This morning you're reading the Diary of a guy watching the chipmunks and squirrels out here tearing up the moss planter baskets to drag off nesting material..hm..seems that "somebody" knows the lovemaking season of Spring is coming up right away, eh?
It also seems that the wonderful time of dormant winter where you hope to get to read lots, have a warm fire burning, do some home-cooking, you know, be just a little lazy is going awfully fast and has been rudely interrupted by some destructive ice storms, etc. What the heck? "I had just settled in for my long winter's nap, when out in the yard there arose such a clatter ........." we didn't know what to think.
Since then, things have calmed down some and cleanup chores were combined with annual apple & plum tree pruning. The pruning's done now,
and the cleanup is looking MUCH better. The yard remains so wet though the clay is still very full of water..it feels sponge-like when you walk out there. A couple of the trees are badly bruised from losing so many limbs. It will be next year before we'll see how well they heal.
We have had some off-on great weather lately though, so that by Sunday Feb 22 we were able to get the pile of Fir branches sitting on the garden to burn...the fire finally got going so we also raked all the fir branches under the big fir out front and carried them to the fire. Took a couple of hours of stirring and lifting since some of it was still a little wet, but the fantastic dry day allowed a major step in cleanup. We now have a little layer of potash to help the garden get a spring start that's almost close enough to 'feel' in the air.
We had company at the end of January and no less company than some of the finest and missed cousins from Rodger's family:
Bruce, Kevin, and Karen arrived Friday night: January 30.....for 4 days....of fun and fun. And maybe a cooking demo.
We ate German food, cooked at home, talked and talked.... We took a Pahlahniuk tour of Portland.
Chuck Pahlahniuk is a Portland native who actually lived on the streets a few years ago and was drugged out for a while. While in that mode he got to see some odd things here. He's now recorded those into a book that Bruce got for us so we "knew" we had to see a couple of those things while they were here. As with anything in print, when you see it "live", a few are already gone. The Advertising Museum had been closed for six months (lack of funding) when we went to visit, and the "haunted" picture hanging at the Heathman had gotten so famous that the company had moved it to the corporate headquarters in, of all places, Modesto, CA where Karen is from. The most striking discovery without question was a massive mausoleum sitting in SE Portland along the Willamette River. Began at the turn of the century, the building has been patched onto, added here and there until now it's five or six stories tall and massive. The entire building is unheated so if you go, take a coat..but there were lots of very interesting nooks and crannies to see. It was so odd a place, we all found it interesting and although I can understand anyone asking, "What? You took visitors to a graveyard?", it truly is something to see.
Oh well, we also took them to the infamous Portland Cabaret Drag Show since they hadn't been to see it. It was fun yet again for us, but we think we're seeing the end coming for this fascinating couple who've been together over 40 years and been doing this show for 35. The managing partner, "Roxie" is now permanently confined it appears to one of those little motorized scooters because of bad hip surgery and a fall afterwards while "Darcelle" is beginning to ramble and forget lines .. They're both in their mid seventies, so it's quite amazing to see the crew keep this out-of-time out-of-place joint running to packed houses in 2004. The walls are literally covered in celebrity photos of past visitors, many of whom are no longer around.
We celebrated Valentine's Day in an odd way (to some) . . . . . . we headed out with a real bird-watching tool, a "Spotting Scope" given to Mark from Rodger at Christmas attached to our camera tripod that also fit the scope. The destination? Sauvie Island. That huge flood-plain of fabulously rich deep soil that sits at the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers..deep soil that's been deposited over millions of years of spring floods and now bordered by lots of dykes to reduce the times the river actually invades the rich farm land. Some of the houses are built ON berms as high as the levees surrounding the island. Inside these barriers sit hundreds and hundreds of acres of prime produce farm land as well as many wet-lands that evolved into prime bird migration routes over the last many millenia. We've written about this before, so you probably know that in spring and fall millions of birds pass through. Winter however brings on something else. Oddly enough, we have written about our Alaska native Varied Thrush that winters up here at the house, but on the island thousands of huge Tundra Swans as well as beautiful Snow Geese Winter from a fascinating breeding season spend near or even above the arctic circle. Lots of travel. Our Varied Thrushes here are truly gorging this last week...and will for about another two before they disappear from here about Mid-March to head for the Arctic.
We saw some beautiful birds but HAD forgotten the camera, so with apologies here's a "sample" (web pics) of a few of the greater birds we observed with our high power scope:
the Great Blue Heron - watched him catch and eat a mouse...and we thought they only ate fish. Quite the spectacle him tossing that mouse around to get him disabled enough to swallow.
Northern Harriers - many of them.
The beautiful black-wing-tipped snow geese
Any SO many others....it truly was something "new" to us to have the scope to solidly planted on the tripod. There were several instances we saw identifiable flocks of CRANES (3-4 feet tall birds at least) through the scope but without it, saw nothing but pastures in the distance.
We looked in the tall trees by one observation booth as someone noted they'd seen Great Horned Owls in those trees...what we DID see was a family of Raccoons lazily sleeping the day away.... One spot on the levee we watched as a pair of coyotes sort of hunted along an entire lakeside..stirring up the birds as they approached. Didn't see them score one meal the entire time. This was a splendid time, and we ended
it by driving to Scappoose for an excellent fresh Mexican Meal at a new place, "Ixtapa"......you should try it.
Upon our return, we found that neighbors Peter and Lisa had a tree guy completely remove the 25-30 year old Ponderosa Pine from the immediate front of their house.....Base of the tree was probably about 30" diameter.....dozens of smaller branches had to be moved back of the
house while the long trunk was cut into about 16-18 inch lengths. Mark joined Peter in this big effort because they have no woodstove, so we
were given the large wood pieces. So, all of a sudden this became quite the project as we loaded wood into our pickup, moved just up to the end of our driveway and stacked for later splitting, then moving somewhere into a woodpile for aging ........a big contribution to next year's wood for warmth.
(this isn't all.the BIG stump pieces are still in Peter & Lisa's yard. This led to an exhausted Mark by end of day.......and Rodger too who had
a cooking project going on at the same time. THANKS for the heat supply, Peter & Lisa !
We also saw a mesmerizing DVD this same weekend, "Capturing the Friedmans". With all its awards, you may have already heard of it. It's a MOST engrossing story wherein the viewer may have VERY different opinions about the level of guilt in this dysfunctional family and how mass hysteria or a prejudicial and bullheaded police group may literally force a conviction and subsequent destruction of an entire innocent family. We also took in the Bonus disc the next day and it was just as engrossing as the movie itself. Hours of discussion followed. All of this took place in the late 80's, a period you may remember where hysteria and interview methods used by police created huge "rings" of pedophiles out of honest citizens. Most of the scandals have been erased, but there are still a few victims behind bars because of this period...the "Friedmans" were one of those families.
Flying Squirrels have been out in force....some nights there are now three jumping in and out of the tray feeder and almost always two for at
least 10-20 minutes at a time. So the truth IS we really do not know how big the flyer population is.....since we've seen some as late as 2400 and also early in the morning before dawn.
By Thursday, February 19, while waiting for the duct-cleaning guys...(a "dead mouse" smell is eminating from below).....Mark managed to spray
apple, plum and neighbor Karen's trees and blueberries, then spray around the house for insects, then discover a new leak in the outside water pipe (so cleaned that up and turned that water off again), give the entire roof the annual Moss-kill treatment, and eat a sandwich before the duct guys arrived to find:
**NO animal dead in the ducts, but insulation under the floors is no longer attached to the flooring and so THAT must be fixed and the "dead mouse" is probably somewhere out in that mass of insulation. The Ducts could NOT be cleaned because after cutting a hole to get TO the ducts, we could all see that one of the intake ducts is simply unattached to the master..just hanging there in some loose insulation. That just exactly explains why our heat bill was $190. for January.....and WE thought it was the arctic air we had!!!!! SO we have to FIX the duct first, get the ducts cleaned (they are dirty since they've NEVER been cleaned in 20 years), and then finally get a contractor to come out and re-attach all the insulation and only "HOPE" that in the meantime he finds the corpse we need to get out of there. Crawling in this narrow crawlspace under this house is a dirty, nasty, suffocating job.......and will cost some money, unfortunately....but we HAVE to do it...it will probably pay itself back about $50-60 dollars monthly in the heating season so only take 2-3 years to pay itself back. But I suppose the house will be warmer on the floors in the meantime. We NOW have learned that dumb lesson once again: do NOT tolerate pests any longer than the period you become aware they're there. This one would be Mark's admitted mistake. He put ouf some poison in October.......so as soon as the guy was ill, he came in to the warmth and died..... yuk. And thank you for listening! ! ! ! !
We see (as of an entry this morning, February 23), the 'smell' is beginning to go away. The decay process helped we're sure by opening the vents under the house a month early and letting the air move through. We have been using the wood stove more to generate heat, and been glad we've had it while this event occurred. There will be more to this story as we get it all taken care of.
We tried to fix the plumbing leak, bought the little soldering kit, flux, etc.....but haven't gotten the knack of getting solder to seal where the break is since it's in a down position...how to get that stuff to flow uphill isn't something we learned in school... Have to see.
One good note is we have completed and filed our Federal Tax Returns since we'll have a return. Sad to say, in Oregon, where the truly amateur legislature here that can't get a grasp how to manage money, Mark has to pay. We BOTH have to pay a levy voted in by the residents of Multnomah county, and our complaint there is the same. There IS MONEY in the till, but it's wasted in almost every department of government service there is. Oh well, we'll get our return back from the federal in time to pay the state and county. The city ALSO is working on a huge "pipe" to finally take care of the overflow rain water that pollutes the Willamette here in town. The water rates were at about $24. in 1996 when we moved in and by 2010, they're projected to be $64. monthly......here in the land of water !
Oh well............the day is grey and damp but this should be posted..............
Hope our friends and family are well and reasonably happy . . . .having been raised to think, "It could be worse".....I'm still trying to get that other spin in my spiritual state, 'I can't imagine how things could be any more wonderful than they are right now"...and in a way, that's true.