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Twenty-seventeen

Last year I decided to try something new, because I was depressed about the rampant discord in our country and the massive amount of rancor (a feeling of deep and bitter anger and ill-will) coming from so many people in this country, who I really thought knew better.  My decision was to try and be mindful of the good in life and make a record of it on little 3X3 pieces of notepaper.  Every time something nice, good, wonderful, interesting, funny or weird happened I would write it down, fold it up and toss it in a jar.  Hopefully, at the end of the year I would have a jar full of happy memories to prove to myself that something good did happen during the year.

The following is a mix of the best of my written and photographic recordings of the past year.

January 1, 2017–Happy New Year’s!  It snowed today!

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January 4–I went on a photowalk around the farm in the freshly fallen snow.  Such a different, serene view!

January 5–Saw two coyotes in the Morgan’s cow pasture this morning.  We often hear the coyotes howling at night, but never see more than one or two in the daytime.

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January 24–Went out for pizza and beer with Janice Barthlomew and her mom at Abbey Pizza.  Good times!  (Abbey Pizza benefit for the Sigl family’s loss of wife and mom.)

January 24–Saw the elk two times today.  It’s a big herd with young.  The herd was much more visible this year with more young than usual.

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January 25–I brought Matrimonial bars to the SIG event (Spring Into Gardening) and a man sought me out to ask  for the recipe…for something I baked!

January 26–Sun is shining!  Temperature got up to 85 degrees upstairs.

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January 27–There were some interesting wave-shaped clouds over the mountains just before sunset.  These, I found out later, are called  Kevin-Helmholtz wave clouds.

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January 30–Started an on-line photoshop course called Photoshop Artistry, which makes art from a collage of photos.

January 31–Today I FIXED my computer, after breaking it last week.  Installed the correct Wacom TAB DRIVER so the mouse works again and figured out that MS Edge will let my Wacom Pen work with Adobe Flash!  😀

 

February 23–First wine and food pairing class with Diane of Delish with Diane.  Lots of fun, wine and good Caesar Salad!  This was a six-week course and every week we had something delicious to eat, great wine, and lots of laughs.

March 1–Laura got a big raise and a new title!  😀

March 2–Saw a Bald Eagle early this morning–he landed on top of a tree in the cow pasture.

March 12–Lovely warm day spent weeding and trimming.  Saw the elk herd in the pasture.

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March 25–Joined an interesting group–The Cloud Appreciation Society.

The Cloud Appreciation Society was founded by Gavin Pretor-Pinney from the United Kingdom  in January 2005. The society aims to foster understanding and appreciation of clouds, and has over 42,000 members worldwide from 115 different countries, as of January 2017.  Yahoo named the society’s website as “the most weird and wonderful find on the internet for 2005”. The group and its founder were the focus of a BBC documentary Cloudspotting, based on Pretor-Pinney’s book The Cloudspotter’s Guide.  (Wikipedia)

Upon joining, I received a certificate (member 43,001), a nifty enamel pin and a Cloud Selector Identification Wheel, plus every day they send me a photo of an interesting cloud formation with an explanation of what it is.  I don’t remember why I joined, but I have been enjoying it immensely.  You too can join at https://cloudappreciationsociety.org/

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April–NO MFP Training!  😀  (Sorry Sara R.)

April 15–April, the giraffe, had her baby!  Too cool.  Live video was posted by the zoo and many, many people invested many, many hours waiting for that baby’s arrival.

April 16–Alternate Universe–There is a Sabbath setting on the refrigerator.  The panel stops working=NO WATER!  Happy Easter!

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April 19–A pheasant came to visit us–very friendly.  We bought it some food and haven’t seen it since.

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May 1– Last day of Delish with Diane.  A lady in the class, who homeschools, asked me to teach art to the kids in her homeschool group.  Nice to be asked, but I turned her down.

May 7–Going to Ireland!

 

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May 25–Home from Ireland!  We had the best time–two and a half weeks of a perfect vacation.  We drove from Dublin clockwise around the entire island and ended in Dublin.  The people of Ireland are very friendly and the scenery is gorgeous.

We found Smithwick’s ale to be the best in Ireland and at a Slow Food Festival near the Cliffs of Moher I won a bottle of Irish Peat Wine as a door prize.  Hmmm…it didn’t taste like peat though.

June 27–Started pottery class–great fun!  Started on a slab cup and attempted a pinch pot.

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July 1–Bruce was the cover boy (with article inside) for our local electric company’s magazine, Ruralite. 

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July 10–Finally finished a pastel painting.  The subject is a photo that a friend posted on Facebook.  Next painting up is a photo I took in Ireland of a mama pig and piglets in a barn.

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July 17–I found my Photoshop Brushes that I thought were lost forever!  Oh, Happy Day!  Also, 7-17-17, all the sevens, and my Grandmother’s birthday.

July 26–Threw my first pot on the pottery wheel.  Short cylinder, difficult to do, but fun!

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July 27–Bruce installed new sun covers for the kitchen and greenhouse/conservatory.  They are very nice and keep the kitchen much cooler!

August 15–We planted a peach tree in our orchard and got a small but very delicious crop this year.  These are Elberta peaches.

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August 21–Today I’m sure that Laura bought us a fine bottle of Port in Porto, Portugal!  Yum!  😀  (update Christmas 2017–I was right!)

August 21–Total Solar Eclipse Day!  We had about 97% totality.  It got as dark as it does at dusk.

August 22–The glaze on my coil pot came out just the way I wanted it.  Yahoo!

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August 24–We have a beautiful new marble countertop in our bathroom!  The second photo is the previous countertop.  We also put in new fixtures and a spiffy shower door.

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August 28–Laura made it home safely from trip to Portugal/Spain and had a great vacation!

September 7–Smoke has cleared and skies are blue–partially.  Air smells sweet.  😀     The fires were fierce in Oregon this summer and we mostly avoided the smoke until the end of summer when the winds shifted and we were enveloped in a cloud of smoke for weeks.  It made for some interesting photography, though.

_MG_9039Morning sun

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_MG_8859Afternoon/evening sun

November 15– Pottery class is winding down for the holidays.  This is my favorite piece since we began.

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December 14–I finally figured out how to use the Scan Function on the printer to make it put the image on the computer! 😀

In the end, this project was a good decision on my part–I didn’t always have something good to write, but when I did, I mostly remembered to write it down and it was fun reading all the notes at the end of the year.  Some things I remembered and some were a good jog to the memory and some things were silly, but still good.  Best of all, it reminded me that in spite of it all seeming like life is awful, there are still many, many good things that happen too.  I have no trouble remembering the bad that happens and dwell on it too much, but now I have a way of keeping happy alive.

I wish you all a year of many happy memories!


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It’s a Zoo Out There!

When you move to the countryside, I suppose you should expect to see some wildlife.  We live fairly close to the town, so we weren’t expecting life to get too wild.  Reading the newspaper, though, we found that there are quite a lot of cougar in the area, but surely they would be up in the hills.  Our neighbors came over to visit one day and told us there was a bear in the area.  We’ve looked for signs but haven’t seen anything.  They also later told us they saw a cougar entering our farm.  Well, what to do?  We bought a night vision camera and set it up between us and the cow pasture because there was evidence that something was traveling under the fence.  We got shots of deer and raccoons, nothing too worrying.  Then we set the camera up along the vegetable garden fence to find out what has been going under that fence into the garden.  One year all our plums were eaten off of one tree and this year there are huge piles of thrown-up fruit–inside and outside of the garden.  What could be eating all that fruit?

This is what we saw on the camera:

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This is proof that there is a bear and that he somehow got under the fence and into the garden–at least twice that night.  Here’s the space he squeezed into:

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We are mystified; the hole is not that big.

We have since found two other places, one at the garden fence and another abutting our property that he uses as entry points.  Bruce piled a load of logs at the one on the far end of the farm, but he pushed them aside.  So, I guess he is here to stay.  We’ll have to be more careful about cleaning up the old fruits and vegetables during the growing season.

We haven’t seen the cougar yet, but here are some of the other more friendly critters who have found their way onto our farm:

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Tree frog; Gopher snake

lizard  swallowtail4  painted-lady

Lizard; Swallowtail; Painted Lady

swallow  red-shafted-flicker2  redbreasted-sapsucker

Tree Swallow; Red-shafted Flicker (he eats our house); Red-breasted Sapsucker

quail1  oregon-junco  hummingbird

Quail; Oregon Junco; Hummingbird

barnswallow2  bald-eagle3  canada-geese

Barn Swallow (they love the barn); Bald Eagle; Geese

americangoldfinch2  americangoldfinch  bluebirds

American Goldfinch; huge flock of American Goldfinches that flew in one day; Bluebirds

redshouldered-hawk  skunk2  jan-squirrel

Red-shouldered Hawk; Skunk; Squirrel

tomturkey  mamaturkey  hare

Turkey- Tom, Hen and Chicks; Hare

justinbeaver2  bucks  deardeer

Beaver-we named him Justin; White Tail deer-Bucks and Doe

coyote2  coyote

Coyote-okay, he’s not so friendly, but we love hearing them at howl at night

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Neighbor’s bull/steer that wandered onto our farm on Christmas Day.  He enjoyed the grass and water.  Occasionally they come through the fence to visit us.  

novemberelk  mayelk3  mayelk2

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Elk–we had at least eight sightings this year.  The last photo, from the night vision camera, caught an elk calf.  Now that’s rare sight for us!

It’s a real treat for us to have so much wildlife on our farm.  While we would like to encourage some to not return, we welcome them all and hope their sojourn is a beneficial relationship for us both.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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On the Hunt

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Bruce and I went out one morning on the hunt for the elusive wild strawberry.  We had seen evidence of them in the woods, with the plants and blossoms, but had never seen any fruit.  Since there were blossoms in late April, I figured now was the time to find those berries!  We headed out from the house and walked straight into the woods.  We found a large patch of strawberry plants near the creek, but no fruit.  We knew there were more up by the road, so we headed up there.  On the way, we found a number of interesting things.

Strawberry Hunt-Deer Skull1  Strawberry Hunt-Lizard

Deer skull and antlers; lizard

Strawberry Hunt-Rose   Strawberry Hunt-Parentucellia viscosa-Yellow parentucellia

The roses are blooming all over; Yellow parentucellia

Strawberry Hunt8  Strawberry Hunt-Geranium richardsonii-richardsons geranium 

Oregon checker mallow; Richardson’s geranium

Strawberry Hunt3Triteleia hendersonii-Henderson's stars-rare Strawberry Hunt- Zigadenus venenosus-Meadow death camas-trichodes ornatus

Henderson’s stars (Triteleia hendersonii) (rare); Meadow death camas (poisonous), with Ornate Checkered beetle

StrawberryHunt-Euphydryas chalcedona-Chalcedona Checkerspot    Strawberry Hunt7

Chalcedona checkerspot; Western tiger swallowtail;

The Ornate Checkered beetle (Trichodes ornatus) is found only in North America.  Its worm-like larvae live mostly in bee nests of the Megachilidae family species, or Mason bees.  They are parasitic and in the nest they feed on bee larvae or pollen.  As adults, they feed on yarrow, milkweed or other yellow-flowered plants.  Since we have Mason bees and they are very beneficial to the garden and orchard, it was good that we found this insect and can take steps to manage it.  We have to remove the bee nesting materials from the orchard shortly before and immediately after the end of the nesting period and store them away from other nesting bees.  Commercial traps are available, consisting of a plastic container with a pheromone-impregnated capsule that attracts the beetles during the bee nesting period.

Wikipedia; http://insect.pnwhandbooks.org/sites/insect.pnwhandbooks.org/files/pdfsection/beeprotection.pdf

Livestock farmers know all too well the havoc Meadow death camas can inflict. It’s a favorite among sheep. Death camas, or Zigadenus venenosus, are native to western parts of North America. The toxic alkaloid zygadenine (considered by some to be more potent than strychnine) is present in all parts of the plant and can cause some serious consequences when ingested.  Elaine Nelson McIntosh, a dietitian and food historian, suspects death camas may have been to blame for the illnesses that plagued the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805. Food was scarce and the group was suffering from malnutrition. The Nez Perce tribe offered the travelers fish and bulbs of a plant they believed were blue camas. At the time, the plant wasn’t in bloom, making it hard to differentiate between it and its evil cousin. Soon after, the group fell violently ill for weeks. They ate their dogs to sustain themselves for the rest of the expedition.

http://blogs.britannica.com/2010/02/death-camas-toxic-tuesdays-a-weekly-guide-to-poison-gardens/

After a short hike we came upon the second patch of strawberry plants and oh boy, we found the berries!  There were two and they were red and very small, but not very sweet.  That was disappointing and a lot of work for no reward.  I think we’ll leave them for the deer and other animals.

StrawberryHunt-Fragaria vesca-woods strawberry   Strawberry Hunt-Fragaria virginiana-Mountain strawberry

Strawberry Hunt-Strawberry

 


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Lurking in the Garden

I woke up early one morning about a week ago, looked out the window as I usually do, didn’t expect to see anything different, because I usually don’t, but that morning, I saw this:

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That guy was in the flower garden, just a few feet from the house!  Nevertheless, that’s an amazing way to start the day!

Coyotes (Canis latrans) are a member of the dog family. Canis latrans means “barking dog.”  As a “top of the food chain” predator species, they play a valuable role in naturally controlling other species, such as rodents and Canada geese.

Thick dense fur can sometimes make coyotes appear larger than they really are. In Oregon coyotes typically weigh between 22 and 30 pounds.

Their primary diet is made up of small rodents, but coyotes are opportunistic and will consume a vast array of foods including birds and insects, fruit and vegetables, human garbage and compost, outdoor pet food and small free-roaming pets.

http://audubonportland.org/wcc/urban/coyotes

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Trees

When we considered moving to Oregon, Bruce’s dream was to have a nice, large piece of land with plenty of room for gardening.  I found a piece of property in Roseburg that was just perfect for both of us in that it has a very nice house, lots of acreage and a 2 acre garden.  What we didn’t plan on was having an established farm.  Our farm is a tree farm, planted in Ponderosa pines by the previous owner.  And boy, do we ever have a lot of Ponderosa pines!

The bark helps to distinguish it from other species.  This is a hardy, drought tolerant tree having thick , protective bark comprised of stacked plates that sometimes look like puzzle pieces. The deep cracks in old tree bark smell pleasant, like vanilla with a hint of butterscotch or warm cookie.  Old growth ponderosas grow 150 to 180 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet in diameter.   http://www.bentler.us/eastern-washington/plants/trees/ponderosa.aspx

We don’t have anywhere near old growth status, but they are all a decent size.  We are supposed to go out in the late fall and winter when the sap isn’t running and prune the lower branches of each tree, which increases the diameter of the tree and in turn, will yield a higher price when logged.  (See the post on November 1, 2013, called Lifting and Falling to read more about this process.)

At any rate, we do have a lot of trees, but apparently not enough for Bruce!  He just recently ordered 100 saplings and we ended up getting about 250 of them.  Oh my!  Bruce wanted to fill in some bare areas of land and since he had so many he planted them in areas where they probably won’t grow, like the swampy spot down by the neighbor’s pond.

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Can you see any planted trees in the photo on the left?  They are there, but they are very small.

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The trees, even if we don’t live long enough to see them harvested, have many benefits.  They are a very nice ground cover that I don’t have to mow, they provide shelter for the elk and deer and birds, they block us from the neighbors, and they just look great!

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Good Times

Our friends, Jeff and Nancy, came up from California to visit us for about five days in early March.  We were quite sure that we would all be sitting around the house watching the endless rain, but the sun came out and the weather was beautiful and warm.  We went on a couple of day trips around the area.  We hadn’t yet been to the Winchester dam and fish ladder, so we picked up some pulled pork BBQ sandwiches and coleslaw in Roseburg ( you must go here– https://www.facebook.com/pages/Neighborhood-Smokehouse-Grill/472787789449719 ) and had a picnic at the dam.  There is a nice parking lot at the top and a staircase down to the fish ladder.  Halfway down, we stopped at some benches and ate our lunch and watched the river go by.  What a nice treat for us in the wintertime!  Sad to say, March is just about the only month in which there are no fish going up the fish ladder, so that was disappointing.

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https://roadtrippers.com/us/roseburg-or/camping-rv/winchester-dam

We also took a wine touring trip but only went to two wineries–Hillcrest and Reustle.  Hillcrest is very near to our farm and it is Oregon’s oldest estate winery and the birthplace of Pinot Noir.

Jenks14 http://www.hillcrestvineyard.com/

Reustle winery is further away, up north near Umpqua, but still in Roseburg.  We sat outside and sampled some of the different wines that they have.  We decided to become wine club members (even though I don’t drink much wine) because they have a grassy amphitheater with great views and it looks like they’ll have some nice concerts in the summer.  http://www.reustlevineyards.com/

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After Reustle, were were hungry, so we drove a short way over to the Lighthouse Center Bakery and Cafe in Umpqua .   It’s a very nice place, with a post office on one side of the building, and on the other side there is a small grocery and cafe.  The cafe sells lunch, fresh baked breads, and bakery items and it is all vegetarian, but it’s so delicious that you seriously consider becoming vegetarian.  You can eat inside or out and on a nice day it’s best to sit outside and enjoy the fresh air and great views.  Also, don’t pass up the Lentil Stew.  http://lighthousecenterbakery.com/

When we weren’t driving around Bruce and Jeff worked on some farm projects.  One project was the making of ten birdhouses, bluebird and wren.  The birds were very anxious to set up housekeeping and wasted no time in checking out the houses.  They were inside the newly hung houses as soon as Bruce moved the ladder to put up the next house.  I’m not sure if the bluebirds or wrens were able to snatch any houses for themselves as the swallows were very aggressive and did not care that they were not tree swallow houses.

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Jenks11  Jenks-Western Bluebird Jenks-Swallow

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We hope you had a good visit, Jeff and Nancy!  We enjoyed having you here, going to new places and getting some help with the projects.


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Winter on the Farm

We didn’t know what to expect for our first winter here.  Last year it seemed to be very cold and the few times we came up to check on the house the weather was either foggy, icy, freezing, snowing or raining.  We even got to experience something called “freezing fog”.    So…when the air is foggy, does the fog freeze?  We didn’t know, but it didn’t sound good.  We found out that it occurs when liquid fog droplets freeze to surfaces, forming white soft or hard ice.  It is basically the same as that soft white ice that forms inside a freezer.

On most mornings when I look out the windows I see a lot of fog, which usually dissipates by afternoon, but not always.  All in all, it hasn’t been especially cold this winter, but we have had a few mornings with temperatures in the teens.  We have also had quite a lot of rain, but it’s not worse than what we had in a normal year in San Jose.  In fact, the rain is very welcome, as long as we don’t float away!  With the rain we now have both ponds filled and the grasses are turning green.  This in turn has encouraged the waterfowl to return and forage for food.

It’s difficult to understand how anything flourishes here in the winter, because it is cold and foggy and often rainy.  I haven’t figured out how the deer, elk and cows can tolerate such cold temperatures.  On the morning that the temperature was 16 degrees, the cows were out in the field eating the grass.

If you care to read about it, here is an explanation from Penn State:  http://news.psu.edu/story/179081/2009/02/26/horses-and-other-livestock-can-thrive-cold-weather.  Good to know so I won’t worry about them, and I’m guessing the deer and elk have an adequate amount of food and water.

After the rains started the mushrooms popped up everywhere, but they are now mostly gone.  There were frogs singing at night, but they are gone too.  The elk have started coming down from the hills and we’ve seen them a few times here and there.  As always we have our small deer population with the three fawns growing up fast.  We also often hear the coyotes at night, and we even spotted one in the cow pasture one morning.

It’s good to see and feel this change of seasons.  It’s not a harsh change, but enough to make us more attentive to what’s happening around us.

To signal the change of seasons and the coming of winter we had leaves changing colors all over Roseburg, but none prettier than our own persimmon tree.

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Sara found these mushrooms a few days after Christmas when she took advantage of a non-rainy day to take a walk around the farm.  The first one is a black mushroom and the second is a cup type of mushroom.  Of the two major groups of cup fungi, I believe this is the operculate cup fungi, which have a hinged lid at the tips which opens when the spores are discharged. In the third photo are the “seeds” that were in the cups, which are sterile cells called paraphyses and they often forcibly eject the spores upward into the wind for dispersal.

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I found this mushroom growing on a tree in the yard.

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The turkey flocks are larger now and we see them much more frequently than we did in the summer.

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Wintertime has brought out the bucks.  Our deer (I’m fairly confident) are Columbian white-tail deer. The Columbian white-tailed deer is listed as an endangered distinct population segment in the lower Columbia River area under the federal Endangered Species Act, whereas the Roseburg population was delisted in 2003.  No matter, this is the only way deer are getting shot on our farm.

Click to access OFRI%20managed%20forests%20elk%20deer_for_web.pdf

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These were taken on the morning that the temperature was 16 degrees F.  Brrr…It was too cold for the birds.  They are waiting for the sunrise and hopefully warmer temperatures.

Wintertime16pg Wintertime12jpg

Dramatic sunrise and sunset.  One nice added extra that we hadn’t counted on when we moved here is that we now have clouds!  I sure did miss them living in California.

We still have several more months of winter left, and it could get colder and rainier, but I think I’ll probably find something interesting to investigate.

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Dew on the grass shining in the sunset


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Vaux’s Swifts

I joked with my daughter the other day that “there’s lots to do here in Roseburg.  You can go and see the swifts fly into a chimney!”  While I don’t think this is going to cause her to move here from Atlanta, it actually turned out to be a very interesting thing to do…you know, for us old folks.

The Vaux’s Swifts (Chaetura vauxi) are a fast flying relative of the hummingbird and were named after Sir William Vaux, an Englishman.  So the bird’s name is pronounced “vawks”, not “voh”.  The one time I get the French pronunciation right…and it’s not French.

They are similar to the Chimney Swift but a different species.  The Vaux’s species is found west of the Rockies and the Chimney Swift is east.

Their bodies are 4-5 inches in length and appear like small, dark, fast-flying cigars with wings.  Their wings are crescent shaped and beat with swift, rapid, bat-like movements.  In fact, the previous owner of our farm told us he saw bats flying around at dusk and I thought that maybe they were swifts.  He said, no, they were bats, but they do look alike, especially at dusk.

The Vaux’s lack a hind toe and cannot perch.  When not flying, they cling to vertical surfaces such as trees or chimneys–something that has a rough texture.  Vaux’s Swifts have historically nested inside large, hollow tree snags.  Because suitable snags along the migratory routes have become harder to find, the swifts have begun occupying brick chimneys, but these types of chimneys are no longer used in new construction or the existing ones are being torn down.  The nests are made with twigs pasted together with saliva on the inside of the snag or chimney and disintegrate soon after they are abandoned.

They spend much of their time in the air and forage, drink, court, collect nesting materials and copulate all in flight.  They have a voracious appetite for flying insects and ballooning spiders.  Each bird eats up to 20,000 insects a day!

Vaux’s Swifts arrive in Oregon in late April, mate in May and June and have their eggs laid and hatched by July.  They depart beginning in late August.  In the fall swifts congregate in large groups as they prepare for their migration southward to Central America and Venezuela.  During September large groups of swifts pass through Oregon and commonly use chimneys to roost in during the night, settling down inside the chimney just around sunset.  Once a population of swifts locates an appropriate chimney they are likely to return year after year.  The size of the groups can range in size from just a few birds to several thousand.

Umpqua Valley Audubon Society @ http://www.umpquaaudubon.org

The “Chapman swifts” are part of a migratory population of Vaux’s swifts that roost seasonally in the chimney of Chapman Elementary School in Portland, Oregon.  This is North America’s largest concentration of Vaux’s swifts.

Every evening from mid-August to mid-October, thousand of swifts gather in the sky over the school shortly before sunset.  Count estimates of 1,700 to 35,000 swifts have been reported.  Shortly after sunset, over a period of 10 to 30 minutes, they fly into the top of the brick chimney (constructed c. 1925) to roost on the interior surface until they depart at sunrise.  The school is on the birds’ migratory route to their wintering sites.

The birds began using the site in the early 1980’s in response to the loss of much of their natural roosting habitat–old growth Douglas-fir and forest snags.  Vaux’s Swifts prefer roosting in standing hollow trees.

To protect the swifts, the school stopped using its heating system during the weeks of roosting.  Students and teachers wore sweaters and jackets, especially toward the end of September when classroom temperatures can drop to 50 to 60 degrees F. (10 to 16 degrees C.)  Around 2003, the Audubon Society of Portland, school fundraisers and corporate sponsors donated $60,000 to $75,000 for an alternate school heating system which is independent of the brick chimney.  The chimney is now maintained solely for the use of the birds.

Wikipedia

In Roseburg, the swifts use several chimneys in town but the one we went to was the Clay Place chimney behind the Arts Center in the Fir Grove section of Stewart Park.  The migrations last two weeks to a month and Audubon members are on hand for several of those nights.  They are a great source of information about the swifts.

Swifts23 Swifts24

 

We arrived at the park at 630 p.m., with our chairs.  The chairs are important, because there is no place to sit and it can be a long wait.  One of the Audubon members came by to talk to us about the swifts and gave us some pamphlets.   A man sitting behind us was a birder and kept us up-to-date on what was happening and what would happen.  At first we saw small groups of a few birds flying overhead.

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Those small groups gradually became larger and larger.

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All the Audubon members were getting anxious because sunset had come and gone and the birds were not anywhere close to going into the chimney.  I figured that Bruce & I had jinxed it.  Some more rational explanations were that the weather has been hotter than usual and the birds were waiting for it to cool down and/or finding lots more insects to eat because of the heat.  But, whatever the reason, the birds finally got it together and we heard more and more bird calls.  Large groups were flying overhead, swooping down like they would go into the chimney and then flying off, only to return minutes later with even more birds.  We were beginning to feel like extras in a Hitchcock movie.

At long last, the birds started circling around the chimney and formed the ever important vortex, which happens just before they go in.  They were circling around, constantly changing direction.  Occasionally one or two would go in, but soon enough they all decided it was time and they funneled into the chimney.  Birds were flying in a huge circle and then swooping down and into the chimney.  It was like passengers getting on a Southwest Airlines flight!  Hey, there’s room for everyone, no need to push!

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After they all stuffed themselves in, we got the final count.  There were two Audubon members actually counting how many birds went into the chimney.  Their counts were very close to each other and the final tally was about 2,500!  Wow!!

 

If you’d like to see video of the swifts going into the chimney or what it looks like inside, click on these links:

http://www.vauxhappening.org/Movies.html–some movies of the swifts in the chimneys…and other disturbing videos involving crows, with crow solutions.

http://www.vauxhappening.org– lots of info here about the swifts

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxJnjTfkslY– a video of the swifts going into the chimney in Roseburg.  As the videographer wrote in the video, it’s better to see it in person.


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Tuna

It’s tuna season and we were determined to take full advantage of it.  We had been told for months from various people that if you can your own tuna it can’t be beat for flavor and it’s extremely easy.  Well, it’s also intimidating–where to buy it, how much to buy, how much is a fair price…and the list goes on.

We were over at the coast in July and saw the signs for fresh tuna–straight off the boats.  We went over to the docks and found some fishermen selling the tuna, but really, we had no idea of how any of it worked.

Not to worry though! Our friendly neighbor and veteran Master Food Preserver (MFP), Rusdee, came to our rescue.  She volunteers each year to help the new MFP’s (that’s us) learn how to can tuna.  She told us who to call and we put in an order for how much fish we wanted.  This was amazingly confusing.  In the end we found out that you have to tell him how much fileted fish you want.  You actually pay for twice this amount because you are paying for whole fish, and the filets are half the amount of the whole fish.  Since there was a lot of fish ordered we got a break on the price, but the actual price came out to about $2.5o a pound for the whole fish, or $5 a pound for the filets.

Next, Rusdee went over to the coast and picked up the fish and paid for it.  She picked up 400 pounds of fish at a price tag of about $2000.  That’s a lot of fish!

We went to her house for the canning.  Our fish was very nicely fileted and put into bags.  The fish had no odor which was a pleasant surprise.

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The tables were set up outside with trays, cutting boards and knives for putting the tuna in the jars and the stoves were there for pressure canning the tuna.

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There were six of us learning to can tuna–Bruce and me, our friends from California, Jeff and Nancy, plus Barbara (another new MFP) and Leslie ( a former MFP).  There were two veteran MFPs, Rusdee and Maureen.

The first step was to measure the tuna against the size of the jar and cut the tuna into those sizes, then stuff as much of it as you can into each jar.  Jeff, Nancy and I did that part.

Oh, wait, the first step was to put on some gloves!  No one wants to actually touch raw fish (not me, at least) or smell like tuna the rest of the day.

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Jeff and Nancy–Nancy makes it look like fun, and it was.

 

 Bruce kept us supplied in jars, wiped the rims and put on the lids and rings.

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It all went very smoothly and efficiently; we were done in less than 2 hours.

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Since we had dragged our friends along for this canning session and we didn’t know if they would enjoy it, we had decided earlier to do the pressure canning at home.  This entailed a new batch of problems.  We didn’t want to can indoors because of the potential smell, but we didn’t have a way to do it outside.  The week before canning we went over to our local, friendly Bi-Mart and bought a single burner stove that hooks up to a propane tank.  We took the empty tank over to the U-Haul place and got that filled.  Now we were set, or were we?  Bruce and Jeff checked it out the day before the canning and found that the wind played havoc with the flame and it was very difficult to control the pressure on the canner.  They ended up piling large cement blocks around the burner as a wind break and that worked great!

So we were finished with putting the tuna in the jars, but we weren’t done yet.  Rusdee took us all on a tour of her walnut farm.  They have quite a few walnut trees and it gets to be a huge operation picking, hulling, drying and shelling the nuts.  She showed us all the necessary equipment and the drying rooms.  The equipment is all hand-made from many years ago.  We thought it was so interesting that we volunteered to come out and help with the harvest in October.

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1) The walnuts with husks are put in here where the husks are broken open; 2) the walnuts with shells drop down into the center box and the fan to the right blows away the stems and broken husks, they go up the conveyor belt, then 3) the walnuts go into the white round chamber for sizing-the small pieces are sifted out; 4) the nuts go up the conveyor belt and fall into  a box; 5) nut cracker-takes the shell off the nut; 6) drying room 7) walnuts in the husk

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Back at home we set up the pressure canner outside and loaded it with half the jars of tuna.  We used half pints and the total was 64 jars.  You have to bring the water to a boil in the canner, wait for the steam to come out of the vent in a steady stream, vent for 10 minutes, then start the time for canning which is 100 minutes, or one hour and forty minutes.  If you let the pressure fall below 11 psi at any time in the process, you then have to start all over.  Bruce was in charge of this part of the operation and it involved constant monitoring of the pressure and constant moving of the gas dial to increase or decrease the amount of heat.  After the 100 minutes are up, the canner needs to cool until the pressure is zero.  That took about an hour.  Then you take off the petcock and wait another 10 minutes.

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Finally, the jars of cooked tuna came out and the rest of the jars of raw tuna went in for another round.

Now, for the smell.  Yes, it was well worth it to do it outside.  The tuna inside the jars does not smell at all, but there was residue on the outside which had a very strong fishy smell and they all got a good cleaning.

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All in all, this was a very interesting canning project, we all enjoyed taking part in it, and best of all,

the tuna looks and tastes wonderful!

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Wild Turkey

We’ve heard them in the woods and seen them in neighboring fields ever since we moved here six months ago, but we’ve only seen one turkey on our farm.  Today we were rewarded with a sighting of a female turkey and a flock of juveniles.  I happened to look out the kitchen window and there they were, making their way through the tall grass, crossing the back yard.   They moved along slowly, the poults in front and the hen herding them forward.   What a treat!  I hope this means we’ll be seeing many more turkeys in the future.

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Check out this site,  http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/wild_turkey/sounds , from the Cornell Lab of Orthinology to find out more about these birds but, especially, to hear their calls.  Turkeys use 28 different calls. For example, males gobble while females yelp and cluck.

 

http://www.bowhunting.net/artman/publish/Wild-Turkey/Wild_Turkey_Terminology.shtml