Tuesday, May 9, 2017

El Nina Visits Central Oregon

Bend was pummeled in snow this winter - the most snow in 100 years! We were expecting it, since last year was El Nino, but we ran out of places to put the snow. For this Chicagoan, I was reminded of my adolescence with all the constant shoveling. Sometimes, Mike and I were out there 5 times a day just to keep our driveway and sidewalks clear.

the chickens were snug, thanks to their well built coop.

It made for an amazing season of snowboarding, and Mike and I tried out quite a few new activities...
Snowshoeing, which is a very good sport for beginners. It's basically wide legged walking and a great way to get out and enjoy nature. You can pack a lunch and hike off just like in the summer, but without any bugs or people, and with lots of quiet and solitude. Good snowshoes, however, run around $300.00, so we rented and may have to save up for our own pair...
Josh snapped this pic while we were on the trail

Can you see Mike? He's smack dab in the middle of the pic.

Another "Where's Mike" pic - you can see the top half of his body;
he's lifting his trekking poles up.

Cross Country Skiing - NOT a good sport for beginners. I think I fell down like 25 times this day in 5' deep snow, which sounds soft and fun, but is like getting yourself out of quicksand. On the bright side, I probably burned off enough calories to justify eating a whole cake. 

at least we could say it was beautiful.

As you know, Mike likes to "Go Big or Go Home," so we cross country skiing amateurs took a backcountry trail THREE miles from Mount Bachelor to Todd Lake. All I can say about this day is - I survived.

the mountains peeking through the trees.

Hope you don't have to use the restroom!
Mike breaking a path across the lake.
The funny thing is, you'd think 3 miles into the wilderness in the dead of winter would be a deterrent, but in Bend, it's a challenge. There must have been at least 50 people out there, on snowmobiles, snowshoes, cross country skis, and ski skates. And many, many of these people were older than us. It's so inspiring for us to stay fit and stay active.

We also went dog sledding with a friend from work, who let us drive the dog sleds ourselves. It wasn't as easy as it looks - at first, the dogs had a mind of their own, and took Mike far, far away from the trail. That's him below, in the center of the picture, driving the team!

At least I got this cool shot!

My view from my dogsled
 All in all, it was an awesome winter - tons of snow and lots of new experiences. It went by super fast and one day, the snow was all melted. Here in Central Oregon we don't get a spring, really. It goes from freezing cold and snow on the ground to shorts and flip flops. But we're not complaining - it's gardening season! I'm knee deep in dirt, plants, chickens, and flowers right now, and loving every second. I've got my chickens hopefully hatching some new friends, and we're back at work on our yard remodel. Garden pics next! 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Where Did Summer Go?

This summer flew by for us! We spent tons of time improving our yard, hanging with the pets and hanging with each other. It was nice to make a home and not travel, and I think our pets loved it too. 

An afternoon spent with my mini chicken, Notorious B.I.R.D.
Mike and I also celebrated 10 years together this September. It was a reminder of how old we are getting (haha). It feels like we just met the other day, but we're both getting gray hairs...

We decided to do something special but local, so we rented a decommissioned fire lookout here in Oregon. It's about 7 miles into the forest, on rutted out roads, and you definitely need 4 wheel drive to get there. Our 18 year old Subaru performed like a champ!

Mike spotted wild blueberries on our way there, so we stopped to pick some.

The fire lookout was located on top of a butte (that's pronounced with a long "u") and was used in WWII to spot enemy aircraft. We were at about 4600 feet elevation. Since we live at 3500 feet elevation in Bend, we didn't feel any difference.

The forest service road on the way there.

We did have to hike a bit at the end of the road, pretty much directly uphill! It was a thigh-burner, for sure, but only about 3/4 mile. As usual, you can't even see Mike in the pictures because he is so far ahead of me...he likes to get the tough parts out of the way fast, and I'm a sloooow but steady hiker. 

The single track trail to hike up to the fire lookout. Mike nowhere in sight!

Mike was waiting for me at the lookout.

The lookout had glass windows on all 4 sides, with a catwalk that wrapped all the way around. 360 degree mountain top views - for $60/night. You can't beat it! We could see Mt. Washington, Mt. Jefferson, and the Three Sisters.

It was the perfect place to spend a day, sitting, chatting, and reflecting. Clouds moved in and out, covering Mt Jefferson. We were treated to a gorgeous sunset and a gorgeous sunrise. Pictures (especially my pictures) just can't do it justice.

The lookout was immaculately clean and had a twin bed, a few cots, a two burner propane stove, and a little wood burning stove for heat, with a woodshed nearby. The outhouse was the cleanest outhouse we have ever seen - without one single scary spider or bug! 

The fire lookouts are maintained by volunteers and the guests that stay there. But not every guest sees the bigger picture, and in the journals/logs (they go back several years), some guests reported seeing vandalism, gunshots through the woodshed and outhouse, and trash. But hopefully those very few incidents will motivate future guests to try even harder to help, or to educate the ignorant. We did our part and cleaned the lookout, Mike cut a bucket of kindling, and we made a donation to the Sand Mountain Society when we got home.

The cute little woodstove! It was so tiny it went out twice throughout the night.

Mike enjoying the morning view.

In other summer news, we got our house repainted (special thanks to our friend Dylan) and gave it some personality. 

Circa May 2015 before we had the trees removed
Circa June 2015 - after getting rid of some dead trees

September 2016!

It's a light aqua color (tropical spray), with a coral colored door (coral reef). We removed the shutters and got new industrial looking lights to try and modernize the house a bit.

We are still working on the yard but I am more than a little excited to see what pops up next spring! I've got tons of perennials and wildflowers that I reseeded, and tulip bulbs in the ground. And don't even get me started on the backyard...I'm completely addicted to this new hobby!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Yakkity Yak, We Bought A Kayak

Bend likes to brag that it's got world class everything: climbing (Smith Rock), snowboarding/skiing (Mt Bachelor), mountain biking (pretty much anywhere), hiking, waterfalls, beer...the list goes on and on. If you ever make it up here, you'll also see kayakers and paddleboarders daily - floating on the river, navigating the rapids, or just cruising around the lakes. They also get to listen to concerts for free (this old post has a pic of floaters during the Jack Johnson concert).

kayakers during the Ben Harper concert.

Mike has been wanting a kayak for awhile now, but since they run anywhere from $300-$1000, of course I was hesitant to invest. Snowboarding is already an expensive hobby, and don't even get me started on snowshoeing (I mean really, it's just walking).

Of course he found a way around my veto, by trading some Subaru work to a kayak salesman. So we recently found ourselves the new owners of a bright orange kayak, which was promptly stickered up and set afloat.

Kayaking is pretty good exercise! You have to use your core muscles to paddle yourself around, and it's much more fun than going to the gym, with beautiful scenery as an added bonus. We have dozens of lake options off the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, all within 30-45 minutes of the house. 

Paddling around Devil's Lake, about 30 minutes from our house.

The water is super clear; you can see the bottom in the deepest part.

We took the S.S. Beesch out for her maiden voyage. It's a little inflatable boat that Mike's mom Michelle had gifted us when we moved to Bend. Michelle passed away this February, so it was nice to relax and remember her in such a pretty place. 

Me and my finger toes in the SS Beesch with Mike pulling me around

The boat requires two paddlers or you're just spinning around in circles, so Mike tied it to the back of his kayak and pulled me around the lake. 

Next time I'm going to bring a book and some snacks...I could get used to this! 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Summer Stay-Cation

Summer is here, finally! You may laugh because I bet it's warm where you are. Well, in Central Oregon, we still got below freezing nights all the way up until June 20th. Yeah, you read that right. About two weeks ago, I was still wearing a beanie and puffy jacket in the evenings. But we're holding steady at 80 degree days and 50 degree nights now, and it's blissful to get outside and get some Vitamin D.

Us at a concert on June 13th - heavy sweaters, scarves, and beanies.

We're relatively far north, and this means loooong summer days. It's light from 4:30am to almost 10pm. You can get a whole lot accomplished (apparently not blogging, though - haha) in 16+ hours of daylight. It's very motivating! A siesta and a couple cups of coffee don't hurt, either. 

Here is our original front yard! Two dog-pee-burned trees blocking the front door, a dead tree in the middle of the yard, and patchy, scratchy grass with weeds and clover; all of which cost a ridiculous amount to water in the summer.

Water costs to maintain this grass ran us at least $50/month in the summer!

We got rid of several trees, took down the front porch railing, and put in a new, more modern fence. 

The scraggly rose bush in the foreground eventually got ripped out as well.

We went and picked out some boulders and flowers...

The fence color is accidental...and now sanding the fence is on our to-do list!

...and added some woodchips and a large dead stump we found while hiking...

Behind the stump is a baby apple tree with 5 different kinds of apples grafted to it!

...and now, I pay only $15/month to water our drought-tolerant, food-and-herb-providing, pollinator-friendly front lawn! Some of the things we've got here: an apple tree (which will produce in about 2-3 years), blueberry bush (already producing!), sage, 2 kinds of lavender, peonies, Icelandic poppies, 2 kinds of elderberry bushes (with which you can make wine and syrup), sunflowers (to feed the chickens), catmint (similar to catnip), rhubarb, and a Nanking cherry bush. They'll all grow in a lot more next year, and hopefully the yard will look a little closer to how I imagine it in my head. Plants definitely require patience.

Meanwhile, in the backyard...potato boxes/towers are all the rage on the internet. Since we have the space, I thought I'd try one. The idea is that you cover up the bottom 6" of the plant continuously as it grows, encouraging it to put out extra roots (and therefore, extra potatoes). You stack it up higher and higher, and ideally you should be able to harvest insane amounts of potatoes. 

Potato box at the 4th level. This was about 1.5 months into growing.

The potatoes at 5 levels high...we had to build more!

We used to be able to get German Butterball potatoes easily, at the Hollywood Farmer's Market. They're small and creamy and so good! While potatoes grow well up here in the Pacific Northwest, I haven't seen any of that variety at the markets, so that's what I'm growing in here.

We didn't know how well they'd do but we had to double the number of levels we had! It's only the beginning of July and we have at least 70 more days to go in the growing season. If this works, we will definitely build another one for next summer.

Our backyard was disgusting when we bought the house: it was basically a gravel dog run, with weeds, unkempt bushes, and a broke-ass fence in the back. The fence is the builder original, from 1992.

We got rid of all the gravel, weeds, and since we're on a slope, decided to put in a sunken patio, to help make the yard areas more level. We also replaced and upgraded the fence.

We had professionals put in the patio, since it involved heavy machinery.

The first night the patio was done, we ran out and bought a firepit! It's the perfect little space to relax in, although I hope to get some actual patio furniture in the future, rather than our camping chairs. 

All the backyard work means the chickens no longer are free range. They have the entire side yard, though, with compost bins and a pear tree, so I don't think they're sad about it. 

One of our three compost bins starting to sprout some "volunteer" squash.

The compost bin and squash just recently - it's doing REALLY well!

Our little baby chicks turned out to both be girls, and their rapper names (Tupac/Two-Spot and Notorious B.I.R.D.) stuck. 

The chicks at 2 days old.

At 5 weeks old, they still lived in the house with us.

At 8 weeks old, when we finally knew for sure they were girls.

They are now 10 weeks old and almost completely feathered out!

The baby chicks are Mottled Cochins, a Chinese breed that is hardy in the winter, with their little feathered feet! They are the sweetest things and are about 1lb each. They're almost full grown and will stay tiny. For comparison, here's a picture of our regular sized chicken in the background, and these two in the foreground:

Those are plums from our neighbor's tree all over the ground. 

So, that's the domestic side of our life right now. It's sort of amazing how much we can get done by staying home (and admittedly, working part time with a short commute - that sure helps as well). That travel bug itches pretty bad, though, so we've got some small trips planned at the end of the summer to visit friends and family, and a big trip in the works for the end of the year. But for now it's nice to make a home, which makes us want to stay home!