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!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Spring Has Sprung...A New Dude and New Chicks!

Spring is a fickle season in Central Oregon. Sometimes it's sunny and blossoms are blooming, and other days it's flurries and frigid winds. Either way, we're taking advantage of it - on snow days Mike hits the mountain, and on warm days we get busy exploring or working on our yard. 

One new addition to our house is our friend, Josh, who has temporarily taken over our guest room. He is now an enthusiastic Bend resident, and the first, but hopefully not the last, of our friends to move up here! 

Josh and Mike discussing fat bikes while we run errands.

It's nice to have an extra set of hands around the house. We have a million and one projects left to do, and about half of those involve the yard. We got zealous and ripped up all our grass, and installed boulders. It was so expensive to water the grass that I paid a couple thousand to have rocks dumped on the yard. Makes sense, right?

One day, our yard will be covered in drought tolerant flowers.
It just might take about 3 years for them to all grow in.

One other bonus of having Josh here is that it makes us appreciate our neighborhood more, and reminds you of things you've gotten used to seeing. Although, I'm still in awe when we go hiking in places like Smith Rock.

The view as you walk into the canyon.

Walking along the river trail.

Loved this "balancing rock!"

The sun setting; you can see the "balancing rock" on the right.

There's people to the left behind Mike up on "Misery Trail" for scale.

One new "spring" experience we're going through is that our favorite hen went broody. Basically, she wanted to hatch out some babies and she refused to get off the nest. Even when we pulled all the eggs out, she'd just sit on an empty nest and get all irritated if we opened the nest box door. The problem with a broody hen is: we don't have a rooster. So our eggs aren't going to be hatching anything. 

After a month of her refusing to get off her nest and eating minimal amounts of food every day, we started to get worried. She was losing lots of weight and looking awful. We finally gave in and bought two baby chicks at the feed store. She immediately perked up when she heard the peeping and took them in as her own! She is the best momma hen.

One of the babies - "Two Spot (Tupac)" at one day old.

It's hard to tell but this is the other chick, "Notorious B.I.R.D."
It's been a fun experience with the chicks so far, and we don't have to do a thing except feed them, give them clean water, and make sure predators don't eat them at night (hence the reason they are in a cardboard lined cage). Otherwise, the momma hen does everything. We are crossing our fingers that at least one of them is not a boy...

Chick update in the next post...We should know by then if they're roosters or hens!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

A Very Delayed Japanuary Post

We've been on the road more than we've been at home this year, and while we have loved every minute we've been with family and friends, we are really looking forward to a full summer at home in Bend. These last 4 months have been pretty hectic and rough, and though we weathered through it pretty well, we're ready for some down time.

That's not to say we haven't had the most awesome time traveling - we love, love, love Japan. This time around, we only spent a few days in Tokyo and we spent a majority of our time up in Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, close to Russia. 

"I can see Russia from my hotel!"

Signs in Japanese, English, Chinese, Korean and Russian.

Hokkaido has some of the best snow (powder) in the world - or as Mike likes to refer to it, "Japow." Mike and our friends Ray, Tanya, and Josh all went snowboarding and skiing, while Bernice and I went to the Sapporo Beer Garden, sampled a couple bowls of local ramen, spent hours in a Japanese photo booth, and stuffed ourselves with Japanese pastries. Sure, they were snowboarding/skiing on waist deep, world class powder. But, I'd venture to say Bernice and I had more fun!

Mike, Tanya, Josh and Ray ready to shred! Photo by Ray Gilman.

Mike on the slopes. Shot by the professional photog - don't know his name

Bernice and I grabbing breakfast at the bakery.

The Japanese bakeries are some of the best in the world. They take inspiration from the French and the Scandinavians, perfect it and then package it up a thousand times cuter. I think I visited a bakery every single day we were in town - and sometimes twice.

yes, that's a soft boiled egg INSIDE a savory doughnut topped with takoyaki sauce.

Outside the Sapporo Beer Garden

Sampling Hokkaido style ramen with miso broth

One of the best things we found was a Japanese photo booth. There were literally dozens of them on one floor of a shopping plaza. Each booth did something different - you can dress yourself up, write on your pictures, smooth out your skin, add make up, whatever. One booth had some weird looking Barbie-doll faced girls on it. It turned out this booth enlarged your eyes. I couldn't stop laughing. Even though everything was in Japanese, we dumped 100 yen coins into that machine until we figured it out. It took us hours but it was like a trip to the gym - my sides and abs ached from laughing so hard. We looked like anime characters!

We had so much fun we had to bring the guys back the next day.

Mike is such a good sport!

We ended the last few days of the trip with a major bonding experience - getting naked together in an onsen, and then getting thrown out of said onsen. The Japanese are unrelenting when it comes to tattoos. UNRELENTING. If Japanese people can be rude, that was probably the closest we got to experiencing it.

photo courtesy of Japanistas.

We then took a once in a lifetime trip to see the snow monkeys at the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park. Although it took us a whole day to travel there, it was well worth the trip. We got to experience the infamous Shinkasen (the Japanese bullet train) and pretty much every other form of public transportation on our way.

The snow monkeys keeping warm in the hot springs. Photo by Ashley DeLuca.

A mother and her baby crossing the river.

monkeys, monkeys, everywhere!

You think they're staying clean and grooming each other, but there's poop in that water.

Mike and I really love Japan, and I'm sure we'll go back sometime soon, since we still have lots of stuff on our bucket list to accomplish there, like climbing Mt Fuji! But for now, we are glad to be home and back to our pets. With spring in the air, we can't wait to fix up the yard and continue on creating our mini pseudo "homestead." Maybe this will be the year I actually grow some plants!