Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Van Duzer Corridor

Every now and then, Rachel and I need to just get away and relax. Our favorite direction to head is west, toward the Oregon coast, which is only about an hour from home. We usually take the dog, and the plan is to do some beachcombing and just walk in the wet hard-packed sand, breathing in the briny air and watching the seagulls.
Getting there is half the fun. Highways 22 and 18 from Salem to Lincoln City first pass through farmland, wineries and vineyards, logging operations, and a casino. Following the casino is our favorite stretch of road: The Van Duzer Corridor. We love the winding highway, passing lanes, moss covered trees, Salmon Creek, and the summit over Murphy Hill.
Sure, it’s one of the more dangerous stretches of road due to high traffic volume, limited passing, tight curves, sharp drop-offs (guardrails are a luxury item,) and roadbed undermining, but there’s something magical about it.
On one particular trip, we didn’t have time to go all the way to the coast and back, so we stopped at the rest area at the west end of Van Duzer, just before Rose Lodge. All of these pictures were taken at the rest area in October, but the lush moss and vibrant greenery stay this way all winter long.
That’s the beauty of Western Oregon – when winter arrives, everything turns all green and beautiful.
Our winter climate is like a wet refrigerator; cool and damp.
Caesar took a break at the rest area and explored a little. Here he is, King of the Tree Stump. This was either a Douglas Fir or Redwood, with a cut diameter of about 4 feet. It was quite a jump for Caesar to get up onto the stump, too, since it’s about 4 feet high.
I can never get enough of the moss. It comes alive in the fall and coats the trees in its various forms: thick dark moss, minty green lichen, chartreuse velvet… I don’t know any of the moss names, so I refer to them based on how they look. Some moss clings tightly to trees, some looks like a fur coat, other forms drip from the branches.
Either way, it’s breathtaking.
The Van Duzer Corridor may be a dangerous stretch of road, but it’s like a magical fairyland.
We love it.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas

Purple Camera Memory Card 016It’s the best time of the year.

I don’t know if there’ll be snow, but have a cup of cheer.

Oh by golly, have a holly jolly Christmas this year!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ratilda, our new… pet?

A couple weeks ago, I was taking pictures of Ollie on the roof of our carriage house. He was more interested than usual in the jasmine bush, which he is sniffing here in this photo. Later that night we realized there was something good to be sniffed in that spot.
See the suet feeder cage hanging from the eaves, just behind and under Ollie?
That evening, when the pooch was let out to go check his pee-mail, that suet feeder was swinging back and forth wildly.
No wind. Huh, that’s odd.
After posting my curiosity on Facebook, my Midwestern friends suggested a raccoon or a nocturnal squirrel.
(I thought it might be a possum. Surely nutria can’t climb, right?)
I grabbed the camera and watched. Here’s the carriage house at night.
What’s that on the suet feeder?

Oh my goodness, it’s a rat!

This is the best I could do with the camera, being nighttime, and I couldn’t get very close.
After our little fiasco with getting a hamster (in 2006) our household is now very familiar with rodent gender identification, and this suet- eating rat is a girl.
We names her Ratilda.
She will not become an indoor pet. I promise.
Sorry, Frank and Rachel, but you cannot change my mind on this one.
Our lease prohibits feeding stray animals, and if we are caught placing food outside, it will be considered a pet and we will have to pay a deposit for it. On the other hand, bird feeders are allowed, and I love having bird feeders outside my kitchen windows. The birds haven’t been too interested in either of the suet feeders this year, and the suet cakes are about a year old, so I really don’t care who eats it at this point. But I suppose since we are feeding a rat, it would be amusing to consider Ratilda our pet.
Just until I can get some D-Con into Ratilda’s suet, anyway.
So what’s the dealio with the swinging suet? I stepped to the the edge of the deck steps to get a better picture and she jumped from the suet to the jasmine.
DSCN9906 DSCN9907  
Then she scampered up the trellis into the rain gutter, ran to the downspout, and disappeared.
Aha! She lives in the city storm drains.
Ratilda came back every night and ate the suet until it was down to a thin wafer at the bottom of the cage. Her acrobatics on the suet feeder amused us, but she gave up on hanging upside down, fighting to eat the last little bit, and hasn’t come back.
Time to untangle the feeder from the jasmine and move it to a more bird-friendly spot. With a fresh (and D-Con free) suet cake.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Last Garden Update of the year

Last weekend I started the winter yard cleanup. There are still shrubs to be trimmed, rose bushes to cut back, and more leaves to vacuum up (lawn mower with bagging attachment.)
Last weekend’s project included vacuuming the yard and picking the last of the tomatoes and peppers. I’m not sure if it will work, but we’re saving the seeds from our favorite vegetables and herbs for planting next spring.
So this past spring when we were buying veggie plants, we saw artichoke plants selling for 75c each. They’re a perennial plant, so we gave it a try, not knowing what to expect. All summer long we watched this big leafy plant grow and grow, but no artichoke. Now that it’s fall, the plant is about 30” tall and I have kind of given up on it for this year. Maybe it needs a year to establish and will produce next year.
To my surprise, when I walked around to the north side of the yard to get the last of the tomatoes off the monster sized tomato plant, our long-ignored artichoke was there, ready to be picked.
Can’t wait to see what it produces next year!