Monday, September 29, 2014

THE FRUIT OF THE LAND


The house at dusk

Dad has a man here and they are sawing down a tree by the pond for wood. We have plenty of limbs but snow too deep to get to them.
Ina Dobson, February 1936

Bess awaits the next adventure
I’ve noticed something about retirement: even though we have things to do and we seem to be busy doing them, the schedule has flexibility. So, I wasn’t surprised when the trip to the farm scheduled for Friday actually happened Thursday afternoon (Sept. . After a morning hunt that proved shorter than expected, Mike suggested we just pack up and head to the farm. The worst of the change in plans was that we came away without enough milk or bread. However, we’re making-do with the shelf-stable soy milk I keep on hand and biscuits.
 
I suppose it was just as well we came a little early. It rained Thursday night. It was pleasant to hear it plunking on the roof, but it’s still terribly dry here. The vegetation looks stressed. Despite the storm, Friday was again a decent day, so we headed out to the far edge of the north field where Mike felled a dead fir tree. None too soon, he said. The wood is usable but beginning to rot. 


 A neighbor notes that in the old days when wood was needed to warm the house, they simply went out and cut a tree, and the quote from Ina’s letter seems to confirm that. But I wonder -- wasn’t the wood green?

While Mike was felling the tree, the dogs and I explored, and I discovered another stand of wild plum trees. That makes three or four I know of on this property and another on the road. I had hoped that I had discovered a stand of chokecherry trees, but unfortunately I think it’s cascara, or bear berry. I’ve done a lot of online research – frustrating since it all looks alike to me. But, I decided not to take a chance because the cascara berries cause digestive issues. 

Meanwhile, the plums beckon. They freeze well and mix with peaches or raspberries for pie. If we were starving (which we are not) we would make good use of the plums.

Longtime readers will know that every year I wonder about the apples. This was not a great apple year. The trees at the pond didn’t bear much fruit, but there were some on the trees in the lane, so Mike (and the dogs) helped me pick some yesterday. Two varieties grow there. One may be a green apple but at this point the skin is so translucent as to be white, which has a mildly sweet taste when raw. I thought it cooked up rather tasteless but Mike liked it. The other is the red/green apple in the arms of the pine tree (“pine-apple”), which has a strong flavor. Both of these apples are small.
 

A farm stay at this time of the year includes some tramping of the fields with a shotgun. We had a nice meal of Hungarian partridge one evening.



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"battery exhausted"

From north of the draw


What!? The words “battery exhausted” appeared on the camera screen before we were back from our hike. How could that be? Well, I’ll bet I took 150 pictures on that battery, three of them experimentation with moon shots, which weren’t impressive. I was going to show the photos as day-by-day posts but decided not to bore the reader (and myself). Instead, I’ll post a few favorites as a tribute to the end of summer – if, in fact, summer has really ended.

Clearly, there’s no point in going out and taking the same pictures day after day after day however inspired I am by the views. Something needs to happen now to provide new effects – like fall colors or snow. And the new camera is vulnerable if I just carry it, though if I don’t carry it I miss photo ops.

The old-time impression of country life includes clean, fresh air, but in reality, that’s hardly ever the case. In addition to the smoke from regional wildfires, the burning of grass fields continues all around. I’ve been amazed at how many grass fields there are. Some days our view of Little Canyon was obliterated by the smoke.

Little Canyon filled with smoke
The dogs like to go to bed directly they have finished the supper dishes. They go out, patrol the yard together, then perhaps sit on their pillows on the porch for a while before ambling off to the doghouse in the woodshed. It was 8:30 Friday night and dark - before moonrise -- when Bess began barking ferociously. I could hear her in the south field and was concerned for her. I figured she was giving the deer a piece of her mind and likely there would not be a stand-off. Still, I preferred that she return immediately to the house. She was so intent on her mission, though, that I couldn't get her attention. She finally came in all agitated and upset.

The barn at dusk
When I let her out again, I found Nellie lounging but watchful on the porch. Both dogs faced the grove, and Bess commenced to bark again. As near as I could tell, a deer – or several deer – had encroached upon the yard, causing the dogs to advise them of their trespasses. Thankfully, things settled down quickly and we had a good night’s rest.


From the south
After that, Bess barked when she saw the deer – and even Nellie muttered under her breath -- but they didn’t leave the yard. I figure the doe have a pronounced scent – to a dog anyway -- because both dogs will respond from the living room floor if the deer are nearby. KW

Saturday, September 20, 2014

SORRY -- CAN'T MAKE YOUR PARTY

It's "Pet Appreciation Week" (P.A.W.), and Del's Feed and Farm Supply is sponsoring a pet event today. Our dogs can't make it, though. They have to work.

[Bess waits patiently in the back of the Dakota. I think she'd live there if Mike would let her.]


Thursday, September 18, 2014

OVER THAT HURDLE -- ON TO THE NEXT


Nellie lying in dirt on hot day
Bess hunting behind the pond

Mike rumbled into our driveway at 3:30 yesterday afternoon (Wednesday, Sept. 17). Nellie, Bess, and I were glad to see him. Correction: Nellie and I were glad to see him and Bess was downright elated, as though she sensed the beginning of more really good times. After greeting Mike affectionately, Nellie ran to nuzzle me as if to say, “Hey – Mike’s home! Isn’t it great? But you did a really good job of taking care of me.” Then she moved off to continue her quiet lounging while Bess spent the rest of the afternoon trailing Mike, bouncing in and out of the house behind him while he unpacked his stuff and cleaned his motorcycle.

Nellie -- note clothes on line
Now our autumn schedule begins in earnest. I’m cleaning and exchanging “Americana” for pumpkins and Halloween. My schedule is filling up with meetings while Mike and Ken look forward to hunting. Washington chukar season opens on Saturday (Sept. 20) and next week is the Washington “old man’s” pheasant season. We laugh about that “old man” season – giving a handicap to the guys who have plenty of time and are also the largest age group of hunters. Whatever.
 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

TO BOLDLY GO . . .


The Old Home Place

When I’m the dogs’ caretaker, I prefer to be at the farm. Exercise options are more difficult in town, whereas, at the farm, I don’t have to control their every move – or worry (much) about what they’re doing.
Plank's Pitch from west of house

As we staycated at the farm, every day after lunch, the dogs and I went for a hike. It could be any place on our property or the neighbors’, but it could not be the usual route to the mailbox. We hiked across the fields avoiding gullies and draws, rocky places, thick grass, etc. My goal was to see the house from different perspectives and take pictures with our new Nikon Coolpix P600. A hike can be tedious, but a picture-taking expedition is downright fun! Of course, mid-day is not a great time to take pictures, but never mind -- that couldn’t be helped.

“Did you see the huns?” asked Mike when I told him about our hikes. For the past 15 years, Mike has worked to conserve the coveys of Hungarian partridge there. This year it looked as if they would be sparse, but a couple of weeks ago he discovered one covey, possibly two, and was encouraged.

No, I replied, we hadn’t seen the huns.
“The huns don’t leave,” said Mike. “They’re there someplace.”

Nell on point -- east of barn
Well, I did think when Nellie suddenly pointed at nothing east of the barn (the huns are virtually invisible in the stubble) that the huns had probably been there. Nothing got up, but Nellie is hardly ever mistaken.

No, I didn’t see the huns until Monday as we left the farm for town. I had just descended that first steep pitch on the lane when five or six got up to the right (June’s field). Then a covey of about twenty or so got up to the left (the north field). It was a joy to see them fly.
Doe in north field at evening

If the huns are elusive, the deer abound. Clearly, the deer are beautiful but a nuisance. They take liberties in the yard when we aren’t there, but when we are, they’re wary of the dogs. I watched one evening as a big doe cautiously crossed the lane into the north field, keeping a watchful eye toward the house, guarded by a diligent, opinionated, and vocal Bess.

This doe posed for me
One day, as we hiked north of the house on the other side of the draw, I was surprised when a young doe loped into the field where I was. She stopped some distance from me, and we momentarily stared at one another. I figured she would lope off before I had a chance to take her picture – so often the way – but the camera was on and I decided to give it a try. She posed nicely – then went on. KW



Monday, September 15, 2014

YES -- I CAN!



Mike has adventure goals that I don’t share, and we have a family (some people call them dogs) that tie us down somewhat. So, I tell Mike, “You go – and I’ll stay and take care of the dogs.” I’m not really a pet person, but the last two dogs (Nellie and Bess) have accepted my awkward dog ways and even feel some responsibility for my well-being.

Several year ago, Mike began taking motorcycle trips, and I kept Nellie at the town house. Then, when Bess joined us last year, keeping the two of them in town just seemed too difficult. So, I learned that I can indeed load the pick-up, coax the dogs to jump in with the supplies, and take care of all three of us at the farmhouse.
  

 
Mike left Tuesday (Sept. 9) – seems a hundred years ago now – to moto-cache Colorado with son Yancey. Through the magic of cell phone technology, I’ve heard from him daily, and I’m happy to report that neither one of us experienced an emergency.
 
It took me two hours to pack the pick-up with all sorts of things in addition to regular supples – my Bernina 630; embroidery toolbox; sewing “project box;” and lots of extras in case embroidery plans fell through (but they didn’t). I set up the sewing machine on Grandma Ina’s pantry hutch in the dining room, put my laptop on the ottoman in the living room, and covered the dining room table with my “Halloween Masquerade” quilt which is still a work in progress. While my sewing machine chugged away on a special Halloween free-standing lace project, I did handwork on the center of the quilt. I made good progress on both projects during our six-day stay.
 
But -- dogs are a solemn responsibility – and they make sure I take them seriously. Mike walks them almost first thing every morning, so they expect that. (He says the walk is to limber his back and not for the dogs, but they know otherwise.) Then on Day 1, I decided that we should take a noon hike, and if you know dogs, you know that they don’t forget an activity they enjoyed, and they tell time by the sun – so we had a noon hike every day. And of course, we always walk prior to suppertime – always. The exercise is good for me, but it does make me feel that my life revolves around the dogs’ schedule, which, of course, it does.
 
All good staycations must come to an end, and today was the day. The dogs knew what was up the minute I started packing. Nellie watched through the dining room window as I put the last items in the pick-up. When I said it was time to go, she marched straight out the kitchen door and jumped to her place. The set of her jaw said she was none too happy about it.

But Bess, who was sulking near the little cherry tree, said, “Tell me again why we have to leave here.” It took some coaxing to get her to join Nellie.

And now we’re back at the town house – all three of us tired, all three of us waiting . . . KW