Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Life never fails to catch me off-guard.

So my younger son decided he was feeling a little stuck in life, working as a FedEx driver. This is not a career he wanted and he has been casting around for a way to work outdoors and specifically in a forestry-related field. He called to tell me he was applying for jobs and planned to move. To Portland, Oregon. 2500 miles away. The thought of him leaving broke my heart but I also knew it was what was best for him, so I threw myself into helping him with that. We taped off a section of the garage and he started culling and packing his belongings, taking only what was most important to him.
He moved back in with us temporarily so he could have internet access and started applying for jobs and apartments. Within a week he had a trial work day scheduled with a tree service and a back-up job offer from a FedEx company. I spent as much time with him as I could while he was still here, including a trip out to the lake near where he grew up. 
And feeding him. The age-old mom thing of making sure your child is nourished, I guess. At one breakfast I asked him to smile and along with a wicked grin, I got this.
He's 24, I completely understand him needing to strike out on his own. It's kind of a rite of passage. But all the way to the Pacific Northwest! I'm not going to lie, I was on the verge of tears much of those last couple of weeks. We have a really good relationship and I will miss him terribly. And I know he will miss me. 
Easter Sunday he loaded up the U-Haul trailer and headed out. I waited until he was gone, and then cried a LOT. At my suggestion, he detoured to Memphis to get a day with his brother, then drove to North Platt, Nebraska the next day, Boise, Idaho the next, and then finally landed in Portland on Wednesday. I would stay awake each night until he texted to let me know he was safely at each destination. 
He has called a few times to give me updates. Trips to IKEA to furnish his apartment, hiking near Mt. Hood, and getting out to the coast to see the Pacific again for the first time since he was a little kid. Yesterday was his trial work day with the tree company and it went well. He was hired and they are paying him more than what the ad stated. He is on the ground crew to start and his goal is to get trained as a climber and become a certified arborist. A big piece of my heart is now in Oregon, but I'm so proud of him for taking a risk and following a dream.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Road work.

One of the many projects we are working on is clearing out the area where the driveway will go. One of the things we had to do was take care of all this leftover cement block pieces from the old logging office. We started to use them to fill in the little ravines in the logging road, but that was clearly going to take forever. So one pickup truck load at a time, my husband has been hauling them to a recycling center that agreed to take it for a project that they are doing.
I've been keeping my eyes peeled for any plants I might want to re-locate. I saw these leaves and thought they just had to be something interesting. When I looked them up, I discovered they are a strange little wildflower called Little Brown Jug. I dug up the three sets I found and moved them to a safe place where I can keep an eye on them. 
The other thing we are doing is piling up and rocks to be used for a chimney and/or foundation. There are a LOT of rocks in these mountains, many large and flat.
We have a made a bunch of piles of them so they'll be available to the builder next year.
Tumbleweed likes to drape herself over any available perch and watch us. Here she is on one of the many piles of cut firewood.
She supervises my work much of the time, except when she is expressing her love by purring loudly while she tries to devour my hand.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Man, I hate poison ivy.

So I was working on an update post but got temporarily waylaid. I took off last Wednesday because I'd been advised to not plan anything the day after my second COVID vaccine dose. I had a headache Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, but then basically felt fine. Likely because I have a slacker-ass immune system.  My husband had taken the day off, too, so we went up to the Ridge and while he was setting poles for fencing, I tended a brush pile that we were burning. It was a gorgeous day and I was working in a short-sleeved t-shirt. Unfortunately, there were poison ivy vines included in the brush. Which, apparently, can get to you through the smoke. Within a day, I had poison ivy rash on my arms, neck and face. Even my eyelid! Most unpleasant. 

Because of that, I hadn't felt motivated to do much of anything until recently, and in the evenings we've been lying around watching a global cooking competition show called "The Final Table." The Spain episode stirred up a craving for Paella Valenciana, and I made it this weekend. We made ours with chicken, shrimp, clams, and spicy chicken sausage. I also roasted some peppers and tomatoes to add it. It was pretty good. I even got the browned layer on the bottom, called the socorrat, to come out right. My poison ivy is fading a tiny bit, so I will start working on the update post now.

Sunday, February 14, 2021


We're at that time of year when the weather is so incredibly variable. Some days dawn cold and gray, others clear and warm. We had a morning recently that immediately brought to mind the old saying about "Red sky at morning, sailors take warning." 
In my yard are the early signs of spring, with crocuses and snowdrops blooming and daffodils starting to emerge. 
Up at the Ridge, which is at a higher elevation, it still feels more wintry. But there is still a lot of beauty to be found in the muted colors of the leaves and fungi.
And there are at least a few signs of change ahead. I have no idea what these bulbs are, but they were in the path of a fence we are building so I moved them out of harms way and am watching to see what they develop into. 
My younger son and I inoculated two logs with mushroom spores this weekend - one shiitake and one oyster. He cut down the tree for me and drilled all the holes and then I pounded in the spore plugs and sealed them with melted paraffin wax. I have another two logs ready to do with my stepdaughter. We've put these two in the woods up at the ridge so that they can develop in the shade. Apparently it takes many months before we will get mushrooms, but they should produce for several years. 
I've also been working on another long-term project - chickens! I have to tell you, I'm having  a hard time waiting on this one. We've cleared out an area in the woods and I lugged a bunch of cinder blocks up the hill to mark the outlines of the run and coop. The blocks will eventually go on the part of the fence that forms an apron around the run to stop predators from digging their way in. Today we rolled these back out of the way and my husband used the auger drill to start making the holes for the fence posts. We can't really get chickens until we are ready to build next year, but we are going to take our time building the coop and run this year.
Since we are getting a lot of rain and it's pretty muddy, I decided to get a pair of inexpensive rubber boots for working so that I wouldn't wreck my good gore-tex Scarpa hiking boots. I was planning on plain black, until I saw a pair that were entirely out of character for me and bought them. Because chickens! They make me smile every time I look at them. I won't get a chance to go back until next weekend, but I'm already itching to get to work up there.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Progress on the little orchard.


I'm pretty much out at our property every weekend. Which is really saying something for someone who doesn't like winter. But once I get working, I don't really notice the cold. One of my ongoing projects is the area at the front of the property. I've been trying to find ways to use up the eleventy bazillion cement blocks from the collapsed (demolished?) logging office. Immediately in front of the cement pad, I put in a raised bed. No idea what I'm going to put in it, though. In the blocks in back and behind the bench I'm growing scallions. On either side I put in blocks for steps to make it easier to get to the garden.

Hard to see it, but this bed is made from cement blocks that were buried so solidly I could not dig them out. I have two blueberry bushes in the well in the middle. Other berries I've put in are three other blueberry bushes I transplanted from home, three little boysenberry bushes, and some red raspberry canes. I have some yellow raspberries on their way that I will add in. Oh, and both wild and domestic strawberries along the front fence.

I've corralled the wild blackberries along four trellises made from hog panels and garden stakes, and added some thornless blackberries transplanted from home. I had to move some of the wild blackberries to make them fit on the trellis and let me tell you, it's prickly work. 

And then there are the trees. I transplanted four fig trees from home. They've never done much, but someone suggested I mulch them deeply in the winter, so I did that and added clumps of moss. Earlier this year, I planted two persimmons, two pawpaws, an American plum, a chickasaw plum, a winesap apple, a Jonathan apple, and a Whitney crabapple. Yesterday in the mail I got the ten free flowering trees that came with my Arbor Day order, so I added two Sargent crabapples to help pollinate the winesap. (The other trees weren't fruit trees, so I planted them elsewhere on the property - two Washington Hawthorns, three redbuds and three dogwoods.)
The alpine strawberries I planted in the cement blocks along the old wall seem to be hanging in there.  I also added some fall blooming saffron crocuses so I can harvest my own saffron. The cat is always supervising my work. She likes to climb up the old metal window frames like a ladder and watch from the top of the wall, too.

Sometime in the next month or so I'll be getting some more fruit plants in the mail - four maypop vines to put on that fence and a bush apricot. A few others will be farther back on the property - another couple American plums and a red mulberry. And I have made a total of four of those cement block raised beds. They have layers of straw, leaves, and soil and I'm just letting the whole lot decompose while I decide what I'm going to do with them. Sweet potatoes in one, I'm pretty sure. Only one of the beds has anything in it - a friend gave me some sunchoke tubers and I planted those. I believe that's it. I know it will be a while before we start getting much fruit, but I'm excited to watch things develop this spring and summer.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Not as much fun as you might imagine.

So I was planning to do a blog post over the weekend, but decided to spend it passing kidney stones instead. I like to live on the edge that way. 

Friday morning, I started feeling like someone had kicked me on the left side of my back. Kicked me hard.  When the pain started radiating, I scheduled a telemedicine appointment that afternoon with my primary care doctor. He prescribed toradol (an anti-inflammatory) and told me I'd need to come in for a scan if the pain became intractable. But you know, weekend. Friday night is when it got bad, of course. Kidney stone pain is a weird thing - you just can't find a way to get comfortable like you can with regular back pain. And it pulsates. so it's hard to think of anything else. So I took the toradol, which didn't seem to do a thing for me, and drank lots of fluids. Water, water with lemon juice, water with apple cider vinegar, cranberry juice, seltzer with lime juice, beer. Anything to break them up and flush the damned things out. Fortunately, two days, two sleepless nights, and several tiny stones later, I seem to be back to normal today. I hope so anyway. 

So until I can put together a real post, I thought you would enjoy this:

I received this from a number I didn't recognize, so obviously not someone I know. And I tried to say so, but the person seems to have interpreted my response as a snarky, "Right back atcha!" I left it there, but still wonder if the intended snubbee has any idea they've been disowned?

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Well, that was a surprise.

Remember this dainty little feral cat? Tumbleweed became comfortable with us so quickly it was hard to believe she was a feral. But she's not so tiny any more.

In fact, she seems to get bigger every time I see her.  Unlike our cat Hodr, who begs to come in when it's cold, she is so well insulated that she seems happy in the snow.

This is not my cat. I saw this photo online and was struck by how much it looked like Tumbleweed. I followed the link and discovered it was a Maine Coon cat. And that lead me to reading about them and it all started falling into place. Maine Coon cats, it turns out, were bred in Maine to withstand the cold winters. They have a silky overcoat and a fluffy undercoat, with a particularly dense coat on their bellies and backsides to protect them against the snow. Maine Coons also have a distinctive furry ruff around their necks, bigger tufts of hair in their ears than other cat breeds, and fat fluffy tails. It's as if they were describing my cat. Maine Coon cats are fierce hunters but super affectionate. I cringe a little at the number of chipmunk tails and deconstructed birds I have found in the shed where Tumbleweed sleeps. And yet, she is one of the friendliest cats I've met, throwing herself into any available lap and demanding belly rubs.

And then there is their personalities, which are described as "dog-like." I have often said that Tumbleweed is part dog. She runs to the gate to greet us when we drive up and will even go on hikes with us, trotting along the trail. If you call her, she runs to you instead of doing that cat-thing where they turn their heads away from you to make sure you know they are intentionally ignoring you. My younger son told me that she climbs this ladder every morning to stare into the window at him, waiting for him to come out and greet her. Maine Coons are very vocal, with yowls and chirps, and it was her calling to us from the woods that first alerted us to her presence.  

Who knew?  Looks like we've got ourselves a fierce, affectionate, talkative, dog-like fluffball of a Maine Coon cat on our hands, neck ruff and all.