Chicken Blog by Natalie

One of Our Cats

Chickenblog.com - 2 hours 22 min ago




While we were on the Oregon trail, my mother-in-law left me a message about Mister Washburn Foo. He's misbehaving, she shared, with concern. He's actually getting on the counter! I tried to sound shocked. I tried to convey a tone of disbelief. I tried to imagine that Foo would put on his company manners, demonstrate a little decorum. But. No. Let's face it, Mister Foo is a mischievous Foo. He is an undisciplined Foo, a do as I may Foo.

Decorum?

Ruth, we apologize. Delia, Rebekah, Janece, Paul M, Eunice, we apologize to you as well. And we thank you for jobs well done, for service under pressure. House sitters and pet sitters are wondrous brave and generous. We at the Bird House are forever indebted to our family and friends, without whom we could not be farmers who travel. Not one cat, but two, and ten chickens, two goats, the fish, and there have been bunnies, rats, and parakeets, too. It's a wonder you all still talk to us!

Five Good Things

Chickenblog.com - Mon, 09/01/2014 - 08:29
Do we ever get ahead, catch up? I was going to delve into more of our domestic perils, as though it were unbelievable that we are still up to our chins in projects and endeavors to get our Bird House into working order. But it can't be surprising, not for most folks, right? Life gives us leaky pipes, and broken washers, dust, dirty laundry, and like my friend Warren reminds me, "recurrent domestic perils!" The good news is, the most maligned and loathed room in the house is looking better and better everyday! And we are, at long last, back in the business of cleaning our dirty laundry!

After the valves were replaced, and the drywall got repaired, it came to me to sand the plastery stuff, and add texture.

Texture comes in a can, in case you didn't know. I didn't know. While the texture dried, I taped all the base boards and sills, and trim bits that were not going to be Thai Teal.

Then, came the paint. Faint! I just cannot find the easy going way when it comes to choosing paint colors, but this time I am really quite pleased. At the hardware store, the kind woman taking orders, seeing my distress, said, "Take the chips you like outside, into the natural light, and you'll see what you're really getting." It was the best advice ever! Choices I thought were good in the store looked nothing like what I hoped for when I looked at them outside. And the one I was least attracted to under the store lights became my favorite, in the sunlight. All of this paint and light business makes me defensive of even trying to share these pictures, because Thai Teal looks good, but it doesn't translate in the photos... especially not with that fluorescent lighting. But never mind! It's pretty. Trust me!

The list of obstacles and setbacks got longer, but never mind! Our washer is installed, and adored. It has pretty chimes, and spins quietly, like a contend domestic goddess. It's been the main attraction for most of our weekend.

Mister Foo, though slightly wary, is quite attracted to the newest member of the work force. He's crouched attentively through several cycles.

Maria and I made our way to Ikea, in search of storage solutions. Lovely, attractive, Swedish solutions. We are trying to compensate for the loss of the narrow bookcase we had crammed in front of the old washer... now the door opens in the front, we need that area clear. We found two wall shelves, and a Fintorp. Oh, I love our Fintorp! We also brought home three jars of lingonberry preserves, and a stuffed panda.

It's a small room, once a dingy beige, haphazardly stashed with whatever we had on hand, and it was the room I least liked in the whole house. It's still small. Too small, and not pictured: the rest of the painting that needs to be done, and the stuff that needs storing-stashing-purging, but! But it's oh-so much nicer, now. It's a cheerful color, that feels welcoming and bright. The Ikea additions make the room look thoughtfully appointed, and will {forever and ever, I hope} inspire order and calm, inner peace, and laundered bliss.

Oh, Fintorp, you are so Swedish, and tidy, so inspiring.

Good Things...

1. Because sometimes we need a big ol' break from our "real lives..." Maria and I indulged our make-believe fantasies, and went to an absolutely marvelous doll house and miniatures shop. Ms Peggie's Place. It was most gratifying.

2. All the ways you can top and improve frozen pizzas!

3. Making new friends who share our admiration {and adulation?} of Tasha Tudor.

4. It's September. Anything that brings us closer to fall is good with me.

5. Mom's Night Out, aka LMNOP, because an evening with friends is good for the body and soul.

This long weekend has about worn us out. Wish we could have another, just to recover from this one, but stuff is getting accomplished, and that feels good. I cannot complain. Nope. Are you enjoying the long weekend? Are you bidding summer a fond farewell, or counting down to the new season, embracing all that lies before us? What's good? Please, share!

{this moment}

Chickenblog.com - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 04:30
A single photo, capturing a moment from the week.
A special moment. A moment I want to remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to find and see.

Max and Maria, and a breakfast treat, with a view. Southern California~

Domestic Perils Is What I Call Them

Chickenblog.com - Wed, 08/27/2014 - 04:30
I love our home. Our big blue house, with the leaky roof, and backcountry views. Our Bird House, where quail, gold finches, orioles, blue birds, cedar waxwings, and yes, even scissor-tailed flycatchers visit. Our home with the projects, parts, bits, and bikes, chickens, and people, our very own dust, and rooms, and spaces. Our shelter and nest, our wide open space where friends come to call, and sometimes stay awhile longer.

And every nest, any bird house, will get dusty. Sometimes, it's sawdust, like you see on the heart. Sometimes it's the laundry, that somehow piles up. We make messes. Everyday messes. Living and breathing messes. We make things, and messes come in the making. And some messes come without warning... like the broken water main beneath the driveway, the broken water heater, the broken window. Oh, I suppose we could have seen that coming! These are the occurrences, the entropy, if you will, the matter out of order, that I call Domestic Perils.

Sunday morning... {What? Only three days ago? My, but we have been busy.} Earlier this week I made waffles. A triple batch! This was a bold act of domestic prowess, which is meant to forfeit the powers of domestic perils, by curtailing the consequences of not having weekday breakfast plans. You see, I wanted to make waffles ahead, freeze them, and have those ready to toast for hurried mornings. And I was feeling quite like a domestic goddess for even thinking of doing this, let alone getting the thing done. Waffles. Breakfast. Planning ahead. I believed I had the dread domestic peril of unpreparedness stopped in its sneaky tracks.

This really did go quite nicely. Just slightly undercooked, then layered between waxed paper, sealed and into the freezer! Voila!

And labeled, too? Oh, sure. Why not?

Please note, at this point in the narrative, I am feeling quite swell. I can foresee a really lovely week of out-the-door-to-school mornings with well-fed children, fairly skipping with happy tummies, and me their loving mother, fully dressed, in something other than my pajamas.

Then. This. Happened. The plug wouldn't leave the socket, and was in fact pulling out of the cord, and dangling and hot, and a full board electrical domestic peril was happening. Frack. Frackity, feckity, feh.

This is a domestic peril of the fatal variety. Our darling waffle maker, the one revered in song and poem, is no more. Rest in peace, dear waffle dragon.

Moment of silence.

We returned from two weeks of camping, and travel, August 10, and on that very day, during the very first load of home-from-camping laundry, our washer quit. I tried all the tricks... unplug, reboot, kick, coddle, prayer, walking away, imploring on bended knee, but the washer only snickered, and locked itself down. A total walk-out. This is a compounding domestic peril, when you have both the dread laundry, which must be cleaned, and a dead machine, which must be repaired. And this can also be a moment to reassess perceptions about a dread domestic peril, because the only thing I like less than doing laundry is not being able to do laundry. This is a compounding domestic peril with paradox! Really yucky.

Fast forward to August 19th: Trusted repairman comes, makes diagnosis, orders part, and informs me we own one of the worst washers ever made. Ever. This is a domestic peril of consumer fate. Fortunately, the washer came with the house, so we feel slightly less pain on hearing this assessment of its worthlessness. {At least we aren't the poor chumps that went out and bought the darn thing. Small comforts, denial, ignorance, and high pain thresholds are paramount to enduring all domestic perils.}

Fast forward to August 21st: My Mom and Dad send a link to a washer they insist on having delivered to the Bird House. This is no kind of domestic peril at all, but the highest kind of love and caring, and we accept this offer, thrilled, elated, and thankful.

Fast forward to yesterday, August 26th: The washer is coming! And William and I clear the space, and I am separating whites and colors, and joy is ringing through my heart and hands, because I can undertake the ginormous task of smiting the foe, dirty laundry! But. No. Seems our valves, especially the hot water valve are too corroded, and will likely break and flood the interior wall if turned, and so appliance delivery and installer guy drives away, until we can fix that. Domestic peril of the aging home variety. Stuff gets old.

A little bit I wanted to cry, or drink a Margarita. Neither felt like a good option, so I went to FB and poured my heart out, whined a bit, and took consoling messages from caring friends. It's like therapy for First World problems, social media is.

Fast forward, again, and Geoff is sweating copper on our dining table. Also on the dining table: sewing machine, because William is learning how to sew a waistcoat, and Maria and I are making clothes for her little dolls, wood working tools from William's flintlock pistol project, as well as cutlass parts. Homework, and back to school papers... etc.

The valves really were corroded, and I am super glad Geoff knows a thing or two about replacing valves, cutting out dry-wall, removing drains... etc. And hardly an eye batted when he said, Dang it, burned the table. Somehow these little remarks, the collateral damage variety of domestic perils, barely register. Did I call it a "dining table?" It's more of a workbench. In the kitchen. Where we take meals.

I asked Geoff if he and I could sweat copper, together, our next date.

The soonest I can get the delivery guys back here is Thursday. The water is turned off, so we had to order pizza for dinner. I think the children would call this a domestic peril twist benefit. But, we have new valves!

And it's all shiny and clean, and good. Oh. Yeah... I will be looking at paint colors, inspired by the new drywall section... because I think a new color is in order... a happy to be in the laundry room shade. {What color would that be, I wonder?}

So. Yeah. There are all kinds of domestic perils and messes, and mishaps. I didn't even get to the other domestic peril chain of misfortunes that is our upstairs deck and living room ceiling. This one involves water leaking, termites, rotting wood, and hoped-for new flooring.

One of the worst perils of the home? Uh, being a blogger may be one of the most detrimental domestic perils we face, because anyone more keen on writing about housework than actually doing housework is gonna be a bit of a problem.

I have compulsive blogging domestic peril avoidance disorder. I got it bad.

I love our home. We have a beautiful view... many lovely, good, and happy views.

{By the way... the children ate all of the frozen waffles. A comforting snack. Sunday night. Domestic perils of internal sabotage.}

Five Good Things

Chickenblog.com - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 04:30
What I would really love is to paint this moment, in oils, on a large canvas. In all seriousness, it should be called Man With Guacamole, and it would be an art sensation... in New York. Or London. Here, at home.

We like to goof. We like to play.

And after we goof over dinner, we like to go outside and draw art cars, and think about making really fantastic things, and talk about making really fantastic things. We did this before Paul continued his motorcycle trip... which began Wisconsin to California, then north to Washington, and across the Great Plains, home.

Dinner was Ruth's treat, and it was fun being altogether, no one cooking, no one doing dishes. It left more time for goofing and playing and talking.

Uncle Paul, and his nephews, Max and Alex.



James, Izzy, Uncle Rich~

William~





Lots of playing and talking.

And goofing.

Good things...

1. Family and friends hanging out.

2. Summer nights when the heat has settled, the sun has set, and it's still light out.

3. Geoff is repairing our dear waffle iron, and my mommy is sending us a new washer: Blessings abound!

4. Geoff bought a new shower head, and it has a hose, so we can easily clean the shower walls! No more silly splashes of buckets tossed against the walls.

5. "Maybe we should just get a new one." Geoff told me the waffle cord overheated and fried everything. Is this a good thing?? Good thing I didn't burn the house down!

Summer is winding down, right? Maybe that's just me. I realize, once I've had my vacation, and the scholars are back at desks, I am ready for FALL! Autumn daydreams, cool nights, misty days, leaves strewn across mossy paths. Hot cider, wool socks, deep quilts heaped upon soft beds! {Yes. Yes, I do get carried away.} Gosh, there's still a solid week of August left! I shouldn't rush the days, they hurtle by as it is.

Are you enjoying good things, or daydreaming of good things? Had some goofiness, lately? I hope you'll share, please~

Happy Weekending, Here is Our Foo Kitty

Chickenblog.com - Sun, 08/24/2014 - 08:25
1. One Foo.

2. Two Foo.

3. Three Foo.

4. Four Foo.

5. Five Foo.

Our Mister Washburn Cookies-n-Cream Ninja Polka Spotted Floppy Booty Foo.
Mischievous
Bitey
Snoozy
Foot seeking sleep missile, with a kink at the end of his tail.
Fastidiously clean, impishly bad, the chatty cat, so clumsy he trips over his own shadow, and could fall off the floor.
The motor cat, that runs to Maria's side, to nuzzle and snuggle, and knead his way into her open heart. Such a Foo.

Lavender Sachets Smell Like Summer

Chickenblog.com - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 11:32
While William works on sewing his waistcoat, I've been playing with fabric scraps, and dabbling in small projects to share with Maria. I settled on an idea that brought several crafts and projects into one activity. I cut small muslin panels... 2.5" x 4", so we could sew sachets. Then I found the two stamps that Maria and I learned to make at Maker Faire.

Maria's is a flower, and mine a... can you guess? Yeah, a chicken!

We stamped our muslin pieces. We're talking home-grown and folksy, here.

This is the part that got Maria really excited, because we were using our own stamps, and now we were collecting the lavender from our very own garden, and we tried to remember the first time we dried lavender. It was two summers ago, when we started our CandleLight tradition! So, now our own garden, and our own preserving, were helping us to do a new activity. All of our earlier efforts were coming together to make sachets all our very own.

The lavender smells lovely, warm, soothing, like a summer afternoon.

Maria filled the small pouches, and we thought how ideal it was that our black ink pad had faded to a lovely lavender shade.

And just to make the circle complete... leftovers went to our compost aids, the goats! The goats are regular contributors to enrich our garden soil.

Ada and Tasha love dried herbs. We brought them pine needles, and dried leaves, too. We call it trail-mix. Those two are so funny. Any leftover herbs, like Rosemary and lavender can also go in the nest boxes, where they help ward off pests, and give the hens a lovely fragrance to nestle in.

Besides sachets, Maria and I have been making other things with fabric scraps, like the snack bags we use around here all the time. Those are not just handy, but easy to make. And they are a fun way to make use of small and pretty bits of leftover fabric. We have a vision... we are working up to hosting a craft~lemonade~bakery sale to benefit the Little Free Library. The Library is doing very well, our neighbors are terrific contributors, the pups love the water dish, and enjoy the biscuits we leave out. Only one thing is missing... a reading bench! Since some families cannot wait to read their books, we think it would be great to have a sturdy and comfortable spot, beneath the pines, where a person could enjoy reading a chapter, or two. Our sale would be fun, and perhaps interactive, and all the proceeds would go toward the purchase of an outdoor bench. {Only "one thing missing?" Well, actually, I have more plans in mind, so maybe if our little sale makes big sales, we can see about the deck and shade, too. It never hurts to dream, right?}

{this moment}

Chickenblog.com - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 04:30
A single photo, capturing a moment from the week.
A special moment. A moment I want to remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to find and see.

The egg bread loaves William baked for Movie Night... and thinking of all the friends who broke bread with us.

Garden Journal

Chickenblog.com - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 11:35






This garden update is about luck, more than green thumbs, or diligence and management. Pure, dumb luck. My last garden update was a painful confession of all things neglected, stuff gone wrong. I lamented the slow progress of the tomatoes, and the return of our garden nemesis, the Harlequin Beetle. Then we took off on an epic road trip and camping adventure and left the garden to fate and drip irrigation, which is a lovely option when gardening is a hobby, and not our main source of provisions, our winter larder. Thank God our garden is not our main source of provisions!

Some of you may follow SouleMama and her weekly garden updates. They are a family gardening and farming in earnest. They are counting on their crops, and preparing for real winter. Amanda's garden posts are gorgeous displays of bounty, lush fruitfulness, heaping harvests. They're canning, roasting, preserving, freezing, and feasting out there, in Maine. Readers are invited to share their garden updates, and this morning... I couldn't do it. I thought it better to spare anyone pictures of things withered on vines, and languishing in our droughty soil. This isn't a pity party, because I know there is a lot I could do to boost our ratings, improve our topsoil, and increase the yields. I've just been in another mind space this summer, I suppose. It's not so bad turning away from my garden and admiring all the other gardens, enjoying the amazing local resources, without busting my turf to be just as successful. But despite my mild indifference, and paying attention to other activities, and demands, our garden is still being generous...

I only have to look past the fading parts, the overgrown bits, the weeds etc... and lo! We have tomatoes. We have figs. The Fuji apple tree is full, the lemon tree, too. Our first pomegranates are still on the tree, looking promising. Our onions are curing in the barn, and those are tasty! Check out the gourds, and more on the way. We even managed to collect a few pumpkins, and we ate a peach from our new tree. I can find chives, thyme, rosemary, and lavender... anytime of the year! And our Feijoa, those pineapple guavas we planted? If we don't learn to make and can jam from those, it will be a travesty. We'll share them, for sure. We are looking at a Feijoa treasure trove! Lucky, right? I shouldn't dismiss what we have, just because I feel like I haven't done enough for the garden, this year. I shouldn't call it a disaster.

I should collect those tomatoes, and figs, add more lemons to the Free Little Library attic, and cut some Lavender for my nightstand. And I should be very grateful that this winter Southern California farmers and local gardeners will keep us well-fed. How is your garden faring? Do you enjoy summer rain showers and flower beds, had your fill of zucchini, yet, are you growing herbs at your windowsill?

The Wonderful Albany Carousel and Workshop

Chickenblog.com - Wed, 08/20/2014 - 04:30





There were a lot of sights and activities that we looked forward to on the Oregon Trail, but there was one place, one experience that we did not anticipate... and it was easily a great highlight of our entire adventure. I'm talking about visiting the Historic Carousel & Museum in Albany, Oregon. Ron and Delia took us to downtown Albany after dinner, and we walked to the Willamette River along the Dave Clark Trail, to Monteith Riverpark, up and down First Avenue and Second Avenue. All the shops were closed, so was the Carousel Museum, but we pressed our noses against the windows, peering into a maker-artist wonderland! Across the street, at Sybaris Bistro, Janel and her daughters were busy putting things in order, but invited us in to meet Hope, one of the carousel figures, on display in the restaurant. All over downtown there are hints and glimpses, and thoughtful supporters of this amazing project. This meeting absolutely confirmed our plans for Monday: We had to visit the museum, see all of the Carousel figures, get as close as possible to the tools, illustrations, works in progress, and meet the people in the workshop!

All of the details, the history of the project, the plans, hopes, and accomplishments are explained on their website. Basically, they are ten years into a fifteen year project to build an historically inspired carousel, with 52 unique and original hand carved and painted animals. Their vision statement: "To enchant young and old alike with the finest carousel in the world, promote the artistry of carousel building by sharing our skills and talents, and build community by opening our venue to events and activities”. Awesome! This is being accomplished with an all volunteer craftsman, woodcarving, painting, and artist team, and donations. And when we walked inside, met the people and saw their work, we were definitely enchanted.

No two animals are alike. In fact there are sixty-six total animals... fifty-two of them will be in use, with six alternates for days when a figure is getting repaired, or maintained, as well as five more animals for holiday and seasonal themes. A black cat for Halloween! Our Chango approves. And to my delight, how about a Christmas Rooster? He looks amazing! In addition to these there will be two chariots. Following the link to the Animals page will show you a list of all the creations, with illustrations, and details about their inspiration. Each concept is a heartfelt and creative masterpiece... some completed, some in progress, each awe-inspiring.

Harriette! What a darling. This picture show's the romance side of Harriette, this is the more elaborate and detailed face that will be seen when facing the carousel from outside. I love this word and meaning, and when lead painter Gwenn Marchese explained it to me it was an aha! moment for me as I realized that of course a carousel figure might be more interesting on the showing side, where the carvers' and painters' work would enjoy more attention! Harriette the frog is spectacularly whimsical all the way around, and it's fun to read about the meanings and significance of each detail.

Soon this entire workshop, plus the carousel itself, will be in a specially designed and constructed building. Until then, you can visit the Museum and studio, free of charge, and there is a gift shop, too. In the front we saw the animal figures waiting to be painted. Each figure will be stipple painted in at least eight coats of oil paint. This means no brush strokes! It also means a lot of time for drying is necessary between coats of paint. The finish is glossy, smooth, and the colors are rich, and vibrant.

To protect the paint, and to prepare the animals for all those happy riders, each figure will be finished with 3 layers of automotive clear coat. This carousel is a working art piece, and letting people enjoy their ride will be as important as protecting the artistry of the animals. In the paint studio it was important for us to stay behind the barrier, for the pieces to not get touched. That's understandable considering how vulnerable wet oil paints, and drying figures are. We admired the works in progress from a safe distance, then stepped into the wood carving studio!






Here we met woodcarvers, men and women who chip by chip are taking roughed out forms and cutting out the details and features that will turn basswood into a bear, a quail, horses, and chariots. David showed William basic carving techniques, and talked about the forgiveness of working with wood... it's not impossible to fix an error and make adjustments to the plan. In fact some mistakes can turn into something quite lovely. David's wife, Linda, is a painter, but she's been branching out and taking on some carving jobs, too. I love how they've carved grapevines and the basket into the saddle on Martha's back.

Here is a mustang, and you can see the artist's rendering hanging on the wall.

Here's Lady Sophia, with her cat and mouse traveling companions.





The concept art is charming, and so pretty. I love all the details, and personal touches, like the gnome at the back of the reindeer's saddle, and bespectacled Grizzly Berry's optometry basket.

Inspired by a family cow, in Switzerland... I just adore Sally, the darling Brown Swiss cow.

And it's fascinating to see the animal come to life, to see the inspiration on the wall begin to take shape in the wood.

Every stage of development in this project is compelling, and a treat to observe. The finished pieces, like Daisy the elephant, are even more impressive and awe inspiring once you can appreciate all the steps and phases that brought her to life. The new Carousel home will be more than a beautiful attraction and ride; it will be a place to witness the living history of carousels, a working studio where craftsmanship and art can continue to be taught and passed on for new generations.



Hello, Sampson!

I want to return. For sure when the Carousel is operational, and we can see all the animals in their fullest splendor, but I would enjoy another visit, when everything is still coming along, when things are being put together, and people are figuring things out. This isn't a kit, the parts aren't waiting in a warehouse, there are fewer and fewer experts who can provide all the answers. They still need donors, sponsors, supporters, even just people who care about uniquely compelling projects. Challenges. Wonderful challenges... the kind that bring talented people together, and rally communities. I love those kinds of opportunities. I love the tools laid out for use, and people in a circle, thinking and tinkering, and making.

And I deeply admire anyone who wants to make something, who is willing to see what can come of holding a new tool, finding some material, asking questions, and diving in. Every contribution matters. Every part will make a whole, and I think the pleasure of partaking must be gratifying and good.

This is the romance side of The Guardian. {Oh, and also Harriette's adorable backside!} The Guardian is a Hippocampus, a mythological animal. Someone imagined a creature, half fish, half horse. Someone made sketches, and drew lines, developed a saddle concept. Wood carvers pulled The Guardian out of the wood, and painters shaded forms, colored fish and seaweed, and a mermaid's smile. Engineers will come in and add this piece, and all the others, to the fully restored 1909 Carousel mechanism. My favorite places are where art and engineering meet. A carousel is a wonder of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Music, Math... and imagination.

Even if you cannot visit in person, please visit the Albany Historic Carousel and Museum website.
You can also Like them on FaceBook. I am sure those volunteers would love to hear our oohs and ahhs!

Five Good Things

Chickenblog.com - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 09:40
Next time let me be a stag beetle,
lumbering with dignity
under my great horns, encased
in a carapace to balance
the weapons I can't fight with
but can't put down.


~Cecelia Hagen
The alley marquee, near the river walk, Corvallis, Oregon.



We went through Corvallis, between our stay in Albany and our return to the coast, but it was a whirlwind visit. More like a stretch your legs-find a bathroom-grab a cookie-fuel up the car-stop. Corvallis is worthy of a more studied and leisurely visit than this! This is the town where Ron and Delia visit often, to enjoy sights, and for Ron to do his his research and dragonfly work at the University. This is where they brought Alex for Da Vinci Days, for the Mud Bog, and the River Race. I've been keen to visit for years, even before my mom sent us her photographs of the greatest statue ever. And now that I've had a small taste of Corvallis, I am more certain than ever that I will be back. And not just because I found a my favorite franchise bakery: Great Harvest! Seems, I can choose between two great cities... Minneapolis, and Corvallis, when I am hungry for delicious bakery fare. If we return in winter, even late spring, there's a chance we'll be in snow. I actually like this possibility.

Good Things...

1. No bumps or delays... Maria and Alex are back to school, prepared, willing, ready.

2. Google, the Internet, wifi, computers, Wikipedia... I didn't have to limit myself to wondering who's Cecelia Hagen? I found her, and information about her, in just moments.

3. Art, poetry, food, beauty, inspiration, and time to enjoy the unexpected, in new, and usual, places.

4. The laundromat. Quarters. And a dirty laundry, wash, spin, dry, fold partner.

5. Watching The Lego Movie on our big screen, with friends, sharing the laughs, and delighting in all those great they get it moments! Well done, Lego. Well done.

Sunday Foo

Chickenblog.com - Sun, 08/17/2014 - 07:56



Seems everyone is ready to rise and shine, except for Mister Washburn Foo. Some days it's nice to just be a lump, in bed. 


We Did Make It To Oregon

Chickenblog.com - Sat, 08/16/2014 - 04:30

























With William as my navigator, Alex and Bambi ready to take over the driving, Maria following on her map, and Max keeping me on schedule, our four day drive to Oregon went quite nicely, and yes, eventually, we did finally arrive at our destination. It was perfect timing, too, because as we reached the outskirts of town, Geoff called to let us know his plane had landed at North Bend! Everyone would be pulling into Ron and Delia's wooded driveway about the same time. And then we wasted no time filling that day, and the following, with all kinds of busyness...

Visited the feed store... pet the kitties, talked to the pig, marveled at the emu, and made eye contact with the goats~
Stopped in at the hardware store, and picked up cables for Mom and Dad's TV and PS3~
Fed the trout at the fishery~
Buttered the garlic bread~
Flew balsa wood gliders~
Moved Delia's tools and supplies into her workspace in the old brewhouse~
Saw the premiere of Guardians of the Galaxy! In 3D. Thank you, Ron!
Picked and inhaled blackberries~
Visited Face Rock~
Were treated to a tasty and elegant brunch at The Dunes... a 25th wedding anniversary gift from Mom and Dad~
Visited the ocean debris art sculptures. Alex helped construct some of these, when he came up to Oregon in 2010. Please visit: Washed Ashore~
And we bought a case of amazing oatmeal from the farmer's market: Oregon Oats, Co. Oh yum!

We also caravanned to Albany, where aunt Becky and Grandmother are settling into their new home. There we celebrated Max's sixteenth birthday and Grandmother's ninety-second birthday! You know I'll have more to share about that... Albany is a place worthy of it's own post, and we had a very nice visit with Grandmother and Becky. Back at Ron and Delia's, Bambi and Maria had a chance to see the jewelry Delia's made, and to enjoy her generosity, too. On our last day, we visited the old town, and I managed to get a nice couple of shots of their beautiful waterfront at sunset, including that lighthouse, silhouetted in the fading light.

We did a lot... even more than I've listed, but I can think of a dozen more things I wished we'd done. Even as early as our first day, I was trying to imagine how soon I could work out a return visit. What I most wish is that we didn't have to squeeze in everything, and hope to make everything worthwhile and meaningful, all at once. A nice thing about being close by is that it's easier to relax, to get comfortable, to be available for small things, and quiet visits. If we were a day away, I know we would drop by, hang out, and not be quite the mass invasion we can be when we move in for five nights! But Ron and Delia took us in good stride, and with a warm welcome. As big a crowd as we were, I'd love to see a visit with my brothers and their families there, too! That would be a good time, and the more the merrier!

{this moment}

Chickenblog.com - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 04:30
A single photo, capturing a moment from the week.
A special moment. A moment I want to remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to find and see.

James, William, Max, Alex :: Summer evening~

Water Pistols, At Dawn

Chickenblog.com - Thu, 08/14/2014 - 04:30
Geoff tried to teach Maria about water dueling. The first time, back to back, with water pistols full, Geoff counted down, and stepped forward. Maria stepped, too... backwards, following Geoff. That didn't work. So, Geoff explained to Maria that she had to step forward, and this time she understood, and the duel should have worked, but Max had his own plan to thwart the would-be duelers...






Into The Woods

Chickenblog.com - Wed, 08/13/2014 - 04:30
Humboldt State Park, Burlington Grove, Site 15, looking up.

In novels, the protagonist traces the features of a loved one's face and vows to recall every line and detail. Entire passages are devoted to photographic description, details, distances, lines, the sound of leaves beneath a foot's step, as though no moment was ever lost, no sense untouched. All vivd recall, and I believe that it is a power, a gift, to be able to hold someone, or some place, in such clear and certain memory, as though it were more than memory. As though they could be there. When I held my children as babies, as newborn wonders, I tried to absorb every sense of them, to memorize the softness of their heads, the way their bodies fit in the turn of my arm, the cries, the coos, the warmth... I wanted to know that at any time in the too near future I could recall all of it... to be clear and certain of my memories, to feel them with me, again.

In the Redwoods, in Limekiln, where trails rise from the beach into the fern lined canyon, where only the treetops see a full sky, entering Richardson Grove, visiting the Avenue of Giants, skipping stones along the Eel River, looking into a canopy that reaches beyond anything I can touch, I feel the same longing to trace those features, to breath in every detail, hold it, and memorize the happiness I know when I am in these places. I am happy in the Redwoods. But not superficially, not skin-deep, mindlessly giddy. I find myself breathing with the sense that I had been holding my breath, for too long. I find myself breathing as though to make it last until next time. The cool shadows, the earthy rich and pine infused air, the insulating quiet... all the things that I love and catalogue, in hopes of bringing home this Redwood happiness to carry with me, everyday.

Richardson Grove State Park, Site 12, making ourselves at home.










Our first night in the Redwoods, we took the trail just behind our tent, and wound our way down to the Eel River. The river is low... all of California is low on water. It is desperate and perilous, and scary. The climate is changing, for all the world, and we cannot be ignorant to the harsh facts, nor indifferent to the changes we can make. This isn't meant to be a lecture, but seeing the changes, feeling the effects, it cannot be left unsaid that our choices matter. In the city, with tap water, and bottled water, and sidewalks, it's easy to forget that the beautiful, natural places we love need us to see the big picture and feel strongly about our planet home.

Yes. Well, two nights in the woods move me to caring, to wanting everyone to care.

Where was I?

We followed the trail to the Eel River, crossing beneath the highway, and coming out at the rocky shore. At first we were only skipping stones, but then Alex inflated a tube for Maria, then some of us were wading in, and floating, too. It was sunset, but the light was sufficient for seeing the snake at the riverbank, for finding nice flat, round stones that could touch the river surface 1, 2, 3, 4 times, and skip along to the other bank. We waited for dusk to fall into the river valley, for the bats to come out and flit about the seasonal bridge. We stayed so long that the hike back, up the valley, into the woods, was dark, shadowy, and ripe for suspense, and a far from home sense of daring. I liked going into the tent that night, refreshed and tired, happy.








Our second night in the Redwoods, we were returning from Oregon, from our last day with Ron and Delia, and we stopped in Humboldt State Park. We'd lost a tent pole by this point, but otherwise we were seasoned and savvy one-night-car-campers, and we went straight to our jobs. I made a dinner of egg burritos, beans, salsa. Alex and Bambi, with help from Maria and Max, unloaded gear, pitched the wonky tent. William and Maria brought fire wood to our site. Max found countless Redwood stumps to scale, some were hollow. Maria made campground friends, and their tag games ran through the grove and tents. I kept looking up, and feeling small and happy. I kept breathing, and being struck by that feeling that I had not been breathing, not enough, for quite sometime. I wanted to fill all my reserves, to bring home the smell of pine needle floors, Redwood bark, the breezes between the branches. I'd like to try for more words, to be emphatic in explaining how good the Redwoods are, how time beneath those boughs, among those giants, restores and heals, but I suspect you know places like this, too, and perhaps no explanations are necessary. I'd like to think we can all be so lucky, we can all close our eyes and feel those places, again and again.

{Depression, mental illness, and Autism spectrum disorders are better understood than ever before, but the challenge of living with these, with managing the hurdles, the obstacles, the rockier paths... the daily struggle to find a new-other normal, can be hard. It can also be damn near impossible, exhausting, and heartbreaking. There is a popular quote going about: Be kind~ Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. I'm a caretaker, a parent, and from this vantage point I see what a harrowing and painful journey life can be when a loved one suffers with depression, sees the world from an atypical viewpoint, tries to fit in. Outside of our usual places and routines, the challenges can be even more pronounced, and difficult to navigate. I'd like to insert an uplifting affirmation here, to suggest that a hike in the Redwoods can heal depression, or that 'giving up is not a choice, because ________ will save you.' I cannot say what will save anyone. I cannot say that life will get 'better.' But, I do hope, oh so fervently, that we can be kind, that we can accept those atypical points of view, and respect the pain felt by people. Any of us may find we are struggling to fit in, and I hope that we, each of us, has a place to go that is comforting, and restoring, that the people around us can be patient, and supportive, can put judgement aside and just breath more deeply, listen, make the time to follow a different path, to be faithful company to someone who feels unsure. It may not be a cure... but it builds a bridge, and it can save someone feeling too desperate, too hopeless.

Robin Williams is gone, and his passing is sad because he was a good person, generous in deeds, an amazing entertainer, because in funny ways, I can mark my life's milestones through his work, but the part that crushes me is that he could not go on, that depression took such a firm, wicked hold, that he needed to let go. I don't resent him, I don't think he was weak, or that he didn't try the 'right thing,' take the 'right path.' I just so fervently wish he had found something, because I need to believe that we can all make it out of the darkness, without choosing to stop breathing, without letting go. I cannot help myself... I like a happy ending. It may be selfish, too, I know, to think that 'only living is a happy ending'... and it grieves me more to appreciate the depth of pain that leads to these unhappy endings. Someone wrote that Robin William's fate seemed "inevitable," and that idea devastates me. In fact I say that's BS. I need to believe that our fates are rewritten every day, in a moment, and that we can continue to expand our knowledge and caring, so that someday depression and all the other challenges of physiology and wiring, can be understood, and healthfully attended. Please, if you are a caretaker, or if you are someone who needs some extra care... please accept my sincerest wishes that today is a good day, that you find support, encouragement, a place to breath and feel welcome, everyday. We all need these things. I know I do.}

California's Coast Highway One

Chickenblog.com - Tue, 08/12/2014 - 04:30



























This is a stretch of road that I never tire of. Ever. I can count everything I love along our California Coast, and I don't seem to run out of good excuses to return again, and again. It never bores me, never gets too familiar... in fact, the familiarity of those places along the way are a comfort to me. I feel lucky to return. Morro Bay, Cambria, San Simeon, LimeKiln, Big Sur, Nepenthe, the California State Parks, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Marsh Landing... everything, right up to my brother's front door in Santa Cruz.

I've written about these sights before, and I don't want to repeat myself {too-too much}, but, as I mentioned, it always feels brand new, and on this trip we were reminded that for Maria, as young as she is, many of these places do feel quite new. She's not 2, or 4, or 6 years old any more, and her experiences and recollections of paths, trails, streams, and sights is often a bit foggy. I think this is a trip that will stay more firmly in her memory. Sharing everything with Bambi, too, made our favorite highway even more special. I can get carried away with holding on to details, descriptions, and cataloging all the moments... yeah, obviously, right? I think what I most want to remember is that Big Sur canyons and fern groves restore my soul, that I love a foggy coast, and that I love the process of being reacquainted with our steps, our breath, our place in nature, with nature.

Five Good Things :: Oregon Trail :: Cambria

Chickenblog.com - Mon, 08/11/2014 - 08:29












We were spellbound by our visit to quaint, and charming Cambria, California. Finally off the interstate, finally enjoying new sights and settling into our explorers mode for this journey to Oregon, we rolled into Cambria and were instantly smitten by old buildings, unique shops, the blurred lines between residences, gardens, and businesses. Then, I felt an irresistible pull onto an unassuming yet particularly inviting side street... Burton Drive. Ancient facades, a bed and breakfast, galleries, and berry brambles, and the sign we all thought most inviting for us BirdHouse residents, Everybirdy Welcome! We could not resist.

We were Spellbound by one particular shop, where we found whimsy, and gardens, thoughtful touches, a warm welcome, and inspiration in every room and corner, inside and out. This wee 1870's homestead has been lovingly furnished with all sorts of garden and kitchen favors, and lots of eye candy. We kept discovering new, and enchanting spaces, with all sorts of delights in the garden... I hesitate to describe them all, because if you can make your way there, half the fun is discovering the charm for yourself. We saw a sign post for make-believe lands... an idea I'd been envisioning for a few years, and it was nice to see how perfect it can look in real life! The herbs and flowers, Oh-the-hollyhocks! Everything smelled warm and soothing, pretty. Even the old homestead floors creaked gently with time worn and comforting ease. William and I were ready to move in, and send out invitations for a tea party. Maria strolled, then skipped down every path. We each wore contented smiles, made inspired mental notes, and eagerly shared our happy impressions with each other. On our way home, nearly at the end of our Oregon Trail, it took a good deal of restraint to not retrace those steps and re-visit the herb and garden shop, Spellbound.

Good Things...

1. Coming home... no harm, no losses, no regrets, full of inspiration and good memories.

2. Celebrating Grandma Eunice's 92 birthday, and Max's 16th birthday in Oregon.

3. My brother, Bill, with Dominic and Marissa, greeting us at the Half Moon Bay campsite and sharing campfire time together.

4. My brother-in-law, Paul, extending his visit to San Diego, and spending some relaxed and fun-filled evenings with him.

5. Brainstorming art-cars, and daydreaming with friends about Burning-Man and Maker Faire.

Have you discovered a new place, an inspiring space, this summer? Are you already daydreaming about next summer? I'd love to hear any of the good things you are enjoying~

{this moment}

Chickenblog.com - Fri, 08/08/2014 - 17:08
Inspired by SouleMama.  A special moment from this week. Please share a link to your moment, in the comments.  
Dom, Marissa, and Maria, Half Moon Bay, California. 

Where's Sluggo??

Chickenblog.com - Wed, 08/06/2014 - 08:28
Dear Mom and Dad, We cannot thank you enough for your generous Oregon hospitality.  You two look out for us in every way, and you made our adventures on the Oregon Trail even better than we'd hoped for.  
Back at the Bird House we play a game called Find the Cheese.  It started with a cheddar wedge magnet that Lucas gave Max two years ago. The cheese is hidden in our home and the finder gets to hide it, again.  Why does this amuse us, so?  Well, in honor of good fun, and local characters, we hid Sluggo... somewhere in your home!
I'm sure we've left a strong enough (messy enough, loud enough) and lasting impression, so you won't soon forget our time here. But Sluggo will always be around to remind you of our happy visit and our gratitude for the fun we've enjoyed!  Watch where you step! 

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