Saturday, January 31, 2009

Gah, I feel so old sometimes.

One of my cousins and her fiance are visiting and decided to stay the night. Aimee and I took this opportunity to give them both the "Wise Older Cousin" talk in hopes that we could prompt them to dream about their future rather than settling for the present. Other than one cousin who has recently started dental training of some sort, all my cousins face similar careers as their parents. Unfortunately, there isn't much of a career path when it comes to working in the woods, mills, pumping gas, bagging groceries or driving truck.

I noticed this issue when I moved to So Cal as well, especially in the Hispanic community. It was almost normal to see young girls having babies and living with her parents until her own children were old enough to date. Young men usually looked for manual labor or entry level jobs without the dream of moving up. This was hard for me to understand since it seemed like there was a vocational school on every corner and college's in every community with inexpensive Cali tuition. I soon realized this was because the younger generations didn't have anyone to encourage them and tell them it's possible to better yourself if you have want it bad enough. (Or was it because it's just easier and safer to just accept what you know?)

I tried to explain to my cousin and her fiance that they should at least make a goal of having a better life than their parents. If they could just aim at improving their lives at least one notch up from the lives their parents live and encourage their children to do the same, we would all be so better off. I don't know if they believe in themselves though. I really worry about our youth.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hay barn

This barn has housed many animals, including horses, calves and chickens. But for now, it's used for hay and other miscellaneous items. The barn is also full of old vintage treasures dating as far back as the '50s. Manly stuff like tools, oil cans, horse harnesses, ropes, deer antlers, etc.

A corral on the other side of the barn is still used but as you can see, the chute leading to it hasn't been used in quite a while.

Monday, January 26, 2009

At least they're not parking in the yard today

One of the family's in our neighborhood recently replaced their pick-up with what appears to be a Suburban that can't keep out water. It's currently covered with a giant sheet of plastic held down by cement breaks. This can be a problem, considering we live in Oregon where it rains. A lot.

Of course they can't put it under the carport because a pop-up camper is parked there. They also don't seem to have a sense of right and wrong about the direction to park your vehicle. At least they seem to be nice, despite the several Confederate flags they use to decorate their home, cars and clothing.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I'm thinking of getting a hair cut.

"NO!" yelled Apollo forcefully.

I laugh. "Since when have you controlled me and told me what I can and cannot do?"

Silence. "Since now, when I said no."


This morning, "I'm still thinking of getting my hair cut."


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Pruning apple trees and why didn't Mom just give Peanut that "_fill in the blank_" in her freezer instead of letting the dogs fight over a dead rat?

A couple days ago we left for another visit with Mom. She's constantly in need of help with chores around the house and since we're both unemployed, we're glad to help. Plus Apollo is glad to be doing something productive. (He hasn't caught the knitting fever. Something tells me he won't be catching it any time soon.)

While there, Mom and Apollo started attacking the apple trees with fervor. Luckily I'm too short and we had only one ladder, so I walked around and took pictures or "helped" by holding the ladder. (It was a long hard day of labor for me!) I don't know much about pruning trees but Grandma swears Mom is butchering them. Either way, her trees produce an abundance of apples each year, more than we can eat, preserve or give away. This is just one of the apple trees that has been on the property since the early 1900s.

The driveway leading down between a cherry tree, an unseen stream (Mom's water source) and a shed.

Cattle responding to a dinner call in another field across the creek, which lies just on the other side of those bushes lining the field. The location to the right of this photo is exactly where I caught my two trout last year.

The sky was a beautiful almost-clear blue but it was a chilly 40 degrees Fahrenheit outside.

Peanut is slowly losing sight in his one good eye (the other lost in a tragic No-That's-My-Dead-Rat fight with Boo, a dog three times his size) and his hearing is going as well. Sometimes I think it's because he has so much fur he can't tell where I'm standing when I call his name. But in reality, he's getting old. Poor little guy has seizures too.

Here he is enjoying a fresh hair-cut around his good eye. I usually give him a cut once a month when I visit since Mom will let it grow out like that sheepdog on the Warner Brothers cartoons and we just can't have that. Aimee and I were thinking he would look awesome with an eye-patch over his bad eye. While we're at it, maybe some hearing aids too. I'll have to work on that.

Friday, January 23, 2009

What kind of bird is this?

I know it's a bad photo but this is the best I could do at the time. Can anyone tell what kind of bird this is? I thought it was a Western Meadowlark but the colors don't quite match up. He's showed up twice now on our back fence.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Trying to leave before 8am

We're off to Mom's. I'm not sure what we'll be doing today. Trimming apple tree's, repairing plumbing problems and cutting wood are all possibilities.

I'm assuming there may be some drama related to her computer too because Mom has informed me she has Computer Rage and is shutting down her Internet access. When Mom told me she had Computer Rage I thought that was a clever term but she wasn't quite in the mood for jokes.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


It's hard for me to describe how I feel about today. I'm overwhelmed with it all, really. I have much hope for our country but at the same time I'm scared. Obama has been elevated to The Promised One status and I worry about our country's expectations of him. Obviously, being President is not an easy job and he's not going to be able to fix our problems over night or even in the next couple years. What happens when he fails? And fail he will, he's just a man. It's not that I doubt him or that I want him to fail, I just have realistic expectations.

Meanwhile, I'm hopeful that he may influence the youth of today, in particular the African American youth. I've spent a lot of time lately reflecting on the US history and the affects of slavery on our culture. You can see its negative affects on popular music, family structure, attitudes towards each other and more. It's pretty damn sad and I wasn't sure if we could ever dig ourselves out of it. Not until Obama was elected. I'm hoping Obama's election will help steer our country in a new direction regarding race relations and generally, in respect towards each other no matter which country we live in.

Maybe this will help our youth to realize that yes, you can dream and it can come true.

Watching Obama swear in, I was brought to tears. Tears for all those who have fought and died for this day. Tears of hope.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Blu-ray folly

Did you know Blu-ray players need a firmware upgrade after you purchase them? It may take days to weeks for the "Upgrade Firmware" message to appear on your screen. Meanwhile, you'll have viewed hours of video before you see the warning which seemingly has no reason for appearing.

It seems there are two different ways to upgrade firmware: 1) download the firmware upgrade to your computer, burn the image to a CD or DVD (this is important, there's a difference between saving the file to your CD and burning the image to the CD) and carefully following the very specific instructions to get your player to install the upgrade. Or 2) plug your Ethernet cable into the back of the player and allow the player to complete the upgrade. Mine doesn't have the option to plug in an Ethernet cable so I'm stuck with the CD.

After talking to a few different people about firmware upgrades, including some who work in the industry, there seems to be a difference of opinion over whether or not every Blu-ray player will require a firmware upgrade. So you can't exactly purchase one over the other in the hopes of avoiding this issue.

Honestly, the concept of having to upgrade your firmware seems ridiculous to me. Has this technology been released before it's actually ready? It seems prudent to make this type of information readily available to consumers (or to at least educate us since this is the new technology that is to replace DVD). After all, the boxes usually say something like, "Easy Set Up - Requires only an HDMI cable (not included) for the incredible images and quality High-Definition video." It actually states an HDMI cable is needed and that it's not included! This is obviously important and I appreciate the warning. Why couldn't it say anything about needing an Internet connection or include a quip about a required firmware upgrade? I can understand if it's necessary but damn! Why the sneakiness? Why the weeks of viewing enjoyment and then suddenly, it doesn't work? It's bull crap if you ask me!

I feel bad for those who have purchased the player and don't have Internet access. Or those who do have access to the upgrade AND STILL CAN'T GET PAST THE UPGRADE WARNING and consequently cannot view time-sensitive videos. Thank God I can still view some videos, so far it seems to be only Twentieth Century Fox videos that I can't watch. I'm still testing others though.

In other news, there are reports that the PS3 (which includes a Blu-ray player) will drop $100 in April. If we can't get our player to work, we're going to take it back and wait for the PS3. I consider myself to have decent knowledge when it comes to basic technology but this inability to upgrade my firmware has left a bad taste in my mouth.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

A little labor now for next winters heat

Mom doesn't chop down perfectly good trees to heat her home. Instead, after a good storm she spends hours driving mountain roads looking for fallen trees. After she finds a tree that has fallen near or over the road, she calls the Forest Service who in turn sends someone up to inspect and approve it. After approval and acquiring a wood permit ($10 per cord), it's time to cut and haul away as quickly as possible. You never know when some unscrupulous person may go steal your legally claimed wood before you can get to it.

Mom was lucky enough to find a huge fir tree that fell across the road and up the mountain side. I noticed the tree trunk had sustained a significant bit of damage some time in the past decade and its death was inevitable. The tree trunk was located at least 25 feet down a steep canyon below the road and was so tall that it broke into at least four pieces across the road and mountain above the road.

You can see here where the tree split down the middle and broke off. There's no way we could get to it unless we have some logging equipment. Fortunately it will not go to waste as this 30 foot tall broken tree trunk (snag) will eventually dry up and provide food and shelter for insects, birds and small animals.

Apollo and Critter (yes, that's what they call him) watch carefully as Steve saws away at part of the tree up on the hill above us. Chunks of falling wood hit the log below until it was eventually dislodged and rolled down into the ditch.

Poor Steve told us he can feel the vibration of the chainsaw in his hands for days after working with it. We ended up leaving a significant portion of the tree behind him since the labor needed to get to it was too great and not worth any risks.

Critter climbs part way up the hill to take the chainsaw from Steve so he can descend safely.

After working on the tree above, Steve started on the log that was left in the road. At this point we had already hauled away one truck and trailer full of rounds.

The first day we went up to get the wood, we noticed it was very wet. I broke a splinter off and bit it, then sucked the water out of it. It tasted like fir all right! I just thought it was interesting how much water was in this tree. I suppose the added weight of the water combined with its weakened trunk may have had something to do with the tree falling as well.

My cousin Elaine used her small chainsaw to cut up some wood. Everyone else thought it was a waste of time but she thought it was more wasteful to let it sit there and rot. I agreed with her and helped load it into the truck.

Apollo and Critter break apart rounds that were not quite sawed all the way through. We left quite a bit of this log behind since it was teetering on the edge of the canyon. I'm guessing there were about six more rounds left on it. But it was too dangerous.

Apollo worked his muscles cutting through this green wood. It was amazing how the water forced our axes to bounce right off the wood! That's my Mom catching her breath after stacking partially cut rounds in the trailer.

Just as we had finished, we heard a screaming sound, then a crack, the sound of branches rubbing on other branches and then heard and felt a loud boom of a tree falling in the canyon below us. Honestly, it sounded like the tree was screaming in pain before it busted open and fell. And to answer the often posed question, I would say that if no one was around, a tree does make a sound when it falls in the forest. That loud boom and all the trees that still surrounded us were all we needed to let us know it was time for us to leave.

I found out later Apollo thought "going to get wood" meant driving to a barn somewhere, buying it from some guy and loading it into a truck. He was in for quite a surprise as we drove past a dead cow, up a steep mountain road and through five miles of pot holes on a deserted logging road.

We later discovered the plug which connected the trailer electrical system to our truck a mile down the road, broken off. That was a nerve wracking ride down the mountain.

The fog rolling in through an area that had been logged, burned and replanted. Mom's house is a couple mountains away, somewhere down under that fog.

It's amazing how fast the sun moves. It wasn't long after the last photo that I was able to catch the beginning of a sunset. It's always a good idea to follow up a day of hard work by stopping and taking in the beauty around you.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Taking in the view

We're back from another long day hauling wood off a mountain. On our way back to Mom's with a truck and trailer full of wood, we saw one bobcat, three different herd of elk, two red tail hawk and a beautiful sunset with the fog settling in. I wasn't lucky enough to get any photos of the animals or at least not any that show more than a speck of color in the brush.

After all our hard work, it was nice to stop and take in the scenery. I plan on returning for a trip through the mountains just for photo taking opportunities. Mike, you would die!

I didn't think we would be so tired but we're exhausted. Partially from our day but also from traveling back and forth these past two days. We finally found a route home from Mom's that we like (there's several to choose from, some involving flat top without any paint). It's only 67 miles each way and takes an hour and a half to drive.

There is much debate within The Family over which route is the best but our favorite is the most traveled and is only four miles longer than the one The Family likes. Plus, I don't have to worry about cars illegally parked partially on the highway when I drive around a narrow hair-pin corner opposite a log truck. Someone, and if you read my blog often enough you know which loon I'm talking about, throws her rotten eggs at them. And yes, she actually saves her eggs by the bucket full just for this occasion.

The bad route also includes mud, land and rock slides which may take out the road at any time. And then there's innocent enough looking water which may result in water washing over your car obstructing your view for several seconds even with windshield wipers going at full blast. It turns out that slowing down to a seemingly reasonable 35 miles per hour is not actually reasonable at all. However, it did make my sister stop talking for several minutes. That, my friends, is an amazing feat.

We'll be trekking back to Mom's next week. I don't think chopping or hauling wood will be involved, maybe this time we'll scoop some of the mud out of Mom's spring (water supply) which is partially filtered with a bird cage.

You think I'm joking.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Fungus among us

Mom called me this morning and asked if we could come help load wood. It seems she found a fir windfall and was desperate to get to it before anyone else did. While she went to town to pick up the wood permit (the Forest Service had already marked it for her), I took a walk in one of the fields down by the infamous orchard (infamous due to it inhabiting bears that may or may not have been on a certain someone's menu-wish-list).

Yes, it appears grass is greener on the other side of the fence! The old apple orchard is on the other side of the fence towards the middle left of the photo. I try not to venture in this area after dusk due to wild creatures. Actually...I don't really go anywhere at Mom's after dark due to all the coyote, cougar, skunk and bear problems. I already have irrational fears of the dark and I don't need any real life situations to occur and make things worse. You see, I quickly jump on my bed every night because I can imagine a dried up brown, wrinkly hand reaching out from under the bed to grab my leg. I know it's silly but I can't help it, I start to get chills if I don't hop in bed right away. So if I were to unexpectedly see a coyote at night (you know, like if I wasn't in a controlled situation such as in Mom's car holding her rifle on my lap while she spotlighted the field looking for the coyotes howling over a new elk calf) I may or may not have an anxiety attack. And that would hurt.

During my walk I noticed several types of mushrooms growing in the field. There were at least three or four different types mixed in with the elk poop and grass. Ah, lovely elk poop! It was only a couple days old, I checked it. (And then there was that time I collected several elk poop samples in my pocket and took them to an Uncle to have him explain to me why some looked different than others. Hey, he was informative!)

This mushroom reminded me of that time in high school when Faythe and I were sitting at a campfire, laughing hysterically (OK there were thousands of times we laughed hysterically and mostly for no reason at all and no, we were not high even though everyone thought we were), and I accidentally flung my roasting marshmallow in her face. Oh, those were good times! You may be wondering about the looks like a roasted marshmallow, right?

These two mushrooms are just cute. It looks like the taller mushroom is trying to squash the growth of the shorter mushroom by leaning on him with his elbow. (The mushroom Man is keeping him down!) I also like the contrast of the barn roof, sky and grass to the neutral mushroom color.

Tomorrow, hopefully pictures of Paul Bunyan-like activity. Also a bonus Red Circle of Death story which involves a dead animal and a box of sugary snacks. Yum!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Starting at the bottom

I've started something new - cupcakes! You're looking at the bottoms of four cupcakes with one of the main parts in the background. (Is it me or do the cupcake bottoms look like nipple tassels?)

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed knitting with Debbie Bliss's Baby Cashmerino. After using sock yarn for so long, the cashmerino is a nice change. It's so soft!

Hopefully I'll have the cupcakes finished by the end of the week. The only thing thing that may hold me up is all the seaming. Other than that, it's nice to knit something other than socks.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


I haven't gotten as far as I'd like on my mitten. At this rate, it'll be too warm to wear them when I'm finished. HAHAHHAAHA Who am I kidding! It'll never get warm, I have plenty of time!

I really love the idea of color work but since it's so laborious (for me as a newbie), I'm having a hard time getting obsessed with it. But since I vowed to challenge myself with knitting this year, I'll keep at it. I've also already ordered more yarn for my next color work project.

In other news, I planted garlic today. I know I'm a month or two late but I should still get something from them come this fall. (I had no idea you're supposed to plant it in the fall. It turns out the garlic benefits greatly from the frost and other climate activity.) What I'm really worried about is the soil which doesn't look like it has good drainage. To combat that potential issue, I planted the garlic seed in three raised beds about eight feet long. I'm concerned about rot and the occasional grub I found in the soil while digging.

This spring we're hoping to plant tomatoes, onions, potatoes, herbs and squash. Until then, I need to dig out last years overgrown garden and prepare the soil. I can't wait to reap our harvest!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Holly tree

Mom's house sits in an area where pioneers built houses in the "olden days." Consequently her property contains many old trees. There about five apple trees in her front yard (the elk constantly raid them), probably another five in her driveway and an apple orchard down by the barn. Amongst the more unusual of her trees is a huge holly tree about fifteen feet from her front window. Though I'm not a fan of its prickly leaf, it sure is beautiful in the snow.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Some things I've missed

In the early morning hours before Mom's paranoid guinea hen starts calling out warning cries or the dog starts barking hysterically at hawks hovering in the sky, the sun peers over the mountains chasing the fog off the fields.

I love mornings in the country. Everything is fresh, cool and damp. Even in summer. The ground is blanketed with dew and soaks through shoes when walking through grass. In the winter, inhaling morning air is cleansing and refreshing. In the summer, it smells of grass, the creek and moss.

Photos courtesy of Apollo.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Hidden gems in the garden

With our new home we inherited a rundown garden. We were surprised to see tomatoes, onions, strawberries, corn and more trying to hang on in the cold of November. It looked like the last owner, once she sold the house, let everything go. And go it did! Tomatillo's were running rampant in the garden, the yard and up on the fence. Tomatoes had escaped their cages and wandered aimlessly. Corn sat on the stalks, rotting away. After some rain pushed down weeds, we found waterlogged onions and squash oozing in random locations.

Yesterday, my Grandma visited and helped me pull out all the corn stalks. We tried pulling them back in November but the earth was too dry and the corn wasn't ready to let go. Thankfully, the rain has since loosened the soil and it was easy for us to yank them all up. It wasn't until then that we were finally able to see all these gorgeous looking partially decomposed tomatillo husks laying on the ground. It's amazing they've held up this long through rain, snow, sleet, hail and frost.

Their texture is beautiful and haunting. I couldn't wait to take photos of them today between rain showers.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Zoe reaching nirvana?

If you've met Zoe, you know what I mean when I say she's a scaredy-cat. Sounds scare her. The scraping of a shoe makes her jump two feet. A loud burp, knock at the door, or someone coughing in the hallway is all scary enough to cause her to jump in the air, turn before touching the floor and run in the opposite direction. One of her nicknames is The Blur.

Well, since we've moved, Zoe has finally learned what it's like to live in a quiet, peaceful house. She rarely jumps or hides now. Even when someone deliberately slides their foot across the floor when she's walking by. (I would never do that though. Not me!) She also greets perfect strangers and meows at them (demanding a massage). I've never seen Zoe sleep with her stomach exposed or legs stretched out like she is now. Yes, Zoe is loving life.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Matching unmatching socks

I dunno, but I kind of like them! Deliberately asymmetrical, they gave me a chance to work on changing color. They're Aimee's now, an appreciator of the funky.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Some photos I meant to show you earlier

When we first moved here, the leaves were turning bright, beautiful colors. This is a leaf from a Maple tree/bush thing in our yard. It looks like a tree that someone tried to cut down that has since grown back in the form of a bush (it still has remnants of a stump). I may be wrong, I don't know anything about trees.

I took this after our first snow fairly early in the morning before any cars had driven through it. I just love how snow blankets everything and peacefully muffles sound. I'm hoping it snows more this winter.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Apollo: not a fan of woman-talk

Poor Apollo, he isn't very comfortable when I start asking him his opinion about yarn or knitting. (Or anything potentially woman oriented.) You'd think I was asking him to make a life or death decision about which yarn to use for the toe of the sock I was trying to complete. Video footage available here.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

I can hear Faythe chanting, "Rip, rip rip!"

I'm knitting some socks for my Aunt Lillian out of Colinette Jitterbug Moss but unfortunately have run out of yarn within a few inches of completing the second sock. After some surfing, I learned this is common with Jitterbug, the whole being a bit skimpy on the yardage issue.

So I have three options here:

1) Buy a whole new hank of yarn to complete the second sock.

2) Rip out the toe on the first sock and hope it's enough to complete the lace of the second sock, then use a different color to knit both toes.

3) Rip all the way back to the leg on both socks and shorten the leg, therefor guaranteeing I have enough yarn for the foot. I'm just crazy enough to do this, too.

Well, I don't think I'll buy any more, even though I love the yarn. Let the ripping commence!