Chicken Blog by Natalie

The Really Big Garden Bed :: Two Hundred Forty - 5 hours 6 min ago
This big, beautiful bed was cleared out, the soil turned, and amended from the goat-chicken team compost... all of that intense labor thanks to a wonderful handyman. It's ready to be planted, and has been waiting for me to be ready, too. It's a gift, a prize, a playground for the hands and soul. I've been immersed in the pleasure of digging, hauling, and planting for the last two and half hours... talking to the peppers and cosmos, tucking in the herbs, reassuring the zinnias. I met worms, thank goodness! Bees are already visiting the rosy Sweet William. Alex joined me for a spell, and I know Maria will be glad to plant the carrot seeds. The work is nearly complete. No, actually, it's only the beginning! I only hope that what's begun will flourish and delight. A good garden, it seems to me, is a blessed mix of labor, optimism, and nature's favor. God bless gardeners!

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

The Really Long Laurelhurst Pokémon Walk - Thu, 08/25/2016 - 11:10
Ok, maybe not really long. Maybe just slightly less than really long, but bear in mind... we'd already been hiking around the Falls, and it was in the high nineties-hot in Portland, so coupled with being unsure of our directions, and redoubling our steps all over Laurelhurst Park, in search of Pokémon, we kind of did have a really long walk, our first day out in Portland. And it began at Trader Joes.

Portland was searing! And weird. And familiar. We grabbed some milk, and fruit, before checking into our place, and bidding farewell to Mom and Dad. Can I just say... I love having TJ's for a dependable source of tasty food, local color, and conveniences. They don't sponsor CB, but we sure do appreciate their support!

Ok. We are here. Portland. And it's time to figure out what this next part of our Oregon trip holds. I'd been to Portland once, before, and really loved it, at least the one street I explored in 16 hours! This time, the only bits we had figured out were a few things we hoped to do, like...

1. Walking and public transit: TRI-MET!
2. Visit Collage.
3. Get to Powell's.
4. See gardens, houses, trees, art, and make discoveries.
5. Play Pokémon Go.
oh, and...
6. Casually happen to run into any of our favorite PDX area bloggers, but that never really panned out, because, you know... aggressively friendly B-grade blogger fandom is weirdish.

Well, Steve? What do you think? What would a Native Portlander do, late in the afternoon of a very hot day, with no car, and little or no clue?

Get out there, and walk?

Alright, then!

I fell in love with about every other house we saw, Maria did, too.

If we weren't falling in love with a beautiful house, we were awestruck by trees, flowers, sidewalks, driveways, leaves, pinecones, moss, canopies, and berries.

There are two things that make traveling interesting, memorable: Finding new things, enjoying novel experiences, and discovering the most familiar and near-to-home connections, or meeting people with near-to-home connections! It's true! Right? Haven't you been far away and met someone that knows your town, or has a brother that went to your school? That feeling of random connectedness, of familiarity, is delightful. Silly, but just really delightful!

Well, we loved coming across our first Little Free Library, just like ours at home! And it also happens to be a Poké stop! Are you wondering, "Why Pokémon? Why a phone app game when you're on vacation, traveling in a new city?" I hope you aren't thinking it's a bad idea, or a waste of time. We happen to be a gaming family... that is, Geoff's career is in game development, and I could, but won't, expound on the virtues and merits of appreciating game theory, programming, interactive play, digital graphics, play strategy, game skill adaptation, deductive reasoning, social engagement, map reading, orienteering, entertainment, and outdoor physical activity. Pokémon Go is kind of a groovy way of getting to know a new area, yup. We followed the Poké map to Laurelhurst Park, and found beautiful sights all along the way!

Historic home... and another Poké stop!

Did you know, Poké stops (places where players can collect game pieces) were created by using Google Maps, and the photos that visitors had uploaded to that application? Any place that someone may have taken and shared a picture, could be a Poké stop, so it creates a fairly reliable source of noteworthy places of interest to visit.

We made it! Laurelhurst Park! Love those shade trees! The pond, the happy gatherings for birthdays, a wedding, the other game players, cyclists, dogs.

This was the visit when we stopped to build a fairy house. It's also about the time I started collecting the whole forest! Without literally clear-cutting, or endangering any species, I picked up sticks, acorns, moss, lichen, bark... any odd pieces from gutters and sidewalks, until it began to look as though I really did intend to bring home a forest. Oh, gee, I wish I could have brought home a forest.

Let's walk, shall we?

This. I... well, I've grown accustomed to my peculiar subjects, including taking pictures of sticks and sidewalks, but driveways? I have at least three, maybe four, driveway photographs. But look at this thing! It's awesome! I've never seen one like it. It's clever and unique, and I am proud of myself for resisting the urge to walk up and down it. And also a bit disappointed... I think I should have walked up and down this driveway staircase.

Did we get carried away? Yes, a bit. We thought we might find dinner at the Laurelhurst Market, but when we got to that corner, I realized we were too casually attired and a bit travel funky... it wasn't looking like a good match. We were kind of far off course, so we opened up the map, and charted another course... things looked promising if we turned east on Burnside Street. Another concern, besides the heat, the setting sun, our appetites, and being far from Steve, was the disorienting, unsettling sensation that comes from being in unfamiliar territory, doubting my internal compass, being unsure what kind of neighborhood we were headed toward, and worst of all: A dying cell phone battery!!! (Alright, I admit, not everything about the Pokémon Go app is peachy! That thing is a power sucker!) Maria taught me how to dim the brightness, and we closed down our apps to conserve energy on the phone. As for conserving our own energy? Nothing for that! We kept walking, and sweating. But also talking, and laughing, and being awestruck by nature and beauty and the sidewalks, driveways, and pinecones. Then we saw an oasis!

Dear Laurelhurst Cafe, thank you for being open, for having cold apple juice, and an inviting and comfortable spot for us to sit and catch our breaths, gather our thoughts. Thank you, oh so very much, for having an outlet for our phone charger. Yes, a special lot of thanks for that. We probably didn't say much. We may have looked flushed and turned around. But you made us feel welcome, in spite of our selves, and we really appreciate you for that.

We had already finished off the water we were carrying around with us, and I just know the apple juices saved, at least, one of us from passing out in a heat faint! While the phone charged, I could study the map, again, and figure out a direct-ish way back to Steve, our bed, rest, and the prospect of having our fruit and milk for dinner.

North on SE 47th, to Gilsan. Left. Then north, again, to NE 47th... zig, zag, zig... This was looking promising.

Still pretty houses, and other lovely views. We were revived, but a bit weary, yet. With more power on the phone battery, we opened up Pokémon Go, for kicks, and it literally led us to our next oasis!

A is for American Dream Pizza. A is for art, and appetites, and ahhhhh!

It was irresistible. Good pizza has a way of announcing itself... like when it smells so amazing, you have to walk in and order it, on the spot! We found our dinner, even if we were only minutes away from sunset and still a long way from our final destination!

And while our pizza cooked, we drank lots of water, and gazed at pizza box art. Pizza box art is pretty flippin' cool, by the way. Portland has this kind of magical way of being so... so Portland!

Pointing ourselves west, then north, then west, then north, then west, and motivated by the heavenly fragrance and promise of a delicious dinner, we found our way back to our Portland home.

The sun had set. Homes were lit, glowing invitingly in the dusk. And we pressed on.

And we parked ourselves on the steps up to Steve's house, and dined happily on basil, pineapple, cheese pizza with fresh tomatoes. Maria's choice. It was fantastic.

Cheers to a good first day in Portland!

Oh, and one more thing! American Dream Pizza was a Pokémon Gym... that's where teams do virtual battle. Maria entered her first Pokémon as a defender of the gym held by Team Mystic! Primeape didn't have a big CP, but she was thrilled to get this space in the game, and to her delight, Primeape hung in there for over twenty-four hours, which meant she earned coins and stardust! Nice.

Bird House and Barn :: Two Hundred Thirty Nine - Thu, 08/25/2016 - 09:47
Can you tell she's got her eye on me? A chicken's gaze can touch that core spot in our collective unconscious... the one that informs our decision to run from big cats, to be wary of shadows, something above, circling over our heads. Some of my chickens can do very good impressions of their predecessors, those prehistoric terrible lizards. Fortunately, this is Mako, and she is my darling, my sit in your lap and coo hen. I love you, Mako. Would you like some treats?

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Everyone on our little farm by the sea loves their treats, and special attention. And in return we get fresh eggs, mulch and compost, amusing anecdotes, nuzzles and affection, and those intangible moments that make life worthwhile, a pleasure.

Some of the hens have gone back to their old habit of laying in the goat's hay feeder. They also lay beneath an old robot tower, in a rabbit hutch, and now, in their cottage, too. There is an egg hunt everyday.

Ada Lovelace Goat is well, and so is her companion, Tasha Tudor Goat.

All twelve hens have declared this an ideal summer. I think they appreciate the mild weather, the regular supply of watermelon rinds, corn cobs, and other tasty morsels, like those Grubblies we've been providing them.

Another cache! These pretty eggs were waiting to be discovered in the pine needle nest they've made in their cottage.

I have a confession to make. This hen does not have a name. She looks so much like her sister, and she's too skittish to sit still long enough to become a friend. We simply have not become so well acquainted. I never like to presume to impose myself on shy or skittish hens. I think, also, that twelve hens is a lot. Not too many for their comfort, for their safety, or well-being, but perhaps too many for feeling connected with each of them, for an intimate dynamic. To be kept as pets, coddled and familiar, I think 3 to 6 hens is ideal. The relationships are easier to manage, the hens remain tamer, and we all become better acquainted. But still... I think I will settle on a name for her, and her sister.

Oops! When I am distracted, thinking up chicken names, or fending off pecks from Pippi and Pepper, Mako takes matters into her own beak, and helps herself to dinner. She and I are very well acquainted. Dear, sweet, hungry Mako.

Welcome to Portland, Oregon... Love, Steve - Wed, 08/24/2016 - 11:07
After a lovely visit to the Columbia River Gorge, Mom and Dad delivered us to the Laurelhurst neighborhood and house that would be our home for the next four days. Our Airbnb hosts were expecting us. It can be an odd thing approaching a stranger's home, in a strange neighborhood, in an unfamiliar city. No one answered after my first tentative knock, but a kitty ambled gingerly across the garden and up the walk, and without pretense or formal introductions, he began meowing a welcome greeting to us. He coaxed me into knocking again... even if I wasn't sure we were at the right house, the kitty was quite certain we belonged here.

Welcome to Portland, put down your bags, let's be friends.

Hello. This is Steve, the white kitty with the pink nose and toe beans, who lives in the house 'round the corner in the Laurelhurst neighborhood. He keeps company with two little boys, and their mama and papa. He cannot hear you call him, but he knows when the door is open, and he wants to tell you about where he loves to get scritches. Ah, yes, that's the spot. purrrrrrrrr

Steve is very good at purrs, and scratching the floor, or bed, as a sign of contentment and appreciation... it's a gentle, kneading technique, paws alternating, rhythmically.

He's also good at kisses, which perhaps could be mistaken for baths. Hold still, he missed a spot.

He watched us, thoughtfully, while we studied our maps, and considered our options for exploring the city.

He gazed at us, reassuringly... we felt fortified, and bolstered. Traveling by foot, meeting city buses, the metro, navigating cross streets and across town, seemed less daunting, more achievable, in the presence of his calm and cool cat confidence.

And by the second day, Steve was a fixture, a confidant, the warmest, most convivial host any guests to a big city could hope for.

Or. No, maybe he was more like an unexpected roommate. A stowaway, applying for passage south. He would complete our black and white kitty collection, we couldn't help but notice.

And Portland, we discovered, more and more each day, is a marvelous city, a warm, and convivial city, so very much like our host.

Today we are going to trek to Powell's, Steve. And maybe to Blue Star Donuts. We might find Collage, and swoon over their craft supplies...

But first, a selfie, Steve, because we love you so.

And Steve opted to sit this one out, stay home, wait for our return.

Then welcome us back.

He sympathized about our tired feet, the heat.

He relished our happy company, as we sorted our bookstore finds, read aloud, gave him affectionate back rubs.

Thank you for snuggles, Steve.

For letting us sleep in.

Thank you for your natural affection, sweet demeanor, agreeable companionship.

And when it was time to gather our treasures, pack our bags, we sighed wistfully for everything we knew we could not pack, for everything we would very soon be missing. Dear Oregon, and family, dear Portland, and you, Steve.

We love your town, your trees, and mosses, the arches, gardens, neighbors, and art. We love the long walks we took, the places we discovered and kind people we met. We love lavender and honey ice cream, that delicious saved-our-lives pizza we shared after walking six miles looking for Pokemon and building a fairy house, our first afternoon in town.

We love that you met us at the door, kept us company, and even reminded us of what we had to look forward to, back at home.

It was hard to leave. We really didn't want to go.

If only there were a little space in our bags... but, no. We couldn't take you from your beautiful home, so we said, "Farewell," and hope we will see you again, someday.

And you sent us home in your usual, and thoughtful way. Thank you, kitty.

We chose Airbnb, but Steve chose us... what a wonderful host he is.

Mister Foo and His Boop :: Two Hundred Thirty Eight - Wed, 08/24/2016 - 09:18
Mister Washburn Foo loves his Boop, Neo Cairo Nepenthes, the Fluff Nugget, Baby Boo.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Take Us To The Columbia River Gorge - Tue, 08/23/2016 - 12:16
This entire Oregon adventure was very spontaneously executed, yet was years in anticipation. On the surface, I can seem impulsive when it comes to heading out on a trip, but the thing is... I daydream trips, read maps, collect itineraries, follow train routes, and imagine. There are travel dreams stored up in me, waiting for their moment to be suddenly initiated, seemingly impromptu. When I called my mom, to ask if this would be good timing, if she and Dad would be available, around for a visit from me, and Maria, I decided to rope them into my daydream and asked, "What if we go up to this place, Multnomah Falls? Now, that was a very spontaneous thing to do, and a question I will always be thankful that I asked, because they answered, "Yes. Yes, let's do that." And it turned out to be a quite wonderful daydream-come-true!

Multnomah Falls has been living in my mind for quite some time, mostly as the iconic image seen in countless Pinterest Boards... it's the verdant face of the cliffside, a picture of a long waterfall bisected by a graceful, arching pedestrian bridge. The photographs are beautiful, breathtaking. I've seen it in blogs, in FB posts from friends visiting Portland, and I've longed to go there, to be there, to touch the scene and know it for myself. A wholly romantic and aching daydream... Multnomah Falls. The Columbia River Gorge. And in my typical daydream fashion, I deliberately kept it a secret, even from myself... and what I mean by this, is that I learned as little about the Falls as possible. Enough to get there, but not so much that all of my impressions and understanding of the place would be informed by what I'd read, or studied. I wanted to get there and discover Multnomah Falls for myself. This proved to be perfectly and satisfyingly fulfilled. I recognized the iconic images I've pined for, and happily felt delighted and surprised by my own first impressions, and discoveries. What a happy experience.

Here's a glimpse of another daydream worthy rail trip... a rail bridge for The Empire Builder. I enjoyed that Amtrak ride, March, 1990, starting in San Diego, and finishing in Minneapolis. It was amazing. The only thing better was Geoff meeting me in Minnesota to ride home together.

Pinch me! I must be dreaming.

We rose fairly early, and drove up from Albany. It was cool in the shadow of the cliffs, about 9am. But we'd beat the crowds, and the heat to come. And once we began walking up to the falls, then around a few ascending loops, we were plenty warmed up.

There was only a little memory space on the phone Maria borrowed from her brothers, and she used most of it here!

My elation matched the beauty. I really felt utterly delighted to see all of it, from the parking lot, to the entire vista, in every direction.

Moss. Lichen. Tiny, white dew drop flowers in fern covered nooks. Stone paths, damp ground. The mist off the falls, the heights and expanses. Shades of green, layers of green. The air, and the breathless way I felt about all of the beauty. There's poetry in all of it, somewhere. I cannot compose it, not yet, but I feel it.

Maria is a precious companion. We travel so comfortably, happily well together. Let's go! Her words, her attitude, her energy, marked every step and each day with fresh eagerness to see things, try things, and appreciate all of it. We agreed on when to explore, when to pause, when to move forward, when to step back... and we coaxed new steps out of each other, too. Neither of us had strict plans or expectations for any of the trip, and it was a pleasure to discover where we would go next, how far we might climb, what new corner we might turn.

One thing I learned... there is a whole lot more to the Columbia River Gorge than just this beautiful waterfall. There are many waterfalls, parks, sights, and worthwhile stops. Maria and I, like many other times during this trip, were planning the next trip, and how it had to be with the brothers, Bambi, and Geoff.

Ron, taking our picture. He walked a bit further up the trail from here, then Maria and I hiked even further from there. It was lovely, invigorating. We only missed having the rest of our family with us. Next time. Yes, yes.

August 13, 2016... Maybe not the "best" picture of the Falls, but definitely my favorite.

I really felt I had been greedy enough by asking for this out of the way excursion, and I had not imagined Ron would have more in store for us. The plan was to get me and Maria to our Airbnb destination in Portland, so Mom and Dad could travel back down to the coast, home. But, no rush! Ron drove further up the compelling highway, further into the Columbia River Gorge, until we came to the Bonneville Lock and Dam, built by the United States Army Corp of Engineers.

Like I said... I daydream my trips, pouring over maps, forecasting the entire thing, but I am always open to something new, a twist, a detour, and the way this side trip came about was even more enjoyable, because of how unexpected it was. The whole dam thing was frickin' awesome! And huge! And fish ladders! I love fish ladders!

We could see the fish swimming up, and through this constructive solution. And I haven't read data, or studied this sufficiently, to say 'it's working!' But I love that someone is trying, that thought and effort are being applied to the concern for the lives of the white sturgeon, steelhead, and salmon. It really was a fascinating system to observe.

Shudder. Hahaha... I love it when nature challenges me to love it, all. of. it! Lampreys are not lovable.

Just brushing up on her Sasquatch tracking skills!

Sassy is a big deal in Oregon!

Near where we stopped for a riverside lunch, where we want to return with tents, and more family, and stay for days.

Even when we were "stuck" in traffic, and it did get really busy along this scenic byway, we were as happy as could be. Falls, creeks, flowers, shady trees, and beautiful sights surrounded us, and we loved it.

Now, I am daydreaming about seeing this place in fall, winter, spring. Take us to the Columbia River Gorge, anytime. We're ready!

Hey, Guava Babies :: Two Hundred Thirty Seven - Tue, 08/23/2016 - 09:29
Buds, blossoms, and baby fruit... our guava tree is looking good. Passion vines are dropping fruit, as is the Fuji apple. The Golden and Annas trees are blossoming, again. We have are having a bountiful late summer harvest, with lovely prospects for next spring.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

(Speaking of good fortune! Won't someone, anyone, please enter our giveaway for free chicken treats from Grubbly Farms?? Did I mention: Free! Giving away? Gratis. A gift from the good guys at Grubbly Farms! Made in the USA. Big Savings! Hello?? Is this Internet working??)

Hello Sixth Graders :: Two Hundred Thirty Six - Mon, 08/22/2016 - 09:45
More than a new grade, and a new year, a whole new environment is in store for Maria and her classmates... they have what almost looks like a brand new school! All of the upgrades and new classrooms look inviting, open, pretty, and smart, even increasing the original charm and warmth of their sweet school. Love the added trees! "Like a tech company! Geoff replied to the pictures I sent him. These whiz kids deserve the best: Bright, innovative, fun and intelligent learning spaces, just like them! Maria met it all with big smiles, and an eagerness to join her friends, meet the new teacher, and begin, again.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Last night Maria turned to her brother for some advice on starting a new school year, "What do you do when you start a new grade?" Max's reply was succinct, insightful, reassuring... he pretty much relieved her of her concerns, and worries. Be eloquent, he suggested. You may not feel prepared, but your are experienced, so use what you know to reason, and you will figure everything out. He had a number of personal, encouraging, suggestions for Maria. Alex and Bambi gave Maria a brand new pocket journal, from Daiso, so you know it's adorable. Maria loves journals and notebooks. It went straight into her freshly packed school bag. William woke up early to sit with her while she ate her breakfast. "I love my brothers," she told me during our goodnight hug, "They're nice, and they make me feel so proud, and better about everything."

The first picture... showed a bit of those first day jitters. She looked serious, a bit worried. I won't post it. Then I got her to smile a bit... then I really messed with her! Show me your gang signs! Let's see you get funky!

Yeah... I think this is going to be a great new year! Lots of love, lots of support, friends, some challenges, and successes, and just enough weird, to make it all come out good.

So Far Away, Oregon - Mon, 08/22/2016 - 05:00
Even though Maria and I packed lightly for our train ride to Oregon, there were two items we made room for... a pillow from her bed, and a comforting, crocheted blanket from mine. I am glad we carried them. The train is kept cold, and in strange places, resting your head on a familiar pillow is reassuring, good.

It was reassuring and good, too, to be in my mother's home, surrounded by familiar things, family faces, tokens of a life I knew. 'Things' don't matter, or so we are told. But sometimes I am reminded that things can, at least, recall stories, people, moments, parts of our past that may have slipped our memories. And so it is that books and pictures, pieces of jewelry, or a vase, a painting, or shelf, bring me to my past, to the family I grew up with, to stories we told often, to ideas we kept between us, threads that we wove and made us, that family I knew.

I miss that family. We are so far away. I never imagined a time when my own children, wouldn't know their cousins, their uncles and aunts, when only visits would give them an inkling, small, brief glimpses of the world I once lived in.

Life holds surprises, change, shifts. All that grown-up, reality stuff, still catches me off guard. Oregon is a new chapter, like others. And the distances between us, my mother, my grandmother, aunts, uncles, siblings... that catches me off guard, too. Growing up, even when we began to move in different directions, I thought I knew where our stories might lead, I believed I could read the foreshadowing, but I could not. I believed that we would stay familiar, close. More has changed than I ever knew could, more than I can understand, now.

Some things make remembering bittersweet. I miss that family.

This life is good, and I marvel at the blessings I enjoy, things I could not have imagined enjoying, but I admit I no longer imagine that I can predict, or trust, what's coming, and I feel far less certain of what the future holds. It makes me almost afraid to hope, to believe. It makes me cherish the moment. Life holds surprises, good and bad, changes and shifts, all manner of grown-up, reality stuff. If my own children read these words, I hope it makes them cherish the here and now. I hope it doesn't make them feel anxious, the way I do.

I like who I am when I am traveling... it feels like the only time when I can manage my life. We pack the essentials, and I can keep it all in order, tidy, presentable. I have to. There is a schedule, and there is an expectation of seeing and doing new things, of surprises. I rehearse, in my mind, for setbacks, delays, lost items, and I face them, well. I like feeling prepared and resourceful. I like carrying my essentials, on my back, or in my car. I like being able to let go, or take on more, as needed. I like the views, the newness, the familiar, too. I could travel the 1, the 101, and the 5, over and over again, because some roads, some places, have become to me like visiting a family home, like being in touch with threads that made me. Beyond the well known paths, I can rise, and adapt; the challenge is invigorating, it helps me grow. If my own children read these words, I hope they will recall all of our travels, all of the small and great trips we have made together, I hope that they will feel that they learned from me something of resourcefulness, and growing. I hope it makes them feel capable, curious, connected, the way I have felt.

Aunt Becky, Grandma Jones... dear, familiar women. I am so glad Maria and I made it to Oregon, again, to see them, and Ron, and Delia, and Debbie. I am so glad we have the resources, and made the time. This is a good life, and I love these moments.

It was a real pleasure to water the garden, to watch some of the Olympics, to look for flashlights when the power when out... I like home things, everyday moments, with family, or friends. With loved ones.

When we rode home together on the train, we slept on the same bottom bunk, together under the crocheted blanket from home, and we carried new memories, and moments, more connections, those threads we weave to make us part of something more than ourselves. It was comforting, and good.

Summer Almost Over :: Two Hundred Thirty Five - Sun, 08/21/2016 - 08:47
Summer, the season, lasts well into September, but Summer the holiday, the lovely vacation from rigorous schedules, homework, and group projects, it's all but gone. *Poof!*


Fortunately, Maria has a lot to look forward to, things she's anticipated with calculated glee, since first grade... sixth grade camp, for one. And she learned that at least one of her very good friends will be in the same classroom with her, and there are the new trees and playground that were installed over summer, those make her smile. We went to the Back-to-School Picnic, where we were reminded of all the good reasons we love our schools, neighbors, community.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Bandon ~ Charleston ~ Coos Bay, More of Oregon - Sun, 08/21/2016 - 07:00
In all the years we've been coming up to see Mom and Dad, on the Oregon Coast, I've never seen a cranberry harvest, a flooded bog. We've had cranberry candies, seen cranberry soaps, and candles, even enjoyed a couple of Thanksgivings there with cranberry sauce. But this time we got lucky... this time we got to see a harvest, up close. It was a highlight of our visit, for me. Except for the gorse. Ohmygosh, those thorns. Getting this image cost me dearly. Denim and closed toe shoes were nothing to the hard and sharp points of that mean plant! This Picture-a-Day moment was hard won, and very satisfying to capture.

The labor must be heavy, at least for this guy pulling all of that through water. I said, "Good morning," and he said "Good morning," and I left it at that because he did have his hands full. When we went by again, later that day, all signs of the harvest were gone, and I felt so happy to have had that moment, to see how it's done.

All over Oregon, we enjoyed berries. We enjoyed seeing them, picking them, tasting them, identifying them, collecting them in tiny jam jars, eating them in our breakfasts, collecting them for our dinner. Huckleberries and salal berries, and of course blackberries were abundant for picking.

Huckleberries... best when nearly black.

Almost fuzzy, nice flavor. Salal berries.

Once again, Ron and Delia had nice plans for us, like seeing the visitor's center, down the way from West Beaver Hill Road, at the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve. This picture makes me want to book our next trip, for early October. Then again, we would see snow from the train if we wait until winter break. It's so dreamy to imagine the change of seasons, the beauty of it makes me wishful.

After a nice walk through and quick hike at the Reserve, we headed to the Charleston Marine Life Center. Here is a place worth knowing about, and stopping by! It's new, and fairly small, but it's the intimacy of the center and the quality of the displays that make it so worthwhile. The docents were attentive, the collections and hands-on activities engaging, and no crowds! We've been in fantastic aquariums, large, well-funded, and very nice, but I've developed an appreciation for venues that aren't overwhelming in scale, that have local flavor, with good exhibits. Inside the Center, and outside, we enjoyed a wonderful outing.

Next we found ourselves at Sunset Bay. It's an Oregon State Park. I love Oregon State Parks.

The tide was pretty low. Maria was ready for an explore.

And yes, it was chilly! But you'll see, Maria warmed up to this place, and quick!

At Cape Arago, there are a lot of ways to go! Watch yourselves! I'm not really trying to be alarmist... I just have a strange affection for stick-guy-cautions! Poor fellow.

If this place has a soundtrack, it's of barking sea lions. It's crazy! And we weren't there at a particularly busy time, but sea lions... sea lions have a lot to say, and no time to worry about interrupting each other!

Even when we were just riding in the car, going between sights, Maria and I were happy. The mist hung high in the pines, and we saw more shades of green than seems possible. It was really quite delicious to feel cold, to enjoy the deep gray skies, and biting wind off of the ocean. Every bit of another Oregon day, was well spent and very much appreciated.

Grubbly Farms Giveaway and Savings :: Two Hundred Thirty Four - Sat, 08/20/2016 - 11:15
"Welcome home, cherished benefactor, lifelong caretaker and Chickenblogger! Thank you for ensuring that we were cared for in your brief absence, and now that you have returned, we will resume our relationship of trust and mutual respect," said no chicken of mine, ever! The sad truth is, they forget all about me, and our special friendship. They give me stink eye and run for the hills when I call them. They are wary, resentful, cocky, even. It's quite disconcerting. I try not to take offense. Wee brains, I remind myself, have little capacity for fond recollections, forgiveness, time-space concepts. It won't last, this re-entry period... they'll soon reconnect with me, and the great treats I bring, like watermelon rinds, peas, and soldier fly larvae!

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Now begins the sponsored portion of this post! I wouldn't share anything on Chickenblog that I don't personally use, support, or appreciate, just so you know. And I do support and appreciate Grubbly Farms and the innovative way they've developed a healthy treat for chickens. Right now you can click on this link to their website and order high protein snacks that your chickens will cluck for!

These are exactly what I need to win back the hearts and cooperation of my hens! Did you know that "scratch" and other corn treats need to be offered to chickens in moderation, and never as a staple of their regular diet? Corn can really slow their metabolism, especially in hot weather, and it puts on the fat... fat layers cannot be as easily observed in hens, but leads to health problems, disease. Chickens that are cooped-up need treats, things to scratch for, and it's good for them to be rich in protein, all natural, tasty! Because Grubbly Farms provides these healthy treats, while reducing pre-consumer use food waste, I feel good about sharing this product.

My hens come when I call, except when I've been away for a few days, then I need a little something to coax them with.

Here we go! A few handfuls of Grubblies, and now they remember... "Hey! It's that lady that feeds us, cleans our water dish, fights off predators, tells us funny jokes! We love her!" Yeah, I totally got this.

You got this, too! You've got a chance to bring your hens this great treat when you order with a 20% savings! or by commenting on this post for a chance to win a one pound bag of Grubblies, shipped to your home! Actually, two people will be winning a free bag of Grubblies! Leave your comment, and I will put your name in the pail. Like us on FB, with a comment, and I will add your name, again! Do it for your chickens! Do it for your friend's chickens! Do it for school chickens, and freedom, and America!

First Days, Oregon - Fri, 08/19/2016 - 16:31
We stepped off the train in Albany, and straight into big hugs and welcome greetings. Seeing family was the main point of our whole venture north. We were even there in time to continue the celebration of Grandmother Eunice's ninety-fourth birthday.

My cousin and aunt keep a lovely home, open and inviting. And cool, too. It was very hot in Oregon that day!

This was our Picture a Day moment, because it perfectly captured what we were so eager to enjoy... time and love with Grandmother. That is great-grandmother to Maria.

The shawl I've been working on was finished on the train, and ready to be gifted to Grandma. We needed the ac, but she gets chilled. I hope she feels our continued warmth and love in that wrap, even while we are away.

Pictures. Smiles. More hugs. We squeezed in a lot of love before heading out for the next part of the day's traveling.

Delia, Maria, Eunice, Natalie~

Mom and Dad treated us to a luxury suite in Florence. On the drive over we watched the car thermometer drop from the high nineties to the sixties. We woke up rested and ready for breakfast, then a nice walk along the Suislaw River.

Florence is a pretty, coastal town. Even though I was well-rested, I think my head was still loopy-bumpy from the train tracks, and while we walked around, I thought, "Gee, it's so green here, and look at all these flowers! It looks just like Oregon."

Believe it or not, I do limit the number of pictures I take. If I actually followed my impulses I would have two-thousand one-hundred and twenty-six pictures of lichens and mosses, and more of everything else, too. (I just realized I keep putting the dashes in different places every time I spell out 2,126. My head must still be loopy-bumpy from the train tracks.

We found a beautifully stocked, and charming bookstore, Books 'n' Bears. In the beginning I was very disciplined about not buying too much to carry back. Somehow, we managed to leave without anything, but it wasn't easy.

Having recently viewed the entire series Gravity Falls, we were very tuned into all things mysterious and uniquely Oregonian and/or weird.

Mysterious and weird can also be cool and fun, like what we found at Funky Monkey Toys!

Remember, when I say the secret word, everyone scream real loud!

I think I would make a great tour guide. A weird, but cool tour guide.

Next we visited the fruit stand where Delia finds ground cherries. Hold on... let's find a link for these, because I still haven't tried them, and have only had them described to me by my mom. Aha! They're a nightshade family fruit! Physalis. (Interesting reading in this link. Thank you, Wikipedia.) Missed out, but the peaches were the best I've enjoyed since childhood. Seriously, amazing.

The nectarines were delicious, too.

After enjoying Florence, we turned south, and made our way along the beautiful Oregon Coast, passed sand dunes, over bridges and rivers. The ride is gorgeous.

These were our great tour guides, Ron and Delia. When we got to Coos Bay, we stopped for lunch, then visited Pony Village Mall, found new flip-flops for Maria, and yarn for me, walked around, saw a movie, and made plans for the second, full day. I couldn't believe all we'd already done, just that first day!

We were home in time to care for Mom's garden. Ron gets concerned about her garden. The wind knocks over pots, and everything gets thirsty. Keeping her plants on the porch has been a big success, because everything is safer from their huge forest slugs, and deer. This is one of the ground cherry plants she's successfully grown from seed. Today she updated me on their progress... growing bigger! Someday, I will get to try them.

My favorite FB posts of my mother's are of her garden. She gives it a great deal of care, and it reminds me of the wonderful gardens she kept when we were children.

I love seeing flowers, trees, all new varieties... new to me! Look at all these flowers! It looks just like Oregon!

I think he's willing that tomato plant to not tip over, again!

We were too early for ground cherries, but just in time for blackberries!

She even managed to fill the bowl. I didn't help. I ate every berry I picked. No regrets.

Those bramble thorns are wicked, but it promotes keeping a nice, careful and calming rhythm, perfect for restful days in the Oregon woods. Maria and I were comparing notes on how we were feeling... it took a while to lose the feeling that the ground was still moving beneath our feet.

Last of the foxglove. It's restorative to the mind and soul to be where there are seasons, where it's not so subtle that changes are happening... summer waning, fall beginning to appear. The hints make gentle reminders to enjoy the moment, and be prepared for the next.

Over the river and through the woods, that's how we get to Grandma and Grandpa's house.

And in town, we saw the paintings along the boardwalk for the Art Show. This was my favorite. Bold, sincere, expressive, and appealing. Excellent use of space and color, too.

Up and down, north and south, I love traveling along the 101. It's a long ribbon of familiar places, connected.

Home Improvements :: Two Hundred Thirty Three - Fri, 08/19/2016 - 11:06
The screen door arrived! It's unfinished wood. The front door isn't framed for a screen, so Geoff is modifying it, building the frame up and out. Geoff and Alex think the wood will look good stained... something in a dark oak tone. Someday, we will finish painting the rest of the house the deep blue we settled on, and I agree a warm, deep orange, will look good, welcoming. Just imagining the cool breeze coming through our front door soothes my mind with relief.

Home... it's good to be home. Our projects, our favorite corners, and favorite tools, our pets, trees, collections, stashes, and familiar spaces, even the unfinished chores, and nagging things, are alright. It's our own, and I know the blessing of that kind of peace and comfort.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

North Bound, Our Oregon Adventure - Thu, 08/18/2016 - 17:03
After making our way to Oregon, and home again, by train, I feel like Maria and I have enjoyed a dream come true kind of adventure, and if I could add one more sweet component it would be to have every bit of our travels written up in a scrap book, with all the pictures, and metro stubs, pressed leaves, and a scratch and sniff page with blackberry, and cedar fragrances. Is that too much to ask for? Hopefully, I can at least write a few posts, capturing highlights of what we did, where we were, with loads of edited pictures. Am I wishing for a brain-computer interface, where I can upload the stories I've been holding on to in hopes of retaining all of the goodness we've enjoyed? That sounds really creepy, but also like something that would be irresistibly convenient!

Humph... my weird brain has just made me debate whether to keep my "deep" thoughts to myself, and just post pretty pictures with cute captions, or to continue in the same vein of being my own naturally odd self.

Never mind. I will just begin at the beginning.

Union Station, Los Angeles

Maria didn't know our trip to Oregon was going to be by train until we were almost at the station. Her brothers thought it would make a good surprise and they were right: It was a very good surprise. And traveling by train was a very good idea, versus driving the twenty plus hours to the Oregon Coast.

All aboard the Coast Starlight, with a roomette all the way to Albany, Oregon! It really was first class travel. We fell asleep after Oakland, and woke up in Shasta! I also woke up in Martinez, Davis, Sacramento, and Redding, but that's another issue! The great thing about insomnia on a train is that you can gaze out on the world you are passing by, see stars, and savor the thought that you'll have most of the next day to enjoy cat naps.

Before our chairs were converted into a top bunk and bed, we walked through the coaches, visited the lounge car, and theater, ate lunch, and dinner, crafted in tiny journals, read, embroidered, talked, met new people, and looked for deer in the hills around central California.

We were never bored. Not for long. As soon as one thing felt a bit tired, we moved on to something else, or turned around for a new point of view.

Even on a full train, we had no problem finding room all to ourselves.

Perhaps a theater on a train is passé, what with everyone carrying smart phones and pads. But I think it would have been nice to watch an old movie, or two.

We looked forward to the community seating and meeting new friends with our meals. It's nice to understand the geography and be familiar with the schedule. I made a point of reserving our meal times when I knew we would be having great views.

Our lunch was served in time for reaching the coast, and we rode through Santa Barbara and into Vandenberg, along the beaches, while we dined. It was beautiful.

Sometimes I would feel keenly disappointed because I knew I wasn't going to get "perfect" pictures, not traveling at those speeds, not through dusty and reflective windows. But I never could resist trying, and so I have dozens of poorly focused, smudgy, glare-marred pictures with reflections of people or windows, or bits from inside the coaches... imperfections, I thought. But I feel differently, now. Now I want a camera app. I'll call it Train Filter and it will add all the charm, warmth, and grime of those passing scenes. I love our views from the windows of our Coast Starlight ride.

Some stops are long enough for stepping off and having a walk around the platform, like this time in San Luis Obispo. We enjoyed feeling the local weather, checking for Poké stops, taking in the fresh air. Plus... it's really fun to hear the double train whistle and hear the conductor say, "All aboard!"

Our SLO selfie.

Train enthusiasts know this section of the route for it's long, deep curves where you can see both ends of the train at once. We are near La Cuesta Pass and the Old Stage Coach Road. Next stop, Paso Robles! I can still hear the announcements in my head.

The fertile Salinas Valley, and further west the Santa Lucia Range, where smoke from the Soberanes Fire continues to burn through Big Sur. It makes for a beautiful but sobering sunset.

Train legs. It's fun to become familiar with the arrangement of the cars, to get confident about staying steady through the constant motions of the train. Maria came to love being in the lead, opening the doors, balancing her steps from coach to coach.

The next morning our view was all new and wondrous! And here's a funny bit... we watched these two peaks move in and out of our view, and it was fabulous. Snuggled in the bed, still drowsy and cozy, and absolutely breathtaking views to marvel at, and we felt so special, so lucky. We were lucky, of course, but we kept talking about Mt Shasta, and the good fortune we had to have our room facing this fantastic sight! After all, we reasoned, we might have rooms across the aisle, where we would have missed the view of Mt Shasta, maybe seeing only a logging road, or scrapyards, or any other typical train sights. I even posted to FB: "Our Mt Shasta view... blah blah blah!" But guess what? The attendant came by and asked,

"Did you get to see Mt Shasta?"

"You mean, there?" we pointed, happily certain of our good fortune and geography knowledge.

Liliana crouched down, peered through our window, and said, "Oh, no. That's not Shasta. We passed Shasta early this morning." She wasn't sure which peaks these were, and they seemed were not all too significant.

Maria and I enjoyed laughing at ourselves.

But, I still think we were lucky. Even mislabeled, this was a spectacular sight. Do you recognize it?

Then, we were having our breakfast and riding through Klamath Falls, and by the Lake. I am pretty sure, anyway. I am quite certain we were in Oregon.

And by the time we were going through the Cascades, seeing blackberries, crossing rivers, creeks, and meadows, Maria and I were absolutely certain of our very good fortune.

Even after thirty hours, and a two hour delay, we were giddy and enthused, happy to be arriving in Albany, and eager to see what else our adventure had in store for us...

Coming Home :: Two Hundred Thirty Two - Thu, 08/18/2016 - 12:55
The last leg of a wonderful journey, our ride from Los Angeles Union Station to San Diego. It's after midnight, we've been riding for thirty hours, and I don't want anything about this trip to be over... except being apart from our guys. If they could have come aboard at the next station, I would have signed on for another round trip.

We came back with 2,126 photographs. That's two-thousand one hundred and twenty-six stories, two-thousand one hundred and twenty-six times I made an extra effort to remember, to hold on to a moment, knowing I would want to revisit a feeling, an idea, a scene. My head, my heart... they are vibrating, alive, with everything I am eager to share, to record, to write down before I forget, and then I have this little daily ritual: A Picture a Day, and the idea that I can choose a moment to represent a day. It's a fun challenge, a thoughtful process. Today's picture represents the length, in time and miles, and exertion of our travels, the full immersion we enjoyed in everything we were doing, the intimacy of being each other's constant companions for eight days, and how blessed I feel to come home knowing her better, loving her more, and holding her in higher esteem.

{Everyone met us at the station, even Cairo kitty. Such a happy reunion. And our children stayed up until four in the morning talking and laughing. I think this has been a very good summer.}
With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Seasoned Traveler :: Two Hundred Thirty One - Wed, 08/17/2016 - 06:43
Intrepid, good humored, curious, has loads of stamina and masters new skills with aplomb... wasn't I lucky to be traveling with this affable companion? We already miss Portland, and she hugged me when I got weepy leaving Oregon... why can't our loved ones all live where they are happy, while still only be walking distance away? 
Picture a Day, with Infinity More Monkeys {Happy birthday, Ken... from us, at the Sacramento Valley Station~}

Portland is Warm City :: Two Hundred Thirty - Tue, 08/16/2016 - 07:28
Besides the hot weather, Maria and I have found Portland, Oregon, to be a warm city... Also kind, welcoming, open, generous, pretty, creative, innovative, inspiring, thoughtful, receptive, comfortable, refreshing, and fun. We are going to miss long walks along tree lined streets, through breathtaking neighborhoods, abundant flower gardens and charming garden art, more amazing food options than could possibly be appreciated in one lifetime, let alone three days! We will remember the houses! Porches, screen doors, porticoes, windows, flower boxes, colors, walls, stones and bricks... And the attractive ways these parts are made into beautiful homes. We wish we could bring home moss and lichen and cool, damp nights, abundant trees, new blossoms, and a corgi! We'd like to share with our friends back home: ice cream from Salt and Straw, the public transit system, murals, Powell's, tree shaded parks... the list goes on and on. It's warm here, where the city wears its heart on its sleeve and they seem to understand that things are better shared, and there can be enough goodness for all.

We're Gonna Need a Bigger Suitcase :: Two Hundred Twenty Nine - Mon, 08/15/2016 - 04:38
We have been to Powell's. That bookstore, in Portland, three stories and a whole city block! We rode two buses and walked quite a few blocks to get there. It was totally worth it! I think the children's section alone is bigger than the entire book store back home, and the selection! We found almost everything we were looking for... That one missing title is a new publication and can be preordered. Every person working there was friendly, attentive and well-informed. We found new books, and old treasures. Seeing books we know and love was like running into dear friends. We thought the employee and customer book reviews and suggested reading notes were very helpful... Maria was delighted and honored to be welcome to share her own thoughts on a much beloved series. 

A Picture a Day, with Infinity More Monkeys~

Multnomah Falls :: Two Hundred Twenty Eight - Sun, 08/14/2016 - 03:58
Coming here, to see this beautiful, natural wonder, was a dream come true. I'm looking forward to pouring over all of the pictures we took... even Maria brought out a camera. It's quite a spectacular spot and for me, after seeing it in a favorite blog, and all over Must See references for visiting Oregon, a big thrill to really really be there, at last! I could share a "better" picture of Multnomah Falls, but for this Picture a Day, I'm delighted to post this happy family group selfie. 
Picture a Day, with Infinity More Monkeys~