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April, 2004 | Scuff Productions

Hummer PICS! GOOD Pics.

Bloged in birding by mark Tuesday April 20, 2004

***From an e-mail sent to Nancy, Carol, and MaryAnn……..Rodger caught some great hummingbird pics and we wanted them on the web page, so here’s the e-mail note:

Hey Ladies,

Nancy said she expected some more spectacular hummingbird photos this year and we figured that we laughed! We would never be able to top those shots. After all these guys are really skittish and we only have so many windows to shoot through, which limits our angles.

So last night I was playing around with the spotting scope and found a way to shoot pics from a distance but it was hard to get a good focus. Although we did a few shots that made us see the potential such as this little guy sticking his tongue out at his nearest rival…or is he showing off to the girls?

So tonight I was standing outside near a feeder and two females decided to come in and feed. I was two feet away and really annoyed that I didn’t have my camera with me. I should know better by now…always carry the camera, even if you’re going to pee under a tree. You never know what may happen.

So into the house I run to grab the camera then out to the feeder to see if the girls would come back.

Well, not only did the girls come back but this male made an appearance first.

Not long after he flew off, one of the females decided to zip in for a sip.

She only dipped in a few times before the male decided to send her on her way. Obviously he has another girl he’d rather see at the feeder. After all…there were two females feeding there before I got my camera.

Oh the drama!!

So I have to say that I was more than surprised to find that I actually can top last year’s photos. It just takes a bit more time and patience but it certainly pays off.

I hope you enjoy them and thanks for the challenge, Nancy!

Hopefully there will be more to come.


Jury Duty calls on Mark

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Wednesday April 14, 2004

Argghhhh! The American Patriot does his County Duty !
Jury Duty that is. What a grueling task. For the first time in about 6 times I’ve done it, I sat and sat and sat and sat for the entire day without being asked to a Courtroom for consideration of being empaneled for deciding whether the defendant is innocent or guilty. This makes a LONG day, some forced conversation with strangers, watching some true idiots expound on life as they “know it to be”. It was raining to walk to find some cheap lunch, we Americans now have to enter the Courthouse through the same security panels as an airport (the stories of what people are trying to get into the courthouse is frightening! When I first did jury duty, it was an honored thing, free parking, courtesy, courtesy, etc…… you’re left wondering what have we come to). Back tomorrow for another experience. Hopefully I will be empaneled and help decide whether the person trying to get compensation for her headaches (or could be murder, I don’t know), is innocent since she had, you know, spent the last couple of weeks lounging at the Local Dine and Dance until 0300 hours…… IF I get impaneled, I hope it’s something interesting and worthwhile. But, it’s an honored American Tradition I DO believe: Justice For and By the People.

I only wished the woman I was sitting next to hadn’t told me about two hours into the day that she was just coming down with a cold. /mark

Spring is Cookin’ – Lots of Wildlife

Bloged in birding,garden,General Home Life,Pacific Northwest by mark Monday April 12, 2004

We are amazed how little we are really “aware” of all the life going on around us on this little place that sits halfway between the equator and the Arctic, that rises to 1100 feet above the valley/river bottom land, on hilltops that just begin to curve a little northward with the river’s path and catches so many Gorge Westbound breezes, enough so that this little patch of forest seems to have a unique life of its own. Sure, its part of all life that moves and migrates in and around it, but it’s not exactly like the Willamette River Valley Farm Land climates, not like the Gorge Climates, and not like the Coast Range climates either.

Each year these big exciting NW Spring Seasons sneak in and stay and stay and stay. Once again, I emphasize in 8 spring seasons living at this same spot, none have been just alike, or, maybe, just maybe, we’re just beginning to tune into the micro-world we are part of. Each spring we seem to “get it” just a little more in detail than before, and in each time, it’s with awe and wonder.

For the first time, we really heard the Great Horned Owls hooting at night to call territory, but learned that their early ‘hooting’ (in February – early March) was this predator’s call to mate and nest. The Owl’s want their young hatched, and ready for the baby birds that will be born later as well of course, as chipmunks & squirrels. It never occurred to me that the predator’s young are best served getting raised earlier than the herbivores.

This spring has been a complete surprise because of its dry warmth. Easter weekend daytime highs here are normally just hitting 60 degrees but this year are forecast to hit 80 with bright sunny gorgeous balmy slow breezes wafting across the hills. Because of that, we have begun to get some things done that in the last 8 years here haven’t finished until middle or late May.

This bright warm weather just might be the reason we’re tuning into life here just a notch deeper than before since we’re out in it earlier. For example, just yesterday, I was planting some Viburnum on the front slope of the property facing the roadway, plants kindly given to us by great friend and neighbors, Baird & Karen, and out of the ground in one shovel of cool damp dirt comes a small pink salamander just as confused as could be about the sudden bright light. I carefully placed him back into the earth, gently covered him, and moved over a foot….and was just amazed this little creature was living there bothering no one, and quietly living, breathing, as though no one else existed. We KNEW there were salamanders/newts around but just thought they’d be closer to water, so didn’t expected to find them, but no, eight years into this, here he was. I relished the little moment, such a tender fragile little creature. Or maybe the NEXT thing I learn is that this wasn’t a newt at all but a salamander?

A picture of a work-day this week with the last of the wood-to-be-split, work equipment, woodshed open, all within the umbrella scene of our exploding flowering tree just may be able to tell the reader must more easily just why it’s powerful magic to be outdoors on days like these when in truth, we’re enjoying days that usually don’t happen until last of May or in June here:

It’s been a relief to have the winter ice storm cleanup get finished up………except for getting rid of Cork Screw Willow branches anyway. AT least those are now piled up in one corner awaiting someone to give them a designer home. All the branches are gone, wood piles picked up and stacked in the back, some burned, and then some spots raked up to begin life anew. We HAD mentioned these willows before so now we’ll put in the picture of the branches that have been in the house for 6 weeks in water….just in a vase:

Actual size – they’re about 4 feet tall………………

Next winter’s wood supply is almost complete and stored in the woodshed ……. The wood splitting has been mentioned before, but we have NEVER had the next seasons wood split and stored by the end of March! Now we can begin to plan the wood supply for 2005’s winter!

Another real big thing I’m just learning in more detail is about the little birds and squirrels lives this early in the year. For some reason I just didn’t think their lives got any more complicated than ours before the damp cool weather began to dry out in May/June…. But no, that was completely wrong. Birds lives are directed more by the number hours of daylight than the temperatures, as Nancy remembers teaching me in the “past” but not internalized here. Since it was bright and dry, I kept looking for some birds to already have arrived back here in groups, but now realize they ARE coming, just not all at once. The ones that are here now have already paired up, are singing bright and beautiful in the mornings, and believe it or not, are nesting already. AT the feeders daily now, we have at least one or more pairs of: Purple Finch, House Finch, Evening Grosbeaks, Mourning Doves, and then single or groups of the other usual residents: Bewicks Wrens, Song Sparrows, Towhees, Woodpeckers, Robins, Chickadees, Nutchatches, ALL of whom are being irritated daily by Chipmunks, Douglas and Fox Squirrels and the Stellar Jays.

Here is a “birds-eye-view” looking from the tray feeder back into the Family Room where we in turn, give them the “human-eye-view” back:

My Dad’s old Birdbath no one else wanted when Dad died was brought here and has been a faithful servant to hundreds of birds but none more elegantly than the daily bath robins take. The bath almost needs refilling every day or two because Robins take full wing-flapping, dipping, active baths, which makes sense since they spend so much time on the ground. It’s great to watch them take a ‘manly’ dip. Sadly enough, I see this old birdbath now has a big crack in it (probably from the frozen temps we had in the winter) so may following Dad to rest soon. Another reason I’ve enjoyed it so much is that I’m sure Dad just picked it up because it was cheap at a garage sale or was free. He never filled it that I saw……it never showed a sign of use when it first came here. But, Dad, Thanks for picking it up along your way, we put it to good use.

Our new Dirt Berm at the front of the property has had to take a round of Poison after we found big doses of a primitive plant coming up in abundance, the Horsetail Ferns. These relics of long ago had sat around Dave’s house for eons probably just waiting for a chance for air exposure. When moved here, up they came, and we can see that Dave has the same stuff coming up too. Well, so our landscaping project for the berm just waits a month or so…….no big deal. That was more learning, about this ancient plant that only moves in and chokes things out when it’s finally disturbed…..after perhaps hundreds of years. Whew! I sprayed the berm the first time around with a combination of roundup and brush killer, diluted… killed everything but the ferns. Last Saturday, I returned to finish them off (there will no doubt be round 3-4 before they’re gone) with full-strength roundup and brush killer simply painted on with a small brush….so that ONLY these plants are targeted and not the entire soil area. I had just enough left to paint some of the horsetails growing along Skyline just at our border.

The vegetable garden spot has been roto-tilled once, and a couple rows planted in lettuce, potatoes, a few onion, we split the rhubarb, and are also watching last year’s herb plants reviving: Oregano, Sage, Chives, Onion, and Shallots. To those we’ve added a new Thyme plant…that was a GREAT spice to use over the winter and I was glad I’d learned what it really does. Great in Fish and Chicken……….and Salad Dressings. My experiment with the green onion worked. Last fall’s planting is now up and blooming. I intend to let it go to seed….and watch the sprouts….I’m planning on a summer availability of green onion coming up in a few spots for no effort…… here’s the onion bloom, actually very nice:

Now, we’re not going out on a limb recklessly and plant other stuff….we still do not believe this weather trend will last. So the last soil conditioning treatment will happen in mid-may: Adding composted manure, compressed alfalfa pellets ($6 for 50 lbs of this cheap slow-release horse food), and the other secret ingredients to magic garden soil…..till it all in and begin planting everything except the corn….the corn will go into seed pots in the garage for another 3 weeks and get out there about June. The Tomatoes too will be set out only with those insulating thick plastic water jackets …. An exciting part of the late spring.

Mark got to see an exciting event (in some opinions)………………………
While typing something at the office computer Wednesday morning, he noticed in the window some flurry of something under a fir tree just about 20 feet away….looking up , he saw the Cooper’s Hawk just letting go of “something”…..that something wasn’t dead, and took off into the tree above…..only about 3 feet up. That Hawk just watched and watched him, moved himself around into other positions until he felt just right, and simply jumped up….wrestled for at least 10 seconds in that tree while I watched some feathers fly all around, and then all get quiet. Without a blink, the Hawk took off with a ROBIN carried in his claws! I felt like I was on an African safari! The predator Hawks are simply beautiful.

We also went back to Sauvie Island last weekend, but got down there a little late to see the morning feeding behaviors but were rewarded with the Bald Eagle sightings – – 3 just off the roadway up in trees. They were so close when viewed through the binoculars, you’d have sworn they were giants. What a beautiful spectacular bird these Eagles are.

Easter! While the saved are rejoicing indoors, we heathens celebrated the joyous weather by attending the semi-annual Hardy Plant Sale. The “Hardy” simply represents how “hardy” plants are, i.e., they are either native to the NW, or they are from similar climes so that they do well in our cool damp climate. We went with Nancy, Carol, Julie, Bob & Rhonda. . . . . .at the Washington County Fairgrounds, it’s always an interesting place to see unusual plants brought in by many specialty nurseries and growers around the area. We all shopped, put plants in boxes, shopped, then cashed out…..and I think WE got the most eye catching tree. A Chinese weeping elm……just sprouting for spring caught a LOT of people’s attention and remarks. It was quite unusual. But the big surprise was walking it to the car when we passed a Chinese couple….she gasped, mouth open, and I had to ask “What?”….she explained she hadn’t seen one since growing up in China where, this time of year, as they’re sprouting their blooms/seeds, those parts were edible and eaten regularly by her family.

SO. That was fun, but not as fun as all of us then traveling to Carol’s place for lunch, where we were served an elegant Corn Salad, everything in it fresh—except the black beans….it’s SO GOOD, I’m adding the recipe at the end of this note. Nancy served some great Nan bread with a garlic cheese sauce, and Rhonda & Julie combined to make a fabulous spring strawberry shortcake. Nothing says SPRING like Strawberry Shortcake, eh?

From there, now pleasantly plump, er, full, and full of caffeinated Iced Tea, we came home to work and plant. We did get some things done. Rodger cleaned out flower beds….they now look great. Mark tilled, smoothed, raked, mulched, and re-seeded the lawn space that had been torn up when we had the crane pull out the tree stump last year by the garage… if he can just remember to keep it damp for a couple of weeks.

We wonder how everyone’s doing at this busy time of year. Aunt Paula’s home for some ‘weeks’ recovering from shoulder surgery, Niece Shauna’s just about to go through her second childbirth…..amidst completing all her doctoral requirements in Santa Barbara (whew), Marilee is on a an “elder hostel tour” of Greece—sounds interesting. So what’s going on around this planet for your spring?

Mark & Rodger.

File: Black Bean & Corn Salad – I guarantee you will LOVE THIS.

BLACK BEAN AND CORN SALAD (from Nancy Grossenbacher)

Mix together in large bowl:

2 15 oz. Cans black beans
1 10 ounce package frozen white corn
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
1 bunch green onions, finely chopped
1 avocado, cubed (add right before serving salad)

Mix together in blender:

½ cup olive oil
1/3 cup (generous) lime juice….2 whole limes
1-2 gloves garlic, minced
3-5 serrano chilies, chopped (I used 3)
½ cup cilantro, minced (or more)
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
Salt to taste

Pour dressing over salad and allow to cool for several hours. Add avocado right before serving.

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