Sunday, July 27, 2014

Stormy Weather

We had a crazy thunder storm last night, complete with lightening.  While we were cleaning up from eating dinner out on the veranda, lightening struck a tree down the hill from the tree house, completely exploding it!  JP and J saw it happen, I was around the corner of the garage, but heard and felt it.


During the night we had hail and pouring rain, almost 2 inches worth, which washed much of our driveway away.  There is another wild system headed our way for tonight, with similar chances of damaging winds, hail and rain.

The rain I don't mind.  It is much needed for the garden, and now the grass that I seeded down the hill.  The grass is coming up, and soon we will have an unblemished hill again.

In the garden, the Fall peas have been planted.  The girls' garden bed is looking lovely.  J has cauliflower, okra, tomatillos and a little volunteer vine, which ended up being a pretty gourd of some kind. 

Okra & Marigolds

Tomatillos & Gourd

L has a big bunch of parsley, a little row of cabbages, and brocolli.

 
The wind and hail managed to flatten the corn, which will soon be ready to eat.  After it dries out a bit from tonight's storm, I will try to tie it up again.

In between rains, we finally managed to fit in the yard sale that the girls have been planning and prepping for since early last Fall.  We dragged several boxes of stuff in to our friends' home in town, since we don't get much traffic past our home in the country.  They sold a few things, but it was pretty meager.  JP finally showed up at noon and offered the girls $20 for everything that was left, which we promptly dropped off at the nearest Thrift Store.  It wasn't as successful as they had hoped, but they are $57.50 richer than they were before, and my storage room looks much less crowded!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sick

Poor Ole Bessie is sick.  Despite the fact that we had a new clutch put in over the winter, it seems to be malfunctioning now.  My Dad was hauling a load of gravel yesterday, and barely got home.  This afternoon, the mechanic came with a flat bed and took her away.


It seems that those old moldy bales of hay contained more noxious critters than just snakes and nasty, biting ants.  I developed a lung inflammation over the weekend, likely as a result of breathing in all that mold and dust.  I had fever, body aches, chest pain and shortness of breath.  It was no fun.

I am almost feeling back to normal today.

I wonder when I will be able to haul a load of mulch for my flower beds?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

4-Square

We now have an official 4-Square court permanently marked at Poplar Ridge. 



Bring it on!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Snakes in the Hay

I have now lost 6 of the 8 pounds that I gained on vacation.  JP insinuated that my thyroid is overactive again, but I insisted that it is because I have been working so hard!  Not only am I working out on the elliptical 4-5 mornings a week, I am also spending several hours outside daily doing things like weed-whacking, digging, hauling, pushing the mower, or otherwise expending a great deal of energy.

Dad and I have been working on the gray water drainage issue for most of the week.  Tuesday we went out to buy pipes and supplies, and Wednesday we installed all of the drain pipes and began filling the ditch.  There were several yards of ditch that had to be filled in by hand before Dad could begin filling it with the tractor.  Yesterday he was smoothing things out with the tractor, getting it ready to seed with grass, when the tractor died.

For some strange reason, both of the girls are disappointed  that the ditch that has run through in front of the house for nearly 2 years is now missing.  L thought it was a good way to stop our sleds from going all the way down the hill.  Mom kept falling in it when she was trying to walk the path that circles Poplar Ridge.  Dad and I were unable to drive our normal routes on the ATV or tractor.  This is no longer a problem!

I made a call to the tractor place down in WV yesterday.  Lo and behold, they sent out 2 guys, who showed up last night, and were able to fix the problem (and another one, too!) in a matter of 20 minutes!  Hooray for workers who show up ahead of schedule!



Here is how things look after the ditch was filled in.
The tractor down at the bottom will die in just
few more hours.
This morning I went out to begin seeding the area.  The approximately 30 lbs of meadow grass seed that I had in the barn, only went about half way down the hill...disappointing.  There has been an old, round bale of hay sitting in the garden for 2 years, mouldering away.  I loaded it by hand, bit by bit, in the the trailer, which I then hauled to the site to spread over the seed.  The bale was full of ants, who got into my gloves and shoes, and bit my ankles and wrists. 

After spreading several armfuls, I noticed a tiny head poking out of the hay...the garden snake!  I'm ok with snakes, but I didn't like the idea of reaching blindly into the hay and coming across him.  He didn't like the idea of me reaching in and grabbing him either, so he slithered deeper and deeper into the trailer load.  I started pulling out armfuls with the garden rake, and finally uncovered him enough to gently lift him out with the rake and take him back to the garden.

I used up my moldy bale of hay, so Dad encouraged me to use the one out behind his wood pile.  I started loading my trailer with armfuls of hay from that bale, wondering what the chances could be of there being a snake there as well. 

The chances were really good, as it turns out!  Before long, a small, triangular head poked out, and then turned around to slide deeper into the bale.  I found a long stick with which to pull off layers of hay from the bale without actually touching it.  It wasn't until I came back to get a second trailer load full of hay that I finally uncovered this snake.  I quickly scooped him up under my stick, and relocated him to the nearby woods.

Luckily I did not run across any more snakes in this bale, but I used the stick the entire time...just in case!

So, 3 hours later, I had seeded roughly half of the area, hauled 4 trailer loads of hay and spread them over roughly 1/3 of the area, and I was completely pooped.  I still managed to can 13 quarts of beans this afternoon, and shell 2 pints of peas.

This, my friends, is why I am losing the weight!

On an entirely different subject, I have not managed to get into my flower beds yet this year to weed or mulch.  The big bed has a lot of weeds, but otherwise looks pretty good...very full and colorful.  This is sort of the look I was going for -  English garden style, and so full that there is no room for weeds and no need to mulch!

 
 Oh, and more good news:  Kali gets her stitches out tomorrow.  There are a bunch of them, as she was cut stem to stern.  She has been off pain meds for about 4 or 5 days, and has also finished up her antibiotics and Pepcid prescriptions.  Our next plan is to get her a paying job so that she can cover her Vet bills!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Farm Chores

Ah yes...home again and vacation is DEFINITELY over!  True, we don't have school and soccer practice and homework and music lessons, but there is work to do aplenty around here!

JP & I caught up with the mowing over the weekend. 

While we were away, the garden went berserk, and things are growing like crazy!  A pumpkin has escaped the garden and is climbing up the fence.  The green beans are producing out the wazoo.  There are dozens of green tomatoes hanging on, and the first planting of corn is almost ready to tassel.  So, I spent some time in the garden this week, picking beans and blueberries, and thinning the carrots and beets.  Just look what I brought in on Wednesday, (along with a small bowl of blueberries!)



I walked around the periphery of the ridge on Monday, looking for black raspberries.  They are tiny this year, and sparse.  I went again today, in the cool of the morning.  This time I rode the ATV half way down the hill, and hunted along the spring road and driveway.  I got about 2 cups, pretty lame for an hours worth of hunting!


Yesterday morning, after a short primer from Dad on correct weedeater use, I spent 2 hours cutting down the 4-5 foot tall weeds, bushes and small trees that have grown up around the drainage ditch over the last 2.5 years.  Dad and I hope to FINALLY install the drain pipes and close in the ditch in the next week or two, and we needed room to work!

 
My arms and low back are complaining today, but I'm pretty proud of what I accomplished!


 
I also spent time tearing down the old, dilapidated deer netting from around the orchard, and installing the better quality netting that we took down from around the garden.  At some point I plan to go back around with a second course that will take it up to 6 feet.  It's just too hot to do it today.


Pretty sad, right?  Not keeping deer out either!
It's getting better!

Today, after all this work this week, I plan to take a break and take the kids to the pool.  I'm a little annoyed that I have to pay to use a pool when there is a perfectly good (albeit non-functioning) pool in our back yard!

The pool pump installation is on the docket for this weekend.  And the work continues...

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Cheese, Rocks & Fish

We stayed overnight in a little town on the Oregon coast, where we slept well after a full day of hiking at Crater Lake the day before. 

We got back on the road in the morning, and drove up the coast to Tillamook, where we visited the Cheese Factory for samples of cheese (the fresh cheese curds - "squeaky cheese" was our fave) and ice cream.

 
The road along the coast was beautiful and winding.  We stopped at Ecola State Park to run on the beach, climb the rocks, and look into the tide pools.  The girls first impression of the Pacific Ocean?  "It's COLD!"
 

 

A sea star in a tide pool

 
We reached the home of our friends in Vancouver, WA just in time for dinner (we timed it exactly right every time!)  The girls discovered the trampoline, and the raspberry bushes, which kept them occupied until bedtime.
 
The following day, we drove on Historic Route 30, and stopped to visit Multnomah Falls (both JP and I have memories of this place.)


 
We also visited Bonneville Dam and Fish Hatcheries (which we also remember.)
 

A fish going through the fish counter
portion of the fish ladder.


Lamprey stuck all over the observation windows of the fish ladder.
These tiny frye...


...grow into these huge Rainbow Trout!


Herman the Sturgeon, age 80, approx 7-8 feet long!
We stopped for ice cream (are you sensing a recurring theme here?), and then stopped at Crown Point on our way home for a wonderful view of the Columbia River Gorge.


The Vista House at Crown Point
 
That evening, JP and his friends (who all went to school together) tried to catch up on news of everyone in their small, Christian High School.  The conversation went something like this:
 
JP - "Where is Franky Sommers?"
 
Buddy 1 - "Oh, I think he's in Colorado."
 
JP - "Who did he marry?"
 
Buddy 2 - "Jessica Cross.  They have triplets."
 
JP - "Jessica Cross?  No way!  Jessica Cross?  What about Evan Newman?"
 
Buddy 1 - "Evan Newman...I haven't heard anything about him in a REALLY long time."
 
Buddy 2 (searching Facebook for pics) - "Here's Laura Fredrick."
 
JP - "Oh yeah, I TOTALLY see Laura!"
 
The next day JP drove us into Portland, where we rode by his old house, and those of several of his friends.  He showed us where he used to work (Elmer's Pancake House - now a Chinese Restaurant), and drove by his High School.  We ended up on top of a hill, where we could see the city of Portland below.
 
We tried to turn in early that night, as we needed to leave for the airport at 4 AM.  However, this was the night that Kali had her emergency surgery, and I stayed up until 1 waiting to hear back from the Vet.  Our flights home were uneventful, unless you count the fact that we flew coach from Portland to Chicago with the Portland Thunder arena football team!
 
I have sifted through hundreds of photos of our vacation in order to represent our travels here.   Now that we are home and settled, the girls and I plan to put together a photo book of our West Coast adventures.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Volcanoes

Last Friday, we drove South on I-5, through Washington and into Oregon, past the sleeping volcanoes of the Cascade Range - Mt. Ranier, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood.  It was cloudy, with torrents of rain at times, so we only caught glimpses of them here and there.  We stopped at a Mt. St. Helens Information Center so that the girls could learn something about the volcanic eruption that JP and I experienced first hand in 1980.  We decided to forgo the 1.5 mile hike to the scenic outlook because of the cloud cover and impending rain.

We arrived in Albany at the home of our friends from our WV days at dinner time, and the girls immediately found the swings in their backyard. 

While in Albany, we visited the Historic Carousel and Museum.  The community has formed a design studio to create 52 new carousel pieces to be placed on an antique mechanism that has been restored.  These pieces are not just ponies either, we saw a salmon, a frog, an elephant, a couple of bears, a fox, and a poodle...just to name a few.


Next we visited the Monteith House, a restored Pioneer-Era home.  All 4 of the girls attempted to carry water in two buckets on a yoke.  Then they played in the river.


Our next adventure included driving on winding roads through evergreen forests to Diamond Lake.  The girls rode paddle boats way out into the lake, and played at the shore.


The following morning, after a sustaining breakfast at the Lodge, we drove about 15 miles to Crater Lake.  We hiked down to the lake, and took a 2 hour boat tour.  The hike back up to the rim was a killer!

The "Old Man", a tree that has been floating in the lake
for over a century!

Both J & L say that it was one of the highlights of our entire vacation...


...especially the snow ball fight!


We said farewell to our friends at the rim of Crater Lake, and turned our Subaru towards the Oregon coast.  We arrived there just as the sun was setting.

 
...To Be Continued...