Berry Season takes a new Turn July 7.

Bloged in food: recipes + dining out,garden,General Home Life by mark Monday June 30, 2008

**note: WE have been OUT of communication since last Monday when dear friends Serafina and David arrived from Alameda, CA. There has been non-stop gabbing, eating, dining, laughing, dog-chasing-squirrel runs, more talking, laughing, dining, and a phantasmagorical phriday night in St Johns Friday where we karoake’d our way into the wee hours and spent Saturday in the heat wave recovering. MORE on that all later.

I have to catch up 100 hundreds things today now that these wonderful friends have gone and taken their “kids” Abby & Glenda, the pups, with them. Mac is in withdrawal.

The BERRY blurb? OUR raspberry jam is made from one specific variety of berry, the “Cascade Delight” only available here at West Union Gardens, just 3 miles from the house. Last year we made many batches on June 15. That shows you how cool the spring was. THIS YEAR, the berries begin harvest NEXT MONDAY, July 7. We will be placing two flats on reserve and be making my yearly favorite Raspberry Jam with Sure-Jell LITE pectin. This is how they will look on our counter one week from now:
1bverry3

Whoopee!

BTW, one of our favorite native Forest Park flowers is now blooming down there, and I always love seeing it the first time:
1tiger lily

I hope to catch up on a little web friends reading THIS week.

A short sharp shinned observation

Bloged in birding by mark Friday June 20, 2008

I just had another little voyeur thrill……..

First I see a very mottled, paler robin shaped bird land on a branch right outside this office window. It looks around, I spot two robins 10 foot back in the sun in the grass lightly chirping. A couple loud chirps and this youngster sort of flutters to the ground near them where Mom immediately puts “stuff” in its mouth. Wow! A baby robin just being taught how to live. Not quite a good flyer yet, but just a FEW days from being on its own in this world.

Than.

I see, out of the corner of my eye, commotion. I look out to see a small Sharp Shinned Hawk IN flight flying all around a Fox Squirrel with claws extended……..WHEW! What a chase….the squirrel did NOT run up a tree into the safety of branches. Why, I don’t know. He kept circling. The hawk paused…..sat on a flat branch to observe.
shrpshnned

Hawk takes off again….same poses, claws out, just missing the big squirrel who can dart in different directions instantly.
foxsqrrl
This happens TWO more times before the hawk gives up and flys off. The squirrel continues to graze…….seems he didn’t feel too threatened, OR……..he feels he has the skills he needs to avoid being dinner.

The REAL story is, I never dreamed this small hawk would take on the big bushy Fox, a squirrel that doesn’t belong here in the NW. It was introduced by settlers from the N.E. who thought this bushy big guy was a lot more handsome than the smaller native Douglas Squirrels. We rather like our native squirrels…..THESE are the guys you can almost walk up to and they sit watching you, but sit there…….they’re brave little guys:
douglas sqrrl

Must go…….am way behind on that summer list of things needing work………………………….

Walk in the Park – Sometimes a Surprise

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Wednesday June 18, 2008

Rodger is coming home today! He needs to GET here collapse, relax, and be away from the fire. I will be so happy to see him this afternoon. Imagine! I even cleaned a house! Whoo! I bought some more Shuksan strawberries for this home-coming and have in mind two huge dishes of fresh strawberry shortcake in late afternoon with plenty of whipped cream! I have things ALL ready to go…………. just before I leave for the airport, I’ll quarter enough berries for this event, drizzle just a bit of sugar on them, and let ‘em wait for our return from the airport! Should be fun….. NOTHING sweeter than a strawberry from the Northwest just off the vine.

However……………………we got a huge surprise in the park on yesterday’s dog walk.

Yep, I wrote about walking in the park. This much hiked place is a fairly civilized place of course. Wildlife is in there, but you just don’t see it on the trails during the daylight.

We were within about 200 feet of a corner just like in one of the pics I posted last week:
12ellie
when, just around the next corner, coming toward us, was what I first thought were two rather thin german shepherds. About the time I realized there was NO hiker with them, I realized I was looking at coyotes. They realized at that same moment what it was THEY were looking at, did an unhurried turn, and disappeared. I breathed a sigh of relief MAC haven’t seen them, or if he did, he only thought they were other dogs he knew he’d soon be greeting. Ah. relief. So we continued on to that corner ….

Just as MAC hit that corner, he breathed in the scent of the coyote. An animal he has chased in circles up here at home. MAC went WILD. A growl, and paws to the ground, he took off as fast as he could go, disappeared around the next corner, then OFF into the forest, up the hill, down, around, all over, huffing all the way. I couldn’t believe this was a simple dog who loved chasing sticks. He really tried to find the villains for about 5 minutes, Ellie even getting excited about Mac’s chase but she wasn’t sure what it was she was supposed to be finding.

Since coyotes are rather solitary animals, I am simply guessing this pair was together as parents or considering becoming parents………… That was one Exciting 10 minutes………….

THIS morning, returning from the walk, JUST as left the parking area to turn up Newton, Peter observed a beautiful thick grass & stick nest…..and a bird sitting in it. As I turned to look, the bird silently flew out and disappeared. I thought it a robin but we weren’t sure. The nest was just 2 feet off the ground and I know robins do not nest very high. I walked over to see what color the eggs were…….no eggs. a pile of just born baby birds was there, so NEW, they were simply sleeping off Mom’s last meal. Breathtaking.

Home we came. I am cleaning house, MAC just finished getting a real clean bath, clothes in the machine, I’m looking forward to seeing my pal soon……..and hope to help him relax after this most awful life experience he’s just been through.

Hope all’s well……………………………….

Summer arrives in Portland? First Marker: Strawberry Freezer Jam.

Bloged in birding,General Home Life,Nature,Pacific Northwest by mark Monday June 16, 2008

Poor Rodger. He flew off to California family duty on the last day of a cold heavy gray day, just like almost every other spring day we’ve had this year. Since then the weather has exploded into summer, which means the long list of yard duties that have been lazily postponed for two months came calling.

Nature’s kids, the birds, don’t seem to have changed one behavioral note. Junco’s, for example, are on their second nesting season, and if lucky, will complete four this year. I would imagine that’s the price of being the little brown bird who stays here year round despite mud, snow, wind and cold. They are handsome little birds:
nicejunco

The bird is so small but sure have learned to build thick sturdy nests:
junco01
(No harm was done to a Junco Egg or Chick in taking this picture. This nest was pulled out of the lawn AFTER the baby’s left)…..And the “real” size?
junco02

We’re having a second season encounter with one Ms. Junco. We noticed a female junco flying out of the plants just outside the garage every time we came outside a week ago. She would land on the closest tree branch to us and begin “chip chip chip chipping” at us constantly. Here’s where this happens:
juncnest01

I thought I better find this nest and protect it if needed. So I looked closer
juncnest02

then closer………….. Then I realized it was not ON the ground. Because we’d postponed planting of all those May 5 plants purchased at the Canby sale, they were still sitting on the garden wagon. She nested in there. Can you see the nest?
juncnest04

Now?
juncnest05
Juncos don’t reason through about safety before they nest, but we love ‘em ’cause they stay year round. We’re happy they chose our lawn to make nests in…IF we see them at all and know a parent is chipping at us, we make sure they’re protected for the duration of the nest cycle.

This birding favorite, the Evening Grosbeak juveniles are being seen regularly. The lack of smooth feathers, and the one in back showing off her punk hairdo are signs, these are kids:
babyevenings

On Friday, I found Shuksan Strawberries down on the island at one of the little farms….what a find:
sjuksanstrawberry
I don’t think there’s a better strawberry than when local northwest strawberries are in their short season.

These Shuksans were luscious. Two flats returned to this house, one half flat given to neighbors, and the rest became my favorite “memory of my Mom”…….FRESH FREEZER JAM…………….. Here’s how it looks before (the spray whipping cream added for drool effect):
jambefore
Here’s how it looked afterwards:

jamafter
**Along with a completed batch of hummingbird food.

Those containers sit for 24 hours, then go into the freezer. Yes, I did have to clean out a few year old things in there…. How often to YOU get around to THAT little task?

Other tasks keeping me busy while Rodger’s gone have included: repairing the big wine casks that had been turned over by vandals out at driveway’s edge while we were in NY……….., removing the LOST veggies like corn that didn’t make it through the cold WET nights of May, and re-planting new starts, new seedlings, new lettuces, new onions, squash, cucumber, tomatillos. Harvesting rhubard and freezing, mowing lawns, edging with a shovel much of the yard, spraying the driveway for plant growth, trapping moles….mostly “attempting” to do so, etc etc etc.

Oh well…………it’s been the busiest I’ve been since last June….It seems when summer explodes in the Pacific Northwest, you better plan on some long days. I hope these sun days are here to stay. I miss Rodger very much.

Life Changes- Update sunday

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Sunday June 15, 2008

Rodger is in California. His only sibling, his sister Cheryl did not wake up from sleep Tuesday night. She was 53. As the only sibling, it has fallen on Rodger to take on the giant task of straightening out all the loose ends. There are many loose ends.

It is so busy at home, I couldn’t go at least right away……….we’ll see. Posting will take a rest for a bit.

M
= = = =

Added Sunday, June 15:
**Thanks for all your supportive e-mails, and comments. ALL of them were forwarded to Rodger, who, although using a dial-up saw what you’d sent. That means a lot………thanks a million. It’s been a real struggle dealing with unresolved issues. / mark

I’m Voting Republican – the Documentary

Bloged in Political by mark Sunday June 15, 2008

For your consideration:

A Garden “woops” & misc

Bloged in garden,General Home Life,Pacific Northwest by mark Tuesday June 10, 2008

The berm is looking better than when the dirt was just dumped here 3 years ago:
irish208

SO. In the mad rush to get ready for NYC nearly 4 weeks ago, I prepared our $20. greenhouse (plastic frame with plastic wrap).
nocrnsed1
I personally mixed our own potting soil, placed it into the little 4 inch pots to get the corn seeds sprouted and up by the time we got back because it would be high time to plant them that 1st week of June. Got it all placed inside the greenhouse, got distracted and returned 3 weeks later to review progress. Nothing was up:
norcornsed2
Hm. I waited 4-5 more days before I dug in those little pots to see what happened. NOT ONE seed had been placed in these pots. I walked into the garage, there was the package intact. SO now…….will we be eating garden corn late summer or not? I did the “real” planting last Friday. We’ll see.

The garden tomatoes are all in surrounded by those “kozy-coats” ….these aren’t all tomatoes. 8 are tomatoes, the rest are HOT peppers:
wallsowater2008
The tomato coats will come off first in about a month, but the peppers will remain almost 2 months….into the hottest part of our summer.

The bent lawn. That was my second problem. I got back from NY, mowed the lawn and got furrows:
bent lawn
After introspection, I thought, hm. I MUST have put that blade on wrong. That was a pretty stupid thought since it mowed all last summer just fine………. I got the ramps down, brought out the tools, went to the shed, got the mower and parked it by the ramps. I got off the tractor…….looked at it from behind. It was leaning sideways. GEEZ! How is it that I am NOT thinking? As soon as the flat tire was inflated…..voila! Smooth lawn this week.

Oh well……..12 years into living here, and I still forget some basics, eh?

Our Forecast? RAIN for four more days. Below 50 at night. We’re ALL tired of this wet weather.

On the happy side, THIS was the cutest post ANY chick could have given me. I went out on the deck, he didn’t fly off, but moved to the back side of the feeder. He couldn’t resist this cute look at me though:
maleblckhdchick

Store Wars: May the Farm be with You!

Bloged in food: recipes + dining out,garden,humor by mark Tuesday June 10, 2008

So you liked star wars? Yeah, this is 5-6 minutes long, but tells you of a great battle going on between good and evil and it ain’t science fiction:

DO NOT join the Dark Side, Join Darth Tater and beat the farce!

A Walk in the Park. (with Buddy, Mac & Ellie & humans)

Bloged in birding,General Home Life,Nature,Oregon,Pacific Northwest by mark Thursday June 5, 2008

With all the annual wild plants at their green “peak” I decided to do a large post with pictures of what we see on our usual morning dog walks. Dog walks include Me, Mac, Baird, Karen & Ellie, and Peter & Jeanne ….. THIS week houseguest “Buddy”
buddypose
was along for these walks. He’s been a great pal to Mac while his pets Thomas & Brenda flew off to the Heartland Wisconsin for T’s older brother’s wedding. We are ALWAYS glad to have Buddy. Since it’s still SO damp and wet, each dog usually gets a little hose spray on their undersides when we return. They have a ball.

I ALWAYS have an astounding nature experience walking this old growth 5000 acre old growth forest Portland saved and has called Forest Park. A walk here is never mundane, never unappreciated on any level.

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Although the pics aren’t BIG, there’s a LOT of ‘em, and I hope you’ll enjoy a little morning walk with us and the dogs. Here’s how things usually go. We join up at Baird & Karen’s, and are soon walking down the 1/8 mile narrow road (Newton) that ends at a small parking lot near a trailhead inside the park. This accesses the Wildwood Trail, AND the BPA Fire Rd:
wildwdmisc
Even the walk down is a reverent introduction to things we’ll see:
wldwdmisc2

I remember when I first found a young Wild Rose in my yard and thought I had something special. Arnie said to me, “Well, I’m afraid you might be disappointed if you’re expecting much of a flower.” He was entirely right, but I’ve learned to respect these little hardy plants that are common in the park:
wildroseblossom
Halfway down, we cross the last private rd here that goes to friends A & K’s place:
rchlndrive

This looks down at the last curve dropping us into the parking lot:
lowernewtonrd

Get in your mind right now, that by the time your down 300 feet from Skyline Blvd, you are not in a silent place. It IS peaceful and calming, but NOT quiet. In June, you’ll be surrounded by very alive calls of Song Sparrows, Grosbeaks, Thrushes, Wrens, and all the songbirds.

Occasionally you’ll get a flash of a tiny hummingbird on a berry bush popping between blooms. IN the forest, these green hummers are almost invisible so you really pass a lot more of them than you actually see.

We arrive and choose to walk along the Newton Rd Firetrail:
newtonparking
From here on, you’ll see trees at every stage of life. Here’s an OLD “nurse log”, still in pretty good shape, an old tree on its side and in front 20-30 year old maples have grown out of it:
nrseloginside
Some trees that get downed in the winter wind storms, don’t get far. They lean for years and years against solid younger trees. Here’s the BASE of one of the tall ones:
leantreea
And here’s the same tree at the top, this one’s tall:
leantreeb
After a few years, holes begin appearing in the wood as they decompose. Insects have moved inside and birds begin pecking, helping them break down while opening them up for ALL interested insect feeders to access food:
leantree01
Here’s a better example of one in it’s last stages of being a bird buffet:
laststgsoftreewood
The dogs aren’t always interested in trees….Ellie just wants us to catch up:
elliefiretrail
At times, some spots are SO dense they NEVER really get too light even in mid-summer:
denserforest
At these spots the moss thrives and is unbelievably thick:
thickmoss
The scenery is fabulous. Growth is so thick right at this spot, a picture doesn’t reveal that at one tiny spot, a human eye can see the Wildwood Trail below from here:
streamnoise
Wild berries are thriving right now and some in bloom:
salmonberryblossom
OR……..If you’re a Salmonberry, you’ll likely soon be eaten by the birds:
salmonbrry
“Oregon Grape” bloomed weeks ago and now is also preparing food for the songbirds here for the summer:
oregongrape

We pass another sculpted tall stump giving life to others as it fades away:
rottenstuff
This little nurse log is so rotten, I “can” peel away bark, but of course we leave it untouched because of the small tree growing out of it:
nrselogstump
Here’s one stump shell, i.e., ALL the inside has disappeared and only the bark remains:
brkstandingbarely
We pass so MANY fabulous spots:
bentree
And so many decaying stumps that are simply a piece of art:
rottenstump

ONLY in an OLD growth forest where nature is old, young, dying and being reborn can you find these treasures:
rottenstumpfurther

We come to a spot where the Wildwood Trail crosses Newton
trailcrossnewton

A sign here shows where you are in the park. **NOTE the little white area at the left side, and in the middle a small black “dot” sits? THAT’s where we are in this mammoth park as we look at this sign.
wildwoodsign

If you turn around here you get some help finding your way out:
wldwoodleavesnewton

But we continue to a great spot that’s probably halway down to River level from our own place. There’s an old log laying on the trail with such thick moss, we call it the couch. Here Baird and Jeanne discuss life, eh?
11logcouch

While sitting there one day, we hear brush breaking and something BIG come walking up the hill right behind this stump. A Bird scientist from OSU appeared and told us he was monitoring the Anna’s Hummingbrd Population here in the park and had two nests right here he was watching the young in. Some weeks later, I discovered the the box he kept his journals in:
brdrlogbox01

And closer:

brdrlogbox02

NO. We have NEVER opened this box…………………………………

As we return back to the parking lot to climb back up Newton Rd and out of this fabulous place, we always “listen” for the rat-a-tat-tat-tat of the woodpecker on the very old very tall Cedar Tree (we just call it the “snag”)…. In this view, in the middle of picture…you see the pale base of this tree… it’s standing STRAIGHT up….looks unassuming, right?
snagbase

Here it is from about 200 ft away….where you can see the top:
snagtall
And guess what? It’s still ALIVE! In the middle of this tall tree, green branches spread out still struggling with life. Fabulous!

Last and certainly NOT least. On the dog walk prior to this picture trip, while we WERE sitting on that mossy couch, we began hearing the calls of two very upset crows. Then we saw them a bit far off…..and a 3rd bird was in the mix. We finally could see that a hawk had found the crow’s nest and was after the young. These brave crows yelled and screamed, dived and chased as we watched them flying through the canopy all OVER the sky. This went on for about 5 minutes before they finally calmed down having won the fight! For today anyway.
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Well. I hope somehow I conveyed something reverent about this fabulous spot in Portland, Oregon. Somehow I hope a reader understands why we love living here. I NEVER tire of this walk in the park no matter the time of year.

Okay………….back to hummingbird food. We’re now averaging 1.8 quarts a day, and it’s probably our PEAK time of year. Fabulous.

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