Category Archives: animals

Snow and Birds

On the way up to Pippin’s place this week I stopped in to see my friend Myriah. She lives in a low mountain region where the street names are Quail, Pine, and Towhee. Tall conifers fill all the yards in her neighborhood.

But I didn’t spend any time outdoors that afternoon, because of drenching rain. We stayed inside and I got to meet her miniature parrots that I think are called parrotlets.

She gave me bags full of fabric from a gift that an elderly friend had made to her. I don’t know how I will manage to make use of it–yet. But I got ideas, looking at her inspiring quilts.

Driving down to the valley again, I came into sunshine, and the air was warmer. Then at Lake Shasta, fuller than I have ever seen it, buckets of rain made driving hard at any speed. It was awfully cold here at my destination, but it didn’t snow, until this afternoon. Light slushy snow, then what Pippin calls popcorn snow, a sort of cross between hail and snow. This is a view from across the street; it’s only dark because of the clouds.

The snow paused for a spell, and birds came to the feeder! I didn’t see them, of course, until Pippin pointed them out to me, just a few feet on the other side of the window above my sinkful of dishes. We took pictures of the Black-Headed Grosbeak and the Mountain Chickadee. The Grosbeak was a bird she hadn’t seen before this spring.

My daughter and husband haven’t lived here a full year, so every time something comes into bloom or loses its leaves it is an event. Everything was so different at my first two visits especially.

The crabapple trees in front are covered in flowers now.
And one of the birches uprooted in the very rough winter.

I’m wondering if this is a quince brightening up the roadside.





I built a fire in the stove this morning, as it was colder than yesterday. And the cats seemed to enjoy it. They slept in nooks and crannies all around the warm room.





Pippin made us some kale chips tonight. I’m not sure I’d ever have tried them if she hadn’t demonstrated how easy they are:

Take a bunch of kale, wash it and tear approximately 2″ pieces off the stalk. Dry them in a towel or salad spinner, and put them in a bowl. Toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bake in a 350° oven for about 12 minutes, stirring a couple of times.

She thinks you should try to cook the kale on parchment paper as her original recipe directs, but she hasn’t always done this. The kale comes out looking brownish-green, but it is crispy and light and flavorful. One person could easily eat a whole bunch this way. We don’t know how much of the nutrient value is retained, and I haven’t researched what anyone else says about that.

When I get home again I will be in the midst of the disarray that seeps into my mind and makes me incapable of writing more than one coherent sentence per day. It’s been nice to relax away from the home that is not homey, and play with Little Scout, who’s seven months old now and lots of fun. While he napped I read and wrote, and even laid away a draft for a little blog I can post later if I feel like it.

May Miscellany

I’ve been wanting to write a blog post about all the various goings-on in my life lately, but haven’t found a way to write all the loose ends together.

One dumb idea was to use the theme of Lines or Separations, Old and New. Oh, my, that was unwieldy. But a few pictures that I found might have worked with that theme.

In the back yard pool the plumbing got completely blocked with matted spruce needles from the neighbors’ tree. We had to call a repairman, but by the time he arrived and blew out the plug with CO2, B. had mentioned our problem to the neighbors and they cut down the tree! I hope they will finish off the tall stump soon.

Even now this oak hardwood is being turned into floors in our house, but I took the photo when it was sitting in the family room acclimating for two weeks.

I noticed how the lines of iron railing make an X over the stairs, as though to signify that they will not exist in their same form after they get some of that beautiful oak covering them. But in the meantime my elbow complained from pulling staples out.

The most troublesome line of all is this one, below, on the ceiling that flows without a border from the family room into the kitchen. The kitchen has satin paint but the family room has flat paint. I’ve been working hard, on a ladder several times with a brush or a little roller, painstakingly trying to get a straight line between the old textured kitchen surface and the new smooth family room ceiling. I’m not yet finished, but I hope all that’s left is to roll once more some flat paint on the family room side.

It never occurred to me to have a complete hiatus in my doll-making efforts. I wanted some wool for stuffing the dolls. It is a long story, and I can’t decide if it is horrible or hilarious, but in any case it is too painful to tell, how I ended up with ten pounds of raw and dirty sheep’s wool that is so full of foxtails that no one would believe it. Nature Girl says that if one wants foxtail-free wool one probably has to get it somewhere besides California. But I’m not asking for that; I’d just like some 90% cleaner than what I got this time.

My first picture of the wool shows it at its most appealing. If you click on the photo you can see close up the lines of golden lanolin.

I have spent hours pulling out foxtails, and I thought I got them all out before washing it, during the skirting process, but afterward I discovered a million more, and that was just in a pound or two of the wool. The next two pictures show my post-washing sorting project, and a wad of stickers I removed with wool fibers still clinging. Now I have to wash it again to get out the dirt that the hidden foxtails held on to through the first three washings.

Before I leave this topic, I have to say that I love the wool, even though I got a bad batch. Working with it before washing, I couldn’t stop sniffing at my hands with the good-smelling lanolin on them, and they felt so soft, too. Now that the lanolin is out, the wool is white and fluffy where it isn’t still dirty. Makes me think that spinning would be satisfying, too. 

When I had my new stove functioning for two weeks I baked the last of the butternut squash from last summer.

And now that the stove is in the living room while the floors are being laid, I ran over to Wal-Mart and bought a GE electric kettle so I can make tea. That’s it sitting on the new kitchen counter.

Since I didn’t want to be in the way of the floor guys, I spent a long time at church one day, making communion bread, taking inventory in the bookstore, and removing several monster wheelbarrow loads of a pretty plant that had taken over one perennial bed.

When the plant is blooming, you get an impression of purple at the tips, but they droop down a bit, so it’s vague and not eye-catching. When I cleaned up some of the mess I found these flowers that had fallen off, lying on the blacktop like flower candycorn.

May has been mostly cold and wet, with a few sunny and warm hours to encourage seeds to sprout. The gardens have some lush growth of certain plants, and the largest snails I have ever seen. I was able to fit in another trip to see Seventh Grandson, and as I type he is sitting on The Quilt playing with his toys.

Doesn’t the Bible say something about lines falling in pleasant places? I could have used that verse, wherever it is, if I’d made this post all about lines.

Waterfall with Train and a Dipper

Over the weekend Husband and I enjoyed a trip together to visit the Northern Nature Girl and her family; this time it was a short vacation, not the grandma-only working visit. Though I must say I prefer not to split life into such categories; I like the attitude that we tried to take as homeschoolers: Always on vacation, always in school. When traveling, I always learn things, whatever you call it.

We were in too much of a hurry on the drive up for me to take pictures, but I have to at least mention that my eyes were sated with lupines, great spreading fields and banks and roadsides full of them, on and on for two hours. The farmland, once we got toward the center of the state, was impressive with plantations of tiny tomato plants, onions in rows, and clouds of wild yellow mustard filling the ditches and anywhere the fields hadn’t been plowed.

A smudge on my camera lens turned into a glaring spot on most of the photos I took (and yes, it was the real reason, I know now, for the mysterious brightness of that calendula I posted a while back), but we will just have to overlook this imperfection when it shows up, as in this shot showing how my socks happened to match the tiny violets that have sprung up all over N.G.’s back yard.

Four cats still co-exist in the household, where they line up for meals twice a day. The big eyes belong to Little Cat.

A highlight of the weekend was seeing some waterfalls that flow year-round. Near the parking area from which one sets off for the falls, we had to wait for a train to pass over the crossing, before we could get to the other side and leave our car.

Everyone thought that someone else had put the diaper bag and the baby backpack in the car, but no one had. We did without, and took turns carrying Baby C.

We had to walk close beside the railroad track for a mile to get to the scenic spot. As soon as we began hobbling over the rocky slope next to the rails, the train that had just passed reversed direction and slowly came back alongside us hikers. If I had any hobo blood in me, I’d have wanted to pull myself right up and go somewhere, anywhere, just for the romance of it.

The train was remarkably quiet, rocking gently on its tracks. Our boots made more noise crunching on the largest gravel I’ve ever seen. After five minutes or so of this unreal intimacy with the looming cars, they had rolled away behind us, and we could see the Sacramento River, down the mountain where the train had blocked our view. 
We looked back to see this image of the locomotive backing away behind us.
The falls come right out of the hillside, not from a specific creek or spring, and fall into the river, which bends into a curve at that spot, so that it’s not possible to catch the whole span of water falling. It’s even hard when you stand in the middle of the river downstream, as we learned from one who has done it. So my photo shows about 1/4 of the total waterfall. 

N. G. notices birds. She pointed this one out to me after she’d been watching him for a while. She’d also seen his kind before at this falls, and was pretty sure she’d seen it go under the water. When we got home she looked him up in the Peterson Guide and found out he is an American Dipper or Water Ouzel. And they do walk on the bottom of streams! My picture didn’t come out as clear, so I give credit to my daughter for this one.

Hmm…well, my picture is so different, I think I’ll post it as well. Click on it to enlarge it or you might miss my guy in all the glitter of the water spray.

John Muir called this bird the Waterfall Hummingbird, and wrote a lot about it. This illustration comes from his writings, and I assume is by his hand.

I never know what I will learn when I’m with N.G. We looked at the cedars growing around the falls, and she showed me that some of them were Port Orford Cedars, which love shade and water. Their needles are softer and finer than the incense cedars that are more common.

The contented Grandma and Grandpa are walking back along the tracks in the westering sun.

I learned the name of a brilliant bush that startled me several times on my journey earlier this spring driving this route, it was so dramatic popping out of the grey-green hillsides. N.G. told me it is Redbud.

Frequent sightings of Redbud cheered our way home again yesterday, and we weren’t too hurried to stop and capture it in one dimension.

It was a very full weekend. I haven’t told half of what I saw and heard–but writing this fraction in a blog I hope will help at least some of it stick with me a while.