Archive for the ‘logging’ Category

Goodbye to 2007, reflections, and a few interesting discoveries

January 1, 2008

And I wish I could say I’m going to miss this year, but the truth of the matter is, it’s been a mixed bag, so I don’t know if I will or not. But at least it’s been interesting. . .

Yesterday I heard of a Scottish custom for celebrating the changing of the calendar that I really like. At midnight you open the front door to let the new year in, then rush to the back door and open it to let the old year out. Beats the heck out of getting smashed and throwing up all over yourself and everyone close. . .

But I couldn’t help but wonder: What if you reversed the order and let the old year out before you let the new one in? Would it stop time for the moment? (I’m not usually this weird but I’ve been listening to a series of lectures on physics, and the lecturer has me thinking about the non-absolute characteristic of time. So that speculation isn’t as far fetched as it seems.)

There’s an article in the current issue of Archaeology magazine about the henge builders (think Stonehenge). One of the things we discovered this year was that we have our very own henge on this place, although it’s made of trees, not stones.

One of our serious landmarks is a very large (over 200′ tall according to my astrolabe) pair of Douglas fir trees. They escaped the logging that was done in the early 1960s (just before Ben bought the place) because they functioned as the tailholt for the tower cable (an anchor that holds the lower end of the cable in place). A piece of the cable still sticks out from where they have grown together over the years. They’re very very lovely, but that’s not the most remarkable thing about them.

The most remarkable thing about this pair of trees is that on the winter solstice, the sun sets right between them. It’s a beautiful thing to see and a good thing to know (especially if calendars should disappear one of these days, not a totally unthinkable event in these interesting times).

It’s very cold since the rain stopped, but that has its advantages, too. I started the kitchen stove first thing this morning because it puts out heat so much faster than the living room stove. So by breakfast time I had a hot oven, and we were able to feast on skillet-baked cornbread, bacon, scrambled eggs, and fresh, sweet orange wedges, the kind you only seem to be able to get in the winter.

One of this year’s real plusses is that I’ve had the time to become very good friends with my wood cookstove. I haven’t attempted a cake yet (mostly because none of us particularly likes cake), but I’ve run just about everything else through it. I’m getting very spoiled.

I discovered a piece of cookware I don’t have (Ben says that’s impossible). I don’t have an apfelskiver pan. I think that’s a very good thing. They look like a great deal of trouble to bake, and I suspect that other apple things taste as good or better. So I’m not looking for one.

And of course, I discovered White Lily flour. I’m still making discoveries about how to use it, when to mix it with other flours to get the desired result (for example, scones made with pure White Lily flour are too cakey for my taste, but if I add a little hard wheat flour (about 3 parts WL to 2 parts hard wheat) the texture is perfect.

And speaking of scones, you may remember that one of my goals was to find the perfect scone recipe. I hit it second time out, so now I’m messing with various additions for flavor. I used to think that apricot scones topped with apricot or peach jam were the best, but that was before I added some crystalized ginger to my plain scone dough.

The local co-op has a million varieties of organic crystalized or candied dried fruits, so I’m not through experimenting. But it’s hard to imagine anything better than that ginger. . .

One recent discovery is wonderful. Living off the grid as we do, I’ve become somewhat of an expert in flashlights. We’ve tried a number of LED mini-maglites with varying amounts of success. The problem with most of them is that a) they cost about $20, and b) they may be very bright up close but they don’t project. But I stumbled onto this weird little mini-mag (brand Performance Tool, made in China, of course, in a variety of bright metallic colors and basic black, but since I rarely chew on my flashlights, I doubt that there’s a problem here). It’s about 4 inches long, fits nicely in pocket, purse, or glovebox, uses 3 AAA batteries (don’t know the life expectancy yet, but with the LED lamps I’m expecting wonderful things), and projects its brightness about 25 yards (or roughly as far as you can shoot accurately with a pistol, even a good one). I liked it so much I bought a bunch of them ($3.50 each at Bi-Mart) and have scattered them around in useful places. I even have one by the stove for an oven light. And since I ended up for some strange reason (tied, I’m sure to a battery-buying binge I went on when I moved out here) with a surplus of AAA batteries, I think I’m getting a double hit here.

I think I’ve finally identified my mystery birds, and it’s so dumb that I really feel stupid. But I think the birds with the beautiful song are sparrows, house or song, I’m not totally sure. But if that’s the case, I can’t believe we’ve never had them around until this year. But they can come sing to me any time.

And of course I’ve discovered Super Mario Galaxy. I’m sure it will take me the rest of the winter to finish it. Most days I play only during the evenings when the generator is running and during the times I’m not busy getting dinner together or the leftovers put away. I’m trying to average one star a day, but some days I don’t play at all, so then I have to try to make up for it. The stars are getting harder and harder.

I think I’m basically too impatient to be a very good Wii player. My favorite approach is to run full tilt at whatever is my target. But sometimes my speed is better than my accuracy. This often leads to a less than satisfactory result. Come to think of it, there are a number of things that I approach exactly the same way, sometimes with exactly the same result. Hm-m-m-m-m-m. . .

Here’s what I’m hoping for in 2008:

  • Peace
  • More good weather than rain
  • Peace
  • A satisfactory resolution to my brother’s troubles
  • Peace
  • Lots of visits with friends
  • Peace
  • Some good writing
  • Peace
  • One belly laugh (or more) every day
  • Peace

You get the idea. . .

Now once again I have lumped so many topics together I’ll probably get another note from that guy who complained before, which is OK. At least I knew he read the whole thing. . .But I’m going to sign off. I’ve got to go write a poem about Appalachia, and I’m not sure where to start.

The best to all of you in 2008. Stay in touch.

Some reasons to like trees that have nothing to do with global warming

May 1, 2007

Let me begin this post with an apology to Jenny. She has waited so patiently for pictures of my trees, and I know she’d really rather see the exotics I purchased recently.

But Jenny, by the time you asked for pictures, most of them were already planted, and being a foot or so tall in their great big anti-beaver wire cages, there isn’t much to see. I tried to take some pictures, and even I went “ho hum” at the results.

However, I am going to post some pictures of a few more mundane varieties and hope they aren’t as mundane in New Zealand. And what these trees have in common is that they were each basically sticks a foot or less tall when I planted them. So I have great hopes for my new ones.

 This Western Red Cedar was my first “rescue” effort. I rescued it from an office building landscaped lot. It was a volunteer from God knows where. There weren’t any cedar trees in the immediate area. I looked at it and realized that the maintenance crew was just going to yank it out next time through, called the management company and asked their permission to dig it up. Granted. It’s now about 14′ tall and very pretty just off my back deck.

Western Red Cedar

Western Red Cedar is what is known as a “climax” species. It will grow in virtually total shade and eventually take over the forest. Before the big fires of the 19th and 20th centuries, much of western Oregon was covered with giant cedar trees.

This mountain ash was a seedling from a tree in a house we once owned. It is now nearly 20″ tall and has beautiful white flowers in the spring followed by brilliant red berries.

Mountain Ash

This is a redbud tree (actually two planted in close proximity). The Arbor Day Society sent me this one when I sent them a teeny bit of money.


Here’s a closeup of the blossoms:

Redbud blossoms

This Japanese red maple is a very slow grower. I took three seedlings from a house we lived in. The tree there had been planted when the house was built about 90 years ago and was nearly as big as the house. A friend called it “the sort of tree you would buy a house just to get.” That’s pretty much how we felt about it, too.

Japanese red maple with rhododendron

This tree opens a purple red, gradually becomes green and bronze, and in the fall turns neon red. It is truly spectacular most times of the year.

There are lots of reasons I’m feeling very friendly toward trees today. Not the least of them is that I’ve spent most of the last three days gardening. Ben tilled about half the load of BS into the garden. I got all that stuff I bought planted, and it’s supposed to rain tomorrow, so I actually put some seed in the ground, too, so nature can water it for me.

As I was cleaning up, Ben showed up with some dahlia tubers that a neighbor sent down, so I had another 45 minutes or so of planting and digging to do. I’m dog-tired, and I can’t help but contrast the amount of work the garden takes to get a great reward with the teeny amount of effort it takes to grow fine trees here in my sub-tropical rain forest.

But now I read that planting trees in the northern latitudes actually contributes to global warming because they absorb sunlight. I’m going to ignore that little piece of information and keep planting them.

Oh, and one more reason to like trees: Last winter we had to take down some of the fir trees Ben planted more than 30 years ago. They had taken out the power lines (we don’t care, but the rest of the valley sure did) and were threatening the little cabin across the river. A logger friend came down and cut them for us. The power company repair crew offered to knight him.

Today the company that bought them picked them up to take to a mill. These are the first trees Ben has logged that he actually planted. It was a full truckload.

Log load

Be careful what you wish for: Department of Unexpected Consequences

March 13, 2007

Things are very odd around here right now. Our spring has become much more silent.

A post or two ago I was rhapsodizing over the appearance of a bird we believe is a merlin, a species of falcon. This bird preys on other birds. It likes to pluck them right from the air or from the ground where they are feeding and devour them, leaving only a pile of feathers for evidence. And there are plenty of feather piles around the meadow.

Result: Most of our birds have moved out. The flock of juncos that hung around the yard have disappeared. I haven’t seen the kinglets all week. The robins, newly back from their winter residence, have done the same. The hummers are fine. I suspect they’re not worth fooling with. As Ben is fond of pointing out, it would take at least 1,000 hummers to make a decent hummingbird tongue sandwich. . .

I’m not too worried yet. When you live in the country for awhile, you discover that everything is cyclical. It’s like the logging. It’s a necessary function, and where we live the trees grow back so fast you hardly have time to notice they’re gone. (That comment will probably get me some hate mail, but I’m tough, and I actually believe that. In my tenure here, most of our valley has been logged. If it’s done with care and replanted promptly, it just makes for healthier landscape.)

My prediction: As his food supply dries up, the merlin will move on. Then the birds will come back. We have one of the last largely undisturbed good-sized parcels of property in the area. The birds love that, and they’ll be back. But in the meantime it’s weird.

For those of you who think nature is largely kind, serene, and beautiful, well, all I can say is that you’ve probably never lived with it. I just hope the merlin likes squab and sticks around long enough to lay real waste to the pigeons. We don’t use poisons and such. You just need to find the right natural antidote to whatever is causing you grief.

But spring keeps on springing–trilliums poking up everywhere, today the Solomon’s seal is up in my back yard, a real (purple, not the yellow “wood” kind) violet is blooming in the backyard, the plum trees in blossom. It’s lovely. But I’m missing the plethora of songbirds.

Yesterday I was treated to the non-stop operation of two brush saws for several hours. Ben and Ralph were clearing the salmonberry and ferns that shelter the rodents that do so much damage. If we eliminate their cover, our owls will take care of them for us. The guys made a heck of a mess, but I’ve put my trusty new pink rake into action, and it’s getting cleared away.

Unless something untoward happens, I’ll be MIA tomorrow. I’m going to take a run up to Portland for an evening meeting, spend the night at my daughter’s house, visit the tax man on Wednesday morning, then go on a profligate shopping spree at Kitchen Kaboodle and New Seasons. I have a long list, and the advantage of going to the store instead of the Web site is that you never know what else you might find.

I’ll stop on the way to town for a visit with my brother and his wife. His interim radiation treatments (to try to shrink the size of the tumor and relieve his headaches) start tomorrow morning. I know he’s feeling housebound after being so active, so I’m taking him my Gibson Hummungbird guitar to fool with. I play my little Guild F20 when I play anymore, so maybe this will take his mind off some of the ugliness.

He heard from the Boston hospital and they’ve told him to sign up as a patient. Then they mentioned that they’ve lost all his records and need to find them so they can do the evaluation. As Ralph says, there’s never a sense of urgency unless you’re the one who’s dying. So it looks like a trip to Boston may be in my near future. It’s probably my favorite city in the U.S., but I’d rather be going for different reasons.

Now it’s time to get the heck off of here and go put the vegetables in the pot roast. The bread is cooling on the rack.