Inching toward spring

I have a few more crocuses today, but they’ve been coming out slowly because we haven’t had very nice weather until yesterday. It’s been either warm or cold and rainy. On Monday, we were supposed to get snow, but all we got was some sleet that hit my windshield on the way home from Christine’s.

At least last week I was feeling well enough that I could return to all my regular activities. Luke went to both classes and did well, except when one of the German Shepherds lunged at him Monday night. Then whenever we had to go near him, Luke would walk the other way. But he’s doing awfully well at heeling in class, not so well outside of it. I have him almost off-leash in class, but the problem is that when I let go of the leash, he stops. So, I was holding on to the very end of the leash, and he was walking along with me nicely. It’s too bad, because for a while I had him walking along by me completely off-leash. When he can do that routinely, he gets to have only a two-foot leash, and most of the time he can be off-leash. I can’t help feeling that if he knew what reward he had in store for him, he’d learn to walk off-leash really quickly.

Starting in March, a lot of our Saturday classes and all of our Monday night classes are going to be off the premises of the training facility, at places like malls, where we are training our dogs for the Urban Canine Good Citizen certificate. Unfortunately, during all of March I will be attending an evening beginning tai chi class with Wayne instead of going to dog class. Anyway, Dawn has announced she has a goal to have the schedule for class done by March 1. Last time she announced anything like this, we never got a schedule—she just used Facebook to announce where they were going at the last minute. That meant that Luke and I never got to go, because I never managed to get on Facebook at exactly the right time to look, and the times I did so, the event was so far away from our house that we couldn’t get there on time.

Aside from dog and art class, where my piggies are coming along, the only other thing I did this week of note was go walking with Christine and Luke on Monday. We drove over to her house and just walked around her neighborhood. Then we followed that up with a coffee klatsch at her house.

Here’s a glimpse of the swimming hole from the path.

For our hike yesterday, we went back to Salmon Creek Park, because it was a rare sunny day, and we wanted to stay in the sun. This was the first time we went there without Luke, which gave us an excuse to explore the swimming area, in which dogs are not allowed (even though we saw a couple in there). It is a nice area with a pond, which was occupied by cormorants, geese, and ducks at this time of year, and a bathhouse. It also has playscapes and a duck pond.

Returning from the duck pond to the swimming hole, we walked around a huge flock of geese that was sunning in the grass. When we got about two thirds around, they all took off. About half of them landed in the duck pond and the other half in the swimming hole.

We saw a path branching away from that area, and we decided to go that way rather than along the usual trail. It went under I-5 and then back along the creek for a ways, but after a mile or so it got rockier and we began seeing shopping carts and barbecues and other signs of a homeless population, so we turned around. So, we didn’t actually get a chance to find out if it went anywhere else. We returned to the main part of the park and walked up the usual trail. It started off being quite cold in the park but gradually got a lot warmer, so that we were shedding layers as we went.

As we returned to the car, we passed some people with telephoto cameras and realized they were pointed at a huge nest in the park. It was  a nest of bald eagles. We watched for a while but saw no activity, but the people said that both parents had been back and forth to the nest.

Working toward the holidays

This last week, Wayne and I did some preparation for the holidays. We shopped at World Market for stocking stuffers and went to the alpaca store to buy alpaca socks. I have presents for Wayne, my friends, and Mischa, but I still need to find things for two nieces, a nephew, a great nephew, and a second cousin, all kids. That reminds me that I need to find out how old the second cousin is.

A view across the marsh in the wildlife refuge

On Wednesday, Maja was still feeling a little under the weather, so we chose an easy place to hike, the Gibbons Creek Wildlife Art Trail in Washougal. This trail is in the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge. It was a beautiful sunny day following several cold, rainy ones, and it was nice to see all the birds and one big fat nutria who couldn’t be bothered to leave the path. We had to walk around him. We just missed seeing an eagle. We were looking at a bird of prey scaring the water birds in the marsh and asked a guy with a large camera lens if he had seen it. He said no, he was looking at the eagle, which had just flown away. The path intersects with the Columbia River Dike Trail, so we spent a while on that. Nice day to walk along the river.

On Thursday, Wayne and I did our Thanksgiving shopping, or maybe we should say non-Thanksgiving. On Sunday afternoon, our family is having a non-Thanksgiving dinner that just happens to include turkey, dressing, and pumpkin pie. Since we moved out here, we’ve only had a Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday once, and that was because our family was out of town. My sister always works on Thanksgiving, and some of us are too politically correct to observe Thanksgiving. My niece always says it’s a stupid time to have a harvest festival and she observes hers at the autumn equinox. I haven’t broken to her yet that it’s not a harvest festival. Anyway, we are hosting our non-Thanksgiving dinner, so we bought a turkey and things for stuffing and my grandmother’s scalloped oyster recipe. I made sure there were going to be mashed potatoes and pies, and other than that, I’m not keeping track of who’s bringing what. This didn’t sit well with sister-in-law Nancy, who persisted in trying to make me tell her what to bring. Finally, she said she’d bring green beans, and I said fine.

On Friday I stopped into Bi-Zi Farms, a nice produce stand where I often shop, to see what they had. I was thrilled to see that they were setting up to sell Christmas trees, because last year we had a hard time finding a lot. We only found one in Battle Ground after driving all up and down the highway, which used to be lined with them. That lot had a choice of only a few trees of the size and type we like, and I have to admit that last year’s tree was quite scruffy but expensive. Bi-Zi Farms told me they would be selling trees the next day, so Wayne and I decided to go there after dog class to make sure we had a good choice, even though it’s quite early for us to put up a tree. I made arrangements with Mischa to help me decorate, as a week or so ago she told me that was her favorite part of last Christmas (a bit of an exaggeration, I’m guessing). However, when we came by on Saturday, they weren’t set up yet. They told me they still didn’t have prices from the owners.

If you look closely at the middle of this photo, you can see the heron we saw in the turtle pond at Salmon Creek Park. He’s sitting on the branch sticking out of the water.

On Monday, the pack walk devolved to me and Christine (and Luke and Duchess), so we decided to go somewhere else for a change. We drove to Salmon Creek Park, where Christine had never been, and had a good walk of about 3.5 miles.

On the way back, we passed by Bi-Zi Farms and saw they were set up to sell trees, so in the afternoon, Wayne and I went to Home Depot and then to buy our tree. We usually buy a big one, but this year, we had a choice of several really tall trees that looked a bit scruffy or a really nice seven footer. They told us the taller trees were not shaped as they grew. I sort of liked one of the nine-foot trees, but Wayne pointed out that it didn’t have very many branches for ornaments. So, we picked a seven-footer. It’s probably the shortest tree we’ve had in ten years, but it is also very pretty. I won’t need a ladder this year at all. We put it up Tuesday afternoon.

On Tuesday, snow was forecast for  1,000 feet, which is where we are, although the weather seemed to be going more toward the south of us. We were excited to see if we’d get some snow; however, the storm did go just to the south of us, and we got nothing but wind and colder weather. My sister Sue says we always get a big storm right at Thanksgiving. I guess this was it, but if so, it didn’t do anything to us.

Last night, Sue and I went to see the movie about Mr. Rogers, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Two movies in two weeks, amazing! It is seldom that the little theater in Battle Ground has any movies for anyone older than 14. My sister was going to invite Mischa, but I told her I didn’t think it was a kid’s movie. I was right. It was a very touching and sweet movie, though, about a guy who is assigned to write a story about Mr. Rogers. You can’t go wrong with Tom Hanks, anyway.

My brother John has messaged us that he has the okay from his doctor to leave town. He and his wife Lucie have already emptied out their house in Madison and closing is today. They had originally decided to leave on Wednesday immediately after closing, but because of the storm in the Midwest, they are leaving Friday, heading for Taos, New Mexico. Eventually, they will come to our house to stay until they figure out where they want to live, somewhere in this area. We are all really excited. For their long-term stay, Wayne has started on a project to extend the hanging capacity of the guestroom closet, which only has a four-foot wire rack in it. The closet itself is huge, 12 feet wide. We’re going to extend the wire shelving to stretch across the whole thing, at least I hope that’s going to be the case. With Wayne it’s hard to know how quickly he’ll accomplish a task, or even if he will.


More wildlife spottings

I don’t know how they know this, but our former tenants told us that a bear had been spotted near the corner of our road and the main road, which is only about half a block from our house. My sister has maintained  we have a bear in the area, but I have never seen any sign of one. However, that makes me think a bit about the times that Luke seems to be barking at nothing in the woods above our house.

Similarly, my sister reported last week that she saw something that looked like a well-fed wolf in our neighborhood. I asked her if it could be a coyote, and she said, no, it was too big. Then my husband said he saw what looked like a wolf running down our road one morning. That same day, I took Luke out to the orchard and there was the “wolf,” running out of our orchard. It was a malamute. Luckily, Luke was behind me so he didn’t even notice the strange dog leaving our orchard.

I am surprised that neither Wayne nor Sue noticed it was wearing an orange collar. I don’t know who he belongs to. As far as I know, no one on our street has him unless he is a new dog. He ran across the road to our neighbors’ property and skirted it toward the farm on the main road that is next to our neighborhood but not in it, so maybe he lives there. I have heard a dog barking over there but never saw a strange dog in our neighborhood until now. It turns out my husband never heard of a malamute before. When I told him what it was, he said, “What?” I showed him a picture and he agreed that was it.

It’s hard to see, but Cougar Creek runs down the middle of this picture at the bottom of a narrow cleft.

Last week, Maja and I hiked again at Salmon Creek Park. This time, we got farther in and walked along a wilder area of the park along Cougar Creek. I have to admit to liking the park more after going farther from the urban part of it, the baseball fields, etc. We did about a four-mile hike.

Not much else of interest has been happening lately. I have been thinking about buying my fall bulbs, as every year I plant more daffodils and crocuses in my orchard. This is earlier than usual, but fall is coming on strong. Today, the high is only supposed to be in the 50’s with the lows getting into the 30’s, and there is frost on the ground for the first time this fall. It has been alternating cold, rainy with cool, sunny days. On the rainy ones, we tend to light a fire on our stove and stay in with a book. Today it is cold and sunny for a change.

I don’t know what exactly it is, but ever since we got the chimney cleaned this time, our stove has been heating up the house really fast. I noticed during the evenings this week that by the time we went to bed, the living room was too hot for me, and this was after only having the wood stove lit in the evening. When the fire department came out last year, they broke some parts of our stove running water down the chimney. They said we could still safely operate the stove, but this fall the chimney sweep installed the new parts. I don’t know if it’s the parts, the cleanness of the stove, or the good wood we bought this year, but the stove is really heating things up. Before, it used to take all day of feeding wood into the fire before the living room got too hot.

This weekend on one of the sunny days, I put on my bramble-proof gloves and tried to cut back some of the blackberry on the slope behind our house. After a time of working, I didn’t feel as if I had made any progress, even though I had a big pile of blackberry bramble on the grass behind me. I decided it would make more sense to wait until winter, after the leaves died off and I could see what I was doing. The next day it was still nice, so I went back out and clipped up the brambles into short lengths and put them in a yard bag. Last spring, when I cut back bramble down by the pond, I just threw the pieces back on top of the bramble. I didn’t realize they would reroot. They are all still green now, despite having been cut months ago.

Luke continues to steal my shoes, so I have to shut them in the closet or put them up high. The other night, he actually opened the closet door and came running out into the living room with one of my shoes in his mouth. That’s not so bad, because he hasn’t chewed any, but one night last week he was looking for trouble, went into the bedroom and got one of my bras off a chair. I had to throw it away after I got it back from him, because he tore it to pieces.


Poor puppy

Luke lying around depressed

The big thing going on this week, actually on Monday, is that Luke got neutered. The poor thing is now lying around depressed, first because he doesn’t feel well, and second because he often has this stupid cone around his neck. We take it off as often as we can, but when we do, he immediately tries to lick his sutures, which we can’t allow him to do. Poor puppy. He’ll be missing at least this week of Puppy Play and Train.

Last Wednesday, only Autumn and I made the hike, although we took her dog Frankie and Luke. We tried Salmon Creek Park because dogs are allowed. Autumn is house-sitting for Maja this month and can’t leave her dog home with Maja’s cats because he’s afraid of cats. It was a cool day but super muggy. The park turned out to be more urban than expected. It’s a nice park for city dwellers, but we’re more used to hiking in wilder areas. But it was more because of the mugginess that we decided fairly soon to turn back. Although the park got a little wilder as you went on, we were just feeling uncomfortable. It does have a nice big swimming hole near the parking lot that might be fun to explore at another time. (Dogs aren’t allowed in that area of the park.)

Because both my niece and sister were sick, I also went to art class alone. I am working now on finicky aqua spots, where I paint them in a darker color and then come back across them with white speckles and sometimes yellow or black ones. While I finished the other colors of spots in one class, so far, I have been working on these for two and have just finished one arm of my starfish, three arms of which are visible.

On Friday we picked up our friend Christine and all went to breakfast at Elmer’s. Then we went back to her house for a while and let Luke and Duchess run around her back yard. She has a beautiful yard, full of flowers, but doesn’t mind the dogs running through them. I ate too much at breakfast, though, and had to lie down when we came back.

Luke had his first class in a while on Saturday. He actually did pretty well considering that he loses his brains if he misses class. One good thing about it was they held it in the front room instead of the back. The back is open to the elements and is covered in astroturf, and they let the dogs pee back there. So, Luke spends every class back there trying to put his nose to the ground and completely loses all concentration.

Hillary stopped eating chicken. I gave her some leftovers of some fish we ate the other night, and she just gobbled them up. So, I poached her a whole fish yesterday. Now, every time I come into the kitchen, she begs for fish. I hope this won’t be like the other foodstuffs—that she’ll eat it ravenously for a while and then start turning up her nose at it, just when I begin to think she might recover. Right now, she only seems to be eating the fish and some cottage cheese, and I’m not sure the cottage cheese is good for her. But at this point, I’ll give her anything she will eat.

Over the weekend, I started mowing the orchard. I began Saturday afternoon but only did about a third of it. It was just too hot. Then, the temperature went down drastically on Sunday. I worked on it Sunday morning and afternoon and got all but one little strip of it done. I intended to finish that on Monday, but it was raining on and off all day. In any case, we had to get up at 5 AM in order to get Luke to the vet by 7, so I decided it wasn’t the day to be mowing.

Here’s my first tomato of the season.

And when we came back from the vet, I harvested my first tomato of the season. It is supposed to be a big one, at least according to the label on the plant, but is only about three inches in diameter. However, it is nice and red. I hope it won’t be my only tomato of the year, like the yellow one was last year. I do have several more on the vines of both plants, but right now the largest is about an inch in diameter.