Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Blessing and a Curse

I was looking forward to writing this morning about the tree swallows that were showing great interest in the bird house my Uncle Bud made (he died the beginning of April) for John and I as a wedding present. (Uncle Bud was a great woodworker. I have gorgeous wood jewel boxes, too, that he lovingly made.) I had hung the birdhouse on a hook from the wash line pole about five feet off the ground. I thought it would be cat proof since there were no trees or poles for them to climb to get to the bird house. I was wrong. As I stepped out the door of the sun porch the black cat, who was hovering below, jumped six feet straight up in the air, caught the male, leaped to the ground and tried to run off. I was on the cat, yelling at her to drop it. Sometimes I can make her drop her prey before they are hurt, but she must have snapped the bird's neck because it was dead and bloody by the time I got it. This all happened in less than a minute, maybe less than 30 seconds. It made me so mad at that cat, and so sad for the female tree swallow who kept circling the bird house. I was so happy to have the tree swallows come to build a nest. We've never seen them before. It's the blessing of the high water which has brought so many birds this year. It is the irony of life that blessings also bring curses.

Memorial Day

John and I road our bikes back and forth on Palomino Lane between water holes Monday afternoon. It was a sunny, pleasant day for a change. The photos look east on Palomino Lane toward our neighbor, Diana's, house.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Turks in the Sun

The turkeys share a sunny moment in the door of the garage. John sits in the background studying the Chilton Manual trying to figure out why the check engine light comes on in the truck.  It's cold and windy. What? Again? and the sunshine is fleeting. Turkeys, we find, are companionable creatures and very curious.  I don't know that I agree with the claims that they are stupid.  They're just turkeys. The bottom photo left to right:  Tom, Tommy and Tilley.  Yes, I named them. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Seneca Oyster Feed

Last Saturday we ventured to Seneca about an hour drive north of Burns with our friends Kate and Ron for their annual oyster feed. The oysters came fried or steamed. They were huge and succulent and delicious. We all overate to bursting. Maybe an oyster feed shouldn't be all you can eat. The weather was cold, sky cloudy, the Strawberries loomed snow covered in the north, the wind was blowing, but fresh oysters from the Washington coast can't be beat. We even found a few treasures at the yard sales in town. Photos are John sucking down a steamed oyster; Kate, Ron and John waiting in line; frying oysters, steaming oysters; oysters ready to fry.

What She Missed

Well, my sister was supposed to arrive today for a ten day visit but had to cancel because she couldn't get away. She'll miss the series of Pacific storms that will sweep through here for the next five days, half of her proposed trip. She'll miss the freezing temperatures tonight and the possibility of snow. But she'll also miss the glorious collection of birds that the wet spring has brought. Maggie Ross, in particular, would enjoy all the birds and would be able to tell me the names of the ones I can't identify. My sister will miss sloshing and bouncing through the streams that flow over East and West Palomino Lane, but she'll also miss the avocets and black neck stilts that jump and cry and fly about when we walk up to their nesting area in Palomino Marsh. She'll miss the turkeys that are now big enough to chase the chickens and the cats around the yard, why I don't know. She's miss the baby chicks that are set to hatch Memorial Day and the baby banties with the bad hairdos. Most of all, she'll miss the ever changing habitat and the surprise-a-day living along Palomino Lane, but maybe she'll come in September for the Harney County Fair and Rodeo.

Oregon's Poet Laureate

Last Wednesday I attend a poetry workshop given by Paulann Petersen who is the current poet laureate of Oregon. In the evening she gave a poetry reading at the library. She is enthusiastic about teaching people to write poetry, so the three hours of the workshop went by fast. I am not a big reader or writer of poetry, mainly because I read and write book length fiction, but sometimes we all need to stretch. We worked on poems based on a month we liked or a place we remember. She had us write down words that described sense and imagery of those and then put it into a poem. I picked the month of July and stretched back into my childhood for the imagery: 

New Cut Grass
Lazy July evenings stretch forever.
Dad cuts grass and catches it in an old canvass hopper,
the dog barking at the wheels of the the lawn mower.
Tops of clover and chopped dandelion make grass salad.
I run across the cool grass in my bare feet, honey bees
gone home for the day. Lightening bugs wink off and on.
I bring my hand up under one and watch it wink off,
wink on atop my finger then put it in a baby food jar
with holes punched in the top to keep it just for a while.
The fragrance of the orange blossom bush by the kitchen window
sweetens the dense, humid air. Dust from the alley blows by
from a lone passing car. In the park kids yell and peddle bikes
around the wooden floor of the band pavilion
where I walk in a circle in my home made hoop skirt
passing the baton until is stops with me and I win the coconut cake.
I fall asleep atop the covers, ventilator in the window. The band plays
its last Sousa march and distant rumble of thunder hugs
the spiderweb of my dreams.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Richard Etulain

Several weeks ago I attended a workshop on writing history given in Burns by Professor Richard Etulain who has written or edited 40 books, mostly on the American West. He's an excellent presenter and writer. His father was Basque, and he grew up on a sheep ranch in Washington. He has a good piece on the Basques on the online Oregon Encyclopedia at www.oregonencyclopedia.org/entry/view/basques/ as well as articles on Ernest Haycox, an Oregon western writer and on whom he did his PhD dissertation, and Edward Baker, a man who figured in the politics of Oregon. He was a friend of Wallace Stegner, who I'm sorry to say, I haven't read so I bought Etulain's book “Stegner: Conversations on History and Literature”. If you are interested in the American West, look for Etulain's books.

Monday, May 16, 2011

No Joke Snow

Yes, we woke up to an inch of spring snow this morning. Again. Just what we need is more water. It rained all Saturday night and all day Sunday. We don't know what to do with all the water and we're not sure where all of it is going to go. We are pumping water out of the crawl space under the house three and four times a day. The ditches are brimming. The cows have the already sorry dirt road all mucked up. What isn't water on the road is a substance much like Crisco. Ben Burkle, the KTVZ Bend weather man keeps saying this weather is No Joke! He said April was the coldest on record for this area and I'll bet May is, too. Wettest, too. Harney Duck is featured in the snow and the bees have snow and water to contend with. The black dots on the photos are cows grazing in Palomino Lake.  I thought we lived in the desert.

Banty Update

Here are the banties at about two weeks old. Notice the ones with top knots. They are Polish Crested. I think they will be black or blue. They are growing the fastest, jump and fly, and are very curious.  They are a hoot.

Mother's Day Tulips and Lemon Tree

John gave me these tulips for Mother's Day. Well, actually, I bought the tulips and John said they were my mother's day present since he wanted to get me flowers. They are beautiful and beside them is our dwarf lemon tree which finally has green lemons growing. Dare I hope for ripe lemons this year?

Breakfast tete a tete

Midnight the cat shares Purina Laying Pellets with two of the ugly sister hens. 

Broody Hen at last

Here is Strawberry, last year's only surviving hatch besides Harney Duck. Last week she decided she was broody and  now sits on six eggs, four brown and two green. She behaves very strangely when I've seen her off the nest. Runs around fanning her tail and neck feathers at the other critters. If only she had told me before I bought the twelve banties, looking for a broody hen. Chicks hatch on Memorial Day.

Friday, May 6, 2011


In another moment of insanity I thought I'd buy two banties, looking for a broody hen since banties are more notoriously broody than regular hens. (None of my big hens ended up broody.) I ended up with 12 banty chicks when I went to pick them up on Wednesday. They are three days old in the photo. They're an assortment and five are crested and four have feathers on their legs. Mostly they huddle under the lamp and sleep. No, I don't know what I'm going to do with a dozen banties if they all live. But the last time I got 12 banty chicks, seven turned out to be roosters. (We all know what happens to too many roosters.) If I'm lucky I'll get six hens. We'll see. Happy Mother's Day!

Magpies are back

Last year a pair of magpies built one of their tower nests in the Russian Olive tree outside our bedroom window. This year they are back, or one of the five big fat chicks they raised came back with a mate. All of them lived in that rather small abode. What I like about the nest is they put a roof on it. John loves magpies. They are curious, fun birds. The nest is interwoven sticks and has survived the incredible winds we get here.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The 4% Universe

I just finished reading this new non-fiction book by Rickard Panek with the alternative title, “Dark matter, dark energy and the race to discover the rest of reality”. Pretty big title and the mystery still is what the rest of reality is. But he did cover the race to discover it between a group of physicists and astronomers which in the process birthed the science of cosmology. Read the epilogue first. In there on page 242 Panek says, “In early 2010 . . . the results arrived bearing the latest refinements of the numbers that define our universe. It was 13.75 billion years old . . . . it was flat, consisting of 72.8 percent dark energy, 22.7 percent dark mater, and 4.56 percent baryonic matter (the stuff of us) – an exquisitely precise accounting of the depth of our ignorance. The astronomers who set out to write the final chapter in the history of the universe had to content themselves instead with a more modest conclusion: to be continued.” Isn't it amazing? We don't know what dark energy and dark matter is and this composes most of the our universe. Of course, we now have to think about parallel universes and multiverses. Brian Greene's new book The Hidden Reality covers some of this and I'm reading it now. More later. Just something to get your day going.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Llama trekking

I joined the Burns Llama Trailblazers on Sunday morning for a three mile hike with three llama girls, their handlers and 4-H members. I went as ham radio support since we were on some out of the way out, hilly places north of Burns. Luckily, the day was sunny and cool. The llama are trained as pack animals and have to go through specified trials in order to certify as pack animals. Female llamas were Augusta, Leda, and Emma, and they performed their tasks well which included fording streams, going through brush and jumping logs. The male llamas went on an eight mile hike. Everyone enjoyed themselves, I think, including the ham radio operator. 

First photo is the boys getting saddled up with the packs for the 8 mile trip; the second is Lisa Wolf, head packer with Wahoo, who didn't go; the next is the scary ham radio team who provided communications support;  the ladies crossing water; the babies -- they didn't go, they were one and two days old

Poult run

The poults were outside Sunday afternoon in their new turkey run. After a tough morning trailing llamas, I sat in the sun reading, enjoying happy hour and the warmth of the sun. John joined the soiree. Notice the water above the driveway. That should be pasture. Water still covers some of the pasture and is gushing through the ditches but doesn't seem to be rising. Today one of the ranchers brought his heard of cattle onto the open range east of us. This should be interesting. Cattle are murder on dirt roads and ours are in bad shape already with all the water.