistfulness for spring: Peace. And to our dearest, dearest comrades at the peace vigil in Corvallis: Peace to you. Today, for the first time since we’ve been here, a flock of geese flew overhead calling to us: Peace.  Peace to all.

We love you all and we love this world and this life in Long Creek Oregon

Princess

Princess

Pearl

Pearl

The Bobolink, Bird Store in La Grande, Oregon

The Bobolink, Birding, Coffee and Microbrew Store in La Grande

Our friend, owner of The Bobolink and Avitours, Trent Bray. He is one of the best in birding!

Our friend, owner of The Bobolink and Avitours, Trent Bray. He is one of the best in birding!

The Sumpter Dredge

The Sumpter Dredge

I'm going to ride this some day.

I'm going to ride this some day.

Baker City

Baker City

Peace to You from Us

Peace to you from us

But, before we all get maudlin, this timely reminder was on a young friend’s tee-shirt:

“It’s all fun and games. Until the flying monkeys attack!”

<3 🙂

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Winter is Here: Happy Solstice!

December 22, 2008
4 foot Icicle

4 foot Icicle

I’m feeling for the folks in the valley. They are all frozen and snowed in with four to six inches of snow in Portland. I listened with a new sense of humor to school closures last week as Gene went off to school through the snow. Here, it’s business as usual. Snow is a fact of life out here in the winter and in fact, we are still way short of what we ought to have. The views with snow are absolutely stunning.

Scene from our backyard

Scene from our backyard

Fox Valley Winter Scene

Fox Valley Winter Scene

The Animals have found me, the crazy lady who puts out food for them. Although I have not seen the crafty quail or turkeys up here yet, I’ve had quite a variety of other creatures.

The East Side Bird Cafe

The East Side Bird Cafe

The Niger Feeder is busy.

The Niger Feeder is busy.

The deer aren't shy

The deer aren't shy

And Geno got to ride in a Hummer: for good reason. The mayor uses this to transport people when the roads are bad. His wife, a teacher, drove the other teachers to John Day for a required (snow or not) workshop. The teachers were taken aback when I took a picture, but when I told them people drive these things to work in the valley simply because they are status symbols, they shook their heads in disbelief. Hummers and Ram trucks are really working vehicles out here and are not used frivolously. Amazing concept eh?

Gene takes a Hummer Trip through the snow

Gene takes a Hummer Trip through the snow

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School Play A Success!

December 21, 2008

Sewing I have just spent two solid weeks designing and sewing costumes for the High School holiday play. Yes, thanks to dear Geno, who happened to know I couldn’t say no, my seamstress skills were revealed.🙂 It was challenge from the word go, I must say. First off, my machine apparently needs a tuneup and it bucked and kicked the entire time until at the 11th hour, it flat refused to sew. Thankfully, one of the women in town, who doesn’t “do clothes,” but sews quilts, lent me her lovely little White to finish off the girls dresses and make adjustments.cosutmes-for-long-creek

When I started sewing the costumes for “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” most of the students were your typical, unhelpful, unwilling, teenage participants. It was rather like training cats to sit/stay. Lots if figurative slash marks, nasty noises and general teenage mayhem. Of note were the outliers: Asia, who was my costuming assistant, Chi, the exchange student playing Woodstock and Ivy, the girl playing Snoopy. All very helpful and thankful. So, I had strong misgivings about the play coming off at all. The other adults think that it was the costumes that I made that turned the tide. But turn it did, for the play went off very well with only a few stumbles and no major costume failures. Snoopy, Woodstock, Lucy, Violet, Freida and Sally looked a lot better on, than on the hangers. Now, I am a hero of sorts and almost every mother in town has made a point to thank me, along with the apologetic “I never learned to sew.” What is this world coming to? We used to all know how to sew. At any rate, here are some pictures of the event.

A Charlie Brown Christmas in Long Creek

A Charlie Brown Christmas in Long Creek

The Charlie Brown Gang

The Charlie Brown Gang

The Finale

The Finale

Snoopy was super cute

Snoopy was super cute

A big shout out to my mom, who provided about $60 worth of material and sewing supplies. Thanks Mom! And, of note is that all of the students thanked me and were simply angels the night of the play…

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A Fox Valley Sunset

December 10, 2008
Ace at her ergonomically correctly placed desk

Ace at her ergonomically correctly placed desk

Howdy all. I’ve had to move my desk so that it faces northeast and so that my arms and chair have room. Also, this way, my chair is not rolling into the clothes closet right next to me. I had to make yet another trip into my  fab chiropractor today. I started to tell him how much my arm hurt: as much as when I broke my “wing” at Terry’s Diner about a lifetime ago: and I realized that I was whining.  Ooooh. I hate that. Those of you who know me well will be surprised that I used no expletives. 🙂 He fixed me right up with all sorts of great bone-straightening moves, electromagnetic therapy, ultrasound…or some such thing, lots of jovial talk about aging and a lecture. hah! Those health people are always lecturing! (Thanks Doc. Cauglin!) I am right in the middle of creating Snoopy, (for school play) so I deeply regretted leaving my work to go in, but I couldn’t work cause my arm hurt too bad…bummer. But Good!  Because on the way home, I came over the Beech Creek Summit to the most beautiful sight.

West just past Beech Creek Summit on 395.

West just past Beech Creek Summit on 395.

WOW! WOW! WOW! I’d been carrying my camera, usheathed, uncovered, and ready for a shot of the eagles, so I pulled off to take some shots. I have to say that nowhere on the west side of the Ochocos can a person get out and stand in the middle of the highway to take pictures without fear of getting hit. I could hear and see for miles both ways. Still, I felt very radical

Looking over the SW end of Fox Valley

Looking over the SW end of Fox Valley

Sunset looking back south and west towards Beech Creek Summit.

Sunset looking back south and west towards Beech Creek Summit.

I might not have mentioned that it was about 29 degrees out. I was frozen, but I was still standing in the middle of the road taking pictures and I turned to look east. Must have stood there another five minutes because:

And there is the moon watching the sun set.

And there is the moon watching the sun set.

there was the moon watching the sun set. I finally came to my senses and got the car moving down the highway and the heater blasting. Until I came upon one of my favorite homesteads just about a third of the way across Fox Valley, right before a county road. I always dream of knowing the folks who built this place…along with magically making it a home for someone. At any rate, I just had to get out and take a zillion more pictures.

Abandoned Barn in Fox Valley

Abandoned Barn in Fox Valley

From another perspective

From another perspective

I couldn’t help but notice the people who lived here were bird lovers. I imagine the birds still live here. The view, after all, is just about perfect.

Birdhouse with a view.

Birdhouse with a view.

The house itself is just beautiful. I wish there was a nonprofit to save houses like this, or to give people money to save them. This one looks like it is springing to life under the rays of the setting sun.

The home place awakens.

The home place awakens.

Right next to the house is a row of pines. For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to hear pines sing, they sound rather like the ocean, only greener. While I was taking photos at this location, the pines were constantly  singing in the background. Thank goodness for the warm yummy cuddle duds mom got me cause I was loathe indeed to leave this place.

One for mom.

One for mom

Fifeteen miles and one hour later, I pulled up in front on our little home in Long Creek. The western sky still quivered with bolts of magenta, but the gold of the sun was long gone. I was tired, but strangely relaxed. What a great drive.

See more

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SNOW!

December 8, 2008

Apparently, it only took putting snow on my blog to encourage real snow to fall from the sky.

Greenman welcomes snow
Greenman welcomes snow

at first, it was rain, but it was cold and soon, snow fell in silent sheets. We had friends Rich and Silver over for beans and pie.  They had a good laugh at me as I bounced from front door to back door taking pictures.

snow covers the ground
snow covers the ground

It didn’t take long to cover the ground and by the time our friends left, it looked like winter for the first time in our experience here in Long Creek. This morning, the dogs were pretty excited to explore the new medium. The goats, on the other hand, are not nearly as excited. They are happy to stick close to the barn.

Dogs explore the snow

Dogs explore the snow

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The Birds

December 7, 2008
A cold and hungry scout

A cold and hungry scout

I’d given up on birds coming to the feeders. If you will recall, I figured out that the deer were sucking my feeders dry every night and moved them to much higher spots and waited for the birds. Then I waited and waited some more. Finally, I gave up. Three days ago, one shivering single goldfinch showed up at the tube and positioning himself out of the wind, he proceeded to methodically chew on sunflower seeds. I thought the poor guy got left behind and they were all over the mountains. But later that day, once the sun thawed everything, the yard became a flurry of activity. A flock of goldfinches arrived.

The troups arrive for grub

The troups arrive for grub

They were joined at times by a purple finch. It was a veritable feeding frenzy there for a couple of hours.

It was highly entertaining, although I remained on task, working on Gene’s computer while I kept one eye on the window. Such lovely company for the dry work that I was trying to complete that morning.

Hunger leads to fearlessness

Hunger leads to fearlessness

Later in the afternoon, I headed towards the school to meet up with the folks involved with the school play and there was a Downy Woodpecker at the front feeder. How exciting!

I think this is a Downy Woodpecker

I think this is a Downy Woodpecker

And, just yesterday, I heard a turkey raising a commotion down the road and there was a wild Tom chewing out one of our ranchers driving his quad back to the ranch from coffee at Priscilla’s. Meanwhile, his harem was scurrying for all they were worth into the safety of bushes along the road. It was hilarious.  And finally, yesterday, as I came down the Beech Mt. Draw to Mt. Vernon, A mature Bald Eagle chased an immature across my path and down the draw. My bird manual notes that it is common for Bald Eagles to chase each other. I am thrilled, as this is a second sighting. The first, Mom and I saw a pair of matures in the same area while we were on our way to Baker City last month. I am guessing that this is a family unit as the immature eagle’s markings matched that of a first year juvenile. My book also noted that eagles in the west often feed on roadkill deer. No wonder they live right there.

Someday, I’ll get a picture of this group, I hope. If not, Twinkle will have to come over in the spring when she gets home and try to capture these beautiful birds on camera.

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Off to Bend

December 6, 2008
Coming down the draw at daybreak

Coming down the draw at daybreak

I recently “volunteered” to create the costumes for the school’s winter play, so it’s off to Bend to go through Mom’s gazillion boxes of material and then to get those few things she didn’t have. Interesting thing about being a teacher’s wife in a small town. If you don’t work, the expectation is that you will volunteer. Geno, of course, says, “you can say no.” But I know this first year is important, so I agree to sew. I do have a lovely youngster who is very excited to help, so it will be great. But, I digress. I left at 6 am and was rewarded with the view above as I came down the draw from Beech Creek Summit to Mt. Vernon. I couldn’t really get the shots I wanted, but hoped that the light would still be hitting the mountain tops when I got through Mt. Vernon and amazingly, they did!

Daybreak on the Strawberry Mountains
Daybreak on the Strawberry Mountains

When I turned  and looked to the west, the picture was just as beautiful.

Daybreak
Daybreak

Wow, what an amazing morning to be out and about! I was thrilled to catch such a beautiful shot and jumped back into my car to make up some time and more importantly, get warm. But two miles later, just over the next rise, I had to stop again. I found myself just this side of paradise.

Mom and I have always played a game of picking the ranch we’d buy if we had all the money in the world. Well Mom, here it is.🙂

Dream Ranch just this side of paradise
Dream Ranch just this side of paradise

It was fun to go shopping and material hunting with Mom, but we about wore ourselves out. We did, however, manage to get her lights on her pear tree outside and get her Christmas tree decorated. I agonized over getting a tree this year, but decided to I would be upset with myself if I didn’t, so I made plans to get a tree with Geno on the weekend.

Mom's Tree
Mom’s Tree

Mom’s house just gets better and better each year. Naturally, I worry about her, but she is so busy and happy and she and her little house perfectly fits the old saying hanging in her front entry.

From Grandfather Joe Royce

From Grandfather Joe Royce

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Thankful for Family

December 5, 2008

dscf0800

We had a great Thanksgiving last week. I spent some time earlier in the week consulting for the Corvallis-Benton Chamber Coalition, Gene rode over with another teacher and we zoomed to Bend to have Thanksgiving with my mother. The weather was beautiful and the view of the Three Sisters stunning. Of course, a new blight to the landscape just across the road. Not one, but two Mcmansions. I see no solar in sight and cannot imagine heating either dwelling. dscf0801No pictures for y’all of the actual feast to protect those who overdid.🙂 It was a little tough on me because Randy and Dana put together a family feast at the last minute, so my heart was with them too and I missed seeing the Lettkeman Clan. And I was missing Twinkle so much. On the bright side, we had such a lovely time with Mom.  At least now, I can find my way around Bend by myself. We took mom out the next day to get her Christmas Tree.

Mom insists on bringing in her own tree.

Mom insists on bringing in her own tree.

Gene, Mom and Buck

Gene, Mom and Buck

It was another beautiful day and as you can see, we all, including the dogs, got into the act. These were taken right at the gate on the old McKenzie Pass. It’s one of Mom’s favorite places.

Pax and Quinn search for their own tree

Pax and Quinn search for their own tree

I love the holidays! Mom and I with her tree

I love the holidays! Mom and I with her tree

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Sunday Morning:16 Degrees Fahrenheit

November 23, 2008
Frosty Morning

Frosty Morning

It’s one of those gorgeous eastern Oregon mornings. One of those that make me grateful I’ve got all of the modern amenities and did not spend the night curled up with the goats in the barn. The water was frozen over in the goat and chicken pens, but not like it was outside! I forgot to empty the goats’ smaller bucket by their shelter, so I had to carefully get the ice out without shattering the bucket. In the past, I’ve always been able to turn the bucket over and the frozen top is pushed out by the weight of the water. Not this time. As I mentioned in my last post, I hooked up the hot water in the mudroom, so I ran out the hose and sprayed some hot water over the outside to loosen it up and soften the plastic bucket up. Here is what came out of that bucket!

Ice Bucket, Long Creek Style

Ice Bucket, Long Creek Style

Yep. It’s cold over here folks. But it is also beautiful! The sky is blue, the sun is warming up now that it is 9 am, and life just looks positive. Of course, it helps that I can stream KLCC. You know, I used to hate listening to radio news. Now, they keep me informed and entertained. Life is good.

Oh, I may have forgotten to mention that I also got studs.🙂 Specifically, for the car. In fact, I had to purchase the tires too, so there you have it. New tires and studs! So, I’ll be able to continue my journeys to Corvallis and Bend through the winter. I am looking forward to it. Although with bare pavement, it is loud and stiff. Still, better than having to chain up and unchain 7 times one way. Well worth the dough.

And tomorrow, it appears that there will be clear roads for me to travel over to Corvallis, but the locals tell me that the first big storm usually hits after Thanksgiving. We shall see. I know that the gravel trucks are working overtime this weekend and the stockpile of gravel/sand for the roads is, according to my neighbor, much more than usual. It is likely that I could be complaining about the snow in a couple of months instead of watching for it. But for now, it is wonderful to watch the season changing to winter from the warmth of our cozy little cottage.

The goats, however, are just as happy sunning in the field. Kismet, the act of God, also appears to enjoy the cold. As for me, it’s time for some bacon and eggs-ah, one last thing.

Goats Sunning in Field

Goats Sunning in Field

Kismet

Kismet

It looks like the hens are finally warming up to laying again. We are getting a least a few from the girls now. And the Wyandottes are almost looking like adults ! Thank goodness. I am so spoiled by having my own fresh eggs. Free range eggs alone are up to $5 a doz; organic, almost $6 unless they are on sale. So let’s hear it for those hens! YAY GIRLS! GO GO GO!

Americana eggs

Americana eggs

Beauty, a watercolored (supposed to be Blue) Cochin and foster mom extraordinaire

Beauty, a watercolored (supposed to be Blue) Cochin and foster mom extraordinaire

Golden Laced Wyandottes-yes that is a cockerel!

Young flock: Golden Laced Wyandottes-yes that is a cockerel!s

Well, smells like breakfast is prepared by that dear Geno. I knew there was a good reason to post another blog! So, folks, Ciao for now!

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The Mudroom

November 23, 2008

I sure do love our Mudroom. At least, I do now. After spending all day getting the big shelf up onto the wall and cleaning it up. Seeing how it is just a lean-to on the back, it would seem an easy task except for two problems. First of all, when I creamed myself in the face with a post a couple of months ago, it threw my neck out. Of course, Judy, the great massage therapist and friend, tried to fix me up, but told me to go directly to the Chiropractor. One month later, with left arm toast, I finally drag myself into John Day to the only Chiropractor in town, Dr. Charles Caughlin.  Fortunately for me, he’s a good one. Whew. As usual, I’ve veered slightly off topic. The upshot is, my left arm is near useless and being left handed, I wasn’t much help to Gene; except of course to tell him what to do. :)  The second problem is I forgot that the shelf had a top piece which requires a certain amount of space, so once we got the 2 x 4’s we were going to attach to in, I realized that I’d forgetten to include it. Bummer. Out came the crow bar and we had to start all over again. We managed to “git er dun” without injury and now, our hats, gloves and other household minutia has a home on a piece of art. The down side is that it makes the lean-to walls look even worse than they did.

Art shelf in mud room

Art shelf in mud room

The shelf was a Christmas gift for Geno made especially by Ted and Judy Lettkeman. They are good friends of mine. Ted is actually one of my oldest friends and my ex-husband. Judy is the best massage therapist ever and a really great mom 2 to my daughter.

A close up of some of the detail on our shelf

A close up of some of the detail on our shelf

After the shelf installation ordeal, it was nothing to put some grippers for the brooms and such on door and then put a splitter on the hot water spigot in the laundry area. This is all part of preparing to leave the animals in the care of someone else. I’ll be doing some consulting in Corvallis at the beginning of next week, then over to Bend to give thanks with my mom, then back to Corvallis so that Geno can go to the civil war game with his fraternity brothers. I will be doing something else, I assure you. So, now, the young man who will be looking after the animals can access hot water for chickens and goats if it is freezing. I do have a deicer on the big watering trough, but both birds and goats benefit from warm water on freezing days. In the case of the chickens, when it’s freezing, like it is tonight, I flip over their shallow water container so that I can refill it the next morning. So far, the water in the barn hasn’t frozen, but I think that it might tonight.

Ms. Butterbrickle, the Grand Dam of the Littleprock Pygora flock, is really looking pregnant now. She even walks like she is pregnant.

Hawk's Mountain Ranch Butter Brickle

Hawk's Mountain Ranch Butterbrickle due to kid between January 10 and 25

Butterbrickle is from one of the best Pygora Breeders on the west coast, Lisa Roskopf. Her place, Hawk’s Mountain Ranch, is really something to see and her Pygoras are exquisite. I bred Butterbrickle to a registered Pygmy, Baba Yaga Farms Desert Suns Royalty Exposed. Since Butterbrickle’s sire was a registered Angora, her kids by Royalty Exposed will fall within the appropriate mix for registration…if they fleece, of course. Both Princess and Pearl were Sired by Royalty Exposed. Pearl’s real name, if you can believe it, is Royal Trouble. Princess’ is Go Royal. You can see by looking at these doelings that it is a crapshot whether I get color or not. Royalty Exposed is a gorgeous caramel with Agouti blood lines, so Princess is a light grey Agouti. Agouti is a pattern type. All agoutis have solid stockings darker than the main body color. Muzzle, forehead, eyes and ears accented in tones lighter than the dark portions of the body. (From PBA handbook) Princess is almost looking like she is going to have type C (straight) fiber, but then again, there is some frizz happening around the neckline, so it’s a hard call at this juncture. But I digress. As usual. Pearl has no color. She takes after her momma’s kin.

Speaking of the doelings, I stepped out back about a week ago and was astonished to see little Miss Princess perched about half way up the side of the goat shelter. The wind had whipped enough slack into the poor tarp that there was just enough to create little foot pouches in each square of the cattle panel. It would have been hilarious, except even as I watched, the top of the much beaten tarp began to slowly separate until it was held together, barely, by about 10% of the weave left intact. Needless, to say, I had to take it down. I put up a much smaller shelter up against the building shed as a temporary measure,

a small goat shelter

a small goat shelter

then turned my attention to creating a study play structure for the kids. Thanks to some of the more interesting detritus that we kept around, I was able to create a platform. Princess and Pearl really think they are royalty now, although I know that when my daughter sees this picture, she will tease me about raising seals…or she might even hint that they look like yummy goat dinners. :)  But, a lot of what looks like fat on Pearl  is fleece.

Princess and Pearl

The Royals: Princess and Pearl

I must be careful not to congratulate myself to often in these pages as just the other night, after I posted my comment that food training works, all three goats decided that no, they did not want to go in the barn, even for yummy rolled COB (corn oats barley). I think I may be getting smarter, because I just said okay and shooed them back into the big field. Tonight, they went in just fine. I figure they have enough fiber on those bodies to stay plenty warm when it’s not storming and it was a beautiful night last night. Tonight, it was cold and clear about two hours ago, but the weather moves through here at unbelievable speeds sometimes, so I am curious if we will have rain or snow by morning. we shall see. And speaking of weather, being a sky freak, here are a couple of shots of beautiful sky. Wish I could do them more justice, but you get the idea.

Sunrise

Sunrise

Moonrise

Moonrise

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Goats and Baker City Oh My!

November 18, 2008

Well it certainly has been a long wait around here for a post! My daughter was wondering where I went, since she’s read nothing new about me while doing her internship down under.  First things first, still no snow and we are still alive and unrepentant about voting for Obama.  As a matter of fact, the weather has been unseasonably warm here in the beautiful Long Creek Valley for the past four or five days…at least during the daytime. At night, we flirt with freezing.  The deer population, which, now that the hunters have been in the woods for three months, is twice as large as the human population, has discovered my bird feeders. Did you know that a deer can suck all of the seed out of one of those gigantic feeder tubes? I’m not too slow. It only took me about ten pounds of seed to catch on to their little trick and only another week to rig up a pulley on the eave so that the feeder is out of their reach. he he he. For those of you who are following the great goat training experiment: dscf0705Success! Yes, the goats are now excited to get to the barn every night and in fact, yell at me if I don’t hustle out and tuck them in! Hooray for food training. Yep, that is snow falling, but it lasted all of six seconds, or thereabouts.Right before the picture, it was pouring rain.

Mom came over to help me “before the snow flies” last week. She was on a mission to take care of some safety issues and finish planting. As usual, she worked harder than a mule on a plow, so I had to make her stop by taking her to Baker City to see if civilization was there…meaning, of course, The Oregonian and decent coffee. And, we met with success on both counts and more. As a matter of fact, Baker City is quite the little town. I really like it. First of all, they have a thriving art community, second, they have a downtown that is so old, it’s registered as a historic district. And, it appears to be staying afloat without the help of a college! Take note Corvallis! Actually, it’s quite a bit smaller than Corvallis, which makes it much more charming.

A charming block from the historic district in Baker City

A charming block from the historic district in Baker City

Mom and I went directly to the Chamber of Commerce, which is actually Baker County Chamber, and so, got the inside scoop on what to see and where there was coffee. Coffee Corrall gave us a handy $2 off coupon in the Chamber dining guide, so I purchased a lb. of French Roast along with a truly excellent Americano. Yay! saved from coffee funkiness once again. Armed with fresh yummy coffee, we then went to the next important agenda item: the cemetery. Mom and I have always been fascinated by old cemeteries here on the east side of the mountains. We’ve come across them literally out in the middle of high desert and the stories that they tell are always worth the stop. The Chinese Cemetery in Baker City was no exception.

The Chinese Cemetery in Baker City...all of it.

The Chinese Cemetery in Baker City...all of it.

The cemetery was saved by a group of Baker City Residents and interpretive signs were added to tell people about it. As a person who’s put a lot of work into the Corvallis Odd Fellows’ Cemetery, I must say at first sight, this was appalling. However, it is preserved pretty much precisely how it was with the addition of the three cornered pagoda. As in John Day, during the last half of the 1800s, the Chinese population was prominent, working on railroads and gold mines. They had their own community, including a Joss House and extensive community gardens. They were, however, severely discriminated against and were not allowed to do any but the most menial of jobs such as laundry and field work. The Chinese were brought to the country as “guest workers” and lived very frugally so that they could send money back to their families. They also had to save money to make the arduous journey by ship back to China. A great many of them never made that trip alive. Burials at this cemetery took place from 1880 until 1940.  But the bodies were only interred temporarily until they could be sent back to be buried with their families. So, once the bodies decomposed, the bones were exhumed and purified, then sent back to China, mainly, the Kwangtung Province. So, there are all these depressions that are empty graves. Not a good place to stray off the path.

That hollow is an empty grave!

That hollow is an empty grave!

A memorial to some of the Chinese temporarily buried there.

A memorial to some of the Chinese temporarily buried there.

The really eiree thing about this cemetery is that some fool built a replica of a Dutch windmill across from the cemetery. The blades on the windmill are made out of louvered metal which the wind blows through, creating the effect of ten million banshees screaming and moaning all around us. It was literally a hair raiser. I’m glad we didn’t stop at night! Added to that, was the slapping of the loose tin roof on the Chinese Prayer House, which was built in 1890. It was creepy in the daylight.

1890 Chinese Prayer House with Mom in foreground and recent tacky windmill in background

1890 Chinese Prayer House with Mom in foreground and recent tacky windmill in background

Once we paid our respects at the cemetery, mom and I went on our next mission, which was to see if the “Health Food Coop” was a name only (like John Day’s Health Food store) or if it was actually a working store. It was beyond my hopes and it reminded me of my very first Coop: Springfield Health Food and Pool…but I digress. Anyway, for those of you traveling through this side of Oregon, the Coop in Baker City has quite a selection of dry goods and supplements and a fair selection of packaged foods. No bulk coffee though.😦 The folks were really nice, it was very clean and I am truly excited that I have this resource only a hundred miles away. Let’s hear it for coops!

Baker City Health Food Coop

Baker City Health Food Coop

And, the antithesis of health: the following picture is just for my brother and sister, In and Out Burger Fans. Bet ya’ll didn’t know we had one in Oregon eh?

In and Out Burger stand

In and Out Burger stand

Both the Coop and the Burger joint are located on 10th, away from downtown. I got really turned around and still can’t figure out exactly where we were, but I am certain I’ll get the hang of it as I make trips over there. Because I plan on going to Baker City fairly often. They also have a movie theater and an active Odd Fellows

Baker City Odd Fellows' Building

Baker City Odd Fellows

And, just a few more shots of downtown Baker City:

Baker Tower

Baker Tower

Newly restored Baker Tower is said to be the tallest building east of the Cascades. It is also historic, so we can safely say that it is the oldest tallest building on the east side. It is a neck-cricker.

Baker City Historic District

Baker City Historic District

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This picture really made me homesick for Ed Eply and the whole gang at the Beanery. A big group hug to all of you down there drinking coffee! I think it was the combination of electric car and coffee shop. Oh, did I mention that the downtown is wireless?  And, Oregonian News Stands on almost every block! Oh my!

But really, here is my favorite picture from the day. Also from downtown Baker City.

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That’s all for now folks. I’ll try to be more diligent in writing.

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Slight Discomfort Forecast More of Same

November 6, 2008

Yesterday was a long day for me. Election night was so exciting, except there weren’t Obama fans pouring out of the neighborhood into the streets to celebrate. I heard my daughter was feeling a little bereft of celebratory companions as well down in Melbourne, so I wasn’t alone in being alone. Actually, I was better off, I had Geno. Yesterday was little frightening. The underlying mood around here was one of something kind of between disappointment and anger. I made the mistake of thinking one person’s red, white and blue outfit was celebratory and said something to that effect. Let me tell you, If tone of voice could slap a person down, I would have been on the floor. “Ah…no.” the person said, “No, I am not celebrating…I’m patriotic, but I am not happy.” Pfoof. There went the air out of my sails. And the talk amongst the youth was not one of hope, but one of bets on how long before our new President-elect gets killed. Gruesome. Surely, there are some Obama supporters here somewhere, I know I saw yard signs in John Day, so I know there are some Obama supporters around, but they, like me, are keeping pretty quiet right now.clouds-in-the-valley

One of the things Obama talked about in his speech was healing divisions, and I agree, so I want to quickly add that most adults I came into contact with yesterday, about 1/4 of the town, were not displaying any kind of emotion regarding the election. Instead, they were focusing on a multitude of other important issues such as keeping kids in school, repairing and upgrading the school and supporting their students’ needs whether that was in athletics, technology or the library. And, just like Geno pointed out when I was ranting at the breakfast table about something sexist I heard last week, people here are just as complex as people on the west side. They are deeply compassionate and would stop to help their worst enemy stranded or hurt beside the road. They just have a different political and social view of the world. That doesn’t mean I agree with them, it just gives me the opportunity to gently provide a different viewpoint for them to consider.

I still believe that a lot of the attitudes around here are due to a very narrow information stream. Yes, I am still pissed off that no major newspapers are available within 100 miles. But I am even angrier about the cost of internet. It cost us three hundred dollars to get started. There is no dialup and there is no DSL. Poor people out here can’t just pop over to the library and certainly, the school is severely firewalled, so young people do not have the opportunity to expand their world view at all. There are no speakers, no music halls and no movie theatres. There is only satellite TV and I’m sorry, but I’m not going to explore that path. The really interesting thing is that the NPR news that comes out of eastern Washington is vastly different than NPR news that comes out of the valley. For those of you who’ve heard me rant about NPR, I now rest my case. I don’t trust their news as being unbiased anymore than I trust anyone else’s. They, like other news programs, are all about money. The key is to have multiple news paths that allow a person to consider all sides of a story or issue before coming to a conclusion.

But life is good and dare I say, hopeful. I must say that I truly appreciated McCain’s concession speech. It was extremely gracious and actually adds to my new little stock of hopefulness. As for his supporters that went so far as to boo our new president-elect, I draw the line.  The presidential election is not a sporting event where drunken, ill mannered individuals act like they have been stripped of their humanity. ( Or, perhaps they have and that’s the problem.) I have never been so ashamed of my countrypersons as that moment when I heard the booing. I also called them something I won’t repeat here, cause my mom reads this blog. 🙂

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PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA

November 5, 2008

Hallelujah

Congratulations President-Elect Obama

I am so grateful to be alive to see this day

WE WON!

Now, let’s get to work

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Snow Is A’Comin Down The Mountains

November 4, 2008

38 degrees Fahrenheit, 77% humidity and a wind that comes off the mountain like a runaway Mac Truck.  Strong winds moaned through my dreams and brought rain each time I awoke. This morning at about 6 AM, snow fell briefly down here at a mere 3,170 feet. It fell a lot more around the bowl of our valley.

dscf0661The dogs, Buck, the lovely Quinn and Pax, who is almost invisible in the above picture, are invigorated by the cold. I am just damn cold. I knew I should have put on long johns! I know I’ve got one pair here somewhere that my sis got me many years ago. They are those thin, black tight type kind that don’t bunch up. Much as I may suffer from penis envy on occasion, bulky long johns are not a good substitute. They may look like something, but I still can’t write my name in the snow with pee, so I avoid them if possible.

This sure makes me happy that the goats are staying in their cozy stall today. They certainly have enough fleece to stay warm, but I want them to get used to it being their night time shelter. I am hoping that this is the same concept as leaving the hens locked in a new chicken house for a coupe of days. Time will tell if this is true. Looks like the teacher who drove in from Hamilton has snow packed under his truck…I think I will have more pictures for you later today. For now, here’s a couple more. On the right is snow on Ritter Butte, the view north of our cozy little house. On the left is Long Creek Mountain behind the school and the Seventh Day Adventist Church. The town appears to be waiting expectantly for the clouds to open up and I have work to do. So, later my dears.

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Possible Snow

November 4, 2008

dscf0635There was quite a bite in the air when I went out to take care of the goats this morning.  I am realizing that at least so far, strong winds are normal around here. But today, it felt different.  It felt like snow. As I headed towards the goat yard, I saw that something must have really spooked them, or they got spooked by the wind, because their hay bucket was clear out of their shelter and their water was knocked over inside. Either they had a run in with some animal, or more likely, the wind spooked the hell out of them and they all dashed for the exit together, tossing plastic buckets out of their way in their haste to leave.

Corvallis portable goat shelter

Corvallis portable goat shelter

This design of portable goat shelter served me well in Corvallis as I moved Butterbrickle and her twin wethers around to to different places. I thought of it after unloading some cattle panels one day. It takes two people, two cattle panels, 6 T posts, a good, strong tarp, a doz small bungee cords and about twenty minutes. It works great and the goats have always loved it.  Well, until we moved here anyway. I didn’t need it to start with, so I just put it up when we moved to our little house a month ago.  The school owns the lot right next to ours and since Geno teaches Ag Ed at the school, they are letting me put the goats there. Well, that shelter has stood up to some pretty strong winds, but it is not the girls’ favorite place to hang out like it used to be in calm and rainy Corvallis. Here, the tarp takes on a life of its own and is forever trying to lift itself and half the town off the face of the earth. It almost screams sometimes as it beats out its frustation at the cords and wires I use to hold it to the cattle panel. It’s about worn out with the struggle now and beginning to leak in the bargain.

To add gravity to the situation, I’ve been hearing coyote songs at about 2 AM the last week or so, seemingly, under my bedroom window, right next to the goats. And, frankly, I’ve been a bit worried. Which is saying a lot for this ole coyote song lover. The goats are healthy, but, that back fence is about to go down. (See my last blog about fence posts) The doelings are not big enough to fight off a pack and Butterbrickle is getting pretty pregnant. I really did not want her to have to fight off coyotes. And now, it was feeling like snow is on its way and the goats absolutely needed their own little spot in the “barn,” even if it wasn’t pretty. But first, I had to go to Canyon City to cast our ballots for this very important election. Voting has been pretty interesting and expensive, because I had to go in to change our address so that we could vote: it was too late to mail that in. Then, we got our ballots right on time. Only problem was, there was no ballot! We got the secrecy envelope; they had our names and addresses spelled correctly; we got the instructions for voting. We just didn’t get a ballot. Now I joke that it is Gene’s fault because he registered as a Democrat. Before you accuse me of being judgmental, I was joking, but consider this: When we did get our ballots, many of the seats, whether they were for forest council, county commissioner and even state representative, there was only one candidate and that candidate was a registered Republican! I think that is interesting and a cause for concern. I would be concerned if it were all uncontested Democrats too. At any rate, I drove back down to the election office, which is located in Canyon City at the County Courthouse and got the ballots, then I drove back down today to place the ballots in the ballot box. So, three eighty mile round trips, but it was worth it! I must say there was a steady stream of cars pulling into the courthouse parking lot and people delivering their ballots, so I think Oregon’s voter turnout is going to be good after all. Here’s an interesting fact for you. There were only three ballot boxes within  forty miles of us. One at the Mt. Vernon Post Office, one at the Grant County Library in Canyon City and one at the County Courthouse.  That is scary. If someone can’t drive and doesn’t get their ballot mailed on time, they don’t get to vote. There are no drop boxes, to my knowledge, in the schools or anywhere.

The "Barn"

The"Barn"

But I digress. I did not get around to trying to resolve the snow, goats, coyote issue until I got back from town. By that time, I’d seen the dusting of snow on the north face of Long Creek Mountain and had resolved to get some type of temporary stall into the barn and get the goats in there before night no matter what. Take my advice. Remove the words “no matter what” from your vocabulary. It challenges the universe to test you. Every step of the process was like trying to put the heart back in an artichoke.  I  preservered and got the stall roughed in with the help of a couple of pallets, a few T Posts, nails and binder twine, and then, dark was closing in. Much to my joy, Geno came home and rescued me at this point in the saga by helping me finish up. All the while, the clouds got colder and the wind bit my ears off before I stopped to get a hat. So, it wasn’t until full on dark (don’t get me started about daylight savings time) that we finished and prepared to show the girls their new home.  Now, Butterbrickle is not a a 4H or “family” goat. She is a herd goat and she is not all that tame. The little doelings are the same. So, they don’t just prance up and frolic about me when they hear my voice at night. No. Night is different. Who knows what I might be.  Add the evil flashlight eye to the equation and then sit back and imagine two people madly trying to herd three very skittish goats down to the shelter and through the gate to their new warm cozy stall. HAH. Butterbrickle may be pregnant, but she is still fast as greased lightning when she has a mind. It is a great aerobic work out, but kind of stinky, since there is no light to see by and lots of “goat berries” to slip and slide on.  Then, it started to rain. sigh. I paused to wonder if I had it in me to mange a goatherd, then Gene had the the brilliant idea to just corner Butterbrickle, attach a lead to her collar and lead her to the barn. The little girls would follow. And that is just what we did. Although it took my additional brilliance of trapping her between the fence and a huge lilac bush and Gene and I. As it was, I had to make a full rolling tackle and hang on somewhat upside down on the ground underneath her neck until I could get her leash on. Three minutes later, the girls were all snug in their stall. Whew. and so, here are some feel good pictures and maybe a pair to make ya’ll laugh. meanwhile, it’s raining at the present time, but snowing hard in Seneca (between Burns and Canyon City), and it’s 37 degrees and dropping. Maybe I’ll have snow pictures tomorrow.

Cozy warm stall

Cozy warm stall

Best Friends

Best Friends

Whachoo lookin at?

Whachoo lookin at?

I could just kiss you

I could just kiss you

Yuck! What's on your face?

Yuck! What was on your face?

so, for now, my dears, as my good friend Tim would say; Ciao Spumoni baby!

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Sunday

November 3, 2008

I miss having breakfast with friends in Corvallis on Sundays, although I don’t miss the place we met. I also miss the Sunday Oregonian, which the Oregonian does not deliver anywhere close. Maybe they should call themselves the “Western Oregonian” if they aren’t going to serve Eastern Oregon! Evidently there is an Eastern Oregonian, but go figure: they don’t deliver down the 395 corridor either! I guess this means we are really “out in the sticks.”

As far as I know, the nearest movie house is either Baker or La Grande, both two hours away through the mountains. So Gene and I don’t get to go to the movies anymore for a date. Instead, we are starting to spend Sundays exploring the area. Last week, we sort of fell into exploring, so I didn’t take my camera. I won’t do that again. I missed a shot of a Ruffled Grouse, a first sighting for me. This week, we set out to find a ranch we are visiting after dark later in the week, then explore some of the other county roads between Long Creek and Monument along highway 402.

Dropping down to Monument

Dropping down to Monument

Around here, the rule of thumb is don’t drive after dark. There’s good reason for that. First, there are many more deer and elk moving around and they move farther to get to water. Then, there’s the fact that the roads are all narrow with little or no shoulder and finally, all of the roads out of Long Creek to anywhere are mountainous. The drop to Monument from Long Creek is 1,170 feet. That drops occurs in two little three to four mile twisty descents with sheer drop offs and incredible views. I once drove a small motor home down this road, but I was younger then.  We found the place we were looking for on our first county road, and along the way, stopped to gather some Juniper branches with their gorgeous blue berries. This season, the trees are so loaded, they look blue on the hillsides. Of course, now the ranchers are all thinning their juniper because it is taking over and it drinks a lot of water per day.

Juniper

Juniper

Gene says they’ve gotten out of control from the clear cutting of the other conifers. Now, ranchers around here are taking steps to re-balance their forests, so most hill sides are a mix of Pine, White and Douglas Fir, Tamarack and Spruce with some Juniper thrown in. Juniper is hell on chainsaws unless it’s dry and does not burn well unless it is completely dry. There is one fellow out in John Day that is building an entire log cabin out of it for somebody in Florida. The logs are streaked with blue nearly the color of the berries and it is really beautiful, but for the most part, it appears to be good for nothing except fence posts. Speaking of fence posts, I’ve noticed that the ranchers keep their junipers along the fence lines. This is because they attache their fences to the trees. The ground is either really great or really rocky, so often, fence posts can’t be sunk in the ground. Instead, they are either nailed or braced to a juniper, or they are braced with an extra post or an anchor of rocks.

One of the reasons we chose to go 402 to Monument was that the chickens are molting, thus, no eggs, and sadly, our little Long Creek store closed for good this week. Thank goodness for Boyer’s Cash Store in Monument. It sells literally anything we might need quickly, except for the Sunday Oregonian.

Boyer's Cash Store in Monument

Boyer's Cash Store in Monument

They actually take cards now, but it’s been in the same family for two generations and they aren’t going to change the name now. It’s a very cool store that is important to all of us, so if you are in the area, stop in and spend some dough. After we purchased our eggs and a few other not so necessary items such as candy and Jones soda, we decided that it was the better part of valor to stop at the Monument Riverside Park to allow Pax, the dense-brained dog a chance to stretch his legs and me a chance to get a closer look at the stunning yellow poplars along the river.  It’s pretty clear to me that the folks in Monument really care about their park. It is a little jewel. Even the pit toilets are clean.

Pax adds his handsome profile to the scenery along the John Day River

Pax adds his handsome profile to the scenery

But really, it was the scenery that left me snapping photos right and left. Pax was a good boy for a change and followed right along, even exploring the river a bit. I could not get him to actually swim without his competitive brother, Buck to egg him on. Still, it was just a beautiful day and every turn revealed a new wonder. I’d love to have a camera with zoom so that I could show you all the huge flock of wild turkeys calmly grazing across the river. Pax did not even see them, or he would have probably swam right over to investigate. It is really amazing to me to see wild turkeys as they were endangered when I was young. Now they are flourishing everywhere here in Oregon and give promise of an excellent food source if need be.

On our ascent, we took another county road I’ve been itching to go on. Co. Rd. #9 cuts south over the west shoulder of Long Creek Mountain to Fox. It starts out off of 402 through a well cared for ranch, then takes a turn through a section of the Malheur Forest. It is a nice mix and looks to be in fairly good shape, although there is some deadwood due to disease or pests; probably Bark Beetle, says Gene. We saw one creek with water and several running springs. That is pretty unusual this time of year, so the area looks to be well supplied with water year round. Once we began to drop into the valley, we started seeing “archeologically significant” abandoned buildings. The term, “archaeologically significant” was probably brought into existence to control people like my mother and I, who used to wander all over the countryside exploring abandoned buildings for interesting things. We being ranch folks ourselves, were always respectful, but those were different times and I’m guessing with many folks like mom and me running around on the homestead, ranchers and farmers just got tired of it.

A homestead on the lower south shoulder of Long Creek Mountain

A homestead on Long Creek Mountain

But there are still picture opportunities like the little homestead with gold leaved shrubs and a lovely little grove of crab apple trees we came upon on the lower southwest shoulder of Long Creek Mountain looking out over Fox Valley. I always wonder about the folks who built these now abandoned places. I imagine how they might have decided to have the door look out over the valley and how they might have stood there and watched the seasons pass in the crab apple grove or the clouds scud across the great expanse of sky cupped in the valley.  I wonder if they had to leave and if it broke their hearts when they did. It surely would break mine. Although, the people of this homestead may likely have offspring still working the area since these ranches tend to stay in families. The ranchers really care about the environment over here too. We came across a fine example just down from the homestead. There, we saw Fox Creek completely fenced off to protect it from the cattle and help with rebuilding habitat for fish. This is a pretty serious investment for ranchers, as fencing is not cheap or easy in these parts. I am truly impressed and challenge some of my friends in the Willamette Valley to pause the next time they are tempted to make sweeping generalizations about ranchers not being environmentalists! You can see pictures of this and other scenes in my photos. Just click on the link in the sidebar.

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A Blustery November 1

November 2, 2008

At least, it is November 1 here in Long Creek. It’s November 2nd where my daughter is right now. Last night, we were treated to an old-fashioned Halloween…much like those of youth, only smaller, since the town is only 220 strong.  Parents from ranches brought their kids in, then went to visit friends and neighbors. One group of parents had the right idea. With permission of the school superintendent, they set up their portable fire pit in front of the lower school parking lot, fired it up, put out a bowl of candy and stayed in earshot of their kids while having a good visit. They told me it was a tradition. Sure looks like a good one.

Gene carved a pumpkin and we were able to get into the groove of the evening as well. All of the children, teens and adults were actually well mannered and most of them called Gene by his school honorific, Mr. Russell. A wonderful group of high school boys showed up as well and hammed it up for the camera. It is unbelievable how polite they are. Of course, since Gene is a teacher, that makes sense. All too soon, the evening was over and we were tucked snug in our beds by 9:30ish.  It was a beautiful evening, unlike today, which is blustery and rainy. Looks like our warm autumn has taken a turn. It is still pretty warm, so I think there is no worry of snow yet, but soon, I think.

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