Central Oregon Storm Cell

Summer Nights

I love our long summer evenings when the sun doesn’t settle behind the mountains until well after 8pm.  Everything lasts longer, except for the darkness.  This week I caught some beautiful sunsets.  I’m still learning my new camera, let’s be honest, that’s likely to be the truth for the next couple years, but I was able to freeze a few moments on my camera card.  #LookUp, #SameViewDifferentDay

Central Oregon Storm Cell
A developing storm cell over Central Oregon with the Three Sisters mountains in the background.
Mt. Jefferson Sunset
The sun sinking behind Mt. Jefferson from Culver, Oregon.
#SameViewDifferentLight
The reward of waiting for the perfect light, looking up (from that fancy phone) and being present for this moment.
Mount Jefferson Sunset
As day closes and the sun takes a humble bow behind Mount Jefferson.

Do Not Disturb

My day started with the frantic ringing of the doorbell followed by heavy pounding on the front door.  I’d heard something like thunder earlier that had set the dogs into a frenzy, but when I looked outside to see the retina scarring bright sky, with no smell of wildfire smoke in the air, I decided it must have been a sonic boom and I put myself back to bed.

I work nights.  This means I clock in at 7pm and make a mad dash for the door at 7:30am.  I’m an ER nurse.  We do math.  We do very important math.  At 6:55am, I need to know the difference between a 1:1,000 and 1:10,000 strength dose of meds and know whether to push 0.4mL per kg or 0.04 mL per kg.  Lives literally depend on it.  An over tired caregiver, on her 23rd hour of wakefulness, makes mistakes.  So I stay up late the night before I work — and I sleep in as late as I can the day I cover a night shift.

But not today.  Nope.  Someone was pounding on my door at 7:42am and thinking there must have been some sort of terrible emergency – or a UPS wine delivery (my driver knows to wake me up for those signatures!), I answered the door.  A hot air balloon had landed behind our gated, “No Trespassing” fence and there was a walkie-talkie dude standing in front of me wanting to know how to get through the fence to retrieve the hot air balloon and passengers.

That was the loud noise I’d heard.  It was the operator pumping more gas into the flame to keep the balloon afloat — only to land in an unkempt pasture of juniper trees, sagebrush and very dry wild grasses with no water access.  What could possibly go wrong landing a giant fireball on dry land surrounded by kindling in the midst of high 90 degree temp days?

Field burning, Culver, Oregon
Believe it or not, this is a controlled burn. It out to give you a reference point for the fires deemed “uncontrolled”

Everything.

About once every 2-3 years, a neighbor has set something ablaze that has resulted in a 911 call to the local fire department.  We’ve kept the fires away from our house but a few of those times, it’s been pure luck or answered prayers when the wind miraculously switched directions and spared us.

I unwillingly traded in my last 6 hours of sleep for a post-balloon landing fire watch.  We are custodians of 160 acres, crops, farm animals and wildlife.  We don’t get to pick the days, or time of the day, that we are responsible for what happens on the farm.  Things happen and we rise to the occasion, grit our teeth, and deal with it.  That’s farm ownership.

It was about this moment I looked out to find the new, oversized kiddie pool in a lump.  Walking out to assess the pool, I nearly rolled my ankle in a mole hole.  Didn’t I just fill in all of the mole holes?  Dang.  It was fresh.  Rodents.

Easy Up, Easier Down Pool

Lawn Rodent Damage

The lawn was covered in brown colored dry spots.  Water skips?   Nope.  Mushrooms wouldn’t be growing without water.  Insects.  More specifically, grubs and grub kill.

Lawn Insect Damage

I passed the new cherry tree and hesitated momentarily to take a closer look.  What the …?  More insects.  Nearly every leaf was riveted with multiple holes.

Caterpillar Damage

I gazed across the garden.  A few days earlier, my newly planted sprouts were taken down to mere stems by the local bunny population.  All of them.  I had replanted veggies I’d picked up at local nurseries the day earlier and had attempted to spray them with deer and rabbit repellent the night before, but the liquid was too thick for the sprayer and the only thing that got inundated with the vomit-decomp smelling fluid was my hands.  It had been 12-15 hours and the smell still lingered on both hands.  If it’s bad enough to gag an ER nurse, you know it’s really disgusting.

It was.

Garden Boxes
A second planting of the garden boxes…

I found the hole in the pool and repaired it.  I sprayed the cherry tree with fruit tree and environmentalist approved insecticide.  I put the deer/rabbit repellent into a watering can and watered my tender garden transplants – gagging along the way.  I put a hit out on the mole, filled in all but 1 hole and reseeded the bare spots.  I sifted grub killer through gloved fingers over the lawn’s dead spots.  I watered.  I got the pool filter set up and functioning.  And I got it all done with just enough time left over to hop in the shower and get myself to work on time.

I passed my husband on the way out the door and told him that the farm was trying to kill me, it was time to sell and buy a condo that came with a maintenance crew.  He laughed.

I’ve been awake just over 26 hours now, I had coworkers double check my math before dosing patients so nobody died and I returned home to garden boxes full of plants and an inflated pool.  I’ll be asleep as soon as the eggs are collected from the chickens (or they eat them) and the cheat grass sticker is removed from the dog’s ear.

It’s already a better day than yesterday – or was that today?

Night shift nurse

 

Summer Solstice

This is one of my favorite days of the year.  Nothing will beat spending it circled around a bonfire in Alaska but tonight’s sunset did not disappoint!

Summer Solstice over the Cascades
The sun setting over Mt. Jefferson, part of the Oregon Cascade Mountain Range.

 

Thank You, Mrs. Hansen

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Lightning overCascade Range

I was prepping some photos I caught of a recent thunderstorm for friends and I came across this photo.  I had somehow missed it while I was going through the hundreds of photos I took that night.

Lightning

I was practicing both shooting at night and capturing lightning – neither task is easy for me.  In a perfect world, I would have already attended several photo and camera classes by now.  In reality, I took a term of photo journalism in the eighth grade with my dad’s old Olympus.  Back then we used black and white film and processed it ourselves in the red lit darkroom after school.

While the photo is far from perfect, there is something about it that reminded me of those old days.  Perhaps it was the anticipation of not knowing whether I actually got  the shot – or just a blurry mess – until I pulled it out of the camera.  I’m not sure.

What I am certain of is that I’m grateful our photo journalism teacher took the time and made the effort to teach us some camera and photo composition basics.  She turned her hobby into an amazing class and taught us to look for beauty in places we wouldn’t ordinarily expect to find it.  So, thank you, Mrs. Hansen, from Pilot Butte Junior High School circa 1984.

Lightning in Central Oregon

Me, Martha Stewart and Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting

If you know me, you know I’m a big Martha Stewart fan.  I love that she’s a bit fussy and a perfectionist that doesn’t apologize for who she is or what she does.  She’s a stickler for etiquette and tradition.  She’s uncomfortably honest and, frankly, the woman works her tail off.  She built an empire, went to prison, lost her empire, rebuilt her life and never seemed to skip a beat.  I admire that strength.  I respect that stubborn streak.  I’m in awe of that self-perseverance.

I use to record her daily show.  I would watch an episode after a long night of work in the ER when I came home in the morning just before I went to sleep.  It got my mind off of work and I’d usually pick up a really helpful tip or two.  She’s also overwhelmingly entertaining, though I’m still not 100% certain it was completely intentional.  I could relax, giggle and learn a few things, but there was something about my connection that went a little deeper than the obvious.

I grew up in a subdivision on just under an acre of property.  We had dogs, chickens and cats – but the 2 chickens belonged to my sister and other than dropping food scraps into their pen on occasion, I knew nothing about them.  I grew up, moved into an apartment in town and lived within a mile of the hospital I worked.  I practically shared a parking lot with Costco and a grocery store was at the end of my street.  I wouldn’t necessarily say that daily living was easy – but it most certainly was convenient.

Then I got married and we built a home on a 160 acre farm in rural America.  Life changed.  I had cows and farm equipment and irrigation water.  We raised hay.  We had dial-up Internet that dropped the signal when a bird landed on the phone line.  I went from being an independent, single woman; tucked away in a 720 sq ft apartment where everything I could possibly need was within a 10 minute drive – to being a new wife, in an empty oversized house, on a huge piece of land, almost 15 miles away from the nearest Starbuck’s.

It was a bit overwhelming to say the least.  I was very fortunate and grateful but this new life was also very intimidating.  It came with a long “To Do” list and most of it I had to teach myself.  If you’ve ever had to do that before, you know it meant making mistakes until I got it right.  I can’t tell you how many lessons I learned the hard way.  I was young in my nursing career, too.  Nothing was familiar and feelings of inadequacy crept into my world almost daily.  I think I spent a solid 10 years second guessing myself about nearly everything.

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That’s where watching Martha’s program came in.

Martha Stewart had a mystical way of making me feel a little less overwhelmed.  She had a farm, an impeccable garden, cooked formal meals for long guest lists, ran her own businesses, did crafts, hosted events, filmed a daily show and still found time to show up at over the top events, shows and new restaurant openings.  She reminded me that if one woman could manage all of those things at the same time, I could handle juggling the few things I had going on in comparison.  She had teams of people helping her.  I stopped feeling the need to “do it all on my own” and I got much more comfortable asking for help.  It’s a bit silly that I could get all of that from a stranger on the TV, but it worked and when you’re in the trenches, you use what works.

Martha taught me how to raise chickens, cook chicken noodle soup from scratch, bake some of the best brownies I’ve ever made, roast a badass turkey, clarify butter, prepare my own yogurt and grow a garden that I could be proud of.  She shared tips on creating an inviting home, making a pretty bed and how to keep those towels crisp and absorbent (for the love of cotton, do NOT use fabric softener on towels!).

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I miss Martha but I still catch her on her blog from time to time.  We’ve been on the farm nearly 15 years now, so I’ve figured out a few more things than I knew in the beginning.  What was once foreign is now familiar and less overwhelming.  I let Martha stick to perfectionism and I do the best I can but don’t get hung up on the details that fall apart at the last minute.

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I was hoping to catch a glimpse of her during our New York visit but she was working on a project upstate.  It’s just as well.  I can almost imagine how the awkward introduction would go.  I’d embarrass myself by professing my admiration and she would smile her appropriate smile and uncomfortably thank me for my support in a stiff Martha-esque manner.  I’d feel like a freak and spend the plane ride home wondering why I couldn’t have said something more intelligent.

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So that’s my Martha story.  It came to mind today after I finally nailed a recipe for her Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting.  Of course, I tweaked a few things – less jam, more egg whites — my hens’ eggs are medium sized – so I adjust recipes for them.  I used the buttercream to frost my mom’s birthday cupcakes and it was probably a little too rich to top the cupcakes with as much as I used but it got decent reviews from some tough critics.  My nephews said it tasted like a strawberry milkshake but was a bit too fluffy for their liking.  I think it would be a perfect addition to a strawberry shortcake parfait cup.

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Swiss Meringue Buttercream combines egg whites, sugar and butter.  The strawberry comes from a scoop of strawberry jam.

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You start by whisking the sugar and eggs in a mixing bowl heated over boiling water to heat the mixture to about 160 degrees – then remove it from heat and whisk it to form stiff peaks.  Keep beating until mixture cools, then add tablespoon ny tablespoon of butter.

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After about 6 minutes, the mixture comes together.  Add the vanilla and strawberry jam and you’re done.

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The perk to this frosting is that it’s not quite as sweet as tradition buttercream frosting, and it’s much lighter, so piping it is a quick and easy task.  It holds it’s shape well, hardening when stored at cool temperatures, but it softens quickly at room temps.

I used:

6 medium egg whites

1 1/4 cup sugar

3 butter cubes

1 teaspoon of vanilla

1 large scoop of strawberry jam

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The link to Martha’s recipe with perfect pics and instructions is below:

Martha Stewart’s Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting Recipe

The Yearly Storming of the Castle

So a big ol’ fat field mouse crawled out from under the cabinets and plopped down on the kitchen floor the other night.

This is a fact, friends. Every single year, the mice attempt to storm the castle to make it their own and each year, I fight back, with everything I’ve got, to keep them out.

Let there be no mistake.  It – is – a – war.

Rodents vs Humans.

And if you so much as give an inch — in moves their family, and cousin’s family and babies — so many babies!!!  So NO!!! We do NOT take pity, we don’t seek out humane and ethical treatment of animals – and we don’t share our thoughts or methods with PETA. This is MY house. They have 160 acres to go build their own house.  They cross the threshold of MY house and the battle is on!

In years past, a breach of the household barrier by rodents has caused me to scream in a voice that doesn’t even sound like my own then vapor lock as I continue to scream but no sound actually is produced. This year, when my fat little friend, plopped her not so stealthy self down in front of me — I just looked at her and said, “Oh no – not this year!” She froze, momentarily, then hopped back up beneath the cabinets as if to say, “These are not the drones you seek,” but it was too late. I most definitely saw her.  And that meant war.

I quietly slipped down the hall to the shop where I keep my rodent arsenal.  See – I’m getting better at this farm thing.  Snap traps, bait traps, sticky traps, poison blocks — what do you need? I’ve got at least one of everything. Old ones, new ones, outdoor and indoor varieties — I’m not admitting to contraband, but let’s just say I may even have a few things we can’t mention online.  Ironically, the old fashion broom proved to be the most damaging in years past – not to the rodent – but to the wood floor, wall and glass in the French doors.  Oh, and it smashed a humidifier to a million pieces in the process but the mouse escaped without injury.  We’ve upgraded equipment and trained since those rookie days.

Like a rodent killing Ninja, I proceeded to set a mine field of various traps from the kitchen sink to the pantry, in the pantry, under the furniture, in the cabinets, along the walls, beneath the doors — if there was a space — there was now a lethal rodent snare.

It’s been a week and nothing.  The humanitarian in me (it’s there – just deeply buried beneath rodent despise), was relieved.  The rodent killer and mouse hater wasn’t.  I know that where you see one, there are really twenty and that’s just gross.

But tonight I heard the tribal call of an animal caught in a trap. It was a big guy and he was thrashing about, making a mess and wreaking havoc as he attempted to rid himself of the trap.  I walked into the kitchen to find a hopping, yelling husband with his foot stuck in a giant sticky trap, glue strands extending from one counter to the other.

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It’s not exactly what I expected but it sure made me laugh.  A little dish soap, oil based lotion, bath water rinse and he was free.  Frankly, I’m just happy it wasn’t his pinky toe in a snap trap that caught him.  Either way, this species has always been catch and release – so I let him go – but I think he’s going to hang out awhile and I’m happy about that.

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The mice, on the other hand, I expect to fight this battle with until next fall, when they go underground and hibernate.  This is a farm.  This is what we do.

Seriously?

They can’t all be good days.  Some days are crazy, upside-down, if-it-can-go-wrong-it-will-go-wrong type of days.  Some days can get so bad, in fact, that I literally check the sky for a vortex of bad luck spinning above my head.  Yesterday was definitely one of those days.

I had a day full of tasks to get done within a tight schedule.  If things went right, my day would look like it had been professionally choreographed.  Pick up Nephew #3, dentist, lunch, swimming lessons, errands, pick up Nephew #4, pick up Nephew #2, finish planting the garden, have the boys plant their own flower baskets while we talked warmly about their days, get dinner started, drop the kids off at their respected homes and get home to finish the last of the laundry and get dinner on the table just in time to sit down and catch up with my husband about his day.  Maybe there would even be a pretty sunset and nightcap to wrap the day up.

I was right on schedule and getting ready to walk out the door when I remembered that I had left my purse in my other vehicle.  I walked into the garage, opened the Jeep door and THIS happens – make sure your volume is down before pushing play on this 4 second insight:

No, I’m not joking.

Horn blaring, wipers beating and wiper fluid squirting all over the garage; the Jeep was clearly melting down in its own version of a temper tantrum.  I went inside, grabbed the keys and hopped into the driver’s seat still getting sprayed to see if starting the motor would suspend the assault.  No luck.  The obnoxiously loud horn was vibrating my brain.

I threw open the hood, grabbed pliers and detached the battery cables.  Thank goodness.  Silence.  There was no time to do anything but shake off the dripping wiper fluid from my face and leave to go pick up my nephew from school for his dentist appointment – because now I was ten minutes behind schedule!

I got down my driveway and noticed that the Bluetooth didn’t sync to my cell.  Whatever!  I don’t have time for this!  I’ll worry about that later.   My nephew was waiting in the office for me when I arrived and we slid into the dentist office just in the nick of time.  Phew!

While waiting for my nephew, I reached for my iPhone to update my calendar.  I got 10 seconds of screen time and then the ever annoying black screen.  Perfect.  If you don’t own an iPhone 6s, you may not be aware of the recent battery issues that came with an IOS upgrade a few months ago.  Battery life jumps from 97% to 30% to dead at varied rates now.  Sometimes it takes 8 hours, others it takes 7 minutes.  Apple denies my particular phone has one of the defective batteries included in a recall but suggests I get it fixed because the battery is, in fact, defective.  Wrap your brain around THAT notice.

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No worries, I keep a charger in the car.  The dentist appointment went well and we headed out for lunch.  I even got Nephew #3 to the local pool in time to meet his class for swimming lessons and squeezed enough juice into my phone between stops to get a couple photos for his mom.

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The local pool may be kept at barely 80 degrees but the indoor building temps climbed much higher.  By the time lessons were over, I both felt and looked like I had just spent an hour in a 120 degree sauna.  We headed to the local big box garden department for a few seed packs, potting soil and garden stakes.  By the time we were done, I felt faint.  There wasn’t enough cold air in the world to cool me off.  We stopped at Sonic for slushies to both cool off and surprise the boys with after school treats.  We had about 15 minutes before Nephew #4 was out of school and – Beep!!! It looked like my phone had charged enough to work again because my hands-free was signaling an incoming call.

It was my sister-in-law, calling to confirm that I was, in fact, picking up her boys because she’d gotten calls from both schools that nobody had arrived to get them.  Oh, crap!!!  Early release.  On Wednesdays, they get out an hour early!  Dang it.  I forgot!

I can’t begin to tell you how terrible of a feeling it is to know you’ve let not one, but TWO, of your little nephews – one with special needs – sitting in the school office for nearly an hour, waiting for you.  It’s heart-wrenching.  They both acted like it was no biggie – but I know it was just to make me feel better.  I let them down and I knew it.

We did get the garden seeded but not before thunder rumbled in the background – also not before the little guy filled his pull-up.  We took a break to get him in clean pants when I discovered one of the worst red and blistered diaper rashes I’ve ever seen on the little guy.  Forget planting.  I ran a bath for him in hopes of getting whatever had caused that horrible rash off his sensitive skin.  I patted him dry and slathered him with Butt Paste.  He said it didn’t hurt but how could something like that not hurt?

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By now, it was already 7:30pm.  Dinner was still frozen solid in the freezer, laundry was still piled in the hamper and I realized, I forgot to feed the children even a snack.  They’d been helping me with heavy loads of dirt and gardening on nothing more than a sugar-filled slushie.  Epic auntie fail!  

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It was too late to right my wrongs without ruining their supper.  I packed up the starving, dirty boys — and the one clean kid — just in time for my husband to walk in the door and ask me why the garage floor was puddled with wiper fluid.  I shook my head apologetically and simply said, “Just save me some vodka,” and took off for town again to drop the littles off at home with barely enough time to eat before their bedtimes.

I got home, poured a drink, explained to my husband about the demonically possessed Jeep and turned to the Internet for guidance on what the heck went wrong.  Apparently — the horn, wiper and fluid squirting thing is a known issue with 2007 and 2008 Jeep Wranglers.  It has to do with the Totally Integrated Power Manager – (TIPM).  The 2007’s were updated in a vehicle wide recall.  Guess what – the 2008 model has the same issue but isn’t covered in the recall.  Perfect – it’s the theme of the day.

Just before midnight my phone had enough of a charge to explode with messages and voice mails from both the boys’ school to let me know the kids were waiting in the office — as if to remind me exactly what a messed up day it had really been.

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Then our non-functioning, unplugged-but-not-unwired, security system let out a shrill alarm at about 3 AM.

Seriously.

I want an electro-magnetic, spiritual cleansing.

The Great Blueberry Massacre

Just off my grandmother’s porch were the best 3 blueberry bushes in the world.  Every summer, she’d pick pint after pint of the sweet, purple orbs.  If we planned our summer vacations right and got lucky enough, we even got to help.  She’d freeze them by the quart and we’d celebrate all year with blueberry pancakes.

I know at least 3 out of 4 of Grandma’s grandkids have bushes planted in their own backyards now.  Whether it’s because we can’t quite let go of our sweet memories or simply for the love of blueberries, I’m not sure.  I planted mine almost 3 years ago and they did okay but not great.  Our soil is super alkaline and they like acidic soil.  We got hit with an early fall deep freeze down into the negative thirties and hit again with similar temps in late spring.  Frankly, I was just thrilled they survived.

The following summer, I expected the bushes to thrive.  I adjusted the pH of the soil, I fertilized with the recommended type and proper amount of organic fertilizer.  I watered appropriately.  I did everything right yet — my blueberries looked more like twigs than bushes.  Twigs with 6 tiny leaves.  I couldn’t tell if they weren’t growing or if something was eating them at the same rate they were growing.

The leaves kind of grew in sparingly over summer and I was thrilled to finally get a chance to eat all 4 ripe blueberries.

Last winter we set records for consecutive days with snow on the ground but our temps were fairly moderate.  I knew this year was the year for blueberries!  I got a wind spinner as the leaves began to fill out in late April.  It took less than a week for a deer to get its head stuck in it and tear it to shreds.  I planted marigolds around the bushes to deter the bugs.  It took them a week to freeze and die — but my blueberry plants were still coming in strong — at least until they weren’t.

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I began to notice that leaves were disappearing.  At first I thought I was seeing things, but no, a second check the next day showed about 1/3rd of the foliage present as the day before.  Deer?  Bugs?  Bunnies?  I bought more marigolds to ward off evil plant munching bugs and it’s when I went out the next morning that it all began making perfect sense.  Right in front of me, no farther than six feet away, sat a not-so-little gray cottontail, gorging on my blueberry limbs for breakfast.  It just sat and stared at me as if to say, “Um, yah.  Great blueberry bushes, we could use a few more for the – you know – ever expanding family.”  It wasn’t until I waved my arms and yelled that it finally ran for the sagebrush.

I looked for mesh plant covers and found some, but at $28 a piece, I knew I could find something better.  I really didn’t want to build a fence because I still needed access to weed and mulch and add coffee grounds but I really wasn’t keen on spending nearly $90 to protect them either.  What to do, what to do?  Hmmm…

Then it came to me.  In a different department, they carry a similar mesh, pop-up deal but they don’t call it a plant cover, they call it a laundry bin, and instead of $28 – they are available 2 for $8.  Take THAT you mutant bunnies!  I still might need to cut the tops to provide less shade but for now it’s working great and giving my blueberry bushes a chance to recover from the deer and bunny assaults.  The bunnies have since taken their frustrations out on my marigolds and eaten them down to nubs but at least they haven’t figured out how to get to the blueberry bush leaves — not YET, anyway.

And yes, that pole is all that’s left of my pretty, new, windspinner.  Thanks, Bambi.

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It may be too late to get blueberries off the plants this year – but I feel good about next year.

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Not sure the peanut gallery agrees, though.  These guys look less than thrilled about the new yard decor.

“If You Build It, They Might Come”

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning with a hazy cloud cover and moderate outdoor temps, perfect dirt digging weather.  Alas, I sit inside, large coffee cup in hand, to catch up on writing — because I’m so stinkin’ sore from yesterday that I won’t be able to move more than my typing finger until the Aleve kicks in.

I get these ideas.  I like to call them great ideas, myself – and they usually are – well, at least until proven otherwise, like the time I got the goats (shudder), BUT that’s a story for another day…  Anyway, back to my latest great idea.  Pumpkins.  Let’s grow pumpkins!

Every year for the past 13ish years, we coordinate schedules among siblings, charge the camera batteries, withdraw a small fortune from the ATM, pack up the children and head to the local pumpkin patch where we spend 75% of the day, standing in long lines, listening to screaming kids and cranky parents, so we can catch that one perfect but elusive moment that everyone is happy, smiling and all looking at the camera at the same time, in an animal painted wagon train or atop an equally thrilled pony.  The photos are priceless.

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Then we hunt down a wagon or wheelbarrow, head out to the actual pumpkin patch to find Halloween pumpkins that costs enough to drain the last few twenty dollar bills from a wallet.  It’s tradition.  We don’t buck tradition — right?  Hmmm…  What if we tried?  What if – maybe – we did (gulp) something new next year?

It was at this spot my great idea came together.  What if I grew pumpkins out on the farm for my niece, nephews and a handful of local kids to come pick out next fall?  We could stack hay bales for them to play on, borrow a friend’s pony and take them for ATV rides.  Caramel corn is east to make.  Is it possible to create a spot so great that the children decide they want to skip the long lines at the local pumpkin patch?!  Is it too big of a dream?!!

IMG_5532It’s impossible to know whether or not something will work without trying, so this year – I got serious about it.  In early spring , I started a variety of pumpkin seedlings indoors.  I moved them outside a few weeks ago to harden them off and acclimate them to Central Oregon wind and weather.  Then yesterday, I prepped the soil, got them in the ground and covered.

While it takes about 3 seconds to type that line, the actual amount of physical labor that went into just soil prep was brutal.  This is why I can’t move today.  I spent 5 hours (FIVE – did you read that?!  FIVE long, body-jolting, blister-forming, sweat-stinging-my-eyeball hours!) rototilling hard packed, lightly rock-filled, sod bound earth into something more workable and pumpkin root ready.

Theory is that all soil needs amended.  So I lugged several heavy bags of compost and manure out to the want-to-be pumpkin patch and tilled it in until it was well mixed.  The nerd, um, scientist in me, will be able to see if the theory is true because I was about 8 feet short on soil amendments, so we will be doing a side by side pumpkin development study.

In the process, I dug up a frog.  Well, it’s a toad, actually.  I thought it was the biggest tree frog I’d ever seen, so, like any decent human, I returned it to its branch.  And then it fell out.  I decided that it probably wasn’t a tree frog.  It got misidentified as the nasty invasive American Bullfrog and spent a night receiving death threats on my Facebook page (that might be an exaggeration) until I decided to read up and educate myself about both the dreaded bullfrog (sorry, nobody likes you, it seems) and other native species present in my local region.  I am now 100% certain, my little friend was none other than the Great Basin Spadefoot Toad.  Phew.  Environmental disaster avoided.  I’m pretty sure he survived because I saw him hop off as I stood guard over the dogs so they wouldn’t eat him.

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Back to pumpkins, now we wait.  Will they get enough water?  Will the bunnies, dogs, deer or bugs get the plants first?  Our forecast changed from a week of overnight lows in the 40-50’s to suddenly just above freezing once  the tender seedlings were planted.  Will the tunnel cover keep them safe from frost?  I don’t know – and even if all things go well, will these pumpkins be enough to woo the children from wanting to go to their favorite pumpkin patch this fall?  One can only hope and dream.

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Okay, I can straighten my legs with only a moderate amount of groaning.  It’s time to go to work on the garden boxes.  Please pray for no snakes.  I just don’t think I have what it takes for a snake-sighting in me today.

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