Tuesday, July 26, 2016

In which not all gardens are tidy, and a Tomato Curse Update

Jim and Henry and I spent the weekend at the annual Powellswood Storytelling Festival.

Storyteller Donald Davis onstage.
Donald Davis has a Ted-X talk!  Watch it HERE.

Every year when we attend the festival, my camera is busy taking pictures of the beautiful gardens.

Event photographer shares his flower pix with the performers

Back home at Haiku Farm, the gardens don't feature quite as many spectacular colors.

Red bean blossoms, yellow tomato flowers...everything else is green!

But we are just starting the time of year when the yard explodes.

The apple trees are so heavily laden with fruit
that the branches touch the ground

At least 4 varieties of apples trees in the orchard.
We have so many apples that I think we'll have
to make cider this year to use up all the fruit.

Under the Yellow Transparent tree, a wide shady spot perfect for Foxie to lurk.


The Amazing Plum Tree tipped over with the weight of all the unripe fruit.
We will try to harvest plums before we chainsaw the tree out.
We planted a dwarf plum tree over the grave of Pickles Marie, and
that tree is bearing fruit for the first time this year.

The beginnings of Giant Pumpkins

We've been eating blueberries for weeks, and the harvest isn't slowing down yet!

"Mystery Squash" plants that sprouted in the bean patch.
Each year I have to decide if the volunteer squashes have some redeeming virtue
to allow the plants to continue their quest for world domination.
The 2015 Mystery Squashes were pretty but only the dogs would eat them.

One of the 2016 Mystery Squashes--a yellow zucchini hybrid, probably.
Some of the mystery squashes have ribs like a delicata, but no stripes.
Mild and sweet, delicious raw or steamed.

This photo shows one (1) floofy dog and three (3) tomato plants!

In keeping with the tradition of the Tomato Curse, it has rained a lot this summer,
and we are just now starting to get green fruit on the tomato plants.
Bright side:  no forest fires so far this year!

L-to-R:  beans, butternut squash, tomatoes, with photobomb by Roo.
Somehow, the walking paths between beds have gotten overrun already.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

In which we say hello to some green bean riders and also: puppy

Although truck troubles kept me off trail for a bit,
Fiddle and I are back on track again.

Our mid-week rambles have been blessed by blue skies.

The weather, heavily influenced by the Tomato Curse, has stayed cool and wet.  That's fine.

Note the rain clouds lurking.  We like rain, especially when it falls
after everything is loaded back into the trailer.

Blue skies are pretty in the ride photos, but rain = chanterelle mushrooms!

Monica makes the first
ceremonial mushroom find of the season.

And the rain has kept our forest green and non-burning, which is important.

Riding makes us happy.

We have a standing "come ride with the Usual Suspects" invitation on Sunday mornings, and several lovely green bean riders have joined us recently.

What's the word for a group of endurance horses in training?
A "clop"?  A "flight"?  

Niki and Jaz

Sue and Ted

Kitty and Mak

Duana and her new horse Freya
photo by Monica Bretherton

Fiddle's return to soundness is slow-but-steady.

Mel has moved Fiddle into size 1 shoes "all the way around."
Shoes on top were from March, shoes on the bottom were from May.
Current shoes are even bigger and more balanced.  Yay!

It helps to have friends along to help.

Add another horse to the (short, but expanding) list of horses that Fiddle kinda likes

This morning, we surprised a little prong-buck in the meadow...or rather the prong-buck surprised us.  In fact, Mak not only jumped out of his skin, he also jumped about 300 feet directly east without touching the ground very much.   Whoops.

Mak jumped, but Kitty stuck just fine.  Good job, Kitty!

We were looking for bears, but haven't seen any.  Plenty of "sign" but no bears.  Ah, well.

Meanwhile, over at Fish Creek Farm, Patty's parents have a new Ridgeback puppy!

Say hello to Matilda!

Bev likes to name everything out of songs.  I don't know what Rudy's song is, but Matilda's song is "Waltzing Matilda", of course.   I've been reading a lot of books set in WWI and post-WWI England and Australia lately, so I can't also help thinking of "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" -- click the link and have a hanky ready, I can never make it all the way through that song.

Foxie is intrigued by this toy that doesn't squeak.
Senior Ridgeback dog Rudy does. not. approve. of. puppies.

Here's another song called "Matilda."   Plus, you know.  Harry Belafonte.  Swoooooon.

This will give you good giggles, I promise.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

In which Twelve is gone, but the stories about her will live forever

I am sorry to report the recent demise of Chicken Twelve and
some of our other feathered friends.

While most of us were away at camp, a varmint invaded the chicken pen in the orchard and made off with many of our valued hen friends.  Monica was able to save only three chickens, none of them, alas, were the beloved Silver Wyandottes.

We assume that Twelve, tough old bird that she was, put up a good fight.

Monica painted a portrait of Twelve stretching towards blueberries, but she felt that the usual background of grass and leaves would be inadequate to express the complexity of Twelve's life.  She asked me to tell "Twelve Stories about Twelve", and incorporated them all into the portrait as only an artist who understands the deep nature of a transcendent hen could do.

So long, Twelve, and thanks for all the ... stories.  You were a good chicken.

Friday, July 8, 2016

In which the Usual Suspects star in a LUMBERJANE ADVENTURE

The Usual Suspects aren't afraid to try new stuff, 
especially if the project will be difficult and dirty.

Usual Suspects Meagan, Anne-Marie, Duana, and Patty

Although Jim and I have been building trails since we took the AERC Trail Master class in 2006, the Suspects have mostly not been part of that.

This year, that all changed.  

The Suspects came to camp early for the express purpose of becoming Lumberjanes.

This awesome adventure series features five friends attending
a summer camp for "hard-core lady types":
Camping out, hiking, and s'mores, plus secret caves, were-foxes and yeti.

We started by creating a new trail on a recently-logged sidehill. 

Duana wants a Pulaski for Christmas.
I happen to know that Santa loves to give girls trail tools as gifts!

The soil here is dry and sandy, with minimal roots and rocks--a great place to get comfortable with trail tools like the Pulaski and the McLeod.

Using a McLeod to scrape out a flat footbed for trotting horses

Cut, scrape, cut again and level

The Lumberjane Trail

Running on a trail gives immediate feedback about where the tread feels solid and "right" underfoot.

Here's video from a trail test in 2010, featuring Madeline, Jill, Autumn, Ryan, Cassidy, and at a few others (including Bailey the dog).  We have used this trail in every Renegade event since we built it, without needing any mending or modifications.

Silliness while running a trail is optional, but apparently unavoidable. Duana stars in the 2016 Lumberjane trail test:

(If you don't know why she's banging rocks together, 
you flunk your Monty Python Cultural Awareness test, 
and will need to schedule a remedial viewing of 

When we finished the Lumberjane trail, we had enough daylight left to tackle a second project.

Meagan ferried the truck back to camp.  The rest of us
hiked downhill and fixed the trail as we walked.

Hard-core lady types


The problem on this trail was a "jumping tree."

The tree had rotted and broken from the root at about knee-level.
Instead of falling all the way over, other trees held the rotten one,
upright and stuck, in the middle of our trail.

The rotten tree was too likely to explode (watch the video link HERE to see an exploding tree)  if we tried to use a chainsaw on it, and too big to move.

So we moved the trail.

Duana loves the Pulaski

AFTER: the trail has been moved uphill and away from the rotten tree.
Debris blocks the area below the tree, so riders will not be tempted to go there.

The Usual Suspects are a fabulous trail crew.  I'm so proud of them.

Mission accomplished!


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

In which we don't know how far we went, but Fiddle still trots out soundly

My phone's GPS is completely hamstrung by the lack of connectivity on the trails at Renegade.

The best way to find our trails is to follow the ribbons

Although I set the GPS every morning before heading out on the trails with Fiddle, I usually finished the day with a nonsensical Rorschach scribble and a dead phone battery.  So, I can't tell you with much accuracy how many miles we covered together in the week prior to the ride.

In general, we worked on 5-10 miles per day.  At least one day, the trail was closer to 15 miles.

So, my best guess is that she and I did somewhere between 50 and 80 miles (I know, that's a pretty broad range!).

Most of this was walking, because we were carrying shovels and rakes and implements of destruction, as well as a rainbow of trail ribbons.

She can hear the elk babies in the meadow below.
They sound like humpback whales!

Dr Fehr (aka "Dr Dear") wanted to know how Fiddle would feel after a steady week of trail work, so  Fee and I traipsed up the hill to the vet check on Friday afternoon.

Here's her vet card:

Dr Root said that if I hadn't explained about the injury and recovery,
he would have assumed we were signed up to do the 50-miler on Saturday.

Here are the videos of the walk out and trot out, with Sirie on the string:

And, just for fun, we did another trot out the following day, which was Fiddle's first "day of rest" after 7 straight days of work.  Please note that I am holding the string for this one--and I'm not very lame, either!

Right now, the plan is to revisit Dr Fehr in early August for a chiro adjustment (and probably a hock or stifle injection), and to start ramping up conditioning for a 50-miler in either early September or October.


Monday, July 4, 2016

In which the peacefulness of ridecamp is actually kind of loud

I think of ridecamp as a pretty quiet place.

Our little home in the meadow at Sawmill Flats

I often get up early in camp (at home, not so much) and wander around for the first hour of morning, taking pictures, feeding animals, drinking tea, and listening to the birdsong in the meadow.

Soon enough, it's time for work.

And work in the woods usually means noise.

Our main work crew this year was small:  five people, two quads, one horse,
and a few dogs.  To get to a work site, the other four folks would double up
on the quads with a dog or two, and Fiddle and I would caboose.

As I write this tonight at home, the Fourth of July fireworks are just starting to gain momentum.  Fiddle doesn't care about the booms and pops, as long as there is food.  Part of that is her natural personality:  she is Team Sensible, after all.

But part of her composure comes from lots of practice working in loud circumstances.  

Quad engines, chainsaws, and diesel trucks--we use a lot of these, and they aren't quiet.

Foxie Loxie PantsonFire MacFeagle is not a fan of quad engines. At the beginning of our work week, he would bark himself into a frenzy every time one of the quads was started or run near camp.  That drove me nuts, so I worked all week to teach him non-barking.

The middle part of this exercise was kind of hilarious.

By the weekend, Fox was pretty good about standing quietly when the quads were moving around--a much nicer citizen, but maybe a little less amusing.

Right now, Fox is more interested in barking at the washing machine than at the fireworks.  Maybe a little later, I'll put on a movie that features galloping horses--he likes to bark at the screen when he hears hoofbeats.

Hoofbeats on television are exciting!

This year, there was an additional source of noise in camp:

Active logging.

The day before this photo was taken, the timber (photo-right) had been
standing up on the hillside (photo-left).

During the entire week prior to the ride, we could hear the logging operations going on uphill less than a mile from camp.

Huge tree saws, delimbing machines, skid cats and bulldozers.  Empty logging trucks rattling up the hill to the work site at 4am. Heavily laden logging truck transports throttling down the hills and out to the highway towards the processing mills in Oregon.

And then, there was the water truck.

Every night around 8, the truck would fill up with water from the creek that runs through camp.  And then, for the next 8 hours, the truck would alternate running up and down the hill spraying water on the roads to reduce dust for the logging trucks, and backing up to the creek to tank up on more water.

And the creek was right beside our camp.

To say that we did not sleep well at night is to understate things rather a lot.

But there's no doubt that all the noise has made our neighbor's Independence Day festivities a non-event for the animals at Haiku Farm.

buzzing flies bother the Dragon more than loud machines
 and bombs bursting in air

I'll take it.